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

May 2002

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Newbie question
Hi! Although I'm not a true Hi-fi enthusiast, I frequently visits your website and I especially find the DIYs interesting.
I hope you can take the time to answer a question of mine. It's nothing about high-class hi-fi components, but about mini-systems. I know you may feel that it's a waste of time talking about them but please help me by reading on....

A few years ago I bought a JVC mini for my bedroom, and for the first time experienced the wonders of stereo "soundstage" by separating the speakers, put them on stands, and set them up so we form that "triangle" position.
True the effect can't be compared to those produced by true hi-fi components, but I already fell in love with the idea of seeing the voice of the singer in the centre of the 2-D (if not 1-D... boo...) soundstage. Now I'm thinking of replacing this JVC system, possibly with one that will produce a clearer soundstage. I'm definitely not ready financially to go component-wise. What I'm considering now is the JBL SG-3030 mini system ($300).
However someone does suggest I go for the $600 Denon DF-100 (though it's way out of my budget). Here are my thoughts, pros and cons for both system:

  1. I will rarely make use of the multi-CDs and cassettes on the JBL.
  2. The Denon system has everything closer to true hi-fi equipment, though the genuine JBL speakers on the JBL mini should be a big step above the ordinary mini.
  3. I don't need loudness or bass; I only want soundstage clarity.
  4. I only listen to pop-music CDs; would they need equipment like the Denon system? or would the JBL mini be more-than-adequate to convey all the soundstage info in these not-high-quality pop-music recordings?
  5. Price: Denon doubles the JBL.
Which purchase do you recommend? Or are both purchase not feasible? Particularly my concern is for pop-music CDs, whether a mini by JBL or a hi-end micro by Denon can produce a clearer soundstage than my current JVC mini. And if so, by how much relatively? Can you answer these concerns I have? I know these are very subjective things but I'd like a true audiophile's opinion. Thanks for your reply.
Danny Tsang - E-mail: dmhtsang@hotmail.com

Dear Danny,
forget mini-systems if you don't want mini-sound. My suggestion is: buy a Klipsch Pro Media active system (sats + sub + internal amps) and connect it to a portable CD player or, even better, to an entry level full-size CD player. This combo, for less than 300$, will give you a sound minisystems can't afford, even if much more expensive than that.
Alternatively, if you don't like the idea of a subwoofer, consider a pair of Wharfedale Active Diamonds...small active gems that can give any mini-system a run for the money.
Let me know,
Lucio Cadeddu

Sand tubes
[Pars's sand boxes]

Dear Mr. Cadeddu,
While I was wondering which vibration damper to build for my system I thought of a new alternative. Instead of building a TNT Sandblaster box I thought of putting sand filled pipes of 60 mm in diameter and 70 mm in height to each feet of the equipment.

The system is the same as in the TNT SandBlaster but the damper is individual for each foot. The application is still cheap.
The pipes can be bought from anywhere and different styles of paint and even chrome plating can be done.

It is easier to build, maybe leveling can be a problem.
What do you think of this system?
Koray Pars - E-mail: kpars@ford.com.tr

Dear Koray,
your idea is very good, the only problem I see is levelling, as 4 "dampers" are harder to align than just one. Try to build 'em and let us know your findings.
Lucio Cadeddu

Positive feedback
Dear Lucio,
I was searching for audio sites and came across yours, and just wanted to send you a note. I cannot tell you what a relief it was not to have flashing banners, and gobs of advertisements.
Congratulations for not buying into all of that mess. At any rate, I wish you well with your site. It is a real service to the true musician. Thank you.
Susan Forsburg - E-mail: sforsburg@nc.rr.com

Thank you for producing such a good online mag....
Thomas King - E-mail: happyaardvark@optushome.com.au

Dear Susan and Thomas,
thanks for your appreciation, letters like yours encourage us to go on (and on, and on) with our "Mission". We're too proud to be "different" to become "for profit".
Stay tuned,
Lucio Cadeddu

DIY turntable support
Hi Lucio,
Love TNT! Enclose a description of the Valkirye DIY turntable support, which I've been asked by several people on Vinyl Asylum to write up. Thought TNT might like it too.


My floor is carpet on suspended wood, on the fourth floor of an apartment block. When a bus goes by on the street below the whole floor bounces. When I walk the windows rattle. Currently I can't use a wall mounting, so I've spent the last year looking into different types of floor supports for non suspended turntables. I've tried a number of different combinations of isolation, including magnetic, sand, air and plywood. Though this project is ongoing, the Valkirye system works well.

