February 2011 issue

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February 2011 issue
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World Mail    February 2011 issue        


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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 -

DP David Price, editor; 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.



Our mains cables make a difference, Russ Andrews has shown the Advertising Standards Authority. 



I read with great interest the letter concerning the effect of cables and interconnects. Ever since I found out that my uncle’s interconnect cost more than my car at the time (second-hand!) the topic has fascinated me. I was told that you needed a certain level of equipment to hear the difference those braided solid silver cables make. To me, this sounded like a load of cobblers. His brother, who worked in pro audio, expressed the same sentiment, commenting that the quality of the coupling medium and workmanship of the soldering made more difference to the sound than the cable itself.

A while back, while I was building up my AV system, I realised that the strip I was using did not have surge protection. I considered Isotek products but in the end came across the Tacima six-way on special offer because nobody was buying it (this was about 6 months before the 5-star review). I bought it thinking that I’ll use it for protection until I worked out another solution. I’d paid no attention to the claims on the packaging for the same logic as the ‘dirty miles of grid cable’ argument. I was more concerned with its surge protection properties. On using it though, the difference it made was amazing to both the sound and picture. Like a veil was lifted. The wife who was with me commented on it straight away (it's still there five years later and I’m scared of shelling out more and being disappointed).

This revelation opened my mind to the notion of passive components affecting audio. This got me into the actual mains cable which I swapped about with bought ones, but alas did not hear any difference. This was until I changed the DVD player to Blu-ray recently and had to re-configure the rack. I couldn’t be bothered to sort the spaghetti at the back, so I left the mains cables to the shelf they serviced and moved the components around. All of a sudden the music opened up a notch again with the only differences being mains cable and the shelf level that the CA640H front end was on. The cable was a TM3 connections shielded item left over from previous experiments, the dearer ones being sold on.

Why I didn’t hear this difference before? I don’t know, as I must have tried every combination before with what I had, but then again I’ve changed speakers twice since.

As for interconnects, I did my own pseudo experiments which I think fair enough considering the vast amount of pseudo-science on the topic. I used three cables, two of which I made. They were 22awg solid silver in Teflon, Maplins shielded interconnect and a QED Reference Audio Revolution. The QED was my base reference. I then listened to the other cables and heard a subtle but apparent difference. Which honestly I wasn’t expecting to hear.

The silver wire had its own distinct sound. I’m not much for describing sounds but the analogy would be that the Maplin cable sounded more ‘CD’ and the silver wire sounded like a good radio broadcast. I could not tell a difference between the Maplins and the QED though. In an effort to make the difference more tangible, I ‘listened to the cable’ by putting the gain all the way up with no music, then measured the SPL from the speakers from about 5” on an iPhone app (I know...). The static sound with the silver wire hooked up was enough to almost drown out the hum of the transformers. It was much less with the Maplins wire, with the transformer hum being more prominent. The QED had the least sound, mostly the faint hum. Still, during normal listening I couldn’t hear the difference between the latter two.

I then put the silver wire inside the copper braid and guess what? I couldn’t tell the difference between the lot of them. Due to my ‘experiments’ I’m more inclined to attribute this differences more to the configuration of the design and less on the properties of the conductors.

Conclusion: I would say I’m a cautious convert to the ‘yes’ argument. My only bone to pick are the pseudo scientific explanations about these differences. Personally, I can’t see the obsession with the topic as the differences seem so subtle as to be immaterial, yet I suppose it all depends on the music and components of the user that determines the level of attention to this part of the system. I think Greg ‘Letter of the Month’ Gilding got it right and good on him.

Finally, I think manufacturers shouldn’t feel like they need to justify the cost of their accessories with rubbish science. If it’s a luxury item, people will buy just because they can and they want to is enough. I think the optimal performance and craftmanship build of the most expensive cables stopped before thousands of pounds; most of the price is prestige and luxury. If you can afford it (you have to be doing something right to be able to) and take pleasure in owning it, then why not? This might sound like heresy but it’s not always about the sound of the system but how it makes you feel when you look at it even before you listen to it. The difficulty admitting to this fact by a lot of people, in my opinion perpetuates and generates a lot of the hi-fi waffle and audiofoolery.


Jezza (Jeremy Villanueva)


Thanks for your experiences Jezza. There’s long been a tug of war on this topic between those who believe that cables can affect sound, usually because they have heard differences, and those who ‘know’ that cables can do no such thing, based on electrical engineering principles. The arguments for and against can move into quite esoteric realms fairly quickly, and they can also become ‘heated’ and move into open warfare. Those who dispute that differences exist believe science is on their side (in truth, the standard ‘lumped parameter’ electrical model) and this is happening at the moment because of a complaint made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that claims made by Russ Andrews for a mains cable were misleading.


And as you are surely aware a reader complained to us that we were misleading readers by stating that sound quality differences exist. But we can clearly hear sound quality differences and being unable to say so is simply a form of censorship.


I believe readers are aware this is a contentious subject and are able to make up their own minds. The best we can do is to be honest about the situation and I am more than happy to say that performance differences are not measurable in cables with normal levels of capacitance and inductance.


Purely on the basis that listeners commonly describe silver as having a bright sound, copper a more even balance, if often a less insightful one, and carbon as ‘laid back’, it seems that materials are having an influence. Cable manufacturers and hobbyists say the insulating sheath also affects sound quality and it seems that PTFE is preferred to PVC, to mention one example.


Then we come to screening, the subject of the ground currents when chassis are at slightly different potentials due to mains transformer leakage (etc) and of course resistance to Radio Frequency Interference (RFI). On the latter Russ Andrews tell me that they have submitted evidence that their mains cable reduces RFI and they are awaiting a ruling by the ASA about whether their claims for it making a sound quality improvement are justified. So, you see, it can get a little ‘unpleasant’ out there when the subject of cables comes up. This is where the fundamentalists jump out of the woodwork and where I don my tin helmet and start digging! NK



I am a long term LP user. I have happily used a Linn LP12 and Ittok arm since 1984. Now, with a Hercules power supply installed a few years ago, the turntable has performed well. The arm has carried a succession of MC cartridges, originally from a much loved Koetsu Wood and currently to a Lyra Dorian. Regretfully a Koetsu replacement has been priced out of my reach, but the Dorian, while brighter and possibly less dynamic, has been adequate for my needs.

However, as one of your senior readers, now in retirement, my hand is becoming less and less steady. Even though the table is mounted on a very firm wall shelf, to safely lift the arm from the run out groove without triggering suspension bounce has become something of a problem and I have been looking for a means to stiffen the suspension without destroying the freedom from acoustic feedback the suspension is designed to achieve.

Hence I was interested to read recent comments in your magazine and others about the forgotten qualities of Idler and Direct Drive Turntables. I had seen and been impressed by Technics SP10 turntables, which were being introduced here in use in new FM studios in the 1970s. When one turned up on e-bay recently I successfully bid for it.

