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General Meeting Reports for 2000 Return to Index
December 2000 Members DIY Night

No report as such but plenty of nice photos of members DIY gear for you to look at in the Photographs and Memories page.

October 2000 Synergy Audio Visual presented by Philip Sawyer

It was the October General Meeting of the Club, where two men in black suits were sitting to one side of the front stage patiently waiting to be introduced. A nervous stuttering of feet from the Club members accompanied the introduction. Were they from the Tax Department, secret agents from some obscure Audio Society, or just two Mormons who needed to rest their tired feet? Alas, it was just Phil and Sam from Synergy Audio Video, our guest presenters for the month.

Synergy Audio Visual are the importers of a number of well-known English Hi-fi manufacturers of which Rega would be the most comprehensive. They custom design and manufacture their own drivers that go in their speakers, are world renown for their Rega Turntable and the engineering skill of the Rega tone arm. With a staff of 50 people they have developed a number of amplifiers and had waited 10 years before releasing their first CD player onto the world market.

Phil explained to us that Rega is very much a musically oriented company, and that the owner takes a personal interest in designing the different speakers in their range. In Australia the Rega speakers start at $800 and go up to $3,500. Creek Audio is another English producer that has established itself on the world market and along with Cable Talk, are recent additions to the Synergy AV stable.

A new name in the Australian market is Alchemist Audio. Set up by three audio engineers, who took a cavalier approach in 1992 and designed their electronics with a truly individual styling that make you love or hate its looks. Personally, I like the look of the amplifiers and CD layer, and its gold buttons and knobs, blue LED blowing like a jewel. Who said Audio had to be black, plain, boring boxes?

Phil and Sam had brought with them to the Club a number of amplifiers and speakers that made up three different systems for us to listen too. (Refer to the end of this article for a listing of the three systems.)

The first system comprised of a 40 watt per channel Creek Integrated amp with a matching CD player. The amp is unique for its class in that it has a passive pre-amp section, that is mated to a high current Mosfet output stage. With a 120 Va toroidal transformer and a 20,000 f capacitor reserve it is able to put out 370 watts dynamic peak output into a 1 ohm load. This little amp has also received a number of favourable reviews from around the world, with Stereophile giving it the Budget Product of the Year Award for 1998.

The Creek CD player runs a Sony laser transport matched to a Crystal Semiconductor CS 4390 delta-sigma digital to analogue converter, boasting a 24 bit resolution. A high quality master clock generator has been employed to keep jitter as low as possible. A pair of Rega Alya speakers finished off this $4,000 system. Standing just two feet away these petite two way speakers with their 5 inch mid/woofer had surprisingly filled the hall with sound that was sweet and warm. The guitar track from a Nairn CD sampler had a nice rounded tone, while the classical track from Hayden’s Symphony No 6, reproduced a sweet sounding string section. These little speakers were also able to give a sense of depth to this recording. On female vocal track, Cassandra Wilson’s voice had a very realistic presentation with the usual sibilance while the speakers showed up the typical bass boom on her album.

System 2 was a full Rega package costing $4,500, with a Planet CD player, Mira Integrated amp and Jura speakers. These 2 feet tall, two way speakers have 6 inch mid range driver that gave the Naim guitar track a rather boxy sound. There was more body to the instrument, but at the same time sounding less dynamic on playing of the strings. TO me, this system lacked a sense of pace and rhythm.

The last system for the night, comprised of an Alchemist Forseti Integrated amp and matching CD player. The 100 watt per channel amp was tri-wired to a pair of Epos ES22 speakers. These dual ported one metre tall speakers are called a 2 way design. With two mid/bass drivers and a tweeter at the top of the box, they employ a first order cross over. As a total system for $11,000, we were expecting a sonic presentation that matched its price.

A Phillip Glass track with its multiple layering was noticeably reproduced from the mix, there was a distinct ability to separate the different instruments without creating an analytical presentation. A piece from the "Truman" movie soundtrack had a combination of a driving bass lien with a tom-tom beat. The texture of both instruments were clearly defined with the tom-toms having a realistic transient snap every time they were hit.

A number of vocal tracks were played, one consisting of Iggy Pop on a jazz compilation CD. This was more of a commercial sounding CD with vocal presentation being rather upfront and sibilant. Nevertheless, the system did not sound edgy or bright. Christine Sullivan, a local singer, who has an emotionally charged expression to her voice was rather upfront and dry sounding on her "Blume" CD. But, this was not the system’s fault, but rather the way she was recorded on this album. You could say this system was very revealing but never analytical.

The last track for the night was a guitar piece, which had an elegant detail on the strings while the body of the instrument was realistically reproduced without any boominess or overhang.

Very rarely do we have the opportunity to listen to three different systems on the one night. Sometimes, with demos at the Willis Room, it gets a bit tiring listening to the one system all night. Some of us tend to leave after supper, or wonder out the back to catch up with other members, which leaves half of the number of people on the night to listen to the rest of the evening. Fortunately, with a different variety of equipment, our interest as a group was held to the last of the presentation, suggesting to me that it was a successful night. I was approached by a few members who remarked on the professional presentation and the co-ordinated setup. Somehow, the black suits did help a bit!

