March 2012 Issue

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World mail March 2012 issue

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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.




Weiss INT 202 – a pro Firewire to S/PDIF convertor for £1200! Around the back are phono socket and XLR (AES/EBU) digital S/PDIF outputs to feed a hi-fi.
Now audio from computers is being taken seriously such convertor units are  "springing up like daises" say Item Audio.



I was pleased to see that you are to do a piece on computer audio. This is a highly confusing area, not least because of the geek-speak used (for an appalling example try “HAL I/O using DAC native physical formats “Integer Mode” (instead of CoreAudio 32bit float)”) but also because we don’t understand what is actually happening to the digits. Nobody I know can even explain how data is read off a simple memory stick.

I have music files of various kHz on a Mac laptop and have seen many programmes being touted as better than iTunes - Amarra, VLC, Songbird, Audirvana, Fidelia etc - for sending the signal to the DAC (in my case, the optical input of a Quad CDP2 with variable output into a Quad 909).

Why should this be? It’s ‘only’ a sequence of noughts and ones. It would be useful to do a group review and explanation of what these programmes do and don’t do, for both Mac and PC users.

Another topic so-far resistant to explanation concerns the use of mid-stream gadgets like the V-LINK which make the signal asynchronous (‘out of time’ according to my dictionary). I read somewhere that up-sampling DACs like the Quad also perform this function, so therefore I presume I would not benefit from the extra box because the signal would be asynchronised twice?

Other questions –  wireless vs metal wire vs optical cable between computer and DAC? Why not review the AVI ADM9T speakers with built-in DAC and amps –  surely made for computer audio?

If you feed high-res files into an upsampling DAC, does it normalise them and then re-up-sample, try to up-sample them even more, or leave them as they are?

How does all this affect jitter (apparently audio’s devil incarnate)? I’m sure there are many people with more questions in this vein but who don’t have the time or knowledge to do the investigating. I just hope we can understand the answers!


Nick M Jones



Musical Fidelity say -

There are two (different) “resynchronisation” methods going on, one after the other, which just makes sure that the flow of the data is stable. Whether the second “resynchronisation” (in the sample rate converter /DAC) is actually lowering jitter would be extremely difficult to tell.

Most off-the-shelf USB audio chips (TI PCM2706, for instance) only go up to 16 bit, 48kHz. This means down sampling will occur in the computer, losing some detail and resolution if hi-resolution files are played through the TI chip. This information is permanently lost from the data stream, so even up-sampling in the DAC itself could never "bring it back”.

The V-Link converts (to S/PDIF only; no up sampling; or any other magic) USB audio at up to 24 bit, 96kHz. This will be of maximum benefit to files that were originally recorded, stored and played in this format.

Therefore there is a clear benefit in using the V-Link for the playback of higher resolution (96kHz) files.

Very best regards,


Musical Fidelity


Item Audio say

One of the more interesting buzz products springing up like daisies are USB to S/PDIF converters.  D-A converters persist in sounding better via coaxial S/PDIF.  According to M2Tech, S/PDIF receivers have inbuilt ‘jitter rejection’ that is capable of reducing input jitter by a factor of 20 or even 30. From the PC’s perspective, however, there are numerous hardware and software issues to resolve to deliver a well clocked digital signal via coaxial S/PDIF – issues that USB neatly sidesteps.

Nothwithstanding USB’s own difficulties as an exit route for audio data, asynchronous USB and FireWire are (in principle) ideal transmission protocols, even for long-run cables. Its ubiquity is also a major plus: for most Mac users (Mini, iMac, laptops) it remains the only out-of-the-box alternative to the jitter-plagued combi optical port.

Hence the demand for a box that accepts computer-friendly USB or FireWire on the one side and emits DAC-friendly S/PDIF on the other. The past two years have witnessed a growing awareness that a computer designed for number-crunching duty is in some crucial respects ill-suited to service as a music player. The two-headed dragon of jitter and galvanic noise cannot be slain in software, or by add-on soundcards: isolation, rebuffering and re-clocking have therefore become the concepts du jour in computer audio.

Mark Welsh

Item Audio


We will be reviewing a group of USB to S/PDIF convertors in our next issue, April 2012. NK



I read with interest the recent letter from Steven Summerscales entitled Four on the Floor in the October 2011 Edition of Hi-Fi World. His dilemma as to which tone arm to use with his resurrected Technics SL1200, and your advice, prompted me to contact you for advice on selecting a suitable arm for my turntable.

