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 2011

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A.R.T. Q-Dampers
Hello!
My name is Thorbjoern and I live in Norway. Me and many of my friends have searched for A.R.T. Q-dampers graphite blocks, an Italian audio product. Do you have any idea where we ca. buy any more of these blocks. They were sold by Oslo Hifi Center before and they would also like to buy more of them.
Best regards,
Thorbjoern - E-mail: TNarvestad (at) slb.com

LC
Dear Thorbjoern,
we reviewed the ART Q-Dampers back in 1999 (how time flies!) and it seems they are still manufactured and distributed. Just go to the manufacturer's website and check for availability. They are listed at 220 € for the set of 4 dampers or at 165 € for the set of 3 dampers. You might wish to try a DIY, extremely cheap alternative such as our SoundBlocks. A tweak we published in 1998!
Happy tweaking,
Lucio Cadeddu

Hawthorne Audio Duet Speakers & CD players tweak
Hello Nick,
I see that you are a proud owner of The Duet speakers. I have been thinking about getting a pair for myself but I have no experience of this type of speaker. As you point out in your review there are issues with size of the two baffles and having sufficient space available for them to work properly. My room size is 16' x 15' and I listen down the longer dimension. I can get them out into the room but I wonder if I have enough space to get them apart far enough and clear of the walls?
I would run the Augies from my active X over and let the Silver Iris be controlled by the passive X overs. I also wondered if you had any issues with the differing sensitivities of the two drivers, the Augies being I believe 88db and the Silver Iris 95db, quite a difference. My crossover would just about compensate I think.
If you are looking for a top performing CDP at a very good price the Harman Kardon hd990 is going at sub 300 prices on line at present. You can find a review of this product published by Australian Hi-Fi and it is one of the most positive reviews I have ever read, both on grounds of sound quality and measured performance. The reviewer said that if the product was ten times the price (990 ASD) he would still have bought it!
Mike - E-mail: mikebooth (at) talktalk.net

NW
Hi Mike,
I no longer use the Duets although I still use open-baffle speakers that incorporate the excellent Augies. My current speakers use Goodmans 201's with a helper tweeter, both of which are around 95 db efficient. There is no problem matching up with the Augies as the latter are driven with more gain from their separate amplifier (after an active filter of course).
My listening room is only around 12 by 13 feet although I have an opening into the next room of around 4 feet wide. From my own experience you should be able to use the Duets in your room, placing them around 30-36 inches from the rear wall.
OB's do take up a lot of space but I believe that they are well worth it and have no plans to ever go back to a smaller boxed speaker.
Thanks for the tip on the HK CDP. Having reviewed a couple of other 'modern' CDP's I am pleasantly surprised at just how much improved CD's can sound these days. If the HK is as good as the reviewer says, it is certainly a bit of a bargain at that price.
Happy listening,
Nick Whetstone

Active speakers and going balanced
Hi Mark
Are you the reviewer that is a fan of Active Speakers? I had some correspondence with TNT on the subject some some time ago and seem to remember you being the 'Active Person!'
I am now back 'active' again after a lay off, running passive.
I decided to try going balanced so had to go back to passive as my Marchand X over was single ended. I found quite an improvement going balanced over single ended so I was curious to see how balanced and active would sound.
I contacted Phil Marchand and found that he offered a kit to convert the X over to balanced operation. I asked Paul Hynes to do the work for me but when I received my X over back from him it didn't sound correct. I sent the X over back to him but there was no progress over 18 months and in the end Paul washed his hands of it and returned it to me. He had also fitted his shunt regulated power supply so I was wondering if Phil Marchand would even look at it but he said he would.
Anyway he fixed the XM9 for me and I have had it for around one month now and the good news is it a big improvement. I don't really want to sound like a reviewer but active/balanced really brings music to life.
Just before I finish a quick word about my speakers which are Wilmslow Audio Classique, a two way design with a Volt bass/mid (8.5'') and Visaton ribbon tweeters with external passive x overs which of course are now unused. The Marchand is set to cross at 3khz and is a 4th order Linkwist Riley design.
Mike - E-mail: mikebooth (at) talktalk.net

MW
Hi Mike,
I couldn't agree more about active operation and balanced operation. If nothing else, balanced operation gets rid of those dreadful RCA phono connectors. I do not care how much anyone spends on RCA connectors THEY WILL ALWAYS BE THE WEAKEST LINK IN ANY SYSTEM AT ANY PRICE. Whoever thought making live before earth (ground) is a good idea should be forced to make connections with RCA sockets with the live pin connected to a crocodile clip closed on their tongue.

I also agree entirely about active operation; your old scribe only tolerates passive speakers for reviewer versaltility.

What do you think of the Marchand?
Phil was going to send samples of the valve vs the transistor models, but got cold feet when I needed 3-way for both!

