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World mail August 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.

 


 

inspire-thorenstd160bmk2upg

The Inspire upgrade Thorens TD160 turntable, a model that Charles Pidsley has owned for many years.

 

THORENS EXPERIENCE

I was very interested to read the article about the Inspire upgrade package for the Thorens 166/160 range of turntables. I have owned such a turntable for many years, starting with a 166 Mk VI, RB350 arm and Goldring 1042 cartridge. Over the last 20 years I have steadily upgraded this to my current set up which is a 160S with Mission 774 rewired by Audio Origami (by coincidence also included in May’s edition!).

 

Other enhancements along the way include various items from SRM Tech, the most effective of which is the acrylic base (a vast improvement on bass performance ensued). I have also used chrome springs from Phonosophie and an Origin Live Ultra motor upgrade.

 

It is this latter component that Adam Smith seemed quite cool about. This somewhat surprised me as I have found it to be the most effective (and expensive) upgrade I have made. The bass was further improved far beyond even that brought about by the SRM base, the surface noise was considerably reduced and dynamics increased. The overall sound was simply more musical and involving. I did however, also encounter problems with the motor noise, which to be fair to Origin is dealt with in their instructions and can be managed by adjusting two screws in the motor assembly.

That being said, the noise certainly at the beginning seemed to come and go rather unpredictably and certainly I was on the point of contacting Origin when it seemed to settle spontaneously and is not at all intrusive.

 

The other observation I would make, which may or not be linked in with the first, is that I noted from the photos in the article that the motor plate is attached to the top of the base plate of the Inspire upgraded turntable. In the instructions I received, the guidance was to attach the motor under the base plate and only using a single bolt, not to be overtightened. I would think it might be quite revealing to seek Origin Live’s thoughts on the issue and would be interested to hear what they have to say about the motor noise.

 

I would also make the point that previous contributors to your magazine some years ago have been impressed by the improvements brought about by the Origin Live motors and power supply to Thorens turntables. The rest of my system is still a Goldring 1042 cartridge, Icon audio PS1 phono stage, Sugden A21Mk2 and Kef Reference 2.1 speakers, Meridian 200/206Delta sigma CD. Interconnects are Ecosse Reference. Speaker cables are Black Rhodium Salsa.

 

The only remaining improvement I am inclined to explore is to improve the plinth. I am still using the original black Ash veneered chipboard item from the 166. This was a concession to appearances, being a better match to the rest of my system than the Mahogany item that came with the 160S I used for the heart of the current turntable.

 

The areas of sound that I feel could be improved are the sound stage and it would be nice to have a slightly more forward sounding top end. Do you think there is a cartridge improvement in the area of £5-700 that might address this? I do realise that for the money I have spent over 20 years I could have bought a Gyro Deck with probably better results, but I have certainly enjoyed the process and the cost has been spread out over that time. By the way all the spare parts released by the various upgrades were sold on eBay for quite reasonable amounts deferring some of the costs!

Yours sincerely

Charles Pidsley.

 

Hi Charles. Thanks for your experiences, which I am sure others will appreciate. Turntables are notoriously variable and finicky, but their unpredictability is part of their charm perhaps, providing all works well in the end. Unfortunately, at this end it is difficult for us to cope with some of these extended period running in problems and product really should be delivered in to us for review in reviewable condition, which means run in, if running in is necessary.

 

Photography is carried out in a studio by our photographer and he doesn’t always manage to interpret poorly written and illustrated instructions on how to build a product. What you see is not what Adam built or used. We do try and get it right in the studio but what happens in photography is not necessarily what happens under review. For example, we do not fit a real live expensive MC cartridge to an arm just to dress it up for a picture; this invites destruction because setting up shots for photography is a physically strenuous business. We use a mule without a stylus and Photoshop in the missing bit. Our apologies for the deception!

 

Goldring’s 1042 is a great MM cartridge with a lively, finely etched and quite obvious high end. If you want stronger highs then I suggest you look to the Lyra range of MCs NK

 

 

MUSIC MESSAGE

As a long time repairer of all things electric and electronic I get a fair number of valve and transistor amplifiers into the workshop. Many of them, mainly from the guitarist population, have led a hard life. It is however, interesting to note that there are many guitar amps. that when pressed into service as a simple power amp sound good.

