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July 2011 issue

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July 2011 issue
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World Mail     July 2011 issue        

 

Write to us!    E-mail –>     This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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!

 

Or  comment in the Comment section at the bottom of each page.

 

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.

 


 

 


 

musicalfidelityvlinkdacpsu

A Musical Fidelity V-Link will prise out better sound from Alex Cohen’s Mac Mini.

 

FILE COUNSEL

A couple of years ago I decided (with some persuasion) that my hi-fi took up too much of the living room space and started to look for a solution. I found a small box called a Benchmark DAC1 Pre and hooked it up to a Mac Mini. To my surprise I was blown away by the sound quality and decided to sell my large, room dominating separates. My setup now consists of the above and a pair of ATC SCM20SL Active towers.

 

I have always ripped my CD collection using the Apple Lossless encoder, believing it to be the best way of doing so with the Mac Mini. I have tried other ways e.g. WAV, AIFF and cannot hear any differences between them. Hence I was surprised to read in your recent review of the Electrocompaniet PD-1 that ALAC sounded mediocre when compared to uncompressed WAV! I am still a long way from needing a hearing aid but as much as I try I cannot hear a difference between ALAC and uncompressed WAV, despite trying just after reading your article.  Please help me, as if I am losing quality when ripping my CDs I want to know before I go too far down the wrong path. I believe this is a large area of confusion and with so many manufacturers and customers now using PCs, Macs and other wotsits as music servers I feel it should be addressed.

 

To confirm, I connect the Mac to my Benchmark using USB and the Benchmark to the ATCs with Chord balanced interconnects. I find the sound very musical, detailed and balanced. I own a Cambridge Audio Azur 650BD player that I occasionally use as a CD player and find that the Mac, even though not considered a true audio product, sounds far better. I also set the Mac for 24bit 96kHz irrespective of the file being played as Benchmark recommend. I find it sounds better than 16 bit 44.1 even though that is the original format. I eagerly await a response.

Alex Cohen

 

Hi Alex. If you can’t hear a difference then don’t let it worry you – but there is one. Through my system it’s clearly audible, and manifests itself as a slightly opaque, cloudy haze and a touch less rhythmic flow, plus a slight flattening of stage depth.

 

How can this be? Well, given that ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) files are identical bit for bit to WAV, the cause must lie not in the files but the way they’re delivered. I can only speculate that the extra processing load, allied to possible jitter issues, causes this. Personally I would always run WAV if I possibly can; why not? These days storage space is not an issue, and surely the best computer file is the original.

 

There’s also the issue that you may at some future date wish to move to a different platform, which may not play ALAC, in which case you’ll have to transcode the ALAC files to WAV anyway.

 

If I were you, I’d invest in a Musical Fidelity V-Link (£99); plug this in to your Mac Mini’s USB socket, and feed the V-Link’s optical digital out into your Benchmark; you should find a noticeable improvement in sound. This is because the V-Link clocks the Mac Mini asynchronously and its optical out will remove the transmission path of electrical noise into the DAC. Hope this helps! DP

 

Our measurements have shown substantial jitter on the output of a Mac Mini and little on a Cambridge 650BD. Your findings are at odds with this Alex, so other factors may be involved. NK

 

B&W BREAK DOWN

I have a pair of B&W Silver Signature 25 loudspeakers (the model with the slate stands). It came supplied with solid silver cables that have become rather fragile. The PTFE insulation has become so brittle by now that the slightest twist could break the cables. I’d like to be prepared when disaster strikes, so I’d very much appreciate if you could suggest a suitable replacement.

Jan Grinaert,

Tervuren,

Belgium


bw-silver-signature

 

Dating from 1991, B&W say the Silver Signature can be refurbished at the factory.


Hi Jan. One obvious answer is another B&W and the B&W 804D I reviewed in our February 2011 issue comes to mind. It was very impressive in its sound, if not so impressive under measurement. The Diamond tweeter is a little weird: fantastic sound, but one-note with a sparkling diamond quality, so everything sounded great, but without any internal variation! I have never come across anything quite like it. The midband was luminously clear too, and very projective, if not with the levity of a true monitor. The bass was satisfactory but no better and a trifle disappointing; I'm sure B&W could do better. I suspect in a showroom the 804D will blow most else out of the window it is so obviously spectacular, so give it a listen. After the shiny sound of the Silver Signature it may well appeal.

 

Also, B&W are very good on service so you probably do not have to say goodbye to the Silver Signatures if you do not want to. NK

 

Why not keep the Silver Signatures. It may not be the most dynamic performer, but it is subtle, detailed and musically expressive and I suspect it will still hold its own even after all these years  AG

 

The Bowers & Wilkins Signature Silver 25 dates from around 1991, and did come supplied with a three-metre cable that ran from the crossover to the cabinet. Unfortunately, Bowers & Wilkins is no longer able to supply these cables as spares, as some of the elements of the cable are no longer in production. However. Bowers & Wilkins does offer a repair service, which would be of use here. Due to it being a prestigious model, Bowers & Wilkins would prefer that the speaker be returned to their service centre for refurbishment. Also, due to the age of the Silver Signature 25, Bowers & Wilkins would also conduct a full check and test on the speakers to ensure they are functioning to specification. You should call Bowers & Wilkins on 01903 221700 to arrange for this service.

Shawn Marin

(B&W's P.R.)

