February 2012 Issue - page 5

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I am trying to sort out the vinyl side of my system. I am happy with the CD replay but am stuck as to which move would benefit me, and I only have the finances for one major improvement. The system is:

Linn LP12, Heed Orbit 2 P/S, Origin Live OL1 arm, Dynavector 20 XL MC, Noteworthy Audio MC Step-up (their entry model), an older style Croft valve preamp (cannot see any indication of model) using MM Input. Most of my listening is through a Musical Fidelity X-Can 3 head amp, and Sennheiser HD 545 Reference headphones. Powercables are all Supra Lo-rad, Supra mains conditioner, and Linn silver interconnects.

I’ve tried various cables to alter the sound and although all sounding different, there is not really an improvement. As you’ve probably guessed the sound, whilst warm, is lacking in treble detail and mostly sounds flat and muddled. I’ve borrowed various solid state phono stages, inc Naim, Dynavector, Whest but they harden the sound, and I return to my warm valve muddled set up again.

I was thinking maybe a cartridge change would help; last year I tried a Benz Micro Glider hi output. Whilst it transformed detail, the treble lift was too much, and I didn’t want to chance it not toning down, so decided not to purchase it. So, maybe an Audio Technica AT33EV may give me more detail and incision, but without grating teeth.

Option 2 would be an Inspire Vivid upgrade. I know how you rate this highly, but would it give me the treble lift I need as well as all the other benefits it has?

Option 3 is to possibly try an ANT Audio Kora 3T LTD stage. As you know, trying different cartridges isn’t easy nowadays, especially as they need running in-time, so your advice would be very much appreciated.

Yours faithfully

Mick Hender.





Use a carefully engineered and acclaimed valve phono stage like the  Icon Audio PS1 to eliminate muddle.



If the solid-state phono stages you tried eliminated the muddle then it’s most likely coming from the Croft MM phono stage.

The hardening of the sound is to be expected with transistor phono stages and once attuned to tubes changing back to transistors isn’t so easy, as you find. This being the case I suggest you consider bypassing the Croft MM phono stage with an Icon Audio PS1 or PS3, according to your budget. This will give you a one-box solution that is new, tried and tested as it were, so you know what you are working with.

After that you should think about upgrading the Dynavector 20XL MC to either an Audio Technica AT33EV or a Benz Micro Wood. I have a suspicion that some muddle may be attributable to the stylus of your cartridge and that a factory fresh, quality modern MC design will eliminate this. NK



Regarding my letter in August about ‘MP3 players’ and the iPod, I was a wee bit surprised to see DP’s reaction to my statement that a WAV file in an iPod could give ‘thrilling reproduction’. Especially given that some other high end mags have raved over the possibilities of the iPod.

Let us put this in perspective. There are many friends who listen in passing to horrid MP3 files on their players, and for me, moving between two places, as we are not always living at home for work reasons, it is a wonderful thing to be able to carry a good number of my favourite recordings in an iPod as WAV files. It’s all relative in a way.

Another perspective is simply historic. I began enjoying music at age 11 on a windup gramophone with 78s. Since then I have had a Trio/Pioneer PL12/ Wharfedale system, an all Acoustic Research (with AR7s then the fabulous Gale 401s), then early Linn systems, and now have a Rotel CD and amp and Rega 3 speakers in our working home, and in Switzerland the ‘full’ Brinkmann Bardo turntable, Naim 102/180 amps and CD5X CD deck with Sonus Faber Cremonas with ‘Signal’ cables from America. Some CDs tend to travel between systems, but by and large the travelling music is on an iPod.

So I have listened to music on many different systems in my time, as well as at friends’ houses. I also enjoy listening to music in our 11 year old Passat on what is by now a fairly beaten up system. So to say that I greatly enjoy listening on flights or in bed at night to my iPod and Sennheisers is not really a stretch. In fact I find that different aspects of any recording will be presented by different systems, and, as I will never be able to afford a Continuum Audio Labs turntable or top end equipment in general, there are no ‘absolutes’ involved here. I love going to concerts of the Beirut Philharmonic where we work, though, and live music is another thing again.

My hobby is listening to music, not collecting equipment, however much I enjoy reading about new and old gear in your excellent pages.

