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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April 2008

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Starting with Class D
Dear Lucio,
Thanks for your review of this amp. I trust the TNT reviews the most. Good job TNT !
At the end of the review, you stated, that it could be the heart of any hi-end system if matched with the right loudspeakers. Here are my questions :

  1. Which ones would you consider to be "the right ones" or did you "just" mean 92-93dB sensitivity ?
  2. Could you give me some names/ brands that have that sensitivity because i am definately gonna buy a T-amp, I only don't know which one :
  3. What do you know about the following T-amps (sold by AUDIO MAGUS):
    • the TA 10.1 value mod.
    • the TA-10.1 MICHAEL MARDIS EDITION V 3.0
    • the King Rex T20-U
    • the T20U T-REX mod.
    • the POP PULSE T40i integrated T-amp
I would very much appreciate your info!
Thanks for your time!
Cheers
Herman - E-Mail: herman.Marijke (at) home.nl

LC
Dear Herman,
if your room is large and you are used to mid-to-high listening levels, high sensitivity speakers should be taken into serious account. Names as Klipsch, Triangle and Audio Note come immediately to mind. Otherwise, less traditional ones like fullrange units and/or horns. As for choosing the right T-Amp "variation on a theme" I can't help much, since I haven't compared them all. Anyway, I'd prefer to stay with the simplest "stock" TA 10.1 and invest the largest part of the budget on loudspeakers and source instead. Also, keep in mind NuForce have just released a new small integrated amplifier that looks promising (the Icon). With 12 watts per channel high sensitivity speakers might be not necessary.
Stay tuned for more infos!
Lucio Cadeddu

On remastered CDs again
Hi Lucio,
the re-mastering info on the back of the Body&Soul CD is: "remastered by Roger Wake at Bourbery Wake" The same applies to the re-mastered edition of "Night and Day". I am still looking for an original version.
Kind Regards,
Thomas - E-mail: thomas.ludwig (at) min.uni-heidelberg.de

LC
Dear Thomas,
thanks for the info. It seems Roger Wake has mastered some good sounding CDs in the past so the question is: why his remastering of a masterpiece like "Body and Soul" is so bad sounding and definitely worse than the original cut? The answer, sadly, is still the same: loudness war! Please read this enlightening article on the subject, titled "What happened to dynamic range?", written by Bob Speer, a mastering engineer. An excellent and self-explainatory collection of graphs can be found on this article: The death of dynamic range. Also, read what Elvis Costello has to say about vinyl on our latest editorial.
Lucio Cadeddu

Cheap phono cable
Hi,
have just replaced my phono interconnects between my Rotel pre and twin power amps. The cable talk monitor 3 cables were too short. 50 per 1m pair. I made some up with VAN DAMME CLASSIC INSTRUMENT CABLE. 1.5M.
I have to say the change is amazing, like taking my fingers out of my ears. It just shows how cheap cable can be as good as expensive snake oil special phono cables.
This stuff is available at less than 1 per metre, and with plugs cost less than 25 for 2 pairs of 1.5m cables.
Do you have any experience with this cable it is superb (and cheap) I'm thinking of making up some more for my cd and tuner.
Alan - E-mail: Ag250449 (at) aol.com

LC
Dear Alan,
been there, done that (7 years ago). We published a comparison review of 3 cheap cables and, guess what?, one of those was the basic interconnect supplied by Graham Slee Audio. The cable was nothing else than a Van Damme microphone wire. Now it seems Graham Slee is using a new wire to build his cables, so the Van Damme option is no longer available. And it's a pity, since it was good and inexpensive (30 € per 1 meter with RCAs). As our free DIY recipes prove without doubt, good cables can be made with standard coaxs, CAT5's and similar commercial (industrial) wires. Without snake oil :-)
Happy listening!
Lucio Cadeddu

Derrin Nauendorf
Hello Mark
What would be the cost of Derrin Nauendorf's New History incl. shipping to Holland?
Best regards
Theo - by E-mail

