shortlist has been compiled after stringent testing and viewer feedback.
We believe the improvement they make to hi-fi system and listening
pleasure makes each accessory worthy of its price tag.
Your feedback is important!
If you believe there is an accessory that should be included here
let us know and we will check it out.
Click an image to reach
each company website.
As mentioned below. With any cable, interconnect or component,
transparency and neutrality is the key!
Testing large components for the above traits is more difficult
as you will possibly never get the opportunity to test more
than half a dozen amplifiers or turntables (for example)?
Cables and interconnects
can be delivered on a trial basis from many reputable companies.
The Kimber Select KS-1116
XLR balanced cable was delivered to us on a 60 day trial
basis. We slotted them in between our Whest PS.40RDT Special
Edition phono stage and Musical Fidelity M8 PRE preamplifier.
At the time we were testing various amplifiers such as the
Musical Fidelity M6 PRX, the revered Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista
800 integrated amplifier and the Luxman M700-u amplifier.
No matter what the combination of amplifier used, the KS-1116
came out on top. Within a few hours of listening (even before
the cable had run in) we were confident we would not be
returning it. Clarity and transparency on a level not heard
before. Yes this is more expensive than any XLR balanced
interconnect on our essential accessory list, but it is
now the interconnect we use as our reference.
Russ Andrews offer a 60 day money back guarantee.
The Kimber Select KS-1116 starts from £890.
300 Series XLR interconnects
We have used various balanced interconnect cables between
our Whest PS40RDT phono stage and Musical Fidelity M8 preamplifier.
This is the cheapest and most remarkable cable so far. This
plain looking grey cable is by far one of the most transparent
cables we have ever used. AND it is cheap. I have seen pristine
used 300 Series cables going for as little as £25
online. A real bargain!
Red River XLR interconnects
A high specification high performance cable. Many music lovers
have used this interconnect (including us). The 0.5M
length is priced at around £50.
PowerKord-300™ UK mains & W350 EVO Gold
A controversial upgrade area to discuss!
Like many chosen accessories (or upgrades), the improvements
specific power cables can make to any system can be can
be subjective and will depend upon a variety of factors
such as the quality of your existing mains cables, quality
of the mains itself, your individual components etc. We
have been using our existing mains cables for many years
with no noticeable problems, however, we were curious to
see (and hear) were this upgrade path would take us. Would
we stick with our existing cables, or would we be convinced
Upgrade cables use a
variety of metals proven to be superior conductors (such
as silver). Some cables (or rather, the metals used within
the cables) boast ‘Deep Cryogenic Treatment’!
Special weaving of cables and specific materials are used
for the outer sheaves. All of the above is used (or done)
to improve conductivity and reduce radio frequency interference,
also known as electromagnetic interference (EMI).
You may have never
thought about RFI - EMI polluting your hi-fi. I never gave
such issues much thought. I confess to have considered those
who were concerned about such level of refinement could
benefit from getting out more often, or perhaps regular
exercise? Well, I do both, so here goes…
Yes, there are a variety
of mains cables on offer with a variety of price tags. We
tested cables ranging in price from £60 to £450
over a two month period. We first experimented with upgraded
mains cables to our main source (AMG Viella V12 turntable)
and phono stage (Whest Audio PS40RDT), however, we found
no, or little change in what we heard so continued to use
our standard supplied cables with these units. We moved
down the chain to our power and preamplifier (M8-500S power
amplifier with the M8PRE preamplifier). We quickly discovered
using specific upgrade mains cables for each of these units
resulted in the most sizable audible change.
A few of the lower
priced mains cables tested (£60 - £100) made
no audible difference to the musical presentation. Some
had a brightening effect to the top end while somehow muting
the midrange, giving the impression of a lower noise floor.
One mains cable priced at just over £450 did increase
bass resonance, however, again we noticed compression of
the midrange area, as well as an unnatural ‘steely
like compressed’ top end.
this ‘testing time’ we switched back to our
existing standard mains cables to insure we were judging
each new cable against the same starting point (from ground
zero so to speak).
the Russ Andrews PowerKord-300™ UK mains & W350
EVO Gold + SC
Using the PowerKord-300 & W350 EVO Gold + SC cables
with our power and preamplifier was a revelation. From the
outset it was ‘clear’ we were dealing with a
completely different type of cable!
With the two PowerKord-300
& W350 EVO Gold + SC cables in-line, the sonic picture
laid before us became more musically sculptured. Piano key
strikes became more percussive with individual keys, symbol,
brush and drum strokes being more defined. Soaking up the
soul / gospel harmonies of the Ojay’s with the sad
but soothing “Brandy” or the uplifting “Stairway
to Heaven” emphasised the effortless, rich voices
of this celebrated trio like never before. Herbie Hancock’s
signature piano from his 1963 Blue Note “Inventions
& Dimensions recording (Blue Note 84147 Music Matters
2 disc 45rpm) feeling more percussive than ever before.
