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For an upcoming article on copy-protected CDs, Marja & Henk would like reader feedback on personal experiences where such discs refused to play back or caused other unexpected issues. If you'd like to participate in their informal survey to help them collect user information, please e-mail to
Hi Srajan,

I am contacting you from Calgary Alberta, Canada. I enjoy perusing the 6moons site once in a while. Over the past 20 years, I have used a variety of equipment that had good sound, maybe not real high end. Some of the gear I have used is Quad 303 and 33, Carver amps and different loudspeakers like DCM Time Frames, Merak M4s ( did not like them when I got them home)and Magnaplaner Mg2Cs which I loved for 16 years amplified by Carver untill a panel cracked. I now run a Blue Circle CS Integrated that I am thrilled with (not an expensive amp). For loudspeakers, I run a Space Tech Lab SP-2W2D. For source I use a Rega Planet CD and Rega Planer 3 turntable with a RB 300 arm which is almost 20 years old and a Grado high-quality cartridge and a Rega phono preamp. I am thrilled with my Blue Circle Integrated and with my Space Tech SP-2W2D loudspeakers. Blue Circle is well known --maybe it should be better known -- but Albert LTS at Space Tech should definitely have more critique and possible recognition. His equipment needs to be looked at. The person that built my loudspeakers is Albert who owns Space Tech Lab in Vancouver British Columbia, Canada. I feel that Albert at Space Tech needs more attention in the audio world. I only have his loudspeakers but his forte is electronics. Give him a look at

Don MacDonald
I enjoyed Jeff Day's review of the Steelhead. I too have Avantgarde Duos and while I have been absolutely obsessed with obtaining the lowest noise floor possible, I don't find the Steelhead noisy in my system using it as a standalone phono preamp with integral linestage. As to needing to 'cheat' the power supply outlet, a chassis strap on the control unit (more of a pin than a strap) accomplishes pretty much the same thing without eliminating the third pin on the power cord if grounding noise is a problem.

I did swap the Sovteks for Mullard NOS gold pins - not a huge expenditure and have also fiddled with the loading -- but I'm not sure its fair to conclude that the Manley unit is unsuitable for use with hornspeakers in full-on preamp mode. Jeff is welcome to take a listen if he is in the area.

Btw, I was out of the audio scene for years and came back to it recently. The Internet has made a huge impact, from places like A-Gon to the availability
of info exchanges among users and manufacturers. Yours is one of the nicest sites on the 'Net, irrespective of subject. It has enhanced my enjoyment of the hobby immeasurably since my return to the fold.

Bill Hart

In fact and as suggested by EveAnna, Jeff has since experimented with an external ground connection between the chassis of the Steelhead and DAC and eliminated the noise issue. He is currently penning the corrections so that the review reads accordingly.



Your HT2.0 article is hilarious but true ... very true. I have the mid-fi Sony 5.1 in the family room. The ModWright/WelborneLabs 300B Terraplane and Klipschorns are in the other room. My sister-in-law at Christmas, when sitting down later to view a movie exclaimed, "Guy, your system sounds great." Me, "Thanks, glad that you enjoyed, but I didn't really have a chance to demo it." Her, "No, I mean this one." Me, "Huh, this one. The Sony $200 system?" Her, "Yes." Me, "Oh my gosh . . . very funny, surely you are joking?" Her, "No."

Aghast, that she was a 'musician', I asked my brother, a guitarist for 38 years, about her. He said that pianists are not concerned with tone, and he could prove it, for example, when was the last time (George Winston is the exception) you saw a pianist tune his/her instrument on stage, because it didn't sound right? True. Tin ears many of them.

7.1 channel . . . when is 8.1 channel hitting the market?

Hi Srajan,

First I would like to thank you for 6moons. It is informative and entertaining. Best on the net and way better than any of the mags. I believe we have simular tastes as we both enjoyed AG Duos and after auditioning the Zu Cable Definitions side by side with the Duos, I am selling the Duos and purchasing the Definition Pros. I hope you can help me with a technical question. In your review of the Definition Pros, you stated you used both outputs of the Music First Passive, one set to drive the front speakers with, the other output to the Rane. Manufacturer's recommendation (for the Music First) cautions against using both outputs at the same time. Did you do anything out of the ordinary for your setup or did you just use both outputs with no problem? Music First recommended a rather elaborate setup using the signal from the Zu speaker terminals to input into the Rane. I am including the recommendation. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Fred Manheck

I had no issues whatsoever running the Music First from both its XLR and RCA outputs simultaneously - no noise, no distortion, no indication whatsoever that I was breaking any rules.


I've read with great interest your reviews of Gallo speakers. Unfortunately, my wife refuses to have "big" speakers in the house. You and I both know that the Reference AVs aren't big speaker but she doesn't.

In any event, the best I've been able to convince her of are 5 Dues plus TR2. You guys have been favorable on the A'diva/Micro Tis. I'm just curious if you have any comments on the Duee. There are scant reviews anywhere on these speakers. Theoretically, the Due should offer the best combination of size and sound but nobody's reviewed them that I can find although there are plenty of reviews of Reference and A'diva/Micro speakers. I'm a little worried that the Dues are a "whiff" as far as Gallos go.

btw, I will be using this for predominantly home theater. I'm considering running this setup with a receiver from Arcam (maybe the pending 350) or NAD. The room is between 2500-2600 cubic feet with less than ideal geometry.

Any thoughts you can offer on this matter are greatly appreciated.


PS: I love your site. I recently told my wife that if she wants to move, I will agree provided I get an A/V room (where I could really put your site to good use).

Unfortunately, none on our staff have reviewed the Dues either so on that subject, I simply have no opinion, sorry.


Hi Jeff,

I have the first pictures of my nearly finished horn speakers. They are called Parmenter Fat Boys, one because the sound they produce is live-like plus of their dimensions as well.Waiting on Black Diamond Racing cones Pits to go between the cabinets.

We have a NZ female singer here at the moment who is excellent and well worth a listen - Holy Smith.


TAD top horn 110dB 16 Ohm, 650Hz to 22 KHz @-3dB; JBL 15-inch bass system 98sB/1 watt, 30Hz to 650 Hz @ -3dB.
Marchand 126 2-way valve active crossover included with speaker system.

Hello Srajan,

Since in the past you kindly answered my newbie questions I hereby dare to disturb you again ("give a man a helping hand..." indeed). The question pertains to the Consonance CD-2.2 Linear and Droplet CDP 5.0 you reviewed rather recently.

My problem: My current setup consists of Gallo Ref 3s driven by an E.A.R. 890 fed source-direct by a Cayin CDT-17A CD player. While all is fine and well with my 90%-of-the-time music ("educated", "polite" baroque -- Telemann, Albioni, Vivaldi, and some Haydn, Brahms, Schubert and Tchaikovsky) the "warmth" of the CDT-17A -- with EH 6922 tubes in its output stage -- transforms into a sort of "lushness" that blurrs the details/resolution and leads to diminished dynamic in larger-scale/ higher paced "modern" music (Supertramp, Peter Gabriel or "lively" pop pieces).

The question: After reading, re-reading and re-reading again your reviews for the two Consonance CDPs (helas, no possiblity of listening them around here) I am still left in doubt: Is there any way with one of the above two CDPs (which ?) to both have my cake -- "warmth" in baroque music -- and eat it (high resolution and dynamics)? Would a good pre-amp like the beautiful and praised Supratek Chardonnay (suggestion by others?) add that "missing texture" to the CD-2.2 Linear (or even CD-120 Linear) while retaining its timing and rythm you mentioned ?

Thanks in advance for any advice and (if need be) appologies for contacting you directly for "freebee system synergy consulting" :)

My sincerest regards and admiration for your insightful reviews and reports.


Ah, in the clutches of the old conundrum between body and speed, warmth and details. Welcome to the club, Florian. I haven't heard the Cayin to know how far in the warmth direction it errs and how the Consonance pieces would compare. I will say that out of the two, the Linear strikes me as the one for you if you were running a preamp. It uses a tube -- albeit the Russian "super tube", not a standard 6922 -- to give good though clearly not overdone body and this machine is all about dynamics and tempo and verve and drive. Alas, it can't be used to drive your amp direct (unless the 890 has an input level control) since it lacks variable outputs. If you wanted more body than it delivers, a good tube pre could certainly help though you might then undermine some of the lively spunk of the Linear 2.2. It's all a give'n'take and making predictions without trying is a bit like a blind date. The Droplet of course sports its own volume control (well, the US version does - I'm told there is a European version that eliminates it) but how that'd compare to the Cayin I simply don't know.


Hi Srajan,

Finally coming to sample the English smog I see? Well, if I can tempt you/Edward south of the river (pom expression for South London), then please let me know. Love to meet up for a pint and curry/chinese hichever takes your fancy. And a bit of music of course. No Kondo but I do have the TEAD Linear A and LV OBX-R2. Front end: Audiomeca Mephisto CDP & Tube Distinctions pre. All on Finite Elemente rack, BPT PPC power, various feet/isolations.


Coming up for air in the English smog - it does sound like a plan. As I'm getting nearer this particular adventure, I'll be sure to contact you, thanks. In the meantime, you can reach Edward at He might be persuaded for a visit right away if you have the proper ale on tap (or whatever our man there fancies for a quaff).


I trust that you and Ivette are settling in nicely. It must be a relief after such a long packing-and-traveling regimen. It will be most interesting to hear about what you hear in your new environment, considering it's completely different in size, shape and material. I wonder what the tonal balance will be ( to your ears) when you first press "play"......

A big thank you for showing off the new UK13 cable I made for you and the link....most appreciated! I should, however, offer a correction or three about what you wrote: "Connection between wall and transformer is via a 3' cord by Acrotech of Japan terminated with a massive Furutech UK plug, then deep-immersion cryo'd by Alan Kafton of Audio Excellence AZ in Phoenix/Arizona."

  • Acrotech's name was changed to Acrolink a while back....
  • Your 3-foot cord is actually a one-meter length....
  • The cryo treatment is not "deep-immersion" (Jena Labs performs their treatments with immersion), but it is deep-cryo'd as the soak is scrupulously maintained for more than 24 hours at -320F. Further, your cord was double-cryo-treated. Everything I do under the World Power name is double-cryo'd (and has been for more than 5 years, including the Hubbells you own). I believe I'm the only one doing so. It's more costly, of course, but I feel the improved sonics are worth it. 'Natch.

Alan Kafton

Hi Srajan,

I just purchased the newest Total Airhead with gain switch from HeadRoom as my much older 2AA Total Airhead died. I talked with Jorge and told him what I was looking for with regards to sonic improvements and this is what he recommended. This unit is everything I didn't want it to be. It's thin throughout the mids and highs. It's harsh, grainy and etched. Cold and unemotive. Bass lacks punch, weight and fullness as do the mids for that matter. But two of the worst aspects are how very stiff it sounds, lacking musical flow - and that it has a major lack of upper end harmonics. For that alone it shouldn't be consider an audiophile product. My older unit was a little too warm and smooth with a lack of high end sparkle but it was quite musical and engaging, with a good deal of midrange colour and timbral correctness. The new unit is a major step down in my opinion.

