Valves Unlimited

My Hi Fi

The listening place...

Here is a tour around my Audio Set-up, when I manage to find a digi cam, I will put some photos of it on the site.

On my set-up there are (at the moment) 7 Input devices, these being a Turntable, 1 CD Player,  a MD Recorder, a CD Recorder, Tape recorder, an analogue Tuner, and a PURE Digital DAB Tuner.

 There is a separate Pre-amp and power Amp, which feed some Tannoy M2.5 speakers. 

A DVD player might be in the equation some time. Lets go in to detail for each of the parts, starting with the input devices

Input Devices

Digital Inputs  

Yamaha CD Player CDX-493

This is a brilliant CDP, and very good value for money. It has a digital optical output, which is fed in to my CDRW. The overall output sound quality is good, and imaging is better than the CD player I had before. One good thing was I was able to borrow a machine form my local Hi-Fi shop to see if it was the one I wanted. This really did help me choose this CDP as I had the chance to listen to it, before I purchased it.


This is quite a good recorder, from the inventers of Mini Disc. It has all the usual knobs and buttons, and sounds very sweet, but still not as nice as the CD player above, as I find Mini Disc does not sound as good as CD, but it is a handy format for potable use, etc.

The Spec:-

  1. Laser: Semiconductor laser.
  2. Laser Output: Less than 44.6 µW.
  3. Laser Diode Properties: GaAIAs
  4. Revolutions (CLV): 400 - 900RPM.
  5. Error Correction: ACIRC (Advanced Cross Interleave Reed Solomon Code).
  6. Sampling Frequency: 44.1KHz.
  7. Coding: ATRAC (Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding).
  8. Modulation System: EFM (Eight-to-Fourteen Modulation).
  9. Number of channels: 2 Stereo channels.
  10. Frequency response: 5 to 20,000 Hz +- 0.3dB.
  11. S/N Ratio: Over 96dB during playback.
  12. Wow and flutter: Below measurable limit.
  13. INPUTS: 1, Analogue. 2, Digital Optical. 3, Digital Coaxial.
  14. OUTPUTS: 1, Phones. 2, Analogue. 3, Digital Optical. 

CD Recorder:- Marantz DR6000

This is one of the best CDrs I have come across. I purchased it on the 22 Dec 2000. When I got home and slotted it in to my system, I put a CD in (Play mode), and just sat there with a silly grin on my face. The stereo imaging and depth was unbelievable. I found that the higher notes were more forward than with the Yamaha CD player, bass was deep, and very tight, vocals were clean and 'sweet'. Listening to 'Mother Love' by Queen, I could hear the squeaks as Brian May, slid his hand up and down the fret of the guitar, never heard before!!  After trying out in record mode, the quality of the recordings were excellent, with very little being lost (I tried on both Digital and analogue) This has made such a difference to my CD collection, I am seriously thinking of replacing the Yamaha CD player with a Marantz CD6000KI, or at very least, one that costs more than £150! The DR6000 cost £400, and it just goes to show, that it was worth every penny:-)

The Spec.

  1. No. of Channels: 2
  2. Applicable discs: CD, CD-R (Digital Audio), CD-RW (Digital Audio)
  3. Power req: 230Vac 50Hz
  4. Power Consumption: 24W
  5. Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20KHz
  6. Playback S/N ratio: 105dB
  7. Playback Dynamic range: 96dB
  8. Playback THD (Total Harmonic Distortion): 90dB
  9. Recording (analogue): 90dBRecording Dynamic Range: 92dB
  10. Recording THD: 84dB
  11. Analogue Output Voltage: 2V rms
  12. Digital Coaxial Output: 0.5V (p-p) / 75Ω
  13. Digital Optical Output: -20dB
  14. Headphones: 0-5Vrms /8-2000Ω
  15. Digital Coaxial Input (Automatic Sample rate conversion): 32-48KHz
  16. Digital Optical Input (Automatic Sample rate conversion): 32-48KHz
  17. Analogue Input: 560mVrms/50kΩ

