Letters

System purchase

April 20, 2014

Marc,

I am about to invest a not inconsiderable sum of money on a new system, and after reading rave reviews I've asked to listen to some Audio Research equipment. I mostly play my collection of 3000-odd mint and original first-pressing LPs and very little digital music, although I have recently started to enjoy multi-room streaming (Sonos), which is great. I can't say I'd have a problem if I never played another CD, because the streaming is really cool.

Anyway having heard so many good things about Audio Research, I made a visit to a high-end dealer. I enjoyed the Reference 5 SE/Reference 75 combo very much, the phono stage being a budget Nagra unit, which seemed a bit odd in context, because it seemed more sensible perhaps to listen to an Audio Research phono stage. (The dealer didn't have a demo unit at the time.) I have set my budget for speakers at €15,000; however, my budget is getting stretched.

The speakers on the demo were alternatively Wilson Benesch Cardinals and Crystal Cable Arabesques They both sounded phenomenal and were out of my price range. However, they have now been offered to me at somewhere near my budget as they are both seven months old. I want to know your opinion on this combination and really if I am being sold something that may not be the best option for me.

What is your advice. Which speakers would you go for? Oh, my front-end is a Linn LP12/Ekos/Arkive/fully Keeled, etc. I should probably change the cartridge as it's getting on a bit after five years of play. Please give me a bit of a steer, as dealers often only demo and sell what they have in stock. I really liked this dealer, though. I just wanted a third opinion before I part with loads of cash.

Simon J Sivyer

An all-Audio Research system makes a lot of sense -- and much more than a mix-and-match approach. Not only are the company's products designed to work best together electrically, their sonic properties are synergistic as well, making for a uniformity of sound from phono stage to amplifier, more so than with many other brands.

Regarding the speakers, I've not heard the Wilson Benesch speakers at all, and the Crystal Cable speakers only at shows. However, Roy Gregory has reviewed both, so I asked for his input.

Of the two speakers listed, the best match for the Ref. 75 will be the Crystal Arabesque, although both of these excellent designs really need considerably more power than the smallest Audio Research Reference amplifier can provide in order to deliver their best performance. This is one of those classic audio dilemmas -- the opportunity to buy a much better product at a very attractive price, even though it's not actually the best solution in the context of your system. Just because you could, it doesn't mean you should. Achieving great musical performance at home is all about building your system as a whole.

The Audio Research Reference electronics will provide a superb core, but you can diminish (or destroy) all of their good work with a poorly chosen pair of speakers. I'd be looking at the Focal range (1038Be or Scala Utopia V2), various ProAcs, or possibly, as long as the room isn't too large, the Wilson Sophia 3s. All of these would offer a better match and, as a result, better overall performance.

Given the system you're assembling, also be sure not to skimp on cables -- and, once again, go with one brand from stem to stern in order to wring the last bit of performance from the electronics and speakers you're buying. -Marc Mickelson

"I'm sticking with my Keith Monks. . ."

April 12, 2014

Marc,

Very interesting, your review of the Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner and the subsequent letters. I have been following the threads on audioaficionado.org regarding the Audio Desk Systeme and Klaudio cleaners, and they are all very keen in the US. I'm sticking with my Keith Monks for the time being.

John Hutchinson

". . .are you possibly breathing in the cleaning fluid during the drying process?"

April 6, 2014

Marc,

About your review of the Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner: here in Switzerland they're much cheaper than in the US. They are CHF 2650. Two years ago I had one home to try. The machine was new out of the box. It worked for 20 LPs, then stopped. I had a second one ten days later and that one started leaking. I decided to buy the Loricraft PRC6 with which I have cleaned about 2500 LPs with no problems.

A friend of mine is on his third machine, but I must say to the credit of Audio Desk Systeme, they replaced his last machine out of warranty with the deluxe US version.

I was also thinking that are you possibly breathing in the cleaning fluid during the drying process?

