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Dear Srajan, I've followed you since your early days in Taos and recently took a stroll down memory lane by visiting your archives by writer which I'd not gone to before. It was quite the reminder about just how many people have contributed to 6moons over the years. Have you stayed in touch with any of them who no longer write for you to know what they're up to now?... Charlie

Sadly John Potis passed away many moons ago. Others stopped due to health, marriage or career reasons. Yet others ended up with rigs so dialed to their taste that they no longer fancied messing them up constantly with review loaners. Others launched their own endeavors. Michael Lavorgna with Twittering Machines comes to mind. So does Edgar Kramer who, when his regular job vanished, wanted to write full time to join SoundStage! by creating an Australian subsidy. Joël Chevassus launched his French website, Jeff Day runs Jeff's Place which since has been absorbed by PFO. I've seen Paul Candy and Chip Stern appear there as well, Jules Coleman on ETM. Ken Micallef now writes for Stereophile. What everyone else who no longer contributes might be up to these days I don't know.

I'll add that writing about hifi means critical listening so the exact opposite of what a hifi is all about. Listening ought to be purely for pleasure, not to critique musicians, recording quality or to geek out over hardware FX. Reviewing for years can actively interfere with the hobby's heart. Should that happen, it's best to hang up reviewing. Also, assembling a system to one's dream balance only to keep changing it constantly means that one hardly ever hears it 'as is'. That can be a real wrecking ball on a happy hifi relationship. Once personal sonic tastes mature to become ultra specific, small deviations already mean less pleasure. That self interest now can't wait to take the review loaner back out and return to the original component mix. If so, writing about hifi hardware can become a drain, remaining fair and unbiased about it more and more difficult. Then too it's best to call it quits. I'm quite certain that some of these things factored in why some of these folks no longer review.

Finally, do anything long enough and at least certain things are bound to get repetitive, hence boring. I'm fond of saying that staying power in this game must include more than just a fascination with the hardware. Otherwise it burns itself out. After a certain amount of exposure, hardware gets more not less similar. For me it's the process of working on my writing which rejuvenates itself; and networking between readers and manufacturers. Those two aspects are always fresh. On its own, yet another cable or class AB amp or 2-way monitor wouldn't be. But add unfamiliar people behind a new company, perhaps even novel tech or a unique implementation or an engineer willing/able to explain something you always wanted to understand better and presto - out with the old, in with the new. Here being boss who gets to pick and choose and who is pursued by certain makers can be more stimulating than being assigned certain loaner items. Like anything, reviewing has its sunny sides and shadows. Managing both is important no matter how long one is in the game. It's one's willingness to manage them that could fail. Then it's time for a break or to quit. There's solid wisdom in the old saying that nothing fails like success. But the only people to acquire that wisdom are those who've achieved (a certain amount of) success. The others still believe that success will be the silver bullet or golden ticket if only they could get there. Not. Once you're there, new challenges await. Srajan

Srajan, where can I find more information on that Joachim Gerhard 3-way monitor you mention in a recent feature? I went to their website and couldn't find a thing. Help, please. Heinz Kopping

Go to their Facebook page linked to from their website. There are some photos of it. You can also read a bit more about in on Holger Barske's blog if you read German. More than that I wouldn't know. Once the design is locked in, you'd expect it to show up on the website of course. So perhaps they're still massaging the crossover? Srajan

Who is Martin Gateley? I have never been able to answer that! Mind you, there is some truth in the notion that designers design for themselves. Why not? Why would you call yourself a designer and not put your own stamp on it and speakers are just like watches. There is no gold standard so no one can tell you which is best. My kicks? Well, for one I do like to listen to my favourite music on a decent pair of speakers and quite like it when others enjoy them too. And there is of course design, minimalist, preferably just like a pair of Waves. My motivation is another story. There are two people responsible for getting me into this game. One is you and the other Sven or rather, his SLS speakers. I distinctly remember listening to them in Regensdorf in 2007 and subsequently reading your review. I just wondered at the time whether I could achieve something similar. Strange world. And I designed the first Popemobile when I worked in Dublin in 1979.  Admittedly it was only a Ford truck with a box on the back but I have a plaque from the Vatican to prove it.

Love the article by the way. What are you going to call the new venture? 6o’ And thanks, now I have to brush up on my bio which is nowhere near as good as that Finnish bloke's I have never heard of! Martin

Dear Srajan, I loved your HoroFi article. The only real jewelry men wear are watches. Women amass rings and necklaces and shoes, men collect watches. Like in hifi, it's the men folk who spend those bucks. But boy are space requirements far easier than they are for hifi. Watches are public, hifis are homebodies. For ego strokes, watches pull much harder and everyone has heard of Rolex or Breitling but who of the public knows Burmester? I think watches have a very big advantage with trophy shoppers. If AP can sell 40'000 watches at €1.1 billion a year (€27'500 average per watch!), which high-end audio brand can equal that? Devialet? I also found it interesting that AP want to control pricing and profitability with their own stores. McIntosh tried in the US but I don't think they've been terribly successful. Audio Research separating from the group is certainly suggestive. Anyways, thanks for a thoughtful article. You seem to know a fair bit about that market. Could conflict with your hifi habit if you ever get serious...  Roger

I know a bit from reading up on the subject. Also, our local jeweler, back in the day, used to sell very expensive watches. Today his focus is on €200 watches. He's been in the industry for decades and has lots of stories. Each time we visit to get a new watch battery installed, he regales me with another one. Over time, that's painted quite a picture. But for personal consumption, I'm purely on the Aragon level - cheap 'n' cheerful and Chinese. I lived in Switzerland for 8 years and saw how the very posh part of that business is done there. Crazy money. I stay well clear of it. Watching a YouTube video on how such watches are made... now that I can afford. So why not pass that bit around? Tyre kicking in style. Srajan

Hi Srajan, very interesting new feature on the connections between the industries of fine watches and hifi. I'm no watch nut but surely 1/100th of a second mechanical chronograph watches must be a typo. Who could and would make such a beast? Laurence Bertot

One would be the current £11'000 Zenith Defy El Primero whose large chrono hand makes one dial revolution per second to have the outer dial sub-divided to 100. But as I suggested in my article, human hand/eye coordination is far too slow to start and stop such a mechanism precisely on time. For real accuracy of elapsed time, you'd need laser triggers like they use them for races. So it's another of those wowie features which, once you think on their actual utility, become questionable though the engineering required to make it is bloody phenomenal. Srajan

Srajan, saw Venus II in the news room. Will you guys review it for those of use who can't swing the Terminator? Cheers, Frank

Us guys might if Vinshine Audio asks us to. The best guy for the job would be Frederic who just wrote up the Ares II and Pontus. We'll see. It's early days still and this new model just dropped recently.  Srajan

Dear Srajan, I read your brief piece on the Furutech gizmo. I wanted to commend you for again including opinions from a colleague at another site. You do this regularly which I find most helpful. Your competitors don't particularly where 6moons goes. Very rarely do I see links to your writing in reviews which they publish. Why is that you think? Back to the Furutechs, how big would you rate their improvement? I understand that you can't give out percentages like a computer but I could use something to help me get a handle on what to expect. Thank you very much. Gary Firth

I shall attempt a percentage and call it 5% just because. It doesn't sound like much and isn't; but you'd be surprised how noticeable it is when your system has good resolution. It's far more apparent than toggling digital filters in a DAC for example or rolling interconnects once you have something quality. About your other question, I know my perspective, not what others think. As to mine, I see the Internet as technological telepathy. With it, we tap into the global contents base. Ultimately, nothing in it belongs to anyone in particular. All is freely shared. Once I publish a review, it drops into that pool and becomes part of it. Competitors are aware of it whether they admit it or pretend we don't exist. I have no issue admitting that I'm aware of their reviews and read them to stay informed. Whenever their reviews intersect with mine, why not cross reference for multiple opinions and viewpoints to benefit the reader? I don't believe in a pie of limited size whereby sharing means that everybody gets smaller and smaller slices until there's nothing left to go around. I believe in abundance and networking and that the more we share and put out, the more comes back to go out again like endlessly revolving doors. So I don't really think in terms of competition. I see colleagues in the same biz. Like anyone else, I have favorites and some whose work I like less but as long as it's professionally presented, their work perpetuates the same industry I work in and which puts food on my table. That deserves acknowledgement and appreciation.

Granted, it's taken me some time to become more casual about our images or words appearing elsewhere without permission. I initially felt far more protective but eventually realized that just as thoughts aren't our own (they come to us but from where?), so Internet content dissolves ownership as though it belonged to all. Of course there's copyright because somebody created content so quotes must be credited and images reproduced must have prior permission. The need for professionalism and honor on that score tends to be far more apparent to people who make their living on the Internet. Regular users are often oblivious though they would feel very different if their own work, in whatever field, was suddenly stolen or borrowed without permission, even used by someone else to make money or further their interests. If one works on the Internet, one must simply become comfortable with the current reality of it, find a way to make a fair living whilst relaxing certain old-fashioned ideas about ownership and me+mine.

And, if I like someone's work and sending our readers to it with an embedded link can only benefit their efforts and help them grow... why the hell not? It doesn't cost a thing. It's free networking and stirs the pot. I'd be crazy not to pass it around. Srajan

Hello Srajan: One of my customers is in the commercial cable business and had this to say about the LessLoss Firewall which I thought you'd find interesting. "I really think that the Firewall units make sense from a physics perspective. What LessLoss have done is to exploit the order-of-magnitude difference in frequency between the usual sources of noise and the analogue music signal which is almost direct current by comparison. By tremendously increasing the surface area of a portion of the conductor, the high-frequency noise experiences an enormously higher resistance than the 'DC' signal and is simply dissipated into heat. Clever indeed! Of course they must have put a large effort into finding a material science lab that can make nano-level surface structures." Martin

Hello Srajan: I see that your devil and angel broke bread -:) I didn't expect so much agreement between pro and con but appreciate how you clearly itemize them for the BOP; and that this concept could still be finessed more before it becomes a fully integrated solution. Perhaps they'll take some of your suggestions and work on a one-box center with matching cords. I did look at Titan Audio. I saw that three of their power cords already come with an externally wrapped wire and micro plug. You could be correct thinking that those will attach to a DC power source. But why put that plug on the component not utility end of their power cords? More mysteries for you to solve. I look forward to it! All the best, Eamonn

They might just attach a battery pack like AudioQuest? When the time comes, we'll undoubtedly find out. Interestingly, their lay runs counter-clockwise to current flow as well. As to BOP, my understanding is that they're working on two extra chassis, one a linear power supply, the other a grounding box. Rather than integration, their aim unfortunately seems to be more (expensive!) chassis. Let's see what the Irish ForceField module turns out to be. It suggests a self-contained small pack hopefully without any fussy extra wiring. Srajan

Berning-Schmidlin. Wow! Michele from Rome

Hello Srajan: I've followed you from your Taos days and was wondering how the change from underground to mainstream publication has registered on you. You might not agree with the 'mainstream' qualification but I do think that at least online, 6moons has been part of the establishment for a number of years now. Have you noticed any changes in how you're being treated, what kind of product you have access to and so forth? My major is in Socio-Economics so I'm curious and thought that in your field you'd be a good person to ask now. Greetings, Heinz Honecker

Interesting question. By the way, I've no idea what Socio-Economics are, sorry. But I'll give it a shot. I'd agree that online, we're probably considered a solid fixture by now so I guess that means wer'e part of the establishment. Our content remains more global than regional which was always my hope. As to being treated any different, I don't really know. I work from home. I have for nearly 20 years. My primary business contacts are virtual. Those are the communications I know about. What happens behind my back I don't; unless I happen across comments elsewhere. That same ignorance extends to how we're being perceived. Readers who write in tend to enjoy our work. Manufacturers who work with us do as well. What those who don't write in or don't read us think I wouldn't know. Nor do I care. My focus is on creating quality content. I know there's an audience for it. The proof is that I'm still here 18 years later doing what I enjoy doing. What more do I need to know? For product, we're still focused more off than on the mainstream. That's because the latter is covered well already by others. We mostly respond to rather than generate review solicitations. I'm not sure how many rejections we'd meet if we were to exclusively or mostly ask for review items. We tend not to go after the hyper expensive stuff which, again, is well covered elsewhere already. Whenever we do ask for something to review, I'd say we get a 'yes' 90% or more.

In the end, you had a very interesting question but my answers seem to be very boring. Sorry for that. Srajan 

Hello Srajan: Not at all. A bit surprising perhaps but in hindsight, it makes sense that working in the virtual work and being as productive as you are, there would be little room or opportunity for the kind of feedback I was asking about. But you do attend hifi shows like the one in Munich. Certainly there you must have gained some kind of insight into whether anything has changed in how you and 6moons are perceived compared to, say 10 years ago? Heinz

Well, for starters, most everyone seems to know of us now or at least has heard of us. In that sense we're no longer underground but above ground. And, manufacturers do tell me that reviews on 6moons have more of an impact for them (stimulate more reactions) than they see for reviews which they get elsewhere. That's been actually quite consistent feedback. That could be one of those consequences of being around long enough which you seem curious about? If so, doing something long enough and with consistency equals a certain credibility could be a fair conclusion to draw. Other than that, I wouldn't know. Srajan

Fair enough, Srajan. I appreciate it. Heinz

Dear Srajan, I read your reviews concerning the Denafrips Terminator  and Plus. I also read the following review concerning the Terminator. The writer of it concludes that for pop/rock music he tends to prefer the Terminator while for most acoustic genres, especially classical and jazz (?), he leaned toward the Ayre QX-8. My question is, how does the Terminator Plus perform with chamber and orchestral classical music? The only R2R DAC I tested in my system is the Rockna Wavelight and I found it a bit fatiguing in comparison with my Lindemann Musicbook 15 DSD. Kind regards, Andrea Cristaudi

Different reviewers, different ears and opinions. I've not read that review nor have I any experience with the Ayre or Rockna. As to musical styles, my reviews use different types of music. Unless I specifically say otherwise, I've not heard a hardware 'bias' toward specific software. That doesn't exist in the first place. It's simply a way to point at certain sonic traits that could suit certain music better than others. Ultra-damped very powerful dry bass could seem more realistic for electronic and techno whilst an acoustic upright or bowed cello could sound more realistic with rounder more redolent LF. Etc. On the Denafrips, NOS/OS mode can affect how the transient/decay balance seems weighted and using the I²S input and changing the digital filters also has a small effect. With the Plus, clock sync makes a bigger difference toward higher articulation and crisper enunciation thus more perceived detail. I obviously couldn't predict how the Terminator or Plus would fare against your favored Lindemann. If you're happy with that, why change? Srajan

Hi Srajan, have you used carnet by any chance? If so, was it any good? One manufacturer wants to send me a pair of speakers and handle logistics via carnet which is new to me. Cheers, Dawid

A carnet is like a commodity's passport. It's a legally binding contract that accompanies a shipment and often arrives separately and with a seal. It allows the sender to avoid VAT. You're in Poland so part of the EU. Anything that comes in from outside the EU is charged VAT based on declared value which you as the recipient must pay. A carnet avoids that. It assures customs that shipment X comes into the country, then leaves again after a predetermined period. If it leaves as agreed, no VAT. Now it was just a temporary importation. If it doesn't leave, customs collects VAT after the fact. The carnet includes the mechanics on how.

