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April 2010 issue
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World Mail   April 2010 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 -

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.

 

 


 

denon_dp-100m

Denon DP-100M turntable in a beautiful Macassar veneered plinth, built by Paul.

ROLLS ROYCE QUALITY
I hope you don’t mind, but I thought I’d share with you my delight at the result of my (latest) project. I’m hanging on the premise that many who peruse your august journal are not averse to the odd project and that my experience may be of some use.

I’ve attached some images (apologies if the resolution is poor) of a turntable surround ‘what I made’. Sans surround, the innards of the Denon DP-100M turntable are on view - whilst the technically minded would not be too concerned about this, the domestic acceptance factor is, well, low.
Having approached a couple of cabinet makers, I was left feeling suitably deflated – I’m afraid I’m guilty of champagne tastes on beer money – a bespoke surround by a reputable cabinet maker was a non-starter.

The only solution was to try myself. With the help of a very good friend who possesses a few woodworking tools, we designed and commenced making the surround you see, from MDF.  With rigorous application of the ‘measure twice, cut once’ rule, we made a snug fitting surround, which was close to the plinth but not too close – the plinth is separated from the base frame for isolation purposes – a chafing surround would not be good!
Much as I was delighted with the accuracy of the cutting/glueing job, the look left a bit to be desired. I guess it’s at this point that the relevance to fellow readers may come in. Living near Crewe, there are a number of veneering suppliers/craftsmen – due to the fact that Rolls Royce (cars) were and Bentley are based in the area. I had fallen in love with Macassar veneer through the pages of Hi-Fi World – EAT and  Thorens using it to stunning effect. So, to the names I would like to share with your readers, who may be looking for a special finish to a project...for a beer money price (yes, really).

I secured some lovely leaves of veneer from a company called Nantwich  Veneers (www.nantwichveneers.co.uk) and then took the naked MDF  surround to Chapman and Cliff (www.chapmanandcliff.co.uk), where it was  expertly veneered and received eight coats of lacquer at the hands of two Rolls Royce trained craftsmen, who worked on the bespoke, custom line for Rolls. Part of my delight comes from the fact that the customer service at both establishments was superb – they were delighted to help and interested in the project.

Messers Chapman and Cliff would be more than happy to entertain similar requests for help (their website majors on car restoration – not surprisingly – but don’t be put off) and will accept items through the post, as appropriate.

I must stress I do not work for either company...I just wanted to share an experience where the result vastly exceeded my expectations.
Okay, costs. To have a bespoke surround made for me, I was looking at around £600. Doing it my way, I had enough change for an audiophile LP or two from £200 all in (including MDF).
Keep up the good work – I find Hi-Fi World a consistently excellent read
best wishes,
Paul.

Nice turntable Paul! But you say nothing about it. Readers who want to see a lovely manufacturer's shot of the Denon DP-100M and its 'innards' should go to www.thevintageknob.org, run by French photographer Axel Dahl, from Montmartre, Paris. The plinth you have made looks superb and I'm sure a lot of readers will be suitably envious. Top man! NK


OUT WITH THE NEW
It has occurred to me that gradually I’ve been rejecting technology, even though I understand it! I can’t seem to find the camera I want (and why should I be made to replace the one I’ve used and loved for years?). I now phone up menus instead of people. DAB radios let me down and I prefer FM. Computers are heading in multi-media directions that I don’t want. And then there’s the internet.

Email I like and use. But shopping is starting to send me crazy. I’m now thinking of the internet as some sort of shopping myth. Take my experience of trying to buy some loudspeakers.

First of all my ‘popular’ search engine now tries to predict what I’m typing and puts me off. It’s slower to load, and it’s busy recording for posterity all the things I’m searching for. What it doesn’t record is that I often give up because it can’t find what I want and I don’t bother going further, actually into sites. If I enter something like ‘buy  xxx loudspeaker’, it comes up with (identical) pages of price comparator sites. Totally useless. One comparator site, maybe, but there’s no point having several. What would be more useful is if it gave me a list of shops where I can buy xxx loudspeakers, their prices and websites.

Then I find that goods labelled ‘in stock’ often aren’t. Goods are very often ‘available to order’, which is becoming much the same as goods being ‘made to order’. The wait can be considerable. Speakers which are ‘available in four colours’ aren’t. If they are in stock they’ll be available in black. This is said to be the most popular colour. But I ask, would it be the most popular colour if there were a choice?

