October 2013 issue


World mail  October 2013 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 -
Noel Keywood, publisher; PR Paul Rigby, reviewer; TB Tony Bolton, reviewer; RT Rafael Todes, reviewer (Allegri String Quartet);  DC Dave Cawley, Sound Hi-Fi, World Design, etc.




I am most definitely with Alan Cobb (July Letters) in the debate over whether CD (and more relevantly perhaps SACD) will keep going in some shape or form in the same way that vinyl still enjoys a niche market after all these years. 

An important non-technical factor that cannot be ignored by even the most zealous technocrat is the value and satisfaction in the feel and physical presence of owning a collection of something. Surely, despite its phenomenal convenience, no one is advocating that the book will be entirely superseded by the ebook reader. Noel is, as ever, as plausible with technology and innovation as he is provocative. But he has overlooked one key facet of any collection, albeit books, film or music – and that is the pleasure and desirability of having a library in its physical state. 

There was some correspondence in Gramophone decades ago about how anyone could justify, let alone appreciate vast collections of LPs, sometimes into their 1000s. The answer (which would apply equally to CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray) is that there is enormous satisfaction and reassurance in knowing what is there, to be lifted off a shelf, opened and enjoyed whenever the moment or mood decrees. 

As a music student in the 1970s,  an organist who had also suddenly discovered the intensity of Mahler and the monumentality of Wagner, I wish LPs had played backwards then (as in High End Show review, July p55) because I abandoned the medium when I could not bear the wretched end-of-side distortion that most powerful conclusions, more often than not, seemed to generate. 

Even the distinctly non-hi-fi compact cassette via a Nakamichi CR-3E seemed briefly more tolerable, although the cross-talk there also drove me to distraction. You may imagine by now how eagerly I embraced the arrival in 1983 of an audio format that was not compromised by physical or mechanical wear, even if the initial sound lacked the richness and depth of the best of the analogue process. 

By now an impecunious teacher, I was still determined to extract the best out of the revolutionary new format via a Meridian MCD player and a legendary A&R Cambridge A60 amplifier, into their much at the time underrated Arcam Two speakers. Sadly, I could never afford the Meridian upgrade to the MCD Pro, although it did demonstrate the potential that lay in the CD format. 

Fast-forwarding over some two and a half decades, the Meridian bug was reignited with a fulsome review of their upgraded Sooloos 2.0 hard disk system in your November 2009 magazine, at which point I ditched two less focused journals and became a subscriber to Hi-Fi World. I acquired a Control 10 and Twinstore before spending nearly two years ripping the 1900 CDs I now possess onto its 1TB hard drive. 





Meridian Sooloos 2.0 hard disk music player "how do I retrieve my 

FLAC files from it?" asks Graham Griggs.



With RS AV Solutions guidance and encouragement, I recently upgraded a Meridian G92 player/processor to a G61R processor/preamp, fed by an Arcam BDP 100 and an HD 621 HDMI audio switching processor (another brilliant Meridian innovation that separates audio and visual signals for improved jitter and tighter sync, and which should have been reviewed ages ago). And all this via the truly awesome grip of a Chord Electronic SPM 2400 5.1 channel power amp (incomprehensibly not reviewed either) into a Velodyne sub and Spendor speakers crowned by a pair of top-of-the-range floorstanding STs,  thus preserving the highest stereo audio integrity alongside a really dynamic home-cinema set up. I love the synergy of this system and would be interested in your views on it. 




Astell&Kern AK100 portable digital player will play FLAC files up to

24/192 resolution, through headphones or the hi-fi.



Apart from continuing to fine-tune and upgrade cables and mains products (mainly Chord, Ecosse and Russ Andrews), most recently last summer with the latter’s BMU 1000 Balanced Mains transformer, the best step up yet in reducing background noise and hash, I think I have reached a sonic plateau that really extracts that last drop of musicality from the humble Sooloos-ripped CD – where this account all began! 

One final question: I have been searching for a superior portable music player to supersede my brick-like original iPod and think I may have stumbled upon it via your March review of the Astell&Kern AK100 portable player. Even I balk at the cost of the mouth-watering AK120 but, as I really only want to use it with my AT noise-cancelling ANC7b headphones, can you please advise how best to transfer the FLAC files from the Sooloos system? If you had not already realised, my computer awareness or interest are not exactly cutting edge. Perhaps this is another reason why I take refuge in the concept of a library where everything physically has its place. Keep up the good work! 

