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Author Topic: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man  (Read 1497 times)

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Online andrewfi

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New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« on: November 11, 2019, 11:57:52 AM »
A few days ago, on another thread, I posted about my intentions for my sound system.

Many years ago I used to sell Hi-Fi, mostly the rack systems typical of the time, the late 70s to early 80s. IMHO a golden age for Hi-Fi with good quality gear available for the first time at a reasonable price, the arrival of CDs and the pinnacle of turntable design for vinyl playback.

Some of the gear I sold was from the upper end, not the extravagant stuff that was, and still is, an expensive con trick foisted upon those who are unwilling to admit that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

Anyway, when I became a student I was unfortunate in that my home was burgled and as a result, I lost most of my equipment, almost all of my LPs and CDs. All that was left was my Sony home theatre setup - a Sony SA-VA15 setup. Probably because the speakers were too big and heavy to carry away. I have been using those as the heart of my music system since then.

A while back I started to become interested in making my music sound as good as I could. For some reason these days, Hi-Fi buyers and sellers seem focused upon the output end of the system, ignoring the old adage of garbage in = garbage out. I chose to be rational and started looking at upgrading the sound by improving the inputs. Most of my listening is to digital sources, stored on my PC or using Spotify and Amazon HD music.

Until recently I simply used my ethernet connection to an Nvidia Shield, an advanced set-top box. It sounds fine. But I was unable to listen to it for long. It was great for home theatre use and background music but something was wrong if I couldn't listen to music for long. My next choice was to get a Google Audio Chromecast. That was a revelation. Music had depth and seemed to have gained height. This is a real phenomenon, not 'woo-woo' and now, for the first time in years, I found myself listening for long periods of time rather than watching movies or episodes.

A little later and a little bit of reading suggested that the Chromecast was far from the ultimate. So, I researched more and ended up deciding to buy a 'proper' digital to audio converter (DAC) and that the Allo Boss DAC was a good option as it could function as a source for my music pleasure, using my PC based music files as data as well as my streaming subscriptions. This is the fellow: https://www.allo.com/sparky-eu/boss-player.html By all accounts it is a bit of a giant killer, is very well designed and made and great value for money. After a delay, it arrived chez moi a few days ago. I plugged the unit directly into my Sony SA-VA15 system. It sounds wonderful. Somehow it is getting a load lower frequency sound out such that even with tone controls flat some music creates a sensation of vibration in the body and through furnishings without sounding overly bassy. Instruments all have their own place in front of me. One small but noticeable thing, there is no hiss, the output from the amp and speakers is now silent. Every previous input added noticeable hiss.

Just a note, the Sony SA-VA15 is an active system with the amplifier located in the left-hand speaker and controlled by remote control. Common enough now, but not 25 years ago when this thing was built.

My original intent had been to start to replace the old Sony system and I had been considering getting an amp from the same firm that made the DAC. Like the Allo Boss, the amp was reputed to be something of a giant killer and is certainly made with high-quality components and careful design. But I became distracted with the idea of buying something more beautiful. I went to look at a Bang and Olufsen (B&O) 5000 system, an antique from the mid-80s. In the showroom, I was swayed to something different and even more beautiful. A Beocentre 9000 from the same period. I have lusted over this item since it came out. Absolutely not the best in Hi-Fi, but pretty good for all that, and it looks like something off the bridge of a starship. All components are hidden away under sliding metal covers that react to the lightest touch. All controls are accessed by touching the glass from which the unit is built.

The Beocentre 9000 has a preamp out connection which means I can use it with the SA-VA15. I love it!
Music sounds very different when played through the Beocentre as compared to directly through the SA-VA15. It is smoother somehow, slightly warmer but all the things I liked about the Allo Boss are still true through the Allo and Beocentre combination.

Only one problem. I have now got the B&O bug. I have been looking at getting some Beovox Penta speakers to match the Beocentre 9000.

The pic below shows the Beocentre 9000 and the Beovox Penta speakers.

I have seen a good looking set for sale in Denmark for just €800, but it'll cost a lot to send them over to me.

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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2019, 05:37:48 PM »
Damn that thing looks old!  I got a Denon M41 mini system for a few hundred quid that does the job fine. 

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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2019, 05:59:37 PM »
It is old, about 35 years old.

I used to drive a Renault 12 that did the job fine and cost only a few hundred pounds. I much preferred driving my MB S500 which did much more than do the job fine.

