May 2012 Issue - page 2

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This letter is something of a follow up to my letter in the June 2011 issue. To cut a long story short, a trip to Icon Audio with some of my favourite LPs resulted in the purchase of their Stereo 40 Mk111 with KT88 valves. My first valve amp I should add – and I love it. I prefer it in Ultra Linear mode.

Further upgrades to my system included an Audio Origami Pu7 from ebay (checked out by John Nilsen) and an Analogue Innovations Sole sub-chassis. Both were fantastic upgrades for my LP12 which includes Cirkus and Lingo as well.

The rest of the system consists of the Ortofon MC25FL cartridge, a Trichord Dino phono stage and Castle Pembroke speakers. Cables are Kimber etc. My listening room is a small 9ft by 11ft, including a bay. I listen mainly to classic Rock and Blues.

In the new year I will have some funds available to spend, up to £3000 on a new cartridge, phono stage and speakers.

Auditioning a selection of cartridges is nigh on impossible. Based on reviews and comments in the mag. I'm considering the Benz Ace Micro, Audio Technica AT33EV or perhaps another Ortofon, maybe the Kontrapunkt b?

I have heard the Icon Audio PS1 when I auditioned several of their amps. and liked that. But would the combination of valve amp and valve phono stage be too smooth sounding over time? Would the Ant Kora prove a better match?

Finally, speakers. I feel the Castle Pembrokes can overwhelm the room at times and are perhaps not the best speaker for my tastes, although they really shine with acoustic music. I think a small, good quality standmounter may be the way to go.

I really need some good advice and pointers as I won’t have this sort of money available again and don’t want to waste it.

Kind regards

Steve Chapman





Castle Knight 2s give good bass in a small room.

Hi Steve. The Castle Knight 2 loudspeakers work well in a small room. They are designed to go against a wall and have very solid and clean bass. They are on the bright side and need a lot of running in, but may well suit – and at £400 give you a lot to splash out on other items.

The Benz Micro  Ace feeding an Icon Audio PS3 is a classy combo and worth considering. I run a PS3 through a WAD 300B triode amplifier and do not find the combo too warm, but this is a matter of taste – and loudspeaker.

I believe the Ant Kora 3T is no longer available and I am reluctant to recommend silicon chip phono stages for a good moving coil cartridge. The low output of an MC is best exploited by a transformer; this is the only elegant way of turning current into voltage, as it were – and input transformers are almost always found in tube phono stages. NK


I have written to you a couple of times before and have absorbed the advice – and being impatient ignored it! I’m sorry, one of the questions was related to a replacement for my B&W DM602S3s, in which I liked them but found the overall balance cool even using a valve amp. You kindly recommended a pair of My Audio MY1923s but I knew I would have to wait a while before I could purchase them.

So I trawled the internet (ebay) and found a pair of Marantz DS900 loudspeakers for sale on castored stands. They looked immaculate, with beautiful veneered woodwork and so I ventured to Chesterfield to audition them with an old Technics SLP 333 CD player. I was pleasantly surprised and purchased them and immediately drove to Wilmslow Audio near Leicester where they modified the old clip terminals for me.

When I got them home I went through a period of ‘have I done the right thing?’ and considering their age decided to again visit Wilmslow Audio and ask them to replace the ageing crossovers with modern components.

Well you could have blown me over with a feather. They are now simply staggering, besides being beautiful furniture, which I think is missing from today’s modern products. Their reproduction is knock-out, the 10” bass driver gives a warm bottom end and the frequency extension is sublime, assisted by a pair of Tannoy ST50 Supertweeter.

The midrange unit is excellent, with very slight forward projection and lovely clarity. The castors went I’m afraid, my better half thought they were very industrial looking, so I thought about it and after reading other recommendations in your august tome decided on granite plinths. Luckily it was the kitchen chopping board that came to my rescue, a special from Asda which unfortunately is no longer available. I took the plunge and purchased two polished granite slabs and haven’t looked back. I’m very happy to say that they meet the wife acceptance factor, she has said that the speakers are remaining, end of story!

So I next turned to my CD source as I was using a Rega Planet (the original not the later version). Buffered between my Icon Audio Stereo 40i (using KT88s) and the Musical Fidelity X-10D Line Buffer the sound was pleasant but it had not rung my bell so to speak. I consulted Brent at Fidelity Audio in Doncaster who recommended a Marantz CD63 or similar, modified with one of his power supplies and a new clock. My off-board DAC is a modified Beresford TC7510 with a highly specified power supply. I wasn’t sure about the Marantz CD player so I acquired a Philips CD630 which had the Fidelity Audio magic done to it. I can honestly say that it is the closest I have ever come to vinyl replay.

I have almost finished my tinkering with the system. There are Klotz AC110 interconnects and Atlas Equator speaker cables, a recently acquired Fidelity Audio power supply for the X-10D and my beloved Technics SL1210 Mk2 with Audio Technica AT12S Shibata stylus.

Guess what, I am almost at the end of my quest for beautiful sound reproduction. It seemed never ending. Another Fidelity Audio power supply is needed for the Project Phono Box SE (Mk1 version) and an upgrade on the cartridge. I have recently become interested in Jazz which is I find a natural follow on to classical music. So there is life left in old equipment: clean it, update if needed and cherish it.

Perhaps an article might be possible from you about the DS900s which were also produced in a slightly reduced wooden cabinet, known as the HD series? Could you tell me who made the drive units and are they still available today? Thank you for your forbearance, yours is an excellent magazine and whilst I think about it, thanks to my wife for her continued support and understanding over my wonderful hobby!


Nigel Masters.





Marantz DS900 loudspeakers from yesteryear made Nigel Masters happy after he had the crossover upgraded.

They are a nice pair of oldies. Unfortunately, we have no info on them, nor any experience. The drive units are almost certainly of Japanese origin and I do not recall seeing anything like them in modern component catalogues. I suggest you ask Wilmslow, as they have a broad knowledge of drive unit suppliers. 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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