Interest Check - Sheffield (UK) ‘Bake-Off’

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karma67
Posts: 237
Joined: Sat Sep 08, 2018 12:19 pm

Re: Interest Check - Sheffield (UK) ‘Bake-Off’

Post by karma67 » Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:15 pm

good luck for tomorrow,i hope all goes well .

YNWaN
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Re: Interest Check - Sheffield (UK) ‘Bake-Off’

Post by YNWaN » Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:59 pm

I’ve just been to the venue and had a listen to Si’s system there - it sounds excellent :).
Mark

YNWaN
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Re: Interest Check - Sheffield (UK) ‘Bake-Off’

Post by YNWaN » Sun Oct 20, 2019 1:34 pm

Well, it’s all happening - about twenty attendees so far and a bunch of varied gear. At this minute I am sat in a local pub, The Beer Engine and have eaten an excellent roast beef lunch and drinking a superb pint.
Mark

YNWaN
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Re: Interest Check - Sheffield (UK) ‘Bake-Off’

Post by YNWaN » Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:28 pm

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Mark

YNWaN
Site Admin
Posts: 4024
Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:02 pm

Re: Interest Check - Sheffield (UK) ‘Bake-Off’

Post by YNWaN » Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:38 pm

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THE END :)
Mark

YNWaN
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Posts: 4024
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Re: Interest Check - Sheffield (UK) ‘Bake-Off’

Post by YNWaN » Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:47 pm

A massive thank you to my friends Si and Paul for the organisation of this event and to all of those who went to so much trouble to bring their equipment - absolute stars, every one of you :).
Mark

sq225917
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Re: Interest Check - Sheffield (UK) ‘Bake-Off’

Post by sq225917 » Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:18 pm

I didnt realise Barrington had his Burmester phonostage with him, would have been good to hear that.
One more Paradise left to complete.

YNWaN
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Re: Interest Check - Sheffield (UK) ‘Bake-Off’

Post by YNWaN » Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:02 pm

Is that the plain black box perched on a chair?
Mark

sq225917
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Re: Interest Check - Sheffield (UK) ‘Bake-Off’

Post by sq225917 » Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:46 am

Yup, very unburmester
One more Paradise left to complete.

YNWaN
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Re: Interest Check - Sheffield (UK) ‘Bake-Off’

Post by YNWaN » Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:32 am

The Great British (audio) Bake Off - Sheffield

My thoughts on the day

The idea of hosting an audio bake off is not new, an event where audio enthusiasts bring equipment to play to each other and share their experience, but such events are usually held in people’s own homes and this limits both the number of attendees and the equipment that can be brought. Not quite for the first time (the NEBO - North East Bake Off series of events were the first), this event was not held in a house but in a room at the , rather charming, ‘Portland Works’ in the heart of sunny Sheffield. The Portland Works is actually a number of Victorian buildings that, these days, house a host of differing small businesses. However, on the first floor of one wing there is a rather splendid room that has been renovated to provide a space in which presentations, meetings etc. can be held. Access is by quite a wide staircase from some double doors that lead directly onto the street. The location is very central to the city centre and can easily be reached by bus, taxi, or even foot, from the station. The Sheffield United football ground is practically next door, but as long as no match is taking place, parking is easy and there are many nearby pubs and eateries of all descriptions.

So, to the day, Sunday the 20th of October 2019. As is usual with such ‘free’ events, loads of people initially say they will be attending and then pull out at the last minute having realised that it is there twentieth wedding anniversary, they are flying to Borneo, or they have to appear in court etc. However, despite all these shenanigans we still had 20/22 people who did make the effort to attend - and a jolly good time was had by all!

Being a lazy cove, I didn’t get to the bake off until 10:30 (AM) and by that time lots had already occurred. The room that was used is quite large and allowed four entire systems to be set up simultaneously and people just had to move the chairs around to hear each one. The fours systems in question belonged to ‘misterdog’ (Paul), ‘sq225917’ (Si) (Paul and Si also organised the whole thing), ‘Qwin’ (Ken) and ‘Hap Hazzard’ (Des). All four of theses chaps deserve a huge round of applause as it is no mean feat to transfer ones entire system to an event like this.

Their systems consisted of the following:

Paul’s = Ian Canada Stack (a very elaborate DIY DAC), a BPBP pre-amp (another DIY project but other than that your guess is as good as mine), MOD86P bridged power amps (also a DIY design, this time a high powered chip amp with exceedingly low distortion) and Quad 989 speakers supported by a home built DSP controlled dipole active sub woofer. The Quad speakers had just (Paul had spent the last week working flat out) been fully rebuilt into custom made steel stands that raise them up from the floor and stiffen them up enormously.

Si’s = Kuzma turntable with 12” arm and Benz LP cartridge, the same Ian Canada Stack DAC that Paul uses and the same pre and power solution that Paul uses. However, in this case the speakers Wee Yamaha NS-1000S with the tweeters bypassed and RAAL ribbons used instead.

