TNT-Audio Readers' Corner
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November 2002

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Items tested, info to share...
I have tested the following combination recently, based on your website recommendations: integ.amp Rotel 931 mk2, cd player Marantz 6000 ose, speakers Monitor Audio Bronze 1 and 2, interconnects by straightwire chorus and audioquest copperhead, spkr cables by (hard to find) alr-jordan and a few others..

The system was placed on various slabs of heavy stone (textured, not smooth) to reduce vibrations in and out, including stone towers for the spkrs as well. Rubber sheets were at times placed under the components, along with blu tack to test more subtle differences.

Speakers were about 1 meter from ceiling or floor, and at least 2 meters from any surface or wall. Non-equal distances. Tried various run of the mill CDs, and some Test CDs from Reference recordings and Opus, as well. This not expensive system stands well to all types of music. One can say it is at the doorstep, entering hifi land.
Very Realistic sounds, good defination..within limits. Very musical and very listenable for long hours. Have noted 2 things ....if one changes the interconnects between the 2 noted above, the Straight Wire seems to give more brilliance, almost being shrill, and one must lower treble, or reduce volume.. but, the BASS and lower frequencies are awesome with this wire.
One loses the bass definition and bass clarity with the Audioquest somewhat, but the trebles are now more neutral, almost a bit tamed, but overall tonal balance seems better.
Many people might prefer this...its like adding a slight tube veil over a solid state amp?
These are my opinions, and you may hear diff. things. Also, these speakers, of course, the Bronze 2 is better, but the Bronze 1 is not too bad at all. Bronze 1 is a bit squawky, not much, and Bronze 2 is a bit better across the whole tonal range.
Both are Dynamic and very realistic sounding. Pls note that I have tried 2 sets of each type..total of 4 sets of these spkrs, and found one weird problem...in all!
The left and right do not sound same tonally at all. It is like hearing the left in D and the right in C..tone keys. A good way to test is to connect them one at a time, alternating, to the one and same amp output.
However, for non serious listening, even with this problem, they sound better than much of the competition..(one may have to favor a non center Balance in some cases, to favor one spkr over the other, as the volume levels are also not same...I am talking of easily discernible levels here). Monitor audio refuses to comment on this anomaly ...
Still, overall, a budget CD system with Realistic sounds and music was achieved. Very recommended !
Thanks,
Kishore - E-mail: kbusa1 (at) hotmail.com

LC
Dear Kishore,
non-perfect pair matching is a well known problem. Only very expensive speakers are paired so to differ one to the other by negligible amounts (say .5 dB). Considering the differences between two identical woofers or tweeters it is quite normal that one loudspeaker sounds slightly different from the other.
BTW, I agree with you that even with budget-oriented systems one can get quite satisfying performances.
Thanks for the feedback,
Lucio Cadeddu

Congrats
Lucio
Many thanks for the true audiophile site you and your colleagues have created and maintained.
Have been dipping in and out for over two years now gleaning information and reading IMHO knowledgeable reviews on excellent audio products (although some not available here in UK yet).
The DIY sections are really good helping to give some insight as to how different products actually work, and more importantly how we can try to match or better them at home.
Keep up the good work we need sites like this.
Yours
Tony - E-mail: tony (at) dtech81.freeserve.co.uk

LC
Dear Tony,
thanks for your kind words. As for availability of the items we review...well, it is 100% normal that not everything is available everywhere. This is one of the aims of our publication: give the readers a broader view of the HiFi market worldwide. Consider also this: items not distributed in a certain Country found a distributor after a good review on TNT-Audio :-)
So, keep the faith :-)
Lucio Cadeddu

The best of the best...for now
Dear Lucio,
as always I would like to take the time to thank you and your staff for once again taking the time to answer my questions and lending me your insight on all your DIY projects.
My question for you this week is one I'm hoping is open for discussing as I have read your past articles I've noticed that there are a few components that you seem to believe that were years ahead of there time (NAD 3020, Diapason Adamantes ect).
My question to you is this, What in ALL your opinions are the current day, ahead of its time components that are just can't misses, I really like nOrh speakers from what I have read but I'm wondering dollar for dollar what's the best, amp, cd player, speakers do you think will set the president for the next 10 years.
I REALLY look forward to your replies as I'm just about ready to upgrade and I'm sure there are lots of people out there, like me that value your input. I thank you in advance for what im sure will be a very enlightening response.
THANKS AGAIN!!!!!
Mike Pelley - E-mail: mpelley (at) roadrunner.nf.net

LC
Dear Mike,
unfortunately there's no such a thing as the "best of the best". While it was easier in the past when FEW good components (at reasonable prices) were on the market, it is becoming harder and harder to decide who's the best (provided that would make sense).
The NAD 3020 was a clever product, reasonably priced and much better sounding than its Japanese colleagues. Now it's harder. You may have noticed NAD is no longer the absolute leader in the field of good sounding integrated amps. Many competitors did their homework and designed good components (Rotel, AMC, Arcam etc.).
In the past years we've seen some ground-breaking item such as the Audio Analogue Puccini amp. A neat package, very good sounding (tubey-like) with a price tag (at least here in Italy) that was too good to be true. The same can be said for the Sonus Faber Concertino (again, considering the LOWER Italian price).
These are somehow, among the best sellers in their price range.
Norh loudspeakers offer tremendous value for money, thanks to the place where they are manufactured. BUT! Importing these speakers can be expensive (custom fees, VAT etc.) so the insanely good quality/price ratio becomes smaller.
So, my advice is: go out and listen. Perhaps you'll find items we have never reviewed or talked about that suit your tastes better than others we recommend. Trust your ears only.
Lucio Cadeddu