Analog Inputs

Turntable:-  REGA Planer 3 

I got this turntable after a recommendation by a friend. I have been listening to this turntable, now for about 4 years, and I must say it has a lot to recommend it as a good turntable. I found bass was tighter, fuller, and some how it seemed deeper. The thing I really noticed was the imaging and depth of the sound stage, which made me feel as if I was right in the  middle of the band which was playing. On one album I found I was hearing little details, from "Behind" me, I say behind, because the depth was that great:-))


I bought a Goldring 1006 cartridge, after having listened to a few, I found this to be best suited to my amp set-up. The sound is extremely detailed, and the stereo imaging is really full, and seems to fill the room. Bass response is the best I've heard in a long while, although strong, not over powering. Mid range is beautifully detailed, with little bits of music showing up, that I'd not previously heard. High notes also come through really clearly.

The spec is as follows:-

  1. Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz +- 2dB
  2. Channel balance: 2dB @ 1kHz.
  3. Channel separation: 25dB @ 1kHz.
  4. Sensitivity: 6.5mV +- 1.5dB, 1kHz @ 5cm/sec
  5. Static Compliance: 24mm/N lat. 16mm/N vert.
  6. Equivalent tip mass: 0.45 mg
  7. Vertical tracking angle: 24°
  8. Stylus radius: Elliptical (18µ x 7µ)
  9. Stylus type: Replaceable.

Tape Recorders:-

Yamaha KX-393

OK, so I said I didn't like tapes, but I came across some while cleaning my room, and my parents have a selection, so I bought this bottom end or the Hifi range, and to be honest I was surprised how good tapes sound (relative to the old tape deck I used to have, which was very, very crap!!) It reproduces the music very well, bass is strong and bass drums sound like....well, what bass drums should do, mid range seems full and detailed and treble is well balanced with the rest of the music. The other thing which surprised me was the depth, which I felt goes right back past my wall and in to the neighbours house! I suppose it is due to, again the old tape deck I had, which had no Dolby NR, or record levels etc, etc Just goes to show that crap tape recorders are not very good at doing there 'thing'. This Yamaha has shown that tapes are quite good!

The Spec.

  1. Track configuration: 4 Track, 2 Channel Stereo
  2. Motor: DC Servo
  3. Head: Recording/Playback: Hard perm alloy. Erase: double-gap Ferrite
  4. Rapid Transport: 100 sec. (C-60)
  5. Wow & Flutter: WRMS; 0.07% W.Peak; +-0.12%
  6. Signal-to-Noise Ratio: Dolby NR OFF; 58dB. Dolby B NR; 66dB. Dolby C NR; 74dB.
  7. Frequency Response: Normal Tape (-20dB): 20~18,000 Hz +-3db; CrO2 Tape (-20dB): 20~17,000 Hz +-3dB; Metal Tape (-20dB): 20~20,000 Hz +-3dB
  8. Harmonic Distortion: 0.8%
  9. Input Sensitivity/Impedance: Line: 100mV/50 K ohm
  10. Output Level: Line: 570mV/1.0 K ohm; Phones: 1.5mV/8 ohm
  11. Channel Separation (1KHz): 40dB
  12. Cross Talk (125KHz): 55dB
  13. Power Consumption: 12W (5W Standby)

Reel to Reel Tape Recorders

Akai 4000DB, Dolby NR, two Speeds, 4 Track Stereo Consumer Deck.

Akai X-360D, Cross Field Head System, 3 Motor's, 4 Speeds, Auto reverse, 4 Track Stereo Professional Deck.

Ferguson Portable Unit, 1 Speed, Mono.

All these decks sound brillient, the 4000DB, being the newest, sounds best and comes with Dolby 'A' NR, but then the X-360D is a Pro unit, and although is in need of a new main motor, a tape recorded at 3 3/4IPS, and played back on the 4000DB, sounded very 'clean' not to much back ground hiss, infact I didn't really hear any.

Amplifying Parts

1. Phono Pre-amp:- Home Made

The Valve line up for the preamp is ECC83 *2, ECC82*1. This Phono stage has been designed to match the Goldring 1006 MM Cartridge, and is based on a Passive optimised RIAA network.

