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Readers' Corner - December 2000

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Upsampling and other tweakery
Dear Lucio,
Recently my upgrades have been concentrated around the front end of my system. There's also been an increase in articles and products that have to do with room correction and upsampling.
It seems to me that this is probably the way to go for those of us who already have heaps of regular 44.1/16 CD's. Most of the equipment used to achieve this is still ridiculously expensive (Tact, dCS etc).
However, my attention was caught in a Danish hi-fi mag by an ad for some very exciting gear from Perpetual Technologies. This included a Digital Correction Engine (!) and a DAC with built in upsampling to 96/24. If we are to believe the reports, the DAC alone is able to compete with gear ten times it's asking price. This sounds pretty incredible.
I'm sure you're aware of these products and I was wondering whether you or any of your gifted associates intend to test them? Before I found out about these units, I'd planned to install LC Audios "LClockXO" and "Zap filter" in my Sony CDP-X5000 CD player.
If I go ahead and buy the DAC (which I am on the verge of doing) would there still be any point in going ahead with the clock/zap tweak?
Keep up the excellent work!
Warm regards
Bob Hoggett - E-mail: bobwbs@hotmail.com

Dear Bob,
a new DAC seems the way to go, in your situation. The Perpetual Technologies gear seems very interesting (even considering the rave reviews written by some of our distinguished colleagues of other online mags) and we'd LOVE to test it. There are other DACs with upsamplers 24/96 included: the new Lehmann DAC and the NorthStar Model 3 + Model 4 combo we have 'em under test), for example. Anyway, considering the down-to-earth price of the Perpetual DAC, it may well deserve a listening test (Northstar and Lehmann are going to be reviewed by yours truly anytime soon).
With the new DAC you won't need to reclock or perform other tweaks, at least for the first months :-) So throw a ear at the mentioned DAC and let us know your findings.
Finally, if the guys at Perpetual Technologies are interested to make us test their stuff, we're ready anytime. Just drop an e-mail into our mailbox.
Lucio Cadeddu

New loudspeakers?
Congratulations on a great website. I tried the cheap antistatic spray tweak last night and discovered fine detail at the HF on the 2 CDs I "treated". Thanks for the tip.

I've recently ventured into the heady world of mid-end hifi after the CDP of my late 80's vintage Kenwood midi system gave up the ghost. At this stage I can't claim to have an educated ear as I can get little tutelage here in Macau.
Audio shops here are only interested in making sales and proffer questionable "advice". So I've had to rely on hifi publications and attending live performances.

Although I am satisfied with the sound my new kit (I listen to classical, jazz and pop), I wish to better it. The choices are to either one or a combination of the following: 1) get a new set of speakers such as the Mission 753 Freedom Signature or KEF Concerto, 2) upgrade my CD player to say a NAD S500, 3) get an external DAC such as the MSB LinkII, 4) get power cords (MIT Z-Cord) and interconnects (DH Labs B-1 or Kimber Silver Streak). Any suggestions?

My system comprises of: Marantz CD6000OSE, Monster Interlink 250, NAD S300, Oehlbach Rattle Snake 3 speaker cables, KEF Coda 10 (on spikes coupled with Lovan footers on parquet floor), Audio Power Power Pack IIp, Mk3 BDR Pyramid Cones under the source.
My listening area is my apartment living room area (open to the dining area), approximately 12'H X 25'L X 30'W.
Looking forward to hearing your recommendation. Best regards.
Alfred Ogle - E-mail: aogle@ift.edu.mo

Dear Alfred,
given the rest of your set-up is way better than the speakers you use now, it should be logical to upgrade the speakers. The Kef Concerto series sound like a clever choice. Consider also something from Monitor Audio and Tannoy. Then consider building some DIY cable (like the ones we propose) just to see if the ones you have now can be improved or not :-)
Just another thought: given the source and the amp are pretty good, I'd prefer to save some extra cash for better loudspeakers. The Concerto are just slightly "above" the Coda. Perhaps it is better to wait for a more consistent "upgrade". Up to you to decide.
Lucio Cadeddu