Tweaking experience
I have a NAD Monitor Series Receiver 7000 (ufff...) which I bought around 1990. Very good sound, but it was getting old...
Two months ago, I tuned it as you say in your article Put a tiger on your amp, and it improved imaging, because it was very out of tune after these 12 years. Previously I had added more caps to the power supply, and changed the bridge for a 35 Amps metallic body bridge (!). This one has improved the bass.
Now, my last one was getting off those awful Op-Amps (JRC20430) from the pre-amp section and replace with OPA2604 on sockets. Oh yes, this one really changed it all. High-end! It simply sounds better, in ALL respects. My Epos 11s sound like a bird :-))
Well... I was thinking of changing my amp, but for now I'll save my money - for another 12 years :-))
Thanks for your site, people like you all at TNT-Audio just make us think as we know something more than others.
Carlos Filipe Machado - E-mail: carlosfm (at) meta4.com

LC
Dear Carlos,
as usual, thanks for the precious feedback!
Lucio Cadeddu

E.S.T.
Hello Scott,
I had heard a cut from E.S.T.'s "Strange Place for Snow" on a favorite radio program (see http://www.tangents.com/). I was shopping at my favorite record store (http://www.amoebamusic.com) and found it in the cut outs for $4.95.

I put it in my back pack and brought it to work to hear on my office system. That consist of a Panasonic SL-CT470 Portable CD Player (yeah, I need to upgrade), Magenta ADE-24 Audio Digital / Enhancer, Kimber interconnects, Grado headphone amp and RS-2 headphones.
I was enjoying it to say the least. I happened to see your review of "Somewhere Else Before" as I was on the selection 'When God Created The Coffeebreak.' Your perception of this group is right on.
Thanks, I'll look for the rest of their output at Amoeba.
Regards,
Glenn H. Martin - San Francisco - E-mail: glmartin (at) inovant.com

SF
Hi Glenn,
These guys are great aren't they? You could have a tough time trying to find anything other than A Strange Place For Snow or Somewhere Else Before here in the States. The other CD's are only availible in Europe. The groups manager was kind enough to send me copies for the review and I am eternally grateful to him for that. The rest of the music that didn't show up on the "Best Of" CD (Somewhere Else Before) is really good stuff.
Once you get Somewhere Else Before, if you enjoy that one, you may want to log onto Amazon.UK and order a couple of the CD's not available over here. Granted the shipping might be a little steep but it's well worth it for good music :-)
Nice headphone rig BTW :-) I'm a little spoiled right now, I've got a pair of Senneiser SD-600's strapped on my head along with Headrooms Maxed Out headphone amp on loan for a review. I'm REALLY going to miss these when they go back.
I'm really glad to see that these guys are getting airtime here in the States. Glad you enjoyed the review and moreover, Esbjorn Svensson Trio.
Best Regards,
Scott Faller

Congrats and Question on SF
Dear Mr. Cadeddu,
First, Congrats and Bravo for your website work which requires much time and effort but benefits many people from around the world. I, for one, would like to say thanks.

Secondly, if I may pose one small question, I would like to know if you could help clarify a small mystery : one of my favorite Italian Hi-Fi companies, Sonus Faber, seems to have gone into hibernation and I cannot find any information about what is happening.
Indeed, I have heard that, unfortunately, they have discontinued the Signum model, which I wanted to buy, and it is exceedingly difficult to find out if this is true or not.

Furthermore, their current website does not show any models of current production and displays no news of future production models or any projects in the works.
If you would be so kind as to share what you may know about SF, I would be very grateful to you.
Thank you again and best regards,
David Smith - E-mail: smith.d (at) wanadoo.fr

LC
Dear David,
Sonus Faber is a mystery indeed. One thing is for sure: they have issued a new bookshelf loudspeaker, the Cremona Auditor. In other words a standmounting Cremona. For this reason, perhaps, the Signum will be discontinued.
The Cremona Auditor has been introduced at the last Top Audio Show in Milan.
As you may have noticed, their website isn't exactly a masterpiece of interactivity. Not even an e-mail address! This means someone else did the job for them and they have nobody able to answer the huge amounts of e-mails.
Lucio Cadeddu

Another sound decision - CD player?
Lucio,
A very different question concering strategies for improving the sound of my system.
I'm currently enjoying the vast improvement that your TNT cable and a new NAD C740 receiver made to my audio experience.
The rest of my system is a TEAC PDP 1100 5 disc CD changer, 2 Energy XL15s, and a KLH 120W 10" sub (don't laugh, it does the job!). I've been considering several next steps, one of which was launched by hearing a NAD C541i CD player hooked up to the same amp as mine at a dealership.

Now I'm not dissatisfied with my CD player (no clear "problems" to solve) and haven't tried the various recommended tweaks yet either, but I have heard what appears to be better sound from the NAD CD player. Or is my memory playing tricks? At the same time, I'm leery of getting lost or losing out in the format wars that are already underway.
So here are my 3 options:

  1. Buy a new NAD C541. Expensive, single CD only, might get lost in the format struggle.
  2. Buy a used NAD 3 or 5 disc CD player. Less expensive, multiple plays. Certainly going to get lost in the format wars.
  3. Tweak my TEAC and spend a few bucks on other tweaks, while putting money under the mattress for whenever the format wars end (2-10 years?) and waiting a long time to change the CD player.
Which might you recommend and why? Also, what difference does the single vs. multiple disc NAD CD players make to the major audible experience?