Willie Bobo’s drum and timbales together with Osvaldo
“Chihuahau” Martinez’s congas & bongos
noticeably more defined with a greater sense of ‘in
the room’ presence. Bass was also noticeably leaner
(less boom). We appreciated the faster, tighter presentation.
(Though this might not be to everybody’s taste). Whatever
album we chose to spin, we were compelled to listen and
somehow feel more involved.
Yet another invisible
vale has been removed from our system thanks to Russ Andrews’
PowerKord-300™ UK mains & W350 EVO Gold + SC.
This is without doubt the most effective non ‘main
component’ improvement upgrade we have made to date!
Russ Andrews offer
a 60 day money back guarantee.
The Powerkord range starts from around £160.
Acoustic panels, acoustic tiles and acoustic bass traps
Studiospares in London
After experiencing the substantial improvement room treatment
will make to the overall listening experience, I am shocked
and horrified it took so long to sort this out!
are several professional companies who can do this for you,
but if you want to do this yourself there are very simple
rules when it comes to treatment. You need a mix of reflection,
absorption and diffusion. But you need to start at your
1st reflection points. Side walls, ceiling, front and rear
wall. Your ears need to deal with these first and their
path lengths are long enough to confuse the brain when it’s
processing the direct sound from the speakers…”
The cost of this treatment
will vary depending on the size of your room, your equipment,
soft furnishings etc. Experimentation is key. There are
also various online outlets you can use to purchase acoustic
panels, bass traps etc. However, you will not benefit from
Kimber 8TC speaker
Speaker cable is the final hurdle before the signal
from your components reaches the speakers!
There are various technical explanations on speaker cables
(and other interconnect) properties on the net explaining
impedance, capacitance and inductance, so feel free to search
for bed time reading. Owners of older Naim amplifiers are
especially encouraged to read (or contact Naim) for advice
on speaker cables!
Chord Legend bi-wire
speaker cable has been my staple cable for over twenty years.
Though this cable received a lukewarm response from hi-fi
critics (ignored by me) when first introduced in the 90’s,
it stood the test of time through my various source, component,
interconnect and speaker upgrades over the years. It was
first connected to my stand-mounted Castle Tay speakers
(hence the requirement for bi-wire cable). My MartinLogan
Scenario electrostatic speakers (purchased in the early
00’s) do not have bi-wire capabilities, so all the
copper strand ends of this cable were twisted together to
enable use of all available strands. Music loving colleagues
have tempted me with various replacement speaker cables
at various price ranges with promises of ‘more &
better’ over the years, however, no speaker cable
has ever come close to the transparency and smoothness of
the Chord Legend, up until now!
A loan pair of Kimber
8TC speaker cable was kindly provided by a website viewer
who insisted I should try his long-time owned blue / brown
coloured 5m pair while he enjoyed a two week holiday. I
consistently declined the offer until he presented the cables
to me in a plastic bag one evening. I reluctantly lay the
cables crudely across the floor believing it would be an
easy quick ‘thanks, but no thanks’ decision.
Within a few minutes I realised Kimber 8TC was a different
kind of speaker cable!
Even before settling
back into my listening chair, I noticed a change in the
musical presentation in the form of greater depth (especially
with the lower octaves) as well as the change in the noise
floor (which as far as I was concerned was already dark).
It had now dropped away to an even darker beguiling inky
black. If anyone had suggested the noise floor could have
been lowered any further than it already was, I would have
Once I settled into
my listening chair (sweet spot) I began to take full stock
of changes and determine whether these changes were actual
improvements without detriment to other areas of listening?
Thankfully, I was able to switch back and forth between
the Kimber 8TC and Chord Legend within seconds, so I could
actually hear the difference with each speaker cable on
individual recordings and passages on sections of music
on vinyl and CD. There was no doubt; with the Kimber 8TC
in-line my system components simply became more transparent
(I did not believe this to be possible) but I could hear
(and feel) a greater sense of freedom of expression and
I continued to listen
with the Kimber 8TC in-line (occasionally swapping back
to the Chord Legend). I definitely felt a sense of loss
when I was ‘forced’ to hand back the Kimber
8TC after my two week greater musical discovery.
Just before ordering
my required 7m lengths of Kimber 8TC, I spoke to another
website viewer regarding his recent Kimber 12TC speaker
experience and decided to explore further…
Russ Andrews offer a 60 day money back guarantee
Kimber 8TC speaker cable starts at £205 for
‘Building on the quality and reputation of 4TC and
8TC, this latest addition to our range sees Kimber introduce
12TC with its 24 individual VariStrand™ conductors.
