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Readers' Corner - May 2000

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Speakers switch
Dear TNT editor,
this is Terry from Hong Kong again. Thanks so much for your reply last time.
I have read some of your DIY sections and there is a truck load of valuable advice there. It will take me time to read it all, as I have little electronic/electrical knowledge. However, I want to praise again for the helpful info in your incredible site.

I have one more question and hope it is not too unaudiophile for you to comment on. As you know, many of us audiophile want to separate our AV system from our listening system.
I also have 2 separate audio system, one tube and one transistor. However, speakers are a problem as they take away so much space. It is just not always practical or less ideal to have 2 set of speakers for the different purpose. Is there any way to make a external speaker switch box (for choosing different source of input amp) that does not have significant or very audible effect on the sound.
I have tried with some switches but the effect is just not good. I don't know it has to do with the wrong type of switch, cable of it is just a bad idea.
Thank you very much for your attention and the great web site.
Best regards
Terry - E-mail: leslie.burt2@sympatico.ca

Dear Terry,
this kind of "speaker sets switches" are normally terrible and there's no easy way out, IMHO. You can connect/disconnect speakers cables each time, this is a minimalist solution...but very annoying. Oh well, another solution is to have just one HiFi/HT system, for example using a pre-decoder for the Video sources and mantaining the HiFi/Stereo signal away from processors and A/V amps. Just an idea.
Lucio Cadeddu

TTS DIY mains cable
Dear Stefano,
I would really love to built the cable but I have a couple of questions:

  1. Should I use solid core mains cable or not? It is quite difficult to find them with shielding, they normally come without any shielding. On the other hand, solid main cable usually sounds better. Please advise.
  2. you talk about the TTS DIY mains cable needs to be long enough, why? my wall outlet is very close to my Hi-Fi, so a short cable will do unless the cable has to be a certain length before it is effective, if so, what's the minimum lengh so that the cable will be effective?
Thanks for your help.
Pat Wen - E-mail: patwen@netvigator.com

Dear Pat,
in my opinion, it isn't particularly significant to use solid-core conductors for mains cable applications. You can use "normal" stranded cables obtaining good results as well (our Thorsten Loesch will disagree, anyway :-))
Mains cables principles are really different compared to interconnection/power cables. Using a 3 meters long - or more - mains cable, you can improve the cable's filtering action. My system is placed near the wall socket, but I use a 3 meters long TNT-TTS for each HiFi component. Finally, each TNT-TTS is connected to a 3 meters long TNT-TTS wired multi-plug!
Stefano Monteferri

Hum....mmmhhhh???? :-)
I really appreciate your free magazine (how can you do it?)
I have one question: in all reviews I read about tiny differences in sound experience between different systems, cables, interconnects etc. But never, never I read a word about background noise in the system, EVERY system I listened to until now has a slight, background hiss, hum or something like that, which is normally inaudible, but it is there.
Question one: do complete silent systems exist?
Question two: what can you do to make your system more silent?
My system: Diapason Adamantes III, Quad 66 CD, Sugden amplifier, Siltech cables and interlinks.
Mike A. Agsteribbe - E-mail: agst@euronet.nl

Dear Mike,
you're right, hum does exist. And, guess what?, it's almost impossible to eliminate. And you're right twice, hum is seldom mentioned in reviews. Do you know why? It's that simple: LPs and (even) CDs have a very low signal/noise ratio, worse than preamps and amplifiers. So the REAL problem is software and recordings, NOT hardware. If you use a very "transparent" HiFi system you can distinctly hear the master tape background noise/hiss even on the best CD recordings. It's a fact we have to live with.
BUT!!!! Hum can be created by your own system depending on its connections to earth (ground). In simple words, if you aren't careful about "grounding" properly your components you will increase the noise level of your system by means of the famous "ground loops". A way to reduce or avoid ground loops is to connect to "earth" one HiFi component only (possibly the preamp or the amp) and disconnect all the "ground" wires of the other components.
Then you can try to reduce the "ground noise" by reversing the plug into the wall socket...sometimes it makes wonders, sometimes not.
Anyway, if even a noisy playback system like an old turntable can play very good tunes (and it does, sometimes better than the quieter CD ;-) ) it means noise isn't so relevant after all. When the Music starts to play, we easily forget the noise.
Lucio Cadeddu