Can you make a recommendation on an amp that will give me more of what I'm looking for? Btw, I'm using RS-1s, HD650s and a variety of cheaper Grados, Sennheisers and AKG models...

John Grammatico

You don't mention a budget but Ryan Clarin just reviewed the Ray Samuels Audio Emmeline Hornet and compares it to the SR-71 which I reviewed earlier. Another headphone amp that I really enjoyed was the CIAudio unit which isn't sterile, lean or cold by any stretch of the imagination.


Dear friend Srajan,

Now we will be two real high-end professionals reaching Cyprus - you and me , both around Dan's hospitality. Because I am Greek -- I married a Greek woman about 22 years ago -- I have always sided with the Greeks on matters of the Cyprus occupation. You have to know that Cyprus is a Greek-speaking though independent country and was invaded by a Turkish army in 1974 just like that, by force, with the conflict not resolved yet despite all efforts expended. There was no war between Turkey and Greece. So, I have to tell you that I like the Cyprus people very much and because you are there, you will feel the same, which is very easy.

Regarding your new house there, I hope that you will let me help you to correct the listening room acoustics using my invention, the Roundffusor1, which -- whatever you may argue -- is 50-60 % responsible for the good sound in Dan's system and generally in any system where the owner had the cleverness to install the R1.

Be welcome to a land which I consider a Greek-feeling extension -- and nobody's else -- a land of joy, freedom and beauty. It is possible that soon we will be together there.

Best regards,

The Greek Cypriots I've met so far have indeed been generous to a fault and really do credit to the Mediterranean spirit of openess and kindness. I'd agree with your "patriotism" in that regard. However, I should probably warn you that I'm a huge fan of Turkish music and plan on visiting Istanbul soon. So I'll enjoy the island for both its Greek and Turkish flavors and people and let the political ramifications lay with those who better understand them -:)

Once my big airfreight shipment arrives with all my audio gear and I'm back in sound to evaluate the present audio room, I'd be thrilled to take you up on your offer and learn what your room acoustic treatments can do. Thanks kindly for that opportunity.


Hello Srajan,

I thoroughly enoy 6moons. It's my favourite audio site. Every time I visit it to see what's new. Pity though that in your readers section, there is a link to a clairvoyant guy. To me that spells occultism and that spoils the fun. Hope you keep the site neutral in that respect. Should not everyone enjoy 6moons and not take offense from whatever walk of life or religious persuasion?

C.J. van Woerden

Perhaps you could apply a bit more tolerance and openness and don't ask me to censor reader e-mail to conform with your personal expectations and willingness to be offended. Everyone open-minded enough can indeed enjoy 6moons in the spirit it is offered - as a portal for the global audio community where readers of different backgrounds can pick and choose what appeals to them and leave the rest for others without making the personal choice to feel offended that not everything here agrees with them.


Hello Srajan,

This is a bit of a bold move for me, as I know that you guys probably don't answer personal letters, but after being confused entering the world of headphones and headphone amps, I thought I might try and talk to you.

I have visited forum boards asking questions but I have not recieved any replies (probably tired of newbies asking questions). It seems as though all of my research has led me to just more questions, and, most importantly, more money spending...

I was very enamored with your review of CIAudio's VHP*1 and its counterpart, the VAC*1 because of the affordability and quality of these two amps (also their feeling of slight 'warmth' really interested me.) It seemed as though I was ready to take a plunge into the world of HiFi listening with less money spent than I thought...

My intended idea was to purchase the AKG-701s, as they might suit my eclectic tastes (metal, jazz/fusion, instrumental and classical). I thought that this amp might be a good pair for this (along with it' power supply upgrade) but I realized that I would need some good interconnects for it,as well as a good source. Things quickly got out of hand (the Crystal Cables that you guys used are $399 a meter) and the best source I thought I could find for affordability was a Denon 2910 SACD/CD player. After all was said and done, I was quickly spending more than $1500 for all components.

I know that you probably get questions like this all of the time but I'm really kind of lost. I tried checking out the reviews on your site but it seems as though they bring more questions and there is no place for a 'headphone/headphone amp' setup for different price ranges.

In your opinion, what would be a good headphone/headphone amp setup for around $1,500, including source?

I'd appreciate any replies or comments that you might have, however brief...


My system recommendation at that target price would be the audio-technica ATH-W1000s, CIAudio VHP-1, SilverFi interconnects from Turkey, with a Cambridge Audio Azur DVD player as source. That would come in well below your ceiling and be a system I'd live with in a heartbeat. Alternately, the Ray Samuels Audio SR-71 is a good piece though for warmth and ease of listening, I'd probably tip my hat to the Channel Island Audio piece. The audio-technicas are available through AudioCubes.Com and what I personally listen to, favoring those by far over the popular Sennheiser HD-650s (I'm not familiar yet with the AKG-701s, owning their now discontinued K-1000s instead.


Dear Srajan,

I have recently read the review by Steve Marsh about the Cornetta cabinets that his friend built with great interest. It seemed likely to me that the plans would be available but searching the web has not produced any positive result, only evidence of other frustrated hifi enthusiasts looking for them.

Do you think it would be possible that Mr Marsh could contact his friend to see if plans could be made available or provide some other lead ?

Congratulations on your magazine, great stuff - keep it up.

Jeff Dunn

Contact Steve at and see what he can do. I'd be happy to publish the build files if they materialize and its owner gives permission.



So I start reading the fist few lines of your article (Grand Prix Audio's ingeneous new Monaco) and the back of my mind is going "uh-huh, uh-huh" - and then I get to the punch line at the end of the first paragraph and nearly fall of my chair laughing.

Now I'm sure you were trying to get a rise by saying something witty about marketing types : "Sometimes, the cynics amongst us could be forgiven for thinking that audio products are designed foremost by marketing men, not serious engineers."

The reason I found this hilarious is because in the back of my mind, I was thinking the opposite: "the cynics among us could be forgiven for thinking that audio products are designed foremost by engineering geeks, not serious marketers". Cynic I am.

Maybe its because I'm a marketer by profession (previously an accountant and IT geek) that I look at much of the bizarre and outlandish in audio and conclude that these mishaps are more to do to with misguided engineers than level-headed marketing types. How else can I rationalize in my "universe" of things speakers shaped like stacked triangles, "controllers" lacking knobs, components with tubes jutting out in the wrong places, and tape monitor switches for what ... cassette decks which went the way of the do-do bird long ago.

A good marketer, as you well know (I read your bio), should focus on what the customer actually needs. Hitting that bullseye is not easy.

Many of the things you mentions such as 9" platters and three motors (kudos to Audio Note) seem to me to be created as engineering fantasies (let's try this? hehe) rather than marketing specs. I mean really ... I look at many of the photos of speakers from CES 200X and wonder: Why on earth would someone want something like that in their living room? Why else has the term WAF entered into the audiophile vocabulary, other than to add some common sense to what is the nonsense of this hobby?


You've got a valid point there. However, a lot of audio engineering in fact isn't real engineering, i.e. it is not backed up by proper scientific testing methodology or a comprehensive grasp on what solutions are most appropriate for the task at hand. Just because something is machined nicely and looks complex with plenty of gears and ratchets doesn't mean that in its application, this is the proper approach to use. But if a small audio company has no marketing guys, the engineer/owner wears that hat as well and presto, your argument and mine become one. Honestly, I don't know who to blame in the end. I picked on the marketing guy but could just as well have on the so-called engineers. I trust that regardless, the point was made that much of the hyperbolic constructions in audio should be regarded with a fair amount of cynicsm and questioning -:)


The Man!

Grey Market - It's a no-win situation. Some very interesting items are not being imported, like the Esound CD-E5 European Edition - 115V, 220V, 240V, the Consonance 10th anniversary edition of the CD 120-10 (Sovtek 6H30 CD player) at $598... Who's fault would it be if I wanted to take advantage of this from Cattylink?

I'd rather buy a product from a local with a warrantly, but how do I buy a Vecteur D-2 CD transport? discontinued them. They also state that for getting answers to email, even immediate product orders, make take 2 days by return email. See how much stuff I will buy from them.

I recall 10 years ago trying hard to work with the importer of Elac. Forget that.

Some hunting for CD transports has left me looking at the Rega Apollo, seems not many have bothered to continue improving that area like they should have.

Hope all is well.

Aris Theocharis

The world is shrinking. This also means we know more about what goes on elsewhere on the globe, often before the infrastructure in retail has caught up. You know about products which aren't available in your local market and you're interested in them. Enter the grey market guy if the manufacturer won't sell direct. This scenario is what it is and consumers merely need to know that when the time comes to require service (or they wish to resell), they might notice the difference from if they'd been able to purchase from a local dealer. I don't view this as assigning blame either way. These are simply artifacts of how the Internet has exploded access to information whereas material backup for this information is by necessity lagging behind. I purchased my audio-technica W-1000 phones from a grey market outfit because nobody in the US carried the model. Since I wasn't dealing with voltage conversion issues, I felt comfortable. However, had a proper importer been available, I would have gone through them to honor the manufacturer's and importer's investment in supporting a brand.


Hope to someday see a review of the Aurum Acoustics system on your site. Having heard it again this year at the Montreal show, I am most amazed how it sounds so seamless. A georgous audio experience. Hope you will get a listen to it soon.

Thanks for the great site,
Carl Shaw

We know about them and they about us. The only snafu, last time we talked, was that their Canadian location makes our own Paul Candy the most attractive writer for them yet Paul isn't too comfortable tackling equipment that's priced well outside his level of familiarity yet. So I'm not sure how soon we can put this deal together after all. It might be a few years before Paul has inched his way up the food chain into those price ranges (he's resisting awfully hard - good man) or perhaps Aurum will be willing to ship a system into the US. UltraAudio.Com, however, already has done a review of the Aurum CDP so perhaps that means, they're primed to follow up with a full system writeup.


'Reading Material'
'1.5KV Transformer'
'Yeah that too.'

Pleasant Travels,
The Crane Family

Check. And now we've arrived and the transformer should show up next week with the big air freight shipment that'll contain the rest of the equipment - hopefully.


Dear Srajan,

I thoroughly enjoyed the interview you did with Austin, and was very interested to learn of your involvement with SoundStage!. I think some of your articles have been archived, but your name isn't on them.

Could you tell me when you were the "GoodSound Guy"?

Keep up the excellent work on 6moons.