We are truly grateful to Phil and Sam from Synergy Audio Visual for putting together a very enjoyable night for the Melbourne Audio Club.

Nick K

System 1:

Creek A-4330R Integrated Amplifier
Creek CD-43 MkII CD Player
Rega Alya Speakers
Cable Talk Cables & Interconnects


System 2:

Rega Mira Integrated Amplifier
Rega Planet CD Player
Rega Jura Loudspeakers
Cable Talk Cables & Interconnects

System 3:

Alchemist Furseti Integrated Amplifier
Alchemist Furseti CD Player
Epos ES 22 Loudspeakers
Cable Talk Cables & Interconnects

Synergy can be contacted:

By phone: (03) 9427 8384
E-mail: philip@synergy-audio.com
And their web page is www.synergy-audio.com

September 2000 Arthur Rappos Elektra Audio

Arthur Rappos gave us a valuable insight into the technicalities of the new formats of SACD and DVDA. With SACD having a 2.8Mbit/s data rate, vs DVDA being PCM at various rates - the 24/192kHz scheme offering 1.6x SACD rates in theory. Arthur told us about ‘upsampling’ which in his opinion, was really just a marketing name for oversampling. Further he claimed the decimation process of converting lower sample rates to higher ones would create digital artifacts which would be at around -90dB from the signal, worse than the original waveform.

The Pioneer DVX10 ($5k, universal DVD/DVDA/CD/SACD player) demoed the first sampler SACD of the evening via Arthur’s custom high bandwidth amplifier design. The theory here is that to avoid phase anomalies as a result of the low pass filters effectively used in 20kHz amp designs, the bandwidth needs to stretch to beyond multiples of this, due to filter theory. (A 3dB roll off implies a 90dgs out of phase relationship in a first order filter). Arthur also sources capacitors made to his specifications for low microphonics, ESR and have been proven via his research to be exceptionally musical along with Bipolar transistors, which are said to be easier to work with. The Elektra Reference retails at $2900 via Trevor Lees. Other support included Sony’s 555 used as a passive pre, Sony SACD1 player ($5k) and last, Arthur’s prototype DAC and speakers, interconnects and cables and active Infrasub for bottom end duties.

Personally I found the first sampler disc a bit sterile, especially compared to the second SACD used. It goes to show, nothing has changed regarding the potential of the recording engineer and masterer to make or break a great (SA)CD.

What I noticed with the SACD vs CD comparisons, was a much greater sense of air and naturalness about the performance. The classical pieces in particular which appeared to be recorded in a reverberant acoustic floated in air and seemed entirely natural to my ears. Imaging and depth were available in spades, throughout the room (aided by staggered seating - good idea guys!) The piece with bowed cello and violins was plain annoying on the 16/44.1kHz CD format, but was a delight on SACD.

The $4k super tweeters had many in disbelief that a driver going to ‘inaudible ranges’ would have made any difference. I was not sure where they were crossed in at, however, I heard a distinct improvement having them in the system. Cymbals had more brass and shine with improved decay, everything in the upper ranges was more seamless and involving. Whether that’s worth $4k though, you decide.

We compared the 2 channel DACs in the Pioneer vs Sony vs Arthur’s. The general consensus was that Arthur’s wiped them all! Music was so much more alive, bouncy, rhythmic and voices clearer, richer in harmonics and bass tighter and better controlled. Arthur advises this should retail at around $1400 and will accept all PCM formats up to 192kHz. Keep an eye out for that one. Arthur uses an Analog Devices chip in these and pays attention to the power supply using Nichicon Muse caps.

To my mind, this was the highest quality audio demonstration I’ve ever heard in the Willis Room. Even listening off centre was completely satisfying. Our thanks again to Arthur, Trevor, Sony and Pioneer for supporting a most enjoyable General Meeting.

Arthur Rappos Presentation - Second Perspective

The Gear we listened to included the following, with some indicative retail prices:

Sony SCD 777ES  - $5,899
Sony STRV 555ES  - $2,499
(Only using pre section)
Pioneer DVD-A A-10
Arthur Rappos Elektra Reference "SACD Ready" 2 channel power amp
Arthur Rappos Elektra 24/96 DAC
Sony Super Tweeters  - $4,000 a pair - 2nd order X-over at either 20, 30 or 40 kHz. The X-over was outboard sitting on top of a pair of Elektra Audio full range speakers.

The first track was played on the Pioneer unit, a Roberta Flack number, sounded too bright. Was it the recording or the super tweeters that emphasised the upper frequencies of the recording? I had been standing up at the back when this track was playing, sitting down it had a better balance with reduced high frequency emphasis.

The second track was a funky Etta James number that had a better balanced sound that the first. It was far easier to listen too. I went down to the front chairs to see if the recording suffered from the typical digititus sound - I recognise this as mid-range hash that makes female voice sound like cigarette smokers. I found this track easy to listen too, even at the higher volumes from the front seats, and did not find it uncomfortable after the first minute of listening.