Whenever I get product shipped in from outside the EU, I'm billed VAT. Then I bill the sender back. You've probably not encountered this before because you always deal with hifi shops in Poland who already handled that. As soon as you accept review items directly from outside the EU, there's VAT. Sadly shippers can't prepay it. So that fee is billed to the recipient: me or you. There won't be delivery unless it's paid, either to the local shipper's online payment collection terminal; or as COD or cc swipe to the driver. Don't pay and the package remains in customs limbo. Eventually it's assessed a storage fee.

A carnet avoids these hassles but most manufacturers don't know of the option. It's a lot of paperwork to declare a temporary importation and it's the shipping company which must provide it. Usually the customer service rep who handles a manufacturer's shipping account is the person to ask. If they don't know, the manufacturer must go up the food chain. So yes, a carnet as a temporary import declaration is good for everyone. You simply must keep the paperwork and reattach it to the shipment when it goes back to where it came from. That's the proof needed to have customs waive VAT on it permanently.

Some manufacturers think that they can just write "commercial sample, no value, to be returned" on a shipping label. That's ludicrous. Customs inspectors aren't morons. The only way to waive VAT is a temporary importation carnet as a legally binding contract which the manufacturer engages with the shipping company of his choice. The other 'solution' (to declare an artificially deflated value to keep VAT low) will not only backfire when a shipment is lost or damaged but can land it in limbo when the inspector challenges its declared value. If a package weighs 40kg, measures like a Pass amp and comes in from the US not Bali, customs won't accept a $200 value. Now they'll demand the real proforma invoice with the accurate value or they'll never release the shipment. If customs disbelieve a declared value, they might go online to retrieve it. Now they could find that a Pass amp retails for €7'500 (distributor price won't be listed) and 23% Irish VAT on that is more than €1'500. Happy days for all. Srajan

The carnet option involves lots of paperwork I presume? Did you have to set up an account somewhere to be able to receive cargo subject to carnet? Dawid

No. The recipient does absolutely nothing. The carnet is exclusively between the sender and customs. The only thing you do is hold on to the carnet to insure it accompanies the shipment when it leaves you. Srajan

Dear Srajan, following your current BOP article, I visited HifiClub's Korean website from your link and discovered their factory tour of Hifistay. Because you just reviewed their rack, I thought you might find this of interest. They actually start their article discussing a custom rack you ordered for your smaller components. They already have initial pictures of it. I thought you might enjoy seeing those. Please continue to discover exciting new products for our reading pleasure. With my very best wishes, Saim Heskimoglu

Ah, interesting indeed to see these photos of Hifistay's factory. Thanks a lot. Apparently this is just the first of a planned series of exposé on Korean hifi makers. I'm looking forward to see who they'll cover next. Hopefully it will include Simon Audio and Bakoon. I like their products. As to the rack, I didn't really order it. Rather, we discussed a review where I was asked how many tiers I'd need for one system. I mentioned that my upstairs components are half size. Now I learnt that Hifistay were already working on a 2/3rd rack. I signed up to review that but subsequently was offered the Mythology X-Frame first. Mr. Naiwon wanted to start promoting his new export efforts with that and the 'M' version wasn't quite ready yet. So we switched tack and I wrote up the big one instead. I'd only seen renders of the small custom rack he makes for the BOP Quantum components I just accepted to review. Interesting that for the M rack, each shelf will sit on its own roller bearings as is only optional for the full-size X-Frame. Thanks again for the link, Saim! Srajan

Dear Srajan, it is well known that you and yours enjoy your life without wifi. What are the methods you use to protect your information? Or do you feel your information is more secure going wired? Thanks, Fred Crane

I don't know what you mean by information. What information? Redundancy and backup protocols, secure browsing with hidden access points and more are all key whether one goes wired or wifi. Emails and websites and bank accounts can all get hacked so up-to-date malware protection, not saving passwords and more are all key. Staying away from social media which monetize private data is as well. Ditto having multiple off-line backups of whatever information one doesn't want to lose. I don't really see how the question of wired vs. wireles factors into this? To my mind, it's the same for either. The moment you're online, you're hackable, period. Whatever you want safe must be offline. Srajan

That answered my question, thanks. Fred

Hello Srajan: Angels and devils, I like it. Seriously, your latest preview on the Korean Quantum Field handles perception hurdles very elegantly. Now I'm very curious how this shall shake out. You referenced the CAD ground control so I looked up your review of it. I saw that you found its benefits mild. Meanwhile Michael Fremer can't live without it. And so it goes. Kudos for keeping us on our collective toes. Be safe! Eamonn

I like to document my instinctual reactions long before product lands. That parallels what consumers may be thinking just looking at an advert or web page. "Very expensive, dubious efficacy at best, more hifi voodoo."... things to that effect. I'm far from immune myself so it's only fair to list all the "B side" ballast. If actual auditions then go very much the other way—"hot damn, that just shouldn't be"—it's fun to see personal assumptions skewered. If they don't skewer—"just as I thought, overpriced bling of minimal efficacy"—it still demonstrates that without hands-on experience, presumptions hold no water. One must try things before one has earned the right to judge them. Either way it's anecdotal as-you-go reportage. It's not writing from hindsight neat and tidy without much of a sense of discovery or surprise because one already knew how the story ended before putting down the first word. That's always been my preference. It's how I start to write nearly all of my reviews - well before the product lands. I get to disclose my assumptions, concerns or expectations, then describe how they clash, decimate or prove out when the listening impressions begin. It's more unpredictable, therefore more entertaining (I hope).

As to the Ground Control, we live very remote and rural, Michael Fremer in a metropolis. That alone predicts very different conditions for noise pollution on the AC line. He also does vinyl which we don't. With the minuscule voltages and high compensatory gain involved in vinyl replay, that's exceptionally intolerant of noise. You'd expect his system to magnify noise differences to a very high degree. Finally, his system appears to be a lot more complex than ours so more exposed to ground-loop incidents. Different strokes. Srajan

Hello Srajan, a customer who followed your reviews for a long time suggested you try the Tubulus Argentus I²S cable. He suspects that you will find it very convincing especially with the Terminator-Plus. His exact words: "He could have the best of both worlds - resolution/clarity/sound staging + body/density/tone." This piqued my interest too! Many thanks, yours sincerely. Alvin Chee


Hello Srajan: I need some help. My friend Satya who is also my reseller is in bad financial straights due to Covid19. He also has a lot of debt with me and still must support his family with 3 kids. As a friend I really want to help him and for his family to survive. His debt to me is not my main concern. Two days ago I suggested that he make a proper audio website for the Indonesian market & enthusiasts. Apart from his own written material, I also gave him the idea to cooperate with overseas reviewers by translating their reviews into Bahasa Indonesian. Last month he asked some of his IT friends to make the basic layout for it and he met Endah who already has a website but no contributor for audio content yet. Endah herself is a widow who depends on her income from her website. Having shared this short story and my wish to help, I'm hoping for your okay to allow them to translate your reviews into Bahasa Indonesian. In my opinion, the more reviews they get to translate from overseas websites, the better for the future of their website and they can get paid by local distributors who carry the brands which are featured in those translated reviews. Let me know what you think. Hendry

First off, I would like to help if I could. But there are problems with your idea. One, I own the copyright to all our archived reviews going back to 2002. This content, though virtual, has real value. It represents my work of nearly 20 years; plus that of my contributors. Whenever I syndicate a review from another publication, I pay them a licensing fee to access their copyrighted materials. That reflects a commodity's value of the written work. Two, I don't read Indonesian. I'd have no means to check on the quality of their translations. Suddenly I'd have "6moons Indonesia" representing me yet no way to assure that it actually conforms to our standards. Numerous parties in different countries have asked me the same thing over the years. I've always declined for the same reason. The only other language I'm fluent in is German. It's why can translate our reviews. I've verified that they're doing a perfect job of it. I've also met the principals to be very comfortable on that level, too. So I'm sorry but no, I can't agree to your idea. It could very easily jeopardize two decades of hard work and I'm simply not in a position to risk that. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I am one of your readers who keeps close track of your personal system because it always means components and speakers you enjoy the most. I couldn't miss seeing the M1 speakers past their review still show up so was wondering whether you decided to keep them and replace your Audio Physic. That would be quite the endorsement. Thank you for all that you do. With my best regards, Gary Firth

As instructed, I'm holding on to this pair until the stablemate M Zero Junior arrives for its own review so that I can compare both models side by side. If I then get the urge once that review is a wrap, we'll see. Right now I'm certainly leaning that way. Srajan

Hi Srajan, just a quick shout-out and props for doing these twofers with Dawid. So far only Pass Labs seems to take advantage of planning for this from the outset. You have of course done reruns of the idea by publishing reviews Dawid did for his own site. I remember the Bakoon amp and smaller Boenicke speakers. Anyway, I wanted to say that planning for two opinions in one review is a brilliant move and I wish more manufacturers would take advantage of it. So keep them coming, boys. Kevin

In the case of Dawid and moi, there's shipping from the US to Poland, Poland to Ireland, Ireland back to the US or an EU importer. As electronics/speakers get bigger and heavier, that can amount to a pretty penny. I can't blame makers for not wanting to shoulder these costs. On the other hand, supplying two reviewers in two different countries for two independent reviews would cost the same. In the end, it's down to a preference. As a brand, would you rather have two separate reviews in two different publications; or two writers reporting on the same component in the same review? As always, we're down with either approach; whatever makes more sense to the companies working with us. And yes, it's a lot of fun to do it this way. I'm happy it's true also from the other side as a reader. Srajan

Srajan, just came over from through your rack feature and its embedded link. Wow. I had never given this subject any thought. A question then if I may. At what level of system expense do you think a quality rack becomes important? And what makes a quality rack in the first place to be different from what you call basic furniture? I can understand the concept but given the crazy pricing of the brands you mentioned, I'm very much unclear what us lesser mortals can really do about it. Hopefully you have some good news. Volkmar Kernig

Excellent question! I suspect that the most cost-effective solution would be an Atacama-type bamboo rack eventually augmented by ball-bearing isolation footers like Finite Elemente's €240/4 Ceraball. This would make sense in a system where each component costs, say €1'500. Srajan

Excellent, thank you. That's really good news and something I can justify. I'll start to investigate now. Much appreciated. Volkmar

I feel compelled to interject. Barry Carling's email points at longstanding abuse in hifi reviews, of endless equipment loans, favorable pricing and other quid pro quo. Do you really believe that keeping loaners after their reviews are published is any different from accepting bribes and other backhanders? Really, I expected a lot better of you. I think I shall stop reading you from now on. Bill Northrup  

By all means, reading us was never an obligation, Bill. As to 'favorable pricing', it's standard across all industries. Work at a car dealership? You get a better price on a new car. Work as a shoe salesman as I once did on Rodeo Drive and Melrose Ave? Get your pair at shop cost. Work at a restaurant? Hello free meals. There's nothing nefarious about so-called industry accommodations. They simply eliminate dealer profits since one buys directly from the makers. As to keeping loaners, I'd consider it theft. The term 'loaner' implies a short term. Here we're talking about extended loans as solicited by manufacturers after a review has published.

Reviewing becomes a costly enterprise for any writer who views having access to multiple ideally most varied specimens in each product category mandatory. Over the years, most such reviewers invest heavily into their tool box to offer incoming kit the best conditions. Reviewing €20K speakers on a €1K integrated isn't sensible. Nor is driving most widebanders with 200wpc class D. And so forth. Reviewers who accept more diverse product for review to give their readers a broader scope thus tend to buy far more stuff than they ever listen to at any given time. They in effect turn into miniature dealerships. The difference is that they hardly ever sell anything, just sit on stuff benched until it's rolled out for the right review occasion. If they do liquidate inventory to refresh it, it's not for a profit. This is where authorized long-term loans can fill holes in a reviewer's tool box to allow them to do a better more specifically tailored job.

Is it ideal? Not. In our model, readers simply contribute nothing financially yet expect us to do A/B comparisons across the board. The tools necessary to do that must come from somewhere. Ideally they're all paid for and owned by the writer. Ideally all reviewers had graduated reviewing school to work under vetted credentials. Ideally all reviewers had dedicated well-treated listening rooms. Ideally reviewers were independently wealthy to review without any fiscal recompense whatsoever yet be professionals not amateurs in all other regards. Ideally they'd buy all the products they review outright to eliminate any whiff of potential collusion. Ideally they'd review double blind and test all speakers in privately owned anechoic chambers. Etc.

At some point in that endless litany, reality steps in. I've worked hard on making ours as transparent as possible. Anyone who has an issue with our MO is perfectly free to do so. Of course had I not published John Lim's email in the first place, you couldn't have on this count. So you might ask yourself just why did I publish it? Srajan

Just a FYI. Your bud Michael Lavorgna is back on Twittering Machines. He couldn't stay away for long. Dieter

I'd noticed, thank you. I'm happy Michael returned to something he enjoyed; and that his time away recharged his batteries. The only good reason to stop doing something you enjoy is when you no longer enjoy it; or have other things you mean to explore instead. With AudioStream gone now, he might feel extra chuffed about the timing. Good for him! Rafe Arnott's Resistor Mag has gone live as well so the demise of one site gave us two new ones. Srajan

Hello Srajan, thanks for putting so much effort into these challenging reviews. I figured that it'd take a pair of very experienced ears and very high skill sets to review the Gaia, T+, D300Ref, standard Terminator and many rounds of comparisons. Thank you for doing this, it's much appreciated. Yours sincerely, Alvin Chee

My pleasure, Alvin. This stuff has features I'd not come across before so I learnt something which is always the most fun part of these assignments. So if you guys keep bringing it, we'll keep batting at it. Srajan

Hello Srajan, thanks for publishing John Lim's email. I often wondered how long-term loans for reviewers come about. As you point out, it's important that such offers are made once a review has published. In your experience, does this kind of thing happen a lot? Barry Charling

My standard MO is to publish, then email the link to the maker with a "will be packed up and ready for pickup tomorrow, please advise when to expect shipper" request. Now it may happen that a maker asks to leave their gear and see it appear in future reviews. The obvious risk? It could eventually find itself compared to something better/cheaper and steal some of the original review's thunder. Either way, it's extra hardware that reviewers must store when not using it. Unless it fills a very particular hole in their toolbox, it just takes up space. In this instant, I'll use it permanently in the upstairs system until it's recalled. Its demonstrable resolution gains will benefit all incoming review loaners in the interim to help me do a better job. That's a real win.

In the past with budget gear particularly from Asia, their senders simply didn't want it back. Two-way shipping + VAT-type fees already paid + getting back 'B-stock' must have made it more cost-effective not to retrieve such loaners. That I didn't want them or had any use didn't matter. Those were things I gave away. I also suspect that at the time, Chinese companies in particular were used to a review culture in which not organizing return shipments was status quo. At least in my experience, that's thankfully changed so no, it doesn't happen a lot. What occasionally does is much delayed pickups. The going joke with my wife is that we should start billing storage fees for stragglers which clog up our entry in ready-to-go parcel and boxes.

