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January 2012 Issue - page 2

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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



 

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