TNT-Audio Readers' Corner
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October 2003

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Questions about the VPP-1 review
Hi Richard, Hi Lucio
I DO love your tnt-audio website because as you write "TNT is truly independent: as you may have noticed we have no advertising of any kind and no readers' support". If I'm contacting you today, it's because I do have some problem with a review. Richard, I read carrefully your paper regarding the Channel Islands Audio VPP-1.
When the pictures of that phono pre appeared on my screen, I said to myself "hou la la (<- yes, I'm French - we say hou la la all the time), the guy from Monolithic Sound could tell that this phono pre is a clone (cosmetically) of his PS-1".
And when I saw, at the end of the paper that you thank Dusty Vawter... "Wait a minute, I know this name" yes, it's the guy from Monolithic Sound. Two companies and a single man. Do we have two products?
I would like to have a comparison between the monolithic PS-1 (or with the brand new PS-2) and the VPP-1. Imagine that the VPP-1 is having the same quality as, say, an old PS-1 (exept the gain setting). Now, since 80% of vinyl lovers are listenning to high output MC or MM, the VPP-1 is a real bargain for them if they enjoy the monolithic sound product (as me - My phono pre is the PS-1).
This a a very important information for a buyer : 299$ for a VPP-1 against 399$ for a PS-1. (but if I was Dusty Vawter, I would not like people to know that I'm selling the almost same product at two different prices).
Now, this phono preamp could be good for high output MC but for low output MC, this is another question. Explain me how could you listen to a DL 103 (0.3mv) with a phono pre that delivers a maximum 50db gain. May be your preamp/amp is able to make this possible but you should tell to your readers that this phono preamp is not adapted for this kind of cartridge. Second, since you can not listen to a DL103 with a VPP-1, your comparison between the Creek OBH-9SE (gain 65db) and the VPP-1 is questionable.
Regards
Seb - www.vinylengine.com - E-mail: leo_lau_seb@homail.com

RG
Hello,
Thanks for writing to me concerning this review.
First, let me say thank you for pointing out an error in the review - the Creek OBH-9SE is indeed rated at 65dB gain, not 56dB, which is the gain for the standard OBH-9.
I contacted Dusty Vawter concerning your questions regarding the VPP-1 and the Monolithic Sound PS-1. Here, in part is his reply, "The PS-1 (discontinued) and VPP-1 have no circuitry in common. PS-1 used a FET input, active RIAA and dual mono layout. VPP-1 uses high grade opamps, passive RIAA and is not dual mono. So, NO, they are not the same thing."
Since the PS-1 has been discontinued, a comparison is not feasible at this time. Also, thank you for your concern as to the potential for my review to "mislead" readers. No one wishes to do this. In my review, I stated that "In some systems, an additional 6dB gain, such as provided by the Creek, might be necessary." As you correctly pointed out, that should read "16dB".
This difference in gain can be significant, much more significant than the 6dB resulting from my misreading the specs. And, since you asked, "Explain me how could you listen to a DL 103 (0.3mv) with a phono pre that delivers a maximum 50db gain." Any quick answer I give would sound flippant. So, I'll give you the long one. I used two different systems to evaluate the combination of the the DL103 and the VPP-1. In my initial listening, I used a Decware ZTPre preamp (valve preamp) with a Fi X 2A3 (3wpc) stereo amp, driving a pair of Omega TS-1 speakers (96dB).
The difference in gain between the two preamps was quite noticeable, but did not seem to be more than 8 to 10dB, though it was really higher than that.
However, the volume could still be turned high enough for discomfort. I also used a Decware SE84C Select power amplifier (1.8wpc) to drive the same speakers. After receiving your letter, I set up the VPP-1 again, only this time substituted an Ortofon MC10 Super II (less output, only 0.2mv). This time I used an IRD Purist preamp, which has 0dB, +6dB, and +9.5dB gain settings (for better test control), and two amp/speaker combinations.
The first, the Fi X and Omega TS-1 speakers, could be turned up quite loud on the 0dB setting, though I could reach the limit of the volume control before reaching maximum power output. Switching the Purist to +6dB, then +9.5dB, allowed me drive the Omegas to a level louder than tolerable in my listening room.
The second combination used the Purist, a pair of IRD MB-100 monobloc solid state amplifiers (100watts), driving a pair of Reynaud Twins.
This, in fact, was a great combination, though to get the best out of it the 0dB setting was not enough. To be fair, most consumer preamps deliver substantially more gain then the middle setting (+6dB) of the Purist.
I had no trouble driving any system I tried when using the VPP-1 as a phono preamp. As to your concerns, you are quite correct in that readers with lower overall system gain, low efficiency speakers, and particularly those with very large listening rooms would be much better off with a preamp that delivers greater gain than the VPP-1 (my listening room is 7m x 4.5m x 2.9m). While I preferred the sound of the VPP-1 to the Creek OBH-9SE, the latter is an inexpensive preamp that delivers sufficient gain for anyone.
I understand that CI Audio is in the process of finishing up the VPP-2 with fixed 62dB gain that will be suited to all systems, not simply "many" systems.
Finally, I'll correct my review to the proper OBH-9SE specs, and add an amendment to emphasize, again, that although 50dB gain for use with a low output MC cartridge is quite sufficient in many systems, it is by no means sufficient in all, or even most. It remains an excellent buy for people with systems and listening rooms to match.
Kind regards,
Richard George

