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Hey Srajan, yes I did attend Munich but just for a visit and to meet and greet a few people. All in all not that exciting, just a lot of the same old stuff. The only standout for me were Aleksandar's new ribbon headphones. I'm not into headfi but if I were, no contest there. Miguel

Dear Srajan, I came across your recent mini feature about two Spanish brands you weren't familiar with. I also saw that you have a new Kroma review in the works which is of course another Spanish brand. I wonder whether you've come across Lorenzo Audio Labs which are also from Granada and have any feedback on them? They recently added a tube preamp and power amp that look interesting. Just curious to get your take. Best regard, Tim

I've been aware of the brand since they launched because I got the press release but other than having seen their website, have no insights at all, sorry. I did know they were about loudspeakers so branching out into valve gear is unexpected but Voxativ have already done it so why not Lorenzo. It should all hinge on their electronics designer and his or her skills. Srajan

Srajan, I wanted to alert you that the link to Basel Acoustics no longer works in your recent feature. "This web page cannot be displayed because the configured PHP version is no longer supported" is the error message. Cheers, Charlie

You're right, I see it now too. That wasn't the case a few days ago when I posted that piece. Looks like their webmaster has to update a program. I'm sure they'll realize it soon enough and do what's necessary to pop back up. I can't really do anything about it from my end. Srajan

Srajan, I just caught up on my occasional 6moons snoop and after perusing your Laiv Harmony review, I went to their site and found an unexpected number of other reviews all of which pretty much agree with your assessment that this is an overachiever for its price. I love when that happens because I do believe in multiple opinions. It must feel great though that you were the first to put this DAC on the map? Congrats and all the best. Keep up the good work. Richard

Sometimes our reviews are first, at other times such news hit elsewhere well before we ever get around to it if at all. It depends on the connections individual writers or publications have made over the years; how good a match with a given reviewer's exposure, tastes, ancillaries and room a manufacturer thinks their latest will be to send it to and take that risk. Does it feel good to occasionally be first? My inner competitor says yes. Reality then reminds me that reviews just add themselves to the overall data pool of our hobby. Who was first or last doesn't matter. It's all grist for the mill, fodder for the web surfer. A prospective buyer will check out all available reviews or opinions about a given product. Here all of us reviewers and bloggers are just little bricks in a bridge that connects people with experience of certain equipment to people who don't yet have their own experience with it. Srajan

Hey Srajan, do you know what's up with Darko.Audio? The site seems to be down except for a different home page. I need my daily fix! Jeff

Patience, Jeff. I believe John is moving his site to a new server and implementing a new WordPress skin. Those things take time to migrate and overwrite and in the interim he's in Munich attending the HighEnd show. You gotta get your fix elsewhere until his webmaster is done with the changes. Or attend a few Audioholics Anonymous meetings in the meantime? It starts easy enough. "My name is Jeff. I'm addicted to darko.audio. I need help." Srajan

Hi Srajan, I'm truly and sincerely sorry but we simply won't be able to send out your demo devices before the show. Norbert wants to make sure that all the new Grooves have been personally tested by him and well, that takes time he unfortunately doesn't have right now. I hope it's okay with you if we do this asap after the show? Speaking of which: Are you coming to Munich this year? Best regards and sorry again. Christopher

Hello Christopher, no problem. It'll also give your webmaster time to catch up and throw the Groove onto your site. As for me, I'm staying home for all the usual excellent reasons. No global audience in confined spaces spreading who knows what. Mostly bad sound at high SPL. A carnival of hawkers looking to sell, sell, sell. The upstairs MOC now is specialized in oligarch audio. Not my tribe. Just thinking about it makes me feel like a lonely alien who landed on the wrong planet. ET wanna go home. Also, my livelihood is really from review generation, not writing silly show reports about who was there and wore what like a reporter at the Oscar's after party. Taking out a whole week, the expense, the traipsing around endless miles of corridors… I really get nothing useful done at all aside from the social aspect. And even that happens in brief snippets, 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there. In the evenings one has a chance to catch up for longer over dinner but for every invite I accept, I piss off 20 others who I turned down. For me it's a massive no-win, really. A Zoom chat these days accomplishes more and though it's not exactly an in-person meet, for my purposes it's still brilliant. Perhaps you and Norbert and I should do that for the review after you're all back and recovered from the show? Srajan

Hello Srajan, we all had a laugh at your description of the show. You should patent the term oligarch audio! Believe me, we feel the same way. Unfortunately we can't afford to do without the Munich show. At least we've shot down all the other shows by now except for Warsaw every now and then. We'd be happy to do a Zoom call sometime after the show. I'm not sure why I'd be there because I only understand half of what you and Norbert will talk about - but we'll manage. I'll keep you posted on the Groove/Move combo. Best regards, Christopher

Hello Christopher, for a manufacturer being able to meet all (most?) their international trade partners in one place at one time is virtually unmissable and cheaper than visiting them in their natural habitat. Having now two trade days makes that even more so. Spreading good will and cheer to the consumers during the other two days isn't a bad thing either for brand awareness and sowing seeds. So let's meet up over the airwaves when you're back. Just check in when you've settled and we'll make it happen. In the meantime, break a leg; or better yet, two. Srajan

Hello Srajan, you asked some time back if I'd found a higher-powered replacement for low-power Exicon-based solid-state amps. I have, with the surprise being that it's essentially a tube amp without compromises. Kora have developed an interesting circuit that's direct-coupled, differential & transformer-less, very engaging and direct sounding without a hint of typical solid-state grain or signature. For decades I've favoured lower-powered amps, highlights being the Tom Evans 25w Linear A in tube and Enleum in solid state. Like those, Kora entirely avoids getting shouty on peaks or as volume level is increased. If you ever get the chance to listen or review, Kora's TB140 entry-level integrated is the one to look out for. Plays more powerful sounding than 70-100wpc would indicate and a bargain at the asking price of ~€5K. Despite reports of the circuit being impervious to tube changes, I've found swapping out the ECC82 pair for my preference Telefunken (or Mullard for the opposite effect) makes an obvious change.

I skipped any mention of Kora having transistors as being tarred with the hybrid brush because it's not. This is a must-hear experience. From first powering up I was on board with representing Kora here in NZ. I've not heard a component I've been so quickly impressed with and it's still getting better. Preamp and volume control are transparent, microprocessor functions obviously well thought out and executed. Makes me wonder how much more elevated in performance their separates play at. This amp is a stunner on €72K Chicago speakers - perfectly balanced in attributes, dynamic and sounding more powerful than any other 200-watt amp. It just asks to be wound up in volume. So far on vinyl, I've been listening much louder than normal just because it can handle it and is so low in distortion. I struggled at first with one aspect - it lacked steam in the bass using CrystalPower Ref and mis-stepped. Swapped out for a Puritan Ultimate cured that (it's twice the gauge of their standard) and on the second evening of listening and back to Telefunken tubes everything is hunky dory. I must run in the stock tubes properly. They run half as hot as in a normal circuit so are quick to change. For email I deal with Bruno the founder though he says he doesn't speak English. He deserves a medal for delivering the TB140 at entry-level high-end pricing. They'll be at Munich so don't expect a quick response. Cheers, Peter, Reference Audio

Wow! A Lunar Eclipse 2024! After two years! What a wonderful review! Thank you! Also, that last page is fantastic. I mean, the things you connect and explain what influences what is really superb. And I love what you said about what masquerades as 'warmth'... and many other things. Aleksandar Radisavljevic, Raal 1995

My pleasure. Very much deserved. True, faux warmth seems endemic in audio in general. But some people do have a real/medical HF sensitivity that demands special tuning like Simone pursues with his LampizatOr/Riviera combination. The great thing with super-transparent transducers like yours is that they really do pass on whatever happens upstream. Anyone can build in whatever sonic course correction they require or desire. Srajan

I guess Simone is a rare case; pretty extreme but he still didn't go after a classic 300B SET to satisfy his needs. I wrote him about two moons ago, discussing what he likes about Valkyria and their different approach to replay.

The main problem with headphones is their missing room reverb and the tactile feeling of the lower frequencies on skin and body. Room reverb will add about 10dB of 'power' below 1.5kHz. The feeling of body vibrations doesn't exist. The main question is: do we stay true to the recording or the experience of listening without headphones? To me, headphones are headphones. They will never fully emulate what happens during in-room listening. So I stay true to the recording. To enjoy that, one must make peace with the limitations of the actual situation one is in which is, listening without our room and whole body participating. For me the best way of marrying both worlds are convolution filters that add to the recordings any room response we want (even speaker response if you will) plus a subwoofer or shaker seat so DSP + tactile feedback. If those actions are considered undesirable, then we must invariably tamper with the flat response.

I have a huge problem with tampering with the frequency response very much. Some little bass hump or shelving I'm okay with if that enhances the feeling of a 'natural' not constrained headphone sound but doing ridiculous things like +8dB shelving across three octaves and such isn't for me. These days too many brands sell 'flavors' and some are particularly greasy and high in calories without much of any nutritional value. I'm pretty sick of those fads. On my journey to Magna and Immanis, I finally arrived at the point where the preceding electronics allow the customer to season to taste or successfully precondition their signal in 90% of the cases. For me this was the perfect escape route. It allows me to stay true to my beliefs whilst giving my clients other ways to pursue the bliss they seek. Alex

Salt, fat and sugar. Junk food. Audio has its own versions. I'm in total agreement that speaker and headphone listening are two very different experiences or perspectives, each with its own merits and compromises. I see no need to shoehorn one experience into the other or make them more similar so have never gotten on with crossfeed circuits for headfi; or crossfeed cancellation DSP for speakers. Of course playback at home is a purely hedonistic pursuit. From the client's perspective, anything goes if he/she is happy. That I might prefer another sound isn't the point. It's their ears they must please, not mine. Srajan

Dear Srajan, thanks for mentioning Vinshine Audio in the podcast. My video released last week re: Grey Market was a truthful one. I am aware it might be a double-edged sword but I thought I would love to be as transparent as possible. The grey market exists for various reasons. As savvy consumers, it's best to avoid unauthorized dealers in the grey market. Always choose to buy from authorized dealers to ensure you're getting genuine products and full support and warranty coverage. Many thanks. Yours sincerely, Alvin Chee, Vinshine Audio

Hello Alvin, you’re very welcome. You’re the king of ‘ChiFi’ direct sales done right and deserve all the credit and recognition for it. Whether Laiv can clone the Alvin factor remains to be seen, of course. I should certainly say that Wai Fang Ho had the right mentor. Srajan

Dear Srajan, thank you. I will continue to work hard to stay afloat in this competitive industry! Alvin

Srajan, I read your preview on the small Lindemann widebander and came across your mention of Rethm. This had me wonder whether you have any plans to review their latest Saadhana. I know that you've done its previous versions so I would be very much interested to hear what your thoughts are on the latest iteration which now looks far more visually appealing. Do you have anything scheduled there? Here's hoping. Grant

Last time we explored a review with them, it turned out that post-Covid ship rates from India had gone up so much that without an EU importer, Jacob couldn't afford to shoulder 2-way shipping between India and Ireland plus VAT plus re-entry taxation back in Kerala. So no, nothing is planned. For Rethm reviews, you're probably best served checking where they have current representation—I'd expect their website to have that information—then researching those markets for reviews. Srajan

Thanks for your reply, Srajan. The only dealer they list there is Angie Lisi in Canada. I had already looked that up. It's why I wondered whether you might step into the breach as it were. Sorry to hear that current conditions won't support it. Grant

Agreed. It's always been interesting product and I've long championed it. Just so it never seems to quite have made the transition from hobbyist enthusiasm to established enterprise. Perhaps the widebander concept coupled to Indian manufacture plus very many cosmetic changes over the years have erected certain perception barriers that prevent broader acceptance of Rethm in the global market? I tried to review the new Trishna and had already written an extensive preview but then the ship fees cancelled the gig. So that ship has sailed and I've never tried to board it again. btw, I checked on Angie's site and couldn't find Rethm on her brand page. But I did find a Saadhana review on ETM dated November 2023. Perhaps Angie's assignment with the brand is newer and not yet reflected on her web portal. She would certainly be a good person to ask about upcoming reviews in the US/Canadian hifi media. Srajan

Hello Srajan, thanks for reaching out and considering us for another review. We're genuinely thankful for your support over the years. Your suggestion is definitely interesting and we'd normally jump at such an opportunity. However, we're in a bit of a challenging spot right now. We're in the process of finding a new production company. This search started because of a few reasons: after our designer developed the new platform to a prototype, Covid-19 hit and everything stopped. Then there was a shortage of parts and now the cost of parts has gone up significantly. We're trying to find a European OEM producer that can keep making our products at the same quality. This is really important. We still have some stock for one model and low stock for another but right now can't provide an exact date for when we'll be able to restart production as negotiations with the OEM are ongoing. Also, after switching production we're unsure how our product will price. This uncertainty could mean that we may not compare against direct-selling imports due to a significant price difference. So for another review we should wait until new production is settled and this question of price answered... J.

