November 2010 issue

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World Mail    November 2010 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.



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


I read Graham Morris's letter in the July Edition on the resurrection of his Philips N4150 reel to reel tape recorder and thought how people seem to start doing and thinking the same thing at the same time. I have a Philips N7150 tape deck bought in January 1983. Last but one rainy Bank Holiday I retrieved the box containing the tape deck from the bottom of a wardrobe to try it out. After years of it not being used it worked perfectly. I was half expecting it not to work at all. Listening to an old tape (running at 7 in/sec) through some Beyer headphones, I was amazed and had forgotten how good it was.

Are reel-to-reel tapes still available? I also have a Rotel Dolby B and C noise reduction unit bought to use with the tape deck. I need a reel-to-reel Dolby calibration tape to set both up. Do you know where I can get one? I am seriously thinking of refurbishing and updating both the tape deck and noise reduction unit, with new cabling, phono sockets, mains filters and anything else which could potentially improve the sound quality of both, and then using the reel-to-reel again, as I was so encouraged by the sound quality. If nothing else having a reel-to-reel tape recorder running looks so much more interesting than a CD player.

Peter Graves



Philips N4150 open reel recorder. Great quality from the 1980s.


Welcome to the wonderful world of reel-to-reel!  You can buy tapes and spare reels from on the 'Tapes' page. MRL sell calibration tapes but they are very expensive at about £80.00 each from There are two different reference levels of 850Hz at 320nWb/m for Europe and 250nWb/m for the USA. I would follow the instructions with your Rotel unit and use the built in test generator and aim at 0 VU?

Demagnetising and cleaning the heads and then replacing worn out electrolytics would be my first move. I have just done that on my Technics RS-1500 and am about to configure it with a Dolby 363 SR rack, so we are both on the same wavelength!

Dave Cawley

Sound Hi-Fi


Reel-to-reel is a truly lovely format, and capable of superb sound quality if done properly. There's certainly nothing like the sight of two 10.5" metal NAB reels spinning in front of your very eyes; I find it most relaxing, and that's before I've even switched the amp on! However, just a short caveat; so many reel-to-reels on the secondhand market are absolutely cream-crackered, having been subjected to a total hammering for a least a decade before they reached semi-retirement, then went up in the loft, then came down again only to go on eBay. They tended to be bought by musicians, who were doubtless seduced by the sound-on-sound possibilities, so expect a thick coating of nicotine inside the cabinet, along with shot electrolytics!

My point is, apply normal standards of judgement to buying them second-hand. Hear them playing back, then recording, then playing back. Make sure the gain on both channels is similar and that there are no funny noises of any kind, or dropouts, or hum. If there are, this is a 'fixer upper' and should be priced accordingly; don't let the undoubted romance of an open reel cloud your judgement! Repairs, if possible, can be expensive and then there's the small matter of the tapes. Yes, there's loads of old reels on eBay, but half of that will shed oxide the first time you play it – even if it really is 'new old stock'. I don't want to be hi-fi's answer to Victor Meldrew here, but it's important to point out that you're not going to get the sound quality or reliability of a brand new £1,000 Revox B77 (frozen in time from the late seventies) from a thirty five year old £50 Akai on eBay! DP



Sony Classical;  BeArTon;  Audite;  Capriccio;  Caro Mitis;  Dacapo;  BIS;  OUR Recordings;  2L;  Mariinsky;  Praga Digitals;  Triton;  Accent;  Cryston;  Exton;  Farao Classics;  Melba Records;  Channel Classics;  Harmonia Mundi;  Cybele;  PentaTone;  AliaVox;  Dabringhaus und Grimm;  RCA RedSeal;  Oehms Classics; Tudor;  Bridge;  Claves;  RCO Live;  LSO Live;  CSO resound.

I suppose I could go on! But listed above are just a few of the record labels currently releasing music on SACD format discs. I have only included those labels releasing what you would call “Classical” music but of course there are some excellent Jazz recordings also being released/re-released in the format and on labels additional to the above.

If as you state in your June 2010 edition the UK ran out of interest in the format with titles running to just “Avalon” and “Dark Side of the Moon” then why are there so many labels releasing discs in your country?

In the May 2010 edition of International Record Review there are at least a dozen SACDs reviewed and it’s the same for the Gramophone  magazine.

Why would Jordi Savall start his own record label (AliaVox) and release titles as hybrid SACDs if the medium was redundant? And why would the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra do the same? Many of the labels I have listed (and others I have not) are run by musicians who like Jordi Savall want to present the music in the best available format, and to them (leaving aside the digital/analog debate) the best format is SACD.




Yes, we did produce SACD back in 1991, but don't tell anyone! Sony's budget Blu-ray player, the BDP-S370 reviewed in our October issue, plays SACD. Spot the logo.


Mr Price, I appreciate that your musical tastes may be different to mine but to make such a statement as you did when reviewing the Esoteric X-05 SACD player is most regrettable. I urge you to purchase a few Classical SACDs and at least acknowledge the existence of the format. The AliaVox recordings are all superb and the production values are excellent. Jordi Savall  has surrounded himself with a wonderful group of musicians and the music they play – mainly from the baroque and early music periods – is enchanting! Or how about the recent Chicago Symphony Mahler Symphony No.2 with Bernard Haitink (CSOR901 916) – Editors Choice in the February ‘10 Gramophone; it would make a suitable test for any system! Those of us who love music and appreciate the quality of  SACD over Red Book CD want the format to prosper. With positive acknowledgment from audio reviewers such as yourself the format will remain viable.

