All entries for Monday 05 January 2009
January 05, 2009
Towards A Greener Hi-Fi?
Beolab 5 an ecologogical hi-fi solution?
I found a forum on Green Hi-fi on the Gramophone site recently. I must say I was disturbed by the rather cavalier and selfish attitude of many of the contributors. The fact of the matter is that domestic power consumption is growing at a rapid rate and a lot of this is due to the rapidly growing numbers of various entertainment systems. A TV in each room, large numbers of teenage stereos and increasingly, budget surround systems etc. The replacement of old light bulbs with nergy efficient ones simply isn't going to ease the situation. Better design of buildings to incorporate energy gathring devices as well as better buildings can help reverse the ever increasing power demands. But better design and more thoughtful use of tens of millions of domestic entrtainment systems must be a part of adapting to the mounting global crisis of energy shortages and overproduction of CO2. Now this isn't to take a hair shirt attitude to one's listening pleasures, it does point to the need for an awareness of how energy demanding certain products are and in this respect a similar guide found on Fridges to be placed on AV equipment would make a good start. Plasma screens are far more power hungry than LCD ones for example.
The Ethical Consumer has a green guide to Hi-Fi which deals with the ethics of a wide range of companies such as sourcing wood for example.The following comments most hi-fi enthusiasts would probably agree with on grounds of quality of product anyway:
Buying a hi-fi
For readers concerned about environmental issues, the best advice is to choose separates. This approach allows consumers to obtain or replace only the functions they really want (CD, Tuner, speakers etc) and leave behind the unnecessary features (remote controls, lots of flashing lights). Generally speaking, separates are easier to repair and longer lasting. They are also of course, more expensive.
On the 22nd May their table was last updated with Arcam coming out as the company with the bst ethical rating. With the likes of Samsung and Panasonic near the bottom of the pile many buyers of Quality British Audio products can feel pleased. Given that I'm getting and Arcam tuner I could feel a bit smug xcept that I didn't know about this league table when I did it, however it will inform future buying policies.
For the niche market this Blog on the ecological upgrading of old Quad and Revox equipment is fascinating...Quad Spot . Here are the basic points in their ethical mission statement:
Print less documents. Invoices, manuals, documentation... will be sent in pdf format.
Only use 100% recycled unbleached paper for those documents (like address-labels) that need to be printed.
Only use 100% recycled packaging-material.
Only use ROHS-compliant electronics components
Only use lead-free solder
Only use 100% "Green" electricity
Make the ecological aspect an essential negotiation-point with our suppliers
Advise our customers about ecological solutions
Another Hi-Fi company with a clear set of ethics is Van den Hul. I did know about this and it has influnced me in my decision to order a pair of The Integration interconnects. Here is an extract from their general information:
Other important criteria with the design of our products are: the durability of our products, an optimal protection against environmental influences and the application of environmentally friendly raw materials in all aspects.
AJ Van den Hul founder of the Dutch cable and cartridge company
More Efficient Amplification: Going D Class
It is clear that amplification is the big power user and here digital amplification which is still in its early days has to be viewed as the future. Here a Stereophile article on a more upmarket digital amplifier from Yamaha shows what can be done. 500 watts and running cool is here compared to an MF behemoth.
The Yamaha MX-D1 500 watt per channel digital amplifier from 2005
Musical Fidelity's 1KW monoblocks. A small power station is needed for this lot!
The MFs are clearly a case of total excess and signify an ecological disaster trail. This seems to be a case of male alphas doing a bit of the 'mine is bigger than yours' stuff. There is no doubt that excllent sound systems can be produced without going to such extremes as this comment on ICE Power a form of class D amplification shows:
ICEpower is a radical improvement. Even super-high-end audiophile companies like Jeff Rowland and Bel Canto are using it in amplifiers that cost factors more than Rotel charges for this little honey. (See link to Rotel article in webliography)
The elegant Beolab 1 which is ICE powered
The fact is the designs are already out there the will to buy them and allow them to develop is another matter!
B & O ICE amplification. Perhaps this is the best route?
