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November 2012 Issue
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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




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



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





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

Comments (1)
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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