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April 2012 Issue

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April 2012 Issue
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World mail April 2012 issue

Write to us!  E-mail –>     This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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.


 


 

linn-akurate_dsm

 

Linn Akurate DSM network player has HDMI inputs able to carry high resolution audio, says Dr Jeremy Honeybun.

 

LINN ON STREAM

I have read Hi-Fi World regularly now for a few years and always enjoy it. It is great that you cover all aspects of hi-fi, including the latest digital developments. However, I am amazed that you can write a large article on digital streaming with no mention at all of Linn.


Linn pioneered digital streaming long before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon. I started streaming with a Slimdevices Squeezebox a few years ago now, then added a DacMagic. I decided to upgrade my speakers in 2009 and my dealer then introduced me to the Linn DS. I had a demo of a variety of CD players at all price levels, all of which were OK, but they all had a sharp edge to the tone which I have since learned is what analogue fans complain about with digital audio.


The Linn DS doesn’t have this and sounds much smoother – analogue apparently, although I wouldn’t know as I have never owned a record player, being a child of the 80s. At a later date I compared the Majik DS with the Akurate DS. I didn’t really think the Majik significantly better than my Squeezebox combo, although four times the cost, but the Akurate DS was a major improvement. There are at least three iPad apps to control the DS, all of which make it a wonderfully easy experience, as well as the potential to use Android devices or a computer. Setup requires some computer knowledge, but if you don’t have it Linn oblige their dealers to set the system up for you.


You say in the Naim ND5 XS review that no one uses HDMI for a digital input. I imagine you wrote the article before December 2011, when Linn introduced the new DSM range, because Linn do use HDMI in the Akurate and Klimax DSMs. The Akurate DSM is a wonderful device. It might be expensive, but it combines a digital streamer with an Akurate pre-amp, and has four HDMI inputs as well as all manner of other digital and analogue inputs. So, I can play my Skybox, and Universal Disc Player and anything else through it. Blu-ray discs are stunning. It is stereo only of course, but I am not allowed to have any more than two speakers!


Linn have also continually developed the DS software, and recently implemented Airplay functionality as well as the ability to stream any audio output from a computer, so it really does everything that is possible in digital!


Linn has always supported 24bit/192kHz resolution. Naim seem to get lots of coverage in the hi-fi press, but Linn hardly any, which makes me think they are out of favour for some reason. My dealer sells both Naim and Linn equipment and tells me the Linn equipment is streets ahead at similar price levels.


I have no affiliation with Linn other than being a satisfied customer, but can’t help feeling you are doing your readers a disservice by not telling of the wonders that are available! I would be interested in your views!


On another point, you often mention that you have to have a USA address to buy from HDtracks. In fact, if you live outside the USA you just have to pay by Paypal rather than credit card. No USA address is then needed.

With best wishes,

Dr Jeremy Honeybun

Abergele

North Wales

 


Thanks for that Jeremy. You certainly make a good case for considering Linn and your views are duly noted. High resolution digital does have a smoother sound than is common from CD, but then much of it comes to us through modern Analogue-to-Digital Convertors (ADCs), unlike CD where much of the recorded material comes from lower quality convertors from yesteryear, and was then mangled (truncated) by bad studio equipment and processes. The future looks bright and you are enjoying it now, it appears.


A few people have told us music can be bought from HDtracks using Paypal, but David Chesky of HDtracks told us their U.S.-only sale restriction was for reasons of Copyright, not payment. Our London based IP address was rejected by their website, which confirms this. One solution is to use a friend in the U.S. to buy and then re-send; another is to use a U.S. proxy server perhaps. NK


CLEAN  AWAY

I am happy to be able to restore some semblance of peace and harmony to the Smith household, or at least to give the long-suffering Mrs Smith back the hours of freedom she has enjoyed while Adam pursues his second hand hi-fi hobby.


I too balance the inconvenience of a house overflowing with ancient relics of the hi-fi past with the freedom of knowing that my husband and 17 year-old son are happily (and inexpensively) employed. The joy on their faces when they come back from the Age Concern warehouse with a pair of KEF Chorale 111 speakers for 5; the anticipation as they go to try out their latest 70s record deck, tape player or amplifier; the excitement as they venture out on their latest expedition, hoping to find an unwanted Garrard 401; all these are worth the constant battle for space (I think).I have also managed to persuade them to recycle those of their purchases which are less successful by donating them back, thus making space for new finds.