Internet prices are cheaper? Not always they’re not, no. Even if they seem to be, it’s not always easy to compare like with like. There are often lots of hidden factors to take into account. Delivery costs. Waiting time. Lack of accessories. Goods which are ‘cheaper’ because they’re ex-demo, or old stock. No, the real world prices are actually in the shops. See what you want in a shop, and that’s what you pay.

Then there’s the actual ordering of the loudspeakers. Some firms ask me to register with them before ordering. This reminds me of having to take the register at school, which is equally as useless a pursuit. Why do it?  Certainly they need to know my name and address in order to send me goods, but registering? And have you ever tried to delete your name and address from computer records? Even if it does seem to have happened, some time later up your name and address pops and there’s a leaflet through your door, or an email awaiting.

There are other considerations: I’ve had my bank account details stolen via the internet in the past, so I now prefer to phone orders through. First I try to find a contact number. Not always easy. Many websites, when I click on their Contact button, bring up a form to fill in, expecting me to ask a question that way. No contact address. No phone number. No sale.

If I do manage to obtain a phone number it has often meant, glory be, that I get to speak to a human being. After explaining I’ve seen loudspeakers advertised on their website and why I prefer to phone an order in, three firms have told me they don’t take orders over the phone. Unbelievable in this day and age. More technology, but it’s harder to achieve what I want. No sale.

Now how about this as a method of buying: several loudspeakers, particularly floorstanders, are now labelled ‘Available for delivery to store only’. Right, so here’s the plan. I’m expected to buy the loudspeakers over the internet, pay for them online without seeing or hearing them, and then go to a (‘local’) store to collect them.

Excuse me, didn’t we use to have this wonderfully simple system before? I go to a local store, I see some loudspeakers, I hear the loudspeakers, I pay for the loudspeakers and I take them home with me. Obviously that’s too simple for this technological world.
Oh, as a final technological waste of time, don’t forget to give feedback as to what you thought of this letter, and how you rate the writer.
best wishes,
Melvyn Dover.

Hi Melvyn - I have to say I agree with you. Although the internet has brought massive, and I do mean 'massive' advances in many ways, it seems some companies use it as an excuse to save money and/or remove the need for them to actually deal with people. The number of websites I find myself on, hi-fi related or not, which have no phone number, is worrying. The 'contact us' sub menu often contains an explanation of why you can't contact them (by phone). Likewise, there are ever more people wanting to buy things online without actually doing any listening, or indeed even having any contact with people (salesmen, experts, etc.) at all. They then get miffed when the product isn't right for them. We are entering a new age, and whilst superb in many ways, things aren't necessarily always better. DP

POWERING UP
Here is a hi-fi query which I hope may be sufficiently out-of-the-ordinary to get the grey cells interested.  My present system is about six years old and comprises a Sugden Masterclass CD player and a pair of Ruark Solstice floorstanding 'speakers.  The amp is an excellent valve unit but, for reasons which need not weary us here, has to be replaced with a solid state version.  I would rather not spend more than around a grand on the replacement and have considered the new Leema, Naim and Sugden models off recent reviews.  

At present I am using a Musical Fidelity X-A1 as the amp, as I have always liked its sweet, open sound although it is lacking somewhat in the lower registers and I would like to address that. It does, however, have a pre-amp output so I could always simply add a decent power amp to it (along the lines of a Quad 909, maybe) and to some extent this is my preferred direction to go in.

I listen almost exclusively to jazz from the forties to mid-sixties (with all their attendant recording idiosyncrasies). Obviously the sound must be acoustically faithful to the recordings, have a good tonal balance and resonance and, above all, swing musically.  
So what think you, gentlemen, of my options?
Rod Bushell
Suffolk


naim_5i

Naim Nait 5i, a clean, modern, punchy sound from a small package.

