"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound from microphone to ear, achievable by recognising and controlling the numerous confounding variables that exist along the audio chain. The Harbeth designer's objective is to make loudspeakers that contribute little of themselves to the music passing through them.

Identifying system components for their sonic neutrality should logically proceed from the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance. Deviations from a flat frequency response at any point along the signal chain from microphone to ear is likely to give an audible sonic personality to the system at your ear; this includes the significant contribution of the listening room itself. To accurately reproduce the recorded sound as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would be best advised to select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

For example, the design of and interaction between the hifi amplifier and its speaker load can and will alter the sound balance of what you hear. This may or may not be what you wish to achieve, but any deviation from a flat response is a step away from a truly neutral system. HUG has extensively discussed amplifiers and the methods for seeking the most objectively neutral among a plethora of product choices.

HUG specialises in making complex technical matters simple to understand, getting at the repeatable facts in a post-truth environment where objectivity is increasingly ridiculed. With our heritage of natural sound and pragmatic design, HUG is not the best place to discuss non-Harbeth audio components selected, knowingly or not, to introduce a significantly personalised system sound. For that you should do your own research and above all, make the effort to visit an Authorised Dealer and listen to your music at your loudness on your loudspeakers through the various offerings there. There is really no on-line substitute for time invested in a dealer's showroom because 'tuning' your system to taste is such a highly personal matter. Our overall objective here is to empower readers to make the factually best procurement decisions in the interests of lifelike music at home.

Please consider carefully how much you should rely upon and be influenced by the subjective opinions of strangers. Their hearing acuity and taste will be different to yours, as will be their motives and budget, their listening distance, loudness and room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you. Always keep in mind that without basic test equipment, subjective opinions will reign unchallenged. With test equipment, universal facts and truths are exposed.

If some of the science behind faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over Harbeth speakers is your thing, this forum has been helping with that since 2006. If you just want to share your opinions and photos with others then the unrelated Harbeth Speakers Facebook page may be for you. Either way, welcome to the world of Harbeth!"

Feb. 2018
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Analogue sound - could it influence audio equipment design?

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  • Analogue sound - could it influence audio equipment design?

    I am currently at a hifi show. The show could be (presumably) in any continent, any time in the last 40 years or so. The show seems to be, as far as I have expolored, almost wholly devoted to analogue replay equipment. It has been extremely interesting to observe at close quarters, and as I type this, I have just realised that it is not the first time that I've had exactly the same experience.

    I admit that as a speaker designer, I am not so much listening to music (and speech) for enjoyment. I need to keep a degree of objectivity, and being seduced by the music is a little dangerous, should it be reflected in engineering decisions. I also admit that, right or wrong, I have been wholehartedly commited to 'digital', when exectured properly, since 3 March 1983, the day CD ws launced and the day I bought my first, and still working, Sony CDP-101. I have acouple of turntables which I love as works of engineering, but I do not have any real reason to use them, I wouldn't part with them though as they are icons of a period in my life when they were my most important posessions. So, when asked to bring along one or two favourite LPs, I had plenty to chose from, most of which I have and am familiar with in their remastered to CD format. Right or wrong, those CD remasters have been my references for over twenty years.

    Now I am confronted with the original LPs, bought some thirty to forty years ago, and it has been a bit of a shock, so much so that I have to get it off my mind by typing this contribution. The shock is not of the inordiate ingenuity of analogue source manufacturers, full credit for the labour involved, it is that judging by what I hear around me, 'analogue sound' appears to be significantly under-stating the high frequency energy in the recording master (tapes). This first drew attention to itself when I noticed that it was rare indeed to hear surface noise, when I know from my LP systems, that turn up the volume just a little, and the well documented nature of a rock being dragged through a dirty groove was clear for all to hear as a constant surface hash and accompanying clicks and crackles. But they are just not audible here, across the show. Surface noise should be audible on all but the very finest, freshest pressings stored under optimum conditions; not dominantly so, but it should be there, and if it is substantially inaudible, as it seems to be, there is something not right. Something in the replay chain is suppressing the high frequencies, and it is not the speakers. Well, not SHL5+. I can't comment much on other speakers, but I'm sure about the SHL5+ because I have given public demonstrations with a laptop and noise generator/microphone that the frequency response is a practically flat line right across the audio band, in room, right in front of the public: an ideal technical response.