I too discovered the quasi-magical powers of Cif with Bleach, admittedly for use on a kitchen sink, rather than on old hi-fi. I can, however, vouch for its potency in the removal of tea and coffee stains. I also searched high and low for it when it was removed from sale and could not believe that such an excellent product would disappear, when there is so much ineffective and expensive cleaning material in the shops.


However, I am delighted to announce that I have discovered an alternative which, while slightly less convenient, has the same effect (at least on sinks). One day, at my wits end, I tried mixing Flash Spray with Bleach with normal Cif cream and was amazed and delighted to find that no noxious gases were emitted and it worked! Since then, I have used this mixture on a regular basis and while the consistency is somewhat more liquid than the unbeatable original, I believe that it could still be used to remove smoke stains and ingrained dirt from old stereo equipment. Something is certainly required, since some previous owners seem to like to coat their hi-fi with the kind of sticky miasma I had previously only encountered on toddlers hands. Short of starting a petition on the Downing Street website to bring back Cif with Bleach, this is the best solution I can offer.

Rosie Nea

 

 

flash-with-bleach

Mix 'Flash spray with bleach' with Cif and you have a potent  way to clean old hi-fi, says Rosie Neale.

 


Hi Rosie – and many thanks for your letter. I have settled on Cif Lemon for most cleaning duties, with the application of Flash with Bleach for those more stubborn marks, stains and grime, which is proving most effective. I’m still not so sure I’d be keen to mix the two, though...


Finally, please pass on my congratulations to your husband and son for their sterling efforts in terms of seeking out those unwanted classics and re-homing them. Recycling is seemingly the buzzword on everyone’s lips these days and I prefer to think of our activities in terms of this, rather than the “hoarding old rubbish” description that Mrs Smith seems to think is more accurate! AS


 

CROSSOVER

Thanks a lot for making me completely paranoid! I used to be the proud owner of a Onkyo TX-NR 809 AV receiver and now thanks to you I am wondering if at low listening levels if my trusty old Onkyo 605 AV receiver (also used as a room heater) was sweeter sounding. This all came about because dear NK goes and checks out the Onkyo 608 in April and claims it to be cross over distortion free and then in July he checks out the Onkyo 609 and claims it to have cross over distortion. Then it is all topped off by testing the Onkyo 709 and that is found to be crossover distortion free! So where exactly does my Onkyo 809 stand?


Don’t get me wrong. The Onkyo 809 sounds superb and goes loud up to rock concert level sound pressures without absolutely no strain. This would have been great when I was younger 20 years ago when I was the one giving music appreciation lessons to my neighbours with my trusty refrigerator sized Cerwin Vegas and a Proton D1200 amplifier. But now I worry about getting attacked by younger and presumably fitter neighbours and loud listening is limited to during thunder storms.


By the way, if you ever test the Onkyo 809 make sure that you turn off the “Double Bass” function. The default is set to ON and it completely ruins the sound.

Best regards,

K. Fonseka

 

 

 

onkyo-nr-609

Onkyo AV receivers have a little crossover distortion, but it isn't enough to worry about. They still sound good.


The Class A/B amplifiers used in AV receivers often have a bit of crossover distortion, but not too much – at least in the decent receivers from companies like Marantz and Onkyo. Somewhere around 0.2% or less at 10kHz is about tolerable. The exact figure can vary a bit, however, within the context of one model or across models. Poor output transistor matching will affect consistency between samples, in spite of negative feedback which suppresses differences. There’s more variability in the setting out the standing (quiescent) current through the output stages too, often a matter of factory adjustment. Our figures are representative rather than absolute, so when small differences exist they are not necessarily too much to worry about.


Also, when an amplifier runs hot at idle it is biassed more heavily into Class A and this is generally considered good for sound quality; unfortunately reviewers often complain about the heat not realising the connection between the two. NK


IN ORBIT

I now have a Michell Orbe turntable, but also a question. I understand a Techno arm is a fine budget choice, but is there a good musical return in spending more? I have been trawling reviews and names that keep coming up are Funk, Audio Origami, SME IV, V, and Origin Live right up to the Conqueror (the Illustrious is definitely out of budget!).