Graham Griggs



A 32GB micro-SD card like the one at left here can store 50 CDs,

or 100  FLAC compressed. At £25 that's 25p per CD. 


Hi Graham. Zealous technocrat here! It’s interesting how people’s sensitivities differ. I have never heard LP being rejected for end-of-side distortion on orchestral climaxes, although it is an acknowledged problem. Usually, ticks and pops, and surface noise audible during low level passages upset classical listeners. I guess CD was, on balance, better for classical (Rafael Todes, Allegri String Quartet, prefers violin on LP), although I found digital distortion difficult to sit through on early CDs and still unpleasant on fairly modern ones. Violins that sound like band saws is where I give up. 


CD can sound good when properly recorded and mastered, but I suspect mediocre ADCs that turn good analogue into poor digital, and heavy handed processing through inadequate studio equipment degrades their sound badly. The idea that “bits are bits” helps support such complacency. CD just isn’t for me in the end and moving on to a portable digital player has freed me from its (16bit) shackles!

I understand why so many want a physical collection to browse and enjoy. Personally, that’s my LP collection. I’m happy to commit all my CDs to digital storage. I have changed my mind about storage over the last few years, in light of experience.

I have a pile of hard drives awaiting secure disposal and well know how difficult it can be to keep files safe for the future. But drive failure is less of a problem now than 10 years ago and prices have come down of course. It’s easy to pop out and buy a drive. There is a problem of cataloguing what’s on many working drives and collating it all, or just finding the time to archive it to a 2TB mega-drive. 

My forced move to memory card on a video camera, instead of tape, and the use of memory card on our in-house cameras has changed my view about storage, as have falling memory card prices. A 32GB card now costs £25 or less, cheap enough to be used as long term storage, at least for valuable data – including music. Then there are SSD drives, which have a near infinite read lifetime (like SD cards), so make a lot of sense for long term storage. But I find myself working mostly with SD cards these days and have no criticism to make of them except that their tiny size makes handling and storage an issue. 

Your system is imaginative and very unusual. It also sounds very good I am sure. I too use a huge balanced mains transformer, by the way and it works brilliantly. In truth it is system used to make 110V power tools safe and it has been used in the USA to isolate whole recording studios. 

Meridian say you can export  files from Sooloos to your computer. Once there you can download them to an external player like the Astell&Kern AK100 or 120 portable player over a USB link. NK



I found Noel Keywood’s reply to the letter from Alan Cobb (July issue) rather smug and conceited. I have lost a lot of faith in the hi-fi press and, to a certain extent, the hi-fi trade. We are told that high-end hi-fi is selling well. Not surprising at a time when the gulf between rich and poor is widening. So are we to see the companies who make lower priced equipment abandon their poorer customers and move up the scale? I hope not. 

From my experiences many hi-fi stores treat the public as if they were cattle. They may moan about falling sales, and yet neglect doing anything about it. They stay in the cosy confines of their stores and wait for the customers to come to them, rather than going out giving public demos. My dealer has done this and has upped its sales.  

NK says in his reply that he looks at his CD collection with ‘hostility’. Why? Does he view music in the same way? He and others in the hi-fi world would have everything downloadable, record shops closed and pressing plants shut merely to gain an extra degree of fidelity as they sit smug and comfortable. If this does happen what about the people whose jobs would be lost? 

If we do reach the stage where music is only available by download, how safe would it be in storage? I have read about whole libraries being lost because of a computer crash. This is the worry for a great many people because they feel as if they are being forced slowly to accept something which is alien to them. That is non-physical music, however trendily dressed up it may be. 

Noel goes on about how he has constantly criticised the sound quality of CD since the medium was launched. Bravo to you Noel. CD made music available to a great many people who did not enjoy playing vinyl. One group comes to mind: the blind, who found records fragile. And classical music lovers found a whole new world in their music freed from surface noise. Now we are expected to become technophiles and buy costly digital devices and music from some distant server of which we know nothing, charge what they like, and disappear at any time. 

