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

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May 2011

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USB DAC Dilemma
Hi Nick,
I read your review on the Kingrex UD-01 DAC which I was considering buying, however I've also read good things about the Musical Fidelity V-DAC, more or less in the same price range of the Kingrex, and was wondering whether you also had the chance to audition it and if you could me give me an advice on which DAC to go for.
Thanks in advance,
Gianluca - E-mail: gianluca_morelli (at)

Hi Gianluca,
I was promised a V-Dac for review by a dealer but it never turned up. So I can't give you a comparison with the KingRex DAC. I do still stand by my review of the KingRex DAC though - it is a wonderful piece of kit, particularly with a decent 12v PSU.
Sorry that I can't be more helpful in this instance.
Nick Whetstone

Amps tweaking
Hi Mark
My disappointment about the experiment to locate output tubes remotely from my amps is totally erased knowing that my Yaqin MS-12b is OK after tube rolling experiments. Put on a delicious quiet vinyl copy of The Who's Tommy. Man, what work of art.... Those RFT 12au7's are so damn dark and clear. At least my head will be in the right spot for the start of a new work week tomorrow.
I was contemplating doing at least a bypass cap upgrade. Are Jantzen 1uf's any good? Have heard good things about them. I have an old Stanton 680EE that seems to blow away the 681EEE's I tried and don't want to loose the "robust" sound it has. It is a bit "muddy" in the lower mids though...
My servicable old Elac 50H2 seems to do well (save the minor amount of idler rumble at high volumes). Is upgrading to an AR or Thorens really worth the $$$?
Rock on!
Mike - E-mail: mikeprosman (at)

Hi Mike
I'm unfamiliar with the Elac so this is the general advice for mid market idler drive turntables (Like Dual and mid market Garrard, but not Garrard 301/401). Clean & lube the Elac main bearing. If it's a it slack use motor oil (from synthetic 0-30 to mineral to 20-50 depending on bearing slackness - the 20-50 sold for air cooled Harleys is heaviest) but if not use lighter machine oil. Clean the idler and lube its bearing with light machine oil. If the motor comes apart, clean bearing and thrust plate and lube and reassemble for the minimum endfloat/minimum friction compromise. Replace the 'motor run' capacitor across the motor with another 'motor run' rated type that complies with your local wiring regs.

There's a rising fashion for idler drives because they REALLY drive the generator (that's all a vinyl front end is), while belts and servo-ed direct drives are thereoretically aleays wandering about the correct speed to some extent. Whether or not it has a subchassis, the belt drive turntable is a resonant system, the rotating mass of the platter sproinging on the belt compliance. More expensive models are merely more sophisticated versions of this arrangement, with the subchassis suspension merely adding another resonant system. Hooke's law and Simple Harmonic Motion in action. Hence all the esoteric folklore about turntable set up and self appointed gurus spouting bollocks (the structural linguistics fueled by testosterone); however, as the owner of a very expensive Michell Orbe SE, I do know this complicated system of bounciness can work very well.

If the Elac still rumbles, it is either time to get a new idler or a new turntable. A new bearing or external motor PSU is probably not economic. I have an old Thorens TD150 which with little work is superb carrying a SME3009 IIimp. That set up would be a perfect partner for the old Stanton 680EE. The bassier emphasis of the 680EE compared with the 681EEE is probably as much down to suspension, tracking force and arm mass resonance as anything else. I loved the sound of the 681EEE, but am more familiar with the 680's as DJ cartridges!

The Yaqin MS-12b has some fairly prosaic components under the hood.

However, clearance between board and top plate is VERY limited, which is why I never wrote the promised mods article, because I couldn't get the breadboard to fit the box. Despite constant stories that super expensive Vishay resistors are best, Holcos ('Holdsworthy Co' - H2 etc) are sometimes equal or occasionally better in valve circs and a fraction of the price. I do bypass caps, while I know some single ended freaks insist that's bad. Cheap silver micas across good commercial types are sometimes as good as couture. I have no idea about the Jantzen's, having never tried them myself. If you can get 'em cheap they must be worth a shot, but then I have a garage full of those ideas that seemed good at the time but proved less worthy in practice.
Glad you're now a happy listener,
Mark Wheeler

Technics SL1200
I felt your 2 Technics reviews were very well done. I was largely in line with your findings having read your review many times but only just gotten a 1200 myself recently. I have not tried any KAB mods, but I have gotten other things and advice from Kevin and he is a great asset to the audio business.
Now it has been a long time since you reviewed the Technics SL1200, how do you feel about it now as a record player in stock form? Any more experience relative to other decks? Also when you modified were you able to come to a place where you felt "oh that's what the fluid dampers doing", or did you feel well I don't know really.
Anyway the SL1200 is, I have to agree, a very nice piece of engineering that plays records with great musicality for an earthly price (too bad they just discontinued them this year).
Chris - E-mail: Chenrici (at)

