It's HiFi Jim, but not as we know it.

edited July 2013 in Systems
I have had very little time for music & HiFi lately, so it was a pleasure to pop in to see Jim Kempton this week, long term HiFi 'mad professor' and music nut. I have heard his systems several times over the last few years, and although this was a spur of the moment visit, it was an excellent afternoon of music and chat.

Jim has re-arranged his room since last I visited, reversed it entirely in fact. The system is in a state of flux, but consisted (this week) of Quad 57ESL in nice home made stands, loads of high end Kimber wires (probably 8TC, and silver I/Cs), a Yaquin valve amp, CA DAC and laptop playing FLACs. The Torlyte plinth-ed Garrard with Decca cart is sidelined pending a mod to his Croft pre-amp, which also contains his phonostage. So we listened solely to digital, which was great for chopping 'n changing, and playing impulse choices.

After a while I bought in my Magnum MP250 pre, and 'Baby blob' 10 watt SECA. I had doubts about it's ability to cope with the ESLs, or if the quality would shine through in this setup. I guess the usual jitters before someone else hears your kit, especially in their system. Anyways, after a warm up (and yet another cuppa), we started off. After 40 seconds, Jim stopped the music to select another track, and remarked that if I ever wanted to shift the blob on, he'd take it off me. It did sound rather nice...

Suffice it to say we had a very pleasant afternoon, playing loads of diverse tracks, and chatting about some of the most special music we hold in common. Periodically Jim would remark on the amp, make positive noises about how it handled the Quads, and it's beautiful sound (which I take to be high praise). We both kept chuckling over how Col has made the amp out of off-cuts, hammerite, and odds 'n ends from his garage. It is truly shocking that this amp has the measure of some of the finest hardware we have experienced, yet it looks like scrap and was probably thrown together in by Col in his sleep! This only adds to the appeal, by the way.

Interestingly, this was the first time I ever pin pointed a weakness in one of Jim's systems - I definitely felt the front end wasn't doing the SECA and ESLs justice. Given that Jim is an analogue man, this is no surprise, but in the past his modest digital front end always did rather well. This time, I wished I had bought my DAC along as well.

We did both notice on a Keith Jarrett concert, that as the piano rose to an extended climax, the sound hardened. We were pushing Baby blob too far - but then, we were playing it louder than you'd probably listen to on your own. The answer, obviously, is more power. I'm up for the challenge, Col!

After all this, I dropped off some acoustic treatments to Jim which I had promised him. I imagine that next time I call, he'll have some more interesting gear (he's going to visit some Voight corner horns with lowther drivers this weekend) - however, I could probably live with the '57's forever. They're just not practical in my front room right now. I look forward to seeing Jim's room, after it's new floor, redecoration, and perhaps a few treatments. It's a real treat to hear those ESLs, and to chat with Jim. This time, I was glad to have something interesting to bring along (for which I thank Col).


  • Read  Stu review.
  • I got an e-mail from said Jim last night raving on about said blob. To quote him: 'Wow, wow and wow!!!!'.

    I want to hear the Green Goddess with his horns, as I think that could be close to heaven.

    BTW, and I don't think he would be too pissed off at me saying this, Jim's digital front end is nothing like as good as our Youngs, so my Young will be going round there with the Green Goddess.

    I also had a similar problem with the front end and speakers at another friend's place recently.
  • The only amps I've heard sound better are basically more if the same. And as far as speakers go, they could only be improved upon with more of the same. It was all there.

    It was a proper fun afternoon.
  • I've never been bowled over by Quads, but I'm willing to be surprised.

    These amps, as a family, are the best I've heard. I was at home yesterday, letting some sedation work its way through - but that's another story - and was blasting out all kinds of stuff at uncomfortable levels. The room was filled with music, not hi-fi. Just fantastic!
  • I know what you mean (about the music - meds?).

    I love the immediacy of the Quads, I never ever heard a 'faster' speaker. And I never heard them sound so good, either.
  • I don't want to fall in love with Quads because they are so ugly and take up so much space.
  • But Sam fell for you...

    ... I'll get me coat!


  • Boom! Boom!

    How much did I leave myself open to that one? 
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