Like Alan Cobb I prefer something which I can see and handle. Something which gives me information and illustrations rather than a black box with flashing lights. I have many CDs, the oldest of which is 27 years old and plays perfectly. At the end of the day, music lovers, as opposed to critics, just want to sit down and enjoy music without hassle. CD will not die for a long time. There are too many discs and players about. They might even see Noel Keywood out.

Cliff Millward,


West Midlands




A Google data centre at Council Buffs, Iowa, U.S.A. Google has centres

like this dotted around the world.  "Now we are expected to buy costly

digital devices and music from some distant server of which we know

nothing" says Cliff Millward. 





Portable players commonly appear as 'mass storage' devices

(similar to memory sticks) on a computer, when connected via USB.

Just swing the music file onto the icon and it's loaded! 


Unfortunately Cliff, record shops are closing down irrespective of what I or other critics say. Jobs are lost, but hopefully they are gained in new industries that replace the old. The world changes and moves on.  Where I live, electrical retailers, greengrocers and butchers have closed down, as well as record shops such as Virgin on Oxford Street and Tower on Piccadilly Circus (and now HMV at that location too). UK consumers increasingly buy from big supermarkets and Amazon and expect home delivery; that’s progress, whether you like it or not; the internet dominates our lives. 

I walk the aisles of the last remaining HMV in Oxford Street and wonder how much longer they can fill such expensive retail space with thousands of CDs selling for peanuts, for which there is little demand. The downstairs classical section is eerily quiet. But Amazon will continue to sell CD for many years yet I'm sure. 

As I said in my previous reply, flash memory is robust and affordable, and now a realistic way to store music files safely, off computer. Combined with high resolution digital downloads it offers those who like to hear music, rather than distortion, a way ahead.

Modern portable digital audio players are relatively easy to master; you just copy a file to them from your computer – and that’s it. It’s easier than faffing around with CDs, their cases and their quaint loading mechanisms, and much easier than using a network player. I’m sure CD won’t die, and as you say it is easier to use than LP, but until you have heard decent digital, you haven’t lived.  

Offering shop demo is hardly "treating people like cattle". It's a valuable service that our next letter says more about. NK




I was at the keyboard about to pen a letter to you when I read Dave Swithens' letter in your August issue. He made some of the points that I was about to make. My experience is similar and so reinforces the issues that Mr Swithens raises.

I was invited by Mike at Zouch Audio to bring over some LPs and listen to the Rock 7 that he had just taken delivery of. The music that I chose to take was Laura Mvula, Lambchop and Miles Davis. The Rock 7 was going through a Musical Fidelity phono amp, Chord pre/power and Dali Epicon speakers. 

I’d listened to my LPs the evening before so that the sound was fresh in my mind. Through the demonstration system all three of the records sounded so very different. This is perhaps not surprising as all the elements in the chain were different. I use a Roksan TMS3, Quad 24P Phono, Naim pre/power and Tannoy DC8T speakers, and of course my room is acoustically different as well. The overall cost of both systems would be broadly similar. I like my musical pill to be slightly sugar coated and washed down metaphorically by a full bodied red. 

The Rock 7 system was as tight as a drum and slightly dry sounding. Now I’m sure that many, maybe most listeners would be over the moon with the presentation of the music as I was hearing it. Indeed, had I come to it cold as it were, then I think so would I. The point of my letter is that because I have been able to audition my equipment over the years at home, mostly thanks to Zouch, I have been able to tune my system to suit my ear. 




"Thanks to Zouch, I have been able to tune my system to suit my ear",

says David Jarvis.


Mr Swithens makes the point that the cartridge with the great review didn’t suit him best. That has often been my experience. Some years ago Mike asked me if I would take a pair of Quad 2812s home to try. We both knew that I wasn’t going to buy them but he had only just become a Quad dealer and he wanted to try them in different environments. They were dire – as dull as ditch water. It was my room and system to blame of course, I’d heard them sounding great in the demo room. But here I was with a piece of very well regarded kit that didn’t sound good at all. 

OK, big electrostatics are an extreme example but the principal stands: unless you can listen to new equipment at home in your system then you are taking a big risk. This is where specialist dealers are so important. OK you can buy on the net and you may like the results but unless you’ve taken advantage of a home audition you could be accepting second best. In my view a properly auditioned budget/mid-price system can give more pleasure than a ‘high end’ system bought cheap off the net on the evidence of magazine reviews alone. You’re taking a big risk which in the long run could cost you more. 

