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June 2011 issue - Page 4

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June 2011 issue
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CONSULTING THE ORACLE

Dear David – I have been looking for some alternative speakers to my Quad ESL63s for a while now, since, as much as I love them, they won’t really rock ‘n roll, will they?

Recently, I was offered some Yamaha NS1000Ms by a friend of mine who used them for a couple of years and then put them in dry storage for the following 30. They’re in absolutely mint condition and still have the swing tags on the back of the cabinets describing what they’re made of! I was able to listen to them in my system before buying, so it was a no-brainer. I just plonked them down on some sturdy boxes (since I didn’t have any low stands), next to the Quads, hooked them up with some wire which came with them (Sony Speaker Cord - Made in Japan !) and sat back.

 

Now I finally understand what you’ve been banging on about all these years! With zero tweaking, and virtually ad hoc placement they sounded really very good, but since all the info out there on the blogs is entirely contradictory (amp has to be monster solid state – no! – valve. Free-space siting – no! – wall siting, etc. and ad infinitum), and since you’re the only journalist to have actually owned and used them as a reference, I thought I’d come to the Oracle, so to speak, with a few questions of my own.

Do you use them in free-space (I seem to recall a photo of them like that on tall stands in your listening room that World published some time back, or am I going mad?)? Have you tried them against a “hard wall”, as recommended in the manual?

 

Have you replaced the spring clips on the back with proper binding posts, and if so, which? Would it affect resale values? If not, what unterminated cable would you recommend (ideally, I would prefer to fit post so that I can keep with the Van den Hul Revelation that’s currently on the Quads, or some Kimber 8TC that I have, both terminated with banana plugs)? Of all the amps that you’ve tested with them, do you have favourites (valve and solid state) that had particular synergy?

 

Have you upgraded the crossovers or the internal wiring as some bloggers seem to have done? If so, what did you use, as the capacitors seem to have been specially made for them? Is it as difficult as some suggest? Apart from putting them on proper stands, are there any other tweaks or advice?

 

Noel, you’ll be pleased to know that I won’t be retiring the Quads (restored by Quad, with 'pro' grilles, One Thing mains cables and Widgets, on dedicated stands), which sound fabulous on the end of my Chord 1200B. I intend using the Yam’s as an alternative, unless I can tweak them to a point where they’re unequivocally better, which I think might just be possible with a bit of work. Largely, I suspect, due to the naff thirty-year-old cabling (which, out of interest, I also tried on the 63s, and all the magic I get with the Van den Huls disappeared) and maybe room position, they’re not currently as fast as the Quads, especially on bass transients (where they have more level but less extension in my 21’x23’ room), and do not “groove” as much (a real surprise, that one!), with less tonal discrimination between different stringed instruments. Even as things stand, however, they’re almost as transparent, image even tighter with better depth perspective, and are 'lustier' in general, which is just what I was looking for. After all, they’re going to be playing Led Zeppelin, not Bert Jansch!

 

All advice gratefully received, and thanks for a great mag, with the best Letters Section in the business.

Ross


quad-esl63-china

Quad ESL-63 electrostatic loudspeaker - great but flawed all the same.

 

 

You want to get rid of your ESL-63s? Oh, I feel faint – pass the smelling salts James!

 

And replace them with something from Japan fitted with spring clip connectors. Do you see men in white coats walking up your garden path?

 

Well, truth is they're not perfect; I soon started surgery on mine and in the end there was little left. The cloth ‘sock’ then the louvered outer metal grill were removed first. I did not remove the dust covers, but some do. The protection circuits had to be upgraded of course, getting rid of the ‘compressor’ that just muddled the sound. Then I designed a crossover to match them into a Celestion SL6000 dipole subwoofer, ending up with one of the world’s biggest and most awesome dipole loudspeakers, the Celestions reaching right down to 5Hz the spectrum analyser showed. Few amps could drive them properly though, one problem, and a reviewer’s life demands constant changing of equipment, which was a little impractical with ESL-63s atop SL6000s. I could hardly lift the latter.

