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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October 2004

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Student system
Dear Mr. Cadeddu,
I have spent the last couple hours browsing through your expansive website and ended up asking myself "who pays for this?" Obviously, I found the answer and wanted to let you know my appreciation for devoting some income and time to this site. I have found your reviews very helpful and informative.
I could tell immediately that the reviewers were being as honest as they could and not biased towards the brand who gave them the most free stuff. I'm a college student and wannabe audiophile.
It first began with my set of Klipsch ProMedia 4.1 satellite speakers, which I find excellent for computer speakers; although the sub could stand to gain some sub-~30Hz extension. Next came a set of Sennheiser HD590 headphones which showed me how much I was missing in classical works and the lack of transparency in my Klipsch. With my growing obsession I got rid of my car's stereo system and added a SQ subwoofer, components, and head unit. Finally, I've upgraded my headphones to HD600's with an amp from HeadRoom. Now I'm ready to have a true quality home stereo system. Somewhat of a contradiction being a college student and having high-end equipment. As such your site has been an excellent source for finding budget components to create my system.
You probably receive a lot of e-mail, and I feel my next request might be somewhat inappropriate as I am just one reader. If you have any personal recommendations for a set of bookshelf loudspeakers in the $300-$500 used range and same for an integrated amplifier (my impression is these are the only components I will need plus a source for the amp, but that with an integrated amp I don't need a preamp), I would be very grateful. It is a daunting task to choose a budget system when there are no stores within 100 miles to actually listen subjectively.
If you can't find the time for the above I understand, but still wanted to extend my thanks for the website.
Sincerely,
Evan - E-mail: erobinson (at) umail.ucsb.edu

LC
Dear Evan,
thanks for spending some of your browsing (and studying) time to learn how this site can survive without subscriptions and/or advertising.
Your budget, considering you are ready to browse the second-hand market, will let you purchase a good HiFi system. There's a wide choice of speakers in that price range, S/H between 300 and 500 $. Considering you live in the USA, you have the possibility to get some very fine speakers at relatively low prices. For example, you can search for some B&W model (CDM 1 for ex.), Linn Katan, Dynaudio Audience 52 or some older Contour model. You can also search for a pair of Quad 12L's or Triangle Comete 202's. These speakers are quite different one from the other: you should try, if possible, to audition them to decide which one suits your taste.
As for integrated amps, things are even easier. NAD and Rotel amplifiers are very popular and easy to find. It is hard to go wrong with one of these. You may even find some discontinued model (e.g. NAD C320 or 350) at bargain prices.
The place to start with is Audiogon.com, which is plenty of good S/H offers, both from private sellers and stores.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

Pre + power combo with tone controls
Hello lucio...thanks for the great info...I'm an old retired guy who listens to my old lp's,45's and cd's also. I really "need" tone controls. I have about $3,000 u.s. (I live in California) to spend on a nice amp and preamp with tone controls, some power for my 15 year old VMPS tower 2 speakers and preferably a phono section. However, I could always get a seperate phono amp. My 20 year old b & k amp and preamp are getting a little fatigueing lately, so I want to upgrade. I was thinking transistor amp and tube preamp, but anything with tone controls is rare, if you could recommend a nice set up I would be grateful!! Thank you!!!
Ronaldo - E-mail: rezappala (at) comcast.net

LC
Dear Ronaldo,
preamps with tone controls are quite rare, indeed. You may search for something S/H coming from McIntosh, for example. Some of these are easy to find and not necessarily expensive (see Audiogon or Classic Audio).
Other, maybe less expensive, options could be represented by Adcom, NAD and Rotel. As for power amps to match, I'd suggest trying to find a same-brand unit. For various reasons, it should be wiser to choose preamp and power amp of the very same brand. Just to mention one of the reasons why: in case of upgrade, reselling is way easier.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

