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Dear Srajan, I just watched your podcast video with John and wanted to congratulate you on explaining the benefits of open baffles. It really helped me understand how they work. Best regards, Thorsten

Glad to know that I could help. However, that wasn't all of it. Because time was limited, I didn't get into two other very important benefits. 1/ the loss of about half the usual room gain implies much improved time-domain behavior since room gain is purely reflective; and reflections by definition are always late since their path lengths exceed those of the direct sound. In short, bass stoppage is superior because sounds don't drone on. That means far less overlay on the vocal band. 2/ absence of box talk as the effect which capturing/killing a driver's rear wave has on the sound. There are no internal box reflections which come back out through the cones. These are two additional benefits that belong in any serious open-baffle discussion. Srajan

Srajan, thanks for your recent Telos review, getting the video and Jürgen's explanation. It's the first time a review of a grounding product has made sense to me. So thanks you again for that. Seeing how much you enjoyed these devices, will you keep them around for future reviews? Thilo

Glad to hear you got something out of it, Thilo. The Telos goods are packed and labelled with a pickup notice for in fact today so no, they're returning to Taiwan. When I wrote that I hated the flashing lights, I really meant it. But otherwise yes, purely for their sonic effect, I'd love to have something equivalent around, just without the backward cable orientation and disco fever. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I like the way you expressed yourself in our Telos review... Should we follow up with a review on our Monster Power and GNR models? Those would need more space to install as they're quite large. Ethan

Hello Ethan, your Monster products are too heavy for me. Unlike your banker clients at Hong Kong’s Audio Exotics, I’m no friend of unnecessarily heavy big super-expensive products. And with my system set up across two blocks (source gear on side wall, amplifiers between speakers), the amount of 6m long ground wires between those blocks would be awfully messy and not my idea of a good time. The same holds true for power cords of course. So thanks for the offer but I’ll have to respectfully decline. Srajan

Hi Srajan, how would you feel about doing a review of our Raidho TD3.8? It's an €88K/pr speakerMorten Kim Nielsen

Hello Morten: 83kg? I don't think so. But that's in truth not the only or main reason. With properly designed packaging which the speaker walks out of easily and back in, I could probably manage. But there's *no way* this speaker would come anywhere close to the bass performance I get with my cardioid Ripol 2 x 15" subwoofer. Like any other box speaker, yours will become omnidirectional across the lower 3-4 octaves. That means it'll involve the entire room to ride all three room modes with a vengeance. Meanwhile by virtue of its cardioid dispersion, my solution barely sees those same room modes. The difference is truly drastic. Most people of course have never heard cardioid bass unless they own Kii speakers or the biggest B&O. They have no idea how big the delta is. In short, a far cheaper far more compact solution would eat your speaker's lunch then spit on it. You'd not like reading it, I'd not like writing it. But I'd have to. So let's save ourselves grief and pretend you never asked. If you remember, already your smaller floorstanding 2½-way Raidho gave me bass problems. This one would compound them for no good reason other than to spend €88'000. And it would make no sense to still high pass it at 100Hz/4th-order to hand over to my sub when for that your very smallest Raidho would suffice just fine. See what I mean? Srajan

And that's how a stupid reviewer talked himself out of a rare assignment. I simply know my room and what it can support. It would be counterproductive and plainly unfair to accept too much speaker then bitch about the effects thereof. Yet they tend to be such that one can't overhear them. Then it's simply best to opt out. But make no mistake, 83kg too is a challenge I don't take lightly since I must do all my un/repacking solo. Often getting something out is easier than getting it back in; unless the packaging is engineered to a very high standard. That you simply don't really know until it arrives. If I'm unsure that I can return a very expensive loaner in the condition I received it, I'd rather refuse it upfront. Nobody likes a ruined finish; and I work to make a living, not to pay for costly repairs I caused.

Hi John, I just wanted to thank you for covering our Corinium loudspeaker on your video podcast. I must say that Srajan's piece about us was impressively well researched. I can't think offhand of another example of someone getting all those details together correctly. Do let me know if you want to do more on Corinium or any other product of ours. You mentioned the AE1 Active. In contrast to many it's a bit old school, being fully analogue in design. We've often thought a good review piece would be to take the AE1 with a standalone streamer/DAC and compare it to a fully integrated DSP + streaming product. Some HiFi guys like to build their own system, others like a one-stop shop, horses for courses I guess! Mat Spandl, Acoustic Energy

I subsequently contacted Mat who added this: Hi Srajan, great to hear from you! I thought your piece was very well researched and you are spot on of course about the flow of money and where it ends up. Thank you for building a story around the brand and the product, it was really nice. We’d like to do something on Corinium. You are right to say that it would be easier in Germany, our guy over there has the green pair as we speak. In Ireland we have Ken at Zebra Distribution, he doesn't have stock yet. So we need to think about how and when. You might also be interested to know that in the pictures your podcast showed, the mosaics in the shot are genuinely Roman and were dug up from beneath Cirencester aka Corinium. We thought that was pretty cool. Mat

Hi Srajan, I just read your exceptionally gracious review on Timi. While I was uncertain that you would accept to review such an odd product, you not only accepted but wrote an exquisite dream review beyond my expectations. I would be delighted to meet you one day and possibly host you in either Lisbon or Istanbul, at your convenience. Very many thanks! Adnan

Hello Adnan, my pleasure. One of my readers will be contacting you to acquire his own sample. He pointed out that your current webshop doesn’t seem set up for foreign orders so that might be something to adjust just in case the odd inquiry comes in from outside Turkey. Srajan

Hello Srajan, yes, he already contacted us. We will definitely send him one. And we will try to solve the international ordering system. Thanks again. Adnan

Srajan, I just caught up with your developing Dutch & Dutch review. The BACCH angle is most interesting. Did I read correctly though that they solicited you for a review then didn't reply to email questions? Presumably your email ended up in a junk mail folder. If not, it boggles the mind and portends badly for paying customers getting the support they deserve... Fleming

My email did go straight through I learnt. So did a second one with a link to my preview. On the phone Martijn didn't explain why he didn't acknowledge them. I tried to call repeatedly thinking like you that my emails were spammed. The phone kept ringing so I hung up. A few days later I finally decided to just let it ring. Now the call rerouted from the factory to Martijn's personal line which he picked up. I have no idea what to read into it other than the factory staff is probably busy in the back making stuff to not man the front desk or hear a phone ring; and that Martijn works out of an off-site office. None of that's any issue. Not answering emails in a timely manner however is poor form, I agree. It's precisely why I mentioned it in the preview. Srajan

Dear Srajan, looks like you enjoying writing this review very much. Can't agree more with the 1st paragraph on page 4. Best regards, Stephen Gong

Srajan, I hope you're on with the Dutch & Dutch BACCH review. Glad to contribute a bit of audio history. My hazy recall of sonic holography (brilliant name, methinks) was that it made certain songs quite holographic and others virtually unlistenable. Hit or miss so I eventually sold the Carver C-9. I suspect the D&D implementation will be much better. btw, I viewed the podcast video of you and Darko. I thought it well done! Michael

I looked at the podcast this morning and from the comments so far, people seem to quite enjoy it so I reckon this was just the first of many. As to the D+D, I'm still waiting to hear back whether my room layout is a go or not. Srajan

Srajan, I just finished your latest FiiO headphone review and am left wondering how it compares sonically to the Meze 99 Classic. I can see why you mention them being priced nearly the same but I'm still unclear how they actually differ on sound. Thanks, Robert

I no longer have a pair of 99 Classic. It's why I didn't do a comparison. My point is simply that as exciting as the Meze launch was at its time, the FiiO launch strikes me as a direct parallel on out-of-the-gate appeal. That's it. I can't compare what I don't have. Srajan

October 15th: Given Robert's question and the likelihood of others having it after reading the FiiO review, I already added a few sentences to that at the very end to clarify the matter.

