Letters • February 2014

Thanks

February 25, 2014

Roy,

I just wanted to thank you for all of your sage audio advice. I recently watched your video from the 2012 RMAF for the third time and finally took your advice on reducing vibration. After three hours of tearing down and reassembling my music server with the intention of eliminating all vibration as much as possible the payoff was exponential. You are a true master!

Brian Brown

Power by Nordost

February 23. 2014

Roy,

I am an audiophile from Hong Kong. Currently, I am using all Nordost Odin cables, along with QRT power products. What I want to know is if it is important what cable you use behind the wall sockets, as you always suggest using the same brand of cable right through the system. I also believe this gives the best performance, but what cable should I use to feed the sockets, as Nordost do not approve their power cables for in-wall use?

Also, I know you always suggest using the QB8 distribution block. How about the QV2 on the QB8? Is it a combination you have tried? Currently, I am using three QX4s and one QX2 inline with the QB8. I find that the influence of the QV2 in this case is surprisingly critical.

Tim Chung

You ask an important question that has significant implications for system performance. Irrespective of the type of cables used, the rules remain the same. So, although I’ll apply my answers to your rig, exactly the same logic would apply to a Shunyata-, AudioQuest- or Cardas-based system -- or any other cable manufacturer. The further back you can take your optimized AC supply the better. Unfortunately, just how far that is will depend to a large extent on your individual circumstances, the architecture of your home and how much freedom of action you enjoy.

When it comes to creating a dedicated AC supply for your audio system, there are three priorities. The first two are:

The provision of a clean ground, connected to ground rods sunk in the yard or garden of your home -- assuming you can access it. These should be connected to the ground terminal on your QB8.

The installation of a dedicated domestic consumer unit (what used to be termed a fuse box) with a ring or pair of rings to feed just the audio system. Ideally these should terminate in high-quality, unswitched wall sockets.

Depending on your electrical standards, there are various audiophile-grade sockets available from the likes of Shunyata, Furutech and PS Audio (amongst others). The widest range of specialist sockets conforms to the US NEMA standard, but even if your system is running off an alternative socket type, that only means changing one plug on the lead running to your first QX or QB unit. Having a different socket type for the hi-fi system also ensures that someone else doesn’t inadvertently connect an alien appliance to your dedicated supply.

That brings us to the third priority and the heart of your question. Building regulations are extremely strict when it comes to the AC supply, and cables used in walls must be certified as such, or you will probably invalidate your fire insurance! That’s why most power-cord manufacturers won’t recommend their cable for in-wall use. However, if you look at the blog about my own setup you’ll see that I employ multiple different cables to offer a range of dedicated feeds into my listening room. The one I usually rely on, and that feeds the main system, is based on Nordost Valhalla, so how did I get a building standards certificate for that? By stringing the cables on the outside of the building, in purpose-built trunking. Used with the mechanically decoupled Lens sockets, this also has the benefit of isolating the cables from the direct mechanical energy generated by the speakers and hitting the inside walls of the listening room -- a real win-win arrangement.

However, you’ll also note that I run rings of both the Chord Co. Power Cord and also a basic heavy-gauge, shielded AC cable. If in doubt, this latter option is the one to go for. No, it doesn’t sound as good as the Valhalla, but it is still way, way better than the domestic sockets fitted in the listening room that are there for the vacuum cleaner. Used in conjunction with the clean ground, it probably represents the single most cost-effective upgrade you could possibly make.

As to your QRT queries, the QV and QX units should be seen as complementary. Different systems will benefit from different arrangements, but in general, the addition of a single QX2 alongside a series of QX4s does seem to bring a particular sweetness and natural ease to the sound. The QV2 is astonishingly effective, bringing out the harmonics, air and dimensionality in the recording. They work especially well in pairs: two is way better than one, with four being way, way better again. The ideal place to position them is on the QB8, but donating four sockets to the cause is probably quite a stretch, so consider adding a QB4 or other distribution unit in series with the QB8, just for the QV2s. That’s how I run them, and I find it works extremely well.

One final point that applies to every single upgrade or tweak you ever add to your system. The starting place for system tuning should always, always be the speakers. Unless the speakers (and your listening seat) are optimally positioned in the room, with level, rake angle and toe-in all precisely set, you will never be able to judge the benefits of each change you make. If in turn those changes influence the spectral balance of the system (for example, comparing a solid-state amp to a tube design), then you will need to adjust speaker positioning accordingly to achieve proper results. I would certainly expect changes in the grounding and AC-supply arrangements to require adjustments in speaker position to fully realize the benefits. -Roy Gregory

Allnic amps?

February 17, 2014

Marc,

I was wondering if you have experience with the Allnic Audio M-3000 monoblocks. Just curious how they stack up sonically against the giants you've reviewed --  Audio Research Reference 250, Atma-Sphere MA-2 Mk II.3, and Ypsilon Aelius monoblocks.

I'm shopping for a tube amp, and it's impossible to demo the M-3000s. My speakers are TAD Evolution Ones, with a VAC Signature Mk IIa preamp. Any comments will be appreciated.

Ken Ng

I've reviewed an Allnic phono stage (the H-3000) and line stage (the L-3000), both of which I liked a great deal, but not any Allnic amps. The M-3000 monoblocks use KT120s to produce 140 watts, and like all Allnic products they use proprietary transformers. They're intriguing amps, and I'll see about getting a pair to write about at some point in the future. Based on my limited experience with TAD speakers, which have sounded great driven with tubes and uneven driven with solid-state electronics, amps like the M-3000s very well may be perfect for them both electrically and sonically. -Marc Mickelson

Speaker cable or interconnect?

February 8, 2014

Marc,

Which is more important, the speaker cable that runs from my amp to the speaker (center) or the balanced interconnect that goes from my amp to my home-theater processor (center)? Replacing the center-channel speaker cable really won’t be an issue, but trying to replace the balanced cable would a major effort. Unfortunately, it is a major rats nest back there and there is nothing I can do about it. I am afraid to have my installer mess around back there. Would just upgrading the center-channel speaker cable to a better one be worth it on its own? I personally think it will. I know changing the balanced cables also make a difference, but sometimes we have to make some sacrifices, right?

Mike Doukas

You ask a variation on an age-old question: are interconnects or speaker cables more important? The answer is yes. That is, they both matter, and probably in equal measure. If, in either case, you're moving from a more generic cable to one identical to what you're using for your right and left channels, you should experience a sense of balance among all of your front channels that you don't now. There is also the matter of your center channel's use for home theater -- it gets a workout, and for that reason alone, you want to make sure you're getting the most from it by using good cables.

However, as to which cable you should upgrade, I can't tell you just one. I'd probably replace them both. It sounds like the speaker cable will be easier, so that's probably the place to begin. -Marc Mickelson

Thanks for TAVES seminar

February 1, 2014

Roy,

Happy new year and best wishes for the months to come.

I just wanted to write and say thanks for the amazing seminar at TAVES. I spent some time over the holidays and "voiced" my room. I was surprised at how far off I was with my previous placement. I had the speakers almost halfway into the room initially and now they are closer to the rule of thirds. I cannot believe the added impact and enjoyment I am getting. My system is now so much more engaging and energetic. Previously I had great immediacy but lacked in the dynamics department. Now I have both.

Vern Smith

 

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