David Jarvis


We totally agree David. It is very important to hear a product before buying it and dealers provide an invaluable service here. NK



My system comprises Gyrodec turntable, SME V arm. Dynavector 20X Mk2 cartridge, Musical Fidelity X-Ray CD player, Audio Research SP11 pre amp [serviced 2011], WAD 300B 20W single-ended power amps, Living Voice Avatar obx-r ‘speakers on Townshend bases.

All cables are by Kimber and equipment sits on a Hi-Fi Racks rack, room size is 14ft x 10ft.

I’m very happy with the sound of my system and do not want to change any of my equipment if possible but would like the bass to be a little tighter and better defined. Would adding a sub give me what I want and if so which one do you recommend?

Joe Moore




The Living Voice Avatar obx-r ‘speakers used by Joe Moore.






Acoustic foam (open cell) port bungs. At top is a one-piece with a flat

that allows some air flow. Below is a roll of foam that allows air flow

through the centre. These bungs damp heavy bass and tighten it up.

Don’t completely block a port with foam as this turns it into a closed

box, our measurements show. You must leave some space for air

flow, but expose as much foam surface area as possible. A very

loose roll of thin foam is ideal. Experiment for best results. 


Hi Joe. The quick solution to your problem is to add acoustic damping to the ports. As you are probably aware the WAD 300B single-ended valve amplifier has low electrical damping so you need to increase the acoustic damping in the system to compensate. This increases total system damping, a point commonly overlooked in the amplifier/loudspeaker interface. 

Since the Living Voice Avatar is designed for valve amps and you have external crossovers (top dollar) you’ll probably want to stick with ‘em. Should you think otherwise, consider Martin Logan electrostatics or perhaps the interesting Sonus Faber Venere 2.5 reviewed in this issue. It has very good bass damping, high sensitivity (89dB) and a neutral sound. Coming up are Tannoy DC10A Alnicos and these two loudspeakers are going to be very interesting with top quality Single-Ended amplifiers like yours. Expensive though. NK



With all the second-hand gear out and about, there seems a never ending supply of average, or faulty or somewhat suspect gear for budding experimenters to play with. However, as a repair man I get to see some of the equipment and just had to say that a recent item that came to me was very interesting. The Luxman PD264 Direct Drive turntable with its original arm is quite an unexpected treat. The platter itself and its motor is at least as good as modern acrylic ones in the deadness stakes, despite it being a standard cast aluminium type thing. 

The arm is a unique Luxman item and only suffers from two things that I could find, dodgy cartridge connectivity and a dirty turntable motor switch located to the left of the main arm pillar and tucked into the lift and lower and auto pick up system. 

Apart from a good covering of dirt (I think the owners were ex-smokers) when repaired and plugged in it worked a treat, even with the supplied cheapo phono leads. I swapped the plugs as a short-term solution with some Nakamichi ones which allowed the Ortofon 510 to really shine. 

I think this could be one of those turntables well worth a visit if you are looking for a potential upgrade project! That will of course raise the prices on eBay by a substantial margin! I’ll have to get one quick!

Best wishes

Dave Tutt

Tutt Technology 





Whenever I read hi-fi magazines I am always astonished at the levels of creativity and pretentiousness the writers of hi-fi articles and adverts have achieved in differentiating the products described.

For example, in the May 2013 edition, your reviewer claimed that a mains power block “offered a newly portentous, almost growling bottom... and a previously noticeable clinical edge to the trumpet was now gone”.

I ask what mechanisms were at work to achieve this? Do these products give us access to previously unknown phenomena, yet to be discovered by mainstream science? Or is it that hi-fi users have extra sensory powers that can differentiate changes in sounds not heard by us ordinary mortals?

Or maybe the makers of hi-fi components are so irresponsible as to make their designs (including the mains cable) sensitive to mains borne interference so it can pass through the power supply and degrade the sound of trumpets, bass notes etc?

On the same note, how does a digital cable tease out each filament of detail or be adept at tracking the delicate changes in vocal force? And how does an interconnect cable specifically cause veiled mids?

