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January 2012 Issue

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January 2012 Issue
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World mail January 2012 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.

 

 


 

linn-sondek-lp12-se

The Linn LP12 is a magnificent machine and fully deserves its iconic status, says Mark Knight.

 

 

THE MELODY MAKER

Reading Steve Baty’s letter in the September issue of Hi-Fi World I was reminded of my meeting and conversation with Ivor Tiefenbrun at the Linn factory back in the 1980s. On being introduced as Professor of music – which I’m not – he was scathing of musicians and their abilities to evaluate high fidelity equipment, but gracious in his observation that I was rather rare among musos in showing any interest at all in the subject.


In Linn’s listening room, towards the end of my visit, I was played a recording of a clavichord, a hybrid harpsichord/fortepiano from the late 18thc, obviously using a Sondek LP12 and almost certainly at the highest specification available. I regret I recall nothing of the amplifier but the speakers were, if I remember correctly, Isobariks.


On being asked my reaction I tentatively opined, and I was extremely careful to be as clear and yet understated as possible in view of my earlier bruising encounter with the great man, that the clarity of the reproduction was extraordinarily clear but that I felt my head was inside the sound box of the instrument.

There was a pause, and I felt sick in the pit of my stomach, but his response was surprisingly muted and appreciative. From what I remember he said that it was the leading edges of notes which conveyed the essential character of the music being reproduced which was absent in almost all high-fidelity equipment available at the time. Other aspects, such as timbre and spatial information (stereo image) he felt were subservient and in any case covered by other manufacturers.

At this point he asked me what I was using, and again that inner sickness welled up as I listed items in my system at the time: a Trio 2055 turntable, Grado F+ cartridge, Yamaha receiver (amp/tuner) and Spendor BC1 speakers on the Spendor supplied stands complete with castors (to assist in Hoovering, you understand; but I did have them connected with QED 79 cable!). His observation was that the system would sound hard (and it did) but that the Spendors were excellent and so prevented it from being a total disaster.


I wrote to Ivor following my visit thanking him for spending time with me, especially as on the day of my visit stocktaking was in full swing, and he replied most courteously and at length (I still have the letter – oh, those lovely days of pen and paper!) outlining his philosophy on the reproduction of recorded music.

I need not go into details but subsequent events in my professional life bore out Ivor’s observations with a vengeance and I decided I had to experience the Linn philosophy in comparison to the equipment I owned at the time.


I sympathise with Steve Baty’s view of the approach of Linn/Naim sales personnel during that era. I, too, was told how only a Linn could reveal the presence of the piano in a recording of Tchiakovsky’s Sixth Symphony (there isn’t one)! As a professional musician being told how to listen or what to listen for is extremely irritating; and it wasn’t what Ivor Tiefenbrun had been saying anyway...


Eventually I found a Linn dealer with a sales person who wasn’t a total prat, in fact he was sensitive and very patient. Whilst I spent a couple of hours listening to my receiver and speakers, which I had with great effort taken to the dealer, fed by my Trio turntable and a Linn, my wife went shopping. I had also recollected Ivor saying that the non-enthusiast hi-fi wife was always better than her husband discriminating music reproduction, so her return to the listening room was eagerly anticipated.


And she didn’t disappoint. Among the LPs I had taken to the comparison/demonstration (all of which I knew intimately) was that of Beethoven’s String Quintet in C, an American (RCA) recording by the Guarneri Quartet with Pinchas Zukerman playing the second viola part. The playing is magnificent but the disc was poor, very thin with little depth in the groove, a severe task for the turntable. Add to that the denser tonal texture in a string quartet that the second viola adds then the infrequency and frustration felt when I did try to listen to this performance at home can be understood.


My wife duly arrived and after reminding me that she was perfectly happy with a wind-up gramophone, especially as she enjoyed changing and sharpening the needles, we settled down to listen to the Beethoven, first on the Trio and then on the Linn. The former was pronounced as “what’s wrong with that and sounds fine to me?”. Then the Linn (and Steve Baty won’t like this) – it’s faster, I didn’t know the second violin was over there! Aren’t the two violas gorgeous, melting together yet each so clear and, the cellist is right bang in the middle! (as he was, as is usual in an American string quartet)...

The salesman’s face was a picture, at least what I could see of it behind his hand. I wrote the cheque, packed my gear, the dealer’s staff safely secured the Linn in its box and gave me clear and full instructions how to install having offered to do it for me, an offer I refused because I had to get it home and in my system that very day.

Since then I have been a Linn/Naim user. I am now fortunate to have a dedicated music room in which my wife (also a professional string player) and I work and listen. The system is LP12/Lingo/Ittok/Dynavector 17D3Karat recently factory upgraded Naim 32.5 Hi-Cap/NAP250 driving those same Spendors but upgraded to SP1 status by Spendor and all of it supported on appropriate stands (without castors) spiked, and connected via Naim cables, as are all the interconnects.

Listening to music being performed live is central to my work. I train students of university age to become professional performers. They have to trust my judgements and come to rely on my aural and visual analysis to develop their talent and skills. Some of them have listened extensively to my system and have been able to relate to, and re-evaluate, the principles I strive to represent in classical string playing.


Any questions of pitch stability, location of players or timbal inaccuracy never arise. The issue of image and tonal accuracy I have found depends largely (perhaps not entirely) on how well the system is supported, its environment, and obviously how well the components are matched.

Some say the type of music to be played is a factor but I have to say Bob Dylan sounds wonderful on my Linn/Naim set-up (a not-so secret vice of mine)! It is obvious that a would-be hi-fi purchaser of today has a far greater choice of genuine high fidelity equipment than in the 1970s and 1980s, and Linn and Naim have a much tougher competitive market to content with. I have heard other systems over the years, some of which I enjoyed, some I have found indifferent, others I thought dreadful, but I have never been troubled to think I need to change anything fundamental in my system although, of course, improvements can always be achieved.


I have added a Naim CD player and use a Sony CD recorder for my work, allowing students to hear repertoire or performers that they would otherwise be unaware of and for which the source component, usually my LP12, is, of course, crucial. Radio 3 for classical musicians is also essential; hence I own a Naim NAT01 FM tuner which is simply wonderful.


So, Mr. Baty, a fellow professional musician totally disagrees with you. The Linn LP12 is a magnificent machine and fully deserves its iconic status, as do the products of Naim Audio. These companies changed the world of hi-fi forever, and for better, and have since surely stimulated and inspired others in the field to strive for comparable standards of recorded music replay. They remain in the highest echelons of products dedicated to serving the music lover in his /her home environment.

Mark Knight

Bodmin

Cornwall

Professor of Violin and Viola Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London and The Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester.

 

 

Thanks for your broad, insightful and generous views Mark. We sent them to both Linn and Naim, to cheer them up a bit! As you say, they face far more competition these days; how the market has changed. NK


spendor-bc1

 

Spendor BC1 loudspeakers were upgraded to SP1 status in Mark Knight's system.


