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World Mail    September 2010 issue        


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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 -

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


Ancillaries, such as power leads, mains cleaners etc. have been mentioned quite a lot recently and I thought I would share my own experience. Over a short period I bought a Lindy 6 gang mains cleaner and a Clear Audio Copperline Alpha mains lead for my hi-fi system. At the time I had a new ProJect Debut 3, Quad pre/power amp, and Wharfedale 9.1 Anniversary ‘speakers on Atacama sand filled 24” stands. The upshot was that there was less noise, a bigger sound stage and a noticeable increase in the quality of the treble.

I am quite happy with these improvements, but it did occur to me that these upgrades should ideally be matched with other ones, say a new or improved cartridge, a complete upgrade of all cabling and interconnects, better stands etc., but, as all people who have realistic budget restraints, you have to start somewhere. A complete set of entry level ancillary upgrades can easily cost more than one piece of equipment upgrade if you aren’t careful. I like my current set up (I have now got a Rega P3) and it will be a long time before I could buy meaningful upgrades to any part of the system now. I decided to start with taming the mains electricity first and the rest will come as and when.

On another tack, the articles on CD and tape Walkmans interested me, as I stopped using an MP3 player a couple of years ago and swap between a Sony CD Walkman D-NE900 and a Sony tape Walkman WM-EX182. I love the increase in quality from the CD player (I don’t use the ATRAC programme) over MP3 and find the tape Walkman has the nicest sound for playing when out and about. I get a perverse pleasure from knowing that some of my tapes and CDs are older than most of the kids who get on the bus. There certainly seems to be a generation missing out on really good quality music and I think that’s a little sad.

As usual, keep up the good work and I look forward to each issue.


Paul Clewlow.



Use isopropyl alcohol to clean contacts. Maplin sell it as Servisol.


The art of great hi-fi sound is balance. People often ask me if I think cables and interconnects are hyped up snake oil, and I reply that 'yes, of course, some are, but some aren't'. The trick isn't to lavish vast sums on cables (which is of course what cable manufacturers would love you to do), but neither to ignore them. A so-so system can be made good with judicious spending on cables, and the mains is where the story starts. So I can see that your approach is a sensible one. As you say though, you can easily spend more on cables than on system components themselves, so we're back to finding the right balance.

Another point is that, even if you've only got stock mains leads and interconnects, you can improve the sound noticeably by keeping all the contacts clean. Clean all the plugs and pins with isopropyl alcohol; you'll be amazed how much black scunge comes off, and how much better the system sounds as a result. If you're feeling flush, spending £15 on some Kontak [] is better even than isopropyl.

Finally, we all like cassette here at Hi-Fi World. As Noel and I were saying only the other day, whilst it's become a forgotten format in terms of the media, it's not as far as people's daily lives are concerned; there were literally billions of the things sold since 1963, and many are still around nows. The surprising thing is that, given a decent eighties or nineties deck, the format is capable of very nice sound; it's also distinctively analogue, being warm and gently musical where MP3, AAC et al. are icy cold and hard. DP



Having just read and enjoyed your review of the XTZ 99.25 ‘speakers you made reference to the AudioSmile Kensai as being one of your “ fave rave standmounters under £2,000”.

Er, wrong. You’re going to have to take them off that list as they now sell for the princely sum of £2,300. The price hike hit at last Christmas or thereabouts, before which they sold for a more reasonable £1,500. The reason given was something to do with bringing us into line with overseas buyers or distributors. Correct me if I’m wrong please.

Whatever the reason is, that’s over 50%. I’m not going to sink so low as to suggest a myriad of ploys that so readily spring to mind, a few of which are quite reasonable and acceptable, but 50%, come on. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming AudioSmile in particular; in fact the Kensai is a very pleasant sounding ‘speaker, but hi-fi in Great Britain is gradually being pushed out of the financial reach of Joe Public, who as things stand are being taxed till the pips squeak, into the arms of the rich with money to burn. In the end it will be a very small niche market selling overpriced equipment to super rich people who are more likely to boast about the cost of it and have it standing in a corner as the latest “must have” playing the latest “ must have” down load off their ipod. We all accept there must be price rises for whatever reason, but for crying out loud chaps, have none of you heard of the old adage “ slowly, slowly catchy monkey”, little and more often, if you really have to.

I leave you with this thought: would you buy a car that went from £20,000 to £30,000 almost overnight even if you could comfortably afford the £20,000 in the first place?

p.s. I had Iooked on the AudioSmile web site just before Christmas when the price was £1500 I believe, and remember reading the warning that the price was about to rise to £2,300, and checked again before writing this plea.

Ray Fordham



Audiosmile Kensai now costs £2300.


Hi Ray. As we’ve said many times manufacturers can charge what they like; there is no ‘right and fair’ price. The market decides whether it thinks the product is worth that amount, and buys or doesn’t buy. Competition usually keeps prices down. Raise price and you lose sales, it’s as simple as that. Normally if you raise price past a certain threshold, which in this case I would have put at £1995, meaning below the £2000 threshold, losses may be disproportionate and you lose more than you gain.

The export pricing problem is one I have faced. The dilemma is that when you use an overseas distributor he wants a large markup, in addition to the regional dealer’s markup. The overseas price then becomes much greater than the local price in the country of manufacture, so people in the overseas territory promptly buy mail order from the country of manufacture and there is no easy way to prevent this. That obviously makes your overseas distributor and retailers very unhappy. Things get messy when they are asked, as local representatives of the product, to provide service and support.

One solution, one that AudioSmile seem to have taken, is to raise the local price to equal that overseas, but this means imposing a steep price hike in what is usually your largest market, often producing a big drop in sales. The solution I used was to produce an Export Version with added ‘bits’ that justified the higher price overseas. A higher standard of finish plus a bit of tuning was enough. NK



I read your article on budget MC cartridges in the May issue with great interest as I’ve been considering dipping a toe into MCs for a while now and can’t afford the £3,000+ for a Koetsu! As I find it difficult to get to a dealer who stocks a range of cartridges these days, I’d more or less determined that I’d take a risk and go with your recommendation from these reviews.

