TNT-Audio Readers' Corner
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July 2003

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Rate my Amp...PLEASE!!!
I was wondering if you all could give me a little hand finding info on my amp. I have a Nakamichi TA 3A tuner amplifer. I got the amp for $100.00 canadian and I REALLY love the amp it says STASIS on it and comes with a remote.
My question is have you heard of this amp before and where could I get reviews and info on it (power ratings and such) Any help you could lend would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again and keep up the awsome work!!!!
P.S. I love the idea for the cat5 speaker cables they're GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!
Michael Pelley - E-mail:

Dear Michael,
earlier Nakamichi (power) amplifiers used the famous Stasis circuitry, the same used on high-end Threshold amplifiers. This means they were damn good value for the money and had a very "audiophile" sound (think of them as "Thresholds on a budget").
Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with the TA 3A receiver (I guess?) but it should be similar to the highly praised Nakamichi power amps of that time. At 100 CAN $ it must be a real bargain!
Lucio Cadeddu

Your Review of FiX 2A3 Amp
I read with great enthusiasm your review of the FiX 2A3 SET amp on the TNT Audio website. I am buying one of these units in the used market and have a couple of questions:

  1. Does the amp accept both 2A3 and 45 tubes without modification - is it just plug and play?
  2. Are there three sets of binding posts for 4,8, and 16 ohms, or do you have to select and permanently hardwire one of the settings.
  3. In your review you mention the amp schematic. The gentleman (original owner) I am buying this unit from lost the original manual and I am wondering if you would be able to share the schematic with me.
Thanks for the insightful review, and please let me know if you are able to help,
Jose Korneluk - E-mail:

The Fi X is indeed a delightful amplifier - I couldn't let the test unit go, and it has an important place in my audio equipment collection! As for your questions...
The Fi X will accept either 2A3 or 45 tubes without modification. It is simply plug and play. Since the amp isn't optimized for 45 tubes, it should not work as well with them as with the 2A3. Oddly, quite a few of Don Garber's customers prefer the X with type 45 tubes. I am one of them.
The X only has a single set of binding posts. You have two options, although the output transformers have three taps. You may rewire the binding posts to the tap of your choice, 4, 8, or 16 ohm. 8 ohm is stock. Or, you may add two additional posts per channel - there appears to be ample room, if it is done carefully. While doing that, you could upgrade the binding posts, as the X uses adequate, but not great ones.
In answer to your final question, I do not recall getting a manual with the X - if I did, I cannot find it. I received a hand-drawn schematic to answer my questions about the circuit, and he asked that I not publish it. I don't know if a manual is included with the X, but you should contact Don Garber to find out. Don's phone number in the US is 718 625 7353. His e-mail is:
Richard George

Geoff's rant
Hi Geoff,
Only one way I can respond to what your angry eyes have said, and that's "Amen, brother". But the sad question in all of this is "Who the dickens do we have left to press the vinyl, then?" Pressing plants cost a cool bit more that that burner on your PC.
I live in a country where the government is considering regulating the prices of CDs. There's talk that the record companies will be asked to justify the costs leading to the pricing they adopt here. Didn't some similar sort of investigation take place in the UK before? We can debate whether that's going to work, and whether it'll be good for anyone in the long run.
And talk is the volume-selling drivel (well, not necessarily drivel, but more likely than not these days) from which the big bucks are made is what allows the record companies to have 'risk capital' to give a chance to an act or two that hopes to make it on artistic merit. Any thoughts on that?
Will the gang at TNT please join in with their respective two cents?
Please do not read the above as my playing devil's advocate for the record companies. I'm not. As for free CDs to promote concerts and T-shirts, I've read that some underground rock band in China (or was it Taiwan?) is getting on exactly on such a concept.
Keep up the good work, TNT.
Lim Tim Lee - E-mail:

