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June 2011 issue - Page 3

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June 2011 issue
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UPSIDE-DOWN UNDER!

I thought David might get a chuckle from the editor’s lead in piece in the current issue of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. It would seem that one man’s piece of ground breaking design creativity is another man’s obsolescence.


By the way, I would like to finally take the opportunity to congratulate you all on a great magazine. I have been hooked since 2003 and can thank you over this time for the purchase of my cherished Gyro SE and the dusting off of my 1990s Luxman tape deck. Yes, I know it's all Alpine on the inside but it still delivers a wonderful sound, especially to taped live broadcasts on A.B.C. classic F.M. The only catch is that I can’t purchase TDK SA 90s in Oz any longer, and to make matters worse cannot seem to purchase online overseas and actually get them to ship to Australia?!?!


I have had to resort to getting a mate in Shrewsbury to buy some and post them over on the sly (very sneaky!). Anyway, keep up the good work. And keep up the references to Aussie bands in the equipment reviews (Icehouse, Empire of the Sun etc.).

Phil Rigby

Australia

 

Greg Borrowman of Australian Hi-Fi says – “ Why in 2011 would you want to buy a cassette Walkman? In Australia, where almost everyone has access to a computer, owns a mobile phone, has a solid-state MP3 player of one sort or another and MP3 recorders are inexpensive there would seem to be no reason at all. However, in less-developed countries, perhaps there are some reasons to prefer old-fashioned tape over solid-state. But I can’t think of any. If you can, e-mail me at –  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Er, yes, thanks for that Phil. In spite of its sins, cassette tape was enjoyable and if you ran a Nakamichi with metal tape and Dolby B, results could be superb. Mr Borrowman sees the whole thing from a different perspective of course – and hardly a hi-fi one.

 

Over on this side of the globe tape is making a comeback as a convenient analogue sound source at hi-fi shows in particular, where anything digital is beginning to be viewed with suspicion, as if it was diseased! Musicians in particular seem to be reverting back to analogue open reel recording, where high speed tape can give devastating results. At last year’s High End Show in Munich there were many Revox open reel recorders in use I noted. Cassette is of course way down the food chain (pity about Elcaset) but it can still sound good. A full bodied comeback is unlikely methinks. NK

nakamichi-dragon

A reminder of the pinnacle cassette reached: Nakamichi's Dragon recorder.

 

Well my retort to Greg, who apparently 'can't think of a reason' for using cassette', is sound quality. I've reviewed most of the modern 'MP3' portables, and I simply don't think any of them sound as good as, say, a Sony WM22. I bought one in 1986 from Boots for £30 and they're on eBay for half that now (they often turn up in car boot sales for a pound), and it comfortably outperforms any solid-state player, even running WAV files. The point is of course that the recordings you play on it must be to a high standard, and the deck itself must be in good condition with its head and transport clean; so cassette may not be as convenient but it's certainly better sounding!

 

I'm a big fan of Aussie bands like Icehouse, The Go-Betweens and latterly Empire of the Sun, Phil, but I do draw the line at Men at Work! By the way, you're not 'our Paul's' long lost Aussie brother are you? DP

 

CUPBOARD

After 25 years of hiding in the cupboard and gathering dust (the turntable that is, not me!) I decided to reinstate my old turntable. The latter being a 35 year old Technics SL-1500 Direct Drive with Stanton 681EEE cartridge. I have no idea how my turntable compares with the current offerings: is it still any good? The Stanton has seen better days so I will have to buy a new cartridge, can you perhaps recommend some that will be a good match with the Technics?


By the way, I do intend to purchase a new turntable in the future when my funds permit. I’m considering a more upmarket player costing somewhere between €2,000 and €2,500 (excluding cartridge). My preference is for a high mass table. I guess I should be able to find a decent turntable for that kind of money...


The record deck has been stored away for all that time, but the rest of my equipment went through various upgrade stages. I no longer have a transistor amplifier with integrated phono stage but since 2 years I’m the proud (and very happy) owner of an integrated PSE triode 300B valve amplifier. However, this does not have a phono input which means I now have to start looking for an outboard phono stage.


