What goes around...system mix 'n' match fun!


the record spot

So I'm thinking, "it's all there, but it's a bit too...neutral"; uninvolving even.

Much as I like the combination with the right recordings, Marantz source and amp and Mission 752s are not the easiest bedfellows to snuggle up to if the rest of the disc collection isn't quite up to scratch.

Hmmm, what is the newly redundant music-fan to do? I was going to say audiophile, but Ash isn't around to bite on the bait...! Buying new is out of the question, at least not the kind of level I had in mind cash-wise.

By a coincidence, I've got the house to myself this morning and I've got a stack of stuff upstairs in the spare room that probably needs clearing out and either going on Ebay, or Gumtree, or somewhere that'll stop my wife mentioning it to me at least thrice a week. Let's play!

Out came the Rega P3 - let's see how that goes with the PM6010-KI amp and 752s. Never used them before in this combination as the t/t went on top of the wardrobe the minute the kids looked like they were zeroing in on it, so I was keen to hear what it might do.

Oh. Not good.

This isn't a bass-shy deck but it is with these speakers. The AT440MLa tracks well and does low end well enough, so something wasn't right. Maybe because it hadn't been run for a while, but I'm pushed for time this morning. Listened to a few tracks and was decidedly underwhelmed. Out went the 752s and in came the old Mission 733i.

I had these boxes for about 12 years and looked after them well; they were about £330 in their day and picked up good reviews from the magazines at the time. Soft dome tweeter and polypropelene main driver. Light as a feather compared to the substantial 752, but they produce a nice musical sound. OK, so we're back to square one with the P3; I knew this sound well and so back it went on top of the wardrobe and the SA7001-KI CD player came back in again.

Still a bit lean though, so what else can we do here? We've got, lemme see; Technics SU-V6 powerhouse amp (Mrs. R_S hates, so it's not playing today) and an old Arcam Alpha 5. Let's try that one.

In comes the Arcam and away goes the 6010 - wow! Much better. Depth, clarity, it's all there, not as harsh on the ears, so this is different. The bottom end is a bit more rounded. Wonder how it'll go with the 752s...out went the 733i, in came the 752s again!

It's a pretty robust sound; the CD player does a fine line in midrange and rolled off treble with an accurate bassline. Overall though I still think "yeah, but, it's a little two dimensional now...a bit flat". Damn, am I just getting old and hard to please?

There's not much left; back upstairs to the spare room. My old NAD 3020A. Unused for the best part of 20 years. Ancient, covered in dust, but no way is this getting sold. My late dad bought me this after two big events; one, my old Pioneer receiver died a pretty resounding death in spring 1986 and two, I'd been banging on about the NAD for months after reading about it in the WHF at the time! Well, can't hurt to give the old lad a try after all this time.

So down it came, a £109 amp, from 1986; hadn't been in the main squad for years and brought out of retirement for one last hurrah.

For those of you who've never seen the 3020 series in the flesh, they're kind of not quite like current NAD kit. The 3020A (for that is mine) was a chunky beast. Not so much in terms of height, it's kind of standard size really, but on the scales, it's pretty hefty for what was a budget amp (and still is - in real terms today, this amp would set you back just over £200). I've never explored under the bonnet, as it were, but looking through the top grille you can see a pretty hefty transformer (I think) and the various electronics. And dust. Okay, it needs a spring clean!

There's a plastic, dark grey fascia with chunky tone and balance control knobs with a still-satisfying movement (chunky again!). The lighter gun-metal came in with later kit. No tone bypass here yet either and, worse for the minimalists, there's a Loudness button as well - gaaaaaahhh!

Inputs are limited to Phono, Tuner and Aux, with the obligatory Tape Monitor and a mono button to complete the picture. A large volume knob sits to the right underneath 5 LEDs which display the power output (going in to 8 ohms) and these are staged at 1, 5, 10, 25 & 35 watts and, unsurprisingly, you can seriously forget about a remote control!

The main body casing is heavy metal though, and to the rear are the inputs along with the means to add a power amp as well; pretty impressive given the price (still pretty good nowadays come to think of it). Spring clip speaker terminals though; none of this banana plug business that makes life easy and a nice little earner for some companies flogging extortionate accessories!

So on it goes - hook up the Audioquest Copperhead from the Alpha 5 to the NAD, so the CD player is connected. Next, off come the banana plugs from the speaker cable and, after a bit of fiddling, in goes the bare wire into the spring clip housing. It's roomy enough to take the Audioquest bi-wire cable, so all is, well here. The connection is snug and the clip is still strong, so no worries here. After that, plug it in and power it up.

Thankfully, nothing goes bang. Ever the optomist, there's that brief delay whilst the circuits get going and then the old familiar "thrum" comes from the speakers and we're in business. Should I let it wait? Meh. It knows its' business well enough by now, even if it is still rubbing the sleep out its eyes, let's just kick off!

I'd picked out some good recordings - ones I knew really well - so we went with "The Yes Album" from 1971. Press play, sit back and wait.

This amp isn't going to be all things to everyone, and some of you who know my take on buying older kit won't be swept off your feet in shock here, but the NAD really cut the mustard. Where the previous amps were either too neutral or a little too flat (Marantz / Arcam respectively), the NAD maintained the previous sonics, for the most part, but added a depth which was way below what the other two had been doing. That was a shock.

Okay, good recording, fair enough. Something different; Leftfield - "Release the Pressure". I'd never been totally happy with this track on the previous set-up. Yup, more surprise. I mean, it thudded out the bass and the track bounced along incredibly well. You wanted to dance to this!

And this thing goes loud! I mean, it belts out the volume - I can turn it up and it's in control, there's no shrilling top end, loss of composure. Maybe longer term testing will show that up, but the 752s can take it, or maybe it's more that the amp is just up to the job. No way this was just 25w per channel, no way...!

Next, Eleanor McEvoy's "Early Hours" albums - "Memphis, Tenessee". Same. Deep rolling bass, liquid vocals, she's in the room, or she should be sounding this good.

I close my eyes and I'm in a basement club, a handful of regulars around gazing at the dregs of their pints, it's the tail end of a good night and we're in last orders territory with the band playing this tune in the background. You forget there's a bunch of boxes and electronics taking you there and that's when the daft smile appears; what goes round, comes around. This is what good hifi is all about and it took a 23 year old amp to remind me.

The upshot is, I'll probably have a look at that Meridian amp I mentioned in another thread, but I'll also get the NAD serviced, cleaned up, and turned out on duty again and get down to some really serious listening with it to confirm my initial thoughts. I might even get a power amp to go with it...

As for the other kit, the Arcam'll go on Gumtree or Ebay (maybe both) and likewise, maybe even the 6010-KI along with what's left of the spare bits upstairs!

(EDIT: Sorry for the long post!)


Latest posts