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Just about hit the deck again. My inbox has been buzzing all weekend. You had people in despair. "What a cliffhanger. And just when you think it's time for the closing words, he keeps you waiting and wanting more. Again. Aaaaargh."

"I have been pressing the refresh button all weekend in anticipation yet nothing could have prepared me for this goose bump moment; and I'm not even directly part of it. But nonetheless so proud on your behalf, Martin, and thankful to be part of your quest. Big congratulations from all of us in Stockholm."

"Many will try to climb the mountain and only a few will succeed; but to reach the pinnacle consistently takes something very special. Hearty congratulations."

Yes, thanks a mil for turning my efforts into words which people can relate to and also backing me up on my peasant'y remark. On behalf of all involved, it is very much appreciated. After all, teamwork is the word! Martin Gateley

Hi Srajan, thanks for your review of the D300Ref. I had 2 questions if I may. 1/ Did you compare it to any other network streamers or servers such as the SOtM 200 Ultra or Lumin U1? If so how did it fare. 2/ You mentioned near the end that something like the D300Ref is something you'd consider after everything else is sorted out including cables, power etc. I noticed that even with humble power solutions and basic cables improving my source with a good streamer made a huge difference in the sound. Is this your finding as well? Some argue that a quality source such as from a streamer is as important as a good DAC. What do you think? Thank you. Ricky S.

First, I don't use the D300Ref as a streamer but simple USB bridge between iMac and DAC. If I do any streaming, it's directly with the iMac (Qobuz, Tidal). That's why in my sequence of priorities, I put it at the end - after all else is settled. In my use (I also use it as an SD transport for locally hosted files in lieu of the iMac), it's just a D/D converter that reclocks and dejitters the data stream. The actual transport is always the iMac. As to your second question, yes, a transport even of non-physical media no longer discs can make an appreciable difference just like in the olden days, a beefy Esoteric transport outperformed a wobbly plastic sled in a DVD player or laptop. But I'm the wrong guy to ask about audiophile servers (dedicated music computers disguised as hifi kit). I haven't yet heard one I'd prefer to our iMac/D300Ref combo using Audirvana 3 as the player software instead of iTunes. So I've given up reviewing them. On staff, Marja & Henk review servers and the last ones they did were the mega expensive Taiko and less extreme Grimm. I prefer 'streaming' locally hosted files I own so my needs for a cloud streamer that must get the best from Ethernet or Wifi are basically nil.  Srajan

Hello, hope you're planning on reviewing the Avatar!!?? Steve Fink

If the opportunity presents, absolutely. At the moment I'm already booked for their Iris and Gaia so Denafrips might spread the luv around by approaching another publication to do the unveiling honors on the transport? That would make perfect sense. Of course they've also got a new stereo amp and the forthcoming Hermes DDC so there's plenty to go around. Kinki have four new models so Alvin at Vinshine will be a busy man over the coming months. Srajan

Dear Srajan, first off, I hope you and your wife are staying healthy over there in Ireland. I seem to recall that you're living quite rural so that's probably a really good thing right now. That brings me to my inquiry today. I see a lot of thoughtful commentary on Covid 19 in various audio publications but haven't seen you mention it even once. You're usually so ahead of the curve that I'm a bit surprised by what to me seems like very strange reluctance to engage. Would you care to comment? Otherwise I enjoy your reviews as I always have and hope to read many more to come. All the best, Frank Laughton

I find the virus coverage in the major online news media (I don't do paper) overwhelmingly fear-based, thus counter-productive. The best news is bad news runs rampant, dubious death/infection counters and all. Why add to it? In different ways, all of us experience the ramifications. Who needs another reminder that it's ongoing and not looking to let up anytime soon? What's the upside of entering coverage when on that subject, I have absolutely nothing helpful to contribute? I prefer to focus on producing our usual hifi entertainment. Given current circumstances, it's likely to have more not less readers than before. Entertainment doesn't fix anything but it's the business I'm in. While I can, that's what I'm up to, not piling on a public conversation which, for the most part, seems rife with misinformation, fear and dangerous wishful thinking.

As to Ivette and I, our rural location does seem tailor-made for this time of self-imposed isolation. We're still healthy, thanks for asking, but even that's no proof. There are virus carriers who don't show any symptoms. When it's our time to go, it'll happen whether by heart attack, traffic accident or virus. Until then, we can either live, be happy and express our creativity to the best of our ability; or worry, fret and in general shrink and obsess about what may happen. The better choice seems pretty clear. Srajan

Srajan, have you heard of Qln speakers? Their Prestige 3 is getting good reviews and looks like something up your alley, simple two-way floorstander, time aligned, quality drivers, silent enclosure. Any chance it'll end up on your review itinerary this year? I would love your opinion on it. Chad

I'm actually familiar with the brand and reviewed their Signature 3 two years ago. Their US importer who then also did Aqua digital which I'd reviewed and liked a lot was very keen on Qln and organized my review samples. At the following year's Munich show, I got to meet their designer Mats Andersen in the Ivo Linnenberg booth showing the Prestige 3 you're interested in. He wasn't completely happy that I'd thought his monitor a bit pricey for its concept and execution. So I wouldn't ask him now to ship me the bigger version. Sorry. Srajan

Dear Srajan, doing a Google search on a TotalDAC sent me to a review by Michael Lavorgna whom I remember from writing for you in the old days. Then I did some more reading by him to eventually realize that he stopped posting to his own site Twittering Machines. Somehow I missed all of that. Do you have any idea why he's no longer in the game? I really enjoyed his unique style and approach... Holger

I never did inquire why Michael called it quits. But I did a Google search just now to see what might come up. I found this. In it, author Bill Leebens describes himself as a friend to Michael and says "he can't do it any more. He can't take the acrimony and contentiousness and vituperative, anonymous venom that he's experienced in this field." If true, I feel bad that Michael let the dark side kill something he enjoyed. But for sensitive types, growing thicker skin may just not be an option if it makes them less sensitive in turn. Both Doug Schneider and John Darko have gone on record saying that the reason why they don't host a blog-type comments section beneath their reviews is for the same reason. They have neither the time nor stomach for policing rude posters. It's why I never had such a feature either. If you view your job as a provider of very regular consistent content, time is too precious to waste on negativity. There's no upside to it. And there's a dark aspect about turning a hobby/passion into a profession. The thing that once was so much fun when it was just for fun can become a burden or pale routine when it's suddenly ruled by deadlines and repetitiveness year in, year out. Getting back to just the fun of it if one did lose that balance can also be a very good reason to make a change. But if Bill is right, that wouldn't have been the case for Michael. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I read a news announcement over on Matej's site and later also yours, about the new Marten speakers. Looking at them, I noticed bass radiators on all of them. That reminded me of a monitor that had those on each side which you once wrote about I believe. Whatever happened to those? They seemed interesting but I forgot more details, even their name. Andrew Wozny

You're referring to the Kaiser Furioso Mini. Indeed, I'd penned a preview on it about two years ago. I'd actually forgotten about it. At the time my samples had been recalled because the design was being revisited right then. It made no sense to write about something that would never be. Now that I think on it, it's been finalized for quite a while. I was simply never shipped the replacements. Unless they suddenly show up which I really don't expect, that assignment mysteriously died on the vine. It happens. Marja & Henk were shipped a pair by another maker which was then recalled as a non-standard engineering sample but never replaced; and I had a Swiss amp that stopped working and never came back fixed. If you want to read more on the actual Kaiser, Holger Barske has this review which Google Translator will turn to English. Srajan

"It's the Kali Yoga of converterage" you said in your last JAVS preview. I typically follow your puns but this one escapes me. Could you explain so I understand it? Paul Sharon

In Hindu mythology, a Kali Yuga is the last of a four-part cycle of yugas/ages which repeat indefinitely like a turning wheel. Within that cosmology, any Kali Yuga is a dark and morally primitive time. The sentence just before the one you ask about was "flexibility is king". Among other things, the physical branch of yoga called Hatha Yoga tends to improve one's physical flexibility. So the word yuga became yoga, the connection to 'age' got embedded in converterage and the subtext is, we are living in a dark age. I just had some fun to liven things up a bit. Srajan

Srajan, I wanted to thank you for being such a great reference. I really have only one weakness in the audio chain and that is for speakers made by true artisans. Without you I would never have known the story of Alain. I have read enough by you over the years to pick up in your M3 review that you were shocked that a product and person so talented could be working in virtual obscurity. Once I saw him winning the arm-wrestling championship, I knew I had to have him make me a pair of M3 if for no other reason than to support people like him.

 

So the first pair to the US, walnut satin, front port. Thanks again, it's really meeting people like Alain and having a hand-made beautiful instrument that is an extension of him that makes it so interesting for me. I am sure they sound terrific. (Duelund inductor in the LP never hurts ). Hope you are staying well. Best, Paul

Ah - you're headed straight for the Promised Land now, 40-year detour cancelled. Do let me know what you think of them once they arrive. Congrats. Srajan

Srajan, I very much look forward to your take on the new mini monitor from Børresen. Their website doesn't list them yet so I keep looking at your preview to see whether you've updated it.  Any idea when your pair will arrive so we can learn more? I can't wait so just had to ask. With apologies if necessary, all my very best to you in these difficult times, Patrick Croyden

I'm told they're awaiting the first batch of cabinets from China. Due to the current situation, there are delays with their supplier very much like other manufacturers experience, too. Once the cabs do arrive in Denmark, Børresen handle everything else so they can expedite first production to launch the Z01. Until then, they must sit pretty like you and I. So at present, I don't know when delivery will be, sorry. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I see that you're reviewing the second sound|kaos monitors. Would you by any chance have a lower-powered tube amp on hand to report on how it'll do into these loads? You write that they're 92dB. That sounds promising, especially for such a small speaker. From experience I simply know that such numbers don't always tell the whole story. So I'd appreciate it if you could explore that aspect on behalf of listeners like myself who prefer such amplifiers. Thanks in advance, Gregory F.