  1. If your floor is seriously out of level (as mine is) make some pads (say 4x4 inch) by gluing thin cork sheet to a thin sheet of hardwood. Use at least one sheet of cork and one of hardwood for each pad. The pads go with the cork on the floor, and the hardwood facing up.
  2. THE BASE. At least 10 Sheets of 25mm BIRCH plywood, size 16 x 24 inch. The plywood usually comes in panels 4 foot by 8 – so you get 12 sheets of 16 x 24 from each. You ought to be able to get the supplier to cut it for you. Sand the edges. Then glue the 10 sheets together using standard water based wood glue, painted on one side. The glue acts as a de-coupler for each set of panels.
  3. THE AIR LEVEL. Make a box out of 25mm birch ply which is 16 x 24 inch by ca. 11.5 cm high. The base of the box needs to be cut with 5 cms off one side and one end. Screw the side panels onto it, and then screw metal corner brackets inside each corner to strengthen (not strictly speaking necessary, but a precaution). The top of the box should be 5mm shorter than base on one side and one end.
    Fill the box with tennis balls – leaving space so they are not tight or too crowded against each other or the edges – so you could fit 2 or 3 more balls in). The tennis ball box is then installed upside down, making sure that the smaller unattached base panel does not touch the sides of the box. (This box can also be sandfilled instead, which is cheaper. Or you can put the box upright and constrain each tennis ball with a small surround of sand for a slightly different effect).
  4. THE TOP LAYER. Again strata of birch ply. Minimum 5, but preferably 6 or more panels, made same way as the base.
  5. The CONES. I use Clearaudio RDC cones (from hififorsale.com) between each layer but they are not cheap. If you can find cheap aluminium or brass cones, those are fine as well. (Or see TNT-Audio site for other cheaper cones) Each layer is separated by cones (preferably 5 – with the fifth in the middle and the others at the corners, but certainly 5 between the two top layers). Cones attached with blutack. The middle set of cones point upwards, the other two layers down.
The whole contraption weighs a lot (probably over 60 kilos).
REFINEMENTS: You can cut a large spiral form into one side of each ply panel. Then glue some sand into the spiral hole for further vibration drain.
FINISH: the wood can be left plain, varnished, oiled or veneered.

NOTE: The Valkirye does not pass the glass of water test in my room. Ie. if you put a glass of water on the top of the support and stomp the floor near it, the water does tremble slightly. But I found the same using magnetic supports, which was surprising.


I can clumph around as much as I like and never had the needle skip, even using very light tracking force. Sonically I still have to test a couple of variables using sand, air and magnetic supports, but this is the version I currently like the best.
Edward Farrelly - E-mail: edward.farrelly@ntlworld.com

Dear Ed,
thanks for the tip.
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT Triple T vs FFRC: Comments
I made both the FFRC and the TNT Triple T. I found the FFRC nice sounding, but a bit weak in bass. The Triple T (not biwiring version) had one of the cleanest bass and the best soundstaging I have heard. It was also very transparent and airy. I can recommend it highly.

Given the great difference in sound between the FFRC and the Triple T, I thought that a good bi-wiring version would be to use triplets (3) CAT-5 wires instead of the doubles (2) CAT-5 used in the Triple T. That way, I would have a cable composed of a total of 9 CAT-5 wires instead of 6 for the Triple T.
I would use 6 for the bass and 3 for the woofer. Has it been tried before? For short runs (say 3 meters), would the impedance still be manageable (I have a high end solid state amp)?
Yours sincerely,
Alain Letendre - E-mail: letendre.alain@ic.gc.ca

Dear Alain,
thanks for the precious feedback. As for your "variation on a theme" please consider that adding cables will increase capacity not resistance. Stable, solid state amplifiers should have no problem to drive even high capacitive loads.
Lucio Cadeddu

Brazil HiFi Show
The Brazilian magazine "Clube do Áudio e Vídeo" announces the achievment of the "HI-FI SHOW 2002", on August, 2rd, 3rd, 4th 2002, in São Paulo, Brazil.
The sixth edition of the Show will count on the presence of over 200 audio and video brands from all over the whole world, the majority of which Hi-End by their own right.

Once again the venue chosen is the newest "Centro de Exposições da Câmara Americana de Comércio" (Convention-Exhibition Center of the American Trade Chamber - CCEXPO-AMCHAM), inaugurated exactly with last year's Hi-Fi Show. The exposition area is about 4.800 square meters, divided in 64 spaces, differently sized and acoustically treated.
The attendance is expected to be in excess of 7,000 audiophiles and music lovers. The Brazil Hi-Fi Show is the major audio and video event in Latin America, due not only to the number and degree of interest of the attendees but to the importance of the various exhibitors as well.
All information regarding the event and on contacting the show organizers can be found at the magazine's web site (http://www.clubedoaudio.com.br).
Victor - E-mail: vmirol@uol.com.br

Dear Victor,
thanks for the info!
Lucio Cadeddu

Hi Lucio,
I just have to tell you how impressed I am with your site. It has given me much needed knowledge and, perhaps most importantly, confirmed my long-held belief that it's more important to enjoy the music - even loose yourself in the music, than it is to 'hear' the components the music is being played on.