Re: New multichannel stuff
Well I now have to reply to your answer to my letter. Here goes: I have been in these discussions before regarding stereo and MC. When it comes down to it, it only matters what you perceive to be the best presentation. To answer your questions, No, I have never asked a conductor to stand where he is standing.
Why? Because, he would no doubt say "No". Would I like to stand where he is? YOU BET! I welcome all opportunities to experience new things and that includes a piece of music in a new way. Would I change the Mona Lisa? YOU BET! The original would still be around to enjoy so why not experience something new with an old tired theme? Equate that to stereo and MC. The old mono and stereo mixes of the music remain and a new MV version is born. You can enjoy all of the versions or whichever ones you want to.
I agree to some extent about your feeling regarding a live performance. It is usually occurring in front of you with ambience behind. A DVD-V or just an audio only disc should present the performance in this way. However, once we are in the studio all bets are off. Now you have an artificial environment where all the performers are not necessarily directly in front of you.
Now there is an opportunity for artistic use of the entire soundstage around you.
In the past there was only one then two channels. Now there are 5 channels and a sub to work with. Let's not stand still. Stifling artistic endeavors has never been a good thing.
Guy Robinson - E-mail: guyrobinson@rogers.com

LC
Dear Guy,
I see we are miles apart. I believe technology should be Music's servant, not its master. Transforming mono or 2-channel recordings into multichannel monsters means (IMHO) exploiting Art for technology's sake. Enjoy your multichannel "True lies" (sorry for the pun), I'll stick with plain old stereophonic stuff.
Lucio Cadeddu

Amp advice
Dear Lucio,
I belonged, until recently, to the teeming masses of humanity who love music and yet are fully deprived of the magic of this experience with the sub-standard plastic and wooden boxes and pieces of wire that pass for hi-fi.
I remember being unable to comprehend why I could so enjoy - for hours on end - music from my tiny stereo but once I upgraded to a supposedly hi-fi Sony component system, my love for music started to wane, that started to feel heavy on my ears in a very little while.
When India started to open up and for the first time, true hi-fi started to be available in the country, I bought an Onkyo component system; hardly "true" hi-fi but the best that I could then afford.
With exposure to some great international sites such as your's - which is one site which I truly respect - I plan to upgrade to a decent system - a good integrated amp, a decent entry level bookshelf (B&W 602 S3) and continue with my current Onkyo CD player.
I recently auditioned the Bryston B-60. Even though I have listened to NAD, Nakamichi, Denon and Marantz amps in the past, this was the first time I was truly moved by the sound - I could actually understand what it meant to feel the brass in a saxophone, every note carrying such textures and layers that had all along been denied to me.
And this was with entry level JM Lab Chorus 710 speakers. I had also then auditioned the Conrad Johnson CAV50 and the Jadis Reference Orchestra and loved the tube sound. These were beyond my budget but I loved the tube sound - and even though the Bryston was slightly harsher, I had the same texture and a greater level of dynamics.
Unfortunately, I too am the victim of too much readings into audio reviews celebrating the rapid advances in technology which makes "today's amps sound far superior to anything that existed 5 years ago"; which makes my current choice, the Bryston B60 defunct, as it has existed in the market for ages.
Reading up reviews all over the net leads me to believe that according to my tastes, the Music Fidelity 3.2 is about the best amp to buy today; "comparable to the sound of expensive tube amps". Unfortunately, MF doesn't sell in India and if I intend buying it, I would need to request a friend to get it for me; a leap of faith, if there ever was one.
As you can see, I am confused as hell and figured that you were the one place where I could get some truly sound advice.
Thanks for reading this far and for the fabulous work that you do.
Regards,
Saiphul - E-mail: saiphul@hotmail.com

LC
Dear Saiphul,
first of all DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE. Of course, manufacturers (and commercial magazines which depend on those) will force you to believe NEWER = BETTER. This is NOT always the case!!!
Hence, if you liked the Bryston so much, BUY IT! Chances are you will be able to find it cheap.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Orbe feedback
Hi Geoff,
As promised, my first impressions of the Orbe. Well, it took me four hours to assemble and wire it in situ. Guess it'll be there till we move house!
I must admit that I am always a sceptic. I never thought that the move from RB250 to Hadcock would make a great deal of difference. It was massive. Nor that going from a Cyrus one to a valve amp (UR simply 2) would be a big step, but it was a revalation. Adding the matching phono stage likewise. Then upgrading from Rega Juras to Castle Harlechs - once more a significant boost in "fi".
So LPT to Orbe?
Perhaps not such a quantum jump but bags more timing and what bass detail!
It was 2am with a houseful when I finished the job so it was only "kind Of Blue" at barely above whisper level - but the improvement was manifest - and my set-up was done with nothing more than a feeler gauge, screwdriver, see-saw stylus balance, spirit level and my two eyes (for vta/azimuth). I wonder how much more performance I can wring out of it?
Perhaps I should buy a "HFN/LG Producer's Cut"?

