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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 -
Noel Keywood, publisher; PR Paul Rigby, reviewer; TB Tony Bolton, reviewer; RT Rafael Todes, reviewer (Allegri String Quartet);  DC Dave Cawley, Sound Hi-Fi, World Design, etc.




My system comprises SME 10 turntable, Graham 2.2 Unipivot tonearm, Ortofon Jubilee cartridge, Leben RS 30 EQ Phonostage fed by 1:20 step-up transformers, LSA Standard Integrated amplifier and a set of Kingsound Prince 11 Electrostatic speakers.

   After reading your review of the Kingsound Prince speakers I saved up my pennies and bought a pair and can only agree with your review.

My question is one of speaker cables. You did not say what you used and if you tried bi-wiring as I have found it makes a big difference to them. I see you had some trouble getting any volume out of them but a company at seems to have the answers to some of the problems with large electrostatics. Their site is a mine of information regarding amplifiers and cables.

   I have found myself that cables do make a huge difference to the amplifier’s ability to drive them. I have tried many types, from shop-bought to home-made including normal 2.5mm twin and earth and flexible 2.5mm cables - they make it easy to drive the speakers but lose some focus. 

   At present I have a set of bi-wire QED 25th Anniversary cables in use which are a good compromise in being relatively easy to drive and giving a good sound. 

   Reading on the site mentioned above that a speaker cable with a low inductance and capacitance is a must for an electrostatic speaker as they act more like capacitors than inductors; hence the need for more volts, not current to drive them.

   I  know the company above sell cables but can you suggest a British company who could help? I have asked a few dealers but they tend not to do much with electrostatics.

Kind regards,

Robert Gardiner


The Kingsound Prince II electrostatic loudspeaker, a revealing design.

"Cables do make a huge difference to the amplifier’s ability to drive them"

says Robert Gardiner.


The need for volts is down to high impedance at low frequencies. Your (lovely) Prince IIs reach a massive 450 Ohms at 25Hz our impedance analysis shows, so a 100 Watt amplifier can push just 2 Watts into them here. But electrostatics are dramatic things; at 20kHz your Prince IIs have fallen from 450 Ohms to just 2 Ohms. Now, a 100 Watt (transistor) amplifier will deliver 450 Watts, or try to, possibly blowing up in the process.

   That's why electrostatics are difficult to drive: they demand high peak currents at high frequencies and this can blow power transistors, because current protection circuits in amplifiers are usually slugged so they don't operate too quickly, to avoid  relay chatter. It's an almost insurmountable problem for amplifier designers. So electrostatics do demand current – that's the problem with them. 

   Your Prince IIs are inductive up to 25Hz, resistive at 25Hz and capacitive above 25Hz. By 10kHz their impedance has sunk to residual resistance, probably from the step-up transformer windings. So they are not just capacitors, that is a too-simplistic model.  

   That closely spaced, parallel cables are inductive or capacitive (i.e. reactive) I am unsure – I have asked Chord to answer this. As a twisted cable pair has enormous analogue bandwidth and forms the basis of most high analogue bandwidth / digital data rate cables, from Ethernet through USB to HDMI, taking in Thunderbolt on the way no less, I can’t help suspecting that looking at the physical structure of a cable can be misleading. I suspect we will hear more about this from engineering readers or cable manufacturers! 

   All the same, that electrostatics need special matching cables is an interesting idea. We deliberately use very short cables around 1.5 metres long, from amps sited between the loudspeakers to minimise cable influence. I cannot recall what was used in our Kingsound Prince II review (April 09 issue) but I do remember that they were impressive electrostatics, if hard to drive. 




LSA Standard hybrid amplifier, a U.S. design that uses tubes and transistors.

It delivers 150 Watts per channel.



I have no experience of the LSA amplifier, but I see its transistor Class A/B output stage is rated for delivery into 1.3 Ohms (800 Watts!), and this suggests it has been designed with electrostatics in mind, the Prince IIs reaching 2 Ohms at 20kHz according to our measurements. 

