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July 2012 Issue

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July 2012 Issue
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World mail July 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.

 

 


 

sansui-with-rb300

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.

 

SANSUI SAVED

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.

Regards,

Dennis Slater

Normanton

 


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?).

Regards,

Manolis Kroussaniotakis

Cyprus

 

 

stream-magic-6

 

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


 

DEATH OF CD?

Are we looking at the end of the Compact Disc? With sales of the physical medium plummeting, has the CD had its day? It’s ironic that the format that was invented to kill off vinyl is struggling to keep its head above water while analogue is probably in better health than it’s ever been. It’s possibly true to say there are more turntable manufacturers out there now than during the format’s heyday in the 60s and 70s. Most of them may be quite small and niche but they are producing some incredibly high quality products. Digital streamers, too, are also increasing in number and, in the main, in quality as well.


Where does this leave the humble Compact Disc? The superior sound quality that was promised when it arrived in the early 80s never really materialised (I still remember Tomorrow’s World smearing jam over a disc then getting it to play). A mid to high-end turntable will beat any top disc spinner. With vinyl there is always more depth, more scale and more enjoyment. There is also the nostalgia factor to consider. Some people like to read the sleeve notes without the use of a magnifying glass. They like to go through the ritual of sliding the vinyl out of its sleeve, checking for fingerprints or other marks and carefully placing the stylus into the groove.


Before this starts to sound like a Marks and Spencer food advert, I don’t feel the same thing with CD. In 30 year’s time no one is going to say, “Do you remember those little shiny discs you put in a machine and pressed a button to hear the music?” Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? I think CD will limp on for a few years longer before being consigned to the format history bin, alongside Eight-Track and MiniDisc. Maybe the generation that grew up with it will try and cling on to it like a life jacket floating in the open sea. The generation that had given up on vinyl as old fashioned but can’t quite get their head round iPods may talk about how much easier CD is to use and how can you put something on in the car while taking little Tarquin to school.


In fact, there are kids growing up now who know nothing other than downloads and internet streaming. Though for them I issue a word of warning. Technology never stays still, not even for a moment. There will come a day when these youngsters have grown up themselves and they see some kid walking down the street, nodding away to the latest tunes on invisible headphones as the music he’s hearing has been downloaded to a chip inserted directly into his brain. Watch this space, it could happen.

Matthew Abbott

Lancaster

 

 

44063768_philips_pres

 

Philips launched CD in 1983, showing it off  at a press conference in Holland. As technologies go it has had a long lifespan.


 

It seems that silver discs are going out of fashion, seen as a yesteryear technology. Today we store information in memory. Boxes of cogs and wheels, from CD players to hard drives, are strictly yesterday it seems.


Heavens, I am even hearing that e-mail is yesterday too! Soon, tomorrow will be declared yesterday in an attempt to get ahead. But then that is true too, since the day after tomorrow makes tomorrow yesterday. I don’t think we can win this one! NK


DIGITAL BLUS

I am still battling my way to get the best sound(s) from digital music. I have written before on my experiences, but things have developed since then and I hope I can contribute some more. I was suffering the ignorance of precisely what SACD and DVD-A recording resolutions were and how best to play them back, when an article in your magazine, by chance, mostly explained it all.


Fair enough; loins girded etc. and move on. Then there are all the various resolutions of digital music that is available for download. I groaned again; quite a few choices there and the inevitable arguments as to what sounded better. We came out of the CD vs HDCD vs SACD vs DVD-A era. Now we have Ogg, FLAC, AAC etc. and various hi-res files at 24/48, 24/96 and 24/192 resolutions, in stereo or surround mixes.


I have realised I am old school in that I want a physical “thing” for my money. Even buying a cheap MP3 seemed hollow as I didn’t feel as if I had anything for my money, so I concentrated on collecting hi-res music on disc. Fortunately for many prog/metal fans, two disc releases with surround mixes on the 2nd disc are quite popular and often in DVD-A format, so I was happy for a while. My trusty Pioneer 656-A get’s good use as a result.

