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World mail May 2013 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, reviewer; RT Rafael Todes, reviewer (Allegri String Quartet);  DC Dave Cawley, Sound Hi-Fi, World Design, etc.

 

 

 

An independent record shop in Oxford, Truck Store, stage promotional

gigs and will order new releases on LP, says Graham Gough.

 

HMV

My local branch of HMV – Oxford – does not appear on the list of HMV closures, but something pretty radical will have to happen before I’m able to part with much cash there. Like you, I have no interest in the merchandise, games and gadgets, only music. 

But for me, the trouble with HMV is that it’s piled disproportionately high with reissues and back catalogue (oh dear...does that also describe Hi-Fi World’s vinyl reviews...?)

I’m no youngster, but I am looking for new releases of new music. It is rare that I can find what I want in HMV, on either CD or vinyl. There is a half-hearted acknowledgement of renewed interest in the latter, served by a couple of dozen LPs at best, many of them...you guessed...reissues. 

I can’t help but wonder how many times HMV expects the record-buying public that remains wants to buy the same things again and again. 

I am lucky that Oxford has a great independent record shop too. Unlike HMV, it’s a walk and bus ride to get to, not in the city centre, but well worth the effort. Truck Store (http://truckmusicstore.co.uk/) will pre-order new releases, and the staff try very hard to stock and recommend titles they feel their customers will like. There are free promotional gigs from live bands on a tiny, cramped stage (I saw Ides of Gemini from Los Angeles there one evening last summer) and coffee. 

Sadly, HMV has had little to offer for a very long time. Those of us still lucky enough to have an independent record shop need to use it like never before.

Keep up the good work.

Graham Gough

 

Thanks for you views Graham, which reflect those of others I’ve seen. HMV became large, diffuse and unfocussed it would appear, as customers see it. By contrast your local record store appears to have focus – and commitment. 

   For my part I would stroll away from HMV Oxford Street casually wondering whether they should fill their front-of-house displays with colourful LPs, a few ‘record players’ and band posters to play up the glamour of the format and the glamour of its heyday. Then I’d think “no, that’s your interest, not that of others” and scold myself for it. 

Now I see in Oxford Street’s biggest new store, of cruise liner style and proportions, a large new concession called Urban Outfitters (I am meant to know about them, but I don’t!) has a mock LP store in its entrance, no less. The LP has now become a fashion statement and cool, it seems. 

    It’s the music on it that matters and gives it value, but the two are inextricably linked, as countless TV programmes on The Beatles, The Kinks, Queen, Mark Knopfler et al remind us, almost nightly. What a shame that HMV never really understood this or exploited it. 

    Promoting new bands and featuring their albums, as well as making good re-issues available (yes, I buy them!) is a far more creative approach. I just hope it is profitable for them too, because returns for LP were high when we sold them at Hi-Fi World and processing the returns disproportionately high against the profit on them. NK

 

RECORDING WITH AUDACITY

I read with interest your article about using PC hardware to record and manipulate audio. Thanks for taking a step to acknowledge the power and flexibility that contemporary computer hardware brings to audio management and manipulation.

However, I must raise a grumble about your comments on input and output hardware. Since 2004 there has been a standard for multichannel audio in PCs. Intel created the Azalia project to improve on the AC97 standard and to permit routing and mixing of more than one pair of audio channels in hardware on a PC. 

Intel HD Audio[1] is the standard that came out of that project, and its fruit of manipulating two channels at 32-bit/192kHz resolution or 8 channels at 32-bit/96kHz has really widened out the capabilities of PC Hardware. It has become a standard part of home desktop and laptop computers, and every Mac on Intel CPUs is capable of handling high-definition audio.

The crunch comes when your article suggests buying the best that your readers can afford. There’s no reference to the need to buy a card with good noise floor isolation – so that signals from other parts of the computer don’t cause interference to the audio signal via the ground lines – or that current chips can provide extremely high levels of SNR (signal-to-noise ratio). 

