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World mail December 2011 issue
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 -
Derek Nudd uses dbpoweramp software for ripping CD, to incorporate metadata.
In response to Bill Lyon’s letter I’m afraid that fettling metadata is a game for true obsessionals – but the usefulness of your ripped music is less without it, as you’ve discovered. Presumably that’s where the likes of Naim and Meridian really earn their money.
I use the excellent dbPoweramp software (with HDCD plug-in for CDs so coded) and found it worth upgrading to the full licence. In the rare event that I can’t get a clean rip from that I try again with Exact Audio Copy – slower and less good on metadata but if that won’t rip it then probably nothing will. This is probably an egg-sucking lesson but rip to a lossless format such as FLAC, not MP3. You can always compress further from FLAC but you can’t recover data you’ve thrown away in MP3 coding!
Both will make a fair stab at capturing metadata from the Internet and try to validate the result against the on-line (again!) AccurateRip checksum database. If some tracks show as accurate in AccurateRip and some don’t it’s worth cleaning the disc and trying again. If all show as inaccurate you may have a different pressing from the one in the database.
It’s easiest to review and correct the metadata before you rip. Get Album Title, Artist, Album Artist, Composer and Conductor (where appropriate) right and consistent. Just how many ways are there of spelling Handel’s forenames? Also review the track names to ensure they make sense – they won’t always.
One trick I haven’t seen mentioned: where you have multiple artists (say orchestra, a couple of soloists and a conductor) separate them with semi-colons. This will allow a database such as Asset UPNP to search on anyone in the list rather than treating the list as a single, indivisible entry.
Where errors make it past the ripping stage you’ll need to fix them with a tag editor. I use Audioshell, but it hasn’t been updated in a while and I’d be nervous of trying it with Windows releases later than XP. Search for ‘music tag editor’ on the Web though (there it is again!) and you’ll see several options.
Incidentally, I also buy high-resolution downloads from the likes of Linn and B&W. Guess what? The metadata is often incomplete there too!
The world of electronically-stored music is pretty immature – still at the WordStar stage for those with long enough memories. Hardware development steams on but the volume of information at our disposal grows faster than our ability to manage it. I have great hopes for the future though because this direction has the potential to bring higher quality audio to the mass market – arguably the first time we’ve been able to say that since the LP! Hang in there.
Hi Derek, thanks for that. As you say, always rip to lossless, if you don’t want simply to store in WAV format. Uncompressed WAV (i.e. CD 16/44 standard) sounds slightly better but of course lossless FLAC (and ALAC) have proper metadata handling. I have to say that metadata bores me rigid, but I understand it’s the only practicable way of cataloguing large amounts of music. Still, I have 3,000-plus LPs and I always seem to remember where each one is (or thereabouts) in my record boxes so maybe we don’t need metadata after all? DP
The excellent Rega P3-24 has a wonderful arm, Rega's RB301, but the turntable is not ideal for piano we are told.
I would be grateful for some advice on a sensible vinyl upgrade path. I currently have a Rega P3 and want to upgrade, probably in stages, to as good as I can get within sensible limits. My main difficulty is choosing the best path; I think I will need to upgrade the cartridge (currently Elys 2), phono stage (currently board in Delta 290P), possibly the arm and finally perhaps the deck.
My thinking is that if I concentrate first on the cartridge, phono stage and arm then if I do upgrade the deck later these will not be wasted and could move with it – but where is the best place to start and which will give the biggest improvements in sound?
You have recently recommended the Goldring 1022 a few times and in the World Standards you also recommend the 1042. They are similar in price – what are the differences between them and is the 1022 better than the 1042?
You also mention in the Standards that the Dynavector DV10X5 “beats 1042 comfortably” and this is only a small amount more – is it much better?
Other cartridges I have considered are Audio Technica ATF3, Ortofon 2M Blue or Vivo Red. My preference is for a detailed but musical sound (not too clinical or cold). Do you have any advice on which is the most likely cartridge to offer this?
With the phono stage I have been considering Graham Slee Era Gold V, ANT Kora, Icon Audio PS2 or Trichord Dino – do you have any recommendations out of these and how they compare?
I read your recent review of the Inspire X100 which looked really interesting and have also been looking at the Audiomods arm which is similar in price. In the review you said the X100 was “the new standard by which other similar Rega-based designs should be judged” but the Audiomods has also had great reviews and certainly looks stunning. Are there major differences between them and are there any other arms worth considering at this level?
Also, Inspire offer 12” arms – how much difference does a 12” arm make? Of course this would not fit my current turntable but if I do upgrade the deck is it worth looking for one that will take a 12” arm and leaving the arm upgrade until then?
This leads me on to the last part – the turntable. Your recent review of the Quest upgrade was very interesting and my main question is taking into account the changes planned above – would they combined with a Quest upgrade reach a reasonable reference level or would I be better to consider another deck altogether to get the most out of the arm, cartridge and phono stage?
