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 2011

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Cambridge Audio D500
Dear Cadeddu,
Hello, I'm Jeongwon in South Korea, I've read your review of the Cambridge Audio d-500 cdp. Actually I bought used one yesterday on the internet and I'm waiting it will be arrive in my place. Sir, I'm worring.
You said that D-500 doesen't sound lively and it sounds like SLOW. You said: "To me, Music is not only "bass-mid-high"...it is life, adrenalin, movement." It applies to me too. So I'll test my D-500 in a few days. If it really sound like lifeless, I'll try to buy another player. Could you recommend a good one that sounds lively-musical in the price range of D-500 (or little bit more expensive)?
Jeongwon - E-mail: kim84612 (at) yahoo.co.kr

LC
Dear Jeongwon,
first of all, do not trust reviewers!!! :-) Learn to evaluate things on your own, with your system and your ears. What sounds slow and lifeless to me, might sound good for you. It all depends on our references, experiences and, last but not least, hifi systems and rooms. Secondly, chances are you've bought the SE edition of that CD player, which sounds a bit more involving (there's another review here on TNT-Audio).
By the time you are reading this reply you should have already listened to your D500. I'd be glad to know your findings about its sound.
If you find it slow and laid-back contact me again, describe the system you use and I'll suggest something closer to your (and mine, if you like) taste.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

USB computer audio
Hi Nick,
Enjoyed your review of the Libretto CDP but, like you, I am not in the position to acquire such a product. I was interested in your remarks regarding computer audio via USB. Many machines now seem to have HDMI inputs / outputs. I have seen it written that USB is a bad medium for data transfer, citing high jitter levels as a negative. HDMI on the other hand was designed with this in mind. I was wondering if you have any experience of HDMI Hi-Fi. I suppose there are not many dacs out there with HDMI inputs which would ofcourse be an obvious problem.However I would be interested to hear your views on the subject!
As for myself I have to say that I have never tried computer audio, sticking to my Harman Kardon HD990 CDP which gives good results and my desk top computer system in another room.
Mike - E-mail: mikebooth (at) talktalk.net

NW
Hi Mike,
From what I have read, USB isn't ideal for audio, Firewire being quoted as superior, and, as you say, now HDMI is being touted as better too. But I wouldn't go anywhere near saying that USB is a "bad" connection!
I suspect we are still seeing USB connections as the most popular because that is what is 'most standard'. That is, all PC's will have a USB socket but not many will have Firewire or HDMI. If you are trying to sell something, you want to target the largest market. This may change as we see HDMI become more widely used.
All that said, it is theory, and the truth is, most of the USB DAC's sound exceptionally good, despite the theory. I stand by my opinion that you can get more sound quality per pound or dollar with PC audio, than you can with a CDP. I may be wrong here, but I also believe that the use of asynchronous clocking helps overcome the shortfalls of the USB connection, including jitter.
Fortunately we still have turntables and CDPs and with PC audio we have a wide choice. That can't be a bad thing for the consumer.
Regards,
Nick Whetstone

Small amps
Hi Nick,
I've read many of your reviews on TNT. I have been long deciding between a few amps/speakers, would love your advice on the matter! I want it for desktop listening. I am considering between:

I love pop/indie music, as well as female vocals. What do you think would be the best pairing? (I do have a DAC already, am using a CENtrance DACport)
Thank you!
Alex - E-mail: lxyn14 (at) yahoo.com.sg

NW
Hi Alex,
I have no experience of the speakers that you are looking at so can't comment on the synergy with the amps that you have chosen. What I will say is that the N3 has quite low gain, and that should be taken into consideration. Another amp that should be on your list for consideration is the Temple Audio Bantam Gold (a review is coming soon).
You could go on the Virtue forum at Audiocircle and ask if anybody there has experience of the JB3/Audiogen speakers with a Virtue amp (http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?board=152.0)
Regards,
Nick Whetstone

Going active!
Hi Mark,
I found very interesting what you wrote back in 2006 about active crossovers and I agree.
I had experienced multiamplification some years ago with car hifi (ICE).
I was using the least expensive crossover, a couple of amplifiers that I was not able to resell, a 2-way Kef system and a 4Ē subwoofer placed in a box under the front seat and discovered that way the existence of crashes and splashes. To make a long story short I can say I found a sound quality I donít remember I never found again. But I know memory can be misleading. Anyway, I now want to start experiencing the home multiamplification and could you please help me in finding speakers for multiamplification?
Taking off crossovers from passive loudspeakers like I understood from your articles is the only way?
I found plenty of active loudspeakers, but I donít want them. Iím looking for loudspeakers to be used with external active crossovers and amplifiers.
Thank you for your time, any other advice will be very useful.
Stefano - E-mail: Stefano.Galli (at) unicreditgroup.eu

MW
Hi Stefano
Discovering crashes in your car doesn't sound too healthy!
The cheapest external active crossovers around are usually XLR balanced connections because they're for PA rigs. I have one that cost less than 100€ that I use for experiments.

There are many others though. Users of naim amplification have access to their NAXO crossovers, which are excellent in that context and can work in other systems if you are happy with DIN connections; used Nytech and Exposure crossovers do appear on the used market too. There are no shortage of other options in kit form and ready stuffed pcb form. These can be inserted into the housing of your pre-amplifier or power amplifiers. It is also possible to build a little RC network into the input stage of each power amplifier (with a bypass switch added to the rear panel if your like).