    Once one is over the initial recognition that the surface noise is not audible (except in chronically degraded discs) then one starts to make a mental comparison between the overall HF energy one hears on music off of vinyl v. the same analogue source tape turned into a CD. And the difference is simply masssive.

    My thinking is that if a loudspeaker designer knew that his customers were solely using vinyl, he would perhaps be doing them a favour if he deliberately boosted the HF, perhaps by several dBs, in an effort to synthesise the missing brightness and articulation as revealed from the CD presssing of the same source tape, but inevitably boosing the surface noise too. Conversely, should a digital-only consumer buy the speakers optimised for vinyl, they would be intolerably bright for CD source.

    This really has been a eureka moment for me. It comes down to one/all of these factors:

    1) The vinyl disc itself is (seemingly) by its very nature lacking in HF energy
    2) The phono cartridge is (seemigly) lacking in HF energy
    3) The phono stage is (seemingly) attenuating the high frequencies

    More on 2 and 3 later.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    Loading the cartridge - 1

    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
    ... It comes down to one/all of these factors:

    1) The vinyl disc itself is (seemingly) by its very nature lacking in HF energy
    2) The phono cartridge is (seemigly) lacking in HF energy
    3) The phono stage is (seemingly) attenuating the high frequencies

    More on 2 and 3 later.
    And here are those thoughts.

    First, I'm now aware of the critical - repeat - critical - interface issue between the cartridge and the phono stage. If you are to get the best out of vinyl, then you cannot have a one-suits-all phono stage. You have to have the ability on the phono stage, usually implemented by DIP switches, to be able to change, as a minimum, both the load resistance and load capacitance that the phono stage presents to the cartridge output signals. In addition, since the sensitivity of phono cartridges varies considerably between type and model, it's sensible to be able to select the amount of gain (amplification) inside the phono stage so that a quiet cartridge is raised in loudness and a high-voltage cartridge is given less of a signal boost as you walk the line between a hissy signal and a clipped, overloaded one.

    It seems that phono stage manufacturers have decided, based on what sort of reasoning?, that they will offer just the minimum of DIP adjustments. This is illogical. Phono cartridges are not made to an international standard of electrical characteristics so that they all conform to an expectation of a certain load resistance and certain load capacitance. Even if they were, what has to be known and accounted for is the capacitance of the signal cable from the cartridge pins right along the cable to the phono stage. This is a real capacitance, and it is not insignificant:it must be allowed for in the loading calculations.

    Here is an example, relating to moving magnet cartridges, the only one I have used successfully. Assuming that the data sheet is ciorrect, Shure say that the cartridge will give its flattest response when loaded by a 47k ohm resistor and with 400-500pF of total capacitance. Total means from the pins to the phono plugs at the far end of the cable. Do you know what the capacitance of your phono cable is right along the arm tube and to the far end? Can you guess? Let's say it's 300pF. Well, the phono stage I have here has a dIp switch for 47k ohms and another for 100pF capacitance (or ten times that amount!). So we're going to be in the optimum range: the 47k load is correct, and the total capacitance is 300pF + 100pF = 400pF, meeting the bottom end of Shure's spec.

    But what if the exotic turntable you've bought with its fancy cable has already a capacitance in the cable itself of 500pF? Since the minimum capacitance that the phono stage can offer is 100pF on its DIP switches, that's a total capacitance seen by the cartridge of 600pF, 100pF more the maker's recommended value. So what?

    Well, the problem is that the motor in the MM cartridge is a very, very tiny coil, and that coil is connected to the signal cable, which as noted above has considerable capacitance. So we have a particular electrical configuration where the reactances of the coil (inductance) and the cable (capacitance) are in a special relationship with each other. The consequence of too much capacitance (for a MM cartridge) is that the high frequencies will be significantly or chronically rolled-off. It's to be avoided.

