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First impressions are poor. With all knobs at 12 o'clock, the sound level is 6dB down versus with the EQ off. To maintain the original level one would have to set all knobs at 3PM which increases hum and limits the equalizer's functionalities. Despite positioning it far away from electromagnetic sources on Hifistay feet, it still injects an unhealthy dose of hum even at 12 o'clock (fully balanced XLR connections from Tambaqui into icOn 4SE into Schiit into Amp-23R, all components fed by Puritan). The improvement of boosting 20Hz by +3/6dB is noticeable and positive. Unfortunately the Schiit reduces the soundstage, timbres are less precise, highs lose color/air and the overall experience goes down three notches. I tried placing the Schiit between Tambaqui and icOn 4SE. All the issues amplify by a factor of 1.5. I'll let it run in for a few days but am not optimistic it's a keeper. In a way it makes me understand why it takes Pal such efforts to do what he does. Vince
Reading up on the big inductors and their open admission for hum potential, that part of the design had me concerned without user feedback or reviews to the contrary. We know that the icOn and Enleum are ultra quiet and the icOn adds no gain so it's sad to hear that the hoped-for improvement in the LF is so much offset by an audible increase in noise. That makes me glad I resisted an impulse buy. Thanks for letting me know! Srajan
"What if a DAC already cooks at two Michelin stars (from your Aether preview)?" I guess the answer is that it could aspire to three Michelin stars, the ne plus ultra rating chez Michelin. On the other hand, if one had a more prosaic DAC, it might be rated a Bib Gourmand. What, pray tell, is that? An inspector favorite: good value for the money. How do I know these things? When I was an active employee, my team at Michelin North America helped launch the Michelin Guides in North America. The French director of the guide once asked me to create an icebreaker for him with US journalists. Knowing that many of them would ask what it was like to be an inspector for the guide, I suggested he tell them, "being an inspector for the Michelin Guide is like being in the witness protection program... (artful pause)... only the food is much better." Cheers, Michael Fanning
Hi Srajan, I was about to wish you well then realized that I don't need to, you're one of the lucky few who haven't had the C-virus as yet. Have you ever had a listening room with suspended wooden floors? Did you need to do anything to damp the floor of sympathetic resonances ? I feel I'm losing bass because of a suspended wooden floor. Cheers, David Masilamoni
Indeed, no C19 yet and that without any vaccinations. As to your question, yes but not exactly how you may think. It's not that I damp the floor. I simply prevent the gear, speakers and sub from sinking energies into it. That relies on decouplers so the opposite of spikes. We want to disrupt the transmission of mechanical resonances into the floor where they amplify and propagate. Coupling a subwoofer to a floor is no different than coupling a subwoofer to the chassis of a boom truck. The boom-truck owner is looking to maximize bass output so he uses his car like a giant resonator. A piano does the same with its soundboard. Guitars and violins do by coupling their strings to resonant tone wood. Replace a piano soundboard with concrete and watch the sound die. If we take away the floor as a structural resonator (and suspended upstairs wood floors are excellent resonators), we will delete its contribution to SPL. That's like room gain. Each reflective surface adds output to the signal. Isolators or bass traps reduce SPL/output/power but increase clarity. Like reflections, resonances are always late. They happen after the original/direct event. Late means delayed. If direct signal is followed by delayed signal, the result is a blur in time. The sharp thin line drawn by a hard tip becomes a smudged thick line with ambiguous edges.
Isolating speakers and subwoofers from the floor so they can't talk to it and it doesn't talk back (always late) improves time-domain behavior. That improves clarity, definition and intelligibility. But it also removes some structural gain. If you've looked at anechoic speaker measurements, you'll see that invariably, the response drops like a rock below 100Hz. That's because all speaker designers count on room gain to add itself to their response. If that were flat in an anechoic chamber, it'd get bass heavy like hell in actual rooms. The same applies to isolation. You gain speed, precision and transparency but you'll give up some output. With an active bass system, that's easily compensated. With passive bass, it's not unless you do it with software EQ in the digital source. So if you say that you're losing bass because of a suspended wooden floor… yes and no. You're losing timing precision and pitch definition because the floor gets involved and talks back; but you're gaining some free output for the very same reason. Makes sense? Srajan
Dear Srajan, I have a question and hope you can give me an answer. I'll try to give you a short explanation where my question comes from. 3½ years ago I became sick with a particular distortion syndrome and life became even more complicated than it always have been for me. I'm 47 years old. I always was a music lover and probably even more an equipment lover but 3½ years ago something changed. Because of my situation I took my hifi and placed it in my small attic to start a listening environment. I experimented with everything I could find and discovered acoustics. I ended, after a lot of second-hand gear and speakers as a proud owner of the Trafomatic Kaivalya and some Decware Zenmaster speakers and some ASI products. All blended together on my attic like audio heaven after 3 years. Day in day out I spend more than 6 hours in that room to finetune everything.
But I always thought it could still sound better and it was never enough. I lost my satisfaction andt rue love for the music and stopped listening to music. So 1½ years ago I sold everything, even the Kaivalya. I needed the money and wanted to go back to the basics of just enjoying the music. The one thing i never sold were the ASI products and I never will. So now I listen to music in my living room again and I'm learning to use the ASI products fully. It takes a lot of reading and experimenting; difficult difficult difficult. But I want to go back to the basics and here is where I want to ask you a question. What is the reason you placed the listening seat against the wall and the speakers at the beginning of your listening environment? Why didn't you choose the other way around?
I ask this question because of my reading on speaker placement of Audio Physic speakers (I own a pair of Virgo V). My room gives me a lot of dips beneath 70Hz. I tries everything to solve that with speaker placement and seating position. Audio Physic's idea is to place the listening position against the wall and the speakers in the middle of the room, just like you have. So I was wondering and wondering and decided to send you an email. I just want to find the best as possible placement so I finally rest to enjoy music and I could create something like you have. So maybe I could get further on my search when I understand your choice of speaker placement and listening position in your listening environment. The only thing is that I won't be able to use the three resonators on the wall behind the speakers or the sugar cube grids on the wall behind because there is no wall...
Beside all that, your listening environment looks incredible beautiful and most of all peaceful and relaxing. Best regards, Steven van der Meer
A few things, Steven. I use a big Ripol subwoofer which is already 6dB up at 80Hz. Ripol means a cardioid dipole dispersion pattern. Essentially, there's total acoustic cancellation to the left and right of the subwoofer and partial cancellation at its back facing the front wall. It's very directional bass, not the typical omnipolar bass. That directional bass works like very effective room treatment across the bandwidth which the subwoofer covers so from 20Hz to a bit past 80Hz. The speakers are far out into the room so away from the front wall. That's so the sound disassociates from the boxes and the room. The sound doesn't stick to the boxes nor does it stick to the front wall. My seat is very close to the rear wall but I leave the door behind it open. There's just a thick curtain covering the door frame. That absorbs some high frequencies but is totally transparent at the low frequencies. Rather than getting trapped in the room to cause pressurization and more reflections, those bass frequencies disperse into a long hallway then my office. It's a cheap trick to make a listening room behave bigger than it is. It's like a hole in a tire. It deflates the pressure buildup.
Again, this very different subwoofer with its unusual radiation pattern removes the usual bass problems which omni bass always causes in a room. The speaker baffles are close to 3m from the front wall and toed in sharply to not see any side walls. There's a hole in the wall behind my seat with a curtain across it; and there's another curtain on the front wall with a bit of an air gap behind it. That removes some HF reflections. Here is another 'trick'. You will have seen tweeters not centered on a speaker baffle but over to one side. Now such a tweeter has two different distances from the baffle edges. It makes one bigger issue into two smaller ones to be easier to overlook. The same applies to speaker setup. Say you set both speakers 50cm from the sidewalls. Whatever issue that causes somewhere in the audible range, you've got it twofold - once in the left channel, once in the right. If instead you set up one speaker 50cm and the other 60cm, you dilute one bigger issue into two smaller ones. Whilst symmetry is ultra important for the stereo image to enforce perfectly matched path lengths between left speaker to listening seat and right speaker to listening seat... dialing in some deliberate asymmetry in how that symmetrical listening triangle sits within the room can be very advantageous.
And yes, I tend to very often end up with an Audio Physic-type setup. That's not because I follow Joachim Gerhardt's original measurements to the letter; but because from experience, it gives me the best results. My recipe thus tends to be far away from the front wall; set up as wide as the room allows; toed in steeply to see no sidewalls; and then moving the chair where I get the most linear response. That could be closer than the speakers are apart. The idea is that the far-from-the-front and steeply toed-in side-wall setup minimizes the effect your room has on the sound. If in addition you then sit rather close, you minimize even more reflections. But as you noticed painfully already, one can obsess too much to lose the plot. Our senses are very adaptive. We can get used to a lot very quickly. If you really want to get back at basics, forget about chasing perfection. Get it as good as you can within your means and inside a reasonable time frame. Then allow yourself to get used to that sound so you enjoy it on its own merit, not by constant comparison to some abstract ideal. Otherwise you'll end up in the same place again - of not enjoying the music because it could always be better so is never good enough. Srajan
Srajan, thank you so much for taking my question serious and the time to answer it. To me the things you explain about speaker placement are extremely helpful and give me some peace of mind. I would give a better suited thanks if my English was more okay but I can't find the words to explain. I just fully understand what you explain and to me that is a great thing because it means i start to understand audio/acoustics/placement etc more and more even though I have a lot to learn. Your hint of dialing in some deliberately asymmetry in how that symmetrical listening triangle sits within the room I take very serious and am going to experiment with first thing in the morning. Thanks again, Steve
Speakers virtually always soundstage best with plenty of room behind them. How wide you space them determines soundstage width but can also affect tonal balance. Sometimes moving speakers too far apart will not just hollow out center fill but make them leaner overall. What I listen for when determining ideal distance from the front wall is that the music starts to detach from the speaker enclosures and room boundaries. I don't want to hear the front wall and its corners. That statement doesn't make any sense (how does one hear the front wall and its corners?) until you experiment with moving the speakers farther and farther away from that wall by increments. There will come a point where the difference is very obvious. Something gets suddenly 'liberated'. However you call it, you'll know when it happens. Next you'll experiment with width unless your room is quite narrow to only give one option. If you have more options, watch for image focus, center fill and tonal balance. Then you adjust where your seat is relative to the 'liberated' speakers. All of it interrelates. There isn't necessarily a precise sequence. One change can prompt another and so forth. This is simply how I tend to do it most of the time. Depending on your layout, sometimes the most effective placement is diagonal. Now you're looking directly at a room corner in the center of the soundstage. The sidewalls run away from the speakers so those can sit quite close to them again sharply toed in. Again, this diagonal needn't be perfectly symmetrical so the room corner needn't be precisely in the middle. It could be slightly over to the left or right. What always must be the same is the distance and angle of each speaker to your seat. Our 2.0 video system [bottom of that page] sets up diagonal in a nearly square room which works out swell without looking audiophile extreme. Srajan
Hi Srajan, am really intrigued by your forthcoming review of the Wattson Audio DAC. I am one who always wants to reduce boxes, ditch the preamp and go one-box DAC/pre. But I have always found DAC digital volume controls to be lifeless while a good DAC with an analog volume severely reduces your options as there aren't many of them to choose from. Maybe the Leedh type of volume control can open doors to lesser DACs having good digital volume for once? Your review will be the first indication. The idea of Leedh itself is also intriguing in proposing that a nearest whole number like 0.1485 sounds far better than an infinite series like 0.148148148. It's surprising that someone hadn't thought of this before and wondered if it could make a difference. Kind regards, Jonas Harrow
Hello Jonas, the only small fly in this ointment at the moment seems to be some firmware tweaking Wattson are still making before they'll dispatch my loaner. I still don't have it. That Leedh works really well I already know from the last Lumin server I reviewed. It really is a better way to do digital volume. Since Wattson do the boards for Vermeer who also implement Leedh, I'm certain they have solid experience with it so know exactly what to do for their own machine. So fingers x'd that it'll show up sooner rather than later. Srajan
Hello Srajan, you'll be interested to hear that once we switched speakers to the Vox3A or Libération, we ended up using the 75Hz hi/lo-pass cut-off most of the time. Sound quality improved across the full spectrum: bass because of the unique Ripol dispersion in the low frequencies, mid-highs because of the much easier load on the main amp and drivers which translated to greater dynamics and transparency. Pál Nagy passed by yesterday evening and was very pleased about the contribution of his icOn 4Pro passive preamp and analog filters to this progressive setup. It will take time to shift customer habits but for those who have tasted it, the sound|kaos monitor + Ripol sub combination is the new king in town. Vincenzo
I'm not surprised at all. Running Ripol higher up also has room-cleaning benefits because modes typical between 50-120Hz get cancelled out. That cleans up not just the bass but also the midrange. I just wrote a short article on that. Everything I said there applies to Ripol vs. regular omni bass. And yes, Vox3awf + sub kills and looks very décor-friendly to boot. Srajan
Room cleaning is exactly what's at play here. Ghostbusters! The question now is what is the optimal Ripol cut-off frequency: if 120Hz is indeed the optimal frontier, shouldn't we go for two smaller Ripol subs in stereo? If rumors are to be believed, I understand this one is on your radar. For the fun of it, my shortlist of findings in Munich this year: Cube Audio's Jazzon which despite a few purist shortcomings brings a ton of joy and energy to the listener. Wolf Von Langa Son and Serendipity monitors - stunning performance across the board. I'll try to put my hands on a pair and run them with SK sub. The Ilumnia Magister MkII improve on their previous version and reminded me of M&H. Two separate subs were sitting nearby but still at prototype stage. Living Voice Auditorium R25… boy those can play big and right. Notwithstanding Martin's Sub, my top discovery was the Raal-Requisite SR1a headphone (another find of yours!) which I tried with their new dedicated amp. Probably the ultimate reference tool that is capable of taking you to sound nirvana and simultaneously makes you realize the limitations which our listening rooms and transducers have in reproducing sound. Needless to say, a full set is on the way from Serbia!
My hifi stable will also soon welcome a pair of Ferrari-red Vivid Audio B1 Decade as part of my quest for another great partner to the sound|kaos sub; and Alberto's Gran Vivace amps, an overall stunner and the most effective bass amp I have encountered to date. So more experiments on the horizon. Vincenzo
At 120Hz I might be leaning to two 2x12" subs indeed. The cut-off will depend on room size. The smaller the room, the higher the room modes so Ripol action across broader bandwidth becomes advantageous. The thing is, without compensation for their -6dB/oct. roll-off below the resonant frequency, we've not yet heard all they can do. It's why Siegfried Linkwitz always actively compensated his dipoles at the bottom; or championed a box sub below the lowest room mode. It's why Pál's Gradient Box will be important. Not only do we get to select the filters we want, we can dial in an all-pass shelving filter to notch up 20Hz by +3dB or +6dB. That'll be yet another frontier to cross. And yes, the Raal ribbons are my reference for sonic purity unmolested by room issues, energy storage, reflections and box sound. I come unreasonably close to that sound with the DMAX Super Cubes on the desktop nearfield.
In the big system the room above 100Hz still interferes. Perhaps the Liber|8 would sort that out. For dynamic speakers that are Raal-quick, Vivid and Børresen would be my top choices indeed. Good call on the Vivid. The Jazzon now runs a rubber surround not the foamie I reviewed. That apparently gives it more resolution and better bass control. I actually thought Martin would bring two smaller Ripol subs to Munich. In which case I'd have bought one of them right afterwards. We'll see. Sooner or later, I'll go Ripol upstairs as well.