As for cartridges, I see the Cadenza Blue is the Kontrapunkt B replacement, but reviews suggest the Bronze is the better bet. I’ve also seen repeated mentions of a Benz Wood and Koetsu.


Clearly I need to listen to some of these, but I need to have a shortlist of options/combinations. In terms of budget, I’m thinking up to £3k, but perhaps further if the musical results were worthwhile as in terms of tonearm. I intend this being, like the Orbe, the last I will ever buy!


Current system: Nait 3, Dynaudio Audience 60s, Naim cable (and was a Planar 3 with upgraded motor). Music: Beatles, Dylan, Queen, Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Johnny Cash, Orbison, etc, plus some classical/easy listening.


I love my Naim and the Dynaudios but after a while felt I wanted more from the sound. I found myself turning it up and am sure the turntable is the limiting factor. I know the rest will need upgrading at some point as well now (any amp suggestions for the future?), but I’m happy to go one component at a time and make sure each is exactly what I want. There will be no more upgrades after this, hence why I’m happy to stretch the arm/cartridge budget if I need to. It needs to do it all: the harsh 60s Dylan, the Fab 4s musicality, the ethereal beauty of Floyd, the depths of Cash’s voice, the soaring Orbison tenor, the bass on Dire Straits, Graceland  etc


Any advice hugely welcome. Although a little daunted by the thought of putting the Orbe together, I can’t wait to get the arm and cartridge so I can listen.  I read a review of the Orbe in 1995 when it came out – and when I was a student – and loved the look; I heard it at Bristol the next year – and a couple of times since – and loved the sound and promised myself that one day I would have one.  I am now very happy!


The only downside is my Victorian terrace (or neighbours) is not going to allow my new system to sing at its best, so I’m thinking I need to move and buy a new house.  That’s some really serious investment in hi-fi!!

Thanks and regards,

Dave Rose

 

 

michell-orbe

 

The Michell Orbe turntable deserves an SME309 arm or better, even though it is a 'budget' model.


Hi Dave. With the lovely Michell Orbe you can set your sights a little higher than the Techno arm and an SME309 is recommended. Not only does it have fine sound quality, but it is beautifully finished and lovely to use.


Of the Ortofons my preference is for the Cadenza Bronze. Where the Blue is a trifle brightly lit, the Bronze seems to have a golden sheen to its treble, a sweet quality that is quite lovely. The Cadenza Black and higher all get a little darker and smoother in their delivery, a little sober suited if undoubtedly accurate. That makes the Bronze excellent value I feel as it has all you’d expect of a good MC, including wonderful stage depth and a lovely open sound, plus solid and tuneful bass. The Benz Wood is also delightful and very even natured, where the Koetsu is more full bodied and rounded in its sound.


Don’t forget that with such a lovely front end you’ll be able to listen with electrostatic headphones and not hear the warts, keeping both you and your neighbours happy. NK


 

IMPURITY

I have over the years been an avid reader of Hi-Fi World, primarily because of the balanced and informative reviews over a wide range of equipment prices. Those reviews plus my own listening have resulted in the following system, which until about one month ago was entirely vinyl based. Having started on the hi-fi trail some 20 odd years ago as an impoverished student I have worked my way from an STD 305M, Pink Triangle PT Too, Michell Orbe onto one of Rafael Todes castaways – an Acoustic Signature Challenger. Please let him know it’s continuing to provide excellent service!

Arms (Rega, SME, Origin Live) have come and gone over the years, but a Jeff Spall Audiomods arm with VTA adjuster currently resides on the turntable – which I happen to think is both excellent value for money, but also a great listen. My cartridge is a lowly, but fun Dynavector 10X5. At some point in the future it will be replaced by a Moving Coil – probably the Clearaudio Concept MC you reviewed favourably.


Phono stage is the Clearaudio Balance + with Accuvue battery supply, which I think is excellent. Incredibly quiet and with full balanced ins and outs – though that’s another upgrade path altogether!


Loudspeakers are Martin Logan Purity, which work surprisingly well in my smallish 5m x 4m front room. I took a bit of a gamble on these as I realise they ideally need a larger room to breathe properly, but placed 3 feet from the front wall they work very well. Even my wife likes them and noticed the improvement!


