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June 2011 issue - Page 5

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June 2011 issue
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TALK RADIO

I have a view to offer on DAB and a tricky question about my system.

 

I was listening to R4 this morning (on LW - so there!) and yet another carefully managed ‘discussion’ about the replacement of FM with the DAB system. I am sick of hearing the rehearsed P.R. line presented in this way – aunty Beeb patiently patronising licence fee payers with explanations as to why we should do as we are told and be grateful for the cost, the awful reception, poor sound and general contempt in which we are held.

 

That’s the thing that gets me – being lied to and cheated by unelected, unaccountable and seemingly incompetent members of the executive. Perhaps others have noticed how, since Thatcher, most of the actions of governments have involved redirecting public money into private pockets and DAB is just another way of doing this. Licence fee payers are being told to accept a huge reduction in BBC broadcast quality and to bear all the costs of providing infrastructure meant primarily for private radio stations.

 

The BBC Trust would have us believe this is all to do with choice, but by subsidising competitors by the back door it is undermining the Beeb's own radio service, no doubt with a view to eventual privatisation and fat cats feasting at our expense. I often wonder what the Advertising Standards view of claims like ‘CD - quality sound’ would have been, if promoted by a commercial organisation?

 

Now my hi-fi predicament. For years my system has been based around a classic (in some ways) combination; Thorens TD160S (Akito/1042), JVC JAS11 and Wharfedale E70s/ or my own standmounts (D2905/ Peerless CSC176, 90dB and very nice indeed). Cambridge CD4 transport, Dacmagic 3 and a Sony MDS JE500 recorder. Currently lacking FM (!), but I have that covered.

 

I was in audio heaven with all this – not high end, but in some ways surprisingly close (synergy), but then the amp's input selector finally collapsed. No music – hell! I couldn’t bear it, so I drove to Richer Sounds and got a Topaz AM10 as a slot-in stop gap. The JVC was an amazing little amp – Hi-Fi Answers best budget buy for years and actually way better than that suggests. Okay, the phono stage was a bit clangy with poorly mixed records (not on good ones) but that came with life like tonality, projective imaging, firecracker dynamics and amazing grip and drive. That’s why I chose it over the A60 I auditioned it against and kept it after trying a NAD 3020 in my system (yes the NAD’s phonostage is better).

 

In fact, a significant upgrade was always going to be expensive so it never happened. I have neighbours and the JVC sounded lovely whispering into the (95dB!) E70s at normal volumes, but would get all feisty and muscular at a certain point on the volume knob. The Topaz can’t do any of that, obviously, and so what to do?

My question is this: given that, apart from the phono stage, there are no active components before the JVC’s 250K volume pot and the main board has a handy ‘main in’ (L, R and common) could I use it as a power amp (I can do the wiring) and drive it with an OBH-22?

 

The deck deserves a decent equaliser. I am thinking of a second hand XLPs. Cash is in short supply, but I can’t put up with Kate Bush sounding like Minnie Mouse! I need your advice.

Mark


wharfedale-e70

A wild loudspeaker that worked - Wharfedale's E70, still used by Mark. Paper drive units with massive sensitivity made it Rock.

 

 

Hi Mark. Yes, in principle you can use it as a power amp in the way you suggest and this makes a lot of sense in your case. The OBH-22 can be used to input select and adjust volume. Just butcher a phono interconnect and patch it onto the board or – better – connect the board up to one of the now unused phono input socket pairs. Remember to disconnect the JVC volume control or it will load your input stages unnecessarily. You can of course then get a Creek phono stage for playing LP. NK

 

TIME FOR A CHANGE

After reading the latest issue from Hi-Fi World Towers, I thought a thought provoking letter might just help change the current format of the mag. As a renewed subscriber now for two and a half years it’s all beginning to look the same every month: turntable reviews – best of batch of (amps/preamps/etc) reviews all given 4/5 globes/stars, even though there are some comments that would definitely remove them from my list of suspects.

 

There are new technologies out there. I am of course talking about music streaming and storage of CDs/ Downloads/ LPs on HDs  (yes, I know Noel they do fail, but nowadays they are pretty reliable, more so than many esoteric amps/preamps (I have owned them all)! In any case, you can easily back the HD up onto a QNAP in raid 5 mode for example. Now just in case you think I am a computer (audio) nerd (and I may be)! I am nearly seventy years old, design and build valve amps (211/845/50/2A3/45), etc. And hearing and sight are still better than the average teenager (although that may not be saying much).

 

This new technology is the way forward, so embrace it. Why is it the way forward? Because it allows something that other approaches do not: instant retrieval of sorted albums. Instant playing and storing of downloads (e.g. Wolfgang’s Vault). a la iPod/mp3/4 etc. I haven't bought a CD in two years and judging by the falling rate of CD purchases nor have the public at large.