 

I am sure that there are any number of guitar valve amps that could be used in pairs for hi-fi purposes, with of course a proper set of speakers and a flat preamp instead of what passes for one in the guitar world. However you do need to avoid those that have been trashed, as transformers are expensive.

 

I have also found that, even in these amps, changing the valves to something different to the standard Electro Harmonix hard and fast style of valve to something that is generally more subtle is likely to impress even the heaviest of metal fans.

 

A recent Marshall TSL100 using four EH EL34s sounded so much smoother with JJ Tesla E34Ls in matched quads. It even had bass, something that the harder EHs had disguised. The sweetest sounding guitarists amps are rarely the big ones. The Fender quad EL84s have a fantastic tone and are well worth looking out for.

 

Actually, I think a quad EL84 project would be well worth an investigation as a new project here in Tutt labs. Toroidal transformers, nice fancy chassis, high quality Cs and Rs and built on tag strip? Ahhh its almost erotic!

 

I would recommend anyone with a valve amp who’s valves may be getting a bit old, to have a look at new output ones as a good upgrade. But also remember the poor old driver / phase splitter, invariably a ECC83 that leads just as hard a life.

Regards

Dave Tutt

London

 

marshall-tsl100

 

Marshall TLS100 is a mono valve amplifier producing a claimed 100 Watts from two EL34 pairs operating in parallel push-pull and can be used for hi-fi, suggests Dave Tutt.

 

 

As valves wear out they lose dynamics and start to sound flat and boring, a process so slow and subtle that it passes unnoticed until the hi-fi just loses its sonic appeal. There’s nothing quite like a good new set of tubes to bring back lost qualities. NK

 

 

ANGLE ISSUE

In his letter in the March issue Mr. Alasdair Beal asserts that VTA (vertical tracking angle) doesn’t matter and that it is tracking force that does. He describes, probably accurately, the sonic affects he heard while increasing and decreasing tracking force. But he missed what was actually occurring as he altered the tracking force. He was actually altering the VTA. The minor changes in tracking force caused no change sonically so long as the pick up is not mis-tracking.

 

As the tracking force increases the angle between the stylus and cartridge body is decreasing and vice versa and this is precisely a significant alteration in VTA. So unless the VTA is adjusted carefully every time the tracking force is changed the observations Mr. Beal described should not be ascribed to tracking force but to VTA.

 

I was taught this by George Bischoff (of Melos electronics, Pipedreams speakers, and Scaena speakers) in the early 1980s. Indeed, if a tone arm (without a precise VTA adjustment) has a counter weight that allows precise tracking force changes it can be used to make precise VTF alignment. Simply set the tracking force to the recommended mid-point, grossly adjust VTA by ear by altering the height of the tone arm and then fine tune VTA (also by ear) by minute adjustments of the counterweight. I published this about 30 years ago in an issue of Stereophile.

Allen Edelstein

New Jersey,

USA

 

 


DAB DYNAMIC

I note with interest the enthusiasm for the sound quality of the Leak Troughline II and III tuners (“arguably the best-sounding tuners ever”), but having owned Accuphase and Quad (FM4) tuners in the past, and as a convert now to DAB, I have been unable to ignore the obvious shortcomings of FM stereo.

 

To begin with, the stereo separation is frequency-dependent, being significantly reduced at the frequency extremes.  We might also remind ourselves of the rapid roll-off above 15kHz to filter out the 19kHz pilot tone.  The signal-to-noise ratio is easily compromised by sub-optimal signal strength, but even at its best it falls well short of DAB’s silent background, while at its worst it can exhibit a needlessly distracting hiss, along with other forms of interference.

 

This is all well known, but the dynamic range compression (DRC) applied by Radio 3 to most FM transmissions has been less extensively publicised.   I took the opportunity to analyse three identical clips of the same Radio 3 broadcast: from FM, DAB and Freeview.  I found that the dynamic range on FM was some 6 to 8 dB less than that on DAB and Freeview.

 

The effect of this dynamic range compression is clearly audible.  When an acoustic musical instrument is played more forcefully, it is not only the loudness that changes: the tone also changes because a different mix of harmonics is excited.  This is especially true of the piano.  Strike a note hard and the sound is both loud and brilliant, but when you play it gently, the hammer rebounds more slowly off the strings, thus allowing the hammer felt time to damp some of the higher harmonics, and in consequence yielding a smoother, more velvety tone.