Those Wilmslow jobs sound like the successor to the DeccaVolt, which was such a good idea that I adapted the idea to the active DeccaFocal (for better dispersion integration, lower colouration, slightly higher sensitivity and slightly deeper bass). Big monsters that sounded great and were used at the Chesterfield Show in about 1991.
The downside of Wilmslow kits is the MDF, but it can be mitigated by high density hardwood braces, good veneer or even a thin layer of birch ply glued to the exterior.
Happy Listening,
Mark Wheeler

Cartridge review
Geoff,
I enjoyed your recent review of Dynavector's Te Kaitora Rua cartridge. I am in the search for my next cartridge having just about worn-out my DV 20xl. My current TT is an VPI Aries 3 with the DV 507 MKII arm (LOVE the arm!).
I am very interested in the DV Xv-1s because of the favorable sound from it that I have heard it produce at various shows and my local shop and the fact that it is typically a very solid match for the massive 507 arm; but it is so PRICEY!
For me it is always difficult to drop that much coin on a component without first having the opportunity to actually hear it perform in my room with my rig, but this is not practical in this case of a 'high-end' pricey piece like the Xv-1s. I do belive that the rest of my rig is up to the challenge of reaping the benefits of a top notch cartridge; my pre/phono is the Hovland HP-100, my amps are Cary 500 mono blocks and my speakers are Magnepan 3.6's.
I like tubes as a general rule over SS but the 3.6's require ample current and watts which the Cary's provide in spades and besides they are some of the best sounding and 'tubey' SS amps that I have ever heard. I am also big on PRAT; I still use my 1988 KHorns and they sound great too!
Can you offer any advice or comments on moving from the 20xl to tbe Xv-1s? The leap in $$$ is high but I have never heard or seen a negative comment on the Xv-1s; most everyone seems to like it a great deal and puts it in that 'special' category of fine equipment.
Thanks,
Howard - E-mail: howardstrader (at) gmail.com

GH
I hate this sort of question :-) There are so many variables, but at least in your case you have the same arm as I used with the XV-1s.
The combination is wonderful, utterly consistent and I really can't fault it - BUT it is very expensive and remember that with any cartridge you don't so much purchse as 'rent' for a couple of years before it needs replacement. So ultimately it comes down to budget longer term. For example you could go for the Te Kaitora and with the money saved upgrade the turntable ad so on. If money isn't an issue then yes the XV-1s will be better, but if you are working to a budget then long term you may get better overall sound by other means?
Cheers,
Geoff Husband

Naim Nait
Hi,
I was just reading your review of the Nait. I came across this for the first time in the summer on holiday (rented a house) and was mightily impressed. I'm looking to create a new system and I'm searching for either a Nait 1 or 2 as the basis.
Are there more recent speakers that you could recommend, the ones mentioned are tricky to find. I have a small listening room and require speakers that would work close to the wall.
Many Thanks,
Ian - E-mail: iandiffer (at) mac.com

LC
Dear Ian,
glad you enjoyed reading my review of the Nait. A pair of Linn Index Plus (or Linn Index II) are not impossible to find in the second hand market. There are two pairs on Ebay right now, while the last auction ended at just 80 € or so. You can even search for a pair of Linn Kan, Tukan, or even Keilidh. If your listening room is small and you don't need high SPL's even a low sensitivity speaker could be used successfully.
Hope this helped!
Lucio Cadeddu

Dayton Audio DTA-100a
I'm thinking seriously about the Dayton Audio DTA-100a, having enjoyed the original T amp for a number of years, but aware of its limitations. I'm wondering is that the best move? And, also, is there any UK distributor? I imagine that aftersales could be an issue if I deal with the German distributor.
Hope you don't mind me asking.
Best wishes,
Philip - E-mail: richterfamily (at) waitrose.com

NW
Hi Philip,
I have no experience of the Dayton amp that you speak of, but it has been reviewed by our editor, Lucio. I don't know if there is a UK dealer. I have heard the Virtue Audio amps built using the same chip-set, in fact I still use one in my main system. I would imagine that the DTA-100a's sound every bit as good as Lucio reported, and at the price are incredibly cheap. The key to getting the best out of these amps is to use a good valve stage (pre-amp or buffer) before them, and of course to use a really good power supply (I don't personally recommend batteries).
If you can't get hold of one of the Dayton amps, another excellent amp is the Bantam Gold from Temple Audio. More expensive but a very good amp that is built and supplied in the UK.
Regards,
Nick Whetstone

Atabites
Ciao,
I may have an option to Atabites that could warrant some testing by experienced ears. The product is Garnet, and it's common use is in Sandblasting. You only need to find a local Abrasives supplier. Some here in Australia sell in 30kg bags for approx $30 AUD.
It's main specification is that the Specific Gravity is around 4, and is very very dry.
Atabites on a budget?
I have not tried it yet, but maybe someone who uses Atabites could compare. I don't have Atabites myself, as I was looking for a less expensive alternative.
Cheers,
Terry - E-mail: tezzb (at) mac.com