 

 

THE MELODY MAKER - SLIGHT REFRAIN

I felt I had to put fingers to keyboard in response to Steve Baty’s (in my view) unreasonable letter in the September 2011 edition. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes, I own a Linn LP12 c. 1993, Valhalla, pre Circus, Akito and Adikt MM cartridge. This feeds a Creek OBH8SE phono amp, Linn Kairn Pro pre-amp, 2 x LK100s bi-amping Monitor Audio Silver 5s. I also have an Arcam CD73T and Denon TU260L as other sources.


There are a couple of issues I wish to oppose in Steve’s anti LP12 rant. Firstly, as far as I’m aware in the LP12’s 40 odd years it has undergone very few upgrades. The Nirvana springs and Valhalla power supply in the 80s, the Cirkus bearing upgrade in the 90s, the Lingo outboard power supply also in the 90s and then virtually nothing until the Keel sub-chassis in the last couple of years or so. This hardly seems an excessive number of upgrades. It is my recollection as an avid reader of magazines since the age of 15 (now 49) that it has often been wished by many a contributor that the LP12 was upgraded and recent products from Vivid, and before them the Funk Firm, have been long awaited.


I have had my Linn on cupboards and latterly a wall shelf in two houses and in two different locations within the house. Never under any sound pressure levels have I suffered Steve’s claimed ‘speaker howling, nor arm bouncing off the record, suspended floor or not! Also during that time I have had it checked twice. Once whilst moving house I had it routinely checked on re-siting it 1994, and once around 2003 when upgrading the cartridge and it had a replacement belt. Hardly regular tinkering or the need to be setup frequently.


I cannot argue that it is the last word in imaging depth or width, nor that it isn’t the best defined in the bass either. I am sure any number of others will out do it in all aspects of reproduction. However I have had 18 years of many happy hours of listening to music, which is after all what it’s all about isn’t it, or have I missed the point?


Steve’s anti LP12 rant is as unwelcome as those who insist that the Linn is the only way to go! It isn’t! It is just one that many people find very satisfying, as do those who enjoy their Mitchell, Roksan, SME, Project, Avid etc, etc.


If we are going to have critical letters in our hobby then let them at least be based on reasoned argument and not prejudice. The very fact that the LP12 is still going after 40 years, with very little change, is testament to the fact that it must be doing something well, unless in Steve’s arrogance as a classically trained musician the many thousands of us sheep who very much enjoy our LP12s have all been led to the Linn alter and slaughtered to their marketing gods? I don’t recall the Alphason lasting this long. Hmmm!

Andy Troth

West midlands

 

 

linn-lp12-internal

Beneath the modern Linn LP12 lies electronic speed control.

Our measurements show it contributes to excellent speed stability,

better than that of most belt drives.


Well Andy, I think it’s very hard to argue with that. I’m a great believer in that old aphorism “different strokes for different folks”, and there are a great many – including our very own Tony Bolton, who own and love their Linn LP12 turntables. Heavens, even Adam Smith has just bought one! There’s no doubt in my mind that they do some things very nicely indeed – almost peerlessly, in fact. They’re lovely and smooth and gently, beguilingly musical. There are other things that Sondeks aren’t as good at, as we all now know – imaging and stage depth being issues. But people aren’t stupid, and if they tire of their Sondek sound they’ll go elsewhere, whereas others audition the latest ‘flavour of the month’ and then come back to their Linn. Fair enough. People such as yourself show that the deck can be superb value for money – if you stick with it year on year then your investment pays off, despite the high prices for the LP12 and some of its mods. Few expensive pieces of furniture last as long as your Linn! DP


 

 

STAGE FIGHTING

I am finding that I am listening to my LPs more and more and to my CDs less and less, and have just become the fortunate recipient of a large LP collection. It is about time I upgraded my arm/cartridge and phono pre-amp, starting with the latter.


I use a LinnSondek/Cirkus/Cetech subchassis, with the original Ittok LV II arm/Asak cartridge and a Lingo preamp. Other equipment is a Fosgate FAP V1 preamp used in 2 channel only, Jadis JA 200 amps driving Quad ESL 63s and Audiosmile supertweeters, Audio Research VT200 driving Gradient SWL 63 bass speakers with a Jadis JF-3 crossover, Audio Research REF-7 CD player with a Jadis JS-1 DAC and a Revox B77 tape recorder.


I prefer valves and considered buying an Audio Research phono stage, but on numerous occasions over the last few years you have strongly recommended the Icon Audio phono pre-amps, particularly the PS3. There is no possibility of my being able to compare the Icon Audio and Audio Research products here.There are several really excellent and enthusiastic dealers in New Zealand, but in such a small market, choice is very limited. Hence your opinion would be much appreciated.


The cost of an Icon Audio PS3 with all the top-line upgrades is less than an Audio Research PH7, but used PH7s are readily available for about the same price. Reliability is very important, as I don’t want to be returning items too often from this far-flung paradise. I’d also much appreciate your recommending a reliable dealer of whichever products you advise.

audio-research-ph7

 

 

 

Audio Research PH7 uses transistors and a tube output stage, plus a tube regulated power supply, like the PH8 shown here. It is very different to the Icon Audio PS3.

 

 

 

I agree with your oft-stated sentiments that a good dealer is a Godsend, but from here that is more easily said than done. I paid for an ex-dem Jadis CD player from a well known retailer in London West One over a year ago, and was subsequently told that the unit was irreparably damaged prior to shipment and that my payment plus 100 pounds to cover my costs would be refunded. Over a year later, in spite of numerous promises from the company and numerous e-mails from me [to which they no longer reply] I am still waiting. Perhaps they believe that overseas customers will find it too difficult to pursue them. Have you come across this problem before? Perhaps a reputa

ble publication such as yours should keep a register of such dealers, although I can imagine this could be a legal minefield.

Many thanks in anticipation of any help and advice you may be able to give.

all the best,

Dave Dickson

New Zealand



Hi Dave. There are some points to bear in mind with the Audio Research PH7. It uses a simple electronic topology where MC gain is fixed and used for MM as well. This means MM gives far too much output. Okay, you are using MC so that probably will not worry you. But low gain for MC and higher noise than the Icon Audio PS3 should, because your Asak has low output. You will have to turn volume right up and hiss will likely be audible, if faint. I would choose the PS3, because it is a better match to your system and because its valve regulated power supply makes it audibly silkier than most rivals, although the PH7 also has such a supply. Note also that the PH7 is basically a transistor preamp with valve output stage, whilst the PS3 is all-valve.


Having made all these observations, editor David Price does like the sound of the PH7 and it is well made, if dimensionally Americana. That is, why make it small when you can make it big! NK

 

 

Hi Dave. I’m afraid I can’t comment on dealers in New Zealand, as I have no experience of them. Best to pick up the phone and speak to them, and see how they deal with you – an enthusiastic, attentive and helpful person on the end of the line is a good indication of things to come...


