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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June 2010

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BBC under pressure
Hi Mark,
Have a look at this:
http://www.38degrees.org.uk/BBC-stop-the-cuts
The BBC is under pressure from its commercial rivals to make massive cuts. It's expected this week to offer to cut two radio stations and half its web site, but Rupert Murdoch's still demanding even more - he even wants them to cut Radio 1.
Public pressure can stop the corporate media barons getting their way and persuade the BBC to put its viewers and listeners first. Please help add to the pressure by signing the petition here:
http://www.38degrees.org.uk/BBC-stop-the-cuts
Thanks,
Alex - alexandergjohns (at) gmail.com

MW
Hi Alex,
The recent UK election and emergency budget add to the pressure. I have participated in the BBC consultation and i am glad you have too. TNT-audio readers may have views on these subjects and I would urge them, if they enjoy BBC output via the internet, to join in the surveys.
Happy listening,
Mark Wheeler

Miniwatt N3 review
Nick,
I read your recent Miniwatt N3 review with much interest as I had originally planned to buy a Miniwatt S1 after your good experience with it last summer. However inertia intervened and no new HiFi was purchased - though we do have a shiny new BluRay player under the TV - mainly for its iPlayer capability :-) Now the S1 has been superseded by the N3; but the new amp seems to have generated some adverse on-line comments concerning its provenance. It appears that Miniwatt are a reseller of amps from OEM maker APPJ:

   
  http://www.ppj-acoustics.cn/english/index.asp
  APPJ PA0803A (aka Miniwatt S1)
  APPJ PA0901A (aka Miniwatt N3)
and the 6moons review of the Synergy version was cancelled after the reviewer became suspicious: http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/synergy2/amp.html
Now I'm not too bothered about who makes it and who sells it as long as I can buy what you have tested. Still tempted to buy my first "tube" amp - I fondly remember poking around inside the back of our valve radiogram with my dad holding the screwdriver!
How was your experience of buying from Hong Kong, were there any hidden charges like P&P, VAT and import duty?
Kind regards,
Salim - E-mail: salim_mehta (at) hotmail.com

NW
Hi Salim,
I did read something about the Miniwatts being made in China but I don't really see what that has to do with reviewing them. A lot of hi-fi is made in China but sold from somewhere else. As far as I am concerned, my review should be about how the item sounds, what it is like to use, and whether it is value for money. If the design had been 'stolen' then that would be different but as things stand, Miniwatt appear to be a courteous, and genuine supplier, and I am happy to review there products.
As regards buying an N3, there is a shipping charge listed on their web site, and you will be liable for any VAT or import duty, depending on where you live.
Regards,
Nick Whetstone

My Audio Cables - CuQ speaker cables review
Hi Arvind,
first of all let me state that I have no interest in cables making, or selling, or anything else related to HiFi. I am just confused about your listening tests protocol. "One speaker was fed the MAC and the other speaker was fed the generic cord. A short segment of music was repeatedly played over each speaker, which were fed by the same mono signal." I understand that it allows for greater flexibility and direct comparison, but I am afraid this is ruining all the assessment. Listening to a single speaker, with modern ones (as mentioned in your test wrap-up), is just plain impossible to me. I am always amazed by this test: stand in front of one speaker, fire a mono signal to both, and stop/start the other one (you would need monoblock amps to really do that with no risk for the electronics). Well the sound is just not the same at all, with far more air, pressure, ...
Firing both speakers at the same time with different cables is also ruining it all in my opinion, because the mixing-effect.
Of course, this is just my point of view, ymmv, ...
But would you consider doing it with both speakers with the same cables, and with a friend of yours switching cables when needed ? I think you would end up with very different results.
The rest of the article is just plain simple, direct to the point, and well written (and thus enjoyable to read).
Regards,
Guillaume - E-mail: brocard.guillaume (at) gmail.com

AK
Hello Guillaume,
Thanks for the feedback. Let me clear up some misunderstandings;