If I wanted a bedroom music box I might think of something like the Denon m41. Fortunately that role is already filled by a beautiful looking and great sounding LG fb166 system. I'd not consider such a thing in my living rooms.
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2019, 11:58:42 AM »
Many cheap Japanese gears play great sound nowadays.

Even cheap China gears can play great sound, but the quality is not guaranteed.


I guess I will buy a new Onkyo gear this winter, and connect it to my China BW clone.

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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2019, 12:08:13 PM »
Which new UK brand speaker should I choose?  I can pay around ₤3,000.00 for one stereo pair.  Made in UK is preferred.

I like speakers sounding wide and deep sound stage.

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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2019, 12:33:13 PM »
If you have £3000 for a pair of new speakers then you would be foolish to spend it on a system built around Chinese clone and Onkyo components. Onkyo is fine budget kit. You don't pair a £300 amp with £3000 speakers.
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2019, 12:46:35 PM »
I decided to bite the bullet and buy some new speakers.
I am now awaiting the delivery of a pair of B&O Beolab 8000 active speakers. Like the Beocentre 9000 they are secondhand. Costing me £185 just to have then shipped over to me. They weight around 40Kilos, hence the cost of delivery.
As active speakers, each speaker has two amplifiers built-in, one amp powers the bass units and the other handles just the tweeter. I heard these things years ago and loved them, never imagined I'd have a set in my living room. These were over £3000 new.

The 9000 is sounding great even now through the Sony speakers so I am looking forward to an end to end B&O setup.
I decided against the Penta speakers, largely because I love the iconic look of the 8000s. The imaging from the 8000s is something I really like. One is not listening to speakers, they become invisible in the listening. In the same way that my old favourites JR150s did before they were burgled from my apartment many years ago. Like the JRs these are made from aluminium, very heavily damped and designed to create a very broad soundstage almost independent of positioning.

These slender beauties stand around 1.4 meters high and, should I choose can be fed directly with the output from my DAC to give the best quality input. Set up with a direct feed from the DAC they will be getting a better quality source than anything possible when they were designed.
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2019, 01:28:14 PM »
Are you setting up A/V or Hi-Fi?!?  How could these speakers sound clear and sharp? 

They will shake!

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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2019, 02:17:40 PM »
Are you setting up A/V or Hi-Fi?!?  How could these speakers sound clear and sharp? 

They will shake!

They do not shake. They are well designed, well-engineered, and well made. They are as well made as one would expect of a pair of speakers retailing at a price well in excess of $4000 when sold 13 years ago would sound. And, as I noted, I have heard them. I used to sell this stuff - but not B&O equipment. As it happens they are somewhat overmatched against the Beocentre I recently purchased, but not against the DAC that I am also using.

Not that I'd expect you to know much about this stuff, but these speakers have a tiny volume, just over 5 litres. Each unit weighs 20 kilos, that's a huge weight for such small enclosures. The system is designed to have a very low centre of gravity. While the conical end of the speakers looks very slender that 'point' measures a couple of centimeters across and is manufactured to be very stiff. If you ever come across a pair of these speakers try tapping one of them. You'll hear a low thud. They are very dense and very well damped. Extruded aluminium is very stiff - ideal for loudspeakers. My previous high-end speakers were also made of aluminium, unlike these, they used sheet metal fashioned as a pressure vessel to obtain similar, but inferior, properties at a much lower cost.

The high damping factor comes because aluminium has half the mass of steel. At the same weight, a sheet of aluminium is twice as stiff as steel and thus much less resonant. That's why they sound very dead when tapped with a knuckle. Tapping a speaker is an old, but very useful, way to assess the basic construction quality and thus the likely sound quality of a loudspeaker. The more 'dead' a speaker cabinet the better it will sound when comparing like for like in all other aspects.

At the price I am paying, I am buying a bargain. There's no way to expect similarly priced units (around £800/$1000) to sound anything like as good as these units. It is worth noting that while there have been huge advances in the design and performance of sources and even amplification, output performance has not improved anything like as much over the past 20 or so years.
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2019, 09:13:22 AM »
Andrewfi,
Do you think whether a standard stereo 4 x EL34 tube amp can push a ATC SCM 11 bookshelf stereo speakers pair?

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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2019, 11:42:20 AM »
I have no idea. However, there's no such thing as a 'standard' amplifier design. The attributes will depend upon the quality of manufacture, the components used and the exact design - even when a reference design exists.

Have a good listen to the system in a similar room to yours with similar music and at similar volume.