There were a number of other pieces that were played from the DVD-A demo disc that ranged from Piano & Oboe to Harp & Flute arrangements that sounded pleasant to listen too.

We listened to a SACD demo with the super tweeters taken in & out of the speaker system. The sound had a more forward presentation, and there was a greater amount of decay information with the super tweeters operating. Some people in the audience found this a better experience, others were still in two minds about the benefits. What was surprising is that nearly all felt that there was an audible difference with the super tweeter playing, considering that it was coming in at the X-over point of 20kHz.

The last track for the night, Keb Mo - blues singer/guitarist, was a comparison of the DVD-A player and Arthur’s own 24/96 DAC, using a PCM recording to demonstrate the upsampling capabilities of both units. The Pioneer sounded honkey and had a typical studio sound with artificial ambience. The 24/96 DAC had a vocal presentation that seemed to breath, with great palpability. The guitar had a real sense of body with no hollowness.


Arthur can be contacted:

By phone - 03 9882 6309
By e-mail - rappos@onaustralia.com.au
And will soon have a web site operating at www.elektraaudio.com

August 2000 Trevor Lees and SACD

Trevor Lees, complete with overcoat, was our guest for the evening and he had with him one of the new Sony range of SACD players.

These units range from the SCDXB940 (the base model at the meeting) for a mere $1750, up to I think he said about $8,000. I lost interest in the figure, being what it was, and I wasn’t alone in that!

The ancillary gear was a Modulus 3 Audible Illusions Class A, valve preamp with a PS1 outboard power supply; a prototype power amp built by Trevor; and Sonus Faber Electra Amator loudspeakers supplied by our very own Nick K. These tiny two-way units were on stands, all beautifully finished as we have come to expect from this Italian company. The Scandinavian drivers were a Scans Audio bass/mid driver and the Dynaudio Esotar tweeter which goes up to 30 kHz.

The Sony is able to play both normal CDs as well as those encoded at a sampling rate 4 times the standard which is dubbed SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc).

Trevor had with him a number of CDs which had two layers of digital information so that the machine could read either the normal CD format or the SACD - Modern technology - phew!

We began the program listening to the first part of a track from a DPM disc by Manfredo Fest called Just Jobin. Featuring piano, bass and percussion, we heard it as a standard CD then SACD. The differences to this listener were a better representation of depth and space, as well as greater detail.

The second track played was similar instrumentation and most of us were confident that the 2nd time was the SACD. Nick wryly smiled as he told us we were wrong. Groans of disbelief. Nah! Nick had it wrong - we thought.

The next track featured the same instrumentation again with a male vocal. There was general consensus on this track too, and this time we were right.

We continued along this vein with the program material being of similar instrumentation with only minor variation. Those who sometimes preferred the CD version speculated on the SACD revealing some nasties in the recording. A choral track was especially interesting. The sense of the soundstage was improved by SACD.

After supper, we left the comparisons behind and played some favourite tracks on Sony discs which were only encoded in SACD thus preventing comparison:

Dave Brubeck Take 5
Miles Davis Kind of Blue
Steve Davis Quality of Silence
Joe Leonard Salamander Pie
Brahms Symphony No. 4 Bruno Walter

This last mentioned was an old recording by the Columbia Symphony Orchestra which no doubt benefited from the qualities of the better representation of space and detail definition of the SACD format.

An excellent and most interesting evening. The comparisons were about as practicable as these can be at a General Meeting, and all involved are to be congratulated. The sound was excellent though the program somewhat limited, no doubt by the currently available discs.

Thanks to Trevor and Nick K who together presented the program. An excellent and worthwhile effort.

July 2000 Desperately Seeking Lo-Fi

How weird, a Club dedicated to wringing out the last drop of goodness from the music, throwing away 80 per cent of it and trying to persuade itself that it’s a Good Thing. Nevertheless, we were gathered to decide for ourselves whether such shenanigans might lead to at least a tolerable purveyor of convenience music, like a cassette player in the car.

OK so everyone can accept that lossy compression of music is not absolutely sound; but just how close can it get, is it kind of tolerable? Nick K at short notice assembled a group of experts (and me) to firstly explain what’s what, and secondly to listen for ourselves and make our own judgments. I’d been flattered by Matt into being Moderator and spent a frantic week on the Net doing a literature search. It’s amazing how quickly you can get up to speed on a topic, with all the WorldWide Resources there. Instant expert…100% academic, zero per cent practical. And as an apology, kindly note that this was written up afterwards without notes being taken during the meeting. Hence E&OE, caveat emptor, YMMV (‘Your Mileage May Vary’) et al.