Jeff Stockton

For the first four months of its relaunch under the SoundStage! Network umbrella, I indeed was the GoodSound guy. Then I left and a new team of writers took over. GoodSound was my first taste as a professional full-time writer and planted the seeds which eventually grew into this site.
Last time I went to the SoundStage! columns page, I still did see my Y-Files articles archived at the bottom of the page where discontinued columns live. Whether my name remains on those articles or not I don't know. Not that it really matters. If the articles are gone, that's certainly legit as well. Marc and Doug purchased them and can do with them as they see fit.


I have been a regular reader for the last year and a half. During this time, I have owned the PrimaLuna Prologue 2 integrated and Ah Noejtoeb cd playe, and recently purchased some Naim equipment 115/200/cd5x/arriva speakers. I find the Naim equipment a little bright and lacking in vocal warmth and presence. I note that there is a Mesa Baron or two for sale out there, and wonder what you think the Mesa would sound like paired with the MiniMax pre and my Naim arriva speakers. I have owned Mesa guitar amps in the past, and always found them to be great pieces. I also like the fact that you can tweak the pentode/triode/negative feedback aspect to dial in different sounds. My goal is to have warm, rich vocals and good, natural, musical sound. My musical tastes run the gamut from the Clash, Stone Roses, Billy Bragg,to Bebel Gilberto, Suba and even some techno Any CD player pairing recommendations would also be appreciated. Thank you for your time, and thanks for the wonderful web publication.

Jon Fredrickson

My days at Mesa well preceded the launch of Eastern Electric so your guess in that department is as good as mine. The Baron is so dominant a presence that a passive preamp like a Sonic Euphoria might be all that's required to reach your goals. For CD players, I'm very fond of the Kusonoki-style Opera Audio Reference 2.2 Linear which comes in well below $2,000.


Dear Mr. Srajan.

first, sorry for my poor English. My name is Myeong Sin Choi. I'm a head-fier living in South Korea and a small size reseller mainly carrying headphone-related stuffs. I'm writing to know if I can request a product review of you. What I want to be reviewed by one of your reviewers at this time is Bakoon'ss HDA-5210 headphone amp. Bakoon is a reputable company producing hi-end HiFi amplifiers and some of their amps have a high quality headphone-out and they're very popular in Japan and SK. Lately, they have released a dedicated headphone amplifier, the HDA-5210. you can get some information about this amp here.

A few days ago, I met the owner and amp designer of Bakoon, Mr. Akira Nagai and had a conversation about many issues. It seems he does not have any plans to introduce his products to headphiles in other countries for now but I think his products are a real piece of work and deserve more attention. I think having it reviewed by a professional reviewer of a famous magazine is the best way for it.

However, I'm a newbie to this business and actually don't even know how you're dealing with this kind of issue. Please let me know if there's any condition I have to be aware of to do this and feel free to contact me if you need something to do this review.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you soon.


You're doing all that's necessary, Myeong - contacting me with a request. We have no secret handshakes or arcane procedures for these matters. A simple phone call or e-mail will suffice. In this case, the only concern I have is that if Mr. Nagai has no 117V product at present, it would preclude a review in the US for obvious reasons. Having recently relocated to Europe, I can accommodate 240V product but I must confess to being ignorant what the wall voltage in SK is. Let me know about that and also, whether Mr. Nagai will authorize a review on 6moons. We do appreciate your efforts for his brand but one thing we won't do is go behind the back of a manufacturer to procure a review loaner against his wishes.


Hi there from the sunny regions of nether (also known as Australia !)

Firstly, I would like to hold you to account for the excessive hours I've spent enjoying your online presence and info-tained insights under the shadows of music and equipment for the translation thereof - also that of the numerous contributors to 6moons...

However, it is not solely for this purpose that I write, but also to ask of you a rather mundane plea for assistance in my search for a certain preamp (as the subject indicates)...and one which I believe that you may have become acquainted with closer to the time of its initial release.

Down here in the land of croc' and bbq'd shrimps, good taste in cars, audio and other such novelties of the 21st century often requires more than a slight desire to enjoy the good things in life, but also the instinct of an animal on a quest of survival to actually search out the articles which one so keenly seeks...and even then it can be rather difficult for reasons of distance and miniscule market share in the greater scheme of things.

So it is with one last vain attempt that I am hoping, you may have, on your somewhat more richly traversed journey through the jungles of new and old audiophillia, any ideas as to the whereabouts, or could perhaps suggest possible sources for an Aleph-(L).to partner my Aleph 3....?

Yours sincerely,
Mr. Luc Allen

I'm afraid here you do me more credit than deserved. My entry into Pass land began with the launch of FirstWatt, any prior exposure limited to the Aleph 3. Never tried a Pass preamp of any persuasion yet - but perhaps I should, seeing I've fallen in love with Nelson's Power JFET F3. Stands to reason one of his preamps would make for a good match, wouldn't it?



I have been reading your stuff extensively and would appreciate enlightenment on what possible use one might have for a preamp in the presence of a good DAC with analogue stage. I am running an Audio Aero Capitole 24/192 SE directly into a Graaf GM20 with Duevel Bella Lunas and inserting a Graaf 13.5 or a pot into the setup results in a serious loss of micro detail and dynamics whether one uses balanced or RCA single connections. It seems to me that a good DAC directly into the power amp eliminates a set of connections, tramsformers and other unmentionable gunk while I cannot see any argument for doing it. Am I missing anything?

Greetings from Old Blighty
Norbert Reis

That's exactly why I run a transformer-attenuating passive, the Music First. However, I have not found this to be a universal panacea. There are instances where an active preamp is preferable. No hard and fast rules yet, I'm afraid. But for single-ended tube amps, my clear preference thus far is for TVCs (which are essentially no preamps at all though the current-to-voltage conversion of transformer attenuation has some benefits at low-level listening that could improve over a DAC-direct connection). Wadia would certainly agree with you. Remember, though, that the Audio Aero Capitole essentially packs a preamp stage into its chassis. You are listening to an active preamp stage. It's simply integral to your player. Following one preamp (internal) with another would (external) be detrimental for sure so really, there's no great surprise in this scenario.


You may find this interesting. I finally, sort of, finished the new integrated amp. It features S&B102 transformers, motorized volume adjustement and balanced Patek amps, all in one enclosure with two separate power transformers (custom winding, amorphous core). My best effort so far.

Peter Daniel

Hello Srajan:

I'm not sure if I ever got around to thanking you for your time and careful thoughts on the RM-10 MK II. Roger and I want to thank you for the time you devoted to our product. We felt you gave it a very fair review, and since then there have been more inquiries on the amplifier as well as the tubes we sell. We wish you well with your move to Cyprus. I do understand your reasoning on the matter. Being an American in this day and age with the current leadership leaves much to be desired. Hopefully, we'll get it right here again one day.

Again, all the best, and keep in touch!

Best Regards,
George Lenz
Ram Labs-Music Reference

Hey Srajan,

I just read from your personal page that you're mentioning Osho. No surprise I like your style :-) many of my friends have been there those times, and they still gather from time to time and show video talks of Osho. Last week we watched a talk where he spoke about female rights on this planet and why it was not good to suppress female potential.

I read a book by a Swiss guy who's been with Osho for some time, he's a clairvoyant and a great teacher, maybe you want to read it:

Best regards
Hi Srajan,

First off, I'd like to thank you for doing such a bang up job with 6moons. Give yourself a pat on the backknowing you are providing valuable information not found elsewhere and equally valuable reading enjoyment to those like me who are relatively new to this hobby.

My virgin hi-fi experience was as a teenager in a chance meeting with a pair of B&W 801s. I fell immediately in love and 20 years later I can finally, sort of, afford some decent equipment. My question is this. I live in a small studio apartment, listen late at night, necessitating low volume. I currently have a pair of Revel M20s powered by a PrimaLuna Prologue 2 amp. I like this combo but it seems to need some juice to open up.

I know you are very high on the Zus and was wondering if the whole hi-eff speaker, SET combo would be good for my situation. I specifically bring up Zu because I am considering flying to LA for the HE2006 show just to hear them. Talk about a kid in a candy store. Anyhow any advice is greatly appreciated. These decisions are costly.

I'm sure you get a lot of suggestions but while I am here, have you considered doing a section specifically for newbies? I know you've been realsizing down but even that is still some bling equipment by mortal standards. I imagine a lot of newbies are like me, people who innately understand the value of hi-fi but are skeptical paying $500 for a power cord when their last system cost $500. It would be great to have a running article where you start with, say $3000, and you build up a system. Every month you can swap components in and out but the sum total must stay at $3000. I think this system would be a combination of intro to hi-fi, do double duty in a 2-channel home theater and bridge with the iPod world. Of course, once you get the $3000 system, you start looking at the next level. You gotta love it.

Thanks so much.
Robert Kosai

I'm indeed "high on the Zus" but it would be unfair to not also mention other entries in the hi-eff sector that are very much worth considering. From the Cain & Cain Abby to the Omega Loudspeakers by Louis Chochos and Ed Schilling's overachieving Horn Shoppe The Horn, from Jacob George's Rethm line to easily driven Reference 3A models, there are a number of minimum or no-xover designs that offer higher than usual efficiencies. Those "raise the curtain" far earlier on the volume control than their less sensitive brethren which require more juice to come alive and sound fully fleshed out and awake. So yes, I do believe that the hi-eff/SET recipe suits your particular needs especially well.


Hello Srajan:

I have been a "rabid" fan of your site for a few years now and wanted to congratulate you on having the best damn audio website out there. Period.

I also wish you well in your new home in Cyprus. I will watch the site until you are back "online". Take care, stay safe.

Andy Match
I am looking to buy a CD player/transport DAC for my system and through most of my research, your name seems to always come up. Your reviews and thoughts on components you have reviewed and I have heard seem to be on the same line. Your system and mine resemble each other greatly. I would value your opinion on my quandry greatly.

First, I am permanently disabled with several back diseases and constant extreme chronic pain. I am now 47 but up til 5 years ago I owned an insurance business in which I was successful beyond my wildest dreams. One day while I was at an awards trip in Orlando, Florida, my back blew out while just sitting down and my life was changed forever.

Since I am unable to drive anymore since sitting causes extreme pain and travelling anywhere is also painful since I must lie on my side (it hurts to even touch my back) for the duration of the trip I very rarely even leave my home except for doctor appointments. Being stranded at home after being extremely active I had only one hobby left that I could participate in anymore, hifi audio and video.

We had to sell our home we were living in since it was a 2 story and bought a one story home. Since I did invest and prepare for the worst while I was working we were able to buy another nice home with a large lot (1 acre). I decided first and foremost I was going to build a audio/home theater building next to my home since at my prior house we had a theater room with a noverhead projector but try as I might, we could not keep the sound from traveling to other rooms when turned up.

