24 November, 2010

HiFi Letter from NYC 2010 (8): Rare Langevin preamp, Emergency kit, Sony DVP-SR200P, PR50P, Martin Logan Source and Linn Kan redux

HiFi Letter from NYC 2010 (8): Rare Langevin Preamp, Emergency Kit, Sony DVP-SR200P, DVP-PR50P, Martin Logan Source and Linn Kan redux

Bargain Basement Emergency kit
Actually this picture is no longer update, but that's really not important. What's important is the my continuous astonishment by the sound of my new room. Even a cursory setup of bargain basement gears necessitated by household circumstance reveals the sound to be very different from our old flat, from which we haven't yet officially moved out. Interestingly, in recent issues of TAS, Robert Harley is also chronicling the joy of the sound of his new room/house (also better).

The ML is placed a little more than 1/3 into the room, quite close to the sides (bookcases and LP storage), with some toe-in. While listing the initial setup I shall take the opportunity to expound on some of them, especially on their suitability as "emergency kit":

Analogue: Audio Technica AT-PL120/Grado Gold using its BUILT-IN phono.
Both the TT and cartridge are the greatest bargains in analogue land (as reported previously). The AT's more-than-competent built-in MM phono, which you can bypass, takes the phrase "plug and play" to a new level. No need to have a phonoamp! The TT may be discontinued soon, if not already; a new version is the same TT but adds USB facility. The Grado is supremely musical and its warmth is a good match with leaner direct-drives).

Digital: Sony DVP-SR200P
Cousin of the now discontinued and already legendary DVP-PR50P, which is sold out in HK, discontinued, but perhaps still available in Malaysia, where it was made. The PR-50P even garnered attention in Europe (Lencoheaven thread). Since the PR-50P is discontinued, some people started buying the SR-200P, which has a different look, i.e drawer vs top-loading, but the same digital parts, though now made in China. The SR-200P is available in the USA for as low as $25! I bought one in HK but only made a brief comparison between it and its more handsome predecessor. I think the PR-50P sounds more wholesome, the SR-200P leaner, but they certainly share the same sound and the SR-200P shall not be shamed by comparison with many much more expensive and "proper" CDPs, not to mention CAS. Interestingly, in the Amazon link provided above, reader Jake wrote that the SR-200P and hence by extrapolation the PR-50P are actually re-branded PHILIPS. Fascinating, no wonder the musical sound! I'd advise everyone to buy one for its infinite portability and giant-killer sound before the next model change, while still available!

Preamp: Langevin studio preamp
My dear WE friend brought this rare beauty for trial. This uses 6SJ7 (changed to 6J7) input and 6V6 output transformer-coupled, lovingly restored by 臺北的黃老闆. I shall write more later on this priceless item.

Amp: McIntosh 2200 and later the amp section of the Marantz 1120
Speakers: Martin Logan Source or Linn Kan

Roll Out the Carpets!
On my last trip I was preoccupied by the Magnepan 1.7 and did not fire up my Martin Logan Source. Hooking them up after more than 1 year of absence, and after some positioning and trials of toe-in (a must) I was floored by the sound they made in my new room. Although there were huge speakers 2 ft behind them, they carved out a cavernous soundstage that was way deeper than in my old compromised LR. The sound was also a little smoother and more luxuriant in the treble, while the bass was tuneful and well-controlled. In all aspects the sound trumped that in my previous locale. The speed, uncanny imaging and realism was a constant delight. The near full-range hybrid also provided much more realistic playback of orchestral music than what I heard from the many whimpy and even down-right odd-sounding old Quads ESL 57s and 63s in HK (except icefox's, and perhaps cpsjj's on vocals).

As I now have a pair of large speakers, I was thinking of selling them for space, but now I have changed my mind. After the renovation of the rest of our flat is over, I shall move the Maggie 1.7 in and have a comparison. It is not unlikely that I shall sell my 1.7 as I continue to prefer ML. What a bargain!

Since a lot of dust will be generated by renovation, in the next two weeks there shall not be electrostatics! I retired the ML just now and wrapped them up. In their places went my Linn Kan's on Sonus faber adjustable stands. Sound was surprisingly robust and bore a strong resemblance to what went before. There, must be the sweet spots. I ended up at about 28" height. BTW, I always think the so-called "ideal height of 24 " stands" for LS3/5As completely mistaken. No disrespect, but that height was probably determined by shorter people and are for short people. Having them higher brings our more flesh and realism. For me, I'd say anywhere 28" and 30".

My WE friend loved the PR-50P and after being impressed by my SR-200P again snatched it away from me. It shall be useful for him to take to customers' house when their systems need to be de-bugged. A customer of his was so impressed by the sound and look of his previous temporary loan of the PR-50P that he offered $200 for a $50 product, which my friend declined. I have asked him to do an A/B comparison in his small rig (Wavelength 6BQ5 SE amp and full-range speaker).

What is clear to everyone who has heard the new room is that the room is the real star! I must count myself a lucky man.

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