   But Robert, I have never heard a transistor amplifier I would choose to use with electrostatics – and boy have I tried! Electrostatics open up and relax with a good valve amplifier and you hear into the music, rather than into transistors. No disrespect to the LSA, which looks like a great hybrid amp., but I would suggest you get a demo of a valve amp. sometime. As the Kingsounds are imported by Icon Audio, I am sure they can help you get a demo to hear for yourself. Their MB190 MkIIm monoblocks would be suitable. 

    Generally, look for at least 80 Watts per channel from paralleled KT88 power valves, or perhaps good quality KT90s / 120s. 

Valve amps have far less feedback than transistor amps, important when driving a capacitive load, and they shrug off a low load at 20kHz, where transistor amps can go into transient instability, current limiting or just blow up. But let your ears be the judge. NK



Icon Audio MB190 MkIIm monoblocks deliver 110 Watts and will drive

electrostatic loudspeakers like Kingsound Prince IIs.




Comments on the Sanders Sound website are interesting, but some we would agree with and others we would take issue. Their comments about capacitance and inductance we agree with. With the work we’ve done with loudspeaker cables over the years we have come to the conclusion that there is a set of capacitance and inductance parameters. If the loudspeaker cables fall within this range, then to some extent their effect alone on the performance of the system that they are used in is pretty negligible. 

   We would also agree with their website in pointing out that cables that fall outside of these parameters will affect the performance, and particularly the tonal characteristics. These types of cables though are relatively unusual and the vast majority of cables fall within the parameters we have mentioned above. 

    Like you, we have an ongoing fascination with electrostatic loudspeakers. One of the most compelling demonstrations that I experienced of what an electrostatic loudspeaker can do took place at a dealer in Chicago. Without wishing to disagree with Noel about the merits of valve versus solid-state amplification, the system was an LP12, Naim pre-amp and 250 power amplifier, driving a pair of Quad ESL 57s. The song was “The Wind that shakes the Barley” by Dead Can Dance.  It was absolutely extraordinary.  

   I can obviously only speak from our experience so I can tell you that Chord Odyssey and Chord Epic are both extremely popular cables for use with electrostatic speakers and also valve amplifiers.  Auditioning both of these cables (manufactured completely in the UK) would let you hear exactly why we choose to use high frequency effective shields on so many of our cables, Epic being a screened version of Odyssey. In terms of measurement they strike a happy medium (or a good compromise) between capacitance and inductance. Both cables use multi-stranded silver-plated conductors, arranged in a twisted pair configuration.  

   There is another important point I would like to make. Obviously you have an extremely transparent set of speakers. Frankly, the better the speaker cable, the better the sound. I would suggest that you look at some of the higher end cables that are available. Better still, listen to them in your own system. From here I would echo Noel’s words – let your ears be the judge. 

Nigel Finn, Chord Cables.


Chord Odyssey 2 cable suits electrostatic loudspeakers, say

The Chord Company. 



Firstly may I introduce myself. I am Terry Bateman, the designer of the Rega Brio amplifier reviewed in the November 2012 issue of Hi-Fi World.

   Yes, the story is true as regards the power amplifier circuit. It was about 22 years ago I came by a collection of Wireless World magazines covering the 1960s and first half of the 1970s which ‘road mapped’ evolution of the transistor amplifier circuit which started in 1961 with the Toby & Dinsdale circuit (based on the work of H.C. Lin) and saw the work and designs of Bailey, Walker, Hood, Leak, Nelson-Jones, Sugden & Baxandall et al, which evolved into the classic circuits which are in use today.

   As well as having a keen interest in valve amplifiers such as the Stereo 20, Quad 22 & Radford STAs etc. I also like researching the transistor amplifier circuits of the 1960s and the 1970s, which led me to the idea that I used in the Brio-r amplifier. The work done by Hood in the late 60s and early 70s was the inspiration for the circuit. I have to point out when I was researching and developing the circuit, which was to be used in the Brio-r, I used valve amplifiers such as the Stereo 20 and Mullard 5-10 etc to compare the prototype against.

   As stated in the review, the earlier incarnations of the Brio were already very good but I felt the power stage could be further improved with the research I’d been doing on transistor amplifiers and so the Brio amplifier you reviewed came about.

