FYI, just wanted to say I have had the Patek integrated for about 10 days and it is amazing. It expands on everything the standard integrated does well. Much more transparency and the bass is beyond anything I had hoped for. My Druids are producing bass I didn't think they could. Makes me think twice about using my custom Zu sub!!! I am very happy:-)))
I have been amazed at some components discovered through your reviews (t-amp, white lightning, PS1 and still putting together the Ziggies). Well I'd like to return the favor. I just received the Promitheus TVC passive preamp (I bought the basic model as it suited my needs and I kind of felt the extra for the ebony knobs and extra special silver wiring was a bit much). In the past year it has gotten a lot of attention so it may be beyond a full review but from a music lover to another it has to be heard.
I have had the PS1 for two weeks and running it through my Cayin integrated tube amp, white lightning to my Audes blues speakers. Yesterday I moved the Super T amp out of my video system to try out with the PS1. It still sounded good but I was a little disappointed as the difference was great enough that I couldn't really enjoy the sound knowing that it could sound sweeter.
So today I received the TVC came home late and hooked the PS1 to the TVC to the T amp before putting the kids to bed (I was going to switch to the tube amp but I already had the T hooked up and didn't have much time before quiet time). Well i am glad I didn't switch. Now I had heard that it sounded good from the get go but the real magic comes after 100hrs. So I drop in Nat King Cole's greatest hits (as not buying a CD in ten years I am limited to well recorded CD material, but I found the vocals on this amazing through the PS1, just real beautiful and full even though the background singers and instruments sounded real compressed and rather bad) and was hopeful for an improvement. Well I am still shaking my head. Right from the first sound I knew I hit gold.
Now for two weeks I have listened to Old Nat everyday as a reference for improvements and tweeks, now I am not a Nat King Cole Fan and I must say the CD had been wearing on me. Well tonight I enjoyed listening through the whole CD the improvements were that great. Those tinny sounding instruments in the background became music and Nat's voice pure liquid.
A few things noted. On my vinyl rig even at extreme low levels the sound is still enjoyable and no matter where in the apartment even in other rooms the sound is not diminished (some kind of acoustical trick it almost seems, my apartment is big but the walls are stone so I think this has some effect just channeling the sound around). Well with the PS1 even through the tube amp the sound was not enjoyable say when in the kitchen as the digital harshness was somehow increased being more pronounced than the great sounds heard when in the room. At low levels it was like coming out of a can. Well this changed with the TVC. The sound now sweeps through the house same as the vinyl and I am now listening to Lou Reed at an almost inaudible level (kids are asleep) and it sounds great.
Now it still doesn't bring it to the level to my vinyl its still missing that "thereness" and I wouldn't mistake the sound for analog but this little wonder system (your 267.44 - minus the Ziggies, plus my Audes- and the 330 TVC) is insanely criminal. Honestly if you thought it was a killer system before throw the TVC into the mix. I honestly can't believe what is achievable for what is essentially the price of a crappy transport. I can't wait for the weekend to try the TVC in my vinyl setup as my integrated can be switched to just a power amp.
All the best,
|Dear Mr. Day,
I always have a great time reading your stuff. Thanks for the effort. You won me over after I warmed up a Sony Playstation. Holy crap. My modded Rotel, no slouch, has been mighty lonesome for the last six months. Abundant thanks. (I got another one for experiments; can't help myself)
Now that I'm pretty sure I like yer ears, I've a question for you. I'm close to done rehabbing an Empire table and it's time to choose an arm. I'm eyeing a hotrodded Rega 250 (Michell techno weight & rewired) and it sure seems you can't beat the price. However, I'm massively intrigued by an Origin Live Silver that I can snag for about two hundred bucks more. The outboard bearings are what's grabbing me, I guess. Excellent idea, methinks.
Here's my rig, currently, from record to my ears. Dynavector 17D, Ittok, LP12 w/ homebrew Armageddon power supply, a rotating cast of homebrew step-up devices all based around vintage mic transformers, a homebrew phono stage based on Jim Hagerman's Cornet (mine uses octals and chokes in the PS; it's super sweet, especially after dialing in some 1940s tubes), a rebuilt Audio Research SP6B, a renovated and hotrodded HK Citation II power amp (Jim McShane is my spiritual advisor!), and modded JBL 4312 control monitors.
Anyhow, my buddy's been rehabbing tables for years and in the last year or so he's bagged all of 'em except the Empire. He's a horn guy, which is to say he's single, and music at his place nearly always sounds fantastic. So I've heard the Empire and I dig it. I know it's not an LP12 but I'm comfy chasing another sound. (Oh! And after a day or so listening to the Playstation last spring, I gave him a call, told him to check it out. He's now out of control. I think he's bought about 10 of them. He passes them out to whoever will take them!)
After reading your article on the Silver arm a couple times, it seems that all the talk at the beginning about the Silver being a little crunchy and solid-statey was when it was hooked to a high-gain phono stage. Is that true? After listening more with transformers, wha'd'ya think? Is the Silver worth the extra couple hundred? Is it a keeper?
I plan to try an older Dynavector I have, as well as an Empire 888 PE with a new stylus and probably the old standbys, Denon 103 and Shure V15, too.
Keep up the great columns. They're a breath of fresh air.
I was reading Frederic's page on Favorite Discoveries of 2007.He seems to like the cork and rubber tweek for feet. I have come to the conclusion that they are all coming from this store. Super Soundproofing Company, 455 E. Carmel St., San Marcos CA 92078, 1-888-942-7723. They sell these feet from 2inches up to 6 inches square. They only charge a $1.50 per foot for the 2-inch.They have a website under their name.They sell all kinds of damping and soundproofing stuff.I have no relationship with the store, I found it by mistake. If you could pass this on, maybe your readers would like to save lots of money on this tweek.They also might like something bigger than the 2-inch model.Thanks for a great mag and have a happy holiday.
I am currently listening to my 26 Euro CD player (PS1 scph 1002), 8 dollar speaker cables (White Lightning) , Cayin KT88 integrated amp, Audes Blues speakers. The PS1 has been on for 8 days and I am currently listening to a Beth Orton CD and I cannot believe what I am hearing (also, what I am not hearing - digital glare and harshness). As a strictly vinyl audio nut, I have never heard a digital source that I could enjoy music with - that is until right now. One item that helped push it over the edge was the Hi-Fi Tuning fuse that just came in today. I placed it in the Cayin and it was the final push that brought the CD sound to a level I didn't think possible (curious to see the effect of the new fuse on the vinyl). I am looking into a power cable for the PS1 to ratchet it up another notch (the Furutech you reviewed is the front runner right now).
Now, it does not better my vinyl system but it gets it to a level that I'll actually have to think, do I want to listen to vinyl or CD today. I have not bought a CD in over 10 years. Now I want to find some good-sounding CDs (I really can't believe I wrote that last part) as I am finding like vinyl there are good-sounding CDs and poor-sounding CDs.
It really just makes me chuckle that this much enjoyment can come from so little investment. If you put two zeros behind the PS1 and White Lightning price, I would say it was fair. So really just a very big thanks for opening up more music-enjoying opportunities.
Looking forward to your future reviews,
It's been a while since I last wrote, but my new Hyperion 968s are finally here! I sourced them from the same dealer in Singapore who sold the 938s to my friend; I got a good price on them, too. And he threw in a set of high quality Swiss-made jumpers as well.
Well, right out of the box they sound great; the midrange is to die for. When I put on a CD of Scarlatti sonatas, my wife, a classically trained pianist, immediately commented on how lifelike the piano sound is. However, on closer listening, the bass was somewhat bloomy so I've been using the Isotek System Enhancer CD (recommended by your colleague Srajan) to run them in. After three nights of the CD on repeat, the bass is now tighter and overall the sound is better balanced. The next tweak was to install spikes on them, replacing the original flat feet. The dealer recommended the Soundcare Superspikes M8, which helped in cleaning up the bass. You know what, I reckon he was wrong is saying that there was only a 10% improvement over the lower model 938s. Definitely more than that to my ears, as the bass is much better controlled and the midrange sweeter, plus the overall resolution and soundstaging are better. They are a superb match for my Supratek Chardonnay and McCormack DNA-225 Platinum combo, with Acoustic Zen Satori Shotgun biwired cables. I am glad I went for the 968s like you suggested, and not the 938s, but you won't catch me saying that to my friend...
I must say the piano finish is amazing. Now I have to figure out a way to protect them from the sticky fingers of my son, just turned 9 months old and crawling everywhere. I will get some velvet covers custom made and hope they will do the trick.
BTW, I remember you mentioning that I should check out the Melody tube amps. They seem to have quite a number of models. Which particular one would you recommend for use with the 968s? Thank you so much for your great advice and willingness to help a fellow audiophile from half way across the globe. Now for some serious listening!
Well, 10% difference in sound can be significant, depending on how he's using the term. You can get a really expensive pair of cables that will improve the sound 5% and you'd feel like you did well. My personal feeling is that you spend the money once and have no regrets. But that's just me. Two years down the line, you'll forget what you paid for the speakers and you won't be left with that nagging feeling that you could have bought a slightly better speaker.
I read with interest your review of the MG-20 speakers. It was quite a contrast to Dick Olsher's rave review in TAS, which proclaimed them the best box speakers in existence. For what it's worth, I heard the MG-20s at RMAF 2007 and thought they sounded exactly as you described them. I don't think it has anything to do with liking the sound of paper cones. It's weird when two experienced reviewers have such dramatically different reactions to a component. Go figure.
I'm having trouble believing what I'm hearing the last few days. My Almarro A318B now seems to approach fully broken-in status. The music is just flowing along in a way I have never heard at home before.
I just hear the music and can't get enough of it. It presents the music in a way so seamless and engaging that no sonic characteristics seem to matter. Sure, it sounds great too, but it's so hard to draw my attention away from the message of whatever I'm listening to.
There simply is no contest with anything (tubed or transistorized) I had or heard in my system so far. The Almarro is a whole world better, and that is no exaggeration. How's that JAS Audio Bravo 2.3 doing compared to it (from memory of course, since you don't have it any more) ?
Yes, that Japanese amp is very special but because of its modest pricing and paper power, most people won't believe it. While the formal review of the Bravo is still out a ways, initial impressions are of a very similar gestalt to the Almarro but perhaps not quite as potent in the bass and settling in, the transformer actually got noisier so the S/N floor isn't as good as the Almarro's was. Otherwise, apparently far more similar than not.
you have ruined my life. I was always in to music. Most of my life I did not have the means to afford quality of music reproduction. I was mostly concentrating on the quality of the music and enjoyed it in vast quantities. Finally, when I was in the position to purchase the system of my dream, I did so with one thought in mind; it would be the top of the line and it will cost more than I would be able to afford.
Therefore, over the period of several years I got myself the following: (of course, it was the surround sound system, what are you crazy?)
Pair of B&W 802s for the front, 805s for the rear and so on,
Sony DA 777 ES receiver,
Sony 999 ES? SACD player,
Pioneer DA 38A DVD-Audio player,
MIT network bi-amp cables (the most expensive crap I have ever bought),
I was I heaven. It was loud, it was magnificent, it was mind blowing! People would come over just to listen to the music. My mother-in law would ask me to play some 'nice' music for her, and she would actually sit down and listen. Do you understand what I am talking about? Do you have a mother-in law?
For several years I was in hwaven, my system was 'the shit' and I was building my surround sound disc collection.
It all happened when I started to look for a better set of headphones to listen to my lossless iPod collection. I stumbled onto your website, where you had a review of the Audio-Technica ATH-W1000. What a dork, I thought, looking at your mug wearing the headphones. However, the review was convincing enough to make me purchase the phones.
From that point on, everything went downhill. Listening to the music through these headphones made me realize how much sound I was missing. Moreover, because of that missing sound, I was actually missing the music. I was devastated. My system sounded like junk compared to the headphones. Adding the big-ass 5 channel x 200 watt Adcom amplifier did not help at all.
Srajan, do you know the pain of frustration, do you know the relentless pursuit of sound happiness and do you know how it feels to have your mother-in law be the only person in the room to be satisfied with the sound? So, the poison you are spreading on your pages entered my bloodstream. My 805s moved in to the living room. I went tubes, thank you, and following your advice purchased the Cayin 88T amplifier. Being an architect by profession, I am very sensitive to the aesthetics, so here comes the Shanling T200A SACD player - incredible design and unprecedented quality of assembly. Zu cables throughout, of course, you sonofabitch.
Headphone sound? Very, very very close! A year or so later, your poison is at work again. Today, for the first time I had my 'tube rolling' experience. It did not happen overnight. I researched, I have consulted the internet, yes, there are other websites beside yours, though not as poisonous.