Now for the subject of my query. I originally drove the Purities via a pair of Trichord Alecto mono-block amps via long speaker cable (QED XT Anniversary bi-wire), but having sold the Alectos, and with the intention of going down a purer route i.e. phono stage driving the Purities directly via long (8m) interconnects (Wireworld Solstice) I find the sound to be veiled and duller in comparison, which is not to my preference. I like a transparent, balanced, open sound with imaging which can exploit the Purities capabilities.


Now I realise the Wireworld interconnect is a relatively cheap cable and I could look to replace it with perhaps the DNM solid core, but my question is slightly more fundamental. Are the Purities better driven via a long interconnect or via long speaker cable – my ears tell me the latter, but I appreciate I am not comparing apples with apples.


Just to compound matters further, I finally relented and purchased my first CD player – a Shanling MC 30 – for occasional CD, Tuner, and Hard Disk (IPod or similar) based music. I have to say it is a fantastic bit of kit for the money and sounds perfectly acceptable (though not as realistic or satisfying as the turntable) through the Purities via the QED speaker cable. Veiled and duller via the Wireworld interconnect.


So, in my ideal minimalist world I would like to wire my turntable through the Shanling’s auxiliary input and then connect the Shanling to the Purities via long interconnect or speaker cable – depending on your advice. Given that this is likely to cost close to a £1000 for some 10m of cabling your advice would be greatly appreciated! I am of course assuming here that the Shanling’s single ended amp is good enough to do justice to my phono-stage?


An alternative strategy would be to connect the phono-stage directly to the Purities via a long interconnect and the Shanling to the Purities via long speaker cable, as the Purities can accommodate both sets of cables simultaneously. Martin Logan warn against using both sets of connectors, however whilst both sets of cabling would be engaged I would be listening to the Shanling or the Turntable, but never both at the same time!!

I hope the above makes some sense to you and that you are able to shed some light on the problem.


One final question. Would you kindly recommend an indoor FM aerial for the Shanling. I live in Southgate and get pretty good reception via Ally Pally.

Many thanks for your advice, and keep up the good work with the magazine.

Regards,

Scobie Alvis

 

 

martin-logan-purity

Martin Logan Purity loudspeakers have two inputs, Line and Loudspeaker. Both feed an internal amplifier that drives the woofer and the electrostatic panel. Long cables to the Line input raise matching issues.

 

It sounds very much as if the long 8 metre run from preamp to each loudspeaker offers too great a capacitive load for the output impedance of the preamp. This is rolling off high frequencies, producing dull treble. It is why the Alectos, with their very low output impedance, did not sound dull.

You could check this by making up or buying some short interconnects of 1-2m and connecting them to the loudspeakers to see if the balance returns to normal. Because 1nF, a typical capacitance figure for 8m of cable,  exhibits 8k Ohm reactance at 20kHz either the cable is very capacitive or the output impedance unduly high, suggesting a different preamp, or cable, or both, would not suffer such dulness. This suggests you should listen to alternatives if possible. You seem to have an unfortunate set of conditions there.


In our review of the Purity in the September 2008 issue we do note that the internal amplifier drives both subwoofer and electrostatic panel and that the loudspeaker input is simply attenuated down before going through the internal amp, so you are right that the line input is best used, as we note in the review. This being the case you are probably best off not using the Shanling power amp if you can avoid it.


Ally Pally doesn’t transmit VHF/FM as far as I am aware; the BBC’s list of English Radio transmitters (http://www.bbc.co.uk/reception/transmitters/radio/england_fm.shtml#Wrotham) does not list it. It transmits TV and DAB only I believe. This is not good news for you because it means you have a nearby transmitter, one mile due South of you, that you need to reject, not accept. But you have to point the aerial South to get commercial VHF/FM stations from Crystal Palace, and South East for BBC national stations from the Wrotham transmitter, Kent – see our map.


You should ideally use a highly tuned VHF/FM aerial able to attenuate out-of-band TV and DAB signals in this role, meaning a large multi-element array. Getting decent VHF/FM in Southgate doesn’t look easy to me, from inspecting maps and looking at BBC transmitter lists. I live in North London too and have a massive array on my roof to get a decent signal from Wrotham, but luckily Ally Pally isn’t near enough to be a nuisance. Finding a knowledgeable and experienced local aerial fitter would be a help.


