TNT-Audio Readers' Corner
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May 2005

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T-Amp review
Dr. Lucio,
I very much enjoyed reading your review of this amplifier. I am not an audiophile by any means, but I know the difference between good and not so good sound. In reading your review, you had mentioned that the speakers to should have a sensitivity above 92dB. I am considering this pair of speakers (because I have heard them driven with other equipment): Axiom Audio M3Ti.
My questions is this. When viewing the specs in your opinion will these speakers meet the sensitivity recommendation? Should I be concerned about the minimum 10 watt power requirement? Care to recommend any other speakers (that I can get in USA)?
I was really skeptical about this amp, but after reading your entertaining review, I ordered it immediately.
Best Regards
Sean - E-mail: sean_findley (at) keymail.com

LC
Dear Sean,
minimum power required is a spec with almost no meaning. The manufacturer can't decide your listening level habits :-)
The real problem is sensitivity, though, as it is quite low, at 88 dB/w/m. The T-Amp might be insufficient to generate an acceptable sound pressure level with these speakers.
You should search for something like Klipsch bookshelf loudspeakers, easily available in the USA for more or less the same money. Even the smaller bookshelf loudspeaker from Klipsch has a sensitivity higher than 90 dB and that should be enough, if your room isn't too large. Anyway, try to test listen to these speakers as they possess a very peculiar sound character.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Vinyl guidance
Geoff,
Good Morning. By way of introduction my name is Jon. I've followed your reviews almost since I got started in this past time (4 years). You, among others, were a big reason I bought my first table. Thanks so much. I have a system question that I think you'd be the best equipped to handle.
I am currently running a DV 10X5, hot rodded Rega P3 and Gram amp 2 into a Simaudio i-3. Long term I'm thinking of moving to a Gyrodec or Spacedeck. Lately I've been thinking of upgrading the stage. Specifically, I'm looking at the Era Gold, EAR 834p and Audion Sterling. Two of these options may be a good way to get some tubes into the system; however, the Gram Amp has served me well and I seem to remember that you were quite fond of the Era Gold. I listen mostly to indie rock, electronic and occasional jazz.
Any thoughts? I'd like to know also if I'm barking up the wrong tree and if it would just be better to wait for a new table. Thanks for your time.
Regards,
Jon - E-mail: jbanz (at) pvinc.com

GH
Hi Jon,
Thanks for the kind words and welcome to the happy band of vinyl obsessives...
All I can do is suggest what I personally would do in your position. First don't be seduced by a technology, only by a sound. I've had many phone stages here and probably equally split between valve and transistor based and my conclusion is that a good stage is a good stage whether it has valves in it or not. I've not heard the EAR or Sterling, though my old Audion Premier had a fine valve phono stage in it.
But the GramAmp2 is still a fine stage and I can't see either being a major upgrade, nor is the Gold, especially given the limits of your front end. So....? For me I'd go for a Spider Gyro. You'd save yourself 400 by not changing your stage, and probably get 200 for the old Rega. Given 600 to play with you're a long way to buying a new Gyro, or have enough for one second hand outright.
For me it wouldn't be a difficult choice :-)
Let me know how you get on
Geoff Husband

Blue Tack tweak
Hi Geoff, it did take a while for me to try out the "Blu-Tak Challenge". Part of the problem lay in the fact that the Tabriz arm support juts out right above one of the bolt heads making it almost impossible to get the key head into position. Anyway, I finally found a key with a short enough head to fit underneath the support. Once loosened, I was able to finish loosening the bolt with my finger!
I created slim "sausage" strips of Blu-Tak which I then curled and slid under the spacers (these spacers were cut down versions created by Michell to accommodate the Tabriz arm post which apparently sits much higher than most arms).
Finally, I tightened the bolts until everything felt firm and solid. There is now a slim line of Blu-tak visible below each spacer.
Well, onto the testing. I have to say I was sceptical before doing this but was pleasantly surprised when I put on my first record. At the risk of sounding like a hi-fi hack, it was a revelation! Most striking was that I could hear mid-range instruments much more clearly. Vocals and high-pitch instruments had more presence and the bass was much leaner with little or no boom on bass instruments in their upper registers. Yet, when needed the bass still went deep, and it was much easier to discern the kick-drum from the bass line.
Overall, the sound is more balanced and appears to have less "weight", but I now realise this was a false sound and infact I now find that I can turn the volume up a little which counteracts this effect. I'm now examing my CD player (a Marantz Ki model) because it is displaying similar characteristics to the Michell pre Blu-tak and am wondering if I should either be looking to upgrade (I'm interested in the Musical Fidelity A5 - I have an A3 amp) or do you know of a tweak that may help a cd player?
Anyway, Geoff, thanks for your help. The difference is noticeable and I'm amazed that Michell have not addressed this already. When people say "I re-discovered my record collection", after this small tweak, I genuinely can say this is true.
PS - I have a Yamaha hard disk recorder which makes extremely faithful recordings and had begun to archive my 12" singles onto it before trying the Blu-tak. I have not had a chance to do an A-B comparison since the tweak but I'll let you know the outcome of these when I do.
Robert - E-mail: robert (at) cateline.gotadsl.co.uk

