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November 2011 issue - Page 5

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November 2011 issue
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COMPUTER BUILD

I wonder if you could help me. I am about to have a new computer built and would like to be able to download music and burn high definition discs to play on my hi-fi system. My current, elderly PC is not connected to my system and the few CDs I have burned from downloads sound rather dull and lo-res, though the music sounded well through the PC speakers. Can you advise as to the required hardware/software needed to burn high fidelity discs; does burn speed affect quality? The dearth of record shops these days means the only way to buy music is online; gone are the days of Rare Records, Forsythes, Virgin and dozens of other record stores. I hope you can help me. I will be specifying a PC based around an Intel i5 processor, the rest is dependent on what you suggest. Thank you for reading my request.

Fred Davies


item-audio

 

For an audiophile PC go to Item Audio says our Editor, David Price.

 

Hi Fred - what a subject! There’s enough to discuss here to fill the entire magazine. The answer to your question depends on how seriously you want to take the subject of computer audio, and what your budget is. If you’re really serious, then I suggest to you get an off-the-shelf audio computer from Item Audio, for example (see www.itemaudio.co.uk). There’s a choice of platforms (Mac or PC) and you can specify just about everything you want; the key is zero noise fanless operation, internal electromagnetic shielding, a rigid low vibration chassis and with high quality components. Solid-state SSD hard drives are pretty much essential, as are good quality internal cables. If you don’t go for the Item Audio solution then aim for all the aforementioned in your build choices. As far as burning is concerned, you need to run the best quality optical media at the lowest possible burning speeds, while the computer itself is not doing any other tasks. DP

 

LOUDSPEAKER UPGRADE

My last letter to you, written in the summer of 2007 listed a wide range of kit which worked okay but failed to deliver truly enjoyable listening. In between times I culled much of the equipment in an attempt to simplify things. One mistake was to buy the Pioneer A-A6 integrated amp on the basis of a glowing review; how bitterly disappointing this proved to be and I could not dispose of it fast enough (thanks eBay)! Then a colleague loaned me a Naim CD5/ NAC112/ NAP150 just to see what I thought. Running this through Naim NAC5 cable to my Acoustic Energy Evo3 floorstanders was an utter revelation – absolutely stunning sound. At last, decent solid punchy bass, lovely vocals and imaging like we have never heard before. A deal was swiftly done and my remaining old components headed for eBay too. I have since indulged in a Naim tuner and Flatcap PSU which does make a difference...

Maybe a single brand system won’t give the last degree of perfection but I have lost the urge to change boxes in search of better sound; it all just works so well. However, I do think that the speakers are now outclassed by the electronics. I have yet to audition anything but had been considering Yamaha Soavo 1 (or maybe the newer 3?), KEF Reference series; then I read a review of Magneplanar MG12 and felt strangely drawn to them. What do you think? Musical tastes vary from lighter classical to a bit of rock (ACDC, Led Zeppelin), to soul and dance (70s disco to Lady Gaga).

Ben Bristow


yamaha-soavo1

A Yamaha Soavo 1.1 was liked by our Editor David Price, in our October 2009 issue.

 

Hmmm... well to me this reads a little like someone saying “I was very hungry, so I thought about fish and chips, then I was considering tagliatelle and then I saw a picture of lemon cheesecake and felt strangely drawn to it – what do you think I should eat?” My point is that you’ve reeled off a list of wildly different speakers, at wildly differing price points, and asked me what I think? What I think is that I don’t really know what you want because there’s no pattern to follow, so it becomes a tricky diagnostic process.

If it’s light rock and soul you’re into, and you have a Naim system, and you want floorstanders, and your budget doesn’t seem to constrained then I’d consider the Eminent Technology LFT-8b. These use superb ‘isodynamic’ drive units for a sweet, transparent, spacious sound that would really suit your musical tastes, and offer moderate but effective bass; your Naims should drive them no problem. They’re pretty affordable too, as exotic floorstanders go! DP

 

HO HUM

I love the Letters section, I really do! Then again I can see with all the pressures of the ‘day’ job, you can be a little distracted. If you have a set of Tannoy Westminsters sitting in your hall and a letter describing the mythical powers of a 1960s cartridge that sounds superb in a 1970s Laskys special and is clearly better than any other cartridge (ever!), I can sympathise. However, I was a bit disappointed to your reply to John Watson in the July issue regarding Hadcocks and cartridges. Noel clearly isn’t keen and the respected Alvin Gold’s contribution was akin to a dinner party guest who’d reached the port stage.


I have an interest as I am using a Hadcock 242 with a Goldring Lenco idler drive and am currently using a Musicmaker cartridge. I read Raphael Todes recent review and agree that pairing the Hadcock with an idler drive creates a unique synergy. I bought the arm about seven years ago to replace a worn bearing Akito on my Linn. After the initial excitement about it being better I discovered it wasn’t. It didn’t have the lovely micro rhythms of the Linn pairing and wasn’t a great success on my rock/prog collection. I compounded the problem with the Musicmaker which tonally was superior to my Denon DL304 but that was about it.


I persuaded myself that an Ortofon Rondo Bronze was the way to go but really it’s too heavy for a Hadcock and is a bit like racing a bus around Silverstone. At this stage my wife bought me a Pioneer PL12D and when that seemed more enjoyable than the Linn, I knew it was time for revision. The Lenco came with a Mission 774 SM (the Ittok rival) and after happy times with this I put the arm on the Linn with the Ortofon and finally understood about system synergy.


Now back to John Watson’s question. The Musicmaker works superbly with the Hadcock but the Lenco motor is causing the cartridge to hum. I understand this is a longstanding problem with Grado based cartridges. Would the Audio Technica AT33E provide an answer? You’ve a long list of contributors who’ve listened extensively to the types of setups both John and I have so there must be an answer there somewhere. I play the turntables through Croft pre/ VTL ST85 power and Monitor Audio Studio 20s.

