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October 2012 Issue
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World mail October 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, reviewerRT Rafael Todes, reviewer (Allegri String Quartet);  DC Dave Cawley, Sound Hi-Fi, World Design, etc.

 


 

Funk FXRII  "makes it very clear that most of this warmth is massive colouration from the tonearm" says Dean.

 

IN A FUNK

We all understand the update process right! First comes a sneaky dissatisfaction with our listening experience, followed by a visit to your trusted retailer to articulate your problem. He then suggests some possible upgrades that you demo and after usually a short while you categorise the update as either; a worthwhile improvement for the price, a worthwhile improvement but not at the price, or not much of an improvement. 

This has been my personal experience of upgrading for the last forty years. However, I recently tried out a piece of equipment that refused to be categorised until I resolved a crisis, of its making, in my understanding of what music is, and my relationship to it; let me set the scene.

I have been a music lover, and hence audiophile for over forty years, and in that time I have reluctantly moved to digital media. Having said that, my Chord Electronics Blu and DAC64 combination creates great analogue-like musicality, for digital that is. 

On the analogue side I have had many turntable combinations including twenty years with a Linn LP12. A couple of years ago I got rid of my LP12 (don’t ask), but eventually succumbed once again to the desire for that vinyl sound. Fortunately Matt of New Model Audio, who has been helping me through the hi-fi maze for many years, supplied me with a very heavily breathed on Rega RP3...and a half that he had built. 

To my ears I was astounded to find that it sounded far more musical and even handed than my LP12 and Ittok LVII, which is a result for £500! Anyway I settled down for a long and meaningful relationship with my successful upgrade. But – and its the but we all know – after a while I wanted a bit more from the sound; here we go again! 

I returned to Matt for a chat and he suggested that I tried the Funk FXRII. Now as a man gets older his wallet tightens (it’s about the only thing that does) and a grand or so for a tonearm! I can’t afford that! But, as usual temptation got the better of me and a few days later Matt turned up to fit the arm for a home demo; sound familiar? 

Once fitted Matt put on Suzanne Vega's Luka and wow – I was completely underwhelmed! The music sounded insubstantial and light, where had the weight gone? Yet there was sweetness, rhythm and detail that I had not been conscious of before. Matt added a bit of tracking weight and suggested I just had a listen and wisely he beat a hasty retreat. So, let the crisis commence.

Part of me knew that the sound that was now being channelled from my Goldring G1042 cartridge, through my Korora phono stage, to my Chord SPM 2600 and out of my Tannoy TD8 speakers was in every way far superior to that using my standard RB301. But the sound was more like my Blu and DAC64; that is, more digital! And yet there was a massive increase in the sweetness, roundness and wholeness that I associate with vinyl. 

This did not compute and I found this situation all very unsettling. Part of my mind was in a confused state as opposed to fully processing what I was hearing, but I was conscious that what I was hearing was somehow, ‘right’. I kept playing album after album and although enjoying the experience I was not emotionally fully engaged with the music. I also found that my emotional response varied much more with each album than it had ever done before. It seemed that my mind needed more data to work a few things out. Then after acquiring enough input I had my epiphany! I realized that for the last forty years my perception of the characteristic vinyl sound has been misguided.

Vinyl has always had a warmth to it that I have grown to find inviting and appealing, and for  me it enhanced the nostalgia that listening to vinyl can elicit; this was an acceptable part of my musical experience. 

The problem is that the Funk makes it very clear that most of this warmth is massive colouration from the tonearm that pervades the entire frequency range. With this revelation the warmth transmuted to a stodginess that restricted the music from breathing and expanding fully in space and time. The sound emanating from my system was vastly superior to anything I had ever heard, but was it better music? 

The truth is that I was mourning the passing of that comfort blanket of warmth, behind which musical truth lay. Music was being laid bare in a way I had never experienced. There was still intimacy, but only when conveyed by the artist or the production values of the recording. Up to that point I had a preconception of what I expected vinyl to sound like and now I was hearing something that was in part its antithesis.

Some of my albums became a little disappointing, whilst others were a revelation. I also found that if I actively listened to the music then the pros vastly outweighed the cons. But if I strayed into a more background music mode then I wasn’t dragged into the music like the old RB301 days. Quite frankly it was an extraordinary musical and psychological experience.

