Tell Us Your Hi Fi Journey.

You mean there's more to HiFi than a LP12?

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Re: Tell Us Your Hi Fi Journey.

Post by Wenge1 »

Nice to see you back in the Kabin Eddy. Great story so far and very well written ........... :smt023
LP12 - Klimax Radikal 2/Urika, Harban Plinth, Karousel, Keel, Karmen, Ekos SE, Skale, Lyra Atlas
CD Player - dCS Puccini CD Player + Scarlatti Master Clock
Amps - KK/1(D), Klimax Twin (D)
Speakers - Triangle Magellan Duetto on Track Audio 600 stands
Cables - Chord Sarum Super Arrays + Kudos KS-1 speaker cable
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Re: Tell Us Your Hi Fi Journey.

Post by greentrumpet »

So glad to see you posting, Eddie, losing the Linn forum was a bit of a blow. Great thread and a fascinating journey, GLs, Thorens, Garrards valves and a Rotel RA610 have all plated a big part in my life. Looking forward to future instalments.
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Re: Tell Us Your Hi Fi Journey.

Post by dan steel »


I’ll stick with this its quicker. :smt005
Turntable - Linn LP12, Karousel, Keel, Ekos SE/1, Kandid, K-Radikal, Urika.
Amplifier - Naim Supernait 3
CD Player - Naim CD5si
Speakers - Kudos X3
Turntable Mat - Linn, Collaro
Cables - Kudos KS-1 Speaker Cable, Linn Silver Interconnects
Support - DIY Solid Oak Rack
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Re: Tell Us Your Hi Fi Journey.

Post by Mr Onion »

... but not as riveting :smt023

Fluted Afro LP12, Khan, KEEL, Karousel, Urika, Radikal (with Allium Skin Mods), EKOS SE/1, sKale, DVXX-2mkII
NAIM CD 5si with Marigo Lab Aida CD Mat
ThePre, ZAP 250, Kudos Super 20's
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Re: Tell Us Your Hi Fi Journey.

Post by LD100 »

dan steel wrote: Sun Jan 09, 2022 3:04 pm Image

I’ll stick with this its quicker. :smt005
It might be quicker, but the subject matter isn't as interesting to me as people's experiences enjoying Hi-Fi. :smt023
Only one thing better than reading about Hi-Fi equipment; reading and listening to fine music at the same time. :smt020 :D :smt045

Although,...sometimes the music sounds so good,...I forget what I read... :smt017 :smt005 :smt005 :smt005
Original 1978 Fluted Afromosia LP12, Ekos 2, Lyra Kleos SL and lots of other stuff from the 70's that still work fine.
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Re: Tell Us Your Hi Fi Journey.

Post by Dr_Eddie »

Thanks for the words of encouragement guys, its such a long convoluted journey, I could have ended up anywhere really, so its doing me good to relive the journey before the old grey cells give up on me. I'm just finalizing the next instalment.
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Re: Tell Us Your Hi Fi Journey.

Post by Dr_Eddie »

That evening I went down to Terry’s ground floor flat to have a look at his system and hear it in action. His speakers were Rogers models A21s I believe, quite large monitors in fact sitting on chrome stands.
The Linn LP12 was similar to mine in Afromosia, but was fitted with the flagship Ittok LV11 arm and the cartridge was an A&R P77 moving magnet. Amplifier duties were handled by an A&R Cambridge A60 which was a quite highly regarded design in the hi-fi mags at the time. The system as a whole wasn’t bad but it was very polite. It never really got up and rock and rolled. Terry knew it as well, because he’d already considered making changes as he admitted to me there and then.

By this time I had bought myself a new amplifier as I’d been reading a lot of good press about it. The ubiquitous NAD 3020 which I’d found brand new at a store near South Kensington for about £80, was a brilliant performer for the money.

It had enormous clout and gripped the Kefs by the scruff of the neck. The resulting music had a great bit of slam and punch but also lush and refined when it wanted to.
I played Terry the Randy Crawford album which he loved, and the sound I was getting inspired him to consider his speakers and possible candidates.

He went to Grahams in Pentonville Road and Michael Lewin the manager at the time, demonstrated a pair of Heywood HB3’s which were getting a lot of good press at the time. Terry bought them and invited me down to listen to them.

They were immediately better than the Rogers which I found as well as being very polite, really sat on the music in a big way. The Heybrooks had a lot of balls but the A&R A60 didn’t really have the clout to wake them up properly. It seemed they needed a more powerful amp. Terry went back to Grahams for advice.

