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Hi Srajan, bon dimanche! I am really enjoying the Kinki EX-M7 even if it has not reached the nirvana level of 300 hours. Quite the amp! I have a question: I note in the preview of the Kinki EX-P27 preamp that Ken Ng proclaims all Kinki amps as "single-ended". I have tethered my Kinki amp to a Lumin T2 streamer with balanced connections as that is the preferred output of the Lumin. Should I try single-ended for comparison? I am a neophyte in understanding what would be the best connection when an amp is designed as single-ended yet a streamer's best output is balanced! Thoughts? Cheers, Michael Fanning

Try both. Designers may use transformers or opamps to convert single-ended to balanced. But many XLR are convenience items which just shunt one active leg to ground. Whenever one has mixed opportunities, it's best to try them to decide by ear. You may hear no difference. Or running the Lumin balanced might dominate over how Kinki treat the XLR feed vs. exiting the Lumin single-ended to match Kinki's single-endedness. And sometimes the difference is superior signal transmission of balanced vs. single-ended cable. Either way, the lesser weevil wins. Srajan

Hi Srajan, thank you very much for the preview and genesis story and now we'll try our best to meet your highest expectations. With all the legal stuff and trials, we're a bit behind but my team is looking into finishing last prototype units by this week which are virtually the same as production units. Regarding tech info, the short summary is that while the AMP-13R and AMP-23R share the same amplifier circuit, there's a new bias circuit (now runs all the time to correct bias and offset in real time), better power supply design and digital/analog isolation in the main PCB. The power PCB also differs in that we implemented bigger parts from the AMP-51R/AMP-41 (relays, connectors etc) due to more available height. Those parts enhanced current delivery, circuit stability and long-term reliability. As to noise, S/NR and dynamic range measurements, we'll take those after the final prototype assembly. Soo In Chae

Hello Srajan, sunglasses are off and the light sensitivity is mellowing but eyesight is still a little fuzzy. Maybe I'm fine but the world is out of focus? Glen Wagenknecht

Glad to hear that the gangsta-in-the-night thing has mellowed. Hopefully focus will return to normal in short order. Any idea yet what brought it on or even better, what it is? Srajan

Managed to get an appointment with an eye doc this afternoon. Did tests. Gave me a prescription to take to emergency. Probable stroke. Guess she didn't like the retro sunglass look. Still have my virtual appointment lined up for tomorrow morning. On a lighter note, was out shopping. An old-timer in a wheelchair asked for help reaching his Viagra on the shelf. Guess there's always someone worse off. Glen

A stroke you didn't notice? If true, that would seem to be the best kind considering. Srajan

Taken to emergency Thursday night. Got a full barrage of tests and doctors. Just got out of hospital. Stroke confirmed. I was told I would have died if I hadn't come in. Follow-up tests scheduled through end of August. Driver's license suspended. Perhaps it's best that my name be retired from the duty roster. Don't think it's fair to you or the manufacturers to do otherwise. I'll try and tie up some loose ends with Daniel and SOtM and bid the game farewell. Time to close this chapter. It's been a rare honor and a privilege to work with you, and it's also been fun. Best wishes, Glen

Damn! And congrats for beating the hangman's noose this time. Sounds like it was a close call. I presume that makes time feel more precious now so anything that doesn't serve that appreciation (like writing audio reviews or critical listening) ought to get tossed. I'm right with you. Thank you very much for your long support and excellent contributions. You shall be missed. Soon it'll just be ye olde me running the show. But when I started I never thought otherwise so that would just be back to the beginning.

I hope and wish for the best where your ongoing health is concerned. My wife had emergency heart surgery for a defective mitral valve many years ago. Crack open the rip cage, the works. Ever since she's been very aware that her time is limited and, not in a doomsday but healthy way, feels death is looking over her shoulder. Occasional arrhythmia aside, that part had its benefits of not taking things for granted. Having to physically abstain from big exertions was one price to pay but that kinda came natural with getting older in the first place. So enjoy your retirement, Glen. Hopefully you'll have many more years of it! Srajan

Srajan, here is a thoughtful article which I am forwarding for your perusal. The author shares your conclusions on the positive impact of sub integration into a hifi setup. His way of going about it (crossover frequencies, room position etc) is quite different and might spur some further experimentation on my side.  Would love to hear your views if you have time to read it. Thanks, Vincenzo Picone

I just read it. The author too zeroes in on proper time-domain integration as vital and obviously was involved in the JL Audio crossover box. The Gradient Box will duplicate most of its functions whilst adding full remote control over them all. That's what I plan to use. The author also promotes HT processors which 2-channel guys don't have; or the addition of digital processors to create a delay for the mains which you can't do in the analog domain. That's why I've been vocal that in the purist 2-channel space, we need an analog solution (like the JL or spl or Wilson xovers) but with the addition of remote control; and that we must account for digital latency in modern subs which throws off the impulse response if not corrected for. I prefer to correct it physically (by moving the sub closer to the seat by the exact distance of its delay) rather than digitally. Ideally you'd have a sub with no digital latency at all. Here the Grimm Audio comes very close. Let me know what you learn in your experiments. It's a subject ripe for personal investigation and I'm still learning. Some of what the artice talks about I haven't tried yet. Srajan

At the moment I am using a Cube Audio Sub12 in combination with Pál’s icOn 4Pro SE. Cube Audio tell me that their Sub has 1-2ms latency which I correct by placing it ~50cm closer than the mains (Cube Audio 10" monitor, sound|kaos Vox 3a, Lawrence Audio Double Bass). I’ll be going with the Gradient Box as well and will test both the sound|kaos and Grimm subs when available. I'll come back at you when I have new experiences. Vincenzo

Sounds like a plan. Sharing helps us all learn from each other. Srajan

Dear Srajan, thank you for the excellent review of the Nagra Classic INT. Just one question if I may. You say that it basically duplicated the sound of the Vinnie Rossi preamp and Crayon power amp. Did you run the preamp with our without tubes? If with, what tubes did you use? Best regards, Laszlo Almassy

Very keen question indeed. I used 7-volt Elrog ER50 direct-heated triodes in the 5V setting. And the Crayon is an essentially half-powered Nagra with Exicon laterals, current feedback and smaller SMPS. Srajan

Cher Srajan, Joël, a few days ago, I received the Kinki EX-M7 power amp. I connected it to my Lumin T2 streamer (purchased as a demo from an authorized dealer) via Grimm XLR and proceeded to run through some of my favorite test tracks. Right out of the box, the combination sounded terrific. Better than the Devialet Expert 220 Pro? Yes - with some qualifications as you'll see below. On a song I know quite well, there is a dual vocal with one being slightly recessed. On the new combo, the sound could be pinpointed in space and was more apparent than on the 220. Perhaps the combo has better detail retrieval? Bass response was perhaps not as good as the Devialet but this might change after amp burn-in, estimated to be in the 300-hour range. Midrange was definitely better with a more liquid sound on vocals. On some tracks, the soundstage was wider and higher but not in an unnatural way.

The difficulty in comparing the new combo with the 220 is that I don't know how much to ascribe to the Lumin T2 vs. the Kinki amp. I didn't try the Lumin into the Devialet for instance, since I knew the Devialet would apply its DAC after the Lumin DAC. I didn't think that would be a valid effort. Negatives? The Kinki amp is a beast and not as svelte as the Devialet. It was nice to be able to turn the Devialet on/off using the Roon app. With the new combo, I can turn on the Lumin in the Roon app but need to physically turn on (and off) the Kinki amp. Not a big deal but points to Devialet. Also, the Devialet didn't need much warm-up IMHO while the Kinki needs about 20 minutes. Interestingly, when the Devialet was on and I was not playing a song, I could never hear anything when I put my ear to the speakers. Just silence. With the Kinki, there is a slight hiss. You'd never hear it from a distance nor when playing a song but it's there. There is an DC filter switch on the Kinki and I will check with the manufacturer to see whether engaging that switch might make a difference. Again, not a big deal. Finally, the Devialet has other attributes such as a phono stage and SAM profiles so it is a more complete device. In sum, I'm glad I made the change. I suspect I will listen to more music. Hard to believe that the Kinki amp will get better by 300 hours but we shall see. Mille fois merci à vous deux pour votre aide! Friendship, amitiés, Michael Fanning

Good man. The Kinki will definitely 'tune up' with break-in. The switch in the back inserts a DC filter since this is a direct-coupled circuit. If there's any DC component in the signal path (such as might be the case with a tube preamp for example), it eliminates that. There's no danger flicking that switch in or out. Use the setting that sounds better/more quiet. Srajan

Thanks for the advice, Srajan. I'll try the DC filter to see whether it makes a difference. Quite impressed with the Kinki. It's always hard to make a purchase when one has not heard a certain device. Your Kinki review(s) and that of Joël certainly gave me not unwarranted confidence. Cheers, Michael

"For the full Hakuna Matata across music's kingly lion share, the midrange expressed the very same balance." What a lovely piece of word smithing. Good one, Srajan! Jeremy

Using popular references can backfire when half the audience can't relate. Hopefully the Lion King has enough traction to translate. But thanks for noticing. Plus, I find that taking some risks is far more fun than playing it safe. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I enjoyed learning about the oddly named Swöxx today and especially that it gives an old-fashioned Sonus faber type sound despite being active class D. It sounds like you were surprised as well. On surprises, didn't it also strike you as a bit odd that the designer didn't opt to get this not fully working pair back for testing before asking you to complete the review? I can't help but think that had he done so, the final paragraph would read different. In any case, it still reads like a lovely find so thanks for bringing it to our attention. Stay healthy and happy. Robert Leary

It's true. When loaners misbehave, their makers usually recall them to insure that what I describe and hear is what I'm supposed to describe and hear. But I didn't hear anything that led me to suspect the sound was compromised. I'm quite sure that the minor dysfunction was due to a wrongly set trigger voltage threshold. Why Sinan didn't observe this in his place is another matter. Perhaps he never tried AES/EBU? He should have. In any event, he decided not to recall this pair and yes, had he fixed it then resubmitted, I could have spared us all the 'not quite ready for prime time' notice. But given my actual experience not Sinan's assurances that he'd fix it all after, proper protocol said that I had to. As you say though, it was a lovely find regardless! Srajan

Hi Srajan, I hope you are well and staying healthy. You mentioned you like the Auralic Vega as a preamp with the Job 225. I'm also looking for a preamp for that so am keen to find a Vega. If you have a moment, can you confirm if this is the model you use? Thank you and kind regards, Mike

That's the one, Mike. As far as liking it as a preamp with the Job, this was relative to what I used prior, i.e. different DAC and different amp. I have no idea what your 'prior' is so I couldn't promise what reaction you'll have. The Job has a bit more gain than usual so depending on your speaker, you may have to go into deeper digital attenuation. That's the obvious bit. What your ears will think about that I couldn't predict. Srajan

Thanks, perfect. I was using a Schitt Saga+ preamp. I felt that Saga might be getting in the way of the Job's speed and transparency a bit - but what do I know really? I've always loved the look of the Auralic Vega so I'm excited to try it. They seem to really hold their value for a digital product - wow. In other news, I've got Boenicke bookshelf speakers paired with a Job integrated and an Innuos streamer. Couldn't be happier, especially in my apartment. Thanks again - Mike

Good man. Happy Vega'ing. After it's been on for 1 hour, go into the menu ⇒ system ⇒ clock then select 'precise'. And, filter #4 is my favorite. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I just came across José's advice to you about those Lieutenant speakers. I won't presume that you need such advice from us but speaking just for myself, at this point I actually don't care what you use to write your reviews. I've followed you long enough to have a very good idea and you've always been ace about giving us personal reviews on everything you use. I understand Paul's "unobtainium" argument and would certainly agree that it factors for newer writers who are just starting out. Meanwhile whether a Michael Fremer uses a Caliburn or Technics turntable no longer matters. The same applies to you. Even if only a handful of people will ever hear that French speaker, if you enjoy it and it helps you do an even better job because it resolves more, who would really care whether it's way way off the mainstream as you might call it? I couldn't care less. Let people read that review you wrote on it, perhaps look up some other reviews you wrote on other speakers you keep around. All will be clear. So go ahead and get that Lieutenant. Lucas

I'll tell my wife that you said so. Srajan

Srajan, I second Ernst's props for the Polish headphone amp. It reads like quite a serious statement effort. What amp will you use to compare it to? Looking forward to it. Charles

I've got the Bakoon AMP-13R and a pair of Questyle monos plus might just have the mystery amp Conor asked about two entries down. That should do the business. Srajan

Dear Srajan, how are you doing my friend? Hope everything is okay on your side. I just read your preview of Ferrum's second-born Oor. You hit it right on the nose with your beautiful analogies. Nailed it, I would think. Talk soon, take care. With sonic love, Ernst Neve

Dear Srajan, knowing that you admire your small Bakoon amp, I just came across something that I thought you would find interesting. I don't recognize the brand but the designer's name rings a bell and so of course does the way the model name is constructed. Do you know whether this is related to Bakoon or something wholly new? It certainly looks interesting and perhaps you already have more information about this which you could share. I look forward to learning more. Cheers, mate. Conor

Yes and no. I do know what it is but no, I can't tell you more until the associated website publishes. I think that's just weeks away. At that point I'll publish an article about it. It's already written. I'm just waiting for the signal to make it live. Srajan

Hello Srajan, just finished reading your review on the Lieutenant speaker which I was very interested in since I read the preview for Zero Jr. some months ago. Due to its excellent sensitivity, it let's you choose from a wide range of amplifiers (First Watt, Bakoon and even tubes would be my preferred choices). At first read, it seems it was all I was hoping for (excellent resolution with great tone). Alas, I was surprised when I realized that it didn't get an award like the M1 or M3, which prompted me to re-read your article more carefully. That's when I realized you didn't say anything about its directness or its coherence. At first I assumed that since those traits were already mentioned in the M1 review, they were already a fact in this speaker. But after the lack of an award, I think that maybe they aren't. Am I right or is there another reason for the lack of an award? Regards from Mexico, Juan José Braham

Because I compared Lieutenant directly to the M1, I only mentioned the areas where it went beyond. There was nothing inferior whatsoever to warrant any mention. Given the preceding origin story, I didn't want this to become another endless tale. As to an award, there are two other models based on the same platform which are still bigger. I won't try those but would have to before I could be sure which offers the most compelling balance of sonics, size and price to get the award. But when you sit down to listen, you won't hear awards, just sonics. If what I described fits your bill, there's no good reason to hesitate just because there's no blue pixels. Srajan

Thanks for your answer. One last question: will you be keeping one of the Aurai speakers or return both of them and go back to Codex? Regards, Juan

I'm seriously considering it. Srajan

Thanks again for your fast answer. If I may give you some advice from my very limited point of view, I'd tell you that as I see it, you could sell the Codex for more that the cost of one of the Aurai speakers (let's say the Lieutenant) and still have a better tool for your job. I say this because I know that sometimes audiophiles may choose something less revealing even colored, because we just like how it sounds or we don't want to hear the limitations of the rest of our gear. Yet I imagine you and other reviewers usually prefer to have the most transparent and revealing equipment to be able to better assess the equipment you review. So, how could you let the most revealing speaker you have heard so far get away like that? However, I hope you enjoy your setup whichever your final decision is, since that's all this is or should be about. As for myself, I hope I can be able to go for the Lieutenant in the near future since it does tick all my boxes. Regards, Juan

Hello Srajan, Juan beat me to it about Lieutenant. It really sounds like a wonderful speaker and for a fair price considering. My question now is whether you factor in 'unobtainium' when you consider what to own? After all, reviewers whose systems consist of stuff nobody except them has ever heard work a bit outside the lines of relevance. Readers can't ever triangulate. On that score, your Audio Physic makes for a very relatable reference. Neither of the Aurai would. So when it comes down to it, do you vote on behalf of your readers or your personal preference? It's not a trick question. I'm really just curious how someone in your position weighs these things. Keep up the good work. Paul Wozniak

