In this the penultimate part of the NAS 2012 series of Show Reports, we will visit a few more rooms in the upper floor of the North Hamptonshire Whittelbury Hall venue.
101 – Thomas Audio Support Systems
New to me Thomas Audio offer a fairly unique solution to isolating your equipment from air borne and structural vibration embodied in the Magic Rack
‘Based in Dorking, Surrey, Thomas Audio Support Systems (TASS) set about designing and manufacturing the perfect HiFi rack. To get the best from even a modestly priced set up the most important issue is to isolate the system. With perfect isolation, a budget system can sound great, a top end system can sound, well…. WOW! Placing your system on a standard rack, or on the book shelves will just kill the potential sound.
The Magic Rack is unique, there’s no other HiFi rack out there using the same materials or design principles. We’ve tried many of the standard HiFi racks out there – they just don’t work well enough.
This all started because we love our music… love it with a passion.’
I certainly haven’t seen anything quite like the Magic Rack MR1 equipment table before. TASS describe it thus….
‘The Magic Rack is a modular design. This allows you to have as many shelves as you’d like, you can always add another shelf in the future.
Each rack is hand made locally to us near Dorking by a furniture craftsman. They’re not mass produced and we inspect and test every rack before we send them out to the customer.
The Magic Rack is currently available either in a wood finish or gloss black, just select the finish you require.
WHAT IT DOES AND HOW IT WORKS
The Magic Rack supports and isolates each HiFi component that is placed on it. The Magic Rack isolates each component from any outside vibrations coming from, for example the speakers. The speakers are moving a lot of air around the room in the form of sound waves, put your hand in front of your speakers when playing music and you can feel this. When the sound waves hit the component, your amp for example, the component gets vibrated, which in turn reduces the performance/sound quality.
If you’re running let’s say 3 components, for example a power amp, a pre-amp and a CD player, then that’s 3 components that are being vibrated. The Magic Rack stops this happening.
The Magic Rack stops this in 2 ways…
The main body of the Magic Rack is made from M.D.F. which being granular in construction is a poor medium for energy (vibrations) to travel through. The granular construction acts as an energy ‘sink’. The energy (vibrations) get blocked and they can’t travel through and hit the HiFi components. If the rack was made of steel or glass for example, the energy (vibrations) would hit the rack and travel along it straight to the components.’
‘A second energy ‘sink’ is incorporated into the rack by placing the separate components straight onto the Magic Rack’s rubber straps. The rubber straps have also have a damping effect in the same way as the M.D.F. main body. Energy (vibrations) cannot travel along the rubber straps and are immediately blocked. The net result is that the components can now get on with the job they were designed to do making a huge difference to the performance.
DIMENSIONS: 789mm wide x 457mm deep x 589mm high.
Based on a 3 shelf rack
Magic Rack MR1 3 tier £600
Each additional tier £200
Custom wood finishes price on application’
The room was very busy when I visited so I didn’t have much of a chance to hear a demonstration of the equipment tables but I was intrigued by them, though if I am honest, visually I am not sure about the straps. So I guess at this stage all I can say is that they look like an interesting alternative to more conventional equipment tables and are certainly worth looking into.
Thomas Audio Support Systems http://www.magic-racks.co.uk/index.html
102 – Prometheus Audio
It was a real pleasure meeting the extremely passionate and knowledgeable George Thomsen who devoted a good 30 minutes + to telling me all about his turntable.
The Prometheus Audio Reference turntable motor unit used at NAS 2012 was £40,000 (cost of the example on show as George offers customisation of the material used, and this can push the cost of the turntable upwards and downwards. In fact prices range between 12k to over 40k) and the arm on it was a Talea by Joel Durrand £8000. The cartridge was a Koetsu K Signature £4000. The amplification was via a Wavac PRT 1 pre-amplifier and LRX phonostage Fed into a pair of Focal JMlabs active speakers. The stand is designed particularly for the turntable (though other equipment can be used with it) the stand in use at the show would retail for £25000.
Fit and finish of the turntable and stand was stunning and there is no doubt that only the very finest craftsmanship, materials, fit and finish (to tolerances of less than 2/10ths of a human hair) goes into both items – frankly to my eyes they both looked incredible.
During talking to George it became clear that he is a driven man re perfection of design and quality engineering but also very knowledgeable about music.
Much of what George told me I think he would be keen for me not to repeat, but the turntable uses a self lubricating bearing material and a special mix of oil that George formulated after many hours of trial and error (yes different types of oil affect the sound) until he was happy he had found the best type for his design. The platter weighs 20KG and is weighted in the outer rim not under the platter and is balanced during production not afterwards. The turntable also uses 6 isolators and the only point of contact is the belt.
The equipment platform is also amazingly well made and thought out design and features, air pockets within each leg and 48 isolators with 12 pistons, and at no time do they ever bottom out.
The Talea tonearm is also a thing of great beauty and magical engineering.