The Ortofon Rondo Bronze looked like a good fit for the rest of my vinyl front end, a Michell GyroDec (1995 model with a DC motor upgrade), Rega RB300 arm and Goldring 1042 cartridge, but I’m struggling to find it anywhere at the price of £500 that you quoted. In all the retailers I’ve found on line it’s between £595 and £650, which is a big hike from your quoted price. This of course may be down to my inability with a search engine but I’d appreciate your letting me know – if possible – where this particular cartridge can be found for £500. Failing that, is the Audio Technica AT-OC9/III a good alternative?

I’m also considering getting a spare RB300 I have modified, either by Michell to TecnoArm standard or by Origin Live to OL Silver standard. I guess my questions are now this:

Which would be the more effective upgrade – the arm or the cartridge, as I can’t afford both at the moment?

Which of the two arm upgrades would you recommend?

Finally, can you recommend a good cartridge alignment protractor? I used to have one published by yourselves but it appears to have gone the way of all flesh!

Thanks for an always interesting and informative magazine and I look forward to your reply.


p.s. since I wrote the above I’ve been in contact with Michell who advise me that upgrading an RB300 isn’t really a proposition for them as they do the TecnoArm work when the arm is still in its component parts. That may or may not rule that route out. My further question is now – what would spending the £475 that is the price of a TecnoArm buy me from OL, and what would be the better choice?

kind regards

Gordon Robinson



Michell Tecnoarm works well on an Orbe.


Because of the delay between writing a review and it appearing on the bookstand prices can change, and often if a product gets a great review, as in this case, then that sets the ball rolling (upward!). Whilst the AT OC9 MLIII is a very good cartridge it is still on the bright side I am told (we have not reviewed it yet). It is not best to use a cartridge like this with silver wiring I feel, which often exacerbates the effect.

Ortofon’s Rondo Bronze has a much smoother balance and may well sit more happily with silver wiring. I’d worry more about the quality than the price hike. NK


If your existing cartridge is still in good condition, with a nice supple cantilever and a good diamond tip, then all things being equal the best upgrade will be the arm. You should always look to the source first; so it's best to think in terms of the turntable having the biggest effect on the sound, then the arm, then the cartridge, and so on. Of course, this is the theoretically correct approach; in practice things are often different, especially if as I wondered, your cartridge isn't in A1 condition. So... I'd get the arm upgraded.

Either buy a new Michell Tecnoarm and sell your Rega (you'll get a good price for it secondhand), or get your existing Rega upgraded. I'd recommend Audio Origami as a great place to start; they do a wide range of upgrades and superb work. They can make your Rega arm sound as good as the Tecnoarm, or even better, depending on how much you want to spend. Another possibility is the new Origin Live Silver 3c, which we're just about to review, and it should be a formidable performer, but is a bit pricey for you at £600. Overall, the simplest option is the Tecnoarm, after which you can look to the likes of an AT-OC9/III. Ortofon do a good little alignment protractor for under a tenner; see

Finally, we're getting a lot of readers writing in to tell us our prices are wrong. All I can say is at the time of publication they are correct; but manufacturers have been doing a lot of 'readjustment' of late to take account of the falling value of the Pound. Whilst the last government didn't like to mention it, anyone who's travelled abroad will know that one Pound is about 20% down on a year ago. This is a substantial amount, and duly makes all imports (and indeed imported components which go into British made hi-fi) more expensive. That's why prices have risen, and inflation too. Here's hoping the Pound will stabilise, and consumer prices with it!  DP




The new Triangle Antal EX offers a big, bold sound with great bass and is one possible Linn Kelidh replacement.


Hi. I’ve enjoyed reading your magazine for the past year or so and finally decided to ask for advice. I have an entirely Linn based system built up over the last 15 years. I run active Keilidh speakers from LK140 and LK100 power amplifiers and a Kairn pre-amp with an LP12 (Ittok VIII arm, Klyde cartridge, Valhalla power supply and Keel) and Akurate DS player. I am certain that I can improve upon the Keilidhs which I feel are the weak point in the system and are now starting to show their age; their bass is slightly ‘woolly’ and the soundstage is poor.

I do feel somewhat trapped within the Linn system as I cannot simply change the ageing speakers but would also need to change the power amps which if I replaced with new Linn equivalents would be a considerable cost.

Recently I listened to tube/solid state hybrid from Pathos with Kudos speakers (manufactured locally) and I was very impressed. I am struggling, however, to find any reviews of this type of hybrid amplifier that uses tubes for the pre amplifier stage and would great value your opinion as to their merits and suitable speaker pairing. My budget is up to £6000 for new speakers and integrated amp and I feel it’s now time to break out of an all Linn system.

many thanks,

Paul Moran




Hybrids like those from Vincent can work very well, we find. It does depend upon the topology and implementation though; both need to be of good quality. A graunchy solid-state power stage suffering crossover distortion isn’t redeemed by a tube preamp. Curiously, a nice combo was a Naim NAP250 power amplifier driven by an Icon Audio LA4 preamp., and even one of their phono stages would do the job, as they have plenty of gain and a volume control.

A good replacement for a Keilidh would be a Triangle Antal EX. It has a big, bold sound with excellent bass and is worth auditioning. NK


Breaking up is never easy, Paul, especially if it's with a pair of speakers you've had for a long time. Given that you don't seem to want to stay with Linn, then what you're going to have to do is to go around auditioning a range of other loudspeakers. The trick then is to find an amplifier that complements them. The choice is enormous; you have Eminent Technology LFT-8b panel speakers, One Thing modified Quad ESL-57 electrostatics, classy conventional floorstanders like Yamaha Soavo 1.1s, brilliant eccentric standmounters like My Audio Design My Clapton Grand MMs, and the list goes on and on. It's simply impossible for me to recommend something to you unless you tell me what sort of music you like, how big your listening room is and what you want from your new system.