I pulled out the old tubes, all of them. I inserted the new tubes. One at the time. Very slowly. It was my first time. I had no experience, but I used protection - the white gloves that came with the Cayin. First, the cryo KT 88s. Then, 6SL7 and 6SN7s. Then I turned it on.
Ah! That is what you were taking about! Holographic sound, stage depth, note decay, the sound of music. All of the music on the disc. But, am hearing all of the music? Is there more? According to the poison you are spreading, there is more.
You've ruined my life, Srajan. Like a dog that sees everything in shades of gray, I was content with my perception of a good sound. Your headphone review turned on the color and the dog of constant search for more color became rabid.
I should come to Cyprus and kick your butt. But first, I have over 1000 CDs to re-listen, so you are safe for now.
I'll be watching you, Srajan. And of course, checking out your drug du jour.
Guilty as charged. We are in the legalized drug pushing profession -:)
|Ah what an excellent letter from Vladimir Avidon! It made me laugh out loud! Laughing at the truths it highlighted in my own quests .
I always enjoy reading your reviews, originally on Soundstage, I believe, now on 6moons.
I wanted to take an opportunity to comment on your AudioTechnica ATH-W1000 headphone find. I, too, took a chance on an AudioTechnica headphone, the ATH-W5000. My impressions coincide directly with yours. I did not own a Sennheiser model but a couple of Grado's and an AKG-701 pair (un-modded). My amplifier(s) are a Graham Slee Solo, a RAM modified AudioAlchemy Headphone Amp v.1, and a soon to be picked up, RAM modified Musical Fidelity X-cans v.1. RAM being Reference Audio Mods, the Eastern U.S. location being about 15 miles from my home. Doug, at RAM, also modified my Pioneer Elite PD-65 cdp (the full boat $1500 upgrade with transformer outputs), and is now also modifying my AudioTrak Prodigy 7.1LT soundcard (Wolfson DACS).
I agree with your assessment of the AT sound and how much music can be had for a relatively small amount of money. The W-5000's are available from AudioCubes but also from, of all places, an electronic Superstore here in the States, Circuit City, for $679+tax+shipping. They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee. I took them up on their deal, not knowing how I'd like the phones, since I liked the AKG-701's also. I love them both, on different amplifiers for different reasons and for different music types. I won't go into that now, as I'm sure you know yourself how the AT's perform, but I will say, I'm not letting either of them go. With the modded uprated power supply for the Class A AudioAlchemy amp (the Power Station #3), the AKG's have plenty of hitting power! And they resolve so beautifully. Just a great match.
The Slee Solo is by far and away the most realistic sounding amp I've owned, whether for speakers or headphones. With the AT's it's "Live at the Club" time. Scary sometimes.
Anyway, just wanted to let you know, your columns are very much appreciated and read. I'm closing in on 60 years old, and since my money is my money now, (the kids are grown and on their own) I can indulge a bit on a very satisfying hobby.
I do have one question for you, though. I own a pair of Morel's Octave speakers (in RED, no less). Since Morel drivers are the choice of many very high end speaker companies, have you contemplated reviewing a pair, maybe even with their powered subwoofer add-on enclosures? They are a beautiful sound, if a bit inefficient. I love them with my Rothwell Indus SE preamp dual volume control and Roksan Caspian M series stereo power amp.
But most of all, thanks for all the reviews and information. I love this stuff.
in beautiful Plymouth, Michigan, USA
John Potis on staff, during his time at SoundStage, wrote a review on the Morel stand mount which you can find here.
|Nice bit on Perspectives, Srajan. Perhaps we should, not unlike the reviewers that precede us, enjoy the yin and yang of music from two different but equally enjoyable systems/perspectives. These days, having it all doesn't have to break us as Realization demonstrates. Additionally as sources become more portable and in the case of streaming, mass-less, the addition of a chip amp and some home-made Open Baffles has the ring of a return to the days of Heath kits and hifi...Garage o philes.
In response to your Nov 07 article entitled 'Perspectives', you make a good point that musicians that are in the near field of their own performances are hearing something quite different than those in the audience. And, it seems right for the recording engineer to try to approximate the listening experience of the audience, rather than the player (for the reasons you have mentioned).
However, it has not been my experience that modern hifi attempts to clone the musicians perspective. From a recording engineers perspective, "close miking" is an effort to isolate a voice or instrument from surrounding sounds and give the mixing engineer or producer a chance to:
A. Apply equalization to individual mics (even the best mics do not always have flat response in the real world).
B. Remix relative levels if needed.
Standard practice is then to add back spatial information and depth using digital reverberation. If this is done well, we have the benefits of close miking without the confusing and unrealistic blend of multiple 'dry ' mics. The operative words here are 'done well'. A good recording of a small group can be done in this way. And, I hate to break anyone's bubble, but digital reverb has often been used in recordings labeled as analogue. It is also not at all uncommon to add ambience mics into the mix.
Orchestral music is a bit more challenging. Remixing dozens of close mics while maintaining the feel of the concert hall is not easy. It is not surprising that many listeners prefer simple two microphone recordings of large orchestras.
I really think what many of us object to, is a close miked recording that was not effectively mixed (with proper use of reverb and ambience mics) resulting in a disjointed and unnatural recording where you are hearing every instrument from the player's perspective. Worse yet, are recordings where reverb is applied unevenly from instrument to instrument, resulting in a totally unnatural soundstage. Unfortunately, there are many recordings that suffer from this. But, it is not usually intentional. Engineers and producers have something in common with players: Some are better than others.
|Professional Moonies that I have corresponded with - I thought I would pass along these amateur musings I threw together for some of my homies this week. All of you have influenced my tastes and purchasing decisions and I am grateful to you all for the enjoyment & knowledge I've derived from your reviews.
Well, two component changes in the last six months or so: Fi 45 monoblocks replaced the Consonance 845 monos (which I just sold, somewhat reluctantly) and a Shindo Monbrison pre has replaced the Supratek (and a Dodd battery pre I tried briefly as well - that piece is overrated!).
First, the Fis. Everything people say about the 45 is true - it is something special. It seems to be perfectly balanced across the frequency spectrum and yet highlights vocals and other mids in an almost surrealistic way (it is not a response abberation). The soundstage is wide, deep and extremely airy. Now, this is really the only 45 implementation I've heard and of course the circuit, driver, and parts all play a role but the Fis do sound like what 45 lovers describe.
I was apprehensive that 2 watts might not be enough raw juice to manhandle the Lamhorns, despite being 99dB/W and sans crossover. The little 2A3 SET integrated I own was lacking in that regard but it turns out it must be a power supply issue - the Fis have no issues with volume whatsoever, are dynamic as heck and have taut deep bass to the Lamhorn's limits of the low-to-mid 40s. Not only is there no need for more power but every more power amp I've tried, even SETs, do not sound as good on the Lamhorns.
Being direct-coupled with literally the possible circuit, they are wonderfully immediate and dynamically adept in the micro sense. By this I mean that they follow the subtle nuances and fluctuations of vocals, strings and horns better than anything else I have heard. Now I understand the love of the micro-power triodes those in the know seem to have - in allowing for such extremely simple circuit topology, they seem to get out of the way of the music to the greatest degree possible. Input/drive tube, power tube, output transformer - other than the power supply, that's all there is to the Fis. (Of course, as in almost all SETs, there is no feedback at all. The 45 is said to still be the most linear amplification device ever devised by man, something like 70 years after its invention, and no distortion-canceling feedback is needed.) The direct-coupling (lack of a cap or tranny between the driver & output tube stages) is said to be largely responsible for the amount of nuance they let through. And directly connected to the driver's voice coil - no crossover to mask detail, absorb energy and hide some of the music!
One of Fi's early ads for the three-watt 2A3 (this 45 version is the same amp with minor changes to suit the 45) used to say something like "any quest for more power is for something other than sound quality and is misguided". Now I really know exactly what he meant. Recently I auditioned a couple of much more expensive amps, each somewhat more powerful - a very good 300B SET and a Shindo Cortese. Great as they are, the Fi 45s offered *significantly* greater nuance and emotion over both of them - more raspiness in Louis Armstrong's vocals, blattiness in horns of all sorts and other types what amounts to ultra low-level musical detail that adds a great deal to the performance. It's either the direct-coupling, the AC filaments (which contribute to circuit simplicity) or a combination of these things (I think it's more the former), but it seems these amps cannot be beat in the category of ultimate musical realism. At least they cannot be beat easily.
(You might think "What's one more cap in the signal path after all the ones before it?" Well, that final stage is crucial. This is the one that's connected directly to the driver's voice coil (in the crossover-less speakers). At least that is what the proponents of direct-coupling would say.)
What else can I say about the Fis? Well, Don Garber who is Fi (it's his company and he still makes every pair of amps by hand - I waited four months for mine) is the guy that pretty much re-introduced America to single-ended triode amplifiers. His shop in NY, Fi, was where it all happened and where many others were inspired. Check out the 6moons reviews of the 2A3 monos for some history - good reading.
Oh, the Fi amps are a steal at $3250/pr as well. I think that if he had a dealer network and/or wanted to get rich, he could be charging $10K - there are many, many $10K+ amps that don't have 10% of the magic these things deliver. Very happy with this purchase. If your speakers are 95dB/W or better and an easy load, I don't think you can possibly do better. Perhaps a version with silver trannies; that would add loads to the cost.
On to the next piece. Shindo Laboratories of Tokyo, Japan is the brainchild of Ken Shindo who has been building amplifiers for 40 years. Again, a 6moons review (of the Monbrison, the piece in question) provides a nice narrative about the man and the company but briefly, Shindo-san has developed his own way of doing a lot of things and they're really different from just about everybody else. He uses tube types many have never even heard of, long out of production and rare (he buys them by the hundreds or thousands when he finds a stash, enough to support his products for a lifetime). He uses many 'odd' vintage parts as well, like Allen Bradley resistors and Sprague caps, eschewing (only sometimes) the modern audiophile favorites. He defies convention wisdom by building preamps without an external power supply that are the quietest units in the world, tube or transistor. Signal-to-noise of 119dB!
Looking at the little Monbrison, you probably would not expect what it has to offer. It is very nicely finished and stylish (looks much better in person than the pics), but pales in terms of aesthetics in comparison to a lot of other stuff in its price range (and below). But, of course, sound is what matters and this piece is possibly the single most impressive piece of audio electronics I have ever heard in the sense of how much positive effect it had upon insertion into the system. It's so much better than the Supratek Sauvignon and Dodd Battery pres I've owned recently, and everything else I've heard, that it's downright silly. This was apparent within only a few seconds of the first track I played, and after 15 minutes my wife wanted to buy it (with some conditions - but I was expecting a very hard sell). To use the cliche, it "transformed the system" - but that is completely accurate.
After around 300 hours of listening and some thinking, I've concluded that there are roughly three "categories" (compartmentalization of sonics is rather artificial but oh well) in which the Shindo absolutely excels: liquidity, tone, and what I'll call detail/micro-dynamics/timing.
I thought I already had the smoothest mids possible until I heard the Shindo - up another notch or two. Horns, vocals, and strings are extremely smooth through this piece. his was a revelation, about on par with the second: tone. I have seen reviewers use this word in describing the Shindo gear and now I really understand it: instruments have great body and palpability; images are extremely solid and life-like. The Lamhorns excel at this quality as well; the new piece just brought even denser images. To a significantly greater extent than the other line and phono stages I've tried (the line and phono stages, by the way, sound uncannily alike). But what the Shindo really pulls off beautifully is it gets this tone without any sense of "fatness" or bloat whatsoever - it's just a completely natural tone.
[Octals like the 6SN7 are often referred to as "tone" tubes and that's true - the Supratek units make wonderful use of this tube, as do many others. Shindo, however, doesn't go that route - the line stage tubes are NOS Telefunken ECL 94S (say what?). Nope, I'd never heard of them either, despite a couple of years of a lot of reading about audio tubes. When I'd read of Shindo gear early on, frankly, I figured this sort of thing was a gimmick - being different is bound to intrigue. Now I know better - Shindo definitely knows things nobody else knows, whatever else you might say about him. That I am quite certain of.]
Concerning micro-dynamics and detail - the Shindo excels. Again, more so than anything else I've heard, it delivers in these areas and it never crosses the line into sounding "analytical". Many people consider detail and musicality to be naturally opposed but Shindo proves that this need not be the case. I think that realizing this is what it really means to get Shindo.
