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Srajan, I just saw that your friend Dan is doing you a follow-up on that Vinnie Rossi pre. That wouldn't by any chance be the same guy whom you, a long time ago, visited with his very big horn system back when you lived in Cyprus? If so, I'll be very curious indeed to see what he has to say. He certainly seems to have been through some very elite stuff. Kevin Hart
That would be the one and same. Correct, he's been through a lot of hifi kit of the exotic sort since I first met him. Like you, I'm very curious about his feedback. In fact, I'm promised his first installment by tonight. I have no idea how many he's planning on. So stay tuned. Srajan
Dear Srajan, I just read up on your ongoing sessions with the Polish 6BQ5 amps and hola, amigo, links to YouTube music. Good on you. Being able to track your comments by hearing some of the stuff you refer to makes things even easier to follow. Thank you very much. Pjotr Kaminski
Aha. You noticed. Seriously, I've wanted to do this "forever" but I first had to get the site out of DreamWeaver and into WordPress, then learn how to embed videos so they visually integrate with my layout. With some help from my IT guy to tweak YouTube's code, we're there. Now it's just a matter of actually finding some of the stuff I listen to. We'll see how that goes. But I'm happy that this feature is now part of my approach to reviewing. The music really ought to do (some of the) talking after all. This is also a neat way to introduce our readers to some tunes, far more direct than any music review could ever be. Srajan
Hello Srajan: What happened to your Vanatoo preview? I was looking forward to its conclusion because at $599/pr, this is a product that really would make sense for our son. Michael
Because they presently only sell in the US and Canada, Vanatoo ultimately decided that a review in a global publication like ours wasn't in their best interest. And in hindsight, that seems fair. Why tease 2/3rd of our readership in Europe and Asia with a product they can't buy? What I had thought was a commitment to have me already produce a preview turned out to be more of an initial inquiry after all. Srajan
Hello Srajan, I just got a message from our distributor in Singapore who is very impressed that you are a straight shooter and that everything you wrote, the SR1a deserved. Over there, he encountered somewhat reserved comments from the reviewers who told him that they can't actually write how awesome the SR1a is because other manufacturers will feel sore about that. So am I. I'm very impressed with your ethics and independence! Thanks again. Your KIH #66 is wonderful. Aleksandar Radisavljevic
Dear Srajan, I just finished reading your long Vinnie Rossi review. The most amazing statement you made was at the very end in your postscript. It's taken 99 years for us to get a preamp machine which uses direct-heated big power triodes in a grounded grid circuit without OPT or coupling capacitor. I also share your surprise that this accomplishment should have come to us from a very small boutique operator, not one of the majors with their cadres of engineers. The review well portrayed your excitement over this discovery and I can only wonder whether sooner than later, you'll acquire one of these to use in your reviews going forward. Thanks for keeping the flame alive! Robert Kincaid
Being a helpless hater of black hifi—it's a silly bias but what to do—I'm keeping my fingers crossed that eventually, L2 might become available in silver. Then I'd definitely want to pursue one with that ¼"/XLR headphone option installed. Happy to hear that my enthusiasm communicated through the writing. This really is one of those discoveries reviewers live for to share. For now this loaner will make onward tracks to one of Vinnie's Swiss customers who wants to hear it and possibly buy it. If it doesn't have to cross the Atlantic again, it'd be a win for Vinnie and this client. Srajan
Read your review on the Allnic L10000. I'm thinking of purchasing one. Current pre is a Luxman C900u to match my M900U. Would you say that the L10000 is one of the best preamplifiers you've ever heard? It's not cheap, that's for sure. Clint Tracy
Yes, the L10000 is exceptional. Also check out the Vinnie Rossi L2. It's half the price and an even more interesting take on a similar concept. Srajan
What is your personal choice if both were priced the same? Clint
They're far from priced the same. Even if they were, I'd still consider the Vinnie Rossi the more advanced machine. It has far higher bandwidth, lower noise and it takes 2.5, 4 and 5V DHT. It's the one I'd buy. Srajan
My current setup is a C-900U pre and M-900u amp. I'm wondering if the L2 would be a game changer over the C-900u. I'm using Martin Logan 15a speakers. Clint
Knowing none of your components, I haven't the foggiest. But it does strike me that rather than arbitrarily inquiring about costly machines, you ought to first do a proper self assessment on your current system. Why do you want to change anything? What are you unhappy with, exactly? Only that can create a proper game plan for improving things. Why do you suspect your preamp in the first place? And so forth. These are questions you need to answer for yourself. Nobody else can do it for you. Then you can proceed to step #2, which is identifying potential candidates for replacement. But only someone very rich and/or casual would spend €17'000 or €30'000 on the advice of a stranger. I politely suggest that the game changing really has to start with how you're going about all this. I'm not a hifi shrink or buying adviser. I write reviews and trust that our readers are intelligent enough to take things from there. Srajan
Hi Srajan, out of curiosity, do you have an idea of how many Lunar Eclipse awards have been bestowed since 6moons began? This year may set the record. Thanks, Fred
Not sure. That requires memory. But if mine still works as it should, there was the Zu Druid. Peachtree Audio Decco. Vinnie Rossi LIO. Cube Audio Nenuphar. Ilumnia Magister. Today the Vinnie Rossi L2 line stage. If I didn't forget anyone, that's 6 in 17 years. I'm suspicious I dropped someone. Srajan
HI Srajan, Glad to hear that nuggets of inspiration and wonder continue to dot your calendar. I'm not surprised. It happens here as well though in slightly different fashion...to a degree both businesses bank on inspiration. I know without it, we'd be done in under a year. The 'flagship' is the ship in a fleet that carries the admiral and tends to be the most impressive example therein. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Fred
I know the raw meaning of the word. My dad was in the German navy. He progressed through the ranks to at least Kapitän zur See if not above but I'm hazy on the final stripes and stars on his epaulettes since I left home at 17. It's how we use the word 'flagship' that doesn't really make sense to me. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I enjoyed Jarek's new designs and reading about their specifics in your review. The more-for-less sweepstakes may be at a relative high. What I'm hearing now was just not out there in the same quality nor at these price points 10 years ago. Of course the über end has gone the other direction. There's still that high middle ground. My eyes did prick up when I read about the active crossover coming before amplification. I have seen this before in multi-horn speaker systems. It worked very well. Best, Fred Crane
Yes, the Fram were a real wakeup call for me, too. As to active crossovers before amplification, that's pretty much the definition of an active crossover and what differentiates active from just powered speakers. Where Jarek really differs is that he uses DSP plus a traditional passive 1st-order filter. The DSP already knows what that filter does and includes it in its corrections as a global approach. That bit is quite unusual but it clearly works a charm. Srajan
Dear Srajan: I was just looking at your preview roster and saw that the thumb nail for the Kaiser monitor disappeared. Did something happen to that review? I was actually looking forward to it. Jeremy Young
Sharp eyes, Jeremy. Something did indeed happen. Nothing. A review loaner simply hasn't materialized. For the time being then, I've taken the preview down. It hasn't been deleted from my server so will be easily revived should a Furioso Mini sample still materialize. But I imagine that in the current economic climate, it can't be easy for Kaiser to juggle their main furniture business with their hifi division. I remember talking to Hans-Jürgen at the show last year. Due to very high manufacturing costs (Panzerholz, premium drivers, premium filter parts), their margins are quite low so as to not escalate the sell prices further. Meanwhile promoting an ambitious speaker brand with shows, reviews, advertising and the works is costly business. HJ might prefer to play it slow and steady. That's just an assumption but would seem sensible and explain why distributor/dealer orders must take precedence over reviewers. Srajan
Dear Srajan, just read your Raal review. Wow! I'm left with only one question. How do these compete against electrostatic headphones? You forgot to comment on such obvious competition! Vassili Hrontis
I didn't forget. I didn't have any electrostats on hand. I can't just make shit up. However, visit the growing thread on head-fi.org about the SR1a and you'll find an owner of Stax electrostats who just bought a pair of Raal Requisite and described the differences. In short, his Stax got very badly beaten up. A bit of Googling will get you there.
A word to our general readership: don't ask us for comparisons we cannot conduct because we lack the specific hardware or hardware combination you're curious about. It's what the equipment listing at the beginning of each review is all about. If it's not listed, we didn't have it. We're not dealers with massive inventories of brands and models. Having to still explain something so basic and obvious does get a bit tedious after all these years. So please, use your intelligence and stop asking for the impossible. The same goes for asking how something we just reviewed compares to something we reviewed 10 years ago. If we didn't have it side by side, such comments rely on just aural memory. Worse, the time gap could mean that our main system evolved in the interim or our room changed. Comparative reviewing the way we understand it isn't about aural memory. It's about actual A/B comparisons. Wherever we can, we'll conduct those. The rest we can't accommodate and asking about it won't squeeze blood from a stone. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I don't think I'm imagining it when I say your reviews seem to be getting longer with each passing year. Did you notice that? I don't mind, it's just a trend I'm spotting. Michael Jader
Well, my atittude remains unchanged. I feel that the subject matter should dictate the length of any review. Some pucks or cones don't merit the same length as novel technology in a loudspeaker. For example, the Raal Requisite SR1a ribbon headphone review I just finalized certainly became one of the longest I've yet written. But there was good reason. This would become the first review of a project with well more than 10 years of serious preceding R&D. It's new technology. It's genuinely different to also perform different. It involved a bi-continental collaboration between Serbia and the US. Just to properly cover the background, gestation and tech alone took 5 pages. Had another publication reviewed these first, all that ground would have been covered already. It would have become part of the company and product lore, been featured on the company website and I could have more or less jumped right into the listening impressions.
The Vinnie Rossi L2 review currently being written will also get just a bit longer for very similar reasons. I'm again first to break the story (unless Michael Lavorgna at Twittering Machines who was first to get a loaner publishes before I finish my assignment). But I can't rely on that. To do a proper job, I have to cover the tech and unique solutions involved. That takes up space.
But in general, perceived length is a function of our page layout. If I make the pages shorter, there'll be more of them to mean less scrolling. If I make them longer, there'll be fewer pages. Now that I've made the site adaptive to your device screen size, less scrolling particularly on a cellphone is a lot friendlier. By necessity, such narrow screens make each page already far longer than it presents on a desktop monitor. So your perception of lengthier reviews is for the most part a function of a higher count of shorter pages. Srajan
Hello Srajan, first of all let me thank you very much for the review of our Gold Note CD1000 MkII. I found it extremely nice and saying exactly with every single word what I think about the units. Generally speaking I also agree 100% about the quality of music played back via CD and that too many companies thought very prematurely that the CD player was dead. It reminds me of what happened 20 years ago with turntables. In fact I believe that there are billions of CDs around and millions of CD collections in homes which need to be either listened to or sold. Obviously there are people selling their CD disc collections as happened with vinyl where I know at least a few dozen people who sold their entire record collections only to rebuild them ten years later for 10 times the price. But there are also people who still want to listen to their CD collections and I suspect the younger generation might do something like they did with vinyl when they inherit the digital collections from their fathers. Maurizio Atterini
Hello. I bought Wyetech Sapphire amps several years ago after reading your glowing review. I love the amps. However, shortly after purchase I had to return one to Mr. Hebert because a resistor melted free from the board it was soldered to. He fixed it under warranty. The same thing happened months later but this time he blamed me for this, accusing me of sabotaging the amp. He agreed to fix it but I had to pay for repairs. Now years later, the other amp has developed a hum emanating from the chassis. I emailed him several times but did not get a reply. I then took the amp to a repair shop in New York City (Technitron) who found the problem to be one of the transformers. They cannot repair it so they called Mr. Hebert to buy a new one. He refused to sell them one and was reportedly not nice about it.
