November 2010 issue - Page 2

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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



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