Excellent question indeed. Yes I do weigh these things. I also weigh price because, as you put it, I want to remain more relatable than some of the reviewers with 6-figure systems (not to say that I could afford those). The way I look at it today—so about 20 years in from doing this gig—is that I've now paid my dues. So if/when the final decision is really down to just personal preference vs. easy reader triangulation, I'm far more apt to go with me, myself and I. In the end, I do this both for a living and because it's my hobby so both sides of the equation have to balance out. Srajan

Hey Srajan, cool scoop on those Arealis cables. Will you review a loom of them to let us know how well these new materials work? Like with your Adamantis story, it all reads exciting and next level but unless somebody actually listens to this stuff, it's all smoke no fire as they say. So when will we see reviews on any of it? Rory Gallagher

As it says in the Adamantis piece, first production is still out until the final casting mold for the enclosure is approved. About the Arealis cables, I just got the details yesterday and haven't inquired yet when first production will roll out. I'll wait to be contacted. If anything firms up, a preview will make that announcement formal. Or else a Dutch reviewer might break the first Arealis cable review? It would make sense given proximity. René van Es of The Ear comes to mind. And yes, I agree that this nano-tech stuff is really exciting. It promises to reset some boundaries based on the material sciences for a change. Srajan

Hi Srajan: I wanted to check on how you're doing given the pandemic, Brexit and their likely impacts on your health and professional life. Just reading your reviews it looks like everything is ticking over as it always has but I wanted to be sure. It's the least I can do for my daily dose of 6moons entertainment. With my best wishes, Dieter

Thanks for asking, Dieter. My health is fine and so is work. Of course many manufacturers are starting to feel the supply-chain shortages which delay them and their expected samples to us. That's creating longer preview limbos just because loaners don't arrive as originally scheduled. Everyone is affected one way or the other and we all need to make adjustments. I'm lucky and grateful that our lengthy lock-down in Ireland didn't shut down my little business as it has most smaller retailers and the entire hospitality industry. Let's hope that whatever the next big thing is won't involve the Internet. Should that go down, I'd be out of business overnight. Then all the farmers surrounding us will have the last laugh. Srajan

Srajan, obsoleedh - wonderful portmanteau! It perfectly captures the essence of the situation! Cheers, Michael Fanning

Haha. My brain works in weird ways. Things like that just show up. I really can't take any credit. Srajan

Hi Srajan & Joël, after reading your reviews in 6moons and Audiophile-Magazine and after some emails with Joël, I'm taking the plunge to purchase a Kinki EX-M7. I will tether a Lumin T2 to it, take advantage of the Leedh processing championed by Joël and stream music via Roon Nucleus to my Vivid B1 Decade speakers. I've been using a Devialet Expert 220 Pro for an all-in-one system for some time and am eager to try something different; much different. My thanks to you two for your clear-eyed reviews! All the best, Michael Fanning

Happy tunes, Michael. I love my Kinki monos! Srajan

Srajan, I just caught up with the latest additions to your M&H memorial piece. Then it struck me. Nearly all of the reader contributions are from manufacturers! It shows how very respected they were by those who worked with them on the audio hardware level. I find it quite shocking however that regular readers had no words of thanks or appreciation to contribute. Did you not add those because they would have become too repetitive? Or did you never get any? Something about that seems very wrong. I'm still sitting on that feeling so wanted to at least reach out to you. All the best, Charles Hovler

I've published every single note I received, Charles. So you're quite right about your observation. I noticed it too. Here today, gone tomorrow. How many will care? And... I didn't get a note from you either to add to their memoriam. Just sayin'. Srajan

That's because I didn't really know them at all. I wouldn't know what to say. Charles

Quite. That would be true for all other readers too except those who had some personal email interactions with them perhaps. But remember, you're the one who asked the question in the first place. Its gist seems to be, aren't thanks for all of M&H's reviews over the years sufficient reason to want to contribute something to that page? If so, knowing them (other than through their work) wouldn't be any requirement. Right? Srajan

Dear Srajan, after my weekly scan of your letters, I noticed the one by Paul Petelin whose suggestions would overhaul your entire front end. I've seen other readers encourage you before to upgrade your system with their own recommendations. Behind them I sense frustration that you've gotten stuck in a comfortable spot on hardware and refuse to advance by tapping into the higher levels. I've also seen your replies that you're happy with your sound and that you're not looking to replace your existing gear with more expensive things. I can appreciate that after years of doing this, you must have a clear personal sense of where you want to be relative to what might be possible if funds and space were really unlimited. I've also seen Jeff Fritz at UltraAudio go through statement systems of hideous expense only to now set his sights lower. Just today I read of his latest Magico and MSB suggestions. So my question is this: if money was no issue (lottery perhaps?), what might you actually still change? How much better do you think your system could still get? I'm not expecting percentages, just a wider sense for what someone in your place thinks. Looking forward to your response, Charlie

Interesting question, Charlie! My next planned upgrade is a special downstairs subwoofer. In one fell swoop, that'll eradicate any sane/insane desires for bigger speakers now or in the future. In fact, the current speakers might still shrink; not that they're very big to begin with. I'm convinced that doing bass actively and separately from the mains is best; and that running the mains through a quality active analog filter is a vital part of that picture. After the room, speakers are the biggest sonic determinant. That upgrade will thus cover the biggest variable into true full-range turf. Because the sub will be a RiPol as described in my sound|kaos DSub15 preview, it won't interact with this or any future room like standard box bass would. That makes it a smart long-term investment and effective but invisible room treatment where most important (in the low frequencies). Next down the food chain of importance are amplifiers. Here I don't see meaningful headroom to improve beyond what we have. As I wrote in my current Nagra Classic INT preview, big amplifiers are for big ballrooms at trade shows when attendees present you with an 1812 Overture disc and ask for the remote to do extreme SPL. I don't play such stuff nor use such rooms so that allure and its attendant requirements are moot. There will always be differences in converters, reclockers and servers but that's still further down the food chain. If I rate the 2 x 15" sub upgrade as the most meaningful and ultimative on the roster—once you hit 20Hz, there's nowhere else to go unless you move into palatial expanses to want more output—anything else beyond our current stuff will be small fry. To make different sound is easy. Better? Not really. I don't care how much money you throw at it. The hifi arts don't look to me to have any groundbreaking inventions around the corner that will reset my impressions about what's possible based on doing this for 20+ years. Others might disagree but since you asked me, that's my take. Srajan 

Srajan, hope you are well, have been enjoying checking into 6moons occasionally, getting the updates on the M Zero and the comments from Alain. I hope he is having success. I have been spending most of my time growing my music collection these past 6 months, very busy with work too. Wanted to share because I think a source combo would check your sonic preferences big time; at least what I imagine them to be. I made a switch after an opportunity arose to demo a Mola Mola Tambaqui and Grimm Audio Mu1 together. I thought the Terminator Plus clock sync'd to the Soundaware D300ref was special and it is at its price. If you get a chance, see if you can arrange to hear this pair together somehow. I am currently running them into an icOn 4Pro SE. I know you haven't made the jump to streaming but the Mu1 run as both a Roon Core and Endpoint (no data over network) into the no-nonsense AES input of the Tambaqui is something altogether foreign to me from digital, more than just a different flavor of good. I think it would make hardcore vinyl types stop and take a listen. The Tambaqui is special for sure, the duo - well I'd love your take on the duo. Something very special is going on there. Those two plus the icOn optimized for whatever sub you choose for downstairs would be a lean, mean and efficient reference front end right up your sonic alley. Fewer boxes with much more of everything I imagine you're after sonically. My wager would be that the L2 would also go permanently bye-bye; and finally that old stable iMac. Best, Paul Petelin

I'm really not looking to uproot my main system. I'm very happy with it as is and haven't been using the tubes in the L2 for a while. But you never know who will come knocking for a review and what'll happen as a result. As to the iMac, I still have no interest in a headless 'audiophile' server with tablet remote. Still hate WiFi. But I'm surprised you think I can't stream with an iMac. I've got subscriptions to Qobuz, Tidal and also use Bandcamp and Spotify. I can use those on my desktop and in the big system. I simply prefer to own the music I listen to the most rather than rent cloud access to it from which the artists hardly see a penny. But congrats on finding a combo you really love. You certainly won't need my feedback on it. Your own ears are the only ones you gotta please. But you know that already. You've been at it long enough. Srajan

I hope you did not take offense to my suggestion on the Tambaqui/Grimm. I am experienced enough to avoid the “this is best” nonsense that I am sure you get hammered with constantly from readers sending you suggestions. That was not my goal. I sent it because my prior source was the original Terminator (I was one of Alvin's first US customers) and my sense of that DAC and the gains with the Plus mirrored yours as well as the gains with clocking and DDC mirrored yours. Lots of boxes, lots of cables however. If I had to summarize the Tambaqui/Grimm, it would be the same as the jump to the Plus, even more remarkable but same flavor. Max illumination with flesh and bone…..two things I know you seek, hence the email to you. Best, Paul

No offense taken, my focus is simply elsewhere which I expect will make far more of a difference. See my response to Charlie one letter up. Srajan

Srajan, a quick afterthought since my email to you seemed to spark a small conversation in letters surrounding old topics of system resource allocation and to a degree, the primacy of source. If I ask how I ended up with a way more costly digital front end than I would normally consider, all roads kept leading back the the icOn preamp.  The icOn is really the disruptive piece in the internal conversations that have traditionally guided where I spend money in the chain. For $3'500 I now have a preamp whose sonics may possibly be unrivaled by any other active preamp and with none of the classic user or sonic limitations of passives. Throw in the clear gains that you have elucidated for many readers of high-passing mains, something the professional world has embraced for decades in various iterations, and now you have a very disruptive system centerpiece that throws the allocation flow chart on its ear a bit. Just in terms of mains amplification, the icOn grows the list tremendously and expands the price ranges considerably with a bump in performance at all price points. It's also partly responsible, I am guessing, for your confidence pursuing the ultimate sub integration in your main system. At the end of the day you know that if the manufacturer of the sub gets you 90% there, Pál will take you to the finish line with his products.

I also believe it takes an experienced ear, one that has had the luxury financially of trying many many top-tier components in the chain over the years, to discern the contributions that source can produce vs more of the sonic 'seasoning' impact of components in the chain downstream of source. I would add to keep in mind the amp / speaker interface rivals that of source. I would argue there are certain intangible architectural elements to a sonic picture that are only elucidated by source that inexperienced listeners would either miss to allocate altogether or believe could be re-created downstream. Appreciating when your source is taking you to a higher plane also requires a minimum degree of system resolution 'risk on' if you will that can easily (and I would suggest most likely) backfire with a misstep in your personal sonic wrong direction with the wrong source. If you get it right however and the resolution downstream is there for the taking, well then you have moved the needle far more considerably than one might assume. Source is king in that setting.

I want max illumination with zero fatigue. I want flesh and bone and body on male vocal and guitar strings. I want to hear the smallest ambient detail but not feel like the system is spotlighting it with fake resolution. I also want scale, unrestricted dynamics and impact when called for. That is a relatively uncompromising list. Systems that have all of those boxes checked would rarely be offense to any listener despite personal preferences of more of this and less of that. In the end it was the icOn and the exceptional new status quo that now exists for standard Redbook 16/44, the music for the rest of my life, that gave me the confidence to roll the dice on the most expensive source I have ever owned and see how far it might elevate the system. It was not an impulsive buy, rather it was a thought-out recognized gamble with the door opened by the icOn preamp. Paul

Dear Srajan, I've followed your recent subwoofer explorations with great interest. I am starting to think that I should follow. Even your pal John Darko just got into the act as did Herb Reichert so great timing all around. I wanted to quickly ask when we might see the conclusion of the Gradient Box preview? I understand that it's a developing project but perhaps you have a sense for how close to fruition it might be? Thank you very much. Alois Grüneberg

I expect that unless there are further supply-chain issues for Pál—those are getting ever more common these days to cause grave production delays when key parts arrive way late—I might see a review sample by the end of June? That's if the currently predicted schedule holds. Otherwise it's anyone's guess, sorry. That uncertainty currently affects quite a number of my assignments. It is what it is for all involved. Srajan

Srajan, surely you must be aware that with two 15-inch drivers, pretty much any other sub would go a lot lower and far louder than that esoteric Swiss box you're covering. Why would anyone settle for a design that throws away so much output? That's nuts if you ask me. Rainer

Hmm. As always I will trust the intelligence and reading comprehension of my audience. Precisely because of this very effective dispersion pattern and its lateral cancellation, such designs avoid reflecting off the side walls by creating directional bass. Even front-wall reflections are smaller than they'd be with box bass. Less room involvement does mean far lower room gain, correct. But it also means fewer room problems and bass that doesn't ricochet all over the place before it arrives at your ears. If you don't get that, I'm afraid I can't explain it better. It's really a very simple equation. You get faster bass because late-arriving reflective bass is slow bass. Faster bass means superior timing so better articulation. The price to pay is throwing away more than 50% of the generated output. No cancellation, no directional benefits. You might not consider that a fair trade. Fair enough. Having heard it for myself, I very much do. Different stripes and all that. Srajan

Directional bass is BS. Bass travels in all directions. Anyone except you knows that. Slow bass is BS too. All frequencies travel at the same speed. You really swallowed that Cool Aid, didn't you? Rainer

Actually, sound travels at ~3ms/m. Say your box woofer sits 3 meters from you. Its direct sound will hit you in 9ms. But sound that reflects off the ceiling will easily add another 3 meters so arrive in 18ms or 9ms later. Depending on your room dimensions, diagonal reflections could take even longer. So your time window of bass arrivals is quite broad. Those portions which travel the farthest will arrive the most late. Last time I checked, late equaled slow and when mixed up with earlier, imprecise. What should be one sharply defined event gets smudged and dragged out over time. If you think directional bass so much holy cow dung, talk to Bruno Putzeys about his Kii 3 and its cardioid dispersion. It does the same. And it works. Anyone who heard one (including me) can attest to that. So yes, this Cool Aid is filled with enzymes and vitamins. You should try it. None of it refutes your arguments that bass travels in all directions; or that all wavelengths travel at the same speed. You're just confused about how those basic statements happily coexist with counter-phase cancellation and reflective time delays. That's all. Srajan

Whatever. If that subwoofer concept was so superior, why don't we see it all over the place? There's clearly something wrong with it. Rainer

The concept used to be patented so was protected. Now the patent expired and others can revisit the basic idea and perhaps even improve upon it. If majority rules defined excellence, we'd never have things like the Raal SR1a ribbon headphone. It's the only one of its kind. It's not alone because there's something wrong with it. It's so alone because nobody else could figure out how to do it properly. Things are just a little bit more complex than you make them out. And now let's do something more fun than argue about hifi. Enjoy your box sub and never mind those who do it differently. It's clearly not for you. Srajan

Srajan, interesting review on the Venus II. So with a reclocker in front of it, it's "unreasonably" close to the Terminator without a reclocker? That's excellent news and exactly the kind of honest reporting I like about your site. Obviously the Denafrips reclockers would make good options. Can you suggest any others I should consider? Thanks, Christian Browne

