September 2011 issue - Page 4

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I’m a typical middle-of-the-road kind of man. Although I read every single word of your excellent paper, I have to restrain myself. I cannot simply buy a phono amplifier that will cost more than my entire equipment, although I am convinced that it will sound good. So I am living in sub high-end land but it’s okay. I’m happy with that (but my heart ached the other day when listening to a friend’s Canton-Primare system. It took some days to forget that experience).

I am now a transistor man, although I still miss my two LEAK TL 12 Point One monoblocks. I got tired of nursing them all the time so I had to replace them (that was some years ago). Now I use a XTZ 100 D3, a rather old NAD CD-player with a Cambridge Dac Magic 3 and Sonab OA 12 speakers (designed by the Swedish loudspeaker guru, Stig Carlsson. I think Noel referred to him once as the “tweeter fetishist”). Although this design is nearly forty years old, it’s still sounding very modern and it got a new lease of life with a new treble unit especially made for this design.

I have nearly 2,000 vinyl records and I use an old Systemdek II with an Alphason Xenon arm and a Ortofon Kontrapunkt A. A Cambridge 640p was a superb upgrade a year ago. It is much much better than the internal one on the XTZ.

I am rather happy with my system and it now also has a firm bottom end with the help from a small but effective sub made by XTZ.

So what’s the problem? I think that I could benefit by changing my record player to something more modern. I read some good things about the Project RPM 5.1. My question is this – is this a good idea? Or should I aim higher (or lower)? Or should I stay put and concentrate on a new motor and power supply for the Systemdek. Origin Live has an “Advanced dc Motor Kit” for  £339. Is this the way to go?

Anders Gjres




Michell's TecnoDec remains a great mid-price performer.


Ah yes - Sonab! I visited them on a press trip long long ago. Stockholm was a lovely city, but their factory was North of the Arctic Circle no less. The houses had windows triple glazed to keep out the extreme cold and ladders were bolted to the walls and roofs so the snow could be cleared. In winter it was dark all day. Wow - it was one of the more extreme places I have been to. There was no shortage of timber for loudspeakers though - trees everywhere! NK


Hi Anders - I'd go for a new turntable. Can you stretch to a Michell TecnoDec? It's a little above your budget but you'd find it well worth it. This would give you a dramatically more detailed and dimensional sound, allied more refinement and grip. I think. The Pro-ject wouldn't really give you a useful improvement on your Systemdek (if any), and the Systemdek is getting on a bit anyway – hence my recommendation to move to a modern design. The TecnoDec is beautifully built and would be a great partner for your Alphason arm. DP



I have actually waited until a problem has gone away to ask you what the problem was caused by. But my curiosity means I cannot simply shrug my shoulders and move on.

My system used, until recently, to make an intermittent high pitched tone solely on the right channel. This only coincided with my amplifier, which is the youngest component in the set up, and arose equally between all the sources. The amp is a Shanling STP-10 valve amplifier. If it helps, the speakers it feeds are Klipsch Heresy IIs which I understand have an 8 Ohm rating and 95 decibels per watt efficiency. The volume at which I play the system cannot conceivably put a strain on either the amp or the speakers (though I realise that the amp is only 5 watts per side).

The sound was the same dynamic irrespective of the setting of the volume control. You could turn the volume down to nil and it would be the same volume as it was if the volume went up to a high setting. It was a high sound, but given my 50 years of age and the fact that it did not seem to me to be at the ceiling of my hearing I would guess it was somewhere between 8kHz and 10kHz. It might “arrive” for a period of as little as two seconds or for several (e.g. 15 seconds). Although it arrived fairly clearly in one go, it did not switch on and off in a hard edged manner. It probably had a phasing in time of 1/4 second or more. Although it was not very loud it was always very audible. Only loudish passages would mask it. You could not pretend it wasn’t there. It would arrive relatively shortly after switch on and come and go through a listening session. Mostly, it wasn’t there, and you could easily go half an hour with no issue. It was as prevalent in the winter as the other seasons, and since I do not have the radiator in my listening room switched on, I often listen in quite chilly temperatures, but the relative cold did not affect its coming and going. Although there is a transformer hum, it is only at all obvious when standing close to the amp. There is no hum through the speakers that I can detect.

My CD player is an Audio Note CD1, and the turntable and tuner are switched to it via the tape loop of an old Project 7 amp. I also use my iPod on the dedicated iPod dock. As I say, there is nothing remotely source dependent about this fault, so if the sources are causing it, that will be due to technical considerations well beyond my understanding.

I had wondered whether overheating was the culprit, but, really, nothing seemed to point so very much to that (as it did not worsen in warm weather or during a longer session).

Then, one day I decided to listen with the valve cage removed. I thought it would be a pointless experiment, but no it wasn’t. It has not, in several subsequent listening sessions, caused any problems. Can it really be that the valve cage was causing it to overheat, and if so, why was the result ostensibly unlinked to heat? But if not that, what could the cage have been doing? My only added point is that I cannot detect any other improvement with the cage off.

It may be idle curiosity, as I now remove the cage, but I would still like to know what could possibly explain the problem.

