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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November 2006

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Real World prices
Dear Mr. Husband,
I always read with attention and interest your articles on TNT. I have just read your review of the Moodlab Dice. I am very interested in this kind of products, as I want to buy one of them.
I appreciated the article but I can't agree with the cost assessment for a T-system. You seem to forget that for goods coming from outside the EU we have to pay the customer duties (I don't know their exact amount), VAT (in Italy: 20%) and shipping (for the Dice or the Concept: 40 $, that is another +20% on the price for the Concept). Furthermore, in Italy, the price of the Sonic T-Impact is 47 € + 10 € shipping... = 57 € and not 30 € (+90%!!!!). And even on you can't do much better: best price 42.50 € + shipping.
The final price is still extremely interesting for a good sounding system... but rather different, in percentage, from your estimation, and I think that accurate information is important. I don't say this to bother you. The point is, in my opinion, that these differences can be very relevant for people with low budget.
Thank you very much for the great reviews that you write and for all the things I have learnt reading your articles.
Best regards,
Guido - E-mail: bouganville (at)

Hi Guido,
Thanks for the kind words,
Re prices...
Point taken, but if every review listed the prices of everything worldwide there wouldn't be any space for the listening notes :-)
Some places have 100% import duty or more, postage will vary wildly etc etc. All I can do is give guide prices I find on the net, so for example the T-amp can be found for $27 in the USA, that's about 22 Euro - shipping to Europe would be cheap and I doubt customs would bother you for such a small amount (for example usually CD's sent from the USA don't attract VAT).
Nowadays with the internet people will buy from the cheapest place not their local store so quoting approximate 'cheapest price' is the best I can do. If on the other hand an article is provided by a European distributor then I'd quote a European price (though I might point out a cheaper option abroad :-)
Geoff Husband

Decca & Garrards
Dear Mark,
A friend has recently inherited some old Hi-Fi equipment which includes a Garrard 301 turntable with a Decca FFSS tone arm and a Decca London blue cartridge. Unfortunately there is no stylus. Can you help please?
John - E-mail: john.wkitson (at)

Hi John,
You obviously read my article about upgrading/retipping the Decca. In my case it was very worthwhile. Unfortunately, without seeing your Decca Blue, I do not know whether it is just the stylus tip that is missing, or the whole armature. Sadly the latter is more likely than the former as the stylus (spherical on the Blue) should have been well bonded to the armature, whereas the armature is feebly attached to the cartridge by the suspension and tie-wire.
I would send it to Len Gregory for an opinion. He will not embark on a fruitless rebuild unless the potential is there. Your friend has a great inheritance there. The ffss arm can sound superb with the old London cartridges; a batch of NOS Decca ffss came to light about 20 years ago and I deeply regret not buying one. I have a Garrard 401 and the 301 is identical in sound and build quality, whatever the web obsessives say about the grease-bearing 301 being better than the others, the plinth-armboard system will make far more difference.
The idler Garrards have a solid-souding architectural quality to them that is more like the Micro-seiki heavywieghts than any subchassis turnatble, and they get the best from unipivots too.
Kind regards
Mark Wheeler

I2S & upsampling
Dear Lucio,
I'm a molecular biologist by training who struggles a bit when it comes to digital technology, and would like to ask you if you could possibly explain something in layman's terms for me. I've read your review of the North Star Model 192 CD Transport, and find myself wondering why, when using the I2S connection, must the upsampling be switched on?
Why isn't the non upsampled data fed directly to the DAC for it to do the upsampling, or, at least, why isn't that option given?
You mention something about the receiver of the DAC, but that goes somewhat over my head....and thanks for pointing out the Reader's Corner to me! I came across your article via a Google search... I wonder if you could comment about it's limited usage in audio too? This technology has been around for a while, I believe, but I can only find a couple of manufacturers employing it in their designs, one at silly prices.
In your article, you appear to imply that the RJ45 is the industry standard connector. Is this correct? Guess I must also ask if it's possible to buy shielded RJ45 cable, although I wouldn't know if it's a relevant question?
Thanks and best wishes,
Paul - E-mail: paulreay (at)

Dear Paul,
it is safer to let the transport do the upsampling trick and then trasfer the upsampled signal through the I2S connection to the DAC. This way one should be able to get better (read: lower) jitter figures. If still in doubt, contact the NorthStar guys for extra details. Perhaps not many manufacturers believe in this technique and, of course, it is hard to prove it is intrinsically "better" than another (more classical) approaches. As for cables, though the CAT5-based NorthStar cable should be sufficient, it seems the 192 combo can be upgraded by using specific I2S cables that cost more or less like the transport itself!
By the way, thanks for reminding me of these products, it is time we review some of their new gear (for example, their upcoming integrated CD player...).
Stay tuned!
Lucio Cadeddu

