I have just had this missive sent to me by a long term customer who asked if there was space for it on this website. Now it paints Lyric and me in a very good light so of course there is space for it! It sums up beautifully how and why we work like this.
Thanks Alastair, owe you a coffee!
Ever had an experience where all the stars seem to align? I had one recently, courtesy of a trip to Lyric Hifi, an online vinyl purchase and a wet Saturday afternoon with just me and the dog at home.
My relationship with Lyric Hifi goes back to my student-teacher days in the early eighties when I arrived into Michael McClean’s shop (then on the Stranmillis Road in Belfast), with most of my first term’s grant cashed-in and stuffed in the pocket of my recently acquired Navy-surplus trench coat. Rather than investing in coursework books, a teaching-practice suit or other such nonsense, Michael ended up with most of my grant in his till, in exchange for a pair of nearly-new Mission speakers and a well-broken-in Marantz amplifier. These I hooked up to my dodgy Sony cassette player and a slightly ropy Technics turntable, all of which entertained me extremely well throughout my college days and well into my early teaching years. For me this was the era of Tubular Bells (Mike Oldfield), Discovery (ELO) and Horslips - The Belfast Gigs (live at the Whitla Hall). Back then Michael was not a high-pressure salesman, and he remains the same today - he sets up some gear in the listening room at a price-point to suit your pocket and lets the equipment speak for itself. If you want the technical info, he has it. If you just want to listen, he’ll let you do that too, and he’ll even provide you with a decent coffee.
So after 35 years of audio adventures - never sailing into super-expensive waters, but often making modest upgrades, I arrived back with Michael, (now set up in a gloriously and very expensively cluttered loft on the Lisburn Road) looking to reboot my relationship with vinyl. Over the years I had given away most of my records and my turntable got assigned to the attic when CDs became a thing. I brought with me my trusty Meridian F80 all-in-one system which for the past decade I had mostly been using to play my, by now very large, iTunes library through the Meridian’s iPhone dock. I was hoping to trade it for an amp, speakers and a decent turntable, and also had a notion that it might be time to consider a streaming service. So after a parallel experience to the one I’d had in the 80’s: a half-hour chill-out in the listening room, a few amp, speaker and turntable auditions, a decent coffee and an enjoyable haggle over the trade-in value of the Meridian, my pocket was once again emptied.
But I’m a very happy man: now on the sofa with a sleeping dog, listening to The Secret of Climbing (Stephen Fearing) (Rega Records) on a Rega Planar 3 turntable with an Elys 2 cartridge, through a Cyrus One amplifier to a pair of KEF Q350 speakers mounted on Linn stands. I’m also able to switch remotely between the warmth of analogue and the precision of digital, as the Cyrus amp came with a Google Chromecast WiFi streamer and a 6 month subscription to Tidal, through which I can stream recordings in master-quality, controlled by my phone.
Was the turntable a worthwhile purchase or just a nostalgic indulgence? Well it speaks for itself, especially when playing that Stephen Fearing record, which was engineered by Roy Gandy himself (owner of Rega Research) in his own home studio onto analogue tape, with the one aim being to capture the intimacy of the original live performance. Close your eyes, and Mr Fearing is pretty much in the room with you. And when I put on Mike Oldfield and Horslips (repurchased and remastered), well I’m back in my student digs, but I’m also hearing detail that my ancient Technics turntable could never have picked out (especially as the stylus would have been battling it’s way through fag ash and home-brew spillages to plough it’s way down to the music.) And the WiFi streaming experience? I’m quite blown away by the quality, depth and detail of some of Tidal’s ‘master-quality’ offerings - a significant step up from iTunes via Bluetooth - and when I move those solidly built KEF Q350 speakers away from the walls and crank up the volume - well the dog has to be banished to the garden so she doesn’t see me playing my air guitar.
I can still enjoy my iTunes collection too, albeit that some tracks sound thin at high volume compared to the Tidal masters, or to a well-engineered piece of vinyl. I was a reluctant subscriber to streaming - I still prefer ‘owning’ my music, but I have taken the plunge and through my £20 per month subscription I am constantly discovering new music, plus rediscovering old, re-mastered gems.
I would say I’m content, but of course young Ross, the audio engineer who Michael keeps mostly hidden in the attic has promised to keep his eyes peeled for a traded-in Cyrus or Rega CD player to compliment my system. And would those KEF floorstanders he showed me pick out more bass?
