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June 2006

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Mexican radio through phono
My problem is I am picking up a Mexican radio station through my phono section. The MM position is noticeable but the MC position amplifies this even further! It is not that it is a Mexican radio station, it is that I am picking up any radio station at all!
Could you please assist me in this most perplexing problem?
A fellow stereo enthusiast,
Michael - E-mail: mwfleming2005 (at)

Dear Michael,
this is quite a common problem with phono inputs, especially MC ones. Normally the problem is caused by the phono cables that act as FM antennas. You can try two things:

  1. Buy a big toroidal ferrite ring and wrap the phono cables around it;
  2. Use better phono cables. Shielding is of paramount importance on phono interconnects. Try using, for example, a run of Supra EFF-I interconnects. These are very well shielded cables hence they shouldn't pick up any aerial interference.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

Info on Atoll
Hello Lucio:
I have read your reviews you have done on Atoll amplifiers namely the IN 80 and the little brother IN 50.
I am seriously interested in learning more about the the Atoll PR5.1, AV100, and the AM100 as a home theater and music system? I have read your reviews so I am assuming you have some knowledge on their gear?
If you could tell me your thoughts I would appreciate it. I am unable to find many reviews on Atoll components except that they are a good company from France which began around 1997.
I would like to find information on the preamp processor and how that matches with the AM100 and AV100 with musicality and of course HT. Thank you very much.
Dean - E-mail: madmanmax (at)

Dear Dean,
unfortunately we're not interested in HT gear so I'm afraid I can't comment much on this. The AM 100, I assume, should be the power section of the IN100 integrated amp I reviewed a couple of years ago, while the AV100 is almost the same unit, just with an extra channel. Hence, the sound quality is as described in that review.
Generally, even for watching movies on the TV, I prefer using a two channel system. For a given budget, you get better sound just need to say "NO" to surround effects (which may be boring in the long run).
Two channel stereo rulez :-)
Lucio Cadeddu

I do have Puccini remote amp which has an active pre-amp. I was just thinking of trying ART DI/O DAC in my set-up. But it has a whooping 7V output instead of industry standard 2V. My question is will it damage my amp?
Sandip - E-mail: sandipb (at)

Dear Sandip,
you won't damage the amp but the sound will get distorted eventually. My suggestion is to use an attenuated interconnect cable or a pair of Rothwell attenuators we reviewed some time ago.
Anything you might need to know about the ART DI/O DAC can be found on this excellent DIO-FAQ.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

Preamp match
Hi Lucio,
When I plug my all-valve preamp into a dedicated power amp or the power section of an integrated (both solid state), I get a very bass-thin and overall characterless sound. It's most unpleasant when playing vinyl (which is my main source) and bass notes on 12" dance singles go 'thud' instead of 'whump!' Then one day I discovered, quite by chance, that when I plug my preamp into the tape input of my integrated, I get a rich and full-bodied sound. Is it common for audiophiles to do this?
My set-up comprises:

Many thanks Lucio!
Raz - E-mail: razzwill (at)

Dear Raz,
if you plug your preamp into the TAPE IN input you're just adding a preamp to another preamp (the pre section of your integrated). This is pure nonsense, most of the times. Since I do not know your tube preamp specs I assume it needs a particular impedance interface (or input sensitivity) to work well. You should ask the manufacturer about special requirements for optimum system match.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

Cairn Fog
Hello, I've just read your test of the Cairn Fog 2 as I've been owner of a Fog 1 for some years and I appreciated it very much. Could you please let me know if you had any oppartunity to test the Fog 3 as I have the opportunity to change my Fog 1 for it.
Thank you in advance.
Philippe - E-mail: pcolet (at)

Dear Philippe,
I've not had the possibility to audition the new Fog 3 yet. If it is as good as the previous Fog 2 it would be another CD player to recommend! Of course, the new Fog 3 scores high on my wish list so I hope to find the time to review it as soon as possible. It is a pity the Fog 2 didn't get the popularity it clearly deserved. Poor distribution, perhaps?
Stay tuned!
Lucio Cadeddu