GH
Hi Robert,
Thanks for the invaluable feedback, in my case the improvement was so profound I had to get second opinions before I believed so slight a change could make so much difference. Best thing is it's a free tweek and easily reversable :-)
Anyway, what you describe is precisely what I heard and yes I'm baffled as to why such a simple solution to a known weakness in the deck hasn't aroused Michells interest. My series of turntable tests increasingly pointed to the Orbes 'bloat' and yet with the addition of a small piece of Blu-Tak I can honestly say that the Orbe will take on all comers on equal terms.
CD players are sadly not my forte and the lack of the 'big' expansive sound that a good turntable produces is one aspect that all seem to miss. I'd love to be able to offer a 'free' tweek but I don't know an equivalent to the Blu-Tak tweek, but others may be able to help. You can throw money at the problem of course and the Audionote Zero has a lean, dynamic sound for not outrageous money (and may be discounted?) but it isn't going to match the Orbe.
The only snag with doing the recording test back to back is that environmental sound levels need to be similar to account for the chassis maybe picking up vibrations from the support/air - if the recordings were done in silence the effect of the Blu-Tak might be masked?
Keep me posted,
Geoff Husband

Garrard Zero 100
Recently I have tried to connect my Garrard Zero 100 to my receiver. To my dismay, I could not hear any reproduction of the record. I read your article regarding restoration of this TT, but did not find any reference to checking out the cartridge and shell. The design of the locking device for the cartridge and shell is not a good one. I attempted connecting this TT about a month ago and at that time only one channel worked. I have use this TT in the past and carefully stored it when not in use. This TT worked perfectly before I stored it. I have electronic know how and will be willing to attempt any repair.
Any suggestions on how to make this TT work? I would appreciate any information and advice you have.
Regards,
William - E-mail: wiltray4000 (at) yahoo.com

LC
Dear William,
I suspect the wires that lead the signal from the cartridge to the "output" are interrupted somewhere. Just check them with a tester. Furthermore, carefully inspect the shell connections, as they can be loose, broken or simply faulty (because of oxide buildup). Of course, I am assuming the stylus and the whole cartridge are OK.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

T-Amp
Hi Geoff,
I'm writing to you just to let you know that I've finally got a T-Amp and it drives without any problem the IPL S3TLM in my very large room! I cannot hear too much difference from my Nait 3, except for the bass that is slightly less deep with the little monster, but considering the huge amount of IPL's bass this isn't a problem, indeed it can be considered as an advantage because it helps in balancing the sound.
The high frequencies are very clear and detailed, and as far as the sound pressure I can tell you that I cannot get the clipping because my ears pray me to lower the volume way before!
The image is very good and also the PRaT factor is really OK, my head was going up and down as my feet do :) The T-Amp is powered by a very good power supply rated of 13.5 V and 5 A (7A surge), obviously bought used :) The only complain about the T-Amp is that it is so lightweight that the NACA5 cable (I haven't any other cable at the moment) drags it away! :)
Thanks a lot for all your advices!
Fabio - E-mail: brutsalvadi (at) inwind.it

GH
Hi Fabio,
Joint the gang... The Nait is still a benchmark mid price integrated but as you've found that T-amp is something special. The IPL's are transmission lines (as you know having built them!) and as such are an easy load so don't get the T-amp in trouble there.
However though the T-amp will go loudish it'll do so with no headroom for peaks and so will tend to sound compressed with some music, so good though it is with the IPL's it's going to fly with something really efficient where 6 watts still leaves loads of headroom. Why not have a go at at the BD designs TQWT (reviewed by me :-)) next time you have the handsaw out :-)
But the point is that for $30 everyone can have a real taste of the high end and there's no product in the history of hi-fi that has had the same effect.
All the best,
Geoff Husband

T-Amp tweaks
First, I would like to thank you for your excellent article on the T-Amp. I discover it through your web site. I bought one and was also extremely surprised by the excellence of the sound. My Mission Cyrus 2 + PSX is really not as good. Of course people tried to improve it and I follow the advice of Michael Mardis (http://www.michael.mardis.com/sonic/start.html) to improve it. The result, which was already good, is even better and this little gem is a real pleasure to use. A French team also started to develop a web site to share the possible improvement (www.t-amp.e-geek.org). Of course it is in French but should be interesting for those who want to share their experiences.
Thank you again for the excellent article and for your Website
PS: I am also a bike lover (and of course on an italian bike: Kuota Khan)
Frederic - E-mail: flaude (at) mac.com