Then a possible Nirvana appeared; rock music on Blu-ray!! Prayers answered I thought!! Full fat hi-res music on a disc I can buy; with a picture; and sleeve notes. I duly ordered the remastered Moving Pictures by Rush, one of my all time favourite albums, and the 2nd disc was actually on Blu Ray in 5.1 surround. The re-master on CD was quite good, but I felt the dreaded dynamic compression had been introduced somewhat, but I wasn’t that bothered. I had the vinyl version and an early CD release.


So, with some anticipation, I put on the Blu Ray. I never finished one play through. It seems that some albums should be left as stereo. True, the sound was very clear and a delight to listen to, but the surround just seemed to separate the strands of the recording. I was left thinking of those TV shows about classic albums, where an engineer plays a little of a recorded track which sounded a bit naff, then you heard it mixed in the whole recording and it sounded fabulous! Well, I put it away and thought, that was a 30+ year old album, maybe I should get something newer.


Then Steven Wilson announces that his new studio album is being recorded for a Blu-ray release. Oh joy! An artist I like releasing straight to Blu-ray, only to find that it has either a 24/96 PCM stereo or 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. So, where are the full fat, uncompressed stereo/surround mixes?


I have been disappointed twice with hi-res on Blu-ray now, but I am not near to giving up. My Rega P3 is still top dog for me and records are wonderful to own. I do like surround music and am sure that I will find some cracking new studio releases eventually either as new, or SACD/DVD-A re-issues or on Blu-ray.


I am just a bit overwhelmed at the variety of digital music files. Surely it dwarfs even the SACD vs DVD-A debate?

Then there is the matter of replay equipment, but that is for another letter. I must say I have felt that you give good advice for us non-techies on how to navigate this mess. Along the way I have picked up some excellent surround discs, despite the above woes.

Yours,

Paul Clewlow

 

 

steve-wilson-1

Steve Wilson 'Grace for Drowning' Blu-ray. "where are the full fat, uncompressed stereo/surround mixes?" asks Paul Clewlow.

 

Hi Paul. Surround-sound does give a different sonic perspective to traditional stereo, according to how it is mixed. A lot of what is on Blu-ray is taken from live concerts and you get a view from the audience, the rear loudspeakers just carrying crowd noise and general ambient information.  It differs from DVD-A by carrying video, which imposes such a mix, otherwise guitars seen at front would be heard from behind  – and that would seem weird!

DVD-A, lacking video, could and sometimes did carry music mixed into the full surround-field, with sound and effects from behind as well as front – and very interesting it was too at times. Blu-ray music-only discs are not so common and even those I have, from 2L for example, commonly have a stereo mix, although others choose to place the listener within an ensemble. It’s all a bit ad-hoc really, in terms of where you sit with regard to the musicians. What is certain is that with 24/96 recordings sound quality is, in most cases, appreciably crisper and more detailed than CD. You ask “where are the full fat, uncompressed stereo/surround mixes?”. The DTS-HD Master Audio track is in effect just such a thing and it is what you are after. Although ‘compressed’ it is losslessly compressed, so you lose nothing when de-compressed on replay. Lossless compression halves the storage capacity required, although with Blu-ray this is isn’t so much of an issue unless super high resolution 24/192 audio is used together with HD video.


That’s the theory anyway! Looking at www.gracefordrowning.com I see they say the stereo mix is high resolution 24/96 whilst the surround-sound is audio from concerts, resolution being unstated. I suspect much of it will be 24/48 or 24/96 however, but just how good it will sound in the home depends upon how well it was recorded under live conditions. It all gets complex and confusing.


In all, though, I enjoy Blu-ray for its ever expanding catalogue of music. But most people see it as a video disc little better than DVD in quality terms, but a lot more expensive and unnecessarily complicated, which it is. It is another missed opportunity for Sony, who basically saw it as a great hardware platform for Sony PIctures, yet seem totally unable to exploit its potential – and the world is moving on. NK


 

SME IN A SPIN

I have decided to invest in an SME 10 and Series V arm after a long audition at Walrus Systems (thanks Les & Pete). So having also decided (definitely) not to make any other changes before I’ve lived with the new turntable/arm for a while I have immediately assessed the cost and timing of getting my Trichord Dino upgraded to a Mk2 and the Dino + PSU converted to Never Connected spec. even before SME have confirmed a delivery date!