Tracking error?
Hi Lucio,
I've just installed an Ittok LV II on my LP12. Cartridge used: Audio Technica AT-OC3. Tracking force is 1.75gm. Anti-skate set at 1.5gm.
There is free lateral and vertical movement of the tonearm. No bearing chatter. No play in the pivot. Still, I did notice that at a certain point in a record (somewhere in the middle approximately), tracking error begins and the stylus repeatedly gets locked in a groove. I lift the stylus to another part of the record (within the same 'error zone'), it plays for a while, then gets stuck again. Notice that the stylus does not skip forward, but remains stuck. Sometimes if I leave it like that, it moves forward by itself after a while, but will get stuck again elsewhere.
LP surfaces are reasonably clean, and will play properly on another setup: an Oracle Alexandria MK II, Linn Basik LV V arm and the mighty Pickering XSV 3000 cartridge with brush attached. The Pickering is, in my 30 years of vinyl playing experience, the only cartridge I know that can track the most difficult and challenging records, with 99.9% accuracy. A friend sent me a copy of Emmylou Harris' Wrecking Ball LP (Grapevine, UK). It arrived badly warped, but the Pickering played it without skipping a beat (pun intended). But back to the Ittok ...
I tried reducing anti-skate. It did not work, even with anti-skate set at zero. The arm is not 100% parallel to the record surface. I followed Linn's instructions to work out an approximate angle, because records come in different thicknesses.
I am presently experimenting with different tracking angles, using Pink Floyd's More as a reference. The LP is an original UK Columbia pressing (black/silver label), issued during the era when records were reassurringly thick, but not as massive as MoFi's 200gm pressings. I have settled on an angle which brings the bottom of the cartridge body very close to parallel with record surface. So far so good.
But if tracking error happens again, any solutions?
P.S. Great article you wrote on one of the greatest questions that have plagued mankind since the dawn of time: do I leave the equipment on all the time? I for one, most certainly do not, and I am glad that I am not alone.
Raz - E-mail: razzwill (at)

Dear Raz,
first of all try to put the arm as parallel as possible to the record surface. Try finding a compromise among different record thicknesses. Secondly, check the applied force by means of a precise digital gauge. Third, inspect the cantilever suspension of your it might be damaged.
When all else fails, try to detect the real culprit: is it the arm or the cart? Install the Pickering on the Ittok and see if the problem occours again. Whether the cantilever is less elastic than it should be or the Ittok bearings are stuck or damaged somehow. If it is so, contact your nearest Linn dealer for a check-up.
Finally, thanks for your appreciation re: my editorial on the stand-by craziness.
Hope this helped!
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT Convertus: question about CS8414
Thanks for this article...very interesting! I plan to build one but, as the CS8412 is very rare to find (and expensive now..), I saw that the CS8414 is pin compatible.
Did you experiment the change?
Mgm - E-mail: mgm31 (at)

no I have not tested CS8414. By the way,

  1. The CS8414 is only available in SMD package, so it is pin to pin compliant with CS8412 but is not available in the DIP package.
  2. Even the CS8414 should nowadays be available in Europe only as spare part, as it is not and will not be made Rohs compliant (the new regulation that inhibits the sales of any electronic component or assembly containing leader and other materials). For personal or in-company use, however it is perfectly legal to use it in Europe too. We can probably expect it will be dismissed in the next future (I do not know how many producers will afford using components that prevent their products to be imported in Europe...).
The most direct substitution should be with CS8416, which however is not pin to pin compliant with the 8412/14 package.
Hope this helped,
Giorgio Pozzoli

Advice on DACs
Ciao Lucio!
Holidays are approaching and I'm considering buying myself an outboard DAC as a gift. Money is tight and I cannot DIY to the level of the circuit boards, so I'd have to buy something pre-built and tested (case and power supply I can build if necessary) under $400 USD. Question really is: Which if any of these below would significantly improve my sonics?
Current setup is a NAD C541i feeding a Musical Fidelity X10d tube buffer into a NAD 740 receiver/amp feeding VR1s. The NAD 541i has the following basic DAC chips: Burr-Brown 24 bit Sigma Delta chip, with 8 X oversampling. While system synergy, power and cabling is an issue, granted, as is implementation, which foundation sounds to you like it might work for me enough to be worth a financial stretch?
Choices are single chip 154X architecture, such as the Scott Nixon, diyparadise Monica 2, etc., or multiple chip 154X architecture, or maybe one of the upsampling units like the Channel Islands VDA-1. Any other suggestions welcome.
Lucio, I like the sound I get, but know there is always room for improvement, especially in the area of depth of soundstage, separation of instruments, and general imaging. Detail I already get plenty of, so that's not an issue.
Can you help? Grazie!
Bart - E-mail: Bcharlow (at)