I'm afraid I no longer own valve amps of any persuasion and for that reason, tend to not review them either. But I do make exceptions. So I  rather recently had the Linear Tube Audio 10wpc and 20wpc integrateds in which I knew going in wouldn't be traditional. But they have been returned to the US since and not been replaced by anything equivalent, sorry. So no glowing bits on the inputs of the Vox 3a this time. That'll have to be for another reviewer. I understand Roland Dietl at HifiStatement has a pair. Perhapy you can appeal to him? Srajan

Hello Srajan, I just saw your comment to Mike Brown about your old Auralic. So after all these years, it still hangs tough with modern competition? That's good to know. Thanks for the tip then. What in particular do you love most about it? Krishna

As you can see, the Vega remains on active duty in my bedside headfi system. It remains particularly strong on colors and minor lushness so makes a great companion for the speed-freak Raal ribbon earspeakers. Srajan

Srajan, I read a Linear Tube Microzotl preamp review on PartTimeAudiophile, then found your comments on the MZ3. Comparing Marc's comments to yours, it seems that these two models really are sonically the same. So to be sure, the extra cash only buys a bigger box and extra inputs, nothing else? Or am I overlooking something? Peter Cronin

The maker says the units are sonically identical. They saw my intro before it went live and had no corrections so yes, the extra money goes to different features and cosmetics, not sonics. It's precisely why I asked for the cheaper 2-box unit. For most people, its i/o should be sufficient. Few people these days will need a tape loop. And why spend extra on balancing input transformers when the volume control and outputs are single-ended regardless? Being able to relocate the power supply also struck me as an extra asset for the MZ3. In short, whichever unit better serves your needs, the sound should be the same as long as you use the same tubes. Hope that clarifies things for you. Srajan

Hi again, just received a Job 225 via eBay (haven't found the INT yet) and using it with a Schiit Sega preamp connected to my Boenicke 5W. I'm in heaven. Thank you. Like so many things in my life, I get to the right answer only after trying everything else first! Now I don't have much of a DAC so will be trying out a Border Patrol as well as a Denafrips Ares 2. Denafrips arrives tomorrow. Srajan, thanks for everything you do - Mike Brown

There's also the Auralic Vega. Mine is 7 years old and I'm still enjoying it and comparing new arrivals to see how it holds up. Let's just say that if you can find one used (should be ca. €1-1.5K by now), it'd be another slam dunk. Srajan

Hello Srajan! Great to see you are still helping us all in these challenging pandemic times with good audio reviews and content. I for one see the ever-challenging audiophile landscape moving to unknown frontiers with the loss of brick & mortar stores. Knowledgeable personnel and the ever changing views of generations to come are in these remaining stores. With that said, I’m firmly in the giant-killer budget-beater camp stemming from solid information gleaned from your salacious reviews. My systems still hold dear the Eastern Electric Minimax pre, Gallo Ref 3 speakers and Silverfi cables. In the big rig I’m still enamored with the glass-bottled EL34 monos, big tone 6SN7 DeHavilland Ultraverve and my Denafrips Pontus DAC. The severely delayed DSP board upgrade for the Denafrips finally arrived yesterday. All the best and keep the awesome content coming. It all helps through stay-at-home orders here in the USA. Warmest regards, Mark

Being on a dealer's mailing list where I once ordered a digital cable from his online shop, I just got an email today. This is a Swiss brick'n'mortar who announced a change in their operations. From now on, they'll only open the store for single customers who made a prior appointment. Otherwise the store will sit there closed. By appointment, a single client will have the run of the shop and full attention of the proprietor with all health-safety standards observed. Could that be one flavor of hifi's future? Srajan

Hey Srajan, I don't remember its name but in your preview section, you had a disc-shaped server that suddenly took off and disappeared. I was kind of looking forward to learning more about it. The looks were interesting so I was curious whether sound and creature comforts would measure up. Was it just a temporary glitch or has it gone away for good? Thanks, John Gorman

The UK-based marketing manager involved in introducing this product to the West relinquished the line based on dissatisfaction with support from Korea. He'd solicited us for the review and now asked us to pull it which we did. That's all I know. Srajan

Dear Srajan, in your recent LTA preview, you mention various 6SN7 preamplifiers. Don't forget the Vu Jade Audio piece and Fluxion BL-1A which I've heard great things about. There's also the Wyetech Labs Jade which you reviewed in 2006... Roger

I'm sure there are many more I don't know of or forgot about again That's why I didn't claim any exhaustive list but wrote "models I've seen mentioned" to also make clear that I haven't actually heard them. Srajan

Srajan, I just saw the changes you made to those speaker reviews. Creating a new brand certainly ended their identity crisis but I can't say the same for their new website. It's unbelievably rudimentary and very far from the professionalism your reviews attribute to the actual product. Out of the frying pan and into the boiling water or however the English say it. I'm not impressed. Helmut Günther

Alain would agree. It's a temporary place holder until a professional web design company can build him something proper. He simply didn't want to wait for that. He wanted an interim page up right away so customer and dealer inquiries have a working contact. Looking at his page, I'd say it serves that function just fine for now. Srajan

Srajan, I see that the JAVS guys have agreed to send you their D/D converter. Excellent show. Can't wait to see what you have to say about it. Please try outputs other than HDMI which they say only works with their own DAC. S/PDIF is far more common so I want to know how that works. Brian

Indeed. For example, I've got a 7-year old Auralic Vega. It'll be interesting to see what bolting on the X7-DDC Femto + Clean Power does for it. I have a Chris Sommovigo Tombro Trøn S/PDIF cable so that will certainly see use. I'll also try AES/EBU. The X7-DAC MQA obviously will also get HDMI to see how superior that is then. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I know you read German so was curious whether you'd seen the latest Bakoon review on Hifistatement yet? I thought it was excellent and confirmed your feelings about it. I also took note that the author came across the sound|kaos monitors you like and will do a follow-up review of the combination. If you haven't seen it yet, you might get a kick out of it. Gerhard Braunhofer

I did see it, thank you. Indeed, their findings mirror mine to perfection. Now I'm curious what they'll think about the Vox3f combo. The teaser comments about it were certainly promising. It's nice to see that this kit is getting more of the exposure it deserves. Bonsai audio indeed. Srajan

Srajan, am enjoying your new system combinations feature. Perhaps one day you could do one on not main components but accessories that deliver a lot of bang for the buck? Tom O'Malley

Not sure whether that's what you had in mind but N°6 in that series is about a number of different accessories ranked by efficacy. Srajan

Hi Srajan, hope all is well on your end. Are you guys under complete lock-down? Here in India pretty much everything is. With a vintage speaker like a JBL 4343 or Altec VOTT, would you recommend the Bakoon over the LTA Ultralinear and ZOTL 10? Take care. Stay safe. Premnath

Pretty much. Non-essential businesses are closed down. These amps are quite similar in their sonic profiles. They simply use different means to get there. Since I've never heard a JLB 4343 or Altec, I wouldn't know what else to say. Srajan

Thanks Srajan. Do you have any favorites among the three?  Take care. Stay safe. Best, Prem

The Bakoon. It's what I listen to in my personal upstairs system. Srajan

How would you compare the Cube EL84 monoblocs to the ZOTL 10? Similar sounding? Prem

Not. Anything with a classic output transformer just doesn't do what the Bernings do. In fairness, legacy valve fans might consider the Berning sound too ‘transistorized' but to me, that's the whole appeal. The tube virtues are very gentle whilst resolution, bandwidth, noise and speed are solid-statish. Srajan

Hey Srajan, so the sound cats are little lion kings not alley toms as you put it? That's really nice to hear and the pricing too seems realistic. Do you expect that their companion bridge can hold its own against your D300Ref? I also seem to recall that Denafrips are working on theirs so this field seems set to get populated soon. For now I'd love to hear your thoughts on this X7-DDC machine, All the best, Brian

I put in word with Gunhee that I'm interested to follow up on that piece. He has to talk to his boss first. He wasn't sure whether this model is slated for export already. It's certainly not yet listed on their global pages. So we'll see. An $1'100 battery/super-cap powered USB bridge with I²S support (even if proprietary to only work with the companion DAC) is certainly a very interesting proposition. Srajan

Srajan, looking at your Taiko and Grimm reviews in such short succession, even showing a photo of both units with the same reviewers at the same time, I gotta say that you seriously missed out on a golden opportunity to compare the two. I can't be the only one to be curious how two expensive servers with different design approaches compare. I like that you guys do a lot of ABs. It's why I keep coming back to read you. But it's also why I don't understand how you could possibly miss the boat on this one. Care to explain? Thilo Krämer

I'm not telling my writers what to write or how to write it, Thilo. That's part of the deal. As to speculating what happened, it's likely that the Taiko was due back right when the Grimm arrived and they simply took the photo while they still had the chance. Sometimes that's how it goes. Especially very expensive stuff from small makers is often on shorter loans. Floating multiple machines each worth a new car out in the field at the same time can get painful real fast unless you're a mega corporation. Srajan

Hello Srajan. I see you're lined up for the Nagra Classic DAC. Are you by any chance also doing their matching Tube DAC to tell us how the two compare? That would be really cool so hopefully you can make it happen. Colin

No, I've not signed up for a twofer so what will come from Switzerland and go back to Switzerland is one box containing a Classic DAC. I agree that it would be interesting to speculate on how those two machines compare but that's exactly what we'll both have to do: speculate. Sorry, Colin. Srajan

Srajan, I just found your Simon Audio monitor speaker review and really enjoyed it. Excellent descriptions and music examples. Also, I would agree that even though you told the background story, it's still a case of confusion. I live in Europe so I went to their French website. I only found a page in French tucked away behind very different speakers looking more like vintage Japanese horns with big woofers than what you reviewed. To be honest, this cooled down my excitement again because it didn't seem like a very professional operation. What's been your impression of them so far? Helmut Günther

Interesting you should ask that. I've just been informed that designer Alain Pratali is working on a new website for this model and all the others in the M range. This will include a new brand name to avoid the current confusion between Simon Audio as his Far East importer; and Rouault Acoustic as his French cabinet shop and builder. Once that website is live, I'll recode the M3, M1 and M Zero Junior review and previews with the new brand name and replace the current website links with the new one. Then all should be clear. As to my impression so far, the product is truly excellent and Alain Pratali seems to be a very gifted knowledgeable designer. Like many of their kind, he much prefers designing audio to marketing matters. As to Antoine the builder, he's been very communicative about the build of my M1 samples so if I were a paying client, I'd be very happy about that process. This first review in English has simply shone a light on their marketing needing work so they're attending to it now. For small brands where one man must wear many different hats, that's actually quite common. But I'd rather have a brilliant designer and fastidious builder who suck at marketing than a marketing jock who sucks at engineering and a sloppy builder. Ideally we'd get it all but if it's either one or the other, I think we'd all much rather put up with marginal marketing. Srajan

Dear Srajan, thank you for yet again finding a very interesting product in the JAVS combo you just posted a review on. How do you keep coming across this kind of stuff on such a regular basis? You just introduced us to the speakers from Mr. Pratali, a bit before that to the new monitors from Franck Tchang, the forthcoming new Aequo Audio model, that huge Lithuanian double stack. It seems you have a real knack for discovering novelties before anyone else does. Whatever your secret, keep up the good work. Toni Acron

It's mostly that this stuff finds me. I've been supporting smaller new brands for a very long time now and always made an effort at a comprehensive presentation especially if it was their maiden voyage into international waters. Perhaps because of that track record, new brands seem comfortable to approach us first now? With all your examples in fact, it was the makers who contacted us. So you should properly say that I did absolutely nothing other than respond. And saying 'yes' is very easy. Srajan

I love your description of the "vintage" NOS DAC character here. Have you found a DAC you like better for it than the CAD 1543? Grant

I wouldn't necessarily say ‘better'. That'd require still having the CAD in-house to compare. But I still listen to an NOS now discrete R2R DAC, the Denafrips Terminator. Before that it was the Aqua Hifi Formula, another discrete R2R affair. So you might say that I've stayed the course. Srajan

Small word? Courtesy of Miranda Sawyer, 'Observer' 29/03/20, is a mention of a fascinating App called Radio Garden. It brings up a map of Earth with twinkling lights. Each light is a radio station from that location; tap one and listen in. The days of twiddling a dial are gone? Chris Skelton

Kudos for the Systems column! The triumvirate room-speakers-amp (in this order) is at the core of the dark art of great hifi. Here are some personal faves based on your extensive archives: Similar to wine tasting, there is no such thing as 'the best' but rather a collection of splendid wine/food pairings to alternate the joy of the ear buds! Vincenzo 

Srajan, excellent new systems article and une très bonne idée! Taking some of your past reviews and assembling different price point/performance combinations is a terrific service to readers who often don't have the time, luxury or access to figure out the best way to configure a righteous system.  Looking forward to more such postings. Stay healthy! Cheers, Michael Fanning

