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Readers' Corner - March 2002

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Soundstream DAC 1
Hello Nels,
I am a reader of TNT website. I noticed from one of thr reviews that you use a Soundstream dac 1.
Can I take the liberty to ask your opinion on this product. It is being offered new for around US 100 on ebay at the moment. Many thanks for your work at TNT
Best regards
Philip Myers - E-mail: pil5phil@arrakis.es

Hi Philip,
Thanks for your note. First off, a clarification. The Soundstream DAC-1 may be being offered in a sealed box, but it is not new: it is a leftover. The DAC-1 was discontinued around 5 years ago. I've had mine approximately that long, and I bought mine on a closeout for $180.

That said, the DAC-1 is still a viable piece of gear, although it has no HDCD decoding, nor does it upsample. I keep it, for now, because I am accustomed to the sound, but the day is approaching that I will no longer will use it. My recommendation will depend on your needs: if you want to improve the sound of an inexpensive or older player, the DAC-1 is recommended. If you are trying to improve the sound of a newer player, this is more of a "hit or miss situation".
Additionally, the results you get will depend on the quality of your transport, as well as your interconnect cable. Please, do not use a Toslink (optical) cable for best results. Less jitter, of course, will mean better sound quality.

As far as sound quality, the main improvement I noted (with a synergistic match in transport) is an improvement in deep bass, due mostly, I believe, to the power supply which was actually designed by Krell. Keep in mind, your mileage will definitely vary depending on what CD player you are starting with in the first place.

I wish it had the ability to change power cords. Although it has an outboard power supply, you are pretty much stuck using the power cord that comes in the box.
I have had no problems as far as reliability.
At around $100, you can't go too far wrong: but do not expect miracles: five years in digital is a heck of a long time.
Best regards,
Nels Ferré

Music or HiFi?
Hi Lucio!
Hifi or Music, which is your choice?
Both I guess. But this is annoying topic as the hassling around Hifi clearly turns more on the Hifi gear and tweaking on tech minded reasoning more than on musical aspects. Being long time musician and a hi-end agent(past life)I have taken this as my task: I have written an electronic book on how get better into the musical part of Hifi.
How to listen more musical way and how to make your Hifi to give out it's best musical potential. Please check my report/interview at: www.music.in-your-mind.com/articles/hifiormusic.htm
All the best music for all of you,
Jack Lansing - E-mail: jack.lansing@www.com

Dear Jack, thanks for the precious info. You books certainly gives an insightful and "different" way to look at HiFi!
Lucio Cadeddu

JVC: Giant Killer
Hello Mr. Cadeddu!
Many thanks for your great site, it is supposed to be very helpful for the newbies. I am not a newbie though. I seem to be an ordinary victim among many others duped by hi-fi media. But I degress...

Several years ago I purchased the Marantz CDP53, the Marantz PM53 and the JBL-LX500. But all this stuff didn't sound with regard to naturality and musicality of the sound.
Trebles were harsh, bass was boomy and out of control, only mids were shining especially with fusion and jazz-rock. The system could not play Pink Floyd or hard-rock due to stupid roll off on the highs. I got rid of everything (though I should've kept the JBLs - they seemed to sound not that bad).
Now I am more inclined to built a system of vintage gear (or combined with some mordern stuff). I replaced my JBLs with.... JBLs but of another model - the famous L-100 Century. At the moment I have JVC JA-S5G amplifier from the early 80's (which in turn is planned to be replaced with some Sansui amp). Now I am looking for a decent source for my CD collection playback.

At one of the most "sofisticated" Russian hi-fi forums in the net I caught a mention of JVC XL-Z232 CD player which was highly recommended as the unit "banging" those cost several times that much.
Your site was the second place where I could find any info (see review) on the above unit. Since I've not been lucky enough to find the Kenwood DP7090 (super recommended) I am still hesitating between the JVC XL-Z232 and the Harman Kardon HD760 the info of which is very hard to get also.
The XL-Z232 is still available in the Russian marketplace for $145 brand new that is more than twice cheaper than HD760 ($350). So this is my story so far...

And the question is about the JVC XL-Z232 tweaking. What tweaks does it need to be put on a "higher ground". How can I improve its transport and get rid of vibrations?
Your respond with advise and comments would be highly appreciated.
And sorry for my poor English.
With best regards,
Vladimir Yakovenko - E-mail: gastins@rambler.ru

Dear Vladimir,
the cited JVC is a good player indeed. Of course, it depends on what one means for "giant killer" :-)
Anyway, it plays well and yes, it can be improved. For example, the usual tweaks apply (damping, power cable etc.) but even more complicated ones: just replace the output opamp with a Burr Brown OPA 2604AP of "audiophile" fame...and it will shine!
As for vibrations....the unit I reviewed (and tested for several months) didn't vibrate at all. Smooth operation and playing all the time!
You're probably referring to vibrations from the cabinet. For those, internal damping via blue-tac or tar (or cork) sheets will cure the problem (see similar tweaks to Marantz and Teac CD players here on TNT-Audio).
Hope this helps,
Lucio Cadeddu

Your review of AudioNote CDT Transport
You are remiss in not mentioning that the AudioNote which made the very expensive and highly praised amplifiers has no longer anything to do with AudioNote UK and certainly this piece was not designed in any way at all by the designer of the expensive Audio Note gear.
So you mislead the reader into thinking the same engineer(s) and supporting cast make both the Ongaku and the CDT. See the AudioNote Japan website where there is a statement to this effect by Mr. Kondo, founder of AudioNote and designer of the models that made them famous.