I use old Quad electrostatic speakers, old Quad valve amps and a recent Marantz CD/SACD player. The sound of SACD is beguiling!


Nathan Stein,



Thanks for your views on SACD Nathan. We all have SACD collections and respect the format. But the simple truth is SACD is now barely visible on the High Street (in the UK) and has become a niche format in sales volume. There's little interest today in a high quality audio-only disc and even Sony do not support it on their top-of-the-range BDP-5000ES Blu-ray player - shameful. The new BDP-S370 reviewed in our Blu-ray Group Test in the last issue does play SACD and it could just be that Sony have realised audio quality is still an issue and SACD has a market, albeit a small one. We have long supported SACD replay on Blu-ray players, much to the bemusement of the AV crowd, as this looks like the only hope for the future. NK



You've got to have an Icon Audio PS1 tube phono stage says David.

Nathan - thanks for your impassioned paean of praise for SACD. Ironically you're talking to one of the format's greatest fans (I love its sound), but that doesn't stop me making the factually correct comment that in the UK, the format is effectively moribund. Yes, there are some excellent specialist labels doing SACD (Linn, for example, take a bow!), but what we don't have here in the UK is the ability to go into an average high street CD shop and buy any SACDs. No amount of me effusing about the format's lovely sound, across any genre of music, is sadly going to change that, I fear. DP



I’m on the look out for a new phonostage in the sub £600 mark. As this is supposed be a present for me (surprise surprise) I’m in a bit of a hurry to find out what to buy.

Now, my system: Project RPM with Roksan Corus, Jungson JA88D 2009 Edition and Yamaha NS1000M. What I want is a bit of a darker tonal colour, making things just a bit more pleasant without making that crystal clear midrange less, well clear. I was set on the Pure Sound P10 and may have a listen to it as there’s a dealer in my area. However, I wonder if the Icon Audio PS1 may be a better choice? Or perhaps something completely different?

And yes David, I did get rid of that ChineseYaqin (you may remember my letter concerning Chinese hi-fi from a few months back). That still wasn’t noise coming out of my Yams but the Jungson is a better match -:). I hope you can find time to answer my mail.

Niels Stergaard



Hi Niels - with your system you've simply got to go for the Icon Audio PS1 tube stage. Scrimp and save for the extra cash if need be, as any solid-state phono stage at that price will have you running for cover! The Jungson isn't famously warm, and the Yamahas won't exactly hide this fact from you... DP



I currently live in an old Victorian stone built house, my listening room is a reasonably sized 18ft square (ish), with fairly high ceiling, around 11 - 12 ft. It has varnished floorboards with a large rug and fairly substantial sofas, and heavy curtains.

My current set up resulted in a massive revamp a number of years ago from an LP12 / Naim Audio amplifiers, CD player and ‘speakers to a complete turnaround and entirely different set up. It was a long and pricey journey and I ended up with a set up, which, I have to say, pound for pound has left me satisfied. I like it very much, obviously not the best money can buy, but I believe I got good value for money, and it often puts a massive grin on my face.

The set up consists of an old Townshend Elite Rock/ Excalibur/ Dynavector DV 20 cartridge. I like the Townshend, they track like a train on rails and I’m a massive fan of the front damping. This sits on a Voodoo Airtek platform, much like a Townshend Seismic sink, but to be fair to Voodoo, a damn site better looking and excellent at its job; what a pity they are no longer with us.

My amplifiers, and this caused me no end of tears, have now settled at old style Quicksilver Audio Full Function Preamp and a pair of Quicksilver Audio V4 Monoblocks (120W push-pull). I have to say, that my experience has taught me that they were far superior to the much more well known Stateside brand that this set up replaced. The preamp has a large power supply, in fact its energy storage (122 Joules) was more than some of the power amplifiers I had along the way. It would be fair to say that, for its time, it was over engineered and it is armed with Telefunken valves. The V4 Monoblocks when matched are extremely musical, pack a punch when the transients start and are generally a delight to listen to. Perhaps not the last word in detail, but are an extremely enjoyable and involving listen. The Americans seem to rave about them, but they aren’t very common on this side of the pond.

My other sources are a Sugden CD Masterclass, not the current model, but as CD players go, I think its reasonable and I can listen to it without too much heartache (vinyl person - can't help it), and a Nakamichi BX 300 E, which does a job for me. My speakers are Celestion A3s, which I also like.

My problem – and it’s a bit of a major one – is when I move to a cottage (once again Victorian and stone built), my listening room will be around 10ft square, around 9ft high, and a set up like this will just be too large I fear. So I’m thinking less Watts perhaps, and certainly smaller speakers, as the A3s will be just too big for the room.

Should I be downsizing amplifiers and going the Single-Ended way (I’ve never heard SE designs) no dealers (that I know of) around here can demonstrate them to me, and would this be quite different from my current set up in terms of quality of sound?

The A3s would have to go, so what smaller speaker could I get, without losing quality, as I do like these, but, they will simply be too large for a 10ft sq. room.