I have read some critiques of the FXRII that in some ways support my views. Some have said it can lack musicality, or be too clinical and I can empathise with such views. However I think it is doing the genius of the Funk a dis-service to not work fully through my issues. I had to accept that the normal process of upgrading was broken and I had to ask myself some searching questions.

Firstly I had to accept that the astounding precision and delicacy of the Funk was highlighting limitations in my very impressive, but budgetary challenged Firestone Korora and G1042. And given the cost of the Funk I would be unlikely to upgrade either component in the near future. Can I live with this? Oh yes.

For me, one of the aspects of being an audiophile that I have not questioned for a very long time is ‘musical truth’. It is important to me that what I hear is as near to how the artists want to convey their music as is possible. This means that I want to hear what they have to say and not what my system wants me to hear, and there is no doubt in my mind that the Funk lives up to this ideal.

So can I go back to my RB301. Probably, but there would be an ever growing part of me that wanted greater musical truth and just more of everything, and that’s Funk territory. So being a complex adaptive system I have decided to stick with it and adapt to my environment, because I am aware that my appreciation of vinyl replay is changing, for the better. At the end of the day I can’t stop listening to my albums to see what they really sound like and to be honest, in most cases I am still a little confused, but totally awestruck.

The few professional reviews of the Funk that I have seen have poured praise on this tonearm, but these are critiques by audiophiles who have lived with high end vinyl replay for years and have become accustomed to this paradigm shift in what the vinyl sound is. However, for most of us who enjoy our mid-fi turntables this is a complete revelation. So, yes I whole heartedly recommend that you demo the FXRII, but please have a home demo and give it the time it deserves, and be aware that it may just play with your head!

Regards,

Dean Marshall

 

That’s an interesting experience Dean. But you do need to move up from a Goldring 1042 and the Korora. I strongly suggest you peruse our budget Moving Coil cartridge group test in the May 2012 issue, also on our website www.hi-fiworld.co.uk, bearing in mind that a solid low end performance might restore balance. Perhaps the new Audio Technica AT OC9 MLIII would suit. NK

 

MINI CHOICE

I was a bit disappointed that you chose to review the Usher Dancer Mini-One rather than the Mini-Two in the March 2012 issue of HI-FI World. I agree that there is a treble bias in this speaker, but it is possible that the larger cone area dedicated to the lower frequencies in the Mini-Twos (they have two woofers, in contrast to the one woofer in the Mini-Ones) might have provided a better frequency balance. One finds that the D’Appollito WTW array typically civilizes aggressive tweeters in many speakers and this arrangement in the Mini-Two might be the perfect salve for the rather dominant quality of the Usher Diamond tweeter. Is there a chance of reviewing the Mini-Two in the near future to test this hypothesis? 

Ron Levine

Philadelphia  

USA

 

 

 

Usher Mini-Two is the one you should have reviewed, says Ron Levine.

 

Hi Ron. Thanks for your letter. We sent it to Usher in Taiwan and your prayers have been answered: a pair are being run in right now and are on their way to us soon. Hopefully, they will make the next (November 12) issue. 

Like many modern loudspeakers, Ushers use homogenous synthetic materials for better sound quality, so they need a lot of running in – 100-200 hours no less. This eases the brightness. Having said that although their Diamond tweeter measures flat (i.e. peak free) across the audio band, there is some smooth accentuation of treble toward high frequencies in the Mini-One. This can be seen in their frequency response published on the website, www.hi-fiworld.co.uk at Loudspeakers/Reviews/Usher Dancer Mini-One. The steady lift will ensure the Mini-One is ‘obviously detailed’, shall we say. A small lift like this can be ameliorated by pointing the speakers straight down the room so they are listened to off-axis, and the balance suits well furnished rooms where curtains and carpet etc absorb reflected treble energy. Hence the decryption ‘obviously detailed’ rather than ‘bright’! It depends upon circumstance with a lift as small as this. By current standards the Mini-One is not overly bright; there are plenty of loudspeakers out there with far stronger treble.  

As you suggest, two woofers in D’Appollito arrangement may well alter the perceived balance and make the Mini-Two seem more balanced, but of course you pay more too. NK

 

AMP RESEARCH

Help – what do I do, get Icon Audio MB854 Mk IIs or an Audio Research VS115? It doesn’t look like I will be able to get a home demo (or any demo actually) of either of them.

Current system is Benchmark DAC HDR feeding Beard P35 power amp feeding Pro-AC Response 1.5s. Sounds really good but I think that it could be beaten by one of the two power amps. What do you think?

