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December 2012 Issue
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World mail December 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.

 
 
 

SINGLE MINDED

My partner and I are confused over how to upgrade our old amp and speakers, a Pioneer A400 and Acoustic Energy Aegis 2 loudspeakers. A Pioneer PL12D/Ortofon VMS20E turntable/cartridge combo will be the last to retire.

We were very impressed with the Sugden A21SE you recently reviewed but don’t know which 90dB speakers to audition. We mainly listen to acoustic music and our first choice was the Martin Logan Electromotions at 91dB/6ohm impedance but you advise amplification of at least 50 Watts. Then we thought the Spendor A9 would suit at 90dB/8ohm but your review of last year advises at least 40 Watts

We realise the issue of amp/speaker matching is crucial and need some help.

Yours sincerely,

Dave + Debbie 

Luton 

Beds.

 

 

 

Sugden A21 SE is a very unusual Class A Single-Ended transistor amplifier.

It has gorgeous sound quality but produces little power, so what loudspeakers

to use, ask Dave and Debbie?

 

 

The Sugden A21SE amplifier is a real beauty. I am almost shocked at how good it is - and it uses transistors! It has the most fabulously detailed sound, one that is dynamic, full of vivacious life and enormously engaging as a result. I continue to use our review sample and am quietly addicted to it for reviewing purposes, because it makes the most of loudspeakers, due to its sweet tonality. 

But you do need very sensitive loudspeakers for a specialised Single-Ended amplifier like this, that produces just 25 Watts. Happily, a stream of really good and appropriate loudspeakers for your purpose have passed through HI-Fi World towers recently. 

First came the lovely Epos Elan 35 that sounded smooth as silk, but was whoppingly efficient, producing 92dB from just one measly Watt. At £1200 it is a big bargain. 

Then came the lovely Usher Dancer Mini-Twos (£3000) and in this issue we have the Tannoy DC6T SEs (£995). All are efficient floorstanders that suit the A21SE. 

Currently under review are a pair of brand spanking new KEF R500 floorstanders (£1500) and they are measuring and sounding very impressive indeed; KEF have returned to utter accuracy, putting the new R500s up with with the best. However, the R500 has a super high technology midrange unit (it’s a three-way) so expect great midband lucidity. They will appear in our next (Jan 13) issue. 

In all then, you are suddenly spoilt for choice!  I cannot easily decide between these loudspeakers for you, and you state no budget (Martin Logans are beautiful but more expensive). I hope you can audition from my short list. I know you’ll have fun. NK

 

Below are the latest floorstanders to hit the market that need very little power to go loud.

All of them deliver around 90dB from one Watt, meaning 104dB from the Sudgen's 25 Watts

(at 1 metre). Three metres away you will get around 92dB – and that is loud.

They are well engineered and accurate, our measurements show, and all give great sound quality.

 

Epos Elan 35  92dB

October 2012 issue

 

 

 

 

 

Usher Dancer Mini-Two  89dB

November 2012 issue

 

 

 

Tannoy DC6T SE  90dB

December 2012 issue


TAMING DIGITS

I’m wondering if the infamous harsh CD sound dating from the mid 80s is not due to the CD technology of the time, but more to the media of the time. I explain. 

Most of the CD releases of the second half of the 80s and of the 90s, were made from the vinyl LPs, or from the analog tapes mastered for vinyl. Which explains why we can hear tape hiss on ‘so called’ digital recording, or inferior replication of playback through CD compared to vinyl.

After all, mastering is not being done for nothing. In case you have forgotten what mastering is, it is to adapt the music to the medium e.g. for one mix there are made at least three masters - one for vinyl, one for CD and one for radio broadcast, and all three are different.

Back on track: today I’ve listened to ‘Handy’ by Wishbone Ash on the eponymous CD album. Immediately the ‘tape hiss’ annoyed my ears, as well as the so-called digital harshness in the cymbals and the top octaves of the guitars. As the album was on my NAS it took me five minutes to process it through Adobe Audition and to remove the ‘tape hiss’ and by the same token the so-called digital harshness.

