Your space to participate, comment & critique. Email [email protected].

For published correspondence April 2011 to September 2011, click here; December 2010 - April 2011 click here; June - December 2010, here; February - June 2010, here; September 2009 - February 2010 here; June - September 2009 here; January - June 2009 here; May 2008 - January 2009 here; December 2007 - May 2008 here; July - December 2007 here; February - July 2007 here; November 2006 - February 2007 here; June - November 2006 here; April - June 2006 here; February - April 2006 here; December 2005 - February 2006 here; September - December 2005 here; July - September 2005 here; April - July 2005 here; February - April 2005 here; December 2004 - February 2005 here; September - December 2004 here; August - September 2004 here; July - August 2004 here; February - July 2004 here; June 2003 - February 2004 here; June 2002 - June 2003 here.


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.


For negative consumer feedback on manufacturers—bad experiences actual owners wish to share to protect others from having similar bad experiences—click here.
Srajan,
Not sure about the accuracy of the SME-IV review results. Looking at the way the arm is mounted on a piece of bent(ish) ply does lead me to think that the telemetry may be off. I have never experienced results as Edward Barker suggests. If he felt the SME sample had dubious ball bearings then perhaps trying another sample from the manufacturer may have been the next step. If someone has a particular thing about Kondo wiring or silver wiring, it's a wiring issue not an engineering one. Who's to say that Kondo is better than say Richard Bews' LFD Black Widow for example? It's a minefield and best left alone. I have a Loricraft Garrard 401 with a small brass spacer to raise the arm by about 2/5ths of an inch. The arm is a 312S, this works perfectly as did the SME V and SME IV before that (on different arm boards and turntables). May I suggest that perhaps a follow-up review with a different sample may be a suitable way forward? Having said that, I do very much enjoy the normally high standards of the reviews.
Kind regards,
Paolo Soave

If this had been a review loaner, I agree that normal procedure would have asked for a second sample. In this case the reviewer had bought the piece for personal use, tried to make it work, then sold it at a loss so I'm afraid that particular chapter is closed.
Srajan
Marja & Henk,
I really appreciate your reviews of the Devialet D-Premier as they are quite helpful for a user of this multi-function beast. The AIR function works very well for me (Macbook Pro) including the new ADHOC function but I find the sound quality is significant better with S/PDIF connected to my antique Meridian CD player. One aspect of the Devialet which is not mentioned is the crossover function. I use it with pre-out to Kharma MP150 amplifiers driving the woofers. I understand that most user cannot use this function but an active cross over is so much better than passive like in most loudspeakers no matter how expensive their caps.
Thanks,
Jakob

Hi Jakob,
thank you for your mail. An interesting remark you make regarding the x-over function. Indeed we did not mention the D-Premier's capability of being an active x-over as well. The main reason is that we do not have a loudspeaker configuration at hand that can fully enjoy bi-amping and has the possibility to bypass any internal x-over. The amplifier section of the online configurator has setting for hi or low pass filtering from 10 - 2000Hz with a choice of 1st 2nd, 3rd or 4th order slopes. At the moment we are trying to get a grip on the weaker aspects of using WiFi and what to do about them. So far preliminary results point at the computer's operating system and especially that of laptops. The OS is simply too busy with all sorts of household chores to properly tend to the delicate task of music streaming.
/M&H
Srajan,
These new Ncore modules are quite interesting. The question for me is that they all have so much power. What about the guys who are running systems that are very efficient? 400 watts is way more than I will need especially as I'm considering tri-amping. Would love to hear your comments about excess power.
Best,
Everard Williams

My main amps are 10-watt monos so I hear you. We'll find out soon enough.
Srajan

We would like to add a little. Currently we are driving our 107dB sensitive Avantgarde Duo or our 100dB sensitive Arcadian Audio Pnoe with the beta/demo versions of the Ncore 1200 power amps. On paper that looks like instant overkill. In practice things just sound great. Admitted the 1200 wpc rating of the Ncore modules is only achieved loaded into 2 ohms. Both our speakers are rated at 16 ohms to reduce the output of the amps quite a bit. Still there's more than enough power to blow out all the windows. We all know how the first watt delivered makes or breaks a system especially with such very sensitive speakers attached. Only when needed, when a loudspeaker's impedance dips or when the music played requires all hands on deck, do parts of that reserve power come to the rescue. With Bruno's class D done right, excess power is not wasted like in class A design where it would dissipate huge amounts of heat. Here peak power is just there—in the bank as it were—and has no influence whatsoever. The Ncore modules do not exhibited an optimal zone and are fully operational and neutral from the first milliwatt unlike many other designs that only come to bloom when the source is delivering more input voltage. The most critical part is the quality of the preamp or direct source.
/M&H
Kia ora Srajan,
Delusional illusions. After reading the outstanding industry feature by David Kan I was left with a sense of unease and a feeling that my near forty years as a hard core audiophile have been no more than an illusion... Bugger! Please excuse the Kiwi vernacular.
Cheers
Eric Cross

You're not alone. But unlike David, I don't want more than two speakers in my living room -:)
Srajan
Srajan,
Hi. I look forward to your full review of the 'budget' $9K NC1200-based Atsah monoblocks from Acoustic Imagery. As you may or may not know I was one of the tour stops on the Audio Circle US tour (thanks to Jason Weissman) of the DIY NC400 monoblocks. Although a wonderfully full-bodied class D amp set for $2K or so, they did not unseat my Modwright KWA-150s due to, at a minimum, a slight paucity of dynamics, both macro and micro. The DIY community is beginning to try bridged mode and I’m keeping an eye on that feedback. Regardless, they set a new bar for Class D, and possibly for under-$5K amplification.

It is interesting to see that John’s prototype setup shows dual loudspeaker binding posts (bi-wire?) and the prerequisite balanced input yet his statement (to date) preamp is single-ended only, inputs and outputs.  Bruno’s Mola-Mola pre looks to be balanced (or configurable that way at least). I’d hate to spend $9K+ and not use the fully balanced technology to its fullest, let alone RCA-XLR adapters. I wonder if John has a new pre or variable-out balanced source coming.
Ted Brady
Hi Srajan,
I believe you've just crossed the 10-year mark with 6moons. Congratulations, and thanks for the insight, diligence, consistency, and well…good times. 6moons has brought many an audiophile a vista and perception not available to us till June of 2002…(not to mention its own playlist in my iTunes.)

I hope you enjoy putting it together as much as we enjoy and benefit from reading it.
All the best,
Fred Crane

Guilty as charged. Indeed, it's been one decade. And yes, I still very much enjoy putting it together. Writing is good practice for clearer thinking - even if it is only about audio -:)
Srajan
Marja & Henk,
May I ask, what are the stands your Duos are perched upon in the Kronzilla review?
Alan Trahern

Hi Alan,
of course you may ask. The stands the Duo sit on are in fact trolleys made of 3/4 inch plywood topped with a rubber mat with four 3-inch nylon casters each. In the middle of the trolley—measured diagonally—we drilled a 3mm hole as advised by Franck Tchang. This setup not only raises the Duo which has a beneficial effect on the sound in the listening position, it also makes it really easy to move the speakers around when other speakers are in for a review. As a matter of fact, o our Vaessen Aquarius speakers also sit on trolleys of the same construction. The hard nylon casters offer a very small contact area on the floor acting more or less like spikes.
M&H
Dear Marja and Henk,
I have been reading your reviews on different power cords, filters etc with great interest. The league in which you are playing regarding quality of components is vastly higher than where I am playing. However I hope you can find a moment to give some advice to my predicaments. I am hoping to improve my system by looking at the power part and have, mostly by reading and some listening in shops, narrowed it down to three contenders within my prize range and what I can purchase in the region I live: Shunyata Hydra 6; Isotek Aquarius; Lessloss DFPC Signature and the Furutech eTP-69 as distribution center. It is of course difficult to compare gear if not gathered under the same conditions. I probably would be able to borrow the Shunyata and Isotek, a bit more tricky with the Lossless cables that I would have to buy from Mr. Motek first. When looking at the boxes there is also the possibility to continue upgrading the cables (Evo3 Syncro or others). My initial thought is to buy a set of cables from SignalCable that seem to offer a good value and go from there. So I guess my question comes down to this: in your experience, can you say anything about the options I have mentioned? 

My current system: Audionet Sam v2, Sonus Faber Electra Amator 2, Lehmann Silver cube RIIA, Heybrook TT2 w Alphason opal arm and Benz Micro Ace L (turntable system to be upgraded), Arcam CD72 (to be upgraded), Audioquest interconnects and speaker cables, DAC is also on the list but that will come later.
A big thanks in advance, sincerely,
Andreas Nordström

Hi Andreas,
from your mail we think that you will get the most benefits in your system from a power conditioner like the Aquarius. Introducing new cables will be of less influence compared to a good conditioner. We noticed that clever separating of devices and distributing them over output zones of a conditioner—if necessary with the help of a simple passive distribution block like a Furutech—makes big differences. As you have an Isotek dealer in your area, he might help you with lending a Blue Horizon Noise Analyser. See the link for our experiences with that. We learned that inter-component electrical influences have the biggest impact ion a sound system.
Best regards,
M&H
Dear Srajan,
it's been a long wait to see an English review of a Bakoon amplifier but it's been worth it for what I feel is an accurate review of Nagai-san's wonderful designs. I have owned one of their kit amplifiers (image attached) since 2006, which is no longer made.  Having owned various Japanese and Korean SET and push-pull valve amps prior to that for over 20 years, I have never looked back. Gone were the frustrations, cost, lack of neutrality, tube rolling and fleeting joys afforded by valves! The transimpedance design follows along similar lines to sadly demised Yamamura-Churchill products (also used with horns in place of SETs), current production ESE Labs products from Slovenia and to a lesser extent Jeff Rowland's amplifiers. An earlier translation from the Japanese Bakoon website describes the SATRI circuit as follows: 

Conventional amplifiers circuits use devices such as transistors or vacuum tubes to amplify the incoming signal.  However, these types of circuits have major drawbacks to overcome.  The outgoing signal is distorted because the amplifying ratio is dependent on the level of the input signal.  Moreover, it lacks the wide bandwidth necessary for amplifying music.  Negative feedback was developed with the assumption that many of these problems could be overcome.  In this situation, the output signal is determined by a comparison with the input signal.  Ultimately, a time delay occurs in this process with a resulting time jitter.  In the digital domain, as with a DAC, this jitter is in the order of 100ps (Pico second), which is relatively inaudible.  However, in a conventional amplifier this jitter is longer, giving rise to non linear amplification, resulting in time jitter and audible distortion.  To hear the truth in the music, playback is required to overcome these problems.  The Satri circuit was developed to overcome such shortcomings inherent of conventional methods of amplifying.

Conventional wisdom may view the Satri circuit as a current amplifier; however, this is not true.  It functions by the output current itself changing the input signal voltage into current by using a resistance.  At this point in time, this current is not amplified at all.  Only if the resistance RL, which connects with the output, is bigger than the input resistance R, amplifying occurs.  This relationship can be expressed as A=RL/R.  However, Satri circuit itself does not have any relationships; it is the ratio of resistances, which is at the heart of the circuit. The Satri circuit, which was originally conceived in 1998, was developed into an IC chip to provide highly accurate signals is currently in its 4th version.  This circuit is able to present zero input impedance and infinite maximum output impedance, when an input resistance is connected to it.  This is referred to as a “Current input-output circuit”.


The kit amplifier gave me a taste for the Satri circuit and the sound you describe for the AMP-11R I would say is very similar. I did question the Japanese distributor as to why they weren't making a class A design and was told that Nagai-san preferred class AB.  Rudi Korosec's ESE Labs amp run in class A but I know that heat was a concern for him with this discrete design. For me I haven't found anything lacking in running class AB and indeed Bakoon's reference mono-blocks also run in AB.  Having heard these monoblocks, I can say they definitely do not lack in the bass, which you commented on for the AMP-11R and probably also true of the kit amp. The only other comment I can make is that the Bakoon amp has probably the most expansive soundstage in width, depth and especially height I have heard from any amp in living memory, including battery-powered 300B set monoblocks from Silbatone.

I hope the above gives some insight into the wonderful Bakoon products. I forgot to add, if you use the Satri link inputs with a matching transimpedance design such as the Bakoon or ESE Labs products, the resulting sound is in another league compared to the standard RCA inputs.
Kind regards,
Manoja Ranawake
Hello Srajan,
Not too sure about the car in the picture of the Zu Druid 5 preview being polar white. As a taxi it is more likely to be Elfenbein. That is the taxi color and as you will know, Elfenbein = ivory.
Greetings,
Joop van Gemert
Hi Srajan
I hope you enjoy the Bakoon amp and it is nice that a review is being done. I enjoyed your introduction and history lesson. The one thing that caught my eye was that he rejected tubes? Anyway, I have the Bakoon 5513 35wpc class A and their Bakoon DAC 2000 with Audio gd CD player. These run my Tannoy Canterbury SE very nicely. I also play a lot of vinyl, Rega P9, Ios and Apheta and that is magical. The Bakoon products are well worth a listen and hopefully I can work my way up their line but at the moment I am grinning from ear to ear.
Cheers
Lance Dixon  (always enjoy reading your columns)
Hi Srajan,
I thought I should follow up regarding the Audiophilleo2. It just arrived about a week ago. First of all thanks so much for the time you took to make this recommendation. Second, the more I listen the more I'm convinced that this is the most dramatic source upgrade to my system ever against some admittedly humble sources. Best before was the Marantz CD63se, followed by Airfoil capture of Pure D Music capture of iTunes from my iMac connecting via WiFi to Airport Express to dac, followed by straight iTunes from iMac to Airport Express via WiFi to dac. Just listening to 'Graceland', 'I'll Fly Away' and now 'King of Pain' = each one is a revelation of stuff I simply had not heard before and rhythm, pace and detail without edge that just continue to blow me away.
Thanks again,
Roman Zak
Hi Srajan,
FYI: Valentina Lisitsa wrote back to me on Facebook: By the way, it was 6moons article called "Garrard 301 restoration project" that made me buy one :) 

And I thought serious musicians never listen to hi-fi...
David Kan
Dear Glen,
as Joel says, comparative benchmarking is an issue: your reviews don't seem to address the questions of buffering and memory play/ capacity nor the integer mode capability of the W4S which are important to isolate the bitstream to the DAC from interference through hard disk I/O or floating point processing by the CPU. Equally there is no reference to a polarity inversion feature, which is important for true audiophile use. To me the only real way to determine whether there is a benefit from the W4S compared to a fully optimised Pc or Mac based server is really to run both into a common dac by whatever preferred connection. Both your reviews don't address that very basic issue and hence leave the reader none the wiser on whether this is audiophile progress or just clever packaging. A fully tricked out mac mini with a 2 tb hard disc comes substantially cheaper than the W4S even allowing for a backup hard disk, the crucial availability of which remains unclear for a W4S.