Chris M OTOH (that’s 21st century geektalk for ‘On The Other Hand’ of course) is loaded with hands on, err... ears on experience, and his presentation in praise of DTS was educational. Though the repertoire of DTS encoded CDs is limited (try Trevor Lees or North Rd Ormond) Telarc do a number, conventionally $34 but recently MUCH reduced at JB who are apparently unloading them. Chris explained how, like Dolby Digital, they are recorded at a higher bit rate and then processed to increase the resolution at bandwidth extremes, forfeiting some Signal/Noise ratio. When transferred to DVD movie format, some sonic compression is made, else there would be insufficient space for all the media. Chris likes DTS for its high frequency clarity and demonstrated with two pressings of Junior Wells. To some of us, the bass was a good deal weightier, while there seemed somewhat less top end. One could easily question whether some other jigger poker in the mixing would have done that. Boy II Men sounded pretty good all right, but I recall being blown away by the same CD when Chris Lees played it through FOUR Wilson CUBs, while seated in the crossfire, at a hi-fi show a couple of years back. BOY! all right Recorded discretely into four channels, it was a major moment of revelation, that soundfield really worked. Another track, and it was a tinkly twinkly selection of classical orchestral music, "The Planets" (Or should that be "Little Stars").

Doug T, maestro recordist, uses MiniDisk to make his live recordings. Recalling the thrilling result of Doug’s Bon Acchord barbershop quartet at our Christmas do, nobody would slang the results from the approximately 5:1 compression that the newest much improved Sony ATRAC compression formula uses. Magazines like Hi-fi News/RR have compared different MiniDisk machines, and guess what? found them to sound very different one from another. Doug uses not a pocket minimiracle, rather a $600 SONY stand alone recorder. He challenged us to a showdown: his decoder versus anyone’s ears. He told us that nobody has been able reliably to distinguish the input into his machine from its output when run in bypass mode. From which I gather he doesn’t quite mean that there’s no difference between the input and a MD recording of it. Or does he?? Friends, Melbournians, country members, lend me your ears. But no, looking back at Doug’s preamble last month, he does indeed challenge us to differentiate a CD from a Minidisk copy of it. Put your money where your ears are.

Stephen S, technical guru by profession, informed us with a Powerpoint slideshow of the processes and trade-offs in MP3 encoding. All of Stephen’s presentation is up on the club’s Egroups website. In addition, Steven had prepared a CD of the same music recorded at different compression rates (also called "bitrates") and that CD is floating round among members who might want to do things in the privacy of their own homes.

The gist of the theory of sound perception is that one doesn’t hear (and so won’t miss) much of the sound, particularly when it’s shadowed by something louder. How they choose what’s not important-well, different codecs (formulas) for different folks. Also there’s Fletcher-Munson threshold discarding, the mono "stereo" cheat, and the Huffman coding, which itself compresses some data without loss.

There’s MP3 which generally came out as most favoured (following Dolby Digital & DTS) in the June HFN/RR blind comparison, in which test tracks were encoded with several compression systems, each at a series of compression ratios. On the Internet, when Jimmy downloads the Smashed Punk Ones playing ‘Crash Bang, thank you Sam’ and plays it back over his computer speakers, "CD-Quality" is arguably correct. You can’t tell the difference between a squashed cat and a possum on the roadway. Plus there are different manifestations of MP3 encoding. Some people say which one you use doesn’t matter. Some people who read Choice say all CD players sound the same.

So how can one become instantly erudite? To jump in among the young gurus, hang around the Internet discussion group (not music source however) alt.music.mp3. You’ll get discussion on Fraunhofer, the German institute who did most to instigate the system, Blade vs. LAME encoding, there’s the less well-regarded X-ing, Sonique & WinAmp (the most ubiquitous player) and RealAudio. MusicMatch is a favourite encoder, as is Nero (who fiddled while burning CDs). Go figure THEN go to a very complete MP3 FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) by Xorys (Net people are like that) at: http://webhome.idirect.com/~nuzhathl/mp3-faq.html. Then goto http://www.mp3-faq.org/ for more answers to questions you didn’t know existed.

Our nethead member Gordon L who was also prepared well for enlightening us on the night, had an unfortunate motor incident on his way to the meeting, which is a pity, because he’s right on top of the subject too. Talk to him at the next meeting, perhaps. Robert Carbone, a longtime computer guru and Internet music expert came along as a special guest, and perhaps wondered what sort of motley misfits he’d let himself in for. Not for long, because he showed himself to have the soul of a true audio wanker and intuitive understander of Secret Men’s Business. He played Eagles ‘Hotel California,’ initially straight off the CD then from most compressed (64kbps, worse even than your tranny in the shower) progressively through to 320kbps (acceptable in the same way that a Big Mac is reminiscent… or did I already mention that?) with more treble coming through with each step up.

The matter of copyright and piracy and ethics naturally arose. Both Robert and Rui G pointed out how they actually purchased more CDs since being able to sample them over such sources as Napster ( www.napster.com which has had a legal reprieve) and disperse programs such as Gnutella which would be harder to shut down. Poor students who did most of the ripping off probably wouldn’t have been in a financial position to buy CDs in the first place, hence moans about lost revenue are overstated.

Peter A

June 2000 Presidential Prerogative

Following the June AGM, in a timeband that’s traditionally difficult to predict in advance due to uncertainty regarding the length of time it takes to enact club business, we were entertained by music and equipment from members own resources.

