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Hello Srajan, any news concerning price after the power supply changes to the CHoco Sound Emei? Thanking you in advance, Steve

It already says so in the preview. The price remains at €1’699 for the first run then goes to €1’799. Srajan

Srajan, just a few initial thoughts on the Kinki Studio power cord and single-ended interconnects.The power cord is on my Kinki Studio EX-M7 and the interconnects link the amp and a Lumin X1 streamer/DAC. I use Leedh Processing so no preamp. First, Ken Ng told me that break-in should be about 200 hours. I probably have fewer than 100 hours so factor that in. The most pronounced effect is a huge uptick in bass both on texture like fingering of strings for example and response. At low listening level it's quite nice not to goose volume for a bit more kick. It's just there all the time. It also seems there is a greater separation of instruments and the soundstage has widened. The stage increase was unexpected as the EX-M7 operates in dual mono and I always thought the soundstage was pretty good. Midrange where the music mainly lives is about as good as with my previous power cord and interconnects. So I'll be keen to see whether further break-in changes my opinion. What's hard to determine is whether the power cord is doing anything special. The overall noise floor prior to installation was always good so I'm not sure whether the addition of the power cord is making a profound difference. But I'm perhaps underplaying system synergy. At the relatively modest cost of these cables, I'm quite pleased. Are these Crystal Cable killers? I've never heard Crystal Cables so really couldn't say. I will say that they're a no-brainer if you are a Kinki Studio or future CHoco owner. I'll keep you posted on future thoughts. All best, Michael 

Srajan, thanks for your show preview of Munich. That was super useful for planning my visit so much appreciated. Bravo. Eddie

That was the intention indeed: a travel guide to put certain products on the must-see/hear map. Glad to hear you found it useful. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I have read your reviews on 6moons about the Gold Note CD player, the CD1000 Deluxe with 1000 PSU and Métronome Le Player 3 with their separate DAC and Le Player 3+. If you compare the Gold Note brand with Métronome, what do you notice and are they evenly matched or does one stand out? I am considering the Gold Note CD1000 Deluxe with the upgraded power supply or the Métronome Le Player 3+. What would be the better choice technically and audiophile-wise. My integrated amplifier is the Gryphon Diablo 120. Speakers are Sonus Faber Olympia Nova 2. Best regards, Wil Pieters from the Netherlands

My experience with both brands has been outstanding. That includes build quality and personnel interactions. Sonically there's overlap because for their more upscale units, both firms fancy tubes which then do exactly what you'd expect - warm up the sound and render it denser and softer. I personally prefer the industrial design of Gold Note to Métronome's standard not Kalista range; and of course they offer three different color choices over two. That's pure optics so has no bearings on sonics. In general I'd call the Gold Note sound a bit more modern so keyed into resolution, the Métronome sound a bit more 'vintage' so prioritizing an 'analogue organic' flavor. Given your Gryphon Diablo amp, I'd suspect that personally I'd lean toward combining it with a CD1000 Deluxe. Hope that helps. Srajan

Srajan, as you may recall, I've always been a bit disappointed not to have a balanced amp to take advantage of my Lumin X1's balanced output. You sagely told me not to worry about XLR vs. RCA as it's the amp's performance that rules the day. Imagine my surprise when reading the following in a review of an Aavik integrated: "The line inputs (no phono input on the 280) are RCAs; much like the other Aavik components, designer Børresen eschews XLRs. I'm hearing through the grapevine that Børresen feels RCAs are sonically superior." A recent post on a Facebook group by Børresen answers some questions: "I respect balanced (differential) cabling has an advantage as noise is a common mode and thus cancelling. But there are also some drawbacks mainly on the electronics design side that tilt the performance in favour of a single-ended connection, mainly the fact that it's harder to match two opposed signals especially through volume controls. Also, a balanced circuit has by topology 6dB worse noise performance so most electronics manufacturers opt to make the balanced inputs and outputs through conversion and then retain the single-ended topology through switching and volume controls. So when you add it all up, the favour is truly on the single-ended side. Another thing is that balanced cables may have good noise rejection in the low-frequency area (audio band) but fare much worse in terms of picking up RF noise. And as far as I'm concerned, high-frequency noise is a far worse enemy of audio quality. Where balanced cables are better is on stage with long parallel cable runs here not for audio quality but simply to avoid the signals from the kick drum bleeding into the signals from the guitar. With bundles of signals in long runs there is no way around balanced but for simple purist hifi setups, my firm believes single-ended comes out on top." Michael

You're catching on. Srajan
Srajan, just saw the Jeff Fritz announcement. What do you make of it? [Rest withheld by request.] Jeremy

Good for him. He's made a career change but remains affiliated with the industry he loves. He becomes brand ambassador for Magico as a company he's always openly admired. He gets paid to continue writing about audio; and to attend trade fairs which he's done for decades and clearly enjoys. I say it's a job that had his name written all over it. If I read the announcement correctly, this new position at Magico was in fact specifically made for him. Hand in glove and all that. Kudos! Srajan

Hi Srajan. Just wanted to show you this. I'm operating under the radar, just adverts in the usual suspects and currently no website. However, I'm having success with these and may scale up. Still deciding. They work as advertised and my customers seem thrilled. Maybe there's a tweaker in the house that would want to try a set? Hope you are well, Srajan. Regards, Bruce McDougall, Anvil Turntables (again, no current website but I sold a great turntable for 10 years if you want to Google me).

Hello Bruce, thx for the note. As you probably know, there's a lot of 'anti resonance' in my systems by way of performance-engineered racks and sundry isolation footers or wire suspenders. The racks themselves are so effective that add-on footers are somewhat stranded doing anything I can hear. That leaves the floor interfaces of speakers and subs. I'd be happy to take a listen but a/ would need a set of 8 to do a pair of speakers, and, b/ even a marginal website would be a prerequisite seeing I publish on the web for a global audience. Srajan

Thanks for the kind words, Srajan. I understand the racks, they are highly effective. Agreed on the website, it's remarkable how difficult it is to get product info properly assimilated by consumers. I'll get my ducks in a row and be in touch! Regards, Bruce

Sounds good. You know how to find me when the time comes. Srajan

Srajan, I quite enjoyed your recent article about the emergence of ChiFi or as I might term it, the Silk Hifi Road. I have the Kinki EX-M7 amp, a Lumin X1 and an AfterDark OCXO clock that bear testimony to the progress in China.  And while I have voiced some skepticism about Kinki’s ambition to move rapidly upstream, I am rooting for the company. I wonder how much Kinki’s upscaled ambition might be rooted in your support. I well recall one of the lines in your review of the M7 that actually helped prompt me to buy the unit. You applauded Kinki’s Mr. Liu for being "a gentle and not greedy man" when comparing the highly affordable M7 to a €15'000 bespoke European amp. Something tells me that you planted a seed that seems to be rapidly sprouting. Michael

I doubt I had anything to do with it. I'm just a miniature cog in a much bigger wheel which includes fellow reviewers, dealers, distributors and actual owners. It's their combined feedback and actions which create certain market conditions. We all play a role, that's true and unavoidable, but it's important not to overestimate any one individual's impact. It's an ongoing chain reaction and it matters not who may have started it. What matters is the overall energy generated and what comes from that. At least that's how I look at it. Srajan

I understand your point about the combined chain effect on Kinki’s ambitions but the placement of sections of your reviews on the company’s website suggests to me an overweight lunar influence! Michael

In which case, guilty as charged your honor. I do know that over the years pure happenstance meant that I crossed paths with certain companies early on in their emergence. That's when reviews can exert the arguably greatest influence because they happen when someone goes from an unknown zero to a suddenly visible somebody. After that the somebody can grow bigger and more popular but the initial coming out was compliments of the first major review. It's nice when one's work can have such an occasionally influential effect. But it tends to be pure chance and every publication makes its own such discoveries which help certain brands to attain their first spot on the map. So perhaps for Kinki it was us. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I will be not present at Munich Show this year. Delays in production are too big. I still didn't receive my PCB. A mistunderstanding of the shipping papers at Customs is a nightmare. I will inform you when status on production changes. Best regards, Jarek

Ah, customs celebrations. Welcome to the club. Srajan

Haha, all true. TNT aka tri-nitro-toulene. It suggest explosions not safe handling. Just a naming coincidence? In my city we have the security company Justus. Of course any successful business breeds competition so somebody else set up a new similar company and gave it a new similar name. But they didn't win any customer respect. Their name? Brutus. Jarek

We know what that chap did to Gaius Octavius. So perhaps clients of this firm will get a knife in the back then start singing Italian opera by way of gratitude? Because that's what happens in operas. People get stabbed then sing the most amazing death arias. Srajan

Srajan, just read your latest Darko post. It's quite a good overview on the topic and the two embedded links point at the many issues that getting things made in China presents to makers of electronic goods in general. What I didn't like was the link header. "Think 'Made in China' is a turn-off? Think again" reads like click bait. Worse, it attempts to lock in a pro China response which actually conflicts with your outgoing paragraph where you say that everyone must judge the implications for themselves. Doesn't that mean that many people would not buy hifi gear made in China? It certainly should leave that door open. So while I otherwise enjoyed your overview, the header image and link header left a bad taste in my mouth. Graham

Actually, the link header is John Darko's. It's his site so I always leave it to him to craft whatever text he overlays on the link image. Often he also picks that access image. This time I submitted it. Picking Chinese construction workers in hard hats was by design. Even if just subliminally, I wanted to remind readers that any such discussions aren't limited to our puny hifi space. After all, the factories in which ChiFi is made were built by Chinese construction workers. Ditto the roads leading to them. And so forth. It's a vast picture of which we in the West sitting opinionated behind our computer screens see and know precious little. Suggesting this bigger picture was the intent behind that photo rather than showing the usual assembly stations of circuit boards and component chassis. And your response is perfect; because you had one and bothered to write it. Stimulating a reaction was the entire purpose behind this article. It matters not what the exact reaction consists of. That's up to each individual and none of my business. But having a reaction shows a live-wire connection of thoughts and emotions. I couldn't ask for more. So, thank you very much. Srajan

"Platypus platitudes in plated platinum?" What a darn tongue twister, Srajan. I realize that review is still out but did you ever learn what the Platimon name is supposed to really mean? On another subject, I enjoyed your writing about your new iMac here and over at Darko. With the last unit having lasted you nine years, I see why you wanted another one. That's a near eternity in computer time. I also find it persuasive how you propose to break out a server and streamer into their discrete building blocks and treat them by individual function: a computer for the main processing hardware, an external drive to store your music, Audirvana as the user interface, a network switch to filter Ethernet noise and a DDC reclocker on the output. I understand how each of those parts could just as well be another brand to suit our personal preference and that over the long term, keeping these components separate adds flexibility and keeps us better up to date than being locked into one fixed box from just one maker. I'm simply curious why none of your colleagues have gone down the same route. Any ideas why that might be? I'm not asking to be confrontational. It just seems odd that if something is this convenient, cost effective and high performing as you say, others in your shoes wouldn't want to do it as well. Ian

In our space I'm not aware of another reviewer who has openly declared him/herself to be WiFi allergic. If one is not, the entire challenge of hardwired streaming falls away. Suddenly a generic cellphone remote is perfection. That seems to be the crux of this equation. Also, I know of a number of reviewers who began streaming over a spare laptop USB out. Once they reviewed their first 'proper' audiophile streamer, the difference was big enough to seemingly obliterate the computer route forever after. They moved on and never looked back. I started with an iMac dedicated to just music and from the start ran PureMusic software player to optimize the sound. I even experimented with which USB port gave the best sound. Once I reviewed headless audiophile streamers, I realized that whatever small sonic advantage they might have offered I could bolt on by adding a USB bridge to the iMac's output. That put me in a place from which I've not looked back since. Again, the critical determinant in all of it was our requirement for a front-to-back wired signal path; plus my own desire for a high-resolution big display to navigate my local library from. Remove those two conditions and you likely remove the appeal of my path as well. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I just came across your Raidho X2t review. It was smooth sailing until the final page hit rocks. I appreciate the dilemma facing any reviewer that ends up with speakers which don't play nice with his room. I appreciate even more that you didn't brush your issues under the table but laid them out in an even-handed way. Still, it does make for a rather unfinished review that lacks a firm and satisfying conclusion. If you don't get a second sample because Raidho decide to leave things alone, will you still write a proper ending like you usually do? I really hate the way it feels right now. Looking forward to your reply. Henry 

I agree with your coitus interruptus sentiment; and that a concluding paragraph or two are still required. I simply must wait on Raidho to learn what happens next - a revised sample; or nothing. If nothing, I'll wrap things up properly. I just don't know when. Munich is around the corner for which show preparations must take precedent when you're an exhibitor. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I just perused your latest tale of the SOtM isolator. So it does something beneficial but you need to already have most everything sorted before you can hear it is my takeaway. That makes sense when we think of such items like the final polish as you put it somewhere else. Would linking up more of them enlarge their effect you think? You did mention that SOtM often string together multiple of their pieces to point that way. Keep up the interesting work. Jamie

I do think that like the series-connected LessLoss BlackGround devices and multi-paralleled Ansuz Tesla coils, a lot of this tech benefits from being chained. It's here where I'm not entirely onboard with SOtM. If three of their network switches in series for example are the pinnacle, why not put the necessary building blocks into one box? If a linear power supply is superior to a switching wall wart, why not build that power supply into the same box so we only need one power cord? If three iSO-CAT7 in a row are demonstrably better than one, why not put three transformer barriers into a single filter? I dislike the piecemealing approach which explodes the amount of 'stuff' our systems consists of. We need more cables, more power outlets, more shelves in a rack... more of everything. Of course I understand that breaking it up into multiple bits lowers the price of admission and allows everyone to get as many or few bits as they can afford or find justifiable. Still, I'd prefer a lower box count. But back to your question, yes I do believe that 'serializing' noise filters works. The same is true for multiple reclockers in series. Srajan

Srajan, quick question. Axpona reports say really great things about the latest Rethm Maarga. I know that you've been a fan of the brand since the beginning. Any chance you'll report on their latest catch? Cheers, Evan

Sadly not. This isn't for lack of desire with either party. By not having local distribution anywhere near me, Rethm simply can't afford the 2-way ship fees involved between India and Ireland plus VAT. I know that Angie Lisi in Canada now represents Rethm so I'd expect that reviews in the US/Canadian press should follow shortly. Should Jacob's situation change because he signs a European distributor willing to make a demonstrator available on short-term loan, I'd obviously love to take a listen. Until then, reality simply bites; and I can't afford to buy something just to review it. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I see you have a review of the Hørning Zeus coming up. Being on my 3rd generation of Hørning speakers within the past 20 years or so, I do have some experience with the brand. Make sure you experiment by moving the speakers closer to the corners than you usually do; especially the side walls. I find them more sensitive to placement than many other speakers where placement will give you the wanted fullness/speed balance. I expect your preference for speed and accuracy will make you place the speakers more away from the corners than the recommended up to 50cm. You will probably place the speakers more like Jeff Catalano with more distance from the side and especially the front wall. You usually find your personal preference for fullness/accuracy by picking the right gear but in this case i recommend you first try a closer placement to the front and side wall before tuning the balance with gear. Just my 5-cent recommendation. btw, I've had Alkibiades with no bass units on the back, Alkibiades with 2 x 10" woofers and now I have Aristotle with the top PM65A Lowther unit. Amps are Crayon CFA-1 and FirstWatt F8 (with B1 buffer). DAC is an Aqua Scala Opto. I'm leaning to the F8 as my preferred amp of the two but the CFA has more speed and control so I switch from time to time to enjoy its better precision and control. Microphone choice/placement and mixing in the recording are decisive for which of the amps I prefer. Incidentally, I moved from triode tubes to transistors inspired by your reviews. Frank Kornum

Srajan, you don't feel that a computer's constant background noise is anathema to high-end sound? I've read your recent articles on your new iMac and that part doesn't sit right with me. Matthew

If we correlate ultra-high frequency noise to stress as in working hard, the less we work a processor (computer), the less noise it makes. Compare video editing with hundreds of hi-rez images open at any time plus a sound track to listening to 2-channel music. With a Thunderbolt 3 connection to our external SSD-stored music, transferring 1GHz of files to RAM takes one second. Reading in an entire album that might take nearly 80 minutes to hear happens in virtually no time. Once in RAM, it streams out in real time. With no other programs open and the footprint of our 'music OS' aka Audirvana very small to only load the CPU at ~0.2% during playback, our computer is coasting. It's not stressing so as quiet as can be. If additionally we stay offline by disabling our network switch, we also eliminate the constant handshake pulses on the RJ45 port. So really, if our computer were a car, it'd still be sitting in our driveway idling rather than turning any wheels. At least that's my simplistic view on the subject. And, I'm not trying to convince anyone. I'm simply sharing that after these many years of doing the same job, this remains my preferred method to stream digital files. If you believe that you'll get better sound with a top Innuos, Lumin, Aurender or Antipodes device, by all means go that way. Many of my colleagues have and are perfectly happy. Of course under those hoods also live computers. They just don't look it. Srajan

Srajan, I couldn't resist smiling at the preview photo caption detailing how "such things always cause the monkeys in the peanut galleries to engage in obscene behavior". Ha! I'm sure your mailbag gets filled with gasbags who dogmatically insist that bits are bits. I own a SOtM Cat7 cable with isolator that's stuck in my audio cubbyhole. I retired it awhile ago as I felt like a wrestler trying to tame it into my tight audio cabinet. Depending on your review, I might resurrect it. Cheers, Michael 