I am using a Garrard 301 with Analogue Audio Kokomo replacement bearing, together with an SME 3009 II Improved fixed-headshell which is rewired with Incognito (I think) cable and features a replacement bronze knife edge bearing also from Analogue Audio. I'm currently using an Audio Technica MLX 150 as they’re dirt cheap in North America ($350), which is important as the stylus often needs replacing due to child damage.

The plinth is my own design similar to the Loricraft, but with a 2” thick Baltic birch plywood inner plinth (supporting the chassis), and a maple outer plinth (this is Canada after all).

The plinth supporting the chassis sits on felt pads (think wood floor protectors) as opposed to Loricraft style semi-squash balls, as these were found to cause the deck to unduly react to footfall impacts on the suspended timber floor.

The plinth, which was made for me by a family friend who is a semi-professional woodworker, sits on rubber feet that perform relative well as audio frequency vibration isolators. My friend has offered to build me a lid to protect the delicate arm and stylus from infant activity.

Associated equipment is an EAR 834P phono amp modified as per Romy the Cats recommendations (, and running Mullard and Enjoy the Music tubes (valves).

I'm using an Audio Limits passive preamp (made in Canada) and Marantz MA5 mono blocks with replaced electrolytics (including the 22,000uF power supply caps, which required a little bit of butchery to the internal chassis). This purchase was inspired by one of your articles, as my Leak Stereo 60 (the actual one you reviewed in your magazine  purchased from Classique Sounds) also failed the kid test  I found myself in the habit of picking up broken ECC83s from the living room floor!

Speakers are currently Celestion Ditton 33s (with replaced crossover caps) picked-up off E-Bay to temporarily replace my DIY transmission lines which are being modified with kid resistant drive units (and reworked cross-over).

Anyhow, to get to the point  I would like to replace the tonearm to push the performance of the record playing system up a notch, or two. My record collection consists of mainly 60s, 70s and 80s discs, either bought new or more recently second hand. I also have some recent 180g discs of remastered rock albums.

The MLX 150 uses a Microline stylus, which I have found to be invaluable for playing the many less than perfect albums in my possession.

There are two routes to a potential improvement that I have been considering. Either a 9” replacement tonearm for the SME 3009, such as the Origin Live Onix (around $600) or Silver ($900). Alternatively, I could get the 301 plinth rebuilt to accommodate a 12” tonearm such as the Jelco 750 L ($750). I have read on-line that the 9” Jelco 750 offers significant improvements over the Linn Ittok when used with a Garrard 401, and was a little surprised to read that in your opinion the Audio Origami modded Rega and OL Silver offer a big improvement over the Jelco.

I am familiar with the Ittok, having used it on a Sondek with a Benz Micro Ace before emigrating to British Columbia. I was happy with this combination, but at that time was fortunate to have concrete floors in my London apartment, which made using a spring isolated turntable considerably easier than in a house with suspended wood floors.

I have also previously owned a Garrard 401 which I used with an Origin Live modded Rega 250 together with the aforementioned Ace. I was not so enthralled with this combination, which I put down to the Rega.

So the first question that springs to mind is whether a 12” tonearm is fundamentally better than a 9” tonearm due to improved geometry, or does one get what one pays for irrespectively of the length of the arm?

The second question is whether any of the options I've been considering will actually offer any noticeable improvement over the rewired SME 3009 plus bronze bearing? If not, which arm should I be considering to make a worthwhile improvement.

Note that my Interconnect cables are Van den Hull Integration Hybrid or Audio Limits Silver. Loudspeakers cables are Nordost.

Many thanks for a great magazine. As you might guess, I particularly enjoy the Olde Worlde articles.


Mark Gaudet,

Maple Ridge,

British Columbia,






A Garrard 301 deserves a good matching arm and cartridge. It may be a golden oldie but a modern arm best suits.

Ooh – that’s a funny combination of components Mark. I am not acquainted with the Technics MLX 150 cartridge but if they are “dirt cheap” then it is hardly likely to be in keeping with the other items and your system in general.