Lastly, having a system that sounds very good overall, would you spend the bucks on room acoustics and other tweaks/upgrades or on the CD or other components first?
Thanks, and love TNT-Audio!
Bart A. Charlow - E-mail: Bcharlow (at) aol.com

LC
Dear Bart,
forget the format wars and buy a decent CD player instead! To save money and get a good sound reproduction, I'd suggest the cheaper NAD C521i (see review here on TNT-Audio). Forget multiple-play CDs. At the same price you get lower quality and weakier construction/operation.
Let me know,
Lucio Cadeddu

Bi-wiring again
Dear Mr.Cadeddu,
I know that millions of questions on biwiring have been asked to you. Maybe mine is also another replica of other readers but I really tried to search the topics in readers letters and most of them were in Italian.
Anyway I will ask what I have in mind. I was using a ROTEL amp before I purchased a Jolida tube amp and also before I changed my amp I used to bi-wire my speakers. The Rotel had 2 speaker terminals (A/B) and Jolida has only one.
So I did not think of biwiring them since I thougt that is was useless. After I read the Tannoy manual I saw that biwiring is recommended regardless of the speaker terminal quantity. Since I have 4 same lengths of the same cables I will bi-wire them and test but really could not understand how can this effect the overall sound!!!
I read some really hard work study with so many calculations on http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~www_pa/Scots_Guide/audio/biwire/Page1.html but could not really get the main simple reason since I am a mechanical engineer I think. Also should I twist the cables? They are in pairs, do they interfere?
Sorry for the trouble, thanks for your time.
Koray Pars - E-mail: kpars (at) ford.com.tr

LC
Dear Koray,
even if your Rotel amp had 2 pairs of speakers outputs...actually they counted for one (the other pair is always in parallel!). This means: it is the very same thing as using double cables together into a single pair of binding posts!
The principles behind biwiring are various. Let me just cite some of these. The cross section of the cable doubles (and, alas, so does the capacity!) and, in some way, the signal returns to the amplifier following different "ways" from the tweeter and the woofer. It is, somehow, the same as the star-shaped earthing principle.
Sometimes it is a benefit, sometimes not. Up to you to experiment (also twisting) and decide.
Keep me updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

Speaker review
Dear TNT,
After reading the Cliffhanger Audio Bulldog review on your site I was curious to compare them to my PE Leon Quattro. I felt the same way about the Quattro as Nels felt for the Bulldog only they are not in the same price range (Quattro are cheaper). I think it would be interesting for your more budget challenged readers if you could write a review on the Quattro.
At the same time it would help me know if I need to find these speaker in Canada (which may prove difficult) for a listening test. ;-)
Best regards,
Ans Beaulieu - E-mail: abeaulieu (at) MEGABLOKS.COM

NF
Hi Ans,
Currently, it seems that Cliffhanger Audio has distribution only in the US and Canada. They are still a relatively new company, having been in business for 7 years. I would expect someone overseas will eventually pick up the line.

As far as the PE Leon Quattro loudspeaker, I am unfamiliar with them. I would welcome am opportunity to review them; all the manufacturer has to do is contact me.
Nels Ferré

Jolida questions
I just read your review of the Jolida JD100A and enjoyed it. I just bought a pair of Merlin VSM-Ms and was in the hunt for a better source. I had heard the previous permutation of the Jolida and thought it was sweet sounding but a little lacking in detail.
The owner of Merlin had recommended buying a pioneer 525 DVD player along with a Bel Canto 1.1 DAC. He said that combo would beat most high end CD players.
Any thoughts? I am relatively new to this game, a lot of which seems highly personal and voodoo-like.
Andrew Gear - E-mail: agear (at) mindspring.com

NF
Hi Andrew,
Thanks for your letter.
I agree with you as for the JoLida JD-603 CD player. The JD-100A is a completely different design and shares nothing with its predecessor, save the 12AX7 tubes, and the marque on the front panel.
I've heard good things about the Pioneer/Bel Canto combination, although I've not personally heard it. It will cost more, though; if I recall correctly, the Bel Canto alone is $1250.
I would imagine the two may be comparable, at least price wise: I said in my review that I believed the JD-100A to be actually under priced. I believe if it was priced at $1200-1300, it would still be a good value. At $900, it's nearly a gift.
I would recommend auditioning both setups, and picking the one that makes you happy.
I hope this is helpful.
Nels Ferré

Help on loudspeakers
Dear Mr. Cadeddu,
I'm writing to you asking for some simple advice on a pair of loudspeakers. First of all my system is as follows:

Being an audio enthusiast for some time now, I've decided to replace my loudspeakers for the simple reason being that they lack drive, power and some dynamics, especially on the female vocals. On various vocal material I've noticed some costraint and some nasality. Speaking to various audio enthusiasts I've been advised to listen to various models but, these models aren't available for listening only available to buy, because being expensive they can only order to be bought.
These models are: B&W Nautilus 804, JMlab Electra 924, and Chario Constellation Ursa Major. I've been strongly recommended on the Chario Ursa Major because they have "The kind of sound that leaves you breathless especially with Valve amplification". These words were from notably different people.

My problem is that it is impossible to have a listening session because being a model of around 5,000 Euro/$ the stores cannot risk having them, they are only obtainable via order stictly to be bought. I've received this from Comet and various other stores.
The million dollar question is: is it possible to have a recommendation or an indication to what type of loudspeaker to partner with my beloved valve amplification?? or is there something better??

I've been also told that both B&W and JMlab do not come close to perfomancewise to the Ursa Major. The Ursa Major being far more superior in quality, also having a separate sub-bass enclosure is very much more controlled with the low frequency, resulting in stronger dynamics and is well suited to the neutral sound of the valve.

My listening room is of around 25 -30mq and my musical taste varies from classical to industrial so I need a neutral sounding loudspeaker that isn't very fussy with material. Ironicly however I was also told that the B&W is more for the easy listener and the JMlab more for the rocker, having a more "upfront in yer face!!" attitude, again, whereas (again, not my words) the Ursa Major are more "friendlylike" and much more suited to various material, especially with female vocals and very, very precise with microdetails forming a breathtaking soundstage for size and impact.
I must confess that I am now quite confused and quite lost.......I wish to spend well without regrets....
Please, please could you tell me if these people are right in what they are saying or simply a load of nonsense??? Also are the Ursa Major THAT good??? I've never looked upon Chario as I have always thought of them as middleclassed....am I wrong in thinking so???? Are Chario really this respected from us audiophiles???
Anxiously awaiting a reply...........please Mr Cadeddu don't let me down.
Thank sincerely in advance
Mr Zarafa - E-mail: zarafa (at) libero.it