Still waiting to get more details on the Ilumnia proto subs. They claim 10Hz-100Hz bandwidth. I want to know what kind of loading and whether it's another one of their unusual drivers converted to woofer duty. The thing is, no matter how you try to tell people that cardioid bass is the new frontier, nobody really gets it until they've heard it. Not even Martin understood fully what he had until he received those Carbide Audio decouplers to eliminate the structural feedback from the suspended wooden floor of his Swiss chalet. So it's like being a prophet in the wilderness. Nobody believes you; until they've heard it. And there are very few places where you can hear that. I'm just glad that after 20 years on the beat, I managed to hear it for myself and now get to enjoy it every day I fire up the big system. It does ruin one for anything else, alas. Hopefully the visitors to Martin's exhibit recognized what was responsible for the difference. It really is a new way of hearing. As a reviewer it's a bit of a curse since you hear right away what's wrong with conventional bass yet can't blame their speakers or you shouldn't accept to review them in the first place. Which, to be sure, would leave you with virtually no speakers to review, period. Or you must tell their designers that you'll filter them out across the lower two to 2½ octaves to hand over to a Ripol subwoofer. And who would agree to that, particularly if it's a bigger speaker whose maker takes pride in hitting 30Hz or below? When I mentioned it to one maker, he completely failed to understand that it was a matter of dispersion pattern not extra extension. "We make 25Hz already so no subwoofer is required." Total miss despite my best efforts at explaining the difference. Happy educating your customers, Vincenzo! Srajan
Hello Srajan, I would like to thank you for your many trials to like my Vintage Oslo II. Truth and freedom of opinions are important everywhere. It is one of the reasons why I regard you and 6moons. It takes bravery to say 'no'. If you cannot find my wavelength with these minis, it simply happens. Critical words are always necessary but I want to hear them from friendly persons. I hope that their bigger brother will make you enjoy the music much more. I just played old records by Ray Charles and Etta James over Vintage Horten. Vintage Oslo cannot compare in any way with this sound. Very hard to reset ears. Best regards, Jarek - Ancient Audio
Hello Srajan, I have always been fascinated by these Raal SR1a headphones but unable to justify the purchase price. This clearance sale however just made it affordable if I sell my early serial # AKG K1000 and Yamaha B2 amplifier; the main compromise being that it would be the HSA-1a amplifier and not HSA-1b which, I gather, is a little better for the Raal headphones and much better for the quality of the conventional headphone output. With your familiarity with the market, would you suggest jumping on this deal? $3'300 for an SR1a + HS1a? Thanks for your input. Russell
As you know, these are my favorite headphones. Many people poo-poo the Schiit Jotunheim R just because it's relatively cheap. Having tried these ribbons on most resident amps including the big Pass Labs XA-30.8 via the impedance adapter box, I call BS on that. Yes one can improve on the Schiit (not by much), but these ribbons are so far ahead of the game, it doesn't really matter. So if the price is doable, I'd say jump on the ribbons. I've never heard Raal's own amp so have no opinion on that. Srajan
Thanks. I will jump on the headphones and go the Jotunheim R route as well. Your reasoning makes good sense. I wasn't sure if you still regarded the Raal SR1a as highly as you once did and it is reassuring that you still do. There seemed to be so little mention of them of late, I had started to wonder if the near hysteria accompanying their introduction was yet another transient phenomenon. But that may simply reflect the fact that I have not been watching developments so intently over the last few years as I wind my recording activities down to almost nothing.
My last big project stretched from 2017 to 2020 with a two-week session in 2017 and another in 2019 resulting in a 3-disc CD set of the complete Bach Partitas for harpsichord; the first time they have been released in full form including repeats. In previous releases repeats were skipped to squeeze all onto two discs. The harpsichordist was Colin Tilney who has been recording since the early 60s. He was 85 then (88 now) and this will have been his last recording. Mixing and mastering to his satisfaction was a five-month challenge. He loves the result. I haven't seen the reviews but then haven't looked. Russell
The Raal are my best/most resolved transducers now followed by the Super Cubes set up on their own stands off the desktop. It's good to hear that a recording artist is so involved with the final mix. If they all were, perhaps we'd have better-sounding recordings? Srajan
Gratifying again to see you rank the Super Cubes so near the Raal. I guess the effort in the recording was worth it for Classics today to give the recording quality a 10; they don't often do it seems. Tilney's musical interpretation creates widely varied reactions. Like Aram Gharabekian, he tends to choose slow tempi and to draw out the maximum meaning and emotion to disregard the 'danceability' of the piece. Aram consciously did that with his interpretation of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet suites, which are usually (reflexively) played at tempi appropriate to ballet dance demands, sacrificing potential musical nuance. Here's a favorable review of Tilney's interpretation. Russell
Classical music is, at heart, an interpretative business I think. One plays not one's own music but someone else's who lived in a particular time, place and culture. Today's historical music research is well informed on things like instrumental tuning, original timbre, how fast or slow things were played, what kind of embellishments were popular at the time and more. That limits the scope of allowable deviations from the perspective of the notated score. Great musicians of course make other people's music their own. Shy of composing new solos for concertos, one can't really play any new notes though. The most obvious parameters of interpretation then become phrasing and pace. On top of that, musicians age and mature. Young ones are often prone to playing fast just to show off technique. Older ones often prefer to say more with less, to let silences between notes speak more. And routinely that means slower tempi.
I always find that whatever reading we're exposed to first tends to imprint us. If we fall in love with it, any subsequent interpretations can seem wrong. Hence so many different responses to individual classical recordings. When I played in an orchestra (we did Bruckner's 4th, Tchaikovsky's 4th and 6th, Schubert's 8th, Brahms 3rd, Pictures of an Exhibition, Ravel's Bolero, Debussy's Le Mystère de St. Sebastian, Rach's 3rd Piano Concerto with Alexis Weissenberg, Beethoven's 9th, Prokovieff's 5th and more), I remember how intently the conductor shaped our reading to conform to his ideas. When I subsequently heard these symphonies played by other orchestras under other conductors, I had this inside view on the composition as bestowed upon me by playing it. So any deviations by another interpretation caused an immediate emotional friction. It's how imprinting works, isn't it? Srajan
You've said a lot in those five paragraphs! I agree with your analysis. I sometimes ponder the difference between what we refer to as 'art' and as 'craft'. I think the notion of the distinction might be illusory but so far I have not had any blinding revelations; still I wonder. I went ahead today and ordered the Raal SR-1a after agonizing for a couple of weeks over the choice: am I crazy given how little time I spend using headphones? Could my money be better spent on something more convenient like Bluetooth cordless, noise cancelling? But then my curiosity and idealism prevailed, plus the idea that I can pass them on to my son Simon when (and if) I'm done with them. That and I have always valued a beautiful midrange. I imagine the highs and the bass will be welcome qualities, too.
Simon is also engaged in recording, having completed a degree in music production in Berlin a few years ago. Particularly though, I know he would find them very useful in his music-transcribing activities. He is amazingly good at unravelling complex music and particularly likes Cuban music. He has shown me his work, pointing to where we are in the music. For the life of me I can barely hear the keyboard part at all, let alone have the ability to write it out. He was involved in transcribing a lot of Cuban music for a publication coming out of Los Angeles after having passed the test of transcribing a piece written by a friend of the compiler which had never been written out (as most popular Cuban music never has). The composer agreed that it was correct. In Cuban written music, all the percussion parts are explicitly written out as opposed to the N.A. jazz tradition where all the percussionist gets is 'swing' or 'slow shuffle' etc.
Danny McKinney of Raal Requisite is including as a bonus his favorite cable for use with the Jotunheim R. The cable requirements are unusual here as the headphones have a lower resistance than the wire so a fair amount of the amplifier's energy is lost in the short cable driving the 'phones. After talking at length, I think he saw himself in me and thought I would appreciate the difference. I think he was impressed by the fact that 30 years ago, I made custom microphone cables for myself that cost me $700 in 1992 dollars for the materials for the 35' stereo pair. I feel I made out well getting the headphones and the better cable for $1'700. Tomorrow I'll order the Schiit Jotunheim R, probably with the digital input for the occasional convenience unless you know of D/A converters for $200 that are better. Then I'll try again to order a pair of Super Cubes from Andrew. I tried on April 28th but got no reply. Maybe he is overwhelmed with orders after your review? Russell
Andrew could be under water since, I believe, he resides in Russia. It's probably why he hasn't replied. Camerton Audio's designer is ex Ukranian now living in Berlin. Lots of his friends and family still live in the Ukraine so he's been involved in providing humanitarian aid and doing whatever else he can to help. Hopefully both gents will pop back up in audio when current events let them. To me, craft is technique as in, practice a thing 10'000 times or for 10 years and become proficient at it, be that baking bread or painting. In Bali I saw crafts villages dedicated to different crafts, so woodcarving in one, metal sculptures in another, textiles in another, batik dying in yet another and so forth. They were incredible craftsmen/women who could produce 100 Buddha sculptures looking virtually identical yet fashioned by different individuals. That's craft. Change one letter and it becomes graft. Nearly the same thing.
Art relies on more. It sits atop craft so craft is a prerequisite. The added ingredient is true inspiration so creativity. It's not about copying or acquiring skills that can go on near automatic based on muscle memory and other patterns in the nervous system. I often think that without free improvisation, musicians aren't real artists. My brother and sister are French horn players in German orchestras. My brother is the 1st/solo horn in the Hamburg Elb Philharmonic. My sister is the 3rd horn in the Wiesbaden Opera. They're civil servants who play the music of others for a living; never their own. I've often regretted not having ordered my Schiit Jotunheim R with the USB DAC. I actually needed an S/PDIF input which they didn't offer. I don't listen to the Raal on my desktop. I'd not get any work done. And upstairs I don't use any USB. But for $200 it seems like a real no-brainer and like you said, what else is out there for that money? A Topping perhaps or another ChiFi wonder? Srajan
Hello Srajan, I've ordered the Raal SR1b to be shipped when Danny McKinney returns from Munich. I'm also ordering a Jotunheim R and was on point to include a Bifrost 2 based on a few strong reviews, the inclusion of absolute polarity reversal, sophisticated USB with galvanic isolation, matching size, future-proofiness afforded by modular analog and USB cards, firmware updates enabled by micro SD card and finally the fact that Mike Moffat is the designer. I have respected his work since I heard a Theta CD player back around 1988 or 89. Up until then I had never heard much difference between players but this sounded obviously better and not by a little. I was skeptical of my impression to mentally shelf it, thinking it was a kind of anomaly but I never forgot it. Another factor was that I couldn't afford the player so it was convenient to think that I might have been mistaken. Anyway now I respect him and I take comfort in knowing that this, 40+ years later, is his latest thinking. Once again I take advantage of your connections and vast experience with all manner of gear to seek your blessing regarding this combination of equipment.
The other apparent contender to replace the Bifrost 2 seems to be the Topping D90SE which as far as I can see may lack the polarity function and galvanically isolated USB circuit and nice metal remote but includes level control, Bluetooth and the ability to play certain to-me-exotic digital streaming formats. Being a Luddite by nature, digital streaming is something I haven't kept up with. I can barely keep up with computers. I'm a very late adopter partly because I put all my money into buying the very best recording chain I could afford. I figured I'd rather make the best recordings I could even if I couldn't actually hear them on my own system. The closest I got to actually hearing what I had captured was on my Etymotic Research ER-S IEM. I got my first smartphone only a year and a bit ago. Anyway, have you had opportunity to check out these two DACs? Thanks and cheers, Russell
I've not heard either the Topping or Bifrost 2. I think you'd be well served either way. To my mind, it's more down to money, looks and features. I didn't know that the Raal were now in gen 2. Mine are still the SR1a. Do you know what's different? Either way you'll be in for a real surprise. But do yourself a favor. No matter your first reaction, allow the sound to grow on you for a few days before you come to conclusions. If you're anything like me, you'll never have heard this type of playback purity, speed and dynamics before especially in the upper ranges. If so, it takes a small mental reset to get your bearings; and after that, everything else sounds, to varying degrees, slow, muddy, bloated and fuzzy. Also, the steel headband can be shaped to fit your noggin so don't hesitate to bend it. It's very strong. Srajan
According to Danny the only differences between SR1a/1b are the metal grill which has been altered slightly to more closely match the circumaural version; and the internal wires connecting the ribbons to the input jacks now being silver. He said the sound was virtually identical. I wonder. I remember 30 years ago when wire was just being discovered as being significant and hearing the difference between good copper and good silver interconnects which our tech made in the high-end stereo store I briefly worked in. Visiting salesmen from other high-end stores thought our demo was rigged, so obvious was the difference even in apparent loudness. Around this time I read of microphone designers discovering to their dismay that they could hear the difference an inch or two of silver made inside their mics. I also heard a power cord made by our tech seemingly adding an octave to the bottom end of the sound from a turntable although I confess to not remembering whether the power cord went to the turntable or amp. Inconvenient truths have a way of being forgotten. I always lusted after the idea of six-nines silver mic cables but that was never to be.
As to getting used to the Raal, I have a hunch that I know what to expect. I have experienced how 'empty' a bass minus resonances can sound; and the equivalent in the midrange too. When I was designing loudspeakers in the 70s I made a few whose bass resonance was extremely curtailed. One followed an English designer's idea which put two woofers in an enclosure back to back so their mutual resonances (if they had identical fs) would cancel as proven by the flat impedance curve through what would have been the very high peak at resonance. It made all other speakers, ported or sealed, sound frankly stupid. The other design was one of my few genuine innovations. I made a coffee-table stereo subwoofer with the drivers' rears facing the holes in the baffle board stood off by about an inch so that the box which was filled with acoustic absorption functioned not to absorb the back wave completely but only by maybe 90%. The payoff was that the cone almost completely decoupled from the vibrating air mass inside the box and thus the bass was super clean. Imagine a cubic box with one corner chopped off and a baffle board across that corner so the back of the driver fired into the opposite corner, not an opposing flat surface. The rear wave of the driver sees a primitive anechoic chamber.
I was doing open-baffle line-array mids at the time and tried this to similar good effect. I termed this design principle an acoustic black hole and offered it free to Allan Shaw of Harbeth and Anthony Gallo but neither utilized it. I modified a pair of Martin Logan we had in store by standing off the bass drivers by ½" or ¾" and everyone agreed they sounded much better. Anyway, all these experiments aimed at reducing resonances and creating a more open articulate sound so I think that I am prepared somewhat for the Raal. And I think I have convinced myself to buy the Bifrost 2. Cheers, Russell
Indeed, given your explanations I think you're very much ready for the Raal. I'll be interested to hear back once you've lived with them for a bit; about whether they met your mark and expectations. I've lost touch with Anthony Gallo who I always thought was a very smart cookie. I know that the original investor lost interest and the company sold to their UK importer who've continued primarily with the small spheres. But whether Anthony is still in audio, perhaps elsewhere behind the scenes as a consultant or ODM, I haven't a clue. Srajan
Srajan, in your Hi²Fi piece, you mention a system's behavioral IQ. That just might be the new frontier which redefines high-end audio. You aren't wrong that we need a new definition. We have suffered under this notion of an absolute sound for too long. It created a concept of inviolate purity, which a group of reviewers set down a long time ago whose views seem to have stopped at the recording studio and never took into full account the real world where playback happens. If their concept is believed, we aren't allowed to make any adjustments to the signal to improve the sound in our normal living rooms, which aren't treated studios of the mastering engineers or the anechoic chamber of a speaker designer or review magazine. Mr. Krebs brings up Bang & Olufsen whose flagship speaker really is a marvel of integrated technology. In the high end of today, B&O is rarely mentioned. He is right that something is wrong with that picture. He is also correct that DSP for room and speaker behavior must be easy to use. Somehow the big majority of audiophiles seems to have grown up with the original print magazines in the US whose views shaped the High End but haven't changed since then. They see themselves as the defenders of a way of doing things that has become outdated. I thought that your specific examples of what Mark Levinson and Gayle Sanders are up to today made that point well.
