October 2010 issue - Page 5

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I hope I didn't give you guys the impression that I am a Sony hater. I have all the respect in the world for the company and its many truly great products. The Sony F-66W is an example of a Sony product that was well ahead of its time. Mine is looking at me as I write and still giving great service!

The future of audio publishing belongs to those who realise that to a whole generation the 1812 Overture is simply music for a montage of kids crashing shopping trolleys into brick walls. I read a review in a rival magazine that used this piece of music and shook my head. Yeah, you kids need to forget your iPods and buy a brute of a turntable, to excavate every last molecule of information from your pressing of the 1812.

There has been a paradigm shift in the minds of kids when it comes to music. As Trent Reznor puts it, they don't think they should have to pay for music anymore. This attitude was demonstrated on a recent visit to YouTube to have a look at a Prince video. Prince has been very active keeping his music off the site and the comments on the video (which had its audio track removed) were incredulous in tone; internet users struggling to fathom why he would actually expect to get paid for his music.

The reason that Blu-ray has been embraced while SACD is WTF? People actually sit down and watch films. Only audiophiles put on an album and listen to the whole thing; the very concept of sitting down and listening to an entire album is crazy. This was brought home when I began talking to someone on the train. After discussing various topics from obscure Japanese Cage Fighters to telescopes I mentioned audio and got a puzzled look. Uhh, stereo? Nothing. Hi-Fi? Not a clue what I meant. People, we are truly underground. To quote Rage against the Machine: “We’re the renegades. We’re the people with our own philosophies.”

It's hard to mess with Noel Keywood, the guy really knows his stuff. When I first raided my Dad's audio magazine collection I found his writing a little too objective and preferred the fantastical writing of a journalist who will remain nameless. Well, let's just say he is supposedly single handedly responsible for the revival in vintage audio (excuse me while I explain that to the 300B cults of Japan, manufacturers like Audio Research who never stopped making tube gear and all the audiophiles who hung on to their classic equipment), likes to mention Swiss watch makers ad nauseam and recently wasted a whole column on Steve Jobs follies. These days though I'm not so keen on his writing and prefer Noel's even handed approach. As a kid I found Noel's writing a little dry (no mentions of French hookers or Ferraris) but now I appreciate the measured approach he takes to reviewing.

An area where I feel Hi-Fi World is falling behind is photos of components internals. I want my audio porn! David's recent review of the DCS CD player was underwhelming in this respect.

All audio magazines seem really confused when it comes to MP3 and kids. Column after column of statistics on drops in sales of CD singles etc., and not a clue what to do. The confusion stems mainly I feel from not understanding the distinction between demonstrating value and imposing it. But why don't the kids want a 300 Watt Class A monoblock amplifier? Because they don't care! Get over it and build a better iPod dock a la the Krell Kid. Though David's optimistic view that such products will act as a gateway into real audio is a little confused. They will act as a gateway, but in the other direction i.e. audiophiles getting into MP3 and iPods. Remember the Real Hi-Fi campaign? Yeah, that worked. Again, trying to impose values rather than demonstrating value.



Old generation for a new generation.


Oh, how I would love to wave my hand in front of Adam Smith Jedi style and say having 300 mediocre turntables is silly. Perhaps you should ebay them and reprocess the funds into good gear. Keep your Garrard, Alphason and Marantz CD player, the rest can go. How on earth did the Craputrac, uuurgh sorry, Accutrac make its way into the classics section when real, affordable classics like the Thorens TD150 and TD160/super are omitted? I agree with Adam when he says the sky's the limit for upgrading these suspended sub-chassis decks. And Adam, don't be embarrassed by using tracks like Hadaway what is love? Great song.

Whatever happened to the new production of 845M tubes? What's the story with Blackburn's new 12AX7/ECC83 tubes? And why don't Rega make a 12 inch arm?

I was impressed with the resume of turntables you have heard David. My fear was that I might respond with something like Yeah, but my man (to use Bob Dylan speak) uses a Sota Sapphire with vacuum platter, SME IV and Supex 900 and I reference it far too often.

Kicking back with my dad I said "you know there is a model above the TTS8000". His response? There would want to be.

My final confession; I manhandle all the audio magazines but only ever buy Hi-Fi World!

