TNT-Audio Readers' Corner
Monthly section devoted to your letters, positive and negative feedback about everything related to Audio and HiFi.

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March 2008

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YBA reviews
I have been reading your website for a long time and find it very informative, and above all you don't seem to be influenced by advertising, like many other publications, from Stereophile, Son Magazine (France) and Stereo (Germany), to name only a few of them.
I did not find any review on any YBA products, which for me is surprising. Have you got any reason for that?
André - E-mail: imhoff (at)

Dear André, we're not influenced by advertising simply because we don't have it :-)
Managing a "for profit" magazine is a whole different concept, it is very hard to avoid pressure from advertisers. Not a shame, just a matter of fact.
Regarding YBA (or other products we've not tested yet) the explaination is simple: YBA has never submitted a product to review, as far as I know. Perhaps they are not interested, perhaps they are not confident with a no-ads magazine, perhaps they don't know us. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more difficult to satisfy every request we get: soo many products, soo little time.
All the best,
Lucio Cadeddu

Hi Lucio,
in your review you write that you haven't heard the remastered 1997 version. Consider yourself lucky ...
I have had this album for years on tape and have bought the remastered version last week. It sounds horrible. Loud, compressed and too much (distorted) treble energy. In my memory, the tape (recorded from LP on a Nakamichi 482) was much better. Today I was able to buy a used original Body&Soul CD, which is MUCH better. I have attached an image of the whole album's wave files. Compression (and clipping, if you zoom in) are clearly visible.
So: beware of the remastered edition from 1997! Needless to say that this is a real shame because the original is great music with excellent sound quality.
If you like, you can use this image for your website and perhaps add a note to your review.
Kind Regards,
Thomas - E-mail: thomas.ludwig (at)

[Joe Jackson Body and Soul remastered]

Dear Thomas,
thanks for this extremely useful info. Your images prove once again how this crazy Loudness war (see Wikipedia link) is affecting the quality of the records that Majors are releasing nowadays (both remasters and new stuff).
I've promptly updated my Body and Soul review with your comments. Now I need to know (and expose) the name of the sound engineer who made this disaster.
Thanks again,
Lucio Cadeddu

Headphone amps
Dear Lucio,
I am planning on building a system with a valve amp at its core. My selection at the moment is towards Prima Luna Dialogue One, because of its remote control and RCA output. And because all the rave about it on the internet and the specialized press. And also its price range.
The complete system would comprise the amp mentioned above, a turntable (hopefully Clearaudio Emotion, maybe Project RPM5), a CD player (Marantz CD5001 / Cambridge Audio Azur 340C), a phono amp (Graham Slee Gram Amp 2), a headphone amp (still to be chosen), and a pair of high efficiency speakers (Focal Chorus 816 is the goal, today I have Mirage's 1090i). My current headphone is a Sennheiser HD 595. I'll be using it a lot and would really like to improve its performance with a dedicated amp.
This is in the process of selecting components, auditioning (whenever possible) and planning. And of course saving money for all this. It's a 3 year plan.
My doubt/question starts here. All of the connections for the above equipment seems very straightforward to me (I'm used to using separates since the mid 80's) but the headphone amp. I never had a headphone amp before and it seems to me that I must have some sort of RCA output on the amplifier to be able to use it (tape out, monitor out, line out, second room output, whatever).
I briefly thought about connecting the sources directly to the headphone amp, but I found that most don't have any sort of output other than the headphone connection (so far I could not find one single headphone amp that has RCA outputs). Also I believe that it would be an unnecessary added step from source to loudspeakers.
But it seems to me that to have the headphone amp fed by the valve amp would place a lot of mileage on the valves without using them for listening to music. The output stage of the amplifier wouldn't be loaded to feed the loudspeakers (or so I believe) but the valves would still be "on" while listening to the headphone.
Wouldn't this shorten the life of the valves? Am I right on my thoughts or is there something different to be done?
What would be the best way to connect everything on this particular configuration I gave you?
These might be simple doubts for someone used to swap components for testing on a regular basis, but not for me.
Thanks for any help. Regards
Marcello - E-mail: mpego (at)