Two little observations - the VC motor is not totally silent - there's an high-pitched fluttery noise which the company assures me is normal and while the motor-induced hum of the LPT is no more, there is some 1Khz "shoosh" as you turn up the volume control.
I don't know how/if this will affect listening at 10am + levels.
I'll tell you more when I've lived with it a week or two. Meanwhile, your comments greatly appreciated, as ever.
Roger - E-mail: RogerW@teletext.co.uk

GH
Hi Roger,
Thanks for the absolutely invaluable feedback. First as I found, you've discovered the Hadcock to be one of the audiophile bargains out there - how it sounds so good I don't know but yup... it's special. Here only the Morsiani matched it, though it was very different...
The move to a decent EL34 amp, not a million miles from my old Audions, is a move into real hi-fi, the Cyrus 1 is good - for what it is - a cheap transistor integrated.
As for the Orbe if your VC only flutters you're lucky, you've probably just got "wind noise" caused by the windings, here it banged and rumbled happily for over 12 months of continuous running before finally being quiet - trust me, time will tell...
The Shoosh is probably the phono stage, valve stages are never silent, or you're just picking up vinyl roar that the LPT masked, try different discs to see if it varies, in which case it's not the tt.
My experience with serious front end upgrades is that because they rarely result in a tonal shift the "upgrade" takes a while to sink in, the improvements are more subtle but eventually more fundamental.
Anyway I can tell you're pleased which makes the whole thing worth while. Please keep me posted :-)
Cheers
Geoff Husband

Speaker choice dilemma
Dear editor!
Up until 3, 4 years ago I was an avid reader of hifi magazines, always looking for ways to improve my "stereo". Then, as the hifi bug went into hibernation, I became less interested in reading about hifi gear rather than listening to music. But now the bug is back with a vengeance!
Fortunately for me, in the meantime I have discovered your online magazine for me to explore and enjoy. I just keep checking back for more, far more often than is justified by the rate at which your pages are updated, especially in the listening tests, readers' corner and DIY sections! The quality of the articles on your site is truly amazing. Keep up the good work!

If I may, I would like to put to you the following question: after four years of living happily with my Sugden A21a amp, Tannoy D500 loudspeakers, Thorens 125 Mk2/Origin Live modified RB250 arm/Denon 304 MC cartridge combo, TEAC VRDS1/Meracus Auriga DAC combo, I have finally come to the realization that although my system makes nice sounds, it does sound a tad bass-slow at times, that it lacks pace and urgency, and that a Sugden/Tannoy mismatch is probably to blame.
Although the Tannoys are nice and sensitive, have beautiful timbre (especially with jazz and classical music) and project an atmospheric and reasonably deep and wide sound stage, they are not the easiest load on the planet and I think they are simply too big for my listening area (approx. 30 sq. m.), which consists of a living room with ensuite dining room (all told approx. 35-40 sq. m.), even though I am able to place them well into the room away from the walls and can put the listening position just about anywhere I like, as long as it's in the middle of the living room (what with there being also furniture in the room, and windows and doors and stuff). :-))
I bought the Tannoys in the knowledge that I would soon upgrade the amplifier I was using at the time, so I did not pay much attention to matching amp and speakers. The Sugden I acquired later. It turned out to be one of the few amps I tried that was both reasonably affordable to me and seemed up to the task of driving the Tannoys. Lately, I have been having second thoughts.
So, the Tannoys go and the Sugden stays, right? From one of the latest issues of Hifi World (up to a par with your magazine, in my opinion), I have been able to glean some advice as to better matches for the Sugden, such as Quad ESL 63's. However, I think you will agree that my room is simply too small for the Quads. Further suggestions I have found on the web include: Harbeths, single bass driver Royds and QLN Qubics, Pro-ac Studio 100, Audionote / Snell loudspeakers, and Audiovector 3 and 5.
I am not sure if all of these are still available from the manufacturer, but I don't mind buying second hand. Also, on your site I found you recommending another Proac speaker, Studio 125, if I am not mistaken. So, on the face of it, It would seem that I am spoiled for choice really, were it not that some of the items listed may no longer be available.
However, I plan to do things right this time 'round, and will take my amp anywhere I go to audition speakers. That's why I need your advice. I want to keep the good characteristics of the Tannoys, with added drive and pace.
I listen to pop and rock, jazz and classical music and my budget stretches up to about 1500.
Just one more thing: occasionally I hook up a second hand Audio Innovations 300 Mk2 tube amp that I enjoy listening to as well, so ideally the speakers should work well with this amp also.
I hope you will forgive me the length of this e-mail. Your advice in this matter would be most appreciated.
Peter Inghels - E-mail: PInghels@wordhouse.nl

LC
Dear Peter,
my advice would be to KEEP the Tannoys and SELL the Sugden. Buy an amp that can make the Tannoys sing. Your room isn't too small for those babies...just feed 'em as requested.
If your budget is tight, consider an integrated amp from Densen (Beat 100, B100 or DM 10, even second-hand). These amps have pace and rythm in spades.
If you fancy moving to preamp/power amp combos...why not a Naim pair? From the old 140 up you will get plenty of drive in the bass, articulation and dynamics. Of course, it's plenty of other capable amplifiers out there, I've narrowed the choice just to avoid the rat-trap "too information = no information".
Hope this helped...but let your ears decide.
Lucio Cadeddu

DAC+DVD or CDP ? plus Feedback on NAD 521i
Dear Lucio,
I face the purchase of a CD player and a DVD player at the same time.
I am not sure about the best option to obtain high audio quality on a tight budget. I would be grateful if you offer your advice, strictly from hifi stereo point of view. The possibilities are:

  1. Buy a decent budget/secondhand DAC with a cheapo DVD as a transport. Pros: I purchase only one transport, more goes for the DAC Contras: I don't know about budget DACs. As a beginner, I am lost in the secondhand market of DACs. Are dated DACs (circa 1997 for example) still worth considering? Do they have proper jitter reduction systems?
  2. Buy a decent CDP and a cheapo DVD. Pros: Money goes to where I am interested, CD sound. Contra: I pay for two transports. CDPs with the sound I aspire for don't come cheap.
  3. Buy a DVD player with decent CD sound. Pros: One machine. Contra: I have only heard about one budget DVD player credited with decent Cd sound (Harman Kardon DVD 25), but
I have not been able to find a retailer that lets me listen & compare with other CDPs. I guess I cannot aspire to high end, so my target sound could be described as NAD 521i plus natural, warmer acoustic sounds.
After reading your reviews and advice in answers to readers letters, I bought a NAD 521i some months ago. It is a wonderful player at the right price, it rocks and funks with a level of power, detail and transparency I had never enjoyed before.
But after a month I had to return it, reluctantly: Choirs, chamber music, solo instruments sounded thin. Extended listening hours could be tiring.
IMHO, my NAD T760 A/V receiver and audiophile artisan speakers had nothing to do with that. In the last months I have tested several borrowed -old- sources.
The same equipment and cables have wonderfully responded to show the different virtues of each of them. They can show the warmth and delight of acoustic sounds. If you consider b) to be the best option, wich is your recommendation for CDP?
NAD 542, Cambrigde 500SE, YBA special (S/H), around 480 eur, Marantz 6000Ki, Rotel RCD-02, around 550 eur, Arcam 62T, Micromega Minium, around 660 eur.
Thanks for your time.
Best regards
Anibal A. - E-mail: anibalsesentayseis@yahoo.es

LC
Dear Anibal,
it is not 100% clear which source do you have at present...anyway, my advice is: buy a cheap DVD to use as transport and add a second hand DAC for CDs.
This way you can view your DVDs and listen to some good Music as well.
As for second hand DACs, there's a lot of alternatives out there: from Arcam Black Boxes, to Linn Numeriks, Musical Fidelity X-DACs and even Wadia X32's. Price range around 500-600 € (Numerik and X32), around 300-400 € for the Black Box and X-DAC. I've only mentioned few options but there are many other alternatives. Have a look at the second hand market and feel free to ask for my opinion on the candidates you may find. As for DVD's, I'm sorry I can't help here.
Keep me updated,
Lucio Cadeddu

Help on cassette decks
Dear Julian,
I have read with great interest your articles on the Yamaha KX-493 and the "Is there life left in the humble compact cassette?" . I am a huge fan of analog sound and I don't plan on buying an MD player nor transferring my tapes into the digital domain (I have to admit that I do have a CD player though but, it is more like an obligation than a choice due to the limited offer on analog material).
I have an old Tape deck, a Pioneer one, which is too "old" and worn out to be repaired.

So, I'm left with the decision of buying a new tape deck. I thought about the Nakamichi DR-10 but I understand they have been discontinued (and also, they are quite expensive). After various researches, the 2 runner-ups I am left with are the Yamaha KX-580SE or the TEAC v-1050. The obvious choice would be the TEAC's, being a 3-head deck. However, I was told that while the advantages of the TEAC's 3 heads are undeniable, better electronics are used in the Yamaha's KX-580SE and, bottomline, eventhough the Yamaha is a 2-head deck, its sound is better than the TEAC's.
What do you think? any advice you could give me is very much welcome. Pls also feel free to suggest any another tape decks that I might have overlooked in my short-list.
Thanks + keep the stereo analog sound spirit alive!
Best,
Mustapha - E-mail: mustapha.lasram@citigroup.com

JA
Dear Mustapha,
I have tried both the Yamaha decks (the 580SE and 493 are the same transport, with the 580 also having Dolby S and supposedly tweaked electronics) and the TEAC 1050. In my opinion, the sound of the Yamaha decks is definitely better than that from the TEAC - by a large margin. The TEAC seems to have a lumpy and exagerrated bass performance as well as inconsistent stereo imaging.You might also look at the upper range Pioneer and Technics decks, which are sometimes available at heavily discounted prices. Similarly with the top end Sony machines. However, good cassette decks seem to be disappearing fast, so it may be a matter of what you can get hold of. If you can find a Yamaha 580SE at a reasonable price, then I would snap it up. It is no Nakamichi in build quality, but it sounds pretty good and has respectable facilities.
Kind regards,
Julian Ashbourn

DVD-audio vs. SACD
Hi Lucio,
Any updates on the DVD-A vs. SACD format war? My preference, based on a short listening test recently, different player (Muse DVD-v/a and Philips 963SA), was for the DVD-A. Based on sonics alone, (forget about availability of software), what is your preference?
Any recommendation on DVD-v/a or SACD players such as Toshiba SD-9500, SD-9200, SD-5300A, Pioneer DVS755Ai, Philips 963SA. Does DVD-A or SACD (played on DVD-V/A or SACD player) beats the CD format played on higher end player?
What's your take on HDCD?
Regards,
Andre - E-mail: andrelly@hotmail.com

