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Old hifi systems with great sounding drum kit cymbals

Discussion in 'audio' started by Guitarist 28, Jan 4, 2022.

  1. Guitarist 28

    Guitarist 28 Active Member

    Happy New Year to all.
    Years ago (in the late 70s), 2 of my friend had hifi systems consisting of Meridian 101b/103 (one had 105's), Linn Sondeks with Linn tonearms and MC cartridges (I can remember what MC's these were?) and Mission 770 speakers (using QED 79). One thing that sticks in my mind with this was the clarity of drum kit cymbals, almost as if they were in the room (being an ex bass player they were absolutely realistic). The Mission 770's were unbelievable speakers at the time. However (and may be its me?), I've not heard anything similar since to a similar sounding system.
    I'm now back to using my old A&R A60, Arcam Alpha 5 CD (upgraded) and Heybrook HB2 2000 series - this is miles away from this type of original sound that I liked years ago, maybe its like comparing chalk and cheese! I am in a position to upgrade my system BUT I am really anxious to spend out pots of money and not achieve what I'd heard years ago.
    Also, is part of this the difference between vinyl and digital recordings (CDs, MP3's) potentially being data compressed?

    Any thoughts will be most appreciated.


  2. Darren L

    Darren L pfm Member

    Maybe now is a good time to put together a 'retro' system using the components you remember?
    Put a watch on ebay for the various components and place a wanted ad on PFM and other forums?
  3. Gervais Cote

    Gervais Cote Predator

    Cymbals are one of the most difficult sound to reproduce IMO.

    It took me a while but I finally got it on my actual kit.

    FYI, I'm also a bass player so been standing beside cymbals for a while !

    My actual kit is Marantz CD 6006 CD player used as a transport, a highly modified/improved Chinese DAC based on AK449X chips, Treshold fet Two preamp, Musical Fidelity P170 power amplifier and custom made floor stander speakers with SB drivers.

    The piece of kit that did cut the mustard was obviously the preamp.

    My journey for the perfect cymbals could have been shorter with an analog source such as a good turntable but I prefer CD for ease of use.

    Other kits would probably give a similar result but mine was rather affordable for the sound quality I have now.

    I may have to mention these pre and amp have been refurbished and optimized by myself.

    Below are my speakers if of any interest :

    RoA and Luca like this.
  4. Nigel

    Nigel pfm Member

    Great CD player. Especially if it has the Avondale mods.
  5. acass

    acass pfm Member

    For me cymbals are one of the hardest things to hear as age has taken its toll on my ears. Perhaps it is the same for all of us and our ears lose their edge as we get older so what we heard in the 70's is no longer available. 50 years of life has its price.

    Sorry to be doom and gloom but I've not given up on the quest for a better system. Tailor your system to your needs go retro. I did I built a 70's turntable and love it.

    Bob McC, manicatel and SteveS1 like this.
  6. pocketkitchen

    pocketkitchen Registered User

    It can be done! I’d start by looking to put together a system based around good, vintage gear. However, make sure you allow for servicing as stuff does tire with age. Meridian gear, especially the amps are often available for relatively low amounts, which is good. Linn turntables, not so and there’s a more than a few dogs out there, so see a decent dealer and make sure you buy a new cartridge. DNA Audio, Cymbiosis, Cheshire Audio or Tom Tom would all be be good, depending on where you are. Dynavectors are good and many here rate Hana. An Audio Technics will be good, too as long as you look from an OC9, upwards. Speakers, I’m less sure at that age. There’ll be a lot of tired ones out there, although there’s a nice looking pair of active Meridians in the trade classified which would just need a preamp.