LC
Dear Mr. Zarafa,
Chario does have a very good reputation among audiophiles, especially their hi-end range is highly praised. Anyway, considering nobody is able to design and manufacture miracles (let aside Someone of 2,000 years ago) all things should be kept in the right perspective. This means that each loudspeaker you mentioned has its virtues and the only one able to decide whether they're worth the money or not is... YOU.
I wouldn't spend 5,000 $/Euro for a loudspeaker without actually having listened to it. This is pure nonsense!
So my advice is: choose among those loudspeakers you can ACTUALLY test, possibly with your gear and your discs. The amount of cash involved is way too high, I DO NOT WANT to become responsible for a choice that can suit my personal taste and not yours.
Lucio Cadeddu

Revenge for introducing me to things I can't afford! (just kidding)
Hi Lucio,
I've written to you before a while ago, and I must say I'm staying with you for the long run! It's not that you get 100% agreement from me (I just don't like cat 5 based cables for instance, I use the raw Cardas wire to "roll my own"), just that I find you 100% enjoyable and thought provoking.

Scott's review of the Monsoon speakers got me thinking about something you folks may or may not like to take on.
I would if I was in your shoes, but I'm well known as an audiofool; having persisted with series 1 B&W 802's untill they sounded OK.
That involved sand filled 6mm steel plate stands, the crossover cavity filled with gravel/epoxy mix (using the epoxy to permanently bond the cabinets to the stands), extra cabinet bracing and damping, rewiring, external passive mid-trebble crossover (bi-wired) and active bass-mid crossover.
Now I want to try Scan Speak Kevlar drivers in place of the woofers to match the kevlar mid...... you get the point, = audiofool! If you think that is mad, you should see the rest of my system! In my defense, at least I'm mad enough to actually enjoy the music more than the gear!

Anyway, I looked at those Monsoon speakers and thought, well, what if we got rid of those awfull caps from the crossovers? Replace 'em with oil filled ones from the local computer boneyard. I mean planars should have great detail, but I know that bog stock electro caps sound like MUD in crossovers!

Talking about computer boneyards, I've had quite good results from the mains power filters recovered from old mainframes, which often have 15-30 amp continous capacity! The only problem is on being unplugged, they store enough power to be hazardous for a couple of minutes.
In New Zealand they are required to be hard wired, so a laundry type permanently wired outlet and an insulated box mounted on the wall are a good idea; with a bit of flexible conduit to join the two.
Not great for the decor, but they work for me. Given that I flat with someone who runs lots of computer equipment all the time and we are near an industrial area, my power supply is rather "dirty", so you may find different results. They do seem to slow the pace of the system a little, but improve definition by making the silences "quieter" if you like.

Anyway, I digress as usual. The nut of what I am suggesting is, why not find commercial products that just beg to be tweaked? There must be a few products out there that are basically well engineered, but the cost cutting got a bit savage somwhere.
Surely finding such products (new or second hand) and then showing people how to tweak them would be a great service to budding audiofools, who like me have champaign taste on a beer budget.
The result should be great cost/performance ratio. I know the opportunity cost of the time involved is ignored, but unless one is passing up an opportunity to earn more than one saves....... and that is not even considering the enjoyment involved!

Keep up the good work, it is appreciated, even if you do get me wanting an "obscure Italian unipivot" tonearm I just can't afford at the moment! (For which I still havn't forgiven you!)
Cheers,
Roy Tipper - E-mail: tmcroy (at) hotmail.com

LC
Dear Roy,
first of all thank for the interesting letter and suggestions. Tweaking HiFi gear we receive on loan from Manufacturers or Distributors is a NO-NO. These items should be sent back to the sender exactly like we received 'em :-)
So tweaking can be done only on products we actually buy (or friends' gear) and this is exactly what we've done from time to time.
Keep your insane flame burning bright! :-)
Lucio Cadeddu

Cabasse
Hello. I am trying to post something onto your Readers' Corner but don't know how so I am sending this email to your instead. Hope you don't mind re-directing it to the Corner? Thanks and apologize for the trouble.
Here's what I wanted to ask for TNT's opinion.
Thanks for all the good information on your great www. I really enjoyed reading them. Now I have a Farella 400 and there isn't much information on the Net. Posting on your forum draws no conclusive responses. I understand it's a good match for tube amplifier and in fact, most users on the Net reported using them but I don't want to go that route. I am looking for a good matching solid amplifier.
I listen to all sorts of music with slight preference for female vocal. Any suggestion would be most appreciated.
Thanks and best regards.
Kong - E-mail: konghh (at) pc.jaring.my

GH
Hi Kong,
All you need to do to get onto "Readers' Corner" is choose your favourite reviewer and emailing a question, not all letters get printed, often they're not of general interest, but many will be (like this one...).

Lucio's forwarded this letter to me because a while back I reviewed the Cabasse Sloops and at the same time had a pair of their Farella's here at home for several months so I know the speakers well. I liked them both a lot, but both shared the then current Cabasse 'voice' which was mid-forward and very open, trying to recreate the live sound.
Their latest products seem to have been revoiced slightly to make them more mainstream. Which you prefer is down to your ears and sytem, certainly it would be a vast oversimplification to say that 'newest is best' - perhaps it would be truer to say that the older design were more purist. Certainly their balance and priorities will be excellent for your taste in music.

But back to your question... Given that the Farellas are mid forward and very detailed, it follows that to get a balance you should avoid pushy, mid-forward amps and sources. Your comment "a good match for tube amplifier and in fact, most users on the Net reported using them but I don't want to go that route" does beg the question "Why???".
The Farellas work brilliantly with valve amps (provided they can cope with the 4 ohm impedence) and my own EL34 powered Audion amp worked a treat. There are now quite a few EL34 integrated amps on the market and their sweet midband and low running costs would seem like they'd be perfect for what you want - start looking at 500e and up...

