Banner
Banner
cookie-banner

December 2011 Issue

Article Index
December 2011 Issue
page 2
page 3
page 4
page 5
page 6
page 7
All Pages

World mail December 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 -
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.

 

 


 

dbpoweramp

 

Derek Nudd uses dbpoweramp software for ripping CD, to incorporate metadata.

 

 

META PHYSICAL

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.

Derek Nudd

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


 

rega-p3

The excellent Rega P3-24 has a wonderful arm, Rega's RB301, but the turntable is not ideal for piano we are told.


TOP TIP?

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?

Bob Smythe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sme312s-tonearm

 

 

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

MATERIAL WORLD

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.

Mike Thompson

 

slatedeck-plinth

 

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


READ ALL ABOUT IT!

English is not my “mother language” and not even the second or third I’ve learned so, knowing you’ll understand, I beg you, in beforehand, to excuse my English. Especially the use of comas in big doses that I know you do not particularly enjoy in the UK.


The opportunity to write you a letter has been left open by your twentieth anniversary. I had to congratulate in one hand and in the other wanted to thank you too. So, here I leave my congratulations and thanks to you all, present and past Editors and Reviewers, for the excellent job you are carrying out, since the beginning of HI-FI World in 1991.


I first picked Hi-Fi World from a news stand for pure chance, I confess, as I was looking for Stereophile at Heathrow airport while waiting for a delayed flight back to Portugal and I needed something to wash out the bore. It was your November 2002 issue. From then on, with very few exceptions, I bought HI-FI World every month.


I’ve been a subscriber for a few years but I abandoned subscription for a bunch of reasons, none having to do with the magazine, you or your former alter egos at HI-FI World.


At the time I was living in a flat and the mailbox was really too small so, the postman used to ruin the magazine’s cover every month and sometimes, as a bonus, also some pages got partially torn off. The magazine used to arrive folded in two so, for two years I think I ended up buying a second issue at a news stand in Lisbon. It cost me a fortune.


Sorry, the electronic number was not a question at the time as it still isn’t an option, at least for me. I have to hold the magazine in my own hands, smell it, feel it, read it from back to front, starting from the vinyl pages, then the ads, then anything about a new DAC or a fantastic new CD player and then, the rest of it. I like to read it sitting on the sofa, or at table in the morning, taking breakfast and I love to read it in bed at night when everybody else at home is already asleep. I love to have it on my desk and look inside the Mag for interesting sites’ addresses in every issue thus I also use it as a guide to surf the internet.


It’s the same with LPs vs. CDs. An LP is something more tangible than a CD, its bigger, nicer to hold with both hands and also each label has its own exclusive smell. Parlophone has a nice smell, Decca is quite neutral, Verve LPs have a distinctive smell too but, I’ll never forget the smell of Capitols “The Beatle’s First” and the Beatle’s “Something New !” that I got in the mail 47 years ago, when I was ten! I still love their mix better than the equivalent European’s records one.

I love going through the used equipment adds looking for any peace of kit that attires my attention. It’s a HI-FI New World I get into every month that usually lasts for at least three weeks and then, it’s time to start the long wait for the next issue. I love your Christmas issue and your yearly Awards one. Sometimes a reviewed item is intriguing enough to make me go and try to audition it at a Dealer. Some of my Hi-Fi purchases were big successes, I must say and resulted directly from your reviews which opened my mind to different perspectives and new paths to achieve “musical nirvana”.


You have sent me in a quest that 20 years ago I didn’t even know existed. It has been a very rewarding journey and a good run for my money. I particularly like the monthly “Icon Audio’s add”. It is reassuring to know that they are succeeding as a company and at the same time launching quality products at real world prices. I’ve listened to PS3 a couple of weeks ago and was amazed. It is really good, especially with low output MCs. An outstanding phono stage.


I dropped all my other Hi-Fi mags’ subscriptions, namely, Stereophile, Hi-Fi Choice, Hi-Fi News and Hi-Fi + (I used to buy this one for the exceptional graphics and the excellent pictures of esoteric equipment), some French and a German one too.

Do you know why I kept attached to HI-FI World? Like Sir Winston Churchill used to say: (quote) “There is no such thing as public opinion, there’s only published opinion” (unquote).


Hi-Fi World guarantees freedom to its readers. That’s why. You suggest but you do not impose your views. Your readers are, by the end of the day, psychologically free to make up their own minds about every item you have reviewed.

When answering reader’s letters, whenever you suggest something, you usually explain the reasons for your suggestions. That is rare and seldom to be found in modern journalism. You’re publishing an outstanding Magazine, not running the “War Propaganda Ministry”.

Thanks for your achievement.

Mario Kopke Tulio

Portugal

 

 

 

lisbon431

 

Mario Tulio buys Hi-Fi World from a newstand in Lisbon. It is available around the world.


Hi Mario. Your English seems fine to me; your letter is barely edited here and it makes as much or more sense than most from the U.K.!

Thank you very much for your praise, all the way from Portugal. It is nice to know that listening to well reproduced music affects listeners the same way around the world. We are proud to be a part of it. NK

MORE

Just picked up a copy of the July issue at my news stand and found the article on cables very interesting. Please let’s have more of same and less product reviews. Congrats on your anniversary!

Joe Wdowiak

Canada

Thanks Joe. Well, the snow has cleared, but it is due back soon eh?

I am sure our editor David can find more worthy words on cables, even though they are the most peculiarly controversial and divisive topic in audio. Well, after Mac Minis that is! NK

 

Hi Joe - don’t worry, we’ve got a whole lot more features saved up for this winter, to keep you warm through those crazy snowstorms of yours! DP


 

atlas-cables

 

 

 

Moorgate Acoustics, Sheffield, made up a pair of Atlas Apex speaker leads for Giles and they made a "huge improvement:  deeper, fuller,

more dynamic sound".

ON THE WIRE

I found Neville Roberts article on cables very interesting. As a physicist myself, I was also sceptical about the effect of cables. While I could appreciate that improved screening might be of benefit, but the effects claimed by the nature of the conductor seemed hard to understand. At least I’m not completely alone.

However, I was utterly sceptical about the effect of mains leads. How can something from the wall socket to the component have any effect? And as such my system of Sondek/Valhalla/Akito/K9 / MF A120 and LS3/5as, subsequently replaced by SF Signums, provided 1000s of hours pleasure over a decade of listening, without modification. However, more recent experiences have called this belief into question.