Srajan, I think you just broke the PA-10 Evo! Just kidding of course but I was quite surprised to find out that it's just another Pascal class D design when none of their materials let on. I even downloaded the new owner's manual and didn't find anything to that effect. They simply don't touch the subject predictably because of the many assumptions that surround it. Class D. Eew. Perhaps I should rephrase and say that you broke this story? Good on you then. I actually don't think hifi journalism should involve any detective work but it's still fun to come across the occasional gotcha like when that expensive Goldmund player turned out to be nothing more than a rebadged Oppo. Noah

If you want to look at it that way, it was really Gold Note's Tommaso Dolfi who let that cat out of the bag including providing inside photos. I simply asked him how the Evo differed from the precursor. Would he have volunteered these details if Gold Note meant to keep them buried? Nothing wrong with class D especially when one can tailor the sound of a stock module with a proprietary input buffer; and other tuning features à la Aavik. Granted, I was surprised; but just because of the earlier miscommunication. That must have been a simple email typo from class AD to class AB which nobody subsequently bothered to correct. Being web-based, making such a correction would have been quick and easy for me. Back to your point, I don't see anything deceptive here at all. That would only be applicable if I had asked directly whether the Evo was class D then been told 'no'. Instead, the opposite happened. I don't see it as any gotcha but can appreciate how particularly haters of class D might see it that way. I simply come down on power per penny plus sonics. Getting EU-built and compact 250w monos for that coin is pretty much predicated upon class D. Srajan

Srajan, I just read your Børresen X3 review and though I actually really enjoyed it, I got hung up on the last sentence where you say "once you see the X3 up close and personal, it's really hard not to be impressed!" I italicized the word that threw me because as a loudspeaker review, I would have expected you to say 'hear' not 'see'. I'm sure that you're aware that the last paragraph and even more the last sentence of any review becomes what readers take away with them to be super important by shaping what came before. Are you saying then that the X3 looks better than it sounds? Charles

I'm indeed aware of the function a concluding paragraph and sentence serve, Charles. Even though I'm entirely self taught at writing and English isn't my first language, I have picked up on a few things over the year. As always, you're welcome to read whatever you want into what I wrote and how I wrote it. As to what I said about the X3 and meant, it's already all there in the review. If I had any more to say, I would have said it in the review. Once an assignment wraps, I'm really done with it. Should I discover an oversight, I add a PS. Here I didn't so really, that good ship sailed; all the way back to Aalborg. Srajan

Dear Srajan, isn't the eversolo DMP-A6 a direct and very worthy competitor to the FioO R7 so should be on your list of contenders for best of the year? I haven't seen you make any reference to it though so wanted to point you to it in case you overlooked it. Eric

For my particular usage, the eversolo does not compete at all so was out of contention. 1, its form factor for my low side table is all wrong and I wouldn't be able to properly see its strange widescreen display without some type of wedge angling it up; 2 and still more to the point, it does no headfi. No headfi, no competition, period. The true competitors I'm aware of I already listed. They are the A&K ACRO CA-1000, Lotoo Mjölnir and Shanling EM7. Questyle had a desktop full-featured DAP 'dock' that belonged to the same club but that's been discontinued. If you know of anything like them, I'd be all ears. The eversolo simply doesn't fit the same bill. It's cool but lacks a key feature that's important to me. Srajan

Srajan, saw your list of 2023 recommendations. Very interesting. I'm particularly intrigued by your choice of FiiO as the new server of your smaller system. I'm not personally fond of SD cards and would prefer an external SSD. Are you planning on trying out something smaller than your 4TB drive which wasn't supported? I wouldn't need more than 2TB but want to know wether it can support that. Thank you, Jim

I might still try a 2TB drive but haven't decided yet. I just installed a 1TB SD card which I haven't maxed out yet. Upstairs I certainly don't need my entire downstairs library in full duplicate. My R7 isn't a regular review item but personal unit which I bought as a regular consumer from an Internet reseller. So I'm approaching it just from my very narrow usage scenario. I'm not trying to cover its full functionality as I would attempt for standard review loaners. Srajan

Hello Srajan, since our last contact some time ago, I took this article you wrote three years ago as an opportunity to write you again. I enjoyed reading your comments. Actually, it's not a happy occasion at all. But you said something that was/is close to my heart too. My joy lies in the fact that a journalist is also taking on this matter. I would like to thank you for this and express my approval! All the best, Roland Krammer, Crayon Audio

Dear Srajan, I just worked my way through your most recent "cascaded" LHY reviews. What interesting coverage on a really niche sector of our hobby. I really appreciate your efforts in painting both sides of the picture, sharing what worked for you and what didn't and that regardless, this type of product relies on an already well-tuned system or otherwise it won't do a thing or barely matter. What I mean is that you made a good effort to not hype up a component category many of us don't have experience with or have never even considered but to approach the subject from a more critical nearly cynical perspective, share your honest personal experience then qualify strongly where others might get similar results and where they might not. Well done, sir. Thank you and best wishes to your family, Duarte

Thanks, Duarte. I had fun playing with these digital legos and am pleased to learn that my efforts to keep them in perspective came across. Using multiple LAN switches in series also was news to me. So were the fibre optics. It all made for the perfect setup to as you put it, apply a nearly cynical eye but also bring the necessary openness to perhaps end up being caught by surprise. That it became a little of this, a little of that then was extra fun. Srajan

Srajan, I read with interest your exchange with a reader about system matching (specifically DAC/amp) as it relates to the S/N ratio. My question is which amp weighting (110dB vs 130dB) has more impact on the listening experience? See example below from your Kinki monos.S/N Ratio: >110db (0.01Hz- 1MHz), >130db (A-Weighted). Thank you, Michael

Truth told, I don't know. Srajan

I guess the real test is putting one's ear to the tweeter and listening for… next to nothing! Michael

On the wider subject, I believe that in some instances, isolated measurements already go well beyond what matters. In-room ambient noise at 30-45dB; SPL loss over distance; the room's unpredictable impact on the time and frequency response; the lossiness of converting an electrical signal to a mechanical-motion equivalent between the amp and the speaker including a passive crossover's phase shift and energy storage plus the drivers' dynamic compression and mass resisting instantaneous response ... all of it paints a far muddier picture than 0.0001% distortion, 150dB S/NR in a DAC's digital measurements, extreme jitter specs and so on. Srajan

Hey Srajan, AI now writes audio reviews. Take a look: "Audio Analogue ABsolute was conceived from the beginning as a herald tipping its hat to the legendary Audio Analogue products at the top level of the portfolio of this Italian high-end audio brand. It was depicted to deliver the richness and complexity of music and ABsolute crux delivers it all in abundance. The inherited density easily projects a higher level of spatial components of the sound so that the plasticity of the music is always in the foreground and instruments and performers are reproduced with valid three-dimensionality. With any kind of high-end audio electronics, there is always a certain limit, a design restraint, where not to go with the sound and how not to lose the finesse. ABsolute is free of any of such glaring flaws that can occur even with much more expensive amplifiers. Audio Analogue integrated amplifier refrains from dominating with its sonic imprint. It stays out of the way, does not faux rejuvenate the music and consistently delivers unrestrained musical energy. The phenomenon of incomparable perception of differences that is intimately connected with some amplifiers and preamplifiers, regardless of price, simply does not occur with ABsolute." Actually, I'm only kidding. This just published in another online magazine by apparently a real reviewer though I could easily see this becoming the norm in a few years as AI refines to make itself more and more indistinguishable from the real thing. Are you worried yet? Fabian

I still believe that human creativity is capable of "nonlinear inspiration" which should be very hard to mimic in AI. But if AI were to harvest all the reviews I've ever written to build a personality profile, specific vocabulary, turns of phrase and assorted idiosyncrasies... you could be right and I obsolete in a few years' time. Best enjoy the ride before my hobbled horse dies? Srajan

I recently sent a query to John Darko whose answer might be of interest to a broader audience.

