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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July 2005

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System upgrade
Dear Lucio!
First of all thank you for a very interesting site. I've enjoyed the site for some years now, and tried several mods with fine results Well Done, please keep up the good spirit. Now to the "talk of the net"... the little T-amp. You state in your reveiw that the amp can drive headphones but also that that would be problematic unless the headphone has a extremely low impedance.... then you mention that a technician can modify the output filter setting. How can that be done? I think that a description of this mod would bring the author in the "Hall of Fame" of the large number of headphone enthusiasts world wide.
Best regards,
Damholm - E-mail: damholm (at) stofanet.dk

LC
Dear Damholm,
the mod should be performed expressely for any given headphone. Any good electronic technician should be able to modify the value of the output filter in order to adapt it to higher impedances. As it is now, it is designed to perform linearly within the 4-8 ohm range. It still works acceptably below, say, 100 Ohms...but for higher impedance I think the increase in high frequency response could be a problem. Anyway, contact our David Holgate (david (at) tnt-audio.com) as he's successfully using the T-Amp with highish impedance headphones.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Nirvana
Geoff,
I'm sure you've already had plenty of mails to tell you that In Utero was Nirvana's third album (After Bleach and Nevermind, and not counting Incesticide). Just because Dave Grohl was not on Bleach and it wasn't released on a major label doesn't mean that it's not a Nirvana Album.
Regards,
Wolf - E-mail: wolfsk (at) gmail.com

GH
Yes I have... The relevant phrase is "exploded onto the world scene with Nevermind." I never said they only made two albums. "Bleach" didn't make the top 100 anywhere ("Nevermind" made number one in the US, "In Utero" hit 1 in the UK and USA), "exploded" wouldn't be appropriate to it and as you note, sad contract fillers like "Insecticide" don't count. No band comes from nothing, and to catalogue the various "pre-fame" moves in every short review would be tiresome and inevitably detract from the impact of the "explosion" which is the only way to describe what "Nevermind" did - maybe a history of the band might make an article someday.
They were in fact formed in 1987 in Aberdeen with the first release (Love Buzz) in October 1988 - Few bands really "begin" with their first commercial success - would it be appropriate to say that the Beatles "exploded" onto the world scene with "Tony Sheriden and the Beatles" :-). I wanted to keep the review pretty short which inevitably glosses over detail but it could be misunderstood... In fact in retrospect the word I would change in the review is "The two studio albums" to "These two studio albums".
But I'm a fan....
Cheers,
Geoff Husband

System upgrade
Dear Sir,
I am a avid reader of your magazine & delighted by your review of different audio equipments & especially the DIY Projects. U'r review is much more honest I think as compared with other HI-FI magazines. Carry on like this, especially DIY low cost but Hi-end projects.
I have some problems with my current set-up. I would like to get some honest & caring advice from you. First of all I would like to tell u about my current set-up:

