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World mail June 2013 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);  DC Dave Cawley, Sound Hi-Fi, World Design, etc.

 

VinylStudio from AlpineSoft (www.alpinesoft.co.uk) costs just £24 and is the best software for digitally recording vinyl and tape, says Nöel Cottle.

 

RECORDING VINYL

It was with great interest that I read your article in the February 2013 issue about recording vinyl to digital formats. Having recently embarked on the task of transferring a couple of thousand 12” singles and albums to Lossless files, I investigated a few different software options and hardware setups. I think I may have a software tip for you and your readers, and maybe you’ll have some hardware suggestions for me...

   This recording process is a labour of love but a very enjoyable way of rediscovering forgotten favourites and bringing back memories. I actually digitised about 200 of my favourite tracks about 10 years ago, but back then disk space was at a premium (my laptop only offered a tight 40GB in total) and I didn’t understand much about the limitations of compressed audio. I was a digital sinner: most of those recordings were AAC files made at 192kbps using Rogue Amoeba’s excellent Audio Hijack Pro. It’s a very easy to use application for recording (or “hijacking”) any audio flowing through your Mac. It includes many audio plug-ins for processing incoming audio and offers many file format options, which it records natively.

   However, I needed to move on from Audio Hijack Pro because (apart from AIFF files) it only records in 16bit up to 48 kHz, and my plan was to record to Apple Lossless files at 24/96. Also, as Audio Hijack Pro focusses on recording, you need a separate App to edit – such a Rogue Amoeba’s very fine Fission, which has a very similar feel to the Audacity App you reviewed.

   In search of the (my) perfect solution, I trialled a number of free, shareware and pro paid-for options. GarageBand, Logic, Peak, Sound Forge, Final Vinyl, Audacity and more. They are all fantastic pieces of software but none are particularly tailored to the vinyl digitiser’s needs. Many are full-on multichannel audio workstations, which is a bit of an overkill for dubbing a Lloyd Cole 12”. Others are sadly too simple and don’t stretch far enough in terms of audio quality.

Finally I stumbled upon Vinyl Studio from Alpine Soft. This ticks all the boxes. Recording to all the major formats (including WAV files up to 32/192) is done natively, avoiding quality issues with transcoding after recording. Files can be easily split into tracks. All the regular useful features are included too: you can adjust level and EQ after recording, remove hiss and rumble, even correct pops and clicks automatically – or manually by “re-drawing” the sound wave. But what really pushes Vinyl Studio beyond the competition is its integration with the Discogs.com database. You can search by artist, song title or – as I prefer – catalogue number, and your recording will populate with all the correct metadata for all an album’s tracks, including artwork. In terms of workflow, not having to manually type in the details for every track saves me hours.

   Sadly, nothing is perfect and I need to throw out a few caveats. Vinyl Studio won’t win any design awards. The GUI is not pretty and it has a tendency to chucking everything at you, rather than guiding you through the steps, and too many windows pop up unnecessarily. 

   Getting to grips with its workflow is quite counter-intuitive. For example, most of the software listed above let’s you record audio first, then name and save it. Vinyl Studio sort of does this backwards: you must create a record ‘Collection’ first and then title-up the file you are about to record. 

Many things could be streamlined, but you soon find your way and the time saved thanks to the Discogs integration makes the process quite painless. And by avoiding typing out song names, I can focus on the music and those rediscovered memories.

   On the hardware side, 10 years ago I was using a Technics SL-1210 turntable plugged into my Mac’s Line In jack, via a Pioneer DJ mixer. Sounded awful. Flat and muffled. My system now is certainly not high end but hopefully a happy mid-range affair: Dynavector 10X5 cartridge on a Rega RP3 turntable with separate PSU. This is hooked up to a Naim Stageline (N version) powered by a ‘borrowed’ Supercap. I am a little concerned by the low gain that the Dynavector allows through the Naim phono stage, but having auditioned it against Dynavector’s own P-75, I preferred the Naim’s warmer tone despite the lower volume and slightly reduced level of detail. Sometimes I think I made the wrong choice of stage, but the rest of my system is Naim so it may be a better match.

   Finding an affordable Analogue-to-Digital Convertor (ADC) was more difficult. The Benchmark ADC1 would be great for mixing down a multitrack masterpiece from Logic, but my requirements are simpler and budget smaller. Options are quite limited here. I wanted a hi-fi product rather than a ‘pro-sumer’ one (e.g. brands like M Audio). 

