Can You Get Excited By A Loudspeaker Stand? SolidSteel Stands To Reason!

I cannot remember ever being excited by a loudspeaker stand as much as this (apart from that time I bought a pair of Linn Sara stands for my …..err ….. Linn Sara’s)

These little beauties come courtesy of an Italian company that I’ve not come across before called Solid Steel. Now it transpires that they have been making speaker stands and Hi-Fi supports varying shapes and sizes since 1990 with a mission “To serve music and nothing else”

When their rep turned up at the store with what we thought was just another pair of speaker stands to say we were a little sceptical was a bit of an understatement! When he took our little Acoustic Energy AE100 off their Atacama stands and put on the Solid Steel SS6 the sound was totally transformed. We just looked at each other with open mouths and promptly ordered some!

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Now they are not what you would call conventional looking stands . They are three legged which makes them really easy to rigidly fix them to your floor. The nice chunky spikes help too!

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They are made from tubular stainless steel and have a special anti-resonant coating. They have height adjustable spikes and it is possible to add mass loading too for that little bit of extra performance. The really clever bit is the decoupling between the stand and the top plate. This is achieved through three high precision ball bearings upon which the top plate sits and is held in place by a metal tube which itself is de-coupled by a rubber “o” ring…….all very clever! This effectively means that the loudspeaker will be effectively locked rigidly in space which will result in a much cleaner and more open sound.

They come in three different heights to suit whatever bookshelf design of loudspeakers you might have. Different top plates are also available for that extra bit of customising to your speakers. Heights available are 525mm, 625mm or 725mm.

They are designed to be used with the single column at the rear which Solid Steel claim gives them improved rigidity but if you really prefer the look of them the other way round then ….. hey rules are made to be broken!

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For the purposes of this blog I set up a system comprising of Rega’s rather lovely Planar 3 turntable with an Elys cartridge running into Rega’s Elex R amp (both recent What HiFi award winners by the way!!). I chose to partner them with the ATC SCM11 loudspeakers and to start with I put them on a pair of the HiFi Racks stands which are no slouches in their own right!

I chose an LP that I am familiar with, the rather lovely new album by a band called Lump. Lump basically consists of Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay normally part of the band Tunng.

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Lump have been described as a heady blend of wonked-out guitars, Moog synths and pattering drums set against droning colliding clouds of flutes with lyrics inspired by early 20th century Surrealism and the absurdist poetry of Edward Lear and Ivor Cutler, slicing through the apparent emptiness of contemporary life. My copy is pressed on lovely translucent green vinyl!

This album has some great vocals and wonderful deep low bass and when I swapped the HiFi Racks stands for the Solid Steel stands the difference was just staggering. The bass that was already lush and lovely became deeper and tighter and within the bass was revealed lots of deep growly detail. The mid range became more open revealing tiny vocal nuances that just were not there before. Rhythms clashing and colliding off each other become hypnotic. The ATC really need this type of platform to perform of their best.

This result has been repeated in store with every pair of speakers that we put on them making these a must listen to upgrade if you want to get the best out of your bookshelf speakers. Pop in to Audio T Cheltenham store to arrange either a home demo or a demo in store….you will be amazed!!

SolidSteel stands are available at the following branches of Audio T: BrentwoodCheltenhamManchester

Chromey Has A Sit Down With SolidSteel Stands.

Solid Steel Stands, is one of the oldest Italian brands in the Hi-Fi with 28 years in the business. It is very rare that we find a speaker stand interesting enough to decide to blog about, the SolidSteel stands really have caught our attention with their industrial look and charm.

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Solid Steel has a background in professional grade welding, this reflects in their products with their seamless and unmatched welding techniques. Their history entailed welding vehicle parts for Ducatti motorcycles. With such a prestigious background and high level of demand for workmanship, which meant making loudspeaker stands was like a piece of tiramisu. (Bad cake joke - Ed)

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 Above we have the  SS-Vintage  stands in black and raw steel.