Since then I have emailed, sent a Federal Express letter and even telegraphed him asking to buy a transformer. I have heard nothing back. My listening room is very quiet and the hum is very noticeable. As a last resort, I thought I would ask you, someone he obviously respects, to ask him to please sell me or the repair shop a replacement transformer. Thanks for any help you might give. Paul Fellenbaum
Paul, I truly appreciate the difficulty you find yourself in. As a reviewer, it's simply not in my job description to arbitrate this type situation. I've not worked with or communicated with Wyetech Labs or Mr. Hebert for very many years. The only thing I can really do is publish your letter to serve as a warning to others. Asking to purchase a replacement transformer at your own expense and having it replaced at your own expense certainly sounds like a most reasonable request. I can think up no valid reason why a manufacturer would deny it unless they no longer had replacement parts or could no longer procure them. But at least then they could tell you that. Either way, your story doesn't reflect well on Wyetech's long-term customer service. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I went ahead and ordered the Kinki Studio EX-P7 preamplifier. My friend Vince Saw has the same Crayon CIA 1T integrated I do. He tried his Bespoke Audio preamp with it and heard notable improvements. Another friend of his uses a Wyred4Sound preamplifier with the same 1T and is also very happy. I could never afford a Bespoke or Nagra (at this point not even a W4S) so after your review, I turned my thoughts to the EX-P7. But I was hesitant because in your review of the Crayon, your impression with the Nagra Classic was that the Nagra slowed down the CIA 1T to some small extent. As you said in your review, anyone purchasing a CIA 1T for its speed would most likely not want to slow it down by using a pre with it.
However Vince does not experience that his Bespoke Audio preamp [a passive - Ed.] causes any slow-down to speculate that what you heard may have been due to the fact that your Nagra is tubed. That led me to once again consider the EX-P7. What convinced me to pull the trigger was what you said about about it compared to the Wyred4Sound and Nagra Classic. It had me believe that in your opinion the EX-P7 made a richer warmer more analogue sound than the W4S (albeit less hyper detailed) to be closer to the Nagra for a fraction of its cost. Based on that I decided to give it a try. It arrived two nights ago and has been playing ever since. I can tell you that right out of the box I was super impressed. It brought very noticeable improvements to the sound in every parameter known to audiophile ears. I am not going into great detail but will comment on two characteristics.
1. the one most readily perceived is improved tonal density and richness by rendering instruments and voices more lifelike. Instruments which on some tracks were sounding a bit thin like violins in some orchestral works are somewhat more substantial now. 2. audible space with a wider deeper soundstage and how the EX-P7 utilizes this space with respect to placement of instruments within that soundstage are much more natural.
The manual suggests that the EX-P7 requires 300 hours to reach its full potential. After only about 40 hours or so, I would be happy even if it did not change at all. That is how I am finding it so far. My perception may change of course. I will know more when the recommended run-in time has been achieved. By the way, do you know there is an upgrade chip for the Soundaware D300REF? I have already ordered mine and it should arrive shortly. It is very low cost and its insertion is supposed to be easy to do but does require some soldering. Peter
PS. I still am not able to find my master clock on line. I asked Alvin. He told me that it is manufactured by a private seller in China and there is no information about it. I asked him if people interested in it could purchase it from Vinshine Audio and he said they certainly could. So if you or any of your readers might be interested, that's how it can be had. To my ears it brought noticeable improvement to the contribution of the D300ref. I heartily recommend it.
Hello Srajan: That Raal ribbon headphone review turned out to become a very educational piece and I see it's still ongoing. Do you expect any major revisions after living with it longer? Samuel
This review is one of those rare instances where a writer encounters something truly novel and different to warrant digging a bit deeper to tell the complete story. That's a great privilege and responsibility. As to revisions, I don't expect any. The modified adapter box will land next week to experiment with shifting that line source de-emphasis value. I just received the tube output stage for the Gold Note CD-1000 MkII. This turned out to be a very potent 'steering wheel' on its sound. I will do an audition with that and the SR1a to see what happens if instead of rotating through amplifiers, one attacked the voicing issue at the source instead. Once the Vinnie Rossi L2 direct-heated triode preamp arrives, that'll make an appearance as announced already. If the Bakoon AMP-13R arrives in time and turns out to be powerful enough, that too will show up. And then the book on this assignment shall close. So again, no revisions expected, just additional data points to fill in a few remaining holes in my narrative. Srajan
Hi again, I'm happy to write that I ended up getting a pair of Boenicke W5. I sought them out based on your reviews and really love them. Thank you! I have them paired with a vintage Scott EL84 tube amp and it sounds wonderful especially at low/moderate volumes. I recently heard them with a Hegel amp and the speakers really rocked so I'm thinking that I should consider another amp, possibly the Hegel or maybe the Job Integrated. I'm wondering if you had a chance to hear the Boenicke W5 with the Job Integrated (or 225 amp)? Many thanks, hope all is well, Mike
The Boenicke do like power. My wife drives hers with an Aura Note 100-watter. I found the Job integrated to be excellent and since it includes a DAC and volume control, it really kills three birds with one stone. Srajan
Hi Srajan, thanks to you I've paired my SIT-1 with Nenuphar and they are truly glorious. But I'm thirsting for a DHT preamp. Where would you go for one of those? Gary
Allnic and Vinnie Rossi both make direct-coupled DHT preamps, meaning there's no output transformer or coupling capacitor between the direct-heated triode and your amplifier inputs. That takes out a common limiting factor on bandwidth and speed. The Allnic is nearly twice as costly and uses a multi-stage circuit with additional input/driver tubes. The Vinnie Rossi L2 uses just a single pair of output triodes with a 2.5/4.0/5.0V bias selector to make tube rolling possible between PX4/25 to 45 to 2A3 to 300B to more specimens. I've already heard and reviewed the Allnic. I'm already scheduled to review the Vinnie Rossi but won't have it until March sometime. I have a feeling that the L2 will be the one you ought to be looking at but won't know for certain until it gets here. I'll test it on the SIT-1/Nenuphar combo so my review will certainly be very specific relative to your own situation. The Vinnie Rossi preview is live already and the Allnic review is in the archives. Srajan
Srajan, greetings! Just read your review of Franck's super tweeters. Glad to see the old magician is still on his game. I purchased a complete loom of ASI Liveline cables when I lived in France. I visited Franck in his atelier at the time and he was really engaging: he played his guitar, gave a vinyl demonstration and provided a tour of his facility. What a terrific fellow! Cheers, Michael Ian Fanning
He really is a very talented individual who walks his own path unafraid of conventions. Hifi is lucky to have him. Srajan
Srajan, I just exchanged some emails with Franck. He said he's going to produce a diamond-plated magnesium version retailing for about €2'000/pr so a nice middle ground. The man is just amazing. I so enjoyed my afternoon with him many years ago in Paris especially as it followed a nice café lunch with some reasonable Bordeaux. Thanks again for providing a nice home for people who appreciate music and its faithful reproduction. Cheers, Michael
Srajan, thanks for the Mimí review. In my snail-like 'downsizing', I'm thinking of swapping my lovely Ocellia Calliope .21 Signatures—and my upgraded Leak 3090—for a singular. in both senses, much smaller speaker. Life moves inexorably on and a reduction of possessions beckons. After building of my Zigmahornets some years back, my prior disdain of small units has gon, though the 'reality' of the Ocellias wonderfully natural sound will be missed, just not the physical size. Add to the fact that the Mimía are made in Granada, one of my all-time favourite places. That could tempt me to consider visiting to collect them though those delivery boxes are a bit large for luggage! I'd love to get them to make a pair with cork sides to represent the Andalusian cork forests that abound. If they do, you read it here first! Might seem strange to swap such big units for the stone mini Mimí but it will fit the room. Plus, I've always liked the 'sideways' approach to hifi. The Zigs are made of polystyrene! Anyway, it's all your fault! Zigmahornets, Ocellias....and a few other things I've had! - all well reviewed by you! Javier, I'll be in touch. Anyone got room for Ocellias? Chris SkeltonChris' email if you want to follow up. And guilty as charged, sir. Lock him up, your honour!