If that's not possible then use the following as a guide: most music that we listen to at normal volumes (around 85 dB) requires around 1 watt of amplifier power. The type of music determines the kind of headroom required with rock music requiring about 40dB of headroom and acoustic or classical needing about 20 dB. You can therefore do a rough calculation, based upon the nominal sensitivity of the speaker to decide whether the amp power will adequately drive your speakers.
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2019, 01:32:44 AM »
In the days when I was single, because I was building a biz, I bought a Bose speaker system with two cubes at either end mounted in the ceiling and a walking great base box which was hidden behind a sofa. I cannot remember the the model..something with cube in the name..


Then sounded great to me. I gave them to my step-son as I found listening to music with headphones more satisfying.

Music quality used to be a 'biggie' when I was a bachelor in my twenties..

This thread makes me feel old and glad to be in a relationship )


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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2019, 12:44:42 PM »
andrewfi,
Can you recommend any British brand integrated amp around ₤1,000.00?  I prefer ABC (Any But China) made.

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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2019, 01:33:46 PM »
I have no specific suggestions to make for buying HiFi- apart from this: don't buy Bose.

Go and have a listen to stuff and remember you are buying a system so you don't want to buy things in isolation. Go to a good retailer who sells stuff that costs less and more than your budget so that they won't be selling you the most expensive (or cheapest) things in the shop. Take with you a playlist of music that you enjoy and listen to some systems: source, amplifier, speakers. If you are going to be traveling/moving to the UK look for a system that includes powered or active speakers so the amplifier is built into the speakers. That'll save money, ensure compatibility in terms of electronics and sound and be much smaller to carry from one place to another.

Oh, if you buy an English (or U.S, Japanese or European) amplifier there's a good chance it will actually have a Bang and Olufsen amplifier circuit inside. They make amp boards under the brand name ICEpower. While many high-end manufacturers do not advertise the fact, ICEpower boards are used in a lot of their designs.

By the way, enjoying music is something that is very pleasant to do with a loved one. A nice bottle of wine, a plate of fruit and cheese, your best beloved tucked up next to you and some good tunes. A great way to spend an evening.

Moby probably preferred to use headphones because he was listening to something a bit shit that caused listening fatigue. (Bose)

I didn't follow my advice about listening to systems, on the other hand I already knew the equipment I was buying, apart from the Allo Boss DAC and, as a source, I knew from reviews that it did not give a harsh output (that's a sign of a bad DAC) and is tonally uncoloured. Also, when I bought the DAC I did not plan on buying a whole system. :)
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2019, 02:23:15 PM »
By the way, in case you were curious, a Naim you might know of as a producer of British amps using ICEpower boards is, well, Naim. Other brands that use them, but not British: PS Audio, Marantz, Rotel, Pioneer, Yamaha.
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2019, 11:01:42 AM »
By the way, in case you were curious, a Naim you might know of as a producer of British amps using ICEpower boards is, well, Naim. Other brands that use them, but not British: PS Audio, Marantz, Rotel, Pioneer, Yamaha.

These are famous brands.  All these brands can make their own gears easily.  Why do they buy from B&O?


I am curious and just search for ICEpower on China sites. There are many broads which are claimed to be ICEpower!


I personally prefer Swiss and British speakers!

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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #16 on: November 21, 2019, 11:35:32 AM »
R&D is very costly. The inherent skills required to re-make what B&O already does very well is tough to do. Technology is layered in patents.

When making an amplifier, for example, the actual amp circuitry is often down to integrated circuits that an integrator builds up like Lego to make their own system.

Where manufacturers can differentiate themselves is in stuff like power supplies (very important for high-quality sound, digital filtration, and DSP as well as functionality. So, Naim, for example, often packs in streamers, dacs, screens, and storage to build a finished product that's unique to them.

ICEpower circuitry has its own specific mix of benefits that make the technology attractive to system integrators.

And, yes, we get it. You like seeing little Union flags on the stuff you buy.

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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #17 on: November 21, 2019, 01:09:16 PM »
As a teenager, I used to have a huge set of Wharfedales. Are they still a thing among those who know about this stuff?
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #18 on: November 21, 2019, 03:55:51 PM »
Wharfedale as a brand still exists but now owned by a holding company with lots of other speaker brands. The Diamond range is well respected and vastly extended since I was flogging them.
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #19 on: November 22, 2019, 06:07:34 AM »
Andrewfi,

You 'excel' yourself with your 'knowledge' ..