My taste: I want soft, laid back, Tube-like Midrange; Soft but detailed (without digital edginess) Treble range with lots of air; articulate & detailed bass response (May not be wall shaking deep, No problem but whatever will be there, that should be articulate) along with lots of sounstage DEPTH, Width & Height. Over all sound should be totally free of listening fatigue, but should not be extremely dull & shut-in instead should have some sort of airy sparkle.
What I am not getting:
Bass is muddy just like lump of fat, not at all detailed, nor it is extended deep (its not boomy however). Mid is into u'r face type, bright & overtly forward but finally lacks in macro & micro detail. Treble is bright & harsh somehow, at the same time lacks in details construction. This is true for mid & treble both that in spite of the fact that mid & treble is bright but there is no fine detail. Soundstage width is almost zero. Height is also so so. Depth is in some recordings very very negligible. Overall sound is on the lean side.
My current reference set-up:
I do have a friend who has NAD-541 cd player, Cayin-TA30 integrated tube amp (using EL34) & Cadence-Diva 2way floorstander (Cadence is a Indian high end mfr. of Hi-end tube integrated, Mono blocks, Dynamic & ESL-Hybrid loudspeakers & exports to UK, USA etc.). He uses VDH PatchBay-B5 interconnect & VDH Royal Jade Hybrid speaker cable. I've listened to his set-up several times. It sound very much airy which I like most, not bright at all. Treble is very smooth yet detail, bass is however slightly muddy. The soundstage Width, Depth & Height he gets are just amazing, which I lack mostly. The overall mid is sort of thick yet with good sparkle & detail. Whatever he plays be it rock, pop, jazz --- anything it sounds similarly thick.
Later on I took his interconnect & speaker cable & connected to my equipment. Surprisingly the result was disastrous. It was like bass, mid highs were all boosted at a time, especially treble was hard-very hard though detail in mid & highs was there but at the cost of digital sharpness which I dislike most. Its quite evident that his setup is not a high end one, simultaneously I think my setup is also not that inferier either. So kindly advice me suitably so that I get my desired result.
Cable Question:
I know the importance of good quality interconnect, power cable & speaker cable. That's why I initially asked "The Cable Company" of USA that which cable will suit to my system & my listening taste. They told me that Synergistic Research-Alpha(ordinary) interconnect & speaker cable will be the most suitable. But I had a different feelings altogether. So I started searching net for something different. Later I discovered JPS LABS Ultraconductor & thought it will be right for me but at a cost. Finally I came to see TNT-DIY projects on cables & got amazed. I then decided to build up my own cables. Which power cable, interconnect & speaker cable will suit most my taste & equipments I have?
Awaiting for u'r extremely valuable reply.
Regards,
San - by e-mail

LC
Dear San,
please excuse me for cutting your very long letter short. First of all, build our TNT Triple T speaker cable and U-Byte or Piano 6/1 interconnects. Even a Merlino or TTS mains cable might help. Secondly, consider improving your listening room. Perhaps its acoustic response is causing all the "sonic" troubles you mention. DO NOT underestimate the importance of a good listening room. It affects the whole performance of a system by a 50% factor, at least.
Move the speakers around the room, searching for the perfect position. Try making experiments with the WASP method we describe and suggest here on TNT-Audio.
When all else fails, try listening to a different pair of speakers, as both your CD player and your amplifier are completely innocent :-)
Reviews of these two components can be found here on TNT-Audio as well.
As for speakers, it mainly depends on your room, musical taste and...budget. If possible, ask your friend to let you evaluate his Cadence speakers in your room.
Hope this helped and keep me updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

Red Book and new formats
Hi Lucio,
I have been following TNT-Audio for about 18 months and enjoy the discussions. I am lucky to have quite good equipment (Krell Amplification/Marantz cd7/sonus faber stradivari). I listen to mainly classical pre 1900 and a lot of my CD's are Naxos which are superb VFM. I have a reasonable turntable setup and am recollecting my vinyl (stupidly sold in late 1980's). So a couple of questions:

  1. What is 'Red Book CD'? I have read about this term a lot and, despite having a few hundred CD's, not understood it.
  2. Why has SACD/DVD-A failed? I have a good SACD player and a few SACD's. Some of them are spectacular but most are difficult to differentiate from CD. Have we reached the best that our ears can hear already? My cost/performance ratio is awful!
Keep the site going, it is a lot of fun.
Regards,
Michael - E-mail: MHolmes (at) productive.co.uk

LC
Dear Michael,
Red Book is the industry standard for the Compact Disc format. When a CD is made somehow "different" from this standard (e.g. recent copy-protected CDs) you get a non-Red Book compliant disc. NOT a real Compact Disc, indeed!
As for SACD/DVD-A...the answer to your question is hidden in the question itself. You own a very good system and still find it hard to tell the difference between the SACD layer and the CD layer. Do you imagine how much difference can an average customer with an average stereo system hear? Nothing, nihil, nada, niet, niente, zero. So, WHY should he buy another (more expensive) disc that requires new hardware to be read? Perhaps these new hi-rez formats will survive as niche-formats, perhaps not. Perhaps record Companies will stop pressing CDs and start releasing SACDs or DVD-As only. I think this is the only way to make the new formats take off. Sadly. Or perhaps vinyl will come back big time ;-) My turntables are always ready and warm.
Lucio Cadeddu

