Home Visit: My Dear Old Friend Robin the Scot
Coupling/Decoupling, Townsend, Stillpoints, 120V/240V, Slate/Acrylic
A Trip to Taiwan
As reported, Robin's house is perched on the Danshui side of Yanmingshan in Taipei, Taiwan, and commands a magnificent open view. His listening room/study is on the top floor. Finally, after more than 4 years, I got to visit him. Equipment has not changed much: R2R: Otari; Turntable: Garrard 301/Thomas Schick/Michell-Incognito-Rega RB300/Ortofon Kontrapunkt B; SUT: EAR MC-4; Preamp: ARC SP-11; Amp: McIntosh MC-275; Loudspeakers: Yamaha FX-3 (now on Townsend Seismic Podium). We spent two afternoons altogether and combed through the system:
- Accessories As usual, removal of most tweaking accessories (a lot of Stillpoints were used to support the turntable especially) resulted in an easier, freer-flowing sound. Readers should note I do NOT agree with the extravagant claims of most accessory manufacturers - while their products may change the sound for the better in some aspects, they also rob the music of vitality and presence. Almost no exceptions (think Stillpoints, Symposium, Finite Elements, TAOC etc, the list is looong). Ah, cheap and cheerful Vibrapod is a happy exception !
- 120V/240V Robin has both 240V (HK) and 120V (Taiwan) equipment. Removal of various (step-down/up and isolation) transformers improved the sound. He also found out later that the 240V outlet in the house (like the US, intended for air-con's etc) did not sound good for 240V audio equipment. So, while it is wise to use as few transformers as possible, using the 240V for audio is not desirable.
- Acrylic/Slate As the Thomas Schick arm had an alignment problem, we decided to swap in the Rega arm, which necessitated a change of plinth, from the acrylic back to the old slate one Robin used before. I must say I prefer the slate (and I am not even sure about that! I like wood even more, good wood at least). Never had too much enthusiasm for supposedly acoustically dead acrylic.
- deHavilland 222 Tape Playback Preamp (official link) Robin uses this as a headamp for his R2R. The 222 has a preamp section. We tried it out as a full function preamp but its line section did not quite match up to the ARC SP-11 (tall order of challenge!). We shall give it benefit of the doubt as it may not be quite run-in.
- Townsend Seismic Podium Now, the most interesting part. Robin had these under the loudspeakers. They slide around, making positioning an easy task. As I am usually against spikes, dishes and cones, I was receptive. Suffice to say, I heard nothing bad. I actually think for bulky speakers these are definitely viable, likely superior (though expensive) alternative to spikes. Would love to hear more! Those who want to read more can go to HiFi+, or watch Townsend's own demo video.
- Short Wall/Long Wall Placement Now, this occurred after I left! I had always advocated firing down the long wall, and the FX-3 is a powerful loudspeaker. Robin had tried this before a long time ago, but didn't quite like it. This time, after I left, he tried it again, and he excitedly told me that everything snapped into focus! In the huge room, the speakers are about 10 ft out into the room. I must hear it! For those who needs convincing, read my incredible experience on Klipsch La Scala!
- Long Live Yamaha! What incredible loudspeakers, the NS-1000 and the FX-3. Now, when am I going to hear the FX-1???
Taiwan is an interesting island (wiki entry). Because politics, it is rather isolated. And yet, despite this, perhaps even because of it, Taiwanese people, ethnically mostly Chinese, are amazingly friendly and disciplined citizens (compared to their mainland and HK counterparts). The city has a lot more breathing room than crowded HK, and it is quite a livable place. Except for the occasional cigarette butt, the streets are litter-free. I spent two weeks, living in the humblest area of industrial Sanchong, where there are large populations of Thai and Vietnam people (imported laborers). Every morning I get my coffee (better than Starbucks) at the local 711. I had trouble when I came back to congested HK. Some pics: