18 January, 2011

The Yumcha Diaries 飲茶後記: 08/15-01-11 (SP-100, Tannoy Kingdom Royal)

The Yumcha Diaries 飲茶後記: 08/15-01-11 (SP-100, Tannoy Kingdom Royal)

08-01-11, SP100 Works its Magic again
Those who have known me know that I have been a Spendor fan for the longest time (those who don't can read about my experience in my Spendor Overview). I have owned the SP-100 for more than 10 years and had only recently sold it to a friend. This bulky yet non-floor standing speaker is old fashioned by any standard, and not popular with space-constrained HK people. That is unfortunate. Despite this, for various reason, SP-100 is gaining ground these days. I'd like to think it is because of value. When so many of the speakers now, regardless of price and "prestige", focus more on appearance and deliver anemic sound, a classic like the SP-100, now in its silver-wired R version, shines more than ever.

I only recently made the acquaintance of Patrick, an old friend of whlee. An avid cyclist, Patrick is new to hifi, yet the speed with which he transforms his system is amazing. He recently started with a pair of demo B&W AV floor standers, and made the plunge for a pair of SP-100 soon after.
Considering the newness of the speakers, their performance was striking, especially after some work. His equipment now:

Digital: Naim CD2
Preamp: Counterpoint SA-2000E
Amp: Verdier L'Amplificateur (also briefly the Naim Nait 2)
Speakers: Spendor SP-100R on Sound Anchors stands
Cables: Mogami interconnects and various others.

His beautiful cabinet functionally serves as a divider between the dining and living sectors. When we started, the speakers were further back and in the way for access to some of the dining seats. Sound was good but could use a little more clarity in bass definition. We experimented quite a bit with moving the speakers forward and more near-field. All the way upfront, forming an equilateral triangle with the listener, the sound was quite "hifi" (rather like that preferred by some planar people), but a bit uncomfortable and artificial (also like some of the planars we eard). Moving back a little was more comfortable and we locked in on that.

Despite some quirks, Patrick's long rectangular room is actually a good one. There was very little room-mode problems (and these speakers can pump out bass!), soundstage was deep and wider on the left than the right. Toeing-in was not necessary.
The combination delivered lively music full of air. At first, treble was slightly reticent, but removing the "cold-solder" (screw-on) spades on the jumper wires and using bare wires instead restored treble clarity. Here I'd like to direct you to a 2008 UK HiFi+ review of the SP-100R. The reviewer did not spend much time describing the sound but what he wrote was exactly what we heard:

"...From the word go I was extremely comfortable listening to the SP100’s. OK, you’re probably thinking that this was a nice nostalgia trip back to the days when everything seemed less complicated and loudspeakers sounded warm, a bit flabby and rather vague. And I won’t deny that there was a little bit of nostalgia, and there was a very, very mild hint of character that did evoke the days before Dire Straits were invented. But as for the other negative traits that one used to associate with the generation, forget it. To begin with the Spendors possessed a snappy, tight and extremely rhythmic bottom end, with an attack and punch that could be quite ungentlemanly when required. Sluggish? Definitely not, and with the ability to go loud and deliver decent in-room extension to about 30 Hz, orchestral music had that great sense of authority and scale that makes it so believable, while well-recorded rock music with real drums was just awesome. So the midrange then, a bit syrupy and thick? No. Fresh from having been hit between the eyes by a snare drum and sawn off at the neck by Robert Fripp’s astringent guitar on the 12” single of David Bowie’s ‘Fashion’ I can report that things were very much up to speed in the midrange department, and I can’t honestly say that I was missing the top end extension of some rare and expensive tweeter diaphragm, as it sounded suitably sweet and open to me..."

Even tough k.c. nodded in approval. Enough said? Mission accomplished, almost prematurely!

15-01-11, Let Thy Kingdom Come
This was a busy day. First up was gthk's Tannoy system. Back in the heydays of JC yumcha, I heard his system of Westminster Royal. Some of my cohorts had heard his next Tannoy, the Kingdom, but I didn't. He has recently upgraded to the Tannoy Kingdom Royal. Equipment used:

Turntable: Clearaudio Reference with new arm
Phonostage: Viva Fono
Digital: Accuphase DP800/801
Preamp: Audio Note M8SE
Amp: Audio Note Ongaku
Loudspeakers: Tannoy Kingdom Royal
picture of gthk's system

Looking more snappy than the old version they replaced (yet still a little odd-looking; has a trace of the Italian crept into England?), The Tannoy Kingdom Royal (you must read the link and pay attention to the spec's, 24-61kHz! -6db) are very new and, believe me, as a Canterbury user I know how long it takes to really run-in the accordion-like "hard-edge" of Tannoy concentric's. Yet at least the concentric portion, including its larger than ever 3-inch HF driver, sounded quite musical. Together with the exceptionally revealing gears used and contribution from the supertweeter (this one is a real one, not like the ones of old), the high frequency might be more prominent than traditional Tannoy users may like, yet commendably it delivered airiness and stayed clear of stridency. The 15" bass unit was certainly not run-in and understandably sometimes not perfectly controlled by the amp (which has only 20+ wpc) in this VERY large living room (500+ sq ft). The Audio Note amplification as usual delivered excellent PRaT. For a change, some day I'd hope to hear The Kingdom Royal driven by high-powered tube amps in big works like Mahler and Bruckner! This is definitely a pair of speakers with infinite potential.

Gary is a vinyl junkie who listens mostly to vocals and pop. Of all the LPs played, we were most impressed by the sonic realism of the exceptionally expensive Bianca Wu LP (even the CD is excellent in sound), more for the great playing of the New York musicians than her singing perhaps. In no small measure I think this was due to the contribution of the Viva Fono phonostage (click on link above), which was superbly quiet, detailed and nuanced. I was most interested in its use of 2x 300B tubes as rectifiers!

The poor Accuphase flagship! If we had not requested a demo they would have sit out the session. The sound was not quite up to the vinyl setup but was still smooth and enticing (and they better be at that price!). Note much of the equipment are more prevalent in Asia than in the West, judging by the absence of formal reviews.

Then went to visit limage. Post later.

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