Hi Srajan, please send me the list of the components you are selling. Your discoveries over the past 12 months have been exceptional. My customers and I have been delighted with the Cube Nenuphar, Bakoon Amp-13R, First Watt SIT-3, Simon Audio AIO, Soundaware D300Ref, Denafrips Terminator... I ventured further and acquired a Vinnie Rossi L2i special edition with DAC/phonostage, an outstanding integrated which I hope will hit your radar soon. Long life to the geniuses who built these marvels and to the passion you put in what you do! Thank you, Vincenzo Picone

Srajan, do you ever feel inclined to comment on a maker's lack of basic marketing? I'm asking because after finishing your most recent review on those small monitor speakers from Paris, I clicked on your manufacturer's link, found the site, went to their speakers page and nothing. WTF? I've seen this type thing before with other reviews but forgot to write in about it. It does strike me as simply dumb to send out stuff for review, get a review which must drive traffic to the maker's website but then fail to show the product in question. Anything? Exasperated in Austin, Tim 

Cough. You're not alone nor is this an isolated case. Very often, manufacturers don't bother to link to our reviews from their own websites either. What if someone didn't read our review when it first published but now investigates the product for potential purchase? Wouldn't providing easy access to all the formally published comments (from us and everyone else) be an effective and dirt-easy way to increase the prospects of a sale? The only thing I can figure other than people not paying attention to basic marketing is that many companies hired an IT firm to design their website back when but weren't trained on how to update it themselves. Many of these big IT firms charge long and take forever to make simple small changes past building the initial site - changes which take mere minutes to implement. If you don't know how to do them yourself; or don't have a responsive web master - you could find yourself pickled. That's my assumption on why these things happen. I fully agree that they're counter productive. Our work simply ends when we publish. The rest is up to the makers and their agents. Many makers wear multiple hats and marketing is their least favorite or understood. That's nearly part of their charm but at times, it also could drive one up the wall alright.

Whilst we're happily bitching away, how about asking tech questions, requesting factory or production photos to make a more comprehensive presentation only to get no replies? Why solicit us for review in the first place only to hamstring us in the very execution of said request? It boggles my mind. But that too happens more often than I care to admit. Srajan

Hey Srajan, have you ever considered approaching Roy Gregory to write for you? I really enjoy his approach and think he would make a great addition to your team. He has the technical knowledge and also writes really well. What do you think? Cameron Dricksol

I think that Roy has a very happy home with Mark Mickelson at the The Audio Beat. I don't poach writers who write for other publications. That's bad form. When people approach me about wanting to change or work non-exclusive, I always entertain the prospect depending on their situation and abilities. With Roy having made no overtures, I don't see that in the air at all. Srajan

Hi Srajan, just read your N°56/68 review which, in a word, is fabulous!  You captured Franck's personality perfectly in the two speakers. I also very much liked your automotive analogy, particularly as I worked for Michelin for 16 years - five of them in central France. Not many people can articulate the differences between budget and premium tires but you nailed it. At the end of the day, I am glad there is a place in the world where the creations of Franck Tchang can be touted. Thanks! Michael

Hi Srajan, Thank you for your review of the Eigentakt/Purifi amp... so close(r) but (still) no cigar for the nextgen of D apparently when put up against highest-res/bandwidth AB competition... I keep remembering Alex R.'s comment on Class D categorically lacking low-level detail retrieval in the course of his glowing comments on the AHB2 - which itself is probably a smidgen less transparent than Linnenberg et al? Enter the GaN factor... if I may invite your perspective, do you see GaN - i.e. significantly higher switching frequencies - (with proper overall implementation obviously) finally leveling the playing field, or is there indeed (according to some at least, including the main amp guy at PS Audio, who ultimately gave up on an NCore-based prototype due to issues not only in the usual HF region, but apparently all the way down to 500 HZ - so yet again, a merely "good enough for bass/lower mid" proposition) some further inherent handicap ("birth defect"?) in D to where it will "never" take the top prize?

If so, perhaps its telling that a few years back Mr. Franks from Chord was claiming GaN to indeed be the silver bullet, and that they were going to develop the "digital amp to rule them all"... a bit premature (or not fully informed?) it would seem, being how what they ultimately (with the help of good old Bob Cordell) brought to market instead wound up being the little Choral Etude - quite speedy/transparent apparently, yet ultimately not much different of an overall design than the AHB2... just more bling-bling-y with a markedly more "high end" cache/subsequent price tag... so hmmm, perhaps the great GaN advantage proved to be more of a presumption?

On a side note, as far as both sporting SMPS allowing for diminutive form factors, it's also interesting that a dealer for Chord - a classical concert pianist, whose fav transducers are the Giya driven to concert levels - considered them both as "glorified lifestyle/toy amps" for that reason, incapable of swinging the current necessary to command lifelike dynamic jump/authority... another (but obviously closely related) topic though...

A friend of mine, the engineer at Orca/Raven, brought up an interesting possibility though... a GaN-ified pure Class A (he specifically thought of Mr. Pass' Aleph design modded)... a holy(er) grail?When I started developing my 5-way active design now over a decade ago, I naively presumed that this amp business would be a bit more sorted out by now... ROFL! Once more, thank you for your finely honed observations, and have a pleasant day! With respect, Mike Taylor

I've reviewed three GaN amps so far - the Merrill and AGD class D stereo and mono amps plus the small Gold Note class A/B. You might want to read particularly the AGD article. Its designer was involved in the creation of the actual GaN part to have useful insights covered in my review. He categorically stated that these parts have zero advantages in non-class D applications since they were engineered for extremely fast switching where class A doesn't switch at all. To my ears, this latest generation of GaN-ified class D by Merrill Wettasignhe and Alberto Guerra now competes directly against my LinnenberG amps, albeit at twice the coin. How much of that was due to these parts and how much to general implementation I of course couldn't say. But the playing field here seems still fluid and to my ears clear advances are currently being made. Srajan

Hello Srajan, have you double-checked the price on the LessLoss Speaker Firewalls? Robert Not sure what you mean? Louis signed off on the review so unless an error snuck in afterwards, everything should be listed correctly. Srajan

Well, it's confusing. On the LessLoss website, I went to their products page for conditioners and found what would seem to be the "FiFoLo" items for sale. It reads "Firewall for Loudspeakers, stereo pair, $1'656". Perhaps they mean a matched pair of two. Stay healthy. Robert

Indeed – stereo pair = 4 units = $1'656. Srajan

Thanks for the clarification. And $1'656 is much better than $3'312. Robert

Quite. Srajan

Excellent KIH article #74! Measurements simply don't reflect the enjoyment of a piece or indeed the synergy of a system! Reminds me of when I was younger, first getting into sound systems by just looking at specs: watts, distortion, wow and flutter etc. to match some recommended 'ideal' (e.g. lower is always better or the reverse) that had no bearing (correlation but not causation?) on sound quality. Like you said, more power to those who want/can match their requirements to their purchases, it’s their choice! But not for me. I’m surprised by how good my (new to me) Auralic Vega sounds through my Almarro A318b and DeVore Nines. It’s not supposed to! Thanks, Ron

Looks like you found a rule breaker. Happy days! Srajan  

Srajan, just finished your latest LessLoss review. I admit that like you, the notion of tacking on a mystery stretch of wire to my existing speaker cables is very counter-intuitive. But over the years I've come to trust your opinion. If you say these do something very effective and good, I believe you. It's why I appreciate that you also admit to not understanding how they work. I would agree that it doesn't really matter. Still, I prefer it if such devices did come with an explanation that I can wrap my head around. Do you have anything like a very basic theory about what's going on with these things? I'd love to hear it if you do. Simon Crafton

Here's what I've heard. Hearsay alert! Siltech at one point worked on amorphous cables. They'd identified an Israeli military contractor who could produce the raw material. The cost to buy it in bulk turned out prohibitive so they never went into formal production. But they learnt something valuable. If they terminated one of their standard silver/gold cables with a few inches of the amorphous wire on both ends, the spliced job sounded exactly as though it were continuous amorphous. Franck Tchang exploits the same observation for his LiveLine cables. They're ordinary solid-core copper except for their ends. For the ends he adds a few millimeters of sundry solid-core metal splices in gold, silver and platinum. Now the entire wire length behaves accordingly.

Apply the same concept to the Firewall for Loudspeakers. Whatever benefits the raw C-MARC cable has, those benefits are now irreversibly grafted onto your own cable. It needn't be end-to-end LessLoss. As to how the mystery bits inside the clear resin section work, your guess is as good as mine. But like I wrote in my review, a spigot water filter inserts at the very end of possibly miles worth of rusty pipes filled with chlorinated mains water. Yet what comes out is filtered clean water (well, as clean as that filter can make it). Like that spigot filter, the LessLoss mystery bits appear right before your speaker inputs. They "treat" whatever comes before via your amplifier preceded by your preamp by your source and their complex interactions and cables and AC connection. In a way, what happens before the Firewall no longer matters. At least that's my techno-peasant way of looking at it. It's admittedly primitive and entirely unscientific but good enough for me. Plus, I trust my own ears. Srajan

Hello Mr. Ebaen. I'm an audiophile from China and about Albedo speakers, could I ask you a question? I know you are the owner of Aptica and I'm also very interested in their speakers. I think you have listened to their new flagship model Atesia. What do you think about them? As you know, this design is rather different than their classical models like Aptica and they also use the latest Accuton Cell drivers. Thank you and hope for your reply! Ruping Zhu

I've never spent time with the large Albedo speakers. They were designed especially for the Asian market. Albedo's importers there asked for something bigger and costlier. Personally my means and interests are more modest. So I've never pursued their big stuff even though Albedo offered it to me. I don't have the room for it nor the back to unpack and pack it up again by myself. Srajan

Thank you very much for your reply! I also guessed that's why they developed the two latest large Atesia and Alecta models. But I have a large listening room of about 50m² with good height of 3.2m. I'd like to know more about Atesia's actual performance in a room. I really appreciate the intelligence of designer Massimo Costa. After many years of using Aptica, what do you think of it and what's the main difference to other brands which use Accuton drivers? Ruping

Most brands using Accuton drivers rely on steep filters. My Albedo model uses 1st-order filters. To me that makes a big difference. My room is 100m² in total and I don't need anything bigger than the Aptica. Srajan

I'm very surprised by what you said. Perhaps you're right. What do you think about Albedo's medium-sized floorstanders Axcentia MkII and Acclara? Ruping

Most people shop with their eyes not ears. Also, in Asia hifi is still a status symbol. So bigger heavier shinier speakers are popular. Often they're actually too much for the smaller rooms typical in Asia so their owners get sub-optimal performance and spend far too much on it. I've not heard the mid-sized Albedos either. My Aptica with a good amp can do 35Hz. If I want more, I add a big subwoofer below 40Hz. Now I have a far more compact system that looks far better and performs better. That's because active sealed bass with EQ provisions always beats passive non-adjustable bass with ports. You might say that I've heard and seen too much to still believe in the necessity for über hifi. If you can afford it and enjoy playing there, by all means. But if we talk about what's required for a given room to make good sound... very often less is more. How loud do you really play? How far away do you sit from your speakers? How much bass below 35Hz is on your music? Those are all reasonable questions to ask before one goes out to shop for speakers. Srajan

One would think that making a loudspeaker must be the easiest thing in our hifi world. Just look at the length of this list in your archives! Yet it's amazing that you can still find someone who has that extra something that catches your ear; and in a normal box-shaped unit too! Your award for the Simon M3 shows that a lifetime of work can produce something special. Thanks, Alain Pratali! Add your recent rave for the Kroma Mimi and it looks like a great start to the decade. For small speakers too! And here was I being tempted by a local  Altec Voice of the Theatre monster. Happy listening (oh and thanks for the music references in the review. How Ehab Younis held that long note for so long I'll never know! Sounded great on my amended Zigmahornets I use as desk-side units). Chris Skelton

