26/05/15

A visit to "Halfway Tree" (Gordon Watson)

I've been working on the passive crossover circuit fitted to my Yamaha NS1000M speakers for a while now and pretty much been going round in circles. I'm not happy with the crossover point from mid to tweeter, in much the same way as I was less than happy with it in my Celestion 66's. I eventualy got things sorted on the Celestions using the passive network, though I had considered going active at one point due to a lack of progress. I have reached a similar point with the Yammies and a move to an active system looks likely. I knew Gordon was running an active set up and we had discussed some of the pro's and con's a couple of times in the past. He invited me over to his place to see it all in action, which was an ideal opportunity to learn more about what was involved and pick his brain on the subject.




Gordon in his music room amid some of his gear, for those that don't recognise the unusual looking speakers, they are DIY construction of Siegfried Linkwitz's LX521 reference speakers which are of course active.




A closer look shows five drivers in total, including two 10" bass units mounted in an unconventional fashion.




A view of the rear shows the open baffle set up and the quality of the work that Gordon put into making these, the baffle board is solid Oak and exactly follows the profile that Linkwitz specifies.




The bass drivers have huge magnets and the unusual mounting is designed to cancel out unwanted vibrations.




So what does Gordon use to power these beauties? Cue "The Beast" 32Kg of Nakamichi AVP1 Power Amp.
110w/8ohm all 7 channels driven. This doesn't sound like any AV Amp I've heard before and competes with two channel gear of a very high order, at £399 it is probably the biggest bargain available in HiFi.




Oh yes, I almost forgot, he needs two of them!
The bass drivers each have their own dedicated channel of amplification so that's ten channels in total.




This is what controls all of those channels, mini DSP and, count those Benchmark DAC's amongst others.




I'm always missing from the pictures so it's about time I got on the other side of the lens.
Crikey is that what that shirt looks like?

Well that's the hardware described, so how does it all sound?

In a word - FANTASTIC!

Its one of the most open and realistic presentations I have heard, live recordings are so enjoyable it manages to capture the experience of being there.

We listened to a variety of music including Neil Young, various Reggae tracks, Songs for Desert Refugees compilation, Marlia, Melody Gardot, Hiromi Uehara (Japanese Jazz Pianist), Nitin Sawhany, Rumer, London Grammer, Jeff Beck and that's only what I can remember. I must compliment Gordon on his taste in music, many of these artists were new to me and went straight on to my must have list.

Those speakers, along with the set up that drives them, just handled every type of music that was thrown at them, timing of  piano was spot on, hand claps were so sharp and real. Reggae bass was deep and taught. Female vocals were accurate and never sounded shrill and there was a warm full bodied mid range that just gave you a hug. All the channels come together in a seamless flow of music that has a rightness about it. There was definitely a 3D spatial effect going on, with  individual instruments and voices contributing from different points around the room. I really forgot the speakers were their at times and was just immersed in the music.

Without doubt one of the best systems I have heard, regardless of cost.

I really should be saving for a new cartridge, but after hearing those Nakamichi Amps in an active set up, my priorities may have just changed, the fact that Nakamichi (UK) is only twenty minutes from my house may also sway my judgement.

Last but not least, a big thank you to Gordon for a fantastic day listening to top notch sounds and to his good lady for a lovely Lunch.





Well I was so impressed with Gordon's Amps I pulled the trigger and got one for myself.

Just running two channels at a time to get some hours on each. If this thing was your average AV power amp it would be good value - but its far far more than that..............
On two channels it leaves my Rotel AV Amp, Cambridge A50 power Amp and a recapped Quad 306 in its wake. I wouldn't say it was better than  either the Sugden A21a or Proton AA-1150, I think each of them has their own sound, so it depends what you are looking for, but its quality is at that level. There is a huge amount of detail coming from a very low noise floor, it handles edgy recordings without sounding smoothed over and when you turn the wick up it just gets louder, no sign of running out of steam or loosing its grip. I am chuffed to bits with it.

If anyone has a need for up to 7 channels I can recommend this Nakamichi AVP1.
At £399.99 it is a bargain, get em while you can as the price will go up when current stock has gone, The price on Amazon is more like the true one. The Nakamichi (uk) depot is a building site at present, but I got shown round when I picked the Amp up. There is a clean room with negative charged floor under construction and Ian, the boss, has lots of ideas for future projects, including possibly a bespoke service or an 11 channel Amp weighing  fifty odd kilos. So Nakamichi are definitely back and with some cracking products.
(I have no connection to the company).