Now the table is mounted on a solid plinth similar to Technics recommendation. One thing I did not realize is that because the Ittok mounting boss is 60mm in diameter, you can’t achieve the 211 mm pivot-to-arm bearing distance for the Ittok before it fouls the turntable support frame. Luckily, I had available a Consonance LT100 arm which is slightly longer and had a smaller arm boss and with some juggling could be made to fit. I mounted a virtually brand new Accuphase AC2 cartridge.

So now I have two first class turntable systems. Which is better? Actually, meaningful comparison is difficult, because I have two separate turntables, two different arms, and two different cartridges. But I am fairly certain that the Technics system, with the Consonance arm, and Accuphase cartridge is better than the Linn. Transients, dynamics, detail, sound staging and perceived distortion are all improved. Bass is more solid and the midrange is superb. In fact, CD played on my Marantz S15 SACD player is different but equal to LP on the Linn setup, but I think the Technics is an order better, and now my preferred source.

John Drew

Melbourne, Australia


Technics SP10 Direct Drive truntable, a rave from the 1970s, "is an order better than CD" says John Drew.



Hi John – well there you go! I think 'which is better' type questions such as these are ultimately a bit futile. In truth, it's more about 'which do I prefer?' Now, if you were comparing a Linn with a BSR autochanger, then I think we'd all be a bit surprised if the Linn lost, but the SP10 (with decent arm) is a superb deck, and so you're comparing two types of excellence. Here then, it's more down to the vagaries of taste. In my opinion, the Technics is punchier, tighter, crisper and more propulsive than the Linn, but the Linn is more beguiling, sweeter and smoother than the Technics. As such, you decide; it's a bit like Sushi versus Aberdeen Angus beef, where I wouldn't be too upset to have to live on either...

Incidentally, on a related subject, the reason we've made such a big fuss about the Technics SL1200 (which is genetically very similar to the SP10, albeit 'shrunk in the wash') is that it's one of the most misunderstood decks in the hi-fi firmament. There are many audiophiles, schooled on twenty five years of Linn-centred vinyl listening, who simply don't realise that the Technics is a serious turntable, just as the LP12 is. Indeed, I've had conversations with some who still think it's made of plastic, when I think there's likely more plastic in a Linn than a Technics (well, it does have bigger plastic hinges!)...


I don't want to startle people; in some ways I prefer the Linn by a long way; it's a great deck. But my point is that so is the Technics, and people who dismiss it are simply ignorant.

Each to their own then, different strokes for different folks. Now, I'm off to listen to my Michell GyroDec, which is an entirely different kettle of fish... DP


I was both amused and saddened by Adam Smith’s experience with the packaging of purchased products on e-bay. However, for such a kindly and benevolent person as your photo would indicate on your opinion page, I was outraged at your suggestion that you would use a piece of Four by Two on the poor innocent party; it should have been Six by Four!

I can however relate that this also happens with professional suppliers. In this instance a turntable supplied to an associate in Melbourne (that’s at the bottom part of Australia) which had a platter left on for a 13,000 mile ride! By the time it had reached the poor customer, the platter had worked it’s way down the taper of the new bearing, to such an extent that the spindle had to be held vice-like in a pair of 12 inch mole grips whilst the platter was wrenched around in order to release it from the taper. Can you imagine the picture, this on a brand new black SL1200 MkV supplied with SME V tone arm. This exercise I understand required a few attempts before victory. Needless to say that his new High Precision Bearing was destroyed in the process!

The problem Adam, is that to an extent the ‘casual’ seller has done his job and got his money. Proper and correct packaging is probably the last thing on his mind as he goes out for a few beers to celebrate his sale.

Mike New




Technics SL1200 MkV - damaged by the time it reached Melbourne.



I would very much appreciate your advice on the best direction to take my vinyl replay. This is currently – Thorens 125 Mk2 with SME 3009 Improved arm and a Linn Adikt cartridge. Phono stage is a Rega Fono. The arm and deck date from the mid 1970s and the deck was fettled a few years ago by the dealer I have bought most of my recent gear from, and I have also fitted various tweaks from SRM-Tech which have enhanced the sound appreciably. Nevertheless, I find the sound has too much treble emphasis.

I suspect the main issue is with the arm but am also not sure how the Thorens now compares with modern decks.


Would you advise upgrading the arm (and if so to what) and possibly the phono and cartridge as well or would I really be better off retiring the Thorens. I am well disposed to retaining the Thorens as I like it’s looks but only if you think it viable to do so.


My main listening is classical but also folk, some jazz and light rock.

Many thanks,

Hugh Marks


Thorens TD125 - a fine deck that deserves a good arm and cartridge.



It's an easy one, this. Do you want to retain the TD125.2's period look and feel? If so, then you'd be best to buy a modern deck and use your Thorens in your second system, as it won't look good with a Rega RB251 mounted to it, complete with Funk Firm Achromat! The deck itself is excellent, and with a serious service and decent modern arm mounted (Origin Live Silver, for example) it would yield super results; we're talking close to LP12 performance here.


Yet rather like modern wide diameter alloy wheels and low profile tyres on classic cars, I can't help thinking you're spoiling something. I kept my 180bhp Triumph TR8 roadster on its original 13" rims and 185/70 section bicycle tyres for precisely this reason; it was a bit slippery in the wet (and the dry for that matter), but it looked right and drove as its maker intended. I rather feel you should do the same here, too. The TD125.2 is a stunning period piece in my view, and so should be allowed to retain its dignity. Think how Roger Moore would look in a hoodie, and you'll surely agree things are best left as they should be!


What to buy? Depends on your budget; I still think the GyroDec takes some beating at around £1,200 - but there are a number of great decks out there. If you want maximum sound per pound, then buy a Technics SL1200, get out the (proverbial) hacksaw and fit a modern Rega derivative arm, such as a Michell Tecnoarm, and replace your Rega Fono phono stage with something like an Icon Audio PS1.2; this combination will really get your bass bins moving...




Hi team and in particular to Noel. Why? On the strength of his somewhat favourable review of the TRI TRV-88SE valve amplifier in the July issue, I ordered one immediately! OK, it wasn’t a totally off the cuff decision. I’ve been wanting to create a new heart for my hi-fi system for a little while now and I’d been mulling over the idea for a fully valve based amplifying system ever since auditioning the fabulous TRI TRV-4SE preamp in my home some months ago. This wonderful bit of kit, when connected with a set of SlinkyLink interconnects to my highly upgraded Jaycar headphone amp (Black Gates, Dale resistors and an Audio-gd HDAM) driving a set of Sennheiser HD 650s made the amp and cans sound like a million bucks. I simply could barely believe such bass and tonal definition coming from the Sennheisers. Such an incredibly smooth and detailed balance from top to bottom.