While your article focussed on cables, my own experience suggests that the impact of cables on a system is secondary to two more significant sources of noise: Mechanical noise / resonance and mains noise, which raise the noise floor, masking fine dynamic and frequency details. Your article suggests that the effects of different cables are readily discernible in a £20k system. One would hope so, given that at this level manufacturers spend a much greater proportion of the budget on mains regulation and internal vibration suppression in their products.


However, it is here that I think the root of cable scepticism may arise. Most of us don’t have the luxury of £20k systems, and usually start out with a system of £2k to £5k. Good equipment, but still modest in comparison to a reference system. Now many will be happy with this for years, as I was, but one of the first upgrades that may be considered is likely to be the interconnects. Reviews can give the impression that an interconnect upgrade may offer disproportionate improvements for a relatively modest expenditure (in the context of overall system cost).


However, while users may experience such interconnects making a modest improvement, it is not proportionate to their cost, reinforcing scepticism and suspicion of marketing hype. For example, in the system above, I found little discernible difference between a £50 cable and £200 + cables. I also tried an Isotek GII Mini-sub, but could not identify any improvement. However, I have recently realised that this was due to the system not being sufficiently optimised for mains and mechanical system noise for the increased resolution of the interconnect to be perceived, as the effect was below the noise floor of the system.

My system is now Sondek/Valhalla/Akito/Goldring1006 (which desperately deserves upgrading) & Dino/Dino+ / Cyrus CD8se2 / Sugden A21SE and the SF Signums. Recent optimisation has included: Sondek on wall shelf; dedicated SF stands for the speakers (massive improvement in bass depth and tightness as well as imaging across the board); Nordost Pulsar points under the CD (these I consider a component performance doubler:  with them the component sounds as good as an unoptimised component of twice the price). CD is now on one Pulsar point with two Sorbothane blocks, on a lump of granite on more Sorbothane; amp is on Pulsar points on an acrylic shelf (which offers better mechanical damping than wood or glass); Vertex AQ Silver Jaya mains shunt on the first mains multiway socket; Vertex AQ Standard Roraima on CD player.


Up to this point I’d been using unbranded (Seduction Audio) interconnects and speaker cable (bi-wire silver-plated multicore) and found, as a result of the above upgrades, a vast improvement in dynamic range, resolution, imaging etc. and an extremely engaging sound. I then tried two £200 interconnects (MIT and Chorus), but found no significant improvement over the Seduction Audio cables. At this point you may think I’m supporting the argument for scepticism, but one side-effect of these upgrades was that some harshness in the treble had become apparent as fatigue after extended listening. So I asked my local Hi-fi retailer (Moorgate Acoustics, Sheffield) and they made me up a pair of AtlasApex speaker leads (in 2 hours - thanks Dave!) which I auditioned.


Huge improvement:  deeper, fuller, more dynamic sound with greater separation across the sound stage, but with a smoother response over the frequency range. The leads never made it back to the shop, such was the improvement!


In terms of assessing performance, what I find is that when something is right there’s almost a sense of relaxation in the delivery of the music. It’s the difference between the effortless delivery of a maestro and the same piece, performed equally well, but by someone for whom it’s requiring all their abilities to deliver. There’s a sense of having to work harder (don’t you just love these objective, quantifiable and reproducible measures?).


Anyway, back to the point. There was an offer on AtlasNavigator interconnects, so I took one to try as I had been thinking about re-cabling with just one manufacturer’s cables for consistency. With the new speaker cable in place, I found that I could now easily determine the improvement delivered by the interconnect, which at £140, was cheaper than those I had previously auditioned. This was a bit of a surprise, but I think demonstrates the importance of system optimisation at other levels. I then tried the Atlas Electra, the next step up the range, which should have been a further step change in performance, but only demonstrated a slight improvement, with a little more refinement and sense of acoustic space.


My conclusion is that, if you can’t hear a difference between different interconnects, it may be that there are unoptimised issues elsewhere. I believe this is probably an indication that in my system there is either further scope for optimisation, or I’ve reached the limits of performance. If so, I am stunned by the level of improvement in my system that has been achieved, though I do still believe that further optimisation will deliver yet more performance, without needing to upgrade components (which requires some discipline, I can tell you!).


My experience suggests that without considering mechanical and mains noise in system optimisation, upgrading interconnects alone is not going to deliver the anticipated level of performance improvement, but a system wide program of optimisation needs to be considered. I would suggest that mechanical noise is the main culprit, followed by mains, and that these deserve addressing in this order, before considering interconnects. There is no single magic fix. All elements of system performance need to be considered together. Oh, and trust your ears!

Giles Morrison

Sheffield

 

 

vertex-

Giles Morrison uses Vertex mains filters, and Vertex also have isolating cones and isolation platforms in their product range.



Very true, Giles. Although it’s important to point out that – in my experience – one of the major transmission systems for airborne or floor/wall-borne vibration (i.e. mechanical noise) is... cables! Yes, those little wires, often resting on your equipment table (itself a great big receiver of airborne vibrations) pipe those vibrations straight into your arm, CD player or turntable via the interconnects. That’s why (I think) the cable dielectric also has a role to play in damping and/or sinking and/or isolating this noise from the componentry. As a result, I place my cables on little Sorbothane pads, so they don’t rest directly on my equipment rack, and I ensure they don’t touch a rear wall and/or floor. This has a huge effect on sound, I find.


I’m in the strange position of being regarded as a non-believer in cables by many manufacturers (apparently we don’t review enough – so they say!), whereas many sceptical readers are outraged by my even reviewing a couple a month. In my view, cables emphatically do make a difference (note I said ‘difference’, not ‘improvement’), but it depends on the rest of your system and how it is set up before that difference can be profound. If it’s a dog’s breakfast in terms of component choice and siting, you’re unlikely to get big gains from expensive cables. As always then, it’s a question of balance! DP

 

Thanks for the broad view Giles. It is a good point that all factors affecting performance need to be considered and addressed systematically. Support structures do seem important and there’s much anyone can do to build better shelves, solid tables and what have you – and this is a popular pastime with many readers.