Of course, my personal preference would be close to what Paul Rigby is running right now; a pair of One Thing modded Quads and a pair of Icon Audio MB845 tube monoblocks; I'd control them via an MF Audio Passive preamplifier. This is a wonderfully expansive, musical and fast sounding system with oodles of sweetness too. But that's just me, and I can't legislate for your tastes. Perhaps you'd prefer a grippy, punchy solid-state system via a Leema Tucana II amplifier pushing loads of wallop into a pair of Yamaha Soavo 1.1s? Another fast punchy system, but tonally more spry, crisp and dry. It does go louder and harder though, in a way you wouldn't get from valves. See what I mean? It's difficult to spend your money for you until I know more. Please write back! DP


I have just finished reading the May issue and really appreciated the article on “oldie” turntables. What with the LP12 being out of trim (a regular three year thing) and the Denon DL103 on the 12” Ittok + Sony TTS3000 having lost its cantilever (a cleaning lady first!), that article prompted me to swap turntables around a bit.

Since the two disasters to my favorites, I had been using my trusty JBE Slate s3 with Technoarm a and Grado Sonata but tonight I decided to check out my Technics SL110+3009/Shure V15 III – glad I did! It is not perfect but it is a very coherent whole - a real fun experience with Rock and albums from Madonna, Yes, Siouxsie...



Keep the Denon DP2000 turntable says David.

I now have two major problems to sort out. Which one of the DDs do I keep? JBE, SL110 or that Denon DP2000 which never got its Hadcock installed? No way I can house six TTs in the sitting room and I see no point in storing them in the attic. Whichever DD I keep will end up with that Technoarm or the 9” Ittok from the LP12 when I can afford an Ekos or a more modern SME.

The other problem to sort is what to put on the SME 20/2 when it arrives next week (my piggy bank got mugged). For the next few months it will have to be either the 3009+V15 or the Technoarm a+Grado Sonata (on Bastin adaptor) but which? Mid Autumn I should be able to find £2.5k for an arm and cart.

The context: Chord DAC64 MkII+CEC TL51 (really nice), Linto, Naim Stageline or EAR 834P phonostages (medium term goal an Aesthetix Rhea or an EAR pre with double phono inputs), Avondale amps (long term goal Class A  integrated or Airtight ATM1S) and Proac Future .5 speakers.

Suggestions concerning what to listen to would be appreciated, as the phrase goes.




Get an SME V tonearm for your Denon DP2000 Direct Drive turntable.



It is difficult to answer a question like that.  It's like what classic car do I keep, the Sunbeam Alpine, the MGB GT V8 or the Healey 3000?

If it was me I'd keep the Denon, simply because it's rarer than the Technics, whereas the JBE is a lovely deck in its way but not earth-shatteringly reliable, so I am told. As for your turntable, I'd look towards an SME V tonearm (in black finish) with the likes of an Audio Technica OC9/III cartridge; or if you have enough dosh then an Ortofon Cadenza Blue MC. DP



If you recall you posted a letter of mine in the April 2010 edition, and asked me to return with my thoughts about what I wished to do. I stated that I was looking to upgrade my speakers and had my mind set on a  pair of Sonus Faber Cremona Auditors to replace my Ruark Equinoxes. I wanted to pair these with my Musical Fidelity Nu Vista m3 amp and Nu Vista 3d CD player.

Well, I took a blind leap and the advice of a chap on a hi-fi forum and bought a pair of Sonus Faber Guarneri Homage that were in as mint a condition as you could ever expect. Also, I shopped around and found a pair of Missing Link Cryo Ref Interconnects and a pair of Cryo Ref speaker cables for a very good price.

Without getting into any technical jargon and fancy wording about sound I would just like to say that never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to have such a beautifully presented sound stage; this was just the sound I have been searching for. Honestly, when I put on the David Gilmour CD 'On An Island' I was completely astounded at what I was hearing, it was like Liquid Gold being poured through Silk, with the tightest bass and open detailed midrange I have ever heard (the Townshend Supertweeters may have added to this also), just very fatigue free.

I have been playing guitar for some years now and have seen and heard a lot of live performances from talented and not so talented people, well when I put a CD into this system it just works like a perfect ensemble of professional heads. The music just sounds very professional.

I still plan on having the amplifier upgraded in the future (CD player has already been upgraded) and I will replace the cables on the back as well as the jumper cables on the inside with more Missing Link Silver. I am even considering in the future buying the Isotek Aquarius mains conditioner.

The only thing I would say is that vinyl has a fatter sound with my Vpi Aries Scout with JMW-9 tonearm and Goldring 1042 cartridge. Any ideas on thinning the sound from the vinyl?

Or any ideas on what I have just written would be great. If I can improve on this sound I will be very, very happy but as this system stands at the moment I will be keeping this combination for life and looking forward to adding whatever I can to try and improve on it. I did read in an earlier edition where you stated that a CD demagnetiser would maybe help.

I have really begun to listen to classical music as I have never heard it played properly like this before and all my other CDs have been transformed into just something very different, even the rock and heavy CDs sound fantastic.

Any advice would be appreciated. Cheers and thanks for a wonderful magazine.


N Ireland




Sonus Faber Guarneri Homage loudspeaker.


Hi Alan - good to know things have worked out for you! The vinyl sound can be 'thinned' with a £300 Audio Technica AT-F7 moving coil cartridge, which is a good bit crisper and leaner (and faster and more detailed) than your Goldring. Going for the £100 cheaper AT-F3/III would also be an improvement, but I think the F7 would be a much larger one, for just a few shillings more, as it were... DP



Since the age of 15 (I’m only 25 now) I’ve read hi-fi mags and have come to favor your magazine over the others, based on auditioning a large variety of equipment over the years and tending to agree with a lot of your reviews. So I thought this to be a great opportunity to write in for your opinion on my current dilemma.

