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By repeat inquiry, here is the owner's manual of the Garrard 301 vintage turntable [856KB PDF] whose rebuild Jeff Day described in his series of articles.

So this is what tubes sound like, eh? Srajan, I am absolutely loving this Crayon Audio. It has been playing straight for about 35 hours now and it just keeps getting better. For two-channel music, yes, no additional volume control in front of it. It was just handy when playing multichannel music to use only one remote and control the volume of the whole setup and I may still do this for movies where I care less about the quality of the sound. But for music I am going to use the solution that I outlined below. 

On a more serious note, upon reflection, I have to say that you are not really so hard on the wallet at all. My guess is that there a a lot of people who spend a lot more than that which I have spent and perhaps don't even get the kind of sound I am getting here. And I know that I have you to thank for this because you have introduced me to wonderful components that definitely fall in the ''still affordable'' category with respect to the myriad of products that are available to the high-end audiophile consumer today. And, unless I am reading you inaccurately, I am pretty sure that, for the most part, this is really your philosophy and intention. I really do have a lot to thank you for. By the way, in your review of the MiniWatt with respect to the Crayon you used the word ''stupendous.'' That truly seems  the proper word for this amplifier!

Peter Borelli

I have no interest in mega-buck components like Jonathan Valin, Jeff Fritz et al cover. They do a good job of it and are into that type of stuff. To me it's insane and unnecessary when I know just how good a system built around Gallo 3.5 and a FirstWatt F5, J2, Crayon or equivalent can sound. That's the type of product I prefer to cover and mostly do. Occasionally it's fun to throw caution and budget overboard just because - and because perhaps it'll show something unique and uniquely better. But I've seen a lot and no longer believe the grass is much if any greener over yonder...

Srajan

I am with you on this. I've not had opportunity to hear the real megabuck systems. I've heard systems costing up to $80,000 dollars and while very nice, not ever feel they offered any truly significant improvement (if any) over what I already had in the RWA/Gallo 3.1s . And often they did not even sound as good. I used to be a classical guitarist who played and taught for a living. In San Francisco where I am from there was a very fine luthier who became my guitar maker. At various times he had some of the top names in the world in his shop either for repairs or as trade-ins. We became good friends and whenever he had one of these top guitars in, he would call me. I used to spend hours in his shop doing 'blind' comparisons of various guitars. One of us would play instruments at random while the other would listen from a position where he could not see which was being played. We would do this for hours and as a result, not only did I develop a very fine ear for hearing nuances in the sound, I also learned a lot about the whole idea behind it all.

I learned, for example that as a maker's instruments increased in price from model to model, you ended up paying a lot more money for what amounted to ever decreasing increments of improvement to the point where some of those improvements ended up being no more than subtle hints of improvement you couldn't be sure you were actually hearing. I also learned that there were many instruments of more humble origins (and thus much less costly) that were in fact as good as or often better than the well-known and much more expensive instruments (the ones whose labels were signed Ramirez or Bouchet etc.) Many of these were made by Japanese companies trying to break into the market. 

But despite the fact that these humble instruments were noticeably better, many players (especially students) just had to have that well-known guitar because that was what Segovia, Bream or Parkening played. Therefore it had to be better. One of the most telling examples was a young man who was studying guitar at the San Francisco Music Conservatory under Lorimer (an ex-student of Segovia's). This guy would come regularly into Tony's shop and play his guitars, comparing them to the Ramirez that were there or which he had heard elsewhere. He loved Tony's guitars and admitted they were in fact better than any Ramirez he had ever heard. What guitar did he end up buying? Why, a Ramirez of course because ''that's the one Segovia plays." 

 Well, a word on those Ramirez guitars. Segovia had begun his association with Ramirez guitars with old man Ramirez. When the old man died, his nephews took over the shop but never were the luthiers their uncle had been. Furthermore, they had a back room where they kept the absolute best examples of their work which were to be seen by and offered to only the top concert players. So the Ramirez guitar that eventually found its way to San Francisco, whether via some shop being directly ordered from Ramirez by the player, was definitely not  the same quality as the one played by the concert hero.

It was said that one time Segovia went into that back room and tried ten of these 'very best. He declared only one of them passable. The rest he said were impossible. Another time he became so frustrated with one of these creme-de-la-creme guitars that he threw it across the room. Luckily someone caught it before it was damaged. I guess the point is that even though I have not had opportunity to actually hear any of them, my sense of things tells me that there are a lot of factors that go into that $100,000 price tag for a pair of Rockports or Wilsons. Most probably, few of these factors have anything to do with sound quality. Even if there should be a difference, I would bet the farm that there is not $94,000 worth of difference to my Gallos. 

I could be wrong on all of this. Perhaps if I got a chance to hear systems costing $200,000 - 300,000 dollars. I might just be blown away. But somehow I don't think so. Next year I will try to get to a trade show here in Italy to see what happens when I put my theory to the test. If nothing else, I would like to hear MBL. They do sound intriguing. In the meantime I am very happy with how my system is evolving and, as I have already stated, I owe this in large part to you. I know I have told you this many times before but I really am very grateful. 

PS. It is perhaps interesting to note that, at least in the case of the Japanese instruments, once they had broken into the market and acquired a name, both the sound and production quality began to suffer. This was probably due to the fact that they had to produce more to keep up with demand. So they started making guitars using 'production line' methods where the instrument was no longer the work of one man from beginning to end. This, however, did not keep the price from going up. 

Peter  

Audio is exactly the same. Often the mondo stuff (amps and speakers) can play very loud. That's great for chateaus but a normal den will never use that expensive extra potential. It's like driving a Hummer to go grocery shopping. Sure it works but it's certainly overkill and not very practical. In audio, setup expertise and paying attention to little details eventually becomes more important than hardware. Chances are slim that audio shows show off expensive systems in their best light. That doesn't automatically mean those systems are overpriced. It would take a lot more familiarity and work in known spaces to make that call. I have issues when build cost and sell price lose all reasonable correlation. When a small guy makes something by hand that takes the big guy's triple-head router minutes on the hour, the small guy's stuff isn't necessarily overpriced. But if you want best value, that's clearly not where it's found then.

Srajan
Dear Srajan Ebaen,

I would like to thank you for your fascinating 6moons Nagra discovery tour, showing the beauty of Nagra equipment and all the attention given to details. I have been to the factory so many times and you really captured the pictures one gets by visiting the "corporate maze and freewheeling brainiacs" of K1 & K2 and by the way your superb writing is "au point" and just nails it! It is rather unfortunate that they rarely listen or read what others have to say, but I still hope that they will put a link to your factory tour on their website. I found your website by coincidence and discovered the CCR security leak. With that security leak removed, I was wondering if you want to do more? You could leave it nice as it is, with many kinds of "Bilder ohne Worte", in other words, just let the pictures do the talking. 

Your museum tour on page 9 missed the description of the secret JBR (1984) and its playback unit PS -1 shown right before and after the text you changed. The JBR security recorder was introduced in 1984 with the aim of replacing the ageing SNST technology with a smaller undetectable covert recorder for the security industry. Using a proprietary cassette format, he JBR gave a new dimension to body recorders. Measuring only 4½" by 2½" it was the smallest audio recorder available at the time. Although the dedicated playback unit PS-1 was not available until 1986, the JBR tapes were played back on a specially adapted STST recorder. The success of the JBR was immediate and was openly accepted by law enforcement agencies, immigration and customs around the world.

Another unique achievement was the Nagra/Ampex VPR-5. In 1983 the Kudelski Group entered into a commercial joint venture with the Ampex corporation of America, with the aim of building the world's smallest, lightest professional portable C-format video recorder. The development and construction was entirely completed in Cheseaux. Using rotary head technology and state-of-the art SMD, the project came to fruition and great leaps in technology were achieved. Ampex ordered 100 machines, which were to be used to cover the Mexico World Cup in 1986.

The Nagra II (1953) with the meter is not shown! "The Nagra II of 1953 already sported the famous multi meter which wasn't a traditional VU meter—those always deflected well after the fact—but a rather faster version which reliably prevented tape saturation by displaying peak values in real time. The machine shown is a Nagra III (1957). It was the first Nagra to be used for film sound recording in 1958 (credited to Amaury Leenhardt) for the production of Marcel Camus academy award winning "Orfeo Negro" shot in Rio de Janeiro

"Not listed but shown in the museum is a recorder specifically made for spying into telephone conversations". That "clandestine telephone conversation taper" is listed as the Nagra TRVR (1979) first introduced in 1979, the TRVR was a capstan-less machine for logging broadcast transmission and telephone lines. Used in the security industry, with several recorders mounted parallel to monitor multiple telephone lines simultaneously, it was also popular for dialogue recording for air traffic controllers in airports all over the world. It was equipped with a time code system - the first developed by the company.

And btw, I think you should meet that "Nagra Audio clan's legendary captain" and guru Mr. Jean-Claude Schlup.
 
Many thanks again
Peter Weibel, Nagra digital sales & support
North Hollywood, Los Angeles

I had Matthieu Latour, my tour guide and sales manager of the Nagra audio division, vet the text prior to publication and I make no claims for completeness. With a company of such history, there's clearly a lot more to report than one short visit over half a day could cover. Because our focus is hifi, I'm sure Matthieu tread lightly quite deliberately on the law-enforcement type of products -:)

Srajan
I would like to see US pricing for your syndicated reviews.

James Frost

Simply use one of the many online currency converters. With a global audience, our magazine caters to readers with a variety of currencies. German review translations show euro pricing, Polish reviews zloty pricing, US reviews dollars and so forth. If I fixed it at $ or €, it'd be a subtle form of racism. What's more, half the time I have no idea what the actual sell price in various countries is. That's a function of VAT, customs and what the respective importer decides. I thus prefer to leave the currency as the original writer referenced it. With Mr. Pacula's reviews, that's Polish currency.

Srajan
Hello Frederic,

I'm sure you get tons of stupid emails like this but here goes. I read your reviews of phono stages with great interest as I'm looking to find a better phono than I have. Your reviews are so well written they paralyses me. Here is my set up. Which do you think would work best? Looking at Esoteric and NAT.

Yamamoto 06-3, 4 watts, Lamhorn with AER MD3b drivers, Supratek Cab Dual preamp, TT Technics SP-10 in an OMA slate plinth, Schroder Model 2 arm,Dynavector XV-1s, Synergistic cables.

Thank you,
Cesar Rubio

Sorry for a late response Cesar, I have been traveling all week. There is too much of your equipment that I don't know to give you a direct answer but I can try and help in your choice with some questions to guide you.