From what we are told too, mains supplies can differ quite dramatically in regulation (ability to stay at one voltage whether used heavily or lightly) and cleanliness (i.e. waveform distortion and noise). Adam Smith, for example, suffers a poor mains supply and finds filters make a big difference, whilst I have a very clean and stiff supply that is less susceptible to change. This does of course mean that some users will not notice big differences, whilst others will – a confusing factor! NK


ARMS AND THE MAN

Currently I have a Luxman PD441 direct drive turntable with a Roksan Tabriz arm, and an Ortofon 2m Bronze cartridge. Overall I’m very impressed with what it can do, but like all hi-fi nuts I want more. I plan to fit the 2m Black stylus assembly very shortly


But I am also wondering how good is my existing arm. I have contacted Roksan re their upgrade kit to take it to the Z1. The kit would cost me $500.00 Australian, plus postage, and if it’s something that Roksan has to fit it would involve me sending the arm back etc. so the cost would be around $550.00 to $600.00. I am wondering if this upgrade would be worthwhile. The only thing I can find out about it is that it improved the tracking on warped records, and mine are not warped. There is a local fellow selling an SME V on eBay, for $1,900 I am tempted.

What would your suggestion be...


A. How does my existing arm stack up?

B. Would the upgrade to the Z1 be worthwhile?

C. Would the SME V be an upgrade, and if so relative to what I have now, would you consider it a slight, moderate, major or extreme upgrade?

I would appreciate your help, and I fully appreciate that ultimately it’s my decision, but I would value your input.

Peter Abbey

Australia

 

sme-v-tonearm

 

SME V pickup arm is an upgrade on most others, it is so good.

 


 

Hi Peter – yes, the Zi would be an improvement, and the SME Series V would be a very big improvement on this. It’s a case of how much cash and how much determination. See this issue’s tonearm supertest for more enlightenment! DP

WARM SPELL

My first system was Linn LP12, Ittok arm with P77 cartridge, A60 amp and Heybrook HB2 speakers on Linn Kan stands.  It had a lovely sound, I should never have bought another hi-fi magazine.


A bigger house and the upgrade bug took me through SD1 speakers (lovely sound but now out of business and were unable to be repaired ), Beard P100 valve power amp, (same scenario) Rose valve preamp and matching Rose mono-blocks, (same scenario), Croft valve preamp (kept blowing valves).


Now back in a smaller room 12ft x 10ft and am still running the LP12, now with Lingo power supply SE upgrade recently done, Ekos arm with new bearings, fitted with new Ortofon Rohmann cartridge. Michell Iso HR phono stage to Lehmann Black Cube Linear headphone pre-amp and hence to Lehmann Black Cube Stamp Amplifier. Speakers are recently purchased Spendor SA1 on dedicated stands connected with amp by Vectour solid core cable. Very detailed sound but lacks the warmth, sweetness and ‘must keep listening’ factor of even my first system.


My musical tastes are varied but favourites would be John Martyn, Joni Mitchell, J.J. Cale.


Is the amplifier the item to change?  Spendor suggest more power with the likes of Naim or Cyrus, but I wonder if that will just give me more volume (not required). My budget is around £1500 (though I would save up if more is required) and much though I love the valve sound, experience of buying new valves has put me off, so although not completely ruled out, solid-state would be preferable. Would Sugden fit the bill ? Hope you can help and thanks for a fine magazine.

Martin Cook

Brightlingsea

 

 

naim-supernait

For a big, full sound try a Naim Supernait shown here, or just the Nait.

 

 

 

For a full bodied sound with good detail try either Naim and the Nait or Supernait, or Creek and the Evolution. Sugden Class A amplifiers are on the glassy side, if super clean and clear, and totally free of grain. This goes for Class A generally and it may not be what you are looking for.

NK

 

Yep – I’d go for the Creek Evolution integrated for a warmish, smooth sound; the Sugdens are a little too stark and bright (although smooth) for your tastes, methinks. If it’s super big and sumptuous you want, the Icon Audio 300B/II integrated is a corker for just above your budget at £1,990. DP

AND ANOTHER THING

Thanks for publishing my letter about the Yamaha CT7000. A couple of other things you might want to look at.

The new Hi-Q Supercuts from the vinyl factory. Staggering – the Previn Holst Planets is quite something. The vinyl itself is deathly quiet throughout – exceptional quality.


I obtained one of those Ed Saunders stylus for a Shure V15 MXR (the Micro Ridge one which stopped manufacture about two years ago), off eBay and cost about $34 plus post. It’s a cracker - a very good and amazingly cheap way of keeping this great cartridge going. It really does sound very good (although I can’t compare with the original stylus now). Worth getting one just to keep that old Shure cartridge as a very fine spare. I’ve put it on the end of system no.3 (which was in development when I wrote earlier). This has a Project Perspective with the Project boxes, Quad 34 / 405 and a pair of refurbished JR149s. It’s for my eldest daughter – wish my dad had got me a system like that!


Keep an eye out for those Realistic Minimus speakers - they are brilliant for computer systems.

Simon Gregory,

Skipton

 

sl-p990

Technics SLP990 CD player transfixed Dave Mayer. (picture courtesy of Panasonic UK)

YESTERDAY AND TODAY

I read with great interest the letter in the August issue from Tim Harrison in which he raves about a Panasonic CD player blowing away his Resolution Audio Opus CD player. Having heard the Opus a few years ago and remembering being really impressed with the sound quality, I find it interesting to hear someone who says an ageing player from a brand not usually associated with high end sound can blow away a much more modern, highly respected and reviewed player. What is going on????


What the letter also did, following its references to the Technics brand, was to remind me of a couple of CD players that I heard from about the same era that certainly impressed me hugely at the time. They were, if my memory serves me right, the Technics SLP770 and SLP990 (I think these players became the SLP777 and SLP999 respectively). When I listened to the SLP990 at a dealers in Derby I was totally transfixed, I still recall listening to Simply Red, Paul Young, Queen and some other music from that era and being amazed at the resolution and detail clearly coming through.


At the time my system had two really strong source components, CD was a second hand but brilliant Cambridge CD2 and analogue was a Townshend Rock/RB250/ATF3 set up. But I still remember how the Technics dug way deeper in terms of getting detail off the disc and presenting it in a really impressive way.


For years everything that I listened to never seemed to live up to the Technics quality that I had heard. More surprising was the fact that my own Cambridge CD2, itself a really highly rated and revered player at the time, didn’t quite cut it in comparison. Unfortunately finances didn’t allow me to buy the Technics and ultimately both me and my system moved on to other sources, but I still remember the SLP990 so clearly due to the impression that it made and left.