President Matt supplied a "walk down Memory Lane" selection of tunes harking back to his (misspent?) youth. Unexpectedly eschewing the loud crashing noises he’s known to delight in we heard:

Julie London Cry Me A River
Ray Charles Makin’ Whoopee
Van Morrison Who Drove The Red Sports Car?
Joan Baez What Have They Done To The Rain?
Crosby, Stills & Nash Lady Of The Island
Don McLean Chain Lightning

Though originally recorded in 1967 the Super Bit Mapping CD Van Morrison offering was dynamic and impressive. Members so enjoyed Don McLean’s Chain Lightning that, to the President’s great surprise, several clapped loudly when it finished. Great taste must be contagious!

During the break one or two members expressed the view that a greater musical range e.g. some Classical, Jazz and/or hot Funk would have demonstrated other qualities of the system used. A fair call. However, since this part of the evening was, to some degree, President Matt’s nostalgia trip it was agreed he’d done OK with his selections.

The club member supplied system was intriguing. Lewis M provided his custom design dual mono pre amp (NO it’s NOT a toaster!), power supply, full range Fostex speakers in his unique Bass reinforcement cabinets and the new DIY twisted coax speaker cables. He also scored the top class Meridian 508 CD player for our listening enjoyment. Hugh D brought along a prototype of his new AKSA 75 wpc SS kitset amplifier fully installed with power supply in an open top case. Peeking in one could see the design was simplicity itself.

Though the entire assembly looked small in comparison to some of the monsta systems we’ve seen and heard in the Willis Room it was more than equal to the task of taming this acoustically ornery room.

So how did it all sound?

Hugh summed up the result well. The demonstration was synergistic and musical. The audiophilic nature in us tends to desiccate parameters subjectively one by one which might not convey the result, which was definitely more than the sum of its parts. What we heard was:

A warm, non fatiguing sound free of solid state nasties
It conveyed emotion, something not easy to do without tubes
Snappy transients, with good dynamic swings
It threw a wide coherent stage especially further rear in the hall.

The bass was solid, but a bit tubby overall (I suspected a lowered damping factor than a typical solid state design) and/or a little high in level (personal taste no doubt, and room notwithstanding).

Some may have liked a touch more definition in the highs (a little thick generally). It’s a delicate balance though between detail and fatigue, and this system certainly did not fatigue. I do think a tube pre might have offered better fore/aft imaging (depth), but that’s largely a personal preference.

Speakers performed credibly for a single cone design and Lewis coaxed substantial bass out of a driver not nearly known for this kind of bottom end reproduction. I loved the hammer paint finish too - in Lewis’ usual style - top notch finish, retro and definitely "Groovy baby".

The coax speaker cables certainly help in that regard and let’s not forget that lovely Meridian CD player.

Hugh’s kit is a tour de force in well engineered (and subjectively tested), great sounding DIY projects. Interested members could do themselves a favour by adding a $100 or so power supply to his kitset and tweak around with components to fine tune what is in every sense, a musical bargain.

May 2000 ELAC and MELODY - German Precision meets Vivacious Valves

This meeting was originally intended to showcase both the Melody range of tube amplifiers and Elac’s speakers. Due to an unfortunate last minute change in circumstances, Melody had to postpone their attendance to another date which we are eagerly looking forward to. Our heartfelt thanks to Elac’s National Sales and Marketing Manager Mike Levi for helping us out at the eleventh hour by providing not only two pair of Elac bookshelf/mini monitor speakers and their amazing Hi Tech stands but also his top of range Sony XA7 CD player plus his trusty tweaked 350 wpc Soundcraftsman power amplifier. This intriguing combination of old and new was further complemented by one of the 60’s classic Scott tube pre amplifiers.

Also our thanks to club members Wally R and Hugh D for providing a privately owned 35 wpc Melody integrated and Coral Flat Fives demonstrated later in the evening. This enabled us to partially honour our advertised programme of Melody and Elac.

The Elacs redefine state of the art in appearance. Their brushed aluminium features and 6mm thick aluminium extruded cabinet are complemented by an intricate vernier adjustment system which gives close to ideal acoustic isolation with a striking technical appearance. The woofer is a pistonic layered pulp cone with aluminium bonded centre and a lamellar foil ribbon tweeter with some seven rare earth magnets. The stands, just as modern as the speakers themselves incorporate a clever speaker cable retention system as well as the ability to attach to the speakers via a bi threaded link. Additionally they are fillable for improved stability and acoustics. Efficiency is stated at 88dB/W/m.

Enough of the specifications - we heard some fantastic music - here’s most of the play list:

Phase 1: (Elacs and solid state power amplifier, tube pre)

Aaron Neville, Feels Like Rain - engaging male vocal.

Stevie Ray Vaughan, Couldn’t Stand The Weather, title track + Stang’s Swang - the first was a bit busy, the second demonstrated this systems ability to handle percussion.

Clark Terry, Mr Mumbles (Live at the Village Gate), title track - super, very live, one of those "must have" Jazz recordings.

The following selection of music aimed to cater for a wide variety of music genres. Whilst not all to everyone’s taste, an interesting program nonetheless:

Steely Dan, Two Against Nature, Jaco Steel - upbeat formulaic composition with boppy horns in support. Patricia Barber, Companion, The Beat Goes On - roll over Sonny, tough titty Cher. Love that Hammond B3.