1- can you place the phono preamp on a dedicated shelf, not too close to another electronic with large transformers?
if you can't it will rule out the E03 which is very sensitive to interference from neighboring components

2- are you going to stay with one arm, one cartridge and are pretty set on your cartridge - or are you more in the mood to test many arms and cartridges? If you plan on changing or testing arms and cartridges, that rules out the NAT which has only one input and is not easy to set. The E03 is a lot more flexible in that regard, with all settings on the front but it is an unnecessary luxury if you will stay with one cartridge for the foreseeable future - just set it and be done.

3- What are you replacing and why? What are you after? The two phono preamps you mention are very different. The E03 is very revealing and lean - with your Lamhorn, Yammy and Supratek it should in theory be the better match because you have all the harmonic richness you need already. That said, the E03 is unforgiving of poor recordings so if that's the majority of your collection, you might want to consider something else.

The NAT uses triodes and you already have quite a few in our system. My experience is that too many triodes eventually blur transients and the true timbre of instruments - but if you have a lot of old records, the NAT will certainly be kinder to them. If you don't mind the huge size and mass of the NAT, its slight lack of bass will probably not be noticeable in your system.

If you are looking for something right in between, you should actually consider the Audia Flight Flight Phono. Warmer and richer than the E03, more forgiving but not as resolved; deeper bass and better control than the NAT but not as rich in the midrange. The Flight phono can be had with 2 MM inputs, 2MC or one of each - settings are easier than on the NAT but not nearly as convenient as the E03. The Flight Phono is right between the other two in more ways than not.

If silence is key, the NAT is the most quiet (surprising with triodes but it was for me), the Flight Phono a close second and the E03 last (surprising again considering how resolved it is).

Hopefully this will help  you in your reflection and don't hesitate to ask if you have other questions.

Best regards,
Frederic
Hi Srajan,

I had contacted you a few months ago about setting up a room system and was contemplating looking for speakers to connect to my Ampino at the time. I'm happy to inform you that I have finally settled on one of your favorites it seems: the Gallo Stradas. Loving the speakers. Having also hooked one of my friends on them, he went ahead and bought a pair as well. At this point, all is good in paradise but had a couple of questions for you if you don't mind:

1- My friend wants to add the best subwoofer to match these babies and after reading your reviews was considering the Amphion Impact 400's. Unfortunately, we can't seem to locate a dealer for them here in London but have seen the Impact 500 on sale online. Would you suggest he goes that route or perhaps stick with the Gallo TR3 or even look at other options ?

2- I have a tube preamp hooked to the Ampino and have volume control on both the preamp and the amp. After having spent some time with the designer of the preamp, he suggested I find the magical output level for both the amp and the preamp in terms of volume to get the optimal sound out of the speakers. Wanted to get your thoughts on that and whether you thought a tube preamp was even needed in front of the Ampino to drive the Gallos.

Thanks a lot for all your feedback, and as usual, your site is excellent and closely followed.
Sincerely,
Ziad Sayegh

I don't know how the Impact 500 differs from the 400 I reviewed. The 400 I felt was marginally superior to the TR3. Either should do the business just fine. On the Ampino, a matching passive preamp (presumably TVC) is in the works so the designer agrees on that upgrade path. With a tube preamp, you'll get THD flavoring and additional gain. In my 2-channel TV system, I run the Ampino's volume control at 3:00, then control the volume by remote from a transistor preamp. Works very well. Is it necessary? Not for loudness. Sonically, it should be an upgrade. After all the Ampino lacks an active line stage. It's just an amp + pot.

Srajan
Srajan,

thanks for all your efforts on your 6moons reviews. When I first read your review about the Sieben iDock I had to have one and contacted them and like you said they were not available for sale to the US but they were working on UL approval. They kept in touch with me and let me know when they could ship. It arrived Friday 5/14 via US Post, $105.00 delivered to my P.O. box. A real quality piece that works perfectly!

Thanks, Mike
I continue to enjoy your writings and reviews. The audio evolution from vinyl to CD to hard drive is really something. I am using a hard drive [PS3, 120GB] with 1500 songs. The convenience of that system is too powerful for me to go back to CD. Even if is there is loss, I don’t care. I am glad you're not stuck on vinyl or CD and still experimenting and evolving.

Thanks.
Leo Rodriguez
Dear Srajan,

I think it is a most excellent idea to bring more personal DIY efforts and experiences from the fringe of audio into your publication. 6moons for me has always been about the individual´s love and passion for sound reproduction and not about big manufacturers. Your continuous coverage of smaller, boutique-built products is very much needed and appreciated, I believe, not only by me but many others. Please keep up this path, I find it extremely interesting and entertaining to also get the non audio reviewer's point of view.

Sincerely, Oliver Kartak

This really depends on having available this type of submission. I've attempted to cultivate an open friendly atmosphere that might make DIYers comfortable to participate. I'm pleased that some felt compelled already. Naturally, building something for yourself does not necessarily equate to a desire to go write about it - or at least not for our type of platform. DIYAudio and other sites like it are probably a lot more fun for the DIYer because there you mingle with like-minded folks and the exchanges are omni-directional. Our format is mostly one-way - I write, you read. So I very much appreciate the occasional contribution from readers but somehow I don't believe it'll turn into anything regular. That's why I haven't opened any special columns or dedicated sub sites. It's easy to have ideas. It's a lot harder to support them with consistent content updates. If and when something comes along from outside the regular team, I can embed it in the reviews section if applicable; or in the industry features section if it's more of an editorial. But I don't have any strategy in place to turn that into regular features - not for lack of interest, simply for lack of consistency of such material.

Srajan
Srajan,

May I first congratulate you on having created an obviously successful resource for audiophiles, which depends entirely on advertising revenues coming your way.  So a successful model, getting the required number of 'hits' on a regular basis, while still serving your readers with the kind of information and entertainment that keeps them coming back for more.  

I've been watching this process since 2003 with interest. I began to worry when your pilgrimage began first to Cyprus and then to the banks of Lac Leman where I used to be at boarding school, all of 56 years ago at the Lycee Jaccard at Pully not far from where you live now. The last time I checked, over thirty years ago, the private school had been taken over by the Canton of Vaud and turned into a technical college. Does it still exist?

Your personal example of an almost impossible Teutonic work ethic, almost unknown now, has done much to achieve all this while the stress of over-work has only occasionally been visible to your readers. I mourned the departure of some of your review writers, but, on the whole, you've managed to find worthy replacements who have widened your coverage and increased your international appeal. Here I want to say that I think the truly outstanding contributor on your 'staff' is Frederic Beudot.  He is a thoughtful intelligent man, he struggles to understand and then he manages to convey in simple language some complicated ideas particularly now that he appears to have so quickly mastered an idiom he was uncomfortable with not so long ago. He is growing. Hang on to him. 

You wrote recently in reply to a reader's letter that you'd removed some item from your 'Previews' display because it hadn't shipped. I suppose the same applies to the Emerald Physics package that has also disappeared.  

A shame really because this 'package' would have helped test many ideas put together at an attractive price. Dipole bass, anathema to many, with sufficient intelligent resources, works brilliantly but how would the Behringer box behave?  The Emerald Physics website offers an upgrade to a dbx crossover and hard as it is to find nitty-gritty specs for this, I uncovered its A/D conversion limited to what amounts to CD only.

In a recent review of an Esoteric player you declared it to be 'forward looking' for including a USB input to its DAC, which again was limited to CD only. I cannot see this as forward looking but only as a sop to those 'messing around with computers'.  I know your position of being locked into a vast CD library but you are expected to think of others also who are not in your position and they're frequently much younger than you and therefore probably my grandchildren!  With high resolution sources almost mushrooming, to be forward-looking means to plan on including them in your equipment's capabilities.

So if Emerald Physics ever does ship their package for testing, it would be mandatory to check what their package does to high-resolution music and by this I mean 24/176.4kHz or 24/192kHz. One does not buy speakers, digital crossovers and multi-channel amplifiers only to discover that one's new high resolution music purchases are being mangled or squeezed down to cassette proportions.

I want to add that I regard the development of the Emerald Physics package a wonderful advance—so far trusting the ears of others and my own experience of dipole bass—but I think for this to be a relevant purchase for your readers, it must begin to address the concerns I have voiced.  I want them to succeed.

Thank you.

Zaheer Ahmad

Frederic indeed is a terrific asset to the team. What will slow him down is the arrival of a baby this summer but I reckon he won't stay away for too long. Re: the Emerald package, it's actually 'alive & well' in the preview gallery. What had disappeared was the Burson Audio separates. I've now been notified that the very long delay was due to a complete redesign including a new stepped attenuator and significant circuit improvements. I was told to expect the finalized Burson product before the end of the month.

As regards hi-rez files, this is still a new area to me. My main focus of the Emerald review will be the room correction implementation in the digital domain as that's its primary selling point to my mind. Yes, high-resolution files are growing in numbers but I somehow think that your grandchildren are busier downloading AAC files from Apple's iTunes stores than 24/192 Jazz or Classical files from Linn & Co. Familiarity with those media is definitely in my future. For now though, I'm still sorting out how my iMac/Weiss FireWire duo does on CD media files vs. my legacy Redbook system. I paid no attention to SACD and DVD-A due to general lack of interest in the music offered in those formats. At present, I don't feel that different about the hi-rez catalogue. But your point is well taken.

Srajan

Hello Srajan,

Since I wrote to you recently on your forthcoming review of the Emerald Physics CS 2.3 speakers along with the rest of the package that Underwood is offering for your full review process, I have spoken with Walter Liederman in Hawaii. He is amazing. He is almost impossibly frank and forthcoming about every aspect of his range of products and even about forthcoming models.

He took my concerns seriously and proposed—amongst other possible solutions—the complete Mac / Prism Orpheus package which would certainly address every aspect of my concerns. He told me that the dbx 260 on the website needs to be taken off. My remaining problem is that having about 25 years of experience of computers in my harsh climate on the Arabian Sea coast of the Indian Ocean, it is far from kind to any sort of electronics and particularly hard on computers, rendering them generally unreliable over the long term. Of course hard disks fail, RAM SIMMs suffer from sulphided contacts and power supplies suffer under the regimen of the mains we have among other reliability risks.  So a complete computer in line as an essential part of any kind of music making is a little hard for me to swallow even when it is doing all that the Spatial package promises to do.

Certainly I want to experiment with a computer to play music and high-resolution music files in particular but always with the provision of a conventional disk player alongside for at least those occasions when the computer is 'absent' for maintenance.  This would not be practicable with the Emerald Physics / Spatial / Prism Orpheus package.