The Goldring 1000 Series cartridges we usually recommend as cheap and cheerful MMs and Ortofon’s 2M Black as the best MM available. Obviously, with young children bending styli you don’t want to go down the MC route.

As you are a DIYer, a protective  acrylic cover may be an idea.

A Garrard 301 with Analogue Audio Kokomo bearing, mounted on a good solid plinth deserves far better than an SME 3009 MkII Improved with fixed headshell. As lovely as they are, structurally they are not so clever. The world moved on long ago, as did SME. I would recommend a modern Rega RB301 as a minimum, which is much improved over older RB250s. Jelcos are good but not the best optimised designs around.

Long 12in arms are innately less rigid than shorter ones and not quite so grippy and fast sounding, but they are very smooth and suitably dynamic. I choose to use an SME312S with a Garrard 401 and am not looking for the more sterile sound available from stiff 9in arms, especially with silver wiring.

So to summarise, I advise you go for a better arm. Whilst using a budget cartridge a costly 12incher is perhaps overkill.  As you may be wary about Rega then a Jelco 750T is a known goodie in the Jelco range and may be easy for you to obtain in Canada.

Finally, I have suspended wooden floors and they upset my turntable until I realised that the wooden beams in corners betwixt chimney breast and wall were dead areas unaffected by what the rest of the floor was doing, when the joists flexed. The joists run at right angles to the floorboards of course, so look at your boards, imagine the joists beneath and you will understand how, when they bend, your floor moves. Dead corners or suchlike will then be obvious and here footfall will not affect your deck.

Hope that helps. NK


I know from past reading of Hi-Fi World that you have an interest in surround sound, Ambisonics etc. I have recently found a very useful surround sound decoder from a German company called the Decoderstation 5 available from Teufel Audio direct by ordering from their web site for about £170 including carriage.

The decoder has two optical and two S/PDIF digital inputs, three line level stereo analogue inputs, a 5.1 throughput and a 5.1 output, all in gold plated phonos. The decoder comes in a metal case with Perspex/plastic front containing a small display. The decoder allows equalisation adjustment of speaker volumes for initial set up, with adjustment of speaker distance and size. The Cambridge Audio Azur 840E preamp I have allows one input to be fixed with the overall volume then controlled from the Decoderstation 5. A remote control and comprehensive instructions are provided. The decoder has Dolby Pro Logic (Music and Films) and Stereo 5.1 modes and automatically switches to Dolby Digital or DTS for DVDs. The results from connecting up a Freeview box (with a hard drive) or a DVD player to listen to movies or music broadcasts via the optical connection (my Freeview box etc do not have S/PDIF) is very good, better that I expected. My interest is listening to music and my system is aimed at that, but the Decoderstation 5 is a relatively inexpensive but high quality addition to extend sources of listening. If only the Decoderstation 5 included Ambisonics. I did have a Minim Ambisonics decoder years ago, but it could not keep up as my system improved. However experiencing Ambisonics was something I have not forgotten.

The downside of the Decoderstation 5 is the power supply which consists of a wall wart connected via a shaver adaptor which does not inspire confidence. The power requirement is +12volt DC. Fortunately, I built a dual 12 volt rechargeable battery power supply some years ago to power a Perpetual Technologies resolution enhancer, the P-1A. I have attached a photograph of the battery power supply. The battery power supply on the P-1A opens out its sound, adds more detail and depth and firmer bass without the obvious distortion resulting from a mains derived supply. I am assuming the same applies to the Decoderstation 5 I powered from it as well; I have not tried the Decoderstation 5 on its wall wart.


The battery power supply was built using a Velleman lead acid battery re-charging circuit, available as a kit, with slight modifications. The unit contains two 12 volt 7.5 Ah batteries which are needed as the current requirements of both the P-1A and the Decoderstation are high. The unit could equally also provide power to items like the Musical Fidelity V-DAC (at 12v DC) or could be changed to a 6 volt supply to power things like the Arcam rDac which is supposed to respond extremely well to a battery supply. The unit could also be adapted to provide a 12 volt split rail supply (+12v/0v/-12v) or the same again in 6 volts, though this type of supply seems rare now.

Peter Graves,







The 12V lead acid battery power supply built by Peter Graves. It “opens out the sound”, he says, “adds more detail and depth and firmer bass”.






The Kingrex SLAP power supply charges sealed lead acid batteries automatically.