Break-in and warm-up
Hi Lucio,
Thanks for your article on the T-Amp. I was able to purchase 2 units and had a technician re-boxed the amp with some decent speaker posts and rca's. Using a diy tube pre-amp, I bi-amped these with my old BW601 using a 12V, 12A DC converter as power supply. My question is on the warm up requirements of the amp. During the last 4 days, I've been leaving the amp turned on early in the morning (6:30am), leaving it on while I go to work. I am only able to play music on it at around 8-10pm. Are the hours the amp is turned on idle be considered warm up hours or should the count be on the time music is being played?
So far the music I've been hearing the last 4 days have surprisingly been better, bigger soundstage and better vocals but still some harshness overall. Will the T-amp improve in time?
Thanks for your advise.
Warm regards,
Tony - E-mail: tony_cano (at) ctsi-logistics.com

LC
Dear Tony,
yes, the T-Amp gets better day after day. This is called "break-in". Some of the harshness goes away, as time goes by, for example. Then you have the "warm-up" period, that is to say the amount of time the unit needs to reach proper operating temperature. You can leave it on without playing Music, the result will be the same. It's all about temperature.
This applies to any other HiFi component as well, with results that vary greatly depending on the nature of the unit (tubes or solid state, for example).
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Insane tweak?
Dear sir,
I have tried your TNT Stoneblocks, there were great, I also added a m10 stainless steel nut and a 17mm chromed stainless steel ball bearing, together with some blue tac it becomes a diy rollerblock.
I would like to ask your opinion on the following tweak, it seems a little out of the world, do you think it works? http://www.1388.com/products/pavane.htm#reviews
Yours sincerely,
Jenhwa - E-mail: jenhwa (at) gmail.com

LC
Dear Jenhwa,
I've never tested amber bracelets on HiFi components or cables. By default, I'm always suspicious...but ready to open my mind to new things. If you try this tweak by yourself (seems easy), please keep us updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

3000$ CD player
Greetings from Australia,
I need some advice from someone who has a good overview of the hi fi and music industry and where it might be going in the future. My dilemma regards CD, my collection of these is growing faster than my vinyl (and if you want new music its bound to happen) so I need to buy a player that will equal my vinyl set up, I don't want to be disappointed at having to listen to a cd.
It looks like I might have to spend about 3000 $us to get something that will fit in with the rest of my system and do for a long time, a lot of hard earned for me. I worry though, that in five years time they may not be pressing CD anymore and higher quality music may be available via the computer. Don't want to invest in a device that might rapidly become devalued and redundant. I don't know enough about computers to judge how likely this scenario is.
Over the years to keep up with the formats I have had to get:

What's next on the list, an airport express, are we doomed to continuously buy new playback systems or should I just go out and get a really good CD player enjoy it for the moment and hope I can still get software for a while?
Thanks,
Grant - E-mail: grantcro (at) iinet.net.au

LC
Dear Grant,
I'm pretty sure Red Book Compact Discs are here to stay...for a long, long while. Too widely diffused to stop the production. Record Companies may be greed, but not completely dumb.
Hence, buy a better CD player without fear :-)
In any case, you will always need a player for your CD collection, right?
Your Naim CDI should be able to cope with the LP12, though. If you feel it's not adequate anymore I'm afraid you should shell out more than 3000$ to upgrade its performance. The solution might be found in the second hand market, instead. For that amount of money you can get either a Naim CDS or CDX2 (just to keep the same family feeling), for example. Far from Flat Earth territory (if you don't mind) you can hunt for some good Wadia or Theta.
Hope this helped and keep me updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