All the best,

Paul Hayes

 

That is a really difficult one Paul. Both the VS115 and the MB845 MkII (now MkIIm) monoblocks offer nominally 100 Watts per channel and both have big dynamics, with great bass control. Of the two, the Audio Research has tighter bass, because it has a higher damping factor. However, the MB845 MkIIs go very low, so the distinction between them is a fine one. The VS115 has clear, bright higher frequencies, where the MB845 MkII is a tad softer and easier going. However, the big graphite anodes of the 845 tubes, the massive output transformers and huge power supply of the Icon amp ensure a big, meaty sound that injects real body and timbal richness into music - delicious. Both are tube muscle amps that will shake the room and send transistor amps scurrying for cover. They deliver music with vast scale: you will be impressed. The VS115 has transistors in it and is closest to a tranny amp with cojones, as it were. The MB845 MkII is more expansive in its sound staging and general presentation. 

Cost wise there is little in it when it comes to tube replacement / rolling. You are looking at around £100/channel. 

Sorry not to be able to make a choice for you. But you know, its like choosing between Catherine Zeta Jones or Rachel Weisz isn’t it? NK

 

The new Icon Audio MB845 MkIIm amplifier has circuit updates and some

trad. meters - lovely! It uses 845 transmitter triodes to deliver 110 Watts.

 

 

 

 

Audio Research VS115 uses big KT120 tubes in output pairs to deliver

120 Watts. This is a U.S. muscle amp.

 


ANGLE ISSUE

As Allen Edelstein says (Letters, August 2012), changing the vertical tracking force (VTF) of a pickup also changes its vertical tracking angle (VTA), so this could be responsible for changes in sound quality. He should note that if the pickup arm has an underslung counterweight, the converse is also true: raising or lowering the arm to adjust VTA will also change the VTF. Therefore either VTA or VTF could be responsible for changes in sound quality. Mr Edelstein believes that it is VTA, not VTF, which is important – but where is his evidence? The fact that his theory was published in Stereophile 30 years ago does not mean it is true.

Some basic information:

* record cutter VTA: 22 degrees

* Ortofon 2M VTA: 22-23 degrees;

* Goldring 2400 VTA: 32 degrees;

* Baerwald alignment lateral tracking angle error with 229mm arm: +1.9/-1.1 degrees.

 

The VTA changes caused by small changes in VTF or arm height are simple to calculate:

* 0.1g VTF change: VTA change 0.19 degrees (cartridge with 20mm/N compliance and 6mm cantilever);

* 1mm arm height change: VTA change 0.25 degrees (229mm arm).

 

If up to 2 degrees error in lateral tracking angle (which is more important than VTA, as it affects centre images) is acceptable and if cartridges may have inherent VTA errors of up to 10 degrees, how can a 0.2 degree VTA change have a significant effect on sound quality? 

If tonal balance is affected by changing tracking weight (which it is), the reasons must lie elsewhere - e.g. changes in generator alignment and compression of the rubber in the cantilever suspension. 

If Mr Edelstein wishes to continue to argue that VTA, not VTF, is responsible, he needs to come up with a scientific explanation for what he thinks is happening. When raising or lowering his arm pivot height to adjust VTA, he should also take care to rebalance the arm and reset the VTF. He may well find that when this is done the changes sound quality disappear, showing that they were caused by the change in VTF, not VTA.

Yours sincerely,

Alasdair Beal

 

Er - yes, Alasdair. As you note when changes in VTA are calculated they are minuscule. However, there are so many variables in this mix that I tend not to try and get too scientifically reductionist about it. The LP was a very ad-hoc analogue storage mechanism that sort-of got beaten into shape after it was invented – a strange way of doing things by modern standards, if one still in action today with the motor car. Vinyl LPs suffer an effect Benjamin Bauer of CBS Labs termed “lacquer springback” after cutting and this also makes actual mod slant angle of the groove approximate. Metal masters helped control this, but introduced other problems. It does seem that if a cartridge measures well it sounds half decent, but test discs are variable in themselves, making absolute accuracy is elusive. The LP is a gloriously approximate piece of plastic that I like to enjoy rather than get too serious about.NK

 

DE-MAGNETISE

Should I de-magnatize my 20 year old Clearaudio Signature Cartridge? If ‘yes’, then how should it be done? There is much conflicting advice on this subject and any help would be very welcome.

