April 2011 issue - Page 4

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Firstly, may I congratulate you on your continued publication of a superb magazine. It is the only publication whose opinion I would look to in addition to forming my own through listening. The end of the month always holds that little bit of excitement for me as I await the trip to the newsagent to pick up my copy (yes I should get round to subscribing again which I have done in the past).

Secondly, having never written before, I wonder whether you could provide me with some advice on the final tweaks that I might apply to my system. It consists of the following: Marantz KI Pearl CD player and amplifier, Art Emotion Monitor Signature ‘speakers, Michell Gyrodec with SME IV arm and Sumiko Bluepoint Special III cartridge (the Gyro has the Orbe platter and upgraded power supply). Cabling is, for the speakers Chord Company Odyssey, and interconnects are Van den Hul Integration between the amp and CD player, and Nordost turntable cable between the Gyro and the amp’s phono stage. I have a dedicated mains spur in place and I also run a Sonos connection through the DAC input on the CD player which links through to a lot of music held on an iMac desktop computer. I would like your views on the following.

I am curious as to how good the phono stage in the Marantz Pearl amp is and whether I would benefit from an outboard phono stage, and if so one valve orientated; if the answer is in the affirmative what would you recommend. I don’t want to spend money if you think it would not be money well spent. I thought about buying a Puresound MM phono stage on the basis that the Bluepoint Special is high output.

Do I need to run cabling from the same manufacturer throughout my system i.e. if I keep the speaker cabling (which I have to do as it is currently running through a pipe under our wooden floor), then should I be upgrading my interconnects, in particular between the CD player and amplifier to something from the Chord range – and how much should I spend? Sorry to be bring up the old cable debate again but this letter is about final tweaks rather than fundamental changes.

Would it be worth my while upgrading my cartridge at any point to something higher end and if so should I be going MC or MM?

I listen to all types of music but in particular jazz and blues with a particular emphasis on guitar based music as I play the guitar.

Thanks again for a great magazine.

Kind regards,

Benjamin Apfel



There's little point buying an MM-only phono stage and then deciding you want a moving coil cartridge, so do try and look at this in a more strategic manner. First, the phono stage on the Marantz is surprisingly good. It's not the sort of ten cent op-amp type thing you'd find in a Pioneer A100, from the old days when they stuck 'em in to tick off a box on the spec sheet. Ken Ishiwata did a serious job and regularly demonstrates the KI Pearl with vinyl, via the amp's own built-in phono stage, to great effect. However, the KI Pearl amp is still easily good enough to benefit from a better phono stage, and to this end I am tempted to recommend the Icon Audio PS1.2, as it's a particularly capable tube phono stage, and I feel this might be where you're heading what with your penchant for jazz!


It will of course work with both MM and MC cartridges, and to this end I'd suggest the very first thing you do – before you get the Icon Audio PS1.2, is to junk your Sumiko BPS. For some strange and completely unfathomable (!) reason, everyone seems to think I hate Denon DL103s. Well I don't, but what I do hate is Sumiko Blue Points; they're scratchy, fidgety and as satisfying to listen to as your cat trying to open the bedroom door with his paw. So I beseech you to remove it, and replace it with – depending on your budget – a Dynavector DV10X5 (£295), an Audio Technica AT33 EV (£450) or a Lyra Dorian (£595). The slightly light, brighter balance of the Lyra in particular would suit the fulsome tonal balance of the Icon Audio tube phono stage. DP



I was just reading a couple of my previous copies of Hi-Fi World about the Sony WE-475. I have got two Sony older cassette decks, two Dolby ones. I actually bought one from ebay today which I picked up for twenty pounds. It is the TC-K661S and it was in rather good condition and works perfectly. It had hardly been used I’m told, and I did believe the guy who sold it to me.


My other deck is the TC-K611S which I won a while ago on ebay for £27.


I also read the article on the Phoenix cassettes. I buy my TDK-SA cassettes off ebay also; they can be bought for £12 pounds for 10 which is cheap - and with free postage too.

The article on the newish Sony cassette deck that Tim Jarman reviews. You can buy these decks on ebay for around £60 pounds. After reading that review I was well impressed with the performance of it.

Lee Dodd




DP’s handy tip for those seeking podcast functionality from Compact Cassettes!


Hi Lee – I totally agree; there's so much more mileage left in the cassette format. For some reason, in the late nineties, so many people stopped using it, almost because they thought they should. But if you never stopped playing tapes then they still seem hard to replace. I use cassettes in a portable player in the bedroom, a small portable in the bathroom, a portable in the kitchen, in the car and on my Walkman Pro out and about. Oh, and for occasional serious listening at home too. And when my solid-state digital micro-recorder broke down shortly before the Whittlebury show last autumn, I duly shoved a Maxell MX C90 into my Sony WM-D6C and took it with me to record my interview with Eleanor McEvoy! I ended up with a better recording of her voice than I've ever heard from her albums, off disc.