So I built a 1200 sq ft structure next to my new home with a small storage room and craft room for my wife taking up part of the space. In about 1000 square feet of the building I built my theater/audio room which ended up being more elaborate than I previously imagined. I built a small area for my equiptment so it would be isolated from the sound being played in the room. It has a small kitchen and bathroom which has a small shower in it. I could actually live in it if my wife found out what I actually spend on hifi!

I decided to get a turntable a couple of years ago and it has changed about how I feel about CDs. The analogue sound was so superior to what I had been listening to that I have been searching for a CD player that I can live with when not listening to LPs. This is where I hope you can help me.

The few solutions I have been looking at have been auditioned by you already. I also own Avantgarde Duo speakers and had really only been using them in my home theater setup til I decided a few months ago to make this setup a 2-channel system as well. I am using a Meridian 861 pre/pro now and I also have a couple of month old Conrad Johnson Act 2 preamp and an AR Reference 3 preamp (one of the two will go in my dedicated 2 channel room in my home).

I am setting up a turntable in my audio/theater room and just purchased a Zanden 1200 from a friend for the phono stage. I just got a pair of Audiopax 88 MKIIs to replace the original 88s which are more musical and dynamic. I will list my equiptment at the end of this note. My problem is I cannot find a CDd player I can live with. I have tried a couple of used transports (CEC TL1 and AR transport) through a Manley Wave pre with its new DAC in it. I just sold the Manley and both the DACs.

I am now considering 3 different options which I think you have heard all 3 and reviewed at least 2 as well as owning the Zanden 5000 DAC. My options are a new Esoteric X-03, a demo Esoteric X-01 which I can get at a great price, or a transport (I have no idea which) and a Zanden 5000 Mk IV. When I saw the Zanden DAC for sale used I really thought this might be the way to go til I read your reveiw and you said the Zanden transport made a greater difference to the music than the Zanden 5000 DAC did.

Since there are no used Zanden transports on the used market it is out of the picture financially as a purchase for me. I am torn on which way to go. I could get the Zanden 5000 mkIV dac and have about 2k left over for a transport for the same cost as the new/demo Esoteric X-01. The X-03 is about 3k less than the X-01.

Since you have heard these, which setup would you purchase for yourself of the 3? I also have considered the Ayre C-5XE but it falls in price between all 3 of these and I don't know if you have heard it yet or not. Please give me your honest recommendation. I am also friends with Jim Smith of or "formerly of" Avantgarde and he used to send inquiries for demos to me which were in my part of California. I have several friends in the industry which you also mention but I will not bore you with that now.

I also have attached a couple of pictures of my theater/audio/game room. Here is the list of my current components:

Stereo systems and info:
TAW Revolution 3 chip dlp projector w/dedicated Sound Application Power conditioner
TAW Digilink 2 DVD/sacd/dvd audio player
TAW Rock Pro Scaler
Meridian 861 pre/pro
Zenith DSS HDTV tuner
Audiopax 88 MkII tube monoblock amps
2 Avantgarde Duo speakers
5 Avantgarde Solo speakers w/250 watt amps built in
2 Avantgarde 230 Subwoofers
Harmonic Tech Cyberlight photon interconnects
1 Equitech balanced box on one 20amp circuit
1 Sound Application Audio power conditioner on other 20amp circuit
Virtual Dynamics Nite II and Master power cables
Michell Turntable fully modded with Dynavector XV-1S cartridge
Artemis Labs PL-1 phono stage
Conrad Johnson Act 2 preamp

2 Channel system:
Acoustic Research Reference 3 preamp
Zanden 1200 phono Stage
Art Audio Diavalo tubed amp
Basis 2500 Turntable w/ Basis Vector Tonearm and Dynavector XV-1S cartridge
Magnum Dynalab MD-90 FM tuner
Sound Application Power conditioner
Von Schweikert 100db speakers
Shanling CDT300 CD/SACD player

Thanks for any help and recommendations you can give me.

Rick Eller

As my review recounts, I was indeed very impressed with the Esoteric X-03. At 1/6th the price of the formidable Zanden separates, I felt it performed in the same league and arguably offered superior dynamics even. I understand that Yamada-San has recently implemented further advances to the Model 2000p transport which could/should retip the scales but the question remains, at what price. In my book then and based on what I'm familiar with, I'd go for the X-03. If the $3,000 outboard reclocker I currently have in for review makes an appreciable difference and takes the Esoteric one-box machine to even greater heights... well, you'd still be well below the Zanden combo while enjoying some of the best digital currently available. Do remember, however, that the Esoteric recommendation is contingent on running its balanced output to the preamp. In this case, balanced isn't an esoteric option but mandatory requirement to hear this machine at its best.


Srajan, it appears that Odyssey Audio is announcing a new line of products which will include a tube preamp called the "Candela." I've always appreciated Odyssey Audio and Dan Wright's approach to audio. I have also enjoyed 6moons reviews of the Odyssey Lorelei and the Modwright SWL 9.0SE. If you have the opportunity, I think it would make for an interesting comparison between the Candela and the SWL 9.0SE. Keep up the good work at 6moons.

Bill Bartleson
I am an audiophile/home theater enthusiast. Yes I am both. There are a number of us now and we are growing. I began in audio many moons ago when I was young. I gradually lost interest, got interested in home theater and then finally slipped back into the old audio easy chair. The fact that I continue to enjoy both is what is important here. I feel the gulf between the audiophile and the home theater enthusiast needs to be filled, and I think we are closer in philosophy than anyone wants to believe. Why am I writing this? Well, I read an article by Srajan titled "A radical notion: 2.0 Home Theater" that got my juices flowing - and not necessarily in a positive way.

In the piece he makes many astute comments, but others seem out of character for someone at the level of expertise I expect Srajan to occupy. In truth, I'm not sure the article wasn't a practical joke of sorts. I have read Srajan's work before and always thought him to be on the ball, but if this article is the real deal, he has dropped a ball and is now juggling with 2.0 balls. In the article Srajan comments that he believes a home theater enthusiast can do just fine with a 2.0 system in fact, he believes we may even be better served by a 2.0 channel system (if we must use one system for both music and home theater).

Srajan stated that "The rationale for surround sound posits that we ought to experience movies as they were intended - i.e. like in a commercial theater. Except, most of us don't. At home, we don't sit in a hall seating hundreds."

This is of course true, but the audiophile does not have a concert hall in their home either. Time and again I have been told that is the golden ring the audiophile tries to grab from the carousel that is high end audio. The philosophy of the home theater enthusiast is the same. It is no less noble and no less foolhardy. In actuality, reproducing a decent facsimile of a movie theater's sonic experience is much easier than making your living room into a believable concert hall.

The distance the viewer sits from the screen is a moot point and should not be compared to the real theater experience. What we should use as the yardstick is how much of your field of vision is taken up by the image, not how far you actually are from the screen. 10 feet from a 65" television ain't too shabby. It is about like sitting ¾'s back in a commercial movie theater.

Hollywood began making surround sound movies long before there were home surround processors. The home theater electronics industry did not invent surround sound. It was there all along, lurking, waiting to be released upon the masses of film buffs that were growing ever more tired of rising popcorn and ticket prices. Surround sound was not created to sell equipment. The electronics manufacturers simply responded to the need of the dedicated consumer to reproduce what they heard in the theater as accurately as possible in their home - thus the term Home Theater.

Home theater enthusiasts try to fit a commercial movie theater into their room and the audiophile tries to fit Carnegie Hall into his. I fail to see any significant difference. The social experience of the actual theater is something many home theater enthusiasts are trying to avoid. In fact, the social experience of going to a theater is actually one of the main driving forces behind the surge in the home theater hobby. Enthusiasts would rather stay home and be engulfed in the experience with their spouse, family or friends than be in a crowded theater with cell phones ringing, babies crying, patrons that take the term "practice good hygiene" as a mere suggestion and inconsiderate loud talkers.

Srajan commented that "in many home scenarios, those rears aren't really behind you" in reference to the surround speakers. In fact surround speakers are not supposed to be behind you unless you are running a 6/7.1 system. In a 5.1 system the proper placement for the surrounds is to the side of and above the listener. This is well documented on Dolby's website. On modern home theater processors and receivers there are designations of LS (left surround) and LRS (left rear surround) etc. This is to indicate that the rear surrounds should be behind the listener, not the surrounds. In a movie theater the surrounds run the entire side length of the theater wall, the rear surrounds are on the back wall..

Modern home theater processors have circuitry to compensate for asymmetry in a room, much the same way an audiophile may use a balance control or an input level control on their pre-mp to balance the system out due to room constraints. The new HT processors even address time delay to ensure proper surround sound arrival at the listening position.

I will be the first to admit that a home theater run in "phantom center" mode will produce a better front soundstage than one using a dedicated center speaker.but only for the one person in the sweet spot. And yes, good speakers are a must even in a home theater. The all in one box systems that are popular these days are to home theater enthusiasts what a mini/desk audio system is to an audiophile.

Srajan suggested that we ditch the center channel. That's cool, as long as you watch films alone. The center speaker is there to anchor dialog to the screen. Just as in a stereo system, the farther off center you sit the farther out of center the image focus becomes. Perhaps having dialog delivered from somewhere other than the actor's position would be acceptable for some but I find it disconcerting.

Stereo is enough if you are listening to a film with a stereo soundtrack. If you have a 5.1 film, stereo is 4 channels shy. The LFE (low frequency effects) channel, the .1 channel, will destroy traditional speakers at even a reasonable volume. A subwoofer is not an option, it is a necessity, no matter how beefy your speakers are. LFE tracks have been known to have 10Hz information in the 100dB range. If your stereo speakers are up to that task then by all means carry on.

I don't care for multi channel music myself. But, a film may have the need for sound behind you, where music does not. Film surround sound helps envelop you in the overall presentation. In fact, once you have been immersed in a good surround film (not an overcooked bombastic sensory assault) a front stage only presentation seems somewhat flat and lifeless. Oh, I still enjoy mono films, or stereo films, but if the film has a surround soundtrack it deserves to be played in its native format. I would not take a native stereo film and create an artificial sound field (using the dreaded DSP) just for the sake of having surround sound, I make a concerted effort to respect the artist as much as I am able.

Hooking the TV into your audio rig is the first step in enjoying a really fulfilling film sound. But it is only a small step toward the much more satisfying surround film experience. But it is only the first step.

The supposition that adding more speakers is a step backward is simply incorrect. Yes, if you add poorly matched or truly junk speakers to a home theater system just to have surround sound you probably are doing more harm than good. But there are many good performing speakers that can be chosen for a modest price. A film with an enveloping soundtrack needs the proper electronic support to effectively translate it to our home environment.

Srajan queried "Why settle for two mediocre systems if you could have one that's truly spectacular?" I say "Why not have two spectacular systems?" I see the glass as half full, not half empty.