    Now to moving coil cartridges, a subject I know nothing abut.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK


    • #3
      Loading the cartridge - 2

      Well, by chance I met up with and had dinner with an old friend, "Mr. Ortofon, Germany" and it gave me a chance to run over the various issues and pick his brains. It seems that, globally, the hifi market for phono cartridges is split about 50:50, moving coil (MC) to moving magnet (MM).

      I now understand the situation with regard to loading a MC cartridge. Basically, the MC cartridge comprises two (L,R) coils of extremely thin wire, so thin that the resistance is about 5 or 6 ohms, similar to that of a speaker voice coil, but of much thinner wire. One of the issues noted with MM cartridges in my last post was that to really match them properly to the phono stage, the user has to know, accurately, the capacitance of the arm-tube cable from the pins right to the phono amplifier. Technical equipment is needed for that, or reliable information from the arm and the cable maker. Only then can the optimum load capacitance in the phono amp be applied.

      Partly in response to this uncertainty, the MC cartridge gained popularity. From what I have been told, most normal MC cartridges are substantially immune to the cable capacitance they are coupled to, so no esquires or measurements need be made. Furthermore, provided that they are loaded with a resistance of, typically and quasi-standardised, 100 ohms, that is the end of the matter. Asked whether a ten fold increase in resistance to, say, 1000 ohms or a reduction to, say, 50 ohms effected the performance, I was told that a higher load made negligible difference, but a lower load would effect the frequency response, perhaps significantly. In my listenings, the cartridge was loaded with the standard 100 ohms, and the minimum selectable 100pF, plus of course, the cable capacitance. The marketing advantage claimed by MC is that the tiny coil of wires that generate the left and right channels are so extremely low mass that they must, surely, be a better solution with a wider high frequency response than the heavier moving magnet technology.

      Now, the interesting thing is that with growing frustration at the unfamiliar sound today I acquired a relatively modestly priced moving magnet cartridge, fitted it and set the load to the standard 47k ohms and 100pF in the phono stage. The result was of near-CD quality, very close to what I would have expected had I played my trusty (and wonderful) V15/III MM cartridge and/or a CD of the performance. High frequencies were there, a mid-bass coloration disappeared, the music was open with sparkle and air: I was back to a familiar and trusted sound. And yes, the constant surface noise was back, audible, as it should be.

      Now, it would be wrong to draw too many conclusions without much more testing, but I think that we can eliminate 1) from above, and we are left with two remaining scenarios:

      2) The MC phono cartridge is (seemingly) lacking in HF energy
      3) The phono stage is (seemingly) attenuating the high frequencies

      It's tempting to eliminate 3) because as noted, the MC cartridge is undemanding in the specifics of its load and also, the very same phono stage makes a fine job of amplifying the MM cartridge. Which brings us to a general question about the spectral performance balance of moving coil cartridges generally, and specifically in the case of this highly respected Eur. 2000 I have been listening to.

      I have been invited to hear the very same MC cartridge in an entirely different setting tomorrow, and told to anticipate that it will sound marvelous. We shall see, but I have this vague recollection that when gifted a very fancy MC cartridge some years ago, it lasted about 30 mins before I couldn't resist re-fitting the MM, after which the detail, sparkle and correct bass/mid/top balance was restored to my LPs.

      Another possibility should be added to our list, uncomfortable though it is:

      4) A generation of audiophiles have reset their own internal reference standard towards a dimmer, less detailed, less top, rolled-off, airless, warmer sound, the very antithesis of the "digital sound". This has had the added bonus (as was noted to my surprise several times during the thread we ran on CD v. vinyl) that LP fans simply could not understand my observation about ever-present surface noise because on their systems, there was no surface noise. Perhaps we have an explanation for that now: the ever-present surface noise was indeed inaudible because it, like the music in the upper spectrum, had for reasons yet to be identified actually been rolled-off and suppressed.

      I'm sticking to my position for now that if you cannot hear continuous (but not necessarily offensive) surface noise throughout an LP, and that noise has a bright, airy sparkle to it, you almost certainly have insufficient HF energy in your vinyl replay system compared with the energy in the high frequencies contained in the source master tape.
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK


      • #4
        Cartridge frequency response?

        I'll be interested to hear what your thoughts are on the the sound of the MC cartridge in a system that should sound "marvelous".