    If, however, you don’t fancy the search for good vintage gear and the effort of making sure it’s all as it should be, then a Well Tempered Simplex, Naim or Moon integrated and a pair of Ophidian speakers would make a lovely new system.
  7. Fergus

    Fergus pfm Member

    Maybe you could start your quest by adding these to your current system and working round them.
    Rockmeister and cooky1257 like this.
  8. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    I have a drum kit at home, so I can compare live to hi-fi.
    I get realistic live levels on my big Cabasse speakers - only just! I need 100 W peaks with these 95 dB sensitive 4-way speakers on crash cymbals!
    Don’t expect anything with low sensitivity speakers. You’ll get nice sounds but certainly not anything close to reality.
    Old Shatterhand and cooky1257 like this.
  9. torstoi

    torstoi pfm Member

    That's an interesting one..
    I'm a drummer and played a Zildjian ride in a musicstore once.
    That thing was absolutely awesome and cost as much as my entire drumset at the time,
    so no way I could afford it.
    Fast forward 20 yrs and I listened to Charlie Hunter's 'Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face'
    CD and the cymbals are excellent on this one..especially the ride woke a memory burried somewhere deep in my sounded just like that cymbal I had played some 20 yrs ago.
    So I grabbed the booklet of the CD..and there it was.. 'plays Zildjian cymbals'

    You'd need a good CD player, good pwr amp and good speakers..and imo a pre that just doesn't mess it up.
    Imo it's the pwr amp where it's at bc if you get that one right, the other components will then qualify or not.
    But a great CD player will still sound from meh to shit through a bad pwr amp.

    With the focus on cymbals I would settle for Class A and while only reading your post and mentally already compsing a capable but not overly expensive setup, what came to my mind for the pwr amp was Musical Fidelity.
    Spot on what Gervais came up with just 2 posts later..and gave me a smiling nod..

    Class A bc the strength to me is really in trebble and mids, ie it's incredibly quick.
    And that's what it will have to be catching the fine nuances and sustain of great cymbals.

    Then you'd need nice speakers, I'd pick 3 ways bc I would want cone mids, not membrane mids
    for the simple reason they are quicker due less mass.
    Thus you end up at 3 ways as no cone mid will do any bass ofc.

    The good news is there a really loads of disregarded smaller cone mid 3-ways from the 70s & 80s,
    many on the way to the junkyard, and some of those actually really good.

    The role model to me would be the NS1000, but that's not really small.
    So maybe find one that sounds like a smaller brother & you might be onto something.

    The Mission 770s I don't know..I imagine the must be doing great for a two way.
    But as you asked...magic transparency in mid and treble, to me cones all the way.

    The pre..there's a lot of great pres out there & to my experience a good pre that doesn't mess up
    a well chosen CD-pwr amp- spkr combi does not have to be very expensive.
    I got one used for 300 bucks that really delivers.
    There's some really great and more expensive ones that round it up like the cream on the cake,
    but for just a great cake not (absolutely) necessary.

    CD player that worked great was Karik+ Numerik in my case.
    For your specific demand I'd shy away from old TDA dacs as infinite resolution is not their core strength,
    my preferance is the late Burr Brown ladder dacs from the in Numerik.
    There's obviously good ones in the newer dacs, but as I'm repairing carburettors
    (when I'm not hunting dinosaurs..) I have little xp with them.

    Good luck with your hunt for shimmering decay...and I'm curious what you come up with..

    edit: I left out LP for now, as to my experience and hearing to get close to my CDP let alone pass it, it took an MC system + very good arm + very good phono pre etc at which point it really gets expensive in comparison with a CDP of comparable capabilities.

    Not to say you cannot listen to cymbals with an MM quite good if you get the rest of the system right...a bit of a sensible spot in the forum this, so I'd rather not open that can of worms now..but if you wanna nearly taste your cymbals...that's a good MC ( to me..)then.

    Hence to me the shortest connection from A to B here is a CDP,
    long play will take much more effort to get to similar results.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2022
    Gervais Cote and Mynamemynaim like this.
  10. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    I like your post. You’re not saying anything about live levels though!
    Small speakers and class A amps are out here.
    Old Shatterhand likes this.
  11. SteveS1

    SteveS1 I heard that, pardon?