If it has to be transistors then the classic answer would be to go for something biased towards class 'A' which tend to be warmer/natural especially good with female vocal which can be very edgy if treated wrongly. Sadly class 'A' transistor integrateds are pretty rare, partly because of the heat they generate which has had the safety police jumping up and down (though typically red hot valve amps get away with it...).
The Grandaddy is the old Musical Fidelity A1 which is available second hand for about 150e, the big brother the A100 is just more of the same. When MF abandoned class 'A' they still tried to give their amps the same balance so if you want to buy new then their range is well worth shortlisting, try the Roksan Caspian and the Naim Nait as well.

Beyond this you're starting to get into serious money with big integrateds and pre-powers - but always looking for the class 'A' sound, but why bother when valves will do it?
Cheers
Geoff Husband

Updating our Hi-Fi systems but what about the receiver?
We read many articles about the music sources that transmitts decibels and amplified signals but what about our ears?
They are the analog to digital converters of our body. It also has a sampling rate. Can we do something to improve our ears? I feel like too much dirt enters inside our ears.Is there any proper method to clean the hairs inside the ear? (I know doctors can do it but maybe some other methods). What is the ideal listening positions, for ex. putting a pillow behind your head effects the tonal balance. Do you think of writing an article on this or do you already have an article on our hearing system maintenance? :-)
Thanks,
Koray PARS - E-mail: kpars (at) ford.com.tr

GH
Improve your ears? Well possibly. As a prelude to the tt reviews I actually went and had my ears syringed and the result was everything sounded increadibly bright and detailed - for about an hour, after which the brain's built-in graphic equaliser corrected itself and made everything much as before.
And yes putting a pillow behind your head will make a difference to balance and imaging, putting one on your shoulders will destroy height information, cupping your hands over your ears will make things bright and detailed but all will result in you being taken away by men in white coats if anyone sees you...
Cheers
Geoff Husband

Thanks for your help.....
Dear Lucio...
Thank you so very much for responding to my letter last week your info on my gear was very helpful (if only this site existed years ago when I was young and poor....D'OH what I could have done...) Anyways.
I just wanted to thank you so much for ALL your passion and hard work that goes into this site, especially the DIYing, I think that you guys are just about the only site on the net dedicated to the subject!!!
I currently have about a thousand meters of have completed cat5e wires all over my house and I love it!!!! Anywow I only got just one question for ya but its a doozie....

I love to download music (only when I can't afford to buy the actual disk) and I see that all the songs have different bit rates I was wondering which one is the closest to the actual recording. Again thank you so much and please keep up the amazing work.
P.S expect a load more e-mails from Canada as ive told all who will listen about your great web site!!!!!!
Cheers!!
Michael Pelley - E-mail: mpelley (at) roadrunner.nf.net

LC
Dear Michael,
the higher the sampling rate the better it will sound. As for digital resolution (# of bits), the higher the better, again. Anyway, forget MP3 Music etc. There are soooo many low-price CDs that you don't need to reduce yourself to listen to an imitation of what Music really is.
Not to mention second-hand CDs and LPs. Music can be damn cheap, no need to download it from the Net.
Just a few words on your opinion re: our site. First of all, thanks a lot for the sincere appreciation, we all need it. Secondly, we're definitely NOT the only site devoted to DIY. It is plenty of very good personal sites devoted to DIYing. Anyway, it is true (and not strange at all) that very few (if any) official mags devote some space to DIY. Manufacturers simply don't like that ;-) <BIG GRIN HERE>
Lucio Cadeddu

FP-1000 Hybrid Planar Speakers review...
Hi Scott,
Thanks for an honest review - I thought you were being quite kind to these speakers.
I heard several pairs of these speakers a year ago and I fully agree with your assessment.
They are thick sounding and I found the meshing of the various drivers to be poor - so that I heard high's, mid's and low's as separate distinct sounds.
It's quite rare to run into a poor pair of speakers these days - especially a design which in theory should offer so much promise.
Regards,
Wilson - E-mail: Wilson.Tam (at) cnpl.enbridge.com

SF
Hi Wilson,
Thanks for the support. The "not so positive" reviews are extremely difficult to write. But, if you read the manufacturers comments, they realize the speakers shortcomings and are in the middle of a total redesign.
I'm pretty confidant that the new designs will address the issues of the FPF 1000's. With some luck, I'll get to audition the new designs shortly after the first of the year.
Best Regards,
Scott Faller

Power ratings vs. efficiency?
Dear Lucio,
I am reviewing integrated amps for a purchase and my question, although specific at first is of general interest I guess; specified power vs. actual efficiency.
For example, I am attracted to either Classe CAP151 or YBA Integre DT: both seems excellent choices but there is a substantial difference in the specified power ratings. As I am driving Sonus Faber Signum, I think I would favor Classe' for its power rating.
But, is there a hidden power behind the YBA? More generally, can one trust specs as a true indication of power or are there other measures of efficiency to take into account?
Thanks
Olivier - E-mail private

LC
Dear Olivier,
simple power rating figures don't tell anything relevant on the sound of an amplifier. You can consider them as a gross estimates of the ability of the amp to make a loudspeaker sound LOUD.
Considering the Signum's sensitivity and the average sound pressure levels in a normal listening room I'm pretty sure any good amplifier with 50 watts RMS per channel will be able to drive those Sonus Faber's.
So, let's forget power rating and concentrate on sound, tonal balance, dynamics, imaging etc. Listen to those amps connected to your speakers then decide.
Lucio Cadeddu

Cowabonga! CAT 5e DIY paradiso
Lucio,
Yet another satisfied DIYer! Did a version of your TNT Triple that blows me away, and no soldering iron either. Took me an hour and a half to braid 3 CAT 5e cables per 17' run together, Radio Shack spades crimped on, heat shrink finishing for only $23!!!!

But the best part is the sound, oh the sound. Even my 13 year old, who watched me braid with some skepticism, noticed the difference and commented favorably immediately. Clean pure everything. Stronger highs and bass very strong out of my small Energy XL15s. They sound like they did in the store when I auditioned them again.
Not sure yet about the midrange, but it is better than before. In fact, the sound staging and tone is so good that I had to turn off the tone filters and even the "loudness" on my amp. Is this what you guys mean when you say "pure sound"? Holy cow!