Actually, I get precious little gas to my inbox. What happens in certain fora could be a very different matter indeed. But then I'm not in the habit of going there so I'm merely guessing. Ignorance is bliss and all that. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I'll add my voice to reader James who commented on your latest iMac feature. I too found it very enlightening. Even without your allergy to WiFi, I find your take on the subject attractive and financially sound. Really, your iMac works just like an oversized iPad or super-sized smartphone remote but adds a dedicated music operating system and a physical keyboard to execute convenient search commands from your seat. It's remote convenience with your hardwired mandate and does cost a lot less than a lot of the streamers I read about. I'm also intrigued by your insistence that with your USB and Ethernet accessories, sound quality is right up there with the big names you have reviewed. I assume that this opinion doesn't really make you very popular with their makers? [Rest withheld by request.] Charles

Actually, whenever I do get solicited to review a headless server/streamer, I lay out exactly what I use, how past comparisons against it fared and that unless they're bullish about their stuff making a decisive sonic difference, we shouldn't bother. That's if their stuff can even be operated without WiFi in the first place. If it can but still requires my iMac as the GUI and access point, I say no. Designing a music-centric OS and graphic user interface is part of this component category. Why should audiophile makers get a pass; or automatically default to Roon? So it's not that my opinion is unpopular. I'm simply the wrong type of customer to approach with this type product. There are plenty of others for whom it is tailor-made. It's all about knowing one's audience. Because I firmly believe that there is one for 'my' approach that goes beyond just our household, I already submitted a feature on the subject to John Darko for his audience. Of course a lot of it centers on actually still owning a library of local files. People from my generation and before grew up buying music, whether it was on cassette tape, CD or LP. It's an engrained habit and preference. My dad recorded to open reel tape on a Tandberg from FM radio on a Yamaha tuner, of classical music performances he wanted. People who grew up with cloud files may not see any appeal in buying music to own. While my hardwired approach can still work for them—you can use the iMac to stream any music you please—'the cloud' and 'mobile' seem inextricably intertwined. Now an immobile big iMac may not be remotely as attractive as doing the same thing from a small hand-held wireless device. But yes, I'm bullish that the hardwired iMac-centered approach with a premium music OS à la Audirvana plus external USB reclocker is sonically right up there. Finding Audirvana sonically superior to the legacy PureMusic I still had on my prior iMac, I'm now curious whether another software player can still upgrade what I use now. Rather than hardware, now we're talking pure software to control how good the hardware on hand can operate relative to sound quality. Srajan

Hi Srajan, wow, how interesting for Kinki Studio to go silent on you for many months and then resurface with a new brand, more details on the (now) CHoco Sound mini integrated and a slew of Kinki Studio-branded cables. I think there was more to their silence than supply chain issues. So it appears that CHoco Sound has its sights set—at least with the Emei integrated mini—at the Enleum AMP-23R. Did they envy the Korean's presence in your upstairs lair? I'm a bit surprised that the Kinki/CHoco folks are going after the low-wattage channel. Not sure what the market is like for these products but I'm sure your review will help me understand. Anyway, I find their strategy quite fascinating. Will be eager to hear more about their other stuff that is dizzyingly expensive! All the best, Michael

The Enleum connection is one I made based on Emei using the same output devices, the same number of them, the same class of operation and being half width. I've yet to get confirmation on the actual power specs but it would be surprising if Emei managed 50 watts where the AMP-23R only does 25. In any event, time will tell. I've already been told that for CHoco Sound, the Bluetooth module is next on the roadmap, then the standard DAC. The BT module will obviously include its own DAC and the 6-pin power port only support one module. So the buyer decides on the featurization desired to not pay for what he/she won't use. What other type products the brand has in its sights I don't know yet. Srajan

Thanks for unpacking the Kinki/CHoco efforts. Seems they are using 6moons to explain their aims! Michael

I think it's growing pains. If I'm not mistaken, the Denafrips operation alone is +50 strong these days. To keep those employees in room and board requires consistent global sales which Alvin Chee at Vinshine oversees. It's why management of his Kinki/Choco, Jays/LHY and Soundaware accounts has been moved to newer people who must still learn all the ropes. It's why information disseminates in spurts rather than the full picture at once. At least that's my read on it. Like anyone else in the press, I can only work with what I'm given. If that has holes, they'll show. It's very basic stuff; and as such frustrating when not in place. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I just read the feature on your new iMac and the companion piece on Audirvana Origin. Very interesting! I know of your allergy to WiFi which you've mentioned repeatedly over the years. I can appreciate how that makes it difficult navigating modern streaming with its ever increasing reliance on wireless connectivity. You've found a clever way around it which, I must admit, also looks very attractive and doesn't cost nearly as much as many of the audiophile streamers you love to take to task for their pricing. I appreciate the time you took to write these two features, explain your thinking, make compelling arguments and present a roadmap that others so inclined can follow. I'm now thinking about it myself. Nicely done old chap. James

Glad to hear you found those articles useful. Again, my solution doesn't rely on Apple hardware should one prefer Windows. I simply find particularly Apple's iMac platform superior to Windows-based alternatives at that price. What's lovely having moved past iTunes as library host is that I can buy music as .flac to suit both my Win 10/64 work desk and music iMac since Audirvana is codec agnostic. Before I'd download .flac to my Windows machine, transfer the files to the old iMac, then convert them to .aiff. Dealing with DSD was still more protracted whereas now it's child's play. And I can take my 4TB SSD upstairs and plug it into that system. I really thought over the alternatives I could afford and this was by far the most attractive option. Srajan

We're not going this year so I guess I have nothing to contribute to your Munich pre-show page. Louis Motek, LessLoss

Me neither. So we'll canvass the inevitable show reports to learn if anything interesting happened. Srajan

What? Is this a sign of the times or what? You're not going is like a statement, but I'm not sure what it would mean. For us not to go is just logical. We're not looking for dealers so it doesn't make sense to go. Louis Motek

I've made the same statement before. 1/ listening to audio at a show is dubious at best. 2/ hunting review prospects can be done easier and more conveniently via email, phone or Zoom. 3/ socializing is the only reviewer reason left to attend but…

1/ talking to exhibitors in their room rightly pisses off those who want to listen. 2/ talking to exhibitors in the hallway takes them away from attending their exhibit. 3/ with only 3-4 evenings, there's very limited opportunity to socialize after hours. One can do it with one manufacturer per evening but then pisses off all the others whose invites one turns down.

Adding it up, attendance now is a waste of time and money. I get more done staying at home and my contribution to the industry at large is the pre-show report which I started doing with the Polish fall show last year. But… that's a mature reviewer's perspective. When you're a new reviewer or publication, you must go and introduce yourself. When you're a manufacturer looking for dealers, you must go. And so forth. So it's far from a one-size-fits-all statement, just one that describes and suits my current situation. Srajan

Makes perfect sense. Louis Motek

Hello Mr. Ebaen, I hope you are well. Excuse my poor writing, English is not my mother tongue. I'm very grateful to you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. For years I've been reading your reviews and I absolutely love them even though I don't understand exactly every word but still enjoying your way of writing and describing something you like or listen to. Earlier I bought a Soundaware D300REF based on your review and absolutely love it, now I saw the company released a new DAC Dam-1. I don't know if you are aware of it. I'm hoping you would write a review about it to help me decide and others of course. My question is, are you going to write about it? Looking forward for your reply, my very best regards to you Mr. Ebaen. ironmaiden7227

I knew of the new DAC from a preview I wrote about Soundaware's new USB bridges which remove the D300Ref's SD card reader. I've since taken the preview down because delivery of my review sample kept postponing and I've still not received it. The USB bridge in question runs off super capacitors and has a DC output to power this new DAC. I've not been asked to review the DAC yet and at the moment am entirely out of the loop on all things Soundaware. I do know that Vinshine Audio in Singapore handle the brand again so sooner than later, I should learn more I hope. For now it's not yet on this website. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I'm pleased to e-intro my new colleague Weng Fai who will be handling Beatechnik, Soundaware and future new products sales & marketing. I read your letters feedback section and noted a reader interested in the DAM-1. We received a unit from Soundaware. Let's just say it's a very very good DAC. It works like a charm with PA1-REF from where it draws the super-cap power. Once the DAM-1 information is published on, we may set up a review with you - PA1 + DAM. Are you game for it? Alvin Chee

Sure thing. So Vincent Ong moved on? Srajan

I moved Vincent Ong to after-sales/product tech support where I think he will excel. Weng Fai is a people person well suited to sales & marketing. Ken Ng on the other hand will handle Kinki Studio products. Alvin

Dear Srajan, I just read your B2 review and am just a bit confused. Mind, it's nothing you wrote but the manufacturer. You made it clear that the device is more of an acoustic purifier than typical resonance footer. You tried it as such and only had marginal results. In his reply, Mr. Even explains that the reason they didn't work for you is insufficient mechanical grounding. So now their acoustic purifier function suddenly ties to resonance control again? That's the part I don't get. What's your thought on that? Otherwise I thought it was a very well-written presentation of a new theory and I appreciated his forthrightness particularly as a formal engineer dealing with things his training didn't cover. Thomas

You show very level-headed thinking, Thomas. Bravo. I had a somewhat similar reaction when Stéphane submitted his manufacturer's reply. In fact, I reminded him that from the very outset—and as quoted in my review—I'd informed him of the many isolator footers I use beneath speakers, subs and racks. He hadn't hesitated to submit his B2, saying they'd 'bed right in' as long as my stuff didn't disturb their workings. He happily acknowledged that I'd 'warned' him and his own response to it. He took it very much on the chin, even admitted that he'd learnt something new about his B2 from my review. That said, at present we have no idea how exactly these devices are supposed to do their thing. We know of the theory; and recommended placement. But even with those bits, how does a metal sandwich with a damper layer interrupt water molecules? And why would placement be critical if water molecules are 'everywhere'? And why do water molecules interfere with good sound in the first place? I'm not sure even Stéphane has all the answers yet. But as you said, kudos to him for venturing places where others don't; and risking the ridicule that's guaranteed to follow in the usual quarters. Plus, he more or less signed me up for the next Neodio review already. He didn't challenge my findings, merely tried to understand why the B2 didn't work as well for me as they do for others, then penned his hypothesis on why and subsequently added that my findings were actually very useful to him. That was a lovely change from that other contingent who, when things don't go their way, throw fits and point fingers. None of that here, just friendly exchanges pursuing mutual learning. When that's in place, I'm happy to test the craziest things. Srajan

Hello, I was just looking at your overview of the Magico Mini in which you concluded by saying your would be doing a formal review when you received a loaner pair later; but I was unable to find your formal review. Did that review never happen, or could you point me towards it? Thank you, David Hicks

I never got any loaner samples. My assumption at the time was that, given a most enthusiastic review of the speaker in an influential Japanese magazine, perhaps Alon Wolf thought that no matter what, a second review at best would steal some of its thunder? In any event, the review remains incomplete because of it. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I don’t know how I missed Arya Audio Labs RevOpod until now, it must have been the distraction of Arthur’s speaker driver. RevOpods are such an effective, compact and highly engineered isolation solution. They’ve gone under all source components and amps here, displacing dozens of others tried over decades.Boenicke’s 3-point speaker base reminds me of a quick solution I used for Coincident Pure Reference speakers on concrete floors a long time ago: a single spike centre front with a pair of rollerball footers behind. I found the anodised cup didn’t last long but the improvement over spikes rather obvious. At the time I preferred oil in the cup to counter the chatter. Jeffrey has sent me a prototype of a very effective record weight & mass-loaded resonator for evaluation (it appears to wobble when nudged). Again, better results than from all others in my collection of weights and clamps, vintage or current production. Yet to have customer feedback from the first set of Carbide Evo being installed now. Regards, Peter Hardie

Srajan, I don't remember the model name but weren't you reporting on a new speaker from Æquo Audio a while back? I suddenly remembered it and went to their website then FB pages. They've not been updated since 2021 and I couldn't find anything about the new model. Do you have any updates? Are they in trouble? Thanks, Simon

I did write a lengthy preview on a new speaker model which I've since pulled since commercialization of the concept took a lot longer than initially anticipated. I don't have any updates on its status because Æquo haven't been in touch. That their FaceBook pages aren't updated could just mean they're too busy filling orders to worry about social media? If you need to know more, you should contact them directly. I'm sure they'll be happy to update you. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I’m curious about whether you’ve got your hands on the Kinki Studio Mini integrated. The preview screen has it languishing dead last so my guess is no. Now that Kinki is making the 'leap of faith' from value to premium brand, I’m eagerly awaiting your analysis. All best, Michael

I don't have a sample nor have I received a single status update during the many months since I was first informed that I'd soon get a unit. Srajan

Interesting. Despite alleged 2+ years of R&D, it seems Kinki rushed to swim upstream. Moving from the $2-3K price points to well over $20K is risky. I wish them well but I have serious doubts about their ability to pull it off. Michael 

I've been puzzled why the announcements for their reference gear haven't yet transitioned from their September 2022 FaceBook posts to the formal website's product pages. I've simply been without any communications so entirely out of the loop. Perhaps some vital parts are in short supply? Srajan

Hi Srajan, hope you are very well, happy 2023!  I just booked tickets to Munich High End - very excited (I'm living in Paris now). I'll be there Sat and Sun. If I can buy you dinner or a drink (or a coffee), I'd love that. Hope to see you there! Mike Brown

Thanks for the offer, Mike. I'll likely sit this one out. Finding interesting things to review doesn't rely on attendance. I no longer do show reports. Hearing things under dubious conditions isn't terribly helpful either. Now it's down to the very real socializing aspect. That's simply limited to the few evenings one can go out with a small party. During show hours, chatting is limited to a few minutes to not annoy other showgoers or take exhibitors away from their work they pay dearly to accomplish. So even for general socializing a Zoom call accomplishes more. But, enjoy on both our behalf. And, if you come across anything weird but wonderful or just simply fabulous, do let me know. Have fun. Srajan

Hello Srajan, really enjoyed article on icOn 5 passive pre! Just curious if you knew what the speaker are on the second page, second photo from top? Large two-unit bass, passive port with large horn on top in black? Are these commercially available? Brand, cost? Any thoughts on them? Thanking you in advance, Steve

I haven't the foggiest. This is an icOn customer's system. Given his use of Allnic Audio electronics, I wonder whether it could be a custom Allnic speaker? Otherwise I don't even have a hunch, sorry. Srajan

Srajan, interesting review on those Wellfloat triangles. You have a real knack for finding unusual products. Do you now find that the wire suspension approach is superior to roller balls and viscoelastics? I'm thinking about following your footsteps on floor isolation against what's available locally. I could use some pointers on what to focus on. Cheers, Benjamin

Good timing, Benjamin. Yes, as I said in my review, the Wellfloat wire suspension—and by extension, the same should hold for Boenicke's SwingBase—has been the most effective such solution I tried yet. And, I find subwoofers most critical and telling so have looked into improving them the most. Another designer/engineer recently emailed me about having come to the same conclusion. He too tried the three main approaches you mentioned to find wire suspension the most effective. I'm simply unsure where outside of Wellfloat/Japan and Boenicke/Switzerland such solutions might be available. Stillpoints use wire suspension for their racks but haven't scaled that down to anything compact enough to work as isolation footers. Viscoelastics must be used inside a particular weight rating so aren't one size fits all, then tend to suffer eventual fatigue to need replacement. Roller balls are load invariant up to their max rating and shy of deforming/cracking a bearing with too much weight, don't require maintenance. For best performance however, I've so far not heard better than Wellfloat. If I were you, I'd investigate their boards which should be more cost-effective than the Delta Extreme I tested and come in different sizes to install more invisible than big footers. Srajan

Reading your Wellfloat review in more detail now. Totally agree. When you remove the floor resonance which becomes its own off-the-beat transducer, there's a perception of less bass. You compensated with subwoofer controls, I did it by rerunning my DSP processing with room EQ wizard to create a new convolution filter for Roon. The audible difference was enough to make me feel like I needed to redo the DSP. It's funny how many audiophiles will spend countless dollars on speaker cables which is not nearly as much of a gross distorter. David Hyman

Hello Srajan, just a quick note to thank you very much for the link [since updated to a formal preview]. It was and is totally unexpected. As I mentioned, being one in a million puts you in a very advantageous position. You have always set a standard of excellence within the global arena. I don’t know any other company that has the impact that you have in the review world for the audiophile industry. Stay safe, stay well and stay in touch! Best regards, Mark Gurvey

Hello Srajan, I'm not sure why but the name Jim Saxon has been on my mind and I am curious whether you know what he is up to these days. Any ideas? Will

When he contributed CES show reports to SoundStage, Jim was a hifi dealer/importer in Costa Rica. Unless he's retired since, he might still be involved in the business? I haven't a clue; nor what the name of his company was then or might be now. Perhaps Doug Schneider who helms SoundStage knows or has a contact? You might ask him. Srajan

Srajan, did you see this? With your dipole sub experience, this could be right up your alley. Brennan

I've seen it, thank you. It leaves many questions unanswered. 1/ what are all the acceptable/useful placement positions? 2/ what is the actual LF response of -3dB and relative to what SPL? What is the recommended crossover point? By running well into the upper midrange, what kind of filter is involved to insure against excess amplitude where that bandwidth overlays the main speaker? How is the low, mid and upper bass adjusted relative to each other as the presenter claims is possible? Incidentally, my sub is actually a Ripol so cardioid version of a standard figure-8 dipole. But, it's interesting that another manufacturer is working on a dipole bass solution. I would simply say that for the time I spent watching this video, I felt rather shortchanged on actual hard intel on the Magnepan product. In other words, a very 'soft' launch. Also, no mention was made of successful active speakers with cardioid DSP-adaptable bass à la Kii and Buchardt which already address the bass problems mentioned in fully integrated form to require no extra bass towers. Neither were PSI's active bass traps mentioned as further successful solutions to common bass issues. Again, it made the presentation quite generic. I wish the presenter had asked Magnepan's Wendell Diller a lot more very specific questions. Or perhaps he did and got no satisfactory answers? Srajan

