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 2010

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Old turntable
Hi Lucio,
Thanks for an interesting reading and an honest insight into vintage gear reviews. I own an 80's turntable that I've been wanting to exchange for something new but was always kept wondering if tweeking it would be wiser than spending money on a new entry-level table. And if I want a better sounding table I should go for the mid-market tables (for my budget).
Your article made clear that my money will be more well invested in a new table (even if it's a basic entry-level one such as Pro-Jects) than on accessories or whatever to improve my current table.
Also I understand that even for second systems current new equipment will sound a lot better than old ones if price-to-sound relationsihp is to be considered.
Thanks a lot.
Marcello - E-mail: mpego (at)

Dear Marcello,
it all depends on the kind of turntable you own. If it is very old, and even entry-level, perhaps a new, basic turntable such as a ProJect, a Goldring or even a second-hand Rega would be a much wiser choice. Of course, tweaking - if performed at zero cost - could be a way to get something better quite easily. Moreover, you could learn something during the tweaking process. In other words, you can consider your turntable as a perfect tweakers' gym :-)
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

External PSU connections
I recently read your review of the t-amp combined with the TCC preamp. I thought it was a great review. I've had a couple of t-amps for a while and wanted to connect one to a preamp when I found the TCC preamp you reviewed. I have one ordered and coming in a day or two. My question for you is how do you connect it and the t-amp to the same power supply? I'm not experienced with nor do I like to mess with electricity. I bought an external power supply like the one you suggested in your review.
It only has one set of black and red banana plugs on the front. I'm hoping you can help me with what is probably a very obvious question. Do I run a wire from the black and red battery leads inside the t-amp or cut the wires from the current wall wart and connect the other ends to the power supply? Once I know which one is positive and negative that is. And, would I do the same with the preamp? Perhaps splicing the positive wires from the t-amp and preamp together as well as the negatives together and then soldering them to banana plugs to connect to the power supply? I hope this makes sense.
I appreciate any help you may be able to offer. I couldn't find any obvious answers in my internet searches. Everything just said connect it to a power supply. Probably obvious to most but I don't want to fry my new preamp, t-amp, or myself.
Thanks in advance,
Michael - E-mail: mshrank (at)

Dear Michael,
cut the wires of the wall-wart PSU's and connect them to the external PSU. Respect polarity (central pin is positive both in the T-Amp and the T-Preamp!). Normally, positive wall-wart PSU cables are marked with a white strip or something like this. You can connect both cables (two positive and two negative) directly to the red and black banana posts of the external PSU. Check the correct voltage and you're done. If you're not confident enough in your skills, ask a friend to check this for you. Electricity kills, make all the connections with the PSU switched off and, possibly, unplugged from the mains. Better to be safe than sorry.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Previous weeks letters

Scythe SDA amps
Dear Lucio,
Thank you for your very informative reviews of SDA-1000 and SDA-1100 and the Kro Craft speakers. I am considering using the SDA-1100 for my iMAC and using them to drive an old pair of ADS400 speakers from the 1970's. The ADS400 were designed for fairly low power, but are 4ohm speakers, and I see you caution against this in your review of the 1000. However, if I read the review correctly, you also say that you have used the SDA-1000 with 4 ohm speakers with no problems. I originally used the ADS400 with a Kenwood receiver (from 1974) that was rated at 20watts. I don't anticipate using high volume--this is a home office setting, not a living room.
I was wondering if you have any thoughts or ideas on whether this setup would work, or if it would be inadvisable. I would also be curious if you have had good luck with any other inexpensive bookshelf or desktop speakers with this amp (other than the Kro Craft).
Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
Thanks very much.
Doug - E-mail: dcpearl (at)

Dear Doug,
you can try the SDA-1100 (or 1000) with your speakers, it should work without problems, especially if you use it as a near-field desktop system, hence avoiding clipping at very loud listening levels. As for other bookshelf can use anything with a reasonable sensitivity though even the KroCraft speakers - despite their extremely low sensitivity - can be appropriate partners, especially in near-field use.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

