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 2008

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Naim Nait
Dear Mr. Cadeddu,
I worked closely with these products due to their alliance with Linn. It's interesting that both sides claim credit for the legendary Naim Nait in its original form.
I agree with your observations with respect to the Naim Nait. This excellent amplifier should never have been abandoned in concept. For many years I used this tiny amplifier as a virtual stepping stone to its larger brothers and sisters without fail. Once one develops the taste, it's not a matter of "if" but only a matter of when.
I even matched the Nait to Linn's Sara loudspeakers as yet another stepping stone. The NAD 3020 integrated amplifier, which I personally played a part introducing to Canada, was a poor cousin to the Naim Nait. I have a number of contented clients who continue to use both but the majority progressed to hi-fi systems beyond their wildest imagination. The deployment of these little value-for-money amplifiers, in effect, defined their primary purpose as system builders.
To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in the current market that comes even close to the original Naim Nait and NAD 3020 in concept.
Why is there no single stereo integrated amplifier in the category manufactured today? In the words of my grandmother, "those who understand require no explanation whereas those who require explanation will never understand!"
Thank you for your insightful comments.
Best wishes,
George Townsend - High Fidelity Systems & Music Consultant - E-mail: townsend (at) ns.sympatico.ca

LC
Dear George,
thanks for the precious feedback and excuse me for this late reply. Yes, the Naim Nait was/still is an outstanding amplifier. Though in a completely different league (sonicwise), I think the Trends Audio TA 10.1 is an amplifier that is very close to the 3020's and Nait's concepts. Simple as it might be, underpowered if you wish, it delivers a sound that is simply outstanding. And in many areas I regret to admit it sounds much better than the Nait (compared these head to head). Have a listen if you can.
Happy listening!
Lucio Cadeddu

DAS Harefield spraying
Hi Mark
I just came across your page about the Harefield speakers, and thought you might be able to tell me which type of spray paint you used on them...
I'm in the process of refurbishing my NS10 monitors and thought you might have an advice of what paint to use so it matches the original finish the best....
Thanks,
Gil - E-mail: gil.weinstock (at) gmail.com

MW
Hi Gil
I didn't build the DAS Harefields, I only reviewed them. They sounded fantastic and I cannot believe that dealers and distributors have not yet beaten a path to Bill Dyer's door as most audiophile amplifier/speaker combinations at or even way above that price point are not in the same league, let alone comparable.

Having said that, I was not impressed with the pro-sector finish on a domestic product. Buyers of hifi now expect luxury wood finishes on audiophile products as we're no longer a set of partner-less sad blokes like the 70s boom. However, the NS10 is a classic and probably deserves restoration to as new condition. You could obtain paint cards from automotive finish suppliers and arrange for the boxes to be sprayed in a matching finish by a skilled sprayer.

Even more important is to ensure all the components are working as they should. All the capacitors should be replaced; I often wonder if the contemporary comments about NS10s being woefully innacurate and harsh are possbly due to component drift or component failure, or just cahjnges in fashion. I believe the only reason Yamaha stopped making them was because of supplier difficulties, according to their press release, but they would say that sort of thing anyway if they weren't harping on about how much better a new, new mkII would be. I recall Mission changing the bass unit of the 770 in the 80s to one that was universally experienced as worse, but was propbaly more of a supplier change than a deliberate chang from a 25mm voice coil to a 38mm coil (purely from memory - so possibly all wrong, but they did sound woolier, that I do remember). Alternatively their use of a constant power crossover alignment rather than a constant summed amplitude type may explain the comments; I've never seen this refered to in print but that's the way I recall them sounding a lo-oo-ong time ago.

