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Readers' Corner - December 2001

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Ground freak
Hello again,
and again I'm asking about ground loops and tweaks. I haven't yet tried installing the RFI-filter on my CD-player, but I've found some shielded mains cable from a German manufacturer called Appkabel (actually it's made for control systems, but it can handle up to 500V).
I'm still amazed at the results, mainly better stereo and HF. So I'm going nuts about this cable and I'm ready to frankenstein the rest of my system.
My question: most consumer amplifiers don't have their chassis connected to ground, is there any problem in doing that connection, it seems it would improve the ability of the case as a RFI, EMI shield.
Thank You for Your time
Cheers
André - E-mail: mafa@mail.telepac.pt

LC
Dear André,
a double insulation HiFi component should not benefit from having its chassis grounded. Sometimes this may be not true, but the results vary from one situation to another. I'd suggest using your control cable without ground connection, one never knows :-)
My warmest wishes and season greetings,
Lucio Cadeddu

Marantz humming
This site is awesome (I read during lunch breaks)!! I have made a few of your interconnects the latest being X-1.5 and X-3 and have found them an enjoyable experiment. I have purchased some WBT connectors for my final set of interconnects (X-1.3) between my cd player and amp and hope to finish them tomorrow.
I am also in the process of building a FleXy table (the stainless threaded rods are quite expensive but will be worth it). I tried the Bullet Spikes but don't have any good glue at present so they break easily!
I have one question, if you have any time to respond I would be most grateful otherwise thanks for the great site.

My integrated amplifier PM7000 Marantz makes a humming noise and at night it is most annoying. I have read form some sites this is due to the transformer, I have had a look at the transformer and it seems pretty well constructed i.e I can't tighten the laminations.
I have read about an AC Offset Phase Killer, what is this, how do I make or buy one (in New Zealand) and do you have any other ideas how to eliminate the hum?
I could take it to the shop but I suspect with all the noise and music they wouldn't hear the hum. What can the shop or Marantz do anyway?
In N.Z we have phase earth and neutral, I read you can try a dummy plug missing the earth to eliminate ground loops and hums but it doesn't work in this case (probably because the actual amp only has phase and neutral connected to the transformer anyway).
Is it normal to have an audible hum coming from the Amp?
Thanks again
Andrew Maclennan - E-mail: Andrew.Maclennan@chh.co.nz

LC
Dear Andrew,
the noise comes - almost certainly - from the power transformer. Here is what you can do:

  1. Reverse the polarity, that is rotate the plug of 180 degrees into the socket :-)
  2. Install a mains filter like the inexpensive one we suggest
  3. Insert large soft rubber washers between the power transformer and the chassis, then tighten the screws again.
It all this fails, ask your dealer or the Marantz service to replace the power transformer.
Hope this helps, keep me updated and please accept my warmest Season Greetings
Lucio Cadeddu

Subwoofer
I read your review on the Klipsch rf-3 but the reason I am contacting you is because I have just purchase a set of the Klipsch rf-5 along with a rc-3ii and the rs-3ii. I would like to know what would be a good subwoofer to use with these speakers.
I have a Velodyne ct-100 but I was told it's too small for the RF-5's. My receiver is a Yamaha rx-1000.
I heard that Klipsch sub's weren't that good? Can you please recommend a good sub for around $1000.00 or less?
Oh by the way, the RF-5's sound very good. I have a Sony scd-555es SACD hooked up to my system and I can't quit listening to my cd's.
Thanks,
Morris White - E-mail: mwhite2@peoplepc.com

LC
Dear Morris,
I see no reason why you should buy another subwoofer...the Velodyne CT-100 is an already good choice. I'm pretty sure you can get most "bang" for the buck upgrading your receiver with something more "audiophile"-oriented such as Rotel and NAD.
Or, if you don't want to sell the Yamaha, you can buy the Klipsch RP-series towers which already have a powerful built-in subwoofer.
Lucio Cadeddu