Stan Abrahams,

Ditchling, 

Sussex

 

Clearaudio say -

We do not recommend demagnetising our moving coil cartridges. Demagnetising a moving coil cartridge changes the magnetic field inside the cartridge which in some cases may be an improvement but not in others.  If you wish to experiment then by no means use any type of device that sends any current through the coils as this may destroy the very delicate 24 carat gold coils and permanently damage the cartridge.

Robert Suchy: President, Clearaudio

 

CLEAN SWEEP

When cleaning records with Knosti’s Disco Antistat, I’ve found a few fairly cheap extra items can help. First of all I clean the records using a carbon fibre brush. This gets rid of a lot of dirt on used records. Anything more stubborn at this stage I wipe with isopropanol on a cotton wool bud.

A litre of fluid is fine for two Antistat baths. Rather than mix used fluid with new I use old fluid bottles or something collapsible/airtight like a cycling water bottle for the used. (See figure 1). This I label.

The supplied filter papers leave something to be desired so I use coffee filters, which are much more effective at filtering record dirt. These are held in a stainless steel sieve (99p for a set of three). Normally I use the four cup size in a larger sieve, placed over a 2L plastic jug (99p for set of two.) Figure 1 shows the 2-cup filter. This not only provides a better filtering system, but makes it a lot easier to empty the Antistat bath without spillage. In this way the fluid stays clean enough to be used up to ten times, though by then I’d say it has lost its antistat properties and becomes more or a cleaning fluid. Still useful for improving not too important purchases though. Filters, sieves and jug are kept for the purpose.

While the records are drying I repair covers using a glue-stick or even sticky tape. When dry the clean records go into new sleeves.

One record I cleaned today was a 10-inch one of Songs by Tom Lehrer. Inside the cover I found a concert programme (Figure 2) for his show at the Royal Festival Hall on 29 June 1960. It’s a small booklet which cost one shilling and contains adverts, including one for a record of the show by him, in ‘super satirical stereo’ from Decca. Quite a bonus and something to treasure.

best wishes,

Melvyn Dover

Weymouth

Dorset

 

These items help keep LPs clean, says Melvyn Dover.

 

 

 

... and here is what fell out of an old LP sleeve. 

 

TRAD GARRARD 

Bubinga plinth, all internal spaces fully damped. Check out the brass inlay logo across the front... Its at Innovation Audio in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. Excellent vintage retailer with fab repair/restore facility. Proprietor is one Gord Stauck. A rare resource in this part of the world. 

Andy Smith

Canada

 

 

"Old school" audio on the shelves of Innovative Hi-Fi in British Columbia,

Canada. Looks better than new school, doesn't it?

 

Like the picture Andy - thanks. Innovative Audio (www.iavscanada.com) has some tasty items on its shelves. I was bemused by Sonos labelling this as “old school hi-fi” (see p60) in contrast to their wi-fi connected all-in-one systems. How perceptions change. Whilst we are on promotion of specialist hi-fi services on the American sub-continent, Woodsong Audio, Sandpoint, Idaho USA (www.woodsongaudio.com) also make some lovely looking turntable plinths in a wide range of woods. I’ll stay with old school! NK


HARSH DOWN UNDER

I have been a sporadic reader of your publication for about 15 years and have kept many issues that I like to refer back to when I feel it’s time for a change/upgrade to my system. It all stared back in 1995 (issue Vol.5 No.3) with a comparison review you did on Thorens TD124 and Garrard 401. This article had stuck in my mind and a couple of years ago I wandered past a local hi-fi store, got chatting and they just happened to have a well looked after MkI which I promptly purchased. I have since had the unit checked and serviced by a local expert and have installed a Rega RB301 tone arm. 

I recently upgraded my amplifier from an ageing pair of Musical Fidelity XA-50 monnblocks with X-pre and X-LP to the well-reviewed Icon Audio Stereo 40 MkIII (having always wanted to try valve amplification). Current speakers are Tannoy Revolution R2, speaker cables are Nordost flat line. Not sure on interconnects as they were supplied by the dealer but I assume OK quality. I have also purchased an Icon Audio PS2 phono stage. I alternate between a Goldring 1042 and Ortofon 2M Black cartridge.

OK, so to my dilemma. Since upgrading to the Icon Audio amp whilst I can hear a fantastic difference in the whole presentation of the music from soundstage and detail to the overall shape of the sound the treble is very harsh. Unbearable in fact on most tracks, limiting my listen levels so as not to offend my ears. My musical taste is mainly 60’s pop/rock and modern alternative. 