Italian tube amplifiers
Dear Sir,
I have recently been looking for new amplifiers to power my Avantgarde Trio's and frankly was enamored with the Audio Gate aesthetics. I am hoping there is some way to listen to them without going to the expense of flying to Italy. Thus far I have auditioned the following amps;

Still to audition - Fi 2A3 Mono's and Wavelength Cardinal and others I'm sure I've forgotten. Don't have any hidden gems in Italy that mate with the Avantgarde Trio's, do you?
Thanks again for your courtesy and professionalism, I'll keep checking back on your website for more interesting news.
James - USA

Dear James,
tube amplifiers are all the rage in Italy so, besides the ones you've already cited, let me add few more names:

For sure I'm forgetting some glorious name so please forgive me for that, I'm human :-)
Finally, let me suggest you an amp which seems to make wonders when connected to your Trio's, the 47 Labs Gaincard, a solid state amp that seems to sound like the Audio Note Ongaku.
Hope this helps,
Lucio Cadeddu

Valve World
Dear Lucio,
thank you for answering my doubt the previous week. I have indeed compared my JBL 4408 with Tannoy m3 and a pair of Mission 752. Surprisingly, given its' size as a bookshelf monitor (bigger than many other book-shelf), it produces enough bass while comparing to the others. Just mine being softer and warmer while m3 and 752 produce a tighter and faster bass.
So I guess I have solved the bass issue now. Thanks!!! Then I went for auditioning 2 valve amps; Unison Reseacrh Simply 2 (EL34 tubes) and Audion Silver Night 300B. Surprise again, Unison Research replied and informed that there is an agent for the above 2 in Malaysia.
While the Simply 2 costs US$ 1,175.00 brand new and the 300B costs US$1,305 ex-demo, both are equally good if I may say. The Simply 2 produces a richer and bigger sound without losing it's clarity and 300B is sweeter in this case.
Frankly, I do not know which one to go for since both are equally good. Therefore, I turn to you for your opinion. Please advice (in your truest personal opinion) that which one is the better deal given the price mentioned. Thanks in advance. Your opinion is important for my references.
Goh Siang Yee - E-mail: gsiangy@pd.jaring.my

Dear Goh,
glad to hear you've solved your "bass issue" :-) now back to tube amps. My STRICTLY personal preference would go to the Audion amp, since it makes use of an excellent tube, the famous 300B. BUT!!! Have you listened to them with your NEXT speakers? This is of paramount relevance, tube amps performance depends - strongly - upon the kind of "load" (read: speaker) they are connected to. So, choose your speakers BEFORE buying the amp. Then ask for a comparison listening test with your speakers. A choice without this additional test may cause a complete disaster.
Let me know,
Lucio Cadeddu

Sacrificial goats :-)
I really appreciate the tweak information on you website. I especially like the fact that you are finding low cost ways to achieve maximum results.
After years of reading about costly magic clocks, mystical disks, and line conditioners that cost more than some systems, your site is quite refreshing.
Sometimes I feel guilty because I don't always offer a sacrificial goat to the Audio Gods before I play my system.
Lee Swanson - E-mail: lswanson@ectsi.net

Dear Lee,
when I was younger (not that I'm old at 34!!!) money was too tight to mention. I could just dream of all the goodies on those luxurious HiFi mags. So I started to find cheaper ways to improve the sound of my HiFi system: cables, shelfs, tweaks of various kind etc.
Suddenly I discovered these things worked pretty and surprisingly well...so what? Wouldn't it be good to have a mag that offers these simple ideas for free to a broader audience? A dream, of course...till the Internet was invented. Back in 1994 (Netscape wasn't available yet, not to mention Internet Explorer! ;-)) I started to put these tweaks online...and what once was just a stupid personal page has quickly becomed a worldwide respected HiFi magazine...but we haven't lost our original Mission: less money - more fun!!!
Lucio Cadeddu

