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Normal people, their hifi, and the wrong ears
Over the last week I have made some inroads into the purchase of a new amp. I've listened to some of my shortlist candidates, and also to some stuff far up market, just to be able to create a kind of framework.
I have listened to some of my favorite cd's (Pink Floyds Wish you were here, Dire Straits, Mahler, Wagner, Miles Davies, The Nothing Hillbillies and even Motörhead !), recordings I know quite well (or I thought I knew well). I have discovered that no two systems sound the same.
I've heard differences in low down bass, punch, boogie, soundstage, midrange, and so forth. Which begs the question: how am I supposed to know how these things are SUPPOSED to sound (somewhat in line with the two articles you wrote on the matter)?
Unfortunately, I am not in possession of the ears and brain of the recording engineers and producers, nor do I know what equipment was used to make the recording. There is stuff that makes music sing, stuff that rocks the house, stuff that turns Motörhead into a day at the scrap yard, and so on.
Not a single one turns each of the recordings into masterpieces, they just have different accents. How do you good people at TNT decide on what things are "supposed" to sound like?
Peter - E-mail: Peter.Roovers (at) pmintl.com
HiFi is supposed to be FUN. Just choose the gear the gives you more excitement with the Music you prefer. You can't go wrong with this rule of thumb. Otherwise, you may end up buying something supposed to be "perfect" and...damn boring. Would you be happy then? I'm sure you would NOT. HiFi is always ia matter of strong compromises (within a certain budget, at least) so why should you bother yourself with such lazy questions?
In my opinion the best measuring instrument that can seriously help you decide which HiFi to purchase is a heart rate monitor. These are damn cheap nowadays at any sports store (as low as 50$/€). Just strap the HRM belt to your chest, the HRM watch to your wrist, go out and listen. When your heart rate starts to go ballistic you will be listening to the HiFi component to purchase :-)
I even use a custom-made tears-o-meter: I just measure the amount of tears in my eyes when listening to some HiFi equipment. If it is near to zero, I tend to close my eyes and sleep soundly. That HiFi component doesn't deserve my spare time. If the scale reaches its max, it means I'm rolling on the floor laughing, crying and scaring the cat (because of a ridiculous performance, that is). Anything in the "mid" region means I'm almost crying because of excess of emotion. That component scores very high in my Darryl scale.
Hope this will help somehow.
I really enjoyed your review of the Dynaco st70 series II amps. I've been out of the high end for awhile, but I'm starting again.
I actually know of a person who is selling a NEW dynaco st70 series II amp for $700 (US). Based on your review, I am thinking about buying the series II for my new speakers, the Odyssey Epiphany (also reviewed on your website). Do you think the series II is a good match for my new speakers and worth the asking price? Your informed advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Mike - E-mail: mckwon8 (at) yahoo.com
700 US$ sounds like a reasonable asking price for a NEW Seriees II amp, depending on what the owner means by NEW :-)
I'm pretty sure it will be a good match with your Odissey speakers. Since you seem to know the guy who's selling the amp, the best thing to do would be asking him to lend you the amp for a weekend, just to test it in YOUR room with YOUR speakers.
Keep me updated,
I bought a NAD C352 Amplifier (also a NAD 521 BEE CD player) and I found an article from What HIFI which speaks that C352 has some problems with the bass. These problems were solved and now there is a new product called C352CT. This seems to be true, the article can be found on NAD's web page. I write to you (and please excuse my English level) to ask to help me with some information:
NAD's reply should shed more light on this topic. I admit I know nothing about the differences between 352 and 352CT but there's a general advice I'd like to give to you and to other audiophiles living the same situation (and it happens quite frequently). Don't let someone make you feel disappointed/dissatisfied about a choice/purchase you made. You bought that amp, listened to it with satisfaction (I guess!), then...just enjoy it! Simply put, don't care what others may say. Did you notice a problem in the bass? No? Go on and enjoy your system.
There will ALWAYS be something BETTER in the market, you can't follow the needs of a crazy world like this (new products every year or so).
On the other end, IF (and only IF) the amp has been proven to be defective, I'm pretty sure NAD will service your unit, depending on the warranty conditions.
Keep me updated!
