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Hiya Srajan: I see you finally killed the weasel. Am referring to the weasel word musicality of course. I loved how you jumped from calling it out to defining it (at least for the purposes of this review) in a very sensible manner. So is it finally safe to use the damn word without being accused of saying nothing? Only halfway kidding, Charlie Mackey
Happy you enjoyed the Métronome AQWO review, Charlie. 'Musical' gets tossed about a lot and, like John Darko, I never know what people really mean by it. In my opinion, that doesn't mean one can't use the word. I just think one ought to first define it so it goes from vague and ambiguous to specific. Nobody needs to agree with anyone else's definition, either. But if someone explains what they mean by it, everyone else can make sense of it.
Of course as we all know, there are many different ways in which a system can present the music. Is there only one way a given listener would call musical? Or are there multiple versions? If so, 'musical' again becomes quite meaningless. In the end, if eating food is foody and going for a walk moving, then listening to music is automatically musical, innit? Only halfway kidding, Srajan
Yesterday the Grimms delivered their MU1 streamer which looks great and where under the hood they did some amazing things based on an FPGA and trimmed version of Linux. Next to discussing the ideas behind the MU1 and how they implemented them, a discussion started on the loudness war as Eelco Grimm's hobby horse at the AES where he just delivered a paper on normalizing volume in respect to playlists consisting of separate tracks. More interesting for us however was the discussion on why streamed music and (!) paid downloads from Qobuz, Tidal, iTunes etc. sound in many (most even) cases at least different from an original CD. The answer: most streaming content and the equivalent purchased download are watermarked. That watermark is clearly audible. It is that fluttering noise at the edges. We used to think that compression was the culprit but no, it is watermarking.
Another interesting thing about streaming is the layering they use. The streamed content is first a few blocks of lossy music followed by lossless high res content. In case the connection is faulty and lossless content is too much for the carrier, there is still the lossy content that makes sure there is no signal drop-out. More info on this is on its way just like on the watermarking. Marja & Henk
Dear Srajan, just came across your 'best of 2019' feature. I see that you're keeping your final spot open until the year is done. Do you mind me asking which products are still under consideration? Holger Scharmacher
That would rather spoil the suspense, wouldn't it? Suffice it to say that this coming Monday, I expect the year's final shipment which will still be under consideration. Once I've had sufficient time listening to it, I'll make my decision. It's not the Olympics however. This feature is just a retrospective of exciting discoveries I made this year. Srajan
Srajan, in your Rethm review, it's still far from clear whether the speaker uses fans or not. Could you please clarify? Fans would be a non starter for me. Dev
The current preview clearly states that the fans got lost in the latest redesign and were replaced by the external heat sinks. If you can read, all should be clear. Srajan
Srajan, I don't remember you saying that last time I looked. This is very confusing! Dev
That's why it's still a preview, not a finalized review. As new facts came in, I changed the narrative accordingly. The Aarka underwent a few redesigns and my narrative covers the process. If you find this confusing, complain to designer Jacob George who kept experimenting with ways to improve the design before bringing it to market. Remember where you found out about the Rethm Aarka in the first place? With my preview which began when the entire thing was still a pure concept. I elected to cover its gestation in real time based on email exchanges with Jacob. If you find that confusing, I can't help it. Product development needn't be a linear process. It can and often does involve dead ends. Most the time, we don't learn about those when we're presented with the finalized product as though it fell ready-made from the sky. My approach here differs just because the opportunity to do so arose. Mostly it doesn't so I thought this would make for a nice difference. Apparently some people don't see it that way. Srajan
Srajan, hope you are well. Have been using a Terminator for about two years. Very pleased on price/performance. Listen mostly to 44.1 16-bit. Have chance to grab a La Scala2 Optologic and wanted your thoughts on gains. Like you I value tone density but not at the sacrifice of inner detail. My pre is a modded STP and my amp a modded Rogue Medusa that runs two 12AU7 that I regularly roll. Speaks are Alta FMR2. Paul Petelin
Have you done the Terminator DSP board upgrade? It's about €200 and a major resolution update. It's plug'n'play, I've done it, I've got the review on it up and that's what I'd go with if I were you. Srajan
Thanks for reply. I have not and will take your advice. I presumed incorrectly that new board only impacted DSD playback. Ill reach out to Alvin. All the best, Paul
Not at all. I do zero native DSD so am only interested in what digital can do for my PCM collection. Srajan
Much appreciated. I found the Kitsune modified Singxer Su-1 with Intona USB isolator and super short iItona premium HDMI cable to be best way to get I²S into the Terminator. I tried many combos of products, several a lot more expensive. Paul
I²S is definitely the preferred entry. As you probably know, I use the Soundaware D300Ref and an AudioQuest Coffee. I'm very happy with it so have stopped looking. Srajan
Dear Srajan, I see your powers of expression are still flourishing! You are writing as well as ever but I visit 6moons less often recently due to pressures at work. I've been made aware of a widebander from China which may not have yet caught your attention but is intriguing. It is discussed here and here. They are located in beautiful downtown Hangzhou. The designer seems very keen as shown by design details such as the sourcing of a very high grade of ferrite for the magnets which gives high magnetic strength in the gap and results in high sensitivity numbers around 99dB for 2.83 volts. I am reminded of the Cube drivers in some ways in that the free air resonance of these and the Cubes is 31-35Hz yet the Cubes sacrifice sensitivity to reach such numbers in a widebander. 99dB is unusual in such a driver. I am toying with the idea of getting a couple of the 'previous flagship' Fast 10 at their clearance price of $450 a pair. Close scrutiny of those compared with the new flagship, the Crystal 10, shows only slightly lower fs as a difference but images show a slightly deeper magnet cover on the Crystal. Cheers from the wild west. Russell
Hi Srajan, I've been reading your review of Fidelizer's network switch develop and noticed you are using CAT5 cables. I bought a CAT8 to replace a CAT5 because it was too long and looked untidy. I listen to Spotify and BBC 3 but there was an unexpected improvement in sound clarity. This was confirmed by swapping back to another CAT5 cable just in case my first, too long cable, was damaged. But not the case and definitely worth the extra fiver over the equivalent length of CAT5. I don't think live in a particularly RF contaminated area so maybe you will hear a benefit also?
I very much appreciate your support of artisans, small scale suppliers and the often prohibitively expensive (for me) wonder gear manufacturers. I have benefited from you review choices by replacing my Nelson Pass B1 with the Korg version you reviewed. Without your review I wouldn't have invested in the kit from DIY Audio and wouldn't be enjoying music so much as I do now. I'm sure someone somewhere is twisting gold fibers to create the finest network cables but maybe a reference to a standard CAT8 may help many less affluent music lovers improve their audio experience. My fridge is still noisy but annoys me less now that music sounds so much more involving. Thanks for the good reading. Best regards, Steve
Hi Srajan, I wanted to compliment you on a terrific review of the Sonnet Morpheus, particularly on page 6 where you nail the differences in approaches for audiophiles. As you correctly point out, it comes down to personal preference (cognac vs. triple espresso) when delving into the upper echelons of audio equipment. That's why I continue to read 6moons as I get more than the prosaic pronouncements of the mainstream audio press. Cheers, Michael Fanning
Dear Srajan, I've read your ongoing review on the Sonnet Morpheus DAC. I own a Metrum Adagio which I like very much except for being a tick too 'neutral' or not 'warm' enough. I use it as a preamp for my Thorens TEM 3200 monos you reviewed as well and wondered whether I ought to add a valve preamplifier. If I understood correctly, you wrote that compared to prior Metrum converters, Morpheus has more tone mass and perhaps also sounds a touch warmer. Is that so? And resolution isn't affected? Until the end of November, Sonnet have special pricing so I'm thinking to compare Morpheus to Adagio and perhaps replace the latter. Thanks a lot in advance and best regards, Lucas Basler
That's indeed what I wrote but with the proviso that, as I also wrote, I didn't have a hard Metrum comparator on hand. I had to triangulate against memory of how Adagio/Pavane had performed against other stuff I still have to come to that conclusion which then was confirmed by Cees Ruijtenberg the designer. Whether the difference will be enough for your needs I of course couldn't say. In the finalized review, I cover the tube preamp angle via comparison to our Vinnie Rossi machine. As you will see, the difference was quite significant. Srajan
Srajan, just saw your announced review of the Fidelizer Ethernet switch. You do realize that the Ethernet protocol uses isolation transformers so the interface decouples galvancially on either end, right? There's no way that messing around with the rest of the circuit can make any difference other than take your money. Don't become another shill for fake technology! Marco
I'm a subjective reviewer, Marco. That means my ears aren't just the final but only arbiter. Now it makes no difference whether I understand the reasons for a sonic difference or think there shouldn't be one. Hiding behind any couldn't/shouldn't explanations doesn't work then. Our kind reports on what we hear. That's it. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I enjoyed your recent Ansuz review and how well you balanced its extraordinary expense against the actual performance. Some reviewers brush over disproportionate cost entirely. Others do a lot of complaining which to me just says that they shouldn't have accepted such an assignment in the first place. Like other people who make money to spend it as they see fit, I don't need reviewers to warn me off but I do appreciate some context. If something similar is available for a lot less, I certainly want to learn about it. Now to my real reason for writing you. You said in this review that in your experience, power cords make the most difference of all cables. You're far from the only one to say so. What I would like to know is, do you have any idea why that should be so? Ryan Staunton
I don't. Power cords are direct extensions of the power supplies of our gear. They connect it to utility power without which nothing would turn on. It stands to reason that the better/stronger that connection, the more available current will flow without losses. Here we look at grounding, contact resistance, conductor gauge and mechanical issues. But at the end of the day, we might make similar arguments about signal cable. And in my experience, they just don't benefit to the same extent beyond a core level of design competence. So why would power cords behave different? My ears tell me that they do so that's what I go by. But I don't really know why. Srajan
Srajan, great find on the LTA integrated. Are you planning to review anything else by them? Despite your various speaker combos, the 10-watt rating has me hesitate. I'd be more inclined to consider their 40-watt model to be honest. Do you have anything planned there? Keep up the good work. Tony
No plans yet, Tony. That'll depend on LTA who operate out of the US and only sell direct. For them it means costly 2-way shipping to Ireland and temporary EU importation when any number of US-based publications can do as good a job with far fewer complications. Also, I'd expect very similar sonics. Plus, going from 10 to 40 watts isn't really that big of a step. It's primarily a mind game. Sales-floor hype and propaganda by kilo-watt amp makers has us believe that we need far more power than we actually consume. Add our normal 'can't hurt' mentality which prefers to get a bit extra just in case and sure, it seems safer to buy extra headroom. But again, 10 to 40 wouldn't be much. Srajan
Dear Srajan, I just finished reading your comprehensive review on the Ilumnia monitor model. I had read Marja & Henk's review when it first came out and kept tabs on the company's developments since. There's not been a whole lot to read so your review was greatly anticipated. Now that it's here, I must admit to being slightly disappointed. I guess I had hoped for more unbridled enthusiasm? I went back to the first 6moons review and indeed, that reads rather different. What happened? Can you shed additional light, please? Right now something doesn't quite add up. Pat Cryster
What happened is a second opinion, of a different model in a different room. But perhaps something else happened, too? As I said to someone else the other day, let's say Toyota, tomorrow, announce a new car engine that fixes three major flaws of all combustion engines which came before. With all the test graphs to prove its superiority, many people might assume an entirely new driving experience; as though the first car with that new engine was floating on air, made no noise, accelerated like a rocket, stopped instantly and had no engine vibrations despite using normal rubber tyres on normal roads. In short, expectations could be unrealistic, the more so as the tech advantages were presented as radical, groundbreaking and redefining. If one has prior experience with quality omnipolar speakers like our German Physik HRS-120 or the Franck Tchang César I reviewed earlier this year, such expectations see themselves equalized to a high degree because the predominant cause of the Ilumnia speaker's difference turned out to be its dispersion pattern. Compare it to other speakers of the same dispersion which additionally also use widebanders and poof, suddenly the difference delta is far narrower than it would be against normal direct-radiating speakers. You could perhaps say that I had fallen for my own Toyota setup. Unrealistic expectations met reality. Once listening started, I quickly found myself on very familiar ground. That was different to M&H's experience. But remember that unlike them, I could conduct an actual A/B with another omni. Which meant that whilst I found the Vocalis to be very good indeed and called out where and how it exceeded our German Physik, I just couldn't describe it as unique or vastly superior or over-the-top genre redefining as you had hoped? In any event, that's my best guess at what happened. As to what I thought, the review already says all I have to say about the speaker. Srajan
Dear Srajan, while you're working on the new Fram speakers, I was trying to find any other reviews for it or, that matter, the bigger one you still have. I can't really find anything except yours. Why would coverage be this slim especially with the many Polish online mags they have today? Have you seen anything anywhere you could point me at for the time being? Best regards, Tim Hahnemann
I've not really paid attention to where one might find other Fram reviews but if Google doesn't bring up anything for you, I certainly wouldn't know more, sorry. Srajan
Srajan, any chance the Merrill amp will make an appearance in your unfolding review of the Ilumnia? It would seem most interesting to combine two such cutting-edge designs and see whether one pushes the other even further than it would otherwise go? Tom Brendan
The Element 114 should already be with Linette & Stuart at Hifi Pig in France. That's where it was bound after I finished with it so sorry to say, no to such admittedly promising date. Srajan
Srajan, I've followed your unfolding Merrill review with growing excitement. All the previous reviews on their monoblocks were superlative so I was curious whether you would join them. As I see, you very much have. But unless I overlooked something, why no award? Wouldn't a super amp in the d'Agostino/Soulution vein, for just 15'000 smackers and negligible power consumption, really deserve one? Like I said, just wondering whether I overlooked something. Either way, keep it up. You seem to be on a real roll of late. Justin
I do feel like a roly poly, Justin, from the Børrensen stunners to the Merrill to the Ilumnia Vocalis to the incoming CanEver Olimpico, Berning integrated, Ansuz power loom and 15" Cube monsters. None of these are me-too products. All of them do their thing different from the norm. That makes it exiting times to sit at the writer's desk and whack away at them keys. My only reluctance about the Element 114 had to do with my inner cheapskate. I can't help think that a lot of its expense is wrapped up in that overbuilt enclosure and particularly its high finishing. A 65lb Pass Labs XA-30.8 gets $6'500 for far more heavy metal. It looks just fine without feeling overdone. To my eyes and particular with regards to the fussiness involved in keeping its dark chrome free from discoloration, the 114 errs on the glitzy bling side. It's only my inner curmudgeon at work who doesn't like the number "$15'000" and the word "just" as neigbors. If the crusty old bugger dies before I do, perhaps I'll forget my humble beginnings and feel more at ease spending bigger on surface values? Until then, consider me handicapped on this score. In their own way, those Danish speakers were just as phenomenal. But €46'000/pr? That's well above my pay grade so I plain lack the comfort level to write out awards in those leagues. Srajan
Hi Srajan: After Rainer's props in the letter's section, I went to look for the reviews he talked about. I got particularly excited about the one you just started. This CanEver amp sounds like the closest possible thing to a tube amp I've ever read about. That circuit is pure tube and something that crazy guy at Audio Note would make, just with Mosfets at the end. I can't wait to read what you thought about this one. Do you still have any tube amps you could throw into the ring for comparison? Holger Scharmacher
About actual valve amps, I'm afraid not, Holger. But I agree that the Olimpico's concept is very exciting. Mario thinks that by late November or early December, he might have a sample unit available. So we'll find out soon enough. Based on the prior evidence of his HPA, my expectations are very high. Srajan
Dear Srajan, first of all I have to apologize for being so quiet during the last few weeks. Due to some family things, I have been offline. Now as things have settled down, I am back. After I finished reading your HPA review including your preview on Olimpico, I would like to not only thank you for your excellent work but grant to you my very personal "Diamond Writer's Award". You deserve this as you achieved an outstanding summary of Mario's work and design philosophy.