 

NEEDLE TALK

I read with great interest Rafael Todes article on the Garrard 401/Hadcock GH242 partnership as I have a 301/242 combo. It always puzzled me that the Hadcock GH228 is in your World Classics feature yet Noel Keywood admits he was never a fan. I am at the point of trying to decide which cartridge to choose to improve upon the detail of my Goldring 1042 (I also have a Shure V15 Mk4 in hiding). I know that the Cartridgeman's Music Maker III is usually matched with the GH242 but I thought that perhaps there are more choices in the moving coil category so in anticipation I have recently bought a Graham Slee Elevator to pair with my Era Gold V.


Recent answers in the letters column have made me wonder whether the Ortofon Rondo Bronze or the Audio Technica AT 33EV may be suitable candidates as they do not emphasize the treble and are easy on surface noise. Bearing this in mind, should I push the boat out and go for a Kontrapunkt or the Benz Micro SL?


The rest of my kit consists of: Cyrus CD8SE +PSXR, Cyrus DAB 8.0, Cyrus Pre VS2+PSXR, Cyrus Mono Xs and Spendor S5e speakers. Interconnects are a mixture of Atlas Cables Voyager, Explorer and Equator whilst the speakers are bi-wired cables with QED Silver Anniversary, each cable being 10m long.


What moving coils would suit the GH242, bearing in mind that some of my singles (and odd LP for that matter) are not mint condition. My taste in music is mainly sixties soul, Tamla Motown and R&B. Having been impressed by the bass of the Totem Hawks at the Bristol Hi-Fi show a few years ago, I wonder if these would be a suitable upgrade to the Spendors? An over-riding factor in speaker choice from my advisor is they must be available in maple and not significantly taller than the Spendors. The room is approximately 13 feet square (photos attached).

Thanks,

John Watson

 

john-watson

 

John Watson's impressive Cyrus system, topped out by a Garrard 301 turntable and Hadcock GH242 arm.


I have a similar ambivalence towards many BMW and Mercedes cars, so I see no contradiction in NK's admission that he is not a fan of the Hadcock. Indeed our industry is full products that are worthy yet which in some respects amount to less than the sum of their parts.

 

Well set up in an appropriate player, I would always opt for a good moving coil over an MM cartridge. You should find that in most cases this choice will deliver a more even, detailed and firmer sound, with superior dynamic resolution, and a more solid sounding, better integrated bass. The relatively low compliance of most MCs is generally beneficial too, integrating well with most high quality arms, on the whole without detriment to tracking ability. AG

 

Hi John. Assuming you have an 8ft high ceiling Cara, a room acoustics programme, shows that at the listening position you have a strong modal peak around 50Hz in your 13ft square room and we publish the wave pattern at this frequency where, as expected, there is a pressure peak along each wall at 50Hz. So, in simple non-technical terms your room honks!

 

A small loudspeaker is best in this situation and you need high quality too. Audiosmile Kensais come to mind as they are a small loudspeaker that won't over drive your room's low frequency modes but will reveal the quality of your system. The Audiosmiles have a fabulous sound that appeals to everyone, even if the price does not at £2300. However, this is in line with other quality miniatures like Monitor Audio's Platinum PL100, another model you might like to consider. Consider also loudspeakers from Usher and KEF.

 

 

 


 

 

13ft-room-cara-analysis

 

High pressure against the walls at 50Hz in a 13ft square room, Cara says.

 

I found the Hadcock GH228 arm mild mannered and less than easy to use. I can understand its appeal, but it isn't quite to my taste. It is to that of Rafael Todes though, who feels it complements a Garrard 401 perfectly. I will stick to my SME312S 12in magnesium arm on a Garrard 401, which has generally better dynamic resolution. So this is a matter of taste. The Hadcock is a good arm all the same, much respected.

 

Much as there are numerous well designed and built arms available nowadays, so there are an increasing number of good budget moving coil (MC) cartridges – and by good I mean without screaming treble. The new Benz Micro Ace is one of them and so is the Audio Technica AT33 EV I am told, although I have not measured or listened to it. The AT OC9 MkII does have peaky treble and although quality is fine, I am not personally in love with its lack of balance. NK


THE TRACKING ANGLE

My experience of the Empire 598 Troubador turntable fully agrees with your evaluation. Indeed, a superb turntable, with clever convenience touches and a beautifully engineered bearing system micro-honed Oilite bearings and lapped chrome steel shafts machined as individually matched. Apart from the rubber mat, the on/off switch and a tiny plastic collar to turn the LP illumination on and off around the arm-rest, there is more metal in this thing than most turntable engineering departments today are allowed to dream of. Makes you want to cry about the MDF jobs that try to pass for engineering today. And yes, pity about the iffy removable cartridge mounting platform system.

 

But I am confused about your description of its 990 tonearm as a “high mass” arm. The fact your Denon 103 worked well with it would appear to bear you out. However, considering the turntable ruled during the early ‘70s how could such a tonearm cope with the predominantly extremely high-compliance cartridges of the time? Setting aside advertising hyperbole, Empire’s own literature suggests the arm is suitable “for stereo cartridges that can track as low as .01 gram”. Were there any such things? This suggests ultra-high compliance cartridges. How would they work in a “high mass arm”? Is this then the ultimate universal tonearm for both high and low compliance cartridges? We must know.  I applaud your efforts to champion vinyl replay and to showcase superb products from the past. The reason I buy Hi-Fi World. More please!

Thanks,

Demetri

Victoria,

Canada.

 

Cartridges are never designed to track at 0.01 grams, even the ultra-compliant early ADCs like the classic Model 25, with a compliance value of around 50, needed 1.0 grams tracking force minimum, but modern (and even many older designs) generally have correspondingly lower compliance cartridge suspensions and favour higher tracking forces.