The objective results are that the bass is untouched (up to 150Hz), the mids are -2dB at the highest (1.8kHz) and the highs are -3dB at the highest (4kHz) without my ears noticing it. I know that it is heresy to modify the ‘Perfect Sound Forever’ CD gives us. But what the heck if I don’t like it? The subjective results are that I’m not annoyed by the tape hiss anymore and that the playback is more gentle on my ears (no digititis anymore).

Therefore it took me five minutes of brainstorming, five minutes of processing, and ten seconds of checking to enjoy again ‘Handy’ by Wishbone Ash. As Adobe Audition allows you to ‘batch process’ it will take me another five minutes to process the whole album.

Of course, the whole process has to be started from scratch for another album, as different albums have been processed by different mastering engineers, for different companies with different distributors (i.e. manufacturing plants).

But I consider it’s worthwhile to do it (it’s free as long as you consider that your time is free) compared to the $ xx,xxx that a piece of hardware can do for you and a piece of hardware won’t do it exactly as you wish.

Best regards 

Jean-Christophe Xerri

South Australia

 

 

Wishbone Ash album 'Handy' has tape hiss that I removed with Adobe

Auditions, says Jean-Christophe Xerri. 

 

 

 

 

Adobe Auditions has 'sweetening tools' including 'Adaptive Noise Reduction' 

to lessen tape hiss.

 

 

Hi Jean, that is a great suggestion, one I sympathise with. I spend time working with Audacity, the free music editor, changing and creating files for test purposes. Every now and then I also re-balance tracks just for the sake of it. These days it is easy to load the processed .wav file on to a USB memory key and play it on a media player – and the results can be intriguing. 

Adobe Audition CS6 costs £300 and is a professional editing suite a bit beyond the understanding of most users I feel. I see the outgoing CS5 is being priced at £99 and this looks like better value.

If  readers would like to tell us what they use, and how they use it, it would make for interesting reading. 

NK 

 

GOING FOR A SONG

I have what I think is a reasonable hi-fi system at home in England (Spacedeck, Croft Valve pre-power, Spendor.) but as I work abroad for most of the year I only get to use it for about six weeks so I thought that I would share my experience of a computer system I have set up in my apartment. 

I started with a Cambridge Audio Sonata DVD player into a pair of Wharfedale active Diamonds on Target stands. Having bought a new MacBook Pro I thought that it would be good to store all of my CDS on it and use it for a source player. Later I read a review of the Matrix Mini-i D-to-A converter which sounded exactly what I needed so I bought one and brought it back. 

Now I had remote volume control, a headphone amp, USB input and digital in for the DVD player. Everything is wired to the mains (even at home) using Rowan power cables that I discovered in my local hi fi shop in Basel, Switzerland. They are very good and also reasonable at about £40 for a metre. 

CD ripping is done using XLD, downloaded music is converted from FLAC to wav to burn to disc via xACT and as all files are kept in the finder music section and not iTunes, played with Audirvana plus.

The other advantage of the computer is that I also have internet radio (Venice Classic Radio for classical and Shoutcast for all else) and the resulting sound is actually quite good considering it’s not expensive gear. 

Now for a question. I have recently started downloading high res music from sites such as Linn and the Classical Shop. Could you please tell me how I can save them to a DVD Audio disc as I cannot find any software that works with a Mac. 

Thank you in advance, 

Best Regards 

Paul Marfleet

 

 

 

 

MacBook Pro had a disc drive (latest versions do not) for ripping CDs and will run high

resolution audio up to 24/192. It can feed a DAC through an optical S/PDIF output integrated

into the headphone socket (you need an adaptor). Use Songbird to play hi-res files.

