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Sources etc

Sources:-

CD Player - Meridian 206

What can I say about this venerable old player? It works fine, and does almost everything I need from a CD player. About all I would like is if it played CD-Rs properly. I plays them, but track selection is variable, it's fine if I play a CD-R all the way through, but starting at Track 6, for example, it stops. Still, I have very few CD-Rs and even CDs get played very rarely since ripping all my CDs to hard-drive and getting a Squeezebox Touch.

FM Tuner - Meridian 204

Having moved my equipment to another room, there was no sensible possibility of installing an outside FM antenna, and anyway, I now listen to radio almost excusively through my Squeezebox, that I had no use for the 204, so sold it to someone who could appreciate it more.

Squeezebox Touch
 
This has completely changed the way I listen to music. Having now ripped all my CDs to Apple Lossless, my whole collection plus Internet radio is available instantly. I'm playing a lot more music and rediscovering stuff I'd forgotten I had. Also, there are several CDs I seldom play as there's only one or two tracks I like, and I'm too lazy just to put the CD on for those tracks. The Squeezebox makes it easy just to play what I want. The shuffle function, which I never found of any use with CDs, is something I now use a lot, as it surprises me with stuff I hadn't heard for ages.
 
I'm also listening to a lot more speech, with BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra on iPlayer, I can get programmes from the past week.
 
Those of such disposition might notice that the Touch is wired with the red/white cables that came free with it. It talks to a laptop upstairs over Wi-Fi which in turn talks to the router over Wi-Fi. The laptop has a big hardrive (backed up twice...I'm a bit obsessive about backups) and I've had no problems at all using Wi-Fi, rock stable with no dropouts.
 

EMT948

I have a soft spot for professional, especially Broadcast equipment, due to their incredible build quality. Before digital audio, radio stations needed their tape machines and turntables to work 24/7 with minimal maintenance. The EMT turntables were the pre-eminent broadcast machines, used extensively by the BBC, RAI in Italy, ORF in Austria, all Scandinavian radio stations and of course by every Rundfunk going in Germany. EMT's early machines were the idler-drive 927 and 930, but later they introduced the 950 direct-drive unit, followed by the smaller 948 and simpler 938. The arm and audio electronics was identical in the 950 and 948, but the 950's motor was bigger.

There is an excellent book on EMT turntables and the history of the company by Stefano Pasini. Stefano is a real Renaissance man, being interested in Optics, audio, cars and fine living, He has written a number of novels and has a lot of great information on his web site.

http://www.stefanopasini.it

The arm is EMT's own 929. Originally, EMT used Ortofon arms, but they later decided to design their own. Cartridge is the famous EMT "Tondose" TSD15 with Van den Hul stylus. It is a mid-output moving coil which I am using directly into the standard EMT moving magnet input. The cartridge outputs 1mV at 5cm/sec and the input is sufficiently sensitive for my purposes, noise not being a problem.

The 948, as did all EMT's pro turntables, includes its own RIAA equaliser and balanced output amplifier. They are in a card-cage under the turntable itself.

EMT Card-cage under turntable and Equaliser card showing position for optional MC step-up transformers at the extreme left-hand edge of the card.

One further note, my 948 is fitted with the optional stylus illuminator, which is the turret-like object at the front, left-hand side. It is manually switched by the little black button on the front panel. It also has the optional built-in monitor power amplifier, which can be connected to an external loudspeaker for cueing records. A headphone socket is provided on the front panel. The turntable will run backwards for cueing, and EMT's cartridges were supposed to be able to stand reverse running with no damage. This is not something I want to risk with my TSD15!

