September 2011 issue

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World Mail    September 2011 issue        


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Your experts are -

DP David Price, editor; NK Noel Keywood, publisher; PR Paul Rigby, reviewer; TB Tony Bolton, reviewer; RT Rafael Todes, reviewer (Allegri String Quartet); AS Adam Smith, reviewer; DC Dave Cawley, Sound Hi-Fi, World Design, etc.



Made near Perthshire, the superb Tannoy DC10



I am writing to ask your advice on buying new speakers as I find your reviews to be the most reliable and revealing. Unfortunately, I live far from any hi-fi retailers which makes it difficult to hear any demonstrations, and I’ve yet to read a review that made me think ‘that’s the one’.

I currently have a pair of Monitor Audio PL100s, with a wonderful Luxman 590A 11 integrated amplifier and Renaissance transport and DAC. I love the clarity of the above set up and vocals are a joy, but the PL100s can be bright in tone, as you have pointed out in past reviews. I am looking for something as musical as the Monitor Audios, but more even handed and with more bass. The ability to produce a good soundstage is also important to me. My listening room is 5m x 5.5m x4.3m high. I listen to all kinds of music, but avoid anything with a heavy bass beat. I can spend up to £6,000, perhaps a little more. I enjoy your magazine, especially readers letters.

J. Robertson



The Platinum Series loudspeakers have great qualities but I found them too bright and I also have reservations about bass quality, at least from the PL200 and 300.  All the same, they are a difficult act to follow because by comparison most other loudspeakers will sound less incisive and less apparently clear. One loudspeaker that will definitely appeal is the Eminent Technology LFT-8b (see January 2010 issue). It is also very reasonably priced for what it is. If this is too radical then a very obvious choice is manufactured just south of you in Glasgow, namely Tannoy. Their DC8 and DC10 loudspeakers are strong in the bass but smooth and sophisticated elsewhere. I am sure they will appeal and it is likely you can get to hear them even though you are in Perthshire. Otherwise, think Martin Logan and the new Theos, which we hope to review soon. NK


If you're temperamentally inclined to the Monitor Audio Platinum type sound, but crave more refinement, then without hesitation I'd recommend the Vivid V1.5. These have a lovely open sound, with wonderful soundstaging and real punch, yet they're delicate and refined beyond their price point – a truly lovely listen! DP



Two years ago after reading positive reviews in Hi-Fi World and other magazines I purchased an Avid Diva II turntable for occasional use with my record collection. On the advice of the dealer at the time I fitted an SME 309 tonearm. Since the purchase last year of an Audio Research PH5 phono stage, vinyl playback has become my preferred method of listening to music. After several upgrades in the last year my system now comprises an Audio Research LS26 and PH5, a Musical Fidelity A5cr power amp and Sonus Faber Cremona M loudspeakers.

I am now looking to upgrade the front end. My first thought was to buy the Diva II SP upgrade package but at £1,500 plus shipping it looks very poor value for money considering the price differential between the two products. I know that the Diva II SP is a turntable that you think highly of. My question is, should I upgrade the Diva II or just trade it in for a Volvere SP or some other turntable, bearing in mind that I will probably get the best deal from an Avid dealer.

I will of course fit the SME arm on whatever turntable I buy; can you recommend a suitable cartridge. I am not an audiophile and just enjoy listening to music such as Pop, Folk, Instrumental and female vocalists, so for me involvement with the music is more important than the last once of resolution.

Finally a question about cables: is there any benefit to be gained by fitting a different cable to the SME tonearm? If so what would you recommend?

Fred Banks



What is the best way to upgrade my Avid Diva II turntable, asks Fred?


Hmmm... what a question! You say that the last ounce of resolution isn't important, and that you like an involving sound. Well in that case I'd recommend you move away from the Avids. I was going to recommend the Volvere Sequel which is a great deck with a thunderous, relentlessly powerful sound and massive amounts of information, but euphonic, smooth and gently musical it is not – hardly the ideal weapon of choice for folk music, then!

Instead you need to look towards something closer to the Nottingham Analogue stable, and the Fletcher Audio Omega Point 5 (£3,699) is probably the most suitable – this isn't a Notts Analogue deck but was the last creation from the aforemention company's founder, Tom Fletcher, and as such the ultimate expression of his philosophy I'd say. It will provide a fine platform for your SME 309, although the Audio Origami PU7 will sound quite a lot more 'organic' and musical should you wish to upgrade it later. DP


Hi Fred. Funny that you do not mention the cartridge you are using at present. Both the SME309 and Audio Research PH5 phono stage suit a good moving coil (MC) type, but you seem to be implying that you are not especially quality conscious, so I am confused!  This could be taken to mean that a good moving magnet (MM) cartridge will do, in which case I recommend Ortofon’s 2M Black as usual. Another way of reading your words is that a half decent MC would do, in which case a Benz Micro Ace would suit. NK



I have been able to access the older buying guides and reviews pages on your website in the past but it now appears to be unavailable or has moved. Yet It still comes up in search engine results. Can you advise me of how to access this info or tell me its new location? if it has been removed it would be most disappointing. Could you make the listings available as a download?