If you already have some passive speakers that you like, it is easy to remove the passive crossovers and run connections directly from the drive units to the input panel. If the input panel is already equipped for bi-wire or tri-wire it is even easier. Mounting the passive crossover on the outside immediately lifts a veil from the music before you get as far as multi-amping and then active operation.

If you have some in car audio (ICE) crossovers to hand, it would be easy to power them from a 12V bench supply. I usually use a 13.8V bench supply in such situations and place a series inductor (choke) on both the positive and negative rails, whose internal resistance drops the DC voltage, and which nails any RF from the supply. I then put a parallel capacitor across the ICE module power input to act as storage and regulation. Too big makes bass bloated, too small makes bass thin. There is usally enough space inside a bench supply case to make the whole thing into an outboard active crossover by using the ICE module mounted inside.

I hope this helps, no one is ever dissatisfied when going active
Happy hot-rodding and listening,
Mark Wheeler

Bookshelf loudspeakers
Dear Lucio,
I came across your website recently. I will try and keep things simple since I'm not sure how well you understand English. I live in America, near Chicago. It's sad that in the United States, most people don't even know what a good Stereo sound's like. Even in Chicago, there are only a few stores that sell good audio equipment. Its all mass-market Home Theatre. The magazines available are "Stereophile" and "The Absolute Sound" which is heavy advertisement.
I recently started putting a decent system together again, after years ago selling a Plinius integrated amp. Previously I had an Elecrocompaniet integrated. Finding decent speakers...was a pain in the ass, so I sold everything on Ebay.
I have listened to PSB and Mission bookself speakers. Neither sound's very musical, even though they were very different. Maybe because one is a metal tweeter and the other is soft dome.
I heard Joseph Audio floorstanding speakers which sound very musical...but they are very expensive. I enjoy a clear treble...but not ear bleeding. I am very use to live music after play guitar for 30+ years.
I need to read through your website. Do you have any preferences on a decent pair of bookshelf speakers? I'm currently using a Marantz CD Player CD5003 with a older Harman Kardan integrated PM665. I do have to say...I'm as happy with this Harman Kardan as I was with a my Plinius 8100. Besides...it was free. It has Dual Transformers, 60amp, 100wpc, and weighs about 15Kg. Local electronic stores all sell crap...but there are a few high end stores around.
I would appreciate your input,
Regards,
Dan - E-mail: musielski (at) msn.com

LC
Dear Dan,
deciding a budget for your new speakers should be the first thing to do. Assuming you've already auditioned mid-priced bookshelf loudspeakers, let me suggest you to have a listen to Quad 9L2 (or 11L2), Mordaunt Short Mezzo-1 and even some model from KEF. These brands should be easy to find and compare. On the second hand market, if you wish, search for a pair of ProAC Studio 110 or Dynaudio Audience 42. High-end stores might not carry budget bookshelf loudspeakers but might have something interesting as second-hand stuff. Paying them a visit might be a clever move.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Headphones stuff
Ciao Lucio,
Has anyone at TNT done any reviews of in ear headphones or the like? I had a quick look at the review section and couldn't find any.
With the increasing popularity of mobile music, and the exponential growth in these products it may be something TNT should consider. I, of course, have self interest at heart.
I have recently been given an ipod touch and would like something better than the earpieces provided. But, unlike all other pieces of Hifi technology (assuming you consider in ear headphones Hifi), it is impossible/undesirable to audition these products prior to purchase.
Your thoughts.
Regards,
Brian - E-mail: BS163601 (at) ncr.com

LC
Dear Brian,
we reviewed few in-ear 'phones in the last years. For example, have a look at the Cresyn C570E review or the Etymotic ER-4S test. We've also reviewed various traditional headphones and headphones amps. Moreover, we're proud to announce we'll be reviewing more headphone gear since we will soon have a headphone-guru as new reviewer! So...stay tuned!
Lucio Cadeddu

Our opinion on cables
Dear Tnt-audio editorial staff,
I have read with great interest your reviews on HiFi cables.

I would be very grateful if you could give me your opinion on the following cables:

My HiFi system characteristics:

On the basis of my system, do you have any futher suggestion?

Thank you.
Happy New Year,
Domenico - E-mail: domenicocorradi (at) alice.it

MW
Hi Domenico
I am sorry I have no experience of these cables. At the recent National Audio Show in England I did hear MIT cables in an unfamiliar system, so I was unable to draw any worhwhile conclusions. Having said that, I did notice that the ones they were demonstrating are very expensive, which would be out of proportion to the system that you are using. The MIT AVT1 series are their one up from entry level range and would cost almsot as much as any one of your primary componants at full mrsp.

If you have not yet sorted out good vibration control supports yet, you would do well to split the budget you have allocated to wire and spend some of it on good supports, especially for the Shanling CD player.

MIT wires have impedence matching passive circuits built in so they theoretically should be less system dependent than most other bits of wire, given that the domestic audio industry refuses to agree on impedence standards between manufacturers. Any civilised industry with its consumers interests at heart would have long ago agreed a set of interconnect characteristic standards (DIN was close), dumped RCA connectors in the skip (dumpster) where they belong.

The same induustry would make only active loudspeakers and site the power amplifiers close enough to the drivers for any old bit of copper wire to be better than snake oil coated, silk wrapped 4-nines purity unobtanium wire lovingly installed by pixies between amplifier and nasty passive crossover.

I hope this helps,
Mark Wheeler

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