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October 2012 Issue
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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






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

plinths. Take a look at their website


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  

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.


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