MW
Hi Theo,
I have no idea what it would cost. I am a reviewer, not a retailer. Try any of the online music vendors or try Derris own website.
TNT-audio is the best source for independent audio and music reviews because we have no ties with the audio & music business!
Happy listening,
[Editor's note] We keep receiving many requests about items to sell. Everytime I receive one, it makes me wonder what the World Wide Web has become: nothing less than a marketplace! There's no room for sharing experiences as it was in its early days. Nonetheless, old fashioned as we may seem, we will continue offering free advices and free DIY designs to audiophiles worldwide.
Mark Wheeler

Trends Audio USB DAC UD-10
Dear Nick,
I appreciated a lot your review of the Trends Audio UD-10 and I was thinking to include it in my stereo chain. I'd like to ask you a question (perhaps silly...): in my mind, a DAC converts a digital signal to an analog signal. That is, I imagine a USB input plug and double RCA output plugs. Instead, looking at the picture of the UD-10 back, I was able to see digital outputs only. Am I correct? How could be possible to connect the UD-10 to a "normal" stereo amplifier that usually has RCA inputs only?
I found another cheap DAC, the Super pro USB. If you look at the picture at the link below:
http://www.audiojunkies.com/blog/614/dac-super-pro-usb-brings-quality-dtoa-on-the-cheap
you may see the USB input and the RCA output.
I'd be very pleased to know your advice and opinion about this matter.
Thank you in advance for your time! Kind regards
Luigi - - E-mail: luigimariomalerba (at) gmail.com

NW
Hi Luigi,
The Trends UD-10 does have analogue output. But instead of the more usual pair of phono (RCA) sockets, it has a small stereo jack socket (probably to save space on the small case). Trends supply an adaptor that you plug into the UD-100 and then plug standard phono leads into that adaptor. Alternatively, you can use a special lead that will have two phono sockets at one end and a stereo jack plug at the other end.
I haven't heard the SuperPro DAC but would guess it is much the same as the Trends UD-100.
The UD-100 sounds good but I recently auditioned a more up-market USB DAC that is clearly better (that review should be published soon on TNT). But at the price, the Trends is a good way to find out if a USB DAC is for you. I personally prefer something like the Logitech SB3 for streaming music from a PC.
Regards,
Nick Whetstone

A little question about a tube and a chip
Hello Lucio,
I am one of your fans: I really enjoy reading the TNT site. Your audio reporting is really fun to read. =)
Perhaps many people have asked you this, but I hope you will not be too bored by this question and maybe you can send a short sentence or two in reply, and it will help me quite a bit. I am not as knowledgeable as you, and lack your experience with so many different types of good audio equipment.
I wanted to get into tubed audio. I was going to buy the EE MiniMax preamp along with EE's power amp after reading your review. Tube sound, but few of the disadvantages (no bass, rolled off highs) is what I got from your review, along with a decent price. Great!
Then, well I read more. I read about the T-amp. I read your reviews and I don't know how to place this wonder in relation to anything else, because you and many others think its just amazing. I think though something like a diyparadise Charlize 2 with a good powersupply would do the trick. But, the T-amp isn't a tube, and it doesn't sound like a tube, and maybe thats absoluetly okay, because maybe after the T-amp, it doesn't make sense to use tubes anymore. Except, for example, you said the EE tubes sound very neutral and are tubes that sound like tubes, but not so much. What do you think about using a tube-preamp with a T-amp? Does that make sense?
Can I ask you, what do you often listen to music on in your own livingroom? Do you use tube equipment? Or, do actually use a T-amp when you sit down and listen to Rage Against the Machine (I saw them, in concert, at the 2nd (or was it the third?) Lolapalooza in Illinois waaaaay back in the day!).
Thanks, for taking a second to give me your input. I really appreciate it. =)
Sincerely,
Christian - E-mail: xtian (at) devo.com