Sound happens behind us all the time.really it does. And thankfully, we can determine the direction of sound, otherwise we would not have survived long when we were at odds with the saber tooth tiger or the crazy city taxi drivers. When a film shows an individual in a busy street scene I expect to hear sounds from everywhere, not just in front of me. How boring the jungle would be if all the crickets and birds were always in front of you. We were limited once by technology to having crickets always in front of us, now we can be in the middle of the forest, not on the edge of it.

Is it possible for a home theater enthusiast to enjoy a 5.1 movie on a stereo only system? Absolutely! An audiophile can also enjoy a symphony from a clock radio. But you won't see any home theater enthusiasts suggesting that they should do that because it is "good enough". Good enough for who? Not me.

Mike Knapp
My receiver, center channel and rears are out of my listening room and sitting in a "to sell" pile in my garage. Needless to say, I agreed with your article. I'm primarily an audiophile and have been fed up for quite a while with all the confusion and wires that stemmed from having two systems integrated together. Every once in a while, I would accidentally hit the stereo button on my receiver while watching a movie and switched it from ProLogic. In the back of my mind, I always thought that this really does sound better than when sound is coming from my "so-so" center channel. I justified not making the complete overhaul to a 2.0 home theater by telling myself that 5.1 must sound better than 2.1, after all, the sound is coming at me from behind and from directly on top of the TV. Your explicating how surround sound doesn't really make any sense and is counter-intuitive when you think about the 2-D video image in front of you really changed my mind. I still need to do some adjusting of my speakers to center the sound stage but it sounds amazing. Long live 2.0 HT.

Ron B. Myers

Hello Mr. Ebaen,

This is Waiwa who chatted with you on the topic "Re: Esoteric X-03 *secret*v word-length output change procedure" on the Asylum.

May I have your opinion on choosing the right First Watt amp, F1, F2 or F3 for my system. I went thru all your reviews on these three amps. It seems you like the F3 the most, right? Do you think it well suited for x-overless speakers? My speakers are Celia from Ocellia (16ohm, 98db, x-over less). FYI, I also own a type 45 SET power amp built by Jeff Korneff and an SET OTL from Trancendent Audio. Both work well with the speakers. I prefer the Trancendent though.
Source: Consonance Reference 2.2 linear CDP (previously were Ensemble Dirondo + Benchmark DAC1 & Chord DAC64)
Volume control: transformer based passive.

Kind Regards,
Chaucer Chang, Hong Kong

First off and to prevent spreading misinformation, the X-03 "secret" is a myth. I had TEAC America confer with TEAC Japan on that matter. The X-03 is fixed at 192 . What is adjustable via the stop button protocol is turning the iLink on or off. Re: the First Watt amps, the F3 is my favorite, absolutely, and works wonders on my 101dB speakers. However, the F1 and F2 were specifically designed to allow for some frequency domain contouring and especially the F1 is a bass monster into high-eff no-crossover speakers due to its deliberately absentee damping factor. Not having heard the Celia, I don't know how linear it is. If it could benefit from a bit less bite in the presence region and more weight and extension in the bass, the F1 or F2 would be the choice. If its frequency response is even and requires no compensation, the F3 would be my first choice.


I periodically read a dozen different web magazines about this great hobby and I have no reservations letting you know that 6moons is my preferred choice. It has even been my startup page for quite a while now. Keep up the great work, your team and yourself display the most informative approach to product evaluation.

Best regards,

Thanks for the insightful review of the uber-revealing Wadia equipment. I happen to own one of their earlier models, a Wadia 21 which runs into a George Wright pre and 2a3 amps, Reference 3a monitors and lastly into a pair of scotch-soaked gnocchi pasted at 45 degree angles onto my melon. Truth be told I love the sound, though admittedly not as much as my vinyl rig. There's something in the ritual; the full length white velour robe, the rain stick, the vacuuming of the record, the needle coming down...the triumph of a technology nearly 100 years old in a world of drive-through technologies, gnocchi being blown open by all those musicians in the room...I digress.

Wadia... my thought there was that maybe a sound more keen to your ears might be one of their less anally exact models. I also wonder how far a GNSC reference or statement mod done on an 850, 860 or 861 would take one down the hall of exalted digital at a fraction of the 20 large for their current SOTA. For those odd folk with say 104dB sensitive speakers, perhaps one of the GNSC custom mods might make magic?

Just food for thought, thanks for the great review.

Fred Crane

Ken will in fact revisit this player to experiment with changing the internal filter settings (something he hadn't been advised to do at first) and to also evaluate the player amp-direct, a connection Wadia feels is of special interest with their machines and could make for rather superior results. It appears that the factory default filter is maximally flat and linear while optional settings "tone down" the perceived ultra accuracy for slightly different flavors of sonics. John Schaefer of Wadia reported that the 21 combo had never before been accused of "too sterile and accurate" and suggested that investigating the user-adjustable filter settings could net Ken the desired results. Stay tuned for Ken's follow-up findings.


Hello Srajan,

I am a music lover, audiophile and distributor of high end audio in South Africa. which equipment includes our recent appointment for Grand Prix Audio. I am always impressed with and very much enjoy your forum and particularly your reviews with their uncanny ability to portray the equipment under review in its own almost listenable domain. I have been desirous of doing this letter to you previously, but when I read your article on the Monaco Turntable, I could no longer refrain.

I cannot understand why you are not a vinylista!!! Your reason being that the medium does not allow you to play the sort of music you enjoy -- or have access to it only available via CD -- is difficult for me to comprehend . You are independant when it comes to valve vs solid state, horn vs moving coil, etc and show no bias at all when reviewing the different types of equipment, so why not have the same approach to perhaps the more significant aspect, the inherent source of the music?

Imagine the incredible and moving reviews that would be flowing from your pen once you are transported into this analogue world of musical bliss. I have no right to do this, but I urge (make that beg) you to please incorporate this medium into your world. As for finding the proper or suitable music in vinyl, look a bit harder, you will be amazed at what is available.

Here is a challenge for you. Do not delegate the review of the Monaco turntable to one of your team; review and listen to it yourself, (sure with their assistance) and discover hopefully what analogue is all about. This comment from me without obviously having heard the Monaco. Trusting you will accept these comments in the spirit in which they are intended, not to be critical, but to look forward to a heady new era of analogue reviews.

Best Regards,
Geoff Fairlamb

Ayee. The glove has been thrown. Now what? Seriously, I hear you. However, I have no credibility or experience with turntables and would never be presumptious enough to expect manufacturers of high-end turntables to send me anything. Something like the Monaco deserves the very best context of exposure and familiarity to assess where in the hierarchy of turntables it really belongs. That's why I'd want it reviewed by Stephaen and Jeff on my US staff, or Edward in the UK. Sure, I could slowly inch my way up the ladder and set my sights on adding vinyl to my list of competencies - but with heavyweights like Michael Fremer, Roy Gregory, Ken Kessler and others of their caliber, I nearly question the viability of this notion. After all, what are the chances for me to really build up the necessary experience all across the turntable range, from cheap to ridiculous, from suspended to hard-mounted, from vintage to modern? See what I'm getting at? I don't own a single LP nor a phono stage, cartridge or arm. At best, it'd be "for personal enjoyment only". As it is, I barely keep up with new CD releases that interest me. To add another medium just for the sake of also reviewing vinyl isn't really that appealing to me. I have no bias at all against the format. It's simply a function of available time and utter lack of present experience. Does the world really need another hardcore vinyl expert? Or are my readers better served if I apply my available resources to expanding 6moons into new areas while I let those with present vinyl experience cover my back?

Perhaps you can appreciate why I'm coming down in favor of that latter proposition. Roy Gregory reviewed the Zanden digital front end I own and proclaimed it "as good as the very best vinyl if not identical". That makes me confident that I'm not missing out on the enjoyment factor, merely a different way of delivery. If I were convinced that I'm truly missing a higher order form of enjoyment, I'd pounce on vinyl. But with the Zanden digital gear, I don't believe I'm lacking anything (or perhaps I'm simply happy in my own ignorance?)...


Hi Jeff,

Just wanted to follow up with a thank-you for your Tom Evans reviews. I traded my old amp for a LinearA and Vibe and all I can say is, Wow! It is every bit as good as you said and then some. Even without the Pulse(I'll be getting that later),this gear has elevated my system to a level of musical realism, involvement and enjoyment that I had begun to believe was unattainable, at least on my audio budget. Having been a Duo owner for over 4 years, I recently found myself on the verge of selling them, so underwhelming with various combinations of gear had my experiences been. Now as they say, they would have to be pried from my cold dead hands. Every Avantgarde owner who is less than thrilled with his current system really ought to hear the Evans gear, for I feel it would probably change his audio world like it did mine.

As far as this audionut is concerned, your reviews have been a public service and I thank you.

Happy Listening,
Cliff Carney

Hi Srajan,

A gracious good afternoon to you. Last fall I wrote asking you for some advice on matching an affordable preamp with the Audio Sector Patek amp and you replied that "the Eastern Electric MiniMax + Patek = sonic bliss". Right on! Some minor tube rolling and Herbie's tube dampers combined with the Patek have given hours of smiles and muttered "damn I didn't know it could be this good!" comments:>) Also, Bill @ Morningstar and Peter @ Audio Sector were a pleasure to deal with. I'm impressed!

Well, it's time to bother you again. I've been saving for a new CD player to replace my old Music Hall player. After reading all your reviews, I've narrowed my selection down to two (but I'm open to suggestions): the Opera Audio Consonance Reference 2.2 Linear and an Underwood Hi-Fi/PartsConneXion modified Stage II MiniMax. They are both in my price rang and have tube outputs which I've come to believe is crucial in digital. Just as last fall, there is no chance to audition them together so I'll take your advice and pays my money.

Good luck on your move and take care.

Chip Sampsel

Two great players but I haven't heard the Underwood mod yet. Personally, I'm really favoring the Linear 2.2 for its "Kusonoki-style" filterless approach since that mimicks my price-no-object Zanden in feel and presentation.


Howdy, Srajan!

Couldn't agree more with your Home Theater 2.0 piece! I mean tell me, is this friggin' insanity or what?

Steve Eddy
Your 2.0 bash is great! When you off to Cyprus? Pick up Skype yet?

Be well,
Rusty Taub

Amen, my sentiments exactly. This coming from one who has lived with a high grade(?) surround system at home. I keep going back to my 2-channel system for real pleasure and enjoy good (the key) movies on our little 20" $169.99 Panasonic CRT. For me a perfect Home Theater would be a 32" LCD with a great little 2-channel system and a decent DVD player, total value of maybe $3k...

Here is my 2-channel reaction to your overview as regards the proper number of channels to adequately facilitate home theater: Amen and amen!

I am honestly saddened to hear of your departure but would be a liar if I didn't own up to thinking along the same lines and with ever-increasing frequency. It would be so nice to wake up one morning and not start off another day with the weight of the world on your shoulders. Switzerland's definitely got the right idea.