Particularly when they're costly and big, I'm often surprised by how casual certain shippers can afford to be about getting their goods back promptly. Gathering dust in our entry hall does nobody any good. These and related aspects are things readers in general never consider. And why should they? It's not their experience. Reviewing simply isn't all fun and games. It's real work that comes with its own set of imperfections just like any other job. And occasionally like in this instant, there are the most unexpected surprises, too. Srajan

Hello Srajan, thanks for your excellent review! Really, hats off to all the effort you put into reviewing our Mythology Transform X-frame. Mr. Pyun is very delighted and would like to extend his special thanks. I would like to ask one thing very carefully since I'm not sure if it is okay to ask such things. As long as you are fine with it, I wish you to keep this sample in your listening room for ongoing use. It will make it easier to review upcoming Hifistay products like the production version of the Perfect Board and our new Gyrotension footers. Whenever you need to take out the rack, I can arrange pick-up anytime. Please let me know what you think.​ Best regards, John Lim

I'm pleased to hear that you and Mr. Pyun are happy with my review. Doing a proper job of whatever we write about is always the goal. Your suggesting an extended loan after the review published presents no problems so the understanding will be that when you need it back, it'll be yours to retrieve at any time. For now I'll set it up in two-wide layout in my upstairs system this weekend. My thanks to Mr. Pyun for the unexpected offer. I'll identify it as "on extended loan" in my equipment listing so readers are aware of its status. Srajan

Dear Srajan: Has anything come of Daniel Brezina's virtual introductions yet? I took a look at the Czech companies he highlighted and GMG Power with their X-Blocker in particular looks most interesting. Would you consider reviewing it? Best regards, Holger Scharmacher

As it happens, already a week has gone by since Daniel's email which I replied to within the hour. Not one of these companies has contacted me to ask for a review or to follow up in any way. I can only surmise that either the sense of urgency and interest was his alone; or that lack of fluent English is the barrier. Certainly not having English web pages is for international business and some of these firms don't have them yet. That would need to be fixed before asking for a review in an English magazine. On that front, GMG are all set to go. So we'll see. If I'm asked, I shall certainly respond.

Incidentally, this kind of thing is why I deal directly with manufacturers, not 3rd-party intermediaries like PR agencies or importers. That way I hear things from the horse's mouth and get the most accurate in-depth product information. The other day a PR agency solicited me for an expensive headphone review. I asked for the owner's email instead to confirm interest. That man couldn't even bother to acknowledge my email with a "thanks but not interested" response. Clearly the outside PR man and the manufacturer he claimed to represent were on completely different pages. The same could be true here as well. I'm easy to find. Nobody needs an intermediary to contact me. Google translator works well enough. Srajan

Hello Srajan: Very interesting that the Korean rack would emphasize different sonic aspects than your resident version. Do you have any ideas why? Is it just an extension of the common observation that squishy rubber footers sound softer and fuzzier than hard metal cones? Cheers, Roger

I suspect so, Roger. During my Aalborg visit, I had opportunity to compare Ansuz roller-ball footers through different tiers of rising costs. Geometry or size never changed. What did was the hardness of the races where ball bearings contact the metal discs. "The harder the interface, the faster and more effective the transfer/evacuation of resonances" was my takeaway. In our rack, the first component interfaces are beech-wood discs. Earlier versions I used were neoprene. Hifistay's materials are a lot harder. In hindsight, it's not surprising perhaps that like Ansuz's titanium rack and scandium-diamond-layered footers, sonics would emphasize microdynamic contrast and transient speed. At least that's my entirely non-scientific purely observational conclusion. But there's no doubt whatsoever that different rack construction and approaches (needle suspensions, roller balls, viscoelastics) all sound demonstrably different. It's a little documented area of our hobby. Very few people go out to audition different racks side by side. A dealer will at best have one serious (i.e. non-furniture) line. Even if you're lucky to have two dealerships each with competing serious racks in your area like things from Grand Prix Audio, Finite Elemente, Silent Running, HRS & Co., you won't hear them side by side with exactly the same gear and speakers. Now it's up to crazy reviewers to tell that tale. Not many of us are crazy enough. Srajan

Hi Srajan, hope you've been well. I've really been digging some of your puns and wordplay recently. Some of them have been quite clever... I'm writing to let you know about something I just discovered. Maybe you already know but I hadn't seen it in your news section yet. FirstWatt is coming out with a new amp called the F8. I'm rather excited by this. I've gotten a ton of gear since we last talked but my favorite combo thus far is the Vinnie Rossi LIO DHT with the First Watt SIT-3 (both thanks to your reviews). The F8 will probably be killer as well. And what's even better is the name, it's like a pun in itself. And there are already awful things I love named F8, such as the ridiculous 8th movie of the Fast and Furious franchise and the latest album by Five Finger Death Punch. Keep up the awesome work. JL

Ah. I had missed the knock of fate so thanks for pointing me in the right direction. The J2 reborn with a simpler front end. Who woulda thunk it? Thanks. Srajan

Curious what's the best preamp you came across so far? I'm in the market for a good preamp. Thanks, Clint Tracy

Without specifying context, there's no such thing as 'best'. If you asked what my favorite preamp is—for our main system in the current room, from what I've heard that I could afford—it's the Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with Elrog ER50. But why that should matter to you I haven't the faintest. It won't automatically translate to your system and room. Having never listened together, you also can't possibly know the sound I value and whether that would be your sound or not. I'm sorry but with this poorly focused a question, I can't give a better answer. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I see you're investing again into your hardware stable with the passive magnetic preamp and Kinki monoblocks. Do you see a special valve amp in your future to be able to review their kind again? I realize that you had sworn off them but you seemed quite impressed with the Linear Tube Audio models so is there hope? I enjoy reading about the whole spectrum of fine hifi and ever since you abandoned tube amps, I had to go elsewhere for my fix. It would be nice if you could incorporate the occasional glowing amps again. Preamps just aren't the same. I hope you're staying healthy. You certainly seem busy enough to keep us all entertained. With my very best wishes, Francis Gammond

Funny you should ask. It seems something tubular not bells could be tolling in my belfry. If so, it'll be something ultra special and rare and a true benchmark to rejoin your kind of favorite game. So yes, hope seems alive and well on that score as it does on many others. Srajan

Hi Srajan, in a recent letter sent to you, you were asked which of several speakers that you have reviewed was your favorite. Of the ones listed you stated that you loved the Acelec Model One... and you loved the sound|kaos 3a even more, for different reasons. Also on that list was the Aurai M3 but you made no mention of it. The review you wrote highly praised this speaker and you gave it a Blue Moon award so you obviously were very impressed with it. Since the cost of this speaker is within my budget (the Acelec Model One might also be doable), I would like to know where you would put it with respect to the Acelec and the sound|kaos 3a. Cheers, Peter Borelli

How could the Aurai M3 have been on my list but me having made no mention of it? I'm not sure I understand the question. I've gone to great lengths in each review to describe each speaker's main strengths or character to the best of my abilities. You'll have to triangulate between them wherever I didn't make direct comparisons. I sadly don't have time to write mini comparisons for readers curious about how 'A' compared to 'Q' to 'Y'. Our 18-year archives would make that an impossible enterprise. You are correct of course that I rate the Aurai in the same elite company of compact monitors I've reviewed more recently. Cheers, Srajan

I am still curious. If you had to choose between the sound|kaos Vox 3a, the Aurai M3 or M1 as the only speaker you could have, which of these three would you personally choose? This is a question that you have answered before in an interview. You said it was an easy question to answer and that you already had it. At that time it was the Boenicke W5se. I will not consider your answer a recommendation. In the end, I will make my own choice and will hold no one but myself responsible. Peter

It always depends on which room I would shop for. In the current house, upstairs it'd be the sound|kaos Vox 3a, downstairs it'd be the M1. Srajan

Hello, I'm getting in touch with you as an organizer of the local Audio Video Show in Prague. Because this year is a little strange for all of us, we had a talk here in Prague and decided to get our local brands a little more recognition worldwide. I took the responsibility as a person who knows who to contact so here I am trying to promote several brands that want to be involved with you. I'll appreciate any feedback from your side. These brands definitely don't have big marketing budgets as I'm not mentioning bigger local brands like Xavian or Acoustic Quality you may have already heard of.

Anyhow, here's the list of brands you might want to know about.

GMG Power

    • young brand that produces high-end power filters - passive, reliable and oversized
    • not cheap but with prices between €3-10K still acceptable in the high-end world
    • I personally recommend X-Blocker, their cheaper smaller model
    • I use the bigger model in my personal setup and compared  itdirectly to IsoTek regenerators/filter or even the basic Stromtank model and this works better
    • this brand is highly interested in global promotion


    • one-man company but with a slightly different approach
    • real high-end sound for very affordable prices
    • I suggest checking out their three-way €3'000 Ringo stand-mount, which works surprisingly well for its price
    • more at


    • again a one-man show backed by  one sales guy
    • focuses mainly on absolutely flat frequency response of speakers and maximum dynamics of electronics, not really focused on design
    • I suggest checking his Plus series of speakers, for example the ~€3'000/pr Kilo V2 Plus
    • what's maybe even more interesting is the 100wpc €2'000 B200 power amplifier, oversized, able to drive almost anything
    • more at

RD Acoustic

    • this company provides many interesting things
    • my personal choice would not be the obvious full-range hornspeakers but the RD EMI Neutralizer powert filter or some acoustic solutions, especially their  Hybrid Acoustic Diffuser that works extremely well in a few world-famous reviewers' systems
    • very young company with a focus on a technical look and good parts, with speakers from €2-3K/pr
    • I actually had just a brief listening session at our show,but the N1 seemed pretty good to me

These five companies were a pleasant surprise at this year's show and as an ambassador of Czech hifi I'm giving my personal recommendation to check these out as being worthy mostly for interesting prices and associated sound quality. Daniel Brezina

Thank you very much for your ambassadorial note, Daniel. Except for RD Acoustics, I indeed wasn't familiar with the other four brands. I'd be more than happy to try and assist them with some exposure in our pages. Simply encourage them to get in touch with me directly and we'll see what we can do. Srajan

Srajan, nice review on that new autoformer passive. It read like a TAP-X in a different form factor with extra features. Quite the find. Kudos for sniffing out novelties that some of us can still afford. I especially like all the custom order options including true balanced from an AVC. I sensed that you were close to getting one for yourself? It must have smarted to realize how close it came to your big tube preamp! Patrick Croyden

Getting one did indeed cross my mind. And yes, hearing it vs our Nagra and Vinnie Rossi valve decks was a great reality check. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I’m over the moon about your Blue Moon Award, your review and those fantastic 10 pages you created. Thank you very much for your great work and support which literally changes our life. The life-changing moment for the guys of Life-Changer Ltd. In the past 5 years I spent so much work, time and money on the icOn. I worked 60-80 hours weekly for far less than the minimum wage. There were tough periods when I thought about giving up and only seeing the dark side of the audio world but I always felt that icOn has some advantages which my competitors lack. 'It may take time but truth will always win' was my motto. You came and suddenly proved and showed to tens of thousand of audiophiles that I was not wrong. Now I get so many emails and leads as never before. I hope we will meet sometime somewhere in person to shake hands and have a chat about other things too. Have a wonderful weekend! Pal and Agnes

Hello Srajan, I'm following your developing Terminator-Plus review with great interest. I guess I'm surprised that you find the clock sync feature to be the primary attraction so far. For many of us without a source to take advantage of it, that's perfectly useless. Any comments? Jeremy Wozny

I'm no digital engineer. But let's say I was. I look at the standard Terminator. I'm tasked to identify areas of possible improvement. After considering what's there, I point at the power supply to specify new ultra capacitors. I split the main circuit board into two to isolate analog and digital even more. I change a few key parts and the overall layout. I then upgrade the clocks and make them externally accessible. This turns out to be the biggest upgrade. Even I'm surprised. But voilà, applause from the company. I did my job. They're thrilled. I get to live another day. That one Jeremy Wozny is unhappy because the most room for improvement turned out to be with a new feature he has no use for doesn't even register.

Sorry to sound harsh but that's about the gist of it. The T+ is turnkey functional without that feature. It works like any other DAC. There's a built-in upgrade path which already works with the most affordable Denafrips DDC, the €450 Iris. Many audiophiles pay more for a power cord. Add €40 for 2 x 50cm Sommercable clock cables. Now Bob's your uncle. I see no cause for malcontent. After all, would you bitch if your new integrated had a pre-out you didn't need and a selectable balance control you don't use? If the general sound has your vote, excess features simply cover bases for other customers. That's what good product does. It accounts for the broadest target audience and the most diversified needs and applications. T+ is a statement product for advanced customers. The standard Terminator remains with the program. If you don't see yourself using a DDC or other source that's copasetic with the T+ clock sync, get the standard Terminator, Venus, Pontus or Ares II instead. Different price points, different features, different levels of system complexity. My review simply says that to tap T+'s full potential, its clock sync is mandatory because it's so effective. Reading anything else into it is just whining. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I see you signed up for the PhoenixUSB and expect a Q&A phone call. If I may, here are some things I'd like you to ask. 1/ with it in front of a USB DAC, is the DAC now prompted to operate in isochronous not asynchronous mode so the Innuos clock is master? 2/ what's the reason behind a 10MHz clock used by many external master clocks versus their 24MHz clock rate when neither relate directly to audio sample rates? 3/ why no S/PDIF or I-squared-S? 4/ how can an optocoupled USB input on a DAC be improved by "noise filtering" what happens in front of it? 5/ how can they justify €2.5K for this box? I look forward to their replies. Best, Volkmar

I'm well ahead of you, Volkmar. 1-4 and more are already on my own list. 5 I will attempt to determine versus competitors. Here I don't think companies can be expected to be 100% objective. They're supposed to believe their stuff beats the competition. Why otherwise bother? Things routinely are priced based on what they (are believed to) beat, not just on the parts inside the enclosure. That's normal business arithmetic. Are we to really expect that any firm would say "we're overpriced for what we deliver" to indulge our fantasy that we could DIY the gizmo for a whole lot less? All business is about profit. That only comes after all operational expenses are covered. These include salaries, ship fees, insurance, import/VAT fees, dealer margins, possibly even distributor margins, advertising, show attendance and more. And of course, if you can find the same or better performance for a lot less elsewhere, that's every savvy shopper's dream. I simply wouldn't expect one maker to send you elsewhere for comparable product that's cheaper than theirs. That's your job to sniff out and take advantage of. As a reviewer, I do attempt a certain value assessment wherever I'm informed enough to know of alternate options. If a product is unique to where I don't know direct equivalents, I can't. In the end, that area of perceived value is always up to each buyer to navigate. Srajan

Srajan, I noted that you took delivery of the Terminator-Plus. Care to share any first impressions on how it compares to the one you have? Inquiring minds want to know how these two bad boys compare. Holger Scharmacher

Sorry, I wouldn't. That's what the review is for. It'll all be revealed in due time when the new unit has clocked some time and I'm certain of what I'm hearing. For now it's running in and staying warm for a few non-stop days so the circuitry is fully on song. In my experience, digital wants to be powered up constantly to sound its best. Srajan

Srajan, just a quick heads up that I don't agree with Jeffrey Bart. Your site is super easy to navigate and your archives are the most sorted I've seen anywhere. Don't change a thing. Let the discontents go elsewhere I say. All the best, Conrad

Jeffrey is perfectly within his rights to dislike it. I don't mind criticisms. To do something about them, they simply must convince me. I've implemented numerous changes over the years in response to reader requests or suggestions. This particular one just misses the cut. Anyhow, I never think I must please everyone. As long as I please enough people to keep doing what I enjoy doing, I'm good. In the end, it's all just words and pictures. There's only so many ways to organize them. Everyone has their own preferences. Those simply shouldn't stand in the way when dealing with implementations that don't conform to them. It's like the layout of a super market. They're all different but after a short while, you know how each organizes their aisles to find what you're looking for. It's only the first time that can be disorienting. "Where, arrgh, do they hide the bloody Q-tips?" Srajan

Dear Srajan: I was curious. As a reviewer, do you still consider yourself an artist like the musician you used to be? I'm asking because ever since the lock-down, I've started to keep a journal and I'm curious what your perception is on the writing process. Thanks a lot for any feedback you might have. Seamus Walsh

That's a very interesting question. Thank you for that. You may not know it but my name actually means 'creativity'. And I really do consider myself actively involved in the creative process. But I never think of myself as an artist. That would feel like taking ownership and stealing credit. "I am an artist." That's a most self-referential statement. It implies that I'm the doer. To me that's not the case. My creative process is just a download from elsewhere; occupying the same space or vibration as inspiration. I'm merely a recipient. My part is to show up and get involved. Experience then tweaks the small stuff but the actual creation already happened in the ether if you will. So the process isn't making something. It's discovering what a something is which spontaneously shows up when I bother to show up for the physical act of typing on a keyboard and letting it come through. There's no ownership, just participation and discovery.