Quite. This was a real "freak" find - completely unexpected and in a deceptively ordinary-looking though finely finished package. I had no idea going in what would hide beneath its skins and, far more importantly, how it would all add up to the ears. It's why I'm already signed up to do the bigger M1. I just have to find out what Alain's next step up sounds like. Scary thought, actually. Srajan

Hey Srajan, just caught your latest review on those French/Korean speakers. Identity crisis indeed, haha. But as you explained, quite unavoidable and who cares if the results are this terrific? Do you have any plans to review their floorstander next? By the designer's own words, that could be all anyone could ever want. I'd love to read more on that. Please make it happen. Barry Charling

I'm similarly curious about the M1 (assuming that's the model you meant) so if the audio gods in Marseilles are willing, it could indeed happen. My own wallet could be in real trouble too so I may have to be very careful now. Srajan

Whoa, you *are* getting the M1 next. Way to go, Srajan. You're the best. Barry

Alain and Antoine were game, I was lucky. Or perhaps not? Srajan

Hello Srajan: Just a quick question to get your take on any news you may have heard on the grapevine. Dieter Mallach, the HIFI Deluxe show organizer, tells me he has no intention of canceling the show at present and all exhibitors who have booked want to go ahead with it. He also says he has a number of ex HighEnd exhibitors who have asked for space. He of course has nothing to lose but it could end up a great show or a total disaster. Anything you may have heard would be appreciated. Best, Michael

I've not heard yet that the alternate show remains in the game. Either way I'm not going because Hifi Deluxe by itself isn't big enough to warrant my travel time. It's a show one can do in a single day. The M.O.C. and HighEnd's organizers are what drive all the hifi traffic to Munich that time a year. Without the main show I'd be very worried about traffic. Who will be in town to attend the show now? I can see that if a brand wanted to meet all their distributors in one place, it could still be worthwhile. But would such distributors fly in en masse unless they could see more than one or two of their key brands? What if not enough of those occupy the alternate show? For direct-selling brands who want to meet the public not the trade, it might still be worthwhile if the event advertised itself enough. I simply don't know how the regular civilian M.O.C. traffic breaks down for Munich locals versus enthusiasts flying in from abroad. I would think the latter would no longer fly in for a far smaller event. That'd leave just the Munich locals. Would that be enough? No idea. Srajan

Srajan, I just read your Linga review and am confused by a few things. Their tweeters can be cut by 20dB? What kind of design needs that much adjustment? I've seen plus/minus 1-3dB which made sense as a small tweak. If a tweeter level adjustment is this enormous, why are the woofers on the other end fixed? Also, looking at your room dimensions and your room link, it's on the large side already even if your listening area is narrower Just how big a room does one need? I appreciate that you couldn't complete the review. Even so, these items don't add up. Do you have further thoughts you care to share? Otherwise I thought that your coverage was quite complete considering. Holger Scharmacher

We learnt from the designer's final comments that he designed Linga for large rooms when his speakers are far from boundaries and listening distances are large. So he strategically "dimmed down" the midranges to compensate for the loss of boundary gain he expects. In my narrower room of course, I had massive boundary gain on top of recessed mids, zero means to turn down the woofers and sat closer than he expected. We learnt that he plans on adding a 3-stage bass adjustment which my samples didn't have yet. On the excess tweeter range, you'd have to ask him. About how large a room one needs, he told us 50-100m². At 5m x 10m with lots of additional open space adjoining, mine would seem to comply but clearly didn't. So I'm equally in the dark. As delivered, I couldn't make these speakers work. Waxing on in jarring detail about how they didn't work out made no sense when my listening conditions weren't the intended conditions. Wrong tools for the job. And yes, in hindsight it might have been avoidable had I known what the intended conditions were. But I didn't. Now it was up to the designer to look at the photos of my room, its published dimensions and make such a determination. He either didn't or couldn't predict enough from there. Live and learn. I'm confident that as a result of this experience, Linga's final changes will make it a bit more universal; and that its particular focus on large rooms and what exactly that means in terms of size, placement and listening distance, will be clearly communicated in the accompanying materials to avoid confusion and having people order the wrong model for their space. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I love the coffee analogy in your Cube Nenuphar Mini preview. I would love to hear the Vinnie Rossi L2 and experience how a world-class tube preamplifier changes our sonic signature. Unfortunately it's out of my budget at this moment due to new R&D. Maybe I could try the LTA MZ2 first. The original version was actually on my wish list when I was a college student years ago. Then I read the Almarro review on 6moons and went that path instead. I modified caps here and there, tried different tubes etc and really liked it until I discovered Bakoon. How fast time flies! Best regards, Soo In Chae

I think Linear Tube Audio are for valves what Bakoon are for transistors. Each is at the top of their respective class. Srajan

Srajan, saw your latest feature on Darko.audio. Thought you might like to know that there was also Mr. Deminière's Janus 50 which preceded the Audio Consulting and Audionec versions of the Linaeum driver. Cheers, Simon

Quite. I mentioned that in my 2018 Munich show report when I first covered Audionec. Who knows, there may be others I don't know about. Anyway, in KIH #71, I made no claims for a complete lineage. I just wanted to connect Paul Paddock's last previous commercial sighting with his present reappearance and mention a few of the inspired-by iterations of the interim. Srajan

Dear Srajan: I recently came across an excellent forum review of the Schiit Jotunheim R which led me to Schiit's website. I went to their reviews page to look for other articles but couldn't find any. That's perhaps because this model is still very new. So imagine my surprise when next time I went to 6moons for my monthly read, I found your own review of it. That got me to wondering why yours wasn't linked to on Schiit's web page. At any rate, I really enjoyed finding a second opinion on this amp which now really has me excited. Keep up the good work. Michael Brunton

Schitt probably aren't even aware of my review. Usually manufacturer solicit us for reviews, dispatch loaners, retrieve them after and are thus very much aware when and what we publish. But this unit I ordered and paid for through Schiit's online store like any other consumer would. Then I felt inspired to write a review on it. You might say I paid money to write a review. That said, I have zero control over what manufacturers link to which of our reviews. Some do so religiously right away including post links, photos or excerpts on their social media channels. Others never do anything at all. Either way, it's entirely their own business. We write and publish. Then we're out of the picture. Srajan

Dear Marja, having a great pair of loudspeakers and Job INTegrated and given the fact that I am 24 years old and not very rich, I am wondering how to find those cables your reviewed with Henk here.  Do you still have them and do you know where I can find them? Many thanks in advance, Benoit

Hi Benoit, you could try to contact hayashi @ nanotec-systems.jp directly. Just ask him what is available right now. Hope you succeed. Best regards, M&H

Dear Marja, I wish you a happy New Year! I have purchased the Nanotec loudspeaker cables and they are very refined and perfectly suit my setup and room configuration (it doesn't give too much bass which is great). Thank you! Benoit 

Srajan, sorry to bug wanted your thoughts. My reference monitors are Alta FRM-2. Very dynamic and neutral 2-way with Raal tweeter, Morel metal 6.5", 87.5dB. 4Ω and stable. My amp is a Valvet E2se 12-watts/20-watt single transistor SE. Get plenty of volume in my small listening room. My only complaint is the Raal seems to miss something on leading edges and body like the pluck and roundness of a guitar stroke. Super refined and open though is the Raal, on some types of music it's amazing like a Quad ESL. I have been intrigued with the Kroma Mimi as being a nice potential match with the Valvet. I am guessing too with that classic ScanSpeak treated paper mid/woofer I am very familiar with, I’ll have a touch more color than I have with my Altas, tipping things in that tonal direction would be fine with me. I am also guessing max volumes to be a wash as the Mimi is 90dB and 8Ω, the Valet puts out 20 watts into my 4Ω Altas at 87.5dB. My one concern is the Altas are all there at the low volumes of much of my listening. Wanted to know as well how the Mimi were at low volumes or do they need some input to give a foundation. Thanks for your thoughts. Blink the Kroma distributor here in the USA would like the Altas in a on a trade for the Mimi in black, strongly considering doing that. Always a tough call when you can’t hear them first. Best, Paul

I've not heard your Alta but a few things come to mind. One, Mimi with its ¾" soft-dome tweeter is voiced deliberately soft in the treble. Compared to your Raal, you'll have clearly less air, shimmer and sheen. The tonal balance will shift down where Mimi is exceptionally bass endowed. Two, I think Mimi's 90dB spec is vastly ambitious. I compared Mimi to the Acelec Model One. Those rate 84dB-ish. They both played exactly as loud (I had one left, the other right and checked for any shifts on the center image). I happen to think that Acelec's spec is far more honest. I'd thus not call Mimi a real hifi whisperer. My 'baby' amp does 25 watts into 8Ω which is overkill in my room. Into 4Ω, yours will do less than half of what mine does. So that part is hard to predict. If your primary reason for considering retirement on your Alta is wispier body, the Kroma will, hands-down and guaranteed, solve that. It's a bodybuilder not speed freak. But the other comparative aspects I simply couldn't predict. Srajan

Hi Srajan - I have been listening to music for the past few years using my Mac with a USB DAC. I had a Bryston’s BDA-2 and sold it,  thinking I’d wait for a used BDA-3 to show up. Then I pulled out my Prima DAC which had slight damage due to a house fire (so I kept it in the closet thinking I’d never want to risk selling damaged goods to anybody). I mated the Prima with my Bel Canto CD-2 via an AES/EBU cable and wow...  what a blooming  airy soundstage compared to my Mac setup!. Must be the tube output stage I thought . I mean, the Mac setup sounded awesome,but this made me realize how special the Prima DAC really is. It has been utterly reliable and I was puzzled as to why there were so many reliability complaints about the Capitole player. I will be having a tech bring the Bel Canto’s firmware up to date. That will enable it to output 44.1 instead of 96K so the Prima gets a pure RedBook signal to do its magic on. Do you agree that doing this would be the way to go for getting the best from the Prima?

So to me, I’m thinking, wow, this like an ultimate Audio Aero Capitole player without the reliability problems. Bel Canto’s Philips Pro transport is very reliable and solid. I also power it with the external LNS 1 power supply so it’s inky black and resolute. Too bad Audio Aero disappeared. The Prima players were so plagued with problems that I guess it may have ruined their reputation. Hope you are well and having a Happy new year! - Ted Starr

Today, Vermeer Audio in France are Audio Aero reborn. As to modifying your Bel Canto transport to output native 44.1kHz rather than upsampled 96kHz signal... that's a very interesting question. I can't predict whether you'd find much of a difference but in general, I prefer doing my power-of-two upsampling in 64-bit computer software like Audirvana. The best thing would be to have it selectable so you get to decide what you like best. I don't remember what Audio Aero did with their S.T.A.R.S. process relative to up/resampling but chances are good that it was more ambitious than Bel Canto's. In which case you'd be on the right track. Srajan

Srajan, what a fantastic review of the Aurora! I liked the fact that you approached it differently when such gear isn't what you normally use. That just gave it extra credibility and had me see it vicariously from the perspective of someone used to separates and widely spaced speakers and whether because of the difference, I might like it. I'm just curious. Will you keep your sample given how much you enjoyed it? It would give you a reference to review more gear of this type and that I would love to see. Many of us can't afford the big stuff but something like this fits right in. Jeremy

I would if it weren't for the fact that the Bluetooth module is on the moment Aurora turns on. It can't be defeated and is active even when you're not streaming to it like when feeding it coax or Toslink. My wife and I are WiFi 'allergic'. That just means we feel microwave radiation on the brain. In some restaurants we can't eat because multiple hot spots overlap and that leeching 'wet noodle' effect kicks in fiercely to make us feel nearly sick. So for us fossils with the outdated brains, I sadly can't buy the sample. Otherwise it'd be a no-brainer keeper for sure. It's for the same reason that I review very few streamers. The vast majority of them rely on WiFi tablets and for us that causes the same issues. Srajan

Forwarded by Louis Motek of LessLoss: The European Union commissioners have announced that agreement has been reached to adopt English as the preferred language for European communications, rather than German which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, the British government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a five-year phased plan for what will be known as EuroEnglish (Euro for short). • In the first year, "s" will be used instead of the soft "c". Sertainly, sivil servants will resieve this news with joy. Also, the hard "c" will be replaced with "k". Not only will this klear up konfusion, but typewriters kan have one less letter. • There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced by "f". This will make words like "fotograf" 20 per sent shorter. • In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of silent "e"s in the languag is disgrasful and they would go. • By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v". • During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

Und after ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst place....