Hi Joseph,
Thanks for the mail, Nels has written a reply to my article for this week which will make interesting reading and fuel the controversy.
I'd also like to add that the article wasn't so much a "wish-list" as a flagging up of what I see as an inevitable future and one which I believe will have several positive outcomes.
I wouldn't worry about vinyl, we junkies are fully prepared to pay the premium for a slab of the black stuff and it's exquisite packaging so the market will continue here as before.
As for the UK investigation into CD pricing (we pay around $25 for a full price disc) it was the usual whitewash and goes down along with the US courts upholding of DVD regional coding as one of the more incidious pieces of protectionism.
I'm not sure about the record companies needing "big bucks" to take risks, the point is that newcomers don't need the record companies any more. When the only way of getting a CD or LP produced was to get into bed with one of the majors, these young talents had to sell their souls to get a contract.
Now for a few thousand dollars they can record and produce CD's themselves, or distribute via the net - the record companies have lost their monopoly on the means of production. Now these musicians may want to employ publicists, do stunts or just play for as many people as they can, but how to exploit this new freedom will be very much up to them.
In the past when small record companies have undergone an explosion in numbers, such as happened during the Punk era, the subsequent variety, originality and quality of music soared, but the majors by buyouts could reign it all back.
Now Pandora's Box is open and the record companies can't do anything about it. We know here at TNT-Audio that talented hi-fi designers have made a living by a "buzz" on the internet where before they would have shrunk without trace, now the same will apply to music. Just remember that two of the all time great bands (I could give a long list but space doesn't permit), the Beatles and Steely Dan very nearly didn't get record contracts so how many potentially great bands never cut a disc because they couldn't impress a man in a suit?
Now if a band is really good we should get to hear about it. Here's hoping anyway.
All the best,
Geoff Husband

Music sales
I agree with your thoughts on record sales.

Once upon a time I thought that the more musicians there are in the world, the better. The more people listening to music, the better. Computer technology has allowed many people to create their own music, more than any time in world history but, and it's a big 'but', the quality of musicians has gone down as a result. That is one of the reasons why we see few good live acts.

Back in the 70's and 80's, if I bought an album I would probably like eight out of ten tracks. Nowadays you'd be lucky to like two out of ten. A radio-friendly track and one other seems to be the rule so as a consequence the public will not shell out fifteen pounds for a CD. Good musicians will increase music sales! When a new Yes album was due out I used to be first in line at the record store - not anymore! When was the last time you were waiting in eager anticipation for any new album? The Pat Metheny Group is the only band I can get excited about today.
Victor Savage - E-mail:

Hi Victor,
Perhaps there's a parallel with the art world where the standard f basic things like drawing is falling in the wake of conceptual art forms? But I too am fed up with unusual and original artists gravitating album by album to the lowest common denominator with one 'single' in each. And yet the time spent producing each album seems to expand in inverse proportion to it's quality. In the 60's and 70's the top acts produced at least an album a year and toured too.
Geoff Husband

Mr Angry eyes
I have been following all the post on TNT in regard to Saving Stereo and the future of the recording industry. Without writing a 10 page email here (I could you know), I would like to express my opinion on one topic....... your quote of "it'll mean people will actually have to be able to play, and that locking yourself in a studio for 2 years to examine your own musical navel will be out".
Well, I think this will also mean that many of today's so called "artist" will have to go back to flippin' burgers for a living. I don't feel talent is a prerequisite any longer. It does not matter if you can hold a note, you have the recording studio to make yourself sound "good?". Anybody with a computer can do this nowadays.
There was a song that came out when MTV was introduced that I feel explains it all. I think it was titled "Video killed the radio star." Now all you need is big hoohaas and hip-hugger pants to get in the spotlight. Okay, some of these female "artist" are very easy on the eyes. You no longer need singing lessons rather a good amount of jingle to pay the choreographer.