Lehmann Black Cube Review
Hi Luccio,
I was reading your review of the Black Cube Phono Preamp and I could not find the asociated equipment for the review, specially cartridge, turntable and tonearm. In the Audioasylum the opinions are so divergent that I was thinking that the Black Cube might be very sensible to cartridge turntable and tonearm sinergy.
Derek Irving - E-mail: dirving@pancanal.com

Dear Derrek :-),
first of all my name is Lucio, one "C" is enough, thanks :-))))
As for the Black Cube and divergent opinions...well, audiophiles always have divergent opinions. I've tested the Black Cube with oh sooo many turntables/arms/carts/ that I can almost swear by its sound as I've reported it in that review. And it is impossible the Cube as a phono preamp to be sensible to turntable and carts. After all, the Black Cube is multi-adjustable to fit almost ANY cart made on Earth.
So don't worry, if you have the chance to throw a ear at the BC, go and listen to it, you won't be disappointed. After all, it is not a surprise ALL the professional reviewers that have judged it agree on the character of its sound.
Lucio Cadeddu

Totem Acoustics - Beaks Tweaks :-)
Dear Lucio,
Thank you for a truely great audio site. I enjoy trying out your tweeks and have built several of them. In appreciation I would like to pass-on a very cheap and useful tweek I developed.

My system is comprised of a Marantz 67SE which has been treated as per your suggested mechanical tweeks, an Aronov LS-9000 valve preamp feeding an Aronov LS-960 power amp (www.aronovaudio.com) and home made ME2 speakers - these are the standmount monitor versions of Lynn Olson's famous Ariel speakers - all interconnects are teflon insulated, pure silver conductors inspired by Max Rochlin's Belden based twisted pairs.
The speaker manufacturer "Totem Acoustics" produces an accessory called a "Beak". Their site gives all the usual info on this accessory and it is not cheap.

One day I was in the local hardware store and noticed a little item called a "plumb bob" (this is a brass cone shaped weight that is attached to a string which is used to determine a vertical line in building). It occured to me that they may work like the "Beak" so I bought 2 for AUD$5.
When I placed them on top of the speakers they had an obvious perceived effect on focus, depth and width of the soundstage. When placed on the near/inside corner the focus was tightened substantially. When placed on the near/outside corner, the soundstage widened dramatically. When placed on the rear/outside corner the depth increased, though this was not as obvious as the two front positions.

You know how it is when you make these adjustments to your system; you hope they will improve the sound and perhaps it is easy to fool yourself. You ask your wife for her opinion and not wishing to upset you after your work, she responds "that's much better darling".
I recently had a musician friend over for him to play a CD he had recently made, basically "blues". Another friend who is a very accomplished classical violinist was there as well. Both these people have a very good "ear" as you would expect and both heard these effects VERY obviously. I didn't tell them what I was doing, just placed the cones on the speakers and waited for their responses.

This tweek is so cheap and in my system was such an improvement, you just have to try it for yourself. I haven't tried this tweek with different size cones, nor have I tried building them out of different materials yet so this may be very fertile soil for further experimentation.
Keep up the great work.
Rob Turkington - E-mail: rdturk@ihug.com.au

Dear Rob,
what a coincidence! I was trying to "clonate" that Totem accessory since it is more than a simple cone. It is the inside of the "Beak" which seems interesting, perhaps a resonance-tuned cavity or something like that. Anyway, since your tweak seems to work, I can't help but suggest everyone to try it at home!
Thanks and congrats!
Lucio Cadeddu

On soft damping feet for loudspeakers
Read your review of the SD damping feet with interest. I'll share something with you realizing this may work for my system but not the same for everybody.
I have my Newform Research r8-2's sitting on marbles in the vibrapod cups. The speakers ride on the marbles.
The Vibrapods sit on three granite tiles on a floating, wood floor. Now for something really weird. I just changed the small marbles for a catseye size marble and these work even better.
The clarity, bass slam and growl and lower midrange openness were all noticeably improved. For some reason the marbles in the Vibrapods can work very well in certain applications. All the best season's greetings and continued success.
Lloyd Smith - E-mail: lloyd.smith@ns.sympatico.ca

Dear Lucio,
I was interested to read your test of the SD feet - I had in fact come across them last week on the Web and intend to purchase some for my floorstanding speakers!