Like all good modern tube gear, both the Shindo and the Fis are fast, linear and extended - no rounding, no fatness, no sluggishness; no blunted transients, euphonic mids and all the other nonsense people who don't really know what SETs (with appropriate speakers) sound like.
I never thought I would drop the kind of coin the Monbrison demands on a single piece of audio gear. Well, maybe speakers. I bought a demo unit and got 10% off. (Really no watching audiogon for one of these: you could wait for years.) On 2nd thought, considering that it contains superb line, phone,and MC step-up stages makes it not too unreasonable - if not exactly reasonable! The way I look at it is this: the better the gear, the less "work" your mind does to complete the emotional experience of listening. Putting the Shindo Monbrison into the system resulted in immediately having to do less "work" to get the full effect of the music than ever before, so we bought it. The deal with my wife was that we'd add two more impoverished 3rd-world children to our monthly support list. Seriously!
In conclusion, the low-power SET/back-loaded horn thing may not be for everyone or every type of music but what it does well - which applies to most vocal and acoustic music - it is pretty much unbeatable at.
As usual, great reading -- and inspiring -- material on the recent "Perspectives"!
In the early seventies, a very popular Art movement was Hyperrealism. The reality (or existence) of everyday subjects and situations was pushed to the extreme by virtuoso painters such as Chuck Close. Boring reality was the subject, and hyper reality was the vision. Very troubling and up to a certain point, very HiFi. There is a fine line between reality (the boring) and Hyperreality (the sublime). I find the notion of Hyperreality most interesting when applied to music reproduction, or should I say, music expectation.
Sometimes, real is not real enough, and at other times too real to be real.
I became suddenly aware of that after a first listening of Dave Holland Big Band Overtime CD. The very first thing that strucked me was how could they get that music on CD? I mean, I was impressed by the ability of the engineer to capture the whole band without any mic overload, and at the same time, keep some dynamics. It's very hard to record a single trumpet, so a whole Big Band with space for each instrument is very hard to accomplish (especially with all the band playing at the same time in the same location).
After a while, and being aware of the impossibility of the task, I began to understand that I was listening to Hyperreality. There was enjoyment, but the reality wasn't and just couldn't be. The music was like a light show: a few minutes on the bass (naturally!), then a spotlight on drums, brass, and so on. The same band recorded with the purist Ortofon head (a simple foam head with an omni mic planted in each ear) and no limiters would positively be boring.
I guess we, as music consumers, value reality and at the same time expect, accept and embrace hyperreality in such a way that musicality is borderline of absurd or irrelevent.
A fine example of reality (as in anti hyperrealism) is the fabulous Gonzales piano album. A collection of short musical gems, vaguely reminescent of Satie's work, but played on a vintage upright piano (with a broken key) and covered by a heavy blanket. Piano is played, but the sound is so extremely and boringly real (and only as dull andunexciting as a real vintage piano can sound) that only the melody survives.
I just wanted to drop you a note to say how much I am enjoying the Unos with the Evans gear. Everyone who stops by, from novice to audiophile crazy, has had great things to say about my system. Below is a typical quote, this from the president of the San Diego Audio guild who sent this in an e-mail to a dealer/music friend:
"As you know, dynamics and polar response are important issues for me; it's what most distinguishes live music from reproduced. The AvantGardes offered dynamics in spades, startlingly so, as well as fine resolution and surprisingly --- great soundstaging, making for a very intimate, realistic listening experience. I told John they sounded like earphones with a soundstage. I'd been less than impressed with the AvantGardes at CES demonstrations, but John has one of those listening rooms that - like some concert halls - makes music shine and the horns just beamed, whether we were playing classical, jazz or rock. It was hard not to get caught up in the music even when we were trying to talk. It's well worth a visit to his place to check them out."
It's been a lot of fun watching peoples' expressions and hearing their comments. I've also added a Merrill-Scillia MS2 turntable (written up recently by John Potis as I'm sure you know) with Tri-planar tonearm and the Ortofon Jubilee cartridge. I thought I should get Tom's phono stage, but I didn't want to be limited by it's lack of adjustments and so I opted for one from Roger Sanders (formerly "Inner Sounds") who is back in business. I listened to his phono stage after hearing several other very well-regarded units. His offers a lot of latitude for adjusting for gain, resistance, and capacitance and it sounds exactly like I think Tom's unit would have sounded - i.e. a perfect match with the rest of the system.
Thanks for your help in putting together such an enjoyable system!
Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your "interview with self" underneath your profile. You hit on a number of area that struck a chord with me - too many to mention right now. But it was also great to get further insight into your thinking as it helps to frame your perspective a bit on various reviews. Also, you're just a talented writer and I'd be interested in reading more if you have other pithy pieces like that...
One reason why the instant gratification of online self publishing appeals to me is that one gets to purge ideas nearly instantaneously. If I have something to say that comes to me in the shower -- don't laugh, that's where I get a lot of ideas -- two hours later it can be written and published after which it is forgotten, mostly. The industry features archives is the place to look but I honestly don't remember whether something "like" the piece you're referring to is there. However, I wrote a short one last night called "Perspectives" that's just been added to the current industry features. You might enjoy that. It hints at certain factors but then butts out to let the reader come to her own conclusions.
please take the pictures of the JAS Bravo amplifiers out of your magazine, they are plagiarisms of our amplifiers. We have designed them one year ago and the company which had produced them for us in China had sold the design (case design, circuit design etc.) to JAS Audio without our permission. We will take judicial action against them but we want to ask you to not support such criminal behavior and publish perhaps this case to warn others against this company.
Thank you very much.
A number of items merit comment.
1/ You submit no proof of any kind for your accusations. Surely you don't expect me to take your word for it. This could be a basic ploy to interfere with a competitor.
2/ Google can't find a website for Rike Audio showing photos of the amplifiers allegedly copied by JAS Audio.
3/ If you commissioned a Chinese OEM company and signed an exclusive contract that's legally binding by international law, you need to pursue this claim by legal means and win before I should feel obliged to consider your request.
4/ I contacted JAS and their response was: "This customer just bought a few sample pieces last year, after that, no order at all. There is no copyright contract or payment, nothing. Our factory has not received any letters or email from this customer. Maybe now they notice that we started to promote so they want to make their name..."
For the time being, my review of the JAS Bravo 2.3 amplifier will proceed as planned.
PS: Interestingly, Rike Audio has not acknowledged my separate reply to the original sender e-mail. One could assume that if this was a serious case, at least a cursory reply would have been issued right away. The utter silence, just as JAS Audio reports, suggests a cheap shot instead.
Re: The DIY WLM cable piece. I admire your guts and honesty by swimming upstream against the "it can't be any good unless it costs a fortune" mindset that most of us insecure neurotics in this hobby are brainwashed by. The speaker cables simply bring more musical enjoyment from my modest system than I have ever experienced.
That leads me to my next comment concerning your delightful article about musicality and enjoying music, not being consumed by "audiophilia nervosa" (see above comment). I couldn't agree more. As a drummer, very little of what came out of the majority of the super hi-end systems I heard recently at RMAF remotely resembles or is as involving as what I hear while playing. That said, may I put in a 'plug' for two components purchased in the past year that have brought me more listening pleasure than anything I've owned, regardless of $, dating back to my 1st Sherwood-Advent-Pioneer-Grado system from 1974 that caused me to be hooked on music and the toys to enjoy it with? Those components are a YBA Design YA201 integrated and Vandersteen 1C speakers. For my ears, they deliver recorded music in a most enjoyable manner.
Thanks so much for your recommendations and thoughts.
what can I say about the Almarro A318B you don't already know? To be honest, I thought it's another one of those over-the-top claims importers make about their products simply to sell more of them, being fully aware that theirs isn't really that much different from the competition. After trying to verify many such statements and failing to hear what all the fuss was about in pretty much every case, I learned not to expect much even after the most extreme hyperbole.
Now I'm sitting here listening to an amp in my system about which a certain Mr. Frick from WLM said to you he'd spend $10 000 more than its actual price if he had to...and you know what ? If I had to spend $10 000 more to buy it, I wouldn't. Because I don't have $10 000 more. But to get this performance, I'd spend them too if I had 'em.
The Almarro A318B looks just like another one of those affordable new small valve amps from the east. You'd forgive everyone who thinks it also sounds like the lot. Only, as you correctly pointed out, it doesn't at all. And I can now fully understand that a lot of people are thinking you're talking out of your ass when you say it takes the cake.
A really big thanks to you for saying it how you heard it, Srajan. As you can see, I heard the same and bought one. And thank you also to the Austrian and new German importers of Almarro - great communication, great service. Oh, as to the Lavardin ? It is a really, really good transistor amp. But to my ears, it can't compete with a really, really good and normally also really, really expensive valve amp. Normally...
Thank you very much for the time and care that you put into this Winsome Labs review. I have been left with a significantly different perspective than I had previously. I had not realized it had any muscle, but apparently it does.
I wonder if three of them could even be employed to power a pair of Emerald Physics CS2 speakers (with subs). The drivers are 100 dB/W but there is 10 dB of boost applied at 30 Hz, so the equivalent efficiency at 30 Hz is 90 dB/W/M. Emerald Physics suggests 100 - 200 WPC but it really does sound like these could be enough power in a pinch..
Anyway, it's an intriguing alternative notion.
Thanks for being so meticulous. Great equipment stand, by the way - I imagine somehow that you designed it. You seem really to have an eye. And an ear.
Thank you so much for your kind words. The equipment stands - if you're referring to the white ones - were designed by me almost twenty years ago. They were made of rosewood but spray-painted white. And each piece is on independent spikes, completely isolated from one another. I thought if isolation is so important, why not have each equipment mechanically grounded? If you're referring to the black ones next to the piano, they are Corras bedside tables by Ikea.
Now back to your question. I'm not familiar with Emerald Physics CS2. From their web page, it appears that their subs are not active. If they are, you have to be careful because the Mouse should never be connected to active subs with common ground. Since I'm not a technical guy, I referred your case to Jay Hennigan of Winsome Labs and he promptly replied:
"The manufacturer's website isn't 100% clear, but it seems that they don't have a subwoofer amplifier at all. It looks like they supply a stereo active crossover/preamp that has four line-level outputs; LF left, HF left, LF right and HF right. These then go to four channels of customer-supplied amplification, and then to the speakers. See: http://www.emeraldphysics.com/specs.htm If this is the case and there is no active amplifier between the customer-supplied LF amplifier and the driver, then the Mouse will be fine. It's a straight bi-amp setup but with an active DSP crossover ahead of the amplifier. I would definitely go vertical with two Mice in this setup. If they're recommending 100-200 WPC to 100-dB speakers, they are either deaf or in a VERY large listening room. :-) That's 120-123dB SPL at one meter per speaker, 123-126 dB stereo. Very loud. I don't see the 10dB of boost at 30 Hz mentioned on the manufacturer's site, but this may have to do with the CS2w "Additional bass generators" mentioned on the price list but not in the spec sheet. On the one hand I'd say that the Mouse wouldn't have the power to drive them due to the minimum 100-200 WPC recommended, but the 100dB sensitivity suggests otherwise. Another option would be horizontal with a muscle amp on the LF side and one Mouse on the HF. As there's an active DSP crossover ahead of the amplifiers, differences in amplifier sensitivity can be accommodated easily. And the system comes with a microphone, presumably for optimizing the active crossover. If he goes horizontal, it's essential to verify that the LF amplifier is non-inverting polarity, or swap speaker wires to fix it, else you will have some pretty unusual imaging and generally odd sound as the phase flips at the crossover point." As always, Jay's answer is honest, thorough and professional. What a guy!
PS: The LF boost is written to the DPS engine in the active crossover to counteract the phase cancellation of the twin 15" dipole woofers. The amp driving the woofers will be called upon to deliver far more power than the sensitivity ratings suggest below 30Hz where the boost is active. I very much doubt the Mouse would be up to that task but Clayton Shaw, the designer, should know best.
I read your review of the T-20 amps with great interest. I'm sort of new to all of this, so could you explain how you wired the Klipsch speakers when you used two amps? I don't want to fry anything when I try it myself. Thanks.
Allan C. Stam
Thank you for your interest in our reviews.
The Klipsch Synergy F2 I have is bi-wired, meaning each speaker has two pairs of input binding posts for hi and lo frequencies respectively. This is how you use two T20s in vertical bi-amp, driving the hi and lo posts of one pair of bi-wired speakers or two pairs of single-wire speakers in D'Appolito array to double up power.