Hiya John, because I don't do wireless networked audio, I'm unclear on exactly what off-lining content implies. It seems quite obvious that you park streaming content in device memory to play back when you're offline. So far so good. But how does the content provider prevent you from permanently caching their music files for free? Are offline files time sensitive to expire? If so, how long do they remain playable? And what prevents you from copying them to other memory for indefinite ownership? Is there some code in their header that renders such files unplayable once their time stamp has expired? Srajan

Hey ho. So: the way I understand it is that the offline files are cached inside an encrypted area inside the official Tidal or Apple Music app. That way, no one can yoink them onto a desktop folder and steal 'em. And that's also why only the official streaming apps are green-lit by the record labels for offline content. The labels are terrified of losing content to a backdoor inside an mConnect or an Astell&Kern player's integration. It's why many new DAPs run native Android so users can offline content by way of official apps. To avoid you permanently caching for free, your streaming app will need to phone home within a specified time period. I don't know what that interval is. Could be a week. Could be three months. It varies from app to app (I think). So if you run Tidal on your new FiiO, you'll be able to use it for offline content no problem. But that Tidal app will need to see an Internet connection to phone home after a few weeks to let its corporate overlords know that the offline content is safe and that your streaming account is still valid. Make sense? John

Hello Srajan, please help me understand something. What difference does a DAC's signal to noise ratio make if the signal to noise ratio of the integrated amp that it feeds is not as good? Peter

Hello Peter, it's a point I've made many times. Your overall system resolution is only as good as its weakest link. So a DAC with a 130dB S/NR into a SET without feedback that barely makes 80dB S/NR obviously must leave crumbs under the table. Predictably your next question will be, would such an amp still tell the difference between a 130dB and 80dB DAC? It sure would. Active gain circuits are noisier than the best modern digital circuits. On noise figures, no amp competes; nor any listening room even with an elite ambient noise of just 25dB. In virtually all instances, amplifiers have far worse S/NR specs than digital. Yet with them you can still tell DACs apart whose figures are far superior than the amplifiers following them. It's why worrying about digital specs can really lead astray. It's why you can't successfully shop hifi just on paper. Listening is required. Srajan

Yes, listening is always the best test. Also S/NR is not the only reason for choosing a DAC. Resolution is not always the deciding factor. There are several performance parameters that distinguish one DAC from another lesser one. And one of these certainly would be the listener's preference. As you pointed out in the review, some people might prefer the darker fatter sound of the Terminator Plus over the leaner more resolved sound of the Pasithea. Peter

Exactly. And those differences are not reflected in shiny S/NR specs. Srajan

If higher resolution means those subtle cues/harmonics that make recorded instruments sound like the actual instruments heard live and unamplified, then I'm all for it. Thanks again, Srajan. Peter

It can absolutely mean that. But some high-resolution gear can also seem a bit stark and nervy so ultra-low distortion and noise specs alone don't paint the whole picture. Srajan

Specs don't tell the full story. Hence the importance of trust your own ears. There are 'science-based' forums where the participants don't seem to understand this. I took exception once when they were criticizing a product. Their comments followed a very harsh (but very funny I must admit) article written by their guru which really ridiculed the product and the guy who designed and produced it. "Snake oil" he said. The product was a small lightweight tweak with a money-back guarantee if not satisfied.

I simply asked if any of them had ever heard what that product could or couldn't do. Right away they jumped on me to the effect "Are you crazy? What's to hear?" type of comment. None had ever tried that product. Our communication went back and forth for several posts. I did not defend the product. I simply questioned their right to ridicule it if they hadn't heard it. I pointed out that there was a money-back guarantee and being a small lightweight object they could try it at very little cost to them. I also pointed out that when they engaged in this type of criticism they were in effect damaging the reputation of those who made it and thus damaging his livelihood. Plus they were doing a disservice to people who might actually have tried the product to see if their own ears responded positively. My comments were all very polite. At no time did I become caustic.

But they sure did. They become increasingly hot under the collar and condemning of me until one of them decided to negatively label me. I can't remember exactly what that label said but it appeared next to my name on every post. Finally the moderators shut the thread down. To their credit however, the next day I discovered that the label had been eliminated. You can still Google that thread, I believe. The forum was Audioholics and the product was the Akiko tuning sticks... a product reviewed positively by many reviewers... including 6moons which gave them a Blue Moon award. I eventually bought some. I liked them and I still use them today. Peter

Dear Srajan, I just read your excellent review of the new AQWO player. May I ask why you didn't bestow an award? The review seemingly led up to it on the last page before the jump but then came nothing. Did I overlook something important that precluded it? Just curious. Frank

I ran out of blue ink, Frank. Actually, it really was personal insecurity. Due to my hardwired iMac and not using WiFi, I don't view myself as an expert on 'audiophile' streamers. I've not reviewed much in their category because Mac/PC users like myself categorically have no use for them. Also, I listen to predominantly local files. Why run those over a noisy network? It makes no sense. Then the AQWO 2 isn't exactly budget priced. I don't know whether potential buyers will expect a custom app like Auralic, Linn and Lumin offer rather than fall back on a basic mConnect control app. Finally, I do think that the AQWO 2 shorts us just a tad with its omission of analogue volume control to replace a separate preamp for digital sources. These then were all my prior considerations regarding your question. Srajan

Hey Srajan, I just finished reading your thoughts on Martin's new footers and then saw his email to you in the feedback section. It's lovely to see a manufacturer express honest surprise about being awarded and admitting that to be sure he really made something very good takes more than just knowing what he hears in his own four walls but depends on feedback from customers and reviewers. It's a quite different and refreshing attitude from those manufacturer replies which are arrogant about their own brilliance and don't tolerate any disagreement about it from customers or reviewers. I can't remember having seen a reply to an award that said the maker was taken aback before. I imagine it must have been nice for you too? Thanks for all you do. Wishing you all the best, Karl

Thanks, Karl. Agreed, humility beats arrogance; though over the years, I've not really gotten hit by the kind of manufacturer's reply you're referring to. Obviously makers hope for favorable findings. But even where there are honest criticisms, delivered in the right way they tend not to trigger any acrimony. Expressing initial bewilderment over an award indeed was a first. But I understand it. "Just footers" will be a very common reaction. It's why the review itself goes into that expected reaction to explain why there's more to it if an isolator is properly engineered. Srajan

Hi Srajan, just thought it was about time I should thank you for your excellent review on the Vibra 68. It has taken a while for it to sink in—that’s people congratulating me on my feet—strange world. I was somewhat taken aback by the award sighting, after all it is only a footer but since your review published, I have had three other people take a listen and all agree with your findings. When I first tried them I realised that I had something rather special but then it takes all other ways to confirm it. Here is one of the comments.

"Thought I'd pop the Vibra in yesterday just to see for myself. Flippin' Heck Martin.... Stop it! 👍😍😍😍🔊🔊🔊 It's like adding a new DAC two levels above the old one. More detail and definition across the range but most importantly no loss of soul."