The next iteration of Terry’s system really got motoring. Amplification was now handled by a Naim 42/SNAPS/110 combination and boy, what a huge difference that made. The system was now on fire. What a superb cartridge that P77 turned out to be.

I remember him playing me Peter Gabriel 4 and being knocked out by Rhythm of the Heat. It was brutal. I had to get a copy of that album, brilliant drumming, it had such great tracks on it like Jacinto and best of all Shock The Monkey. I still remember the sound of that system with fondness. But, it wouldn’t be long before young Terence was making changes again, and it would be my fault again.

I had discovered a new hi-fi dealer in Camden High Street called Subjective Audio. Run by a guy called Howard Popek, they had a Linn agency, but not a Naim agency.
Naim were a lot fussier than Linn when it came to appointing dealers. They did have Naim gear for comparison purposes though. I wanted to upgrade my Linn from Nirvana to Valhalla and have an Ittok and P77 fitted instead of the LV Basik arm and cartridge..

I carefully packed my Linn in its box with main platter off and white Styrofoam under the inner platter to prevent the main spindle from chattering on the base thrust pad of the bearing assembly and marking it.

I got a call, the next day saying it was ready for collection. The bill was a shade over £300 and I was off home to play it.

Wow, what a difference that made, I had to pop in to Subjective Audio to thank Howard and tell him how good it sounded. He was pleased of course, but he said “have you got a minute to spare? I want to borrow your ears for a comparison “
One of his friends had dropped off some equipment which he had made in his garden shed (literally) and wanted Howards opinion of it. “I’m up for that “ I said. We were going to compare two preamp and power amp combinations. One was quite literally half the price of the other. This would be mighty interesting indeed. The same turntable and speakers would be used in each case.

Once the equipment was ready we went in to the dem room. Speakers were Linn Saras (which I’d never seen or heard before) and the front end was the mag reviewers standard Linn LP12/Ittok/Asak. We were going to audition the Naim 32/Hicap/ NAP 250 combination against the Musical Fidelity The Preamp and Dr Martin Thomas Power amp, both prototypes, but it would be blind. We wouldn’t know which amps were being used until afterwards. So it was Flat Earth versus Round Earth.

My thoughts afterwards, were that one system seemed to work right across the board and was totally involving in a musical sense. I wasn’t really aware of hi-fi at work, it just played really good music. The other system though had amazing 3D depth, a soundstage carved from solid, that you could literally walk into and around, almost being able to touch the performers, but the music seemed to play second fiddle to the holography. Both systems were incredible but in different ways. I found myself preferring the music of the one hand and the sonic imaging of the other, now, if you could combine those two things you would have the best of both worlds. One thing I did notice though, piano music through the Saras was the best I’d ever heard in any hi fi system. It sounded incredibly real.

When the systems were revealed, it appeared I preferred the Naim combination for the music, and The Preamp and Dr.Thomas for the holography. There really wasn’t a lot in it between the two except that the Musical Fidelity combination cost around £750 and the Naim was about £1500. The Saras cost around £750 and they were just about the best speakers I’d ever heard. I made up my mind I had to have a pair. If I was going to buy new amplifiers from Naim though, I would need to audition them at Grahams in Pentonville Road. But that would be much later in the end, Musical Fidelity had derailed me for now. I was about to stray from the path to righteousness.
Terry wouldn’t be far behind either. The Preamp was just incredible value really.

I asked Howard if he would put my name on one of the first The Preamp when it went into production proper. It had both moving magnet and moving coil inputs selectable by a slider inside the outer cover. That would stand me in good stead to upgrade from the P77 to an Asak at a later date. Price of the unit was promised to be £250..

From a pure noise point of view there was hardly any hiss even at full volume whilst the hiss from the Naim 32 at full tilt was quite loud. White noise is very noticeable. That was what really won the day. I hate noise from an amplifier. It sits on the music.

When The Preamp came into stock about 3 months later, I called in to pick it up and Howard told me the Dr. Thomas would be about 6 weeks if I wanted one. I decided I did,then I could run a pair of Saras which were known to be notoriously difficult to drive. The Dr.Thomas could practically drive a short circuit, according to its spec. The output devices were Mosfets which behave like valves instead of transistors, but with 120 watts into 8 ohms and 240 into 4 ohms per channel ( Saras are a nominal 4 ohms to drive ) this amp should have serious clout, and by heck it did too.

For now I had to run The Preamp straight into the line input of the power amp section of the NAD 3020. It was a pretty big step up in clarity and definition though. For now I was happy enough until one day…………………………
I was driving my cab, when a call came over the radio for a cab from The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead for an account ride into town. It was a huge mansion with a sweeping drive covered in pea gravel. I drove up to the front door and switched off the engine. It was a lovely spring morning and as I opened the door of the cab I could hear a piano playing a Beethoven Sonata Fur Elise I think it was.