[Audioquest RCA splitter]Dear Marcello,
the easiest way to connect any headphone amp to your system is to use a Y (or T or F) RCA connector (sometimes called RCA splitter or RCA doubler) that can split the output of the source in two: one feeds the integrated amp, the other feeds the headphone amp directly. Since you use different sources you could split in two the TAPE OUTPUT of your integrated amp instead.
I'm not sure whether the TAPE OUT requires the amp to be powered on or not. For sure, if you want to listen to the turntable, the amp has to be on, since the phono input is active. And, of course, the volume should be set to zero.
These splitters are very easy to find, even of the high-end variety :-) The one below is made by Audioquest and is available for 10 USD or so. They are extremely useful when one wants to experiment with biamping, for example.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Cary Audio Design - Factory Tour, Question please!
Hello Arvin,
I was going to your TNT and I found your Cary Audio Design - Factory Tour in May and I have question : You told for your listening Cary with Dynaudio C4:

I was, however, quite amazed by a couple of observations. The spectrum and imaging were very impressive in spite of the side walls being fairly close to the speakers and not an iota of room treatment was used. Also, I was surprised at how effortlessly the amps drove the Dynaudio with a rated 4ohm nominal impedance (albeit 90db sensitivity).
And I would like to know if the Bass are good or very good or ??? and if Cary use Kimber Select 3038 for audition or 3035 ? This question is Confidence isn't very very incredible "bass reflex", without transistors....... what is your opinion ?!
For your information my question comes because I wrote into my blog "" your visit to Cary Audio, sorry it's in French and I allowed myself to use your photo "Cary + Dynaudio".
And my equipement is Preamp Cary SLP-05 and Dynaudio Contour S5.4 and I'm looking solution to new amplifier "tubes or transistors".
Sorry for my English I'm Swiss Citizen.
Best regards.
Alexandre - E-mail: alexandre.hifi (at)

Dear Alexandre,
No problem with using the picture, especially since you added a link to the article.
Unfortunately, I do not feel comfortable professing my opinion on the bass quality of what I heard that day - since it was my first experience with the speakers, music, amp and room that day. I only feel comfortable arriving at conclusion when only one variable at a time changes and I've had a length of time to understand it.
I can say, I immensely enjoyed the experience. And in a past experience I heard a considerable improvement when using a pure class-a amp with Dynaudios, you may want to read the review below and try something similar for yourself. 3-2004.html
Please do not apologise for your english, since it is far better than my grasp of German, French, Italian or even Romansh. So I feel you have made more than half the journey in our relationship my friend, it is you I owe an apology to.
Arvind Kohli

Unbearable highs
Dear Editor,
I am a classical music listener with low budget. I tried many type of budget cd players (DENON DCD 685, MARANTZ CD 5001, CAMBRIDGE A.640C, YAMAHA 675 sacd player) and in my experience every player has a fatiguing treble, causing listening fatigue after 30 minutes of violin concerto.
I replaced the innterconnect cables, the speaker cables, the speakers (KEF IQ3) with no remarkable result. Actually I have NAD C 320BEE amp, and Polkaudio Rti 6 speakers.
I am looking for a new warm, smooth sounding cd player under 400 euro. Musicality, smoothness is more important than details. Can you mention one or two warm sounding budget cd players (Yamaha?) worth considering, or can you give me advice to reduce treble brightness?
Thank you for reply,
Lorand - E-mail: drklorand (at)

