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Thread: A Visit to Tom's Place (Montesquieu)

  1. #1
    Join Date: Mar 2012

    Location: Gloucestershire

    Posts: 3,951
    I'm Paul.

    Default A Visit to Tom's Place (Montesquieu)

    On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of being invited to visit Tom, as I was in the area on business. For those unaware, Tom has been a die-hard Tannoy fan for many years, and it's fair to say has been on somewhat of a journey with all sorts of Tannoys and amplification.

    I have known Tom for a good few years now and he was one of RFC's first customers when we first threw the doors open for business 4 or 5 years ago. We soon became good friends as we share similar tastes in music and music history, as well as wine and curry! Tom was aware that I had been working on developing a fixed inductor circuit for Tannoys which helped smooth the mid range, especially at and an octave or two above crossover so had been following progress in the sidelines. Long story short was that Tom seemed to be in a bit of a Tannoy Bermuda Triangle, not knowing which way to turn after his big Autographs were evicted from his new home, so we had a chat and his RFC-Canterbury speakers were born. These look similar to the existing Tannoy Canterburys for the 12 inch Monitor Golds, but that's where the similarities end. They are 30% larger, have a slightly different tuning vent construction and indeed a different tuning point. Internally, they are vastly different with constrained panel design applied for some fairly complex bracing designs and are well damped. They were also designed specifically with the HPD in mind and not the MG.

    Tom has often suggested that I popped down for a listen and having got the chance recently took him up on the offer. It was a real pleasure to be invited into Tom & his wife's lovely new home and to have the pleasure of hearing these for the first time:



    Tom has amassed a very carefully thought out system, which has been designed not just to get the best from the Tannoys, but voiced to get the best from his vast LP music collection, comprising mainly early classical. The big Radford works stunningly well with the Tannoys providing no shortage of grip or finesse at all volumes. Tom's front end (TD124 with AN arm and some very tasty cartridges) is delicate, detailed yet authoritative and feeds some very high quality SUTs and RIAA stage with quite an unusual Re-equalisation box of tricks to equalise for various types of differnt recordings.

    There was also a particularly impressive DAC and transport lurking at the other side of the rack.

    We listened to several pieces, including a wonderfully recorded Louis Armstrong LP which left the gravel like voice of Satchmo hanging ion the air with such fidelity and emotion, it was hard not to smile. Utterly enthralling. Bass lines were effortless, natural and timbrelly correct with lovely detail in the rise and decay, especially on Cello and other stringed instruments.

    The star of the show were Tom's big speakers, which whilst not overly dominating the space are no shrinking violets either. They fit into the space very well, and the finish that Russ has left on these (whilst perhaps a little different to how I would have finished them) is nonetheless very good indeed. A few more shots:






    The Cora (correct me if that's wrong Tom as I know it was one of the suggestions at the time) grille covering fabric is fabulous. Not as coarse as the original Tigan fabrics, with a lovely patternation and colour, it is the perfect match imho to the Sapele woodwork finish of the speakers and light enough not to make the speakers overly dominate.

    Another aspect of Tom's system which struck me was just how much of it seemed to be arrived at through Tom's support and relationship with current UK cottage industry specialists including Grahaeme (Valvebloke), Will (Radfords) and myself and working closely like this with people he trusts has paid off if evidenced by what I saw and heard.

    My thanks again to Tom and his lovely wife for a lovely lunch and some great tunes. I hope you get many years of enjoyment out of your system Tom and look forward to the next (preamp) chapter!

  2. #2
    Join Date: Oct 2012

    Location: Napier, New Zealand

    Posts: 1,534
    I'm Andrei.