Alan Trahern
Hi Srajan,

Great work lately, really great. I appreciate you taking the time to talk about measurements and how they don't often correlate to what we hear. If we don't chat before you move - best of luck!

Best regards,
Jonathan Halpern
Nice writeups. The measurements vs. enjoyment piece was enjoyable. Obviously, I love the Zu writeup. Those red Def. Pros in the photos have to be mine!

Mike Smith
Hey Srajan

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Positive Feedback's pod cast, it was so great to listen to you. I heard your accent immediately and it was both a surprise and a pleasure. Usually, you American guys seem so far away from us here in Europe, but you just came a huge step closer. Now it feels as if you were just round the corner. You're actually living on Cyprus, right?

You described the process of HiFi-frustration nicely when you talked about the process of comparing, judgement and therefore misery. Because all judgement, all giving value is always the end of the feeling process, therefore mind comes in, therefore end of muscial bliss. A good reviewer (I'm friends with Brad Morrical of PFO) is able to switch these views ... most audiophiles end up in deep misery because they cannot forget the whole rubbish again. It's so great that you are aware of this process - this makes you not only a guru for gear but also a teacher for the feeling process of music. The veils of Maya are even worse than the veils that lay on speakers :-)

Thanks again!

PS: I'm just about to buy a pair of old Acoustat 1+1, and I fully agree with your statement that not all new gear is also better gear :-)
Hi Srajan,

Hope you're well whereever you are. You are so "right on" with this piece on "Bench pressing the test bench." I damned near fell outta my chair - we point out the very same sentence from Fremer...

It was this very issue of Stereophile that had me writing to the Editor. Michael Fremer gave a good review of DeVore's Silverback and Atkinson killed them on the test bench. I pointed out that as many "audiophiles" shop by specs while their ears are closed, one should be careful about publishing too many graphs etc. Most people don't know what they're looking at anyways - that stuff is for the designer, not the average audiophile. Many worthy products can get overlooked by audiophiles because of some comment of a purely technical nature...

Anyways, I saw Marc Mickelson was busily defending SS! use of technical least they make it clearly subordinate to the review ....


PS: Here's a copy of my letter to Stereophile.


I've just finished reading through the Stereophile review(March 2006) of the DeVore Silverback Reference loudspeakers.Wasn't that interesting? If ever one needed to make an argument for not shopping by the specs, that review proves it IMHO. Michael Fremer's review essentially confirms what a number of us lucky audiophiles have already personally experienced to one degree or another: the Silverbacks are sensational. Yes, they pass (with flying colors I might add) the only real test that matters for a piece of audio gear - the "How's it sound?" test.

If one were shopping for their gear solely on the basis of the measured specs and technical observations of the well respected Mr. Atkinson, I don't think they'd look much further into the Silverbacks. That would be a shame for both the audiophile and John DeVore. The former would not get a chance to hear something special and the latter would not receive the well deserved accolade and support.

I've no arguement with anything written in Stereophile with respect to their review of the Silverbacks. Nor have I any issue with their practice of providing exhaustive technical measurements. But as this review so aptly illustrates, it is ever so important to keep the technical stuff in measured perspective and to always, always listen for oneself.

My only grumble with the review is, I was disappointed by Mr. Fremer's closing comment: "Now, let's hope the measurements back me up...". To Mr. Fremer I say: "It doesn't matter Michael. The speakers passed your very own version of the "How's It Sound?" test. You had fun and enjoyed your music. What could be better? After all, this is audio we're talking about. Right?"

L. Phillip

PS: Isn't it odd how often the great sounding gear "measures up" poorly? Says something about our listening skills. Or is it something about the measurements?
Hello Srajan

Before going to buy a new DAC, I did a little reading . YourAudio Aero Prima SE was the first logical choice, the best of the bunch , very good in all and over everything . The only DAC that soundly beat it was the new Accustic Arts 32/384 converter, their own invention with 10 super opamps, the 627 Burr Browns .I have found no SS or tube DAC that beats this for under 3 times the cost - and this converteris only $5,800. When you get a moment, you owe it to yourself to hear one.


Dear Srajan,

I really appreciate your 6moons website for exposing the listening public to opinions about a wide variety of products, many with interesting new technology and real-world price tags. Because I've seen many very expensive, sexy, or "hot" products get less-than-stellar reviews on your site while deserving others are appropriately praised and some frankly cheap or unknown products get raves, I've come to trust the views voiced there as at least sincere even if I don't ultimately agree with every opinion. This in stark contrast to what's going on at well-known industry standard publications (you know who I'm talking about), where increasing attention is paid to products costing astronomical sums and products from favorite manufacturers who provide free review samples infallibly receive high marks. In short, as a serious listener who shares experience in semi-pro music-making, I've come to find your site useful and trustworthy.

One piece of captiousness: In your recent review of the Bybee Powercorditioners, you state "You could think of them as a dose of caffeine or a Tylenol blood thinner". Tylenol (aka acetaminophen or paracetamol in German) is not a blood thinner though aspirin is.

Whatever, keep up the good work!

Seth Katz,
As forwarded to us by Mr. Ping Gong, importer of the Original Leonardo CD player I recently reviewed:

Hi Ping,
Just wanted to relay a little story. After reading Srajan's review, I actually began to wonder if my hearing wasn't failing me. My system is as follows: Atma-Sphere MP1 MKII pre; Atma-Sphere MA2.2 amp; Soundlab A-1 Speaker; Purist Audio Anniversary ICs; Magnan Signature speaker cables; expensive power cords; Original CD player.

After I read the review, I decided to see if I was going crazy or not. I went to a local dealer and asked if I could borrow what he considered to be his best CD player. I ended up with an Audio Research CD3MKII. Hesuggested this over the Consonance Droplet he had in stock as he thought the Audio Research blew it away.

Long story short, I compared the AR with the Original, same cables, power cords, volume settings etc... It took all of about three seconds to determine the winner. The Original absolutely destroyed the AR. In terms of extension on both extremes, midrange purity, soundstaging, imaging, presence, dynamics, transparency etc.. any parameter you could think of, the Original was the better player. I have compared and preferred the Original to the Esoteric DV50, Cary 303/300, Audio Research CD3MKII, Resolution Audio Opus 21 and an Electrocompaniet EMC1. I will admit that it took some tweaking to get the best out of the Original. The first thing I did was set the player on some Titanium cones and pucks. I built a platform using Aurios with a sand filled base on top and a sandwich of sorbothane and a Polycrystal shelf. It is dead, dead quiet and helped the player tremendously. I put an Electraglide Epiphany power cord on the unit and the Purist Audio Dominus IC. I also use a Marigo 3D stabilizer matt, black side up. I can hear some of the brightness that Srajan is referring to but I attribute that to the digital medium. It was much less the the Audio Research in my system. Bottem line is that I think with a few mods, this player could compete with anything I've heard. I haven't had the Zanden or Reimyo or the Emm that everyone is raving about but in the sub 10k price range, I think it's a winner. Sorry to be so long but I did want to share my experience with you. Good luck in the future with this player.

Rusty Mosher

This by way of a reminder that different system contexts have an effect as well as listener bias and preferences. Once Original makes the changes to this player they've decided to incorporate, expect a followup in our pages. I'm confident that anyone capable of building a player of the Leonardo's cosmetics and fit'n'finish is equally capable of making it sound terrific. My review thus isn't the final word by any stretch and in more than one way...


Dear Srajan,

Thank you for giving us such a wonderful review on the Esoteric X-03. The photos & comparison diagrams are great! I hope that you may give us a follow-up review when the improved version X-03SE is available. Btw, some audiophiles in a Hong Kong HiFi discussion forum claimed that the performance of the X-03 can be improved by changing its internal digital settings. This is mentioned only in the Japanese manual but not in the English version of the manual. You may check whether this is true or not. The following are their findings in that forum:

"Tubeuser Hing: I used to have the X-03 and upgraded to X-01 Limited. Both X-01 Limited and X-03 use the PCM1074 in their DACs. The PCM1704 can support 16-bit, 20-bit and 24-bit outputs. However, the X-03 factory setting is 16-bit. You have to push the stop button three times to change to 24-bit output. The sound is totally diffeent. That's why many people say the X-03 is not good because they don't know this operation. The X-01 and X-01 Limited factory setting is 24-bits and cannot be changed."

"Superhorse: Thanks. According to the manual, the stop botton can be used to control the digital signal from the ilink. It produces the best result when I turn off the digital output by pressing the stop button. However, the manual does not mentioned the 24-bit option. Are we talking about the same thing when using the stop button feature?"

"Hi Tubeuser: Yes, I initally had the same thought as you. However, one of my friend gave the Japanese manual to a real Japanese tech guy have a look. He told us the above. So believe it or not. However, have you tried it this way? Where did you purchase your X-03? The sales man should tell you about this secret."

Best regards,

I recently purchased an Almarro 205A Mk I based upon your recommendation. I couldn't be more pleased! The amp was purchased from Response Audio and has the V Cap upgrades. It is using a NOS Amperex 12AX7 and NOS Brimar 6BQ5s. The biggest surprise to me is how well it is driving my Living Voice OBXs (94dB). I was originally planing to use it to drive my Gallante Rhapsodys (96dB) in a smaller room. I get up to the Tri Cities reasonably often. If you are interested, I could bring it up so you could evaluate the V Cap upgrade.

Peter Shand

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the kind words - appreciated. I' glad you're enjoying your A205A, I sure do like mine. It would be fun to have you stop by for a listening session next time you get up this way. I'd be interested in hearing your upgraded Almarro, as I've heard a number of people praise the results of doing a C1 cap upgrade and was thinking about doing it myself. I should have the review for the A205A Mk2 I have in for evaluation finished up this weekend or next. I'm doing a little tube rolling now to report on in the review and have found the Mk2 to be very responsive to tube rolling. Haven't tried the Amperex & Brimar combination yet, but I'll bet it's a big improvement over the stock tube complement. Let me know the next time you get up this way.

Kind regards,

Just received my $500/pr New Type Fostex FE206ES-R full range drivers. I have enjoyed purchasing many Japanese esoteric products like the Yamamoto A-08S over the years. Fostex, as I'm sure you are aware, is a very well respected designer and manufacturer from Japan. All of my previous Fostex purchases arrived proudly stamped "Made In Japan." That is until today. On the FE206ES-R box, Japan is erased, China inserted. It's kinda funny to see Japanese products stamped "made in China". Of course I realize that it is nothing new and is purely economic. But it does appear a bit odd.

Lance A.
Dear Sirs [copied to Bill O'Connell at Morningstar Audio],

Just wanted to drop a quick line about my experiences with the Eastern Electric M520 thus far. I received the amplifier on Thursday and have put approximately 70 plus hours on it. I have to say I am really enjoying it so far. It's clearly still burning in but there is much to like.