How do some belt drives slightly slur the leading edge of notes? Is it that the additional displacement of the groove on the record is sufficient to cause enough extra drag to overcome the momentum of the turntable and momentarily slow the speed of rotation and overpower the drive? Maybe speed variations in the cheaper drives are cunningly synchronised with the start of notes.

What does aircraft grade aluminium give the F5 arm that saucepan grade aluminium would not?

Maybe I have missed the point. Perhaps your readers are mainly people like me being entertained by the weapons grade tosh, in the same way that we are by the content of Pseuds Corner in Private Eye. If so, congratulations to your contributors for a job well done.

Andrew Bellchambers 





"The Luxman PD264 Direct Drive turntable with its original arm is quite

an unexpected treat", says Dave Tutt. Here's the one he was working on.


Hi Andrew. The link between a measurable effect and its subjective impact is not easy to establish. To do so we need to know what the ear/brain is sensitive to, as well as how it interprets what it hears – and that is difficult to know. 

Then there is the cable-specific issue of sonic differences being perceived where no measurable effects are available to cause them, or so it seems. Let me cover both.

You mention belt drive turntables. They have a clearly measurable limitation, that of wow (speed variation) that is audible, but only with sustained piano notes. Unsurprisingly, those that listen to piano and musical pieces that have sustained notes, within Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for example, complain strongly about wow. Read most reviews and you’ll quickly realise that 99% of listeners/reviewers/bloggers don’t listen to such music, don’t understand the difficulties reproducing it, and pass over the issue altogether. 

So we end up with the peculiar situation where wow is an issue, and it isn’t an issue! I can measure it and hear it and it is an issue for me. I get my ear bent by others who feel we should say more about it in the magazine too. Peter Comeau, Chief Acoustics Engineer IAG, Rafael Todes, Allegri String Quartet and Dave Cawley of Sound Hi-Fi are all experts on this whose views are not to be ignored and they all complain about wow. 

Speed variation is a continuous, mostly cyclical process, so there need not be any time domain correlation with recorded musical notes. Also, technically, wow frequency modulates music to produce sidebands, although the ear appears to hear the time domain effect. Subjectively, we know it makes the pitch of notes sound ‘watery’, and slightly indeterminate. 

Moving onto cables, we bump into more contentious issues. How can a cable whose lumped parameter electrical model that is satisfactory for audio possibly affect the sound? As you say, by what mechanism?

Well, perhaps the lumped parameter electrical model is not the problem and not the issue. In South London, around the Crystal Palace radio and TV transmitter, loudspeaker leads act as aerials, producing frame rate buzz from the loudspeakers. All this has nothing to do with the cable’s basic electrical parameters (R, L & C), except insofar as they affect its behaviour as an aerial.  So popular theory may be irrelevant. It is also transient; what we believe to be fact today will look facile tomorrow. Here’s an example...

Digital cables have been more resistant to claims about variations in sound quality than analogue cables, but all of a sudden out of the theoretical woodwork comes a mechanism – indeterminacy of the time domain transition being imposed by limited transmission (cable) bandwidth causing jitter, as well as imperfect termination causing reflections. Here’s a mechanism by which digital signals through a cable are degraded.

And, sure enough, all of a sudden we can measure jitter in digital cables at Hi-Fi World with our Rohde & Schwarz UPV audio analyser. Worse, Rafael Todes has clearly identified this jitter in listening tests – so that’s the idea of digital cables being perfect out of the window! One minute digital cables are conceptually incapable of affecting sound quality, the next they are guilty and damned. 

We are all well aware cables are a very contentious subject, but readers consistently claim to hear substantial differences and, quite frankly, so do I (and most other reviewers). 

The mechanisms that cause these effects are little understood, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Once upon a time digital cables could not affect sound quality; now they are more able to do this than analogue cables. 

To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld: “there are things we know, things we don’t know and things we don’t know we don’t know”.  NK




Digital cables produce jitter: above 35pS from a Maplins optical cable

1m long. Their (analogue) electrical bandwidth, termination accuracy

(optical and electrical) and optical properties all affect the amount of

jitter produced and its spectrum, suggesting digital cables have a

'a sound'. Oh dear!