I assume this is for a semi-pro studio, as nearfield monitors on the desk, as I would not use NS10s in another context. Incidentally the mythical practice of placing tissue paper over the tweeter is dumb, it'll just act as a comb filter and we all know the comb & paper ceased any musical relevance before the first world war.
Happy tinkering,
Mark Wheeler

Re: Audiophile.One review
Nick,
Thanks for the additional info. I am wondering if the Sensation M451 would better meet my needs. I'm no techie but the torroidal output and larger power capacitors seem like meaningful upgrades. As to power, I have no idea how much I "need". More is better, right? :-)
I am just taking my first steps into audiophile equipment with the purchase of a Scott Nixon NOS DAC and now looking at amps. I currently have vintage JBL 4311B (91db) speakers and Sansui 9090db receiver. I am just getting tired of taking the receiver to the tech every year to repair this or that (which can add up to the cost of the Audiophile.One). My setup sounds good cranked but not so much at low volume. So, in the future my evil plan is to move to higher efficiency speakers (don't tell the wife, yet). My Alpine "digital" amp in the car direct wired to Polk speakers with active crossover convinced me that I should look into a similar set up at home. The car is not "right" yet but it is amazingly clear and pleasant.
Your review not only discussed a product of interest to me, but it did so without flowery language, meaningless meandering and pontification on music production. I appreciate some of your competitor sites as well. But, I just have to roll my eyes when the writer goes into great detail about their choice of music (always Norah Jones, bless her heart) or some expensive cables that were made from gold mined in the Alps by Swiss nuns.
I also appreciate your publication taking a stand on a product that no one else has reviewed. Only a confident editorial staff and publisher is willing to do such a thing (whether the review is positive or negative).
Please keep up the good work!
Cheers,
Guy - E-mail: guyadamson (at) charter.net

LC
Dear Guy,
I'll reply on Nick's behalf for the part related to our online publication. First of all, thanks for the appreciation! Being a completely independent magazine allows us to review and publish whatever we want. No pressure from advertisers means complete freedom of speech.
Stay tuned!
Lucio Cadeddu

Garrard Zero mat
Dear Lucio Cadeddu,
I have been reading your very interesting article about tweaking a Garrard Zero SB turntable. I am currently modding a Garrard Zero 100, which is quite similar to SB model altough this is a idler-wheel TT. My question is related to replacing the mat as you suggested in the article. However, the platter on this TT is not flat as you can see on the attached picture. Consequently the bottom side of the original mat is profiled. Does the SB model have the same kind of platter? I am asking this because I would like to try the TNT-Janus mat, but I am not sure if it is possible to use a flat mat with this platter.
Best regards,
Teemu - E-mail: teemu.hakkarainen (at) tut.fi

LC
Dear Teemu,
feel free to install a TNT Janus mat on your idler-wheel-driven Zero. The platter is more or less the same i.e. it is not flat. This is not a problem, since the lower sheet of the TNT Janus is fairly stiff so it will stay flat even if the platter isn't. Moreover, the Janus will help lowering the noise floor of the idler wheel.
Keep us updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

Beyerdynamic 770 vs Sennheiser HD650
Hi have recently read your reviews, I am currently using a pair of Beyer 770 (8 ohms) for mixing and monitoring and being a closed back headphone they are great, in your opinion would I notice a big difference if I used the HD650's??
Zoltan - E-mail: Zoltan.Pozsar (at) tcsonline.co.uk

AK
Hello Zoltan,
First off, congratulations on a terrific name - wear it with pride.
I never did test the 770 model, but it is lower in the Beyerdynamic line up than the 990. And since I preferred the Sennheiser 650 much more than the BD990, you may infer that the HD650 will be considerably better than the BD770, but I would caution you on jumping to that that conclusion...pricier is not always better.
I will take this opportunity to repeat my position on this topic - CONTROLLED AND DIRECT COMPARISONS ARE THE ONLY WAY TO EVALUATE THE RELATIVE PERFORMANCE OF COMPONENTS.
Regards,
Arvind Kohli