As you say, blank TDK SA 90s are about £1 a pop and on Amazon you can get new TDK D 90s for pennies; with a well set up deck they're almost as good sounding as the SA. If you want a good, well set up brand new machine to play these on, then the £150 Sony TC WE-475 takes some beating; we're still scratching our heads about why it can be so good at the price. Compared to its few remaining rival decks, it's on another level in terms of build and alignment; like the Technics SL1200 compared to all its plastic imitators! I know you can get second-hand ones much cheaper on eBay but it's well worth buying new (while you still can), to get yourself lovely fresh heads, belts, gears and motors, all nicely in alignment!


Still, whilst Compact Cassettes are still the answer to my mobile music needs, there's one aspect of the iPod experience that I adore – and that is podcasts. As an avid walker, I am hooked on them and the little Apple makes this easily possible. But now I've invented the solution; just record your podcasts directly onto a high quality, classic three head machine with variable bias and record sensitivity, via a small 3.5mm minijack to RCA phono lead. Then, add a Sony Walkman and you're off out and about with your podcasts as if iPods had never been invented! Thoughtfully, the BBC edits Pienaar's Politics (my favourite podcast) to fit a single side of a Sony FX90! DP



Over time I’ve observed Hi-Fi World has reviewed portable devices offered by the likes of Sony etc. Then, in the September issue, there was a rather odd review of an oddly named RoCoo player.

I’ve yet to see a review of anything from Cowon, a Korean company with a formidable audiophile reputation. Is this perhaps because they are hard to source in the UK? Anyway, these guys make some very respectable gear. They even have a dedicated following on

After extensive reading and research, I purchased a Cowon S9 whilst on business in Korea (but they are available here in Singapore at least). I don’t have any technical specifications, but it supposedly has a very good Wolfson WM8750S DAC and quality HP stage. An added bonus is that Cowons always support a plethora of formats including FLAC and OGG (but not ALAC, I suspect).

How does it sound you ask? Quite frankly, superb. I play maximum quality OGG files at 500 kbps, which touches the lower end of FLAC but does save space. After A-B comparisons of these formats, I couldn’t hear significant differences. It won’t replace your stereo or home headphone rig, but it certainly provides portable audiophile-quality music.

Try getting hold of one. I think you might be pleasantly surprised...


Raymond Komen

P.S. I am not affiliated with Cowon at all!




Cowon X7 plays nearly all audio formats and gives great sound. An audiophile dream, but may not make it into New York's Museum of Modern Art.


Thanks Raymond – I'm familiar with the Cowon brand and you're right, they do sound very good and they're particularly versatile too. They're not the world's sleekest and slickest to use, but really reward the 'advanced user', whereas iPods are great all singing and all dancing gadgets, with sadly sub-par sound (via their inbuilt analogue output stage, at least). We're doing the Cowon X7 in this very issue, and so you'll soon see how much we like it. Still, for me the Sony NWZ-A845 is the king of portables (or its 64GB, £280 big brother the A847). This has beautiful build (that makes the Cowon look plasticky and clumsy), great flexibility and superb sound. I think the S9 might just wing it sonically, but it's very close and the Sony is the better package. Although not directly comparable, in terms of build, sound and 'feel' it makes the iPod Nano look crude. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big Apple fan and feel nauseous when I go within ten yards of a PC; but I think that people who place sonics above all else aren't currently catered for by Cupertino. As I've said before, come on Apple, let's have an 'iPod Pro'! DP



Hello. I have read your interesting article about the integrated ‘Sugden Mystro’ (January 2010), but I didn’t understood the following sentence in the text:


‘...For starters, the amp has a big bouncy and tuneful bass that is apparently unphased by what is going on elsewhere in the frequency spectrum...’


Do you mean that the bass is out of phase and is posing a problem? Can you give me more explications about that?

Thank you very much.

Sincerely yours,

Alain Gorlier,






Sugden Mystro made Alain Gorlier happy in Nantes.


Hi Alain. This is colloquial English – sorry! It means, in proper English “big, bouncy (dynamic) bass unaffected by all else in the frequency spectrum”.

‘Fazed’ is an American slang term, and does not relate to electrical phase.

Best regards,

Noel Keywood, publisher

(direct e-mail reply)


Hi Noel. Thank you very much for yours precisions about this integrated amplifier. I have bought the ‘Sugden Mystro’ amplifier and I confirm that it is excellent !

Best regards,

Alain Gorlier

Comments (1)
KEF Q100
1Friday, 08 June 2012 20:57
Jake Thomas
The Cyrus amps will drive the [url=] KEF Q100 speakers easily, they sound great in my Cyrus system.

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