Joel Durand a professional musician has this to say about the Talea tonearm (taken from his website), the result of his own personal quest to design the best tonearm and in a similar way as to how one would a musical instrument…..
‘As a professional musician, my reference in audio reproduction has always been the live music event. I’d rather go to a good concert than sit at home in front of a blank wall–even if the wall is decorated with the pretty lights of expensive audio equipment. I have been to hundreds of concerts, in many of the best (and the worst…) halls of Europe and the US; unfortunately there are just as many concerts I have not attended, or will never attend.
Having moved away from some of the greatest cultural centers in Europe and the US, I started to miss the opportunity to hear live the world-class ensembles one can only find in those places on a regular basis. So the only way to recover some of that magic was to bring them home, in the best possible conditions. As I progressed in putting together my audio system, I soon felt the need to direct the creative energies I had devoted for so many years to musical composition into this new area, in a way that would combine my early training in sciences with what I had learned about music in the last three decades. This is why the Talea™ was born. In order to realize this project, I spent countless hours reading about tonearm design, machining prototypes and trying to fully understand the manufacturing process; and I listened to a lot of music–the best part of it all!
In the process of developing the Talea™, whenever there was a choice to make in the design or selection of materials, I followed the path that brought me closer to the real sound, that delivered the level of realism I knew so well from the concert hall, and was aiming for when I started the project. I am confident that the Talea™ is one of the very finest instruments on the market. I trust that you will agree, once you have had the chance to hear and play it.’
‘A mixture of wood and metals
Far from simply being an inert vehicle enabling the transmission of the electrical signal coming from the cartridge, the tonearm is probably the closest component to a musical instrument in the audio reproduction chain: like a violin bow, one of its primary roles–-in conjunction with the cartridge–is to communicate the mechanical vibrations from the musical source without damaging them. Each of the tonearm’s constituents carries a crucial responsibility in the transmission of these vibrations, so every element, down to the smallest screw plays an essential role in the resulting sound.
This is why I spent considerable amounts of time selecting the variety of materials that make up the Talea™: it is in the combination of carefully selected exotic hard wood and the different metals used in the assembly that lies one of the secrets of the Talea’s remarkably transparent and dynamic sound. Achieving this delicate balance is a very difficult process, one that involves paying the closest attention to the location and properties of every element of the assembly, and finally putting together each unit by hand and tuning it individually.
The result is a tonearm that delivers exceptional dynamic range and tonal realism throughout its bandwidth.
A unique device for azimuth setting
Just like a musical instrument that needs to be perfectly in tune before it is played, a tonearm should have a number of adjustments readily available to maximize its tuning. Beside the finely graduated adjustment capabilities for the Vertical Tracking Angle/Stylus Rake Angle and Vertical Tracking Force, the Talea™ offers a unique mechanism for azimuth setting. Thanks to new, patent-pending technology, the Talea™ is the first tonearm to offer the ability to adjust the azimuth on the fly. Never before has it been possible to fine-adjust this essential parameter while listening to music. Anyone who has spent time getting the most out of a high-end tonearm knows how critical it is to find the proper setting for the azimuth… and also knows how painstakingly complicated it is with most modern tonearms. With the Talea™, all you need to do is turn a small knob on the side of the azimuth tower; and it can be done while playing a record.’
Effective length: 263 mm (10.35”)
Pivot-spindle distance: 247.37 mm (Loefgren A geometry). Because the pivot is offset from the VTA tower, the Talea™ can be mounted in about the position of a 9” tonearm
Overhang: 15.66 mm. Effective length fine adjustment is realized with a cartridge plate on which the cartridge is mounted (Please see our page on cartridge alignment here)
Offset angle: 20.81 degrees.
Cartridge mount: 1/2”
Mounting distance (from spindle): 207.8-220.2 mm (8.3-8.7”). If you want to make sure that the Talea™ will fit on your turntable, you can download a mounting template here (click on tab “Talea™ Mounting Templates”).
Mounting hole dimensions: 10-24 (metal screws) or #8 (wood screws). Mounting on the plinth/armboard is done with 2 bolts (for metal armboards) or 4 screws (for wood armboards). No large central hole needs to be bored
Weight of the whole assembly: ca. 2.3 lbs (1.04 kg)
Bearing: Unipivot, Swiss-made non-corrosive, non-magnetic stainless steel pivot in a sapphire jewel. The center of mass of the tonearm is in the same plane as the bearing, thus ensuring an ideal dynamic balance, without the need for the outrigger weights commonly found on other unipivot systems
VTA: on the fly fine adjustment, with knob; each turn of the knob corresponds to 0.5 mm change in height, thanks to an extremely precise 50 TPI thread (finer than micrometer thread). Maximum range: 23 mm. The VTA tower is fastened to the inner column with a clamp mechanism, ensuring maximum mating and rigidity between the parts
Azimuth: adjustable on the fly (patent-pending technology). We discuss the question of azimuth setting here
Progressive anti-skating mechanism; can be disabled if desired
Counterweights: 130 g, 95 g, 60 g; with additional fine adjust weight to allow adjustment of VTF in small increments (typically +/- 0.1 g). The Talea™ is a medium mass tonearm, and the combination of counterweights provided with it allows use of most cartridges currently available. The Talea™ has been successfully tested with cartridges from 5 to 15 grams, with compliance from 8 to 20 µm/Mn
Phono cable uninterrupted from cartridge clips to termination connectors, except at the junction internal wires-interconnect cable
(available in unbalanced and balanced configuration); see below
Jig to set the pivot-to-spindle distance provided; no need for a ruler, the jig places the tonearm exactly in the right position
Arc protractor included
Like the Telos™, the Talea™ is a medium-mass tonearm that can be used with most modern cartridges on the market.’
