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New range of Naim high-end interconnects and speaker cables

Today Naim revealed its new Super Lumina range of high-quality interconnects and speaker cables, developed in parallel with Statement, its flagship amplification system.

The brief was simple: design a range of cables that would complement and allow the maximum performance of Statement as well as Naim 500 Series and Classic products. Starting with a blank page, Naim’s engineers specified each element of the cables based on the results of thousands of hours spent in the listening room testing prototypes.

To reach their goal required a deep understanding of material science and the influence of cable and connector construction on sound quality.

Super Lumina pre to power interconnects ship as standard with all Statement systems. The rest of the range is scheduled to enter production in February 2015 and will be available from all Naim specialist retailers.

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Keith Monks discOvery mini One Sapphire Limited Edition

Celebrating 45 years of the original – the Keith Monks Record Cleaning Machine

Keith Monks Audio today unveiled the new discOvery mini One Sapphire Limited Edition Record Cleaning Machine.  This exclusive model takes all the benefits of the discOveryOne so successfully launched in 2013, and then improves on it.  The Sapphire is the smallest ever Keith Monks and features a vacuum gauge, hinged lid cover and the Keith Monks Classic precision wash system built in. Each Sapphire machine and its accompanying certificate are individually numbered, and both display a reproduction Keith Monks original signature.

The discOvery mini One Sapphire is a limited edition of 45 production units worldwide.

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Bose QuietComfort 20i

I’ve been away in Darlington most of the week and I’m on the train home knackered. I had the foresight to use Radio Paradise’s version 3 on my iPad to download six hours of great eclectic ‘radio’.  Radio is great for travelling and when tired, as it takes away the need for decision making – just let it play and if a song comes along you don’t like, another will be along soon.

The real key to me relaxing on the train is not the choice of music or the sound quality whether it be the 320kbps AAC of Radio Paradise, or the 24/192 wavs I sometimes play on my Fiio X3, it’s my Bose QuietComfort  20i noise cancelling headphones.

The QC 20i’s noise cancelling is superb, they take away most of the roar of the train, the clatter of the tracks and some of the noise of the louder passengers, however there is one small foible with the noise cancelling: on a train when another train passes in the opposite direction the QC 20i’s pop. The odd pop is a small price to pay for the amazingly good noise cancellation.

Sound quality of the QC 20i’s is very good. It’s not quite as good as say my Shure SE535s or even my Etymotic ER-4Ps but still very good.  They don’t quite have the transparency of the best in-ears, they have low colouration once they have run for a few hours. But, and it’s a huge but, they are very comfortable – they are ear bud style rather than true in-ears but Bose have included some little soft plastics wings that mean for the first time ever I can wear buds without them falling out.

In conclusion, the Bose QC20is are my choice for travelling earphones.  Great noise cancellation, truly comfortable, good sound, what more can you really want?

It’s no surprise if you look around at an airport or train station to find the people who look like seasoned travellers are mainly wearing Bose cans.

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Amazon Fire TV in, Apple TV and Sony SMP-N200 out

The Amazon Fire TV arrived on Friday and immediately replaced both the Apple TV and the Sony network media player in my family room system. One box instead of two, one SMPS instead of two and one ethernet connection instead of two.

The beauty of the Amazon Fire TV box is that I can now easily watch Netflix or Amazon Prime Video without changing inputs on my DAC or TV. Less chance for a macro to go wrong.

Harmony Remote with HubThe Amazon Fire TV is fully controllable from my Harmony Remote with the exception of voice search.  For the convenience of only having one remote control for the whole system, I can live without voice search.

The sound quality seems to be as good as the Apple or the Sony and I think the image quality is better than either. No network glitches or buffering so far so it seems well sorted from a networking point of view, which is a little more than I can say about the Sony.

The screen saver images are also stunning.  Super sharpened but without any MPEG/JPG style artefacts that I can see.

I’ve seen complaints about the menu system, the fact that it favours Amazon products (Duh) but it’s easy to use, works well and in two days I’m used to using it.