Frank Zappa, Yellow Shark, The Be Bop Tango - cool for musically adventurous souls, a nightmare for our conservatives

Sara K., Hobo, Brick House - an ambient acoustic recording of this classic soul tune. Some missed a bit of vocal presence here.

Nitin Sawhney, Beyond Skin, Homelands - World meets Ambience. Who won? An acclaimed UK album. Leonard Bernstein, Royal Philamonic circa 1965, How Sweet The Night - Soothing. Showed the systems ability to handle massed voices and strings

Dave Weckl, Synergy, High Life - A dynamic fusion track, filled with pulsing rhythms

Thoughts on the above system:

Excellent lateral imaging. Very dynamic. The small enclosure produced a surprising amount of bass, although at times it seemed a little tubby in the Willis Room. The recovery of detail with this ribbon is credible although some believed it could be better suited to a tube amplifier which was trialed in the next section. On less than pristine recordings sometimes the tweeter was less forgiving than say, a silk dome. The solid state amp provided plenty of gusto although was seen to clip on occasion - filling a moderately large meeting (as opposed to "lounge") room with music ain’t easy!

A break ensued for club member’s refreshments and to allow members to admire the speakers up close.

Phase 2: (Elacs with Melody Integrated Amplifier)

The 35 wpc Melody was now set up to provide the integrated power amp solution. It’s quite a hefty beast at some 25 odd kilos! Our intrepid club owner has peeked beneath the cover and reports high quality components, precision layout and construction. The music continued under the auspices of Hugh Dean:

Eric Clapton, Unplugged, Old Love

Leonard Bernstein, Royal etc, Greensleeves

Herbie Hancock, Gershwin’s World, The Man That I Love

Greg Brown, Slant 6 Mind, Billy From The Hills

Hugh usefully explained the reasons for each selection in terms of what was being acoustically evaluated.

Some acoustic thoughts:

Improved depth and lateral imaging beyond the speakers. The synergy with the ribbon tweeter was obvious. However, the tube amplifier struggled somewhat to control the bass, as did the room, although the tone was very good. The Greg Brown track identified with this latter point clearly.

In summary: Most probably the style of these Elac speakers as much as anything else are going to determine if they will find a comfortable place within your home or not. The many merits of pistonic woofers and ribbon tweeters were apparent. Coupling with neutral to warm electronics is recommended for best synergy - and indeed the high wattage (say 75 wpc plus) section of the Melody range appears to offer something very much down that path. Those who are lucky enough to be able to consider such pedigreed equipment have good cause to give Elac and Melody dealers visits.

Phase 3: Melody plus horn loaded Coral Flat Fives

A pair of high sensitivity (95 db plus) speakers made by Wally R were demonstrated just to quickly test out the 35 wpc Melody’s performance when presented with a very light load.

Greg Brown repeated.

- Still subdued indicating this particular CD didn’t sit well with either amp/speaker combination.

Stevie Ray Vaughan, Couldn’t stand The weather, Tin Pan Alley - Dynamic and riveting. Couldn’t make a valid comparison with other system combinations used during the evening as it was the only time this track was played.

An excellent evening, well attended by new and intending members. Many present remarked on the overall quality of the night. After 11.00 pm when it came time to pack up there were still some 30 persons present! Again, our thanks to Mike Levi for the opportunity to enjoy Elac’s die cast brushed Aluminium beauties and a thoroughly professional presentation.


March 2000 Trevor Lees Audio - Keeping Up with Digital Audio, Sound and Vision

While most of us, including myself, were expecting a demonstration of digital sound, as on previous occasions Trevor Lees dazzled us with a wealth of information and behind the scene insights into the evolving New Digital Audio industry. He also treated us to the sales pitch of if you like what I say…….come to my shop and I’ll show you.

To be fair there is some sense in this and a week or two later Mogo, Kendrick, a potential new member and yours truly visited Trevor’s house of HI-FI for a superb demonstration of the latest Sony LCD projector. As a retailer it is virtually impossible to set up a short term high quality demonstration in an off site venue with the complexity of today’s digital A/V equipment and expect it to work properly.

Upgrade your A/V Receivers

First up Trevor described a number of DTS and AC-3 upgrades of those of us who already have a multi channel Dolby Pro Logic amplifier or receiver to enable decoding of the digital AC-3 and DTS output from a DVD player. You simply take in your receiver and they will quote on the installation of a new board or chip set upgrade. He passed around one of the small match box sized boards and they appeared to be surface mount technology using large scale semiconductors chips.

True DVD 24bit output? Only Pioneer and a few others…….

If you intend using a DVD player with an A/V compatible receiver it is important to select a DVD player which outputs a true 24bit/96 digital signal as number of players apparently down sample the 24/96 bit digital output to 20/48, presumable for copy protection reasons. According to Trevor the Pioneer DVD range however outputs the full 24/96 signal, while Trevor can modify your DVD players internal digital signal path to give the full digital signal as well

Millennium DTS decoders now only 1/3 the price

If you not quite ready for a DVD player but would like to enter the realm of DTS 5.1 sound the good new is that the Millennium DTS decoder is now only $350 while stocks last.