On the other hand, I believe that buying equipment that cannot do justice to 24/192KHz files today would be roughly analogous to the mid 50s when there weren't many LP records around yet and stereo on LPs was not even a dream, to buying a quality turntable that only played 78rpm discs.

But after my quite lengthy conversation with Walter, I believe that following a successful review by you of the CS 2.3 and its upgraded stable mate that you will also be testing, the CS 2.7 with the new mid and tweeter coaxial, I will probably be buying the CS 2.7 with the 'modified' Behringer box and then try to find a better crossover solution.

Wishing you and the Underwood team good luck and success,

Yours faithfully,
Zaheer Ahmad

It strikes me that if you went with the Mac/Prism package but not the Emeralds, you'd not be out of commission when your PC front end hit a snag. Since the Prism has analogue inputs, it'd continue to work properly as a preamp fed from a legacy CD player. It just wouldn't add the room correction features until your Mac was repaired. But you could continue listening uninterrupted. Since the Emeralds rely on active biamping whose woofer low pass and gain compensation occur in the digital domain, it's the choice of speaker that would suspend you momentarily in case of a computer crash. This isn't slighting the Emeralds. I haven't heard them but if they perform as promised, expect to be rather impressed. It's simply in response to your comments on the harsh environment you find yourself in.

Srajan
Dear Srajan,

While one must respect the business Swans have built and probably the quality of sound and build of their products (I haven't heard them), as well as the engineering that goes into them, I get a flare of irritation each time I read a review of their products. In none of these reviews it is ever mentioned that some of these speakers, at least in the looks department, are shameless copies of successful models of established audio companies. The M1 one's enclosure resembles that of the utterly glorious original Sonus Faber Minima I am proud to own to the nth degree. Drivers may be different, sound may be great, but it will never gain my respect, knowing the design is a blatant rip-off. Looking through the photo's on the sixmoons website I notice similarities with other SF speakers (M 200 / Extrema, in looks alone, otherwise incomparable), but also those of B&W (that top tweeter and yellow mid driver, how can you not notice), ATC, Dynaudio to a lesser degree. I for one would not want to build my company on the reputation of another's original designs, obviously at Swans the do not share this point of view. How does this strike you as representatives of the reviewers community, don't you feel compelled to at least comment on this aspect while reviewing some of these products?

Kind regards,
Johan Stam

Hello Johan,

Swans is most assuredly not the only company to have adopted the Sonus Faber originated boat hull cabinet. In fact, the market is littered with such designs today, including many EU and US brands. Ditto for loudspeaker drive units. China is packed with Dynaudio clones, ScanSpeak clones, anyone's clones. It's no different than early Japanese clones of Steinway pianos etc. It's part of a delayed industrial revolution. It happens in any culture that's late in the game. That alone is not, I believe, sufficient reason to discredit them. The question is, how well is the product executed; and is it properly supported to the dealer and end user.

In the end there are only so many ways to make a dynamic driver. Any thinking person getting into this market would take close inventory of pre-existing solutions, identify the best ones, then try to beat those. That means by implication they won't be very different, just refined. Ditto speakers. There's only so many ways to make a cabinet and I dare say over 95% of all possible options have been exhausted already.

Originality in this world is perhaps dwindling. Look at cars. Jaguar looks like a Ford Taurus and everyone copies design cues from everyone else. As a creator myself (only of content but still) who gets ripped off daily by blogs which steal reviews and news items without credit; by importers and manufacturers stealing our original photos for their own websites; entire reviews which appear reformatted on someone else's website without permission or credit; I perhaps have grown a somewhat thicker skin to all of this than I should. I'm not saying it's good or right, just that it is -:)

Srajan
Sir:

I am compelled to write to you regarding this recent article published on our website for a “new” speaker. Are you aware that this appears to be derived from the following “open-source, DIY” design http://www.frugel-horn.com/Indeed, if I’m not mistaken the Ring Audio principals have previously published photos of internal details of “their” product that could have easily been lifted from the construction manual published by Dave Dlugos at the Frugel-Horn site. There have been no communications or negotiations between Ring Audio and the primary Frugal Horn design team ( i.e. Dave Dlugos, Scott Lindgren, Ron Clarke and myself) regarding the former’s use of this design.  At the very least, this contravenes the spirit of terms of http://www.frugel-horn.com/use.html.

Disclosure: For the past decade I have been involved with the development and prototype construction of most of the loudspeaker designs shown on both the Frugel-Horn and Planet10 HiFi website.

Thanks for reading
,
Chris Bobiak
Planet10 Hi Fi

Hello Chris,

I'm not aware of this as the external photos give no indication. To all appearances, this is a rear-hornloaded Fostex speaker with an unusual diffuser, composite spherical head unit and a powered subwoofer for a high price. If there is a conflict of intellectual property rights, I'm certain you'll pursue the matter with Ring Audio directly or via your attorney. I trust you'll keep me appraised of any developments as they arise from your claim.

Srajan
Hello Srajan,
Hate asking this type of question but I have a chance right now at a used pair of Omegas or a used Cain & Cain Abby so I have to act quick - not the best frame of mind for an audio purchase. Here goes - for a small room (14ft x 18ft x 9ft) second system, if you could only choose one set of speakers:
1. Gallo Stradas
2. Cain and CAin Abby
3. The Horn (Hornshoppe)
4. Omega Grande 6R 
 
I know you have heard the first 3, not sure about the Omega. Not enough cash to swing for a sub (or preferably 2) at the moment but in the future if needed (the omega is 750 and the horn is 800 so I could swing a sub right away).  I have: Macbook Pro --> Streamer+ --> miniwatt --> speaker? From what I read the Abby, Horn and Omega are all pretty comparable and it comes down to preference. What I wonder is if the Stradas are a leap ahead of things. The cost for all options are around the same (750-1300$). If the Stradas are the cats meow then I would swing for them and pick up the Dayens Ampino.  My main system is vinyl and just as I want it (neutral and musical) so I don't mind something a bit different.

I know it is hard to recommend for someone else due to so many factors, I will do some more research so your response is just a piece to my decision so please don't feel pressured. 

All the best,
Joshua

The Stradas are in a different class altogether. Mine are already boxed up awaiting pickup. So on the desktop, I went back to my era Sat 5s. Major letdown. Ditto the big Swans M3s presently in the preview gallery. The Gallos are so much better. But no chance your MiniWatt will do the job, sorry. The Ampino would, however. Very much so. Purely on a performance basis, there's no comparison. It's more money so that part hurts. But if it's ultimate performance you want, the Ampino/Strada route would be the one I'd take.

Srajan

Thank you very much for the input Srajan. I have decided to pull the trigger on the Stradas and Ampino (I had been waiting around for the monos to come out but still no word). It is a credit to your writing that I could read several speaker reviews you had written over several years and draw the conclusion that the Stradas were a cut above, even without direct comparisons. Painting a picture with words is hard enough, never mind painting a sound with words, so well done with your craft. As an audio enthusiast it is with a heartfelt thank you for the effort you put in.

All the best,
Joshua

Let me know your response when you've gotten your second system together. I always collect owner feedback to include into my data base when readers want recommendations.

Srajan
Hi Srajan,

You've always given me the real low down scoop on products that you've reviewed in the past. So, I come to you with another question. Does this Burson Audio amp have the goods? I'm very interested in using the amp as a power booster for my 45 SET. I've read a review in another publication but the reviewer only used it as a normal power amp! Why he didn't try the amp's other mode of operation is beyond me. Have you had enough time with the amp to give me some insight? I'm either going to go with something like this or Nelson's J2 amp and keep my 45 in either case. Sometimes it's just nice to have power. If someone could make a 50-watt amp(or even 250 watts while am dreaming) that sounds like my 45 SET then we would have something!

Todd Baker

The Burson team hasn't yet dispatched the goods, hence I've taken the preview down until they do, sorry. Re: 45s on steroids, I don't think those exist - but one can come quiet close. The F5 or J2 from Nelson fit that bill. Frederic Beudot on staff will be able to weigh in as well. He's got both an F5 and a Yamamoto A08s. I'm quite sure he'd not say they sound the same. But I'm equally sure he'll confirm surprising similarities - and some advantages for the transistors. If you write him, he'll probably tell you.

Srajan
Srajan,

Will you tell Michele Surdi not to state the obvious. I could've told  you that at the beginning of the review. That really frosts me when a  reviewer throws a comment like that into a review.

Re: No #&%! Sherlock. Website: Sorry, not good enough for a computer-based product  particularly when compared to Gordon Rankin’s exemplary usbdacs.com. Gordon Rankin's Wavelength equipment is much more expensive. How do  you think HRT keeps the price inexpensive! Also, I don't think HRT  makes any pretense to sell the best. If you're looking for the best,  make that clear at the beginning of the review.

Steve Kingery

A few things. First, I don't tell my guys what to say. Two, Michele isn't formally on staff, just a regular reader with occasional contributions. Three, his point here was to show just how close the very affordable Streamer came to his former Meridian and that from a musical satisfaction perspective, he enjoyed the Streamer as much as his Nagra and even preferred it occasionally. Four, the cost of a product today is no reflection on the quality of the website accompanying it. The hosting fees are no more or less whether the information on a site is good or bad, marginal or complete. The HRT website is marginal and not because the Streamers cost little.

Srajan
Srajan,

I was reading the reviews of Green Mountain Audio Eos HD and Rio in Hifi News and Hifi Choice and both reviews highlight the lack of bass performance in these two speakers. Have you come across their stand mount speakers and noticed any such deficiencies in the lower regions?

Kind regards,
Bijou

I only reviewed and heard Roy Johnson's big towers. Paul Candy on staff reviewed and owns GMA monitors and augments his with two REL subwoofers so I reckon he'd agree with the British reviews.

Srajan
Howdy Srajan,
Gee, I sure appreciate the review of the I2S cable by Entreq. Just sent them an e-mail to inquire about a purchase. I own the Stello CDT 100 and DA 100 Signature; good equipment in my opinion. Presently I am using a cable made by Camelot Technology. The I2S cable is difficult to find especially with a five pin mini DIN connector such as used by Stello. Looked for quite some time before finding Camelot Technology. Thanks again for helping those of us who see value in the I2S connection. Always enjoy the 6moons reviews.

Best Wishes to everyone there!
Truly Yours,
Tom Kavanagh

Glad to hear that review was useful to at least one reader, haha...