A Squeezebox touch with less function and cheaper price?
Good evening Nick,
First of all I apologize for my awful english. I'm a 22 years old italian guy and I wrote to you on Lucio Cadeddu' suggest. I've been following tnt-audio for many years and I read always very carefully (and with much interest) what you publish. In particular I'm searching for a digital source for liquid music. I read your review on squeezebox/SB+/transporter and I'm looking for something like that. The problem is: budget.
I'm a student without a work, and I don't want to abuse of my parents. So I wonder if you could suggest me something under 200 euros (169 pounds): I need a machine (as squeezebox) that can read lossless format (FLAC/ALAC/APE ) (24 bit / 96 khz support would be appreciated), and mp3/wave too.
Wi-fi function isn't important at all. The music would be transported trough a USB cable from an external fanless hard drive. I have already a decent DAC, so it is enough a good digital output, without other HI-FI requirements. This component should do only the files reading, leaving the sound as is (as much as possible), the rest of the "hi-fi chain" of my sistem will do the rest.
I will prefer if it had a display and a remote control. In my research on the internet I found the squeezebox touch (logitech), and the price is (quite) allright, but this product has function that i won't use (touch input, wi-fi, web radio, all that concern the internet), and maybe on the market there's something cheaper with only the function that i desire. Summarizing:

And that's all I think. Can you help me?
Thanks a lot in advance
Your Sincerely,
Gabriele - E-mail: ghirone.dok (at)

Hi Gabriele,
If you wish to use your existing DAC, you can either use a streaming device such as the Logitech Touch, or SB3, or you can use a USB to SPDIF converter. For either you will need a computer to run the software that allows you to play the music from the (external) hard drive.
The streaming devices connect to the computer either by an Ethernet cable, or using WI-FI. The USB converters connect to the computer via a USB lead, and an SPDIF lead to your DAC.
USB converters are much cheaper than a Touch or Squeezebox. Here are a couple of examples of USB-SPDIF converters:

Logitech Touch and SB3 use Slimcenter software. Software for playing back music using USB includes WINAMP, Foobar, and J-River Jukebox. For optimum sound quality, you should (must) use ASIO drivers with Windows XP, and defeat the Kmixer controls. I don't think this is necessary with Windows7. I prefer to use Linux. As you can see, there is quite a bit of work to using a PC for optimal hi-fi.
If you like the look of the Touch but require less features, the SB3 (also called SB Classic) should be fine and will be cheaper. But these are not USB devices!
Nick Whetstone

Yaqin MS-12B loud problem :-)
Hi Mark
I read your test of Yaqin MS-12B (or SM-12B).
I have this pre-amplifier for about 1 month and I'm wondering had you any problems with a big bang from speakers, when you changed a source (cd/phono) because I have?
I'm worring it can be dangerous for my speakers. I'm using this Yaqin as normal pre connecting to the power amplifier Hafler 9303.
Thomas - E-mail: nikoniarz (at)

Hi Thomas,
The Hafler 9303 with 150WPC across a full power bandwdith from 0.15Hz to 300kHz is going to be the most sensitive power amplifier imaginable to DC spikes and switching noise.
0.15Hz is as close to DC as practical without resorting to servo circuits. I did notice a switching crack through the system on the AAAVT SM-12B (son of Yaqin MS-12B) on switching between line and phono input, but it is not a problem with any of my capacitor coupled valve power amplifiers that feature massive output transformers that have the secondary (pun alert) benefit of bandwisth limited AC coupling to the speakers.
I suggest if the problem persists with the volume control right down while changing inputs (which should always be normal practice) rigging up a mute switch on the power amplifier input or on the pre-amplifier output. The Yaqin MS-12B is a bargain basement domestic valve pre-amplifier and would not usually be paired with pro-sector powerhouse.
Knowing the Hafler family sound from way back, I can imagine that this unusual pairing might be something special. I recall the unexpected synergy between Audio Research pre-amps (like the SP8) and Krell power amps (KSA 50) bringing the best of both worlds to the late 70s state of the art, so the Yaqim/Hafler combo might well do something similar at the bargain end of the 21st century.
Happy Listening
Mark Wheeler

Wet records
Dear Mr. Lucio, your excellent review of 2001 The Cartridge Man's Music Maker introduced me to the above cartridge & its maker Mr. L.GREGORY. After many technically detailed e-mails, I asked him for his invoice for the MM-3, at the same time I queried the affects of WET PLAYING on the MM-3. Not noticing the moving iron cantilever & its oxidation with water!! Upon pointing out the obvious, he shattered every hope I had in obtaining the MM-3. You see I have a very sizable portion of my LP library played WET! And as WET PLAYING is addictive & as an LP vacuum cleaning machine is too expensive to import from Europe, Would you kindly direct me (if possible) to a moving magnet cartridge that approaches the MM-3 in cost & performance but with a cantilever that is waterproof please.
PS._My system=a new SME-VD+ My old SONY TTS 8000
Thank You.
Best Regards,
Namik - E-mail: namikclassical (at)