No arm is equally suitable for low and high compliance cartridges. SME Series III 9 inch arms work well with high compliance cartridges with tracking forces around 1 – 1.5 gm and any arm claiming to be compatible with MC cartridges will be of high-ish mass, to ensure that L.F. resonance is centred around 8Hz or so, avoiding warp frequencies and the extremely bottom of the audio frequency band. AG.

 

empire-598

 

Empire Troubador turntable, able to track cartridges at 0.01gm asks Demetri from Canada?

 

To your question how could such a tonearm cope with the predominantly extremely high-compliance cartridges of the day, the answer is: badly. But you generalise, as not all cartridges were high compliance; most moving coils were relatively low compliance. The Empire may well have suited them. I did once own a top of the range Empire 1000 ZE/X MM cartridge, with a maximum tracking force specified at 1.25gms, but quite frankly it was barely useable at such a low downforce. Sound quality from Empires was always good, I must say; I rather liked them at the time, although a Stanton 681EEE was my choice for many years during that period. NK

 

NEWS OF MY WORLD

It is 10 years since I was first introduced to your magazine (at the time I was hunting up valves for my aunt’s 1960s-era radiogram), and within a few issues I was hooked by Hi-Fi World. In doing this I gave up what had been almost three decades of Hi-Fi News and almost every issue now of HFW gives me ideas!  I particularly enjoy your Letters pages, hearing the stories of how your readers have put their systems together and their ideas/queries for improving them. Consequently, let me first briefly outline where I am and how I got there.


I was inspired by audio as a 12 year-old when my (Totton, Hampshire) school’s music teacher acquired a brand-new Goldring Lenco GL75 deck, played through a Heathkit amp (assembled by the physics master) and our class listened to Sinfonia Antarctica (a wonderful piece – AG). This was 1963 and the sound was a revelation. I knew then that the production of truly high-quality sound would always be important to me. Of course, I wasn't able to do anything about it until I went to university and in the early 1970s as a graduate student I acquired a Goldring Lenco GL69-Mark II (with Goldring G800 cartridge), a Leak Stereo 70 (from Laskys on Tottenham Court Rd of course) and Tannoy IIILZ Monitor Golds. In terms of construction quality, I’d like to point out that the amp and speakers are still going strong, as I passed them on to one of my sons a few years ago!

The late 70s found me in the U.S. where the turntable was upgraded to a Connoisseur BD1 fitted with a Grace G707 (unipivot) arm and F9E cartridge, plus a Nakamichi 500 cassette deck. I was still using the Leak amp but now powering the Tannoy drive units fitted in boxes that I had built myself using the Lea-Lampton prescription (Lea & Lampton 1972 IEEE Trans AU-20, 200) for optimal tuning of a reflex port.


Bass was now stunning, but the boxes were rather big (approx 3x2x1.5 ft)!  My reference recording here is the stunning Virgil Fox direct-to-disc rendition of the Bach Toccata and Fugue on Crystal Clear Records the white vinyl pressing! This contains 20Hz pedal notes that most people don't even realise are there. My modified Tannoys were set to be flat down to 20Hz and the house literally vibrated. With the construction “bug” now firmly established, I was inspired by my friend and office-mate, Mike Lampton, to build his LZ-1 preamp. The design was written up by him in Audio Amateur (1979/1) and was said at the time to be as good as a Hafler DH101. The LZ-1 was based on the Signetics NE5534 op-amp, introduced in the late 70s, the first chip to combine low noise with high slew rate. To complete the chain I constructed a power amp based on OMP-300 MOSFET boards. Headroom was staggering, but I had to watch the volume control very carefully!


Living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time, I had the opportunity to replace the Tannoy drivers with a 3-way system using JBL 2213s (massive, 12-inch bass units), the Jordan 50mm module (mid-range) and JVC ribbon super-tweeters. I shoe-horned these into the boxes I’d built for the Tannoys (but with modified reflex ports) and the effect was very impressive, particularly for the bass. Sadly, the Jordans couldn't handle the power and I abandoned these boxes after I’d managed to accidentally burn out two sets of Jordans!

 

quad-esl57onethingrebuild

 

 

One Thing Audio improved Quad ESL-57 loudspeakers – "your review was spot on" says Phil Charles.

 

 

As an aside, the Nakimichi is still going strong today. In 36 years it has been serviced just twice, with the heads and motor each replaced once. B&W in Sussex are the agents and returned it to mint specification. Just a few months ago I played some cassettes I had recorded from vinyl 20 years ago to my current graduate students, and I was were absolutely stunned that they sounded so much better than MP3! Or CD for that matter!


Fast forward to today and my current system. It’s an LP12/Akito/Adikt brought up to 2004 spec, but still retaining the old Valhalla power supply (Lingo was just too expensive) and it plays into a WAD Pre3 system which, with judicious use of the tape monitor output, allows me to feed it into two power amps. Why so? Well, I have two separate sets of speakers, a pair of Rega ELAs in the living room and a pair of Quad ESL57s (OTA-modded to 2004 spec) in the dining room. The latter I had acquired a decade ago when an elderly couple living nearby sold up and were disposing of everything. They had a complete Quad system bought in 1962! I used the Quads for a few years in original form until I read the HFW article about the OTA mods (Oct 2003). I (almost) instantly popped them in the car and drove them up to Leicester to have them operated on by OTA.


All I can say is that your review then was spot on, and visitors here never ceased to be amazed by the sound the modded Quads produce. You might be interested in a small, but very effective additional mod I have made to the Quads. Since I still possessed my California-era JVC ribbons, I found that they sit beautifully on the wooden base provided by OTA. Wiring them in parallel with the Quads provided a delightful extra “fizz” to the top end of guitar, violin and flute that takes it that bit closer to the sound of the original instrument.


