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October 2011 issue - Page 4

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October 2011 issue
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CABLES

Many thanks for printing my letter in June’s edition. However, perhaps I should have made it clearer that my suggested test scenario only applied to mains cables.

I appreciate that interconnects and speaker leads may well have an effect, as they carry actual sonic information. But how can a mains cable affect sound?


From an engineering point of view the requirements of a good power supply are to provide a high quality DC output that is designed to be immune to the wild vagaries of domestic AC mains supplies. To this end power supplies have evolved with their elegant designs and custom components and nowadays produce rock solid DC outputs, effectively isolated from the quality of the AC input. Indeed, the huge inductances of massive (toroidal) transformers provide a powerful band-pass filter, blocking any frequencies higher than 50 Hz.

So to test if mains cables do have an effect, (and the man at the show isn’t doing something other than switching cables during demonstrations!), it isn’t a matter of signal input-output comparison, but rather comparing the sonic output for a particular (fixed) input before and after changing the mains cable.


When I was a student, many years ago, I worked in a lab that had a sound spectrograph. This contraption produced a paper analysis of a sound interval in terms of three dimensions: time, frequency and energy. (It burned a patch onto a rotating drum while the frequency was scanned - the darker the burn mark, the higher the energy at that frequency.) We used to feed it from giant Ferrograph tape recorders! I bet you’d like such equipment in your Olde Worlde section!


I’m sure we could find the equivalent modern version of the spectrograph, and borrow one for a test. A lot of people would be interested in the results.

Mark Lee

 

We use a three dimensional decay spectrum to measure colouration in loudspeakers, but do not publish it for lack of space. I suspect this is the sort of display you are referring to. You can see them on our website, in the Loudspeaker section.  Spectrum analysers have long had such a display, usually termed a “waterfall” plot. Hewlett Packard’s HP3561A, released in 1984 (we have three of them), has such a display for example. NK

waterfall-iguascu-decay

A waterfall plot shows time, frequency and amplitude on a three-D graph. We use them to assess colouration in loudspeakers.

 

SECONDS OUT

I was intrigued by your article 'Second Chance' in the June 2011 issue, in which three of your writers assembled an affordable system based on a second-hand source component. Coincidentally, at the same time I was engaged on a very similar exercise aimed at providing me with a modestly priced second system for a small but snug (12ft x 8 ft) sitting room-cum-library off my main lounge where I like to sit occasionally with my morning coffee and read the papers.

 

I had already decided on two things: 1) I wanted it to be based around a valve amplifier, since I have never previously owned one in all my years of buying hi-fi; 2) It would have to come in at under two grand, since anything more expensive couldn’t be justified by the amount of use it would get.

 

As it turned out, two-thirds of the system was acquired second-hand or discounted from one of your regular advertisers, Audio Emotion of Leven, Fife, Scotland, where the ever-helpful Gary was a positive joy to deal with. I found his advice and suggestions invaluable. I gather Gary and his business partner are both keen musicians and clearly love hi-fi just as much as their satisfied customers.

 

I built the system over several weeks, starting from what you would probably say was the wrong end, i.e. with speakers and stands. However, Gary gave me a great deal on a pair of Dynaudio Audience 42 speakers and the astonishing Partington Dreadnought stands (did the designer source them from a North Sea oil rig, I wonder?), coming in second-hand at under half the normal retail price of the units together.

 

Next, I bought from another online seller a Fatman Wi-Tube Hybrid Valve Amplifier (28 watts output) with the accompanying FatDock Blu iPod dock (£395). Yes, I know the amplifier is a hybrid beast but I was seduced by the unusual and dinky looks of the two components, which seemed perfect for the room they would occupy.

Then came the need for a CD player and again it was back to Audio Emotion. Gary found me a second-hand Primare PD12, a heavy and solidly built unit, to use as a transport – once more for an excellent price. Because I also wanted to stream Internet radio, iTunes and WMA files on a memory stick from an Acer netbook laptop, he suggested a Musical Fidelity V-DAC which has a switch to toggle between coaxial/optical and USB inputs.

 

With Chord Company interconnects and QED XT400 X-Tube speaker cables, the whole lot came in at around £1,500, a saving of something like £700-£800 if I had had to buy everything at original cost price.

 

Though the Fatman amp only has two phonoinputs, by employing a cable comprising two phono outputs to a 3.5mm jackplug going into the auxiliary input of the FatDock Blu dock, I am even able to run a cassette player into the system, making four sources in all, i.e. CD, iPod, laptop and tapes.


Of course, the system doesn’t have quite the same power and slam of my main system in the lounge (Michell Gyro SE in beautiful black and gold/Rega RB250/Ortofon Rondo Red; Musical Fidelity X-series phono and headphone amps; the barrel-shaped versions; Roksan Caspian CD player and FM tuner; Caspian pre- amp and two power amps bi-amping Living Voice Avatar speakers; Yamaha HDR-CD 1500 hard disc/CD recorder; Musical Fidelity M1 DAC), but that lot cost many times more than my second system and has to fill a much bigger room.


The system I have described, built largely with second-hand components, is giving me much pleasure and was assembled for a modest outlay. Moreover, I have only praise for the enthusiasm and excellent advice of one of your advertisers. Thanks, Gary of Audio Emotion!


In case it is of interest, I attach a photo of the system. I doubt there is another quite like it in the country!

Roy Stockdill

 

Thanks Roy - good for you. Enjoy your 'second chance'! DP


roy-stockdil

Roy Stockdill's system, unique in the UK he tells us – and very nice too.

 

FOUR ON THE FLOOR

I have a Technics SL1200 Direct Drive turntable in the loft. I am planning to put a redundant (due to upgrade) nearly new Goldring 1042 on it. My question is in relation to a suitable arm which will deliver the best bang for the buck.


I’ve shortlisted a few and I understand you cannot recommend but wondered if you could talk me through the subtle differences between the Jelco 750, Audio Origami’d Rega RB251, Origin Live Silver or an SME 309. A short appraisal of each would be absolutely brilliant.

Steven Summerscales

 

Okay Steve. The Jelco 750 is effectively a reborn classic S-shape design from the nineteen eighties; indeed it has its roots in Japan back in the seventies, all told. It's sweet, smooth, warm, a little opaque and woolly and vague but a nice listen. It's an upgrade on the stock Technics SL1200 arm but not a dramatic transformation, in my view. The Audio Origami RB251 is an excellent 'rebuild' of the stock Rega, and offers fine grip of all frequencies, with an especially clean midband and a more lyrical nature than the standard arm. It's a big improvement on the Jelco. The Origin Live Silver is a little more expensive, and whilst earlier designs were Rega RB250 based it's effectively a completely 'clean sheet' design now. It's more relaxed and spacious than the cheaper AO modded Rega, with a wider soundstage and a less stark tonality. It's better than the AO in my opinion, in a subtle way.

 

The SME 309 is by far the nicest to look at and use, and offers a very polished sound – but so it should being the most expensive. I wouldn't say it was the best sounding of the four; the OL Silver gives a more naturally musical sound, even though the SME is admirably clean and detailed and dimensional – as well as giving the impression (at least) of being the most robust. I'd probably go for the Origin Live Silver if you've got the dosh, or the AO-modded Rega if you haven't. Hope this helps! DP



sme-309-tonearm

An SME309 arm suits the Technics SL-1200 well – they are a hi-tech combo.




 

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