Monthly Archives: May 2012

Which Cartridge is Right for me?

Which Cartridge is Right for Me?

A Guide That Looks at The best Cartridge for Your

Record Deck on a Budget


The traditional vinyl record is making a huge come back! Although, some may argue that it never really went away. However, if you are keen on building a collection and want to take advantage of that warm tone, an essential tune-up of your turntable is certainly worth considering!

Many audiophiles will change their tone arms, cartridges and they will alter their decks to perform better than they did coming out of the factory. In one way, it’s like tuning a classic car – throwing on some twin carbs, changing the cam shaft and exchanging the exhaust system will certainly make a considerable boost in performance. Just like car tuners, audiophiles strive to get more performance out of their ‘stock’ turntable by a series of modifications.

As we are looking at turntable cartridges for beginners and those with a tighter budget in mind, we will be looking at the great ranges available to you – all costing below £100.

The most important place to start is the join between the vinyl record and the player’s needle – the cartridge system:

Some turntables do come with a cartridge fitted. However, these often prove to be weak in terms of performance and can often lead to damaging the records if they weren’t fitted correctly prior to operation. What is suggested is that the existing cartridge, which is usually un-branded, should be replaced by a cartridge that has greater stamina and accuracy than that of the original.

A new cartridge will lead to the following benefits:

  1. More sonic accuracy. This means that the sound will be more robust and will sound more as it was intended to do by the artist.
  2. Kinder performance to the record. Playing a record over repeatedly will eventually lead to it wearing out. However, an up-rated cartridge will be kinder and will easily prolong the record’s playing life if it has been fitted and tracked correctly.
  3. A new cartridge will also help by attaining a certain and desirable sound characteristic. In essence, you can buy cartridges that feature a warm and traditional sound, or, alternatively, a cartridge can provide a more accurate and greater sense of depth or clarity. The choice of sound characteristics can help by boosting or reducing in a certain frequency range.

So, by upgrading, you can get a much better stereo-image, boost or reduce a certain sound characteristic and prolong the record’s life for longer lasting playing pleasure. Listed below are the cartridges that can help dramatically in boosting playback performance:

£17 – £50:


The Budget AT-91 offers exceptional value…

Continue reading


A Brief history of Audiolab…

A Brief History of



Audiolab was originally conceived by two students, Philip Swift and Derek Scotland of the Imperial College. They both had a love of music and Hi-Fi and had decided to start their own brand after they felt that other manufacturers had too high a price, as well as finding operating their equipment too complicated for a vast amount of consumers in the Hi-Fi sector.

Audiolab became desired almost overnight because of their unique looks that promoted superb style and effortless functionality. Their first system consisted of the 8000C Preamplifier and the 8000P Power Amplifier. Swift & Scotland’s reputation grew because of the solid build, superb sound and the unique looks – allowing the group to expand to manufacture their own CD players, DACs, transports and radio tuners.

Audiolab 8200CDQ

As time went on, Audiolab was taken on by TAG McLaren. Sadly, in 2003, TAG McLaren Audio had financial problems from an economic slump of the early 2000s, causing Audiolab to be bought by the International Audio Group of Shenzen, China – a group who had acquired other reputable names, such as Mission and Wharfedale, to name only but a few. But, in 2005, a budding designer called Nick Clarke took the brand name back to the original look and feel of the legendary 8000C and 8000P. However, for today’s market, the 8000P and C now go by the names of the 8200 series. The 8200 series features the 8200CDQ pre-amp & CD combination, along with the 8200P Power Amplifier. Other new designs include the 8200A Integrated Amplifier and the 8200MB Mono Block Amplifier.

Audiolab 8200 A Integrated Amplifer

With updated designs like these, the world of traditional Hi-Fi is now able to function with USB and other digital-based applications or components. Let’s hope that they continue to strive in their revival as a premium, but affordable, manufacturer of quality components.

Tom Parker,

Sales & Website Admin


A Brief History of Pioneer

A Brief History of


Pioneer’s reputation has grown further and further over the decades. Starting in Japan in 1938, Pioneer has become one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of premium audio and visual products and friendly and efficient prices to consumers and professionals alike.

December 1976 was the year when Pioneer entered the American Stock Market; since then, the size of the Pioneer corporation widened by considerable amounts. And, as the size of the corporation developed, it wasn’t before long that their ranges grew bigger and of even more quality was to be found as a result.

Originally, Pioneer was associated with the superb range of cassette decks and unique reel-to-reel machines that they built from the late 60s onwards. In the 70s, Pioneer was considered at the top of their game with their in-car and audiophile Hi-Fi 8-track cartridge players and recorders. However, Pioneer finally brought their tape line of manufacturing to an end with the CT-W208R twin cassette deck this year. However, Pioneer’s reputation within the turntable market was one of their strong points – their simple and solid designs still fetch good money today because of the brand’s strict quality rules on the manufacturing line. They even had some intriguing designs with front-loading and track search facilities on experimental models of the early 1980s. Pioneer still makes turntables and provides consumers with the inexpensive, yet substantially built, PL-990.