Ah yes, the two power amps. The Regas are right now being driven by a PrimaLuna Prologue II, which gives a much smoother and more balanced sound than my home-made OMP-300 power amp. And the Quads are driven by a Leak Stereo 20, fully rebuilt to top spec by Classique Sounds. The latter is a delicious combo, but of course not for headbangers (my own tastes are classical, especially early music and polyphony, plus rock, folk, electronica).


A quick aside about the Regas too. In the mid-90s my boisterous 11-yr old twin boys succeeded in knocking over both speakers which, given the lack of flexibility of the heavily moulded speaker cable, managed to break both speaker terminal units. I found Rega’s contact details, e-mailed them about what had happened, asking whether replacement units were available and what the cost would be. Two days later I received by post a pair of replacement terminal units, gratis. Now that’s what I call service!

 

leak-stereo-20

A Leak Stereo 20 from Classique Sounds sounds "delicious" with Quads.

 

So, why am I telling you all this? There are two components in the turntable that are ageing. The Adikt is now 7 years old, has been well used, and I think it’s coming up for replacement. I have been very pleased with it, especially when given top quality pressings (as with some of your reviewers, I love the recent Knopfler work, especially “Kill To Get Crimson” and his duo with Emmylou Harris, “All The Road Running”, both of which are quite superb).

 

The cartridge I had been thinking of was the Ortofon 2M Black, which you have raved about. However, having been subjected to almost a decade of Hi-Fi World cartridge reviews, I’m starting to feel that I should at least consider the MC route (I have the Pre3 with the option to connect the transformers inside for MC). The cartridges that I am thinking about (and which gives you an idea of price range) are the Ortofon Rondo Bronze, Dynavector DV20X, and the recently released AT-OC9MLIII. What are your thoughts on these in my system as compared with the MM route? And would their performance be limited by the Akito? I hadn't really been thinking about replacing the arm, but could be persuaded to do so if absolutely necessary.


The second component is the power supply. My Valhalla unit is probably almost 25 years old! That’s because my Linn was acquired in the early 90s from The Sound Gallery in High Wycombe when it was run by the quite outstanding Colin Welford. You will have guessed by now that I’m an academic, with salaries which make it tricky to enter true audiophile territory upgrades being done then). While I still think the Lingo is expensive (and the SE upgrade absurdly so), I would still like to consider taking this opportunity to “go DC”.

 

Perhaps the obvious solution is the Hercules II that you reviewed in HFW (Oct 2007), but I can't understand why you haven't reviewed (or even mentioned as far as I can tell) the Origin Live d.c. motor kits. Given that it appears to be very well-known (and has been adopted by some of your reviewers!), is there a reason for this? The OL includes a number of options (“standard”, “advanced” and “ultra”) which span a factor of two in price range. How do they compare with the Hercules? It would seem to me that the OL range ought to be of interest to people with a wide variety of systems, not just LP12s, so why not review the whole range? And which of them would you recommend in my case?

Phil Charles

 

Hi Phil. Your Akito would be bettered by an arm like the Rega RB301, or one of the Rega modified jobbies such as the Inspire X100 in this issue, or perhaps better like an SME. We now have Benz Micro making some impressive budget MCs and you should well add them to your list. NK

 

Hi Phil. We will be reviewing the Origin Live power supply in due course, but meanwhile I think you should seriously think about the Inspire Hi-Fi Vivid LP12 mods package; I tried this recently and was immensely impressed by the difference it made for under £1,000. The cartridge is the first priority though; I personally would plump for the Audio Technica AT-33EV (£475) which is a brilliant mid-price moving coil; it’s streets ahead of the Linn Adikt, offering a smoother, sweeter, more detailed and expansive sound; it will be like moving from AM to FM radio! The OC9 is also very good, but apart from a fraction more dynamic punch it’s wholly inferior to the AT33EV, sounding slightly colder, harder, more mechanical and less musically engaging.

 

inspire-vivid-lp12-upgrade

 

Inspire Hi-Fi Vivid LP12 – I tried this recently and was most impressed, says David...

 

 

The Dynavector is fine too, but lacks the EV’s detail and sophistication, especially in the treble, even if it’s a tad more rhythmically bouncy. The Ortofon Rondo Bronze is also a fine design, but again I’d take the EV over it, the Rondo not having the latter’s subtlety and intricacy. Hope this makes my love for the AT33EV clear! The Akito will track a good moving coil like this well, but you would be rewarded by going up to the likes of an SME 309 or, better still, an Origin Live Silver Mk3a. DP


DIANA GIGG

I have just spent the last 70 minutes or so in the company of the gorgeous Diana Krall and a rather decent bottle of red wine (Merlot) listening to her double album “The Very Best of Diana Krall” on two 180 gms circular pieces of vinyl. My research was carried out on the following equipment: a Michell Gyro SE turntable in beautiful black and gold (purpose-built for me at the factory itself) with a Rega RB250 arm, Lutz silver-wired, and Ortofon Rondo Red moving coil cartridge; an elderly Musical Fidelity X-LP phono amp (the barrel-shaped cylindrical version); a Roksan Caspian Mk 1 pre-amp and two Roksan Caspian power amps bi-amping a pair of Living Voice Avatar speakers.


It all sounded rather wonderful, with Ms Krall’s voice and brilliant jazz piano out there right in front of me, and I drifted off into a sort-of magical dreamland


1) How would you suggest I could improve my system?

2) Is there a wine other than Merlot that would aid my concentration on the music? [Blue Nun, obviously  AG]

3) What the heck has Diana Krall’s husband, Elvis Costello, got that I haven’t?

If you could answer these questions I would be extremely grateful.