As for your dispute, perhaps a word with the UK Office of Fair Trading might help you decide where to go next - see them at http://www.oft.gov.uk/consumer-advice/oft-and-cd/. It’s very difficult for us to keep a register of good dealers, as wherever there are people there are disputes of one sort or another inevitably, and it’s impossible for us to act as judge and jury on matters such as these.


As far as the Icon Audio vs. Audio Research phono stages, you’re talking two quite distinct types of sound. The former is, as Noel says, all valve and has a very fulsome, sweet nature, with lovely dimensionality – but a slightly soft bass and a marginal loss of treble ‘air’ in absolute terms. The latter is altogether punchier, more rhythmic and tighter – but less three dimensional and not as subtle a musical performer. It’s very ‘rock and roll’ in the Audio Research tradition, a sort of Naim with valves, if you get my drift. As such, you decide!  DP


ARC OF A DRIVER

I hope someone can help me with a little ESL-57 project I have? I bought a pair on the strength of David Price’s “Ex-Static” article, had the One Thing Audio makeover a few years ago and haven’t looked back since. I can definitely see what all the fuss is about over these much-loved speakers and feel genuine pity for those who haven’t had the pleasure, but recently I’ve noticed the dreaded “arcing” effect at moderate to high volumes, so I am now drawn in to the world of tweaking...


Inspired by Quad’s latest additions to the ESL range, Alastair Robertson-Aikman’s ‘63 mod and Musikwiedergabe’s stand design (and after a speaker toppled forward onto one of my children for the second time!), I’ve decided to design some new stable stands, with the help of a carpenter/designer friend. By incorporating a strengthened outer frame it should also add some rigidity to the whole speaker. This is where I really need some advice, as you and your team know this speaker inside and out.


The design is still a work in progress, as you can see from the pictures attached (courtesy of Andy Gardiner), these stands will involve new side-rails which extend as legs, a bar resting on the wood at the top of the speaker and, in addition to the pictures, will include a plinth covering the entire under surface of the speaker body.


My main aim is to boost the rigidity of the whole speaker without making any permanent change to the structure. The two vertical structures in the diagram represent tensioning rods (these may be steel cables in the final design), but I am torn between whether these should deliver the force straight down, perpendicular to the top of the speaker (as shown in the diagram) or diagonally backwards, from the top of the speaker down to the back of the new plinth it will be sitting on, which will extend beyond the back of the speaker, slightly bowing the speaker backwards and giving it an A-frame rigidity.


So my main questions are:

1) Which direction of force is better? Downwards through the body of the speaker? Diagonally backwards? Or both directions?

2) Should force be applied across the top of the speaker at all? Or to the side-rails alone, to concentrate on making these dead rigid?

3)Could there be a benefit from some horizontal tension too?

4) Do you see any problems with any of these ideas? (I wouldn’t want to make the electrostatic panels go slack!)

5) Will any of this improve the sound or would my whole endeavour be in vain? I look forward to your thoughts on this!

Dr Anton Bass

 

 

 

quad-57-image

Don't flatten the kids! An elegant new frame for the Quad ESL-57 electrostatic loudspeaker, makes it more stable, says Anton Bass.

 

 

 

quad-57-image-2

New Quad ESL-57 frame looks good even from behind.


 

 

We can’t design at a distance for you Anton; this has to be within your skill set if you are to take on such a project. But generally film tension is important and you should not apply any compressive force to the frames. They just need support. Better front-back stability never goes amiss, and I have been surprised in the past with the imaging benefits brought about by improving stability through the use of 25mm MDF (in our KLS9s) and adding sand to a dedicated chamber in Mission loudspeakers. Your stand looks nice and is an eminently sensible idea I believe.


On the matter of arcing, you need to speak to One Thing as obviously there has been some deterioration somewhere in your ESL-57s.  They fit secondary protection diodes and these should prevent arcing, so there’s a problem somewhere. NK


 

THAILAND HIGHLAND

I bought my first hi-fi system in the last year of the 1980s before moving back home to Thailand from the USA. With a limited budget, most of the fund went to the speaker which the dealer suggested to me then to be the most important piece in the system and the rest can be upgraded later when the fund will be more available.


Quad ESL63 was chosen because of its mid-range sound so real and not as boxy, even though it lacks bass that most people cannot live without. But my taste of music then was more vocal, musical, new age with some jazz or light classical.


I spent almost four hours listening between a Spectral and a NAD amp to seek out whether I could distinguish the difference in the sound. Unfortunately, I could so the fastest up grade was done after digging deep in my pocket to stretch the budget from a $500 NAD 300W to a $1,800 Spectral 50W, plus a $500 Bryston pre-amp.


After I made the payment, my friend’s wife (he introduced me to the hi-fi) shook my hand in congratulation that I have stepped into the trouble of never ending realm that will keep seeking how to upgrade the sound quality for the rest of my life, just because I could hear the difference. Therefore, my journey has begun.

Because of the word of my friends wife ringing in the back of my head, I never went anywhere near a hi-fi show room or any event for almost five years. My first tempting was when I’ve gotten married and went to London for our honeymoon trip. A Meridian 506 CD player was brought back home with me in 1994 to replace the NAD CD player. And shortly after that a 90W Spectral DMA10 amp and a used Spectral pre DMC12 were replaced within 1996-97.


It is true like the dealer once told me that the speaker would stay much longer than the rest of the equipment and will show more of its potential with the better suited system, even though the ESL63 had kept giving me trouble of arcing this panel and that panel over the period of time and the cost of repairing and fixing them had almost double its original price. But I just cannot find another speaker sound that I like (even if almost every friends and relatives that listen to my Quad always commented that it so flat – no boom boom  – and I had stayed with this set of equipment until 2006.


And then Hi Fi World was the major push this time. I first encountered your magazine in 2004 from an air port news stand and became a fan ever since and almost every issue were bought from the air port terminal vendor. Then one day NK reviewed the Quad new 2805 and 2905. That was how the calm lake of so many years had been stirred.


So the Quad 2905 were bought to replace the ESL63 after 17 years in service (with many panels replacement ). The main reason not only just because of NK s review of how good they are over the old Quad but the look of the 2905 itself also (the 989 never came across my mind to replace the old 63 at all because of its look).


That was also about the time that I learned more of another part of the hi-fi, the vinyl and the turntable. From the used hi-fi dealer that I went to sell my ESL63 (have to get rid of it because of the mistress of the houses command – there were two pairs of bulky black TV liked-panels in the room).  I had a chat with him of what should I upgrade my almost 15 year old CD to and he ended up lending me the most basic Project turntable with the LPs that I happened to have those albums in CD version to compare the listening to.