There is apparently a dispute over the right to use the name AudioNote, but according to the Japanese folks, the English units are made in Korea or England, and are hardly the offspring of the same minds. Basically, another case of building up a prestige brand name and then exploiting it by a new owner, or different party with some kind of claim to use the name.
In America it happened with Marantz, Fisher, Scott, KLH and Advent, and others. In this case it was the Japanese buying the prestigious American brands and bringing out mid-fi junk that was nothing like the originals.
Of course, nowadays, made-in-Japan means premium quality, compared to most other places, but it was not so in 1968. Am I wrong?
Peter Henderson - E-mail: PHenderson@snl.com

Hi Peter,
Yes I am vaguely aware of the dispute between AudioNote UK and Mr.Kondo. This is politics and no doubt each party will give a different tale if the whole thing ends up in court.
I know of a few "horror" stories from the industry, but as I don't know any "facts" I feel it inappropriate to comment or even mention it in a review, indeed put a foot wrong in a magazine read by 250,000 people a month and I guess the lawyers would have my hide...

What I do know is that AudioNote UK sell/sold the Ongaku and were involved at the time of its inception, my review made it clear that the CDT was a British product from AudioNote UK. But ultimately my review was of a CD player, not a philosophy, a statement of national pride or a piece of evidence in a commercial dispute.
I don't think that I implied that the same man designed both the Ongaku and the CDT, they are after all very different products and few designers would specialize in both fields, indeed much of it was designed by Sony ;-)
You may consider it remiss, but I deal in music, not politics.
Geoff Husband

UPS for HiFi
Forgive a possibly ignorant question from a non-technical person ! I live in Singapore, where the mains voltage does not appear very stable at all. I have a basic "surge suppressor" fitted before the feed which goes to my components (using a TNT Hydra). I am wondering if there is something better (and not too expensive !) I can do to filter out some of the mains problems.

I wonder if you have tried using an Uninterruptible Power Supply as fitted to PCs, since they seem to have a heavy duty noise / surge suppression circuit built in. Are the aims of hifi and PCs different as far as power supply is concerned, or do you think that use of a UPS might bring benefits to my system's sound ? (I have both analogue - Gyrodec - and digital front ends, biamped).

Thanks for an excellent website - it has given me the confidence to start things such as cable projects which I previously assumed were a black art requiring non-techies such as me to pay lots of money to get good quality....
Best regards
Andrew Buglass - E-mail: andrew@buglass.net

Dear Andrew,
an UPS for PC use will make nothing good to your HiFi system. Actually these units have a terrific distorted waveform output, nothing you would welcome into any HiFi component. They are meant to deliver power when the mains shuts down, and that's all they do (of course I'm not referring to expensive UPS's here).
You can add a mains filter to your system or to each component of it, it should make something good, if noise is a problem in your mains.
Anyway, filtering will do NOTHING to the stability of the mains voltage. For improving that, you need a voltage stabilizer of very good quality, as cheap ones are noisy and add harmonics to the mains frequency.
Of course, these "line conditioners" are pretty expensive. To get an idea of the problems involved, have a look at a recent interview with Paul McGowan of PS Audio here on TNT-Audio.
Lucio Cadeddu

Rothwell attenuators
Hi Steve,
I read with interest your review on the Rothwell attenuators.
I have been using DIY attenuation in both my hi-fi and AV systems for some time now. Mostly to make best use of the volume control and make the power amps do the work, but also to match volume levels between sources. As you found, simple potential dividers consisting of one resistor in the signal path and one to ground are very transparent.

Well, I have written a simple Excel program (download it here, 27 kb) that allows attenuation choice, load matching, and outputs the result as the two resistor values. Then you input the nearest available preferred values, and see which pair of chosen resistors suits your load and attenuation requirements.
There's a circuit drawing and an attenuation graph for illustrative purposes. (I don't mind if you want to post my program on your excellent TNT site for others to use. Better give them a health warning or something about it not being anyone's fault if soldering skills are a bit crap).

With Maplin's 2 Watt miniature metal film resistors at a few pence each, buy 6 of each and channel match by using two that measure the same. Then de-solder the hot conductor at the load end of your favorite interconnect.
Solder into the centre pin (using just 4mm of the resistors' leads, so that the body of the resistors are right up to the pin to save space) the shunt resistor to ground and the series resistor to the hot conductor (bending 4mm of the resistor's lead back against the resistor body saves space in the phono plug). A bit of insulating tape around the hot conductor joint (when cold, you impatient fool) will prevent any shorts.