Since that evening in late November some years ago when after a very good Italian dinner near Venice I outlined my very basic ideas about a DAC with tube output stage to him, I learned a lot from Mario. Although being an engineer in electronics myself, I never worked in R&D departments but in sales and marketing positions inside some not so small American IT companies. Once 'stimulated', Mario took the opportunity to condense all of his experiences from the past 30+ years to design, step by step, the CanEver product family accompanied by me playing the role of audiophile devil's advocate. You as a very rare type of reviewer moved the front line even further because you stimulated him to talk very openly and in very much detail about his ideas.
Furthermore, you collected all this information from him as well as other things published elsewhere about his products and summarized it in a very smart way into one of the most if not the most informative articles about Mario's work in general and the design criteria of his products in particular. Thank you very much for this outstanding work. Best regards, Rainer Israel, acting as some kind of 'Sales & Marketing Manager' for CanEver Audio products
Hello Srajan: I just saw your latest feature on those German subwoofers to check out their website with Google Translate. Very interesting stuff. What I can't wrap my head around is why he wouldn't be interested in a review? Aren't potential distributors always looking for those, in fact often use them to learn about product they might want? If this guy wants to sell outside his local market (it's hard to see how Germany alone would keep him busy for very long), wouldn't he want more rather than less publicity? That's just me thinking out loud of course. Here's to hoping we learn more about how this performs. I remember that you were really impressed with the bass from the Daydream and Voxativ speakers which used the same technology. Strapping that Ripol sub bass to regular speakers could be a really good thing, couldn't it? Jeremy Anders
Michael explained how in the current EU climate, he needs to comply with all manner of arcane codes including eventual impact on waste disposal and so forth; and that for the time being where he runs this as a still developing side gig to his paying day job, he doesn't have the time to handle all the bureaucracy he believes is involved to be in full compliance with all the regulatory requirements imposed upon manufacturers these days. For now then, domestic sales and reviews only.
The newcomer exhibits in Munich are interesting. And, the last two companies we wanted to help, a UK maker of turntables and a Greek firm with a novel enclosure material around a valve amp, repeatedly reneged on their review commitments with us meaning endless delays and many failed promises despite industry features and/or previews already published. Having an interesting fully working prototype and actually succeeding to launch a company/business are two very different things.
And yes, the Ecobox Daydream designed by the very clever inventor of the Raal ribbon and Raal Requisite SR1a headphone, certain Bastanis/Zugspitz models and the Voxativ Pi 9.87 system all implement Ripol loading. It's why I know from experience just how effective it is; and why I'm very curious to hear how this German implementation with Alex Ridthaler's direct involvement would tack onto our own systems. For now it's simply not to be. Srajan
Dear Srajan: I've followed your recent visit to Denmark and the reviews lined up because of it with great interest. That said, I also admit to trepidation when seeing you engage with prices that previously mostly appealed to Jonathan Valin and his followers. For example, do you really expect those Børresen 4-inch two-and-a-half-way boxes to so seriously outperform your Audio Physic as to justify costing four times as much? I've always admired that you've stayed focused on less extreme examples of the art. Assure me that you're not joining the dark side now to leave us mere mortals in the dust. Only halfway joking. Yours sincerely, Frankie Claron
Blame my idle curiosity for wanting to know how the other half (a percent) lives. It's true, the Børresen are wildly beyond my usual scope. But after seeing their facilities, learning what goes into them and hearing three different models in a fully optimized setup, I must admit that, within the fast/accurate school, their sound was absolutely superb. How much better will it seem to our status quo once I hit 'play' in our crib? No idea. But I'm really looking forward to finding out. As it happens, delivery is scheduled within the hour. I should have a first sense real soon. And no, I have no plans to regularly visit these price realms. Something would have to give me very solid reason to pursue it. The Danes made their case by inviting me to their factory. But since I don't have a lot of time to travel, similar opportunities will by necessity remain few and far between. So the dark side should remain reasonably distant.
But how does one know how much better it can still get unless one tries things beyond one's zone of comfort and familiarity?
Dear Srajan, hope you're doing fine. How would the Voxativ 9.87 system compare to my pair of Ampeggio Schimmel with AC4X? Johan-Frédérik Hel Guedj
Far better bass reach if you do electronica with infrasonics. If it's not music with content below 40Hz, you may not need to bother. Srajan
Would the Magico Q3 for instance best the Ampeggio?
I have no idea. I've never heard a Magico in my room. At shows I've never felt drawn to them…
Apparently, Voxativ are difficult to beat.
If you like what they do, I only know Cube Audio from Poland and Camerton.
And Universum from hORNS (also Polish)?
I haven't heard those so no opinion. But that's a very different proposition.
And big Tannoy Westminster?
Not the same resolution.
Again, horns not widebanders but very advanced horns plus active sealed bass.
Which are your favorite horns?
Those Greeks whose name I can't remember at present. Anima is one of their model names.
Have appointment with official Paris dealer for the Tune Audio Anima. Waiting to see whether it will match with my Zanden 6000. Stay tuned.
Good man. That'll definitely tell you what's what. Let's hope that dealer has a good room.
Acceptable, it seems.
I look forward to hearing what you thought.
Reporting for duty. After listening session of Tune Audio Anima, must confess that I've been impressed. Large scene, depth, height, true timbre, separation etc. Any sibilance in highs or box effect basically disappear.
Now you just have to decide whether that's the sound you want to live with, long-term.I guess so. But I'll have to decide whether I should part with that amount of rubles/pesetas/guilders. Truth be told, Animas are a big step up after Voxativ.
Srajan, just finished up your latest review and still have the final track on my mind. How ever do you find this stuff? I consider myself reasonably well read, musically speaking, but I've never come across this Saban character before. What a combination of fragility and great power. What can you tell me about him? Luigi Fontano
They called him the king of Roma music. He was from Serbia and passed away about 10 years ago. Google will have more answers for you. As to finding stuff, Spotify & Qobuz & Tidal & BandCamp & YouTube like everyone else. I happen to love gypsy music so keep an eye out across the genre. Srajan
Hello Srajan: Two €3K speakers, both from France, both compact towers. I just finished your Sensa review and was curious. In the end, if it was for yourself, which one would you buy, the Apertura or the Davis? I've read both reviews and understand how they differ. Still, I'm curious which you'd prefer if it came down to one of the two. Matt Staunton
Given my tastes and electronics, the Apertura for being a counterpoint to our Albedo Aptica which are more similar to the Davis to double up. But I'm never quite sure what good it does anyone to find out what I would buy. Tastes differ. Unless you've listened side by side with someone to affirm that you're not only hearing the same things but call them out in such a way as to recognize that you're talking about the same things... reviews are just approximations to narrow down a short list. From there only you can proceed since it's your ears you must please, not mine. Srajan
Howdy Srajan: I saw your response to Nigel, then just read your preview on the new Sonnet DAC from Cees Ruijtenberg. To me it reads pretty much like his earlier Metrum Adagio. Do you expect it will actually be different or just a repackaging job of old guts? Frankie Rothman
Cees is a true engineer who seems to never rest. The converter modules are new as are the MQA and upsampler boards. The modular approach is different. So I expect an evolutionary refinement of the Adagio recipe; same core approach but refined. Because I don't own a Metrum DAC, I won't be able to conduct actual sonic comparisons. On that score, someone else will eventually have to pitch in. For now I have no additional information on the Morpheus DAC and the Acelec Model One review will come first. But Cees is always very forthcoming about what he does so I'm sure that in due time, we'll have a full breakdown on how Morpheus differs vs. Adagio. For obvious reasons he won't make any sonic comparative claims but I'm sure that technically, he can talk about what he does different now. Srajan
Hi Srajan: I've been following your preview for Acelec with great curiosity. The Model One certainly looks the real bruiser. I love what Cees did at Metrum Acoustics and like you wondered what happened over there. I'd not seen any new products in what seems well over a year. While Cees ran things, there was always something going on. Any idea whether he'll resurface on the digital side of things as well or is he hamstrung by some kind of non-compete agreement with the new Metrum owners? Cheers, Nigel
I'm not privy to non-compete deals and such but I do know that Cees hasn't been sitting idly by on the digital front either. "I saw this question from Nigel. It is okay to mention Sonnet. For now we are supporting many old Metrum customers but next, they expect new products which probably will never come. The new owners of Metrum have seen our Sonnet website plus all the info on FaceBook so it is no longer a secret. Nigel can find more about us here. Hopefully our first product will be available end of October, early November." Srajan
Hello Srajan: Dawid just beat me to the punch with his comment on your Buchardt review. But unlike him, I've not heard them yet. In your opinion then, it there another speaker in this price range I should consider if all the qualities you laid out apply to my search to appeal? Sincerely, Pat Staunton
I actually wasn't kidding when on that review's final page, I pleaded ignorance and the fifth. It's been a good while since I've listened to a speaker in this price range. In fact, I think the last one was an Amphion which struck me as altogether cooler and closer to the studio monitor aesthetic. Before than Amphion, I can't even remember. So I'm really the last person one should ask for any advice in this area. Doug Schneider at SoundStage! is probably the reviewer with the most small speakers under his belt so if anyone, it'd be him that I'd ask. Srajan
Dear Srajan: I've read many Aqua Hifi reviews on your site in the past and noticed that they're launching a new network interface called the LinQ. Any plans to review that when it comes out? My understanding is that it should start shipping later this year. Alessandro
I've looked at its specs just now, Alessandro. Aqua's I²S protocol doesn't shake hands with our Denafrips or Soundaware hardware. At least it didn't in the past. In my experience, I²S beats AES/EBU and coaxial/BNC. Now it would make more sense for a reviewer to do the LinQ who owns a matching Aqua DAC to exploit the best transmission format. Given the excellence of Aqua products, I'm sure you'll see more than one LinQ review shortly after it launches. I've simply not been approached so I doubt it'll be us. Srajan
Hello Srajan: Read your Antipodes review. Is that then the combo you'd go after yourself if your iMac suddenly went on the fritz? Or is there something else one might consider that would perform equally well? Markus Ratzebühl
As you know, our music library lives as .aiff files in iTunes; our household is WiFi allergic to eliminate tablet remotes; and Audirvana 3 and our particular USB bridge elevate an iMac into a bona fide 'audiophile' server no matter all the forum noise to the contrary. So no, I wouldn't spend three times as much and still need to buy another screen just to access the Antipodes in hardwired mode in lieu of a WiFi tablet. But I'm in the distinct minority here. Sonically, yes, I'd pursue the Antipodes separates in a heartbeat. But when I add up cost, features and performance, I'd simply buy another iMac and run that with the rest of our current PCfi ancillaries. That solution just works for me. Srajan
Srajan: Any chance that you'll manage to get your hands on a pair of T100 to try in your Vinnie Rossi preamp? Those are the tubes I'm most curious about but I'd like some sonic profiling before I take a leap of faith on these. They're not exactly cheap and with tubes, you can't return them if you don't like them. Fergus
I believe that after Dawid Grzyb compares the Living Voice 300B to the T100 in his LampizatOr DAC, he'll loan me his pair so I can take it for a spin and see how it compares to the Western Electric 300B and Elrog ER50. Or, you could contact dawid at hifiknights.com directly and see what he thinks. His application is a bit different but with his tubes not driving speakers directly either, there's also sufficient overlap to suspect that his findings would translate to the L2. Srajan
Srajan, any updates on the Swiss Holton review? The intro reads most interesting but what about the sound? Waiting impatiently to learn how all of the shiny tech and constructor's care translate in the listening seat. Tom Wozny
The conclusion is delayed due to a typical review weirdness. My sample suddenly refused to power up even though I replaced fuses, used different power cords and different wall sockets. Upon return to its maker, it of course worked straight out of the box. But shipping had caused some cosmetic back-panel damage so Holton must wait for a physical inspection by the carrier to start the insurance claim. Those things tend to take far longer than it takes the shipping companies to bill your credit card for a ship fee. That's what's presently holding up the unit from coming back to finish up the review. All I'd gotten to was confirm that it played, take the photos, finish up another review or two and when the time came to get serious, Uncle Murphy visited. Srajan
Hello Srajan: Just read your latest C.E.C. and Antipodes reviews. Good to see you confirm that CD still lives. In certain magazines, the format has disappeared completely and anyone still doing it is regarded as a lost cause. I for one appreciate reminders to the contrary. Thanks for that. Chip Mulligan
In Aalborg during my visit to Ansuz, Aavik and Børresen, there was no streaming, period. Their demos were conducted with CD. Their principals feel that there's still more information hidden in them thar grooves than we have harnessed yet. Until then, why bother with other formats? The majority will disagree, of course. But if you don't mind the 'anachrophile' label, keep spinning the silvery discs in the knowledge that you're not missing anything. Srajan