I am willing to buy second-hand, and I am not hugely bothered by the budget as I would imagine that the sale of equipment would generate around the £2.5k mark, and I suppose I could add up to 1.5k if I needed to. Or perhaps, I should cancel the house sale and the missus could move without me!

Not sure how well that would go down, as she actually likes listening to the music as well, and probably needs me to bring the hi-fi with me; it goes down well with a glass of red. We listen to all types, from Rock, Jazz, Blues, Reggae, Classical, Zappa, Punk, Soul, etc.

Your advice would be greatly appreciated; keep up the good work, especially the vinyl section as it interests me greatly. Mmmm... now that Brinkmann Bardo’s also got me thinking, Townshend or Direct Drive and a Divorce tee hee!

Ewan Scott


My advice is simple: cancel the cottage and set up a temporary potting shed in the garden with a bed in it, so the missus can experience cramped living conditions!

A 10ft square room is tiny, Ewan, and you’ll miss what you’ve got, as the room is important. Luckily, your amplifiers are powerful enough to drive small, insensitive loudspeakers a pair of B&W 805 Diamonds are one possible choice.

Keep the amplifiers if you are happy with them, as you seem to be. Spend on the loudspeakers, and this could include the lovely Audiosmile Kensais perhaps. These appeal to everyone it seems so are a sure fire choice. NK


I love the AudioSmiles too, but I am not sure how well they'd work with tubes; actually it's likely they'll work well, as you don't have much air to move in that new room of yours! Probably the better option in the circumstances is a pair of Monitor Audio PL100 (£2,500) stand mounters; these are beautifully made and voiced speakers, with a smooth, sweet and open sound that I'm sure you and your music will love. The B&Ws should be great too, but are likely more forward and taut in their presentation, with a punchier but slightly less beguiling sound. DP


I am a born again hi-fi enthusiast. Nearing completion of an extension to my lounge area I am seeking comments from the experts in two basic areas.

Firstly the equipment. It is predominantly Naim – Naim Supernait, Naim CD 5 X, Naim Hi Cap, all on Naim Fraim. The mains conditioning cables and interconnects are Russ Andrews and the 'speaker cables are the Kimber 8TCs. The 'speakers are PMC OBIs.

I have a galleried open lounge of approximately 24 by 12 feet to which has been added, a little to the side, an area of 12 by 15 feet. It is all open plan with no doors between new and old lounge. The height of the lounge at maximum in gallery is 20 feet. All the hi-fi will be in the newly added 'music room'. Can you advise on my current equipment which is all less than 2 years old?

My listening pleasures are varied from classical east and west, to jazz and Rock music, especially guitar music a la Hendrix, Clapton, Knopfler. I have a good CD collection but prefer my vinyl collection going back to the 70s! I like a solid bass to my Rock music. Is there anything you would change – not too drastically – to improve bass response in the system?

Secondly, I have a treasured, probably dated, Michel Transcriptor Reference turntable with an SME Mk2 arm with a Shure VS Tv cartridge. I need advice on this aspect. What phono stage(s) would be suitable and would you change turntable arm / cartridge? I appreciate age of the detachable shell of the SME but could that work with a modern cartridge? Finally with changes in radio transmissions is there a tuner that would suit ?

Shindy Vasir




Monitor Audio PL100 Platinum series loudspeakers are sweet and informative.



Hi Shindy - yes, that's easy. To add bass to your system, change the location of your speakers! PMC OB1is are big, powerful floorstanders and not naturally bass light; if they sound this way then they've most likely strayed a little too far into the listening room; push them back slightly and see what gives. You could always upgrade the power supply of your SuperNait amplifier to Flat-Cap, Hi-Cap or Super-Cap, and this would also yield stronger bass, although the loudspeaker-room interaction issue is certainly a cheaper alternative and may prove worth fifteen minutes of your time before you go off and spend thousands of pounds! Another thing to consider is of course upgrading your CD player; if it's Naim you like then the CD-X2 is a great machine, although not inexpensive...




A Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference turntable, like Shindy Vasir's.


As for your classic turntable, you could fit a modern arm but I think that it would look wrong; it would be kind of like putting 21" alloy wheels on a Jaguar E-type. Why don't you send your SME 3009S2 back to SME for a service; they do this brilliantly, and it's very cost-effective too. You'll get it back knowing it's giving its best. To this, add a modern moving magnet like a Goldring G1042, and you'll have a nice sounding source. At the same time, make sure the deck's belt is perfect; you can buy new ones from Transcriptors ( As for phono stages, why not invest in a Naim Stageline for your SuperNait; this would be the most elegant solution. Tuner? It's got to be a Magnum Dynalab MD-90T, hasn't it? FM has now had an indefinite stay of execution, which means we can all go out and spoil ourselves buying a real radio again. See my review on p70; hopefully you'll not trouble yourself with dark thoughts of DAB again...? DP


Hi Shindy. That looks like a nice system to us, one purposed to have bass grunt. If speaker positioning does not improve matters then going for huge Tannoys, which cope with big spaces better than all else is an expensive option. Big B&Ws from the 800 Series like the 800D with its twin 10in Rohacell bass drivers are another one, but all this is big money – think £10k+.