Technics SL1200 with KAB mods
Hi,
Thank you for your TNT review on the Technics SL1200! I must say I was surprised that what I thought was a DJ deck is actually quite good. I was going to buy a Rega P3-24, but I was disappointed at the fit and finish and overall build quality. It would seem that if the Technics can see off a top range Music Hall then it should also do the same with a Rega P3-24 and with much better build quality as well.
I'm thinking of ordering an SL1210 with the following KAB mods: (1) Damper, (2) M5G tonearm with Cardas wire, (3) Strobe Disabler, (4) Thick rubber mat and record clamp.
I'm going to add a Sumiko HS-12 headshell or similar and stick on an Audio Technica OC9II MC running through a Project PhonoBox SE II. I think for a reasonable investment this rig should give me great performance, quality and reliability. I certainly would appreciate it if you could tell me if you are still enjoying your SL1200?
Regards,
Nick - E-mail: e75704 (at) ems.rmit.edu.au

AK
Hello again Nicholas,
Do not be fooled into thinking that a mass produced product with pedestrian looks cannot severely out perform a boutique product. Less extreme examples are rife in the auto industry, think Toyota Camry vs. Jaguar XJ or Acrura NSX vs Ferrari 348 [sorry Lucio].
It is important we realize that a turntable is strictly a mechanical device, and it's performance should be fairly well predicted by a few basic specs...this is not metaphysics - as many highend 'table makers would have you believe. The manufacturer's specs are quite impressive, but often without context because it is so difficult to get the highend makers to disclose theirs...that in itself makes me suspicious.
I am sure there are many highend designs that perform better than the SL1200, and I personally intend to explore that someday. But for the price, specs and performance I have seen to date - this unit is a champ. The other unit that I am intensely curious about is the ELP, but for 15x the price it will have to wait for a while.
If you go with KAB, I would definitely reccomend the damper. Moreover, Kevin is a standup chap even if not a stellar salesperson. Along with the Cayin A265Ai Integrated amp, the ACI Force subwoofer and PS Audio's power regenerators [minus the deceptive specs]; I rate this 'table as one of the best deals in audio.
Yes, I still have mine.
Arvind Kohli

Van Damme speakers cable
Hi,
I wrote to you a few months ago saying how good Van Damme instrument cable was as phono interconnects. You told me that you had been there and done that, and, as you said it is really good stuff and cheap, no snake oil here.
Well needing some bi-wire speaker cable I purchased some Van Damme black tour grade 4 core 2.5mm cable, guess what, another amazing product (as you probably know) and only 2.33, perhaps 4.5 euro per metre.
When looking at the manufacturers web site the technical specification is the same as or better than the more popular cables that cost several times the price, these being sold on the back of advertising and high tech descriptions.
It does make you think that people who pay large sums for cable try to convince themselves that they can hear the quality / expense in order to justify their expenditure. Checking this product out on the internet I did come across a phrase that did sum Van Damme up from a pro audio engineer, who stated the pro/studio audio engineer would use nothing less or pay any more!
How I agree this phrase really does sum up this manufacturer.
Alan - E-mail: Ag250449 (at) aol.com

LC
Dear Alan,
thanks for the suggestion. I wasn't aware of a Van Damme speakers cable and I'm glad to hear there are good cables that cost what they should :-)
It is true that many (most?) HiFi cables are ridiculously overpriced but it is also true that differences do exist. It is hard to translate sonic differences into euros, but this is still a hobby, hence hyper-paying small differences is absolutely normal, exactly like it happens with other hobbies (ever entered the high-end bicycle market?).
Moreover, I'd be cautious assuming the pro market is the example to follow. Considering how DEAF the sound engineers are I'd take their advices cum grano salis...
Happy listening!
Lucio Cadeddu

Concordant Excelsior
Hello Mark
I have read your very good article about this pre amp on TNT-audio.com. I have the chance to buy a very good example at Notworthy Audio for 475.00. I would be using it with a stereo 20 and Quad 57's. Do you think this would be a good combination?
How do you rate this pre amp against say the Audio research & Conrad Johnsons of the same era? Could you also give your opnion on how does it compare to the Audio Research SP8 & SP11 refered to in you article. Does it have the rich tones which I am seeking from a valve pre in particular vocals as I listen to a lot a jazz female vocals.
Thanks & Regards
Ian - E-mail: ian_berkoff (at) hotmail.co.uk

MW
Hi Ian
Thanks for the compliment; flattery does get you anywhere, at least anywhere I can help with audio.