I just realized that while I agree with much that's been said in your article, I haven't offered anything of real substance to bring about any change but I'm not sure I would know where to even start. However, I'm thinking about it now. That seems to have been your intention so good job I say. - Jeremy
Thanks for your comments, Jeremy. I just appended them to the article. As to knowing where to start, when alternatives to the old way of doing things exist already, change on the personal level comes from simply opting out of the old and embracing the new. I think that's all the start we need. Srajan
Srajan, I wanted to comment briefly on your high-end challenge. What is that thing called high-end audio? I am with you and Darko in that it must represent the most current tech which, as you point out, includes effective room correction, smart bass management and efficient amplifiers with high power density. I also think that in the absence of such features which in the right hands have become already very mature, the term 'high end' mainly represents legacy tech that is sold at astronomical prices. It is the old guard, not the younger university graduates with their degrees in the latest of technologies. We have Nelson Pass and Richard Vandersteen still do what they did when they first started. Bruno Putzeys reinvented himself a few times already from Phillips to Hypex to Grimm, Kii, Mola Mola and Purifi. He has circled the whole sector by working in amplification, DSP, speakers, converters and raw drivers. Very impressive. John Darko reviewed the Buchardt speakers which seem to pack a lot of the latest tech very cost effectively. Goldmund in Switzerland occupy a strange middle ground with very expensive ugly active speakers that are limited to 24/96.
Like your article suggested, coming up with a new definition for what high-end audio should be in 2022 is hard. But you are certainly on the right track by pointing at ever more powerful digital signal processing that should be exploited at the amplifier, speakers and room end of things not just in streamers and DACs where it matters so much less. Perhaps the real challenge is interdisciplinary in that components or speakers which include the very latest technology require not just all the old design skills but also advanced know-how in software, modeling the acoustic sciences in code and having access to expensive laboratory equipment and anechoic chambers for the necessary measurements. Assembling a team of engineers that can cover all these bases would seem to be a very costly endeavor. Bang & Olufsen gets very little respect with audiophiles but for raw engineering resources, they would seem to already have such a team in place including advanced industrial designers. Perhaps a collaboration between them and the Aavik and Børresen people you have reviewed could work at the edge of the art of what is possible today and redefine high-end audio for our century? I would add that as technology gets ever more sophisticated, it can become harder and harder for the technically less fluent of us to embrace. So whatever high-end audio decides to become, it should remain intuitive to use. Getting geeky is not my idea of a good time or anything I am prepared to pay for. I want to enjoy the music, not get bogged down by owner's manuals written by lab rats or apps whose menus have more layers than an onion. Advanced tech should be easy to use. That is part of what makes it advanced. Those are my few cents on your topic. Thanks for reading. - Dr. Franklin Krebs
Good points, Dr. Franklin. I'm with you on user-friendliness. That's key. I also agree that B&O have amazing in-house resources; and fabulous designs. Thank you for your contribution. I added it to my article now. Srajan
Hi Srajan, we both have a penchant for a great desktop listen. I'll send you a pic of our new desktop headphone/monitor system when complete. It'd be best described as cartoon-like overkill. It would have an interior designer beg to have you fill the other 5 chambers in a game of Russian Roulette. Maybe we'll work on the optical design aspect once the nuts 'n' bolts function as intended. Onto my question. You've had a fair number of desktop monitors in house over the years, perhaps even more of late. I was wondering how your recent lineup might compare to the Eversound Essence which was so appealing a few years ago. Such an ambitious design. Of course if they're no longer around, it's probably not a fair comparison. Just thought I'd ask. Lastly, Jay's newest transport is nothing if not impressive. I can't help but wonder how it'd fare against another take like one of the Lektor CD players from Jarek at Ancient Audio. Best, Fred
Ivette inherited my Eversound/Feniks and lived happily ever - until after. After were Jarek's Fram Midi 120 which she much prefers. Those she inherited when the DMAX SC5 landed on my desk. Those are my hands-down favorites, albeit with the provisos detailed in my two reviews of 'em. Jay's transport is somewhere between France and Ireland right now. It should land soon. As to Jarek, he's working on a new transport using the latest CD-Pro8 from Austria's Stream Unlimited. He's very keen on that already. Srajan
Thanks. I think that Sanyo drive is something that may sound 'better'. There was that collaborative Shigaclone DIY project with years of R&D. I heard the result at Atelier 13 and was very impressed. It was all centered on the Sanyo drive. Fred
Hi Srajan, good job on your podcasts with Darko. In just two sessions, you already covered lots of valuable information in a way that's conversational and easy to follow. Thanks to both of you. I'd like to propose another subject matter which a lot of budding audiophiles could use help with. That's how to buy the right system for their needs then set it up properly so they get the most out of it. I know there's all kinds of formulae and ratios for how to position speakers but perhaps you and John have something easier that works for you? While I have your attention, another topic that could be lighthearted fun would be to cover your pet peeves as reviewers doing this for a living. I'm sure that between the two of you, you've come across many incidents to talk about. In any case, some food for thought. Keep up the good work. Charles Loughton
We already got you beat on your first suggestion, Charles. That's exactly the topic for our next chat planned later this month. As to pet peeves, I'll propose it to John. You could be right. That too might fill a session. Not sure whether people will want to hear it though. I let John make that decision. He has a much better take on listener stats and his own audience. But thanks for the heads-up. Srajan
Hi Srajan, in a 2018 industry review article you mention that your interest was piqued after hearing the Diptyque speakers demo - obviously piqued enough to get you to go back a couple of times so you could get the opportunity to talk to someone about them. But I can't find a 6moons review of them. A friend of mine who has a pair of Nenuphar v 2 that he first drove with the Bakoon 13R and now with the Enleum 23R, has gotten a pair of Diptyque that he drives with a Crayon CIA 1T. He says that the Diptyque are so good that he doesn't want to listen to the Nenuphars anymore. So, naturally my interest has been piqued. I would go and hear his but he lives in Canada and I live in Italy. Too far to drive. So the next best thing was to see if you had expressed an opinion of them in a review. But, apparently you didn't. I know that it has been a long time since you heard them but I am wondering what your impression was at the time. Can you please tell me what you remember about them? Cheers, Peter
Nothing, sorry Peter. Like you said, that was 4 years ago at a show. I remember the name; and that nobody in the exhibit spoke English; I think. Which is why I went back hoping they'd then have an English speaker present to learn more about a company I'd not seen before. That's about it. Srajan
Srajan, I just set upon your latest review only to learn that it's been left in indefinite intro mode. That begs a real question. Why not just cancel it as the manufacturer asked? That would be so much cleaner and not send any mixed messages, unless those were your intention? Cheers, Thomas
That's a multi-layered issue, Tom. First, the review was a mutually made commitment to net the usual preview I publish before receiving my loaners. It went up months ago and I was already three good pages into it when the bell sounded. Why delete good work as though my time wasn't worth anything? I explained that and still was asked not to proceed. Two, our reviews document our interactions and experiences front to back so that prospective buyers may glean how they will be treated. Three, when things go pear-shaped as they will from time to time—that's simply the human condition—the real issue is not that they did but how they're being handled. Most any cockup can turn into real opportunity whenever there's willingness and true professionalism. When other choices are made, readers deserve to know as well. Just making things go away as though they never happened serves nobody. As is, this manufacturer at least knows now to improve their communications, packaging and scheduling. Caveat emptor and all that Jazz. Srajan
I appreciate that reviewing is how you make your living, Srajan. Don't think I don't get that. But what happens when a review gets cancelled after the fact like this one was? Does the manufacturer get a refund on whatever fee he paid to be reviewed? That would seem fair. On the other hand, there's the argument you already made; that you're already a few pages into it which represents time and energy on your part. No matter what, in this scenario somebody would seem to get the short end of the stick (just thinking out loud). Thomas
It's why we don't really cancel reviews. There should be no need when two parties have mutually agreed on doing a review in the first place. I work hard to be consistent so manufacturers know exactly what to expect. The cancellation scenario doesn't really present itself. Why would it? This case was unique in that I still had no woofers. I couldn't proceed when the curtain came down. I received no payment so if anyone got the short end, I did. Yes the maker is out two-way ship fees but they decided to back out, not I. This really was a very rare incident. Let's leave it at that, please! Srajan
I do agree that it rarely ever happens. That's why I had to ask. I didn't understand your reasons for leaving up a preview. I still don't agree entirely but as they say, you own your own business, you get to make the rules. Thomas
Hey Srajan, just read up on your recent updates as I usually do each month. Lots of exciting stuff to sort through. Loved the DMAX piece. Great find. Looking forward to how you frame them in your forthcoming chat with Darko. The new Jay's pieces look awesome too. Then Mytek and Wattson for compact but upscale converters with benefits seem very realistic, especially the Mytek. Not so sure about the Ancient speakers but if your profiling of them is on, perhaps they will deliver beyond their looks and minimal features. Those Camerton headphones seem to have been "coming soon" forever. Any updates on when those might actually arrive? You also seem impatient about the open baffles from Israel. As Patrick pointed out a few emails ago, it's surprising that things continue to arrive given what's happening in the Ukraine. But then all our lives can't suddenly stop, can they? (Rest withheld by request.) Florian
Today's interconnectedness does mean that we're alerted to catastrophes elsewhere on the globe in virtually real time. Just so, our individual lives go on no matter how trivial they might appear given the terrible suffering other people experience at the very same time. Writing about toys for mostly boys as I do now does seem particularly shallow and self-absorbed. Yet doing this work supports those I write about. As small as that might be, it's my contribution to adding something positive to the overall goings-on. And correct, the Camerton assignment keeps getting pushed back. I was booked to interview the designer over Zoom weeks ago but he wasn't ready. He's originally from the Ukraine I believe so if he still has family there, he'll have far more important things than audio to worry about. I haven't inquired about the Binom ER status. When he's good and ready, he'll know how to find me. My first podcast review on the DMAX cubes was recorded two days ago. Now John needs to apply his editing magic and make it presentable. Apparently that'll go live next Friday so you'll find out what you think about that format soon. Srajan
From John Darko's Patron feedback: "John, the latest podcast was fantastic. That discussion of amplifier power, speaker efficiency/sensitivity and listening priorities (yep, I'm a "visual listener"), was the best synthesis of those topics I've ever heard (or read, for that matter). Kudos to you and Srajan!"
The product wasn't available in the agreed-upon time frame so the review got cancelled. Unusual delays of course are becoming more commonplace these days. Rather than make individual announcements about it, I just remove items where necessary. If circumstances change, they're easily revived. Srajan
Hello Srajan, saw your short post on desktop stands. Stacking two might be a bit extreme though at €60/pr, if the required isolation gets you there, it's actually quite cost-effective. I like how you drove home the need for mechanical isolation in a way that could have some shake their heads in disbelief. It's a real issue. Going off desk with a floor stand at the right height is probably the most effective solution. But like you and John Darko like to remind us, looks are important too. Just because something works doesn't mean we fancy how it looks. Your setup actually looks very good so congrats on finding something that works for you. Cheers, Anton
I did look at floor stands but most have quite big bases/plinths. To keep things tidier, I opted for those tilt supports. My super-final solution now added thin sand-filled rubber pipes which I appropriated from my big Ardan Audio desktop stands. Six cable ties per double-decker stand attach them to sit neatly between table surface and steel. That has sorted the last faint bleed-thru on bass-heavy tunes played louder. So yes, sorting out desktop resonances in ways we find visually acceptable can be a bit tweaky. I just couldn't do the IsoAcoustics stilts though they might be 100% effective as is. Can't hack their looks. Srajan
Following your newsroom update, I tried a pair of Chord C-thru WiFi wireless wires over the weekend. They are so transparent and with such a low noise floor that I can finally enjoy listening to music at -20.3dB across the full frequency spectrum. Pure audiophile bliss! Kudos to Chord to offer them in whatever length the customer requires. Thank you for the find Srajan. Vincenzo PiconeMinus 20dB below mute; that must be a new record, Vincenzo. Congrats for going where no listener has gone before. Cap'n Picard would salute you. Srajan
Srajan, I notice you keep plowing on while your preview pile stacks up. I take it delivery delays are compounding given the present state of affairs? If so, it's great to see that you still manage to get in some stuff to write about. Cheers, Patrick
Indeed, follow-on Brexit challenges, ongoing C19 effects and now the Ukraine war impact everything in our interconnected world. In our hifi sector, supply-chain shortages, drastically higher pricing for parts and shipping all conspire against usual scheduling. As the recent obituary for Exogal chronicled, sometimes a single part back-ordered by 2 years will kill an entire project even company because no replacement exists to adapt a product. Other makers adjust quietly by revamping a PCB to take different parts which remain available so that they can build, ship and sell products to remain in business. So yes, I'm grateful for loaners that do arrive no matter how late. Srajan
My understanding is that for the EU, production and shipping are from Slovakia as already explained in the review. Unless Andrew living in Russia locks down his ability to do business out of Slovakia, I don't expect that availability for EU buyers will be impacted. But to be certain, it's best to ask him directly. My shipment happened well after the start of the Ukraine invasion but was three weeks late and Andrew did indicate that those three weeks were rough on him. This could be a quickly changing situation so just ask him when you're ready. Srajan
Srajan, Joël, I had previously exchanged some emails with Joël regarding audiophile switches. Joël uses a triple threat: an Aqvox SE which feeds an NPS 16 LAN switch from Silent Angel, which features an interesting option that Joël has employed. One may connect two zones in series: the signal from the router goes to Zone 1 and then is sent from it to Zone 2. Thus the LAN signal is clocked twice so that one may reduce jitter in two steps. The source of the clock signal is a reference TCXO clock. I own the Bonn N8, a smaller 8-port switch by Silent Angel that is powered by an external SMPS. The N16 LPS has a built-in linear symmetrical (both transformer and regulators) power supply with two circuits for each zone.
In sum, Joël found the Aqvox SE plus NPS 16 to have a terrific effect (my words) on his system. He previously found the EtherREGEN (referred to subsequently as eR) to be less musical than the single Aqvox SE. I told Joël that I would try swapping the eR and N8 to see which one had the best SQ in my system. Although I do not have the NPS 16 and thus cannot comment on its efficacy, I did try swapping both N8 and eR. Ultimately I found the eR to produce better sound. It's important to note that I use the optional fiber input to the eR and believe that is one reason for its better sound in my system. Of course I have not done any serious testing, unless one counts my aging 70-year-old ears!