It’s like 8TC on steroids! Everything we like about
8TC is lifted up another level – we found it a significant
upgrade, especially in terms of musical involvement and
an overall lift in performance right across the frequency
range.’ Russ Andrews
After two weeks of
musical discovery with the Kimber 8TC, I was given the opportunity
to explore Kimber 12TC via yet another generous viewer.
Just as with the 8TC cable, it was immediately clear the
12TC was special. Obviously, at this price range £823
for 2.5m pair with Kimber banana plugs, this cable
would have to prove itself especially worthy of being added
to the Essential Accessories page.
Kimber 12TC displayed
similar characteristics as 8TC, but with extra oomph. It
is important to note that the ‘extra’ this cable
gives is not forced or exaggerated in any way. Just as with
Kimber 8TC speaker cable, 12TC simply allowed my system
components and interconnects to ‘almost not exist’.
There appeared to be greater space and air around musicians
and instrumentation allowing music and artistic intent just
to flow. The multi-layered, multi textured sax’s of
John Handy and Booker Ervin on Charles Mingus “Goodbye
Pork Pie Hat” (for example) being more distinguishable
than ever before.
I have used MartinLogan
Scenario hybrid electrostatic speakers for nearly twenty
years now. I have always loved the transparency and three-dimensionality
such speakers offer. Using both 8TC and 12TC, I could sense
a greater level of depth afforded with both speaker cables.
I was not falling foul of the ‘this is new so it must
be better’ psychological trick, I continued to swap
between my original Chord Legend and the Kimber 12TC periodically…
As I have
stated in the 8TC experience review, I have been tempted
to change my Chord Legend speaker cable before with various
offers from friends, colleagues and cable companies. Some
speaker cables have proved to be quite good. However, on
occasions I have been tricked (excited) by the increase
in ‘brightness’ offered by a few cables. Sometimes
a brighter presentation can give the illusion of greater
clarity, however, closer listening to individual instruments
and reflecting on recent live unamplified performances by
my favourite musicians allows me to return back to ‘realism
Kimber 12TC speaker
cable sent me deeper into recordings and opened a bigger,
more realistic musical window (especially on vinyl). For
me, any component, interconnect (or otherwise) that allows
me to get even closer to the source (so to speak) will always
be a winner.
I now use Kimber
12TC speaker cable in my system!
cable considered: Chord Epic, Chord Epic XL & Chord
speaker cable starts at £823 for 2.5m pair with Kimber
racks & tables
We adore Quadraspire racks and tables! Way back in 2000 we
spent months comparing at least seven different company racks
utilising various materials. The difference each table made
to the overall sound was staggering. Listening to music on
each table was akin to changing individual components! Our
challenges were featured within a very well-known hi-fi magazine
(which included embarrassing photographs of a very inexperienced
young man). Quadraspire racks easily came out on top for their
build quality and neutrality. Quadraspire offer various options
depending on taste and equipment size.
& record accessories
‘Few activities in audio are more frustrating,
intimidating, or mind numbingly tedious than aligning a
petite and delicate (and sometimes expensive) cartridge
onto the headshell of a tonearm…’ Accutrak
Correct cartridge alignment
is essential! I have looked at several protractors and used
a few over the years. Prices range from as little as £15
upwards to £130. I found the AccuTrak protractor to
be one of the most reliable (for accuracy) and ease of use.
Each protractor is custom made for your specific
turntable and tonearm. £60
Okki Nokki record
I have been collecting
records for nearly forty years. The only type of cleaner
I possessed for most of those forty years is a single carbon
After months of research
into various record cleaners at prices from £40 to
£2600, I am extremely happy with the Okki Nokki rcm
at around £490 (including dust cover). In
fact all of my friends and colleagues are happy with my
Okki Nokki rcm as they tend to turn up with either new,
second hand, or existing records from their collections
asking for “a favour.” Perhaps I should consider
starting a record cleaning service!
After using another respected and more expensive stylus
cleaner for many years, it was difficult to change to a
different (and cheaper) cleaner. We have always been very
cautious with regards to using wet cleaners due to various
reports of liquids ‘dissolving the glue that binds
the stylus to the cantilever’. (ALWAYS
FOLLOW YOUR CARTRIDGE MAKER’S INSTRUCTIONS).
We have been using Vinyl Clear Stylus Cleaner for eight
months and can confirm we have had no problems whatsoever.
In fact, we have found Stylus Clear to be more affective
at removing stubborn dirt than our previous cleaner. We
use a pair of glass magnifiers to thoroughly examine the
stylus tip and cantilever. We use a soft dry brush as a
well as Stylus Clear wet cleaner with a firmer brush periodically
for optimal cleaning results.
