Monday, 28 July 2014

Incredible close to music VI – A Evaluation of Foreign References


to all interested reading on about further experiences with Line Magnetic and Shindo amplified set ups. Today I want to make a short report about a visit in Frankfurt some days ago, where a very advanced and experienced audio chain with Shindo amplifying devices and Line Magnetic components is in use. The owner Claus is a long term follower of advanced audio concepts with triode and horn amplification. He started his interest into audio during the early beginning of the european triode movement in France with Jean Hiraga at Maison L'Audiophile as initial. It is obsolete to mention that Claus has owned already a tremendous amount of equipment during that time of 30 years. He always stayed or sold back his components convicted to find paths behind the curtain of the typical superficial audio presentation into a more harmonic and natural representation of music. One example might show his behavior quite well, the shown Shindo 300B Mono amplifiers in my article: Incredible close to Music I – The System Matching.  Exactly this pair has been part of Claus installation til the early 1990ties, when he did sell them presumably with his typical words: "I don't need them anymore". This quote shows a rare attitude: the ability to concentrate to the essential qualities, where a lot of us others would stay with components as proud ownership in mind he gets rid of for him anymore useless components. After one more owner these amps harvested 15 years ago at Mikes set up, just to close the circle.

A listening room were walls are covered with shelves containing recordslots of records (may be 2000), books and CD's. The positive benefits of such surfaces and their physical masses for room acoustics are known and a lot of audio enthusiasts use their record collections for that sort of effect as well. But this time it was the first time, that there was not anymore a dedicated record player?! As I could hear he had a Platine Verdier player (what else?) and EMT turntables for years, now he uses streamed digital data, deliberated from a pure audio computer into a Line Magnetic dac. ("I don't need them anymore".)

Claus Line Magnetic horn set of LM22/597 is extended for low frequency support with dipole enclosures. Customized made from solid german oak, the enclosures are made similar in design to the "755" speaker from Auditorium 23. Inside he uses a fantastic delicacy, a pair of Microtecnica 15'' field coil speaker units. These are the most beautiful made low frequency drivers I have ever seen. They have been manufactured in Torino in the 1940ties by a company which concentrated to different precisely manufactured micro mechanic product lines, one line covered several products for the cinema industry like complete installations of projectors and sound equipment. Originally these wonderful speakers might have been used some time ago in a Italian cinema, presumably installed very similar to the well known Siemens Klangfilm Bionor sets, assembled with a front loaded integrated horn funnel in a huge wooden baffle board, together with high frequency multi cell horn dispersion on top.
Italian products of this particular time mostly show up with a typical exceptional attitude, where the finalized form follows highest ingenious standards in combination to a exceptional aesthetic expansion. This attitude has been rarely cultivated with mechanical produced components in other countries at this time. In the post Bauhaus era of the 1930ties other values did decide in wide parts of northern Europe about the form finding process in industrialized productions. "La bella macina", the underlying philosophical principle behind typical northern Italian (Piemont and Lombardy) industrial designs before war, was as well a cooperation between swiss immigrants of advanced technical expertise searching work in the most industrialized region of their culture. The term states the perfect combination of functionality, crafts and form. Exceptional motor designs, like made by Alfa Romeo or Gilera, with espresso machines by Faema, typewriters from Olivetti or bicycles made by Bianchi in these days, might remember of what I am talking about, even if a typical German arrogant purely ingenious based understanding of machines, neglects these facts persistently.

15'' Microtecnica Field Coil cinema loudspeaker in solid wood dipole enclosure

The Shindo 64B PP-Mono amps on top, left beneath the Mag-Amp beside at right the DBX active crossover. In Foreground the Shindo line preamp on top of the Line Magnetic DAC.

In difference to Mikes set, Claus positions his LM22 horns at the stereo base close to the center with the low frequency dipole enclosures mirrored to the outer sides. He uses a pair Shindo 64B push pull amplifiers in combination with a Mag-Amp by Lundahl for the active low frequency support. Each sides signal get devided by the use of a active Dbx 24dB filter unit, since the LM 22 and the LM 597 are cut off with a passive network. A rare and expensive paper capacitor from Western Electric supports the performance for the wide tone spectrum of the medium and high frequencies to a higher degree of refinement supplied to the field energy of both speakers.

Passive filter network for the medium and high frequencies, made up as flying installation with rare expensive paper capacitors from Western Electric (behind LM555W telephone).and some ordinary paper caps.