Audiobyte from Romania as the affordable sister brand to Rockna make good reclockers. So do SOtM from South Korea. I'm sure there are many others but I've not looked into this product category at greater depths to have specific standouts. I've used the Soundaware, Audiobyte and Denafrips and reviewed Innuos, Mutec and others which I now don't remember. I doubt you can do better for the money than Denafrips. Also, their clock frequency is not 10MHz as are most external master clocks. If ever you ended up with a Terminator II or Plus, the 10MHz types wouldn't work. That's another argument in favor of a Denafrips reclocker if you go with a Denafrips DAC. And yes, a 'lesser' DAC plus a good reclocker in front will equal a 'better' DAC without a reclocker. That's particularly true for USB sources. It's how one mocks up an audiophile server with a computer source. The computer gives you all the conveniences of a big screen and web access while the reclocker isolates your DAC exactly like an expensive headless server would whilst still requiring tablet remote. You'd think that as DACs got more expensive so presumably better, they'd soon become impervious to external reclockers. But all the way up to the level of a Terminator Plus DAC, I've not found that to be true. They all still benefit even if perhaps less so than cheaper converters. So you can solve this issue with a smaller DAC whose own clocks aren't as ambitious as those in a costlier DAC; then put the money saved into an external reclocker and voilà. That's the special appeal of a Venus II + Iris/Hermes/Gaia over a Terminator. Srajan

About the lesser of two weevils feature and trumpeting alongside your point, without actual experimentation with at least a partially open mind, our in-house sound would be 2/3rd of where it is and at twice the cost. 'Just try it'. With the varied segments in audio populated as never before, even a 5% rate of exceptions to the rule(s) is noteworthy. I would put the rate of exceptions to preconceptions perhaps even a tad higher. Thanks for the thought. Fred Crane, Prana Distribution

Srajan, it's about time I sent a thank-you note for your tireless promotion of music away from the Western mainstream. I can't say that I love all of your choices but your betting average with me is certainly up there. I can't tell you how many times I've already walked away with new artists to follow up on after I clicked through the videos you had embedded in one of your Musical Waves features. This is a wonderful service you provide so thanks and keep it up! Ronin Haskill

Pleased to hear you're getting something from these features. That's exactly the idea behind them too - to nudge readers onto paths less traveled. If out of 10 tracks/artists proposed, just one meets a person's mark, that's a win to make my effort well worth the while. I simply stay away from embedding some of the more outré stuff I listen to because from experience I know that for most, it's too far off the beaten track. I go through different periods. Right now I listen to a lot of Arabian music so that features a lot. Srajan

Hiya Srajan, in your review of the Ansuz Rezonator, you wrote that your tube preamp didn't respond at all. Given that this device did something you could hear on your three converters, that surprised me. I would have expected microphonic tubes in such a circuit to really enlarge any attempts at reducing physical resonances. Didn't it seem odd to you that solid-state digital would respond but, of all things, not direct-heated triodes? I would appreciate your thoughts on this. Stay well. Paul Wozniak

Ah, a thinking reader. Keen observation indeed, Paul. My dirty little secret here is... bypassed tubes. Into these particular 2.5MHz direct-coupled amps, I have some tube-related 'intermodulation' noise that sits inside the sound so doesn't register as any ordinary hum or hiss at the speakers That disappears the moment I bypass the tubes. Now the Vinnie Rossie works as a solid-state actively buffered circuit with zero voltage gain, not a noise-critical direct-coupled DHT circuit. But again, compliments to your clear thinking and paying such close attention! Srajan

Srajan, I was curious whether you had come across this already? I can't say that I understand all of the details so am curious to know which side of this discussion you fall on. I don't recall having seen anything about it from you. Your archives simply are so full, it's easy to overlook things. Best, Brian

You're correct, I've not commented on MQA. I still don't own a single such file and never saw any compelling reason why we needed/wanted still one more codec/process to play back our digital files. Also, my technical understanding falls well short of the nitty gritty surrounding MQA. Commentary spans the gamut from 2nd coming to cash grab. Because I can't intelligently contribute on the subject, I see no reason to cross-link articles on it pro or con just to create predictable click bait. So there really is nothing in the archives and where I fall on this discussion is squarely in the 'irrelevant' or 'can't be bothered' category. So I leave the subject to those who understand it better. Srajan

Srajan, "Darkz Arts". Loved the pun and your efforts with the Danish resonators. Also appreciated how you handled the elephant in the China shop, namely the outrageous price. Seems sensible indeed to not waste paragraphs of intro lamentations about the state of the High End when you've already accepted the assignment even if brushing entirely over that aspect would be grossly irresponsible too. Making the point that a second subwoofer will cost you a third framed it rather nicely. Say this fully aware of how costly watches can get that replace stainless steel with titanium. Wonder how many such cases a jeweler could make from what is inside one of those rods? In any event, nothing wrong in pursuing extreme assignments as long as it isn't your new normal. Wouldn't fancy that. By all accounts though, these Danish guys seem to make stuff that really works. So what if it costs big? Plenty of cheap stuff around too. Cheerio, Craig

Dear Srajan, did you see this? I read your preview on it when it first came out so I was excited to see Herb share his listening experiences. He clearly enjoyed it very much. I went back to your preview to see what updates might have posted to read your latest note about the severe back-order situation. That explains why there have been so few reviews. Hopefully that will change soon. Can't wait to read your findings. Preston Lloyd

John Darko managed to snag a unit in Berlin and is working up a video review on it, to be followed by a written piece that digs into further details. From his last email to me, the video seems scheduled for June 7th or thereabouts. I expect that to lay a lot of very useful groundwork on the general subject. By the time I get my KC62, there may be very little left to say. But like you I'm excited to see more coverage on this topic. HifiStatement recently had a subwoofer review and so did SoundStage. When done well, a 2.1 system can be such a sophisticated problem solver. It's a real shame that the subject doesn't get covered more often in our stereo review space. Here the home theater crowd is far ahead including ancillary pre/pro hardware with comprehensive DSP, filters, PEQ and selectable delay to the mains for truly seamless integration. Our 2-channel hifi preamps stop with a second pre-out. That's less than basic. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I just read your latest letters and saw your exchange with Fred Roma. I appreciate that you contacted the designer about his question, too. That brings me to my own. It's about expectation bias. Here the reviewer had misgivings about a small wall wart to upgrade to a linear power supply, heard changes which he felt were significant enough to state that this passive preamplifier really deserves a better power supply for its remote control and display. After you asked him, the designer explained that his circuit can't be improved by a linear power supply and mentions measurements and listening tests in his defense. To me, either the reviewer is right or the designer is. They can't both be. This brings me back to expectation bias and how to deal with it. I'm sure that you must have some thoughts on the matter. Can you please tell us how you deal with it? Marvin

That's a good question, Marvin. Expectation bias can come from prior experience. "I've already heard 10 things like it which all had this particular behavior so surely #11 will do it again." It could come from prior measurements which matched that of the latest gizmo to once again predict the same results. It could come from beliefs without any prior personal experience which are simply culled from popular knowledge. "All metal tweeters sound metallic." So first we should be aware of the extent of our actual prior experience and where it transitions to beliefs we've inherited from others. Then we must be aware of our related expectations and acknowledge them. That applies some extra critical mass to our subjective observations, some relativity to how we weigh them. But at the end of the day, we can't divorce ourselves from our own nervous system. If we're cold but somebody else walks around in shorts and T-shirt and wipes off sweat, they clearly are not. That doesn't make us wrong. We just have a different threshold to hot and cold. Now we let that be transparent to the reader while we work our threshold awareness into our observations. We simply can't do anything about being early freezers other than wear a pullover and look silly in the summer.

As reviewers, the typical MO is the endless A/B/A/B test to see whether initial impressions track reliably each time we switch. Then there's the deliberately delayed reaction where, after we've done our first assessment relative to our own hardware, we live with the gizmo until we've acclimated. Then we take it out to assess whether the severity of our first impression holds; whether the difference now feels smaller; whether anything else has changed. This entire process is a fine balance between innate trust in our own senses and constantly second-guessing them. Anyone who mistrusts the validity of that process has no other option but rely on measurements exclusively. Now they must be cognizant that how measurements are derived then interpreted is still subject to subjectivity. Here it helps if we compare measurements from the same person who used the same test gear, measurement protocol and standards of interpretation in all their tests. I think that's about the gist of it?

To reiterate, we must have sufficient self awareness of personal experience vs. borrowed knowledge, then be able to state or work from "this is what I believed, this is what I expected because of it and this is what actually happened." Sometimes it could all neatly line up. Sometimes it could end up in a small or major gotcha. I actually think that it's big fun when gotcha happens. Srajan

Hello Srajan, that's a pretty good answer. Even if you did measurements, how you measure, what you measure and what you deduce from it all would still be influenced by your personal approach. I got that. I guess there is no way then to eliminate personal bias altogether? Marvin

If one applied rigorous consistency to measurements then only published them without any comments to let the numbers and graphs tell their own story... then I think one would be very close. Just how useful that would be to the vast majority of readers is a different question. And there's still the aspect of entertainment which the 'scientific' part of the audience tends to undervalue or overlook altogether. How many regular readers sift through AES papers for their weekly or daily fix? Not many me thinks. The vast majority wants a mix of dry facts, anecdotal stuff, human interest angles, along-the-way music recommendations, pix, sonic commentary, education and style. At least that's my take on it, has been for years and is what I consider in my work. Colleagues I admire elsewhere clearly agree because they cover the same aspects. It's just in the seasoning and focus on them that we all differ to create some variety and spice. Srajan

Srajan, congrats on the designer's excellent feedback on your Trans-SE10 review. I imagine that amid the usual complaints writers get when they're not dishing out raves, like not having used enough break-in time or run the gizmo with factory-approved ancillaries, played the wrong music or what have you, it must have been nice to have a manufacturer acknowledge careful listening and useful sonic descriptions? Good for you and well deserved I say! Cary Rostek

It was indeed gratifying, Cary. People who come to audio reviews from the test bench—they could be makers or consumers—tend to prefer dry 'scientific' takes that read like proper test scores or consist mainly of measurements. Such people often can't relate to subjective prose. In extreme cases they just write it off as fluff or drivel. Now it's really lovely to learn that a measurement-focused designer could so precisely corroborate my subjective impressions with his own measurements and found the exercise useful. As far as complaints, I must say those are terribly rare. After all these years, manufacturers I believe do have a very clear idea now about my process, the rooms and systems I use to know exactly what to expect. If they make loaners available, they are happy to work within those parameters. If they aren't, no loaners are forthcoming. Simple. Being consistent manages expectations so being consistent has been one of the things I aim for. So hardly any complaints. When I do drop the ball next, I of course expect to be called on it. While it's not rocket science or pharmaceutical cure, reviewing is serious business for those involved. So hifi writers must remain accountable and do a proper job. After all, livelihoods and reputations are at stake and readers need proper facts beyond what's on the sellers' websites. Srajan

PS: After my email exchange with Cary, Pál wrote in on a related note. In it he offers an alternative perspective that until then I'd never considered this way. "In my book you are not a subjective reviewer at all. You are a very good detective who collects every small detail of the 'crime' and writes his own exciting detective story in a special way, keeping the readers in constant excitement. You put together the puzzle of the obvious and hidden parts too and they can't wait to see the whole picture and to know the truth at the end … who was the killer." Audio reviews as whodunnits. Why not? Srajan

Hello Srajan, you've had a preview up of the spl Crossover for many months but it's now disappeared. Is that just a software glitch or has the review canceled for some reason? Thank you. Bill

It seems canceled because despite initial indications to the contrary, I now can't procure a review loaner. Unless that changes, I've taken the preview down to not keep it in terminal limbo central. That's the kind of TLC we don't like. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I was very happy with your approach to the Trans-SE10 review. You did it in total freedom, with all pluses and minuses in your observations and experiments. For me this was important because I have abundant measurement results and knowledge of the SE10. Every time you came with an observation, I checked and compared it to my measurement results. You deserve my compliments for very good observing, in total agreement with my knowledge and findings!!! So please continue on your trail. You are doing interesting and reliable observations. You close your article with a glimpse into the future. The SE10 concept was born around 2014. Meanwhile I continued experimentation and now am at the powerful level of the Trans-PP80 (80-watt push/pull), where the major restrictions of the small SE10 concept are solved. I plan to discuss with Guido if and how we can proceed on this trail. But you know it already: it will take time. Again, many thanks for your good work, please accept my compliments. Kind regards, Menno van der Veen

Srajan, your colleague Dawid just published a review of the icOn 4PRO you like so much. There's one paragraph I wanted to ask you about.

"The icOn 4PRO as described above relied solely on the PSU provided by its maker, but I couldn't resist investigating its responsiveness to any changes on this front. I'm glad that I didn't, Pál's product scaled well with a higher-tiered 5V feed. Its stock charger replaced with iFi audio's iPower resulted in a mild boost to imaging specificity and bass control, however tissue complexity and tonal weight remained intact and that was unusual. The more potent noise rejection is, the more these two aspects lean towards darker heftier sonics. This aside, the small performance increase with the iPower on duty was perceptible enough to appreciate it, especially considering how much iFi charges for this PSU, but ISOL-8's Prometheus did substantially more. It also didn't touch the passive pre's tonal balance and saturation, but produced more slamming, powerful and tighter bass that clearly spelled out noticeable improvements. Backdrop behind instruments and voices also became blacker to effectively outline these virtual shapes even finer than before, and land more orderly posher general view. Although listed changes weren't drastic in the grand scheme, their easily audible thoroughly beneficial nature was more than enough to justify the linear expense. This report's stout performer surely deserves such a treatment."

Here is my question. I thought this was a passive preamp. Isn't the wall wart just to power the MCU which handles the remote functions? How could that have any effect on the sound? Have you noticed the same thing with your unit? I'm just trying to understand an apparent impossibility. Fred Roma

It frankly hadn't even occurred to me to try this; not that I have another suitable outboard power supply on hand in the first place. Like you, I view the wall wart as just the power behind the remote-control and display throne. Since Dawid heard differences with his better PSU, we must assume that perhaps the micro-processor part of the circuit isn't 100% isolated from the autoformer signal path despite actual switches being at work? Even if so, I can't see how swapping in a beefier PSU could improve the bass response. How do the passive autoformers even see the wall wart? It would be best to ask the designer about that. It's not anything I've looked into, considered or understand. But there's always more to learn. So ask Pál Nagy? Srajan

PS: Because I'm curious, I just asked Pál myself. "The linear power supply is one of the variants of concern of the subjective audiophile virus which has infected a big part of the well-informed audiophile community. Because 50-20 years ago and occasionally still today, the old-school linear power supplies had some advantages, the infected guys without any real knowledge, investigation or experience with this matter believe that all SMPS are shit and the expensive analogue PSU the holy grail. So several icOn customers have immediately replaced my original wall wart, my HK dealer offers the Model 4 with an expensive Plixir supply and so forth. I spent several 100 hours on just different power supply possibilities out of the more than 10'000 hours of icOn development and production. I tried batteries in lead acid, lithium-ion, alkaline, Ni-Cd, zinc and more, dozens of different ultra low-noise linear supplies and several dozen more smps measuring them all with an FFT analyzer and listening to them in blind A/B." From that I glean that I'll happily continue to use the stock wall wart; and that others will upgrade theirs in ways which satisfy them.

