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Readers' Corner - September 2000

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Suggest review of Audio Refinement equipment
Dear Mr. Cadeddu,
I appreciate very much your approach and the objective review environment you have created. I agree with your very positive review of the Atoll 80 integrated amp. I have recently also heard the Atoll CD100, which I consider excellent, but I was put off by the lack of a remote for the amp and the poor quality of the Japanese generic remote furnished for the CD player, as well as the lack of a tuner in this line.
I wonder if you would be able to review Audio Refinement equipment? For those of us spoiled by the ease of use of Japanese remote control devices, the lure of affordable equipment with coordinated amp, CD and tuner conceived by the well-considered (French!) YBA company for under $3000 is intense.
On the other hand, one wonders whether the quality of YBA products as reflected in their reviews is not also conditioned by their advertising budget and marketing skills.
This is in contrast to Atoll, who don't even have email, let alone a website. In any case, your point of view would be appreciated.
Yours sincerely,
Lee Leserman - E-mail: leserman@ciml.univ-mrs.fr

Dear Lee,
we at TNT-audio are READY to test EVERYTHING Manufacturers want us to test. It's THAT simple :-)
So, if any of the "Audio Refinement" guys is listening, drop us a note. We're here.
Also, let me add I'd love to test YBA stuff, but the Italian distributor seems not so interested though we have a precious and talented reviewer in France, Mr. Geoff "Golden Ears" Husband.
Lucio Cadeddu

Auric Illuminator
Agree! Agree!
I purchased this stuff a few months ago and found the results astounding. Greater bass. The music is more solid. This must be the best $39 I ever spent on tweeking.
Phil - E-mail: Philkavi@aol.com

Dear Phil,
nice to discover other Auric Illuminator addicts around the World. As already said, that blue gel is simply the best CD treatment I've ever tested, period. Even several skeptic audiophiles have come to the conclusion that this stuff works. 'noff said.
Lucio Cadeddu

Mains filter details
Hi Lucio,
I am a student in Chicago who has been using the DIY tips on TNT for a long time. I recently started making my own mains cables - 14Ga solid conductor in a tri-braid configuration for noise-rejection, 12Ga for amplifiers - and was interested in getting ahold of a few filtered IEC sockets.
Unfortunately, RS is located in UK and it is near impossible to find such things in the states unless you buy them in huge bulk numbers, so I was wondering if you knew the values of the inductors and capacitors and their arrangement so that I might wire such a device up myself for my audio components.
Thanks for all the tweaks and advice!
Christopher S. Own - E-mail: csown@penelope.dhs.org

Dear Chris,
mains filters ARE easy to find, believe me :-) You don't really need RS or maplin, just visit any good electronics parts store...they have those filtered IEC sockets in stock, for sure. Otherwise, try a computer shop, these filters are extensively used even inside Personal Computers and workstations. Building the filter on your own isn't a good idea for various reasons...security, first of all. Then consider these filtered IEC sockets are fully shielded and protected by a steel case, nothing you can easily do at home. Finally, they are inexpensive. I guess trying to build one on your own would be not convenient.
At least, I hope some fellow TNT reader in the US who's reading this letter, will be able to lend a hand and suggest the easiest and fastest way to get those mains filters.
Lucio Cadeddu

Convertus: can it be even more minimal?
First, congratulations and thank you for making tnt-audio consistently worth reading and full of good advice.
I have been planning to build the Convertus DAC for a while, and have gathered some of the parts. My biggest concern is that I would need a better transport to get the best out of it, especially since jitter suppression is not its strong suit. Lately I wonder, instead of buying a cheap CD which seems to be a decent transport (e.g. the JVC recently reviewed, or a Philips) to use its digital out, why not skip S/PDIF altogether?

The free space in modern CD players surely can accommodate the DAC's power supply and the DACs. The big problem is, I don't know enough about the digital audio formats - can I expect to buy just any machine and easily derive the I2C interface needed by the DAC?
Where can I learn about this stuff?
Thanks for any help or suggestions.
Chuck Anderson - E-mail: bosshogg@acedsl.com

Dear Chuck,
please read below the reply by Giorgio Pozzoli, the Convertus designer. Let me just add that the TNT Convertus DAC is BIG and it would be very difficult to find enough room to store it inside a common CD player...

