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Readers' Corner - June 2001

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JPS cables
in reference to your review of Ultra Conductor Speaker Cables, I was wondering JPS went to a lot of trouble to shield their top of the line cable Super Conductor yet they say there is no need or at least not to worry about the missing shield on their Ultra cable which is the same cable as super without the shielding.
I am concerned since I am considering the Ultra Conductor speaker cable that I may experience some interference or some other problem due to the lack of shielding that will compromise the sound quality.
I do live in Manhattan with a lot of interference. What is your feeling as to the lack of shielding and do you think it is risky to purchase non shielded speaker cable when the entire cable industry boasts about their superior shielding and it's essential purpose.
Stephen Berson - E-mail: sberson1@nyc.rr.com

Thanks for your e-mail. As far as the shielding, I can tell you that I have had no problems at all due to the lack of shielding on the JPS labs UltraConductor speaker cables. While the metropolitan Orlando area, where I live, has nothing on New York City when it comes to RF interference, there are still plenty of cell phones about, not to mention the fact that a small airport lies 3 miles directly behind my home, bringing ever more tourists from London on a daily basis. If the cables were prone to being susceptible to interference, I would think the airport would do it.

As far as cable manufacturers stressing their "superior shielding" and the like, please remember that they are there to not only make the product, but also to sell it and make a profit. Most of that stuff is just the marketing department at work, in my opinion.
Ask the dealer about his return priviledges, and try the cables in your own system at home. That's the only way to be sure if they will work well in your situation.
Nels Ferré

FAQ on the Radioshack SPL meter
from your article about the Radioshack sound level meter I understood that you could order it to the Europe. In the Radioshack website everything indicates that they ship only to the US.
Have you ordered the SPL meter directly from Radioshack to Europe? Do you happen to know another supplier that would send to European countries?
Humbly asking for a little advice,
Janne Mikkola - E-mail: majami@firstlinux.net

Dear Janne,
this seems to be a frequently asked question. The answer is YES, Radioshack accepts international orders!!! Here is the official reply from the International orders responsible: Yes, we accept international orders with an international credit card and ship all products by FEDEX. Since it seems sales conditions may vary depending on the Country you live in, please contact Ann.Kothmann@radioshack.com for ordering and shipping requirements.

If you don't have a credit card or are not sure you want to use it on the Internet (but you can use fax) there's another way: if you happen to have a friend or a colleague in the US, ask him to buy the SPL meter at any RadioShack store (these are widely available in the US) and have him shipping the unit to you. Then send him the money using an international money order.
Hope this helps (and solves definitely the hassle :-) )
Lucio Cadeddu

Merlino vs Morgan la Fey
Your merlino cable translation from Italian.

  1. The cable you picture and refer to as being available from RS is the wrong type. You refer to 3 core + shield (made of tinned copper). This is type CY cable. The picture shows type SY Type which is a different kettle of fish entirely and the shielding is made of steel, not desingned to supress noise, but to resist cutting with a knife. You also talk of SY cable but mean CY cable. Look on the RS website if you doubt it.
  2. In any case neither cable is easily available in the UK (see the CY cable page on the RS catalogue which describes it as continental-style - ie ok for Italians but not us Brits.
  3. In the rare case it is available (eg from RS, but from only one london electrical wholesaler out of the 23 I rang) it is only available in a minimum length of 50 metres. This makes the aim of the Merlino - being cheap and easy redundant.
  4. The only solution I've come up with is to order earthing braid from RS - about £10 + VAT for a reel of 25 metres, wrap that round my maker-supplied cables (eg for my audiolabs) - which I've coated with evo-stick to make it easier - using the TNT unidirectional shield formula, then heatshrink the lot. Heatshrink is about £1.20 for a 1.2 metre length from RS. If you haven't got a heatshrink gun it can just about be done using a domestic toaster (do you have these in Italy?). The ferrite cores cost considerably more than your Mr Merlino estimates - but I can't see the point of having more than one on each power cable - at the distal end (ie where the braid finishes near the equipment) - and I recommend at least 2" between the core and the equipment to prevent induction problems.
So total cost, for two cables would be about £28. By no means inconsequential. However additional cables cost a mere £8, and you can upgrade any cables not detachable from components (eg my high-quality SONY CD player which has a wire straight out of the box).
At least you wouldn't need IEC type plugs as you'd use the supplied cable as-is, merely taking off the mains plug to re-wire with the unidirectional shield connected to the earth. (by the way I recommend taking a separate 2" section of earthing cable and braiding it into the braid and then running it alongside the 3 core cables rather than tinkering with trying to run the braid into a plug - shorting is quite easy. If you have a good (ie spike and RF protected) mains there is a little difference - especially at low volume levels - in the stereo imaging. If you're a tweaker you'll probably hear it - if not.....