Also, the notion of being an artist immediately raises the question on what art is. That's far too loaded and presumptuous for my taste. I stay away from the whole thorny issue. I simply feel lucky that I get to make a living from something I really enjoy; and that it happens to have a certain usefulness to others. So my feedback is to not worry about any formal concepts, titles and processes. Just trust that something of personal meaning wants to express itself through you. Trust that showing up as a recipient on a disciplined regular basis will whittle away at certain obstructions and efforts until the 'download' happens easily and quickly. That's it. Eventually your own voice reveals itself and doing it becomes like breathing. You can do it anywhere, anytime. And like breathing, it's not really our doing. If it were, we'd all forget to breathe while we sleep. We'd never wake up.

Finally, in my experience one can only write how one thinks. Writing visualizes our thinking. It betrays discontinuities, faulty logic and all manner of imprecise fuzzy thinking which is easier to spot on the page than in the grey matter. So the process of writing is a feedback mechanism. As our writing clarifies to get simpler and more accurate, so will our thinking. That alone is reason enough to do it. Who cares whether it's art? Srajan

Dear Srajan, that was surprisingly useful, thank you. I hadn't thought of it quite like that. I guess I'm not yet at the point of the easy download. I'm still struggling with the right words to have what I feel match up what I write. Did that take you a long time? Seamus

When people tell me they can't write, I tell them to write like they speak. Speak to someone, even yourself - simply on the page. Anyone can talk. That's all there is to it. And yes, the process involves our growing sensitization on how/whether the words really match our finest sentiments and intention. To that there's no end. Like with any craft, practice chips away at obstructions. I've been doing it for 20 years on an essentially daily basis. Whether I've improved I'll leave for others to judge. What I can say is that the process still inspires and intrigues me the same. On one level, audio is simply what perpetuates it. It keeps presenting ongoing prompts. Product shows up, there's people behind it, history, tech, questions to ask, things to learn, listening to do, describing a subjective experience in ways that hopefully communicate without boring. It's my ongoing boot camp to whittle away at this craft. So don't set yourself any schedule. Focus on the journey rather than destination. It's a personal journey of discovery. When your voice suddenly shows up, you'll recognize it. How I don't know but you will. That's for certain. It'll be a fun day. Srajan

That is an enticing thing to anticipate. So far my download channel seems clogged most of the time. It's still more of a struggle than rain clouds letting go. But I'll hold on to the promise of time and that growing experience will make the difference. Thanks again. Seamus

They say that any craft—making sushi, playing the piano, writing haiku—takes at least 10 years of diligent practice to master. Don't be in a hurry with unrealistic expectations. And if you can, leave judgment out of it. It's not about comparing yourself to others or even conforming to your own ideas. It's about discovering what comes when that other stuff let's go. It's about engaging the 'muscle' so it wakes up and gains shape and responsiveness. It's bound to happen in its own time. Srajan

Srajan, yours is one of many audio sites I read every month. So I wonder why you segregate your site into various sub sections when competitors like and Mono & Stereo put all their content on the same page so the newest is always at the top. I find that much more convenient. Jeffrey Bart

The answer is simple. If you do like M&S and run 5 to 6 news posts a day on the same page as your reviews, the reviews get bumped from that constantly refreshing page within a day or two (unless the page simply gets longer and longer which theirs doesn't). Why would I want my reviews to disappear from view after such a short period of time? They're the main attraction and focus of my site and hard work. They carry far different weight than cut'n'paste press releases. The M&S way treats them exactly the same which I would take serious issue with. I prefer to have my reviews easily visible for two months so that readers who only occasionally visit won't miss them. Now they won't have to go look for what's new in the archives. It also gives proper exposure to the makers who pay to ship us their goods and have them written up. Plus, my site is obviously called 6moons and had that basic structure since 2002. Changing it to "one moon" invalidates the name. If you didn't know already, creating a brand with a signature identity is hard enough. That's even truer today when WordPress sites are the norm to often look/work more or less the same. I paid good money to transfer the original design to WordPress with custom code and special plug-ins. Up-ending a signature look/identity made no sense to me. What's more, the initial drop-down menu on the home page features, across each moon, the date when that chapter was last updated. Then the newest content is always on the top (news, feedback and industry features) or in the top-left position (previews, reviews). I don't really see what's too complicated about that. Feel free to disagree but I'm not changing it. It's worked just fine for 18 years already. Srajan

Srajan, saw the Perreaux disappear from the upcoming reviews. May I ask what happened? Was looking forward to learning more about it so feel a bit bummed that it seems to have vanished?  Cheers, Chad

Exactly nothing is what happened. Their UK distributor asked for the review in January, now it's mid July. They've not communicated or otherwise managed this solicitation so it was time to delete the Perreaux folder from WordPress as something that wasn't going to happen. Sorry for that. Srajan

Hi Srajan, your SQM review really moved me. Seldom I read a hifi story that was written with so much humor, knowledge and thoughtfulness, delicately touching very subtle differences - and at the same time keeping the right perspective on everything in a very professional way. I have been an editor in chief myself for 9 years and I know I tried, but I must acknowledge my superior in you... Please have a look at my blog post about your review here: All the very best, Eelco Grimm

Hi Srajan, in his post, Paul writes "I currently clock-slave my SOtM SMS 200ultra Roon endpoint to my Audiogd HE20 DDC. The Audiogd has 10MHz clock i/o so with Terminator Plus I could slave both to the superior clock in the Terminator Plus." Denafrips use a 45MHz clock, Audiogd and SOtM a 10MHz clock. How would that work? Tim

It wouldn't. Paul got that mixed up as well as the 50/75Ω standard. He's right of course for his current setup. But for the Denafrips, he'd want the matching Gaia, Iris or Avatar units or anything by another brand that uses the Denafrips clock standard. Srajan

Hi Srajan, thank you for the recent review of the LessLoss Blackbody. Am I correct in thinking that you weren't as excited about it as you are about the Firewall? I notice that you're still using that and it got the award and the Blackbody didn't. I want to know how to properly think of this kind of tweak. Ricky S.

I define a tweak as a sound-improving product so not a primary sound maker. Take out a sound maker and there's no sound. Take out a tweak and the sound continues (just less good if the tweak is effective). It's imperative then to start with solid sound makers which play together well before getting tweaks where the cost of certain ones would buy far more improvements invested into better sound makers. And as my review said, I did find the Firewall to be rather more potent. It also disappears nicely behind the speakers where multiple Blackbodies especially wired up quickly look fussy. So I ended their review by suggesting that you'd consider this type tweak when you already have everything else (sorted).

I personally have a simple rule to separate initial infatuation from serious desire: after you lived with the thing under consideration for a bit, take it back out, then see how quickly you forget about it again; or not. If it keeps haunting you, you met a good one. If it fades from memory, it can't have been important enough. That applies to not just tweaks but any other piece of hifi hardware. Our hearing is incredibly adaptive. It's why when we first make a change, it always seems big. As we live with it, it becomes our new normal. The initial difference and all the surrounding hoopla and pleasure are absorbed in a new status quo. We might even wonder whether we've been had or imagined the whole thing. Then it's time to take the stuff back out. See what collapses, shrinks or otherwise deteriorates. Now remind yourself that you lived with that for a lengthy period before. In the big scheme of it all, how important is the latest change, really? And what do you consider a fair price for its temporary gratification which you know will become less and less special as time goes on because your hearing will adapt to no longer know the difference? These answers are entirely personal but the questions are universal. Srajan

Srajan, hope you are well. As you dig into digital clocking, I'm confident you will be convinced. Closer to analog not in tone but in pace. I hate to say it at the risk of voodoo but the cabling you use matters too and it matters if it is 75Ω versus preferred 50Ω. I currently clock-slave my SOtM SMS 200ultra Roon endpoint to my Audiogd HE20 DDC. The Audiogd has 10MHz clock i/o so with Terminator Plus I could slave both to the superior clock in the Terminator Plus. SOtM make an excellent 50Ω BNC cable, one of the very few out there. Swapping in a 75Ω Oyaide BNC digital is subtle but noticeable. Not as good as the SOtM 50Ω. May have nothing to do with the impedance but I suspect it does. Lots of chatter on the MSB blogs over the years about the benefits of 50Ω cabling for the clocks. Paul

I didn't know 50Ω was preferred. With the Terminator Plus and Gaia, we do deal with 75Ω terminations and not a 10MHz clock either. But I'm not surprised to hear that these cables too make a difference. This being about square waves at very high frequencies, the requirements will be a bit different than for typical analog bandwidths. What exactly that means relative to cable construction and the best suppliers of such cable I'm simply still foggy on at the moment.  Srajan

Dear Srajan: I see you have different reviews with Denafrips coming up and wondered whether you're planning on trying the new Terminator with the Gaia? Like you I would prefer a DAC that is a true one-box solution to no longer need extra boxes to sound its best. Thank you, Robert Christer

That's indeed the plan, Robert. I'm presently trawling the web to acquire two 75Ω clock-sync cables to explore that feature of the Terminator-Plus with Gaia and Avatar when they all get here. You'd think that with its superior clock, the Plus might be immune to the charms of preceding clocks. But with its clock outputs wired up, it'll be in fact its own clock that controls the send clock of either this DDC or transport. And that I've not done before to have any notion on what to expect. Should know soon enough though... Srajan

Srajan, saw that Frederic will review the Denafrips Pontus. Any chance you guys will cover the Ares II? Some of us only have limited funds and that model already has all the interesting main tech of R2R and NOS. Sincerely, Craig Norton

As it happens, Frederic was just asked to compare Ares II to Pontus so you're in luck. I now changed the link graphic to make clear that this has become a 2-for-1 assignment. Just don't ask Frederic how those two compare to the Venus and Terminator. He's never heard those so won't know. Srajan

Bravo, Srajan. I just caught up with your icOn4 preview. Once again I learnt things I've not found on it anywhere else. Sometimes I think that manufacturers must deliberately withhold information from your competitors only to give it to you when it's your turn and make you look good. How did you swing that? Just kidding of course but still, it happens often enough to make one wonder. Blake

Sorry Blake, I signed an NDA for that. Mum's the word or I'd have to kill you after. But seriously, I have no idea. I'm just curious and put myself in a prospective buyer's shoes. What then would I want to know, about the company or piece under consideration? What's not obvious but interesting? I ask and (most the time) get the answers. Presumably others forget to ask? That bit isn't rocket science. It just requires continued enthusiasm to put into action. No mysterious machinations at work. Srajan

Really? "Divide and conquer: Sly on the left, Arnie on the right, Netflex in the middle." I got a good chuckle out of that one with my morning coffee. Nearly spilled a mouthful, lol. Thanks a million! Victor

Can't take credit for that. I made a typo and was just about to fix it to Netflix when I realized this made a good point. So I left it rather than turn it into Nitflex. Sometimes dumb luck wins out. And you too? Everyone around here in Ireland says thanks a million. What if I only have one euro?  Srajan

Great to see all the compilation lists. I already recognized that we had similar interests in music but great to dip into that now. The Requiem (for Paco de Lucia) reminds me of a concert I was at, Paco Pena's Flamenco Mass. Obviously some of the audience had never heard Cante Jondo. Paco plus extra guitarists plus some other gitano guys sitting there. It starts nicely enough, nice tasteful guitar. Then suddenly, one of the guys lets rip with that hoarse guttural singing. Gasps of surprise—even horror?—were heard from the audience! Chris

Quite. I was in the home of an audiophile in Granada and had brought a personal compilation on a CDR. Naturally I asked to hear proper Flamenco. The attending Spandiards clearly winced. I asked them about it. They consider it "primitive" and don't understand why foreigners like it. It's as though this primitivism questions the Catalans' high cultural standing. Having the remote control as the guest of honor, I did the needful. I turned the volume up. Srajan

Year 2010. Dave Hewitt delivers to me his clone of the Pass F3 amp. We connect it up, he "sits" in my listening chair about 2 metres from the Ocellia Calliopes. "It’s like listening to giant headphones" he said.

Year 2020. My desk-side Zigmahornets work likewise, playing Gerardo Nuñez as I type. Close-field is it! Chris Skelton

Gerardo Nuñez. Good man! If you haven't yet, check out Rafael Cortéz on my Musical waves N°11 playlist in the music reviews pages. Srajan

Dear Srajan, a question about amps, please. I know that you use the Liszt monos in your main system. As per their website, they are no longer made. Recently you reviewed a Kinki Studio stereo amp and compared it very favorably to your monos. If you went shopping today, would you consider that Chinese amp to be a fair replacement for your monos? Thanks for any clarification you can give. I look forward to it. Volker Knier

That's simple. Yes. If I ran power-hungrier speakers in a far bigger room thus at higher volumes, the mono equation could step forward to be counted. At my usage, they had no advantage over the stereo amp I could hear. To really gild that lily, Kinki have their own monos. Those don't really produce more power per se but add low-impedance reserves and power supply stability "under heavy attack". I've not reviewed the 2020 versions and the stereo amp already left for its next review. So I couldn't make that comparison even if I wanted. Honestly though, I'd not hesitate to replace my LinnenberG with the Kinki. I have no need to make such a change so I won't. But purely on sonics, I'd consider it a wash. So if the Germans gave up their ghosts tomorrow, I'd go Kinki because it'd save a lot of money. Finally, I know that one of my fairaudio colleagues owns a Liszt stereo. That's not on the LinnenberG website either. I thus suspect that Ivo still makes Listz stereo or mono amps by special request, just doesn't openly advertise it perhaps because he feels that his Widor amp is better? Let's find out from Ivo directly. Srajan

In 25+ years, I never betrayed my belief in any of the gear I built. However models change whenever I see opportunity to come up with something better, not just an upgrade or Mk2 version. Too often improvements are too radical to make them fit into old constructions. That's part of my game, one may like it or not. Fortunately some do and each time I come up with something new, we generate sufficient interest for a small production batch. It was never my intention to build up a large company. Instead we have real handmade products with as much attention to detail as possible. Here I'm talking about Liszt already. Widor is much better in my opinion and even did sell better when looking at the sales revenues. But there are a few people wanting mono amplifiers with a moderate footprint like Liszt. What to do when Liszt is completely sold out? Build another batch? Wrong company. My answer is to launch an improved mono version based on Widor. This will be the G.F. Händel scheduled for the end of the year. The accompanying preamp/dac G.P. Telemann replacing the original Telemann is already in the starting blocks. Ivo Linnenberg

Srajan, thanks to your latest Darko column, I followed the threads it triggered. OEM work isn't new. As you point out, hifi had it ever since NAD, probably sooner. Most of today's class D uses OEM modules. Why are people upset now that a Chinese brand decides to branch out into a second brand? As long as it's good product for a good price, why whinge over who makes it or what it might be similar to? Most Icepower or Hypex amps just differ in bling and price. This stuff seems more different than that. I must be missing something that sticks in other people's craws. Were there more threads with more information about this? ...Craig

First off, I can only speak for myself. Musician's strange evasiveness to my questions triggered me. In hindsight, my questions confronted a non-disclosure agreement between them and their chosen OEM. All evidence points at Denafrips being that OEM. Yet the same NDA forbids them from acknowledging it. So the inevitable denying, obfuscating and eluding now looks bad and people feel lied to when those who (must) withhold the answers just follow the letter of the law. To avoid this type of show-down in the instant world of well-informed consumers, the inspired-by product would have needed to look and be more different. What's more, the Musician sales force was likely unprepared when I and others asked our questions. The OEM didn't foresee such reactions to the Musician product launch and the rest is now history.