I was quite impressed with Project’s Phonobox USB V as a budget combo solution, but it’s quite a noisy little box and only offers 16bit at 44.1kHz sample rate via USB. Just as I was giving up the search, I read in your magazine that HRT were launching the Linestreamer + ADC. This asynchronous bus-powered little box delivers music at up to 24/96 and nothing else but the music: it is very low noise and neutral in character. At the time (2012) I think it was the only hi-fi ADC product on the market in this price range (£300). I took the plunge without even auditioning it and couldn’t be more pleased. It’s perfect for the task.

   That task of turning LP to digital is taking a long time. An hour snatched here and there after 4 months I’ve done less than 10% like I said, a labour of love.

If you find any of the above worth sharing with your readers, I’d be very honoured and won’t mind one bit if you hack away at this email to make it relevant / interesting / much shorter!

Many thanks and keep up the good work!

Noël Cottle

 

Hi Noël.  That’s all very interesting and I’m sure it will interest a lot of readers – it certainly interests me! Turning LP to digital isn’t a straightforward business and you have identified and found a solution to many of the problems it appears. 

   The only ADC I have found to date I felt up to the task – of hi-fi quality rather than ‘studio’ quality – is the Furutech Esprit preamp, with its 24/96 ADC that offers true high quality digital, without the noise and quantisation products of cheaper/older ADCs. Ortofon MC cartridges offer higher output than most and I would suggest you consider one of the Cadenzas, perhaps the Blue. I hope that helps. NK

 

 

 

The Furutech Esprit preamplifier turns analogue to digital through a 24/96 convertor, then delivers it to USB for recording to a computer. At present there are few stand-alone hi-fi products able to do this. 

 

RECORDING VINYL 2

Thank you for the article by Martin Pipe in February, 2013 Hi-fi World describing how to make use of the free Audacity software to convert old audio sources to digital. This article was very informative and explicit, and doubtless will be of immense interest to your readers, particularly those like myself who have sizeable collections of music on vinyl and tape cassette. 

Although I have been aware of Audacity, I have never used it. I did try Nero some years ago, but gave it up in favour of Magix Audio Cleaning Lab, which to my mind is a superb product for anyone who wishes to archive old analogue recordings. Not only does it incorporate the usual range of features which one would expect to find in software of this type, but it has one function which in my experience sets it apart from the opposition, namely that it permits track numbers to be placed automatically and numbered during the transfer process from the analogue input. As I understand it, with Audacity and Nero, track numbers have to be added after the digital conversion has taken place. 

On the odd occasion when, for one reason or another, Magix doesn’t get these quite right, it is simple to either insert any missing track numbers, or to drag them into their proper place on the recording screen. 

I use Version 12, which came out some years ago, because it includes an extremely useful feature called Maxi Print Studio. This permits vinyl album sleeves to be scanned in two halves, then dragged into one image, which is downsized to produce a reduced copy of the vinyl sleeve for use as the front pictorial insert for a CD jewel case. This gives a very professional finish to a Compact Disc copied from vinyl. The inserts from tape cassette boxes can also be played around with to produce acceptable graphics when tapes are archived to compact disc. 

However, sadly, the most recent versions of Audio Cleaning Lab appear to omit this useful print program (or else I haven’t managed to find it!) For all that, in my opinion, the Magix product is easily the most user-friendly of the current software offerings for digital conversion activity.  

To further increase the professional look of Compact Discs produced from vinyl and tape, I’d recommend the use of Sure Thing CD Labeller software, which is currently available in its sixth version. This does what it says on the tin, in that printed self-adhesive labels can be produced for placing on the completed Compact Disc (using a jig), or the label data can be printed directly onto printable discs, if one has a computer printer with this facility. All the other inserts can also be produced using this software. Lots of fun can be had. 

I hope that this information may be of interest to the readership of your excellent magazine. Keep up the good work! 

John Boyd Nottingham.

 

I haven’t tested any Magix products in a long time (the last was a video editing package that I reviewed for a now-defunct camcorder magazine), but they are quirky and have a user-interface that differs from the norm (yet actually has sensible design rationale behind it). I found that they offered excellent value for money and perform well. Readers can find the product to which Mr. Boyd is referring here:

 

http://www.magix.com/gb/audio-cleaner/pro/ (Mac) http://www.magix.com/gb/audio-cleaning-lab/ (Windows)

 

Of course the main reason we focused on Audacity is that it’s free, as well as comprehensive and powerful. The Magix products are, however, only £40. MP

 

 

Magix is easily the most user-friendly of the current software offerings for digital conversion, says John Boyd Nottingham.