Trouble is translating articles straight from Italian - apart from the mediaeval prose style (what do I mean by Prose style? Well, Veronica I mean the style of the prose. What is this prose? by this I refer to the aforementioned writing the style of which you can ask the further pointless rhetorical questions.....) which is bureaucratic in the extreme, just like Italy - is that the components may not be available in Britain. In the UK we've always had an empirical, straightforward approach to science - and that includes Hifi - and many of the TNT articles make painful reading. yours
Dr. Simon Crutchley - E-mail: snc@easynet.co.uk

Dear Dr. (uh?) Simon Crutchley,
many thanks for your concern.
If you can't build a simple Merlino cable, the problem is yours, not mine. Simply buy (or build, if you can...) something else, period. Better if something especially invented, designed and proudly made in the United Kingdom ;-)
Alas, the Merlino is the simplest DIY mains cable I can think of, perhaps not simple enough for your limited DIYing skills.
Hundreds of audiophiles around the World have built it for few bucks.
Also, let me suggest you to refine your search a little bit more and accept this humble advice from a bureaucratic Italian: the cable you're looking for, in ANY lenght you may ever dream of, is available in Campaign Audio Design http://freespace.virgin.net/cad.cables/. Gosh! that's UK!!! Look for "Unterminated cables" in their prices section. The "Candour" mains cable is similar (maybe identical) to the CY/SY cable as recommended for the TNT Merlino. Price GBP 7.00/m for 0.5m to 8.5m. (Advice taken directly from our lively TNT-Audio discussion group. Warning! There are audiophiles from every Country in the World, not only English/British ones, your ego couldn't survive ;-)).

As for my English prose: I'm pretty (pretty, pretty please, with sugar on top) sure it is better than your Italian one :-)))

Finally, if you find the articles of TNT so painful to read....why don't you simply STOP reading 'em and stick with one of those perfectly written UK mags? (no, not the US ones, those aren't written in "English", right?).
Say what? The UK mags don't publish free DIY designs???? Say what? The UK mags are not for free? What a shame for such a great Country ;-)

Your signature claims you're a "Dr.".... Dr in what, please? Masochism, perhaps? ;-)
Get a life, dude. Seriously. You have so much to learn.
Lucio Cadeddu

DIY Interconnects
Piano 6/1 interconnects: I would like to try this project but I am unsure as to which RCA plugs to use. There are so many to choose from. I would like to use sonically good connectors without having to spend a small fortune (for example WBT). Do you have a preference(s) or a suggestion(s) for RCA plugs?
Thanks in advance
John - E-mail: j_ma@canada.com

Dear John,
good RCA's cost a fortune, that's a fact of life :-(
I've come across (and I'm currently testing) a revolutionary kind of RCA plugs, the Bullet Plugs by Eichmann cables. You may want to have a look. It is a pretty radical and innovative design. If I remember well, a set of 4 plugs costs around 36 $.
Also, you may try to find Van den Hul or Supra plugs, they're very good and not insanely expensive.
Lucio Cadeddu

Customers' inquiries
Dear Lucio
it's very refreshing to read reviews they're the reviewers don't have to think about the advertisers all the time. The first time my interest in the Vyger turntables started was after reading about them on TNT-Audio. It would be very kind of you if you could give me an address, email address or a phone number for Vyger.
I tried to call the telephone number of the Webmaster in Italy, but they didn't understand a word of English.
I have emailed to the account vyger@vyger.com several times with no results. I don't know how to find them or contact them so I am stuck.
I hope you can help me find these nice looking turntables for me!
Best Regards
Benny Orrelöv - E-mail: benny.orrelov@sas.se

Dear Benny,
since this appears to be a frequently asked question, let me reply publicly. I'd suggest to contact Reference Audio, Via Gregorio IX, 15 - 00167 ROMA (Italy). Phone n. ++39 06 99326133. This appears to be a kind of official distributor.
Anyway, let me comment a bit on Companies that don't reply to customers' inquiries. It is not serious (to say the least), especially when they're trying to sell hi-$$$ stuff like the Vyger turntables.
What happens if an audiophile succeeds buying one of these TT's and then needs assistance? These turntables are damn heavy and complex, not the kind of component you can repair just 'round the corner, trust me.
Lucio Cadeddu

DIY Power Cable
Hi Lucio
I really enjoy your site and have read probably most of the contents especially the tweakings section.
I am particularly interested in making a set of power cable after reading the articles on the Merlino and TTS cables. However, most of my equipment have a captive power cord. I suppose I could open up the casing and unsolder then resolder the cables from the power transformer but thought that it may not be such a good idea! (also from a warranty point of view).

However, I do have a Toshiba DVD player - SK 330 (aka SD 3109) which does have a replaceable power cord. The socket on the player has only a two pin male power adapter instead of the more common three prong IEC connector.

