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November 2012 Issue
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World mail November 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.

 


 

 

There's a dodgy looking old brown mains lead at left and exposed mains connections. All this is unsafe says Stephen Condliffe.

 

LEAK TROUGHLINE SAFETY

I have just read the feature article about renovating a Leak Trough-Line tuner in the October 2012 issue of Hi-Fi World. I am writing since I feel it needs comment. 

I have been reading your magazine for a good number of years and I have always found the articles to be well informed and very useful. Indeed, I have bought a number of items over the years after reading the review in your magazine and then auditioning the unit. I also particularly liked the DIY Supplements that appeared in your magazine for a good number of years, but more of this later. 

I know that you place great importance in the safety of your readership, and all of your DIY articles come with an advisory notice. However, I have to say that the photograph depicting the refurbished Trough-Line tuner is an excellent example of how not to do it. I am a Lead Engineer with BAE Systems, and one of my responsibilities is reviewing product safety prior to CE marking our equipment. The Trough-Line refurbishment fails to meet safety standards in a number of key areas regarding the 230V AC mains supply to the stereo decoder board. 

The problems and possible solutions are: 

1) Whilst the mains cable is double insulated (always advisable), it is not secured to anything and may be prone to damage by contact with sharp edges or hot items. It should be restrained using P clips or cable ties to the chassis. 

2) The soldered joints to the stereo decoder board appear to be simple laid on joints with no mechanical strength. If, over the course of time the solder joint dries out and fails, it will simply fall off. The bare end of the wire is then free to come into contact with anything in the vicinity. The wire should be secured to the terminal by looping the conductor though a hole or wrapping the wire around the terminal. It may be worth changing the pins on the PCB to something more suitable. Straight PCB pins are not ideal, and the circuit board manufacturer should use something more suitable. 

3) The soldered joints are not sleeved. It is always advisable to sleeve soldered joints with rubber sleeve or heat shrink sleeve. This will prevent accidental contact and help to support the joint. 

4) If using stranded wire, it is important to ensure that it is impossible for any loose strands to come into contact with the case or other parts of the circuit. Adequate clearance is the key here. 

5) The mains connections on the circuit board are in very close proximity to the top of the enclosure. If the live wire becomes detached, it could easily come into contact with the lid. If the lid is not properly earthed, then the lid will be live! The inside of the lid should be insulated using a suitable insulating material and the earth on the lid must be checked. Use a separate earth bonding wire to achieve a low resistance earth path. 

6) It is difficult to see from the photograph, but there do not appear to be any mounting screws at the transformer end of the PCB, which may allow it to flex and come into contact with the case. Air is a perfectly good insulator, but there must be a gap of at least 6mm and the PCB must be adequately restrained. However, it is always good practice to use a suitable insulating material between exposed PCB tracks and the case. This will prevent anything loose inside the case shorting the live PCB tracks to the case. Insulating tape is NOT a suitable insulating material. Rigid PVC plastic or fibre-glass board is suitable. 

7) Again, it is not possible to see in the photograph what the wiring is like at the mains inlet, but the same rules apply. I think I would also be inclined to have a separate fuse for the stereo decoder board; the manufacturer should be able to advise you of the fuse rating. 

With a little extra work and some understanding of electrical safety, this refurbished tuner will be perfectly safe and possibly more reliable into the bargain. Always make the assumption that if it can go wrong, it probably will and you won’t go far wrong. 

On a lighter note, I would like to make a request. I mentioned at the beginning of this email that I particularly enjoyed your DIY Supplements. Is it possible for you to collate all of the articles into one volume and market them either as a printed book or a CD/DVD ROM? I have virtually all of the supplements, but need to have a clear out and it would be really nice to have them all in one compact volume. Many thanks for a great magazine.

Yours Truly,

Stephen Condliffe 

Lancashire

 

Since I did the upgrades last year, One Thing have changed the design of the decoder board slightly to make use of an external wall-wart mains transformer and therefore feed the decoder with low voltage AC via a supplied plug and chassis-mounted socket. The on-board transformer is no longer supplied. I think that will solve most of Mr Condliffes concerns. 