How important is the role of a phono stage compared to the recordplayer, tonearm and cartridge? Is it equally important or less or even more? Can you recommend some likely candidates I might investigate, taken into account that these will also have to work with the new record player I was talking about previously. I’d rather buy a good quality one now than buying a cheap(er) phono stage first and later have to upgrade to a better one. I’m thinking of spending around €1,500, perhaps stretching to €2,000 if something really good comes along. Other equipment I use are my WAD WD25T speakers with the Seas Excel tweeters (very good sounding) and the new Icon Audio CDX1 CD player with Jensen copper foil caps. Yes, I’m totally into tubes nowadays! Thanks in advance for any advice you’re willing to offer.

Ben van Baaren

Netherlands

 

That’s funny Ben. You have an Icon Audio CDX1 CD player but you seem to have missed our continual praise of their PS3 valve phono stage! A pickup cartridge produces a very weak signal and the subsequent phono stage has a big impact upon sound quality. An Icon Audio PS3 or even a tuned up PS3 with Jensen paper-in-oil capacitors is the one to go for, although there are solid-state alternatives with a less sumptuous and organic presentation, but more concise sense of analysis, transistor style; Whest Audio and ANT come to mind. As you are a happy chappy with a Parallel Single Ended 300B tube amplifier though, I suspect valves are the way to go.

 

On the subject of the Technics, it is best to rip its arm off(!), install something decent and laugh at all else as you spin your way into the sunset. Raphael Todes was almost apologetic the other day about what he heard from an SL-1200 so modded; he could hardly believe it sounded so good. The Technics has a clean, tidy and well ordered sound I recall. With a decent modern arm, often a modded Rega, it is 'a cracker', as we say in the UK. NK


originlivesilver3ctonearm

Fit an Origin Live Silver arm to a Technics SL-1500 turntable, says David.

 

I agree with Noel; before spending vast sums on a new deck, consider fitting a new arm (a £600 Origin Live Silver is a good place to start) and of course cartridge (ditto the Benz Micro Ace). This will bring a far tighter and more focused sound with tremendous life and grip. Add a Timestep PSU (www.timestep-distribution.co.uk) for extra smoothness and musicality, and a SDS Isoplatmat for a deeper bass and silkier treble. DP

 

QUEL AGE EST-IL?

I am a regular reader of Hi-Fi World from France, a magazine that I well appreciate since the disappearing of the French one 'La Nouvelle Revue du Son'. I own a pair of pristine Wharfedale 400 CR3/2 crossovers that a very old audiophile offered to me. Can anyone among your contributors tell me the age of these items, and in what system were they used?

E. Brousseaud

France


wharfedale-crossovercr400

 

Wharfedale crossover from the days of its founder Gilbert Briggs.

 

This crossover is similar to that published in Briggs ‘Loudspeakers’ book in the crossover section, labeled N.W.9 except that the low frequency crossover is at 400Hz, not 800Hz as published (Briggs lowered the crossover frequency as he found it gave better results when speakers were used for stereo). Wharfedale produced such crossovers for the home constructor and the level controls on the midrange and treble outputs allow the user to balance the performance for their own choice of drive units.

 

For example, in the same book Briggs describes a 3-way corner reflex system using a 12 inch or 15 inch bass unit, an 8 inch or 10 inch midrange and a 3 inch cone treble unit. Similarly the Wharfedale W4 speaker described in ‘More About Loudspeakers’ used a 12 inch bass unit, two 5 inch midrange units and a 3 inch treble unit with crossover frequencies of 400Hz and 5kHz.

Best wishes,

Peter Comeau

Director of Acoustic Design

IAG Group Ltd, China



 
Comments (1)
WM22
1Thursday, 02 February 2012 21:25
John Miller
Got to agree with the comment about the WM22 Walkman. I happened across mine just yesterday along with my old box of tapes. Most of the tapes were recorded from an 80's Marantz CD player or a Dual 505 II turntable with an AIWA deck (can't remember what) onto a variety of chrome/metal tapes (Maxell and TDK) with Dolby C.

I popped in a couple of batteries, my modern day headphones and a tape I haven't listened to in at least 15 years. WOW! I am astonished. The vinyl-to-tape recordings sound remarkable. I also tried it in my car and my desktop speakers at work. It really gives my Walkman mp3 player a run for its money. Granted the listening conditions are a bif iffy but it is meant for portable use after all.

Flutter is a bit high but I haven't cleaned the transport path just yet.

I'm all excited now.


Great - keep it running! OK cassette players are museum pieces, but what a great sound - until the tape wraps around the capstan etc. Oh well! NK

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