Two, OEM indeed has been with us for decades. As I said to someone else on the subject earlier today, very few cars today are purely from the brand whose logo they fly on the bonnet. Factories share entire automotive platforms, sub assemblies and parts. Usually those mixed origins are simply better concealed.

Three, in a personal email to me, Mr. Zhao of Denafrips explained that to keep his growing forces employed, he must be involved in OEM/ODM work. It's about the long-term fiscal viability of his enterprise/factory and the reality that a single global reseller in Singapore won't be enough to sustain them forever. Anyone who loves Denafrips and wants them to continue to be successful must accept that the same tech could be shared with other brands.

Four, this story also touched on cultural differences in business conduct. I attended a Shuguang event in China where I learnt that government-operated factories like theirs are told what to produce. Today it could be vacuum tubes, yesterday it might have been refrigerator assembly, tomorrow it could be tractors. The notion of a large work force in a factory stocked with industrial equipment that doesn't operate at max capacity seems anathema to them. If supplying multiple brands with similar products increases productivity and sales, that's considered to be the obvious solution and anyone not grasping that would be a dunce. A Westerner meanwhile might view it as brand dilution, disloyalty or questionable ethics. It's easy to go judgmental. Only someone responsible for a work force of 50 will understand what people like Mr. Zhao face daily to insure that they don't have to let anyone on their staff go. Srajan

Hi Srajan , I tried today your nearfield "headphone-like" speaker setup: GoldNote DS10 + Bakoon AMP-13R + sound|kaos Vox 3a spaced 3.5m apart and fully toed in towards the listening position on the sofa at ~1.80 meters. May I invite all 6moons readers to give it a try? It's like discovering Sicilian ice cream after a lifetime of British one! Listening to Jazz at the Pawnshop, the feeling of liveliness is the best I've ever experienced. Thank you for sharing these ideas! Vincenzo Picone

As you found out, it's particularly effective with little speakers which don't pose the same cosmetic challenges and are easily moved back to 'normal' should such a wide free-space setup clash with the décor. You could move them even closer to your hot seat if you wanted still more immersion. Srajan

Hi again. I tried wider & closer to my hot seat. The level of immersion is indeed outstanding!  More precisely, the difference is on intimacy, balance and overall relaxation.  I suspect this is due to the fact that room interaction is now very low, anything else at play?  It feels like listening to my HifiMan HE1000 with a more believable soundstage and a more palpable sound. You once wrote about 'the musicians in my room' vs 'I feel I am there' hifi dilemma. This is definitely the latter. I put on Mehldau’s O Que Sera and it brought up memories of Sicilian gelato. Remind me, decor aside, why do we set up audio systems the way we normally do? If you are up to, I suspect I won’t be alone here to appreciate more tips from your experience in getting the best out of this kind of set-up (eg. how to get the bass right). Thank you for what you do. Vincenzo Picone

Yes, it seems that the closer we are to our speakers; and the farther away from our walls they are - the less room interference we hear. It's not so dissimilar from Joachim Gerhardt's original setup for Audio Physic speakers. We also suffer less SPL-over-distance losses and can play a bit lower for the same perceived sonic intensity. Now the speaker works less hard which usually means, with less distortion. As you noted, eventually it becomes a kind of enormous headphone facsimile. The only overreach happens when the center image collapses to then listen to 'dual mono'. Then you've stretched the speakers apart too much. Moving our speakers farther into the room also invokes less 'room gain' in the bass. Now the trick is to find the right front-wall distance for the speakers, then move the seat closer to get back to the extreme nearfield inside the room's open space position. Personally I'd rather have a bit less bass and more clarity and speed in the midband. There's an even more 'radical' setup which Pierre Sprey of Mapleshade originally championed for the smaller d'Appolito Gallo speakers. Now one sets the speakers on the floor and angles them up to make up for the tweeter alignment to the ear. The steep toe-in and close seat position remain. The low placement harvests boundary gain from the floor and can make smaller speakers act much bigger. It simply looks odd so might require a dedicated listening room to be acceptable. With your Vox 3a, you have a built-in plinth so could take them off the main stands, then experiment. Put something suitable underneath the front of the plinth to create sufficient rake so that the widebander aims clearly at your ears not shins. Presto, a whole new game to experiment with.

As to why people don't experiment more with non-conventional setups I don't know. Speaker placement tests cost nothing yet can make a huge difference. Of course dealer showrooms want to maximize floor space so they tend to want speakers closer to the front wall. Ditto for photos in adverts. They want to play down the cosmetic intrusion speakers as furniture have on a room. And at hifi shows, only big cash-rich companies can afford the big ball rooms. Everyone else ends up in a small hotel room where the challenge is to get the most number of people in and still make decent sound. Again speakers tend to sit closer to the front wall so the presenters aren't down to just three chairs. From all that, most people get the idea that that's how speakers ought to be set up. If you look at how I have set up my Audio Physic in the downstairs room and Acelec Model One in the upstairs room... they're both set up wide, steeply toed in and far away from the front wall. I can't do more than show by example. If people pay no attention or are afraid to experiment for themselves, I can't help it. I even do it on my desktop with the silver Fram Midi 150. They're off the desk top on tripods, toed in steeply and with risers beneath the front legs to angle the tweeters directly at my ears. Huge very focused sound with proper depth regardless of the big monitor screen in the middle. In this photo, the smaller black versions were in for review so the right one covers up the right bigger silver monitor. But it's there looking straight at me. That's how one does panorama stereo on the desktop whilst decluttering the actual work surface. Srajan

To quote Yoda, "much to learn I still have" and luckily so. Sprey’s radical setup with the Vox 3aA is on the menu for this afternoon! Two last questions from me for today: I understands you use your Zu Sub upstairs which you see as an optimal solution to achieve true and balanced low reach when combined with a top monitor... how to avoid time misalignment (if any) in a nearfield setup? More generally, are there any specific advantages of the conventional speakers setup vs nearfield? Vicenzo

If I heard any real advantages for conventional setups, I'd use them instead. As to my sub, I run it on a 10Hz low-pass which, on the 4th-order slope built in, still bleeds through beyond 40Hz but low enough to not distract. Then I build in a 3-6dB boost at 20Hz and set the sub attenuator very low. That compensates for not having a steeper filter. It's just a bit of fill for mostly the 1st octave. Now there's also more pronounced bass attack from a down-firing 10" sealed driver that immediately sees the floor. If there are any timing errors, they're far overshadowed by the gains in extension and spaciousness. For my scheme the monitors should be good to 40Hz. Mine and yours are. Srajan

Srajan, you're making the rounds. Following the link in your reply to Corey, I read the AS thread and saw your article linked. I also found this: "The article by Srajan for Darko probably got it right: it's the same Chinese manufacturer working as an OEM and selling two very similar DACs to 2 different brands. Does it suck for Denafrips? You bet. But if the design isn't theirs and they didn't lock down an exclusive on the design from the OEM, I don't think there is much they can do. This is not at all uncommon with Chinese plants." If this poster is correct, does that mean that Denafrips isn't its own brand but an OEM platform whose guts are in other brands too? If you could shed some light on this, I'd appreciate it. I'm still a bit confused about it all." Holger Scharmacher

As I understand it, you approach an OEM to build you a branded product. You specify certain features and cosmetics and they build it. You end up with your warehouse filled with goods branded Holger Hifi. Marketing and selling the lot is up to you. Such contracts often contain an NDA. Nobody except you and the OEM know of the connection. For all intents and purposes, Holger Hifi is your product and design. The OEM is the ghost writer, you put your name on the book to get all the credit.

In this case, I always assumed that Mr. Zhao himself owns the Denafrips brand and that Vinshine Audio stepped in later to assist with marketing, then gained exclusive global selling rights. That's because Alvin Chee has never presented himself as owning the brand, only representing it. Whenever I had design questions to which he had no answer, he got the answers for me from Mr. Zhao. If Mr. Zhao builds Musician Audio as it seems, it and Denafrips both come from his factory. That doesn't automatically imply that he owns the new brand. A Chinese Holger might have registered it in his own name. So I don't know whether the poster's assumption is correct. Is Mr. Zhao a 'hidden' OEM who supplies two brand owners with similar product? Or does he, as I suspect, own at least one if not both of these brands himself just as other designer-owned/operated manufacturers do but decided to sell them through two different channels with out-of-office personnel since he speaks no English - Vinshine Audio in Singapore and whoever operates the Musician Audio brand? If you want to know details, you'd need to ask Vinshine Audio and/or Musician Audio and Denafrips. I don't know. But I agree that it's a very good question. So I asked Mr. Zhao. He explained by personal email that besides his own brand Denafrips, he is also in the OEM/ODM business to keep his large crew of 50 workers and engineers busy and employed. Those OEM/ODM contracts are protected by non-disclosure agreements so neither he nor his business partners can go into any specifics. Alvin Chee is his de facto marketing/sales department for the Denafrips brand and also operates the Denafrips website. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I want to respond to your latest KIH column [#77 - Ed.]. I fall into the camp of agreeing not to pursue such a review. Here is why. On behalf of prospective buyers, you asked direct questions only to receive evasive answers. That's a shaky place to start a review with. If they won't answer basic questions about who their designer is and what factory their product comes from, what else do they hide and why? You also made a good point about various acceptable levels of outsourcing. I remember a LessLoss review in which you mention that the DAC board is from Soekris. I don't mind that. I only would if they had presented it as their own and I later found out that it wasn't. Transparency is important to me. So thanks for being vigilant on our behalf. I appreciate that. I also like that you left room for opposing opinions. In our current Covid 19 situation, many will look for the highest value and the Musician DAC promises a lot. I found their website. They offer 30 days to return the product and a one-year warranty. That seems very normal and gives assurances. I simply dislike being lied to so I would not buy from this company. I also don't think that it says great things about the Denafrips owner so I would strike them off my list as well... Corey

This case is peculiar also because Mr. Zhao only made halfhearted attempts at disguising the connection. I saw it just looking at photos and descriptions. He didn't work very hard to create something more different. His proprietary USB transceiver is openly shared. The overall concept and specs are the same. How the chassis goes together is. If you want to be perceived as unique, bolting on a different face plate and changing some internal parts isn't enough. When people catch on as they are now, what's the reward for this strategy?

In a developing thread on Audiophile Style, Chris who received a review sample answered a reader inquiry "this DAC looks similar to Denafrips DACs. Is it made in the same factory?" with "the USB driver has the Denafrips logo and the Musician name." Other people see and wonder the same things. Now the evasiveness of Musician's sales manager only digs a deeper hole. Their website presentation adds to it. Why this charade and deception? It's bothered me enough to not want to proceed. It seems Chris is approaching the same point. On the same thread: "I've been communicating with Aoshida who solicited this review from me and I can't say my experience is any different. The Pegasus uses the Denafrips USB driver and even has the Denafrips logo on the driver. So far my questions have received evasive answers, misleading answers and some that I'm not sure if they are lies or just accidental misstatements. I have more questions into Musician Audio but so far no response. If I can't get answers that enable me to present more information to the AS community, I will not be able to review this DAC. I just can't, in good faith, support or publicize or recommend a product from a company that I can't stand behind."

I also felt that Musician seem keen to ride the coat tails of Vinshine's hard work on behalf of Denafrips. They developed a reputation for the brand to make it and its designer a desirable commodity. Launching a sister brand without acknowledging it feels predatory. Then there's the obvious riddle why, if one wants to benefit from established good reputation, one would subsequently deny the connection. It's bizarre. Of course had I not spotted the Denafrips connection because I wasn't familiar with that brand, I would have signed up for the assignment. Given the emerging Denafrips design DNA, I expect that it would have emerged as another very fine high-value product. It's simply impossible to un-know something after the fact. So for me that door closed. And the cat seems out of the bag now.

I remain curious how others will feel about it. On one level, it's just a cultural phenomenon. What seems questionable in one culture is perfectly acceptable and normal in another. I suffer from my own value system. Others could have a far more relaxed response. That said, I'm starting to share your sentiment about Denafrips relative to Mr. Zhao. I own his Terminator which I'm very happy with. All my interactions with Vinshine over the years have been first class. Reader feedback about their products has invariably been positive so customer service checked out as well. In short, at least in my book Vinshine and the Denafrips success story are intextricably intertwined. It's what keeps me excited about the brand and confident in recommending it. This latest development undermines it. Perhaps after I'm done with my upcoming Avatar, Gaia and Iris reviews, I'll take an extended break from Denafrips. I really don't want to impact Alvin Chee for things that are entirely beyond his control or doing when he's been nothing but a joy to work with. But neither do I want to reward Mr. Zhao for what I consider questionable business ethics. What to do? Srajan

Srajan, great Darko column! Straight to the point, reviewers are obliged to present all the facts known to them. It's a layer of protection for buyers. If you don't feel treated properly, a buyer who is not in the public eye could be treated worse. Whether product sells over Amazon like the JAVS stuff you just reviewed, the buyer decides if that's comfortable. As long as you document problems and solutions, I see no issues. Where products are made or sell makes no difference. I expect a review to cover all angles so I can make informed decisions. That's the only line I see. You're perfectly right that once you know something, it's your job to communicate it. Declining a review because you don't like what you know defeats that purpose. The most helpful thing would have been to accept the Pegasus review, then present all of it in it. That would make this information easily available to shoppers that google the brand or model. Now it's all buried in your letters section. That's far less helpful. If serving readers really is your top priority, you should rethink your policy. That's my feedback on the subject. Charles Kerrington  

These are valid points that have occurred to me already. Sometimes facts are simply ambiguous as in this case where straight answers were in short supply. Are reasonable suspicions and apparent evidence enough? Reviewing isn't investigative journalism. If it were, I'm certainly not trained in that. Now my preference is to decline the job. But your point is well made and taken! Srajan

Hello Srajan, wondering if you have heard anything recently from COS? I was talking with the distributor yesterday and we know they take their time with production but they have been unusually quiet on communications whereas they had previously been very good. Could well be the supply chain challenges that many are facing with the current situation so wondered, as you have a review booked for the D10, whether they had been in touch. All the best. Richard

The last I heard was indeed about supply-chain delays but COS also wondered whether introducing a new product during the lock-down crisis was a good idea. I was assured that I'd still get a review loaner but no commitment was implied as to exactly when. I've not checked back since because I didn't want to pressure anyone. They have to time the roll-out of new product as they see fit and if their dealers are cash poor at the moment and some perhaps barely hanging in… it indeed could be poor timing to ask them to bring in a new model at this time and pursue a review that won't have the usual business follow-up because nobody has spare change. Srajan

