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Readers' Corner - April 2000

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TNT DIY projects that work!
Until recently, I have been hugely on the sceptical side of believing that a AC power cable upgrade could make a difference. I tried a variation of the TNT Merlino and was pleasantly surprised to notice a somewhat wider and more defined soundstage coming from my old Accuphase E-202 integrated amp. Thanks for the tip.
P.S. The Accuphase line is not popular in North America. Articles are practically non-existant. Could you tell me if possible your impression of my old amp and how it might stack up in a "modern world" of hi-fi.
Kurt Schmidt - E-mail: KDAschmidt@aol.com

Dear Kurt,
glad to hear our TNT Merlino performs so well into your system. Your amp, the Accuphase E-202, is a pretty good sounding unit with an excellent overall quality level, as usual with Accuphase stuff. Hard to say how does it compare to modern amps, certainly it is an amp that can withstand the "load" of the years better than its competitors (Japanese stuff, for example).
I wouldn't be worried much about the amp, after all, loudspeakers and room acoustics can make a far greater difference. Think about it.
Happy listening,
Lucio Cadeddu

IPL & upgrade
Dear Geoff,
Thanks for all your advice...I have built them now...the tlm s3's from IPL.... the second speaker had the advantage of being build with sash clamps....why oh why did I not use clamps for the first one.....
I have not sprayed them yet.....but the Cat5 sounds good.....they are not properly run in yet....the neighbours are already complaining...the bass is awesome......
I have put some wool at the start of the line.....seems to be good there.....I have not got the best out of them yet as my room is quite small..they need space I think...and my speaker cable..(Kimber 4pr) is not ideal...makes them a little slow..but I am working on it....... the the best thing is...I made them......
by the way...for a man with no tools....that wekend tops bit was unrealistic...more like 2 months!!!!!
Still got the glue gun burns to prove it!!!
Would it be a liberty to ask if you can suggest anything I can do to further improve my system.

No tweaks...if you don't have time then thanks anyway...

Hi Robin!
Wow! well done and welcome to the land of the obsessed :-)
They take a little time to run in, but they are good arn't they. Actually I've another pair of 1500 pound floorstanders here at the moment on test. At 28hz they don't register on my meter, the IPL's were 3 dbl down!
But in a small room that can be a problem - I'd move house. You must make sure the wool behind the driver is well teased out, so that it appears like a uniform "cloud", I use 9 grms. If you have too much bass still then a little wool on the port mouth will help.
I'd also get a pair of paving slabs or similar (I use granite slabs - try the local undertaker...) which give a solid foundation, reduce floor vibrations and by lifting the port slightly will further reduce bass reflections from the floor.
On the cable front try making FFRR, it's dirt cheap and seems to work well with mine. I'd also make sure you use the smaller of the two supplied tweeter resistors and try taking a turn or two off the bass inductor - the big one - you can always wind it back on it you find the sound too hard..

It's crazy but I get more feedback on the IPL's than the rest of the reviews put together. To date five people have actually built them and everyone is hopping around saying how good they are... The record for building them is two days :-)
Re upgrade advice?

  1. Buy a decent turntable - an LP12/Ittok should cost about 400 pounds then you can buy the softwear at 1 pound a time and start hating your CD player :-)
  2. Try different bases under the CD player. Cut some squash balls in half, put them on the shelf then put another shelf on top for the CD to sit on. Try glass/MDF/plywood etc. Each will sound different. I suspect the 99 may be particularly microphonic? Worth a try anyway.
  3. Try FFRC and biwire, the IPL's like it.
Enough for the moment?
Have fun and please keep in touch
Geoff Husband

Tube kits
Dear Sir,
I have seen many Companies claim they are offering good Valve Amp Kit with 300B, kt88 etc. kind of tubes. My question is, are they really good?
Are valve kits as good as manufactured one? Their reason being given is that valve kit is cheaper sine they came in parts and require buyer to fix and install themselves.
What is the disadvantage of valve kit in terms of sound quality????
GOH Yau-Ping - E-mail: gohyp@pd.jaring.my