(picture courtesy of Apple)

 

 

Hi Paul. Macs will handle right up to 24/192, even though most people think 24/96 is the maximum. Songbird will play high res files or you can convert to Apple Lossless and load them (i.e. 24/96) into iTunes and play them. Remember to go into the Applications folder, then Utilities and set the Audio/Midi doo-dah to 24/96 output. In a Mac this locks the output rate, so all audio is output at 24/96, even if it was originally a CD rip at 16/44.1, by up-sampling (this does not improve sound quality: I have tried it and listened and heard no difference). 

As far as I am aware, you cannot now either create or play DVD Audio discs, except with a non-transportable Cambridge Audio or Oppo player (playback only). I am afraid to say silver discs are yesterday. When you hear hi-res files you will understand why. In particular, 24bit resolution enormously lessens distortion and lowers noise – and you will hear this on a decent system. Suddenly, digital becomes a lot smoother, more subtly and richly detailed and has more apparent depth. CD sounds barren and flat by way of contrast. 

A 96k sample rate is fine; 192k sample rate is pushing the boat out a bit (it doubles file size and download time) and as yet I am uncertain it is audibly better in most systems. 

I hope that helps. NK


DIRECT ISSUE

Until very recently my main analogue disc system comprised Garrard 401 + Hadcock 228 + London Pro (New Decca ) cartridge playing into a WAD KEL84 amp via Linsley Hood preamp (both home kit builds ) into a pair of KEF Q900 speakers. 

Since fitting the Hadcock, although it suits the London well, I have missed the facility of plug in heads that allowed me to play 78s etc. Upon reading a review of the Jelco 750 arm I was tempted to take a chance and fit one to my 401 but realised the cost would be around £550 by the time a connecting lead was factored in, so I had a look at alternatives. This resulted in me taking maybe a higher risk by purchasing a Stanton ST 150 high-end DJ deck at £405 as this gave me all the cartridge change facilities I wanted, 33, 45 and 78 speeds (in fact up to 117rpm or down to 10rpm if needed, both in forward and reverse!) combined with a very high torque (4.5kgs.max.) Direct Drive motor unit. 

It is now up and running and giving excellent reproduction and to my surprise and relief my Decca cartridge is very happy in the Stanton arm, especially as the Stanton unit is very heavy at 19kgs. with good isolating feet. 

For me this cross fertilisation  between the hi-fi and the DJ world has really worked well and I would encourage anyone with similar needs to look beyond just the hi-fi world (not the mag. which is always most informative!) and into  DJ equipment. After all, good reproduction of music is common to both.

William Dudman 

Ealing 

London

 

 

The Stanton ST150 DJ Direct Drive DJ deck "gave me all the cartridge

change facilities I wanted, 33, 45 and 78 speeds" says William Dudman.

 

 

Reloop RP-6000 Mk6 Direct Drive turntable has facilities and arm similar

to Stanton ST150. Does it come from the same factory?

 

 

Thanks for letting us know about your experiences with this deck William. The ST150 looks much like a Reloop RP-6000 Mk6 and also like the Vestax in bits at my feet that is made in China (it says on the DD motor). It seemed likely that these all come from one OEM supplier. Their similarity to the Technics SL-1200, the turntable that started it all, is obvious. But the motor doesn't look like a Technics item, and its Chinese origin also suggests otherwise. So I turned to our Direct Drive guru, Dave Cawley and he directed me to Hanpin, of China. They originate from Taiwan, according to their history. So this is where all those high torque, Direct Drive DJ turntables comes from. Dave tells me the arm is virtually impossible to change, a pity. 

NK

 

 

 

Today's Direct Drive turntables are made by Hanpin in China.

 


DODGY DAVE?

I notice in the latest issue of Hi-Fi World that a letter has been answered by Dave Cawley of Sound Hi-Fi – and not for the first time. As a long time reader I would like to know if you really think this is an appropriate action for your magazine to take? Surely by sending a letter to you the sender is looking for an opinion based on the experience of the magazine staff who have knowledge of a wide range of products? Looking at Sound Hi-Fi’s website it appears that Mr. Cawley has recommended items that he stocks and whilst I certainly do not blame him for doing this, surely you are affecting your own supposedly neutral position by allowing someone to give an answer that will naturally be limited by his own interests? 