‘To ensure excellent protection and durability, the main metal parts are black nickel plated.
The Talea™ is supplied with the high quality Discovery Plus 4 phono cable (four conductors, twin shields and locking phono plugs); length: four feet. All Discovery cables utilize a patented reverse lay stranding technique; this proprietary method of stranding eliminates EMI within each conductor. The cable is made up of high purity oxygen-free copper and PFA Teflon (the highest grade on the market) dielectric. Available in unbalanced or balanced configuration.
More details and reviews on the Discovery phono cable at: Discovery Cable™
The cable is burnt-in prior to shipping with the AudioKharma Cable Cooker 3.0.’
I enjoyed listening to music on this system, which sounded amazingly solid, natural, stable, open, airy and detailed, with massive weight and scale. The music just existed within the room within its own acoustic, which overrode the space of the hotel room transporting the listener to the recordings own world.
George was sharing the room with Mike Valentine (on the left in the picture below) record producer and music engineer, the force behind the Chasing the Dragon recording, which he was demonstrating from the master tapes in George’s room.
I was very impressed with the Prometheus Audio Reference turntable, the Talea tonearm and George himself.
Prometheus Audio http://prometheusaudio.co.uk/index.html
Durand Tonearms http://www.durand-tonearms.com/
104 – Sound Fowndations
Keith Green was up to his usual standard of presenting Isotek products and the differences they make to the sound of a system. Keith’s demonstrations are well worth watching as great examples of how to do such a thing, they are informative, entertaining and interesting to watch.
Around the room on static display were items from Furutech, Canor and Clearlight Audio.
The sound of the system was very good as usual but sadly as Keith was in full demo mode and I was unable to return to the room, I can’t give much more detail on the system.
Canor Audio http://www.canor-audio.com/
ClearLight Audio http://www.clearlight-audio.de/
106 – Audio Pro
Another new name to me Audio Pro had a range of their speakers on display but as I was pushed for time – literally about to leave the show – I did little more than enter the room and take photos -however the designs do look interesting as many are wireless designs and Audio Pro state that their designs solve many of the sound quality issues that have blighted many wireless designs in the past – removing cables from the equation is an intriguing idea.
This Swedish company has this to say about itself….
‘Since 1978, we have built loudspeakers with one ambition: to give you the best sound at the best price. We want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy good sound quality at home.
Our job is to make speakers that sound good, as well as scoring high in audio tests. You may think this sounds silly, but what’s really silly is that many speaker makers construct their speakers to deliver the ideal frequency curves when tested in echo-free (anechoic) testing chambers. Who lives in an echo-free testing chamber? No one we know.
Why this standard, you might ask. Many years ago, some sound engineers decided to apply what was, to say the least, a peculiar standard: namely, if a speaker had a straight frequency response in an echo-free (anechoic) test chamber, then the speaker’s frequency curve would also be straight in a room at home. However, it’s not that simple – the acoustics in a padded test chamber and those in your living room have nothing in common. If you’ve never been in an anechoic chamber, then you should know that the acoustics there resemble those of a small closet filled with winter overcoats.
In an ordinary room at home, on the other hand, all sorts of sounds are reflected as they bounce off walls, floors, ceilings, furniture, etc. If you put a conventional speaker in a room at home and measure the frequency response, it will be anything but straight.
Today, you will find Audio Pro in over thirty countries on four continents. If you ask the owner of an Audio Pro system what sets us apart from other speaker manufacturers, you will probably get a range of answers. Many speak of the magically pure bass, or what good sound quality they got for their investment, or in more ephemeral terms: “it just sounds so good… you can feel it!” It’s hard to describe a listening experience in words. There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, but each of the marvellously complex mechanisms that are your ears contain 20,000-30,000 sensors that transmit the nuances of the sound image to your brain. Use them to judge for yourself. Listen…’
I will let you browse Audio Pro’s website to explore their large range of speakers in detail, but prices range from as little as £350 for the Living LV1 to £1300 for the floorstanding Living LV3’s which can be used as a stereo, mono speaker and is an omnidirectional design.
Audio Pro http://www.audiopro.com/
Audio Pro Direct UK site http://audioprodirect.co.uk/
The final part of NAS 2012 will follow very shortly, with more coverage of the upstairs rooms.
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