About a month ago I read an interesting thread on AudiophileStyle about using an affordable external reference clock with the eR. UpTone, its manufacturer, had conveniently placed a 75Ω (50Ω on request) BNC input to the eR if one wished to bypass its internal XO clock and add a 10MHz reference clock. If one could beat its Crystek CCHD-575 internal clock's -125 at 10Hz phase-noise rating, theoretically one could achieve superior sound. After combing through various threads, I stumbled on UpTone engineer John Swenson's pithy paper about how one might pursue the external clock. Armed with this advice, I found the U.S. distributor website for the Chinese AfterDark OCXO clocks and purchased the Project ClayX Giesemann OCXO 10MHz Reference Emperor Signature clock which promised a phase-noise rating of -138 at 10Hz. Conveniently each OCXO clock comes with its own tested phase reduction document and my unit actually reached -140 at 10Hz. While the U.S. distributor can be rather breathless about the efficacy of these clocks, I did find the Emperor Signature to be extraordinarily good. AfterDark which distributes the eR in Asia and thus has a partnership of sorts with UpTone, says that improvements come in gradual increments with a 30-day final improvement which I have since passed. In short, I have an Ethernet output to the Lumin T2 on the "B" side of the eR, which is moat-protected from noise within the eR,so that the Lumin's dual Sabre DACs receive exquisitely timed audio signals.
In sum, I feel as if I have upgraded my entire streaming platform with the addition of the 10MHz reference clock. My system is totally streaming with a Roon Nucleus, Lumin T2 and the Kinki Studio EX-M7 tethered by Grimm SQM balanced cables. Srajan, I know that you have been reporting on the salutary effects of reclocking in recent reviews. I doubt that AfterDark will request a review of its OCXO clocks but, trust me, this is a game-changer for me and others. My next step once funds are sufficient is to consider an upgraded streamer in the guise of the upcoming Grimm MU2 or Joël's current favorite, the Vermeer Audio Three. All the best, Michael Fanning
Hi Srajan, with the Munich show a go as per darko.audio just now, can I ask whether you will attend again? I've always enjoyed your unique show commentary and given the two-year hiatus, I would love to learn what finds you can come up with this year. Thank you. Trevor Mulligan
I stopped doing show reports already prior to the C19 cancellations of the Munich High End. As to attending 2022, I'll be sitting it out. I won't yet entrust my health to airports, hotels and a large convention center with visitors from all over. I can learn about new product announcements on my desktop; and makers can solicit me for reviews here as well. I really don't see the upside of attendance in the current climate. I'm sure other publications and writers will feel different to cover the event as usual. Srajan
This should depend on how you intend to use it. A sub will obviously be limited to at most the first two inflection points of 20Hz and 120Hz. If low-passed at 80Hz or lower, you'd be down to just the 20Hz control. To iron out narrow-band room modes will require far more specific frequencies in-between. And if you wanted to dial in linear bass boost for example, you'd probably want a shelving filter not an EQ 'bump'. I rather think that focusing on a subwoofer would miss the bigger Loki Max picture. For subwoofer integration control specifically, the forthcoming Gradient Box by Pál Nagy will be a more application-focused product. Srajan
For a change, a non hifi question if I may. In some of your photos of your bigger listening room, I've seen a painting of a deer in a suit. I don't think that's by Ivette so would you have a source for that by any chance? I really like it. Victor
That's from the Louise Brown collection called Gentleman Stag. There's also a brother called Randolph in a purple trench coat. Srajan
Dear Srajan, I saw the various news posts on the new Wilson subwoofer and thought of 6moons because you've been so very vocal about high-passing your mains and this sub offers that and a lot more. Can we then look forward to you reviewing one when production reaches Europe? This would seem to be right up your street. I look forward to that! Jorge
I checked out the plate amp's features. They look like Dayton Audio's SPA500DSP. It's a very nice feature set indeed and Wilson's inert cabinet craft seems ideal for the application. My only 'issue' is that it's still box bass. It still radiates omnidirectionally to invoke room gain with its timing blur from reflections off all solid room surfaces. I've been converted to cardioid bass. That requires a dipole with tweaked radiation pattern to minimize those reflections and clean up the time-domain performance of the low end. I couldn't in good conscience pursue a review of the Wilson sub then critique it for behaving like any other box subwoofer in how it radiates to ride big room gain. By the same taken I couldn't not hear it and not be bothered by it. See what I mean? It's like a vegetarian reviewing an über meat burger. It's possible but the perspective is still twisted. Srajan
Srajan and Dawid, great review of Jacob's new Aarka. I went to the web link you embedded and clicked on "explore the new line" but nothing opens up except for an old render. Do you have the right link for the new website please? Paul
It's not live yet or the current URL would roll over to it. If you need more information than we published or want to order a pair, you'll have to contact Jacob directly. We have no control over his website or the timing of its relaunch. Srajan
Wouldn't it make more sense to time the publication of one's first English review with such a relaunch? Half the excitement of learning about this speaker dissipates when it seems that Rethm doesn't care enough about the back end of a professional web presence. But I get that you have no control over it. Sorry to vent. Paul
Srajan, I just revisited your iFi review because I noticed that it had skipped to the front of the queue again. I've learnt that it means you added something and indeed, there they were, very interesting comments on super-hot gain and what rationale might be behind implementing it in the first place when from a utility perspective, there really seems to be no good reason. Considering the apparent sophistication of the design, it's surprising actually that Mr. Loesch would go for this cheap trick of shining up his specs. Perhaps the core market they sell to really cares about those numbers? Still, your regard for the sound doesn't seem diminished so I'm glad to hear that it's worked out for you with the network chip removed. (Name withheld by request.)
Indeed, I love the sound and just moved the piece into my Raal ribbon headfi rig whose extreme resolution really benefits the most from the Signature's 45/49MHz DSD resampling. Once I upgrade the upstairs sub to a smaller Ripol or two to clean up room interactions in the bass, the iFi will probably end up in the sound|kaos Vox3 system. Until then, it makes a bigger difference on the floating open-baffle ribbons. Its footprint also approximates the Schiit Jotunheim R amp's and the smsl SD-9's is even smaller so the lot stacks super tidy for a mini rig with very high performance. Srajan
Hello Srajan, please excuse if this question is a little lengthy and sounds like a “please advise on which speaker to buy”. It would be great however if you comment on it with your usual triangulations or hints in preferred gestalt. I am looking into the Nenuphar or Aurai Zero range. Reading your reviews I struggle a bit with what would be the line of thinking in deciding between the two (with auditions being a bit more of an issue here than already usual). Amplification is (SET) Tube or SIT (Enleum also an option) and musical fare is quite mixed in terms of genre as well as larger and smaller compositions. In case of Aurai, could going Z2xx and external sub over the integrated yield benefits in terms of musical enjoyment? As before, thank you for your time, Gregor
Having just done the Nenuphar/Lieutenant comparo, I can be most specific for a change. On bandwidth, textural continuousness into the bass and overall linearity, the French wins. On overall resolution I'd call it a draw. On directness, immediacy and intimacy, the Pole wins. Aurai's hidden woofer likes more power than Nenuphar so SIT/SET would be less ideal, the Enleum preferable. On the sub question it's an unconditional yes either way. A Nenuphar monitor + sub or an Aurai Zero + sub will outperform either catalogue's floorstander if you apply a proper lo/hi-pass division of labor. As you know from my recent writings, going to a Ripol sub has very special add-on benefits where the currently most cost-effective solution is the German ModalAkustik MusikBass with their filter/amplifier box. I'd take that plus a Zero or N-monitor over the floorstanding versions any day of the week and twice on Sundays. It'll give more extension, power and clarity in the bass, opens up the midband because the bass load is removed and, with a Ripol's cancellation of typical room interference in the bass, heightens overall resolution, intelligibility and speed very significantly because bass no longer overhangs to muddy up the higher registers. With a high-passed monitor, the main amp's power demands drop as well so even a SET/SIT will still work just fine on an Aurai too. With sub help, the other differences between Aurai and Cube will diminish except that Alain's double tweeter still has the advantage; and that Cube's widebander still has a bit more immediacy. But overall now aspects like price and appearance could dominate your decision making. Srajan
Hello Srajan, how are you and the Young Lady surviving the winter in the Emerald Isles? Frost bite got your tongue? Never underestimate the cooling power of a volcanic eruption. Enjoying your articles. Some very interesting musings. Just wanted to touch base, offer a progress report and ask an opinion. Eyesight has been restored to acceptable levels. Had to train myself to see again. Contrast range is still a little limited. Greyscale compressed. Blacks slightly elevated. Sufficient to get my driver's license back though. Spouse no longer required to bear combined title of wife/chauffeur. Something I didn't mention, hearing was also affected. The brain's CPU appears to be a combined audio/video card. Manifestation of damage? Super-low volume level resolution. Bats have nothing on this super power. Downside was intolerance to loud levels. Also, no stereo. Dual-channel mono aficionados would be pleased. Other stangeness? Internal EQ compensation curves wiped out with a response displaying prominence in the 50-60 cycle range. You want to say room-lift sensitivity?! As a result, have been training myself to hear again too. Getting there.
And here's the request for opinion. Wellness aspirations and C-19 cabin fever got a bit of audiophile itch in motion. Still have the Mark & Daniel Monitor Maximus/Auralic Altair G1/Audio Zone (Pascal-based) combo. I'm looking at some changes. I know that immediate improvements would be gleaned by adding a preamp and letting the Auralic Altair's digital volume run full throttle. Dynamics and scale of presentation would expand. Eying a Wyred pre or full passive again with single-ended and balanced connectivity. The other dark horse idea would be to go full integrated amp. (Kinki anyone? Alternate suggestion would be the Hegel 390.) The only hesitation there would be that one of your current compatriots found the Pascal a step up from the Kinki so perhaps not an ideal upgrade solution. Plus, a waste of capability for one input.
Or the obvious solution. Just enjoy what's there and keep exploring the Tidal catalogue? Audiophile nervosa be damned? Most itches can be cure with calamine lotion. So there you have it. Surviving, restless and recovering from January's gift of shingles. Almost lost the right eye plus looked like a losing prize-fighter. 2022 looking great. From what I can see at least. Best wishes from the frozen Covid bunker, Glen
Hello Glen, mild winter for us thus far. Had some strong storms already but that's it. So both ears hear fine but the brain refuses to create the stereo construct? That's unexpected. I didn't know that was possible. And automatic midbass compensation thrown in ? It does show that our brain really is a super computer. Different programs are running, then a medical emergency throws in a reboot and suddenly certain things reconfigure themselves. Perception rules. It doesn't sound fun for sure but - interesting of sorts. You certainly write about it from a slightly amused perspective. Bravo! In my pantheon of audiophile revelations, replacing the super-dear DHT Vinnie Rossi preamp with an autoformer-coupled passive was a biggie. It's what I now use upstairs and downstairs. I don't see myself going back to active pres anytime soon.
The new icOn not mentioned on the website yet offers I think 80dB attenuation over 0.5dB steps. An included Apple IR wand does the remote business. This icOn stuff has been my secret weapon also because (Batman alert!) the more attenuation you select, the higher the output current gets. It's voltage/current conversion at work in some form of log function that really improves low-level listening. The dreaded white-out delays and things sound full, robust and dynamic farther down the SPL ladder than they otherwise tend to. So for preamp upgrade itchitis and particularly with your new aversion to high SPL but keener low-level resolution, that'd be my #1 reco. I've not heard the Hegel so couldn't comment. Hope that helps? With my best wishes, Srajan
PS: For readers who didn't know, Glen suffered a minor heart attack last year which had him resign from reviewing for us. As you just learnt, the incident triggered a lengthy recovery period which includes his hearing. That's why I've published this exchange. It's a good reminder. We should really enjoy what we have while we have it. Flemming Rasmussen, Gryphon's founder, found himself in a similar situation. He woke up one morning deaf in one ear and the other only working at 50% capacity. Fretting as we all do over hifi hardware, it's too easy to overlook the most important ingredient: us the listener, our ongoing health and ability to perceive the world the way we're used to thus take for granted.
Dear Srajan, I'm reading one of your reviews, specifically about Cees' new Pasithea. When I first began digging into the views and ideology of 6moons, I dare say there was less gray in my beard. From enthusiast to industry professional, your ears and priorities remain an important and consistent touchstone to what may be important to hear. Not unlike a collector of wine, one seeks out those who share a palate or portion of it to help distill what would otherwise be an impossible number of things to sample. If you find someone who is consistent and shares 75-80% of your taste, you've made an important discovery. It's always been a point of pride that we were the first non-manufacturing retailer to buy ad space on your site.Just as important as a shared palate is the consistent expression of it. Some writers are all over the place with opinions that vary to the degree that one questions their methods.
Over the years I've built on that sameness and your ability to write about it. It's been added to of course with people (industry, musicians, engineers, enthusiasts) in various nooks and corners around the globe whose souls open at the same notes as mine. Without other guiding ears there is simply too vast a net for anyone to possibly cast. There are a number of things that set you apart compared to your colleagues but here are a few of those to my eyes:
a) you are not catering to a subset of the audiophile world. There are those reviewers, as often as not in video format, who keep their lens tightly focused from the point of view they surmise their likely viewers share. There is nothing wrong with this aside from a certain limiting nature especially in learning about peripheral tech or approaches that might inform one to expand basic knowledge of a hobby or passion. For instance, even though component X may not be in my price range or milieu, it could be important for reasons X, Y and Z. Conversely, if only by their choices of what to review they may become 'yes men', they work as framers of the anticipated and understood. That's not unlike being a reporter in the modern-day White House Press Corp. You are more or less trumpeting whatever the Press Secretary passes your way - see 'stenographer' in the dictionary. You seem to review with your ears first and those reviewed items can have a very wide swath of origin.
b) You have more than one system and typically a variety of gear on hand. This to me is paramount. In the audio world, the primary password through the gates of survival may well be 'synergy'. When one has only a single system, a real review for certain gear will be unfair or ineffective to all involved. I once thought I would need 6-7 systems to be a reviewer, to cover various approaches that would give varied gear the opportunity to be heard in a light that would serve it. This gets even more complex when reviewing components at different price points. Cost differences should to my eyes always be stressed in a review, which it isn't always.
c) Technical proficiency. I have witnessed any number of print and even more video reviews where a cursory look at the setup of the gear tells me all I need to know. Setup is important. Seeing some of the systems on popular video reviewers' sites makes me wonder where their gumption to speak to anyone authoritatively about audio originated (see the short story Curse of the Smarmy Guru). Some have been around for quite a long time. This does not relieve this issue. I simply means they've been doing it wrong for a long time; and that their opinions of gear will be further limited by the ill parameters set for listening. Let us not forget that a component isn't merely a component. It's an expression, a project and for some a life line. It's from a group of people who have invested in their ability, beliefs and hopes and many don't do so from a lap of luxury.
So, my unoriginal thought considering the above is that at some point you write a book. I imagine there were certain reviews, the process around which deserve a short story. Probably others where you and Ivette had a laugh for one reason or another; should you ever recess from the steady diet of your current work load. ATB, Fred Crane
You're not the first to propose this, Fred. My grandma always insisted that I was a writer at heart. How she saw this I haven't the faintest. That was in my mid teens when all I focused on was becoming a classical clarinet player in Germany. Writing in any form was nowhere in view. As we saw, I did end up a writer anyway. Who knows, perhaps even a book is in the cards? In truth, I don't really hold things back for a lean day. Whatever I have to say I say now. That's like a rain cloud unburdening itself. Why walk around ready to burst only to clam up instead? Pull the plug not cork it is the motto. As such there's no secret cache of untold stories that could end up in such a book. Whilst other people already seem to see book potential, I'm still quite blind to it. But given how my life has followed its very own logic thus far, I'm always open to it unfolding still more things I cannot conceive of yet. If this particular thing does happen, you can then always say 'told you so'. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I was reading a thread on the Roon forum where someone did a test with friends of the BlueSound Node vs. a Lumin D2 with an external power source. The conclusion was that the Node's SQ was indistinguishable from the Lumin and thus a much better value. I had just read your review of the Pasithea and found one of your quotes quite relevant to the discussion. Here's what I posted (no need to respond):
"It's hard to dispute what @Gary_Foux and his friends heard. After all, they know what they heard! I owned a previous iteration of the BlueSound Node and currently own a Lumin T2. I can say that when I owned the Node, I quite appreciated it in a mid-level system. Once I moved up the food chain to a more highly resolved system though, I believe my Lumin performs better (T2 vs the tested D2). I think what's missing in this thread is recognition that "a single component of truly higher resolution can only show off its true advantage when the rest is fully transparent to it." That quote comes from Srajan Ebaen of 6moons in his recent review of the Dutch Pasithea DAC.