The spec is as follows:

Phono Stage

  1. Input impedance: 47KOhm + 120pF 
  2. Line Output impedance: 1KOhm
  3. Overall gain, Phono to line: 48dB @ 1Khz
  4. Line output level: 1 to 2V peak (2.5mV @ 1kHz for 5cm/s)
  5. Signal to noise ratio: 40 to 60dB
  6. RIAA equalisation network type: Passive optimised
  7. HT Power: 300 to 350V DC
  8. HT current consumption: 30 to 40mA
  9. Heater Supply: 6.3V AC and 12.6V DC
  10. Power supply: 230V @ 50Hz
  11. Power Consumption: 30W norm.

2. Pre-Amp:- ROTEL RC-971 

This pre amp was bought because I needed a few tape loops for the MDR, and CDRW, I bought the line only version, as I have built my own phono stage.

So far this pre, has sounded brilliant with every piece of music I play, it sounds bright, and cheerful, with not seeming to lose much detail in the process, overall, I can't comment to much as I've only had it a week or so, but when I next update this page, I will put a better description on the site.

3. Power Amp:- Home Made 

The Valve line up for this is as follows, EL34*2 per Channel, ECC83 one per channel, and EF86 one per Channel.

I have upgraded the PSU to a more beefy one, and made it fully valve, this made a dramatic improvement in sound quality, and stereo imaging. I have also upgraded the signal cables, from bell wire of all things, to proper cable, well shark audio wire, interconnect striped down, I might even upgrade this to stripped down QED silver cable. Output Transformers are hand made from Sowter, and the output speaker cable from the Transformers are connected directly to the output posts.

The Spec is as follows:

Power Amp

  1. Amplifier type: Class AB1 'Ultra-Linear'
  2. Line Supply voltage (HT): 400-470V DC
  3. HT current: 250 - 300mA Norm.
  4. Heater Current: 7.0A
  5. Max output power: 30W RMS. (37 absolute max)
  6. Gain: 30dB
  7. Input sensitivity: 220mV for 20Wo/p
  8. Frequency response: 25Hz to 30kHz +- 0.5dB @ 20W, -3dB @ 75kHz @ 20W, <10Hz to <40kHz +- 0.5dB @ 1W
  9. Rise time (1kHz square-wave): 4µs
  10. Overshoot and ringing (1kHz square-wave): ~10%
  11. Phase shift error: 20º @ 20kHz
  12. Signal to noise ratio: 89dB
  13. Output noise (input grounded): hum <3mV peak, White Noise <2mV peak.
  14. Harmonic distortion: 0.05% (0.1% @ 27W)
  15. Intermediation distortion: 0.7% of carrier (1% @ 27W)
  16. Beat-note distortion: 0.25% (0.3% @ 27W)
  17. Output impedance: <0.2Ohm
  18. Damping factor: 50 Approx.
  19. Valves: EL34 (2 per channel), EF86, ECC83, and GZ34 (Upgraded to 5V3A, high current rectifier) 


Tannoy Mercury M2.5: You can read my Review here.

They are wired to the Amp by QED Qudos Balanced Design Concept Speaker cable, this is good thick stuff, and is OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) as well.

The Stands are Target Audio HM50, filled with silver sand. Cables & Interconnect I use:-
  1. QNECT 2 (QUNEX 2), and sound wicked:-)
  2. QUNEX 4S (SPOFC) Silver Plated Oxygen Free Copper cable, this is between Pre amp, and Power amp. Very good interconnects these. This will be swapped with one of the Qnect 2 cables, prob. the one from the CD player and pre amp.
  3. VDH D102-iii Hybrid. Going to get more of this, and swap out the Qunex 4S above.
  4. CHORD Chameleon 2, and the new updated Chameleon 2 'Silver Plus' Well what can I say, best cable bought so far, well, in the same field as the VDH above
  5. The Optical fibres are QED QUNEX QT fibre, this made a bit of difference, and will be sticking to them.
Just changing the cable from the crap stuff you get free, really does show how good a system can be.


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