    Default

    Wine, Curry, music ... wish I was there.
    Or If you were here: Wine, curry, Stravinsky ... glad you stayed at home!
    Did a fab curry last weekend - fresh ginger, garlic, cumin, cardamon, chilli, pepper, (powdered) tumeric: blended for 24 hours hmm, Hawkes Bay wine hmmmmmm.
    [COLOR=#a52a2a][B]Sources:[/B] [B]1[/B][/COLOR] PC & Wyred4Sound DAC-2 DSDse   [COLOR=#a52a2a][B]2[/B][/COLOR] Oppo BDP105   [COLOR=#a52a2a][B]3[/B][/COLOR] Technics SL·1210 MK5 (Jelco 750D · Benz Wood).    [COLOR=#a52a2a][B]Speaker Cable[/B][/COLOR] [COLOR=black]Nordost Frey.[/COLOR]    [COLOR=#a52a2a][B]Interconnects [/B][/COLOR][COLOR=#000000]Oyaide[/COLOR][COLOR=black] & [/COLOR][COLOR=#000000]Geisha [/COLOR][COLOR=black]Silver.
    [/COLOR][B][COLOR=#a52a2a]Phono Stage [/COLOR][/B][COLOR=black]Fosgate Signature V2. [/COLOR]   [COLOR=#a52a2a][B]Preamp [/B][/COLOR][COLOR=#000000]Ayon Eris[/COLOR][COLOR=black]. [/COLOR]   [COLOR=#a52a2a][B]Power Amp[/B][/COLOR] [COLOR=Black]ATC P1. [/COLOR]  ​ [COLOR=#a52a2a][B]Speakers[/B][/COLOR] Triangle Magellan Cello.     [COLOR=#A9A9A9]Oh Sting, where is thy death?[/COLOR]

  3. #3
    Join Date: Mar 2012

    Location: Gloucestershire

    Posts: 3,951
    I'm Paul.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrei View Post
    Wine, Curry, music ... wish I was there.
    Or If you were here: Wine, curry, Stravinsky ... glad you stayed at home!
    Did a fab curry last weekend - fresh ginger, garlic, cumin, cardamon, chilli, pepper, (powdered) tumeric: blended for 24 hours hmm, Hawkes Bay wine hmmmmmm.
    Sounds like my kind of meal! Yup, you'd enjoy listening to Tom's system/music I think Andrei.

  4. #4
    Join Date: May 2012

    Location: Maidstone

    Posts: 1,009
    I'm James.

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    Very smart black oak floor .
    Source: Heavily modified DDDAC using MacBook Pro.
    Amplification: Pre amp-Stereo Coffee pre amp on steroids.
    Power amp- Rather large Colin Wonfor Class A power Amp
    Speakers: Lampizator P17 Open Baffles
    Accessories: Klotz 500 DIY Interconnects & DIY speaker cable sounding better than anything commercial.
    All powered from a Mother Trucker BPS with a dedicated consumer unit with 10mm armoured radial back to the house tails after the meter.

  5. #5
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 69,976
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

    Default

    Nice write-up, Paul - and a lovely looking system and room, Tom, especially those gorgeous speakers!

    I don't doubt that the system sounds fab, as Tom and I share similar audio proclivities and system-building sensibilities. I hope to pop down myself and have a listen later in the year. Glad you guys had a good time. Meets like this are what the AoS community is all about

    Marco.
    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do". - Milan Kundera.

    "Your validity or worth are not defined or determined by the views of others with their own superimposed agendas". - Pharos (on AoS)

    My system:

    Modified Technics SL-1210MK5G/Mike New high-precision bearing & baseplate/Mike New ETP platter/Bruil record weight/Nagaoka GL602 crystal T/T mat. Paul Hynes SR7EHD PSU (plus regulator modules)/DCSXL pure-silver DC lead. Ortofon RS-212D tonearm/'Speedy Steve' custom-made Ebony armboard. Yannis Tome 423.5 Phono Silver-Litz tonearm cable, with Furutech CF-DIN(R) and Eichmann silver Bullet Plugs. Cartridges: Denon DL-S1 in AT MG-10 headshell with AT-6106 Quattro Hybrid lead-wire. Denon DL-103C1 in '103U' headshell with AT-609 silver lead-wire. Vintage Denon DL-103AU in AT-Ti15ANV Titanium Headshell. Shure M55E in Denon PCL-300 headshell with 6N silver lead-wire. Shure original USA SC35C. Audiocom-modified Sony X-777ES/DAS-R1 transport/DAC. Raspberry Pi-3 Model B and IQaudio Pi-DAC+/Paul Hynes SR3DR-05 linear PSU/Williams Audio NAS linear PSU. Heavily-modified Croft Charisma-X preamp. Stereo Coffee LDR. Head-amp: Paul Hynes design/SR5 PSU. Also modified Lentek. Tube Distinctions 50W Class A P/P Copper amp with cryo-treated Tung Sol KT150s. Speakers: 'Lockwood Majors', using 15" Tannoy Monitor Golds, modified with bespoke crossovers. Also Celestion Ditton 15XRs. Stands: Mana Acoustics (non-magnetic stainless steel 'clones’). Hi-Fi Racks Podium T/T wall shelf. Sony ST-5055L tuner. Cables: Furukawa EE/F-S 2mm & 2.6mm solid-core mains leads, fitted with Furutech FI-50 IECs and FI-1363Rs. Stereo interconnects: Sommer Carbokab 225 (with silver-plated MS Audio non-metallic POM RCAs). Speaker cable: VDH 'The Wind' Hybrid II. Digital coaxial cable: 1m Trompeter Electronics Triax TRC-75-2, with MS Audio ‘Starline' silver-plated RCAs. Mains block: Mark Grant 6-way, modded with Furutech FP-1363R sockets and Furukawa cable. Tube Distinctions digital noise filter. VPI HW 16.5 record cleaner.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 1,661
    I'm Tom.