This is what 25 Class A watts sounds like? Wasn't expecting this in the slightest. Guitars sound like guitars (crunchy and electric, in a good way), not an approximation of guitars. Vocals have a human quality that is hard to deny. At this point, the presentation is a little slower than my Simaudio i-3 (which is supposed to be somewhat like older versions of Naim's Nait). However, the 520 has me wondering if the i-3 doesn't gloss over some of the finer points due to its rythmic obsession. Also, the 520's timing is clearly much better at 70 hours than in hour one. My wife loves that we now have a heater that plays music. I think she even likes the sound okay as Feist stopped her in her tracks the first time she really heard the amplifier in action.

Srajan, thanks for the direction. It was so nice to have someone with your experience to provide guidance. It really gave me piece of mind in trying something new and buying a piece that I couldn't hear beforehand.

Bill, I doubt you'll be getting this piece back. However, I may be interested in those KT-77s down the road. Let me know if there is a time element involved. On a side note, I am going to check out that Naim Sampler soon. I wanted to return the favor and ask if you had heard of Sufjan Stevens? His latest is a beautiful double LP of orchestral pop titled Illinois (he's planning to do all 50 states).

One more hour and I am going home. Can't wait.

Jon Banz

M520 owners who e-mailed in after my original review report that, like the MiniMax Pre, this piece is unusually responsive to tube rolling, hence particular performance aspects can be morphed and altered and skewed and enhanced depending on system context and listener preference. I bought a 520 for my media room with the Gallo Ref3.1s in Cyprus and once I've put some time on it and experimented with different valves, I'll issue a brief followup to share my findings. Any readers owning M520s are invited to contact me with their recos. Even if I can't duplicate them all, I'll include them as further reference points for other current or would-be owners.


Hello Mr. Srajan!

From Jeffrey in Trinidad, this is to thank you very much for getting me on to Zu Cable and Opera Audio. I would also like to let you know that I have ordered the Forbidden City Calef amp from Opera Audio and would like to know what you think of it and the CD player.

Thank you very much for the help.

Regards, Jeff.
Advanced Hi Fi.

That review assignment went to Wayne Zufall whose B&W speakers will cotton well to the power the Calef brings to the party.

BTW, I happened across Marcel Croeses's comments on headroom. Your argument is much better than his ...i .e. you win. He drops a lot of numbers and makes no sense at all. Are you sure he is an engineer? Maybe of another stripe?

Roger Modjeski

Just wanted to let you know I thought your "Headroom" article was excellent. I've been thinking exactly on this subject, recently. I have B&W 600Sseries floorstanders with a claimed 90dB rating. Running my humble NAD C320BEE into them, I use little of my perceived volume. 50 watts seems plenty! 50 watts for a 90dB speaker on Jazz. So, more clarity will be my goal, not more "horsepower".

Well done!
Enjoy your new location!
Steve Tottka
Hello SE -

Thanks for the all-too-much-not mentioned topic of loudspeaker sensitivity. Here's my way of looking at it: Until the sleep-aholics in audio make more sensitive speakers, we must overcome this by buying more, not less, powerful amplifiers. You are too often recommending low powered amps - what we need is just the opposite. Here's why:

In order to achieve real-world musical peaks of at least 100dB at the listening position (the minimum necessary, in my opinion) we have to look at an amplifier's dBW power rating equivalent. Example: lets say your speakers are above-average sensitive at 90dB and you have 100 watts of power (considered a lot by the SET crowd), you are not hearing a realistic musical presentation. In this case, you would need a minimum of 300 watts to hit peaks of 100-105dB at the listening position. When looking up the dBW number, don't forget to subtract a few dB to accommodate for the "loss" incurred by sitting a few meters away from the speakers (we lose about 5db for every meter).

There you have it - more power = greater dynamic range, an important part of the musical experience!

Lorraine Chevrier
The experiments with the TacT/Definitions are going well. The full eq/XO capability is promising and daunting. I had to sell the Modwright and so far the TacT/Pro combination is less satisfying than the Modwright/stock version though bass is unquestionably better. I'm using a 10Hz XO right now and that's working pretty well. The stock setting on the TacT is a 4th order XO. With the 100Hz selection, I have a feeling a 1st or 2nd order XO will be better. It should allow the front drivers to communicate some of the percussive leading edge on basslines and the rear drivers to support the power/energy.

It's all a boatload of fun!

Big news about your move. I was shocked to read it but I understand your frustration with our place in the world right now. I feel the same way but my business is not portable and your brave choice is not available to me. It does make the decision to stay easier. Kudos to your conviction.

I wish you all the best and look forward to future dispatches.

Congrats on such an enjoyable publication, Srajan. Lately, I'm of a mind to drop short communications to writers that impress me. In this I'm influenced by a friend who writes for a living, and tells me how appreciated such communications are. I suppose that my favourite three passions of the last thirty years (I turn 50 in June) have been,
  • bicycle racing...I note that you've taught Pilates... I've cycled as much as 10,000 kms in a year while holding down a full time job, yet lack flexibility. Pilates has been something I've tried and been very challenged by!
  • Drinking great red wine... my favourite vacations tend to be in the south of France..ah, great wine and bicycle racing
  • and of course, music, and to a lesser extent, stereo gear.

In this last category, I have you to thank for influencing the purchase, (which I await) of a pair of Gallo Reference 3s. It helped that a new, high-end shop opened here in London, Ontario/Canada. I actually really like the retail experience of the shop. The owner had a lot of the qualities of a kid about him. He laughed about my impatience waiting for the Gallos. He said that he too could relate. He was waiting for a new amplifier line to come in that he'd been wowed by(Chord).

Of my three passions, I hold differing sensiblities. When I was still racing bicycles, I learnt early on what was important to me in respect to the machine itself. Primarily, it had to be well made and fit me as well as a fine tailored suit. When I knew what worked for me, I wanted no variations. The incremental change of a saddle position would demand that finely tuned muscles try to adopt to a different workload. It would mean a distraction from the required physical focus.

With wine as with music, it's variety that brings joy to a very social experience. I'm very aware of the regions and grapes that I prefer, but always enjoy sampling something new.

With stereo gear, I have fallen into the same attitude that I hold with bicycles. I felt that I needn't have the distraction of thinking about the gear, instead of the music. I held onto my ancient B&W DM7s, (very early) Bryston power and Mac pre. What changed was the demise of a CD player, replaced by a modest Arcam CD73t. Hearing the amount of information on a favourite CD, (a notable one for me was Miles' Sketches of Spain) that I thought I knew completely astounded me! I saw Miles in 1981. That concert remains a favourite. Now I was hearing nuances off his horn again that brought tears to my eyes.

So..I no longer discount technology, and think that I'll enjoy finding the *groove* with some new gear that I long ago found with my choice of bicycles. I also plan to have some fun with this. The Onix that you thought highly of has come up for sale on a used forum for a song (so to speak)and just yesterday I had to detour off the main highway through this part of Ontario because of road closures due to miserable weather. I found myself passing through Innerkip, the very tiny town that's home to Blue Circle. I know how nicely the BC gear works with a friend's JM Reynaud's...I can only speculate about the Gallos!

Kind Regards,
Alan Luke

PS: I've been enjoying the CDs of Harry Manx playing the Mohan Veena lately...he's an artist both modest and charming, seen live or heard on disc.

Please take a look at these articles by Jim Bongiono. Here is a sample re: your article Headroom - how much power is (really) needed?

"So you think that your 200 watt amplifier is really 200 watts, eh! Guess what folks: it isn’t. Actually, it’s far from it. Let me explain. It would only be 200 watts when producing a single note. Now if you add a second note, it isn’t 200 watts anymore. Some examples are in order. Let’s say a note is being played that is 2 octaves above concert A or about 1760Hz. Now, 200 watts is represented by 40 Volts RMS across 8 ohms. Let’s assume that the voltage for that note is required to be half of the available output or 20 Volts. This 20 Volts is 50 watts. Now let’s have another note at say low A at 55Hz, also at 20 Volts or 50 watts. Guess what! The voltages are directly additive and in fact, the 1760Hz is in effect modulated by the 55 Hz. Now the average sum of these two signals equals 40 Volts which should be 200 watts but, it isn’t. Each frequency is only amounting to 50 watts for a total of 100 watts. Already, our 200 watt amplifier has been reduced to half its size with only two tones. Now lets add in a 3rd note sufficiently away from the other two notes. We must now divide the available output voltage by a factor of 3 which gives us 13.33 Volts per signal. This results in approximately 22 watts per note. That sure is a long way from 200 watts. Now can you imagine what happens with very complex musical structures? The true available undistorted output power is but a mere fraction of what the amplifier is really rated at. If you don’t believe me just hook up an oscilliscope to the output of your amp and watch the clipping. Those of you with amps that have true peak indicators can surely know what I’m talking about."

Have a great time in, or should I say, on, your new home!

All the best,
Hello from the U.K.

I stumbled accross the 6moons website whilst surfing one day and have been delighted with the "breath of fresh air" approach. So much so that I have just taken delivery of a pair of Druids and even after 3 hours use am delighted. I am waiting for my Zu cables (Ibis and Varial with Mother power cords) which will be here this afternoon and cannot wait to hear the difference. I am also seriously considering the Patek Se to complete the experience.

All of this newly discovered gear and audio joy is thanks to you and your honest in-depth reviews. Thank you so much and all the very best,

Chris Allen

Unless your Druids had pre-delivery break-in time on them, you're in for one massive surprise. They'll get a lot better still but require rather serious pounding for the first 100 hours, preferably at higher bass-heavy levels than you can stand being in the same room with 'em. That driver has a rather stiff suspension and is additionally well damped so don't hesitate to hammer it - it can take it and is asking for a bit of abuse initially to soften up and really sing.


Aloha e Mr. Ebaen,

I feel as though I should let you know how much I appreciate the spark you give to your writing as well as its expertise and well-thought out pertinent advice. That you are a writer first, who happens to review equipment and edit a magazine, has been all too obvious to me. With whatever you address yourself to, there always seems to be that extra finish of mind and a warm persona behind it - the heart of an essayist. It's been a pleasure to read your work, whatever it has been about.

I lament your "retirement" to Cyprus, but congratulate you on charting your own course. It was a fine pleasure to read of your own discoveries for your life's future. Many, many thanks for sharing so much with your readers. And I wish you all the luck and peace in the world in your new home.

My secret wish is that you might write some sort of memoir or collection of essays someday, by the way. On the order of Peter Mayle's " A Year in Provence" or "The Art of Eating" by MFK Fisher. You are a writer, to me, like them - a person of vivid taste who shares it easily in a style as well-crafted as good food and wine.