Again, I am a great fan of 6moons but would suggest that the server issues require further systematic exploration.
All the best
Norbert Reis

Hello Norbert,
From the moment I read the words "Sent from my iPad" underneath your name, I realized that you had already made my case. Can a fully tricked out Mac or PC do what the the Wyred does? Of course. If any of these choices are executed properly that must be the case. But, a fully tricked out Mac or PC can also do what a PVR does, yet most people do not employ it for that purpose. The game here isn't just technology, even though there is a good bit of sophistication under the hood. Wyred has simplified the process, just as a PVR does. If you look at ergonomics, things certainly favour the Wyred. Connectivity. More choices. If you're going to attempt that with the PC or Mac, you must accept limited capability or employ an outboard interface to equalize the playing field. And that means higher cost. Size? Only the Mac Mini is going to compete and without the benefit of comparable connectivity (even factoring in the plus of Mac's firewire output since its popularity in DAC use has diminished). Again that requires the addition of an outboard interface for most DACs. Also the Mac Mini is a full-featured Mac rather than a dedicated audio product. The Wyred is a simple device, dedicated to single function. Less software in the way, even than the Mac.

Technical questions? I have no capability to do measurements,so can't address that. Basics? The core software has less baggage than either Mac or Windows so is going to require less resources. The hardware should have no difficulty handling audio information and showed no problems in practice. Output comparison? I initially tested the DAC2 with the optical and coax outputs of the AudioSpace CD player as a reference. When I went to the Wyred Music Server as source, the character of those two inputs followed. Therefore the Wyred was not making any obvious contributions. The USB could not be compared because the DAC2 is not Linux compatible. That left only laptop USB comparison against Wyred's other inputs. Wyred's own software drivers were used and the laptop was configured via two different software add-ons for the Winamp player to allow the digital output to bypass software and hardware impediments as much as possible. The output was quite clean but amounted only to a test of the DAC's sonic capability specific to the laptop USB out. It was therefore a relative rather than direct assessment of character against those of the other server outs.

Clever packaging? You bet. User friendly plus it works as advertised - simply. As I said in the beginning, those words "Sent from my iPad" show that you already understand that concept and have embraced it.
Best wishes,
Glen

Clint from Wyred4Sound responds: First in regards to integer mode, that is related to the Mac OS and an effort to eliminate floating the additional bits needed to accommodate the output of multiple applications through a single device or hardware. It is a clever workaround to inherent audiophile issues with OSX audio playback. On our server the player moves data to a kernel space driver and the driver communicates directly to the dac. There is not need for any workaround. Now for memory play. The server has been optimized for proper memory playback as required by the audio player software. Although we understand that other operating systems may benefit from increased buffering and/or 100 buffering we have not noticed improvements in sound. Understand that our server is based on very refined Linux software with audiophile playback in mind and as such does not have the usual CPU and RAM loads associated with other operating systems. As for polarity inversion, our DAC-2, preamp and STI all have that feature. 

The whole idea of comparing a 'tricked-out' computer to the server is pretty vague. For instance, how tricked out are you supposed to go? Our MS is designed for music playback and doesn't do anything else. The server provides an out of the box solution at the highest quality level - as is. Someone can tweak their computer away and compare the cost at the end of the day and they are still two different machines ultimately developed for two different purposes. Regarding the need for 8GB of memory, the system already buffers the content to RAM adequately for playback. Their understanding of how much RAM is required based on a significantly larger operating system has no place in this discussion. It's like saying my Ferrari needs 91 octane so your Prius must need it too. That said, we don't discuss the hardware features because we are not selling computers. We are selling a music server. Here the concept of full memory play and integer mode are irrelevant to our product. 
Joël,
I am not sure what a comparison of a bog-standard iMac (supposedly iTunes based) with a 10 year old Jadis CDplayer and the W4S server is supposed to tell me. Surely the standard of computer-based replay involves using state of the art software such as Puremusic or Audirvana set up in optimal performance (i.e. hog mode, memory preallocation, integer mode with all other applications disabled). If the W4S cannot do better than a standard iMac on iTunes it should be decried as a failure. May I suggest that 6moons, which is otherwise generally very much on the ball, tighten its standards for comparative benchmarking?
All the best
Norbert Reis

Dear Norbert,
Comparative benchmarking is an obvious issue. A second review from Glen should publish today and I hope you will find it more helpful than mine. My iMac is equipped with Amarra that embeds itself de facto in iTunes. From what I could observe, iTunes deliver equal sonics when the sampling rate set in AudioMIDI mirrors the track played.  Amarra has the advantage of auto switching sampling rates and I'm fine with that. The same configuration is installed on my Macbook with Amarra mini, enough RAM and Fidelia Advanced that works quite well. I did not consider Pure Music as the results with Amarra give me complete satisfaction and my few tests with Pure Music were quite close or slightly inferior to Fidelia. I should also explain that both iMac and Macbook when used for reviews are completely dedicated to audio tasks and not connected to the local network.

I also observed the importance of OS X and Lion has noticeably improved memory resource management. Each time the W4S server did better than my two computer-based sources. I would not really qualify this as "a failure". Relative to a 10-years old Jadis CD drive, I can only trust my ears. I would like to get different results but this drive remains a very indecent performer despite its age. Finally, this review was a difficult exercise as I had to make it short enough to allow room for Glen's second opinion. Despite potential scope for investigation being very large indeed, sometimes you need to focus on specific details related to your own experience and bypass other interesting ones. One of the most interesting benchmarks in my opinion remains the Squeezebox Touch as they share part of the same DNA.
Kind regards.
Joël
Srajan,
I wrote some time ago thanking you for all that you do. Yours are two of the very few audio reviewer's ears I trust and your writing continues to be nonpareil. It's very much appreciated. In terms of your equipment reviews, I love that you continue to do head-to-head comparisons in an attempt to truly tease out the differences and relative value of products in the same market segment. Your recent USB cable comparison was illuminating and I'm quite looking forward to your impressions of the Burson Audio Soloist, Linnenberg Audio u:c:a and HiFiMan EF6.

On that note, might I humbly suggest another product comparison that might be of interest to your readers? I assume you plan to review the latest version of the Rethm Saadhana (I can't wait for that one), and when you do I think a fascinating and worthwhile comparison would be two other speakers of markedly different design which, in my > opinion, are likely at the forefront of the current widebander-based crop at least around a similar price point: the latest version of the Teresonic Ingenium with the DX4 Lowther drivers and the recently-released field-coil Lafite from Shindo Labs. The Ingenium with the DX4 drivers (the single best Lowther-based implementation I've heard) runs right around $15,000 a pair and the Lafite around $20,000 or so. Considering that the new Saadhana should retail around the $15,000 mark, you would have three widebander-based systems of distinctly different design at a similar price point, that I think would provide a fascinating contrast to each other.

Whether you decide to take my suggestion and run with it or not, again I just wanted to say thanks and keep the illumination coming.
Dan Freeman

I will always do comparisons against what happens to be on hand. But that's the proviso. I don't try to organize for planned comparisons. So often stuff arrives far later than promised that if I attempted to do this, certain product would get held hostage just waiting for the late arrivals. Plus particularly with speakers I simply don't have the raw space to have a bunch of them sit around awaiting their turn during a shoot-out. With the USB cables it was easy. With the headfi amps it was pure happenstance. And the latter seems to be my default MO. I'm so busy just keeping up with manufacturer solicitations that I rarely do solicits from my end. So whatever arrives gets here when it does and then I mix it up with whatever else might arrive or be part of my regular inventory. It's more improvisation than reading from a carefully mapped score -:)
Srajan
Srajan,
Just a quick thank you for your reviews and site. I'm a simple guy looking for the "perfect" affordable system and it has turned into a small mission. It's actually fun although frustrating at times (I should have never gone back to SS, tubes are soooooooooo good to my ears).
Much appreciatively,
Tom Mitchell
Great great work on the Sit 1 review. This is what we pay good money for. Except it's free.
Michele Surdi
Srajan,
I just finished your SIT1 review. Holy Poop! What an amazing adventure and outcome. Now it's my job to recreate that experience with headphones as they are by far my preferred method of drug abuse! Again, what an amazing written work. I think I go read it again.
Kevin James Pope
Great review on the SIT1. I hope Nelson sells many of these gems to start recouping his sizable investment. Maybe other variations with mo power & etc. are just over the horizon.
D. Ellis
Dear Marja,
I am a follower of 6moons and so far more often than not it's been of good use to me. I am currently looking for some EMI harvester products to lower the noise floor of my system. It was with this intention that I went through your and > Srajan's review of the Lossless Blackbody. Your positive review didn't make me go for it for two reasons. First relative to similar products it is very pricey (now increased to somewhere around 1.300) and second I found the following side note that was very much in line with what I had in mind.

"... we do not yet have hands-on experience with the Shakti devices. To put the Blackbody into proper perspective, we are endeavouring to procure some Stones for a head-on comparison." Since then I have been waiting for this comparison to turn up and in the meantime I see both in your and Srajan's reviews that neither of you is using Blackbodies and on top of this you are using Shakti stones now but there is no update for your readers. I think many like myself follow reviews to learn and not for the purpose of audio pornography. Hence I believe if you think in the same direction, you are supposed to report back and share your experience with your readers and keep them updated.
Sincerely
Mehrdad Golabgir

Hi Mehrdad,
thank you for your e-mail. We're sorry you missed the comparison review of ASI, Shakti and LessLoss products which was published in November 2010 already. Here's the link for your convenience. The 6moons site has an extensive archive/library of all published reviews and is well organized. You can search by subject, writer, time frame and alphabet. We hope the 3tweaks piece is useful reading for you,
M&H

Dear Marja
I appreciate your quick reply. It absolutely was to the point. Sorry I had missed it.
Thank you,
Mehrdad
Hi Srajan:
Despite the fact that you have published a few letters recently, I’ve always wondered why you don’t publish more?  Is it because you just don’t get that many or do they have a lower priority than news items, reviews etc.? Personally I like reading them. I feel they provide a good measure of what audiophiles are thinking, not just from the USA but worldwide. Speaking of recent letters, I have to disagree with your response to Jussi Arvio from Finland. Jussi asked if you could include more universal pricing information with syndicated articles (reviews). I would take it a step further and ask for more universal pricing information for all reviews. Your response was to mention the availability of online currency converters. I’m sure most of your readers use them but think about this for a moment.

Let’s say 1000 people read a review and have to convert the published price to the currency of their choice.  This versus you doing it once for everyone. Not only would this save time for your readers but effectively would make your website that much 'greener'. I’m sure most of your readers would just like to know the relative cost of a component. It wouldn’t matter if the price was given in US dollars, GB pounds or Euros. I would bet most readers can do those exchange calculations in their heads.  As to your issue that prices vary from country to country, that’s where the word relative comes into play.

Now that I have complained about your response to a letter, I would like to counterbalance that by giving you credit for publishing one. Actually, a series of them. I’m referring to the e-mail exchanges between J.M. Neuman and your writers Marja and Hank. Not only did you publish them but I assume you published them in full. At the end of his/her last e-mail and referring to the €12.000 Devialet, J.M. Neuman writes, “Even as a preamp it doesn’t work. They have managed to transform an interesting project into one more big lie in this disgusting industry.” That’s priceless!
Gerry Engoron

We don't get that many letters to publish. Those with questions too specific where answers only apply to one person I tend to not publish. I take this correspondence level to mean that our reviews in general answer the types of questions one can reasonably expect of them already. Our readers clearly understand that anything else falls into their lap. With our content already free of charge, I don't have an issue with leaving some work for our readers to do (such as hitting a currency converter). But we're clearly not everything to all people, just one resource amongst many. So I draw a line somewhere.
Srajan
Hi Srajan,
I just wanted to comment on the global nature of your magazine.  As a reader I feel a great advantage of your rather widely dispersed coverage. There are a number of components whose technology have been of interest that I would likely have never come across save for your wide net.  Having reviewers from Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, the US (am I leaving anyone out?) gives a great swath of what's available. Your balance of countries of origin, whether intentional or not, also seems to give a nice balanced accounting of opportunities the world over.
Cheers from Boston,
Fred Crane

In Europe we've got Germany, Poland, Holland and France. That's a nice start. Seriously though, I'm very happy how this worked out. I love music from all over the world. I feel like a global citizen rather than solidly attached to one specific nationality. It's fitting that our coverage should reflect it. Of course it didn't quite start out that way. But over time it expanded. Now it's nearly where I'd hoped we'd get to. There are still white spots on our hifi map—Russia, Africa, and the deep Japanese underground come to mind—but eventually we'll hopefully break into those markets as well. I'm very happy that companies from all over the world seem to feel comfortable working with us so our readers benefit. If I think on where products came from we've covered, there's Japan, China, Taiwan, India, Korea, Vietnam, Poland, Lithuania, most of Europe (nothing from Portugal yet I think), the US, Canada, Brazil and Australia. Let's see what the rest of the year will be like.
Srajan
Hi,
I was reading your review of both the Devialet and Tron amplifier and wonder if you could expand the comparison to me a little ? I'm interested in the Devialet no so much for its looks and convenience but for its sonic attributes. Of course the advantage of having it all in one small box cannot be ignored. I want to buy a new system amp/pre/dac for my Hørning speakers and was indeed thinking of Tron amplification and a Metrum dac. The Trons are very expensive so I need to be sure I'm going in the right direction here. I paused with your review of the Devialet and the other stuff I've been reading and hearing about it. I wish I could have both systems in my house for comparison but it's not possible. It's certain both systems will sound different and different here might not be a matter of better or worse but what would be your preference? I listen to classical music, mostly orchestral, and I'm an amateur pianist. So I look for musicality or realism in terms of tone, dynamics, bass control and clean treble. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks,
J.M. Neuman

Hi,
it is very hard to compare Tron and Devialet as they are completely different. It is not even apples and pears. With the Devialet you know what you get and that won't change over time. The French system only sees bits until the end. There's no influences of cables, additional power supplies, aging of tubes and what not. Under normal conditions the sound will not change over time. As with the roughly 4 times more expensive Tron you only get a power amp. Next to a source which you'll need anyway, you need a DAC and a preamp and maybe even a phono stage. All these need cables and thus add a certain sound to the whole. That means careful tweaking, trying and more to get to a system to your liking. That will no doubt be a process that consumes time and money. The convenience of the D-Premier is that there is no room for additional tweaking. For the price of the French offering you will not get the same quality from separate component. For us that is a fact. Soundwise the Tron with a good set of source equipment is in a different league. Compare it roughly to a Yamaha concert or Steinway Grand D. 
/M&H

The weak point about this Devialet is the amplifier. It seems that as a preamp to a better amp like the Tron would be the best of both worlds. I'm very interested in its vinyl possibilities. Have you tried the phono stage?