Yes, nice idea Peter – and a very neat unit you have made too; I’m impressed! Both Farnell and RS Components catalogue some interesting sealed lead/acid batteries with relatively vast capacities in ampere-hours, and Maplin have them of course (Yuasa). Anyone not minding to set them onto recharge every night after letting the cat out could likely use such batteries to benefit, in the way you describe, because they can deliver very heavy surge currents over short periods. Mains powered equipment can really drain the juice, especially when current hungry displays and lights are on-board. Digital Signal Processors also consume a lot of current, many amperes at full chat, so a 20AH (Ampere Hours) should provide an evening’s listening I’d guess – and I see you use 15AH.

Readers not happy to DIY can buy a Kingrex SLAP (7AH) for £275 from Item Audio, which does the same job ( NK



I purchased a transformer preamp from Music First Audio earlier this year and I would agree wholeheartedly with your oft-quoted comment that it is “so good I swear it is surrounded by magic”. My Linn Sondek sounded so good through it that I decided to invest in the moving coil pre-amplifier as well. This sounds absolutely brilliant through the moving magnet input of my Icon Audio PS3. Better than this, Jonathan Billington delivered it to me personally and helped me set it up: what service! I attach a picture of us: in addition to me and Jonathan you can also see my Quad electrostatics and my harpsichord!

Incidentally I was delighted to have won the competition for the Triangle Comete LE loudspeakers this month. I always send in my postcard and I couldn’t believe it when I saw my name on the winner’s line in the November issue. Thanks very much: I can’t wait to hear them! What a happy bunny....

Chris Corrigan





Chris Corrigan (left) and Jonathan Billington from Billington Transformers and Music First Audio. That's a fine setup Chris!




I recently found three significant upgrades to my record deck that cost next to nothing.

1)  Change pickup lateral alignment from Baerwald (nulls at 66mm and 121mm) to Stevenson (nulls at 60mm and 117mm). This makes negligible difference to the sound at the start and middle of record but towards the end of side the reduction in lateral tracking angle significantly improves the sound.

2) Adjust tracking force to optimise sound balance. Forget about vertical tracking angle (VTA) - its tracking force that affects the sound: with most cartridges increasing tracking weight dulls treble and increases bass and fine adjustment to get it just right is well worthwhile.

3) With these changes and other adjustments (loading, arm mass etc.) optimised, my deck (Walker CJ61/ Mayware Mk V arm/ Denon 103 with Expert Stylus Paratrace stylus) really started to sing but there was still a slight residual treble harshness at times.





The Tufnol subplatter of Alasdair Beal’s Walker turntable with pieces of 3M Magic Tape attached. OK, it doesn’t look so good, but it is clever.

The Walker turntable has a hard, non-resonant Tufnol platter resting on a sub-platter of the same material – could the interface between these be the source of the problem? Separating them with small strips of paper around the perimeter had a surprisingly large effect on the sound, getting rid of the harshness but giving an overdamped, subdued treble. Replacing paper with small pieces of 3M Magic Tape adhesive tape, gave much improved clarity and perfect sonic balance. Treble reproduction is now remarkably good.


It seems that the pieces of tape separate the two surfaces, preventing rattling and also introduce a little damping. These changes cost next to nothing but their combined effect is a major upgrade that has brought the sound much closer to reality. Those who own other record decks may also find it worthwhile to experiment with small pads of different materials inserted between main platter and subplatter.

Yours sincerely,

Alasdair Beal

Thanks for that Alasdair. There are hours of fun and fiddling in all this and I especially like your suggestion of separating platter from subplatter with Magic tape. NK



It was Tony Bolton’s remarks in September about the quality of vinyl reissues that motivated me to sit down and write this epistle. I hope you can find a few minutes to read through the story and perhaps Tony can reply.

My two friends and I were recently well elated to see that Warner had re-issued Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” on a double album. We all bought copies and agreed that we’d have a group listening session to play the new LPs and have fun comparing them with the original LP and the CD.  While playing side 2 of the new LP re-issue we happened upon a couple of sonic anomalies which sounded as though four or five guitar notes were being skipped over at one place during each of the two songs “Lonely Stranger” and “Layla”.

