Our audio equipment

We take our sound testing very seriously and have a variety of hi-fi separates that can be configured for all musical types.

Decks:

1974 Linn Sondek, with a 1978 SME 3009 tonearm and Ortofon VMS 10E cartridge/stylus (fitted with Ortofon 210 Capacitor chip)

Many would argue that the Linn deck is the finest turntable ever made, ours is an early Sondek so originally it came without a tonearm. We have a 1978 SME 3009 series ll improved (fixed head) fitted on ours. In keeping with our 70’s vibe* it has an Ortofon VMS 10E stylus and cartridge - yes, we actually have 2 original new 10E styli, probably the only ones left on the planet! To keep the output pure there’s an Ortofon CAP210 installed on the back of the cartridge, because as Ortofon put it “it keeps things flat between 10k and 20k hz”.

How does it sound? It has an easy, relaxed demeanour, it’s fantastically crisp and clear, picking out individual elements with a rounded fast, 3-dimensional soundstage. It’s perfect for classical, unplugged instrumental and vocals.

Thorens TD124 with a 1979 SMW 3009 tonearm and Ortofon VMS 10E cartridge/stylus (fitted with Ortofon 210 Capacitor chip)

Thorens TD160, don't be fooled by it's looks, even with the 70's chic (or just plain ugly) standard TP-16 tonearm, this is can be a surprisingly detailed deck. Especially if you pimp the hell out of it, and we have. An 18mm MDF rubber coated baseboard sitting on three adjustable spikes makes the whole plinth more rigid, improving the resonance and deepening the bass. A Platter Damping Ring, Adjustable Motor Thust Bearing, 3mm Felt Platter Mat and Spindle Damping Device eliminate much of the unwanted feedback and turn it from an ugly ducking into a beautiful swan. It may not have the PRaT of the Linn or the rich musicality of the Thorens TD124 but it is very easy to listen to, and we do probably more often than any of the other decks.

Pioneer PL12D. Yes we know it's not the best deck ever built, but it's a good early budget classic. It's a touch agricultural in the way it delivers, subtle it isn't, it's the difference between a six clyinder Audi and a four clyinder Volvo engine. It'll get you there but won't be as smooth, relaxed or refined as a more upmarket marque. That said there is something about its honesty that we love. Oh, and a PL12D was the first deck we ever bought as teenagers!

Amplifiers:

Actually at Vinyl Clear we prefer a receiver to an amplifier. Why? Well they just look so cool! Why the preference for Yamaha? We haven't yet found a receiver that sounds better. For example we have had (and have still own) a number of Pioneer SX receivers of the same vintage and they just seem dry and two-dimensional in comparison.

Yamaha CR 1020 Receiver

At the top end of the CR range the 1020 is known for being neutral, detailed & transparent. We just love the clarity of sound produced by this big, heavy, beautiful beast. Ours has been fully serviced and recapped where needed, so it’s the best it can be and with its legendary build quality it should be going long after we’ve stopped.

Specifications

Tuning range: FM, MW

Power output: 70 watts per channel into 8Ω (stereo)
Frequency response: 10Hz to 100kHz
Total harmonic distortion: 0.05%
Damping factor: 40
Input sensitivity: 2mV (MM), 120mV (line)
Signal to noise ratio: 81dB (MM), 100dB (line)
Output: 120mV (line)
Speaker load impedance: 4Ω to 16Ω
Semiconductors: 4 x IC, 3 x FET, 109 transistors, 58 x diodes, 7 x zener diodes
Dimensions: 540 x 167 x 415mm
Weight: 18.8kg
Year: 1977

Yamaha CR 1010 Receiver, as good as the 1020 but with slightly less grunt.

Yamaha CR 800 Receiver

Yamaha CR400 Receiver

Pioneer SX 550

Speakers:

Castle Acoustic Conway 3

These unique speakers are a hidden gem, in a world of tweaking, testing and regular updates these are definite keepers. We were lucky enough to pick these up from an employee who’d worked at the original Skipton factory. He told us they were a one off, carefully constructed from a design based on the Conway 2, they were built as an early prototype for the Conway 3 but proved just too expensive to manufacture. Eventually the Conway 3 became a tower speaker, so our Conway speakers were archived, until they were bought by the employee and 35 years later by us.

The build quality is exquisite with 30mm mylar cone/dome tweeter, 80mm doped paper cone midrange and 210mm pulp cone bass unit placed symmetrically within a flame walnut veneer that is matched across all sides of the large cabinets. At 3’6” tall with the matching stands they are a big speaker, with an equally big sound. With a frequency response of 63hz to 20khz +-3db at 2m ( -6db at 38hz at 1m) with crossover points 750hz and 4khz you’d expect these to sound good. And they don’t disappoint, they become invisible projecting the sound around the room. The 52 litre cabinets give plenty of rich bass, usually with most good speakers your hear the depth and complexity of the bass but with these you feel waves of air vibrate around you. Then the exacting, clear midrange builds the soundstage around you, with the sharp high-end filling in the spaces. Fast and detailed, these speakers just fall on the crisp side of neutral, almost too much so with the wrong amplifier, but with a well serviced, re-capped Yamaha they just sing. These speakers are detailed enough to expose any weakness in your hi-fi set-up.

Jim Rogers 149 (red logo)

A world-renowned speaker maker, these little beauties are the iconic ‘can’ shape. The drive units used were from KEF: the classic B110 bextrene cone bass unit and matching T27 Mylar tweeters. We’ve found the JR149 is best placed close to the wall, with some toe-in, we do have some original wall mounts but have never used them. This little speaker really does produce a big, typically 70's warm hi-fi sound from a small cylinder. The soundstage is expansive and the JR149 does a pretty good job of ‘disappearing’.

Can you improve on our equipment?

There’s always room for improvement, so we’re always looking for new bits of old kit. If you have a mid 70’s Marantz or Sansui Receiver in good condition, then we’d be interested in buying it. So why not send us an email?

 

*Why focus on mid/late 70’s audio equipment? Well, the 70’s was the peak of analogue recording and the quality sound systems around at that time were designed to maximise the analogue sound, often irrespective of cost. The build quality was fantastic and the sound even better. So, we focus on finding the very best equipment from the golden age of vinyl.