        Though I use a MM cartridge when I listen to analogue, my understanding has long been that MC cartridges tend to have a frequency response that rises in the treble. Hence, they tend to sound brighter than MM cartridges. I could be very wrong in this belief, it seems.


        • #5
          Other phono factors

          On the topic of appropriate load capacitance, you may wish to review what phono preamp designer Graham Slee has to offer on the topic:

          A more elaborate treatment is given in this thread:

          While selecting the correct load capacitance is one important consideration, there are some other factors that should to be addressed to ensure flat/extended high frequency response.

          It is also essential to ensure that the phono preamp does not interact in an adverse manner with the complex source impedance presented by the phono cartridge. See the article starting on page 18 here:

          Test data following the article revealed that at least one phono preamp demonstrated a worst case interaction with a phono cartridge resulting in a +4dB peak at 10kHz followed by a drop off to -4dB at 20kHz. One might expect that contemporary phono preamp designers are aware of and take into account this effect, but without corroborating measurements thereís no way to be certain.

          Choosing an appropriate phono cartridge stylus shape is also necessary to maintain flat/extended high frequency response across the entirely of the disc. The closer the stylus tip approaches a conical/spherical shape, the greater the drop off in high frequency response as the stylus reaches the inner grooves. By contrast, a stylus shape such as the Shibata is the best in this regard. The effect can be seen in this test report comparing the Ortofon 2M Black and 2M Bronze cartridges:

          The reduction in high frequency response from the inner grooves for the 2M Black model (with a Shibata stylus) is evident starting at about 10kHz whereas for the 2M Bronze model (with a less extreme FineLine stylus) the effect starts at about 6kHz.

          Regarding the audibility of record surface noise, refer to this post:

          Supposedly ticks/pops can cause the cartridge to generate some very high frequency signals which can drive a phono preamp into overload. Such an overload condition is presumed to exaggerate the audibility of surface noise. Itís proposed that the phono preamp must be able process input signals out to 200 kHz, without overloading, to avoid this phenomenon.

          The quoted marketing claim that a MC-type cartridge represents a technically superior solution because it can exhibit a wider high frequency response than a MM-type could be disproved by the example of those MM cartridges designed for the obsolete CD-4 four-channel LP system, which had a frequency response out to 50kHz.

          This article explores some of the differences between MM and MC cartridges:
          It mentions that, in the opinion of several recording engineers, MM cartridges (specifically the Stanton 881, Technics EPC-100 and Audio-Technica ATML-170) provide reproduction from LP records that is closest to the sound of the master tape. [Although those three cartridges are discontinued, Audio-Technica currently offers (for about Ä 350) the AT150MLX. The main difference between the two cartridges is that the AT150MLX has a boron cantilever while the ATML-170 had one formed from beryllium.] It goes on to suggest that MC cartridges may actually enhance certain aspects of the sound from records in a subjectively appealing manner, while not being fully faithful to the original recording, as would a MM cartridge.
          Last edited by IMF+TDL; 02-11-2014, 11:54 PM. Reason: Added link to MM vs. MC article


          • #6

            This fits with my experience as well. Good observations. The ability to adjust the loading and also the gain is absolutely critical. I also think that the moving magnet cartridge is the more attractive option for the reasons you have suggested.

            I guess I have a biased because I feel the moving coil cartridges are heavily marketed toward audiophiles. Usually I steer clear of that type of thing. Also as you have observed the cartridge and its corresponding loading re EQ's the music. That's not entirely a desirable thing also. A digital device does not do that. You hear exactly what was intended in a foolproof way.


            • #7
              More observations

              Well, I went and listened to thr Eur.2000+ MC cartridge on another system, with unknown speakers and diffrent discs. But when the cymbals were played, again, it sounded like a steam train's ssssssssshhhhhhssssss not zzzzzziiiiinnnng. However, a Eur.350 MC cartridge sounded very much more open, so I do not think we can over-generalise and say that all MC cartridges, as a class, are lacking in top, to my taste. But why someone would pay five times as much for less (treble) is a mystery.