LC
Dear Christian,
new inexpensive Class D amps don't replace tube amps. They simply give quality/price ratio a whole new meaning. That said, nowadays you can buy better amps than the T-Amp, spending just a little bit more. The Trends Audio TA 10.1 is an option, for example, and so is the KingRex T20. These are integrated amps, there's no need to use a preamp unless you need to connect more than one source. Moreover, please consider the TA 10.1 doesn't sound like a tube amp, but is still incredibly smooth and even slightly warm (at the top end). Hence, if you're thinking you can't get a warm sound with a Class D amp... well, think again.
What's next? NuForce guys have just released a new inexpensive integrated amp, 12 watts per channel with a sub-200$ price tag. It has just arrived at my door (review soon). If you use fairly sensitive speakers...you should take these amps into serious account.
Finally, it doesn't really matter what I use at home. I owned almost every kind of amplification, from Mark Levinson to Naim, Audio Research, tube or solid state, whatever. Actually, I use many different amps, just for reviewing purposes. At the moment my speakers are connected, alternatively, to a Trends Audio TA 10.1, a pair of REF9 SE V2 power amps from NuForce, a tube integrated amplifier with a push-pull of EL84's, plus various preamps.
What you really need is a listening test, so to be able to understand which is the sound you are looking for.
Keep me updated,
Lucio Cadeddu

Snake oil
Hi Lucio,
We all know snake oil salesmen are active in the HiFi industry, but what about this one.
Seen on Ebay an advert for a 13 amp plug FUSE to improve your system. It seems the end caps are silver plated !!! How much ? 39.99 plus postage----EACH
Do you think they will sound better than my 10 for 1 fuses that I currently use in my plugs?
I don't know the Italian expression for it, but as they say here, there's one born every minute!
Alan - E-mail: Ag250449 (at) aol.com

LC
Dear Alan,
unfortunately (huh???) I've haven't found the time to listen to these wonders yet. I'm quite convinced everything on a highly transparent HiFi system can be heard, for better or for worse. Fuses can make a difference? Maybe yes. Frankly, I prefer to spend my spare time in more entertaining activities than listening to fuses. Products exist because there are people who need them. And buy them. Otherwise they would cease to exist. My advice is: if the manufacturer gives you a full money-back guarantee, try 'em. At least you'll have good reasons to support your skepticism :-)
Keep me upated,
Lucio Cadeddu