I found the TNT website quite by mistake when looking for information on upgrading my admittedly somewhat lo-fi system. I have been involved with stereo since I was 14 (I'm now 52), and have gone through periods of "upgrade-itis". I do not consider myself an audiophile, but I do love to listen to great sounding music, live and recorded, from rock to classical, blues and jazz.

I specifically was looking for an upgrade to my then current Kenwood receiver that I purchased about 10 years ago. As it happens, I was also looking for a source to replace the midrange and high frequency drivers in one of my AR-3a speakers. (One of my grand-children was playing "turn the knobs" on the Kenwood and left the volume control in the full-right position, and the balance control in the full-left position. I turned the Kenwood on (without checking the knobs like I usually do) and fried my left side AR's mid and high frequency driver and also somewhat trashed the Kenwood).

I really love the sound of the AR-3a's - I purchased them new in 1968. I'm sure there are better speakers available (more efficient, certainly), but to me they deliver most of what I want to hear. Anyway, I found very informative reviews and tweaks on your website - especially concerning the NAD 3020.
I had heard of NAD but never seen any models. I went to a local audio store, and auditioned the NAD C-350 integrated amplifier (60 watts/channel). The seller said I could take it home, and after a few days, could return it if I didn't like the way it sounded.
I'm very happy with my choice. It drives the AR-3a's very well - I can get thunderous, clean volume if needed. But most of all I enjoy the naturalness of the sound I hear. Regardless of volume, it sounds great to me, and best of all, I get to enjoy the music better today than before.
Of course, I need to upgrade my CD deck, and consider buying a Black Cube phone preamp for my Dual 622 (the NAD only has line-level inputs), but I have your web site to thank for making me aware of NAD.

Lastly, I need to thank you for the tweaks section. I can't wait to start experimenting with building new mains, speaker and interconnect cables, not to mention trying out some of your vibration-control tweaks.

Lucio, you are to be commended for your website, and your philosophy. I for one, can't tell you enough how much I appreciate it. I have told several friends about TNT and I'm sure they'll enjoy and appreciate it as much as I have.
Thanks again,
Larry Rosenthal - E-mail: lmrosenthal@cox.net

Dear Larry,
I'm glad to hear you're enjoying your nice AR 3a's so much. These were (and still are) GREAT sounding speakers. AR tried to re-make them in mid-90s but it seems these clones don't sound like their ancestors. Also, congrats for the clever choice of the C350, a honestly priced audiophile amplifier.
As for your turntable: if you're serious about vinyl playback, perhaps you should upgrade your turntable first (or your cart). The Black Cube is an excellent hi-end performer...so to fully benefit from its outstandingly good performances you need a better front-end.
Have a look at the second-hand market...it should be easy to find a Rega Planar 3, a Thorens TD 160 or an older Linn LP 12 for just few hundred bucks.

I hope you enjoy our new editorial vest, too.
Keep me updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

Oldies but goldies
Dear Mr Lucio Cadeddu,
Do you remember the best sonic qualities of old eqpt? Rich, soft, mellow, smooth, substantial, old-fashioned, big-bottomed & comfortable sound :-) Make all recordings sound beautiful and effortless, with ability to relax entire body, making one feel at ease.
And the sonic qualities of new eqpt: wide bandwidth, wide dynamics, huge & big billowing soundstage, with all details extracted from records.

I am still searching for "lifetime" eqpt that combines both the old and new sonic qualities as described above. Do you have any recommendations for me?
Warmest Regards,
Vance Chiang -

Dear Vance,
speaking of amplification, 4 names come immediately to my mind: Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, Mc Intosh and Naim. In my opinion, amps and preamps of these brands, all with a different approach, can give you what you're looking for. The choice depends on your budget and personal taste (tubes or solid state...).
As for speakers...what about a classical Klipsch loudspeaker...such as the Klipschorn, La Scala etc.? These designs have been around for decades, virtually unchanged and dramatically up-to-date even for today's standards.
Finally, have in mind that most of that "ancient" sound you enjoyed so much was due to the quality of the recordings.
Hope this helped a bit,
Lucio Cadeddu