              There is, I suspect, a much bigger issue lurking here. We old-hand hifi listeners have long adapted to the reality of attempting to reproduce the sound of the recording in our homes, and the illusion - and it it nothing more than that for us, no more than a clever card trick or stage disappearing act or pulling a rabbit out of a hat - is so familiar that we have perhaps lost a sense of incredulity. Perhaps we just do not plonk ourselves in front of some music and ask ourselves to be honest about grading the sound against what we would hear in real life. Yes, I know that it's a completely different experience, but the spectral balance should, logically be similar even if the two speakers cannot fill the room with a true 3D concert hall emersive experience.

              But here we are in 2014, well into the digital age, and the system sound that seems to be aspired to is far from natural. There just does not seem to be any inner resolution, and worse, the public are seemingly unconcerned by that. Yes, there is bass, mid and top in relative balance, but what happened to the fresh, openness of the concert hall experience? What I'm struggling with is, do audiophiles have enough or even any exposure to unamplified natural sound at all, or is their entire diet, and therefore reference point, reproduced sound and reproduced sound with a rolled-off top?

              I'm really curious as to how one finds the words to engage with general audiophiles as to why they can spend so much time and money on what to my ears is an experience far, far, removed from the freshness of live sound, and be wholly satisfied with that. Not a reserved satisfaction and an open acceptance that it's an illusion and a barely convincing one at that, but as far as I can tell, complete satisfaction. At least the Harbeth customers who have approached me seem acutely aware that their investment has approximated to live sound, at least capturing the essential flavour and is about as good as it gets (they say) despite the simplistic cosmetics and modest price. One wonders if a time machine was made available and it could flip you between the actual concert hall during the recording and the replay of the very same note at home, how shocking the difference would be, and how many would reject the reproduced experience entirely, or even, and this is a thought, reject the live experience as happened to me once when I took some guests to a live concert!

              Another curiosity concerns demographics. It would seem that the typical audiophile is nearer to 60 than 50, and we know from internationally accepted audiology reports that the average male of that age will be significantly less sensitive to high frequency tone, by many dBs. The fact that we are not aware of this steady decay in our hearing is a tribute to both the paucity of our audio memory (we cannot really remembered sound, certainly not over many years) and some overtime effort in our brain to compensate. The point is that this demography of audiophiles above any other sector of the listening public could benefit from a boost at HF yet it would seem, based on this inadequate and incomplete snapshot of the market, that they are being delivered, or expect, or demand, or are told is right for them, a subjectively rolled-off top, the very opposite of what they could benefit from.

              We have an interesting situation. Young people are being delivered a sound which is harder and brighter; many mature audiophiles are fascinated by a soft, easy sound. How is the speaker designer supposed to satisfy both markets?
              Alan A. Shaw
              Designer, owner
              Harbeth Audio UK


              • #8
                Tailoring the sound

                Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                Well, I went and listened to thr Eur.2000+ MC cartridge on another system, with unknown speakers and diffrent discs. But when the cymbals were played, again, it sounded like a steam train's ssssssssshhhhhhssssss not zzzzzziiiiinnnng. However, a Eur.350 MC cartridge sounded very much more open, so I do not think we can over-generalise and say that all MC cartridges, as a class, are lacking in top, to my taste. But why someone would pay five times as much for less (treble) is a mystery...
                It seems to me that cartridge manufacturers may not be aspiring to flat frequency responses but are tailoring the sound to suit what they perceive they or the customer wants. Do these cartridges state their frequency response curves at all within the packaging?


                • #9
                  Design a flat response with HF boost or cut

                  Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                  We have an interesting situation. Young people are being delivered a sound which is harder and brighter; many mature audiophiles are fascinated by a soft, easy sound. How is the speaker designer supposed to satisfy both markets?
                  I think the goal of any manufacturer has to be as flat a frequency response as possible. Then if it is possible to give a switch with HF boost or cut, that may be an answer. As I am approaching 60 it would be nice to know that some speaker manufacturers were catering for loss of HF by providing a HF boost switch. This could only be done if there was a fairly uniform way in which loss of HF response with age occured. I would not expect a manufacturer to design something to suit my ears alone.

                  Historically some speakers have had these sort of features from some manufactuers, but usually the HF boost/cut has been provided to tailor the speakers response to suit "live" or "dead" rooms. It would be novel to have "age compensation HF boost", or (heaven forbid) "audiophile HF boost".