 

If you take 8 dB out of the dynamic range of a recording, you change the relationship between volume and tone quality in a way that was neither intended nor engineered by the performing musicians.

 

We may further observe that the crackle from an original 78 rpm record can be acceptably suppressed in the DAB broadcast, but raised to the level of being intrusive on FM.  Once you’re aware of DRC, there’s no going back.

 

Classic FM provided the most extreme example for me some years ago when they compressed Emil Gilels’ recording of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata to such an extent that melody and accompaniment were brought up to the same level in the slow second movement.  The third movement sounded as though some highly inappropriate pop music processing techniques had been applied.

 

Classic FM’s range compression had mangled the music beyond anything I could recognise from my own LP of that recording, and Gilels must have turned in his grave.  I wrote to complain, but was simply told that as the compression was routinely applied at the FM transmitter, there was nothing anyone could do.  For my part I could not accept their FM broadcasts as a source of high quality sound.

 

In 2009 Tony Brown, of BBC Digital Information, confirmed my findings: “We do not use range compression for Radio 3 on DAB radio. DRC if selected gives a suggested setting and a few DAB sets even offer twice the figure if you select it. If DRC is not mentioned, then DAB sets don’t apply it. So for DAB sets with DRC if the switch is set to “off”, DRC was never applied in the first place.  DRC is a DAB term, and there is a small amount of audio range compression on FM. So small though that quite a few listeners don’t realise we apply it. The reason this is done is that it makes car radio and portable sets better able to cope with noisy surroundings as there is no DRC equivalent with FM.”

 

I suspect that rather more than “quite a few listeners” don’t realise that DRC is applied to Radio 3 on FM, but direct comparison of DAB and FM is difficult because you cannot consistently set each source to the same level.  However, the time delay between the sources does at least allow you to listen for a sudden fortissimo section on FM and then switch quickly to DAB to hear it repeated with the original wide dynamic range.  I noted this particularly on a live daytime Prom concert broadcast, and it was very obvious indeed.  Although the BBC neglected to confirm this point when I asked, it appears likely from other sources that compression is bypassed for Radio 3’s evening transmissions.

 

Whatever our individual aesthetic judgements of the relative merits of FM and DAB, Radio 3’s range compression is in my view a final and compelling argument against FM stereo, regardless of the merits of specific models of tuner.

Mike Thomson

Yateley

Hampshire

 

 

 

alexandra-palace

 

North London's DAB transmitter at Alexandra Palace has limited

reach; it doesn't usefully serve much of West London.

 

 

Thanks for your informed observations on dynamic range compression Mike. There is a little more that concerns people than just this bit of signal processing, however. Where FM may have dynamic range compression applied, large or small, DAB suffers severe data reduction - always large - from stone age MP2. Massed violin strings merge into a crude generalised representation, for example, and there is no sense of space, inner detail or stage depth, a tell-tale sign that ambient cues have been stripped out. This is what VHF/FM and a Leak Troughline, in all its simplicity, but purity, avoids – and you can hear it. That is why it’s sound is appreciated.

At the end of the day you should let your ears be the judge. And for me the Troughline transports me into the studio during live talks, where DAB just paints up a barren canvas.

 

 

leak-troughline-ii

 

 

The Leak Troughline cannot sound as good as a DAB tuner, says Mike Thomson.

 

As a technology DAB is neither entertaining, nor clever quite frankly. Everything about DAB was wrong, from its lack of extensibility to its crude data compression system. Its high transmission frequency of around 240MHz causes hills to block it, and concrete buildings and basements are no-go areas, so urban reception is poor. Hi-Fi World is just a few miles from North London’s main DAB transmitter at Alexandra Palace and we can’t receive it without burbling interference that eclipses the hiss of VHF/FM – and this is a common experience with DAB. Transmitter powers need to be increased, but that is now not going to happen because internet radio has pushed DAB into the technological long grass, where it belongs. NK

 

 


GO CAT GO

Please could you advise me. I am thinking of changing my amp. which is a Cerwin Vega CV-2800 heavy duty professional amplifier. The specification is 900 w into 4 ohms in stereo mode and 2800 w into 4 ohms in bridged mono mode. The speakers I use are Cerwin-Vega Professional Intense series INT-252v2 dual 15’’ 2.5-way full range.