Do you know what’s going on with Michael Lavorgna? This doesn’t sound too good. "Due to personal and professional reasons, Twittering Machines will close its virtual doors next month. I am, in effect, retiring from hifi." Frederic Beudot
It's the first I heard of it. Hopefully his health is fine and he just tired of writing on hifi. Or perhaps, operating a site with all the managerial background work that entails stopped being fun. If he wants us to know more, I'll expect we find out in due course. Srajan
Good morning Srajan, I've read the review last night and shared it with my team. As I already said, I really do like how you play with words and expressions. Honestly, I'm really with it. Also thanks a lot for posting Marta Topferova's video. It's a great inspiration. It's a bit of a shame but I've never heard of her. I know her dad who is a well-known Czech actor. Anyway, she is such a great artist. I've already booked a date in my calendar for her gig in October. Her voice and style are truly amazing. Ondrej Chotovinsky
I have most of her albums which are of this type Mexican-inspired music. But she also runs the Milokraj project under which there are two albums of more Slavic music. Like you said, a splendid very inspiring artist. I envy your ability to hear her live. Srajan
Hi Srajan, just read your latest Gold Note review and wanted to comment on your music choices. To my surprise, I found them quite inspired. But do you think the majority of your readers will relate? Shouldn't you use more mainstream music that people are familiar with to better gauge your comments? Markus Staunton
I view 6moons as a global publication. We review gear from all corners of the globe. We can be read everywhere with an Internet connection and English comprehension. To underscore the fact that good stuff comes from everywhere, I fly country flags at the beginning of each review. The same goes for music. There's a lot of fabulous stuff from all over the planet and my choices reflect that. You yourself called it 'quite inspired'. Given that I embed links to YouTube videos so people can hear the tune I'm referencing while they're reading my comments, "being able to relate" is instant and tacit, no abstract maybe. So I don't understand your comment. Broadening one's scope in any endeavor is always valuable. Rather than write music reviews, I can now drop 8 or 10 tracks from different artists into a single hardware review which, by that very fact, becomes on-the-fly music exposure. If you don't like a given tune, hit 'stop'. If you do like it, you just added a potential candidate to your future listening pleasure list. Even if you had no interest in the hardware I reviewed, I'd call that a fat win. Srajan
Srajan, you probably already know this, but the recently remastered version of Jon Hassell’s City: Works of Fiction is fantastic. Also, if you’re a fan of big band jazz, check out Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith’s The Dynamic Duo. Surprisingly good sound and great music. Both are on Tidal.
What would you recommend in the $500-600 range for a 2-meter balanced interconnect going from an iFi Pro iDSD to an Electronic Visionary Systems Class D amp? Any recommendations come to mind? Thanks for your help in advance. Jacob
When it comes to cost-effective cables, I don't think you can do better than Chris Sommovigo's Black Cat Cable range. I'm just not sure he has a balanced design in his entry range. If that doesn't net anything, the Vermöuth Cables from Bali are very good and affordable and should suit your budget. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I thought you would be interested to know about my positive experiences with mounting the Cube Audio Nenuphar speakers on Max Townshend's Podium supports.
From my notes...
... there is a more natural top end; increased space around instruments; music more absorbing and delicate; increased transparency; clearer top end; improved transients; greater harmonic structure to the music; better cohesion; increase in detail; bass tighter more natural; depth and openness increased; notes last longer. Kind regards, Robert
Hello Robert, thanks for the recommendation. I'm pleased to see you've discovered something that works out this well for you. Srajan
Hello Mr Srajan, I am one of the readers of your excellent reviews, thank you for that. Now I am addressing you to ask some advice. My passion are vinyl records. I own a beautiful collection of them and for more than 20 years already restore turntables. So my front end is quite good with a Lenco/PTP, Garrard 301, Technics SP10, Thorens TD124, Linn LP12 with Schick tonearms, Audio Creative Groovemaster, SME 3012 and phono stages from Tavish Design for tubes and Ayre and Sutherland for solid state. But I have some problems with my amplification/speaker match.
I own a First Watt SIT3, Audio Research hybrid LS17 preamp and Omega Super Alnico monitors plus a set of Harbeth P7ESR. The SIT3 has, as you know, just 11.5dB of gain.The Omega are efficient at 94.5dB into 8Ω but the Harbeth at 83.5dB and 6Ω are not. Also, the LS17 has only 12dB of gain in single-ended mode. So as you would expect, I fall a little short of gain. Especially with low output cartridges, listening to some records just doesn't get loud enough. I am thinking of buying another preamp with lots of gain like the Ayre KX5 Twenty with variable gain settings; or something completely different like a Eastern Electric MiniMax with I think 20dB gain. But my finances don't allow me to make a mistake. I want to make the combination of my SIT3 with the Omega SAM really swing with low noise and good control. Now this combination lacks gain and bass weight. What advice would you give me? How can I enjoy my SIT3? Thanks and best regards from Belgium. Sven
It's good you're not asking about the Harbeth. For them the SIT3 would simply be the wrong amp I think. From what I remember, the MiniMax isn't that quiet so wouldn't be my first choice. If you can't get the gain up with a different phono stage, you're right to look at the linestage but chances of raising the noise especially with tubes come with that. So you're looking at a preamp with 26dB or so voltage gain. Given that you have the Tavish phono stage for valves, perhaps your best bet would indeed be a solid-state preamplifier. I really liked the Pass Labs HPA-1 which, yes, is marketed as a headphone amplifier but makes for a terrific preamp, albeit minimalist and without remote control. You may want to check with them on voltage gain. It's ultra quiet since headfi is super critical. It's powerful, like a mini amp in fact. I just don't have the voltage gain figure to be sure it'd give you that boost you need. If you can swing $3'500 and Pass confirm its gain, that'd be a cherry. Srajan
Hello, thanks for the answer. The HPA-1 has low gain, only 8dB so that's far away from the 26dB needed. Maybe you have other ideas? Sven
Not off the top of my head. I'll give it a think though. The high-gain situation requires a search parameter I haven't memorized. Srajan
Hi Srajan, in your review of the Diesis Ludos speakers, you include several musical examples. The first one is a recording of the "Adagio" of The Concierto de Aranjuez being reproduced by the Diesis Roma which, I presume, you recorded while you were there at the HiFi Deluxe audio show. It is the only recording in the review for which you did not give any information. If you happen to know which recording that is, could you please let me know? By the way, those recordings are all very good. I am sure that they are not done with a smartphone. Could you share what recording equipment you use to make them? Regards, Peter
The first video is from Diesis so I don’t know the recording they used. Hence I provided no information; plus I didn’t review the Diesis Roma in Munich. All the other recordings are on YouTube and not mine. They’re simply a way to let people stream some of the same music I used during the review; whilst reading the review. That makes it easier to fully appreciate some of the sonic descriptions. As to recording quality, most of my examples tend to be better because these artists paid attention to it (and also for it) but I also listen to quite poorly recorded stuff. At times I will deliberately highlight a lesser recording to demonstrate whether a particular component's quality still matters then. I recently did that in the Mutec review with an Amr Diab track. If a hifi only sounds good on premium fare and makes everything else unacceptable and no longer fun, it's counterproductive. So mixing it up on recording quality is key then. Srajan
A related question, please. In the same review, Diesis specify their bandwidth at ±8dB. I've never seen this before and assumed ±3dB was the standard. Peter
Correct. Unless theirs is a typo, Diesis have used a looser tolerance. Then if we translate the currently published 37Hz-26'000Hz spec to -3dB, we might perhaps arrive at 55Hz - 20'000Hz? If it is really important to you, you could ask them. As my review explained, the figure 8 cancellation of out-of-phase data at the edges of an open baffle makes for less bass extension than raw woofer diameters might suggest. Even though the Ludos uses dual 10-inch woofers, the small port-loaded widebander in the Camerton Binom-1 just reviewed actually goes lower. The flip side is, it won't move anywhere near the same air. So it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. Srajan
Hello Srajan: From what I can tell, the key difference of the Camerton speaker is its port loading where the majority of single driver speakers uses big rear horns, quarter-wave boxes and such. From your descriptions, it seems like the Binom speaker works very well with its port to manage what the other types need much larger enclosures to do. Why do you think ported widebanders are so rare then? Gert Schultz
That's a most excellent question, Gert. In fact, it's one I've pondered myself. Once Oleh is back in the office, I intend to ask him exactly that. So stay tuned and let's see what the two us can learn on the matter. Srajan
Hi Srajan, plus one! After finding Conrad's letter, I surfed over to that Audio Science Review. For me the most interesting response was Bruno's. He refers to what I assume was your own review because I haven't found any others on the OEM module yet. In case you haven't seen it, here's what he said: "In vindication of that POV we've now seen more than one enthousiastic "subjective" reviews of the 1ET400A go up expressing delight that we have both great measurements and great sound (as if that were a contradiction). I'd like to state here that in our company, as listeners we are fanatic about sound and as engineers we are fanatic about measured results. The trick is to pick a set of measurements that have a modicum of relevance to psychoacoustics (in the case of amplifiers, accepting that hearing goes south beyond 20kHz and that music is more than sine waves). Once we get the lab result that we expected, we go and listen carefully to make sure we're not missing anything. That's rarely the case so the next stage (playing great music and breaking open beers) tends to follow quickly afterwards."
Unlike Amir who seems to only measure, Bruno and his team actually take listening just as serious as measurements. Like Conrad, I don't see how one could call something a review that contains no listening comments but still stimulates endless pages of follow-on posts from readers. You guys at 6moons don't do any measurements and ideally, we'd have both. Stereophile do but theirs often don't match up with what the actual reviewer said so aren't terribly relevant. In the end I keep coming back to a Nelson Pass thing you've quoted at times. He said that we listen to music for entertainment and not through an oscilloscope. That's why I look for reviewers like yourself and Marja & Henk and Herb Reichert and Art Dudley who communicate whether they were entertained and if so, how. In your recent Gold Note amp review, I knew you hadn't been and that was just as helpful. Leave the science of audio reviewing to Amir and keep doing the subjective reviews you guys do. Frankie Staunton
Because I'm incapable of drawing up a complete mental image of what something sounds like from measurements, we'll keep on doing our thing, no worries. But it's still great that there are places where measurements dominate. Clearly there are readers who prefer them and only want that. And then there a places like SoundStage and Stereophile which do both. That serves yet another audience. Choices are good. Wouldn't it be boring if we all did it the same way? Srajan
Hiya Srajan: After reading your review on the new Purifi OEM module demonstrator, I've snooped around the forums to find more opinions and information on early adopters. There I came across this review which is just measurements to tell me nothing about what this amp actually sounds like. I was quite disappointed. Is that what people nowadays call a review? I must say, despite disagreeing with your style at times, I much prefer your approach to reviewing. It always tells me what you thought things sounded like and I leave with quite a clear idea in my mind. Thanks for that. Conrad Meesle
I took a look. Conrad. Agreed, it's also not what I would call a review but there clearly is an audience for their test-bench approach. I wouldn't know how to correlate such measurements to actual sonics but I'm sure that serious engineering types who measure and listen have taught themselves how to interpret them quite accurately. As long as the readers of such articles can do the same, they should find themselves well served. Actually, there's a far more advanced type listener who, just by looking at pictures of gear in a room, can tell what it sounds like. I'm far more primitive. I actually must listen to something first before I have any notion on what it does, sonically. Srajan
Srajan, thanks for the review of the CAD Ground Control unit. I had the opportunity to meet Scott @ T.H.E. Show a few weeks back. I found the room great sounding with the Boenicke Audio speakers. I am curious on your thoughts about human sensitivities to hearing. Many might argue ultra-high frequencies. Many would say that humans hear 20Hz-20kHz and that anything above that is not audible. So when we hear differences when a device like the Ground Control is placed in and out of a system for comparative purposes, what are we truly hearing? Would love to hear your thoughts. Regards, Everard
It's not about hearing beyond 20kHz. It's about what noise far beyond our range of hearing does to the range we can hear. There's intermodulation. There's making certain processes harder for parts like D/A converters. Why do we think a diamond tweeter sounds sweeter than an aluminium dome? The diamond breaks up at 70kHz, the aluminium at 23kHz. Both breakup modes occur far beyond our hearing threshold. Then why is it that the breakup further away from our limits creates less audible hardness? Why is it that 1MHz bandwidth in amplifiers sounds more open, transparent, clear and fast than an amp which is -3dB down at 25kHz? If you only trust the numbers, a CD brickwall filter at 22kHz should sound no different than a very shallow filter at 384kHz.