Dear reader,
obviously I can't comment on the quality of ANY DIY tube kit available on Planet Earth. I hope you understand. Besides this, there are certainly GOOD tube kit out there, like the Edison amp we've reviewed, for example. Then consider that normally DIY kits have a higher quality/price ratio than commercial products (the reasons being quite clear) but their quality sometimes depends on the ability of the DIYer himself (i.e. YOU). A wrong weld can cause a serious loss in terms of overall sound quality, for example.
So, as you can guess, there are several pro's and con's. I'd suggest to take into serious account only well-known DIY kits, just to avoid the pletora of "me-too's" that are creating confusion into the DIY market.
Lucio Cadeddu

Final CDP choice and Revolver TT
you were kind enough to offer some advice during the past month or so, helping me select a new CD player. I thought you might want to know what finally happened, and why.
I ended up buying an NAD 540, and I am quite happy with it. Now, here's why...

Limited by a $500 price cap, I was initially drawn to the AH! Tjoeb 99. But after much thought (too much, probably) I shied away from this unit. Three things made me uneasy: the transport clicking, the presence of only one American dealer (3000 miles away) and the strong emphasis on tweeking. A bit more on this...
Transport clicking? Lots of users mentioned this; one went so far as to say it nearly kept him awake (player in the bedroom) during the burn-in period. While I'm sure it's a very quiet click, this is the sort of thing that can really drive me nuts.
I like DEAD QUIET between tracks. Any sound would probably bother me, especially since I sit very close to the player in my listening room.

One American dealer? Yeah, I know, so what? Well, I always consider Murphy's law: component failure, shipping damage, or my own clumsiness as I drop a cup of coffee on the unit. If I have to deal with any service and support issues, I'd rather have a dealer that's a short drive away. This also makes me a much more tangible threat if they do not repair the unit in a timely fashion. :-)
But, a strong emphasis on tweeking? This is a benefit, my God, not a drawback! Yes, I know, I know. Whenever I have expressed this sentiment, people rushed to reassure me that I don't HAVE to tweek the Tjoeb 99.
Tweeking is optional, and the unit sounds great with no tweeks at all! (Even Herman van den Dungen took the time to explain this to me; bless you Herman, and sorry I did not opt for your player.)

Try to understand. If I'm listening to a player that I KNOW is designed to be tweeked, I would constantly be wondering if I should be doing something to make it sound better.
I don't think I could simply sit back and enjoy the music, until I had performed at least some of the recommended tweeks. Wondering how I could get the absolute best sound would become a distraction, and I think it would interfere with my enjoyment of the music.
Yes, I know, I have a sick, twisted mind, but I have to live with it. Hence, I felt such a tweekable product was not for me. Call this, "Confessions of a Non-Audiophile."

So... I found a nearby dealer (Audio Nexus in Summit, NJ) that carried Rotel and NAD. I first took home a Rotel 951. It sounded wonderful, but often seemed excessively bright. After doing some comparisons with LP records, I realized this sound quality is due to my electronics: Adcom amp and preamp. These components apparently have a very bright sound. Combined with a relatively live listening room, this made the Rotel unit unsuited for my system.
So, I ended up with the NAD 540. It is much warmer than the Rotel, with a more robust midrange and bottom end. Some might say this unit lacks clarity and detail, and this may be true. But until I'm in a position to replace my Adcom components with something more accurate, the NAD is a good choice.
So, there you have it.

I also have one new question. I have a Revolver turntable. It's about ten years old, and the motor is now making a little noise: a slight tapping sound. I'm told this motor should never need lubrication, but I need to do something about it. Would you suggest a drop of silicone lubricant (WD40)? Or perhaps a light machine oil? Any suggestions will be most appreciated.
Again, many thanks to you and all the folks at the TNT audio forum for advice on CD players. You have all been a tremendous help.
Don Riemer - E-mail: driemer@airworthy.com