Maybe Hi Fi World could and should start doing some comparison reviews to establish if time has created rose tinted spectacle scenarios or whether some of those older players were in fact bloody brilliant and sadly overlooked and replaced all too quickly. For instance could you lay your hands on either the CD1 or CD2 Cambridge players, maybe one of the two Technics that I remember, or how about some of the early Phillips or Marantz models or something from the Sony ES range that got so many great reviews all those years ago. How about pitching them up against today’s machines or some from the last couple of years. Let’s see how much things have moved on and what, if anything, has improved.


Obviously, besides CD source components I’m sure that the same intriguing comparisons could be leveled towards amps, turntables and speakers. How would a Pioneer A400 amp or an early 1990s Rotel RA820 measure up against say a new Roksan or something similar, how would a pair of 80s KEF Coda 3 cope up against today’s budget offerings, what about DP’s revered Yamaha NS1000 against Yamahas latest Soaves???


Bear also in mind that interconnect and speaker cables, stands, mains conditioning are all way beyond what they were 20+ years ago and that this could also really lift some of these older components to levels that they could never have reached when they first came onto the market!!


The back pages of this magazine, e-bay and loads of dealers across the U.K (world!!) offer tons of second hand products. My own system is virtually 100% used gear, in fact my front end is a 17 year old Teac T1 transport, still mint, still working perfectly and although heavily modified shames many real high end and esoteric modern players (recently kicked a 3000 Naim into touch...even the Naim dealer scratched his head in disbelief!!!!).


Second hand has allowed me and no doubt many other HI-Fi enthusiasts to buy into a level of performance that would be out of reach (certainly in terms of justifying parting with large amounts of cash at new prices), so a magazine that looks into and presents this market to a wider audience must be onto a winner in terms of capturing buyers and readers imaginations.


I’m sure that your readers would find these types of tests interesting, maybe a little amusing and a great trip down memory lane but also an opportunity to see and read about progress (if any) in Hi Fi World.

Dave Mayer

 

 


 

 

cambridge-cd1-yellow-final

 

Cambridge CD1 was a great player in its time but sounds dated now.

 

 

Hmmm... We have a Cambridge CD1 (Adam is currently looking after it) and it is not up to current standard at all. In my experience very old product commonly sounds smoother and less harsh or bright than modern product, but also more vague and muddled. I believe much of this is down to component quality, which has improved considerably over the years. Circuits have changed less, often little. That’s why rebuilds with new components can transform the sound of old amplifiers.

 

I am generalising and there are old products that seem to last the distance but they are the exception rather than the rule in my experience.

Listening tests on old products are hampered by relative degradation; what you are listening to is the product in its aged state, that may or may not be representative of the norm.

 

I recall Quad telling me their early 405 amplifiers were limited by poor electrolytic capacitors they had used, something they only became aware of much later after hearing a rebuild. And electrolytics degrade progressively. To get a Leak Troughline sounding good it usually has to be thoroughly overhauled. The real bargains are the products that have just slipped out of currency. No one wants something that has just become outdated, yet you get a modern design with plenty of life left in it at a low price. NK


ONE FOR ALL CHANNELS?

I was just reading your review of the TX-NR 609 and found it really helpful, thank you for this. I’d like to ask one question but understand if you don’t answer as your websites no forum!


Its just that I’ve ordered this amp and wanted to buy some JBL Control One Pro speakers to go with it. They are, however, 4 ohms (whereas the JBL Control One speakers are 8 ohms). Following your tests, do you think it would be acceptable to use the One Pros or would I be better off buying the standard Ones? Do I risk the system overheating and is there something I should beware of?


Personally I would like to get the Pros and my girlfriend would prefer it too as she wants white speakers (the Ones don’t come in white). Yet if I risk damaging the amp then of course I want to avoid that.

Daniel

Cologne

 

 

onkyo-tx-nr609

Onkyo TX-NR609 will drive 4 Ohm loudspeakers with ease.


Hi Daniel, There is no problem using a 4 Ohm loudspeaker. All amplifiers can drive them nowadays and the Onkyo has plenty of reserve power, should you turn volume right up. NK

TUBE-TASTIC!

My time with the TRV-88SE valve amplifier has only improved as it’s run in and the whole system has become even more fun with the addition of a TRI CD4SE CD player. I had the opportunity, one long holiday weekend, to take home this player from my local hi-fi store and when it came time to take it back I missed it almost immediately, it was if something essential had been taken away. So, I bought said CD4SE two days later! It’s not an all-valve player, but has an Electro Harmonics EH6922 valve as a buffer in the output stage. Solid and well made at 8kg for it’s relatively compact size, the casework has the deep red colour of the rest of the range and the solid aluminium remote with red end caps is worthy of such a nice machine and is a delight to use, no cheap plastic here!


Well, I lived with the stock valve for some six weeks and thoroughly enjoyed the tuneful aliveness of it’s performance, it made me trawl through much of my collection, I danced, I sang, I listened and I found it worth every cent of the $2700NZD price tag.


Meanwhile, a musical buddy mentioned that he had a selection of various brand ECC88s that I might substitute for the EH6922 sometime, as I didn’t think I had anything in my own small collection to swap in the player. Funnily enough, I had a look through some valves I had removed from a little used MC phono pre-preamp and there were two rarely used Mullard ECC88s in perfect condition. Out came the EH valve and in went one of the Mullards. The first hour sounded somewhat dire, so I went out into the garden for a couple of hours and on returning to the lounge found an amazing transformation had occurred.

To say I was flabbergasted would barely describe how I felt, how can changing one valve make such a huge difference to sound of this player! I asked myself that a lot over the next weeks, often just shaking my head over the transformation with many discs. Just one valve! From the deepest bass to the most delicate high frequencies with triangles and gently brushed or struck cymbals at the back of the soundstage, the increase in transparency and fine tonal definition was astonishing to me. Not only had the soundstage increased in depth, but vocals projected forward from the mix, sometimes in front of the plane of my current KEF Q7 speakers and thereby separating the instruments on the soundstage, complete with their own cushion of ambient air.


Superbly recorded performances like Just Friends, from the LA4, are simply magic to hear, the ensemble alive in the room and every instrument focused and so intimately present. Being originally a direct to disc recording, even the CD layer of this sublime SACD is a joy. Bass has both better tonal definition and focused weight and I’m hearing small high frequency details that I’ve never noticed before. By comparison, the EH6922 is pleasantly warm, slightly less detailed, yet a little thickened in the spaces between instruments, while retaining the basic tuneful timing and communicative expression that is so effortless with this player.