VTA experiments and blind testing
Dear Mr. Husband:
Back in 2004 you posted a VTA (or AHA) experiment and asked for feedback. I'm wondering if you ever got any, wrote it up, and I missed the results. Being a research scientist, I appreciate your remarks on testing methodologies. I have seen people use the most subtle of clues, often unconsciously, to make quality judgments when those clues are not sensory ones.
I teach classes on wines, and wine tasting and evaluation has many things in common with evaluating audio components by ear. In "blind" tastings people use such subtle clues as the shape of the bottle top peering over the brown bag, whether the bottom had a punt in it (I've seen people feel the bottom as they pick up the bottle), and the facial expressions of people whose judgment they value in coming to their conclusions.
Many times I have seen people grade wines as "superb" simply because they were expecting them to be superb. A truly blind wine tasting must be very carefully done, as with audio evaluation, and the results can be very humbling for "experienced" tasters.
I have done some experiments of AHA before I read any of your articles, as I had a hard time believing that such small changes could make such a difference. The VTA/SRA changes all the time, from record to record, as the temperature changes, and even as the record turns on most records, which are not that flat. I've watched the stylus as a typical record spins, and often the SRA changes quite noticeably during each revolution because of non-flatness and the accelerations it produces, but unless there were audible bumps, I could never hear anything.
A change of 1 mm in AHA in a 200 mm arm is of course less than a third of a degree, far smaller than I could see. In any event, trying to keep an open mind, I have tried 2+ mm AHA changes on my Rega P3/RB300 and failed to hear any difference. Now this was just me doing everything, so this was the extreme opposite of a blind test.
Given my theoretical bias, I could correctly be accused of getting the result I expected. But when people say the results are obvious, dramatic, then I would expect to hear them. I can hear other differences from subtle changes, such as TT mats.
There is another way to do your blind test that I have used. I make a CD-R of a given set-up. I find a carefully-made CD-R can be virtually indistinguishable from the original vinyl. I make recordings of all the different setups on different tracks. Then at my leisure I can go back and inter-compare different set-ups. I used this to pick the ideal tubes for my EAR 834p phono stage and for such minor things as whether it is better to leave the cover on or off the TT when playing a record.
Also, after producing the CD-R, I can persuade someone to play various tracks in random order with me blindfolded or unable to see what track is playing, so I can do a blind test. It is important that I do this before i am familiar with the slightly different surface noise on each track and thus can identify it by other means. I can also have other people listen to the CD-r and give their opinions, as it is a permanent record.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your articles! I wish more people would go about things like this.
Joe - E-mail: miller (at)

Hi Joseph
Thanks for the mail. Sadly not one person has done the AHA tests and I don't currently have an arm here suitable for the experiment, though in the near future I may have and will give it a go - after all I can hardly criticise people for not doing something I'm unprepared to do myself.
As you noticed in my original VTA article I mentioned wine tasting as having a lot in common with audio "tasting" and all your comments re wines ring very true to me - people are "suggestable" to a huge degree - it's part of what makes us human, but needs to be excised in any worthwhile experiment. I envy you the ability to identify wines blind, personally I'm hopeless at identifying anything costing more than a Euro (I live in France :-) - "never spoil your palet with a good wine" maybe the same applies to Hi-Fi and I should have stuck with that old Dansette autochanger that gave me so much pleasure.
Thanks for the idea of the CDR - I remember long ago doing something similar with cassette of all things! Sadly I don't have the kit here, but it'd be one way of me avoiding the hassle of running two identical systems for the Turntable tests.
As always thanks for the feedback and the positive comments - it is what makes this worth while.
Geoff Husband

Hi Lucio,
The last time I wrote you was for a little review of the T-amp, one of the first four. Please I need your help. I've recently bought a pair of your sr125 model, and I was very impressed (it's like sitting down beetwen my old Apogee Duettas). I feel the sound preassure so HIGH, so I take the SPL meter and it reads peaks of only 86db and an average of 74-76. Is that normal?
It's dangerous to my ears?
Thanks a lot and sorry my English.
Carlos - E-mail: guarnieri129 (at)