I found 11dB to 16dB attenuation suits most peoples 2 volt (or more, very often) CD players. From my Rega Planet I use 13dB, with 9dB for my Yamaha cassette deck. I use 16dB from my Philips reel to reel, thus avoiding the use of its output potentiometer. I even use 6dB attenuation (load matched to 47kOhm) from my high output Reson Reca into my John Shearne phonostage. All of the source components sound fine as a result. For a few pence, no pre-amp overload, no volume level surprises, just music.
Russell Sceats - E-mail: Russ. russell.sceats@physics.org

Hi Russ,
Thanks for the input. I agree that for anyone confident enough to get inside their amps, a few resistors can be very effective. The Rothwell products provide a very effective attenuation option for those audiophiles no so inclined and is in any case non-invasive,
Steve Davey

congrats for your site, widely read here in Montreal, Canada. I have a pair of Sonus Faber Signum (Italians do it better!) with a YBA CD 3 Delta and a solid state integrated amp SimAudio Moon I-5080. All cables are MIT 2 and 3. I found the sound to be too edgy on the trebles. It might come from the amp (tendancy to push the highs) or the cables. Any suggestion on cables?
As far as amps, what would you recommend for upgrade in the US$1500-2500 range (or less). Puccini SE would be good? I like dynamic, clear and detailed sound but I guess I am more on the warm side than the bright side (but not too warm and sweet!).
May be something that you know is a good match with the Signum (w/remote...otherwise the Musica SF would do I think).
O.M. - E-mail: omartin@medis.ca

Dear O.M.
the Puccini SE Remote could be a good choice (warm but not too sweet), I suggest you auditioning it with your Signums. The SF Musica is the natural choice but I'm afraid it costs more than you've planned to spend as it is 2500 Euro here in Italy...I can't imagine how expensive it can become abroad.
Also, consider two integrated amps from Densen, the Beat 100 and the DM 10, they should suit your taste too.
As for cables, I'd suggest testing something from Transparent or JPS.
Finally (alas, first of all, actually!), are you sure the problem is really into your system? Have you considered the listening room? Normally, an excess of highs is the effect of a too reflecting room. Try adding a carpet in front of the speakers and some big pillow here and there.
Hope this helps,
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT Sonus Flatter cable
Dear Lucio,
I've made my own version of the SF 32 before knowing your very interesting site and your Sonus Flatter 32/64. I've a short distance between my amp and ProAc 1SC, about 1.5 meters each.
To deal with the tradeoff between capacitance and inductance, I've separated the 32 conductors by pairs instead of single ones in order to reduce C. This is 2+, 2-, 2+, 2- etc. In really short distances, the 8 inner conductors could be used for highs in a biwiring scheme.
This procedure could be extended for long distances using 4+, 4-, 4+,4- etc up to the limit 16+, 16- (lower cap-higher ind) but I don't try it yet.
Sonically, I agree with you about highs, mids, bass and $.
My best regards.
Javier Orozco - E-mail: ieorozco@criba.edu.ar

Dear Javier,
your scheme does reduce capacitance and hence can be applied when unstable amplifiers are in use. Glad to hear you enjoy the sound of this kind of DIY flat cable.
Keep DIYing!
Lucio Cadeddu

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
I'm really new in this and my electricity / electronics knowledge is close to NULL.
After reading through this site and others and (mis)understanding some of the concepts shown, a (bad) idea came to me about another cheap and solution. I guess it's bad, I just need to know why.
Well, the cheapest cables I know are in wall electricity cables - around 1.5mm single copper wire (very bad for audio) with plastic around which is usually passed inside tubes all over the house.
The normal Radioshack cables (many thin unshielded wires twisted together in a tranparent sort of polymer/plastic) are also considered bad cause they are unshielded and lack a nice core in the middle. Isn't there a logical way to combine these two bad yet cheap cables to make a single cheap cable with both a solid copper core and the many thin wires? It won't be shielded and sofisticated as the UBYTE-2 but it seems like a much simpler and cheaper cable.
I'm sorry if this questions seems totally stupid or something, I really lack any sort of electric knowledge.
I arrived to your site cause I was looking for info about cabling for the new rear speakers in my HT system:
It's a Yamaha HTR-5170 (+/- RX-V795a) 85Wx5
Fronts - Wharfedale Modus 16 (biwired with 3 meters of 2.5mm Radioshack cables)
Center - Wharfedale Modus center (4mm radioshack cable)
My rears are Wharfedale Modus 8, but I'll need about 13m cable to reach them. I think I'll go for 2.5mm biwired just like the fronts since I'm very budget limited.
Any suggestions will be highly appreciated.
Anan Zeevy -

Dear Anan,
here's a simple recipe to build a damn cheap speaker cable starting from electric cables. Take two pairs (one pair black, one red, for example) of 1.5 mm solid core copper wires (the ones you cited), twist them together or braid them - ask your wife/spouse/girlfriend how to do this, it's the same they do with long hairs :-) - then join together the black ones and the red ones at each end...et voila', a cheap speaker cable that will outperform any multistranded Radioshack-type wire.
I can't imagine anything cheaper than this one :-)
Try it and let me know.
Lucio Cadeddu