Your Shure cartridge seems to have had a change of identity – is it a V15? Perhaps a V15 VxMR? Whatever, a Transcriptors Reference is worth £1k or so if in top condition. Fitted with an SME Series II arm this is a real classic and something to be treated with care. I would tend not to expect too much from the old SME though; their arm tubes rang like church bells, giving them a light ringy quality, reasonably well disguised by the V15 with which they were usually paired. Fit a brand new Goldring 1042 as it is very compliant and will not over excite the arm. It offers a fine sound at a reasonable price. NK



System: Naim CDI/Hi Live Interconnect, Naim 82/Hi-Caps x 2/250, Shahinian Arc 'speakers, Russ Andrews Signature Powerkords throughout, Ultra  Purifier Block Ag., Crystal 24 speaker cables, Torlyte Platforms.

I would like to upgrade my system in three stages: CD player, amp and loudspeakers but not necessarily in this order. I’m thinking of a new CDS3/PS555 but would I get a better system if I purchase a used CD555/PS555 for about the same price?

As for the amplifier, again would I be better off with a new Naim 252/Supercap/250 or, a used 252/Supercap/300 of about the same price?

For the speakers, I’m thinking between TMC or B&W- which model would be most appropriate or, do you have other suggestions? What are your advice about buying used speakers?

If buying second hand, I may not be able to get an audition, hence your valuable expert advice is important.

With any of the above combination, would there be a huge upgrade over my present system?

Finally, what sort of price range would you recommend should I decide to sell my CD player, amp and 'speakers for? The items above are all unmarked, in excellent condition and with original boxes and manuals.

please advice,

Aggie Yap




Naim CDS3 CD player bettered by a CD555? It all depends, says David.


First, yes you would get a better sound via a secondhand CD555 than from a new CDS3 CD player, but this of course depends on the quality of the CD555; if it’s been hammered every day, bounced around in people’s cars all the time or been in a smoke filled room for long periods, it could easily be a long way from giving its best. As ever with these ‘new versus secondhand’ questions, consider what you’re actually buying. As they say in the car game, “condition is everything”, and this holds for hi-fi too. I’ve spent too much time with ‘distressed’ examples of high end hi-fi bought cheap on eBay, which sounds so bad a new factory fresh Cambridge Audio would run rings around it. So just be careful what you buy, if you buy secondhand...

This holds for the amplifiers too, although obviously it’s perhaps less critical because there are no moving parts to fail or lasers to die. With loudspeakers, that’s where your biggest risk is. There’s a long, long way between a new set of speakers and one that have had a decade to decay; cone surrounds soften, drive unit suspension atrophies and crossovers gradually go out of spec. My advice is - as with everything used - see, hear and feel the thing you’re buying first; do not buy it unseen as you’ll quite possibly not get what you thought you’d paid for.

As for telling you which loudspeakers to buy, I’d no sooner do that than tell you who to marry. Only you can decide for yourself; speakers are the most personal of choices. Find a good dealer; there are plenty around, and you’ll soon know when you’re in one. Call Naim Audio first; ask them to recommend a Naim dealer near you; at least that way you can hear any prospective new speakers via your existing system. Naim will also advise about the used prices of their equipment, which has famously strong residuals. DP



Adam Smith’s column (July) reminds me that the Library of Congress in Washington, unlike some archives, always keeps its recordings in the original medium, only making transfers when required. Since the estimated life of LPs, for example, is several times that of CDs, let alone digital tape, this makes sense. In the 1950s, EMI made tape transfers of many of their 78s for LP reissue, then foolishly discarded the masters, which, apart from questions of longevity, made it difficult to extract more information as technology and transfer techniques improved, although some independent labels have managed it working from commercial pressings!

David Price, replying to a letter from Graham Thomas, is right about first pressings of LPs usually having the best sound, but I have found (and this will be heresy to some collectors) that Decca classical recordings of circa 1960 sound better on 1970s pressings, the remasters retaining the warmth of the valves in the original chain, but with more incisive highs from the later transistorised cutting heads (also, they had problems with lower frequencies on early stereo heads). This changed after Polygram took them over in 1979 and Philips did the pressings on softer vinyl.

Mark Hodgson


Thanks for that Mark. I have always been impressed by the absolutist approach America’s Library of Congress have taken with U.S. musical heritage, kicking up a stink over music being consigned to data reduced MP3 form (and suchlike), when ‘compression’, more accurately termed ‘data reduction’, was the current big idea in the 1990s (how trivial some of these things are in retrospect). They have turned out to be very right of course. It’s good to see the LP appreciated in this light too. NK



I recently purchased a Bose 5.1 ‘system’ , but remained dissatisfied with my music time. A close friend, who takes his music very seriously and has spent a huge amount of money on his equipment gave me a copy of ‘Hi-Fi World’. The first item advertised I glanced at was a set of loudspeaker spikes at £700...

However, your magazine fired me up and I read the editions thoroughly as they became available. I sold the Bose, (at a big loss), put my wife on the streets and cobbled together enough to afford spikes for one speaker. I scoured the Ads. (Friday, that is), Amazon, and finally eBay...

For my money I purchased a NAD 5240 CD player, a Sony TA-FE330R amplifier and finally some old Castle ‘Pembroke’  standmount speakers. The speakers were faulty, and the NAD intermittently so. I had the CD player serviced and took the Castle speakers apart myself. I cleaned everything, soldered where necessary, and applied a lot of time to extremely well made outers. The wood glowed...