There was nobody actually singing at those points in time on either of those tracks so we weren’t quite sure what we were hearing. This album has always been one of our absolute favorites and we know every bar that’s played so we did know immediately that something was amiss. We investigated further by playing the CD and the new LP in parallel through an amp with fast A/B switch-over between two sources. Our turntables have speed controls so we got both sources nicely synchronised on exactly the same notes and listened attentively.

The result of this comparison left us in absolutely no doubt. During “Lonely Stranger” at precisely 4 minutes and 44 seconds (timing as read from the CD player display) the LP sound track suddenly and audibly skips forward by just under two seconds and remains ahead of the CD by exactly this amount until the last note is played. During “Layla” the same thing happens at 3 minutes and 20 seconds. It’s especially easy to monitor the time shift that occurs during “Layla”. Continue listening to the LP track until you hear the background girls return towards the end using the words “begging darling please” and on the word “please” switch over to the CD – you’ll be just in time to hear “begging darling please” being sung again. These three words/five notes take just under two seconds to sing/play. These “missing bits” are pretty much coincident with one revolution of the LP groove. It’s almost as if two neigbouring grooves have merged together during the master-cutting process – but we don’t have a microscope so we can’t verify if that is the case. Needless to say, we repeated all the same tests with all three new copies of the double album available to us and using different turntable/arm/pickup combinations – all our tests produced identical results. All three copies of LP side 2 are flawed in exactly the same way. Sides 1, 3 and 4 are OK at least in that respect.

Subsequent emails to Warner and to Eric Clapton’s website have all remained unanswered. Seemingly a total lack of interest.

I cannot agree more with Tony Bolton: if possible, steer clear of reissues. If the industry doesn’t want to take sufficient care with their reissues and ignores constructive feedback from customers about defects that have crept in they really don’t deserve the revenue that reissues generate. It’s a pity that the QC seems to have failed somewhere in the process. Admittedly the anomalies occur in places where nobody is actually singing so somebody who test-listened to the master (or the test pressings) and happened to have cloth ears or doesn’t know the music might not notice the skipped notes. I and my friends did notice and frankly it has spoiled our enjoyment of what could have been a really significant vinyl release. What can one do in such a case?

For your additional info  the “matrix “ serial numbers on all the three copies we’ve listened to are: 1-468412-B and BB31540-01 B1.

If you’ve got access to a review copy of the new double album (and the CD or the older LP for comparison) perhaps you could take a listen in the same way we did. If your vinyl copy doesn’t exhibit the described anomalies we’d appreciate knowing the “matrix” numbers stamped on your copy and where it was sourced but we’re hoping you can help to shed some additional light on this and advise how we might proceed.

There’s always the possibility that we are imagining things and/or going off our collective rockers with overdoses of vinyl but we are convinced there are problems with these LPs but we haven’t managed to succeed in bringing it to the attention of the manufacturer. Not for want of trying though.

Thanks for taking the time to read this – we’re looking forward to your opinions/responses/advice.

Kind regards,

Christopher Warrender,






Eric Clapton's Unplugged album. The re-issue has missing notes, says Christopher Warrender.




Hi Christopher. That's a great bit of detective work and other readers may want to comment. We don't have the particular recordings and pressings you mention, so are unable to comment ourselves. NK


I’m a big reader of your magazine since years, and I’m trust so much in your reviews, and opinion. I live in Hungary, so I’m very glad to see your magazine is available in electronic form too.

I have a pair of Elac 310 CE speakers and a Denon PMA-1510 AE amplifier at home. I usually listen to music from my Mac Mini through an HRT Music Streamer 2+ DAC, so I’m on “digital”. I listen to every kind of music from classical to rock. I’d like to ask you, what amplifier do you suggest to this system? I like the Denon’s sound, but I find it a bit strong to my 70W 4ohm speakers. So I’d like to try something else with less power, but more musicality at a price around 1000-1500 GBP. I thinking about a Hungarian constructor's product called Heed Audio Obelis SI. Do you ever heard it?

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Talicska,





Combining network player and amplifier, the Naim UnitiQute is a neat all-in-one for modern times.




Hi Tom. We do not know Obelis Si I am sorry to say. I suggest you consider a Naim Nait as an alternative to the Denon. It has a stronger sound and will bring more vigour to your music. An interesting alternative is the new UnitiQute, with its on-board network player and 30W power amplifiers. NK



As you know, this audiophile hobby of ours is an interesting, at times complicated and often frustrating and I am therefore on the bludge for some of your wisdom.