                  • #10
                    Sold a pup

                    I think Alan there is a huge issue here that you have rightly zeroed in on. Many audiophiles have been sold on this idea of poorly performing cartridges as well as grossly under powered flea watt amps. The limited frequency response range as well as added distortion, and no dynamics is the furthest thing from a life like musical experience I can think of.


                    • #11
                      Too complicated to be bothered?

                      Cartridge manufacturers invariably state the frequency response and the required loading. It's the amplifier manufacturers who often ignore the loading by providing just one fixed load, which may or might not suit the chosen cartridge.

                      Magazine reviewers rarely go to the trouble of selecting phono stages, phono stage loads or cartridges when conducting their 'tests'.


                      • #12
                        The merry-g-round of commerce

                        This newly expressed concern by Alan impinges on several points and aspects of my audio journey, and without wishing to be indulgent, I feel mine illustrates some audiophile and media prompted 'merry-go-rounding', and a loss of the scent of 'right path', in the pursuit of accuracy.

                        In my early 20s I had a Garrard Zero/100 deck and used a Goldring G800SE cartridge running through a Quad 33 preamp. I responded to an ad. selling a second hand G900SE which I bought from a local man I had met in the Hi-Fi dept. of a large store. I went to his home and heard it playing with an SME arm and a Thorens TD150 with small Kefs, but the sound, although good was only 'OK'.

                        I went home and after fitting the purchased cartridge, my sound improved considerably, the tracking also improving due to increased compliance, and I invited the seller to come and listen on my system using Tannoy Gold Lancasters, and we played The Year of The Cat LP. He was astounded at the better sound of my system, and this despite the rather cheap mass produced record deck.

                        In about '86 I bought Joan Amatrading's "Shouting Stage", and remember well the lovely shimmering cymbals played at the end of each verse of that track, which I loved, it being very open and forgive me, 'airy'.

                        A few years later I became cajoled by 'cultural hearsay' into being a Linn owner, and went through a series of MC cartridges, low compliance suddenly being in vogue for some unknown reason, and non of which seemed to produce that lovely openness of the G900SE which was a MM. These including an OC21, a change in tone arm to an RB300 from the Linn Ittock, and finally I have ended up with a Denon DL304 which is not cheap.

                        I have never had that lovely open sound I initially had from the G900SE since that time, despite numerous changes of equipments, much better speakers and amplifiers, and although spectrally it now seems reasonably close to CD sound it is not appealing. My preamp does have numerous input adjustments for matching, but there are so many variables in vinyl replay that it seems impossible to rigorously clarify what is causing what in the situation.

                        One does have to wonder what one has done, how much going round in circles and wasting of money one has done; my only reason now for keeping vinyl replay is because of the material I have, not as a preferential replay medium choice.
                        (My personal ear top end loss is now considerable, my right ear sloping off at about 4k).


                        • #13
                          After thousands of live performances ....

                          Non technical thoughts, in random order.

                          1. The audio industry/press marketing machine seems to be obsessed with speaker low end frequencies. To us classical and jazz fans the top end is more critical. What a relief to have a discussion about the top end of the audio spectrum.

                          2. I always found 1. above somewhat ironic given its dependency on room acoustics and speaker placement, which is not an issue with the top end.

                          3. I had my ears tested 2 years ago at age 49 and was given the all OK, I recall up to 12.5khz.

                          4. Speakers and turntables are the most visible units in an audio system, and hence the most likely to be subject to the purchaser's style/looks bias. Turntables are probably top of the list in that regard. My choice of turntable was based on its manufacturing credentials and simplicity - it can be up an running from the box arriving inside an hour. I find the idea of needing a technician to set up a piece of audio equipment absolutely barmy.

                          5. Before SHL5+ I had transmission line speakers. (Let's not go there again.) I did agree with AS that (my) TL's have a rising top end, one reason for getting rid of them, and an issue discussed with hifi_Dave at the SHL5+ demonstration.

                          6. Hifi_Dave's demonstration was, at my choice, from his admirable analogue source equipment, including the 834P phono stage, which I is I believe the best selling quality phono stage in the UK ever. I didn't hear any roll-off in the demo.