Dear Srajan: Weren't you working on a review of that Russian/German R2R DAC with the very interesting technology? I can no longer find it and in fact don't even remember what the brand was. Volker Höningen
Correct. I started working on that Etalon Sound originally Wagner Audio review 3 years ago when we still lived in Switzerland. Since then the company restructured a few times, the original designer left, communications were exceptionally poor, delays endless. I finally decided against pursuing it further seeing how I had built up considerable anti bias if you will. But I understand that Matej from Mono & Stereo will be working on his own review with a clean slate so in due course, you should be able to learn more about Etalon's DreamDAC there. Srajan
Howdy Srajan: Just finished following up on all the embedded links in your developing super tweeter review [Avantages Audio - Ed.]. I had no idea how diamond tweeters are made. It still seems like a technical miracle but at least now I have a far clearer idea than before. I wanted to thank you for combining entertaining reads with such useful education. It's what sets you apart from other sites who simply regurgitate a manufacturer's own advertorials or use strange abbreviations as though we had a clue what those meant. Good show you guys. Please keep it up. Simon
Good day Srajan, I have asked this question through 6moons but not sure whether it reached you. My system is: Schiit Yggy + 2 simple passive resistors + 2 power amps (new Job 225 bought after reading your review + old power Arcam) + Triangle Delta speakers. I realized that the sound was better with two power amps in bi-amp mode. I like my system but two passives are not easy to use so I am considering to purchase a preamp. And obviously I would love to improve the sound while at it. Recently I've seen your reviews on the Kinki and Denafrips preamps whose prices are within my reach. Could I please ask for your recommendation, whether it would be worthwhile considering any of these and if so, which one sounds better to you? I read your comments about Hestia. I like 6SN7 tubes but at the same time appreciate transparency and speed. Would love to avoid purchasing something worse than my current setup. Do you prefer the Kinki over the Hestia? Many thanks, Robert
Unless you don't mind splitters, you'll need two RCA outputs on your new preamp unless the Arcam has XLR inputs. Hestia only has one RCA output whilst the EX-P7 has two. Sonically, the Kinki will be faster, leaner and more lit up, the Hestia denser, slower and warmer. Will either improve over your current scenario? Impossible to predict from the distance I'm afraid. SrajanMany thanks. The XRL of the Yggy sound better so I ordered XLR-to-RCA cables which will do the job with the Job. Robert
Hii Srajan, I read your review of the Kinki EX-M1 integrated today. You were truly impressed with it I see and it does sound like a wonderful integrated... at such a low price, yet! You are not the only one who sees it that way. Several other reviewers mightily praise this amp. It sounds ''perfect.'' That would be to good to be true. But maybe it is true? My questions are two: Did you purchase this amp for yourself? To the best of your memory, how would you compare it to the CIA 1T? Peter
Nothing is perfect, Peter. But for its price, this is a super-impressive powerful integrated amplifier in the Job 225 vein but more sophisticated. I didn't purchase it. And seeing I've not compared it to the CIA 1T which had long since left when the Kinki arrived, memory won't help. I'd have to triangulate my own two reviews of them just as you're doing now. Sorry but I'm not a machine which prints out report cards and keeps copies of each in my brain to spit out and tally up whenever convenient. Whatever I actually compare, I write about. Anything else would be pure speculation. So if I didn't write it, I didn't do it and as a reviewer, I'm not into speculating but describing what I really heard. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I've appreciated your help in the past. I wanted to ask you a pretty quick question. I owned the Job Integrated for awhile and I really enjoyed it. I ended up selling it at some point but now I find myself putting together a new system around the Harbeth C7es3. I actually heard the Harbeths with the Job about a year ago and it was a surprisingly good match. I'm wondering if A) there are any other integrateds you've heard since you reviewed the Job that stand out as being on the same level sonically for not crazy coin? and/or B) If not, is the Job 225 even better than the Integrated? I could possibly match a power amp with a tube pre if I went that route. Thanks, Todd
To go beyond either Job in integrated form, you'd opt Kinki; with separates, Denafrips. The Kinki would be the next level up from the Swiss on sound but in the same vein or sonic class, just more sophisticated. The Denafrips pre/power combo would be a bit slower but richer and heavier. Either are far more luxuriously built than the Job kit. Srajan
Hey Srajan, is it just me or does it seem that most of your previews have been in various stages of limbo for a lot longer than usual? Some seem to have shown for well more than 6 months. Perhaps you're just taking it a bit easy after all these years? In any case, best wishes for 2019! Gert
You're very perceptive. A lot of stuff is exceptionally delayed, particularly on "first reviews" where there are unexpected issues with first production, back-ordered parts, late circuit changes and such. In some cases people can't figure out how to ship to rural Ireland. They really struggle with their freight companies. In others, they've decided to issue a MkII variant since contacting me about the review so that set back the clock. One piece delivered developed an issue and I'm presently waiting for it to be picked up for repair. I have the Gold Note CD player and power supply on hand but not the tube output stage yet so I can't finish up that review. Some manufacturers are considerate about my break-in requests and spend weeks piling on hours so that too factors. Others ship to then tell me that their thing needs 300 hours (which at 8 hours a day makes for a bleeding 37.5 days of making noise before getting to it). Yet others are waiting for shipping materials or the slow sea-going container to arrive. In one case, final firmware rewrites are held up because a software engineer was struck down by lengthy illness. In other cases, communications are simply poor and my emails not answered so I'm in the dark as to status. Finally we had the Xmas and New Year's holidays, then the Chinese New Year. Winter tends to be a slower season all around. Anyhow, I'm bouncing back the balls as they land in my court. Like stakeouts, waiting is part of the job; without the junk food. My wife is a very good cook. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I've been following your unfolding Raal headphone review with great interest. As of this morning, I counted four pages already. Given your lengthy intro, do you expect these to be the new king of the headphone jungle? It's hard to imagine they wouldn't be. I really can't wait to read your conclusions and was hoping for some bread crumbs. Brad Hyram
I expect that king making shall depend on recording/mastering quality to an unusually acute extent. With good stuff, I'd expect to hear even more goodness than before. With bad stuff, I'd expect to hear more badness. How could it really be different if we apply the same high degree of magnification? I've heard open-baffle bass in my room to know how it differs from ported/sealed versions. Removing that distortion and overlay onto the midrange alone opens things up. Few of us have the opportunity to know, by contrast, just how used or brainwashed we are to cabinet colorations to consider them right and normal. When you first remove them, certain things fall away, others come to the fore. How one reacts to such a shift depends. And obviously home listening is (ought to be) for pleasure whereas monitoring/mastering is about finding faults and correcting them way deep in a mix. How will a rigorous truth teller apply itself to pleasure across a wide swath of recording quality? That remains to be seen. From the standpoint of dissecting complex mixes down to their individual strands, I do expect that these could set new strandards. So we'll see how it all pans out. Raal Requisite are still back-ordered on their Pelican cases so my shipment is held up until those get in. Until then, all I have are assumptions so no bread crumbs, sorry. Srajan
Dear Srajan: I've been following your Rike tube amp review with great interest. I really appreciate how you describe the basic "nothing added, nothing subtracted" situation because it made it clear that on soundstaging, treble, midrange, bass, dynamics and all the other stuff we usually fret about, there was no real difference. Then you added your "Y factor" about that back-lit illumination. Your choice of imagery of the framed photograph hanging on the wall then seeing its digital file on a Retina display where the light passes through the image really portrayed it. I now "see" the difference which finally had this whole tube/transistor debate make sense to me. Would you then say that it is rare to come across a tube amp which, on all the other counts, doesn't take away from the strong sides of solid state? Marco Stratzi
In my experience, yes - finding a tube amp which isn't softer and slower than a premium DC-coupled wide-bandwidth transistor amp is far from common. That's why I'm quite excited to have heard this Romy amp. On our 10" widebanders for which its power rating is excessive to operate the amp in the sweet spot of lowest distortion, the Rike gives me everything I expect of copasetic transistors like our FirstWatt SIT-1. Then it adds that radiant thing which is fabulously attractive. I just wish that I could get that without an amp that runs this hot and still has just a bit of hum; and without tubes that can misbehave as described. But it seems that this inside-out glow effect is peculiar to actual valves. I'm still wrestling that. The MySound Cube EL84 monos are en route already so I'll learn whether on the same speakers they could be stand-ins; or whether triode mode is a prerequisite. Srajan
Srajan, Doug here, one of your avid readers. Always appreciate your reviews and columns. A quick question if you don't mind. I was wondering if you heard of White Bird Amplification, at least in the form of their reputation, quality etc? I am interested in their Thunderbird mono class AB amplifiers with optional KT88 tubes. In addition, could you comment on two of their attributes, their optional "amorphous core" transformers (my knowledge of transformers is limited) and their claim that the power tubes do not require biasing because of their design and power output. Thanks again for all that you do. Doug
I've never heard of them before by either reputation or actual experience, sorry. That said, self-biasing tube amps are quite common. Exotic transformer core materials tend to get costlier but specialty makers use them as a point of distinction with attendant claims of superior sonics. To really know what such transformer cores add to the sound, one would need to compare them to conventional equivalents on the same amp. Until then, 'amorphous core' doesn't tell us much beyond being a legitimate exotic option for an output transformer like Finemet or cobalt cores which are costlier than conventional silicon steel. Srajan
Hi Srajan, belated congratulations on the site relaunch: much better and very appreciated by this homo smartphonensis. I’d like to ask you for some advice. I am in the mids of a main system rebuild and a pair of Amphion 7LS have presented themselves at a very competitive rate. Ever since your reviews of the Amphion offerings and also having followed the Gearslutz threads, this brand has been on my radar. I listened to the 3S and 3LS and the latter were really nice but with symphonic fare lacked a bit of the low-end reach that probably the 7LS have to offer - if not too much. I am not a bass head but not too shy of bass either - and my partner likes her bass indeed.
Your addendum about Amphion's capable of close-to-wall situations was very reassuring. Our room is 7 x 3.7m so rather narrow, speakers are on the long wall to only have about 5-8cm of distance to the front wall. Listening distance is ca. 3m. The Amphion footprint and small silhouette would be a good fit for the space. I just wish they’d be less tall. With your experience with this speaker: do you think they work well at relatively low levels? My partner and I listen almost exclusively in the evenings and we can’t go loud. We do long listening session, often 2 - 3hrs and our diet is 85% classical, some Pop, some electronica, also harder fare every once and then.
What I heard with the smaller Amphions was the right mix between musical and analytical - it would just be important to have this qualities consistent at lower levels. Amp is either a Crimson 620D or the internal amp of a Majik DSM/3. Having recently built a Pass Amp Camp Amp for my office system and scored a Nutube B1 kit in Nelsons Xmas giveaway, it is likely that I will acquire a XA25 for the main system eventually. The DSM is to stay for a while and Linn’s Space Optimisation should help with room modes and dialing in bass response. Carl
I'm happy with everything except unsure about that 5-8cm distance from the front wall. I had mine quite close but not that extreme; and my wall had built-in shelving to leave additional air space. I'm not saying it couldn't work well. I just haven't done it myself to be certain. Here an email to Amphion boss Anssi Hyvönen would be best just to tick off that loose item. On listening at lower levels, the extra radiation surface from the passive radiators and doubled-up mid/woofers really helps so all your sonic requirements would seem handled. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I know you'be been criticized by this individual in his blog more than once so I wondered whether you'd seen this? In it a reader of his blog got to hear Romy's personal system and shares his observations on DIYaudio. It made me wonder about hearing reviewer systems (including yours) and what I'd think. Have you heard any systems by colleagues over the years? Did you, like Josh, feel disappointed relative to your own expectations created by those reviewers over the years? Just curious whether you had any insights. Aaron
I just took a look, Aaron. I also went to Romy's blog and read his own reactions to Josh's post since he couldn't reply directly because he's been banned there. In my opinion, it all depends on the kind of music you listen to primarily; on how loud you like it; and whether you're in the nearfield or much further away. Romy's favourite fare which he comments on the most is classical including large-scale complex stuff like Bruckner. According to Josh, he also likes it very loud. If John Darko who fancies electronica heard Romy's system, I doubt he'd like it very much. And vice versa. A system carefully calibrated to excel at symphonica will not automatically excel at synthesized infra bass, synth drums, close-mic'd kick drums or wailing e-guitars. A lot of carefully curated classical can be very well recorded. That too makes a difference on what you can hear and care about to begin with to then fine-tune a system to excel at. If someone listened predominantly to compressed recordings of synthesized fare without real venue ambiance, I'd not expect their systems to be dialed for it. If I suddenly asked them to play back a premium recording with cubits of audible space, I'd be surprised if that ended up being a strong point of their setup. These are very basic examples to point at the various layers a system can explore depending on what one aims to do.
Would you like my system if you heard it? I have no clue except to ask, which system?