I say go for it. Let's see how many will survive relying only on their musical talent rather than looks and capabilities of their plastic surgeon. There are far too many artist out there to even keep track of. This will help siphon the litter.
That does bring me to one last question. With soooo many artist out there and new ones popping up daily, why do we hear the same song on the radio 30 times a day?
Enough for now.
Bill Baker - E-mail:

Hi Bill,
Thanks for the mail, and I have to say that I agree with all you say - there are so many really talented and devoted young performers out there - here's to them!
Geoff Husband

Cairn Fog
Loved your review on the Cairn Fog 2. Greeat!!!
Best regards,
Alex Roelofs - E-mail:

Dear Alex,
I'm glad you enjoyed that text. I hope I underlined the pros and cons of that CD player.
Stay tuned,
Lucio Cadeddu

Polishing CDs
Dear Lucio
I have found that my CD Player NAD C541 although a very good one has some difficulties to read few of my CD's (not burned or WR cd's). It has some clicks or noise and sometimes stops playing. The same CD's have no problems when played on my DVD Marantz DV4200.
Looking more carefully on these CD's I found that most of them are having scratches or stains. While trying to find a cleaning or healing magic fluid I came to your article Manitoba Fabello: cheap CD treatment fluid.
I found a reputable household furniture's cleaning compound from Johnsonwax and tried it on one of the CD's.
I think that the audio results were good and the CD's look better but still I want to know if after having experience of few years do you still think that it is a good method to treat the scratch CD's or there are new ones.
Ishay Ben-Amotz - Support Real Stereo - Member - E-mail:

Dear Ishay,
in order to cure small scratches on CDs the mentioned polishing spray is useless. You need something more abrasive to repair a scratched CD surface. You can try with some car polish wax, for example. Some audiophiles use small amounts of toothpaste, also.
From a purely sonic point of view, the best CD treatment I've tested is the Auric Illuminator. It doesn't cure scratches but it makes wonders to the sound.
If your NAD CD player is so erratic when playing CDs perhaps the laser lens is dirt or out of focus.
Lucio Cadeddu

Polishing CDs
Your emagazine is the most interesting and useful I have found in a two-months dive of the Internet.
I have just read that you were organising and paying for it all, so I decided to write you at least to thank you.
Maybe it is useful for you to know what I like and what I miss in your webpage. I am a sound-conscious music lover, no audiophile-freak, with a tight budget, so:
- I am ecstatic about the DIY proposals to improve the performance of my (budget) system, such as cabling, stands or rack. Better when there are explanations of how they work.
- I miss more reviews of budget gear, maybe even comparison tests. Yes, I know it is expensive arcana what probably inspire audiophile reviewers. But was looking in your webpage for reviews of budget CD players and i just found reviews for NAD 521i, Philips 723 and the Marantz team.
Not enough to have an idea of the market. Believe me, I have not been able to find in the whole www a single quality review for budget&entry level models of HarmanKardon, Yamaha, Denon and the like.
As manufacturers are discounting agressively digital source gear because of the battle of formats, I also propose to you an article "DVDs as CD players", some hi-fi bargain may appear that may be of interest to your readers.
Whoooops, i got off track, I just wrote to thank you: Grazie,
Alfonso de las Casas - E-mail: Madrid

Dear Alfonso,
thanks for your kind words on our humble work. Reviewing inexpensive digital gear isn't an easy task, considering manufacturers are NOT interested in sending test samples of this kind of products. Funnily enough, it is easier to get a 10,000 Euro component than a 150 Euro one :-)
Anyway, you've not been careful. Actually we have reviewed other basic CD players: a couple of Teac CD players, two Camdridge Audio's, a JVC, a Pioneer, Rotel's and more. Perhaps you'll say this is not enough, but that's life: we JUST do the best we can.
Regarding your quest for basic DVD players, sorry but we're not interested in them.
Hasta la vista,
Lucio Cadeddu

Speakers suggestion
I enjoyed it and like that you compare speakers in various categories because most reviews just leave you with the same feeling..."I liked them, they're nice, could be a speaker for you." Not a lot of help.