Giorgio Pozzoli
for sure you can spare the SPDIF interface, but you must be absolutely sure the converter included in the CD player uses the I2C interface, which is not so easy to be sure of.
The problem is that some converters can use different interfaces, so that the fact that the interface is supported by the converter does not make it sure that the I2C interface is really the one used.
You should hence be sure that at least the transport control chipsets has such an output, but while the converter is often named in reviews, these other chips seldom are.
As far as I can remember, by the way, I think I've read somewhere that Sony chipsets normally use other interfaces, so that all players using Sony chipsets could be probably disregarded; you could better try with some Philips /Marantz or similar unit, but even in this case the result is not sure.
A place to look at is the Ciuffoli's site which contains a few informations and many pointers to other sites.
Probably the best solution is to try to be reasonably sure the I2S interface is available (TDA 1543 requires that interface, no other is accepted), choosing anyway a DAC with a SPDIF output interface, so that in case you cannot for any reason connect to the I2S interface you can anyway for sure connect with this one.
Giorgio Pozzoli

Garrard Zero 100 SB
Dear Mr Cadeddu,
I read with interest your two articles on the Garrard Zero 100 SB turntable. I have rescued one from a wardrobe at home, where it has been residing for twenty years because of size limitations. I've hooked it up to my new Sony TA-FB940R amp, and TDL RTL G20 Speakers and it sound(ed) fabulous once warmed up.
For some reason, though, sound quality was very poor until at least one record side had been played, with the left channel kicking in after at least a 5 minute delay. Now the output has died suddenly while playing a track. I assume this is something to do with the internal pre-amp (I was surprised to find that the output is line-level, and requires no separate phono-stage - I've been using the tuner input on the Sony amp).
I was wondering if you have had any experience of this problem, and if so, what is the likely means of repair (and complexity of repair).

Thanks very much for your help, and thanks once again for your excellent website (I was very surprised to find a website devoted to what I thought might have been an ordinary old turntable!)
Very best wishes,
Yours Sincerely,
Edward O'Brien - E-mail: Orcus76@aol.com

Dear Ed,
the problem could be twofold: either the internal phono preamp has some old component that is died because too old (cap, resistor, fuse...) or the cartridge/the needle is worn out and you need to get a new one.
Also, you may need to check the cables out, sometimes this problem can occour because of oxidation in the contacts. Follow the instructions on the articles about the Zero 100 here on TNT-Audio and then let me know.
If it is an electrical problem, you may need the help of a trained technician.
If the internal preamp is gone, you can simply skip it and connect the cables from the arm pillar to your phono stage of your preamp/amplifier.
Let me know!
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT FFRC cable, opinions
I have just completed making a set of the FFRC, supplying a pair of Klipsch KLF-20's. All I can say is THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!
The speakers sound GREAT now! I had been using Monster cable before, and it's now in the trash. The highs are clearer, and finally non-fatiguing to listen to. The lows are tighter, with more impact. I can hear the pad of the pedal hitting the bass drum before the actual "thump" now! Equally on the highs, the sound of the drum stick tip hitting the cymbal is now audible prior to the "ring" of the cymbal!
I can't say enough.. My cost was just about free, since, as a computer guy, I have a large amount of CAT 5 cable laying around. I was fully prepared to spend about $200 to wire my main speakers as part of my upgrade process (getting a new NAD amp to replace my POS Pioneer amp among other things). I can't WAIT to hear how it will sound with a better quality amp powering the speakers now!
I am also looking forward to building the X3.0 interconnects, having finally found the wire you spoke of. A question on that though. Can you recommend some ends to use that are more available to us here in the US? I have a good idea on what to look for based on the ends you use, but I was wondering if your fans have mentioned some ends to use available here.
Also, do you feel these interconnects can be used for anything requiring a RCA connection, i.e. component video connection, digital audio, and analog audio interconnects?
I also thank you for saving me probably $400 in interconnects for my upcoming home theater upgrade!
A new fan,
Rich Quinlan - E-mail: richquinlan@att.net