Express Machining Heavyweight vs Origin Live modifaction
Dear Mr. Ferré,
I read with interest your very favorable TNT review of the Express Machining Heavyweight modification for the Rega RB250 arm. I also appreciate your caution in comparing the Heavyweight to the Origin Live mod, due to the fact that you hadn't heard the latter.
However, the Origin Live mod has been widely praised, and virtually none of the TNT readership is in a position to do the direct comparison themselves. Would it be possible for TNT to follow up on your Heavyweight review with such a comparison? Given the number of RB250's and 300's in the audiophile world, I think this would be a most welcome and very well-received review.
Yours sincerely,
Chet Price - E-mail: Ckprice500@aol.com

Hi Chet,
Thanks for your letter and kind words.
Your letter came at an interesting time. I received an e-mail from the kind folks at Origin Live a few weeks ago suggesting the very same comparison. Hopefully an Origin Live modified RB-250 will arrive at my home in the next few days.
Additionally, they have offered to send an arm of their own design called the Silver Taper, which should arrive in a few weeks.
Best Regards,
Nels Ferré

I found your article on the Dynavector DV-10x4 MKII quite interesting - actually many of the reviews (multiple reviewers) for the more modestly priced cartridges are good reads. I'm adding the 10x4 to my short list of "bang-for-buck" cartridges, one of which should find its way into my system.
Actually I have a turntable that probably deserves better, a Roksan Xerxes with Roksan Artemiz arm, and in fact I was using the Roksan Shiraz MC until I killed it due to accident (which motivated me to kill myself, but happily I resisted the urge).
Anyway, I can't currently afford a replacement in the same class, hence the hunt for the giant killer.

My short list includes Ortofon MC-25 FL, Denon DL 103, Grado Platinum, and now also the DV-10x4. You may wondering why I would add a cartridge based on a single review. Oh ... I suppose I'm simply too lazy to spend a few hours at the local hi-end store trying out all options! - I'm sure you see the point.

I was wonder if you can suggest any others? In particular, do you have an opinion on the Garrott P77? There is one available on eBay at the moment and what little info I can find suggests its a good performer.
I listen mostly to Classical and Jazz - that being the case I'm typically willing to sacrifice a little slam for finesse since I frequently blast a Hendrix or Blues Breakers these days (but it happens I assure you!).

I'm presently not suffering too badly. I should point out that I killed the Shiraz a few years ago and ran out and bought a Shure M111 HE as a bridge; if I recall it cost me about $150 CDN. However, I didn't really try it as young kids were arriving on the scene and the TT was placed in storage.
It is only recently that I got the TT back in service and mounted the M111. It performs much better than I had anticipated! While Shure seems to have dropped it from production I would say it is somewhere between the V15 and the M97 based on the TNT reviews I've seen.
It gets the basics right and never becomes unraveled, including dealing nicely with orchestral crescendos, and it can rock as well! While it certainly doesn't have the transparency, soundstaging, and resolving power of the Shiraz, it seems quite neutral and smooth (no grain and no sludge).
In fact I just purchased a ARCAM CD92, which is definitely the best CD player I've ever owned, but the TT even with the M111 betters it. Aside: try the CD92 with Columbia's reissue of Brubeck's Time Out. The CD is HDCD encoded [even though there is no indication of this whatsoever] ... the sound ... imagine getting a perfectly preserved sealed LP copy and playing it on a reference TT with a killer MC ... it's in the same league!
Bernard Hickey - E-mail: bernard.hickey@sympatico.ca

Hi Bernard,
I am glad you found my review helpful. You have a very nice analog rig. I am sorry to hear of your misfortune with the Roksan cartridge. That's tough, I know, I've been there myself.
Of the choices you list, I feel all are good choices, although I would probably avoid the Grado, as I am not a big fan of their cartridges. The Denon is an interesting cartridge, although I have no personal experience with it, a few people whose opinion I trust really like it. It can be had quite inexpensively, to boot.
You mentioned the Shure. Oddly enough, I have a Shure V15xMR that I keep around for a backup/spare cartridge. I greatly prefer the Dynavector over the Shure. In my opinion, there is no contest. Please be aware, as my review states, the Dynavector does not have a stylus guard. Be careful. Is it a "giant killer?" I think so.

I have no experience with the Garrott Brothers' cartridges. While I believe used gear can offer excellent value, I would avoid a used cartridge: It's just too easy to damage one.
Additionally, you will not have a true idea of the condition of the stylus before your purchase.
Thanks for the Brubeck tip. I'll add it to my list, which admittedly, is quite long. :-)
I hope this is helpful.
Best Regards,
Nels Ferré

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