Great site - great magazine
I am an audiophile fm Hong Kong residing now in Canada. I want to tell you guys that your articles are great. I particularly enjoy the comparison between the old and new Dynaco ST70. I particularly like the rational, unbiased but passionate style with a sense of pragmatism.
Just for your information, the Puccini amp (not the SE version) is only costing less than US$480. What a great buy. I wonder you can add comments on whether it worth the extra money to add the extra power amp to make it a bi-amp set-up.
You also mention that the amp has some tube sound, (which I love), how does it compare to amp such as Musical Fidelity's new A-2 or X-A1 (they are also renowned for having a tube sound quality).
Keep up the good work. We audiophile must salute guys like you.
Yours sincerely
Terry Leung - E-mail: TCKLEUNG@YAHOO.COM

Dear Terry,
thanks for the appreciation.
With a so strong dollar over our poor Euro one can expect Italian HiFi stuff to be less expensive than ever over there.
As for biamping, well, I'd better switch to a Donizetti/Bellini preamp/amp combo instead. Even better I'd expect till the new 100 + 100 Audio Analogue integrated amp will hit the market. If it sound as it looks it would be a tough competitor for everyone (see our last reportage from the Top Audio in Milan for details).
I haven't had the possibility to audition the new MF stuff so I can't comment or compare these to the AA stuff.
Happy listening with cool Italian gear!
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT FleXy Table
Hi Lucio,
I saw your FleXy table design months and months ago, and thought it was a good idea, but never got around to doing anything. Then a discussion about it popped up on aus.hifi so I thought I'd give it a go. Now after much running around and hassle I have a four shelf, one metre high table.

I used 16mm stainless steel rod (now that is hard to find!) with stainless nuts and washers (no neoprene/nylon ones yet) and 18mm MDF shelves with white undercoat and matt black spray finish. I also used dome nuts for the feet to decrease the contact area, not as good as spikes, but they were even more hassle.

With all the stainless steel, the price was considerably above your original cheap table, but I'm happy and am going to modify it into a full blown entertainment centre in the next year or two. If you'd like to see the original .tiff blueprint (147kb), let me know and I'll e-mail it to you. It was drawn up by another guy on aus.hifi from Perth.
The whole purpose of this e-mail is just to let you know there's another one in the world. I love it, and everybody that sees it comments on how cool it looks (stainless and black looks tres cool!).
So thanks again for a novel design, and if you'd like to see what a full tv, receiver, dvd, vcr, tape deck and cd player rack looks like you can see it here.
I was very impressed with it, and will modify mine to it soon.
The actual design is by Gavern Spencer (gavern@upnaway.com) as it was he who designed and drafted it. I don't want to take credit for it.
Andrew Blake - E-mail: s369258@student.uq.edu.au

Dear Andrew,
the TNT FleXy table is certainly the Internet's most popular HiFi table among DIYers. Its design is by fellow TNT reviewer Mimmo Cacciapaglia (not me!) and it has been one of the first DIY projects TNT has offered to its readers, firstly only for the Italian crew.
Then I decided it was too cool to keep it for ourselves only and so I translated the article. And BAM!!! Everyone on the Net is raving about the table, especially the Home Theater community, that finds the FleXy (and its "bigger brother" Double FleXy) a "sano" way to stack many HiFi components without spending hundreds of dollars or sacrifying cool looks/WAF.
Congrats on your FleXy and, please, stay tuned with the TNT-Audio DIY section since very soon it will be available a COOL DIY CDs wood shelf.
Making sure the fun never ends...
Lucio Cadeddu

Speakers and Cables
I have a Marantz 63 MKII KI-Signature CD Player and a Marantz PM-66 KI-Signature Amplifier. I would like your suggestions on two itens:

Tannoy R3 or B&W DM 603 S2? Which is the best option, considering the fact that I listen to almost all kinds of music (from drum'n bass; trip hop, pop, acoustic, classical, world music, etc) and normally at medium/low levels, because I live in an apartment.