Unlike some people who invest all of their discretionary hifi funds into one big 'end-of-life' system, I deliberately keep around a variety of kit in each category to mix and match and change things in smaller less ambitious setups. The SIT-1/Nenuphar system is a very different proposition from a Hyperion/Druid VI combo which is very different from a Codex/Liszt pairing. I don't listen to large-scale classical. I find the attempt of cramming 70+ people into the physical soundstage dimensions of our normal rooms perfectly silly. It's just not gonna happen. I've played in an orchestra. I don't view that experience reproduceable. I prefer to reserve it for a live performance. I've heard Stevie Wonder, Pat Metheny, Dhafer Youssef, Lila Downs, Andreas Vollenweider, the Taksim Trio and many others live, too. But that kind of style and repertoire isn't what I played myself. Now I don't apply the same expectations to its replay. And I don't tend to listen very loud either, finding that quite fatiguing.
So, would you like my system with your own kind of music? If we had a day wherein I'd collect your feedback from whatever system was set up first to keep swapping things in and out toward conforming more to your personal tastes, I'm reasonably certain that I could come up with something which was at least 'close'. But if I expected you—or you expected yourself—to love whatever happened to be set up when you got here, then I'd rather doubt it - unless what you and I listen for and to sync'd up by pure chance.
In the end and like Josh found, it'll always sound like a hifi system with speakers. What else would it sound like? It's not live music!
As to the systems of colleagues, I've heard some. Will such an experience head-on meet one's own expectations based on how they describe it? That really depends on whether we use the same language to begin with; and what our evaluation criteria are. The thing to remember is, you only have yourself to please. Romy shouldn't care whether Josh likes his system and you needn't worry about whether I'd like yours. But since most of us suffer egos, the likelihood is that we'll react like Romy did to Josh's feedback. It's quite easy to be an opinionated critic. When critics themselves are criticized... that's when there suddenly can be a fire in the kitchen. Srajan
Hey Srajan, just finished your Kroma Mimí review and am left with just one question. Why no award? Surely this one deserved it. Or have your standards changed or I overlooked anything? I'd really like to know so I understand how to read things going forward. HolgerGiven that I purchased the pair, I felt that adding an award was like bragging about myself. It just didn't seem right. But when it comes to what an award tends to do—which is signal a writer's enthusiasm—what could speak louder than the same writer buying himself a new toy? The other option was to give an award but not mention that I bought the samples. On balance that felt deceptive since sooner or later, this pair will probably make an appearance in another review. Should I then explain it away as an endless loan? Not right either. So that's what you overlooked then... Srajan
Dear Srajan, one thing confused me a bit about your latest Denafrips review. They make DACs all the way up to your Terminator which I believe costs somewhere around €4'500 yet their separate preamp and amp are priced more like their entry-level converter. Doesn't this suggest to you that something bigger and better is already in the works? Pjotr Rasnik
Actually, the Terminator is (was?) €3'600 when I reviewed it but if we add at least 20% VAT for EU deliveries, your number isn't far off. And yes, I've wondered the same thing but don't know more at this time except that the flagship Artemis headphone amp is in the wings. Will Denafrips at some point in the future have bigger separates to add socketry and power? It's well possible. But for now, the Hestia & Hyperion are silly good and sufficiently kitted out and powerful enough to serve the vast majority. In fact, my loaners are en route to Italy for home-demo trials with a registered group of interested parties. If you keep your eyes on Vinshine's FaceBook page, you should see first user comments in about a month I'd expect. That might help get you off the fence. Srajan
Hello Srajan, I've been following your slowly developing story about the Simon Lee relaunch with great interest. Like you, I've loved his earlier work and am happy to hear he's coming back. Do you have any idea how close he might be to 'go global', i.e. sell outside of South Korea through regular dealers? Buying mail-order at $4'500 isn't something I'd be prepared to do. With best wishes, Craig Holton
I have zero insight into that, Craig. I imagine the same holds true for Simon. Unless I'm mistaken, my forthcoming AIO review will be the first English writeup outside of his domestic press. How many more reviews it will take, of just one product or some of the others as well, here and elsewhere, until there's sufficient dealer interest to place orders? I think that's way up in the air. That's why I very specifically state in my introduction that this isn't a review about anything you can presently buy unless you live in South Korea or order direct. Wishing it to be different doesn't make it so. Perhaps Simon should contract with Alvin Chee of Vinshine Audio who is doing a bang-up job for Denafrips? Srajan
Srajan, I really enjoyed your latest Kroma review. Even though you own quite a lot of speakers already, you still fell for it. I found that rather telling - and amusing, like seeing a guy's New Year's resolutions all go to hell. Would you still call its treble still slightly soft even with your Bakoon or Job 225 amps? That's the only aspect which has me hesitate. I happen to love a wide open top end. Ian McKenny
Yes. Compared to our Aptica with smaller ceramic mid/woofer handing over to a hard dome tweeter, Mimí is softer. That's clearly a very deliberate design decision one must agree with. No matter your amp—here I don't know any more open on top than the Bakoon—will alter that. But I propose it's exactly this voicing which contributes to making this speaker so sonically attractive. Granted, I already have the alternative. You're probably just trying to settle down with one speaker as all normal households should. That's where I don't believe in monogamy - but only because my day job can justify such excess and my tax accountant actually encourages such business expenses. But again, if a maximally explicit treble is important to you, the Kroma won't do it for you, sorry. Srajan
Hello Srajan, it's been a few years since I asked you about the Bakoon amp. I never upgraded from 11R to 12R to gain the extra 5 watts. I have lived happily with mine but have not yet found the perfect speaker partner. The rest of the family prefer one with a small footprint. But speakers with high sensitivity that can work with the 10 watts of the Bakoon seldom come in small packages. Most of them are too big and not visually appealing to the others in the family. I recently had the possibility to buy a pair of B-stock soundkaos Wave 40 in black but my wife said that she would feel as if Darth Vader was looking at her in the living room. I found them quite beautiful so our preferences differ. I am currently running the Bakoon with Blumenstein Orcas, a wonderful single-driver speaker with a warm character that has lovely tone and works very well with acoustic instruments and small ensembles. But a 3-inch driver in a 20m² room has limited dynamics and you sometimes feel that you are seated in the back rows in the concert hall.
Therefore I am now thinking of finding a speaker that has the virtues I appreciate with the Bakoon – great clarity with excellent detail but not too bright or edgy and fully enjoyable at low volumes – and to buy an amp that works well with that speaker. One of the candidates would be the Albedo Aptica you own. It is a compact beautiful speaker that, according to your review, works well at low volumes and has the same clarity in the presentation that I like with the Bakoon. Even if the sensitivity is a low 85dB, you indicate that the Aptica can work with lower power quality amps. I understand that 10 watts from the Bakoon wont sufficient but do you think that any of the First Watt amplifiers could work well? Best regards, Christer Lagvik
The FirstWatt F6 or F7 work very well with the Aptica. I’d go after the F7. That’s 25/50wpc into 8/4Ω and plentiferous in your size room. Mine is five times the size and the FirstWatt still is enough. Srajan
Hello Srajan, in the end I didn't go the Aptica route and still have the Bakoon 11R driving a pair of 3-inch single drivers. I am following your evolving Kroma Mimí review with interest. Any chance you will ask Mimí to take your 15W Bakoon for a waltz? With a sensitivity of 92dB, Mimí might consider that amp to be a charming cavalier. Even the little brother with only 10 watts could perhaps be a candidate in a small room though Kroma suggest 15 watts as a minimum. All the best, Christer
Yes, I'll take Mimí for a Bakoon ride. If it works out, I'll later use the inbound AMP-13R for comparison on the same speaker. SrajanSrajan,
I noticed that the waltz with Bakoon and Mimí turned out rather well! My listening space is about 3.5x6 meters so Mimí could definitely be of interest. But considering how I have started to really appreciate the charm of single drivers, Cube Audio may very well be a better candidate. That company has recently gained a Swedish importer so now I have a chance to audition. One common disease amongst audiophiles is the need to swap gear constantly. There's always a novelty that might be better than what you currently have. Another version of that flue is the difficulty of deciding which component to buy because there are so many options. I am suffering that latter variety. It is better for the wallet but can be frustrating. On the grave stone of Swedish writer Fritiof Nilsson Piraten it says, "Here rests a man who was in the habit of always postponing everything. However, in the end he improved and really died on 31 January 1972." Hopefully I won't postpone my next loudspeaker choice that long but there are some coming reviews on 6moons that need to be read first. Regards, ChristerThere'll always be coming reviews on 6moons that need to be read first - until one day there won't be. Perhaps you'll need to wait for that day? Srajan
Dear Srajan, thanks for publishing parts of my mails – that's nice. I am feeling a bit strange because of my comments on an electrical product. Using big words isn't usual for me but at the same time it feels nice to share them with you. After being a hifi enthusiast for about 40 years, I was always looking for more excitement through better gear but over time some natural cooling down of my passion took place. After doing distribution for more than 15 years, my view on hifi got ever more neutral. Now if someone raves about a product, my reaction is mostly 'it seems fit to his taste' or 'it seems to fit well into his system', not 'I must hear this'.
When KS first introduced his Allnic L-10000 to me, he said I would be shocked. And I was. It is exciting to have all of these attributes like a huge soundstage and incredible dynamics at the same time. But more interesting to me was that I learned from this unit. First, if all the attributes come together at the same time, you get (and this reads boring) naturalness. What else could you get? Second, this naturalness not only transports music as merely the network of played notes but, now comes the beauty, by recreating all the subtle details of the acoustical happenings in their proper context, it syncs you with the heartbeat of the very moment when the music was recorded. That's the bliss of the experience. And because we are listening to recordings, we can go there over and over again. For me, that's the real enjoyment. I honestly want to thank KS Park for making this possible.