 

My room size is 16ft x12ft with a fairly low ceiling which slopes each side in the Dutch Barn style. I play my music very loud and like a very dynamic sound as I only play 1950s Rock & Roll. I like very deep low bass and projected vocals also good high frequency response as I am in my 60s and have found you can not hear the h.f. as well at my age.

 

I use bog standard speaker cables with Nuetrik Speakon connectors. My pre-amp is a budget Rotel RC972. I do have two of these Cerwin power amps so I am able to use one per channel in the bridged mono mode. The type of sound I like is the loud fairground very dynamic sound.

My question is: will I have a much better sound if I changed my amps for a Jungson JA-99c power amp and would this improvement, if any, be instantly noticeable? If not I would not be interested in changing my power amps.

Thanks in advance.

Thomas Sturt

Peterborough

 

 

cerwin-vega-cv-2800

 

cerwin-vega_252_v2

 

The Cerwin Vega CV-2800 professional amplifier and Cerwin-Vega Professional Intense Series INT-252v2 loudspeaker with two 15’’ bass units no less!  "I play my music very loud" says Thomas Sturt.

 

 

 

That’s one big system Thomas. Cerwin Vega, who ‘specialise in big & loud’ rate your loudspeakers, with two 15in bass units no less, as producing 94dB from one Watt, so with 900 Watts your system can produce 123dB Sound Pressure Level from each loudspeaker, or around 126dB total – not much below Concorde taking off! I think your hearing may well have been affected if you use all of this.

 

The JungSon JA-99C produces 80 Watts per channel of pure Class A sound and the JungSons we have reviewed in the past were impressively clear and open, in typical Class A fashion. As you’ll get 116dB SPL on peaks, volume level is unlikely to be an issue in your room, even if the JungSon produces far less power than your Cerwin Vega CV-2800 Class H amplifier. In this sense the JungSon would be a step up, but somehow I don’t think you will really appreciate it as the ear starts to overload at high volumes and the benefits of this sort of amplifier won’t be apparent to you.

 

The system you have will make most fairground systems sound like a transistor radio, so I’d spend your money on some more Rock & Roll from the 1950s if I was you. NK

 


 

BALANCED SOUND

I am writing to you for advice on an amplifier upgrade. I presently have a refurbished Quad II driving my Quad ESL-63 loudspeakers. I wish to upgrade the amplifier and little later the speakers. The speakers I will look at are the Quad ESL 2905 or the Eminent Technology LFT – 8b which I heard recently and was impressed with.

 

I really do like valve amplifiers and have noticed that you have strongly recommended the Quad II/80 for use with electrostatic loudspeakers before. While this will be on the list of candidates, I was interested in getting your view on another amplifier that gained a strong recommendation from yourselves a couple of years ago, the SILK Glowmaster KT88. The use of the SILK opens up the possibility of building a fully balanced system which I would not mind investigating.

 

I look forward to hearing your views on these and any other valve amplifiers you feel would be appropriate.

Regards,

Gary Marinko,

Perth,

Western Australia.

 

 

eminent-lft-8

 

Eminent Technology LFT-8b magnetic planar loudspeakers that Gary Marinko "heard recently and was impressed with" in Perth, Western Australia. Drive them with Quad II-eighty power amplifiers. They have plenty of power, the speed and grip of a transistor amplifier, but with purity of valve sound.

 

 

quad-ii-80valves


 

Hi Gary. The Silk has slipped into obscurity over here in the UK, even though it had potential. There are so many brands available now that this is less likely due to its performance, as inability to find a distributor and provide support. The situation may be different in Western Australia and if the Silk is available then do by all means listen to it. The Quad is well supported by IAG however, and it is a very good design from Tim de Paravicini, fitted with excellent transformers, so I would have thought it your best bet. By any standard the II-eighty offers impeccable results, plus oodles of power – plenty enough for all loudspeakers, including electrostatics.

 

A push-pull output stage is in effect a balanced stage and can and sometimes is fed by a phase splitting transformer. Putting fully balanced amplifier stages in front and running primarily from a balanced input is a nice idea, but I would not obsess over a principle when there is so much else to get right in a valve amplifier, for it to work well.

 

The Eminent Technology LFT-8b magnetic planar loudspeaker is mightily impressive, one of the best loudspeakers out there I feel. Partnering it with the Quads is a great idea. NK

 

 

SANSUI SAVIOUR

It was great to see the name Sansui appear in one of your reviews.

