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February 2012 Issue

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February 2012 Issue
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World mail February 2012 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); AS Adam Smith, reviewer; DC Dave Cawley, Sound Hi-Fi, World Design, etc.

 


 

allegri-string-quartet

The Allegri String Quartet prove that not all musicians are bored by hi-fi. One of them – the handsome one at right! – gives his views below.


THE BEST DEFENCE

Have you ever had to defend your interest in hi-fi? What did you say? I had often noticed that a friend of mine seemed to ‘switch off’ when I mentioned hi-fi. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound too unusual – we’re all into different things – but this friend was a professional musician and it seemed odd. I suppose I had assumed that a musician would be all for anything that made the listening experience more transparent, but during a recent conversation I detected not just indifference but an edge of scorn, even hostility.


Rather than let it pass, I threw tact to the wind and dug deeper. He’s very polite and nothing definite was said but, reading between the lines, he seemed to think that hi-fi experts were tone deaf gadget freaks who cared more for ear candy and tinkering with equipment than with the artistry of the music itself. I’m polite too, so we moved on to other things but later I felt that I should have put up some kind of defence. You know how it is when you think things through after the fact and kick yourself...


First I wondered if I should have suggested that perhaps there are reasons why some musicians might not want their performances recorded in revealing detail. No, that would be childish and I don’t believe it anyway! Then, for a terrible moment I wondered if he could be right, at least in part. I come from a technical background, as I’m sure do many hi-fi enthusiasts, and it’s true that I do appreciate the equipment for it’s own sake, but no, that doesn’t take anything away from my appreciation of the music – the music is most definitely the driving force.

 

Perhaps its just that hi-fi enthusiasts are perfectionists, people who cannot relax and enjoy anything unless they know that they have done everything in their power to do it right. That’s no bad thing. Perhaps experimenting with the equipment is not just geekery but an excuse to rediscover our favourite tracks over and over, the subtle differences in presentation tricking our brains into the magical excitement of new discovery time and again. How many other interests allow people to do that? Any thoughts?

Dr Robert M. Carter

 

Rafael Todes,  Allegri String Quartet says –

I sometimes wonder why musicians don’t have more curiosity for matters audio. I think if you do the real thing, then any form of reproduction is just that. Whether accurate or inaccurate – it doesn’t make that much difference. For a musician who knows a piece of music well, it is a bit like talking to someone in a noisy, crowded bar, your brain seems to compensate for what’s missing. I personally get a great deal of pleasure from music that is beautifully played and reproduced. It is an aesthetic thing, and I partially enjoy the ability to deconstruct a piece and hear all the lines in great detail. That is after all what I spend most of my time in the Allegri Quartet doing, deconstructing phrases and putting tonal subtleties under a microscope to achieve the desired blend.


The other miraculous thing for me, is that a good recording can be the nearest thing you get to communing with late, great artists. There is certainly a lot that may be learned from hearing great artists with the greatest transparency possible. This is where my non-believing colleagues may be missing out most! A former colleague of mine used to edit Quartet recordings on a Dixon’s Saisho system, where a third of the Cello’s register was not being reproduced. He should have been had up for crimes against audio! RT

 

 

You don’t need to have the beautiful brush strokes or sublime pencil technique of Leonardo Da Vinci to appreciate his amazing artistry. Likewise, musical illiterates such as myself (well, I did get Music ‘O’ Level’ and Grade 5 theory, but that hardly makes me Karajan!) are still able to appreciate fine music, despite not being able to make it. Indeed, I’d suggest that precisely because I can’t hear orchestras in my head when I look at a series of notes on a musical stave, I need a good hi-fi to make it come to life – and thus let me appreciate its beauty fully. A great system gets me closer to that musical event; I can get all the emotion and power out of music, just as a concert pianist can, but I need a little extra help connecting to it. That’s why – I would guess – many musicians don’t need decent systems like us mere mortals do. DP

 

Hi Robert. Musicians vary in their approach to hi-fi, as much as anyone else I find. I once knew a pianist who strained every part of herself over interpretation and the sheer physical side of playing a piano, yet could not begin to hear sound quality differences in hi-fi; they just did not seem to be within her perceptions. But equally there are musicians who are perfectly happy with the notion of getting the best from reproducing equipment and Rafael Todes, who plays violin in the Allegri String Quartet and reviews for us, is one of them, as you have just read.