Hi Andrew. Noel has addressed the turntable and cable issue, so allow me to end with power blocks. For years now, we have been told to focus on the source of our hi-fi to extract maximum data. Experts, worldwide, tell users to spend the largest percentage of their budget on a turntable (or CD player or similar for digital users). In fact, the source signal is your mains supply. 

You’ve heard the ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ maxim. If you don’t address the mains signal before it hits your turntable and/or CD player then you will never recover the lost signal or fully eradicate the distortive noise that enters your chain from this point. Power blocks (and cables, for that matter) can help to tackle distortion, every audiophile’s nemesis. It’s this distortion: the sub-type, the quantity and how its interacting with your hi-fi and your room, that results in modifications to sound quality or, specifically, that bass and trumpet reference stated in your letter. 

If you don’t believe me, visit your dealer and ask for a demo and hear the changes for yourself. A well designed and implemented suite of top quality cables, power blocks, plus other isolatory accessories, can transform your entire hi-fi.

kind regards. PR




Alexandra Palace transmitter in North London. Powerful urban transmitters

can degrade sound significantly, loudspeaker leads acting as aerials. 





Mains cables reduce noise from the mains and improve sound quality,

says Paul Rigby.



I’ve been looking for a hi-fi system that meets all of my musical needs since the middle 80s and like the perfect relationship I’ve come to realise it isn’t ever going to exist. I didn’t realise that though for a long time, so spent lots of money, time and sweat buying and selling, switching this and that, upgrading only to find it often wasn’t better – just different. As a consequence though I’ve listened to a great range of components and systems – some grand and some definitely budget. Strangely, it’s not the “grand” ones that gave me the greatest pleasure. I had an original Sugden a21 with some Leak Sandwich ‘speakers, a Marantz CD 94 and Thorens deck and it sounded great. I also used the same CD player with a Cyrus 2 driving Celestion Ditton 66s and that was an unexpected match made in heaven. Similarly a pair of Leak TL 12+ power amps (breathed on by Haden Boardman) with a Croft pre amp, a Townshend Rock / Excalibur and Tannoy 12 inch Dual Concentrics was also excellent.

Anyway, I ended up over recent years with a decent system, on paper at least, but I really wasn’t too happy with the sound but tolerated it. Recently I started to think about some of the components I’ve liked in the past and started looking around for them. As a consequence of picking up some second hand I’ve now got a system that maybe shouldn’t work but it does. The front end is a Technics 1210 turntable with a Goldring 1042 on the original arm, a Rotel RCD 965bx LE CD player and a Yamaha NS CT810 tuner. All were bargains, especially the tuner. I bought that for £50 in mint condition from Steve’s Hi-Fi in St Leonard’s which is unfortunately now closed. It came with the original receipt from 1974 and all documentation. Despite that I expected little from it but when I connected it up I immediately put my existing tuner up for sale and the Yamaha has been in situ ever since.

When I thought about amplifiers I kept coming back to Exposure. I had a super VIII power amp with VI power supply and VII pre amp many years ago and always regretted replacing them so I looked around for the same amps and found some in great condition. They were maybe a bit over-priced but given the money I’ve wasted over the years I thought they were worth the investment. They were, they sound great and deserve their classic status. Even the in-built phono stage is as good as my stand alone one from a well reviewed company.

Speakers have proven to be a bit of a challenge that continues. Given my hi-fi history I have a few speakers kicking around and tried the system with a pair of Heybrook Quartets which was a surprisingly good match. I’ve also used some Tannoy 12inch dual concentrics (I used a similar combination with my original Exposures) and that was a good match as well but a bit too much for my very small listening room.

All in all, though I am very happy. I have a system that has killed my decades old upgrade bug. I enjoy music more now than ever before – I’m not listening for extraneous detail, I’m not worried about whether the bass has too much bloom or whether the horn section has too much rasp. In fact, I may even stop buying hi-fi mags now! Well maybe not.

I will change the Technics arm and I’ll probably buy a modern take on the BBC type speaker - maybe Spendors - but that will be it. You never know, I may even adopt the same strategy with relationships - I wonder whatever happened to what’s her name?


Geoff Fielding




Geoff Fielding went back to his first love, an Exposure Super

VIII amplifier, and has been happy ever since.