The story begins when I purchased a Goldring Moving Magnet cartridge from a UK based online store, to go on my Rega P2, a little over 15 months ago. I had decided to rejoin the vinyl fraternity and this purchase was based on Hi-Fi World’s recommendations of the Goldring as an MM to consider, although, I know it is often advised by you to try before buying, I am afraid that trying this cartridge is not possible in the far south eastern coast of this big brown country of ours.

The cartridge duly arrived, but not before I read an article on HFW about Audio Origami and the modifications and improvements that Jonny 7 could perform on Rega arms.

My Rega RB250 arm duly took a trip to the UK to get all shiny and re wired. Whilst waiting for its return, I read another article that told me all about direct drive turntables, specifically, the Technics SL1200 and how good it could become with a simple arm transplant. You can put the pieces together, freshly moded arm, new cartridge, new direct drive turntable, some more DIY mods = Audio Heaven.

The arm arrived back in OZ, I plugged it on the Rega with my old cartridge and listened to my vinyl until I could buy a SL 1200 at the right price and carry out the suggested mods (if the Rega is this good, imagine how good the Technics would sound).

So, fast forward to last month and here I am, the Rega P2 has been sold on, the Audio Origamied Rega arm is mounted on an SL 1210 with a DIY off board power supply, DIY Sorbothane feet, Isoplat mat and the Goldring 1042.

But here is the rub, I seem to have a 3dB difference from the left channel in the Goldring, so, I find myself with a cartridge that is over 12 months old, albeit unused, and in no way able to return it to the place I purchased it from to claim the thing is faulty, as the warranty is expired.

So here are the questions. Is about 3dB difference in balance OK for a Goldring 1042? ( I have temporarily fixed it by adjusting the balance in my pre amp) or is the cartridge faulty? Is it possible to have this fixed? (sealed unit). Should I suck it up and live with it?

Alternatively, would a Rondo Bronze be a good match for the current arm set up (given I purchase a MC phono pre or alternatively, source a couple of step up transformers for my current home made MM phono pre).

What ready made MC capable phono pre would you recommend for my set up (aforementioned turntable and arm, DIY solid state AB amps, DIY speakers using Scan Speak drivers, DIY phono pre solid state discreet circuit). (I know this little lot will be a mystery to you other than the turntable and arm).

Budget about 1k AuD (music, all genres from classical to punk). Should I sell the lot and continue buying CDs and SACD?  Should I stop reading magazines and getting weird ideas?  Please help!!


Gerry Martin,

Batamans Bay,




Hi Gerry. Your big brown country is a wonder to fly over though; I’m always transfixed by its size and by the fact that there’s no one down there! And the scenery; if you live in the smoke like I do it’s eye popping, even if your wild life isn’t so friendly!

On the subject of pickup cartridges your Goldring 1042 definitely should not have a 3dB channel imbalance. This is usually caused by shorted coil turns or a mis-wound coil (I have come across the problem just once), although stylus damage is a possibility. I spoke to Goldring and their view was it’s out of its warranty period and that is the end of the matter. Well, I tried! NK


I shall be updating my system next year and have a budget of between £2000-£3000. I have Rega Planar 2 deck and a Creek OBH 15 phono amp which I want to keep as the basis of a new system. The current stereo is a Technics separates system from 10-12 years ago and has the SL-BD22 turntable that has already been updated with a Pickering cartridge.

The Rega Planar 2 I plan to have upgraded via (inspire Hi-Fi). I am not much fussed about having a receiver for radio so will have most of the money available for an amp and speakers. Somebody told me that as a rule of thumb whatever I spend on an amp should be the same for a pair of speakers.

I was also told that to make my CDs sound as good as vinyl I should be looking at £1000 on a CD player Are either of these pieces of advice right?

I would need a system that was at home with both vinyl and CD (although vinyl is my preferred media) and capable of playing various genres of music including rock, jazz, folk and classical. Is this too much to ask for the budget I have? Could you recommend an all round set up?

Yours faithfully,

Ian Josland,








Shure M55E cartridge – best replaced.