    Default

    It was lovely to see Paul the other day - he's been over a few times but not since the Canterburys entered service. He really put a huge effort into the design work - we pondered a lot about tuning options and impact vs bass extension and in the end I think this thinking really paid off. Paul's expertise in crossovers is also a major factor in these.

    I'm over the moon about these speakers and, with my kit, for my music, in my room, they work better than even the Autographs did. (And while they scale similarly to the 15in MG GRFs, they go far deeper and perform far more evenly).

    I took the kit out of my signature a while back as it was in a state of flux but probably worthwhile setting it out for the record, in case anyone is squinting at what is there in Paul's picture:

    Driving the Tannoy Canterburys is a Radford STA100 power amp. This came from Finland, from the home of a former BBC and Decca recording engineers, and was brought up to spec by Graeme Hirst (Valvebloke, latterly trading as Ampregen), with huge help from Will at Radford Revival who wound new output transformers for it, as one was damaged. It's a 100w KT88 amp (running KT90s at the moment), the most powerful Radford ever made. Originally a studio amp with 100v line and 16ohm windings, Will had records in his files for an 8 ohm version of the original transformer, and that's what he had wound - the result is a perfect match with the Tannoys, up there with any amp I've heard with them at any price.

    I love it - for Tannoys it's a real destination amp and I've really owned all sorts - including - just a random sample - EAR V20, EAR 509, Unison Research S8, some Chinese push pull 211s, Puresound A30 stock and modded, VAC PA90, Audion Silver Nights (including at one point active amplification with four Audion 300b monoblocks), Leben 660c, WAD 300b interstage push-pull, Audio Note Meishu Signature silver ended, Oto Phono Signature integrated and Conquest monoblocks - I could go on. I tried more than 30 amps with 15in MGs and also tried quite a few with 15in HPDs.

    The Canterburys have 12in HPDs. I told the story here a while back, but I originally had 12in Monitor Golds in (I previously had various incarnations of 15in Monitor Golds, in GRF cabinets, Lockwood Majors and then Autographs - the latter being too big for the new house when we moved). Paul insisted that 12in HPD would work better in these cabinets. I was skeptical but later converted when I borrowed a pair to try this out - I got an extra octave out of them without any loss of subtlety). Anyway it's all documented in various places here. It was a no-brainer in the end to replace the 12in MGs with HPDs.

    My digital source is an Audio Note CDT2/II transport (bought new direct from Audio Note) and an Audio Note kit Dac 2.1x. This has been upgraded several times, first of all to 2.1x balanced spec with the SuperHIB output transformers, then further to 4.1 spec with upraded 1/V transformers, improved core material and other mods including a switched input incorporating a USB input board (two co-ax and one AES/EBU inputs, two with high-spec audio note input transformers, one of the co-ax inputs has a FET input buffer, plus an asychronous USB input. Max resolution is 24/192 but I'm done improving digital - this will see me out. It's left me more convinced than ever that the REALLY important bit of the DAC is its function as a preamp, not the digital element.

    On the vinyl side (my main source) I have a Thorens TD124 Mk II. I've ended up here after various LP12 evolutions over the course of 20 years, a Townshend Rock Reference, Voyd 3-motor, Garrard 401 and a few Lenco projects. All those have their strengths but the Thorens is just the most musical, in my opinion.