£16 from Amazon
A firm viewer favourite & multi-award winner. The Dust
Buster is widely used by many vinyl lovers!
Passion Dust Buster presents a radical new approach to stylus
cleaning. The VP Dust Buster offers the finest protection
for your stylus, increasing its life by up to 1000 hours.
This makes it a superb investment which is very easy to
use. The VP Dust Buster will give trouble free service and
keep both your stylus and vinyl in pristine condition. All
record collectors will know the importance of keeping vinyl
clean to preserve the recording but even more important
is the cleaning of the stylus. We inspect stylus and cantilever
assemblies regularly and over the years the main culprits
for premature failure and poor sonic results are often a
direct result of improper cleaning & solvent based solutions.
The Dust Buster removes the stress and makes it simple to
keep your stylus pristine. Thousands of Dust Busters have
been sold all over the world…’ £21
Care Ultra Premium 12" Inner Vinyl Record Poly Lined
It is imperative you replace paper inner liners supplied with
most records with a poly inner liner! Good quality poly inner
liners will reduce the possibility of paper and dust scratches
as well as reducing static. Priced competitively at
£35 for 100 supplied by Vinyl Passion
Exstatic anti-static record inner sleeves
Another favourite high quality inner sleeve normally sold
in packs of 25. Very highly recommended for all who collect
records. Available on Amazon, Ebay and other online
hi-fi / record outlets. Around £20
Audio 70GSM 12" Anti-Static White Inner Record Sleeves,
Pack of 50
Quality on a budget! Using premium 70GSM white paper, these
sleeves are thicker than your usual paper sleeves but are
still very flexible. The inside of the sleeve is fully encapsulated
in a silky soft vinyl friendly anti-static plastic, with no
lip on the sleeve. Ash & Acid Free Paper. 70GSM Unbleached
Long Fibre Pulp Paper, from sustainable forests in Finland
& Sweden. Fully encapsulated high density polyethylene
lining by Nagaoka of Japan. Easy insertion of the LP into
the record jacket. 200g records slide in and out of these
sleeves with no problem. Manufactured in Germany. £13.95
for 50 sleeves.
+ Reference Standard Disc combo
This KeyStrobe kit is a no fuss easy to use combo for turntables
that require 33 / 45 speed adjustment. (An ideal partner
for the Origin Live Ultra upgrade kit). £52.00.
Neoteck Digital Turntable Stylus
Accurate stylus force is important for ensuring the playback
result and life of your valuable records and cartridge.
There are many digital
stylus force gauges available. Not surprisingly many of
them look remarkably similar. Prices range from as little
as £9 to a staggering £250!
We have used the £25 manual Shure SFG-2 Stylus (or
tonearm) Tracking Force Gauge for a while with various degrees
of accuracy, however, even these cheaper digital stylus
force gauges have a tried and tested precision accuracy
rating of between ±0.01g, so why would you want to
use a £25 manual gauge?
The accuracy of Neoteck
Digital Turntable Stylus force scale has been thoroughly
tested over a period of two years by us. The improved model
(NTK002) is even more accurate and reliable. It is easy
to use and we have found the company extremely prompt
and helpful regarding any questions we have raised. Around
Turntable covers by Plastic
‘At Plastic Online we
pride ourselves on quality. We offer broad industry knowledge
and our professional team are able to assist with design
and material selection for any project whether it be a one
off or large quantity.’
After spending your hard earned
cash on your dream ‘lid less’ turntable it can
be a little daunting locating the right company to make
and supply the lid (or cover). After much research and communication
with various companies, we decided to put our trust in Plastic
Online. With expert assistance from Plastic Online, we designed
the acrylic cover all the way, from the size of the rear
cable cut outs, through to the personalised ‘AMG logo
on the front bottom. We were rewarded with a beautifully
built bespoke plastic cover for our AMG Viella V12 turntable
which covered the whole turntable. The cost of our
cover came to a respectful £185.
2 Gang Silver plated wall socket
I was extremely doubtful
and even reluctant to try this double wall socket.
After making various substantial physical improvements to
my system including turntable, amplifier and phono stage
upgrades, a specialist wall socket was far from my list
After a swift swap
with my existing standard switched double socket for the
A-B listening test, the difference was subtle, but CLEAR!
A cleaner, more focused presentation. Yes I was surprised
and really did not want to believe it. I continued to listen
(and continued further A-B swaps). I will not be swapping
back to the standard switched double socket!
Double wall socket price £38. (A small price
to pay for greater clarity)!
Use the link below to view the Ballerina Sweetspot
to Hi-Fi Experience Main Page.
[ Top ]