Dear Carlos,
first of all I can't understand what do you mean by "I bought one of your SR 125"??? We sell nothing and I have no idea of what on Earth a SR125 might be. Are you referring to Grado headphones, maybe? In this case measuring sound pressure leads you nowhere unless you place the mic of the SPL meter close, very close to the headphone membrane.
In a standard listening room peaks of 86 dB sound "low" to me...but please consider I normally play my systems quite loud.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

Excessive voltage?
Dear Lucio:
Thanks for the fabulous review about the Sonic Impact T-amp. I am also a big fan of the amp. In fact, I've got one question about this. I've heard from my friend that high "amperes" as well as high voltage can improve the sound and I tried the adapter which provides high amperes but, unfortunately, the amp does not work any more.
Do you think that there is a way to fix the amp? Or do I have to just throw it away?
Thanks for reading my question!
Jay- E-mail: jaiho_chung (at)

Dear Jay,
you can virtually use any kind of AC/DC adapter with the T-Amp, provided it puts out not more than 13.8 Volts. Amperes are not a concern, as already explained several times. What destroys the T-Amp chip is excessive voltage and, of course, wrong polarity.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Digital sources
Hi Lucio!
Just read your June, 2006 Editorial. Also have just been looking at a device that was new to me, the SqueezeBox by Slim Devices.
This product seems very cool! It accesses uncompressed or compressed audio files stored on a PC and provides the D/A conversion for input into an audio system. This can be done wirelessly or over an ethernet cable and using a remote. I would love to see a review of this device on TNT-Audio!
Dan - E-mail: danbare (at)

Dear Dan,
I've already looked at the Squeezebox and I've found it quite interesting. Being a PC-devoted component makes it less appealing to audiophiles, since using a PC as Music source isn't the best way to go (interferences, fans noise etc.). Anyway, never say no :-)
Stay tuned,
Lucio Cadeddu

June 2006 Editorial
you write in the June 2006 Editorial "... able to download raw, uncompressed digital Music from the Net.".
I recently had a discussion about the Ipod. I told the others that the Ipod uses a DRM system. It is to be expected, that in 10 years the ipod will no longer exist so the users cannot listen to the music they paid for.
I was told that you can burn up to three CDs from one song downloaded to the ipod (given that the music is not free). I said that it is uncommon for CD-R media to last much longer than 10 years.
Now there are two things that I wanted to bring to attention:

  1. DRM systems are copyprotected sometimes also patented.
  2. It is illegal to crack DRM systems. If someone does so, several months in prison can be the result.
There is one thing in common for most legal music downloads: it is impossible to safely store the music you have paid for for a long time. Sooner or later the DRM system they are protected with will no longer exist. Even a conversion utility that breaks the current DRM system the music is using and converts the music to a DRM format more common is illegal (if it does not come from the original manufacturer or the person who has the rights to do so - and why should they allow that for nothing?).
So it is more likely than not that in 15 years worldwide we will have music that people have paid billions of dollars for and that cannot be listened to. I would not call that "Not 100% good news" I would call that 100% bad news.
And the music mafia - in fear of illegal downloads - has by far not halfway completed their plans! We need only a few lines of code, and these changes to the DRM will forever make it impossible to share music. We will see personalized copies of music files, that cannot be played by someone else. Of course, there will never be a second hand market for legally downloaded music files. If you die, it is impossible to bequeath the music you collected over your life to your children.
And although people are so much restricted by these new formats, they still do not get music for less money.
For me this means: I will never pay anything for downloaded music!
Kind regards,
PS: exactly the same is true for any DVD format or blue ray or whatever will come as long as these formats still use some kind of DRM. Just look at those fools who spend tons of money for laserdiscs! I recently purchased a Glen Gould collection laserdisc from a flea market - for 1 Euro. It looks cool to place the laserdisc on my turntable. ;-)
Thomas - E-mail: thomas (at)

Dear Thomas,
thanks for your always insightful comments. I'm more optimistic, though. DRM caused more than one headache to Sony, because the code contained something that could be considered malware. I'm pretty sure the record Companies will find ways to allow full download of uncompressed data without making it useless in few years.
In any case, I'm pretty confident on the future of mass storage memories as well. A simple USB pen can contain several Gb's of data. When costs will go down, we could eventually buy a whole album stored into a chip. It might be possible. Rotating optical discs aren't the best way to store data.
Thanks for the feedback!
Lucio Cadeddu

Budget turntables saga
Hi Arvind,
I would like to supply some information.
New CDs cost around 20 USD each here in Austria (and at least in some parts of Europe). These are new releases, rock pop, usually in the charts.
If you are into modern music that is not so common, like Bic Runga or Lee Aaron, it gets more expensive. Search for the title "slick chick" (Lee Aaron), it sells for 27,99 Euro (36,15 USD) for the Canada import, the UK import is new and costs 30 USD.