Is there no hope for me though personally, it seems like £424 well spent before I think about a more significant upgrade - or should I save my pennies now (up to £1,500?) to spend on a more comprehensive move up the ladder to complement my current system which I am warned must sound ‘bright’. I found the detail, scale and rhythm that the SME 10/V produced absolutely beguiling and the way voices are portrayed, truly impressive.

I listen to a wide range of stuff but increasingly, jazz and classical as well as more contemporary performances. As an illustration, to audition the SMEs I took along my own copies of Mystery Train - Elvis, So - Peter Gabriel, Buena Vista Social Club, Kind of Blue - Miles Davis (who else?) and La Traviata (21 y/o DG edition).


The choice of good quality phono stages seems pretty bewildering to me especially as maybe I should look at something with those funny glowing things as well as the boring boxes of transistors. I’d welcome your thoughts and recommendations as I don’t sense it will be that easy to borrow samples to listen to at home before buying.


I have a small study/listening room (3.9m x 2.7m) with a solid floor and my current system comprises Origin Live Ultra (classic) / Origin Live Silver (Mk2) / Dynavector 20x cartridge/ Origin Live  Advanced power supply and DC 200 motor. Trichord Dino & Dino+ phono stage.

Cyrus DAC XP+ / PSX-R, Cyrus Mono X (x4), and Monitor Audio Studio 20 SE.

Digital sources are a Teac VRDS - T1 transport, Cyrus daD7 (with Trichord 1 Clock) / PSX-R.

Kind regards,

Graham Wynde

 

 

sme-10aturntablesme-v-arm

SME 10 turntable and SME V magnesium tone arm. Fabulous quality, but don't forget the cartridge Graham!

 

 

Hi Graham. Your new SME10 and SME V arm are spectacular products and somewhat outshine your humble Dynavector DV-20X moving coil cartridge, a dated budget design, and the Trichord Dino phono stage which although good is not really in the same league.


These days Benz Micro and Van den Hul are setting the pace in moving coil cartridges, closely followed by the slightly more sober Ortofons. A Benz Micro Ace SL or Van den Hul DDT-II will improve the sound usefully at limited cost (under £1000). However, an SME V arm suits better MCs should you be feeling flush and the sky is the limit. Ortofon’s Cadenza Bronze is one of my favourites.


You will hear large and clear differences between transistor and valve phono stages, the latter giving a more spacious and open sound, with less hard treble. Our recommendation in your case would be an Icon Audio PS3, which has a valve regulated power supply. None of these items are overly expensive but they will hone your SME’s sound nicely. NK

 

 

2l-blu-ray-disc-final

 

2L of Norway issue plenty of material on Blu-ray recorded at full 24/192 resolution.

 

 

 

DAC RESOLUTION

Why do most high resolution digital to analogue convertors only have an output frequency response up to 20 kHz? This seems to defeat the point of having high sample rates above 44 kHz. Whether the normal human ear could hear the difference is another question.

Rick Barfoot

Brussels

These days high resolution DACs, meaning ones that handle 96kHz and 192kHz sample rate digital, vary in where their analogue frequency response actually rolls off. Our measurements show a -1dB point at around 35kHz and a smooth roll off above that, from a first order filter that imposes little phase shift. Japanese receiver manufacturers are a little more fastidious and more commonly engineer flat response to 60kHz or more, and Naim do this with their DACs too.

 

If you are reading response figures of 20kHz this might relate to performance with a 44.1 or 48kHz sample rate test signal, a limitation of the test equipment. The DAC may well roll off at a high analogue frequency, but the test signal is itself band limited by sample rate. Only recent, expensive test equipment generates 96kHz and 192kHz sample rate digital test signals.


