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Digital Drive: REVIEW: 3950 a¬aªa¨a¦?uf by bossa nova

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REVIEW: 3950 a¬aªa¨a¦?uf

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Model: 3950
Category: a¬aªa¨a¦?uf
Suggested Retail Price: $ 60
Description: toshiba
Manufacturer URL: Not Available
Manufacturer URL: Not Available

Review by bossa nova ( A ) on June 07, 2004 at 21:44:07
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A review of the classic Rossi and Swenson modification of the Toshiba 3950. By Luca Di Donna

The Toshiba 3950 has been the subject of many discussions in the digital forum . Vinnie Rossi and John Swenson introduced modifications to the stock player stimulating a lively discussion on how to improve it. The player in the modified version has been something of a sensation. I refer the reader to the many posts in the archives and the technical discussions . I was about curious how the player was reviewed by AA members, however I was surprised that in the AA forum there was not yet a review of the 3950. I liked the modification and would like to share my impressions.

Brief Description:

The player is a DVD with a remote control. The layout and construction is very good.

First impression non-modified :

I played one of my Brazilian CDs and I was impressed by the sound. My reaction was like John Swenson’s. Good sound, spacious, deep sound stage and the player was non-fatiguing.

I made a small modification damping the chassis with caulk and Dynamat that I had from a previous project.

I noticed an improvement, there was more body and to my ears there was an overall improvement to the stock unit. I changed the feet to RS plastic feet, a homemade isolation and Harmonic feet. The sound was different with the various suspension devices.

I was ready to begin to modify the unit, but a change in my schedule prevented me from doing it so I decided to have the unit modified professionally by Modman who had an ad in Audiogon.

Modman’s modification was the classic Rossi - Swenson modifictions plus a Furuteck plug for the power cord. Modman also changed the fuse and made a few other modifications that he felt improved the sound. The player had a small box in the back for the Swenson modification . The total modification was $ 297 which included a new 3950 plus shipping. The best parts were used in this modification .Auricap used to match pre. ( see Vinnie web page )

The unit arrived with an E mail which listed the modifications. The internal damping gave extra weight to the player. Modman ,( John )was very helpful and knowledgeable. A very professional job.

The fun begins:

I ran the player for a few days and the more I played it the more I liked the player.

I played some of my favorites songs and a selection of Hin H , (AA moniker name) . Hin H , review of the Street Ridge cable ( see review November 15-2003.). included a selection of great music and a detailed note on what to hear in the music. Hin H’s cable review was twofold , first he gave a description of the piece of music and then he analyzed the cable way to reproduce the music. A very impressive review.

Rather than repeat Hin’s songs and methodology my aim was more modest. The goal was to assess the overall musicality of this player taking into consideration the sound stage, separation of instrument, reproduction of female and male voice, piano, micro dynamic and bass. I chose some of Hin’s music and a variety of my music a blend of Brasilian , Italian and Argentinian, music.

First impressions of player with damping.

My initial impression was that the unit played a bit louder but the sound was diffused and anemic at times The bass was weak. The sound in general was nice but something was lacking. My impressions were similar to John Swenson’s first review ( see 02 –25 –04. archives.)

Overall not a bad player, very musical and with a good sound stage

Now I would like to present my impression of the modified player stressing the strength of the player rather than the weakness.

Now roll the music.

From Hin H , selection. 4. Inca Son, Vol.1, track 10, El Condor Pasa, VMMT21, DID017042, 1993.

Test objectives: Multiple instruments in concert, separation of instruments, 3-D sound stage, life and emotion of the music.

Comments: This popular South American song was performed by street musicians from Peru. It is an exceptional performance with four pieces of instruments, namely, a panpipe, a flute, a guitar, and an Indian drum. Using the Condor as the metaphor, the musicians expressed their deep feeling toward freedom (like the flight of the Condor) and their home land. Especially in the second part of the song, the flute brings out the emotion of the music with plenty of air. The drum beat was punchy and with a rhythm that exhibited the music full of energy. Special sound effects were added to provide background sound of a coyote, a rattlesnake, the rain, and the wind to mimic the wilderness, and the huge sound stage that filled up the entire room. The guitar sound in the third part of the music was slightly muddy. This is probably due to the cheap instrument used by the street musician. However, for a performance like this, we cannot ask for more.