   Personally, I’ve got my hands on good examples of the Quad 33/303, later (silicon) Leak ST30+/70, Rogers Ravensbourne, Sugden A21/C51/P51 and Revox A78 amplifiers to chart and research the evolution of the second-generation (silicon-based) commercial transistor hi-fi amplifiers in the UK in the latter part of the 60s and first half of the 70s. I’m also looking at the kits like the PW Texan and Hood Hi-Fi News 75 Watt amplifiers. As part of this research I’d like to take the prototype of the Brio-r power amplifier and replicate the subjective listening tests Hood did in 1969-71 between this and say something like the Mullard 5-10 using a passive pre-amplifier.

   I also felt the review of the DAC you did a couple of months ago was a cracking piece. Speaking as its designer, the review really got a handle on what the Rega DAC was all about.

   Finally, I have a few Troughline tuners in the collection so I enjoyed the recent article on the Troughline. I agree with the safety letter in the November issue though.


Terry Bateman


The Rega Brio amplifier was designed very much with an ear on good

designs from the past, says its designer Terry Bateman.


Thanks for that Terry. I’m suitably impressed you have heard such a wide range of amplifiers and love the design history; it’s so important to have a good over-view. So many design engineers I meet (which I like to do) have heard few products outside their own personal cocoon, whose boundaries often do not extend far. It’s what Alex Garner of Tannoy named the “not invented here syndrome”. Meaning it isn’t worth knowing about if not invented ‘here’. Such parochialism doesn’t help one little bit. 

   The only confusing factor about old designs is old components. Even Quad admitted to me a little sheepishly in the end that had they not had a blind belief that components are passive and don’t affect sound quality then some earlier products could have sounded much better. 

   Worse, not only did old designs have poor components, those components age, especially electrolytic capacitors. So what we hear today from an old design may misrepresent what it can do. People rebuild Quad 33/303s with new bits and report amazing results, for example. It’s an interesting conundrum: to rebuild or not to rebuild? 

   The Rega DAC review – ah yes, the scintillating ear of Rafael Todes and his candid commentary does tend to impress us all. I am glad you appreciate his perceptive insights. Rafael can hear jitter before I measure it! NK


Quad 303 power amplifier was beautifully made and very reliable, but

may have sounded better with quality components.



Perhaps I should have been more careful in my argument in citing small VTA changes as more important than small VTF changes (Hi-Fi World Letters, August 2012).

I was trying to argue that minor VTF changes do not matter so long as the pickup is not mistracking and that it was a waste of time to set VTA to hundredths of a gram - but that it was the geometrical relationships of stylus to groove (or internal cartridge geometries) that are more important than fine adjustments.

I cited VTA because many of us are familiar with it and it was being changed by altering VTF.  I cited using VTF as a simple way to fine tune geometrical relationships by ear if your tonearm does not have micro adjustments built in, as most do not. Trying to fine adjust the height of a tone arm without fine height control is a thankless task.

Many audio advances are done without first knowing the scientific logic behind them. Indeed there are many things we do in set-up and design that are ‘good’ but we don’t really know why. But repeatable results are surely meaningful. So asking me to produce a detailed explanation in a simple letter to a magazine is hardly necessary and probably a waste of space. I could just as well ask for Mr. Beal to provide a clear explanation of why my procedure is not true.

By the way I only referenced the old issue of Stereophile to make the point that this was not a new idea not as support for my point. I wrote the Stereophile article and citing oneself as a reference is certainly circular and irrelevant.

In all but a few corners (such as Rega) fine VTA adjustment has been accepted and heard by many as significant and should be readjusted when VTF is changed. Indeed if one wants to take it to extremes (as some do) it needs to be altered for different manufacturers and different record thicknesses which I honestly rarely do.

I strongly believe that VTA precision is a minor factor in tuning our record systems and fine tuning of geometry is much more significant. I’m always open to being shown differently – it won’t be either the first or last time – but so far I haven’t seen or heard anything to alter my mind.

On another note, a thank-you and a bit of nostalgia. I was looking through some old Hi-Fi World DIY supplements (I save almost everything audio) and in issue 31 from October 1997 I found an article on using sticky tape on speaker fronts to smooth diffraction caused by minor gaps. My main speakers are SEAS Froy 3 kits (with custom 18” woofers below 85 Hz) and while the fronts were professionally constructed that only means they were paid for, not that they were well done. My gaps were larger than would be optimum, to say the least. Well I tried the sticky tape and it gets my recommendation. It definitely smoothed up the high end. Thank you. I miss those supplements; they were the impetus to my first purchase of your magazine.