    I run this with a Miyajima Shilabe cartridge and an Audio Note Arm3/II (I owned one on the Voyd - superb arm), and an Audio Technica ATP12T for mono and 78 use (Miyjima Zero and Premium 78 cartridges). SUT options are S&B TX103 or (just in) Hashimoto HM7 - both put together by Valvebloke and the latter enabled for two arm input. Phono stage is an Aurorasound Vida LCR - I've really been blown away by this after trying many phono stages over a long period. I had a Longdog Audio one for many years, this has been the only one that pipped it. I also have an Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for correcting for pre-RIAA curves in early mono and 78s. Again I've been through literally dozens of cartridges from Linn to Koetsu, London Deccas, to Lyras, AN AJ-J Io complete with Kondo SUT, lots of Ortofons, from vintage and modern SPUS, Jubilee and Windfield, assorted ATs, and of course the obbligatory Denons, modded and unmodded.

    Cables are generally sensible rather than exotic - RFC Audio interconnects for the most part, some Western Electric speaker cable, and stock power cords.

    Preamp is the last piece of the puzzle. Latterly I had been using a Music First MkII TVC, which was great in the past with other bits of kit, but not a perfect match for the Radford for whatever reason. I currently have a Shindo Aurigies on loan, which is really very very nice (astonishing with timbre and tone), but am waiting on Will at Radford Revival to complete a prototype pre which should be a fascinating comparison.

    Some preamps from the past might actually suit todays setup better than the power amps they were feeding at the time - the SJS Arcadia Model 2 I had springs to mind particularly, also the Border Patrol Control Unit, Leben 28cx and Audion Quattro - but synergy is an elusive thing!. The maddest pre was a DIY hifi supply Tram2 DHT which was specacular in some ways, but very unreliable in how things like switches worked (it was also pretty microphonic). Sometimes practicality wins out over pure sound quality.

    Anyway it's taken me a couple of decades of trial and error - lots of error in particular - to end up here but moves in and out have really slowed. When the preamp choice is done, I'll be a happy man. I don't expect to change much from here on in.
    Last edited by montesquieu; 14-02-2015 at 00:46.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 2,897
    I'm James.

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    I didnt think they were speakers - mistook them for a drinks cabinet!
    VPI Scout 1.1 / JMW 9T Tonearm / 2M Black /Croft 25R+ / Croft 7 / Spendor SP2

  8. #8
    Join Date: Jul 2011

    Location: Northamptonshire

    Posts: 1,407
    I'm Peter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    I didnt think they were speakers - mistook them for a drinks cabinet!
    Well, there is a little concealed door round the back ... but don't tell his wife
    Guitar for sale in 'Abstract Chat' sub-forum

    Rega Isis Valve. Platine Verdier. EAR 912. EAR 861. Tannoy Prestige Canterbury SE.
    Naim CD5si. Naim Supernait 2. KEF 104/2.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Nov 2011

    Location: Manchester, UK

    Posts: 125
    I'm Simon.

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    Tom,
    Great write up, that is some journey!
    That Tram2 of yours with 45 valve did do some amazing things, bit it was microphonic even if less so than my 2A3 version.
    Best of luck with the preamp search, are you really suggesting you are going to settle after that 😉
    SJS Arcadia Line Level Pre-amplifiers, Headphone amps, MM Phono Stages and SET Power amps - service, repairs, upgrades

  10. #10
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 1,661
    I'm Tom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sjs View Post
    Tom,
    Great write up, that is some journey!
    That Tram2 of yours with 45 valve did do some amazing things, bit it was microphonic even if less so than my 2A3 version.
    Best of luck with the preamp search, are you really suggesting you are going to settle after that ��
    Honestly ... I hope so. Will has loaned me a Woodside SC26 which he's done some work on, and it's not bad at all!

    I can see myself still playing with stuff like cartridges, but I'll be glad when the big changes are complete (as, mostly, I think they are).



    Quote Originally Posted by petrat View Post
    Well, there is a little concealed door round the back ... but don't tell his wife
    It's where I keep the drugs stash. She doesn't know about it, but she also doesn't know that I know that she keeps her vodka in the washing machine

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