To make it absolutely clear to readers, a DAC that can resolve 96kHz sample rate digital should have an analogue output that reaches up to 48kHz and one that resolves 192kHz sample rate should reach 96kHz in the analogue domain. The analogue response is half the sample rate. In practice manufacturers commonly use low order analogue filters to minimise in-band (i.e. below 20kHz) phase shift, which the ear may well hear. This is why high sample rates were proposed in the first place, not because the ear was thought to be able to reach 48kHz or 96kHz!


However, to take this subject a little further, some people who really know a thing or two about digital, like Rob Watts the original designer of Deltec products, state that 384kHz sample rate or more is necessary. So far, I hear little difference between 96kHz and 192kHz sample rate, but that is as much likely due to current ADC technology as it is to potential audibility.


There is, however, clear benefit in greater bit depth, meaning 24bit is audibly better than 16bit, but whether upcoming 32bit will make a difference we will have to see.


The drawback to ultra high resolution audio is that file sizes and data rates increase proportionally, to a level beyond the capacity of current storage and transmission channels. For the time being at least (i.e. the next decade or so) a move to 24bit resolution at 48kHz or 96kHz sample rate would be just fine, sound quality wise, I believe. We need to hone current technologies to produce good results at this level. This means swinging away from yesterday’s crappy compression technologies into something fitter for today’s purpose, yet not so inflated as to overload high capacity cable networks for marginal improvements.


And one final thought! All today’s music files are two channel stereo. Surround-sound music files are just over the horizon and coming soon. Whether anyone will want them I doubt. A bit like 3D TV, surround-sound is a crudely awkward and intrusive technology that I suspect most people feel they don’t need. But that doesn’t mean we are not to hear about it! NK

 

 

aune-32-bit-s1musicplayer

 

 

The Aune S1 media player has a DAC that reaches 96kHz, suitable for 192kHz sample rate digital, our analysis (below) with a Rohde &

Schwarz UPV analyser shows. But analysers able to make this measurement are currently rare.

 

 

 

aune-fr2-192k


 


 

KIWI SPEAKERS

Where I live in New Zealand decent hi-fi gear is very limited and often auditioning in our own home is out of the question. Consequently those of us who live here rely heavily on reviews and the advice of experienced people like yourselves.


I would like to upgrade my ‘speakers and would like your opinion on two or three options of floor standing speakers to fit my system. Currently my system comprises a NAD M55 disc spinner, NAD M3 amp, B&W 685 speakers on stands, B&W ASW610 sub (to fill out the very bottom end), Slinkylink speaker cables and Neotec silver interconnect. I listen to all types of music but find myself being more drawn to the jazz and folk genres. I have a 4x7 room but am hoping to move to a new home with a larger listening room.


I have found the 685s a bit harsh at times and listening fatigue can set in after a while. I do like the idea of the Martin Logan Electromotions but I would have to import them so would have to be super confident that they would suit. There is also a possibility to audition some Tannoy DC10s but again I have to very certain to warrant the supplier getting them in especially. The same situation applies to Monitor Audio and Sonus Faber. My budget would be at its limit at the Tannoys.

Thanks heaps,

Grant Barraclough

New Zealand

 

 

tannoy-precision-61

 

Tannoy Precision 6.4 loudspeakers may well suit Grant Barraclough's room in New Zealand.

 

Hi Grant. I guess your 4x7 dimensions are metres and not feet, in which case it is a fair size room that would just about accommodate the ‘speakers you list.


Because open panel electrostatics have a totally different sound to box loudspeakers, not everyone likes them. Martin Logans have a box bass unit too, and this doesn’t integrate perfectly with the open panel, although I acclimatise to it for the sake of appreciating all the other things Martin Logans do so well. So it is difficult to recommend the Electromotions without audition; they are a step into another world, loudspeaker wise.