I publish this email anonymously just to give readers insight into why certain brands could be slower to bounce back in the post pandemic era. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I just wanted to say hello and tell you that I was very surprised to read Frederic's wonderful review of his AMP-23R! Thank you for publishing this and I'm happy that he's returned to 6moons with it. When he placed his order, I didn't realize he was the same Frederic I read on 6moons many years ago, and it's just amazing he's got his health back to enjoy music and write for you again. I think his review is unique and essential in that it provides excellent in-depth comparisons with SET amplifiers in a high-efficiency system. We are all proud and happy that the AMP-23R excels in this regard too and there are now a lot of reviewers and professionals using the AMP-23R in their reference system. At the moment we're way behind with the AMP-54R release as it has also undergone many prototype revisions. Fortunately we're now assembling the supposedly final prototype this month and we'll go for production soon after. It'll be a good challenge to top off all those high expectations on this amplifier and I think we are on track. I hope to get back to you with good news soon and thank you again for the new AMP-23R review. Best regards, Soo In, Enleum

The thanks are really due Frederic. He bought the amp then reviewed it. Very sporting of him. I just published what he had to say. But you're welcome. Srajan

Dear Srajan, you pulled another one out of your magic cap with the latest review on the Laiv DAC. But I've got one concern. Given the price/performance ratio you laid out and talk of an eventual dealer network coming, do you think that they can support the current pricing because there's enough of a margin left to attract brick-and-mortar dealers to take them on? I ask because shopping by mail order from Singapore still leaves me hesitant. I'd want to hear this first. Seeing what the gear costs you compared it to, the $2'700 price seems a bit of an early-bird special. From your experience, do you think it's sustainable by the time dealer inquires come along? With best wishes, Detlef

Fair question only Laiv management could answer; and at this early stage, I doubt even they could. Opening with pricing that ends up not sustainable wouldn't have been the first time should this also happen to them. Been there, done that, tossed the cigar. I was told that their dealer margins are rather slim to make the current sell price happen. Denafrips too offer dealers far less than normal. It's why many dealers have looked at more profitable brands instead. I think it will really depend on how successful Laiv can be with predominantly direct sales where Vinshine/Beatechnik have shown the way; versus how big/quick they grow to need more sales than direct can supply. Perhaps buy now and sidestep the what if of future price increases? And yes, some risk is involved. No risk, no reward. Srajan

I just came across Detlef's feedback regarding shipping concerns from Singapore and the sustainability of our relatively low pricing. Regarding delivery, I'm in the process of setting up fulfilment centres in the US and EU. Here's how they'll work: 1. Fulfilment centres will collect our products from the factory, ship them in bulk to the US and EU, handle customs clearance and store them locally. 2. They'll be ready to deliver orders to local customers upon receipt. 3. Once we receive an order, we'll notify the fulfilment centre to handle delivery. Our goal is to provide faster delivery and better service to customers in the US and EU, along with a return policy. Weng Fai Hoh, Laiv Audio

Hi Srajan, what are your thoughts about using the Crayon CIA-1T with the Qualio IQ speakers? When it comes to watts I think that it has enough power. But I read that the IQ likes a lot of current. Does the CIA-1T put out enough current to make the IQ perform at their best? Also, the CIA-1T's damping factor is only 40. Will that be enough to control the IQ's bass? Peter

I don’t have a CIA-1T so never heard it on the IQ. Also, it’s not the bass that likes a lot of current but the Sartori widebander because 1/ it’s open-backed so has no air compressed in a box to support the return stroke, 2/ also wasn’t especially engineered for dipole mode with a stiffer surround and suspension. You’re right, power alone isn’t the issue but current definitely wakes it up. A friend tried a 25wpc class A amp on it then was shocked when he heard the same speaker on my Kinki monos. When he came home, he bought the Kinki stereo amp. Srajan

Thank you. Since you reviewed the CIA 1T I was hoping that might know what the current output was. With respect to my question about the bass is about the CIA T's low damping factor. Some speakers need a high DF amp to control the bass. I wonder if a DF of 40 is sufficient to control the Qualio IQ's bass. Peter

Just because I reviewed something years ago doesn’t mean that many rooms and systems later, I have anything really useful to say about it; never mind on very specific specs. Sorry, Peter. I live in the real not dream world. And, one more time, repeat after me: what needs more damping in the IQ is its widebander not the ported woofer. I really hate repeating myself. Srajan

I appreciate your willingness to answer my questions. And I understand that you don't like repeating yourself. But since it still not clear to me,  I am going to ask you one last question and hope that it doesn't irritate you too much. Whether it's the Qualio IQ woofer or widebander, is the CIA-1T's damping factor of 40 too low? A simple "Yes, it is too low" or "no, it isn't too low" would suffice. I promise that this is the last question. Peter

After all these years you still believe that hifi shopping by numbers gets you anywhere? I’ve never heard the CIA-1T/IQ combo to know how this gear interacts and I don’t believe in simply recommending things on specs so your guess is as good as mine. Of course you could ask Qualio directly. They probably have a very educated notion because they've experimented with many amplifiers on their speaker; far more than I have. Srajan

Just to be clear, I didn't believe in basing purchases on specs (and for the most part I still don't). But when considering the Cube Nenuphar, the general opinion/suggestion was to use an amp of low damping factor. I had never even considered the idea of damping factor prior to reading that. But it was good to have been made aware of this fact in order to mix and match wisely. This becomes even more crucial now that I'm retired and on a fixed income. I have to buy knowing as much as possible beforehand because buying and returning,  while certainly helpful, still requires an outlay of funds for shipping. I would like to keep that at a minimum if possible. Once again, I thank you. Peter

I guess my question becomes, why can't you just be happy with what you already have? We've been here so very many times before. The buy 'n' sell hifi game is for guys and gals with plenty of spare change. Can't you finally call it a day and enjoy the tunes? If you can't as it appears, I still think the best approach is asking the chaps at Qualio. They're very approachable, honest and definitely experienced with what electronics even for a modest outlay get the best from their speakers. I'm just a reviewer, not a personal audio consultant doing house calls. Srajan

Dear Srajan, you produced a nice read for the new sealed Meze headphone. In it you wonder how what you call two buzzword features work. You say you asked Meze but never got a response. Doesn't it seem odd that when given an established well-read forum to promote and explain proprietary inventions, Meze wouldn't take you up on it?... David

I simply asked for the name and contact of the tech/engineering person at the factory I should talk to. My Meze PR contact instead told me that she would take care of it. So I submitted my questions to her with the understanding that she'd get the relevant answers on my behalf. It's just not part of my MO to keep knocking when a door won't open. As to why in this case, I wouldn't know. It could be an internal communications issue at Meze. It could be a simple oversight. It could be that the driver engineers at Rinaro in the Ukraine were too busy. An email could have been quarantined. Your guess is as good as mine. As you put it, I provide a forum but nobody is obligated to use it in this particular fashion. So we simply move on. We also remember that in these days of paper print, online print and YouTube reviews, manufacturers particularly at launch of a new product could be dealing with 10-15 reviews at one time. Dropping a ball here or there then wouldn't surprise. That said, when I was in charge of organizing then managing reviews whilst working for three different audio manufacturers, I certainly tried hard not to. As you said, reviews are opportunities one wants to maximize especially where writers try to dig deeper than the general PR materials. One never knows what a reviewer will hear, think and write but answering his/her questions certainly is part of 'remote control'. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I have come across a product that I think deserves a review and is up your alley. Too many audiophile gains come at absurd prices. But this is one of the highest-performing ‘tweaks’ I have ever had and it's only $189 so a pure price champion – for once in this hobby. What I also like about it is the convenience, no need to remove cables from your system, just unplug the end from the component and plug this little box on it.I made a post about it here and check the reply by German user ‘andili’ and the one Jim Hagerman himself gave on his theory as to what goes on. Kind regards, Jonas Harrow

Thanks, Jonas. This tracks with Louis Motek's belief that normal use never gets the job done. He's just not been forthcoming about exactly what his 'entropic' break-in protocol at LessLoss consists of to protect his IP. Very interesting indeed to now hear Jim's thoughts on what actually does the job. Srajan

Srajan, I look forward to your Hifi Rose review.  As you mention, you prefer the class A/B  sound of amps from the likes of Kinki and Enleum but also favourably reviewed GaN amps from AGD and Merrill. I'm way out of my league but my limited understanding is that GaN amps don't require as much negative feedback (thus noise and poorer performance at higher frequencies) as other class D amps due to faster switching times though I believe the Merrill Element 114 cleverly requires no negative feedback at all. The key is whether GaN can deliver great SQ across the audio band. As I write the line above, I'm reminded of F For Fake, the Orson Welles film that examines a famous art forger.  At the film's outset Welles says "I'm a charlatan" and then gravely says that everything you hear will be true. Like any good conjurer, Welles has some tricks up his sleeve. That's entirely illustrative of me and my understanding of GaN! Michael

As you reiterate from my preview, the two prior GaN amps I reviewed did deliver excellent sound quality across the audio band. My curiosity is now what Hifi Rose manage to do at 1/5th the price four years later. I shall report my thoughts as soon as I have them. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I keep following your audio adventures and it seems the last couple years have treated you well. I love the podcasts with Darko, they give your unique voice and perspective on everything audio a more human and personal touch. On my side, modern medicine has identified the cause of my ear pains and a solid regimen of anti-inflammatory and allergy med has given me back the enjoyment of music. The damage was mostly reversible and my latest audiogram shows a normal curve for a 50-year old guy. I'm no bat but I don't have to run away when music plays anymore, so that's brought back some joy to my life. With two of the kids out of the house now I've even be able to claim the basement guest room to setup a formal music room and although the room treatments are still a work in progress, the room sounds better than any other I've had before so I am quite pleased.

I also enjoyed reading the Tektron review. The way you describe the amplifier is what I have heard from most 211 with the notable exception of the Audio Note UK Ongaku which uses solid-state rectification and kilos of pure silver to give the 211 a bit more agility and sprite; but at a price that was never accessible and is now simply unrealistic for most. That's why until recently I had not been able to find a satisfactory upgrade to my 2A3 integrated. It has more similarity with a 45 without the same intensity of the 3D effect or quite the same treble magic but it has more bass and control than the 45 while avoiding the excess weight of the 300B or 211.

I said until recently because I finally upgraded to the best-sounding triode with my Ocellias. Hardly less holographic than the 2A3 but with so much more bass control without stifling the Ocellias, sublime dynamics and tones that are so real that they make a 300B sound like a caricature. Okay, I'm teasing. I actually bought an Enleum AMP-23 R. What a magnificent sounding piece of gear. I was always afraid to make the jump because I had not found any transistor amp so far that did well with the Ocellias. They are very finicky speakers. But I decided to take the plunge and it's been the best decision I've made in audio. I know it's not easy to convince a triode lover to switch (took me 15 years) but if one amp can do it, this is the one! I tried the Sugden, reissued Musical Fidelity A1, Pass INT 25 and even a used SIT3. None of them gave me better than the 2A3 integrated. The SIT3 gave me a lateral move but not better. The Enleum is in a different league. Just thought I'd drop you a quick note to let you know and thank you for discovering that gem. Oh, and I also use a Jay Audio CDT2 to spin CDs and that was also an eye-opening upgrade so you are 2 for 2 with me in the last 6 months! Cheers, Frederic Beudot

Wow, best news of the month this far. That's splendid to hear, Frederic. Congrats! Being purely selfish and self-serving, may I add that it would be even more splendiferous news if I had you back on staff writing the occasional piece on audio, be it anecdotal and informal or a formal review. So should that bug bite, that bed is already made. Just say the word... Srajan

Yes, when the doctors told me that it was chronic inflammation due to allergies and treatable, I couldn't have been more overjoyed. It took over a year to get the swelling gone and the loss recovered but it was a gift. Outstanding on the writing offer. That wasn't my reason for reaching out but I do need an outlet in my crazy life and I spend so much time on flights these days, I have time to write. I'll be in Chile Wednesday, Argentina Thursday, Brazil Friday/Saturday and back home Sunday. I might find time to draft an extended piece and shoot some pictures next week. With Tidal I'm also getting more adventurous in music so can add some diversity. For a chuckle, Markus Philippe's Sax'n'bass has he best cover of the Pink Panther theme I've ever heard. Not that you'll be playing it in loops or anything but it's incredibly well recorded, too. A.R. Rahman's "Dacoit Duel" from his Between Heaven and Earth on the other hand could be more up your alley. Let me know what you think. I'm also catching up on the newer Renaud Garcia-Fons. He was getting repetitive but Farangi (not that new, I know) got me reconnected to his music. Cheers, Frederic

Ha, brilliant. That's a lovely surprise. Looking forward to your renewed presence on the moons. Really! Agreed on Renaud Garcia-Fons getting derivative on himself. It's why I've not bought some of his later recording. A.R. Rahman I know well but not this recording. So I'll definitely give it a try. Same for the Markus Philippe. That's new to me, too. Thx for the recos. Much appreciated. You've got quite the travel schedule there. Long mileages, too. If you can write on a plane, it could be a good way to pass the time? Great to have you and your ears back, Frederic! Srajan

Srajan, just saw your teaser for the next John Darko podcast. I think a great future topic could be some insights into being a reviewer and how all of that works. Technical insights and news flashes are interesting too but why not get more personal and share with us what being a reviewer is like? I for one would love to know more. Keep it coming. Charles

I'll pass it on to the boss. It's his channel and audience so he has to greenlight such ideas. I'm just along for the ride. Srajan  

Srajan, I really appreciate your work but think that by accepting the Tektron 211 SET you went beyond a reasonable brief. You describe yourself as an ex tube fancier. Surely that should disqualify you from pursuing reviews of tube amplifiers? If I was in Tektron's shoes, I don't think I would be entirely happy with your approach. As a reader, the lack of real enthusiasm did more damage than simply not doing the review at all. Anyway, that's my feedback on the matter. Thanks for hearing me out. Sincerely, James

That's very reasonable feedback on the face of it but... 1/ I didn't solicit this review. Tektron did. 2/ I owed them a review when my on-staff tube fanciers Marja & Henk passed away within days of each other whilst having a Tektron amp on review. 3/ If enthusiasm were the true arbiter of a review's rationale, we'd either need entirely uncritical reviewers; or the questionable practice of only writing up things which wholly excite us. Whether they do or not we can only know in situ so after the fact. Now half if not more review loaners would have to be returned without any published commentary whatsoever. "Unless it's a second coming, make it go away." I  don't think such a policy serves anyone. That said, I fully agree that one shouldn't deliberately pursue a product category or type one doesn't get on with but instead let those be handled by someone else. I've not asked for tube electronics in very many years for precisely that reason. Should I be solicited, I may still accept requests if a novel approach promises to bypass or minimize my general misgivings; or be a tube type I've no experience with yet. Finally, you may be surprised to know that Attilio of Tektron thanked me multiple times already for conducting this review in a comprehensive careful manner. If he's happy, I'm happy. It's not so much about the actual findings where the opinions of different listeners are bound to diverge. It's about presenting them in an even-handed fair context and trying different things on hand to get the best results one can. What else to do? Is calm reason not good enough when raw enthusiasm doesn't present itself? Srajan