BTW I would recommend you give a listen and review to a little monitor bookshelf I have absolutely fallen in love with...the Ascend Acoustic CBM-170. IMO they are terrific and the best value I have ever come across in audio at only $329. Of course like most bookshelf speakers they really benefit from a good sub. I have mine paired with an HSU VTF-3. Like the Emerald LE's they too come with a 30 day money back guarantee.
Give a listen.
Scott Fowler - E-mail:

Hi Scott,
Your name is WAY too close to mine, I almost feel like I'm writing to myself :-)
Thanks for the kind words about my speaker shootout. I (sort of) feel the same way that you do regarding some reviews. They are well written and tell you about the speaker but you just don't get a good feel how it compares to others in it's class.
That's exactly why it did it this way. My format still isn't quite perfect but I think it gives a good point of reference to gauge other speakers by.
Thanks for the tip about the Ascend Acoustics.
I'll see if they are interested in participating.
Best Regards,
Scott Faller

Speaker Stand Questions
Just read your article and I decided to build some stands of my own. I plan on making mine out of all wood and construct it in such a way that I have CD and DVD storage to boot. I plan on doing a 15" by 15" base with a 15" by 10" top. I'm going to be using these to place my Near Field Studio monitors on to free up space on my desk for a second monitor. I was wondering a couple of things:

  1. Should I use a specific wood? I was thinking of Pine for the cost as I'm going to paint them black.
  2. How much weight should be added to the bottom (I'm planning on building a square box 8"x6"x6" at the bottom to fill with sand or some other dense material and my speakers weigh 20 lbs. each. Is this even doable or do I need more cubic area to add weight?)
  3. Am I nuts? It sounds like a pretty good design to me.
I can provide drawings if that will help.
Mike Rinehart - E-mail:

Hi Mike,
If you are using them for nearfild listening at very low levels, I'm guessing they should OK. If you ever turn up the sound, you may want to consider this. Some time ago I built a pair of stands similar to your ideas. I built mine out of oak. The riser was in a "T" shape for stability (no CD storage). These stands ended up nice looking and capable of holding a decent size speaker.
Then I built the TNT Stubby's. When I did a direct comparison of the two, the solid oak stands had a definate mid-bass and bass bloom. It was very noticable. I realize you want to build a CD rack into the risers of your stands but I'm afraid they probably won't sound very good if you crank up the volume.
Pine is a (relatively) soft wood that will resonate at a greater level than the oak I used. I'd expect a heavy bloom in the bass region regardless of the wood you choose. Thats exactly why I chose PVC pipe and filled it with sand. It's almost dead quiet.
The next thing, If you use the speaker stands as a CD rack, when you turn up the tunes, expect your CD's to audibly rattle in their holders. I'd bet that will drive you crazy after a while.
Again, if you listen at very low levels, I doubt you will run into troubles but if you turn it up (much), you may not care for them after a while.
Best Regards,
Scott Faller

NAD amps
Dear Julian Ashbourn
I just bought amplifier C350 after reading your review. However, I need to buy a new pair of speakers. May you please suggest me what speakers would be fine with C350. Thank you very much for help.
Vu - E-mail:

Dear Vu,
This is a difficult question as speakers are a very personal choice. However, at a reasonable cost you might consider the following.

These are all stand mount / bookshelf designs, although there are floor standing equivalents. In any case, you should listen to the speakers first in order to get an idea of their particular sonic signature.
Have a listen to some of the above, or others, at your local store and see what you think. I think the B&Ws or KEFs would match the NAD amplifier quite well. If you enjoy classical strings and piano - try the KEFs.
Kind regards,
Juliamn Ashbourn

Speakers question
Hi Julian,
I don't know if you have time to answer this question, if not could you direct me to someone who can? Anyway here goes: I have a pair of B&W DM303's, and have recently come accross some gold C Cam monitor audio tweeters for a good price. Being interested in tweaking, and seeing as the tweeters are of the same size, would swapping tweeters in the B&W without toching the crossover be worth trying?
I ask because if it is unlikely I will get a good change in sound due to crossover design and other factors its is not worth invalidating my guarentee on the speakers?
Many thanks for your time,
Robert - E-mail:

Dear Robert,
While the monitor audio tweeters will undoubtedly sound a little different (extended but softer I would say) they will not match the B&W bass unit and crossover as well as the original units.
Personally, I would leave the B&Ws as they are. If you wanted to build a completely new speaker around the MA tweeters, and don't mind the gamble of experimentation, then that might be another matter. You could research available bass units and crossovers and even come up with some interesting cabinet designs? I have done this in the past and it is great fun if you have the time.
Kind regards,
Julian Ashbourn

North Star
Hello Lucio,
that was a wonderful article on the Northstar pieces. I have been trying to find out who exactly builds these units. I need to get a set of schematics and I do not know where to get them. I also put sound damping in the units a noticable difference. The analog section is really this units weakest link, and a few diode upgrades resistors, caps and a little known product from Jack Bybee, the purifiers. If you have not looked into these yet please do they improve anything. I would greatly appreciate your help of any kind.