(1) From the source CD player or preamp output, you have L signal and R signal leading out from a pair of RCA interconnect cables. Do not connect the cables to T20 yet. Get two Y-adapters (a short interconnect cable with one female socket on one end and two male plugs on the other, available from Radio Shack or similar electronic stores.) Plug L signal into the female socket of one Y-adapter. Plug R signal into the female socket of the second Y-adapter. Now you get two left signals and two right signals.
(2) Connect the two left RCA signals to the L and R inputs of the first T20, which becomes your L channel amp. (It doesn't matter that they are marked L and R channels since they have now both accepted the same signal.) Then connect the two right RCA signals to L and R input of the second T20, which now becomes your R channel amp.
(3) You now have two sets of speaker binding posts on your L channel T20 both carrying L channel output power, therefore the output power is double. Likewise for the R channel.
(4) Connect the first set of speaker binding posts on your L channel T20 to the high-frequency speaker binding posts of your bi-wire speaker. Next connect the second set of speaker binding posts on your L channel T20 to the low -frequency speaker binding posts of the same bi-wire speaker.
(5) Repeat the same with the R channel T20 and the other bi-wire speaker. In total you need two pairs of speaker cables to complete both channels.
(6) Alternatively you can connect two single wire speakers in D'Appolito array for each channel. The gain is double power. And you can adjust L/R channel balance.
Hope this helps.
I enjoyed reading your Meditation on Musicality & Music Lovers article. It provides insight on the more important matters of enjoying music listening. I discussed with one of my friends the other day how I can enjoy listening to music through my 60GB iPod Photo as much as through my stereo system.
I attended The Burning Amp Festival in San Francisco last weekend. Even though the large 27 ft. x 44 ft. main room at the Fort Mason Center's Fire House wasn't optimized for audio listening, the acoustics were adequate for a fun-filled day of great fellowship with DIY audio enthusiasts from all over.
The impressive DIY gear was just awesome. Nelson Pass was there with his son Colin generously dispensing goods from Nelson's treasury of transformers, full-range drivers, transistors, knobs,etc. NHT was there with their speaker testing lab set up in one of the side rooms. John Curl was planning to visit the event as well, but somehow never made it. The best part of the event was listening to a wide variety of speakers and amplier designs. The speaker designs varied from tri-amped acoustic suspension types using active crossovers to high efficiency designs including open baffles, 'Bigger is Better' to Metronome MLQQTs using Hemp drivers. There were great sounding solid state and tube amps including a pair of exotic-looking DIY Pass F4 monoblocs. Even Lessloss Audio Devices was there with their DAC 2004 jitter-reducing DAC and cables. Throughout the day, I heard many combinations of amps, speakers and source components making great sound. To me, I heard audio at this event that rivaled the best I heard at last year's RMAF 2006.
I even met another guy there who uses a Playstation 1 as his digital front end. He sold off his Marantz 8260 SACD player in favor of his Playstation 1.
There will be another Burning Amp Festival next year based on the overwhelming success of this inaugural show. The organizers of the show did a tremendous job with the whole event. Since you've given us some DIY gems like the Walmart cable projects and Zigmahorns, I would encourage you to come out to San Francisco next year and explore the musicality of DIY audio.
I just wanted to thank you for producing the most interesting, best produced, and best written hifi reviewing that I have encountered in my 30+ years as an audiophile. You and I may hear differently, but I always find your writing, and that of your colleagues, to be the best available and always a great read. You have really accomplished someting very special. Kudos to you and your team. Thank you for your efforts.
I am a longtime reader/audiophile and wanted to send a note of appreciation for your recent mm and m update.
By a stroke of good fortune I was born to a family (2 brothers, 7 sisters and assorted nannies, cooks, dogs, cats and other quadrupeds) that has always loved music and from my early childhood have always, I stress always, listened to either big Tannoys, Quads or more recently - Harbeths.
As a mature audiophile with many friends into the audiophile merry go round I have always been both bemused and baffled at the vast sums they have spent over time on systems that by your description lack musicality and as is most oftenthe case are listening to the "system" not to the music.
I have steadfastly maintained to all of them that they should grab a nice sized Spendor or Harbeth monitor, and if they have the bucks a nice set of Tannoys and that is it - party over.
Also I am blessed to have several classical musicians in my life - one in particular a prominent pianist and chamber musician up here in Canada. And in total agreement of your recent shifts and new views (looking forward to your updated bio by the way) a well trained classical musician will instantly tell you if invited how terrible your system reproduces music if in fact it does. This personfor instance has a Hamburg Rosewood Steinway grand in her home salon (designed to be so) and the only system that comes close to representing her Brahms faithfully to her ear is my Harbeth M 40, Bryston 14b sst, AR pre, Barcley cdp system. I have a few other systems as well in different places.
In David Kan's recent review of the Mark and Daniels monitors he brings up this issue as well. A friend who is as well a classical pianist took an instant dislike to one of his favourite systems. Very interesting that you both bring up this subject and in your case with such refreshing devotion to Larry Coryell and his mentor. Very nice reading by the way.
This shift of direction bodes well for musical listening in the future. It is great to see your magazine beginning to emphasize this.Srajan too has done his part supporting the Druids, high efficiency speakers and musical amps - recently for instance he just couldn't get his head - ears - around the new Esoteric speakers and said as much in his review. Good on him I say and thanks to all of you for towing a new line of sanity and musicality that can only lead to good things in the future. And this not to mention Srajan's downsizing - realsization he calls it (although I recently wrote to him that his ever burgeoning list of hardware does in fact seem to be "upsizing"). I say a fine system can be had with Spendor 1/2 or Harbeth Compact 7s, a nice Bryston integrated, any recent decent cdp and or vinyl and then fageddaboutit!
Kindest Brystonian Regards
Great piece on music vs. hi-fi! I'm totally with you. The part about good vs. bad recordings is so true. So many audiophiles rue their bad recordings but honestly, aside from some classic rock stuff, my collection seems mostly devoid. I don't chase the aphile labels either.
Anyway, great work.
I had the immense pleasure of reading your fabulous meditation on musicality paper. All I can say is BRAVO! It's so refreshing, especially from a member of the HiFi press, to read something so true and so thought provoking.
I get so fed up with the usual HiFi demo music. You know, the kind of music with sizzling 6ft wide cymbals, where everyone seems to marvel at the way instruments are so much bigger than life... Demos are sometimes like "Hey, let me play the coughing part on track 3". I must confess I play the demo game more than I'd like, and when I get home, I put away those Diana Krall/Patricia Barber CDs and relax my ears/head/soul/ with some scratchy old Trini Lopez and Louis Prima records - but please, don't tell anyone :)
Thank you again for such great writing!
been wrestling with various Lowthers and many other full/wide-range drivers in lots of different cabinet types for about eight years now. Once bitten it's hard to get rid of the infection, addiction to the uncanny sense of "life" presented by better Lowthers. It has developed into a kind of can't live with 'em' can't live without 'em kinda thing. Going back to my more traditional and widely accepted high-end speakers leaves me wanting that special aliveness that only the better Lowthers have given me. But, the stuff that bothers so many about these drivers is still there, period.
My Lowther-based speaker systems are the only speakers my wife has never warmed to musically. Her biases are reminiscent of most inexperienced reproduced music listeners who have experienced my Lowther-based setups. On the other hand, almost every experienced listener, for whatever reason, is able to listen through/past their weaknesses and becomes a Lowther devotee. As you recognized during your latest review of a Lowther-based speaker system, Lowther devotees are constantly striving to tame the peaky beast. I have found the adventure to be well worth the effort.
There is one area where I have a different opinion than the Indian speaker designer - Lowther bass augmentation. Eight years ago I was prepared for a Lowther/external bass-matching night mare. It was always going to sound obvious and disjointed. Not my experience at all. I have always mated my various Lowther and all full-range driver setups with speaker level, externally amplified and crossed woofers and subwoofers. Maybe the setup and/or the quality of the bass augmentation is the key but, I have always enjoyed near seamless low-frequency additions.
I have spent the past year experimenting with and evaluating four accepted open baffle sizes fitted with various eight inch full/wide range drivers. These OBs have been enhanced with TQWT, open baffle, bass reflex, closed box, horn-loaded, isobaric etc..... woofer/subwoofers. None of these combinations have offered even close to perfection but almost all offered better than musically acceptable performance.
Srajan, I admire and enjoy your photojournalistic approach to reviews and have taken many photos of my DIY open baffle/driver evaluations during the past year. I have uncovered several unique bits that were quite surprising. For example, Alnico magnet Lowthers offer a very noticeably better (spooky magical) presentation in OBs when compared to Neodymium-based units fitted with identical coil/cone/frame combinations. These differences do not manifest themselves with other cabinet combinations.
Some day I will find a forum suitable to post this longitudinal photo -illed review. Hey, it aint chock-full with the articulation and skilled writings of Mr. Ebaen or any professional writer/reviewer. However, I do believe that my observations will offer several unique enlightenments and save some Open Baffle DIYers lots of money when possibly heading down a wrong path.
Anyway, great review and welcome to the wonderful and oft frustration-filled world of the Lowther owner.
Thanks for your review of the Dared VP-16 where you discuss the placement ofyour Blueroom Minipods. I've had problems placing my Minipods ever since I bought them and now they are on sputnik spikes sitting right on the carpet and sound completely transformed. I would have thought placing them on the carpet would be terrible but it is the opposite. Now I don't need to buy stands or new speakers!
thanks a lot for the review of the Almarro amp. There now is a distributor for it over here in Germany, he already sells WLM. Yesterday, I went to his once-in-a-year open house event, where one of the systems playing was the Almarro A318B with the WLM Diva Monitors and a Duo 18. Mr. Frick himself was present and swapping discs big and small. From previous conversations and now exchanging words with him in the flesh, he seems to be a nice guy and knows what he is doing, regarding hifi that is.
You didn't promise too much - this combo played music very well. I'd never have expected the amp to perform so delicate and with such real substance at the same time, especially with the woofer and equalization turned off. The new German distributor will bring an Almarro over to my place next week (I live relatively close to him) so I can check out its performance over my omni-horns. If they sing together as good as I expect, I guess my non-glowing but still admired Lavardin has to find itself another owner soon...
All the best,
I've been reading your reviews for years and I think we're on the same page as far as what we like in a system. I thought I would give you a heads up. You've got to hear the Jas Bravo 6C33 amp if you thought the Almarro 318B was good. I can't believe this amp is this good. Just mind-boggling what the Chinese are capable of.
Just read your piece on the Zero One Mercury and wanted to thank you for such a clear, level-headed assessment of its strengths and foibles. I've been on the fence the past few months as to how I might proceed in terms of a new digital source. I find the choices are overwhelming, as soon as I think I've settled on a certain type of device (up/over-sampling, NOS, belt-drive, tube-based, hard-drive, etc, ad nauseam) or a specific unit, along comes another piece to mess things up. The Mercury seems to be rather tantalizing, given your description of its ability to reproduce music cohesive and fatigue-free way, with "weight, depth, inner detail and nuance". For a digital device, it seems to be rather organic, which I believe is a good thing.
Then again, you just had to mention the new CEC player and Audiomat DAC. Great, more options! ;-)
My apologies for making your life difficult. I certainly share your pain with respect to the sheer number of choices in digital playback available. I can tell you that being a reviewer and having access to lots of equipment doesn't make it any easier. Personally, unless my current setup blows up, I'm inclined to sit tight and wait.
Btw, thanks for the kind words.
I have been reading all your realsization awards with great interest. I am about to embark down the Zu Definition 2 route, I feel after listening to these speakers that they really do deserve to be part of the realsization collective. Of course the imminent arrival of the Presence may make that position more difficult to defend. But right now the Def 2s represent to me a music lovers bargain and with all this goodness contained in a manageable size, both physical and budgetary.
The next phase will be amplification for me. My current amp whilst good sounding with the Def 2s is just a little noisy. Some people have opined that a change of driver valves may help but I have very limited experience when it comes to finding the lowest noise 6SN7GT !!
So where would you start in looking for a reasonably priced amplifier for the Def 2s with all that they require ?
I would probably prefer a no fuss valve integrated at the end of the day but low noise models seem to be few and far between. I suppose the other option might be something like the RWA Sig 30.2.
Your thoughts would be welcomed!
Incidentally it looks like the Def 2s will be ordered in that same pink colour that your wife chose for her Credenzas. Girly colour indeed :)
I'd recommend a FirstWatt F4 if your -- preferably tube -- preamp has at least 12dB of gain. Otherwsie the F3 stable mate - or the RWA Sig 30.2. These amps are dead quiet all and really bridge the gap between transistors and tubes for, to my ears, the best of both worlds. The Zus actually like to see some current and damping so a low output impedance and transistor current are very welcome over what tubes will do.