Loudspeakers choice
I thought you might help with a difficult decision - for the life of me, I cannot decide between the Dynaudio Special 25 speakers and the floorstanding Contour S3.4. I truly like them both and only listen to 2 channel and absolutely do not want a subwoofer.
I definitely appreciate full range sound and decent bass but am not a "bass freak" by any means and imaging and soundstage are important as with any 2 channel set-up. I listen to jazz and jazz vocals and classical predominantly. The room is medium size with solid state electronics. What criteria do you suggest as to stand mount vs. floorstanders? Looks are not a factor (so called WAF factor).
I do hear that many people feel that small speakers are great at imaging and soundstage but in the long run, they are small and they sound small. I never thought this decision would be so hard.
Many thanks for your assistance.
Regards, Ron - E-mail reserved

LC
Dear Ron,
it is not true that only standmounters can image well. There are floorstanders that can do that quite nicely. If I were you I'd choose the Contour S3.4. Why? First of all, sooner or later you'll be needing more bass (especially depth). Secondly, a floorstander does not need stands. This may seem obvious but the stands choice is very often overlooked by many audiophiles. On a standmount speaker the stand is actually a part of the speaker itself. It can make a speaker sound good or bad, depending on correct mechanical interface, size and weight. Differences might me astounding. Good stands, as the ones that should be used with a classy speaker like the Dyn's Special 25 might be very expensive. Dynaudio stands, for example, can cost you nearly 500$. Opting for the floorstander you could spend that +500$ difference in better cables, accessories or, even better, discs and live concert tickets :-)
Keep me updated,
Lucio Cadeddu

Re: Attenuated interconnects
Dear Mr Cadeddu,
Some time ago I asked you about attenuated interconnects and you said it is absolutely not a hoax. I bought one recently from Russ Andrews in the UK and it works miraculously well. It makes me wonder why not every music lover uses them, because it gives a much cleaner and more detailed sound and is much easier on the ear. And even at higher volumes the music remains pleasant to listen to and does not have this hard edge that some CD's seem to have.
I bought a Kimber Tonik and when I tell people what I did, they look at me as if I am a bit crazy. I will also try the Rothwell attenuators you mentioned. Thank for the advice.
Kind regards,
Jan - E-mail: info (at) campusboekhandel.nl

LC
Dear Jan,
I'm glad you followed my advice and enjoyed the result. This is not a kind of "universal" solution but sometimes it works quite well.
Lucio Cadeddu

Mods on a Pathos Classic One
Greetings,
I would like your opinion on the proposed mods below by ModHiFi (~$400) to upgrade a Pathos Classic One. Do they pass the technical sanity check, and would you recommend subjecting the unit to this degree of change?

This upgrade provides for upgraded rectifiers to soft clipping Hexfreds which greatly reduces the ringing effects in the dc output that standard rectifier networks provide and therefore allows for a much more stable and neutral power supply for this unit. There will be various capacitors in this unit upgraded to "cost no object" Black Gate capacitors in a variety of places while non electrolytics will be replaced with Auricaps and various resistors will be upgraded to Caddocks. The large amount of parts upgraded will provide for a much more "natural" and "true to life" sound than can be normally found in this integrated. On top of this bypassing will be performed to the power supply caps.

Ed - E-mail: coastwest5 (at) hotmail.com

LC
Dear Ed,
the mods listed above do pass the technical sanity check, indeed. Upgrading passive components (rectifiers, caps etc.) usually makes a significative difference. Just one caveat: every HiFi component is a blend of virtues and compromises. Sometimes this "cocktail" is so finely mixed that any other added ingredient may alter the balance.
For this reason I always suggest to ask for a direct comparison, whenever possible: modded vs stock. I'm pretty sure the modding Company would be mostly happy to do this or to send you a modded unit to test.
Not always the best sounding gear comes equipped with the best available passive components. Ask for a comparison.
Keep me updated,
Lucio Cadeddu

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