It may just be you will get best results by swinging the aerial to point away from Ally Pally in the hope of picking up a distant VHF/FM repeat transmitter. Search the BBC’s on line transmitter lists and maps to find one! NK

 

 

 

london-map

 

Here's your geographical problem: Alexandra Palace transmitter comes between you and the transmitters you really, really want – Crystal Palace (or Croydon) and distant Wrotham, all of which serve London. Our map is to scale.


FOGGY SOUND

As your publication has been most helpful in the past regarding my numerous queries and letters, I thought I would ask your advice once more. My system is now pretty much in place. it is a Townshend Rock Reference turntable SME V arm, Transfiguration AF-1 cartridge (looks OK at 60 x MAG on Stylus Tip), I also have a substitute Ortofon MC-2000, so I can check my fault with this perhaps.


Quicksilver Full Function preamplifier, Quicksilver V4 Monoblocks, Celestion A3 speakers. I use an ALLNIC Phono (new) Stage H1200 Phono Stage into a Line Input of the preamp. I had a step up MC transformer but it suffered from hum, so I went for this alternative.

This system seems to have lost its high frequency response and when listened to it sounds like there is a layer of fog in front the detail, to use a cliche; it is like listening through a veil. Bass response is very good, mid is good also.


I wondered about valve change outs on the old preamp as I have many spares, but also wondered about the main capacitor change outs, as these will be of a certain vintage. Its one of these. Main CAPS also shown. However, I am not really sure if this solves the problem as I am not sure exactly what the CAPS do in terms of the extremes of frequency response.


I do have a considerable amount of all round engineering knowledge and I am dashed handy with a soldering iron if need be.

Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Scott Ewan (WGPSN)

 

 

 

quicksilver-amp

 

Internal view of Scott Ewan's Quicksilver amplifier.


 

I am a bit confused about your system here Ewan, and exactly what capacitors you wish to change, in what preamp. Surely you need to do a little detective work first, do you not?


I am very suspicious about your new Allnic phono preamp. You do not say if all was apparently correct before, if you could tell when suffering hum that is. I suspect there may be a matching problem between here and preamp, or it does not suit the Transfiguration cartridge, although MC cartridges have such low output impedance (a few ohms DCR) that they will feed just about anything. The only thing some will not feed is a step up transformer with a very high step up ratio, meaning an ultra low input impedance (the Allnic may have a step up transformer inside).


If the cartridge has developed a problem, or is a poor match, then swapping to your Ortofon MC-2000 would show this up. Did you buy the Allnic from a dealer who could lend you an alternative? You really do need to isolate the culprit in your system and I am sorry to say I cannot be certain what it is at a distance. NK


 

AUDIO RECORDING

Some years ago when the C60 type cassette was considered an acceptable recording/replay medium I owned a small (150mm x100mm x 50mm!) portable recorder, which I think was manufactured by Sanyo. The plus point was that an external microphone could be used for enhanced quality and the benefits were evident when played back through the hi-fi system.


The mini cassette is still widely used for dictation today, but there are digital equivalents available. My question is whether the latter, when used with an external microphone, can produce the same or enhanced quality relative to my original C60 cassette machine of yesteryear, or is there a better way forward?


As a foot note, a colleague used to take a small recorder such as mine on his travels feeling that sounds and voices were more evocative than pictures. Modern digital cameras now try to capitalise on this thinking with “video clips” but the sound in hi-fi terms is relatively basic.

I would appreciate your comments and suggestions.

With thanks.

Glyn Wreakes

 

 

korg-mr2

The Korg MR-2 will record super high resolution audio in PCM (24/192) or DSD (1-bit). A great unit if you want good quality live sound.

 


The market is more diverse today and perhaps a little bit more confusing and impenetrable as a result. There’s no end of dictation machines but they are not all so easy to use. The art of recording seems to have vanished from hi-fidelity, heavens knows why. The pro market offers an interesting range of products, including hand held audio recorders of quality that typically start at £100 and run up to £500 or so. I suggest you go to www.studiospares.com and take a look at portable recorders. Most have on-board microphones to record speech, vocals or instruments live, recording to USB or SD card at up to 24/192 resolution. Very interesting is the Korg MR-2 that records in PCM at up to 24/192 and it can record in 1-bit DSD code as used on SACD. Price is £560.