Dear Bart,
Geoff Husband has recently rewiewed two interesting DACs belonging to that price range (the Moodlab Dice and the Poth Audio Lite DAC). The Monica 2, reviewed by Nick Whetstone, is another interesting option. I'd also suggest to browse the second-hand market as well. Very good DACs of some year ago can be found almost for peanuts (for example, a Wadia X32, Proceed PDP2...). Do not forget to use a good digital cable. An affordable option is the Supra Trico, for example.
Keep me updated!
Lucio Cadeddu

Exposure 2010S
Hello Lucio.
I bought the Exposure 2010S. Its sound is very nice and I like the overall sound. The problem is that the sound is lean and not full. I added a graphics equalizer which made the sound full but also put lots of distortion and vagueness.
Is there a way I can make this amp sound fuller? I did not have this problem with the old amp so I think it is not a problem of source or speakers.
Ron - E-mail: domb9 (at)

Dear Ron,
perhaps you were used to loudness filter and/or tone controls with your previous amplifier (which you don't mention...). That should explain everything. If you feel the need to equalize the sound it means you don't like your amplifier! Period. If it is a problem of tone controls you can try to live without them for a while as you might need to re-adjust your ears accordingly. When all else fails, try auditioning another amplifier.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

New speakers
Dear TNT,
I have been listening to Tannoy's Sensys DC1s for a year until due to some problem in the power supply, it got damaged. So, I am out for a new pair of speakers now.
Considering the cost of HiFi here in India, I do not think I will able to continue this hobby of mine if such event repeats. I did a research and found that DC drivers are far more costly than a regular driver and this forced me to check Wharfedale. I listened to Diamond 9.6 and liked it too.
Now, my request to you is to have an apple to apple comparison of Diamond 9.6 and Tannoy's Sensys DC2s especially in terms of the kind of sound they produce (I do not have the luxury to compare these two at one place here).
GopalJee - E-mail: GopalJee_Nigam (at) Countrywide.Com

Dear GopalJee,
in order to prevent similar accidents in the future, plan to install a mains filter/surge protection on your HiFi system. Moreover, I'm pretty sure your "blown" speakers can be repaired...haven't you contacted your Tannoy dealer yet?
In any case, if buying new speakers becomes unavoidable, let me say it is difficult to give an advice ignoring the rest of your chain, the size/shape of your listening room and your musical taste.
Anyway, the Tannoy DC2's are far better speakers than the 9.6's though these have an excellent price/quality ratio. In other words, perhaps you won't get the same kind of sound but I'm pretty sure the Wharfedale 9.6 won't disappoint you. If still in doubt, you can search for a second-hand pair of Tannoy DC2's.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Upgrade path and cables
Dear Lucio,
Firstly many thanks for a superb site. I have spent hours reading about tweaks and DIY. I have replaced all of my interconnects and mains cables with DIY designs with information from these pages. I saw the mention of SHARK cable, sold by Maplin here in the UK and have used it to great success.
Now for my question. I have a budget system comprising of Marantz CD5400 CDP, Cambridge C500 pre-amp and a pair of Cambridge P500 Power amps feeding Mission M35i's, biamped. The speakers were my last upgrade and sound a lot better than my old MS903's.
I am thinking of upgrading the Marantz for the NAD 521BEE, as I was a NAD fan years ago, however my local dealer is always pushing me towards the Cambridge 640c v2. I have read reviews of both, and they seem to come out even.
Your thoughts would be gratefully received. Keep up the excellent work.
Mike - E-mail: mike (at)