Since my CD player died, I’ve been seriously researching the best way to incorporate a music server into my hi-fi system. Even though I build PCs and use Microsoft Windows on a daily basis, I’ve decided against this route in favour for an Apple Mac Mini. The problem is that I can’t decide whether to go Optical or USB.

My current system consists of: Dynaudio Audience 82 speakers (real wood version), Audio Note L3 pre-amp (that I built and upgraded with a remote controlled Dact stepped attenuator) and the original Quad IIs (that I’ve sympathetically modified). I know the Quads aren’t ideal to drive the Dynaudios but I love the sound they produce and I live in a flat, so the low power probably keeps my neighbours happy.

Ideally, I’d like to build an Audio Note DAC to connect the Mac Mini to my system, but it doesn’t have an optical input. In my mind I’d prefer to use an optical connection to isolate noise from the Mac. I have also read that the Mac doesn’t automatically switch between sample rates when outputting to a USB DAC. So I have to change settings in OS X to the correct sample rate of each track to ensure bit perfect output. But I can’t find information on whether this is an issue when using the optical output. Most of my music will be ripped from CD to WAV or AIFF format using error correction. But I will want to download higher sample rates in the future when they become more available and I know manually changing the sample rates on the Mac will become tedious.

So the questions are: do I use Optical or USB? And if I were to use Optical, what DAC would you recommend for around £1000-£1300? Any help/advice would be much appreciated.

kind regards,

Mr. Leigh Penny



Mac Mini outputs digital audio from USB, and analogue audio from a jack. S/PDIF is rare on computers.


Hi Leigh. I am not aware Mac Minis have an optical audio output. Mine don't and the new ones don't either. You must use USB (Note: early Mac Minis had no optical output; later ones do - see Letters in future issues).

The Mac will not alter sample rate unless it runs a programme that down samples (or even up samples), such as an editor of some sort, like the free Audacity programme. Ripping from CD will give you 16bit code at 44.1kHz sample rate and this is what the computer will store as a WAV file. On playback the DAC will detect and play the PCM digital stream automatically and 96kHz sample rate at 24bit resolution is not uncommon. A Musical Fidelity V-DAC has a USB input and does what you want. In my experience 24/48 is nice and smooth, 24/96 faster sharper and cleaner and 24/192 like 24/96 but  more densely detailed. Have fun! NK



Many thanks indeed to Paul Rigby for his excellent article on record care (“Wash and Go” – June ‘10 issue). I have been using a (Moth) RCM for many years but I still learnt from the article - e.g. why the 1:4 mix of alcohol I use is probably the optimum.

I’ve not bought isopropyl alcohol for some years and I am now needing new stock, so the supplier info is timely. I checked out both recommendations and found that Biostain (£5.20 for 1 litre, with free carriage) is the less expensive of the two. I also bought a small supply of 150 ml plastic bottles with atomiser tops for less than £1 a bottle from Very useful for applying different solutions (I now intend to use the 1:4 alcohol/water mix, followed by Russ Andrews’ detergent based solution and a water rinse). Incidentally, Russ supplies the Keith Monks RCM, as well as a much cheaper one, and also supply a range of anti-static inner sleeves.

Just one thing to add to Paul’s tips and that is to add wetting agent to the alcohol/water and/or water rinse. This can be obtained from good photographic suppliers (or Google 'wetting agent'). The primary function is to break down surface tension but, very usefully, it is also an anti-static agent. Caution with this because only very tiny amounts are required so it is best to add the wetting agent to the water before mixing with the alcohol.

keep up the good work!

Bob Parsons



Many years ago I thought some of the best sounds at the annual Audio Show came from Transmission Line speakers from the likes of I.M.F. and Cambridge Audio, but they also tended to be somewhat on the large size. Then in 1994 in your D.I.Y. Supplement No7 Dominic Baker described the building of a pair of I.P.L. Compact transmission-line loaded speakers which he said were fun to build, well designed and sounded superb.

Shortly after this they were on demonstration at the Audio Show at the Ramada Hotel and having heard them I decided to build a pair.

They were easy to build [but I had built several others in the past] and I must correct the impression Dominic Baker gave that the crossovers must be fitted before the last side panel is in place. This is not so as the crossovers can be fitted through the cutout for the bass unit.

These speakers have given me much pleasure and I have recently improved them with an upgrade kit from I.P.L. consisting of ribbon tweeters, improved bass units and crossover components all for £215 including delivery and it certainly is an upgrade as I listen mainly to classical music and the sound of soprano voices and the instruments of the orchestra are superb.

On another subject, in this month’s H.F.W. a reader asks if you can recommend a phono pre-amp circuit and I note that in the same D.I.Y.Supplement No7 your own Andy Grove has a D.I.Y. Phono Amp circuit. Do you have any experience of this design  as I had considered building it.

with best wishes to you all from

Bob Angus,




Thanks for the reminder about IPL, who are still selling an attractive range of DIY loudspeakers. We do not have any info now on Andy's phono preamp from our April 1994 issue, nor much memory, so much water has passed under the bridge.  Andy Grove is now with Audionote.




Could I suggest that you do an article on a company called Slateage near Burnley. See I have just had my slate plinths for my Garrard 401/SME IV combination, and they are every bit as good as the ones in the photograph, at a very reasonable cost. With the demise of Slatedeck this company offers a very viable alternative for Garrard 301/401 enthusiasts.

The company is great to deal with, comprising of John, Lynne and Katherine and possibly a few more!


Mike Bickley



IPL Compact transmission line loaded loudspeakers were great to build, says Bob Angus.