"We only live once – but that's forever". Mooji
Kind regards, Peter
Thanks, Peter. I'm presently working up the competing Vinnie Rossi L2 review. That unit should arrive next month and I'll learn whether it revisits the same ground or, perhaps, goes even further. Srajan
Dear Srajan, what makes the L-10000 special is not the use of 300B. I had the Manley 300B preamp here which didn't make me sweat. The unique thing about the L-10000 is that KS managed to build a stable circuit without any capacitors or transformers in the signal path. So it is only tubes. That's what makes it so fast and pure. I think he is working on a cheaper model now with the same circuit concept but no DHT. Should have similar advantages. He never used a 300B in a preamp before. Normally that doesn't make too much sense. Besides cosmetic reasons for those who like it big, his SEPP circuit demands the 300B in a p/p configuration to get the lowest output impedance. What is the input stage of the L2? Solid-state? Or directly driven 300B? Peter
After doing the Allnic review, I think that I understand the basics of Kang-Su's circuit well enough. It's still a more complex circuit where you're not just hearing the DHT but how it is being modulated by the two tubes preceding it. Vinnie's spud circuit is far simpler. No driver tube, no input tube, just one DHT per channel. No transistor, no transformer, no capacitor coupling, direct-coupled like Allnic – but with 120dB S/NR and bandwidth out to 900kHz. So whilst Allnic's circuit is unique for its particular ingredients, it's not unique for eliminating coupling capacitors or output transformers. That particular honour it shares with the LIO DHT and L2. What Vinnie's simpler circuit means at the ear remains to be heard of course. With the Allnic already back in Holland, I won't be able to conduct any direct A/B. And only calling upon memory I don't find reliable. So you're correct, the use of 300B isn't unique. What makes these units different is direct-coupling their DHT to the amp following. Incidentally, the Vinnie Rossi isn't limited to 300B but can also take numerous 2.5 and 4V DHT specimens with the simple flick of a switch. If you read my preview on it, you'll get a good idea of the design basics. Given how much I enjoyed the Allnic, the fact that the L2 sells for about half, is more compact and visually more attractive then uses only two not eight tubes has me personally quite excited. Srajan
Hi Srajan, just read your review of Tony Minasian's Moon Jazz. I'll contact Tony and get him to send me the .wav files. Thanks for keep your community posted on Tony's efforts! Cheers, Michael Fanning
Our man Tony is definitely working up a sweat. While you're at it, also ask him for the five unpublished tracks. Since he has 'em, he could well be willing to part with them if asked nicely. They were insufficient to make for another album but they're quite thrilling in their own right. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I just read your reviews of the Allnic tube preamp and monos over the holidays. Interesting how you loved the preamp but not the amplifiers. Given your intervening years with fast highly resolving solid-state amps, do you think that maybe your ears have simply outgrown the appeal of traditional SET amps? Holger
That's an excellent question which I've asked myself in the wake of that experience. I'm leaning toward answering with 'yes' if we underlined 'traditional'. If we expand the scope to 'non-traditional' to point at things like David Berning's solution; to pentodes with far simpler output transformers than are necessary for the popular filament-driven triodes... then I suspect the answer will be 'no' when I use our Cube Audio Nenuphar widebanders. Those are ideal loads for this type amp. Now it's simply a question whether a tube amp will have enough of the low noise floor, resolution, bandwidth and speed which our transistor amps have me used to. Hence I'm very curious about the incoming MySound EL84 monos and Rike Audio SRS551 integrated. If those shake out, I would rephrase your question to having outgrown the appeal of traditional single-ended no-feedback amps with direct-heated triodes. I'm quite certain already that the really best place to exploit DHT is as a line-stage voltage gain device. That Allnic preamp was spectacular and I expect the incoming Vinnie Rossi L2 to be that if not more given its simpler circuit and higher specs. Srajan
I don't know if you have heard the Playback Design gear but I've always loved their DACs built around discrete differential FPGA way before anybody else decided to explore them. I always thought that there was a natural ease to their sound but couldn't really justify the price. And then last week a used integrated IPS3 in pristine condition came up for sale as a steal. So I got it.
It has their entry-level DAC built in but that's all relative. It has no problems eclipsing the SOtM and it gives the Aurender a run for its money especially on DSD.
The amp is magnificent, 130 watts into 8Ω, 260 watts into 4Ω of very sweet and nuanced power. Very much like the Gryphon 120, a bit less on the dynamic edge but effortless nonetheless with that same tonal density that lets all the details and nuances through. Completely silent, bigger imaging and layering than the 2A3 integrated - I can't believe it's such an obscure piece of kit. Certainly leaves behind the McIntosh, Simaudio and Mark Levinson integrateds with DACs I heard recently and the only one I would rather own is the Gryphon. But new that is 50% more than the IPS3 and 7 times more than what I paid for this pristine used example.
With the Aurender, it makes for a wonderful minimalist system. I am streaming from the Aurender into the IPS3 but also have the balanced connection going so can easily compare to the Aurender's DAC by just switching inputs. There is something to be said for simplicity. Have a very happy 2019! Frederic
I've never heard Playback Design in our crib except for the Andreas Koch portion of the Nagra HD DAC I reviewed. Which is telling. Nagra are very engineering-driven to design whatever they need in-house including winding their own transformers. But for digital, they went to Andreas Koch who probably forgot more about DSD than all the other guys together ever knew. So I'm not surprised to hear that even their entry-level DAC performs as well as you say. Congratulations on an excellent find! Srajan
Hi Srajan, I have a Soundaware D300Ref. I have been listening to it for a while now and I love it. What a wonderful piece of kit!! It works so well with the Denafrips Terminator. As you wrote in your review of it, it improves the sound even when only used as a USB bridge but the best playback seems to be from the SD card. From the SD card, I have found the sound to be more substantial... voices and instruments fuller and more solid for want of a better word. Tonal density? What you may not know because Soundaware have not yet posted it on their website is that there is a new firmware upgrade. A friend of mine managed to get an advance copy and he sent it to me.
I downloaded this new firmware onto my D300Ref about an hour ago. This new firmware is set up for MQA and also makes the machine Roon Ready. But I am finding, as did my friend, that it also brings considerable improvement to the sonic performance even without whatever benefits may be brought to the equation by Roon or MQA. I am finding that instruments and voices are even denser and more tonally saturated now... much more real sounding. Plus the soundstage seems wider and better sorted out.
I was listening to a recording of a Black gospel choir and it sounded so real that it was sending chills up and down my spine. While being aware that I could be simply imagining it, to my ears this improvement is not subtle. So I am writing to you to see if you have heard of this new firmware, if perhaps you already have it, and, if so, if you have experienced the same type of improvement that I have.
I am now running a pair of Harbeth M30.2 40th Anniversary speakers. I find them to be absolutely wonderful speakers. The Wavetouch Anteros (which I still have) are amazingly good speakers especially for the price. In my opinion, they were a big step up from the the Spatial Audio Master Triodes which, to my ear, always had a hard edginess in the vocals and highs, especially on violins. The Anteros went a long way to eliminating that harshness/edginess. When I got the Harbeths, that edginess was entirely eliminated... voices sounded very natural... not strained at all. There's also an upgrade coming for our Denafrips Terminator which is supposed to further improve its sonic performance. It was supposed to be released before the end of the year but they did not make it. My understanding is that it will be available this month. Peter Borelli
I didn't know about the firmware updates for the D300Ref and Terminator coming up. I'll ask Alvin Chee about them since he handles both products. That's a nice surprise. Thanks for alerting me to a free upgrade. I couldn't care less about MQA and Roon isn't important to me either but better sound in general - any day and thrice on Sundays. Srajan
PS: I've installed the new firmware and agree that on standard 16/44.1 files as well as higher sample-rate material, the machine now forwards a digital signal which makes our Terminator DAC sound fuller and richer. Of course PS Audio too have made a tradition of releasing iterative firmware for their everything-DSD machines where each release is announced as a major sonic improvement. That's part of the appeal of using re-programmable chips. Of course certain very labour-intense math may need new FPGA hardware with higher processing power like for example resampling PCM on the fly to DSD 512. It's likely that our versions of the D300Ref will never be able to do that unless their FPGA was wildly overspec'd for the original functionality to anticipate such an eventual development. And higher DSD rates are the target for the new Terminator firmware I'm told. But how that will affect its PCM performance I don't know yet. And Denafrips and Soundaware are two different companies. It just so happens that these two models work so very well together. Srajan
PPS: After three days of 'critical' listening, I can confirm that this firmware made a sound improvement, bringing it very close to my APL AS2 with TDA-1541 and on par with the iFi Pro DSD with Mutec master clock and MCRU external power supply. Both APL and iFi have the direct SD card input so no need for the D300Ref. As to Nenuphar, after several months of comparing amps, I can confirm without any lingering doubt that the Berning ZOTL with VT-52 or Elrog 300B sounds best to my ears in my acoustically optimized room. There is 'electricity' to the sound without drifting into the bright or forward, very life-like and simply feeling right. Drums beating, no need for more. Bass on the Nenuphar substantially improved after four months but occasionally I must confess that I still turn on the Voxativ sub for some electronica and also some classical. Dan
Hi Srajan, hope you are having a decent holiday season in Ireland! I just purchased a SOtM dCBL-CAT7 cable and based on your May 2015 review of a similar cable, wonder where I should put it in my audio chain. I have a Roon Nucleus music server tethered by a Blue Jeans Ethernet cable from my router. I also have a switch with another Blue Jeans Ethernet cable tethered to my Devialet 200. Methinks the best place for the SOtM cable is between the router and the Roon Nucleus. Any thoughts? Michael Fanning
I'd think of this like a filter for drinking water which you want right behind your faucet. I'd put it closest to the DAC so there’s no subsequent place at which HF noise can still enter the digital data stream. If the Devialet handles D/A conversion, I’d put it there. But of course your ears may tell a different story. Lke I would have to, experimenting then is the name of the game. Srajan
Hi again, many thanks for the quick reply! Yes, the Devialet handles the D/A conversion so I'll test the SOtM cable there first! I'll report back. Cheers, Michael
Hey Srajan, looking forward to reading about your time with the Vinnie Rossi preamp. Quick question. What tubes will you try it with? I'm particularly curious about the Japanese 300B Vinnie recommends. Jimmy
The quick answer, whatever comes with it. When I divested myself of all my resident tube amps years ago, their tubes too departed. So my prior stash is entirely depleted except for a replacement set of small triodes for my Nagra Classic Pre. It'll depend on what Vinnie has on hand and decides to include. Options for currently made 300B alone are astonishing; and that's just one of the many types one could roll. So I really don't know. I do know that the ElectroHarmonix 300B Gold are his chosen stock tubes so those are a given. Whatever else shows up will be a surprise. With luxury power triodes, one really doesn't hit up their makers to send out review loaners for a tube shoot-out. They can no longer sell them afterwards; and whatever findings on tube differences shake out are specific to that particular component. So the whole notion is a bit of a raw deal for them. Neither should one expect an electronics maker to shell out big coin just to satisfy a reviewer's curiosity over endless tube options. I was extremely lucky that Tektron's Polish importer Pawel was so generous with his review loaner. But that's not the norm nor is it to be expected. Srajan
Dear Srajan: With your preview section showing upcoming reports on Rike, Rossi and MySound and your recent Allnic and Tektron pieces, you're back on tubes. That's great for me because I prefer them over transistors. Could you tell me what other brands you're considering covering for 2019? Charles Davis
It's really the Cube Audio Nenuphar which opened those doors. It's not primarily a matter of speaker efficiency. Our 15wpc Bakoon drives our 85dB Albedo Audio Aptica to all the SPL I want in a smaller room. It's primarily a question of whether a speaker deals well with high amplifier output impedance. Now that I have a sample which wants that, classic tube amps are again sensible. That said, my MO over many years now has been responsive, not strategic. I mostly just respond to review solicitations. I rarely go after something from my end - mostly only when the loaner pipeline runs dry or gets clogged up by compound delays. Occasionally I learn about something which seems really interesting to dispatch an "I'm interested, are you?" email. I did that with MySound because I very much like EL84 and because now 12 watts are overkill. But I've not strategized on what tube gear to review this coming year. If things continue as they have, it'll be a matter of who is ringing my bell. I'm generally not keen on ultra-high voltage rails which leaves out certain very big bottles; massively paralleled tubes; or ultra-priced things in general. But I'm always curious to hear a tube I've never heard before. That will be the case with Rike's Romy 20SE. And hearing a spud DHT circuit in the Vinnie Rossi L2 will be off the beaten path as well. So we'll see what 2019 brings. You can always petition your favourite maker/s to approach us. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I read with great interest Pat McGinty's manifesto on DSP'd active speakers. Technically, most if not all of what’s presented is absolutely correct, including the evidence of the conclusion. Yes, DSP and actively driven speakers are the future. I do feel however that the information is polarized because it assumes the (all) source material is digital and standardized and it is not. Digital runs from MP3 all the way to DSD x or ultra high- rez PCM and everything in between (MQA?). Assuming the DSP magic happens in 24/96, everything below or above will eventually be dithered prior to processing. Then the processed bits are converted to analog for amplification and playback and in all the processing, some bits will eventually be lost in noise. This is an aspect where I think passive still has an edge: unlimited S/N ratio. I have been very impressed with recent efforts from Kii Audio, however I feel note decay seemed shortened a bit compared to super-efficient passive speakers for example. You spent decades trying DACs and amps and cables and speakers, each time arriving at a different conclusion (sound quality, color, texture, depth, luminance, density…). Will DSP end your illustrious career? I certainly hope not. Best from Montréal, Robert Gaboury
I didn't get the assumption that all sources are digital. Analog signal simply gets digitized where the assumption is that whatever minimal losses are incurred pale by comparison to the gains which are made when we replace passive filters with DSP. Yes, Pat's happens in 24/96; far beyond the vast majority of CD-quality music. Anything beyond 24/96 is really just the audiophile fringe. And with the vast majority of music being delivered digitally today, D/A conversion occurs whether in a standalone super DAC fronting a passive speaker; or in the DAC built into an active speaker. Same difference. Relative to the Kii Three, I heard the same foreshortened decays. I attributed it to nCore's very high negative feedback and concomitant high damping across the entire bandwidth. I wondered whether extreme damping is desirable in the upper frequencies. But even if one booked that aspect as a minor demerit, all the other advances which the Kii Three brings to the table absolute crush the passive competition one could assemble for the same price (having to include a complete electronic stack). At least that's my read. Finally, there's no rule that demands that active DSP speakers must use class D power. It's simply the most and most compact power for the money. But Class A/B could be used instead; and tweeter/midrange amps could deliberately apply lower damping if class D's vise grip were considered unattractive. As always, what we present in our reviews and editorials just represents someone's opinion. It's perfectly fine to disagree with it. Srajan
PS: Robert subsequently submitted a link to material which doubts whether for heavy DSP like PEQ, high-order filters et., 24-bit math is sufficient to maintain 16-bit dynamic range. One excerpt reads: "... to maintain the 96dB signal-to-noise ratio for 24-bit processing of second-order IIR filters, a double-precision filter structure was required to ensure that the digital equalizer output's noise floor was greater than 96dB. Chen researched various second-order realizations to determine the best structure when performing 24-bit processing on a 16-bit input. In one test case, he implemented a single high-pass second-order filter using direct-form-1 structures, findings these implementations to yield an S/NR between 85 - 88dB, lower than the 96dB theoretical maximum of the ideal 16-bit A/D converter." Based on this paper, it would seem that heavy processing well beyond simple 1st-order filters executed digitally could well rely on 32-bit or higher DSP. That's where us lay folk bow out and leave the ongoing discussion on the exact math requirements to the digital experts.