I began to wonder if the integrated amps also had such qualities and so only weeks ago I was able to borrow a TRI TRV-34SE integrated amp, the EL34 tubed version. Not being certain that either the EL34s or the KT88 would drive my KEF Q7s very well, this would be a good test. I was impressed!

Yes, the EL34s were a touch rolled in the top end, exacerbated by the KEFs not having a particularly extended top end (although I’m very aware of this with them, I still love so much of what they bring musically to the party, so to speak) and lower bass was a little softened, the sheer magic in the midrange, the glorious openness and communication was enough for me to make the decision to go for the KT88 powered version.

Duly ordered, they were excitedly brought home to my living room just five days ago and have already notched up some 40 hours of running in time. This is my first brand new out-of-the-box amplifier in some thirty of thirty seven years in audio, so this is a huge treat for me.

Gee, what can I say that Noel hasn’t already said! This amp is an emotionally communicative joy and utterly addictive to whatever is playing through it. I’ve actually had to wait until the current CD finished playing to continue writing this letter, two visits to my listening seat left my laptop in mid sentence, Tanita Tikaram’s Ancient Heart CD having me utterly entranced, the strings on Valentine Heart so luscious and expansive and her voice and piano are so gloriously emotive ... what’s a bloke to do? The swagger and swinging beat of Twist In My Sobriety draws me like a magnet into the tune as a whole. None of my music sounds like it ever has before, a whole collection to now explore and rediscover anew. The KT88s drive the KEFs very well, bass is taut and punchy, midrange so open and clear, yet the sheer musicality of this wonderful musical instrument makes it very difficult to talk in the usual hi-fi terms, there’s just ... music ... effortlessly. How incredibly beautiful!

The TRI TRV-88SE seems to work very nicely driving the KEFs with 2m lengths of SlinkyLink speaker cable, these truly excellent cables making a highly synergistic match with the SlinkyLink interconnects. I find both items bring an amazing level of coherence to the sonic picture and this matches perfectly with the of-a-piece brilliance of the amplifier.

So Noel, thank you for helping to make a decision so right that I can barely imagine now not having made it. A truly fabulous heart to my new hi-fi system, it awaits a new set of even better matched speakers when I leave my current home for a smaller one in the near future. I did want to hear a set of the Triangle Antals or their slightly smaller brothers with the TRI, but it seems the importer has given up on them and I’m out of luck there, unless I can pick up a second hand pair. For now the KEFs portray plenty of soundstage in both width and depth and when I use my DAC as a preamp into the Pre-In sockets on the TRI amp, the walls and hi-fi system totally vanish even more. Actually, it’s almost spookily eerie in a virtual reality way, my lounge being replaced with the venue of wherever the Rutter Requiem was recorded, the soprano standing in space and surrounded by the choir and orchestra, the acoustics clearly heard from the roof of the venue. That’s really something in my book!

Just one thing please, Noel. I would love to hear what ICs and speaker cables you use in your reviews, for the Triangle Antals to sound so wonderful in your lounge they must have been connected to the TRI amp with something rather good, no? Balanced, cable wise, yes? I find it useful as a potential purchaser considering the reviewed item to have an idea of what sort of, say, speaker cables may be a good match with this amplifier. Considering that the SlinkyLinks are made from twin lengths of very fine pure silver with an air dielectric and that they may not carry high current levels if required, maybe there is an even better match with my chosen speakers, or your Antals? I would like to hear your thoughts on this, as other members of Hi-Fi World do tend to address the associated bits n bobs in their reviews. Is this not important to you, Noel? Just asking.

Otherwise, I am in great appreciation to you (and the team in general, as I so enjoy picking up my copy of Hi-Fi World each month!) for, in a way, transferring your great enthusiasm for this amplifier into my own lounge every day! A set of Shuguang Treasure Series Black Bottle KT88s are in the pipeline, maybe TJ Full Music 12AU and AX7s as well.

I adore this musical treasure!

Kind regards,

Christopher White

New Zealand.


The Triode Corporation TRV-88SE is "an emotionally communicative joy" says Christopher White.



Ah, a convert to the bottle – the glowing bottle that is. Editor David Price will, however, suspect I wrote the letter, your praise is so effusive. He does not believe I am able to bring joy to readers (!).


But really, it can be quite a shock to hear a good valve amp and I’m glad you like it and find it as beguiling as I did. Valve amps come with a wide variety of presentations these days but the Triode Corporation TRV-88SE was classy – and KT88s usually have a bit more kick to their sound than the EL34.


On the ‘bit an’ bobs’ side I commonly use more than one system, often one at our office listening room and one at home. And I swap around items within them. This makes for quite a variety of products and to avoid confusion and also because space is short, I tend not to go into this too deeply. You will see that I now always use a valve amplifier and at least one transistor amplifier when reviewing loudspeakers, for example, and my valve amplifier at home is a now-unavailable World Audio Design 300B, tuned up with special parts. This makes for a rather confusing panorama of components.


Loudspeaker cables? I like the laid back sound of Van den Hul’s inexpensive Royal Jade hybrid cable, with its saturated carbon layer. But beware that this cable is a bit too laid back for many people. NK


I use Bright Star Isonodes and they do make a noticeable difference. I was a bit concerned about using them between speakers and stands, I thought that they may make the speakers unstable so I e-mailed Bright Star who recommended using them under the speakers as the compress and there isn’t a problem with stability.

The CI headphone and power units with HD250s are excellent. When I first got them I played ‘Kind of Blue’  Miles Davis CD and got lost in the music - it was like being at a live performance. I got my LP12 fully funked and still an Ittok II with a Dynavector 10x5 cartridge and I now get a lot more music and detail from vinyl. I use Missing Link mains cables and interconnects for a neutral, clear and open sound.

My Naim NAC 32 and P160 I’ve had since new along with Harbeth HB MkII monitors. My room is 20’ x 13’ and I like a wide range of music. Vocals and acoustic and lead guitar sound good as do other individual instruments but I must admit the top end does tend to shriek at times and was it PR who described the old Naim sound as Technicolour mono?

I’d like your advice on how to improve the sound without losing the expression and emotion from the vocals and guitars. I do like the Naim sound. NK has said he has had success using valve preamps with Naim power amps so what do you think about an Icon PS 1, which I could use with the NAP160? Naim has suggested upgrading the preamp to a 102. Or maybe an integrated, the Nait XS perhaps? Any advice would be welcome. I have about £1400.

Steve Wright



An interesting hybrid: a Naim power amp driven by an Icon Audio valve phono stage.