Hi Mike - we shall investigate; thanks for the tip! DP


In last month’s Hi-Fi World you mentioned that you might like to investigate souped-up Denon DL103s some time. Having spent a lot of time playing with the standard model, at Christmas I fitted mine with an Isokinetik metal body, ran it for a while like that and then sent it off to Expert Stylus Co. to be fitted with their sapphire cantilever and Paratrace line-contact stylus. It is bedding in nicely now and I am finalising setup, electrical loading etc. but I can report that it is starting to sound very good.

Here are some notes on results so far.

1. There is no need to rush out a review - Wyndham and Paul Hodgson at Expert Stylus Company are absolutely swamped with work at the moment.

2. Fitting the metal body is tricky (the fitting instructions are a bit lacking) and not for the faint-hearted but it does make the standard DL103 sound subtly but significantly better (more air and definition on cymbals and plucked guitar strings, less colouration).

3.  The ESCo sapphire cantilever and Paratrace stylus reduces tracking weight to 1.8-2.0g, adds treble detail, kills end of side distortion and clearly improves sound further.

4.  Value for money? If the standard DL103 is good value for £110 or so, then the sound of the metal bodied version for an extra £80 is definitely better, so it must also be good value. (I suspect that the Isokinetik mass plate fitting which glues to the standard DL103 body may give most of the sonic benefit of the metal body for less money and trouble but it isn’t as pretty.)

Adding the Paratrace stylus definitely makes it better still but I’m not sure what the value for money rating would be if it was all fitted to a new cartridge (total £370). However common sense says you might as well use the standard DL103 stylus first until it wears and then replace it with a Paratrace, in which case the latter is equivalent to getting an upgraded new cartridge for only £180 and at that the sound quality I’m getting would definitely rate as ‘a bargain’.

5.  The Mayware MkV unipivot arm has a rider weight on the arm tube which allows its effective mass to be varied from about 7g to 14g, so I have been able to experiment with the effects of this on the DL103. In standard arrangement (2.5g playing weight) the Mayware effective mass is about 9g and everything works fine. However moving the arm rider weight right up to the headshell to increase effective mass to about 14g brings a major sound improvement, tidying up the bass and moving everything else towards a very clean ‘master-tape’ sound.

Electrical loading is also critical: I have fitted a double-gang potentiometer wired across the transformer input so that electrical loading can be finely adjusted when it is playing. Too high makes the treble brash and edgy, too low makes it a bit muted and I find the DL103 sounds best if it sees about 150-200 ohms.

6. The Isokinetik metal body is about 4g heavier than the standard one, so I tried it with the Mayware first set to 9g effective mass (similar total mass to standard DL103 with arm set to 14g) and then set to 14g (similar total effective mass to a standard DL103 mounted in an 18g effective mass arm). I found that the higher effective mass was still better but the difference was much less than the difference between 9g and 14g effective mass with the standard DL103.

This confirms that the DL103 does like arm effective mass to be higher than the standard 10.5g or so Rega. The extra mass of an Isokinetik plate or metal body is a handy way of doing this but best results come from even higher effective mass: either the standard body DL103 in an 18g effective mass arm, or a metal-bodied DL103 in a 14g arm. (A simple calculation shows that these figures aren’t too surprising: the DL103 is reputed to have an effective dynamic compliance of about 11cu, which is a little over half that of a Goldring G1042 - so it should be at home with towards double the effective mass (arm plus cartridge weight). I calculate that with a 14g arm and the cartridge mass increased by the extra 4g weight of the metal body, the DL103/ Mayware resonant frequency should be about 9Hz, which is fine.)

7. Initially, I found that with the Paratrace stylus fitted and cartridge fixing bolts screwed up tight the sound had masses of detail but also a bit of treble glare. Putting nylon washers under the bolt heads and nipping them up ‘just nicely’ rather than ‘as tight as they go’ sorted this out and the sound is now very detailed, clean and balanced. This method of fixing is what Mayware used to recommend and goes along with the common view that the Denon likes to dissipate energy into a slightly ‘lossy’ arm. (Don’t scoff - this isn’t half as wacky an idea as the Cartridge Man Isolator!)

I hope you find these notes helpful if you decide to try a souped up DL103 yourself. Please get in touch if you fancy a listen to mine.

yours sincerely,

Alasdair Beal


Thanks for your notes and sound quality impressions Alasdair. I am sure many DL103 fans will appreciate them and will be fascinated by what is possible, as I was. NK



My interest in hi-fi started with the purchase of an Armstrong 625 tuner amp driving a pair of KEF Kit 3 speakers. My turntable was a Thorens 12, SME Mark II and Shure V15 Mark III cartridge. As a starter system, it did the job and got me hooked in the search for a better sound. I moved on to a Lecson pre power combination and upgraded to an AP3 - which gave up the ghost when it caught fire! Selling the KEF Kits, I built a pair of transmission line speakers published in Hi-FI News, I think. They produced a dynamic sound. Eventually, I got the bug again and bought a pair of IMF TLS80s. Monsters.

Anyway, times changed, I got married, kids came along and the hi-fi went to pay bills. The last speakers I had were a pair of Harbeth monitors.

It was some years later, at one of the Heathrow shows that I heard a valve amp driving a pair of IMF professional monitors from a reel-to-reel tape. The sound was so superior to my transistor amps. At the same time, only by chance, I wandered into the Quad room and heard the ESL-57. Awesome. After a listen to these, moving coil loudspeakers sound so closed in and restricted in their presentation of music. The only thing that came close to my ears was a Focal Utopia - which at the time was retailing for £60,00, way out of my budget. That said, I have heard better loudspeakers than the '57 - but it was a pair of stacked '57s at Audio T - they blew the TLS 80 away, making them sound bass heavy and rather ponderous. Perhaps the ultimate single pair of '57s I ever heard were directly coupled to an EAR amp. What a sound stage they produced!