Hiya Srajan, another day, another update on the Raal 1995 review without having final photos or for that matter, any first sonic impressions. How long will this endless tease go on? Only halfway kidding, Mario

Mario, I believe that the public premiere of Magna & Immanis will take place next week in Heidelberg. How soon after that Alex might have loaner samples to dispatch to Ireland I don't know. I'm not rushing him. This is an obviously big and important product reveal for him. Whatever time it takes his crew to get it right, that's what it'll take. I obviously expect early show comments to hit his thread on head-fi.org the day the show opens. If you keep your eyes peeled there, you should know more soon likely well before I have any of my own hands-on impressions to report. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I thought your comments on how the Audience 1+1 V5 diverges from dogma only to be better for it were very well conceived. I'm curious though whether in exchange for improvements in linearity and dynamics, the 40Hz high-pass filter in particular might have been responsible for you finding the speaker's voicing a bit on the demure side - genteel I believe you called it? The reason I ask is that that's really the last thing I would have expected of this kind of design. I would expect it to be extra direct, quick, informative and present, not laid back and somewhat polite. Could a high-pass filter cause such a softening? Best regards, Jamie

That's a fair and intelligent question, Jamie. I simply don't have an answer. I'd have to A/B the speaker with/out that part of the filter to isolate whatever sonic attributes might change. All else would be mere speculation. But I completely agree that it's certainly a rather interesting bit of speculation! Srajan

Hello Srajan, thank you for taking the time and attention to review our CA 1+1 v5. The purpose of me desiring to include our cables was not for an extra freebie review. It was to be sure of compatibility. I do regret and apologize for the bad timing of the price issue. We are still wrestling with this. We might end up splitting the increase for an MSRP of $4'000 instead of $4'500. Many thanks and best regards, John McDonald

My pleasure. As long as my readers know what the correct retail price was the day I published a review, we're all good, no apologies necessary. What happened before or what might happen after falls outside the review's parameters. As far as any speaker needing a particular speaker cable to be compatible... that's where my eyebrows raise. That's nearly as squirrely as insisting that a speaker needs a particular amplifier to sound its best. In such scenarios one really ought to design a fully active speaker to control all of these parameters at the factory. Meanwhile a passive speaker is expected to work properly with a wide variety of amplifiers and cables. ATB, Srajan

Srajan, I read your latest Audience review and then made the connection with a recent industry feature. Very funny. I imagine this whole VAT pain on products that only briefly enter the EU from abroad is a real issue to get such product for review in the first place? It seems to be just one of the many things most of us reading reviews don't consider. I for one appreciate that you covered this detail from behind the scenes... Best wishes, Aaron

Indeed. A proper ATA carnet aka temporary importation or commodity's passport isn't the run-of-the-mill waybill shippers know Half the time a FedEX/UPS customer service agent has never done one. However, I've received numerous shipments over the years which came accompanied by the necessary documents. It's not rocket science. It just takes more than a 'no value, commercial sample for review only' note when good-sized cartons weighing 10-50kg arrive from industrialized nations at Irish customs who are trained to be suspicious about low-balled values. So yes, it's a practical aspect of reviewing when one doesn't limit coverage to just products available from domestic importers but canvasses the world nearly exclusively by direct connection to the factories, wherever those may be. Srajan

Srajan, just watched your latest podcast with John Darko. Great discussions and explanations on topics I've never fully understood and now can see just a bit better. Thanks for that. I also like how apparently, you and John divvy out the more esoteric and regular mainstream aspects of the hobby so that both ends of it are represented fairly. I've read all the comments that had posted when I saw the video and am impressed by how civil they are even on very tweaky subjects like media converters and isolation footers. John seems to have trained his audience well to keep an open mind which avoids the endless bickering and posturing that plagues other forums and platforms. I'm happy to see you branching out from just writing to also becoming a video presenter. You've got a good handle on it already. Compliments. Charles

Thanks, Charles. It's literally learn as you go in the public eye, no edits, no practice runs. It'll take time to get more telegraphic, take less time and still convey the facts. It's not easy in the heat of the moment especially with a colleague who can spontaneously open tangents you need to react to just as spontaneously. It's fun but also puts one on the spot and potentially off track to meander a bit. Doing it more is the only way to get better and I'm grateful to John for giving me this opportunity. Srajan

Hi Srajan, thank you for your mention on your podcast with John! This is great exposure with an audience I hope we can expand more into. I really appreciate it. The Nano footer is coming along nicely. I'm pleased with how it turned out for how small and relatively simple it is. If all goes to plan, I should have units ready to send you next week or at the latest the following week. I'll be in touch soon. Thanks, Jeffrey Jenkins, Carbide Audio

My pleasure. I deliberately didn't get into the bearing details since John's description box has all the links to our prior Carbide reviews and the current preview listed. So viewers have all the extra details they could want there and John and I didn't have to go beyond the already very lengthy 90-minute video. Srajan

Watched your Darko video on Raal 1995. I have medium hearing loss in my left ear and adjust my right channel down 15-18dB to center the sound. I use a Chord Dave/mScaler paired with a Zahl HM1/Enleum AMP-23R/Burson Soloist GT. I listen to Susvara, Utopia, 1266 and others with no problem and plenty of volume. I purchased a Raal CA-1a and returned it. The SPL was so low that I could not get enough volume out of them. Do you think that SPL out of the new 1995 models will allow me to push volume sufficiently? If so, I would order the larger ribbon model asap when they ship. Can you offer an opinion? Neil Snyder

P.S. My auditory nerves are healthy so with enough volume I hear about 99% of the frequency sprectrum. If you ever attend CanJam SoCal, dinner is on me.

Thanks for watching, Neil. This is really a question for Aleksandar the designer. Contact him through this thread on head-fi.org. I know that Immanis takes significantly less voltage to play at the same SPL as the SR1a. I've never tried the CA-1a to know where it falls. Obviously needing 18dB more gain to offset your hearing loss requires your Raal amp to deliver far more voltage than for a 'normal' listener. With the new 32-ohm impedance interface, the Raal 1995 models can be driven off any standard headphone amp that outputs 2 watts into 32Ω. The interface plugs into your existing XLR4/6.3mm headphone socket. Your AMP-23R should output up to 7wpc into 32 ohms according to Soo-In Chae whom I just asked that the other day. I don't know how much voltage your Chord front end dispatches to your amplification. If you give Alex the voltage-gain specs of your hardware and the output rating of your amps into 32 ohms, he should be able to advise you on whether his new models will give you the loudness you need. I've not received my review loaners yet so have no first-hand experience until I do. Cheers. Srajan

Srajan, you introduced me to Tony Minassian's recordings, an affirmation of the CD format as being sub-optimized by many recording engineers. So, you might be interested in this review of Tony's CDs on PFO from last month. Michael

Hello Michael, yes, I'd already seen that, thx. My problem with Tony's recordings is the same as it is for many 'audiophile' labels. The musicianship and material itself very often doesn't match the sonic splendour. Fab sound of music I don't care to listen to is like a pretty but poisonous fruit I'll never eat. I find this to be the case with Waterlily, TRPK or whatever that Dutch label is called and a number of others. For me even Todd Garfinkle is hit 'n' miss. Srajan

Hey Srajan, I usually don't comment on your news announcements but a recent entry for a €3'500 linear power supply by JCAT now prompts one. There's nothing much in that box that warrants the price of a very nice amplifier or even pair of speakers. I guess Poland isn't immune to the general hi-end craziness? Only partly jesting, Daniel

I'm with you. It's why of the three press-pack pix, I published this one. I too had a disconnect when I saw it; and for the same reason. I was offered one for review but with only 5V/12V ratings available, I merely had a €699 FiiO R7 to try it with. So I declined, thinking that combo far too outlandish to be pursued by any real-world shopper. Srajan

Your BACCH piece just went live and what struck a bell for me was your comment on a lack of forward listener envelopment. I've heard something similar from Dirac for a few years but couldn't quite put my finger on it until using Dirac again last week with the M66 preamp from NAD. Yes, Dirac spreads the music wider across the speaker plane for a w i d e r soundstage but we lose some of the 'you're there' magic that went before. Dirac seems to separate the listener from the music so that the sound of music is more admirable but less present. John Darko

Srajan, so really no idea yet on Raal's pricing for those new ribbon headphones? It's hard to believe you could write up two pages of copy and not have that vital information. This suspense is killing me. Greg

When Alex is ready with photos, specs and pricing, I'm sure we'll be amongst the first to know. Until then, death by anticipation seems a good way to go? Srajan

Hey, legendary old wolf. I saw your latest Raal teaser. What an exciting product launch this is so early in the year. Like you I'm salivating to learn more. For now I wanted to touch on what Alex called you and ask how you perceive your own change from your early days as the new guy to now being a solid part of the online establishment. It would seem inevitable that doing anything long enough influences anyone's standing in the community. I'm curious how you perceive it yourself. Best, Charlie

Interesting question. Let's wait on my obituary for the answer. That's when more people tend to come forward to offer opinions. It's always for others to say what they think of our work and its value. I've worked from a small home office for some 22 years now. Though I travelled some for shows and factory tours, my MO is basically reclusive. l'm a modern caveman. I've got all the conveniences in a tidy bubble to make a living not leaving home. It's solitary so not for everyone. I was influenced by reviewers who came before me so logic dictates that I must have influenced others who came after. Unless someone tells me, I simply don't know specifics. While photos can track outer change, there are no photos of our inner selves or our connections in the world. It's virtually impossible to know how much or little we've changed over the years. I can look at an old passport photo and see myself younger but can't do the same for my frame of mind, abilities, influence or many other aspects related to your question. I can read my early stuff and compare it the most recent. But I can't comment on my standing in the community as you call it. Unless people tell me, I don't know. As you see in this letters section, feedback to that point is super narrow. If people enjoy what I do and benefit from it, I don't expect them to write in and say bravo or thank you. The fact that they keep reading is enough. Those numbers are reflected in my site statistics. I've obviously done it long enough to no longer be the new guy. I cut my long hair and now it's grey. Other than that, I mostly don't know. Nor is it important. My teacher Osho says, "just sing your song, then let existence worry about delivering it". That's exactly how I view my job. I do it with passion and to the best of my ability. All the rest is for others to respond to as they will. As long as I get to keep going, I need to know naught else. If here and there people tell me that they enjoy it, that's an extra. Otherwise the mere fact that this little wheel keeps turning is my reward. Srajan

Srajan, I think you nailed the effectiveness of 8c BACCH with this line from your review: "Whatever extra spaciousness it unmasks must already be encoded in our music."  Similarly, when I owned the Carver sonic holography processor, the effects could range from profound to nothing.  Personally I found the effect too artificial, but it might be because my ears were trained to listen to two-channel stereo. If you still have the trial unit, try playing "Suzie Q" by Credence Clearwater Revival on its eponymous album.  Many years later I can still recall the vivid sensation of sonic holography as the sound stage suddenly yawned in front of me! Michael

To be clear, nothing I heard suggested anything even remotely approaching 'surround sound' or 'envelopment' so a 2-channel stereo disposition wouldn't feel alienated at all. I simply found even the best-case enrichment of the recorded ambient field more interesting than compulsory; and that applied to only about half my music. On the other half I found the effect either too marginal or counterproductive. But it was interesting nonetheless. Srajan

Hi Srajan, hope all is well with you and that you've been enjoying the festive season so far. I recently moved to the lovely city of Spoleto in Umbria, Italy. I was invited to an important retro Commodore Amiga event back in September. I fell in love with the city and decided to live here for a while. Once I find a place to live, I will buy a system to start listening to music again after a long break. Dutch and Dutch 8C is one of the top candidates and I am looking forward to your review of the D&D 8C BACCH, Srajan. Cheers. Mevlut Dinc

Hello Srajan, wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year. Best regards, Robert Kelly, German Physiks

Hello Srajan, I hope this finds you well and prospering as we turn the page on another year. Just wanted to check in and wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and prosperous healthy New Year in 2024. Best regards, Rob Fritz, Audio Art Cable

Dear Srajan, I just got caught up on my monthly dive into your new reviews and found your report on French brand Kallyste. They've really been flying under the radar even here in France so I'm glad for your review and see that you already plan on doing another. Our country has many unconventional hifi brands and some of them you correctly mentioned. I would recommend that you also look into Lavardin Technologies because they make some very unique transistor amplifiers you will surely appreciate. Again, thanks for the Kallyste promo. Jean François

We've reviewed Lavardin many years ago already. But thanks for the recommendation. It's often people like you living in a particular country who have the best tips on their hifi scene's underground. Srajan

Hello Srajan, interesting mini feature on 432Hz. I hadn't heard of the topic before so did the Google thing you suggested and came across lots of links including those YouTube videos. I found both the guitar and piano versions of particular interest because sidestepping all the byzantine theory and mythology, it's apparent to me even over a computer feed that the 432Hz tuning sounds distinctly different. I don't know how it translates to the more complex music I listen to but on the few isolated samples I could find, I certainly thought that the old tuning is rather more attractive. Even though a lot of the surrounding stuff gets a bit New Age for my tastes, the proof was in the recorded comparisons. Will you review the Boenicke DAC to dive deeper into this fascinating subject? If so, I very much look forward to it. Jens-Petter