Sincerely, 

J. Lewis

 

 

Yes and No is my answer. Yes, his answer was partial and he did recommend his own products, but as they are very good that did not worry me unduly. It was made clear that he was Sound Hi-Fi and this gave readers the chance to make up their own minds. 

Why did I use him? The answer is simple: Dave Cawley knows more about turntables and, in particular Direct Drive - including their electronic servo-feedback circuitry - than just about anyone else in the UK. So I use him for his knowledge and the fact that he gives Hi-Fi World readers an informed answer that is valuable and not misleading. 

I admire expert contributors and Dave happens to be one of them. Needless to say, he loves his subject and works hard at it. You have to understand that most reviewers are not engineers and have little or no understanding of background technical issues in many products, and what makes them tick. Specialist listeners like Rafael Todes, and specialist engineers, like Dave Cawley are a mine of information and have prodigious ability – and that is what you get in Hi-Fi World. 

On balance I think it is better to provide informed comment, even if it is partial. We have run replies from manufacturers in the past and this attracted no complaint. So I hope your complaint is truly impartial too and not prompted by rival manufacturer. NK

 

 

NOT SO DODGY DAVE 

Many thanks for pubishing my letter in the September issue. Please pass on my thanks to Dave Cawley for his reply. 

I have to agree about the mains. Mine looks a little rough but is quite variable. Probably though for a town the size of the Medway towns in North Kent there can be little difference to most power sources across the UK. We have only recently become aware of the subtle way it can affect things and realistically we have never really analysed it except from a voltage point of view in which case it always looks within parameters. With the use of remote power switching by the grids, mains for network traffic, the noise of the solar power systems delivering their 10 pence worth of electricity onto the grid and all those horrible energy saving bulbs etc it will only get more noisy out there!

On another point entirely, the review of the Burmester 032 suggests an interesting issue. For an amp to be balanced throughout then the way to look at this is actually to view the output stage exactly the same as if it were bridged. The technology is the same. A balanced input with one signal lead 180 degrees out of phase with the other transfered to the output amp requires two output amps to work on those signals maintaining that phase relationship the commoning point being the loudspeaker. 

Now unless you have some sort of custom power amp stage that does balanced up to the output transistors (so thats the long tailed pair, current mirrors/sources, class A driver etc) then the only way to balance it right through is with what has been called bridged for as long as I can remember. 35 years ago I built a keyboard PA system using the Maplin MOSFET 100 watt module and their bridging module and have to say that a three way mono active system of that configuration is still something quite impressive to hear. I wonder what happened to that system! 

Bridged and therefore balanced output has always had a subtle but impressive advantage to my ears.

Many thanks once again.

Regards

Dave Tutt 

www.tutt-technology.co.uk

 

For an amp like the Burmester 032 to be balanced throughout  the output

stage must be bridged, says Dave Tutt. 

 

 

Hi Dave. Yes, bridged does give a balanced output with respect to ground and as you say sound quality does usually seem better. I have thoughtlessly assumed this is likely due to the extra power available, but perhaps not. Perhaps it is due to rejection of common mode interference. 

A similar debate exists with balanced outputs and balanced lines. These normally demand the use of ‘transmitter’ and ‘receiver’ chips (line drivers) at either end of the line, meaning extra circuitry. But in spite of this, sound quality is usually better. The benefit is a signal line free of earth currents and interference (balanced cables are usually shielded) and it is this that seems to most affect sound quality. So balanced working would seem to hold promise, especially with pickup cartridges – where it is almost never used. Oh well! NK


NOISE NEWS

I refer you to my letter published earlier this year in Hi-Fi News re fitting an Origin Live motor to an LP12. There are photos.

I too had noise problems. I solved this by mounting the motor on the base plate (I use a Mission Isoplat - long before the Trampolin I called it the Underlin).  Total silence. 