 

 

MC LOAD

A technical question: I recently bought a pre-loved Musical Fidelity A1008 integrated amp for those times that I feel the need for more oomph than my valve system can provide. It has a phono amp built in but the MC impedance is set the same as for MM, i.e. 47 kOhm. I use a step-up through the MM input so it is not an issue. However, I noted that MF use 47 kOhm on its other amps of this style instead of 100 or 200 Ohm which would make sense. But why 47 kOhm?

Regards

Adrian van Tonder 

Australia 

 

Sony PS-2250 turntable was 'tighter, more defined and musical' than Rega P3-24, says Anthony Yung.

 

This is a default value when it appears in an MC input, being the MM load, unmodified, to avoid the cost of a switch. When choosing MC on an amp configured like this, the MM preamp’s gain is increased, usually by x10, and the input load left unchanged at 47k, instead of the 100 Ohms value usually used. Because an MC cartridge has a resistive generator of a few Ohms at most, this affects performance little, so it is no big issue. NK

 

PHONO STAGE UPGRADE

In the last year I have made a leap of faith to cross the ‘vinyl frontier’, having listened to CD for many years. I always knew it sounded different/ better but due to lack of knowledge, never looked into it seriously until I met some audio buddies who encouraged me. 

To cut a long story short, I bought a second-hand Rega P3-24 with electronic speed control, all in good condition. It sounded fine with a Goldring 1042 MM cartridge, Rega Fono MM phono stage, Unison Research S6 (Mark 1 version), Tannoy Glenair 10 all hooked up with Nordost original version Blue Heaven interconnects and speaker cables (2 pairs hooked up in ‘shotgun’ configration). 

It seemed to lack something musically, was a bit indistinct in some ways. At a whim I bought a Sony PS 2250 Direct Drive in mint condition (Sony’s first DD turntable) for very little – a lot less than the Rega. 

Wow! It was tighter, more defined and musical (this character was contrary to what I have been told about Direct Drives in general) with the same Goldring cartridge. Before I knew it I’d become curious about Direct Drives ... now I have a Sony PS 8750, Kenwood KD600 (which I fitted a Alphason HR100s MCS ). The three are great turntables. I use the Goldring 1042 MM cartridge.

Now I am wondering about how I can get better sound, listening to my friend’s systems, I think I get as much musical satisfaction as they do from theirs (considerably more expensive) but I’m wondering about the merits of going moving coil. They seem quieter, better overall sound quality but cost a lot more to implement. 

I have been reading and wonder should I: 

(1) change the phono stage or (2) change Goldring to Ortofon 2m Black or -

(3) add a step-up transformer and get a MC cartridge like a Benz Micro ACE SL or -

(4) add a step up transformer, Benz Micro Ace SL and get a new phono. 

 

Option (4) seems the way forward ultimately, but I can’t do it all at once. The phono stages I have been looking at include Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL, Heed Quasar II, Micro Phono, Creek Wyndsor, Luxman E200, Eastern Electric phono and the new Project RS. Living in New Zealand means I can’t get some of the phonos locally, let alone listen to them in my system. I am thinking of upgrading to the Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL first (available locally and can demo at home probably), then add a Benz Micro ACE SL and step up transformer. 

I also wondered as an alternative, to get a Graham Slee Audio Jazzclub Revelation, then later either add a step-up transformer or a Graham Slee Elevator when I go to moving coil cartridge, mainly because I am sure that matching the EQ for different age vinyls should mean they should be played more faithfully as they were recorded. 

Anthony Yung

 

Sounds like you have your heart set on a good moving coil cartridge – and why not? They do give a fabulous sound. 

Direct Drives are audibly tighter timed than belt drives and the Rega is known to wow. But it has a very good arm. Old 1970s tubular arms are not the best mounts for modern MC cartridges; ideally you should mount the Rega arm onto the Sony, if that is possible. Then get the Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL and you should be a happy man. NK

 

HYBRID AMP

I have enjoyed reading your magazine regularly for the past several years and would like to pick your brains regarding my next upgrade. My system comprises Primare CD31 and I30 with Triangle Antal 30th Anniversary speakers. To this I have recently added an Audiolab M-DAC (which I am using purely as a DAC at the moment) to see what improvement a modern DAC would give my system – the answer is a considerable improvement! 

My only issue is the slightly dry nature of the DAC has exposed the ‘cold’ nature of the speakers which wasn’t obvious before. So I am looking to ‘warm-up’ the sound without losing anything I have gained. I like the speakers a lot and would like to keep them, so do I change the amplifier for a hybrid or maybe a valve amp or replace the CD and DAC for a CD player with a warmer sound? The bass in my room verges on boomy at times so I would like to maintain the bass control provided by the Primare (my listening room is 30m, slightly live with solid stone walls). 