Which cables do you suggest to bring out the best of the hi-fi set?
Your answer is very important for my decision!
Thank You.
Miguel Santos from Portugal - E-mail: miguel@fe.up.pt

Dear Miguel,
given the quality of the two 'speakers is similar it should be your "gusto" to choose which one to buy. My PERSONAL (I mean, STRICTLY PERSONAL!!!!) preference would be for the Tannoy's but then we can have different tastes.
As for cables: try building them at home, following our advices you can find into the TNT DIY section. If you're not willing to spend a couple of hours to build these cost-free designs then please consider interconnects from Monster Cable (Interlink 400, for example), MIT (Terminator series), Van den Hul or Supra. For speakers cables I'd recommend Supra & MIT. It all depends on how much do you want to spend.
Lucio Cadeddu

Sonus Faber
I'm sorry to bother you, but my nerves are killing me. I was wondering if you would be so kind as to help sate my curiosity of a pair of Sonus Faber speakers. This may sound like a tall order, but any insight you may offer would be most appreciated.
I am looking at a pair of Sonus Faber Signums and was wondering how they would compare to the Concertos and their predecessors--the Minima Amators?
I will be driving the speakers with a Copland CSA 8 and an Arcam CD player. I would demo, but the nearest dealer in Canada is 500 km away. I'm hoping to get to Italy this year and by them their (trip + speakers < purchase in Canada!!)

I know that the Signums are reference monitors and are supposed to sound like Concertinos on steroids, whereas the Concertos are very musical, but a touch in your face. I'm not sure if this is a good thing.
I was looking for just an overtly musical sound that won't make me hate listening to old recordings (classical/jazz/opera from the 30s/40s). Please help *smile*.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Warmest regards,
Amir Ali - E-mail: aali@symcorinc.ca

Dear Amir,
the Concerto and the Signum are two very DIFFERENT speakers. While the first one is an entry-level bookshelf, the second is a reference monitor. The quality of the drivers and of the construction is vastly better in the Signum (nothing to share with Concertino's!!!!!!!).
So, if your room isn't too large (30 sqm or less) I think the Signum is the best choice you can do. But remember they are far more expensive. Plus, they are very, very different from the Minima Amator. A completely new approach.
I can't comment any further, you NEED to listen to them and judge by yourself, better if with your amplifier, at least.
Let me know,
Lucio Cadeddu

Tube amps or subwoofer
Dear Lucio,
before I start, I shall give you my highest respect and appreciation for advicing my doubts twice. Thank you.

My situation is this: I am now in a cross road decision: switching into valve amp or get a REL sub-woofer?I would either look for a suitable valve amp for my speakers (a 12 years old JBL studio monitor 4408 with 90dB, first batch of titanium tech) to reduce the brightness or improve the bass line.
I've audited many speakers recently and I could say mostly are good in their own aspect but to conclude, I found mine is having one of the impressive mid-range for vocals and strings. The only different is my speakers' bass seems "too polite and relax" while comparing to today's speakers that is solid and more apparent.

I have a few valve amp in mind but there isn't any representatives at all in my hometown. I don't mind ordering directly from overseas retailers in Italy or UK or anyplace but strange enough, Italy's side has never reply my request.
I did ask for Union Research and Synthesis for a quote but never received their replies.
I wonder is there any way to contact the retailers/companies that represent Gamma Acoustics, Synthesis and Union Research? Especially Gamma since I never see their homepage or retailers ads on the Internet.
Lastly, what is your opinion towards my choice between a vavle amp and a REL sub?
Thanks for your advice.
Goh Siang Yee - E-mail: gsiangy@pd.jaring.my

Dear Goh,
it is not strange that Italian Companies don't reply to your query...they don't even reply to us ;-) Clearly they sell so much stuff they don't need to improve their sales (big grin ;-) )
So, my advice is: FORGET 'EM. If their sales dept is so poor you can easily guess by yourself how good could be their customer care service.
If your 'speakers don't have enough bass (which is quite strange, IMHO) a tube amp won't solve the problem. You could easily end up with even LESS bass ;-)
You may try...but don't expect miracles. A subwoofer....uhm, it may cause some matching problems with your 'speakers which could be solved by choosing an appropriate crossover frequency. This leads automatically to choose an active subwoofer with adjustable crossover frequency. Anyway, this doesn't solve everything: a subwoofer normally adds "weight" to the lower portion of the audio spectrum, tipically below 80 Hz...and if your speakers don't produce enough bass "above" 80 Hz...the subwoofer could be useless.
The bottom line is: ask for a good active subwoofer (REL makes pretty good units) "on loan" and try experimenting. Then let me know.
Lucio Cadeddu

© Copyright 2000 Lucio Cadeddu

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