November 2010 issue

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World Mail    November 2010 issue        


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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.



I read Graham Thomas’s letter (HFW July 2010) with interest and with some agreement. There are two distinct issues when it comes to the quality of an LP.

The first is the production values and the mastering or remastering of the music. We hear the result of this in the way the music is presented. Whether this is perceived to be good or bad is to a large extent a matter of taste and is subjective.

The second issue is the one that I think Mr Thomas was alluding to and that is the quality of the pressing. Going back to the seventies I returned more LPs then because of poor pressings than I do now. In those days however, records were being mass produced and we paid what was considered to be the ‘normal’ price for them. There was perhaps a small excuse then for the occasional sub-standard pressing because of the volumes involved. Today, however, the market has changed and vinyl lovers pay a premium price for what should always be a premium product. Sadly, this is not always the case.

In my experience specialist labels who generally release reissues almost always provide a product that is top class in every way - both the mastering and pressing. Doxy releases, for instance, which retail towards the lower end of premium market, £15 for a single LP, never disappoints. My local dealer tends not to stock the more expensive labels such as Mobile Fidelity and Classic and so I cannot comment on those.

When I do encounter problems with pressings they tend to be with either new recordings or reissues from one of the major labels. I bought the Lily Allen disc ‘It’s Not Me, Its You’; in fact I bought it three times, but alas all three had exactly the same fault. The quality control must have been zero.

Only last week I purchased the latest Rufus Wainwright release on double LP. The surface noise on this disc was unacceptably high and again I had to return it. I didn’t even bother to re-order because of my experiences with the Lily Allen record.



Lily Allen's 'It's Not Me, It's You' I bought three times, says David Jarvis....

So it seems to me that the quality control at the pressing plants used by the mainstream labels leaves something to be desired.

As I said before, the way a disc is engineered and the resulting sound may not suit me but may please others very well and consequently I don’t return records for that reason. I do sometimes feel, however, that when the major labels reissue music from their own vaults they think that all they have to do is to put it onto 180g and that’s it, job done. Too often I feel that the music sounds just a bit ordinary, a bit flat, a bit muddy. Now quite often I’m buying music that I don’t know (more exciting that way, isn’t it?) and so perhaps the reissue is a fair representation of the original, I don’t know, but again this slight feeling of disappointment is less common when I buy a recording on a specialist label.

So come on record labels, you’re making money out of a format that you thought was dead and buried. A bit more effort please.

David Jarvis

Hear, hear! I think you're absolutely spot on, David. One of the bizarre things that's happened during the last decade - the time of the vinyl revival - is that 180g pressings and 'audiophile pressings' seem to have become one and the same. That's absolutely not the case; I've come across a good number of 180g pressings which sound dreadful. The reason is simply that the remastering has been done badly; just because it's then pressed on to thick vinyl doesn't mean that bad remaster is going to suddenly sound good again.

Furthermore, there's relatively little reason for using 180g vinyl; some of the best pressings I've ever heard hail from Japan and are actually about 90g (or less); less than standard UK pressings of yore. Sadly the audiophile vinyl reissue market has become a case of 'never mind the quality, feel the weight'. Happily, readers can look forward to an investigation into this in the near future. I have recently commissioned a shadowy, enigmatic character who shall remain nameless (some call him "The Disc Detective") to do some 'private investigations' into the subject; watch out for the feature soon! DP



I saw in May’s issue that Tony Bolton is using a Bent Audio TAP-X and was interested in his views on this preamp. I have been using the autoformer 6 way version of this preamp for the last two years and have been very pleased with it. Initially I was using it with a Bryston 4B-SST and more recently with a Linn Klimax Twin.

My reason for asking is that I saw Tony was very impressed with the ModWright but wondered if he could comment about TAP-X compared with say a Bryston BP26 or a Linn Klimax Kontrol.

I know this may not make the letters page as he and I probably have the only two autoformer TAP-Xs in the UK but would be interested in Tony’s views if he is able to respond.

Peter Williamson




TAP-X preamp has openness and detail in the sound and low volume contolability, says Tony Bolton.


Hi Peter, like you I am very happy with the TAP-X. I enjoy the openness and detail in the sound and the low volume controllability. I haven't heard the Bryston 4B-SST, but do know the 3B and 14B amplifiers so am assuming that there is a family sound. I would suggest that the Bryston BP26 preamp would have better dynamics and more slam than the TAP-X, but would lose out on musicality and fluidity. Bryston equipment, to my ears, can be a very unrelenting studio sound which can get tiring. The ModWright 36.5, I felt, bridged this gap, offering the no-holds-barred honesty of the Bryston with the musicality of the TAP-X. I haven't heard the latest generation of Linn amplification so cannot comment. TB



I really enjoyed reading Rafael Todes review of the Nottingham Hyperspace turntable. It is good to see a review written by a classical musician who may approach sound quality from a slightly different perspective. The outcome of the review, in which he compares the sound of the Hyperspace to that of a Garrard 401 relates to the position I find myself in with my system. Ten years ago I purchased a Garrard 401 chassis in very good order. This was taken to Martin Bastin who worked his magic on the deck and built a rather tasty burr walnut veneered plinth. The deck has remained in my system ever since and is fitted with a Roksan Tabriz zi and a modified Denon 103D cartridge, although a few other MC cartridges have been used in the past decade.

I ought also to mention the fitted SDS Isoplat and the excellent VDH spindle oil used to lubricate the main bearing. My previous deck, a Logic 101, was consigned to the loft for eventual sale.

Under pressure to reduce my hi-fi collection, I recently retrieved the Logic from the loft in order to prepare it for sale. Prior to storage, I had fitted it with an (unwanted) original Helius arm. I mean the first Helius design of many years ago and an unused Roksan Corus Black cartridge. The deck was thoroughly cleaned, a new belt fitted and slotted into my system (EAR phono preamp, upgraded WAD 6550 and Proac Tablette 50s).

Having become accustomed to the Garrard sound, I was taken aback by the somewhat different presentation of the Logic. Bass was surprisingly solid, but more fulsome and less dry than that of the Garrard. The music was now more airy and relaxed, had more depth and flowed beautifully. This was the case with the likes of John Lee Hooker (The Healer), classical works, by Butterworth and Beethoven, and acoustic folk.

On electronic based music or with more driving rhythms, I did prefer the more upbeat and forceful sound of the Garrard. Swapping cartridges did not alter these observations. So, which deck am I keeping? The answer, in true Adam Smith fashion, is (probably) both. The Logic is probably worth little on the second hand market and I cannot bear to part with my beautiful Garrard. I need to commandeer another room for a second system  but can I afford the divorce that would follow?

Colin Topping




Nottingham Analogue Hyperspace turntable was a hit with Rafael Todes.


You’ll suffer for your pleasures Colin!

Rafael has been very brave as well as aurally astute in identifying the Garrard sound and daring to suggest it was just “a sound” and there might well be valid alternatives.

Funnily, although I am the original 401 arch-exponent it isn’t just sound quality that appeals to me, it is sheer usability. I just got fed up with fooling around with suspended decks, adjusting this, that and the other, coping with the religion and not daring to breathe just in case this brought the heavens tumbling.

The Garrard, as you know, starts with a resounding crash that warns of its coming intentions, and it’s a sonic steamroller of a deck that shrugs off the outside world. It’s great fun, but there are valid alternatives. NK



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