Hello Srajan, I just read your review on the Corelli. I appreciate how you emphasized the conditionality of review findings and showed by clear examples how something that didn't work ideally in one of your systems did so well in another that you bought it. I also read Roy Gregory's recent article on DIYing a sand-box anti-vibration support. That has me wonder whether one could DIY a Corelli in a similar way by using crushed crystals instead of sand. Do you think that would work? Francis

As long as you work to electrical code to make it a safe device, it might be a worthwhile experiment. Obviously we can't predict how effective generic crystal powder might be vis-à-vis Alkiko's special mix; or for that matter, whatever exactly DR Acoustics, Shunyata, Synergistic and others use. What's easy to overlook is R&D time. What if it takes someone two years to experiment with different powders then percentile mixes of specific ones to arrive at their clearly effective recipe? A core appeal of DIY is money savings over commercial versions. Wherever time is money; wherever plenty of trials consume their own coin in raw materials and rejects alone, never mind paying yourself a salary... that's where DIY which can't copy an existing design verbatim can suddenly lose its attraction. There's the time factor involved reverse-engineering another company's IP. Unless your primary interest is just the satisfaction of making something yourself that may or may not be sonically relevant, I might caution against any dreams of being able to chance upon as winning a recipe as Corelli. Of course you could still buy one, saw open the sealed barrels then analyze their contents. But that would cost you not only a Corelli, you'd now need to pay a chemical or equivalent lab to run your analysis. Unless you were an unscrupulous commercial copycat, I don't see the appeal. Srajan

Mornin' Srajan, I have a question: I am happy with my combination of Kinki EX-M7 amp and Lumin X1 DAC/streamer/preamp. The Leedh Processing of the X1 is terrific and as you know, obviates the need for a très cher preamp. The M7 is not a balanced amp and I am wondering what I might be missing from a truly balanced amp.  The X1 is a balanced design and my brief research indicates that it would benefit from a connection to a balanced amp. As an aside, I had used Grimm XLs through the M7 convenience connections but changed to single-ended because I was getting a slight hum/buzz through the Grimm.  No noise whatsoever with Audio Art Cable Statement e-IC Cryo. Any thoughts? I might be missing the last ounce of SQ without a balanced amp but perhaps I am too greedy! All the best, Michael

"Greed is good" Gordon Gekko reminds us. And he was the man as long as it lasted. But, I'm far less sold on balanced vs. single-ended superiority. I run my Kinki monos RCA, my Enleum is RCA only, so is the upstairs Crayon. Meanwhile the DACs are all true balanced. I'm honestly not worried and it never occurred to me to think I might be missing anything; until now. Thanks a lot, sir. Kidding aside, in my mind we select an amp based on its sound, not how it goes about making it. If you go after a fully balanced amp, you may not like it as much as what you've got. Now if you did come across a fully balanced amp whose sound you preferred to the M7... then it would be sensible to compare RCA vs XLR connection to your source and see what sounds better. Shy of that, I'd not give it a second thought. Because then I don't have to, either. But I certainly would never shop for an amplifier because it is balanced. In fact many arguments speak against it. You need twice of everything; and to be good, that double trouble must essentially be perfectly mirror-imaged. In my mind that requirement just opens a back door for more potential slop and inaccuracies. I believe that the primary appeal of true balanced is pro audio where cable lengths can exceed 100 meters; and where lots of electronics combine. For home audio, balanced could well be overrated. But again, if I fell in love with an amp's sound then discovered it was balanced, I'd still buy it. It just would never be a primary or even secondary decider, just an 'okay then' feature. Srajan

Srajan, excellent advice, comme d'habitude! I shall (continue to) be happy with my system. By the way, as I survey my bits, I have these 6moons-reviewed products: Kinki EX-M7, Lumin X1, ASI LiveLine speaker and power cables, LessLoss Firewall for Speakers and Audio Art Cable e-IC Cryo Statement single-ended cables (actually, you only reviewed the AAC speaker cables but I suspect the single-ended cables hold the same attributes). Cheers, Michael

I currently have one of AAC's top AES/EBU digital cables on order to cover a 6m stretch. It's excellent stuff for a fair price. Srajan

Rob Fritz is excellent to work with, too. Michael

Indeed. That's a key ingredient of buying decisions. Srajan

Dear Mr. Ebaen, I hope this finds you and your loved ones well. Please forgive me for taking some of your valuable time yet again with one of my questions. I'm finally getting close to the point where I'll be able to star listening to my new-but-not-yet-quite-here stereo system (including a Yamamoto A-014 integrated amp with Cube Audio Bliss speakers) but I've run into an issue around the speaker cables. Due to room size, layout and placement constraints, I have two options: (A) run the cables up one wall halfway around the room along the crown molding and down the opposite wall for a total length of either 33 or 46 fee, depending on route, or (B) run flat speaker cables under the rug in a direct straight line for a total length of less than 15 feet. A salesperson at the local audiophile shop here in Berkeley whose opinion I consult often told me flatly that flat cables were garbage. If they are right about this, I wonder why would a company like Nordost which seems to enjoy a good reputation, sell them and some of their models at truly stratospheric prices? So my questions for you is this: from your experience, are flat speaker cables any good? Are they worse, comparable or better than round cross-section cables? Once again, thank you kindly for any input and best regards! Francisco Pance

I frankly don't have experience with flat speaker cables myself but a number of companies including AlphaCore Goertz make them. It's possible that your sales guy knows something about the particular cable brand you're considering and has a point but it wouldn't by default extend to all flat cables. As with all other product segments, there's excellent, normal and mediocre examples. Again, that particular sub group of flat cables I've not explored but many hifi electronics use so-called ribbon cables inside to connect various sub sections of circuit boards. So your sales guy may dismiss flat cables wholesale while he's listening to them without knowing it. See what I mean? Also, the oval cables from Analysis Plus aren't traditionally round but excellent. Those I have good experience with. I don't know just how low-profile a cable you're considering. "Paper-thin" ribbons could have unusual electrical parameters so that's something to check on for sure. But otherwise I'd not condemn them outright at all. Srajan

Greetings! I was reading your preview of the DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe. If you were interested, I can send you a hard drive with hundreds of ripped SACD as well as native DSD files for testing. I often find them to be superior to my high-res PCM files. It's all a crap shoot when you don't know mastering provenance (and that PCM conversion issue). When I was CEO of Pono working with Neil Young everyday, A/B testing these was part of my daily routine. Sony owns Columbia so Bob Dylan-ripped SACD are often my preferred; and he's my North star. And also in your review for Corelli, I could not agree more with regards to hierarchy of tweaks. I've become highly reliant on creating convolution filters using Roomeqwizard w/minidsp microphone for uploading to Roon (I can spend as much time dialing in these filters as messing with tweaks). It rendered a lot of the previous expensive equalization game with cables vastly overpriced. Roon lets you A/B easily and I go from happy face to sad face when the filter is off. I have also found that isolation under speakers (I'm on a second floor but never tested vs bottom floor) has come in second. My Balabo amp does its own AC line regeneration and my Mola Mola Makua claims to be AC line impervious. i have a custom 5KVA balanced isolation transformer but i hear no difference with it. - David Hyman

Hi Srajan, I just waded through your review of the LessLoss BlackGround 10X Power Base. Holy Smokes!  I can just hear the snickering over at Audio Science Review. Better mount your tin foil hat and enlist Don Quixote and Sancho to spar with those folks! Anyway, your review reminded me of another magic box reviewed by Jeff Day way back in February 2008. It was the Blue Moon-awarded Acoustic Revive RR-77, a Schumann pulse generator that provides a shield for electromagnetic pollution. Say what? The upshot is that in addition to providing a genuine sense of bonhomie, the little box strives to improve the music listening experience. I should know: after the review I purchased one and it still pulses in my audio cabinet! En garde! Cheers, Michael Fanning

See my earlier response to Rory a few entries down. It's why many reviewers avoid covering such products; or wait until the public tide of perception has accepted them. Srajan

Srajan, the main reason I read 6moons and often purchase reviewed product, is that your publication covers a wide swath of devices that don't see the light of day in the mainstream audio press. Plus, your writing in particular is so damn engaging that I'm getting both a review and a satisfying read. Michael

Dear Srajan, I've followed your subwoofer adventures and had a question. Those directional subs you like are passive. I know that you use the outboard icOn filter. But what do you recommend as the power amplifier to drive the woofers? Thanks very much, Christian

You're correct that neither the sound|kaos nor ModalAkustik Ripol subs include electronics inside their 'box' because exposing electronics to high air pressures is usually not the best of ideas. The icOn range of Gradient Boxes is growing and the designer already announced a third simplified version for later in Q1. For amplifiers anything of sufficient power and no noise will do. I get excellent results from a legacy Goldmund Job 225, a 125wpc class AB amp which at the time sold for €1'295. A lot of affordable 100-250wpc class D amplifiers should work really well. Whatever you pick won't work above  ~100Hz in most scenarios so class D's high damping and negative feedback actually are quite ideal. Srajan

Hello Srajan: I see you're about done with three monitors from Raidho and Scansonic. Though I appreciate your focus on stand mounts with your two subwoofers covering bass, I'm wondering whether you will shortly return to regular floorstanders for the rest of us who don't have subwoofers? I think it's a fair question. Best regards, Gerald 

I agree. It is a fair question. The answer is, I'll respond to review inquiries as I always have. With the Raidho/Scansonic triptych, I went after things I was personally interested in for a change. So it just depends on what speaker makers who approach want me to cover that'll determine what I write about in that sector. Any reason why you wouldn't consider a properly integrated subwoofer? Srajan

I prefer fewer boxes. Gerald 

Srajan, I see you're going down the rabbit hole again with your upcoming review of the latest LessLoss box. I've always been curious how reviewers judge the potential impact on their reputation for accepting assignments which many in their audience will view as bunk. I'm keeping an open mind but am all too aware how perception shapes reality. Best wishes, Rory

This is far from the first time I've accepted reviews assignments of things whose operating principle I didn't understand fully or even remotely. I'm simply curious. As to negative impact on one's reputation, I must have grown some skin over the years. Also, that kind of thing is always for others to judge. It's how they react. Unless they tell me, I have no idea. I simply feel that if one has the need to kowtow to the AudioScience review community in how one selects review gear, one ought to stay well clear of anything expensive and only pursue things whose measurable static distortion is ultra low. If one doesn't deliberately cater to that audience, one gets to explore unusual things. Some of them may not work; or have a benign effect but not work exactly how their inventor thinks they do their thing. To me that's more of an adventure than paint-by-numbers safety which measurement fans can't assail because it caters to their beliefs. Playing it safe is boring and a limit on learning.  And, as I've said plenty of times, I trust the intelligence of my readership. They can think for themselves just fine and agree, disagree or split the difference with my opinions or findings any day of the week and twice on Sunday. It's all good sport and harmless entertainment. And in-between all of that, hopefully some of it is useful as well. If so, I've done my little job and the rest isn't up to me so out of my hands and as such, not really my concern. If I make it my concern, it's really a waste of time. I have my experience which 1/ I can't prove, 2/ could be quite specific to me and my setup, 3/ I might not even fully understand. The job is in sharing my experiences honestly, nothing more. If I remember that, it's all quite uncomplicated. Now questions like yours remind me how much more complicated it could get if I forgot. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I've read your comments on using the Shanling player as a digital transport. Is it really good enough to use in your main system? I find the idea intriguing but must admit that the price and component type have me very doubtful. Love what you do though. Cheerio. Kevin

In all three of my systems, I use a USB bridge to buffer and reclock the incoming data. I'd very happily use the Shanling (or equivalent DAP) also into the big system's Singxer SU-6 bridge. The only reason why I'm not is that our 3TB local library is hosted on its iMac. It's why the Shanling shuttles back and forth between the upstairs and desktop systems. And yes, it's precisely because of your reaction that I wrote these comments. It's easily to overlook the category and diss its relevance for 'serious 'philes'. I see no reason to do either. Purist battery power. In my use, no connection to the Internet. No big-footprint OS onboard that would need to be managed. It really is a very streamlined solution dedicated to just music. Srajan

Srajan, any idea when the Z165 review will publish? Looking forward to your conclusion! Jamie

About a week ago I was told shipment was two weeks out so I expect delivery before Xmas which puts the conclusion into late January if all goes to plan. Srajan  

Hello Srajan, there's some interesting product emerging from the fertile engineering imagination of Angela/Gilbert Yeung (formerly Blue Circle), available through Entracte Audio. There are some rather novel concepts in evidence. Primary is the ability to beef up the power supply to almost insane capacitance levels by plugging in external capacitor modules. It's literally an ingenious plug 'n' play affair. No factory rebuild required. No disassembly required either. Just connect pack into rear panel receptor. The sceptic would argue against the need for such an overbuilt power supply but even casual listening proved that while a little more is better, drastically more is highly preferable. The second new product that caught my eye and ear was the C312 preamplifier. First point of interest is a simulated solid-state tube circuit. That alone is intriguing but Angela/Gilbert push their implementation in a fresh direction. The unit sports 3 adjustable gain stages plus a final master volume control. A master input stage feeds both a 'tube' and solid-state stage in parallel and those can be intermixed to create whatever character from old-school tube to SS precision the listener considers their ultimate. And if tastes change, no need for a new preamp. Just readjust the settings. Yes the capacitor power modules are accommodated and yes, the final output volume control has a simple remote for creature comfort. That's it from the sidelines. Cheers, Glen Wagenknecht

I've been enjoying very much my Raal SR1a/Jotunheim R pair as well as DMAX Super Cubes and use them much as you are, as super nearfields and the Raals as audio electron microscopes. The informative bass showed me that Paul McCartney does make the odd clam. I never knew! In the interest of experimentation I intend to add to the Cubes a pair of my Yamaha servo subs. Those are available super cheap on the used market and sound fabulous. They're all over Nashville studios, apparently. The unhyped nature of the Cubes' bass coupled with the very steep rolloff suggests that this might work. As you know, marrying subs successfully is usually impossible without the full-range feed to the mains being brutally high-passed to eliminate the bass hump and reflex resonance designed in to suggest bass extension that isn't there. I still continue to admire your writing and turn everyone on to 6moons who will listen. I have also recommended to discerning musicians your amazing listing of world music - a very valuable resource for me. Season's greetings to you and Ivette. Russell 

I'm most pleased to hear that you find the Raal and DMAX recos to meet your sonic taste standards. Let me know how you get on mating the SC5 to your subs. That does sound intriguing. Best wishes to you and yours as well, for this season and the next. Srajan

I hate to bother you with this question, I own a Taiko Extreme and Aurender N30 both costly. Today I hooked up my friend's MacBook Pro with Roon for kicks. I honestly don't see a need for more. I see you used an iMac. Are you still using this as your main music source? I'm curious because I know you could use whatever you wanted. Thanks, Rodney Ulbrich

Affirmative on the iMac. This is one of my main pet peeves in fact. "Computers suck for audio." It's patently bullshit. One just must obey a bit of common sense. First, dedicate your machine to audio, naught else. Second, install extra RAM. Third, install a music player like Audirvana, Euphony, JRiver, PureMusic, Roon et al and set it to its strictest protocol. That will virtually disable your computer for all tasks other than audio and eliminate 'background chatter' of unnecessary computing threads. That player software will also dump your playback album or list to memory to spin down the main drive. Hence the extra RAM. Four, output to a USB bridge like a Singxer or Soundaware which acts as buffer/reclocker between PC/Mac and DAC. That's it. It's exactly the same protocol which overpriced audiophile servers use. But our way costs a fraction and isn't headless but gives us a full-size screen of high resolution with a mouse and full-size keyboard to access all subscription streaming clients plus Spotify, YouTube & Bros. So yes, I see or hear no need for more either. It's why I'm still on my iMac and don't plan on 'trading up' anytime soon. You're right, I could use anything else. I'm just not moved to. Srajan

Hello Srajan: Are you sure about your pricing for the Qualio IQ speaker? I followed up your preview by hopping onto their site and Shopify shows €11'000 for a pair, not the €5'500 you reference. That's a huge difference. So which is it? Please clarify that for me. James

Of course you could ask them directly. You'd learn that it's an error of the generic Shopify code which apparently isn't intuitively set up for product that sells in pairs. The correct number is €5'500/pr and Qualio already know that their webshop code still needs to be customized to not double the price when a user enters '2' thinking it to be units. The interface should clearly state 'pair' so that you correctly enter just '1'. In any case, rest assured that what I published is correct. I confirmed it with them and am sure that they'll have it fixed pronto to avoid confusion. Srajan

Srajan, one quick comment on your latest AMP-23R syndication. I think you've approached over exposure for this brand and model. Surely there's tons of other deserving stuff you could cover for a change than one more opinion on the same piece. Cheerio, Sal

That's one position to take. Another is that many readers enjoy multiple opinions even if they spread out across multiple reviews rather than being formatted into one long feature. Also, Enleum ordered this syndication and it's not my policy to turn down orders. Like everyone else I work to eat. And eating happens at least once a day every day to mean constancy in replenishing the larder which takes money. Simple as that. Srajan