Hello Christopher,
Thanks for the kind words, and yes I still do have the 1200. I have not since compared it to any other 'tables since - but I am very happy with it. The KAB mod that I recommend the most is the tonearm damper - in my review I did describe the benefit of the damper in some detail, it did not yield benefits on every track/album but in some cases it does improve tracking and lowers noise.
It is indeed sad that they have stopped making the '1200, I was secretly hoping they would actually revive the SP10 series.
Hope this helped somehow.
Arvind Kohli

I read your article about WASP speak locating and think it sounds very useful. However, we are building a new house and my wife has insisted we have no floor standing speakers. I have been researching in-wall speakers and think I have found several good ones, from reviews. Do you have anything on tweaking in wall speakers and especially deciding where they should go?
I will have very limited locations to choose from in our main living room.
Dave - E-mail: dsommer8 (at)

Dear Dave,
in_wall speakers aren't a good choice, first and foremost because you need to be 100% sure of their location: choose now a wall and WHAT IF after a couple of years you decide to change everything into your living room? That wall might be no longer adequate. What will you do? Will you dismantle the in-wall speakers and cut new holes inside another wall? A nightmare.
First of all, try convincing your wife there are speakers that are aesthetically reasonable. Planar speakers, for example, or slim hi-tech design towers made of fancy materials (aluminium or even plexiglass like Waterfall, for example). If everthing fails, try choosing good in-wall speakers, Linn, for example, makes pretty excellent gear. Then place them so that the tweeters point to your ears when seated in your listening position.
Otherwise, try another location for your HiFi set, even a very small room will suffice. In the long run, if you're addicted, comprimeses in terms of HiFi won't be acceptable. What seems bearable for a couple of years will drive you crazy after a while. Think about it.
Hope this helped somehow.
Lucio Cadeddu

ZU Audio speakers
Hey, thanks for your review of the Zu Essences. As someone expecting a pair of Zu Omens any day now, I fully admit I am biased. But I just thought I'd point out the probably-obvious, just in case, that while I agree the black speaker you reviewed is uninspiring visually, the Walnut finish they offer looks truly gorgeous - see below the Essence in Walnut.
Of course tastes vary - but compared to what I consider the downright ugly (and intolerable) shapes of many fine loudspeakers (Thiel is lost in the abyss of late 80s design, still, despite amazing wood and craftsmanship, and I even find it hard to stomach the likes of Magnepans and Martin Logans..).
Anyways, just a friendly thought
Jason - E-mail: jlr (at)

Hello Jason,
If you had attached a pic then it did not come through. However, the picture on their website does look nice - but pictures on the web can be very deceiving. I hope you are pleased with your purchase.
Arvind Kohli

HiFi room
Hi Lucio,
whilst some of your reviewers have suggested the room is the key factor in sound. And indeed I found Geoff's article - on a dysfunctional room worrying but providing little help. There is very little on your site about how to arrive at sympathetic room. I have found a number of articles, such as decibel dungeon, proposing optimal size ratios. I can see little suggesting what makes a good room. I would be interested in some directions as to where to look.
Or perhaps one of your contributors would like to enter a dialogue about designing and building a hifi room... I'd be happy to have a sounding board and contribute an article after perhaps 9-12 months.
I found the various class T article's, and open baffle articles fascinating - and whilst I am happy to buy good turntables, I am just as happy to construct / assemble if it's within my abilities. Lots more could be added about rationale / music / thoughts on hifi and current equipment... But much would be familiar to TNT...
John - E-mail: johngagardner (at)

Dear John,
starting with a room with golden ratio proportions between wall lenghts would be a nice idea (but far from real world situations). If this is not possible, one should avoid to use empty rooms, as it happens too often, and wall lenghts that are exact multiples one of the other. Symmetric placement of the speakers and the listening seat is normally mandatory, as is keeping the speakers far from corners and the rear wall, unless otherwise suggested by the manufacturer.
As for furniture: modern stuff reflects soundwaves (high frequencies) too much, contributing to make rooms sounding bright and without bass. Adding pillows, thick carpets on the floor (and eventually on the walls) and even canvas pantings without glass are actions that should be considered carefully. First-reflection spots on the lateral walls should be treated, as well. Many of these useful suggestions can be found on the book Get better sound that I always suggest as one of the best tweaks one can perform to any HiFi system.
In any case, I'm assuming you've already studied our articles on room acoustics by Mark Wheeler.
Hope this helped somehow.
Lucio Cadeddu