An important feature on digital recorders is the peak limiter or compressor. Where old analogue recorders overloaded gently, digital recorders do not – and they must be kept out of overload to avoid severe distortion. Even with 144dB of dynamic range available from 24bit resolution it is still difficult. Note also that many of these recorders record to SD card, but few hi-fi media players will play back from SD card; most work with USB memory sticks. There’s something of a gap here.


Modern video cameras prioritise video, not audio, and 16bit at 48kHz sample rate, stereo, or Dolby surround sound is about as good as it gets. The on-board mics are not so clever either, until you reach semi pro models with external mics sitting on top and these are too bulky and expensive for audio recording alone. Compare the Canon HF G10 with its semi-pro version the XA10 to see what I mean. NK


IMPEDANCE PROBLEM

My question concerns valve amplifiers and their ability to work well with relatively low impedance speakers, since I’ve been told that this can be a problem. My speakers are Elac FS-207a with an impedance curve which drops to 3.4 Ohm at 220 Hz. Would it be problematic in any way – or not desirable – to use for instance, an Icon Audio Stereo 40 III to drive these speakers?

Thank you in advance,

Kind regards,

Nils Olsen,

Copenhagen

 

 

 

icon-audio-stereo40mk3

The 4 Ohm output of a valve amplifier will easily drive 3 Ohm loudspeakers.


 

Hi Nils. Valve amplifiers handle low loads with ease, providing they have  4 Ohm output terminals. As Icon Audio note with the Stereo 40 it works down to 3 Ohms without difficulty. Where transistors will break down quickly, like a fuse, if too much current is drawn through them, valves will not. They just get a little hotter and distortion rises. Valves are very robust in this sense and will endure the output terminals being shorted for many seconds. A 4 Ohm tap valve amp will match and drive a low impedance loudspeaker better than a transistor amp in truth. With the latter distortion rises into a low load as current draw goes up and, ultimately, the output transistors will fail or – most likely these days – output current limiting protection circuits will act. These may “chatter” or just turn the amp off in disgust! NK


IDLE PRAISE

I have finally finished my Commonwealth Electronics Turntable. I would not have even started the project if Hi-Fi World had not highlighted how good idlers can be properly plinthed (my plinth is 32kgs). At first switch on after all the work I was more than a bit nervous it might sound a bit naff, but I need not have worried as right from the off not properly set up it sounded amazing with no rumble at all and amazing timing and the bass is just amazing!! Anyway thanks for the guidance.


I recently bought a DNM series 2a preamp from a friend, it was made in 1984 I think, and apart a smoking cap at first switch on (since replaced them all) it sounds really nice, which was a surprise for such an old preamp. I have had a Google for info on it and found very, very little indeed, not even that many seem to go for sale. Just a thought, but IMO it would make a good old World article any chance? I would lend you mine, but being here in Aus it is a bit far away.

Regards,

Chris Allman

Queensland, Australia


 

 

aus-turntable

 

Chris Allman's massive Commonwealth Electronics turntable, so heavy it prevents Australia floating away!



 

YESTERDAY AND TODAY

You’ve been able to advise me many times in the past, and now I need that help again! I have long dreamt about replacing my modded TEAC T1 CD transport with one of its expensive Esoteric cousins, but digital audio seems to be going through a revolution which promises better than CD-quality results, even from ripped CDs. As this is as surprising as it is welcome, is it madness now to consider spending so much on such a device, or is computer audio not mature enough yet to warrant the same expenditure?


This has been brought to the front of my upgrade to-do list by the breaking of the TEAC’s tray mechanism, and although I can get it fixed (as I have once before in its twenty year existence), I thought it might be an omen to start dipping a toe into computer audio waters. As I am a long-term hi-fi nut, with both vinyl and CD sources, I know nothing about this and have understood only a percentage of what I’ve read! So I need simple go out and buy this and this and install that kind of advice.


