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World mail August 2012 issue
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.
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The Inspire upgrade Thorens TD160 turntable, a model that Charles Pidsley has owned for many years.
I was very interested to read the article about the Inspire upgrade package for the Thorens 166/160 range of turntables. I have owned such a turntable for many years, starting with a 166 Mk VI, RB350 arm and Goldring 1042 cartridge. Over the last 20 years I have steadily upgraded this to my current set up which is a 160S with Mission 774 rewired by Audio Origami (by coincidence also included in May’s edition!).
Other enhancements along the way include various items from SRM Tech, the most effective of which is the acrylic base (a vast improvement on bass performance ensued). I have also used chrome springs from Phonosophie and an Origin Live Ultra motor upgrade.
It is this latter component that Adam Smith seemed quite cool about. This somewhat surprised me as I have found it to be the most effective (and expensive) upgrade I have made. The bass was further improved far beyond even that brought about by the SRM base, the surface noise was considerably reduced and dynamics increased. The overall sound was simply more musical and involving. I did however, also encounter problems with the motor noise, which to be fair to Origin is dealt with in their instructions and can be managed by adjusting two screws in the motor assembly.
That being said, the noise certainly at the beginning seemed to come and go rather unpredictably and certainly I was on the point of contacting Origin when it seemed to settle spontaneously and is not at all intrusive.
The other observation I would make, which may or not be linked in with the first, is that I noted from the photos in the article that the motor plate is attached to the top of the base plate of the Inspire upgraded turntable. In the instructions I received, the guidance was to attach the motor under the base plate and only using a single bolt, not to be overtightened. I would think it might be quite revealing to seek Origin Live’s thoughts on the issue and would be interested to hear what they have to say about the motor noise.
I would also make the point that previous contributors to your magazine some years ago have been impressed by the improvements brought about by the Origin Live motors and power supply to Thorens turntables. The rest of my system is still a Goldring 1042 cartridge, Icon audio PS1 phono stage, Sugden A21Mk2 and Kef Reference 2.1 speakers, Meridian 200/206Delta sigma CD. Interconnects are Ecosse Reference. Speaker cables are Black Rhodium Salsa.
The only remaining improvement I am inclined to explore is to improve the plinth. I am still using the original black Ash veneered chipboard item from the 166. This was a concession to appearances, being a better match to the rest of my system than the Mahogany item that came with the 160S I used for the heart of the current turntable.
The areas of sound that I feel could be improved are the sound stage and it would be nice to have a slightly more forward sounding top end. Do you think there is a cartridge improvement in the area of £5-700 that might address this? I do realise that for the money I have spent over 20 years I could have bought a Gyro Deck with probably better results, but I have certainly enjoyed the process and the cost has been spread out over that time. By the way all the spare parts released by the various upgrades were sold on eBay for quite reasonable amounts deferring some of the costs!
Hi Charles. Thanks for your experiences, which I am sure others will appreciate. Turntables are notoriously variable and finicky, but their unpredictability is part of their charm perhaps, providing all works well in the end. Unfortunately, at this end it is difficult for us to cope with some of these extended period running in problems and product really should be delivered in to us for review in reviewable condition, which means run in, if running in is necessary.
Photography is carried out in a studio by our photographer and he doesn’t always manage to interpret poorly written and illustrated instructions on how to build a product. What you see is not what Adam built or used. We do try and get it right in the studio but what happens in photography is not necessarily what happens under review. For example, we do not fit a real live expensive MC cartridge to an arm just to dress it up for a picture; this invites destruction because setting up shots for photography is a physically strenuous business. We use a mule without a stylus and Photoshop in the missing bit. Our apologies for the deception!
Goldring’s 1042 is a great MM cartridge with a lively, finely etched and quite obvious high end. If you want stronger highs then I suggest you look to the Lyra range of MCs NK
As a long time repairer of all things electric and electronic I get a fair number of valve and transistor amplifiers into the workshop. Many of them, mainly from the guitarist population, have led a hard life. It is however, interesting to note that there are many guitar amps. that when pressed into service as a simple power amp sound good.
I am sure that there are any number of guitar valve amps that could be used in pairs for hi-fi purposes, with of course a proper set of speakers and a flat preamp instead of what passes for one in the guitar world. However you do need to avoid those that have been trashed, as transformers are expensive.
I have also found that, even in these amps, changing the valves to something different to the standard Electro Harmonix hard and fast style of valve to something that is generally more subtle is likely to impress even the heaviest of metal fans.
A recent Marshall TSL100 using four EH EL34s sounded so much smoother with JJ Tesla E34Ls in matched quads. It even had bass, something that the harder EHs had disguised. The sweetest sounding guitarists amps are rarely the big ones. The Fender quad EL84s have a fantastic tone and are well worth looking out for.
Actually, I think a quad EL84 project would be well worth an investigation as a new project here in Tutt labs. Toroidal transformers, nice fancy chassis, high quality Cs and Rs and built on tag strip? Ahhh its almost erotic!
I would recommend anyone with a valve amp who’s valves may be getting a bit old, to have a look at new output ones as a good upgrade. But also remember the poor old driver / phase splitter, invariably a ECC83 that leads just as hard a life.
Marshall TLS100 is a mono valve amplifier producing a claimed 100 Watts from two EL34 pairs operating in parallel push-pull and can be used for hi-fi, suggests Dave Tutt.
As valves wear out they lose dynamics and start to sound flat and boring, a process so slow and subtle that it passes unnoticed until the hi-fi just loses its sonic appeal. There’s nothing quite like a good new set of tubes to bring back lost qualities. NK
In his letter in the March issue Mr. Alasdair Beal asserts that VTA (vertical tracking angle) doesn’t matter and that it is tracking force that does. He describes, probably accurately, the sonic affects he heard while increasing and decreasing tracking force. But he missed what was actually occurring as he altered the tracking force. He was actually altering the VTA. The minor changes in tracking force caused no change sonically so long as the pick up is not mis-tracking.
As the tracking force increases the angle between the stylus and cartridge body is decreasing and vice versa and this is precisely a significant alteration in VTA. So unless the VTA is adjusted carefully every time the tracking force is changed the observations Mr. Beal described should not be ascribed to tracking force but to VTA.
I was taught this by George Bischoff (of Melos electronics, Pipedreams speakers, and Scaena speakers) in the early 1980s. Indeed, if a tone arm (without a precise VTA adjustment) has a counter weight that allows precise tracking force changes it can be used to make precise VTF alignment. Simply set the tracking force to the recommended mid-point, grossly adjust VTA by ear by altering the height of the tone arm and then fine tune VTA (also by ear) by minute adjustments of the counterweight. I published this about 30 years ago in an issue of Stereophile.