Thanks again and keep up the good work. Best, Martin Gateley

Well deserved. The way I see it, the real test of isolation efficacy (or lack thereof) is under subwoofers and full-range speakers. And it's here where many solutions claiming to isolate actually do a poor job. That people who haven't experimented with such applications might raise an eyebrow or two doesn't bother me in the least. But if I can inspire a few to give the subject a think or even better, a try... then I feel I've done my job. If that means going out on the resonance-control limb, so be it. As my review said, this isn't about voicing a system by shifting around a few resonances with an arbitrary mostly cosmetic footer. This is about an undeniable reduction of distortion that requires a properly engineered then executed isolation approach. Having reviewed quite a number of such solutions over the past few years, I feel in a rather good position to declare an efficiency ranking. In my book the approach of wire suspension wins; and of the three wiry suspenders I've looked into (Boenicke, sound|kaos and Wellfloat), yours came in first. That deserved an award, simple as. Srajan

Here's another: "Good evening, Martin. Many thanks for the speedy dispatch. Your footers are superb. After a bit of shuffling, I managed to decouple my LessLoss AC filter, Melco server, Chord M Scaler T2 and subwoofer. The effect is really profound. It's no longer the soggy tone mush from before. Now each image occupies its very own proper space in my room." Martin

Hello Srajan, any chance you'll be able to do a review of one of Canton's new floorstanding speakers? They look pretty promising, plus you've already got a nice competitor for the match. Thanking you in advance, Steve

In 20+ years on the job, I've never yet worked with Canton so I'm not sure. But I already penned an industry feature on Canton's new Reference 2023 range and contacted their marketing manager about my interest. Now the ball is in their court. Srajan

PS: I heard back from Canton. They won't have any review loaners for someone not already part of their usual press pool until possibly next year.

Srajan, I'm delighted that you're reassessing my Kinki EX-M7 in your main system as a way to drive your sub.  Thanks to your earlier review, it's my front-seat amp now tethered by a Kinki Earth loom to my Vivid Audio B1 Decade speakers. Michael 

Dear Srajan, I picked up on something you touch on in your Aaron exchange. You said that when you decide on what to buy for your systems and your reviewing work, you don't just consider your own tastes but whether you want to promote these components through public ownership. This is an aspect of reviewing I hadn't fully considered before. Of course I know that manufacturers love nothing better than a review which concludes with a "couldn't live without it so bought it" statement. It's like any other celebrity endorsement. It's free advertising. We as the buying public often wonder whether celebrities are given product free of charge just to wear it and get photographed with it. Hifi can't be much different and if the choice for a brand is to either spend on yearly adverts or spend the same amount on a promotional freebie, I could see the freebie being more effective if the reviewer and magazine have the right profile and readership. If you were to be offered a freebie which you otherwise couldn't afford or wouldn't consider sensible according to your personal metric of value for money, would you accept it?... Heinrich

Celebrity endorsements are a fact of modern life; perhaps more so in this age of the online influencer than ever before in living memory. High-end hifi is obviously far too small a pond for any reviewer to get on the same book never mind page as celebrities in sports, music, acting or certain chefs. Just so, if a true hifi expert like Michael Fremer acquires a cost-no-object turntable for his reference, it's probably the closest we get to a celebrity endorsement. If a 1st-tier writer gets favourable pricing because he works within the industry and doesn't waste a dealer's time, it's no different than a 3rd-tier reviewer getting an industry accommodation. Even a 70% discount as certain cable companies offer remains solid change if the starting price is €250'000. These aren't freebies at all. They're serious investments. I once worked in a shoe boutique in Beverly Hills. I could buy anything we sold at a hefty discount; and for the same reason. Customers seeing me wear what we carried made a statement. Likewise for the junior car salesman who works in a Mercedes-Benz dealership and already drives up in a small Merc not Honda. One needn't be a celebrity to have the intended effect; or get a deal from the industry one works in. It's common across all sectors. These aren't freebies, just discounts. And, I just don't see myself as a celebrity.

Next, when reviewing hifi from home not a separate office, there are limits to what one can keep around. How many pairs of speakers can you listen to at any one time? The obvious answer is, one pair. What if it's a 300kg behemoth you can't readily move or stow away? Or perhaps you have two even three systems in different rooms. Again, how many speakers in total can you justify keeping beyond the ones actually playing? What about storage? What about money just sitting on the side lines doing nothing? Expand out into all the other components of a system. Reviewers don't operate hifi shops. We don't stock deep inventories. Even a hypothetical freebie would hold zero attraction when your tool chest is well stocked. Anything extra becomes another dust magnet, another boat anchor. It's only the newbie's kid-in-a-candy-store syndrome that sees it different. Once you're established and set up on the hardware you need to work, it loses all appeal.

Personally, long-term loaners would have to fill a real gap in my current tool chest; or let me accept review items I otherwise have to turn down. But even then I wouldn't want a Bentley-level component when I play in a lower sector. I'm not into TrophyFi. I hold strong opinions on what matters and what's pixie dust. I have zero interest in the latter; and already pretty much all I'll ever need to do my job. As the years go by, potential hardware holes get less not more. It's why in virtually all cases I'm very keen on review items leaving our premises prontissimo after their review is done. Our home isn't a warehouse. So no, I wouldn't accept a pricey freebie which I don't believe in just because it's expensive or prestigious. I'm not into letting readers think such stuff is necessary or even desirable. Yet even just regular usage of 'trophy' bits showing up in photos of my systems or the equipment listings can't help but double as a sort of ongoing endorsement. "He uses it so it must be good and do something important." I don't endorse stuff I don't believe in. No gold-plated toilet seats or WiFi refrigerators which place email orders with the local food-delivery program. I have no use, appetite or patience for such stuff. In fact, perusing CNN for a cursory daily news scan, it becomes harder to even write about the stuff I do write about when massive fires play havoc in Maui or Greece, when Morocco just suffered a big deadly earthquake, when Hong Kong is flooded, when the Ukraine war shows no end in sight, when global suffering cranks up on a weekly basis. People lose lives and homes. Our kind worries about shiny toys and sound quality. Hello? Srajan

Hello Srajan, do you know what happened to HifiKnights? There hasn't been new content since July 14 so nothing in nearly two months. Are they still publishing? Günther

I presume that Marek and Dawid might be on vacation. It's that time of the year after all. I also know that Dawid does a lot of photography work so sometimes takes a break from hifi to keep things fresh. Unlike me he isn't a one-trick pony.  If you want more details, you should of course contact them directly. Srajan

PS: One day has passed and I just saw Dawid's Carbide Base Diamond review go live so their vacation must be over.

Hi Srajan, we're back in the USA after a nice two-week tour through some Mediterranean countries. Time to catch up on your site! I read your MBA review and the interesting reader exchange you had with Aaron. My takeaway is that the Kinki loom smoked the MBA cables if your measuring stick is simply price/performance. Now, if you are pursuing the ultimate system with commensurate amplification and transducers, you might elect for the top MBA loom or perhaps Crystal Cable. Here your example of car preferences seems appropriate. A final thought relates to your interesting point about equipment manufacturers understanding your system and preferences when considering 6moons for reviews. That point comports to my preferences for reviewers for films and food. Years ago I decided that I'd depend on Pauline Kael when she wrote for The New Yorker for her opinion on which movies I might like. I just found that our opinions generally meshed. Similarly, I depend on The Michelin Guide for dining options. There's a rating in the guide for inspector favorites (called Bib Gourmand selections) that provide good value for the price point. With that in mind, I might perhaps call the MBA loom a 3-star selection and the Kinki loom a Bib Gourmand. Both are quite tasty but your pocketbook will be disproportionately affected. Michael

Quite. Srajan

It's interesting that Matthew targeted 6moons for a review. One would have thought The Robb Report would be a more suitable target. And how could he have neglected the promised CD and not assured that his cables were appropriately protected from shipping damages? Similarly, the XLR cable's loose screw was a silly error. When one charges über pricing, everything matters in the presentation. Michael

