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August 2012 Issue
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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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