Srajan, I just caught up with your JAVS reviews. You have an uncanny knack for discovering new brands. I appreciate that you mention tech support is still lacking. Is there something unusual going on with your Mac-based front end that could cause the signal lock failure at lower sample rates? Perhaps your operating system isn't up to date? Or perhaps your buffer settings are incorrect? ... Connor

My iMac is just a dedicated server for locally hosted music. I don't use it for anything else. I've deliberately not updated its operating system or iTunes. My combo has been rock solid for years. From experience I know that OS changes often interfered with Audirvana/PureMusic which then required updates to catch up. I've long ago opted out of that silliness. Don't fix what ain't broke or you break it. The obvious flip side is that it could now be harder for a maker to replicate issues like the JAVS reclocker has. My misgivings are only tech support's utter lack of response. They've not asked word one about my OS or iTunes install, what versions of Audiorvana/PureMusic I use or requested that I run any particular tests to help them understand the situation. Three weeks have gone by without any communications from their department. My contact Gunhee is caught in the middle and putting on a brave face. If I were a paying customer, I'd want to return the deck and get a refund. As I wrote in my review, I tried different buffer settings to no avail. If I knew what their machine expects to see, I could make it happen. Until I hear from them, I'm in the dark. It's probably a small silly thing. But sorting it is on the docket and only they can make that happen. That's the whole notion of customer service. Until now, parent company Soundcat supplied dealers with import product. Their dealers took care of customer service. With JAVS, Soundcat are the seller=dealer. Now the onus is on them to provide customer service. It's that reality which they haven't adapted to yet and which might require some additional infrastructure to accomplish. Hopefully it's just early days and all that is planned and coming. I simply must report on my actual experience, not tall tales of a promised future. Srajan

Hi Srajan, this is my first letter to 6moons to ask for your advice. I was going to buy the Aurai M3 for my small 3.5x5m room following your review and Blue Moon prize to substitute 2 KEF LS50. I tried first to find a shop as you recommend to be able to listen to this speaker but nowhere in all of Spain can find anything (not even in the northern French cities or London or Milan). Is this normal? I am sorry but I am not as strong in hifi. Do I understand well from your letters this morning that if I buy an Aurai M3 today, I will not get the same model/quality you tested because they are changing it?  The problem with the Accuton is the reason for this or something else?  Do you think I should wait or buy another pair of speakers that have similar quality/budget? From my reading of 6moons I understand that Albedo Aptica or SoundKaos Vox3 are very good options. My current amplifier is a Devialet 250 Pro and my wife/daughter and I listen to classical music in particular opera (Verdi, Brahms, etc) and Baroque music (J Savall) and home cinema. Thank you. José-Maria Perez

Two things, José. The Aurai Audio brand is very new. The product used to sell only in South Korea where Simon Lee's company imported it. Over the last few months, the French designer and owner of the company decided to branch out to also sell outside of the Korean market. It's why there currently are no dealers. While the product has been around in Korea, for the rest of the world it is brand new so a dealer network must still be developed.

Two, the Accuton driver issue only applies to the 8-inch not 6.5-inch unit. I've already asked and been assured that the M3 selling now is identical to what I reviewed and what reader Paul already received (he is very happy). The adjustments are only necessary on the floorstanding M1 model.  Because you listen to a lot of classical music and use the Devialet amplifier, I think you would make a very inspired choice with this particular loudspeaker. To audition it, contact Alain the designer and ask where. His email is alain.pratali # Srajan

Thank you Srajan! But I am confused. In the picture Paul sent some days ago his Aurai M3 in the library has a front port.Your M3 had the port in the back. Paul also said his M3 was a different unique model. How can Alain say that Paul M3 is identical to what you reviewed? He thinks you and we are blind or else! You say in your letters that Alain also told you the 'M3 tuning/filters' is changing because he did not like what his South Korea partner had asked (the M3 model you tested). How can he now tell you that the M3 for sale today is exactly the one you reviewed? If it is, it means he decided to sell the South Korea M3 he does not fully like just because you liked it?

Sorry when I read the other letters I think I am not alone in being a bit lost with Aurai. I talked to a expert friend and he said this much confusion has never happened in his memory on 6moons. Why don't you ask Aurai to send you the final model of M3 (whatever it is, front or back port, his or south Korea tuning/filter etc.) when you test the new M1? I am ready to trust you because of your very extensive experience but I want to make sure I can buy the model you test and describe if I decide to. But honestly given your level of surprise with the M1 you received I am worried to purchase it today. It's already difficult to buy something without being able to listen first, it's not safe to buy it if the product is still prototype and an owner that seems not to have decided what to do (plus the quality issues you found). If you think I am wrong please let me know. My family loves listening to music and relax. Can you please recommend other speakers (budget 5-9K euro) as I sold my KEF speakers and would like to buy new ones before summer (KEF LS50 were really good, I would like better bass and more 'elegance' in opera voice sound). Muchas gracias por todo, José-Maria

In my M3 review it does state that port orientation, tweeter tuning, veneer options, even upgraded parts like Duelund caps and such are part of Aurai's customization menu. Paul's crossover includes upgraded Duelund parts. He asked for Walnut veneer in a matte finish, front ports and a specific tweeter tuning. The filter parameters that determine where and how fast the drivers fade in and out (the filter hinge frequency and attenuation slope) are fixed, however. Alain assured me that the M3 I reviewed was/is that same production filter tuning. And you're asking me about the M3, not the M1. If that answer doesn't satisfy you, do contact Alain directly. It's why I made his email available in the first place. I'm not his mouth piece. I don't work for him. I've never even met him. I can only pass on what I was told. In such situations, it's always best to go directly to the source. So write Alain. I've clarified things as much as I can based on the information I have. Now I'm done.

It's also not appropriate to insist that I review a second M3 with a different set of custom choices. The filter tuning will remain the same. The other choices are up to each buyer. Do you want me to review each possible version - tweeter hot, tweeter flat, tweeter soft, port front, port back, 100 different veneers, filter parts from Jantzen, Mundorf, Rike, Miflex? That would be silly. So again, contact Alain directly. Tell him your concerns and desires. Then decide what you want to do based on what you learn. Srajan

Srajan, I do praise your effort for depth and clarity. Allow me to disagree (respectfully) with Craig’s comments. Some of the issues you spotted with Aurai are not inconsequential...

• buyers buying a M3 but getting a different sound than what you reviewed/praised with an award (if it was a prototype it should not get one)

• buyers buying a M1 and getting an off-spec Accuton/filter setup

• sloppy QC which might lead to other mistakes

People invest their hard-earned money on these products and deserve the best, always. I have come to trust 6moons over the years and I, like you, look forward to the unfolding of this story. Jeff  Hammond

Srajan, a question if I may. Recently you have reviewed or profiled a number of monitor speakers and I want to know which is your favorite. The ones I'm asking about are the Mårten Design Parker Duo, sound/kaos Vox3a, Aurai M3, Acelec Model One, Børresen B-01 and Boenicke W5se. I know that you own the Acelec so that may be my answer right there. But I still want to ask to be sure. Thank you. Rakesh

I have in fact showcased the Mårten but not heard it yet so couldn't comment. The Børresen I did listen to in Denmark but what I subsequently reviewed was a floorstanding version. That leaves the three others. Of those, the sound|kaos and Acelec exceed the older Boenicke. With my two last standing, the Acelec fits more in the Magico vein where the sound|kaos doesn't really have an equivalent I could point at. I obviously love the Acelec or I wouldn't have acquired it. I loved the sound|kaos even more for somewhat different reasons so ideally, I'd have them both to switch flavors and moods. That's about the best breakdown I can manage with your question, Rakesh. Srajan

Hey Srajan, just saw your Z1 preview [Børresen - Ed.] and the first pix of its final cabinet. That looks a lot more stylish than the first basic box. How soon can we expect to learn what it sounds like? Have you an ETA yet? Hopefully soon! Charlie Benson

When I confirmed the nomenclature (I'd seen Z01, Z-01 and Z1) and final pricing, my contact Morton at the factory told me they expect first delivery of cabinets from their Chinese supplier by September. Due to Corona, everything there and with international shipping has been delayed so their schedule for first roll-out is pushed back by a few months. Srajan

Dear Srajan: I just read Jeff's letter to you about the Aurai review and your response. I've read the preview today and the latest additions to it. Unlike Jeff, I don't think you're cutting them any slack. You're just describing what happened. I will admit that it feels a bit uncomfortable to be exposed to such behind the scenes stuff which could be simple human error and some miscommunications. Ideally all that would be handled before a review, by whoever is in charge of the loaners. Things do happen though and then it only matters how they're being sorted. Who can claim to never make mistakes? I say carry on just as you have and let the chips fall where they may. With my best regards, Craig

It's a fine line indeed between dishing and omitting. I'm with you on human error, miscommunication (especially with Google translator as middleman) and my subjective reactions to all of it. And I likewise agree that doodoo happens and that it only matters what's done about it. On that score, I suspected that I had a product issue, the product was promptly recalled, the issue just as promptly confirmed and efforts are presently underway to address it. If those efforts are successful, we should be looking at a very fine product. Is it really that important then that getting there was just a bit more circuitous than it usually is? By reporting on the whole process, every reader hence prospective buyer can make that determination for themselves and I feel confident that I neither glossed over things or exploited them to punish someone for normal human error. Hey, next time I make a mistake, I hope people will give me the same break and opportunity to fix it. This isn't life 'n' death stuff. This is just hifi, with people trying to make a living from giving customers pleasure. Srajan

Okay. I’ve got my preamp; high impedance input, low impedance output, bandwidth 60kHz, into power amp with fast rise time/slew rate, high damping on into…..Firewall for speakers! Convincing review, knowing about the 'Fleming' effect of counter electromotive force in speakers. My big 15-inch bass unit must put some reverse energy out. But then I read about Spec Corporation's RSP-901EX 'sound processor' that reads so similarly. It’s a jungle out there! And I bet a comparative review would conclude that both work well. Toss that coin? Chris Skelton

Here's what another speaker/electronics designer said when reading the maker's descriptions and my review of the LessLoss parts: "I know what this is. It's really the best place for a mechanical low pass filter to eliminate Brownian noise, digital pollution, auto-magnetic induction and so forth. I believe they use carbon-sintered copper. It's very soft and very tricky to manufacture. But what really matters is understanding why we have such pollution in the first place, then how to remove it. I have a system at the output of my CD player which cleans up the signal of quantization noise. I've been working on this for 30 years to have several solutions. I even have it on the midrange driver of my top speaker model. Digital pollution is the real drama for audio performance."

Boenicke Audio and sound|kaos have begun incorporating this LessLoss tech as OEM modules inside their loudspeakers. I don't pretend to understand how it really works. I've heard that it does and to a surprising degree. Others seem to as well. What's more, at least one other engineer 'saw it' right away to understand its purpose, function and design, calling it a mechanical low-pass filter. That's about all I can offer. With the upcoming  Blackbody v2 assignment, we should get on even thinner ice. If I can't hear their effect, I'll say so. If I can, I'll do likewise even if the 'how' of it will predictably elude me. I'm simply of the opinion that I needn't understand how/why something works to enjoy a benefit. Sussing out whether there is a benefit or not then is the only task at hand. That and attempting to quantify the amount of improvement so prospective buyers have realistic expectations. Srajan

Hi Srajan, hope you and the family are staying safe in these difficult times. I have made good use of the lock-down time and wrote my autobiography, Life Is A Game. I hope to publish it sometime this year in the UK. Of course, I have also been listening to lots of music. You may have already come across these two albums but I wanted to share them with you just in case. Behzat C By Cemal Kismet and Pilli Bebek (music from the popular Turkish TV series Behzat C); and Uyandirmadan by Pilli Bebek. Best wishes. Mevlut Dinc aka Mev Dinc

I don't know either so will go and check them out, thank you very much! Srajan

Srajan, I am an avid reader of your work and like your insights, discipline and fairness in writing audio reviews. In particular, I have come to appreciate your direct style in smoking out sub-quality or sloppy manufacturers and conversely highlighting the ones who deserve all of your (and your readers') attention. To be honest I am puzzled by how much slack you are cutting the Aurai team. I have to admit that I too am a romantic and like to think that one can help the hidden artist get discovered and get the merit (s)he deserve. But here we have:

• speakers that are produced for the Korean market (Simon Audio provides the brief / tunes them / buys the production) by a 'private label' designer (Alain) who outsources a lot of the work to a third-party manufacturer (Antoine)

• after your initial very positive review of the Simon Audio M3 monitor (then rebranded Aurai after the fact) which Simon sent you with his new amplifier, Aurai makes a mess of their 'grown up' M1 model production & review process.

• the one issue that shocked me most is that even before you could correct the alleged problem with the 10Ω resistor, Alain @ Aurai "agrees with you" that the M1 sound is by design sub par ("too slow and audiophile, it is what Simon asked for") and that the speaker needs a deep overhaul to embody his personal philosophy (not Simon's)... only to discover afterwards that Accuton has changed somewhat the driver's specs. This could actually imply that the Simon-designed M1 is "right" in the first place in delivering a more mature M3 sound whilst keeping the speed & transparency you liked so much. In fairness to Simon, he stood by his convictions on the value of the current M1 when you had issues (which you are fully entitled to) and Alain kept agreeing with you (he much less so!!).

Too many things start not adding up: is Alain here to please a reviewer's taste or share with the world a creation he really believes in? Who is the real father of the M1 (and M3?) as it stood yesterday and probably tomorrow once the Accuton spec changes are factored in and the initial sound signature is back? King Solomon would say it's Simon's. Why does Aurai fully outsource the production, tuning and quality control of their M1 demo model for a review which could change the trajectory of their business? Will this happen as well for paying customers? Keen to hear your perspective & keep up with the great work!  Jeff Hammond

If cutting slack is short-hand for frank reporting, I fully concur. Just yesterday I pointed out to Alain that should the revised M1 I'm getting back sound like the M3 I reviewed (thus different from how he described the Simon voicing), the M3 I reviewed must already have been that new voicing. Which of course belies the time line. It's also strange because the brand Aurai hadn't been formed. The product was still branded Simon Audio. I must have reviewed an M3 tuning which Simon himself never heard? Tha'd be peculiar to say the least. What's more, why bother to subsequently send me an M1 with the original Simon tuning if the M3 hadn't been that; and when we now know how Alain really fells about Simon's sonic preferences? Wasn't such a decision bound to blow up Alain's promise that "the M1 is the mature woman in full bloom of the young girl of the M3"? Like you, I find that many things don't add up.

What's more, why did Antoine's measurements and listening tests not discover the alleged problems with the driver/filter interaction? If my 8-inch Accutons were off spec, how many off-spec M1 are there in the field? It's hard to believe that, from his parts inventory, Antoine picked for my M1 loaners the first and only off-spec mid/woofers he ever received. Either his test gear is of insufficient quality; or Alain trained him insufficiently on how to properly use it and analyze its results. Antoine's listening skills also must be poor when we know that he play-tested this pair. And what possessed him in the first place to change resistor values in an attempt to "improve the sound"?

Which arrives at your question. Why use Antoine to finalize the speakers? Why not have him just build the cabinets and Alain do the final filter tuning and QC? It suggests a more appropriate division of labor based on apparent competence. Again like you would, I reminded Alain more than once. Their willingness to accommodate customer requests is admirable. A reviewer's job is simply to describe a default production sample. I can't deal with a moving target that's been voiced (from the distance!) with my own tastes in mind. So I don't know what to think. Part of my policy is that once a review is committed to by both parties, I see the process through. I don't kill things when the going gets murky. I'm well into this now so it's not about cutting slack. It's about finishing up my joint commitment to the maker and our readers whilst trying hard to keep personal assumptions and suspicions at bay. It's why I quote explanations straight from the horse's mouth. If that horse chat doesn't make sense... intelligent readers will know not to kill the messenger.