Various questions
I have already asked you a few questions but since I'm pretty happy with your suggestions...I continue...I have a few questions regarding tweaking and the next upgrade: My system:

My tweaking plan:
  1. Replace crossover network of the 104 (Made by Falcon Acoustics) Just received those...Cannot wait to install them.
  2. Will try to build the Merlino but my cd player has no IEC socket and just don't want to make a hole in the cd player...Do you know where I could find an adaptor ? (I leave in Belgium)
  3. The Atoll manual specifies the pre/amp were "optimized" with the included main..What do you think ?
  4. Will try to put some RFI filter, and something similar to the TNT Hydra. So cheap, fun tweaks!
  5. Would be also curious to compare my VDH speaker cables with some of TNTs DIY...

After that...maybe I will go fot the upsampler Northstar 192...Or a complete new CDP. Would it be worth or should I better invest on something else?
Thanks and congrats for the mag...fun to read!!
Olivier Plancq - E-mail: oplancq@hotmail.com

Dear Olivier,
I know no adapters that can do what you wish to do. If installing an IEC socket on your Denon CD player is a problem, you can replace the entire cable from the inside!
I'd sugget to try this tweak (together with new interconnects) before buying a new player or the North Star 192 DAC. Then you'll be ready to decide.
As for the Atoll combo, I'm pretty sure the two units were meant to work together.
Keep us updated on your tweaks!
Lucio Cadeddu

New stuff
Dear Geoff,
I am a keen reader of your articles and I found your test of the GRAM-AMP 2 phono stage especially interesting. So I had a look in their internet site and I've found that there is also a "special edition" version, designed for the US market. Well, it costs 70 quid more than the standard one, so I was wondering: would that be worthy?
Do you know about it? By the way, I have a Rega P3 and a Pathos Twin Towers amplifier (hybrid-35 W). I mainly listen to jazz music. I'm also about changing the cartridge and I've got a budget of 2/300 euros.
What is your suggestion within the MM range (Rega Elys, Grado Platinum, Goldring 1022, Van Den Hul MM1, etc....) ?
Last but not least, this year I would like to buy a pair of loudspeakers and I reckon I could gather something like 2500 euros (provided my wife doesn't kill me). I wish something with high definition, deep bass-range and reasonably high sensitivity. No bookshelf. I quite like horn speakers but I'm afraid there isn't much with that money; maybe LOTX-X AURA, do you know them?
Otherwise maybe some Klipsch (Heresy, KLF20/30). Have yout got any good suggestion?
Or maybe I could try to search something second hand (Klipschbelle, Lowther, QUAD 63...) but I'm super undecided and it is impossible to actually go and hear everything. I need some help and hope you can give me a few pieces of advise.
Thanks very, very much.
Kindest regards,
Marco Azzarini - E-mail: marco.azzarini@smeg.it

Hi Marco,
Thanks for the mail. Tricky questions here :-) The way I see it, you have 2800 euro's to spend and want to change your cartridge and speakers and buy a phono stage.
You have an expensive and well reviewed (I've not heard it) amplifier which has valve characteristics but reasonable power, 35 watts will drive most speakers.

In your position the first thing I'd do is sell the P3. You ought to get 200e for it, so now you have a nice round 3000e to play with. Then go out and buy one of two turntables, either a Michell Gyro with a Origin Modified RB250 or the table I have currently here on test, the Audiomeca Romance which is about to get a rave review...

The latter with arm costs 2127e and is as easy as the P3 to set up. Then spend 150e on the Gram2.
This leaves you just over 700e for speakers and a cartridge. I'd go for a Dynavector 10x (reviewed on TNT) and then do one of two things, either look for a good pair of speakers second hand - with your tastes a Cabasse pair such as the Farella's should do the job, you may even get one of their floor standers new from a discount store as they have recently changed their range, second hand Klipsch might be good too. Or I'd build a pair of the IPLS3MTL's as reviewed on TNT. These will give more power and scale than the Cabasse's at the expense of a little detail and delicacy.
Either way you should have pennies to spare :-)
I know it's not your original plan but ultimately I think the result will be better.
Let me know how you get on
Geoff Husband

Hello Geoff!
I'm the guy who asked you this question more than a year ago: "How do you say that a turntable sounds better than an other one? Nobody talks about the way to test a hi-fi component. I think tests must be conducted in a more scientific way"

Now I'm reading your hi-end turntable tests, and I appreciate very much your efforts and your methods. I'm enjoying although I think my td-160 will remain my "reference" for a very long time.
Thanks heartly,
Maurizio Grosso - E-mail: worse@tiscalinet.it

Hi Maurizio,
Thanks for the mail and the kind words - your original email was one reason I took the path I did with the turntable tests. Of course the big advantage with the method is that if a manufacturer doesn't agree with my conclusions I can say "fine, come to my home and I'll prove it" which is very satisfying :-)
Geoff Husband