Just wanted to tell you I just finished reading your review/"postcard French visit" of the Ocellia factory tour and enjoyed every page and picture of it. Certainly not your typical audio review (probably get that later in the "home audition") but probably your loveliest that I have read. Once again you have outdone yourself; very refreshing reviewing.
Being a speaker designer, I marvelled at the dedication that people like Bernard Salabert & Samuel bring to the art. I knew since the beginning of PHY (even before Gizmo had written about his discovery) that their raw drivers were about as good as they get. In fact many years ago I got the chance to listen to the big 12-incher in the first Acoustique & Lutherie enclosure at the "Festival du Son" in Montréal, Québec driven by Verdier source & DHT amplifiers, finding the latter a bit too soft but musical nevertheless. The craftmenship of their enclosures inside and out is both impressive and envious. Without following the exact same route, I too tend to put a lot of emphasis in all things concerning the enclosure - high quality multilayered plywood instead of MDF, wide baffle to better support the lows, minimum fill & lots of research on the best ratios. Perhaps some day you'll get the chance to hear mine :)
To cap off, UPS confirmed that my F4 has arrived at its first destination, I should get it next month.Do you find the new Pass XA 30.5 to sound like the F4 or does the Butler Monad (another thorough review that I enjoyed) comparable to any of the two?
Eagerly awaiting your part 2 of the Ocellia review & the VacuumState amp I mentioned the last time.
The XA30.5 is with Jeff Day so I don't know how it compares to the F4. The F4 + Supratel Cabernet Dual has a rather higher percentage of tube flavor than the Butler Monad had. The latter, to my ears, leaned heavier into the transistor camp. For my tastes, the tube pre/F4 combo (or, to go nuts, with a DHT SET between the two) is the ultimate "middle of the road" meeting between the two schools of sound. I'm very curious how Vinnie Rossie's new Isabella/Sig 30.2 combo will compare. I expect it'll be close...
|Srajan ... thanks a lot - You wrote a wonderful article about Ocellia and Monsieur Furon. Beautiful photos, nice story! Will there be a new review - Quaero or Calliope?
FYI: www.hoergesellschaft.de (I am the German importer of Ocellia, Jean-Marie Reynaud and Isem Audio).
Thanks again for giving me a lovely time reading this article.
A review of the 8" silver with tweeter is planned, on the Ocellia 300B push/pull monos, albeit not anytime soon since my schedule is booked solid well through the year into next. I'll start with a complete Ocellia cable set however to investigate the MDI concept first - and that probably will still happen in 2007. And a PHY factory tour is already penned, just awaiting a fact-check by Monsieur Salabert ...
Lovely article on Ocellia. Makes me want to jump in a Lexus and cruise through France (any excuse?). Used to own old Citroens, which would be a better picture.
Interesting that resonant cabinets reappear. Snell used to do something similar, accepting the situation and incorporating it. (And Citroen did with fluid suspension. Accepting that there's no such thing as a perfect seal, they built a scavenging concept in to recycle the leaked fluid in the suspension while Ford spent zillions trying to make a perfect seal.) Simple answers are often better than complex engineering both in cars and hifi!
Townshend Glastonbury speakers dealt with resonance by making a vert inert cabinet; gypsum plaster and carpet lining! (Plus a near single unit, plus tweeter as a 'tickler' - Max Townshends term. And, speaking of Townshend, you mention super tweeters somehow enhancing bass. This weird concept was also noticed in reviews of Townshend's Supertweeter. Hearing must be a holistic concept?
The lute image is good. John Williams (the classical guitarist) had his guitar made by an Australian craftsman who made his guitars so that the panels resonated in key. The resonance was then harmonious. Looking forwards to re-reading the Ocellia article. Makes my Zigmahornet project small-scale and Ocellia puts temptation in my brain if I ever replace the Duos!
Thanks for the review of the Shindo Monbrison. I've been edging towards one since Jules Coleman did his reviews of the Shindo equipment and the Horning Agathons in '04. Since then I have managed to purchase the Agathons and have been wildly impressed by them. I then added a pair of Ancient Audio Silver Grand Monos and they work together like a dream, a perfect complimentary pair that I doubt will ever be separated in my lifetime. They've been mated with an Opera Consonance TVC passive, very good and clear but now my system is about to be moved so that the source components are located in a separate cupboard (behind glass doors so I can still see 'em) and 5m of interconnect away from the AA Silver Grands. So I figure an active pre will be required. In the interim I've sourced an old but good Audio Research SP-11 to tide me over until more fund appear. (A real hardship some might say!) Anyway, I've not heard the SP yet (one of these things I've always wanted to listen to) but once I do I'm sure I'll change a capacitor here and there and it may even do the trick. We'll see.
But I've always had it in my mind that a preamp that really concentrates the harmonics and pumps out all the rich goodness into the amps is my audio grail, the catalyst to well and truly ignite the fire within the system. Obviously a Shindo is on the list. But which Shindo? Just looking around on the 'gon and asylum, this is quite a topical question. For my length of ICs and quality of system, I feel perhaps the Massato, Vosne or even Giscours (ouch!) would be the way to go. But then Srajan has this thing for the Suprateks, by the sounds of it a very similar preamp. So .... do you or Srajan have any great urge to peck higher up the Shindo ladder? And then (go on just do it) compare with the great Cabernet, for a real wine connoisseur's shootout? Deep down, with this level of fine machinery, I do know that the, how should we say, taste on the palette of each component will be more suited to certain individuals and certain systems. But the temptation must be there to listen and report back, right?
Given my remote location in Cyprus, I doubt that Jonathan Halpern, the US importer for Shindo, would entertain a shoot-out against my Supratek. Plus, being part of the EU, my location requires conformance with the new anti-lead and other Euro legislature for electronics sold here which can be hard for certain old-style tube gear using NOS tubes.
I just wanted to give you a thumbs-up for 6moons and the quality of your writers/reviews - especially you, Jeff Day and Paul Candy. Keep up the Music Lovers reviews and excellent music/artist references in the reviews (I've discovered a lot of wonderful/different CDs this way). This is what Hifi is for me.
I also want to add that I find the Benchmark DAC1 (07') to sound superlative with my Naim Audio amps/speakers - component matching for listener preferences is key - and that I auditioned/bought the DAC1 in large part to your excellent review some time ago.
Keep up the good work!
I bought a Trends 10.1 before reading your review. The use of the La Scalas was very cool as I am a Klipsch Belle owner and have been happy with them for years. My Trends arrived today at lunch time so I ran home hooked it up and listened for an hour. I shook my head and went back to work. It shouldn't sound that good but it does. There is something about it that I haven't pegged down yet perhaps after extended listening I'll figure it out. If you think the Synergy or La Scala sound good with your Trends, you should try the might Klipschorn. When I was in Hope/AR recently, I had an oportunity to hear PWK's last folded low-frequency horn design, the Jubilee (107dB/1w/1m) with Roy Delgado who designed the hf horn for the Jubilee. I should mention that this is a two-way fully horn-loaded system that was supposed to supercede the Klipschorn per Paul Klipsch but he died before product release. It never saw consumer release because corporate Klipsch shelved it and left it to the pro cinema line. It actually bests the Khorn which is no small feat. I hope to take two Trends 10.1 amps to Hope for Roy and I to demo on the Jublee this year. I'll leave one there for him to demo. Didn't intend to go on such a rant.
Thanks again for the great review.
Thank you so much for the review on the Shindo products. I have never seen or heard a Shindo product but reading the review I feel I know exactly how it sounds and where in the sonic rainbow it fits.
I subscribe to 5 audio magazines and am so tired of wading through pages of poor physical descriptions and endless purple prose on minutiae that in the end leaves me in the dark about both physical and sonic performance. A few good photographs and succinct descriptions of sonics and I know exactly.
Over the years I have read maybe 10 reviews on Shindo products, all leaving me wildly enthusiastic about goodness knows what. Ready to buy into, but into what? Now for the first time I feel I can order (or not) one purely on a description - important if the nearest one is maybe 10.000km away!. The responses of the owners as well as their chosen speakers nicely fill in the picture.
Your magazine reviewed both the Yamamoto A-08s and the First Watt F3. I bought both blind knowing exactly what they would sound like before even receiving them. That is precisely how they sound - no surprises, no disappointments.T he Yamamoto was also reviewed by my then-favourite print magazine. From that I knew it was cute , quiet and measured like hell - all most helpful findings (maybe the quiet bit helped for my 115db/W speakers)
Interesting to also compare Mr. Yamamoto and his quaint translation program to Mr. Shindo's pipe-smoking, wine-naming mystique.
Thank you once again to you and your writers.
Just a quick question with regards to Mr. Halpern's pricing policy for Shindo gear in the US...why on earth is it so expensive stateside when it is over half price for certain models in Japan and in most of Asia? Hifi stuff like ML, Krell and other US junk machines in Asia/Japan don't go as absurdly expensive in comparison to how Shindo is priced in the US.
Yes, there are import duties, cost of transportation, etc. etc. but still, a "perfect gentleman" maybe ought to provide gentlemanly pricing for the most demanding hi-end audio consumers in the world (?). And then there are your comments regading Mr. Shindo's "unresponsive rudeness" - I find this utterly unprofessional on a reviewer's part, even though the creator may be unprofessional in not responding to your queries.
This hi-end audio game is all about packaging and creating an aura...maybe that's what Mr. Shindo had in mind...he lets his creations speak for themselves and he does not waste his time with superflous tech talk.
I can get you a Cortese+Monbrison at 45% of US list...you can fly first class to Japan or even here in Korea and fly back home with the components, pay the duty and still have enough left to send Mr. Halpern to the Carribean for a nice vacation.
And please do not rag on Mr. Shindo or any other audio creator in your future articles.
Kenny Kwang-ho Kim
I'm not privy to worldwide pricing of Shindo gear nor Jonathan Halpern's pricing model, so I'll refer you to him to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
As for my comments regarding Ken Shindo's unresponsiveness to inquiries for the article: It is 6moons policy to air the results of our human interactions related to the product under review. While you may feel that mentioning it is unprofessional, it is 6moons' position that it is professional to tell the truth, both good and bad, about our experiences with human interactions as well as the performance of the product being reviewed.
If being candid about this bothers you, I suggest that you not read my reviews in the future because I fully intend to tell the complete story about both the performance of the equipment and the human interactions. Sugar coating things or leaving out negative items that occurred during the review process as you are asking me to do to make someone or something look better than they really are I consider to be unethical and irresponsible and I will not do it.
As the publisher and person responsible for creating the final check points at reviews' end, I'll add my complete agreement to Jeff's reply. It is precisely the "creation of aura and mystique" which, like Fine Art sales, enables certain extravagant pricing schemes in audio. But you're not listening to aura and mystique once in the seat. You're listening to performance in a competitive context. And you're not dealing with aura and mystique when something breaks or you have questions. Then you're dealing with responsive customer service - or not. To present as much useful information as possible that can assist a prospective buyer, I've made it policy to capture data about quality of packaging, human interactions, website quality and such. Jeff was thus expected and obligated to share his experiences. Unlike Mr. Kenny, a lot of customers do want to know about "superfluous tech talk". It's the latter for which we rely on the manufacturer. In this instance, none of Jeff's technical questions were answered and our review remains incomplete in that regard. It is very much a courtesy to the manufacturer when a writer requests first-hand engineering data from the designer to assure that his writeup reflects the facts and makes a complete presentation of the technical aspects of the gear under consideration. To be denied this information -- and, by extension, to deny it to the reader and potential customer -- does reflect on the subject sufficiently to warrant mention. At least that's my position and as such, my writers are expected to continue reporting accordingly in the future.
I was very interested to read your Shindo review this morning but after having read through it twice, I felt compelled to respond.
While much of what you write parallels my own personal experience in living with my Shindo system over the last year, some of the comments on the Cortese are at complete odds with it. The bass comments in particular really threw me for a loop. I would just like to state that the Cortese has the tightest,most nimble and rythmic bass I have ever experienced in a tube amp. On my Avantgarde speakers it provided the best bass performance I ever achieved, easily besting three Wavelength amplifiers,a Viva 845 amp and the Tom Evans Linear A. In fact,it was the first amp I had in my system that allowed me to turn up the volume on the active bass modules without the usual penalty of looseness and thickness becoming apparent.
This quality has beeen consistent over the last year as I moved through DeVore speakers and PHY-based speakers, settling in with the Auditorium 23 Solovox. With the Solovox,the Cortese partners in producing a magically seamless, amazingly dynamic and emotionally satisfying performance the likes of which I have never heard by any other combo...not even close.
