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December 2003 Members DIY Night

The problem with you lot is you are listening to the music and not the gear! As another year drew to a close, it was time once again for the DIY extravaganza. You know, that general meeting where the handyman types bring along the finished at two in the morning projects and Dr. Death is waiting to spring out on the careless members who poke around where fingers don’t belong. The proud creators stand at the front of the Willis room patiently explaining what they have accomplished only to have the smoke pour out, or too much/little treble/bass, or no dynamics, or anything else us critical audiophiles can complain about. Well, I am happy to report that this year, we actually had musical sounds playing for most of the program.

First up was Chris Mogford demonstrating a pair of three way speakers consisting of Vifa mids and tweeters and Seas woofers. This is a further iteration of the design he demoed a few years ago. He was powering them with a QUAD 405 clone, a six-channel volume control, and a universal disc player. In went the first disc, and only one channel played. Chris powered down and furiously looked for the problem. After a few false starts, Wally decided to move along with the program.

While Chris was troubleshooting, Ron Newbound introduced his latest creation. Ron explained that he was looking for an audiophile compromise in this speaker, good at everything, but excelling only at delivering music. Nicknamed the Blackburn, it features Vifa/Peerless drivers in a floor standing folded, tapered quarter wave pipe. Nice looking and nice sounding.

Next up was a pair of two way bass reflex speakers created by Tony Pickup. Tony chose to use Focal Kevlar drivers in a small box with a minimal front baffle and non-parallel sides. These were well received; the members gave them a round of applause.

Jeff Mai played a Pioneer CD player modified with the Elso Kwak DAC clock. As with all of the other demo’s, a very musical sound. Too bad we couldn’t have a comparison with an unmodded player.

Chris finally got everything sorted out and after deafening us with a high frequency blast, treated us to some fine sounds. Different than all of the others, but enjoyable nevertheless.

Last up was Paul Yates and his complete DIY system consisting of CD transport, DAC, preamp, amp and large planar speakers. As Paul stated, he was looking for a synergy in his system and designed it to work as a whole (a comprehensive report by Paul on his system is printed further on in this MAN.--ED.). All electronics are balanced and the planars consist of Maggie Tympani panels and ribbon tweeters. Anyone who thinks that planar systems can’t rock, well those blues numbers they played certainly didn’t sound bad!

Andrew Yee

November 2003 Newmarket Records

Gerry Koster from Newmarket Records provided an excellent musical evening at the November Monthly Meeting. He was to bring some state-ofthe- art equipment, including a pair of reference monitor speakers but Murphy reared his ugly head and they did not arrive. Wally, as usual, filled in with a good quality CD player and integrated amplifier with a pair of not quite floor standing speakers employing SEAS drivers. It didn’t really matter as this was designed as a music evening.

Newmarket is a subsidiary of DEX Electronics who have built a solid reputation over 25 years for their high quality recordings from a well appointed studio, originally in Spencer Street but now located in McCauley Rd., Ne wmarket. DEX even own their own CD pressing plant.

Last time Gerry was with us (two years + ago) most of his material was jazz and most recorded here in Melbourne. He even had two excellent sample CDs featuring part of the Newmarket catalogue. Over the last few years Newmarket have diversified, importing a range of top European labels. Most of the program this time was of the World Music genre with a little jazz and fewer classical offerings.

There was no shortage of interest from the assembled members. The first track played was from a Swiss group called The World Quartet. VERY different. This set the stage for what was a really eclectic evening of music. Newmarket is very much a one-man-band and Gerry had a great handle on the type of material he presented. At supper time he was besieged by members clamoring to buy merchandise and everyone who bought something was given a sampler CD from Enja records. In fact, he ran out of many titles before everyone was satisfied.

Another wonderful evening of memorable music and I feel Gerry will be welcomed back to a Monthly Meeting sometime in the future.

Bob Toll

October 2003 MAC SACD Night

Last month saw our second Annual Members request night, where members brought along CD's of their choice. The intention was to give us a night with the emphasis on Music, rather than equipment. However, when Wally was able to obtain the loan of a Marantz SA-8260 SACD player (retail $1999), the Committee decided to take advantage of a golden opportunity to let members hear genuine SACD, albeit 2 channel stereo, rather than the 5.1 surround sound the system is capable of delivering. A MarantzPM- 8000, stereo amp provides a claimed 2 by 100 watt class A (retail $1,599), was used to feed a pair of Mordant Short 912 2-way bookshelf speakers (retail $599), made up the rest of the system. A number of members brought genuine SACD discs, and we thank them.

We thank the people at Qualifi Audio, (and marvel at their trust (faith?)), for the loan of this equipment, especially as due to other commitments, they were unable to send a representative, leaving Wally and Bob Toll (no offence intended), to present the night's program.