I have found a great digital cable that truly transforms the Northstar pieces with the rc-45 connectors made by Revelation Audio. I put the cable in my 192 and it was like buying a new highend preamp or amp it was that good. These are all hand made and take about 8 hrs to make. Can use any type connector. Please let me know if you might be able to help a small company to sell a great product,
My best regards and keep up your excellent work,
Paul Letteri - E-mail:

Dear Paul,
glad to hear you've enjoyed my articles on North Star gear and that their sound pleases you so much. Thanks for all the suggested tweaks, I'd be glad to test them and report but I don't have those units at home. Perhaps I can ask the samples for another test, let's see.
I've heard of an Italian cable that makes wonders between the North Star transport and DAC, as well. So it seems the stock cable isn't all that good sounding :-)
The cable I'm talking about costs more or less like the DAC alone, a bit out of our "logical" reach, if I may.
I don't know about the cable you are talking about but, at this very moment of our life, we are NO LONGER accepting digital cables to test :-) We've had enough of these (and not finished yet :-( ).
Lucio Cadeddu

Pro-Ject Phono Box Review Question
I have read your review of the Pro-Ject Phono Box with some interest and agree that a good MC will require some what better amplification.
In my own case I have the Pro-Ject Perspective TT with a Dynavector 17DMk2 cartridge and I am looking at improving my RIAA stage. Have you had a chance to try the Pro-Ject SE phone amp or even the tube version, especially as compared to the Lehmann Black Cube?
Any information you have would be much appreciated as I cannot find any reviews.
Patrick Phillips - E-mail:

Dear Patrick,
as far as I know there are no reviews of the better Pro-Ject phono preamps you mention or, at least, I've seen none. And, alas, I've not heard these yet. Perhaps the manufacturer didn't like my review - though it was very positive, in my opinion - because he sent no reply or comment to my request. I assume he is not interested in letting us test the PhonoBox SE or the TubeBox.
Anyway, when I have the chance to put my hands on one of these, be sure I will review 'it (or both) :-)
Lucio Cadeddu

Balancing act
Dear Editor,
My Hifi-guru, at the same time friend, dropped by once again, and we listened to some music. Verdict: pretty imposing (and expensive) components, but the system sounds like Sh*%&t. Where is the image, where is the spaciouness?
What kinda of cable do you got there between CD-player and tube-preamp? Expensive titanium cable. Got to go. This cheap cable for EURO 20,= sounds much better. Now your CD-player is opening up. That titanium cable is a bottle-neck in you system.
You have an expensive Chord-cable between pre-amp and power amp. Something is going badly wrong here. Too hard, strange image. Got to go..
Oke, lets now try that titanium-cable between pre-amp and power-amp. Hey what do I hear. Ground-loop hum. What did you pay for this cable you said? Incredible. This expensive cable acts like an antenna. This manufacturer does not even know the basics of preventing a cable to act like a conductor the wrong way. But know how to make money.
This expensive titanium cable has to go completely out of your system. Lets' try that cheap Monster-interconnect instead you have there for 30 EURO. Hey, no groundloop hum anymore. Sounds much better too, albeit a bit soft. Let's keep the Monster between pre-amp and power-amp. What did we have alreday? The Chord cable. Well let's try the Chord cable now between CD-player and pre-amp. Well not bad. Even more opening up. More spaciousness. Now we hear that the accordeonist is retracting his instrument before hitting a note once again. We hear the enigineer moving the knob for opening the microphone for the singer.
I see that the interconnects are directional. Let's reverse them. Ok, no success. Leave them the way the manufacturerer intended them then.
It's all about balance in a system my friend. Well known celebrated interconnects can kill your system. Cheap ones can make a system sing. And where do you place a specific interconnect. I order you to leave the cheap Monster between pre-amp and power amp. And you can leave the expensve Chord between CD-player and pre-amp. We are not there still yet. But at leas we hear a image, we can see where the instruments are, and they are in a defined space. Till next time. Thanks friend,
Kees van Woerden - E-mail:

Dear Kees,
thanks for the feedback. It is true that "system balance" is of paramount importance but please do not forget quality _does_ cost money. Hence, not always expen$ive stuff is good sounding...but if is sounds VERY good, chances are it is going to be pretty expensive. That's how life goes :-)
Lucio Cadeddu

Speakers upgrade
Hello Lucio,
you seem to know the KEF 104/2 speakers..I run them with Atoll AM/PR100, Rega Planet 2000... In your opinion, what kind of money would I need to spend to get a significant improvement with new speakers: 1000 Euros, 2000 Euros?
I have seen a nice second hand pair of SF Concertos, Epos M12...but not possible to audition them at home..
My room is 40 Sqm, I listen to all kind of music (no hard rock or techno though)...What I dislike in my system: nothing...just want to have something better!
More details maybe...but don't want something analytic: I like a good medium!
What do you think?
Olivier Plancq - E-mail:

Dear Olivier,
my advice is to keep your 104's unless you have more than 2000 Euros to spend for a pair of new speakers. Since you bought 'em second hand and since they should be pretty old perhaps it is time to upgrade/service the crossover components. New caps, for example, will make a significative difference. Even a rewiring could be useful.
All the best,
Lucio Cadeddu

Questions questions
Hi Nels, I started looking for a stereo system for my work place,2000 sq. ft photo studio.
The more you look the more confused I became. I need a bias opinion. Because one can not hear every thing at one store. I was looking at the Rega Mira 3, or Moon i-3 (more than i wanted to spend, but liked the unit alot). Then one guy told me a great amp is a Jolida 1501rc. Now I'm confused. I have never heard of this company, and am wondering if they are any good?
For a c.d. player I liked the Rega Jupiter, but what about the Jolida c.d. player that you reviewed?
How do these compare? Speakers either the Totem hawks or the splendor s8. Any thought. I have a budget of around $3500.
Dave - E-mail:

Hi Dave,
I've not heard either the Rega or Moon amps, but I have heard the JoLida 1501RC. The JoLida is a hybrid amp (meaning it uses vacuum tubes as well as solid state circuitry.) This will make the amp sound a bit smoother and more relaxed than many solid state (fully transistorized) designs.
JoLida is an established company, and their legions of fans are growing. Do not be concerned that you are unfamiliar with them. I expect them to be around for quite some time.
As far as the CD player, I really like my JoLida player. I've had it for a year now, and it's still a winner in my book. If you don't like the sound of it, it is easily changed by changing the two vacuum tubes.
It is also far less than the Rega Jupiter in cost, just a bit more than the Rega Planet. I have had a reader tell me that he preferred the JoLida CD player over the Planet.
From the two speakers you mentioned, I prefer the Spendors, but that's just me. What I suggest you do is buy the gear that you think will make you happy, and try it in your own space, with your own music. Make sure you get a full money back guarantee if you aren't totally delighted.
Everyone has different musical tastes and different priorities when it comes to systems. It's your money, buy the system that makes you happy and gives you the sound you prefer.
I hope this is of assistance.
Nels Ferré

Linn spare parts
Hello, I have heard that Linn is no longer offering parts for its Kariks, how could such a company that always offers upgrades do something like this to those of us that paid so much for a machine?
Can other third party hardware like motors or lasers be used in its place?
Nick Lakoumentas - E-mail:

Dear Nick,
unfortunately it isn't Linn's fault, as far as I know. The (third-party) supplier for lasers and laser trays (for Kariks and Mimiks) has stopped production and there's no other way to get spare parts. Those items weren't factory-built at Linn. Anyway, NOT all Kariks and Mimiks suffer from the same lack of laser spare parts. Please check the Linn website (or contact their efficient customer care) to see WHICH serial numbers are involved in this small trouble.
Anyway, I have >10 years old digital players that still work flawlessly.
Lucio Cadeddu

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