As the decades rolled onward, Pioneer decided to venture into the television world with their initiative of the Laser-disc player: a new video-based sensation that revolutionised the world of digital video. Of course, the laser-disc took over from the flawed design of the RCA Video-disc and put up a good fight against the aging format of VHS – although VHS remained predominantly dominative in terms of ease of use and recordable functions. Pioneer’s DVD players only expanded on where their laser-disc systems left off, leading the way in terms of cutting edge digital videos. Pioneer was also the first to combine a DVD recorder and a Hard Disc recorder in the same unit. But, however, Pioneer revolutionised the Blu-ray world with their high-end and affordable ranges of Blu-ray players. These include the superb BDP-LX54, and the affordable BDP-140. However, Pioneer sadly discontinued their range of television in 2009 because of the fierce competition from Panasonic and Sony; the same year after they moved their head office to Kawasaki, Japan.

Pioneer’s BDP-LX54

Pioneer still has a range of high-performance audio components, from amplifiers, like the A-307R, to the N-50 Network Audio System – incorporating the world of digital content into the Hi-Fi system with ease and reliability. Their iPod docks, like the XW-NAC1, give dynamic and powerful performance from a small unit, whilst their VSX-1021 AV Receiver gives gripping levels of Home Cinema fun and incorporates streaming content in addition, too.

Take a look at our range of Pioneer products on the Hifi Gear website. We are sure that Pioneer has something to fulfill every need within the world of Hi-Fi and AV.


Tom Parker,

Sales and Website Admin


A Brief History of Audio Technica

A Brief History of…

Audio Technica


Audio Technica are a Japanese brand who started manufacturing a combination of Hi-Fi goods and Studio equipment pieces when they started in 1962. Audio Technica has been a brand that has delivered a value of price, with superb engineering in their pieces to show for this.

Audio Technica has always been a brand which doesn’t make a huge fuss of their selves. This is a nice thing as they always make great performing products at prices which almost anyone can afford. However, Audio Technica has become a favourite of the studio engineer, as well as the budding Hi-Fi enthusiast who demands premium performance at wallet-friendly prices.

They started making milestones when they started to manufacture radio microphones and Bluetooth devices, as well as components that don’t accept interference from mobile phones and similar devices. However, in terms of Hi-Fi, Audio Technica delivered in the form of high-end headphones and record deck cartridges.

As record players had to cope with more sonically accurate music, Audio Technica released their range of stereo and mono cartridges to help retrieve all the musical data from the disc as efficiently as possible. Their current and most basic cartridge, the Audio Technica AT-91 has to be the cheapest branded cartridge on the Hi-Fi scene. However, it sounds far better than its miniscule price would indicate. As you go up, through the range, Audio Technica also features the Goldring Elan rivalling AT-95 E. On from there, the range really exceeds to standards that an audiophile won’t expect Audio Technica; the AT-F3III delivers depth, clarity and accuracy that its more expensive counterparts often deliver at a steeper price tag. Yet, the flagship has to be the Audio Technica OC9-ML3 Moving Coil Cartridge, where quality is only what is featured on this premium quality cartridge.

Also, as Audio Technica moved on to the turntable scene, their flagship AT-LP120 USB Turntable gives stunning performance by incorporating digital functionality, as well as traditional analogue operation in a modern, digital world. Its looks are just like Technics’ legendary SL-1200; but the sound is easily as good, if not better in some opinions, depending on the fitted cartridge and tone arm, than the expensive Technics alternative.

For those who want a set of headphones, a complete turntable or just a superb cartridge, look no further than the friendly prices found with Audio Technica at Hifi Gear.

Tom Parker,

Sales & Website Admin


How to Build a Hi-Fi on a Minimal Budget Part 1

How to Build a Hi-Fi System on a Budget

In this edition of Hifi Gear’s ‘How to’ Guides, we are going to look at building a superb Hi-Fi system on a budget that doesn’t cost you the earth. This edition focuses on the critical combination of speakers and amplifiers.

At Hifi Gear, we do believe that everyone is entitled to a superb Hi-Fi system. And, especially in this economic climate, we realise that not everyone can afford the best of the best. So, for those who are just getting into Hi-Fi, or looking to build a good system with a set budget in mind and those who appreciate a system that’s a cut above the rest, this guide aims to help you by looking at what we have on offer in terms of our range of system components, exceptional and relevant advice, as well as information and support after your purchase.

So, let’s start with the basics…

Getting Wired for Sound:

The basics of a good Hi-Fi system mainly consist of an amplifier and a set of speakers that are set to perform at a similar output to that of the amplifier.

In essence, when looking at an amplifier’s output, remember that it’s not all down to the Watts that it can churn-out – it’s how it does it that really matters. Many modern systems are designed to compensate by pumping-out more bass than really necessary. An amplifier that gives a natural performance is ideal, and tone controls are really where you can personalise your desired sound performance.

