March 2012 Issue - page 2

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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

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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