I mentioned it to Origin Live who were very pleasant but not interested. It should be noted the extent the Scottish Firm have had to go to with isolating the motor in their costly (it seems to me) solution.  Effectively, I have an outboard motor inboard, within the plinth. It sounds fine to me but it needs someone with golden ears and time to compare the two solutions.  

I did not win a pair of speakers with my letter - maybe by describing a solution then this time I will. They would go to one of my children to get them rolling as a new generation in our hobby.  

Yours,  

Dr Guy Goundry

 

The Origin LIve DC motor conversion for a LInn LP12, as reviewed by

us from the manufacturer.

 

 

Hi Guy. I don’t read Hi-Fi News too often (won’t tell you why!) and as you did not send the letter to us we cannot print it. I don’t think ‘News would like Hi-Fi World reprinting their Letters, even if you do own Copyright. I will ask Paul Miller, Editor of News, at the next Show, when I am likely to see him, but don’t pin your hopes on getting those loudspeakers! NK

 

CABLE COMPLAINT

It’s very rare that I feel the need to complain about a review, but what a load of nonsense written by “PR” in the October edition.

"Normally, when you push music through a USB cable, the data, which arrives in blocks, includes narrow bits which represents the high frequency portions of the final music. Within current USB cables, these bits are largely lost because the cable isn’t fast enough to cope, the sampling continues but the narrow bits are largely ignored because they are seen as errors".

This has to qualify as the most inaccurate drivel I have ever read. The author implies that a cable that carries a digital signal is analogous to a cable carrying an analogue signal. What nonsense. It would have to be a truly bad (USB) cable that causes data to be discarded due to errors, so to suggest that this new improved cable works around data loss is once again grossly inaccurate.

I welcome any comment from your reviewer.

Regards,

Tony Rogers

 

Tellurium Q USB cable could not affect data loss, says Tony Rogers. 

 

Paul Rigby was quoting Tellurium Q and they declined to comment upon the mechanisms by which their cables achieve such results, as they are subject to a pending patent, they say. 

There are a few points to note here though. Whilst ‘narrow bits’ don’t represent the high frequency portions of the music, which is what I think you object to, digital cables can and do affect sound quality. Two excellent letters to us, published in our June 2012 issue, explained how. They are now published on our website at www.hi-fiworld.co.uk – go to Letters / June 2012 issue / p6 (Digital Cables). 

So the explanation appears a little awry, shall we say, but that does not necessarily damn the cables or what Paul Rigby heard. 

Also, (as I suspect you know) there is no such thing as a ‘digital’ cable; they are all analogue. And the analogue properties of a ‘digital’ cable, such as bandwidth and VSWR,  affect a digital signal, limiting data rate and producing jitter. USB cables use a simple twisted copper pair, as do ethernet cables, and the twisted RGB pairs in an HDMI cable are able to pass up to 10GB/sec, it is claimed. Look up  ‘twisted pair’ on Wikipedia and you may be surprised at just what you see. 

I think it is fair to speculate that a poor USB cable could suffer data loss; technically this is possible. “Narrow bits” exhibit a high rate of change of voltage with time (v/t) are are most affected by analogue bandwidth.

So all in all Tony, I believe this was plausible speculation. 

NK

 

LIBRARY

I have my entire music collection in Samsung’s Emodio library on my laptop in 128kbps MP3 file format which I use to download to my portable MP3 player. Is there such a unit as an MP3 type player that I would call a hi-fi separate that I can download my music via USB but is part of my hi-fi system. 

Regards, 

Brian (middle aged technophobe)

 

 

 

Is there an MP3 player that is a hi-fi separate, asks Brian. Try the bargain

Sansui WLD+201L we suggest.