Srajan, I quite enjoyed your paean to Alain Pratali and Franck Tchang in the Z165 preview. As I think you know, based on one of your reviews I journeyed many years ago from my then-home in central France to Paris to meet with Franck and to pick up a loom of his bespoke interconnects, power cord and speaker wire. After a lovely lunch close to his atelier, I met Franck who regaled me with a tour of his shop and then a spirited guitar playing session. I left his atelier in high spirits. There's something in the Gallic blood that animates people such as Alain and Franck. They aren't content with the status quo and we are their happy beneficiaries. Actually, the same could be said of you and your team who give us access to products that many in the mainstream audio media eschew. All the best, Michael Fanning

Dear Srajan: I can't be certain but it seems that your preview section recently lost a number of links which I noticed when I looked to check on certain updates. Did you suddenly have to cancel a number of reviews due to unavailability or other reasons? Just checking to confirm that I'm not mad. Julian

You're not mad. Certain previews had been up for too long to now be put on ice until their suspects show up at my door; if they ever do. Another review recently was pulled because in the shipper's country there was no option to ship a pair of bigger speakers in separate cartons weighing more than 34kg/ea. They had to go on one big pallet which I can receive but not return properly since that would require a garage or otherwise covered area to protect it from our rain. So no, your sanity remains intact, Julian. In our previous digs I had a 3-bay horse barn for storage and a covered back porch. In the present house I use a spare bathroom for indoor storage of review boxes. That limits the size of what I can accept; and counts out big pallets which I can't assemble indoors to be picked up. Srajan

Hi Srajan, did you see this? Knowing that you wrote for him during your early days, I thought of you when looking at Doug's posts in this thread. It's odd that he would insert himself in this way to dig at a competitor when none of it has anything to do with the thread's subject matter. Perhaps you get a chuckle out of it. Cheers. Brandon

I just took a look, Brandon. Thanks for parking a little turd on my front yard. More wince than chuckle. Well off-topic in a thread about a loudspeaker covered by a competitor. Not sure what else to say? I prefer to attend to my own house not worry about how others maintain or decorate theirs. Publishers in this sector serve a quite limited audience. I prefer to look at it as a collaborative effort that's spread across different media and outlets but united in contributing to the bottom line of a global database of hifi-related information. Why quibble over different styles and presentations? That strikes me as a bit petty. But we all have our off days. If we live them out on a public forum, we might soon come to regret how we came across. Srajan

Srajan, with your well documented enthusiasm for Raal's ribbon headphones, are you planning to review their new CA-1a? I admit that it looks just as funky but being able to use it on a normal headphone amplifier makes it more palatable to me. I just wonder whether it can keep up sonically with the original? José

Raal haven't asked me to review them and I don't buy things to do a review so nothing is currently on the books. For opinions you'll have to look elsewhere I'm afraid. And agreed on the look; from SteamPunk to Funk. Srajan

Good to see mention of Crayon amps again Srajan, it's been a stable reference and steadily selling brand here in NZ since first landing them in 2013. Customers stray to try other amps but most often return to Crayon. The excellent preamp and pre-out on the discontinued CFA often gets used even with other amps. The volume pot bypass on the CIA1-T was a feature I requested on first hearing the original CIA (for amp-only use with Linear Tube preamps and others). Enleum's 23R has found a great match in Wolf von Langa's Chicago - though a little less bass grip than the CIA1-T on electronica, the 23R has elevated performance well beyond its cost. I'd struggle to name a valve amp at multiples of that price I'd rather want to own. As for solid state, in a class of its own given an easy speaker load. Regards, Peter Hardie

Srajan, you outdid yourself with the latest Raidho review. The enthusiasm is palpable but so are your sonic qualifiers and the music samples you picked. I just have one question. Will there be a Raidho in your own future? Cheers, Caleb

I am most tempted, of course. Whilst the flesh is strong, the wallet could be weak though. When I first switched back to my resident monitors, I still felt the loss of resolution and gilded illumination strongly. But then I moved some hardware around to end up with a different mains amp. Between its slightly different tonal balance and my hearing readjusting, I've already overcome the first wave of bad temptation. Give it a few more weeks of forgetfulness and I might get away unscathed. But if I had the spare scratch right now, I almost certainly would add a Raidho to my collection. I'm still close enough to the experience to feel the pull. Reason reminds me that I don't need one more stand mount. Greed claims that one can never have enough sharp tools in the shed. So we'll see who of the two wins. At the end of the day and while I still review intensely, I only get to listen to my system, as is, occasionally. Most of the time some other loaner is in there which changes the aroma. That's not the ideal circumstance to enjoy an expensive new acquisition in its very best light. If one can't guarantee hardware stability and sufficient one-on-one time, perhaps such an acquisition is premature? That's the reviewer's curse. If you love your system just the way it is, don't start reviewing. You'll end up on a treadmill of constant change when what you really want is stability. Srajan

Hi Srajan, thank you very much! Wow. What a review. Your writing is truly outstanding. Tell me, what's the difference between a Blue Moon and Lunar Eclipse Award? Thanks. Kind regards, Morten Kim Nielsen, Raidho

Our Lunar Eclipse award is exceedingly rare. In our 20 years of business, we've given it out perhaps six times so far so this is probably just the 7th. Srajan

Hello Mr. Ebaen, I hope this finds you well. First off, thank you so much for all the hard work entailed in preparing the reviews on 6moons. Your website is virtually my only reliable reference when it comes to gear reviews. Also and on an entirely different wavelength, I hope that the ramifications and repercussions of what's going on in the Ukraine are as light as possible on your country. My father was born in Slovenia, which with just Hungary sits between it and the Ukraine. I grew up on stories told by refugees and escapees of all sorts of authoritarian European regimes left and right. So, to the point—and apologies for taking some of your valuable time with such a pedestrian question—but is there any contest in 'musicality' between a Nakamichi OMS-7 CD player + Nakamichi SR-4A receiver and a more recent combo like a Luxman D-N150 CD player + SQ-N150 integrated amp for instance; or even a higher-priced Luxman rig?

The reason I'm asking is because the former combo, manufactured in the mid-80s with which I'm satisfied, is beginning to show glitches that sadly not even a recognized Nakamichi technician like Mr. Willy Hermann who has his shop on the other side of the hills from Berkeley and has been beyond kind with advice, will endeavour to repair. In other words, once my old combo gives up the ghost, I'll need to find something else. I've been eyeing the same exact combo on eBay but then I wonder how long I'll be able to enjoy the magic of those Phillips TDA1540D chips when I'm willing to spring for something way more expensive. Another way to ask this question is this: Is there a newer DAC chip that can compete with the TDA1540D on musicality?

And just to clarify, that rig is just for CD. I'm in the process of putting together a totally analog LP rig around a Yamamoto A014 amp also based on the glowing reviews on 6moons,and I have an SET 300B Woo Audio WA5-LE headphone amp hooked to the turntable. Thank you again and kind regards. Francisco Pance

Hello Francisco, given that your kit was built ca. 40 years ago means that progress was made in the interim. I understand your loyalty to the TDA1540D sound and would suggest looking at the Denafrips brand via They design discrete R2R ladder DACs so execute the old Phillips principle off chip. We've reviewed a number of their models and I have the flagship in my upstairs system. To my ears, that would set you on the proper path in a cost-effective fashion so peruse their catalogue and select the model that meets your price. They all use the same converter principle, just successively beef up the power supply, tighten up parts tolerances and add features and socketry. I'm not familiar with the Luxman CDP so can't comment. As to the Ukraine conflict, I was born in Germany but have lived abroad since my early 20s. After living in Switzerland for about 8 years, we've now been on Ireland's west coast for already four which puts us as far west as Europe gets. Srajan 

Mr. Ebaen, thank you kindly for the answer to my questions. And apologies for the geographical mixup. I thought you were based in Poland. Ireland is, as you say, as far West as one can go while still in Europe. Kind regards. Francisco

No problem. Poland, Germany, Ireland... it's all one world. We just don't treat it that way. Srajan

Morning Srajan, à la Vinnie Ross whose products I once purchased under his Red Wine Audio line and who eventually went into Michelin-star territory with his eponymously branded gear, Kinki Studio now venture into the white tablecloth space. Did I read correctly? Preamp at $20K and monos at $25K? Perhaps they meant Singapore dollars? No matter, I fear this 'leap of faith' may even confound St. Augustine. Reviews to come? All the best, Michael

Definite 5-star turf. Didn't see that comin' ! Srajan

Srajan, I wouldn't have been surprised with, say sub $10K US for their new products but this is over the top for a Chinese brand with limited brand recognition and no worldwide servicing. I'll be curious about their plans!  At the moment though it seems a serious misstep. Michael  

I still got my head in the sand trying to get it back out. I'll report back if I learn more. Srajan

Hello Srajan, in your icOnic introduction I see you're being passively aggressive. Lovely to see. Keep being journalistically judgmental and mind the gavel! "Surely you can't be serious. Yes I can, and don't call me Shirley." Best wishes from the spectator section, Glen Wagenknecht

Yeah - hitting myself with the gavel would be painful, wouldn't it? Enjoy your retirement, Glen! Srajan

Hi Srajan, do you still have/use your Track Audio stands? That review you did all those years ago prompted me to buy a pair back then. It's the best purchase I ever made and despite changing all my gear many times those stands will always stay. I am never selling them. If you are a 2-way guy like we are, you do not know what your monitors are capable of unless they are on stands like those. Many guys are missing out on knowing their speaker's true potential. Track Audio just seemed to drop off the map and their website looks like it hasn't been updated in 10 years. Kind regards, Jonas Harrow

Likewise, Jonas. Still have 'em and never the two shall part. Like you I took a look-see at their website throughout the years and it does seem that they're no longer operational, i.e. the website remains in limbo until a prepaid hosting contract expires is my guess. Srajan

Srajan, I see you're on a solid Raidho trip. It's a great idea to review three of their small monitors so we learn what more money buys. Or not? The price spread is huge so that part will be very interesting. Will you have them all side by side at one point by any chance? Chris

The X1t is already packed up ready to return. The MB1 B won't be available in wood veneer for another two months though I could of course get the gloss black in inventory. The TD1.2 is coming in very shortly but at €20K/pr, I couldn't in good conscience hold onto it until the Scansonic trundles in. So no in situ comparisons. I'll be using the same systems however to get as close to meaningful hints about sonic differences as I can. Here a shout-out is due to Dantax who've been amazingly prompt to respond and happy to accommodate my requests. It's not just a matter of finding fun stuff to write about. It must be available to ship; and makers willing to ship to Ireland and back. In these days of skyrocketing ship fees, serious delays on parts and many Chinese factories closed which build things like speaker cabinets, none of that is as easy as it used to be. Fair question however about side-by-side comparisons. That's the only real way to do them. I didn't enter the X1t review with any intentions to expand into more Dantax monitors. The experience was simply so impressive that I thought "why not ask". I aimed at the most budget-friendly Scansonic next but Raidho so happened to have a traveling TD1.2 demonstrator on hand first. I'm obviously stoked to learn what more Raidho can do with a scaled-up X1t concept when money is no issue. So that's how this happened. Dumb luck you might say! Srajan

Hello Srajan, as someone who really enjoys your website and would like to read more, what other audio websites can you recommend to me that will offer content of similar quality? I'm not into videos or headphones. Cheers, Jared

I'd single out Christiaan Punter's HFA aka Hifi Advice; and Roy Gregory's Gy8. Srajan

Srajan, hope you are well. Compelled to reach out. I must say following your lead can be a pretty fun ride. My listening for the past 12 years has been in the same smaller office room, well treated but not ideal. My system is long settled: Grimm Mu1, Mola Mola Dac, icOn 4Pro balanced pre, Musiklab D220 amp, Lessloss cables and more Lessloss filters than I care to admit. Most recent addition this summer was a Modalakustic sub, thank you as well for that. Whole new level of understanding and sound. My weakness is speakers. Guitars, motorcycles, bicycles, it's all the same thing. I see one and just want to ride it, play it or in the case of speakers, hear what they have to offer. To me they are where audio's artisans live. I even once bought a pair of Kroma from you. The past 6 months I have been on a bit of a crossover-less driver journey. Something is undeniably true in them. Went so far as to build a line array with three 3" Audience widebanders per side that turned out very well and was satisfying to build.

So when I read your DMAX SC5 review, I had to hear them since they are affordable and intriguing in concept. I figured they would quickly move into my work office after a day or so in my 'main' home office system. Well - school has been in session in my system this past month. They are dismantling everything I thought I had learnt over the years about what elevates sound; or more specifically, what you can clearly count on to produce less than stellar sound. Nothing is ideal in the audiophile sense with their place in my system. The icOn passive preamp for whatever reason (probably its high current) overdrove and clipped the A/D converters on the input of the DMAX amp. The buffered high pass of my Sublime K231 crossover solved that but not without several cheap TRS/XLR jumpers from Amazon. Nothing fancy about the 50wpc DMAX amp, cheap and slightly noisy Wells $30 SMPS, class D module sourced from God knows where. Analog Devices DSP and chip converters mucking up king Mola.

All of that quickly melts away when you hear what Andrew's math does to create a point-source speaker with flat response and little to no induced phase shift. It's the latter that I believe produces such a superb full-bodied, fast and totally transparent presentation. I have been listening for weeks trying hard to identify the grunge, artifacts, glare and sibilance that should accompany this pro-audio road show but it's exactly the opposite. Synced with the Modal sub crossed at 80Hz and the Cube mains, the soundfield is one and and full range with zero holes, the window deep and open. The Mola is putting on an absolutely unfiltered show of its capabilities. I wish Andrew's DSP could handle the icOn's output so I could run the Cube full range and remove the K231 buffers from the mains just for the experience of it.

I'll probably be disappointed but Andrew does make a DSP-only module for the SC5 that I must ry so I can insert my Musiklab amp into the chain to drive the Cubes. But the way things have been going, that will likely be for naught or even a downgrade. LOL. No regrets, it's the fun in all of this to me, staying open to trial and error, not being hung up on cost or reputation and setting yourself up so every once in a while gear may come into your space and crash 25 years of what you thought you knew. Best, Paul Petelin

Good man. Taking risks is the only way to learn. I've made a job of it so I don't have to buy everything first but it's the very same curiosity that makes me tick. Happy travels. Srajan

Srajan, don't know how much you chatted with Andrew about how they go about selecting a pair of SC5 but it's pretty remarkable and instructive. They eliminate a ton of drivers right off the bat because they are too peaky and require too much DSP correction. This is not a low-quality driver. Then they look to match pairs not only on sensitivity but on where and how much DSP is applied in the FR comp. Once they get a pair of troublemakers with 'equal' mug shots, that pair get its specific solution. I learnt this simply because I happened to mention to Andrew that I bought a pair of SB drivers with the black aluminum cone from Madisound which I planned to install simply because I like the more subtle look of black. He laughed and said, good luck with that. Yesterday the black drivers arrived. I already knew that I was sending them back but for kicks I threw a black driver into the left speaker. Sat back and - laughed. Destroyed the whole thing. The left speaker was off completely in another universe and lo and behold, edgy in the upper midrange not because it wasn't broken in. It's starting to become clear to me how we accept all of these compromises and uncontrolled pair-to-pair randomness even between left/right channel in just about every speaker as part of the limitations and inefficiency of the conversion to mechanical energy. Pretty remarkable effort that Andrew puts into these. Paul

I didn't know that. Explains a few things in hindsight. Srajan

Slippery slope here for you into the pro world. Explains however to a degree why many audiophiles who have dabbled in DSP in fairly dialed mature systems do not appreciate its effects and frequently relegate it to 200Hz and below. They may be blaming what they hear to off-the-shelf components and chip converters rather than the possibility that the more FR compensation you apply, the greater the phase disruptions. Paul

My amp/DSP came to me as I mentioned slightly defective. It had a small mechanical buzz and faint noise at the speaker at idle coming from a noisy SMPS. So this weekend I began swapping the innards of the amp/DSP into a nicer Hammond chassis and bought an upgraded $100 Connex 24v SMPS highly regarded in DIY circles for low noise, high efficiency and very low EMI. Should work well on paper so I plan to to install more traditional hardware so I can easily swap in the SC5 for long sessions on weekends and just leave them on using my normal cabling. One of the most consistent traits regardless of downstream ancillaries with my front end of Grimm/Mola/icOn has been very high magnification of the entire bandwidth with quick reflexes but complete absence of textural dryness or digital fingerprinting. This was true even with stock Tannoy monitors with a less than refined 90s' titanium tweeter and very cheap filters that don't measure well. My more recent Audience home-build paralleled 3" widebanders with no filter were pure too and very revealing drivers. Costly 2-way monitors I've had in-house all sounded superb as well. I've had nothing sound even close to poor in this room for a very long time, even pre Grimm/Mola when I was using Denafrips.