Dear Rich,
glad to hear you enjoy your fav Music better now with our DIY cables (thanks to Thorsten for those!!!). As for interconnects, for video and digital use, you need to be sure they have a precise 75 impedance and I'm not sure the X-cables respect this requirement so strictly.
But you can build the Enjoy the Music digital/video cable, please read the review of this fabulous DIY design here on TNT-Audio (cable design thanks to Steven Rochlin).
Happy DIYing!
Lucio Cadeddu

Basik or RB 300?
Hello Lucio,
Can you tell me how you find the Linn Basik plus tonearm compared to the Rega RB300. Any idea if I could get a new one or how much I could be paying for a good condition secondhand? Will appreciate your feedback. Thanks.
Best regards,
Simon Chang - E-mail: snchang@tm.net.my

Dear Simon,
both are good arms, the RB 300 is a bit better. So I'd suggest to search for the Rega, considering it still made and very easy to "tweak". How much? It depends mainly on the Country you live in. Normally, arms can be purchased -second-hand- at half the price when new.
Start searching!
Lucio Cadeddu

Garrard zero 100 sb manual
1st the grovelling. TNT is a wonderful site and has kindled a massive interest in trying some DIY on my system. This isn't really grovelling it the truth honest.
The article on the Garrard zero has inspired me to get my old one out of the attic and try your suggested tweaking. But, I've lost the original manual. Would you by any chance have one, or even a service manual if they exist, that you could scan and e-mail to me. Or if not know of a supplier who might be able to help.
Keep up the good work at TNT and thanks for your time.
Gavin - E-mail: angie.gavin@ntlworld.com

Dear Gavin,
I don't have the manual either. Actually you don't need that :-) The Zero isn't elementary...but reliable and not so complicated.
Once I found the URL of a Web site which claimed to have many old manuals in stock...but it is no longer into my Bookmarks file so I guess you should start searching the Web for that URL (search for "online audio manuals" or so).
In any case, if in doubt, I'm here to help you.
Thanks for the appreciation!
Lucio Cadeddu

"Network" cables
I read the articles about speaker cables but I would like to know more.
Is there any way to find articles about the calculation methods of M.I.T. or TRANSPARENT audio cables? After many tests with real high end equipment through the years I must say that the technology of those network seems to be successful.
Thank you very much,
Denis Ménard - E-mail: denis.menard2@sympatico.ca

Dear Denis,
though I agree with you about the good quality of the cables you have mentioned (I've very positively reviewed some Transparent stuff here on TNT-Audio) I can't comment any further on the technology they use. All I can do is to suggest you to visit their web sites and ask their Info Desk.
There's nothing else I can do since it seems Transparent has NO interest in appearing on TNT-Audio and/or answering our questions (for an Interview, for example). They never commented our reviews - even if very positive - of their cables.
Perhaps, like other cables Companies, they don't like the fact we also propose some low-cost DIY cables projects. That's life.
All the best,
Lucio Cadeddu

When in Rome...
I am living in Rome and looking to buy a new hi-fi system. Integrated amp, CD player and speakers. I have limited knowledge in this field and so I am seeking advice. I am looking in the 3,000,000 (max) Lire range. Please can you advise me where are the best places in Rome to get advice and listen to some systems?

Also, in particular, I have been looking at the Bose Acustimass speakers, which to me sound pretty good. Should I be considering these speakers or are there better options in the same price range?
Howard Whalley - E-mail: HowardWhalley@hotmail.com

Dear Howard,
first of all, let me spend two words about the mini sub/sat systems (like the Acoustimass). Because of the diminutive size of the satellites these can't fully reproduce mid-bass frequencies (male voices, for example) hence these frequencies are reproduced by the - so called - subwoofer. And sometimes you can hear the voice coming half from the satellites and half from the subwoofer, not a good thing, imho.
This has nothing to do with brands, cost and the like. It is a matter of physics. Small drivers can't reproduce mid-bass, period.
So I suggest you start looking for conventional speakers. Considering your budget (1,500 $ for the whole 3-piece HiFi set) I'd suggest buying a pair of Sonus Faber Concertino speakers. Also, consider Opera Duetto, Chario Syntar, Acoustical or Aliante....
These are Italian made speakers which are much more expensive abroad. Since you live in Italy, don't miss this opportunity!
Then you need an integrated amp and a CD player. Choose your amp among these brands: Rotel, NAD, AMC, Proton, Audio Analogue, Arcam...into the 700/1,000,000 liras (350-500 $) price range.
So you still have 500 $ left for a CD player & cables. Have a look at Marantz CD 6000 (or CD 67), some Rotel & NAD model or even Denon and Teac if you want to save some money. Choose good quality cables (if you're not fond of DIYing) and you're done.