We don't agree with you here. All components of the D-Premier are of equal and matching quality. The phono stage is highly configurable and can be matched to a T with the cartridge and we use it often with our Feickert/Zu TT.
/M&H

I have listened to it in my system last week. What a waste of time. Never heard such a sterile and uninteresting sound from a component so expensive. That's right, it's very quiet, no noise, a very "clean" sound,and that seems to have been the main or only goal here. Even as a preamp it doesn't work. They have managed to transform an interesting project into one more big lie in this disgusting industry.  
J.M. Neuman
Greetings Wojtek.
As a reviewer myself I do respect other articles very much. But could these syndicated articles have more universal pricing information principles? I do understand the use of Polish currency at a local printed/web magazines but not so on a large-scale (european targeted) website as is the case with 6moons. Euros in the case would be the proper currency.
Keep coming those interesting reviews!
Best Regards,
Jussi Arvio, Finland

Dear Jussi,
thank you for your comments. I understand your point of view but in this case it is really difficult for me to show prices in euros. My reviews are reissued from the Polish High Fidelity magazine. In HF we review mostly gear with distribution in Poland, hence prices are in PLN (Polish Zloty). Gear is delivered by Polish distributors and they have their own pricing policy. That is why I state in every review—and have for a long time—"price in Poland". The currencies are changing really fast and I am unable to follow them. Plus different countries have different VAT and import tariffs. I am sure you understand. Plus the euro is not the common currency for all of Europe, never mind the world. I think the best option is to quote these prices in Polish currency only. Thank you for your kind comment and I hope you'll enjoy my reviews despite 'PLN'.
Best regards
Wojtek Pacula

Publisher's comment: Since reading our reviews implies being online already, a quick google for one of many online currency converters will net the equivalent of zloties in any major currency in seconds to gain a rough idea (which obviously is no guarantee for being the exact amount your country's importer and dealer network must decide to sell said component for). As for being European targeted, that's perhaps more assumption than fact. I ran 6moons out of the US for the first 5 years, then out of Cyprus and now out of Switzerland. Given a global audience and international product mix, I view us more as a global magazine whose publisher happens to currently reside in Europe whereas many of the contributing writers live elsewhere. I don't equate wherever I happen to live at the moment with focusing our coverage on that country or region...
Srajan Ebaen
Hello Mr. Kan,
First of all I must apologize for my English. Anyway I could not resist to write a few words after reading the 6moons review of your rediscovery of B&O products. I'm a French professional harpsichordist, organist and reviewer for the musical newspaper Diapason. I rediscovered as you did the B&O products of the 70s and despite the bad reputation of the brand among serious listeners ( Bose like etc) I must admit that the clever blend of design, ease of use and innovative solutions are strongly linked with the Apple philosophy 40 years earlier. I'm very sensitive as your are to the strong history of design in Germany, Denmark and Sweden. I've gathered a lot of these items since 1998 in flea markets and service stations and am always thrilled about the fixing process of these beautiful Jensen products. The simple Beolits are marvels to listen to. I've composed different systems with the 4000 Series turntables and their very good Ortofon-inspired cartridges. Modern interconnects and some isolation devices make them very impressive turntables working well with the tangential principle. For serious listening I use modern amplifiers, 125 and 126 Thorens/SME classic turntables and loudspeakers which are other landmarks of the past, AR 3A and LST thoroughly restored (rewiring, caps etc). I know that new products have certainly impressive characteristics but these old and primitive technologies have a lot to offer in the musical field.
Best regards,
Philippe Ramin

Hello Philippe,
I am glad too to discover that there is at least one other crossover audio enthusiast who appreciates the finer design done so right 40 years ago. I am also glad that you write for Diapason, the well-respected music magazine that I've heard so much of but never was able to read because of my lack of French.
Best regards,
David Kan
What happened to the planned review of Thrax? I saw an announcement but now it is gone. There also was an earlier announcement about Audioaéro that got pulled. What happened to those reviews? I was really looking forward to them.
Brent Novak

My reviewers encountered some technical issues with the Thrax review loaners and returned them to the distributor without ever starting the assignment. Audioaéro couldn't deliver a sample in the promised time frame so the announcement was taken down.
Srajan
Hi Srajan,
I saw your review of the Ardán Audio EVP-M1 and was impressed by them. While I have tried various stand solutions for a desktop system, I've never been thrilled by any of them. Certainly I've never come across a stand set that was flexible enough to work with a variety of monitors (so as to be usable if and when I upgrade or change speakers). So, these seem great and the price does not scare me off.  I do have 2 questions that I hope you can answer:
1 - Given the extensive number of products they have in the pipeline, is there anything you see coming from them that looks more impressive than this model?  I'd just hate to buy these and then see some models from them later that go a step beyond what these offer for not much more money. So is this model the top end offering for their desktop line?
2 - Since they are so adjustable, is it easy to ensure that both stands are angled the same way? I'm thinking here about tilt specifically as that is something that you would likely want to be the same on both speakers.

Thank you for your help and keep up the good work on the site!
Jeff Chiusano

The new models will essentially mount this desk-top stand atop height-adjustable pylons with novel floor interfaces to expand the concept from the table top to the living room floor. There will be a cheaper desk-top version but the one I reviewed is and will remain the top effort for that application. And yes, the tilt control (gear-driven so you can do it with the speakers playing) allows repeatable steps visualized by scale markers so left/right setup (and changes) are a breeze. This truly is a thought-through product A to Z.
Srajan
Hi Srajan,
Thanks for the great online read, I appreciate your unique approach to reviewing equipment and the stunning look and feel of your website. I must however mention that I think you missed the boat with your reviewing methodology on the QAT server and that therefore your conclusion that there was little or no difference in audio quality between it and your Mac-based server is seriously open to question. I don’t doubt for a moment you heard what you reported, but given that one of the aims of the custom server is to reduce electrical noise via the reduction of unnecessary computer processes and the replacement of switching supplies with linear and other techniques; running a test by switching between the server and a noisy computer with screen and maybe other peripherals in the same system is undermining any advantage the server might have. Computers are notorious polluters of the mains supply just for starters, so the Mac may well be dirtying the pool from which the QAT is drawing its mains supply. Factor in a possible coupling via radiation and audio grounds and there are a few uncontrolled variables at play.

I feel exactly the same way as you about wireless by the way!
Regards,
Rob Ferguson

Hello Rob,
it's always possible to lose the plot particularly with a component category one is new to. That said, there's theory and ideals and there's the real world and practice. The QAT relies on a wifi network and Internet router to operate. The latter already tells us there are computers in the house. Why else would one have a router in the first place? And regardless of whether computers are used for music or work, they'll be on the same power distribution network of the house or flat unless you have a truly dedicated mains spur with its own ground for hifi (which if you rent and not own is extremely unlikely). In the real world, a kid or wife might be working on the computer while you're listening to music. So you get whatever power conditioning on your hifi you feel is effective. That's about as far as normal people will go. To me that's an entirely reasonable condition and it duplicates what I have.

Apple's system monitor utility shows how the iMac running just iTunes and Audirvana creates a super minimal load on OSX. I don't run any active peripherals on it nor any other programs while I listen. Audirvana is additionally set to defeat certain background processes whilst playback is from RAM. So the iMac is a dedicated music computer doing nothing but music and it is sitting on its own outlet whilst the hifi front end has its dedicated powerline conditioner.

In theory and an ideal world, I completely agree that a dedicated music server like the QAT should be superior. Without that superiority the audiophile server has no rationale to exist. My point was to investigate what happens in the real world. To my surprise any theoretical advantages were eradicated. To my mind the QAT in this review wasn't unfairly disadvantaged. It plugged into the same powerline conditioner as the preamp and my usual converter. If the QAT was truly superior to my iMac/D1 combo, I expected it to dominate under those—considered but admittedly real-world—conditions. It didn't. Hence I concluded what I did.
Srajan
Hi:
I just tried out the Record Revirginizer and got very good results. I would like to recommend it for a possible review. I used it on a fairly beat-up copy of Houses of the Holy I got on eBay. I had cleaned the disc on my VPI but it still had clicks and pops during play. After an application of the Revirginizer (kind of like a facial mask for discs) the record sounded much smoother and quieter. I'm not connected to the company at all. I just would like to see a good product get some more attention.
Thank you.
Stephen Greer
Srajan,
This is what I wrote to Nelson about his FirstWatt M2 amplifier:
Mr Pass,
Thank you so much for making such a fabulous amplifier. I recently upgraded my cartridge and am now fully appreciating just how good it is. Tube sound without the troubles (and steady degradation) is a perfect solution. I'm going through and rediscovering my record collection again. Genius might be too strong a word but in this case I believe it to be fitting. In gratitude, Chris Mercurio


A really good SET, one that has an output transformer that costs as much as the M2 cost me, outdoes the FirstWatt in the midrange by a very small margin but not at the extremes. And to get something with similar power and that quality of output transformer (211, 845, GM70) means you're talking major size and dollars. It's a phenomenal amp and not just for the money. Period. I check your site about 5 days a week to read the latest. I truly enjoy it.
Thank you,
Chris

Now you understand why I haven't listened to valve amps in any serious fashion in a long time. From the F5 to the J2 to the SIT2 loaner (and soon my personal pair of SIT1), it's been one continuous and continuously deepening immersion into truly polished transistor sound with much overlap with the SET aesthetic and many improvements. I'd agree that something in the midrange remains different with tubes and with simple music that tends to be very attractive. But once things get complex, I'd rather have the transistors. To that add their bandwidth, quietude, bass control, treble purity and higher magnification power (here the SIT is a demon). For $4.000 to $5.000 you can acquire an amp which to approximate with valves would cost a lot more. For that extra cashish you get tube troubles, slowly degrading performance, an inferior noise floor, more pronounced speaker interactions and the lot. Why bother? So I'm with you on that. Tubes in a preamp? Now there I'm still hooked.
Srajan
Srajan,
I greatly appreciated the thoughtful review of the First Sound Presence Deluxe Mk III. Having tried a large number of both active and passive preamps, I have been drawn to the passives as their simplicity leads to purity if they are of excellent execution. However, source components struggle with the load of driving amps, even with high input impedance tube amps, and that is where the First Sound gear shines. It combines fanatic attention to the smallest details of construction and the absolute minimum number of elements in the signal path, with power supplies bigger than most monster amps. Chris Redmond very  poetically captured the result in his description of subtle harmonic details lost in even the best passives (of which I am still very fond). The comparison has been even more stark when I have compared active preamps from other top tier manufacturers whose excellent but intricate designs lose a tiny bit of detail with each circuit element added. 

Thanks for doing such thorough and thoughtful work!
Brian Sherlock
Amarra vs. PureMusic. Not taking their price into account, which software do you think sounds better overall? I think the major difference is that the former does not have upsample feature during actual playback while the latter does. But Amarra can upsample the native resolution of a file permanently into a new file. Plus it has some decent EQs. Many people seem to say that Amarra is superior but I'm not sure if people are just saying that because Amarra is more expensive. The PureMusic website even did a comparison of the two players and from that data sheet the Pure Music obviously seems superior in almost every aspect. Amarra has won Stereophile's annual award as the best player of 2011. So simply put, which is the better player? And if Amarra is indeed the better one, do you think it justifies its price over Pure Music?
Andrew Roman

I have both players and Audirvana. They all sound different but the differences are small. I dislike the Amarra interface the most. Both PM and Audirvana can play back DSD files.
Srajan

SACD in computer file format? Now that's something new. I read your preview thoroughly but I think I'm still missing some pictures around here. Mind if I ask a couple more questions? Is it possible to rip the SACD layer of my hybrid SACDs at home into these DSD files through certain means? Is a typical DSD (SACD) file even more hi-rez than 196/24? I confirmed with my DAC manufacturer that my DAC is not capable of streaming native DSD. Does it mean I cannot listen to these files through my DAC at all or can they be converted into PCM via Pure Music? 4) If the latter is indeed possible, converting DSD into PCM (for most DAC's like mine that doesn't support native DSD streaming), how much is the resolution - that is, the sampling rate in bit/kHz - of the output PCM signal? Because my DAC can do up to 96/24 via USB but not 192/24. 5) Given everything, is purchasing DSD files and converting them to PCM provide better sound quality than listening to hi-rez files - 96/24 and 196/24 - in their native format?
Andrew Roman

A lot of this is actually explained in the preview already. DSD files arrive packaged as 24/176 PCM. By definition this implies that 24/192 PCM carries even higher data density (and DXD as 24/352 is higher still). If your DAC can't lock to DSD over USB, such files won't play back and only produce low-level noise. You can only rip an SACD with Sony's PlayStation 3 (and you'll need advanced computer know-how to then turn those images into files). Before you worry about max resolution, I would investigate whether the current catalogue of DSD files contains enough titles you're interested in. Labels like 2L offer DSD files and 24/352, 24/192 and 24/96 PCM equivalents. Software players will downsample files whose sampling frequency exceeds that of your DAC while machines from Antelope Audio and M2Tech can already process 24/384 at native resolution to handle files above DSD. And DSD sounds different from PCM. Morton at 2L who knows his microphone feeds feels that high-resolution PCM is truer to them than DSD. I'm still new to dff files so I'll report what I learn as I go along.
Srajan
Hello Srajan,
First of all let me thank you hours of entertaining reading, solid argumentation and refined taste. Those are, at least in my experience, qualities seldom found in hifi reviews or reviews in general. Let me continue by apologizing for the totally selfish reason for writing to you and for not even knowing if it's alright to do so, with topics or dilemmas such as mine. Nevertheless, I took the chance.