Yours sincerely

Graham Elliott


The usual explanation for this is instability in the amplifier, but as you seem to be saying it was a mechanical noise from the amplifier and it was not coming from the loudspeakers, and that it disappeared when you removed the valve cage, then it seems to be the cage ringing. I suspect, however, that it was whistling from the electrodes of a valve and removing the cage disturbed the valve. If it comes back try removing the output valves on one channel, then the other, or put a cloth around them in turn, for a few seconds, to see if this damps or stops the noise. You may need to replace a valve. NK



I am looking to upgrade my system for the long term. The system is composed of WD modular pre amp which has been fully upgraded and sounds great. WD 25T loudspeakers driven by bi-amped pair of Icon 845MBs. Front end is Michell GyroDec with Orbe spec. The arm is also Michell Tecnoarm with Ortofon Rondo Bronze moving coil cartridge. All this is strung together with Chord Chameleon Silver Plus and Odyssey 4 cables.

My question is, should I change the arm first and if so which one? I have considered Audio Origami, Funk FXR and Origin Live. With regards to the cartridge the only one that I have considered is the Benz Micro Wood SL. Should I change the arm first or the cartridge?

The system as it stands sounds lovely but I believe that a bit more performance is possible. My listening room measures 5m x 6.5m x 3m high. My musical taste ranges from jazz, blues, a sprinkling of classical, 60-70’s soul and of course Reggae from my homeland.

Your advice would be most appreciated and I look forward to my next copy or should I say my next fix of Hi-Fi World.

Henry Curniffe


Ah yes - Reggae. Reminds me of my misspent youth! Did I hear the other day that 'The Harder They Come' is going to be re-made? They don’t make music like that any more though, do they? Or am I just out of touch? NK


Well obviously readers, as you know I couldn't possibly comment on that previous remark made by Noel, so I best get on and answer this question! You've shortlisted some superb arms, and your choice really comes down to how much reggae you listen to! Basically, if you want a super-bouncy and thumpingly musical sound then it has to be the Funk. If you want a wonderfully spacious and even and open sound then it's Origin Live. And sat up there in the middle is the Audio Origami, which is the best all rounder. Get the arm first and then the cartridge; the Benz for all round use, whereas Lyra's Dorian is a hoot on pop, rock and reggae, and won't sound too bright in your system. DP



I have had my present hi-fi system for over ten years and would like to replace it. My system comprises Musical Fidelity A3 CD player and an A3 integrated amp; Opera IIIa floorstanding loudspeakers and QED speaker cables and interconnects. The loudspeakers have never had a good write-up but with the present combination, they have given me a lot of pleasure over the years. I play music on the system every day.

I have been to audition three different systems at three distributors and they are:- (1) Naim Momentum 3i integrated amp and separate CD player with Pettit SX speakers with Naim’s cable (I have been to the shop twice) (2) Exposure 2010 S2 integrated amp and CD player, Chord speaker cable and interconnects and PMC GB1i loudspeakers (auditioned once) (3) Musical Fidelity M3i integrated amp and CD player, Dynaudio Excite 16 speakers and Dynaudio speaker cable and interconnects (auditioned once).

Having listened to these systems, the choice lies between 2 or 3. For system 2, all types of classical music sound very good, although I felt that orchestral music was not so wide or open but I will go again to listen to more orchestral music. System 3 is very good. I feel that the Musical Fidelity M3 set up is better than the Exposure 2010S2, so perhaps I should listen to Exposure 3010S2 in combination with the GB1i speakers. The Dynaudio speakers are very good but I feel that the GB1is are better, but the Dynaudio cable I feel may be better than Chord. I am wondering whether the best combination is the Musical Fidelity M3 with the PMC GB1i loudspeakers? My listening room is small (200-250 square feet), but I have no problem listening to my Opera loudspeakers I will go back to listen to the 2nd and 3rd options. I would be most grateful for any suggestions or advice you could offer.

Bryn Williamson

Hong Kong



For a small room Kingsound's Princess II electrostatic hybrid has real strengths.


That’s a limited range of loudspeakers to be listening to if you are a resident of Hong Kong, I think I am right in saying. You have many more brands available to you surely, including all those from IAG (Wharfedale, Castle, Mission, Quad) manufactured in Shenzhen and Gold Peak (KEF and Celestion). Then there is Kingsound, a local brand. And doubtless the rest of the world is represented too! Not to mention The People's Republic of China of course.  At least try to audition a Kingsound Princess II hybrid electrostatic loudspeaker if you can, as it has some real strengths. NK


It's very hard to give specific advice Bryn, as you don't specify your budget or precise musical tastes and your conundrum seems to be down to very specific synergy issues that can only really be settled with you listening to the respective components at a dealer, using your personal taste as a guide. All these products mentioned are very good and should give a long and happy listening life - it's down to you to decide which. If it was me, I'd go for a completely different approach (Cyrus CD 8 SE CD player, Icon Audio Stereo 300 integrated, Audiosmile Kensai or MyAudioDesign My1920 mini monitors), but then I'm not you! DP


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