Discovering SACD with the Denon 1940 DVD
The key point however is that aside from the attractions of otherwise of multichannel audio reproduction, a really fine SACD, of which I have many in my personal collection, has a quality that can be profoundly, moving, that can truly cause the hairs on the back of the neck to rise. For anyone who loves the sound of music, rather than being interested only in the rate at which cash registers ring, this is an absolutely peerless attribute, and the day they lay SACD to rest - if it happens - will be a black one for music lovers, and for the recorded music industry, whose priorities in recent years have become increasingly muddled. (Alvin Gold AV Review)
My old Denon DVD player finally broke down just before Xmas. As I only use it for playing back films on a Sony CRT set I was after something which had some basic build quality but I wasn't after anything special. CD replay is through a TEAC VDRS 10 driving a TAG McLaren DAC both of which I had got ex-demo for under £1,000 for both. The combination gives fine quality replay.
For a DVD I quickly decided upon another Denon the 1940 which had received some good reviews. I hadn't realised it was half-price. This is clearly because of the onset of BluRay. Not only does it have component video output - which matched my Ixos cable - but it plays SACDs. I did have a couple of hybrids to test out and quickly ordered some more. I was amazed at how good the reproduction was. The sound was fresh and lively as well as revealing plenty of detail. I haven't carried out a comparison between the SACD and CD layers but I have heard enough to recognise just how good SACD can be.At £126-00 this has turned out to be a revelatory bargain. This Wikipedia entry on SACD is very informative on the more technical issues.
Why SACD didn't take off
The key problem for SACD seems to have been the format war with DVD-Audio. With CD there came into existence a universal replay system which worked anywhere in the world. Consumers were assured that their investments in both hardware and software would be protcted for a considerable length of time. Few people wanted a replay of the VHS / Betamax fiasco where the inferior system gained the market. Certainly I was one of those people. With a relativly large investment in CD replay equipment a low risk strategy seemed sensible especially as very few discs were coming out on SACD. A sceptical comment in a 2006 review of a high end Marantz player said a lot:
A $6,000 2006 Marantz SACD Player
Has Surround Sound Capability Confused the Marketplace?
I held off from the new format for years, until recently I realised that I should just go for a stereo only SACD player (a Sony XB940 off eBay fitted the bill) and not worry about surround. I don
't doubt that having the extra channels may be a nice-to-have, but since classical recordings are always "in front of the players" all you 're going to get from the back is mainly ambience, something you will also have from the front. (From the Gramophone Forum)
I think this is a good point. For those struggling to gradually upgrade expensive stereo systems were often horrified by the potential extra costs which would be to go multi-channel whilst keping the required quality, plus the issue that one's CDS wouldn't benefit from all this potential spending. Certainly I have no intrst in going multi-channel at present.
Who is Producing SACDs?
As far as I can tell the companies which decided to make a long-term investment in the necssary recording equipment have been small dedicated recording companies like the Swedish based BIS. The Wikipedia article comments that the vast majority of SACD releases have been classical, followed by Jazz and acoustic music.Companies like Linn are producing replay equipment as well as its own record label. Tghhere is problem that many music lovers are very sceptical about th high cost of entry into the realm of SACD as this article from the online Musical Pointers shows.
One big advantage of SACDs which are not Hybrids is the normous amount of musical data which can be stored. BIS, for example, has the Complete Organ Works of Bach on a 5 SACD set.
Now is a Good Time to Enter the Market
With the onset of Bluray which can playback SACD there are some good bargains coming up as manufacturers are licensing the Blueray system. The format war has been won and the market will be driven by films. My Denon DVD-1940 at £126-00 is a bargain with the SACD being a fortuitous accident:
The Denon DVD 1940 with SACD Playback
Rearview of the Denon 1940. The component video outputs can clearly be seen
Currently the machine is available from Hi-Fix mail order part of Frank Harvey Hi-Fi
I won't be buying a straight CD player again once the TEAC VDRS 10 gives up the ghost - mind you its built like a tank!
Here is a recent discussion thread from Gramophone Magazine on whether there is a Fading Future for SACD
An enthusiastic Gramophone forum on SACD reissues from RCA
A technical explanation on the SACD recording process from Sound on Sound