January 2012 Issue - page 1

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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 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 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


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





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





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


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