Hello Srajan: I enjoyed your return to tube amp reviews and noted your reference to Dan's Berning Siegfried. I'm not sure whether you know that Linear Tube Audio took on manufacture and sales for certain licensed Berning designs. This brought accessibility to lower price points, bringing Berning's OTL circuitry to more people. Can we hope for a LTA review in your pages in 2019? Horst Rüdinger
I'm very aware of LTA and contacted them during their earlier days when they weren't interested. I contacted them again recently about their new Ultralinear amplifier but again they don't seem interested in working with us. Unless I bought one to review it which isn't my business model; or they change their mind... I don't see this happen, sorry. Manufacturers aren't required to play the review game; or play it with us. It does look like very interesting product and as you know, I've been exceptionally impressed with my friend's Siegfried which remains his favourite amp after all these years. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I hope you are well. I contacted you a while back when I was using the Octave v80 and you were very helpful. I hope you don't mind that I am reaching out again. I came across your review of the Bakoon AMP-41 and I am very intrigued by this amp. I never heard of this company before. Does this amp sound like other amps from more popular brands? What type of listener do you think would buy the Bakoon amp? Thanks again for your reviews and audio insight. Adam
Why would you be intrigued by this amp if from the very same review, you still have no notion what it sounds like? That review clearly mentions the Nagra Jazz/LinnenberG Allegro combo as sounding very similar, then explains where the Bakoon differs. It mentions the Crayon CFA.12 and Goldmund Telos 590NextGen as belonging into the same class. All of these are components which I've reviewed so you read about them in our archives for further triangulation. Have you done that? Because then you'd already know what kind of listener would buy the Bakoon: the type listener who enjoys this particular kind of sound. What kind of sound that is these reviews describe to the best of my ability. If my ability fell short of your needs at the time when I actually had those components to write about them, why would it be any better now that they've long since left? Srajan
Dia dhuit Srajan (I think that's hello in Gaelic): I contacted Tony Minasian after reading your review of the Tonian Trio album. I ended up purchasing wav files of the two CDs you reviewed. You're spot on: both are extremely well recorded. Why don't the record companies employ his techniques so we can have non-compressed music? Cheers, Michael Ian Fanning
My question precisely. Without doubt, the CD format is capable of a lot more than we usually hear. If Tony can record to 16/44 with 50dB of dynamic range, so could others. Why don't they? Why do they tell us we need 24/96 (or more) whilst they compress the living daylights out of CD? Something doesn't add up. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I'm curious about the Gold Note amplifier and have been patiently waiting for your review. What's your status on that review, please? Will it be much longer? Was something not working properly and you had to send the amp back? Horst
After I'd penned the preview expecting two loaners (for stereo/mono comparisons) to follow quickly, I was informed that their engineers were revisiting the design for a MkII version. That and apparently really stout holiday business has postponed delivery of my samples. At this rate, I don't really expect to see them until some time in the new year. When a company can only build so much and has more orders from paying customers than they can readily accommodate, itchy reviewers simply must wait and dealers/distributors take precedence. That's just good business. So hold your horses; or let them run to elsewhere. Srajan
...I forgot to say - congratulations on the update to your website! It looks better than it ever has; and now is smart phone friendly. That must have been quite the project to take on! Vinnie Rossi
Hey Srajan - congrats on your site revision. The mobile site looks beautiful and works great. A very nice improvement. And your comments about covering shows struck a chord. Here in the US, regional shows seem to be an attempt to make up for the dwindling few retailers. But you don't see many guys at them actually writing checks. Happy days! Pat McGinty
Writing checks. Do people still do that? Switzerland had abolished them altogether after French banks reported far too many man hours spent on chasing down bad checks. But your point is of course crystal. Unlike many forum posters who seem to believe that industry people are into audio as a matter of big-hearted charity or being independently wealthy saints, we are just like any other business wo/men - into it to make a livelihood which demands profits. And every business must weigh expense versus return. Proper hifi shows too are a business and its organizers too must make a profit or close down.
Big international shows are an opportunity for manufacturers to meet all/most of their distributors in one place at one time. That's rather more cost-effective than traveling to see each of them in their home country; unless one only has two or three international distributors and can live off that. Newbie makers make their first noise at such events and hope to attract press coverage and sign on their first dealers or importers. But smaller shows and pure consumer shows don't fulfill that function. Not being a manufacturer, I can't speak to how attendance there furthers one's business. But it must or such shows would only have empty rooms. Can they really take the place of what dealers used to do, however? I'm not sure and it seems, neither are you. Srajan
I notice that the car guys hold shows almost exclusively to generate press, not to write sales. But the boat guys do it entirely to write biz. Gun and art guys too. Their show guys sell their shows as buying opportunities. I'd be a lot more interesting in showing if I thought it likely to write enough biz. But that has never yet happened. Our customer would much rather tease himself with his choices for months on end than step right up and pull the trigger. Pat
It'd be interesting to hear from other hifi manufacturers how this math works out for them. And it could be mighty hard to quantify what just showing up generates in follow-on business over the years afterwards. It could be a bit similar to advertising where sheer stubbornness—being seen over and over again—creates brand recognition and cachet, then desirability. I do know that some makers sell most or all of their show gear at a not-quite-new discount right on closing day which pays for their attendance in full if not better. Srajan
Srajan, I just reread your Munich show report of this year. At the end, you covered the Newcomer's Corner with a direct-drive turntable and a tube amp in a composite chassis. Have those two makers contacted you for a review? Both their products looked very interesting and I would love to know more. Cheers, Bernd Jørgensen
Yes and no, Bernd. Onkk, the maker of that record player, is scheduled to make a delivery/presentation to Marja & Henk next month after which they'll write a review. The Greek valve amp in that very trick chassis hasn't checked in with us since my report so I'm not sure what its current status is. You'd have to contact them via their website and inquire yourself. Srajan
Srajan, quick question: did you ever complete the review on the Audiozen Lysios? The only review on 6moons that I can find says "to be continued." I am still intrigued by this amp and wanted to know your thoughts. Thanks again for all the great audio reviews! Doug
I did finish that review last year. However, when the legacy site was first copied/imported into the new data base; and then scanned again just before we went live... 14 reviews slipped through the cracks, i.e. were captured during their preview phase. We've rescanned those slippery weasels and you can now read that review in its entirety as it was published last year. Sorry for the oversight. Srajan
Srajan, thanks for the update. I was now able to read your article on the Audiozen Lysios amplifier. And indeed it sounds like a great amplifier, only falling short of really expensive amplifiers in the external cosmetics department. I have the Audiozen Insight preamp and enjoy its simplicity being paired with a couple of class D mono amplifiers. I couldn't help wonder if it might sound even better paired up with its proper mate, 'better' of course being a relative term. I suppose I should say that I'm always looking for more definition and revealing qualities while never wanting to exaggerate the coloration of sound. Doug
One thing good class D is good at is resolution. That's because properly designed switch-mode power supplies can be very quiet to give a high signal-to-noise ratio. And that's key for fine detail. On that count, I'd not necessarily expect the Lysios to offer more. Given its far wider bandwidth however, I'd predict a rather different top end with more air. And I'd also predict a different handling of the power region where class D can be very damped and dry. Srajan
Dear Srajan Ebaen, I’ve just read your remarkable piece about the Pantheon. I’m looking to complete my Voxativ Ampeggio with multi-way speakers as an alternative for my Zanden 6000. Would the Pantheon fit the bill? Kindest regards, Johan-Frédérik Hel Guedj
I guess I don't understand your question. How does one complete one nearly full-range speaker with another? I'd like to be useful but at present I'm mystified. Srajan
As I said: as an alternative to the Ampeggio, meaning I could alternate between Voxativ or Pantheon. Would the Pantheon bring a larger well-defined scene to big orchestral music? I listened to the Pantheon under sub-par conditions with an amplifier which gave it bloated bass and not yet with my Zanden. Johan
Even in my 100sqm prior room, the Pantheon nearly had too much bass. And I used proper high-power transistor amps. I doubt that a valve amp even of Zanden pedigree would be ideal. Also, unless you had a very large room, I'm not positive that your prior sub-par experience in the bass would be 100% corrected. Otherwise, yes, orchestral music with its complexity and sheer mass would benefit from a multi-way design with suitable cone area. That part is easy to confirm. Whether you'd prefer these to what you have... that is not. Srajan
Exactly my first sentiment when listening to the Pantheon. The bass was bloated. Voxativ is definitely a better match with the Zanden. Still, I’m wondering what could be superior with large orchestral. Voxativ's 9.87 is a bit pricey. Pacula spoke to me highly of Serblin's Ktêma. The Ilumnia designer Tom Nuyts will be at my home Tuesday with his Magister. Thank you and bravo again for 6moons. Johan
Based on M&H's review, the Ilumina should be very special indeed. If you're up to it, let me know what you thought. Srajan
Yes. I paid good money for that with a custom plug-in. For too long people have helped themselves freely to our content without permission. If people want to copy us now, they'll have to do it the hard way - type it out one word at a time just like I have to. Copyright and all that. So yes, that's one of the side effects of the new code. Sorry that it also disabled some harmless translating help. Srajan
Hello Srajan, interesting take on show reports. If it matters, I've always enjoyed reading yours. But I can also appreciate the points you made. Still, don't you think it's part of the give and take in the hifi industry that the press supports hifi shows not only by attending but by reporting on that attendance? Thomas
There are many aspects I didn't cover. I had someone from the NYC show email in saying that without shows like theirs, people like me would have nothing to write about. I beg to differ. Yes, there are publications which do focus on covering as many shows as possible and whose contributors enjoy to travel regularly. For them such a comment might hold true. Without shows, that type content falls away after all. For publications like ours however, the focus is on writing reviews in a controlled environment. For that shows aren't just superfluous. Attending and the time it takes afterwards to pen a meaningful report are actually in direct conflict with producing review content instead.