Srajan, thanks for getting back to me and Pál involved. Did your man just imagine it then? Fred Roma

Not for me to say. I wasn't there. I've not done his experiment and I'm not inclined to pursue an outboard power supply just to follow up. Should I review one again like the Ferrum Hypsos which I wrote up with our active desktop speakers but never considered to then strap onto my icOn 4Pro SE... I might just try it if I remember to. I owned a Tap X from John Chapman back when and never was concerned about its wall wart either. For me it's still a non-issue. But as Pál explained, even some of his dealers feel different so everyone must trust their own ears. Srajan

It's not the first time that theory and reality aren't the same. Dawid Grzyb

Dear Srajan, in your current review of the Vanderveen amp, you write toward the end that "there's a sonic profile achievable with less complications aka tube aging / replacement to delight in contrarious means". I'm not quite sure what you mean by that. Could you explain it more, please? Otherwise it was a fine piece again. Brian

To my mind, you want tubes for sonic effects which you can't get any other way. If you use tubes to make sound you can likewise get from pure transistors, I call that being contrarious. Why buy into maintenance which solid state avoids? Why buy into higher noise floors and performance drift as tubes age? You can if you want. There's nothing wrong with it. Like a watch collector who pursues vintage mechanical watches with ±10s/day tolerance, it's perfectly legit to pursue hifi gear not just for its sound but also its means (and looks and pedigree and resale value and so on). If one finds transistors too common, boring and dull to prefer making the same sound with tubes, why not? I simply call it an unnecessary complication. That's all. Srajan

Srajan, great review of the AudiaZ speaker. Thank you for translating it from the German. Any chance you'll take a look at this model yourself? It seems ideally sized for your rooms and the kind of room most of your readers probably have. It'll be nice to have another opinion on this Accuton design. Cheers, Conor Kavanaugh

I'd rather think not, Conor. Syndication is a way for manufacturers to land a review in our pages without 2-way shipping to/from Ireland. With Jörg's review published, I see precious little motivation and justification for AudiaZ to go after seconds; particularly when their first review was this sterling. Sure, I'd love to hear their speaker for myself. But that's not sufficiently good reason to hit them up for a loaner sample I think. Best trust what Jörg had to say about it then. Srajan

Srajan, can you recommend to me a full-featured server and streamer with built-in DAC that would perform on par with your big Denafrips DAC? Thanks, José

Not really, José. I'm not into 'audiophile' servers and streamers. I don't get their appeal when my now third iMac does the same for less money and with a far bigger screen without requiring a Wifi tablet. I can stream Spotify, Qobuz and Tidal, rip CDs, buy music, watch YouTube etc. Of course I do use Audirvana and an external reclocker slaved to the DAC's master clock. You seem to want it all in one box. Fair enough. There you'd simply be better off asking John Darko or Michael Lavorgna. They have real experience with the genre. I don't, sorry. I of course know all the usual names like Antipodes, Auralic, Aurender, Innuos & Lumin and have reviewed some but to get specific, you'd want to talk to a real expert with a good overview on the current scene. That's not me. I have heard that Denafrips are working on their own server but when that might release and what its specs and functionality will be, I haven't a clue. Srajan

Srajan, that was an interesting rescue on the Mark & Daniel assignment. I'm glad that Glen's subwoofer will work properly with Daniel's new monitors; and that he's doing the assignment because he owns the Maximus MkII. Any idea when we might expect that review to publish? Eric Batis

Glen had been our originally designated reviewer precisely because of his ownership of the Maximus. Then Daniel wanted me to do it and now it's back in Glen's hands. That worked out well. As to when, Daniel mentioned a Chinese hifi show he's attending. That consumes all of the company's attention at the moment to prepare for. He suggested that he could ship once the show is over. I'd expect that Glen should get his loaner within the next two months. Then he has up to 3 months to hand in his write-up. Srajan

Dear Srajan, great review on the Boenicke W8. Given how small it is, I was surprised to read that it performed even better in your bigger room. In fact you make the point multiple times that this speaker needs more clearance from the surrounding walls than most. Is there anything particular to the general design that would account for such a requirement? I'm just trying to wrap my head around this. With best regards, Øystein Anker

My upstairs/downstairs rooms are very similar if we disregard the absence of a typical back wall for the latter and the higher ceiling. As I wrote in the review, the primary difference in my setup was that upstairs the speakers had to stay closer to the front wall due to doors/traffic; and that due to the general layout, there's far more stuff between the speakers including a double-wide rack. These things affect any speaker, not just Boenickes. Soundstaging tends to improve as the front wall simplifies and recedes. What is particular to all current Boenicke speakers are sidefiring woofers without any filter on them or at most a 1st-order low pass. That means sidewall reflections higher up in frequency than usual so more room involvement. Unusually wide driver overlap continues across the bandwidth for Boenicke designs because Sven champions shallow filter slopes or runs his drivers open at least on one end. I don't know whether that influences setup per se. The sidefiring woofer clearly does. What's also the case is that all Boenicke speakers are especially groomed for big soundstaging. And in my experience, big soundstaging always enjoys a lot of distance from the front wall. Do the very narrow Boenicke baffles contribute to staging so well? I think so.

Perhaps it's best to say that all speakers prefer free-space freedom; but that once set up like so, some still exceed others or improve more from such a setup. Boenickes are among that group. What all makes it so would be something for Sven himself to explain. That goes beyond my pay grade. Srajan

Dear Srajan, you've sure gotten some spicier questions of late which I see answered in quite good humor though I do detect some edge here and there. I just wanted to compliment you for remaining approachable and willing to explain how and why you do things. We can always disagree whether we find all of the reasons good but at least we understand them. Keep on trucking I say. Thank you. Jaimie

I do like to keep things as transparent as possible. I think it helps all parties concerned. Like you said, everyone is free to disagree with what we do or how we do it but there should hopefully be little confusion about what it is or how it works. If that's clear, I'm happy. What can get a bit irritating is when some people act too entitled. An upcoming KIH feature will address some of that. But sure, the truck will keep going. It's got mileage on it but is far from at the end of its clock. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I've followed you for many years so know about your contributions for John Darko. You even link to them from 6moons. That has me wonder why you send us over there instead of publishing the full article on your own site? I'm sure there's a reason for it. I just can't see it. I only see the unnecessary traffic redirect. Thank you, Joseph 

It's a mix of selfless cooperation and shameless self propaganda. I liked John's work from the start when he was still digitalaudioreview in Oz. I wanted to support him with some free content. Since then he's grown in leaps and bounds. His focus on first-rate video reviews, social media and the latest in streaming digital creates a different core audience. For his readers to learn about 6moons through the KIH articles on darko.audio creates cross traffic opportunites. That's useful. Your price to pay, you're correct, is a URL redirect; unless you first find the latest KIH feature on his site. But then I don't charge you real money to read us. So you might say that I don't feel too terrible about charging you those redirects. So those are my two reasons: cooperation with/support for a publisher I like; and reverse advertising for my own site, on another site that's grown very busy and popular indeed. Srajan

Srajan, I see your pending Aurai review updated again. I do like learning how designs undergone changes and refinements, how symbiotic the relationship is between a minor boutique and an esoteric driver shop and how all of that can occasionally derail. You're currently running similar stories on that external crossover and the dual-woofer big sub. On the other hand I'm questioning how relevant your coverage is for any of this product. Few will ever get to hear it in a shop, it will probably never be seen at a show and other magazines don't seem to pursue their own reviews of it either. I guess I'm a bit torn between the entertainment factor and how relevant it really is to read about mostly vaporware. That's actually all I have for you today. Perhaps a funky Covid mood is getting to me. Kamal

How I see it, in any endeavor someone's always first. On certain product reviews that's our competition. On a few others, it's us. Does that mean nobody else will pick up after? For sound|kaos, I've already seen reviews on HifiStatement and HifiKnights. With the icOn products, other magazines covered them well before we ever did and HifiKnights are currently working up their own review of one. For Aurai we're admittedly first again but that's not to say other writers elsewhere won't follow up. Even if they didn't, I don't really see a problem. I also don't see any between entertainment and relevance.

Entertainment is relevant. We can't all be doctors or useful scientists. If all my reviews were just entertainment and naught else, I'd be perfectly happy. Why do people read reviews? It's certainly not because each month, they buy something they just read about. If they did, we'd have private very well-stocked dealerships all across the English-reading world. Clearly the utility of reviews as buying assistants is just one factor and, I'd argue, quite the lesser. People primarily read reviews to stay informed or involved with current goings-on in a hobby. If amidst the entertainment there's the occasional morsel of education so they learn something new to them, so much the better. If you found learning about Alain's R&D process interesting, that's all the rationale and relevance my review really needs. In that context, whether you ever hear an Aurai speaker doesn't matter, does it? Let's also remember that nobody needs a hifi. It's a pure luxury. If you want really relevant, let's cancel music playback from our list altogether and get serious about serious things. Worrying about our audio reviews isn't that by a long shot! Srajan

Ah, definitely a funky Covid mood. Your answer diagnosed it. Thanks, Srajan. You may not be a real doc but in the hifi sector, you're a good stand-in. Kamal

Pleased to hear you feel that way. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I just read a review on the Musician Monoceros preamplifier which sells for $1'770. That would seem to be right up your recent 'Chi-Fi' street, wouldn't it? Just in case you weren't aware of the brand yet. I'd love to see your take on it. The Polish reviewer clearly was very impressed. Diego Apian

I'm familiar with the brand, thank you, Diego. Musician solicited us many months back to review their first product, a discrete R2R DAC. I documented that interaction in earlier features including on darko.audio. It explains why I elected not to review their DAC. But you're right, it's very competitively priced product, looks to be very well made and based on this review and others, also performs very well. My misgivings were only about the company's communications. Those were between me and them so shouldn't concern you if the Monoceros or any other Musician product interests you. Srajan

Can I ask what about their communications turned you off? I can't find any of your other posts on the subject, sorry. Diego

To me the product looked very similar to another I was familiar with. So I asked direct questions about their IP. The answers were very evasive and eventually combative. I didn't think it boded well for customer service. If someone bought their product because of my review and then encountered similar responses, I'd feel very responsible. So I opted out of covering the brand. The 'Chi-Fi' I do cover like Denafrips, Jay's, Kinki, Linlai, Soundaware etc. all has Western-trained representation. That eliminates language barriers and unduly divergent product/service expectations. I feel 100% certain that if/when a customer should encounter any issue with these brands, they'd be sorted promptly and to their full satisfaction. When I have evidence to the contrary, I lose all interest. My time is precious. I only have so much of it. I'd rather cover brands where customer service isn't a known issue. Just conduct your own due Google diligence on the brand, then proceed as you see fit. That's all I have on the topic. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I keep seeing reviews you syndicate with fairaudio and HifiKnights and was curious how this works. There's obvious work involved to translate and reformat the original text and pictures. Who pays for that? Lucas

It's very simple, Lucas. As with everything 6moons, readers pay nothing so the manufacturers do so instead. Only readers inhaling ozone or trust-fund babies think that we can do all that work for free. If a manufacturer wants me to republish a review on a site we collaborate with, they pay us a fixed one-time fee. That covers my work and time plus the licensing fee I pay to the copyright holder as the review's original author. That's it. Srajan

Thank you, Srajan. I figured it had to be something like that. Lucas

It's the way of the real world where people get paid to work. In today's publishing, it could be ads, fees, subscriptions, Patreon or a combination thereof. There's also the hobbyist publisher who can afford to do it just for fun; because he or she maintains a paying main job; or because they live comfortably in retirement already. I work at 6moons full-time so that's my one and only paying job. I feel very lucky that it's supported my wife and I for going on 20 years. We don't need that much so I keep my site accessible to smaller younger manufacturers who just have a small marketing budget. Srajan

Hey Srajan! Thank you so much for your super elaborate and heartfelt review. It means a lot to me and it's an honor to receive your award! Sven Boenicke

Hello Srajan: I just came over from Mono & Stereo's daily news coverage to see that you picked up on the same Grimm Audio subwoofer update. Does that mean you'll book it in for a review later this year by any chance? I like how compact it is. The price is steep but then Grimm Audio have a brilliant reputation for serious engineering and great sound. Timothy Brainswithe

Funny you should ask. I already have word in with Guido Tent to learn about the design's DSP latency. Depending on his answer and their interest, a review could indeed happen when they have something to ship. Srajan

PS: The arrangements have now been made to review a pair and a preview has published.

Hi Srajan, would there be any sonic advantage to using a Kinki EX-P7 preamp with a Bakoon 13R? I have an EX-P7 and am getting a 13R to use with my Nenuphar Mini. In your Bakoon review, you mention using a separate preamp and do not discourage it. However, I am thinking that given how good the 13R is all by itself, the only preamps worth considering would be those of Nagra quality or better. A pre on the order of the Kinki EX-P7 would not bring any improvement to the sound quality and might even diminish it. Is my thinking correct? The reason I am asking is that someone wants to buy my EX-P7 and I'm trying to decide whether to sell it or not. Peter

I'd wait until you have the 13R, then try for yourself and decide. Running the 13R at full gain then controlling volume in a preceding preamp is a perfectly legit scenario. An active preamp could add some body and dynamics; or take away some lucidity. The only way to know is to try. Unless you're in a strange rush to sell off the EX-P7, you'll be in a position to hear the difference for yourself soon, then decide what you like better. Trust your own ears and don't make premature assumptions would be my advice. Srajan

Thanks, Srajan. I am not in a hurry to sell it. So I will wait and see what the EX-P7 brings to the party. But I would have expected that with an integrated of the 13R's quality, the built-in preamp would be superior to a pre of Kinki's quality. However, like you say, it is better to wait and find out for myself. That is the best option and I thank you for your advice. Peter

If you read carefully, you'd know that the 13R doesn't include a preamp, Peter! It uses a variable resistor at the output of its discrete current-gain opamp to set the amplification factor. That's it. It's an amp with variable gain, not a typical integrated amp. Depending on the output stage of the preceding DAC and how that interacts across the cables with the input stage of the Bakoon, the additional current drive of a good preamp could make a nice difference. It's usually a trade-off between dynamics and mass (for the preamp) and speed, resolution and transparency (without the preamp). There's just no way of predicting which way you'll prefer so trying is the only way to know. Srajan

Actually I did read it carefully. I just didn't completely understand it. While I had an idea, I didn't exactly know how a variable resisior differs from a preamp's volume control which online I saw is also referred to as gain. All I really knew was that in order to use a preamp with the Bakoon 13R, you need to set the 13R's gain at max in the same manner that is necessary when using a separate preamp with most all integrated amps. I am not very well versed in the technical engineering side of audio equipment. I read it but for the most part without any real idea as to what Mosfets, caps and transistors really do. I wonder how many of your readers are knowledgeable about these things? Peter

I tend to think that those who aren't simply don't ask me questions of a technical nature so we don't waste each other's time. And no, you don't need to set the 13R to max gain. It's not a normal volume control. Things could sound better if the Bakoon is 50% or 75% not 100% open and the rest is handled by the Kinki. Or, they could sound best if the Kinki ran full tilt and the Bakoon controlled the rest. You simply try different combinations to see whether you hear any differences; and if so, what you prefer. That's it. Trust your own ears and experiment. That's the only way you'll learn anything useful about this stuff. Srajan

Hi Srajan, thank you so much for the review. It is a great honor for me to have the Blue Moon Award. I'm glad you appreciated my decades-long struggle to conjure the concert hall into the living room. Zoltán Bay, Bayz Audio

Well deserved and my pleasure. Srajan

On a side note, lovely KIH #86. After getting most emails with the same questions about stuff I consider best without listing any specifics, I think I know what you mean. This KIH feature nicely connects to your earlier bit about a shopper’s indecisiveness. Cheers, Dawid

You're right, those two installments were meant to go together. But John was the inspiration to frame the second one in this way. Perhaps he'll have some more ideas I can sound off on going forward. Plus you and I have to work on the feature we talked of now. Srajan

Srajan, interesting unfold on the Bayz Audio Courante story. Contrary to expectations then, this omnidirectional speaker works far better in your smaller room? I had really never before considered the implications of such a radiation pattern but how you explain it, it actually makes sense that a room with normal not double ceiling should sound less ringy. From what you have written this far, it seems this design could be headed for an award, couldn't it? Gregor McBain

Quite. Particularly the double-high ceiling would seem to be counter-indicative for such a design. I'd heard something similar with Franck Tchang's César. Meanwhile our German Physik omnis sit within a meter from the front wall under a standard ceiling and all is peachy. That in fact gave me the idea to try Courante upstairs. The fact that it's physically so light to carry easy allowed me to follow up. Once speakers get too big and heavy, I can no longer navigate them up the stair's tight turn. So yes, Courante works exceptionally well in a 4x6m room. I didn't foresee this either so it was a very good lesson indeed. Srajan

Srajan, I just read a SoundStage review on your Kinki headamp where the writer found the XLR inputs far superior yet the measurement section revealed that the XLR connectors aren't true balanced. Do you notice any difference on yours between XLR and RCA? I'm a bit confused about this. Marvin

You're right, the Kinki is a single-ended machine whose XLR i/o are only for convenience. If one hears differences, it's because the XLR outputs of a source are superior to its RCA. Perhaps the latter are desymmetrized by op-amp for example. The differences the reviewer heard weren't due to the Kinki but his source/s. That doesn't make them any less real. They were just wrongly credited. I run mine with its pot bypassed so my volume control gains the remote convenience of the preceding preamp. Srajan

Hello Srajan, in your recent subwoofer articles, you haven't mentioned the approach championed by REL which is to create a high-level connection from the main amp and use the sub to just continue where the stereo loudspeakers fall off. How does that compare to the approach you're currently proposing? Truth told, I find the various approaches and claims for subwoofers very contradictory. It seems that everyone that makes a sub has a different opinion about where best to place it and how best to integrate it. Can you shed any more light on this? Thanks for what you do! Timothy Brainswithe 

I'm aware of REL's propaganda. But their approach won't open up the dynamic range and minimize distortion of the main speakers. Those still run wide open to see and react to low bass beyond them; plus put low bass and upper midrange on the same cone for a 2-way which makes for a very different driver than a bass-only 'beast-mode' woofer. To me lowered distortion and expanded dynamic range of the mains are obvious very relevant benefits of actively filtered subwoofer integration. I simply prefer a quality analog fixed filter over the variable-state mostly DSP filters on a subwoofer's plate amp. I'm 100% with you on the many conflicting recommendations re: best location. As so often, the only thing which cuts through that static are personal trials, then the good sense not to proclaim whatever conclusions one draws to be universally applicable but only as relative to our very specific room, setup and taste.