At this juncture, I must simply confess to being suspicious about holes in the narrative. Alas, I'm happy to see that how I chronicled this unfolding tale so far allowed you to trace all the steps and inconsistencies just as I see them. That tells me that at least on that front, there's proper transparency. For the other half, I can't take responsibility. But this tale isn't finished yet. I will try my best to still arrive at more clarity. Srajan

Dear Srajan, thank you for transferring your reader's comments. Here are my answers. Who is the inventor of the M1, M3 etc. speaker line? Alain Pratali. Simon helped as producer, listener and reviewer. Alain has everything including manufacturing skills. But he can't do all of it especially the cabinets. So he asked Antoine to make them. The actual speaker design from concept to driver selection, modifications of drivers, crossover design, prototyping, tuning, retuning is all done by him. As the one who asked for this, I help with voicing whenever I visit Marseilles to listen together. Almost 20 years ago I visited Alain's home to hear his amps and speakers. I stayed in Marseilles for about two days. We had a good time listening and meeting his neighbors. During my visit I was so surprised by the sonic difference of his system with a modified Oracle amp and original Model One prototype which has been in my office ever since. When I returned to Seoul, I could not forget the experience. So I asked Alain to sell me the speaker I'd heard. He was very kind to sell me his only pair. I still have it. About six years ago, I had a chance to work with the ODE group, one of the biggest import companies in Korea. They wanted their own audio brand and I introduced them to Alain's speaker.

I wanted to give more people a chance to hear it by having it go into production. So I asked Alain to remake his tweeter and restart the speaker. By then Supravox was in poor shape and no longer could supply that mid/woofer. Alain switched to Accuton and Scanning drivers which I agreed with because he is the only designer who can make them sound excellent. His Model One and Three were very good but ultimately ODE decided against us by asking for more and more design changes we didn't agree with. Around that time I left April Music and started work on my new company Simon Audio Lab. I wanted to keep my dream alive and worked with Alain to make me 30 pairs of M3 and 20 pairs of M1. Those are still playing in Korea. It's very hard to find any 2nd-hand pairs. Alain and Antoine worked long and hard to support my dream. I then ran into cash-flow problems which delayed new sales of their speakers. It also meant that they were never introduced at any international audio show. That's when I introduced you to Alain and our M3 to start for him the process of global exposure. Some months ago Alain told me that he wanted to create his own brand to get involved in global sales. I immediately agreed that this would be the right way forward. My own support is insufficient. Our local market can't generate enough sales to justify global distribution. So now Simon Audio is just the importer for Korea and Alain and whoever he signs on as dealers or distributors will start handling the other markets." Simon Lee

Hi Srajan, I'm really enjoying your music recommendations with links to Youtube videos and also really enjoy NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. I'm curious to know how you listen to these? Is it simply through your Mac connected to your DAC? I'm trying to figure out the best way to get these to my stereo. Thanks very much! Mike 

I own the vast majority of this music as files I bought or discs I ripped. I'm using YouTube to share it because to listen that way doesn't need a subscription or special software. So rather than write up music in a music review using words, people get to actually hear it for themselves as sounds. That's the whole purpose and why sound quality doesn't matter. If with these features you discover an artist or album or track you like and you want to enjoy it at better resolution over your main system, buy that album or listen to it through one of the full-resolution subscription services. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I just saw your new date feature. Brilliant. I no longer have to click on each moon to see what's new. Now it's all there at a glance just before I enter the site. That's a nice little update to 6moons. Thanks a lot! Mark

You're welcome, Mark. It just struck me recently. One feature I'd lost when we redesigned the site to adapt to mobile users was the date announcement when each site chapter had last been updated. I thought on how best to add it again, then my very crafty IT consultant Brett made it happen. I'm very happy with how elegantly he integrated this feature with the lowering moons menu. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I just finished your latest Darko report on passive radiators. I hadn't really paid attention to such bass loading but now I'm curious whether it can also be used in subwoofers? Thorsten

It absolutely can and is. The new REL 212/SX for example combines 2 x standard front-firing woofers with one down-firing 12" passive. Velodyne's Microvee MkII flips those numbers to one front-firing active woofer and two passives, one per side. GoldenEar's SuperSubs use front/rear-firing active drivers and top/down-firing "planar infrasonic radiators" to keep pretty much every surface busy. Srajan

Back to the Job, as luck would have it I found a used integrated 15 minutes from my home! It sounds wonderful and now I have the Job INT to compare against the Job 225. First, I really love the clarity and speed of the Job/Goldmund sound. I didn't expect this but the Boenicke W5 slightly prefer the Job 225 with a Schiit Saga+ preamp and a Border Patrol Dac. To me the sound is a bit more exciting for lack of a better way to describe it. Thanks again, Mike

The Job 225 you obviously season with the Border Patrol DAC and to a lesser extent the Schiit Saga+. The Job INT gets a digital signal (or converts its analog input to digital which amounts to the same thing) so there the Goldmund sound dominates 100%: fast, precise and perhaps a bit lean. If you want a bit more body or density, you can't really add it to the INT but you can easily steer the 225 by whatever else you strap to it. Srajan

Very fair point. That's a good way to describe it and of course, with my speakers, source etc, it's emotional for me but one should also be critical and track all these variables. I have an old Scott 222B here as well which uses EL84. I find that they sound pretty close, clear and warm. So it's interesting that there are several ways to get to a similar very good place. Perhaps like meditation? Mike

Indeed. The whole notion of the absolute sound or one single path to attainment are both total crap. Srajan

Srajan, did I just see sound|kaos + LessLoss? I read your Vox 3a review and just now the Blackbody preview. In that you mention Boenicke and sound|kaos as two early adopters of the OEM Firewall modules. You didn't in your Vox 3a review so that must have happened later. My question now is, will new sound|kaos production add these parts standard or make them a costly option like in Dawid's W11 pair of Boenickes? Thanks, Holger Scharmacher

Martin indeed received his first Firewall samples for testing after I'd finished my review. I seriously doubt that he can include them without making them a surcharge option. Those bits aren't cheap. But whether that means the price for a standard Vox 3a will go up to include them; or whether he'll have two prices, with/without LessLoss... that I don't know. For that you ought to ask Martin directly. Or perhaps his website already has an update? Srajan

Hi Srajan, I am considering the Bakoon 13R. Should I wait for your review of Pass INT25? Also, do you feel the Bakoon will be a reliable unit? That’s always one of my main considerations because there’s no service available in India and it’s really a pain sending a faulty unit back for repair as custom rules are very tricky, not to mention the cost of sending it back. Best, Prem

My track record with Bakoon has been ace. Obviously though, I can't give guarantees. In the off chance that this unit needs service, you'd send yours to either Korea or Japan. Neither is that far from India. Then the unit itself is ultra compact and the shipping box small to where even the postal service will handle it. Until the Pass gets here, I obviously can't comment. Seeing how I've already reviewed the amplifier which it is based on, it'll be quite different to the AMP-13R. If the Bakoon has your interest due to existing reviews, the Pass is bound to be another sonic take. Srajan

Hi Srajan, fabulous review of the new Kinki EX-M7 amp. I also noted your previous review of the Nord amps minus of course the new Purifi boards. I'm thinking of moving from my Devialet Expert 220 Pro to a Lumin T2 streamer which, thanks to the new Leedh processing reviewed by Joël Chevassus, doesn't require a preamp. Do you have any thoughts about which amp might suit my needs? The EX-M7 or a Nord with the new Purifi board? They aren't all that far apart in price. My speakers are the Vivid B1 Decade. Cheers, Michael Fanning

My Nords are in the closet as is the Purifi amp. They're my backup power brokers should I need them but for day-to-day listening, I'd much prefer the Kinki. For class D to play on its level, I'd look at an AGD Production Vivace or Merrill Audio Element 114. Srajan

Hey Srajan, any idea when the Adamantis review will continue? It seems to have been in lock down for longer than usual. Chad Norig

The last time I talked with Paul Rassin of Æquo, they were waiting on their first clam shell cabs from the initial mold master. He told me then that if no adjustments to the mold were necessary, they'd be very close to finalizing the project. If not, he simply couldn't predict how many subsequent mold revisions might be needed. Nobody has ever worked with this material before. So it will have to be a lengthier learning curve before the desired mechanical tolerances for the nanocast enclosure halves are perfected with all the required internal chamber dimensions. Srajan

I just learned about the new Buchardt speaker from your news page, then went to their website. Wow. That looks like a ton of speaker for the money. Bass to 17Hz from 6" drivers? Have you been asked to review it? I would love to see whether it lives up to these specifications! Greg

It looks like early days so no, I've not heard from Mads yet. We've reviewed his smaller speaker. He knows how to find us. If he was happy with what we did there, perhaps we'll hear from him again when these are in full production. If their launch is anything like his last, they'll be swamped with orders to not need/want early reviews to drum up extra interest. Then it makes more sense to wait until word-of-mouth sales slow down so reviews can create a second wind when it's actually needed. Buchardt have generated a very good reputation in a rather short amount of time, with a lot of happy user feedback. Perhaps dig a bit deeper into that to get a good idea of how their other specs have already correlated to actual owner impressions.

As to the A700, four 6" woofers will equal the surface area of a single 11" woofer but bring four motors to the task. Add low-impedance class D, active drive/filters and DSP. If you're used to passive speakers, it's always shocking what a good modern active design can do in a much smaller box. A sealed design will also run cleaner than ports and its earlier roll-off can be much delayed with digital compensation and high class D power behind it. So it's not impossible to go low and loud if you have stout drivers and plenty of power in a more compact enclosure. Srajan

PS: I just converted an industry feature on the A700 and new Buchardt ampifier into a formal preview since Mads confirmed today that he will send me a pair of A700 when they're ready. So you're in luck...

Srajan, any ideas what's up with Rafe Arnott over at Audiostream? He's not posted to that site or Innerfidelity in more than a month. Do you know whether he's alright? In these scary days, one wonders all kinds of things. Brian Haddock

I'd noticed the same but didn't know why. I just asked John Darko. Apparently Rafe no longer works for the organization which owns these sites and is readying his own endeavor as Resistor Mag. That's all I've managed to dig up. I'm sure we learn more when he launches. Srajan

Srajan, any plans to review Vinnie's integrated? As fond as you are of his preamp, you've not heard any of his latest transistor efforts. That should interest you, shouldn't it? Klaus

Having covered LIO and the L2 linestage quite extensively, I never expected Vinnie to ask me to do the L2 integrated and he hasn't. I'd certainly be interested but I think it's very important that other people weigh in on the brand. I just took a look at Vinnie's Audio Circle. I saw him mention forthcoming reviews from Ken Kessler/Paul Miller of HiFi News, David Robinson of Positive Feedback and more. The PTA review already dropped so there's a lot lined up. By the time that's unwound, I doubt anyone will want more ink on a subject that should have been extensively covered thus quite exhausted by then. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I have a question that may have been covered somewhere but been away from hifi for a bit so woulda missed it. What's your favorite tube in the Vinnie Rossi pre these days? Thanks, Jeremy Wozny

Elrog ER50. Even though it's a 7V direct-heated triode, it works fab on the machine's highest 5V setting. Sonically it's a super 45. It's quick, lit up, transparent and energetic. The Elrog 300B and WE300B I have are warmer, thicker and slower. The Western Electric 50 slots between those and the ER50. If I change speakers or amps, I can reach for one of the others and shift sonics in the direction I favor. But for my standard system when nothing else is in there that needs 'corrections', the Elrog ER50 has my final vote. I've also tried Takatsuki 300B, Living Voice/KR Audio 300B and KR T-100. Srajan

Srajan, you were so impressed with the M3 that it was one of my favorite reviews this year. Now I'm wondering why the bigger M1 must be changed. I understood that Simon wants his own voicing. Like you explained, that's perfectly reasonable. Wasn't the M3 you reviewed already that except for a lower tweeter level? Doesn't it seem strange to you that it sounded so different from the M1 you have now? You know that l really like your reviews. You always put a lot of effort into covering all the bases and even include reader comments when you have them. Between these two reviews, something seems not quite right. Do you agree? In any case, I look forward to how your M1 review will finalize. As always, keep up the good work. Many thanks, Michael

I would agree. How this story unfolds is unusual, Michael. You remember our earlier exchange. When I reviewed the M3, it effectively still was a Simon Lee house brand model. It was designed and built in France, co-voiced by Simon and exclusively sold by him in his domestic market. After my M3 review published, Alain decided to expand sales globally. For that he created new brand Aurai Audio and I made that adjustment to the M3 review. As I just learnt during the M1 review, he now wants to revise the crossovers for the global models that aren't destined for Korea. Beyond that, he wants to remain flexible and respond to special customer requests. What that means relative to the M3 I reviewed I don't know.

Like you, I can't explain the present difference between M3 and M1. Going in, Alain was adamant. The M1 would be "the M3's young girl matured into a woman in full bloom". Like you seem to be asking, I wonder that if the M3 was Simon's voicing just with a softer tweeter setting, why would the M1 be so much warmer and slower? I don't have the answer either. Let's see what the M1 does when it returns. We do know that Antoine made a small mistake in the M1 crossover. His new resistors just didn't arrive yet and I already reboxed the M1 for a Monday pickup. Whether the wrong resistors alone caused the big difference or there was another mistake I'll ask Alain when he had a look. That's all I can do.

I also heard from Simon. "Here in my room, no competition between Model One and Three. Three is excellent but no comparison to One which has everything except for the speed where I think Model One is closer to concert sound, 3 more to real acoustics. I believe that you will have the solution very quickly since Alain is a fast worker as well as a no-sleep engineer when he works on something. So it will be no problem, just some bad wiring or positioning." Srajan

Dear Srajan: I'm very excited about Joël's Lumin review and the mention of the Leedh volume control in software. Any chance you'll do a follow-up for a second opinion? ... Holger Scharmacher

I'm not really a streamer/server guy. I still prefer my iMac with an external reclocker. So I wouldn't want to burden Lumin with such a request just to explore their new volume control. However, if Leedh start to sell their software as a plug-in for Audirvana, PureMusic, J.River etc, I'd jump at the opportunity. I seem to recall Joël mentioning that something with Audirvana was afoot. If so, my game would be on. Srajan

Hello Srajan Ebaen, I'm an audiophile from China and want to inform you of a new DAC called Musician Pegasus. It offers PCM1536, DSD1024, R2R and I2s like you enjoy at very good price. Available worldwide on eBay. Perhaps you want to review it? Bai Fong

Bai, I already checked into it, thank you. It did look so much like a Denafrips Ares II including the back panel, concept, specs and presentation that I asked Musician Audio directly. Their sales manager Willing explained that having one designer operate 2 or 3 brands side by side is a very common practice in China "which nobody complains about. Musician and Denafrips are two independent brands. No copy problem." Coming from the same designer, there indeed is no copy infringement. It's in-house copying. Selling through two different organizations does keep the brands separate to those who don't know better. Product ships from the same factory. Behind the facade, the product is either identical or very very similar. Being two separate brands is just for show. We're not a Chinese magazine where that practice might be admired or normal. I also remember a grey-market warning on the Vinshine Audio site which acts as the global Denafrips sales point and warranty center. I can't help wonder whether that back door activity wasn't a precursor to the subsequent launch of Musician Audio. It too involved the Ares model. In which case, it'd be a double no for us to now review the Pegasus. There is some chatter of a forthcoming review on Audiophile Style so perhaps look there? Srajan

First M3 impressions.


