Your space to participate, comment and critique. Email srajan @ to submit your entry.

Hey Srajan,
love the new look but what's up with the narrow reviews?
Jonathan Meyer

I'm awaiting revised javascripts for banner rotation in the new layout before I can start to format our reviews in the wider size. This also requires larger photos so previews started in the old format will still publish in it. Once the new script has arrived and been perfected for actual use, I'll begin to publish reviews in the new wider format. It'll be a gradual rather than sudden transition however.
Hello Srajan,
Here’s to the new look! Overall, it’s easier on these old eyes, involves less scrolling and presents larger images on the ‘News Room’ page. Quite nice. One can see everything at a glance and negotiating content is much faster. Is this the author's version of a new and improved circuit board? I can only imagine what kind of amp or speaker you’d design :-)
All the best,
Tim Patchett

A crap amp and an even crappier speaker is what. I'd best stick to what I know - but I'm glad you agree it's a nice improvement -:)
Hey Srajan,
I wanted to just drop you a note to let you know (A) I found your piece about the state of affairs as concerns reviewing/ads/etc to be good reading and hope that the new approach is bearing fruit and (B), to let you know that I really like the new look of the site. There’s a sense of positive abundance about it and a good vibe, to boot - high coolness factor. Congrats!
Chris Sommovigo
Hello Srajan,
Just read your review of the Aurender ms and had a good cackle at the wifi undertone! As a parent who has pulled my children (7+10yr) from school this year as the school swapped over to "paperless" - I feel more than a little isolated when pointing out the errors of the radiation trend to a phone-absorbed population! When a typical classroom is measured (25 children), it reads higher than the base of a cell tower! btw, where the Aurender kit is made ranks as number 1 for internet/wifi use. A place to avoid :-)

Please keep reporting on the wifi madness, perhaps even measure kit for RF leakage, certainly a point as upsampling and digital seems to be the norm now. If it is a stated parameter there will be no option but to consider proper shielding in a design. Keep the makers on their game!!
Take care,

Hello Graz,
like you I feel a bit like a voice in the wilderness when it comes to this topic. But I'll certainly remain vocal about it since I'm very sensitive to its effects which keep reminding me just how troublesome this entire trend has become. It's precisely what led to the subsequent aria ms assignment whose manufacturer appreciated my concerns and went the extra mile to custom configure a review sample to run with a wired remote control solution.
Hi Srajan,
I really enjoy your thorough reviews which are probably the most informative there is. I would appreciate your insight on what move I should do to improve my system. I have a Wadia 781i, an Esoteric A-100 and a pair of Verity Audio Parsifal (first generation) with Nordost Valhalla cables. I listen mostly to rock music (CD and SACD) at low to moderate volume in my dedicated 13 x 20 room. I have been appreciating this system for many years but I have the itch to try something new. My hopes would be to increase the dynamics in the bass and add more “air” around the instruments.
What do you think?

Good timing. On one of your two wish list items, I do have a very solid idea. I had Matthieu Latour and Philippe the HD DAC's chief architect from Nagra over yesterday. We listened together to the Elac 4pi Plus.2 omni ribbon super tweeters I just reviewed since I had them set up and they were both curious about these Teutonic mushrooms. Matthieu initially was a bit skeptical about the raw concept of adding a super tweeter to a modern ceramic tweeter which by itself already extends higher than we can hear... but both of them agreed that it improved the sound in noticeable ways. Philippe had brought a St. Matthews Passion recording he traditionally uses for tests as it is a very challenging recording. It was gratifying to have two very keen listeners confirm the efficacy of this device. It's in the currently active review gallery. Take a look to learn what it does, specifically.