Mark Gurvey and I had an excellent working relationship during his time at Esoteric USA. I believe he recommended me to Matthew as someone who'd do a good and fair job on their product for a global English-reading audience. As to the CD, agreed. Strange oversight. To be fair, the loose screw didn't amount to real shipping damage. It was more of an embarrassment for a connector described as the world's best. But yes, presentation and first impressions do matter; all the more so with luxury products. On first impressions, much about this gig was somewhat disappointing. But in the end, I couldn't fault the performance and I believe my review reflects the entirety of my experience honestly and fairly. That's all I can do. As a consumer by proxy, I'm supposed to cover the lot; from warts and pimples to beauty marks to flashy smiles and sparkling teeth. From all of that emerges a hopefully complete portrait frozen in time; of a single transaction with a single individual who happened to be a reviewer. As to The Robb Report, cables far more expensive than these enjoy reviews in other hifi publications. Everybody including Editorial and individual writers simply have varying thresholds and acceptance criteria. It's what gives each a particular identity and core audience. Just because I happen to draw the line at a certain price point doesn't mean I won't occasionally look beyond. To feel inspired, something about such a proposed gig simply has to be different enough hence promising to have me pursue it. My review explained what those things were this time around. So really, it's all good. Srajan

Srajan, I am not sure whether I should take you to task or applaud. I caught up with your developing Bond cable review. I can see why you are curious. If, as per your framing, this turns out to be a revelation or simply the next level up from what you have, I too would want to know. On the other hand, is not Matthew the same chap who lost his last company in a cease and desist lawsuit for declaring American product origins when most of his stuff actually came from China? It is not as though he left because he had newer better cable designs to promote. I note that you commented already on the unecessary girth of his interconnect when the actual cable of the ends is clearly far thinner. Far more disturbing to me is the pricing of his ribbon cable whose feel you describe as plastick-y. The cynic in me sees a desparate attempt to be different from Tara Labs so he won't get sued again; and to chase credibility by associating the new stuff with his most expensive prior work which apparently was well regarded in the press. So I am watching your review unfold, curious which way it may turn. If it blows your stuff into the weeds, at least the performance is there. If it does not but charges an arm and a leg then requires special care to dress and looks funky, I would feel validated in being cynical. How soon until you will wrap this up? Aaron

I expect to wrap in a few weeks, Aaron. As to why Matthew Bond left Tara Labs, I faintly remember something to the general effect but no details. I was in hifi retail at the time. I really couldn't speak to the manner of his departure and any follow-on effects. I obviously agree that this new ribbon wire is very dear. And I also agree that if there's no second coming to be had or at least a solid vision of it, it would be difficult to muster much excitement. Let's wait, see and hear. Srajan

Fair enough. I shall keep my eyes on it by the end of the month then. Sometimes I just need to let off steam when enough reviews of hyper-priced stuff hit my boiling point again. It is not as though your site in particular is really that often guilty on that count. Still, this preview triggered me and thanks for being gracious about it. Aaron

No trouble. We all have a trigger threshold. I generally stay below mine by design and leave what lives beyond to other writers who seem better equipped or at least enthusiastic to explore the outer realms. This gig is somewhat of an exception for me and I hope that it'll pay off. Srajan

I see you put it to bed now. Very interesting indeed. I enjoyed how you framed it. It's really no secret that going from 95% to 100% can mean ten times bigger expense if not more and that's what we have here. I also note your mention of extreme amplifiers and the speakers which need them. Like you I suspect that in such cases, a cable with this much conductive mass should move ahead more. Matthew's choice of supplying three Dynaudio show exhibits of ever bigger speakers with his cables indicates more of the same. Perhaps this was a case of wrong product, wrong reviewer? In any case, it looks like you made the best of it and kept your cool. Thank you. Aaron

There's a reason for our equipment and room listings ahead of every review. It gives manufacturers thinking about a review our hardware context at a glance. Now they can determine whether their product will be a good match or set off alarm bells. That bit of due diligence is simply on them or their agents. Srajan

I see Michael joined our discussion. I have one final question, Srajan. If cost were no issue because you won the lottery or some such windfall, would you rate the 5% high enough to want those cables in your main system? At the end of the day, I would consider that the most telling conclusion of all. Aaron

It is a fair question. Regardless of windfall, my mind still won't ever be that of a wealthy man. It looks at my favorite speakers and amps which cost a fraction. It doesn't comprehend why these cables should charge so much more. Yes the price of copper increased but still. When I acquire gear to live with and use as tools for my work, I'm mindful that the simple act of photographing it regularly as part of my systems becomes an ongoing promotion. That can't be avoided. So I wouldn't want to promote something I don't really believe in as though here it were sensible to mate €3'700/pr mono amps and now €6'900/pr loudspeakers with €12'000/pr speaker cables. As such I wouldn't rate these particular 5% high enough to warrant owning them. As Joe Private meanwhile and if I were to inherit a set from a generous neighbor who got out of hifi... I'd happily accept since at the end of my day, I remain a hifi enthusiast keen on scraping the barrel to chase incremental improvements. Srajan

Srajan, just spotted the new sound|kaos footers in your 'coming next' section. Should those be on my radar? It's hard to tell from one small picture but they look rather smaller than the Carbides. How about cost? Caleb

The preview will go live September 1st to answer most of your questions already. The review conclusion should follow shortly after. Unlike electronics and speakers, this kind of stuff doesn't break in so the effects are instant. Srajan

Srajan, any plans to test a Cybershaft clock yourself? With your Silent Angel and LHY reviews coming up, I'm curious how the Cybershaft will compare. Thank you. Robert

When Cybershaft contacted me to syndicate Joël's review, I mentioned being interested myself but for the time being, all they wanted was the translation. So at least for now, nothing is planned. Unless things change and time out just so to have those particular competitors still on hand for actual comparisons, I don't see it happen. When reviews publish, their loaners are returned to sender unless I buy them; or am offered a long-term loan to keep using them for future reviews. Just because I once reviewed something doesn't mean I still have it. 99.9% of the time it's quickly gone again. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I just got around to your Treble Clef speaker review; well, as far as you got on with it. I bet getting a speaker with its top broken off was a first in your career? I applaud you for telling us what happened rather than brushing it under the carpet. The maker clearly wants an opportunity to make it right and it seems he already has a clear idea on how. I would say that's a win/win all around that will end in a better product even if getting there was a bit embarrassing... Gregory

Indeed. These were first proof-of-concept samples which still suffered a hidden structural defect. It's perfect that the mishap occurred to me not a paying customer. Now the necessary corrections can be applied before actual sales commence and far greater embarrassment even a cancelled sale are avoided. Our review policies are very clear on this. Whatever happens gets documented. Shit happens. It's the human condition. How it gets sorted is where men and professionals step forward from boys and amateurs. I have no doubt that when the revised product returns, it'll be a memorable encounter indeed. Srajan

Srajan, very educational review on those enormous Carbide footers. Though I do not know of many, there are two other reviewers who stress the importance of resonance control like you do, Roy Gregory and Christiaan Punter. I'm beginning to think that it's an area I should pay attention to. Given your experience, where would you start and what would you recommend?... Caleb

Unless your speakers are compacts which can't do low bass and you don't play them loud to begin with, I'd start isolating them and/or a subwoofer. That's because the physical vibrations transducers generate far outweigh what all other kit does combined. Obviously a turntable is another very meaningful place because of how fragile the groove/pickup interface is. A purpose-engineered rack can be an expensive proposition. Minimizing the expense could be one of the popular bamboo stands which are more furniture than industrial racks and can be found for relatively little money. To turn budget hifi furniture into high-performance racks starts by decoupling them from the floor with a Carbide-type isolator which can be optimized for the combined weight you need to support. In many cases I'd expect that to get you quite near to a full-bore serious rack which adds more isolation between its shelves, uprights and/or components. The obvious upgrade path which one can now do in stages adds isolators to each component that's responsive. You'd test a first trio or quad of isolators beneath every piece of kit in your rack to see where it makes a difference and how much, then proceed accordingly. You could also find that simply getting your speakers off the floor makes a sufficiently large improvement to be perfectly content. That goes particularly for anything above the groundfloor which becomes suspended flooring to be inherently less well damped. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I really enjoyed your review. I am always impressed with your understanding of the technical problem and proposed solution. Most impressive though is your way of explaining things in a clear way. Thank you very much for your time and your thorough explanation of our isolation approach. I am pleased to hear of your positive experience under your DAC. I'd have considered simply hearing an improvement a win but it sounds like the improvements went a step further and were tangible. This use case under upstream components was the primary motivation behind the ceramic raceway project so this is good news. Jeffrey Jenkins, Carbide Audio LLC