The Tannoy DC10s are being updated to DC10As and are easier to recommend. Your room is barely big enough I feel, and you may well be better off with DC8Ts or the new Tannoy Precision 6.4s. Tannoy engineer in very smooth treble and you would find them much easier than the B&W 685s. If your dealer can demo Monitor Audios the GX200 is a nice loudspeaker, if with ‘obvious’ treble from its ribbon tweeter, but it is good quality treble. I hope this helps. NK


STYLUS LOSSES

Your review of the Goldring G1022 reminded me of something perplexing about cartridge test measurements over the years. Despite its fancy Gyger I stylus, the G1022 suffered 5dB treble loss at 20kHz when tracing inner grooves. However when you previously tested the cheaper G1012 with the less fine Gyger II stylus, this showed only 3dB loss and the Ortofon Vivo Blue, which has a simple elliptical, showed only 4dB loss. Even more bizarrely, when the spherical-tipped Denon DL103 and London Decca Professional were tested, they only lost 3dB at 20kHz on inner grooves. What is going on? In theory high frequency tracing, particularly on inner grooves, should improve as we move from spherical tips to simple ellipticals and then to Gyger II and Gyger I tips – and subjective listening tends to support this view. However frequency response tests have rarely shown any relationship between stylus shape and inner groove high frequency response.


Does anyone have an explanation for this peculiar state of affairs? Is the theoretical advantage of line contact tips being cancelled out by poor alignment, or does their advantage only come into play at higher modulation levels? It is unusual to find such a conflict between theoretical predictions and test results and it would be interesting to know what is going on.

Yours sincerely,

Alasdair Beal

Leeds

Differences of a few dB exist in the test discs, as well as between samples of cartridges, styli geometries and stylus alignment on the cantilever. LP is a very imprecise technology and it isn’t realistic to expect digital levels of precision from it under measurement. The inner groove response test looks at the situation in general to check nothing too extreme or unusual is occurring with a cartridge, as well as to see how it has been balanced.  NK


GOLDRING CARTRIDGES

Re-reading the latest issue of HFW, I came across the letter on page 36 from Gerry Martin and your own reply. A couple of thoughts occurred to me.

First, I think Goldring are wrong in rejecting the request for assistance on the basis of a 1-year warranty having run out. According to the law relating to the Supply of Goods including The Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002, Goldring and their distributors/vendors have a responsibility for the quality of this product for a total of 6 years. However, I believe it would be the responsibility of the consumer to prove that the product was faulty at the time of purchase if the fault is established more than 6 months after purchase; the burden of proof lies on the vendor during the first 6 months only.

In this case, assuming a manufacturing fault, it should not be too difficult to prove that this was indeed the case and so successfully be able to reject the goods. There is in fact further case law in the UK that gives more than 6 months to consider rejection of goods in many circumstances.

Secondly, Goldring must realise they are dealing with a manufacturing fault, so they are stupid in turning down Mr Martin’s request for help – very bad business sense, if you ask me! The fact that you have written about it and I have noticed proves this pretty neatly I think.

Finally, I think it would be fair if HFW in the future ‘refrained’ from recommending (see top page 37 for example) a product with such poor quality control and customer service

Best wishes,

Olle Andersson

Dorset

Thanks for your observations Olle. UK hi-fi companies are often none too generous when it comes to customer disputes, it seems from our postbag. But then we do hear the complaints but rarely the praise (if there is any!), so ours is not strictly an impartial position. But see the next letter.

One faulty product and a disappointing response does not statistically damn all Goldring cartridges and prove they have bad quality control. That is an assumption too far. We’ve all used plenty of Goldrings over the years, without problem, and so have readers. To ignore what is a very effective product would be to act against the best interests of our readers. NK


 

LEEMA LOVE

I feel I need to write to you regarding customer satisfaction. Approximately three years ago I purchased a Leema Stream CD player of which I am very impressed – well was.


It suddenly developed a driver error and wouldn’t allow the drawer to open. I contacted Leema via their web site and contacted them to see where I stood. They responded within minutes, asking me which day would suit me as they wanted to collect the machine and take a look at it for me. I work away from home a lot and after some messing about, at my end, they collected my machine and kept me posted all the time and said it would be a 7 working day turnaround before I would see the machine.