Finally, assuming that the deck is probably the last element to be upgraded so my options are kept open – do you have any advice on what the priority should be if I do it in stages – cartridge, phono stage or arm? And which will likely make the most difference to sound and performance?
Twelve inch arms are becoming popular: "they now outsell all else" one retailer tells us. But they need a big, big plinth.
The Goldring 1022 MM cartridge lacks the sophisticated treble of the 1042, which has a superior stylus. It is also more compliant and a slightly better tracker. But the 1022 still has plenty of verve, it is a fine sound. I think you are best buying a Goldring for a smooth sound that isn’t clinical. Modern MMs like the 2M Red and Blue can sound quite challenging, their treble is so strong.
I use an SME 312S 12in arm out of choice and it replaced a 312 supplied to me by SME founder Alastair Robertson Aikman. He was fairly dismissive about it at the time, saying it wasn’t quite as good as some of their best. However, I found that whilst it may not have had the last ounce of bass control or lower midband clarity it was gloriously smooth and easy natured, quite firm and clear too, sufficiently so for me to use in preference to all else. Arms, like preamps, have the ability to be subliminally upsetting or even ruinous when not right and I like to stay with what I know and am happy with – and that meant the 312! It was then virtually unique, but 12in arms have gained popularity recently.
I finally swapped my old SME312 for a new SME312S and not only is it firmer and more emphatic than the 312, it is also ‘quieter’. This may be a cabling issue. Think ‘silky smooth’ as a generalisation for the sound of a 12in arm. I suggest you upgrade the cartridge first, then the phono stage and finally the deck.
Now to a sobering comment recently made to me. A friend heard a Rega P3 and asked me why we never mention the fact that it wows. He span piano on LP and said that with sustained notes wow was obvious, in line with our measurements – yet we never mention it. Whoops! I haven’t spent endless amounts of time with ours and haven’t put on an LP with classical piano, at least that I recall. The Rega P3 RB301 arm is a good one of course, but speed stability of the P3 is mediocre. Be warned. Now over to David ... NK
I personally think the Dynavector 10x5 is better than the Goldring 1042; it’s certainly more fun and animated sounding, making the 1042 sound a little lifeless. The Audio Technica ATF3 is very good, but perhaps a tad too clinical for your Rega. We’re just in the process of arranging a review of the Audiomods arm, so I can’t comment, but to date the Audio Origami modded RB251 is one of the best I’ve heard, with a beautifully open and musical sound – a world away from the stock arm.
As for the Quest upgrade, it’s really a case of how far you want to take it. If you don’t plan on upgrading for a while, or wish to ‘stop’ with something sub-£1,000, then the Quest is brilliant. It is not, however, a substitute for a high end turntable; even an affordable high end design like a Michell GyroDec would somewhat embarrass it. So yes, the Quest is great – to a point.
Re: phono stages, go to the ANT Kora if you want a smooth, even sound, or the Icon Audio if it’s a warm and sumptuous balance you crave – both are superb, but the choice comes down to taste.
So what’s your next step? Well, my feeling would be to get your Rega nicely fettled – get an AO mod for the arm, fit a 10X5 and mount the deck on a stout wall shelf, with the dustcover removed (all turntables sound better this way). Personally, although the Planar 3 is a little less speed-stable than the best, cleaning the belt, pulley and inner platter with isopropyl alcohol and making sure the Rega is 100% level minimises the deck’s speed instability to the point where it’s not obvious – not being perfectly level seems to really accentuate its speed issue. DP
I intend to make/obtain, more than likely by DIY with expert help where necessary, isolation platforms for my equipment; Inspire LP12, Leema Tucana and Antilla, phono amp and power supply, and perhaps even the substation mains block.
My question is concerning materials. There are so many to choose from, all of which I have or can easily obtain. So what is “best” from acrylic, glass, MDF, bamboo wood, hardwood, granite, slate, marble, Torlyte or steel?
Then the under platform supports ; wood cones, Sorbothane or metal spikes and three or four points? Domestically, identical materials would be ideal but sound quality is the main criteria. I look forward to your ideas and suggestions.
Slate is heavy, looks good and makes a great material for plinths.
Hi Mike. It is common to use well damped materials. Acrylic, slate, MDF and Torlyte are popular. Glass and steel are resonant and ‘ring’, but this does add a zing that some like. I found Waterfall glass loudspeakers rang strongly but the colouration was literally ‘glassy’ and quite nice, if not strictly correct. Slabs of slate or marble are great for table tops I feel. I use a massive marble slab under my Garrard 401’s Martin Bastin plinth.
I suggest you experiment with feet, but Sorbothane works well I have found. It will not take very heavy loads though. NK