My jaws dropped when I ran the turntable and compare the sound that came out from the different source with the same album  Oh – wow – ooh were my thought at that moment.  I like the easiness of CD and had lived with it for all those years, but the sound from a rudimentary turntable with a very basic cartridge made the CD sound so-oh electronica. The female vocalist that I thought was her real voice sound so machine like. The sound from vinyl shown me the sound I’d never encountered when play the same album in from the CD despite everything else in the system remained the same. The bass sounds deeper and has more impact, the stage sounded deeper and more spacious, the cymbal seem to float in the air rather than some thin bang which made me start  a bit irritated when listen to CDs.


Sorry it took quite so long before come up the question that I would like your advice. My current system is  Quad 2905 speaker, Spectral DMA 90W and Spectral DMC-12 pre, Meridian CD506 and Meridian MC100w/ MS600 and Clearaudio Champion turntable with a Clearaudio arm.  Grado Black cartridge and Graham Slee Gram amp2 phono.


First, my curiosity is over how the sound from MM and MC cartridge will appear in term of character or quality, when described in words? I never have had chance to hear the difference of the two, just read from all reviews that good MC is far better than good MM, but couldn’t grasp the difference more clearly except the good MC will be really in the expensive arena. When the time has come, should I just get a better MM or explore into the MC?


Second, my curiosity is in valve amp and pre amp. If I would ever change from solid state to valve, what kind or brand of valve amp-pre should do justice to the Quad 2905? As noted earlier my kind of music largely will be vocal both classical and pop-jazz, instrument like cello, violin, Chinese flute, Gu-zheng, New Age, broad way musical and classical music  with a starting to listen to the 70s rock like Led Zeppelin, Dead can Dance , Elvis Costello after acquired the taste for LPs.


My current listening room is with my study/hobby room size about 5.00 x 10.00m. with half of the room for painting desk and another half is for hi-fi system. The speaker is set about 2.20m from the rear wall and approx. 95cm from side window and listening position is in the middle of the room and three quarter while do the painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

quad-2905-set

 

 

 

Quad 2905 was bought to replace ESL-63 says Seng. But will it survive life in the clouds?

 

 

 

 

And lastly, my wife and I planned to retire up country on the mountain where the weather is very, very humid in the rainy season whilst the cloud or fog will run into and through the house. Where we live is in the tropical country, so it too hot to have heater to dry the room and I suspect my Quad would not be able to tolerate that damp ( my old ESL63 would arcing one panel every 6 months in my old house as I suspect it may be to damp??) So I would like to ask you that are there any other speaker that will produce the sound as near the Quad and can withstand high humidity???  ( I don’t like the Magnaplanar and Martin Logan sound at all even they both are ESL.)  And in the same price range as Quad would be really appreciated.


I was once drawn into a Hi-Fi show with the sound of a system that its sounded wonderfully to my ear and I thought this would be the one if I have to move one from the Quad ESL2905 and wouldn’t have chance to learn more of its detail because there were very crowed audience at that time. And I got lure into the second time at the place that I occasionally went to search for vinyl but never go further the ally beyond the store that I always go by the sound of the same speaker and learn that the speaker brand is called Sceana speaker from USA.


Unfortunately, I was shocked and have to rid that off from my mind after learn that the speaker set is starting from $88,000 to $ 120,000. This is my first time ever to write something like this to a magazine . So I am not sure how to start and how much should I told about the background before asking the questions and also to write it in English which obviously not my first language make it really too long. But I  would be really appreciated if you could enlighten me because I cannot find the answer to my doubt after reading article in magazines and searching with the internet.

Thank you.

Seng

Bangkok,

Thailand

 

Hi Seng. Your retirement home in the mountains, with tropical cloud and rain blowing through it sounds magical. You make me envious, as another cold, gloomy UK winter approaches!


A moving coil cartridge has a more open and spacious sound than an MM cartridge and, in the past, more mid-band detail. Being more expensive their styli have better geometry too, so you get fabulous treble quality and detail. They are truly fabulous to hear, but expensive.


Competition in the MC segment has increased much over the last few years and you can now buy a good MC cartridge like the Benz Micro Wood for around £500 in the UK. However, the more expensive Ortofons are popular and very, very good, especially for classical music. I use an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze out of preference, in an SME312S arm. A Cadenza Black (£1600 or 77,000 Thai baht) is less bright and very much like your old Quad ESL-63s in balance and nature. I am sure you would love this cartridge, but be careful! You then need a very good phono preamp and I usually recommend the Icon Audio PS3 at £1500. It all adds up. And of course you should really get a top quality arm like an SME (£2000), and a decent turntable to go underneath it!


If all this sounds too much then the Timestep Evo turntable package comprising Technics SL-1500 Direct Drive (modified with improved control circuitry) fitted with SME309 arm is a great alternative costing £1500. Go to http://www.soundhifi.com/sl1200/evo.html.


Electrostatic loudspeakers unfortunately reveal the weaknesses of transistor amplifiers; the two are not synergistic. Your ideal power amplifier is the Quad-II eighty. Designed by Tim De Paravicini (Yoshino EAR) these KT-88 equipped amplifiers have superb output transformers and outperform most rivals. They have a clean, fast and crisp sound as valve amps go and suit Quad electrostatics perfectly, in sonic character and in their ability to drive an electrostatic load. Theirs is a thoroughly modern valve sound, but one that delightfully reveals all the best qualities of valve amplifiers. You will understand what I am saying directly you hear one, so I think you need to find a Quad dealer and arrange a demo.


quad-ii-80

The Quad II-eighty monoblock power amplifiers are ideal for electrostatic loudsepakers.


 

The early ESL-63 (I owned a pair for many years) had poor protection circuits and could arc. Later models had high voltage breakdown diodes that prevented arcing. Your ESL2905s will have these later diodes and should survive a damp climate, although I could not guarantee it. I have asked Quad to comment.

If you do not like Martin Logans and others then stay with Quads. They are a fine, well developed full range electrostatic. They also have a worldwide dealer network of great experience and you likely have a dealer in Bangkok. Your U.S. Quad dealer obviously loved them and was right about their unique abilities. If you have any more queries write to us because we know about Quad electrostatics and how to get the best from them. NK

 

 

 

 

jungle-1

Tropical highlands like this one in Malaysia avoid the heat but get the rain. But can you use electrostatics here, asks Seng?


Peter Comeau of IAG (Quad) says -

The Arc protection diodes have very little to do with humidity. The Arc protection simply prevents voltage transients higher than the displacement the panel can handle.


Excessive humidity is a problem for all Electrostatic loudspeakers as the panels work with a very high voltage in excess of 5000 volts. Each QUAD ESL panel includes a humidity discharge element (different to the over-voltage Arc Protector) which will reduce any leakage of humidity inside the panel. You can hear it working as a small ‘ticking’ sound if you put your ear close to the speaker where some humidity is being dissipated.