I have had a brief experience with valve amplification and like what I heard and think I might end up heading in that direction but am concerned about the bass control provided by valve amps which is why I am thinking about a hybrid amp such as the Pathos Ethos. As you can tell I don’t know which way to go so any advice would be greatly appreciated. I have a budget up to £3k. Thanks

Yours Faithfully

Gareth Williams

 

Should I use a hybrid amplifier to warm up the Triangle Antal 30th Anniversary 'speakers, asks Gareth Williams?

 

If you have room boom I suggest you try resolve this first by putting some acoustic foam into the ports. Initially, roll a sheet 1cm thick into a tube with a central hole and put that into the port. Also, keep the speakers away from walls and corners if you can, to lessen energy into the room’s main modes. And buy the biggest, foam filled settees and armchairs as you can! When I put a three-seater, two-seater and armchair into my lounge it changed bass completely, damping it right down. Big areas of foam also remove reflective energy from the room, damping down flutter echoes and such like. 

I found the Antal’s dry but clean sound a perfect match for valve amplification, and their high sensitivity makes the most of low-ish power. You should not need more than 40 Watts per channel. I would tend toward the valve route, which will improve the sound no end and a 40 Watt/channel with KT88s, like the Icon Audio Stereo 40 MkIIIm for example, would work nicely. The Pathos Ethos would also be a good choice as it will sound a tad tighter, if not so open and full bodied. Try to get some demos if you can. NK

 

SAMPLE RATE CONVERSION

In HFW 23(1) page 79 Noel Keywood quite correctly bemoans the multiplicity of audio formats used in modern digital audio products. With respect to sample rate conversion, however, I must stand up for the mighty XLD CD ripping and audio conversion software. The statement “XLD format-converts but it doesn’t sample rate convert” isn’t correct if you are converting to Apple Lossless; the preference page allows you to set both sample rate and bit depth if exporting in Apple Lossless. If you have a large batch of files to convert from a high to a low / standard resolution format you could always use Apple Lossless as an intermediate format. This might prove quicker than using Audacity (which is also an excellent tool, but perhaps not the first choice for batch conversions).

Both Max (sbooth.org) and XLD are excellent for CD ripping and format conversion for Mac users. If one is using Windows, however, both Foobar and dBPoweramp can do pretty much any conversion you could possibly want, and the dBPoweramp CD ripper is peerless.

James Atkinson.

 

Thanks James. All those pieces of software are useful and their airing by readers such as your good self is a great way to keep readers informed of their options. NK

 

Roll up some acoustic foam and put it into the port to damp down deep bass, to lessen room-boom.

 

 

 

SPEAKER CHOICE

I have recently been reminded that loudspeaker choice for a home hi-fi system is perhaps the most difficult of all when buying new equipment. I recently became NAIM-less by changing my NAIT 5i for a new EL84 based valve integrated with both 4 and 8 ohm outputs. I thought it would be helpful to explain how I was able to narrow down my choice of replacement loudspeakers for those about to embark on a similar path.

Most would agree the specifications of most other hi-fi components are pretty well defined and much easier to compare allowing the informed buyer a good idea of what the unit should be capable of before ever seeing it. This is not true of loudspeakers as they are the least accurate of our components and one of the main areas of distortion, resonance and coloration. They will also interact with the listening environment and with the listener’s ears. Also two people will hear sounds differently so with different kinds of music at different listening levels this complicates speaker selection even more.

One key area affecting choice is the loudspeaker sensitivity and from the amplifier perspective you need to know how much power it takes to drive your loudspeakers to reasonable listening levels. Domestic loudspeakers generally have a maximum power handling capability which is usually between 50 and 250 watts RMS. Sound is a movement of air particles and this movement is generally expressed in decibels (dB) as sound pressure level (Lp) and is typically around 86dB for domestic home HiFi speakers, though this can vary considerably. For example the Dynaudio Excite X12 speakers are quoted as a Power handling of 150w and Sensitivity (1w/1 m) 86dB. Klipschorn floor standing speakers are quoted as a Power handling of 100W and Sensitivity (1w/1 m) 105dB.

So 86dB compared to 105dB is only 19dB difference on paper but here are some features of sound pressure levels and decibels, +3 dB gives two times the sound pressure at the same distance and +6 dB gives four times the sound pressure. As you see the difference between the Dynaudio and Klipschorn is a now whopping great 19dB. So the higher the sensitivity (efficiency) of the loudspeaker the louder they will sound and will therefore require less amplifier power to achieve high volumes.

You would exceed the 150 watt power handling limit of the Dynaudio long before it could approach the sound pressure level attainable by a very efficient Klipschorn. So a loudspeaker’s efficiency is a more important measure than its power handling capability in determining the maximum Lp; but both will need to be considered.