So I hooked the SC5 up sans DSP to my Musiklab amp just to have something play while I worked. My expectation was low but wow was it bad running the SC5 full range and bypassing the HP outputs of my K231 set at 80Hz. The sound was so brittle and anemic that I had to shut it off after about 20 minutes. To many, this source combo is in the conversation with the very best and will certainly be my Redbook reference for a very long time. Which begs the question, is all that unwantedness really possible at the very last interface, the driver being naked and botching things uo so egregiously? And if so, how is it then so satisfyingly manipulated by Andrew's little wonde board with no evidence of loss from experienced listeners and pros but becoming a miracle of a window into the recorded space? If that is in fact cause, then it would seem possible that it has always been the source of the vast majority of what we consider bad sound. If so, what a shame and waste blaming all the wrong things for so long. I do know this, there's a ton of digital manipulation going on with these and I couldn't care less when it's in place and I couldn't care more when it was pulled. Paul

Compared to all the wrongs speakers can do and usually doodoo, virtually anything preceding them behaves very saint like on raw percentile deviations from linearity and low distortion. What seems to surprise you is how unacceptably bad this driver in this sealed box sounds with zero correction. I don't believe SB designed it for solo duty in the first place, only that Andrew identified it as a good affordable base for his approach. In either case, with everything preceding the speaker being snow white, a single stage of concluding black mucks up the lot. Mega DSP voodoo outshining presumed hardware limitations seems to be the upshot here. Srajan

Yes agreed. It's the degree of manipulation I'm imagining that really speaks to its power. I assume that I have a good-enough ear to know when something is miles away from where it needs to be; or where it had been in this case. I had mentioned to you my educated guess when I first heard them given the small sealed box that the midband and mid/ ower bass had to have been lifted significantly and the upper midrange and treble likely toned down. If you heard them straight, you would agree 100%. A threadbare, glaring, recessed and flat midband, a bright forced sibilant treble and nothing else below is what stares back at you sans DSP. To take that sound to the other side with 1s and 0s does not speak well to all the efforts and monies audiophiles pile into their systems trying to fix this and tame that; particularly in complex systems with complex crossovers. What it suggests is perhaps at least the possibility that a great deal of haphazard, poorly designed, doomed and occasionally very expensive speakers with perhaps even suboptimal electronics feeding them can be elevated way beyond our comfort level with a unique DSP solution that includes phase correction. Source remains king in this equation I would imagine. DSP cannot manipulate that which isn't there in the first place. But how many very good and affordable digital sources are there these days? Well, plenty as you know. Paul

I disagree about source still being king here. The SC5's DSP currently only takes an analog input signal so that's what it looks like to you. But what if we could feed it a direct digital signal and chuck all the gold-plated costly audiophile converters we're currently preceding it with? I bet they'd prove redundant then. Srajan

Dear Mr. Srajan, thank you very much for your wonderful review!  Can I link to it from my website? JianHui Deng

You most certainly can. I'm very interested to look into one of your DSD converters next. Could this be arranged? Srajan 

A DSDAC1.0 is in the hands of Mr. Carsten at Audio.Next and Dirk Sommer is already scheduled to review it. You could contact Mr. Carsten later? JianHui Deng

Mr. Carsten prefers to work exclusively with the German press like because that's his market. I already asked him to cooperate with review samples of other brands he represents. He told me he's not interested in working with an English-speaking magazine. But it's not a problem. He'll pursue Cen.Grand reviews for you with the German magazines he has working relationships with. Srajan 

Several UK distributors contacted me for cooperation already. Samples could come from one of them. English magazines are more influential than German ones. JianHui Deng

I agree. English magazines have a far bigger reach. That's why I approached Mr. Carsten in the first place. I thought he'd be interested in getting more exposure for his many brands. Also, most Germans today speak and read English very well and his samples are already inside the EU to reduce the shipping burdens on his manufacturers. Alas, he wasn't interested, period. Once you establish a UK importer/distributor, it will be easy to organize more 6moons reviews from there. Let me know when that time comes. I'm very impressed with Cen.Grand and would love to give you more exposure. Srajan 

Hi Mr. Ebaen. Me, another time. Let’s hope you can help me. As I said in my previous email, I was really interested in the Cube Audio Nenuphar. Weeks ago I had the opportunity of hearing them. I really like very much many things but to my ears, something was missing. I’m going to hear them soon again with different amplification and in a different room. Lately one speaker is also getting my attention that you know very well: Boenicke. Some questions:

It is said that soundstage in Boenicke’s is outstanding. It’s true? What’s your opinion? If I'm not mistaken they are three models of the W8 and three models of the W11: the standard, the SE and the SE+ with important differences in price. What are the differences between each model? Which one do you recommended? Is the W11 the best buy in your opinion (quality/price relation) or is the W8 the best? I really like rock. In your opinion are the Boenicke capable of this type music? Am I going to miss anything? I know that they are not big boxes but I read a lot of positive comments saying that they have great bass. Amplification: It is said the they are power hungry. Sven Boenicke talks well about an integrated you also know very well: the Kinki EX-M1. Is that a good combo? Any other recommendation?

Thanks so much for your interest. Stay healthy, Juan

Sven Boenicke would be the best man on the planet to explain the standard, SE and SE+ versions since few others will have heard all three side by side. Plus he knows exactly what technically distinguishes them and how that relates to performance. Nobody else does. Likewise for power recommendations. He'd be the best man to ask. What model is 'best' is always relative to your room, listening levels and budget. Only you can answer that. When set up with lots of breathing room as Boenicke speakers always are at shows, they do image/soundstage spectacularly. You might also like to ask Dawid Grzyb at HifiKnights who has reviewed more Boenicke speakers than I and in fact owns two different models. He too could give you some very specific amplifier tips. Srajan

Hi Srajan, reading your review, it seems that your main complaint was the lack of emotional attachment (being too clean/cool) - did you try using them on a tube preamp by any chance? The way it sounds is a conscious choice. Some people like it, others don't. But to some extent, this can be balanced out or counteracted with some mixing & matching with the source device. One of our customers had some good things to say about that combo (Première + tube pre). Noel Neu

I didn't have a tube preamp on hand so couldn't make that test. Otherwise I'd have mentioned it. With reviewers, it's usually always "if we did it, we said so, if we didn't say so, we didn't do it". As clearly outlined in my review, I tried three different sources: Sonnet Pasithea; iFi iDSD Pro Signature, and Oppo BDP-105D. I only inserted the Wyred4Sound transistor preamp because your 4V input sensitivity had me run out of gain before I got loud enough. But I didn't try to strategically mold the sound of your active speakers. I simply described what I heard in three different systems. If one wanted more tuneability, allowing users access to frequency-domain tweaks in DSP like Kii do it with their Controller could be conceptually ideal with this DSP speaker? Srajan

Hi Srajan, don't know if you read this. According to the newspaper article, MoFi claimed its expensive reissues were purely analog reproductions. It had been deceiving its customer base for years. Gee, should I only listen to DSD files from now on? Best regards, and a wonderful summer filled with great music. Didier 

Not being into vinyl, I'd not come across this brouhaha before. Truth in advertising and the slaughter of sacred cows, huh? Srajan

Hello Srajan. I have been following your reviews with great interest, notably your recent subwoofer tests for hifi integration. Your upcoming Børresen review is exiting me. My system consists of a fanless SSD PC server from with Audirvana Studio and a Dirac Live license not used right now, an Aqua La Scala MkII Dac pre Optologic, a Gryphon Diablo 250 with 2 RCA sub outs and Raidho bookshelf speakers (50Hz–50kHz, 6Ω, 85dB). In a 50m² room, I am indeed thinking of adding a subwoofer if my wife permits. Needless to say that with your upcoming review of Børresen bookshelf speakers not unrelated to the Raidho speakers, I will be most interested to read about your thoughts and tests of their proper audiophile integration with a subwoofer and how, should you think you even need extra bass in your larger room. I am wondering whether a 'mere' Dynaudio 18S would bring something to the table using my amp's sub out or for that matter a REL's both praised and hated high-level connection, notably a REL Carbon Special or white S812 (but are these any better than a closed double woofer 18S?); whether to use the Dirac Live VST3 plugin or not inside Audirvana; whether to buy an expensive crossover or other device to manage bass between monitors and a sub; or several of these solutions together? About the latter you have also covered much ground in your reviews and raised many interesting points. Have a nice day. Looking forward to your reviews. Best regards, Didier Gras, Bordeaux, France

A few things. The Børresen X3 won't be a monitor but 4-driver 2½-way floorstander. For extension, it probably won't really need a subwoofer. My rationale for the big sub is its cardioid dispersion pattern and velocity converter not pressure generator principle. It also acts as free room treatment across its bandwidth so has far superior stop/go from much reduced reflections. It's not primarily about bolting on more raw extension though with most speakers, that also factors. I've gotten best results from hi/lo-pass integration so REL's approach doesn't work for me. I've not experimented with Audirvana plug-ins of late but did try an embedded digital EQ during a long-ago Spatial review. I don't see why a digital crossover embedded in Audirvana couldn't work very well. Because our upstairs is a PC-free zone, I've gone down the active analog route which comes at an obvious cost relative to a plug-in. With your Raidho monitor, I guarantee that crossing at say 80Hz to a capable sub will not only give you more bass extension but much increased dynamics and lower distortion for the monitor which no longer sees any low bass at all; and more snap and impact in music's power region. I ended up with the Dynaudio 18S because it specs virtually identical to the €2'500 consumer model minus a fancier finish; and because I wanted a sealed force-cancelling design of compact dimensions. John Darko gets excellent results with DSP-based smart bass management à la Lyngdorf/NAD super integrateds. I've tried DSP filtering with a Bel Canto DAC. That too worked very well. It also eliminates the extra box of my outboard analog filter. You'd obviously need a 4-channel DAC or two stereo DACs to filter digitally. Back to the X3 review, that's not entirely confirmed yet since the responsible parties in Denmark are currently on vacation. I'll know by early August whether that's a go; in which case first production is planned for October so nothing really imminent. Srajan

... but why on earth is it so complicated or expensive to keep one's existing components and do a high and low pass for a stereo pair and sub? Best regards. Didier

My sentiments precisely. It's why I'm so keen on Pál's Gradient Box to finalize (first working proto promised for end of this month). It'll be the problem solver for those of us smart enough to have that problem in the first place. Srajan

By the way, I am sure you are aware of the REL rhetoric about high pass filtering. And from Grimm :"Still the conclusion from Section 3 remains valid that for high quality transparent well-controlled low-frequency sound reproduction one should use a closed-box enclosure. In two other papers it is shown that the favourable time response can even be further improved by active velocity or acceleration feedback." So no REL. But isn't the Dunaudio precisely designed for pro monitors? Didier

Until we have personal experience, all is rethoric. I've tried REL's approach and am very familiar with it. I much prefer what I do now so can only speak to that. I've reviewed the Grimm velocity-feedback subs. The only thing 'pro' about the Dynaudio are the built-in filter settings optimized for their own Pro-range monitors. But you can bypass their filter entirely or set it to the values you like. Their online manual has all the details Srajan

A last question Srajan, which may be of interest to those like me reading your reviews: any chance the 2021 SPL Sound Performance Lab crossover will be completed do you think? Best regards, Didier.

Their regional importer SPL referred me to isn't willing to send me a loaner so that review has been cancelled, sorry. Srajan

Dear Srajan, am I wrong thinking that you had the new Rethm Trishna in your lineup of previews? It's gone now. Does that mean it's cancelled; or just delayed because of availability issues which seem to plague everyone at the moment? Sheamus 

In the current climate, one-way shipping from India to Ireland alone was exorbitant. Add 23% VAT to get into the country. Add shipping back to India. Add re-importation fees. Current realities conspired against making this happen. So yes, it's been cancelled. Even supply chain challenges factored on their 8Ω woofers though that part did become available again I was told. In countries where Rethm have distribution, it'll be far easier to organize temporary review loaners. Michael Lavorgna already took receipt of Aarka for his website. In due time I'd expect that bigger Rethms will land in the US to find their way into sundry reviewer rooms. Rethm simply have no distribution in Ireland or the UK. So not everything we plan on or would like to do happens. Srajan

Hello Srajan, hope all is well. Due to lack of space and another major move, I sold my beloved ATC EL 150A after some 13 years. For the interim I've been considering an all-in-one active system such as D&D 8C or even the latest KEF LS60. But after reading your recent review of the Audio Physic Spark monitors, I am quite interested in adding them to my shortlist. I couldn't quite work out what amplifiers you tried with the Spark other than Enleum. All the best., Mevlut Dinc

Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos. Srajan

Srajan, now that your Pink Faun 2.16 ultra review has wrapped, any chance you'll be reviewing Taiko's Extreme next? As you suggested in your extro, it's likely the most direct competitor and priced similar. It would be great to read what the sonic differences might be. Cheers, Simon

M&H already reviewed and awarded the Extreme so I doubt the firm would want another review. Also, the Pink Faun will be picked up today to return to The Netherlands. It won't be around for any comparisons. In short, there's no direct A/B in the wind even if Emile Bok of Taiko were to contact me for a review like Jord Groen of Pink Faun did a few weeks back. But again, I see no reasons why Emile would. Certainly whoever gets to hear those two machines side by side won't be me. Srajan

Remember the Schiit Loki Max? Will try one out tomorrow. Vince

I never got one but it could be an effective tool to dial in a bit of LF lift with your sub. Srajan

First impressions are poor. With all knobs at 12 o'clock, the sound level is 6dB down versus with the EQ off. To maintain the original level one would have to set all knobs at 3PM which increases hum and limits the equalizer's functionalities. Despite positioning it far away from electromagnetic sources on Hifistay feet, it still injects an unhealthy dose of hum even at 12 o'clock (fully balanced XLR connections from Tambaqui into icOn 4SE into Schiit into Amp-23R, all components fed by Puritan). The improvement of boosting 20Hz by +3/6dB is noticeable and positive. Unfortunately the Schiit reduces the soundstage, timbres are less precise, highs lose color/air and the overall experience goes down three notches. I tried placing the Schiit between Tambaqui and icOn 4SE. All the issues amplify by a factor of 1.5. I'll let it run in for a few days but am not optimistic it's a keeper. In a way it makes me understand why it takes Pal such efforts to do what he does. Vince

Reading up on the big inductors and their open admission for hum potential, that part of the design had me concerned without user feedback or reviews to the contrary. We know that the icOn and Enleum are ultra quiet and the icOn adds no gain so it's sad to hear that the hoped-for improvement in the LF is so much offset by an audible increase in noise. That makes me glad I resisted an impulse buy. Thanks for letting me know! Srajan

"What if a DAC already cooks at two Michelin stars (from your Aether preview)?" I guess the answer is that it could aspire to three Michelin stars, the ne plus ultra rating chez Michelin. On the other hand, if one had a more prosaic DAC, it might be rated a Bib Gourmand. What, pray tell, is that?  An inspector favorite: good value for the money. How do I know these things?  When I was an active employee, my team at Michelin North America helped launch the Michelin Guides in North America. The French director of the guide once asked me to create an icebreaker for him with US journalists. Knowing that many of them would ask what it was like to be an inspector for the guide, I suggested he tell them, "being an inspector for the Michelin Guide is like being in the witness protection program... (artful pause)... only the food is much better." Cheers, Michael Fanning

Hi Srajan, I was about to wish you well then realized that I don't need to, you're one of the lucky few who haven't had the C-virus as yet. Have you ever had a listening room with suspended wooden floors? Did you need to do anything to damp the floor of sympathetic resonances ? I feel I'm losing bass because of a suspended wooden floor. Cheers, David Masilamoni

Indeed, no C19 yet and that without any vaccinations. As to your question, yes but not exactly how you may think. It's not that I damp the floor. I simply prevent the gear, speakers and sub from sinking energies into it. That relies on decouplers so the opposite of spikes. We want to disrupt the transmission of mechanical resonances into the floor where they amplify and propagate. Coupling a subwoofer to a floor is no different than coupling a subwoofer to the chassis of a boom truck. The boom-truck owner is looking to maximize bass output so he uses his car like a giant resonator. A piano does the same with its soundboard. Guitars and violins do by coupling their strings to resonant tone wood. Replace a piano soundboard with concrete and watch the sound die. If we take away the floor as a structural resonator (and suspended upstairs wood floors are excellent resonators), we will delete its contribution to SPL. That's like room gain. Each reflective surface adds output to the signal. Isolators or bass traps reduce SPL/output/power but increase clarity. Like reflections, resonances are always late. They happen after the original/direct event. Late means delayed. If direct signal is followed by delayed signal, the result is a blur in time. The sharp thin line drawn by a hard tip becomes a smudged thick line with ambiguous edges.

Isolating speakers and subwoofers from the floor so they can't talk to it and it doesn't talk back (always late) improves time-domain behavior. That improves clarity, definition and intelligibility. But it also removes some structural gain. If you've looked at anechoic speaker measurements, you'll see that invariably, the response drops like a rock below 100Hz. That's because all speaker designers count on room gain to add itself to their response. If that were flat in an anechoic chamber, it'd get bass heavy like hell in actual rooms. The same applies to isolation. You gain speed, precision and transparency but you'll give up some output. With an active bass system, that's easily compensated. With passive bass, it's not unless you do it with software EQ in the digital source. So if you say that you're losing bass because of a suspended wooden floor… yes and no. You're losing timing precision and pitch definition because the floor gets involved and talks back; but you're gaining some free output for the very same reason. Makes sense? Srajan

Dear Srajan, I have a question and hope you can give me an answer. I'll try to give you a short explanation where my question comes from. 3½ years ago I became sick with a particular distortion syndrome and life became even more complicated than it always have been for me. I'm 47 years old. I always was a music lover and probably even more an equipment lover but 3½ years ago something changed. Because of my situation I took my hifi and placed it in my small attic to start a listening environment. I experimented with everything I could find and discovered acoustics. I ended, after a lot of second-hand gear and speakers as a proud owner of the Trafomatic Kaivalya and some Decware Zenmaster speakers and some ASI products. All blended together on my attic like audio heaven after 3 years. Day in day out I spend more than 6 hours in that room to finetune everything.

But I always thought it could still sound better and it was never enough. I lost my satisfaction andt rue love for the music and stopped listening to music. So 1½ years ago I sold everything, even the Kaivalya. I needed the money and wanted to go back to the basics of just enjoying the music. The one thing i never sold were the ASI products and I never will. So now I listen to music in my living room again and I'm learning to use the ASI products fully. It takes a lot of reading and experimenting;  difficult difficult difficult. But I want to go back to the basics and here is where I want to ask you a question. What is the reason you placed the listening seat against the wall and the speakers at the beginning of your listening environment? Why didn't you choose the other way around?

