TNT-Audio Readers' Corner
Monthly section devoted to your letters, positive and negative feedback about everything related to Audio and HiFi.

You are here > Home > Staff & Contacts > Letters of the month

June 2007

Please take a moment to review the How to use the Readers' Corner manual

Two DACs
Still a superb site always worth a look. Need some advice if possible. Due to an inheritance I now have 2 DAC's a TEAC DT-1 and a Mission DAC5.
I have been using the Teac with a Rotel RCD_06 as transport for some time and it sounds good to me, so does the Mission DAC 5.
As I only need one I intend to sell the other on Ebay. My problem is which should I keep, I'm having difficulty finding any reviews of the Mission DAC 5 on the internet. And the other thing is what are they worth, they are both perfect and in mint condition.
Any help you can give would be much appreciated.
Alan - E-mail: Ag250449 (at)

Dear Alan,
the first thing you should do is compare the DACs one against the other, head to head, face to face. Then consider both should perform much better with their matching CD transports (Teac T1 and DAD5, respectively). The Teac pair should be significantly better than the Mission one. So, I'd keep the Teac DAC and search for a Teac T-1 transport. As for pricing, the Teac DT-1 should be around 200-250 UKP while the DAD5 sells for less (100 UKP or so).
In any case, do not let these comments influence you. Listen without prejudice and decide which one sounds better to your ears.
Hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

Double-blind cables tests
Bonjour Mark,
One question.. How come that in reproducing music you give such importance to cables when there is not so much concern about this when making music.
I have been listening and making music for close to 50 years, and I have found so far that the source, instrument,amps or whatever, is the most important factor. Take as an example a good guitar, Gibson-Fender-Guild or Godin, no matter the cable you use it will sound good. True, a better cable will make a slight difference. But never to the point, where you will not recognize, the signature of a truly good instrument.
I have what I think a pretty good sound system but I still find pleasure in listening to good music on a relatively cheap car radio.
Remember that our ultimate goal is to enjoy music, which may have been recorded using cheap cables or cheap amps. That does not make it less than what it is. Good music is good music. I still have at least as much pleasure in listening to a mono recording of Rubber Soul by the Beatles than the CD version on HI-FI equipment.
So far I have not been able to find, no matter the cost, a sound system that equals the real thing. That is the sound of a live instrument.
That said, I still enjoy reading TNT.
Réjean - E-mail: rejeanflibotte (at)

Bonjour Réjean
I hope I did not create the impression that I place "so much importance in cables"!
That is precisely my point, in contradiction to the many articles every month in the advertising driven magazines and websites, that cables really are the final consideration after all else has ben optimised. I suspect that so many cable articles appear in the advertising led journals because consumers see bits of wire as a quick fix to ameliorate their dissatisfaction with their systems, but it is a typical consumerist psychological trick: after the first rush of excitement there follows the rebound of realisation that this is not a magical solution. Perhaps it is this belief in cable magic that drives the market, but I am sure I made system priorities clear in both Great Balls of Wire, part I and part II. My earlier Bits of Wire article set the tone for this series.

I own and play (very badly) a 1983 Fender Precision bass and a fretless J-type, and I've never felt the need to buy any of the special instrument leads now sold by music shops, but I would love to lose those horrible 6mm jack-plugs that crackle and hum every time we plug in; locking XLRs would be so much better. I also think that choice of string brand and weight makes more difference than fancy pick-ups (my fretless was fitted with EMG pickups by a previous owner, but it sounds just like any rosewood fingerboard Fender Jazz type to me). I love the twang of Rotosound Swing 45-105 on the Precision and the oomph of tapewound Elites on the fretless.

It is my experience that many who write about audio rarely hear real unamplified instruments and therefore have no idea what timbre and dynamics are really present. It is also my experience that those who regularly hear a wide range of live repertoire are less concerned about the finest nuances of audio-system performance. A musician and Music Therapist once suggested to me that he suspected that musician's brains fill-in the shortcomings of reproduced music while listening as they are so familiar with both the structure and the inarticulate form of performance. That would also imply that they would be hearing a conflation of the less-than-perfectly reproduced performance with those live performances they have heard or performed.

A good engineer (and George Martin's production expertise is undoubted) optimises the final master to suit the medium through which it will be heard, so of course Rubber Soul sounds better on 1965 Parlophone mono vinyl than cd. In some parts of the world I believe a Capitol imprint issued Rubber Soul in stereo, before the stereo vinyl cut became the standard issue. The various cd re-releases probably use later generation master tapes too. Various sources note that George Martin and the Beatles themselves concentrated on the mono masters at Abbey Road. As late as Sgt. Pepper the stereo mixes were allegedly considered less important than mono and stereo masters a rushed afterthought in comparison to mono.