I write to you because I have been hooked up reading your reviews related to ALO Audio and Ken Ball's 32Ohm store in Portland, Oregon. Along with my late discovery of the advantages of computer-based audio, your reviews have turned me into a potential head-fier. I recently sold the CD player in my rig and got a Wyred4Sound DAC 2, and I am now using my Macmini and Decibel player as source. I can't tell you how much my collection and life has changed since then. It's the kid with a new toy story all over again and I'm enjoying it like crazy. I can also say that your review and recommendation of the DAC 2 helped me towards this great choice. 

Until now I had never considered investing in headphones or in any headphone-related gear but your well-argued and passionate reviews got me more than just curious. I decided to spend the rest I got for my CD player and get a couple of cans with a decent amp and a DAC, but going the more modest way. I have already decided on the headphones, the AKG K702s with ALO Audio's SXC 22awg cable, but not so when it comes to the amp/DAC combo.

As far as I have read, the best amp to drive the current-hungry AKGs is the Burson HA-160. I have ruled out the HA-160D and the newer DS because of the quality of their DACs and decided to go for Centrance because of what they represent in the whole DAC business. I thus thought of pairing the Dacport LX and the Burson, using their Reserve Series RCA interconnect cable,and take advantage of their great DAC technology. The other option is to simply go for the fabulously well-built Centrance Dacmini (that would certainly look the part at the side of my Macmini) and get all in one. However the Dacmini is not the name that usually comes up when the K702s are mentioned, but I suspect the Burson has also been around for a longer time. I guess it all boils down to the distinctive sound signature of the Burson and the Dacmini (which offer Mods that can certainly change that, such as the 1Ohm output modification, and the Gain of 10 modification for  higher impedance headphones), and the possible synergies the two combinations can offer.

Since I have no possible chance to get to listen to any of the these components at the nearest hifi dealer, let alone to any of the combinations, I though the best man to ask would be someone who has not only reviewed all the products, but regularly listens to top headphones and has shown genuine interest for these products. The other reason is that I started reading your Global Caravan column at Enjoy the Music because almost all your reviews happen to be about CDs that I have on my shelf. That's how I got to 6moons in the first place and I thought that can't just be a simple coincidence.  

Again, I hope not to have committed a mere impertinence and gotten you to roll your eyes at the other end of the cyberspace. If so, still receive my greatest appreciation for your beautiful and certainly enviable labor, passion and good taste as well as warm greetings from Lima, Peru.

Sincerely,
Camilo Rodriguez

I think the Centrance DAC/Burson amp combo will work very nicely, with the DAC majoring on very high resolution and clarity and the amp providing muscle, density and tone. How the Centrance would work driving the AKGs directly I simply don't know. My thing about the K702 has always been the need to move them from very competent but a bit boring to real close to the upper-crust expensive stuff. I'm sure there are many amps that'd do the job. I know the Burson as one of them since I've got it here. There I feel confident to make a personal recommendation. And again, the Centrance DAC in front seems a spot-on idea as it will add a sense of speed and top-end energy.
Srajan
Srajan,
I just wanted to say how great I think the stop sign is on your site. Customer service is an important part of doing business, and not screwing people out of their hard earned money. Nice job.
Mike Cullinan
Dear Srajan,
I read all of your reviews for their context, coverage and your personal writing style. However that’s only half the reason I visit 6moons. Truthfully the other half is because I can’t get enough pictures of your home. Don’t take that as creepy, just keep reading. The style, the feeling, the emotional character it poses I find so striking. I found one of your older “Industry Features” where you discuss this practice a little, how Feng Shui and your wife's talents in its practice greatly influence your home aesthetic. Taking that article to heart I bought and read the three books she recommended and put into practice everything I learned. Save for painting the walls (my parents won’t let me but I’m moving out in a month so that will solve that) I’ve made my room a much better, happier, calming, restorative and intoxicating environment for me. Even my life-long best friend who made fun of me for even looking into Feng Shui admitted when he came over to visit how much he liked what I had done, how cozy and inviting my space had become.  

If I may ask a question then, is there anything else you or your wife would recommend I try to further this aspect of my life? Every time I look at the pictures you post in your reviews I can’t help being moved by them and just how right the environment “feels”.  Any further advice or direction would be great. And if you or your wife have none, then know that your article dealing with your home and Feng Shui has changed my life in the past two months. Thank you so much, and tell your wife thanks for the books she recommended.
Sincerely,
Kevin Pope

As you've already discovered, Feng Shui is about environmental energetics. If attended to, one simply feels better. Some practical things you may or may not have considered yet would be plants (living things that generate oxygen); a Schumann resonator or two (a cheap device which emits a particular inaudible low frequency that's proven effective in medicine and which combats 'electro smog' - just google for it); color-compensated light bulbs (to mimic natural light); and Tachyonic devices which help offset HF radiation from cell phones, wifi networks and Blutooth devices. Electro smog is becoming omnipresent. I'm especially sensitive to wifi and don't use it in the home (it's turned off in my router and computers). Even so I'm exposed to neighboring networks. I've found that devices from my friend Marco at the Le Papillon Bleu boutique in Vevey really make a noticeable difference there. They're not expensive, they look pretty and best of all, they work. I'm sure that there'll be equivalent items where you live. This isn't classic Feng Shui but it operates along the same lines.
Srajan
Hello Srajan,
I am not certain If I may recommend a certain equipment to be potentially reviewed at 6moons...but as your regular reader I think that the speakers called Alacrity Audio Caterthun are worth the review. The official site claim that the bookshelves are able to play from 20Hz to 20kHz at +-3dB by lower-powered amps (Dayens Ampino or Red Wine Audio Signature 15 has popped up in my mind), all these claims seems like a complete rubbish. I would like to ask you if it will be possible to verify this by somebody on the 6moons team,in the future.
Cheers,
Marian Podmajersky

Our review selection 'process' tends to be very simple. Either we get solicited and someone on the team responds with a yes; or someone on the team expresses an interest based on an encounter at a show, shop, friend or simply by perusing the Internet. In this case neither the company has contacted us nor any of my writers have asked whether they can review this speaker. And I'm personally always just barely catching up with direct solicitations to where I very rarely do the soliciting myself anymore. Thanks for pointing me at a product I wasn't aware of yet. Let's see whether anyone on the team feels an urge coming on...
Srajan
Hi Srajan, 
I found the qøl review to be very well thought out. I am glad that Stephæn tested it in several different systems. Given that my system is built around the idea of achieving a wide deep holographic soundstage (what you consider an artifact I consider the raison d'être of stereo), I was asking myself just how much improvement this unit could bring to a system that already excels in these areas (Crayon CFA-1/Gallo 3.5s). After reading the article I feel that it would not be worth it to me to consider even a trial especially in light of the fact the 4 listeners with trained ears in a relatively blind test could only sometimes distinguish when the qøl was engaged. At this point, given the state of the economy, I am not even going to consider for one second paying that kind of money for any component that you have to ''strain your ears'' to decide whether you actually hear it or not. 

I know that the best test would be to listen to it in my system and qøl does offer that 30-day trial. But in my case, in order to take advantage of that, it would cost me a few hundred euros. Not only would I have to pay shipping from the USA to Italy (and back if I did not want it) but just to bring it into the country for a listen  I would have to pay customs duty on it, which would amount to 25% or more. 
This review was very helpful to me. 
Peter Borelli
Hi Srajan,
I have been reading your reviews for some time and I found them really good and insightful. I took the review of the Burson HA-160D as advice and was not disappointed. If you can give me any advice about speakers, please point me at what should I be looking for. If you have any models in mind, active speakers are more on mine - a few of them up to €2000 with a strong bass groove.
Vladimir

For active speakers I would look at the new Paradigm models as well as Dynaudio. In pro audio of course powered monitors are the norm but there I'm not really familiar with all the brands except for the German Adam Audio company.
Srajan
Srajan,
have been visiting 6moons for a long time and just wanted to drop you a note and let you know how much I enjoy your style of writing and the amount of time and effort that you obviously put into it. You approach your writing from a starting place that I think is unique and are able to draw upon a very wide variety of literary and experiential references that are both very informative, accurately descriptive and entertaining. It is very difficult to describe what something sounds like in a meaningful and comparative way (if comparisons are even possible) but you manage to do it in a way that is easy for me to "get it". 
Thanks!
David W. Jones
Enjoyed the AURALiC review. Btw, I have the Audez'e LCD-2. Try the Moon Silver Dragon cables. All the darkness disappears and the transparency is dramatically improved. These wires may be better than the ALO, bringing the LCD-2 close to the LCD-3's directness. I use Audiophile Engineering's Fidelia Advanced player that has the iZotope engine - same as Amarra's, adjusting dither and slopes. And boosting the parametric EQ about 3dB at 30Hz (the envelope is about 20-40Hz, the peak at 30). Because (using the Moon wire) we are not starting from the dark plushness of the LCD-2's original wire, the boost will not ripen the sound. Just the kick at the very bottom gets satisfyingly fleshed out. The Moon wire makes the LCD-2 sound flat. I can't explain these things. Lastly, I don't use any headphone amp. Just the line amp's RCA outs from the W4S Dac2.

No amp, no extra wires, no extra distortion. The output impedance is fine.
Andrew
Like David Werthman I too utilise an old amp for my headphones. Readers with long memories (and the Editor?) may recall my mention of Wharfedale isodynamic phones as a parallel to Aude'ze. Albeit from the 1970s! The only downside is their inefficiency. But they can be used with a 'proper' amp. I couldn't get enough volume using a Matrix headphone amp so use it as a preamp into an upgraded Hafler DH200 power amp into the phones. Result? Lovely full range sound. And who says a hundred watts is overkill? (What - —did you say?)

I haven't had a chance to directly compare the Wharfedales with Audez'e - perhaps I should stick my name on your reader review offer! I bet the Burson would struggle with the Isodynamics though!
Chris Skelton

You might contact Burson all the same. I don't know how they'll pick the six designated drivers - in a luck of the draw or by who, based on listed ancillaries, they think might make for the most interesting encounters. That's entirely their show.
Srajan
You may recall that I have written to you before about my LCD-2 headphones and Schiit Lyr. Love the headphones, disappointed in the Lyr hum. The hum over time is now greatly reduced but still bothers me just being there at all. Concluded I'm more comfortable with solid-state devices. Then I read on a forum that some people who have this preference have successfully used vintage receivers as headphone amps. So I found a 30-year old Pioneer SX980 and discovered it was just what I was looking for. My only knock against the LCD-2 was that it was slightly weak in the high end especially with cymbals. The Pioneer has cured that problem altogether. Why I don't know but the difference is significant. At the same time the Pioneer has made the headphones a bit less dark, less closed in, without losing their warmth. I also relearned some of the forgotten charms of old receivers: no nested menus, easy to set up and operate, tactile and quite lovely. So the Pioneer has become the centre piece of an excellent new second system in my sound room with new speakers (B&W 685). All for at a cost to me of just a little more than the LCD-2 alone.
Thought you might find this of interest.
Best regards,
David Werthman
...speaking of positive comments, may I compliment you and your writers on your courteous and prompt replies to your readers' emails. Heard from Frederic just the other day re: the Burson and a couple of months ago from Wojciech re: the new Focus speaks. Great guys, great writers, on a great site*. Congratulations.

Many thanks,
David Biron
* that I visit almost every day! :)
Dear Srajan-ji,
I purchased the NUforce Icon HDP some months ago partially on the strength of the recommendation in 6moons.  I am not sorry I did. It's a neat, compact and good-sounding unit. Recently I upgraded the power supply with a linear regulated unit from Welborne Audio. The included power supply was okay but the linear power supply adds depth and finesse to the sound. I would definitely recommend that people try a linear psu especially if they're inclined to use the headphone output. Fortunately there are choices. In addition to Welborne, Rock Grotto in the UK is offering linear regulated power supplies. I believe NUForce has a similar option. A bit pricier than the others.