The mains lead was not double-insulated. The original brown twin-flex seen in the pictures was replaced with a new twin mains lead, as the original on mine did look a bit worse for wear. Of course, every Trough-Line will be in a different condition and, as I mentioned, the first job will be to get it to a fully-working mono tuner again. I didn’t want to change things too much as the purpose of the project was not to bring a Trough-Line up to modern safety standards to achieve a CE marking(!), but to get it back to sounding superb and making it stereo! 

To achieve modern safety standards, I should really have fitted an IEC socket, fitted a modern power switch, installed the whole chassis in a double-insulated case and so on. I think this would have destroyed the character of the Trough-Line. 

I never leave my house without turning my Trough-Line and my WAD 300B PSE off! 

The One Thing circuit board is well insulated around the mains side (it is not insulating tape) and a piece of plastic is also supplied (which doubles as a drilling template) that can be left in place against the metal case as an extra layer of insulation. 

Photographing all the connections after it was completely finished with all the sleeving (I’m not a great fan of rubber sleeving, I use heat shrink myself) fitted wouldn’t show much, so the photos show it in various stages of construction, which I felt would be more helpful.

I have a CD-ROM of the DIY Supplements the one that World Designs sold a while ago (and a very excellent CD it is) and I see it is still available on their web site!

Neville Roberts

 

 

 

Soldered joints should be sleeved and the cable secured, for safety. 

 

Thanks for your valubale comments Stephen. Primary safety is a big subject and old products fail miserably to meet today’s criteria. Worse, decay makes them even less safe than when originally designed. I find that old mains leads, especially when rubber insulated, decay and their internal soldered or mechanical (crimped etc) joints are commonly exposed / loose and whatever. As a bare minimum the mains lead should be replaced, the plug fuse made as small as possible (5A or possibly 3A) and earth continuity, from case to the earth pin of the mains plug, checked. 

As you explain, there any number of ways a case can become live. If it is earthed properly at least the fuse should blow. But ensuring primary safety is up to scratch in the ways you describe is the proper way to go about ensuring long term safety and reliability.

As a final note, all users of old equipment should bear in mind that decay of insulants and capacitors means you should not leave old kit switched on and unattended for a long time. When I go out I switch my Trough-Line off. I even switch my WAD 300B valve amp off! It isn’t that the amp is inherently unsafe, but that voltages are huge (500V) and currents in a short circuit condition potentially very high, enough to cause a fire. So better safe than sorry – and switch off! NK


DEPTH DIFFICULTY 

Can you recommend a sub woofer specifically for hi-fi rather than home cinema. I have a pair of Monitor Audio Gold GX50 speakers and I love them dearly, but I sometimes feel just a little more bass could enhance their ability to convey the richness and warmth of instruments such as cello, double bass, bassoon, tuba, pipe organ, etc. The Gold GXW15 is too expensive for me. I have a budget of approx. £800 and I don’t want to impede the GX50’s accuracy, stereo imaging and stunning treble

Yours sincerely,

Russell Gibson.

 

 

The REL T9 subwoofer has line inputs (low level) and loudspeaker inputs (high level). It is adjustable for level and crossover frequency. 

 

Hi Russell. The subwoofers that come to mind are REL, as they have a history of making subs that meet hi-fi levels of performance. Tuned carefully and positioned correctly, RELs will give great subsonics, free of the one-note boom of cheap AV subwoofers. The T9 meets your budget and is flexible in application. 

Bear in mind that if a subwoofer and loudspeaker overlap you get a bass peak and a boomy sound, so when tuning the crossover frequency, set it as low as possible first and then increase slowly until boominess sets in, then tune back down a little for a cohesive sound without boom. 

Room position is critical too. A corner will excite all modes and give strongest bass, but boomy bass in most rooms, depending upon their dimensions. Moving a subwoofer along a wall will reduce boom from the width mode, but not alter length or height. Moving into the room will alter two modes, reducing boom even more, but to do this you must move the unit out in the room, say beside a settee, or under a coffee table. You cannot tune the height mode without a crane.  