They resolved the problem but not only that, they also uploaded the latest software for my Stream and upgraded it to the Leema Stream 2 free of charge. Their services were out of this world, and I must say so is my CD player now.

Thank you all at Leema.

Phil Dilley


ROOM ISSUES

I love reading the reviews about exotic hi-fi equipment, while drooling over the pictures of tubes glowing away, Mac power meters, Teflon capacitors and such! I particularly like Hi-Fi World for your reviews on analog and valve gear! One day I am going to have a set of the Icon 845 MKII power amps that you use as a reference.


Until recently I forgot about probably the most important component in my stereo only system, the listening room. We recently moved house. In the old house the stereo had been set up in the lounge room which had a lot of weird angles (no parallel walls), thick carpet, openings into other rooms and a lot of overstuffed furniture. The sound was really quite good. The soundstage was as wide as the speakers and as deep as the front wall, with good tonal balance and imaging.


The room that was set aside in the new house for the stereo had nearly perfect dimensions: 3.1m wide x 3.6m long x 2.4m high, but with hard wood floors. The room was to be a dedicated listening room with the speakers (large 3 ways), a DIY air rack to hold the amp and SACD player and my listening chair. I got the system set up, thinking that things would sound very good. It sounded terrible  muddy sound, boomy bass, limited soundstage, blurred imaging, overly bright, just about unlistenable! First thing to go in was a thick wool carpet to cover the floor. A little better, but still not very listenable, and only at very low volumes.


What to do? I had been thinking about room treatments for the new room before we moved in, so I installed some DIY Argent Room Lenses and some DIY Tube Traps. The sound clarified and became extremely listenable! The soundstage goes beyond the speakers to the right and left and the depth is unbelievable (when it is present in the recording). Muddiness is gone. Bass is taut and more powerful. Mids are sweet and pure as are the high frequencies. Imaging is pinpoint. With small jazz groups you would swear they are in the room with you! The sound had blossomed and was beyond what I thought was possible from my system. For far less than the cost of any single electronic item in my stereo I achieved a sound that no upgrade has ever allowed me to hear!

Cheers,

Peter Gron

Australia

 

 

 

sound-treatment

Sound diffusing panels on the Vicoustic stand at the High End Show in Munich this year. These disperse sound waves, getting rid of phantom images, whilst not causing a dead sound.


Hi Peter. You are right that the room is crucial and indeed we have just moved offices to get a room that is great for loudspeaker reviewing. But whilst your new room may have good proportions, it is too small to avoid problems. The carpet will help absorb the floor wave from the loudspeaker, but the low ceiling may need some diffuser panels to eliminate ceiling images; I heard people singing from the ceiling in a demo a few months ago! The room just wasn’t right in this respect and our own listening room has ceiling diffusers to ensure we are listening to the loudspeaker and not the ceiling.


Your largest dimension results in a room mode at 48Hz, which is high. It will enhance bass at this frequency, which will suit small stand mounting loudspeakers but not big floorstanders. Small room volumes have a higher Q than large rooms too, so you get bouncier/boomier bass. There are plenty of room mode calculators on the internet by the way. Put room mode calculator into a search engine or go to www.realtraps.com for plenty of info on all this.


I have no experience of Argent Room Lenses, but you would need to use wall hangings acting as an absorber or diffuser panels to lessen flutter echo in your room and bass traps in corners to control bass boom.


The sound stage will move beyond the loudspeakers when left and right wall reflections reflect treble energy to the listening position. As with the ceiling, diffuser panels are best used to control this effect. They distribute the energy, rather than absorbing it. You end up with a lively sound, but not one so strong in any frequency band as to interfere with the loudspeakers. Absorbers result in a dead sounding room, albeit a ‘quiet’ one I have found. Brits can go to www.studiospares.com and their Acoustics section to find absorber and diffuser panels to clean up common room problems, NK


 

SWEETNESS WITH LIGHT

In the middle seventies I was living in the Victoria Centre in Nottingham. As was my wont, I popped one day into the demonstration room of the local hi-fi dealer, I think that it might have been the first of the Superfi chain. I vividly remember hearing music being played on an admittedly large pair of speakers. There was such a sense of ease and calm to the music: it was all laid out and was “there” rather than “here”. I was able to listen to it, rather than it being like a pair of speakers on my shoulders facing into my ears. So many systems seem to pin me to the chair or the wall behind, awful.