Above we have the SS-Vintage stands in black and raw steel.

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The construction of the stands are of a tripod design, meeting at the top is a base plate, decoupled by mounting perfectly on polished ball bearings on which the speaker sits. The Weld spots are seamless with almost a hint or artistic flare. It is interesting to spare a thought for the time, effort and skill spent to infuse different pieces of metal in such a way that is acoustically isolated and has an artistic element in mind.

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To hear a significant audible difference in the stands would be no exaggeration, instantly from the offset, bass was tighter and the midrange ever so slightly cleaner.

If you want to have a listen and appreciate these stands in the steel (flesh) come along to Audio T Manchester.

All the best from the Dave, Mike, Munir, Simon and Haden.

Cleaning Up Mains Noise With The Audioquest Niagara 1000

We have recently added the new Audioquest Niagara 1000 to our arsenal in store. Filtering noise out of mains supplies is no new thing and we have been championing it for years but this Niagara 1000 is one of the finest examples we have used.

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It is large and very shiny! The Niagara 1000 has 5 standard mains outlets and one high current output for hungry devices. An LED lets you know it is operational and there is a red warning LED for over voltage.

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Now there is a lot of technical jargon associated with mains filtering devices (and if you would like to read that have a look at the Audioquest website) but we tend to value our ears and put it to the test with a Rega system comprising Planar 6 with Ania cartridgeElicit-R, and a pair of B&W 705 speakers. The differences with the Niagara 1000  were marked. There was a much greater sensation of space, coupled with greater dynamics and "quieter quiets" Sarah McLachlan's voice just hovered in space in front of us, while Kraftwerk's staccato rhythms were very precise and forceful.

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As the Niagara 1000 is a 15 amp device we used it with one of Audioquest's Thunder 15A mains leads.

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Audioquest make a huge range of mains cables from the humble, but very effective, NRG range to the very high end Dragon.

We have really been very impressed with this range from Audioquest. Why not come in and see what some help with the mains could do for your Hi-Fi system? Try it in store and then perhaps try it for a few days in the comfort of your home using our home loan service.

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We hope to see you soon.

Paul, Francis, Jason and Boswell - Audio T Brentwood

Audioquest Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBristolCardiffCheltenhamEnfieldOnlineOxfordPortsmouthPrestonSouthamptonSwansea

Wired for Sound! Choosing The Right Cable Can Make All The Difference!

The interconnect cable is very often an afterthought when buying a Hi-Fi system. Sometimes taken for granted or even forgotten about altogether! A good interconnect can make a system sound fantastic, just as easily as a ropey one can ruin the sound completely!

This overlooked gem in the Rega range is quite possibly one of the world's best kept secrets along with the Hapsburg Napkin Fold, the Worcester Sauce recipe and the answer to Fermat's Last Theorem!! Well I think it's time that one of these secrets was revealed and the only one I know anything about is the Rega Couple phono to phone analogue interconnect, so here goes as we attempt to tell the whole world (well the Audio T Blog readers) what this cable can do.

Here at Audio T Cheltenham we have been trying, testing and listening to phono to phono leads for rather longer than it took for life to crawl up the beaches from the primordial oceans in the days before even the dinosaurs had ancestors. We have tried the good the bad and the ugly and have learned how to recognise a gem when we hear it and this one really is flawless.

Obviously it works wonderfully in a Rega system. Whether it is being used with a Rega Apollo CD player and Rega Brio integrated amplifier or going further up the range with the Rega Saturn CD Player + DAC or the Rega Elicit R integrated amplifier, it always sounds great. So a very flexible (in both senses) cable then!

We always keep coming back to the Rega  Couple as the phono lead of choice to use in our main demo systems in store and to those doubters who say that cables do not make any difference we say come and try this one and you will be converted.

Build quality is excellent and even has locking phono plugs for a better connection and to make it less likely that the plugs will be accidentally knocked out. Conductors are full of top notch copper of the high purity type and it also uses Rega's own design of gold plated plugs the signal pin and screening clamp of which are joint free which helps to keep the music signal pure.