First, President Neville described the idea to compare SACD with red book CD. Barry Humphrey offered a dual Layer SACD of an RCA warhorse, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops playing music from the Offenbach suite for Gaite Parisienne. This original recording was made in the mid 1950's, one of RCA's very first stereo recordings, and it is still one of the very best classical recordings ever made. The CD leaflet implied that the SACD version was derived from the original analogue master tape. It does make you wonder what real progress has been made in recording techniques during the past 50 years.

We heard a short track from both the standard red book layer, followed by the same track as genuine SACD. The members present overwhelmingly voted in favour of the SACD track. Most listeners heard a more relaxed and yet more dynamic SACD sound, the CD layer sounded much more brash and "in your face". The subjective effect of the restricted sample rate of 44.1kHz is quite evident. Distortion at frequencies approaching half the sample rate must increase, which I think gives the treble a slightly constricted effect. (Has anyone ever published the results of a 19/20 kHz intermod test on an A to D converter?) The SACD produced a deeper, better structured image, and the instrumental harmonics seemed to be better balanced and more natural.

The presumption was expressed that the CD layer on these dual layer discs is somehow nobbled to enhance the perceived improvement that SACD can bring. It is a pity the red book CD was not available. I have it, (remastered in 1993), and even on a standard CD player, it is a stunning recording. My impression on hearing it again at home is that the CD layer on the SACD disc is rather different to the RCA living Stereo version, in that the CD layer has been remixed. This may have been done to take advantage of current CD mastering techniques which have improved during the last 10 years, but surprisingly, the effect is to make the CD layer on the 2 layer disc sound more like the SACD layer. I think the conspiracy jury is still out.

At this point, it was realised that the speakers needed better elevation to cover the room, and to subdue a rather enthusiastic and ill-defined mid bass, ie they honked. Lifting the stands on to small tables improved the balance and bass control considerably. Considering the capabilities of the amp and the player, I think it was unfortunate that speakers providing a better match to the room were not available. A trap most demonstrations in this room fall for is that the Willis Room is very large by domestic standards, and generally small 2-way speakers are inadequate, however acceptable they may be in the home.

The rest of the evening was given over to members discs, both SACD and standard CDs, playing a wide variety of music, and covering all tastes from classics to techno, and as expected SACD provide a higher average standard than conventional CD. My prejudices are well known, but I thought that the RR recording of a Suite from Bernstein's Candide using the HDCD coding system, was as good as anything heard during the evening, and the worst, a SACD of Bob Dylans track "Long Black Coat". Whatever the virtues (?) of Dylans singing might be, the over emphasised sibilance and the nasally voice quality disqualified it for me as a hi-fi recording. As we frequently hear Doug say, the quality of the original recording sets the limit for what we can achieve in replay.

Our verdict is that SACD shows a lot of promise, and may well be the carrier of the next decade, but we heard that there is still life in the standard CD. We need to do this again with a DVD-A player, or better still, the Denon DVD-2900 which can handle both systems, costs £UK850, or approx $A2000, and received an enthusiastic review in the September HiFi News.

Once again, we thank Qualifi Audio for the loan of the superb Marantz gear, and the Mordaunt Short speakers, which deserve another hearing in a more appropriate room.

John Drew

September 2003 Livingston Audio

An intriguing array of equipment supplied by Alex Leong and staff from Livingston Audio of Blackburn greeted members arriving for the September meeting. Wooden fronted equipment is not the norm, but the HOLFI units were quite refreshing, their minimalist approach of using one knob for both volume and input selection made for an uncluttered appearance. The Vincent integrated hybrid amps were also novel, with the single tube on display via a porthole in the front panel. Unfortunately the Melody tube pre and power amps were not available in time for the meeting.

Whilst the Spendor S6 loudspeakers were traditional in shape and finish, the locally made Orpheus Tiberius were magnificently finished in gleaming lacquered woodgrain.

I felt that the recordings chosen to demonstrate the equipment did not do them justice and there were calls from the gallery for the "Club" CD. Our presenters dutifully obliged with music from a CD called "The Club" if I recall correctly. Not quite what some members had in mind but never-the-less a very resourceful effort.

The overall sound from both systems was acceptably good, if a little lean. My preference was for the HOLFI/Orpheus system, which lacked the slight boominess apparent in the Spendors. Neither system showed much bass extension but, to be fair, the Willis room’s acoustic environment has an almost legendary reputation as a speaker killer and it’s quite likely these well made units would sound quite different in an in-home situation.

Alex also presented a product called "Screen Goo" for treating almost any surface for use as a projection screen. I believe an assessment is currently under way and hopefully the results will be announced in due course. All considered, a successful evening and thanks to Alex and crew for giving us their time and effort.

Bob Field

August 2003 Move Records

Martin Wright, co-founder and Managing Director of Melbourne based Move Records gave a very interesting insight to the local recording scene. Move is now the oldest independent record label in Australia, founded over 35 years ago. It has filled a worthwhile niche in the classical music area here in Melbourne with a wide range of specialist recordings of well known Melbourne identities such as Ronald Farren-Price and Douglas Lawrence amongst many others. Over the past two years a small jazz focus has gained a good following.