If you are into classical music, it gets worse! Search for "B000002RXS" (a Carmen with Maria Callas) or "B000002RXX" (a Butterfly) they go for 35,99 Euro (46,50 USD), and amazon dropped the prices around 20 percent for these recordings.
Of course, you get them for less off of ebay, but still in the 10 to 20 USD range (used or new).
Used records on the other hand can be had for around 1,99 Euro (2,60 USD), or by chance for less than 50 Euro Cent each (0,65 USD), sometimes more expensiv with an average of about 2,50 Euro (3,23 USD).
So if we calculate 3,50 USD average for an excellent used LP and 15 USD for a used CD, when buying 87 LPs we saved 1000 USD.
I have much more than 1000 LPs (and around 250 CDs).

Now I would never spend 3000 USD for a CD player (and DVD - no matter what format - includes copy protection and therefore is off limits), in fact I am thinking about putting al those CDs on a harddrive in my server and strem from there - the quality is not good anyway. But I would spend much more for LP gear. ;)

There is so much music on old LPs in high quality - I like classic and Jazz - more than I can ever hear in my whole life. There is no such thing like a "must have" for modern productions. But I have to admit, that I recently bought the latest Alice Cooper Album, Apocalyptica, Metallicas Black Album and Cashs America IV - of course new on LP ;-)
Kind regards,
Thomas - E-mail: thomas (at)

Thanks so much for the EU perspective. I guess it would make a lot more sense to maintain a vinyl setup in Europe, from an economic view.
With the used media prices you mention, the breakeven point for the MMF2.1 and VP129 setup comes down to 57 albums. That makes an open and shut case for adding atleast a budget vinyl setup for those living in Europe.
Arvind Kohli

Still on the budget turntables saga
Here are some suggested analog components you may want to try:

They should handily blow the MMF 2.1 LE out of the water. Of course, I'm biased since with the exception of the Horizon (I have a N.A. Interspace), this is what I'm running on my analog front-end. Beats the pants off of CD.

Good luck on your new journey. You'll find that there is a lot of new vinyl being pressed these days. I highly recommend Cat Power - The Greatest and Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions as two excellent-sounding LPs.
Derek - E-mail: derek_vanveen (at)

Thanks so much for your suggestion. I just looked up the distibutor's website, and alas they do not seem to deal in cartridges and phono stages. For this series of articles, I will only invite complete setups. Having to create suitable combinations is out of the scope of newbies, and therefore this series. But I will make a note for possible future articles.
Arvind Kohli

May 2006 editorial
What you wrote is simply true. I have huge speakers myself (two Manger DIY box). I do not want to place the speaker in the mids of the living room and in the front of everybody's face. The solution I have come up with is that I installed my speaker on rolls and place them close to the back wall. Every time I start to do serious listening I have to move the speakers in right position (some almost invisible small marks on the floor do the trick).
It works for me.
Yours sincerely,
Wolfgang - E-mail: Wolfgang.Rissler (at)

Dear Wolfgang,
thanks for the precious feedback! Let me suggest a trick to move the speakers and avoid the problem you may have with "rollers". Try using Teflon ® discs like these. Any bricolage store should have these in stock, perhaps from different brands. These allow the speakers to remain stable, do not mark or scratch the floor, make heavy speakers easy to "move" and have a sort of interesting decoupling property. Definitely worth a try.
Lucio Cadeddu