Also, I remain quite severely sensitive to aggressive or nasty treble. It can really make my ears wince.

In the last five years or so I have evolved my system as follows; CD player is an Electrocompaniet EMC-1 with matching Electrocompaniet EC1-5 amplifier and Diapason Adamantes speakers on their original equipment Diapason stands. Balanced interconnects were made up by the dealer and Black Rhodium Tango speaker cable. Mains cable is just a bog standard distribution block.


So why am I asking for help? The system isn’t terrible but isn’t quite where I want it to be. When I went to the Bristol show I thought that the general style of the presentation of the music by the Audio Note room seemed good, as was the Gamut company.

I’m looking for a sweet open sound which doesn’t harden up as the volume increases, an absence of a harsh or strident treble good detail and imaging.


Politicians would have us believe that choice is a good thing. But there is so much choice in hi-fi equipment that without help from someone who has a wide range of experience in the industry it would consume a couple of lifetimes. I am prepared to consider changing any one or indeed several pieces of my equipment from mains block to speakers. I have had a valve amplifier but found in the end that it was difficult to live with the heat. I hope that you might be able to help me.

With best wishes

Martin Dickinson


spendor-a3

 

 

Spendor A3 loudspeakers have an ep38 polymer cone for smooth, natural sound.

 

 

As lovely as the Adamantes are, they are a small loudspeaker and you cannot expect them to have the big, open relaxed sound of large Audio Note AN-E loudspeakers driven by Audio Note valve amplifiers, or a big pair of EI Superiores S7s from Gamut. Visit some dealer showrooms and listen to big loudspeakers, that is assuming you have a room large enough to accommodate them.


If you are using Adamantes because space is limited then a pair of floorstanders balanced for near-wall use, like KEF Classic iQ50s would give a bigger sound. Spendor A3s may well appeal too, if you want a smooth balance and have limited space. Spendor’s ep38 polymer cone gives very low coloration and a natural tonal balance plus a sense of warmth that makes for an easy going presentation. NK

 

 

CLASSICAL QUERY

I look forward to every issue of Hi-Fi World as I regard your publication unsurpassed. My desire is that it remain that way, which is why I feel the need to offer some constructive criticism. As your learned readers will know, there is equipment that portrays some music styles better than others and a thorough, professional review will reveal those characteristics, which brings me to my point.

 

The article on Inspire’s Monarch turntable left me hanging and frustrated. The same goes for the article on Musical Fidelity’s V-LPS 11 phono stage. Why? Because not once was there reference to Rock, popular or other styles of music. This is a gross oversight that diminishes the article’s credibility. Are we to assume the only potential customers are those with a preference for jazz, classical or chamber music?

 

May I suggest you include an additional perspective from someone more attuned to other musical styles, especially if the original reviewer is not familiar with these. This will be of huge assistance to those compiling a ‘short list’. As such, I feel both reviews are incomplete and were not deserving of a place in your fine publication.

Sincerely,

Michael Ivosevic

 

 

I understand your frustration and indeed if we run reviews missing either reference to Rock or Classical music we get complaints from the faction ignored! The reviewer you allude to is Rafael Todes, who plays violin with the Allegri String Quartet. You can see him at right in www.allegriquartet.org.uk. Rafael is by far the most educated and astute listener I have ever encountered, and that makes him a dynamite reviewer. He has musical experience others cannot hope to match and can hear right into what products are doing. This means his reviews, including that of the Inspire Monarch turntable are piercingly perceptive.

 

This is valuable; it ensures our reviews are accurate, meaningful and useful rather than misleading. That’s a lot more than I can say for much of what is published!

 

However, we cannot ignore Rock and I take your point. Obtaining more than one opinion is a good way to tackle this issue. NK

 

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