Everything worked and it sounds, to my ears, fantastic. The speakers were simply wonderful. Katherine Jenkins never sounded better, and Ennio Morricone brought Clint into the living room. I am simply thrilled.

I did, after reading your so-useful articles, clean all my fuses, and their copper cradles, bought some Heavy Atacama 4 pillar stands, purchased some high quality Oxygen Free cable, and high quality cabling for my iTouch cradle.

My audiophile friend was extremely impressed, particularly considering my total outlay was a bit less than £300, including the servicing. I can enjoy your magazine even more now and will gradually upgrade my components as the opportunity arises. I shall not be in a hurry to swap the Castles though – were they considered to be excellent speakers? I can understand the sheer enjoyment that your readers write about in their letters and thank them for the tips and interesting topics which I am beginning to understand.

Arthur Russell.



No MP3 here! America's Library of Congress stores orginal historical documents and doesn't like the degraded record that is MP3.


Thank you very much for your story Arthur – that’s just how we like it. An easy introduction to decent sound quality and the joy it can bring when listening to music. You’ve obviously put some care into bringing it all back to life and this does pay off. If you are enjoying the Castles, which are very nice loudspeakers, then do not be in any rush to change them. If you are curious try and listen to a few alternatives every now and then. Castles were always civilised and restrained, yet very impressive all round and there are surprisingly few alternatives even now. It’s a sound that’s gone out of fashion, more’s the shame, and that trad. cabinet work isn’t so common any more. NK


I really can't overstate the importance of correct set up for your system. I've heard some very expensive modern systems sound rubbish, whereas in the same building there were far cheaper ones making heaps more music. Get your system on decent supports (bought in or home made), clean all the contacts everywhere (isopropyl alcohol is a good start point), tighten up your cartridge mountings and/or speaker drive units and get the cabling nice and tidy; then take care placing your speakers. You'll be amazed at the difference a few hours of fettling can make. DP



Like many people in this country who’ve worked hard I ain’t got much spare cash! I am currently putting my little girl through university, without her having to obtain a student loan. This adds up to around £12,000 per year.

All the same, I’m up to approx £600 saved or so and I’m looking for the usual ‘miracle’ asked of you. I have asked in the pub, hi-fi dealers, work and forums and all I get is different but ‘definitely right' answers. I have read your mag for donkeys years and never doubted your word, so here’s my system – a typical hard saved for, not high end but damn good sounding one.

I have a full GyroDec, Origami’d RB300 arm, Ortofon 2M Black cartridge on a Sound Style rack with wooden top shelf. Sugden ‘Stage Two' phono amp., Cyrus 8 VS2 amp. (since my old Naim NAT 140 blew up and I like it a lot – even prefer it!). KEF XQ1 loudspeakers sit on dedicated stands helped by REL T3 subwoofer, set very low as the KEFs reach down well enough. Interconnects and speaker cables are Chords.




Bringing Clint into your living room, courtesy of Ennio Moricone's atmospheric soundtrack....


It sounds great to me and seems to play everything well. I listen to music from punk to Tchaikovsky, with even Coltrane in the middle. The areas I’m looking for improvement in are the impact and thump of leading note edges and the last degree of detail and separation between instruments when things get busy. The bass, soundstage, is beautiful and controlled and only on rare recordings does the treble become shrill. I have had moving coils from Sumiko, Audio Technica (AT OC9 Mk 2 which proved too toppy for my ears), Goldring, Dynavector and Denon, but for some reason my Ortofon gives just as satisfying a sound... I rate it very highly, yet I’m not against moving coils if that’s your recommendation.

My personal favourite upgrades include the Ortofon 2M Black, a Cyrus 8 power amp to go on the integrated (or maybe two later), a new arm and I do like the engineering behind the Audiomod Micrometer arm. Gyro mods - Michell told me that as far as the Gyro goes then a HR power supply would make a bigger improvement than the Orbe platter.

After twenty five years in this hobby and 3000 odd LPs and having bought loads of mid price stuff (LP12, Projects, old second hand Naims, etc.), I am now having to spend even more wisely than ever so I’m looking to max my £600 for an upgrade I can hear! I did say miracle but I’m sure if you guide me, the right component will make things even better. Then in a year or so I might bug you again!

Ivor Jebson


Hi Ivor. That’s a fine system and improving it unequivocally is a tall order. However, you do say what you don’t like, which is handy guidance for us, and I have a good idea what you are after. Trouble is, it doesn’t cost £600! More like double – and it is an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze moving coil cartridge. This has a lovely rich sound, yet it is sparklingly clear and full of dynamic life.

An affordable alternative is an Ortofon Rondo Bronze, a budget version of the Cadenza that doesn’t give so much away. Both have the levity you obviously enjoy and will suit the shiny top end of the KEFs. Yet both have a full bodied sound that is pleasantly powerful. NK



A smooth, full bodied sound for £600 - Ortofon's Rondo Bronze.