Linn Sondek LP 12
Hi Geoff,
I have been following your turntable reviews so far with interest. I noticed that you owned a LP12 before and also reviewed the CeTech VCS carbon fibre support.
I don't remember the old LP12 much but this modern LP12 is anything but coloured and there is no bass bloom and anyone who says the LP12 can't image is talking nonsense.
It sounds different from warm sounding which I can't stand, true it sounds like CD BUT the better aspects of digital like clarity and dynamic range.
What is your opinion based upon your past experience of the LP12: what impact the CeTech carbon fibre subchassis and carbon fibre armboard have on a modern up todate circused Lingo LP12 with EKOS tonearm.
Bearing in mind all I have said so far about the current LP12 being so close to digital ie clarity and dynamic range and no bass bloom. Can the tonal quality change and if so for the worst or how?
Thanks and keep up the good work I know I won't trade my LP12 in but your reviews are sure interesting.
Hokman - E-mail: linghm@hotmail.com

GH
Hi Hokman,
Thanks for the mail. Yes a few years back I had an LP12 Valhalla. It was pretty old but at the time I did love it :-)
It was a bit warm and cuddly and certainly didn't image like the Gyro that replaced it, but it made music. The later LP12's are much "drier" and more "mainstream" in their sound. In fact I hope to have an LP12 as one of the test turntables in which case I'll be able to give you a definitive answer.
As for the VCS stuff the support should work well, LP12's like light rigid supports which is what the VCS is. I can't really comment on the chassis/armboard. The LP12 is a mass of compromises that somehow exceed the sum of their parts. Messing with this may improve things or not, but will surely change the character.
If you're happy with your LP12 just leave it alone and buy more records :-)
Cheers,
Geoff Husband

NAD C350 or C370 for my Axiom's M50ti?
Hi sir,
I have actually two interesting offers for these two used amps. My question is: my listening room is about 16'x16'x9' and the speakers are placed near the stairs that go straight up to the second floor. The Axioms are floorstanders.
I'm sure that the NAD C350's 2x60w are enough for my needs but would the NAD C370 2x120w give me more sweet bass at the same sound level (in my car, it's in fact the way it goes...).

Second and last question, which source would sound best: Marantz CD6000 OSE or NAD C541?
Thanks for the time! My first near-audiophile budget system will be complete!
Christian Savoie - E-mail: christian.savoie@bell-nordic.com

LC
Dear Christian,
I think you can buy the C350 and live happy with it, especially considering your speakers are rated at 95 dB/w/m. As for CD player, though a PERSONAL evaluation should ALWAYS be perfomed, I'd suggest the NAD C541, a bit smoother than the Marantz CD 6000.
Anyway, you personal taste rules here, considering the two players both are very good buys.
Hope this helps,
Lucio Cadeddu

CD player to complement existing analogue set up
Hi Lucio
I am considering of finally getting a digital set up to complement my analogue set up. So far I have not been able to find anything remotely matching my current set up: Lingo'd LP12 EKOS Denon DL304 with Kinshaw 2 box perception Phonostage
I have heard the LINN CD12 and in love with it (No it is not quite as good as the LP12 but almost there at 99%.
However I have fallen out of love with it when I realised that I would not be able to afford this 12,000 !!!!!!! I have never heard the following but would appreciate your comments on them.
Linn Ikemi, Densen CD player (its had mixed reviews but I did not like the sound of the Densen amps they were too BIG and warm sounding and too rounded ie like all the fine nuances had been glossed over in some form of musical interpretation!
The Densen CD player seems to favour the Nordost Valhalla interconect which I love but unfortunately is the wrong side of 2000 !!!!!!
I understand Densen is one of those quirky companies ie likes to place sound over profits explains why their equipment is over the projected price and late in coming out. ANY PLANS TO REVIEW ANY DENSEN EQUIPMENT INCLUDING THIS CD PLAYER?
Would the NorthStar DAC 24/196 be needed with either the Linn Ikemi or the Densen CD player?
Many thanks
Keep up the good work with the site.
Hokman - E-mail: linghm@hotmail.com

LC
Dear Hokman,
the Linn Ikemi has been tested here on TNT-Audio. We've never reviewed Densen stuff (except the Densen DeMagic disc) though once I had a chat with one of the guys up there (Denmark). He somehow promised samples for reviews but we've seen nothing. Anyway, have you considered a second-hand Linn Karik + Numerik combo? It sounded pretty close to the LP12 those days.
I'd give it a try, it can be found rather cheap now.
Lucio Cadeddu