I am chasing your help on what path I should go on to relieve this. I feel the speakers may be to blame so an upgrade is on the cards. I really do like the Tannoy presentation and recently audition a pair of DC6T signatures and did like the sound. However I am still worried about the treble harshness. I do like floorstanders and room size is 9m x 5 m firing across the lesser width. Could the treble issues caused by a bad synergy between the amp and speakers? The treble was fine with the X-A50s. Or should I look elsewhere within the system? I have a budget of approx. 1500 UKP to play with. My musical taste is mainly 60’s pop rock and modern alternative.

Many thanks in advance,

Anthony Hurd

Sydney 

Australia

 

 

 

Idaho, USA, boasts Woodsong Audio, who also make some lovely turntable

plinths. Take a look at their website 

www.woodsongaudio.com.

 

Harsh treble from an Icon Audio Stereo 40 MkII is hard to understand, so I asked Icon Audio to respond – see below. Even if pushed into overload valve amps like this one don’t become harsh, rather they thicken up and become congested. The Tannoy R2s are unlikely to become harsh either. I wonder whether there might be a fault in the amp. To check this you need to listen to each channel in turn to see if one is different to the other, or go back to your dealer and listen to another sample on the premises to see if it sounds different. If it does then you need to return the amp to be checked. I presume you have tried using the 4 Ohm output, as this will probably give best results.

It could just be that you are grossly overloading the amp by playing at very high volume. If so, take a look at the Epos Elan 45 loudspeakers reviewed in this issue. A vast sensitivity figure of 92dB SPL from 1 Watt means they’ll give enormous volume from 40 Watts. I listened to these speakers for a few days and they really are very impressive. Perhaps they will be available in Sydney soon. Big Tannoys are sensitive too, so you may well try DC6Ts, but this will not solve your problem I feel. NK

 

Dave Denyer, on behalf of Icon Audio, says –

Harshness is certainly not a trait that I’d associate with the Icon Audio Stereo 40 MkIII so I wonder if it may be revealing shortcomings elsewhere in the system that were masked by the Musical Fidelity. Areas I would investigate are the Rega arm / arm board interface and the speaker cables. Personally, I find the sound of Rega arms to be hard and glassy when mounted on metal or acrylic arm boards, although it think it works superbly in other situations (such as on a Rega turntable). 

The Nordost cable is certainly forward in its presentation so while it may have matched the Musical Fidelity it may just be too much with the Icon Audio.

However I do have to agree that the amp may be being massively over-driven: by UK standards 5m x 9m is quite a large room and the 6 ohm Tannoys can present quite an awkward load.  I would suggest comparing the sound from the 4 ohm and 8 ohm outputs on the Stereo 40 MkII, as one may sound much better than the other.  

If further investigation does indicate that the harshness is due to the amplifier being over driven then there are only two real solutions; a more efficient, and easily driven pair of speakers such as the Epos, or a bigger amplifier.  The Icon Audio Stereo 60 MkIII should provide a lot more ‘welly’ and be within budget if the Stereo 40 MkII is traded in. If you can arrange a home trial of this and the problem remains then it does imply that it is elsewhere.

The Australian distributor is Decibel H-Fi 

http://www.decibelhifi.com.au  

Tel: +61 07 3344 5756,  Contact: Brian Maddern

 

 

 

 

Icon Audio Stereo 60 produces more power and will go louder than a Stereo 40. 

 

 

 

 

Garrard 301 in Bubinga plinth with lovely Garrard logo across the front.


DITTON DELIGHT

I’d just like to say how much I enjoyed Haden Boardman’s article in August‘s issue, about the Celestion Ditton 15 loudspeaker. This took me right back to the late sixties. Having heard my Scout troop chaplain’s Grundig system of separates, when such things were just coming into vogue in 1957, I was bowled over by the sound and wanted a hi-fi system of my own. All I could afford was the inexpensive end of Philip’s ‘Audio Plan’ range, which I became fed up with after just a couple of months, although I had to persevere with it until I could afford something better. 

A kind local dealer commiserated, told me the Audio Plan wasn’t real hi-fi, and he introduced me to the system that must have sold in its thousands... An Armstrong 521 amplifier, GL75 turntable with Shure M75 cartridge... and a pair of original Ditton 15s. I was blown away by this system, and it stayed with me until I got into upgrade mode and worked upwards through a range of bigger Dittons, right up to the huge 66. None of them satisfied me like the 15s. Then I discovered Naim, in its infancy at the time, and 40 years later I own their top kit, which constantly thrills me to bits.