 

 

Hi Brian. The Sansui WLD+201L we reviewed in the October 2012 issue does this (sort of) and costs just £350. I say “sort of” because it does not have internal memory, but plays from a USB memory stick. Unfortunately, it does not have a rear port like Cambridge Audio players, that can be used as hidden long term external memory, only a front port. But you can load your MP3s onto a USB key and play them on the Sansui. Better, at this low, low price it offers internet radio, VHF radio and an internal DAC. It is a bargain that may well appeal to you. 

Paying more, but not a King’s Ransom at £550, there is the Aune S1 Media Player. Again, this reads from a USB memory key but it offers very high quality, all the way up to 24/192. OK, this isn’t well aligned with your current interest, MP3, but if you ever feel a little more ambitious it will cope. Download a hi-res file to your computer from, say, HD Tracks, and it will play it. 

Your MP3 player will not of course; it will blow up instead. A solution to this is to play hi-res at home and down-convert to MP3 for your portable. NK

 

GOOD FOR GOLD

I have a bit of a issue. My system is as follows; Musical Fidelity A3cr pre and X-A200 power amps, Monitor Audio GR60’s. All of this is being fed by a Musical Fidelity X-ray v3 CD player. Cables are 4 metres of Chord Rumour 4 for each of the ‘speakers, and Van-den-Hul ‘The Bay’ C5 hybrid to the CD. The room is approximately 16’ x 13’ and is a wooden floorboard type in a house made in the 30’s. 

My soundstage is not very big and it’s missing something but I’m not 100% sure what? I think the weakest link is the CD player and have considered adding the Musical Fidelity Tri-vista DAC to open things up? Having been an avid reader of your mag for many years I would appreciate a bit of insight as to my options and possibly my next move on the upgrade we hi-fi nut-cases strive for?? 

Douglas Curl

 

The Rega DAC offers smooth sound with plenty of air and space. It is

a great budget CD upgrade.

 

Your X-ray CD player is getting long in the tooth and would benefit from a Rega DAC, reviewed in our September 2012 issue, which will bring more life and space to the sound. 

Those X-200 power amps are none too wonderful either and are likely helping toward a sense of dynamic flatness. A Creek Destiny 2 would be my choice here as it is a perfect match for your lovely Monitor Audio Gold Reference 60 loudspeakers: it has great dynamics, plenty of air and space and the right tonality to ease the GR20s a tad. I think you will be quite surprised at just how different and better your system will become. NK

 

78 MATE

Well, Terry and his mates at Loricraft have done a great job of servicing/rebuilding a Garrard 401. They have mounted it in one of their open plinths and we have added an SME M2 with a Goldring 2500 cartridge. Everything is good, into my second hand Cyrus amps feeding my biamped Castle Chesters. Sometimes I replace the Cyrus set up with my old A400 from the spare room. That’s not at all bad.

Some might think the sound a tad “bright” but at my age that is no bad thing. Gone are the days when I could easily hear the bats flying around. As a young teenager I could actually hear up to 28kHz (we called them cps) as tested in the physics lab at school.

My next step is to set things up to play 78 rpm records. I still have my father’s old wind up gramophone in the loft and somewhere a Lenco deck but it would be much easier to purchase a modern cartridge to mount in the spare headshell for the M2.

Budget? Well, as well as going to the Olympics on my birthday various people have donated generously and I can manage something like £150 at the moment. Maybe a bit more at a push.

What do you suggest?

David Mills

 

Hi David, although the Lenco will do a very good job in playing your 78s, the Garrard 401 will offer superior performance allied with the M2 arm. You don’t specify whether you wish to use MM or MC cartridges but there are quite a few choices in both designs.

The cheapest option is the Shure M78S at £59.99. This is a monophonic version of the current Shure cartridges, fitted with a suitably sized stylus. (www.shure.co.uk)

Ortofon have just introduced the 2M 78, retailing at £80, which uses a dedicated monophonic version of the well-liked 2M series, allied with a 65 micro-metre diameter spherical stylus. (www.henleydesigns.co.uk) A review will be coming soon.