LC
Dear Frederic,
thanks for the precious feedback. It is good to know even French audiophiles have fallen in love with this little and inexpensive gem! It proves we are not deaf or visionaries :-) Keep us updated about the results.
Nice bike you ride, a frind of mine rides a cool Kuota Ksano!
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Attenuated interconnects
Dear Mr Cadeddu,
I read your comments on the Kimber KC1 interconnect. It leads me to a question on other Kimber cables. There is a company in the UK (Russ Andrews) that offers Kimber Interconnects (Tonik, Timbre and more) in attenuated versions fitting to the sensitivity of the output of the CD-player and input of the amplifier.
I try to figure out if this is worthwhile buying or is it a hoax? One local hifidealer told me even that it was impossible for regular hifi equipment.
Can you give a comment on that?
Kind regards,
Jan - E-mail: info (at) campusboekhandel.nl

LC
Dear Jan,
attenuated interconnects are _not_ a hoax. Actually, there are reasons why one may need attenuated interconnects. For example, when dealing with high-sensitivity line inputs, as on some Naim preamps. A short explaination of the "theory behind" can be found on our review of the Rothwell attenuators (attenuated RCA connectors).
Your local HiFi dealer should learn something more before making such questionable claims :-)
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

When in Rome...
Dear Lucio
I have found your site to be an excellent site reviewing a large amount of interesting gear. The reviews are generally very thorough and always interesting to read. Geoff Husband has been very kind in offering advice of a technical nature so overall kudos to you and your colleagues.
I am writing because I will soon be coming to Italy to cycle (another passion of yours). This will be our fourth trip, 1000 km in umbria-marche. I will have a number of days in rome and wonder if you have any suggestions as to places I might look at in terms of vinyl (new or used) or interesting gear. We will be near the pantheon and without car. I would also ask if you have any great suggestions re music, our tastes run to classical and jazz.
Sincerely yours
Gary - E-mail: gelfand (at) ucalgary.ca

LC
Dear Gary,
since this appears to be a frequently asked question I suggest you (and other audiophiles touring Italy) to temporarily join one of our "regional" online communities on Yahoo Groups. The complete list can be found here. The communty you should join is TNT-Lazio: there are hundreds of subscribers from Rome who will be able to give you precious suggestions on how to make a good "audiophile tour" for audio and vinyl.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

T-Amp hiss
Hi Lucio,
I hope you can help me. I bought a Sonic Impact T-amp and hooked it up to my system, NAD 320 BEE as pre-amp and using a pair of Acoustic Energy EVO 3 Speakers, unfortunately I can hear a hissing sound from the speakers which is audible at the listening position and spoils the music.
The hissing is at a constant level regardless of volume position on both the pre-amp and SI amp, I intended using the SI as a power amp in my system. I also hooked up an ipod shuffle and to my dismay the hissing was evident again. Do you have any ideas as to why it's doing that or could it be the unit is faulty! I'd appreciate any advice as I will have to send it back to the states and I was so looking forward to hearing this amp.
Many Thanks,
Steve - E-mail: stevekretscher (at) hotmail.com

LC
Dear Steve,
there is a couple of things that can cause hiss. First of all, move the T-Amp power supply away from other components and - if possible - use a coaxial wire to hook up it to the T-Amp. Secondly, inspect the minijack-RCA adaptor. If it isn't properly inserted into the socket noise may occour. Try plugging-unplugging a couple of times and even rotating the adaptor into the minijack socket. Finally, which kind of power supply are you using? If voltage output isn't correct several problems may arise. When all else fails, try using batteries. If hiss persists even with batteries and all the connections are OK, perhaps your unit is faulty. Contact Sonic Impact for a replacement, eventually.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Courage...
Lucio,
My "review" will be sent later but firstly many many thanks for your courage in reviewing [a glowing review] the Sonic Impact T-Amp. The world of hi-fi has gone a bit crazy in recent years, to get a little more from your system you have to spend a lot more! In the 1980s, the U.K. hi-fi press wrote constantly about Linn and Naim gear, I skimped and saved for a long time until I had my own LP12, Ittok & Asak, NAC42, Hi-Cap, NAP250 and SARA speakers. The sound was OK but only that. The fun element was missing.
I play a little guitar [badly] and I know that when musicians are on the beat, strange things happen. The music flows almost by itself, you can play phrases that you did not even know before. This is what I call the fun element, I only re-discovered it when I tried a valve amplifier in my system. The Linn/Naim kit is all gone and good riddance too. I enjoyed your feature about the T-Amp but the past experiences made me very sceptical.
Still for the price of a couple of CDs, I felt it was worth a try. It is as good as you said it is. It is very light in weight and difficult to connect into a "proper" hi-fi system. You said so in your review. When powered from a 12 volt [open circuit voltage is 13.5] golf trolley battery, it sounds amazing. My wife and I simply laughed, astonished, at the sound. Whatever CD I played sounded great, country, blues, piano etc. etc. This amplifier presents a serious problem for the hi-fi industry, why can they charge us 5K+++++ when for around 30 [less than 100 including battery] we can get a lot [most of???] of the 5K+++++ sound quality.
Thank you for giving us such a wonderful and honest website, one that is not afraid of taking risks. Thank you for letting me know about the Sonic Impact T-Amp.
Tom - E-mail: tomfox (at) bennettconstruction.ie