I check on 6moons regularly and it's a great site. Perhaps a feature on reasonably priced single-driver speakers might be an idea to consider as more of us switch to valve amplifiers with single-ended outputs.
All the best,
Vasant Kaiwar
It would seem Nelson Pass is changing the way transistors play music...the closest thing to a SET may be his SIT? It is brilliant thinkers like NP who move solid state into revealing it may have soul. Wish I was rich....oh well....it's still good to see or rather, hear!. Will look forward to more on his designs. Great stuff indeed.
Cheers, Lloyd Smith - and a belated Happy New Year!
Hi Srajan,
First of all, Happy New Year for you and your family. Second, I really liked the way 2011 solidified 6moons as one of the preeminent audio sites, because you deserved it. I especially liked some of your exclusive review hits such as First Watt's SIT technology and the giant killer Metrum Octave DAC. I subscribe to HiFiCritic and they also drooled over it. My 2012 request: a review of Sweden's XTZ Divine 100.49 speaker because of the company's efforts, its versatility (ported/sealed, active/semi-active/passive and multi-amping) and that it includes a long-needed built-in DSP solution for the bass range without need of external subwoofers.
Keep the flame high and thanks very much,
Vladimir Dorta
Issaquah, WA
Dear Srajan,
I'm Daniel from Spain. Hoping you're doing well. As usual I get to you because of your ears and experience. I've read very carefully the Rethm Maarga review and must say they look fantastic. I really appreciate a gorgeously designed piece of audio gear. In my case it's not only sound that matters, the external design plays a very important role too. As I still have a pair of Zu Druid loudspeaker plus a Zu Method subwoofer, I'd like to know if the Maarga can go as low and has as well defined bass as that combination. I turn to your sonic memory because you had those loudspeakers and subwoofer in the past. I'm aware you compared the Maarga to the Zu Essence but I've been told and read that the Essence has a different sonic signature than the Druid. The rest of my system is an Esoteric UX-1, Yamamoto YDA-01 and Leben CS-300. Have a very very good 2012.
Regards,
Daniel

Druid + Method = mono bass. Maarga = stereo bass. Extension will be similar. Definition I'd expect to be better with the Maarga whilst kick should be better with the Method due to its frontal dispersion. The integration with the subwoofer will be plainly superior with the Maarga. Its active low-pass filter and amplifier go beyond the Method's plate amp and crossover. The advantages of stereo bass are superior soundstaging, more believable recreation of recorded ambiance and more even room loading.
Srajan
I wanted to thank you for your idea you gave when reviewing the CEntrance DAC. At the end of your review you sort of casually mentioned a budget server consisting of an iPod loaded with lossless music files, the CE dac, a Black Cat Veloce cable and the Pure iPod dock. Since I was planning to upgrade my iPod to a 160GB unit I thought I'd give it a try. But instead of buying the CE dac I tried it with the DAC in my Cambridge Audio 740C and Little Dot mk3 headphone amp. So I acquired the Veloce and the Pure and hooked it all up and listened with my Grado 325i. Man was I blown away. As you all sometimes say, I've been listening to old CDs and hearing things I never heard before, as well as music ripped to the iPod with a new-found passion. You guys are great, thanks for the advice!!

Quick question, I'm considering building a 2ch system based on Magnepan speakers, $5k ones. I fell in love with them at a recent audition although they were driven by an Ayre amp. I understand that you might not be able to write reviews of them but can you suggest some possible amps and subwoofers for the Maggies or maybe something close to the Maggies that I should consider? Finally, is there anything else that brings out detail like the DAC in the Oppo 95? If so and anywhere near a grand, I'd like to know about it.
Thanks in advance for your advice!
Carl Stokes

Maggies like power. An awesome amp for them is the April Music Stello Ai500. It's a full-function powerful integrated that includes a very good USB DAC. On the same note the new Peachtree Audio Grand Integrated with ICEpower output stage should be another contender. Like the Oppo 95 it includes a Sabre-based DAC but adds a 24/192 asynchronous USB input. That detail you enjoy with the Oppo seems to be a typical trait of ESS DACs. In the Grand Integrated you'd get it all - a great headphone amp, a tube hybrid preamp, a state-of-the-art DAC (with S/PDIF input for your Pure i20 dock) and a 400wpc power amp - one box to do it all straight into your Maggies.
Srajan
Hi Srajan,
great review of the Maargas. I feel proud that an Indian speaker can compete with the very best in the world. Also from the review since you have not referred to the Red Wine Sig 15 mating with the Rethms, am I correct in my understanding that you preferred the Aries integrated?
Regards,
Premnath Rajagopalan

Because I these days fancy a lit-up fast sound à la FirstWatt S2 more, I preferred the Aries into these speakers. The Sig 15 meanwhile would be absolutely perfect if one wanted a denser meatier but very dynamic sound without any noise whatsoever.
Srajan
Hello John,
Great review of the network bridge.Your experience, enthusiasm and corresponding insights into the many mysteries of its operation and functionality were essential…especially in helping me to see concretely that I have no business whatsoever in sailing into the murky unfathomable waters that are streaming audio. Long live vinyl and the silvery disc!
Alan Trahern

Thank you Alan - very kind of you to say so. Once ensconced in ones and zeroes for music playback, diagnosing network connectivity and general playback issues can weigh heavy on the end user. I am reminded of the dramas a friend had with the erratic wi-fi connection of a Squeezebox Duet - it would drop out, then come back seemingly at random. Intermittent faults like that are a shortcut to despair. Was it the device itself or the network infrastructure in his house?  

Whatever the cause in scenarios like this, it often sees end users slamming the door shut on streaming audio. Hyper-new and/or bleeding edge technology isn't always smooth sailing and kinks take time to be ironed out. One has to take the rough with the smooth or get off the boat (and perhaps return for another run at a later date). Having said that, I definitely don't share the current view (held in some quarters) that CDs are yesterday's format.
Best regards,
John Darko
Dear Mr. Ebaen,
accidentally(?) I came across Marja & Henk's review of the 'Grand Crescendo'. In my view it was a positive and professionally conducted audition which exhibits a lot of knowledge, experience and professionalism coupled with a lot of passion and understanding of the product and its creator. So in my view there was no reason for Hans Kortenbach to be embarrassed. I—and I am sure also Marja & Henk—subscribe to a lot of his general remarks about speaker positioning and listening environment requirements as well as music suitability. Nevertheless the remarks of the authors in the postscript seem to be valid and their hints should at least be investigated. I think Hans Kortenbach is aware of some of the mentioned problems. If you view for instance the youtube video shown on his website, one recognizes the difference of the internal bracing structure there from that of your writers' thoroughly documented photos in your article. So there is obviously an ongoing development. You can estimate that your review will spur similar actions as well. In that respect Marja & Henk's remarks are beneficial for the dedicated designer and spell no offense to him.

By the way, I myself had opportunity to listen to that very speaker during a brief visit at Musical Life in the spring of 2010. Although due to the circumstances the audition was very brief, it was an enjoyable session. The speakers were connected to a 300B SunAudio amplifier and we listened to one of the wonderful cello sonatas by Bach performed by Janos Starker. Unfortunately there was not enough time to listen to big orchestral music or human voice. So I cannot judge that. But what I heard was beautiful with regard to very differentiated musical colours and fine dynamics. Now it remains for me to wish you and all your colleagues a happy Christmas Season and continue to enjoythemusic, beg your pardon - may the six moons always shine upon you of course.
Best regards,
Klaus Riebel

P.S.  Very sad to have gotten informed this way about the death of Bernard Salabert. The scene lives and progresses by such "politically incorrect" individuals and personalities. A loss for the audio community.

Indeed, the passing of Bernard Salabert was a sad thing for our community and the art of wideband drivers. On the Grand Crescendo, Hans already emailed Marja & Henk about experiments he conducted since with his home-made versions of the ASI Sugar Cubes applied in similar ways as they did. He reports very satisfactory results. I'm sure you're exactly right that this speaker is still undergoing refinements.
Srajan
Hi Srajan,
I was reading your review of ceramic speakers and I saw a couple of pieces of art in the background, would you be able to tell me who the artists are?
Thanks for your indulgence.

Mark Fletcher

Those and all other paintings which have and will feature in photos of my listening rooms are by my wife Ivette. She is the resident artist.
Srajan
Hello Srajan,
I enjoy 6moons immensely. It's an ongoing pleasure that you and the crew put such fine writing online. Being from Denmark, the locally available brands are somewhat different from the American outlook. Maybe you'd be interested in these locally available speakers that are seen as dramatically outperforming their price points:
Dali Mentor 6 & Martin Logan EM-ESL.

All the best
Sune Watts

Thanks for the tip, Sune. I promise to look into it.
Srajan
Dear Srajan,
Just a note to thank you and your contributors for a wonderful site, and may the enterprise justify you continuing to publish. The writing is both informative, educational, insightful and entertaining - for example David Kan on Trends Audio and yourself writing about The Lars. That example should not be interpreted as some sort of hifi class war antagonism but a comment on the professionalism of the writing.

As an example of unprofessional writing I could mention a (my) local web publication that reviewed a certain component centred around an iPod digital dock but didn't test it with an iPod. But I don't go there anymore so why bitch about the past? As a budget end of the market person which is my choice as I don't dig the definition of audiophile as one who throws all possible resources at kit (tools, but nothing to apply tools to?), I do enjoy your commitment to highlighting meritorious 'computer audio' / 'lifestyle' / 'bonsai audio' components centered around that four-letter word that provokes hysterics in other parts - iPod.

I am replacing an old Marantz CD player and NAD bookshelf speakers with an iPod (scored cheap off a friend upgrading to an iPhone - cheers!) and appropriate DAC to go through my much loved Dayton amp and yet to be decided bookshelf speakers. I for one am glad to be rid of the monolith in the living room that is the 'trad' component system.

Enough gushing. Thank you again, and have a great festive season!
Regards
Martin Osborne

What a lovely way to start the day and feel recognized and appreciated. Thank you Martin!
Srajan
Hi John,
Noticed on 6moons that you are going to review the PS Audio PWD Bridge. I've got one of these DACs myself. While the Bridge is staying the same for the time being, PS Audio is going to release a mkII of the DAC – different input board with better power supplies. This is public knowledge and the PS Audio forum is mightily worked up about the prospect of an upgraded board. Thought it might be useful to know so you have the best review possible. Maybe you could compare the boards too since it will be a user installable component.
David Castle

Hi David,
yes, I'm fully abreast of the latest PWD developments and shall be having a MKII unit supplied to me when one lands down under in early December.  As such, my coverage will ultimately encompass both network bridge and PWD MKII.
Thanks,
John
Inspired by your award-sighting review of the Eximus DP1, I auditioned it myself and after a while of listening just had to buy it and replace my previous DAC and preamp (that add up to nearly $10.000). Price tag of $3.000 isn't exactly cheap but nevertheless the DP1 still delivers phenomenal performance for its price. And the headphone amp section ain't no afterthought. The guys at April Music were quite serious about it as it drove my HD800s with exceptional finesse effortlessly. Incredible value for everything it can do.

I contacted April Music and now they're producing the Eximus S1, which is supposedly a stereo/mono adjustable power amp that's meant to pair with the DP1 for the ultimate DAC + PRE + POWER solution. It seems it's open for sale in Korean markets and I'm already hearing that the S1 is even more shocking than the DP1 - really? Of course, hearing is believing but I think I would be doing myself a great disservice to simply ignore this new baby in the club. I just wanted to remind you should you'd like to do another Eximus review. Korea was one of the last places I'd have expected to produce hifi gizmos with 'acceptable' standards but damn, these guys mean business alright.
David Hayes
Hi Srajan,
finally getting around to my new sound room story. Firstly our plan was to move away from the Vancouver BC mainland where I've been in the construction industry for the past 25 years. My wife Laurie and I including our 2 rescue Australian cattle collie brothers settled on a quiet acreage of Vancouver Island where I can slow the pace of work but with my new woodwork shop I can continue with projects that are more enjoyable...and just across the driveway from our home.

We designed our home with the help of an architect friend but before finalizing plans I contacted Richard from Rives Audio for my new "somewhat" dedicated sound room (shared with a 60" TV but no surround sound). Richard said I needed to change my room width and length dimensions and also get another 6" of height. Shortly after signing on to the Rives program our sound room plans and details arrived from Richard. At that stage we could complete our home plans and apply for a construction permit.

13 or so months passed and September of 2010 was our move.in day (from suite in shop). Of course the sound room was still under detail construction. It wasn't until April of this year that I started reassembling the audio equipment... and a very slow process of fine-tuning the room. After a couple phone conversations with both Richard Rives and Jim Smith and attempts with reading Jim's book "Get Better Sound" and watching his recent DVDs of the same name did I finally achieve the desired bass response. Richard suggested that I finish the designed floor-to-ceiling 9' wide bookshelf for the back wall so back to the shop it was. A few weeks later and more fine tuning and I feel I've finally reached the room's potential (or mine!) and finally got the Avantgardes off the sliding platforms and onto their spikes.

I know the room is overstuffed and has a coffee table (sorry Richard!) but we entertain guests -.and if music inclined, we often prefer to sit in this room and vege to the music. It's usually quite a rush for guests and I'm very content to share the space vs. a sweet spot for 1 or 2. It seems to be a room that receives many comments as a first impression, with regards to how even speaking (no music) is so comfortable acoustically!

Well, a few details. Room dimensions are 18' x 21' x 9.5' (inside dimensions). There is a ceiling-perimeter soffit with 2 soffit traps on each of the side walls and 2 larger ones on the back wall with diagonal hanging boards. Front wall bass traps, smaller rear wall bass traps with hanging boards. The ceiling is divided into 4 quadrants with hanging diffusion panels (RPG "BAD" panels) and my custom frame work - and what a joy to install!! These panels are back lit with rope lighting. It's the only room lighting necessary when music is the agenda. There are 4 wall panels. All panels are from RPG and upholstered by them in a good color match to the wall paint. The 3 smallish windows are casement style (crank out) with honeycomb cellular blinds (all Rives spec'd).

There is fir hardwood flooring on a 1.25" plywood sub floor which is insulated below (crawl space). The forced air duct system below has 2 decoupled diffusers and all ductwork is insulated. These guys were great to work with and really put effort into understanding what I was trying to achieve. For electrical we ran 3 dedicated 20-amp lines from the panel terminating at 3 separate Furutech outlets. The 2 sets of interior French doors are all solid core. To achieve the extra ceiling height I dropped the floor 6" to .now a "sunken-in" room. The room and details were quite exciting to construct. I have to commend Richard Rives for the extra help he provided me with understanding some of the trap details. Honestly, until you've constructed one yourself and attempt the installation of these hanging boards (soundboard and rigid insulation in a tight little space without touching walls), you have no idea about the patience and work involved. If hiring your own contractor, expect to pay accordingly!

As to the equipment, Avantgarde Duo Omegas: updated Wyetech Sapphire monos (new-style capacitors) with Shuguang 300B Treasure tubes. BAT 51se preamp, Magnum Dynalab 108 tuner, Audiomeca Mephisto II CD spinner. BPT 3 Signature power supply for front end components. Shunyata Hydra 2s, one for amps, one for speakers. Mainly Shunyata power cables and interconnects. Caelin from Shunyata provided the speaker cables and custom jumpers for the Avantgardes. A Grand Prix Audio equipment rack for front end gear and one for mono amps. My own speaker cable risers from Belize Zircote wood!