It's simple enough to do A/B comparisons. If you can hear a difference and find it attractive (better, preferable), does it really matter to you how and why that is so? If you turn your WiFi off and the sound gets better, who cares that we can't hear to 2.4GHz where WiFi begins to operate? I'm not a scientist or audio engineer. I leave it those guys to figure out and explain the how and why. I simply trust my hearing and report about that. That's why it's called subjective audio reviewing. In the end, what matters is what happens to our ears and brains since we don't listen to music with oscilloscopes. Srajan
Hello Srajan, thank you for a fantastic review! I can tell that you spent significant time with the GC1s and I am very happy with your comments. It is always a bit tricky describing what Ground Controls do to sound quality and you did an excellent job describing the changes. Once you get what a Ground Control does, it becomes easier to move them about within a system and decide the best location(s) to connect them. Are you interested in a manufacturer's comment? I would like to mention a bit about using Ground Controls in analog systems. One of our big sellers of GC1 Ground Controls is for phono preamplifiers. Due to the very high gain of these components, they typically react very well to the connection of a GC1 Ground Control. Here is a GC1 being used at Munich with the new TechDas Zero turntable. If you look just in front of Mr. Nishakawa’s right hand, you will see a GC1. - Scott Berry, CAD
Hullo Srajan, I quite enjoyed your review of the Gryphon Zena not the least because I snagged two albums on Tidal: Andima and Longing for Paradise. You also mentioned tweeter break-up which fascinates me. I have a pair of Vivid Oval 1.5 speakers which despite being in the entry-level category for Vivid sport the same D26 aluminum tweeter found in the Giya G1. The tweeter exhibits its first break-up at over 40kHz, small thanks to a carbon stiffening ring. The tweeter is the real star of the Oval even to my 67-year-old ears! Thank you Laurence Dickie! Finally, I learned a new use of the word "flageolet." Having spent five years in France, I thought it was only the inestimable legume found in France and not a woodwind. Have you thought of applying for tax-exempt status due to the educational nature of your website? Cheers, Michael Fanning
Yes, both Vivid and Audio Physic exploit ordinary aluminium tweeters but push their break-up modes an octave higher with damper rings which Audio Physic now incorporate into their surrounds. No need for toxic expensive beryllium. And as you said, even 67-year old ears can tell the difference. That's a mind rattler until we accept that somehow, out-of-band distortion does intermodulate signal in the bandwidth we can hear. As to flageolet, I didn't know it was a bean or woodwind. I was referring to the playing technique on strings when you subdivide them with a very light touch to deliberately invoke their harmonics. That's what happens on that Andima track - which is one of the best of the album so hopefully you like the rest enough to warrant having bought the whole thing. SrajanThanks for the quick response. Methinks I'll have a stew enriched by flageolets while listening to Andima! Double the flavor! Michael
Hi Srajan, thank you for your dedication and insightful reviews! I am intrigued for some time now by Lavardin. I auditioned their IT model with an Esoteric K05 and Vivid Audio V1.5, a truly unique experience. After many years of stagnation and silence, this manufacturer seems to wake up with new "x" upgrades to their famous organic tube-like sound. Have you come across them and what do you understand of their transistor memory distortion theory? I would love to read your review of their new "x" integrated models, IS or IT. Much appreciated, Frank Peylaire from Sydney, Australia
A friend of mine let me listen to his older IT a few years back and it was lovely. Since then I've not heard anything by them. Wojciech at www.highfidelity.pl has an 'x' review. As to understanding their circuit re: memory distortion, that's beyond me. But I do remember a recent query about in on www.diyaudio.com in the Pass Labs forum where Nelson explained that the phenomenon is well known and can be quite easily addressed. You might do a search in that forum to read what he had to say about it. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I hope this email finds you well. Following up with the Lavardin story, I ended up buying the new Aesthetix Mimas hybrid integrated amp. And I urge you to have an audition. It is an absolute treat. Details remain extremely musical and just organic, the soundstage is to die for without this overly discrete imaging, there are pitch-black backgrounds voices just right, just the best of two worlds, analogue without its imperfections and plenty of power to drive demanding speakers. Looking forward to reading you soon. Regards, Frank
I just signed 15 new reviews in the first day of coming back from the Munich show and there's more in the wings so I'll be very busy for months to come. If Aesthetix want a review, I'm easy to get in touch with. They just have to contact me. Srajan
Thanks Srajan, I will let them know. Appreciate your great work. Cheers, Frank
Srajan, in your latest Limetree review, what are those gorgeous speakers on your desktop? I must have missed a review somewhere because I've never seen those before. Could you provide a link if you did review them? Holger
Fram Audio Midi 150 from Poland - all metal cab, active design, with one additional passive radiator out back so two passives in total. Amazing performer. Look in our archives under Fram. The designer started with Ancient Audio, top-loading CD players and valve amps. Srajan
Hello Srajan: Just finished reading your latest review on the new Living Voice. Loved the embedded music videos and particularly how you used the last one. I'm not a fan of opera so really the opposite of knowledgeable. That had me really surprised by how much I enjoyed that unexpected duet between Stevie Wonder and Luciano Pavarotti and how useful I found it to read your comments on their different phrasing as you put it and how you related that to the speakers under review. Clearly neither of these singers are better or worse. They sing in totally different styles. But I understood exactly what you meant and now have a clear idea on what sets the Living Voice apart. Just thought you'd like to know. Keep it coming! Martin Hubbard
I'm pleased to hear that you found that helpful, Martin. There are very few classically trained musicians who can completely transcend their training of timing, intonation and phrasing then make the perfectly seamless transition to Jazz, Soul or other music forms. On clarinet, Eddie Daniels is the only one I've hard who's equally brilliant on Jazz and Brahms or Weber. Sabine Meyer duetizing with Paquito d'Rivera always sounds like a giveaway classical clarinet. So coming across this particular duet, it was most useful that Luciano couldn't do Soul to make for the perfect example of what I had to say. Of course Stevie doing opera would be equally 'different' so as you sagely pointed out, it's not about better or worse. It's about two completely different art forms in which each of these singers has become a legend. Srajan
Hello Srajan, my name is Saar from Israel and I am an audio fan. Recently I got to hear my stereo system at a friend's house where the only change he made was replace my simple USB cable with one which he had prepared himself. The change was so big and better that it left me in shock. He sells the cable at a price too expensive for me ($2'000) so I started searching for USB cables on line, I found your review of the Lightharmonic Lightspeed but this cable is too expensive for me. I am looking for a USB cable at $250. Can you please recommend something to me? Thanks in advance, Saar Galon.
Hi Srajan, thanks for the insightful review of Franck's César! I visited Franck some years ago in his Paris atelier when I purchased an ASI LiveLine cable loom. Ever the gentleman, Franck didn't want to simply make a transaction, he wanted to make a connection. So I sat and listened to some Stevie Ray Vaughn via an elaborate vinyl setup with the Tango speakers, viewed Franck's unique resonators squirreled away in the room and listened to a Franck solo on one of his custom guitars. I left the atelier exhilarated—and somewhat exhausted—after a visit with the acoustic alchemist of Paris. Cheers, Michael Fanning
Franck is a high-energy individual, isn't he? I remember when he first installed a full resonator set in our first Swiss dig. We had to have him re-tune the overall balance the next day because my wife literally couldn't sleep. He'd dialed up the energy in the house too far for our lazier temperaments. But he knew exactly what to do and it was perfect then. Srajan
Srajan, I just saw that your friend Dan is doing you a follow-up on that Vinnie Rossi pre. That wouldn't by any chance be the same guy whom you, a long time ago, visited with his very big horn system back when you lived in Cyprus? If so, I'll be very curious indeed to see what he has to say. He certainly seems to have been through some very elite stuff. Kevin Hart
That would be the one and same. Correct, he's been through a lot of hifi kit of the exotic sort since I first met him. Like you, I'm very curious about his feedback. In fact, I'm promised his first installment by tonight. I have no idea how many he's planning on. So stay tuned. Srajan
Dear Srajan, I just read up on your ongoing sessions with the Polish 6BQ5 amps and hola, amigo, links to YouTube music. Good on you. Being able to track your comments by hearing some of the stuff you refer to makes things even easier to follow. Thank you very much. Pjotr Kaminski
Aha. You noticed. Seriously, I've wanted to do this "forever" but I first had to get the site out of DreamWeaver and into WordPress, then learn how to embed videos so they visually integrate with my layout. With some help from my IT guy to tweak YouTube's code, we're there. Now it's just a matter of actually finding some of the stuff I listen to. We'll see how that goes. But I'm happy that this feature is now part of my approach to reviewing. The music really ought to do (some of the) talking after all. This is also a neat way to introduce our readers to some tunes, far more direct than any music review could ever be. Srajan
Hello Srajan: What happened to your Vanatoo preview? I was looking forward to its conclusion because at $599/pr, this is a product that really would make sense for our son. Michael
Because they presently only sell in the US and Canada, Vanatoo ultimately decided that a review in a global publication like ours wasn't in their best interest. And in hindsight, that seems fair. Why tease 2/3rd of our readership in Europe and Asia with a product they can't buy? What I had thought was a commitment to have me already produce a preview turned out to be more of an initial inquiry after all. Srajan
Hello Srajan, I just got a message from our distributor in Singapore who is very impressed that you are a straight shooter and that everything you wrote, the SR1a deserved. Over there, he encountered somewhat reserved comments from the reviewers who told him that they can't actually write how awesome the SR1a is because other manufacturers will feel sore about that. So am I. I'm very impressed with your ethics and independence! Thanks again. Your KIH #66 is wonderful. Aleksandar Radisavljevic
Dear Srajan, I just finished reading your long Vinnie Rossi review. The most amazing statement you made was at the very end in your postscript. It's taken 99 years for us to get a preamp machine which uses direct-heated big power triodes in a grounded grid circuit without OPT or coupling capacitor. I also share your surprise that this accomplishment should have come to us from a very small boutique operator, not one of the majors with their cadres of engineers. The review well portrayed your excitement over this discovery and I can only wonder whether sooner than later, you'll acquire one of these to use in your reviews going forward. Thanks for keeping the flame alive! Robert Kincaid
Being a helpless hater of black hifi—it's a silly bias but what to do—I'm keeping my fingers crossed that eventually, L2 might become available in silver. Then I'd definitely want to pursue one with that ¼"/XLR headphone option installed. Happy to hear that my enthusiasm communicated through the writing. This really is one of those discoveries reviewers live for to share. For now this loaner will make onward tracks to one of Vinnie's Swiss customers who wants to hear it and possibly buy it. If it doesn't have to cross the Atlantic again, it'd be a win for Vinnie and this client. Srajan
Read your review on the Allnic L10000. I'm thinking of purchasing one. Current pre is a Luxman C900u to match my M900U. Would you say that the L10000 is one of the best preamplifiers you've ever heard? It's not cheap, that's for sure. Clint Tracy
Yes, the L10000 is exceptional. Also check out the Vinnie Rossi L2. It's half the price and an even more interesting take on a similar concept. Srajan
What is your personal choice if both were priced the same? Clint
They're far from priced the same. Even if they were, I'd still consider the Vinnie Rossi the more advanced machine. It has far higher bandwidth, lower noise and it takes 2.5, 4 and 5V DHT. It's the one I'd buy. Srajan
My current setup is a C-900U pre and M-900u amp. I'm wondering if the L2 would be a game changer over the C-900u. I'm using Martin Logan 15a speakers. Clint
Knowing none of your components, I haven't the foggiest. But it does strike me that rather than arbitrarily inquiring about costly machines, you ought to first do a proper self assessment on your current system. Why do you want to change anything? What are you unhappy with, exactly? Only that can create a proper game plan for improving things. Why do you suspect your preamp in the first place? And so forth. These are questions you need to answer for yourself. Nobody else can do it for you. Then you can proceed to step #2, which is identifying potential candidates for replacement. But only someone very rich and/or casual would spend €17'000 or €30'000 on the advice of a stranger. I politely suggest that the game changing really has to start with how you're going about all this. I'm not a hifi shrink or buying adviser. I write reviews and trust that our readers are intelligent enough to take things from there. Srajan
Hi Srajan, out of curiosity, do you have an idea of how many Lunar Eclipse awards have been bestowed since 6moons began? This year may set the record. Thanks, Fred
Not sure. That requires memory. But if mine still works as it should, there was the Zu Druid. Peachtree Audio Decco. Vinnie Rossi LIO. Cube Audio Nenuphar. Ilumnia Magister. Today the Vinnie Rossi L2 line stage. If I didn't forget anyone, that's 6 in 17 years. I'm suspicious I dropped someone. Srajan
HI Srajan, Glad to hear that nuggets of inspiration and wonder continue to dot your calendar. I'm not surprised. It happens here as well though in slightly different fashion...to a degree both businesses bank on inspiration. I know without it, we'd be done in under a year. The 'flagship' is the ship in a fleet that carries the admiral and tends to be the most impressive example therein. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Fred
I know the raw meaning of the word. My dad was in the German navy. He progressed through the ranks to at least Kapitän zur See if not above but I'm hazy on the final stripes and stars on his epaulettes since I left home at 17. It's how we use the word 'flagship' that doesn't really make sense to me. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I enjoyed Jarek's new designs and reading about their specifics in your review. The more-for-less sweepstakes may be at a relative high. What I'm hearing now was just not out there in the same quality nor at these price points 10 years ago. Of course the über end has gone the other direction. There's still that high middle ground. My eyes did prick up when I read about the active crossover coming before amplification. I have seen this before in multi-horn speaker systems. It worked very well. Best, Fred Crane
Yes, the Fram were a real wakeup call for me, too. As to active crossovers before amplification, that's pretty much the definition of an active crossover and what differentiates active from just powered speakers. Where Jarek really differs is that he uses DSP plus a traditional passive 1st-order filter. The DSP already knows what that filter does and includes it in its corrections as a global approach. That bit is quite unusual but it clearly works a charm. Srajan
Dear Srajan: I was just looking at your preview roster and saw that the thumb nail for the Kaiser monitor disappeared. Did something happen to that review? I was actually looking forward to it. Jeremy Young
Sharp eyes, Jeremy. Something did indeed happen. Nothing. A review loaner simply hasn't materialized. For the time being then, I've taken the preview down. It hasn't been deleted from my server so will be easily revived should a Furioso Mini sample still materialize. But I imagine that in the current economic climate, it can't be easy for Kaiser to juggle their main furniture business with their hifi division. I remember talking to Hans-Jürgen at the show last year. Due to very high manufacturing costs (Panzerholz, premium drivers, premium filter parts), their margins are quite low so as to not escalate the sell prices further. Meanwhile promoting an ambitious speaker brand with shows, reviews, advertising and the works is costly business. HJ might prefer to play it slow and steady. That's just an assumption but would seem sensible and explain why distributor/dealer orders must take precedence over reviewers. Srajan
Dear Srajan, just read your Raal review. Wow! I'm left with only one question. How do these compete against electrostatic headphones? You forgot to comment on such obvious competition! Vassili Hrontis
I didn't forget. I didn't have any electrostats on hand. I can't just make shit up. However, visit the growing thread on head-fi.org about the SR1a and you'll find an owner of Stax electrostats who just bought a pair of Raal Requisite and described the differences. In short, his Stax got very badly beaten up. A bit of Googling will get you there.