I ask this question because of my reading on speaker placement of Audio Physic speakers (I own a pair of Virgo V). My room gives me a lot of dips beneath 70Hz. I tries everything to solve that with speaker placement and seating position. Audio Physic's idea is to place the listening position against the wall and the speakers in the middle of the room, just like you have. So I was wondering and wondering and decided to send you an email. I just want to find the best as possible placement so I finally rest to enjoy music and I could create something like you have. So maybe I could get further on my search when I understand your choice of speaker placement and listening position in your listening environment. The only thing is that I won't be able to use the three resonators on the wall behind the speakers or the sugar cube grids on the wall behind because there is no wall...

Beside all that, your listening environment looks incredible beautiful and most of all peaceful and relaxing. Best regards, Steven van der Meer

A few things, Steven. I use a big Ripol subwoofer which is already 6dB up at 80Hz. Ripol means a cardioid dipole dispersion pattern. Essentially, there's total acoustic cancellation to the left and right of the subwoofer and partial cancellation at its back facing the front wall. It's very directional bass, not the typical omnipolar bass. That directional bass works like very effective room treatment across the bandwidth which the subwoofer covers so from 20Hz to a bit past 80Hz. The speakers are far out into the room so away from the front wall. That's so the sound disassociates from the boxes and the room. The sound doesn't stick to the boxes nor does it stick to the front wall. My seat is very close to the rear wall but I leave the door behind it open. There's just a thick curtain covering the door frame. That absorbs some high frequencies but is totally transparent at the low frequencies. Rather than getting trapped in the room to cause pressurization and more reflections, those bass frequencies disperse into a long hallway then my office. It's a cheap trick to make a listening room behave bigger than it is. It's like a hole in a tire. It deflates the pressure buildup.

Again, this very different subwoofer with its unusual radiation pattern removes the usual bass problems which omni bass always causes in a room. The speaker baffles are close to 3m from the front wall and toed in sharply to not see any side walls. There's a hole in the wall behind my seat with a curtain across it; and there's another curtain on the front wall with a bit of an air gap behind it. That removes some HF reflections. Here is another 'trick'. You will have seen tweeters not centered on a speaker baffle but over to one side. Now such a tweeter has two different distances from the baffle edges. It makes one bigger issue into two smaller ones to be easier to overlook. The same applies to speaker setup. Say you set both speakers 50cm from the sidewalls. Whatever issue that causes somewhere in the audible range, you've got it twofold - once in the left channel, once in the right. If instead you set up one speaker 50cm and the other 60cm, you dilute one bigger issue into two smaller ones. Whilst symmetry is ultra important for the stereo image to enforce perfectly matched path lengths between left speaker to listening seat and right speaker to listening seat... dialing in some deliberate asymmetry in how that symmetrical listening triangle sits within the room can be very advantageous.

And yes, I tend to very often end up with an Audio Physic-type setup. That's not because I follow Joachim Gerhardt's original measurements to the letter; but because from experience, it gives me the best results. My recipe thus tends to be far away from the front wall; set up as wide as the room allows; toed in steeply to see no sidewalls; and then moving the chair where I get the most linear response. That could be closer than the speakers are apart. The idea is that the far-from-the-front and steeply toed-in side-wall setup minimizes the effect your room has on the sound. If in addition you then sit rather close, you minimize even more reflections. But as you noticed painfully already, one can obsess too much to lose the plot. Our senses are very adaptive. We can get used to a lot very quickly. If you really want to get back at basics, forget about chasing perfection. Get it as good as you can within your means and inside a reasonable time frame. Then allow yourself to get used to that sound so you enjoy it on its own merit, not by constant comparison to some abstract ideal. Otherwise you'll end up in the same place again - of not enjoying the music because it could always be better so is never good enough. Srajan

Srajan, thank you so much for taking my question serious and the time to answer it. To me the things you explain about speaker placement are extremely helpful and give me some peace of mind. I would give a better suited thanks if my English was more okay but I can't find the words to explain. I just fully understand what you explain and to me that is a great thing because it means i start to understand audio/acoustics/placement etc more and more even though I have a lot to learn. Your hint of dialing in some deliberately asymmetry in how that symmetrical listening triangle sits within the room I take very serious and am going to experiment with first thing in the morning. Thanks again, Steve

Speakers virtually always soundstage best with plenty of room behind them. How wide you space them determines soundstage width but can also affect tonal balance. Sometimes moving speakers too far apart will not just hollow out center fill but make them leaner overall. What I listen for when determining ideal distance from the front wall is that the music starts to detach from the speaker enclosures and room boundaries. I don't want to hear the front wall and its corners. That statement doesn't make any sense (how does one hear the front wall and its corners?) until you experiment with moving the speakers farther and farther away from that wall by increments. There will come a point where the difference is very obvious. Something gets suddenly 'liberated'. However you call it, you'll know when it happens. Next you'll experiment with width unless your room is quite narrow to only give one option. If you have more options, watch for image focus, center fill and tonal balance. Then you adjust where your seat is relative to the 'liberated' speakers. All of it interrelates. There isn't necessarily a precise sequence. One change can prompt another and so forth. This is simply how I tend to do it most of the time. Depending on your layout, sometimes the most effective placement is diagonal. Now you're looking directly at a room corner in the center of the soundstage. The sidewalls run away from the speakers so those can sit quite close to them again sharply toed in. Again, this diagonal needn't be perfectly symmetrical so the room corner needn't be precisely in the middle. It could be slightly over to the left or right. What always must be the same is the distance and angle of each speaker to your seat. Our 2.0 video system [bottom of that page] sets up diagonal in a nearly square room which works out swell without looking audiophile extreme. Srajan

Hi Srajan, am really intrigued by your forthcoming review of the Wattson Audio DAC. I am one who always wants to reduce boxes, ditch the preamp and go one-box DAC/pre. But I have always found DAC digital volume controls to be lifeless while a good DAC with an analog volume severely reduces your options as there aren't many of them to choose from. Maybe the Leedh type of volume control can open doors to lesser DACs having good digital volume for once? Your review will be the first indication. The idea of Leedh itself is also intriguing in proposing that a nearest whole number like 0.1485 sounds far better than an infinite series like 0.148148148. It's surprising that someone hadn't thought of this before and wondered if it could make a difference. Kind regards, Jonas Harrow

Hello Jonas, the only small fly in this ointment at the moment seems to be some firmware tweaking Wattson are still making before they'll dispatch my loaner. I still don't have it. That Leedh works really well I already know from the last Lumin server I reviewed. It really is a better way to do digital volume. Since Wattson do the boards for Vermeer who also implement Leedh, I'm certain they have solid experience with it so know exactly what to do for their own machine. So fingers x'd that it'll show up sooner rather than later. Srajan

Hello Srajan, you'll be interested to hear that once we switched speakers to the Vox3A or Libération, we ended up using the 75Hz hi/lo-pass cut-off most of the time. Sound quality improved across the full spectrum: bass because of the unique Ripol dispersion in the low frequencies, mid-highs because of the much easier load on the main amp and drivers which translated to greater dynamics and transparency. Pál Nagy passed by yesterday evening and was very pleased about the contribution of his icOn 4Pro passive preamp and analog filters to this progressive setup. It will take time to shift customer habits but for those who have tasted it, the sound|kaos monitor + Ripol sub combination is the new king in town. Vincenzo

I'm not surprised at all. Running Ripol higher up also has room-cleaning benefits because modes typical between 50-120Hz get cancelled out. That cleans up not just the bass but also the midrange. I just wrote a short article on that. Everything I said there applies to Ripol vs. regular omni bass. And yes, Vox3awf + sub kills and looks very décor-friendly to boot. Srajan

Room cleaning is exactly what's at play here. Ghostbusters! The question now is what is the optimal Ripol cut-off frequency: if 120Hz is indeed the optimal frontier, shouldn't we go for two smaller Ripol subs in stereo? If rumors are to be believed, I understand this one is on your radar. For the fun of it, my shortlist of findings in Munich this year: Cube Audio's Jazzon which despite a few purist shortcomings brings a ton of joy and energy to the listener. Wolf Von Langa Son and Serendipity monitors - stunning performance across the board. I'll try to put my hands on a pair and run them with SK sub. The Ilumnia Magister MkII improve on their previous version and reminded me of M&H. Two separate subs were sitting nearby but still at prototype stage. Living Voice Auditorium R25… boy those can play big and right. Notwithstanding Martin's Sub, my top discovery was the Raal-Requisite SR1a headphone (another find of yours!) which I tried with their new dedicated amp. Probably the ultimate reference tool that is capable of taking you to sound nirvana and simultaneously makes you realize the limitations which our listening rooms and transducers have in reproducing sound. Needless to say, a full set is on the way from Serbia!

My hifi stable will also soon welcome a pair of Ferrari-red Vivid Audio B1 Decade as part of my quest for another great partner to the sound|kaos sub; and Alberto's Gran Vivace amps, an overall stunner and the most effective bass amp I have encountered to date. So more experiments on the horizon. Vincenzo

At 120Hz I might be leaning to two 2x12" subs indeed. The cut-off will depend on room size. The smaller the room, the higher the room modes so Ripol action across broader bandwidth becomes advantageous. The thing is, without compensation for their -6dB/oct. roll-off below the resonant frequency, we've not yet heard all they can do. It's why Siegfried Linkwitz always actively compensated his dipoles at the bottom; or championed a box sub below the lowest room mode. It's why Pál's Gradient Box will be important. Not only do we get to select the filters we want, we can dial in an all-pass shelving filter to notch up 20Hz by +3dB or +6dB. That'll be yet another frontier to cross. And yes, the Raal ribbons are my reference for sonic purity unmolested by room issues, energy storage, reflections and box sound. I come unreasonably close to that sound with the DMAX Super Cubes on the desktop nearfield.

In the big system the room above 100Hz still interferes. Perhaps the Liber|8 would sort that out. For dynamic speakers that are Raal-quick, Vivid and Børresen would be my top choices indeed. Good call on the Vivid. The Jazzon now runs a rubber surround not the foamie I reviewed. That apparently gives it more resolution and better bass control. I actually thought Martin would bring two smaller Ripol subs to Munich. In which case I'd have bought one of them right afterwards. We'll see. Sooner or later, I'll go Ripol upstairs as well.

Still waiting to get more details on the Ilumnia proto subs. They claim 10Hz-100Hz bandwidth. I want to know what kind of loading and whether it's another one of their unusual drivers converted to woofer duty. The thing is, no matter how you try to tell people that cardioid bass is the new frontier, nobody really gets it until they've heard it. Not even Martin understood fully what he had until he received those Carbide Audio decouplers to eliminate the structural feedback from the suspended wooden floor of his Swiss chalet. So it's like being a prophet in the wilderness. Nobody believes you; until they've heard it. And there are very few places where you can hear that. I'm just glad that after 20 years on the beat, I managed to hear it for myself and now get to enjoy it every day I fire up the big system. It does ruin one for anything else, alas. Hopefully the visitors to Martin's exhibit recognized what was responsible for the difference. It really is a new way of hearing. As a reviewer it's a bit of a curse since you hear right away what's wrong with conventional bass yet can't blame their speakers or you shouldn't accept to review them in the first place. Which, to be sure, would leave you with virtually no speakers to review, period. Or you must tell their designers that you'll filter them out across the lower two to 2½ octaves to hand over to a Ripol subwoofer. And who would agree to that, particularly if it's a bigger speaker whose maker takes pride in hitting 30Hz or below? When I mentioned it to one maker, he completely failed to understand that it was a matter of dispersion pattern not extra extension. "We make 25Hz already so no subwoofer is required." Total miss despite my best efforts at explaining the difference. Happy educating your customers, Vincenzo! Srajan

Hello Srajan, I would like to thank you for your many trials to like my Vintage Oslo II. Truth and freedom of opinions are important everywhere. It is one of the reasons why I regard you and 6moons. It takes bravery to say 'no'. If you cannot find my wavelength with these minis, it simply happens. Critical words are always necessary but I want to hear them from friendly persons. I hope that their bigger brother will make you enjoy the music much more. I just played old records by Ray Charles and Etta James over Vintage Horten. Vintage Oslo cannot compare in any way with this sound. Very hard to reset ears. Best regards, Jarek - Ancient Audio

Hello Srajan, I have always been fascinated by these Raal SR1a headphones but unable to justify the purchase price. This clearance sale however just made it affordable if I sell my early serial # AKG K1000 and Yamaha B2 amplifier; the main compromise being that it would be the HSA-1a amplifier and not HSA-1b which, I  gather, is a little better for the Raal headphones and much better for the quality of the conventional headphone output. With your familiarity with the market, would you suggest jumping on this deal? $3'300 for an SR1a + HS1a? Thanks for your input. Russell 

As you know, these are my favorite headphones. Many people poo-poo the Schiit Jotunheim R just because it's relatively cheap. Having tried these ribbons on most resident amps including the big Pass Labs XA-30.8 via the impedance adapter box, I call BS on that. Yes one can improve on the Schiit (not by much), but these ribbons are so far ahead of the game, it doesn't really matter. So if the price is doable, I'd say jump on the ribbons. I've never heard Raal's own amp so have no opinion on that. Srajan

Thanks. I will jump on the headphones and go the Jotunheim R route as well. Your reasoning makes good sense. I wasn't sure if you still regarded the Raal SR1a as highly as you once did and it is reassuring that you still do. There seemed to be so little mention of them of late, I had started to wonder if the near hysteria accompanying their introduction was yet another transient phenomenon. But that may simply reflect the fact that I have not been watching developments so intently over the last few years as I wind my recording activities down to almost nothing.

My last big project stretched from 2017 to 2020 with a two-week session in 2017 and another in 2019 resulting in a 3-disc CD set of the complete Bach Partitas for harpsichord; the first time they have been released in full form including repeats. In previous releases repeats were skipped to squeeze all onto two discs. The harpsichordist was Colin Tilney who has been recording since the early 60s. He was 85 then (88 now) and this will have been his last recording. Mixing and mastering to his satisfaction was a five-month challenge. He loves the result. I haven't seen the reviews but then haven't looked. Russell

The Raal are my best/most resolved transducers now followed by the Super Cubes set up on their own stands off the desktop. It's good to hear that a recording artist is so involved with the final mix. If they all were, perhaps we'd have better-sounding recordings? Srajan

Gratifying again to see you rank the Super Cubes so near the Raal. I guess the effort in the recording was worth it for Classics today to give the recording quality a 10; they don't often do it seems. Tilney's musical interpretation creates widely varied reactions. Like Aram Gharabekian, he tends to choose slow tempi and to draw out the maximum meaning and emotion to disregard the 'danceability' of the piece. Aram consciously did that with his interpretation of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet suites, which are usually (reflexively) played at tempi appropriate to ballet dance demands, sacrificing potential musical nuance. Here's a favorable review of Tilney's interpretation. Russell

Classical music is, at heart, an interpretative business I think. One plays not one's own music but someone else's who lived in a particular time, place and culture. Today's historical music research is well informed on things like instrumental tuning, original timbre, how fast or slow things were played, what kind of embellishments were popular at the time and more. That limits the scope of allowable deviations from the perspective of the notated score. Great musicians of course make other people's music their own. Shy of composing new solos for concertos, one can't really play any new notes though. The most obvious parameters of interpretation then become phrasing and pace. On top of that, musicians age and mature. Young ones are often prone to playing fast just to show off technique. Older ones often prefer to say more with less, to let silences between notes speak more. And routinely that means slower tempi.

I always find that whatever reading we're exposed to first tends to imprint us. If we fall in love with it, any subsequent interpretations can seem wrong. Hence so many different responses to individual classical recordings. When I played in an orchestra (we did Bruckner's 4th, Tchaikovsky's 4th and 6th, Schubert's 8th, Brahms 3rd, Pictures of an Exhibition, Ravel's Bolero, Debussy's Le Mystère de St. Sebastian, Rach's 3rd Piano Concerto with Alexis Weissenberg, Beethoven's 9th, Prokovieff's 5th and more), I remember how intently the conductor shaped our reading to conform to his ideas. When I subsequently heard these symphonies played by other orchestras under other conductors, I had this inside view on the composition as bestowed upon me by playing it. So any deviations by another interpretation caused an immediate emotional friction. It's how imprinting works, isn't it? Srajan

You've said a lot in those five paragraphs! I agree with your analysis. I sometimes ponder the difference between what we refer to as 'art' and as 'craft'. I think the notion of the distinction might be illusory but so far I have not had any blinding revelations; still I wonder. I went ahead today and ordered the Raal SR-1a after agonizing for a couple of weeks over the choice: am I crazy given how little time I spend using headphones? Could my money be better spent on something more convenient like Bluetooth cordless, noise cancelling? But then my curiosity and idealism prevailed, plus the idea that I can pass them on to my son Simon when (and if) I'm done with them. That and I have always valued a beautiful midrange. I imagine the highs and the bass will be welcome qualities, too.

Simon is also engaged in recording, having completed a degree in music production in Berlin a few years ago. Particularly though, I know he would find them very useful in his music-transcribing activities. He is amazingly good at unravelling complex music and particularly likes Cuban music. He has shown me his work, pointing to where we are in the music. For the life of me I can barely hear the keyboard part at all, let alone have the ability to write it out. He was involved in transcribing a lot of Cuban music for a publication coming out of Los Angeles after having passed the test of transcribing a piece written by a friend of the compiler which had never been written out (as most popular Cuban music never has). The composer agreed that it was correct. In Cuban written music, all the percussion parts are explicitly written out as opposed to the N.A. jazz tradition where all the percussionist gets is 'swing' or 'slow shuffle' etc.