LC
Dear Andre,
my opinion is that the CD format can still sound quite good and the LP format can sound better :-)
I see NO reason (apart from commercial interests) to introduce a new media. So, if I may, I'd stay "at the window", looking - with a BIG grin in my face - at this stupid new "perfect sound forever" commercial battle.
If the recent history of audio (and video) formats has taught us a lesson, I'd predict the winning format won't be the best sounding one ;-)
It happened in the past, it will happen again. Money rulez, not good sound.
And, as usual, don't believe the hype!
Lucio Cadeddu

Tips
Hi Lucio,
Thank you for a wonderful forum for stereophonic lovers the world over. Especially the great DIY and tweak sections, your Stoneblocks have transformed my listening experience. Therefore, allow me to pass on a fantastically inexpensive tweak using a wasted resource.

You are aware of our recent unpleasantness in the US and the resulting terror alerts advising our citizenry to stock up on duct tape (variously called 100mph tape, HVAC tape, etc.) to affix plastic sheeting on our doors and windows. To what avail we never did ascertain, but ours is not to reason why... Anyway, having all that material around and idle minds being what they are in the audio tweakitis world, I wondered if these large, heavy rolls of vibration absorbing fiber and adhesive might be good dampers on the tops of audio gear.
Lo and behold they were! They're even available in either silver or black to match your gear. I like the whacking big 300' rolls of black the best. Moving them to different positions on the cases of flimsy CD players etc. seems to adjust the sound somewhat, specific placement matters less on better built cases. Use one or two rolls on each component, as your ears tell you.
Easily as big of an improvement as the Stoneblocks.
Uses for the remaining plastic sheeting, I'm still working on that one. Cable insulation, hmmm.... get back to you soon.
Regards,
Daniel Bair - E-mail: mysticat21@comcast.net

LC
Dear Daniel,
thanks for the tip. I'm not sure the very same stuff is largely available worldwide...anyway, it could be useful for our US readership!
Keep us updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

New multichannel stuff
This multi-channel/stereo stand is truly sad. I use to be only concerned with mono and then stereo and I do consider myself an audiophile. However, I am now the owner of around 100 DVD-A and SACD surround discs and I find the sound quality truly amazing. Just yesterday I was listening to the Naxos's DVD-A of "The Seasons" and there are some tracks on there that were recorded with 2 string orchestras and a solo violinist. It is done in such a way that one orchestra is in the main chanels and the other is in the surround channels and the solo violinist is positioned where you are sitting in the "sweet spot".
The violinist Juritz comments that it is the first time he has heard a recorded work where it sounds like what he would hear from his position as the violinist. It is truly amazing and sounds quite natural.
I have full range speakers (at least down to 50 hz) all around that are matched with an identical driver compliment along with a subwoofer and stereo now in comparison is very flat. I realize that the sound in a lot of recordings can be projected quite well with a stereo pair but nothing compares to that enveloping feeling that can be experienced with a good surround mix and there are many of them available. The whole argument sounds similar to what we experienced when stereo came out and the "mono-heads" were against it.
Don't get me wrong, some of the mono Beatle recordings as well as others sound great in their original formats. They also sound great on the "Beatles Anthology" DVD-V's in surround. Granted this is just lowly DTS but imagine how much better they would sound in DVD-A or SACD! There is no going back to stereo. I still buy stereo discs like some of the Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel SACD's but I would prefer to buy them in surround.
Listen to how great "Slow Train Coming" sounds in surround. The stereo purchases are less and less. Also, I have puchased 2 CD's in the past 6 months and I don't plan on buying anymore CD's or any other format prior to SACD/DVD-A. This would be a waste at this point.
Finally, what happened to a dedicated listening room and tweeking to get the best positioning? Once you have this with a surround system you are good to go. Sure you have to adjust some discs to get them right but the process of getting the sound just right use to be the "fun" part of being an audiophile. My wife never enters my "inner sanctum" (which is in the basement) so I don't care how she feels about cables.
Anyway, I have them inbedded in the walls and ceiling just for my own satisfaction. Music is the important thing, if we want to watch a movie as a family we do that on our system in the Family Room upstairs. As in all audiophile endeavours and new technology in the past you have to ante up.
Guy Robinson - E-mail: Guy.Robinson@ngwi.com

LC
Dear Guy,
I wouldn't even dare to define "natural and realistic" a recording that puts the listener at the soloist's place. Please explain me this: when you go to a live concert, do you try to convince the orchestra director you NEED to listen at his place? I don't think so.
I'm not against multichannel per se, I'm strongly against every manipulation that makes the Music sound DIFFERENT from the live experience. And, correct me if I'm wrong, at a live concert the band or the orchestra are THERE, exactly IN FRONT OF YOU. You're NOT among musicians, on the stage. That would be ridiculous, to say the least.
So, until the orchestras and the bands will sound IN FRONT OF ME (and quite FAR from my listening position, too!) I'll vote NO to any surround artefact.
For the very same reason (and some other) I'm strongly against mono recordings transformed in artificial stereo, stereo recordings transformed into multichannel and so on.
Certain masterpieces should be left AS THEY WERE CREATED by the artist. Do you like Leonardo's Monna Lisa? Would you prefer it to be transformed into a 3D sculpture?
Extremely doubtful,
Lucio Cadeddu