Srajan
Hello Mr. Srajan.
Having read your skeptical notes on the Blackbody concept I first had the idea of writing a lengthy e-mail describing my and my friends' most convincing listening experiences with a set of  finally six Blackbodies in different stereo systems. However having now seen the article of Marja and Henk, I only have to confirm all their findings. What I would recommend is to have the Blackbodies additionally installed in the vicinity of the loudspeaker crossover boards. The effect is jaw dropping. I believe that once the Blackbody effect is understood by the design engineers, it will revolutionize the design of  electronic circuitries for audio as well as the design of the housing (materials?). So please encourage people like Louis Motek  who are looking for optimizations on new roads away from old school paradigms and like lateral thinking. In ancient times these people were condemned and burned by the church in Rome!

I do hope 6moons does not believe only they have the knowledge of the numinous truths and secrets of audio but  will continue to report open-mindedly on what is really improving reproduction of stored music. The situation reminds me on a discussion I had with the designer of one of the first real digital amps (TacT Millenium). He argued that a "better" power cable would have no influence on the reproduction of his “bit-perfect” design/ baby. My experience was most different. Adding the Blackbody technology, this amp now plays in a new league. Give the Blackbodies a trial in your system and it will change your view of the hifi-world.

Kind regards,
Dr. Ing. Michael Graw


My own review is forthcoming.
Srajan
Hi Joël,

Thanks for the current Trends review. It's inspired me to reconnect my Kingrex USB amp to my Ocellia Calliopes with interesting results (I use a Leben CS600 normally). Sounds brighter is the initial response. Interesting considering the Calliopes are 16 ohm loads. But certainly not lacking generally. It's hard for one’s head to comprehend that something as small and cheap as a Kingrex can sound as good as a £4500 Leben after 40+ years of hi-fi interest! Next step, try out my old -but revamped recently - Hafler DH101/200 set up! Thanks for the spark.

Chris Skelton

Thanks for your comment Chris. This kind of amp is not the ultimate audio weapon but it definitely helps to put your own high-end equipment into perspective. The results I got with the Trends and my widebander speakers were amazingly good. I think it means that widebanders often do not require many watts to deliver satisfying performance and that expensive single-ended amps are not completely plug & play. I have noticed many times that widebanders deliver their magic sound with the most simple of amps, often with tubes of course but then why not also with class T?

Regards,
Joël
Hello Paul,

I've received press unit of hiTech USB/S/PDIF unit from M2Tech. After a short playing with unit,using my HP laptop, StereoVox XV2 coax cable and Stello DA 100 Signature DAC, I've jumped to the conclusion that Stello can't play 24/192 files through FooBar in KS streaming mode. I've understood that you've succeeded it by doing this with AudioMat Tempo 2.5 DAC?

Which means that I need to  buy a new DAC if I want to play 24/192 files in a "native" mode :-)

BR,
Sasa Danicic

Hi Sasa,

The Stello's digital receiver can only handle a 24/96 signal which is pretty stupid since that DAC can upsample to 24/192. It's got nothing to do with Foobar or kernel streaming. To play back any 24/192 files in native mode, you need a DAC that can handle a 24/192 signal via its coaxial input. The Audiomat I have is one, PS Audio's DLIII is another. Just read the specs carefully of any DAC you are considering to ensure that it can handle a 24/192 data stream via its S/PDIF or BNC input.

Regards
Paul
Paul,

Just read your review of the M2Tech HiFace, one of the latest darling “transports” for the ComputerAudiophile.com crowd. But I wonder if you’ve heard of (or perhaps even heard) the Analog Research Technology “Legato”. Its another USB-to-S/PDIF converter. I think they’re offering the unit, which features Gordon Rankin’s proprietary asynchronous USB code, for about $500US. It’s BNC only, for reasons explained on the site, and will most likely come with a very nice BNC-BNC digital cable. If you choose to explore this, don’t pass on the cable as it’s “part of the design”.

Interesting to note, this converter is Redbook only, but has a truly excellent clock for handling jitter. I thought you’d get a kick out of it’s price-performance and the fact that the unit elevates any DAC it’s used with. Why, I have no idea; I do have some suspicions about galvanic isolation, but that’s all TBD. Suffice it to say that the unit is truly remarkable. Love to get your impressions of the unit, especially how it compares to your experience of the HiFace. I’ve posted some of my initial impressions have been posted on the forums at ComputerAudiophile — we likes it, yes we do. :-)

BTW, the BNC version of the HiFace is generally considered to provide a superior experience as well — even with a BNC-RCA adapter on the DAC end. Did you get a chance to hear one?

Anyway, here’s the link to the Legato.

Best regards,
Scott Hull


Hi Scott,

No, I haven't heard of the ART Legato but thanks for sharing. However, I can't see paying $500 for a USB to S/PDIF converter that can only pass a 16/44 data stream when I can get a hiFace for $150 which also uses galvanic isolation, operates asynchronously and passes a 24/192 data stream.

For me, the whole attraction of computer-based audio isn't so much about convenience but rather more about playing back hi-rez audio in native mode. Truth be told, I'll take playing back CDs on a decent transport/CD player over a computer any day of the week because I think they still sound better and are a lot easier to use. Tweaking settings on a computer and trying to get the correct album cover and track info is not my idea of convenience. I suppose we'll get there one day.

I'm sure the Legato is a good sounding piece as you state but it's not something that interests me at all as a review piece. I'd be more interested in a similar 24/192 capable device as the hiFace or forthcoming 24/192 USB capable DACs such as offered by Wavelength, Ayre, Bel Canto etc.

Haven't compared the BNC version of the hiFace against the S/PDIF, however, a few hiFace users have told me the BNC sounds a bit better than S/PDIF.

Regards
Paul
Dear Srajan,
nice review in progress on getting top sounds out of your iMac 27incher. I too just bought one of these after playing with much PC audio and I have to say, the mac is way better. I have some hefty Perreaux balanced amps driving Magneplanar 2.6 speakers. Wiring is Nordost throughout so a very 3D transparent and fast sound is my thing. The CD player is Helios Stargate (French Institute Digital Design) into a NOS custom made tube DAC Paradisea.

Now I was keen to try my 27-inch iMac for sound so have linked up with 10m optical cable and installed Amarra and also SRS Wow for some 320 MP3s. I have to say that I am pretty blown away by my iTunes lossless tracks with Amarra. It makes a huge difference. You so have to try this. If I turn it off, I downgrade the sound in nearly every way It also seems to behave pretty well, not so for many other software solutions out there. I would say iTunes is equal to and better in some aspects than my £3.200 CD player. Even 320 MP3s are listenable with SRS WOW enough not to be embarrassed with friends around (they are not hifi buffs). So. I am wondering what is stopping you from trying out Amarra. I read it uses the Sonic Solution engine which bypasses much of the usual Mac code and so sounds better. It is more than just a switch. You will hear the difference for yourself. It's a nice moment to experience.

I have yet to read anything on using a USB to optical converter to reduce jitter. I am keen to hear your experience with the Weiss -.how much of a step up, what difference with Amarra vs without. Tests with material at different sample rates would be really great. I love the analog sound of my NOS tube DAC but it doesn't give me access to 24bit.which I am sure is the future. Weiss is pricey but does it deliver?

Weiss doesn't mention that you might want to use your Mac Firewire port for other devices too. Most Mac gear seems to allow daisy-chaining Firewire devices. Pretty handy if I could share my external hard drive and camera compact flash reader without unplugging them all the time. Also if you can connect them, is there any degradation in sound quality? Keep up the good work.

Graham Cowing

Until I have a really solid fix on the iMac/Weiss combo vs. my usual transport/Yamamoto, I have zero interest in Amarra and Co. It's too confusing to introduce more than one variable at a time. Re: so-called hi-rez files, I have 3000-some CDs I first have to import. That's plenty of listening pleasure right there, of music I actually love. I've avoided SACD and DVD-A successfully because, on a whole, those formats didn't support my musical tastes. So far I don't see too much I'd want to own in hi-rez either so again, I'll stay put for the time being.

The real boon of PC audio is the ability to process your digital files for room and speaker correction right in iTunes. That'll be far more significant than any fretting about Amarra vs. Pure Music could ever be -:)

Srajan
Srajan.

I hope that this short e-mail finds you fit and well. I have only just found your site and it has helped me begin my audio journey in earnest. The initial article by Jeff Day on his Garrard 301 restoration in September 2004 was neat. Did the story continue? I had a look forward twelve months and couldn't see anything (but found lots of other stuff I have book marked to read). I hope that he didn't have an accident or anything. I found his writing compelling and full of emotion. We need more storytellers like this.

Thank you for your time with this.
Marshall Group

You'll find installment II and III of his Garrard Project in the 'by writer' archive listing.

Srajan
Hi there Mr. Ebaen,

I've just read your review about theHD800 (excellent work btw.) and next I've read Mr. Candy's hiFace work but before I start with my questions, I'll tell you about my rig. I am the guy who wants headphone magic to shine on him all the time, without any problems in portable and non-portable ways. I don't consider myself an audiophile but I do want to listen to high-res music because I have lots of it. And there is the small fact that I really like good headphones. My portable rig is an RWA iMod and RSA Mustang P-51 with Westone 3 IEMs and cryo-treated LOD cable custom made from Jena Labs wire. This gear goes quite nicely but after one year of using it I know now that these are just toys that won't give me the sound I am looking for.

A few days have passed since I realized that my portable rig isn't the Holy Grail and now I am proud owner of a pair of HD800. I really do like them but my DAC is a simple Audiotrak Dr.Dac2 and it's just a toy around $350 that won't feed the newest headphones from Sennheiser properly.

Fellow headfiers told me to to bow my head before a guy known as Kingwa from Audio-GD. Lots of people told me that HD800 are very annoying if you don't have proper amp for them and now I must agree with that statement because I've tried lots of desktop DACs under $500 and none of them did good job. Well, the closest one to my happiness was the Carat Topaz but it was very short romance. Also, those people from Head-Fi directed me in my amp search to one specific model. They say: "Go now! Buy yourself a nice Audio-GD Phoenix!" and that's what I'll probably do in couple days. That amp is known as the one incredibly synergistic amp with the HD800 so my choice is quite obvious. And it's a SS amp and for me it is important because I like SS amps much more than tubes.

The price is also affordable because $1200 for that kind of gear is fair considering its internal parts which I saw. I don't have a chance to grab my headphones and plug them into a Phoenix somewhere and listen to this setup so I must trust someone f and pray that my choice will be my Holy Grail at least in some way. My goal is to listen to music from my PC because...well, you probably know why. After better knowing hiFace I want to use only my PC as a source of my music. I can buy a Logitech Transporter very cheap but I'll skip that for now, because my PC at home is for my lossless music.