I had read the review of Coda 70 by Julian Ashbourn on your site. Currently, I'm looking for a pair bookshelf speaker as for music and movie use. I had narrowed down my selection to 3 KEF speakers models (Cresta 10, Coda 70 & Q1). Actually I already purchased Cresta 10 and returned cause it sound not really good. My expectation is the speaker must be good in bass and vocal. My amp is 100W per channel. As what I know Coda 70 only support up to 70W. Will this damage the speaker?
Furthermore, Coda 70 is using paper cone, however other kef models using plastic. Can the paper cone able to last longer than plastic cone? I had compared all the speakers sound. I found out Q1 is too clear and lack of bass so it is not really good in movie and rock/pop music. However, the Q1 is able to handle 120W. I would like to get your valuable opinion on the speaker selection. Thanks
Sam - E-mail: limls (at) csam.com.my
max input power has nothing to do with the quality of a loudspeaker. Otherwise, 1500 PMPO watts (claimed) multimedia speakers for PCs should be the best thing since sliced bread ;-)
The problem is your budget. If you want bass, real bass, you need to spend more. Forget power handling claims, focus your attention on sound alone. Try to listen to bigger speakers, possibly floorstanding models. If you want BASS, look no further than Klipsch loudspeakers :-) Or, in the KEF catalogue, you may find the Coda 90's or the Q5's much more consistent in the bass, compared with the smaller Coda 70's and Q1's.
Keep me updated,
Jolida vs Atoll
I am looking for a entry-level system and I have listened to the Atoll IN80. I saw the Creek 4330 but haven't listened to it. I also sampled the RA-02 from Rotel. The more I read around about the Jolida (the 302) the more it is appealing to me (although it's assembled in China).
I know I have to try it by myself but given your experience, what would you recommend?
I listen to anything but opera and classic, hard rock and metal. I might pop in a Joe Satriani cd once in a while or even a R&B/Hip-hop one.
I'd go with the same brand CD but the jury is still out on speakers. I have many ideas (B&W, JMLab, Kef, Totem), all in bookshelf format.
Thanks for your help!
Kom - E-mail: NKom (at) bank-banque-canada.ca
the Atoll vs Jolida choice is mainly a matter of personal taste and correct speakers matching. I mean, if you want the impact, punch and speed of a good solid state amplifier, then the Atoll is the amp to purchase, especially if you will choose low efficiency/hard to drive loudspeakers.
If, on the contrary, you prefer a warmer and softer sound, and if you plan to choose mid-high efficiency loudspeakers, then the Jolida might suit you better.
As for purchase planning, I'd firstly choose the speakers and then the amplifier accordingly (not viceversa).
Hope this helped somehow,
Previous weeks letters
Audio: A (kinda) normal persons nightmare
Right! I've decided the old Phase Linear 400 Series II coupled to a home brew Valve preamp is getting decidedly tired, and I want to unclutter my setup and get a good integrated. Shouldn't be too difficult, I thought. Wrong.
I've done some internet research, read loads of reviews, bought some magazines. I've been at it or a few weeks. If things go on this way, I won't need a new amp. I'll need a family sized box of Valium and a straight jacket. It's madness.. I'm lost. Utterly lost. I now have NO idea whatsoever where I'm going. The lists in the German mags are just basically pricelists with the 'best' amps being the most expensive, and the 'worst' being the cheapest. The list is quite chronological. Some of the US mags read as a 'what's new' from US manufacturers. The reviews read like ads. Every week there's a new 'amazing' amp. How they compare to last weeks truly amazing amp, I have not a clue.
The UK stuff seems to be based on a compound star rating. Best bang for the buck kind of thing. A 250 Euro Kenwood box gets five stars, so does a 100000 Euro pair of Levinsons. Speaking of which, the man has no involvement whatsoever (anymore) with the brand that carries his name, has since run Cello, is now apparently involved with something called Red Rose (which he apparantly OEM's under other names) and I've probably missed a few, like Proceed.