Choose a well recorded album, (preferably on vinyl of course) such as Radiohead's latest wonderful thing, A Moon shaped Pool - this one happens to be a white vinyl copy.....pick a track....could be any of them because they are all great!

 Kung Fu Hamster Highly Recommends The Rega Couple 2

Kung Fu Hamster Highly Recommends The Rega Couple 2

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When played using a lower prices cable (better not say which) and then comparing the same track using the Rega couple the immediate impression is that the sound stage now has much greater depth and width. Sounds now come from further left and right of the soundstage and the loudspeaker cabinets just disappear! Rhythms have a greater propulsion, bass is tighter and deeper and it is now much easier to follow all the music and the vocals at the same time. The vocals have also now become more distinct and all the tiny inflections in Thom Yorke's voice now come through....... spine tingling stuff!!

If you are of the Green persuasion you may be pleased to know that the packing is 100% recyclable.

Remember though ...... a phono cable will not improve the signal, it just makes certain that you do not lose information between components! Yes there are better phono to phono leads out there in the big wide wacky wonderful world but that next jump up takes you up to about £200 and that's a whole other blog!

The price of the Rega Couple is £126 for a one metre pair, but remember if you are buying a new system, not only will we make you a cup of tea or coffee, we will do you a bit of a deal on that price too!!

Now it's time to blog off!

Rega Hi-Fi products are available from all branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBrightonBristolCardiffCheltenhamEnfieldManchesterOxfordPortsmouthPrestonReadingSouthamptonSwanseaSwindon

New Linn Lingo 4 Motor And Power Supply For Linn Sondek LP12 Turntable.

Linn recently introduced the Lingo 4 motor and power supply as an upgrade over the previous Lingo 3 for the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable. There are three power supply options for the LP12. Majik, Lingo and Radikal power supplies are modular and can be fitted as upgrades.

Follow the LP12 upgrade hierarchy of bearing, motor and power supply, sub chassis, tonearm, then cartridge for best performance.

The Lingo is the first improvement to make on a Majik LP12, providing a clear upgrade from the internal Majik power supply and previous Lingo models.

The Akurate LP12 is the middle of three standard LP12 configurations and comes complete with Lingo, Kore sub chassis, Akito tonearm and Krystal cartridge.

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The new Lingo is a major upgrade to deliver even better sound from your vinyl, thanks to the addition of ground-breaking technology derived from the extraordinary Radikal power supply that is standard on the best LP12 Klimax configuration.

New Lingo incorporates a motor speed management system and uses digital processing technology to make the platter spin more accurately and more consistently. What’s more, it auto-calibrates the motor when the Sondek LP12 is powered on to ensure this accuracy and consistency every time. That’s crucial for music, of course: even the slightest speed variation affects the pitch, and a turntable that isn’t accurate is like a musical instrument that hasn’t been tuned properly.

Join Julian, Paul and John in the Brighton store to explore the Linn Lingo in detail. Please contact us to arrange a demonstration. 

Tel: 01273 609 431
Email: brighton@audio-t.co.uk

Linn Hi-Fi products are available at the following branches of Audio T:
BrightonBristolManchester

New Rega Ania Moving Coil Cartridge

Rega have been pushing the boundaries of cartridge design for a good number of years, and none more so than the moving coil type.

The Rega Apheta was the first of these in 2005, and that was re-worked and improved when the Apheta 2 was introduced in 2014. The top of the range Aphelion followed in 2015 and demonstrated just how far Rega had progressed the design and manufacture in this highly specialised discipline.

All these turntable cartridges are manufactured by Rega at their UK facility in Southend-on-Sea which is quite an accomplishment.

The Ania is the new addition to the moving coil range which opens up ownership due to the wider compatibility with tonearms and turntables, and of course its price, which offers great value and exceptional sound for the money.

