The Audio Geek!

Wadiaman spends an afternoon with a LuckyDog

I am a member of the hi fi forum StereoNet Australia, and through the forum I have met a number of wonderful people and heard some world-class systems. One such individual and system is owned by forum-nickname LuckyDog, who luckily (sorry for the awful pun) lives only 10 minutes from me. In his spare time, LD is also a representative of the Australian hi-fi distributor / dealer puremusicgroup who sell an interesting, eclectic and great sounding selection of gear sourced from most continents of the world.

Along with two other forum members, Spearmint and Mustud52 I was fortunate to be invited to LD's place recently for a listen to his latest system additions.

LuckyDog, Wadiaman and Spearmint

The Kuzma / Lyra combo was the star of the show while Wadiaman graces the stunning, fully active ADAM Tensor Beta

The purpose of the day was to spend some time comparing SACDs with vinyl. LuckyDog has a new US made Playback Designs MPS-5 CD/SACD player to spin the little silver discs and the Kuzma XL2 turntable, with a Kuzma '4 Point' arm and Lyra Titan i cartridge, with a Kuzma phono stage to play the big black platters. These fed an interesting pre-amp option, a Lightspeed Attenuator hand made by, and avialable directly from, an Australian hi fi designer, George Stantscheff. No moving parts just an LED-based resistor to control the gain. One pair of RCAs in and one pair of RCAs out meant some swapping of interconnects as we compared the two technologies. But that 'delay' was a window for the group to discuss the pros / cons of what we had just immediately heard. It actually worked very well. The speakers were the ADAM Audio Tensor Beta fully active floor standers, that are stunning to look at and powerful to listen to. It promised to be an interesting and fun afternoon and that is how it turned out.


Playback Designs MPS-5 & The Lightspeed Pre

The quality of the two source devices certainly accurately portrayed the sound quality of each of the software titles we played. I had never heard SACDs seriously before and I was mightily impressed by many but disappointed (as in no great benefit over CD) with the quality of some titles as well. Not all SACDs are created equal I can safely report, and unbeknown to me, this is the same for vinyl releases. Some sounded absolutely glorious while others just sounded OK.

We all wanted to believe that the vinyl rig would be superior to the SACD system on the same titles. And so it proved. Typically, we enjoyed improved vocal / instrument separation and heightened harmonic enjoyment and sonic realism from the analog playback. Without over analysing the outcome, it was just more enjoyable. Seriously, addictively enjoyable in fact. But with a 2x cost differential, was the vinyl twice as good? Almost certainly not, but the heights to which 'quality' vinyl can reach is simply unattainable from SACD (or CD) playback. As is often the case, 'Ya get what you pay for'.

Being a tube guy I always try to focus on the mid range where most of the music lives, and it was indeed here where I felt the vinyl was superior. A full mid range with a superior rhythm and engagement, the records simply drew me into the music more. Interestingly Spearmint, a CD/SACD and active speaker guy, tended to focus more on dynamics and also scored the vinyl rig most favourably on this aspect also.

The music we listened to ran the gamut of female vocals (Natalie Merchant), Celtic (Mary Black), blues (John Lee Hooker), a cappella Gospel (T Minus 5), pop/rock (Steely Dan), jazz (Dave Brubeck), rock (Dire Straits), African (Hugh Masekela) amongst many others and LuckyDog (using the host card) managed to squeeze in some vinyl rap-ish stuff of indeterminate provenance at one point!

Not only did we sample great tunes reproduced superbly, but the side-bar conversations were most enlightening (these guys are really knowledgeable audiophiles with 'golden' ears) and the hospitality was first class. Thanks for a great day of music and fellowship LuckyDog.

Spearmint (again), the rarely standing Mustud52 and the Comfy Chairs