Hi-Fi and Music Collection
From my teenage years I have been intensely interested in classical and other music, and in hi-fi, understood as the endeavour to reproduce musical sounds in the home which are as near as possible to exact reproductions of the original sounds as made in the recording studio. I used to understand hi-fi more in terms of reproducing concert performances in the home, but, having attended many concerts in my time (including Proms performances in the Albert Hall in its 1960s pre-mushroom days, and present-day performances in Bristol's Colston Hall) I recognise that there is much about the concert-hall experience that one would not wish to bring into one's living room. Although live performances are wonderful social experiences, if you are actually interested in listening to the music, free from the distractions of the audience and dubious acoustic properties of the concert hall, there is nothing like a good CD and your own sofa in the living room ! This is a controversial opinion; opinions about hi-fi generally are, so I admit the possibility and validity of other points of view !
Over the years I have owned many different hi-fi systems, but have finally settled on something I am pleased with (I was pleased with many of my previous systems for a period - it will be interesting to see how the present one lasts...). The present system is mainly Quad - the 77 Integrated amplifier and CD player and (wonder of wonders !) the ES 988 electrostatic speakers. Bumph on the speakers can be found here -
The 77 units are nondescript but competent. The amplifier has a THD figure of 0.005% at all levels up to 70W in a 22kHz bandwidth, while the corresponding figure for the CD player is 0.002%. These figures give me confidence that nothing serious is going wrong in the reproduction at my end of the chain.
I enjoy listening to BBC Radio 3, but am dissatisfied that the Beeb has not kept up to date with technical advances in hi-fi broadcasting. DAB has been a serious disappointment - the 192kb/s (or 162kb/s on a bad day) used for R3 provides sound quality which is only just acceptable, and is really a disgrace, given that this channel is a major cultural asset for the nation. FM broadcasting is in many respects preferable, but after long and careful listening I have come to the conclusion that I prefer DAB for R3 on the grounds that the FM signal is too highly compressed for my taste. On strong orchestral tutti or choral crescendos the sound seems to recede into the back of the speakers in a disconcerting way. This effect is very noticeable when compared with the DAB version of the same broadcast, so I habitually use the latter for listening to R3. I retain an old Cambridge Audio T55 for listening to other channels where the DAB sound quality is simply unacceptable and useless; on some channels the bitrate is 64kbps or even less, which sounds much like a telephone. Here in Bristol we receive a strong and clear FM signal from Wenvoe (Cardiff), which can be received with no apparent noise or multipath effects, so FM reception is good.
The DAB tuner I use is shown above. I bought this in a local high-street shop for £30 and it works well. It has no identifying mark except Matsui DA-1. Its reception of Radio 3 sound is preferable to the T55, as previously mentioned. It is a tiny thing - 15cm by 7cm, with no supporting specification to mention. It just doesn't seem worthwhile to spend hundreds of pounds on an 'audiophile' product when the source material is so poor. Sad to say, I have really just given up taking broadcast sound seriously; I can remember the days when one could be enthusiastic about FM broadcasting, and when it seemed that a tuner could take its place in a true Hi-Fi system. But standards have moved on, and broadcasting in the UK has regressed or stagnated; thank God for CDs !
The T55 is shown above with the P60 - both cult items from the 1970s. I have systematically replaced all electrolytics in the P60, and replaced the filament bulbs in the T55 with LEDs, but in other respects the tuner is original. Recently the T55 started to be erratic in locking on to stereo signals, and finally gave up completely in the stereo department. After much research and prodding in the entrails I accidentally found a solution. I added a 2.7 MOhm resistor, connected from pin 9 of the stereo decoder chip to ground, which completely solved the problem, and gives a very prompt stereo lock. I have no idea how this works - I replaced the MC1310 chip with a new one without any success, and also the cap feeding signal into pin 9, so this remains a mystery, but it works and I mention it here in case this fix will be useful to anyone else. Here are some downloadable files on the CA stuff, culled from various internet sources -
I buy CDs compulsively, often raiding them from charity shops or boot sales. My appetite for music seems to be insatiable and wide-ranging. I often buy from these sources at just £1 or £2 just to educate myself when I come across something unknown; I have found astonishing bargains this way as well as making wonderful discoveries and finding curiosities which I would never pay full price for.
For anyone who is interested I have posted my entire CD catalogue -
Entries are in alphabetical order of composer, with notes on artists such as soloist, conductor, orchestra, etc. In some cases shelving notes are added in brackets, shelving being in the same order as the catalogue. This simple archiving system works surprisingly well for such a large collection, and I can usually find what I want very quickly.