The reproduction cut 4 was superb, a spectacular cut with holographic imaging . The flute and other instruments were well placed . Every note was clear and the music was captivating .This a great CD. This cut demonstrated the ability of the player to capture the sound , the superb sound stage and overall musicality.

5. Chopin, Prelude No. 20 for Piano, Reference Gold / Inter Sound RDW 3622.

Test objectives: Low frequency piano keystrokes with rich harmonics generated from the resonant chamber, the decay of sound.( This from Hin H detailed analysis of the music )

# 5 . Chopin Prelude .The piano was in my room, solid sound , low frequency as was described by Hin H in his informative review. The player was able to portray the piano’s and the rich harmonics. An impressive cut to study of the piano reproduction. A frontal recording of the piano reminiscent of Earl Wild piano’ work.

From my selection :

From Spain. The beautiful album of Jordi Saval. “Villancicos y Danzas Criollas.”A CD highly rated by Stereophile a few months ago . The music is from 1550 –1750. Great album and superb notes.

Cut 3. Pedro Guerrero.

The player is able to differentiate the various voices. The sound stage is fantastic and one is transported to the church in Spain. This is an extremely well recorded album. In other cuts of this album, the player captures the nuances of the instruments and the position of the singer. It Pinpoints the instruments and voices. A great album with a marvelous cast of musicians. Mastering is superb .

Still in Spain with Pepe Romero, the album is called “Flamenco,” with Chano Lobato and Maria Magdalena It was recorded in 1987 in the Netherlands.

Cut # 1 “Que se ven desde el Conquero “ The voice of Chano Lobato is marvelous, not strained ,every word is captured by the player . If you close your eyes you can follow the dancers on the stage. The guitar has the classic flamenco sound, with its speed and impact. The tapping of the dancers feet has an uncanny quality. The tapping is fast and the 3950 can keep up the pace . The snapping of the fingers was precise and sharp. A very vivid presentation ,the decay of the tapping is just wonderful. Please do look at the back of your speakers to see the dancers. A pure magical act.

Moving to Italy. Night club atmosphere with smoking and whisky with the impeccable voice of Paolo Conte . The album “The best of Paolo Conte.” The music is also part of the German- Italian movie “Mostly Martha” a charming movie.

Paolo Conte has a distinctive voice, a bit rough and with a touch of Italian romanticism. His piano playing is fast and the 5950 is able to portray every note clearly. Conte’s voice keeps up the tempo of the fast piano playing. The second cut is about Jazz, “Sotto le stelle del Jazz” hear the word “jazz” with an Italian intonation. He uses his hands to imitate the sax that is reproduced vividly. The album has a rather frontal presentation. The player is very sensitive of how the record is recorded. Good album for male voice and piano reproduction

Again, Italy , with the artistry of the late pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. The album is the Ravel Concerto in G. The album was recorded in 1957, analog, at Abbey Road. The record was transferred to digital at Abbey Road, part of EMI classic piano music. The piano is not recorded frontally, a lot of details and sparks in the first movement. The first movement has a great dynamic (5. 30 ) .The Second movement (27) listen for the agility of the player to play dynamic changes in the music. The harp is on the rear left..The orchestra conducted by Ettore Gracis

, is outstanding. The 3950 presents the piano and Michelangeli’s lyrical interpretation beautifull. Extremely engaging recording. A must for piano lovers.

From Italy to Bahia , Brasil. The singer is Maria Bethana, sister of the singer Caetano Veloso. She is sensual , the diva of Brasilian music. A seasoned singer with a deep throaty voice. Once you hear her voice you never can forget her. The album is “Ambar.” Recorded in 5 studios: Rio,Sao Paolo, Bevery Hills, London , and mastered at Bernie Grudman.

First cut #1

Her voice is in the center . The soundstage is superb . The instruments are flowing from the left and right speaker . The voice has a right timbre. Close you eyes and you are in Bahia. The mastering is superb. Toshiba again captured the music. The sensuality of Maria’s voice and the the air that envelop the sound stage that extends from the speakers is spooky. Details to die for. Her latest album “ Brasileirinho is another show piece with great vocal and instruments.

