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April 2011 issue - Page 5

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April 2011 issue
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ROCK ORIENTED AUDIO

I’ve been very satisfied reading your opinion in February Hi-Fi World. Although I used to play classical music on piano for a few years long time ago, I was growing on Rock and Pop music. I equally love Bach, Handel and Led Zepp, Black Sabbath, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and thousands more. I just love the music and love the sound and that’s why I feel I’m on neutral side of the discussion.


But there’s real problem regarding reviews. In many magazines reviewers are Classical oriented [look at test CD list] and they don’t put enough attention to pop/rock music! But it’s in opposition to reality – most hi-fi users listen to pop / r&b / hip hop/ dance / club/ techno / rock, so such test material is a must! There are rock or classical or jazz or universal items/systems – and reader should know if it fits to his preferences ...


Did anybody hear Metallica in Audio Show rooms? SaraK, Diana Krall, small jazz combo and the most wanted: acoustic guitar solo [no lows no highs and only one instrument]. Ha ha ha ... what a density of track, fastest transients, drums’ wall of noise, speed of low bass etc. Of course one shouldn’t use real life quality CDs [99% of market share] but RefRec,Stockfish, etc. [1% market share]... and review/demo with “happy end” is ready...


Looking at the audio magazines, forums, etc. you can rarely see really happy audiophiles but there are plenty screaming for help! Why? Their systems don’t deliver what they promised to and unfortunately they fail for large amount of money.


I think that real added value of audio magazines is to show up whole audio systems with best synergy between components – that’s what can save people’s time [weeks, months and years].


I believe in your experience as you often use Rock demo tracks to test equipment – and it’s not very popular way of showing +/- of audio system.

That’s why I opt for your recommendation: ‘speakers [standmount] / or whole system for hard rock / pop/electronica [small room 13 m2].

I’ve got second system for classical and more polite music so I look for typical R&R / pop system! [it really doesn’t have to be universal..]

What I want is bass: fast, taut and super controlled [lower end 40-45Hz ]; not boomy midrange; not recessed top; clear, not harsh, not exposed.

Character: open, full bodied not thin/plain, effortless dynamics at high volumes [not hardening !]; not exposing “bad recordings” [it’s not a torture!], Rock’nRoll character: not sweet but sharp, expressive, furious, engaging, rhythmic, drive, plenty of details and huge soundstage are not so expected [you can’t always get all you want], price up to £500 for speakers [without stands] /  £1600 for CDP+amp+speakers.


I think it would be extremely useful to see complete systems group test [four systems or more, but in one price range and clearly oriented] or minimum two complete systems in each Hi-Fi World magazine and of course details of partnering equipment in every review.

Best regards,

Manio

p.s. sorry for my “English” – I know it’s just a torture for you.

 

kef-q100

 

For a balanced and even presentation that doesn't make bad recordings sound worse, a new KEF iQ100 may well suit Manio.

 

Hi Manio. Are you sure most hi-fi publications / sites use predominantly classical music when reviewing products? In my experience Rock is most common and classical comparatively rare. We use both and, for us in an analytical review context, classical delivers real instruments with a strong timbral signature, such as violins, cellos, horns etc, that you don’t easily find in Rock. Stringed instruments in Rock nowadays are likely to be synthesised, and much else can be heavily processed so a few simple, clean classical recordings can reveal much that pounding Rock may not. However, as all Rock listeners know, it comes in many and all forms and generalisations are just that. For example, Eleanor McEvoy produces high quality Rock, but she is a classically trained musician (a violinist) who uses a variety of instruments and likes to record them well.

I think you have to accept that at shows manufacturers will want to play high quality recordings when demonstrating products. It hardly makes sense to use bad recordings, although some of the stuff I have to endure does make me want to head for the bar.

 

Why systems do not deliver will always be controversial. There are many reasons, including both tastes and expectations – and also the room. In a small-ish room like yours, of 13 square metres, you will have quite a strong resonant room mode in the 40Hz region. How strong depends upon the ratio of length to width, equality (i.e. a square room) being worst. Irrespective, standmounters are for you and with your budget I suggest you listen to the new models from KEF.

 

But please bear in mind that a good system is revealing and cannot be otherwise, so exposing bad recordings. However, the KEF Q100s we have for review are smooth and mild mannered and do not make bad recordings sound worse by emphasising distortion harmonics, a problem with all loudspeakers that possess rising treble, as so many do nowadays. NK

 

ROOM CONTROL

I wonder if you could help me with a problem controlling three areas, level only, I do not wish the expense of rewiring a house built of reinforced concrete!

The source is an iPod via an Onkyo digital dock through a Cambridge Audio DAC, through an Arcam 6 channel, to run three stereo areas, connected to Canton speakers and subs.

I am looking for a simple hi-fi quality preamp with minimum three stereo volume controls, 1 /2 stereo in to be driven by the Cambridge DAC. After much internet searching this does not seem to exist! Is there either a kit that could be adapted by some one who could be relied upon, that could construct such an item? I would be very grateful for any help that you could give me with this!

Yours,

Peter Schuster

 

creek-obh-22

 

Don't be a flamingo, get a Creek OBH-22 passive preamp – three of them (with one remote control)!

 

Hi Peter, no I have never seen a preamp with three volume controls either, probably because most humans have two hands and tend not to use a foot as well, for fear of falling over. So two volume controls, one for left channel and one for right is the maximum.