Technics SL 1200 review
I commend you for your review. Many "high-end" audiophiles are herd animals and refuse to check things out for themselves. Also, it is easy to let preconceived views influence ones thinking.
As you point out, the Technics is an older design, but, then again, it is not older than the belt drive turntable. Your review makes clear that the table was originally intended for the consumer market, however, with the Mk 2 version the deck was specifically marketed towards "professionals" as part of their pro line (along with the SP-15, 25, and 10 Mk2 and 3).
It shares the same motor and electronics with the erstwhile SP-25. I have 2 Technics decks. The SL-1100, and SL-1200 Mk5. The latter is similar to the Mk 2 with the exception of a Quartz lock reset, and a recessed power switch. Also, the stylus light is, I believe, now an LED. The 1200 Mk2 is a better engineered deck than either the 1100, or the original 1200.
The tonearm on the Mk5 has not changed from the 1200 Mk2. I have seen modifications allowing use of other arms, but, as you point out, the VTA function is then unavailable. An option would be to find an EPA-250 (which consists of the EPA 500 arm base and EPA 250 S-shaped tonearm assembly; they occasionally turn up on ebay).
This ought to fit the table without much modification, and would then allow adjustable VTA. In any case I'd like to mention that at least one MM cartridge can be used without problems. I have a V-15x MR sometimes installed, and with the damping brush there are no resonance issues.
Good MC cartridges work well with the arm. Some of the very heavy cartridges are best used in heavier arms. I would hesitate against using a stone Koetsu, a Fidelity Research cartridge, or an SPU in the tonearm, but who knows? Denons work well. Unfortunately, Denon has decided to offer only the spherical tip in their current 103 lineup. Nevertheless, the DL-103 (and I presume, the 103 R) mate well with the Technics arm. I have used both the 103 and 103 D with good results.
I have just ordered my second 103, and will then be sending my current Denon to Mr. van den Hul in order to have it retipped. The cantilever will also be replaced with a boron tube. I am interested in hearing what difference a modern line contact stylus does for this ancient cartridge design.
Direct drive has gotten a lot of bad press over the years. Yet, two of the most highly regarded phono technologists have used this principle in their designs. Here, I am talking about Mitchell Cotter and Sao Win. As far as I know, neither Cotter nor Dr. Win are involved in hi-fi anymore, but in this I could certainly be mistaken.
The idea that the quartz servo system "hunts and pecks" and that this is responsible for audible speed problems is foolish. No one will hear any flutter or speed variation with the SL-1200. A good check is Liszt lieder.
Just piano and voice--two of the most difficult instruments to reproduce. I own a Thorens TD-160 which I have modified in accordance to standard practice. I prefer the Technics. I can discern no speed related artifacts between the two, but the Technics is less prone to room vibrations affecting the tonearm. In general, I prefer mass and rigidity over a spongy, springy suspension, but I suppose that different installations have different requirements.
The Technics is also better in this respect than a Denon DP-75 I once owned. The latter's factory laminated wooden base was quite resonant, not unlike a guitar or violin. The base of the Technics is relatively inert.
If I could make any changes I would add the addition of 78 rpm. KAB offers an appropriate modification, but then the factory warranty is voided. In a more perfect world Technics would still offer the EPA 500 tonearm system as an option. However, as it is, the standard Technics tonearm is well designed and functional. Like you, I have noticed and agree that it is surprising how friction free it feels when handling it. There is no bearing play I can discern.
Older designs are not necessarily always worth ignoring. There is a gentleman in Japan designing low powered tube amps that he mates with classic horn systems. He employs a primitive Grace oil-damped tonearm (ever see one of those?) with a Denon DL-102 mono cartridge in order to show off his wares.
So, I feel a bit modern sporting a Denon DL-103 on a Technics SL 1200.
Michael - E-mail: mpresley (at)

Dear Michael,
thank you for your lengthy comment. You touch on some aspects covered less in my review, but then, reviews cannot be of infinite length, and so we sometimes have to leave things out. Yes, the damper-equipped Shure cartridges can be used with arms of excessive (relative to the cartridge's compliance) mass: the damping action cancels the negative effects of a peaky resonance at too low a frequency.
As for the DL-103's spherical stylus ... it may seem crude, but it keeps the cartridge cheap(er), and as long as the result sounds like music we're all happy, not?
Thanks for the feedback!
Werner Ogiers

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