In that very conditional spirit, I've tried both augmentation and dual filter mode to far prefer the latter. I've tried different locations for the sub and find proper time alignment more important than maximum boundary lift from corner placement. In lieu of digital delay, proper time alignment relies on physical path-length equality so the sub sits equidistant to the seat with the speakers if there's no DSP latency in the sub's electronics. If there is, that delay gets compensated physically. That's the current state of my very personal conclusions for our two systems. There are two current subwoofer reviews, one on Darko.audio of an affordable Elac, one on HifiStatement of two higher-end Velodynes. You might like to read those for some triangulation and further opinions on the subject? Srajan

Dear Srajan, the way you just wrapped up your new subwoofer review, I'm left to think that considering its price, you might just rate this as the most cost-effective upgrade you could have made considering your current system. Would that be a correct assumption by any chance? Cheers, Preston Lloyd 

Very much so, Preston. Going out for a spot of sub proved to be the poshest dining experience I could have had now on a relative 'hamburger' budget. The proviso you rightly stated was the status of the system. With everything else sorted, nothing else would have given anywhere near this return for like coin. And that's really the point in hindsight. If one planned a system from the get around a pair of good but certainly not über monitors to eye a ~40/50-ish -3dB point then adds a Dynaudio-type sub, one will make better sound from a rather less intrusive setup than going after really posh big passive tower speakers and save nicely to boot. So you're spot on. Srajan

Dear Srajan, very interesting to read your various reviews on sub integration and ideal crossovers. I see that you tried the 18S augmenting the Vox with low pass set at 40Hz while you were awaiting your external filter. You said it would do in the meantime. Seeing as you did not mention it, I guess you did not try the 80Hz high pass i.e. taking the signal through the 18S using the variable low pass for sub 80Hz bass and taking over 80Hz line out to the Vox? On the off chance that you did try, is this significantly lower quality than augmentation? It is obviously a waste of the Vox's low bass capabilities but I was just wondering if for slightly lesser speakers this could be an interesting option? Many thanks, Greg Pasche

Hello Greg, the external filter already arrived so I immediately went to that and bingo - everything I knew it would be from my prior icOn 4Pro SE experiments but now with the Dynaudio no longer Zu sub. Going out 80Hz would also bring Dynaudio's time-delay function into the loop whereby the mains can be delayed in DSP. Frankly though, running my analog signal through additional A/D⇒DSP⇒D/A never appealed to me so wasn't why I went with this sub/sat approach in the first place. And like you said, it would also be a waste of the Vox's force-cancelling woofers never mind drive up the handover frequency by a whole octave. In a different context, I do think it could be an interesting option and Dynaudio certainly think so themselves. Once the Gradient Box bows, I will still experiment with different xover points. Srajan

Hiya Srajan, I recently did a deep dive into your feedback section just to see what topics you and your readers have covered of late. The one I wish to comment on happens to be one of the most recent. In it Jacob Daltz encourages you to look beyond familiar brands and makes specific suggestions. I for one find the brands which you cover mostly unfamiliar to me already. That can be exciting and vexing to equal degrees when I can't follow up to listen to them. I already see plenty of reviews about stuff I could never afford all over the place. That means pure reading entertainment but does little by way of relevance to my pocket book. So I'd rather have you not go deeper into the realm of the 1%. The occasional exception like your upcoming Bayz exposé is fine. As far as I can tell, you pick those occasionals for very good reasons. In general though, I get more from reviews that don't exceed, say $10K which equates to about half that in the used market. I imagine more of your readers are in the same spot than those like Jacob who have a lot more to spend. So from one loyal reader in Vancouver, keep doing what you're doing and don't change. Stay well. Paul Wozniak

As I suggested to Jacob already, I see little motivation to change, no worries. Each reviewer has his/her sweet spot of product coverage. That focus or expertise makes them a particular destination which readers find useful and dependable. In exactly the same way, I'm plowing my own furrow and don't see good cause to jump it. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I've experimented more on the path to subwoofer enlightenment. Current setup includes a pair of Nenuphar 10" monitors with one Cube Audio 12" sub positioned centrally facing me. Pál’s outstanding icOn 4SE takes care of preamp/xover duties. Your observations ring true. The biggest impact is the liberation of the monitors and their amps from the burden of low frequencies. This translates into a bigger soundstage, clearer transients and fuller/more articulated bass compared to the (very good) full-range Nenuphars 10". In which way might adding a second 12" sub improve things? My room is 5m wide, 6m long, 3m high. Is it necessary to position the sub at the same distance from the listening position as the monitors (sub is currently 1m behind)?  A curiosity: would you try the 12" Cube Audio sub in your quest for the right solution for you downstairs? Thanks, Vincenzo Picone

A second sub will add output so reduce excursion requirements which minimizes distortion. But for music not movie purposes and unless playing very loud, I suspect those gains would be from negligible to imaginary in your situation. Proponents of dual subs talk of energizing the room more evenly when two subs sit in dissimilar locations because they won't trigger the same room modes in the same way. Meanwhile Arendal recommend stacking subs in a corner. Their argument is that multiple sub locations further confuse the room interface whilst stacking subs makes it easier to apply EQ. They also argue that corner placement eliminates two reflective boundaries because the two corner walls are real close to essentially not matter. Haven't tried dual subs to know from experience yet. As to distance, it's simply to time-align your drivers. Each meter of distance incurs a 3ms delay. If your sub sat in a corner but the speakers out in the room, there could be a 3m difference = 9ms delay between bass and the rest arriving at your ears. Add a latency delay for DSP-based subs which could add the same figure or more. Suddenly the myth of slow bass (bass which is late) no longer is a myth. Try the sub equidistant, then compare to your current +1m placement and pick what sounds/looks best to you. After all, it's not all about the sound. A hifi must also integrate with our room and sense of aesthetics. When things look out of place to us or just odd, it creates its own 'distortion'. An uncomfortable listener creates a degree of bad sound all by himself. That's why I place great value on how my listening areas look/feel. Someone else could hate the décor. That's immaterial. As long as it puts me in a good mood, it does its job properly. As always, trust your own senses and your ability to make the right decision. Srajan

Hello Srajan. Juan José's letter made me realize how many Vinshine Audio products are featured lately on 6moons. On top of the high numbers of reviews and awards, they are a cornerstone of your reference setups. Taste is a personal matter but it feels (humbly) you might be passing by some interesting innovations. I've had the chance to own all the ones you have in your reference system, some admittedly bought after your reviews. The Terminator Plus is a fine DAC but not in the same league as the Mola Mola Tambaqui. The Soundaware Ref300D is probably the finest of the lot but pales against the revolutionary Grimm MU1 which the late M&J reviewed. I have not tried the Kinki monos with your Aurai speakers but with fine 88-90dB specimens they don't showcase the same level of control, speed and weight of an Avantgarde XA or Ypsilon Phaeton. Joël on your team has written some quite insightful reviews on his own website on Grimm/MMola/Ypsilon. This is not an invitation to put aside the work of Alvin and the teams behind each of the brands... they are to be praised for their good value. Rather a gentle nudge from a loyal reader to continue pushing the boundaries as you've done for 2+ decades. Best regards, Jacob Daltz

I (mostly) review things I'm asked to review, hence the hardware mix I cover personally reflects that. Also, you'd expect a big Audi to outperform a Honda. Once I start reviewing numerous Audi level components, another crowd will inevitably suggest that I leave rubber on the road by not looking into a Ferrari or equivalent. And so it escalates. I'm not trying to be 'the' reviewer for all people and products. As you discovered, Joël covers some higher-priced kit on his own site so you can get those kicks there and from other writers who focus their attention on that sector. I cover an area I feel competent to cover and think I shall continue to do so for the foreseeable future. If, as you say, I've been pushing boundaries for 20 years, perhaps the recipe is working okay? If you want to see something specific reviewed on 6moons, I would suggest contacting those manufacturers with such a request. If they do contact me and the product makes sense relative to my exposure level, room sizes and such, there's a very good chance such a review would happen. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I just wanted to asked you about the Kinki monos. I find it strange that you said you found them better than your Liszt monos—or at least that what I thought since you found them fuller, weightier and faster than the Liszt (seems like the perfect amplifier to me)—yet you didn't give them any award. Is it because they didn't work well with your preamp in tube mode or is there another reason? Regards from Mexico, Juan José Braham Gallegos

I bought them so an award would have felt distastefully self congratulatory I thought. Srajan

Hello Srajan, thanks for your answer. I'm curious if you've tried them with the SR1a. I know they'd not be as practical as the Schiit but I imagine the result would be better and not so expensive. Regards from Mexico, Juan

It didn't even occur to me to try them on the ribbon headphons. The Schiit works far too well there and I didn't buy the Kinki monos for that application which would still need a preamp. Far too unwieldy and a waste of good resources I'd say. Srajan

I totally forgot about the volume control. I guess it's because my DAC has volume control. As I said earlier, I understand about the Schiit practicality. I meant it just as an interesting sonic exercise to see how far can you take the Raal. While I haven't heard the Jotunheim 2 which I know was designed specifically for the Raal, all amps I've heard from Schiit sounded fairly good but I think they lacked the deep musical expression or connection to the music and the musical message that top amps give - at a much higher cost of course. That's the reason I think it could be interesting to try a better amp that doesn't cost an arm and a leg even if you use the Schiit on a daily basis for practicality. Of course there's the volume control issue. Juan

There's also the size issue. It's a headphone after all. Running it off two big amps plus a preamp plus a DAC plus a source turns it into a big secondary system. That wasn't my idea. I've already done it with my Pass Labs XA-30.8. It was slightly better than the Schiit but not enough to justify the excess hardware. Srajan

Srajan, just read your latest LessLoss review. Found the descriptions well done and presentation nicely taut and to the point. Then read the manufacturer's reply and the whole tone changed into the florid and frankly uncomfortable. It's as though he pounced on what you wrote, pumped hot air into your carefully dosed images and blew them up way out of proportions. I don't know about you but it rather changed how I felt walking away from that review. I liked it a whole lot better without the reply. In fact, I quite think that reply ruined it. Thank you. Craig

Interesting, Craig. Obviously manufacturers are free to use that platform as they see fit. If some do it so it fires back, we'd call it counterproductive. That's beyond my control. When I still read Stereophile in printed form, I remember thinking that certain replies were poorly disguised spin jobs approaching the ham-fisted. They didn't add anything new, just regurgitated the review in condensed form as though I lacked reading comprehension to understand it the first time around. Perhaps Louis felt my review couldn't stand on its own feet to need a boost? I imagine he'd be a bit bummed if more readers reacted like you did. Thanks for letting us know. Srajan

I'll be the first to state Srajan is the better more judicious, writer. My reply didn't merely rehash the review. If you notice, I hinted at future product development which addresses directly the only critique Srajan brought forth about the plug-and-play Firewalls, which was one of domestic tidiness vs. sonic achievement. And as for style of satire, after all, what's music without a little improv? Just keeping it light because this endeavor should be fun. Recall Frank Zappa's album title: Does Humor Belongs in Music? Louis Motek

Hello Srajan, I wanted to add something to the Jacob Daltz and Marty Wata letters. There's no doubt that a dealer who sold 60 pairs of speakers in two years did an excellent job for his brand. That deserves loyalty and like Jacob, I would call out common business agreements. What I do not see is the dealer's implication that marketing this amp at three times its current price will make it a successful seller. I know that you love the tiny Bakoon amp but I have never seen you imply that it is an easy sell at $6'000. Quite the opposite. Why would this Boenicke amp do any better at $7'500? I think you might be on the right track by pointing at some kind of bundled deal. Couldn't Sven and his dealers work out an agreement that packages the P1 and his speakers in a way that benefits both but keeps the attractive amplifier pricing intact? I guess I'm thinking out loud without having any definitive suggestion but it seems to me that to just draw a hard line and insist that this amp be marked up three times serves nobody. What do you think? Janez Kovac

I think that having pursued our review before such discussions were had was the wrong sequence. But it happened so any fallout from it needs sorting. I've wondered myself what a practical solution might be that could have all parties satisfied. It is a nearly €5'000 difference between the  amp's current direct price and Sven's predicted standard retail. What if the P1 was made available as is but exclusively to customers who commit to an SE/SE+ version Boenicke speaker? The dealer would sell the more expensive speaker and reap that extra profit, Sven would add in the P1 direct. Could all parties be happy with that? No idea but like you, I think it's simply worth exploring. This amp is too fine an effort to fall through the cracks of a communications oversight. Srajan

Hello Srajan, interested in hearing the bass performance and probable match for my room, I'd ordered a sample pair of Wolf Van Langa Son speakers via sea shipment before Xmas. It took no time at all to commit to the brand given the excellent sound quality and easy match to a wide variety of amps.

I wasn't expecting such a seamless match between 12" and ATM in a two-way but that's what he's managed to achieve. Mundorf's AMT mid-treble quality and low crossover is very impressive as is the detailed bass performance and speed of the field coil drivers. I like the contribution of inserting Lessloss 640x for speakers. They take out a minor ringing peakiness and flesh out a holographic stage without treble compromise.

In-room, speakers aren't quite as crystalline sounding as Raal-Requisite but this is as close as I'd expect (without perhaps experimenting with silver ribbon speaker cable). I seldom listen through headphones except for critical component comparisons. That may change with production of Java HiFi's GaNFET integrated. The prototype sounds like a great match for the Raal and possible to use the 640x with the Raal interface.

