Sunday, 1 December 2013

Audio Meet - Owston 9th and 10th November 2013

Well, not much of a blog this is it? A couple of posts barely relevant to hi fi then silence for four months. I have no excuse but overwork. And whooping cough.

Yes, whooping cough. Isn't that something kids get? That's what I thought too, but it's more common in adults than children these days apparently as vaccination is so successful. But the efficacy wears off with age, so more adults contract it than the young.

I've had it for about four months now and although I'm in the recovery phase I'm still not on top form yet. I definitely can't recommend it and I understand why babies and young children can be hospitalised. Anyway, you didn't come here to hear me moan so let's get on with some photos :-).

Owston Park Lodge

Every six months or so a number of us meet up to "show and tell" with our latest kit. As we predominantly inhabit the Audio Talk forum most of us are DIYers, and most of us prefer valve amplifiers. After that things splinter a little - some like SE some like PP, some like open baffles some like boxes, some like vinyl some like digital, and most of us like most of them. We're a pretty broad church and some of the attendees are commercial, some have become commercial over the years we've been meeting.

The usual venue is the function room of a pub to the north of Doncaster, so unlike some dos in hotels we're all in one room albeit rather large. Acoustics can be a bit tricky but it suits our ethos as we're all together and meeting up is as much social (and alcoholic) as about audio.

Saturday was a rather grey and at times damp day, a good day to be inside really.

The regulars meets up on the Friday night for a good drink and discussion about various things. The later it gets the more compelling the discussion! Further catching up is done on the Saturday morning whilst everyone assembles their kit. Some have been known to shake their head wondering why it doesn't sound as good as it does at home. Yes, the room can be a killer, but at least it can be blamed.

And then our "host" and organiser Steve S calls us to order, welcomes all, and provides the important information - like what time the buffet lunch will be.

Kicking us off this time was Dom and Natalie from Northwest Analogue. Dom's a nice guy and really knows his stuff with vinyl. Not sure about his choice of handbags though. At least I think it's his... Maybe not.

They used a Garrard 401 in one of Dom's custom made slate plinths

They were also using the protoype of a new cartridge Dom has built. Nat was a bit concerned about photos showing the unfinished state so I've respectfully and if I may say so rather skillfully photoshopped it out in this photo. Okay, I lied, it wasn't very skillfully done, but then I lied about using Photoshop too!

They used a 5881 SET with 274 rectifier, but I didn't catch what the driver was

They were using Colin Topps' new Jenna speaker. This is another design from Scott and very nice they were too. They'd walk out of any hi fi shop and would retail for a good sum. They're named after Scott's favourite fiddle player.

Following Don and Natalie was Ed with the first of his two systems. It was Ed that inspired me to create this blog so I could record our meets for posterity, since I lost access to my old Simon's New Adventures In Hi Fi site. Assuming Google doesn't go belly up or start charging for the privilege anyway. Ed also shares my bemusement about the whole concept of golf and golfists.

Ed has struggled for some time to fettle his Coleman regs he uses for SV572 filaments but has now found success by using a couple of cheap ebay SMPS for the raw DC supply.

Using his "vintage" Squeezebox Ed demonstrated with his kit that he certainly has plenty of know-how

I love valves that glow!

The cheap ebay SMPS

And Ed's own design and constructed VoFo speakers with Fostex 207s (I think)

Next, going round the room was Mike with Scott's latest design, a double bass reflex with Mark Audio Alpair 10P (I think). Here Scott introduces the concept of the speakers.

And Mike talks about his solid state amp with germanium transistors

Having used a phone before here myself Mike's a man after my own heart using his iPhone as source. Of course I use Android (this was kindly brought to you by our host and sponsor Google!)

Having lived with Fostex 208E sigmas for about 10 years I'm always intrigued when I see a cone with a lot of movement , and the Alpair 10P has quite a bit

And then it was the turn of our host Steve. I like Steve's kit a lot, he ploughs a slightly lonely furrow in the way he does things, but then he has one of the largest collections of early British valves :-). Steve thinks of Second World War era valves as new fangled inferior mass produced jobs.