Danny McKinney of Raal Requisite is including as a bonus his favorite cable for use with the Jotunheim R. The cable requirements are unusual here as the headphones have a lower resistance than the wire so a fair amount of the amplifier's energy is lost in the short cable driving the 'phones. After talking at length, I think he saw himself in me and thought I would appreciate the difference. I think he was impressed by the fact that 30 years ago, I made custom microphone cables for myself that cost me $700 in 1992 dollars for the materials for the 35' stereo pair. I feel I made out well getting the headphones and the better cable for $1'700. Tomorrow I'll order the Schiit Jotunheim R, probably with the digital input for the occasional convenience unless you know of D/A converters for $200 that are better. Then I'll try again to order a pair of Super Cubes from Andrew. I tried on April 28th but got no reply. Maybe he is overwhelmed with orders after your review? Russell

Andrew could be under water since, I believe, he resides in Russia. It's probably why he hasn't replied. Camerton Audio's designer is ex Ukranian now living in Berlin. Lots of his friends and family still live in the Ukraine so he's been involved in providing humanitarian aid and doing whatever else he can to help. Hopefully both gents will pop back up in audio when current events let them. To me, craft is technique as in, practice a thing 10'000 times or for 10 years and become proficient at it, be that baking bread or painting. In Bali I saw crafts villages dedicated to different crafts, so woodcarving in one, metal sculptures in another, textiles in another, batik dying in yet another and so forth. They were incredible craftsmen/women who could produce 100 Buddha sculptures looking virtually identical yet fashioned by different individuals. That's craft. Change one letter and it becomes graft. Nearly the same thing.

Art relies on more. It sits atop craft so craft is a prerequisite. The added ingredient is true inspiration so creativity. It's not about copying or acquiring skills that can go on near automatic based on muscle memory and other patterns in the nervous system. I often think that without free improvisation, musicians aren't real artists. My brother and sister are French horn players in German orchestras. My brother is the 1st/solo horn in the Hamburg Elb Philharmonic. My sister is the 3rd horn in the Wiesbaden Opera. They're civil servants who play the music of others for a living; never their own. I've often regretted not having ordered my Schiit Jotunheim R with the USB DAC. I actually needed an S/PDIF input which they didn't offer. I don't listen to the Raal on my desktop. I'd not get any work done. And upstairs I don't use any USB. But for $200 it seems like a real no-brainer and like you said, what else is out there for that money? A Topping perhaps or another ChiFi wonder? Srajan

Hello Srajan, I've ordered the Raal SR1b to be shipped when Danny McKinney returns from Munich. I'm also ordering a Jotunheim R and was on point to include a Bifrost 2 based on a few strong reviews, the inclusion of absolute polarity reversal, sophisticated USB with galvanic isolation, matching size, future-proofiness afforded by modular analog and USB cards, firmware updates enabled by micro SD card and finally the fact that Mike Moffat is the designer. I have respected his work since I heard a Theta CD player back around 1988 or 89. Up until then I had never heard much difference between players but this sounded obviously better and not by a little. I was skeptical of my impression to mentally shelf it, thinking it was a kind of anomaly but I never forgot it. Another factor was that I couldn't afford the player so it was convenient to think that I might have been mistaken. Anyway now I respect him and I take comfort in knowing that this, 40+ years later, is his latest thinking. Once again I take advantage of your connections and vast experience with all manner of gear to seek your blessing regarding this combination of equipment.

The other apparent contender to replace the Bifrost 2 seems to be the Topping D90SE which as far as I can see may lack the polarity function and galvanically isolated USB circuit and nice metal remote but includes level control, Bluetooth and the ability to play certain to-me-exotic digital streaming formats. Being a Luddite by nature, digital streaming is something I haven't kept up with. I can barely keep up with computers. I'm a very late adopter partly because I put all my money into buying the very best recording chain I could afford. I figured I'd rather make the best recordings I could even if I couldn't actually hear them on my own system. The closest I got to actually hearing what I had captured was on my Etymotic Research ER-S IEM. I got my first smartphone only a year and a bit ago. Anyway, have you had opportunity to check out these two DACs? Thanks and cheers, Russell 

I've not heard either the Topping or Bifrost 2. I think you'd be well served either way. To my mind, it's more down to money, looks and features. I didn't know that the Raal were now in gen 2. Mine are still the SR1a. Do you know what's different? Either way you'll be in for a real surprise. But do yourself a favor. No matter your first reaction, allow the sound to grow on you for a few days before you come to conclusions. If you're anything like me, you'll never have heard this type of playback purity, speed and dynamics before especially in the upper ranges. If so, it takes a small mental reset to get your bearings; and after that, everything else sounds, to varying degrees, slow, muddy, bloated and fuzzy. Also, the steel headband can be shaped to fit your noggin so don't hesitate to bend it. It's very strong. Srajan

According to Danny the only differences between SR1a/1b are the metal grill which has been altered slightly to more closely match the circumaural version; and the internal wires connecting the ribbons to the input jacks now being silver. He said the sound was virtually identical. I wonder. I remember 30 years ago when wire was just being discovered as being significant and hearing the difference between good copper and good silver interconnects which our tech made in the high-end stereo store I briefly worked in. Visiting salesmen from other high-end stores thought our demo was rigged, so obvious was the difference even in apparent loudness. Around this time I read of microphone designers discovering to their dismay that they could hear the difference an inch or two of silver made inside their mics. I also heard a power cord made by our tech seemingly adding an octave to the bottom end of the sound from a turntable although I confess to not remembering whether the power cord went to the turntable or amp. Inconvenient truths have a way of being forgotten. I always lusted after the idea of six-nines silver mic cables but that was never to be.

As to getting used to the Raal, I have a hunch that I know what to expect. I have experienced how 'empty' a bass minus resonances can sound; and the equivalent in the midrange too. When I was designing loudspeakers in the 70s I made a few whose bass resonance was extremely curtailed. One followed an English designer's idea which put two woofers in an enclosure back to back so their mutual resonances (if they had identical fs) would cancel as proven by the flat impedance curve through what would have been the very high peak at resonance. It made all other speakers, ported or sealed, sound frankly stupid. The other design was one of my few genuine innovations. I made a coffee-table stereo subwoofer with the drivers' rears facing the holes in the baffle board stood off by about an inch so that the box which was filled with acoustic absorption functioned not to absorb the back wave completely but only by maybe 90%. The payoff was that the cone almost completely decoupled from the vibrating air mass inside the box and thus the bass was super clean. Imagine a cubic box with one corner chopped off and a baffle board across that corner so the back of the driver fired into the opposite corner, not an opposing flat surface. The rear wave of the driver sees a primitive anechoic chamber.

I was doing open-baffle line-array mids at the time and tried this to similar good effect. I termed this design principle an acoustic black hole and offered it free to Allan Shaw of Harbeth and Anthony Gallo but neither utilized it. I modified a pair of Martin Logan we had in store by standing off the bass drivers by ½" or ¾" and everyone agreed they sounded much better. Anyway, all these experiments aimed at reducing resonances and creating a more open articulate sound so I think that I am prepared somewhat for the Raal. And I think I have convinced myself to buy the Bifrost 2. Cheers, Russell 

Indeed, given your explanations I think you're very much ready for the Raal. I'll be interested to hear back once you've lived with them for a bit; about whether they met your mark and expectations. I've lost touch with Anthony Gallo who I always thought was a very smart cookie. I know that the original investor lost interest and the company sold to their UK importer who've continued primarily with the small spheres. But whether Anthony is still in audio, perhaps elsewhere behind the scenes as a consultant or ODM, I haven't a clue. Srajan

Srajan, in your Hi²Fi piece, you mention a system's behavioral IQ. That just might be the new frontier which redefines high-end audio. You aren't wrong that we need a new definition. We have suffered under this notion of an absolute sound for too long. It created a concept of inviolate purity, which a group of reviewers set down a long time ago whose views seem to have stopped at the recording studio and never took into full account the real world where playback happens. If their concept is believed, we aren't allowed to make any adjustments to the signal to improve the sound in our normal living rooms, which aren't treated studios of the mastering engineers or the anechoic chamber of a speaker designer or review magazine. Mr. Krebs brings up Bang & Olufsen whose flagship speaker really is a marvel of integrated technology. In the high end of today, B&O is rarely mentioned. He is right that something is wrong with that picture. He is also correct that DSP for room and speaker behavior must be easy to use. Somehow the big majority of audiophiles seems to have grown up with the original print magazines in the US whose views shaped the High End but haven't changed since then. They see themselves as the defenders of a way of doing things that has become outdated. I thought that your specific examples of what Mark Levinson and Gayle Sanders are up to today made that point well.

I just realized that while I agree with much that's been said in your article, I haven't offered anything of real substance to bring about any change but I'm not sure I would know where to even start. However, I'm thinking about it now. That seems to have been your intention so good job I say. - Jeremy

Thanks for your comments, Jeremy. I just appended them to the article. As to knowing where to start, when alternatives to the old way of doing things exist already, change on the personal level comes from simply opting out of the old and embracing the new. I think that's all the start we need. Srajan

Srajan, I wanted to comment briefly on your high-end challenge. What is that thing called high-end audio? I am with you and Darko in that it must represent the most current tech which, as you point out, includes effective room correction, smart bass management and efficient amplifiers with high power density. I also think that in the absence of such features which in the right hands have become already very mature, the term 'high end' mainly represents legacy tech that is sold at astronomical prices. It is the old guard, not the younger university graduates with their degrees in the latest of technologies. We have Nelson Pass and Richard Vandersteen still do what they did when they first started. Bruno Putzeys reinvented himself a few times already from Phillips to Hypex to Grimm, Kii, Mola Mola and Purifi. He has circled the whole sector by working in amplification, DSP, speakers, converters and raw drivers. Very impressive. John Darko reviewed the Buchardt speakers which seem to pack a lot of the latest tech very cost effectively. Goldmund in Switzerland occupy a strange middle ground with very expensive ugly active speakers that are limited to 24/96.

Like your article suggested, coming up with a new definition for what high-end audio should be in 2022 is hard. But you are certainly on the right track by pointing at ever more powerful digital signal processing that should be exploited at the amplifier, speakers and room end of things not just in streamers and DACs where it matters so much less. Perhaps the real challenge is interdisciplinary in that components or speakers which include the very latest technology require not just all the old design skills but also advanced know-how in software, modeling the acoustic sciences in code and having access to expensive laboratory equipment and anechoic chambers for the necessary measurements. Assembling a team of engineers that can cover all these bases would seem to be a very costly endeavor. Bang & Olufsen gets very little respect with audiophiles but for raw engineering resources, they would seem to already have such a team in place including advanced industrial designers. Perhaps a collaboration between them and the Aavik and Børresen people you have reviewed could work at the edge of the art of what is possible today and redefine high-end audio for our century? I would add that as technology gets ever more sophisticated, it can become harder and harder for the technically less fluent of us to embrace. So whatever high-end audio decides to become, it should remain intuitive to use. Getting geeky is not my idea of a good time or anything I am prepared to pay for. I want to enjoy the music, not get bogged down by owner's manuals written by lab rats or apps whose menus have more layers than an onion. Advanced tech should be easy to use. That is part of what makes it advanced. Those are my few cents on your topic. Thanks for reading. - Dr. Franklin Krebs

Good points, Dr. Franklin. I'm with you on user-friendliness. That's key. I also agree that B&O have amazing in-house resources; and fabulous designs. Thank you for your contribution. I added it to my article now. Srajan

Hi Srajan, we both have a penchant for a great desktop listen. I'll send you a pic of our new desktop headphone/monitor system when complete. It'd be best described as cartoon-like overkill. It would have an interior designer beg to have you fill the other 5 chambers in a game of Russian Roulette. Maybe we'll work on the optical design aspect once the nuts 'n' bolts function as intended. Onto my question. You've had a fair number of desktop monitors in house over the years, perhaps even more of late. I was wondering how your recent lineup might compare to the Eversound Essence which was so appealing a few years ago. Such an ambitious design. Of course if they're no longer around, it's probably not a fair comparison. Just thought I'd ask. Lastly, Jay's newest transport is nothing if not impressive. I can't help but wonder how it'd fare against another take like one of the Lektor CD players from Jarek at Ancient Audio. Best, Fred

Ivette inherited my Eversound/Feniks and lived happily ever - until after. After were Jarek's Fram Midi 120 which she much prefers. Those she inherited when the DMAX SC5 landed on my desk. Those are my hands-down favorites, albeit with the provisos detailed in my two reviews of 'em. Jay's transport is somewhere between France and Ireland right now. It should land soon. As to Jarek, he's working on a new transport using the latest CD-Pro8 from Austria's Stream Unlimited. He's very keen on that already. Srajan 

Thanks. I think that Sanyo drive is something that may sound 'better'. There was that collaborative Shigaclone DIY project with years of R&D. I heard the result at Atelier 13 and was very impressed. It was all centered on the Sanyo drive. Fred

Hi Srajan, good job on your podcasts with Darko. In just two sessions, you already covered lots of valuable information in a way that's conversational and easy to follow. Thanks to both of you. I'd like to propose another subject matter which a lot of budding audiophiles could use help with. That's how to buy the right system for their needs then set it up properly so they get the most out of it. I know there's all kinds of formulae and ratios for how to position speakers but perhaps you and John have something easier that works for you? While I have your attention, another topic that could be lighthearted fun would be to cover your pet peeves as reviewers doing this for a living. I'm sure that between the two of you, you've come across many incidents to talk about. In any case, some food for thought. Keep up the good work. Charles Loughton

We already got you beat on your first suggestion, Charles. That's exactly the topic for our next chat planned later this month. As to pet peeves, I'll propose it to John. You could be right. That too might fill a session. Not sure whether people will want to hear it though. I let John make that decision. He has a much better take on listener stats and his own audience. But thanks for the heads-up. Srajan

Hi Srajan, in a 2018 industry review article you mention that your interest was piqued after hearing the Diptyque speakers demo - obviously piqued enough to get you to go back a couple of times so you could get the opportunity to talk to someone about them. But I can't find a 6moons review of them. A friend of mine who has a pair of Nenuphar v 2 that he first drove with the Bakoon 13R and now with the Enleum 23R, has gotten a pair of Diptyque that he drives with a Crayon CIA 1T. He says that the Diptyque are so good that he doesn't want to listen to the Nenuphars anymore. So, naturally my interest has been piqued. I would go and hear his but he lives in Canada and I live in Italy. Too far to drive. So the next best thing was to see if you had expressed an opinion of them in a review. But, apparently you didn't. I know that it has been a long time since you heard them but I am wondering what your impression was at the time. Can you please tell me what you remember about them? Cheers, Peter

Nothing, sorry Peter. Like you said, that was 4 years ago at a show. I remember the name; and that nobody in the exhibit spoke English; I think. Which is why I went back hoping they'd then have an English speaker present to learn more about a company I'd not seen before. That's about it. Srajan

Srajan, I just set upon your latest review only to learn that it's been left in indefinite intro mode. That begs a real question. Why not just cancel it as the manufacturer asked? That would be so much cleaner and not send any mixed messages, unless those were your intention? Cheers, Thomas

That's a multi-layered issue, Tom. First, the review was a mutually made commitment to net the usual preview I publish before receiving my loaners. It went up months ago and I was already three good pages into it when the bell sounded. Why delete good work as though my time wasn't worth anything? I explained that and still was asked not to proceed. Two, our reviews document our interactions and experiences front to back so that prospective buyers may glean how they will be treated. Three, when things go pear-shaped as they will from time to time—that's simply the human condition—the real issue is not that they did but how they're being handled. Most any cockup can turn into real opportunity whenever there's willingness and true professionalism. When other choices are made, readers deserve to know as well. Just making things go away as though they never happened serves nobody. As is, this manufacturer at least knows now to improve their communications, packaging and scheduling. Caveat emptor and all that Jazz. Srajan

I appreciate that reviewing is how you make your living, Srajan. Don't think I don't get that. But what happens when a review gets cancelled after the fact like this one was? Does the manufacturer get a refund on whatever fee he paid to be reviewed? That would seem fair. On the other hand, there's the argument you already made; that you're already a few pages into it which represents time and energy on your part. No matter what, in this scenario somebody would seem to get the short end of the stick (just thinking out loud). Thomas

It's why we don't really cancel reviews. There should be no need when two parties have mutually agreed on doing a review in the first place. I work hard to be consistent so manufacturers know exactly what to expect. The cancellation scenario doesn't really present itself. Why would it? This case was unique in that I still had no woofers. I couldn't proceed when the curtain came down. I received no payment so if anyone got the short end, I did. Yes the maker is out two-way ship fees but they decided to back out, not I. This really was a very rare incident. Let's leave it at that, please! Srajan

I do agree that it rarely ever happens. That's why I had to ask. I didn't understand your reasons for leaving up a preview. I still don't agree entirely but as they say, you own your own business, you get to make the rules. Thomas

Hey Srajan, just read up on your recent updates as I usually do each month. Lots of exciting stuff to sort through. Loved the DMAX piece. Great find. Looking forward to how you frame them in your forthcoming chat with Darko. The new Jay's pieces look awesome too. Then Mytek and Wattson for compact but upscale converters with benefits seem very realistic, especially the Mytek. Not so sure about the Ancient speakers but if your profiling of them is on, perhaps they will deliver beyond their looks and minimal features. Those Camerton headphones seem to have been "coming soon" forever. Any updates on when those might actually arrive? You also seem impatient about the open baffles from Israel. As Patrick pointed out a few emails ago, it's surprising that things continue to arrive given what's happening in the Ukraine. But then all our lives can't suddenly stop, can they? (Rest withheld by request.) Florian 

Today's interconnectedness does mean that we're alerted to catastrophes elsewhere on the globe in virtually real time. Just so, our individual lives go on no matter how trivial they might appear given the terrible suffering other people experience at the very same time. Writing about toys for mostly boys as I do now does seem particularly shallow and self-absorbed. Yet doing this work supports those I write about. As small as that might be, it's my contribution to adding something positive to the overall goings-on. And correct, the Camerton assignment keeps getting pushed back. I was booked to interview the designer over Zoom weeks ago but he wasn't ready. He's originally from the Ukraine I believe so if he still has family there, he'll have far more important things than audio to worry about. I haven't inquired about the Binom ER status. When he's good and ready, he'll know how to find me. My first podcast review on the DMAX cubes was recorded two days ago. Now John needs to apply his editing magic and make it presentable. Apparently that'll go live next Friday so you'll find out what you think about that format soon. Srajan

From John Darko's Patron feedback: "John, the latest podcast was fantastic. That discussion of amplifier power, speaker efficiency/sensitivity and listening priorities (yep, I'm a "visual listener"), was the best synthesis of those topics I've ever heard (or read, for that matter). Kudos to you and Srajan!"