WVL Son speakers would make a great reviewing tool - good off-axis and with low power and great with more powerful amps at volume though very revealing and nuanced down to low volume levels. The low stands and Wellfloat isolators help with decoupling springy wooden floors and normalize stage height at any distance. Regards, Peter Hardie, www.referenceaudio.co.nz

Hello Peter, I'm not looking for new reviewing tools at the moment but happy to hear that you found a new speaker brand that works well with your existing electronics and performs close to the SR1a headphones. That's tough to do as I know only too well. Congrats. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I've been enjoying 6moons for over 10 years and wanted to thank you for what you do. I read with interest the debate around Boenicke deciding to sell their P1 amplifier direct to consumers after having set up a wide network of dealers around the world. I have been working as a guitar dealer for many years and disagree with Mr. Wata's thinking wholeheartedly. When a young brand as Mr. Boenicke's decides to work with specialist dealers, it does so with the awareness that this is a long-term partnership on both sides. Mr. Boenicke delivers innovative and reliable products, respects delivery times and maintenance agreements. The dealer introduces Boenicke's products to his clients, investing valuable time and resources in building brand awareness, organizing listening sessions and home trials, recommending the right ancillaries etc. It's not unlikely that to sell 60 pairs of speakers, the dealer has had to set up more than 300 trials (!), notwithstanding that he/she had to invest in a shop (capex and rent), salaries and working capital (demo models, stock). Net, these are true partnerships and as such loyalty is the name of the game on both sides. This loyalty is breached when a brand which has leveraged its dealers for years decides to sell a highly complementary product directly to the same client base the dealer introduced in the first place and actively marketed the brand to. Great brands such a Fender, Gibson and Guild never did so and continue to enjoy strong success. Hopefully this kind of positive behavior should also contribute to strengthen the hifi industry as a whole, something I sense is really needed for its own survival. Keen to hear your thoughts on this, Srajan. Regards, Jacob Daltz 

Having worked in a hifi dealership for a few years, later for more years on the manufacturing side of sales & marketing in charge of building/supporting dealer networks, I have real sympathy for both sides. Most importantly, Sven should have contacted his business partners a priori, explained his vision and planned strategy for this particular product to see whether he could win support on an 'exemption' basis; a bit like what otherwise would be considered a loss leader. Apparently he did not. Lack of proper communication caught at least these particular brand ambassadors by surprise to present them with a fait accompli. That was ill judged. It will be interesting to see whether the P1 can continue with its current position outside the general catalogue; will increase some in price to include a shorter dealer margin; increase a lot in price to build in full traditional dealer/distributor margins; or go away entirely. Either way, it seems clear that at the very least belated communications are in order; and very likely certain adjustments on top of those. Srajan

Hello again, there seem to be some confusion on dealer's margin here. Mr. Boenicke's P1 is sold direct at 2650 chf net of VAT.  This would translate into a ~5300-6000chf consumer price including VAT based on a European standard dealer margin (source: friends who work in the sector).  This appears to be a competitive price, ~25% less than the previously mentioned Bakoon AMP13R.  I see 3 pitfalls in Mr Boenicke's actions:

- lack of timely and thoughtful communication as you mentioned

- caring mostly about his own growth and profits (his margins are not affected by going direct whilst his dealers loose out entirely)

- a potential misunderstanding of whose customer we are talking about.

If you were to do a poll of customers entering a hifi store, I'd bet less that 5% have ever heard of Boenicke and less that 1% have ever listened to one of his speakers.  The reasons why the specific dealer sold 60 pairs is because he or she decided to prioritize Boenicke's speakers in demos and invest a lot of time and resources convincing their customers about their many qualities. Get me right, Boenicke speakers are of very good quality and design but the same can be said about Soundkaos, sonus Faber, Kef, Kaiser, Camerton.... Once a retailer has decided to build your brand and prioritizes it against other equally valid options, you owe it to the retailer to play by the rules and go thru them for selling your full range of hifi products. Alternatively you may market them through a different brand (what Goldmund once did with Job) or you change your model into direct-only (what Vinshine Audio does with the Denafrips and Kinki Studio brands). But as the old saying goes, you can't have your cake and eat it too. Jacob Daltz

No confusion there, Jacob. Sven himself arrived at the CHF 7'500 retail whilst applying the same dealer + distributor margins his speakers currently have. And he would know what those are, wouldn't he? He works with distributors who then set up dealers in their country/s. So that's two layers of margin, not just one. As far as greed goes, with €1'400 worth of tweaks in the P1 alone, I rather doubt that Sven's profit on this piece is very much at all. It will certainly be far lower than a dealer's would be. But then, those matters are not really my business. I'm a reviewer, not retailer so don't think I can add anything more meaningful to this discussion. Srajan

Hey Srajan, brilliant write-up on the new mini Boenicke amp. So, class D in the right hands no longer makes any excuses. Correct? That's brilliant to hear. I much prefer something tiny and cool that's not a fire-breathing behemoth. But then came that dealer and distributor complaint. Wtf? Their logic is that if this is such a good deal, why not triple its price and let two more middlemen in on the sale? Don't they realize that this immediately kills what makes the P1 so special? Like anyone else who works for a living, I understand that dealers work to eat, not to entertain cheap audiophiles for free. But I don't appreciate it when dealers try to derail a brand's side effort to offer a really good value amp to pair to its speakers which really aren't that affordable to begin with. It's a discussion which I'm sure you've heard more than you care to so simply, kudos for adding this reminder about how things work in the real world. I'm just hoping Sven sticks to his guns and keeps the P1 priced as it is now! Marty Wata

I hear you, Marty. Of course any business partner who managed to sell 60 pairs of your speakers in just two years is very important and really did their part. You much prefer to keep such productive accounts happy than upset them irreparably. If they play real hardball and insist that either you cave or they walk—the market is filled with competitors looking for quality representation after all—then it takes not just conviction but sufficiently deep personal resources to let them walk. Unless you're a single owner/operator, employees and their families all depend on you. Your decisions affect a network of people including the shop you order your cabinets from, the people who make your drivers, your tweaks etc. It's all interconnected. I'm sure we'll find out eventually how this decision to sell one amp direct worked out for Sven. Like you I hope it wasn't a mistake and that his dealers will support his decision to help them sell more expensive speakers by selling a perfectly matching small amplifier direct for essentially 30 cents on the Swiss franc. As we see in the next letter one up from yours, it should at the very least take some serious communications between Sven and his partners. Srajan

Hello Srajan, over the years you've been very kind in providing your thoughts and advice regarding questions I had about important audio purchases I was considering. Icontinue to enjoy the excellent reviews you and your team provide. The quality, depth and writing are in my opinion not matched anywhere else. My question is regarding the Allnic A-6000 300B monoblocks you reviewed some years back. Your experience and comparative knowledge in amplifiers and most especially tubed amplification are unequaled in my opinion. My situation is this. For the past five years I've been absolutely thrilled with the wonderful qualities of my Lamm ML-2.0 SET monos. Their liquidity, richness and golden tone of the midrange, soaring highs and still exceptional overall bass for tubed amps have been all I could ask for. However, several things changed. I moved to a new home with a far larger listening room, not to mention ceilings that reach up to 18 feet in places. I needed to move to speakers that could more effectively fill that space ideally. That of course means a need for more power.

Higher-powered amplifiers that would satisfy a SET lover are, as you know, incredibly rare. I've read and re-read your review on the A-6000 in hopes that those might be the answer but get the impression that you may feel they are better in satisfying a solid-state amp lover with their power and dynamics and may not offer the liquidity, depth and richness I'm after. Your thoughts would be great appreciated. Also, if you have any other suggestions which would be more appropriate that could be bought used in the $7-9k range, I'd greatly appreciate those. I will need 100wpc in a standard tube design or or something in the 50wpc Class A range like the Allnic. Thank you very much. Jeff Corbin

It sounds like you've already swapped speakers so that deed's done. The likely trouble now is that the Lamm sound has gotten into your bones and anything else will be at best different but more likely, less. I've quite drifted away from tube amps for years so don't feel in the right place to be of much use to you now. I know that Kevin Scott of Living Voice in the UK is very fond of Canary tube amps which are made in the US. They do numerous push/pull class A 300B amps of tiered power ratings. The valve amp reviews I've done go too many years back for me to feel confident in how I'd rate them today. We've changed homes, countries and systems a few times and my tastes have changed so on your subject, I feel actually quite out of the frame. It does occur to me that Lamm also have solid-state amps which apparently sound very much like their tube designs. Couldn't that suit ideally? Srajan

Hi Srajan, for something completely different and about this Dynaudio sub when using its analog outputs - does it follow their entire DSP section? A customer of mine asked because he tries to avoid compromising his analog feed with DSP. His concern is that when using the sub's analog i/o, it will pass through an ADC, then DSP, then their DAC which is probably oversampling so far from our approach. Doesn't mean this unit is bad of course, only that it follows another philosophy. Kind regards, Cees Ruijtenberg

I don't know but will assume you're correct. I simply won't be using the sub's analog outputs once it actually arrives. I'll even bypass its own low-pass filter. That's why the signal path your client is concerned about doesn't worry me. I won't be using it. He could bypass it too with an external analog filter. Those are admittedly in very short supply especially in the more affordable range. The forthcoming Gradient Box from Pál Nagy could be his answer. I know it'll be mine. Srajan

Srajan, in your Boenicke W8 preview, you embed a link to a 360° show of Sven's listening room. What are those very large speakers at the back? I've never seen them anywhere but they look like typical Sven designs. Cheers, Thorsten

That was a commission he received from I believe the Chinese importers of Orpheus Labs at the time. They were very specific about the size and how many drivers they wanted. If I remember correctly, when Sven finalized the fist pair, the people who'd ordered them backed out. I visited that room when that pair was still there. As a one up, he'd not sold it but hopefully he did manage to find a buyer for it long since. It never went into formal production. That's why you never saw it anywhere else. Srajan

Hey Srajan, so you're experiencing a rough first date with your new Kinki monos? I applaud you for giving us your unvarnished reaction which could smart a bit given that these are now yours. Do you think they still need more break-in? Or do you suspect another possible element that needs to be tweaked before they perform as you expected? I'm just curious how this chapter in your hifi career is coming along especially when you waited so long to take delivery. Thanks for your continued sharing. It's great fun from the distance. Brian

Interesting you should ask, Brian. Right now the Kinkinators are in the 2.0 video system being fed by a Wyred4Sound STP-SE II preamp to drive German Physik HRS-120. Zero issues whatsoever, just tremendous clarity. Now I'm wondering whether my preamp tubes in the big rig are the culprit. Usually such tubes would be coupled through output transformers. Those create a useful low-pass effect to filter out ultra-high frequencies. With mine coupling directly to the amplifier inputs for a -3dB response of 900kHz, I'm wondering whether the ultra-wide Kinkis receive spurious out-of-band noise I've just never heard before. An upcoming test will bypass the tubes again to see whether I can still recreate that strange 'grit' which popped up on lesser recordings. Also, the Bayz Audio Courante 2.0 are 2 weeks away from touching down. Their entire design brief is ultimate speed and they have a unique radial line-source tweeter that's ultra-light and full omni. That'll give me another 'electron microscope' on the subject. I'm also planning a Kinki session on the Audio Physic Codex. Seeing how the TV system sounds great as is, my current thought for the big system suspects the direct-coupled triodes. I'll know soon enough. As far as telling it like it is, just because I buy something doesn't mean my ears make excuses. I'm very stubborn that way. Ownership doesn't buy any bail. You're busted if you don't perform flawlessly. Srajan

I see that you just posted the full review. Good for you. So your tubes were at fault. It must smart to realize that but as you wrote, perhaps now that tube pre will go somewhere else in your house. Great write up by the way. I really enjoyed how you used the review of another amp to explain the difference. Well done. Brian

It was indeed a surprise to realize that the tubes caused the issue. After all, they work perfect into the Liszt monos whose input filter cuts off at ~400kHz. Whatever the exact explanation might be, I'm simply happy that I eliminated the issue. Srajan

Dear Srajan, it's been a long time since I wrote you last but I've continued reading your reviews with great interest. I wanted to ask which is the amp you like so much upstairs but didn't like downstairs while your Liszt mono was out for repair. From what I remember, the amps you had upstairs were the Crayon and Bakoon, with the latter being the one you listen to the most. Was it the Bakoon which didn't meet expectations downstairs? That would surprise me since I've always considered it the best amp in your house for low to medium output. In fact I hope to buy one someday. Your M1 downstairs seems to be a 90dB speaker which is the same for the sound|kaos Vox 3a. Of course the room is larger which could account for it being under-powered.

On another topic yet related as you'll see, yesterday one of my Sophia Electric/TJ Fullmusic 300B carbon 2.5V which I was using for my headphone amp blew. I replaced both tubes with the ones I was using prior to the TJ Fullmusic and, as you can Imagine, I'm feeling a great loss since I was already used to the sound of my prior tubes and I liked the sound very much. Sounds familiar? Anyway, after a day of disappointment, to replace my burnt tubes I decided to order a pair of Linlai 2A3 which I had been wanting to try since reading your review. Imagine my disappointment when I read it's sold out and back-ordered already. Of all the Linlai tubes, the only one sold out is the E-2A3. Seems your review caused quite a stir. Maybe they thought they'd sell more of the bigger tubes and made less of the 2A3? Unluckily for me it seems. I was too late to jump on the wagon. I'll have to continue with my disappointment a bit longer. Wishing you all the best. Regards from Mexico. Juan José Braham

I wasn't aware Rachel had sold through her inventory of E-2A3 already but I'm sure replenishments are on order. As to the interim downstairs amp, that was the 60wpc Crayon. I love it upstairs. Downstairs, it didn't quite hit the standard of the Liszt monos. However, I don't think it had anything to do with being under-powered. It was a function of how certain sonic qualities bedded in with different ancillaries. But now the Liszt with the failed Mosfets is back and I'm back in the saddle. Hurray. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I see that the Kinki Studio mono review has finally moved back into the preview section. How close are you to having finals and letting us know how it sounds? Frank

After having struggled with a particularly difficult Irish customs inspector since October last year, I'd given up on ever taking delivery. But yesterday I finally received the first package. That made it 5+ months late. Now I'm waiting on FedEx to find the second one. They claim it's still in customs even though I pre-paid VAT clearance on both. Then how could only half the shipment have been cleared? So they just generated an 'escalation file' on my tracking # today. I'm promised an update shortly but somehow this particular shipment had the maloik over it for a long stretch so I won't count my chickens until they're all hatched. I'll need two mono amps to do proper stereo. Until the second one arrives, the preview remains on pause. That's how it stands right now. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I just came across your Bayz Audio Courante preview and wanted to thank you for digging deeper into its tweeter than any other reviewer previously has. After all the guessing elsewhere, now it appears to be a Linæum related affair that's been scaled up vertically to become more of a line source. Would that make it a bending-wave driver by definition? I'm curious to hear whether you were able to find out anything more about it. Cheers, Craig Warrick

I have more questions in with Zoltan who promised answers when his speaker delivers. So we'll see what else we learn. My current understanding is that the Linæum and its derivatives do exhibit bending-wave behavior so the Bayz radial driver could possibly be characterized as such. Its patent is quite in-depth so I recommend you read it in full if you want the whole picture. I'm not an engineer but musician by training so my grasp on the involved tech here is limited. Srajan

Hey Srajan, I read your last Darko musings and was curious - have you learnt what went wrong with your amp and could you get it fixed? Since you wouldn't know what to replace it with as you wrote, my fingers are x'd for you. Otherwise I imagine quite the chase for replacements. That could be a fun story all by itself. Bernie

Indeed. Even the maker was surprised since the amp's mains fuse hadn't blown. Apparently one of the Exicon Mosfets gave up its ghost. That had its push/pull counterpart overheat to fail as well. And that took out two 16A relays. Everything else inside looked like new after 3 years of constant use. He replaced four parts, confirmed that everything's peachy again and the amp is already en route back to us. Phew. Srajan

Hello! I seem to remember that you have no WiFi connections in your systems. How is your Mac-based system tied together?  Is everything hard wired, including your internet connection?  If so, how? Many thanks, Bill

30m CAT6 cable from router to iMac, USB out to reclocker. Simple. Srajan

Thank you for your answer. Aside from eliminating radiating devices in the home, are there sonic benefits to hardwiring my iMac to the router by cable? There seems to be some disagreement over the quality of sound between wifi and hard wired. Thanks again, Bill

I wouldn't know. Ours is a WiFi-allergic household so I haven't done comparisons between hard-wired and wireless. Wireless causes us headaches so would be entirely unacceptable even if it sounded miles better. In our case, it obviously wouldn't because if the listener is feeling unwell, the experience of listening to music is seriously compromised. Srajan