 

Your review said they were known as Japanese manufacturers of cheap and cheerful hi-fi, which is rather unfortunate bearing in mind their illustrious history as manufacturers of high quality and fairly expensive hi-fi equipment from the sixties through to the eighties. 

 

Subsequently when going through various ownerships and indeed recently, the brand has been used to market fairly prosaic electrical goods. However as recently as 1999 they produced a limited edition of their famous and highly prized sixties AU111 valve amplifier that retailed for 440,000 yen at that time.

 

My own introduction to Sansui came in 1968 with the purchase of a 3000A receiver – an amazingly well built and fine performing 48W per channel tuner amp, which sounded just as good as my Leaks and Quads of the time and looked a whole lot better. This unit is still in action today and probably due to limited use has never needed any attention since new.

 

Later, in the seventies I bought their 120W per channel 9090 receiver – a unit that was evaluated as outstanding at the time by Angus Mackenzie and others of similar skills. This is still functioning perfectly too.

 

Sansui – an audio only company – did also produce equipment in the lower price ranges, but it was always well made and of good value. It was at the top end though that they will be remembered for their finely engineered and built amplifiers and tuners, and of course those superb tuner amplifiers.

 

I have been an avid Hi-Fi World reader for many years, and whilst I do not subscribe to some of the recent trends I do recognise and greatly appreciate the enthusiasm and expertise of your writers. I do not though deploy much in the way of modern gear as you can see from the picture of my main set up – this includes a Sansui CA-2000 Definition Series pre amp, Sansui TU-777 tuner and Chinese KT88 power amp. Also in use from time to time there is a very rare Lux SQ1220 amplifier, and another Lux – an SQ507X that I sometimes use as a pre amp. I do have a modern Shanling CD player though.

 

Amongst my collection are items you may approve of including Yamaha NS1000Ms, JR149s and the big KEF Cantatas. I also use both Revox A77 and B77 reel-to-reels as I love the sound of tape.

 

My turntables include Thorens TD160S and Ariston RD11S with various SME arms and cartridges, including a Dynavector moving coil, so am a bit out of date here!  Software for these include a collection of Sheffield Lab and other Direct Cut discs bought new in the seventies. Out in the garage I have a Quad 33, 303 and FM tuner playing through some Heybrook HB 1s which Hi-Fi World list in “Classics” – and they are too!

Although much of my equipment is really quite old the sound is mostly excellent and has amazed friends of mine who have spent many thousands on modern gear.

Richard Allen

Lavenham

Suffolk

 

 

sansui-p1010753

 

Sansui TU-777 tuner (top) and CA-2000 preamplifier used by Richard Allen.

 

 

HEATER CONNECTION

I do hope that Tony Bolton doesn’t really think that ECC88s are also known as 12AX7s as he would have a problem if he plugged an ECC83 (aka 12AX7) in the ECC88’s socket as it would glow very dimly on being supplied with only half the voltage it expected.

 

He also seems to be blaming the preamp for problems caused by the turntable/cartridge combo - excessive surface noise from a worn-out mono LP played with a stereo cartridge.

 

He also indulges in the deplorable habit of anthropomorphising electronic equipment (“I felt that the amp was trying to draw my attention to...”) as though it were imbued with some kind of critical intelligence instead of being a metal box filled with amplifying devices and passive components, but he’s scarcely alone in that.

Best wishes,

David Mansell

 

Phono stages commonly have rising treble (i.e. insufficient attenuation in the 75μS curve) to enhance ‘detail’ and this also emphasises noise, so phono preamps are not blameless in this area. They can and often do emphasise surface noise, to differing degrees.

 

Tony is a great fan of modern mono cartridges, as well as mono switches, but he doesn't study B9A base pinouts in bed at night like some of us (!) and may well have assumed that since both valves can work with 6.3V then they are interchangeable, when as you say they are not. NK

 

ecc83--88

The ECC83 double triode valve has a split heater that needs 6.3V across each section, or 12V across pins 4/5 if 9 is unconnected. In an '88 base it will 'see' just 6V and not work properly says David Mansell.

 

 

 

riaa-curve

 

The RIAA replay equalisation characteristic used in every phono stage. Commonly, the 75µS curve is wrong, treble rises and hiss is emphasised.

 


 

TRACK ISSUE

Recently, I borrowed an SME V arm in place of my Origin Live Silver arm, and found that I liked what I was hearing, in terms of coherence over the whole frequency range. The Silver Arm is great for bringing vocals and instrumental solos to the fore but, in my system at least, disappointing in the lower regions.