Clear?
Arvind Kohli

Re: Ikea Hol table
Hi Mark,
thanks for your answer. In Italy, Hol table is full avaible in many Ikea shop in big version (50x50x50) and costs 29,95 so - if there are no shortcomings - I prefer this rather than a new Flexy, which is more expensive (I'm not skillful in DiY so I'd need help of a craftsman, necessarily).
If you give me your ok, I'll buy the Hol, otherwise I'll wait till I reach the budget to build another Flexy (I think around 100€) according to your directions (actually, I have a stone floor).
Thanks,
Luca - E-mail: avv.diceglie (at) gmail.com

MW
Hi again Luca
Prompted by your email, I swung by my nearest branch of Ikea (Nottingham) and had a look for myself last night. Indeed the Hol table is available there again too. Ikea is a franchise outfit, which is why you cannot buy centrally from them on the internet and also why the standard of service is so variable from branch to branch. Indeed it appears that they care little as a company about the standard of service in their branches as they make it very difficult to contact their head office and then do not respond to correspondence if customers do write. Since I wrote the Hol article I have heard from many TNT readers who have had problems with Ikea (there is a whole website devoted to disgruntled ex-Ikea customers). Furthermore, as I discovered yesterday, they will not supply replacement parts for many items, even if in current production) forcing customers to buy the whole item again, which rather contradicts their environmental friendliness claims.

Having said that, the Hol table remains excellent value and would serve well as a turntable stand. I strongly recommend that when you build the Hol table, that you assemble it with good wood glue as well as the locking bolts supplied.

On the underside I recommend that you use adjustable support feet, preferably cones or spikes, which are easy to install especially if you buy the ones that have a threaded collet for use in wood. Plenty of audio accessory companies list these. You should install spikes at the two front (nearest) corners and one spike in the centre of the rear (further) side.

Experiment whether the Hol table sounds better with or without an inert mass inside at the base (lead ingot or bag of dry sand), centred over the axis of the triangle formed by the three spikes. Also include a loose fill of sound absorbent like polyester or long fibre wool.

Finally, support the top surface on three points directly above the lower spikes. Glueing wooden cones and cups (like those made by Yamamoto that I have been reviewing recently. The Yamamoto Sound craft PB9 and PB10 combination would be perfect in this application. They are supplied foolishly in sets of 4 but you must only use 3. Glue an upward facing point on each of the two front corners of the Hol and one upward facing point at the centre of the rear side. Glue matching receivers on the underside of the Hol lid. This arrangement will provide spike isolation but also keep the top surface securely located. Use the screw spikes you fitted on the bottom surface of the Hol table to level the table accurately. Then place your turntable on top and listen. Then try it with the alternative filling arrangements and decide which set up best suits your turntable.
This will sound much better than placing your turntable on the top of a Flexy rack that has other equipment on the lower shelves.
Happy listening,
Mark Wheeler

Shielded speaker cables
Good evening,
Regarding your review of Supra Cables Ply 3.4S, I came to a doubt. My Parasound HCA2003 power amp does not have a specific ground screw. Could I connect the shield in the pre-amp, or in the line conditioner? They both have a dedicated ground terminal. Or should I connect it together with the negative (black) speaker terminal (I know, only at the power amp end).
I appreciate,
Marcelo - E-mail: marceloluizss (at) click21.com.br

LC
Dear Marcelo,
since your power amp doesn't have, as many others, a ground screw, you should connect the shield directly to the negative (black) speaker binding post. I wouldn't suggest to use the ground screw of your preamp, though it should work the same. Do not expect to hear a dramatic improvement, the final result depends on the resolution of your system and on the amount of interferences surrounding your listening room.
Keep us updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

Radioshack digital sound meter
Lucio,
Have just read your interesting review on Radio Shack's Digital Sound Level Meter. Is there such a meter, reasonably accurate, that I could hook up to my imac (leopard) so I could tweak my itunes to a level so that I wouldn't need adjust the volume when playing CDs in my car?
Your's truly,
John - E-mail: jondan (at) primus.ca