Hi Steve. Much of the Naim sound comes from their preamps; they are precise but very analytical and somewhat cold in nature. The power amps are more open, lucid and powerful. Put a valve preamp in front of a Naim power amplifier and you end up with a surprisingly nice hybrid combo. I was quite taken aback by the synergy here. I would say an Icon Audio PS1 would be a fine choice, but be aware that early versions of this valve phono stage suffered rolled off treble at half volume, due to impedance mismatching betwixt the control and following internal circuitry. And whilst I find the PS1 a fine affordable stage, Rafael Todes (who plays violin in the Allegri String Quartet) insists the PS3 is the model with magic. I feel sure you will find the PS1 a fine choice for your system. Just bear in mind that if you have a really fine ear then the PS3 may be best. I hope that is not confusing. As always, do try and get an audition if possible. NK



I’ve bought The Virtual Haydn, a well-reviewed collection of disks. Unfortunately they’re Blu-ray, thus unplayable on my CD player. I wondered whether you could recommend a Blu-ray player which does not have to be part of a ‘home cinema’ system. I’d prefer not even to have a screen at all in the hi-fi room: just bung in the disk and play, as I do for CD, but I recognise this might not be possible so should be grateful if you would suggest a suitable screen to deal with the menus so I can play the audio disks.

With best wishes,

Jim Thorpe



Use Composire video output to view disc meus.


Hi Jim. That’s easy enough. Most Blu-ray players have a low quality Composite Video output, from a Yellow coloured phono socket. This can be fed to a cheap screen if you so wish, since most have a Composite input. Alternatively, you may want to get a modern computer screen or TV with an HDMI input, as most Blu-ray players have an HDMI output too (assuming you do not use this for audio).


You will need a screen to navigate Blu-ray menus, even those on music Blu-rays which sometimes have elaborate menu schemes.

A large, local electrical store may just have a cheap mini TV or such like, perhaps for a children’s bedroom, that will do the job. NK



Being a mite too enthusiastic, having recently set about refurbishing and slightly tweaking a nice old Thorens TD150 I bought in a car boot many years back for 12 quid, I “lashed out” and bought a nicely fettled SME 3009 Series II Improved arm to go on it!


Wise? foolish? Let me explain my motivation which is pivotal to my continuing interest in the sport of hi-fi. I remember a seminal moment in my hi-fi history, when I was about 12 or so (late 60s) when the son of my father’s colleague proudly showed me his Thorens and SME set up. Boy was I impressed. It looked and sounded amazing. The thing just exuded quality, and not a little mystery, a sort of gateway to something I didn’t quite understand, but which seemed thrilling and just “wow!”


Whilst I liked music at that age, I had no real concept of high fidelity – never mind stereo!  My music priorities were more focused on finding a steel lamppost to stand next to whilst tuning my prized, but very small and none to hi-fi, “tranny”, so I could pick up the pirates signal and get my fix of “underground” music (Radio Scotland 242 meters on the Medium Waveband was one fave.)


Anyway enough looking back, so what now? Well a Shure V15 Type 111 cartridge would seem to be the correct recipe. Well tradition suggests? However, being a solid Hi-Fi World reader of many years I just know you guys can give me the dependable, quality heads up (as long as you don’t tell me I should have gotten a Rega instead! I know you will appreciate my rose tinted motivation for the Thorens SME combo). Yes, tradition only goes so far, I still need to get the best from it. So what are my cartridge options with the SME/Thorens?


I am presently running Meridian 101 with 105 monoblocks on very short speaker cables into Gale 401as (some ESL57s are in the wings awaiting their own fettling too).

I listen to anything these days. My interest was underground/rock in the 60s but is pretty catholic now, from jazz to folk, rock, world, even including classical.

Thanks for listening.


Keep up the great mix of high end and practical end, and the occasional controversy. Always a great read even at the price I pay for it out here in Oz.


George Davidson,

Sydney, Australia



A blast from the past, Shure's M97Xe has a warm sound.



And thanks for your letter George. I always like to hear from Oz because it brings back good memories – a great place it is, especially when the UK is cold, wet and dark and I can recall the warmth. But on to hi-fi!


The SME 3009 Series II Improved is ‘ringy’ by today’s standards and really needs a smooth, easy going cartridge. I would suggest a Shure M97Xe, but this does have an obviously warm balance. Then there’s the ever lovely Goldring 1042, with its high compliance, great stylus and treble resolution and solid bass. Or finally there is the Ortofon 2M Black, a cartridge that is forensically accurate, clear and detailed. The Shure is ‘old school’ but smooth and easy on the ear. The other two are far more modern, the Goldring having more real zest as well as accuracy, whilst the Ortofon is a precision reproducer, with good dynamics and plenty of pace. Any of them will suit the dear old SME and give you a great retro deck. NK


Having fiddled around with cartridges in SME3009s, I'd say the aforementioned Goldring G1042 is the best partner – it's decently weighty at the bottom end, making up for the SME's somewhat lightweight bass a tad. Set it up carefully and it should sound smooth and musical. DP



I’ve been struggling for a few months to find a satisfactory upgrade path for my current system. I’d love views on what to consider.

My current system is: NAS Spacedeck with fully Origin modded RB250, Lyra Dorian, Tri-chord Dino (with power supply) and Heed power supply. Amplifier is Audio Research VSi55 and ‘speakers Reference 3A Dulcets (on Appollo AZ stands and some granite chopping boards). Using a Isotek mains block and mostly Transparent Audio cabling with Black Rhodium DCT speaker cables.


I feel that the Dino and my tonearm are the weak links currently. I love the combination of valvey texture and solid-state style grunt I get from the amp, but just want more. More richness in the midband, more solid bass, bit more definition in all areas.


My room is pretty small, 12ft x 13ft approx., and is carpeted but does have some rather spongey floor boards. Music tastes range from weird modern electronic stuff (dubstep and Detroit techno) to pretty straight 50’s bebop with a sideline in jazz funk, soul and even some soft rock.


I have a problem with distortion on very sharp sounds on modern vinyl. It only happens on 12s that are cut very fat (not sure what the technical term is here!) and tends to be drums that are worst affected. I’ve spent some time with my dealer trying to remedy this without much success – he reduced the level a bit but some of the same vinyl had similar issues even on their perfectly dialled system. Is this issue familiar?


So I’m tempted to put a second arm on the Spacedeck – an SME IV or maybe something from Origin – and run the Dorian on the new arm for top performance and use my existing arm with a more forgiving cartridge for the few troublesome 12s. Does this sound like a bad idea?

Would love to upgrade the phono stage to either Icon or Puresound valves but will this cost me much punch? Would also love to try the ANT Kora but can’t find a London area dealer who carries it. I have tried to listen to the Anatek MC1 but it had way too much gain for my system. I run the Dino on a low output MM setting although the high output MC setting is also suitable for most recordings.


I could find £2-3k for these upgrades and to address my distortion issue.

Any help appreciated.


Simon Wilden.


Big Macs have a powerful sound.


