Superspikes by Soundcare – Bargain Isolation

The Soundcare Superspikes 

I was having a clear out last weekend sorting through a box of old cables, cones and audiophile accessories when I came across two sets of these.

I had completely forgotten that I had them. The last time I recall using them was under a pair of Living Voice OBX’s and I have owned a several pairs of speakers since these went to their new owner.

The spikes are manufactured by Soundcare a company based in Norway. The packaging boldly suggests that they provide the some of the best isolation that money can buy. Quite a claim if a little pointless in light of the subjective nature of audiophile opinion.

In any case I was curious to hear what they could bring to my system. What I can say is that before I inserted these into the base plates of the Custom Design Reference stands I was more than happy with the systems balance and sound quality. I hadn’t, since installing the system in the lounge, thought about adding anything to try and improve what I had. The musical balance was just right to my ears and needed no tweaking.

So, spikes installed, I put one of my favourite CD’s in the Mini-Droplet: The Dougie Maclean Collection on the Putamayo label. As you might have guessed from the title this is a  compilation of some of Dougie’s best work from his first 5 or 6 solo albums.

One of the tracks I usually use for evaluating anything new in my system is called Broken Wings – a very simple track but easy for a system to get wrong. The song starts with an acoustic guitar and bodhran. So many systems gloss over the importance of the bodhran’s impact in moving the song forward.

Before I installed the spikes the deep thud of this musical instrument was clear and precise. What the spikes did was take things to a new level. The bass became even deeper and slightly more thunderous and insistent. Each bang upon the skin of the instrument was more defined and apparent. Very, very impressive.

The improvements continued with the greater vocal separation and projection and the timbre and tone of the acoustic guitar was more realistic.

I have alluded to the fact before that this not a system that is easy to sit and dissect. It sounds so right as to make specific, audiophile evaluation difficult as you are drawn into the music.

It says something then that the improvements wrought by the spikes were so apparent and positive that I could appreciate immediately the benefits of having them in under the Dulcets.

I have had them under the speaker stands for a few weeks now and feel that they are an essential and integral part of the system and highly recommended.

They can be bought here if anyone wants a set: http://www.bkelec.com/HiFi/Sub_Woofers/Accessories.htm

I am tempted to try some of their other products out. They all seem to be reasonably priced and worth a shot.

Life After Linn

Consonance Mini Droplet CDP3.1

A few months ago I started with an itch that I knew I would just have to eventually scratch. Excellent though the Linn system was I missed the presentation that previous valve based systems had given me.

Also, whilst the Linn DS was a fantastic source, when I compared it to a “valved” Lector CD player that I had, I felt that on a good percentage of CD’s the music was put over in a slightly more organic way. One other aspect that pushed me over the edge were the once or twice a week system crashes that occurred which would only be resolved by a reset of the system – ostensibly switching off and then back on again!

The bottom line was I realised that a valve based system would be the one to satisfy my musical and hifi requirements.

So how would I facilitate this sea-change? I had backed myself into an audiophile corner in a way and felt that an all or nothing approach would be required as a mix and match system with some of the Linn components wouldn’t be all that practical. Certainly a valve CD player with Linn solid state amps didn’t seem right and I doubted it would provide the answers I was looking for.

After 20 years of buying hi-fi I have to confess to a certain amount of cynicism when it comes to dealers. There are very few hi-fi dealers in my opinion that actually talk any sense or understand the equipment they sell or the needs of the customer. This is a sad fact of faceless high street chains.

There are probably 3 or 4 dealers that I have come across that I would trust and respect. On of them is Jim Burke of audiolincs.com in Grantham.

The Consonance Cyber 10 Integrated Signature

In all of my dealings with Jim he has been nothing but a gentlemen – open and honest. His knowledge of the equipment he sells is exemplary. Co-incidentally we have very similar tastes in music and so when I have described the presentation that I was hoping to achieve he was able to very quickly recommend three components that would give me what I was looking for – or should that be hearing for?