Highly recommended.

All for £49 delivered if you have a Prime account.

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Hi-res digital recording of vinyl: Is it needed?

Having purchased a Thunderbolt ‘sound card’, the Zoom TAC-2,  to make life easier when measuring loudspeakers it was too much of a temptation not to try recording some records.

Previous posts have talked about Record Cleaning and Do turntable belts sound different. Both posts have included downloadable samples of music to illustrate the differences.

This post is even simpler, linked below are four recordings of an excerpt from the same Nat King Cole track. The only change between recordings was the sampling rate.  All are 24Bit Aiff files, one is 44.1, one. 88.2, one is 176.4 and the largest is 192kHz sampling.

The differences are not massive, don’t expect night and day differences. But there are differences and the better the system on which these are played, the easier they are to hear. The record is another charity shop purchase, so it’s not perfect but in some ways the clicks help to show the changes.

Nat King Cole 44.1kHz

Nat King Cole 88.2kHz

Nat King Cole 176.4kHz

Nat King Cole 192kHz

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Record Cleaning: worth the effort and cost?

I’ll start with what I do and then try to give some simple reasoning behind the thinking.

About half my total vinyl purchases are from charity (thrift) shops and from secondhand (used) record shops. Most of these shops are not the type that clean and grade their stock. The best indication of likely quality is a clean sleeve, not too much dust and not too many finger marks on the record itself. I always clean these records before playing. They usually end up looking really good and sounding somewhere between fabulous and OK.

Sometimes the best looking example is the worst sounding, but until I get to play them there is no way to judge.

Once cleaned a record is given a new polylined inner sleeve as there is little point in putting a clean record in a first sleeve.

New records are rarely cleaned before first play and only maybe 20% are cleaned at all when new. If they are significantly noisy and from a reputable supplier they go back for replacement. If they are from a less easy to communicate with source such as a stall at a hi-fi show or a record fair they will get cleaned.

So does the record cleaning help? A simple answer: yes. It doesn’t make damaged records perfect, but it does clean out crud, whether that is excess mold release agent, leaching plastizers, or just dirt. On some records is removes a good amount of the clicks and pops and on others it just removes a level of low-level masking.

My Rega RP6, Audio Technical OC9II combination is very enjoyable to listen too but it is quite sensitive to click and pops. Unfortunately, no cleaning will remove those that are ground into the surface of the grooves. Some great looking records sound as if they have been played with a knitting needle.

I don’t believe it’s a good idea to clean records too often (once a year is as often as I will ever contemplate), as I believe that over cleaning, whether too often or with too strong a cleaner, is the reason for some enthusiasts saying cleaning makes records sound worse. I believe an over cleaned record, which has had too much plastizer stripped out of the groove, just wears too quickly and becomes noisy quickly.

I’ve linked below to two zipped files. Both the same section of a Bryan Ferry track. The first recorded as the record came out of the sleeve after buying it at my local Cancer Research charity shop. The second, the same record, after a clean using Keith Monks Break the Mold fluid on the Keith Monks Classic Record Cleaning machine.

The recording was achieved using the Pure Vinyl 4 app on a Mac mini.  The ADC was a Zoom TAC-2 set to 24bit 88.2kHz, chosen at it is an easy down sample to CD resolution for anyone without a hi-res DAC. The files are zipped aiff.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions but may I suggest that you concentrate less on the clicks and pops and more on the inner detail, the tonal quality of the backing singers and the way you may find you interact differently to both track excerpts.

Bryan Ferry as purchased

Bryan Ferry cleaned

One small but essential piece of advice. if you decide to invest in a Record Cleaning Machine make sure it’s a quiet one. An afternoon cleaning records wearing ear defenders is not fun. An afternoon cleaning records listening to the record you have just cleaned is great fun.

If you don’t feel the expenditure is worthwhile consider visiting a hi-fi retailer or record shop that offers record cleaning services once in a while.  Start with a couple to check their care and attention and if all’s well get a few of your noisier, muckier records cleaned.

KMAL