A word to our general readership: don't ask us for comparisons we cannot conduct because we lack the specific hardware or hardware combination you're curious about. It's what the equipment listing at the beginning of each review is all about. If it's not listed, we didn't have it. We're not dealers with massive inventories of brands and models. Having to still explain something so basic and obvious does get a bit tedious after all these years. So please, use your intelligence and stop asking for the impossible. The same goes for asking how something we just reviewed compares to something we reviewed 10 years ago. If we didn't have it side by side, such comments rely on just aural memory. Worse, the time gap could mean that our main system evolved in the interim or our room changed. Comparative reviewing the way we understand it isn't about aural memory. It's about actual A/B comparisons. Wherever we can, we'll conduct those. The rest we can't accommodate and asking about it won't squeeze blood from a stone. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I don't think I'm imagining it when I say your reviews seem to be getting longer with each passing year. Did you notice that? I don't mind, it's just a trend I'm spotting. Michael Jader
Well, my atittude remains unchanged. I feel that the subject matter should dictate the length of any review. Some pucks or cones don't merit the same length as novel technology in a loudspeaker. For example, the Raal Requisite SR1a ribbon headphone review I just finalized certainly became one of the longest I've yet written. But there was good reason. This would become the first review of a project with well more than 10 years of serious preceding R&D. It's new technology. It's genuinely different to also perform different. It involved a bi-continental collaboration between Serbia and the US. Just to properly cover the background, gestation and tech alone took 5 pages. Had another publication reviewed these first, all that ground would have been covered already. It would have become part of the company and product lore, been featured on the company website and I could have more or less jumped right into the listening impressions.
The Vinnie Rossi L2 review currently being written will also get just a bit longer for very similar reasons. I'm again first to break the story (unless Michael Lavorgna at Twittering Machines who was first to get a loaner publishes before I finish my assignment). But I can't rely on that. To do a proper job, I have to cover the tech and unique solutions involved. That takes up space.
But in general, perceived length is a function of our page layout. If I make the pages shorter, there'll be more of them to mean less scrolling. If I make them longer, there'll be fewer pages. Now that I've made the site adaptive to your device screen size, less scrolling particularly on a cellphone is a lot friendlier. By necessity, such narrow screens make each page already far longer than it presents on a desktop monitor. So your perception of lengthier reviews is for the most part a function of a higher count of shorter pages. Srajan
Hello Srajan, first of all let me thank you very much for the review of our Gold Note CD1000 MkII. I found it extremely nice and saying exactly with every single word what I think about the units. Generally speaking I also agree 100% about the quality of music played back via CD and that too many companies thought very prematurely that the CD player was dead. It reminds me of what happened 20 years ago with turntables. In fact I believe that there are billions of CDs around and millions of CD collections in homes which need to be either listened to or sold. Obviously there are people selling their CD disc collections as happened with vinyl where I know at least a few dozen people who sold their entire record collections only to rebuild them ten years later for 10 times the price. But there are also people who still want to listen to their CD collections and I suspect the younger generation might do something like they did with vinyl when they inherit the digital collections from their fathers. Maurizio Atterini
Hello. I bought Wyetech Sapphire amps several years ago after reading your glowing review. I love the amps. However, shortly after purchase I had to return one to Mr. Hebert because a resistor melted free from the board it was soldered to. He fixed it under warranty. The same thing happened months later but this time he blamed me for this, accusing me of sabotaging the amp. He agreed to fix it but I had to pay for repairs. Now years later, the other amp has developed a hum emanating from the chassis. I emailed him several times but did not get a reply. I then took the amp to a repair shop in New York City (Technitron) who found the problem to be one of the transformers. They cannot repair it so they called Mr. Hebert to buy a new one. He refused to sell them one and was reportedly not nice about it.
Since then I have emailed, sent a Federal Express letter and even telegraphed him asking to buy a transformer. I have heard nothing back. My listening room is very quiet and the hum is very noticeable. As a last resort, I thought I would ask you, someone he obviously respects, to ask him to please sell me or the repair shop a replacement transformer. Thanks for any help you might give. Paul Fellenbaum
Paul, I truly appreciate the difficulty you find yourself in. As a reviewer, it's simply not in my job description to arbitrate this type situation. I've not worked with or communicated with Wyetech Labs or Mr. Hebert for very many years. The only thing I can really do is publish your letter to serve as a warning to others. Asking to purchase a replacement transformer at your own expense and having it replaced at your own expense certainly sounds like a most reasonable request. I can think up no valid reason why a manufacturer would deny it unless they no longer had replacement parts or could no longer procure them. But at least then they could tell you that. Either way, your story doesn't reflect well on Wyetech's long-term customer service. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I went ahead and ordered the Kinki Studio EX-P7 preamplifier. My friend Vince Saw has the same Crayon CIA 1T integrated I do. He tried his Bespoke Audio preamp with it and heard notable improvements. Another friend of his uses a Wyred4Sound preamplifier with the same 1T and is also very happy. I could never afford a Bespoke or Nagra (at this point not even a W4S) so after your review, I turned my thoughts to the EX-P7. But I was hesitant because in your review of the Crayon, your impression with the Nagra Classic was that the Nagra slowed down the CIA 1T to some small extent. As you said in your review, anyone purchasing a CIA 1T for its speed would most likely not want to slow it down by using a pre with it.
However Vince does not experience that his Bespoke Audio preamp [a passive - Ed.] causes any slow-down to speculate that what you heard may have been due to the fact that your Nagra is tubed. That led me to once again consider the EX-P7. What convinced me to pull the trigger was what you said about about it compared to the Wyred4Sound and Nagra Classic. It had me believe that in your opinion the EX-P7 made a richer warmer more analogue sound than the W4S (albeit less hyper detailed) to be closer to the Nagra for a fraction of its cost. Based on that I decided to give it a try. It arrived two nights ago and has been playing ever since. I can tell you that right out of the box I was super impressed. It brought very noticeable improvements to the sound in every parameter known to audiophile ears. I am not going into great detail but will comment on two characteristics.
1. the one most readily perceived is improved tonal density and richness by rendering instruments and voices more lifelike. Instruments which on some tracks were sounding a bit thin like violins in some orchestral works are somewhat more substantial now. 2. audible space with a wider deeper soundstage and how the EX-P7 utilizes this space with respect to placement of instruments within that soundstage are much more natural.
The manual suggests that the EX-P7 requires 300 hours to reach its full potential. After only about 40 hours or so, I would be happy even if it did not change at all. That is how I am finding it so far. My perception may change of course. I will know more when the recommended run-in time has been achieved. By the way, do you know there is an upgrade chip for the Soundaware D300REF? I have already ordered mine and it should arrive shortly. It is very low cost and its insertion is supposed to be easy to do but does require some soldering. Peter
PS. I still am not able to find my master clock on line. I asked Alvin. He told me that it is manufactured by a private seller in China and there is no information about it. I asked him if people interested in it could purchase it from Vinshine Audio and he said they certainly could. So if you or any of your readers might be interested, that's how it can be had. To my ears it brought noticeable improvement to the contribution of the D300ref. I heartily recommend it.
Hello Srajan: That Raal ribbon headphone review turned out to become a very educational piece and I see it's still ongoing. Do you expect any major revisions after living with it longer? Samuel
This review is one of those rare instances where a writer encounters something truly novel and different to warrant digging a bit deeper to tell the complete story. That's a great privilege and responsibility. As to revisions, I don't expect any. The modified adapter box will land next week to experiment with shifting that line source de-emphasis value. I just received the tube output stage for the Gold Note CD-1000 MkII. This turned out to be a very potent 'steering wheel' on its sound. I will do an audition with that and the SR1a to see what happens if instead of rotating through amplifiers, one attacked the voicing issue at the source instead. Once the Vinnie Rossi L2 direct-heated triode preamp arrives, that'll make an appearance as announced already. If the Bakoon AMP-13R arrives in time and turns out to be powerful enough, that too will show up. And then the book on this assignment shall close. So again, no revisions expected, just additional data points to fill in a few remaining holes in my narrative. Srajan
Hi again, I'm happy to write that I ended up getting a pair of Boenicke W5. I sought them out based on your reviews and really love them. Thank you! I have them paired with a vintage Scott EL84 tube amp and it sounds wonderful especially at low/moderate volumes. I recently heard them with a Hegel amp and the speakers really rocked so I'm thinking that I should consider another amp, possibly the Hegel or maybe the Job Integrated. I'm wondering if you had a chance to hear the Boenicke W5 with the Job Integrated (or 225 amp)? Many thanks, hope all is well, Mike
The Boenicke do like power. My wife drives hers with an Aura Note 100-watter. I found the Job integrated to be excellent and since it includes a DAC and volume control, it really kills three birds with one stone. Srajan
Hi Srajan, thanks to you I've paired my SIT-1 with Nenuphar and they are truly glorious. But I'm thirsting for a DHT preamp. Where would you go for one of those? Gary
Allnic and Vinnie Rossi both make direct-coupled DHT preamps, meaning there's no output transformer or coupling capacitor between the direct-heated triode and your amplifier inputs. That takes out a common limiting factor on bandwidth and speed. The Allnic is nearly twice as costly and uses a multi-stage circuit with additional input/driver tubes. The Vinnie Rossi L2 uses just a single pair of output triodes with a 2.5/4.0/5.0V bias selector to make tube rolling possible between PX4/25 to 45 to 2A3 to 300B to more specimens. I've already heard and reviewed the Allnic. I'm already scheduled to review the Vinnie Rossi but won't have it until March sometime. I have a feeling that the L2 will be the one you ought to be looking at but won't know for certain until it gets here. I'll test it on the SIT-1/Nenuphar combo so my review will certainly be very specific relative to your own situation. The Vinnie Rossi preview is live already and the Allnic review is in the archives. Srajan
Srajan, greetings! Just read your review of Franck's super tweeters. Glad to see the old magician is still on his game. I purchased a complete loom of ASI Liveline cables when I lived in France. I visited Franck in his atelier at the time and he was really engaging: he played his guitar, gave a vinyl demonstration and provided a tour of his facility. What a terrific fellow! Cheers, Michael Ian Fanning
He really is a very talented individual who walks his own path unafraid of conventions. Hifi is lucky to have him. Srajan
Srajan, I just exchanged some emails with Franck. He said he's going to produce a diamond-plated magnesium version retailing for about €2'000/pr so a nice middle ground. The man is just amazing. I so enjoyed my afternoon with him many years ago in Paris especially as it followed a nice café lunch with some reasonable Bordeaux. Thanks again for providing a nice home for people who appreciate music and its faithful reproduction. Cheers, Michael
Srajan, thanks for the Mimí review. In my snail-like 'downsizing', I'm thinking of swapping my lovely Ocellia Calliope .21 Signatures—and my upgraded Leak 3090—for a singular. in both senses, much smaller speaker. Life moves inexorably on and a reduction of possessions beckons. After building of my Zigmahornets some years back, my prior disdain of small units has gon, though the 'reality' of the Ocellias wonderfully natural sound will be missed, just not the physical size. Add to the fact that the Mimía are made in Granada, one of my all-time favourite places. That could tempt me to consider visiting to collect them though those delivery boxes are a bit large for luggage! I'd love to get them to make a pair with cork sides to represent the Andalusian cork forests that abound. If they do, you read it here first! Might seem strange to swap such big units for the stone mini Mimí but it will fit the room. Plus, I've always liked the 'sideways' approach to hifi. The Zigs are made of polystyrene! Anyway, it's all your fault! Zigmahornets, Ocellias....and a few other things I've had! - all well reviewed by you! Javier, I'll be in touch. Anyone got room for Ocellias? Chris SkeltonChris' email if you want to follow up. And guilty as charged, sir. Lock him up, your honour!