 

Also, for the first time, my Kontrapunkt b sailed through the 18dB test tone on the Hi-Fi News test record. This, in spite of the fact that the SME V, being a true 9” arm, was too short to achieve the correct overhang, and therefore cartridge alignment (older SME 3009s are about 9.5” long, as is the Silver Arm, and my mounting board was set for that.)

 

Sufficiently impressed, I decided it was time to man up and buy a piece of serious hi-f real estate. Problem - overhang would never be right. So I thought, what about the SME310? That would probably adjust correctly for overhang. Hmm... but it’s only an aluminium arm – and the magnesium arm is the real deal. As  my plinth is slate, re-drilling is not a DIY option.

 

What about the SME312S? A magnesium tonearm and £2k less than the V12, but nearly identical. It had to be, but...new armboard needed.

So, after some internet detective work, I contacted the very helpful Brian Hatch at Aqua-Dynamics in St. Albans (also a turntable fan) who agreed to cut a new arm board from slate.  He machines parts for Formula 1 with his impressive water-jet lathe, so I knew accuracy wasn’t going to be a problem, though it’s a bit counterintuitive to think of a jet of water going through 300mm of slate. We later went to granite, as the available slate tended to fracture. He produced the finished article without any fuss, and went back to his worm gears and interlocking Gym flooring - all in a day’s work.

 

So now we mount the SME 312S, align the cartridge, (overhang perfect!) and let the Garrard 401 warm up (any deja-vu here, Noel?). Result - majestic sound stage, superbly controlled and tuneful bass, effortlessly transparent and detailed images.  Eurythmics and David Oistrakh never sounded so good!

 

Now the puzzle. The cartridge won’t track 18dB anymore. Any thoughts?

 

Just one more relevant factor. I have used two other alignment protractors, which both give a better result than the supplied protractor. All three have the same null points, (65mm and 120mm) but the 15dB test tone is faintly unstable with the SME set-up. Perhaps the cartridge doesn’t quite sit square in the headshell, which SME requires. However, neither setting can cope with the 18dB test tone.

Dave Clewlow

 

 

 

sme-312stonearm

 

Why won't my new SME312S arm cope with a +18dB test track, asks Dave Clewlow.

 

 

Providing your test disc is flat, I would expect the 12in arm to behave like any other. However, if there are any undulations then the greater effective mass of the SME312S may well introduce mistracking on the down side of a warp, when the cartridge is at its limit on a torture track. There’s no harm in taking the Kontrapunkt b up to its VTF limit of 2.7gms if you feel clearing +18dB is important. Otherwise, stick to Ortofon’s recommendation of 2.5gm and don’t worry about it, providing you do not hear mistracking in use.

 

I’m happy to use an SME312S on my Garrard 401; I love the smooth sound of a 12in arm and SME’s is gorgeous. I don’t want to be cruel but my Ortofon Kontrapunkt b departed long, long ago, replaced by an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze, which has a beautifully sunny, upbeat tonality. Go on – your lovely turntable set up deserves it! NK

 

 

FILM FAILURE

I was recently emailed by the PA of a British film producer, and he wanted some advice on updating his vinyl playing and tape system. I enquired as to what type of tape was he interested in, as reel-to-reel decks went the way of the dinosaur some years ago, despite a second-hand market satisfying some enthusiasts. Or was it cassette, the choice being severely limited to Tascam and possibly Sony?

 

Several e-mails later I had sent lists of mid to high end vinyl deck and cartridge manufacturers and details of Tascam

across, and had established that money was no object in the selection and procurement of products. I explained the

need for a good phono preamp, about the difference between magnetics and moving coils, and then even suggested they

should consider the entire system, speakers, amplifier/preamps, etc.

 

Listening to audio was an important recommendation, as only then could you be sure as to what you liked and didn’t like,

as there are differences in the sound, warmth and other characteristics of vinyl decks, preamps and other equipment, not forgetting speakers.

A month passed, and my PA friend thanked me for saving him hours and hours of work with my notes and equipment listings. They really liked the look of the Linn deck, but felt that his boss wouldn’t probably use it enough in his busy schedule which takes him across the world as a producer, so they went in the end for a Project USB turntableand combined Tascam CD/tape cassette deck.

