Last Updated 25 Oct 2009

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Hi-Fi

I've had a love of Hi-Fi since being a young lad. In fact, from being s amall boy, I was always keen on listening to music through transistor radios and a reel-to-reel tape player that my parents got from somewhere.  Soon enough, I had my own portable record player and when I started working, one of my very first purchases was a "Hi-Fi" in the form of a music-centre with an "S" shaped tonearm. Wow!!

I listened through headphones a lot in those days because no one else in the house shared my love of loud music. I can picture my headphones now - they had white plastic headshells and slider controls on the side for volume and tone. hahahaa. Classic!

Over the years I've had plenty of different hobbies and interests but few have lasted the distance. Music and Hi-Fi however, have always been an important part of my life and depending on how much disposable income I've had, I've always strived to get the best hi-fi I could afford.  In the early days I used to pay a great deal of attention to the ramblings and recommendations of magazines like What Hi-Fi but these days I'm much more sensible and use my own judgement based on the opinions of "real" people and auditioning. How many people were suckered into placing a sheet of pure white paper underneath their components because hi-fi mags said there was a sonic improvement?

Over the years I've really struggled with the need for true fidelity during playback of music and the desire for the big movie experience. I tried AV processors tied in with "proper" hi-fi and then I tried full blown AV amps and switched backwards and forwards until I was dizzy - never happy with the idea of playing music through AV amps and never happy that my movie experiences were lacking when I didn't have an AV amp.

Eventually, I realised that most of my misgivings about using an AV amp were based on what other people thought about it. Who cares about other people?? So I sold my pre/powers and bought a Yamaha DSP-AX757SE UK

The big Yamaha has a "PURE DIRECT" mode which bypasses all the electronic trickery of the DSP, leaving a big, punchy, clean and musical sound. Apparently, this model was designed purely with the UK listener in mind and it shows. When fed with a decent source such as the Linn LP12 or the Marantz CD-17KI, it really shines. It handles the B&W P6 speakers with complete authority and control.

Right from being a young lad, I was always hankering for a Linn LP12. They were always pie in the sky for me because there was a family to look after, cars to run, house to keep, etc, etc. But now that I'm older and have a little more disposable income, I have been able to buy one. It's a mint Valhalla model fitted with a Basik Plus arm. When I got it, it had a Rega Elys cartridge which sounded awful, so I installed a Goldring 1042 which totally changed things.

Because the turntable has to be located about 4 metres away from the amp, there was an audible hum due to the long cable run. Luckily, I was able to overcome this completely by installing a high-grade Van-Damme cable with Neutrik connectors. This completely eliminated the hum. You get what you pay for! The Linn signal was fed into a Lehmann Audio Black Cube Phono Stage. Note that this is the new 2006 model which has an improved PCB with much uprated components. Additionally, it has an XLR connector between it and the power-supply which makes upgrading to their PSX incredibly easy (if you can find the money to do it).

Although the LP12 sounded good, I could tell there was something more to be had from it without too much effort. The Valhalla power-supply was upgradable in a number of ways but all the Linn options were incredibly expensive, so looking elsewhere, I came across the Hercules Mk2. This is basically a copy of the Valhalla supply but much more up to date and uses much higher-spec components. Additionally, it provides a 45rpm option without the need to fit adaptors - it's controlled through the switch! Neat.

I bought a Hercules II from Stamford Audio and set about fitting it. Installation was a breeze and took no more than 10 minutes.

While I had the deck stripped down, I decided (with some reluctance and anxiety) to replace the suspension with new. Although this deck had been to House of Linn in Manchester earlier in the month for a checkover and reset, upon scrutiny I began to wonder what they'd actually done for their fee. The armboard (I'd not really noticed before) was up at one end, down at the other and leaning to the right. The oil in the bearing cup was horrible and looked like it had just come out of an Austin 7. My mind was made up - I was gonna tackle the job myself.

I printed off the Setup Guide in the VE FAQ section and studied the chassis and suspension. I had always thought that setting up the suspension on a Linn was always done by specially gifted men who were paid vast fees for their services (yes, Linn dealers). But when you get down to it, it's really quite logical.

When I'd finished, the armboard was perfectly level with the plinth from all aspects. Tapping the platter vertically produced a nice bounce with no lateral movement at all. It seemed to be correct - the proof would be in the pudding!

I reassembled everything, plugged the deck back in and played a hi-grade copy of Steely Dan's Aja. 1st track - Black Cow.

WOW!!!! It sounded magnificent! Pity really that I changed the power-supply and the suspension at the same time, cos I don't know which job had the most impact on the sound. Anyway, who cares? It sounds fab!
And I'm a very happy chappy.

Soon, the Linn will be fitted with a beautiful Afromosa plinth and will be mounted on a wall-stand attached to a load bearing wall to provide complete isolation. Next upgrade might be an Ittok tonearm, although right now, I'm thinking money would be better spent on buying more vinyl and enjoying the sound I've already got!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

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All image and text are Copyright protected. Tom McQuiggan 2009