However, it is not desirable to expose ESL speakers to excessive humidity as breakdowns of the HT charging circuitry may be provoked over a lengthy period of time. We would recommend that you include some method of reducing humidity in your listening room to below 50%. In fact this is desirable not just for the speakers but also for your records as mould growth on LPs can make them very noisy. In a tropical climate Air Conditioning is the best method of reducing humidity effectively.


I suggest Seng contacts the Quad distributor in Thailand who can direct him to a suitable retailer. Here is Thailand distributor’s information.


Contact : Ms.Napalai

tel:+6622042255/+6626657110

Everest World Co Ltd.,

18/8 Fico Place, 11th Floor

Sukhumvit 21 Rd., Klongtoey Nua,

Khet Wattana,

Bangkok 10110

Thailand

Peter Comeau

Director of Acoustic Design

IAG Group Ltd

 

 

quad-esl63

Early Quad ESL-63 had compressor circuit to limit peaks; later models had diodes.


TWO’S COMPANY

I’ve been tempted by HFW to upgrade my Technics SL1210MkII that feeds this other system of mine. It all started in November 2007.

I have a boxed Technics – why not taking the upgrade path? Went upstairs to the hobby room and boxed the belt driven Sansui, which isn’t any good, and the Technics was singing a few minutes later. I realised how good it is even in the original configuration, sporting a simple MM Ortofon Blue cartridge!


Later, I read in Hi-Fi World a second article about further mods introduced in this turntable and the installation of an SME V / Koetsu Red (?) plus the external PSU. As a result, got in touch with Sound Hi-Fi and asked for a quotation. The SME V/Koetsu are clearly out of my reach. Not wanting to go for a lesser upgrade I let the upgrading of my Technics fade into nothingness. Even so I kept sneaking into forums, asked some more questions but none of the answers convinced me really.


Recently you reviewed the new Funk Firm arm and the Sound Hi-Fi Evo SL1210MKII and I thought that my option would be to get my turntable upgraded by Sound Hi-Fi, including the Funk Firm arm and the AT33 which I believe to be an excellent cartridge at a very reasonable price.


I wrote Sound Hi-Fi asking for a quotation and to my surprise got an answer that they do not recommend or install the Funk arm anymore.


Going through Funk Firm’s site I found out that installing their arm would allow me not to remove the very interesting VTA adjustment system that all the SL1200 come equipped with. That’s the reason why I had always excluded the option for a Rega arm. Their spacer rings system is a pain in the neck and everywhere else. This obsolete VTA adjustment system is the reason why I flogged my last Rega turntable and bought myself a Well Tempered Lab Amadeus.


Now I’m stuck again. having read your very interesting review of the Funk Firm’s arm I’m convinced that it would be my best option. On the other hand, what lets me slightly down when listening to the SME turntables and arms is their scientific or clinical approach to music. I wouldn’t be a particularly happy owner of an SME 10 or 20 with a 309 arm. On the other hand, what attracted me when listening to my Amadeus is the musicality of the presentation it renders and that is why I love my old Garrard 301 too (not the better loved 401). What would you suggest as an arm instead? A Michell or an RB 700 ? Or should I stick to the Funk Firm new arm and get it installed later after having received the modified SL1210?

Mario Tulio

Portugal

 

 

 

funk-firm-fxr-tonearm

Funk Firm FXR arm sings like a canary says editor David Price.

 

 

Oh boy! Sound Hi-Fi have their own allegiances, for perfectly laudable reasons, and theirs is to – mainly – SME. But yes, I understand that many think SMEs are too clinical and cerebral, and if you’re of this view then the Funk will be preferable. I’ve heard the FXR II directly against an SME V, and the Funk sang like a canary whereas the SME sounded as expressive as a dead parrot! Okay, I’m exaggerating for effect, but the point still stands – there was a big difference in the style of presentation. The SME had good points too, but I think for your tastes you’re going to have to go for the Funk arm, and get the Sound Hi-Fi power supply at a later date. Basically, between Mr Cawley (Sound Hi-Fi) and Mr Khoubesserian (Funk) there must be a way for them to sell you their respective wares. Give them a ring and see if you can work it out! DP


 

STREAM OF THOUGHT

I’m in the very fortunate position of having just purchased a small holiday home in France. Consequently, my wife’s attention has turned to furnishing the place and mine has turned to hi-fi. After a great deal of consideration I have come to the conclusion that the only practical solution is to go the digital route and in particular some form of networked system. I will then leave the system in France permanently and update my music files onto a portable USB drive and then onto a NAS drive in the house.


At home I mostly use vinyl and occasionally CDs. My home system consists of Michell GyroDec SE with Origin Live Silver Mk2 arm (rewired to latest spec) and Benz Micro Glider cartridge. This feeds a Lehmann Black Cube with outboard power supply and then a Cyrus Pre VS2, two Cyrus mono Xs and a pair of Wilson Benesch Arcs. The CD player is a Cyrus CD8se with PSXR. Whilst I don’t expect to get the same level of performance in France given my budget, I would like to get somewhere near.


My total budget is around £2,000-£2,500 and I do not mind second hand items. My wife is keen on the Naim UnitiQute due to its size and the need for only one box (plus the speakers). We have auditioned this and been very impressed. However, do you have any alternative solutions (I read the Cambridge Audio NP30 review with great interest). I would prefer to buy separates as this will give me the opportunity to upgrade over time.


The main listening room is five metres square and has a ceiling height of five metres. My musical tastes are fairly eclectic but can probably be categorised as acoustic, alternative and electronica. I’m not really into classical, jazz or R&B.


We are fortunate (in hi-fi terms) that we are well away from our neighbours so good amplification and speakers are essential to make the most of this chance to ‘turn it up loud’. I would prefer floor standers but this is not set in stone. The digital route is a new one for me so I look forward to your suggestions and advice.

Shane Jell

 

 

 

naim-unitiqute

My wife prefers the Naim UnitiQute server for our house in France ...

 

 

 

 

cambridge-audio-np30

...but I prefer separates and wonder about the Cambridge Audio NP30, says Shane Jell.


I think, given your budget, the Naim UnitiQute is a great place to start. It offers high quality streamed music, network functionality and internet radio. Connect it to a NAS drive via an Ethernet cable and you’ll get fine results, which are hard to beat at its £1,500 price point. It has a preamp output so later on you can always add a bigger, punchier power amplifier (Naim or otherwise), or even use a better preamp too and just use it as a network/tuner source box (a role it performs admirably). Meanwhile, you need a pair of reasonably efficient modern floorstanders – we’d suggest you think along the lines of Tannoy’s Revolution DC6T (£820) or Monitor Audio’s Silver RX8 (£1,050). DP


MONSTER ABLE

I have come to own two monster Grant G200 mono blocks. For once Google was no help and I have to ask you to please give me some info on these UK designed and built big boys? I think they are rated at 200W RMS. Is that even possible with 4 tubes? Anyway, I am keen to know more about these amps. They will be driving vintage KEF 103.2 Reference speakers as well as Yamaha NS1000s. I hope the pics are of help.