                          7. A rising top end makes music like Vivaldi, Albinioni, harpsichord and violin solo music wearing after extended listening. The discussion with Hifi_Dave was that with the SHL5+ the top end is still there, it is just not as forward as with some/many modern speakers, which emphasise the top end by accident (TL) or design (audio bling, you could call it).

                          8. My cymbals crash, they don't sound like a wet rag.

                          9. Surface noise can be, to practical effect, entirely eliminated so that the limiting factor is the quality of the pressing. [Vinylphiles - move on to 10 at this point.] The issue is mostly static, not dirt. A good RCM is really essential (I use a Loricraft) and poly lined sleeves. Most record brushes add static. I rarely use one, just purchased a rather handy brush that removes static and minor dust accumulation. The stylus should be kept clean, I use my camera blower and one of those washable tacky pads. So a little care can eliminate the issue that is often considered the biggest set-back compared to a digital source. It also has the advantage that I have bought junk-heap records and, after washing with a kitchen sponge and Fairy, then water, then a spin on the Loricraft, have come out like new.

                          10. The phono stage is, it seems, absolutely critical. I bought a turntable with two arms, and had a minimalist quality phono stage made with separate mm and mc inputs, the mc gain set for my cartridge. The only switches are the power on/off and the mm/mc selector. It transpires that there is a little too much gain, which will be fixed by a simple re-wiring of the SUT or a gain switch, when I get round to it. I think there is a real advantage of having a made-to-measure phono stage, to ensure compliance and to avoid a lot of unnecessary switching in the signal path, that with such a small signal should be as short as possible.

                          11. I bought a reputable mc cartridge and found it a bit harsh, so changed to one a little warmer by no less detailed, which I will stick with. As noted above, the turntable has a second, cheaper arm for interchangeable headshells. It normally has a mono cartridge on it. With mono records, this is a real bonus. (With a mono cartridge, the Beatles mono set does sound fantastic).

                          12. I also have a mm cartridge on its own headshell that I rarely use, but which I can run at the same time as the mc. Following AS's comments, I will put on some violin sonatas and Albinioni concertos to compare the top end.

                          13. It staggers me what some people spend on SUT's. The chap from Audio Note told me recently that the AN8 costs about £8,000 as it is hand-wound from the finest silver wire by Buddhist monks who only work every third Tuesday afternoon (or something like that).

                          14. As someone who has gone to thousands of live performances, I am happy that the SHL5+ perform convincingly over classical, jazz and modern music (light rock, Americana, whatever). It doesn't do heavy rock for me, but such music "live" is not a natural sound anyway.

                          I recently acquired a reissue copy of "The Wild Bull" by Morton Subodnick, his second album, his first (Silver Apples on the Moon) being the first ever work primarily composed on a synthesizer, the Buchla 100, which wiki says is now residing in the Library of Congress. Although composed on tape, it was issued on LP, CDs not existing in 1969. I understand it was as much an experiment as to what could be achieved from a purely electronically originated signal. This LP produces the most extraordinary holographic sound from the SHL5+, floor to ceiling and with huge depth and incredible tonal control (which is what this "music" is about). I mention this because if AS is worried about needing different speakers for different media and genres, in my view he really should not worry.

                          {Moderator's comment: Alan actually has owned Silver Apples since it was first issued. nonesuch label he recalls?}


                          • #14
                            They're already doing it!

                            Originally posted by Jeff_C View Post
                            I think the goal of any manufacturer has to be as flat a frequency response as possible. Then if it is possible to give a switch with HF boost or cut, that may be an answer. As I am approaching 60 it would be nice to know that some speaker manufacturers were catering for loss of HF by providing a HF boost switch.
                            To my ears, the majority of modern speakers already feature a permanently connected 'HF boost switch', which is one reason they sound so relentless and harsh. For confirmation, just take a look at some of the curves published in Hi-Fi News and Stereophile.


                            • #15
                              Test signals

                              Originally posted by ssfas View Post

                              {Moderator's comment: Alan actually has owned Silver Apples since it was first issued. nonesuch label he recalls?}
                              Correct. If ever "music" could serve as a test signal, this might be it.