Please can you answer the following question regarding the appropriate level of money to spend on cables when assembling a hi-fi system. There seem to be two schools of thought as regards to an appropriate level of funds to assign to cables. those being :-

1) I spend no more than 10% of the hardware budget on cables. as a result, if you have a system comprising of a CD player, amplifier and speakers each costing £1000, spend no more than £300 on interconnects and speaker cable or you are wasting money that could go on better hardware.

2) There is no limit to how much to spend on cables as better, more expensive designs preserve the signal they are passing along to each hardware component, hence if you want to hear more of what your CD player is reading off a CD, then the use of a better interconnect cable will preserve the signal more faithfully hence allowing a better sound. This rule also therefore applies to better more expensive speaker cable.

Both theories have merit in that the 1st 10% rule could be valid if the difference between costlier cables may be so small that indeed it may not be a cost effective way of spending hi-fi upgrade funds. The second 'cost no object' approach however does seem logical as regards to preserving the audio signal. It also makes sense not to upgrade hardware if cheap, inferior cables have been used which only allowed the user to hear a fraction of the performance that their current kit is capable of.

Therefore who is right? Should the 10% rule be more like 50% ?

As a result I would be grateful for any advice regarding this subject and therefore thank you in advance for your reply. 

best regards 

Michael Farrow




Paul Rigby says "start with Atlas (above), Tellurium Q and Black Rhodium"

when experimenting with cables for your system.


Hi Michael. The trouble with ‘schools of thought’ is that they assume blacks and whites in a market which is overwhelmed with greys. Cables (along with shelving, isolation and mains solutions) are too often deemed an afterthought, largely because they are bereft of switches, flashing lights and moving parts. Yet, they are just as - if not more - important than principle components. If you sort these ‘ancillary’ areas correctly, you remove a series of very large sonic bottlenecks, reduce distortion and allow your ears to truly hear your hi-fi for the first time. 

Allow me to add a third theory, therefore. Pack up your hi-fi, travel down to your nearest dealer, ask him to connect increasingly more expensive cables to your system – start with Atlas, Tellurium Q and Black Rhodium I suggest – and, when you have stopped hearing improvements, then the cables are no longer the bottleneck in your system. And if you can’t afford those cables? Then you’ve just discovered your new upgrade path. PR


Hi Michael. I am a firm believer in spending as much as you can afford on interconnect and speaker cables. Over the years I have tried wiring systems with cables at various price points and have consistently found that the better the cable, the less it inhibits the flow of the electrical signal, resulting in better sound quality, regardless of the cost of the partnering equipment. 

A good example of this are my Quad 303 amplifiers. The original cabling, as supplied by Quad, carries a signal but does the sound little favours, probably contributing to the reputation that they seem to have acquired for being a bit soft sounding. Mine are wired with mains leads made by Isotek, fitted with the miniature Bulgin plugs that Quad used for the mains input. The interconnects are Atlas Electra, which retailed at £500 per metre pair when I got them several years ago. These were custom made, being fitted with phono sockets at the pre-amp end and four pin DIN plugs at the amp end. The cables greatly exceed the value of the amplifiers but the results are worth every penny, with the vague cloudy sound gone and a very open, tonally rich, and better timed one taking its place.

I would recommend including mains leads, and preferably a mains purifier in your budget. With the advent of modern switch-mode power supplies being fitted to everything from computers to fridges, mains borne noise is now a major hindrance to your audio equipment’s performance. There are also RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) issues nowadays, caused by wi-fi transmitters, mobile phones and the plethora of electronic gadgets that are deemed necessary to modern living.

Removing this pollution through a combination of properly screened cables and mains purifiers will have the most amazingly beneficial effects on the sound coming from even very elderly or modestly priced components. 

I don’t think that there is a fixed percentage ratio of equipment versus cabling that should be adhered to. I would quite honestly recommend spending as much as you can on the cables, with the knowledge that as other components get upgraded, high quality cables will transfer to the new components and help to extract the best available performance from them.

I honestly believe that due to poor cabling a lot of listeners never actually get to hear the full potential of the systems, and that cables should not be regarded as accessories but vital components in their own right. After all, they carry the fuel (electricity) into the system, and transmit the signal between the units. Get this wrong and the most expensive and capable hi-fi will sound at best uninspired, and at worst, unlistenable to. TB



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