Hi Simon. Twelve inch, 45rpm singles are cut with enormous bass and you can see the huge groove excursions with the eye. It sounds like your Dorian is mistracking these cuts where groove amplitude is greatest. It managed 65µm in our tests, where 90µm is possible on disc with the sort of cuts you are playing. To track the highest excursions you will need a good quality Moving Magnet (MM) cartridge, although Moving Coils (MC) from the likes of Ortofon are also able to track high level bass cuts. Any Goldring or Nagaoka cartridge should stay in the groove and it strikes me a Goldring 1042 tracking at 1.8gms would suit. The arm you have is plenty good enough not to hinder any cartridge in this task, so an arm upgrade will help little, if at all.


Your Audio Research VSi55 tube amplifier is one of the punchiest available. The Quads (e.g. II-eighty) are also fast and clean and dynamic, whilst being more svelte, but they aren’t as brutal. Otherwise, valves go the other way, toward sounding liquid smooth and easy. That’s until you start using the big power triodes like the 845 and 211, then the issue becomes the output transformer. With a good one (read: big and very expensive) they’ll blast you across the room; solid-state doesn’t come close. But you are looking at big prices here. I suggest you try and get a listen, all the same. Alternatives are big McIntosh tube amps and more powerful Audio Research designs, but the latter in particular aren’t so subtle. Of course you may alleviate some of the symptoms by a bit a ‘tube rolling’, replacing the stock 6550s with premium versions, like those from Svetlana.

All-tube phono stages do not have solid-state ‘bite’, but they can have more heft at low frequencies. David will elaborate on your options. NK


Given that you're going to run your OL modded Rega, possibly with a Goldring G1042, as your 12" single arm, then you want a really tasty arm for your Dorian and a phono stage to match. The SME IV is just such a thing; Rafael Todes uses a V (same difference, almost!) on his SpaceDeck and loves it, although he's the first to admit it has a certain mechanical quality to the way it goes about making music. Other, more mellifluous options include the latest Origin Live Illustrious 3c, a fantastic all round pivoted arm, and the Audio Origami PU7, which is just as delightful but errs more towards the flowing, gentle unipivot sound.


As for phono stages, my instinct would be for the ANT Audio Kora 3T Ltd. The Icon Audio tube stages are lovely, and a touch more expansive and open in some respects, but less grippy in the bass, and slightly less propulsive too. Overall, with your Lyra, my instinct would be for the PU7/ANT Audio combo. DP


After more time than I would like to remember, I have finally taken the plunge and decided to start listening to vinyl again.


My system consists of Naim CDX, Chord CPA 3200 Pre Amp, Chord SPM 1200C Power Amp, Wilson Benesch Orator Speakers with cabling being a combination of  Chord, Audioquest and Black Slink all supplied previously by Doug Brady.


Just a quick plug for Doug and his team of thoroughly professional colleagues. Nice to see that the customer still comes first in some places.

My dilemma now, having recently purchased a Michell Gyro Se on a well known internet auction site, closely followed by both new Technoarm and a Whest One, I am now in the position of looking for a MC cartridge.


Confused doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel in making a decision. You appear to regularly recommend the Audio Technica AT-OC9 ML111. According to Brady’s, Lyra cartridges work well with the Technoarm. I’ve even contacted Michell themselves, who use the Benz Micro wood when demonstrating. Where do you draw the line with prices in this game?


Now, in your latest edition, you give the Wood SL a thoroughly glowing review. I realise that as with all equipment, demonstration is essential. However, name a dealer who stocks everything? And I’m wary of carting around the Gyro Se.


My taste in music varies from 70’s Rock to Blues and Easy Listening. Don’t tell my dad who always said one day I’d realise that the old music was the best.

Many thanks,

Dave Colgan


Benz Micro Wood - a great sounding cartridge says reviewer Tony Bolton.


Hi Dave - my choice simply comes down to the rest of your system, which isn't backward in coming forward. As such, the Lyra – brilliant though it is in many respects – has a rising treble and thus falls out at the first hurdle. The Audio Technica isn't the world's most laid back either, and that leaves us with the lovely, and slightly less upfront Benz. For best results, make sure your Gyro is perfectly level and the springs are set up meticulously so they don't bounce unevenly. DP



Dear David. Recently you helped me decide on equipment to build my new hi-fi system so I was wondering could you suggest any British Entry Level cables that would be good to use,

I’ve seen Black Rhodium in the Hi-Fi World, what do you think?

My system comprises Rega P3-24 turntable, AT95 cartridge, Icon Audio PS1 MK11 MM/MC Phono Stage and Cambridge Audio 650C, Icon Audio Stereo 25 Mk11 amplifier and Royd Eden Speakers.


John Smee

Haverfordwest, Wales


Is Black Rhodium loudspeaker cable the answer?


Hi John - a pair of Black Rhodium Rhythm interconnects (£50/1m) would hit the spot nicely. When your boat comes in, look towards an Audio Technica AT-OC9 MLIII cartridge for your Rega; it's perfectly capable of getting great results from it, and the P3 certainly deserves better than the humble AT95E! DP



I have a great two-channel set-up which includes an Audiocom-modified Marantz CD player (wonderful machine!), Meridian 501 pre, LFD PA1 power amp (plus a Funk Firm Vector TT and LFD MM phono stage). Speakers are Harbeth HL III.

I’ve also just got an Oppo DV-980H universal player and that’s encouraging me to buy SACDs – mostly classical and either 3-channel (RCA Living Stereo series) or 4-channel (Pentatone).

At the moment I play the SACDs in stereo, but would love to get the full benefit of the other channels. That means I need a suitable receiver on top of all my other amps and three more speakers.

My problem is this: can I integrate such a system into my existing one or do I need to have a separate multi-channel system?

So can you recommend a great sounding receiver and three speakers (2 rear, one central for those 3-channel RCA and Mercury Living Presence SACDs) that would integrate well with my Harbeths? I’ve read that the speakers should all be the same so they’re voiced the same – but obviously having old Harbeths that’s out of the question.

Here’s hoping what you suggest is available here in New Zealand.

Many thanks too for all your help you’ve offered in the past.

Reza Azam

New Zealand


Hi Reza. You can either buy an AV receiver, or an AV preamp like the Onkyo PR-SC886 I reviewed in our July 09 issue. I suspect an AV receiver with Preamp Outputs you will find most suitable. The front Left and Right channel preamp outputs can then feed your LFD power amplifier (just leave the receiver power amps unused; they won’t blow up) and Harbeth loudspeakers for stereo 'as you know it', ignoring how the receiver preamp may slightly influence sound quality. The remaining channels will then need additional loudspeakers. You can then hook up the Oppo DV-980H via HDMI to get full surround-sound from SACD.


Obviously, with this and any other arrangement you will not have matched loudspeakers. The only solution here is to get more Harbeths. How about new HL-P3s for the main channels, relegating your oldies to surround channels?