1/ B&O had their UK HQ close to me and their Sales Director was a competitor of mine at the sailing Club - I displaced him as Club Champion  - sadly departed ... A lot of their kit was simply rebranded electronics kit from the likes of Panasonic who have stuff made in China with their name on it that ain't so hot ..

2/ The Bose system I had was an Acoustimas 5 - series 1 and it - in combination with a  Naim Amp of 1990 vintage has resulted in the Police being called out in the early hours to a  wedding do in a Marquis by the sailing club lake ( my first wedding) and a farm near Stroud ...  HND leaving do in 2010 ( step son)


Good enough.. 
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #20 on: November 23, 2019, 10:00:24 AM »
Each famous brand in hi-fi industry did own its patented ace design at its pinnacle.  Once the patent expires, the brand will also declines.

Multiple breakthrough designs of the same brand is quite rare.  B&W do have multiple new designs for a long time.

If I have choice between B&W and Focal speakers, I will still choose B&W to support UK economics!


My family keeps reminding me to buy MK socket whenever I have to change some old electrical parts!  MK are expensive but very safe and tough.

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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #21 on: November 23, 2019, 01:26:09 PM »
A lot of their kit was simply rebranded electronics kit from the likes of Panasonic

Panasonic stuff in nice Danish designed cabinets at five times the money was always my impression of B&O. Panasonic internals was always the rumour.

There was a cool circular style telephone they used to have the in The Apprentice house I liked. I went into B&O in Manchester and the phones all seemed very complex, needing extra boxes and hardware to work here. Not just the usual plug in the wall stuff. And it was about £700.  :-\

That was back when landlines were a thing.....
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #22 on: November 24, 2019, 06:30:02 AM »
Nope, that wasn't and isn't true.

There are some things that are necessary to buy-in. For example, they always used Philips CD transports until IIRC the early 2000s when they moved over to Pioneer. That's pretty much normal. Open most cd players and you'll see that the transport is from one of a very small number of manufacturers.

Their TVs use bought in panels from LG. But then that's true of pretty every TV marque. There's very few manufacturers of TV panels but the support electronics are then designed and built by the manufacturer. Kinda like the way B&O make amplifier boards that go into scads of other HiFi brands.

Overpriced? I never thought so. Look at what goes into their systems. For example, the unit I bought, the Beosystem 9000 back in 1987 was the first system to offer true multiroom sound and control. It was, in part, why I recommended it to my mum and dad back then. It wasn't until 20 years later that multi-room started to go mainstream. The fact that it sounded like the dog's bollocks was only part of the choice.

What is true is that any given price point you might be able to find a system that might sound as good, sometimes even better. But you don't buy B&O solely to get the best sound for your money. You expect a lot more. That's like with cars. You buy a car to get from place to place, but you pay more to get there faster and, or, more comfortably. You pay for the engineering but also for how it looks and feels to use.
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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #23 on: November 24, 2019, 10:09:18 AM »
Andrewfi,
Nowadays, hi-fi industry has no more new staff to push.

Are you still listening to Audio CD?  I am.  I also have some SACD but they sound more or less the same even though I play them on a Sony universal disc player.  I bought it at dirty cheap price on ebay and it was new.

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Re: New and Old HiFi - Old Happy Man
« Reply #24 on: November 24, 2019, 12:46:08 PM »
I have now finished ripping my CDs and as I buy new I am ripping those.

Right now one can buy CDs for next to nothing as folks sell off their collections. :)

When I was younger I could tell the difference between a well-encoded MP3 and a CD on the setup I was using until very recently. I can't now. Comparing Amazon HD tracks to Spotify I am hard-pressed to tell the difference. I will likely not continue the Amazon HD subscription when it ends in a few months. When the new speakers finally show up I will have a careful listen and see if my cloth ears can discern an improvement and make my choice then.

I have some SACD rips but I don't recognize them as being different from ordinary CDs (see above) and SACD is a dead format anyway. However, there is one area where SACD was worthwhile, but it seems that this benefit found its way into some standard CDs. :) SACD had the facility to carry surround sound encoding. If you play some, but not many, standard CDs through a Pro Logic decoder you'll notice surround information mixed to the rear giving an interesting and very engaging ambient effect. Pro Logic is the only current surround format where the rear information is encoded into the stereo to be unfolded by the correct decoder. Sadly, very few CDs note the presence of the surround signal on the CD even though it is present.

Sadly the new Amazon HD 3D audio format is a version of Dolby Atmos and so I have no way to decode and hear it.
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