Dear Don,
thanks for the precious feedback, you've choosen a good CD player at least :-)
As for your Revolver turntable, maybe some drops of light engine oil (sewing machine kind) can help but I'd also check the screws that hold the motor in place. Maybe something is loose and needs some tightening. While you're there spray some furniture spray on the belt too and then wipe dry it. Some noise can even be caused by the belt (dirty, loose or worn out).
Let me know.
Lucio Cadeddu

Some advice for TNT-Audio
Dear Lucio,
TNT is a very good site indeed! However the following areas can be improved a bit in my opinion.
Generally, the reviews of the tweaks (whether DIY or commercial products) turn out to be positive. I would like to see

  1. More critical views of the products
  2. More blinding listening tests
  3. More product comparisons, not just review them in isolation
For example, I would love to see a comparison review on your DIY Flex-table against some of the commercial available racks.

If you have time, take a look at one of the best Hi Fi magazine (if not the best) -- Hi Fi Choice (http://www.hifichoice.co.uk/), I think they do an excellent job in reviewing Hi-Fi, it's sad that they don't do much DIY stuff....
So keep on the good work!!!!!
Pat Wen - E-mail: patwen@netvigator.com

Dear Pat,
if we publish a tweak or a DIY project it would be "weird" (to say the least) to criticize it, since we are proposing it!!!! Would you like something like: Guys, here's our brand new DIY cable! Trust us, it really sucks!!!!. Da pazzi ;-)
As for commercial tweaks, you're WRONG when you say our tests are always positive. We always underline pros and cons of each item, be it a cable, a spike, a damper or whatever. Please check our reviews carefully.
Then let me add that it is very HARD to find well-made commercial products (accessories, I mean) that suck. Have you find many of these? Which ones? Tell me, I'm a curious guy.
As for "blinding" (did you mean "blind", right? ;-)) listening tests, yes, we always use this method to evaluate small sonic differences...so there's no need to ask for more, we already do 'em.
As for comparisons I, for one, HATE comparison tests, though I always compare products before writing a review. Comparisons are useful for me, so to understand how a component sounds like when compared to its competitors but the results can be quite misleading for the average readers. So I prefer to tell you the pro's and con's of the product, not always one can tell a product is BETTER than another, sometimes they are simply different and it should be left to your personal taste to choose.
For this reason we don't give "Best buy awards" and (silly) things like these. We don't want our reviews to convince anyone to buy an item. Simply go out and judge by yourself. Would you choose your wife by simply listening to the opinion of a panel of...ehm...testers? Believe me, I wouldn't :-)
Our credo is: go out and judge by yourself. Reviews only have a very limited scope: give you some -hopefully- useful hints on what to search for.
Finally, two words about HiFi Choice. If it is the "best" HiFi magazine around, why do you spend your time reading (and writing to) our humble non-commercial TNT-Audio? Wouldn't it better to spend your "navigation" time listening to Music, instead?
Have you EVER asked yourself WHY so many HiFi magazines don't give enough "room" to DIY?
Matter for thought, I think.
Lucio Cadeddu

Balanced Interconnects
First, your site is great. I have referred to it many time. It has also peaked my interest in audio as a whole and specifically in DIY. I have always liked good sound but do not know much about electronics. I have recently - tonight, if fact - completed a new main cable for my Quad 405 amp - haven't yet listened to it though.

As a previous reader wrote, I too live in Canada. It is hard to find the stuff you have mentioned in the resource guide. But, I'll keep looking.

I recently purchased some cable to make interconnects - CD (Luxman D-105u) to preamp (BK Components PRO-10MC). (The three above mentioned component drive a pair of Quad ESL 57's that I bought new 20 years ago - they still work perfectly and have never been to the shop and are not for sale).
The cable is DH Labs Silver Sonic BL-1 Series II Interconnect and cost $3.50 US per foot. The write-up says it can be used for both single ended RCA and balanced XLR applications.
It has 2 insulated leads, a full foil shield and a un-insulated lead.