In fact, it’s the way this player communicates the musical essence and emotional expression of a performance that really swayed me into realising it had quickly become an essential and integral part of the system. Something was missing without it. If you are able to secure a sample of this rather fun CD player, I’d be very interested to read of your impressions, considering your much vaster listening experience of the higher end CD players. For any future owners of a CD4SE, I can certainly recommend swapping out the stock EH6922 for another good brand.


Regarding my delightful TRV-88SE amplifier, it will soon be joined with a pair of brand new Triangle Antal EX speakers, shortly after I return to Australian shores in late August. I can hardly wait to hear this combo of TRI amp, CD player and Triangle speakers in my new home that’s waiting for me, especially after your experiences with amp and speakers, Noel!


Also, a set of new Shuguang Black Bottle KT88s will be on the way. I’m hoping the SlinkyLinks speaker cables I use will suit the more forward and slightly brighter Antals, otherwise I may have to look into replacing them with something a tad warmer, like the VdH Royal Jades or maybe something else you guys can recommend for me. I’d certainly appreciate any suggestions.


Once again, many thanks indeed for contributing to my musical joy! I would like to add my grateful thanks and appreciation to Paul and Andrew at Eastland Hi-Fi here in Gisborne, NZ for allowing me to bring home various items over long weekends, not only to give them feedback on the gear, but also time to listen in my own home to prospective additions to the system, the CD player and the excellent MusicStreamer II+DAC being the most recent.

Christopher White

New Zealand

OH AND...

I did mean to mention the fact that the TRI CD4SE player is the first and only player I’ve ever owned that I can just sit down and really listen to music with, no matter the genre. At this moment I’m listening to David Gray’s Lost Songs 95-98 and it’s utterly mesmerising. The only other CD player that has done that for me was quite a few years ago when a friend had a NAD Silver Line S1, it was connected to a valve preamp, upgraded Leak Stereo 12 monoblocs and Quad Electrostatics. From memory we were playing some female vocals in the form of Nancy Griffiths and it’s just as well I was sitting down, because I just melted and sank into the couch. No other CD player has done that for me until now. I’ll be happy if this is the last CD player I ever buy; sometimes I use my Apple laptop via Kimber USB cable to the MusicStreamer II+, through SlinkLinks ICs into the TRI amp and although there is yet another small increase in absolute purity and transparency in bass and high treble, I still prefer the emotionally communicative abilities of the TRI CD player, and whether some might say it’s added distortion of the valve or something else, I’m not bothered. Participating in the musical event is far more important to me than sitting there going, “Yes, the transparency is stunning and that extra cowbell in the back of the soundstage is more noticeable now ...... but .. I’m not moved.” The combination of the two TRI components is simply enchanting, made even more so by the addition of a Mullard 12AX7 in the front end of the TRI amp and the Mullard ECC88 in the CD player. Happyville!

 

 

 

triode-trv-88se

Triode Corporation TRI 88SE amplifier persuaded Christopher White to buy their CD45SE CD player.

 

 

 

PADDING OUT THE TREBLE

I am infatuated with loudspeakers! Big or small, I love them all! It never ceases to amaze me how those vibrating cones ‘n’ domes get as close as they do to reproducing the sound of an orchestra in all its complexity. Even an understanding of Fourier analysis and a knowledge that a complex waveform is simply the sum of its constituent sine waves, is insufficient to quell my sense of wonder!


But sadly, there is no such thing as the perfect loudspeaker. This fact is substantiated by Noel’s comprehensive loudspeaker tests, which frequently expose speakers that exhibit an elevated treble, resulting in an overly-bright balance.


Now, I notice that Editor David is happy to tweak the tweeter level controls on his reference Yamaha NS1000Ms in order to match the acoustics of his latest listening room. Surely what’s good enough for David is good enough for us mere mortals!


The incorporation of level controls, or L-pads, in loudspeaker design is currently out of fashion, but offers certain advantages. Unlike the treble control on an amplifier, which progressively rolls-off the higher frequencies, an L-pad in a loudspeaker circuit reduces the level of the tweeter across its entire operating range. This allows the user to reduce the overall tweeter level to match that of the bass/midrange driver.


An L-pad improves electrical matching since it maintains a constant impedance for the crossover network. It does so by simultaneously varying resistances in series and in parallel with the tweeter. Noel may be able to comment on the influence of L-pads on crossover design.

I suspect that the inclusion of L-pads may not be favoured by current loudspeaker manufacturers on grounds of cost. They may also be concerned that L-pads, if not adjusted properly, could reduce the desired show-room impact of the loudspeaker.


To pad or not to pad, that is the question! Perhaps the experts at World Towers can give a definitive answer.

Alan RJ Scott


circuit

Put an inductor in series with a loudspeaker to damp down treble suggests Noel.

 

 

graph-2

A series inductor rolls down treble by a few dB. Putting a resistor across it limits the amount of roll off, so high treble does not disappear altogether.

 

 

Hi Allan. You are absolutely right that a treble level control is much needed by many loudspeakers and adjusting tweeter output up or down (in practice - down!) would be very useful. I would like to see a Reference position commonly made available at least, where frequency response is set flat. This is best done using an L-Pad for the reasons you state, but just adding extra series resistance to the tweeter feed is usually acceptable. Loudspeakers like the Monitor Audio Platinum series need this badly, as they are great ‘speakers poorly balanced. A Reference position enhance their value I feel. It is best achieved by simple mechanical screw or plug system of the sort Tannoy use, situated on the rear connection plate. This arrangement is cheap and long lasting.


monitor-audio-pl300

 

 

Monitor Audio Platinum – a great loudspeaker that needs a Reference setting, thinks Noel.


But here’s an obvious way of curing screaming treble that any resourceful tweaker can try. Just put an inductor (coil) in series with one of the speaker leads (positive or negative, it makes no difference). A value of 0.05mH (millihenrys) will attenuate treble progressively. To limit the amount of attenuation at high frequencies put a resistor across the coil, 2 Ohms being a good starting point. These are only approximate values, because loudspeaker impedance will not necessarily be 8 Ohms, but they are a useful starting point for experiment. It is possible to buy cheap inductance meters these days and a 0.05mH coil or thereabouts is small and easy to wind by hand. You can get the bits at Maplins.


