October 2011 issue

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October 2011 issue
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World Mail    October 2011 issue        


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Letters are published first in the magazine, then here in our web archive. We cannot guarantee to answer all mail, but we do manage most!


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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.



Valve amplifiers are heavily dependent upon transformer quality, and Icon Audio make their own.



Having been an ardent reader of Hi-Fi World since jumping ship back in 92’ and not missing an issue to date, I feel it is pertinent to raise a couple of issues that have concerned me recently and have started to spoil almost 20 years of my reading pleasure from the most competent and realistic audio magazine on the market.

My first concern is regarding companies that advertise with you and the almost sycophantic praise they receive with their products e.g. Inspire Hi-Fi and Icon Audio. I have nothing against either manufacturer, but it does seem their reviews appear unchallenged and dare I say biased. I accept hi-fi is purely subjective in terms of preference to sound, yet I find neither brand offers anything out of the ordinary with the exception of the PS3 phono stage which I thought to be good value.

My next concern/shock regards AS’s review of the X100 tonearm in this month's issue. I’ve enjoyed many an article from the pen of AS but this review makes ludicrous claims (“the new standard”) about what is surely an uninspiring attempt to copy the Funk FXR, which you made tonearm of the year recently and as a result of DP’s review and audition, I duly purchased. Yet AS makes no mention of this, other than what can only be perceived as an insidious attack on the Funk and other designs that use the Rega platform!

What’s going on then? Am I just being cynical? Or is there something readers like myself (which have collectively brought HFW to where it is today) should know about? Please get back to doing what you do better than the rest – review hi-fi that is affordable or at least attainable over the passage of time and many months saving!


Joe Cohen


Considering the Funk Firm FXR arm, I agree that it is a fine product; well worthy of our award last year and you can be rightly proud that you own an item designed by one of the finest vinyl minds in the hi-fi industry. I have often said that if some others showed even half the engineering ingenuity exhibited by The Funk Firm’s Arthur Khoubesserian, the world would be a much more interesting place.


The trouble is, having spent time with both the FXR and the Inspire X100 in my own system, it all boiled down to the fact that I simply preferred the X100, with no other underlying axe grinding. In fact, I deliberately chose not to mention the FXR in the review, lest this come across to readers as an intended slight, which was most certainly not the case.



The Funk FXR is the arm Joe Cohen purchased after we praised it. And it remains a great arm...


I cannot help feeling that your description of the X100 as an “uninspiring copy” of the FXR is incorrect at best and insulting at worst. I know for a fact that it was been under development for a considerable time and also that Robert Isherwood is certainly not the sort of designer who sneers at another product and thinks “I can make a better copy of that”. Whilst ostensibly visually similar, the FXR and X100 have different bearings, different wiring, different arm tube materials and geometry and different headshell construction; with all this taken into consideration I can’t help thinking you are letting appearances deceive you. AS


Hi Joe If we’re handing out plaudits based on advertising as you fear, we’d not be handing out plaudits to those companies not advertising. This is self-evidently not the case, nor has it ever been. Hi-Fi World has probably done more to champion the cause of ‘classic’ (i.e. used, old, obsolete) audio than any other magazine. So if our editorial was advertising driven, Noel wouldn’t be championing Garrard 401s (who knows, maybe he’s tried to get Plessey advertising with us!), I wouldn’t be singing the praises of a long-deceased pair of Yamaha speakers and indeed Hi-Fi World wouldn’t have promoted, variously, valves, vinyl, direct drive turntables and cassette, when there was precisely zero business to be transacted from them! And why do you think all the other mags went into AV when we did not? For the advertising!


Of all the magazines around, I think it’s hard to argue that we take a hard-nosed, advertising driven editorial stance, given that we spend so much time and magazine space writing about things you can’t buy new any more!


Instead of getting all conspiratorial, I’d suggest you asked more questions about why we like particular brands at certain times – which would prompt us to explain ourselves better, perhaps.


Thanks for asking the question you did in a civilised and courteous way, which is more than some internet forum conspiracists. I’d simply say that – whilst there are always some subjective disagreements – you’re perfectly at liberty to research our findings using your own ears and I think you’ll find we’re far more right than wrong about things. Certainly, the large amount of mail we get suggests that most of our readers think this to be the case. DP


Hi Joe. Those that get good reviews tend to advertise with us. It’s this way around, not the other way around! And all is not quite so simple as it may appear. For example, we gave Icon Audio mediocre reviews for some years and owner David Shaw was upset and annoyed by them. He did in the end improve transformer quality by changing supplier and this brought about the sound quality improvement needed and glowing reviews.