Roy Stockdill

Watford,

Herts, UK

 

[1] an Icon Audio PS1.2 phono stage.

[2] I find a nice Chateauneuf-du-Pape slides down rather well...

[3] a proven record of writing pop songs of the highest quality. DP

 

FOR RICHER, FOR POORER

As someone who has purchased every issue since its inception and also your predecessor, Hi-Fi Review, as well as The Flat Response, I think you can comfortably call me a fan!

In my earlier exposure to all things hi-fi I can recall many trips to the only two shops in London with prices I could afford. One was Richer Sounds in London Bridge when I could barely see over the high counter, and also Cavendish Sales in Whitechapel. I bought a cheap Tensai amp, some Solavox speakers, borrowed an old Garrard turntable with auto changer and I was away! The sound wasn’t brilliant but was certainly better than the transistor radio I was using previously.

 

elvis-costello

 

Elvis Costello has talent Roy!

 

A paper round and a couple of years later and I had progressed, bit by bit, to a Mission Cyrus 1 amp, an Akai HX-3 tape deck (not the one I was wanted but as the GX model above was out of stock, and being desperate to spend some money, I settled on this one!), AR Legend turntable with Nagaoka MP11 Boron cartridge from Laskys and a pair of Monitor Audio R352 speakers. Thank god for 0% interest free credit deals, and a very understanding older sister! 

 

My ‘lightbulb’ moment came in 1986 when I visited KJ Leisuresound and they had around ten different Linn LP12s with various arms and cartridges on display. I listened to a few of them although I only had around 2 in my pocket! I was hooked. Alas, they didn’t offer 0% interest and I knew on my wages I’d have to forgo any food or drink for around 4 months if were to be able to afford them, so I looked elsewhere!  That was in 1986 and since then till now I’m still trying to reach the feeling I felt when I had that 1st audition. To this end, although I read your publication regularly, because of a shortage of funds, I know realistically that I cannot afford to purchase new equipment. To this end I find I am purchasing items from that era and, more importantly  more records! 

 

My System now is as follows; Linn LP12 with Ittok and Dynavector 10X5 and Original Live Advanced Dc motor, Naim 32.5 and 140, Ruark Talisman Mk1, Nakamichi CR7, Hitachi FT5500 Mk2, Revox B77 Mk2, Alesis Masterlink, Marantz CDR-630 (given to me for nothing!), Sony PCM-R300 DAT machine, Sennheiser HD580 and a Okki Nokki record cleaning machine. I also use a Sony TC-WE835S double tape deck for making copies; An excellent machine with an amazing feature list that I acquired for the princely sum of 25, practically brand new! 

 

I also have a few standby items I use when any equipment is being serviced. Rega Planar 3 with RB300 and Goldring 1042, Revox B710 and Nakamichi BX300, Mission Cyrus 2 and a Musical Fidelity tuner (the one to match the A1 amp).

 

To summarise, my system gives me many hours of enjoyment and sometimes not. I may not be typical of many of your readers but I feel that the most important thing is playing and enjoying the music, rather than upsetting yourself when sometimes the sound is not as good as you otherwise expect.  I still record only to tape whether DAT or Compact Cassette and reserve special ‘challenging’ recordings such 70’s dub to reel-to-reel primarily. The CD recorders are used to archive tapes only I still record only to tape whether DAT or Compact Cassette and reserve special ‘challenging’ recordings such 70’s dub to reel-to-reel primarily. The CD recorders are used to archive tapes only.

Ifield Jones

Surrey

 

Hi Ifield. You have some fine hi-fi products there, some real classics. It struck me the other day, whilst updating our World Favourites listing on-line, that there are so many really good products around that have just become obsolete and can probably be picked up for a song one way or another, either at end of range knock down prices of the sort Richer Sounds specialise in, or of the same status but from e-bay. It looks like this is the way you do it and being able to resist the temptation of the latest is the best allows a lot of enjoyment to be had at very reasonable prices. NK

 

hitachi-ft5500-tuner

 

Hitachi FT-5500 MkII VHF/FM tuner owned by Ifield, a real classic with outstanding technical performance.

 

Fantastic! You have a great collection of kit there and I think your attitude is spot on. I think the only obvious weak point in your system is the Dynavector 10X5 which is a great little entry level MC but hardly taxes the Ittok. Having used (yes, you’ve guessed it!) an Audio Technica AT33EV moving coil in a tik-tok with brilliant results, I’d counsel splashing some cash on the latest EV version, which will suit your Naim amplification down to a tee! DP

 

M.A.D. FOR IT!

As a recent visitor to the Hi-Fi Wigwam Show at Scalford Hall I was particularly taken with a system being displayed in Syndicate 12 Room “Valvebloke”. The gentleman in question had a Rega Planar 2, Ortofon 2M Black, Quad 99 CDP-2, Radford STA15, Dynaco ST-70, Audio Innovations 800, Rogers JR149s and IPL M3TLs. 

 

My point here is that the items that gave me the most pleasure were the Rogers JR149s and the Radford STA15, I just fell in love and have to say for me this was the highlight of my visit.  Now I realise that this is termed, “Olde World” equipment but its communicative sound and lovely balance made me wish for the system myself.

 

Can you recommend a modern equivalent to the Rogers? I currently have a pair of B&W DM602S3s driven by an Icon Audio Stereo 40i (one of the originals) which uses KT88s. I love classical music but listen to most genres. Cabling is Atlas Equator and something that surprised me when I inserted it into the system is a Tannoy ST50 Supertweeter which has firmed up the bass and opened out the treble.

