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Hawk's Bake-Off: some thoughts

meninblack

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Well, Hawk's Herts-and-Bucks bake-off went down yesterday afternoon, and an interesting experience it was. The cast list was Hawk, Biscuit, AdamK, JonR, Bommer, Jasper, Papa Lazarou, Classikfan and myself (meninblack.)

Most of the opinions here are mine own, others please feel free to jump in and disagree.

I can't remember all of the models, or who brought what in every case, but the basic order of play was this:

First we started by listening to some CD players, all through Hawk's Naim amplification and his Living Voice loudspeakers. We went through Biscuit's blinged up Marantz CD63 KI
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, my ordinary CD63 KI, Bommer's MF 308 CD and my Cyrus CD8x/PSX-R before finishing with Hawk's Naim (one of the expensive top-loading ones.)

Everything sounded very good indeed. For my money, there was little to split the 2 Marantz's and the MF. The Cyrus sounded a little polite and restrained with the Naim amplification, which was a surprise. The biggest and most audible difference was with the Naim CDP, which had a fuller sound with deeper and better defined bass.

Do all CD players sound the same? NO. But most CD players probably sound pretty much the same. Special awards went to the MF for 1) Heaviest CD player, and 2) Best Buttons. Those buttons were audio pornography. If I had one, I'd hide the remote.

Next up we connected up Papa's vast array of Meridian kit: CDP, pre and power amp. We started with the PS Audio DAC in the system, but the curse of Wigwam struck and the power supply for this started to play up. The Meridian CDP sounded just as good without it, IMO. I thought this set-up sounded really nice, giving the Naim a run for it's money. The Meridian kit also got my Special Award for Most Preposterous Remote.

After this it was the turn of the Audionet SAM integrated, first with the Meridian CDP then with Biscuit's Marantz. This little integrated (superb looks and build, BTW) was punching above it's weight in this company, but sounded very impressive with the Meridian CDP. Not as good with the Marantz, though; a little harsh and shouty. With hindsight we should have put the Cyrus CDP with this, but didn't think of it at the time.

Finally, we connected the Naim amplification back up so we could listen to Hawk's LP12, which he admitted was not a top-spec one and had been bought quite cheaply second hand.

Now, I haven't listened to vinyl for years, and I've never owned a turntable that wasn't made entirely out of Airfix-quality plastic. So I'm thinking: OK, here we go, scratchy old records on a cheap old turntab.........Oh, bollocks!

You could hear the soundstage open up from where I was standing, and that was nowhere near the sweet spot. We listened to the tt back-to-back with the Naim CDP, using the same music.

Suffice it to say, the LP12 stomped over ALL of the CDP's kicked the bodies into a ditch and urinated over them, grinning furiously all the while.

My verdicts:

Best source - LP12

Best CPD - 1) Naim; 2) Meridian

Best amplification: 1) Naim; 2) Meridian

Was Biscuit's Bling conversion worth the dosh? Er, No. Well OK, yes, but just for the looks.
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Will I get mine done? No, but I might paint it yellow.

Thanks to hawk for hosting an excellent afternoon, and to everyone who took the trouble to lug their kit.

Yesterday I was completely happy with my Cyrus system; today I'm coveting Naim! :naimee: Bah! And a turntable! Double Bah!
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I don't even own any records! Oh well, that's HOBBY for you.
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G

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good review menninblack.

and i think the same as you most cd players sound very similar, and yes vinyl is far better than cd, in allmost every case. my gyro sme trounces my 1k arcam in every possible way.

 

Papa Lazarou

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Thanks to Hawk and everyone else at yesterday's Bake-off. It was really interesting to hear all of the different kit. The CDPs varied a fair bit in presentation, the most different characteristics were probably displayed by the Naim and Meridian imo.

I thought the Cyrus 8 put up a nice showing, as did the MF 308 too. I have to say the jurys still out on the blinged-up CD63Ki though. The upgrades to that CDP cost nearly as much as my 507. Perhaps it needs more warming-up to give it's best. It did sound good but i think i expected a bit more given it's cost TBH.

The SAM integrated was a very nice piece of kit. I liked its presentation with the 507, smooth and very listenable with bags of detail. A real looker too!

Hawks CDS3 seemed to cope with everything well, a great all-rounder.

I was impressed with his Living Voice Avatars too. They seemed very easy to drive and had a nice synergy with pretty much everyone's kit.

As i expected Hawk's LP12 trounced all other sources. I happen to be a big believer in vinyl as a source and it confirmed my personal findings.

Anyone for a bit of Goldfrapp?
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Papa Lazarou

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To be expected really Dave considering it's cost. The CDS3 cost as much as all the other CDPs added together. There wasn't THAT much in it though.

 
G

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Papa Lazarou wrote:

To be expected really Dave considering it's cost. The CDS3 cost as much as all the other CDPs added together. There wasn't THAT much in it though.
probably not for the outlay involved aye papa old fella?
 

Polarbear

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Good to hear you all had a good time and thanks for sharing your experiences with us,

Regards

PB

 

Kiang

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meninblack wrote:

Kiang wrote:
did you guys get a chance to do the cable test ?
Er.................No.
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, never mind , with all that kit around I can understand why.

It would have been a bit rushed I suppose.

Just thought we could have saved a bit on the postage as some of you were volunteers.

 

Biscuit

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Thanks a lot to Hawk for letting us mess up his living room (and kitchen) - had a good and interesting time.

The Naim system sounded fantastic - especially through the LV's, which allowed everything to sound its best (apart from audionet amp - Marantz which was harsh and spitty - not nice).

Russell

 

Polarbear

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Hawks CDS3 seemed to cope with everything well, a great all-rounder.
Its not bad is it?

I hear he also has a very nice Nap 300!
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ClassikFan

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Good review MIB, I would heartily agree with most everything you've said. Hawks Naim set up was not always to my liking (I'm not used to so much bass!) and while the CD3 sounded different, it did have home advantage, but I'm not 100% convinced it was better. The whole Naim system certainly got the foot tapping better than the rest. And then we tried the LP12. Made me wonder why we had spent so long with the CD's. It would be nice to hear a modern top TT in Hawks system.

Must give a mention to Jaspers Audionet SAM, it certainly pushed the Living Voice Avatars along very nicely.

And yes the buttons on the MF CD are only bettered by a sexy nipple!:dude:

 

JonR

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Thanks for the review MIB, and I acknowledge your honesty in admitting what a convert to Naim you are!

As I acknowledged on the day I am biased, being a Naimie, but do have to say that as far as the various CDPs were concerned, Hawk's CDS3 was the clear winner IMHO, but the real surprise for me was the performance of Papa Lazarou's Meridian 507/PS Audio DAC, which I thought did well with a nicely balanced presentation.

Have to say as well that on my previous visits to Hawk's place his Living Voice speakers didn't exactly set the world on fire for me, but after yesterday I take all that back - given the right system they can really sing with the best of them and yesterday they did just that.

Testament, I think, to the presence in his system of the NAP300 power amp, which to my mind is far and away the best power amp Naim have ever made.

 

Polarbear

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Testament, I think, to the presence in his system of the NAP300 power amp, which to my mind is far and away the best power amp Naim have ever made.
Best VALUE FOR MONEY amp
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