Dutch

Los Angeles

grant-200

A Grant 200 tube amplifier uses four output tetrodes in fixed bias to deliver high power, but was for the U.S. market.

 

 

Hi Dutch. The Grant G200 was sold mainly in the U.S., not the U.K. You can find info on designer Roy Grant if you Google ‘Grant Lumley amplifiers’. So, this being the case we know less than you! If, however, they use four output tubes on each channel, and those tubes are KT88s or 6550s, then the most you can get is 100 Watts, running in Fixed bias and with the HT set very high (this shortens tube life). If there are no bias adjusters then it is an auto-bias design and you can expect 80 Watts with a following wind.


These are quite old amplifiers; I would not expect too much. Your loudspeakers are very good and deserve Quad II-eighties. Try and listen to them if you can. Designed by Tim de Paravicini they have a superb measured performance, right up with the highest modern standards, and great sound quality too, in the ‘brisk, speedy’ mould. With 80 Watts output they will drive your loudspeakers nicely. NK


THE BIG SQUEEZE

Dear Mr Price. I just bought your magazine and read your review of the Logitech Squeezebox Touch, a device I’ve owned for around 6 months now and I must say how disappointed I was at how misleading and inaccurate I thought your review was. I bought my Squeezebox Touch just before this year’s Hi-Fi Wigwam Show, I spoke to two different exhibitors who were using a Squeezebox Touch and who were both very helpful in giving me pointers about how to set up this device together with ideas on where to find out more information on the internet. I must say that my Squeezebox Touch sounds nothing like the device you describe in your review.


There are numerous forums on the internet at which users of the Squeezebox Touch discuss how best to set up this ultimately configurable device. From Logitech’s own Squeezebox User Forum to Computer Audiophile and all of the well known Hi-Fi Forums in between. I also found a blog via one forum which offers instructions and the tools to edit the Linux operating system of the Touch. It explains how to set up Squeezebox Server and edit the operating system step by step, without the need for a computer science degree to action the modifications. What the modifications do is disable non essential functions, tweak internal buffers to streamline data flow and disable non essential utilities such as fault logging and other non essential features such as Flickr and anything that interferes with data flow.

logitech-squeezebox

 

 

The Logitech Squeezebox Touch can be tweaked to improve performance, says Ian Wright.

 

So far I have :

1. Disabled wi-fi, a known weakness in data flow. Best results are obtained by ethernet connection.

2. Disabled all outputs except digital. I connect my Squeezebox to a Musical Fidelity VDAC which is much more hi-fi than the internal DAC.

3. Set up Squeezebox server on a remote PC so that all unnecessary processing takes place away from the Squeezebox, leaving the Squeezebox to do nothing other than stream data to the DAC.

4. Best sound is had by connecting a USB hard drive directly to the USB port and simply streaming the data out to an external DAC.


It is a no-brainer to find most of information I have about setting up the Squeezebox Touch to audiophile standards. Effectively my Squeezebox Touch now acts in exactly the same way as a CD transport. The results of these modifications improve sound output way beyond its intended standard and make it an audiophile bargain.


Reviewing this device in the way you did by

unboxing it, connecting it to Wi-Fi and assuming that’s all there is to it while at the same time comparing it to previous models does it no favours at all and merely scratches the surface of its potential. Every single audio forum I subscribe to has endless articles and discussion threads on how to get the best out of this device. Using it solely as an audio streaming device and connecting it via a passive pre to my Leak Stereo 20 makes my Klipsch Reference 82s sing like never before via digital music. I haven’t used my Micromega CD player for months. By streaming audio, jitter is reduced to insignificant levels and because I’m not using a mechanical CD drive mechanism error correction and other digital streaming issues related to mechanical harvesting are all but gone. A very disappointing article Mr Price that shows a distinct lack of research.

Ian Wright

 

Hi Ian. The review was not misleading – it was a straightforward and accurate appraisal of the Squeezebox Touch. You’re right to point out that it’s possible to tweak the unit to let it perform better than in its stock form, but the review set out to assess the Touch as an entry level product for computer audio virgins (just as the Touch itself is designed to be). I didn’t want to write a network music tweaking feature – it was neither the time nor the place. I am well aware of all the information on the internet about the subject, some of which is excellent. But the review was an entry point into budget computer audio and I didn’t want to frighten off many of our readers who regard the subject is impenetrable – it was not the time to start suggesting they get into machine-level Unix programming. It was important to show that the Touch is very easy to use, works well out of the box and won’t frighten your family – which is what my review did. DP


‘LOOS TALK

Early next year I’m planning on what I’m hoping will be my last upgrade. My current system consists of a Sugden Masterclass CD with Rothwell River interconnects, a Sugden A21a amplifier and an ancient pair of Castle Howards hooked up with equally ancient NVA speaker cable. I’m generally quite happy with the sound of my system but I’m keen to make a major step up in sound quality. I have seen and been seduced by the Meridian Sooloos with it’s lush user interface and the benefits of not having to have vast shelves full of CDs. The Meridian DSP5200 active speakers look attractive and are wife friendly in not requiring equipment racks full of industrial looking metal boxes in my living space. I would welcome your views on the Meridian combination and in particular the DSP5200s.


I am also considering alternatives to this combo. What other alternatives are there to the Sooloos that will give the ease of use and a similar level of sound quality? Whilst my own amp is away being fettled by Dr.Sugden my local hi-fi guru has loaned me a Synthesis valve pre/power combination that sounds absolutely wonderful, although it is a little too hairshirt for my taste in that it lacks remote control and anything other than volume and input selector. My guess is that the Synthesis amps could sound significantly better with different speakers and cables. Can you suggest amp (preferably integrated) and speaker combinations that will give similar or better results to the Meridians within my circa £12k budget?

Paul Levett

 

 

 

 

meridian-sooloos

Should I buy a Meridian Sooloos asks Paul Levett?