Steven Slawther

 

Yes, even in their heyday in the nineteen seventies, Grados did have hum issues, as I recall, and of course the MusicMaker shares a lot of DNA with them. None of our long list of contributors have heard this exact combination, I am afraid, so we can’t give a definitive answer, but my feeling is that Audio Technica AT-33E is less likely to give hum problems on the Lenco. Sorry we can’t be more helpful on this. DP

 

DIRECT LINE

Fascinating to read about your new turntable measuring regime, and I thought you might like to hear about my experiences with two decks I recently acquired. They are a Dual 505.1 and a Yamaha P-520 direct-drive, bought at the same time in a British Heart Foundation furniture and electrical store for £15 each! Both were obviously low hours, particularly the Dual. They are, coincidentally, peers both in era (early 1980s) and their price at that time. I have a Townshend Rock part-way through a complete rebuild, which hopefully will soon be up and running with a Garrott Decca C4E, but I needed to do some transfers of LPs for a friend, and the two decks were an opportune find.

 

Despite its near-mint condition, I assumed the Dual would have ‘dried out’ (which proved to be the case), so it got a service, main bearing cleaned out and lubed with Redline 30W synthetic motor oil, a drop of the same on the motor pulley. The belt was slack (slipped on start up and flipped instead of sliding on to 45rpm), I de-glazed it and left it in boiling water for a couple of minutes which restored service, although it’s still slightly looser than spec., I suspect.

 

The Yamaha is much more difficult proposition to service, but all the bearings are play-free and the platter spins freely and smoothly.

 

The Dual has the standard Ortofon P-mount with a 5E stylus, the Shure V15 on the Yamaha was u/s and replaced with a Nagaoka MP11 Boron I’ve owned since c. 1992 (stylus a little later, c. 1996).

It was an eye-opening experience comparing them. There are two things about the Yamaha I wouldn’t have noticed were it not for the A/Bing I was able to do with the Dual.


1 - the ‘timing’ of the Yamaha is what I would describe as slightly ‘constipated’ compared to Dual, the latter has a ‘fluidity’ that the former simply lacks..

 

2 - The Dual has a (really quite surprising) purity and clarity with voices and instruments which the Yamaha also lacks. This was evident on most discs (not all - but I suspect it was less so on those from less than perfectly played master-tapes which had inherent wow/flutter issues), not least he first two I played, AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’ (180g re-release) and ‘In A Blue Mood’ by Kay Starr (1985 re-release of a c. 1955 LP). (BTW I pretty much ignored AC/DC in my formative years, despite having a life-long penchant for hard rock (I’m 52) and now I can’t fathom why - this superb mastering of a superb album has given me (and many others) an immense amount of pleasure in recent months.)

Take the chiming, bell-like power-chords that Angus Young is so brilliant in producing - they have just that on the Dual, a bell-like quality which is not present with the Yamaha. Ditto Kay Starr’s voice, along with the muted brass and other orchestral instruments on the latter album.

 

Then the timing - ‘Highway To Hell’ just damn(sic)-well boogies on the Dual (feet can’t keep still), not so the Yamaha. Despite the fact that the Dual is distinctly light in the bass the kick-drums and bass-lines are still unmistakably there and making their intrinsic part in the music known. Both decks have strobes which tell me they are both very speed-stable in terms of drift and very-low rate wow, but sometimes I think I might perceive a little variation with the Dual. But then again I could be looking too hard and imaging it (I find using peripheral vision is the best way to do this).

 

I have to assume that the direct drive ‘cogging’ you’ve been discussing is the root of these singular differences in sound, but it’s surprising that artefacts down in single and double-digit Hertz could be responsible for such a profound difference in them. My friend also has the Kay Starr album as a set of three 45’s, which I also transferred. Interestingly, although they actually have a slightly ‘better’ sound in terms of dynamics and even detail, they lack the purity of tone on the LP and thus I believe the tapes were not as well set up as they were for the LP- in fact I think this is actually visible as less rock-solid peaks in spectrograms as they are played, viewed on my PC.

Rainer Scott


dual-cs-505

Classic Dual CS505 belt drive - beats its Yamaha P-520 direct drive rival, thinks Rainer Scott.

 

Hmmm. Thanks for that Rainer. Forensic measurement has revealed only small cogging effects; I have yet to measure anything large. Unfortunately, the presence of cogging was much amplified and speculated upon by the UK press when Direct Drive first appeared and I am not at all certain that an explanation of the sound of DD is anywhere as near as simple as this. Even the mechanical construction of a DD may introduce sonic problems. In your case too I must note you are listening to different cartridges as well. NK

 

MAD ABOUT THE GUIDE!

I am so pleased to see your old Buying Guide back up and running on the internet. I was using it on a very regular basis up until it’s disappearance from the Net and quite frankly (as daft as it may sound), when it went I was lost without it! Thing is, all the stuff that I wanted in the mid 1990s but couldn’t afford is now available 2nd hand at good prices (e.g. eBay and cash converters) and this guide is absolutely ideal for helping out with research on this older (but golder) stuff (for example turntable cartridges and mid end CD players as upgrades). Apart from product reviews, I find it very useful for checking this 1990s stuff’s price when new, to give a good feel for where the item sits in the pecking order and welcome help with likely component matches. Today's Buying Guides are pretty useless to me. I’m a lot happier now I’ve got the use of yours again.

Richard Franks

 

Thanks for writing in Richard. We resurrected this guide in response to your request and those of so many others who wrote in from around the world. Now we understand the value, I hope we can improve this listing slowly. NK




 

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