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July 2012 Issue - page 3

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July 2012 Issue
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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


 



 

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