At this stage I'm a pretty happy camper! Music sounds fabulous in my new digs. Even my boys (the dogs) are most content in this room! Over the past number of years I'd be negligent if I didn't offer thanks to Srajan for enlightening me towards efficient speakers and flea-power amps (18 watts/ch for my monos with self-powered bass woofers in the Duo's). This is after years of my abusing speakers like Hales, Revels and Wilsons with a ML 200 watt amp. Really should have had 600 w+. And thanks to Jim Smith for both the Avantgardes and following advice. And of course Richard @ Rives Audio who  made this room possible.
Ed King

Congratulations! It's great to finally see the fruits of your labors in pictures - and learning that you're not only happy with the acoustic outcome but more importantly, have crafted a cozy space for your family and visitors. Most excellent.
Srajan
Hello Srajan,
well after what has seemed to me a long wait, I finally received my Spatialized MacMini from Clayton Shaw. The measurements have been done, the parameters and calibrations have been set and I have been listening to it for a few days now. Rather than writing it all out again, I am sending you a copy of the email that I wrote to Clayton. "Hi Clayton, there really is a significant difference between what I hear with Pure Music/iTunes and what I hear with Spatial/iTunes. For certain cuts I have been switching back and forth between my Macbook/PM/iTunes and the Mac Mini/Spatial/iTunes. And I can really hear the difference. A good example of this is what I hear in the Hector Zazou & Swara "In the House of Mirrors" album.

Here are some of the things that I am experiencing: Apart from the obvious effect of more clarity, everything is also more spacious and within that space everything is more precise and defined... and more 3-dimensional. The placement of the instruments is more precise and stable and the spatial relationship between them is greater. There is not that ''bunched up together'' sensation. The Gallos are really adept at creating a wide deep soundstage and I thought they were great in this regard before, but Spatial is really allowing them to show off what they are capable of when not hindered by various and sundry room anomalies. They are now living up to their true potential... and it is more than I would have been able to guess. 

The bass is much more present and musical than before. Bass lines are defined and as the bass moves up and down the scale no frequencies become bloated or exaggerated - it remains even. The bass also punches out more. I can feel the bass energy in my body much more that before. As a matter of fact, everything seems to punch out more creating a greater sense of presence and three-dimensionality. And timbres too are more real and natural. These are the things I think one first notices immediately (or at least I noticed immediately) - the increased spaciousness of the soundstage, the precise spatial and 3D relationships between the instruments and the punch/presence. There are some questions that I have for you but I will save most of them for when I am skyping you. For right now I would like to know one thing: Why do you think that there is a considerable volume difference between the Macbook with Pure Music and the Mac Mini with Spatial? The Mini/Spatial is about 6 decibels (if not more) higher in volume than the Macbook/PM."
Peter 

PS. 
In the House of Mirrors is one of the albums Srajan mentioned in his review of Spatial Computer. In the review he talks about how this album would sound boring on a lesser system and/or on a system that was performing under par. And that was exactly my experience before Spatial. Indeed I found it so boring that I wondered what Srajan could possibly see in this album and I wasn't listening to it at all (in fact I never got beyond 2 or 3 tracks). But now I get it! And I am really enjoying the texture and layering Srajan refers to in the review. Going back and listening to it in Pure Music, the space constricts, everything once again gets relatively flatter and lacks the crispness, texture and layering... and it becomes... well.. boring! 

So Srajan, as you can see again my appreciation and thanks are in order. You have yet another time helped me to make a very significant improvement to my system.
Thanks, 
Peter Borelli
My humble headfi re:: iMac (running Pure Music) > USB-1.0SP > U3 > Veloce > Octave > Ultimate Silver Dream > Lyr > LCD-2 (recabled w/ Macromolecule). Planning to upgrade to Schiit hybrid balanced amp & LCD-3 with ALO balanced cable from sometime in the future...
SongKyung Han
Hi. In case you're still holding onto the Schiit Lyr you loaned, I recommend you try out the 6BZ7 tubes with them. When I bought the Lyr these tubes weren't available (I picked up some Valhalla tubes as well as stock tubes) but these days Schiit offers 6BZ7 tubes as their new stock tubes for the Lyr. According to them the 6BZ7s are a wonderful match with orthodynamics such as the venerated LCD-2. Out of curiosity I ordered them and damn they were right. While I only exchanged $20 worth of tubes, the 6BZ7 greatly outperformed my two previous tubes when driving my LCD-2 after enough burn-in. In fact, many users at the Head-fi forum nowadays seem to prefer the Lyr with 6BZ7 tubes over the Burson headphone amps for driving the LCD-2. It was the best spent $20 for such a neat upgrade, period. Highly recommended!

Oh and fyi, Schiit is planning to release a solid-state balanced headphone amp before the end of this year followed by a hybrid balanced headphone amp sometime during 2011 Q1. These amps will be larger than the previous trio and cost a lot more (the new hybrid design is said to be over $1000). What's really exciting however is that Audez'e will reveal their new speakers and headphones at RMAF next week! I'm definitely staying tuned to this one. I hope it's something completely new like an LCD-3, not an LCD-2S...

SongKyung Han
Hi Marja,
I very much enjoyed reading your review of the Devialet and following further research and a demonstration at my local dealer I have just bought and taken delivery of mine. I noticed that you used some form of resonance control. It looks like four devices, one under each corner. Can you tell me what make/model and how effective it is? With many thanks,
Mark Radburn

Hi Mark,
we are sure you will have a great time with this incredibly versatile device. We put some feet under the Devialet just because the loudspeaker cable we used had spades. This caused insufficient space to dress the cables without a serious bend. Therefore we elevated the D-Premier a little to accommodate the cables. Soundwise there's no benefit. One thing we only discovered recently is the possibility to have the D-Premier act as a brown-noise generator which helps to loosen up speakers. Go to the website's configurator and add the Sig Gen to your settings. Stepping through the input menu with the remote once the SD card is inserted includes the option and works wonders on cables and speakers alike.
/M&H
Good day Srajan,
As I am making "ever more final" considerations for my next system step up (new speakers), I very much enjoyed your recent review of the Mark & Daniel Fantasia-S. And I also just devoured with great zeal your preview of the new Rethm Maarga. Now I'm waiting hungrily for your full Maarga review! Patience I tell myself.

I'm sure I am not alone among your readers in that I especially profit from the frequent comparisons and contrasts between various components you make in your reviews (your recent piece on Nelson Pass' S2 Proto was fantastic in that regard). Although I have unfortunately not yet heard either speaker and although they are very different, I am very interested in the Fantasia-S & the Maarga (or possibly the new Saadhana which seems underway). I understand both to be mid priced, high dynamic, high resolution, medium- and high-efficiency bass-augmented "wideband" speakers. You were so positive about the Fantasia-S in that review. And I'm guessing from your experience with the Rethm Saadhana that you may have fun things to share about the Maargas...

My question: Do you think that in your upcoming Maarga review you will be able to compare & contrast it to the Fantasia-S? I'd love to hear how they compare to your ears & thinking! In any regards, I love your publication!
Kind regards,
Kurt Gruetzner

That won't happen simply because the M+D's have migrated upstairs into our 2-channel video system and are far too heavy to move back downstairs by myself (I needed the help of a very strong friend to do it the first time around). The comparators for the Maarga will be the Zu Essence below its price and the Voxativ Ampeggio very much above it.
Srajan
Just wanted to say thanx - just found the long article on "The Room" from Feb 2010. I've been an audiophile for a long time but stopped putting big money into it a few years ago. I have a chance now to build an audio room inside the garage as an enclosed room inside the outer shell. Obviously lots and lots of variables to consider and a great opportunity at the same time. This article was a great walk-through on what the author went through, the considerations etc. Quite helpful.
Gary Frankel
Srajan,
great review of the DACmini. Having it for two weeks now all I can say is I agree with your assessment. Quite the little sleeper, isn't it? Having this and realizing what it does to the order of one's system, it reminds me of what I longed for in my youth: a straight wire with gain. Back then it was the speaker (and sometimes amp) that took the role of 'tone control' and, voilà, back where I started. If only I were my age back then, now. This is my first foray into computer audio and I'm glad I chose the DACmini to start with. Now onto the sundry stuff.

All the best,
Tim Patchett
Hi Srajan,
I read your recent review on the Burson Audio DA-160 and cannot get some direct comment between it and the Metrum Octave. Do you mind to shed more light on this?
Many thanks,
Kenny Yang

There are many DACs out there which I can't all compare of course. But you're in luck. My recent April Music Eximus DP1 review contains many comparisons including the Octave and the Burson HA-160D. The DA-160 review compares the two Bursons. Reading the Eximus review will allow you to apply some simple triangulation and infer how the Octave would compare to the DA-160.
Srajan
Hi Srajan,
I wanted to positively comment on your writeup of the Eximus DP1. I rather liked the review and its way of staying away from "the best there will ever be" style. I have found that JRiver/Sonata software makes the sound a lot better when coming from a PC source and I am surprised how much bigger the sound quality difference is between USB cables than Digi-Coax cables.
Best regards,
Jan Sieveking
Hello Srajan,
after the last few months I can say that my life has changed. After your review we had the first wave of buyers and several positive comments on the forums. Everybody try to find out which chips we are using and has his own ideas about it. And then a second wave of buyers came. Your review of the April Music U3 gave an extra boost. My job has changed to inform potential buyers and send out invoices and the second production facility is doing well. I only have to send them orders and they will ship. Besides this some companies ask for OEM products and we are in the middle of figuring out how we can keep prices the same but use distributors in some cases. Australia is exceptional, the most orders are coming from there. It seems as long as prices are below AUD 1.000,- no extra taxes are added. Germany and the UK remain uninvolved, it seems they do not read the reviews or the Germans don't understand English. Therefore a distributor will start in Germany and soon Colotube will follow for Switzerland. As I have standing medical orders to fill which keep me busy 4 days a week, Friday is my day for designing audio. The next step is to design a more sophisticated converter with more flexibility and more inputs like USB, AES/EBU connections and a fully symmetrical layout. But it will at least be another year before that's finished. All this happened due to the exposure you gave us so I have to say thank you very much again. We really appreciate this.

Met vriendelijke groet,
Cees Ruijtenberg
Metrum Acoustics

I'm pleased our exposure helped your audio venture get on the map. It's the roll of the dice which magazine 'discovers' what product for the initial splash if the product is as deserving as yours. I'm sure reviewers following up for other publications will have equally nice things to say.
Srajan
Dear Srajan,
I read your review of the Zodiac Gold+Voltikus. I own one and it is really great. My question is did you try different USB cables between the computer and the Zodiac and is there one that you could recommend or is there no need to replace the cable that came with the DAC?
Regards,
DI Peter Neusser

I use the black one from Entreq in Sweden which I've found to better the generics. I have three 'after-market' USB cables and honestly can't tell much of a difference. It seems once one transcends the computer store throwaway freebies to get something designed 'properly' but not silly money, one is mostly there. Perhaps there's a whole world of glory beyond what I know—ALO Audio, LiveLine, Furutech, Entreq—but $1.000 USB cables simply haven't yet factored on my - er, curiosity list -:)
Srajan
Hello Marja and Henk,
I just wanted to write to thank you for your little feature on "green" issues. Officially I believe I started the first green audio retail 'store' here in the States (for now a production shop, listening room and web sales). All of my products are sustainably produced, mostly with bamboo and other domestic hardwoods. Most of my finishes are non-toxic and toxics like paint thinner are recycled and properly disposed. Regarding packaging almost everything I use is recycled or biodegradable like your favorite starch peanuts. And most of the products I carry as a retailer have at least some green aspects in their design. I mention all this because it is an ongoing challenge to try to make and sell things that are genuinely green from production to shipping but I think it is worth the effort. I'm a relative nobody in the audio world and perhaps I will continue to be so but I like the challenge of making and finding things that sound good, look good and are relatively guilt-free. Nothing I do is perfect in this regard but live and learn...
Best wishes,
Joel Scilley

Hello Joel:
this is good news and an example for others. Toxicity in audio products comes in many ways. Product resources like the woods used to the finishes and their remains and the packaging you mention are one part. Other toxicity comes from all manner of EM radiation. In your designs we see electronics clad in wood which absorbs a lot of unnecessary radiation. Another great 'green' solution. It sure is good to see development in this direction.
/M&H
Hi Srajan,
Thanks for publishing the review of the Less EMF shielding by Steve Marsh on your site recently. I was especially interested in this review for two reasons, firstly because I’m fascinated by the influence of radiated electromagnetic  fields on both the sound quality of my system, and on our general health and well being, and secondly because I am also an owner of Tron equipment and therefore fascinated by Steve’s findings.

As I’m sure you’d expect from anyone with a vested interest (Alert! Alert!), I’m motivated to respond to your published opinion on the amp’s design and implicit criticism of the design process, but in fact…. I agree with you. At least, with due consideration to the difficulty in sourcing and shielding a mains transformer for a kilovolt power rail, in general terms I’d like to reduce all radiated fields, in everything, everywhere.

In fact, I’d like you to go further on behalf of 6moons and all your readers and reviewers, if you can support it. In fact… whilst I’m continually mystified at the lack of publicity surrounding the wonderful pre and power amps GT designs for Tron, I’m even more surprised we haven’t started a movement already towards identifying, testing and proving the issue I describe below. Let me explain.

I was really keen to read Steve’s article on the shielding because of my headache. I’m in an office, surrounded by laptops, desktops, IP phones, second monitors, printers, Blackberrys and iPhones, and bathed in fluorescent light. At home, I have a microwave, DECT phone, the iPhones my wife and I use, the various computers and two Wifi routers, more fluorescents in the form of energy saving bulbs, and THEN tucked away in the corner of my listening room is a very shiny Tron power amp with 300Bs from Emission Labs – how apt! And I get a headache. Although not from the Tron, which is of course utterly brilliant (yes, I would say that).