Rubber Soul's "Norwegian Wood" is believed to refer to the cheap pine cladding popular in interior decor in Britain and elsewhere in the mid 60s, but there used to circulate another story that the phrase iteself was inspired by John Lennon's Denmark Street or Shaftsbury Avenue retail experience of a shop assistant droning on about the guitars made from norwegian wood. I have never owned a Godin guitar, but I have owned a Godin wood-burning stove, perhaps suitable to burn Norwegian wood?

In my piece on a live performance of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle I discussed the fantastic emotional impact of great live perfromances, and the limitations of audio systems in that context. In the last month I have attended 2 operas and a weekend music festival and I am sure my daily life would be impoversihed if I did not receive these regular doses of live music. However, I do maintain that it is far better to listen to music at other times on a well sorted stereo system than distracted by distortion, innacuracy and missing information. Our time is precious, so every moment we spend listening to reproduced music should be blessed with the best reproduction possible.
À bientôt,
Mark Wheeler

Consonance CD 120
Hi Mark,
How many hours did it take for you to break the Consonance cd120 in? Have you heard of the Arcam cd73t and Marantz cd63se - How would it compare to them - I like an open deep soundstage and a warm musical midband where you here the timbre of the instruments and warmth of the voice like Eva Cassidy thats why I like my trusty old marantz cd63se- would it be better than these two models. I want to replace the Marantz but the Arcam was not any real improvement.
Any feedback would be appreciated.
Steve - E-mail: stephenn (at)

Hi Steve,
I always leave any new cd player switched on for 3 days, output stage correctly loaded (50k resistor across an RCA plug will do or just to a pre-amp input that is selected, unselected inputs often see near infinite load) with a cd on repeat. I know this is bad for the environment but I reassure myself that I don't leave stuff on stand-by, I do plant trees and my house is cold.
I have never liked stock Arcam cd players, but my Dad loves the warmth of his Alpha 5. I find they lack rhythm and timing so much that I find them boring. However, the Avondale Alpha 5, based on the same chassis, that I reviewed majored in these areas.
Likewise, when it was the flavour of the month, I tried the Marantz cd63SE and I couldn't even finish a whole cd (and I started about 30) because I found it so uninvolving. I did buy the Rotel RCD965BX Discrete that I compared to both the Marantz and the Arcam at that time. I saw a later test that showed the Rotel had exceptionally low jitter at any price, and perhaps this combined with the excellent psu and discrete output stage made it the one for me back then. I mention this because we may have very different priorities, but the Rotel was also great with Billie Holiday.
I found the cd section of the portable Panasonic boom-box I also owned at that time (actually it was one that often got mentioned in the hifi press as outstanding for its genre) even beat the Marantz for flat-earth PRaT priorites.
The Consonance cd120 would be way ahead of the old Marantz in midrange purity and accurate timbre, hence my comment that it would not benefit from a valve output stage, as fitted to its bigger Reference sibling or my modified Shanling.
Why are you so keen to replace the Marantz if you like it so much? Avondale Audio or Chevin Audio both do upgrade services that will breathe new life into your trusty old warhorse. Either of their modification services will also breathe some rhythm and timing into the Marantz that will add bucketloads of musical information and pleasure.
I'm a big fan of upgrading the familiar rather than chucking the whole caboodle out and starting again; it's better for the environment and your pocket. On the other hand, the Consonance is very good, and it looks like it belongs in the 21st century!
Kind regards,
Mark Wheeler

Active loudspeakers
Dear Mark,
I have read your very interesting articles on active loudspeakers systems in TNT-Audio magazine. I would greatly appreciate if you could give me more details about the Falcon Acoustics active crossover cards you are using. Are they similar to the Naim NAXO?
Marcelo - E-mail: m_cendoya (at)

Hi Marcelo
The Falcon boards are no longer available. They were only similar to the NAXO of that time in being solid state and using many of the same parts brands. I have not looked inside a NAXO since the early 90s so I do not know how they've evolved since then; the NAXO filter alignments are unique to each NAIM loudspeaker model for which they are designed.
I did originally use a Naim SNAPS to power the Falcon's so they fitted the Naim family sound of the rest of my system in the late 80s (NAC42.5+SNAPS, Falcon x-over+SNAPS, 2x NAP110 then 2xNAP140). I later built a new 'beyond hicap' power supply with 625VA toroidal transformer and banks of BHC slit-foil caps to power 4 regulated 24V power supply legs (one for each crossover board and a pair for the 42.5). This improved the sound with

Falcon Electroacoustics have long ceased production of their crossover boards. I imagine Les Wolstenholme of Avondale audio (see our review of his Alpha 5) could build crossovers to match a Naim system; his pre-amp power supply replaced my old one (described above) when that became old & tired. Sounds even better than mine.
Marchand Electronics make a whole range of crossovers, which I am arranging to review soon, so I'll then be able to offer an opinion on these too.
Happy Listening
Mark Wheeler

Ikea Hol
The debate on IKEA'S name Hol for what they call a "förvaringsbord" - literally translated = storage table, reminds me of some of IKEAS's other strange names.