For students and engineers, the software I used to quickly illustrate this possibility is a free Spice stimulator, LT Spice, and you can find no end of amplifier circuits for it in the Yahoo based user group, including valve amps (whoo hoo hoo!). Just Google LTSpice. And don’t forget Audio Tools by Studio Six Digital, for the i-phone. For minimal cost you can turn your i-phone into a loudspeaker measuring instrument, to guide you when tweaking. It’s the only thing that makes me like my mobile phone! NK


CLAIMS, DIRECT!

I read with interest Noel's column where he was  beginning to explore the mechanical properties of direct drive turntables and the flutter signatures that they generate. Would it be possible to expand this investigation so that it covers the different types of direct drive turntable, because they are not all the same! For example, the Technics that you measured uses a motor with lots of windings on a laminated core but some have a simpler structure with a magnetic disc and fewer coils (for example, the Sony BSL type) and some, like a few of the bigger Bang & Olufsen models, use a linear motor wrapped into a circle. I imagine that these three methods would give rise to noticeably different behaviour under measurement. Do you think that it is possible that presence of quartz lock makes a measurable difference to anything other than drift?


I cannot help wondering if direct drive turntables got a rough ride in the very protective British hi-fi press during the LP’s heyday because the British hi-fi industry lacked the necessary engineering and manufacturing skills to produce them in any meaningful way. After all, the British direct drive decks from the likes of Garrard, Monitor Audio and others simply rehoused a Japanese motor inside their plinths. Somehow I can’t imagine that the likes of Technics, JVC, Sony, Yamaha et al would have gone to all that trouble and development expense if a basic Philips AC motor and a rubber band really was a better solution!

Jacob Lewis

 

technics

 

 

Technics used their own Linear motor within the SL-1200 turntable, with rotor magnets in the platter, seen here. TimeStep upgrade its performance with improved servo control circuits.

 

Yes, I tend to agree that the issue was muddied by a xenophobic UK press, but quite where sound quality differences lie in a turntable remains obscure to me. I never like single issue explanations: the sound of a turntable, like many other hi-fi items, is a complex mix of sonic influences from many active areas. Even if we could identify every input of influence, we still could not work out how they would interact. Best not too worry too much about it and listen instead! NK

 

I grew up reading the UK hi-fi magazines in the nineteen seventies and eighties, and by the time I’d got to my twenty first birthday I was under the impression that all direct drives were utter worthless garbage, despite not really ever having heard one properly! I moved to Japan, bought a Pioneer PL600 for pennies from a junk shop, set it up properly with a Goldring 1042 and was totally gobsmacked by its sound. I just could not understand why it sounded so powerful, vital, energetic and full of life compared to my expensive Linn LP12 belt drive set-up, back home. Of course the Linn was better in some other ways, but this hands on experience absolutely befuddled me, as it went against all my teachings from the UK hi-fi press. Subsequent purchases have lead me to believe that direct drive, done properly, is easily the equal of belt drive, and often better, but of course as Noel says you can’t get too reductive about it; it’s the turntable as a whole you’re listening to. I feel that direct drive has a distinct sound, just as does idler and belt – and it’s a case of choosing the one that suits. Personally speaking, there are only a handful of belt drive turntables I could now live with, and I love these (such as the Michells) for the things they do that the direct drives I’ve heard cannot (tonally accuracy, soundstaging). As ever in hi-fi, it’s different strokes for different folks, but I agree that the late seventies anti-direct drive propaganda of the UK hi-fi press was not its finest hour! DP

 

FILE COUNSEL

My son was flicking through your July issue and noticed my name on your letter of the month. May I say thanks to David and Noel for taking the time to answer the ramblings of a mad man. Does this mean I have won the KEF loudspeakers? Both my sons have already claimed them as theirs!

Since my letter I have done some more research and am still very confused. In David’s first paragraph he states that through his system ALAC is inferior. What is David’s system? I only ask as I have tried ALAC with iTunes on my PC and I get the same results but on my Mac it is a very different story. I have made the assumption that the Mac deals with iTunes or ALAC or both in a different way to a PC.

In paragraph 2 you ask why not WAV? I would agree that storage is not an issue but data tagging/album info is. ALAC also works better in iTtunes and sounds the same as AIFF (in my opinion and in my system).

In paragraph 3 - I cannot disagree with but would only comment on how likely it is to happen.

Paragraph 4 - the Mac Mini has an optical output and I have tried it: it does not sound as good as the USB with the Benchmark.

You also mention asynchronous. I believe the Benchmark’s USB input is asynchronous, this could be why it sounds good using this input. It would be interesting to see what results you would get using the same equipment as me.

To summarise – I believe there are a lot of factors at play here and it must come down to the individual engineering of each system, from computer hardware/software/file type compatibility and onto the DACs. I think this is a subject that will develop and shape as it becomes a popular option with hI-fI enthusiasts. It’s strange that something as simple as a file type can cause so many different opinions. It may not be as simple as lossless means lossless after all.

Thanks once again for a brilliant publication. Apologies for my spelling and grammar, my son was not impressed.

Alex Cohen


 

 

mac-mini-ports

The latest Mac Mini, now optimised for OS-X Lion – but it has no disc drive. Digital audio connection is via S/PDIF TOSLINK.

(picture courtesy of Apple Computer)


Hi Alex - yep, you’re absolutely right; there are so many variables and computer audiophiles are on a steep learning curve. It’s a case of suck it and see, and then write in with your findings. We’ll share them in the letters pages, and of course run periodic reviews and features to enlighten (confuse?) further! DP

 

You are obviously having fun there Alex. I hope your sons at least allow you to keep the headphones. NK

DATE WITH DESTINY

I was most interested in Noel Keywood’s review of the new Creek Destiny 2 in the March issue with his reference to upper mid glare or spitch that many transistor amplifiers seem to suffer from. My particular interest in this aspect is that over a period of time now I have been experiencing exactly that problem with my own ageing John Shear Phase 6 preamp and two Phase 3 Reference power amps bi-wired to a pair of Audiovector M3 Signature speakers via Cardas Quadlink speaker cables. I thought the problem may lay with my Eikos CD player so I have packed it off to Tom Evans for his full spec. upgrade.


Your review of the Creek has made me wonder whether my amps may also be contributing to the problem, but in any event I feel my amplification is ready for change and I have to say the Destiny 2 sounded it may well be what I am seeking, but your expert advice and guidance would be appreciated. I can go up to £3,000 to make the change and would be happy to consider integrated or another pre-power, but with a built in MM phono board. My musical tastes are very varied, mainstream rock/pop/country/classical.