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Indeed the Rega Planar 3 combines very well with the Ania, and as you go up through the Rega turntable range greater musical delights become apparent.

Rega moving coil cartridges are the low output type and require a moving coil phono stage. It just so happens that Rega are also introducing the Fono MC that is an obvious partner, although other MC stages will work.

The newly announced Rega Planar 6 completes the perfect package of Planar 6 (inc Neo PSU), the Ania MC cartridge and the recently released Fono MC stage.

The Ania and Fono MC are already the beneficiaries of a fine review by Jason Kennedy in the-ear.net where he extols the virtue of their performance partnered with the Rega RP8 turntable.

We have the Ania, Apheta 2 and Aphelion on demonstration and expect the Fono MC in mid July and the new Planar 6 around the end of July.

So, give us a call to hear the combination of your choice, and we will arrange that for you.

Julian, Paul and John at Audio T Brighton  Tel: 01273 609431

Rega Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBrightonBristolCardiffCheltenhamEnfieldManchesterOxfordPortsmouth
PrestonReadingSouthamptonSwanseaSwindon

The Rega Ania MC Cartridge, Hand Made By Rega In Southend-on-Sea

The new Rega Ania has just arrived here at Manchester, seen as the baby brother of the wonderful Apheta 2, the £498 moving coil cartridge could well a be winner in the making.

Officially the third in the range of moving coil cartridges from Rega, this is a much needed price point (in our opinion) and bridges the gap nicely between the Rega Exact and Apheta 2.

 Can you spot the Rega Ania?

Can you spot the Rega Ania?

Hand made completely at Rega headquarters in Southend-On-Sea the Rega Ania is hand wound by the bods at Rega. Amazingly, but not surprisingly the build quality of the Ania is on par with our Japanese cousins, who as you know, can make a mean cartridge.

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The neodymium magnet is housed in the high quality and unique rigid plastic body, using the same technique Rega use for the Apheta 2 and the Aphelion but at half the cost of the Apheta 2 because of the materials used. With meticulously wound finer than fine copper wire (as seen below), it requires an infinite amount of patience during the process. This task is not for the coffee drinkers.

The Ania uses Rega's 3 point “tried and tested” mounting to remove any tracking errors. Rega have said it will be factory fitted as an option on some of the turntables. The RP6 and RP8 come to mind straight away, but what a great upgrade it would be to the ever popular Planar 3

 The Rega Ania will make a great upgrade for the Planar 3. Watch this space for an update on how it sounds. 

The Rega Ania will make a great upgrade for the Planar 3. Watch this space for an update on how it sounds. 

You may have noticed the words “Hand Made In” in our blog. This is something we try and get across every once in a while just to remind  people that we still make great products "by hand" in good old Blighty. The beautiful pocket squares used in the photographs with the Rega Ania are sold by Doherty Evans & Stott, a high end bespoke tailors just up the road from us.

These colourful squares were a collaboration between the Manchester School of Art, silk weavers based in Macclesfield and DE&S. The winning designs were chosen by Andy, Matt and Tom at DE&S. So well done to Jazmine Darson, Kauser Farhan and Maya Elbourki. I'm going to be buying one.

So, in a nutshell if you want to add a bit of pizzaz and and splash of musical colour to your vinyl, why not take a look the Rega Ania. And if your suit needs a splash of summer to brighten your day try one of the colourful pocket squares from DE&S. Simple.

The Rega Ania will be on demonstration at our Manchester store and at our up and coming secret Rega product launch event on the 15th July.

Mike, Dave, Simon, Haden and Munir are usually loitering somewhere in the store. So feel free to ask any questions you may have. 

Hope to see you soon.

New Rega Ania Moving Coil Cartridge

Building on the success of the Apheta 2 and Aphelion moving coil cartridges Rega have introduced the new Rega Ania.