It would seem to me that there were other issues at play here. I think the likely culprit is a less than ideal mating of amplifier to speaker and/or speaker to room. It is unfortunate that you did not get to enjoy the Cortese at its best. Because the Cortese at its best is a revelation.
Having read the review of the Shindo Monbrison and Shindo Cortese, I have some comments. As an owner of a Shindo Cortese, I find that my own experiences are very different than that presented in the review. I find that the strongest aspect of the Cortese is the bass which is fast, tonally accurate and articulate. When I listen to Scot LaFaro play the bass, I can hear the breathing of the instrument, his hands climbing the fret, and the rich tone. The bass quality of the Cortese is among the very best I've ever heard tube or solid state.
I've listened to the Cortese with a number of speakers including the Living Voice IBX, Shindo Latour, Auditorium 23 Solovox, and my own pair of Devore Nines and Ocellia Kedros and always with the same great bass The character of the sound is different with each speaker. The sound is more detailed and taut with the Devore Nines but bigger and dynamic with the Ocellia Kedros. So I find the comment about the one note bass and a few of the other comments rather surprising. In fact, one question I always get asked is why I pair the Cortese with the significantly more expensive Shindo Vosne Romanee preamp. My answer is always the specific flavor of the F2a tube and the wonderful bass. The Shindo sound is built around the preamp and they all have a similar characteristic. On the other hand, all of the Shindo amps have a different flavor and character. The F2a tube is very different than the sound of a 300B. Each person will prefer a different amp.
The comment about the 'unobtanium' nature of the F2a tube is a bit overblown. The F2a is certainly not a common tube in North America having never been used in American equipment in the past. It is also true that you will not find them using the usual internet dealers who sell more common tubes. They are available in Europe and Asia if you look and in fact there was a pair on E-bay this afternoon from a Southern California E-bay dealer, 2A3. Also note that Ken Shindo maintains ample stocks of tubes for his customers. Ken Shindo will stop making a specific products once he as exhausted production parts but keeps an equal amount for backups. This is true for all of Ken's products. One great thing about Shindo products is that they all ship with NOS tubes chosen for their specific sound. No need for tube rolling.
I also disagree with the comment about the Shindo gear being fussy. There certainly is truth that the Shindo gear works best with other Shindo gear. That's how they are voiced. But I had no problems integrating a single Shindo preamp into an existing system. In case, I started with the entry level Shindo linestage. That single preamp changed my entire system. It was able to bring out the best out of my existing equipment (Ocellia Kedros and Welborne 2A3 DRD). I always had bass problems with the Kedros using the Welborne and other preamps. I spent 5 years trying to solve that problem. The Shindo preamp alone made everything tighter and more articulate. I put the preamp in and it was magic. No need to tweak, adjust, deconstruct, etc.... A week after receiving the Auriges-L, I replaced the Welborne with the Cortese and never looked back.
In the end, I always tell people that the Shindo gear just plays music. No need to worry about the usual audiophile descriptors. Just my two cents worth.
I want to tell you how much I appreciate reading your reviews, they are sincerely a breath of fresh air compared to all the traditional audio press. You have the gift of describing minute differences between componants that I can relate to, as if we listen or analyse in a similar way - Vulcan mindmeld perhaps. Also you seem to be able to admit surprising or contradictory results even when these run counter to your expectations. Few reviewers have the guts to do so for fear of leaving readers with the impression of weakness or bias. Lastly your command of technical matters is reassuring.
I had queried earlier this summer 'bout the sonic differences between the F3 & the Almarro and you were kind enough to inform me. I had made up my mind to go with the First Watt F3; but after reading & rereading your final review of the new F4, I'm seriously thinking of buying the latter.Having an old Conrad Johnson PV6(28 dB line gain) + my 93dB@1w speakers for now, I guess I'm a good candidate.
My question is since writing up the review; have you any change of heart, any positive or negative aspects that have surfaced with further auditioning that you could share with me?
When used in the normal way i.e. driven only by a high gain preamp, is there anything that you preferred with the F3 or does the F4 better it ever so sligthly in everyway? Does the higher damping factor of the F4 rob the "meat" or the groove of the bass compared to the lower damping of the F3?
I loved your idea of a DHT voltage gain stage + F4 output in a single chassis, any chance Nelson would take your suggestion seriously? Any feedback from him concerning such a future design?
Knowing how the Supratek Cabernet Dual impressed you to the point of altering your previous "holy grail" if I read you correctly (in your further reflections), do you place the F4 in the same league, that is to the point of shifting your mindset or "amp hierarchy"?
Finally, did you decide to buy it for yourself as a new reference?
Thanks and keep up the tremendous thought-provoking writing. Can't wait 'til you get hold of some huge 15 inch effecient 2 or 3 ways a la Tannoy Westminster, Onkens or TAD studios... :)
PRÉFÉRENCE AUDIO (loudspeakers)
ULTRAHIFI TRANSCRIPTIONS (masterings)
Let's put it this way. I've got the Rethm Saadhanas in that are based on the Lowther DX55, a driver that's quick as a demon and traditionally on the rather lean side. Jacob has overcome all the shoutiness and with his dual 6-inch woofers coming in below 150 to 75Hz depending on user setting, this is a state-of-the-art speaker now. I've driven it with the F3 and now with the F4, straight off the Ancient Audio CDP with its 6H30 tube output stage and analog remote volume.
In other words, this was an acid test for leanness - no active preamp, no power triodes, a whizzer-fitted Lowther. If anything was wrong, this setup would telegraph it instantly. I'm running Dulce Pontes "Lagrimas" right now which is a fire test for upper midrange heat and lack of body. The sound is superb - and, the F4 seems just a bit better even than the F3. That's with no preamp, mind you - but the Ancient Audio has up to 7V of output. I'm running at 82 on the dial with the F4, with 87 being the industry standard 2V out. So I'm below source voltage, with no voltage gain thereafter, and it rocks. Of course the Lowther is 98dB so that helps...
Now, the Saadhana has its own bass amps for the woofers so there's no way of overdamping them. When you bridge the F4, the current goes up and as a result, the bass becomes more solid-statish if you approach things from the tube camp and on the kind of speakers I have tried it on. One F4, for my tastes, is just right though. Your PV6 has certainly enough gain to be perfect for your application. The only question really is, how much you'll like the sound of it. I should think a lot since you still have it -:)
If it were me, I'd try out the F4. Perhaps Reno Mark would even agree to send you both an F3 and an F4 if you commit to buying one and covering the extra ship charges on the second one. That'd really tell you -:)
The only other solid-state amp I think is "way up there" is the Red Wine Audio Sig 30 battery-powered Tripath amp (and the Firenze Audio equivalent based on exactly the same idea). The Pateks I also own are sharper and more pungent - very good but with less tube virtues. I didn't buy the RWA so I can't compare it to the F4 now but that's the only other transistor amp I'd consider as a tube guy.
I could happily live with the F4 and never see another valve amp in my life. That's because I own the Supratek Cabernet Dual preamp. That combo is silly good, dead quiet and does all the things I want.
I have not pressed Nelson on what might be on his books except I get the strong suspicion there might be *something* tube-based coming up some day. But he's on nobody's clock and does this purely for fun so the when and what and how are completely up for grabs.
It would be the hammer though - a 45 or 101D-based triode loaded by a resistor to cruise on a completely non-reactive load, then buffered and conditioned by an F4-type current gain stage. Whether it will be just a wicked dream or turn reality I sadly have no idea. But now there's two people thinking it's a good idea. Hey, Nelson!
I just read your review of the Raysonic 168. I couple of things, it appears that you didn't try it directly into the amp. I would think this would make the biggest difference between the 168 and 128. I haven't heard the 128, but I do own the 168, and the direct connection sounds incredible. Of course I didn't have a preamp to compare the difference but I do also own a Accuphase 65v, which I ran directly to the amp. The Accuphase's direct connection has beaten out preamps up to $10,000 in cost, that's why I'm without a preamp today. It's also the reason I gave the Raysonic 168 a try, besides being balanced and having a tube output stage, it also had the ability to be hooked up directly to the amp. I was a little concerned about the quality of its variable outputs before I purchased it but I must say, this player has blown me away with every aspect of its sound, including its variable outputs. I also have a friend who bought a 168, who was using an Audio Research preamp and ended up preferring the direct connection over running it through his tube preamp. One other comment I was wondering about, you said: "The CD168 lacks the full display mute of the CD128." My 168 has a mute button on the remote, and it displays it on the front of the player when in use, so I'm a little confused about this comment.
"display mute" was meant to indicate a complete black-out of the display, a function the 128 has but not the 168. The latter dims but you can't completely defeat the display as you can with the 128.
We sent a couple of e-mails back and forth a week or so ago. I was asking you questions about the MS2. Well, I've had one here in my system for several days and I must say it is everything you said. I'm eally enjoying it and I'm considering purchasing it and being one of Vinh's dealer reps. As you said, it puts digital to shame and I don't have a shabby digital system to start with. It will be interesting to ee how the table fares in the market place considering its price. It's too expensive for most people to consider, but it's not in that snob" realm that shows money is not an issue for you. I guess that's where the MS21 fits in. I'm enjoying working with Vinh Vu. He seems to be a good man to deal with.
You said the table sounded even better when you went back to it when ou purchased it. Do you think that was on account of break-in, or ust hearing again after it was out of your system for awhile? In any event, thanks again for your comments.
John M. Gage
Thanky you for the wonderful article on the DIY speaker cable; I will make some unterminated cable and the interconnects...am I correct that the interconnects do not use the green wire?
Let me share with you my favorite cheap tweak: Slate. After seeing the site on Slateworks plinths for turntables (especially Garrards) and choking on the price (averaging $1100 to $3000), I decided to try slate. I have a Thorens TD-125 Mk.II without the fibreboard base which I placed on cones and then on top of a MDF base filled with 50 lbs. of sand. This setup changed upon reading the sonic value of rockmaple and brass cones. I replaced the MDF with a slab of rockmaple and discovered brass and copper pipe fittings that are 1/2" thread (bought a a Home Depot type of store). The b/c pipe fittings are better than cones, albeit they are hollow. The copper tube is threaded so it's adjustable...the copper side is always placed downward. These B/C fittings really clean up the sound and improved everything...I tried different sizes and the 1/2" are the best. The sound was pretty good but it wasn't until I used slate slabs that things really changed.
Slate is wonderful! The Thorens had a quieter background, better bass and speed, soundstage improved etc. I paid $4.50/cone and $6 to $10/ per slate slab instead of $100 plus/set of brass cones and Slateworks plinths. I use slate under the turntable in a sandwich construction and a single layer under my PSU/phono stage and my amp. All of it tremendously improved my system. Please try a set of B/C fittings under your amp, CD player, PSU or turntable, then place on top a 1/2"or thicker slab of slate, under which you place a set of vibrapods. You will hear better dynamics, quieter background, better bass etc.
The real hairshirt exercise was when I decided that slate chips may improve my sound from the tonearm. Reading about the Cartridge Man's Isolator, I tried different sizes of tiny slate chips on the headshell and on the tonearm (a tiny chip was placed on the Sumiko Premier Mk.II's antiskating knob was best...I also turned off the tone arm dampening mechanism and dialled back the antiskating). The Sumiko has a slightly hard sound to the vocals but not now. Music is tremendously vivid, smooth and exciting. Slate is a wonderful vibration deadening product which does little to detract from what should come forth from the system. I bet that any large slate slab under any set of speakers will improve the sound, especially will the B/B fittings.
Thank you again.
Sincerely yours, Bow W. Liu
I've been reading your reviews on 6moons for some time now and have become something of a fan. I really like your music first approach and have enjoyed your trek through Yamamoto, Shindo and Fi in particular.
So, when I finally reached my limits with the flaky performance of one Philips DVD963SA, I replaced it with a PS1-1001. This deck really kicks butt and has my George Wright - Fostex FE166ESR BLH and/or LS3/5A standing up and taking notice. Thanks for the recommendation! I gather you live somewhat near my neck of the woods. If you're ever in the neighborhood, it would be a pleasure to have you over for a listen.
In that same Leben/Shindo/Sony review, you mentioned a Logitech controller that might replace the PS1 controller. Did that work out? If so, what model was it?
P.S. Can't wait to read your upcoming Shindo review. That's a combo I'd love to hear!
Thanks for the kind words amigo - appreciated. I live over in WA State. If I get over your way I'll shoot you an e-mail and see if we can't get together for a listening session. I use a wireless Logitech controller. I think it's for the PS2 but it works fine for the PS1 too. The wireless aspect is a big improvement.