Dear Srajan: Weren't you working on a review of that Russian/German R2R DAC with the very interesting technology? I can no longer find it and in fact don't even remember what the brand was. Volker Höningen
Correct. I started working on that Etalon Sound originally Wagner Audio review 3 years ago when we still lived in Switzerland. Since then the company restructured a few times, the original designer left, communications were exceptionally poor, delays endless. I finally decided against pursuing it further seeing how I had built up considerable anti bias if you will. But I understand that Matej from Mono & Stereo will be working on his own review with a clean slate so in due course, you should be able to learn more about Etalon's DreamDAC there. Srajan
Howdy Srajan: Just finished following up on all the embedded links in your developing super tweeter review [Avantages Audio - Ed.]. I had no idea how diamond tweeters are made. It still seems like a technical miracle but at least now I have a far clearer idea than before. I wanted to thank you for combining entertaining reads with such useful education. It's what sets you apart from other sites who simply regurgitate a manufacturer's own advertorials or use strange abbreviations as though we had a clue what those meant. Good show you guys. Please keep it up. Simon
Good day Srajan, I have asked this question through 6moons but not sure whether it reached you. My system is: Schiit Yggy + 2 simple passive resistors + 2 power amps (new Job 225 bought after reading your review + old power Arcam) + Triangle Delta speakers. I realized that the sound was better with two power amps in bi-amp mode. I like my system but two passives are not easy to use so I am considering to purchase a preamp. And obviously I would love to improve the sound while at it. Recently I've seen your reviews on the Kinki and Denafrips preamps whose prices are within my reach. Could I please ask for your recommendation, whether it would be worthwhile considering any of these and if so, which one sounds better to you? I read your comments about Hestia. I like 6SN7 tubes but at the same time appreciate transparency and speed. Would love to avoid purchasing something worse than my current setup. Do you prefer the Kinki over the Hestia? Many thanks, Robert
Unless you don't mind splitters, you'll need two RCA outputs on your new preamp unless the Arcam has XLR inputs. Hestia only has one RCA output whilst the EX-P7 has two. Sonically, the Kinki will be faster, leaner and more lit up, the Hestia denser, slower and warmer. Will either improve over your current scenario? Impossible to predict from the distance I'm afraid. SrajanMany thanks. The XRL of the Yggy sound better so I ordered XLR-to-RCA cables which will do the job with the Job. Robert
Hii Srajan, I read your review of the Kinki EX-M1 integrated today. You were truly impressed with it I see and it does sound like a wonderful integrated... at such a low price, yet! You are not the only one who sees it that way. Several other reviewers mightily praise this amp. It sounds ''perfect.'' That would be to good to be true. But maybe it is true? My questions are two: Did you purchase this amp for yourself? To the best of your memory, how would you compare it to the CIA 1T? Peter
Nothing is perfect, Peter. But for its price, this is a super-impressive powerful integrated amplifier in the Job 225 vein but more sophisticated. I didn't purchase it. And seeing I've not compared it to the CIA 1T which had long since left when the Kinki arrived, memory won't help. I'd have to triangulate my own two reviews of them just as you're doing now. Sorry but I'm not a machine which prints out report cards and keeps copies of each in my brain to spit out and tally up whenever convenient. Whatever I actually compare, I write about. Anything else would be pure speculation. So if I didn't write it, I didn't do it and as a reviewer, I'm not into speculating but describing what I really heard. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I've appreciated your help in the past. I wanted to ask you a pretty quick question. I owned the Job Integrated for awhile and I really enjoyed it. I ended up selling it at some point but now I find myself putting together a new system around the Harbeth C7es3. I actually heard the Harbeths with the Job about a year ago and it was a surprisingly good match. I'm wondering if A) there are any other integrateds you've heard since you reviewed the Job that stand out as being on the same level sonically for not crazy coin? and/or B) If not, is the Job 225 even better than the Integrated? I could possibly match a power amp with a tube pre if I went that route. Thanks, Todd
To go beyond either Job in integrated form, you'd opt Kinki; with separates, Denafrips. The Kinki would be the next level up from the Swiss on sound but in the same vein or sonic class, just more sophisticated. The Denafrips pre/power combo would be a bit slower but richer and heavier. Either are far more luxuriously built than the Job kit. Srajan
Hey Srajan, is it just me or does it seem that most of your previews have been in various stages of limbo for a lot longer than usual? Some seem to have shown for well more than 6 months. Perhaps you're just taking it a bit easy after all these years? In any case, best wishes for 2019! Gert
You're very perceptive. A lot of stuff is exceptionally delayed, particularly on "first reviews" where there are unexpected issues with first production, back-ordered parts, late circuit changes and such. In some cases people can't figure out how to ship to rural Ireland. They really struggle with their freight companies. In others, they've decided to issue a MkII variant since contacting me about the review so that set back the clock. One piece delivered developed an issue and I'm presently waiting for it to be picked up for repair. I have the Gold Note CD player and power supply on hand but not the tube output stage yet so I can't finish up that review. Some manufacturers are considerate about my break-in requests and spend weeks piling on hours so that too factors. Others ship to then tell me that their thing needs 300 hours (which at 8 hours a day makes for a bleeding 37.5 days of making noise before getting to it). Yet others are waiting for shipping materials or the slow sea-going container to arrive. In one case, final firmware rewrites are held up because a software engineer was struck down by lengthy illness. In other cases, communications are simply poor and my emails not answered so I'm in the dark as to status. Finally we had the Xmas and New Year's holidays, then the Chinese New Year. Winter tends to be a slower season all around. Anyhow, I'm bouncing back the balls as they land in my court. Like stakeouts, waiting is part of the job; without the junk food. My wife is a very good cook. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I've been following your unfolding Raal headphone review with great interest. As of this morning, I counted four pages already. Given your lengthy intro, do you expect these to be the new king of the headphone jungle? It's hard to imagine they wouldn't be. I really can't wait to read your conclusions and was hoping for some bread crumbs. Brad Hyram
I expect that king making shall depend on recording/mastering quality to an unusually acute extent. With good stuff, I'd expect to hear even more goodness than before. With bad stuff, I'd expect to hear more badness. How could it really be different if we apply the same high degree of magnification? I've heard open-baffle bass in my room to know how it differs from ported/sealed versions. Removing that distortion and overlay onto the midrange alone opens things up. Few of us have the opportunity to know, by contrast, just how used or brainwashed we are to cabinet colorations to consider them right and normal. When you first remove them, certain things fall away, others come to the fore. How one reacts to such a shift depends. And obviously home listening is (ought to be) for pleasure whereas monitoring/mastering is about finding faults and correcting them way deep in a mix. How will a rigorous truth teller apply itself to pleasure across a wide swath of recording quality? That remains to be seen. From the standpoint of dissecting complex mixes down to their individual strands, I do expect that these could set new strandards. So we'll see how it all pans out. Raal Requisite are still back-ordered on their Pelican cases so my shipment is held up until those get in. Until then, all I have are assumptions so no bread crumbs, sorry. Srajan
Dear Srajan: I've been following your Rike tube amp review with great interest. I really appreciate how you describe the basic "nothing added, nothing subtracted" situation because it made it clear that on soundstaging, treble, midrange, bass, dynamics and all the other stuff we usually fret about, there was no real difference. Then you added your "Y factor" about that back-lit illumination. Your choice of imagery of the framed photograph hanging on the wall then seeing its digital file on a Retina display where the light passes through the image really portrayed it. I now "see" the difference which finally had this whole tube/transistor debate make sense to me. Would you then say that it is rare to come across a tube amp which, on all the other counts, doesn't take away from the strong sides of solid state? Marco Stratzi
In my experience, yes - finding a tube amp which isn't softer and slower than a premium DC-coupled wide-bandwidth transistor amp is far from common. That's why I'm quite excited to have heard this Romy amp. On our 10" widebanders for which its power rating is excessive to operate the amp in the sweet spot of lowest distortion, the Rike gives me everything I expect of copasetic transistors like our FirstWatt SIT-1. Then it adds that radiant thing which is fabulously attractive. I just wish that I could get that without an amp that runs this hot and still has just a bit of hum; and without tubes that can misbehave as described. But it seems that this inside-out glow effect is peculiar to actual valves. I'm still wrestling that. The MySound Cube EL84 monos are en route already so I'll learn whether on the same speakers they could be stand-ins; or whether triode mode is a prerequisite. Srajan
Srajan, Doug here, one of your avid readers. Always appreciate your reviews and columns. A quick question if you don't mind. I was wondering if you heard of White Bird Amplification, at least in the form of their reputation, quality etc? I am interested in their Thunderbird mono class AB amplifiers with optional KT88 tubes. In addition, could you comment on two of their attributes, their optional "amorphous core" transformers (my knowledge of transformers is limited) and their claim that the power tubes do not require biasing because of their design and power output. Thanks again for all that you do. Doug
I've never heard of them before by either reputation or actual experience, sorry. That said, self-biasing tube amps are quite common. Exotic transformer core materials tend to get costlier but specialty makers use them as a point of distinction with attendant claims of superior sonics. To really know what such transformer cores add to the sound, one would need to compare them to conventional equivalents on the same amp. Until then, 'amorphous core' doesn't tell us much beyond being a legitimate exotic option for an output transformer like Finemet or cobalt cores which are costlier than conventional silicon steel. Srajan
Hi Srajan, belated congratulations on the site relaunch: much better and very appreciated by this homo smartphonensis. I’d like to ask you for some advice. I am in the mids of a main system rebuild and a pair of Amphion 7LS have presented themselves at a very competitive rate. Ever since your reviews of the Amphion offerings and also having followed the Gearslutz threads, this brand has been on my radar. I listened to the 3S and 3LS and the latter were really nice but with symphonic fare lacked a bit of the low-end reach that probably the 7LS have to offer - if not too much. I am not a bass head but not too shy of bass either - and my partner likes her bass indeed.
Your addendum about Amphion's capable of close-to-wall situations was very reassuring. Our room is 7 x 3.7m so rather narrow, speakers are on the long wall to only have about 5-8cm of distance to the front wall. Listening distance is ca. 3m. The Amphion footprint and small silhouette would be a good fit for the space. I just wish they’d be less tall. With your experience with this speaker: do you think they work well at relatively low levels? My partner and I listen almost exclusively in the evenings and we can’t go loud. We do long listening session, often 2 - 3hrs and our diet is 85% classical, some Pop, some electronica, also harder fare every once and then.
What I heard with the smaller Amphions was the right mix between musical and analytical - it would just be important to have this qualities consistent at lower levels. Amp is either a Crimson 620D or the internal amp of a Majik DSM/3. Having recently built a Pass Amp Camp Amp for my office system and scored a Nutube B1 kit in Nelsons Xmas giveaway, it is likely that I will acquire a XA25 for the main system eventually. The DSM is to stay for a while and Linn’s Space Optimisation should help with room modes and dialing in bass response. Carl
I'm happy with everything except unsure about that 5-8cm distance from the front wall. I had mine quite close but not that extreme; and my wall had built-in shelving to leave additional air space. I'm not saying it couldn't work well. I just haven't done it myself to be certain. Here an email to Amphion boss Anssi Hyvönen would be best just to tick off that loose item. On listening at lower levels, the extra radiation surface from the passive radiators and doubled-up mid/woofers really helps so all your sonic requirements would seem handled. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I know you'be been criticized by this individual in his blog more than once so I wondered whether you'd seen this? In it a reader of his blog got to hear Romy's personal system and shares his observations on DIYaudio. It made me wonder about hearing reviewer systems (including yours) and what I'd think. Have you heard any systems by colleagues over the years? Did you, like Josh, feel disappointed relative to your own expectations created by those reviewers over the years? Just curious whether you had any insights. Aaron
I just took a look, Aaron. I also went to Romy's blog and read his own reactions to Josh's post since he couldn't reply directly because he's been banned there. In my opinion, it all depends on the kind of music you listen to primarily; on how loud you like it; and whether you're in the nearfield or much further away. Romy's favourite fare which he comments on the most is classical including large-scale complex stuff like Bruckner. According to Josh, he also likes it very loud. If John Darko who fancies electronica heard Romy's system, I doubt he'd like it very much. And vice versa. A system carefully calibrated to excel at symphonica will not automatically excel at synthesized infra bass, synth drums, close-mic'd kick drums or wailing e-guitars. A lot of carefully curated classical can be very well recorded. That too makes a difference on what you can hear and care about to begin with to then fine-tune a system to excel at. If someone listened predominantly to compressed recordings of synthesized fare without real venue ambiance, I'd not expect their systems to be dialed for it. If I suddenly asked them to play back a premium recording with cubits of audible space, I'd be surprised if that ended up being a strong point of their setup. These are very basic examples to point at the various layers a system can explore depending on what one aims to do.
Would you like my system if you heard it? I have no clue except to ask, which system?