I've not been asked to review it nor am I certain that formal production has even commenced yet. Review requests probably won't go out until that's in place and first orders have been filled. But if I get asked in due time, I shall certainly accept and report on what I hear/feel. Srajan

Srajan, nearly €100'000 for a pair of compact monitors which grabbed Dawid's award... just how relevant was that? Really. I expected better of you... Francis

Mind over matter and money? Pushing the envelope costs dearly no matter the endeavour. We usually don't play at that edge. Occasionally it's simply instructive to see how extremist applications come together. Clearly you have no interest to learn about that. My bet is that for everyone like you, there's at least one contrary opinion and person curious to live vicariously for just a moment. In which case that review has a good-sized appreciative audience to warrant its syndication on my site.  And as you noted, the award was Dawid's not mine. If you really feel the need to gripe about it to feel better, perhaps you should contact him? Srajan

Srajan, lovely vids with Darko! You seem very comfortable in front of a camera. It's nice to see you flex some other muscles than just writing. Can we look forward to your own videos on 6moons? Jacob

Nice of you to say. Getting video production values on par with my own expectations could involve far more man hours than the exercise might be worth. I've not decided. For now I'm learning more about how to speak in front of a camera unscripted and gauging viewer reactions as per John's comments section. I'm not saying no but also not yes yet. I'm enjoying the more conversational format of double-teaming with John who has years more experience with it. I'm not sure whether talking videos are a better format for my style of reviewing that traditional writing. But there could be specific applications where video is better. If it turns out that I have the necessary skills to do it, I might give it a go. I'd simply have to be convinced of its added value first. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I just watched your podcast video with John and wanted to congratulate you on explaining the benefits of open baffles. It really helped me understand how they work. Best regards, Thorsten

Glad to know that I could help. However, that wasn't all of it. Because time was limited, I didn't get into two other very important benefits. 1/ the loss of about half the usual room gain implies much improved time-domain behavior since room gain is purely reflective; and reflections by definition are always late since their path lengths exceed those of the direct sound. In short, bass stoppage is superior because sounds don't drone on. That means far less overlay on the vocal band. 2/ absence of box talk as the effect which capturing/killing a driver's rear wave has on the sound. There are no internal box reflections which come back out through the cones. These are two additional benefits that belong in any serious open-baffle discussion. Srajan

Srajan, thanks for your recent Telos review, getting the video and Jürgen's explanation. It's the first time a review of a grounding product has made sense to me. So thanks you again for that. Seeing how much you enjoyed these devices, will you keep them around for future reviews? Thilo

Glad to hear you got something out of it, Thilo. The Telos goods are packed and labelled with a pickup notice for in fact today so no, they're returning to Taiwan. When I wrote that I hated the flashing lights, I really meant it. But otherwise yes, purely for their sonic effect, I'd love to have something equivalent around, just without the backward cable orientation and disco fever. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I like the way you expressed yourself in our Telos review... Should we follow up with a review on our Monster Power and GNR models? Those would need more space to install as they're quite large. Ethan

Hello Ethan, your Monster products are too heavy for me. Unlike your banker clients at Hong Kong’s Audio Exotics, I’m no friend of unnecessarily heavy big super-expensive products. And with my system set up across two blocks (source gear on side wall, amplifiers between speakers), the amount of 6m long ground wires between those blocks would be awfully messy and not my idea of a good time. The same holds true for power cords of course. So thanks for the offer but I’ll have to respectfully decline. Srajan

Hi Srajan, how would you feel about doing a review of our Raidho TD3.8? It's an €88K/pr speakerMorten Kim Nielsen

Hello Morten: 83kg? I don't think so. But that's in truth not the only or main reason. With properly designed packaging which the speaker walks out of easily and back in, I could probably manage. But there's *no way* this speaker would come anywhere close to the bass performance I get with my cardioid Ripol 2 x 15" subwoofer. Like any other box speaker, yours will become omnidirectional across the lower 3-4 octaves. That means it'll involve the entire room to ride all three room modes with a vengeance. Meanwhile by virtue of its cardioid dispersion, my solution barely sees those same room modes. The difference is truly drastic. Most people of course have never heard cardioid bass unless they own Kii speakers or the biggest B&O. They have no idea how big the delta is. In short, a far cheaper far more compact solution would eat your speaker's lunch then spit on it. You'd not like reading it, I'd not like writing it. But I'd have to. So let's save ourselves grief and pretend you never asked. If you remember, already your smaller floorstanding 2½-way Raidho gave me bass problems. This one would compound them for no good reason other than to spend €88'000. And it would make no sense to still high pass it at 100Hz/4th-order to hand over to my sub when for that your very smallest Raidho would suffice just fine. See what I mean? Srajan

And that's how a stupid reviewer talked himself out of a rare assignment. I simply know my room and what it can support. It would be counterproductive and plainly unfair to accept too much speaker then bitch about the effects thereof. Yet they tend to be such that one can't overhear them. Then it's simply best to opt out. But make no mistake, 83kg too is a challenge I don't take lightly since I must do all my un/repacking solo. Often getting something out is easier than getting it back in; unless the packaging is engineered to a very high standard. That you simply don't really know until it arrives. If I'm unsure that I can return a very expensive loaner in the condition I received it, I'd rather refuse it upfront. Nobody likes a ruined finish; and I work to make a living, not to pay for costly repairs I caused.

Hi John, I just wanted to thank you for covering our Corinium loudspeaker on your video podcast. I must say that Srajan's piece about us was impressively well researched. I can't think offhand of another example of someone getting all those details together correctly. Do let me know if you want to do more on Corinium or any other product of ours. You mentioned the AE1 Active. In contrast to many it's a bit old school, being fully analogue in design. We've often thought a good review piece would be to take the AE1 with a standalone streamer/DAC and compare it to a fully integrated DSP + streaming product. Some HiFi guys like to build their own system, others like a one-stop shop, horses for courses I guess! Mat Spandl, Acoustic Energy

I subsequently contacted Mat who added this: Hi Srajan, great to hear from you! I thought your piece was very well researched and you are spot on of course about the flow of money and where it ends up. Thank you for building a story around the brand and the product, it was really nice. We’d like to do something on Corinium. You are right to say that it would be easier in Germany, our guy over there has the green pair as we speak. In Ireland we have Ken at Zebra Distribution, he doesn't have stock yet. So we need to think about how and when. You might also be interested to know that in the pictures your podcast showed, the mosaics in the shot are genuinely Roman and were dug up from beneath Cirencester aka Corinium. We thought that was pretty cool. Mat

Hi Srajan, I just read your exceptionally gracious review on Timi. While I was uncertain that you would accept to review such an odd product, you not only accepted but wrote an exquisite dream review beyond my expectations. I would be delighted to meet you one day and possibly host you in either Lisbon or Istanbul, at your convenience. Very many thanks! Adnan

Hello Adnan, my pleasure. One of my readers will be contacting you to acquire his own sample. He pointed out that your current webshop doesn’t seem set up for foreign orders so that might be something to adjust just in case the odd inquiry comes in from outside Turkey. Srajan

Hello Srajan, yes, he already contacted us. We will definitely send him one. And we will try to solve the international ordering system. Thanks again. Adnan

Srajan, I just caught up with your developing Dutch & Dutch review. The BACCH angle is most interesting. Did I read correctly though that they solicited you for a review then didn't reply to email questions? Presumably your email ended up in a junk mail folder. If not, it boggles the mind and portends badly for paying customers getting the support they deserve... Fleming

My email did go straight through I learnt. So did a second one with a link to my preview. On the phone Martijn didn't explain why he didn't acknowledge them. I tried to call repeatedly thinking like you that my emails were spammed. The phone kept ringing so I hung up. A few days later I finally decided to just let it ring. Now the call rerouted from the factory to Martijn's personal line which he picked up. I have no idea what to read into it other than the factory staff is probably busy in the back making stuff to not man the front desk or hear a phone ring; and that Martijn works out of an off-site office. None of that's any issue. Not answering emails in a timely manner however is poor form, I agree. It's precisely why I mentioned it in the preview. Srajan

Dear Srajan, looks like you enjoying writing this review very much. Can't agree more with the 1st paragraph on page 4. Best regards, Stephen Gong

Srajan, I hope you're on with the Dutch & Dutch BACCH review. Glad to contribute a bit of audio history. My hazy recall of sonic holography (brilliant name, methinks) was that it made certain songs quite holographic and others virtually unlistenable. Hit or miss so I eventually sold the Carver C-9. I suspect the D&D implementation will be much better. btw, I viewed the podcast video of you and Darko. I thought it well done! Michael

I looked at the podcast this morning and from the comments so far, people seem to quite enjoy it so I reckon this was just the first of many. As to the D+D, I'm still waiting to hear back whether my room layout is a go or not. Srajan

Srajan, I just finished your latest FiiO headphone review and am left wondering how it compares sonically to the Meze 99 Classic. I can see why you mention them being priced nearly the same but I'm still unclear how they actually differ on sound. Thanks, Robert

I no longer have a pair of 99 Classic. It's why I didn't do a comparison. My point is simply that as exciting as the Meze launch was at its time, the FiiO launch strikes me as a direct parallel on out-of-the-gate appeal. That's it. I can't compare what I don't have. Srajan

October 15th: Given Robert's question and the likelihood of others having it after reading the FiiO review, I already added a few sentences to that at the very end to clarify the matter.

Srajan, I think you just broke the PA-10 Evo! Just kidding of course but I was quite surprised to find out that it's just another Pascal class D design when none of their materials let on. I even downloaded the new owner's manual and didn't find anything to that effect. They simply don't touch the subject predictably because of the many assumptions that surround it. Class D. Eew. Perhaps I should rephrase and say that you broke this story? Good on you then. I actually don't think hifi journalism should involve any detective work but it's still fun to come across the occasional gotcha like when that expensive Goldmund player turned out to be nothing more than a rebadged Oppo. Noah

If you want to look at it that way, it was really Gold Note's Tommaso Dolfi who let that cat out of the bag including providing inside photos. I simply asked him how the Evo differed from the precursor. Would he have volunteered these details if Gold Note meant to keep them buried? Nothing wrong with class D especially when one can tailor the sound of a stock module with a proprietary input buffer; and other tuning features à la Aavik. Granted, I was surprised; but just because of the earlier miscommunication. That must have been a simple email typo from class AD to class AB which nobody subsequently bothered to correct. Being web-based, making such a correction would have been quick and easy for me. Back to your point, I don't see anything deceptive here at all. That would only be applicable if I had asked directly whether the Evo was class D then been told 'no'. Instead, the opposite happened. I don't see it as any gotcha but can appreciate how particularly haters of class D might see it that way. I simply come down on power per penny plus sonics. Getting EU-built and compact 250w monos for that coin is pretty much predicated upon class D. Srajan

Srajan, I just read your Børresen X3 review and though I actually really enjoyed it, I got hung up on the last sentence where you say "once you see the X3 up close and personal, it's really hard not to be impressed!" I italicized the word that threw me because as a loudspeaker review, I would have expected you to say 'hear' not 'see'. I'm sure that you're aware that the last paragraph and even more the last sentence of any review becomes what readers take away with them to be super important by shaping what came before. Are you saying then that the X3 looks better than it sounds? Charles

I'm indeed aware of the function a concluding paragraph and sentence serve, Charles. Even though I'm entirely self taught at writing and English isn't my first language, I have picked up on a few things over the year. As always, you're welcome to read whatever you want into what I wrote and how I wrote it. As to what I said about the X3 and meant, it's already all there in the review. If I had any more to say, I would have said it in the review. Once an assignment wraps, I'm really done with it. Should I discover an oversight, I add a PS. Here I didn't so really, that good ship sailed; all the way back to Aalborg. Srajan

Dear Srajan, isn't the eversolo DMP-A6 a direct and very worthy competitor to the FioO R7 so should be on your list of contenders for best of the year? I haven't seen you make any reference to it though so wanted to point you to it in case you overlooked it. Eric

For my particular usage, the eversolo does not compete at all so was out of contention. 1, its form factor for my low side table is all wrong and I wouldn't be able to properly see its strange widescreen display without some type of wedge angling it up; 2 and still more to the point, it does no headfi. No headfi, no competition, period. The true competitors I'm aware of I already listed. They are the A&K ACRO CA-1000, Lotoo Mjölnir and Shanling EM7. Questyle had a desktop full-featured DAP 'dock' that belonged to the same club but that's been discontinued. If you know of anything like them, I'd be all ears. The eversolo simply doesn't fit the same bill. It's cool but lacks a key feature that's important to me. Srajan

Srajan, saw your list of 2023 recommendations. Very interesting. I'm particularly intrigued by your choice of FiiO as the new server of your smaller system. I'm not personally fond of SD cards and would prefer an external SSD. Are you planning on trying out something smaller than your 4TB drive which wasn't supported? I wouldn't need more than 2TB but want to know wether it can support that. Thank you, Jim

I might still try a 2TB drive but haven't decided yet. I just installed a 1TB SD card which I haven't maxed out yet. Upstairs I certainly don't need my entire downstairs library in full duplicate. My R7 isn't a regular review item but personal unit which I bought as a regular consumer from an Internet reseller. So I'm approaching it just from my very narrow usage scenario. I'm not trying to cover its full functionality as I would attempt for standard review loaners. Srajan

Hello Srajan, since our last contact some time ago, I took this article you wrote three years ago as an opportunity to write you again. I enjoyed reading your comments. Actually, it's not a happy occasion at all. But you said something that was/is close to my heart too. My joy lies in the fact that a journalist is also taking on this matter. I would like to thank you for this and express my approval! All the best, Roland Krammer, Crayon Audio

