September 2010

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World Mail    September 2010 issue        


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Your experts are -

DP David Price, editor; NK Noel Keywood, publisher; PR Paul Rigby, reviewer; TB Tony Bolton, reviewer; RT Rafael Todes, reviewer (Allegri String Quartet); AS Adam Smith, reviewer; DC Dave Cawley, Sound Hi-Fi, World Design, etc.






Foobar plays music on computer properly, says Paul Williamson.
Editor David Price agrees. And it's free!


Have I been suffering alone? Computers and software aren’t half pernickety aren’t they? Am I the only one who likes to organise his music the way he wants without all the flashing paraphernalia that comes with it and without subscribing to i-tunes, only to be told I am not entitled to play my own home recordings?

I tried Windows Media Centre but we just ended up arguing about how things should be done and there was no way we were going to get on. I have been using Winamp, Media Monkey, Media Player Classic with more success but there were always problems. Those downloading Winamp these days will find it won’t play WAV files at all. It does one of those freeze-ups with certain more unusual high resolution formats then Windows jumps in to ‘solve the problem’, with the usual result.

Why so many different packages? Well some files would play on one but not the other. My Reference Recordings 192/24 WAV files would not play on Winamp so I used the RR recommended Media Monkey and tried to circumvent the view that the media world consists of albums and artists. One 2L recording that played only on Media Monkey refused to play on anything after a while, thanks no doubt to automatic updating.

You see, my collection is classical, built up over many years, filed in separate ‘composer’ folders and ‘works’ subfolders containing different files for different movements, and I keep encountering presentations like the song ‘adagio’ from the ‘5th symphony’ album sung by ‘Mahler’. Computers are very clever, but they are not that good.

So along comes ‘Foobar’ that works properly from the start. It is sober and professional and while it does organise your files if you want it to, it also lets you alone if you don’t. It plays long movements that have been separated into different tracks without exposing the join, it places all the movements in the correct order when I drag them in as a folder and it plays everything, regardless, without having to spend hours trying to configure obtuse plug-ins. I had digitised some LPs at 96k 32bit but no software would replay them apart from Cool Edit. Now I can play them along with everything else using this wonderful Foobar player. Defenders of the ‘others’ will no doubt point out that all the problems can be solved and could explain various fixes but life’s too short.


As for sound quality, the Foobar web site states that it isn’t really doing anything to contribute to sound quality. All it does is manage the stream. What a refreshing change from others who claim credit where it’s not due.

Thumbs up for Foobar then.

with best regards

Paul Williamson

Ratcliffe on Soar



Hi Paul - yes, it's shocking how primitive some of these music players/media managers still are. Long term readers of this magazine will remember us doing a mini-magazine, ten and a half years ago, called 'Computer Audio World"; at that time I tried just about every music player application and I am shocked to see that few have really progressed much from where they were back then! The standout package is of course iTunes, but that has severe 'issues' which prevent it from being used by a number of people, not least its complete lack of flexibility for anything outside the Apple platform (and the company's very rigid licensing parameters); why no FLAC, for example?


I personally use iTunes, but I have multiple libraries (AAC, WAV, ALAC, etc.) and these days I actually run a Sony NWZ-A818 portable in preference to an iPod (the latter is a triumph of packaging and ease of use and flexibility, the former just plays music better is a more nicely made.) I do hope that a music manager app. comes along that's truly scalable; you can get it to be a simple tool to play music or feed your portable player, or it can be repurposed as a multi-format player (and transcoder) of great complexity; but all with the ease of use of iTunes. Foobar isn't quite this, but it's a fine package all the same; just a shame it's only on Windows currently! DP



Many thanks for your reply to my plea for assistance with my troubled Lumley amplifier. The news was not good and I think Noel summed it up correctly when he said that I had got a duffer.

Fortunately, I have a second system based around a Leben amplifier which is very sweet and a great listen and allows me to get my fix on valves.