Loved your Crustaceans bit! Good to know that you still rate the Pasithea so highly. Are there any other DACs for perhaps less money that you think would give similar results? I revisited your original Pasithea review and really enjoyed it. But I would prefer to pay less. Joshua

Then you should look at Morpheus in the same catalogue. It's the same designer and sonic aesthetic just not quite as resolved. Srajan

Hello Srajan, in your latest Aavik you explain how in your comparison with your setup you couldn't be sure what exactly was responsible for the differences so whether it was different volume controls, different filter parts, active gain or none and so on. That's fair. Still I would love to know whether you have at least a hunch about what might have contributed to the Aavik sound? I'm considering an active filter and like that they build theirs in but wonder whether I will like the sound. Any light you could shed on this would be appreciated. Trevor

I suspect that the parts in my filter are superior to mean lower distortion. I also wonder whether Aavik's use of heavy feedback was responsible for their crisper brighter harder sound. Again, there's no way to strip back such a layer cake into breaking down which layer did what. I also couldn't possibly know whether you would like the sound or not. All of this is sloppy guess work which I'm not really inclined to indulge in, sorry. Your best course of action will be to arrange for a weekend loaner from a dealer. Srajan

Srajan, the newest streamer from HiFi Rose has what may be an industry first unless I am mistaken: an internal OCXO clock. I've always thought an OCXO clock had to be in a separate box as it needs to be on 24/7 for optimum performance. All the best, Michael 

For one easy example, the Denafrips Terminator DACs have temperature-controlled crystal oscillators inside. So do many top DACs. There's nothing inherent in the concept that requires being offboard. Such parts simply take a certain amount of time to hit their ideal temperature. So owners of internal OXCO are advised to not turn those components off for best performance. In that regard there's nothing whatsoever unique about the Hifi Rose. It might well have other unique specs but that one isn't. Think of it like a precision bias controller or thermal tracker in an amplifier to insure that the output transistors operate at ideal temperature. You'd not want such a controller outside the amplifier. An oven-controlled clock is essentially a normal clock with a thermal control circuit to create the most stable operating conditions. Where such a clock sits (inside or outside the DAC or player) is immaterial to that aspect though as you well know, experts like Ed Meitner and Eelco Grimm are firm that for best performance, clocks  belong inside as close as possible to their associated DAC chips. Srajan

I spent the last four hours with the new Kinki stuff and so true, now the IQ are really singing. It's like I hear them for the first time. The sound was a bit bright and aggressive for the first 40-45 min. then became obscenely (or hysterically, you pick) good. Now the whole room is filled with music. Dan

That was my friend Dan who visited us a while back, heard our downstairs Qualio IQ speaker setup and subsequently felt inspired to duplicate it more closely by getting the same amps and cables we use. Sounds like he's onto a winner.

Hi Srajan, I hope this email finds you well. We recently came across a situation where some competitors have been using your photos of the internal components of the DAM1 and PA1-Ref in their postings. We believe this is a violation of copyright and intellectual property rights. To address this issue, we kindly request your assistance in sharing the original copies of the first three photos on page 4. These photos will be used by Soundaware to file a complaint with the relevant platforms and have those users remove the unauthorized use of your images. Your support in this matter is greatly appreciated, and it will help us protect our brand and the integrity of our products. Weng Fai Hoh

People steal my images all the time without crediting 6moons, Weng. The only way to make that less appealing is to permanently embed one's watermark right across the center of an image where it can't be cropped out. I personally despise that look. Readers already know they're on 6moons. They don't need constant reminding with every image spelling it out again. So I don't do it. Preventing right-click to save is easy in code but doesn't prevent screen captures. And by the same token, pursuing copyright infringement is a lengthy and potentially costly process which I just don't bother with. If you're not prepared to engage legal action, it's only noise which the offending party may simply disregard. Since you don't own these photos either but 6moons does, I don't believe you can formally pursue effective action on my behalf. But if you want to try, be my guest. This is the age of free information. Though copyrights are violated every day, nobody seems to care. For years people did the same with my review texts. It's why those can no longer be copy'n'pasted unless you know how to override code. If someone wants to manually retype my reviews, I can't prevent it. But at least they must put in the work. That's been a pretty good deterrant. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I just read your latest Aavik review. I'm sure that you know how they describe their enclosures. I quote from their website: "The cabinet design represents a Aavik characteristic. The testing of new circuits and electronic components is often done without the enclosing cabinet. The disturbing sonic influence, which emanates from the material the cabinet is made of—mostly aluminium—results from its mechanical resonance. To eliminate this sonic distortion, the challenge was to minimize the use of aluminium in the cabinet to the absolute minimum that is unavoidable to ensure sufficient cooling. We began testing various materials and designed an innovative natural-based composite material which reduces the mechanical influence, particularly the hysteresis. The sonic result is distinctly audible and reflects a further prominent cornerstone in Aavik’s quest for the ultimate music experience."

Your photos show aluminium liners which sit behind the visible black outer panels. Is hysteresis a matter of thickness? Then you call the outer material HDF. It makes Aavik's descriptions feel quite deceptive. Surely they didn't invent fiber board? And what pray tell is natural about the glue that holds together fiber particles? The HDF is painted. How resilient do you think this is to scratching during normal handling? Comparing what's inside that preamp to what it costs, I see quite a money grab. Likewise for charging us €4'000 for a small extra circuit board. Would you agree that this seems very far away from a fair high-value proposition? ... Alvin

What's fair, Alvin? I believe that Audio Group Denmark has more than 50 employees today and since my visit expanded their factory at least twice already. Denmark has high salaries and stiff costs of living. Then there was a buy-out which installed new management that will expect profit sharing. As operations grow bigger but work in high-labor zones, so does their overhead and need for revenues. I see this family of brands combining standard corporate culture with genuine audiophile enthusiasm. The former is about high profits, the latter about sonically advanced results. Given their rapid growth, amazing product depth and sterling reviews, I'd say their approach works just fine and value doesn't really factor. As to marketing, it's supposed to put a spin on things. It's why good marketeers are called spin doctors. About the paint's longevity, it's certainly softer than metal so will scratch easier. As to whether hysteresis is affected by thinner metal liners vs solid metal enclosures, I take their word for it. I don't have the engineering insight to know. Back on fairness... if in a very expensive country you could create a business that employs a workforce of 50 to keep all their families fed, wouldn't that be a thing to be proud of? Would it impact your definition of value? It's always a matter of perspective and the bigger picture. Srajan

Srajan, your preview of the LHY-SW10 reveals that you're burrowing deep into the digital rabbit hole! So it's now a double-switch cascade. And I note that Weng Fai Hoh specified a Finisar 1318 SFP. My online research pointed me to that module, specifically a pair of FTLF1318P3BTL that now tether my EtherRegen switch in single-mode to my Lumin X1. Now wouldn't it be interesting if Stephen Gong of COS Engineering specified a single-mode Finisar SFP in the fiber-optic module for the S10 LAN distributor on preview? The plot thickens. Michael 

Hello Srajan, what happened to the Bond cable preview? I just went to check on updates you might have made and can no longer find it. Perhaps you're working on it right now and had to make the pages invisible? Trevor

The samples cleared Irish customs ready for delivery but Matthew Bond didn't want to pay the 23% VAT and import fees that were levied on his shipment. It will now return to Oregon, get relabled with new paper work, then return to Ireland. That process could take a few weeks. Until I actually have the samples on hand, I've taken the preview down. Srajan