IPL loudspeakers kits
I always read enthusiastic your very interesting articles on TNT magazine and one in special way impressed me, the one about IPL S3tlm speakers. I have to say that maybe I'm a so called "no-sayer" (...you say so in english, don't you?) but everytime I find something unusual or something that everybody says "mmm, don't take that!" I immediatly fall in love with it!
However I have my couple of little AR that satisfie me but I need something different, something bigger, something that I won't find in my neighbour's house, that's why I think I'll order a couple of IPL!!
So far I decided to write to you not to bother you with stupid consideration about my personality, but to ask you a suggestion on which amplifier will take out the best from 'em. I know it's not easy and it depends on my ears and so on, but consider that your playlist would be mine!!!!
Consider also that I'm an electronic engineer (I don't fear meters, solderings, cables...) I'm a keyboard player too and music is my life-partner (I deserve something more than my 150 Euro Technics..., say 1000 Euro budget to start). That's all! Hope I didn't bore you, thankyou by the way for your nice articles and your kind attention!!
My very best regards.
Andrea Riva - E-mail: andriver@iol.it

Hi Andrea,
Thanks for the mail and you'll be surprised to hear that I've had more emails about the IPL's than any other test I've done. Many have built them and all have been very happy - the manufacturer wasn't happy about the review though which just goes to show...
>"no-sayer". Nearest would be 'gain sayer' which means you automatically say the opposite to any opinion (bit like my reviews :-)
The Korato pairing I tested were simply fantastic with them, if you want valves only then the Edison kit tested on TNT is basically the same as my EL34 Audion amps and that should also work well.
Apart from that the IPL's are an easy load and reasonably efficient so most amps should be OK - have a look at the Roksan Caspian - well built and a nice sound.
Geoff Husband

Police as good quality CD for testing? maybe mine is bad?
I just read the article on commercial music for HiFi Testing, and it surprised me that almost all known artist ones were between my set of CDs for testing. I'm not an audiophile, just a good-eared former sound tech.

AFAIK, Police records were very good sounding, I liked specially their "Jazzy" touch, I love how the drummer plays/sounds!
But... I recently discovered one Police CD, "The Police - Greatest Hits", from A&M records 1996, "Digitally remastered for superior sound". Heh... I was embarrased when listened to it; is one of the worst sounding CDs I've ever listened to: noise gates are clearly spotted, phase/speed shifts... it sounds like a first time student practice at a mastering studio! Any average person won't stand listening to this CD using headphones.

I wonder, is this simply a black spot on Police CDs? Do other works like "Every Breath You Take - The Classics" sound way better? Or even further, are "Best of" selections to be avoided due to generally bad mastering?
graccie in avanti,
Francisco J. Montilla - E-mail: pacopepe@insflug.org

Dear Francisco,
I don't own Police's Greatest Hits as I prefer the original albums. It is difficult to improve the original recordings (as they were damn good), so the "remastering engineer" decided to made 'em worse, perhaps (someone paid him to do something, after all :-)).
Buy the original albums (better sounding on vinyl!) and sell the Greatest Hits :-)
Generally, I don't like Greatest Hits, they normally sound worse than the originals. On the other hand, good remastering engineers can produce decent remasterings (for example, Billy Joel's remastered albums aren't bad). It depends.
Lucio Cadeddu

Previous weeks letters

TNT Solidphono
Dear TNT-Audio,
First of all I should like to say thank you to all those who make TNT come to life each week. The result is a very professional publication, which manages to present and discuss the subject Hi-Fi with a great deal of honesty and sense - something that cannot always be relied upon.

And so to business - I am a keen electronic audio constructor/experimentor and own 2 kit-based amplifiers and a DAC of my own design to date. Following the purchase of a Project Debut turntable a couple of years ago, and realising the potential of LPs for good sound and cheaper music I have been seeking inspiration to build a phono preamplifier.
I'm pleased to say that this came from the TNT Solidphono design and after some consideration I decided to experiment with this circuit.
Some changes were required, since the original input amplifier chip (SSM2017) was not available, so the design was changed to employ standard op-amps (TL081) for both of the circuit's gain stages. In addition, a simpler power supply was chosen, using standard voltage regulators, with a careful use of decoupling & filter capacitors.
The whole circuit, including power supply, was built onto standard perforated prototype board, with copper tracks (see P.S.). Although some careful placement of the power transformer & a.c. power leads was needed, it was possible to fit everything into one case such that no 50 Hz "hum" is induced into the sensitive audio circuits.
The result is a very competent pre-amp. I'm extremely pleased with the performance obtained, which I would describe as open and clear, with a good soundstage - a great improvement on the cheap (40) B-tech preamp module I had been using beforehand. So from now on I hope to enjoy listening to more LPs.
Thank you TNT audio and please keep up the good work.
Yours sincerely,

P.S. Recommendation to constructors:- be sure to remove flux residues from between the copper tracks when using "veroboard" type construction. I have noted odd noises and instability in circuits where this procedure was not performed.
Ed Holland - E-mail: ed.holland@oxonica.co.uk