Following DP’s remarks I did dig out my old faithful Sony DC6 Walkman, and it’s true that the reproduction from that through the Sennheisers was amazing, especially given that my tapes were recorded many years go from a Linn Sondek Valhalla with Akito and an AT OC9 that was already worn.

But for travelling folks an iPod ‘collection’ of discs is very useful and frankly the sound is not that bad at all. I do agree that the later iPods do not sound as good as my earlier 2006 one, though.

And so to asking for advice. Given my current system, I would like, in the next few years, with retirement, to upgrade to a ‘final’ system, and have been considering the Brinkmann amplifiers also Burmester top line amps and CD decks, as I like the German engineering of the Brinkmann turntable. The only problem with the Burmester CD decks is the top loading, which I think does not have enough space in my racking.

What advice would you give? I think a very ‘truthful’ amp and CD deck are called for as the Cremonas are quite ‘romantic’ in nature and I will never change them, as I love the sound they make. Budget would be generous but not ‘ultra top end’. Any suggestions?

Thanks for your help and an excellent magazine,

Kingsley Flint






Sony DC6 Walkman had better sound than an iPod.


David just does not like the output stages of the iPod and feels WAV files cannot rescue a poor player, at least fidelity wise. As he is an analogue Walkman fan, as I once was, I understand where he is coming from here. It is a bit like hearing DAB and deciding no, this is just a step too far backwards. As good as the iPod and its associated Apple food chain is, it was never meant to be real hi-fi.

Since you are already using a very good Naim front end to drive your Cremonas, and since you want to keep the latter, there isn’t so much wiggle room here!  An obvious candidate for amplification is one of Musical Fidelity’s AMS Class A series of amplifiers, since they offer the sort of presentation you are after. These will grip and slightly de-romanticise the Cremonas, whilst also delivering intense detailing without an overly bright sheen spoiling things. You do not mention budget but the AMS-50 we choose to use costs £9000.  Alternatively, consider Electrocompaniet’s Nemo power amplifiers that also have the sort of measured air you are after. NK




I'm generally very happy with my present system and – like owning a house – I could never begin to afford it again in one go. The occasional problem is one of the bass sometimes overpowering the music slightly on certain material, mainly rock, particularly with vinyl replay. I do like deep bass when it's there in a recording but not a boom which can mask detail and musicality.

My system is Rega P7 turntable, with Dynavector DV 20X high output version cartridge, Croft Micro 25 Pre and Series 7 power amp and Audionote AN-Es. Room is about 19 by 14 feet max, with the system on a Atacama Rack in a small bay widow and the Audionotes on sand filled dedicated stands firing the length of the room.

The Rega sits on a Mana Acoustics sound frame on top of the rack, as room layout prohibits the use of a wall shelf. I've obviously experimented with speaker positions (as you do) and the compromise between good sound and domestic acceptability of a largish speaker is about 35cm from the wall. I love the Crofts, the best amplification I've owned and the dealer allowed a lengthy home audition and great support before purchase.

Other sources are Quad FM4, Orelle CD 480 and Nakamichi DR8. All sound pretty good, though good vinyl is still best and the Quad needs a quite a bit of gain to go loud.

I'm aware that the room size may not exploit the full potential of the sensitive and musical Audionotes and suspect that the isolation and position of the Rega P7 could be a contributing factor and a suspended deck such as a Gyrodec SE may have the edge in this department?

Is it also acceptable to use foam bungs on occasions in the speaker bass ports for the more bass heavy material? Musical tastes are pop, rock. folk jazz, and classical but techno and thrash metal generally absent.

Your advice and expertise would be greatly valued.


Mark Armitage







For a big, grippy sound that suits Sonus Faber Cremonas, audition one of Electrocompaniet’s Nemo amplifiers.

Your room's largest dimension of 19ft puts its main mode at around 30Hz, which is low and not responsible for bass boom. I suspect your AN-Es are a bit lively and this is the source of the boom. I suggest you use foam bungs, as this is what they combat.

Also, place your Rega on a stable platform close to the floor so it cannot rock, as this may well help. If it does, then you know turntable location is also a contributing factor and needs improvement. I hope this helps. NK


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