Unlike some people who invest all of their discretionary hifi funds into one big 'end-of-life' system, I deliberately keep around a variety of kit in each category to mix and match and change things in smaller less ambitious setups. The SIT-1/Nenuphar system is a very different proposition from a Hyperion/Druid VI combo which is very different from a Codex/Liszt pairing. I don't listen to large-scale classical. I find the attempt of cramming 70+ people into the physical soundstage dimensions of our normal rooms perfectly silly. It's just not gonna happen. I've played in an orchestra. I don't view that experience reproduceable. I prefer to reserve it for a live performance. I've heard Stevie Wonder, Pat Metheny, Dhafer Youssef, Lila Downs, Andreas Vollenweider, the Taksim Trio and many others live, too. But that kind of style and repertoire isn't what I played myself. Now I don't apply the same expectations to its replay. And I don't tend to listen very loud either, finding that quite fatiguing.
So, would you like my system with your own kind of music? If we had a day wherein I'd collect your feedback from whatever system was set up first to keep swapping things in and out toward conforming more to your personal tastes, I'm reasonably certain that I could come up with something which was at least 'close'. But if I expected you—or you expected yourself—to love whatever happened to be set up when you got here, then I'd rather doubt it - unless what you and I listen for and to sync'd up by pure chance.
In the end and like Josh found, it'll always sound like a hifi system with speakers. What else would it sound like? It's not live music!
As to the systems of colleagues, I've heard some. Will such an experience head-on meet one's own expectations based on how they describe it? That really depends on whether we use the same language to begin with; and what our evaluation criteria are. The thing to remember is, you only have yourself to please. Romy shouldn't care whether Josh likes his system and you needn't worry about whether I'd like yours. But since most of us suffer egos, the likelihood is that we'll react like Romy did to Josh's feedback. It's quite easy to be an opinionated critic. When critics themselves are criticized... that's when there suddenly can be a fire in the kitchen. Srajan
Hey Srajan, just finished your Kroma Mimí review and am left with just one question. Why no award? Surely this one deserved it. Or have your standards changed or I overlooked anything? I'd really like to know so I understand how to read things going forward. HolgerGiven that I purchased the pair, I felt that adding an award was like bragging about myself. It just didn't seem right. But when it comes to what an award tends to do—which is signal a writer's enthusiasm—what could speak louder than the same writer buying himself a new toy? The other option was to give an award but not mention that I bought the samples. On balance that felt deceptive since sooner or later, this pair will probably make an appearance in another review. Should I then explain it away as an endless loan? Not right either. So that's what you overlooked then... Srajan
Dear Srajan, one thing confused me a bit about your latest Denafrips review. They make DACs all the way up to your Terminator which I believe costs somewhere around €4'500 yet their separate preamp and amp are priced more like their entry-level converter. Doesn't this suggest to you that something bigger and better is already in the works? Pjotr Rasnik
Actually, the Terminator is (was?) €3'600 when I reviewed it but if we add at least 20% VAT for EU deliveries, your number isn't far off. And yes, I've wondered the same thing but don't know more at this time except that the flagship Artemis headphone amp is in the wings. Will Denafrips at some point in the future have bigger separates to add socketry and power? It's well possible. But for now, the Hestia & Hyperion are silly good and sufficiently kitted out and powerful enough to serve the vast majority. In fact, my loaners are en route to Italy for home-demo trials with a registered group of interested parties. If you keep your eyes on Vinshine's FaceBook page, you should see first user comments in about a month I'd expect. That might help get you off the fence. Srajan
Hello Srajan, I've been following your slowly developing story about the Simon Lee relaunch with great interest. Like you, I've loved his earlier work and am happy to hear he's coming back. Do you have any idea how close he might be to 'go global', i.e. sell outside of South Korea through regular dealers? Buying mail-order at $4'500 isn't something I'd be prepared to do. With best wishes, Craig Holton
I have zero insight into that, Craig. I imagine the same holds true for Simon. Unless I'm mistaken, my forthcoming AIO review will be the first English writeup outside of his domestic press. How many more reviews it will take, of just one product or some of the others as well, here and elsewhere, until there's sufficient dealer interest to place orders? I think that's way up in the air. That's why I very specifically state in my introduction that this isn't a review about anything you can presently buy unless you live in South Korea or order direct. Wishing it to be different doesn't make it so. Perhaps Simon should contract with Alvin Chee of Vinshine Audio who is doing a bang-up job for Denafrips? Srajan
Srajan, I really enjoyed your latest Kroma review. Even though you own quite a lot of speakers already, you still fell for it. I found that rather telling - and amusing, like seeing a guy's New Year's resolutions all go to hell. Would you still call its treble still slightly soft even with your Bakoon or Job 225 amps? That's the only aspect which has me hesitate. I happen to love a wide open top end. Ian McKenny
Yes. Compared to our Aptica with smaller ceramic mid/woofer handing over to a hard dome tweeter, Mimí is softer. That's clearly a very deliberate design decision one must agree with. No matter your amp—here I don't know any more open on top than the Bakoon—will alter that. But I propose it's exactly this voicing which contributes to making this speaker so sonically attractive. Granted, I already have the alternative. You're probably just trying to settle down with one speaker as all normal households should. That's where I don't believe in monogamy - but only because my day job can justify such excess and my tax accountant actually encourages such business expenses. But again, if a maximally explicit treble is important to you, the Kroma won't do it for you, sorry. Srajan
Hello Srajan, it's been a few years since I asked you about the Bakoon amp. I never upgraded from 11R to 12R to gain the extra 5 watts. I have lived happily with mine but have not yet found the perfect speaker partner. The rest of the family prefer one with a small footprint. But speakers with high sensitivity that can work with the 10 watts of the Bakoon seldom come in small packages. Most of them are too big and not visually appealing to the others in the family. I recently had the possibility to buy a pair of B-stock soundkaos Wave 40 in black but my wife said that she would feel as if Darth Vader was looking at her in the living room. I found them quite beautiful so our preferences differ. I am currently running the Bakoon with Blumenstein Orcas, a wonderful single-driver speaker with a warm character that has lovely tone and works very well with acoustic instruments and small ensembles. But a 3-inch driver in a 20m² room has limited dynamics and you sometimes feel that you are seated in the back rows in the concert hall.
Therefore I am now thinking of finding a speaker that has the virtues I appreciate with the Bakoon – great clarity with excellent detail but not too bright or edgy and fully enjoyable at low volumes – and to buy an amp that works well with that speaker. One of the candidates would be the Albedo Aptica you own. It is a compact beautiful speaker that, according to your review, works well at low volumes and has the same clarity in the presentation that I like with the Bakoon. Even if the sensitivity is a low 85dB, you indicate that the Aptica can work with lower power quality amps. I understand that 10 watts from the Bakoon wont sufficient but do you think that any of the First Watt amplifiers could work well? Best regards, Christer Lagvik
The FirstWatt F6 or F7 work very well with the Aptica. I’d go after the F7. That’s 25/50wpc into 8/4Ω and plentiferous in your size room. Mine is five times the size and the FirstWatt still is enough. Srajan
Hello Srajan, in the end I didn't go the Aptica route and still have the Bakoon 11R driving a pair of 3-inch single drivers. I am following your evolving Kroma Mimí review with interest. Any chance you will ask Mimí to take your 15W Bakoon for a waltz? With a sensitivity of 92dB, Mimí might consider that amp to be a charming cavalier. Even the little brother with only 10 watts could perhaps be a candidate in a small room though Kroma suggest 15 watts as a minimum. All the best, Christer
Yes, I'll take Mimí for a Bakoon ride. If it works out, I'll later use the inbound AMP-13R for comparison on the same speaker. SrajanSrajan,
I noticed that the waltz with Bakoon and Mimí turned out rather well! My listening space is about 3.5x6 meters so Mimí could definitely be of interest. But considering how I have started to really appreciate the charm of single drivers, Cube Audio may very well be a better candidate. That company has recently gained a Swedish importer so now I have a chance to audition. One common disease amongst audiophiles is the need to swap gear constantly. There's always a novelty that might be better than what you currently have. Another version of that flue is the difficulty of deciding which component to buy because there are so many options. I am suffering that latter variety. It is better for the wallet but can be frustrating. On the grave stone of Swedish writer Fritiof Nilsson Piraten it says, "Here rests a man who was in the habit of always postponing everything. However, in the end he improved and really died on 31 January 1972." Hopefully I won't postpone my next loudspeaker choice that long but there are some coming reviews on 6moons that need to be read first. Regards, ChristerThere'll always be coming reviews on 6moons that need to be read first - until one day there won't be. Perhaps you'll need to wait for that day? Srajan
Dear Srajan, thanks for publishing parts of my mails – that's nice. I am feeling a bit strange because of my comments on an electrical product. Using big words isn't usual for me but at the same time it feels nice to share them with you. After being a hifi enthusiast for about 40 years, I was always looking for more excitement through better gear but over time some natural cooling down of my passion took place. After doing distribution for more than 15 years, my view on hifi got ever more neutral. Now if someone raves about a product, my reaction is mostly 'it seems fit to his taste' or 'it seems to fit well into his system', not 'I must hear this'.
When KS first introduced his Allnic L-10000 to me, he said I would be shocked. And I was. It is exciting to have all of these attributes like a huge soundstage and incredible dynamics at the same time. But more interesting to me was that I learned from this unit. First, if all the attributes come together at the same time, you get (and this reads boring) naturalness. What else could you get? Second, this naturalness not only transports music as merely the network of played notes but, now comes the beauty, by recreating all the subtle details of the acoustical happenings in their proper context, it syncs you with the heartbeat of the very moment when the music was recorded. That's the bliss of the experience. And because we are listening to recordings, we can go there over and over again. For me, that's the real enjoyment. I honestly want to thank KS Park for making this possible.
"We only live once – but that's forever". Mooji
Kind regards, Peter
Thanks, Peter. I'm presently working up the competing Vinnie Rossi L2 review. That unit should arrive next month and I'll learn whether it revisits the same ground or, perhaps, goes even further. Srajan
Dear Srajan, what makes the L-10000 special is not the use of 300B. I had the Manley 300B preamp here which didn't make me sweat. The unique thing about the L-10000 is that KS managed to build a stable circuit without any capacitors or transformers in the signal path. So it is only tubes. That's what makes it so fast and pure. I think he is working on a cheaper model now with the same circuit concept but no DHT. Should have similar advantages. He never used a 300B in a preamp before. Normally that doesn't make too much sense. Besides cosmetic reasons for those who like it big, his SEPP circuit demands the 300B in a p/p configuration to get the lowest output impedance. What is the input stage of the L2? Solid-state? Or directly driven 300B? Peter
After doing the Allnic review, I think that I understand the basics of Kang-Su's circuit well enough. It's still a more complex circuit where you're not just hearing the DHT but how it is being modulated by the two tubes preceding it. Vinnie's spud circuit is far simpler. No driver tube, no input tube, just one DHT per channel. No transistor, no transformer, no capacitor coupling, direct-coupled like Allnic – but with 120dB S/NR and bandwidth out to 900kHz. So whilst Allnic's circuit is unique for its particular ingredients, it's not unique for eliminating coupling capacitors or output transformers. That particular honour it shares with the LIO DHT and L2. What Vinnie's simpler circuit means at the ear remains to be heard of course. With the Allnic already back in Holland, I won't be able to conduct any direct A/B. And only calling upon memory I don't find reliable. So you're correct, the use of 300B isn't unique. What makes these units different is direct-coupling their DHT to the amp following. Incidentally, the Vinnie Rossi isn't limited to 300B but can also take numerous 2.5 and 4V DHT specimens with the simple flick of a switch. If you read my preview on it, you'll get a good idea of the design basics. Given how much I enjoyed the Allnic, the fact that the L2 sells for about half, is more compact and visually more attractive then uses only two not eight tubes has me personally quite excited. Srajan
Hi Srajan, just read your review of Tony Minasian's Moon Jazz. I'll contact Tony and get him to send me the .wav files. Thanks for keep your community posted on Tony's efforts! Cheers, Michael Fanning
Our man Tony is definitely working up a sweat. While you're at it, also ask him for the five unpublished tracks. Since he has 'em, he could well be willing to part with them if asked nicely. They were insufficient to make for another album but they're quite thrilling in their own right. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I just read your reviews of the Allnic tube preamp and monos over the holidays. Interesting how you loved the preamp but not the amplifiers. Given your intervening years with fast highly resolving solid-state amps, do you think that maybe your ears have simply outgrown the appeal of traditional SET amps? Holger
That's an excellent question which I've asked myself in the wake of that experience. I'm leaning toward answering with 'yes' if we underlined 'traditional'. If we expand the scope to 'non-traditional' to point at things like David Berning's solution; to pentodes with far simpler output transformers than are necessary for the popular filament-driven triodes... then I suspect the answer will be 'no' when I use our Cube Audio Nenuphar widebanders. Those are ideal loads for this type amp. Now it's simply a question whether a tube amp will have enough of the low noise floor, resolution, bandwidth and speed which our transistor amps have me used to. Hence I'm very curious about the incoming MySound EL84 monos and Rike Audio SRS551 integrated. If those shake out, I would rephrase your question to having outgrown the appeal of traditional single-ended no-feedback amps with direct-heated triodes. I'm quite certain already that the really best place to exploit DHT is as a line-stage voltage gain device. That Allnic preamp was spectacular and I expect the incoming Vinnie Rossi L2 to be that if not more given its simpler circuit and higher specs. Srajan
I don't know if you have heard the Playback Design gear but I've always loved their DACs built around discrete differential FPGA way before anybody else decided to explore them. I always thought that there was a natural ease to their sound but couldn't really justify the price. And then last week a used integrated IPS3 in pristine condition came up for sale as a steal. So I got it.