Dear Namik,
my advice is to buy a Knosti manual LP cleaning machine (for just 60-70 €). It is available worldwide, cleans very well and will definitely help you getting rid of those wet records forever! Insisting in wet playing is a no-no, in my opinion. I'm not aware of cartridges that don't suffer when playing wet records. For example, I suspect the glue that holds the diamond attached to the cantilever might be affected by the liquid you use (is it Lencoclean?). So it is not only a matter of internal oxidation!
Before spending a lot of money on a new cartridge, wash you records carefully, it is money well (better) spent.
Hope this helped,
Lucio Cadeddu

Scythe SDA-1100 feedback
Dear Lucio,
I read with interest your review of the Scythe SDA 1100 at TNT Audio (16th October 2010). I've been using one for over six months but have recently taken the plunge, buying a second and using them in bi-amp mode. As you can see from the photos at: I have converted them to mono input using a simple Y splitter. They work very well in this configuration. I'd just like to add that the Scythes benefit from a blob of blu-tac in the recesses in each of the isolation feet. This helps hold the amps securely to a surface. I was confused by the line in your review:

"The external switching PSU now accepts IEC standard mains cables, instead of the poor figure-8 which was default with the old PSU. This means you can easily use good (special?) mains cables with the new SDA-1100."
There are quite a number of IEC standard connectors: My SDA 1100s still have the C7 (figure 8) ones.
With best regards.
Phil - E-mail: philmch (at)

Dear Phil,
glad to hear you're enjoying the SDA-1100 even in biamp mode. The IEC mains connector I'm referring to is the following:

[Mains IEC socket]
Perhaps Scythe sell some of the SDA-1100's still with the old figure-8 socket.
Happy listening!
Lucio Cadeddu

Dear Lucio and Team,
I am a relatively fresh body to the TNT world, and I am thoroughly enjoying it! It is so incredibly refreshing and eyeopening to read about equipment which is not often reviewed in other publications, printed or online.
Initially this somewhat frustrated me living in a small country (New Zealand) running on 240 volts AC that seemed to make some of equipment reviewed seem out of reach (safe step down/up transformers are expensive!). However, with a little help from Google, I am discovering a different breed of Hi Fi retailer/e-tailer who sell some of the brands popping up in your pages down this end of the world (Australia especially) - and all certifying their goods electrically safe for our 240 volt piece of the Pacific!
Having worked in a newspaper for 5 years in advertising sales, I've seen first hand the effects on editorial content that advertisers can have (some publications now refer to such hustlers as 'stakeholders'. Sigh... ). To my eyes TNT's proclaimed independence is no idle boast, but a principle put into practice in every article, so thank you!
Now if you'll excuse me, I've just found a local webtailer selling the Scythe SDA 1100 amp and KroCraft speaker package with free delivery.
My bank account manager may not love TNT, but I do!
Kind Regards,
Martin - E-mail: jbmarken (at)

Dear Martin,
glad to be of service :-)
Many modern switching power supplies automatically detect mains voltage and adapt themselves accordingly. This is a big plus for making HiFi distribution easier. You can buy a NuForce amp in the USA and connect it to your 240V mains without transformers. Just plug & play!
As for independence: it is relieving to have NO stakeholders to please :-)
If web connection, hosting and bandwidth remain this inexpensive, I'll be more than happy to pay everything so to leave TNT-Audio truly unbiased as it has been for the last 15 years!
Thanks for your kind words!
Lucio Cadeddu

Concordant excelsior vs Exquisite
Hello Mark
I have owned a Concordant Excelsior pre for over a couple of years and its a great pre and very rare.
However an exquisite pre is for sale with its wooden sleeve and wonder your thoughts on whether it be worthwhile changing to the exquisite. Could you briefly describe the difference in their sound. I know that the exquisite was considerable more expensive. How does its internal design and valve make up differs to the excelsior.
Thank you in advance for your advice.
Ian - E-mail: ian_berkoff (at)

Hi Ian,
You lucky man!
Not only do you own one of the finest, and under-rated, pre-amplifiers ever made, but you are also in a position to buy another.

