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August 2012 Issue
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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.


Gary Marinko,


Western Australia.





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.





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




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







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




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



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.






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



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