In my experience Marantz make the best sounding receivers, closely followed by Onkyo. Sad to say, I could not recommend any other brand as being ‘hi-fi’. Their internal transistor amplifiers commonly sound vague and unengaging, in true budget solid-state fashion, because AV receivers are very heavily cost-cut, junk audio affairs using the cheapest components and mass manufacturing techniques.



An Onkyo PR-SC886 AV preamp can do it all. It is a great hi-fi AV solution.


The best sound would come from a dedicated preamp like the Onkyo PR-SC886 driving tube amps., something I tried with great success in the July 09 review.

Also, if you want to spin Blu-ray audio discs and concerts, something that is well worth doing, you need to upgrade the Oppo to a BDP-83 or get a Cambridge 650BD, both of which are based on the Taiwanese Mediatek platform. You will then be able to play 24/192 PCM Blu-ray recordings in addition to SACDs. Sound quality isn’t better, so much as a bit different (more analytical, less organic), or the many 24/96 concerts appearing on Blu-ray, many of which are have great sound quality, largely because the original recording was a High-Def affair and there’s no studio mixing to mess things up, meaning you get a very live and intense sound. Many of these concerts make your average music CD sound bland and barren.


I think you can get most of this kit in New Zealand. You will enjoy the extra channels too. Done properly surround-sound can be very engaging and real fun. NK


I bought your November copy at Birmingham airport the other day and liked it a lot and so have subscribed to your on-line service. I would like your help.

Earlier this year I replaced my exhausted Celef PE1s with B&W 805s, had my Linn LP12 serviced and updated and had my Copland CSA14 serviced. In addition I changed the 'wires' with some Russ Andrews goodies. I am very happy with the music the system makes and now want to improve the digital side of my system, an aging Philips CD850. Apart from listening to my CDs I want to download some of B&W’s and Linn’s studio masters and listen to Linn Radio and the BBC’s streams once they have sorted out their quality issues.

On a recent trip to the UK I visited a local hi-fi shop and listened to their Cyrus 6 and 8 SE ranges and, to be frank, I was not too impressed. They suggested adding a DAC to my CD850 and my PC. I also auditioned a Linn Akurate DS which sounded nice. However, I didn't think it was very user friendly and thought it was a lot of money.

Would you go down the DAC route or are there alternatives to this? My budget is in £1,000 to £1,500 range.

Thanking you in advance,

Peter Wicksteed

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria


Musical Fidelity M1 DAC - I've heard £1000 machines struggle to beat it, says David.


Hi Peter - I'd suggest that, for the moment, you buy a good basic DAC like the £399 Musical Fidelity M1. I've used this in a number of situations and it's a really, really impressive performer. Don't be put off by its low price; I've heard £1,000 machines struggle to beat it. It will be a massive upgrade on your Philips, which has a good CD transport but is off the pace, DAC-wise. Expect a far more spacious and open soundstage, with smooth airy treble and a more supple, tactile bass. The clever thing is of course that it can accept computer audio via its USB input, although my listening tests, via an Apple MacBook Pro, show that it sounds best running an optical cable out of the Mac direct into the M1 DAC. The reason for this, I speculate, is that the TOSLINK optical lead removes all computer-derived electrical noise. However you connect it up though, you'll find a fine sound quality that's a world apart from stock computer sound. DP



Hello David. Could you give me some unbiased advice please?

My system is 1985 Linn Sondek LP12, Basik Plus/K9, NAD 3120 (1986), Boss BR900CD (I play the drums which feeds into this CD recorder mixer), M-Audio studiophile BX-8a monitors, and Marantz SA7001 CD player.

I have a dilemma; I can either pay £950 to get the Majik PSU fitted to the LP12 (because there is a funny smell coming from the deck), a service (reset), a new motor, a new Linn Adikt cartridge, 45 rpm adaptor, Quadraspire wall shelf for the Linn or buy a new Rega Planar 3 with the Rega cartridge, ext PSU and Rega wall mounted shelf which will be £750.

As the Linn LP12 does not appear to be as good as it used to be (i.e. there are other decks just as good), which will give me the very best sound and is it worth another £200 to pay on the Linn compared to the Rega?

Or would a Technics SL1210 (the semi pro one) be a better bet at roughly the same price as the Rega?

Which would hold its value better in the future, the Linn in repaired/upgraded form or the new Rega 3 or technics SL1210?

I want a really professional sound from vinyl, so want the very best sound for the money available and pitch stability (good speed stability/timing) is important as I play the drums

Kind regards,

Michael Moore



For a tweaked Rega arm try an Audio Origami RB250.


Okay - if pitch stability is your absolute priority, then get an SL1200 – fitted with a tweaked Rega arm (I like the Audio Origami RB250), Timestep bearing and power supply. You could fit any good arm, but the secret is to fit a good arm and not use the stock one! A modded Technics will beat either of the other decks in terms of pitch stability, although the Linn is actually very good in this respect for a belt drive, it must be said. Not sure about which would hold its value; I'd buy it as an investment in music. If it's money you want to make, buy a one ounce gold Kruggerand! DP


The Mac Mini will output 96kHz from TOSLINK.



As much as NK’s reply clears up many points on the Mac Mini Toslink connection, he makes one very large mistake. No Mac with USB 2.0 connections is physically or software limited to 16bit 44.1 – 48kHz through hardware. If a Mac (any Mac) has USB 2.0 and OSX 10.5 or higher it is capable of outputting up to 24bit 96kHz via USB. The limitation NK found with his Cambridge Audio DAC Magic, is the DAC Magic itself. While the actual Wolfson DAC is 24/96 capable, the USB receiver on the DAC Magic is limited to 16/48 max.

Brian Alvarez



In the Mail section of your October 2010 issue NK replied to several response letters regarding the Mac Mini. I am afraid he has given wrong information again. He states “The Intel Mac Mini has selectable fixed output sample rates of 44.1, 48 and 96 Hz via the optical output but only 44.1 and 48 kHz via USB, at least with the a 96 kHz capable Cambridge Audio DAC Magic attached as a test mule.”

The fact is that the problem lies with the Cambridge Audio DAC Magic which does not support 96 kHz via its USB input but only through it coax and optical digital inputs. I run a USB to a Wadia 151 PowerDAC Mini and do indeed receive 96 kHz via the USB connection.

Best regards,

Mike Kulfan


Hi Chaps. That the Cambridge Audio DAC restricts USB performance had already been discussed and was known about I presumed. I alluded to the limitation by saying “at least with the 96kHz capable Cambridge Audio DAC Magic attached as a test mule”. In other words, the Cambridge appears to be 96kHz capable, but it is not via S/PDIF.

Once again though, I am fascinated by your knowledge and experience of using a Mac Mini for audio, not something I would have considered, and feel sure that what you say will be of interest to many other readers. There’s nothing like beating the subject (and me) to death! NK



Experiences that I’ve had with my hi-fi system over the past six months have really been an eye opener for me and, I think, changed my way of thinking regarding how I view upgrades, reviews and listening.