LC
Dear Terry,
I've never come across such materials (there are various types of Garnet!) but I'm sure the cheapest and most effective alternative to the Atacama Atabites filler is...river sand! Just fill your speaker stands with this kind of sand (not marine sand!) and you'll be amazed. They will become incredibly heavy and totally resonance-free.
Anyway, if you'll ever experience garnet sand, please report back and let us know.
Hope this helped and thanks for the suggestion!
Lucio Cadeddu

A message for the Plebs
Dear Plebs,
Let me open by saying how much I enjoy your interjections into The Old Scribe's writings--quite possibly the most entertaining spectacle in all of audio Webdom. Well, on to business. I thought you might be interested in knowing the format that has experienced the most explosive growth, on a percentage basis, in the last two years. The CD? Certainly not. Downlolads? Not a chance. LPs? Also ran. No, the fastest-growing format is none other than the......78 RPM record! After years of zero releases, last year there were at least two 78s released, and so far this year there's been one. By the logic of typical audio forum statistical calculations, clearly the 78 RPM record will be the dominant format of the future, as CDs, downloads, and LPs all disappear into well-merited oblivion.
Er, perhaps I should leave prognostications to the Oracle at Delphi and stick to the facts. A company called Rivermont Records in Lynchburg, Virginia released a two-record set of Bix Beiderbecke's Modern Piano Suite last year; the pianist was Bryan Wright. This year the label released a couple of '20s ditties, Down in Gallion and The Swing, performed by Andy Schumm and His Flatland Gang. Production values are excellent; the labels are nicely modeled on Brunswicks from the late '20s, and the sleeve art has a suitably "period" feel.
The performances, of course, are the thing, and I found them fine, with the Schumms in particular doing a good job of evoking that period feel. Pressings are 10" size in good modern vinyl, stereo microgroove - the company is at pains to warn that they are not suitable for acoustic phonographs and steel needles. All in all, a worthy project that I think The Old Scribe, who is always enjoining us to tip him off about new releases deserving of note, might enjoy exploring. Please pass the word to him.
Again, Plebs, thank you for the enjoyable take on modern audio. I wish you and The Old Scribe all the best and hope you enjoyed your TNT summer break.
Almost forgot! Here are links to the recordings' entries in the Rivermont catalogue:
http://www.rivermontrecords.com/bsv2212.html
http://www.rivermontrecords.com/592.html
David - E-mail: drhoehl (at) verizon.net

MW
Dear David,
The Old Scribe should reply in ancient Greek on our behalf, but sadly was thrown out of Latin after 3 years of dismal incomprehension, so never allowed to progress to Greek, Greats or Ancient History. The Oracle was supposed to work by intoxication from gasses through a fissure in the rock but we plebs require more tangible earthly delights.
Maintaining the archeological drift though, there was a group (not unlike our own perhaps) in the UK who fought the arrival of the LP as a backward step due to the worse than halving of the groove velocity and the introduction of the microgroove. Enjoying some Chopin etudes on 12 inch (30cm for modern readers) shellac 78 rpm discs, we are surprised Rivermont record did not opt for the nearly 50% extra recording time per side (depending on label size). The old scribe does have a Garrard 401 that would play microgroove 78s (as well as a couple of wind up gramophones that would destroy them). If the old scribe had the opportunity, he certainly would love to try microgroove 78s. Some years ago there was a TV series in the UK called "The Beiderbecke Affair" (starring James Bolam according to the scribe) whose plot device centred around some missing Bix Beiderbecke recordings, so it is fitting that the format should be launched with some new Bix Beiderbecke recordings on a format combining the best of the old with new features.
If the company obliges, expect a review here.
We will continue to keep the Old Scribe on task on your behalf sir!
Your obedient servants,
The Plebs Chorus

Re: Vinyl
Dear Lucio,
I was talking about the different voltages that analogue and digital run at and line level to equalize the two. Amps made for digital wouldn't need to be as to be as sensitive i.e. 1 volt input for full output typical at the moment and you could even have pre amps with gain (like they used to be). They could also be balanced only (to get rid of some noise).
You cannot really compare radio with either CD or Vinyl. The advantage for me with radio is that it opens up music that I wouldn't normally hear without buying. It is regrettable that the BBC has used low standards with digital radio but at least by using a digibox as a receiver you save some money over what Hi-Fi companies would charge you for a DAB receiver. Where I live FM reception is poor. I have to say that these days I take more notice of the pro audio world and how they operate. For instance using balanced XLR mike cable for interconnects. It works very well and it's cheaper than chips.
Happy Listening,
Mike - E-mail: mikebooth (at) talktalk.net

LC
Dear Mike,
I'm not sure removing the 1 volt sensitivity from amps and preamps will make CD players sound better. After all, even their output boards should increase their voltage levels accordingly! There are amps and preamps with high sensitivity that sound better than others with a low sensitivity...if just things could be that simple!
As fr radio sound: this is generally a disaster even on FM and not because FM signal is limited in frequency response or S/N ratio. Nowadays the 99.9% of FM radio stations use heavily compressed MP3 files. Only live programs might be uncompressed but I'm not 100% sure.
Happy listening,
Lucio Cadeddu

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