John Langley

 

 

 

creek-destiny-2

Creek Destiny 2 - one of Noel’s fave integrated amplifier raves!

 

 

 

The Creek Destiny 2 I would put in a field of its own sonically. It is enormously powerful sounding but ultimately smooth and spitch free. The nearest alternative comes from Naim, although they are not the same. You should not balance fundamental sound quality against the presence of a phono board. Instead get what will appeal to you sonically and last the course, then get an additional external phono preamp; the world is awash with them at present. NK


BLACK DISCS

I am a recent reader of your superb magazine, a convert from one of your rivals. Your open honest refreshing approach is a world away from the thin forced presentation of other magazines. Having read your vinyl section with great interest for the last couple of issues. I feel inspired to dip my toe in the waters of the shiny black discs once more. The last record player I had was an elderly Goodmans midi system from the 1980s. I read with a special interest your feature on combining old and new components. In particular the Beogram turntable, very stylish! I have seen a few on eBay and have been considering chancing my arm.

 

Any opinions on how it may stand up in my current set up, which comprises a Creek Evolution 2 amp, Exposure 2010s CD player and Mission 780 speakers. I am also wondering where I should look in mind to replace my loudspeakers? They have served me well for many years, but I do just feel that they might not be doing full justice to the Creek and Exposure. Any replacements would have to be similar sized and be happy close to a rear wall. Have considered Arcaydis DM1 which are online only, but can be returned with no quibble. Triangle speakers also intrigue me with their smart looks. You also seem to hold the Usher S520 in high regard. The MAD 1920’s look excellent but they are a tad pricey for me. Any suggestions would be greatly welcomed.  Keep up the good work.

Austin Rushworth

The B&O Beograms are superbly engineered decks and well worth a punt, providing you get a good, well preserved, untampered with example (this is a challenge in itself on eBay, alas)! They’re not ‘state of the art’ in sound but a good one will still sound very nice indeed, and give your Exposure CD player a very strong run for its money. As for speakers, the Usher S520s are absolutely superb compact standmounters and cracking value for money at around £350 - I’d recommend these for your Creek amp. DP

ON THE RECORD

Hi I am in the process of upgrading my turntable system to a Mitchell Orbe turntable, SME IV arm and Ortofon Cadenza cartridge which will be fed into my Musical Fidelity Nu Vista integrated amp and Kef Reference 205s (first generation) speakers. However, I am having a problem choosing a suitable phono preamp? Funds are limited at the moment and therefore, I was looking at the A.N.T Audio Kora 3T SE or LT (which are currently available with 35% discount) or the Icon Audio PS 1.2 being the current upper price limit both of which had good recent reviews?

 

My musical tastes are Prog, Rock, Blues, Folk and Male/Female acoustic fairly eclectic by not Classical. Can you please give some advice/help? Your recent review on the A.N.T indicated that it was not best suited to rock, though I do listen to other music types and would/does the LT version give significant audio improvements over the SE for double the price? I am a bit concerned with user adjustment of the bias for best sound and much prefer the designer to have already done that for you? Or would the Icon Audio PS 1.2 be the better bet (though not available with the same level of discount that the A.N.T is currently on, which is a factor for me) Are there any other phono stages you would recommend within the price limit?

Andy

 

 

icon-audio-ps-1

An Icon Audio PS1.2 will warm up the sound of your system, says David.

 

 

 

Okay – in your system with your SME tonearm, I’d be tempted to go for the  Icon Audio PS1.2. Not because it’s better than the ANT Audio Kora 3T Ltd. (it isn’t), but it will warm up your SME slightly, giving a nicely big, wide sound whereas the ANT will be more ‘matter of fact’. In absolute terms, in my view the ANT LTD is better than even the more expensive Icon Audio PS3, although again it’s less sumptuous, and so often it’s a case of getting a synergistic sonic match for best results. All of the aforementioned phono stages are excellent, by the way and anyone would be happy with them. You’re talking £3,000 before you start getting a really significant improvement, which is why we recommend them so often! DP


kora-3t-se-phonostage

Don’t let its sedentary looks put you off - ANT Audio’s Kora 3T LTD is a superb phono stage...

DISC DILEMMAS

A friend bought a Rega Planar 3 for me, for my birthday, but it’s cut to take a Rega or Linn arm. I’m wondering which to fit? I like the Linn Akito, but as I have never heard a Rega don’t know what it’s like and whether to fit a Linn or Rega RB250/300. Can I put moving coil cartridges on it and which cartridges would benefit the most - an Ortofon Rondo Red maybe. I have got a Linn K18 cartridge and am told that an Audio Technica AT120 stylus will fit on it; I know the K18 is old, so is it worth it? Another item on the turntable agenda is which phono stage – do I buy moving magnet only, or go for MM/MC as I hope to get a Linn LP12 eventually.

My current system is a Cyrus 8vs2/PSX-R amp, Monitor Audio BX2 speakers and a NAD C515 BEE CD player with Chord Crimson Plus interconnects and Chord Carnival Silverscreen which I have biwired.

When I got the Cyrus 8, I bought a NAD phono stage and to be honest the Cyrus just outclassed it, so I need a good one. Is the Creek OBH-18 any good for it? I did have a Linn Axis at the time the NAD phono stage was on there, and the sound was poor indeed. I’m using a Linn Intek at the moment, so as to save on buying a phono stage, but it sounds inferior to my new Cyrus. Budget would be around £300 but I’d like to see what you recommend first; it will be secondhand unless I can get a decent one at reasonable price new. The tonearm budget will be £200.

Lee Dodd

Hi Lee - I’d go for a Rega RB250 in your Linn, which you can get modified by Origin Live (‘Structural Modification’) for better sound at a later date. This will easily outperform a Linn Akito, in my review. Yes, you can put a moving coil on it - my choice would be Audio Technica’s ATF-3; this would far outperform your old Linn K9. I’d go for a MM/MC phono stage (obviously), my choice would be a second-hand Trichord Dino, on your budget. DP

NEW MUSIK

Dear Mr Price,

Well, that was a shock, opening my July issue and seeing my name there. As a treat I’m playing ‘From A To B’ as I type, and must say I prefer ‘Living By Numbers’, ‘Dead Fish’ and (I have the bonus tracks CD) ‘Missing Persons’. Not as powerful as the Landscape stuff (in terms of umph, if that’s a legitimate term), but still of high quality. I have all three New Musik albums (on CD) and feel that production quality, of the level achieved by Tony Mansfield, is rare these days - it’s all churn-it-out and count the cash; quality? “Excuse me? We’re releasing our songs on MP3, we don’t care about quality...”