Rega's design approach is unique for moving coil cartridges using an undamped ultra low mass generator with a rhomboid pivot for the cantilever coupled with an exclusively designed neodymium magnet system. This approach requires a cartridge body that has virtually zero tolerances to allow exact positioning of the magnet system relative to the pivot mounting hole. This is achieved in the Apheta and Aphelion models by machining ultra high grade aluminium to achieve the tolerance levels required (Within one thousandth of a millimetre).

 Rega Ania

Rega Ania

The process of machining aluminium to this tolerance level is exceptionally expensive so when Rega decided to design the Ania moving coil cartridge their solution was to use a moulding process using an unusual poly/glass combination called 'Polyphenylene Sulphide (PPS-Forton). The special attributes of this material are its hardness and stability in shape and dimension after the moulding process. Rega have designed and built a new production mould tool to enable this extremely complex body shape to be achieved to the exacting specifications required.

To achieve the performance of the Ania cartridge they have combined the PPS body with an elliptical tipped diamond stylus and cantilever with an iron cross and micro coil assembly (one of the smallest MC generators). Special three point stainless steel inserts have been used for secure three point coupling to the tone arm.

 Three Point Mounting System

Three Point Mounting System

Sound Quality:

With the Ania MC cartridge firmly fixed to a Rega Planar 3 my first impression was that it shouldn't be able to do that for the money. It wasn't just good, it was astonishing. I first played Crazy Love by Poco off the album Legend and even though I thought I knew this one inside out the Rega combination laid out the harmony vocals and acoustic guitars within a huge soundstage ....one of those "shivers down your spine" moments! To make sure this wasn't a fluke, on went another demo fave in the shape of Faron Young by the rather wonderful Prefab Sprout and sure enough everything was bigger more open and more detailed than I have ever heard a Planar 3 before. The Thomas Dolby production work really coming alive with great deep but tight and fast bass allied to a wide open mid-range and a sweet top end.

Appetite whetted we then decided to put the Ania in the RB808 arm on the Rega RP8 turntable where it really excelled. The Poco and Prefab Sprout tracks opening up to reveal yet more detail. This really is one of those items of Hi-Fi that makes music fun to listen to and that will have you rooting through your record collection to hear what delights it will reveal next. In fact we were so impressed that Jon has ordered one for himself and I am thinking that my Rega P7 turntable may be paired up with one when my Dynavector wears out!!

The unique design concept of the new Rega Ania MC cartridge has produced a market leading cartridge with exceptional musicality, speed, clarity and detail retrieval not before achieved at this price point (£499.00 Inc VAT).

We have fitted our demonstration Ania to the Rega RP8 and have coupled it with phono stages from the Rega Fono MC, Arcam R-Phono and Rega Aria with outstanding results. If you are looking for a new moving coil cartridge that does not cost the earth a demonstration of the new Rega Ania is highly recommended. 

 Almost forgot Kung Foo Hamster

Almost forgot Kung Foo Hamster

We look forward to seeing you soon.

Farid, Andy and Jon - Audio T Cheltenham

Rega Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBrightonBristolCardiffCheltenhamEnfieldManchesterOxfordPortsmouth
PrestonReadingSouthamptonSwanseaSwindon

Quadraspire Sets The Stage With The New Soundstage

Unveiled at Sound & Vision - The Bristol Show this year, Quadraspire's Soundstage is not to be underestimated. Retailing at just £100, we consider it to be one of the most affordable and versatile upgrades you can implement into your Hi-Fi system.

If you consider that the price of dedicated Hi-Fi furniture can quickly mount up, £100 gives you the ability to turn any existing desk, table, cupboard, sideboard into a Hi-Fi shelf.

The science behind the Soundstage follows suit with Quadraspire's approach to reduce mass and retain rigidity. Also, the soundstage uses unfinished bamboo, no oils or lacquers are used, just raw bamboo, that has been gently sanded. Alester from Quadraspire pointed out that coating the Soundstage with anything would hinder its performance.

The Bamboo cut out, reducing the mass of the platform whilst keeping the original strength of the shelf. 