Mahalo nui,

Garrett Hongo
Distinguished Professor of the College of Arts & Sciences
Eugene, Oregon

Ah, but I'm not going away. No retirement. I'd get bored. I need to work. Remember,
it's the Internet. As long as there's access to upload -- and in my case, access to equipment -- where you live is immaterial. I'm clearly a lesser writer than you give me credit for if my feature on the pending relocation didn't make that clear. The only thing I see changing is additional coverage of the kind of Euro product that proved elusive thus far for lack of distribution in the US where we had our headquarters. It's nice to be compared to Mayle and Fisher but in truth, I know my limitations and would never view myself in their leagues. If ever I wrote a memoir, it wouldn't be about audio toys but my spiritual journey. And before I would talk about that, I'd want to have more to say about it than I would have at present -:)

But thanks for the compliments. If the spirit of sharing, passion and consideration comes across, I'm satisfied that I'm doing my job.



You were right! I now have the FirstWatt F1 being driven with balanced cables and the K1000s modded with Stefan AudioArt Equinox cable. The combination is absolutely fantastic! Every CD in my collection is a totally new experience!

Many thanks to you!

Tom Lopez
Santa Fe
Hi Srajan,

As hinted in a previous e-mail, I have been experimenting with the Onix SP3 and tube rolling, and I wanted to share with you some of my impressions - who knows it might prove useful to somebody else. Let me start with my system which is a little unusual and may have influenced some of what I heard.

The source is an Accuphase DP55 CD player. The unbalanced output is connected to the SP3 and the SP3 is connected to a pair of Rogers LS 3/5a (the more recent 12-ohm. equiped for bi-wiring but I am using jumpers to connect both poles). All connections are with Cobalt cables. Where things begin to get unusual is that the balanced output of the Accuphase is connected to a Sphinx Project 10 solid-state amplifier which runs two Rogers AB1 bass units. The LS3/5a sit on top of the AB1s on spikes. The recommended wiring method is one cable from the amplifier to the bottom of the AB1 bass unit and then a jumper from the top of the AB1 into the LS 3/5a so that the signal goes through the various crossovers and supposedly gives the most linear response.

My experience over all those years is that running the LS3/5a full range and the AB1 in parrallel actually yields much better results; better dynamic, better transparency, better tones and better basses - in other words, just better. I used to do it with just one amplifier and multiple cables but now I do it with 2 integrated amplifiers. The real difficulty is to find the right volume levels on both amplifiers for a perfect blend of top and bottom - but when you hit it right, it works just beautifully. I know, a single preamp running 2 power amps would work better but finances do not allow for now.

Back to the SP3; the stock machine is really superb in construction and sound - voices especially have a magic that they did not have with the Sphinx and bass is actually more solid and deeper than with the Project 10 alone (I suspect that relieving the Sphinx of the duty of driving the LS 3/5as gives it a chance to pull more bass out of the AB1 too). But overall, the presentation is very lean and tones could have a more tube-like presentation. As you described it, this amplifier is very modern with great extension but just lacking the tone sweetness of the great tube amplifiers - but bottom line, at $699 when it was on sale, it is the best deal available out there; and since I had planned to spend $1000 on it, I still had $300 to spare and decided to experiement with tubes.

Let me be plain about it, I know nothing about tubes, which sound good or not and which do what. I have a vague idea that the 4 big ones are for power and the 6 smaller ones are part of the preamp section - but even that might be wrong. Nevertheless, a few hours on the forum, reading past posts and a few more hours on the tube store website and I knew enough to actually order replacement tubes for the SP3 and I ordered 10 new tubes for the beast for a total of $190, so a little less than $20/tube. I decided that a $699 amplifier should be happy enough with new tubes and that I would not go the route of looking for the Graal of one of those rare NOS that cost more than the NP3 alone. I wanted to keep the total under $1000 and I did just that with $100 to spare.

So, what did I get and how did it sound ?

The first tubes I replaced were the 12AX7. All forums recommended some Mullard re-edition tubes as the best possible match for the SP3 but I could not find any below $43 a piece and decided against it. Instead, I elected the newest Tung-Sol 12AX7 ($15/ ube) based on reviews that said it was the best 12AX7 Tung-Sol ever made - and I came close to deeply regretting it.
I popped the stock tubes out and put the new ones in (with much pushing and shoving as they barely fit in the space allocated), turned the amp on and ... disaster. The bottom end of the sound was fat, uncontrolled, leaking all over the place. The top was skinny (not lean, more like starving), had no dynamics and lacked any tube-like magic. My wife stepped in that instant and asked me why the music sounded so "dead". My mistake was that the SP3's sound never really changed over break-in time - some subtle evolution happened but I could listen to it from the get go and have a blast - these Tung-Sol tubes needed break-in, over 2 weeks before the sound really settled.

Once settled, I had much deeper bass but still not fully controlled - especially the upper bass still sounded too full, overwhelming the mids. The upper half though had improved significantly, acquring more dynamics and nice tube tones. But overall, this fat bottom that the sound had acquired did not thrill me, especially since it had also been at the expense of transparency and detail in the mids. Great deep bass at the expense of the rest of the music is not why I acquired Rogers LS3/5a in the first place.

I almost took those tubes out but decided to move to my next tube rolling instead to see how much worse things could get. I therefore replaced the stock 12AU7 with a pair of Jan Philips ECG5814A ($12 a pop) and "Whoa!". From the minute I made the switch, it sounded like everything had gone back into place. The bass solidified (upper bass still a tad fat but much less than before) and the upper half of the spectrum just fell into place - beautiful mid tones and increased dynamic were the result. A couple of hours later, the JAN Philipps had settled and my amp sounded like a great tube amp - sweet tones, colourful, deep and solid bass. I was very happy with the sound, much improved over the stock SP3 except for one thing - transparency and micro details were just not the same since the change of 12AX7 tubes; but I liked the sound so much I decided to go with the very light loss of detail.

Then a couple days ago I decided to change the last 2 tubes of the preamp section and I replaced the stock 6922 with JAN Philipps 6922 Low Noise ($20/tube) and those tubes made my day. The resulting noise level went down and transparency was restored and actually improved over the stock machine. Treble too just got cleaner, overall those tubes removed a not-so-subtle veil from the music.

I leaned a lot by rolling those tubes; the differences were not subtle and the SP3 is a great tool to reveal the character of all those tubes. Clearly the 12AX7 had the most impact on the music but I would probably not recommend the Tung-Sol as a first choice - it eventually turned out to match the other tubes I had picked fairly well for a great result but I feel I got very lucky. The Mullards have a great reputation and it is probably deserved. The Tung-Sol just takes forever to break-in and if not paired with the right 12AU7, the result could be really ugly.

The JAN Philips 12AU7 really sounded nice and sweet when put in the SP3 and at their price they seem a bargain. I am sure there are some better ones out there but for $12 what they did to the midrange and treble was really worth it. Finally, the ones I would recommend without a doubt are the JAN Philips 6922 low noise. The increase in resolution, dynamic and the improvements in tone are just too good to be missed. Again, I am sure there are better 6922s out there but do they cost $20 a piece ? This one is a no-brainer in my mind.

This morning I enjoyed 4 hours of bliss with this improved SP3; I remember listening to Rogers LS 3/5a driven by a McIntosh MC275 and not having had more pleasure than what I heard from the SP3 today - I am sure the MC275 would be a better choice on much more difficult- to-drive speakers, but on the 12-ohm Rogers and if my memory serves me well, the extra $3000 do not bring much.

I have decided to wait for a while before I swap the 5881s - the amplifier sounds so much like I want it to sound as is, that I do not want to break this harmony for now. So I will pack the 4 Tung-Sol 5881s that I have for now and will enjoy one of the sweetest sound I have heard in a while. Does it beat the best system I have ever heard - hell no, but it for sure costs a lot less too - the Audio Note Ongaku based system I heard in Paris a few years back really drew tears from me (yeah I know I am a big softy) but for 5% of the price I am getting a lot of the joy.

So, for people who have bought an Onix SP3 and want to take it a couple steps furthers for tone and bass extension and quality - those are some great $95 to spend. Knowing what I know today, I would just pick another 12AX7, something with slightly more control in the bass. But I am being picky.

On another note, I mentioned the Cobalt cables earlier. If you are still looking for low-cost elements that have great performancem you might want to look into those. They are pure copper cables, nothing fancy, no silver/gold or rare alpaca hair in the sleeves; they are not rolled by hand on the hips of japanese virgins by full moonlight but their build quality is second to none and they have a very sweet sound - for anybody with a slightly bright system who does not want to invest in $500 cables, they are just a great choice. And their customer service is a breeze to deal with - nice, fast and efficient. I have no interest in the company except that my whole system uses cobalt cables for great cost/ performance ratio. I have heard cables that were more transparent, had better bass extension and detail, better dynamic - but none at their price.

I guess you are getting ready for the big move so good luck - I have a few international moves behind me and I am happy that they are behind ! Enjoy Cyprus.

Frederic Beudot - Lincoln University, PA

Enjoy your work very much. Thanks for providing a respite from the overwrought and often tiring literary audio miasma. I often finish a half hour's torturous read, impressed with the writer's range and grasp of metaphor, yet wanting in terms of a real feel for the subject of the damned review!

It has been 30 years since my grad schooldays of nodding off to my firebottles (tinkering with self-built simple line stages - just a wire w/gain) . I have been doing sand for a long while ( Plinius/Benchmark/Totems now), but cannot escape the pull back to bottles. Listening to my old stuff can leave me thinking I was too enthralled with coloration... euphonic but colored nonetheless.

Now, with reviews like yours of the little Almarro, I am tempted. I would like a system for my office.

Larry Cozzillio

Dear Srajan,

My name is Solon Nikitas and our family company P. Nikitas Ltd located in Nicosia is active in the car audio/home audio/home automation business. I read your article about your movement to Cyprus.

I welcome you and I look forward in meeting you in the near future.
Thanks and Best Regards,

Solon Nikitas, Cyprus
Hi Srajan

my huge congratulations on your relocation decision! There is nothing like getting out from under the effects of US culture to expand your horizons. You've been here for 20 years, it's a great time to get the cobwebs out and get exposed to another culture.

My wife and I just got back from a 2 week symbolic/spiritual tour of Egypt. Our guide was John Anthony West, a controversial figure who is central to a lot of the ideas coming forward regarding alternative Egyptian history. John is the researcher who has worked to prove that erosion on the body of the Sphinx proves that it's much older than traditionally represented. A most interesting and enlightening 2 weeks. If you have any interest please check out Some amazing stuff there!

I returned Tuesday to my job as an electronic engineer to be informed that I was no longer needed. So I am casting my net and deciding where I go professionally from here. My dream would be to get back into audio at some point ( I was a designer for BBE Sound when that company started out), but I'm still processing and plotting my path. I'm of course still reeling from an intense two weeks in Egypt, too!

My best to you

Adam Reed


Wishing you good fortune in your move. Hoping that Cyprus provides what you are looking for and that your New Mexican bride acclimates well, too.

Larry Cox