Dear Lorand,
I'm quite sure the listening fatigue you mention is NOT caused by your HiFi system per se. Such unbearable levels of high frequencies are normally associated with highly reflecting listening room and/or wrongly placed loudspeakers. If your room is mostly empty and/or filled up with glass surfaces, for example (windows without curtains, paintings, furniture with glass parts etc.) listening to ANY HiFi system would be unbearable. Try adding something that can absorb this excess of high frequencies (carpets, curtains, even large pillows and armchairs) before buying just "another" HiFi component.
Anyway, since you ask, you can try auditioning CD players from NAD, Rega or Naim.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Real Stereo or Real Surround?
There is at least one major point of confusion in your anti-surround posting. Alan Blumlein did not invent stereo, but rather one particular stereo system. It happens to be one of the best ways of recording stereo -- I often made live recordings with crossed figure-*8s -- but it's not the only way.
I've been supporting surround sound since 1970 -- see my Stereophile and Audio Amateur articles -- longer, likely, than you've been alive. It doesn't matter how good the front channels are -- adding properly recorded -- or even synthesized -- ambience immensely increases the subjective accuracy of the playback, and the illusion that one is actually present at the original musical event.
Regular, two-channel stereo, no matter how well recorded or reproduced, cannot properly convey the original acoustical experience. Additional channels are required to more closely approach the original sound. Surround sound doesn't replace good stereo -- it enhances it.
It's obvious you've never heard good surround reproduction. I've made live surround recordings, and have good reason to believe my views are correct.
William - E-mail: grizzledgeezer (at)

Dear William,
I can't understand why do you feel the urge to make bold statements like some of the above ("longer than you've been alive" or "you've never heard good surround reproduction"). First of all, this is supposed to be fun, I mean, audio is supposed to be fun. Right? Being in the biz for oh so long time perhaps you've forgotten the fun part of it all. Or, at least, so it seems to me.
I'm after good audio reproduction since those early 70s, you can hardly call me a novice in the field. Secondly, I've been experimenting with three channel sound (a la P.W. Klipsch) since early 80s: Moreover, I've listened to many high-end multichannel systems. Nonetheless, I still feel two channel audio is the best compromise. Any multichannel system, given a certain budget, sounds worse than a similarly priced 2-channel system. The reasons are so obvious (2 speakers instead of 5, 6 or whatever, 2-ch amp versus multi-ch amp etc.) that I won't waste bandwidth on it.
Perhaps we can discuss this issue speaking of price-no-object systems. Even under this assumption, please do not forget Music isn't classical or acoustic Music only. 90% of the Music available today is played live in front of the listener. What you get is a sound that comes directly from a point in front of you (the live stage). There's nothing that can surround you (attend a Motorhead live concert and then let me know what really surrounds you ;-)).
Anyway, thanks for the precious feedback and...try to relax.
Lucio Cadeddu

New amp
I haven't found many reviews of Italian amps, so could you please compare and recommend me from these amplifiers - Unison Research Unico, AM Audio T90, Monrio MC207 and Blue Note S1 SE? I want to achieve precise tight bass, clear highs, overall detailed and musical 3D sound. I'm listening to many musical genres, so the universality is welcome too.
Many thanks. Best regards,
Branislav - E-mail: halasb (at)

Dear Branislav,
I'm not familiar with the new AM Audio T-90 and with the Blue Note amp. If you want tight bass, clear highs and a quite detailed sound my advice would be to carefully evaluate the Monrio MC 207 (see my review here on TNT-Audio). More or less in the same price league, try to audition the NuForce IA7 V2 integrated amp (or a second-hand IA7 V1).
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Opera Consonance CD 120 review
Hi Mark,
If you wouldn't mind answering a couple of questions I have about your TNT Audio review of the Consonance CD-120 Linear CD player, I would really appreciate it.
My first question is regarding this passage in your review:

"Ian Large notes that the cd120L responds well to tweaking. He suggests a good inexpensive mod is to change the input caps to 0.47uf Hi-Q black gates, and use SCR 1.0 uf caps on the output stage. I would endorse both these proposals as likely to lead to worthwile improvements, having tried both series of caps myself, but this review is straight-from-the-box."

What sorts of sonic improvements would you expect to be wrought by substituting these capacitors for the stock ones? And since, I believe, Black Gate has ceased production, do you know of any equivalent substitutions? Perhaps VH Audio's V-Caps?