The solid bronze feet have a bamboo insert that won't scratch your lovely desk or sideboard.

 That looks comfortable chromey,  take a seat.

That looks comfortable chromey,  take a seat.

The solid phosphor bronze feet plant the SoundStage to any surface. With the option to have 3 or 4 feet simply by unscrewing them. So, for example, a Linn Sondek would require 4 feet and a Rega turntable would need 3. All other pieces of Hi-Fi like CD players and streamers would work with 4 feet. 

 Chromey and his Bronze minions

Chromey and his Bronze minions

The Quadraspire Soundstage gave a tighter, more controlled bottom end, whilst expanding (you guessed it) the soundstage. Doing an A to B demo with our Rega Planar 1 really made a difference, night and day between listening sessions. Quadraspire say “a Hi-Fi system from amplifier to source including record decks, CD players and streamers are microphonic and produce resonance that will distort the quality of the music reproduced by a Hi-Fi system” we agree, and to this end the results were nothing short of impressive.

Alester, the design guru at Quadraspire, has come up with another well designed product, you may have a hit on your hands here Alester, well done. 

The Soundstage is on demonstration at Manchester now, as well as other dedicated Hi-Fi furniture from Quadraspire.

Quadraspire racks and stands are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrightonBristolCardiffCheltenhamManchesterOxfordPortsmouthPrestonReading
SouthamptonSwanseaSwindon

The Brilliant And Gorgeous Hana EL Cartridge

Audio T Manchester have just added a new range of Hana cartridges to our collection. This relatively new brand of cartridge from the land of the rising sun is causing quite a stir amongst people who have already heard them, and although first introduced in 2015 the company behind Hana, Excel Sound Corporation, have been producing cartridges for over 50 Years. We took in the Hana-EL and SL as our first foray into this new range.

Today's blog will take a quick look at the beautiful moss green Hana-EL MC cartridge and at the slick black Hana SL Shibata and maybe a few puns from a galaxy far far away.....

Hana in Japanese actually means "brilliant and gorgeous" which, for all intents and purposes is exactly how it sounds. Tested with our own Michell Gyro'SE' the Hana EL didn't let us down.  it gets you a lot of bang for your galaxy credits.

Stereophile magazine also took the Hana EL "low output" for a test drive and said "the EL's basic sonic character was highly musical and exceptionally non mechanical." (Vol.39 No.8 WWW)"

Excel Sound Corporation have being making cartridges for other manufacturers for over 50 years now and only recently have they decided to put their own name to a range of cartridges called Hana, which are hand made in Tokyo Japan.

All Hana cartridges have a highly rigid aluminium cantilever and a diamond stylus.

Ok, so our opinion on the Hana twins. Dave our manager and turntable jedi wanted to give the pair a whirl. He tested both the EL and SL Shibata on a Linn  LP12, Ekos arm with exceptional results. To begin with, the EL low output did an admiral job of sounding musical and detailed, certainly worth the admission fee.  

Then the Hana SL Shibata, is equally impressive, but is much more open, the extra height in the soundstage just lifts everything out and away of the speakers. What's more, the very low surface noise just adds to the detail, more than you would expect from just a Shibata upgrade, very good and again great value.

Hi-Fi Choice, Hifi World and Hifi Pig all gave the Hana cartridges glowing reviews.

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Headshell Chromey! Headshell!! Thats a half inch mount....not your headshell mate...ahh never mind, come on now move along, move along and put your helmet back on, there's nothing to see here. 

The Hana SL Shibata mounted on our Michell Gyro SE.

The Hana cartridges are both on demonstration at our Manchester store and we have the Michell and Rega turntables on standby ready to show off the Hana's capabilities.

So please do pop along to our store on Bridge Street in Manchester and just ask Munir, Dave, Mike, Simon or Haden (on a Sunday) if you're interested in listening to the Hana, they will be more than willing to help.

Oh, and may the vertical tracking force be with you, all 2 grams of it.

Hana products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodManchester and Reading