To increase bass dynamics usually requires bigger or more woofers to move more air. A subwoofer would be a logical avenue to pursue but with speakers like yours which in your room should act full-range already, proper integration would be very challenging. You'd probably not want any assist above 30Hz or so, hence require a massively steep low-pass on the sub. From experience I can say that a standard 4th-order filter even at 10Hz leaks far too much to be useful in such an application. You'd need a sub that uses a DSP crossover and allows the programming of far steeper filters. Then that'd be something to pursue. I believe that the new soundkaos isobarically loaded subs with outboard amplification and built-in miniDSP module could suit and allow for exactly that. Inquire with Martin Gateley through his website. Those would be my two ideas which keep what you have (which is of very high quality) but add some assist at the very edges of the audible range. Of the two, the Elac strikes me as a no-brainer with no integration issues. Sub integration with your speakers would be more challenging.
Wow, I just saw the site changes. Looks much much more impressive. I like it!
Sasa Cokic
Hello Marja,
Really enjoyed your review on these Polish Sounddeco speakers! Don't recall any mention in review or on their website about  availability in the USA? Would you have any thoughts on this after speaking with key company figures? Thanking you in advance, 

PS: I enjoyed the photos in your article, it looks like you have not one,but three different systems to choose from, two of which are horn-base. Lucky you! Any thoughts on new Avantgarde Zero1 active hornspeakers?

Hi Steve,
we forwarded your mail to Greg in Poland. He will get back to you. You’re right, we are in the lucky position to have three systems ready for use in one room. In fact, there is a fourth one as well with the planar Podiumsound speakers but that system needs rewiring to fire it up.We are still waiting for a promised pair of Zero’s for review…
Dear Sir,
I have been following your reviews on the Vibex devices with much interest. I note that you likened the combination of the Granada + Alhambra to salt and sugar and its effect on one's system to depend very much on where the system's existing sonic balance lies. May I know then if in your opinion, the Granada + Alhambra taken together is in anyway similar to the Vibex Three 11rR as I note that the 11R works on both AC and DC filtering. Thank you very much for your time and attention to my query. And thanks for the excellent work on your reviews!
Kind Regards

Since I own the Three 11R, I feel confident saying that the G/A combo is demonstrably superior. Just the Granada alone is more effective than the Three 11R. That was unexpected but a sign that the designer hasn't rested on his laurels and really advanced his craft.
Dear Srajan,
I have very much enjoyed reading your headphone-related reviews. I wanted to recommend that you try putting Mr. Speakers' Alpha Pads on the Beyerdynamic T1. With them on, the T1 sounds more similar to the LCD-2 and makes for a really engaging listen.
Best wishes,

Interesting. I replaced ear pads on two HifiMans with those that come stock with the HF-560. That made a nice difference. And I've always said that Dan Clark's pads are the most comfortable I've come across. Didn't know that they'll fit the T1 though. Cool top, thank you!

The alpha pads transformed my T1. Before they were lacking in (sub) bass but now they are full and rich and far less sibilant. I think it will change your opinion of the T1. It certainly did mine. Also, they fit fine.
Hello Stephæn,
My name is Lalle and I live way up in the mountains in the north of Sweden. Abisko is the name of the village I've lived in since 1981. Check it out on the Internet! For some years I've read many reviews on amps, CD players, loudspeakers, cables... and now on the Black Pearls phono stage. Thank you! It's an amazing review. Almost more like a very good novel. The way it's written, the words, the feeling in it, the realizations... everything. To me it's very good literature. Makes me just want to grab the telephone and phone this Greek guy to order one. I've known about Black Pearl for some time and was really waiting for this review to come. In 1-4 years I will probably update my whole music equipment. What I have now is from the early 1990s. I'm waiting for the reviews on their pre and power amplifiers that I hope you will review some time in September/October this year. But if they get words like this, the way I feel today, I will probably really think about getting a whole Black Pearls system. I'm far from an audiophile. I just love sounds. Maybe in a special way. And from what I've read, it seems that Black Pearls deliver it.
Thank you once again.

Thank you for the very kind words. I did look up Abisko and the latest census shows you are among only 85 inhabitants. I have no doubt that you love sounds in a special way. Since your location is 195km north of the Arctic Circle, I also suspect you know a thing or two about natural beauty, especially when it comes to viewing the aurora borealis. And I'd imagine a great sound system would come in handy during the nights of the midnight sun!
A good friend has the Job 225 and is getting the Boenicke W5se for a secondary system (must be nice, huh). I’m looking forward to the pairing and am curious about the sound. I suspect it will be to my liking. Right now, I’m going Vega to EAR 868 to J2 to Strada2. Very much a warm lit-from-within sorta presentation although most wouldn’t ever suspect that as the outcome. Very good dynamics in a nearfield setup.