Due to the race to include features and improve computer chip performance, the capabilities of even low-end chips have good noise floor isolation and high signal-to-noise sensitivity. An example is the ASUS Xonar DGX card which is only 23[2] and has a sibling for older computers available for 22[3]. Reviews take the stated specification for the chips, and test it, showing exceptional noise floor and THD[4]. (Clock jitter is pretty-much forgotten when the audio processing chip is operating at a few hundred megahertz and managing sample rates at best a few hundred kilohertz – three orders of magnitude lower).

I understand that you publish a hi-fi magazine and home computing is not obviously a part of that, so I repeat my thanks that you stepped into a new arena. My home setup is the product of being a CD kid, that almost all the music I own came on 44.1kHz/16-bit digital stereo discs, and so they have migrated to backups in my home computer network, emerging from DAC-Amp-Speaker setups around my home on demand. This calls for some home networking, but the boon of small, silent computers which have high sample rate and high bit rate compatibility on a very low noise floor has liberated my enjoyment of the music I own.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, 

Ken Harpur-Lewis

 

Asus Sonar DGX card offers 'good noise floor isolation and high

signal-to-noise sensitivity' and great specs (below) says Ken Harpur-Lewis.

 

 

 

notes: [1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_HD_Audio

[2]: http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=SC-015-AS&groupid=701&catid=11&subcat=

[3]: http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=SC-011-AS&groupid=701&catid=11&subcat=

[4]: http://techreport.com/review/23358/asus-budget-xonar-dgx-and-dsx-sound-cards-reviewed

 

A Meridian 818 preamplifier produces almost negligible levels of distortion

with 24bit resolution audio files – just 0.02%. Budget audio players typically

offer a performance seven times worse. 

 

Thanks for your views Ken. But there are issues here! 

You state modern computer cards have an exceptionally low noise floor and low distortion (THD), in spite of working in an electrically noisy environment, but I view this with some scepticism. Firstly, budget digital signal processing chips used in low cost computer peripherals, such as USB receivers, DACs, sample rate convertors etc commonly use cheap’n’dirty methods to do their work. Our measurements show, for example, high noise and raised distortion where sample rate is not a multiple of clock rate (e.g. a 96kHz sample rate signal being processed by a system using a 44.1kHz CD clock), and noise from the digital domain that falls through into the analogue domain (dither illustrates this phenomenon). And then there is the issue of 24bit files being truncated to 16bit for the sake of compatibility: they play, but with 16bit quality. This may be acceptable as consumer audio goes, meaning tablets, iPods, PCs etc, but it has never been fully accepted as high fidelity to audiophiles. 

    Cheap chips found in cost-cut PC peripherals do not deliver top audio quality. At best it is satisfactory for the purpose intended. Our measurements reveal these issues, but you need a Rohde & Schwarz UPV to run such tests and few possess this instrument. 

If you don't have one of these, then you are probably measuring the wrong thing, says Noel. It is a Rohde & Schwarz UPV audio analyser with 24/192 digital generator and an analyser able to measure true noise levels.

 

    Noise measurement? The easy way is to run a silent file, invoking digital muting. Noise drops to nothing (-120dB or so). But this does not represent real life situation; we don't listen to silent files! In our tests we run a 24bit, 1kHz, -60dB test tone and notch it out to measure noise, lifting muting. This will typically yield a -92dB – 110dB noise floor. So measuring noise in a digital system isn't straightforward, A no-noise result is ncommon, because it is what a simple test comes up with. 

So I somehow doubt the veracity of reviews on computer cards showing they offer a flawless performance. Here’s an example: our 24bit, -60dB test files produce 0.15% distortion on budget product, but through a Meridian or Naim product 0.02% distortion – seven times less distortion. That’s the difference between budget and audiophile.

Go to Letters, June 2012 on our website, and page 6 (Digital Cables) to read more about sending music via ethernet. Cables add jitter, termination reflections and RF noise. Not a good idea. At home I use a LaCie Whizkey and sneakernet, because it offers a smoother, richer sound. But then I am surrounded by my neighbour’s wi-fi transmitters and mobile phones, to which my ethernet cable acts as a great aerial.