I think the first stage is the HR power supply for the GyroDec, but before you even do this, get the deck set up properly. First, buy a new belt from Michell Engineering. Make sure the Gyro is totally level on what it's sitting on; don't use the deck's own level adjusters, so the springs can all work at an equal rate. Clean the surfaces that touch the belt with isopropyl alcohol. Set the springs so they bounce up and down evenly, without wobbling to one side or another. Take the dust cover off the Gyro, and take the spring covers off the springs. Tighten the cartridge up in the headshell till it's very tight. Clean the cartridge pins, and the arm cable phono plugs, with isopropyl alcohol. You should find a real improvement in clarity, this done. Then go for the HR PSU, and spend the rest on music - or your daughter! DP


I have just finished putting my old cassettes into genre and alphabetical order. I then played some live broadcasts of choral work taken from Radio 3 using my Nytech receiver. I was absolutely blown away with the naturalness and delicacy of the recordings. Then I noticed that the cassette player had a headphone socket. That’s my late night listening sorted for a while. Well, until I can afford decent headphones and ‘amp.

Ray Spink


Rock on, Ray! DP



What a wonderful discovery this magazine has been. After years of reading What Hi-Fi (great though it is) I’m not sure it really caters for the real hi-fi lover, and certainly not for classic hi-fi lovers. After reading the July issue feature on Pioneer’s magnificent SA9500 amplifier it brought back not only the first memories of my father’s brand new Technics system of the early eighties with more lights, switches and knobs than a Concorde cockpit, but of the many classic hi-fi components I have owned since (the SA9500 being one of them).

Now don’t get me wrong, my current Audiolab 8000 preamp., 8000 CD and 8000 monoblocs running into Monitor Audio’s RS1 and my beloved Technics SL-1200Mk11 and Arcam T32 tuner make a wonderful sound, but where are my fluorescent peak meters, my backlit tuning dial and weighted tuning knob, not to mention my backlit VU meters? Now, I’m not saying that this classic equipment is better sounding than modern hi-fi, only a direct comparison would decide that (maybe that’s an interesting feature for Hi-Fi World to consider) but owning such kit that was also a joy to look at, the fantastic build and the features were all part of it. At the time of writing this I noticed a Pioneer A80 150W monster of an amp for a mere £175 on eBay. Now where could you buy an amp of that build and power output for that money? I guess what I’m trying to say is, we all listen to classic rock, classic soul or rock-n-roll, people buy classic cars, so why shouldn’t we still enjoy classic hi-fi?

Jason Hall


Indeed, and why not? DP



I have the original PS1 version of the Icon Audio PS1.2 Signature which won your phono stage group test. Tony Bolton preferred the Icon when connected directly into his power amplifiers, making use of its onboard volume control. I too initially used the PS1 to drive my Leak Stereo 20 and found that I rarely needed to use the volume control beyond the 10 o’clock position to achieve good sound levels.

I then tried the PS1 connected to my preamp which is a passive design by Classique Sounds, built into the casework of an original Leak Point One Stereo. Tony Bolton reviewed it favourably back in 2007 and I ended up buying the review sample. With this combination the Icon can be run at full volume and I have found this gives superior sound quality, with a more extended top end and improved depth of image, providing a more involving listening experience. I was prepared for a change in sound quality but did not expect to hear an improvement.

As good as the passive preamp is - and it is very good - I have always suspected that it was the Icon running flat out which caused this improvement. In the Measured Performance section of the PS1.2 Signature review, Noel mentions that a volume control impedance matching problem in earlier models has been cured, so now frequency response changes little with level. Could he elaborate on this point? I would be interested to know how much the frequency response of earlier models differed with changes in volume as this might explain my subjective findings.

The Mono switch is only mentioned in passing during the review but it’s worth pointing out that besides giving better focus when playing mono records it also eliminates unwanted groove noise, particularly noticeable on 45s from the 1950s and 1960s.

John Pickford




Pioneer's SA9500 amplifier, a beauty from the 1970s.

Hi John. How a volume control degrades frequency response at half volume is a trifle technical, if simple in terms of circuit design. It is a ‘hidden’ phenomenon many designers overlook however, so is not an uncommon problem.

A circuit analysis using LTSpice is shown here, together with the resultant frequency response. The designer simply has to ensure the volume control slider does not see a capacitive load, to avoid the problem.

I recall frequency response was around -2dB down at 20kHz, easily enough to be audible. I also suspect the volume control was not a super high quality audio type, like an Alps Blue, so when at half volume it had most sonic impact and produced general degradation. It almost certainly explains what you heard.

Thanks for the Mono switch observation. Tony Bolton makes this point as well: a Mono switch usefully cancels groove noise. NK





A 10k volume control set half way offers maximum source impedance. Capacitance seen by the output slider will roll down treble. Diagram and analysis by LTSpice.



I hope you could advise me. I have a pair of Lowther Acousta 115 folded horn speakers with DX3 drivers. One of the drive units was damaged so bad it was replaced. Simple enough. When I replaced the driver, I noticed that the internal cable looked like the original; some fifty year old bell wire!!! So this is my question/ dilemma to which an answer would most appreciated:

Is it worth replacing the internal cable for a modern oxygen free one and replacing the binding posts for gold plated ones?


My dilemma - after speaking to Lowther they advised me to replace the cable by attaching the new cable to the old one and pulling it through; this represents some issues for me. Firstly and most importantly, if it undoes while threading it through the two 180 degree corners of the horn, well, that’s the end of my speaker - cable lost forever!!!!