Crossroads Festival Thanks!
Dear Scott,
Thanks for the endearing tribute to the great artists and music adored millions of us. I refer to your review of the Crossroads Guitar Festival. I read the whole thing while tearing up my guts thinking about how I was on the other side of the world but I am sure glad that I did not miss out reading your report which made me feel the excitement so clearly!
Lorne - E-mail: lornespry (at) yahoo.com

LC
Dear Lorne,
we all miss Scott at TNT-Audio!
Thanks for your kind words,
Lucio Cadeddu

220 to 110 transformer
Hi,
I live in Israel, where all HiFi equipment is expensive, and works on 220 volts. I was wondering if I can buy a power amp in the US and use a 220 to 110 transformer before of it. Will that hurt the sound quality?
And another question - I own a pair of Mission m73, and want to sand-fill them. Is it recommended to put a bag into the speaker before pouring the sand? What kind of bag should I use? I'm afraid that a regular nylon bag will move with strong bass and cause some noise.
Or - E-mail: ortal_2 (at) yahoo.com

LC
Dear Or,
220 > 110 step-down transformers work but I normally do not recommend them, especially on amplifiers or power amps. It should be better to buy US-spec'd equipment with a built-in voltage selector.
As for sand-filling your speakers it all depends on the speaker internal structure. If there's a cavity which isn't part of the "air load" seen by the drivers then you can fill it with sand, even without bags. If you want to put sand inside the speaker cabinet...well, I'm not 100% sure it is always a good idea, you are going to modify bass response, by reducing the internal volume. You can try with nylon or cotton bags and evaluate the result. You can always change your mind.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

Set-up for Sonus Faber Concertino Home
Good day!
Recently my collegue bought a pair of Sonus Faber Concertino! Now start his sweet problems! He wants to make one good setup around them but he don't know where to start! He only knows that he wants for the moment keep his also new CAMBRIDGE AZUR CD! For amplification he looks for Unison Research UNICO (80W), UNICO P, Naim 5i.... (everything with phono stage)! I suggest him to buy a stable amplifier with a good reserve of power, because I have had bad experiences with Concerto speakers connected with not high-quality amplification!
What is Your opinion - maybe You can give us Your vision of qood combination for Concertinos-quality/cost?
Also one another colleague bought Sonus Faber Concerto speakers with UNICO amplifier (80W), what is Your suggestion for CD player? He has VdH 102 mkIII hybrid interconnect, Vdh 122 speaker cable and PROJECT rpm9 with GRADO SONATA cartridge! Also he wants to buy some good phono (RCA to RCA with grounding) interconnect between turntable & amplifier - Your suggestion (good price/quality ratio)?
Normally that they will audition first but they will appreciate very much for Your answer-suggestion!
Kind regards
Nenad - E-mail: nematehr (at) yahoo.com

LC
Dear Nenad,
the Unison Research Unico with phono stage would be a very good choice. A real "classic" combo, at least here in Italy, is a pair of Concertino's together with Audio Analogue Puccini (better if SE). As for the other friend with the Concerto's, in search of a good CD player to match, I'd suggest to evaluate the following: Cairn Fog + Soft, Audio Analogue Paganini, Rega Planet. As for phono cables, Cardas and Van den Hul make some fine products for this particular application.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

Easy tweaks: car damping sheets
Hello,
Thanks again for info about car damping sheets used in home audio, as describe in the link above.
Would you not suggest gluing some to the plinth of a turntable, preferably underneath the plinth?
David - E-mail: DRozner (at) specnarc.com

LC
Dear David,
every action or tweak you perform on a turntable affects the sound in some way. Hence, while on cheap turntables these tweaks can produce dramatic improvements, on well-designed TTs results can be rather controversial. Gluing a damping sheet underneath the plinth may be a good idea but I'd suggest trying this tweak with some removable glue first (such as Post-It). You will be able to evaluate the result and decide what to do next (remove or glue).
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Turntable belts
Hi TNT-Audio,
Great article about the Garrard Zero 100. I think (hope) I have found one in great condition, but the belt is broken...Do you remember the size of the belt? Or maybe a dealer on the internet?
Thanks,
Erik - E-mail: epj (at) tele2adsl.dk

