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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January 2005

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TNT Stoneblocks and FleXy
Hi,
Just two short questions.

  1. Why is it told in the FleXy FAQ that it's not good for a turntable? Is a "Sandblaster" on the given shelf fixing the problem?
  2. Are the Stoneblocks a good solution for a turntable? Does a combination of all of the above mentioned make sense?
Regards,
Miklos - E-mail: miklos.szaloczy@satchwell.hu

LC
Dear Miklos,
certainly a TNT Sandblaster will be quite useful under a turntable, even with a TNT FleXy rack. If you use the Sandblaster there's no need to use Stoneblocks, though.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

T-Amp questions
Dear Lucio,
I will make it short. Regarding the Sonic Impact T-Amp, why do you prefer a AC solution? Does it really sound better than the battery. I think using battery is an excellent solution to avoid all the problems comming from the mains...
Beyond, have you already tried a high quality tube preamp in use with the Sonic Impact? That would be very interessting to know!
Many thanks in advance. Best regards,
Markus - E-mail: markus.weinert (at) gmx.de

LC
Dear Markus,
the alkaline batteries I used proved to be largely insufficient to cope with the dynamic demands (read: current) of the T-Amp. An AC adapter made the small amplifier fly, literally. Perhaps there exist different batteries that can make it sound better, I don't know, never tested these.
As for preamps to go with the T-Amp: at the moment I'm testing it as a pure integrated amp. After all, the cheap volume pot proves to be of excellent quality: perfect tracking, channel balance even at low levels etc.
All the best,
Lucio Cadeddu

T-Amp Review - Great!
Lucio: I've read your reviews with interest for a number of years. Thanks for the great review of this wonder.
So far, I've modded two of these with increased capacitance (Panasonic FC and Rubycon ZL), real RCA's and speaker binding posts, high-end wire going direct from the RCA inputs to an Alps Blue. I've run them from a SLA battery (better than any external power supply I tried). The T-Amp has retired my modded Panasonic XR50, which retired a Berning microZOTL and a 300B, which were fed by a Transcendent Sound Grounded Grid pre. I use it to drive Lowther ML TL's.
I think the various new Tripath amps are only the first of a series of revolutionary inexpensive high-end amps.
Regards,
Larry - E-mail: lownyc (at) earthlink.net

LC
Dear Larry,
thanks for the precious feedback! At least I'm sure I'm not the only madman out there :-)
This little thing ROCKS. And it will cause a stir, no doubt. Perhaps it will give new "fuel" to other Class D amplifiers.
All the best,
Lucio Cadeddu

A little help with a DAC upgrade
Ciao Lucio,
Would you be kind enough to help me with an audio upgrade (maybe) tip?
Today I got and Denon DV-2900 as transport, an Audio Alchemy DDE 3.0 + DTI Pro DAC on my stereo system (plus a Rotel 971 MK2 Integrated amp and a pair of Acoustic Energy Evo1 + a pair of B&W cdm 7 nt, that alternates in my audio system).
Since I'm always "on a budget" I got an offer of a Wadia X32 DAC and since I could not find a single review of this fellow on the NET, but some recommendations of it here on TNT, I would like to ask you if this could be really an upgrade, since the Alchemy's are really good hardware for the money they cost this days.
Any tip, coming from you guys would be really appreciated.
Regards,
Mauricio - E-mail: mvasconcelos (at) mpc.com.br

LC
Dear Mauricio,
I think the Wadia X32 could be a possible, though not vast, upgrade in your system. Instead, I'd plan to upgrade the integrated amp, first, since the Audio Alchemy's are still very good components. Since with the money necessary for the X32 (500$?) you can't buy anything significative, you'd better wait for a more consistent budget to invest in a better amplifier.
All the best,
Lucio Cadeddu

Wire wrap
I have been an keen reader of TNT for a while. Anyway have been trying out various home build interconnects. Anyway have been trying to get the Maplin wire-wrap silver plated copper wire that is repeated mentioned. It appear to no longer be available and so I looked on RS and bough the only silver plated wire-wrap cable they sell. The trouble is that it is 30 AWG is this too thin and if it is where can I get something similar to the stuff you describe.