Building a new budget system
Dear Lucio,
I'm a Hi-Fi beginner on a budget looking for an integrated amplifier or a receiver. I would use it mainly to listen to stereo. What to choose among an used Nakamichi AV-1 (great bargain at 275 US$) or demo Cambridge Audio A500, NAD C350 and Rotel RA-931 mk-II ??? I have 350 US$ to spend.
My source will probably be a NAD C350 or Cambridge Audio D500 with B&W 602 S2 speakers (or Tannoy MX2 or Monitor Audio Bronze 2). Am I building something good?
Thanks for your advice
Regards,
Christian - E-mail: christian.savoie@bell-nordic.com

LC
Dear Christian,
among those you cited I'd choose either the NAD C350 or the Rotel 931 (the first one being somehow warmer). As for speakers, I'd prefer Tannoy MX2's or Monitor Audio's. Of course, you need to test listen the combos.
For example, I'd avoid the Cambridge A 500 partnered to the B&W 602's. A friend of mine had that combo (with Cambridge D500 as source) and was quite unsatisfied with the final result.
Changing the amp with an old Rotel 920 AX produced a huge improvement.
Of course, it mainly depends on your personal taste (and room acoustics), I normally hate bright systems and prefer warm ones as normally I listen to (loud) Music for hours and hours and don't like to see my ears bleed :-)
Lucio Cadeddu

Upgraditis II
Hi Lucio,
My current setup is as follows:

I listen to a variety of music but mostly Rock/Pop, ranging from Neil Finn, Natalie Merchant, Heather Nova, Jewel to The Blue Nile, U2, Prince, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Springsteen, ColdPlay, Travis etc. although I also listen to Spanish music such as Ketama, Jarabe de Palo and also the likes of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
As I tend to move from house to house every year or so I can't use the type of room as a reference but usually I listen to music in an average sized living room. I have a budget of 3000-3500 UK Pounds for an upgraded CD player, amp and speakers.
I intend to buy each item separately over the next 9 months or so, preferably beginning with the CD player as it is the weakest link in my current system.
There seems to be a huge number of cd players in this price range that are highly rated e.g. Linn Genki, Naim CD5, Roksan Caspian, Cyrus CD7, Musical Fidelity A3, Meridian 506.24, Marantz CD-17 KI.
Which subset of these should I audition as trying such a large number is more likely to confuse me further than anything else. Also, should I consider an SACD player such as the Sony SCD-XA333ES which supposedly sounds wonderful with SACD and CD playback?
I would appreciate any advice you can offer.
Thanks
Denis Carlin - E-mail: denis.carlin@astrium-space.com

LC
Dear Denis,
first of all, forget SACD and all the hype surrounding it. CD is here to stay for the years to come (remember what happened to vinyl?). They declared it dead 20 years ago and now it's born again (and lively as before!).
CD players: among the cited ones I'd audition the Naim CD5, Linn Genki and Meridian 506.24. Also, do not forget to have a look at the second-hand market. There you can find super-duper hi-end stuff at prices that you have always dreamed of. I'm referring to used Naim's and Linn players, for example.
New amp: I supposing you're looking for Home Theater stuff. Well, I'd choose a preamp-decoder coupled with a 5 channels power amp. Rotel makes some nice devices, for example.
As for loudspeakers, search no further than the KEF catalogue...there's plenty of excellent stuff to choose from (since you already appreciate KEF sound).
Keep me updated,
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT Akropolis
[TNT Stones]

Well, your idea is good and I have thougt about the same from time to time. But I found the idea a bit too alternative and also too expensive, in Denmark at least. Instead I use building stones from the local house-equipmentcenter. They are made of gasbeton (?) that is a light cement and is normally used for fast and cheap housebuilding. I actually found my stones as leftovers from some buildingproject. Painted white they are as high tech as anything: 100 cm tall, 20cmX15cm formed like a box.

P.S. In case you wonder: the speakers are from Audio-Technologi (Skaaning) in DK, amp is 5 watt Zen set tube from Decware.com, cd is Tjoeb '99 from NL. Almost unbeatable at the price.
Best wishes,
Ole Thofte - E-mail: ole.thofte@tdcadsl.dk



LC
Dear Ole,
thanks for the suggestion. I still prefer my odd-looking Akropolis :-) but I understand they are not always welcomed into any living room :-)
Stay tuned as even your suggestion may be published into our next-to-come DIY site, just drop us an e-mail when it will be launched.
Thanks!
Lucio Cadeddu

Upgraditis
Hi,
I just wanted to say how I love this audio site, I have it bookmarked and its the first site I visit each Monday to see what new gear has been tested.

