May 2012 Issue

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World mail May 2012 issue

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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.





Put a good valve preamp in front of a Naim power amplifier like the NAP200 and you end up with a great hybrid amplifier. That's what Jon Myles did.



Isn’t it wonderful when you try something new in our wonderful world of hi-fi and it simply takes your breath away? Admittedly, for those of us unable to afford stratospheric price tags it might not happen all that often but my recent experience has taught me that a little experimentation can sometimes go a long way.

To summarise: I have always been a transistor amp user, having grown up during the 1970s and, frankly, never having heard anything different. After a series of various sideways moves through Marantz and NAD products I finally gravitated to a Naim Uniti two years ago and subsequently added a NAP 200 power amplifier some six months ago.

Sublime sound – or so I thought until shortly before Christmas when a friend popped round with his new Icon Audio preamp and we hooked it up to my system. What a revelation! I still had the grunt and propulsion of the NAP 200 but now allied to a much more fluid and rounded presentation. It really was like listening to a whole new system. So much so I was kicking myself for not having tried the trick before.

I know Noel has often championed using valve preamps with Naim gear but, frankly, I didn’t take much notice as I was quite happy with what I had (sorry Noel!). But this made me realise how much more performance can be wrung out of some systems with just a bit of lateral thinking. I’m now eagerly awaiting delivery of an Icon Audio LA4 Mk II in the near future. It’ll probably be the best upgrade I have ever made and I’d recommend any other Naim owners to try the combination. Many thanks for a fantastic magazine. Keep up the good work.

Jon Myles




I have been looking into the idea of creating a connection for audio streaming to my main system which is in a music room on its own. I can already stream music to the main living room which has an AV set up, using my Sony Blu-ray player. However for the main music room I want to be able to stream hi-res. files and then put all of my current CD collection (5000 +) as Flac files. However, as with most people in the current climate, cash has become very tight so I am having to look at this on a budget. Problem is, while I have seen the obvious choice which is the Squeezebox Touch, I was just wondering if there is any alternative that might offer me a saving and some greater flexibility.

In the way I will be using this it will be into a single room only and use digital out straight to my current Perpetual Technologies P-A1 and P-A3. So the quality of the internal chips is not vital, just so long as the unit offers a good digital out. The touch has a pretty screen but to be honest you cannot see it from across the room so you would need to keep getting up to sort and make choices of what to play.

My idea is to look for a good but cheap plain black box media streamer with digital out and native Flac support and then use a cheap Android Tablet with an App. as a very nice remote control with a screen to view my choices from my listening seat. Connection to the streamer would be via a Netgear Powerline Ethernet plug wired directly which should provide the unit with good consistent speed. Is what I am suggesting sensible? Possible?

If so, which of the current cheap media streamers would you advise I look at? I have not seen anyone really checking them out for sound quality. The one advantage of this route over the Squeezebox is that when money becomes available I can change the media streamer for a better sounding model and keep the tablet as the remote using the same App. or one specifically for the media player.

Any suggestions for what to look at or even links to places that have reviewed any models would be a big help.


Andrew McBride




Rear view of the Sonos Connect network payer shows digital outputs for a hi-fi, or DAC, network inputs and analogue audio in and outputs. All this for around £300 – and it can be controlled by a smartphone.



Hi Andrew. The Logitech Squeezebox Touch is as cheap as it gets, or alternatively a Sonos Connect will do the job. An Orb MP1 is cheaper than both but you will have to find one in the UK or buy from the States. NK

Comments (1)
Cheap Audio Streamer
1Thursday, 21 February 2013 11:00
John Meerman
This is a response to the post of Andrew McBride about a cheap audio streamer suggestion. I use a Squeezebox Touch that has been upgraded by installing an App to provide a digital signal on its USB bus. Although it is limited to 96kHz 24 bit, it provides the best digital out option in combination with an Arcam rDAC that has an asynchronous USB input. I compared some 192Khz 24 bit files played over the spdif output with the same music files downsampled to 96kHz 24 bit over the USB bus. I preferred the latter. A good upgrade to the Arcam rDAC is a better power supply e.g. a linear BOTW power supply, or even better, a Teddy Pardo rDacPS. The combination Squeezebox + Arcam rDAC + rDacPS plays is a very high quality playback system, better than my Naim CDX2 player, and even outperforms at some aspects my Linn LP12 (Valhalla, Akito 2, AT OC9/MLII, Naim Stageline).
I have also upgraded the Squeszebox with a BOTW power supply, but as I use its USB output it did not change much in sound quality, but I do not want a noisy wall wart in my system.

Best regards,

John Meerman

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