Steve brought his new amp finished late the night before (or was that early the same day?) He was a bit concerned about it as he thought it might need a bit of fettling, but it was fine :-). The interstages and output transformers were fresh from Pieter at Tribute, some fancy amorphous type material apparently. So whilst the valves were probably the oldest things in the room the iron was probably the newest.

PX25 globes

Source was his trusty DVD player and TeraDAC

Several pages could be written about Steve's speakers. They're the culmination of many years of experimenting with open baffles. Yep they're baffles, not boxes.

I'm not sure what this incarnation uses but there's a couple of Fane bass drivers, possibly a 15" and an 18", teamed with a nice Beyma TPL150

Next around the room was Graeme who hasn't been for a little while so it was good to see him back again

Graeme brought his very much DIYed turntable - originally a Lenco GL75 I think? with air bearing parallel tracking arm, and cartridge built by his wife. That's pretty DIY :-).

Graeme's using his WAD KEL84 PP amp to bi-amp with a Quad 405 to power his Tannoys

Then we came to Steve (the Shadow) with his balanced KT120 PP amp and Colin's Jenna speakers

Steve was using his Apple front end

Following Steve was David from Mains Cables R Us with a selection of gear.

The turntable was a well-specced Technics. A bit of leg pulling in the room suggested it might be trying to make a silk purse from a sows ear!

Phono stage was Nick's

The preamplifier Nick had "knocked up in his shed the night before" according to David. Which might have a grain of truth perhaps, but was a little more leg pulling.

Dave was using some interesting concrete speakers. A three way design, the fascination for me was the construction of the cabinets. I've long held reservations about using concrete for speakers - when hit with a hammer well compacted concrete rings. I can't help thinking this must affect the resonance of the speaker but as I've never tried it I don't know if that's actually the case. These speakers didn't ring as far as I could hear, and the designer confirmed that he'd added some kind of rubber pellets to his mix which I think may well have been a master stroke. Construction was very good and they sounded like good box speakers to me.

Meanwhile Andrew was testing various people's amps for them with his super-improved lightweight testing rig, no one a laptop rather needing to lug a desktop down from Scotland. The testing process has proven valuable to a number of people helping them to focus on areas to improve.

Back to the systems, and following David was Ali who was very excited as he heard his Garrard 401 for the first time after it had been living on top of his wardrobe in storage for a few years. A little fettle by Dom and it made sweet music with his active solid state amps and baffles with Visaton and Eminence Alpha drivers. The pre amp might have been borrowed from Nick?

Next was Steve again, this time introducing Ant's system (who was outside taking a breath of fresh air)

Then Ed went again with his second system. Ed was valiantly trying to demonstrate the weaknesses of the speakers and that he'd had to heavily damp them, but they sounded okay to me. He used his F2 this time.

And then we came to Mark with this Owston's award for most hardcore DIY effort with his multi way horns. Mark asked for feedback from the floor and was promptly told he was a nutter. Not quite the sort of feedback Mark was looking for! Source was James' super Kenwood direct drive turntable, amp was Mark's 4P1L-6B4G (I think) with shunt reg power supply.

Then a mix of kit was put together so we could hear Mark's 5687 Aikido pre amp. This was Mark's first DIY build and he was understandably very proud of it. The chassis was built by Ant, turntable was Dom's NWA 401 with the concrete speakers again.

Nick had a go next, with an active crossover using a DSP board to compare against the passive crossover in Colin's Jennas.

Greg was next with his WAS 2A3PSE and WAD PREII converted to cathode follower.

Poor old Dave had been trying to have a go for a while but kept missing out. But we couldn't put him off forever and eventually had to let him have a go. Dave had brought a 300B amp with four separate regulated bench supplies for the HT. On the Sunday we compared the AC heating of the 300Bs with some DC modules Andrew has designed. There was a subtle difference between the two, and the preference was universal. This says a great deal for how well Dave had implemented the AC heaters, indeed this is a very fine amp indeed.

Last but by no means least was Thomas with his TV trolley masterpiece. This time it was sporting 6SN7-46-300B with Coleman regs for the 46 and 300B filaments and series reg HT. Jolly nice indeed. The first photo is perhaps a little unfortunate, but as Thomas was insistent on assaulting us with Henry Rollins it seems rather appropriate! Sorry Thomas!

Another great meet with some really good sounds. The standard of our meets is so very high these days. Roll on the next one.

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