Please explain what the term "Balanced Interconnect" means? How does it differ from un-balanced in performance? Where and how do you use balanced? I appreciate your comments.
Larry Cresswell - E-mail: lcresswell@home.com

Dear Larry,
first of all thanks for the appreciation, it is our only reward.
The balanced connection mode can be used only with balanced HiFi components, which have XLR connectors. The balanced mode is very common in pro audio applications because of the improved interference rejection...so interconnects can be run as long as desired (a must in pro applications).
Unfortunately few HiFi components use a fully balanced construction so balanced cables are of little use in HiFi. Only hi-$$$ HiFi stuff uses balanced connections as an alternative to common RCA's.
The difference between a balanced interconnect and a common one is that, roughly speaking, the audio signal runs through two indipendent wires and the shield remains completely separated from the signal. If you look carefully, you'll notice an XLR connector has 3 terminals, indeed. Two for the signal and one for the shield.
Among the audiophile crowd a common practice is to build semi-balanced interconnects, that is, a cable with 2 wires and a shield, the shield being connected to "ground" at one end of the cable only, more or less like on our Merlino AC cable. This scheme mimicks a balanced interconnect...but is not balanced, of course.
RCA connectors have just 2 contacts while you need 3 for the fully balanced XLR mode (OK, you also need something else, but I'll left this for the more technically oriented readers).
Best regards,
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT Janus mat
Hi Lucio
Still having fun with HiFi and DIY a'la TNT.
Made the Flexy, FFRC,X1.5, etc. Even did the innertube under the cd player, Kynar/ tape interconnect and have double patio stones under my floorstanding speakers.
Upcomming are .001" copper foil speaker cable and interconnects. Getting a tt soon. Looking at a used Thorens 2001 for audition soon.

Read the Janus article. How thick is the cork? How thick is the tar damping material?
I have some of the rubber damping material but what type of store sells the cork?
Ken Lawton - E-mail: klawton@ciaccess.com

Dear Ken,
glad to hear you're having fun reading TNT-Audio. Cork foils should be easy to find at any store that sells stuff for thermal insulation of walls/houses etc. Also, cork foils are used for acoustic insulation. They are available either as self-adhesive or "plain" non-adhesive sheets. Thickness may vary: I recommend 1 mm. The same for the tar damping sheets...beware!!! It is NOT rubber!!!! It is a whole different material, used by the automotive industry (ask your car parts dealer for it). It is sold in self-adhesive foils (sheets) and it is 1 mm thick, more or less.
Have fun!
Lucio Cadeddu

Convertus PCB layout?
Hello, I have just been enjoying the Convertus articles... congratulations! It appears that the series of articles is completed, and there is reference to a PCB, but no indication of what it looks like. Is it possible to have a PCB layout made available as part of the series?
Grant Sellek/Adelaide, Australia - E-mail: Grant.Sellek@transport.sa.gov.au

Dear Grant,
I'm pretty sure no PCB layout will ever be available. Giorgio does not like PCB's at all as he prefers to wire everything the simplest (and best sounding) way which is possible.
I'm struggling hard with him to get a personal sample of the Convertus so to use it into one of my personal systems.
Stay tuned,
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT Merlino AC cable
Hi Lucio,
first of all congrats for your magnificient work and results!!
I made the TNT Merlino, but with a different cable, as I didn't find any 3 conductors 2.5 mmq, but just 1.5 mmq; also, no ferrites so far.
Results: somehow puzzling; as you say the overall sound is now more lively and punchy, but it is also MUCH more forward, and in some recordings this is pretty IN YOUR FACE, which is very strange to me, as I'm now used to the cavernous soundstage depth coming from my source (arcam alpha 9 + bel canto dac1) and my preamp (Melos sha maestro ref).
Comments welcome!! (in Italian if you want)
Paco - E-mail: pacopeco@mail.ono.es

Hola Paco!
using different cables may actually affect the way the cable sounds. As for ferrites: they actually modify the sound of the cable, normally making it darker and warmer.
My suggestions: try reversing the plug into wall socket (sometimes it works!) or search for another cable. The depth of the soundstage is creatly affected by the "presence" of the mid range: normally a system with a "forward" midrange has poor soundstage depth.
Finally, not every power amp likes "special" cables, try using the Merlino on the preamp, for example (or on the see-dee player). Hasta luego!
Lucio Cadeddu