Subwoofers?
Ciao Lucio,
as you may remember, I am following your website since four or five years ago (can't remember myself :-) )
Although I do have a home cinema (as an appendix to my plain stereo setup), I do share most of your points regarding 2 channel stereo (I would call it like that, since "real stereo" is a difficult definition).
Anway, right to the point... I would find interesting that you further explore the music reproduction using subwoofers and bookshelf speakers together, for a full-range reproduction. I have gone quite deep in the use of subwoofers for stereo and home cinema use since few months ago, and arrived to the conclusion that the best loudspeaker solution is that of two monitor-sized speakers (reaching at least 60Hz (at) -3dB) plus one subwoofer, and that this will always perform better than two floorstanding speakers at almost any given price point (in cheapest systems, it is better to invest all in good bookshef speakers and sacrifice the lowest frequencies).
I have read three subwoofer reviews in your site, and I find them somewhat lacking (with all due respect). If you want to seriously consider the low-frequency reproduction, you will need to play around with positioning, phase and gain. And you'll probably need to use some sort of equalization to bring down few resonances.
I went through this myself, and I don't see how you can set up a subwoofer without a SPL meter, at least. I know that the TNT team has a lot of experience, but I can't believe that you are able to achieve a +-5dB response without measuring the frequency response. I have learnt that, in deep bass, the room is as important as the speaker. Thus, I am surprised about the test conditions described for the subwoofers.
Regarding how to optimally integrate a subwoofer in a stereo system http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=699165&highlight=behringer.
It sounds reasonably to me. I know purists will criticize the PEQ, but would you prefer an uneven frequency response? This perspective, after all, is nothing else but the "separates philosophy": using separate devices for specific tasks. If we have transports, DACs, preamps, power amps, tweeters and woofers... Why shouldn't we further split the frequency range? Just because they became (in)famous with the low-quality home cinema fever does not imply they are a bad idea.
Moreover, and a side note, they classify the "HT crowd" as people with tiny satellites and a boom box. Nothing to do with my HT system, and many others. The point is that, like in stereo, there are 5.1 cheap systems and expensive ones. People buying a cheap 5.1 system wouldn't buy a high-fidelity stereo system anyway (although the money would be better spent in a 2.0 system, I agree). Why should then all HT systems boom boxes with tiny satellites? I see a lot of prejudice there...
Don't take this as a destructive criticism, I just wanted to express my opinions and findings to make you think about it. And if I am wrong (I do not have your experience, after all), it will be interesting to read your arguments, as always :-)
By the way, I am right now listening "Rage against the machine", which I bought based on your review, and the low-frequency dynamics are impressive with my subwoofer SVS PB12plus. My Castle Richmond 7i speakers (and Cambridge Azur 640 amplifier, because the subwoofer is active) also benefit from it, since they are not under the load of low frequencies any more, and win in precision, dynamics and headroom.
It would be really interesting to see a test of a SVS SB12plus in TNT, but only if you really consider all of the above. Otherwise, you'll be mainly listening to your room modes.
Best regards,
Alberto - E-mail: alberto.cribeiro (at) googlemail.com

LC
Dear Alberto,
my main speakers system consists, more or less, of two satellites (big ones, though) and two massive subwoofers, stacked the ones above the others. Hence, in principle, I'm not against subwoofers. The problem is that setting up a good subwoofer and integrating it with a pair of bookshelf satellites is a tough task for anyone. And don't forget we're always lazy lads, getting lazier and lazier ;-)
This is the reason why we review few subwoofers. Also, consider that for the vast mojority of audiophiles setting up a pair of simple speakers is an already tough task...imagine the nightmare of installing a sub!!! And I'm not even mentioning the (lower) WAF factor and the cables proliferation...
Thanks for the input,
Lucio Cadeddu

Body and soul
I have the original vinyl version and it's exactly what you'd described. There were a few digitally mastered albums that sound superb on vinyl. Donald Fagen's Nightfly is one of them. As mentioned by Thomas I can understand how the remastered 1997 version sound like and just like most CDs nowadays it could have sounded compressed.
I am very selective with CD and vinyl that I have to purchase now. Majority of them are simply compressed. That's the reason why I still listen to all pre-90's vinyl and pre-95's CD. Loudness war is not new. If you'd listened to most singles of the 60's and 70's they were mostly compressed. Some Decca recordings cheated a little bit and Concorde Jazz too. However, their compression was not as obvious as today.
I also noticed that Body and Soul is direct to 2 tracks which is usually the best method of recording with minimum or zero mixing. One of the better albums in this aspect that I could think of is Michael Franks "Art for Tea". As for CD any album produced by Phil Ramone is really outstanding. The first two Peter Cincotti's album are prime example. Phil Ramone is really the man. In case you don't know the famous Getz/Gilberto featuring Antoni Carlos Jobim was recorded by Phil in 1963.
Happy listening and keep up the good work!
Thanks and best regards,
Daman - E-mail: damanhuri_k (at) yahoo.com

LC
Dear Daman,
thanks for the feedback. Just one minor correction: Joe Jackson's Body and Soul isn't entirely recorded "direct to 2 tracks". Only two songs had been picked up this way ("Be my number two" and "Loisaida", if memory serves me well). Nonetheless, this recording is amazing.
Happy listening and thanks for your suggestions,
Lucio Cadeddu

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