What about the shelving system called Billy, a spotlight called Beryll, a bed linen set called Ethel Blad, a wardrobe called Robin, etc. etc. I have taken these names from their Swedish catalogue so I don't know if they use them internationally but I can assure you that they sound just as daft in Swedish as they would in English.

Actually they do seem to have chosen the name Hol for practical reasons. Really it should be Hål in Swedish which does mean hole, aperture or vent, ie, the sides and top of the unit are full of holes or apertures. The Swedish å vowel sound the same as the English o so hence Hol. In the HiFi apparatus industry most manufacturers seem to have tackled the problem of adopting names that could have very unfortunate connotations in other languages by using model numbers instead. I can't imagine Naim ever calling their latest product Cedric!

You can put this mail on the TNT site or on the Forum if you think it can start a new thread with a request to keep it lighthearted folks. Regards,
Michael - E-mail: michael.shanahan (at)

Hi Michael
I have really enjoyed the responses I have received since the Hol table review. Some have drawn attention to the appearance of the Hol table in Cambridge Audio's brochure, others to the entomology of the word hol.

The origins of the words hål and hole and the similar Dutch word must all be due to our shared Viking ancestry, rather like the similarity between the Danish word øl and the English word ale. I have just returned from the Off The Tracks music and real ale festival last weekend where these linguistic skills were most useful.
Mark Wheeler

DIY cables
Hi there,
I'm planning to build my own speaker cables, and was therefore looking for material. I found "Belden Low Loss 50 Ohm 2,6/7,9" and "Aircom Plus" Cables which should fit the requirements (solid core, copper foil,...). One is at 2,86€ the other one at 3,68€ but has a "much" lower resistance. Alternatively I thougth about buying a cheap one with solid core inner conductor and some meters of copper foil. Why? bigger conductive diameter (??? sorry about my English, I hope you understand what I mean).
So my (hopefully) only problem is that I'm not sure what you mean by "wirewrap wire". Is it solid core wire with PE insulation or is it just solid core wire with lacquer as insulator?
Alternatively I'm thinking about the "FFRC" with "Lapp Unitronic LiYCY" wire, but I'm not sure if it fits all the requirements and it might get to big for a fabric tube (e.g. from Viablue, up to 17mm Diameter). Do You know what diameter I will get when finished?
Henning - E-mail: Henning-istaad (at)

Dear Henning,
for wire wrap, try Googling around, you find everything you might need. Even Wikipedia has some pages about Wire Wrap. May I suggest you to start with the easiest things first? For example, build a FFRC with cat5 UNSHIELDED cable. If you fancy you might build a TNT Triple T as well. Do not try to mix and match different cables and designs, just stick to the basics and follow the recipes faithfully. Once you get used to cables DIYing you might even try esotic variations on a theme.
Keep us updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

Cayin 265 ai classA
I have read your product review of the Cayin 265AI, it seems a high-quality sounding amp that can work with~ 86bd/4ohm speaker loads! With no stress to the amp.
HOWEVER I want to now from your experience of the"" 265AI"" if this amp is noisy?- like hissing or huming from the speakers with your head less than a 1 meter from speaker cones.or transformer hum from transformers. I hate residal noise and noisey amps but if very low and not very noticeable it`s o.k!.PLEASE inform regarding this issue most apperciated and thank you for any info.
Greg - E-mail: greg_williams_gw (at)

Hello Greg,
The only time I experienced noise with this amp was when it was plugged into a malfunctioning PS Audio P300 powerplant. In other instances I have had other amps hum, and often inserting a damping layer (resin, washer, etc) and clamping down tightly does the trick.
Hope this helps.
Arvind Kohli

Concordant Excelsior
Hi Mark,
I've got one Excelsior bought in e-bay some months ago. I haven't still get the sound you hope get from it. That is for I'm thinking spend some money in buying some good tubes. I've been thinking in ECC83 Telefunken vintage, but only a thing..., they're very expensive and I'd want to Know if I have to change the five tubes, because I only listen to music from my cd source, I never use the phono source because I haven't got one.
Could I only change some of the five tubes? If yes, which of them? Please, send me easy instructions like right or left tube or front, rare tube.
Thanks and best regards from Spain.
Enrique - E-mail: eloj52 (at)