This black box accepts the Digital output of your CD player and decodes 5.1 channels of analogue output, an has 6 analogue inputs/outputs and a 6 channel volume control to make integration with you existing pre amp fairly straight forward. PS. Mogo has one of these and will vouch for the smooth high quality sound.

MBS 24bit decoders….

If you prefer to use outboard D/A converters and feel you current box is getting a little dated the MBS Link DAC may interest you It has the following features:

96kHz sampling rate. This sampling rate is currently heard only by studio professionals. The Link DAC also operates at 88.2, 48, 44.1, and 32 kHz as well as Optical and coaxial inputs. Most DACs require the user to manually switch inputs, this one is entirely automatic. When no digital signal is present, signals on the analog inputs are passed straight through to the outputs.

The Analog input pass through feature allows a variety of configuration options for your system. This feature allows increased installation flexibility by creating an extra analog input in your system. Phase lock loop for very low jitter clock recovery, provides greater sound detail!

Direct coupled outputs provide incredible bass enhancement.

There are no capacitors anywhere in the signal path, resulting in a linear response all the way down to DC (0 Hz!). An actively maintained low output offset is achieved through a DC Servo Loop. The DC component of the output signal is continuously corrected to maintain zero volts DC without the use of high loss and sound blocking capacitors. Motorola bipolar output buffers provide the listener with rarely achieved accuracy in sound reproduction. Four separate voltage regulators provide ultra clean power. Heavy duty outboard DC power supply keeps noisy AC out of the unit. (About $800 for the latest unit with 24/192 sampling capability)

The demise of HDCD

Such is the pace of technology that the sales of HDCD’s and players has virtually dropped to zero according the Trevor Lees. Five years ago HDCD was all the rage, well I seems the introduction of DTS has swamped this segment of the market.

Delays in production of DVD Audio Discs

As discussed in the Matter Platter of our February issue of MAN , sadly it seems the delays in agreement of the DVD Audio copy protection format are set to continue and to add to our woe’s there is a huge back log in the post production of the of new sound tracks.

According to Trevor Lees it could be 12 months or so before we see a reasonable range of these discs available in this format. (Why is it that the software people always lag behind!)

However, if you would like to be the first with one of the new multi Multi platform Audio players, Pioneer and Panasonic should have them on our shore by August or September 2000 for around $2500.

Digital Sub Output: beware AC3 direct through

It seems that while bass reproduction is quite a topical issue at the moment did you know that the ELF or 0.5 low frequency output should feed direct to your sub woofer amp and not via an outboard crossover. Trevor explained the new AC-3 decoding uses a digital phase error free crossover to automatically filter a low and high pass output for the main and sub outputs.

Surround Sound Speakers ….

While I’m sure you’ve heard all the sales talk before on surround sound speakers Trevor recommends using boxes with two 6" woofers for output and power handling and speaker positioning at ear height on the side wall. Ideally all five main speakers should be full range, identical boxes. Trevor’s boxes use high quality Vifa drivers for around $350 each if purchased as a complete system which is quite reasonable.

High quality Sony V-10 LCD projector Sony $10K 1268 x 800 resolution with built in line quadrupler

Trevor’s trump card for the evening was the latest Sony LCD projector which sports everything you ever wished for on this class of large screen A/V projector for a cool $10K. If you think this is a bit rich most 3 gun tube projectors of equivalent resolution are $15K plus without many of the must have features of the Sony like a built in line quadrupler for the ultimate in picture clarity on the large screen. This box is apparently the best value for money on the market at present if you are interested in setting up a serious home theatre.

As mentioned at the start of this review, despite the absence on an active demonstration, Trevor has a unique style, he is an excellent guest speaker and entertainer and an acknowledged expert in this field. So if you are contemplating the purchase of HI-FI or a new A/V system I recommend that give him a call and visit his shop in Kew. His internet address is http://www.netstra.com.au/~trevlees/

Ian M

February 2000 Something old, something new, something pink something blue

Not quite a marriage made in heaven but almost. We found ourselves back in the 400 seat Theatrette - no excuses here for not being between the speakers - entertained by an extremely eclectic mixture of both gear and music. And it worked amazingly well.

For something old: read one pair of classic Yamaha NS 1000 speakers very kindly provided at short notice by Peter A powered by Ian Mac’s formidably modified Phase Linear 400. Also in this "old" category we could include Peter H’s trusty quadruple power supply and DACs NEC CD player. Something new was, of course, Peter H.’s Cary AE1 preamplifier. AND any tubeophile will testify to the fact that, rather than just a mundane red, high quality tubes have a wondrous mix of reddish pink and blue glows.

This somewhat unusual mix of componentry provided a very satisfying audio experience without noticeable strain in an auditorium where 500 (instead of 200) watts per channel through horn loaded enclosures (rather then infinite baffle boxes) should be the norm.

The evening’s musical feature was Doug T’s mini disc recordings. Unlike conventional CD’s which are bandwidth limited (20 to 20K Hz) digitally compressed and often exaggerated at particular frequencies especially in the bass, Doug’s mini discs deliver it all. The resulting sound, due also to his Blumlein pair microphone recording technique, is exceptionally dynamic and very Live.