Hi Ian. The Planar 2 is way out of date, especially if fitted with the Acos arm. You don’t say what cartridge is in this turntable either. Get a Rega P-3 24 with a Rega RB301 arm if you can, and a Goldring 1022GX cartridge. This is a great basic source with strong dynamics, well differentiated treble from a Fritz Gyger stylus and a big, well hewn sound stage. Only the turntable is a little weak in suffering vague timing against the best – but that’s why it’s not too expensive.

CD will forever sound different to vinyl and whether it could be “as good” is a specious argument. We are comparing apples to oranges here! However good CD gets, LP always seems to stay a step ahead, probably because CD is fixed to a 30 year old specification whilst LP is able to evolve. Try auditioning a CD player with valve output stage to hear an interesting alternative and Icon Audio have a nice one in the CDX1 and the Canor CD player in this issue (originally the Edgar) is another great player. You will be spending at least £1000 for a really good player or DAC, to avoid digital harshness.

Spending around £1000 on amplifier and loudspeakers also works well, although the loudspeaker side of the equation can vary somewhat. For example, Q Acoustics make good floor standers in the 2050i loudspeakers, costing around £500 and Monitor Audio the Bronze BX5 for a similar price and both are good. Moving up the price scale Triangle make the Antal EX for just over £1000 and this is a lot of loudspeaker for the money.

Your budget is plenty big enough but you do need to tread carefully as you obviously are casting your net a little wide at present. NK



I have now been using computer audio for six weeks. Set it up correctly and tried DACs ranging from £200 – £7500 (same one as yours I suspect) and using CDs ripped to WAVs with Exact Audio Copy and also high resolution downloads. This morning I put on a record for the first time in months, Boney M ‘Night Flight to Venus’ (total rubbish) LP I have had for at least thirty years. On an unmodified Technics SL1200, purchased from a pawnshop a year ago after reading your magazine, and which I fitted with an ancient SME 3009, and an equally ancient Shure M55E with a new stylus from Maplins (elliptical, £19, the most expensive stylus in the shop).

Punch? Attack? Involvement? I cannot take it off. Don’t know why I bothered with all this computer stuff.


Mark E Powell,






Used by Hi-Fi World reviewer Paul Rigby, Icon Audio's CDX1 has a valve output stage and sounds more analogue than most CD players.


Yep, you’re so right. Vinyl still has it for excitement. Time to start tuning the Technics though, isn’t it Mark? Let’s see – an SME309 would do nicely, fitted with an Ortofon 2M Black. Or if that is all too much, go the Rega RB301 route, with Goldring 1022GX. And you will be in heaven without damaging your records. I had a Shure M55E once and I’ll swear it ate vinyl for breakfast and probably all other meals. Get rid! NK


Reading the review of the Bladelius SACD player in a recent issue got me thinking. My favourite source has always been vinyl (I have an Avid Volvere Sequel, Graham Phantom 2, Transfiguration Phoenix and LFD MCT phono stage). I have tried many CD combinations and have a Teac T1, Trichord modded into a Mk1 Chord DAC64. Although this is a good CD front end it always leaves me wanting for more, and often I can’t be bothered with uncovering the turntable and cueing up records, cleaning, etc etc.

Anyway, I have never even heard an SACD player and I fancy dipping my toe in and giving it a try. What with the recession and all, I am not in a position to spend a couple of grand, but if the format is to my liking I could in the future. So my question is this: can you recommend me some SACD players that I could seek out and purchase second hand for about £300 quid or so? The rest of my system is .... Neat ultimatum MF9 speakers and Audiovalve Buldar 300 mono power amps (massive things) and Audiovalve preamp, from Germany. Cables are all high quality.

Many thanks,

Billy Valler




Sony SCD-XE800 CD / SACD player costs less than £300 new.



You can get a modern CD / SACD player, the Sony SCD-XE800, for just £250 and is one possibility. Second hand a player like the SCD-XB790 comes to mind and this goes for around the price you quote and gives a great sound from SACD.

SACD gives a smoother and more fluid sound than either CD or PCM in all its forms and is a very easy listen, popular with classical music in particular. You will not find much other than Classical on SACD now though; it is a moribund format and because mastering costs are high, likely to remain so. NK

Comments (1)
Got a cj61
1Thursday, 19 July 2012 20:05
Paul brown
Just done the mods you advise. It does work on both alignment and the tape slightly shifts the balance. Super suggestion

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