Hello Srajan, I talked to Danny McKinney yesterday and apparently the Schiit amp for the Raal SR1a ribbon ear monitors is coming out in two versions: one with Schiit branding in their own case and the other in a case designed by Requisite with Requisite branding. Model name will be FOS for 'full of schiit' (!) because the internals are identical. Pricing will be minus $300 (USD) for eliminating the Raal interface box and +$800 or $1000 for the amp with and without USB inputs, so $4000 and $4200 for the two headphone/amp packages. This will strain my budget a little but I think I'll do it. Russell Dawkins

Srajan, I imagine you get hit up constantly with suggestions but you owe it to yourself to see if Kingwa will loan you for review his new Audiogd DI-20HE USB D/D converter with regenerative power supplies, FPGA and I²S out (among others) into your Denafrips Terminator. Eclipsed the improvement the new board made with the Terminator which I would agree was significant. Kingwa has been doing digital (and power supplies) right for a long time without much accolades but this is easily his best effort and absolutely sublime with the Terminator via I²S. Happy new year, Paul Petelin

Hey Srajan, just saw your latest news post on the Goldmund integrated, then looked up your Job INT review. That was $1'699. The new one is £9'500. Looking at your photos, they indeed seem very much alike and as you wrote, the feature set is the same. What could they have possibly done on the inside to warrant such a drastic price increase? Shouldn't we feel ripped off? Holger Scharmacher

The Job range, from what I was told when it still sold, was always one to two circuit generations behind any then current Goldmund equivalents. And it sold direct, not through distributors and dealers who need their own margins. A few years have past since the Job range discontinued. New engineers have joined the company. What they may have changed and how it impacts performance I wouldn't have the faintest. If someone compared the two, would they find the sonic difference worth the radical price difference? No idea. I expect that most Goldmund customers never knew of the Job range. I also expect that whoever buys the 2020 Telos 7 will do so because they're thrilled with its performance. Calling out companies for making a (perhaps hefty) profit doesn't know the first thing about business; nor doing it with Swiss labor. If the product was unreliable, it'd be different. But that's not what Goldmund are known for. Srajan

Hello Srajan: In two recent reviews, I saw manufacturers respond to your criticisms with solutions they promised to implement shortly. One was CanEver, the other Rethm. That really impressed me. Did you feel the same? I'm curious because in other magazines, I've seen replies that took reviewers to task for anything that wasn't an outright rave... Tony McCallum

Reviews are supposed to be critical but as you said, not all manufacturers see it that way. So yes, I found it refreshing that these two makers felt they could address the points I made to improve their products so everybody wins. Srajan

Good morning Srajan: I noted that you're currently reviewing Fidelizer's Etherstream switch. You'll recall I wrote you with some disappointment that SOtM hadn't sent you theirs. Anyway, two friends of mine, one in the U.S. and one in the Netherlands, both purchased a Chinese switch with Teutonic-sounding name: the Bonn N8 aka Silent Angel which you mention in the opening page of the Etherstream preview. Given the relatively low price compared to other audiophile switches and the accolades by my friends and a few Dutch reviews I read online, I went ahead and purchased one. Wow, what a surprise. I never thought a switch could make that much of a difference. Punchier lows, smoother vocals, more coherent soundstage etc. I have only had the unit a few days and my Dutch friend says his unit got better over time. I also saw that Keetakawee recommends about 200 hours for Etherstream. So my Bonn N8 might actually get better still. I look forward to your review. This is a space where previously I had thought the 0 and 1 of the digital realm didn't really matter. Obviously they do! Cheers, Michael Fanning

Someone asking you where you 'found' Saban's music made me think you could suggest Songlines magazine, the long established 'world' music mag. Here, let me do it for you. btw, I read recently that hifi-quality music in cafes was "sweeping the world" using Klipschorns and expensive amps. Had to bite my lip. I was doing just that in my cafe in Bristol (Royce Rolls Wholefood) in the 80s-00s! I used to tell people that selling (excellent!) food was an excuse to play my own (choice of) music all day. Just like you really? Chris Skelton

A reader had bought me a one-year subscription to Songlines many years back. I let it expire but it was fun. It's so easy these days to use Spotify or Youtube or Bandcamp to scope out new artists and recordings. It can be harder to actually buy stuff to own when you just can't find a source that actually sells it. But the chase can be part of the amusement. Srajan

Perhaps it's on the same line as the folks who ask you what equipment they should buy…."What does it sound like?"…. It's the sound of angelic choirs singing polyphony. You can hear every rustle of their wings etched against the ethereal sky. Maybe? Too many people need to be led by the nose? Just had a visitor who was astounded by the sound quality of my Zigmahornets made from polystyrene. No cabinet resonance. Polystyrene is 92% air. They might be small and simple but the quality got me to buy the Ocellia Calliopes. Chris

Led by the noose you meant? Srajan

Srajan, looks like your review tapped out Alvin. 6-8 weeks lead time on the new Denafrips DSP board. Quick question. Do you still keep your Pass 30.8 around? If not, do you miss it at times? Reason I ask, I grabbed a pair of Alta Celesta monitors 6 months ago. They are so so good. I keep fantasizing about pairing them with an old school class A amp as much as I dread having the amp idle at 120 watts to put out 2-3 watts most of the time. There is a nice Accuphase A60 in the used market I have been eyeing. My main amp is a modded Rogue Medusa, UcD400 output stage, tube input/PS. It does so many good things and keeps full scale orchestral intact on the Alta. I still can’t shake its lack of subtle seductiveness though, especially now with the Alta. Am starting to the think these legendary class A designs are becoming relics due in part to fewer and fewer people having actually heard them. Happy holidays - Paul Petelin

Hello Paul: The XA-30.8 is still a resident and in the theatre of operations whenever the right patient arrives. I'm not sure how much power your Alta Celesta need (I'm not familiar with 'em) but Pass have the newer XA-25 which I slightly prefer to ours. It's lighter and cheaper too so a win on two counts - Srajan

Good morning Srajan, nice summation in your year's end feature! It's been a terrific year in audio and you and your team have winnowed down the various reviewed devices to a select few. As for the co-products of the year, I must try the Barsoom, er, Bakoon some day. Unfortunately Charleston, South Carolina is a desert when it comes to available and unique hifi devices. I wish you and yours the very best of the holiday season! Éire go Brách! - Michael Fanning (passport carrying Irishman, in addition to my U.S. citizenship)

Thanks very much, Michael. Indeed, 2019 has been very good to us by what came through for review. 2020 already seems off to a good start with two commissions which just booked yesterday: the GaN-driven AGD Vivace monos and the triple stack of Vox.Hub from Rockna Audio's designer for his sister brand Audiobyte. Fingers crossed, it'll be another tasty banquet in the new year. Srajan 

Dear Srajan: I just spotted your writers' note a few entries ago, about digital watermarking of streamed material, even download purchases. Will we learn more about what that is and how it affects the sound? What would happen if one burned a CDR from a digital download with watermark? Would that transfer to the CD? I must admit that I've never heard of this before and am unsure what to think of it. Marcus

This was news to me as well so we'll both must look forward to what M&H will learn and share in their forthcoming Grimm MU-1 review. It's an interesting question whether watermarked content ripped to CD will copy the watermark and embed it on physical media. I'll pass your question along. Srajan

Hiya Srajan: I see you finally killed the weasel. Am referring to the weasel word musicality of course. I loved how you jumped from calling it out to defining it (at least for the purposes of this review) in a very sensible manner. So is it finally safe to use the damn word without being accused of saying nothing? Only halfway kidding, Charlie Mackey

Happy you enjoyed the Métronome AQWO review, Charlie. 'Musical' gets tossed about a lot and, like John Darko, I never know what people really mean by it. In my opinion, that doesn't mean one can't use the word. I just think one ought to first define it so it goes from vague and ambiguous to specific. Nobody needs to agree with anyone else's definition, either. But if someone explains what they mean by it, everyone else can make sense of it.

Of course as we all know, there are many different ways in which a system can present the music. Is there only one way a given listener would call musical? Or are there multiple versions? If so, 'musical' again becomes quite meaningless. In the end, if eating food is foody and going for a walk moving, then listening to music is automatically musical, innit? Only halfway kidding, Srajan

Yesterday the Grimms delivered their MU1 streamer which looks great and where under the hood they did some amazing things based on an FPGA and trimmed version of Linux. Next to discussing the ideas behind the MU1 and how they implemented them, a discussion started on the loudness war as Eelco Grimm's hobby horse at the AES where he just delivered a paper on normalizing volume in respect to playlists consisting of separate tracks. More interesting for us however was the discussion on why streamed music and (!) paid downloads from Qobuz, Tidal, iTunes etc. sound in many (most even) cases at least different from an original CD. The answer: most streaming content and the equivalent purchased download are watermarked. That watermark is clearly audible. It is that fluttering noise at the edges. We used to think that compression was the culprit but no, it is watermarking.