"A few other points: 1) the entire Lumin line offers Leedh Processing, a superior form of digital volume control, which Lumin provided via a firmware update. It's a terrific value IMHO and the fact that is was offered free is a real plus. 2) I think the BlueSound Node punches way above its weight and is a great option for many people." So... I quoted you. Michael Ian Fanning
For that you get a treat. Make sure to listen to the whole thing. Talk about vocal range and control. Srajan
I certainly knew of the -10dB menu-based option going in. Since no owner's manual was included, I didn't know of the alternate internal jumper adjustment. The first didn't make a difference relative to the autoformers working sonically even better into such steep attenuation. The jumper solution might sound different and further halves output impedance to 8Ω. I already stated that in 95% of all situations, Pasithea can replace a passive preamp and probably work even better (if its inputs are sufficient). Perhaps the second way of adding an extra 10dB of attenuation would change that assessment to 98%? Srajan
Hey Srajan, hope all's well. Belated best wishes for 2022. Just finished reading your review on Sonnet Pasithea. Thank you for the detailed evaluation. It all sounds very impressive and I am seriously considering adding this DAC to my very short list of new DAC candidates. TBH, I was expecting a Blue Moon award especially considering its price. Will you be evaluating it further, perhaps? Best, Mevlut Dinc
I already awarded the Morpheus stablemate. We're not handing out awards like donuts. Without having Morpheus on hand, I couldn't tell how much better Pasithea is to make such a decision. But I don't think that's important. What's important is to describe a component's performance. This I did to the best of my ability. The rest is up for potential buyers to decide. Srajan
I know how careful and selective you are with giving awards. I got the impression that it sounded better than T+ and accordingly assumed it deserved an award. It’s a great review. Mevlut
Hi Srajan, this is a long-shot question. I read your 2006 review of the Esoteric G25U. This Swiss knife-like device will, among other things, generate a 10MHz signal that can reclock my EtherRegen switch which has a cheaper but still effective clock. My question: would purchasing a more modern reclocking device give me better performance? My guess is that you have no earthly idea. I'd like to find out from anyone whether a reclocking device from 2006 is just as good as a more modern one. Not expecting much in the way of a positive answer but I thought I'd at least ask! All the best, Michael Fanning
No earthly idea about covers it, Michael. That said, I had to dig deep to hear the effects of the big Mutec clock; and the Denafrips version was outshone by what I already had. In short, to my ears and what's come across my desk, outboard master clocks have been one of the least significant categories of all. The proviso is, I use the Soundaware D300Ref as a reclocker for USB; and on my workdesk a little Audiobyte Hydra X1. Neither is billed as a masterclock, just a USB decrapifier / dejitter / reclock / noise isolator. What they do (and I wouldn't do USB without them) seems to do the business. It's why I haven't bought an external masterclock à la Mutec or Esoteric. And yes, a Terminator+ reclocking Soundaware's D300Ref makes a nice little difference but... other DACs like the Aaviks and Sonnet's Pasithea still run circles around that combo on resolution without external reclocking. So in a roundabout way that's my take on the subject and why I'm relatively 'yawn' on it. Srajan
Thanks for shining a light on outboard clocks. My guess is the atomic clock fairy dust may indeed bring some sonic benefits but how much and at what cost are the key questions. My ducats would probably be better spent on room adjustments now that I've optimized my electronics and transducer. Appreciate the wise words and observations! Michael
Hi Srajan, just read Russell's letter to you, followed up on his links, then read your teaser. Nice to see how responsive you were to his suggestion. About this planned review, if the maker has no available samples, couldn't you just buy a pair? Surely €690 isn't prohibitive considering what most your stuff costs? Just a thought. Emil
A few months ago I did buy the smsl SD-9 for my upstairs headfi system. I was very happy with the purchase so wrote up a quick article on it. But remember that I do this for a living. I review to put bread on the table, not take it off. I already own a desktop system which I'm perfectly happy with. To buy these active mini speakers only to review them wouldn't just work for free. I'd actually pay to work. I'm not a trust-fund baby or bankrolled by Patreon with the specific remit to purchase review items then pass them on to my subscribers who collectively paid for them. So it's not a reasonable concept for any working wo/man to pay to work. But I have a thought. Why don't you buy a pair and tell us all what you think in a proper review? Srajan
Hello, and Happy New Year Srajan. I stumbled upon this interesting design in speakers just a couple of days ago and was intrigued. I thought you would be too, if you were not already aware. It's the Super Cubes 5, an active nearfield monitor with apparently outstanding clarity and imaging capabilities due to careful DSP application using FIR filters to correct frequency response and phase linearity and resonances (ringing and 'settling time') in the single driver. This last aspect really caught my attention as I think settling time is one of the big ignored performance factors in transducer design, both microphone and speaker. These cubes are compared to Stax headphones by some for their clarity which I think may be connected with their rapid settling time. They have a flaw which would restrict their practical use to obsessive recording professionals and similarly obsessive home listeners and probably desktop only at that - which is their extremely narrow listening window. You have to be very close to on-axis to hear the intended tonality so they are not suitable for those wanting a broad sweet spot.
They manufacture in Russia for the international and non-EU market and Slovakia for the EU market. They seem eager to promote and are apparently liberal with their demo unit policy. A couple of the posters in this thread have serious credibility with me: Jantex and b0se. b0se is located in the UK and compares these with Kiis which he owns. I have been communicating with Jantex (Tine Janzek) for thirteen years and he has been in a position to hear most of the top contenders in monitor speakers due to his studio activity and his connection within the industry. A good friend of his is the exclusive importer of Sennheiser/Neumann for Slovenia. Andrew Startsev is the designer and he makes his first specific reply to questions in post #120, page 4 of this thread. I hope this is news to you. Stay well, Russell DawkinsNews to me indeed, Russell. Thanks a lot. Definite food for thought. Srajan
Srajan, just now I watched part 3 of an interview between John DeVore and Michael Lavorgna where they talk about how Michael started his reviewing career. I didn't realize that he began at 6moons. Very interesting. It must be nice for you to see former contributors go on to do well for themselves. Were there others? I've not paid attention to this so I hope you don't mind me asking. Francis North
I don't. The global reviewing community isn't big. It's only natural that many personalities show up in numerous places over the years. After all, not everyone skilled and passionate about writing on hifi can launch his own enterprise or even wants to do it full-time. Just so, Kari Nevalainen briefly wrote for us before starting Inner, Jeff Day wrote for us then launched his own blog Jeff's Place which is now hosted by PFO, Jöel Chevassus wrote for us and occasionally still does then launched his own online review magazine in French and Michael again leads Twittering Machines. Ken Micallef went on to write for Stereophile, Chip Stern came from there briefly to us then moved on to Positive Feedback, Stephæn came to us from TAS, Edgar Kramer wrote for us now helms SoundStage! Australia. I'm pleased that for some of these writers, we were a useful waystation in their career. We even inspired others to launch their own websites right off like Jörg Dames and Ralph Werner did with fairaudio.de and Dawid Grzyb and Marek Dyba with HifiKnights. We even published some John Darko while he grew his original Aussie blog to now darko.audio. I believe in and enjoy networking. It's about sharing our communal enjoyment of a simple hobby in its many different forms. Srajan
Srajan, most excellent feature on room gain! It really nailed it and illustrated what an uphill battle you have on your hands to get people to even consider another route. On a side note, doesn't Diego's room seems unusually small for the job and having room modes up to 300Hz rather counter-productive? Keep up the good works. Raul
I'm not battling anything, Raul. I just run a written broadcast. Whatever people do with the information that I publish is entirely up to them. But of course I agree that the room-gain subject—and general ignorance on its severity because we've never heard our systems without it—explains the rarity of Ripol/dipole subwoofers. It's their makers who are embroiled in an uphill battle to promote and sell the concept. As to Diego's room dimensions, we all work with what we have. He has subwoofers, intelligent bass management, EQ, passive room treatments and measurement knowledge on his side. The real trick is not having the perfect room. It's knowing how to make what we have work for us. I'm sure he has just that. Srajan
Good morning Srajan, I just finished reading your review of the Lumin P, including analysis of Leedh processing vs. external preamp. Your findings mirror my findings: Leedh processing is superb and obviates the need for a separate box. I run my Lumin T2 directly to my Kinki EX-M7 and use Leedh processing as the digital volume control. Couldn't be happier. Unless of course I had the P1's extra sauce of gemto clock, dual toroidal linear power supply, fibre network isolation, Lundahl output transformers etc. Oh well, aspirations are always welcome! Cheers, Michael Fanning
Hi Srajan & Michael. I wish you both a happy and healthy 2022! I had to wait until this evening to understand why I should have smiled today. It's indeed very difficult to better Leedh Processing and adjust volume in the digital domain. I recently found the Meitner MA3 DSD technique to be quite close but still a bit below Leedh. In terms of analogue, I so far have heard just one serious competitor to the Coincident Statement Line Stage. I still use that too depending on the playback chain. But frankly speaking, Leedh Processing is more reliable than any direct-heated triodes and also a bit closer to the recorded reality. One very good streamer DAC using Leedh Processing is the Vermeer Three. It works very well over all inputs, USB, LAN or S/PDIF. Joël Chevassus
Joël, I must thank you again for pointing me to the Leedh processing throughout the Lumin lineup. Your review convinced me to sell my Devialet Expert 220 Pro and purchase a Lumin T2. Almost simultaneously, Srajan's review of the Kinki EX-M7 and your subsequent review of the unit convinced me that the perfect amplification for the Lumin would be this kit. I tethered the Lumin to the Kinki via a set of Grimm SQM balanced connections, again another find from the 6moons archives. The icing on the cake are the magnificent Vivid B1 Decade speakers from an innovative manufacturer that you have long touted. So, I'm experiencing audio bliss without the need for any upgrades. As to the future, I might consider a Lumin X1 to maintain Leedh processing or perhaps the Grimm MU2, which will not only house a Roon core as does the MU1 but also feature a DAC. I have a hunch that the team at Grimm will make this a special unit. Michael
If you consider an upgrade of the streaming DAC with the benefit of lossless digital volume, you should seriously consider the Vermeer Three. Grimm are used to working with conservative dithering techniques and do not believe in Leedh Processing. Their upcoming MU2 could nevertheless be a very good device and great Roon server. But during my time with their MU1 connected to my Tambaqui DAC through a very expensive Elation AES/EBU cable, my best listening results were still with my Coincident Speaker Technology preamp in the loop. So definitely the Vermeer 3 represents a very interesting contender that should not cost more than the future Grimm MU2. The added value of the Grimm is to act as server with internal storage. The fact of having everything inside with a short signal path helps a lot. That's in fact the best Roon integration I have heard so far. And perhaps it could compensate for the lossy volume controller? Joël
Hello Srajan, I just got around to reading your John Darko interview where you asked him some interesting questions about the different aspects a review can cover and which to him are most important. I'm curious how you rate this yourself. You mentioned entertainment, education, a test score, promoting the audiophile lifestyle, sales tool, networking and possibly more. In what sequence do you rate those qualities for how you approach the task? Thank you, Tom
That's a nice question, Tom. For me, entertainment and education come first. Education—concrete information—is the nutritional value. Entertainment is the sweet container which makes the pill go down easier. I then view promoting the audiophile lifestyle and networking as the space in which education and entertainment arise. Talking endlessly about anything automatically promotes it. The question is merely whether it looks attractive or becomes something to avoid. I obviously think that listening to a fine hifi enhances our lives. Now I want my presentations to be inviting not off-putting. Hence the happy color scheme and insistence on well-served interiors with plenty of in-situ photos. Readers will have their own décor sense but at least they can see that doing 'serious' hifi needn't mean a sterile man cave with egg cartons on the wall. Networking in my sense of it is nothing more than connecting people, here those on the manufacturing side with those on the consumer side; and vice versa. Now it helps if the narrative isn't solely on the hardware but captures something about the people behind it as well. For my tastes and skill level, those are the four areas I try to cover. Test score and sales tool don't factor, at least not deliberately. If readers or manufacturers find those functions touched upon as well, that would be extra. Personally I find test scores boring as hell. Srajan
Dear Srajan, first off, happy new year to you and Ivette. I hope the two of you will continue to be healthy, happy and prosperous. Now onto my question. I'm itching to upgrade my system and was curious what component (not speaker) might currently have you most excited to warrant closer inspection. I understand that you can't make blanket recommendations and I'm not asking for one. I'm just curious what, through the filter of your experience and industry connections, looks of particular interest right now. Thanks for your reply, Filipe
I assume you want something I've not yet mentioned so here goes: Alberto Guerra's new AGD Productions Tempo. It uses the same GaNFet tech as his tubed amps but packages the entire circuitry inside a compact case. At 100/200wpc into 8/4Ω or twice that bridged, it's got real power. Having reviewed his two mono versions, I'm certain that his first stereo amp will fly just as high but get us there on a smaller budget. Considering that I find his to be the most exciting development in class D, the Tempo amp is the one that has me most excited. For whatever that might be worth to you. That I'm still not quite sure about. Srajan
Hello Srajan, it probably is not too late to wish you a happy new year! Hope you are well and healthy. Just listened to the latest Darko podcast. What a nice surprise! Thanks for discussing that topic and for mentioning ModalAkustik! Best regards, Michael Wydra
Srajan, lovely review on the Lumin. I'd already read the one on HighFidelity.pl which treated it as a network file player so seeing you use it as a DAC/pre instead added another side to it. Now we learned of the "enforced network connection" which even your Lumin contact admits shouldn't exist in how you used it. Kudos to you for pointing it out and to him for admitting and going about fixing it. As you wrote, it's not always that manufacturers agree with criticisms then offer to address them. It's nice to know Lumin are open to feedback and I particularly like the whole firmware angle by which such updates can be installed with a download. Once this feature is written to code, would you consider owning a P1 for personal use? Emil
My issue with that is simple. Upstairs I play files off SD cards exclusively. Downstairs the iMac handles the same job already plus fills in very occasional Qobuz streaming. I don't need fully stacked network functionality in a separate machine which then relies on a WiFi tablet remote whose display size pales by comparison. Why pay for functionality I'll never use? If this machine were just a legacy DAC/pre, it'd fit my needs far better. Now I'd consider it. Now its Leedh volume control could be a very attractive eliminator of a separate preamp. As is, Lumin's core focus is on advanced network audio and an ever-refining app. That leaves me out in the cold just as turntable manufacturers aren't in my bailiwick. That's no reflection on their excellence, just that my usage scenarios exclude them. Srajan
Srajan, I just read Dawid's interview with you. Very interesting stuff. I also remember yours with Flemming Rasmussen. So my question to you is, in how the creative process works for you, do you know what you're about to write before you write it; or only see it after it's done? Flemming distinguished between his industrial design work where he always sees the complete thing before he ever sketches it; and his paintings where he only discovers the subject matter in the process of doing it. How is it for you? With my best wishes, Filip Bjorklund
I don't do automatic writing which would be the equivalent to Flemming's painting process I expect. I never see the thing before it manifests on the virtual page either. I have a generalized feel for what the tenor of the piece will be if it's an editorial; and obviously very concrete impressions if it's a review. Now the process is co-creative in that the tenor or impressions lead it, my experience and skills fill in the outlines as the writing moves forward. The exact result is always a surprise and often makes unexpected turns but I also recognize 'my' voice and personality in it as well. So the emphasis does seem to be on the word co-creative in which two influences combine. Whilst still vague, that's the truest explanation I can give. Good question, Filip. Thank you. Srajan