We did listen to a variety of Claus digitally stored music, with a concentration to contemporary jazz, but as well some large orchestral classical music. With good 30°C room temperature or more and high humidity it was not the perfect day to listen to tube amplified audio sets. Well, I didn't know at the beginning of the listening, – was it me, the climate or the set, I did hardly find into the music. For compensation I did drink a good liter of water during the first three tracks. The music did show all the signs, which are so typical for the projection of the wide frequency LM22 horn, but it was a good bit to dry for my taste and it was a bigger bit dryer than I do know the components already from Mikes or Hans sets. It was like with a exceptional wine, which was some years stored to long in the cellar. Like a Tignanello of 12 years age, of a well known year, it might take a good while to oxidate and open up, before its shows its exceptional complexity together with a refined harmony in the foreground. As well here, everything was there, it was just a bit to tight and dry… I do know these horns in the meanwhile very good and I know them better balanced. After a while Claus stopped the audition and asked: "Now I would like to change to a different power supply for the field coils of the Line Magnetic horns?"
It took a while to change all connections and we started to talk about several topics. I started as well to make some photographs of the set. A good hour later we came back again to listen to similar music and I thought: If I will be able in a foreign set up after a hour time to realize any difference of a power supply?
It did not take long, may be two minutes and I tried to evaluate, if we do listen with completely different settings, I had the feeling it was set with a lot higher volume level than before. But it was even more than volume settings, the whole soundstage had lost all the dryness and its shortness of breath. Instead the well known wide open dynamic soundstage performed with incredible detail, harmony and transparency. I did ask, is it true that there is only a different power supply for the field coils? And is it set to the same voltage? I could not believe the difference. I started to tweet my feet and started as well to like the music, which always points the major difference. Just a power supply, … for the field coils, unbelievable. There is not even some direct connection to the audio signal, it must be a foremost interaction between magnet and voice coil? Nobody can really explain this effect...

Now the chain had shown up with all the unique advantages the Line Magnetic horns are known for. For me it was really amazing to realize how small the differences of sets in the final performances are, even when whole parts of the chain can be different or the surrounding room is absolutely different, the general performance shows the absolute same advantages.
Here the only little difference in Claus set is the active 24db cut for the low frequency path. As a result the frequencies from 300 to 500 hz are less prominent, comparing it with Hans and Mikes set. Their 6 db passive filter brings a mild support in this particular frequency range. But these differences are far beyond qualities, they have to be seen with respect to different ideas and taste, performed harmonics and preferences of different owners.  As different power amps, like the Shindo 300b Mono blocks of Mikes set would have a influence to the presentation here, the Shindo 64b amps would do in reverse with Mikes set. At the end I could find completely back to what I already know about this speakers. As well here again the Line Magnetic set up confirmed my understanding to be one of the most transparent speakers for audio use. They are able to produce almost natural dynamics together with a refinement in harmonic detail, were other systems will be judged by. So they can offer the most advanced insight into well recorded music and can make the listener to forget about its origin. A pitty that the beloved Microtecnica speakers were on such a level of perfection, that I could not really hear them in the set, they just acted perfectly to be true invisible…

Later in the evening I had the chance to listen to the new A 23 loudspeaker "Hommage à Ken", made as a homage to the shortly faded away master Ken Shindo. Equipped with a totally new designed LM755 chassis, which in difference to the first LM version with field coil magnet, is exceptional close in all details to the rare an expensive WE755A. It incorporates as well a w-shaped alnico magnet like the original and a extremely similar made cone structure. Out there is a quite huge community relying to that first version to be the best full range speaker built ever. For me it was a first time to listen to such a alnico version, and it was the first time to evaluate such a speaker not to be operated in the classical baffle board.
Two things are remarkable from the first sight. This 8 inch cone can do real "full range" and it shows a exceptional refined resolution of musical harmonies together with all necessary dynamic abilities. Coming from Claus LM set, it was a very similar experience to find into its presentation. It is of course not a "full range horn", with all benefits of a little aluminum diaphragm, but it has a quite small cone and performs without any crossover on the other side. It brings out a similar tonality, so that the shallow listener would not see any argument to get such a complex system like the LM22/597 with LF-support, if a simple cone can do the same…?! Almost the same, to be honest….

Read on soon, Volker