Srajan, I quite enjoyed Joël's review of the Cybershaft OP21A-D, power supply and BNC cables. His journey mimics mine a bit. I moved to an external 10MHz clock for my etherRegen switch more than one year ago. Since that time I've upgraded from a Lumin T2 to a Lumin X1 (with fiber connection) and a Kinki Earth loom. To be sure, Cybershaft is a premium supplier of 10MHz clocks and peripherals while AfterDark, the manufacturer of my OCXO clock, is decidedly on the budget side with no oven monitor or super-detailed documentation. I was pleased that Joël found a significant difference in use of an external clock with the LHY SW-10 switch, almost a DAC-level change I believe he said, as it comports with my experience. Interestingly, one of the bright lights in the audio space, Ed Meitner, has downplayed the effect of a reclocked switch, saying in essence that reclocking needs to be adjacent to the DAC or it doesn't make a difference:

JVS: You don't believe in using an external word clock. Why? EM: Because I think this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard in the audio business. That means you have a precision clock that you must connect to a wire to connect to a DAC when the clock should be where it belongs, inside the DAC beside the DAC chip if there is such a chip; not through a cable in a different box. This is so idiotic, it's not even funny. It's a money grab.

Sorry Ed, in my case a reclocked switch with a fiber connection to the Lumin X1 has made a significant difference to my system performance. Regarding the Bonn NX switch and Genesis GX (TCXO vs OCXO) clock that Joël found good but outpaced by the LHY/Cybershaft combo, I note that you have this exact combo on preview. I know that 6moons doesn't do shootouts but wouldn't it be fun for you and Joël to have some late-night listening sessions in Ireland and France to tease out the differences! All the best, Michael

It's been my assumption too that the real purpose of external master clocks is to synchronize multiple digital workstations for sound and sound+video mixing/editing work, not to improve the performance of standalone digital sources. But the home-audio sector has applied pro-audio's needs to its own often for outrageous money - and audiophiles hear a difference. I've heard it too though thus far found it to be rather mild. I've not received my Silent Angel loaners yet so that experiment remains to be done. And of course the things Ed Meitner has forgotten dwarf the things I understand about digital audio. Srajan

Dear Srajan, whatever happened to that flagship speaker from Dutch brand Aequo? I faintly remember reading about it on your site but now can't find anything, not even on theirs. There even was something about a new cable line also with new materials. Do you know what happened to that? Tristan

Not really. You're correct, I did have a very lengthy exposé on Adamantis, the involved materials tech, first drawings, related research into cables leading to their own designs... and then things delayed, delayed again, then delayed some more... and eventually my writeups escaped preview limbo hell to vanish from view. Æquo haven't updated me on status of these projects so until/if they do, I'm no wiser than you. Of course we did have a few years of Covid in-between. Chances are, they got bogged down by it as most everyone else did. Additionally there were challenges to learn how to cast their 'liquid metal' composite so the cabinet's two clam shells would shrink to a perfect fit during final curing. That and not attending Munich High End 2023 because they had nothing new to show is the last I heard. Srajan

Srajan, just read your updated preview of the Matthew Bond (shaken not stirred?) cables. I'll follow your findings with interest, more driven as yourself by curiosity as I'm quite happy with my Kinki Earth loom. Having lastly replaced ASI LiveLine speaker cables which performed admirably for years, I'm in your camp regarding small differences among well-made cables. So will MB be a revelation?  On verra as your colleague Joël Chevassus might say. All best, Michael 

Indeed. My channels are open to a revelation. If there is none, I might lack the level of hardware necessary to fully benefit from such cables? In which case I'll never know. Srajan

Gosh, that’s surely the definition of a conundrum! Bonne chance! Michael 

It's reviewing 101. Whatever our results, we never know what our setup (room, ancillaries) might have left under the table or otherwise skewed. It's that tired 'it is what it is' which many wish were banned from common usage. In many ways how a loaner performs is luck of the draw. What mitigates chance are experience; and having sufficient hardware alternates and rooms on hand to wrangle up alternate scenarios. Still, there are limits to that. It's the subtext beneath all reviews. Context is all. Srajan

Hey Srajan, you probably didn't see this but I think that your former boss Pat at Meadowlark Audio just gave you a nice compliment and explained why he'd not send you any of his new speakers for review. Here's the link and text: "I have two old buddies, the sorts who sleep over at each other's homes, let their hair down and party. One owns one of the more successful retail stores. He bangs it out at 100K+ per week and enjoys a loyal customer base who see him first. He's among the very few who can hold the line on discounting and pull it off (!). On this side of the industry that's really something to respect. When I showed him that I could destroy his mega-buck rig with my 50K thing he just blew it off: Pat, are you stupid? Why turn a 200K sale into a 50K sale? Duh. He walked me back into his warehouse and showed me a 1m inventory. It cannot be that everything he's correctly and carefully and professionally espoused for 30 years is gonna come apart. I never brought it up again. The other enjoys a comfortable life operating a very high traffic audio review site. When I peruse his roster of advertisers, every single one has something to lose as Next Gen overturns their applecarts. If he were to review my product and tell the truth about it—as he can be counted on to do— that wouldn't be so good for his business. Knowing the man, I'm sure he'd do just that. But, me, I can't ask him to. So I never bring it up. So yeah, while the inevitability of Next Gen hangs in the air—and it will out because it's obviously better AND cheaper AND smaller—an uneasy stasis remains in place and has for much longer than I expected it possibly could..." Enjoy. Charlie

I see. I'm not sure he had me in mind though. After all, we've reviewed a number of fully active ambitious DSP speakers like the Kii 3, Dutch & Dutch, Grimm Audio across the years. Just days ago I published the Kenaz AD36 review, another fully active DSP speaker. And that's exactly what Pat's new designs are too - class D-powered multi-way speakers with DSP crossovers and SB Acoustic Satori drivers. Also, I'm not really the partying type and have no hair to let down so again, he must mean someone else. Further, I worked for him 21 years ago and haven't seen him since so we're not buddies either. But thanks for the link and thought. He is right in that I would have no issue whatsoever espousing the many benefits of active drive and exploiting modern DSP smarts. Been there, done that, would happily do it again. In fact, the Treble Clef Audio M assignment which is all about that and more is just around the corner; and comes in at €75K; and hits 16Hz. Srajan

Hi Srajan, please reject if you don't want to spend time on this. I'm looking to upgrade my headfi. I currently have a a SPL Phonitor 2 and Sennheiser HD-800 (very analytic/detailed with huge need for more texture and bass). I love the open sound. Also tried a pair of Audeze LCD-X. Not my style at all. The sound feels too closed in. I heard the Feliks Euphoria together with Grado GS-3000E. That was exiting and close to what I like but still I would want more bass/depth. My headfi amp is fed by an Aavik S/D/C-580. Can you give me direction? Thanks in advance. Bent

Hello Bent, I would look at this. It's what I use. I have the Audeze LCD-X and had HD800 a long time ago. The Silver Fox has enough power to airlift HifiMan Susvara so is an anything-goes machine; has a full-bodied warm yet precise presentation; 4 different playback modes; all the balanced/single-ended outputs one could want; and is built like a battleship. The only thing it hasn't got is remote control. Srajan

Thanks. I will study this interesting amp during my holiday. Do you prefer a head amp with plenty of power? Then the Feliks is out. Last question: what headphones will you recommend? Bent

My favorite headphones are HifiMan Susvara but they're very expensive. But they're as airy and transparent as the HD800 without any of the aggressive presence+ response. Very close to them are the Kennerton Wodan. Had I not already owned Susvara, I would have purchased my Wodan review sample. And yes, that's a Russian company which in the present climate could be a dealbreaker. In the lower price range, I'd go after a Meze 109Pro. Very unfussy, super comfortable. For between Meze and HifiMan, I'd do the Final D8000. As a reviewer I like power because now I can review whatever shows up. And I don't like tube amps because of their higher noise, lower current, higher output impedance and phase shift from output transformers. Srajan

Hi Srajan, thanks a million for your awesome suggestion! I think your idea of temporarily expanding font size for a few seconds is brilliant. I'll definitely pass it along to the folks at Soundaware and see if it's something we can implement. What you're doing is greatly appreciated and is hard to find nowadays. Remaining transparent and playing consumer by proxy is what we like about you. We truly believe in being open and listening to our customers' needs and wishes. It's all about creating products that make our customers happy and enhance their audio experience. Your feedback and ideas are incredibly valuable to us so keep them coming! Many thanks. Weng Fai Hoh

Hi Srajan, many thanks for your positive answer. Please notice that our interest is a specific review of our 'xxx' and not a comparison review with any equivalent devices. Please let me know if I can assist you further. [Name withheld.]