Philip Grills

Your message makes me wonder how closely you've read my review -- or if you've read it at all, perhaps thinking that it was just another rave about the Vinyl Cleaner, of which there are many. I mentioned the "reported reliability issues with the Vinyl Cleaner." I also mentioned that I own both a Loricraft PRC4 Deluxe and VPI Typhoon and have cleaned hundreds of records with them, as well as the fact that "the makers of the various Loricraft and VPI machines have decades of near-faultless use to cite." Thus, I not only talk about others' problems with the Vinyl Cleaner, even though I've experienced none of them myself, but also the reliability of its main competition. I also concede that "A survey of one user is hardly definitive," meaning that my own success with the Vinyl Cleaner cannot be considered universal -- a notion that underpins every audio review, in fact.

Finally, I never cease to be surprised by how snarky people can become online or via e-mail. Of course, it's the anonymity that causes it, disagreement bringing out a need to express something beyond simply "I disagree." Obviously your experience with the Vinyl Cleaner doesn't mirror mine. You could have just left it at that. -Marc Mickelson

From a Vinyl Cleaner owner

April 4, 2014

Marc,

I am an early adopter of the Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner. I have had four units in my possession through time. The earliest would not advance thin pressings reliably. Its replacement wasn’t much better and had some flaky behavior that was probably due to the firmware. The third labored to handle 200-gram pressings. I got it to work with some help from Robert Merker, importer of Audio Desk Systeme for Switzerland. He provided O-rings of varying thickness in cross-section, one of which proved optimal. My friend encountered a similar problem which was solved after I sent him the O-rings I held in reserve. Robert also provided a replacement spring made of metal for the originally supplied O-ring tensioner for the opposing microfiber barrels. The third unit failed eventually, its motor having gone kaput. I was presented with the option of repairing the unit at an unreasonable cost or replacing it by spending a little more than the repair would cost. I replaced the unit. The fourth is working well.

Thanks for the mention of the “precision top” for the Vinyl Cleaner. I will contact Ultra Systems for the no-cost replacement. Also, thanks for the suggestion of merely laundering the microfiber barrels to extend their useful life, an excellent tip.

Your advice regarding topping up the solution in the device may be flawed. I consulted a friend who is a career chemist. He tells me that the substances held in solution are rarely given off as a result of evaporation. I would also observe that very little of those substances are deposited on the record after the process of forced-air drying. I simply add distilled water to the solution in the Vinyl Cleaner when I notice that the level of fluid is diminished.

Another automated record cleaner worthy of consideration is the Klaudio. The adapters for 7" and 10" records might work with the Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner as well.

Stan Delles

It sounds like you were one of the people who reported reliability issues with the Vinyl Cleaner. As I point out in my review, one user isn't a trend, but my Vinyl Cleaner continues to work perfectly, and I'm approaching 1000 records cleaned.

Regarding the fluid, my recommendation was based on keeping a certain concentration of water and cleaning fluid in the machine as evaporation took its effect, but if your chemist friend is correct, and he probably is, distilled water alone will suffice to top off the machine, saving more money for Vinyl Cleaner users, which is good news.

I do know about the Klaudio cleaner, which looks to be exceptionally well made, but I have some reservations about it compared to the Audio Desk System Vinyl Cleaner, because it uses only ultrasonics to clean records. I've thought, though I have no proof of this, that the Vinyl Cleaner's effectiveness is mostly due to those microfiber barrels gently scrubbing records clean. I strongly suspect that they are the reason the Vinyl Cleaner is so effective on fingerprints.

The Klaudio adapters look to be very intelligently designed, but they also look to be slightly thicker than the record, so they may jam in the Vinyl Cleaner. And even if they will rotate, the microfiber barrels may not contact the record, cleaning the adapter instead. If they do work with the Vinyl Cleaner, Klaudio will sell a lot of them to Audio Desk Systeme owners, but I wouldn't be surprised if Audio Desk Systeme is working on its own solution. -Marc Mickelson

Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner review

April 1, 2014

Marc,

A thorough and informative review. It's the definitive one now!

Makes me feel a few laps behind with just my Loricraft.

Garrett Hongo

E-mail us your questions, concerns and suggestions. We won't reprint every letter, but we will answer them all.

The Audio Beat • Nothing on this site may be reprinted or reused without permission.