Secondly, for some reason, Lowther can’t tell me if the cable was nailed in throughout the wood work or not. I understand that the craftsman that made the speaker are probably dead but that’s not the point, they still have the plans to which they would have followed. If the internal cable is dangling loose then it should be a straight forward job but surely a manufacture of this calibre would have nailed it in place, due to bass frequencies vibrating the cable. Surely, you would hear that? I put this to Lowther and the response was - if it nailed in just drill a hole through the cabinet! Now, wouldn’t that ruin the acoustics????

After going through all that, will I actually hear the difference? Please help me as I do not want to tackle this without some professional advice due to the fact there is nothing actually wrong with them, in fact they sound excellent but can I better them?

Jonathan Highman


We do not know about the construction of your Lowthers and can only offer general advice.

If you are able to remove the drivers to access their terminals then can you try running them with a temporary substitute cable jury rigged from the front, to see whether any improvement is going to be worthwhile? It seems likely it will to us, but Lowthers don’t draw much current and gains might be less than expected. It’s difficult to say.

Just pulling on the cable would tell if it is free, or attached, would it not?  You may like to consider poking a stiff springy wire through the loudspeaker, perhaps piano wire, to see if it follows the same path as the bell wire.

Rather than pulling heavy weight new cable through, dragged by old bell wire, I suggest you pull through strong, flexible nylon cord first. DIY shops have this sort of thing. Then use the cord to drag through the new wire. Good luck! NK


I note with gladness your review of Magnepan MG12s but was disappointed it was not the MMG. The MMG is the direct descendent of the SMGa which was the model T of planar loudspeakers.

I owned a pair way back in 1989 when I lived in US of A but had to sell them to a friend when I returned. Recently I was given an offer I could not refuse on a new pair of MMGs and despite being perfectly happy with my current four pairs of loudspeakers accumulated over the years, I could not refuse.

Now I am very glad that I did not do the sensible thing and add another pair loudspeakers to my treasured collection of UK and Japan’s finest cluttering up my small apartment. There is absolutely no need to tell me that I am barking mad - I have already been reliably informed of that fact several times already.

The midrange sounds superb as I always remembered and it images like no other. The rolled off treble of the SMGa has been replaced by the brilliant treble of the ribbon tweeter. But it shows up the lack of extension in the bass - the older one was better balanced overall I think.



Magneplanar SMG12, a planar magnetic loudspeaker.


What has been most amazing is the reaction of my non audiophile friends who showed absolutely no interest in such things before. It ranged from offers to buy them on the spot to one female acquaintance who exclaimed, “the sound is like in 3D” and requested my permission to take a photo of my audio set up. I was so impressed by this I wanted to marry her on the spot but I changed my mind when she informed me that the photo was for her old dad who was interested in such things!

It is also amazing that this innovative product with excellent build quality and a very sensible price comes from the US of A. I was under the impression that the captains of the industry in that country only knew how to make weapons ever more efficient at killing people or poor quality cars that no one wants to buy. If these captains of industry had any brains at all they should pay a visit to the boys at Magnepan and ask them how to make a superb product that has never harmed any one (except perhaps the sanity of my neighbours) before it is too late.

K. Fonseka



I bought this crock... It has a 'Phono' input (@ 300 mV), so after many troubles getting the NAD number (01483 545613), they said “you have to buy a preamp now because most people don’t have record players”!

Hmmm, so why does it say 'Phono'? This is a company gone profoundly bad. I think you should tell your readers that they deal with them at their peril.

Mark Deards


Hi Mark. This is not an uncommon practice, but it is a confusing one. It isn’t just NAD who mark an ordinary Line input as Phono, which it is not, unless fed by an external Phono preamplifier. All we can say is: buyer be aware. Happily, there are plenty of decent phono preamps around at not high prices. Cambridge and NAD make them, for example.  NK



Having recently bought a second hand Unison Research Simply Four P, I decided to have it totally revamped by UKD. The amp came back like new and sounding superb (thank you UKD). My sources are a Shanling CD-T100 SE CD player and an Audio AnaIogue Maestro CD player/processor. My speakers are a pair of fifteen year old Mission 752s.

Although the 752s work very well with low powered valve amps, I feel that to get the most from my system I now need to part with them. I am looking at buying a pair of stand mounts because listening to speakers at various hi-fi shows the stand mounts really impressed me. My budget is around £1,250, of which some will have to be for stands, but this is where the problem starts. There are so many at this price range, trying to sort out which ones are compatible with my amp let alone auditioning them all is a nightmare. I do have a few in mind like Opera Primare, Focal 806v and 807v. Front ported speakers would probably be best as I have to place them close to a rear wall. I am looking for something versatile as I listen to a wide range of music. Any suggestions please?

Evan Southgate


Hi Evan. You have to be careful about this. The Simply Four delivers 24W per channel in sweet thermionic Class A Watts. Stand mount loudspeakers are not the most sensitive of things, needing more than 24W to go at all loud. Worse, expensive standmount loudspeakers are usually less sensitive than cheap ones. Super high quality monitors from KEF and B&W are over your budget; you may want to listen to a Monitor Audio Gold GS10 which when run in is smooth yet fast and detailed. Consider also Spendor SA1s, which would suit EL34s. As your amplifier has 4 Ohm taps it will be able to drive such loudspeakers, if not to very high levels. Far under your budget are KEF iQ5s mini-floorstanders which, with reasonably good sensitivity, a nice clean sound and near wall placement would do a nice job for just £430. I think I am right in saying new iQs are coming soon, though. NK



I suppose nothing illustrates more the need to find a good hi-fi dealer than conflicting reviews in different hi-fi magazines. In a recent group test of CD players in Hi-Fi World, the Cyrus CD8SE came out top. In a similar review in another publication (blind listening) the Roksan Kandy K2 came top of the pile. Likewise your own review of the Triangle Antal Ex speaker was glowing, whilst another review in a group test was altogether tamer.