Anyway the issue I have is that in the cable resource page the wire is described as such:- The 7 X 4 Cable is about 15.5 Gauge while the 7 X 7 Cable is about 12.5 Gauge. Practicality dictates to use such Cable only for short Distances. I also use this wire for my X-1.5 and 3.0 Interconnects and I.e. either 15.5 gauge or 12.5 gauge. However in the actual DIY article the wire is described as 30 AWG. Anyway I made the cable with 30 AWG and all seems well.
For those interested RS sells the stuff for 3.70 for 50M plus vat. Part numbers are as follows:
Blue 209-4805
Red 209-4811
White 209-4827
Green 209-4833
Black 209-4849
The stuff is rated as 150V r.m.s., 0.4A and is described as Single 025 mm (30 a.w.g.) silver-plated copper solid conductor with Kynar(tm) insulation. The cable sounds very good to me, if a touch bright though it hasn't been run in as yet.
I think it might be a good time to re write some of the Cable DIY stuff since most of the parts have either changed or are unavailable. They are useful but as they stand need a fair bit of work to find the current equivalents. Obviously the techniques are applicable. Also having a few more pictures would help.

On a totally different note I have currently the following as a system. Arcam Alpha 5+, NAD C350 amp, KEF Concerto 1 floor standers. My secondary main source is a Project 1.2 with a Shure M95 E cartridge running through a NAD PP2 into the Amp. Interconnects are all hand made using various techniques mainly taken from TNT. The Speaker are bi-wired, currently with some reasonable multicore wire. I also built a simple Mains Filter based on this article http://www.triode-systems.com/diy_filter_easy.htm which has proved a great upgrade, better than any interconnect for example.
Mine main question would be what would be the best way to improve overall sound quality as a next step. On one hand I was think of going for a source based approach, the Arcam which I picked up for free (broken but a very easy fix) is very tweakable and was thinking about buying a www.net-audio.co.uk rockclock with PSU and fitting that. And maybe on the turntable either trying a rewire of the arm with wire wrap and new interconnect cable.
The other way would probably involve changing speakers, not sure if the KEFs are all that good. They sound much better now than when new but as I tweak and tweak the rest of my system I am wondering if they are a limiting factor. Also I love my NAD but sonically it doesn't seem that much of an up grade from the Pioneer A300X I had before. Should I have spent more money on amplification?
Sorry for all the questions.
Phil - E-mail: phil_h (at) passion-pictures.com

LC
Dear Phil,
I agree with you. Some DIY articles may need re-writing and some pics should be added as well. Unfortunately, the original author of the articles you cite is no longer with us so re-writing can be a trouble. Also, we are focusing our efforts on new articles rather than on rewriting/updating old ones. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that difference in gauge you mention can't make a huge difference in terms of sound quality.
With respect to your system, you can considering sending your Arcam A5+ to Avondale Audio in UK. A review of a modified Arcam 5 is scheduled for next week, so hold on. The mod literally transforms that player.
Changing speakers could be a major upgrade, though, especially if you consider high sensitivity models...paired with the incredible Sonic Impact T-Amp we've just reviewed :-)
Stay tuned!
Lucio Cadeddu

Pathos Classic One
Lucio,
first of all thank you for only sharing your enthusiasm and passion to people like me who are just beginners in the High End Hi Fi world - you just make our like easier to learn.
I am looking for my first audio set and I've been following some of your advices for 2nd hand material. I have today a micro hi fi cd player (a denon DM50) and now want to have a nice sound for my pleasure - my budget is 2000 .
I am actuallly looking for a warm sound as per my music choice, my room is quite large (50 m2) and really have still nothing clear on where to go.
I must say that i found on the web some nice 2nd hand products, Sonus Faber Concerto and Concertino which only received good feedback on test but still have no clew on what to combine with.
My dream amp is the Pathos Classic One, maybe coming from all my years in Italy and design appeal, found one for 850 €, 2nd hand ... but is this wise with the Concertino or Concerto?? How to better focus my scope???
Christophe - E-mail: chrisygreta (at) yahoo.es