I've already chosen amp and headphones but the DAC is a serious problem now. Lots of people again tell me that I should get Audio-Gd DAC Ref1 which has coaxial and quite a nice price around 1600$. With hiFace my goal is almost completed but hiFace is 24/192 and all DACs from Kingwa are 24/96. What should I do? Can you please help me? I'm guessing that my dilemma is no dilemma for you.

You must probably ask yourself why am I directing my questions to you, not to head-fiers. The answer is straight, simple and short: on headfi there are FOTM and hype problems and I don't want to rely on them while spending thousands of my dollars. They showed me the way and now I am trying to confirm somewhere else and I've decided to do it with your help. If you see my mail address, I also review at the biggest PC hardware site in Poland - PCLab.pl. I'm doing cheap, mostly gaming headphones there. Btw. seriously great work on sixmoons - I am amazed by the quality level of articles, but hey, I always was.

Best,
Pozdrawiam,
Dawid Grzyb
PCLab.pl

I'm not familiar with the Audio-GD brand at all so couldn't comment. For a very serious 24/192 USB Dac, I'd probably eyeball the Integrity line from Antelope. For something affordable, I would have said you can't beat the High Resolution Technologies Streamer II + but I'm not sure it's ready for 24/192. The hiFace of course is but only operates as a D-to-D device so you still need a 24/192DAC. The 100 Series April Music Stello is very good.

Re: amps which you seem to already have nailed, I would have seriously considered the Burson Audio HA160. One thing you haven't mentioned which is absolutely vital in my mind is a new leash for the Sennheisers. That stock wire has to go or you'll never hear what they can do. I have fantastic results with the ALO Audio cable but it's certainly not the only after-market option. I really would address that before I'd do anything else. It's not minor.

Srajan
Dear Srajan,

first a big thank you for your site. 6moons is invaluable and I have used it a lot to get info to build, really choose and buy, my own system. For a computer audio source, I purchased a Weiss DAC2 late last year and have complemented it with a Mac Mini. The rest of the gear is an Exposure XXV integrated amplifier, an Exposure 3010s CDP and a pair of Spendor S8e. I have therefore read with interest  your experience of the iMac and the DAC2. In this review you relate the problems you have had with powering up and down the DAC2 while the iMac is running and the lockup of the DAC2 that this could produce.

I keep the MacMini running all the time and it does not go to sleep, although I allow the disks (one small internal and a large 1TB external) to spin down. I therefore only turn off the amp and the DAC at the end of a listening session. I have never experienced a problem of freezing the DAC2 and certainly never seen the blinking light that you report. Should you find it interesting to further the comparison, I can offer for example to run the specific sequences that lock your gear to see if mine will. Just let me know.

On a different subject: software. I found Amarra way too expensive for the convenience of auto-switching the AudioMidi sample rate. On the other hand I am way too lazy to always figure what sample rate is the music I want to play now and switch AudioMidi, restart iTunes etc...

So I locked the AudioMidi sample rate to the best available (I have very few files at 24/192) and leave it to iTunes to upsample from whatever, quite often 16/44.1 to 192. I wanted to run tests to validate this approach but never got around to do more than quick comparisons after which I decided it was not worth the trouble. Bottom line, I am happy with this lazy approach so far although I might give a go at the PureMusic software you referenced. 

Again, thanks for 6moons, it is a wonderful site!
Best regards.

Ghislain Roy
Hello Srajan:

Congratulations on taking the leap into computer/music server audio! I did so just before New Year’s after much rumination and doubt. One of the elements that clinched it for me was Ken Micallef’s review of the Benchmark DAC1 USB, along with a few others, last fall. I had read many reviews of the latter in the English-language audio press but I found Ken’s assessment to be very encouraging.

It’s been almost 3 months since I took delivery of a Mac mini and the Benchmark and I’ve probably ripped two-thirds of my 600+ CD collection, not counting other music that my better half prefers. The music is automatically backed up to an Apple Time Capsule, which also serves as a router. I’ve been on a ripping break for the last few weeks—life with 2 young children requires prioritizing at times—and I keep buying new music,so who knows when I’ll be done.  I’m aiming for the end of April for CDs currently in the collection – wishful thinking perhaps…

In due course, the Mac mini will reside as a dedicated music server on the audio rack in our living room and connect to the Benchmark via USB. The premise was that there wouldn’t be a computer monitor in the living room to muck up aesthetics in view of a positive WAF. The music library on the Mac Mini will be accessed with an iPod touch using the free “Remote” app.

Until most of the copying of CDs to the hard drive is complete, I was hoping to stream music wirelessly from the Mac mini, which is hooked up to our LCD TV located in the family room above the garage, to an Apple Airport Express hooked up to the Benchmark with a Toslink cable. Unfortunately, I’ve not managed to establish the wireless connection with the Airport Express despite the patience of the Apple rep with whom I spent a couple of hours on the phone a few weeks ago. I ran out of time that day but will call back to pursue a couple of other fixes that she suggested, such as changing the default channel/frequency that is used to communicate between the Mac and Airport Express. There may be interference from elsewhere in the house or in the neighborhood. For now, I’ll keep spinning silver discs on our CEC CD player.

One of the frustrations I’ve encountered, other than the Airport Express, is that the time required to copy a CD to the hard drive varies from about 4 minutes to as long as 10 to 15 minutes. I’m using Apple Lossless Encoder and on average, I’d say for every CD that takes 4 minutes, three or four take 10 minutes each. I’ve tried with error correction enabled and disabled, no apparent difference due to the latter.

I was in the mood to share my experience after reading about your acquisition of an iMac and the Weiss DAC.  It hasn’t been entirely smooth for me but I’m not going to let it stop from continuing down this road.

All the best,
Max Hollins
Dear Srajan,

I have enjoyed your website for a number of years now and am not in the habit of writing in to bother the writers, but I have some observations to share that I thought would add to your review of the Weiss Dac2 and could be worth exploring. As a young musician 5 years ago I pulled up stumps from Melbourne Australia and moved to Neuköln Berlin (ja, ganz in der nahe von Herr Werner...) where I planned to study music. So as not to lose my music I converted all my CDs to Apple Lossless and took a hard drive with me. Since that time I've completely switched to streaming, not least because my lovely old 15kg CD spinner died immediately on my return to Australia. I purchased an MHDT Labs tube dac with a NOS dac chip and hoped for the best. After a tube swap and a long burn in I was pleased enough with the sound to forget about CD players but what I have found lately is that that is far from the end of the story with computer music.

I use an M-audio Transit for conversion to S/PDIF. When I finally got the cash to move from PC to a unibody Macbook, the sound increased significantly in transparency (no more kernel mixer apparently). When I moved the files to a separate USB media drive, things improved again. Against all logic, I discovered by accident that setting the M-Audio to 24-bit 88.2kHz output was, again, significantly better and improved staging despite the fact that the dac is NOS 16/44.1! Finally, I recently upgraded to Snow Leopard and installed new M-Audio drivers and was shocked when, unexpectedly, instruments seemed to become unstuck from each other and find their own space. It seems that switching to streaming can lead not only to an increase in convenience but also to a very low-price upgrade path as technology improves. I thought it may be worth pointing out that it could be interesting to try out settings of 24/88.2 v.s 16/44.1 in Audio MIDI and maybe the effects of different storage. These, in my experience, have had a more positive effect than either Pure Music or Amarra (although both certainly do change the resultant sound).   

Just thought I'd moot some of these ideas to a fellow mac user and music lover.

Regards,
Robin Hillier
Hi there Srajan,

Some time ago, actually quite exactly one year ago, I wrote to you asking about the Yamamoto YDA-01. Well I did order one from Japan and am very happy with it. Just a week back we have a little listen/comparison with a friend using his Audio Aero Prima as itself and as transport. Well, the word 'slaughter' came to mind -:)

Anyway, what this all has to do with the Aura Neo CDP is that with the YDA-01 I am using a DIY transport - and the transport mechanism is in fact exactly the same as in the Aura Neo CDP. The transport is a JVC transport that they use in their JVC RC-EZ31 boom box. At first a Polish DIY group noticed that the same transport is also used in the Shigaraki model 4716 transport. The DIY thread became quite extensive and lots of DIYers including me have built the transport. After some tweaking with the power caps, I think it sounds quite good. (Not that I've had much comparison with the better transports though.)

Just thought you'd like to know if you haven't been aware of this before. He's the link to the discussion forum.

Thanks for the advice and take care!

Yours, Jukka
Hi Srajan,

First the easy bit. I have fixed iTunes' metadata deficiency with a vaccine of www.tuneupmedia.com. There is a free version and the lifetime version is an innocuous $29.95. Between that and the current discount on Pure Music (expires today I think), one can provide a permanent vitamin boost to iTunes content and playback for a little over $100. Not bad by audiophile standards. Now on the more complicated stuff. There is an emerging trend toward substituting software for hardware boxes in your writing. If you want to pursue this further, may I suggest exploring the Metric Halo ULN-8 (or Amarra Model 4/5)?

I personally find the value proposition very appealing despite the seemingly high absolute price tag associated with it. And I find the value proposition not simply because it combines many functions into one box but because it does so with very high performance. It sells for less than half the price of the Linn player and is infinitely more versatile.  Just a thought as you go down the path with the Weiss Dac 2. Btw, the 'character' function, which emulates tube pres in the software domain is a blast (not just tubes but transformers and FETs). I am also listening more and more to my headphones through the headphone amp in the machine instead of the Yammy or the Experience One. To top it off, there is equalization included in the software (one less box) and it acts as a line and digital preamp (less boxes). It's essentially an iDecco at a higher playing field, that's why I though you might find it interesting.

And it gives a basis for endless audiophile controversies: how can a machine that uses an SMPS and chips perform so well? There is talk in the forums that a linear power supply does not improve the performance of the standard SMPS. Cannot think of higher praise for the designer.

Good luck in your new adventures.
All the best,
Paul Espinosa
Hello Srajan,

Being able to play 16bi /44.1kHz  tracks as well as high resolution 24bits/96 kHz from the same machine/interface makes a  lot of sense/cents. With 1T  iMacs starting at $1500, delivered, the  rationale for multi-format standalone players is pretty blurred. Keeping in mind that an iMac is also a high end number cruncher, you  can count on various vendors to offer software DSP in the very short  term.

One suggestion: be sure to download the free Remote App for iPod,  iPhone and iPad for the ultimate remote control experience.