    That jitter reduces to inconsequentiality through downsampling depends upon its percentage in the first place. Jitter, radio-frequency pickup and noise are pervasive influences not so easily eradicated in any electrical engineering idiom, in spite of overly optimistic claims made by engineers over the ages. Today they still plague us; I was told recently these factors are a big issue in modern jets, where data and communications networks are critical items potentially compromised by such degradation. Don’t be too quick to assume the CD you hear over ethernet is perfect, and jitter non-existent! 

    Try to audition a modern high resolution player running a 24bit file if you can, to hear how the world is moving ahead from CD and its rather mechanical presentation, unloved by so many – especially those brought up on analogue. 

    Even the music industry is declaring they have seen the light: there is a headlong rush back to old analogue sources, and a greater awareness of the need to record new material through the latest high resolution analogue-to-digital convertors. The limitations of 16bit and CD are clearly audible against 24bit.

Today’s digital standards are a lot higher than those of even a few years ago. That’s why recent, high quality post-CD digital recordings or old pre-CD analogue recordings generally rest easier on the ear than anything made during the dark age of audio that the computer business still clings to. 

    This situation will change soon when Apple release a high resolution iPod that plays 24/96 Mastering Quality recordings made available through iTunes. Then the PC business will enter the arena of high fidelity in a headlong rush. Well, it will try! NK

 

The player of tomorrow, an Astell&Kern AK100 plays 24/192 digital files

through headphones or the hi-fi. Sound quality is audibly superior to that

of current portables


CLEANING RECORDS

If any readers have been following the Michael Feinstein series “The Great American Song Book” on Sky Arts TV they will know that he frequently visits persons that have put together large collections of music on a variety of media such as 78s, 45s, LPs, films and tape. The object is usually just to preserve the music from these sources, often the only ones available. Mostly, the music is being transferred to media such as CD or DVD. In the case of the records, the condition is often poor and the discs need to be cleaned to enable good quality transfers to be made. 

Looking at the cleaning methods recommended to Feinstein by the American collectors, I am appalled. Various cleaning fluids are suggested including Windolene which contains vinegar (acetic acid) and that will attack the surface of both shellac and vinyl. 

Still worse is a method that was demonstrated which I have come across a few times. That is to flood the surface of the disc with water or a cleaning fluid while playing the record. Not only may the liquid attack the record surface but it will disturb the dirt in the grooves to make a fine mud that will then attach itself to the stylus and grind away the groove wall. But, possibly more important is that the liquid will get up into the cartridge body and cause damage there. 

Records should only be cleaned with water and a few drops of washing-up liquid or with a proprietary record cleaning fluid. After cleaning, the record should be rinsed in de-ionised or distilled water and brushed along the grooves with a soft brush. It then should be allowed to dry completely before it is played. There are commercial record cleaner kits that facilitate this process. 

One of the problems in restoring records concerns the repair of the sleeves of American LPs. Such sleeves are constructed of two sheets of card held together by a front paper sheet that is glued to the front card then wrapped on to the back card. Because many LPs did not have paper or polythene inner sleeves, the sharp edge of the record slices through the paper joining the two cards. There is a temptation repair the slit with ordinary self-adhesive tape (e.g. Scotch or Sellotape). The result is that within a short time, the adhesive perishes and turns brown while the tape peels away. Once this happens, the brown residue cannot be removed without extensive damage to the sleeve. The tape to use is the archival variety such as “Magic” or other so-called permanent tape. 

Sincerely 

George Hulme 

Old Basing, 

Hants   

 

"Windolene contains vinegar (acetic acid) and that will attack the surface

of both shellac and vinyl" warns George Hulme. Don't use it on your records! 

 


 

 

The complex and very expensive MBL 101 radialstrahler, a fantastic

omni-directional loudspeaker. 

