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January 2012 Issue - page 3

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January 2012 Issue
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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



 

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