Interestingly though, when my wife and I bought a tiny seaside cottage a while back, built in the late 18th century, I decided to re-create the listening experiences of my youth in it. Carefully watching that well known auction site, I gathered exactly the same system I originally had, although it took me three goes to get an Armstrong in truly mint condition. It’s fascinating to listen to the system that got me into a lifetime’s love of hi-fi and good musical reproduction, and though a world away from what the Naim kit achieves, those ubiquitous Ditton 15s certainly didn’t earn their reputation for nothing. I wonder if any bits of Philip’s Audio Plan still exist out there....

Yours sincerely,

Mike Kent 

 

 

 

Celestion Ditton article by Haden Boardman took Mike Kent back to the 1960s.

 

DENSEN DELIBERATION

In Hi-Fi World February 2012 Tony Bolton reviews the Densen B-110+ integrated amplifier alongside the Audiolab 8200A. The B-110+ is several times referred to as being a Class D amplifier, and the conclusion mentions that it doesn’t quite sound like that, quote “Unlike a number of Class D amplifiers it was eminently ‘listenable’ and enjoyable, with little sign of digital ‘screech’ or hardness common with such amplifiers”.

  This is highly understandable as the B-110+ is indeed not a Class D amplifier :-) In fact, Densen doesn’t make amplifiers with Class D technology, which the owner Thomas Sillesen has also commented on a Danish hi-fi forum.

  How did you (Tony Bolton) get the impression that the B-110+ is Class D? I don’t think this has been discussed yet, in later issues, but I might of course have overlooked it – in that case I apologize for the inconvenience.

  Thanks for a great magazine, and please continue the focus on vinyl - it simply is more fun :-)

Best regards,

Kim Petersen

Denmark

 

 

Densen B110+ is not Class D says Kim Petersen Denmark. He's

right – it is a Class AB, but it measured like a D.

 

 

Yes, you are right Kim. We got the impression it was Class D because it measured like one – which is to say, not very well. And it stayed cool. Most Class Ds suffer violent changes of transfer function, modulating their distortion pattern severely and this is what the review sample B-110+ did on the test bench. 

The B-175 reviewed in this issue, by way of contrast, was completely stable in its distortion pattern. As they likely use the same Class AB output stage configuration it may be that our B-110+ was a bad sample as the differences bewteen them are peculiar. NK

 

LONG ARM

I am putting together my dream hi-fi system and so far I have purchased a brand new pair of B&W 802 Diamonds (still in their boxes) and an Amazon Referenz Turntable. I have decided on a Graham Phantom II Supreme B-44 tonearm but I am confused about arm lengths. What do you recommend for this turntable?

  At this stage I am thinking Sutherland Hubble or Carey PH302Mk2 phono stage. I was after an Ortofon A90 cartridge but I think they are impossible to find now so I am thinking Koetsu Onyx or Coralstone, Vitus Audio SCD-101 or Wadia 580sei.

Plinius Tautoro pre amp. either 2x Plinius Ref A Power Amps or I can get 2x ex Demo Cary FA500-1 Mono Blocs.

I haven’t heard the Cary mono blocs but I have heard the Plinus gear over several hours at my friends place. He has a Wadia 380Se playing through a Tautoro into a RefA into a pair of new Matin Logan Electrostatics. Simply stunning sound. Playing XRCDs through this system via that Wadia was amazing. I couldn’t believe a CD player was capable of producing that sort of quality. He also has an Amazon 2  with a Moerch tonearm and a Sutherland PHD phono stage. I don’t know what the cartridge is but it is a German MC.

  There is something else I have learnt through my friends system and that is what a difference there is between cables. Over the past 4-5 months we have played around with a lot of different brands and price brackets of interconnects. In both RCA and XLR. I must admit I was a disbeliever and sceptic in the beginning. But not any more: I was amazed at the differences between brands and sometimes between types within the same brands. We even did blindfold testing so we couldn’t cheat. 

For his system Nordost came out a clear winner every time. It has made me think twice about cables and I will be doing exhaustive testing with my system when I get it all together before I purchase any cables. The past few months have taught me a very valuable lesson. Your interconnects and speaker cables can make or break your system no matter whether it’s a budget hi-fi or a dream h-fi system. So be careful and try several before you buy for your system. They really do make that much of a difference.