 

OMNI-DIRECTIONAL LOUDSPEAKERS

After a long history enjoying hi-fi sound reproduction, starting with a Mullard 3-3 kit from Henrys Radio in the Edgware Rd. and a king’s ransom in upgrades, at retirement I decided to purchase a sensible and reliable system to last. This consists of a Sony ES 777 CD player, the matching tuner purchased new, the matching amplifier purchased used from Haden Boardman and the matching loudspeakers from the notice board at Sainsburys. 

However in a moment of madness during a visit to the Warwick vintage radio collectors fair John Howes had on offer the most beautiful pair of Rosewood Omni-Directional loudspeakers by Larson who i understand was responsible for other similar systems. 

Driving home I kicked myself for being mad, or at least stupid, to start chasing my tail again. Arriving home my wife was most impressed and declared they are nice. Pause to sit in chair and let this message sink in. This was a first! 

I removes six m.m. of accumulated dust from the upwards firing tweeters then rewired and re-capacitored the inside, and polished up the outside. I am informed that the cost of the veneer today would be very high. 

Then listening began. After several hours the loudspeakers began to settle in and the room was filled with a very good sound – no, correction, a superb sound filled the room. People who visit all comment on the sound.

  I admit they do not suit rock music but anything else is excellent. 

My questions. Why do omni-directional loudspeakers receive so-so reviews. If you sit in a concert hall you do not have a hot seat. Why have I spent a fortune over the years trying to heat the singers tonsils rattle or the resin falling off the violinists bow. As you can read I am converted. As the Larsons where made in 1974 I think it was a long and costly journey. 

Regards, 

Pat Rickwood. 

 

 

The Larson had a single downward firing bass/midrange unit and an upward

firing treble unit. It was omni-directional and "a superb sound filled the room"

from them says Pat Rickwood.

 

Hi Pat. Omni-directional loudspeakers fire sound all-around the room, so more sound energy is bounced off walls and ceiling (and even the floor if uncarpeted) than with conventional loudspeakers. Sound returning from acoustically reflective surfaces is very uneven though, as well as randomly time delayed, so what you get is uncontrolled and room dependent. How much of the room you hear depends upon your closeness to the loudspeakers: sit close and you hear more of the loudspeaker than the room reflections; sit at a distance and it is the other way around. Due to this, omnis are less specifically accurate or revealing as a directional loudspeaker that sends its message to your ears with less room influence. You rightly identify this as a concert hall experience: big, spacious and unchallenging in that you don’t hear “singer’s tonsils rattle”. But not everyone wants this; the market for Rock dominates and in this world images of instruments and singers placed artificially on an imaginary sound stage are the accepted norm. That’s why omnis are not so popular with loudspeaker designers, or listeners. But they do give a relaxed and spacious sound, enjoyable in its own way. NK


 

"The speaker upgrade path was smooth and has culminated in the

Tannoy DC8Ts that I enjoy now" says David Jarvis.

 

MUSICAL SYNERGY

This Christmas I persuaded my nearest and dearest to buy me vinyl rather than CDs if at all possible. Luckily I was given three LPs. 

What I heard when I played them made me think and has prompted this letter, but more of that later. Before I married back in 1972 I did not own a single record, the nearest I got to vinyl was when my brother, who had a Saturday job in a local record shop, would occasionally bring home a few singles to play over the weekend along with a Dansette record player borrowed from the shop. 

  Later I heard records on my girlfriend’s (now my wife of forty years) brother’s music centre. I vowed that when I had a place of my own a proper hi-fi would be high on the list of essentials. To that end in 1973 we bought our first hi-fi system from Leicester Hi-Fi. It consisted of a Sansui turntable and amplifier and a pair of largish LMB standmount speakers. 

For some reason, probably because we couldn’t afford them, we didn’t buy stands and so the LMBs stood on the floor. The bass was so prominent that the plates on the dresser used to shake when I played music loud. Not ideal but it was a start. 