My current system, in a dedicated listening room 20 by 12 by 8 feet, is an EAR 859 - 13 watts and the EAR 834 phono box. Turntable is a Garrard 301, fitted with an Origin Live Illustrious arm and Dynavector Karat 17D2 cartridge. The latter replaced an SME /Ortofon VMS E cartridge on the Garrard - although the latter combination certainly produced a much more discernible soundstage. I miss this. Speakers are - yes - the Quad ESL57.

Recently I have replaced the tubes in the phono box with TJ Full Music 12AX7 - after a review in Hi-Fi World. What an upgrade - much more life and vigour to the music. Loudspeaker cable is by Cable Talk, interconnects are Dragon from Silverman, and power leads Yellow O from Russ Andrews. All this is supported on a shelf attached to an outside wall and is supported on 30mm granite slabs - courtesy of a stone mason I know well. Bass is augmented by a REL Strata 5. Despite it being moving coil, it goes well with the '57s.

This brings me to my main point; I will retire in the near future and will be able to invest a sum of around £10,000 - £12,000 in good quality components. I am clear in the type of sound I want. The sound now is organic with a propulsive bass. So any upgrade should produce bass that is clean and tuneful, as it is in my current system. I would like to improve treble - especially at the high end and would like more dynamics from the system. Now, bear in mind much of this is relative - I do not care for the horn type of dynamics, just a greater contrast between low level detail and those of say percussion. I would like better imaging too.



TJ Full Music 12AX7s bring more life and vigour to the music, says Paul Derlacki.


Music played is mainly LPs recorded live, middle of the road rock typically The Who, Dire Straits, Genesis, Van Morrison et al. Increasingly, I have been collecting classical records, Beethoven, Strauss, Mahler. More recently I have acquired a collection of jazz LPs - Coltrane. Headphones are Micro Seiki - MS2 electrostatic. Any replacement amp must be able to drive these to reasonable volumes - the 13 watts of the EAR is just not enough.

As part of the upgrade, I propose to have the ESL57s renovated by One Thing. The turntable needs a service - either by Martin Bastin or Lorricraft. Speaker cable/power cords will be replaced in due course, but only after I make the equipment changes and are not included in the budget.

I am minded to retain the Illustrious tone arm but upgrade the cartridge, amplifier and possibly the phono stage. I noticed in a past issue, David mentioned a Koetsu making an Ortofon sound mechanical. Is this the way to go? It is here that things get confusing. Initially, I was going to get the EAR 890 - but this has had a considerable price hike to £5,000. Should I consider something like the 845 from Icon Audio or their 150 monoblocks - both are much cheaper. At the March hi-fi show I heard a NAT Se1 amp - this sounded superb and produced solid, three dimensional images. The amp goes for around £6,000. Mind you, I notice it was using a Lyra Titan - probably beyond my budget.

What about the phono stage? You have been critical of the 834. Should I be considering World Design kits - they seem to offer high quality at good prices. Whatever upgrades I make, I would like it to be a step change - as opposed to something that merely gives a different presentation.

On a final note, the commercial hi-fi industry needs to look to its laurels. MP3 downloads are really only for music on the move. I suspect few users listen actively to what is happening when they play a track. It will not replace a room based system that enables the listener to follow and engage emotionally with the music. Retailers should make more of this. Internet streaming via Linn et al is another matter and may be the way in the future. But you lose the tactile feel of an LP and its cover, some of which are works of art.

Keep up the good work.

Paul Derlacki




Quad II-eighty power amplifiers will drive any loudspeaker well, including ESL-57s.


Hi Paul. A pair of One Thing upgraded Quad ESL57 electrostatic loudspeakers are hard to beat, so you will be keeping them I imagine, as your letter suggests. Drive options are Quad II-eightys (II-fortys are designed for ESL-57s, having the correct amount of puff, but II-eightys have better subjective dynamics) or Icon Audio MB845s. The latter have a darker sound of the two, due to the graphite anodes of the big 845 valve I suspect. We are told a new upgraded version, presumably MB845 II, is due shortly.

Icon Audio also have some excellent phono stages, the PS3 being one of the best. I think you are a candidate!

It seems now you are cool using anything made either by Apple Computer, or made so long ago it has an olde worlde elegance, like Jaguar E Type, Triumph Bonneville, Garrard 301/401. Uncool and being freely discarded are all those clunky C.E. gadgets and geeky software, so the Herald Tribune says. The LP is set to soldier on I believe, but compressed audio formats are just a child of their data rate challenged time and are nothing in themselves. NK



I used to be the proud owner of a Technics ST9600, covered in the May 2010 issue, from 1979 - 2008. Stupidly, I sold it for the paltry sum of £50, about 2 years ago. It was in 'as new' condition, despite having been bought in Germany (in the forces), and used in the UK, Germany and Spain flawlessly. The comment about using a piece of wet string as an aerial is true and all my attempts to improve on an indoor item was usually money wasted. The reason for selling was being advised by an “expert” (yeah, right) that FM would soon be defunct and replaced by DAB/internet. I listen now on old style FM using a Shanling MC30.

The reason for writing is an article by Haden Boardman, referring to the switches on the Technics ST9600. It just so happens that I have an original matching switch. Three of mine broke or wore out over the years and were replaced by some more robust ones. I have one original and four replacement silver ones that are a good match for the dials. If Mr Boardman would like them could you ask him to contact me.

Mike Harris,





Technics ST9600 VHF/FM tuner: just connect up with wet string!


Thanks for your observations Mike - and sorry to hear about the 'expert' who thinks that because something is new it must automatically be better. I will pass your kind offer on to Haden. NK



In November 2009 you printed my letter asking advice on changing the arm on my Goldring Lenco GL75. I followed Adam’s advice and bought a Jelco SA-250ST. While the deck was in bits I resprayed the plinth in satin black and filled any holes that were not needed in the top plate. I then resprayed the top plate. Once the arm was fitted and an Ortofon VMS 20 E installed I then connected up to my Pioneer A400 through Castle Richmond speakers. The sound was amazing, clear midrange and good bass.

