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World mail July 2012 issue
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!
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Your experts are -
A Rega RB300 arm on a Sansui SR222 Mk2 belt drive turntable gives "more detail retrieval and more musicality than I ever remembered" says Dennis Slater.
I wanted to copy some old LPs, via the Creative Audigy sound card fitted to my computer, to the hard disk and from there write to CDs for playing in my main system (Marantz CD63 KI player, Cyrus One amplifier and Monitor Audio RX6 loudspeakers with Cambridge Audio 500 Series interconnects and QED XT speaker cables).
The problem was I didn’t have a turntable. Needing one for this purpose, plus wanting to keep costs down, I headed off to eBay.
To cut a long story short, I ended up with two turntables, both of which had faults on them. One, a Sansui SR222 Mk 2 had wiring and bearing faults (this had been knocked about a bit, damaging the arm, but was cosmetically good). The second, a Rega Planar 3, had motor speed and hum problems.
The answer was obvious. I set about rewiring the Rega RB300 arm (as an upgrade), which was in good condition, with silver plated copper tonearm wire (non branded) obtained from eBay (I’m not easily deterred) and fitted it to the Sansui deck. Measurements for spindle to pivot, overhang etc. were obtained from Rega specifications for the arm. I wired the tonearm wires directly to gold plated phono sockets fitted to the plinth so that various interconnects could be tried. The arm board is a Maplin project box lid and I used Blu-Tac between surfaces as damping material. The results can be seen in the attached photograph. I’ve since fitted Michell cartridge tags and trimmed the wiring to tidy things up.
I think you’ll agree that the combination certainly looks the part, but more importantly and connected to the Cyrus amp. with an Audio Technica AT110E cartridge, the sound is nothing short of a revelation, much better than I expected. I know descriptions are subjective but phrases such as more detail retrieval and more musicality than I ever remembered, spring to mind. Tracking is excellent as well and of course, there’s that unmistakable analogue sound.
So, a fruitful and rewarding accidental project. Thanks for looking at the letter/email. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did doing the work.
It’s always nice to hear about a satisfying home project. There’s nothing quite like DIY to get a great result from simple items, fettled to give their best. The Rega RB300 arm can support cartridges better than the basic Audio Technica AT100E however, so you’ve got plenty of leeway to go further with your vinyl. We usually recommend Goldring 1000 Series cartridges like the 1022GX reviewed recently, or Ortofon 2M series, especially the 2M Black. NK
DAC AND DOCK
A recent issue had an article on DACs, some of them upsampling, leading you to comment that better digital sound than CD is possible. I don’t know if I am asking the right question here, but is there such a beast as an upsampling DAC with iPod dock? I am hoping to use one with an iPod/iPhone and an existing Denon DVD800 (Pioneer A209R amp, Castle Pembroke II speakers).
A final comment about your World Favourites. I understand you can’t test everything, but I am surprised headphones are given so little space (unless they are Sennheisers....). Last summer I trialled a number of different ones for my iPhone, and the clear winner to me were the AT 55s. I also bought a low-cost pair of SH for the TV. Are there any portable headphones that work off the dock connector (with some kind of built-in DAC?).
The Cambridge Stream Magic 6 upsamples all digital inputs. It accepts an S/PDIF input from Cambridge Audio's iDock 100, that reads digital from iPod and iPhone.
Hi Manolis. You can extract the digital output of an iPod using a Cambridge Audio iD100 iPod / iPhone dock. This has S/PDIF outputs that can be connected to an upsampling DAC and the Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 is just one of these, plus a lot more. Alternatively, just type Upsampling DAC into a search engine and take your choice, since all have S/PDIF inputs and will work with the iD100.
Upsampling makes anti-alias filtering easier and more effective. However, it doesn’t much improve basic sound quality in my experience, which with 16bit, especially in AAC compressed form as on the iPod, can’t really be polished up to convincing hi-fi status, so don’t expect too much.
My iPhone 4, does however, give great sound quality from 24/48 PCM music in WAV files, and I often convert high resolution 24/96 PCM music to 24/48 using the XLD file format conversion program so I can replay them on the move. This is a way to get good sounding music from the iPod and iPhone, especially when connected to an external DAC. The iPhone at least, and likely the iPod, will not play higher sampling rates, but bit depth has more impact on sound quality so this is no big issue subjectively.
So, for good sound quality down-convert 24/96 to 24/48, rather than trying to up-convert the dismal stuff that usually resides on these devices. NK