 

In the end this set up had to go, but I regret losing it. Box loudspeakers will forever sound like box loudspeakers, for that’s the nature of the beast. When designing big WAD loudspeakers, like KLS3 and KLS9 I would put my head into the bass unit cutout and shout “hello” or make noises into the box (the men in white coats gave up on me long ago!). What returned was a vivid lesson in the true sound of a box loudspeaker – i.e. what we are really listening to with these things – and I have never taken them seriously since. There is no cabinet that will not return sound at you, this sound exits via the cone, in most cases adding that nice, big warm thrum. That’s why, when you listen to an open panel for a while, long enough to acclimatise to its differences, then go back to the box you will immediately hear the box. It’s influence will be rudely obvious, well for about 30 minutes or so. After that you will likely re-adjust back to its own peculiar character.

 

All the same good box loudspeakers are great fun and perhaps we must leave it at that. A Martin Logan X-Stat electrostatic panel atop a Tannoy Westminster Royal SE handling bass duties may be the way to go.

 

I will leave David to talk about your spring clip adorned wonder! NK


yamaha-ns1000m

The Yamaha NS1000M loudspeaker - a brilliant design from Japan. It needs careful matching, says David.

 

Hi Ross, glad to see you now know what I've been rabbiting on about all these years! The short answer is that I am keeping my NS1000Ms as original as possible, thank you very much. Quite why a few blokes on forums with a soldering iron and the Radiospares catalogue are suddenly better crossover designers than the entire audio engineering personnel of Yamaha (a company famous for its exquisite musical instruments, lest we forget; their logo is of course a tuning fork), plus the collected best brains of Tokyo University (who did a lot of the drive unit development, reputedly), is beyond me...

 

I am sure it is possible to do better than Yamaha on the crossovers, it's just I think you'd need someone who seriously knows what they're doing and has access to the very best, possibly custom made, passive componentry, plus a lot of time. Even then, the results may simply be different, rather than better. Either way, I don't think the "oh, I'll just solder this fancy cap in and see what happens" approach is likely to succeed. Think of it like this; I am sure someone could set up a Porsche 911 better than the factory spec, but it's not going to be someone with no test track and just a Halfords Advantage Card for good luck, is it? For this reason, I don't want to hack around my rear terminals either; personally if I was you I wouldn't be thinking about resale values (why would you want to sell them?), but you don't want to start playing around with the cabinets. Why not use bare wire? In all instances, bare wire is better than banana plugs; there's one less thing in the way of the signal, after all!

 

What you really need to concern yourself about is placement. My stands are made by Custom Design; I am sure they can supply the exact same stands (to the dimensions I specified to them); the right stands make a massive difference. I run mine 20cm from the rear wall; you're right, they do sound better against solid walls. The other thing to do is to periodically tighten the drive unit's screws up on the baffles, as these can work loose over time and they begin to smear the sound slightly.

I've tried umpteen amps and the best non-silly money solid-state for them to my ears is the Musical Fidelity AMS35i. I also know the Icon Audio 845s to be a superb partner, and funnily enough there was a real synergy with the humble Icon Audio Stereo 300B integrated which sounds sweet and fulsome. My own valve amp is the World Audio Design K5881 (modded), which sounds sublime, although this runs out of puff in my new larger listening room. I use the really rather modest Black Rhodium Tango cables; these are smooth and open and stable.

 

Keep experimenting, is what I'd counsel with the NS1000Ms; they're like a finely tuned racing car which rewards careful set up (although I'll pass on tampering with the engine)! What I love about them is that they can sound so dramatically different; put a smooth, sumptuous front end on them and they're all rich and fruity; put a thin, searing one on and they're precisely this. It's the mark of a true monitor loudspeaker, and why they were incredibly popular in recording studios in the seventies and eighties. DP



 
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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