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February 2013 Issue
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METER MADE

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 ww.wpraudio.co.uk. They should be able to offer some advice. JM

 

MAINS BLOCK

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

Gloucester

 

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

 

COSTLY COILS

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

http://ortofonmicrotech.com/technologies/coils.html. 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 http://ortofonmicrotech.com/technologies/coils.html.

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



 

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