 

 

 

Hi Paul – well, it depends on what you want from life! The Sooloos, particularly when partnered by Meridian’s DSP series active speakers, is a lovely, all-in-one, user-friendly solution. It’s not a super-tweaky mix and match system. Personally I think the latest generation of Meridian active speakers are really beginning to achieve their full potential, sounding tighter and more musical than earlier designs, but there are so many other ways of doing it. As far as sources go, the new Linn Akurate DS gives superb quality streamed music and has a lovely iPad interface via its Kinsky Desktop software App. But whichever source you use, you could pair it up with an MF Audio Passive Preamp with a pair of Icon Audio 845/II tube power amps. This would give you an absolutely breathtaking way to drive, say, a pair of Eminent Technology LTF-8b loudspeakers. This would give a massive soundstage and incredible musicality, but would be bigger and more cumbersome. Substitute a single box – a Musical Fidelity AMS35i integrated for example – and it’s easier to use with remote control, and plus a sort of ‘Sugden on steroids’ clarity and bite. Pair up a deep, dark, velvety pair of Quad 2805s and you’re in clover, with a classic combination that’s more transparent and expansive than the Meridians! Frankly, for this sort of outlay, you need a dealer. Spend a few days travelling around listening to different combinations and see what takes your fancy. DP



 

MORE SOOLOOS

When I first read your review of the Meridian Sooloos music server I thought here at last was a really usable music server, something that could replace my old Squeezebox system that has been in use for the past five or six years. Then as I reread the review I noticed a number of questions that were not addressed.


1. What is the distinction between the Control 15 and the Media Source 600? The review does not explain that clearly enough for someone who doesn’t know the Sooloos series.


2. Does the Sooloos server have one hard disc or more? Are they mirrored for safety of your media? To expand a little on this, a hard disc can fail; sometimes they fail unrecoverably without warning - even multiple discs, because they usually come from the same manufacturing batch, can fail quite close together when they are installed in the same machine. I would not be interested in a media server that does not offer at least the following features:

Multiple mirrored hard discs, at least in a RAID 1 configuration or similar, so that all media is stored on two separate discs

Prominent reporting whenever one of the hard discs reports or shows signs of failure or distress. Most modern hard discs can be interrogated to find if they are experiencing read errors; this can be reported to the user as a warning to replace the discs.

Have the ability to automatically rebuild the mirror if one disc has been exchanged for a new one; in other words, if a disc is changed, the server should recognise this and automatically copy all the media from the remaining disc to the new one;

Have the ability to rebuild the mirror onto larger capacity discs; that is, if the original discs are not big enough it should be possible to replace one disc with a bigger capacity disc, wait until the media is automatically copied to the new disc, then replace the remaining old disc with a second larger disc, so that both discs can be changed without loosing the media or having to copy it manually

Have a backup facility to another device, e.g. a plug-in USB backup device that can then be taken away and stored somewhere else

It would be nice if the discs could be hot-swappable also, like in some server computers, so they could be swapped without having to stop and open up the media server.


Does the Meridian have any of these features?


Also, have you reviewed any of the Logitech media players? They are surprisingly good for low-budget music devices. I have several Squeezebox 3 players (pre the Logitech take-over of Squeeze Devices) streaming music from a Synology NAS box running the Squeezebox server. It provides me with all the features I mentioned above, but without the quality I get from my other Meridian and Musical Fidelity devices. That said, the quality from the Squeezebox players is surprisingly good; you can even here the benefit of HD media (24 bit/96 kHz) compared to CD-quality media.

Keep up the good work.

Kind regards,

Gerard Lardner

Ireland

 

 

 

meridian-media-source-6001

 

meridian-media-source-600

Meridian Media Source 600 complements the Sooloos, say Meridian.

 


Meridian say –

All Meridian Sooloos Digital systems include three key elements. They are Storage, Control, and Playback. In the case of Control 15, all three of these functions are combined in to a single product – a combination that makes Control 15 a powerful stand-alone system, and as such the most simple and effective way to communicate what a Meridian Sooloos Digital Media System offers. For this reason it is also the most practical Meridian Sooloos product for review in Hi Fi World.


For the more advanced Digital Media System user, a Control 15 may not offer all of the features that their specific installation requires, which is why we produce a wide range of products under the Meridian Sooloos umbrella that can all be used in combination through IP network connection to make systems of almost any size – be it to accommodate larger collections, or multiple rooms each with different audio systems to connect to.


To answer your first question: what is the distinction between the Control 15 and the Media Source 600? As described above, Control 15 may be considered an all-in-one or stand-alone Meridian Sooloos Digital Media System, integrating storage, control, and playback in a single appliance. By comparison, Media Source 600 is a playback only device for a Meridian Sooloos Digital Media System. In the case of the review system Media Source 600 can be connected to the same DHCP network as Control 15 to provide an additional independent zone of high-quality audio for connection in to a traditional hi fi system, through outputs on balanced or single ended analogue or S/PDIF interfaces.


Your second question in its various parts all relating to storage lends itself to both a long and a short answer. I shall try to be comprehensive in my reply, but not take up too much of the editor’s generosity by keeping the answer concise at the same time.


Control 15 includes a single 500GB internal hard disc drive which is used as primary storage to hold up to round 1000 CD albums in lossless FLAC format. In this particular system configuration, backup would be maintained through a separate third-party storage device, connected either to the same DHCP network as the Control 15, or via USB to a personal computer on that network.


So far this answer only covers the specific system that was the subject of the review, however where the question is applied broadly to Meridian Sooloos Digital Media Systems in general the answer changes because we also offer a number of products that include multiple hard disc drives – such as Media Drive 600 or Media Core 600 – that by default offer RAID1 storage with mirrored backup as an integrated feature. These products also include automatic drive recognition features whereby when a replacement drive is loaded in to the product through one of the front panel bays, that new drive will be appropriately formatted by the host product, and have the content from the primary drive copied on to it as a background task requiring no user intervention.


Even in a Meridian Sooloos Digital Media System that provides integrated backup of your media library, the option to perform an external backup that can be taken away and stored somewhere else always exists, and we offer free applications for both Windows and Apple personal computers – Control:PC and Control:Mac – from which this process can be managed. We would always recommend that a separate backup such as this be kept at a second location as this provides an extra layer of protection against catastrophic loss. It is also worth pointing out that in addition to being backed-up your collection can be exported for use in other locations or with other music server systems including, of course, your portable MP3 player.


Whatever products make up a Meridian Sooloos Digital Media System, they are all always connected to the Sooloos cloud. From here we manage features such as the Sooloos aggregated metadata service – the service that ensures a Meridian Sooloos Digital Media System can provide the most detailed and accurate metadata for your music collection – and we also provide remote monitoring and technical support, so when a hard disc drive does start to show signs of age and fatigue we are able to advise preventative intervention, which helps protect all of our customers’ valuable music collections.


I trust this reply has answered the specific questions that prompted you to write.However, I appreciate that they are all somewhat conceptual as the discussion related to Meridian Sooloos Digital Media Systems in general rather than being exclusive to the review system. For further information on the complete Meridian Sooloos digital Media System range I should direct you to our website www.meridian-audio.com, or to your local Meridian retailer who would be happy to help you with your specific requirements if you do indeed think the time has come to replace your old Squeezebox system.

Yours sincerely,

Roland Morcom

Meridian Audio Ltd.


TIME TO SWITCH

I have a WAD K5881 Mk2 amp, built from a kit and now about 14 or so years old. Reading the descriptions of it in previous DIY pullouts from HFW, it does state that the amp should not be switched off and on again in short order.