Even from my position immersed in the subject I can see how ‘accurate’ reproduction isn’t necessarily as viscerally exciting, at least with Rock music, than ‘enhanced’ reproduction and indeed one magazine recently declared accurate equipment “boring”. For them ringing treble and thunderous bass is the quintessence of high fidelity, whilst for me and so many others it is not. Faced with this dichotomy I can sympathise with any musician who finds some of the not-so-uncommon views within high fidelity facile.


All the same, there are plenty of products that work gloriously well, are not always expensive and give a great deal of pleasure – and it’s useful to know what they are and how to get the most from them. That’s why we are all immersed in the madness! NK


 

MATERIAL WORLD

In recent months I have been considering whether to go for an Isokinetic or Inspire acrylic platter upgrade for my Rega P25. Comments within Hi-Fi World concerning the “unsuitability” of glass platters, with their potential to ring, got me thinking in this direction, especially when I tapped the platter and heard the ring for myself. However, with the Origin Live platter matt fitted, a record placed and my Michell record clamp firmly in place, the whole assembly seems to be “dead” !

In addition, while within the reviews of the platter upgrades, glass is derided as a platter material, there is no comment regarding its suitability in the review of the Rega P3 in the November issue. So is it really something I consider?


Regarding resonance, I recently purchased and am very happy with a Naim Uniti. However, contrary to the “World Awards” review in the January 2010 edition, the “compact non-resonant” case rings like a bell when lightly tapped! I queried this with Naim and they replied that they hadn’t had any complaints regarding sound degradation and that, though counter intuitive, they believed that adding damping material may lead to slight sound degradation. I found that simply laying the weighty Uniti remote on top of the case damped it quite effectively, but I can’t say it made any significant improvement in the sound.


Finally, buying the Uniti meant that I also needed to get a phono preamp. I had a good look around and before the Uniti arrived decided to kick off on a low budget and bought the Genera kit from Graham Slee. Having built it I initially tried it out with my amp at the time, a Unison Unico with its inbuilt pre amp. From the outset the improvement was amazing. The Genera was quieter, had a more controlled bass, and made a much better job of staging with instruments and singers easily picked out. The kit is well presented with clear instructions and there are about 24 pages of design notes and comments on the Graham Slee web site.

Denis Holliday

 

waterfall-victoria-evo

Waterfall glass loudspeakers look lovely and sound it too, but their glass cabinets ring, adding 'nice'  colouration.

 

 

Reviewing the Waterfall Evo glass loudspeakers demonstrated yet again that coloration isn’t always ‘bad’. They were coloured alright – our decay spectrum measurements clearly showed this – but they had a lovely airy, clear and bright demeanour and great stereo imaging. In this case I could clearly understand why any listener would prefer them over something more ‘dead’ – but uncoloured of course. But it is artifice and truly uncoloured reproduction, as delivered by open panel loudspeakers for example, is the way to go.


I am no fan of the clanky nature of Naim casework, but it has the merit of being non-magnetic aluminium, which affects the sound less than steel. The best chassis are made of copper, but it is a very soft metal that deforms easily. NK

 

Hi Dennis – believe me, the Uniti’s casing is “non resonant” compared to many pressed steel cases that I encounter on a monthly basis, which act like a sort of mechanical capacitor, storing vibrations and dissipating them slowly, smearing the sound criminally. Naim’s philosophy is that its casing is light and doesn’t store energy, even if it does vibrate ever so slightly. This should give a tighter, faster sound – and so it goes.


Cabinet damping is a fascinating topic – line your hi-fi with Sorbothane and often the tonal balance is changed, being deeper, darker and smoother, but sometimes it can slow the attack transients, making for a more leaden sound. This can actually improve some systems, but deaden others – it’s a case of sucking it and seeing. What we can be sure about is that isolating your hi-fi from ground-borne vibrations is always a good thing – some Sorbothane under your hi-fi’s feet works every time for me. Glass is not ideal as a platter material, but the combination of glass and another damping material can work better than you’d think – hence the improvement in sound with your OL mat. Basically you want to get your platter into a state where it doesn’t go “daaaankkkk” when you flick it with your forefinger. It needs to give a dull “dump”-type sound. DP



 

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