Dear Ed,
glad to hear you're pleased with our Soliphono. Stay tuned, as we are about to release a new phono stage that improves SolidPhono's performance. It is a battery-operated dual-box phono preamp. A real giant killer. It's here and it's fighting head to head against the new Black Cube SE phono preamp.
Lucio Cadeddu

Just thank you
Dear TNT-Audio,
I would like to take the time to thank you for the pile of useful information on your site. Being fairly new to the world of audiophiles (though far from new to enjoying music ;), I find that the more I read about things, the more confusing it gets.
So many brands, so many opinions, so many nonsense out there. So much, it can even get demotivating. I have started a project building a tube amp, and I chose to build the Velleman 4040 kit. I don't know if it's a smart choice or not, but its affordable, specs look good, the few reviews I have found are promising and hey, the eyes like it too.
I thought of building my own amp from scratch, but though being an electronics engineer has it advantages, I am from the transistor/solid state era. Further more it seems that a lot of schematics out there are designed to the personal preference of its designer, which doesn't seem to be a good idea when one is trying to develop his own likings. Now to find a good preamp to build to go with it& *sigh*

Anyway, where was I going with this. Your site has giving me lots of down to earth, no-bullshit information that is easily understandable even if you aren't already years in the trade. I compliment you for that. I know from experience it is not always easy to take into account there are people that don't take the things for granted that you do.
Your tweaks show ways for people like me that don't have thousands of $$ to spend to improve their sound and be active with their system without just plain picking of shelve. Your site is an inspiration and leaves a hunger for more, both for information as well as be inventive and critical.

One more thing before I go: The thing I notice when reading the articles is, that even though you talk about hardware of all kinds, you seem to talk about it because you appreciate listening to music. This is one thing most sites I have found often lack.
This is sad, because in the end, after you are done fooling around with the hardware, isn't really only about sitting back in your favorite chair, close your eyes and let the music carry you to places unseen before?
Please keep up the great work.
Gijs - E-mail: afterburn@crashdot.com

Dear Gijs,
thanks a lot for your appreciation, our only reward. We always try to focus our attention on Music, not on HiFi gear. Otherwise reviewing could be pretty boring.
Lucio Cadeddu

B&W DM 302 Review - Audiophiles or not?
First off I'd like to congratulate you on a great web site. I've turned to your reviews & DIY sections many times for advice or just to catch up with the audio world. Your TNT Akropolis speaker stands changed my life.
So I was quite surprised to read the following phrase in the B&W DM 302 Review:

"But on the other hand, one should not forget that most shoppers for speakers in this price bracket are not audiophiles, and hence would use the product without much care for proper placement."
Is an audiophile not a person who is in search of the most accurate music reproduction affordable (possible) ? Just because a person is not able to buy high-end equipment, does that exclude him from being an audiophile?
That is the reason behind budget equipment tweaks and DIY. To get Higher-End performance, without the price. It is this area where your site rates above any other.

Proper speaker placement doesn't cost anything. My Tannoy Mx2s cost only 150 UK pound, but to get the most out of them, I need to place them right. Once again thanks for the great site,
Andre Pretorius - E-mail: andrep@clover.co.za

Dear Andre,
you slightly misunderstood the meaning of that phrase. It doesn't state that budget-consciuos customers can't be considered audiophiles ...it simply states that the majority of buyers of inexpensive speakers like the B&W 302 are not "audiophiles", just average customers without the urge for proper placement and tweaks. That's it. We'll never consider someone an audiophile just looking at his wallet! Audiophilia is a state of mind, not of the pocket.
Hope this clarifies a bit,
Lucio Cadeddu

NAD 3020 - thanks
Loved your NAD 3020 write-up. I had this amp in it's MK3 version I think some time ago. I still have the Rotel RA-820BX4 and your write-up made me vaccum the amp's insides, clean the RCA connectors and Alps pot, switches and speaker posts with some Deoxit. And wow, this 11 year old amp still sounds musical. Of course the only cables I have are the Kimber 1010 and Kimber TAK-AG and Kimber TC8. Each of these costs more than the amp :-). Hooked it up to a CEC ST930 TT and Copland 289 CD and a Primare L30 speakers. Not bad at all.
Rameish - E-mail: rameish@pacific.net.sg

Dear Rameish,
the 3020 (and all its incarnations) is an embarassingly good amplifier, even following today's standards. I own both a 3020 Series 20 (that is to say, the first model made) and a later 3120, the most "audiophile" of all (without tone controls) and I admit that - especially this one (the 3120) - is a real giant killer.
3020's (especially the B versions) are still easy to find, I'd suggest to hunt for them. Do not pay more than 100-150 $/Euro for a mint conditions unit, though.
Lucio Cadeddu