   Over the next 39 years my upgrading of turntables has taken a fairly smooth upward path, through a middle of the range Sony direct drive, the inevitable Rega to a Clearaudio Champion 2 and finally to my fantastic Roksan TMS 3. The LMBs were replaced by a pair of Tangent TM1s bought from a guy named Derek Wittington who was just starting out in business. At that time he had a room at the top of the same building where the LNBs were made in Loughborough. The TM1s were also standmounts but even bigger then the LMBs but this time we bought the stands, with castors, and all was well. 

    Again the speaker upgrade path was smooth and has culminated in the Tannoy DC8Ts that I enjoy now. I have to say that the amplifier upgrades were not always so satisfactory or necessary; there were a few sideways moves. In the 80s I bought an Armstrong integrated. In many ways it was a great amp, it sounded good and was finished in a lovely wood casing but used to blow fuses for fun. 

    Anyway, I have finished up a with a Naim pre/power and a Quad twenty four P phono amp. And so that’s my system forty years later. 

The very first record I bought was a recording of Rossini’s William Tell Overture but my tastes have widened considerably over the years and I enjoy music from every genre and I own several thousand LPs and CDs. I think that I have developed my musical tastes by taking chances. By that I mean that probably fifty percent of the music that I buy I have discovered in a Guardian review or similar and have bought it unheard. 

    Sometimes I’m a bit disappointed – but only rarely. In my opinion too many people only buy music types that they already like and never extend their range. 

I used to listen to the great John Peel on the radio. Some nights he played total dross but I hung in there because I knew that eventually a new gem would eventually come along (my gem was someone else’s dross of course). Also in the mid-seventys there was a programme on Radio 3 on a Sunday evening that was presented by the music critic on The Telegraph. He used to play new LP releases from every musical genre, classical, jazz, rock, pop, folk, the lot in fact. I picked up some classics in that way. Some bands I heard then I’ve not heard of since! 

     I  also remember once going to the very same Derek Wittington (who sold my the Tangents) to buy some vinyl. At this time he had a very successful business called Sound Advice. It was the typical specialist Linn/Naim dealership of the time. Derek is a music lover first, hi-fi salesman second. He took my wife and me into his best listening room where he demonstrated his top kit to prospective buyers and just played music to us for an hour. He knew full well that at that time we weren’t in the market for the equipment we were using so at best he might sell us an LP, and that’s just what happened: we bought an imported copy of Joni Mitchell’s Chalk Mark in the Sand. 

So I have my LPs and CDs and a very nice system on which to play them. 

    Just before Christmas, as I have some recordings on both formats, I decided that I would play both simultaneously and switch between the two and listen critically for differences. I was shocked to find that I didn’t hear much difference at all. (CD playback though Cyrus transport/PXR and Musical Fidelity TriVista DAC). I don’t believe that I have particularly acute listening abilities but I was still very surprised. 

    So why am I such a vinyl nut? The fact remains that when I listen for pleasure I’m much more likely to listen for longer when playing vinyl than when I play CDs, so here must be some subliminal thing that comes over with vinyl that CD doesn’t offer. And so to my Christmas LPs. 

    The first was a blast from the past, The Ramones first LP release; the second was a current release from Taffy called Caramel Sunset. 

The last and the one that prompted this letter was Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’s recording of Wake Up Everybody recorded in 1975 and re-released by MOV. I own quite a bit of 70s soul but I can’t say that it comes near the top of my favourites list and so I was particularly surprised that when I played this album I was totally blown away. The synergy was all there. Great music made by Harold and his pals played though a system carefully put together over forty years and yet another superbly mastered and pressed LP from MOV. Musical bliss.

David Jarvis 

Leicester

 

 

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’s album Wake Up Everybody , re-released

by Music On Vinyl (MOV) and superbly mastered and pressed, says David Jarvis.