Best regards,
Robert Gaboury
Gemme Audio

I'm presently aware of the Spatial software which embeds in iTunes to allow for phase/time and room correction directly on the files. There surely are other programs now or coming soon so yes, there's a lot to experiment with and learn. The Apple platform seems to enjoy more support from the pro-audio arena than Windows so that was another reason I went that way.

Srajan
Hello Srajan,

thanks for taking the plunge into computer audio and sparing us dare-nots a lot of trouble. Two remarks for now One, going the iMac route  means you've got a switching PS in your system for good. Macbooks mean you can go battery, which is better. And two, I was all set to buy the cheaper (not so much) Weiss 4-pin firewire dac when Jobs took  the firewire off the white Macbook and put an 8-pin on the  aluminum ones. Object lesson, computer accessories are subject to instant  obsolescence and should be priced accordingly.

Michele from Rome

I have a MacBook Pro and can't tell the diff between running it off batteries or not so the iMac's SMPS doesn't scare me. When I listen to CD, the iMac isn't powered up so who cares. As far as obsolescence goes, the iMac will make one stonking PC should it ever become obsolete as an audio machine. Things change quickly, granted, but if you want to participate, you can't just sit there and watch. You gotta make a decision, then live with the consequences.

Srajan
What follows is part of Bruce Rozenblit's latest newsletter which was forwarded to me by one of our writers. The content is important enough to be read by as many as possible. Bruce's email is here: [email protected]:

Dear Friends, you haven't heard from me in a while because I've been having a rough time the past few months. I came down with a bad case of tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears. I'm virtually certain that the condition was precipitated by an adverse drug reaction. The drugs and head noise sent me into a deep depression. I'm getting better and have made a lot of progress during the last several weeks. I want to share my story with you in hopes that my experience can help someone else. No one should have to go through this. Business has been good and I am keeping up with kit orders. I have not worked on any new projects because I just can't find the motivation until I get a little better. The depression is lifting but I need more time to heal. So here is what happened.     

Last summer I started having urinary problems. They came on very quickly. I went to the clinic that I use and doctor no. 1 put me on Avodart on August 1. I felt better with the very first pill. It was amazing. In 2 weeks, my symptoms were mostly gone. Also, with the very first pill, I felt very calm. I'm a high-energy guy. I buzz. Avodart took my buzz away.  This is significant. I told doctor no. 1 this was happening at the 2-week visit and there was no response. Soon after that, I became very sleepy. I don't mean Avodart made me drowsy, it knocked me out. I was non-functional and could not stay awake. I had to drink a cup of tea every two hours to keep from falling asleep but I was still out on my feet. So I started taking the medicine before bed, which alleviated some of the sleepiness. At the 6-week visit, I told doctor no. 1 about this and there was no response.  

Something is very wrong here. Avodart isn't supposed to act like a strong sedative. During the month of Oct., the sleepiness began to abate and I started to wake up. Here is what I think is going on. Avodart works by knocking out the hormone DHT, which is the most anabolic of the anabolic steroids. It's what makes a man a man and allows us to build muscle and bulk up. It is converted from testosterone through the action of enzyme 5α-reductase. Avodart interferes in that process and reduces DHT levels by 90%. This is serious stuff. This drug reconfigures a man's entire physiology. I think what happened in me is that after my chemistry was severely altered by Avodart; my body started producing chemicals to compensate for the alteration. It is important to note that human physiology is governed by dozens upon dozens of hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters, all interlocked in a delicate balance. Upset that balance and you are asking for trouble. My body said I should be awake and changed my chemistry accordingly. In other words, my body was producing chemical stimulation to counter the depressing action of a toxin. Something like that had to have happened simply because I started to wake up. Otherwise the extreme sleepiness would have remained.    

Also during the month of Oct., I began to notice that there was whistling in my ears. Then on or about Nov. 1, all hell broke loose. I went to bed and in a few minutes, a maddening piercing set of noises and tones went shooting through my head. They gave me a panic attack. They did not go away. I had a combination of distinct tones, whistling and ringing. Somehow over the next 2 months, I managed to put up with the all the screeching. I think that was because I had not started to fall into depression. I did not make any connection with Avodart at that time.  I thought that it would be prudent to just give it some time and see if it goes away on its own. If anything, it was just getting worse. 

Another very important occurrence here is that every time that I would engage in high output aerobic exercise, the noises in my head would go way up, and I mean way up. As my body cooled down, the noises would subside to pre-exercise levels. This would happen every time without exception. Understand this, these were not subtle noises that I was experiencing.  At their worst, I could easily hear the hissing and squealing while driving my noisy truck with the radio playing loudly.      

After the first of the year, I was getting more and more depressed which was causing more and more anxiety over the noise so I made an appointment to see an ENT doctor (doctor no. 2) and was examined by him the last Thursday in Jan. He didn't want to treat me. I told him about how exercise greatly altered the noise and that the Avodart made me sleepy etc. He ignored all of that information. He took a very brief one second look in each ear and said I had idiopathic tinnitus and there is nothing that can be done about it. Then I started to fall apart.

All audiophiles are a bit obsessive compulsive and I am no exception. I couldn't let go of the noise and developed extreme anxiety that weekend.  I thought that I was going to loose my mind. No exaggeration. My brain chemistry was already scrambled to start with from the drug and this pushed me over the edge. On Sat., Jan. 30, I took myself off of Avodart. I found out that weekend that it takes a full 6 months to flush Avodart out of your system. It has a 5-week half-life. I now realize that if the noises are from the drug, I'm in for it. So the following Mon., I went back to the clinic and was seen by doctor no. 3. She also ignored my information about how the noise behaved and said I had a sinus infection, which she successfully treated with antibiotics. The ENT specialist missed that.  She also put me on Meclizine, which is the same drug as Dramamine Less Drowsy. The drug greatly helped to quiet down the noise. It also made me sleepy which means it is also functioning as a depressant. Meclizine works by interfering the uptake of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It is designed to be neurologically active. 

I'm already chemically depressed from the Avodart, psychologically depressed from the maddening noise in my head and we just piled another depressant on top of that. After 2 weeks on Meclizine, I quickly sunk into a severe depression. I began to have very dark thoughts that my life was over with. This is very serious stuff. People get thrown in the crazy house when that happens. I caught myself and stopped taking Meclizine and my mood quickly improved. I pulled myself out of that dark place. After 24 hours, the noises came back strongly but my mood had improved substantially. I had come to the conclusion that I am going to have to figure this out on my own. No one is listening to me. I experimented with Meclizine several times and each time it would substantially lower the noise and when it wore off in about 6 hours, the noises would return. This indicated that I am having a neurological problem because Meclizine is neurologically active. I began to but the pieces of the puzzle together.

The first Thursday in Feb., I came home from spinning class and my ears were screaming at me. I accidentally dropped the toilet seat and many high volume tones shot through my head like bottle rockets. This indicated that the auditory nerves were pushed into uncontrolled firing by the loud noise. That means they were over stimulated in the resting state. If I would take a shower, the noises would go way up. Again, this is a similar response to loud noise. I noticed for months that if I put on high noise isolation hearing protectors, the screeching in my head would go down. As soon as I entered a live sound field, the noises would come back. So under-stimulating the auditory nerves reduces the ringing. The noises were always lowest first thing in the morning when metabolism is at its lowest. Highest at the highest rates of metabolism, i.e. high output exercise. Taking a nap always lowered the noise. The more stimulated my nervous system is through raising and lowering rates of metabolism, the louder the noise and vice versa. Taking a drug that is a known nerve suppressant reduces the noise. Drug wears off and the noise goes up. 

All of this points to a problem of over stimulated neurons. This is not idiopathic because I can consistently modulate the noise by altering how stimulated my nervous system is through physical activity or drugs. Getting to sleep is the worst problem. I use a white noise generator, which helps a lot. Problem is, I like to lie on my side, which cuts off the sound from masking the noise in the down ear. This all brings me back to Avodart. It seriously altered my nervous system by screwing up my hormones. The noises began after my body adjusted to the hormone disruption. Since I have been off of Avodart for 4 weeks, the noises have diminished. I still have ringing, but it is considerably lower. The noise levels 2 weeks after stopping the Meclizine are lower than they were with the Meclizine. I am getting better each week. Now after exercise, the noises only go up a little. Average levels are lower. I can hear clocks tick and appliances run that I haven't heard in months. As the noises abate, my mood improves. I have good days and bad days but the trend is downward. Currently, most of the loud hissing is gone and what is left is a generalized low level ringing overlaid with a faint very high frequency squeal that is very irritating. These noises may have been there from the start but were masked by louder sounds that have since dropped off.  When the ringing goes up, I don't notice the squeal. I am encouraged by the continuous changes in the sound because they appear to changing as my chemistry changes. Day to day, there may be no progress or even regression but week to week there is progress. Problem is I keep testing it and I should not. Progress is slow because Avodart drops off on average less than 1% per day. Logically, I know that it's going to take months to clear out the toxins and heal but emotionally, it's very difficult getting from here to there. It took 3 months to screw up my body chemistry so it stands to reason that it could take at least that long to correct the problem. If Avodart was not the problem, why am I slowly but steadily getting better? The only other possibility is that I had invented some psychological reaction to a drug that I thought was helping me that took 4 months to play out. No way!

Last week I saw doctor no. 4 (my neighbor's family doctor) and I am keeping this guy. He actually listened to me and said that my theory was plausible. It is hard to argue with logic. My dentist also agreed with me that Avodart probably caused the problem.  Now, here is a very aggravating turn of events. After listening to my medical history, how my urinary symptoms manifested and reacted to the Avodart, doctor no. 4 thinks that Avodart was not the appropriate treatment in the first place! He said it was nerves in the region overreacting like having a nervous bowel. That is why Avodart provided so much relief so quickly by altering my hormones, which affected my nerve function. This validates my theory of Avodart causing the noise in my head. My argument is that Avodart didn't directly cause the noise; it was my body's adjustment to the Avodart that caused it to secret something or things that caused my auditory nervous system to become overexcited.  So I may have gone through all this hell for nothing.