 

I had mixed feelings here. On one hand, I was pleased to be of assistance and telling them what was around as regards equipment, the differences between moving coil and moving magnet and other aspects of audio, and here was someone that had the sky the limit as regards funds, unlike most of us, but in the end he went for convenience over sound quality. And yet, this producer has produced recent films with some of the highest audio quality in the auditorium of the cinema.

 

apple-ipod-classic-final

 

 

Have we moved so far across to the iPod generation and convenience, that it is by-passing audio quality more and more? says Ronald Koorm.    (PICTURE COURTESY OF APPLE)

 

So, I ask myself, have we moved so far across to the iPod generation and convenience, that it is by-passing audio quality more and more? There will always be audio enthusiasts, of course, just as there will be Eddie Stobart enthusiasts and people who collect old radios, yet our problem is that we are on a never-ending technology roller-coaster, which has now blurred into mobile phones, TV’s, streaming of audio, Internet systems, and so on.

Good vinyl never ceases to amaze me. Even my wife said the other day after listening to my Gyrodec: ‘there’s something about the sound of vinyl records, it’s better than CD but I’m not sure why!”

 

My point is that if the convenience thing in audio has filtered up to those with serious wealth, then the market for conventional hi-fi audio is severely limited. I do know a hi-fi dealer that installs serious audio on private yachts and had a client enquiry the other week, (I heard half the conversation in the shop), as to whether he would be interested in installing an audio system in his new house yet to be built, as he intended to demolish the existing house and rebuild it, mainly for incorporating a state of the art hi-fi system!

 

So we have extremes at both ends of the market, but more and more are taking the easier option of convenience over quality of sound. The BBC are doing it with DAB radio.

 

roberts-recordr

 

Roberts Record R radio records to SD card but does not erase except on a computer with a card reader.

 

Finally, I recently purchased a Roberts RecordR DAB radio which records to an SD card. I was shocked to find that you can’t actually delete recorded tracks, at least not without accessing a computer. As they are pushing HC SD cards on the radio, you need a modern PC which is compatible with HC cards, or an adapter to read the cards. Nowhere is this mentioned in the instructions, manual, packaging, so it’s a bit like buying a tape recorder and having to take it to a specialist to delete a track that you recorded in error or for some other reason. I know most people now have a computer/laptop, but that’s not the point. No way can you adjust the bit rate of the recording. I have a very basic mobile phone, but you can still delete songs without a computer.

 

Both my handheld digital recorders by different manufacturers allow me to delete tracks without a PC and to also set the bit rate and format. The very helpful Roberts technical helpline said I was more technical than most of their customers! Not sure whether to take this as a compliment or as an insult for the other customers !

 

I feel this is all about identifying a target price for the radio and designing/building it to meet that target price and margin, irrespective of the needs of the customer. The same is happening to a degree with most other products and services.

 

Just try and contact the Health and Safety Executive now - they don’t want e-mails or phone calls or people contacting them, it seems, based on my own experiences recently. A worrying trend. Only by challenging the manufacturers and retailers will the customer’s voice be heard.

Ronald Koorm

Harrow

Middlesex


 

hd-track

HD Tracks are steadily re-releasing a stream of analogue albums in high resolution digital, both 24/96 and 24/192 PCM.

 

 

Sound track quality is such an important aspect of film production that it occupies a team of specialists, who use techniques quite different to those who are behind the cameras. A film producer is unlikely to get too involved I suspect; he is there to manage the project rather than get buried in the challenging complexities of live recording, or subsequent dubbing. Pity that some of what goes on hasn’t seeped through to him though.

 

On the “roller coaster” I am glad we are at last seeing a way ahead for good quality audio that doesn’t involve filling the lounge with loudspeakers! Surround-sound from Blu-ray seems to be another bum idea hatched up by a consortium of manufacturers out of touch with worldly realities and too keen to promote their own business. I personally love AV and surround-sound but the wires and the technology! When I sit on the settee with three remotes in front of me, for TV, Blu-ray and AV receiver, sending layers of instructions out to the components just to get them to work properly, the madness of it all is obvious.

 

And then of course, little music is available on Blu-ray and the silver disc is no use to anyone on the move.

 

Hardly surprising people have fled the silver disc in favour of the convenience of downloads to an iPod. Bring on high quality downloads; they are really what we have been waiting for, and then we will bless the day the iPod arrived. NK

 

 

 

 

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