Experimenting with position like this by moving the subwoofer away from walls improves bass quality, at the expense of apparent level, but just increase subwoofer volume to compensate. 

I have done a lot of subwoofer tuning, using a measuring microphone and spectrum analyser and find you can get great results, but tuning is quite a critical process and none too easy to get right by ear alone. Have fun! NK

 

 

 

You should have compared the XTZ 99.26 with the earlier 99.25, says Paul Williams.

 

DOUBLE TROUBLE

I had been looking forward to reading the XTZ 99.26 and PMC Twenty.21 reviews that appeared in your September edition as I am looking for a small(ish) stand mount loudspeaker, have heard the PMC model (and rejected it - see below) and in view of your enthusiasm for the original XTZ 99.26 was hoping that this could be the answer for me, and best of all at a very reasonable price. I am afraid that, unfortunately, I was disappointed with your reviews of both models.

As far as the PMC review is concerned, your reviewer does not mention the obvious flaw (to me at least) of a very obvious sheen such that it was frequently impossible to tell whether one was listening to electric or acoustic instruments, let alone differentiate between, say an oboe or a clarinet (in the opening to Mahler 1). I suppose if you choose to listen exclusively to pop or rock this might go unnoticed and it is certainly not clear whether your reviewer ever attempted to listen to anything other than this genre; if so, it is not mentioned in his review. 

Yes, I agree that this ‘speaker has many strengths but an inability (to my ears at least) to correctly reproduce acoustic instruments is surely such a fundamental issue that it cannot possibly be recommendable to anyone who wishes to listen to any classical or other non-electronic music. 

I should add that I initially heard the PMC through a Naim system at the dealer and then through a Cyrus system and the presentation remained the same through both, so I do not believe that this is an issue with the electronics. Unfortunately, as I was in the course of moving house, I could not listen to it through my own Resolution Audio Opus 21/Prima Luna 3/5 but the Cyrus set up is one I have spent many hours listening to and I know it well. I actually had the opportunity to purchase the PMC new at 50% of the list price but to me its defects were such that it was a completely unacceptable choice at any price, despite its strengths with rock/pop as highlighted by your review.

Turning to the XTZ, the original model was well liked both by yourselves and others, indeed it features in your “World Standards” as being “exceptional value for money”. Other reviews have found that the updated model improves on its predecessor. I have looked in vain in your review for any attempt to compare the updated model with the original, to say how it builds (or otherwise) on its previous strengths. Surely this should be a pre-requisite for any review of an updated model, particularly one which you have previously lauded. I am left uncertain whether this model is going to be worthy of audition, given the flaws described in bass response and the fact that it is compared – in some regards unfavourably - with the comparably priced Spendor S3/5R2. Scarcely “exceptional value for money any more in that case, is it? 

Whilst I appreciate the desire to assess the tuning options available with the XTZ, are many of your listeners really going to be listening primarily to poorly recorded or compressed music, and is this one of the most significant issues to deal with in the review given that this tuning option was available also on the original model? Given the space constraints which inevitably arise, could we not have had a more thorough review of what the ‘speaker sounds like with all types of music and, of course, how it compares with the original in that regard?

As a general point I would be interested to have your views as to whether you believe that one can sensibly try to evaluate any loudspeaker listening primarily to electronic music. Surely, if we are talking about accurate reproduction of the original sound, it is essential to listen to well engineered acoustic music to determine whether what is heard is properly representative of the original performance. If “hi-fi” doesn’t do this, then, to me at least, it can’t be described as such, however much one may enjoy the presentation offered. I suppose that I am particularly disappointed in these reviews because you can, and often do, do this well and I am always particularly interested to read the views of Rafael Todes.

Blimey, I feel better for getting that off my chest. As I said some paragraphs ago, I am on the lookout for some stand mount speakers. I very much like the presentation offered by ribbon tweeters and I am sorely tempted by the Monitor Audio PL100s which I have heard and much enjoyed although they are at the upper end of my budget. If you have any other suggestions (if you are still reading at this point) I would be very pleased to hear from you.