But, more than that, through a brick wall I could tell this was a real piano. Not a hi-fi, this was a real concert grand, perhaps a Steinway or Bosendorfer being expertly played. No hi-fi could come anywhere near this: It was Eddies Law.

I rang the bell, and the housekeeper opened the door, I saw a young lady sitting at a grand piano playing for all she was worth, in the front room. Piano must be the hardest instrument to reproduce. The notes contain so many harmonics and the felt dampers hitting the strings give an almost percussive effect. No wonder the piano is considered a percussion instrument in an orchestra. Many cartridges have trouble tracking cleanly on piano music too…………..I thought about the Saras and how good they sounded with piano music and made a mental note to pop into Grahams and arrange an audition. That would turn out to be one of the most decisive auditions of my journey and with a real twist in the tail. Even where I am today with my current system owes a lot to that days audition conducted by Michael Lewin the manager.
More about that next instalment…………………..
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Re: Tell Us Your Hi Fi Journey.

Post by Dr_Eddie »

The big day arrived and Michael introduced himself to me and we went into one of the dem rooms. It struck me as quite a large listening room with a high ceiling and the Saras looked quite small, diminutive came to mind to be honest, how would they sound in such a large space? Michael chose a record and then lowered the arm, then went out of the room.

Any thoughts of trouble filling the room with music was soon dispelled, this was superlative reproduction, in fact it was so close to fooling me this was a live event. The track ML chose was Ingenue from the album “Two Of A Kind” by Bob James and Earl Klugh. I’d never heard of either before, but this album is a must. If you haven’t got it, treat yourself to a copy. I became a committed Earl Klugh fan after that day. There can’t be many of you out there without his classic “Finger Paintings” album , or “Dream Come True” So beloved of Chris Frankland the Popular HiFi Reviewer. I ended up buying a shed load of his favourite albums and loving every one of them to bits.

One of the characteristics of the Sara I really loved was the sweet golden shimmer of the cymbals on drum kit. Once you’ve heard the real thing live and playing on stage in front of drum kit gives you that in spades, you realise how good those Scanspeak tweeters are. A universe away from the icy cold glassy sound of the Kef T27, which I was now sick of to be honest.

I asked Michael when he came back into the room after the track ended if I could have a look at the drive units with the fluted grilles off………………
He peeled them back off the Velcro tape and looked dumbstruck, both tweeters were covered with brown packing tape. Whaaaat????

Someone had unpacked these new speakers and left the transit tape over the tweeter recess, and yet, they still sounded marvellous. To me, it meant one thing, they would sound even better at home……………..I was buying a pair. Michael was still apologising when I butted in. “I’ll have a pair like these please “

Actually, this little scenario played out well, because it meant he owed me something, and I admitted to him that my power amp wouldn’t arrive for about 6 weeks. He suggested I buy these Ex-demonstration pair (actually just unpacked ) for £100 off list price and he would lend me a pair of Crimson Electrik mono blocks until the Dr Thomas arrived. That was a great deal to be fair and I went home with the Saras all boxed up including the stands already built up. What a great day that was.

So, my poor old Kefs were resigned to the garage, and my brother-in-law bought them off me for a few squid. He loved them, so they lasted a while longer. The Saras and the Preamp/ Crimson Electrik combination was simply stunning though. The clarity and the imaging on offer just never ceased to amaze me. Musically, it was nothing short of sensational. I had just bought a copy of David Bowies Lets Dance album and it was just a knockout. The production was amazing, Terry, sat there mesmerised by the dynamics, it was just unbelievable. The Preamp was just this tiny box with a backlit red logo, a volume control, a balance control and two source selector switches and yet what issued forth was so hugely enjoyable. It was magic……………We took the album down to Terry’s flat and played it down there…………….. 4 bars into the intro, we just looked at each other. ………..WTF happened. It’s like the band have gone out to lunch. Where has all the snap, sparkle and punch gone? We had to conclude it was the HB3’s. As good as they were, they were not Saras.

Terry went to Grahams and auditioned Saras against the HB3’s. The Saras won hands down of course, and Terry ended up with the same speakers as me, and we were both happy for quite a while after that. However, we both attended a show at the Heathrow Hilton in about 1984 I think which finally derailed Terry for quite some time.

We visited the Linn and Naim rooms of course and they were excellent as we expected, but there was nothing new we hadn’t heard before. At this time I don’t believe the Ekos arm had arrived yet, nor the Troika cartridge, which would both change the landscape for ever.