 

My CD source is a Rega Planet (old style) with a modified Tom Beresford DAC and a Musical Fidelity X-10D Line Buffer. The black stuff is played on a much loved Technics SL-1210Mk2 and an Audio Technica AT12S cartridge - Shibata stylus. Interconnects are Klotz AC110 throughout. I am quite prepared to keep wishing for the Rogers but they are of course a rarity and their prices are now becoming expensive. Budget is up to £1,000. Less of course is preferable and second hand speakers are always worth a listen. I just wish I could find that Rogers sound, which ticks most of my boxes.

Regards,

Nigel Masters

 

mad-my1920

 

A MyAudioDesign MY1920 comes close to a Rogers JR149 says David.

 

 

One loudspeaker that really comes close to that sound, but is (if anything) better, is the new My Audio Design My1920. It has an LS3/5a-in-a-modern-setting sort of character; clean and dry and tidy and smooth, but there’s a good deal more depth and space and a slightly richer tonality too. You should try them with your Icon Audio Stereo 40, which I suspect will work very well with them. DP


SPEAKER ADVICE

I’ve just returned to the hi-fi hobby after many years away. I replaced an ageing Marantz CD63 and NAD amp with the Naim Uniti. I must admit, the Naim has me playing music every day now, when before it could sound flat and lifeless. The old cliche of records I’d not bothered about before are now sounding fresh and new rings true with me.  However, I think I need to change speakers to get the best out of it.

 

Currently, I’m using Quad 12Ls (old model, not the new ones) on solid stands. Due to the requirements of the room they are just 19cm from the wall and 5ft apart with my listening position being 6ft away. They are wired with Naim NACA 5. I’d also tried Chord Carnival Silverscreen previously but found it not as explicit as the NACA 5.ial due to their placing but nothing that ruins the enjoyment.  However, I do find them a little lifeless. Not in terms of treble sparkle but more in terms of projection into the room and rhythm. I’ve got upwards of £400 to spend on replacements but am loath to do so if I’m purely going sideways. I’d wait and go to £900 if it was a dramatic improvement.

 

Possibles that have come to mind (purely from reviews with Naim equipment) are Rega and Neat but then I’ve wondered if the new KEF range might be the ticket at a good price, which would give me more money to spend on music and maybe a NAS for the Uniti.  Listening tastes are diverse  rock, jazz, punk, occasional classical (well, very occasional!). I’m aware I’m asking the impossible to get the perfect speaker for my situation. But I’d appreciate any feedback you could give.  Many thanks - and keep up the good work.

Jon Myles

Isleworth

London


 lft-16-speakers


We will be reviewing the Eminent Technology LFT-16 loudspeaker next month, but a preview is on our website now...

 

I suspect you might be smitten by the Monitor Audio sound, which is fast, projective and on the beat. Try auditioning Bronze range loudspeakers, which are a real bargain. NK

 

Hmmm – tricky even at £900. For £400 then you’re talking the Usher S-520; this is an excellent small loudspeaker that’s definitely a little more musical than the Quad 12L but it’s hardly night and day. At £900 you’ve got a wider choice; I’d be tempted to investigate the Eminent Technology LFT-16b for just a few dollars more. We’re reviewing this next month and it has a wonderfully fresh and fluid sound; not everyone’s cup of tea style-wise, though! DP

 

TAPE END?

I bought a Pioneer CT95 a few months back. Played a few tapes, and it sounds okay. Can you tell me the best tapes to use? Is this a good deck? And where can I get it serviced?

Mike Kelly

Northampton.

 

Best try phoning around your local specialist hi-fi dealers; I am sure at least one of them will know an engineer who they’ve used in the past who can do the job for you. The best tapes to use are the ones you can get! These days, TDK SAs are still easy to come by, and dirt cheap at around £1 a pop. DP


Hi Mike. The CT-95 is, to my knowledge, the last (and some say, the best) hi-end cassette deck ever produced by Pioneer. In this respect the answer to your second question is a definitive “yes” – it is a very good deck. And the presence of an auto calibration feature called “Super Auto BLE” makes the answer to your first question easier, as the CT-95 can align its electronics to get the most out of any decent quality cassette. Even plain TDK FE and TDK D Type I cassettes could sound surprisingly good when recorded on this Pioneer. However if you are serious about the sound quality and long life of your recorded tapes I would advise you to get some Type II cassettes as these have lower noise and also would preserve the quality of the sound for many years to come. I have cassettes recorded 20, 25 and even 30 years ago and many of these are still sound great!

 

pioneer-ct95

Pioneer's CT95 had automatic record equalisation to get the very best from cassette, says Alex Nitikin of ANT Audio.

 

Brand new Type II TDK SA tapes are available for under a pound on the Internet and in Richer Sounds shops – that is probably a good starting point. Another source of good quality “new old stock” cassettes is the eBay – you may even find some top quality Type IV “Metal” tapes there though the prices for these cassettes are on the rise. Metal tapes are no longer manufactured and as a result command premium prices.

 

Type IV cassettes also vary in quality and may disappoint if they were not stored properly. For that reason I mostly use premium Type II cassettes - at 2-4 times the price of the TDK SA these NOS tapes provide the level of performance that would surprise many people who’d never listened to a properly made cassette recording. My favourites are SONY UX-S, UX-Pro, Maxell XL-IIS and TDK SA-X tapes.

 

Now to your last – and the most difficult question. Servicing a tape deck presents a challenge. The only exception is probably the Nakamichi cassette deck brand as there are still a couple of companies that can do a professional service on these. Owners of other makes are generally out of luck and have to either learn how to do it at home or search for a fellow tape enthusiast with the right tools and experience who would agree to do the job. This is somewhat unfortunate situation as cassette decks (like cars, really!) do require a reasonably regular service to perform properly and that service can only be done using the right tools and equipment. Just imagine that you own a car and there were no more service stations around! There are several Internet forums that can help a cassette deck owner in this respect and I would recommend TapeHeads.net (http://www.tapeheads.net) for friendly advice and technical help.