 

I’ve just returned from a meeting with our distributor, Seymour (they take in mags from the printers and send them around to newsagents in the UK and around the world) and our representative there told me, almost sheepishly, that he thought LP had “more depth” than CD, even through his JVC system. He is a musician too so had an ear for such things. So whilst he played CD and an iPod, like most, he still felt LP was more attractive. This is an appeal that seems universal, one you share with so many others. Just beware of the Ramones first album: it destroys loudspeakers cones – and brain cells too! But it is fun. NK


QUAD ESL-57 SPACE

In your opinion what is the minimum amount of space that is needed at the rear of a Quad ESL-57 for it to perform correctly and also how much power is required to drive it to reasonable levels? I am assuming that when they where first produced they would have been run using amps like Quad II or something from the Leak range such as Leak Stereo 20 or 12.1 or 10.1. Will these still work or are they now considered too low powered?

Regards 

William Ford 

 

The Quad ESL-57 is an open-backed dipole and needs space behind it

– but how much asks William Ford?

 

 

 

The Quad II-forty is a modern day variant of the Quad II. Using KT88 power

valves in push-pull it delivers 40 Watts and is perfect for Quad ESL-57s. 

 

From my own experience with ESL-57s and 63s, and from what I have heard of other systems, I would say around 6ft minimum. Looking at this more academically, a gap of 7ft to a rear wall will return the rear wave in-phase at 80Hz and the ESL-57 reaches down into the bass region little further, so my observations and experiences tally with what might be expected from theory, at least in simple outline (the modal behaviour of a room is complex). This is also enough distance to ‘lose’ higher frequencies, although rear absorption of some sort, like a colourful rug as a wall hanging, helps in this role and looks more suitable in the home than an acoustic panel (see www.studiospares.com, Acoustics section). 

Around 40 Watts is required from an amplifier for reasonable levels, without over driving the panels, and this is one reason why Quad produced the II-forty amplifier. There are of course plenty of 40 Watt valve amplifiers around nowadays because one pair of KT88s or EL34s power valves in push-pull produce 35-40 Watts. The Quad II and Leak amps will work but they are a little under-powered. Also, the Quad II has small output transformers and little bass push (Peter Walker told me this was deliberate, to protect the ESL-57s) so they would not be my choice. Go to www.onethingaudio.net for more on ESL-63s if you are thinking of buying a pair, and to our review of their renovation at www.hi-fiworld.co.uk, Loudspeakers, for more information. NK 

 

CASSETTE DECK SERVICE

There is no address for John Lander (February edition, p 31) but if he or any other reader in the North Hampshire area needs service on cassette decks or other hi-fi equipment then I can suggest an excellent repair service. It is Ian Davies Electronics Services in Basingstoke. His workshop telephone number is 01256 421923 or mobile 07786636593. His website is hifi-repair-specialist.co.uk. I have found Mr Davies to be knowledgeable and efficient. As an example, I was given a Nakamichi cassette deck that was said to be “faulty”. Mr Davies soon found the cause of the problem and returned a fully serviced perfectly working machine at modest cost.

Sincerely

George Hulme 

Old Basing, 

Hampshire

 

If you need to get a cassette deck repaired use Davies Electronic

Services in Basingstoke, says George Hulme. 

 

Thanks George. You are a mine of information! I suspect that will be useful to many readers with tape collections and an ageing cassette deck on their hands. NK


GREAT SERVICE

As a surprise for Christmas my wife ordered me a hi-fi rack from Slateage who are located at Fence, Lancashire and being of bespoke dimensions she ordered it in November so that it would be ready in time for the festive period. It was ready for collection on the Thursday before Christmas and my wife collected it in person from Slateage with a view to setting it up before i arrived home from work.On arrival at the Slateage works unit she was met by John and Mathew who had not only gone to the trouble of setting the rack up to ensure everything was correct and ensure my wife was happy with the finished product, but also took great care to load the rack into my wife’s car and ensured it was safely packed for transportation home, with the parting words “any problems, just ring”.