It has their entry-level DAC built in but that's all relative. It has no problems eclipsing the SOtM and it gives the Aurender a run for its money especially on DSD.
The amp is magnificent, 130 watts into 8Ω, 260 watts into 4Ω of very sweet and nuanced power. Very much like the Gryphon 120, a bit less on the dynamic edge but effortless nonetheless with that same tonal density that lets all the details and nuances through. Completely silent, bigger imaging and layering than the 2A3 integrated - I can't believe it's such an obscure piece of kit. Certainly leaves behind the McIntosh, Simaudio and Mark Levinson integrateds with DACs I heard recently and the only one I would rather own is the Gryphon. But new that is 50% more than the IPS3 and 7 times more than what I paid for this pristine used example.
With the Aurender, it makes for a wonderful minimalist system. I am streaming from the Aurender into the IPS3 but also have the balanced connection going so can easily compare to the Aurender's DAC by just switching inputs. There is something to be said for simplicity. Have a very happy 2019! Frederic
I've never heard Playback Design in our crib except for the Andreas Koch portion of the Nagra HD DAC I reviewed. Which is telling. Nagra are very engineering-driven to design whatever they need in-house including winding their own transformers. But for digital, they went to Andreas Koch who probably forgot more about DSD than all the other guys together ever knew. So I'm not surprised to hear that even their entry-level DAC performs as well as you say. Congratulations on an excellent find! Srajan
Hi Srajan, I have a Soundaware D300Ref. I have been listening to it for a while now and I love it. What a wonderful piece of kit!! It works so well with the Denafrips Terminator. As you wrote in your review of it, it improves the sound even when only used as a USB bridge but the best playback seems to be from the SD card. From the SD card, I have found the sound to be more substantial... voices and instruments fuller and more solid for want of a better word. Tonal density? What you may not know because Soundaware have not yet posted it on their website is that there is a new firmware upgrade. A friend of mine managed to get an advance copy and he sent it to me.
I downloaded this new firmware onto my D300Ref about an hour ago. This new firmware is set up for MQA and also makes the machine Roon Ready. But I am finding, as did my friend, that it also brings considerable improvement to the sonic performance even without whatever benefits may be brought to the equation by Roon or MQA. I am finding that instruments and voices are even denser and more tonally saturated now... much more real sounding. Plus the soundstage seems wider and better sorted out.
I was listening to a recording of a Black gospel choir and it sounded so real that it was sending chills up and down my spine. While being aware that I could be simply imagining it, to my ears this improvement is not subtle. So I am writing to you to see if you have heard of this new firmware, if perhaps you already have it, and, if so, if you have experienced the same type of improvement that I have.
I am now running a pair of Harbeth M30.2 40th Anniversary speakers. I find them to be absolutely wonderful speakers. The Wavetouch Anteros (which I still have) are amazingly good speakers especially for the price. In my opinion, they were a big step up from the the Spatial Audio Master Triodes which, to my ear, always had a hard edginess in the vocals and highs, especially on violins. The Anteros went a long way to eliminating that harshness/edginess. When I got the Harbeths, that edginess was entirely eliminated... voices sounded very natural... not strained at all. There's also an upgrade coming for our Denafrips Terminator which is supposed to further improve its sonic performance. It was supposed to be released before the end of the year but they did not make it. My understanding is that it will be available this month. Peter Borelli
I didn't know about the firmware updates for the D300Ref and Terminator coming up. I'll ask Alvin Chee about them since he handles both products. That's a nice surprise. Thanks for alerting me to a free upgrade. I couldn't care less about MQA and Roon isn't important to me either but better sound in general - any day and thrice on Sundays. Srajan
PS: I've installed the new firmware and agree that on standard 16/44.1 files as well as higher sample-rate material, the machine now forwards a digital signal which makes our Terminator DAC sound fuller and richer. Of course PS Audio too have made a tradition of releasing iterative firmware for their everything-DSD machines where each release is announced as a major sonic improvement. That's part of the appeal of using re-programmable chips. Of course certain very labour-intense math may need new FPGA hardware with higher processing power like for example resampling PCM on the fly to DSD 512. It's likely that our versions of the D300Ref will never be able to do that unless their FPGA was wildly overspec'd for the original functionality to anticipate such an eventual development. And higher DSD rates are the target for the new Terminator firmware I'm told. But how that will affect its PCM performance I don't know yet. And Denafrips and Soundaware are two different companies. It just so happens that these two models work so very well together. Srajan
PPS: After three days of 'critical' listening, I can confirm that this firmware made a sound improvement, bringing it very close to my APL AS2 with TDA-1541 and on par with the iFi Pro DSD with Mutec master clock and MCRU external power supply. Both APL and iFi have the direct SD card input so no need for the D300Ref. As to Nenuphar, after several months of comparing amps, I can confirm without any lingering doubt that the Berning ZOTL with VT-52 or Elrog 300B sounds best to my ears in my acoustically optimized room. There is 'electricity' to the sound without drifting into the bright or forward, very life-like and simply feeling right. Drums beating, no need for more. Bass on the Nenuphar substantially improved after four months but occasionally I must confess that I still turn on the Voxativ sub for some electronica and also some classical. Dan
Hi Srajan, hope you are having a decent holiday season in Ireland! I just purchased a SOtM dCBL-CAT7 cable and based on your May 2015 review of a similar cable, wonder where I should put it in my audio chain. I have a Roon Nucleus music server tethered by a Blue Jeans Ethernet cable from my router. I also have a switch with another Blue Jeans Ethernet cable tethered to my Devialet 200. Methinks the best place for the SOtM cable is between the router and the Roon Nucleus. Any thoughts? Michael Fanning
I'd think of this like a filter for drinking water which you want right behind your faucet. I'd put it closest to the DAC so there’s no subsequent place at which HF noise can still enter the digital data stream. If the Devialet handles D/A conversion, I’d put it there. But of course your ears may tell a different story. Lke I would have to, experimenting then is the name of the game. Srajan
Hi again, many thanks for the quick reply! Yes, the Devialet handles the D/A conversion so I'll test the SOtM cable there first! I'll report back. Cheers, Michael
Hey Srajan, looking forward to reading about your time with the Vinnie Rossi preamp. Quick question. What tubes will you try it with? I'm particularly curious about the Japanese 300B Vinnie recommends. Jimmy
The quick answer, whatever comes with it. When I divested myself of all my resident tube amps years ago, their tubes too departed. So my prior stash is entirely depleted except for a replacement set of small triodes for my Nagra Classic Pre. It'll depend on what Vinnie has on hand and decides to include. Options for currently made 300B alone are astonishing; and that's just one of the many types one could roll. So I really don't know. I do know that the ElectroHarmonix 300B Gold are his chosen stock tubes so those are a given. Whatever else shows up will be a surprise. With luxury power triodes, one really doesn't hit up their makers to send out review loaners for a tube shoot-out. They can no longer sell them afterwards; and whatever findings on tube differences shake out are specific to that particular component. So the whole notion is a bit of a raw deal for them. Neither should one expect an electronics maker to shell out big coin just to satisfy a reviewer's curiosity over endless tube options. I was extremely lucky that Tektron's Polish importer Pawel was so generous with his review loaner. But that's not the norm nor is it to be expected. Srajan
Dear Srajan: With your preview section showing upcoming reports on Rike, Rossi and MySound and your recent Allnic and Tektron pieces, you're back on tubes. That's great for me because I prefer them over transistors. Could you tell me what other brands you're considering covering for 2019? Charles Davis
It's really the Cube Audio Nenuphar which opened those doors. It's not primarily a matter of speaker efficiency. Our 15wpc Bakoon drives our 85dB Albedo Audio Aptica to all the SPL I want in a smaller room. It's primarily a question of whether a speaker deals well with high amplifier output impedance. Now that I have a sample which wants that, classic tube amps are again sensible. That said, my MO over many years now has been responsive, not strategic. I mostly just respond to review solicitations. I rarely go after something from my end - mostly only when the loaner pipeline runs dry or gets clogged up by compound delays. Occasionally I learn about something which seems really interesting to dispatch an "I'm interested, are you?" email. I did that with MySound because I very much like EL84 and because now 12 watts are overkill. But I've not strategized on what tube gear to review this coming year. If things continue as they have, it'll be a matter of who is ringing my bell. I'm generally not keen on ultra-high voltage rails which leaves out certain very big bottles; massively paralleled tubes; or ultra-priced things in general. But I'm always curious to hear a tube I've never heard before. That will be the case with Rike's Romy 20SE. And hearing a spud DHT circuit in the Vinnie Rossi L2 will be off the beaten path as well. So we'll see what 2019 brings. You can always petition your favourite maker/s to approach us. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I read with great interest Pat McGinty's manifesto on DSP'd active speakers. Technically, most if not all of what’s presented is absolutely correct, including the evidence of the conclusion. Yes, DSP and actively driven speakers are the future. I do feel however that the information is polarized because it assumes the (all) source material is digital and standardized and it is not. Digital runs from MP3 all the way to DSD x or ultra high- rez PCM and everything in between (MQA?). Assuming the DSP magic happens in 24/96, everything below or above will eventually be dithered prior to processing. Then the processed bits are converted to analog for amplification and playback and in all the processing, some bits will eventually be lost in noise. This is an aspect where I think passive still has an edge: unlimited S/N ratio. I have been very impressed with recent efforts from Kii Audio, however I feel note decay seemed shortened a bit compared to super-efficient passive speakers for example. You spent decades trying DACs and amps and cables and speakers, each time arriving at a different conclusion (sound quality, color, texture, depth, luminance, density…). Will DSP end your illustrious career? I certainly hope not. Best from Montréal, Robert Gaboury
I didn't get the assumption that all sources are digital. Analog signal simply gets digitized where the assumption is that whatever minimal losses are incurred pale by comparison to the gains which are made when we replace passive filters with DSP. Yes, Pat's happens in 24/96; far beyond the vast majority of CD-quality music. Anything beyond 24/96 is really just the audiophile fringe. And with the vast majority of music being delivered digitally today, D/A conversion occurs whether in a standalone super DAC fronting a passive speaker; or in the DAC built into an active speaker. Same difference. Relative to the Kii Three, I heard the same foreshortened decays. I attributed it to nCore's very high negative feedback and concomitant high damping across the entire bandwidth. I wondered whether extreme damping is desirable in the upper frequencies. But even if one booked that aspect as a minor demerit, all the other advances which the Kii Three brings to the table absolute crush the passive competition one could assemble for the same price (having to include a complete electronic stack). At least that's my read. Finally, there's no rule that demands that active DSP speakers must use class D power. It's simply the most and most compact power for the money. But Class A/B could be used instead; and tweeter/midrange amps could deliberately apply lower damping if class D's vise grip were considered unattractive. As always, what we present in our reviews and editorials just represents someone's opinion. It's perfectly fine to disagree with it. Srajan
PS: Robert subsequently submitted a link to material which doubts whether for heavy DSP like PEQ, high-order filters et., 24-bit math is sufficient to maintain 16-bit dynamic range. One excerpt reads: "... to maintain the 96dB signal-to-noise ratio for 24-bit processing of second-order IIR filters, a double-precision filter structure was required to ensure that the digital equalizer output's noise floor was greater than 96dB. Chen researched various second-order realizations to determine the best structure when performing 24-bit processing on a 16-bit input. In one test case, he implemented a single high-pass second-order filter using direct-form-1 structures, findings these implementations to yield an S/NR between 85 - 88dB, lower than the 96dB theoretical maximum of the ideal 16-bit A/D converter." Based on this paper, it would seem that heavy processing well beyond simple 1st-order filters executed digitally could well rely on 32-bit or higher DSP. That's where us lay folk bow out and leave the ongoing discussion on the exact math requirements to the digital experts.
Hello Srajan: I enjoyed your return to tube amp reviews and noted your reference to Dan's Berning Siegfried. I'm not sure whether you know that Linear Tube Audio took on manufacture and sales for certain licensed Berning designs. This brought accessibility to lower price points, bringing Berning's OTL circuitry to more people. Can we hope for a LTA review in your pages in 2019? Horst Rüdinger
I'm very aware of LTA and contacted them during their earlier days when they weren't interested. I contacted them again recently about their new Ultralinear amplifier but again they don't seem interested in working with us. Unless I bought one to review it which isn't my business model; or they change their mind... I don't see this happen, sorry. Manufacturers aren't required to play the review game; or play it with us. It does look like very interesting product and as you know, I've been exceptionally impressed with my friend's Siegfried which remains his favourite amp after all these years. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I hope you are well. I contacted you a while back when I was using the Octave v80 and you were very helpful. I hope you don't mind that I am reaching out again. I came across your review of the Bakoon AMP-41 and I am very intrigued by this amp. I never heard of this company before. Does this amp sound like other amps from more popular brands? What type of listener do you think would buy the Bakoon amp? Thanks again for your reviews and audio insight. Adam
Why would you be intrigued by this amp if from the very same review, you still have no notion what it sounds like? That review clearly mentions the Nagra Jazz/LinnenberG Allegro combo as sounding very similar, then explains where the Bakoon differs. It mentions the Crayon CFA.12 and Goldmund Telos 590NextGen as belonging into the same class. All of these are components which I've reviewed so you read about them in our archives for further triangulation. Have you done that? Because then you'd already know what kind of listener would buy the Bakoon: the type listener who enjoys this particular kind of sound. What kind of sound that is these reviews describe to the best of my ability. If my ability fell short of your needs at the time when I actually had those components to write about them, why would it be any better now that they've long since left? Srajan
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