Another interesting thing about streaming is the layering they use. The streamed content is first a few blocks of lossy music followed by lossless high res content. In case the connection is faulty and lossless content is too much for the carrier, there is still the lossy content that makes sure there is no signal drop-out. More info on this is on its way just like on the watermarking. Marja & Henk

Dear Srajan, just came across your 'best of 2019' feature. I see that you're keeping your final spot open until the year is done. Do you mind me asking which products are still under consideration? Holger Scharmacher

That would rather spoil the suspense, wouldn't it? Suffice it to say that this coming Monday, I expect the year's final shipment which will still be under consideration. Once I've had sufficient time listening to it, I'll make my decision. It's not the Olympics however. This feature is just a retrospective of exciting discoveries I made this year. Srajan

Srajan, in your Rethm review, it's still far from clear whether the speaker uses fans or not. Could you please clarify? Fans would be a non starter for me. Dev

The current preview clearly states that the fans got lost in the latest redesign and were replaced by the external heat sinks. If you can read, all should be clear. Srajan

Srajan, I don't remember you saying that last time I looked. This is very confusing! Dev

That's why it's still a preview, not a finalized review. As new facts came in, I changed the narrative accordingly. The Aarka underwent a few redesigns and my narrative covers the process. If you find this confusing, complain to designer Jacob George who kept experimenting with ways to improve the design before bringing it to market. Remember where you found out about the Rethm Aarka in the first place? With my preview which began when the entire thing was still a pure concept. I elected to cover its gestation in real time based on email exchanges with Jacob. If you find that confusing, I can't help it. Product development needn't be a linear process. It can and often does involve dead ends. Most the time, we don't learn about those when we're presented with the finalized product as though it fell ready-made from the sky. My approach here differs just because the opportunity to do so arose. Mostly it doesn't so I thought this would make for a nice difference. Apparently some people don't see it that way. Srajan

Srajan, hope you are well. Have been using a Terminator for about two years. Very pleased on price/performance. Listen mostly to 44.1 16-bit. Have chance to grab a La Scala2 Optologic and wanted your thoughts on gains. Like you I value tone density but not at the sacrifice of inner detail. My pre is a modded STP and my amp a modded Rogue Medusa that runs two 12AU7 that I regularly roll. Speaks are Alta FMR2. Paul Petelin

Have you done the Terminator DSP board upgrade? It's about €200 and a major resolution update. It's plug'n'play, I've done it, I've got the review on it up and that's what I'd go with if I were you. Srajan

Thanks for reply. I have not and will take your advice. I presumed incorrectly that new board only impacted DSD playback. Ill reach out to Alvin. All the best, Paul

Not at all. I do zero native DSD so am only interested in what digital can do for my PCM collection. Srajan

Much appreciated. I found the Kitsune modified Singxer Su-1 with Intona USB isolator and super short iItona premium HDMI cable to be best way to get I²S into the Terminator. I tried many combos of products, several a lot more expensive. Paul 

I²S is definitely the preferred entry. As you probably know, I use the Soundaware D300Ref and an AudioQuest Coffee. I'm very happy with it so have stopped looking. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I see your powers of expression are still flourishing! You are writing as well as ever but I visit 6moons less often recently due to pressures at work. I've been made aware of a widebander from China which may not have yet caught your attention but is intriguing. It is discussed here and here. They are located in beautiful downtown Hangzhou. The designer seems very keen as shown by design details such as the sourcing of a very high grade of ferrite for the magnets which gives high magnetic strength in the gap and results in high sensitivity numbers around 99dB for 2.83 volts. I am reminded of the Cube drivers in some ways in that the free air resonance of these and the Cubes is 31-35Hz yet the Cubes sacrifice sensitivity to reach such numbers in a widebander. 99dB is unusual in such a driver. I am toying with the idea of getting a couple of the 'previous flagship' Fast 10 at their clearance price of $450 a pair. Close scrutiny of those compared with the new flagship, the Crystal 10, shows only slightly lower fs as a difference but images show a slightly deeper magnet cover on the Crystal. Cheers from the wild west. Russell

Hi Srajan, I've been reading your review of Fidelizer's network switch develop and noticed you are using CAT5 cables. I bought a CAT8 to replace a CAT5 because it was too long and looked untidy. I listen to Spotify and BBC 3 but there was an unexpected improvement in sound clarity. This was confirmed by swapping back to another CAT5 cable just in case my first, too long cable, was damaged. But not the case and definitely worth the extra fiver over the equivalent length of CAT5. I don't think live in a particularly RF contaminated area so maybe you will hear a benefit also?

I very much appreciate your support of artisans, small scale suppliers and the often prohibitively expensive (for me) wonder gear manufacturers. I have benefited from you review choices by replacing my Nelson Pass B1 with the Korg version you reviewed. Without your review I wouldn't have invested in the kit from DIY Audio and wouldn't be enjoying music so much as I do now. I'm sure someone somewhere is twisting gold fibers to create the finest network cables but maybe a reference to a standard CAT8 may help many less affluent music lovers improve their audio experience. My fridge is still noisy but annoys me less now that music sounds so much more involving. Thanks for the good reading. Best regards, Steve

Hi Srajan, I wanted to compliment you on a terrific review of the Sonnet Morpheus, particularly on page 6 where you nail the differences in approaches for audiophiles.  As you correctly point out, it comes down to personal preference (cognac vs. triple espresso) when delving into the upper echelons of audio equipment.  That's why I continue to read 6moons as I get more than the prosaic pronouncements of the mainstream audio press. Cheers, Michael Fanning

Dear Srajan, I've read your ongoing review on the Sonnet Morpheus DAC. I own a Metrum Adagio which I like very much except for being a tick too 'neutral' or not 'warm' enough. I use it as a preamp for my Thorens TEM 3200 monos you reviewed as well and wondered whether I ought to add a valve preamplifier. If I understood correctly, you wrote that compared to prior Metrum converters, Morpheus has more tone mass and perhaps also sounds a touch warmer. Is that so? And resolution isn't affected? Until the end of November, Sonnet have special pricing so I'm thinking to compare Morpheus to Adagio and perhaps replace the latter. Thanks a lot in advance and best regards, Lucas Basler

That's indeed what I wrote but with the proviso that, as I also wrote, I didn't have a hard Metrum comparator on hand. I had to triangulate against memory of how Adagio/Pavane had performed against other stuff I still have to come to that conclusion which then was confirmed by Cees Ruijtenberg the designer. Whether the difference will be enough for your needs I of course couldn't say. In the finalized review, I cover the tube preamp angle via comparison to our Vinnie Rossi machine. As you will see, the difference was quite significant. Srajan

Srajan, just saw your announced review of the Fidelizer Ethernet switch. You do realize that the Ethernet protocol uses isolation transformers so the interface decouples galvancially on either end, right? There's no way that messing around with the rest of the circuit can make any difference other than take your money. Don't become another shill for fake technology! Marco

I'm a subjective reviewer, Marco. That means my ears aren't just the final but only arbiter. Now it makes no difference whether I understand the reasons for a sonic difference or think there shouldn't be one. Hiding behind any couldn't/shouldn't explanations doesn't work then. Our kind reports on what we hear. That's it. Srajan

Hello Srajan: I enjoyed your recent Ansuz review and how well you balanced its extraordinary expense against the actual performance. Some reviewers brush over disproportionate cost entirely. Others do a lot of complaining which to me just says that they shouldn't have accepted such an assignment in the first place. Like other people who make money to spend it as they see fit, I don't need reviewers to warn me off but I do appreciate some context. If something similar is available for a lot less, I certainly want to learn about it. Now to my real reason for writing you. You said in this review that in your experience, power cords make the most difference of all cables. You're far from the only one to say so. What I would like to know is, do you have any idea why that should be so? Ryan Staunton

I don't. Power cords are direct extensions of the power supplies of our gear. They connect it to utility power without which nothing would turn on. It stands to reason that the better/stronger that connection, the more available current will flow without losses. Here we look at grounding, contact resistance, conductor gauge and mechanical issues. But at the end of the day, we might make similar arguments about signal cable. And in my experience, they just don't benefit to the same extent beyond a core level of design competence. So why would power cords behave different? My ears tell me that they do so that's what I go by. But I don't really know why. Srajan

Srajan, great find on the LTA integrated. Are you planning to review anything else by them? Despite your various speaker combos, the 10-watt rating has me hesitate. I'd be more inclined to consider their 40-watt model to be honest. Do you have anything planned there? Keep up the good work. Tony

No plans yet, Tony. That'll depend on LTA who operate out of the US and only sell direct. For them it means costly 2-way shipping to Ireland and temporary EU importation when any number of US-based publications can do as good a job with far fewer complications. Also, I'd expect very similar sonics. Plus, going from 10 to 40 watts isn't really that big of a step. It's primarily a mind game. Sales-floor hype and propaganda by kilo-watt amp makers has us believe that we need far more power than we actually consume. Add our normal 'can't hurt' mentality which prefers to get a bit extra just in case and sure, it seems safer to buy extra headroom. But again, 10 to 40 wouldn't be much. Srajan 

Dear Srajan, I just finished reading your comprehensive review on the Ilumnia monitor model. I had read Marja & Henk's review when it first came out and kept tabs on the company's developments since. There's not been a whole lot to read so your review was greatly anticipated. Now that it's here, I must admit to being slightly disappointed. I guess I had hoped for more unbridled enthusiasm? I went back to the first 6moons review and indeed, that reads rather different. What happened? Can you shed additional light, please? Right now something doesn't quite add up. Pat Cryster

What happened is a second opinion, of a different model in a different room. But perhaps something else happened, too? As I said to someone else the other day, let's say Toyota, tomorrow, announce a new car engine that fixes three major flaws of all combustion engines which came before. With all the test graphs to prove its superiority, many people might assume an entirely new driving experience; as though the first car with that new engine was floating on air, made no noise, accelerated like a rocket, stopped instantly and had no engine vibrations despite using normal rubber tyres on normal roads. In short, expectations could be unrealistic, the more so as the tech advantages were presented as radical, groundbreaking and redefining. If one has prior experience with quality omnipolar speakers like our German Physik HRS-120 or the Franck Tchang César I reviewed earlier this year, such expectations see themselves equalized to a high degree because the predominant cause of the Ilumnia speaker's difference turned out to be its dispersion pattern. Compare it to other speakers of the same dispersion which additionally also use widebanders and poof, suddenly the difference delta is far narrower than it would be against normal direct-radiating speakers. You could perhaps say that I had fallen for my own Toyota setup. Unrealistic expectations met reality. Once listening started, I quickly found myself on very familiar ground. That was different to M&H's experience. But remember that unlike them, I could conduct an actual A/B with another omni. Which meant that whilst I found the Vocalis to be very good indeed and called out where and how it exceeded our German Physik, I just couldn't describe it as unique or vastly superior or over-the-top genre redefining as you had hoped?  In any event, that's my best guess at what happened. As to what I thought, the review already says all I have to say about the speaker. Srajan

Dear Srajan, while you're working on the new Fram speakers, I was trying to find any other reviews for it or, that matter, the bigger one you still have. I can't really find anything except yours. Why would coverage be this slim especially with the many Polish online mags they have today? Have you seen anything anywhere you could point me at for the time being? Best regards, Tim Hahnemann

I've not really paid attention to where one might find other Fram reviews but if Google doesn't bring up anything for you, I certainly wouldn't know more, sorry. Srajan

Srajan, any chance the Merrill amp will make an appearance in your unfolding review of the Ilumnia? It would seem most interesting to combine two such cutting-edge designs and see whether one pushes the other even further than it would otherwise go? Tom Brendan

The Element 114 should already be with Linette & Stuart at Hifi Pig in France. That's where it was bound after I finished with it so sorry to say, no to such admittedly promising date. Srajan

Srajan, I've followed your unfolding Merrill review with growing excitement. All the previous reviews on their monoblocks were superlative so I was curious whether you would join them. As I see, you very much have. But unless I overlooked something, why no award? Wouldn't a super amp in the d'Agostino/Soulution vein, for just 15'000 smackers and negligible power consumption, really deserve one? Like I said, just wondering whether I overlooked something. Either way, keep it up. You seem to be on a real roll of late. Justin

I do feel like a roly poly, Justin, from the Børrensen stunners to the Merrill to the Ilumnia Vocalis to the incoming CanEver Olimpico, Berning integrated, Ansuz power loom and 15" Cube monsters. None of these are me-too products. All of them do their thing different from the norm. That makes it exiting times to sit at the writer's desk and whack away at them keys. My only reluctance about the Element 114 had to do with my inner cheapskate. I can't help think that a lot of its expense is wrapped up in that overbuilt enclosure and particularly its high finishing. A 65lb Pass Labs XA-30.8 gets $6'500 for far more heavy metal. It looks just fine without feeling overdone. To my eyes and particular with regards to the fussiness involved in keeping its dark chrome free from discoloration, the 114 errs on the glitzy bling side. It's only my inner curmudgeon at work who doesn't like the number "$15'000" and the word "just" as neigbors. If the crusty old bugger dies before I do, perhaps I'll forget my humble beginnings and feel more at ease spending bigger on surface values? Until then, consider me handicapped on this score. In their own way, those Danish speakers were just as phenomenal. But €46'000/pr? That's well above my pay grade so I plain lack the comfort level to write out awards in those leagues. Srajan

Hi Srajan: After Rainer's props in the letter's section, I went to look for the reviews he talked about. I got particularly excited about the one you just started. This CanEver amp sounds like the closest possible thing to a tube amp I've ever read about. That circuit is pure tube and something that crazy guy at Audio Note would make, just with Mosfets at the end. I can't wait to read what you thought about this one. Do you still have any tube amps you could throw into the ring for comparison? Holger Scharmacher

About actual valve amps, I'm afraid not, Holger. But I agree that the Olimpico's concept is very exciting. Mario thinks that by late November or early December, he might have a sample unit available. So we'll find out soon enough. Based on the prior evidence of his HPA, my expectations are very high. Srajan

Dear Srajan, first of all I have to apologize for being so quiet during the last few weeks. Due to some family things, I have been offline. Now as things have settled down, I am back. After I finished reading your HPA review including your preview on Olimpico, I would like to not only thank you for your excellent work but grant to you my very personal "Diamond Writer's Award". You deserve this as you achieved an outstanding summary of Mario's work and design philosophy.