Hello, like most other reviewers, I rely on comparisons to conduct my assessments. Telling me not to use my own gear for contrast pretty much amounts to savage mutiny on this end. If this really is your condition and not just a poor choice of words whose intention I misunderstood, I'll have to respectfully decline this and any other future reviews. ATB. Srajan

Many thanks for your reply. I'm not sure I expressed myself properly so let's clarify. We're asking for a review of our 'xxx'. It's of course okay to have a review section where you make comparisons to whatever products you find relevant. I'd do the same. What we want to avoid is the inclusion of more components of our type. I hope this makes sense. [Name withheld.]

I guess I too must clarify. The moment your thing replaces mine, it'll automatically compare/reference to them and I'll mention how yours differs or not functionally, sonically, on price and all the rest of it. That's unavoidable. No review works properly without real-world comparisons. If you want zero comparisons, I couldn't do a review, period. It'd have to be an editorial without sonic comments. Then there's no need to even dispatch a loaner. It would just be a piece on what it is, what it does, what issues it addresses, what it costs etc.

When you say that "what we want to avoid is more xxx", I take it to mean no such components other than those I already own? If so, that's fine. I don't even have others on hand. I'm not in the habit of secretly organizing 'shoot-outs' behind any manufacturer's back. I only reference what I naturally have on hand either by owning it; or because it happens to be in house at that time. But do you appreciate how quickly ill-considered wording can have unintended consequences? The way your first email put it had me nearly call it quits on all future reviews for you. Why? Because the underlying tone suggested a new level of 'remote control' like an attempt to oversee my review process from afar. Just as you wouldn't consider it proper if I told you how to run your business, design product and price it, you can appreciate how I'd not take kindly to any attempts at 'interference' or 'pre-conditioning' my reviews. This is a very sticky subject in general and one I'm outright allergic to. The moment I feel in any way manhandled on how to do my job, I bolt. Srajan

Many thanks for clarifying and sorry if I kind of 'provoked' you. That wasn't my intention. When will it work for you to receive a review sample? [Name withheld.]

And that's how a little misunderstanding resolved itself most amicably. I published it merely to remind other manufacturers how we work. If direct specific comparisons are out, we're out.

Hello Srajan, I was hoping you might be able to review these Arendal 1723 Monitor THX speakers at $2'500/pr. They're high value and appear to be a great match for the CHoco Emei amp you just reviewed. The bigger brother has received coverage but these have not. I know you like high value items and thought this might be a nice fit. Thanking you in advance, Steve

Their "prepared for mayhem" tagline and THX certification are part of a home-theater aesthetic I've no interest in. That obviously doesn't imply they couldn't be used for standard stereo. However, nobody of the company has ever expressed any interest in working with us. So I don't see this happening, sorry. But that shouldn't hold you back from getting a pair for yourself. As you say, they look like good value. Srajan

Next Steve took it upon himself to solicit Arendal: Hello, any chance you could send a pair of the 1723 Monitor THX speakers to Srajan Ebaen at 6moons for review? He just reviewed the CHoco Emei amp which is equally high value and appears to be a great fit. Also, John Darko is reviewing the KEF R3 Meta and likes to do side-by side comparisons. It would be the perfect time to send a pair his way as well. These speakers haven't received much coverage and now would be a great opportunity to change that. Thanking you in advance, Steve

Arendal replied to him as follows: Hi Steve, we are in contact with most reviewers and sometimes plans do not line up or they are just not interested. There was just a 1723 Monitor review the other day. Extremely detailed. We do our best to get the biggest exposure possible as reviews are extremely important to us. Thank you for your feedback and have a great day. Best regards, Lukas Moczorodynski

Steve copied me and added: Hi Srajan, apparently this is a lost cause as is the 'review' mentioned in his response, all graphs. Really helpful? Thanks for your patience, Steve

No worries, Steve. You tried. And yes, at Audio Science Review, they believe that measurements tell most if not all. Actual listening notes are secondary but clearly Arendal find this approach useful or they wouldn't have bothered with a loaner pair. Srajan 

Hello Srajan, just read your latest Emei review. Looks like another lovely discovery. However, Alvin's reply really surprised me. If there's an issue with the binding posts, wouldn't the proper response be to replace them with something better not recommend that owners use banana connectors? On that count I was happy to see that your criticism of the illegible display was taken in the intended spirit and is being revisited. Keep up the good work. James

I suspect my post issue had to do with a slightly 'off' connector whose plastic rim protrudes over the central metal contact so when placed across, one spade made no contact. It's probably a parts deviation so a tolerance being off spec, not anything intrinsically amiss with the parts choice per se. But I would concur that if they're already of the opinion that their post isn't ideal, a different terminal could be in order. I myself prefer bananas as well since they're in line not at an angle with the cable; and can't accidentally come off if a terminal nut loosens. But my Kinki cable samples were terminated in spades. What to do. Srajan

Srajan, thanks again for your award-winning review of the Kinki Studio Earth loom. As you may recall, I started with Earth RCA cables and a single power cord and have just now installed Earth speaker cables, replacing ASI LIveLine speaker cables that, truth told, sounded perfectly fine in my system. I ascribe that to the ASI cables having a similar temperament which is why I wasn't hasty in replacing them. Well, the Earth speaker cables have created an even better synergy and completed the loom promise.  nd that's before the purported 200 hours of break-in! How to compare the two speaker cables? I will shamelessly quote Frederic Beudot from his review of Ocellia cables where he compared the Canadian leashes to ASI: "The LiveLine is a shot of Cuban espresso, the Ocellia a very elegant Arabica from Jamaica's Blue Mountain. One is pure jolt, the other smooth and complex yet still energizing." Déjà vu all over again? Michael

Hi Srajan, I just ordered Kinki Studio speaker cables to complete my Earth loom. I have been using ASI Liveline speaker cables with LessLoss Firewall for Speakers. Any thoughts on whether to continue with the LessLoss attachments? Of course I can always experiment. All best, Michael 

The LessLoss Firewall works on a very different principle that's not at all in opposition to the cables. That said, it has a very particular effect so I'd experiment to see what you prefer. I find all of the LessLoss tech to be accumulative. I don't like too much of it because for my tastes, it eventually veers into being too chilled and soft. Just the right dose meanwhile is terrific. So trust your ears and go with what you prefer. Srajan

Srajan,I’ll answer my own question: Kinki Studio Earth cables and power cord. Just read your award-anointed review and couldn’t agree more on your conclusions. The loom has breathed new life in my system, anchored by the Blue Moon-awarded Kinki Studio EX-M7, for silly easy coin. My thanks to your continuing discoveries on the Silk HiFi Road paved with quality, value and system synergy! All the best, Michael 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, customs celebrations. Welcome to the club. Srajan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes perfect sense. Louis Motek

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

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

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

Sure thing. So Vincent Ong moved on? Srajan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rob Fritz is excellent to work with, too. Michael

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I prefer fewer boxes. Gerald 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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