 

If your Arcam receiver has multichannel inputs and outputs, as many receivers do, then you can use three Creek OBH-22 passive preamplifiers to control gain independently in each of your areas. Just lead the preamp outputs to the Creek inputs, and the Creek output back to the receiver inputs, and select the multichannel input of the receiver. Then watch a few films of Flamingos and be glad about what you missed. NK

 

CABLE DEBATE

There is one aspect of the cable debate upon which the recent interesting correspondence (including your article of Feb 2011 has not yet touched). It does appear that the influence of suggestion both auto and otherwise on the ability of individuals to make unbiased judgments has not been considered. I speak as a recently retired medical specialist / scientist who is only too aware of his own ignorance of the scientific basis of High-Fidelity.


If you ask a person to decide between capital A and capital B for a variety of biological end-points e.g. taste, pain perception, sound quality etc, suggestion can exert a very powerful influence. We know from controlled trials that clinical evaluation can be influenced by many subtle unconscious triggers, so that to do meaningful studies with such comparisons both the observer and the subject under examination must be unaware of all possible confounding factors, the so called “double blind” design.


In the simplest situation therefore comparing A and B, both volunteer and tester have to be unaware of the identity of the two interconnects under examination. Secondly the study design should take account of the importance of statistical probability. In order to achieve the scientifically acceptable five per cent statistical significance (p < 0.05) a volunteer would need to be correct in six consecutive examinations of A vs B presented in random order.


I would guess that such a test might confirm your impression of a true difference between bell wire and QED 79. However, would it do so in more subtle comparisons that you think show a difference?


It would be of interest also to perform the test using a variety of musical sources and volunteers. Trained ears such as your own, might achieve better discrimination. Happy testing!

Yours sincerely,

Roger Corrall

Bristol

 

Hi Roger. The issue of suggestion is raised tacitly when those who believe in cable differences are accused of being influenced by an invalid debate, 'invalid' meaning technically differences cannot be proved and therefore do not exist (David went over the illogicality of this).

 

If a large number of people around the world (i.e. of differing cultural values and outlook) feel cables do make a difference this is, I suggest, good enough to make the finding true. Even if it weren't true and they don't make a difference, that enough people feel it is true makes it true. You bump into philosophical problems saying otherwise.

Why don't we use listening tests to prove the point? Well, we do, using a large number of diverse listeners, for this is what is happening when we print letters from people saying they do make a difference. You can only say this is invalid by believing they are all wrong / deluded, influenced, etc.

 

I have run listening tests of the sort you allude to and found that the stress of being in such a test blunted perceptions. An unusual environment, strangers, physical conditions such as heat, cold, seating, poor listening position and timed excerpts, perhaps of unknown or uncritical music excerpts, all conspire to upset and confuse listeners. In a relaxing and known environment (a lounge) differences are most easily perceived.

 

Statistical analysis doesn't make invalid data valid. Collecting valid data is the issue here, not one easy to solve but very deeply biological and right up your street I'd say! But it means making someone a cup of tea, handing out biscuits and being welcoming I found, whilst hoping they had no alcohol in their blood, were relaxed and unstressed, had good hearing, etc. If you go through all the preconditions of a meaningful listening test, they aren't so easy to control or meet. NK

 

TESTING SOLID STATE AMPS

Hi. In the December issue NK replied to a reader about how transistor amplifiers have more distortion at 1 watt than higher power. I’m wondering if he ever did any tests on the Quad 306, 405, 909 etc. solid state amps which by my understanding have a low power stage and a high power one. If he has, how did they fare in his tests?

Regards,

Joe Wdowiak (in Canada)

 

Hi Joe. I cannot recall testing these amplifiers, but as you say they did use a very linear, low level amplifier. Whilst a great number of amplifiers suffer rising distortion at low levels, about which their designers seem oblivious (we have just rejected a YBA amplifier sent for review for this reason), there is no need for it as modern components and circuits can yield perfect low level linearity in transistor amplifiers. This is something we look for by measuring distortion at 1 Watt, into a 4 Ohm load, at 10kHz, the most revealing distortion measurement that we make, believe it or not. It is this analysis that we publish as an oscillogram (really, it is distortion spectrum from a Rohde & Schwarz UPL analyser).

 

 

cyrus-amps

 

Cyrus amplifiers produce no crossover distortion and have smooth treble.

 

Ideally, only second harmonic distortion will exist, not an array of higher harmonics. Whilst the ear likely does not directly hear a third harmonic at 30kHz or a fifth harmonic at 50kHz, it can hear the intermodulation distortion also produced by such non-linearity, depending upon its correlation (really, lack of correlation) with the audio signal.

 

If you buy any decent modern amplifier, from Creek, Musical Fidelity or Cyrus to name a few, or Cambridge or Rega to name a few more, this distortion will not exist. Many – or even most – decent Japanese amplifiers are now linear at low levels too, including the better A/V receivers from Onkyo and Marantz, so there is no need for any of us to suffer this problem, and the coarse treble it produces, any more. And, in my experience, Quads never did have rough treble so I doubt they had crossover distortion. Peter Walker would not have liked it! NK




 
Comments (1)
KEF Q100
1Friday, 08 June 2012 20:57
Jake Thomas
The Cyrus amps will drive the [url=http://www.hifigear.co.uk/kef-q100-bookshelf-speakers.html] KEF Q100 speakers easily, they sound great in my Cyrus system.

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