Alex Nitikin,

ANT Audio.

 

WALKMAN GO

I’m sorry to trouble you but I need your help! I want to buy a Sony Pro Walkman but obviously they are all secondhand. Do you know of a company that can service/refurbish them?

Many thanks

Malcolm Davey

 

sony-wm-d6c-pro-walkman

 

Sony Pro Walkman – contact Sony about service.


 

There is no simple answer here. Whether or not your Pro Walkman is serviceable depends on which model you have. Ring Sony on 0844 846655 and plough through the customer service menu to find someone to talk to. Whether anyone outside Sony can service them may depend on the availability of parts. Best of luck anyway. I suspect you'll need it . AG 

 

TANNOY WIRE

Mr. Haden Boardman. I enjoyed your article on Tannoy dual concentric drivers. I own a pair of Golds in like-new condition and yes, I have rebuilt the crossover which may be tinned copper, but I have doubts about that. If they are aluminium, replacing them with good copper or silver might be the single best upgrade to these amazing drivers. Any light you can shine on this would be appreciated.

Bob Matz

New York

USA

 

The original wiring is tinned copper rather than aluminium. For an upgrade I would suggest replacing this with PCOCC (Pure Copper made by Ohno Continuous Casting process), such as Oyaide 34/0.18 stranding or similar Furutech. Solid core (0.7mm), PTFE insulated high purity silver could be used for the HF, but will sound brighter.

Hope that helps

Dr Paul Mills,

Chief Designer,

Tannoy.


HARD SELL

Although I now live in Melbourne and have done so since 1972, I shall always be the product of my English upbringing, in the 1950s. Every Christmas or birthday my mother would make us write a thank you note for every present we received, whether it was to our liking or not. Such was the way good manners and, if you like, protocol ruled her approach to life. I have, of course over time, come to agree with her. A phrase I like to sum it up “ good manners are a social lubricant” So what is all this about?  Here is a thank you letter written without mater standing over me! I very much enjoy my system, of Project Perspective turntable, Transcriptor turntable with Shure V15/lll, Cambridge 640p phono stage, Musical Fidelity XA-1amp and my home built omni directional speakers. Not quite high end but very musical. Up until recently I had a Micro mc in the Perspective’s arm. It finally wore out and so a replacement was sought. I had an old but still in good condition Supex sd700-a mc. and set it up.  At first it sounded lovely but I soon found it was sending me to sleep. So rich and warm was the sound (initially beguiling ) that all the excitement in the music was gone.

 

As a listener mostly to jazz, I quickly realised I was missing all the percussion in the music. The top end was so tame it had no zing at all. Great for extended bass of course but I am not a bass freak. I like it real, not just deep. The real bass had gone to be replaced by a warm, comfortable blanket.  What to do?


We all know how hard it is to audition different cartridges at a dealers, let alone in our own systems. So I had to do the hi-fi crime and buy with only a review to go by. I purchased my monthly copy of Hi-Fi World, the September 2010 issue to be exact, and there on page 109 was a review of the Audio Technica ATF3/lll. At only 189 GBP it grabbed my attention. By the way, we read so many letters of people bleating about the balance of high end to the more affordable in hi-fi journals that I have to say I believe you get it about right. Who among us buys a car magazine only for a review of a Hyundai Getz and ignores the article on the latest Ferrari? Not I!


I purchased the cartridge at a far better discounted price than you quoted, so far so good, and installed it in the Project. Now this is the point of the letter. All the points made in the review, whether positive or negative, were reproduced on my system in exactly the way you describe. The treble is a little bright compared to some and the bass, while not as deep as some, is very quick and full of lots of different notes, very satisfying. Do cartridges need to break in as is the case with other equipment because, now that I have been listening to it over the past week there is no doubt that the sound, in general, has sweetened, especially in the top end or maybe it’s just me ears becoming attuned to the sound. As it has bedded in it even has classical recordings sounding better than expected. A true high performance bargain, it has shown itself to be a fine match for my system and a great improvement over the Micro. 

 

The point is, your review told me what to expect honestly and so I could not, and was not, disappointed. Keep producing honest reviews, not just ones so glowing it is obvious they are designed only to sell, sell, sell and that I suspect many journals do just that. What a wonderful mix of reviews, articles, vintage and the best letters section anywhere.

Cheers.

Martin Bray

Melbourne

Australia

 

Thanks Martin - kind of you to say so. As I am constantly explaining to manufacturers, some of whom complain that we’ve “spoiled” their reviews by saying “negative” things (even if they get the coveted five globes), we are not a marketing wing of the hi-fi industry. We have to put the equipment we review into perspective. Everything ever made has weak points (in absolute terms, if not at its price point), and us pointing them out isn’t us spoiling the review, it’s giving a sense of perspective and balance. I know our readers won’t stay with us if everything’s just “this is great and that’s great and so is that”; they want some meat on the bone, so to speak. Even products we covet have downsides; nothing yet invented is absolutely flawless; if it was we’d all be out of a job! The AT-F3/II is a great little budget MC, and should gain some much needed sweetness with age have fun with it. DP

 

TWEAK PEAK

At present I am enjoying the following set up:


My sources are a Linn LP12 (serial number 77000 plus), Ekos, Lyra Dorian, Lingo 2, Trampolin, bought second hand two years ago and serviced / reset 1 year ago when Trampolin and cartridge (new) were fitted, Trichord Dino and Dino+ 2years old. I also have a Leema Acoustics Antilla CD that is two years old and a Leema Acoustics Tucana (with balanced option) that is two years old. My loudspeakers are Monitor Audio PL100 on MA stands and interconnects are Chord Chameleon Silver Plus. Loudspeaker cables are Chord Rumour 4 bi-wire and mains conditioning an Isotek Mini Sub G 11 with Isotek Mains cables throughout.  All of this is on good quality shelving on wall supports. The CD player also sits on a Mission Isoplat. Listening is shared equally by vinyl and CD and consists mainly of Blues, Jazz, Rock, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. I now wish to tweak this set up and would welcome your suggestions regarding improving mains.