Sonically, I think my tastes might be maturing. I used to be all about lightning-quick transients, now it’s all about a meaty energized presentation. Meaty and energized rarely go together. And there’s the rub. That’s what I find interesting about the Job/Boenicke combo. You’re the only reviewer who does the unlikely pairings and mixes and matches things wildly. Thanks for that. I find it much more fun to discover an unlikely pairing than to only mate reference-level gear. Too bad Crayon doesn’t offer the amp section of their integrated in an amp-only configuration.
Joe Eagleeye

Therein lies the rub indeed. We're fully agreed -:)
Hi Srajan,
I saw on your site that you're gonna review the Chiara. When I was at the Munich High-End show, I heard them and was very impressed. The Kawero Classic was very special but so is their price. I read your review about the Zu Audio Submission subwoofer and can tell that you loved it. It made me look into its small brother the Undertone (space-wise it makes more sense for me) but I still haven't decided whether I should add a subwoofer to a stand-mounted speaker or go for a floorstander.

Are you going to review the Chiara together with the Submission?  It will be very interesting to see how well they are integrated together and maybe also will be an alternative to more expensive floorstanders like the Kawero Classic? Do you have an estimate when you will get the review pair?

For most, the Undertone indeed is more sensible - half the size, half the price and the same driver and electronics. I personally lean to monitor + sub over floorstander if the monitor is bass-extended enough to only require <40Hz fill. I tend to get the most linear performance from that. I also find it far more cost-effective. The last 20 cycles are the most expensive to get from a passive speaker. But then they're fixed, not adjustable. And yes, I will try the Chiara with the Zu. It may not need it however. Or, the 4th-order low-pass of the Zu may not be steep enough even at 10Hz and bleed through where it's not needed. We'll see. I'm not certain on ETA. It'll be in person because Kaiser have another delivery and setup to a Swiss dealer. August tends to be vacation month in Europe so I'd expect we're looking at September.
it has been many years that I've read your reviews and I thank you for all the work you have put in over all this time. You are an absolute reference for hifi. I am writing because I live on an island where there are no hifi stores and where it is difficult to get components to evaluate. I'd like to know what you think of my system and what you would recommend to improve it. My system is composed of the Ayon Audio CD3sx which I also use as pre; a Burmester 956Mk2 amp; and Raidho C1.1 speakers all wired with Cableless Cruiser. The system sounds very good and every day gets better. The CD player has only 80 hours on it and the more I use it, the better it sounds.

What I can do to improve without losing the good already accomplished? Replace the Burmester amplifier with an Ayon? I particularly like the sound of Ayon. It is very open and lively. Or better, add a dedicated preamplifier first? The one in the CD3 is good but a Polaris 3 is something out of this world although so is the price. Maybe I could buy a smaller Ayon model? I've only tried the Polaris and don't know if the smaller model is worth it. The Raidho speakers sound really good but they are difficult to drive and I don't know if a tube amp will get the best of them. So if I were to upgrade the speakers, would you recommend staying with Raidho and maybe go with the C2.1 or D2; or to try something else? I've heard good things about Ayon speakers. They should be easy to drive but I've never had the occasion to listen to them. I've listen to Ayon with the Martin Logan Montis and they sounded very good.
I thank you in advance for your consideration.
Kind regards,

You're a very sick man, Thomas. I say this as a fellow addict. You've only got 80 hours on your CD player and already you worry about the next upgrade. You love your speakers yet are ready to change them for another brand. And like all addicts, you haven't diagnosed your condition. Before you can improve anything, you must determine what is wrong. No diagnosis, no cure. I appreciate that your island location limits you but given that you describe your system as sounding very good and getting better every day, it seems you've done very well for yourself. Don't you think that perhaps you should take a break from your upgrade addiction and just enjoy things as they are?