The Disc Doctors Miracle Record Cleaner Review
Hi Scott.
Firstly, I wanted to say I found yours was a really informative (yet comprehensible) and interesting review. I've been searching for vinyl cleaning info all day on the net (comparing and contrasting, y'know!) and it's looking like this is the product for me- im always swayed by a little bit o' chemistry! It's great that people like yourself spend time putting this kind of stuff out there :-)

Secondly, a (mildly frivolous) question - and this has been perplexing me for a looong time... I'm not saying I believe it, but- did you ever hear that story about a microorganism that lives in the grooves and can EAT THEM until the record is mirror smooth? I'm sure I read it somewhere once (maybe on April 1st, I don't know!) but my mates think I've made the whole thing up. Hmmm.
Thanks again for the tip.
Rachael - E-mail: rachael@electronicpeople.freeserve.co.uk

SF
Hiya Rachael,
Thanks for the kind words about the article. The Disc Doctors products work really well. Way better than any of the "home brews" which can be destructive to the vinyl. I've cleaned some pretty grungey albums over the past couple of years and they've all cleaned up really well. As for the vinyl eating microbe's....well....I can't say that I've heard about those yet :-)
I have heard of, and seen pictures of, a fungus or mold that eats older CD's. Now that I think about it, maybe that's not such a bad thing after all :-)
Kind regards,
Scott Faller

NAD CD players
Dear Sir,
I read your nicely detailed review of the NAD 521i which is in agreement with virtually every other listener's very positive evaluation of this player.
However, NAD has unexpectedly replaced it with the "521BEE." On their web site, the only thing that been replaced in the description is "i" suffix; and indeed, in the specification section, even the "i" is retained, rather than the new "BEE." In a September review, "What Hi-Fi" claims the BEE is superior but no specifics are given about what NAD has actually done differently. Have you heard the new version yet, and is there really a benefit to it above the 521i? Many thanks.
Sincerely,
Robert E. Seletsky - E-mail: memres@sprintmail.com

JA
Dear Michael,
No, I have not heard this model as yet. However, unless there is a substantial change to the chipset or power regulation I probably would be happy with the 521i - especially if there are some good deals on price due to the new model taking over.
However, having said that I am sure that, knowing NAD, the 521BEE will be a fine player and unlikely to disappoint.
Kind regards,
Julian Ashbourn

Cartridge damage
Hi Lucio,
First of all I'd like to thank you for all those very informative articles and reviews you've done. They've been helpful to me and I'm sure a lot of audiophiles have benefitted from the extensive knowledge you've gained and shared with us through the TNT-Audio site.
I have a question: because of my carelessness, I think I may have damaged my cartridge when I was trying to lift up an LP from my turntable (the LP flopped back to the platter and, on the rebound, hit the cartridge on the way up). My question: how do you know for sure that the stylus/cantilever/or those components on the other side of the cantilever is damaged, that is, aside from hearing that the music doesn't sound good?
Is there any definitive tests that I can do to make sure that the cartridge is/is not damaged?
Thank for your help in advance.
Roberto Pascual - E-mail: rbpascual@hotmail.com

LC
Dear Roberto,
the first answer that comes to my mind is: if it works and sounds OK, go on and don't worry.
There are two things you can do, though (as one never knows): carefully inspect the stylus and the cantilever with a magnifying glass and, if in doubt, have the cart inspected by a trained technician. There are few of these who repairs/retip carts. Normally they can tell you if it's OK or not (for free). They have the required expertise to distinguish a slightly damaged stylus or cant from a good one, just having a look with a microscope.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

The Great Multichannel Swindle! (multiple feedback)
Hi Lucio,
Greetings once again from New Zealand. This isn't an email to ask advice but to say I agree with you on The great multichannel swindle !!!!!!!
I have friends who went the Multichannel way. One paid $12.000 for a system 3 years ago. He greatly regrets it now, wanting to buy a good stereo only package. His friend however, wants to go multi channel too!!!
I am a child of the 50's, reached teens in the late 60's, and brought up on a diet of 70's and 80's. 90's 2000's music. At 17 I had my first real stereo system.
A Sansui AU101 amp, used as preamp then a Quad 405.2 power amp. Akai Turntable with magnesium headshall and grado cartridge. Home made speakers based on a 12" full range driver, with a cone midrange and plastic dome tweeter. IT sounded AMAZING!!!!!
Then one day I went to a HiFi Exhibition. I stopped at the Sony exhibition, and saw and SQ Decoder/amplifier. 5 Minutes later, I had bought 2 speakers and and Amp/decoder. Monday they came and modified my sansui amp. It now connected by din connection sansui to sony decoder/amp to 4 speakers. It sounded like cr*p (Excuse my french).
I went back to 2 channel stereo. There were FOUR, yes Four different quadrophonic formats. and no or very little software. Sound familar??? Did I was QS =Sansui quad. or SQ=Sony quad, or cd4=technics, can't remeber the last format. Fast forward from 1973 to 2003.
I now have a NAD 541i cdp, Nad 370 and 270 integrated and Power amp, kimber connects and Wharfedale Pacific Pi40 speakers. Multichannel music still sounds like cr*p.
Stereo rules!!!!!
Lucio I fully agree with you on the we all want NEW good Music not just the same old stuff remastered N-times to satisfy the industry credo (Lust for Money).
I mean how many copies of Dark Side of the Moon does a man need to have????
Thank Goodness some groups are musically inspiring and want a good simple recording breathing and catpturing the beauty and masterfulness of the artists. The Flaming Lips, Norah Jones, REM, Radiohead, ColdPlay, Travis, to name a few new bands who sound good and are recorded well.
Kindest Regards,
PS. Let the music flow.......
Colin R Hopper - E-mail: colnmary@xtra.co.nz

