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November 2011 issue - Page 4

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November 2011 issue
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ON THE SHELF

I hope you can give me some advice with regards to bookshelf loudspeakers. Due to my domestic situation, specifically a young child running around, I am having to trade in my current Sugden Masterclass integrated amplifier and Focal Electra 1007BE speakers as the hi-fi will be relegated from dedicated rack to a closed cabinet and the speakers from their stands to the top of the cabinet. The rest of my kit consists of a Cyrus CD XT and DAC XP. I also have a Linn Majik power amplifier stored away which I am considering bringing back into service as it runs cool and should therefore be happy in a cabinet. I have a large music collection across a range of genres and primarily listen to Americana, Indie and Rock. I’m not sure of the trade in value of the Sugden and Focals but hope to have up to £2,000 available to buy a new pair of bookshelf speakers and possibly a new power amp. I would prefer a sound that is slightly on the warm side if it has to be tonally coloured and am happy with my current kit’s presentation which I find very smooth, but also clear and detailed.


I recently read your review of the MAD My1920 speakers and think they could be a good fit and suit my taste. How do you think they would pair with the Cyrus kit and Linn Power Amp? Also, do you think they would be suitable sighted on top of a cabinet and close to a rear wall. The lounge itself is long and thin, I listen across the room and am around 10ft from the speakers, which will be approximately 6-8ft apart. Are there any other speakers you would recommend I audition that would be happy in this configuration? I would also consider changing the Linn Power Amp if you thought I could improve upon the sound within my budget, or felt that there could be a better match with the new speakers. I found the Linn underpowered with the Focal speakers and the sound was too bright until I bought the Sugden second-hand.

Robert Pearce


mad-my1920

My Audio Design My1920 - a great 'speaker solution for those lacking space...

 

Well, you’ve got several choices. The best speaker for your particular situation, I would suggest, is the AudioSmile Kensai (£2,100). This is a small standmounter which is very unobtrusive in the room, and easy to site, but has superlative sound which fills rooms in a way completely at odds with its diminutive dimensions. Its ribbon tweeter is superb, and treble is one of the best in the business. The Linn Majik power amp would drive them, although you might want more heft. Obviously though, they’re at the top of your budget so it’s difficult to upgrade the amp – the numbers don’t add up! So, if you want a slightly bigger and more powerful sound, I’d counsel the MAD My1920, which is a sort of twenty first century LS3/5a; it has a far more even sound balance and a bigger bass than the Kensai. It works well right against a wall and will please with its smooth musicality; not as fast or incisive or transparent as the Kensai, but it’s half the price and gives you some money to play with power amps.

 

rotel-rb-1092

Rotel RB1092 Class D power amplifier produces massive power and stays cool.

 

Personally, I’d search out a Rotel RB1092 secondhand. These go for around a grand in mint condition, are not that hard to find, and sport 2x 500W RMS per channel (we actually measured 592W, as I recall!), which is plenty enough for the MADs – it will tickle them nicely and allow them to punch hard into your room. The clever thing here is that the Rotel uses B&O’s IcePower Class D chips, so the amp runs totally cool even at full whack - a Musical Fidelity A100 it is not (I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago; see SECOND CHANCE)! This should fit into your cabinet nicely... The Rotel is a touch on the dry side, tonally speaking, but should complement the My Audio Design speakers which are, if anything, just a tad warm. I’d recommend Black Rhodium’s Tango speaker cable (£15/m), which is nicely smooth and silky too, for this application. DP

 

RADIO GAGA

Steve Green has had a running commentary on radio reception from the BBC with some occasional comments for other areas of Europe, including Lyric FM in the Emerald Isle. Last Monday, 15th August I heard a live streaming broadcast from BBC Radio 3 of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake on my very recently acquired music server from Cambridge Audio [NP 30]. Thanks for the review that influenced my leap in that direction. Most of the stations I visited were coming through at 128kbps WMA. However, the BBC Radio 3 broadcast that night was coming through at 478kbps AAC. I had a feeling we were in for a good night’s listen.

 

To say it was good was an understatement: my wife and myself were spellbound. I have never heard live radio like this, it was stunning. I should mention that I do like FM and have heard some good broadcasts, admittedly not BBC Radio 3 on FM as it is beyond my range. It shows what can be done.

 

A visit to various websites indicate that the BBC are running test broadcasts. Well, I think they have cracked it, absolute perfection or as close as can be reasonably expected. The following day, Tuesday 16th, the quality dropped slightly to 466kbps and then to 307kbps for Wednesday 17th. These bit rate figures are still good and make for great listening.

Very sadly, the local state radio station here in Ireland for classical music, Lyric FM, broadcasts at 32kbps. I think they believe Microsoft’s statement that 32kbps is audio quality when everyone else realises that this is not the case. Programme content is great but broadcast quality really sucks. FM is no better with clicks, pops and clacks with volume drops. My FM tuner is a Magnum Dynalab FM 90 which is very good at pulling in a quality programme, when it’s there. Incidentally, the clicks and pops are also audible on my car radio some distance from the house which removes housebound issues as being the problem.

 

It seems to me that if you want to listen to digital radio in your car, or generally as background music in your house, then best buy a table top DAB radio. If you want to listen to digital radio more seriously, then invest in a music server streamer that can pull in live streaming broadcasts world wide. I hope BBC Radio 3 maintain this broadcasting quality for its a real achievement. Keep up the good work in the magazine. I enjoy my monthly read.