Dammit Michael, you’re just too good at the long game!
Great sound quality, great music and great musical experiences are separate things, yet intertwined, and subjective and elusive. But when the stars align - that’s what makes it a life-long hobby.
Greetings from sunny Lisburn Road
I'm heading off for a quick week in Italy, Covid allowing, and think an updates blog is necessary before I go as there is so much going on here.
As you can see from the landing page Linn Series 3 has arrived here so what do I think? First can I say that it's an incredible piece of engineering to achieve this sound from a little cabinet. I have listened to competitors at this price before, the French one, and this is in a different league. The Exakt technology from the top Linn systems is perfect for this product. For the techies like me Exakt splits the frequency band for the treble and bass units in the digital domain allowing the most precise crossover and the ability to match each drive unit perfectly and even do some corrections. There is no downside to this except cost! You need to have a top end digital to analogue converter (DAC) for each drive unit.
In terms of pure clarity series 3 is fantastic. If you ask is it as good as a streamer/amp with two speakers then my answer is possibly. In a space where you are facing the speaker it is wonderful. In most rooms two speakers give a spread of sound that I much prefer though in Linn speak this is a Majik DSM and a pr of 109 speakers so £3950, or £8800 to make it fully Exakt with six DACs
Talking of Majik DSM the 4th generation is now on dem here and it's great. First new case for the Majik in years and it looks fresh and modern. It's really a Selekt case without the big knob on top, and no worse for that. It has fewer inputs than before but still everything most people need. Most importantly it sounds better!
Call in for a listen to either of the above, best let me know you're calling in and I can have either up and running. Deliveries are extended due to demand, to have a DSM4 playing in the background while eating your turkey place your order by mid-October! Series 3 not as long, still 4-6 weeks though!
We are behind on Planar 1, 2 and 3 however the factory is almost back in full swing and catching up fast! For example there are 72 Planar 1s arriving here next week which are already all spoken for, orders placed now will be supplied late October so that's only 4 weeks. Planar 2s and 3s variable, up to 2 weeks. Planar 6 and 8 from stock depending on whether you want MM or MC. Planar10 still some available for delivery in October and December.
The new Io amplifier is doing really well although the new speakers to make a £1000 Rega system are put off until next year to try and supply the backlog on existing products. To give you a £999 system just now we are bundling a Planar 1 with an Io and a pr of Kef Q150s, or maybe Q350s see below, and some speaker cable. This sounds excellent, unbeatable at the price!
In high end Rega the Planar 6 continues to impress, £1250 including an Exact MM cartridge and the futuristic looking Planar 8s and 10s are unique and just fantastic!
Big Meta product news that I cant tell you about is only a week away, for now I can tempt you with offers on Kef Q350 and Q550.
Q350s now £ 399 per pair instead of £ 499 Q 550 floortsanders now £ 599 per pair instead of £ 799. These are easy to drive and work with a wide range of amplifiers, you can afford a better pair of speakers than you thought!
R3s and R5s still getting the best reviews and selling well. R3s at £ 1300 currently in stock in black or walnut, white 2-3 weeks.
R5s currently quoting 2-3 weeks. Kef Reference and Blades are both in store for demonstration. These are hand built in Maidstone so 6-10 weeks delivery depending on the finish, worth the wait though !
The first Arcam separate streamer has been announced, ST 60 will be £ 1199 when it hits here in November. With the publicity starting early and orders being taken before anyone has even heard it I expect it might be difficult to supply. I have a few available at launch time so if you think this could be right for your system let me know so that I can reserve some more stock, no obligation, it's so I can have an idea of demand.
That big old river keeps rolling on, Uniti Atom,Star Nova, Supernait3, Nap250DR and all the classics continue to flow with 4-6 weeks being the current lead time.
The new Musos are doing well too, there's nothing can touch them at £ 749/£1299. I try to keep them in stock all the time as often someone can pop in to hear one and take one away with them.
The Si and XS series are still doing well too, a Naim Cd player and amplifier for only £ 2440, put them with a pr of Kef LS50 or R3/5s for an incredible system for £3500-4500 ish
So if Boris adds Italy to the bad boy list and I end up self isolating when I come back you will be treated to plenty of ramblings and reviews.
We all hope that doesn't happen! Be safe