From Bethana to the late guitarist Baden Powell. A leading figure of Bossa Nova . The album , his last before he died is called Lembracas , remembering. The music is introspective, with great finesse. The reproduction of the music is honest without coloration. The player picks up a bit of the brightness from the album. A CD highly praised by the Brazilian press.

Stan Getz ,is included in the Brasilian selection because his last album “The Lost Session ,Bossa and Ballads is a gem . The piano is on the right and the drum on the left of the stage . Great bass ,by Gerge Miraz . The last tribute to the man who introduced bossa nova to the world. Great sound , beautiful presentation of the sax . The first cut is outstanding . Absolute Sound loved this album. The player delivered the music in a sensual manner.

Again Brazil but this time classical.. The new album of Camargo Guarneri ,BIS digital CD 1290, is for those interested in beautiful music with a blasting effects. The 4 is called Brasilia. Great orchestration . Great recording and our little player swings with this album. Sound stage , percussions, bass are coherently presented . One of my favorite. There was no compression in the loud passage , everything flowed in a magical manner. The British magazine HI Fi +, gave an outstanding review of this album. This is a demonstration cut to impress your friend.

Last album from Brazil . The album by Taiguara is titled Imyra,tayra,ipv. Difficult to get . This is an instrumental , experimental CD, 1976, with the best Brasilian , jazz musicians . Esoteric at the best. All instruments are presented with a palpability to die for, sound stage big like the Amozonia. Something very special for those in search of the esoteric. Great sound .

To Argentina . Sera’Una Noche – La segunda. Recorded fanatically by Todd Garfinkle in Buenos Aires. Great tangos , nothing like Gardel or Astor Piazzola, This album is spacious, instruments clearly delineated, sound stage, holographic images. Turn the light off and savor a glass of Melbec. I loved the instruments , the female voice and the mastering of this album. Todd has the ability to transport you in the most intimate setting.

Overall the music was presented in a gorgeous manner.

In my obsessive way I also used many other CDs as Burmester sampler, Chesky sampler, Opus 3 Test record 1, Pierre Verany, Digital test. For overall set up I used Sheffield -XLO test record. Anita Baker was my last album with her album Rapture. Sweet Sound her first cut never sounded so sweet. Her gorgeous voice and the dynamic were out of this world .

Overall I consider the unit a gem and a steal for the money when it is modified. I would like to thank our heroes ,the maestri, the masters Mr Rossi and Swenson for their illuminating comments and help. Also special thank to Modman, John, for his superb modification.

To conclude :The plus are sound stage ,details, good reproduction of the voice, great separation of instruments. This player is very sensitive to placement, cables and any changes in the system. I can say very little to weakness. Some people have compared the modified Toshiba to Mark Levinson $ 25.000.00 player.

In my room the player was just stellar . The synergy of my stereo and room were excellent .This is my room with a particular amplification with many tubes and a dedicated circuit playing music that I love. I thing that perhaps in another set up the sound would be a bit different. (Please see the room and electronics used in this evaluation)

Can this player be improved ? Not being an electronic engineer I do not have an answer . I leave it to the masters to figure out.

Conclusion . Toshiba has given us a player with a superb sound in the modified form. I really like this player and I think you will also .

Again I would like to pay a tribute to the classic modification of Rossi Swenson and Modman for his superb modification.

Luca Di Donna. ( Bossa Nova)

Product Weakness: none
Product Strengths: excellent product. Great sound stage, separation of instruments . Overall very musical

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Music reference 9 El34 Telsa 60
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Opera consonance TI -Tungsol 12AU7A
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Toshiba 3950
Speakers: Meadolark Shearwater
Cables/Interconnects: Dicovery essence and other
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Brazilin ,Jazz,classical
Room Size (LxWxH): 172 x 160 x
Room Comments/Treatments: books and records to deflect
Time Period/Length of Audition: Almost a month with many cables,
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Audio prism 3 .Dedicated lines
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner
Your System (if other than home audition): will post the in a few days on Bossa Nova

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Topic - REVIEW: 3950 a¬aªa¨a¦?uf - bossa nova 21:44:07 06/7/04 ( 3)