Paul Williams 

Knoydart 

Scotland

 

 

Accolade Audio Model 1 – Paul Rigby thought it sounded bright, Noel Keywood thought it sounded warm.

 

Hi Paul. A proper side-by-side comparison would require us to keep all review product, or somehow obtain the outgoing model – and this isn’t practicable. We do often reference back to earlier measured performances, which are all on file.

It is the absolute behaviour of the new model in the marketplace that is important, judged against current rivals. A new model is usually an improvement on an old one. 

The adjustments available on the 99.26 are an important feature I feel. There are those who like an accurate sound, which brings a sense of  neutrality, and those who like a loudspeaker that is a little more ‘spectacular’, shall I say. Truly accurate loudspeakers, good with classical music, like the Quad ESL-63, are not great for Rock, although I used a pair for Rock for many years. But then I like a neutral sound, but understand that many listeners don’t appreciate it at all!  Adjustment gives a way of appealing to both camps. I’m surprised it isn’t more common. 

I take your point about classical music. Ironically though, we have had complaints about Rafael not using Rock music, showing how difficult this issue is. As a classically trained violinist Rafael has an amazing ear and is far and away the most astute listener I have ever met, meaning his reviews are second to none.  But this great ability comes with constraints too; he isn’t fluent with Rock. Conversely, those reviewers that use Rock, which appeals to most readers, commonly don’t much appreciate Classical music. 

However, I don’t want to justify this as I feel it isn’t too difficult to use both. We will have to buy Paul Rigby an old violin and ask Rafael to give him some lessons. And Rafael is due to get an electric guitar for Christmas! 

Loudspeaker reviewing is a  difficult business, even though sound quality differences are quite obvious. What people hear and what they like can differ greatly. So whilst Paul Rigby heard the treble peak of the Accolade Audio Model 1 (August 2012 issue, p39) I heard the overall fall in treble energy; he thought they were ‘bright” I thought they were “warm”. Measurement is vital to explain such differences, and this is why we measure using Clio (Audiomatica of Italy), an industry standard system. We also have a 24ft square acoustically treated in-house listening room and loudspeakers  are auditioned before they are sent for review. This ensures at least two, sometimes three people listen, so opinions can be cross checked and our reviews are not just one unguided opinion, as so many are. NK

 

 

The PMC Twenty.21 is better for Rock than Classical, thinks Paul Williams. 

 

And XTZ say ...

Comparison between the reviewed speaker ((99.26) and others can help a lot, although we think it can lead to some kind of confusion comparing very different concepts, for example a 2-way bookshelf speaker with a huge 3-way floor stander, or, as in this case, a full-grown 2-way speaker against a quite particular speaker as the Spendor. 

We think, one very important point to know about any speaker is for example what it was built for. We call it 99-series, as these speakers shall reach 99% of what the best high-end speakers can do, even if at a price that is a fraction of those.

Our technicians put an enormous amount of working hours in the development of the MkII version of our 99.26/99.25 model, which had been reviewed with success in Hi-Fi World some time ago. The goal we set to our technicians was to get it better at every point, thus frequency response, distortion, imaging, further optimised phase response, well, in short terms, everything that is important for a real high-end speaker.

Our technicians did hundreds of measurements (and listening tests) to improve the speaker, which actually they managed to do. It got different, steeper crossovers for both, tweeter and woofer, slightly different crossover point and also some tricky solution to handle this special ribbon tweeter at its best. Even if the final crossover was more expensive to produce, the listening tests we (and others) did, convinced us to go for this highly optimised MKII version.

For this reason, it would have been very interesting to see this version reviewed by the same author of the 99.25 review, as we are always interested in getting a feedback of what we’re doing, to see whether our efforts get confirmed or less.

We’d like to thank Hi-Fi World again for giving us the possibility of this review, and especially for their highly professional approach, accompanying every review with extensive measurements, which we know is very labour-intensive, but can give a very good insight!

Olle Eliasson (CEO), in the name of everyone at XTZ!

 

 

Rafael Todes of the Allegri string quartet – not a Rocker. 