Avodart is extremely efficient and it may have to be essentially all gone before things return to normal. That could take another 5 months. The safest way is to just let time work and not interfere with the process. In fact, I told doctor no. 4 that I didn't want any more drugs. I want my brain chemistry to reset to its normal state before any more chemicals are introduced. If I can't handle it, I will see doctor no. 4 again and we can try a mild anti-depressant (which he suggested) but I really don't want to go down that road. Hopefully no permanent damage has been done. Irritated nerves take a long time to heal.  If any of you out there are having any symptoms similar to what I have described, you have my permission to print this out and show it to your doctor or anyone else that might benefit from it. Any time a doctor prescribes a medication, make them tell you what the half life is. I never would have taken Avodart if I knew it would take 6 months to get rid of it. There are older, less powerful drugs available. Prescription drugs are very power agents and people consume them like candy. They should be taken sparingly and with strict supervision. That is not the way our system works. - Sincerely, Bruce Rozenblit, Transcendent Sound.
Hello Srajan,

I switched from SR Apex spkr and IC to ASI Liveline and it's a huge improvement.  Your review is 100% accurate ... most obvious is complex and compressed passages are no longer smeared plus it sounds live :-)   Sold all my very expensive SR cables and use the $$ towards a new VAC Signature MKIIa preamp.  Hopefully my preamp will ship in next few weeks from VAC factory.  Meanwhile running my MW Transporter direct to the amp. I auditioned ASI Liveline PC last time and found them to limit current.  I might audition them again so whole system is wired with the same cable.

Thanks for your suggestion.  Almost took the Crystal Ultra route ... Yikes!

Best Regards,
King
Seen this? This is so not good: http://www.timescall.com/news_story.asp?ID=20988

Bill Leebens
Srajan,

Please forward to Steve as well. Here is some discussion on Groundside Electron Pools (aka early Ground Control). I have some of Bud's earlier pigtails on the ground terminals of the speakers in my modest hifi. The biggest difference we have noted is that they reduce or eliminate the stressed sound that can happen during large dynamic peaks.

Dave Dlugos
Hi Srajan,

I enjoyed your Strada review and look forward to the comparison with the 3.5. I am familiar with the Reference 3.1 and I'm thinking about purchasing a pair of Strada with floor stands. Since I own a pair of JL Audio subwoofers, I have the following question: What is the approximate -3dB frequency of the Strada when stand mounted out into the room? (Gallo's specs assume boundary reinforcement.)

Thanks very much,
Vladimir Dorta

In my setup without a rear wall altogether, between 55 and 60Hz.

Srajan
David,

Thank you for the review of the Elekit tu-879s.  I have been looking for an integrated amp for a desk top/computer system and have been considering some of the small EL-84 amps like the Jolida FX-10, Jolida 102B, Sophia baby SET, MiniWatt and the Glow amp, but this amp seems to be in a different class.  I have not settled on a speaker, but the Silverline Minuet or the Rega R1are on the short list for their size, impedance (8 ohms) and sensitivity (89-90 db).

If you have the time, I have a few questions for you about the tu-879.  You made it seem easy to complete the project...just how easy was it?  I have no electrical knowledge or experience (except for an electronics class I took in high school...25 years ago).  I know my way about a soldering iron from stain glass projects, and have access to a variable temperature soldering iron. 

• Would you recommend having a local electronics shop look over my work when I complete it? 
• Do you think it would be a good desk top amp? 
• Does the amp have a transformer hum?
• Does it put off a lot of heat (would it be acceptable to you to have on your desk top)?

Thank you for your time and hard work reviewing audio products I always enjoy learning about new equipment.

Jeff Trudrung

Jeff,
Thank you for your kind words.The Elekit is easy to assemble in the sense that the step-by-step instruction is very clear and you simply solder by numbers. No electrical skill or electronic knowledge are required. The lessons I learned were: (1) don't rush and (2) check every stage as indicated in the instruction (about 8 to 10 check points I think). 

After the assembly is finished, you need to perform the test. If it doesn't work, you have to trace back every assembly stage to find out which components might have been inverted or some soldering points are not properly done. It could be very tedious and frustrating since it requires the amp to be partly disassembled (the transformer for example) to check thoroughly. As I mentioned in my review I made a few mistakes. Fortunately those were easy to fix and didn't cause any hazardous result during the test. My friend who assembled a TU-879S also didn't pass the test - a couple of soldering points didn't have enough solder! My best advice is to check and double check every assembly step and every soldering point. You should feel confident enough not to rely on a technician.

The other amps you mentioned are much smaller in size and would satisfy the prerequisite of desk top amp much more so than the Elekit. But it's all a matter of synergy with the speaker of your choice and use of your desk top space. 

Transformer hum of the TU-879S is extremely low even with my 95dB loudspeakers. Like all tube amps, heat is inevitable, especially with 6L6/EL34/KT88 power tubes, which are much hotter than the smaller EL84. For my cluttered desk top and the TU-879S having no tube cage, it's a no-no. But your situation might be different.

David
Wow. Btw, David, I have to note his perspective re: using the iPod as portable server, carrying it from place to place or using multiple Pods. See - not everyone wants to access their music from a big ol' hard drive! (For the rest of you, this is a convo David Solomon and I were having the other day and relates a bit to some of what was discussed with Dave Johnson. I just see the idea of using the iPod this way as something everybody gets - seems we have to beat it into them sometimes about the hard drive. And yes, I'm making too big a deal of this. My only real intent is to smile because I found the reviewer agreeing with me!) And it's a Lunar Eclipse! Awesome.

Russ Goddard (copying the Peachtree Audio men)
Srajan,

Are you familiar with the name John Westlake?  He was the designer of the famous Pink Triangle Da Capo DAC in the 90s.  He is also the consultant designer of the iDecco that you have just given a Lunar Eclipse award to. I thought you might be interested to know that he is also the consultant designer of two new Audiolab pieces of kit, the 8200, a DAC with CD transport (as JW regards it) and a DAC called the MDAC (not yet out).  Both use JW's latest custom-designed DAC which he says is superior to the ESS DAC used in the iDecco - and he is not a man to make idle boasts.  The MDAC and I think the 8200 have USB input as JW very firmly shares your view (and mine) that CD transports will soon only be used for uploading to  a hard drive and not for playback (that's already my system, I'm using a Modwright Transporter). 

Even more exciting is that JW intends to bring out a DAC/preamp under his own brand and he reckons the DAC will be even better than the one used in the Audiolab gear. If you want to read more of what JW himself says check out this page on diyaudio. Given your current interest in hard drive-based audio, I thought you would be interested in these new products.  My suggestion of course is that you contact Audiolab and get  a review lined up.

I have no affiliation with JW or Audiolab - I'm just excited by new products from JW.  He is the Pass of digital as far as I and many others are concerned.

Regards,
Ian
Srajan -

Well I’m one of those people who can’t leave anything alone. Hey, for me half of the fun of this hobby is trying new things. Anyhow, with the help of your reviews I’ve assembled a great system I never dreamed I would own. But… something is still missing and I can’t put my finger on it, my jaw is not dropping as much as I would like. Here is my system and some thoughts on how to take it to the next level, I’d really appreciate your input on what might be my weakest link.

Speakers: Zu Druid mk IV/08
Amp: Yamamoto A-08S w/EML 45 Globes (love this thing)
Preamp/DAC: Red Wine Audio Isabella w/Siemens 7308’s
Source: Apple Lossless library on my home server, streamed to my audio rack via Sonos and connected to the Isabella via coax SPDIF. This sounds 95% as good as connecting a laptop directly to the Isabella via USB. XXHighend is another matter, but won’t play Apple Lossless, only FLAC.

I’ve been planning on acquiring a pair of Essences for a while, but now I’m also wondering if I shouldn’t ditch the Isabella and go for the Yamamoto YDA-01 paired with an Esoteric C-03 (used) or ModWright 36.5 to feed the A-08S. A Wyred STP SE is another option, but I gather a step down from the former two.

Keep up the great work!
Ian Butt

The first thing to ask is, what turns you on? For the jaw to drop, you need to be triggered. Some folks get triggered by dynamics and speed. Others get off on tone density and fullness. And so on. All trigger points are equally valid but they do require a somewhat different system voicing or calibration - just like car suspensions are tuned for canyon carving or family vacations, daily commuting or offroading. Which one is perfect for you depends on how you'll use your car. There's no one-size-fits-all formula.

To get anywhere, we first have to diagnose our system's ailment. Why isn't yours going all the way? Without a clear diagnosis, you can't go about a strategic cure. If you don't know what's missing—that would be true for most of us—it's because you don't know what's possible. The best thing I can recommend for that is to sleep around. Hear as many systems as you can (friends, stores, shows) and take note what the ones you like have in common. Some will elicit your respect, many will be boring, a few will engender outright lust - even if they all have certain compromises or aspects you'll consider imperfect.

The mission isn't finding the perfect system to recreate it. Your room will be completely different. The mission is to identify your hot buttons, then determine which of those your current setup misses. Only then can one zero in on what component is the most likely suspect that's holding things back. You've got some home work to do I think...

Srajan
Greetings from the States,

I wanted to point out what I felt (IMHO) was a glaring omission to your Hexateq review. You state, "It seems fair to say that until class D gains more of its own Nelson Pass, John Curl and Charles Hansen equivalents..." I would certainly put John Ulrick's name along side these others. While you may not like the sound of the amps (I've had 3 different Spectron amps with various levels of modification on two of them but am now running a Pass amp), I think leaving his name out of an article that attempts to hit on the "big names" of Class D is an unfortunate oversight.

Cheers,
Joseph Pagan

You're confused. The 'celebrity' designers I singled out are specifically non class D. Class D for high-end is still too new a category to sport designers who have achieved equivalent renown in the minds of most audiophiles. Had I wanted to mention class D celebrities, I would certainly have included Ulrick - as well as Bruno Putzeys, the B&O brain trust and others.

Srajan
Hello Srajan,

Like many of your readers I read a lot of audio sites. And like a lot of readers I recognize that you are heads and shoulders (in what you hear and how you describe it) above the rest. This does not mean that I agree with your tastes (for that Jeff Day is probably closest to what I look for in music playback as his recommendations have never steered me wrong) but it does mean that I will read a review of a $15,000 component that I know I will never own just because I want to read your piece. With a family, a job, me restoring a 100 year old log house, and an avid reader of literature my time is valuable so this is the highest compliment I can give.

Over the years I have seen your writing prowess grow, with only the occasional dud along the way. There is definitely an uprising arc in your skill of describing gear. I am writing because I was so impressed with your preview of the Gallo Strada. The energy and flow of the piece was informative and entertaining.

Bravo,
Joshua Jacobson
Hello David,

I’ve been following your reviews of various digital amps for the past few years and it appears you might a comparative grasp on a fair number of them.  I know its hard to say this one is simply better than that, but I’m trying to narrow it down.  Reading your reviews, I’m trying to draw conclusions from various comparisons.   In one of your reviews, it may have been a Mark and Daniel, you’d mentioned that the Winsome Mouse was very close and even hard to distinguish from the Nuforce amps.  It also appeared that the latest 5 channel Dared was at least the equal of the Mouse (in 2 channel mode?).  Then there was the Virtue amp that you liked that I guess was not delivered…but you favored.