Stanton also offer standard groove replay with the 500/ 505 series cartridges, and a range of styli sizes to cover everything from conventional laterally cut 78s, through to the vertically cut Edison and Pathe discs. Prices start from £34.95 and go up to £600 for the complete six stylus Archival Kit. (www.soundhifi.com).

These are all Moving Magnet models. Audio Technica offer the Moving Coil AT-MONO3/SP 78 cartridge at £219.00. This is another dedicated mono cartridge fitted with a 2.5 mil conical diamond stylus,  and offers excellent performance. (www.henleydesigns.co.uk). 

Benz Micro also offer a 78 mono option on most of their models, but these are made to order so will take a little while to arrive. Contact Select Audio (www.selectaudio.co.uk).

Most 78s will have 70 plus years of dirt, and residue from the steel needles used when they were new, in the grooves, so I would recommend cleaning them thoroughly first. I use a Disco Antistat cleaner, available on the internet from around £30. I use either L’Art du Son fluid, available from Loricraft (www.garrard501.com) or Russ Andrews Revive Record Cleaning Fluid (www.russandrews.co.uk). Both are safe to use with shellac. I also have a second Disco Antistat which I fill with distilled water to rinse the record after cleaning.

Played with a  suitable cartridge and cleaned, the dreaded hiss and crackle should be quite muted, and good condition 78s can offer surprisingly good sound quality when played through a modern system. 

I hope to be exploring various ways of getting the best sound from these venerable discs over the next few months so watch this space.TB

 

RAFAEL’S CHOICE

I enjoy all of Rafael’s reviews, but I’m not familiar with very much of the music he refers to. Could he give an outline of the pieces and recordings he uses? If he added what each was used for, that would be useful. Plus, it gives me more new music recommendations to listen to.

Would you dare give each reviewer a page or two for the same thing? Or just music they feel we should listen to! Not quite a library building series, but the music is the point of hi-fi. Otherwise it’s One Direction all the way.

Cheers, 

Doug McClure

 

I generally try to use music that is good at revealing the strengths and weaknesses of the specific equipment. A large orchestral piece can test equipment to its limits, demanding a wide and accurate soundstage, showing the various different groups of instruments spatially, tonally, and then musically. It will also show how the bass speaks relative to the rest of the orchestral sound. So often equipment is let down by its lack of ability to let all the instruments speak together. 

I normally state the piece of music, composer, and recording that I’m using, which you could Google if you are so-interested. Typically, I often use Solti’s CD recording of the ‘Tombeau de Couperin’ by Ravel as this exposes timing floors, general rhythmic swing, and on the best DACs and CD transports, a remarkable sense of stage depth, which can so easily be lost if there is a weak link lurching around! 

It is also great at exposing micro phrasing, i.e. the ability of the equipment to make the tiny changes of volume required to give a piece a sense of phrasing and therefore meaning. If this is lacking, the sense of the music becomes blocked and uninteresting.

I also like to listen to how the piano is reproduced, typically listening to the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in Bb minor, Ashkenazy with Solti conducting, again on Decca, as the transients on a piano are so rapid, and the piano will not sound correct if these are not working. Pianos on vinyl can sometimes sound a bit muddy, it takes a really fine turntable to resolve its sound. 

Then there is the issue of speed stability on vinyl, a piano will show this up rapidly enough.

Above all, I look for the ability of the equipment to create the illusion that the players are in my listening room, so that I can suspend disbelief and can be transported by the music.

I tend to use music with large forces because it is so revealing. Listening to female vocals accompanied by a single other instrument may sound very good (when I go to hi-fi shows the bulk of what I hear falls into this category) but it may not differentiate between two very different systems. I also believe that the demands of capturing an acoustic recording, as opposed to tracks that have been overlayed and are spatially defined by panning controls, are far greater and are an excellent indicator of a system’s ability to generate accurate spatial relationships, based on precise timings.

Rafael Todes, 

Allegri String Quartet

 

Ashkenazy playing Tchaikovsky  on Decca is a good test for hi-fi, says

Rafael Todes.  

 

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