Ads/classified on TNT-Audio
Thanks for a nice magazine. I really like it. One thing I would like to see is a section with ads for used gear.
I think it would be a good idea to divide it into a european and an non-european section and (if dealers are to be allowed at all) one section for privately owned gear and one section for dealers.
My first suggestion would be:
Privately owned gear only

And my second suggestion:
Privately owned gear section Dealer section The reason I would like to see this is that it is hard to find highend gear in Sweden and there are no really good sites (that I have found anyway) in Europe either.
As it is a lot cheaper to import stuff from another european common market country I would like to divide the ads into separate groups.
The main reason for this is that I am fed up with reading US ads with lower prices than over here but shipping and import taxes makes it more or less impossible to buy anything.
Ingvar Olsson - E-mail: ingvar.olsson@trio.se

Dear Ingvar,
first of all thanks for the appreciation. Secondly, let me state it clear that TNT-Audio CAN'T host a BUY/SELL section and this for several reasons.
We like to stay far away from the market and the commercial side of it. Hosting a BUY/SELL section can be, thus, quite misleading.
We have discussed this topic into our TNT Forum and a large majority of subscribers has voted AGAINST BUY/SELL messages into the Forum. There are far better places for this: rec.audio.marketplace and various Auction areas/sites.
There's one pretty elegant solution, though: create a Forum (where our TNT Forum is, for example) entirely dedicated to BUY/SELL ads, eventually moderated by some volunteer (you? :-)).
This way who is willing to BUY/SELL HiFi on the 'Net will have a fast and secure way to know what the market has to offer.
While many other HiFi sites/magazines offer a "Classified" BUY/SELL section, we're proud to be different, once again.
If you need some help with the Forum, let me know.
Lucio Cadeddu

Mini Monitors
Dear Lucio
Thank for setting such a wonderful website that is dedicated to the exciting world of Hi Fi. It is more amazing that u are doing this out of interest and not $$$$$$$$$.

I am in the market for a few good small book self speakers or mini monitors. My room size is approximately 3m * 4m. My budget is approximately GBP500. I am thinking about the Dali Royal Menuet II. I like the size and the spec. Please tell me what u think. I tried your review page but I cannot find a listing of it.
I have tried the Menuet with the AA Paganini and Puccini with Opera, Classical and Jazz type recordings and it appeared to have a very solid sound stage but the bass is not very noticable (what can I expect from such a small cabinet????). I guess that the best thing about this set up is the abundance of mid-range information, sort of like the style of the "a la" LS3/5a????
Please tell me what u think or if you have any suggestion.
p.s. I like the Sonus Faber but I'm afraid that my bank account presently is unable to undertake such a investment!!!!!!!! Ha!!!!
Peter CHE - E-mail: pche@indocarrsec.com

Dear Peter,
I'm sorry I can't give you an opinion on the Dali Minuet 'speakers, I've never listened to them. Anyway, given the size and considering your impressions, I'd not expect great bass performance. Now, if you want some BASS from a small 'speaker you should consider listening to a pair of Opera loudspeakers, gifted with an impressive bass range for the size (and price).
For example, you can listen to a pair of Duetto or Opera 1.5...I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed.
Let me add that I'd sacrify a bit of midrange information in favour of a more realistic "weight" in the bass. A midrange-centered sound can be nice...but tiring in the long run :-)
Dunno about the price of a pair of Sonus Faber Concertino where you live, but I'd expect them to be around the 500 GBP price tag. If so, try a listening test of the baby Sonus Faber, too. And don't forget the Aliante Spazio and the Diapason Micra.
Listening to more than a single pair of loudspeakers is a must, though. Please take all the time is needed and...listen. Then let me know.
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT U-Byte cable
Dear TNT-Audio,
I am trying to make an U-Byte 1 interconnect, but i'm not sure what to do with the foil shield. Does the shield need to be connected to the phono plugs at one end (therefore semi-balanced), or should I just leave it unbalanced. Also, does it matter that the shield on my sat coax cable is not copper as I am only using it for short lengths (0.8 m)?
I was also wondering why the UBYTE is so good, as it is only a single solid copper conductor. Is it really better than 60+ UK pound interconnects?
I have also noticed that you are fully against multi-stranded copper speaker cables. If these types of cables are not very good, why do many cables come in this form?
PS: your web site is great!
Thanks for your time,
Anthony Oxlade - E-mail: Ant184@aol.com

