February 2011 issue - Page 6

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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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