The Excelsior would work very well with a Stereo 20. Doug used to work for Leak for many years before he set up on his own. However, an old Stereo 20 will sound hazy and rough if you have not replaced every single capacitor. Old electrolytics get rougher and rougher long before they die.

Have you tried the Stereo 20 with your Quad ESL57s? I would imagine they'd run out of steam very early. Amplifiers of that era were not designed for highly reactive loads (ie steep slopes on the impedence curve - down for capacitive, up for inductive- or sudden changes of direction), which is why Acoustical's amplifiers (the real name of QUAD - i.e. QUality Amplifier Domestic) were a unique variation on the Williamson circuit modified to be "unconditionally stable into any load". That was Acoustical's unique selling point, which QUAD maintained with the 303 and 405.

The Concordant will be fine with either the Stereo 20 or with the ESL57s, I can't make any promises about the latter pairing. My first job would be to haggle with Noteworthy Audio (who do know a thing or two about Concordant) to get them to throw in new electrolytic capacitors in the Concordant too! That price is already fine though (similar to the trade price originally, when two groats and a farthing would buy you a sheep), so you might have to pay for the new parts!

Now for the $64,000 questions:
I did hear the Excelsior against the SP8 and SP11. The two Audio Research pre-amps are quite different from each other anyway. The SP11 has a BIG presentation, possibly due to the local regulation provided by that circuit design. Technically not really hybrid as the solid state devices aren't really signal modulating like the bottles, but the stiffer loads they create on the valves (tubes) offer some of the bombast of transistors while the valves maintain their musicality. The SP8 is closer to the Excelsior although I'd argue that I always found the Concordant more lively and musical. The Concordant here does PRaT much better than the SP8 too.

The Exsquisite is probably more akin to the SP11. I always prefered the Excelsior's superior PRaT to the "Pheeeew" (to quote Doug) sheen and gloss of the Exquisite. Now here's the rub. I would argue that the more expensive Concordant is superior for female vocals over either of the Audio Research and also over the Exquisite. The odd thing is that now that I have all the circuit diagrams in fronty of me this makes no sense. The Exquisite should have more gain and drive but otherwise be similar, and the extra regulation in its outboard power supply should improve its PRaT over the simpler Explicit power supply of the Excelsior.

I have only heard more recent CJ pre-amps and being zero feedback triode affairs they're very differnt beasts. I have no idea what the old ones were like, but being a PRaT fan (I had Naim NAP power amps and SNAPS crossover power supplies alongside Concordants back then) I'd go for the Excelsior every time.

The key point with any old amplification is always replace all the electrolytic capacitors, at least with new ones of equal quality, but better yet upgrade them to more modern types.
Happy Listening
Mark Wheeler

Audiophile.One review
Hi Nick,
Thanks for the review of the Audiophile.One. I appreciate your detailed but to the point review (unlike some other online publications!).
I hope the upcoming review of the Sensation amps is coming soon (while VA has their 10% sale on this month). I'm on the fence about which model is the right one for me. It sounds like the Audiophile.One with 30v upgrade gets me most of the way there. The Two with the promise of a huge power jump is tempting, but my goal is good sound, not to get pulled into the power wars again. So, I'm interested to hear how the Sensation M451 and M901 are different.
Thanks,
Guy - E-mail: guyadamson (at) charter.net

NW
Hi Guy,
Thank you for your kind comments about the Audiophile.ONE review. I would certainly agree with you about falling into the power trap. If you don't need it, there is not much to be gained by going for more power.
To be honest, I actually lost track of which amp I was listening to with the A1 and A2 so the A1 with the 30v supply is probably the best option.
I have only heard the Sensation M901 so can't comment on how different the M451 may sound but if it is the same as the difference between the A1 and A2 I think we can safely assume that it will be negligible. So the choice would be down to whether you need the extra power. Personally, I will always go for easy to drive speakers because it makes the choice of power amp not only easier, but almost certainly much cheaper.
Regards,
Nick Whetstone