Doug himself described the Concordant Excelsior as being for the "vinyl enthusiast" and the Exhilarant as being for the "line enthusiast" and you have to remember CD was only on the distant horizon at the time. The Exhilarant line level circuit was described by Doug as being much more sophisticated, applying more "phew!" (his word) to the sound of the line stage. When CD began to appear he felt the Exhilarant rescued CD from many of the contemporary criticisms, but his favourite party trick was to feed the line input of the Exhilarant from a Sony Walkman Pro cassette player whose tapes were already made by him recorded from vinyl via an Exqusite. He argued that it doubled the benefit of the pre- amp's contribution. This is where my enthusiasm for Doug's products departs radically from his philosophy. His stated philosophy must imply that the pre-amp's are adding something to the sound. Anything added, no matter how splendid it sounds, is a distortion from the original. Furthermore, artifacts cannot be added without losing something else, even if that loss is verisimilitude.
The Exhilarant and Excelsior both featured single triode (6CG7 commonly but Doug would use many variations over the years) power supplies, the triode effectively regulating the HT voltage (solid state rectified) whereas the Exquisite uses two regulator double triodes for lower noise and better regulation. The Exquisite signal circuit is effectively an Exhilarant line stage fed by the first two stages of the Excelsior, a compound feedback RIAA phono stage.
Having said that, I have not committed myself to the sound. Both of the pre-amplifiers using the more sophisticated line stage sound really similar with line level sources, the principle difference is that the silences are more profound with the Exquisite than with the Exhilarant, and the already cavernous sound-stage is bigger in all three dimensions through the Exquisite. In my article, I describe the differences heard over one weekend of the, much missed, Chesterfield HiFi Show:
"it became increasingly obvious to me that the Excelsior was the star of the range. While the more expensive Exquisite exhibited more high-end gloss and more impressive soundstage, the Excelsior had far more pace, better timing and more coherent rhythm. Several showgoers made similar observations and I know some orders were received on the strength of the show performances.

The Concordant Excelsior that I described, despite being a feedback design, had pace aplenty, up there with the Naims and Exposures of the day, and much of the glory but less of the gloss of the Exquisite. Doug always preferred the Exquisite, suggesting the difference being analogous to the difference between an Audio Research SP8 and an Audio Research SP11, whereas I would simultaneously agree but argue almost the opposite too. The SP11 to my humble ears, always sounds bigger and more grandiose (as Doug would agree) but the SP11 also sounded tighter and faster to me while the SP8 sounded more natural and fluid but off the pace of its slightly younger sibling, and neither could keep up with the fleet-of-naim-like-foot Excelsior.

I would love to hear what would happen if someone (you perhaps) experimented with the two triode power supply from the Exquisite to power an Excelsior. Better still would be replacing it's Achille's Heel, the variable resistor at the output causing variable output Z and therefore potential cable and induced hum problems. Replace it with what? With variable transformers no less. Transparency would improve, output impedance would fall and it would be the best of all possible worlds. At the prices you can get them now it would be worth a punt and decide for yourself. You could make detailed notes and share them with our readers and then sell whichever you found less suitable to your tatses. Doug Dunlop himself would say "It's night and day, Ian, get the Exquisite", while I say suck 'em and see (or hear).
Please share whatever you do next,
Happy Listening
Mark Wheeler

6SN7 9-pin equivalent
Hello Mark,
In your review of the Shuguang CV181 you state that the b9a cousin for the 6SN7 is the ECC82. The 6SN7 does have an exact electrical equivalent, the 6CG7 and 6FQ7, and the 6CG7 is available as a new production valve made by Electro-Harmonix. Thought you may see this as a cool opportunity to taste another tube for designs, my personal favorites are the NOS Philco and Sylvania branded ones.,

Anthony - E-mail: lingwendil (at)

Hi Anthony,
Yes you are right, and the 6CG7 has more application latitude too, I was just using a little latitude to name the nearest well known type as cousin. I hadn't noticed the Electro-Harmonix (therefore possibly Sovtek branded by New Sensor Corp) 6CG7. This is good news for Concordant Excelsior owners (who frequently and surprisingly substitute the much higher gain ECC83) and the 6CG7/6FQ7 handles a bit more power than the more popular small signal B9a tyeps and is equally handy as an ultra quiet regulator. I'm familiar with GE and Teonex but not Philco or Sylvania. Thanks for the information.
Happy tube rolling,
Mark Wheeler

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