The well attended August Meeting at the Willis Room was treated to a capsule history of Move. Martin has progressed through the digital recording domain with Beta F1 PCM recordings during the early eighties to Hi-Fi type machines later (very sneaky - the main stereo channels where the picture should be and the two hi-fi sound channels for future use as rear channels in surround) through DAT to hard disc at 88.2/24 bit with post production on Pro-Tools High Definition software. He mainly uses Sennheiser and Shoeps capacitor microphones.

Martin brought a good overview of the Move CD repertoire (and a free CD for everyone present) with him which was demonstrated using a Denon CD player, Lux C12 power amp and my large bookshelf speakers combining a Response 6.5” carbon fibre cone bass-mid with a Peerless K115 tweeter. As usual, Murphy reared his ugly head. Before the evening got underway the amplifier went up in a huge cloud of white smoke. Fortunately Peter Huttemeier was able to slip home to return with an Amber integrated amp, the evening proceeding without a hitch after that.

Members were also able to avail themselves of some reasonably cheap quality CDs and a very good evening was had by all.

Bob Toll

July 2003 AVlight - Sound and Vision Spectacular

Avlight’s Australian G.M. Tony Zhi expertly assisted by one of his senior managers succeeded in transforming the Willis room into a huge Home Theatre venue much to the delight of the standing room only audience. Their superbly finished products together with a large screen that ensured everyone had an unobstructed view of the visuals made for an entertaining evening.

The front pair of very large floor standers (see photo) required no centre channel speaker to anchor speech or vocals yet, to the surprise of many, there was a cleverly placed rear centre speaker to assist with ambience retrieval. Another talking point was the A.V. processor’s large display with its real time display. I didn’t have an opportunity to ask Tony whether or not this could be switched off or muted during movies etc but would assume that equipment of this quality would have such a feature.

Attention to detail was apparent right from the beginning when Tony and Fred donned white gloves before touching any of the components they needed to assemble for their presentation. Needless to say these same substantial, heavy speakers went back into their boxes in exactly the same pristine condition they were in when the cartons were first opened.

Sophisticated protection circuitry is a standard feature of Avlight’s speaker design. Late in the evening this was vividly demonstrated when Tony took the live input wires from one speaker and shorted them. Although Bob the Builder was seen to noticeably pale when this happened the other speaker continued playing normally. The processor’s display noted that protection circuitry had been activated for the disconnected channel. Truly an impressive demonstration of a very practical safety feature.

Our thanks to the Avlight team for an enjoyable evening

Neville Keatley

June 2003 AGM + David MacArthur and his Trombones

It is always difficult to organise a presentation to fill out our spare time after the Club’s Annual General Meeting. The length of time taken for the formal matters is uncertain. None the less it was arranged that local Melbourne musician, David MacArthur, would come along and give us the benefit of both his wisdom about the history of the Trombone, and his playing prowess by demonstrate some aspects of the instrument.

As Murphy would have it the AGM went on longer than expected with some spirited discussion on the future of the Club. Consequently David was a bit later in starting than anticipated. David’s presentation had been honed by talking first to the Rover Car Club (of which both he and I are members) and a group from the University of the Third Age. It was punctuated by excerpts of various orchestral and band pieces David chosen to highlight significant aspects of the trombone’s history and musical advancements.

Club members got to hear what a true live, unamplified instrument sounded like in our Willis Room. (no argument, that this was indeed LIVE music – Ed) We can now compare the sound of playback equipment to this standard. During his talk David demonstrated 5 different trombones, two wine bottles and a tuba! Our thanks go to David for a very interesting and musical presentation.

Peter Hüttemeier

May 2003 Members DIY Night

The Willis room was packed to capacity for this event, as we welcomed all the new members who joined the club at the show. Their introduction to the club, in the form of a DIY night, was to suggest that, far from just sitting around listening to records, a number of fellow members definitely believe in a ‘hands on’ approach. As was shown, all of the ‘home made’ stuff proved it could stand up comparably to professional production equipment, highfidelitywise, plus it provides the added satisfaction of knowing that it’s ‘all your own work.’

The evening itself was of a nature to create a wide spectrum of interest, in that, there were many varied pieces of equipment, all painstakingly made by their enthusiastic creators. Attention to detail, finish and presentation, was commented upon, at great length by some, of all the pieces on show, and, although Scott’s speakers were not admired for their ‘pristine veneered’ finish, there was no mistaking the quality of their performance, pointed out by many.

Bob’s amp, as promised, did not blow up. Described, as a "Piece of wire, with gain" is the ultimate compliment that an amp can receive. Pity about the colour, but it sounded totally uncoloured, and that’s what counts. If the new members sensed an atmosphere of ‘involvement’ in club activity, then the object of the evening has been achieved. There was so much interest in all the bits and pieces, after the demo’s, that the second part of the programme did not occur at all. Everyone was too busy questioning the DIYers about their ‘babies.’

Wally Roche