Many people asked for this now obsolete guide to be resurrected. It provides useful information on old equipment and helps when buying second hand items from eBay, we were told. So you'll now find it in original form on our website, Go to the Olde Worlde section and here you will find Old Buying Guide. However, you will find a far more detailed contemporary listing in our World Favourites section. This will be updated in the near future. NK



The notes following below are from Erno Borbely's website. They could form the basis of an interesting article/ investigation for publishing in Hi-Fi World.


Use Terminated Interconnect Cables

"A preamp feeding a power amp with interconnect cable is shown in fig. 1. Normally the output impedance of the preamp is in the order of 50 to several 100 Ohm. The input impedance of the power amp on the other hand is in the tens to hundreds of kilo Ohm. Connecting these together with a shielded cable means that the cable sees a low driving impedance and a very high load impedance. The result is that the signal you are sending from the preamp bounces back from the other end resulting in echoes. And the signal will be smeared by the time it arrives at the power amp. This is practically independent of whether you are using a cheap shielded cable, a professional coax cable or a 1k$/m fancy silver cable. The reason is that the cable is not terminated with its characteristic impedance.

Consequently significant improvements can be achieved by using terminated cables between pieces of audio gear. This is especially important when the distance is several metres. Typical example is a line amp sitting next to your armchair and drives a 10m cable going to the power amp. In fig. 1 I have designated the output impedance of the line amp driving the cable with R and the other end of the cable is also terminated with the same resistor. This resistor has to be equal to the characteristic impedance of the cable. If you are using a 50 Ohm coax cable then R=50 Ohm, if the cable is a 75 Ohm video cable then R=75 Ohm. Should you use a 150 Ohm microphone cable, then R=150 Ohm. Naturally the connector at the output of your line amp and at the input of your power amp has to have the same impedance as the cable. If you are using R=50 Ohm then you need a 50 Ohm connector. In case of R=75 Ohm the connector has to be a 75 Ohm one.

Fortunately there are very good 50 Ohm and 75 Ohm BNC connectors on the market and they are much better than any RCA connector you can buy anyway. If you terminate the cable at BOTH ends with its characteristic impedance, then it appears to be a purely resistive cable and there will be no reflections (echoes) back from the load. This is not new; the RF people have been using this for ages."

Jan Eigenhuis

South Africa


Thanks Jan, but the characteristic impedance of a line is valid only over its operating frequency range – and that’s why “the RF people” have been using it for ages. The distributed values of capacitance and inductance in a cable are so small they have no impact at low audio frequencies, at least over 1m or so. Coaxial cables typically work from Radio Frequencies (RF) 100MHz upward where the need to match drive impedance to cable and load impedance is important; at audio frequencies lower than 0.02MHz it is not.

Also, audio cables do not have a characteristic impedance, and audio line drive stages are not designed to drive low loads continuously. Drawing excessive current by slugging a line driver with a resistor is likely to raise distortion and it could even overheat the output device. So this is not something we are going to pursue! (the Borbely website is now closed)

There are bigger issues elsewhere, quite frankly, and the use of all-balanced circuitry driving balanced analogue lines is probably a more fruitful area to pursue, since it cancels certain forms of noise and distortion and it also breaks earth loops by separating audio from earth currents. Yet few people do it. Instead everyone is using cheap (60p or so) unbalanced to balanced ‘off-the-shelf’ line drivers so as to be able to fit XLR sockets. There’s still quite a lot of sensible engineering that can be done in audio, but it doesn’t include putting resistors on the ends of cables. NK



I was driving to work today in a Mazda, a totally stock car normal for Singapore. The stereo has no brand, the speakers have no brand, the wiring is probably all SWG20 maximum. But what a glorious ride, the sun was shining, everyone was being the usual speed kings – must get in first in that less than a car distance gap, but who cared! Depeche Mode on CD have never sounded so good, everything laid out in front of me, bass was distorted and soggy, vocals distorted at the top - but the thrill of it! As I said it’s a nondescript car stereo, but it rocked the house. car vibrating, back window vibrating like the skin on a bass drum. Almost a live experience and feel - fantastic. This is completely different to the home environment where the total sum spent probably gets close to the car price.

I’ve suspected over the years that perhaps the system can be an obsession and the car experience sadly sort of backs it up. Got in to work yesterday and was humming in the lift; a colleague asked, “why you so happy today?” I’d spent the night before in a pub listening to some real awful attempt at Irish music with penny whistles and flutes, the only positive point was that it was easy to get a table, you all know why.

So half an hour in the car the next day restored my nerves and let the music flood out, not really hi-fi, bit distorted, but Tubular Bells on CD is still a thrill and we don’t want the thrill to be gone – it's the music that matters !

Mitch Long




Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells' is still a thrill in the car, says Mitch Long...


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