 

LOW FREQUENCY EFFECTS

Thank you for an interesting and well written review on the RX-A3010, in the June 2012 issue.

Some additional questions though. Does the Bass Management of the 3010 do stereo bass with all left front/surround channel low-pass on left sub and correspondingly on right with center LP and LFE divided between the subs?

In the text there was also talk about the direct DSD to analog capabilities of the DACs. Was it confirmed, also by measurement, that this is the case for multi-channel signals (in what mode)? If so, how many/what channels have the benefit of this, being driven simultaneously and which DACs do the job?

While we are at it, do you know of other Pre-proc./ AVRs or multiplayers that do this direct DSD to A in multichannel?

Seems to me that this is a rare commodity and if Yamaha do this at the price point, it’s very rare indeed - that is to say, if not some pseudo-approach is involved here?

Michael Sderback

Finland

 

Hi Michael. Sorry to disappoint you but we do not engage Bass Management or assess it on AV receivers, so this aspect of the Yamaha was not tested. As a hi-fi magazine (i.e. not Home Cinema) we assess the abilities of a receiver when used with full range loudspeakers, not with small satellites and subs that demand bass management. In this circumstance you get stereo bass, not bass mixed and directed into a single subwoofer. Bear in mind that full range loudspeakers cost just £200/pair; it is unrealistic to use an expensive receiver like the Yamaha with anything less. 

Nowadays, it is common to convert DSD code from SACD to PCM before sending it through the PCM DACs that feed all channels of a receiver. This often occurs within a Texas Instruments receiver chip and manufacturers may be unaware of it, since such processes are buried within the small print of an Application Note. The Yamaha  returned very low distortion with DSD, just 0.05% at -60dB, so either they use native DSD convertors of good quality or an effective conversion routine that would be a part of the receiver chip used. It is impossible to say quite what is going on internally, but our DSD code measurements show that RX-3010 delivers great results in this area and will give good sound quality from SACD. NK

 

 

Yamaha RX-A3010 produced great results when tested with DSD. Is a "pseudo-approach" used asks Michael Sderback?

 

FAST PLAYER

A few months ago I wrote to you asking advice on the purchase of a CD player, but whilst waiting for your reply to be published, I bought an Arcam FMJ CD 33 which has ‘ticked all the boxes’, but was not one of the machines that you advised. 

In the meanwhile I have decided to treat myself to a new turntable (the first since my LP12 30 years ago) and thanks yet again to Simon Griffin of Hi-Fi Sound Ltd of Stockton-On-Tees I am the new owner of a Clearaudio Champion Level One turntable /Satisfy DWTonearm /Ortofon Rondo Bronze and I would like to upgrade my phono stage in the next few months. At the moment I am using a NAD PP2 which is superb considering the silly price that it is (£80-ish) and I would like something with the same tonal sound (perhaps valves?) so your advice would be really appreciated. 

The rest of my system is Roksan Rok-L2.5 pre-amp /Beard P100 Monoblocks feeding Ruark Talisman II or Ruark Crusader II speakers using QED Genesis Silver Spiral speaker cable and Chord Chameleon 2 Interconnects. 

In my last letter to you I praised local dealer Simon Griffin and I would like to praise him yet again for his help and patience in dealing with me (i’m a pest at times). A word to hi-fi buffs in the Teeside area, if you are looking for friendly advice or very reasonably priced ‘gear’, then give Simon a call.

Alfie Forcer

 

 

Alfie Forcer couldn't wait and bought one of these – an Arcam FMJ CD33 and it "ticks all the boxes".

 

Hi Alfie. If you are after the same presentation as the NAD, but better, then valves may not be the way to go. I would suggest you consider the Creek Wyndsor phono stage we reviewed last month in our October 2012 issue. It has a similar ‘easy’ sound as the NAD, only far better in terms of resolution and dynamics, as well as adaptability. It will suit your new Rondo Bronze and offers an upgrade path too, by having balanced inputs, rare at present. NK

 

 

Get a Creek Wyndsor phono stage for great sound plus balanced inputs. 