LC
Dear Erik,
this seems to be one of the most frequently asked questions here: "where to find turntable belts?".
If the original belt isn't available at the main vinyl accessories stores on the Internet the best thing to do is bring the old belt to an electronics parts store. Yes, one of those that sell caps, resistors, pots etc. Normally they have in stock belts of any size and lenght. Show them yours and get a replacement for few $$$. It doesn't need to be "original", a similarly-sized belt will work just fine.
The original Garrard Zero 100 belt is 47 cms long (total circumference) and 5 mms "tall". Thickness doesn't really matter, 1 mm will be fine.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

VTA article
Dear Direttore,
I was very pleased to read Geoff Husband's recent article in regards to VTA, particularly since I came to much the same conclusion the last time I set up a cartridge a Denon DL-301 II MC which is still available here in Japan.
My conclusion was based on a much more abbreviated investigation than Geoff's: I decided that an eyeball approximation and a very subjective listening test using three or four of my favorite LP's was sufficient. In previous setups, I had obsessed over the question of VTA.
After hours of bending over my player with Allen keys in hand, I failed to find a vital point where everything jumped into a new, startling focus. Still, dramatic or eccentric adjustments did make a difference. Yes, and there was a tolerance, but incremental changes seemed pointless.
So while the question of VTA is settled for me at least, the adjustment for LATERAL TRACKING ERROR on a radial arm remains. And it begs for more attention. For me, the most vexing problem occurs when I buy a cartridge, and I find that the cantilever is some degrees out of alignment to the centerline of the cartridge block.
Are cantilever variances exhibiting a purposely designed suspension bias, or are they the result of production flaws? If they are the former, how does one statically adjust the cartridge block in the head-shell in accordance with the protracted crossover points without the actual playback's LATERAL FORCE applied? Do we adjust on the bias, or use the block's centerline as a reference? In all the literature I have read on the subject of cartridge setup, I have found nothing to help me with this. This is merely one of a number of outstanding questions relating the adjustment which uses those eccentric holes in the head-shell bracket.
I am thinking that more sophisticated methods may be necessary. Up to now, I have not used a volt meter to monitor Left-Right output. I do not own a scope or a test LP disk. Up to now, all I have used was a DIY protractor I made by scribing lines on an old LP, a downforce gauge, a mirror and a flashlight. Are we all going to need more than that to do the job correctly?
I hope Geoff will apply the same wisdom to this subject as he did in the case of VTA.
Thanks Geoff and TNT!
Lorne - E-mail: lornespry (at) yahoo.com

LC
Dear Lorne,
Geoff will reply to your doubts with a dedicated article soon to be published here on TNT-Audio. In the meanwhile may I suggest you to use a test record to set up your vinyl playbacl system? It is a MUST HAVE. It helps you spotting errors and finding solutions the empirical way (by ear)...so you can't go wrong. One of my favourite test records is the classical HiFi News & Record Review disc.
Stay tuned!
Lucio Cadeddu

Previous weeks letters

Cables?
Dear Mr.Holgate,
I have modest system: ROTEL RA01 amp, NAD 521BEE cd player and ENERGY C5 speakers. I am not happy with my speaker cable VDH CS 122 and Audioquest Diamondback interconnect. Bass is not tight enough and the sound is a bit too bright. Would you be so kind and recommend me speaker cables and interconnects?
Faithfully yours,
Branimir - E-mail: bjelenkovic (at) hotmail.com

DH
Hi Branimir,
I must confess that I am one of those people who do not think that cables and interconnects make that much difference. I am pretty sure that you are simply hearing the sound of your Rotel/NAD/Energy combination. A nice combo on paper.
Better quality of cables and interconnects will just let you hear more of what you have. Bass lightness might be because of the amp, and tightness can be affected by your room--try moving your system position, especially move speakers out of corners, but closer to the walls. I have found that inexpensive but thick multicore speaker cables can remove a bit of the brightness from CDS, but I'm afraid that CD's are bright, even on a good smooth player like the NAD (note that NADs also boost bass a bit).
It would be interesting if you can compare the sound of vinyl or MP3, just to hear what the source is adding to the system. Why not try making your own TNT cables and interconnects? See our DIY section.
Hope this is some help.
David Holgate