Produced is a useful table below (not my work, I hasten to add). It should help you work through the myriad of speaker specifications to allow you to focus on what will work with your system and thus give you a more informed choice allowing you to whittle down your choices to the speakers that will provide sensible listening levels when matched to the amplifier you chose.

Regards

Garnet Newton-Wade

Wiltshire

 

 

Hi Garnet. The figures in that table look a little unrealistic to me. For 90dB SPL at 4.6m you need to generate 103dB SPL at 1m, or +13dB more according to calculation, in anechoic conditions (e.g. outdoors). With a 90dB sensitive loudspeaker (i.e. 90dB SPL at 1m from 2.8V into 8 ohms) this requires a 13dB increase in output to 12.6V into the loudspeaker – just 20 Watts. In a real room, that reflects sound energy off walls, ceiling and floor, you actually need less, but let’s forget details, because this is not a precise science in the randomly reflective conditions of a domestic living room. Two loudspeakers give +3dB more, so we have some headroom here: our loudspeakers will actually be producing around 96dB at the listening position between them, in reflective conditions – and that’s nicely loud on musical peaks. 

    This will strike you as peculiarly low in a world where 100 Watts per channel has become the norm., and the table suggests 844 Watts is needed! But I validate this regularly by measuring the power (volts) across loudspeakers under review whilst measuring SPL at the listening position with a Bruel & Kjaer SPL meter, to ensure I am not over-driving amplifier, loudspeakers – or my ears! And if anything, I use less power than 20 Watts into each loudspeaker whilst producing enough volume to be heard through a concrete building – and cause complaint!

    Real life measurement validates the fact that very little power is needed to play loud, when using sensitive floor standing loudspeakers. Double the figures for less sensitive loudspeakers, to 40 Watts per channel. The values in the table are skewed, it appears, by adding 15dB of headroom power.

    If you try and play very loud then you soon get up to 100 Watts, especially into small, insensitive loudspeakers. But then mechanical over-drive and voice coil over-heating set in, not to mention gross bass distortion from a struggling 6in bass unit and its port (25% second harmonic, called ‘bass doubling’). 

    A very big room, meaning more than 30ft square, in a detached house may need big power, but a room I commonly use is 24ft square and still big power is unnecessary. Amusingly, although I play Rock loud (as one does!) Rafael Todes  plays classical much louder and I get the impression that an orchestra is a noisy place to be. 

    So irrespective of the extreme power figures that can be conjured up for abstract conditions, I find no evidence for their real life existence. Furthermore, loudspeakers cannot accept hundreds of electrical watts on a continuous basis without over-heating and over-loading mechanically. Big powers are not necessary and nor are they practicable in real life. NK

 

ON STREAM

Dave Mayer wrote in the March issue about the trepidation he had in venturing into the on-stream world. I have much sympathy for him because I was just the same until a couple of years or so ago. I am technically ignorant and have for years been confused by much of the jargon. But I have been keen on hi-fi for a long time, around 50 years would you believe. So when I read whispers about being able to obtain quality even higher than the CD level which we had all assumed to be the top, I pricked up my ears. I now have a set-up which for my own needs is far beyond anything I had envisaged possible and am able to sit wallowing in delight as music (in my case classical) wafts over me.

This is what I did and hopefully there may be pointers for others in the following, remembering that different people have different needs. There are really two main parts to getting organised for hi-res. music. The first is the kit. 

My computer and hi-fi rooms are unfortunately far apart and there is one very solid wall of concrete and brick as well as lesser ones between them. So wi-fi was out and it has been rather comforting that some experts are now saying that it is not totally reliable anyway. So I had to find a way of downloading into the computer and then transporting the music to the hi-fi by some means. 

A generous son gave me for the Christmas before last a 65GB memory stick which solved the problem. I could forget NASs, DACs, Ethernet, and anything else other than a machine which would accept the stick via a USB port (see, I did get into the language a bit!). 

After much hunting around I bought a Naim Superuniti which has everything in it including superb amplification, FM and DAB radio, but not a CD player. There are of course many others available but the Naim seemed to produce the most splendid sound and it is made in England which I am old-fashioned enough to care about. Perhaps a Unitilite would be just as good, certainly cheaper and has a CD player in it. But I already have a Marantz Pearl Lite CD player and also a Cambridge Azur 650 BD just in case Blu-ray takes off in the audio world. I use Spendor A6 speakers which seem to me to be ideal for classical music, though perhaps for Rock and other genres they may be a bit too relaxed. I realise this is not high-end stuff (except perhaps the Naim) but the results are so good that I hesitate to spend more for fractionally better sound.