Speakers also require an amplifier that has enough power to work at their best, but not too much power to the extent where they become distorted when playing under light conditions. The best way is to see if a speaker’s output power range matches that of the amplifier manufacturer’s power recommendations.

Often we find that floor-standing speakers below £300 don’t perform as well as their similarly-priced bookshelf counterparts. This is because the components in a lower priced floor-standing speaker aren’t as good as that of the ones found in the bookshelf. This is because the cheaper floor-standing speaker often has more money spent on the cabinet than that of the drivers and internal components. When buying on a budget, usually more sound performance can be sourced from a bookshelf speaker instead.

Below are two tables, one for speakers and one for amplifiers, which specify brands and specifications of components that are all under £300.





Onkyo A-9155

65w/per channel at 4ohms minimum

Phono equalizer, tone controls, audiophile capacitors


Pioneer A-109

40w/per channel into 4ohms minimum

2x tape loops, front AV in & tone controls


Denon PMA-510

45w/per channel into 8ohms

Phono stage, 2x tape loops & Source Direct capability


Marantz PM5004

45w/per channel into 4ohms

Phono stage, 2x tape loops


Yamaha AS-300

60w/per channel into 4ohms

Phono stage, 2x tape loops, iPod connector socket for Yamaha docks



120w/per channel into 4ohms

2x Video inputs, tone control, motor-driven volume control


Rotel RA-04SE

40w/per channel into 8ohms

Tape loop, phono stage, tone control



40w/per channel into 8ohms

Tape loop, Power-drive circuitry & tone controls


Yamaha AS-500

2×85 watts per channel

2x tape loops, tone controls, phono stage


Denon PMA-710

85w/per channel into 4ohms

Source direct function, tone control, 2x tape loops



90w/per channel into 8ohms

Tone Controls, 2x tape loops & motor-driven volume control


Project Stereo Box ‘S’

30w/per channel into 4ohms

Small size, superb performance



B&W 686



Monitor Audio BX-1

70w Maximum


Wharfedale Diamond 10.1



Mission MX-1

100w Maximum





Epos ELS 8

100w Maximum


Elac  BS-53






Remember, a price doesn’t reflect performance in every situation. But, however, a ratio of a similar price for both speakers and an amplifier will help to determine accurate matches.

Look out for our ‘How to’ guides on finding CD players and other media items on a tighter budget, coming in the near future.

*Indicates a price that is a special offer. Hifi Gear may change this to the original price without warning at any time in the future. Please call or refer to the specific website pages for further details.


Leema Acoustic’s ‘Elements’ Range

Hello all,

just a quick video to show some images and video clips of the Elements range from Leema Acoustics of Wales, Great Britain.

Their Elements DAC, with 24-bit 192KHz capability, is a great way of retrieving more data from your digital sources, like the Elements CD, leading to greater sonic accuracy and superb sound as a result through any amplifier, including the remarkable Elements Integrated Amplifier.

Click here for a Video of the Leema Acoustics Elements CD, DAC & Stereo Integrated Amplifier,


A Sneak Preview of What’s Coming-Up at Hifi Gear…

At Hifi Gear we love to keep you up to date with what’s new to you, and what’s new to us.

2012 has so far been a great year in new Hi-Fi and Home Cinema. However, we are going to show what they are by continuing to upload video overviews on to our exclusive channel on Youtube. The ‘Hifi Gear Video Channel’ has been active since December, 2011, and we have been uploading videos of new and exciting products that we feel are sure to become favourites with almost everyone who wishes to know a bit more about them.

So, with new products being released from masses of manufacturers, we are going to be releasing some more videos on the new items over the next few weeks. As you can see below there are some photographs of the new bits ‘n’ pieces that we shall be looking at in detail. Further to this, keep an eye out for our new ‘Monthly Up-dates’ on Youtube. Each of which will be looking at what has happened over the past month.

Also, we would like to know, from you as a viewer, what you would like to see in the Hifi Gear Blogs or on the Hifi Gear Video Channel. Lets us know by responding with comments, or emailing us at:

What’s Coming-Up Soon in the Hifi Gear Blogs:

The New Pioneer Streaming Device: N-50

Simple Audio’s New Range of Streaming Devices

Leema’s Elements – an Exciting New Range of Audio Components

The New KEF Range of Speakers for Hi-Fi & Home Cinema

These are only but a few videos overviews that will be on their way over the current month. Keep looking on the blog for further updates.

Tom Parker,

Sales and Website Admin


The New B&W M1 – An Overview with Hifi Gear

Hello Everyone!

B&W has updated their faithful M1 to scare away the competition. And, just like the difficult second album, they have done it better than that of the first… Not to mention, the MT-50 features five M1s and a B&W ASW-608 Active Subwoofer.

Here is an overview video (click on the hyper-link for an instant watch) that also features on the Hifi Gear Video Channel on Youtube. Be sure to Subscribe to receive our regular updates on new Hi-Fi, Home Cinema and Accessories available from Hifi Gear.

Tom Parker

Sales & Website Admin