Dear Srajan, I just worked my way through your most recent "cascaded" LHY reviews. What interesting coverage on a really niche sector of our hobby. I really appreciate your efforts in painting both sides of the picture, sharing what worked for you and what didn't and that regardless, this type of product relies on an already well-tuned system or otherwise it won't do a thing or barely matter. What I mean is that you made a good effort to not hype up a component category many of us don't have experience with or have never even considered but to approach the subject from a more critical nearly cynical perspective, share your honest personal experience then qualify strongly where others might get similar results and where they might not. Well done, sir. Thank you and best wishes to your family, Duarte

Thanks, Duarte. I had fun playing with these digital legos and am pleased to learn that my efforts to keep them in perspective came across. Using multiple LAN switches in series also was news to me. So were the fibre optics. It all made for the perfect setup to as you put it, apply a nearly cynical eye but also bring the necessary openness to perhaps end up being caught by surprise. That it became a little of this, a little of that then was extra fun. Srajan

Srajan, I read with interest your exchange with a reader about system matching (specifically DAC/amp) as it relates to the S/N ratio. My question is which amp weighting (110dB vs 130dB) has more impact on the listening experience? See example below from your Kinki monos.S/N Ratio: >110db (0.01Hz- 1MHz), >130db (A-Weighted). Thank you, Michael

Truth told, I don't know. Srajan

I guess the real test is putting one's ear to the tweeter and listening for… next to nothing! Michael

On the wider subject, I believe that in some instances, isolated measurements already go well beyond what matters. In-room ambient noise at 30-45dB; SPL loss over distance; the room's unpredictable impact on the time and frequency response; the lossiness of converting an electrical signal to a mechanical-motion equivalent between the amp and the speaker including a passive crossover's phase shift and energy storage plus the drivers' dynamic compression and mass resisting instantaneous response ... all of it paints a far muddier picture than 0.0001% distortion, 150dB S/NR in a DAC's digital measurements, extreme jitter specs and so on. Srajan

Hey Srajan, AI now writes audio reviews. Take a look: "Audio Analogue ABsolute was conceived from the beginning as a herald tipping its hat to the legendary Audio Analogue products at the top level of the portfolio of this Italian high-end audio brand. It was depicted to deliver the richness and complexity of music and ABsolute crux delivers it all in abundance. The inherited density easily projects a higher level of spatial components of the sound so that the plasticity of the music is always in the foreground and instruments and performers are reproduced with valid three-dimensionality. With any kind of high-end audio electronics, there is always a certain limit, a design restraint, where not to go with the sound and how not to lose the finesse. ABsolute is free of any of such glaring flaws that can occur even with much more expensive amplifiers. Audio Analogue integrated amplifier refrains from dominating with its sonic imprint. It stays out of the way, does not faux rejuvenate the music and consistently delivers unrestrained musical energy. The phenomenon of incomparable perception of differences that is intimately connected with some amplifiers and preamplifiers, regardless of price, simply does not occur with ABsolute." Actually, I'm only kidding. This just published in another online magazine by apparently a real reviewer though I could easily see this becoming the norm in a few years as AI refines to make itself more and more indistinguishable from the real thing. Are you worried yet? Fabian

I still believe that human creativity is capable of "nonlinear inspiration" which should be very hard to mimic in AI. But if AI were to harvest all the reviews I've ever written to build a personality profile, specific vocabulary, turns of phrase and assorted idiosyncrasies... you could be right and I obsolete in a few years' time. Best enjoy the ride before my hobbled horse dies? Srajan

I recently sent a query to John Darko whose answer might be of interest to a broader audience.

Hiya John, because I don't do wireless networked audio, I'm unclear on exactly what off-lining content implies. It seems quite obvious that you park streaming content in device memory to play back when you're offline. So far so good. But how does the content provider prevent you from permanently caching their music files for free? Are offline files time sensitive to expire? If so, how long do they remain playable? And what prevents you from copying them to other memory for indefinite ownership? Is there some code in their header that renders such files unplayable once their time stamp has expired? Srajan

Hey ho. So: the way I understand it is that the offline files are cached inside an encrypted area inside the official Tidal or Apple Music app. That way, no one can yoink them onto a desktop folder and steal 'em. And that's also why only the official streaming apps are green-lit by the record labels for offline content. The labels are terrified of losing content to a backdoor inside an mConnect or an Astell&Kern player's integration. It's why many new DAPs run native Android so users can offline content by way of official apps. To avoid you permanently caching for free, your streaming app will need to phone home within a specified time period. I don't know what that interval is. Could be a week. Could be three months. It varies from app to app (I think). So if you run Tidal on your new FiiO, you'll be able to use it for offline content no problem. But that Tidal app will need to see an Internet connection to phone home after a few weeks to let its corporate overlords know that the offline content is safe and that your streaming account is still valid. Make sense? John

Hello Srajan, please help me understand something. What difference does a DAC's signal to noise ratio make if the signal to noise ratio of the integrated amp that it feeds is not as good? Peter

Hello Peter, it's a point I've made many times. Your overall system resolution is only as good as its weakest link. So a DAC with a 130dB S/NR into a SET without feedback that barely makes 80dB S/NR obviously must leave crumbs under the table. Predictably your next question will be, would such an amp still tell the difference between a 130dB and 80dB DAC? It sure would. Active gain circuits are noisier than the best modern digital circuits. On noise figures, no amp competes; nor any listening room even with an elite ambient noise of just 25dB. In virtually all instances, amplifiers have far worse S/NR specs than digital. Yet with them you can still tell DACs apart whose figures are far superior than the amplifiers following them. It's why worrying about digital specs can really lead astray. It's why you can't successfully shop hifi just on paper. Listening is required. Srajan

Yes, listening is always the best test. Also S/NR is not the only reason for choosing a DAC. Resolution is not always the deciding factor. There are several performance parameters that distinguish one DAC from another lesser one. And one of these certainly would be the listener's preference. As you pointed out in the review, some people might prefer the darker fatter sound of the Terminator Plus over the leaner more resolved sound of the Pasithea. Peter

Exactly. And those differences are not reflected in shiny S/NR specs. Srajan

If higher resolution means those subtle cues/harmonics that make recorded instruments sound like the actual instruments heard live and unamplified, then I'm all for it. Thanks again, Srajan. Peter

It can absolutely mean that. But some high-resolution gear can also seem a bit stark and nervy so ultra-low distortion and noise specs alone don't paint the whole picture. Srajan

Specs don't tell the full story. Hence the importance of trust your own ears. There are 'science-based' forums where the participants don't seem to understand this. I took exception once when they were criticizing a product. Their comments followed a very harsh (but very funny I must admit) article written by their guru which really ridiculed the product and the guy who designed and produced it. "Snake oil" he said. The product was a small lightweight tweak with a money-back guarantee if not satisfied.

I simply asked if any of them had ever heard what that product could or couldn't do. Right away they jumped on me to the effect "Are you crazy? What's to hear?" type of comment. None had ever tried that product. Our communication went back and forth for several posts. I did not defend the product. I simply questioned their right to ridicule it if they hadn't heard it. I pointed out that there was a money-back guarantee and being a small lightweight object they could try it at very little cost to them. I also pointed out that when they engaged in this type of criticism they were in effect damaging the reputation of those who made it and thus damaging his livelihood. Plus they were doing a disservice to people who might actually have tried the product to see if their own ears responded positively. My comments were all very polite. At no time did I become caustic.

But they sure did. They become increasingly hot under the collar and condemning of me until one of them decided to negatively label me. I can't remember exactly what that label said but it appeared next to my name on every post. Finally the moderators shut the thread down. To their credit however, the next day I discovered that the label had been eliminated. You can still Google that thread, I believe. The forum was Audioholics and the product was the Akiko tuning sticks... a product reviewed positively by many reviewers... including 6moons which gave them a Blue Moon award. I eventually bought some. I liked them and I still use them today. Peter

Dear Srajan, I just read your excellent review of the new AQWO player. May I ask why you didn't bestow an award? The review seemingly led up to it on the last page before the jump but then came nothing. Did I overlook something important that precluded it? Just curious. Frank

I ran out of blue ink, Frank. Actually, it really was personal insecurity. Due to my hardwired iMac and not using WiFi, I don't view myself as an expert on 'audiophile' streamers. I've not reviewed much in their category because Mac/PC users like myself categorically have no use for them. Also, I listen to predominantly local files. Why run those over a noisy network? It makes no sense. Then the AQWO 2 isn't exactly budget priced. I don't know whether potential buyers will expect a custom app like Auralic, Linn and Lumin offer rather than fall back on a basic mConnect control app. Finally, I do think that the AQWO 2 shorts us just a tad with its omission of analogue volume control to replace a separate preamp for digital sources. These then were all my prior considerations regarding your question. Srajan

Hey Srajan, I just finished reading your thoughts on Martin's new footers and then saw his email to you in the feedback section. It's lovely to see a manufacturer express honest surprise about being awarded and admitting that to be sure he really made something very good takes more than just knowing what he hears in his own four walls but depends on feedback from customers and reviewers. It's a quite different and refreshing attitude from those manufacturer replies which are arrogant about their own brilliance and don't tolerate any disagreement about it from customers or reviewers. I can't remember having seen a reply to an award that said the maker was taken aback before. I imagine it must have been nice for you too? Thanks for all you do. Wishing you all the best, Karl

Thanks, Karl. Agreed, humility beats arrogance; though over the years, I've not really gotten hit by the kind of manufacturer's reply you're referring to. Obviously makers hope for favorable findings. But even where there are honest criticisms, delivered in the right way they tend not to trigger any acrimony. Expressing initial bewilderment over an award indeed was a first. But I understand it. "Just footers" will be a very common reaction. It's why the review itself goes into that expected reaction to explain why there's more to it if an isolator is properly engineered. Srajan

Hi Srajan, just thought it was about time I should thank you for your excellent review on the Vibra 68. It has taken a while for it to sink in—that’s people congratulating me on my feet—strange world. I was somewhat taken aback by the award sighting, after all it is only a footer but since your review published, I have had three other people take a listen and all agree with your findings. When I first tried them I realised that I had something rather special but then it takes all other ways to confirm it. Here is one of the comments.

"Thought I'd pop the Vibra in yesterday just to see for myself. Flippin' Heck Martin.... Stop it! 👍😍😍😍🔊🔊🔊 It's like adding a new DAC two levels above the old one. More detail and definition across the range but most importantly no loss of soul."

Thanks again and keep up the good work. Best, Martin Gateley

Well deserved. The way I see it, the real test of isolation efficacy (or lack thereof) is under subwoofers and full-range speakers. And it's here where many solutions claiming to isolate actually do a poor job. That people who haven't experimented with such applications might raise an eyebrow or two doesn't bother me in the least. But if I can inspire a few to give the subject a think or even better, a try... then I feel I've done my job. If that means going out on the resonance-control limb, so be it. As my review said, this isn't about voicing a system by shifting around a few resonances with an arbitrary mostly cosmetic footer. This is about an undeniable reduction of distortion that requires a properly engineered then executed isolation approach. Having reviewed quite a number of such solutions over the past few years, I feel in a rather good position to declare an efficiency ranking. In my book the approach of wire suspension wins; and of the three wiry suspenders I've looked into (Boenicke, sound|kaos and Wellfloat), yours came in first. That deserved an award, simple as. Srajan

Here's another: "Good evening, Martin. Many thanks for the speedy dispatch. Your footers are superb. After a bit of shuffling, I managed to decouple my LessLoss AC filter, Melco server, Chord M Scaler T2 and subwoofer. The effect is really profound. It's no longer the soggy tone mush from before. Now each image occupies its very own proper space in my room." Martin

Hello Srajan, any chance you'll be able to do a review of one of Canton's new floorstanding speakers? They look pretty promising, plus you've already got a nice competitor for the match. Thanking you in advance, Steve

In 20+ years on the job, I've never yet worked with Canton so I'm not sure. But I already penned an industry feature on Canton's new Reference 2023 range and contacted their marketing manager about my interest. Now the ball is in their court. Srajan

PS: I heard back from Canton. They won't have any review loaners for someone not already part of their usual press pool until possibly next year.

Srajan, I'm delighted that you're reassessing my Kinki EX-M7 in your main system as a way to drive your sub.  Thanks to your earlier review, it's my front-seat amp now tethered by a Kinki Earth loom to my Vivid Audio B1 Decade speakers. Michael 

Dear Srajan, I picked up on something you touch on in your Aaron exchange. You said that when you decide on what to buy for your systems and your reviewing work, you don't just consider your own tastes but whether you want to promote these components through public ownership. This is an aspect of reviewing I hadn't fully considered before. Of course I know that manufacturers love nothing better than a review which concludes with a "couldn't live without it so bought it" statement. It's like any other celebrity endorsement. It's free advertising. We as the buying public often wonder whether celebrities are given product free of charge just to wear it and get photographed with it. Hifi can't be much different and if the choice for a brand is to either spend on yearly adverts or spend the same amount on a promotional freebie, I could see the freebie being more effective if the reviewer and magazine have the right profile and readership. If you were to be offered a freebie which you otherwise couldn't afford or wouldn't consider sensible according to your personal metric of value for money, would you accept it?... Heinrich

Celebrity endorsements are a fact of modern life; perhaps more so in this age of the online influencer than ever before in living memory. High-end hifi is obviously far too small a pond for any reviewer to get on the same book never mind page as celebrities in sports, music, acting or certain chefs. Just so, if a true hifi expert like Michael Fremer acquires a cost-no-object turntable for his reference, it's probably the closest we get to a celebrity endorsement. If a 1st-tier writer gets favourable pricing because he works within the industry and doesn't waste a dealer's time, it's no different than a 3rd-tier reviewer getting an industry accommodation. Even a 70% discount as certain cable companies offer remains solid change if the starting price is €250'000. These aren't freebies at all. They're serious investments. I once worked in a shoe boutique in Beverly Hills. I could buy anything we sold at a hefty discount; and for the same reason. Customers seeing me wear what we carried made a statement. Likewise for the junior car salesman who works in a Mercedes-Benz dealership and already drives up in a small Merc not Honda. One needn't be a celebrity to have the intended effect; or get a deal from the industry one works in. It's common across all sectors. These aren't freebies, just discounts. And, I just don't see myself as a celebrity.