As for HiFi shops in Rome: try Audiotech by Lyric, Ethos, Cherubini, Dimensione HiFi. Try searching their addresses on the Rome Yellow Pages.
Do not buy the first thing (system) you listen to! Evaluate carefully, bringing your favourite CDs with you, then eventually e-mail me again with a list of systems you have enjoyed most. I'll try to help you for the final decision.
Let me know!
Lucio Cadeddu

TNT Convertus...minimalist DAC
Dear Mr. Cadeddu,
First excuse me for my bad English!
My name is Georgy. I am from Bulgaria and I am a Hi-Fi maniac. My hobby is building and listening to amplifiers. I have QUAD 303, 405, PASS ZEN amp, Douglas Self Class B amplifier, LOW TIM (M. Leach) amplifier - all built by myself. I have two old models CD-players Philips (model 482). I saw in your web-site diagrams for "Minimalist DAC".
Now I think to build this DAC. But because I am not so familiar with digital sections (clock, receiver, DAC), I am not sure how to build the PCB layout (I know that correct tracing and positioning of components is very important due to the high frequencies). Is it possible to send me via e-mail PCB layout (if you have of course) for the "Minimalist DAC".
Thank you in advance.
Georgy Georgiev - E-mail: Georgy.Georgiev@risk.bg

Dear Georgy,
the TNT Convertus DAC has been built with NO PCB, it has been simply hard-wired, as good old tube amps. I guess one of the secrets of the good sound of this DAC is due to hard-wiring. I've already listened to another TNT Convertus, built by one of our Italian readers, and its sound was identical to the original TNT-made one.
So I strongly suggest you to build the Convertus "as is", with no PCB. Soon a picture of the inside of the Convertus will be available here, so to make things easier for anyone who wants to build it.
Stay tuned!
Lucio Cadeddu

Vinyl, reborn???
For someone who does not own "audiophile" equipment, but would like to start listening to vinyl again, what turntable(s) should I be investigating?
I currently own an older model Pioneer PL-12D turntable with A-T MM cartridge, Acoustic Research TSW-510 speakers and an aging Marantz pre/amp combination.
Your article on the Garrard Zero 100 was interesting, but your ending caveat piqued my eyes and dampened my interest as I have a very large vinyl collection, some of which dates back to the 50's.
I cannot invest more than $300 to $400 total - so my options are limited (no Linn's). Would a used (stock) AR be any better than my Pioneer, if I put my funds into upgrades like mats and filters, etc.? I am very mechanically minded and refurbishing a TT would not be out of the question as long as I did not need to machine my own missing/worn parts.
Ken - E-mail: KenEbaugh@aol.com

Dear Ken,
a second hand AR would be a far better sounding turntable than your present PL12D (which isn't bad, though). Second hand Rega Planar 2 and 3 are easier to install and service, since they are still made and, more or less, they belong to your price target.
Just search the Web for online auctions, I'm sure you'll find pretty good bargains.
Summarizing, if you are concerned with the availability of spare parts, focus your attention on second hand TTs that are still in the market and you won't go wrong.
Get into the groove!!!!
Lucio Cadeddu

The TNT Twisted Snake...again
Stefano, hi there.
You helped me with some questions I had about the "Snake" back in June. I told you I built one, and liked the improvement in sound which it gave me, but I then built 2 other different 3m long power cables just to experiment, so I thought you might like to know that, in a recent listening test with some friends who have "golden" ears (I only have silver plated!!), the TNT Snake came out waaaayyy in front!!

Unfortunately, we could only compare the sound with the three different power cables plugged into my pre-amp only, but at least I could decide which is the construction I should now use for the other power cables I need to build for the rest of the components!