The second issue is downloading. It takes some time to get used to and one of the problems is to find sites which do your sort of music. In my case I started with Passionato which seems to have gone into thin air but Linn, eclassical, the classical shop, 2L and several others are now making classical downloads at very high resolution available. I am ignorant about sites for more popular music but am sure there are many. One disappointment is that iTunes only does its own hi-res. system (ALAC). 

I download at the highest rate available (usually 24-bit/192 kHz) and get superb results from the Naim. Before I got the memory stick I used to make discs in my computer and they have proved very good if less convenient. 

Of course downloading costs money and apart from the actual music you have to be careful you are not exceeding your server’s monthly allowance. I try to buy only two downloads a month and this seems to get by. Mark you, classical music tends to come in large chunks, so maybe I am sounding a bit stingy. 

I have one niggling doubt; I have read somewhere that computers sometimes do not do exactly what you ask them and when putting music from one onto a memory stick or other device they might limit the quality. I have no idea if that happens or when and any help from the experts would be most welcome.

I hope that this will help Dave Mayer and anyone else who is thinking of diving into the streaming world. It is simpler than it sounds but does take some time to puzzle out the complications. I look forward to the article in Hi-Fi World promised by Noel in the March issue. Could I make a plea that it includes a list of all sites that offer hi-res. downloads and which genres each one does?

James Bruxner

 

 "The Naim Superuniti seemed to produce the most splendid sound and it is made in England which I am old-fashioned enough to care about" says James Bruxner.

 

 

 

There's a dedicated search site for finding high definition music – 'Find HD Music' pictured above, at 

www.findhdmusic.com. At left is their Directory of high definition sites.

 

Hi James. Your experiences match mine. Wi-Fi has been flaky and insecure, and slow at a distance. I now use wired ethernet across my house to eliminate reliance on wi-fi, but I prefer to use a memory stick like you. 

Providing you do not import a file into a player like iTunes, or transmit it through Bluetooth or suchlike, it will not be processed. Downloading introduces no processing. Macs automatically unzip a compressed file but this will not affect audio quality. Copying to a memory stick on Mac or PC (I use both) and transferring to a player like the Naim SuperUniti will also maintain the file’s integrity. 

As you say, once you have bought a quality player like the Naim, and a good memory stick (I use LaCie Whizkeys which have fast memory, no LED and are shielded) it is all very simple. Much of the jargon relates to computer processing and this method of playing high resolution digital music avoids it all. I hope other readers will take heart from your experiences. NK

 

VALVE SAFETY

I purchased my first ever valve product. It is a USB headphone amp which makes some superb sounds when connected to my Audio Technica ES7 headphones.

The blurb on ebay states that “2P2 directly heated cathode Tube+VMOS Tube Circuit, Combined with respective advantage of the electronic tube and a field effect tube, so that the headphone amplifier not only has warm soft guts of the electronic tube but also has the quick & strength effect of Field Effect Transistor(FET). “The description is quite hilarious and not to be missed! Please See the link below.

My question is I have heard that valves can some times explode (or rather Implode?) with catastrophic consequences. While this unit has been perfectly reliable I don’t want to get a face full of glass for the sake of music!!! This runs in Class A and generates a huge amount of heat so I guess a cover is not an option. Your expert opinion would be most helpful

Dr. K. Fonseka

LINK

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/ New- SENSE-G1-USB - DAC - Function-Tube-headphone- amplifier-2P2-VMOS- classic - match-/ 221062397008

 

"I have heard that valves can sometimes explode or implode" says Dr K Fonseka. Is my Sense G1 headphone amp safe? 

 

I’m surprised this USB receiver/DAC and headphone amplifier “generates a huge amount of heat”. The 2P2 tube it uses, a Chinese version of the 1L33/34, is a small, low power pentode, designed for portable radios. The heater consumes 0.1 Watt and the anode dissipates 0.2 Watt; if it is getting hot it is being over-run, meaning the anode voltage is too high (60V is quoted). This seems unlikely though, because high HT has the drawback of needing more expensive capacitors and ruins a valve’s life span; there’s no benefit except increased output power, but it has enough for headphones. As the unit has a USB receiver and DAC inside the designers should know how to use a valve, which is a rather simpler technology. If the 2P2 is being over-run then its anode – the plate around the electrode structure – will glow red. Don’t confuse this with the central filament. But again I can’t believe the designers would not notice this. The 2P2 should barely run warm.