No, the Shield must be connected on both ends. It is at the same time shield and "cold" signal conductor. Just the same as if you used normal Coaxial Cable as Interconnect really.
And Yes, the Shield is part of the Signalpath, so anything else but pure solid metal copperfoil will sound different from the Cables I made. If that is for better or worse I cannot say for sure.
You wrote: "I was also wondering why the UBYTE is so good, as it is only a single solid copper conductor. Is it really better than 60+ UK pound interconnects?"
This can only be determined by you. I know some people who think so. And it is "so good" BECAUSE it uses solid Conductors (Signal and Ground).

First of all many people want a flexible cable as speakercable. You cannot really have a flexible Cable that is solid. Secondly, the basic cable is the same as in any Mains-Cable, it's easy to make on existing machinery at any of the big Cable Manufacturers (Belden for example) and hence cheap for the Company that markets the Cable (you didn't believe they actually MAKE the cable, did you?).
So it all boils down to marketing and production logistics.
Kind regards.
Thorsten Loesch

Intermodulation distortion
I recently put a subwoofer into my system for the usual low-frequency reasons. However, I noticed an immediate and dramatic improvement in the overall sound quality which was unexpected and therefore likely real.
I did some reading about it and concluded the improvement was a result of a reduction in intermodulation distortion. I originally thought this was a speaker phenomenon resulting from the driver no longer having to reproduce a wide range of frequencies, but recently I've been told it is due to my amp not being able to control the speakers properly. So my question is; is intermodulation distortion a speaker or an amplifier problem/phenomenon?
Brian Rabinowicz - E-mail: rabinowicz@sympatico.ca

Dear Brian,
it is clear that, if an amplifier (or a speaker) is forced to reproduce the whole full audio spectrum, it will be searching for trouble somewhere. IF the lowest end of the spectrum is reproduced by a dedicated speaker and amplifier, the rest of the task is far easier for speakers and amp, hence you get less distortion, more dynamics and so on.
Also, let me add that a subwoofer (or any loudspeaker with a deep bass response) not only improves the lowest end but adds TONS of realism to the musical event.
The main difference between LIVE Music and Reproduced Music is the amount (and depth) of low frequencies (apart from overall dynamics, of course). If you have ever listened to a large pipe organ into a large gothic church...well, you know what I mean.
So, enjoy your subwoofer and...feel the bass!!!! :-)
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT FFRC cable
Dear Sir,
I tried to make one of cables in your tweak section namely the FFRC cable but the cable is very very bright and all the bass is gone.
The cable I used is the one you recommended that is cat 5 network cable unshielded twisted pair. And also the sound is 2-dimensional, I wonder what I have done wrong. Is it a problem with the amp or what?
Thierry Yen - E-mail: tsetse7@yahoo.com

Dear Thierry,
other readers have reported the FFRC as sounding bright. This may be caused by several factors: the "pace" of the "braiding" affects the electrical properties of the cable and hence the sound. Try to twist the cable less (or more) than you did.
Then it may happen that certain amplifiers don't like cables like the FFRC. Naim amps, for example, are known to react badly to special speakers cables so that the Company recommends using Naim cables only (standard OFC figure "8" cables).
Finally, sometimes a cable that reveals any little information in the mid-high range (probably masked by the previous cable) may sound as overbright and with no bass at all.
But the bass is still there, just the unexpected "plus" of high frequencies information makes the listener focus on this portion of the spectrum only.
Not knowning your HiFi set-up I can't comment any further.
Also, let me suggest to join our Discussion Forum to share your experience with several (happy) FFRC-builders.
Please let me know your findings.
Lucio Cadeddu

© Copyright 2000 Lucio Cadeddu

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