Next, when reviewing hifi from home not a separate office, there are limits to what one can keep around. How many pairs of speakers can you listen to at any one time? The obvious answer is, one pair. What if it's a 300kg behemoth you can't readily move or stow away? Or perhaps you have two even three systems in different rooms. Again, how many speakers in total can you justify keeping beyond the ones actually playing? What about storage? What about money just sitting on the side lines doing nothing? Expand out into all the other components of a system. Reviewers don't operate hifi shops. We don't stock deep inventories. Even a hypothetical freebie would hold zero attraction when your tool chest is well stocked. Anything extra becomes another dust magnet, another boat anchor. It's only the newbie's kid-in-a-candy-store syndrome that sees it different. Once you're established and set up on the hardware you need to work, it loses all appeal.

Personally, long-term loaners would have to fill a real gap in my current tool chest; or let me accept review items I otherwise have to turn down. But even then I wouldn't want a Bentley-level component when I play in a lower sector. I'm not into TrophyFi. I hold strong opinions on what matters and what's pixie dust. I have zero interest in the latter; and already pretty much all I'll ever need to do my job. As the years go by, potential hardware holes get less not more. It's why in virtually all cases I'm very keen on review items leaving our premises prontissimo after their review is done. Our home isn't a warehouse. So no, I wouldn't accept a pricey freebie which I don't believe in just because it's expensive or prestigious. I'm not into letting readers think such stuff is necessary or even desirable. Yet even just regular usage of 'trophy' bits showing up in photos of my systems or the equipment listings can't help but double as a sort of ongoing endorsement. "He uses it so it must be good and do something important." I don't endorse stuff I don't believe in. No gold-plated toilet seats or WiFi refrigerators which place email orders with the local food-delivery program. I have no use, appetite or patience for such stuff. In fact, perusing CNN for a cursory daily news scan, it becomes harder to even write about the stuff I do write about when massive fires play havoc in Maui or Greece, when Morocco just suffered a big deadly earthquake, when Hong Kong is flooded, when the Ukraine war shows no end in sight, when global suffering cranks up on a weekly basis. People lose lives and homes. Our kind worries about shiny toys and sound quality. Hello? Srajan

Hello Srajan, do you know what happened to HifiKnights? There hasn't been new content since July 14 so nothing in nearly two months. Are they still publishing? Günther

I presume that Marek and Dawid might be on vacation. It's that time of the year after all. I also know that Dawid does a lot of photography work so sometimes takes a break from hifi to keep things fresh. Unlike me he isn't a one-trick pony.  If you want more details, you should of course contact them directly. Srajan

PS: One day has passed and I just saw Dawid's Carbide Base Diamond review go live so their vacation must be over.

Hi Srajan, we're back in the USA after a nice two-week tour through some Mediterranean countries. Time to catch up on your site! I read your MBA review and the interesting reader exchange you had with Aaron. My takeaway is that the Kinki loom smoked the MBA cables if your measuring stick is simply price/performance. Now, if you are pursuing the ultimate system with commensurate amplification and transducers, you might elect for the top MBA loom or perhaps Crystal Cable. Here your example of car preferences seems appropriate. A final thought relates to your interesting point about equipment manufacturers understanding your system and preferences when considering 6moons for reviews. That point comports to my preferences for reviewers for films and food. Years ago I decided that I'd depend on Pauline Kael when she wrote for The New Yorker for her opinion on which movies I might like. I just found that our opinions generally meshed. Similarly, I depend on The Michelin Guide for dining options. There's a rating in the guide for inspector favorites (called Bib Gourmand selections) that provide good value for the price point. With that in mind, I might perhaps call the MBA loom a 3-star selection and the Kinki loom a Bib Gourmand. Both are quite tasty but your pocketbook will be disproportionately affected. Michael

Quite. Srajan

It's interesting that Matthew targeted 6moons for a review. One would have thought The Robb Report would be a more suitable target. And how could he have neglected the promised CD and not assured that his cables were appropriately protected from shipping damages? Similarly, the XLR cable's loose screw was a silly error. When one charges über pricing, everything matters in the presentation. Michael

Mark Gurvey and I had an excellent working relationship during his time at Esoteric USA. I believe he recommended me to Matthew as someone who'd do a good and fair job on their product for a global English-reading audience. As to the CD, agreed. Strange oversight. To be fair, the loose screw didn't amount to real shipping damage. It was more of an embarrassment for a connector described as the world's best. But yes, presentation and first impressions do matter; all the more so with luxury products. On first impressions, much about this gig was somewhat disappointing. But in the end, I couldn't fault the performance and I believe my review reflects the entirety of my experience honestly and fairly. That's all I can do. As a consumer by proxy, I'm supposed to cover the lot; from warts and pimples to beauty marks to flashy smiles and sparkling teeth. From all of that emerges a hopefully complete portrait frozen in time; of a single transaction with a single individual who happened to be a reviewer. As to The Robb Report, cables far more expensive than these enjoy reviews in other hifi publications. Everybody including Editorial and individual writers simply have varying thresholds and acceptance criteria. It's what gives each a particular identity and core audience. Just because I happen to draw the line at a certain price point doesn't mean I won't occasionally look beyond. To feel inspired, something about such a proposed gig simply has to be different enough hence promising to have me pursue it. My review explained what those things were this time around. So really, it's all good. Srajan

Srajan, I am not sure whether I should take you to task or applaud. I caught up with your developing Bond cable review. I can see why you are curious. If, as per your framing, this turns out to be a revelation or simply the next level up from what you have, I too would want to know. On the other hand, is not Matthew the same chap who lost his last company in a cease and desist lawsuit for declaring American product origins when most of his stuff actually came from China? It is not as though he left because he had newer better cable designs to promote. I note that you commented already on the unecessary girth of his interconnect when the actual cable of the ends is clearly far thinner. Far more disturbing to me is the pricing of his ribbon cable whose feel you describe as plastick-y. The cynic in me sees a desparate attempt to be different from Tara Labs so he won't get sued again; and to chase credibility by associating the new stuff with his most expensive prior work which apparently was well regarded in the press. So I am watching your review unfold, curious which way it may turn. If it blows your stuff into the weeds, at least the performance is there. If it does not but charges an arm and a leg then requires special care to dress and looks funky, I would feel validated in being cynical. How soon until you will wrap this up? Aaron

I expect to wrap in a few weeks, Aaron. As to why Matthew Bond left Tara Labs, I faintly remember something to the general effect but no details. I was in hifi retail at the time. I really couldn't speak to the manner of his departure and any follow-on effects. I obviously agree that this new ribbon wire is very dear. And I also agree that if there's no second coming to be had or at least a solid vision of it, it would be difficult to muster much excitement. Let's wait, see and hear. Srajan

Fair enough. I shall keep my eyes on it by the end of the month then. Sometimes I just need to let off steam when enough reviews of hyper-priced stuff hit my boiling point again. It is not as though your site in particular is really that often guilty on that count. Still, this preview triggered me and thanks for being gracious about it. Aaron

No trouble. We all have a trigger threshold. I generally stay below mine by design and leave what lives beyond to other writers who seem better equipped or at least enthusiastic to explore the outer realms. This gig is somewhat of an exception for me and I hope that it'll pay off. Srajan

I see you put it to bed now. Very interesting indeed. I enjoyed how you framed it. It's really no secret that going from 95% to 100% can mean ten times bigger expense if not more and that's what we have here. I also note your mention of extreme amplifiers and the speakers which need them. Like you I suspect that in such cases, a cable with this much conductive mass should move ahead more. Matthew's choice of supplying three Dynaudio show exhibits of ever bigger speakers with his cables indicates more of the same. Perhaps this was a case of wrong product, wrong reviewer? In any case, it looks like you made the best of it and kept your cool. Thank you. Aaron

There's a reason for our equipment and room listings ahead of every review. It gives manufacturers thinking about a review our hardware context at a glance. Now they can determine whether their product will be a good match or set off alarm bells. That bit of due diligence is simply on them or their agents. Srajan

I see Michael joined our discussion. I have one final question, Srajan. If cost were no issue because you won the lottery or some such windfall, would you rate the 5% high enough to want those cables in your main system? At the end of the day, I would consider that the most telling conclusion of all. Aaron

It is a fair question. Regardless of windfall, my mind still won't ever be that of a wealthy man. It looks at my favorite speakers and amps which cost a fraction. It doesn't comprehend why these cables should charge so much more. Yes the price of copper increased but still. When I acquire gear to live with and use as tools for my work, I'm mindful that the simple act of photographing it regularly as part of my systems becomes an ongoing promotion. That can't be avoided. So I wouldn't want to promote something I don't really believe in as though here it were sensible to mate €3'700/pr mono amps and now €6'900/pr loudspeakers with €12'000/pr speaker cables. As such I wouldn't rate these particular 5% high enough to warrant owning them. As Joe Private meanwhile and if I were to inherit a set from a generous neighbor who got out of hifi... I'd happily accept since at the end of my day, I remain a hifi enthusiast keen on scraping the barrel to chase incremental improvements. Srajan

Srajan, just spotted the new sound|kaos footers in your 'coming next' section. Should those be on my radar? It's hard to tell from one small picture but they look rather smaller than the Carbides. How about cost? Caleb

The preview will go live September 1st to answer most of your questions already. The review conclusion should follow shortly after. Unlike electronics and speakers, this kind of stuff doesn't break in so the effects are instant. Srajan

Srajan, any plans to test a Cybershaft clock yourself? With your Silent Angel and LHY reviews coming up, I'm curious how the Cybershaft will compare. Thank you. Robert

When Cybershaft contacted me to syndicate Joël's review, I mentioned being interested myself but for the time being, all they wanted was the translation. So at least for now, nothing is planned. Unless things change and time out just so to have those particular competitors still on hand for actual comparisons, I don't see it happen. When reviews publish, their loaners are returned to sender unless I buy them; or am offered a long-term loan to keep using them for future reviews. Just because I once reviewed something doesn't mean I still have it. 99.9% of the time it's quickly gone again. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I just got around to your Treble Clef speaker review; well, as far as you got on with it. I bet getting a speaker with its top broken off was a first in your career? I applaud you for telling us what happened rather than brushing it under the carpet. The maker clearly wants an opportunity to make it right and it seems he already has a clear idea on how. I would say that's a win/win all around that will end in a better product even if getting there was a bit embarrassing... Gregory

Indeed. These were first proof-of-concept samples which still suffered a hidden structural defect. It's perfect that the mishap occurred to me not a paying customer. Now the necessary corrections can be applied before actual sales commence and far greater embarrassment even a cancelled sale are avoided. Our review policies are very clear on this. Whatever happens gets documented. Shit happens. It's the human condition. How it gets sorted is where men and professionals step forward from boys and amateurs. I have no doubt that when the revised product returns, it'll be a memorable encounter indeed. Srajan

Srajan, very educational review on those enormous Carbide footers. Though I do not know of many, there are two other reviewers who stress the importance of resonance control like you do, Roy Gregory and Christiaan Punter. I'm beginning to think that it's an area I should pay attention to. Given your experience, where would you start and what would you recommend?... Caleb

Unless your speakers are compacts which can't do low bass and you don't play them loud to begin with, I'd start isolating them and/or a subwoofer. That's because the physical vibrations transducers generate far outweigh what all other kit does combined. Obviously a turntable is another very meaningful place because of how fragile the groove/pickup interface is. A purpose-engineered rack can be an expensive proposition. Minimizing the expense could be one of the popular bamboo stands which are more furniture than industrial racks and can be found for relatively little money. To turn budget hifi furniture into high-performance racks starts by decoupling them from the floor with a Carbide-type isolator which can be optimized for the combined weight you need to support. In many cases I'd expect that to get you quite near to a full-bore serious rack which adds more isolation between its shelves, uprights and/or components. The obvious upgrade path which one can now do in stages adds isolators to each component that's responsive. You'd test a first trio or quad of isolators beneath every piece of kit in your rack to see where it makes a difference and how much, then proceed accordingly. You could also find that simply getting your speakers off the floor makes a sufficiently large improvement to be perfectly content. That goes particularly for anything above the groundfloor which becomes suspended flooring to be inherently less well damped. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I really enjoyed your review. I am always impressed with your understanding of the technical problem and proposed solution. Most impressive though is your way of explaining things in a clear way. Thank you very much for your time and your thorough explanation of our isolation approach. I am pleased to hear of your positive experience under your DAC. I'd have considered simply hearing an improvement a win but it sounds like the improvements went a step further and were tangible. This use case under upstream components was the primary motivation behind the ceramic raceway project so this is good news. Jeffrey Jenkins, Carbide Audio LLC

Loved your Crustaceans bit! Good to know that you still rate the Pasithea so highly. Are there any other DACs for perhaps less money that you think would give similar results? I revisited your original Pasithea review and really enjoyed it. But I would prefer to pay less. Joshua

Then you should look at Morpheus in the same catalogue. It's the same designer and sonic aesthetic just not quite as resolved. Srajan

Hello Srajan, in your latest Aavik you explain how in your comparison with your setup you couldn't be sure what exactly was responsible for the differences so whether it was different volume controls, different filter parts, active gain or none and so on. That's fair. Still I would love to know whether you have at least a hunch about what might have contributed to the Aavik sound? I'm considering an active filter and like that they build theirs in but wonder whether I will like the sound. Any light you could shed on this would be appreciated. Trevor

I suspect that the parts in my filter are superior to mean lower distortion. I also wonder whether Aavik's use of heavy feedback was responsible for their crisper brighter harder sound. Again, there's no way to strip back such a layer cake into breaking down which layer did what. I also couldn't possibly know whether you would like the sound or not. All of this is sloppy guess work which I'm not really inclined to indulge in, sorry. Your best course of action will be to arrange for a weekend loaner from a dealer. Srajan

Srajan, the newest streamer from HiFi Rose has what may be an industry first unless I am mistaken: an internal OCXO clock. I've always thought an OCXO clock had to be in a separate box as it needs to be on 24/7 for optimum performance. All the best, Michael 

For one easy example, the Denafrips Terminator DACs have temperature-controlled crystal oscillators inside. So do many top DACs. There's nothing inherent in the concept that requires being offboard. Such parts simply take a certain amount of time to hit their ideal temperature. So owners of internal OXCO are advised to not turn those components off for best performance. In that regard there's nothing whatsoever unique about the Hifi Rose. It might well have other unique specs but that one isn't. Think of it like a precision bias controller or thermal tracker in an amplifier to insure that the output transistors operate at ideal temperature. You'd not want such a controller outside the amplifier. An oven-controlled clock is essentially a normal clock with a thermal control circuit to create the most stable operating conditions. Where such a clock sits (inside or outside the DAC or player) is immaterial to that aspect though as you well know, experts like Ed Meitner and Eelco Grimm are firm that for best performance, clocks  belong inside as close as possible to their associated DAC chips. Srajan

I spent the last four hours with the new Kinki stuff and so true, now the IQ are really singing. It's like I hear them for the first time. The sound was a bit bright and aggressive for the first 40-45 min. then became obscenely (or hysterically, you pick) good. Now the whole room is filled with music. Dan

That was my friend Dan who visited us a while back, heard our downstairs Qualio IQ speaker setup and subsequently felt inspired to duplicate it more closely by getting the same amps and cables we use. Sounds like he's onto a winner.