In a couple of months time I would like to change the cartridge and have £250 to spend. Any suggestions?

I also changed the arm on my Technics SL-1200 to a Linn Basik Plus with Grado Prestige Gold cartridge, again a great improvement, but I prefer the Goldring Lenco.

As I sit listening to my Leak Troughline 3 through a NAD 3020 and KEF 104ABs I think there is life in some of the old gear and new is not always better.

Thank you to Adam and long may Hi-Fi World continue to promote vintage equipment.


David Oxtoby.


Hi David - thanks for that. The best moving magnet at your budget is surely the Ortofon 2M Bronze at £280. DP



I wonder if you can help me with a couple of queries. The first concerns transformers - I know that at your magazine you admire the ‘Music First’ pre-amp - a transformer design. Can you explain how such a device achieves gain without ‘active’ circuitry? As I understand it, in physics there is no gain in one area without loss in another - so where is the ‘loss’ in a transformer?

Also, if it works so well for the small voltages in a pre-amp could a much larger version be used to drive a loudspeaker?

My second question is about noise in active electronics. I have two mono-bloc amps with toroidal coils around 5” wide and caps around 2” wide which run completely silently, yet some other, much smaller equipment buzzes as if an insect were loose in the casework. I understand that DC on the mains is a major culprit, but why does only some equipment suffer and would a large capacitance filter help things?

many thanks in advance



Transformers step voltage up, but (max) current down as their impedance goes up. You can only exploit their step up where the source impedance is lower than the load impedance, say from a moving coil cartridge of around 1 Ohm source Z to the input of a small signal valve which will be 1M Ohm or so, or even the Gate of an FET. Loudspeakers are very low impedance so you cannot drive them with a step up transformer. Valve amps instead use a step-down to drive them.

Power supply buzz is related both to supply cleanliness and the sturdiness of transformers and coils to resist buzzing caused by mains harmonics. I am uncertain that d.c. induces buzz, but it certainly causes other problems and is best eliminated. NK



Having managed to resist the temptation (just) to dispose of my vinyl replay system during the years after CD's introduction, I would now like to ask your advice about the best way to upgrade my turntable.

My primary system is as follows: Gyrodec (second generation) Export with deep lid. This has the original a.c. motor and supply, original bearing but latest suspension.

The arm is an Eminent Technology 2 with Audionote silver litz cable and Tiffany RCA sockets. Air is supplied by a small air compressor.


Cartridge is an Audio Technica Art1 moving coil. When originally set up the deck was also equipped with a Rega RB300 and Technics MC305 mc cartridge (regrettably disposed of) which were used for “casual” listening. The current mc stage is a Pro-ject phono box limited edition. Other sources are a Shanling CD2000 SACD with valve output, Nakamichi BX125 cassette deck, DAB from a Magic Box phone and an Onkyo NDS1 i-pod dock feeding a Theta Cobalt DAC.

Amplifiers are either a Chinese EL34 or KT88 with a Mod Squad passive when needed. Speakers are either Lake Audio ribbon hybrid stand mounts, or Acoustic Solutions tablelamp omnis. The “either” is a result of an imminent house move and once this has taken place the system will hopefully have a pair of Audiostatic speakers possibly driven by Alesis studio amps.

I recently obtained a Panasonic SL-18 belt drive turntable equipped with a Sumiko Bluepoint feeding a Yaqin valve mm pre-amp. This has “replaced” the RB300 and Technics mc for casual listening (it’s surprisingly good in terms of sound quality) and will be used in the second system once we’ve moved. All cabling is high quality pure silver including the speaker cables.

Now for the big question! What is the best upgrade path to follow? I could upgrade the bearing to the latest inverted type, I could upgrade the motor and /or the power supply. I don’t like the Orbe platter, so that isn’t an option, the basic question being: which will give me the biggest improvement-to-cost ratio.

Second part of my question: I want to replace the RB300 arm and know that since I purchased the (early) one previously fitted to the deck, arms in general have improved. I would like an arm with fixed headshell but with cabling I can change. I have an Ortofon MC20 with VdH re-tip that is waiting to be installed, the big caveat to my choice of arm being that it will always be the second rate “casual” one (end of side distortion, like speaker box distortion is something you don’t notice until it isn’t there), so I don’t want to spend vast amounts of money. I was thinking along the lines of a Jelco or similar, or is the Rega route the best way to go? After all, I do know how good the arm and deck work together, if so, which version? There seem to be so many now. For obvious reasons there isn’t any chance of auditioning a similar system.

Thanks for your help.

Richard Painting



To a Goldring Lenco GL75 David Oxtoby fitted a Jelco SA-250ST arm.


What a fascinating front end that is! I’m almost loathe to recommend you do anything to your GyroDec, because it’s almost ‘historically significant’ due to its antique specification; think how few ‘pure’ mid-nineteen seventies Linn LP12s there are these days, and how interesting they are when you see one...

Anyway, assuming that you do want to upgrade it and not just buy a new one; they’re not that expensive, you know. I’d start with the main bearing then go to the DC motor, in that order. Also, order some damping compound for the subchassis from Michell; this black sticky gunge is standard with Orbes, and cuts down some of the zing of that big alloy ring.



Ant Audio Kora 3T phono stage, simple but with a great sound.

Last but certainly not least is your phono stage; you should be looking at the likes of a ANT Audio Kora 3T LTD (£1,000) eventually, because your Pro-ject simply isn’t good enough for the rest of your system. You’d get a massive improvement in air, space, depth, detail and musicality. My thoughts on your Rega would be to simply get it rewired and/or souped up by Audio Origami; there’s little that can touch the RB300 under around £700 if it’s had the full treatment. DP


Over the past 5 years or so I’ve been probably spending too much time reading, hopefully adsorbing much of the information put in front of me by publications like yours. Now I’m the sort of person that may never jump on the wrong train, but being so concerned about that wrong train, I may miss the right one! If something is worth doing, then it’s probably worth over doing! Now thoughts like this have stopped me buying on a whim, but with so many possible choices, reading can cloud the mind, although some progress has been made.