The Shindo system is really sounding good with the Scottish ART Emotion Signature loudspeakers. I might even be getting better sound than I heard down at Matt's place in San Fran with the Living Voices.
With great interest I have followed 6moons for a number of years now. I kinda hear things the same way you do, which is shown by -- at least part of -- my current amplification, which consists of the Modwright 9.0 and AudioSector Patek SE. Fronted with an Arcam CD23 oldie, followed by Xavian speakers, quite happy about it all!
Having read reviews on the M&D Maximii series, I felt like I wanted to try those. Not available in the Netherlands untill my ex-neighbour and audio-friend requested a demo pair from M&D! After listening and comparing them, he's become the Dutch importer now. An avid music lover with over 3,500 CDs from the most obscure bands, he's not so easily impressed by gear.
I first had the Rubys over here and that was such a huge improvement to my system that I bought them immediately. The first customer in the Netherlands to do so :-)! Again, your ears heard the same as mine. I must urge you to try the Sapphires as I was able to compare the two side by side and I preferred those. Better bass, and, compared to the Rubys, they kept their poise at more times, they are easier to follow in busy music. They're shipped out of China as we speak so in about 5 weeks time I'll have those!
Is the Patek happy? Well, I've got it to clip in parts of Mahler 1, but I guess I'll have to live with a slightly lower SPL as they sound amazing in this combination. It does get warm when pushed but it was comforting to read your article on the good design of it!
Okay, onto my question: Dan Wright's willing to make me a very fair deal in trading in the 9.0 towards the 36.5 preamp. Of course, significant money will be exchanged but if the upgrade is big enough, I'd like to do it. You've been able to compare the 2 in your system and I would like to hear your honest advice on this. I'm hoping you will find the time to shed your light on this.
Thanks a lot for your answer! And please, please, keep up the good work at 6moons.
PS. If you were looking for new products to review, I might take the opportunity to point you towards Vivid loudspeakers, designed and built by mr. Dickie who designed the original Nautilus for B&W. I have heard these a few times and they do indeed sound very very good. Another brand that I'm familiar with is Chapter Audio from the UK. Their new CD-player is something to behold.
Disclaimer: both these are imported by my ex-neighbour. But I wouldn't recommend them if it weren't for the fact that they really do sound very impressive
unconditionally, the LS-36.5 is a significant upgrade. Add a nice Mullard GZ34 rectifier and it's not even the same league as the 9.0. The Sapphire is supposed to be an easier load than the Ruby so your Patek should respond in kind. Otherwise consider the ZeroBox impedance transformer from Paul Speltz which can turn the M&Ds into 16-ohm pussycats. I have the Zeros here and they work just as advertised. I drove the Maximus Monitor with a 4-watt 2A3 amp preceded by the 36.5 and while I was limited on ultimate SPLs, there was no break-up or other signs of amp sufferage -:)
Thanks for your article on the Apple computer, Hagerman USB converter and 47 labs NOSDAC. I have been looking for a good $2000 CD player. I also needed a new computer. My iMac was 5 yrs old. I was also looking for a good 20' flat screen TV for DVDs. Well, I bought a new iMac with 320gbts hard drive & 20" monitor for $1250. Apple is known to have the best monitors, so I now have a killer TV, Music server system, computer and access to the internet with one machine. I bought a Kimberkables USB cable and the Hagerman convertor. Instead of the 47 labs NOSDAC i bought a Promitheus Audio NOSDAC for $460. A quite incredible DAC with 3 transformers, solid silver jacks, all silver wiring etc. Check it out at promitheusaudio.com. An incredible bargain from Malaysia. They are meticulously assembled and are beuatifully handcrafted. They also have a passive preamp that is getting a lot of positive attention on the internet. It's also similarly priced. I used a Mapleshade digital interconnect and then pass it through my Musical Fidelity tube buffer, then into my Redgum amp. My system has never sounded so good . It definitely outperforms systems costng 2 or 3 times more (check out the Redgum high current amplifiers from Australia @ Redgumaudio.com.)
Keep up the great work at 6moons. It's by far the best audio review site on the web and better than any of the magazines.
|Thanks for your article on Cartridge Alignment published in 6moons. I was especially interested in the article since I was an original holder of two US patents upon which the Dennesen and the Geo-Disk devises are based. The Dennesen patent was assigned to the Dennesen company and I sold the GeoDisk patent to Mobile Fidelity many moons ago.
Both patents were designed to avoid the interdependent iterative process that you describe (forgetting about the appropriate “null points” for the moment), since in the hundreds of hours that were spent aligning cartridges using the Baerwald measurements, the interaction of the three parameters (arm length, overhang and offset angle) proved problematic at best. And problematic notwithstanding the use of sophisticated and expensive machinist measurement devices that were available to us (Frank Dennesen’s brother Joe was a Master Machinist and the holder of several process patents in his own right).
The patents arose out of the observation that the Baerwald measurements (as published by the Audio Critic) suggested a logarithmic function, which drove the geometry underlying the design of both the Dennesen and GeoDisk devices and the crucial role of the pivot point of the tone arm as the only physically “fixed” geometric point. The genius (as in “essential nature” rather than intelligent) of both designs is that they geometrically “fix” all three parameters at the same time thus avoiding the iterative process. The essential difference between the two devices (resulting in the allowance of separate patents) lies in Dennesen’s use of a mechanical trammel to “lock on” to the tone arm pivot point, whereas the GeoDisk uses a simpler to use sight line mechanism. With a modicum amount of attention and care, the alignment process is a one shot deal, and remarkably accurate.
The problem that I have with the method espoused in the article is three fold:
1. Owing to the interdependency of three parameters (two which have a comparative rate of change that is non-linear with each other and internally as well as inverse to the third) the process is akin to the infinite nature of splitting a whole into parts, which is the nature of an iterative process. The only way (other than the aforementioned alignment devices) to achieve perfect alignment in one’s lifetime is through precise measurement, which is not envisioned in the process discussed in the article, and as a practical matter, results in its own iterative process.
2. Once the Baerwald “null points” are changed, the Baerwald alignment cannot be achieved, since the new locations of the points do not exist in the Baerwald calculations.
3. The apparent rejection of the Barewald formula is based, I believe, in a misunderstnding of what it was designed to achieve. As noted in the GeoDisk patent:
“A typical mistake is to assume that it is the tracking error that must be minimized. Actually, it is the tracking distortion, which happens to be directly proportional to the tracking error but inversely proportional to the radial distance of the groove to the spindle. Consequently, what must be minimized is the “ratio” of the tracking error to its radial distance. The correct way to formuate the basic mathematical question about optimum lateral tracking geometry is…what combintion of offset angle and overhang will yield the smallest possible peak values of the ratio of the tracking error to groove radius.”
The Dennesen patent arose out of the need to effectively set up tone arms with different catridges in the shop listening room and at trade shows. Initially (pre Audio Critic article), we did this by ear which, while tedious and time consuming, was instructive beyond our expextations. We found that, with certain recordings (ones that were properly recorded with the benefit of preservring spacial clues etc), the soundstage was complete and individual sounds “popped” out of a coherent and disernable recording environment on certain cuts when a catridge was aligned in a particutar way. Using selected cuts, we slightly adjusted and readjusted the positions of cartridges to achieve the described results (these adjustments, of course, were effecting all three alignment parameters). We then began to notice that these cuts were located in the same region of each record very close to what we later learned was the 120.9mm radius Baerwald null point.
To the point of your article, after our exposure to Baerwald we compared our “by ear” alignment with that of the Dennesen alignment device. There was a physical and audible difference very slight, but noticeable and whether one was “better” than the other was a matter of individual judgment. What we all heard, however, was a difference. The other difference that we heard was how the remainder of a particular LP sounded depending on which alignment technique was employed. With a “by ear” alignment, the balance of an LP did not sound as “good” as with the Dennesen alignment device. Why?? I believe that the by ear alignment achieved minimum tracking error but the Baerwald alignment achieved what it was designed to do to minimize tracking distortion so as to yield the smallest possible peak values of the ratio of the tracking error to groove radius. The result is more consistent across the radius of the LP.
We all have our favorite “cuts” that we pull out to test a new component, an adjustment or a tweek. The question is, does it sing across the entire record?
Roy D. Toulan, Jr.
thanks for the prop on your iPhone review! Appreciate your kind mention!
PS: OSX is not really based on Linux... here's the hierarchy... OSX uses the Mach 3.3 Kernel which is derived from the BSD implementation of Unix and later Nextstep... when Jobs was brought back to Apple, he brought along his former company, Nextstep and thus built OSX around it... Cocoa, Carbon and most other API's utilized in OSX are all pretty much derivatives of what was in Nextstep... thus, if anything, OSX is really based on Nextstep more then anything...
PS: now that the iPhone is $399, I'm getting one! :)
I just want to say that you nailed the KSL-LP's characteristics to a perfect T. Congratulations!
I have had Kondo cables since nearly a decade ago - two pairs of AN-Vz and a pair of AN-SPz. They blew away everything I ever tried against them - exactly in terms of liveliness and musical expression. Nothing came even close until I added KSL-LP, 4 pairs of KSL-SPc (for my LV OBXR2 - cannot afford 4 pairs of KSL-SPz ) and KSL-ACz to my Kondo arsenal - out of pure curiosity. Alas, I can only afford the cables, not Kondo electronics! Still, I probably predated Kevin Scott in bringing Kondo + LV together. :)
I was actually supposed to be a fellow reviewer at 6moons but had a last minute change of heart. Anyway I am glad that our views and taste are pretty similar (I also have and love the MusicMaker 3 cart ... and am saving for the classic ... and of course ... the big kahuna, OBXRW) so in a way I am still very much well represented; and you undoubtedly write better than I so I would have been an inferior and redundant reviewer had I pursued the 6moons gig.
Keep up the good work ... and I await your reviews for the other Kondo cables and other musically vibrant gear.
Yard Master audio cables, Sony Playstations etc... I have just added both to my setup but have not tried either yet. I will be incorporating them into the culmination of my year-long multiple open baffle, multiple full range driver comparative evaluation. Almost $50,000 in high end full/wide-range drivers to get at the best simple open baffle system... coulda spent under $200,00 on a pair of new kids on the block and packed up all the expensive stuff.
Jeff, keep up the good work. You are a hero! For real.
|Hello Linmann and Srajan,
It was with great interest that I read the review of the Da Vinci Audio Lab Grandezza and Intonation. Once again it appears that the audio journeys of 6moons and I have followed similar paths. I have recently acquired a prototype version of an open baffle system utilizing the Supravox 2000 215exc and the 2000 400exc field coil drivers. While the baffle is made of birch plywood and does not have the gorgeous finish and beautiful brass rings of the Intonation, I can say without hesitation that these are the finest sounding speakers I have ever heard. I do believe the magic is inherent in the Supravox drivers. They do produce the most lifelike music I have ever heard. There are times when I close my eyes and I feel I am there at the performance. They connect with me on an emotional level like no equipment ever has. The music touches my heart and the audiophile jargon melts away leaving me alone with the instruments, the voices, and the experience.
While not on topic with your review Linmann, I want to make mention of some tweaking that brought out the best in my system. I utilized the woofer section of my Zu Definition Pros to augment the bass response. It worked extremely well especially since I was able to utilize a DBX Driverack PA to equalize and cross over the Zus so I only boosted the very lowest octave. The Supravox 400 in dipole configuration has incredible bass realism as low as it goes. The Zus added only from 16 Hz to 35 Hz. I recently took out the Zus and am currently using Emerald Physics (another 6 moons discovery) dipoles to add the lowest octave with the same radiation pattern as the rest of this Open Baffle speaker. The bass is as realistic as anything I have ever experienced.
I have the Supravox 2000 215exc crossed over at 12kHz to a Fountek Ribbon tweeter, mimicking your experience with the Muratas. The crossover is a single capacitor for the highs and one coil for the lows. It does not get much simpler without forcing the driver to run at ranges where it is not optimally suited.
Linmann, I am reasonably certain that Srajan will be much happier with the sound of your system once he hears it again. Sorry to say Srajan, but I'm not as certain you will be as happy as you were with the sound of your own system. Alas the burdens we bear in our quest for the musical Holy Grail. All the best to all at 6moons. Thanks for being there for us.
If you have the time, I would appreciate any thoughts that you might have about the relative merits of a Leben CS-600, the Leben 300(X) and the Almarro A205A Mk2 as a replacement for my Signature 30 in my current system: Zu Druid MkIV's, Rega Saturn, and Zu interconnects/cable. I listen in a 18'x22' room that opens to a dinning room and play mostly jazz and classical at low/moderate levels. Even though I am pretty happy with my Signature 30, I am interested in exploring tubes.