Hi Srajan, I hope this email finds you well. We recently came across a situation where some competitors have been using your photos of the internal components of the DAM1 and PA1-Ref in their postings. We believe this is a violation of copyright and intellectual property rights. To address this issue, we kindly request your assistance in sharing the original copies of the first three photos on page 4. These photos will be used by Soundaware to file a complaint with the relevant platforms and have those users remove the unauthorized use of your images. Your support in this matter is greatly appreciated, and it will help us protect our brand and the integrity of our products. Weng Fai Hoh

People steal my images all the time without crediting 6moons, Weng. The only way to make that less appealing is to permanently embed one's watermark right across the center of an image where it can't be cropped out. I personally despise that look. Readers already know they're on 6moons. They don't need constant reminding with every image spelling it out again. So I don't do it. Preventing right-click to save is easy in code but doesn't prevent screen captures. And by the same token, pursuing copyright infringement is a lengthy and potentially costly process which I just don't bother with. If you're not prepared to engage legal action, it's only noise which the offending party may simply disregard. Since you don't own these photos either but 6moons does, I don't believe you can formally pursue effective action on my behalf. But if you want to try, be my guest. This is the age of free information. Though copyrights are violated every day, nobody seems to care. For years people did the same with my review texts. It's why those can no longer be copy'n'pasted unless you know how to override code. If someone wants to manually retype my reviews, I can't prevent it. But at least they must put in the work. That's been a pretty good deterrant. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I just read your latest Aavik review. I'm sure that you know how they describe their enclosures. I quote from their website: "The cabinet design represents a Aavik characteristic. The testing of new circuits and electronic components is often done without the enclosing cabinet. The disturbing sonic influence, which emanates from the material the cabinet is made of—mostly aluminium—results from its mechanical resonance. To eliminate this sonic distortion, the challenge was to minimize the use of aluminium in the cabinet to the absolute minimum that is unavoidable to ensure sufficient cooling. We began testing various materials and designed an innovative natural-based composite material which reduces the mechanical influence, particularly the hysteresis. The sonic result is distinctly audible and reflects a further prominent cornerstone in Aavik’s quest for the ultimate music experience."

Your photos show aluminium liners which sit behind the visible black outer panels. Is hysteresis a matter of thickness? Then you call the outer material HDF. It makes Aavik's descriptions feel quite deceptive. Surely they didn't invent fiber board? And what pray tell is natural about the glue that holds together fiber particles? The HDF is painted. How resilient do you think this is to scratching during normal handling? Comparing what's inside that preamp to what it costs, I see quite a money grab. Likewise for charging us €4'000 for a small extra circuit board. Would you agree that this seems very far away from a fair high-value proposition? ... Alvin

What's fair, Alvin? I believe that Audio Group Denmark has more than 50 employees today and since my visit expanded their factory at least twice already. Denmark has high salaries and stiff costs of living. Then there was a buy-out which installed new management that will expect profit sharing. As operations grow bigger but work in high-labor zones, so does their overhead and need for revenues. I see this family of brands combining standard corporate culture with genuine audiophile enthusiasm. The former is about high profits, the latter about sonically advanced results. Given their rapid growth, amazing product depth and sterling reviews, I'd say their approach works just fine and value doesn't really factor. As to marketing, it's supposed to put a spin on things. It's why good marketeers are called spin doctors. About the paint's longevity, it's certainly softer than metal so will scratch easier. As to whether hysteresis is affected by thinner metal liners vs solid metal enclosures, I take their word for it. I don't have the engineering insight to know. Back on fairness... if in a very expensive country you could create a business that employs a workforce of 50 to keep all their families fed, wouldn't that be a thing to be proud of? Would it impact your definition of value? It's always a matter of perspective and the bigger picture. Srajan

Srajan, your preview of the LHY-SW10 reveals that you're burrowing deep into the digital rabbit hole! So it's now a double-switch cascade. And I note that Weng Fai Hoh specified a Finisar 1318 SFP. My online research pointed me to that module, specifically a pair of FTLF1318P3BTL that now tether my EtherRegen switch in single-mode to my Lumin X1. Now wouldn't it be interesting if Stephen Gong of COS Engineering specified a single-mode Finisar SFP in the fiber-optic module for the S10 LAN distributor on preview? The plot thickens. Michael 

Hello Srajan, what happened to the Bond cable preview? I just went to check on updates you might have made and can no longer find it. Perhaps you're working on it right now and had to make the pages invisible? Trevor

The samples cleared Irish customs ready for delivery but Matthew Bond didn't want to pay the 23% VAT and import fees that were levied on his shipment. It will now return to Oregon, get relabled with new paper work, then return to Ireland. That process could take a few weeks. Until I actually have the samples on hand, I've taken the preview down. Srajan

Srajan, I quite enjoyed Joël's review of the Cybershaft OP21A-D, power supply and BNC cables. His journey mimics mine a bit. I moved to an external 10MHz clock for my etherRegen switch more than one year ago. Since that time I've upgraded from a Lumin T2 to a Lumin X1 (with fiber connection) and a Kinki Earth loom. To be sure, Cybershaft is a premium supplier of 10MHz clocks and peripherals while AfterDark, the manufacturer of my OCXO clock, is decidedly on the budget side with no oven monitor or super-detailed documentation. I was pleased that Joël found a significant difference in use of an external clock with the LHY SW-10 switch, almost a DAC-level change I believe he said, as it comports with my experience. Interestingly, one of the bright lights in the audio space, Ed Meitner, has downplayed the effect of a reclocked switch, saying in essence that reclocking needs to be adjacent to the DAC or it doesn't make a difference:

JVS: You don't believe in using an external word clock. Why? EM: Because I think this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard in the audio business. That means you have a precision clock that you must connect to a wire to connect to a DAC when the clock should be where it belongs, inside the DAC beside the DAC chip if there is such a chip; not through a cable in a different box. This is so idiotic, it's not even funny. It's a money grab.

Sorry Ed, in my case a reclocked switch with a fiber connection to the Lumin X1 has made a significant difference to my system performance. Regarding the Bonn NX switch and Genesis GX (TCXO vs OCXO) clock that Joël found good but outpaced by the LHY/Cybershaft combo, I note that you have this exact combo on preview. I know that 6moons doesn't do shootouts but wouldn't it be fun for you and Joël to have some late-night listening sessions in Ireland and France to tease out the differences! All the best, Michael

It's been my assumption too that the real purpose of external master clocks is to synchronize multiple digital workstations for sound and sound+video mixing/editing work, not to improve the performance of standalone digital sources. But the home-audio sector has applied pro-audio's needs to its own often for outrageous money - and audiophiles hear a difference. I've heard it too though thus far found it to be rather mild. I've not received my Silent Angel loaners yet so that experiment remains to be done. And of course the things Ed Meitner has forgotten dwarf the things I understand about digital audio. Srajan

Dear Srajan, whatever happened to that flagship speaker from Dutch brand Aequo? I faintly remember reading about it on your site but now can't find anything, not even on theirs. There even was something about a new cable line also with new materials. Do you know what happened to that? Tristan

Not really. You're correct, I did have a very lengthy exposé on Adamantis, the involved materials tech, first drawings, related research into cables leading to their own designs... and then things delayed, delayed again, then delayed some more... and eventually my writeups escaped preview limbo hell to vanish from view. Æquo haven't updated me on status of these projects so until/if they do, I'm no wiser than you. Of course we did have a few years of Covid in-between. Chances are, they got bogged down by it as most everyone else did. Additionally there were challenges to learn how to cast their 'liquid metal' composite so the cabinet's two clam shells would shrink to a perfect fit during final curing. That and not attending Munich High End 2023 because they had nothing new to show is the last I heard. Srajan

Srajan, just read your updated preview of the Matthew Bond (shaken not stirred?) cables. I'll follow your findings with interest, more driven as yourself by curiosity as I'm quite happy with my Kinki Earth loom. Having lastly replaced ASI LiveLine speaker cables which performed admirably for years, I'm in your camp regarding small differences among well-made cables. So will MB be a revelation?  On verra as your colleague Joël Chevassus might say. All best, Michael 

Indeed. My channels are open to a revelation. If there is none, I might lack the level of hardware necessary to fully benefit from such cables? In which case I'll never know. Srajan

Gosh, that’s surely the definition of a conundrum! Bonne chance! Michael 

It's reviewing 101. Whatever our results, we never know what our setup (room, ancillaries) might have left under the table or otherwise skewed. It's that tired 'it is what it is' which many wish were banned from common usage. In many ways how a loaner performs is luck of the draw. What mitigates chance are experience; and having sufficient hardware alternates and rooms on hand to wrangle up alternate scenarios. Still, there are limits to that. It's the subtext beneath all reviews. Context is all. Srajan

Hey Srajan, you probably didn't see this but I think that your former boss Pat at Meadowlark Audio just gave you a nice compliment and explained why he'd not send you any of his new speakers for review. Here's the link and text: "I have two old buddies, the sorts who sleep over at each other's homes, let their hair down and party. One owns one of the more successful retail stores. He bangs it out at 100K+ per week and enjoys a loyal customer base who see him first. He's among the very few who can hold the line on discounting and pull it off (!). On this side of the industry that's really something to respect. When I showed him that I could destroy his mega-buck rig with my 50K thing he just blew it off: Pat, are you stupid? Why turn a 200K sale into a 50K sale? Duh. He walked me back into his warehouse and showed me a 1m inventory. It cannot be that everything he's correctly and carefully and professionally espoused for 30 years is gonna come apart. I never brought it up again. The other enjoys a comfortable life operating a very high traffic audio review site. When I peruse his roster of advertisers, every single one has something to lose as Next Gen overturns their applecarts. If he were to review my product and tell the truth about it—as he can be counted on to do— that wouldn't be so good for his business. Knowing the man, I'm sure he'd do just that. But, me, I can't ask him to. So I never bring it up. So yeah, while the inevitability of Next Gen hangs in the air—and it will out because it's obviously better AND cheaper AND smaller—an uneasy stasis remains in place and has for much longer than I expected it possibly could..." Enjoy. Charlie

I see. I'm not sure he had me in mind though. After all, we've reviewed a number of fully active ambitious DSP speakers like the Kii 3, Dutch & Dutch, Grimm Audio across the years. Just days ago I published the Kenaz AD36 review, another fully active DSP speaker. And that's exactly what Pat's new designs are too - class D-powered multi-way speakers with DSP crossovers and SB Acoustic Satori drivers. Also, I'm not really the partying type and have no hair to let down so again, he must mean someone else. Further, I worked for him 21 years ago and haven't seen him since so we're not buddies either. But thanks for the link and thought. He is right in that I would have no issue whatsoever espousing the many benefits of active drive and exploiting modern DSP smarts. Been there, done that, would happily do it again. In fact, the Treble Clef Audio M assignment which is all about that and more is just around the corner; and comes in at €75K; and hits 16Hz. Srajan

Hi Srajan, please reject if you don't want to spend time on this. I'm looking to upgrade my headfi. I currently have a a SPL Phonitor 2 and Sennheiser HD-800 (very analytic/detailed with huge need for more texture and bass). I love the open sound. Also tried a pair of Audeze LCD-X. Not my style at all. The sound feels too closed in. I heard the Feliks Euphoria together with Grado GS-3000E. That was exiting and close to what I like but still I would want more bass/depth. My headfi amp is fed by an Aavik S/D/C-580. Can you give me direction? Thanks in advance. Bent

Hello Bent, I would look at this. It's what I use. I have the Audeze LCD-X and had HD800 a long time ago. The Silver Fox has enough power to airlift HifiMan Susvara so is an anything-goes machine; has a full-bodied warm yet precise presentation; 4 different playback modes; all the balanced/single-ended outputs one could want; and is built like a battleship. The only thing it hasn't got is remote control. Srajan

Thanks. I will study this interesting amp during my holiday. Do you prefer a head amp with plenty of power? Then the Feliks is out. Last question: what headphones will you recommend? Bent

My favorite headphones are HifiMan Susvara but they're very expensive. But they're as airy and transparent as the HD800 without any of the aggressive presence+ response. Very close to them are the Kennerton Wodan. Had I not already owned Susvara, I would have purchased my Wodan review sample. And yes, that's a Russian company which in the present climate could be a dealbreaker. In the lower price range, I'd go after a Meze 109Pro. Very unfussy, super comfortable. For between Meze and HifiMan, I'd do the Final D8000. As a reviewer I like power because now I can review whatever shows up. And I don't like tube amps because of their higher noise, lower current, higher output impedance and phase shift from output transformers. Srajan

Hi Srajan, thanks a million for your awesome suggestion! I think your idea of temporarily expanding font size for a few seconds is brilliant. I'll definitely pass it along to the folks at Soundaware and see if it's something we can implement. What you're doing is greatly appreciated and is hard to find nowadays. Remaining transparent and playing consumer by proxy is what we like about you. We truly believe in being open and listening to our customers' needs and wishes. It's all about creating products that make our customers happy and enhance their audio experience. Your feedback and ideas are incredibly valuable to us so keep them coming! Many thanks. Weng Fai Hoh

Hi Srajan, many thanks for your positive answer. Please notice that our interest is a specific review of our 'xxx' and not a comparison review with any equivalent devices. Please let me know if I can assist you further. [Name withheld.]