Small signal pentodes such as the 2P2 don’t explode or implode. The common failure mode in power valves is warping of the electrode structure causing an internal short from anode to ground. But none of this should happen with a 2P2 and it will have a life of around 10,000 hours, if run within specification. If the anode isn’t glowing cherry red – very unlikely – I would relax. Small signal pentodes don’t explode or implode. There’s no mechanism for this to occur, unless hit with a hammer! NK

 

STATIC CRITIC

In the March 2013 magazine, having been a lover of electrostatics for many years, I was very pleased to see the article on page 19 about available electrostatic speakers until I turned the page and realised you’d missed one very important person and maker – Ben Peters and Audiostatic http://www.audiostatic.com/

  If you had done your research properly, you would also have known about the Geschke variant of the Audiostatic Wing speaker – http://www.geschka-hifi.de/hifi/b_audi_en.htm and you would also have found out about the licensing issues between Ben Peters and Geschke. It’s so sad that these issues exist, but that’s folk for you!

  It’s not as those these speakers have been hidden away in the murkier depths of the hi-fi world so for a magazine with a reputation such as yours to miss them amazes and saddens me.

Yours sincerely,

Phil Cowling

 

Hi Phil. It was a round-up of common and available brands in the UK, to illuminate the market; it was not a complete list. Sound Lab electrostatics also look interesting but were not included, nor were Braun, to mention a few more. Please don't be sad. We will get round to other makes in due course I am sure. NK

 

 

We should not have missed the Audiostatic electrostatic loudspeaker, says Phil Cowling. 

 

The wonderful Audiostatic full-range electrostatic is only available to UK purchasers by buying direct from Audiostatic in the Netherlands. The round up wasn’t intended to be comprehensive (if it were, I’d have insisted the wonderful Audio Analysis models be included!)

  Electrostatics are still very much a ‘minority interest’ and that means there’s a bit of ‘churn’ amongst electrostatic manufacturers. Another Dutch brand, Final Sound is a case in point – their designers’ new brand, PioSound, will be available in the UK later this year. So compiling a definitive list isn’t so straightforward. RA 

 

DIFFERENT VIEW

A thirteen year old wants a record playing system, works at a paper round to save the money, saves up £100. Enter Tony Bolton ...

Mr. Bolton spends 75 percent of budget on wires and goes 18 percent over budget ... In his piece he doesn’t mention the model of the Optonica receiver or turntable, but points out the particular type of  VdH cables he buys.

It just shows where “audiophile” priorities are now. So sad he’s leading the young lad down that perverted path.

Jim Simpson

Australia

 

 

"Mr. Bolton spends 75 percent of budget on wires and goes 18 percent over budget" complains Jim Simpson. But cables make a big difference and are worth spending more on, replies Tony.

 

The Optonica range was introduced by Sharp in 1976 to be a higher end brand to compete with companies such as Panasonic. The brand only lasted for four years before being discontinued. The equipment in question in my column (HFW Nov. 2012 P.77) was a SA-2121 receiver and a RP-105H turntable.

As part of the process of helping my friend’s son put together this system we first listened using the “boot-lace” interconnects and 13 strand speaker cable that were originally supplied with the equipment, and the sound was, quite frankly, uninspiring, bassless and rather harsh. Once more modern cabling was introduced the sound was transformed into something that could compete with modern budget equipment. The effect was so transformative that my friend was happy to pay the extra to allow me to go a bit over the allocated budget.

I am a firm believer that cables; mains, speaker and interconnect, have a major affect upon the sound of a system. Poor quality leads can make even the best designed and built equipment sound lack-lustre, while, as witnessed by my experience in setting up this system, good cables can bring out the best in what would nowadays be considered quite modest equipment.

A lot of the problem seems to stem from the way electricity is used in the modern home. Nearly everything nowadays, from televisions through to fridges, use switch-mode power supplies that send a backwash of noise pollutants into the mains (computers are especially bad for this). Also, there is vastly more RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) floating through the air around us. Audio equipment amplifies anything fed into it, and if this includes mains borne noises we hear it as either a background mush, or pops and bangs coming through the speakers. Because this rise in pollution has gradually happened over the years, it is only obvious how bad it is when listening with it removed by mains purifiers and better shielded cables.

When setting up a system my preferred way of allocating the budget is to get the source right, then spend money on mains leads, interconnects and speaker cables, then amplification, and then speakers. The finest amps and speakers in the world will only respond to whatever they are fed, and if the cables are strangling the sound then you will not get the full benefit of the equipment’s capabilities.

My friend now stands at the bottom of the stairs shouting at his son and heir to turn the volume down, adopting exactly the same posture and tone of voice that his father used 35 years ago. He was less than amused when I pointed this out! 