Why do I stress review content? As with any business, one must weigh expense versus returns. Which expenses benefit and grow one's business, which expenses contribute less or nothing? Having had 16 years to observe that dynamic to see what type content has the greatest impact on my small sole-trader business, I can honestly say that attending shows and the associated costs of travel, accommodation and time have become less and less productive or relevant over the years.
I still feel compelled to attend. As you said, I'm a part of the industry. By working in it, my livelihood depends on it. I do want to mix and mingle with my peers, maintain relationships, develop new ones, spot newcomers and just have fun. I simply question the usefulness of writing more reports on my attendance. I've had a good run at doing reports for many years. Now I want to try something different which won't be in the public eye but just between me and whoever I stop by to talk with. Srajan
Dear Srajan: Mega props for the recent site development. That must have been quite the job. Now that you've roped mobile users into the fold, how about us YouTubers? Do I see 6moons video reviews in the near future? Inquiring minds want to know. Your friend John Darko does some excellent ones. You might take a look at them for some ideas. Joseph Martin
Indeed John does. I'm well familiar with his developments on that score. My "problem" is that I love to write. Doing talkies would undermine that. Why cheat myself out of the most fun part of the job? That said, I do see specific applications where video would work well without taking away personal satisfaction. But I'd need to learn video editing first. I see no upside to farming out costly services to someone filming and somebody else editing. Living way in the boonies doesn't help on that count, either. Plus, as I do with my writing, I'd want to be in full control and do all of it myself front to back. My current camera does 4K video just fine. But I'd still need some other hardware to do what I'd want to do. Most importantly, I'd need to get fluent in whatever video editing skills are required for the type quality I have in mind. So not in the near future but a possible investment in hardware, software and learning down the road. But as it says in my slogan, this site will always remain dedicated to people who love to read. Srajan
Hello Srajan: I was pleased to see Tektron in your review queue. Like you explained there and also in your Thoress preview, having the right speakers is key to get the best from such amplifiers. Do you have further plans to return to reviewing SET amps? If so, may I suggest the 2A3 designs from Whammerdyne in the US? I've not heard them for myself but looking at their specs (zero noise, 150kHz bandwidth) and clever outboard output transformers, I would be surprised if they didn't deliver comparable to how you've lived now for years with fast transistor amps. Holger
In fact, I'm wide open to re-entering the world of very special valve amps. And you bring up an excellent point about my having veered deeply into solid-state amps of exploded bandwidth for the last few years. It's made me drift away from appreciating transformer-coupled valve amps that barely make it to 30kHz to sound clearly slower and more veiled by comparison. Vinnie claims 900kHz for his new DHT preamp which has me most curious. Your Whammerdyne recommendation fits the same bill. I in fact expressed interest to them not long ago after a request to post a news item but was told that they're a very small outfit and currently neither have 230V units nor traveling loaners in general. They sell what they make and don't really want more exposure to put pressure on their production schedule. Which I well appreciate. Finding one's ideal size for a business is key to quality of life and growing beyond that tends to eat into that quality. But if you have any other recommendations along those lines—what I recently told a friend I'd call "Bakoon type sound executed with tubes"—I'd be all ears. Truth told, my absence from the SET scene means I haven't paid attention for a while to what might be new and exciting there. So I really could use some help. Srajan
Srajan, great decision to make 6moons mobile friendly! It was the one thing you didn't have that I considered lacking. Now I can read you guys on my iPad in my preferred café downtown Duisburg to enjoy my afternoon Kaffee mit Kuchen. Good show! Jason
I see you've caught the German love of the afternoon sweet tooth, Jason. A friend lives there. He and his wife took us to one of their favourite haunts for exactly that purpose on a Sunday afternoon at 15:00. I must admit, it was lovely seeing young and old, outdoors, together, enjoying some sunshine, java and rich cake with plenty of whipped cream. Happy surfing on the moons. Srajan
Hi Srajan, in Internet Explorer the floating icons move into the text when you scroll down. They are not doing this in the middle of the text. Best regards, Jan
That's by design. How else would you continue your navigation? They show on top when you first open a page since the header remains fixed while the page scrolls beneath it. The moon menu then blends out to as you continue reading to simplify the page look. Once you get to the end of the page, they return so you can keep surfing to other areas of the site. Srajan
I do understand the idea behind the feature. Other websites have solved this by putting them at the end (as in below) the end of the article which is what would make sense to me. Best regards, Jan
That's simply not what I decided on, Jan. I'm sure you can get used to it quickly -:) Srajan
Hi Srajan, it is great that you added responsive design to the site. That’s really important nowadays as 50% of the traffic comes from mobile devices. I’ve been talking to IT guys myself and chasing deadlines for our website development. Hate it. Georgi
Brett has been super responsive but also is busy with other projects and of course his ongoing advanced engineering degree classes. IT people are much in demand. Whilst I can do everything else that is required to run and maintain the site, writing custom code and forcing WordPress to conform to my design ideas wasn’t a skill I have. My mind doesn’t work that way. So despite preferring full control as I eventually learnt to have in DreamWeaver with its fixed static layouts, I had to farm this makeover out. I feel very lucky to have found Brett! Srajan
I love the reshaped moons: crisped the look and escalated functionality to boot. Fred Crane
That was the whole intent. The new access icons are no longer rendered as graphic files but in pure code so they load faster and show in higher resolution thanks to Brett’s code writing chops. This afternoon is set aside to fix coding errors that happened in the transition from old static site to new dynamic database. Readers are invited to assist the final vetting process by letting me know any functional or visual weirdness, dead links or dropped images they encounter whilst browsing the moons. As of this morning, Safari still misaligns thumbnails even though Opera, Firefox and Chrome look perfect on that score. Cross platform gremlins. Brett set aside time to exorcise the most obvious ones now. Srajan
Dear Mr. Ebaen, first of all I must make my best thanks for your advice on the Denafrips Terminator and Jay's transport and the best sound that I ever heard during 35 years of this passion. Now two super-fast questions: 1) I have the Nord mono amps and would like to improve the amplification. Do you think that the LinnenberG Liszt monos deserve €8'000 over the Nords? I have Wyred4sound STP 2SE Stage II and Legacy Studio HD speakers. 2) You often use the words "SD card" in your Soundaware product reviews. What do you mean by those words? 3) I have noticed that the Terminator produces a sort of hum inside the chassis. Alvin from Vinshine is thinking about. It seems that this can be caused by DC. Do you think that the Vibex Granada could give any benefit? Kind regards, Paolo Verzegnassi
1/ What kind of monetary value one places on particular improvements is entirely personal. To my ears, the Liszt monos are in a very different class than the Nords which I have as well. Is that sonic difference worth €8'000 however? I couldn't possibly comment. 2/ SD card = memory card just like what's in a digital camera or cell phone. In my experience, it's the most superior form of musical storage - better than CD, better than hard drive, better than SSD, better than streaming. 3/ My Terminator plugs into an Alhambra/Granada combination so I've not heard it without that since I otherwise don't have outlets nearby. My Terminator operates noiselessly. Would it exhibit any kind of hum without the Vibex gear? I frankly don't know. Vibex have a dedicated DC filter that's a lot more affordable than their flagship stuff. Srajan
Hello Mr. Ebaen, my name is Sam and I live in Southern California. I am an avid reader of the 6moons reviews, especially yours. Thanks to your review I have been a happy owner of FirstWatt F7 for the last 2 years even though I was a long time tube fan before that. I am mating it with an almost 30-year old Blue Circle vacuum tube preamp and I can't be happier. Yet I am getting older and bothered more and more by the necessity to change the tubes every so often. So I am considering changing the pre to solid state. You have reviewed the Pass HPA-1 and Kinki EX P7 recently and both got awarded. So I hope you can find time to tell me the sonic differences of the two in your opinion. Thanks mightily! Best regards, Sam Choi
Hello Sam: I’ve not heard the two preamps side by side so like you, I’d have to revert back to my own reviews and deduce things from there. Since you’ve read them, I trust you can do that for yourself every bit as well as I would have to looking back. Glad you enjoy our reviews. We’ll keep them coming. Srajan
Hmm.. thank you for your quick reply. let me see if I can deduce even though I couldn't before. Sam
Look, I put a lot of work into my reviews. Whatever I have to say at the time, I say it. If 6 months or 6 years later someone asks me to compare things I reviewed back when, I have to go back to my own reviews to see what I said. As a reader, that part of the job is on you. It’s not as though I kept a fixed aural memory of everything that comes through which, at any time, I could recall like a computer file and print out with percentages, regardless of what ancillary equipment or room was used between different assignments. And I don’t trust aural memory except for the basics so being asked how something I recently reviewed compares to something I sent back months or years ago is simply asking the impossible. At least for me it is impossible. Perhaps other reviewers are endowed with the audio equivalent of photographic memories. I’m not. Srajan
I understood that. If I sounded grumpy, pleased excuse me. As I said, I appreciate your quick personal response. And also I realized that you reviewers are not like average listeners. You listen to a lot of equipment vs I stay with something fixed for many years. Anyway, I sincerely appreciate what you are doing, including responding to my question. Thanks! Sam
You hit the nail on the head. Reviewers live with endlessly revolving doors so things tend to be moving targets. And I've moved a lot over the years so many reviews took place in various rooms and with quite different systems. Srajan
Howdy. Based on your initial comments about the AMP-13R Bakoon integrated, I made the point of taking a listen at RMAF. I was doubly happy to see the Soundkaos speakers, not ever hearing/seeing them other than in your reviews. The report card was easy....the room sounded great and looked great. The only issue was the music. They chose to play, over and over and over again during the show, the same Stevie Ray Vaughan song, that same slow Blues that has been played to death in far too many shows. What a turn-off. Play something else on the damn album! Oh well. I didn't say a word to Soo-In about this as I had many rooms to see and many meetings over the weekend. It was dash in, dashout. Exhibitors should already be clued in as to what music to play and what to avoid. It's a gorgeous piece of gear (the Bakoon) yet much smaller in person. Looks beautifully made. Glad they dropped the pricing. There is so much competition in that 6K-8K range. Alan