LC
Dear Christophe,
the Pathos Classic One is a very nice amp, indeed. Between Concertino and Concerto I'd choose the latter, because of the added bass that may help with the dry character of the Classic One. Furthermore, your listening room is quite large, perhaps you can even considering some floorstanders such as ProAC Studio 125, Opera Terza or Sonus Faber Concerto Gran Piano. All of these speakers can be easily found second hand and share a very high value for money.
Sooner or later you should consider upgrading your micro CD player as well.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

PC as audio base - Part III
Hi,
regarding the PC as audio base I wish to comment (being a computer professional with little experience in computer audio): A sound card is no preamp. Period. If you look at a soundcard there are two ways to realise a volume control, digitally or with a digital (controlled) potentiometer that is a variable resistor on a chip. The first one requires AD and DA conversions, the second usually lacks quality. I tested the Winbond WS7202 it does not compare to the sound reproduction quality of a stupid simple stepped attenuator. But maybe better shielding, the use of external audio relais and resistors would make a good quality volume control. But it wouold cost more than a stepped attenuator.
The same can be said for the input selector. Now to the question regarding the CD Player: In the last two years ther was much hype around the Playstation as a CD player. You can get a simple (although quality) CD Rom Drive (eg Plextor) put it into an external case (around 25 USD) that includes a powersupply and connect the analog audio out signals (usually 4 Pin connector on the back of a CD Rom drive) and solder them to chinch sockets (some external cases have that optin built in). For that price it is a nice solution and sounds better than one would imagine. Usually it can compare with cheap CD players. But a good CD Player has more to offer, I cannot say exactly why.
One thing is for sure: the used dacs, opamps and other parts are not choosen for quality but for price. If you look at the soundcards usually the low quality products have the same ICs that the high quality soundcards have. The difference in price usually comes from engeneering.
Yours,
Thomas - E-mail: thomas (at) wanka.at

LC
Dear Thomas,
thanks for the precious feedback. I tend to agree: building a serious HiFi system around a PC can be time consuming and...expensive in the long run. It's way better to browse the Internet S/H sites searching for good used HiFi components instead.
All the best,
Lucio Cadeddu

PC as audio base - Part IV
Dear Mr. Cadeddu,
Here is an USB external sound card (Audigy2 NX) that I may install in the future for digitizing some of my analog recordings. I shall report my findings on the sound quality as used for DAC and Pre-amp.
It could be interesting: http://www.soundblaster.com/products/External_Audio.pdf
Regards,
John - E-mail: johnchoy (at) esa.com.hk

LC
Dear John,
thanks for keeping me updated! There are, indeed, PC-based components that can be worth considering. One of these is the Sonic Impact T-Amp, a tiny 6 watts per channel amplifier that sounds embarassingly good (a giant killer, indeed).
Expect a review of this marvel next weekend.
Lucio Cadeddu

C37 lacquer
Hello,
I just read your review of the magic C37 lacquer - 20C version. Have you ever heard the fable of "The Emperor's New Clothes"?
The emperor is naked. You're fooling yourself. But you're special, you can see the emperor's beautfiul outfit and those of us who are stuck in reality can only see that he's naked.
Your condescension verges on the surreal. Your grammar's pretty lacking, also.
Keep talking down to us,
J C - E-mail: jhrubov1 (at) san.rr.com

LC
Dear JC (?),
thanks for your precious feedback, it is a nice way to start the new year with! Many, many things, in HiFi, seem surreal and the C37 lacquer is one of these. I was skeptic as much as you are, and perhaps even a bit more, considering I'm a scientist.
Anyway, the "real life" test proved this thing works. It doesn't make wonders, but works. Perhaps any other similar lacquer works the same way, who knows?
Finally, thanks for the remark on my poor grammar. You know, I'm pretty sure your Italian is WAY worse than my English.
Go get a life, my friend.
Lucio Cadeddu

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