As someone who uses the amp most days, I do find myself having to decide how long it is going to be before I will again be using it. If within an hour or so, I leave it on, but am aware that this is reducing the life of the valves, or so I gather.


As someone who likes to let the amp warm up for half an hour beforeI use it, turning off and on isn’t really an option, so I have decided a Standby Switch might be useful, as I understand that it keeps the amp warm, but am not sure where it should be located within the circuit.


Which part of the circuit does a standby switch isolate in a valve amp? Somewhere, I seem to remember reading that it keeps the heaters alive, whilst closing down the main power supply and cutting the power to the main circuit. Is this correct?


Is it possible to to include a Standby Switch in the WAD, or does the circuit design preclude this option? I still have the construction notes and circuit diagram for the amp, so not a problem to make the mods myself.


I’m sorry to have to ask for this information, but as a hobbyist my electrical/electronics theory isn’t very good. I can build and repair, but not design circuits. Many thanks, for many years of enjoyable reading and great articles.

Russ Betts

 

 

k5881

 

A Standy switch breaks the HT line at the point shown by the red arrow. But watch out, because it must insulate against 500V.

Switch-off thump suggests the 5881 valves need replacing by a new matched pair. But check C8 and C9 too.

 

 

 

Hi Russ.  A standby switch breaks the HT line, and is connected in at the point shown by our red arrow. This allows the valves to idle with heaters on, with no current being drawn through the valve, so preserving its life. The point to note here though is that the switch must be able to withstand 500V d.c., where most are rated at 250 V a.c. max. You need to go to a reputable supplier like RS Components for a special high voltage switch.NK

GOT THE THUMP

I am the very happy owner of a WAD K5881 Mk 2 amplifier, but it is causing me a certain amount of concern. In recent months, I have noticed an increase in the number of times that, when switching off the amp, it produces a loud thump in my speakers.


Earlier this year, having experienced a particularly loud thump when switching off, upon switching on again the next day, I found one of my Quad ESL 57s had stopped working. As I am about to have the speakers rebuilt by One Thing Audio, I don’t want to find the speakers being further damaged, given the cost of the rebuild.


Currently, I am using a pair of KEF iQ30 speakers, won from you three years ago. They also get a mighty kick, each time I switch the amp off. Is there anythingI can do to stop these loud thumps? Some components, maybe, that can be included in the circuit as a filter, or whatever.

Russ Betts

Hi Russ. The amplifier is running down asymmetrically after switch off, due to unbalanced R/C time constants. This is almost certainly due to the valves becoming mismatched and you need to buy a new matched pair. It could conceivably be due to one of the cathode bypass electrolytics C8/9 failing or, less likely, a cathode bias resistor R15/16 changing value. To check this you need to measure their values with a CR meter, which Maplins can supply. Just make sure there is no HT on the HT line first of course, before fiddling. Use a meter to check. NK


 FORWARD TO BLACK

My turntable is a Thorens TD166 MK 2. I bought it 26 years ago. Due to house moves it remained in various lofts for about 15 years following extensive use. I finally rescued it and upgraded my system to a Cyrus amplifier, CD and tuner, with Linn speakers. I bought a Rega Fono phono stage to go with it and the turntable worked straight out of its enforced period of rest. I did dust it down and changed the belt however and it sounded great.


However I wanted to upgrade and after reading your review of the Linn upgrade package from Inspire Hi Fi I considered getting an old Linn Sondek and upgrading it. I also asked around if the Thorens could be upgraded but met with stony silence from all the dealers I mentioned it to. The stock grudging answer to my continued questions was either it was not worth it or it was not possible.


After getting knocked back by everyone my mind was made up and a search of e-bay began, to find the right Linn deck. However I found a Thorens, which had been upgraded by Robert Isherwood at Inspire Hi Fi – and it was for sale. It looked great! So I contacted Robert and quickly found that not only could he advise me on how to upgrade my existing deck he could do it for me. So decisions were made to add a new cherry plinth, upgrade the arm to the X100, add an Ortofon 2M Black cartridge and replace the motor with an Origin Live motor and power unit. I took the old deck up to watch the transformation and can only express my thanks at the level of care that Robert gave to the work.


The result is fantastic and the sound is brilliant! It was also a good chance to check out the Inspire turntables which sound great too . The new deck has made me re-visit my vinyl and each record has now become a complete new listening experience with sounds and effects that I have never heard before. I would really recommend anyone to get advice from Robert at Inspire.


Thanks for your vinyl and turntable coverage it has helped me to reach my audio and hi-fi nirvana. At least for now ... should i upgrade that phono stage yet?

Dave Wilkins

 

 

 

thorens-deck-original

 

The Thorens TD 166 MkII in its original drab state – good but not beautiful!

 

 

 

thorens-crop

 

The Thorens after its rebuild, with cherry plinth and Inspire X100 arm, fitted with an Ortofon Black MM cartridge. This little lot will give a great sound.


 

The Ortofon 2M Black is quite an amazing MM Dave, and you should consider an Icon Audio PS1 MkII.  This will knock your socks off – you will finally hear fully what you have paid for! NK


FIVE ALIVE

My hi-fi system still does a fine job but having heard a friend’s set up I feel I could beef things up a bit, possibly by getting some new speakers, but I’d like your opinion if that’s where best to spend the cash.


My system is Linn Sondek/ Meridian 506 CD player/ Sugden a21a amp/ Mission 752 freedom speakers. I’m not sure what CD player or amp my friend has but the speakers are B&W 684s and compared with my set up the sound is more  lively, punchy, detailed and engrossing.


My question is whether an investment in new speakers could bring an improvement in the punch and excitement of my own set up?

Many thanks

Dave Clarke

Surrey

 

 

 

 

tannoy-dc6t-revolution

The new Tannoy DC6T is a very sensitive and super smooth floorstander that will make the most of a Sugden Pure Class A amplifier.


Your Sugden A21a amplifier is very low powered, producing just 20  pure Class A Watts per channel. It is a lovely amp and one we recommend, but very specialised for Mission 752 Freedom loudspeakers. I suspect your friend has something more powerful driving his B&Ws.


To make the most of the Sugden you need sensitive loudspeakers and this really means large ones. A recent exception is the smooth Tannoy DCT that we tested in the November 2011 issue and liked very much. Producing a massive 90dB from just one Watt, this moderately sized floorstander will suit your Sugden right down to the ground. Even the Sugden's sparkling clarity will be smoothly handled by the DC6Ts, and they cost around £995 which fits in well.


If you want a loudspeaker just a bit more balanced toward your friend's B&Ws, then Triangle Antals are a good choice. These are big, sensitive and very well engineered – and also reasonably priced at around £1500. Both will impress with the Sugden I feel, and – importantly – make the most of it. NK


 

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