Do you remember the days before broadband, with our slow and clunky modems whose wail of negotiation is so iconic it has been sampled and captured in pop songs? How about the periodic buzz the Blackberry or iPhone agitates into my Avantgardes? Where do these things go when they’ve been removed to a ‘safe’ distance I wonder, if not into some low level mush despite being far enough away to avoid direct irritation?

I recall the shudder of fear when the letter dropped on my doormat announcing the construction of another mobile phone mast less than 50m from my house, and the sense of relief when my local council rejected the application after howls of protest from the community, not least the family whose house was directly next to it and whose young children’s room  it would have beamed directly into. “Perfectly safe”, of course, although the UK government guidelines ‘recommend’ siting mobile phone masts away from schools and nurseries on the balance of probabilities…

I know that, when we use the microwave in the kitchen to defrost or warm something, Wifi stops working unless you’re right next to the router. I know to keep the phones and ‘berries outside the listening room or be driven mad by the buzzing. In the many pages of your esteemed site there are reviews for power cables and conditioners, from LessLoss for example, which to the skeptic ought to make no difference whatsoever to sound quality, and yet plainly have an audible impact. Your reviewers talk about blacker backgrounds, more depth, detail, and a more ‘relaxed’ sound. What are they doing,  if not reducing the impact of radiation and RFI, its ingress into our (otherwise well shielded) audio equipment through some means, its’ obvious effect on how the overall system sounds? Not only that, but products such as the Blackbody on sight of which no end of skeptics would spit out their tea and splutter ‘rubbish!’. And yet, you’re witness to the effect yourself. How is it that a ‘perfectly shielded’ product can nevertheless be improved so substantially by the addition of a funky power cord or being bathed in the rays from a mysterious crystal box?

Our hobby has a long history of—how shall I put it—disproving science, or offering evidence that isn’t proven by science, or perhaps more correctly, providing the basis for fierce argument between subjectivists and skeptics? Namely the use of power cables, audiophile interconnects and speaker cables, equipment supports (“impossible that one solidly designed support can possibly make equipment sound different than another”), power conditioners, Blackbodies and Schumann generators, various 300B tubes whose electrical parameters are almost identical and yet are lush, clinical, detailed, and so on. We are a massive collective of committed hobbyists who, for the most part, are eager to look for any solutions to ‘making our systems sound better’ and willing to experiment and invest regardless of the pseudo-science behind the product. In fact, I’d go so far as to say: if it works, it works and science is still playing catch-up. We’re right there trying and assessing and investing.

Here’s my point. Srajan, you have a fantastic website. It’s full of really useful information on products, techniques, thoughts, music and everything Audiophile. I love the combination of photographs, text, and (from you I can see) fairly forthright opinion. Clearly there’s a massive global community enjoying what you’ve put together and motivated to listen to what you have to say. So I’d like you and 6moons to be a focal point here, drawing the internet Audiophile community towards a common goal, which is: proving the environmental impact of our modern life on our musical enjoyment. By inference, proving the influence of RFI, electromagnetism or whatever on our general health and well being.

Just plugging in a power cable and describing how much better a system sounds is useful, but not what I’m after here. I was really looking for the nitty gritty on the elements of sound that are described as “space”, “depth”, “silence”, “relaxed” and so on, adjectives frequently used to describe the improvement wrought by power cables and conditioners and the like, combined with some physical evidence (great that Steve used a gauss meter to provide empirical evidence to match his findings). Whilst hum reduction is clearly important and necessary with the incompatibility described by Steve in his review, it’s not what I was hoping for; I want to know more about what’s happening in the invisible ether from those other devices that somehow contrive to make a fantastic system sound bland; so much so that we grow used to and accept the sound quality and are amazed when we discover it can be improved through a tweak like a cable or a crystalline Blackbody.

6moons is in a position to start to document the audible impact of methods for reducing electromagnetic interference, collating it and providing reference material just like the reviews you publish. I wish I knew exactly how we could do this, but I have the shape of an idea and I’d love to share it with you.

For starters, there’s reduction by exclusion. We could remove anything nonessential that is known to radiate from our listening environments, and ideally from anywhere nearby as well. We could turn off anything and everything that isn’t absolutely essential  to our existence in the home such as central heating (just go cold for a few hours!), ovens and cookers and phones and computers and routers and berries and iPhone and Wifi and Bluetooth. Turn everything off at the distribution board that isn’t part of your hifi, unplug all nonessential wall wart transformers charging your toothbrushes and shavers and Nintendos, physically remove equipment that isn’t an absolutely essential part of the hifi… and sit, and listen.

Is it better? How is it better? Are we getting the effect we’d otherwise get from an expensive Firewall or Blackbody (apologies to your sponsors, but in truth I think they’d see this as entirely positive marketing)? And so on. Maybe we could do this all together, as readers of 6moons – you pick a “Sixth Moon Day” with plenty of forewarning and invite everyone to do this and contribute a series of scores as empirical evidence and written notes as subjective evidence, demonstrating that these things matter. They should absolutely matter! What’s more, they should matter in the subtle and difficult way that a Lessloss power cable corrects and is immeasurable, with an impact to elements of reproduction that are described as relaxation, blackness, depth, detail and so on. We don’t know why it works (well, LessLoss will say they do but it’s clearly open to debate even amongst audiophiles) and yet when it does what it does, it generally lifts the whole system by removing something you didn’t know was there and was impeding your enjoyment and maybe shortening your life span. Measuring hum is easy in the sense that you can clearly hear the hum, move equipment about to reduce it, shield it and of course a millivolt phono stage above a kilovolt power amp is a fairly obvious clue!

In truth, I’m not sure how to make this work but that’s my Straw Man for input. I’m happy to debate both the merits and the method with you. Next I’d suggest your reviewers seek products for review that are specifically aimed at reducing the impact of radiating equipment much like Steve did for the 211 Tron amp but more focused on the areas I’ve described that concern me: high frequency digital radiation, microwaves, RFI and so on; high voltage electric fields form a part of this too. If I were able to refer to a review of say RFI-shielding wallpaper and curtains, I might invest in those instead of a Lessloss DFC power cable (don’t tell your sponsors!). You can get shielded underpants too, who knows I might just try that for a laugh but I’m not sure the effect on sound quality will be pronounced.. But I’d like my 'bits' to last a fair while yet. Back on topic: maybe in seeking review products, you could target 6moons at that sort of audiophile product as part of this overall initiative?

Anyway, conveniences such as a Wifi connection so I can use my iPad to remote control my music whilst Skyping friends in another country are a part of modern life and I’m unwilling to give them up, especially if I’m curled up in the listening room enjoying some 300B magic. But what if the sound is being compromised through the simple act of allowing this and other deliberately radiating equipment into my home? I might change my mind. I might do something about it and enjoy better music. Not only that but the wider issue exists that everyone knows the debate between those worried about the effects on their health and that of their children of mobile phones and other equipment; and Big Business repeatedly lobbying governments to tell us we’re absolutely fine, it’ll all be okay and no amount of cancers and skin conditions and headaches is anything other than coincidental. But if a few hundred audiophiles conduct an experiment that clearly shows a relationship between radiation and the reproduction of sound, maybe some positive publicity might change that opinion?
Best wishes,
Peter Earnshaw

6moons vs. Big Corporate? That outcome would be as certain as death and taxes. It'd be a Quixotic enterprise. I'm probably no longer naive or idealistic enough to be inspired by it. And yes, wifi is low-level microwave so if one wanted to slowly cook the brain, that seems like an excellent way to do it. I'm personally sensitive to HF radiation and don't tolerate wifi in the house (my own - there's still neighboring networks to contend with). Hence no iPad despite its killer remote functionality. No cellphone turned on in the house. Etc. My health is more important. And, I do work on a computer and have tons of gear radiating in close proximity. I've thus investigated alternative remedies - Schumann resonators, Tachyonics etc. I've got tachyonized devices in front and behind my monitors, beneath my keyboards; Franck Tchang acoustic resonators throughout the digs which weirdly enough also register on our personal wellness meter; and other 'mysterious' kit the peanut galleries would call voodoo.

Given the widespread embrace of wifi devices and folks walking around with Blutooth receivers clipped to their ears, I must assume that most aren't sensitive to these effects. Either they're biologically immune—more mutant power to them—or they're seeding cancer and other future diseases. Or there's a third possibility. Either way, any kind of group effort relies on 'sensitives' in the first place. They seem quite rare. And if you want to use subjective improvements in hifi as a feedback mechanism rather than wellbeing (which after all is the focus of this site), how do you separate possibly improved sound from simply feeling better? As anyone who's ever been in love knows, emotional/mental states profoundly affect our perception. So does happiness and equilibrium and being without headaches.

At the end of the day, I no longer have any urge to fight other people's battles. There's plenty of information available for those inclined and resourceful enough to find it; and one man's positive response to a specific solution against this type of radiation is another's yawn. This must be the subject of personal inquiry motivated by real need or otherwise serious curiosity. I've incidentally written an article on a Schumann resonator that talked barely about sound and far more about my personal reaction on those levels. But I didn't seek the product out, I was solicited for it. I too suffered headaches from HF radiation. I tried a few weird and wacky things, found some that worked and no more headaches, no more obvious assault on my brain. This stuff might work for others, it might not. But this type of investigation is personal and not what this site is about. Finally, I must confess to some surprise that you would choose convenience over wellbeing or appear prepared to wait for some time of popular consensus before experimenting yourself. All the things you suggest—turning off most electrical appliances for example just to see what happens—are in your power to do now. If fluorescent lights get to you, change them. If your job kills you, look for a new job. Isn't it that basic in the end? In other words, don't wait for others to do what you can do yourself -:)
Srajan
Mr. Ebaen,
I feel as though I should call you Srajan, reading your work I feel I know you enough to make that comfortable for me, though not to you I'm sure. Reviews work one way like that unfortunately. I have written you before to ask for advise, which I sincerely thank you for, but today wanted to tell you something instead. I sit now in my chair thirsty (why didn't I bring up something to drink) listening to my headphone rig. Scratch that, listening to music through my rig. Composed of a Pure i20 Dock, (160GB classic AIFF), Black Cat Veloce, DDDAC 1453 NOS DAC, Verumecce interconnects by Bob Prangnell, a HifiMan EF5 and lastly a Cardas leashed K702 and power cables from Cardas, it's a hell of a trip.

Everyday, okay sometimes several times a day, I check 6moons for new content which I drink up greedily. Like some of my audio buddies, I find your website to be a persona I converse with. Your writing has inspired some of my own reviews but more importantly my passion. And not only for audio or music but for life on the whole.   more I listen to music, not just passively enjoy it but actively seek it out, the more I come to feel a passion for life in all of its arenas, not only the one between my ears. 

I have many people to thank for this in my life and I just wanted you to know you were one of them. While you and I both know nothing is permanent, nothing without change, I hope to be reading and conversing with your work for some time still yet. I hope this letter finds you in good health and in good spirit.

I'm not sure any of that made sense but I felt compelled to write it. Happy Tunes my friend (if I may call you that) -
Sincerely,
Kevin Pope

First name is peachy, Kevin. I don't much care for formality -:)

A shared passion for music is a simple way to appreciate the commonality which binds us together as people. That's why the negativity expressed in audiophile forums at times is so grotesque. If listening to music can make us more curious about different cultures and their musical art forms, it automatically undermines the differences in politics, religion and such which can keep people apart as though we lived on different planets. It looks like you feel the same way. So cheers to that and many happy explorations ahead!
Srajan
Scam. We just downloaded in a long long loooong session some hi-res tracks from 2L, FIM and others. All free downloads by the way. Combined the files claim a few GB of disk space. But one has to suffer first to receive joy - or something of that order. However being suspicious the files all went under the scrutiny of Audiocity to reveal what's really under the hood. And that was revealing. None of the files contain real content above 30kHz and most just plain stop at 22.5kHz and have noise at 48 or 88kHz. Conclusion so far? They are all ordinary 16/44.1 recordings inflated to massive—up to 1GB—files taking forever to download. For now hi-res is a scam 99% of the time in our book (this after a discussion with Todd Garfinkle regarding real hi-rez. His m.a. recordings files under the microscope show true content up high and of course the high-frequency noise.)
M&H
Dear Steve and Srajan,
I read you review on the Mu Metal Shielding Solutions (Less EMF) in this months 6Moons. Are you not surprised that large power transformers, such as those found in the TRON 211, can cause induced currents in nearby sensitive audio equipment such as phono stages or pre-amps? That is why some manufacturers provide separate PSUs for their hardware, in order to minimise induction currents in their circuitry.

Whilst Mu Metal can help, the best solution is to keep large transformers away from sensitive circuits. It's almost impossible to screen a large transformer completely - just the laws of physics. It is good practice to keep sensitive circuits away from stray magnetic fields. I wouldn't have thought that one would need to highlight that in a set of instructions. Most Hi-Fi Reviewers should be aware of this issue, I would have thought. Certainly I know about this, even though I'm not a Reviewer. I do, however, have 30 years of experience in Hi Fi since my days working with Ken Kessler, when Ken was in the audio retail business.

The best advice and also the most aesthetic advice would be just to separate the magnetic fields from large transformers (some toroidal PSUs in hi fi can be just as bad) from sensitive items such as phono stages and pre-amps.

Best wishes,
Charlie Chan

Radiated EM from large power transformers wasn't news to Steve. The amount in this case was. As he says early on, distance solved the problem. He also made clear that his intent was to attempt to minimize/eliminate the noise without involving distance and he explains why. For other people in his shoes—perhaps where everything has to fit in a given vertical rack—the avenue of exploration this article suggests seems certainly viable. Since his double-can mu-metal covers measurably lowered the EM radiation of the Tron power transformer, it's simply fair to wonder why its designer didn't built in such shielding in the first place.
Srajan
This time I have some technical questions, not questions related to specific products. They say cables do matter and of course they do. Many people even say USB cables matter too although the difference between USB cables may not be as significant as others. And I do know that interconnect cables matter a lot as do speaker cables. But here's the thing: I don't listen to loudspeakers. My reference(?) system is a headphone system built around my computer, all thanks to your advice. It's a $5,000+ system that does not have any preamps (unless you consider the Lyr), power amps or loudspeakers. And I know it's really a world-class headphone system because to my ears it even outperforms the Sennheiser Orpheus system I listened to a while back. And the CD player that was connected to the Orpheus system was over $5,000 alone.