Hi,
these "X.X" system ads remind me of the 1968 Bose 901 ads, with their 10 or 20 chassis per speaker some pointing to the rear to create "realistic reflections". Some people today think they sound good. Let's pretend surround sound would work. What will it be good for?
In theory, it could position me into the middle of an orchestra. If this is realistic I cannot tell, I have never been there. When I hear live music the orchestra, the band or the jazz combo will allways be in front of me. From the sides or behind I will only hear other people in the audience caughing or making other noise. Nothing I want to have at home!
In theory, there are reflections of the sound from the sides and behind and these reflections could be recorded on the surround sound recording. Let us take music recorded in the theatro a la Scala di Milano: As my room is much smaller, the reflections in my room are much louder than the ones that could come from the surround system and thus would mask them. So a surround system would only work in an anechoic room.
And the surround system must have a way to recalculate the X.X information to adjust to my room size, or the speakers must all be in fixed distances to the listening position to make it work.
So we can draw a simple conclusions: "X.X will only work in an anechoic room."

Sometimes people talk about new possibilities for artists with surround sound. From stereo we know how giant the influence of the room is to the stereo music reproduction. Adding several new sources for X.X results in a lot more trouble.
In fact, if we wanted this, we were better and cheaper off, if the artist would send us midi files instead, so we could change them more precisely than we do it with the room problems of a X.X system.

It is always interesting how many people use TNT as their source of information, it is pretty hard to talk about a topic coverd by you without someone saying "Hey there was an article on TNT", I guess you have the largest subscriptors rate among audio magazines online and print!
Yours
Thomas Michael Wanka - E-mail: thomas@wanka.at

Dear Lucio,
I totally agree with you that for proper hifi we do not need multichannel. Being single I do not have to care about any looks, or if I were, I only had to pick another room to make a multichannel environment. It is already so hard to get stereo REALY good, that it is virtually impossible to get it close to being "just ok" with multichannnel, ALTHOUGH to the contrary of what I will write later, I have mused to buy one identical centre speaker. (Like the way Klipsch promoted a centrespeaker). Having Acoustat ESL Model 4 that won't be easy to place (because than I cannot go into my kitchen anymore and I'll starve).
So why Stereo if Mono can be great too? You even do not have to care about all these phase faults. There were two occasions when I really have thought it over:

  1. When one of my tubes suddenly died and I was forced to listen to just one ESL. I found a lot of 1950/60 jazzrecords in my collection and enjoyed them so much! Apart from the music being great I did not miss stereo at all and the intimacy is so bloody beautiful, awesome.
  2. A few months later I read an article of a dutch reviewer. He being an avid Quad/Kef/B&W addict I did not have a good feeling about the guy until he wrote that in his oppinion, if you like to judge a loudspeaker you should at least spend a long time with just one speaker, instead of two. The accid test being, that if one speaker cannot do the job (in terms of colloration and speed, and so on) for sure TWO will not make it any better. Only if one speakers sounds really convincing, you might consider to listen to two. I think he might be very right about that! If you consider how much tricks they need to get Stereo working (to the point that they have the finished product), I would be an advocate to record Mono again. Listen to all these beautiful recordings, listen to the closeness of the lot of them!
    I will be looking forward to see what the other readers of your wonderful magazine might think of this.
Keep up the good work, I look forward every week with eagerness to the new articles. Because of one of the reviews I bought a record cleaning machine (for you own vac) from KAB and love it.
If you would be interested in a story about the Acoustat Monitor 4's, please let me know. I own a pair and someone who I know also, I think that the two of us can write a small article about them.
Best regards,
Ronald - E-mail: rpenning@planet.nl

LC
Dear 2-channel friends,
thanks for your precious feedback! If stereo can be good, mono shouldn't be counted out, either. There are great mono recordings and GREAT mono reproduction systems, indeed.
Happy listening!
Lucio Cadeddu