Just to recap ... for my 3m Snake, I used RG213 which has a 7 x 0.75mm stranded core with a copper braid (as I can't get the Pirelli dual 1.5 mm2 conductor cable which you used), which is a bit "heavier" than your cable.
The other cables were made 1: using braided 2.5 mm2 solid core cable for active, neutral and earth and 2: the same but with 4 mm2 earth wire instead of 2.5 mm2 (because Thorsten says "thicker earth is the secret of mains cabling").
In addition, I shielded these two cables, using the shield stripped off some RG213, earthed at the plug end only, to minimise electric interference to the pre-amp chassis.

Well, as I said, the Snake was judged the best in terms of sound stage and tone. The second best was the ordinary braided 2.5 mm2 core cable and the third was this cable but with the thicker earth (no. 2, above). Of course the "normal" mains cable which came with the pre-amp was "yuk" by comparison to even the third cable!!

I also have the answer for the question I asked you as to how come the braiding does "good" when the individual cables being braided are shielded?
Well, the shield only acts against RFI ... the braiding is causing the magnetic field associated with each individual conductor to become "evened out", which gives it the nice sound!!
Andy Redwood - E-mail: Andy.Redwood@aspect.com.au

happy to hear from you. As you know, we try to help HiFi fans sharing informations about "well designed" DIY projects, and readers' consideration is "life blood" for us. I am aware that a lot of people who made The Twisted Snake are happy with it - more or less. One guy only told me that, using the Snake, the soundstage became too large (!).
I mean, the Snake is a good and inexpensive mains cable, but you have to try it to decide if it is good for your ears and synergic with your system.
Please, let me know the results using the TNT-TTS on all your system components.
Stefano Monteferri

A possible component source?
Hi Lucio:
Check out http://www.belden.com/products/pr051597.htm.
This is a teflon coated 100% foil shielded silver plated copper 29 awg wire in a .047 inch diameter coax. Might this stuff be useful in some interconnect projects?
By the way trying to find the wire-wrap stuff you specified in the interconnect DIY page. The Radio Shack Stuff in the US is not ptfe coated, it is some kind of keynar (sp?) stuff.
Anonymous - E-mail: kmbs1310@shreve.net

Dear reader,
thanks a lot for the precious info for the DIY crowd.
Certainly the cable seems interesting for building good quality interconnects.
Lucio Cadeddu

Old audio question...
Several years ago, there were several companies, that advertised in several magazines, that offered a "Fine Tuning/Tweaking/Modification of old Electronic Parts" - such as a replacement of old capacitors, transistors, resistors - etc., on old components such as Pre-Amplifiers, and Power Amplifiers.......in other words - an audio ejuvenation/restoration service.
Are any such companies around any more? Do you know of any? If so, please let me know, and please respond immediately.
Thank you very much!! Roosevelt A. Anderson, Jr. - E-mail: acvegas@andersoncom.zzn.com

Dear Roosvelt,
while I see NO reason why I should "respond immediately" (NEVER forget this is a FREE service for you...) I can suggest you to contact Audio By Van Alstine Inc., a well-known US Company which specializes in bringing new life into old HiFi gear. Certainly there are other Companies out there I'm not aware of, if so, I'll be glad to publish their addresses here. In any case, I guess a search with any search engine with appropriate keywords would offer many more hints/addresses.
Lucio Cadeddu

On the TNT Janus mat...again
About your DIY turntable mat: Could it be made of three layers: cork, then lead, then cork? I have some thin cork (2.5mm) that I thought might work well on both sides of lead (1.5mm). Thanks very much.
Steve Sinclair - E-mail: sinc@CAM.ORG

Dear Steve,
the TNT Janus mat has been designed having in mind 4 relevant factors:

  1. Lightweight construction
  2. Double-sided feature
  3. Damping and antistatic properties
  4. Reduced thickness
Of course you can build your own DIY mat the way you prefer but please consider: lead isn't exactly a healthy material to deal with at home (it is very dangerous, indeed), it is heavy (much more stress on the bearing/subchassis) and the 3 layers you want use would cause the mat to be too thick so you'd need to adjust carefully the VTA of your arm (not easy if it is a Rega, for example).
Instead, the TNT Janus is as thick as a common felt mat, it is light and double-sided, so to offer a different interface to the records (= 2 "sounds" to choose).
And, last but not least, it is made with healthy materials.
Let me know,
Lucio Cadeddu

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