So a few conversations later, Jim and I had pieced together a system of and Opera Consonance Droplet 3.1 CD Player, a Cyber 10 Integrated Amplifier and Reference 3A Dulcet speakers. Luckily I still had in the garage a pair of Custom Design Reference 300 stands on which to put the speakers on. Coincidentally they were also the stands that Jim recommends to get the best out of the Dulcet’s.

Over the next few weeks the Linn gear disappeared to new owners and the huge heavy boxes began appearing at my front door. Not something that SWMBO relishes.

Finally, I had unboxed everything and had it in situ and ready to go. In Jim’s opinion the CD Player, amplifier and speakers would be able to compete with equipment several times their price and he was confident that, wonderful as the Linn system was, the new trio would be able to exceed the performance of the Linn gear.

Whilst I have not had an opportunity to test each piece in a different scenarios what I can say is that as a system the three components gel perfectly producing easily some of the best music I have had at home.

The Consonance Cyber 10 Integrated Signature

To cut a long story short the new system simply sounds right. The Dulcet’s don’t go as low or loud as the Linn 140’s, they don’t produce the same cavernous soundstage as the Totem Model One’s but what they do which is to stop me continually evaluating what I am listening to. For example with the Model One’s the soundstage was so eerily huge I ended up listening and thinking wow I can hear the acoustic guitar solo on the opposite side of the room well outside the cabinet boundaries. Isn’t that amazing. And then forgetting about the song as a whole and the message and emotion conveyed.

I found myself just listening to music. It is just there filling the room. Natural, flowing, unforced. If I was to ask myself after listening to a song how wide the soundstage was or deep the bass was I couldn’t tell you. All I could say would be that I was totally captivated by the performance.

When listening back and being much more analytical you realise that all the audiophile building blocks are there. Wide soundstage, realistic timbre, great rhythm etc. It is just that no one area sticks out as being more impressive than another.

All the elements come together to create an emotionally captivating performance.

The amplifier belies it’s 11 WPC power output by sounding like a much bigger beast but still with the delicacy that valves are renowned for and the Droplet 3.1 simply looks stunning. Better in the flesh and than in the photographs. I suspect the rock solid build quality and filterless dac all play their part.

So all in all this is one hell of a system. The incredible thing is that all this can be had for less than half the price of the Linn system. Now I am not going to start knocking that system. It too, is superb. But for my ears the valves edge it. And by some margin.

Before you upgrade or if you are starting afresh with a reasonable budget give Jim a call and get a demonstration. I am sure you will be astounded at what this little set up can do.

Reference 3A Dulcet

Worldscape Photography

I thought it was worth pointing you in the direction of a sister blog to this one: worldscapephotography.wordpress.com

The site features a number of photographs taken on my travels over the years from Scotland to France to North America.

A number of the images featured on the Blog were taken with the cameras I have reviewed here.

It would be great if you could take a trip there and let me know what you think.

Thanks!!

Julie Fowlis – Live at Perthshire Amber

Julie Fowlis – Live at Perthshire Amber

If you are looking for an exceptional live album in terms of musical content and sound quality then this is certainly the album for you – depending naturally on the genre being to your taste!

I have always believed that as far as your hi-fi will allow a live album should give you a feeling of being there, transported to the venue. So many albums are badly mixed with an inordinate amount of overdubbing and manipulation.

Perthshire Amber is a festival that has been running for a few years now and is organised by the legendary Scottish singer/songwriter Dougie Maclean.

As the title would suggest Live at Perthshire Amber was recorded at the festival and is truly an exception to the usual live albums churned by the major labels. It has a supremely natural acoustic placing Julie centre stage with her vocals clear and full of emotion. Her band of top quality Scottish musicians offer a perfect, atmospheric backdrop.

The last track is a superb rendition of Pabay Mor with Dougie Maclean joining Julie on vocals and guitar. It is the perfect finale to a marvellous album. It would be fantastic if Dougie could produce a live album of his own offering similar production values.

For now though I am happy to sit back and imagine that I was lucky enough to attend this concert in the comfort of my living room.