My current system is Teac T1 transport (with Trichord Clock 4 and upgraded power supply, Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21 DAC, Cyrus Pre X, PSXR power supply, Rotel RB1092 Power Amp, Linn Kabers. Cabling is a mix of Russ Andrews, Ixos Ixotica and Linn.

My latest ‘adventure’ began when I saw a Townshend TA565 CD player for sale. Having once owned a Townshend Rock turntable/Naim Nait/Heybrook HB1 system that I remember extremely fondly, I decided to explore further. Reviews spoke very highly of the TA565 CD, talking about its solid bass, high resolution playback and plenty more besides. So I arranged to demo the player at the dealer who advised that I bring my current CD and DAC for comparison purposes.

My journey from Staffordshire to Surrey was a tedious three and a half hours but was tempered by my excitement and enthusiasm for what I was surely about to hear. My wife kindly agreed to join me to keep me company... actually I think it was to keep an eye on proceedings and also the purse strings!

Arrival at the dealers was met with coffee, a warm welcome and me drooling at not only the Townshend but also the racks of Naim, Linn and other gorgeous pieces of hi-fi. We settled in and fired up the Townshend which had been warmed up prior to our arrival and started to listen.

Well damn me, what a disappointment: it sounded rather flat, a little drab and dare I say it, rather ordinary. I persevered and played a clutch of discs that I had with me, but everything sounded the same, detail was merely OK but certainly not great, bass was admittedly tuneful but nothing special... I was gutted.

At this point the dealer suggested we compare my old but trusted Teac/Tri-Vista through the same system, we cabled up and off we went. It absolutely wiped the floor with the Townshend, detail was crisp, clear...very clear, bass was tighter, bigger and just as tuneful and the whole thing was way way better. Even the dealer raised his eyebrow and complimented the sound.

Then disaster struck, the sound went out on one channel. We checked cables, leads etc but nothing worked...the Tri Vista was on the blink! So our demo was cut short and we started to pack up for home. Before we left though the dealer offered to play us some of the latest Naim CD players through the demo system whilst we had a last coffee. I don’t recall the models but they were certainly expensive...I do recall the wife saying “don’t get any ideas” as the dealer set it up.

Again though, with my demo discs, we were somewhat disappointed, the Teac/Tri Vista had sounded better than the new Naims, the dealer looked somewhat bemused, embarrassed and had to admit the same. We thanked them for their time, kindness, patience and coffee then headed home. Three and a half hours wondering what the hell was wrong with the Tri Vista!

So, next step, to get it fixed. I contacted Musical Fidelity who were helpful but rather expensive. I then Googled for alternative options. I found a company called J.S.Audio, who appeared to be well versed in Musical Fidelity products. A call was made and a deal done for me to get the DAC to them, the repairs to be done but also some upgrades to be carried out at the same time.

I got the DAC back a couple of weeks later, it worked fine, back on two channels, but I wasn’t so sure about the sound, it had lost a little something. A further call was made and they were horrified that I wasn’t happy. It went back again with a clearer brief as to what I was looking for.

Two weeks later and it was back at home. Well, I simply couldn’t believe what I was hearing, it was simply outstanding. The whole system had moved up to a totally different level. Bristling with fine detail (some never heard before), a truly ridiculous soundstage but most of all an almost holographic imaging that I’ve only ever heard once before at a show through £20,000 worth of high end system.

I have never before in twenty years of hi-fi interest had such a huge and tangible upgrade – all for £600! I’m listening to discs almost daily and hearing so much more music, detail and depth like never before.

So, either my system was lacking something before, or maybe the upgrades have waved a magic wand over proceedings. Or, and this is the interesting thing, the Townshend wasn’t as good as the reviews/reviewers made it out to be (it was a £3000 player!) but also are the new Naims really that good, is the new equipment on the shelves today any better than what was available years ago?

My experiences have taught me a really valuable lesson. Don’t get sucked in by the reviews, the brand names and status. Maybe, just maybe, the potential lies within what you already have, it just needs exploiting.

Food for thought?

Kind regards,

Dave Mayer


Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21 DAC tweaked by J.S. Audio was a "huge and tangible upgrade" says David Mayer.


Food for thought indeed. Ultimately, you have to use your ears. No amount of reading glowing reviews of products will get you to where you want to go; it's a case of listening for yourself. Of course we try very hard to be accurate and open in our reviews, and indeed back them up with measured performance which is a tremendous load in terms of the time it takes, but ultimately it's you who's buying it and it's you who should listen before you so do! Magazines can only frame the debate, and help you make your final shortlist. DP


I have just bought the December issue of HFW. That happened sixteen years later my last appointment with the magazine and I discovered that the original good philosophy has not been changed at all.

I am really impressed of that. I am impressed about the coherence of the “message” kept along these years, coherence that I have really appreciated.

As sixteen years ago, the magazine is still with strong roots on valves equipment and with a good number of pages dedicated to reader questions and vinyl records. Even the pages dedicated to old favourites, the classics, are surprisingly populated with the same classic equipment of sixteen years ago! I am talking about the Garrards turntables or the Yamaha M1000 for example.

That is continuity! I would be glad to find your approach elsewhere; the world should be more stable!

After this long introduction, here I am with some questions. My playback system consists mainly of old equipment produced during the eighties and even if my feelings with them are like that of old friends, I believe that some of them need to be up to date even if ‘cum grano salis’ (Latin for ‘with a grain of salt’, or 'some little intelligence' Wikipedia tells me! - NK).

The digital spinner is Meridian 200 transport plus 203 DAC while the record playback is by original Roksan Xerxes with Artemiz tonearm and Shelter 501MkII cartridge. The preamplifier is Motif MC-7 dual mono and the power delivered to Monitor Audio Studio 20 loudspeakers is by Spectral DMA-50. Both interconnect cable and loudspeaker cables were made by Ensemble of Switzerland with some Monster Cable and Van den Hul. Last but not least I still own a Janis Interface 1A power/crossover amplifier with its dedicated 15 inches woofer.

At the time, that stuff represented a good deal of money that, taking into accounts my actual circumstances and family priorities, I am not willing to spend anymore simply because I believe it is not necessary. I shall tell you why. Last September I went to Top Audio Video show held in Milan, Italy and even considering the presence of most important and well known brands in the world, I was not impressed at all of what I heard. Please do not get me wrong, what I mean is that at my mature age, I am not impressed anymore of the cannons and seismic frequency reproduced by some systems and neither the brute force of the very big and very expensive offering has captured my soul, even if this type of loudspeaker and amplifiers may find legion of estimators.

Please do not think I am getting mad about what I am going to write here below but, I was really fascinated by the sound of music, and I repeat the sound of music, coming from a little room where pair of diminutive loudspeaker on stands linked to an integrated amplifier and CD player was in action.