LC
Dear Tom,
thanks for the precious feedback. Now the question is: will traditional HiFi mags ever review the T-Amp? And, if they will, which kind of words will they use to describe it? Considering what has already appeared on the "official" Italian HiFi press, my best bet is: "It is an interesting toy, but this is not HiFi". If the T-Amp isn't HiFi, most of the integrated amps below, say, 500$, aren't HiFi either. As far as I know, only two "print" mags have published a review of the T-Amp: one is the UK mag HiFi World. Actually, it is a reprint of a shorter version of my original article for TNT-Audio. The other is Image HiFi in Germany (a good review, actually). Let's see what others may have to say...
Lucio Cadeddu

Amp for subwoofer
Good evening and thanks for your website. I read your comments about the NAD3020 integrated amplifier. I bought one some month ago and I am now using it. It sounds really good. However, I would like to build a subwoofer for my system, using maybe an active filter. My thoughts is that I would better use a NAD amplifier in bridged mode also for the sub. I have two choices: use a NAD 3020 amp or a NAD 3150. The 3150 is more powerful (I think it is about 100 W), so it may be better for a sub (deeper bass maybe), what do you think about it; is the NAD 3150 a better choice than the 3020 for this application?
Thanks in advance.
Xavier - E-mail: xaviermbox-truc (at) yahoo.fr

LC
Dear Xavier,
the 3150 would be a far better choice. The 3020 is a good amplifier but if you want peak current and bass control the 3150 will fit better. Consider that in order to drive a subwoofer you need power (lots of) and driver control.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Question on tonearms
Dear Geoff,
Would you kindly allow me a question, raised by your informative Dynavector 507 Mk.II arm review?

  1. Context: presently I own a Graham 2 unipivot on an early Basis Debut LP deck ( 1987/88 version, but effectively indestructible and still as new).
    In terms of musical reproduction this combo easily beats a n y digital - for what that is worth - but of course there is, and probably always will be, "something missing" (even the Basis manufacturer told me I could gain "appreciable" improvements by upgrading to his latest model). If there is scope for improvement, my gutfeeling says that, with a good player available, one should rather look for a (much?) better arm and there is a Graham 2.2 but I get bored by reviewers' descriptions of parts of the sum (e.g. tighter, better bass) when they seem to ignore what musical integrity is all about (probably has to do with their musical tastes?).
  2. My taste. Acoustical music, instrumental and vocal between classical and jazz, some pop/rock. Therefore what interests me is your observation that the DV 507 Mk.II has "musical integrity, ease and lack of artifice" which are the only reasons why I ever might consider a choice between, say, a 12'' Nottingham Ana arm or the DV 507 Mk.II, but the latter is incompatible with my Basis Debut with its suspended chassis.
  3. My question: do you feel that, in technical terms, a longer arm (e.g. the 12'' Nottingham Ana arm) or the very different Dynavector 507 Mk.II is really better - in this context of "more musical satisfaction" as described by you - or do I risk becoming a greedy audiophile?
Penny for your thoughts,
Rgds,
Ronald - E-mail: ronald.dunki (at) wanadoo.fr

GH
Hi,
Not sure my thoughts are worth a penny... The 507 is out because of the weight. 12" arms have theoretical better geometry which is balanced by inferior stiffness, and/or higher effective mass. 12" arms cost no more than 9" arms to manufacture but the industry standard is 9" - if that means anything. My point is that 9 or 12" is probably relatively minor in the grand scheme of things (Graham for one doesn't like 12" arms, VPI do - your call) and has little to do with an arms 'character'...
Personally the arm that gives that sort of presentation and which is compatible is the Morsiani unipivot, I've not heard the Nottingham analogue so of course can't comment. So spend money on a new TT and arm, buy more records or just save money - your call :-)
Cheers,
Geoff Husband

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