TNT TTT DIY loudspeakers cable
Dear Sir
I am intreagued by your twisted twins Cat 5 speaker cable project. Considering the cables one channel at a time, I understand how you obtain 2 conductors at the amplifier end by dividing the cat 5 conductor strands into two groups: coloured & non coloured.
What I do not understand is how you obtain 4 separate conductors (2 +ve and 2 -ve for bi-wiring) at the speaker end with six CAT 5 cables - each with two conductors (coloured & non coloured).
If you separate the cat5 strands at the speaker end (coloured or white) and twist the strands of each CAT 5 cable, you will end up with 3 white conductors and 3 coloured conductors per channel. Perfect for tri-wiring!
I am sure there is something fundamentally obvious that I am missing here but every way I look at it, I end up with the wrong number of conductors at the speaker end.
Please enlighten me as I have been using NAIM NACA4 cable for the past 20 years and would like to try something different!
Best regards,
Iestyn - E-mail: iestyn.morris (at) quiksilver-europe.com

LC
Dear Iestyn,
looking at the pics and following the coloured dots everything should become clear. If still in doubt, try having a look at the variations on a theme article where you can configure your Triple T cable the way you prefer!
Let me add just a simple warning: considering you've been using a NACA4 cable for years I assume you use Naim (or Exposure) amplifiers. If so, please consider that these amplifiers might not welcome the high capacity load offered by these CAT5 cables. Your NACA4 should be your best option.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Another Flexy rack
Hi Nick,
As Mimmo is no longer with TNT, I thought I'd send this to you. I don't know if you guys care to hear about yet another TNT rack. However, I would like to thank you guys for the FleXy rack design that Mimmo so graciously posted on your site. I had a lot of fun putting it together - and it works so much better than the shelf I had made years earlier.
All the shelves are painted with vibration-dampening paint - just thinned on the top side (I ran out of standard black paint!). The bottom two shelves have two MDF shelves to support the heavier amps. You may recognise the Burson amps that I bought, in part due to the reviews that you posted on your site. So thank you for reviewing the Aussie amps - it's nice to buy locally produced audio equipment.
I really appreciate the great resource that TNT is to folks like me who want to hear music that exceeds their budget. Cheers,
Luke - by e-mail

[Another FleXy rack]

LC
Dear Luke,
thanks for the feedback and congratulations for your nice Flexy rack!
Happy listening!
Lucio Cadeddu

American-English
Dear Mark
I forgot the tube/valve difference. Why can't you guys speak English?
[email in response to back-channel conversation about valve amps (English) vs tube amps (American)]
David (USA) - by e-mail

MW
Dear David
Tu Be, or not Tu Be,
That is the question...
Whether it is nobler in the amp to suffer
the slings and arrows of silicon output
Or to drive iron with electrodes in glass,
and by opposing, push-pull. To fry speaker
No more, unless a single ended triode
Whose HT rail offers thousand volt shocks,
That flesh is singed by - 'tis an amplifier
Devoutly tu be wished, to hear, alert;
alert, perchance to hear, Ay there's the dub!

Dub me crazy
Mark Wheeler

Circuit diagrams?
Clear DayDear Mark,
Do you know how I can get hold of the Exquisite and Excelsior pre amp circuit diagrams?
Many thanks
David Cooper - E-mail: davohorn58 (at) optusnet.com.au

MW
Hi David
By coincidence this morning I received paper photocopies of the circuit diagrams (schematics) of both pre-amps from TNT-audio reader David Punfield of Wolverhampton. They were originally drawn for the Leicester based company that briefly manufactured them after Doug became ill. They were made in larger casework for a more modern high-end look. There are one or two anomolies I wish to tidy before publishing them. They show valve (tube) line-ups that I have not seen myself before, but know to exist in some samples.
What is even more scary is how they break so many modern received wisdoms, but still manage to sound great. The circuits are far more similar than I thought, and therefore I cannot understand why they sound so different. They are both high feedback designs, both have cathode follower outputs, both have volatge regulated heaters (current regulation or no regulation being the dominant hegemonies nowadays), both share channels in the dame glass envelope, both have a high-crosstalk balance control, and so on. I will be checking details against the one I have here, and making some suggestions to readers. If your need is more urgent, please let me know & I will try to scan what I have.