Allen Edelstein

New Jersey,



The cutter head has a specific cutting angle, set to 15 degrees in the USA

and 22 degrees in Europe. The Vertical Tracking Angle of a cartridge must

be similar to avoid distortion. 


When people get pernickity about Vertical Tracking Angle, I always recall reading a white paper from Benjamin Bauer, of CBS Labs, about the phenomenon of lacquer springback and how it alters the intended cutting angle, confusing the issue completely. Quite what the final modulation slant is on an LP then becomes an unknown, at least to any useful degree of accuracy. This is one confusing factor.

   Another one is that most cartridges have a VTA of around 30 degrees, way above the correct value of 22 degrees. A change of 8 degrees at the headshell to correct this means moving the arm pillar down 32mm, an impossibly large amount. 

   And finally (!) I have yet to become convinced that correct VTA in a cartridge is strongly linked to sound quality. Other factors have greater influence it seems to me, having measured VTA and then listened to the product, for hundreds of models over more than 20 years or more (don't like to think about this!). Even Ortofons nowadays don't come with measurably correct VTA, as they once did (e.g. VMS20E), but it doesn't seem to affect their sound quality. And I know Ortofon listen carefully to all they produce. As you say, other issues are at play. Best to relax and enjoy the music, methinks! 



Can anyone help me to find where I can have my Akai GXC- 709 cassette deck serviced as there is a problem with the right hand VU meter.

Kind regards,

John Lander



I’d advise dropping a line to PR Audio. See They should be able to offer some advice. JM



This story starts with my going back to your Hi-Fi World Awards 2011 issue and spotting a reference to a mains distribution block supplied by Mains Cables R Us. After an interest in hi-fi since the 1970s I have arrived at a very pleasing system comprising a Naim Uniti, NAP 200 and Hi-Cap feeding Ruark Talisman 2 speakers. The retailer I use is now suggesting an upgrade of the speakers with which I have always been happy so there has been a reluctance on my part to consider anything else. Being open to other suggestions the recommendation in the Soundbites article seemed to be worth a try at a cost of £87. 

What happened to my system is exactly as described. A clearer, cleaner sound with less hash and mush, subtly more musical and tauter bass, smoother and more sparkly treble and an improvement in midband focus. I'm very satisfied with this small-cost improvement and my retailer will have to wait a lot longer before I change my speakers. I would like to thank your magazine for this excellent tip.

Horley Bosley

Upton St. Leonards



A simple, inexpensive but quality mains Power Block from Mains Cables R Us,

with plated components, Bussman fuse and Belden cable, did just what we said,

Horley Bosley tells us. 


It’s amazing what difference spending some time and money on mains cables, distribution blocks and connections – especially in an already well-sorted set-up. JM



I have to assume that the adjective ‘budget’ in Tony Bolton’s recent cartridge test was done to provoke a response from those to whom the words sense and money work in the reverse order. 

By their very nature moving coils are ephemeral and often overly-priced. By refusing to question the ridiculous price demanded by these manufacturers, I suggest that you do the reader a disservice. The actual cost to them of the tiny amounts of material must be negligible in comparison with the asking price of the product. 

Let me compare a musical instrument with the above. A good quality flute with solid silver head joint can be bought for around £800. A clarinet made from ebony with silver keys for around £1000. If we go on to high-quality watches the comparison is laughable. 

There is, however, more than one way to skin a cat. My philosophy over many years has been to spend the majority of the front-end money on the arm and the deck. These will not require replacing at frequent intervals and will give superb results with the most humble cartridges. I have a Triplanar tonearm mounted on an Oracle deck. Both were purchased in the 1980s. Mounting a Sumiko Pearl which costs peanuts gives superb results and I don’t weep buckets when it needs to be replaced. Here is a challenge for you: compare the sound of an expensive moving coil cartridge mounted in a mid-priced deck with a humble Sumiko in a top-quality unit. You may be in for a shock!

Yours sincerely

Paul L Speed

Ross on Wye


Assembly of a pickup cartridge. Our picture is taken from the video at Select HD and go

to full screen mode. It's better than Lawrence of Arabia! 