System matching
Hi,
I recently purchased the new Spendor S5e loudspeakers. I'd like to know what brands of integrated amps and cd players I should be looking at to make a great match?? I've been told Naim, Creek, Cyrus, Arcam etc.
Can you help?
Thanks,
Doug - E-mail: Frislie22 (at) msn.com

LC
Dear Doug,
I've asked you to give me an idea of your budget but you didn't reply. Anyway, I'd give Naim and Cyrus a try. For example, you can try the pair Nait 5 / CD 5 by Naim and the pair CD 6 + Cyrus 6 by...Cyrus. This Cyrus pair can be upgraded up to series 8 specs so you can save some money NOW and still be able to upgrade easily in the future.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

Clapton's Crossroads Festival coverage
Hello Scott,
Whenever time allows, I search and read countless reviews and entries about "THE FESTIVAL." Finding your "three-part" coverage w/photos is absolutely my most incredible find yet. We want to thank you from Connecticut for your coverage.
Your insight and detail about the weekend are a magnificent account; by far the most exciting and one that puts us right back there in Dallas . . . My name is Pilar. I flew to Dallas with my brother's wife, Monica, (she's also my best friend) for the festival, Thursday thru Monday. My brother Cliff, Monica, and I share a pretty deep bond for Clapton, The Blues, and music as a whole.
Music is often a string that ties us together. (Cliff & Monica paid for my airfare/hotel package to Dallas - a gift I will never be able to thank them enough for!).
I can relate so well to how you and your brother felt when first learning of the festival. (I actually discovered the festival "by accident" - continually checking Eric's whereabouts - waiting and hoping to see a U.S. tour - as he toured Europe for months. I NEVER expected to see what I found listed on Pollstar for that Sunday!
When I pulled up the Sunday details, shaking as I read performer lineup, I said to my son, "this can't be real - there's some kind of mistake" I called my brother, squealing "CAN YOU IMAGINE??!!" His response: "Find out the details - you and Monica can NOT miss this and you're going."
We booked our packages in FEBRUARY and waited five LONG months. To this day, still can't believe what we lived - sometimes speechless when others ask "how was Dallas?" Only those who attended can relate.
We attend shows and festivals constantly - Crossroads was the icing. To have seen and heard the scope of performers we did in such a top-notch fashion - seeing Eric SO happy - laid-back - smiling contently - jammin' with the best of 'em. (On Saturday, we were positioned 50 feet from the stage - off to the side - and watched every moment in awe. (Your photo of Eric smiling between the speakers . . .we were right there watching him that same moment).
I can't tell you how many things you wrote about that we witnessed and felt, meeting people from EVERYWHERE (we've maintained contact with a few). I'm so glad I clicked on your link; we'll read it over and over just to be back there again . . . Thank you from our musical hearts . . .and for sharing such incredible photo shots (I'm working on a scrapbook/ journal project of our own to share our Dallas adventure with others.)
With Appreciation from Connecticut,
Take Care,
Pilar & Monica - E-mail: Ec1ct (at) aol.com

SF
Hi Pilar, Monica,
Thanks so much for your kind words about my coverage of the event.
The show was extremely cool. It's a shame it probably won't ever happen again. When you look at all the performers that gathered for that event, well, not many of them will be with us for much longer. As we all get older, unfortunately the 'greats' we all saw will pass. Those of us that made it to the event were extremely privilaged to witness a true piece of musical history.
Be sure to look towards PBS this fall (Nov-Dec). They will be airing selected bits from the concert as part of their annual fundraising drive. No doubt they will have it availble DVD. I'm definately planning on getting a copy.
Glad you enjoyed the coverage.
Kind regards,
Scott Faller

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