Since that evening in late November some years ago when after a very good Italian dinner near Venice I outlined my very basic ideas about a DAC with tube output stage to him, I learned a lot from Mario. Although being an engineer in electronics myself, I never worked in R&D departments but in sales and marketing positions inside some not so small American IT companies. Once 'stimulated', Mario took the opportunity to condense all of his experiences from the past 30+ years to design, step by step, the CanEver product family accompanied by me playing the role of  audiophile devil's advocate. You as a very rare type of reviewer moved the front line even further because you stimulated him to talk very openly and in very much detail about his ideas.

Furthermore, you collected all this information from him as well as other things published elsewhere about his products and summarized it in a very smart way into one of the most if not the most informative articles about Mario's work in general and the design criteria of his products in particular. Thank you very much for this outstanding work. Best regards, Rainer Israel, acting as some kind of 'Sales & Marketing Manager' for CanEver Audio products

Hello Srajan: I just saw your latest feature on those German subwoofers to check out their website with Google Translate. Very interesting stuff. What I can't wrap my head around is why he wouldn't be interested in a review? Aren't potential distributors always looking for those, in fact often use them to learn about product they might want? If this guy wants to sell outside his local market (it's hard to see how Germany alone would keep him busy for very long), wouldn't he want more rather than less publicity? That's just me thinking out loud of course. Here's to hoping we learn more about how this performs. I remember that you were really impressed with the bass from the Daydream and Voxativ speakers which used the same technology. Strapping that Ripol sub bass to regular speakers could be a really good thing, couldn't it? Jeremy Anders

Michael explained how in the current EU climate, he needs to comply with all manner of arcane codes including eventual impact on waste disposal and so forth; and that for the time being where he runs this as a still developing side gig to his paying day job, he doesn't have the time to handle all the bureaucracy he believes is involved to be in full compliance with all the regulatory requirements imposed upon manufacturers these days. For now then, domestic sales and reviews only.

The newcomer exhibits in Munich are interesting. And, the last two companies we wanted to help, a UK maker of turntables and a Greek firm with a novel enclosure material around a valve amp, repeatedly reneged on their review commitments with us meaning endless delays and many failed promises despite industry features and/or previews already published. Having an interesting fully working prototype and actually succeeding to launch a company/business are two very different things.

And yes, the Ecobox Daydream designed by the very clever inventor of the Raal ribbon and Raal Requisite SR1a headphone, certain Bastanis/Zugspitz models and the Voxativ Pi 9.87 system all implement Ripol loading. It's why I know from experience just how effective it is; and why I'm very curious to hear how this German implementation with Alex Ridthaler's direct involvement would tack onto our own systems. For now it's simply not to be. Srajan

Dear Srajan: I've followed your recent visit to Denmark and the reviews lined up because of it with great interest. That said, I also admit to trepidation when seeing you engage with prices that previously mostly appealed to Jonathan Valin and his followers. For example, do you really expect those Børresen 4-inch two-and-a-half-way boxes to so seriously outperform your Audio Physic as to justify costing four times as much? I've always admired that you've stayed focused on less extreme examples of the art. Assure me that you're not joining the dark side now to leave us mere mortals in the dust. Only halfway joking. Yours sincerely, Frankie Claron

Blame my idle curiosity for wanting to know how the other half (a percent) lives. It's true, the Børresen are wildly beyond my usual scope. But after seeing their facilities, learning what goes into them and hearing three different models in a fully optimized setup, I must admit that, within the fast/accurate school, their sound was absolutely superb. How much better will it seem to our status quo once I hit 'play' in our crib? No idea. But I'm really looking forward to finding out. As it happens, delivery is scheduled within the hour. I should have a first sense real soon. And no, I have no plans to regularly visit these price realms. Something would have to give me very solid reason to pursue it. The Danes made their case by inviting me to their factory. But since I don't have a lot of time to travel, similar opportunities will by necessity remain few and far between. So the dark side should remain reasonably distant.

But how does one know how much better it can still get unless one tries things beyond one's zone of comfort and familiarity?

Srajan

Dear Srajan, hope you're doing fine. How would the Voxativ 9.87 system compare to my pair of Ampeggio Schimmel with AC4X? Johan-Frédérik Hel Guedj

Far better bass reach if you do electronica with infrasonics. If it's not music with content below 40Hz, you may not need to bother. Srajan

Would the Magico Q3 for instance best the Ampeggio?

I have no idea. I've never heard a Magico in my room. At shows I've never felt drawn to them…

Apparently, Voxativ are difficult to beat.

If you like what they do, I only know Cube Audio from Poland and Camerton.

And Universum from hORNS (also Polish)?

I haven't heard those so no opinion. But that's a very different proposition.

And big Tannoy Westminster?

Not the same resolution.

Avantgarde?

Again, horns not widebanders but very advanced horns plus active sealed bass.

Which are your favorite horns?

Those Greeks whose name I can't remember at present. Anima is one of their model names.

Have appointment with official Paris dealer for the Tune Audio Anima. Waiting to see whether it will match with my Zanden 6000. Stay tuned.

Good man. That'll definitely tell you what's what. Let's hope that dealer has a good room.

Acceptable, it seems.

I look forward to hearing what you thought.

Reporting for duty. After listening session of Tune Audio Anima, must confess that I've been impressed. Large scene, depth, height, true timbre, separation etc. Any sibilance in highs or box effect basically disappear.

Now you just have to decide whether that's the sound you want to live with, long-term.

I guess so. But I'll have to decide whether I should part with that amount of rubles/pesetas/guilders. Truth be told, Animas are a big step up after Voxativ.

Srajan, just finished up your latest review and still have the final track on my mind. How ever do you find this stuff? I consider myself reasonably well read, musically speaking, but I've never come across this Saban character before. What a combination of fragility and great power. What can you tell me about him? Luigi Fontano

They called him the king of Roma music. He was from Serbia and passed away about 10 years ago. Google will have more answers for you. As to finding stuff, Spotify & Qobuz & Tidal & BandCamp &  YouTube like everyone else. I happen to love gypsy music so keep an eye out across the genre. Srajan

Hello Srajan: Two €3K speakers, both from France, both compact towers. I just finished your Sensa review and was curious. In the end, if it was for yourself, which one would you buy, the Apertura or the Davis? I've read both reviews and understand how they differ. Still, I'm curious which you'd prefer if it came down to one of the two. Matt Staunton

Given my tastes and electronics, the Apertura for being a counterpoint to our Albedo Aptica which are more similar to the Davis to double up. But I'm never quite sure what good it does anyone to find out what I would buy. Tastes differ. Unless you've listened side by side with someone to affirm that you're not only hearing the same things but call them out in such a way as to recognize that you're talking about the same things... reviews are just approximations to narrow down a short list. From there only you can proceed since it's your ears you must please, not mine. Srajan

Howdy Srajan: I saw your response to Nigel, then just read your preview on the new Sonnet DAC from Cees Ruijtenberg. To me it reads pretty much like his earlier Metrum Adagio. Do you expect it will actually be different or just a repackaging job of old guts? Frankie Rothman

Cees is a true engineer who seems to never rest. The converter modules are new as are the MQA and upsampler boards. The modular approach is different. So I expect an evolutionary refinement of the Adagio recipe; same core approach but refined. Because I don't own a Metrum DAC, I won't be able to conduct actual sonic comparisons. On that score, someone else will eventually have to pitch in. For now I have no additional information on the Morpheus DAC and the Acelec Model One review will come first. But Cees is always very forthcoming about what he does so I'm sure that in due time, we'll have a full breakdown on how Morpheus differs vs. Adagio. For obvious reasons he won't make any sonic comparative  claims but I'm sure that technically, he can talk about what he does different now. Srajan

Hi Srajan: I've been following your preview for Acelec with great curiosity. The Model One certainly looks the real bruiser. I love what Cees did at Metrum Acoustics and like you wondered what happened over there. I'd not seen any new products in what seems well over a year. While Cees ran things, there was always something going on. Any idea whether he'll resurface on the digital side of things as well or is he hamstrung by some kind of non-compete agreement with the new Metrum owners? Cheers, Nigel

I'm not privy to non-compete deals and such but I do know that Cees hasn't been sitting idly by on the digital front either. "I saw this question from Nigel. It is okay to mention Sonnet. For now we are supporting many old Metrum customers but next, they expect new products which probably will never come. The new owners of Metrum have seen our Sonnet website plus all the info on FaceBook so it is no longer a secret. Nigel can find more about us here. Hopefully our first product will be available end of October, early November." Srajan

Hello Srajan: Dawid just beat me to the punch with his comment on your Buchardt review. But unlike him, I've not heard them yet. In your opinion then, it there another speaker in this price range I should consider if all the qualities you laid out apply to my search to appeal? Sincerely, Pat Staunton

I actually wasn't kidding when on that review's final page, I pleaded ignorance and the fifth. It's been a good while since I've listened to a speaker in this price range. In fact, I think the last one was an Amphion which struck me as altogether cooler and closer to the studio monitor aesthetic. Before than Amphion, I can't even remember. So I'm really the last person one should ask for any advice in this area. Doug Schneider at SoundStage! is probably the reviewer with the most small speakers under his belt so if anyone, it'd be him that I'd ask. Srajan

Hi Srajan, past reading your take on Mads' Buchardt S400 bit by bit, I'm patting myself on the back. These boxes currently occupy my place as well and thunderous monsters they are if married to a wall. No boom as per usual but snap and shove scaling up and up and up with volume to net a truly voluminous yet clear and feisty presentation. Very impressive. Cheers, Dawid Grzyb

Dear Srajan: I've read many Aqua Hifi reviews on your site in the past and noticed that they're launching a new network interface called the LinQ. Any plans to review that when it comes out? My understanding is that it should start shipping later this year. Alessandro