Hi Srajan, hope you had a good Christmas and New Year's. We are in the middle of the Omicron wave here in Australia which put a damper on things. Am eagerly waiting to read your verdict on the preamp stage of the iFi Pro iDSD. Like Jacob am wondering if I can replace a DAC + active preamp with a single box. In the meantime, do you know what room treatment tiles your friend uses? I've attached a photo from your website for reference. Thanks in advance, David Masilamoni
The iFi has not yet returned so that jury still remains out. As to the sculpted wooden tiles, I only know that they're Greek in origin but have no brand name or website, sorry. My friend has been incommunicado for a bit so I can't ask, either. He's probably on vacation away from his desk. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I wanted to add myself to Dawid's voice. I too have seen the type YouTube review you wrote of in your recent piece to wonder how these guys even get their hands on such product. Don't manufacturers practice more vigilance to vet prospective review requests? Do they operate on good faith? And more to the point, do you foresee real longevity for this approach to 'reviewing'? Keep up the good work on the other front, my friend. Frankie
I wouldn't know a thing about how YouTube channels procure review product. I deal mostly direct with manufacturers. I guess other avenues would be a local dealer, friend or audiophile society member; or to buy something through a mail-order outfit that offers a trial privilege. In some of these scenarios, the manufacturer wouldn't know about any planned review because they didn't organize it. Whether that actually takes place I don't know. I'm only speculating on the different ways in which people intent on maligning a brand could go about obtaining short-term product. As to longevity for this approach, it's anyone's guess. Given global trends in other sectors, I don't see it end anytime soon. Srajan
Srajan, I just went through today’s piece about cows. Moo indeed. The gunslinger/vigilante angle on YouTube is gaining traction and sadly their viewers soak up fabricated controversy like sponges. Not many will see that it's the exact opposite of 'unbiased' content. Did you have any specific channel in mind or was this a more general observation? Dawid
I had particular channels in mind but won't give them more public attention by naming them. You're far better off not knowing them though it seems you've seen your fair share of moo already. If what's seen as acceptable comes down from the very top, it's easy to see where a lot of it originates. Discredit the mainstream press. Rake muck. Throw up conspiracy theories. Create conflict. Fan the flames of negativity. Where have we seen all that before on a truly grand scale? Voilà. The audience for it is enormous. That's the times we live in. All we can do is add stuff on the scale's other half to redress the balance. Srajan
Hello Srajan, iFi's Signature would have been off the radar if not for your preview, so thanks for the prompt. I'd briefly heard their previous Pro iDSD and was underwhelmed at the time - the customer who'd brought it along for comparison bought a Terminator. I've found a significant improvement to be gained bypassing the Signature's internal USB. An I²S input is the only omission. I'd rather have that over tubes. I'd been floored by the combination of Antipodes S20 reclocker (bought for USB to I²S adaption to Rockna's Wavedream). Fed by JRiver from files on an iMac I heard no need for addition of an expensive server. Streaming and network audio sounds to me a pale approximation and I'm a committed to vinyl anyway. Adding iFi's excellent iPower Elite 12v supply improves the S20. The gain in low- level resolution, impact and decay I'm experiencing on Raal headphones kicks emotional engagement to another level. iPower'd S20 & S/PDIF into the Signature, I struggle to find flaws. Regards, Peter Hardie, Reference Audio
I always bypass USB DAC-direct to instead route through my reclocked Soundaware USB bridges. That means I enter a DAC either I²S or AES/EBU. Once the Signature returns with its WiFi chip removed, it'll probably displace the downstairs Terminator Plus to move that upstairs instead. At a later point I might buy a second unit for upstairs. Like you, I'm not into network audio or streaming off the cloud. I also despise the insidious data mining that happens with anything we do online. When I listen to music, I don't need Big Brother watching. Srajan
Interesting review here which Antipodes should feature on their website to show the I²S dip switches for easy compatibility. Peter
Hello Srajan, as the year ends, I wanted to thank you for the many discoveries you brought up in 2021, most important of all the sub saga which has opened a new chapter in my hifi life. I am in heaven with my icOn4SE/AMP23R driving Nenuphar 10-inch v2 monitors + Sub 12 with a 50Hz crossover. Next stop will be Martin’s Ripol sub as soon as he puts his final touches to it following your review. Enjoy the holiday break and best wishes for a 2022 healthy & rich in experiences! Vincenzo
Dear Srajan, in your Cube Audio v2 review, I saw a collection of speakers you keep on hand including your white Audio Physic Codex. I was curious why you have moved on to the Aurai speakers instead. You seemed to really enjoy the Codex. What are the Lieutenant doing better that has you prefer them? Also, will you update your Codex with the new drivers and crossover? Mat
I enjoy all the speakers I keep around or I would have sold them already. Just owning stuff to take up space isn't my thing. Having committed to the stereo 2.1 approach a while back—hi-passed mains + lo-passed sub—I no longer need speakers to do ultimate bass extension. Now other considerations gain further in weight. There the Aurai add tone weight or a richer tonality to the picture which I really enjoy at the moment. One day I'll put the Codex back in for a change of pace and then those might take up pride of place again. That's been my strategy all along. Rather than invest in a single super-expensive speaker (or any other kit for that matter), I prefer to keep around multiple options for less money. It gives me more mix'n'match opportunities for reviews; and minimizes changes of getting bored with a certain sound no matter how good it might be within its 'class' or 'flavor' or 'type'. I have enough options to change things up, keep them interesting and myself on my toes. At present, I have no plans to spend money on updating my Codex pair. Srajan
Srajan, I followed one of your embedded links of the recent Swiss sub review to PSI Audio's active bass traps. Wow, that's super interesting product. Any plans to review those? It looks like a potential game changer for people with bass issues (that would be most of us?) who won't tolerate massive passive bass traps (also most of us?). I'd love to hear how well they actually work and how many one needs. They're quite expensive after all. All the best, Raymond Jenkins
I've contacted them but not heard back. Sometimes that's how it goes. There may be no interest; or an email may never have reached the party in charge of such inquiries. Impossible to tell the difference when there's no response. The concept for an 'anti' subwoofer with microphone isn't new. Bag End have their own but this implementation might be the most dialed yet. It helps of course when the Swiss government throws some R&D funds behind a project. Srajan
Good morning Srajan, I have read your review about the Adamante, may I ask you a couple of question, please? I am Italian, speak normal English but miss some technical hifi words so I didn't understand perfectly all you wrote unfortunately. A friend of mine suggested to me a used pair of Adamante to couple with my Swiss Physics preamp and amp 5+6A, which I really love. (Former Italian Swiss Physics importer used them with Goldmund Apologue loudspeakers). Actually I use a pair of Graham 5/9 which I really like for their refined, detailed, smooth sound but I miss, due to their small size, some physical impact and presence that only bigger woofer (or speakers) can produce. Do you know Graham speakers? I was interested in Graham LS5/5 which is the BBC flagship and has a retail price similar to a new Adamante. The sound that I like is the sound of the Swiss Physics, which is fast, neutral, natural, controlled, very detailed, with a carved soundstage and also monitor like because each recording should sound different from the others and not all the same. Do you think the Adamante would match these characteristics well? Also, do they need a large room? Are they problematic in the bass section? I have a living room of 27sqm but it's quite open so ideally would be bigger but I never tried here in the new house larger speakers than Graham 5/9. Thank you very much if you can reply. David Lever
I've never heard Graham speakers nor the Swiss Physics electronics so am really not in any position to comment, sorry. When I reviewed the Apertura six years ago, my room was 95m² so far bigger than yours. Even there I have no useful data points. Srajan
Dear Srajan, I just read through your current Lumin article and came to the second page. Very funny. You and I must still live in the 20th century. So no matter what non-web sources one plays through this machine, a network connection to the router is a must? I see why that was unexpected. It would have been to me too. I liked what their man had to say about it though. If there is no functional demand for the forced network connection, just a built-in barrier they can easily remove, that would solve our issue. It reminds me of how tightly Apple control their infrastructure to enforce very particular customer behavior and guarantee the full user experience they want us to have. Perhaps Lumin's current app is so slick that they don't want us to go without and have a lesser experience? Just a thought to lighten the load on the devils. KaruneshYou might have hit that nail on the head. Controlling the user experience could be exactly what this is all about. Angels just have no business cavorting down here. Srajan
Hello Srajan: Have you read this? In this thread, 213Cobra aka Phil gives some very concise feedback on Soul 6 vs. Druid 6. He also says that "some shoppers and reviewers have trouble understanding Zu speakers in general and Soul 6 in particular". He takes Steve Guttenberg to task for trying a canted setup by claiming that it screws up the Griewe loading. Meanwhile in your interview, Sean very clearly states that there's no issue doing that. Steve had issues getting bass, Phil claims bass down to 32Hz, you write that you got into the 40s but enjoyed an add-on sub. Meanwhile Phil claims that listeners with subs got rid of theirs after trying Soul 6. The amount of divergent findings on these speakers appears quite broad again. That seems typical of Zu. The brand attracts unusual polarization. Anyways, I just wanted to write in to say that I really enjoyed your review. It gave me a good sense for what the speaker does well and what not so well. Adam
I just read the post you linked to. Phil is one of Zu's big online ambassadors. He has, I believe, owned pretty much all of their models over the years and always has a good arsenal on hand. So he is very knowledgeable with lots of actual first-hand experience. And of course devotees of any brand tend to get protective when they perceive that it is misunderstood or poorly or erroneously covered by the press. Perception is reality and we all create our own. Phil might well take issue with my suggestion that the driver sits too low and that bringing its axis up to ear level makes a nice improvement. Meanwhile Sean is perfectly happy to accommodate requests for riser plinths. That said, I'm happy that you enjoyed my descriptions. Thanks for writing in. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I just read you review of the new v2 Nenuphar drivers. Your description of the difference between the original and v2 is very clear. However, in his description of the sonic difference, Grzegorz says that the bass gets deeper. Did you find this to be the case? And if it gets deeper, does it also get tighter? You wisely remain neutral as to whether people who already have Cube Nenuphar should consider going for the upgrade. But I would like to know if you personally have a preference. Which of the two options do feel sounds more natural? Hope all is great for you, Srajan. Stay well, Peter
If bass extension improved, I didn't really notice since the original already goes so low. Control didn't improve since across the lower bandwidth, it's the cabinet loading which dominates the driver. To improve that means to insert a high-pass filter and let a sub take over. That's how I run things anyways in now two systems and eventually three. It's why Cube have their own subs and smaller main speakers. It obviously doesn't make much sense to pay extra for a bigger speaker/driver for more bass reach, then cut that out and over to a sub. Now it makes more sense to start out with smaller more affordable mains. As I wrote, I expect that keen Nenuphar owners have carefully curated their system to make their speakers bed in ideally according to their ears. Any changes will upset that balance again. With my favored amp, I preferred v2. Srajan
Srajan, I quite enjoyed your Job 2022 review redux. As a society, we are far too inclined to move to the next best thing, leaving behind on the slag heap some useful artifacts. In my salad days, I stumbled on a reel-to-reel recorder lovingly ensconced in a polished wood cabinet with integrated speakers. In order to correctly record a song, one had to carefully modulate a switching light source. It worked but was a bit of trial and error; nonetheless I really enjoyed the small sweat that produced sublime sound. Back to your current review, I well recall your original Job 225 review and almost snagged a unit. It was only years later, in your review of the Kinki EX-M7 when you mentioned the Job 225 and how the Chinese amp stacked up in your amplifier topology, that I finally pounced. So while I don't have the Job 225 I do have a semblance of its sound! Cheers, Michael Fanning
You do indeed so you don't need a new job. But if just one reader follows my reco, they'll have snagged a forgotten champ for probably $700. And that would be worth celebrating so make the article worthwhile. Srajan
Srajan, you might know that Steve Guttenberg's videos often end with a short "so Steve, what did you really think?" segment. I believe he pokes fun at typical viewer assumptions that with reviewers, one must always read between the lines because they never come out and just say it straight. But I just read your Noble & Noble review and feel perfectly clear on what you thought. Whether I would agree or not is not the point. Reviewers can only report on their own experience, not anyone else's. What I appreciated was simply your clarity which didn't leave me wonder what you really thought. So I wanted to send you a quick thank you for a job well done. Craig
Thanks, Craig. Responsible reviewing is about honesty and phrasing personal likes/dislikes such that they don't dominate, just add some perspective. The reviewer's job isn't really about what we like or not. It's about describing a given sound as accurately as we can whilst making it plain that said sound was conditioned by our ancillaries, usage and room. Nobody can eliminate personal bias. It's the neural filter of our perception. So it's useful if a reviewer can state his/her bias. Now the readers have some data points to extrapolate how the published findings might relate to them. If my readers walk away with a good sense of what I heard and what my biases are, they can relate the lot to their own needs and preferences. I'm happy you found my review clear. That's what I do aim for. Srajan
Greetings. It's been a while. I don't get on 6moons quite as often as I should but I do whenever I get some time and want to know what the audio world is hatching up. And it looks like you have moved home? And I saw your review of the ifi iDSD Pro. I have been waiting for a long long time for you to do this review! Yes I did read Dawid's review but I still wanted to know what you thought and how it compared with the big boys. I've had my eye on this unit for a long time as it's the unit I have always wanted to use as the 1-box front end with the Aarka. I plan to do shows with just the Pro and the Aarka as it can stream Tidal and work as a preamp. Super simple system providing audiophile-quality music. I await your further evaluations especially of the preamp stage and the valve option. Our new speaker line is finally in production and I had promised Dawid a pair of Aarka for review. It's been delayed by a lot. It should go out in the next week or 2. The new Aarkas are - good. Very different from the one you reviewed. All the best to both of you, Jacob George, Rethm
We did move house within Ireland. The Pro iDSD Signature is their latest version and not exactly what Dawid reviewed but still improved. My unit has already been returned. If they can defeat the WiFi, it’ll come back. Otherwise not. The tube option I already tried. It’s a bit too fat and bloomy for my taste but the resampling to 1’024DSD is brilliant; and for pure PCM, so is the GTO filter. I don't see how you wouldn't be very pleased with it though I didn't yet try amp-direct mode. And Dawid will enjoy his Aarka assignment I’m sure. I'll look out for it to learn more. Srajan
Srajan, very interesting and unusual review on the iFi statement DAC. I've never heard you say before that you wanted to buy three of the same. This piece must really be special. I sure hope you can end up with at least one. I can't say that I have the same allergy to WiFi you do but it must suck to find something that hits all your triggers only to find out that your brain turns to mush. Anyway, thanks for a fun read and pointing us at such an exciting new find. Fred
Indeed. I've never had the urge to go in three deep. This time I really and truly did. What can I say? It's like getting two or three of the same shirt you love just to extend its life span. Actually, it's not quite the same. It's about having all three units embedded in three different systems at the same time so I wouldn't have to swap one out. And yes, it was very disappointing to realize that WiFi came on automatically and couldn't be defeated. Let's hope that they find a way to kill it. If not, I'll be back at my hifi safari hunting for big-game performance at a less extreme budget. As of right now, I wouldn't know where to look next yet. The forthcoming Sonnet Pasithea would cost twice as much. The iFi loaner is already enroute back to the UK so we'll see what their service tech can do for people like me with WiFi allergy. Srajan