I also like a lot of others cannot afford to buy new gear, well not for a year or so. I love the reviews on older grear that is affordable for us poorer audiophiles. I used to use a Sansui pre amp into a Quad 405 power amp, with a highly modified Akai turntable and Grado cartrige. Plus home made and designed three way speakers. That was 30 years ago.
I now use a Nad 3240 which I love the sound of and a Hitachi DVD, which I hope to replace with a dedicated cd player. Plus Locally made Studio Monitors that are 30 years old. As I get some more cash to spend, not easy with 5 kids, a wife and two cats, what do you think I should upgrade first?
Colin R Hopper - E-mail: colnmary@ihug.co.nz

LC
Dear Colin,
first of all, congratulations on the 5 kids! I am envious, I've just upgraded from 0 to 1 :-)
As I do not know the speakers you use it is hard for me to guess how good or bad are they. So I'd suggest to buy a dedicated CD player instead and build some of our cost-free DIY cables (power, interconnects and...mains!). Secondly, think at the speakers. They can be good but - perhaps - they do need some servicing, considering they are 30 years old :-)
The second hand market is full of not-to-miss good deals since - you know - audiophiles change loudspeakers very often ;-)
In any case, just keep me updated (and kiss the kids)
Lucio Cadeddu

Cabasse cables
Geoff,
Just read your v. interesting abd detailed review of Dynavector XX-2 and DRT. Then I noted you're using Cabasse speaker cable, which is the reason for my message. Can you tell me which model cable and approximate street prices? Available through whom? I know Cabasse speakers thanks to a friend and have been impressed, and I need to grade up my own speaker cables.
I noted in your review also that you're sensibly aware of price factor and value. In this regard, how would you place the Cabasse against some of the "elite" cable players such as Nordost and Cardas, etc? Anyway, if you do have a moment, your input would be much appreciated.
Regards from here,
Ernie - E-mail: emc@ytv.home.ne.jp

GH
Hi Ernie,
I'm going to be unpopular here...

The Cabasse cable I used was supplied free with all Cabasse speakers up until two years ago - why did they stop? Dealers didn't like it as it stopped them selling expensive cable... It was a generic clear plastic sheathed figure-of-8 multistrand. You should be able to buy much the same for $1 a metre...
But it was a good tonal match with the Cabasses which can sound pushy and forward if given the chance.

I recently took delivery of a pair of Loth-x Polaris horns, the same as I'd tested last year. They sounded dreadful, nothing like I remembered, very forward and shouty in the upper midband. So I went back step-by-step to the system I was using for the test. The culpret? I was using some expensive cable on test that had proved excellent with my old transmission lines, very smooth and detailed. I swapped this for my old FFRC home made CAT5 based cable (@1m) - voila!
Transformation... Not a slight tonal shift but a complete rearrangement of balance, more bass, less exposed midband, smooth treble etc now I had the sound I'd paid for (thank heaven...). Now FFRC is often cited as being bright and the cable I had been using "smooth", but with the Polaris the FFRC did the opposite. I suspect the "designer" cable may have screwed phase and that the Polaris (no crossover, single driver etc) exposed this horribly, the effect was certainly much like running the speakers out of phase...

The point is that a speaker cable may sound wonderful with one speaker, and justify a large outlay, and fall utterly flat with another speaker - the FFRC sounded dreadful with the Cabasse. Thus buying expensive cable blind is "Russian Roulette" and can easily destroy the balance of a system.
There are of course two options. The first is to borrow different cables and see what works before laying out the cash, and pit each against something really cheap. The second, and by far the best, is to make up your own from one of the many recipies on TNT or the net. Some may well sound dreadful but others sing.
So no I can't recommend a speaker cable, what works here may not elsewhere, but I can recommend you play with some wire :-)
Start with FFRC and work up from there.
Keep me posted
Geoff Husband

Audio Enigma
Greetings, Lucio-Mr-TNT!
Alright, here is a topic that has been on my mind (and has been bugging me) for a good length of time already. I had discussed the topic with a local audiophile via his site forum page. Instead of explaining, here is a copy of what I wrote about...And I'd really like to know your own views or advice on this...