Many thanks in anticipation,

Mike Thompson

 

icon-audio-ps3

 

Icon Audio’s PS3 phono stage is ideal for Mike Thompson’s system thinks DP, adding much needed valve euphony.

 

 

Hi Mike - your system sounds superb on paper, although probably the weakest point is the Trichord Dino phono stage, and so it’s this I’d replace first. Either go for the ANT Audio Kora 3T or the Icon Audio PS3, depending on whether you want a little valve euphony injecting (via the PS3), or a wonderfully open straight-down-the-line sound from the ANT Audio. Your supports look pretty good to me, as is your cable. The Antilla upgrade would be worthwhile, but don’t expect a night and day change, just a subtle improvement. DP

 

No, the weakest point is Tchaikovsky. I recall a Simon Rattle interview in which he said that in all his years leading the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, he had managed to avoid programming Tchaikovsky altogether. I understand how he must have felt - AG

 

VINYL DEMAND

I write seeking your help regarding an upgrade path for my existing vinyl set-up which consists of a Michell Gyro SE Deck, SME Series IV arm and Ortofon Kontrapunkt b cartridge. The arm is fitted with the standard SME wiring/cable.  The above equipment is connected to an EAR 864PL pre-amp, which has an internal phono Stage, an EAR 869, which is used as a power amp and a pair of Spendor S8es.

 

My main music taste is rock/pop although I do occasionally venture into the realms of classical! I look forward to your response to this request and would just add that I enjoy reading the mail section of your magazine each month as it offers such an interesting variety of content.

Jeff Keilty

West Dorset

 

michell-orbe-se

 

Michell Orbe is a good replacement for the Gyro SE.

 

Hi Jeff – the weak point here is your deck. The Gyro is superb, but the Michell Orbe is better still, and the obvious next upgrade; it will add bass power and extension, plus a cleaner, more transparent midband and treble, with a more natural rhythmic flow that makes the Gyro sound a little mechanical by comparison. The rest of your system is well placed to signpost the differences, I feel. DP

 

LANDSCAPE

I’ve been listening to the second Landscape album, From The Tea Rooms Of Mars...(etc) and suggest that (a) it’s one of the great unsung synth albums, and (b) the opening track European Man would make a great hi-fi test track, ranging from its quiet and thoughtful opening (dig those not-very-accurate synth piano sounds, or are they meant to sound that way? Who knows with Landscape...) to the (very loud) peak, and finally the song just bounces along from there. It would give your NS-1000s a good workout! Forget Einstein A Go-Go, this track (and the title track) are the classics! 

 

Oh, and while I’m on the line, you haven’t published a review of Kraftwerk’s The Catalogue on vinyl yet. Either (a) there’s no real difference compared to the original LPs (I have The Catalogue on CD) [but this wouldn’t apply to Electric Cafe/Techno Pop], or (b) there wasn’t enough space in the magazine, or (c) you’d just be having too much time enjoying yourself to write the review!

All the best,

John Malcolm

 

roksan-xerxes-20-plus

 

To cure your Xerxes, 'phone Roksan's London HQ they told us.

 

Thanks for the tip-off, John. I actually have that album and do like it, but whenever I feel the need to hear ‘Einstein a Go’ I then feel myself reaching for the album that sits next to it in my rack (if it’s in the right place, that is), which is New Musik’s ‘From A to B’; I adore ‘Sanctuary’ and think Tony Mansfield’s songs and arrangements are amazing for that era. I try not to write about Kraftwerk as I become a fawning fool and feel myself drifting into my sixth form dream world where I was going to be the world’s greatest ever music writer. Not going to happen, got to let it go! I’ll be putting ‘The Catalogue’ on to my Christmas list though, even if I suspect the reissues won’t hold a candle to the original vinyl. DP

 

SITE AND SOUND

You have a new website but have no links to the buying guides and recommended components of the old site. I use the recommended components page quite often, although it was seemingly very out of date, with no components from the last few years. Is it coming back and are you updating it with newer 5(worlds) items?


Also, I have a pair of Cabasse Jonque 302 speakers I bought some 10 years or so ago. What is your opinion of them and how can I get the best bass response from them?


Also, I have an original Roksan Xerxes that I have just got back out of its box after some years in storage, and the motor seems very rough now, and audible. What might be the problem? I have heard that the power supply fails. How do I check that, as the motor still turns albeit with a hand start, which it did not need before?

Many thanks,

Raz Shankar

 

Hi Raz. An updated World Favourites section has been added and we will be making further updates and adding more information soon. You will also find the 2010 Awards products on the site. I do not know your Cabasse loudspeakers so cannot comment on them. NK

 

There have been several iterations of the basic Xerxes, but the general feeling at Roksan Towers is that something like the main spindle or the motor alignment, for example, may have become misaligned in storage. They suggest that you give them a call at their London HQ on 020 8900 6801, with the player available for visual inspection. AG


 

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