Hi Enrique,
I'm curious about your Excelsior purchase. I did hear of one in Spain once before. How much did you pay for your Excelsior?
What year do you think it is?
What colour is the front panel (black/silver, red/gold, blue silver, or more rarely black/gold)?
Please also tell me which tubes are in which sockets, including the power supply: make and type.
Doug Dunlop, the designer of the Excelsior, carefully mixed NOS brands of tubes (valves) to produce synergistic combinations with a balance of virtues that were greater than the sum of the individual parts. I do know that certian Telefunken small-signal tubes are considered almost legendary and therefore very over-priced.
Only the last 2 tubes are in the line stage anyway. The power suply tube (the one Doug Dunlop descibed as "supplying the petrol") has as much effect on the sound as the signal tubes.
Before you replace a single tube, do replace every electrolytic capacitor in the power supply and the pre-amp. Cerafines will be great in the power supply. Choose your own favourite flavours in the pre-amp iteself.
If you are only using the line level part of this pre-amp I cannot understand why you bought it. The Excelsior line-stage is its weak link. The Exhilerant & Exsquisite were more line-level oreintated. The Excelsior is one of the best phono-stages I have ever heard, but I would be tempted to replace the volume-pot (variable resistor) with a variable transfomeras the variable output impedence can be a problem in some systems. At least replace it with a good stepped attenuattor or top-grade pot.
Grainy flat sound is inevitable in any gear with old electrolytic capacitors, so start there. Then replace film coupling caps and any resistors that are out-of-spec or look like they've become hot. Tube-rolling should be your final upgrade activity.
Now buy a vinyl record player and enjoy one of the best phono stages ever made!
Happy listening,
Mark Wheeler

TNT Janus turntable mat
I read your article on the net regarding your Janus turntable mat and have a couple of questions:
Where did you get the tar material for the mat? I can find it nowhere. Also, you mention that it needs to be cut in a perfect circle - but you never say how??? Can you give more details on how you cut it out?
Warp - E-mail: warpedcorp (at)

Dear Warp (?),
the tar sheets you need for building the TNT Janus mat are available, as written in that article, at any auto parts store/dealer. They are used to absorb road noise, for example. Alternatively you can find these sheets at any car stereo installer.
Once you have the sheets in front of you, cutting will become natural :-) A pair of good scissors would do the trick, for example. Or even a good high-precision cutter.
I hope this helped somehow,
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT-Audio feedback
Hi there,
I just wanted to write in and thank you and all your staff for the knock up job you've been doing. The part that I really appreciate is the breadth of reviews you do; from as inexpensive as any high school student could comfortably pay, to the obscenely, "better than my ears can discern and I'd prefer to use the money to pay my mortgage" gear.
I also love the scarcity of many of these manufacturers; be they the new boys on the block trying to make a name for themselves, to the European-only brands of excellent, if small, repute.
As an American, it's hard to find good reviews on gear not easily obtained within the United States, and I've had a great time learning about many pieces of equipment previously unknown to me. Your reviews have helped me pick out amplifiers and speakers I wouldn't have chosen before to my great delight.
Thank you again.
Andrew - E-mail: Refefer (at)

Dear Andrew,
thanks for the precious and positive feedback, it's our only reward. I'm very glad our pages gave you some idea on not-mainstream gear. Stay tuned for more fun and unusual stuff :-)
As I always say, we (at TNT-Audio) try to park diagonally in a parallel universe :-)
Happy listening!
Lucio Cadeddu

[ 01/2000 | 02/2000 | 03/2000 | 04/2000 | 05/2000 | 06/2000 | 08/2000 | 09/2000 | 10/2000 | 11/2000 | 12/2000 | 01/2001 | 02/2001 | 03/2001 | 04/2001 | 05/2001 | 06/2001 | 07/2001 | 08/2001 | 09/2001 | 10/2001 | 11/2001 | 12/2001 | 01/2002 | 02/2002 | 03/2002 | 04/2002 | 05/2002 | 06/2002 | 07/2002 | 09/2002 | 10/2002 | 11/2002 | 12/2002 | 01/2003 | 02/2003 | 03/2003 | 04/2003 | 05/2003 | 06/2003 | 07/2003 | 09/2003 | 10/2003 | 11/2003 | 12/2003 | 1/2004 | 2/2004 | 3/2004 | 4/2004 | 5/2004 | 6/2004 | 7/2004 | 9/2004 | 10/2004 | 11/2004 | 12/2004 | 1/2005 | 2/2005 | 3/2005 | 4/2005 | 5/2005 | 6/2005 | 7/2005 | 9/2005 | 10/2005 | 11/2005 | 12/2005 | 1/2006 | 2/2006 | 3/2006 | 4/2006 | 5/2006 | 6/2006 | 7/2006 | 9/2006 | 10/2006 | 11/2006 | 12/2006 | 1/2007 | 2/2007 | 3/2007 | 4/2007 | 5/2007 ]

[ Home | Staff & Contacts | DIY & Tweaks | Listening tests | HiFi Playground | Music & Books ]