I am still keen to construct a twisted pair with ferrite chokes on both ends as I believe there will be gains in sound and video quality but I would really appreciate knowing what to do at the plug end that into the wall outlet.
I can only buy three pin plugs which includes the earth obviously. Should I use three separate cables twisted together but with only one end connected to the earth plug at the wall socket and leave the other end unterminated?
Or is it better to just use two cables and forget about the earth pin of the wall socket plug. If this is the case, this means that this unit isn't earthed at all - will this be detrimental to the sound or picture quality?
Actually, I don't know why the manufacturer don't use a standard 3 pronged IEC socket - probably to save costs!
By the way, I live in NZ which has a 220 -240V power supply system.
Thanks for your advice.
Roy Chan - E-mail: rklchan@i4free.co.nz

Dear Roy,
the "no-earth" situation is quite common and, believe me, it is not to "save costs". Simply, this kind of electrical components have a kind of "double insulation" (such has electric razors and hair driers, for example) so they do not need earthing at all.
This also means you could get NO improvement changing the standard cord with a better one.
I'd suggest to open the other components that make use of earthing and solder the better AC mains cord internally. That would produce a sensible upgrade.
Let me know,
Lucio Cadeddu

Jolida amps
Hi Nels,
I enjoyed both of your reviews on Jolida 302b & 502b integrated amps and I'm contemplating a purchase of one of these units. What I was wondering is, in both reviews you mention that the amps (both 302b & 502b) have subwoofer outputs, but I can't find any dealer's specs listing these (all I can find is the 4 & 8 ohm speaker outputs and the tuner, cd, tape, & aux inputs).
Did the units that you reviewed have mods (line level out?) for a powered sub connection? If I'm overlooking something obvious please forgive me.
The idea of the 302b with a sub seems really cool and I'm trying to get my ducks in a row for my first decent system.
David Stoddard - E-mail: David.Stoddard@gehh.ge.com

Hi David,
Thanks for your letter. I should have made it clear in my reviews, both samples that I had in my system did not have the "Aux" input, instead this were wired at the factory as line level subwoofer outputs (the selector switch is inoperable in the Aux position).
I believe this is the way the amps are shipping now, for verification, please contact Michael Allen at Jolida.
His email is jolidacorp@msn.com
Nels Ferré

A tweak too far?
Dear Sir,
I will start like 100% of your readers and say THANK YOU for a fantastic, independant, informative, interesting and great site.
Following the recommendation of a local dealer, I recently purchased a Audioprism Blacklight cd mat.
After 2 hours of carefull comparison, I concluded that this mat didn't improve anything (in my system). All my cd's are treated with Auric Illuminator and my system is the following:

As you frequently point out, everything is a matter of try-it-for-yourself but I was indeed surprised NOT to hear ANY difference and/or improvement, despite some engaging reviews or customers comments. A tweak too far?
Keep up the good work,
Michel - E-mail: Belvest@Belvest.com

Dear Michel,
don't be too surprised. Many CD tweaks do NOT work on certain CD players. Perhaps the fact your CD's have been treated with the Auric Illuminator may have reduced the influence of the AudioPrism Blacklight mat.
Finally, 2 hours of testing may be NOT enough. Many differences are very subtle and you detect them after days or even weeks. Hence, I suggest you to leave the AudioPrism Blacklight mat into your system for a week or so. Listen to your fav Music forgetting you have a test to make :-) Then, remove the mat and listen again.
If you won't be able to detect any difference (for better or...for worse!) this means your CD player and/or your CDs do not benefit from this tweak. Also, you may want to try the mat with non-Illuminated :-) CDs.
Let me know!
Lucio Cadeddu

Test records...
Good morning,
I am pleased to tell you that I bought the "Audio" CD from Blue man group following your review in TNT-Audio and that this album really stuns.
Reading your review made me think I could not be disappointed and I wasn't. I am gonna offer this CD to an audiophile friend of mine. When I'll know this album better, that might become one of our test disc because of its amazing dynamic and bass flow.

I take a few instants to let you know that I really appreciate this work of yours in writing for TNT-Audio and I wish a long life to the site.
PS: I am currently building a pair of FFRC and the experience might be even better then ... :-)
Best regards,
Francois Blanck - E-mail: francois.blanck@free.fr

Bonne Après-midi Francois,
A heart felt thank you for the kind words. It's always nice to hear that people enjoy our efforts. It's a labor of love for us.

Since stumbling across Blue Man Group, this has become one of my favorite CD's. It is always seeing some playing time in my systems. It is one of the first CD's I grab when I do a tweaking session or listen to a new piece of equipment (much to my wife's dismay :-)

As I said to Dejan, "Throw out your Sheffield Drum and Track album, I've got a new reference standard for you." This CD is that good.