Due to the racks weight my wife sensibly decided to wait until i got home from work when the two of us could assist each other with the construct, which apart from the weight proved to be a straight forward affair. Unfortunately having put it together we discovered that in calculating the measurements my dear wife had not taken into account the thickness of the legs, an understandable error, as the legs are much thicker than your average hi-fi rack legs normally are and which meant that none of my hi-fi could be slotted into place, a disaster you may think!

No, one phone call to Slateage next morning to enquire whether anything could be done was met with a positive response and fifteen minutes later i received a return call from John with an invitation to bring it back that very same day, this the last Friday before Christmas by the way, so that the modifications could be made. My presumption that I would have to leave the rack for collection until after the Christmas break was swiftly corrected and i was informed that the mods would be carried out that Friday afternoon so that i could take it home for Christmas. I dropped the rack off at Slateage about 1.30pm and it was ready for collection, all work completed by 4 pm, it was back home and set up by tea time!

The rack is beautifully constructed, looks great [see attached image] and really isolates my hi-fi equipment brilliantly from foot-fall vibration. And after extended listening over the Christmas holidays – what else can one do when the weather has been so bad – my conclusions are that my system sounds sweeter and more natural sounding. In addition the attention to detail and the after sales service provided by John and his team at Slateage is second to none and we can not recommend them highly enough.

Dave Hewitt

 

 

"The Slateage rack is beautifully constructed, looks great" says Dave Hewitt.

 

REEL PROBLEM

Good evening Mr. Boardman. I read with interest your article on Revox reel to reel machines. I purchased a second hand one for £500 in Birmingham 20 years ago when I lived in the U.K.  a B77. I never got it working properly and as I have retired last Friday, I am adamant that I get it sorted! 

My problem is that as I now live in Dublin, Ireland, I cannot find anyone to service it. Are you aware of anyone in Ireland or Northern Ireland who would be able to attend to this?

I asked Cloney Audio a few years back but the person that they referred me to could not help.

I would appreciate your guidance.

Many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Birch

Dublin 

Ireland

 

Dear Gordon. Many thanks for your kind message. Congratulations on your retirement. Sadly, other than a few installation engineers, I know of nobody in your neck of the woods. In the UK, the specialist is a chap called Brian Reeves; his web site is http://www.revox.freeuk.com. His address is 184 Finney Lane Cheadle Cheshire SK8 3PU United Kingdom  Tel. 0161 499 2349. 

Rather than try and ship the machine, he is not far from Manchester Airport, so maybe a budget flight from Dublin direct (well two!) might be the best option for transporting the unit.

With kindest regards, 

Haden Boardman

 

How can Gordon Birch get a Revox B77 open reel recorder fixed in

Dublin? Fly it to Manchester, say our experts, or DIY.

 

Hi Gordon. I must admit that I can’t find any companies capable of servicing Revox equipment in the Irish Republic or in Northern Ireland either (although that’s not to say there aren’t any). If you’re prepared to ship the machine to England, though, I have found a couple of companies that specialise in this sort of thing:

http://www.revox.freeuk.com/

http://www.taperecorder.co.uk/servicing.htm

I’m not sure what electronics experience you have. And what are your machine’s fault symptoms? It might be an ‘easy one’ to fix, if you’re lucky! 

I have rebuilt Revox A77s and B77s in my time – they’re great machines to work with – but the service information for the B77 Mk 1 and Mk2 (what version do you have?) is freely available from:

ftp://ftp.studer.ch/Public/Products/Revox/Revox_B77/

The http://www.vintage-radio.net/ forum also deals with tape recorder troubleshooting and repairs and Revox machines crop up regularly.

Hope this has been of help,

Best regards Martin Pipe

 

ACTIVE ANSWER

I was convinced that the way forward with all my hi-fi purchases was going to be under the heading of Head Room and Clean Signal Path. Up until a year ago this mantra had resulted in the power amp being a very highly modified Musical Fidelity A370. Improvements included two PSUs each with 1500va transformers and 80,000μF of capacitance in a bypass format each side. The main boards essentially had twice the number of output devices (18 p/ch) which deliver twice the current and twice the heat! So all in all, loads of head room on a Tim de Paravicini designed circuit. 