Of course telling an addict to stop is impossible. I understand that. I simply couldn't begin to assist you. Things aren't as you imagine them to be. Simply listing gear which you own doesn't tell anyone else what it will sound like in your room. If you had very specific items you didn't like; and very specific qualities you meant to keep; and some understanding what component was causing what... then you'd have the beginnings of a game plan. Personally I think a much better plan for now would be to live with your system as is for a few months to half a year to really get to know it before you even contemplate any changes -:)

Thank you Srajan, for your reply to my letter. You are definitely right!
Thanks for the excellent Munich show wrap. I attended the show as well and purchased a pair of Sven's amazing Boenicke W5 on the spot. By the time I had given Sven my details you had left the room so here I am asking for your advice.My goals is to build a high-quality desktop sound system around the W5. As source I was thinking of the Astell&Kern 120 where I would upload my HD music files and also use it as a streamer for Qobuz (not sure if I need to purchase A&K USB cradle to do that). Alternatively I could use my Mac as source with a Halide USB bridge I already own. Which DAC/amp solution would you recommend to drive the W5? My instincts would favour a one-box solution like the Gato 250 but keen t> hear your thoughts. I noted that you own a Red Wine modified A&K100. What's the benefit of the RW mod? Which 'travel-friendly' headphones would you recommend? And finally, should I go for the A&W a a source, which cable would you recommend to connect it to the DAC/amp?
Thank you
Vincenzo Picone

Travel-friendly headphones: Aedle VK-1 is what I own and use.
Travel-friendly hi-rez source that doubles as a desktop source: A&K 100MkII as USB or Toslink 'streamer'. All-in-one desktop amp/DAC/the works: April Music Aura Note Version 2 (even adds killer headphone output, tuner and CD player) is what I use -:)

3 more questions for you:
• the April Aura Note 2 is not imported in the UK and the only models I can find are 120V. Is it possible/EASY to switch voltage?
• in your latest review of the Aptica I saw a pictures of your W5se on your desk. How are they supported/attached (would love to set mine up in the same way!)
• Following an extensive demo in Munich and your review, I am buying the Enigma M1 + Sopranino. Will the Devialet 250 which I own be a good match?

Sieveking Sound in Germany distributes the Aura and will be able to help with a proper 230V unit. I ordered a pair of taller stands from Sven so the W5se would float above my glass table top for more room and a tidier setup. The Devialet should be brilliant on the M1 + Sopranino combo. Lovely choices you're making all around!
I enjoy your reviews immensely. Based upon your opinions, I happily own a FirstWatt J2. I have been following the JOB Pre2 review with great interest and am curious about its exact voltage gain specifications, which remain unstated. Surely with the JOB 225 featuring a massive 35dB of gain, the Pre2 must be almost passive in order to make the duo useable. And if so, does this leave the Pre2 slightly down in jump factor as with other truly passive preamps (even the ones with 6dB on tap like Music First, Django etc)? Are you able to confirm? Appreciated.
Tony Wainhouse

I don’t have the voltage gain spec. But that isn’t the relevant thing relative to the Job 225’s gain. The relevant thing is the PGA of the preamp which parses attenuation in 0.5dB steps rather than apply a log taper like conventional pots do. No matter how much gain a circuit has, if you offer attenuation down to full mute in 0.5dB steps, you’ll be able to match it to anything. My Esoteric C-03 can be set to zero gain. So can my Nagra. But zero gain doesn’t equal passive. You’ve still got active voltage rails; and buffered impedance-compensated outputs. That’s different from the true passives. So no, I don’t hear reduced jump factor with the Pre2. To me that argument is one of those audiophile theoretical ideas which doesn’t add up in reality -:)

Many thanks for your prompt and thoughtful insights on this. I hear what you are saying when you make the point that a nil-gain preamp does not denote a passive preamp. And thanks for highlighting the JOB’s rather unique volume control system on the Pre2. I had completely overlooked this aspect. As I understand from your comments, the volume increments are so small that the Pre2 potentially makes preamp power amp gain mismatches, at least as far as sufficient usable volume control increments are concerned, a thing of the past. Interestingly, after reading about your many escapades with TVC preamps, I have recently inserted a Django preamp into my system of FirstWatt J2, Blumenstein Orca/Dungeness (active) and the results are simply breathtaking but also quite contradictory.