Srajan, didn't you have an Aretai review coming up? I just looked for it and couldn't find it. Is it still happening? I was looking forward to it. Bryan

The product wasn't available in the agreed-upon time frame so the review got cancelled. Unusual delays of course are becoming more commonplace these days. Rather than make individual announcements about it, I just remove items where necessary. If circumstances change, they're easily revived. Srajan

Hello Srajan, saw your short post on desktop stands. Stacking two might be a bit extreme though at €60/pr, if the required isolation gets you there, it's actually quite cost-effective. I like how you drove home the need for mechanical isolation in a way that could have some shake their heads in disbelief. It's a real issue. Going off desk with a floor stand at the right height is probably the most effective solution. But like you and John Darko like to remind us, looks are important too. Just because something works doesn't mean we fancy how it looks. Your setup actually looks very good so congrats on finding something that works for you. Cheers, Anton

I did look at floor stands but most have quite big bases/plinths. To keep things tidier, I opted for those tilt supports. My super-final solution now added thin sand-filled rubber pipes which I appropriated from my big Ardan Audio desktop stands. Six cable ties per double-decker stand attach them to sit neatly between table surface and steel. That has sorted the last faint bleed-thru on bass-heavy tunes played louder. So yes, sorting out desktop resonances in ways we find visually acceptable can be a bit tweaky. I just couldn't do the IsoAcoustics stilts though they might be 100% effective as is. Can't hack their looks. Srajan

Following your newsroom update, I tried a pair of Chord C-thru WiFi wireless wires over the weekend. They are so transparent and with such a low noise floor that I can finally enjoy listening to music at -20.3dB across the full frequency spectrum.  Pure audiophile bliss! Kudos to Chord to offer them in whatever length the customer requires. Thank you for the find Srajan. Vincenzo Picone

Minus 20dB below mute; that must be a new record, Vincenzo. Congrats for going where no listener has gone before. Cap'n Picard would salute you. Srajan

Srajan, I notice you keep plowing on while your preview pile stacks up. I take it delivery delays are compounding given the present state of affairs? If so, it's great to see that you still manage to get in some stuff to write about. Cheers, Patrick

Indeed, follow-on Brexit challenges, ongoing C19 effects and now the Ukraine war impact everything in our interconnected world. In our hifi sector, supply-chain shortages, drastically higher pricing for parts and shipping all conspire against usual scheduling. As the recent obituary for Exogal chronicled, sometimes a single part back-ordered by 2 years will kill an entire project even company because no replacement exists to adapt a product. Other makers adjust quietly by revamping a PCB to take different parts which remain available so that they can build, ship and sell products to remain in business. So yes, I'm grateful for loaners that do arrive no matter how late. Srajan

Srajan, cool review on the Russian cube speakers. Given the current situation, do you think these remain available for the time being? Have you heard anything? Thank you, Steve

My understanding is that for the EU, production and shipping are from Slovakia as already explained in the review. Unless Andrew living in Russia locks down his ability to do business out of Slovakia, I don't expect that availability for EU buyers will be impacted. But to be certain, it's best to ask him directly. My shipment happened well after the start of the Ukraine invasion but was three weeks late and Andrew did indicate that those three weeks were rough on him. This could be a quickly changing situation so just ask him when you're ready. Srajan

Srajan, Joël, I had previously exchanged some emails with Joël regarding audiophile switches. Joël uses a triple threat: an Aqvox SE which feeds an NPS 16 LAN switch from Silent Angel, which features an interesting option that Joël has employed. One may connect two zones in series: the signal from the router goes to Zone 1 and then is sent from it to Zone 2.  Thus the LAN signal is clocked twice so that one may reduce jitter in two steps. The source of the clock signal is a reference TCXO clock. I own the Bonn N8, a smaller 8-port switch by Silent Angel that is powered by an external SMPS. The N16 LPS has a built-in linear symmetrical (both transformer and regulators) power supply with two circuits for each zone.

In sum, Joël found the Aqvox SE plus NPS 16 to have a terrific effect (my words) on his system. He previously found the EtherREGEN (referred to subsequently as eR) to be less musical than the single Aqvox SE. I told Joël that I would try swapping the eR and  N8 to see which one had the best SQ in my system. Although I do not have the NPS 16 and thus cannot comment on its efficacy, I did try swapping both N8 and eR. Ultimately I found the eR to produce better sound. It's important to note that I use the optional fiber input to the eR and believe that is one reason for its better sound in my system. Of course I have not done any serious testing, unless one counts my aging 70-year-old ears!

About a month ago I read an interesting thread on AudiophileStyle about using an affordable external reference clock with the eR. UpTone, its manufacturer, had conveniently placed a 75Ω (50Ω on request) BNC input to the eR if one wished to bypass its internal XO clock and add a 10MHz reference clock. If one could beat its Crystek CCHD-575 internal clock's -125 at 10Hz phase-noise rating, theoretically one could achieve superior sound. After combing through various threads, I stumbled on UpTone engineer John Swenson's pithy paper about how one might pursue the external clock. Armed with this advice, I found the U.S. distributor website for the Chinese AfterDark OCXO clocks and purchased the Project ClayX Giesemann OCXO 10MHz Reference Emperor Signature clock which promised a phase-noise rating of -138 at 10Hz. Conveniently each OCXO clock comes with its own tested phase reduction document and my unit actually reached -140 at 10Hz. While the U.S. distributor can be rather breathless about the efficacy of these clocks, I did find the Emperor Signature to be extraordinarily good. AfterDark which distributes the eR in Asia and thus has a partnership of sorts with UpTone, says that improvements come in gradual increments with a 30-day final improvement which I have since passed. In short, I have an Ethernet output to the Lumin T2 on the "B" side of the eR, which is moat-protected from noise within the eR,so that the Lumin's dual Sabre DACs receive exquisitely timed audio signals.

In sum, I feel as if I have upgraded my entire streaming platform with the addition of the 10MHz reference clock. My system is totally streaming with a Roon Nucleus, Lumin T2 and the Kinki Studio EX-M7 tethered by Grimm SQM balanced cables. Srajan, I know that you have been reporting on the salutary effects of reclocking in recent reviews. I doubt that AfterDark will request a review of its OCXO clocks but, trust me, this is a game-changer for me and others. My next step once funds are sufficient is to consider an upgraded streamer in the guise of the upcoming Grimm MU2 or Joël's current favorite, the Vermeer Audio Three. All the best, Michael Fanning

Hi Srajan, with the Munich show a go as per just now, can I ask whether you will attend again? I've always enjoyed your unique show commentary and given the two-year hiatus, I would love to learn what finds you can come up with this year. Thank you. Trevor Mulligan

I stopped doing show reports already prior to the C19 cancellations of the Munich High End. As to attending 2022, I'll be sitting it out. I won't yet entrust my health to airports, hotels and a large convention center with visitors from all over. I can learn about new product announcements on my desktop; and makers can solicit me for reviews here as well. I really don't see the upside of attendance in the current climate. I'm sure other publications and writers will feel different to cover the event as usual. Srajan

Hi Srajan, the Schiit EQ you just wrote up looks very interesting. Couldn't that also work for subwoofer room integration control? Just thinking out loud here to hear your response. Cheers, Jason

This should depend on how you intend to use it. A sub will obviously be limited to at most the first two inflection points of 20Hz and 120Hz. If low-passed at 80Hz or lower, you'd be down to just the 20Hz control. To iron out narrow-band room modes will require far more specific frequencies in-between. And if you wanted to dial in linear bass boost for example, you'd probably want a shelving filter not an EQ 'bump'. I rather think that focusing on a subwoofer would miss the bigger Loki Max picture. For subwoofer integration control specifically, the forthcoming Gradient Box by Pál Nagy will be a more application-focused product. Srajan

For a change, a non hifi question if I may. In some of your photos of your bigger listening room, I've seen a painting of a deer in a suit. I don't think that's by Ivette so would you have a source for that by any chance? I really like it. Victor

That's from the Louise Brown collection called Gentleman Stag. There's also a brother called Randolph in a  purple trench coat. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I saw the various news posts on the new Wilson subwoofer and thought of 6moons because you've been so very vocal about high-passing your mains and this sub offers that and a lot more. Can we then look forward to you reviewing one when production reaches Europe? This would seem to be right up your street. I look forward to that! Jorge

I checked out the plate amp's features. They look like Dayton Audio's SPA500DSP. It's a very nice feature set indeed and Wilson's inert cabinet craft seems ideal for the application. My only 'issue' is that it's still box bass. It still radiates omnidirectionally to invoke room gain with its timing blur from reflections off all solid room surfaces. I've been converted to cardioid bass. That requires a dipole with tweaked radiation pattern to minimize those reflections and clean up the time-domain performance of the low end. I couldn't in good conscience pursue a review of the Wilson sub then critique it for behaving like any other box subwoofer in how it radiates to ride big room gain. By the same taken I couldn't not hear it and not be bothered by it. See what I mean? It's like a vegetarian reviewing an über meat burger. It's possible but the perspective is still twisted. Srajan

Srajan and Dawid, great review of Jacob's new Aarka. I went to the web link you embedded and clicked on "explore the new line" but nothing opens up except for an old render. Do you have the right link for the new website please? Paul

It's not live yet or the current URL would roll over to it. If you need more information than we published or want to order a pair, you'll have to contact Jacob directly. We have no control over his website or the timing of its relaunch. Srajan

Wouldn't it make more sense to time the publication of one's first English review with such a relaunch? Half the excitement of learning about this speaker dissipates when it seems that Rethm doesn't care enough about the back end of a professional web presence. But I get that you have no control over it. Sorry to vent. Paul

Srajan, I just revisited your iFi review because I noticed that it had skipped to the front of the queue again. I've learnt that it means you added something and indeed, there they were, very interesting comments on super-hot gain and what rationale might be behind implementing it in the first place when from a utility perspective, there really seems to be no good reason. Considering the apparent sophistication of the design, it's surprising actually that Mr. Loesch would go for this cheap trick of shining up his specs. Perhaps the core market they sell to really cares about those numbers? Still, your regard for the sound doesn't seem diminished so I'm glad to hear that it's worked out for you with the network chip removed. (Name withheld by request.)

Indeed, I love the sound and just moved the piece into my Raal ribbon headfi rig whose extreme resolution really benefits the most from the Signature's 45/49MHz DSD resampling. Once I upgrade the upstairs sub to a smaller Ripol or two to clean up room interactions in the bass, the iFi will probably end up in the sound|kaos Vox3 system. Until then, it makes a bigger difference on the floating open-baffle ribbons. Its footprint also approximates the Schiit Jotunheim R amp's and the smsl SD-9's is even smaller so the lot stacks super tidy for a mini rig with very high performance. Srajan

Hello Srajan, please excuse if this question is a little lengthy and sounds like a “please advise on which speaker to buy”.  It would be great however if you comment on it with your usual triangulations or hints in preferred gestalt. I am looking into the Nenuphar or Aurai Zero range. Reading your reviews I struggle a bit with what would be the line of thinking in deciding between the two (with auditions being a bit more of an issue here than already usual). Amplification is (SET) Tube or SIT (Enleum also an option) and musical fare is quite mixed in terms of genre as well as larger and smaller compositions. In case of Aurai, could going Z2xx and external sub over the integrated yield benefits in terms of musical enjoyment? As before, thank you for your time, Gregor

Having just done the Nenuphar/Lieutenant comparo, I can be most specific for a change. On bandwidth, textural continuousness into the bass and overall linearity, the French wins. On overall resolution I'd call it a draw. On directness, immediacy and intimacy, the Pole wins. Aurai's hidden woofer likes more power than Nenuphar so SIT/SET would be less ideal, the Enleum preferable. On  the sub question it's an unconditional yes either way. A Nenuphar monitor + sub or an Aurai Zero + sub will outperform either catalogue's floorstander if you apply a proper lo/hi-pass division of labor. As you know from my recent writings, going to a Ripol sub has very special add-on benefits where the currently most cost-effective solution is the German ModalAkustik MusikBass with their filter/amplifier box. I'd take that plus a Zero or N-monitor over the floorstanding versions any day of the week and twice on Sundays. It'll give more extension, power and clarity in the bass, opens up the midband because the bass load is removed and, with a Ripol's cancellation of typical room interference in the bass, heightens overall resolution, intelligibility and speed very significantly because bass no longer overhangs to muddy up the higher registers. With a high-passed monitor, the main amp's power demands drop as well so even a SET/SIT will still work just fine on an Aurai too. With sub help, the other differences between Aurai and Cube will diminish except that Alain's double tweeter still has the advantage; and that Cube's widebander still has a bit more immediacy. But overall now aspects like price and appearance could dominate your decision making. Srajan

Hello Srajan, how are you and the Young Lady surviving the winter in the Emerald Isles? Frost bite got your tongue? Never underestimate the cooling power of a volcanic eruption. Enjoying your articles. Some very interesting musings. Just wanted to touch base, offer a progress report and ask an opinion. Eyesight has been restored to acceptable levels. Had to train myself to see again. Contrast range is still a little limited. Greyscale compressed. Blacks slightly elevated. Sufficient to get my driver's license back though. Spouse no longer required to bear combined title of wife/chauffeur. Something I didn't mention, hearing was also affected. The brain's CPU appears to be a combined audio/video card. Manifestation of damage? Super-low volume level resolution. Bats have nothing on this super power. Downside was intolerance to loud levels. Also, no stereo. Dual-channel mono aficionados would be pleased. Other stangeness? Internal EQ compensation curves wiped out with a response displaying prominence in the 50-60 cycle range. You want to say room-lift sensitivity?! As a result, have been training myself to hear again too. Getting there.

And here's the request for opinion. Wellness aspirations and C-19 cabin fever got a bit of audiophile itch in motion. Still have the Mark & Daniel Monitor Maximus/Auralic Altair G1/Audio Zone (Pascal-based) combo. I'm looking at some changes. I know that immediate improvements would be gleaned by adding a preamp and letting the Auralic Altair's digital volume run full throttle. Dynamics and scale of presentation would expand. Eying a Wyred pre or full passive again with single-ended and balanced connectivity. The other dark horse idea would be to go full integrated amp. (Kinki anyone? Alternate suggestion would be the Hegel 390.) The only hesitation there would be that one of your current compatriots found the Pascal a step up from the Kinki so perhaps not an ideal upgrade solution. Plus, a waste of capability for one input.

Or the obvious solution. Just enjoy what's there and keep exploring the Tidal catalogue? Audiophile nervosa be damned? Most itches can be cure with calamine lotion. So there you have it. Surviving, restless and recovering from January's gift of shingles. Almost lost the right eye plus looked like a losing prize-fighter. 2022 looking great. From what I can see at least. Best wishes from the frozen Covid bunker, Glen

Hello Glen, mild winter for us thus far. Had some strong storms already but that's it. So both ears hear fine but the brain refuses to create the stereo construct? That's unexpected. I didn't know that was possible. And automatic midbass compensation thrown in ? It does show that our brain really is a super computer. Different programs are running, then a medical emergency throws in a reboot and suddenly certain things reconfigure themselves. Perception rules. It doesn't sound fun for sure but - interesting of sorts. You certainly write about it from a slightly amused perspective. Bravo! In my pantheon of audiophile revelations, replacing the super-dear DHT Vinnie Rossi preamp with an autoformer-coupled passive was a biggie. It's what I now use upstairs and downstairs. I don't see myself going back to active pres anytime soon.

The new icOn not mentioned on the website yet offers I think 80dB attenuation over 0.5dB steps. An included Apple IR wand does the remote business. This icOn stuff has been my secret weapon also because (Batman alert!) the more attenuation you select, the higher the output current gets. It's voltage/current conversion at work in some form of log function that really improves low-level listening. The dreaded white-out delays and things sound full, robust and dynamic farther down the SPL ladder than they otherwise tend to. So for preamp upgrade itchitis and particularly with your new aversion to high SPL but keener low-level resolution, that'd be my #1 reco. I've not heard the Hegel so couldn't comment. Hope that helps? With my best wishes, Srajan

PS: For readers who didn't know, Glen suffered a minor heart attack last year which had him resign from reviewing for us. As you just learnt, the incident triggered a lengthy recovery period which includes his hearing. That's why I've published this exchange. It's a good reminder. We should really enjoy what we have while we have it. Flemming Rasmussen, Gryphon's founder, found himself in a similar situation. He woke up one morning deaf in one ear and the other only working at 50% capacity. Fretting as we all do over hifi hardware, it's too easy to overlook the most important ingredient: us the listener, our ongoing health and ability to perceive the world the way we're used to thus take for granted.