Now, I don't have the time or inclination to take my speakers on a two week tour of the hifi stores, lugging them in and out of shops to listen to amps that don't have the remotest relationship to each other, be it size, price, buzz, boogie or whatever. No, I need valve sir! Transistors are noisy. Valves sir ? That's a throwback from the fifties, from people who refuse to move on with the state of the art. I've looked at 1500 Euro Rotels, 5000 Euro Karans, a 2000 Euro Sony which I really liked but has unfortunately gone out of production, Hell, I've considered getting a Krell!
I'm dead in the water. I have no idea on how to proceed. Maybe I'll just pick one out of a hat.
A very big hat.
I need to drive the Infinity Kappa 80's (50-250W - 89 db/W according to the manufacturer). I will keep you posted on how things develop.
Peter - E-mail: Peter.Roovers (at) pmintl.com
an integrated Krell like the KAV 300i shouldn't be a crazy choice, if you like bass, dynamics and precision. Otherwise, you can have a look at some British manufacturer like Naim or Meridian. If you don't want to spend big bucks, focus your attention on NAD and Rotel, instead. All of the above will be able to drive your Infinity Kappa's with ease, with the KAV 300i being the best "driver" in terms of power and current delivery, if that matters.
I haven't cited valve integrated amps for a couple of reasons. First of all there are few of these with reasonable power and quality/price ratio. Secondly, your loudspeakers aren't the easiest load on Earth, I'd rather put my trust in solid state gear.
Hope this helped somehow,
Support Real Stereo
Thanks for this site! I thought there was only few of us left out here that thinks this way.I hate all this new home stereo business its lost its soul of the real sound of music. I only use vintage stereo and turntables to enjoy what's left of the real music and the way it should be heard, not though some electronic micro chip.
Thanks again keep Real Stereo alive, the world needs more music today.
Donald & Lynn - E-mail: dbrooks9 (at) cogeco.ca
thanks for supporting our campaign in defense of pure, old, Real Stereo sound.
An open rant against the music industry
Dear Nels and TNT-Audio,
I came across this editorial purely by accident while searching on google. I realise it's over a year old now, but more relevant than even. For what it's worth, I just wanted to say thanks for such a great article. In the first opening paragraphs I expected the article to be 100% against file-sharers, by the time I'd finished reading it I found myself in total agreement with the points you put across.
I only hope the Music Industry eventually see sense and realise they're the ones to blame for the mess that the Industry is in. I live in the UK and while the situation isn't as bad over here as it is in the states, it's still pretty poor. I went into a record shop last week to see all the Beatles back catalogue available at £27.99 per release, what's that nearly $50?. How can they justify selling something 30 years old at full price on which the profits have already been made?
The Beatles and their estates have already made their millions, yet the Record Companies continue to prey on the fact that Beatles fans (being Beatles fans) will pay for it. The problem here, is that younger fans have got the choice of the latest pop trash album for £15 or Pepper for £28, guess which one they're going to buy.
A similar situation to the Mariah Carey buyout happened over here. Sony paid Robbie Williams (ex-member of boy band Take That) a figure in excess of £10 million in a record breaking deal. That £10m could have gone into discovering new talent but yet again the industry continue down their 'homogenized' path. Robbie has had his chance, made his money and expressed himself through his successful solo albums already. Now, he's burned out. The problem with the music industry is there's too many chiefs and not enough Indians. But at least the real chiefs actually cared about their Indians. I could go on, but I think I'll stop there. :-)
Thanks again for the article,
Neil - E-mail: neil (at) typingoutloud.com
firstly they forced us to buy CDs and CD players instead of LPs. CDs were - of course - much more expensive, because of the higher hype factor. Unluckly, the digital format was readable by computers and HENCE perfect copies were possible. I call this a sort of "revenge" ;-)
But then, could you please tell me who invented and supported CD-R and CD-RW's? The answer may be surprising. The very same guys who try to copy-protect their Music CDs now. It's such a funny world.
Siri Svale band...again!
Just to tell all the readers that the Siri Svales Band availability from sonoras (at) online.no is an excellent service. My order arrived within 4 days. Also to confirm your rave about the band; Provided you like jazz of the lounge variety, and preferably with a glass or six of some outstanding red from the Stellenbosch area, then prepare yourself for a real treat.
The earlier (1990) "Blackbird" is a little more mainstream and probably more simple in its scope. "Necessarily so ...... " (1997) is more adventurous.