Paul Geoghegan


magnum-dynalab-md90

Paul Geoghegan uses a Magnum Dynalab tuner to receive quality VHF/FM in the Emerald Isle (Ireland).

 

Hi Paul - yes, one of the ‘side effects’ of me spending so much time with network music players of late has been me almost accidentally listening to a lot of internet radio. You’re right, the quality is variable, but it can be very good indeed – a particular fave of mine is Radio Paradise (www.radioparadise.com/), which plays fine rock music at a decent bitrate. The great thing about internet radio (as opposed to DAB) is of course that it’s extensible, which is to say the bitrate can be instantly and invisibly upgraded; it’s just a case of the broadcasters being bothered. It’s great when the Beeb does bother – it saddens me that over the past decade it’s been on a race to the bottom in terms of both content and technical quality. A few less home improvement shows on BBC1 and dire sitcoms on BBC3, and a few more serious bits of music broadcasting such as what you’ve outlined, would be welcomed by us all. If anyone at the BBC is reading this (and I’m aware that some do), then I’m sure I can speak for all the readers when I say we like you when you remember who you are (i.e. the BBC) and don’t try to compete with commercial stations for ratings. That’s why we pay our licence fees, much as many of us resent it these days. Okay, I’m off my soapbox now – time for a glass of water and a calming half hour of Radio 4! DP


radio-paradise

 

David listens to Radio Paradise on-line.

 

DOWN AND DIRTY

I am currently listening to 2Ls the Nordic Sound sampler 2 disc SACD / Blu-ray disc. Some wonderful music. I am currently playing the 2ch 192/24bit layer on my Sony BDP-S370 connected to my Rega DAC via a QED co-axial cable. When I hit the DISPLAY button on the Sony’s remote it confirms that I am playing the 2ch 192/24 layer. However, the Frequency LED lit on the Rega indicates the incoming sample rate is 44.1/48kHz. Will it be impossible to get the 192/24 layer unmolested to the DAC via this type of connection? I am assuming the Sony is downsampling the coaxial output to 16/44.1kHz despite what it says via the display, or could the Rega be telling porkies?

Derek James

 

The digital audio (S/PDIF) output on your Sony is most likely streaming 16/44/1 to your DAC, as you suspect, because this interface cannot support more than 96kHz sample rate in stereo. Downconverting to CD standard is the safe thing to do, allowing the player to interface with any external device to give sound. What manufacturers try and avoid these days is a ‘no sound’ scenario that leaves users confused and dissatisfied. So you get the lowest common denominator option; anything that works! You could look at the player’s audio menus; on access you can set the max output sample rate to 96kHz but I do not recall this option on the Sony. You must use the HDMI output to enjoy 24/192 high resolution digital audio and at present only A/V receivers, or A/V preamplifiers (e.g. Onkyo) can accept and make sense of an HDMI input. NK

 

THE BLUES

I very much enjoy reading your Hi-Fi World editorials. Earlier in the year I read a review you wrote of the Pioneer BDP-LX53 and you compared it to the Oppo BDP-83 and Cambridge Audio 650BD. I have been researching both of these players to replace my current universal DVD Pioneer player, but my limited technical knowledge of digital to analogue converter chips has left me in a bit of a quandary.


I was hoping I could ask for your advice in this regard? I realise that at this point these companies have new players (Oppo BDP-95 and Cambridge Azure 751BD), so I’m wondering if I should choose from the new players instead? Or is the audio performance between the new players and the older players negligible? Is the performance of the Cambridge Azure 751BD worth twice the price of the 650BD?


Either way, my main question is regarding the difference in audio performance between the Dual ES9018 SABRE 32-bit Reference DACs in the Oppo BDP-95 and the five Wolfson WM8740 24/192kHz DACs in the Cambridge 751BD. I see that one is a 32bit versus a 24bit. Not knowing enough about the technical difference it would seem that the Oppo DAC would be superior than the Cambridge DAC. Is that reasonable to assume or is that misleading? I prefer the design of the Cambridge players, but I want to buy the player that will create the best audio playback from SACD, Audio-DVD and Blu-ray. I will be using the analogue 7.1-channel surround outputs to connect to my Rotel processor. My priority is audio performance over video. I hope this is not too trivial of a question for you, as I’m at a loss trying to decide which player to choose given the different DACs employed.

Alberto Trujillo


cambridge-audioazure751bd

 

Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD Blu-ray player has selectable digital filters on its analogue output, but it is expensive.

 

Hi Alberto. I am sorry to disappoint you but I have not heard the analogue output of the Oppo BDP-95 so cannot comment upon its analogue performance. I have measured and carefully listened to the Cambridge 751BD and whilst it is a good analogue player, it isn’t the best by any means. That is because Blu-ray players are intended to work with AV receivers via HDMI; their analogue outputs are not a priority.

 

You would be better advised to buy a modern Onkyo receiver like the TX-NR609 (see our review) and use HDMI connection. If you want the very best from SACD then get a more expensive Onkyo or Marantz receiver, preferably with proper DSD convertors. I compared the 751BD with the 650BD in our September 2011 issue. I hope this helps you. NK

 

We have an Oppo BDP-95 on order – review coming soon. DP



 

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