As for the FFRC cables, Go For It!! Don't stop there though, we've got tons of other DIY stuff on the site. You might also join our list.
We have lots of good discussions for the DIY'er and die hard tweakers.
Best Regards,
Scott Faller

Dear Francois,
thanks for the appreciation, always welcomed! Actually, this is - more or less - the sixth year TNT-Audio is online (the first articles appeared in Italian back in '95!), despite what all the experts in the field of printed media had predicted (a famous editor of a famous HiFi mag once said: I see no future for free online mags... Geeee :-))))).

Staying FAR from the commercial side of this world of Audio (and this means also NO subscriptions, besides NO advertising!) allows us to write freely and without any financial ransom or pressure. This is the REAL secret of our (small) success.
Other online magazines simply failed to take off :-))) (no secret, have a look at their sites, updated once in a month with the amount of articles we publish in a week or so...).... while other traditional mags simply ceased to live.
There's also another secret: it is your continuous and precious support that pushes us to make - week after week - this humble mag always better.
Stay tuned for more Music fun!
Lucio Cadeddu

Compliments (twice)
Just a short note to say thank you, your site is a pleasure, full of valuable information with nothing but truthfull & genuine comments & assesments in all areas.
Jamie Davis - E-mail: Lucky7JAMIE@aol.com

Thank You for the best site on the Net
Zoran Simonovic - E-mail: zsima@ptt.yu

Dear readers,
letters like yours are a pleasure. No questions, just compliments. Wish they were all this way :-) Just kidding, eh!
Keep reading!
Lucio Cadeddu

Dear Lucio,
it is a long time and I was busy upgrading my system. I have now the following as a part of the hardware:

I am using the above mainly for stereo listening and I would like to know whether I get significant improvement in sound if I use AVR 7000 front channels preamp out put and connect to Harman Kardon Signature 1.5 power amplifier?
Will the sound make a difference if it is used with CHEVIN Signature A750 amp?
You have helped me in the past with your valuable advise.
Hoping to hear from you,
Best Regards,
Gireesh - E-mail: Gireesh@irckenya.org

Dear Gireesh,
you will notice an upgrade, yes. But, if you're using your system as in stereo mode only, I see no reason to use an A/V amplifier. It should be better to use a stereo preamp-power amp combo or even an integrated amp.
Also, another BIG (or BIGGER!) improvement could be obtained simply buying new speakers. Don't get me wrong, your JBL's are fine but certainly they belong to the low-end of the market. If you're really serious about upgrading, please consider new speakers instead of new amps.
Hope this helps,
Lucio Cadeddu

Building Speakers
Dear Lucio,
Long being a fan of yours, I have got the bug, and now to graduate from tweaking, I would love to build a pair of audiophile level speakers...
From research on the internet, two designs seem appealing -- Dick Olsher's "Polynatalia", and Lynn Olsen's "Ariel". The former, as far as I can tell, resembles the Wilson Watt-Puppy and the latter is a complex transmission line/reverse horn design, with a very demanding cabinet interior, for the constructor.. Neither design is a low budget affair.

Both are speakers the designers intended to be paired with tube amps. I have recently purchased a NADS1OO/S200 combination which I find very nice in my existing setup.

My question is whether these high efficiency speakers are worth the construction effort when paired with solid state amplifiers, howsoever good... ??? Also what is the advanyage of the TL/reverse horn cabinet design? Any other advice on the pleasures and pitfalls of embarking on this venture would be most welcome.
Asif Hasnain - E-mail: hasnains@uninet.net.id

Dear Asif,
you can build any of these designs and live happy with your NAD pre/power amp combo.
I'm sorry I can't help more, since I do not know the designs (never built or listened to 'em)...you should better ask the "minds" on our discussion group. I'm pretty sure someone has already built the Thorsten' Loesch's Wilson Puppy clones, for example.
Lucio Cadeddu

Ear damage
actually, according to ASHA prolonged exposure to sound above 85dB SPL is potentially damaging. Maybe you can reflect it on the web page....
I think they say 8hrs max at 85 db (work environment max) 4hrs at 90 dB, 2hr and 95 dB 1hr at 100db etc. Double check the numbers though.

In any case, people can damage their hearing at well below 100 dB. Some people are so sensitive, I think even 80 dB can do it. You never know.... it could be fine many times and then those hair cells don't recover....
Alex - E-mail unknown

Dear Alex,
the data I have are far less terroristic than yours :-)
Anyway, the ASHA data are referred to a "work" condition with NOISE. It is very different with Music (rapidly changing SPL).
Of course, I've warned the readers (into the Sound Pressure Level meter review) to avoid continuosly high pressures but I'm sure audiophiles are clever enough to avoid risky listening comditions.
Thanks for your input!
Lucio Cadeddu

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