Material costs alone do not determine final price, Paul. Design time, skill levels and, in the case of a moving coil cartridge, build time all enter the equation. Raw material costs are high too. I remember being told by John Wright of TDL loudspeakers that sourcing high quality parts for cartridges was next to impossible because of the small quantities involved. Try buying a small part from a big Far East supplier and they'll ask you for a 10,000 minimum order quantity! 

Coil winding on a coil winding machine might seem a prosaic skill, but it is a peculiarly rare one. Morite transformers used to supply us with audio output transformers and they could only be assembled by one woman. When she left to have a family, after 15 years, they ceased production. 

Getting women (it's usually women because they are more dextrous) to wind the micro coils of an MC cartridge, under a microscope, with silver or copper wire thinner than a hair (down to 15µm) is not to be underestimated. You can see a video of this process at

And how do cartridge manufacturers (well, their sub-contractors) grind diamond styli to precise geometric shapes? 

Cartridge manufacture is a fascinating business, in some cases a father and son business because of the unique skills and equipment, passed down the generations. 

Both Ortofon of Denmark and Nagaoka of Japan are precision engineering businesses specialising in high technology, miniature parts and I think the cartridges they both produce are very reasonably priced in view of the difficulties of making them. 

An MC cartridge is a precision transducer of awesome basic purity, quite different from an MM cartridge. MMs produce (Johnson) noise that swamps the phono input stage, meaning the cartridge is noisier than any amplifier it is used with, a point few appreciate. 

MCs produce no noise, so they are fundamentally better, having a wider dynamic range. The challenge is to exploit this, something only a transformer can do properly, because of  the very low source impedance of an MC cartridge. 

If you are happy with a Sumiko Pearl, however, by all means don't go down the MC route, because there's no doubt that getting the best from them is an art, even a religion – but I think a worthwhile one. NK


I would like some advice on a pre-amp for my recently purchased XTZ AP100 Class A power amplifier. I understand that a valve pre amp works really well with a transistor power amp, so would you suggest any? Maybe the Icon Audio?

Also, what might be a good passive preamp as I see online there are scores of them, ranging from stepped attenuators and cheapish ones from the Far East, and also well reviewed stuff from Luminous Audio in the States, and numerous home grown items!! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

I would also like to take this opportunity to give thanks to Robert at Inspire, along with Jeff Spall at Audiomods, who both were superb with their advice and help in getting my Rega clear up and running! Both companies a credit to the British hi-fi scene!

Best regards,

David Prior


Icon Audio LA4 MkII preamplifier, with its 6SN7 valves, has a lovely smooth,

liquid sound that suits Naim power amplifiers, making for a great hybrid



The Icon Audio LA4 MkII is a good match for Naim because it has large bass, and that suits the Naim style, plus incredibly smooth and open midband due to those early, low current-density, 6SN7 triodes. There’s plenty of gain too.

Icon Audio make a good passive preamp and Creek have their remote controlled OBH-22 that uses an Alps motorised volume control pot. We don’t know the Luminous Audio product but it looks interesting. 

Another very interesting product to come our way, tested and reviewed last month, is the Furutech Esprit. This makes a very strong proposition: it is a preamp, it has USB record and playback, and it converts analogue to digital, so you can record from it. Not bad for £835. It has a squeaky clean transistor sound, so will not add the lush smoothness of a valve preamp, nor the sense of air and space, but for USB it is unrivalled.  




I was totally bowled over to win the prize Tellurium Q phono preamp in your magazine competition and wanted to let you know that my life has been changed profoundly as a result.

Your timing could not have been better. Over the last couple of years I have been trying to get my love of music back (new Sonus Faber Liuto towers and a Naim Supernait) and had come to the decision that I had to go back to vinyl. So my LP12 had to come out of retirement. But that involved so many practical issues – including no phono input on my amplifier, nowhere to put it, plus I didn’t know the condition of the turntable, arm and cartridge – each time I thought about it I was getting nowhere.

My first breakthrough was at the National Audio Show. I met up with Peter Swain from Cymbiosis who had last looked at my turntable in the 1980s and he proposed an examination of my system and discussion of the options in his listening room. I agreed.