And all this driven by my failing ancient quadrophonic no-name receiver without a hitch. I'm really impressed. Here's what I used:

  1. 6 runs of 17' CATe indoor/outdoor rated copper cabling (used that version because the bone white cover goes well with our decor - no kidding - and it cost me twice as much as the riser rated stuff just to look better)
  2. Heat shrink
  3. Radio Shack gold plated spades
It's mono-wired, not biwired, by choice. I can only guess how great the Twisted Twins would have sounded with double the cable, but it would have been far more difficult to braid and the only spades available wouldn't have fit that much raw wire. So I'm glad that this first audio DIY project went as smoothly and turned out as well as it did.
Thank you so very much and I'm going to try more of your suggestions. You've created a monster!
Now maybe you can help me find a CHEAP and effective way without wiring diagrams to handle AC line noise too and I'm your slave for life.
Bart A. Charlow - E-mail: Bcharlow (at) aol.com

LC
Dear Bart,
I'm glad you liked the Triple T cable so much. As for mains cables...I'm sure the TTS article explains it all. If you're still confused perhaps it is better to improve your DIY skills a little bit more as mains cables can be DANGEROUS. Electricity KILLS. If in doubt, choose the far easier TNT Merlino mains cable (less things that can go wrong).
Keep me updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

Your review of the Cambridge A500 rc amp...
Hello my name is Michael and I am writing you from st. Johns Newfoundland Canada...
First of all I must say that I love your work, good bad or indifferent your opinions on the products are unjaded and neutral (something I find lacking in a large majority of audioreviews I've read!!). My questions to you are these...
My current system is: Cambridge A 500rc amp, D500se CD player and a pair of Mirage 390 as speakers plus a Phoenix Gold TransBalanced rca cable between my cd player and amp.
What (if anything) can I do to improve and tweak my audio system (please keep in mind I'm on a tight budget). I have heard that I can dynamatt the inside of my Cd player but would it work for my amp?
Absolutely any thing you can suggest would be greatly appreciated. Also could you please recommend some great recordings to use as reference material for my system. I look forward to your response.
BEST REGARDS

P.S Any info on my speakers you could give me would be great!!!! keep up the good...GREAT work!!!!!!!!!!
Michael Pelley - E-mail: mpelley (at) roadrunner.nf.net

LC
Dear Michael,
of course you can try any tweak we have published on our site (decoupling feet, internal damping, blue-tack, DIY cables and so on). These will make your CD player and amplifier sound a little bit better (or just different). Just try and evaluate by yourself.
Unluckly, I have no direct experience with your speakers. Sooner or later your may want to upgrade your amp with something better. No need to spend outrageously high amounts of money....have a look at the second hand market for real bargains from time to time! For example, you can start looking for top of the line NAD and Rotel amps...
As for reference recording lists, we have already published TONS of these! Have a look at our Music & Books section. There you'll find both reviews of audiophile recordings/test discs and lists of the records we commonly use to test HiFi components.
Enjoy the trip!
Lucio Cadeddu

Some more Upgrading
Hello Lucio,
I thought I would write in again as I received an early Christmas present. A NAD 541i CD player. Isn't my wife kind and generous?
I had been using a Hitachi DVD player to play my cds. The sound and detail were actually good, or so I thought until I listened to the new NAD. I connected up the Nad, got out a HDCD, Yes, the NAD has a filter for HDCD. The cd was Sailing to Philidealphia, by Mark Knoftler.

I started the the cd, and after a while my wife came in and sat down for a while, and then said, It sounds much better!!! I was surprised because she had never commented much on the sound before. I asked her, why is it better? I quote her, "The sound is more real, it doesn't sound like a stereo. The music sounds like it is in the air, and not coming from the Speakers, I can feel the performers in the room."
I couldn't believe my luck. My wife had spoken like a true audiophile, only she never knew it!!!! This year I have updated the Loud Speakers, and the CD player. Its my birthday in February, and I was just thinking about buying a new amp. My system now consistes of:

I think my amp is a little underpowered to drive the speakers at loud levels. Plus it is getting on, though in great shape!!! So my question is, will a modern amp really put out a better sound in my sytem? I listen to all types of music, I adore music and listen to it hours each day, I would like a slightly warmer sound to me present gear. Have you any preferences that may work with my gear?
Thanks again,
Yours sincerely,
Colin R Hopper - E-mail: colnmary (at) ihug.co.nz

LC
Dear Colin "Mr. Lucky Guy" Hopper :-)
since you seem to prefer the NAD tonal balance you may starting to audition the excellent C370 or the smaller C350. They will be a significative upgrade over your older NAD amp, both in terms of power, driveability and sound quality.
Keep me updated (and please tell your wife my birthday is on the 5th of December :-))) [just kidding, eh]
Lucio Cadeddu

Some thoughts on Stereophile's Recommended Components List
Dear TNT,
As usual your help and friendly advise was helpful and thank you so much for that! I have two things I would like to share with you in this (way too long) letter. Firstly the new sound of my system and secondly the price of the sound.

I have just moved from an apartment (on the 2nd floor) to a small house. This has been the greatest tweak of them all. I have 3 possible reasons for the improvement in sound: 1) Better electricity 2) Better (more even) room acoustics 3) Better connection from equipment with the floor (thin carpets on concrete floor).
Ok, I did upgrade from very long runs (5m) of TNT FFRC speaker cable to very short runs (2.5m) of TNT Triple T, which I am sure also did it's part. Anyways the sound is now completely 3D even with Grieg's piano played by Andnes (Lyric Pieces EMI 5 57296-2). I can now also hear that Andnes had a semi-blocked nostril on the day of the recording (I wonder if he tried menthol pastilles?).