You better have your house in order with these. Cold and not broken in for sure, the tweeter is the best lens I have ever heard. The bass is spectacular even though not fully fleshed yet, the phase correctness and impulse response are the best I have heard, micro and macrodynamic capabilities the best I have heard in this category. Unwavering regardless of how you try to trip it up.

After break-in, maybe it's time to finally remove the STP SE and inject a touch of romance, we'll see. May consider the new reference Athena active preamp from Denafrips. Looks to be a lot of bang for the $ to add what I may need given the Denafrips house sound. Either way, I can already tell with confidence that this is a speaker anyone would be wise to work backwards from to suit taste. Efforts likely to be rewarded.

How are the M1 coming along, they look fantastic in the photos. Stay well, Paul

I just updated the ongoing M1 review. Very pleased to hear you're already seeing the promise of the M3. There's more to come. Srajan

Just about hit the deck again. My inbox has been buzzing all weekend. You had people in despair. "What a cliffhanger. And just when you think it's time for the closing words, he keeps you waiting and wanting more. Again. Aaaaargh."

"I have been pressing the refresh button all weekend in anticipation yet nothing could have prepared me for this goose bump moment; and I'm not even directly part of it. But nonetheless so proud on your behalf, Martin, and thankful to be part of your quest. Big congratulations from all of us in Stockholm."

"Many will try to climb the mountain and only a few will succeed; but to reach the pinnacle consistently takes something very special. Hearty congratulations."

Yes, thanks a mil for turning my efforts into words which people can relate to and also backing me up on my peasant'y remark. On behalf of all involved, it is very much appreciated. After all, teamwork is the word! Martin Gateley

Hi Srajan, thanks for your review of the D300Ref. I had 2 questions if I may. 1/ Did you compare it to any other network streamers or servers such as the SOtM 200 Ultra or Lumin U1? If so how did it fare. 2/ You mentioned near the end that something like the D300Ref is something you'd consider after everything else is sorted out including cables, power etc. I noticed that even with humble power solutions and basic cables improving my source with a good streamer made a huge difference in the sound. Is this your finding as well? Some argue that a quality source such as from a streamer is as important as a good DAC. What do you think? Thank you. Ricky S.

First, I don't use the D300Ref as a streamer but simple USB bridge between iMac and DAC. If I do any streaming, it's directly with the iMac (Qobuz, Tidal). That's why in my sequence of priorities, I put it at the end - after all else is settled. In my use (I also use it as an SD transport for locally hosted files in lieu of the iMac), it's just a D/D converter that reclocks and dejitters the data stream. The actual transport is always the iMac. As to your second question, yes, a transport even of non-physical media no longer discs can make an appreciable difference just like in the olden days, a beefy Esoteric transport outperformed a wobbly plastic sled in a DVD player or laptop. But I'm the wrong guy to ask about audiophile servers (dedicated music computers disguised as hifi kit). I haven't yet heard one I'd prefer to our iMac/D300Ref combo using Audirvana 3 as the player software instead of iTunes. So I've given up reviewing them. On staff, Marja & Henk review servers and the last ones they did were the mega expensive Taiko and less extreme Grimm. I prefer 'streaming' locally hosted files I own so my needs for a cloud streamer that must get the best from Ethernet or Wifi are basically nil.  Srajan

Hello, hope you're planning on reviewing the Avatar!!?? Steve Fink

If the opportunity presents, absolutely. At the moment I'm already booked for their Iris and Gaia so Denafrips might spread the luv around by approaching another publication to do the unveiling honors on the transport? That would make perfect sense. Of course they've also got a new stereo amp and the forthcoming Hermes DDC so there's plenty to go around. Kinki have four new models so Alvin at Vinshine will be a busy man over the coming months. Srajan

Dear Srajan, first off, I hope you and your wife are staying healthy over there in Ireland. I seem to recall that you're living quite rural so that's probably a really good thing right now. That brings me to my inquiry today. I see a lot of thoughtful commentary on Covid 19 in various audio publications but haven't seen you mention it even once. You're usually so ahead of the curve that I'm a bit surprised by what to me seems like very strange reluctance to engage. Would you care to comment? Otherwise I enjoy your reviews as I always have and hope to read many more to come. All the best, Frank Laughton

I find the virus coverage in the major online news media (I don't do paper) overwhelmingly fear-based, thus counter-productive. The best news is bad news runs rampant, dubious death/infection counters and all. Why add to it? In different ways, all of us experience the ramifications. Who needs another reminder that it's ongoing and not looking to let up anytime soon? What's the upside of entering coverage when on that subject, I have absolutely nothing helpful to contribute? I prefer to focus on producing our usual hifi entertainment. Given current circumstances, it's likely to have more not less readers than before. Entertainment doesn't fix anything but it's the business I'm in. While I can, that's what I'm up to, not piling on a public conversation which, for the most part, seems rife with misinformation, fear and dangerous wishful thinking.

As to Ivette and I, our rural location does seem tailor-made for this time of self-imposed isolation. We're still healthy, thanks for asking, but even that's no proof. There are virus carriers who don't show any symptoms. When it's our time to go, it'll happen whether by heart attack, traffic accident or virus. Until then, we can either live, be happy and express our creativity to the best of our ability; or worry, fret and in general shrink and obsess about what may happen. The better choice seems pretty clear. Srajan

Srajan, have you heard of Qln speakers? Their Prestige 3 is getting good reviews and looks like something up your alley, simple two-way floorstander, time aligned, quality drivers, silent enclosure. Any chance it'll end up on your review itinerary this year? I would love your opinion on it. Chad

I'm actually familiar with the brand and reviewed their Signature 3 two years ago. Their US importer who then also did Aqua digital which I'd reviewed and liked a lot was very keen on Qln and organized my review samples. At the following year's Munich show, I got to meet their designer Mats Andersen in the Ivo Linnenberg booth showing the Prestige 3 you're interested in. He wasn't completely happy that I'd thought his monitor a bit pricey for its concept and execution. So I wouldn't ask him now to ship me the bigger version. Sorry. Srajan

Dear Srajan, doing a Google search on a TotalDAC sent me to a review by Michael Lavorgna whom I remember from writing for you in the old days. Then I did some more reading by him to eventually realize that he stopped posting to his own site Twittering Machines. Somehow I missed all of that. Do you have any idea why he's no longer in the game? I really enjoyed his unique style and approach... Holger

I never did inquire why Michael called it quits. But I did a Google search just now to see what might come up. I found this. In it, author Bill Leebens describes himself as a friend to Michael and says "he can't do it any more. He can't take the acrimony and contentiousness and vituperative, anonymous venom that he's experienced in this field." If true, I feel bad that Michael let the dark side kill something he enjoyed. But for sensitive types, growing thicker skin may just not be an option if it makes them less sensitive in turn. Both Doug Schneider and John Darko have gone on record saying that the reason why they don't host a blog-type comments section beneath their reviews is for the same reason. They have neither the time nor stomach for policing rude posters. It's why I never had such a feature either. If you view your job as a provider of very regular consistent content, time is too precious to waste on negativity. There's no upside to it. And there's a dark aspect about turning a hobby/passion into a profession. The thing that once was so much fun when it was just for fun can become a burden or pale routine when it's suddenly ruled by deadlines and repetitiveness year in, year out. Getting back to just the fun of it if one did lose that balance can also be a very good reason to make a change. But if Bill is right, that wouldn't have been the case for Michael. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I read a news announcement over on Matej's site and later also yours, about the new Marten speakers. Looking at them, I noticed bass radiators on all of them. That reminded me of a monitor that had those on each side which you once wrote about I believe. Whatever happened to those? They seemed interesting but I forgot more details, even their name. Andrew Wozny

You're referring to the Kaiser Furioso Mini. Indeed, I'd penned a preview on it about two years ago. I'd actually forgotten about it. At the time my samples had been recalled because the design was being revisited right then. It made no sense to write about something that would never be. Now that I think on it, it's been finalized for quite a while. I was simply never shipped the replacements. Unless they suddenly show up which I really don't expect, that assignment mysteriously died on the vine. It happens. Marja & Henk were shipped a pair by another maker which was then recalled as a non-standard engineering sample but never replaced; and I had a Swiss amp that stopped working and never came back fixed. If you want to read more on the actual Kaiser, Holger Barske has this review which Google Translator will turn to English. Srajan

"It's the Kali Yoga of converterage" you said in your last JAVS preview. I typically follow your puns but this one escapes me. Could you explain so I understand it? Paul Sharon

In Hindu mythology, a Kali Yuga is the last of a four-part cycle of yugas/ages which repeat indefinitely like a turning wheel. Within that cosmology, any Kali Yuga is a dark and morally primitive time. The sentence just before the one you ask about was "flexibility is king". Among other things, the physical branch of yoga called Hatha Yoga tends to improve one's physical flexibility. So the word yuga became yoga, the connection to 'age' got embedded in converterage and the subtext is, we are living in a dark age. I just had some fun to liven things up a bit. Srajan

Srajan, I wanted to thank you for being such a great reference. I really have only one weakness in the audio chain and that is for speakers made by true artisans. Without you I would never have known the story of Alain. I have read enough by you over the years to pick up in your M3 review that you were shocked that a product and person so talented could be working in virtual obscurity. Once I saw him winning the arm-wrestling championship, I knew I had to have him make me a pair of M3 if for no other reason than to support people like him.


So the first pair to the US, walnut satin, front port. Thanks again, it's really meeting people like Alain and having a hand-made beautiful instrument that is an extension of him that makes it so interesting for me. I am sure they sound terrific. (Duelund inductor in the LP never hurts ). Hope you are staying well. Best, Paul

Ah - you're headed straight for the Promised Land now, 40-year detour cancelled. Do let me know what you think of them once they arrive. Congrats. Srajan

Srajan, I very much look forward to your take on the new mini monitor from Børresen. Their website doesn't list them yet so I keep looking at your preview to see whether you've updated it.  Any idea when your pair will arrive so we can learn more? I can't wait so just had to ask. With apologies if necessary, all my very best to you in these difficult times, Patrick Croyden

I'm told they're awaiting the first batch of cabinets from China. Due to the current situation, there are delays with their supplier very much like other manufacturers experience, too. Once the cabs do arrive in Denmark, Børresen handle everything else so they can expedite first production to launch the Z01. Until then, they must sit pretty like you and I. So at present, I don't know when delivery will be, sorry. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I see that you're reviewing the second sound|kaos monitors. Would you by any chance have a lower-powered tube amp on hand to report on how it'll do into these loads? You write that they're 92dB. That sounds promising, especially for such a small speaker. From experience I simply know that such numbers don't always tell the whole story. So I'd appreciate it if you could explore that aspect on behalf of listeners like myself who prefer such amplifiers. Thanks in advance, Gregory F.

I'm afraid I no longer own valve amps of any persuasion and for that reason, tend to not review them either. But I do make exceptions. So I  rather recently had the Linear Tube Audio 10wpc and 20wpc integrateds in which I knew going in wouldn't be traditional. But they have been returned to the US since and not been replaced by anything equivalent, sorry. So no glowing bits on the inputs of the Vox 3a this time. That'll have to be for another reviewer. I understand Roland Dietl at HifiStatement has a pair. Perhapy you can appeal to him? Srajan

Hello Srajan, I just saw your comment to Mike Brown about your old Auralic. So after all these years, it still hangs tough with modern competition? That's good to know. Thanks for the tip then. What in particular do you love most about it? Krishna

As you can see, the Vega remains on active duty in my bedside headfi system. It remains particularly strong on colors and minor lushness so makes a great companion for the speed-freak Raal ribbon earspeakers. Srajan

Srajan, I read a Linear Tube Microzotl preamp review on PartTimeAudiophile, then found your comments on the MZ3. Comparing Marc's comments to yours, it seems that these two models really are sonically the same. So to be sure, the extra cash only buys a bigger box and extra inputs, nothing else? Or am I overlooking something? Peter Cronin

The maker says the units are sonically identical. They saw my intro before it went live and had no corrections so yes, the extra money goes to different features and cosmetics, not sonics. It's precisely why I asked for the cheaper 2-box unit. For most people, its i/o should be sufficient. Few people these days will need a tape loop. And why spend extra on balancing input transformers when the volume control and outputs are single-ended regardless? Being able to relocate the power supply also struck me as an extra asset for the MZ3. In short, whichever unit better serves your needs, the sound should be the same as long as you use the same tubes. Hope that clarifies things for you. Srajan

Hi again, just received a Job 225 via eBay (haven't found the INT yet) and using it with a Schiit Sega preamp connected to my Boenicke 5W. I'm in heaven. Thank you. Like so many things in my life, I get to the right answer only after trying everything else first! Now I don't have much of a DAC so will be trying out a Border Patrol as well as a Denafrips Ares 2. Denafrips arrives tomorrow. Srajan, thanks for everything you do - Mike Brown

There's also the Auralic Vega. Mine is 7 years old and I'm still enjoying it and comparing new arrivals to see how it holds up. Let's just say that if you can find one used (should be ca. €1-1.5K by now), it'd be another slam dunk. Srajan

Hello Srajan! Great to see you are still helping us all in these challenging pandemic times with good audio reviews and content. I for one see the ever-challenging audiophile landscape moving to unknown frontiers with the loss of brick & mortar stores. Knowledgeable personnel and the ever changing views of generations to come are in these remaining stores. With that said, I’m firmly in the giant-killer budget-beater camp stemming from solid information gleaned from your salacious reviews. My systems still hold dear the Eastern Electric Minimax pre, Gallo Ref 3 speakers and Silverfi cables. In the big rig I’m still enamored with the glass-bottled EL34 monos, big tone 6SN7 DeHavilland Ultraverve and my Denafrips Pontus DAC. The severely delayed DSP board upgrade for the Denafrips finally arrived yesterday. All the best and keep the awesome content coming. It all helps through stay-at-home orders here in the USA. Warmest regards, Mark

Being on a dealer's mailing list where I once ordered a digital cable from his online shop, I just got an email today. This is a Swiss brick'n'mortar who announced a change in their operations. From now on, they'll only open the store for single customers who made a prior appointment. Otherwise the store will sit there closed. By appointment, a single client will have the run of the shop and full attention of the proprietor with all health-safety standards observed. Could that be one flavor of hifi's future? Srajan

Hey Srajan, I don't remember its name but in your preview section, you had a disc-shaped server that suddenly took off and disappeared. I was kind of looking forward to learning more about it. The looks were interesting so I was curious whether sound and creature comforts would measure up. Was it just a temporary glitch or has it gone away for good? Thanks, John Gorman

The UK-based marketing manager involved in introducing this product to the West relinquished the line based on dissatisfaction with support from Korea. He'd solicited us for the review and now asked us to pull it which we did. That's all I know. Srajan

Dear Srajan, in your recent LTA preview, you mention various 6SN7 preamplifiers. Don't forget the Vu Jade Audio piece and Fluxion BL-1A which I've heard great things about. There's also the Wyetech Labs Jade which you reviewed in 2006... Roger

I'm sure there are many more I don't know of or forgot about again That's why I didn't claim any exhaustive list but wrote "models I've seen mentioned" to also make clear that I haven't actually heard them. Srajan