Cheers,

John Williams 

Aukland

New Zealand

 

 

 

The Amazon Reference turntable will accept arms up to 12in long. Should

I use a 9in or 10in Graham Phantom II Supreme B-44 tonearm, asks John Williams?

 

Longer arms reduce tracking error and the distortion that arises from it.  However, they are usually less stiff than short arms. Sonically, I find long arms in general sound smooth and rich, whilst short arms sound fast and grippy. As the Phantom comes in 9in and 10in lengths I am unsure how different they will sound, as the length difference isn’t great and I have not heard them. Personally, I’d go for the 10in, because I swopped to a 12in SME long, long ago and prefer a long arm. They are also a bit weightier of course (i.e. higher effective mass at the headshell) and better suit MC cartridges, rather than compliant MMs. I hope that helps. NK


ON TRACK

I am a little confused by Dave Clewlow’s letter re the setting up of an SME V tonearm. I use an SME V on my Garrard 401, I also use the Hi-Fi News test disc. As far as I’m aware, the 18dB tone is a setting for bias compensation and all the trackability bands are at 15dB which he mentions later in the letter. 

    After working my way through endless protractors, I now only use the Clearaudio gauge on the 65mm setting which Clearaudio recommend and this gives superb results with my Denon DL304 cartridge. When listening for tracking errors I always listen via headphones. 

With respect to bias, don’t rely on the dial setting, always set the bias using the 16dB (Band 8 on the disc). This will help trackability. The 18dB bias setting cannot be reproduced cleanly. Also I am not convinced that the test tones on the producers cut version have been cut cleanly, they seem to be much better on the first generation (blue cover) version of the disc.

Regards,

Michael Bickley

 

 

The Graham Phantom II Supreme B-44 tonearm that attracts John Williams.

 

 

GET IT STRAIGHT

I would like you to help me sort out a problem I put myself into with buying a new cartridge for probably outdated turntable and tonearm, i.e. a Benz Micro Ace SL for a Thorens TD 160 super with Mayware Formula IV tone arm that I bought second hand some years ago when I wanted to listen to my vinyl records collection again. I have to say that I am in fact very happy with the sound of the new cartridge compared to the Goldring Eroica that was originally fitted with the Mayware, and even compared with my CD player. But I am nonetheless worried that this arm would be too light for the Benz, even with the optimum settings (the Mayware is a variable mass design), and would be bettered by a more recent device anyway. Could you recommend an arm that would be good enough for the cartridge and allow me a possible turntable upgrade in the future? I thought of a Jelco 750, or maybe a Moerch UP 4, which is also an unipivot but with a possibility to chose between different mass arm wands. What do you think?  

Main system: Marantz CD 14 and PM 14, Kef Reference Two.

Thanks in advance,

Marc Lucas 

Liège 

Belgium

 

 

 

An Audiomods Rega arm would suit the Thorens TD160 turntable of Marc Lucas.

 

The straight tube 250T Jelco is far more rigid than the S tube arms. However, with a Benz Micro Ace SL a Rega RB301 arm would be a better choice I feel. It’s rigid, one piece construction, standard dimensions and light weight make it suitable for the TD160, and it suits the Benz too. Look at the Audiomods Regas for some idea on how to move forward here, or you could just get an RB7001000, according to budget. Standard Regas work very well and tuned ones give great results and are 

fine value. NK

 

MOVING UP

I have a Rega P3-24 with TT-PSU and since then I have upgraded the Elys cartridge to Goldring 1022 and managed to find a Quad QC24P for a bargain price which solved my phono stage dilemma. Both upgrades have been significant improvements and I am really enjoying my vinyl. But I have been bitten by the upgrade bug and as much as I am enjoying it I can’t help feeling that I am just starting to glimpse the potential of the format and want to see how much further it can go.

Previous advice you gave was on a logical upgrade path - part of which I have now done as above. The next step is either to upgrade the arm or possibly to wait a little longer and upgrade the turntable. So my questions are;

 

1) Which will make the most difference - an upgraded turntable (say Gyro-Dec level) with the RB301 off my current deck or an improved arm (possibly Audiomods, Audio Origami, Origin Live or Inspire) on my current P3 - budget demands that upgrades will be staggered.