Now to the price of this sound: After reading the October issue of Stereophile's Recommended Components (that I know some people follow blindly as "The Bible") I got the idea to compare the prices of my DIY's to the retail price of a similar product in their List. I compared with the cheapest and the most expensive product in each category and calculated an approximate saving for the two solutions. I have only included finished products from the list, not the DIY solutions. I have also rounded up and down so the calculations are ONLY approximate (and for the laugh).

Hi-Fi Rack: $109.94 - $4950 (shelf designed for stabilising electron microscopes!)
TNT FleXy: App. $50

Spikes and isolation feet: $6 (each) - $449 (set of 4)
TNT StoneBlocks: App. $2 (each)

Interconnects: $78 - $3300
TNT Ubyte: $10 (set of 2)

Digital Connections: $37.95 - $560
TNT Ubyte: $5

Speaker Cable: $6/ft not terminated - $6800/10 ft pair
TNT Triple T: $20/7ft terminated pair
TNT Star: $8/5m terminated pair

Power Cords: $180/6ft terminated (Kimber PowerKord) - $2000
TNT Ubyte-M: $8 terminated

Savings App. $423 - $14961 (for 1 of each)

I wish I had the money to try out a comparison between the DIY solution and the cheapest and the most expensive commercial solution in my system. I have no doubt that spending this money could improve the sound of my system, but I also think my DIY projects have done that for a more reasonable amount of money.
There are still more DIY projects that I have not done yet like the TNT Sandblaster and the TNT Akropolis (unfortunately pillars are unattainable here in Ireland). Stands are not listed in the Recommended Components but isolation platforms list from $99 to $499!

I will leave it up to the individual's taste, system configuration and wallet to decide what is the best upgrade solution for their system. I will recommend those who lie in bed at night alternately drooling and sweating over the Recommended Components List to try some of the DIY designs on TNT (or indeed other places on the net) before they go out and take out a mortgage.

Ps. if you are lucky enough to have a girlfriend or wife with a good sense of humour the List can provide some really nice ironic laughs together. This is important so she doesn't know that you actually are intrigued by a $36,000 pre-amp! (Warning: I take no responsibility for the future of your relationship if you follow this advice!).
Yours Sincerely,
Claus Jensen - E-mail: claus_ez (at) hotmail.com

LC
Dear Claus,
while many hi-end components cost a little fortune (a fortune HARD to justify by the quality of the products) it is also true that DIY isn't for everyone. Many audiophiles don't have time or skills (or both) to build even the simplest of our designs.
Also, let me state this clear: it is not easy to reach certain high-end sonic results with the technology and the components available to the majority of DIYers. So, while DIY is a good way to save money it is NOT the perfect solution for everyone and for every need.
Finally, do not forget the TIME you spend DIYing equals MONEY so the REAL LIFE cost of DIY designs is actually HIGHER (hence savings are lower). Everything should be kept in the right perspective.
Stay tuned!
Lucio Cadeddu

Sex and Hifi article
Erm, my experiences actually contradict your ideas. I'm a big hifi buff but not (i hope) in a bragaddocio kind of way. However, in my last year at Uni my system, which evolved but included Cyrus, MF, Audiolab and Dynaudio. You didn't have to say anything - girls and guys were impressed alike with any music, and perhaps the fact it was rare for a student my age to have a flat, albeit small, especially as I'd made it cosy. I might add i worked hard to get it and didn't have help from parents! anyway, long nights in bed with friends have almost always been accompanied by plenty of "drowning" music or music to set the mood. Oh and the other trick is to invite them round for dinner and make them bring their favourite CDs which they (think they) know insde out, fire it up and wow! Don't forget the only musical repro most people have ever heard is from Mini or all-in-one nasty systems or very cheap separates not set up properly and in an audio unfriendly environment, or in shops (ugh) or clubs - worst of all because the only criteria there seems to be volume.

My system sounds better even than the 200k systems in good clubs which are not audiophile. One more anecdote was a friend Grant who pulled this really fit girl on a night out and she wanted to go home with him for the night, but he'd left his car at mine. They came in to get the keys and I'd whacked the Hifi on loud (as you do at 2am) he ended up falling out with her because she just wanted to stay and listen and play with it.
She went back with him at about 3am and he never got anywhere anyway. It aint geekish - ancient turntables and 60s speakers aside! Hifi, for me, is about emotions, the raw emotions of the music. Sex, for me, is about emotions. The two are so intertwined it's like having a threesome with the music!
However, sex used to sell crap products IS sad. Gorgeous Italian models on the Ferrari stand.
Hot blondes on the Daewoo/Ford stand NO! They have to be complimentary, and it think we're together on this - I decide what's sexy when I build my system - if anyone else likes it that's a bonus!
Best of luck and keep the good articles flowing - fab website! You can CC this to Lucio but I don't know if he'd be interesed.
Regards,
Ollie - E-mail: OLLY911 (at) aol.com

GH
Hi Ollie,
Thanks for the mail, (male?) - yup girls love music, love good systems, but few shell out for them...
Still "boys toys" I'm afraid... (Hi-Fi that is...)
Cheers
Geoff Husband

CD quality
Geoff,
Warm Greetings from the Land in the Sun !!. Hope this finds you well.
After doing the wrong thing i.e Analyzing music as opposed to listening to it i would like to understand something. Here goes. I have a variety of CD's that have either AAD, ADD, DDD and the usual nothing. (It does cost much to write 3 letters).
The worst sounding is the DDD especially the early recordings. Cold, Digital, lifeless. Now by some stroke of luck i have Andreas Vollenweider's Trilogy (Double CD) with white Wind (EMI ??) and a singe version recorded by sony. They do sound different. To me the EMI sounds REAL despite some backgroup hiss then the sony which even has Dolby sound logo. The EMI is ADD and the sony is blank.
The Nutcracker suite by NAXOS 1987 is crap. Yet it is a DDD. Is there some sort of guide that one can use in determining good quality (musically) CD. Are there specific labels that do try to get decent recordings ??
Have a good weekend.
Regards
Anthony Thubei - E-Mail: Anthony.Thubei (at) siriusgroup.co.uk

GH
Hi Anthony,
This is a very nasty can of worms... Not only does CD quality vary between labels, it varies between copies of a CD from the same label, depending on pressing plants etc etc - the differences are as big as those between copies of the same Vinyl LP. Add to that the DDD/ADD/AAD confusion and the punter is lost.
I've been told that currently a lot of music is being recorded on analogue because until the next 'standard' is fixed it's the only way that record companies will be able to claim 24/96 resolution or whatever in future - one reason Sony were touting 'A Kind of Blue' as one of the main samples for SACD.
Obviously a master tape in 16 bit is going to be 16 bit resolution (and 20kHz limited) no matter what clever trickery they do to convince us otherwise, whereas an analogue tape can be converted legitimately to any new standard - or so the argument goes...