I must say that I accept the technical information that SD put forward about the use of spikes on a wooden floor and can see that under certain types of floor, resonance's cause a major problem.
I put my Spectral Dynamics (similar to Sorbothane) feet under my new floorstanders over a month ago having used them for while on my old floorstanders.

I have been using Nordost Pulsar points under my floorstanders which have a large granite plinth under them (not unlike the one used for some Sonus Faber speakers). However, having moved to the soft feet, I am overall hearing much better overall sound quality.
Yes, you could say that the dynamics have been reduced (but only very slightly), but it is difficult to say which is the more natural sound - you could argue that the dynamics are now more natural with the soft feet than with the speakers "connected" to my hardwood floor.
The biggest difference with soft feet is the lack of "hash" you get by removing the spiked feet - the music is much more sweet and listening is less fatiguing over long periods. Imaging is better now and although it is not needed, the volume can be raised higher without the room joining in!

I do not know if you use speakers mainly on solid floors, but I can say that for suspended wooden floors, the soft feet are far preferable. Probably having the granite under the speakers help provide some inertia so that the dynamics are not reduced.
So, I would echo your comments about personal auditioning of these things and say that under some circumstances, soft feet are good for floorstanders. A simple test is to rap hard on top of the cabinet of one speaker, alternating with the spikes then the soft feet - with mine you can hear the floor resonance when the spikes are in place, but nothing with the soft feet.
With my regards and many thanks for the great web site - keep it up!
Jonathan Dunham - E-mail: dunham@ukf.net

Dear Lloyd and Jon,
one thing is for sure: any HiFi accessory works WITHIN prescribed conditions. I mean, there's no accessory that works well under any circumstance. So, soft feet under floorstanders could be certainly beneficial on wood suspended floors, since these tend to vibrate. But the problem remains: if you suspend a moving mass (by means of soft feet, for example) the action/reaction principle will make it oscillate (back and forth).
On suspended floors this may already happen even without soft feet, considering the nature of the floor itself. So a solution could be the one suggested: use marble slabs under the 'speakers, so to simulate a solid floor.
The bottom line is always the same: try and judge by ear.
Thanks for the precious feedback and encouragement,
Lucio Cadeddu

Mission amps
I was just reading your overview on buying an amp. You mention that you like the Cyrus amps, but don't say a whole lot about specifically why you like them. The only sonic description I see is that it has a slightly bright presentation.
How does the Cyrus II (have you used it with the PSX power supply?) fall short with respect to what you feel are true hi-fi amps?
Jeff Bellin - E-mail: JB1259@aol.com

Hi Jeff,
for the money the Cyrus take a lot of beating from a sound point of view. Their presentation is a little bass light, dry and bright.
Easy to solve with the right partnering equipment or ideal for certain taste's/rooms. On the plus side they have tremendous detail and speed, very hi-fi which is a double edged sword. The output of the 1 is a bit weedy, the 2 better and with the PSX it gains weight and substance. The 2 also has a pretty good phono stage. Second hand they're a good buy.
They are true hi-fi amps but obviously have a character as above. Compared to much more expensive stuff, especially valves they do sound artificial lacking warmth and tone of real instruments.
If you are looking at that price range second hand I'd still recommend busting the budget and waiting for a Naim pair to come up, it will put off amp upgrades for a long time.

I'm often asked what you get by spending more and it's hard to be general about it. The best way I can describe it is if you imagine music as a picture. Cheap hi-fi can give a very acceptable reproduction. As you pay more the picture becomes clearer, colours more natural, it gains a third dimension.
Sometimes a big jump will seem as if the whole thing has snapped into focus but there is always more to come, better tonal shading, resolution, texture, depth etc.
Some amps err on the side of being like a picture with grain clearly visable (like the Missions) others will be soft focus (some valve amps). But nothing is neutral, some may be technicolour, some like an electron microscope.
Anyway I think I've milked the analogy enough...
Geoff Husband

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