Interesting! I have not heard of that before. Thanks for the response. I know you are busy. Bill

Many people seem to be completely insensitive/immune to microwave radiation, hence the takeover of WiFi in all areas of life. Our brains must be ancient because we both feel it the moment my wife has to set our router to Wifi for a few minutes to download a book or two to her Kindle. If you don't have that sensitivity, then there's no need to bother for health reasons. Srajan

Ancient brains....an interesting concept! Are you affected in wifi environments outside the home—restaurants, coffee shops, pubs.—that have wifi?  Hard to escape entirely. I don't doubt that everyone is affected by wifi probably in ways that have not yet become apparent. Interesting to consider all the info that is passing by and no doubt through us invisibly as we just sit and have a cup of coffee. I may try turning off my wifi at night just as an experiment but, living in an apartment, most of my neighbors probably are using their own. Bill

Yes, certain commercial environments are very polluted by overlapping WiFi networks. That makes being there very uncomfortable for us. It feels like our brains are being bombarded and being exposed too long feels like being leeched of vitality. We live very remote in the countryside and our small town just has 4'000 inhabitants so we're quite isolated from that type of electro smog. Going to Galway which is the closest big city does expose us of course so isn't something we do very often. Prior to the Irish lockdown when we still went out to eat, certain restaurants were off-limits because of excessive WiFi coverage for their customers. And, there are 'counter radiation' devices one can get from health-related companies or so-called New Age shops that we've found to really work for us. So we have those as well for our cellphones which we don't use in the house, only on the road (we got an old-fashioned landline installed which really had the phone company at hello because, apparently, very few people still use them). So it's like with anything else in life. If you have a certain ailment or sensitivity like a food allergy, you get as informed about it as you can, then do what you can to best live with it. There's lots that can be done about WiFi radiation if one is interested to learn about it. Turning off the router's WiFi function during the night is a first step to see whether you sleep any better or wake up more refreshed. If you notice no difference, perhaps you have a modern brain that's adapted to this form of radiation already. Or perhaps, it didn't make a difference because you're still exposed to everyone else's WiFi in your apartment complex. Then you'd have to compare how you feel on the seaside or in the woods. And so forth. As I'm fond of saying, personal experience trumps all theory - including other people's experiences. While those will be true for them, they may or may not be true for us. We always have to try for ourselves, then trust our ability to decide. Srajan

Srajan, I just read your latest article for John. One phrase—former contributors Marja & Henk—startled me. I dived into your website and found the appropriate article on them passing. My apologies, I'm late to the news. It hit hard. Timing is everything. A few hours earlier I finished a short article that will be 'published' next Wednesday. My mum's eulogy. She died on 9th Feb, nine days after suffering a stroke. Five months after my dad went, in his case less of a surprise, a cocktail of dementia and other illnesses taking him. They were one, inseparable, married 64 years. A preview....

"One image sticks in my mind from not so long ago. We'd been for dinner at the Rose & Crown in Yealmpton. On the way out mum and dad were slightly ahead of me, looking frail. They were in their eighties by then. Dad reached down and took mum's hand. Very simple, very gentle, but it signified what they were all about, what really mattered to them. The love and support of each other. It's a very powerful memory. I have to say today seems like a send off for both of them, not just for mum."

It sounds like I could be talking about Marja & Henk. Let's just say I shed a tear or two. If Covid has taught us one thing, it's the value of our connections to other people. I skyped mum on the day of her stroke, she was in good spirits. Oh for that last hug we promised each other when all this 'nonsense' was over.  Stay safe my friend, my thoughts are with you and with Marja & Henk. I wish I'd known them. Phil Wright

Hi Srajan, do the 3afw energize the room sufficiently with the Zu sub and crossed over using your pre?  I'm torn between the 3a and Aurai M3. I'd be using both with a sub (Rel 212se) and an external crossover (JL CR1).  I love the form factor of the 3A but like an immediate and fast sound which seems to favor the Aurai.  The other option which I have room for are the M1.  I'm really looking forward to your review of the Aurai Junior. Thanks again for discovering the Aurai gear and all the other stuff you seem to uncover. I'm still gobsmacked by the Kinki M7. And also a heartfelt thanks for tolerating and responding to my e-mails. Some of this gear is difficult if not impossible to demo. I've got sufficient overlap with your gear to be able to triangulate towards a reasonable expectation of the realized sound. Best, Joseph Eagleeye

My room for the 3awf is 4x6m and yes, the sound|kaos can fill that and more to party levels. Because I didn't have much prior experience with proper cross-filtering, I kinda guessed when I ordered my preamp's filter to be -6dB/40Hz and -24dB/20Hz. The thinking was that since the port is tuned to 36Hz below which output falls off at 24dB, I'd ‘bypass' most the port action by setting my filter just above it. It's worked out a treat not only on this speaker but also the Dutch aluminators. There clearly are benefits to microdynamic expression and openness on the filtered mains. With your JL xover, you still get to play with shifting the inflection point of the hi/lo-pass so you might find that you like the handover to be a bit higher. And yes, the M3 sounds subjectively faster. With the REL and JL xover, I'd not bother thinking about the M1. In our big downstairs room, those hit a solid 33Hz so there's very little music signal a sub will add. The primary advantage now is more expanded dynamic range higher up. But the same would be true with the M3 or 3Awf to favor the smaller mains. Srajan

Srajan, I borrowed a Bakoon AMP-13R from Soo In and it does sound wonderful. My speakers are Gradient 1.4 which are very inefficient so even in a small room they are a little under-powered. Kindest regards, Chris Mercurio

25 watts from a single pair of Mosfets only go so far. Srajan

I plugged my Job back in. What a bummer. The only other amp I was considering is the Benchmark AHB2 but I think I’m likely going to be spoiled for almost anything else after the Bakoon. Chris

Well, yes... life after a Bakoon date tends to be dim. But Soo In is working on something with thrice the power so that might have your name on it when it bows? Srajan

Dear Srajan, I see the Kaiser Furioso Mini review has finally published. Thank you very much for that. The wait was worthwhile. But one thing I'm still unclear on. Even though I could easily comprehend your descriptions on how it sounded to you in your two rooms, I still feel unclear whether you actually liked the sound it made or not. Could you say some more about that, please? Tony

Then it sounds like I did my job, Tony. Whether a reviewer likes or dislikes a particular voicing is completely irrelevant. Our job is to just describe it. Otherwise all we would need is a single reviewer statement about the kind of sound they like which thereafter is being referred to in all reviews. Each review itself then consists of just one word. 'Yes' or 'no'. How helpful would that be? We all have different tastes. What's more, they can change over time. It's fine if sonic descriptions and reviewer reaction to them intermingle. But it's certainly not essential. Just remind yourself that you don't know me. I'm just  a bloke whom you've never met who sounds off online. What does it matter whether I personally like something or not? How does that relate to you in any way? Why should my personal taste become some kind of arbiter? See what I mean? Just take the totality of the descriptions I gave and see how those might work for you; or not. That's it. Srajan

Srajan, I have to thank you for this discovery. SS amps have come a long way. My Kinki M7 is still burning in on some Bhaava which is turning out to be a ridiculously good combo and something you alluded to in you initial review, although not directly; you had mentioned the Bakoon as potentially a good partner. Like you, I view the M7 as being in the same sonic family as the Bakoon, but maybe slightly less refined but with more power and ridiculous control over larger drivers. I also really enjoyed your Aurai reviews. I think the M1 with the Kinki's might be pretty tasty and an incredible bargain. Now I get why Kinki use Pure Audio Project speakers. That's the other combo that caught my eye as a possibility. If people like Nelson's designs on OBs, the Kinkis will soon be mentioned in the same way. Best, Joe Eagleeye

Hi Srajan. Hope all's well. I know you're evaluating some great monitor speakers at the moment. I thought this album by Turkish folk singer Ruhi Su would serve as a good source for vocals. His voice is very strong with sudden dynamic bursts: Semahlar - Çocuklar, Göçler, Baliklar. All the best, Mev

Srajan, FYI, you're a part of my collective memory forever. I read Stereo Review in high school in the late 80s and thus discovered hifi. Then I hung it up until around 2004 when a coworker showed me his tubed headphone amp. I quickly dove into the hobby in a major way and your site was a big part of it. From 2005-2015 I owned over $300K of gear. Not a typo. About $100K of that I spent thanks to you. My current system is a Melco server into a PS Audio DirectStream DAC into a Marchand XM66 crossover into dual REL B3 subs under 80Hz and Art Dudley's restored Quad 57s powered by a Croft Series R7 amp (I recently re-read your 2006esque Croft expose). In my huge room, the Quads cannot do it all. It doesn't really get any better than this but still I just bought a pair of ASL 845 SET amps. They come tomorrow. Paul Folbrecht

When I die, I'll have to will you some of my kit to make up for the grave expenditures I caused you. Of course I'm not planning to exit anytime soon so you may have to wait for quite a while -:) Srajan

On the contrary, I have only myself to blame. I accept full responsibility. Be well. Paul

Srajan, just chanced over your Linlai review. Didn't know they existed. Good on ya. So, new competition for the established players. Cracking. Not too impressed of course with your 101D findings. Nice though that the factory is already looking into it. You also indicate a second review that will give us more feedback. Don't they also make a solid plate version? Perhaps it was the mesh thing causing the microphonic issue. Anyhow, greetings from Perth and thanks for introducing me to a new tube resource. I think I'll check them out if I can find a local reseller. Lucas

I'm not sure about the true breadth of Linlai's current catalogue. Rachel handled both Psvane and Linlai until recently so cherry-picked the Linlai models she wanted to add to avoid too much overlap. Since then she's dropped Psvane entirely. Now Linlai could enter that breach; and/or Rachel will bring in other tube types/versions she didn't when Psvane still covered them for her. If you look closely at the 101D, it's actually not a woven wire mesh but punched/perforated plate instead. Not having alternate solid plates, I couldn't tell you whether that was the cause for the noise. I also don't know whether Linlai currently make a solid-plate 101D. I will check out the revised 'mesh' when Rachel has gen2 samples. What I will say is that my first 101D samples were very ringy when tapped. I suspect that noise reduction will require a more rigid inner structure equivalent to the 300B and 2A3 I tested. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I want to chime in on the latest emails by Peter and Craig. They and your answers made good points. But nobody mentioned advertising yet. For most of us, that's the biggest giveaway. How can reviewers maintain honesty when their livelihood is tied up with their opinions? Until that's no longer an issue, I personally think that all talk about honesty is compromised at best and wishful thinking at worst. Sorry, just had to get this out of my craw. Tony Treer

Ah, the old tit-for-tat argument. To that I simply say, good luck when you need the services of a judge, referee, building or car inspector, mediator or any other service professional who gets paid to render an opinion or interpret rules or laws. Reviewing is no different. It's work, it must be paid especially if the reviewer does it for a living and the commodity being solid is time spent to render an educated opinion or value/performance judgment. The potential for conflict of interest is obvious. So is that it can and must be managed. Beyond that, I'm back to letting our audience decide what they want to think and believe about how well or not we manage. It's a very basic very old argument. It won't go away until readers are willing to fund the reviewers they want to read and thereby replace the existing ad-based model. Since at least online the subscription-based model hasn't really been successful, some reviewers are currently trying to augment their ad revenues with Patreon contributions. Can those eventually replace ad revenues? I think the jury on that is still out. For us the old imperfect model continues to work so I haven't been motivated to change it. I rather create content than fight the system.

If you want to change the system, I can give you my business bank account number and you can start making financial contributions. If enough people did, reliably and on a monthly basis, the ads could eventually disappear. Until then, they are what they are: reminders that your privilege of reading us for free is paid for - just by others, not you! Srajan

Defend or impugn a critic's honesty? I just read Peter Borelli's post. It's an interesting dilemma. A critic's value is directly proportionate to the trust readers have in his opinion. That seems obvious. Proving a critic's honesty however is rather more difficult. As with a recording session, we are not present to witness what's going on. We're presented with an end result. At best we can triangulate what other reviewers say about the same piece and track a writer's consistency. But even that is guesswork. What if he's consistently lying, exaggerating or making things up? He still is consistent, just in a bad way. It's for that reason and more that I'm looking at reviews mostly for entertainment. Reviews keep me in the loop so I'm up to date on new hardware, trends and tech. If, as you would put it, once in a blue moon and not every month a writer gets truly excited, I'm more prepared to bookmark that review should the time come to buy something. In any event, Peter's email about perceived honesty just made me wonder once again how any of us could possibly have a handle on it. At the end of the day, it's all pure hearsay. You say something, I wasn't there. So I can choose to believe you or not. If I keep reading someone, I choose to believe them. Why bother otherwise? But I can't prove my response either way. It's just a gut instinct. What do you think? I'm sure you must have an opinion. ATB, Craig B.

I concur completely. For most, reading reviews is its own hobby. It's not primarily about purchase decisions but entertainment. That's why in my mind, a review should mix entertainment and education to have a reader walk away more informed and otherwise just a bit inspired or made to think. Disagreeing with a theory, presentation or finding is just as involving as agreeing with it, arguably more so. There just must be enough substance to dig one's teeth into; and clarity to understand the argument in the first place. Like you said, honesty can't be proven unless we were present during a review session to compare what actually happened against what ended up published. But even to say "what happened" includes tons of subjectivity in the reviewer's head which we won't be privy to; never mind that it could conflict with what went on in our own head (ear/brain) at the same time.

Whether people trust me or not isn't really my concern. It's to create content I'm happy to publish. That has to speak for itself. It either succeeds or fails. Which of the two is up to each and every reader. My assumption always is that if someone keeps coming back for more, they must be getting something out of it. And something is already more than nothing. In my book that's a win. After 20 years of doing this, I'm still here. Clearly there's sufficient readers who get just enough out of reading us to keep coming back. That's good enough for me. All the rest is for the readers to debate amongst themselves. If Peter's friend doesn't believe him or me, that's his right, choice and decision. That too is part of the whole review entertainment game. Review the reviewers. Play gotcha. Call out someone's opinion, name, appearance, room, taste in music or hardware. All of it is fair game these days. One needs good humor and a thicker skin to stick it out. Thankfully I enjoy the hell out of writing. Whatever unpleasant noise it might generate here or there is simply the price to pay for the privilege of making a purely self-taught living. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I just read two of the letters in your feedback section which moved me each in a different way. One was the letter from the fellow knocking Aavik's pricing practices and criticizing you and Dawid Grzyb for 'supporting'' such practices by reviewing their products. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps the price of that Aavik preamp is super inflated. I wouldn't know. But his criticizing you and Dawid was way out of line. And, as far as I am concerned, your answer to him was spot on brilliant.

The other letter which moved me even more, and in a different way, was the one Fredric Beudot wrote informing you of his decision to no longer review. I was moved to sadness for him. Due to aging, my hearing has of course has sustained a certain loss. I can no longer hear above 8000Hz. But within that range, I can still hear everything perfectly well. Life would become much flatter if I didn't have the music. On another note, Fredric wrote something in that letter which I found gratifying. It is when he thanked you for giving your writers creative freedom regardless of any commercial consideration. It was nice reading that - but not necessarily because I needed it. It simply confirms something that I have always believed about you.