So to sum up I'd love to be able to say "buy only AAD", or "RCA" or whatever, but I'm afraid it's a lottery. Ultimately I think it's a question of buying the best music, and if that coincides with good sound quality then so much the better - the fact is that Billy Holiday will sound better than Sheena Easton even if the latter is on SACD and 'Lady Day' on your car radio...
Cheers
Geoff Husband

Upgrading
Hello TNT guys,
Great job you are doing there... Keep up the excellent work.
My equipment:

Couple of questions: Shall I change the B&W 602 for B&W P5 (are they good/much better than the 602s'?) and then go for the new amplification. What do you think of the following: NAD C160 preamp, Korato KVA 20 (valve, 20W class A) & NAD C270 power.
Korato driving the higher frequencies and the C270 lower in a bi-amped mode. The NAD pre-amp is having two outputs for power amps, the second one being variable.

What do you think? preamp solid-state / power valve not a good combination ??? (I know that is usually vice versa that works, and is it worth trying?). Shall I go just for the C160/KVA 20 without the C270?

Second, the Thorens I own I bought second-hand and is in quite good condition except for the following. Namely, one of the three springs of the sub-chasis (the one that comes first in the triangle when you approach the turntable from the front) is much more softer and a little bit out of axis when you touch it. The other two are quite firm. Is this normal, or the spring have been loosen due to the long usage?
Thanks,
Stefan Tanik - E-mail: stefantanik (at) hotmail.com

LC
Dear Stefan,
if possible, you should compare your current speakers with the candidates for the upgrade (P 5's). My personal opinion is that the P5's are a step ahead the 602's.
Usually I don't like that mix and match of tubes and solid state, when it comes to amplification. Indeed, with the same amount of money, you could buy a single integrated amplifier that could do a far better job of the three you mentioned. Tube or solid state, it doesn't really matter, just choose a good integrated amp and you won't go wrong. Go out and listen, then contact me again for further advice.
Finally, the Thorens question. No, it is NOT normal the spring looks like you described. Either the subchassis is out of center (try playing with the height of the springs for a while) or the spring is damaged.
Hope this helped a bit,
Lucio Cadeddu

Grado Z+
Hello Lucio,
I have a modified Thorens 160 with an old Grado Z+. It's about time to replace the stylus and I was wondering what could be the improvement if I put a stylus from a more expensive model (let's say from Ref. Platinum). I'm sure it fits on my Z+, but you think there will be a sound improvement, or it will be better to replace the cartridge with a better one? Any recommendations?
Please have in mind that I don't want to spend more than 250 euros for a cartridge. Also, I love classic rock and ethnic music and the rest of my system is a Musical Fidelity A100 with a pair of DIY Proac 2.5
And something else: I want to replace the capacitors in the A100 (88.000uF). Any idea of what to buy?
Thanks a lot for your help my friend! And keep on the good work at TNT!
Kostas - E-mail: perseus2 (at) freemail.gr

LC
Dear Kostas,
if you're 100% the new stylus will fit the old cart, go on and buy it! Otherwise, there are many shop/carts manufacturers that offer great deals by trade-in. You give 'em an old cart, they offer you a new one at a special discount price.
As for caps, there are many good brands out there (Elna, for one) but, first of all, you should be aware of the fact that this simple (and expensive!) change won't make a huge difference in sound. It will CERTAINLY make your amp impossible to sell second-hand. Think about that. I'd suggest to spend that money on cables, accessories or....records :-)
Lucio Cadeddu

Thank you for a great musical advice
I'm Italian. My name is Clara and I bought "Crosby, Stills and Nash". Thank you.
Clara - E-mail: uaz (at) yahoo.com

SF
Hi Clara,
I'm glad you enjoyed Crosby, Stills and Nash, but the real thanks should go to the fine folks at Classic Records www.classicrecs.com. Since you like CSN so much, let me suggest Graham Nash, Songs for Beginners (see review here on TNT-Audio). It's every bit as good as CSN :-)
Best Regards,
Scott Faller

TNT-Audio web site Feedback
Greetings,
I was just referred your wonderful TNT-Audio web site after reading through an archived (April/2002) user thread at the LS3/5a group on Yahoo; Subject: "DIY-Speaker Tweaks". TNT-Audio came HIGHLY recommended!!!
My first impression is that you provide a terrific service, and I commend you for your unselfish devotion to maintaining a web site for audio enthusiasts, like me. Thank you!!!

And I especially love the absence of banners, advertising, etc., but am still confused how you can support the entire venture if you are not, in fact, independently wealthy.
Have you ever thought about voluntary subscriptions to help support your efforts?
Continued good luck, and best regards,
John Babyak - USA - E-mail: CTMONEYMGR (at) aol.com

LC
Dear John,
first of all thanks for your kind letter. We all need support from readers. BUT! Our philosophy is: Love, not Money so, if you want to support TNT-Audio make your friends visit our site, talk about us to manufacturers, dealers etc. A stronger, fully independent website, depends even on its popularity among audiophiles.
Please remember Money isn't everything in Life. Love is much more important. And it is FREE.
Lucio Cadeddu

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