I am facing an audio mystery/ enigma now. Let's just say, I want to make my CD transport sound better than it already does. First, I'll explain...
I have 2 sound systems - my main one in the bedroom - and the old system for the computer. I'll just tell you what they consist of - for the bedroom system - it's a Pioneer 802 transport; Vanden Hul Optocupler optical cable; Music Fidelity 24K D/A converter; Audiolab 8000s integrated amp; Chord Company speaker cables (can't remember the name - it's copper and silver-plated, doubled-guage) and DynAudio Audience 40 speakers (mounted on really heavy, unfilled, local-made, metal stands). The sound? As close as it is to the way I like it, ideally - neutral, just dry enough, just warm enough, with an out-of-the-box sound.
And the computer system? I found out the CD drive is by Goldstar (don't ask me to name the model, for I'm hopeless at computer hardware!). The amp is a Rotel 960 integrated, the speakers are Wharfedale Diamond IV and the cables are from Chord Company. The sound? Amazing - too good, actually, for a computer set-up!

What on earth had been bugging me? Well, having listened to the computer set-up for many, many hours, I was mystified at how well it sounded. I even used my Audiolab with the computer set-up - only to be amazed even more - the veil lifted and the sound got cut up really lean!
When I finally succumbed to trying the computer CD drive with my bedroom set-up - the rules changed completely! In this case, I was reminded that you do get what you pay for (not always, but true in this case) - the Goldstar was simply no match for the Pioneer/ Music Fidelity combination.
The Goldstar put up a good fight though. I mean, it's unbelievable how a computer CD drive can give so much detail and squeeky-clean sound (and vocals have a very likeable smoothness). But when it comes to soundstage, believable scale, believable texture and holographic sound - of course, you have to be realistic and lookelsewhere - like the Pioneer/ Music Fidelity combination.

So why my long story? Well, I figure you know a lot more than I do, so I am very curious about your opinion. Why do you think computer CD drives can sound so darn good?! I mean, when I tried it with my Audiolab and Wharfedales, I was upset - I thought, darn, I spent more than three grand on my bedroom system and yet I can be blown away by a humble, old set-up!

Now, my next point...I had heard about upgrading the clocking in CD players, which is supposed to be an even better improvement than just a D/A converter upgrade. Do you think that's what's missing in my current system. Is that what's preventing me from getting the very most out of my set-up (which I already enjoy a lot)?

Also, I've been considering going into deejay CD equipment. I know, it doesn't sound like audiophile stuff, but I'd like some unprejudiced wisdom, if you may...If I'm looking into deejay CD stuff, such as those double CD players (with variable speed and other dj thrills), do you think I am doing myself justice - do you think I can get a great-sounding set if I look in the right places - or do you think it's an absolute waste of audio money?
My criteria - the dj thrills with the best possible sound. I would be grateful for your help with this topic.
Thanks in advance, Lucio!
Cheers and bon appetite on the listening couch!
Ian Nihal Seneviratne - E-mail: xsfan@pacific.net.sg

LC
Dear Ian,
CD transports make little differences when compared with DAC upgrades. That's my humble experience. For this reason you shouldn't be too surprised by the result. The difference between a good transport and a cheap one is manily based on the soundstage, almost inexistent on cheap transports. Don't ask me why as I do not know exactly. Perhaps it has to do with errors in the time domain (jitter and the like).
You can change the clock on your Pioneer transport but, to fully enjoy what that Stable Platter (right?) can give you... you should use a coaxial (electrical) output. Toslink sucks. Why is it so? Again, perhaps of timing errors. Also, using the toslink optical output you force the digital stream into two electrical/optical conversions.
This is not science, of course (so keep the flames at home, pls), just a mere trial to explain a well known fact (coaxial sounds better than optical).
If your transport doesn't sport a coaxial output...well, there's nothing much left to say. You can "tweak" and dampen the cabinet, use damping feet etc hoping to improve the sound a little bit.
As for DJ stuff, it's definitely out of my reach, I'm sorry I can't give you any kind of advice.
Hope this helps,
Lucio Cadeddu

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