LC
Dear John,
you don't really need a digital sound meter to do what you need: you simply need a way to dynamically compress the sound of your CD's, so that the differences between forte's and piano's become smaller. This is exactly what the loudness war is all about! Modern CDs are already heavily compressed! Anyway, you can produce your own CDs, for in car use, using one of the various compression tools which are available (even as plug-ins for Windows mediaplayers). For MacIntosh even Audacity should do the trick.
You might find several useful advices on the following Mac Rumours forum.
Hope this helped!
Lucio Cadeddu

Ikea Hol table
Hi Mark,
My name is Luca and I'm searching for a cheap table for my turntable, a Goldring GR2.
I already have built a TNT Flexy but I've been told a dedicated table is better. In your opinion is the Ikea Hol any good for a turntable like mine?
Or should I save my money and continue using the Flexy?
Thanks,
Luca - E-mail: avv.diceglie (at) gmail.com

MW
Hi Luca
The bad news is that the Ikea Hol table seems to have been withdrawn from most markets now. It would be easy enough to buy a plain blanket box in whatever wood suits your decor and drill your own perforations as you must have DIY skills as you have already made our splendid Flexy table. However, you would be better off making another Flexy table for your turntable. Turntables need to be housed on their own support separate from the other components (whose transformer and other vibrations will affect the turntable) so a separate table for your turntable is essential. If you have a bouncy wooden floor a wall shelf would be even better, but if you have a solid stone or tiled floor or concrete floor the Flexy table will be good. For turntables it is best to build the Flexy table with a single leg at the rear and two legs at the front. It is also better to cut a hole in the centre of the lower shelf to reduce mass and surface area.
Happy furniture making and listening,
Mark Wheeler

CAT6 cables
Good evening,
I have used 3x strands Cat-5e cable for speaker connections.... with really excellent results, and now wondered if there would be any merit in changing to Cat-6 cable. My understanding of this is confused.
Regards,
Pete - E-mail: kincol (at) global.co.za

LC
Dear Pete,
category 6 cables - like CAT5's - are made up of four twisted pairs of copper wire, but there's a longitudinal separator that isolates each of the four pairs of twisted wires from the others. This reduces crosstalk, improves data transfer, and gives Category 6 cable twice the bandwidth of Cat 5! This, of course, makes a REAL difference when building data networks but it is hard to translate this benefit into audio terms. All you can do is try by yourself and eventually report your experience.
Keep us updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

That upgrade bug
Good evening Lucio.
First of all thank you for a most interesting and absorbing web site. My current system consists of Pro-Ject Xpression Turntable, Cambridge 640 Phono amp, Audiolab 8000s Amp, Creek Evo CDP and Mission M35i Speakers. The speakers are 92dB sensitivity so to tame the CDP I am using the Rothwell attenuators reviewed on your site between the CDP and Amp. I still cannot turn the volume up beyond 10 o' clock on the amp, but it is perfectly listenable. Now the upgrade bug has bitten.
I am looking to add a power amp (probably the Audiolab 8000p) and after reading some glowing reviews, the Klipsch RF 52's, now these are rated at 96dB sensitivity and I am wondering if a second set of attenuators between the 8000s in pre-amp mode and the 8000p would give me a decent range on my volume control. Or should I look at another solution?
Many thanks,
Regards,
Mike - E-mail: mike (at) stjamescemetery.co.uk

LC
Dear Mike,
I'd rather suggest you NOT to go for the preamp/amp solution as it wouldn't represent a serious upgrade. You'd get far better sound buying a new integrated amp, instead, of higher quality. Since the Klipsch do sound loud with few watts, think at a low-powered amplifier, even a 300B tube amplifier might be sufficient for your needs. Try auditioning some of these with the Klipsch RF52's and decide accordingly. This way you might find attenuators are no longer needed.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

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