Srajan, nice new series of interviews you've conducted. I just read the latest with Dawid Grzyb. That touched upon some very interesting points. One question though. Does your man know how to smile and uncross his arms? Two photos, two with arms locked across his chest and a foreboding stare. What gives? Gary
Dawid's wife took those pix this morning before I published. It's how he wanted to present himself. I'm offering a platform. I don't tell people what to say, wear or what posture to assume. Does it matter? Srajan
Hey Srajan, I just came from John Darko's site and this article he wrote about his 70hr work weeks. I had no idea. Is this perhaps why you've not transitioned to doing videos yourself? Is writing reviews as labor intensive as he described? After nearly 20 years, perhaps you've found a way to get the job done more efficiently? Just curious on a cold November morning. Chad
I don't do video for a number of reasons. The labor intensity described in this article is certainly a very good one. I strongly believe that I can provide far more hard information in a written review which takes you 20 minutes to read than I could in a video review of the same length that wasn't boringly tele-prompted. Also, I love writing. Going video would dilute that. Finally, these days it doesn't take me a week to produce the equivalent of a 20-minute video in written format. That improves my quality of life. Let's face it, work alone isn't the whole picture. John is doing a bang-up job with his videos but from the sound of it, it's also taking a toll. I want to do this gig for another 20 years if that's how the chips fall. For that it's important to cultivate efficiency so that one's publishing pace remains sustainable. A burn-out wouldn't do. As you suggested, after 20 years on the beat, I've learnt a thing or two about that. It's the marathon not 100-meter view. Also, I may not have a telegenic delivery or appealing accent. I've seen a few people attempt video reviews other than John Darko. None were compelling to convince me that I don't much prefer reading them instead. The amount of personality that transacts in video is different. While you may have something very worthwhile to say indeed, people could much prefer to read it than watch you say it. Different skill sets and talents. I'm still honing my writing. On that there's plenty of work left to be done. Srajan
Hi again, I just wanted to say that I love the review you've done so far. Finally had time with a cuppa to read it properly! Your descriptions are just fab and bring life to what could be quite dry. Thanks for taking the time to give it a go even while it was driving your head barmy. I really appreciate it. And I'm glad that we've converted you to DSD! No mean feat. I'll get back to you soon with a shipping label. Thanks, Vic [iFi Audio]
Hi Vinnie, the new Brama line looks fantastic! I contacted Srajan at 6moons and asked whether he would be reviewing any of the products and he said "not yet" with a smiley face. Any plans to have him review one of the products? All best, Michael Fanning
Thank you, Michael! I won't be in production until late 2021/early 2022 and we are so bombarded with pre-orders from our dealers and distributors that I think we're already all sold out of the first production run. For the second run I need to set aside review units and we're bombarded with so many review requests as well. So I'm not sure yet but I'll see what I can do. Wait until people actually get to listen and experience Brama - they are going to love it a whole lot more! Assuming the shows aren't cancelled, I'll be exhibiting next at AXPONA and Munich 2022. Hope to see you there. It's been too long! Thanks again, Vinnie
Hello Srajan, I've attached an email from Vinnie Rossi about his new Brama line. Guess it'll be a long time before he makes one available for you! Cheers, Michael Fanning
That’s what I figured. This is expensive and exclusive product so first there have to be sales. Plus, this would be a US/EU deal with massive VAT on €30K product so a dealer/importer would have to make available a loaner from their own inventory. That’s no fun for any importer. That’s why I wrote my industry feature on the first day of the news release. It’ll probably be all I can do on the subject. Srajan
Srajan, ah, you're now educating me on the world of audio reviewing and economics. I always thought a manufacturer would want reviews before launching a product. I guess the deep-pocketed manufacturers might be able to do this but someone who is capital constrained couldn't afford to do so. Also, I never thought about the VAT issue. Oh well, I may just go to the Axpona show next April outside of Chicago to catch up with Vinnie and see the audio jewelry in situ! All best, Michael
23% VAT in Ireland. Based on published retail price, that’s €6’500 or more. Even invoiced at dealer cost it’ll still be half that. Somebody has to carry that. Also, if you’ve got massive pre-orders without a single review, why bother with reviews? Now it makes more sense to organize reviews for a second wind when the first wave of sales has exhausted itself. Srajan
Hi Srajan, hope all good at your end. I recently purchased the Thoress EHT Integrated. It's a stunning amp, easily the best I have owned. I like it better than the Berning class A amp I owned. Your highly positive review of the EHT monos inspired me to look up the brand. Thanks. Best, Prem
Srajan, quick question. In your 'coming next' queue I see a Kalista DreamPlay X announcement but nothing about it on the French home page. Do you mind revealing what it is, please? TrevorIt's their upcoming replacement for the DreamPlay DAC but at the moment, I don't have further details. We'll be doing the first review so in due time, all will be revealed. Srajan
Srajan, enjoyed very much your sonic descriptions in your review of the Händel. I would love to hear those amps but would be happy to never get the chance as I would want them. It captures my personal preferences on point and explains why my EXB7 moved on rather quickly. The timing is ironic however as I have been literally entranced for about two weeks now living with a gem of an amp from Michael Edinger at Musiklab in Denmark.
His amp the D220 is the evolution of his original design for GamuT using two high-power Mosfets per channel. Apparently despite looking similar to the last iteration of the GamuT 200i top off, not much is the same on the input and PS side.
Your description of the LinnenberG Händel monos mirror the shift the Musiklab produced from 100Hz down in my system to a T. A veil lifted in that region with greater microdynamic interplay and more impact but not of the drummed-up variety that bleeds into the midrange. True low-frequency resolution and authority at all volumes has reset my landscape. Most unexpected however has been a corresponding midrange and treble as open, effusive, fleshed out and unrestrained as I have ever heard from SS, all staying coherent with a nimble and powerful new bottom-up authority. It speaks with a singular voice, carrying all the way up the register.
Best I could conjure from an amp we both know would be to imagine an XA25 but more nimble and foundational plus with the sense that all the NFB Nelson had to throw on it to behave has been removed and the midrange and treble are now free to express. Then add considerably more headroom. That's the Musiklab D220. A must hear if you ever get a chance and I am guessing it would be a dream on your new beauties from Alain.
I believe the D220 is the most complete amp I have yet owned that fits my preferences. It is the 8th either single or dual output transistor amp I've owned and the best of the lot by a wide margin (3 x Pass, 3 x Valvet, 1 x Vinnie Rossi). The story of Michael Edinger persisting with this circuit for 25 years in obscurity with no credit for his original design with GamuT only adds to the appeal. Best, Paul Petelin
So, saved by the bell? I enjoyed your recent amp review for LinnenberG. I'd not heard of any powerful class A amp with a switch-mode power supply before. From your descriptions, there was nothing about the sound to suggest any disadvantage so do you think we'll see more of this combination from other manufacturers? Thanks. Rick Rafferty
I know of one or two more coming soon but it's not my place yet to tell who by. So for sure we will be seeing more powerful class A amps which are powered by switching supplies. My Crayon class AB amp uses one and so did the recent Nagra Classic INT. There's definitely a big future for SMPS custom-tailored to high-end audio applications well outside just class D. Srajan
Dear Srajan, I really enjoyed the YouTube music video you embedded in your recent Bel Canto review. I'd never heard that instrument before. Where can I find more? Thank you, Elias
Ay Isigi by Arif Abdullazade published under Arif Azertürk is an entire album dedicated to tar music. You can listen to it on Qobuz. Srajan
Dear Srajan, I've been enjoying the hunting of the subwoofer(s) saga - it really does have a sense of the whodunnit as Pál Nagy observed some time back, with story arcs and all. I dug further following your initial set of candidates but found nothing more attractive (or accessible) than your shortlist—perhaps there was a reason for that!—and for much the same reasons as you went with the Dynaudio. The KEF was interesting but out of stock. The SWS was cute but an enquiry to their very responsive team revealed 5.5msec delay yet pass-through is immediate with zero delay, making physical and temporal integration difficult unless one delays the mains in the digital domain e.g. with Dirac or equivalent ahead of the sub as far as I could see. I wrote to Gordon Brockhouse after his Soundstage Simplifi review wondering how he'd handled the temporal integration but it did not seem to be an issue. Lacking the means for any external crossover, I pass the signal through the Dynaudio, use their distance delay configuration with the fixed 80Hz crossover and think I hear all the benefits (perhaps there are some losses but the gains outweigh them even on my modest system) that you have described. Fwiw the signal path is Allo Digione (via AES) ⇒ Mytek 192⇒ 18S ⇒ Dared DV-6C (thanks to David Kan) ⇒ B+W DM603S2. I'd like to replace the Dared and the B+W with something smaller (but one thing at a time) with something from the fast, lit-up school of presentation. An obvious choice would be a Job 225 but they are pretty rare as is the supposedly similar-ish Nuforce STA20, while used Meraks are currently out of reach as is the Kinki EX-M7. Perhaps a Goldnote PA-10? Did I miss any other candidates from the last decade or so of 6moons? If not I'll just keep an eye out for the ones mentioned and hope to get lucky. Thanks too for the latest developments on crossovers and subs. Julian Padget
Good man, Julian. Now you've eased your size/power/price burdens on both the amp and speaker fronts. As you narrow down candidates to replace what you have, you won't throw away bandwidth in a paid-for big speaker. In the fast lit-up amp camp, don't overlook class D though I'd pass on the Auralic Merak monos. Things there have rather advanced. My perhaps best choice in that sector would be a Digital Amplifier Maraschino. Don't let the small size fool you. Tommy O'Brien seems to regularly have B-stock or trade-in or other specials on hand so it might be worthwhile contacting him to see what's available. That would definitely fit your bill and could rather overhaul your take on the B+W speakers. PM (post Maraschino), perhaps those could stay in the game? Srajan
Thanks for the quick answer. Cherryamp is a good idea. I recall your review now and was quite seduced by the ILM concept at the time but they'd drifted off the radar. I will look into them further. In the same vein there is the Orchard Audio GaN unit which got a couple of positive reviews on the audio beatnik. Time for more digging! Julian
Hello Mr Ebaen, I just read your Sonnet Morpheus review and typically when I'm after some gear, I dunno why, but it is always that I find something in your prose that makes me think twice about the gear I was aiming for. I just sold my Terminator. I'm considering upgrading to the T-II as some folks have shared that it is indeed a clear step over the regular Terminator. Although I read your Morpheus review and because my native language is Spanish, I could not fully get in my mind how Morpheus compares to the regular Terminator considering that I have the Denafrips Athena combined with the Kinki Ex-M7 if that matters. What would you recommend? Bottom line as always, your best suggestion will end up help me very much and would be much appreciated. Thank you! Miguel Angel Casellas Argáez
I won't recommend anything since I don't know your taste, Miguel. But I can tell you in the most basic terms that the original Terminator focused on an organic read over resolution while Morpheus does the exact opposite. If you want to make the sound more transparent, quick and energetic but also bleed out some fat and warmth, go Dutch. T-II does as well relative to the original Terminator but not to the same extent. It's still the same warmer fuller aesthetic just groomed for higher resolution within the Denafrips world view. If this was headfi and just to make the point another way, T-I would be a good planarmagnetic, Morpheus an electrostat or ribbon. And of course there's FoM coming down the pike. That's the Father of Morpheus, Sonnet's new flagship DAC. It's still in R&D so I don't know the release date or final price yet but I've already two previews up on it. SrajanPS: Twittering Machines' review of the Sonnet just published so might give you another triangulation op.
Dear Srajan, hats off for your review [Grimm Audio SB1 - Ed]. Apart from a very pleasant read, it is technically correct and very well describes the reasoning behind our design. Such a technical level is rare these days at least among hifi journalists and even designers. Should you be around anywhere close to Eindhoven, please let us know. We'd love to meet and show you our new facilities. All the best, Guido
Srajan, ever since I read your very positive review of the Vermouth speaker, I've waited for Edgar in Australia to publish his. You went live in March and your loaners forwarded directly to him. Now it's September. How long does it usually take your man Down Under to finish a review? Surely six months should suffice? I'm getting a bit impatient to be honest.... Charles
Charles, I haven't the faintest under what kind of backlog Edgar operates. If he's like me, items get handled in the order they arrive. The Vermouth monitors might have arrived facing a quite long queue. Edgar is no longer on my team but Doug Schneider's so you'd have to ask them for a progress report. It's also possible that something happened in transit to require fixing in Bali. There's far too many moving parts for me to give you an answer. When it comes to writers not on my team, it's always best to ask them directly. Srajan
Dear Srajan, I've followed your more recent subwoofer adventures with growing interest and just finished your Grimm Audio SB1 review. Pricing aside which you covered fairly, it really looks like a very interesting design. Will you have opportunity to try these with the Bel Canto DAC you've already previewed before they're due back? I'm curious to learn how they will do being crossed in even higher than 80Hz... Nate
Fair question. The Bel Canto should ship from the Dutch importer very soon if it hasn't already. I just informed Grimm that their review published so they can organize the return of their goods. If the call tag arrives after the Bel Canto, I might have a day or two to do your deed. We'll see. It's something I'm curious about myself so I'll be happy to do that check if the opportunity presents itself. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I know you're still recovering from the move but I'm really liking the arc of your current audio path. I suspect you'll see way more people incorporating a sub + crossover into their systems going forward. Right now I use the crossover in my JL E112 in a secondary rig and the JL CR1 in my primary rig. Would it be possible to get a more forward presentation with the Vox 3 with the proper amp pairing? My other option would be the Aurai M3. The size, bass and aesthetics of the 3s are quite attractive. Thanks, Joe
'More forward'... than what? I think that the driver choice, wood cabinet and overall tuning preset how much the Vox 3a can be pushed in a forward direction. Also consider the dispersion pattern. The woofers fire sideways, the ribbon up. These choices involve the room more than 'pure' forward radiators. I'm sure there's some room but I haven't tried beyond the fast/lucid amp examples of Bakoon and Crayon amps. So I don't know how far one might go but again, suspect limits given the inherent tuning. As to more people using properly integrated subwoofers... my harping on about the topic certainly hopes that a few will join us in this endeavor. If not, at least I tried. In my book, making the effort counts. What the results will be is up to many other factors outside our control. Srajan
Dear Srajan, congrats on your new digs. From the photos you've shared so far, they look lovely and the décor once again says 6moons without any comments necessary. I guess you and Ivette have the art of moving down to a science by now. Happy settling in to you both! Victor
It's been quite the undertaking but we're getting to the end of it. It helps to already have all the necessary ingredients which just require a bit of rearranging to suit a new location. And you're right, experience certainly cuts down on that process. The boxing up, unboxing and skip hire to remove the flattened-out boxes however doesn't get any shorter at all. That's when one imagines the undertaker around the corner. Srajan
Bonjour Srajan, Joël: D'abord, a grand welcome to Srajan and Ivette to Kilrush! I've now broken in the Kinki Studio EX-M7 and am quite impressed. The amp has blossomed since early July and is a terrific complement to the Lumin T2 with Leedh Processing. The pair are tethered via Grimm SQM XLRs, another 6moons find. The "enceintes" are Vivid B1 Decade speakers which I purchased after learning of Joël's multiple purchases from the Vivid stable and reading his impressions in 6moons. I find myself listening to more music than I did with the Devialet Expert 220 Pro. I guess the two biggest differences are the dynamics and the midrange liquidity. Both have improved substantially.