I've looked at its specs just now, Alessandro. Aqua's I²S protocol doesn't shake hands with our Denafrips or Soundaware hardware. At least it didn't in the past. In my experience, I²S beats AES/EBU and coaxial/BNC. Now it would make more sense for a reviewer to do the LinQ who owns a matching Aqua DAC to exploit the best transmission format. Given the excellence of Aqua products, I'm sure you'll see more than one LinQ review shortly after it launches. I've simply not been approached so I doubt it'll be us. Srajan

Hello Srajan: Read your Antipodes review. Is that then the combo you'd go after yourself if your iMac suddenly went on the fritz? Or is there something else one might consider that would perform equally well? Markus Ratzebühl

As you know, our music library lives as .aiff files in iTunes; our household is WiFi allergic to eliminate tablet remotes; and Audirvana 3 and our particular USB bridge elevate an iMac into a bona fide 'audiophile' server no matter all the forum noise to the contrary. So no, I wouldn't spend three times as much and still need to buy another screen just to access the Antipodes in hardwired mode in lieu of a WiFi tablet. But I'm in the distinct minority here. Sonically, yes, I'd pursue the Antipodes separates in a heartbeat. But when I add up cost, features and performance, I'd simply buy another iMac and run that with the rest of our current PCfi ancillaries. That solution just works for me. Srajan

Srajan: Any chance that you'll manage to get your hands on a pair of T100 to try in your Vinnie Rossi preamp? Those are the tubes I'm most curious about but I'd like some sonic profiling before I take a  leap of faith on these. They're not exactly cheap and with tubes, you can't return them if you don't like them. Fergus

I believe that after Dawid Grzyb compares the Living Voice 300B to the T100 in his LampizatOr DAC, he'll loan me his pair so I can take it for a spin and see how it compares to the Western Electric 300B and Elrog ER50. Or, you could contact dawid at hifiknights.com directly and see what he thinks. His application is a bit different but with his tubes not driving speakers directly either, there's also sufficient overlap to suspect that his findings would translate to the L2. Srajan

Srajan, any updates on the Swiss Holton review? The intro reads most interesting but what about the sound? Waiting impatiently to learn how all of the shiny tech and constructor's care translate in the listening seat. Tom Wozny

The conclusion is delayed due to a typical review weirdness. My sample suddenly refused to power up even though I replaced fuses, used different power cords and different wall sockets. Upon return to its maker, it of course worked straight out of the box. But shipping had caused some cosmetic back-panel damage so Holton must wait for a physical inspection by the carrier to start the insurance claim. Those things tend to take far longer than it takes the shipping companies to bill your credit card for a ship fee. That's what's presently holding up the unit from coming back to finish up the review. All I'd gotten to was confirm that it played, take the photos, finish up another review or two and when the time came to get serious, Uncle Murphy visited. Srajan

Hello Srajan: Just read your latest C.E.C. and Antipodes reviews. Good to see you confirm that CD still lives. In certain magazines, the format has disappeared completely and anyone still doing it is regarded as a lost cause. I for one appreciate reminders to the contrary. Thanks for that. Chip Mulligan

In Aalborg during my visit to Ansuz, Aavik and Børresen, there was no streaming, period. Their demos were conducted with CD. Their principals feel that there's still more information hidden in them thar grooves than we have harnessed yet. Until then, why bother with other formats? The majority will disagree, of course. But if you don't mind the 'anachrophile' label, keep spinning the silvery discs in the knowledge that you're not missing anything. Srajan

Do you know what’s going on with Michael Lavorgna? This doesn’t sound too good. "Due to personal and professional reasons, Twittering Machines will close its virtual doors next month. I am, in effect, retiring from hifi." Frederic Beudot

It's the first I heard of it. Hopefully his health is fine and he just tired of writing on hifi. Or perhaps, operating a site with all the managerial background work that entails stopped being fun. If he wants us to know more, I'll expect we find out in due course. Srajan

Hi Srajan, Hope all's well .Just wanted to check if you have these Turkish albums. One is from Ahmet Aslan, the other from Aydin Eslin, a famous Turkish jazz musician whose American wife Randy is a teacher. I think their kids contributed to the album too, very much a family affair. Production quality is very good, it sounds very good on my system and I though I'd share it with you. Give it a try and see if you like it. Best, Mevlut Dinc  

Good morning Srajan, I've read the review last night and shared it with my team. As I already said, I really do like how you play with words and expressions. Honestly, I'm really with it. Also thanks a lot for posting Marta Topferova's video. It's a great inspiration. It's a bit of a shame but I've never heard of her. I know her dad who is a well-known Czech actor. Anyway, she is such a great artist. I've already booked a date in my calendar for her gig in October. Her voice and style are truly amazing. Ondrej Chotovinsky

I have most of her albums which are of this type Mexican-inspired music. But she also runs the Milokraj project under which there are two albums of more Slavic music. Like you said, a splendid very inspiring artist. I envy your ability to hear her live. Srajan

Hi Srajan, just read your latest Gold Note review and wanted to comment on your music choices. To my surprise, I found them quite inspired. But do you think the majority of your readers will relate? Shouldn't you use more mainstream music that people are familiar with to better gauge your comments? Markus Staunton

I view 6moons as a global publication. We review gear from all corners of the globe. We can be read everywhere with an Internet connection and English comprehension. To underscore the fact that good stuff comes from everywhere, I fly country flags at the beginning of each review. The same goes for music. There's a lot of fabulous stuff from all over the planet and my choices reflect that. You yourself called it 'quite inspired'. Given that I embed links to YouTube videos so people can hear the tune I'm referencing while they're reading my comments, "being able to relate" is instant and tacit, no abstract maybe. So I don't understand your comment. Broadening one's scope in any endeavor is always valuable. Rather than write music reviews, I can now drop 8 or 10 tracks from different artists into a single hardware review which, by that very fact, becomes on-the-fly music exposure. If you don't like a given tune, hit 'stop'. If you do like it, you just added a potential candidate to your future listening pleasure list. Even if you had no interest in the hardware I reviewed, I'd call that a fat win. Srajan

Srajan, you probably already know this, but the recently remastered version of Jon Hassell’s City: Works of Fiction is fantastic. Also, if you’re a fan of big band jazz, check out Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith’s The Dynamic Duo. Surprisingly good sound and great music. Both are on Tidal.

What would you recommend in the $500-600 range for a 2-meter balanced interconnect going from an iFi Pro iDSD to an Electronic Visionary Systems Class D amp? Any recommendations come to mind? Thanks for your help in advance. Jacob

When it comes to cost-effective cables, I don't think you can do better than Chris Sommovigo's Black Cat Cable range. I'm just not sure he has a balanced design in his entry range. If that doesn't net anything, the Vermöuth Cables from Bali are very good and affordable and should suit your budget. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I thought you would be interested to know about my positive experiences with mounting the Cube Audio Nenuphar speakers on Max Townshend's Podium supports.

From my notes...

... there is a more natural top end; increased space around instruments; music more absorbing and delicate; increased transparency; clearer top end; improved transients; greater harmonic structure to the music; better cohesion; increase in detail; bass tighter more natural; depth and openness increased; notes last longer. Kind regards, Robert

Hello Robert, thanks for the recommendation. I'm pleased to see you've discovered something that works out this well for you. Srajan

Hello Mr Srajan, I am one of the readers of your excellent reviews, thank you for that. Now I am addressing you to ask some advice. My passion are vinyl records. I own a beautiful collection of them and for more than 20 years already restore turntables. So my front end is quite good with a Lenco/PTP, Garrard 301, Technics SP10, Thorens TD124, Linn LP12 with Schick tonearms, Audio Creative Groovemaster, SME 3012 and phono stages from Tavish Design for tubes and Ayre and Sutherland for solid state. But I have some problems with my amplification/speaker match.

I own a First Watt SIT3, Audio Research hybrid LS17 preamp and Omega Super Alnico monitors plus a set of Harbeth P7ESR. The SIT3 has, as you know, just 11.5dB of gain.The Omega are efficient at 94.5dB into 8Ω but the Harbeth at 83.5dB and 6Ω are not. Also, the LS17 has only 12dB of gain in single-ended mode. So as you would expect, I fall a little short of gain. Especially with low output cartridges, listening to some records just doesn't get loud enough. I am thinking of buying another preamp with lots of gain like the Ayre KX5 Twenty with variable gain settings; or something completely different like a Eastern Electric MiniMax with I think 20dB gain. But my finances don't allow me to make a mistake. I want to make the combination of my SIT3 with the Omega SAM really swing with low noise and good control. Now this combination lacks gain and bass weight. What advice would you give me? How can I enjoy my SIT3? Thanks and best regards from Belgium. Sven 

It's good you're not asking about the Harbeth. For them the SIT3 would simply be the wrong amp I think. From what I remember, the MiniMax isn't that quiet so wouldn't be my first choice. If you can't get the gain up with a different phono stage, you're right to look at the linestage but chances of raising the noise especially with tubes come with that. So you're looking at a preamp with 26dB or so voltage gain. Given that you have the Tavish phono stage for valves, perhaps your best bet would indeed be a solid-state preamplifier. I really liked the Pass Labs HPA-1 which, yes, is marketed as a headphone amplifier but makes for a terrific preamp, albeit minimalist and without remote control. You may want to check with them on voltage gain. It's ultra quiet since headfi is super critical. It's powerful, like a mini amp in fact. I just don't have the voltage gain figure to be sure it'd give you that boost you need. If you can swing $3'500 and Pass confirm its gain, that'd be a cherry. Srajan

Hello, thanks for the answer. The HPA-1 has low gain, only 8dB so that's far away from the 26dB needed. Maybe you have other ideas? Sven

Not off the top of my head. I'll give it a think though. The high-gain situation requires a search parameter I haven't memorized. Srajan

Hi Srajan, in your review of the Diesis Ludos speakers, you include several musical examples. The first one is a recording of the "Adagio" of The Concierto de Aranjuez being reproduced by the Diesis Roma which, I presume, you recorded while you were there at the HiFi Deluxe audio show. It is the only recording in the review for which you did not give any information. If you happen to know which recording that is, could you please let me know? By the way, those recordings are all very good. I am sure that they are not done with a smartphone. Could you share what recording equipment you use to make them? Regards, Peter

The first video is from Diesis so I don’t know the recording they used. Hence I provided no information; plus I didn’t review the Diesis Roma in Munich. All the other recordings are on YouTube and not mine. They’re simply a way to let people stream some of the same music I used during the review; whilst reading the review. That makes it easier to fully appreciate some of the sonic descriptions. As to recording quality, most of my examples tend to be better because these artists paid attention to it (and also for it) but I also listen to quite poorly recorded stuff. At times I will deliberately highlight a lesser recording to demonstrate whether a particular component's quality still matters then. I recently did that in the Mutec review with an Amr Diab track. If a hifi only sounds good on premium fare and makes everything else unacceptable and no longer fun, it's counterproductive. So mixing it up on recording quality is key then. Srajan

A related question, please. In the same review, Diesis specify their bandwidth at ±8dB. I've never seen this before and assumed ±3dB was the standard. Peter

Correct. Unless theirs is a typo, Diesis have used a looser tolerance. Then if we translate the currently published 37Hz-26'000Hz spec to -3dB, we might perhaps arrive at 55Hz - 20'000Hz? If it is really important to you, you could ask them. As my review explained, the figure 8 cancellation of out-of-phase data at the edges of an open baffle makes for less bass extension than raw woofer diameters might suggest. Even though the Ludos uses dual 10-inch woofers, the small port-loaded widebander in the Camerton Binom-1 just reviewed actually goes lower. The flip side is, it won't move anywhere near the same air. So it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. Srajan