    This. I had my ears tested last year and they are very good for someone in their sixties but they are inevitably not as good as they once were. As for aural memory, that's pretty unreliable after a few hours never mind years. :)

    I still have a Marantz PM4 as a spare. My memories of the early system with it are still as fond as anything I've owned. But even though I still use suitably sensitive speakers and it's been re-capped in recent years - it's not as good as the current amp which reveals more of everything while remaining as engaging. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

    But playing with vintage gear, some of which stands up very well indeed is great fun. There are some Sansui and Sony ES amps that I get curious about from time to time and I love my Sansui Tuner but in that case they really don't make those as well as they used to.
    Tarzan, tuga and manicatel like this.
  12. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    If you want great cymbal sound listen to jazz! Rock drum recording is in most cases just terrible, close-mic’d, heavily EQd, compressed to hell, and then panned in the most fake and unbelievable soundstage, often with totally different FX on each mono drum mic. A good vintage jazz recording, e.g. Blue Note, Impulse, Riverside, Columbia etc from the ‘50s and ‘60s treats the kit as an instrument and records it in a realistic and believable place with real dynamic range. A whole different ballpark. I’m frequently astonished just how real a good jazz recording of a drum kit can sound. Modern jazz recordings can be very good too, e.g. ECM almost always have an amazing drum sound and huge dynamic range, though they do often do the rock fake-stereo wide panning thing which triggers the hell out of me. I do not want the sound as heard from the bloody drum stool!
    igor_xxxx, samz, Colin L and 11 others like this.
  13. torstoi

    torstoi pfm Member

    Thanks chartz..
    Well, I'm wearing ear protection when I play my drumset, which, would I play music the same live level in my living room would suggest I'd better wear ear protection there, too ?
    Rob didn't ask for live levels btw, but I agree with your demand for efficient speakers completely.
  14. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    The drummer is the other half.
    I don’t play, I just listen.

    And what I hear from my hi-fi is bloody close to what I hear when she’s playing (on selected jazz recordings that is). But then again that’s with efficient speakers with an amp that has loads of power under the bonnet!
    Same goes with live piano!

    My second system – a lovely full 60’s Quad setup – is correct too but not at realistic levels of course. It is a travesty, albeit a nice one.

    Oh and funny you should mention that, she’s getting bespoke ear protections next week (expensive).
    torstoi likes this.
  15. amazement

    amazement pfm Member

    I've noticed for years that cymbals in particular don't sound how they used to when I first got into hi fi in the 70's, I thought it was just me hearing as I get older, but since getting some LS3/5a's the cymbals I remember are sounding how I used to hear them. So my take on it is down to todays modern designs that are just too bright and give a false interpretation of what a cymbal should sound like.
  16. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    A cymbal should be bright.
  17. Fergus

    Fergus pfm Member

    As long as it’s clean.
    chartz likes this.
  18. manicatel

    manicatel pfm Member

    Exactly my situation as well.
    I went to an audiologist for an examination & test. It showed that my hearing drops off after 8khz. I’m 60 this year & have spent most of my working life in noisy environments as well as recording studios & gigging in a band.
    A lot of the shimmering effect of ride cymbals etc resides in the 8khz & over range & so for me, cymbals are one of the most obvious instruments I no longer hear as I used to.
    Hearing aids…. I’m too vain to accept I need them quite yet.
    Parametric EQ of some sort may help,
    Vintage gear? That tends to sound warmer & less incisive to me, compared to many modern speakers which tend to run tweeters pretty hot, so I’m not convinced that’s going to do the trick.
    Tarzan likes this.
  19. amazement

    amazement pfm Member

    There's bright, and there's bright. Some tweeters are just tizz and fizz. That's not what a cymbal sounds like.
  20. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    The key to realistic kit metalwork for me is body. In reality cymbals are just not thin and tizzy things at all (though a lot of terrible rock recording does reduce them to that). Often less is more when it comes to treble. Hyped and bright hi-fi is very, very wrong to my ears. All artifice, zero reality. Listen to a good big pair of Tannoys, ESLs or whatever playing a properly recorded jazz album and cymbals are the correct size and really shift air. They have the weight and dynamic envelope of the real instrument.

    PS A really good little speaker listened to in the nearfield can pull off the same trick. I suspect the problems come when one asks a little dome tweeter to play loud. Horns and panels play by different rules.

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