First we heard examples of the Bon Acchord Barbershop Quartet recorded at our December general meeting. Bye Bye Blackbird and Please Mr Columbus had our audience toe tapping and chuckling just as we did at December’s live performance. When the December recording took place Doug had set his mikes on high stands expecting Bon Acchord to sing from the raised platform at the front of the Willis room. Instead they performed at floor level several feet forward from the presumed position with the result that Doug’s microphones were then approximately four feet above the group. Despite this far from optimal placement the sound was excellent.

This was followed by extremely high fidelity recordings of: part of the Suite from the movie BABE performed by the Melbourne Youth Orchestra and George Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm performed as a piano solo by Cameron Roberts at St. John’s, Southgate. Considering all the hype surrounding DAT, CD and DVD listening to Doug’s mini disc recordings is a true revelation.

One of the most rewarding aspects of club membership is the opportunity it provides each and every one of us to experience new music through listening to others preferences. To further assist this process Ian had asked selected members to bring a CD or two along to the meeting and do a mini review to share their audio delights with us.

Acoustic music buff Red M has a keen nose for new talent. He played us two tracks from Andy Cowan’s Train I’m On recorded live at last years Dandenong Folk Festival. His two selections were track 4 Rivers and track 7 Train I’m On. Largely vocals and piano and superbly recorded this album is a must buy!

President Matt, ever the heretic, played two versions of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Helplessly Hoping, recorded 30 years apart and asked the audience to guess which was the current and early version. Originally released on their classic 1969 self titled album this track features delicate vocal harmonies. CSN fans guessed the original but no one picked the modern cover by hot new Melbourne pop group Taxiride.

Then it was on to classic Jazz. Surrogate Jazz convenor Malcolm K contributed two pieces from a milestone 50’s performance by greats Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Amrstrong. Listening to them sing Cheek To Cheek I was reminded yet again how magically high fi some of those early mono recordings sound. Jazz recordings in particular seem to have made it through the decades in pristine audio condition. Before sharing his passion for Miles Davis Graham C reminded us that "Jazz is all about musicians learning their craft and playing together in such a way that through their mutual interaction something new is created every performance". He used the example of Miles calling together a group of respected musicians for lunch. Then immediately afterwards taking them into the recording studio, telling them what they were going to play and recording it that same afternoon. The result, as all true Jazz lovers will tell you, is the classic album Kind Of Blue.

Following Miles’ All Blue (track 4), Graham gave us a track from the ABC album Ruby My Dear by Aussie songstress Michelle Nicole also recorded live at the recent Dandenong Music Festival. She had taken as her inspiration a Thelonius Monk melody and put words to it. The end result is an evocative piece in many ways reminiscent of a velvet voice Ella.

Finally, Peter A took us back to the future with an a cappella rendering by the Hi Lows recorded some 40 years ago. This vocal quartet rounded off the evening perfectly as we had started with the Barbershop Quartet Bon Acchord

Matt J

January 2000 Audio Visual Demonstration, Swap Meet

For all those that missed it, the January GM to welcome the New Year, Century, Millennium (or last year of current one) etc. was a relaxed social affair comprising audio visual, swap meet and refreshments.

A last minute change of venue from the Waratah Room to the Theatre in the Arts Complex created a few problems on the night but just about everyone agreed that it was an excellent room well suited to audio and video demonstrations. If only we’d known we were going to be using it.

Due to the good access to the theatre it didn’t take us long to unload and setup the equipment which comprised...

Matt’s recently acquired 2 way Dynaudios as front speakers fed by a John DeSensi amp. A slightly too small Vifa 2 way for the centre and Gail’s Osborn Titan speakers for the rear that Ron N brought along (they are rather heavy) and a Jaycar 15in PolyProp sub for the bass oomph all driven by Quad 405s.

Program source was a progressive scan computer DVD player using external Pioneer DolbyDigital and Millennium DTS decoders and fed into a Sony VPH-1501QM 3 gun CRT projector. Due to the short notice of the larger room the projector lens focal length was not able to be adjusted for a larger screen size in time for the night. It does not zoom like LCD projectors.

The music/video clips for the night was a varied mix and included...

Eagles Hell Freezes Over: Hotel California plus two other tracks. Grusin plays West Side Story, 1 track. West Side Story, America. Blues Bros. original and 2000, three tracks.

At the break we headed for the lobby where the swap meet and supper tables were setup and enjoyed pizza, wine, chit chat (and a bit of haggling). The swap meet was well stocked with a good variety of vinyl, CD’s, amps, speakers and various bits and pieces, a fair proportion of which found new homes.

We had also planned to hear Doug T’s now equalised and burnt onto CD ROM recording from the December General Meeting of the Bon Acchord Quartet but by time the social activities had finished it was time to pack up and head home. It would have been interesting to hear the difference between the raw MiniDisk recording we heard last month (which was very good) and the finished product. Our thanks to Chris M and helpers for bringing and setting up all the gear, committee members for organising the substantial supper and to all those who brought along bits and pieces for the swap meet.