After trying all sorts of loudspeakers over the years I ended with KEF 207s. The rest of the equipment is built around the belief in a clean signal path all the way, so Michell Orb turntable, SME IV arm (re-wired with Audio Note silver litz). Avondale Phono stage with four separate PSUs, two on each channel, and a Koetsu cartridge. Pre amp is an Audio Synthesis Passion all hooked up with Cardas Golden Reference interconnects. 

So a clean signal path with loads of head room and full range speakers hanging off the end and, what’s more, not bad reproduction of real music. So back to my point as raised by Dean Marshall in the October 12 issue. I had just finished my cinema room in the front of the house and needed some speakers to complete the audio side of things. I did not want yet another rack of audio real-estate, I just wanted good sound. The answer, speakers with amplification inside them, no rack, no speaker cables, no amps sat in the corner of the room warming the place up, perfect! 

From a well-known internet auction site I picked up a set of ATC 100as. The first thing I did when I got them home was simply plug them, and I ran my iPod through them just to have a listen. The pod is loaded with good sized files of my favourite sounds, so I switched on and away they went. My first reaction was ‘wow, how good does that sound’. Massive, open, detailed, out in the room, effortless, calm, relaxing, tone full, image almost the size of the room. 

In disbelief I moved them onto the main system. making the big MF amps redundant, not to mention the KEFs. I gain a huge step forward due to the improved signal quality that is running into them. So what is the difference? 

Easy! I am now listening to music, real music in my room. My foot is tapping involuntarily to virtually every upbeat track that I play. Guests come round for dinner, these are people who have no interest in audio and the they say of Jack Johnson, In between Dreams (180g)  “wow that sounds good; it sounds like he is there singing for us”. And a good friend who has some interest in audio remarked they really nail the mid-range. 

Why is active almost scorned by the hi-fi community? A class A amplifier for each and every drive unit, no power draining passive crossover with tolerances that are constantly changing with temperature creating distortion, no phasing issues between the drive units removing the need for crude time aligning in the enclosure design, dynamics and control that are not even dreamt about by passive systems and bass that is not big and mushy and boomy but clean, tight and defined. I now hear bass guitar strings, not just a mixed up fuzzy impression of what a guitar should never sound like. 

There’s no harshness in the treble because of the removal of distortion. Let’s be honest most studios, live performances and artists record and perform their art using active equipment. It then ends up with us, the music lovers, and the majority of us try and reproduce it with passive systems. Why? 

My final observations are perhaps the most remarkable: my partner who has suffered no end of audio equipment in her living room would agree with almost every review of the ATCs they are big, square and frankly ugly however she Is happy to have them in her room because we listen to music not that audio she has had forced on her for years. 

So why does the hi-fi community push us down the road of a nice reproduction of an impression of the real recording, using a fundamentally flawed approach, when the reproduction process can be designed to reproduce real high fidelity sound as laid down by the artist?

Martin Harvey

 

 

Active ATC100a loudspeakers "reproduce real high fidelity sound"

says Martin Harvey. 

 

ATC loudspeakers are popular with studios, because they go loud and have a revealing midrange dome that images well. However, studios also use PMCs, B&Ws and Tannoys, to name a few other popular brands; there’s always room for alternatives. Although active, ATCs are still conventional dynamic loudspeakers, with most of their characteristics. Active drive has benefits, but it does not solve every problem; you are still listening to conventional drive units in a box. 

Active loudspeakers are also expensive, bulky and impose a particular, inflexible solution upon a user. This is fine for those who don’t want to get involved in matching products to suit their tastes: B&O, Meridian, Panasonic and many others offer solutions. However, at ATC’s price level a potential buyer is likely to be more choosy, and want to keep items separate. 

It’s good that you find ATC 100as realistic and are enjoying them. NK

 
 

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