Behind this lies quite a complicated story in truth, as you might suspect as he now has his own engineering team and factory in China, my report reveals in this issue, so he is more proactive than most. He does not now use subcontractors, keeping both quality and price under firm control. I feel our enthusiasm for his products is more than justified.


He told me recently that it was a World Audio Design KT88 amplifier that set him off along the valve path – and we used Britain’s best designer, Andy Grove, and its best transformer manufacturer, Morite, to produce the transformers of our amplifiers. This is where and how the standard was set.


Since Hi-Fi World is well known worldwide – including China – as a magazine expert in valve technology it is hardly surprising that Icon Audio get the best response from advertising with us. It is simple commercial logic; they’re not going to place an ad in Woman’s Own...


I do understand that continual praise of a certain limited range of products looks suspiciously like some form of favouritism, but if you look closely you will see this is not so. Rega, for example, get constant praise and I know owner Roy Gandy well, but do they advertise? No!


If praise is “sycophantic” then do you suggest we should not praise good products? Should I not have praised Creek’s Destiny 2 amplifier that I thought was wonderful (and they don’t advertise either), because this would be sycophantic? How do we convey outstanding quality then?


You might like to read below the opinion of someone who bought the Inspire turntable modification package that DP raved about recently. NK



I bought May’s Hi-Fi World, the one with a review of the Vivid LP12 upgrade, and was very impressed with the review. I have a large vinyl collection, and always enjoy reading vinyl-related articles, so last month’s magazine was especially interesting. I know you have always favoured vinyl as a format, even through the lean times of CD dominance. Now, it seems that vinyl is truly making a comeback judging on the number of new releases and re-releases being issued in the format. At last, sense is returning. Digital will always win out on convenience, but there’s something so right about a decent vinyl set-up. Mind you, I’ve been listening to vinyl for over 40 years, so maybe I’m just tuned into it. Also, holding and reading a CD insert pales in comparison with holding and reading an album cover. I know, it’s nothing to do with the music, but it adds to the experience.

Now, to the main point of this letter. I have an LP12 which I bought around ‘83 or ‘84, and thought it was reasonably well sorted; Cirkus bearing, Trampolinn base, Ittok LVII arm and Lingo power supply.


Roger's Linn LP12 turntable got an Inspire upgrade.

Your review indicated that the Vivid upgrade would achieve quite considerable improvements, and I must admit I had my doubts that improvements to that extent could be achieved in my case. After all, I thought my LP12 was pretty good. Anyway, I decided to find out, so I made contact with Robert at Inspire Hi-Fi, who suggested I bring my LP12 for a comparative audition. As I live only 30 minutes from his unit this wasn’t a problem, and a date and time was agreed.

I have to say, I was absolutely amazed at the difference I heard after only one track. What did I hear? An invisible veil had been removed from in front of the speakers, the whole sound was tightened up, timing was improved as was instrument placement. The music flowed, it had my foot tapping and sounded so much better. The thought of returning home with my LP12 was too much to bear, and so I placed an order and left it with Inspire.

Robert did an excellent job fitting the new parts and rebuilding my LP12. I’ve now been listening to my Vivid LP12 at home for a few weeks, and am still amazed at the improvements in sound quality. It’s going to take a while, but I want to go through my record collection.

I decided to re-read your review, and was amazed at how accurate it is. That doesn’t sound good, let me re-phrase it. I’m amazed at how closely I can relate to the contents of the review. I’ve seen so many glowing reviews in magazines that I think I’ve become a little immune to them, and sometimes 5 stars (or globes) are awarded for products, which if I invested in I feel would only provide subtle improvements. However, in the case of the Vivid LP12 upgrade, it’s worth every penny, and the improvements would be even more marked when carried out on a lower spec’d deck than mine. I shall be eternally grateful (well, for a long time anyway) that I bought your magazine and read the review. Keep up the good work at Hi-Fi World and many thanks to Robert at Inspire Hi Fi.



The quality of the LP12 Vivid mods package was such that I felt a detailed four page 'rave review' was necessary. It's a great value package – you only need to look at what Linn Products charge for their mods to see the sort of value for money the Inspire kit represents – and I had to say so. It is a really great product, even if some seem to think praising it amounts to bias! DP


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