Another reader, Norman Undercroft, wrote to you and his letter appeared in the same issue seeking advice on a recorder with an inbuilt timer control. The timer is a difficult one but as for recording, he could check out the Roland Edirol R 09. This is a small device that works off mains or batteries. It can be interconnected [analogue] into a standard amp both for recording and playback. It can also be used for recording via its own inbuilt microphones. It can record in MP3 up to 24/96 including CD quality 16/44. If a larger sound card was used, say a 16GB, and 16/44 standard was used, it would have a long recording time which may be enough for Norman to switch on before he departs his home. Okay, it would mean he would have to edit the recording but it is one way of achieving the purpose. The quality is not bad either.

The Edirol can be connected into a computer through its USB connection and this would allow a CD to be burnt off. A disc is supplied with the Edirol which gives a download which aids editing.

I’ve had great fun with mine, both recording off FM and also at the occasional concert. An open topped handbag is handy here along with the connivance of the significant other half.

kind regards to all,

Paul Geoghegan,




edirol by roland-r9

Roland Edirol R9 digital recorder will record VHF/FM radio, says Paul Geoghegan.



After around 15 years with a system consisting of an Arcam Alpha 5 CD player, Alpha 5+ integrated amplifier with pre-amp out and Alpha 9 power amplifier bi-amping Castle Severn Speakers I decided last year that I really wanted more bass for my organ music. I listen exclusively to classical music, especially organ and choral music and like a very transparent and accurate sound. I auditioned most of the series of PMC floorstanders, and perhaps predictably opted for the OB1is which were at the very top of my budget. I have been very pleased the upgrade from the Severns, not surprisingly as the OB1is cost around six times as much!

Whilst listening to the PMCs I was introduced to the Linn DS and liked it very much, and opted for the Akurate – which is considerably better than the Majik to my ears. The Majik was probably poorer than my previous Squeezebox receiver/DACmagic setup (added only in the last 2 years or so). My Arcam amps seem to be holding their own in this lofty company, and I have been surprised at how good they are, but I suspect I really ought to upgrade them too now, to get the best out of the new speakers and the DS. My budget is around £3500 and I have some questions about this.

Do you think it better to spend the budget on cheaper hardware that would allow me to bi-amp the speakers (the OB1is can actually be tri-amped but that is perhaps going a bit too far and I don’t have space in my rack! I currently have tweeter and midrange from the integrated and the low range driver from the power amp) or should I go for a more expensive integrated? I am quite keen on the Leema Tucana II I think, not that I have heard it yet. It has had excellent reviews and Leema is based in Wales, which is a bonus as I am Welsh! They also make a power amp which I could add later to bi-amp the speakers if it would be a lot better, but that takes me way over my budget. My dealer will suggest other options to match my budget from Linn, Naim, Bryston, perhaps Arcam and I think he had heard a Rega amp that he thought was very good. Obviously with the organ side of things I’m looking for strong but well controlled bass. Any advice or suggestions you might have would be very welcome!

yours sincerely.

Dr Jeremy J Honeybun

Parc Glan Aber





Leema Tucana Ii "give a massive stomping presence to the music" and is the one to go for, says Editor David Price.



Well, I think you've answered your own question! Given that you're running fairly power-hungry loudspeakers, it would be hard to recommend another great amplifier favourite (the valve aspirated Ikon Audio MB845s, plus LA1 preamplifier, which are lovely but lack the physical heft needed to tickle your PMCs properly), while your budget isn't high enough for Hi-Fi World's current fave big solid-stater (the Musical Fidelity AMS50). What the Leema Tucana II does is give a massive stomping presence to the music, with real brawn where needed, allied to a lovely, delicate, musically articulate midband. As you say, you can also later upgrade your system by bi-amping with a Leema power amp.


I think bi-amping is a great thing to do, but your bi-amped combo is only as good as the amps themselves, which is why you should aim as high as your budget affords. So go for the big Leema and hope your boat comes in at a later date, when you can then bi-amp it! DP



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