The reason I’m asking is that I’ve toyed around with some of the cheaper (sonic t and trends) digital amps and quite like them, making me want to step up to the more costlier versions like the Nuforce or Audio Zone (I noticed one in your photos but don’t remember a reference).  So when I hear that something like the Nuforce is marginally (if any) better than the Winsome…it makes me wonder.  .  I hope this question isn’t too broad.

Also, as a side question, what were you using as a 5 channel preamp in those multi amp systems you were using, there don’t seem to be many out there?  I agree about sending the video straight to the screen, but haven’t found many 5 channels preamps out there.

Thanks very much, David, for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Murray Hutchins

Hello Murray,

You just threw the trickiest question at me. Did I made all those comments? The Winsome Labs was hard to distinguish from NuForce? That must be during one audition session with one particular CD. I clearly remember I reported the Mouse tripping on Orff's Cartulli Carmina driving Mark & Daniel Mini. And up till my recent Dared DV-6C review I reconfirmed that the Winsome Labs are not the perfect match for Mark & Daniel.

Seriously, keeping focus on the USP (unique selling point) of each affordable Tripath amp has been challenging but thanks to the individual designer's effort they all have reasonably clear-cut sonic characteristics that help consumers to make decision.

Let me clarify a few things. First, "can do" doesn't mean "do well". Yes, Virtue TWO can drive Apogee and Dynaudio. But NuForce Ref9 V2/V2 SE unleash the full potential of these speakers.  Winsome Labs Mouse can drive Mark & Daniel. But Symphonic Line RG-3/RG4 or Sim Audio Celeste W-4010 SE make them sing. I hope I didn't convey the wrong message that the more expensive amps are only marginally better otherwise I should have sold them all. Second, affordable Tripath amps do have that "wow" effect on us and without the luxury of bench test in a sound lab, I could only resort to some primitive torture tests to get a more objective reading. If I recall, all of these Tripath or chip amps (Virtue excluded) failed in the most extreme situations. Like I said, I never admitted the Winsome Labs Mouse to be perfect match for M&D speakers. But I did mention that their sonic characteristics (not power though) could be best described as the mini-NuForce. Even with Virtue, which can play all the notes right, there lies somewhere in the space between notes (as Joël puts it) something the more expensive amps can do so eloquently that the affordable amps can hardly match.

Bottom line is, affordable products are compromise but these affordable amps offers such exceptional price/performance value that the compromise becomes ignorable - especially with carefully matching speakers, the space between notes could be handsomely enriched. So my suggestion is start with the speaker you like and be guided by your budget. For my ears, I prefer KingRex with Klipsch F2 or F1.

There's no 5-channel preamp in my Winsome Labs+ M&D setup. I use the Restek Sector preamp for the front channels and a Recoton AV switch box to select the other 3-channel inputs (Oppo/Pioneer/desktop PC). In fact, I could make a S-video to RCA adapter to turn the Recoton into a 5-channel switch box.

Hope this helps.

David
Hello David,

Greetings from Alberta. To refresh your memory, I am the owner/op of audioboutique.ca in Southern Alberta who contacted you awhile back. I just got in some John Blue JB4 speakers to add to my growing lineup of single driver speakers.  I was so impressed with them that I sent Sacha Kuettel an Email of which I will quote a portion. I hope you pass these impressions on to Tommy Wu. I have been in audio for over thirty years and heard everything from soup to nuts, but I find the JB4 to be one of the best small speakers I have heard in this price range. I have yet to try them on my TL66 mono blocks, which I feel will take them to the next level. Concerning your "Second and Third Opinion" review I feel the speaker still got a bum rap. The listening room at Oscar the Wide's place was totally inappropriate for the JB4, way to big, on the long wall, and where they are positioned (in the picture at least) they don't have a chance at making bass. I realize a reviewer has a great challenge on his hands when reviewing a product, but he also has a responsibility to the readers to rightly represent a product.

Some of the reviewer's rooms I see the gear pictured in leave a lot to be desired and I also realize a reviewer cannot have an anechoic chamber either, but some effort needs to be made to match room to gear, and gear to gear along with appropriate room dimensions and treatment. While I was writing this email, I listened to the JB4s on my Decware SE84C+ 2w/ch SET with great results in the same room as mentioned to Sacha, but on the short wall. This speaker is easy to place: with flea and low powered tube amps and with low to medium powered chip or tri-path amps in smaller environments. When reviewing a product, a thousand tweaking options should not be mentioned, it will scare off the average audio buyer whom the likes of almost every manufacturer, distributor and dealer are trying to reach. Telling of all the tweaks will only reach the DIYers, tweakers, geeks, and cheapskates who will never buy from us, and will keep some of the best gear from getting into the hands of the average plug and play music lover.

Aside from pertinent images, a review should not cover more than two 8-1/2 x 11 pages with 12 point print. Attention spans are shorter than 50 years ago. Reviews should cut to the chase with only pertinent information and images. I realize the very nature of reviewing audio is subjective, but I feel every effort should be made to make a review as objective as possible. You are one of my favorite reviewers, so do not think I am putting you down but rather just offering constructive criticism not only to you but to your colleges also. I realize you were in a tricky situation when asked to do a "second review" on the JB4, but which is more important, covering a college's tail by doing a "beating around the bush" review or sitting down and doing a straight to the point "David Kan only" review using the most likely amp, the TL66 and being done with it? If Mr. Beudot gets his nose out of joint, too bad, at least the truth was served and a great product possibly redeemed from the "controversial" list.  

It's sad that the JB4 dwells in the shadow of the JB3. The JB3 is terrific in its own right, but the JB4 is in a completely different and superior class. I think part of the problem with both reviews was focusing on Tommy Wu's claim they were like the Rogers LS3/5a when that was not his claim at all according to the addendum at the end of Mr. Beudot's review. Listening to Tommy's products tells me he's got a very refined ear, and chances are both you and/or Mr. Beudot misunderstood the nature of Tommy's claim. Perhaps contacting Tommy for a clarification of his claim before publishing a review would have been more appropriate on Mr. Beudot's part rather than adding it as an addendum to a bad review.  

Best Regards,
Rob Martin   

Hello Rob,

Thank you for your comments and observations on JB4. I have passed them on to Tommy. His feedback: "Rob Martin is a true connoisseur of full range speakers. And he fully understands the design concept of the JB4. I'm very impressed." (Back translated from his Chinese message.)

I admire (and begin to share) your passion for JB4 and JB3. As the distributor/dealer of the products you represent, its your personal touch that makes your service unique. As reviewers, its our personal style. The difference is, you'd try to satisfy everybody and we couldn't even try. Your comment regarding attention spans is interesting. I should thank you for your patience knowing that the average length of my recent reviews is about 10 pages in 10-point print yet you rate me as one of your favorite reviewers. I'm glad that you're not alone. My recent Dared DV-6C review is 12-page long in 10-point print and one reader told me that he read and re-read the review and enjoyed it. He bought the amp, was very happy with it and most pleased with the extra information (including virtual surround from 2-channel input) I provided in the review that he could not find elsewhere. So I guess it's the content that matters. Another review of the same amp elsewhere doesn't even tell readers what power amp chips are used in the hybrid circuit. Easy to read? I suppose.

Regarding the "beating around the bush review", I never felt it that way. And I don't think you should if you could read that just one more time. (It's only 5-page long.) That particular review was a golden opportunity for me to try something new and I have never enjoyed a review so much. I could be wrong but it occurs to me that when you have your distributor/dealer hat on, you have less attention span than an average reader. You want the review to cut to the chase so that your potential buyers get the selling points instantly without even thinking. Well, I like my readers to do a bit of thinking.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write down all the constructive criticism. We could all use some from time to time. Don't worry about putting me down - it won't be that easy. At least I don't feel it that way:-)

Best regards,
David
The following exchange had the name of the correspondent and certain identifying details removed to instead serve as generalized explanations for an apparent misunderstanding regarding asking us to remove an article more than 15 months after publication:

Hi Srajan,
hope everything is well and you enjoy living at lac Leman. I am in the process of launching an evolutionary ... product and I would appreciate if you could pull the following page - xxxxx

Thank you and hope to see you soon, maybe at the Milan Show.
Sincerely.
xxxx /name withheld

Hello,
We don't pull pages. That's throwing away work we did. Why would I do that? I have more respect for my own time and efforts than that.

Srajan

Hello Srajan
thank you for your quick reply. Here is the relevant text concerning Datenschutz in Switzerland... Hope this helps. Feel free to keep a copy of your work on your hard drive. If any questions arise do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,
xxxx /name withheld

Interesting. You solicit me to your house to demonstrate your product and obtain publicity for it in our pages. I take the time to drive out, listen, write the article and publish it. Now well more than a year has passed. You have a new product. The old article apparently no longer suits you. You then invoke domestic law about publishing an evaluation which (very mysteriously) happened against your knowledge to legitimize your request. Hmm.

Our policy has always been and continues to be that post publication, all articles move into our archives like yours. This serves readers as future reference. We do not delete those articles. They don't have an expiration date. They are our property and make up our legacy. If you have new product to promote that 'overrides' the old one, the proper course of action is to submit a news page post or to solicit a review. Requesting that prior articles be deleted—no matter how politely asked—isn't proper. It is also grossly disrespectful of our (unpaid) time and efforts involved to write and publish such articles in the first place. I thus have to deny your request and similar ones other parties might make in the future. Truth be told, I had assumed this would have been patently obvious. Apparently not...

Srajan
Hi Srajan,

Greetings from Pakistan. Congratulations on doing a fantastic job. Just wanted to ask you to please review the Stradas driven by the iDecco because that is the combo I’m thinking of getting. My worry is that the iDecco won’t have enough oomph to work the Stradas so do please let your readers know what you think on that account.

Cheers,
Feisal Naqvi

That's the plan - two potential game changers together.

Srajan
Dear Srajan,

It's an impressive review. What you say represents 12 years of hard work, sacrifice and convictions. So, now I have understood that you wait for the Calliope.21 :-)

You will have to wait a little more because I am obliged to move the factory into another building where we have started to build a new workshop. I need two months and I have to stop speaker production during this time. I started to listen to the records I received and ordered from your list of Year's Favorites and it's exactly the kind of music I want to listen to at the moment!

Have a good week.
Best regards.
Samuel Furon