2) Of the arms mentioned have you any advice on their respective characteristics because I assume it may not be possible to audition them as many are made to order? Are there other arms I should consider and what sort of level should I be looking at to match up with a potential turntable upgrade (see below)

 

3) At least turntables should be possible to audition. I have always been interested in a Gyro-Dec, but Nottingham Analogue and Origin Live also look interesting. A realistic budget is £1,500 to £2,000 for the turntable but I am also interested in any other decks you think really should at least be auditioned because if the improvements are big enough, I would prefer to wait and buy the best I can.

 

The intention is for the arm and turntable upgrades to be definitive ones in my system. I may revisit cartridges again at some point but I would like to find my final arm and turntable and ideally for them to be well matched even though I will have to do them separately so there will be perhaps a significant period where there may be more of a mismatch so advice on what to consider and which is best to upgrade first would be much appreciated.

Many thanks,

Bob Smythe

 

 

 

I have upgraded to a Quad QC24P phono stage says Bob Smythe.

What turntable should I get?

 

 

The Quad QC24P is a fine phonostage that will carry you through several upgrades in the future.  It will handle any moving coil cartridge you can think of.

A few years ago I fitted a 12” Jelco arm to a GyroDec and it was reviewed in this magazine in the April 2010 issue.  It sounded very good and but my thoughts were that an SME IV might have been more suitable.  They do make a great combination as I later discovered.  I found late night use a bit of a problem after two glasses of wine, the suspended deck is very suspended!  You could easily fit your RB301 until you can afford a SME IV.  I don’t think you would regret this decision.

Or you could consider a Technics SL-1200, the Funk Platter and the Timestep PSU.  If you get a good used one from eBay or a dealer you will find the original arm is really quite good, at least until you can go for the SME 309 as used on the Technics EVO reviewed in the July 2011 issue of Hi-Fi World.

You haven’t asked about a cartridge. Get a Benz Glider or, if you can afford it, a Transfiguration Axia would go well with any of the above.  Good luck and let us know what you decided?

Dave Cawley

Sound Hi-Fi

 

OPENLY BAFFLED

I have been attempting to match a pair of differing impedance loudspeakers to produce a balanced musical reproduction. On my baffle, measuring about 33 inches square I have centrally mounted a 12 inch Wharfedale Bass Unit (3010 102.04) of 6 Ohms impedance (ex Dovedale duty and many other branded enclosures), and slightly offset above it a Wharfedale Super 8RSDD of 10-15 ohms impedance. Simply wired together in Series with no intervening crossovers,etc.

My power amplifier gives either a 4 ohms or 8 ohms output impedance and to my ear the 8 ohms setting sounds the more balanced. Because of the difference in impedance and power handling capacities (20 watts and 6 watts respectively from their seventies specs.) should I be considering some adjusting circuitry, perhaps in front of the 8 inch unit, to ensure a better integration between them? If anything the Super 8 can be a trifle excitable or hard pressed at times.

 Any advice gratefully received along with a small diagram with values as appropriate.

Usual thanks for all you do in the World of Hi-Fi.

Regards,

Adrian Warwick

UK

 

 

 

This is how a two-way loudspeaker is configured. It may not be the best

way to marry a Wharfedale 12in bass unit to a Wharfedale 8RSDD.

 

Er – yes, this isn’t how loudspeakers are designed Adrian! Connecting the drivers in series will limit the power developed into them and cancel electrical damping, which you need on an open baffle where acoustic damping is non-existent. The usual arrangement is to run drive units in parallel, with the bass unit connected to the amplifier through a low-pass inductor and the treble unit through a high-pass capacitor – see the circuit diagram. 

In your case I suggest you connect the bass unit direct, as it will not need a low pass I suspect. To cross over at 200Hz to the 8RSDD you need to use around 100μF, using a bi-polar electrolytic. Or you may just not bother and let the 8RSDD run full range. I suspect the 12in bass unit will have far higher output than the 8RSDD, meaning bass will be excessive. However, balancing this is small baffle size of 33in, which will cancel bass progressively below 200Hz. 

It’s all a bit of a hotchpotch technically and I suspect you will end up with little low bass, plentiful high bass and recessed midband and treble. Increasing baffle size or placing it on a floor / against a side wall are tricks used to lift lower bass by increasing baffle area. There’s nothing you can do to reduce output from the 12in bass unit to match the 8RSDD other than insert low value resistors of a few ohms, but this will destroy electrical damping again. If the 8RSDD is very sensitive though, I may be wrong and the two drivers will match. It’s best to experiment and see. Have fun! NK

 
 

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