Two days after that I took the call from your office to say that I was going to receive the five star award winning Tellurium Q Iridium phono preamp as a prize. Once I had been convinced that it wasn’t a hoax call (sorry) and I re-read the review (April 2012) I realized that my problems were probably going to change at some speed as a result. That was an underestimate.

First step was a call from Geoff Merrigan at Tellurium Q who has been fantastic from that day. Tellurium Q upgraded the phono to the very latest version (which improves upon the one reviewed) and made some helpful suggestions about cables. But most importantly sent the parcel for next day delivery!

I was waiting by the door when the postman came... and spent the next couple of hours moving everything and cabling up. Totally unfairly I tried out the system stone cold, no run in and so I was not expecting to listen – just check I had wired up OK.

But instead...words fail me. I had tears in my eyes and lost every bone in my body. It is astonishing, beautiful and sublime. Everything just fell away and left me listening to the music – it was an unearthly experience.

And as you recall I had pre-booked to take this same turntable to see if it was a runner. I was in total confusion. But loving the music. The soundstage was wide and deep, placement solid and the sound was an analogue joy. It was somehow just ‘right’. I could see why the review was so positive and there was nothing to say that was negative. It was all totally positive for me too.

When my wife came home she had a similar reaction. Most of my vinyl is quite old but well looked after. I played her ‘take five’ from her very early copy and she couldn’t move from the seat. She said ‘I don’t see what can be improved’.

Three hours with Peter Swain a week later showed me the possibilities. Each option demonstrated carefully and as a result I retained the Linn Ittok arm, updated the LP12 bearing to a Cirkus and changed the power supply and mat. The Linn Asaka cartridge was pensioned off and I invested in a beautiful Dynavector XX2. 

At the end of the session Peter switched the system to a ‘good’ £400/500 phono stage (that I might have bought). For the first time I saw the huge contribution of the Tellurium Q Iridium to the sound. Without it the delicacy, subtlety and beauty just fell away. It was just hi-fi – no longer ‘Heaven on Earth’.

When I spoke with Geoff he said that they are just a very small company and they only produce a device if it is the absolute best they can do. Colin Wonfor is responsible for the way the system works. And everything is made here in the UK with real care.

All I can say is that their care and Colin’s technical skill really shows through. If you want to get joy from vinyl and get the opportunity to try the Iridium out – don’t miss the chance. The difference it makes is fundamental and needs to be heard. I can’t find the words to explain what it does to me.

I am now looking forward to trying their upcoming DAC, which is one of their latest projects, as I know that it too will be worth waiting for.

This has been a tough year for me personally and there are times when I just need to find some peace away from things. So without exaggeration I can say it is life changing for me to be listening to music on vinyl again with this system. I have found joy and unblocked deep emotions. Does music get any better?

Thank you for changing my life - Geoff, Colin, Peter and everyone at HI-Fi World.

Peter Willmott



The Tellurium Q phono preamp won as a prize by Peter Willmott was an

"analogue joy" he says. 


Thanks for letting us know about your experiences Peter. It’s always good to hear about what went on. Almost turns Hi-Fi World into OK magazine! NK



As a result of an article in the December issue, I have bought the Ortofon 2M 78 cartridge and find it to be excellent. It tracks well at the recommended 1.8 g on conventional 78s and acetates while reducing the surface noise which I think shows that the stylus profile is accurate. 

I bought it partly because I use the Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge for stereo LPs.  I noted that Ortofon also list a 2M mono cartridge for mono vinyl. However, although the cartridge body appears to be the same as that for the 2M 78 unit (at £80), the cost of the mono version is £230 with a replacement stylus price of £175.  That seems to be unreasonable in comparison.

  I am sure that all original mono LPs and 45s need the larger stylus. What the more recent audiophile mono LPs need could be anything.

George Hulme




Ortofon's 78 rpm cartridge works well, says George Hulme.  


You're faster than us George! We will be reviewing the Ortofon Mono and 78 cartridges soon. The spherical tipped Mono did not work so well on a microgroove test disc, unlike the MC Cadenza Mono we tested, so we await Ortofon's comments. I believe it is purposed for old mono records, not new ones like the forthcoming Beatles Mono LPs. NK



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