After few minutes of beautiful string quartets reproduced so musically I was not able to resist saying to the Italian representative that his system was one of the very few musical system at the show. Please note this is absolutely not intended as a sale boost for these companies, simply because I have no authority, but the system I am talking about was comprehensive of Creek CD player and Creek integrated amplifier and an incredible cheap, but again with a great sense of music, Castle Knight loudspeakers (I do not remember if Model 1 or 2).

How the folks at Castle did get that is beyond my understanding but from this experience I learned, or better, I refreshed my memory that first, it is not necessary to spend a fortune to be ideally transported in the concert hall and second, that bigger is not always better like some overseas audio writers will induce us to think and third, music is not a matter of muscle but emotion and some brain applied.

The end of this long letter is focused on the consciousness that during these years I have lost some good equipment and now it is time to up to date my system. To achieve this goal, please, I need your help taking into account that my music room is about 20 square meters and I listen to all kind of music with some preference toward rock and energetic music. Today, differently than yesterday, I would be very glad to experience some equipment with a character verging on “bloom” with a good sense of density without become woolly and confused and with a good deal of detail, rhythm and dynamics.

The budget to be considered shall account the potential sale revenue of my actual system or part of it you will say plus, but only if strictly necessary, a couple of thousand Euros. Considering the above mentioned experience I should prefer to buy new, even if I have no problem to buy second hand.

Sorry for this lengthy letter, it happens once in sixteen years!

Best regards,

Luciano Castoldi



Was it the Castle Knight 2 that Luciano Castoldi found so beguiling?


Thanks for the praise and the Latin – that phrase is a new one to me!


Creek products are very well developed and designer Mike Creek has long experience in producing solid-state amplifiers that sound smooth, dynamic yet free from harshness. Their new Destiny 2 amplifier (we will be reviewing it in the April 11 issue) would likely suit you.


If you so liked Castle loudspeakers, as many people do, then the new Knight Series must have a model for you. Again, we know the designer well, it is ‘our own’ Peter Comeau of course, now working for International Audio Group (IAG) in Shenhzen, China. Peter well knows the 'Castle sound’ and ethos and has reproduced it in the new Knights. As always listen first. NK



I have a problem with one of my ‘speakers - Castle Avons. Pinned the fault down by swapping ‘speakers, cables, channels, etc. The problem is that there is interference, a background crackling sound. I have tightened everything up, cleaned contacts, checked cables, etc. No luck.

Help! Is there anything else I should do? What can I do? Where can I go to get the problem properly diagnosed and repaired? Now that Castle are no longer Skipton based, I fear a trip to China would be overkill, especially in such straightened times.

My line of thinking is that it will be a) worth repairing and b) (hopefully) cheaper to repair than to replace. Ideally, somewhere in the North West of England would be preferable, but I am happy to travel to get the best repair.

Rest of the set-up: Cirkused LP12, Ittok LVIII, AT OC-9 MkII, Linto, Lingo II, Exotik / Chakra C2200 (recently acquired) and a Quad FM3. (Yes, Linn heavy - but one of my oldest friends tends to pass things on at very friendly prices when he upgrades... got to do something with all these cuts).

Thanking you in advance - and I look forward to your response.


Ian Davies




The Castle Avon - can it be fixed?


Try contacting who are based in Norfolk. It seems that Audiolaboratories of Leeds – nearer you – have closed down, a shame.

A constant crackle while working sounds like one of the  drive unit voice coil leadout wires is the cause, as they move with the cone and lead a hard life. I have found dry joints here in the past, where the braid attaches to the cone/coil. If you can't get to the braid then the drive unit will need to be replaced. Of course, it may just be there is a dry joint somewhere else, perhaps  in crossover connections, in which case a fix will be easy, providing you can solder. NK



I’m looking for a new tonearm. There’s loads of ‘em. I’d be happy with most of them of a certain standard to replace my RB300. But I’ll just tell all you manufacturers concerned why you won’t be getting my custom: straight, or non existent headshell finger lifts!

I have, since getting the bug 35 years ago, always followed the same procedure for putting a record on, especially on a sprung deck , like the Linn LP12  or Michell Gyrodec – lift from the grooves using the finger lift, change record, cue using the finger lift. That's their purpose!

Simple and not half as much disc damage as lifting with the damped device on a bouncy record player.

So why this fashion for a straight thing which even I, with my pianists fingers, can’t get under? They might as well just leave it off as give us an abomination like the Project arm which is impossible to use for it’s intended purpose!

Don’t give me the "use a finger and thumb”, because that’s a recipe for disaster, and please don’t claim it makes a difference to the sound because of microphony. I’ve filed one off a Rega arm only to find I have butchered it for no gain whatsoever. So why this mad fashion?

I can’t be the only person who finds this an annoyance surely. There must be more grumpy old men who agree with me? Bring back curved finger lifts. SME use ‘em so they can’t be that bad !  Let me guess, you take them off for sound quality don’t you?

Ivor Jebson


We need decent finger lifts, says Ivor Jebson.


Er, yes, you’ve got it Ivor. But as you say it doesn’t make a mountain of difference to the sound, much like the choice between stainless steel and brass cartridge fixing screws (Oh how nutty can we get!). I, like you, cue with my fingers and always have done, because it is simple, convenient and does the job. Cue platforms, damped or not, I do not like. And a delight of my Garrard’s vast plinth is that it remains steady whilst I perform the said lift or lower operation.

I guess you could fashion a paper clip with a few screw ‘holes’ and an upward bent finger lift. I usually fit an old, independent SME 3009 lift to avoid cueing accidents. NK



Hello again! I would like to thank you for your – as ever – excellent advice. As to the sharpness of the sound of some of the violin records I own, I must admit that most of them are ‘second-hand’ items that no amount of cleaning will ever restore to their former pristine beauty, sadly. As you rightly point out, this may account for some of the sonic unpleasantness described in my first e-mail.

A similar phenomenon manifests itself with some piano records, e.g. Everybody digs Bill Evans, a reissue which suffers from breakup on some tracks, even though it was bought new only recently. Giving it a thorough wash (twice) did not help, as was borne out by playing it on my other record player (Thorens TD125 Mk2/Origin Live Silver/ZYX R100 H/Naim Stageline). Oh the joys of vinyl!

As to the valve option, would you say Quad valve amps would be up to driving the Tannoy D500’s, which have a nominal 6 ohm impedance, but drop below 3 Ohm, if I am to believe some people? Would this be a problem?

Thanks again,

Peter Inghels

The Hague

The Netherlands


No Peter, no problem at all. Just use the 4 Ohm tap and it will cope with anything, even the 1 Ohm or so of an electrostatic loudspeaker at 20kHz (see our measurements of the Martin Logan Ethos in Jan11 issue). Valve amps are very durable in this regard. A low impedance at low frequencies will demand more power but a Quad II-eighty has plenty of this. NK



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