Unless you think it hopelessly outdated in pure sonic terms, I would prefer, for now, to keep my existing DAC, an  (with remote volume control fed directly into a Chord 1200B). I have a recent Asus laptop (running Windows 7, 64-bit) with a lot of CDs ripped to it losslessly (I think!) already, in WAV form, and iTunes for use in my iPod Classic 160. I could use this into one of the DAX’s digital inputs with a USB to S/PDIF converter (in which case which one?), or would you recommend a music server, NAS, etc.?


Regardless, it should be remote-controllable for volume and track from the listening chair. As my speakers are modded Quad 63s, it is a highly revealing system which will certainly show up any shortcomings, so rather than give you a budget I would prefer to ask you to recommend items of equal (or better) sound quality to my existing gear, for as little money as you think I can get away with !

Thanks again,

Ross Heyward

 

 

cyrus-stream-x

Great remote control and fine sound quality make the Cyrus Stream X a good network player for a system with Quad ESL-63s, like that used by Ross Heyward.


Hi Ross. Your Audio Synthesis DAX Decade Black Gate Balanced works at 44.1kHz and 48kHz sample rates only – it is nearly ten years old now. This prevents you from playing 24/96 hi-res files unless down-converted – and then you will lose quality. It will do as a stop gap though. You could produce down converted copies of hi-res files using a programme like XLD and load them up to Windows Media Player or alternative, such as Foobar. I do not know whether the audio drivers of your Asus with Windows 7 can be set to down-convert internally, but certainly a Mac running OS-X 10.6 or higher can handle this task. Look at our comparison of USB-to-S/PDIF convertors this month to choose a suitable product.


Adding in remote control gets complicated, because you either need a large screen by the hi-fi or a small one in your hand and there are myriads of possibilities here, from iPhone and iPad apps to dedicated remotes, or a Sonos Connect perhaps. The Cyrus Stream X we reviewed last month is a player that would suit you, it seems to me. NK


NET VALUE

In addition to reading hi-fi magazines such as yours, I also read a computer magazine. In the latest issue, there is a letter from a reader about digitally downloaded music, in which he asks if he can sell the digital files that he has paid for, but does not now wish to keep. He mentions that he can of course legally sell his unwanted CDs, DVDs, tapes or indeed, books.


The law allows an ‘original’ of something to be resold. But digital downloads have no physical presence and are viewed in law as a ‘copy of an original’. So they cannot be resold. The only way they could be resold is for the hardware that they are stored on to be sold with them! And even this could break the terms and conditions of contract.


So digital downloads appear to have no second-hand value at all, under current law. Which doesn’t bother me in the least, as I only want music on physical media and will never buy downloads! So, “old, dead CD” and LPs, and even tapes are fine for me. As long as I can buy them, and when I can’t I’ll just stop buying music at all. Is that what the music industry wants?


No, actually what the greedy entertainment industry really wants is for us to pay for every time we play a track or album. They would love to have downloads that “expire” after a given time, so we would have to re-buy them. They love the idea of charging us for streaming films, for example, because we would only see it once.

Best regards,

Rod Theobald.

 

 

lacie-whizkey

A high quality USB memory stick like the LaCie Whizkey is one way we can store downloaded music. No flashing led, plus fast download speed and aluminium RF screening.


Yes, sadly there is that expressed wish, to charge us per play. I remember music sites trying to sell songs that would expire after ten plays – an extraordinary idea in some ways. However, it could be argued that there’s no difference between this and live performance, where we pay to listen just once – and walk away with the memory only. We have become used to physical storage formats.


It was the emergence of recording that allowed this and storage of music brings historical value to it. It ceases to be a fleeting pleasure for listeners, as music was before recording became possible. Unfortunately, physical formats seem to be falling out of fashion. Album downloads represented 30% of the total music market in the UK in 2011, the BPI say, and the figure is rising fast, at 24% last year. With CD sales down to 86 million and falling around -12% per annum there isn’t much life left in this old dog. But then it has been going thirty years now, a lifespan similar to LP (1960-1990) and with a very similar ‘bell curve’ sales pattern too. With this as a background, and no alternative to CD, then we are all going to have to improvise.


As hard drives form piles awaiting secure disposal in my home I’m not putting my faith in any hard drive. We either store music on memory sticks in future, or try and sneak into an Adele concert with a Walkman Pro! NK


 

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