Most exciting is the confirmation that the "power supply petrol" described by Doug Dunlop is series regulation using TV deflector tubes, and that the Exquisite merely cascades a second valve as its difference from the Excelsior. I would be very intersted to try each against the other and switch the power supplies over to establish how much of the difference is power supply and how much signal path. Looking at the schematics I marvel that the Excelsior was so much more lively than the Exquisite, they're so similar and so unlikely to sound lively with all that feedback and no cathode bypass caps.

When and where did you get yours, and which ones do you have?
Happy tinkering
Mark Wheeler

Just bravo
LC,
I just want to send a "thank you" note. Your site and review contributors should be much lauded. The enthusiasm and the quality of work by you and your staff are wonderful and informative -- especially given your operating philosophy of being free and independent. I cannot think of a more adequate way to express my gratitude than a simple, plain "thank you."
Keep up the great work.
Ken - E-mail: kyyuan (at) gmail.com

LC
Dear Ken,
thanks a zillion for the appreciation, our only reward. Who dares to be truly independent nowadays?
Lucio Cadeddu

Audiophile.One
Hi Nick,
Thanks so much for your review on the Virtue Audiophile 1. I'm a T-amp fan since SI was reported by your website. I'm currently using a promitheus TVC with my re-boxed SI t-amp. Can i use the Audiophile 1 as a power amplifier by simply turning the volume to max while my TVC controls the volume?
Thanks again and more power to TNT for reviewing hi-end products with budget price tags!
Warm regards,
Tony - by e-mail

NW
Hi Tony,
Yes, I was using my SB3 to control the volume level, so just set the Audiophile.ONE knob to max. As I said in the review, even going through the pot, the sound quality was amazing. If you think the SI is good, wait till you hear the A1!
You could of course bypass the volume control in the A1 if you have the necessary skills.
Either way, you won't be disappointed.
Regards,
Nick Whetstone

Audiophile.ONE II
Dear Nick,
I've just read your raving review of this little amp, and I want to ask your kind advice on the following: I have a pair of DIY stand mount speakers based on SS drivers (http://www.troelsgravesen.dk/W1501_95.htm, MY little speakers are at the bottom of the page, with listening impression).
They are classic minimonitor, low efficiency, and are currently driven by a COPLAND csa 8 (60+60 solid state). While the presence region is very good, I am not very happy with the top end, my system is lacking air and transparency. I think the main suspect is the tweeter (SS 9500), but I was wondering if this little new AMP may do anything for me (maybe the Sensation, 3 inputs and a remote) and replace the Copland.
Do you think it will be an improvement or only a side step, did u try it with any 85ish db speaker?
I tried the t-amp in mono and biamp mode with my old speakers (monitor audio silver 6) but I never liked that much. I always found it truncating the notes in a way I didn't like- it is not grain, it is something to do with decay.
I understand this new amp is a different beast.
Thanks in advance,
Riccardo - E-mail: riccardo.scatolini (at) eni.it

NW
Hi Riccardo,
My A2's are 89dB and I don't have anything harder to drive. Apart from the efficiency, there are other factors that play a part in how easily an amp can driver speakers so I can't really tell you how the Audiophile.ONE will perform with your speakers. And I'm not sure if the A1 will 'add' to your top end either.
I can only really suggest that you write to Virtue and ask their opinion. It is the downside of modern hi-fi distribution, that we can't easily try amp A with speaker B.
If you do decide to try a Sensation, I can tell you from preliminary auditioning that it shares the same 'sound signature' as the Audiophile amps, and like them it is very well made.
Looking at your speakers, have you tried tilting them either back or forward a little?
Sorry I can't be of more help.
Nick Whetstone

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