I’ve come to the conclusion convenience and quality is my way forward, which is why I have decided not to go back down the vinyl route. Yes shock, horror! Sorry to all you vinyl buffs who consider there is no other way and that I should be taken away and locked up, but development in electronics of late, plus busy lifestyle means that's the way forward for me. Monitor Audio's  PL200 loudspeakers were, after many auditions, purchased not so long ago (great) as an upgrade, with the idea of going for a Naim HDX or something similar.


Now let's assume at this point I went with an HDX, with the above speakers, can you suggest an amp that may complement the above.

I would like to go with a one box unit, but if preamp and power amp are the way forward, then so be it.

Budget? I would rather try to get things right, or at least not be left thinking if I only spent a little more.

As far as musical taste goes, well most really. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Kevin Forsey




Naim Supernait is a top quality solid-state amplifier well worth considering.



Hi Kevin - well if you’re going for convenience, then why spoil the ship for a ha’peth of tar, so to speak? If you’re set on an HDX, which is certainly no bad thing, then it makes sense to match it with the Naim SuperNait (£2,600). It’s a visual and a sonic match, and will drive your Monitor Audio PL200s with skill; Hi-Fi World’s very own Adam Smith uses it as a reference amplifier. Alternatively, if it’s a no holds bar top end integrated you want, I must suggest the Musical Fidelity AMS35i, which is a barnstorming full Class A integrated for £6,000. The SuperNait is a big, punchy and fun sounding device, whereas the twice-the-price Musical Fidelity has more depth, space, detail, insight and grip. Both are brilliant at their respective price points; it’s simply a matter of choosing the one that suits your wallet. DP



That was an interesting leader in the June edition noting the transition in the market place and the current position. As someone who has lived through it all and listened to all manner of equipment over the past 40 years it occurs that, while one fondly remembers certain specific items such as Lowther horns, the big IMF transmission line speakers, the original Bose 901s, various amplifier combinations, Garrard 401 chassis (which you used to be able to buy in Tottenham Court Road for £50) and much more, it is never-the-less certain combinations of components which stick in the memory as being special. Often such combinations seem rather unlikely - a favourite was a Radford transistor pre-power amplifier driving a pair of B&W DM7s (I think they were called DM7s - with a dome tweeter housing on the top surface) fed by a Thorens / SME 3009 and Shure V15 cartridge, which provided a sound so smooth, completely unforced and natural in character as to make the system

almost disappear sonically.

We had for a time one of the big and ugly Goodmans receivers (called the 130, I think) which, while a little plasticky in appearance had an FM section which seemed to be of a high quality and perfectly matched to the amplifier, providing a quality of sound well beyond what was expected, driving some medium sized Tannoys - again a fairly natural sound which didn’t scream “hi-fi” at you.

More recently, I have had some surprises when listening to relatively modest components well matched into holistic sounding systems.

The opposite can also be true of course - great individual components badly matched and not delivering their promise.

It all serves to remind me that one of the pleasures of this hobby of ours is tweaking and matching sometimes seemingly unlikely combinations of components, and being surprised and delighted by unexpected sonic results. Different combinations providing significant alterations of character - one of the components of course being the listening room itself. However, such experimentation may become more difficult if the market polarises to be ‘high end’ and little else as far as two channel audio is concerned. Cambridge Audio have shown that there is still a viable market at the affordable end of the scale and it will be interesting to see how things pan out in the next few years in this context. Perhaps, as your welcome comment suggested, we might look forward to greater diversity in the future, supporting further experimentation by a wider range of enthusiasts. I hope so.

Douglas Marc





B&W DM7, with tweeter on top and ABR beneath bass unit (picture courtesy of B&W)



A long time ago, I constructed one of your World Audio Design amplifiers, the K5881. If I remember correctly, it cost me about £350. It has given me excellent service and still sounds as musical as ever!

However, in one of your rival magazines, I have just read a favourable review of a 5881-based amplifier,  the Synthesis Shine. True, it has remote control but that appears to be the only visible difference between it and the K5881  except that it retails at £2449! Is this some kind of clone or merely testament to the quality of your original model?

One other difference is that Synthesis has managed to squeeze 40 watts RMS out of the same configuration, so my guess is that must be at the expense of some sweetness.

Well done Hi-Fi World!

Roger Bick




Our World Audio Design K5881 amplifier, still going strong for Roger Bick.



I think it was Andy Grove who suggested we use the sturdy Russian 5881 valve in our Mullard 5-20 update and the result was a lovely amplifier, one that in tuned form (i.e. Black Gate bypass electrolytics, Jensen paper-in-oil coupling caps.) David Price uses today as an example of easy euphony.

Running a valve hard for maximum power output shortens its life. The 5881 valve is inexpensive so this is not such a big deal perhaps. But we designed for long life and reliability, and used the very best Andy Grove designed output transformers, a real distinguishing feature. I'm glad yours is still providing much pleasure. NK



I picked up the May issue of Hi-Fi World this past Saturday and read your review of the Denon DCD-2010AE SACD player. As you have probably been made aware, “its deja vu all over again” was not said by George Bush. He would need a super computer welded to his head to say something half that clever. The quote is attributable to Yogi Berra, the longtime New York Yankees catcher.


He is famous for his many “Yogi-isms.” One of my favorites was his comment about a restaurant. He said, “No one goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”

Have a good week!

Kent Johnson

St. Louis,




Hi Kent. Thanks for that interesting correction. Yogi Berra and Maggie Thatcher seem to something in common with their loaded aphorisms.

A few good jokes at his expense were, sadly, the only funny thing about George Bush. NK



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