Newbie's questions
Hi there,
as a hifi newbie I explored your site intensively an found lots of useful information. Congratulations, really, there's something for everyone, especially the beginner.
I still have some questions: has anyone considered using a CD-ROM drive as a transport? I guess they must have better tracking system since they can read 50x faster.
Can anyone give me an idea of the BER (Bit Error Rate) of the CD stream as it is read from the disc (after the decoding with the redundant bits)? I found no information on how to position speakers correctly, parallel to the back wall, or tilted towards the listener, how close or far of the wall, where to listen, ... Hope I didn't just miss it.
As I understand, speaker cable is pretty important. The total resistance of a cable is easy to measure yourself. But how can you measure its capacitance? And for the damping factor you need the output impedance of your amplifier, how can you measure that?
And finally a question about my own gear for the moment. Since I have almost no money (yet) for the hobby, I have to cope with what I got, but it's not bad: a Quad 33/303/tuner combination together with Acoustic Research AR-4XA speakers.
I have the feeling that there is something strange about the combination, could it be these speakers? I was told they are (were) good ones for me, but I found almost nothing on them (too old I guess).
Thanks in advance for your time please don't hurry, I have the time
Manuel DIERICK - E-mail: psychomanu@yahoo.com

Dear Manuel,
CD-ROMs can be faster when reading data, but Audio is a whole different beast. When reading data, CD-ROM's can re-read a portion of the disc if they find errors...not so with digital audio!!!! You can't re-read, you just need real time music flow.
As for speaker positioning, you've missed the WASP method we published a couple of years ago.
For capacitance, you just need a tester able to measure it (see our general articles on DIY cables).
Finally, your system. Incidentally, the 33/303 combo from Quad is sitting here at my left since I was listening to it few days ago. The power amp (303) is proportionally better than the preamp (33). The overall sound is quite still good and enjoyable, though a bit harsh in the mids and boomy in the bass (hey, they were designed back in 1967!).
The speakers are responsible for the strange sound you hear, perhaps, since drivers get worse with aging and even when new they weren't super-duper stuff :-)
I'd suggest to shell out for a new pair of speakers (even second-hand) and to keep the vintage Quad stuff, sooner or later it will become "collectible".
Lucio Cadeddu

Amps and still 3020
I still find myself referring back to your website.... Again, thank you.
If you don't mind, I have a couple of questions. I am a total novice at all this. I have a Rotel Rx-855 Integrated Receiver and Axiom M40 speakers. I am finding the experience of this equipment very pleasurable. I usually play classical, jazz, instrumental at relatively low volume (just up enough to get full sound).
Should I consider adding a Rotel 850 Amp via a bridged connection. Is there any benefit at low volume? Can you explain the value of doing this?
Another question, when I play old rock'n roll tunes, the overall staging sounds sort of dull and not too bright. Any thoughts?
I also have a NAD 3020 that I purchased based upon your review. You are right, not quite the soundstage of the Rotel, but excellent, none the less.
I will probably use this in my bedroom or office. Do you have any speakers that you would recommend with this unit?

Yet, another question. I have a problem with the comfort of cheap earphones. They either hurt my ears after a short period or my ears get sweaty. Do you have any recommendations?
Thank you.
George Furtado - E-mail: gfurtado@kapaluamaui.com

Dear George,
adding another amp won't do anything good for your low levels listening pleasure. Glad to read you're a 3020-fan too. If you want a match made in Heaven for this amp you can search for old Wharfedale Diamond loudspeakers (first series).
I'm sorry I can't help you with the headphones choice as I have NO experience on the subject.
Lucio Cadeddu

My opinion on the Kuzma Stabi S + Stogi S review
I am an audiophile from Hong Kong and has been using the Kuzma Stabi + Stogi S for quite sometime. It is a lovely TT which I feel absolutely proud on choosing it over the others in the similar price range.
In my opinion, apart from building with high precision engineering, this TT offers the best C/P among the others. However, I was quite disappointed after reading Geoff's review which the TT didn't receive the praise it deserves.
Your findings from your review period is somewhat different from a users who is using it day to day. I am writing to you just to express my opinion from the users of view. The following is just my several comments for your review:

  1. Your review methodology.- Yes, you have stated in the first sentence telling people to read your "methodology" beforehand. But I doubt how many people will seriously read it before go straight to the review. As an Internet surfer, I browse the Net just to get information. Thus, the negative grading of the review sample may easily be mis-interpreted as inferior if the reader doesn't read your "methodology".
  2. Your benchmark of reference.- Your Orbe + SME combo is no doubt a very good sounding TT but I also doubt how many reader got the chance to audition it. The results giving are almost all negative compare to your Orbe. This had given the reader the wrong impression that the TT is no good. But considering the price, your Orbe is a multiple of the review sample. How can you tell the positive side of it? Why not compare it to the other TT in the same price range so it can give the readers a better picture of how it is. Or, using a commonly known TT such as Rega P3 for reference. In such case, we can know to what extent the review TT is better than the best buy Rega. Not how bad when it compares to the Orbe. As I sure more people has auditioned the highly acclaimed Rega rather the pricey Orbe + SME combo.
  3. Your judgement of the look of the TT.- Beautiful or not is very personal and subjective. Not to be mentioned. I think the Kuzma looks better than the Orbe. It looks like the "Enterprise" spaceship in "Star Trek" which is my favourite.
  4. Your comment on the Kuzma.- The TT and the arm are excellent built and is highly adaptable to different cartridge.
    Your mentioned about the low CG uni-pivot design and oil base reservoir of the tone-arm doesn't fit to Shure V15. It really contradicts to my experience as my tonearm is married with Shure V15 Type Vmr for a year.
    I have tried several cartridge, Audio Techinca ATF-3, Benz Micro MC20E2. The Shure gives the best result in terms of noise level, tracking ability, music ambience and music details. I have compared the same recording from Telarc "Vivaldi-The Four Seasons by Seiji Ozawa - Boston Symphony Orchestra" DG-10070, CD-80070 on the Kuzma + MF X-LP and the CD with my Denon S-10. The Kuzma sounds more detail than the Denon and the soundstage is more deep and wide. Ambience kicks the Denon miles away especially for the violin. Moreover, I have played a seriously wrapped record which I can see the arm moving up and down for around 5mm. No mis-tracking, no abnormal sound can be heard.
    Therefore, I think the Stogi is high of compliance to MM cartridge. I would suggest you test it with V15 before making such comment.
  5. My comment on the Kuzma Stabi S + Stogi S.- There is no perfect world. The TT is the most well build, good sounding TT in the similar price range. However, it may not be suitable for newbie as it is not Plug-and-Play kind of TT. You need skill to set up the Tone arm. May be it is common to all uni-pivot design.
    Once it is set-up properly. It really sings. Other good things are it comes with record weight, dust cover, protractor, Cardas wire. It saves you money from buying the accessories but buy more LPs to enjoy.
I rated TNT-Audio is the best Web Hi-Fi Magzine and hope it can maintain its quality and status.
Happy listening.
AhKeung - E-mail: ahkeung888@my.netvigator.com

Overall you disagree with my review of the Kuzma pairing - fair enough it's your privilege, I never claimed to have "golden ears" or to have the monopoly on what is a "correct" sound. However I've done my best to make the tests as fair and relevent as possible, though I am surprised you don't consider the review positive. I too "lived" with the turntable, putting 70 hours on it which probably equals what most users manage in 6 months, however in my case I had two other turntables here to compare it with.

The "Methodology" is an essential part of the test series and without it the reviews loose half their value - I can't force people to read it but I do my best, if they don't then it's their loss.

The reference has to be fixed, otherwise all you do is end up with a series of fragmented and unrelated reviews. From a purely logistical point of view using a different reference for each review is out of the question and your suggestion that I use a 300 turntable so that every turntable gets a good review is missing the entire point, and smacks of the rather corrupt journalism one sometimes finds elsewhere...

As for the Kuzma itself I considered the review fair and positive - I spent many words emphasising the differences between the prices of the two front ends, ultimately however the Kuzma was simply not as good and the arm a very unusual design which employs more damping than any arm I've ever seen, it might be worth you trying the V15 with the damping fluid removed.

I did try the Kuzma with my V15, and without it's own damper/stylus guard in use it was a poor combination. Franc Kuzma confirmed to me that the arm was designed with lower compliance moving coils in mind.

The temptation to please all of the people all of the time is very strong in this business, but the result is bad journalism and worthless opinions.
I'm glad you love your Kuzma and hope it will give you many years of pleasure, but try to hear it with a Dynavector DV-20 XL which both I and Franc Kuzma consider a much better match than the V15.
PS You say your Kuzma is better than your CD player - I hope you don't expect me to disagree :-)
Geoff Husband

I have just purchased a KAB EV-1 record cleaner (and had it shipped to UK). Your review was the final touch in my conversion to the virtues of this product. I must ask if you any more observations since your review and, also, if you have tried any other cleaning fluids (Nitty Gritty is very scarce in the UK - but Moth and VPI are easily obtained).
Paul Topping - E-mail: cptopp@ntlworld.com

Hi Paul,
Thank you for your note. I am happy that you are pleased with your purchase.
I have changed from Nitty Gritty fluid to Disc Doctor fluid, and recommend the change. I have noticed an additional reduction in surface noise on even the most stubborn LP's with the Disc Doctor fluids. It is a bit more trouble, but the KAB EV-1 makes it much simpler (and effective) than manual cleaning.
With the Disc Doctor fluid, I have found the best method is one application of cleaning fluid (and removal with the EV-1) and 2 applications of distilled water, each followed by removal with the EV-1. Afterwards, all that will be necessary is pre cleaning with a carbon fiber brush, such as The Audio Quest brush.
Here are a couple of links: Disc Doctor's review on TNT-Audio and Disc Doctor's site.
Other than that, I would suggest smelling both the Moth and the VPI fluids and picking the one with the least amount of alcohol smell. Most fluids (not Disc Doctor) contain varying amounts of Isopropyl Alcohol, which is a great cleaner, but there are concerns that over time, it can strip the vinyl of vital lubricants.
I have had no other observations about the EV-1 since my review. It works as well today as it did when I first reviewed it.
Nels Ferré

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