Ben North


Thanks Ben. I harbour no illusion that listening to an album on its own is now an outdated pastime, or is seen to be. But equally, having seen fashions come and go and attitudes change, I don't take it all too seriously. Mr iPod – my 10 year old son – is starting to take to big concerts and long guitar solos and even asking about Prog Rock ("you won't like it, so don't ask"!). His eyes popped out at The Who's 'Live At Kilburn' Blu-ray, a real bit of high energy Rock that brought a large smile to his face. And I heard Voodoo Chile issuing from his bedroom the other night. It's disgraceful what kids listen to nowadays! NK


Hi Ben - a great letter (or was it a manifesto?); not sure if I agree with you on many of those topics but I must say you put things very lucidly! I think the main point is that real hi-fi is now an elite pastime for a certain kind of music and/or movie fan, and not a mass market movement for everyone. This shouldn't in itself concern us, although I do feel that we should try a lot harder to be more inclusive, and not constantly seek to find ways of deterring 'normal' civilians joining in with our fun. The industry has to reach out to the general public, because it sure as hell isn't going to happen the other way round. DP



I’ve built up a system that I think sounds great and spend many happy hours listening to both vinyl and CD, but I’m wondering if it could sound even better and I’d like your advice. I’ve included a couple of photos to show you the speakers are Tannoy Autographs with 15 Gold drivers and Tannoy supertweeters - the original Tannoy crossovers were rebuilt using all new and modern parts (they’d have been 30-40years old and components wear out). I built the cabinets myself from plans on the web  more as a wonder how difficult that would be than anything else (took me 5 months end to end and, yes, it was really difficult!). But the sound they generate is, to my ears, just magnificent. My musical tastes are pretty varied, some classical piano and orchestra pieces, female vocalists, Pink Floyd, Kate Bush, but not towards heavy metal. I like to hear into the music, being able to pick out individual instruments rather than just have a huge wall of sound battering me!

My room is 14ft wide and 21ft long with a vaulted ceiling, plenty of furniture, bookcases, sofas etc. I love the whole turntable and vinyl experience so have two of these,  a Technics SP10 Mk2 in a metal and hardwood plinth, an SME IV arm with a Lyra Argo cartridge.

The other turntable is an Amari (little known, I think they went out of business but there’s still some info on the web), a Wilson Benesch arm and an Audio Technica OC9 cartridge.

Both cartridges feed into a Whest audio PS20/MS20 phono stage.




The new Icon Audio MB845 Super MkII power amplifiers.


The CD player is a top loading Chinese import called an Original Leonardo. I loved the look of it and it also has some excellent componentry. The digital signal from this goes into a Musical Fidelity Trivista DAC. As many of us have come to realise, the vinyl side beats the CD side for clarity and depth of sound and gives that feeling the musicians are in the room with you. On their own, CDs sound great, just not as good as the same vinyl albums in back to back comparisons.

I use a valve amplifier from the Affordable Valve Company - triode connected using four KT88 Svetlana output valves. I have always preferred the sound of this to other transistor amplifiers I’ve used, the nearest in sound quality came from a Jungson JA88 Class A amp.

So to my point. It’s the valve amplifier that I think I can improve. It’s not that I can pin-point any particular weakness with the current amp (probably because unlike you hi-fi reviewers, I just haven’t been exposed to the variety of superb sounding equipment that you have). So I’m looking for a better sound in all areas, and I like the idea of having a remote control for the volume, at least with a budget of £2000 what to do?

I have a Creek passive pre-amp so could go for a power amp or monoblocks, or go for another integrated. What I don’t want to do, and this is a situation I’m sure many people face, is spend a lot of money only to find I get something with more or less the same performance. Can you help?

best regards

Simon Taylor


If you have the Creek OBH-22 passive preamp with remote volume control an obvious choice are the forthcoming Icon Audio MB845 Super MkII power amplifiers. Price, unfortunately, will be above your budget, I’d guess around £3000 per pair at least and likely more. They will give you close to the ultimate in terms of triode sound quality, having both smoothness and slam.

Within your budget is the Icon Audio Stereo 300, that offers the smooth, smooth sound of 300B triodes. Just be aware that 300Bs are expensive: think £80 apiece minimum. After a few thousand hours of use replacement is expensive. Otherwise, look to KT88s from Icon Audio in the Stereo 40 MkIII, another lovely sounding amplifier at a great price. You’ll get great results with those lovely looking Tannoys. NK



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