April 2012 Issue - page 2

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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 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


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





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


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