I have had a running discussion with someone about your level of honesty and just a few days ago it came up again. Frederic's statement is proof that I am right and I intend to pass it on to my friend. If he were someone whom I did not esteem then I wouldn't bother. But I do esteem him and his opinion matters to me. So I am grateful for the opportunity that Fredric's letter has afforded me. Peter Borelli

Dear Srajan, great to see that KEF's new mini sub is on your agenda already. I'm most curious whether it can really do the 11Hz they claim. I hope you'll give that aspect its proper due and let us know how it does. Looking forward to it. Jamie

I don't have any music or test tones below 20Hz, Jamie. That's the infrasonic domain of the right blockbuster movie. You can't hear that, only feel it as ambiguous pressure. I'm personally far more interested whether in our bigger room, the KC62 can still hit 20Hz or 25Hz at sufficient SPL to register in the context of music played back at 85-90dB peaks which is the extent of our loudness. That would be musically relevant on the right tracks. The infrasonics you're asking about could perhaps factor in a serious home-theater review whose writer had an indexed library of movies that contain data below 15Hz; and competing subwoofers already confirmed to hit those depths. That isn't me, sorry. Wrong guy entirely. Srajan

Srajan, I just read your latest subwoofer review and really appreciate how you divvied out the pro and con sides. You clearly felt that the advantages outweighed the limitations or you wouldn't have given out an award. My question to you is very simple. Will you vote with your money and keep it; or hold out for something else instead? I really enjoy all of your reviews. Thank you. Conor 

I indeed considered it. I just packed it up so decided against. I'd want it for downstairs but there its early roll-off doesn't really add anything beyond the mains on reach, just replaces their omni bass dispersion. That's fab in its own right but ultimately I'd like to have something that also adds extra extension to earn its 'sub'woofer title. So we'll see. Will a bigger RiPol sub come around somewhere else? I've heard rumblings. I'm certainly sold on the concept even if it is very inefficient compared to say KEF's newest sub just featured in our news room which combines 2 x 6.5" woofers with 1'000 watts of class D and clever DSP to claim 11Hz from a very small aluminium box. But that will radiate omni again to create room pressurization effects and ride modes. Once you've heard super-clean bass without typical room effects, why would you want to go back? So for now I'm holding out to investigate more options first. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I just read that the MusikBass received your renowned Blue Moon award. Thank you very much! This is a great honor which motivates me to continue on my path. It is not easy to found and run an audio company from scratch, invest in development of a product, marketing, creation of a brand etc., but such positive feedback gives me confidence it was a good decision despite the challenges it already brought and certainly will bring in the future. Best regards, Michael

The pleasure was all mine. Well deserved! Srajan

LOL. Srajan, I see your man Dawid just drank the Aavik Kool Aid in one massive gulp. $350 Pascal board plus volume chip and input selector in a painted MDF box get €6'000, a few more twisted wire loops €10'000 and some extra titanium and a few more loops double to €20'000? Who is nuts enough to buy into this crap? Why are you guys shilling for it? This is the worst kind of rip I've seen in a long while. But with your own Aavik review in the pipeline, I guess you're smoking the same weed. That makes you another site to strike from my bookmarks. Deleted! Cheerio, mate. Mike Stanton

Cheerio, Mike. Our job isn't as profit adjusters or savings pickers. Our job is to report on various new hifi kit and how it performs. Then we trust the intelligence of our audience to decide how to spend their hard-earned money. Anything less would be disrespectful and overreach. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I've anxiously waited on your Kaiser Furioso Mini review ever since it reappeared. Now it seems to be dead in the water again like a lame duck. Is it really coming this time or are you just  teasing us endlessly all over again? Update please! Tony

There were delays due to Covid-19 at Kaiser but the situation has resolved itself now. The demo pair has been picked up, packed and is in transit as I write this. So yes, it really is coming now. Srajan  

Hi Srajan, I just wanted to take a minute to wish you and Ivette a tremendous 2021 that we all hope will see a semblance of normality resume, whether in public health or in politics around the world. I also wanted to let you know I won’t be able to contribute to 6moons going forward; there have been other times in my career where I have had to temporarily step back due to workload but this time is different. My hearing is actually declining more than is typical at my age and a condition that afflicted my dad and my grandpa around the same age and it doesn’t seem I will be able to change the trend. We never go deaf but our hearing ability is reduced and higher level listening—at level most folks would consider still low—will trigger pain which I have been increasingly experiencing for the past year.

It means that my days of critical listening are over and that I will have to focus my listening on short periods at low levels purely for music enjoyment purposes as they will unfortunately be far more limited than they have been; nowadays 30 minutes is about as long as I can go which makes listening to any Wagner opera a multi-week effort. My first review was January 2007 and those FJ OMs still have a proud place in our home-theater system; it has been a fun and enjoyable 14-year journey and I am sad to have to end it but I will continue to be a loyal reader of your musings. Thank you for the opportunities you provided me with and all the amazing gear that went through my various music rooms around the world over that period. Thank you for the freedom you give your writers and for never letting any commercial consideration influence any conclusion or writings.

It is crazy to think that we have never met face to face and I certainly hope we’ll get a chance to remedy this at some point in the future. I wish you the very best and continued success with 6moons for years to come. Frederic Beudot

Hi Srajan, hope you doing well in this pandemic time. This is regarding Cube Audio Nenuphar Mini with one Cube Audio Sub 12" amplifier pairing. Amplifier list: Aries Cerat Genus; LTA Integrated Ultralinear; Tektron 2A3/300B BPSE-I-REF; Line Magnetic LM 845 Premium. My listening room is not that big, ~15m² (current room) to 40m² (I may move to a new listening room). I can say that 90% of my listening habits towards rock and metal and sometimes female vocals, jazz, classical and orchestra. In terms of amplifier selection, which amp (brand/model) will have the greatest synergy with my Cube Nenuphar Mini and listening levels rarely past 95dB assuming we look for perfect balance of strong 3D holographic imaging, a wide soundstage, thumping bass for rock and metal, details at low listening levels and forgiving/musical. I'm open to any suggestion if you have any, whether it be tubes or hybrid or fully transistors Thanks, Ahmad Daniel Matsah

95dB in a small room is very loud indeed but your bass is already handled actively which takes care of the most challenging bits. Still, you assume that I could hand-pick a 'perfect match' between your speakers, a room I don't know, ears I don't know and from a list of amps of which I've only heard the LTA. Sorry, I cannot. All I can say is that I liked the LTA very much and it should work just fine. I just wouldn't call it or the speakers forgiving. But rock/metal, 95dB and forgiving don't seem natural bed fellows in the first place. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I've followed your journey into Furutech's NCF through all its stops to now wonder which of the many applications you feel brings the greatest return? It sounds like something I might want to try but it would help if I could narrow down which model in particular. Thanks for all that you do. Charles Hovler 

I would focus on either the Clear Line plugs or Booster Braces. Both are retrofits. They work with what you already have. Each Clear Line will take up an extra wall/distributor socket. The Booster Brace slips onto the power cord itself. That's the primary consideration between them. As I put it in the Brace review, they really are like cuff links on a dress shirt - the finishing touch. It's something to do when everything else is locked in. Srajan

Happy New Year, Sir! I have read some of your great reviews you wrote about hifi equipment, really nicely done! I'm a beginner to the high-fidelity world and looking to learn something new every day. I just bought a used pair of Audio Physic Scorpio 2 coming from a pair of Dynaudio x32. I'm driving these with a Roksan Caspian Mk1 but I feel this amp can't handle them. Could you please recommend me an integrated amplifier? My budget is £3'500. Kind regards, Alex

This one. It's $2'900. Srajan

Srajan, I just looked up your MusicBass preview to see whether anything had been added and instead, something seems to have disappeared? I could have sworn that you mentioned a matching outboard filter box from the guy who invented the RiPol thing, even had a photo or two. Now that's all gone. I was really looking forward to that because it could also work in a project I'm working on. What happened? Kamal

The owner of ModalAkustik informed me that Axel Ridthaler stopped production. Apparently a vendor for certain parts in it closed shop and replacements are impossible to come by. Axel had originally asked me to include his crossover in Michael Wydra's review a few weeks back. Now he backed out again. I removed all references to it as requested then. You could contact him directly to see whether he has any stock left? If not, Pál Nagy's forthcoming Gradient Box should suit. It'll be as flexible but add full remote control over all the adjustments so you can track them from the listening seat. Preview on that is up already. Take a look? Srajan

Hi Srajan, I've read a number of your reviews. I truly enjoy your descriptions of sound within and across different machines. I'm contacting you today to ask a favor. Specifically, do you have experience with the new integrated from Vinni Rossi? I like a full-bodied but very transparent sound. Still, I like the idea (more recently) of a one-box solution. I own a Pass XA25 but am looking at the AGD and now the Vinnie Rossi. Yes, unrealistic to ask for a comparison given all the variables they contribute to a listening experience. Would you own the VR? Thanks for your time and continued success. Best, Michael Whitehurst

Would I? Every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I've reviewed Vinnie's original Lio integrated and own his L2 Signature preamp. The current integrated is essentially that plus a Mosfet current buffer. Given how you describe your sonic preferences, I think that's an excellent choice. If you get the DHT not 6SN7 version, consider the Elrog ER50 to run in it. Even though it's a 7.5V tube, it runs like a dream on the 5V setting. I've heard Elrog, Western Electric, Tatatsuki, Electro-Harmonix and Living Voice 300B, KR PX4 and the ER50 is my favorite. I'm about to get Linlai 101D, 2A3 and 300B to test in it so that review would be meaningful to you as well. Srajan

FYI, Bassam Saba, renowned proponent of Arabic music, dies at 62. Michael Fanning

Hello Srajan: I just caught up with my monthly reading of your site and came across that Gradient Box. Clearly it won't work without a subwoofer which brings me to my question. Would you consider adding a REL or JL Audio subwoofer to that review? They are both famous for their overall quality so it would be good to know whether this external crossover can keep up with theirs. Thank you for your consideration. Jared

I'd really consider any sub since the Gradient Box is brand agnostic. That's the whole point. Neither REL nor JL have asked us for a review however so at the moment, nothing with them is planned. Should we hear from them, that could very easily change but for now the answer is no. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I see that you're putting the F8 review to bed so hopefully I'm catching you in time before it's done. You're listing the SIT-3 and F5 as upcoming comparators. Any chance you could throw an F6 into the mix? I heard it at a friend's so have a good reference on it which would be ideal to understand the F8 in an A/B. Thanks, Mike Fitzpatrick

I wasn't planning to. The F6 is out of production. So is admittedly the F5 but there's a reason for why I'm adding it which will become clear as the story completes. The SIT-3 is still available so potential buyers would want to know how the F8 compares. Dawid handled the F7 so I won't be revisiting that either. Srajan

Hello Srajan: Nice discovery of the Hypsos power supply. Great to see how quick they were to adapt firmware for higher peak current. From your review it's clear that one can only power one component with this even if that just runs on half power. Do you know of any plans to add an option for a second DC output so that for example two 12V/2A components could be driven together? Thanks, Rob

That's a great question but for HEM directly. I don't know whether their circuit lends itself to be adapted to parallel outputs that remain independently adjustable (to within the limits of the total power rating of course). Why don't you ask them? They're very responsive and if you learn anything, let me know. Srajan

Hi Srajan, unfortunately the last part of your Cube Audio Bliss C which you wrote after the preview's ''to be continued'' is missing. Is there any way to restore it? I have the opportunity to buy, at an incredibly good price, a pair of Cube Audio Magus. However the seller feels that all Cube Audio speakers simply don't do well with solid-state amplifiers. David Grzyb in his review of the Magus felt that they worked very well with the Trilogy 925 solid state, the Firstwatt F7 solid state and the Trilogy 903 + 993 (tube) amps which he thought to be the best of the three. In his opinion they all presented different flavors but all worked well. In your review of the Nenuphar 10, the FirstWatt SIT-1 was the top pick. Then came  SIT-3, F5, F7, PassLabs XA-30.8, Kinki Studio EX-M1. In his review of the Nenuphar 10, Dawid put it down to output impedance. Cube Audio Nenuphar performs best with amps of high output impedance and low damping factor. If I am reading your review correctly, you seem to think the same thing.

So, given the experience that both of you had some, solid-state amps work very well with Cube Audio speakers. I also received an email from Cube Audio in which they list a number of ampst they feel work well with their speakers. Amongst them there were several solid-state amps. My question to you is this: Keeping in mind that you did not review the Magus but given that all Cube speakers are built from the same basic design pattern and philosophy, do you have any thoughts on how well (or not) the Crayon CFA 1.2 would fare with them? And, if you know it, can you tell me please what the output impedance of the CFA 1.2 is? I can't find this stat anywhere. I looked at your review of it but while you indicate that it is low, I could not find a statement of how low. Peter Borelli

As I explained to you before and more than once, if a review got truncated during the site transition from static to adaptive HTML, whatever pages were sadly lost can't be retrieved. I don't know the Crayon's Z-out but you could ask them directly. That's no more difficult than asking me. I believe that Trilogy was a hybrid not full tube amp. As you reiterate, Dawid and I had good experiences matching Cube models to solid state. Since I wrote my own reviews and edited those by Dawid we published, I know perfectly well which amplifiers we mentioned. One of the reasons I covered in at least one of my Cube reviews, for why transistors can work well, is that they don't attempt extreme sensitivity. Unlike Voxativ who push toward 100dB ratings, Cube are happy with 91dB-ish values. That has the right transistor amps work far better than they would with equivalent Voxativ models. Rethm again go for higher sensitivities so prefer tubes on their widebanders.

What makes the right transistor amp? One with relatively high output impedance so lower damping factor; and of course zero noise. Would the Crayon comply? I don't really know. It's a 3rd-order dominant THD design so by nature emphasizes separation, articulation and resolution. Those are the same things good widebanders do already. It's why some people prefer 2nd-order dominant amps to counterbalance with more softness, blending and richness. SET amps are 2nd-order types as are single-ended transistor amps. It's why many people swear by the SET+ widebander recipe. It's why the transistor amps Dawid and I preferred on the Cube were the 2nd-order types.

Noise is an issue with any widebander. That's true even if they're aren't of extreme voltage sensitivity but certainly gets worse as those ratings increase. I never had noise issues with the Crayon but couldn't predict how yours would behave given the rest of your system. And a transistor amp isn't just a transistor amp. What sits before it? A DHT preamp like ours? A passive? A transistor preamp? What's the source? Whatever flavor precedes the amp should be passed on if the amp is sufficiently transparent. People who run transistor amps routinely inject mild or not so mild tube flavor in the source and/or preamp.

So, in conclusion, I can't guarantee that the Crayon/Magus combo would make you happy. You'll have to either risk it or not. Sorry but there's nothing I can do about that. Srajan

Thank you for the swift reply. The solid-state amps you and David preferred are 2nd order dominant amps. The CFA-1.2 is a 3rd order dominant amp. So that right there would seem to be a strike against it. With respect to the preamp, it would be the CFA 1.2's built-in stage but I also have the Kinki EX-P7. The DAC I normally use is the Chord Dave fronted by the Chord MScaler. The Dave also has a preamp stage. But I don't know if either of those would would fill the bill. What I also have which might work is the AMR DP 777 SE DAC and preamp. That is a tube component. Based on the information you have shared with me, the AMR DAC/PRE + CFA 1.2 pairing could be a solution. I need to find out what the CFA's output impedance and noise is. Once again I thank you for responding quickly. I learned something about the difference between 2nd order dominant and 3rd order dominant. I know that I can ask Crayon about this but I asked you because you respond quickly and I am negotiating the Magus purchase now. Peter

2nd-order is softer to prioritize blending, water-color transitions, tone density, richness and a more relaxed feel. 3rd-order is sharper to prioritize acrylic/oil separation, enunciation and subjective speed. There are no strikes against anything. There's just a different weigthing of certain attributes with all the varying degrees of either flavor. Chord's digital tends to emphasize resolution and accuracy to 'double up' on 3rd-order THD effects. The AMR's tube path option deliberately counter-steers them with 2nd-order seasoning. That's all which can be predicted. The rest should rely on personal listening. Srajan

PS: I asked Roland Krammer for his damping factor. "The CFA and CIA are around 30-40 with 4Ω which of course means that with an 8Ω loudspeaker the damping factor is around 60-80. That is very moderate but considerably higher than with any tube amplifiers."