 

 

 

Logitech Squeezebox Touch turned my CD into a "pretty sculpture" says Rupert Drescher.

 

 

EASY SQUEEZY

I use a Squeezebox Touch through a Rega DAC for all my music these days (the CD player is now just a pretty sculpture at the top of the rack). For ‘speakers I use ProAc Response 1SCs which have a rated sensitivity of 86dB, 8 ohm nominal impedance and an amplifier recommendation of between 20 -100 watts. Room size is small 3.5m x 5m.

For a while I had been unhappy with the performance of my amplifier, so about a year ago, on a whim, I bought a Marantz PM-4 at a second-hand hi-fi shop for a couple of hundred dollars, just to see what something else might be like. The amp came with a 3 month warranty and I could see that there had been some refurbishment in the recent past i.e. replacement capacitors and upgraded speaker terminals, so I thought why not?

Back in 1979, when the Marantz was made, it was seen as a real beauty offering exceptional performance at a sharper price than most of its rivals. It could belt out 60W per channel in A/B mode and at the press of a button you could also run it in Class A mode at 15W per channel.

When I first got the Marantz home, I plugged it in and was amazed at the difference that the amp change had made. Everything had snapped into focus, imaging was sharply defined and perfectly placed. Bass was deeper, more tuneful and better controlled while treble was sweeter with less grain, while also being more extended. The overall sound remained a tiny bit fatiguing and grainy in the treble, but an upgrade to the power cable soon fixed that. Almost by accident, I thought I had found the perfect answer to my problems, that was until I pressed the button marked Class A.

All of the attributes that were there before were still there but more so: all instruments and vocals were suddenly standing out in their own space and sounding silky smooth without a trace of grain or harshness. The treble and bass were further extended with the soundstage reaching beyond the walls and above the ceiling. The most subtle but beguiling change, however, was the new sense of tonal purity (almost beauty) with everything sounding just as it should: voices like real voices, guitars like real guitars, even drums like real drums and all of it sounding just so musical. Needless to say I have never gone back and consider myself a Class A addict.

Extended listening over the last few months has exposed a couple of issues though, namely a rather woolly bass quality and a lack of attack in certain music especially on drums, all of which brings me to my questions.

How can a measly 15Watts deliver such a beautiful sound to speakers of only average sensitivity? Is 30+ years just a bit too old to expect an amp to operate at its best, and if so should I think about upgrading to say a Sugden A21aL which should offer longevity as well as an extra 8Watts to play with?

Regards, 

Rupert Drescher 

Melbourne

Australia

 

 

For Class A power get a Jungson JA-88D perhaps? It produces over 100 Watts per channel, plus heat! 

 

As you say Rupert, Class A is something special and we have all heard much the same benefits as you. You may well be pushing the amplifier a little too hard and the woolliness you hear is muddle caused by overload. The Sugden will play louder, but not a lot louder. A Sugden A21SE is doing good service with us at present, although Rafael Todes, being used to sitting in an orchestra, cranks volume right up when he drops by and declares it “limited”! I don’t listen at such levels though and don’t run into the same problem – and I love it. For me, the Sugden and Tellurium Q Class A amplifiers are special, unless you demand high volume, then look elsewhere.

In your case, ‘elsewhere’ is China and Jungson, whose products are available in Australia I believe. I recall the JA-88D we reviewed in our May 06 issue had quite ‘obvious’ treble but was glassy clear. It was also fast and punchy, so this may well be an alternative, since it kicks out over 100 Watts. NK


GLOWING REVIEW

On the strength of Tony Bolton’s glowing review of the World Designs KEL84 (Hi-Fi World, May 2012) I decided that it was time for a new amplifier. I ordered a KEL84XL kit and decided to accompany it with another kit amplifier: the Graham Slee Genera phono preamp. Mindful of Graham Slee’s burn-in recommendations, the Genera was built first and left plugged in while I set to work on the KEL84. A week or so later, the KEL84 was complete and tested. A minor initial problem was soon solved with the assistance of World Designs friendly and helpful Matthew Snell and it was connected up to my WD25aXL loudspeakers. 