I would not have trod this path without the two of you leading the way. The purchase of the EX-M7 was originally prompted by Srajan's Blue Moon award review and Joël's subsequent review in Audiophile Magazine. The Lumin T2 purchase was driven mainly by Joël's review of the Lumin X1 with Leedh Processing. I figured the trickle down from the X1 to the T2 was good enough for me. I also found it intriguing that Joël found that the Leedh Processing even surpassed the digital volume control of the Tambaqui DAC, which seems to be a gold standard at its price point. Finally, I am still using a Franck Tchang ASI Liveline loom in my system. A review long ago in 6moons led me to visit Franck's atelier in Paris where I was enchanted for several hours as the wizard led me through his workshop and even played his guitar for me before I left with my purchase. Amitiés/Friendship, Michael Fanning
Excellent Michael. I've owned many amplifiers. I still have some of them and remain amazed by the performance of this inexpensive amp. Concerning the Lumin, the limitation could be the internal chipset but you can try using the T2 as a sole transport through its BNC output and see if it brings further benefits to an external D/À converter. In the meantime enjoy your music. The T2 has definitely many pros (DSD, digital Leedh Processing, MQA, all streaming networks enabled, excellent interface) to forget the few cons (if any at this price point). All the best and take care, Joël
The Kinki amp platform is why I upgraded my €8'500 LinnenberG Liszt to the $3'500 EX-B7 monos. Soon the matching integrated will drive a 2x15" subwoofer in the same main system. For this power and money and quite beyond, I don't know anything else I'd rather listen to. Bakoon/Enleum don't make anything yet at 250wpc. Srajan
Hello Srajan, hopefully you and Ivette are now settled in your new home in Shannon. Changing listening room is quite a roller coaster for any serious audiophile, providing equal doses of stress and excitement! If you have the time, can you share how your own ride is progressing in the new quarters? Best, Vincenzo Picone
That in fact will be the first two new articles in the queue. The upstairs room is done, dusted and brilliant. Just want to hang one more painting when we've unpacked all of them to see what works best. Downstairs I'm working on this weekend. Just got the final van delivery with the stack of big hifi boxes yesterday and by half hour ago had them all cleared out and the main system unpacked and provisionally set up. Now comes the dialing-in part. SrajanNice. Look forward to reading how you go about your dialing-in process! Vincenzo
Hi Srajan, I know you really liked the Gallo Strada 2 as a desktop system and that you used them full room on occasion. Did you ever try them on the Mapleshade platforms nearfield on the floor angled up as recommended by Mapleshade? If so, what did you think? I agree that it is an odd setup but I am trying to figure out whether the benefits make it worth pursuing. Do you still have the Stradas? Thanks and hope all is well, Garret Chambers
I did try the Pierre Sprey platforms and with them, floor reinforcement gave the Strada more bass. It ideally still wants a subwoofer for full-room performance and Gallo of course made one but if you can live with the oddness of the look, the rug-rat setup worked as advertised I thought. And no, my Stradas moved on years ago. SrajanThanks Srajan. I have the matching sub so I am not sure I would gain enough to make up for the aesthetic issues, not to mention the cost. Garret If you have the sub, no need for the cosmetically challenged band aid, I agree. Srajan
Srajan, good luck with the move to the Shannon estuary! My first trip abroad when I was a U.S.-born sapling was to both Galway and Kilmahil as these were the birthplaces of my grandfather and grandmother. Interestingly they never met in Ireland; they both moved to Washington D.C. and that's where they met and where my father was born and where I was born, too!
Kilmihil is in the middle of County Clare and just north of the Shannon River. I'll be curious regarding where you and Ivette land. I applied years ago for foreign birth registration in Ireland and when I received it I also applied and received my Irish passport. As I am over age 66, that entitles me to free transportation around Ireland in perpetuity! Cheers, Michael Fanning
We landed on Friday, now it's Monday and the last of the moving trucks will show up this Thursday. My upstairs sound room is fully set up and sounding mega, downstairs is still awaiting the final goods and then I gotta crack open a mountain of boxes again. But them's the price of moving. We're very close to the Shannon Ferry Terminal if you remember that. Srajan
Hi Srajan, hope you are very well. Finally got my hands on an Auralic Vega and have it paired with a Job 225 as you suggested,and with Boenicke bookshelf speakers. Love it!! At first blush sounds the combo sounds more beefy than the Job INT. Thanks for the wonderful recommendation! Mike Brown
My pleasure. Glad to hear our ears are still in sync. Srajan
Hi Srajan, hope all good at your end. I am considering buying the Thoress EHT Integrated. Have you by any chance heard it? I read your glowing review of the monoblocks and that piqued my interest to consider the integrated. Do the EHT monoblocks ape the SET sound without the SET pitfalls? Is the overall sound closer to a 300 or 45 or 2a3? Take care. Stay safe. Best, Premnath Rajagopalan
Haven't heard the integrated. Dawid Grzyb has. Definitely SET sound without the drawbacks. More than that I can't recall without going back to my own review of the monos, sorry. Srajan
You're correct that with the gear on hand which could actually take a clock input signal, only the Avatar responded with enough of a sonic advance. The clocks in the Soundaware units were probably on part with Terra's own so didn't benefit. By the time you get to the Terminator Plus, using its own clocks to control Gaia's does make a very fine difference. The same is true when the Soundaware D300Ref replaces Gaia. Terra seems made for the 'lesser' Denafrips DACs where I expect it would really come into its own like it did with Avatar. But as I also said in my intro, this really should be last or next to last on your list of hifi things to worry about. There are many other system junctures that yield a higher return on investment before one goes for the final polish with a masterclock. That said, once overall resolution is high enough, they can be rather worthwhile. Srajan
I've sent our man in Aachen a few inquiries about status but never heard back. Then I got busy with other assignments and just figured he'd check in when he's ready. So far he hasn't so perhaps it's time I remove the preview from the queue until things change? I'll do so right now. Thanks for the reminder, Frank! Srajan
Hi Srajan, great to see you're back with a Bel Canto review. It seems ages since you last covered them. Do you have any plans to also look into the Black EX and Black DACs after you're done with the e1X? It would be interesting to see how they scale up. Thorsten
It's true, since we left the US, I lost touch with John Stronczer and Michael McCormick though I did see both at the last Munich show I attended. I learnt about the e1X in a pending review announcement elsewhere and after perusing its specs, discovered the smart built-in bass management system. That really spoke to me given my current subwoofer experiments. I contacted the Dutch importer with a request for an EU loaner, he got authorization from Minneapolis, the factory will send him a review loaner and I'll be back in the Bel Canto saddle. But I've currently no plans to work my way up their processor models, sorry. Srajan
I received them this weekend but seeing how we're already breaking down our household for the move, I won't unpack them until we're in the new digs. We should be there middle of the month and then the SB1 review will be first out of the gate once the systems are back up and running. Sorry for the delay. Srajan
Hello Srajan, I saw the newsroom post about your next move this month. You guys really don't stay put in any one place for too long. What gives? You must enjoy packing and unpacking all of your belongings just for a change of scenery? In any case, good luck with the relocation. Looking forward to seeing the photos of your new digs. Bill
We do enjoy the result but not the process, believe me. I fondly recall my student days when all my belongings fit into a few suitcases. In this case, the London landlords want to come back to Ireland given Brexit so it was time to vacate their house before they arrive later in the year. For us it's an opportunity to settle in a different part of the country and explore a new area and part of the picturesque West coast. This time we'll be looking onto the Shannon estuary so instead of a tall mountain, it'll be water views again like we had them in Lecanvey, just not the Atlantic with its propensity for powerful storms but a milder river delta. We already started packing so what was a cozy home is already starting to feel like a construction site again. As I said, the process itself isn't fun at all. But what to do? Some people stay in one place all their lives. We're wired different it seems - eternal renters and apparently just a bit nomadic. Plus when you've got an Internet business, there's no compelling reason to just move down the block when the time comes. Just scout out another beautiful location and move there as long as the Internet is fast enough to do the job. Srajan
Srajan: I like how you've separated background stories and reviews of late with those 'genesis' articles. Will that continue to be the new approach? I like it because it makes the reviews shorter but for those of us who like more company history and R&D notes, gives us the whole uncut story. Alois Grüneberg
Yes and no. It depends on how much I'm privy to the project notes. For the sound|kaos subwoofer, icOn Gradient Box, Aurai Lieutenant speaker, Æquo Adamantis speaker and Enleum AMP-23R, I happened to be at the right place at the right time. But being this exposed to a project's beginnings, in some cases more than a year before it goes public, isn't common. So the normal review format which integrates the lot will soldier on unchanged. If/when I enter a story a lot sooner to recount it in more sprawling fashion, then separating background from formal review into two articles will be the new solution. I just couldn't say when that'll happen again. Srajan
Hi Srajan, bon dimanche! I am really enjoying the Kinki EX-M7 even if it has not reached the nirvana level of 300 hours. Quite the amp! I have a question: I note in the preview of the Kinki EX-P27 preamp that Ken Ng proclaims all Kinki amps as "single-ended". I have tethered my Kinki amp to a Lumin T2 streamer with balanced connections as that is the preferred output of the Lumin. Should I try single-ended for comparison? I am a neophyte in understanding what would be the best connection when an amp is designed as single-ended yet a streamer's best output is balanced! Thoughts? Cheers, Michael Fanning
Try both. Designers may use transformers or opamps to convert single-ended to balanced. But many XLR are convenience items which just shunt one active leg to ground. Whenever one has mixed opportunities, it's best to try them to decide by ear. You may hear no difference. Or running the Lumin balanced might dominate over how Kinki treat the XLR feed vs. exiting the Lumin single-ended to match Kinki's single-endedness. And sometimes the difference is superior signal transmission of balanced vs. single-ended cable. Either way, the lesser weevil wins. Srajan
Hi Srajan, thank you very much for the preview and genesis story and now we'll try our best to meet your highest expectations. With all the legal stuff and trials, we're a bit behind but my team is looking into finishing last prototype units by this week which are virtually the same as production units. Regarding tech info, the short summary is that while the AMP-13R and AMP-23R share the same amplifier circuit, there's a new bias circuit (now runs all the time to correct bias and offset in real time), better power supply design and digital/analog isolation in the main PCB. The power PCB also differs in that we implemented bigger parts from the AMP-51R/AMP-41 (relays, connectors etc) due to more available height. Those parts enhanced current delivery, circuit stability and long-term reliability. As to noise, S/NR and dynamic range measurements, we'll take those after the final prototype assembly. Soo In Chae
Hello Srajan, sunglasses are off and the light sensitivity is mellowing but eyesight is still a little fuzzy. Maybe I'm fine but the world is out of focus? Glen Wagenknecht
Glad to hear that the gangsta-in-the-night thing has mellowed. Hopefully focus will return to normal in short order. Any idea yet what brought it on or even better, what it is? Srajan
Managed to get an appointment with an eye doc this afternoon. Did tests. Gave me a prescription to take to emergency. Probable stroke. Guess she didn't like the retro sunglass look. Still have my virtual appointment lined up for tomorrow morning. On a lighter note, was out shopping. An old-timer in a wheelchair asked for help reaching his Viagra on the shelf. Guess there's always someone worse off. Glen
A stroke you didn't notice? If true, that would seem to be the best kind considering. Srajan
Taken to emergency Thursday night. Got a full barrage of tests and doctors. Just got out of hospital. Stroke confirmed. I was told I would have died if I hadn't come in. Follow-up tests scheduled through end of August. Driver's license suspended. Perhaps it's best that my name be retired from the duty roster. Don't think it's fair to you or the manufacturers to do otherwise. I'll try and tie up some loose ends with Daniel and SOtM and bid the game farewell. Time to close this chapter. It's been a rare honor and a privilege to work with you, and it's also been fun. Best wishes, Glen
Damn! And congrats for beating the hangman's noose this time. Sounds like it was a close call. I presume that makes time feel more precious now so anything that doesn't serve that appreciation (like writing audio reviews or critical listening) ought to get tossed. I'm right with you. Thank you very much for your long support and excellent contributions. You shall be missed. Soon it'll just be ye olde me running the show. But when I started I never thought otherwise so that would just be back to the beginning.
I hope and wish for the best where your ongoing health is concerned. My wife had emergency heart surgery for a defective mitral valve many years ago. Crack open the rip cage, the works. Ever since she's been very aware that her time is limited and, not in a doomsday but healthy way, feels death is looking over her shoulder. Occasional arrhythmia aside, that part had its benefits of not taking things for granted. Having to physically abstain from big exertions was one price to pay but that kinda came natural with getting older in the first place. So enjoy your retirement, Glen. Hopefully you'll have many more years of it! Srajan
Srajan, here is a thoughtful article which I am forwarding for your perusal. The author shares your conclusions on the positive impact of sub integration into a hifi setup. His way of going about it (crossover frequencies, room position etc) is quite different and might spur some further experimentation on my side. Would love to hear your views if you have time to read it. Thanks, Vincenzo Picone
I just read it. The author too zeroes in on proper time-domain integration as vital and obviously was involved in the JL Audio crossover box. The Gradient Box will duplicate most of its functions whilst adding full remote control over them all. That's what I plan to use. The author also promotes HT processors which 2-channel guys don't have; or the addition of digital processors to create a delay for the mains which you can't do in the analog domain. That's why I've been vocal that in the purist 2-channel space, we need an analog solution (like the JL or spl or Wilson xovers) but with the addition of remote control; and that we must account for digital latency in modern subs which throws off the impulse response if not corrected for. I prefer to correct it physically (by moving the sub closer to the seat by the exact distance of its delay) rather than digitally. Ideally you'd have a sub with no digital latency at all. Here the Grimm Audio comes very close. Let me know what you learn in your experiments. It's a subject ripe for personal investigation and I'm still learning. Some of what the artice talks about I haven't tried yet. Srajan
At the moment I am using a Cube Audio Sub12 in combination with Pál’s icOn 4Pro SE. Cube Audio tell me that their Sub has 1-2ms latency which I correct by placing it ~50cm closer than the mains (Cube Audio 10" monitor, sound|kaos Vox 3a, Lawrence Audio Double Bass). I’ll be going with the Gradient Box as well and will test both the sound|kaos and Grimm subs when available. I'll come back at you when I have new experiences. Vincenzo
Sounds like a plan. Sharing helps us all learn from each other. Srajan
Dear Srajan, thank you for the excellent review of the Nagra Classic INT. Just one question if I may. You say that it basically duplicated the sound of the Vinnie Rossi preamp and Crayon power amp. Did you run the preamp with our without tubes? If with, what tubes did you use? Best regards, Laszlo Almassy
Very keen question indeed. I used 7-volt Elrog ER50 direct-heated triodes in the 5V setting. And the Crayon is an essentially half-powered Nagra with Exicon laterals, current feedback and smaller SMPS. Srajan
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