Firstly, with the Django and J2 in service, this is perhaps the finest sound I have ever achieved. However, when the music gets very heavy or complex, it is as if the J2 now runs out of steam. That is to say that during particularly demanding material, the J2 now appears to now have insufficient power to maintain the excellent dynamics heard in simpler music. The sound seems to harden and vocals sound a bit 'pinched' and shut in. If I didn’t know better, I would assume that this result was symptomatic of insufficient amplifier power to drive the 90dB loudspeakers with their solid 8-ohm impedance, single driver, no crossover and active subs during complex and demanding material. But this is not the case when my other two active preamps—one solid state and one tubed—are feeding the J2 in the exact same system. (Admittedly, the overall sound was less good than with the Django).

As you will know, the Django has a switch to introduce 6dB of gain but this does nothing to resolve the dynamics problem during heavy or complex music material. So as you have rightly identified, this problem is not a gain issue. As a cross reference, I recently stayed with the Django preamp and switched out the J2 in favour of my 150w/30dB gain Holfi Power 150 power amp, a wonderful, zero-feedback solid state amp from Denmark. With the big Dane providing the juice, the dynamic problems during complex or heavy material completely disappeared but the Holfi could not quite match the J2 for sheer articulation and realism during less demanding music. As a result, the J2 went straight back into duty. But the test proved to me that a Django-based system could indeed deliver full force dynamic, within the context of the right power amp/loudspeaker partnership.

So I simply cannot explain why the J2 drives my speakers perfectly well with an active preamp but not with a passive preamp?  All avenues suggest that this is a passive versus active preamp issue. Perhaps the ever-so-slight additional drive that an active preamp contributes gives the J2 a small but critical boost and just makes the difference in my system?  If so, the active JOB Pre2 could eliminate the current dynamics problem in my system?  I suspect that the Pre2 could potentially lose some of the precision and purity of the Django at the same time. I may have this wrong. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with the drive delivered via the Django in combination with the ultra-transparent J2?  Maybe the superior resolution of the combo is simply exposing the (typically) large amounts of compression that get applied to highly dynamic recordings?I simply don’t know. I guess that’s why we love this infinitely mind-bending hobby that we share? I’ll just keep listening. Hopefully this lot makes sense. I expect that you receive thousands of emails so thanks again for making yourself available to comment, Srajan. Appreciated.

The Django’s 6dB of gain are passive and generated with a step-up transformer function built into the attenuating transformers. So even then it’s not active regardless of voltage gain. The FirstWatt M2 generates its gain passively in the same fashion except more than 6dB. But that's an active circuit. With my Esoteric’s switchable gain (0, 12, 24dB), I have a quasi analogue ‘tone’ control. Zero gain sounds fastest and leanest, max gain sounds warmest and bassiest. That’s despite the fact that with max gain, the volume control setting obviously is way down whilst with zero gain it is far more open. 

On the amp/speaker interface, you’ve got current delivery and output impedance as factors which influence apparent drive and control over the speaker. And you’ve also got output impedance of a preamp as a factor on how well it will drive an amplifier. That’s where passives can fall below actives. And usually whilst producing more grip, bass and mass, actives give up transparency, speed, lucidity and micro detail compared to passives. So it tends to demand a well-chosen set of compromises between both approaches.

There’s an intermediate option of the ‘activated passive’. That’s how Wyred4Sound does it. Until unity gain they apply no gain so their device works like a passive. Above unity gain they kick in active gain. Once the volume control setting stops attenuating the source voltage, the device urns into a conventional active. But in passive mode you’ve still got active voltage rails, impedance-compensated outputs and such to not operate like a conventional passive on those counts. The mPre is a sub $1’000 piece that impressed me a lot when I reviewed it. No idea though how I’d feel about it compared to the Pre2 since I never heard them side by side.

The Job Pre2 is a wide bandwidth design like all of Goldmund’s stuff so it doesn’t suffer a time lag between low and high frequencies. This makes for a very articulate lit-up energetic precise sound. I’ll find out how much voltage gain it produces before I wrap the review. How it’d work versus the Django into your J2 and speakers I couldn’t predict of course. Thankfully the Pre2 isn’t too costly where, perhaps, it’s a gamble that you could justify either way? What I can nearly predict is simply that any active preamp in the sane money realm will subtract some of the transparency and openness of your TVC. You might have to prioritize based on what type of music you listen to most.