Initial impressions were good: nice finish, smooth volume control and relay-switched input selector and the generous provision of five switched inputs allows vinyl, CD, radio, tape and computer audio to be connected without extra switch boxes. 

After several weeks of enjoyable listening, all I can say now is that Tony Bolton got it spot on – the midband is sweet, the bass is firm and extended, the treble is clean and extended and the KEL84 is a delight to listen to. 

The Graham Slee Genera has been a pleasant surprise too: its sound is clear, warm and transparent, without a trace of transistor hardness or glare, and it manages to pull off the trick of producing detailed extended treble while at the same time reducing surface noise. (The standard input capacitance of 220pF suits many moving magnets but reducing this to 150pF gave best results for my Denon DL103 moving coil and step up transformer). 

Building the KEL84 and the Genera has proved to be a very satisfying project and the sound quality they produce comfortably exceeds anything I expected for a combined cost of less than £1,000. Thanks for your excellent KEL84 review, which set the ball rolling for me. 

Yours sincerely, 

Alasdair Beal

Leeds

 

 

Tony Bolton got it right – "KEL84 is a delight to listen to", says Alasdair Beal.

 

NETBOOK TIP

I have a Marantz KI Pearl SACD/CD player, which sounds sublime with every decent silver disc I put in it. I decided I would like to try using it as a DAC to play some high res. downloads from a computer to see whether it would sound even better with high res recordings. Unfortunately the Marantz only has an optical TOSLINK digital input and no USB.

I purchased a Musical FIdelity V-link asynchronous USB -S/PDIF converter for around £80, connected it to my old laptop with a Wire World USB cable and to the Marantz with Van Den Hul’s Optocoupler. The Marantz and the V-link are specified up to 96/24 only, so I downloaded a couple of samples in 96/24 FLAC from Linn and HD Tracks to try out.

Next, what software player to use? I did some research and decided on the free Foobar Player which seems to play just about anything and gets excellent reviews. I downloaded that along with the WASAPI output support component which “Adds Windows Audio Session API exclusive mode output support, allowing bit-exact output and muting all other sounds on Windows Vista systems.” It was easy to install following the instructions on the Foobar website. 

Sure enough I was not disappointed. Bags of clarity and detail were the first thing I noticed and plenty of toe-tapping musicality too. The display on the Marantz was showing the actual bit rate of the tracks (I checked this by ripping a couple of CDs to FLAC to compare) so the WASAPI was working. Everything I played sounded pretty good! 

Then I thought how good it would be to rip my entire collection onto my computer and be able to create playlists for different moods - yes I was hooked! Only problem was that my old laptop didn’t have enough space on it.

I took a trip to my local John Lewis store and found a Toshiba NB510 Netbook there with a 350 Gig drive for £210. I decided to buy it and that I would use it only as a music server to keep the signal as clean as possible. To cut a long story short, the little Netbook sounds superb with ripped CDs as well as 96/24 downloads and takes up minimal space. I have now ripped my entire CD collection onto the little Toshiba and there is still bags of room for more. Please note that the Netbook doesn’t come with an optical drive so you’ll need to rip your CDs on another computer and copy them over.

That has to be the best value for money £210 I ever spent on any hi-fi component and I heartily recommend it.

My system: Marantz KI Pearl SACD/CD player, Creek Destiny 2 Integrated Amplifier, Vienna Acoustics Baby Grand Loudspeakers.

Alan Miggin

Sheffield

 

 

 

Toshiba NB510 Netbook –  "best value for money £210 I ever spent on any hi-fi component", says Alan Miggin.

 
Comments (1)
Leak TROUGHLINE
1Friday, 12 April 2013 14:24
john oates
EFG of LONDON carried out all the safety issues mentioned in Stephen Condliffes letter. I'm using the original decoder and am happy with it, but they do offer a more modern affair if required. At times depending on the broadcast the Troughline out strips other sources.

Thanks John. I found EFG at 9 The Vale, Acton, London, W3 7SH, UK Tel 020 8743 2727. They are new to me, but have been going a long time it appears. And Leak were originally based in that area. NK

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