My feeling here is to keep it simple and get either a Leema Pulse or a Naim Nait 5i. The former has a lot onboard, including a phono stage. But these amplifiers are very different in nature and you really do need to find a dealer who can allow an audition, in a shop or at home. The Leema is clear and bouncy, with quite obvious but nice treble, and plenty of bass. The Naim is a bit more considered, with a darker sound and again plenty of low end push.
NK

Whilst I'd be tempted to say the Leema is the best bet, the recent arrival of the Sugden Mystro has muddied the waters somewhat! The A21 S2 was never on the cards with the Ruarks; it's too weak kneed, I'd suggest, but the new Class AB Sugden has plenty of poke and a presentation that's brimming with life and bounce. The Leema is a little warmer, perhaps, with a touch more power, but isn't quite as riveting to listen to. Either of these would be ideal, depending on your tastes. DP

ENCOUNTER

I have recently built the World Design VA88 power amp, Phono 3 MM/MC and Pre 3, all with upgraded components, which replaced a Dino phono stage and MVL A2+ amp.

The front end is a Linn LP12, serial number 037862, that has been with me since the early 80s (updated with Circus and Origin Live DC motor).  Arm is a Hadcock 228 Super, one of the early arms from the late George Hadcock, (circa 1979) with a Music Maker Mk3 cartridge. Speakers are World Audio Design KLS 9. Cables and interconnects are all quite adequate.

The addition of the valve amplification made an enormous improvement to the sound, leading me to many late nights playing just one more LP. I particularly value the detail, space and emotion that this lot provides.
However, it has now made me wonder if improvements could be made to the front end, so I feel that perhaps an upgrade to the arm, cartridge and possibly even the deck may be required.

I like the music that the Hadcock (old as it is) with the Music Maker produces, it is lyrical and beguiling but may lack some detail, bass tightness and extension, possibly due to the arm. It does, however, seem to suit the Linn well and I am certainly used to setting up this arm.
The KLS9s have managed to sound better and better with each upgrade to other components so I was not thinking of replacing them unless you really think that it is necessary.

I had thought of putting an Origin Live Encounter on the Linn using the Music Maker for the time being, then perhaps adding an Ortofon Cadenza at a later date.

However, is the Encounter a match for the Linn or should I bite the bullet and change the Linn for a Michelle Orbe with Origin Live Encounter, using the Music Maker for now?  You may have other suggestions of arms to put on the Linn.

I am reluctant to go via the Linn Keel/Radikal route as I feel that Linn are Taking the Michael with the price they are charging for this.
My music room, which is dedicated to the hi-fi system, measures 3.05 meters by 4.55 into the bay window, and 2.56 high, with curtains, soft furnishings and shelving placed to improve the overall sound.

I use a Moth record cleaning machine to keep 1000+  LPs in as good condition as I can. These range through rock, folk and classical. I do have a  CD player and tuner but these are secondary to LP.

The budget for these improvements is up to £2500 but I could at a pinch stretch to £4000.
I look forward to receiving your wisdom on these  questions.
Robin H Wright
Vale of Glamorgan

audio-origami-uniarm

Audio Origami Uniarm suits a Linn.

This is a tricky one, as your choice of arm depends on your choice of turntable. Whilst a good combination, there is more synergy between Michell decks and Origin Live arms than with Linns. So if you want to keep your Linn, I’d counsel an Audio Origami Uniarm, which is the unipivot version of the PU7, or a Naim ARO (if you were to go for an MC with Linn geometry). These both work brilliantly on the LP12, the combination being as they say greater than the sum of the parts. The sound will be sweet, lyrical, tonally rounded and very engaging on an emotional level.

Moving to a Michell Orbe with Origin Live 'Encounter' arm, and you’d get a more widescreen presentation, with a more complete picture of the recording, a stronger and deeper bass, more sparkling highs and a greater sense of absolute dynamics (although the LP12 is brilliant at small dynamic inflections). Whilst I’m not a great fan of the Music Maker, I can see why many are (it does what it says on the tin, albeit at the expensive of finesse). So think carefully about changing it; you may be disappointed. Personally, I’d go for a Lyra Dorian MC for its amazing detail and energy, but I realise that’s not a universal panacea, and many would see an Ortofon Cadenza Blue as a more sensible choice.

In your situation, perhaps the best way to get there from here would be to keep your LP12, as you obviously love it, and improve on it with a Cirkus upgrade, whilst avoiding the Keel for cost reasons. Fit an Audio Origami Uniarm (or Naim ARO) and then decide if you’ve got what you wanted. If not, it would be time to ‘move platforms’ to the Michell, taking the arm with you, and then come back to us for more advice. DP



 

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