Multichannel vs Stereo (again)
Dear Editor,
I understand your position on stereo vs. multichannel. Actually I have the same feeling, that migrating to multichannel is not an improvement, just a new way to make people to search for their pockets.
But, please, let me say that you are somehow subjective. For a real audio-nut (like myself ;-) ) WAF can be a practical issue (I'm married too), but not an audio-related one.
So, speaking theoretically only, a good CD-player can be replaced successfully by a good universal player, a pre&power amp combo - by a good m-ch pre/decoder&mono-amps configuration, 2 good speakers - good Nxspeakers and SW and 5m good speaker cable - 20m - same cable. In that way Mr.John will spend at least 4 times more, but, what a heck, if Mr.John has $100.000 (let's say these are easy-money) for a stereo set-up, he can give $400.000 for his hobby also, right?
He will get at least the same level of quality, plus he can use his new rig for HT and music too (oh, really?). More than that - now he does have that system that can reproduce the ENTIRE atmosphere from a church, par-example!
All written above are the ultimate argument of pro-m-ch people. OK, they have a point, don't they? But...
As you write, remastering of 2ch music most of the times has as result trashing of that music - we don't live into perfect world, so many people have limitations (incl. in hearing ;-) ). That's the ISSUE no.1
ISSUE no.2: Do we have to spend more money to get a good sound, using m-ch? Yes and not! Ear is too often fooled by some super-compressing algorithms - btw, I dislike the MP3's, especially those at 128Kbps, but most of my colleagues/friends can live with them... In the same way, many pairs of ear will be happier to listen to an artificial surround sound than to stereo sound. The pseudo-fullness of a cheap $1000 set-up will upcome a decent sound from $5000 stereo system, that puts out a good soundstage.
"See - they'll say - now is cheaper to listen to music! And the system is environment friendly too (using Pioneer-like technique, to adjust the sound from satellites according the room, a method that may be generalized!)" 'course, they are wrong, but who cares? "I cannot see any downsides here - so cheaper is better!" Can you compete with this logic? I don't think so.
ISSUE no.3: Changing tasted. Now young people like that music with strong sound. Starting with early '90s, highs and mid-bass actually control pop-music. New hip-hop and r'n'b tracks are plenty of complicated computer-made sound, and distorted lyrics. That kind of music that works fine with your boombox or car-audio!
"An acoustic guitar played by Eric Clampton can be so boring... Eminem rules!" "2ch? Obsolete! My receiver is the best - lots of settings, DSP, wow! - 7.1, THX Ultra2... I'm living nowadays, you - in Jurassic age!"
That's all I want to share, right now, in that matter. Maybe I was somehow bitter, but I'm sad that quality of today music help m-ch-mania, that people believe so easily all the advertising crap, that you and me are something like some kind of extinction species...
Sorry for long post and some unavoidable English grammar mistakes - I appreciate your patience to read these lines!
All the Best!
Dragos-Ionut Patilea - E-mail: absolute_audio_fan@yahoo.com

LC
Dear Dragos,
let me briefly summarize my thoughts. If one can spend 400,000 $ on a system why should he go the multichannel way? 400,000 $ on a stereo system is something quite interesting :-)
Let me disagree on people's taste, also. When someone, used to boom-boxes, listens to a good stereo system he UNDERSTANDS why quality costs. The difference between a good stereo system and a boom-box is self-evident. Everyone can understand it, even using the "man-of-the-street" parameters (how much bass etc.). People used to cheap all-in-one systems were simply ASTONISHED by listening to my reference system (the so-called "jaw dropping" effect).
Hence there's hope, at least :-)
Lucio Cadeddu

Multichannel vs Stereo (Again 2)
Dear Lucio,
I have to take issue with your editorial of October 2003. Essentially, it seems that you have confused three issues in your campaign against multi-source audio.
Firstly, there is the problem of the hardware installation. It doesn't matter if you have one, two or a hundred items of equipment, if a person is unable to create a neat installation, there are going to be arguments.
I know only too well... The answer is planning. When my lounge was redecorated recently, I took the opportunity of planning ahead - in order to accomodate a set of rear speakers (left, centre, right), I took the opportunity of running the speaker cables inside the coving that was to go around the ceiling of the room (there is a gap of about 2 inch diameter in the corner within which to run the cables).
Thus, three channels of sound could be routed invisibly around the room, with wall-plates inserted at chosen points.
Secondly, as far as I am concerned, there is no golden rule that says two channels is the correct number for a recording. After all, was not two channels decided upon for LPs because that was all that the technology of the time could deal with?
If we look at some of the original talking pictures (horror! video AND audio!), many channels were used where the film allowed it. And then of course when radio was being developed, they chose two channels because people already had two channels installed for their LPs...
Of course, there are people who cannot reconcile changes in their lives, and dearly cling on to what they know because the unknown scares them... I say let them look at (nice, still) paintings and listen to their old familiar phonographs, but those of us who enjoy progress (real progress, not bullshit progress) should also be allowed our opportunity.
Finally, I agree wholehartedly with you that the recording mix should be suitable for the material involved. If it was intended to be played with 2 channels originally, it should stay that way. But why should we refuse to allow artists to develop works that take advantage of a fuller soundfield because we are afraid of some more wires?
I have had the pleasure of witnessing some superb recordings made with multiple channels, that capture the ambience of a venue exquisitely. It's all in the balance, just like when people in the early '80s turned the colour on their shiny new Tvs up to full, causing people's faces to become universally orange... until they got used ot the idea of seeing colour pictures.
Yours sincerely,
Arnold Lieberman - E-mail: alieberman@companywatch.net

LC
Dear Arnold,
thanks for your feedback. I tend to disagree, sorry :-)
2 channels are the way to go because we have two ears, it's that simple. Reality is what our TWO ears can hear. Reality is not black and white TV, so it is NATURAL to enjoy images which are closer to reality (i.e. colour TV).
Finally, I wouldn't rebuild my listening room only to install a multichannel system, sorry.
Correctly placing 5 speakers is MUCH harder than placing two. That's a FACT that can't be denied. Anyone who claims it's the same level of difficulty is trying to sell you a Home Theater system ;-)
Lucio Cadeddu

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