Ken = a laptop and Nuprime CDT-8 Pro transport, a PS Audio Stella GCD pre-amp and Nord UP NC500DM x 2 stereo power amps driving semi-active (active in the bass) Yamaha NS-1000S speakers. Ken has massively reinvented the Yamahas with different ScanSpeak bass drivers, a new cabinet and custom active crossover - a really stunning build finished to the highest standard!

Des’ system was the least customised of the four, but it still wasn’t entirely stock. It consisted of a Chevron ddDAC and Sony transport, Canary Audio 608 integrated amp (valve) and Living Voice Avatar speakers.

It’s fair to say that all four of these systems managed to sound genuinely excellent, yet also profoundly different to each other. Paul had lots of trouble getting his giant Quad speakers to work as he was still ironing out the last minute bugs resulting from the last minute rebuild into their custom steel frames. However, by lunchtime sound was being produced and whilst they still weren’t on full song they generated an enormous sound stage that easily filled the large room, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything quite like it!

Before I describe the other systems I think it would be a good idea to discuss the biggest problem of the whole meet, and that was one of customisation and connections. There was a lot of custom built gear on demo and it used a bunch of different input and output connectors as well as differing connection topologies. So, on one hand we had Pauls’s system which runs entirely balanced and, for some reason known only to him, uses male XLR sockets where the rest of the world would use female ones (but, as he built it it’s up to him). Simon’s, I think, is running a combo of single ended and balanced with a mix of RCA and XLR. I don’t know what Ken uses, but there is a lot of custom stuff in his system and I think it is only Des who was using ‘normal’ single ended, RCA and 4mm banana sockets in his system. The outcome of all this mix of connections was that it was very difficult, and in some cases impossible, to do the swapping about of components that people would have liked. For example, I didn’t hear a single record played (though I believe some vinyl was briefly played but it must have been when I had nipped out for lunch). Si had asked me to bring along my Naim Nac72 pre-amp (not standard, obviously ;) - the insides of the 72 are entirely RSA boards and the power supply has Kendrick caps and an Avondale TPR4; a Witch Hat HatPin cable connects the two together) but it couldn’t be used in the end.

I’ll describe Si’s and Ken’s systems last as they share a lot in common, so now let’s talk about Des’. This was set up at the opposite end of the room to Paul’s Quad’s and firing down the length of the room. The sound was big and bold with good dynamic and pretty good detail. The bass was pretty extended and didn’t suffer from bloat or boom. Initially I found the sound a little ‘hi-if’ or forced in presentation. The upper bass was punchy but lacked a bit of texture and there was a slightly bleached quality to the mids and upper frequencies suffered an element of glare. None of this was unbearable and I’ve heard a lot worse at shows (from these same components too). One of the bigger surprises of the day, for me, was when Des’ normal DAC was swapped out for a valve DAC. Personally I don’t normally find DAC,s make that much difference and adding a valve output stage has always seemed a bit of a gimmick; but in this case the valve DAC made a significant difference, the sound became less forced and also more open. Everyone I spoke to, including Des, felt the same although Des did point out that the room was much more live than his home (I’m sure this is true) and felt there was a strong element of room/component synergy going on with the valve DAC (also my own view).

Coming to the systems of Si and Ken there are a number of similarities, but also a number of key differences (described above). Both of their systems were set up to fire across the width of the room and both sounded at their best when listened to in the near field. In the case of Si’s, the bass muddied up a bit if you listened too near the rear wall. Listened to close up the balance was good but with a lean bass. Stereo imagery was very good and the sense of depth was excellent. The mid was very open with great texture and the top end (thanks to the outstanding RAAL tweeters) was sweet and transparent. Initially I was a bit disappointed by Ken’s take on upgrading the Yamaha NS-1000M. When they were first fired up the overall balance of the sound was fine but I felt there was a slightly shut in and ‘matter of fact’ quality to them, they didn’t hold my interest and the mid seemed less ‘hear in to’ than I am used to. However, this was using the class D Nord power amps that Ken uses at home. In the afternoon the mids and tweeters were powered by a Unison Research integrated valve amp, the bass units were still run active from class D amps. This change of amps really opened up the sound of Ken’s Yammies and the mid now had much better (yes, I do mean ‘much’ better) texture and the sound was better in every way - even the bass seemed to benefit, still tight but now without a wooden quality. I listened to Ken’s system for some time and the sound was now excellent. Interestingly, Si did a number of A/B dems with the same tracks, he demoed the sound on first his system and then on Ken’s. It was amazing to hear how the sound changed between the two. In an ideal world I would also have had my NS-1000M equipped system there - perhaps next year....

At one point a pair of Reiver Acoustic Jenna speakers were slipped into Si’s system. These are a tall, slim speaker and they seem to use a vertical array of small mid/bass drivers and a soft dome tweeter. These speakers went down very well with the attendees, particularly their full range nature. Personally I felt their limitations were rather shown up when we swapped back to Si’s Yammies but the Jenna’s are much easier on the eye.

Overall I had a fantastic day, the sounds were excellent and so was the company - the chocolate donuts were also pretty good (I forced myself to eat two), thanks Chris :).
Mark

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