Any thoughts or guidance, direct or indirect, would be greatly appreciated. I have really enjoyed your 6moons reviews. Thank you for the insights you have already offered.
I have all the amps you mention and my order of preference is first the Leben CS-600, then the Leben CS-300, and finally the Almaro. The CS600 is more powerful (not that you need that with the Zus) and more musical. It'll be my component of the year for 2007. The Mk II version of the Almaro is not as good as the Mk 1 version and it needs some mods to be at its best.
I hope that helps.
Thank you very much for your thoughts on the Lebens and the Almarro. I was leaning towards the Leben CS600 but I was unsure how the Almarro in particular would compare. I have always really enjoyed your reviews on 6moons, and I especially want to thank you for the Music Lovers series. I think it is a great addition and really helps to differentiate 6moons from other online and in-print audio publications.
|In a word, the new Sony HD radio stinks.
I just came home with a new Sony XDR-S3HD radio featuring what had hoped would be a desirable feature, "Hybrid Digital" tuning. There are approximately 15 or so HD stations here in the San Diego area and the only one that will tune in is KPBS. The "Groove Salad" sub-channel is okay but not worth the cost of this radio.
I also have the excellent Music Hall RDR-1 table radio and can tell you first hand it is a far superior receiver of FM and AM stations. My favorite station is Jazz88, a local real jazz station located at 88.3 FM and the RDR easily tunes in the 22,000 watt station.
Not so the new Sony. It sucks. Big time.
The majority of HD offerings here in the San Diego area are from conglomerates such as Clear Channel and their ilk, so perhaps I should just take this Sony back as it does not work nearly as well with "regular" FM as does my Music Hall RDR-1.
I just thought you would like to know.
Your choice of words mirrors Ken Micallef's to the 's' while he reviewed a Sony table top radio...
Another enjoyable read, excellent review and smart coaching. Great looks, iPod-based -- if desired -- system synergy and price point. What more does one need when on a budget?
All this and I still am able to see Shindo and DeF Nines!
|Dear Mr. Kan,
That OCOS continues to tell the truth to those who are able and willing to listen more than 20 years (or so) after Dynaudio first integrated it in its product range, states the cleverness of the concept. Why the otherwise so clever Danish (Danes never lie) failed to make proper return on their investment, remains a mystery.
Please take note that OCOS was developed at the ETH (the Swiss poly-technical Institute) in Zurich by Mr. Daniel Seps. OCOS therefore is of Swiss origin.
John W. Guenther
thanks for a really interesting article on Bill LeGall. I can't begin to imagine what some of those speakers would sound like but I was most impressed with your description of the man. He strikes me as having unusual integrity and an uncommon artisan's patience with his labours of love.
Articles such as this set you (and 6moons) apart from the scribes of some dry print explorations of stereo gear (that I confessed to you not long ago leave me feeling pretty cold.)
Here's another "over-the-top" audiophile's labour of love. My Monte Carlo dealer Geoffrey has seen and heard the system....and sent this link to me. Thought you might enjoy it. A friend of his apparently has a very appropriate term for the likes of Monsieur Rogerro -- "audiopaths"....rather than "audiophiles"! But i still admire this gentleman's dedication to the high art of audio reproduction.
Hey Henk and Marja,
I'm beginning the process of going to a Mac -ased digital front end. The Crimson has caught my eye. I know Gordon Rankin at Wavelength has been making USB converters for few years now. So, as I set up my RAID terabytes of music storage I've begun to wonder about all of the great idgity digity items I've read about on nights alone with 6moons. The Nespa Pro, The Uber Cutter (okay that's not the name, but how many items exist that cut a cd into perfect round)...it should be called Brigitte's Derriere-Parti in favor of the most perfectly formed sphere I've seen, albeit walking away. Ah tunnel vision. Madame Bardot is 72 for those keeping track and still a worthy addition to> any collection of art. Oh, the question, pardon mes amies. With all of the error correction of USB and the like, is it still important to flash and cut my CDs before downloading them onto my hard drives.
Thanks for any input,
to get straight to the subject: any modification you make to a CD like circumcising, Nespa'ing, Intelligent Box, polishing fluids etc. work in the analog domain. It appears that CD and other optical media are very susceptible to influences in this domain. Where many think optical audio is digital, it is not for the biggest part.
So when you want to use a more reliable (as in consequent) way of storing your music files you should store it fully digital, that is in a data format. Computer data format is zeros and ones. In order to get the best collection of 1s and 0's, you should use the best ripper there is. We still think EAC is just that. Unfortunately EAC is not a native Mac product. However, now that Apple has joined the Intel camp, there are more possibilities. A product like Parallel Desktop ($79) offers a great Windows (and Linux) emulation that runs almost flawless on an Intel Mac. With this you can easily use EAC on your Mac and access files cross platform.
Then you can run your favorite music player (ours is still Foobar) or if you like iTunes' graphic interface more, that. However with computer audio there are still many flaws left. We heard of very good results from running audio from a Vista-based Windows computer with no hard drive but only a Solid State Disc, no fans internal and Vista stripped to the barest bones of unwanted/unneeded services, processes, pagefile etc. This custom-built 'PC' offers great silence electrically and software wise. Combined with the best DAC fed by a USB connection it is getting somewhere.
It is still not perfect and USB is not the final answer but it is a very interesting project in the works. We're curious what will happen when the signal is first converted to I-squared-S before sending it to the DAC.
thank you for your review of Don Garber's 300B monos. I have a pair of his 2A3 monos and a Y preamp. I hope you will soon review Don's new preamp, too.
And I guess you are right, Don is a gem.
I've been reading many of your great reviews regarding the K1000 and its suited amplification. No doubt there has been a lot of say that the First Watt F1/K1000 combo is a match made in heaven. I have seen that you also reviewed the RWA Signature 30 with the K1000. Which one of these did you end up keeping and what is your current K1000 setup?
Moreover, could you put in a review of the K1000 amplified by WooAudio's WA-5 300B amplifier?
There has been a lot of say that the DIY wonder beta22 has some great magic with the K1000 as well. It could also work as a preamp for the First Watt F1. This may be an odd request but would it be possible to review the DIY beta22 with the K1000 (as a preamp to the First Watt F1 and as a direct amplifier to the K1000)? I am sure you can find a balanced beta22 available for your review somewhere on www.head-fi.org or even through AMB (his contact available through his website).
Thank you very much if you do consider to review both the WA-5 and the beta22 with the AKG K-1000. It would be a very interesting and informative read for the K1000 community!
Thank you again,
as you know, AKG discontinued the K1000s. To boot, my personal pair is no longer stock but sports a new cable harness hard-wired to the voice coils. Given those two facts, it doesn't seem entirely sensible to pursue further reviews on this subject. My K system for personal use runs off the Raysonic CD-128 with Siemens valves into the Wyetech Jade Labs into the FirstWatt F1. The Red Wine Audio Signature 30 is warmer and rounder, the F1 more driven and subjectively faster - two great amps for this application, two different flavors. To get feedback on the combination you're personally considering, an open request via HeadFi would probably be your best recourse.
I heard you had used a Wavelength USB DAC and was hoping you could shed a little bit of light on which model and how you liked it.
I have the Cosecant. Got it in February. Do I like it? Oh, yes! Besides being physically gorgeous (Gordon wrapped mine in ebony) it will be on my end-o-the-year list of rec-o-mend-ed gear for more appropriate reasons. Compared to previous experiences with number-crunching gear, both at home and in other systems with which I am quite familiar, I found myself listening through a cleaner window without any of the glare that often is part and parcel of more resolving digital setups.
In fact, I found quite the opposite: It's delivering the smoothest and most musical digital playback that I¹ve experienced. Look ma': no bits-driven headaches! Compared to my reference Sony 2000 with the Tube Research Labs modifications (which I do covet for it¹s relaxed, flowing character), the Cosecant is not quite as dark or chewy, but excels at shedding the kind of light that allows for more detail and transparency without adding any of the nasties that usually come along for the ride. In a word (or three), pretty damn pure.
The Cosecant also delivers exceptionally-defined and more extended bass, livelier but not edgier highs, along with more varied (as in more musically proper and better balanced) tonal representations. Piano tone and strings and horns and percussion and ... are all seriously captivating, but thankfully not due to any of the wow-factor that sometimes trips us up.
The instrumental and vocal shadings that make the illusion we pursue more believable are more here, too. This is the kind of higher resolution that lets details unfold like music, not just sounds that pop out in some exaggerated form of aural prominence that only gets your attention but can never win your heart. There is improved nuance to most everything (even timbre), especially with some voices, for example, where previously masked quivers (or rolls, if you will) now emerge.
There are three versions of the 6GM8 tube that you can roll, so there is some room to fine tune.
Most outstanding -- and this has nothing to do with the unit itself really, as any music server will do -- is the amount and variety of music that I'm now listening to. I use the Salling Clicker program ($25) to access my music library via bluetooth from a spare cell phone. High tech meets music. It's a blast!
read your piece about MacBook, HagUsb etc. Sounds good. Please keep your CDs, however, as hard disks have a short life, as do CD-Rs, possibly five years.
|Long time no "e". Thought I would make you aware of a rack system that I am considering assembling.
I purchased 2 sets of Promethean Springs from Geoff Kait of Machina Dynamica fame. The first set went under my Bluenote Stibbert Mk II CD. In discussing this with Geoff he recommended I completely eliminate the columns and lower plinth (see attached photo), which was nothing more than a support system for the columns anyway, and place the Stibbert directly on small DH Labs ceramic cones. This then rested on large ERAudio Harmonizer, under which one set of Promethean Springs and another large ER Harmonizer. Currently this is resting on top of my SolidSteel rack.
I was very pleased with the improvement (more organic/continuous). I then did a similar config for my PS Audio Premier Power Plant, and was frankly, astonished!
Now I have a rack full of components so I thought about getting a new rack to accommodate the additional height requirements of sandwiched boards and promethean springs. I came across Steve Blindemann on AudioGon.
He only sells direct and offers a 3 shelf, 48" wide rack (with double maple boards). Now factor in 3 sets of 4-6 Promethean springs (number of springs depends on component weights) and I think you would have a be-all-end-all rack system. I haven't pulled the trigger yet but plan to soon.
Attached is a photo of the Stibbert with after-market Sound Fusion Columns (MSRP- $1192!)- or half the price of an entire rack system.
Thanks for your well-turned reviews over the years; you and Srajan are simply the best!
In your review on the Linear A, which I read the other day, you write that " The Linear A is as much better than any of the great SET amplifiers that I've had in my system (like my beloved Fi 2A3 monoblocks or the amazing Yamamoto A-08 45) as those are better than an inexpensive mass market receiver - both musically and sonically", and in the review Son of T-amp you mentioned "the sensational $8500 Tom Evans Linear A amplifier that clobbers any other amp with the level of perfection in which it handles the nether regions (or any other region for that matter)" .
I am looking for a great amp to replace my Michell Alecto monoblocks, and, thanks to you, Linear A is definitely on my list, and so are Almarro A213B and Firenze Audio Rosso 460B. My question to you is this. How come you didn't give the Linear A a Blue Moon Award? Do you spare it for the Linear B, which I suppose is even better?
Thanks for the kind words - appreciated. Sorry about being a bit slow getting back to you, I had an unplanned visit into the hospital due to some gallstones that's kept me out of action this week.
I still have the same high regard for the Linear A as always. One helpful hint: like a lot of the ultra performance gear, the LA is best used with its partnering preamp to get the most performance out of it, otherwise you're not getting the performance it's capable of and which you're paying for.
Because the TEAD reviews occurred over a fairly lengthy time period, I nominated the whole set of gear (Vibe, Pulse, Linear A, Groove+) for a Blue Moon at the end of the year instead of review by review.
I haven't yet heard the Linear B but if it's better than the A, it must be amazing.
Thanks for writing,
I was indeed fortunate to hear the final protype of the DeVore Fidelity "The Nines" in my istening room. I concur with just about everything you so eloquently described; these speakers produce excellent and surprisingly deep bass, and do so while preserving all the coherence and detail of the Super 8s (which I own). And indeed, they work incredibly well in moderately sized rooms, and are far less critical of placement than many speakers.
When John DeVore was leaving my home I told him the good news and the bad news: The good, that he had a sure-fire winner on his hands; the bad, that The Nines are so impressive I feared they would take sales away from his Silverback Reference.
Thanks Srajan (and Ken) for the informative review, and thanks John for such an outstanding speaker.