 

There is a vast new subject here. Please add it to your reviews and talk points, Coverage to date in all mags has been spotty to say the least. We (wife and self) are musicians and go to many concerts so comparison between live and recorded music is frequent (many times I prefer recorded). I have a couple of (good) systems (Kondo inspired 211 monoblocks/ Martin Logan ‘speakers/ NAS Hyperdeck/ SME V/ Helikon) and an all-Leema set up (the only solid-state equipment I have been able to more than live with), comprising Pyxis/Agena/Altair 1Vs/Xanda 11s/RipNAS/Mac mini/QNAP/Sim Moon/Accustic Arts. If set up correctly it’s difficult to hear the differences between a download/ CD/ ripped CD/ and Vinyl. Yes, I know in some houses this may seem like blasphemy, but your mag could help define this newish source by being an early adopter and leader. Please think about varying the mag's content and its time to drop the globes/stars rating: they are meaningless.

Ian


naim-unitiserve

 

Naim Unitiserve music server will be reviewed by us soon, as well as the QATMS-5.

 

 

We do cover this topic and we intend to do more as it grows in popularity. Digital storage and downloading is much about compatibilities and menus, less about sound quality, as you have found, although I don’t know how you can find vinyl to sound like downloads; they are radically different in behaviour and sound quality.

And Raid Array storage strategy is hardly a hi-fi topic Ian; it may interest you but I doubt it will appeal to Hi-Fi World readers.

 

The issue of Globe ratings is contentious, so let me explain. There is far more equipment available for review than we have space for in the magazine. Paper is expensive and its price only increases. As a result we actively select products of at-least reasonable ability for review, not wanting to waste paper and space with negative coverage. We could easily include more dubious product and spice things up a bit, but that would then deny space and coverage to items worthy of mention – and there are many out there. It is our job to find them.

 

Most difficult to cope with at our end is the amount of product we reject either because it is faulty, or for poor performance. For example we had a beautifully built and finished panel wall loudspeakers in for review recently, price a lofty £1,200. When measured frequency response was absurd, so they were sent back. Then a pair of active loudspeakers started issuing smoke – the first time I have ever seen smoke from loudspeakers under review! Three tuners were tested before one worked (their lab generator had gone wonky), three amplifiers blew up (bad board batch from Taiwan) and three DACs from Korea failed to work (they had to withdraw them).

 

I could not tell you how many speakers we reject as unreviewable because they sound and measure badly; it is quite shocking and is a gruesome waste of time for us. At least three products per month are rejected, after considerable test work. Magazines that don’t test don’t suffer this turmoil of course. It gets worse when an argument starts with a manufacturer who insists their product works well, as some attempt to do – then the waste of time spins out of control. We would rather deal with competent manufacturers who produce decent products and bring these to your attention, than get involved with the deluded end of the industry, which seems to be growing. That, broadly speaking, is why we do not have many low Globe ratings ...

 

On “comments that would definitely remove them (review product) from my list of suspects”, we quite often find questionable characteristics, but these have to be balanced against strengths. The final verdict then becomes personal. The Pearl Evo Ballerina 401s are a good example in this issue; their domes are unusual and provide quite a dramatic presentation, but I have heard smoother loudspeakers. Some would love ‘em, others hate ‘em I suspect. They’re certainly worth reviewing though.

 

We try and provide readers with an honest and well researched basic view. This contrasts, for example, with most of today’s audio websites where there is no measurement and just one person’s opinion – often a eulogy – of a product that commonly reads like it is closely linked to the manufacturer (we have been offered ‘independent reviews’ like this but do not use them).

 

Borderline products, like the good and bad LFT-16 loudspeakers I am reviewing at this very minute, will probably go on our website in future. It was recently revised for this purpose, as well as to support the magazine. Go to http://www.hi-fiworld.co.uk / loudspeakers / reviews. It consumes less paper! NK

 

MAGIC DUST

“This player [the CD 50T] seems to sprinkle its valve magic dust on everything, leaving everything sounding as if it’s had magic dust sprinkled on it” (page 49, March 2011).

This is from the magazine that claims “to ensure the upmost accuracy” (well, you mean utmost, but never mind) because of test equipment that is “amongst the most advanced in the world”, so that “you can depend on Hi-Fi World reviews”. Perhaps you’d provide a technical explanation for “magic dust”.

Tony Williams

 

Hi Tony. Our Rohde & Schwarz UPL analyser said the “the primary spectral content was determined by the time domain Hanning windowing function imposed on the Fast Fourier Transform” (in German) so we've decided to use the term Magic Dust instead as this means just as much. Hope this helps! NK




 
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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