Right now I have about $1,000 to spend. I've thought of replacing my Entreq Discover USB cable with something more high-end such as Entreq Challenger USB or Acoustic Revive 1.0-SP (the latter's review was also posted on 6moons). Or maybe I should spend the money on new more upscale interconnects such as the Zu Event or Sablon Panatela (the latter met very positive reviews right after its release and is slated to be reviewed by another writer in 6moons). Logically thinking, the investment in interconnects should be more significant than investing in USB cables. But I'm rather skeptical about interconnect cables when it comes to headphones,or should I say, headphone systems. Everyone admits better interconnect cables make a huge difference when they're listening with preamps, power amps and loudspeakers. But can the same be said for a headphone system where the only interconnects you ever need are the ones that will connect a DAC (or a CD player) to a headphone amp? As world-class as my headphones and headphone amps are, will they be able to benefit significantly from world-class interconnects too? Of course opinions may vary. But I've never had the chance to try out multiple interconnects of different caliber with headphone systems to tell the difference.
SongKyung Han

It's a very fair question to which I don't have the answer. I always use the same cables front to back which at present happens to be a complete loom of Zu Event. I simply use more for the speaker system. With the integrated DACs driving both speaker and headfi systems (Zodiac Gold, Burson, Eximus or the final production Invicta which arrived yesterday), they only see a USB or S/PDIF cable. The Lyr in my case would see a Zu Event interconnect. How drastic would it be to step down that cable or up? That's exactly what you want to know. I simply haven't done that experiment yet. I have compared various USB cables and found that moving beyond the throwaways made an appreciable difference but that differences between the after-market jobs I had my hands on were minute at best. It's well possible that there's a USB cable realm of glory beyond what I've tried but I've not investigated it.

If you have discretionary headfi funds, some other areas to experiment with are power cords (don't laugh, that's for real); and power-line conditioners (I tend to prefer well-done passives like Furutech, Walker et al). With a computer source you've got a lot of RF and also AC noise from SMPS. Trying to keep the latter out of your headfi system is a good idea. This might require running the PC on a completely different power spur. Then there's a completely different kind of 'component' category like Schumann Resonators; and Tachyonics products specifically made to minimize radiation effects from cell phones, computers, monitors, wireless keyboards and such. I use all of those. One might debate whether it's the listener who 'improves' (less physical radiation effects on the brain) or the sound per se but if you're result oriented, the reason doesn't matter. A Schumann resonator is a very simple affair which needn't cost a lot at all and they're available through some alternative health outlets. It plugs into a spare outlet and otherwise doesn't connect to anything. Tachyonics products stick or glue to things you want to shield yourself from. And as the recent Steve Marsh review on Less EMF shows, DIY experiments with mu-metal shields could be educational for very little money too.
Srajan Ebaen
Dear Jason and Srajan: 
I'm writing to you about my impressions of the Lyr. Both of you were very helpful to me in deciding to make this purchase. And I thought you might have an interest in what I think of it. To get the negatives out of the way, in my set up the Lyr has a strong hum. It can be heard from the unit and through my headphones which increases with increasing volume settings. At listening levels the hum can be heard through the headphones between tracks of music. My other headphone amp, a Grace m902, has a hum that can be heard from the unit only by putting one's ear directly on it. A hum can be heard through the headphones but only at the very highest volume setting. The Lyr hum does not seem to affect the sound produced but there is no question that it is an irritant.

I have burned the unit in for about 30 hours and can discern resulting differences that now allow me to assess it against the Grace m902. I have used my Sennheiser HD800, Audeze LCD-2 (2 rev), Grado RS-1 and Grado SR80. All are fitted with the manufacturers' standard headphone cables. I have tried the Lyr connected through various interconnect cables directly to my Bryston BDA-1 DAC and through the tape connections of my Bryston BP-26 preamp, which has a powerful (100 Watt) external power supply. The best sound to my ear is through the preamp tape connections, and, strangely no-name interconnect cables that are about 15 feet long - the sound is better and the hum is less pronounced.

Based on Srajan's review of the Lyr, it was my hope that the Lyr would bring out the best in the HD800. There is a marginal but distinct improvement as compared to using the Grace. The midrange is a little more forward, the sound stage a bit narrower and overall the HD800 sounds somewhat less clinical and cold to my ear. The bass is better in this way - with the Grace to get satisfactory bass, I have to increase the volume to unacceptable volume levels. Not so with the Lyr.

Srajan felt that the Lyr made some improvements for the LCD-2. For me the improvement over the Grace is considerable. All the awesome bass is there but far more controlled and tighter. Moreover I found now that I have a comparison to make, the Grace smears the bass of the LCD-2. As a result of these changes, the LCD-2 which I already favored over HD800, is utterly great. I tried briefly listening the the Grado RS-1 which at one time was considered among the best (many years ago I paid then what I now paid for the LCD-2). It sounds simply awful. Unbearably shrill treble, smeared sound - a mess. The SR80 is better only because the flaws are not so pronounced.

Conclusion: I wish to hell that the Lyr didn't hum. However, it is an irritant not deal breaker because despite all the bells and whistles on the Grace (remote, x-feed etc.), the Lyr just sounds better. At one third the price of the Grace it is a remarkable achievement. Heads and shoulders above the Grace? No. But the more important thing for me is this: it is likely that I will be using the Lyr while the Grace gathers dust as might my HD800.  And I have to find a way to get rid of the Grados. Srajan, thanks for your advice and guidance. Jason, thanks for your help and above all, for a wonderful headphone amp.
David Werthman

David,
Thanks for the in-depth commentary and the kind words. It's odd that you're getting audible hum from the headphones, though, especially the LCD-2s. Have you tried lifting the ground just as an experiment? The results from that will determine what we need to do further.
All the best,
Jason Stoddard
Schiit
Hi Srajan,
Ric Schultz of EVS here. I have been thinking about doing mods on the Pass baby amps as I can see they could benefit mucho from some simple mods as well as advanced mods. I have a friend locally here who will probably buy one soon and I will work up the mods on it. However, I can give you a lot of the information now and you can experiment, if you like, on one of your amps. Some of these mods are very simple and fairly easy to do.  Here are some things you might want to try:
1. Remove the magnetic steel bolt and top plate from the power transformer and instead put a quarter inch piece of plywood underneath. You can use a little Amazing Goop to temporarily hold it together or if that is too scary then get a brass bolt and use another piece of plywood on top,.nothing magnetic. This will make the sound more open.
2. Change the magnetic steel screws/nuts (assuming they are) from the two diode bridges and replace them with brass hardware. Again, more open sounding.
3. Change the magnetic steel screws/washers (assuming they are) from the power devices and replace with brass washers and screws again.
4. Remove the power indicator LEDs. You can just pull up the resistor feeding them or one leg of the LED on the board... way more pure and open.  
You could do the above things on your 5 and SI amp and not tell anyone but have mucho better sound. You can always quickly go back to stock if you have to sell or return them. Maybe I could send you a tweaked amp for you to A/B with the stock amp. I don't know if Nelson would approve, however. Just thinking now - hmm. Think I will put an ad on AudiogoN saying I will do one for free to get this going. I would surely love to hear one of his amps done right.

More advanced mods: Damp the heatsinks. Damp the parts sticking up off the board, the binding posts by using my bypass system (bring the output wires through a hole in the chassis beneath the binding posts and wrap them around the outside of the post and then use the post as a wire to wire/spade clamp). Change tons of parts. Remove AC limiting devices. Remove pots and substitute fixed resistors, change input jacks, change wires.....well, you get the idea. Lots could be done. 

Nelson is a fantastic designer but just uses good but not great parts and execution. Imagine how good his amps could sound if done right. I made my own mono versions of the original Aleph 3 but stripped of the sonic limiting floating current source and a ton of other unnecessary parts. I used Vishay resistors and it was totally hard wired and tweaked. Best amps I have ever heard. By the way, I have some open baffle tweaky speakers coming out by the end of the year (preliminary info on my website) along with the modded Oppo 95 for which I am working up more mods this week.
Yours for better sound,
Ric Schultz

Without asking Nelson's permission first, I believe the entire idea is premature and ethically ambiguous. I personally have no interest in anything other than stock. My reviews make sense only with gear readers can hear for themselves - i.e. original from the manufacturer. People who think they can do an amp "right" should design one from scratch like Dan Wright does with ModWright. Designing a very good piece of electronics to a price point is more of an art than modifying another man's circuit and marketing oneself as the one who fixed his work. Why not obtain formal permission and approval for your planned modifications from Nelson first? Underwood Hifi does a nice business with factory-authorized mods and many of them thus retain the original warranty.
Srajan
Hi Srajan,
Stunning review of Nelson Pass's SIT! Even though I've admired his work since the days of Threshold, it seems I'd never been able to afford his gear or with the passing of time I went other directions. You certainly have to hand it to the "man" for his contributions to the DIY commandoes and his "First Watt" ventures (which in the audiophile world are most affordable), and to his continuing interest and excitement of design. I recommend Nelson for a "Blue Moon" award! Very impressive writing on your part too! I truly enjoyed the article.
Ed King
The Luxman D-100R  iPod doc looks very promising. Now, if we can get one with a high-quality volume control as well.... amps of our choice, here we come! Dreams and hopes seem (slowly) to be coming true. Do I smell common sense?
Don Cooper
Hi Srajan,
the APL NWO-M player is considered by many to be one of the very best digital sources, cost no object. What I find astonishing is the equal level of competition from the Metrum Octave mini DAC. The price ratio is an absurd, no make that staggering 43:1! How can that be? Have you ever come across another component that compares evenly performance wise at such a tiny fraction of cost to the other component? How Cees was able to do this is a wonder.
Charles

It's a bit of a mind bender. My friend has the same NWO-M. Except his has 24 x 32-bit AKM 4399s per channel (mine 'only' has 20). And he also has the Metrum. And in two recent comparisons of different ancillaries in his system which I attended, he also preferred the Metrum fed from the NWO-M's Esoteric transport. So the real math must add that portion of the NWO-M's price to the Metrum. This begins to shift the 43:1.

Even so it remains exceptional and surprising. Other listeners could prefer the NWO-M but it's certainly true that the Octave performs on the level. The best way I can hypothesize at this achievement is the FirstWatt factor. Just yesterday we compared Nelson's new S2 prototype at my friend's place to amps at 6 times the price, then replaced a $1.500 preamp with one that was 30 times costlier. The best sound came from the $1.500 preamp with the S2. That preamp has the simplest of circuits. It's fully balanced transformer attenuation and nothing else. The S2 amp is single-stage single-ended no feedback. Simple circuits executed well with superior core devices (a silicon-carbide static induction transistor or power JFet in the amp, Cees' secret 'super' chip in the DAC) can outperform far more complex circuits. And simple can mean affordable if the designers of such pieces don't dress them up with bling but apply a fair raw cost-to-build to retail multiplier.

In amplifiers, paralleling output devices as is necessary to obtain high power from a given part is known to incur performance sacrifices without certain extreme measures. In the NWO-M, Alex Peychev parallels DAC chips 'endlessly' and does the related circuit board work by hand rather than robotically. If you look at the size of the parts on those boards (tiny), you begin to appreciate the hand labor costs involved. But are 24 paralleled delta-sigma DACs wired up by hand automatically better than a superior R/2R chip paralleled four times and inserted robotically in someone else's machine - especially if the latter chips include I/V conversion and output buffering to eliminate two stages where the other machine includes a tube buffer stage and output transformers?

If simpler is better (within reason), more complex and far costlier can lose. The Metrum/NWO-M case seems to be a case in point. Which makes the NWO-M no less of an achievement. It's a complete universal player which includes a 24/192 async USB input. The Octave is just a DAC. But here's the thing. You can only write the way you think. Audio designers can only create sound the way they hear. If you like my self-taught creative way of reviewing better than that of a formally trained writer working for a corporate paper who can recite all the rules and regs of grammar to perfection, the latter's credentials don't come to bear. If you prefer the sonic ideals of a cheap machine's creator to that of a super-priced component, the latter's credentials don't factor. There are multiple layers to consider.

Lastly, APL Hifi offers a standalone DAC which is a lot more cost-effective than their Esoteric rebuilds. That would be the machine to pit against the Metrum for a more even comparison.
Srajan
What a nice juicy and well thought-out "review" you have done for Nelson's latest creation! I'm sure he must be very pleased with both your assessment and how you have balanced listener enthusiasm with the technical description and how it relates to system gestalt. I'm also sure that the DIY community, most especially his ardent followers in diy.com, will be besides themselves with longing. There was already mention of a group buy for the devices although the figure of $300,000 to get in the door may have been rather daunting. Long may Nelson's fertile inventive spirit continue to output, for the love of the research as well as for the music it creates.
Shepperd Strudwick
Srajan,
While you're no doubt fully aware of your gifts as a descriptive writer, I've been meaning to write to you for some time to voice my appreciation for all that you do. I've been into high end audio for a long time (since I was a kid) and your site contains the very best high end-focused writing I've found to date. For me, 6moons is the very best website of any kind extant, and your reviews, in particular, have always resonated with this reader on an almost spiritual level; they're just a joy to read. Your recent choice to focus a good percentage of your reviews on what you've termed 'bridge' products, such as USB DACs, was a stroke of genius and demonstrates clearly that you have your finger on the pulse of what real people in the real world want to read about. I hope you continue writing, and thereby educating and entertaining your readership, for many years to come.
A big fan,
Dan Freeman
P.S. -- I stumbled across this today and thought of you:
http://www.musicdirect.com/p-50779-luxman-d-100r-docking-station.aspx
I don't remember ever seeing a direct digital iPod dock with a built-in DAC for such a low price and thought you might be interested.