Bantam amp review
Nick, did that little amp really knock your socks off? It would be great to replace my large 2A3 valve power amp with something petite if it really does sound high end! Can you please tell me if it really is 'that' good?
Chris - E-mail: cdgeorge (at)

Hi Chris,
Yes, it really was that good but with the proviso that you use a valve stage (with some gain) before it. I honestly think that you will be pleasantly surprised if you try one.
Nick Whetstone

JVC digital players
Dear Lucio,
I was just reading your review of a JVC CD player. I had observed a similar thing 6 or 7 years ago when I realized that a JVC XV-S500BK DVD player produced audio that was very difficult to distinguish from a Marantz Professional series CD player that was specified to meet requirements of radio station broadcast studios and top-tier recording studios. I had purchased it to play movies, and my movie sound system is a pair of B&W speakers driven by a vintage Harman/Kardon power amp, so it was quite noticeable.
I believe JVC's PEM DD DAC can stand up next to high end chips from burr brown, wolfson, and others, but high end external DAC components have superior operational amps that are required to bring the DAC circuit current level up to line level.
JVC didn't really stop producing CD players -- they live on as DVD players. Today, $45 buys a DVD player from JVC with the high end sound quality JVC developed for their CD players.
Also of note is that JVC dvd players display track number and have all of the controls one would expect on a single-disc CD player.
Best regards,
Joseph - E-mail: joseph.albert (at)

Dear Joseph,
thanks for the feedback on JVC DVD players, it is good to know they're still making down-to-Earth good sounding machines. I'd love to give these a go. That said, please remember that differences between CD players are small, normally smaller than one might think of. And they are hard to detect, one should use top reference gear in order to be able to pick up any subtle variation.
Happy listening!
Lucio Cadeddu

Dayton questions
I've enjoyed your reviews of the digital T-amps. I purchased 2 of the original Sonic Impact 5066 T-Amps. Honestly, I could not understand the positive reviews. Even with improved power supplies and extended burn-in, the bass response was always severely limited as if there was nothing below 100Hz.
Also, there was a harsh rising top-end made all the more noticeable because there was no bass for balance. I ended up using them for stereo electric guitar amps where the limitations were less apparent. They're actually quite good in this use into 2 vintage 12" speakers (1959 ROLA). Unfortunately, they are insufficient for bass guitar due to the limited bass response of the amp.
I almost bought the Trends Audio but came across your review of the Scythe SDA-1100 and put that on my list instead. They confused the issue because they announced the SDA 2000 which had multiple inputs, tone controls and power meters. Unfortunately, they never brought it into the U.S. stating design flaws as the reason. Then the SDA-1100 seems to have been replaced by the SDA35-1000 which looks physically smaller but I have no idea how it compares sonically. Now I've found your review of the Dayton DTA-100a where you seem to prefer it over the others. This is where I have a few questions, if I may. You mentioned how much better the bass response is than the others. Dayton lists the frequency response as 20Hz-20KHz as expected for any amp. However, the manufacturer's site (Incom) lists it as 60Hz-20KHz. Are they mistaken?
You also mentioned a top-secret inexpensive hybrid amp in the comparison. I'm guessing and hoping it's the AudioEngine N22. Is it? If so, does the Dayton really sound better across the board? I had higher expectations for the AudioEngine given that it's Class A/B and also given AudioEngine's superior quality of manufacturing and customer service. Which headphone circuit sounded superior?
The big attraction for me with the AudioEngine is the variable preamp out so it can supply a signal to a subwoofer as well. The problem with these T-Amps is that they can not send a signal to a subwoofer due to the bridged design. Other than purchasing some type of device to protect the amp, the only way I've found around it would be to use 2 T-Amps in a biamped configuration: left channel of amp #1 to left woofer, right channel of amp #1 to left tweeter, etc. and then send a signal to the subwoofer from one channel of each amp. Or I could add a preamp to the circuit but that defeats the purpose for me.
By the way, have you had a chance to compare the Dayton DTA-100a to the Topping TP21?
Thank you for your consideration,
Steven - E-mail: PutorTutor (at)

Dear Steven,
your negative experience with the T-Amps is very uncommon and perhaps it is due to a wrong match with the speakers and a possibly inadequate power supply. That said, the Dayton is no T-Amp! It is a real amplifier with all the power you might need and its sound is plenty of powerful bass. You won't be disappointed. I've not compared it to the Topping TP21 nor to the AudioEngine amp so I can't comment any further. Anyway, if you need to power also a subwoofer you DO need a preamp output, so the Dayton might not suit your needs.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

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