It was whilst queuing up to get into the Absolute Sounds room that our goalposts moved, not just a few yards either. They ended up in another stadium.

So, there we are in a queue of about 30 people and suddenly this rock band started playing inside the room. Heads turned and people started talking, “ Jeezus, they have a live band in there “ the guy behind blurts out. At this point I remember my experience outside the house in the Bishops Avenue, where the piano was playing and had to agree. Through, a solid brick wall and fireproof door, there could be no mistake. This was live music once again proving that hi-fi is futile. You can’t even get close to those sort of dynamics. The music was excellent too, this was a supremely talented band of musicians. We were in for a treat.

Finally, it was our turn to get into the room and we piled in to get seated near to the front. But, there was no drumkit, or amplifiers, nothing except for a turntable, and some massive amplifiers with racking handles sitting between two 8 foot tall panel speakers which looked like huge Quad ELS 67’s.

No band. This would be interesting. Riccardo came in and introduced himself as the MD of Absolute Sounds. His mission is to scour the world for products that can be used to build the finest hi-fi systems. Systems that work in harmony to play music, not hi-fi. Putting a system together that can achieve this takes years of his time and that they work in harmony is no accident. With that, he introduced us to his front end choice. It was an Oracle turntable, and although it looked like an oil rig it was actually a suspended sub chassis turntable with belt drive.

The arm chosen for this TT was the Sumiko, which although it sounded Japanese was actually made in the USA. It was a sturdy looking design with high rigidity and close tolerance bearings. Fitted to this arm was the Koetsu Red Signature moving coil cartridge which has a wooden body made of red hard-wood, and hand made by a retired Japanese sword maker. Each cartridge takes him two weeks to assemble. The cartridge suspension components are chosen to optimise the sound for the country in which it will be used. So a cartridge destined for Florida will differ from one going to the UK.

The preamp was the Audio Research SP12 which was a highly respected tube amplifier made in the USA to almost military specification. The signal from this unit went to a Krell KSA-100 solid state amplifier which boasted the ability to drive a pair of Apogee Scintilla ribbon loudspeakers to full output. This meant being able to drive impedances as low as 0.5 ohms without running out of voltage or current. Turning on this beast of an amplifier caused the room lighting to dim noticeably, as its power supply filled up enormous capacitors swallowing huge amounts of current in an instant. This amp had no output protection or current limiting devices fitted.

Then the signal would be fed into the Magneplanar full range ribbon loudspeakers or Maggies as they were known. Riccardo explained how these worked, but it went over my head to be honest. Inside the speaker is a diaphragm made of something like clingfilm and somehow this moves in time with the music causing the vibrations we hear as sound. I have never heard such magnificent sound coming from such a device since that day to be honest, although my Briks give me 95% of that. It’s that last 5% that really is the most difficult to reproduce.

Riccardo played us quite an unusual playlist, which was probably carefully chosen to show off the system in its best light. I made notes of the program material, at the end.

We listened to Andreas Vollenweider’s Caverna Magica album which was released on the CBS label. The album starts off with footsteps on crunching pea gravel which gradually change from in the open air to inside a cave. It creates an extraordinary effect which does not appear to be coming from the speakers at all. In fact the speakers dissolve away. When the music starts it sounds like guitar and bass guitar and drumkit , but in fact it is an electric harp, which has amazing harmonics. If you are ever stressed out from a bad day, grab a drink and play this album. It will bathe you in glorious sound and calm you down.

When we got to the last track of the program, the record played the “live band” sound we’d heard from outside. From in here it was even more impressive, I had to find out what this record was, and by who. It sounded vaguely familiar.

It turned out to be a specialist audiophile record which I’ll tell you about in my other Dead wax detective thread. I also learnt it was available in the Foyer from one of the vendors. We hurried from the room to the foyer to grab ourselves a copy.
I thoroughly enjoyed the system in that room and the main thing that I was impressed with was the Koetsu Red cartridge.

For Terry it was the Maggies, he just had to have a pair and so he sold his Saras as quick as he could. I don’t know why, but in my water I suspected that without the Krell, waking them up would be difficult and unfortunately I was bang on the money.

Once he’d taken delivery of them, it was clear the Naim combination wasn’t up to it at all. The music was so closed in it sounded like it was coming from the next room. You can’t imagine how awful it was. Poor old Terry, he just couldn’t afford the Audio Research preamp and the Krell. It was now whilst stumbling about in the wilderness that Jimmy Hughes came to his rescue with a product review in Hi-Fi Answers.

More on that with the next instalment folks.
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