TB

 

MONO

I read with interest George Hulme's letter in the April edition. George is 100% correct in pointing out the vital differences between true mono recordings and later stereophonic discs. A 78 electric cut record (most post 1923) require a much larger stylus profile, so that the stylus sits halfway down the modulated record's groove. 

For example a 78 rpm disc requires a stylus radius of around three thousands of an inch, early nineteen fifties L.Ps (33 or 45 rpm) one thousandth of an inch. 

Stereophonic and anything post 1960 and using the RIAA equalisation curve can be classed as true modern micro groove requiring as small a tip as possible, certainly less than half one thou. 

Back in the day there was of course a colour code: GREEN pick up for 78s, RED for micro groove LP and BLUE /WHITE for Stereophonic. Witness Decca recordings of the era. Decca FFSS pick up heads came as Stereo (Diamond Stylus 0.0005 tip - colour coded white) Micro groove (0.001 tip - red) and 78 rpm (0.0028 tip - green).

When playing back any pre-1960 mono record, it is vitally important, if using a stereo pick up, to parallel the left and right channels of the cartridge to cancel out any vertical elements of the replayed disc. Mono records shake the stylus from side to side, a stereo disc modulates up and down as well, this translates as noise and distortion when replaying a true mono-cut disc.

The other parameter seldom mentioned on these pages has been record equalisation or EQ. The established RIAA standard is different for these earlier discs, the equalisation curve much less severe. There are many, many different curves, but the differences in turn over and slope not quite as massive. A basic LP or 78 setting does 95% of all things for these early mono discs. 

There is no point feeding a standard 78 rpm disc into a modern phono stage.  The equalisation is wrong and the massive output generated by the larger modulated disc and larger stylus profile will overload most phono stages, exaggerating record noise and scratches (maybe TB's problem?). 

To recover every drop of fidelity a specifically tailored pre amp is required. I personally use an old Leak Point One Plus in which I have simply removed the dreadful input potentiometer, replacing that with a fixed 100k resistor and have replaced the original phono socket with a mono wired pair, and provided a twin out feed. The Leak provides correct EQ, has tone controls suited to tweaking the EQ and provides just enough output to drive the rest of my system.

My Garrard 401 turntable has two arms fitted. With the differing electronic and mechanical requirements between true mono and modern RIAA / stereo discs it made sense to use a separate pick up arm, in my case a Audio Technica ATP-12 with detachable headshell for easy cartridge swaps. This is left plugged in to the Leak pre amp. I have invested in many cartridges, and have found the Moving Coil Denon Dl102 and Audio Technica AT33 fitted with 78 or mono stylus. But I also use Ortofon OM (hint; check some of the DJ styli!) and Shure M95 moving magnets. There is a surprising amount of choice in these devices.

The fidelity offered by these early micro groove discs is quite fabulous, and despite the limited bandwidth offered by pre WWII 78s, given the right EQ and pick up, the music can really flow given 1) correct stylus profile 2) if using a stereo pick up cartridge mono'd 3) a pre amp with correct EQ curve. It all sounds a lot of effort, ah... but the high fidelity!

And of course NK is 100% correct that the Beatles monos will be perfectly compatible with a modern stereo pick up, anything else would be pointless unless you want one of the above mentioned set ups.

Haden Boardman, 

Wigan.

Haden Boardman's Leak Point One Plus preamp, has  disc equalisation time constants for a variety of early LPs. 

 

Modern mono cuts, meaning the upcoming Beatles Mono LPs, pose a problem. They can be played with normal modern stereo cartridges and most will be in practice. Left and Right channels will give identical outputs, creating the usual phantom centre image. However, as you say, vertical information will also be reproduced, meaning disc surface noise, ticks and pops. 

The simple and quick way to suppress this is, as you suggest, is to flick a mono switch – if you have one. Trouble is, most phono stages do not, Icon Audio do. 

Perfectionists who insist on perfect replay conditions – and here we are talking typically about Beatles collectors – observe that a true mono cartridge gives better results than a stereo cartridge electrically mono'd in this fashion. 

The reason is that small differences between left and right generators in amplitude or phase will result in incomplete cancellation. So a mono switch is not ideal.

To avoid this we have to use a mono generator (a single coil), meaning a true mono cartridge. But mono cartridges usually have mono styli of the sort you identify, dimensioned for old wide-groove 1950s vintage mono LPs, not modern microgrooves. These will not suit the forthcoming Beatles Mono LPs.

As you suggest it is best to have an arm with a detachable headshell, plus headshells with suitable cartridges fitted to cope with these issues, which can get  challenging. NK

 

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