In a sense it also raises the question what actually is the job of hi-fi magazines, one which I am not going to try and answer here, but I guess to a greater or lesser extent we like to see a good degree of agreement amongst ‘experts’ in product reviews, so when different conclusions are reached it confuses us poor old consumers. So perhaps it’s best that we ignore reviews, trot down to our local dealer and hope they can guide us to our own version of audio nirvana.

Tim Jury


We do constantly beseech readers to listen for themselves Tim, for between good products final choice is a matter of taste. The system and circumstances in which they are reviewed also enter the equation. This is where it is important to trot down to a dealer and have a listen, always assuming the dealer can demo in an appropriate environment with suitable partnering equipment. The products you mention all work well and are valid final choices.

Magazines should be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, and also should be able to convey the merits/ demerits of a product. A fairly cogent example are our loudspeaker reviews, where extensive measurement is able to describe quite a lot of what is heard. This is more substantive than subjective only assessments.



Unison Research Simply Four amplifier with parallel EL34 output tubes working in Single-Ended Class A. Power is limited at 24W.


Measurement isn’t able to say what any individual may prefer however, nor can it predict how a loudspeaker will interact with a specific room, although we are slowly getting a feel for this rather complex topic.


And then of course, perhaps most importantly, in this magazine we have what others think – as aired in these very pages! And that, as we all know here, is very popular and equally important. NK

Noel's quite right; we've never taken the "we tell you which hi-fi to buy" approach. Whilst it might be snappy publishing to pretend that we have every answer for every customer, actually we don't. All we can do is 'steer' potential buyers to the products we think they'll like; but this still means they should listen for themselves. There's no such thing as a product that's right for everyone, no matter how well it measures, and so your own ears should be the final arbiter. We're totally upfront about this, and always have been; read our reviews and use them as a start point for shortlisting what you'd like to listen to at a good dealer. That's the way to do it! DP



Today, I decided I was going to spoil myself rotten, by spending the whole day at home, listening to the BBC Proms - Bach Day, on my expensive hi-fi system. It was enjoyable at first, but as the programmes progressed, I became aware that all was not well; something was lacking, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. As good as the Brandenburg Concertos sounded, they just didn’t sound the way my own records do. Instruments were not well defined and there appeared to be something smothering the music.

At 3pm, I switched off for the next two hours (World Routes and Jazz Library ) and switched back on again in time for the David Briggs Organ Recital, on the Father Willis organ at the Royal Albert Hall.

Whilst listening to the Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV582, I noticed that the performance sounded somewhat flat and one-note. I could hear the tune, but it wasn’t very musical and sounded somewhat muffled.

Being aware - from previous editorial in Hi-Fi World - that there were problems with outside broadcasts since the introduction of DAB radio and given my own observations regarding Radio broadcasts on Freeview, I decided to switch on my Humax PVR and dial in Radio 3, to see what the broadcast sounded like on that. Even through my TV speakers, it sounded somewhat better, so as I now have my system set up to listen to the soundtrack from my DVD player, I flicked a few switches and pressed a couple of buttons and wound the volume up on my WAD K5881 Mk2 Amp, which feeds Quad ESL-57s.

The outcome was far beyond my expectations. The improvement wasn’t subtle; it was vastly superior. I could now hear not only the tune, but I could also hear the music. The muffled sound I had heard previously, turned out to be the Bass pipes and I could now hear the notes they were playing.



Radio 3 on Freeview was best for Bach, says Russ Betts.


The rest of the hour passed too quickly for my liking, but at least I was now thoroughly enjoying what I was listening to. The organ sounded like an organ and I have sat in many churches and cathedrals in the UK and on the continent and listened to live organ recitals, so I know how they should sound.

So much for FM broadcasts from the BBC. Now we have conclusive proof, that they are compressing their output, especially from outside broadcasts. If this is an indication of what we can expect from DAB, then it is no wonder that the Great British Public is giving a large two-fingered salute to DAB and the government’s Digital Directive.

I don’t want it; most of my friends don’t want it and if talking to my local Currys shop is anything to go by, neither does the rest of the general public, as the recent ‘Scrappage Scheme’ offered by the new government proved. They had only one person who wanted to trade in his old AM/FM radio and that was only because it was going to cost him more to repair it, than it was worth as a trade-in. ‘Nuff said? ‘Nuff said!

Keep up the good work and long may you prosper, but most of all, keep up the campaign against DAB. Lets have lots more of those editorials.

Russ Betts


Hmmm... The BBC were experimenting with a high quality 320kbps stream for the Proms this year, available via their website. I wonder whether this had anything to do with high quality from Freeview. NK


I think the best government scrappage scheme would be to toss DAB in a skip. Then hopefully some check-shirted, hard hatted contractor could run over it in a JCB for good measure! Happily, metaphorically speaking, that's what seems to be happening now. I'm not a complete fan of the new government's cuts package, but one place they seem to have aimed it is at DAB, and amen to that! DP



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