AEG TRS9000

In the mid '70s, the famed German Broadcast Equipment manufacturer AEG saw the amount of business being done by EMT, and wanted some of this action. Through their Italian subsidiary, they developed some cost-no-object Broadcast Turntables, using the best techniques at the time, and trying to outdo EMT in terms of build quality and performance. Their last turntable was the TRS9000, which was also OEMed to other suppliers, mine originally being labeled 3M AVP90. Like the later EMTs, this is also a direct-drive model, with an extremely light platter and mat (much lighter than the EMT948) but unlike the EMTs this one has an AC motor, which is servo controlled using Pulse Width Modulation of the 50 volt AC. For starting, the voltage is switched to 100v, providing instant starts. Speed is crystal-referenced and the turntable speed is optically monitored with a slotted wheel. Performance is excellent, but frankly, no better than the EMT. Build quality is unbelievable. Here's a shot of the chassis metalwork.


A solid casting with the motor bolted to it. The whitish disk visible is the electromagnetic brake and the little pcb is to sense the position of the 45rpm adapter and to change speed automatically if the auto-sensing is enabled.

The arm is also a work of art. The bias compensation is applied electrically by two electromagnets acting on an armature under the arm. This is completely frictionless, and is only switched on when the arm is down on the record and the turntable is turning. This means that there is no possibility of position drift when cueing a record. As start times are extremely low (a claimed 20 degrees of rotation to full speed stabilisation at 33rpm) the normal method of operation for this turntable (and for the EMT) is to put the stylus on the record first (either manually or using the lift/lower button) then start the turntable. The output is muted until the turntable speed stabilises (something of the order of 200mS) so there's no slurring at the start. Start/Stop and lift functions can be remote controlled.

Cartridge is currently a Shure V15V with Jico SAS stylus.  I also have an AT33ML with AT630 SUT if I fancy using an MC cartridge. I like the V15 very much for its tracking ability, and for the damper on the cartridge, which to my mind, is the right place for a damper.

As with the EMT, the electronics are in a card-cage under the turntable.

The AEG has an integral monitor amp and small 'speaker, but varispeed was an option on this machine, not fitted to mine. It can also run backwards for cueing, but again, this isn't something I want to do.

Both turntables have balanced analogue outputs, which I have unbalanced and taken to two spare inputs of the Meridian 501 pre-amp.

On both turntables I have disabled the internal rumble filters as rumble is so low. I'm not sure why both EMT and AEG incorporated 24dB/Octave rumble filters at 30Hz or thereabouts. I can only assume it's to avoid ripples and warps putting out subsonic energy that could overload transmitters. Anyway, for domestic use I don't find them necessary.


Other items

I have two pairs of headphones, both fully enclosed. AKG K270 and Koss Pro4AA. The Koss are more like ear-defenders as they are very heavy, and seal out external noise very well. The AKGs also seal noise well, but not like the Koss. I used to prefer the AKGs, but recently I contacted Koss for a replacement set of pads, as the old ones had gone rather stiff over the years. They sent me a pair free of charge under their Lifetime Warranty, which is exceptional for a 20+ year old product. The new earpads are far more comfortable than the old ones and I now prefer both the sound and the comfort of the Koss. Still can't do much about the weight, but with the new pads, it doesn't seem to be the problem it used to be.

As to cables, I don't pay any attention to them. The only important specification in choosing cables it that they be long enough. I use either the cables supplied free with the equipment, or I have made up some using RG59 cable and good quality connectors (Audio Technica, Neutrix or WBT) RG59 cable has several advantages:- it is a 75 ohm cable so can be used interchangeably for analogue or digital, is very well screened and is of low capacitance so long runs are no problem. It is also quite cheap. RG6 is better screened, so if you have a choice, use RG6, but if RG59 is available cheaply, then use that. Good quality connectors are important in that they won't fall apart as easily as nasty cheap ones. They also fit chunkier cable like RG59 better than the cheap parts.

Finally, since starting again with vinyl, I have been buying most of my records at Record Fairs, Charity shops and car boot sales. They come in various states of cleanliness, and a Record Cleaning Machine is pretty much essential. I bought a Moth kit, and it has been totally successful. I can recommend it to anyone who can do some basic woodworking, but you MUST follow the dimensions exactly if it's to work properly. The only real criticism I have of the RCM is the incredible noise it produces. I've measured over 100dBC standing at the machine, so I wear ear-defenders when I use it.



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