I think that a golden age has passed. From the 50s to the mid-80s was a gradual increase in quality - although technology can certainly get in the way of a great recording. Some of the early Elvis records are magical, both in their simplicity and the beauty and purity of his voice. Then the money seemed to make itself known - it’s always been there, protesting at the (sometimes - Fleetwood Mac/’Tusk’ anyone?) excesses of the artists, balanced against the cost of recording studio time - and the amount of really creative musicians/artists started to decline. Maybe this was a result of computers moving in and removing all the hard work? Who would give artists such as Kraftwerk, Can, Klaus Schulze and even Jean Michel Jarre a recording contract these days, if they were just starting out? “Nah mate, too weird. Don’t you watch X Factor or BGT these days? Aren’t Jedward great? (SFX sound of cash registers)” I despair, I really do.


Anyway, rant over. Maybe I’m just getting old... Still wishing you and the mag all the best (and hope you sort your NS1000s and their wall problems soon).

John Malcolm


PS As your knowledge of Japan is large, how about an article on Yellow Magic Orchestra, especially Ryuichi Sakamoto (thanks Wikipedia for spelling)? As inventive as Kraftwerk surely?

 

Hi John - thanks for that. I think YMO (as the Japanese always called them; they do like acronyms!) were geniuses, with 1980s ‘BGM’ (‘Back Ground Music’) as their high watermark, artistically (and stunningly well recorded, too). I actually interviewed Haruomi Hosono (arguably the brains behind the trio, but that’s another argument for another day) in Tokyo in 1992 for another magazine, and found him an incredible character. He told me that Kraftwerk and YMO kept a very close eye on each other artistically, during the 1970s, although Hosono’s favourites were The Flying Lizards (remember them?) and Laurie Anderson. But I digress... not sure if I dare subject the readers of this magazine to two pages of trivia about a Japanese electropop combo, but I could bore for Britain on this subject. Is there anyone else out there who’d read it? Don’t all shout at once! DP


 

CABLE IMPEDANCE

In the reply to a reader’s letter Noel stated that audio cables do not have a characteristic impedance. This is incorrect. Even a piece of string has a characteristic impedance. Whether it matters sonically is another question but I think its important to get the facts right.


The usual equation used for the calculation of CI is Zo = ( L/C)1/2 where L and C are the values per unit length. However this only applies at high frequency as we shall see.


The full equation for the calculation of CI is Zo = (( R + jx2xpixFxL)/(G + jx2xpixFxC))1/2 where R, L,C,G  are per unit length and F is any frequency. G is the conductance of the dielectric and is usually very, very small so can be ignored. So a cable such as an audio cable has a CI depending upon these parameters. Cable length does not matter.


At low frequency the terms jx2xpixFL and jx2xpixFC are very small compared to R so R dominates. As frequency increases the above terms become much larger so the equation simplifies to (L/C)1/2.

A cable specified as 75ohm, is that calculated for high frequency not audio frequency. A typical coax cable will have a CI very much higher than 75ohms at audio frequencies. So the idea of loading 75ohm coax with 75ohm will not work from the impedance matching point of view as well as it’s a bad way to treat a line stage as Noel says.


So unless you deliberately  manipulate the cable’s parameters most audio cables will be a mismatch to their source and load impedances. This will result in some of the signal being reflected back down the cable and reflected again. The number of reflections being related to the amount of mismatch. The speed of propagation of the reflected signal is related to the dielectric material of the cable but is usually between 3 to 5ns per meter. This effect can be seen experimentally on the leading edge of a square wave transmitted down a mismatched line. The leading edge has a series of small steps at twice the expected delay time.


If you adjust the load (or source) impedance towards the nominal CI the height of the steps decrease. to a null. If the cable did not act like a transmission line this would not happen. Delatraz described the experimental set up in detail with the same results. Similarly Richard Black. I have verified these results myself.

Geoff Mead

Technically that is so and I suspected someone might pick this up! But as you say the reactive components fall out of the issue at low frequencies and, as they are the determining factors of Characteristic Impedance, in practice a cable does not effectively have a characteristic impedance at low audio frequencies.

Time delays of nanoseconds (10 exp-9 seconds) where cycle times are 0.05 milliseconds or more are not especially significant I suspect and unlikely to explain cable sound differences, but it is interesting all the same. NK

PLATTER MATTER

I have an old Townshend Rock turntable which I am modding and trying to bring up to scratch. The platter is very early and consists of a formed dish approx 1.5ins thick and filled with plaster of paris. Due to the method of manufacture and poor design it requires an alloy centre to locate the platter correctly. However it is impossible to centre the platter correctly as one cannot establish a datum to work from. I therefore am considering turning up a new platter using acrylic as the material.


My question is can you advise which grade of acrylic I should use and a possible supplier? The platter is quite heavy in its original form and I would like maintain or slightly add to the original weight. Manufacturing the platter from scratch enables me to make sure everything is correctly in line and to the best standard I can achieve.


I hope you can assist me to keep this old warrior alive and fighting; at its best as it can give quite a respectable account of itself. During my attempts to ‘up the ante’ I have pulled together various redundant parts and brought them into use, it comprises a Rega RB300 arm rewired and counterweight modded, and a power supply put through a smoothing device which enables me to adjust speed whilst running, and maintains the use the original AC motor. This is all finished off by the addition of a rebuilt Decca Supergold (London) cartridge.


The addition of the Decca cartridge has had the most effect: the music has a vitality that is quite astounding and challenges my Orbed GyroDec SE, which makes me even more determined to carry out what will be the final mod to this deck.

John Lancaster


PS The original platter weighs 5.5lbs

Hi John. Grades of acrylic are a bit beyond our knowledge I am afraid to say. I suggest you contact Townshend Audio for this info. 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 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 1990’s 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 this 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

 

Add your comment

Your name:
Subject:
Comment:
  The word for verification. Lowercase letters only with no spaces.
Word verification:

Search

Hi-Fi World, Powered by Joomla!; Hosted by Joomla Wired.