Hello, like most other reviewers, I rely on comparisons to conduct my assessments. Telling me not to use my own gear for contrast pretty much amounts to savage mutiny on this end. If this really is your condition and not just a poor choice of words whose intention I misunderstood, I'll have to respectfully decline this and any other future reviews. ATB. Srajan

Many thanks for your reply. I'm not sure I expressed myself properly so let's clarify. We're asking for a review of our 'xxx'. It's of course okay to have a review section where you make comparisons to whatever products you find relevant. I'd do the same. What we want to avoid is the inclusion of more components of our type. I hope this makes sense. [Name withheld.]

I guess I too must clarify. The moment your thing replaces mine, it'll automatically compare/reference to them and I'll mention how yours differs or not functionally, sonically, on price and all the rest of it. That's unavoidable. No review works properly without real-world comparisons. If you want zero comparisons, I couldn't do a review, period. It'd have to be an editorial without sonic comments. Then there's no need to even dispatch a loaner. It would just be a piece on what it is, what it does, what issues it addresses, what it costs etc.

When you say that "what we want to avoid is more xxx", I take it to mean no such components other than those I already own? If so, that's fine. I don't even have others on hand. I'm not in the habit of secretly organizing 'shoot-outs' behind any manufacturer's back. I only reference what I naturally have on hand either by owning it; or because it happens to be in house at that time. But do you appreciate how quickly ill-considered wording can have unintended consequences? The way your first email put it had me nearly call it quits on all future reviews for you. Why? Because the underlying tone suggested a new level of 'remote control' like an attempt to oversee my review process from afar. Just as you wouldn't consider it proper if I told you how to run your business, design product and price it, you can appreciate how I'd not take kindly to any attempts at 'interference' or 'pre-conditioning' my reviews. This is a very sticky subject in general and one I'm outright allergic to. The moment I feel in any way manhandled on how to do my job, I bolt. Srajan

Many thanks for clarifying and sorry if I kind of 'provoked' you. That wasn't my intention. When will it work for you to receive a review sample? [Name withheld.]

And that's how a little misunderstanding resolved itself most amicably. I published it merely to remind other manufacturers how we work. If direct specific comparisons are out, we're out.

Hello Srajan, I was hoping you might be able to review these Arendal 1723 Monitor THX speakers at $2'500/pr. They're high value and appear to be a great match for the CHoco Emei amp you just reviewed. The bigger brother has received coverage but these have not. I know you like high value items and thought this might be a nice fit. Thanking you in advance, Steve

Their "prepared for mayhem" tagline and THX certification are part of a home-theater aesthetic I've no interest in. That obviously doesn't imply they couldn't be used for standard stereo. However, nobody of the company has ever expressed any interest in working with us. So I don't see this happening, sorry. But that shouldn't hold you back from getting a pair for yourself. As you say, they look like good value. Srajan

Next Steve took it upon himself to solicit Arendal: Hello, any chance you could send a pair of the 1723 Monitor THX speakers to Srajan Ebaen at 6moons for review? He just reviewed the CHoco Emei amp which is equally high value and appears to be a great fit. Also, John Darko is reviewing the KEF R3 Meta and likes to do side-by side comparisons. It would be the perfect time to send a pair his way as well. These speakers haven't received much coverage and now would be a great opportunity to change that. Thanking you in advance, Steve

Arendal replied to him as follows: Hi Steve, we are in contact with most reviewers and sometimes plans do not line up or they are just not interested. There was just a 1723 Monitor review the other day. Extremely detailed. We do our best to get the biggest exposure possible as reviews are extremely important to us. Thank you for your feedback and have a great day. Best regards, Lukas Moczorodynski

Steve copied me and added: Hi Srajan, apparently this is a lost cause as is the 'review' mentioned in his response, all graphs. Really helpful? Thanks for your patience, Steve

No worries, Steve. You tried. And yes, at Audio Science Review, they believe that measurements tell most if not all. Actual listening notes are secondary but clearly Arendal find this approach useful or they wouldn't have bothered with a loaner pair. Srajan 

Hello Srajan, just read your latest Emei review. Looks like another lovely discovery. However, Alvin's reply really surprised me. If there's an issue with the binding posts, wouldn't the proper response be to replace them with something better not recommend that owners use banana connectors? On that count I was happy to see that your criticism of the illegible display was taken in the intended spirit and is being revisited. Keep up the good work. James

I suspect my post issue had to do with a slightly 'off' connector whose plastic rim protrudes over the central metal contact so when placed across, one spade made no contact. It's probably a parts deviation so a tolerance being off spec, not anything intrinsically amiss with the parts choice per se. But I would concur that if they're already of the opinion that their post isn't ideal, a different terminal could be in order. I myself prefer bananas as well since they're in line not at an angle with the cable; and can't accidentally come off if a terminal nut loosens. But my Kinki cable samples were terminated in spades. What to do. Srajan

Srajan, thanks again for your award-winning review of the Kinki Studio Earth loom. As you may recall, I started with Earth RCA cables and a single power cord and have just now installed Earth speaker cables, replacing ASI LIveLine speaker cables that, truth told, sounded perfectly fine in my system. I ascribe that to the ASI cables having a similar temperament which is why I wasn't hasty in replacing them. Well, the Earth speaker cables have created an even better synergy and completed the loom promise.  nd that's before the purported 200 hours of break-in! How to compare the two speaker cables? I will shamelessly quote Frederic Beudot from his review of Ocellia cables where he compared the Canadian leashes to ASI: "The LiveLine is a shot of Cuban espresso, the Ocellia a very elegant Arabica from Jamaica's Blue Mountain. One is pure jolt, the other smooth and complex yet still energizing." Déjà vu all over again? Michael

Hi Srajan, I just ordered Kinki Studio speaker cables to complete my Earth loom. I have been using ASI Liveline speaker cables with LessLoss Firewall for Speakers. Any thoughts on whether to continue with the LessLoss attachments? Of course I can always experiment. All best, Michael 

The LessLoss Firewall works on a very different principle that's not at all in opposition to the cables. That said, it has a very particular effect so I'd experiment to see what you prefer. I find all of the LessLoss tech to be accumulative. I don't like too much of it because for my tastes, it eventually veers into being too chilled and soft. Just the right dose meanwhile is terrific. So trust your ears and go with what you prefer. Srajan

Srajan,I’ll answer my own question: Kinki Studio Earth cables and power cord. Just read your award-anointed review and couldn’t agree more on your conclusions. The loom has breathed new life in my system, anchored by the Blue Moon-awarded Kinki Studio EX-M7, for silly easy coin. My thanks to your continuing discoveries on the Silk HiFi Road paved with quality, value and system synergy! All the best, Michael 

Hello Srajan, any news concerning price after the power supply changes to the CHoco Sound Emei? Thanking you in advance, Steve

It already says so in the preview. The price remains at €1’699 for the first run then goes to €1’799. Srajan

Srajan, just a few initial thoughts on the Kinki Studio power cord and single-ended interconnects.The power cord is on my Kinki Studio EX-M7 and the interconnects link the amp and a Lumin X1 streamer/DAC. I use Leedh Processing so no preamp. First, Ken Ng told me that break-in should be about 200 hours. I probably have fewer than 100 hours so factor that in. The most pronounced effect is a huge uptick in bass both on texture like fingering of strings for example and response. At low listening level it's quite nice not to goose volume for a bit more kick. It's just there all the time. It also seems there is a greater separation of instruments and the soundstage has widened. The stage increase was unexpected as the EX-M7 operates in dual mono and I always thought the soundstage was pretty good. Midrange where the music mainly lives is about as good as with my previous power cord and interconnects. So I'll be keen to see whether further break-in changes my opinion. What's hard to determine is whether the power cord is doing anything special. The overall noise floor prior to installation was always good so I'm not sure whether the addition of the power cord is making a profound difference. But I'm perhaps underplaying system synergy. At the relatively modest cost of these cables, I'm quite pleased. Are these Crystal Cable killers? I've never heard Crystal Cables so really couldn't say. I will say that they're a no-brainer if you are a Kinki Studio or future CHoco owner. I'll keep you posted on future thoughts. All best, Michael 

Srajan, thanks for your show preview of Munich. That was super useful for planning my visit so much appreciated. Bravo. Eddie

That was the intention indeed: a travel guide to put certain products on the must-see/hear map. Glad to hear you found it useful. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I have read your reviews on 6moons about the Gold Note CD player, the CD1000 Deluxe with 1000 PSU and Métronome Le Player 3 with their separate DAC and Le Player 3+. If you compare the Gold Note brand with Métronome, what do you notice and are they evenly matched or does one stand out? I am considering the Gold Note CD1000 Deluxe with the upgraded power supply or the Métronome Le Player 3+. What would be the better choice technically and audiophile-wise. My integrated amplifier is the Gryphon Diablo 120. Speakers are Sonus Faber Olympia Nova 2. Best regards, Wil Pieters from the Netherlands

My experience with both brands has been outstanding. That includes build quality and personnel interactions. Sonically there's overlap because for their more upscale units, both firms fancy tubes which then do exactly what you'd expect - warm up the sound and render it denser and softer. I personally prefer the industrial design of Gold Note to Métronome's standard not Kalista range; and of course they offer three different color choices over two. That's pure optics so has no bearings on sonics. In general I'd call the Gold Note sound a bit more modern so keyed into resolution, the Métronome sound a bit more 'vintage' so prioritizing an 'analogue organic' flavor. Given your Gryphon Diablo amp, I'd suspect that personally I'd lean toward combining it with a CD1000 Deluxe. Hope that helps. Srajan

Srajan, as you may recall, I've always been a bit disappointed not to have a balanced amp to take advantage of my Lumin X1's balanced output. You sagely told me not to worry about XLR vs. RCA as it's the amp's performance that rules the day. Imagine my surprise when reading the following in a review of an Aavik integrated: "The line inputs (no phono input on the 280) are RCAs; much like the other Aavik components, designer Børresen eschews XLRs. I'm hearing through the grapevine that Børresen feels RCAs are sonically superior." A recent post on a Facebook group by Børresen answers some questions: "I respect balanced (differential) cabling has an advantage as noise is a common mode and thus cancelling. But there are also some drawbacks mainly on the electronics design side that tilt the performance in favour of a single-ended connection, mainly the fact that it's harder to match two opposed signals especially through volume controls. Also, a balanced circuit has by topology 6dB worse noise performance so most electronics manufacturers opt to make the balanced inputs and outputs through conversion and then retain the single-ended topology through switching and volume controls. So when you add it all up, the favour is truly on the single-ended side. Another thing is that balanced cables may have good noise rejection in the low-frequency area (audio band) but fare much worse in terms of picking up RF noise. And as far as I'm concerned, high-frequency noise is a far worse enemy of audio quality. Where balanced cables are better is on stage with long parallel cable runs here not for audio quality but simply to avoid the signals from the kick drum bleeding into the signals from the guitar. With bundles of signals in long runs there is no way around balanced but for simple purist hifi setups, my firm believes single-ended comes out on top." Michael

You're catching on. Srajan
Srajan, just saw the Jeff Fritz announcement. What do you make of it? [Rest withheld by request.] Jeremy

Good for him. He's made a career change but remains affiliated with the industry he loves. He becomes brand ambassador for Magico as a company he's always openly admired. He gets paid to continue writing about audio; and to attend trade fairs which he's done for decades and clearly enjoys. I say it's a job that had his name written all over it. If I read the announcement correctly, this new position at Magico was in fact specifically made for him. Hand in glove and all that. Kudos! Srajan

Hi Srajan. Just wanted to show you this. I'm operating under the radar, just adverts in the usual suspects and currently no website. However, I'm having success with these and may scale up. Still deciding. They work as advertised and my customers seem thrilled. Maybe there's a tweaker in the house that would want to try a set? Hope you are well, Srajan. Regards, Bruce McDougall, Anvil Turntables (again, no current website but I sold a great turntable for 10 years if you want to Google me). anvilturntables#gmail.com

Hello Bruce, thx for the note. As you probably know, there's a lot of 'anti resonance' in my systems by way of performance-engineered racks and sundry isolation footers or wire suspenders. The racks themselves are so effective that add-on footers are somewhat stranded doing anything I can hear. That leaves the floor interfaces of speakers and subs. I'd be happy to take a listen but a/ would need a set of 8 to do a pair of speakers, and, b/ even a marginal website would be a prerequisite seeing I publish on the web for a global audience. Srajan

Thanks for the kind words, Srajan. I understand the racks, they are highly effective. Agreed on the website, it's remarkable how difficult it is to get product info properly assimilated by consumers. I'll get my ducks in a row and be in touch! Regards, Bruce

Sounds good. You know how to find me when the time comes. Srajan