Also, in your conclusion about the player, you wrote: "This player rocks OK, at the price". Since I mostly listen to rock music, I'd be interested in knowing what the player doesn't do so well in playing back harder rock and electronic music. And, what players around the $995 US price point you've heard that would be better in this regard.

Thanks in advance for whatever insight you're able to provide, it is appreciated.

Thanks much,
Todd - E-mail: toddbeck (at)

Hi Todd
Thank you for your kind words, we do hope at TNT-audio to enhamnce the collective sum of audiophile knowledge without the infulence of commercial interests. The worldwide exchange of information we can achieve this way produces a knowledge base far greater than the sum of its parts and I am only one of those parts! My part of the information is incomplete on its own because, as i originally stated, I did not try the tweaks myself, but the importer Ian Large tried them on another example. However, I do know what the caps he reomoved sound like in other contexts and I do know what some of the possible substitutes sound like as I have used them myself in various projects.

Some people believe the SCR have what they describe as a "metallic sound". I've used SCR/Solen in everything from loudspeaker crossovers to valve HT circuits because they are very robust, regardless of their sonic signature and much less prone to microphony than many brands. Like any passive component flavour I strongly advise NOT to use the same brand or type throughout a componant or system as it becomes too strongly skewed toward that one flavour. Caps really do make a difference to the sound, which is hardly surprising given their inherent non-linearity and micrphony, so the effort is worthwhile; A 10€ coupling cap in place of a 2cent proprietary cap can make as much difference as a 200€ interconnect cable in place of a 20€ cable.

The web seems to be awash with NOS (New Old Stock) Black Gates, though how many of them are genuine I cannot say. I have my own little stockpile bought while production was still in full flow. I also bought a few big Ceraphines when they looked like they'd become scarce and I like a mix of both in my power supplies. I have not tried the V-caps myself. Big value audiophile caps are usually either far too expensive to justify their existence, or a compromise.

There are two ways to overcome this and try to get some of the sonic benefits of audiophile smaller caps while obtaining the smoothing (low ripple) and frequency response of big capacitors. One is simply to buy a whole bunch of smaller caps of equal value but the correct voltage (maximum specified circuit voltage plus at least 50%) and wire them in parallel to get tha full capacitance needed. Creek employ this method in their products so it is commercially cost effective. The othe is the hobbyist method (now commonplace in many high-end products) is bypassing.

Many years ago Graham Nalty, formerly of Audiokits and Sonic Link, and now proprietor of Black Rhodium, conducted experiments that established, for him, the 1/100 rule for bypassing. Each bypass should be 1/100 of the value of the cap it bypasses, in a descending line until the smallest available silver-mica value is reached.

However, to contradict the previous two paragraphs, many in the SET (Single Ended Triode) brigade believe that bypassing causes "diffusion" and say that a single capacitor of the finest type available in that value is the only way to work. This of course is mind-bogglingly expensive, as are most of the commandments of SET finery, like silver-foil paper-in-oil capacitors (the one I own is in a glass display case protected by movement detecting lasers and a capacitor-discharge intruder-stun system).

In power supplies I bypass, both at the smoothing stage (1/100) and at the local bypass adjacent to the active device (1/10,000 or smallest common value). Coupling capacitors I buy the best I can afford, but I vary brands; I used to be a Wondercap fan (still have some unused in stock) but find their successor Infinicaps a bit edgy in comparison. Hovland Musicaps are good for very small value coupling but too expensive otherwise. Cathode bypass capacitors I have always found a single Black Gate to be in a league fo their own and I do not know what I will use instead in my next project when my stock is exhausted; readers' suggestions are invited.

This Consonance is a timing player par excellence, due I suspect to its filtering arrangements (I have been auditioning another filterless DAC recently and it is very much in the same mould). If you want maximum drive and energy you'd be better off looking at offerings from Naim or Avondale Audio (see my review), or getting Avondale mods done to something like the Consonance for the best of both worlds.
Happy listening
Mark Wheeler

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