Both are stunning in both bass and vocals, its not a bass freak recording, but it sure gives the big guys a work-out. The vocals are very forward on most tracks, projecting Siri right into the carpet in front of you. The variations of sax models and techniques is hard to better, as is the electric bass which has some excellent technical stuff that probably is best appreciated by an electric bass player.
Also compliments on a great WWW
Mike - E-mail: Mike_Barr (at) eu.thermoking.com
thanks for sharing your opinions with us and for the precious feedback. I'm glad you found those albums so good.
Stay tuned for more exciting Music reviews,
North Star vs Audio Analogue
I have the Bellini-Donizetti combi with B&W 805 Signature, CEC tl51x transport and North Star 192 Dac.
I was thinking of switching to the NS monoblocks and was wondering whether you already compared these with the Donizetti's?
I am comparing the Bellini-Donizetti with the new Maestro 70 now, but the latter is too 'cold' and misses the typical AA-sound (warm and analytical).
Renaat - E-mail: renaat.mattheus (at) skynet.be
the NorthStar combo is more analythical than warm sounding so perhaps it is _not_ your regular cup of tea. Stay with AA and try to evaluate the NorthStar 192 Transport instead. The CEC is a very good unit but the synergy between the NS 192 transport and 192 DAC is hard to beat, especially via I2S and upsampling mode transport-side.
Keep me updated,
Pathos New Classic One review
I enjoyed your reviews of the original Pathos Classic One and the new version. I bought a new one about six months ago and installed it in my office, where I listen to it about six hours a day, usually at low volumes but sometimes full-on. My favorite music includes classic rock, especially instrumentals, and orchestral works.
The speakers are Legacy Studios on stands (about $1,200) directly in front of my desk and the sources are an old Adcom CD player (OK) and a Audiolab FM tuner (excellent). When I first turned on the new system, I couldn't believe how great it sounded, and it still does, maybe better with age. To help these small bookshelf speakers reproduce good bass, I installed a small B&W powered subwoofer, but I keep it turned down fairly low.
My main system (at home) includes a Plinius amp and Legacy Classic speakers, but this office system comes very close in sound for less than half the money and fuss. So far the Pathos amp has been totally reliable, day in and day out, and the remote is handy when the phone rings. The bottom line is that I'm a very happy Pathos customer.
Frank - E-mail: FBarrett (at) aol.com
thanks for the feedback. Owning two stereo systems can be frightening because one realizes how expensive can be a little difference in sound :-)
A mid-class well optimized stereo system can be embarassing for some hi-end set-up. I speak by personal and direct experience here, since I own two HiFi systems installed in two different rooms. Oh yes, the "good" one sounds better...but the price gap doesn't justify the difference :-)
It's such a crazy hobby, isn't it?
I was excited to read your account of curing coloration in the Orbe. But, because I'm not entirely sure what an "armboard" is, I'm not sure if I can benefit. I am currently the (unhappy) owner of the a Rega p9 in the following system:
Ah the joys of bluetac...
First I'm assuming the alignment of the cartridge is OK. The P9 is supposed to be very good, clean and open (I've not heard it). If the sound you get is a sort of "bonk, bonk" then it's not like the Orbe which rings like a big bell "boing!"... The "bonk" is par for the course with wooden solid plinths.
That airy transparency isn't a Naim strongpoint - their virtues lie elsewhere (though I'm a fan), but if they are over 10 years old they may need recapping which Naim do for a reasonable sum.
Have you tried Naim boards for MC in the 72? The Groove ought to sound better, but the Naim boards take some beating, and really I'm surprised at the harsh/no bass response - I do doubt it is the turntable, however as the blue tac is reversable why not give it a go - what have you got to lose?
Failing all that I'd send the Naim for a service, and try to borrow another set of speakers to see if there is a missmatch somewhere. The worse case scenario is that you get involved in buying and selling the gear second hand, but as you've wisely bought very good equipment this might well cost you nothing but a bit of time.
As for the Supreme, mine (a 20) was 'polite', the XX2 is a couple of steps up from it, but to be honest the problem sounds more fundamental. One other thing to check is the phono stage - are you loading the cartridge correctly?
Well enough for the moment
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