Dear Mike,
first of all I'd ask your dealer to allow you to compare your Marantz CD 5400 against his Cambridge 640c. This should be the first thing to do! Differences between CD players, especially if these are rather "close" in terms of price range, are subtle. Before shelling out fresh money you have to be sure you can detect a "consistent" difference in terms of sound quality. It doesn't matter if a reviewer can detect HUGE differences. Money (and ears) is yours hence you should evaluate the upgrade carefully and personally.
Try to do the same with the NAD C521, if possible. These two players are close so, after a comparison with your CD 5400, decide which one to buy. If you can't test the NAD, choose the Cambridge!
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Going active?
Dear Mark,
in the last year I've again tried to optimize my setup at home and stumbled over some extraordinary pieces of equipment which might save the audiphiles worldwide gigantic sums of money.
Being -until last week- fully convinced (as you and many others) that an active system would be far superior to a passive speaker I started going active way back in 1990.
At that time I acquired the famous Teufel System M200 and later the M4000. First I had the Satellites passive on one Mission Cyrus 1, later I bought a second for driving left and right channel separetely. After the M4000 Sub came I realised the bass lagging behind the satellites and put a Klein active crossover plus an extra Sub amp a friend made for me- not huge in power but with a solid 80 000 uF condensators and big toroidial ring transformer. During the years the Teufel titan tweeter was replaced by a Dynaudio Esotec and I lived happily .... Up til last year where I found out that clockwork in cologne would tune Sony 705 DVD players to unbelievable live like performances which I admit having heard at their studio.
They where also fond of tuning my two missions into the best sounding main amps I've ever heard. Together with the tuned DVD it resembled to be much more live like. A new Rane crossover was recently bought in the hope the music would become even more natural but nothing helped until i hooked my shoe carton size Mission speakers bi wiring possible (the ones that come with those fancy plastic stands) to the modified missions: Now it's really unbelievable how good it sounds- details I've never heard before come to ear, drums and guitars are so realistically reproduced- far better than active.
So what have I made wrong? Is it the XLR adapters in the rane crossover- is the musical signal so delicate it should not be moved through an active crossover? Are the interdependencies between speaker and amp only via passive crossover in line with the music? Speculation, Speculations....
I still can't believe that my tuned active Teufel speakers with Dynaudio Esotecs are so clearly left behind in musical performance and lifelike stage that I'm rethinking the active -passive considerations. Asking the guys at clockwork they respond with:

I've never heard a truly good sounding active system
The reason lies in their opinion in a countercoupling when goin active. I would be interested what your experience with this matter are or if you can help me with further links. PS. Both speakers sit in an open bookshelf on pulsar points. After clockwork tuning you listen to all your records and CD's new wandering wether it's completely new software....
Kind regards
Walter - E-mail: walterwaschatko (at)

Hi Walter,
I have no doubt that your professionally optimised passive system is outperforming your old, modified, active system. Since I wrote the active vs passive articles I have received many emails. I also told I have been flamed on discussion boards, but I never have time to read them so I cannot be sure.
When a designer designs a passive system, it should be designed as a "system" not as a cluster of individual parts, box construction and loading, crossover, drivers etc. The series resistance of the inductors is chosen as part of this "system". The drivers' impedance curves are part of this "system", reacting with the crossover components to produce the desired effect in amplitude response, phase response and dispersion. That is why the effects of biwiring can be so unpredictable, and the effects of internal rewiring often less than satisfactory, even if cheap thin wires have been replaced with plaited mermaids hair coated with pixie dust.
The only way to compare active vs passive principles is to remove all the other variables. Hence, our experiments used the same power amplifiers bi-amped through passive crossovers, vs biamped direct to drivers from an active crossover. The same speaker cables were used in both configurations. The same power supply (a Naim SNAPS as this was the late 80s) was used for pre-amp and active crossover. Thus the only variable was the active vs passive crossover, both of which I designed to be as good as possible, with advice and guidance from experts in the field.
We even tried adding a series-resistor, equal in value to the series resistance of the crossover, to the drive-unit positive terminals. Thus our experiment controlled all the other variables except crossover type.

I hope this explains the discrepancy between our findings and your experience with your system. XLR connectors are far superior to RCA phonos. I have no idea why phonos are the audio industry standard; who thought it was a good idea to make a connector that makes live (hot) before earth (ground)? Balanced XLR are best, impedance-matched BNC are good, DIN are better than phono.
Before I became a reviewer I used to modify my gear to have flying leads hardwired from sources, to DIN or XLR connectors and BNC on my cartridge leads. Adapters are bad too, even those funky sealed Amphenol XLR to phono are worse than soldering new XLR plugs where RCA phonos have been!
The opinion of the Clockwork guys sounds like it is based on their experience of systems where the passive crossover has been replaced by an active crossover that mimics the voltage response of the passive crossover (the correct way to do it). Unfortunately the bass alignment needs to be adjusted (by changing port-length or cabinet volume) to allow for the reduced contribution of bass inductor series resistance. I guess that is what they mean by "a countercoupling when goin active".
There are software programmes that can calculate the adjustments in bass alignment, and it is the reason we tried the series resistor on the drivers when conducting our comparison.
You have done nothing wrong Walter; you have trusted your ears and made a system you enjoy. This is a subjective hobby, so please trust your own judgement.
Kind regards,
Mark Wheeler

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