Had Soundkaos designer Martin Gateley been present, you'd have heard proper music. Martin gives very good demo. But designing brilliant hifi gear and running a killer demo aren't synonymous by any stretch and particularly John Darko over at darko.audio pens scathing repeat reminders about how weak and overplayed so many show music choices continue to be. So your comment falls right in line. Pleased to hear you enjoyed the sound however if not the music itself -:) Srajan
Greetings, I read your well-written review of the Nativ Vita and wanted to comment. I received a unit recently and the experience was horrid. You can read about it here. I humbly think it’d be responsible to warn prospective buyers. Best wishes, Guy Zilberman
Hello Guy, that really was an unpleasant surprise for you. Thankfully they refunded your money. I hadn’t seen that. Thanks for pointing me to it. As you’ve noticed, my article is still just a preview as I’ve not received my loaner sample yet. Since I always open my samples up to take my own inside photos (unless for some reason access requires specialized tools which I don’t have), if things are off, it’ll be there for all to see. And seeing how you had no issues taking photos, I don’t expect I’ll have any. In the spirit of fairness, I’ll thus wait to have my own experience but do consider me forewarned indeed. Thanks again. Srajan
Under normal conditions, you can’t open the clam shell. The display is supposed to be firmly glued to the chassis, maintainable only by Nativ. So no, you won’t be able to inspect the backside of the LCD display. In my case, the build quality was so poor, the display came unglued. That was the only reason I could inspect the internals. I don't believe Nativ ever accounted for that possibility. They were out of luck. But who builds a business on luck? I’d requested photos of a properly assembled unit but was rebutted multiple times. I think the facts speak for themselves. Guy
If that's the case—and when I can't open something up, I do request that the maker submit photos from their assembly line—this review might in fact have cancelled itself already. Srajan
Wanting feedback from someone who sells Nativ, I asked Richard of 8th Dimension Audio in the UK about his track record with them: Thanks for the link. I hadn’t seen it. Difficult to know what to say. It’s certainly not my experience with Nativ or their products. The only problem I ever had was with a CD burner which had a faulty drive unit (not uncommon) and they paid for the return and sent a new one which has worked perfectly. The build quality of my Vita is fine and I installed my own hard drive so had to open the case. I can’t say I made a thorough investigation of the internals but nothing obvious jumped out. Consistent and reliable QC has always been a challenge from China from what I can see. For a company like Nativ who can only make small production runs, it would seem like a rogue or at worst batch problem. That can happen to anyone. I’m currently beta testing the latest firmware for full Roon RAAT and it’s close to being ready. Richard
Dear Dawid and Srajan, maybe your remember me, I purchased a Diamond Server and Diamond DAC from Amare Musica directly from the factory and dealt with Marcin Solowiow who had a lot of problems since and couldn't deliver. The last email Marcin sent me on October 18th said that he had health problems but he promised to deliver the units on October 25th. Since then he hasn't replied or delivered. If he is still having health problems, I don't want to bother him while he recovers. Maybe you know more about this?
This purchase has been very difficult. I've been purchasing audio for many years and never had such a bad experience. I offered him as many alternatives as I could, from refunding my money to flying to Poland to pick up the units in person but nothing seems to work. This kind of situation is very bad and I am now afraid to purchase from the distance again. I sincerely appreciate your cooperation and help very much. Best regards, Luis Dobarro
I'm sorry to hear this still hasn't been settled. I remember you first contacted us many months ago. Not living in Poland, I'm sadly entirely out of the loop on Amare Musica's dealings or the health of its principal but perhaps Dawid who lives in Warsaw knows more. If so, he'll let you know. Srajan
Hi Louis, It's sad that his matter still remains unresolved. All I got from Marcin was one mail (which you've seen months back), even though several more were sent. I also dialed his on-site number many times yet never reached the man and he never bothered to call me back either. Today the same thing happened, thus I have no contact with him and my guess is that he simply doesn't want to talk to me, being fully aware that I'd like to discuss with him your situation.Luis, I'm sorry that this happened to you. I believe that I did all I could to help you solve this issue. It seems that there's no will/capability at Marcin's end to get it right. If I were you, I'd ask for a refund. I really would. Dawid
Hi Srajan, I hope that you are well and enjoy living on the West Coast of Ireland. I am considering buying the Cube Nenuphar speakers (or possibly the F10 Neo drivers as a cheaper but similar DIY option) and I have been in contact with Grzegorz. As you know from previous correspondence, I bought the Metrum Dac and the Bakoon AMP-12R based on your reviews and I am still very happy with them driving Apogee Perigee ribbon hybrid speakers. I have a few questions for you concerning the cube speakers.
1. Have you tried driving the Nenuphar speakers with the Bakoon AMP 12R (or the new 13R – I may upgrade to this if the rest of your review is favorable and the price isn't too high) and if so, was the Bakoon a good match for the speakers or did it exhibit the same problems you observed with the Linnenberg amps. 2. Is the 13R a worthwhile upgrade over the 12R (it sounds from your preliminary comments as though it might be). I am aware that that you have heard and were impressed by both the Voxativ Duo and 9.87 loudspeakers (i.e. similar widebanders to the Cube). 3. Do you consider that the overall sound from the Nenuphar speakers is on a par with that obtainable from the Voxativ 9.87 speakers (pi + subwoofer) that I think were being driven by Aries Cerat gear owned by your friend Dan D'ato. I look forward to your reply. Thanks for your time. Regards, Dr. Michael Woolias
To start at the end, Dan listens to the Nenuphar these days using David Berning amps but he also owns SIT-1 and likes that combination as well. His favourite is the Berning however. I did try the Bakoon AMP-12R not inside the actual review but I thought of it later and it worked very well; not as well as the SIT-1/SIT-3 but far better than the LinnenberG/Pass and without their issues. The AMP-13R hasn't arrived yet but will most definitely take a ride on the Cube. As to Voxativ/Cube, see my answer to Grant one down. There must be something in the air. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I love your site and thought I'd reach out to ask for your opinion. I have and love the First Watt SIT-1 monoblocks. I'm using them with Omega High Output Super Alnico monitors and a Rhythmik sub and I'm very happy with them except that complex music seems compress. I think I'd like to stick with single-driver speakers and I'm most pulled toward Voxativ and Cube Audio. Which do you think would be a better path to take with the SIT-1s? Thanks, Grant
If money is an issue, Cube. Euro for euro, you get more. Size for size, you get more low-end reach because they don’t pursue extreme sensitivity over bandwidth. The Cube Nenuphar does what it does without a sub. To compete via Voxatix, you'd need their Pi 9.87 system with its active bass. That gives you an extra 5-8 cycles over the passive Nenuphar. That's brilliant too but rather more cashish. Either works great with the SIT-1 and in our house, the SIT-1/Nenuphar combo is our favourite system. Srajan
Hi Srajan, a friend of mine has been praising the Soundaware D300ref for awhile now. After reading your review of it, I decided to order it. It should be arriving tomorrow. My question is about HDMI cables for I²S. I have read your assessment of I²S with interest and I see that you use the AudioQuest Coffee. While this is certainly an option, in the interest of spending less, I am wondering if you have any other options that function as well but cost less that you might recommend. The friend I mentioned is considering getting a Wireworld Silver Starlight 7 HDMI. Do you have any experience or thoughts about that one? Peter Borelli
When it comes to I²S via HDMI, this was my first rodeo as that writeup laid out. My choice of AudioQuest Coffee was predicated solely upon their reputation for engineering-driven cable design. And it did sound better than a €25 strip I bought at our local Electronics Emporium. The rest is all wide-open country to me. Srajan
1 : New preamp and keep my source and DAC, probably Accuphase C2450 or a used C3800. Your opinion?
2 : New DAC with volume control because the Denafrips Terminator does not have one. So I'm interested in the new AURALiC G2 combo of Aries with SSD, Vega and Leo; or an APL DSD-SR + Fidata HFAS1-XS20U. I listened to the APL DSD-SR and spoke with French retailer M Muller from Hifilink who said and wrote :"Nous avons pu depuis quelques jours confronté les DAC APL à des machines référentes (Ayon Audio S5, Métronome Technologie C8 et C8+, DCS Vivaldi, MSB DAC IV et MSB Select) et aucune, nous disons bien AUCUNE ne tient la comparaison plus de 30 secondes. Seul le Ayon Audio S5 avec son alimentation externe peut trouver un intérêt si vous avez besoin d’un préampli analogique intégré au DAC."
Your opinion, advice, alternatives? Thank you very much for your help and your fantastic 6moons site. Warmly, Eric Philippet
I’ve not heard the Accuphase, AURALIC, APL, Fidata etc. so I really couldn’t be helpful here in any meaningful way. And what do you mean by ‘improving’ in the first place? That shouldn’t be a mad rush to just spend more money. It should be based on a clear road map which states what qualities you’re presently unhappy with to want bettered. But again, I’ve not heard any of the gear you’re considering. If you think M Muller to be a reliable resource whose sonic expectations overlap yours, you might want to ask him for advice? Srajan
The basis of my problem was the A/B test of the volume control of the Accuphase E470 versus C2450. I heard that I could gain a lot in all aspects, dynamics, details, transparency, width and depth. So my road map is to increase this quality of the volume control. But there are two options: old-school like my Accuphase reseller who only considers the preamp; or new-school digital like M Muller, who considers preamps as just complications if I use only one source. Eric
You might want to wait just a bit for the Leedh lossless digital attenuation algorithm. Soulution already have it but I’m told it might come out as a simply plug-in. So for digital music, you might plug it into Audirvana, PureMusic, JRiver etc and forego a preamp altogether. Joël on staff has heard it. He owns expensive preamps including a DHT unit. He now thinks that entire category is obsolete – or will be once people catch on and the Leedh code becomes widely available. Srajan
Dear Mr. Ebaen, I am Paolo Verzegnassi from Trieste/Italy. Sorry to disturb but I would need your experience to try to banish all doubts about the difference between the Formula and Denafrips converters. I live in an area where there are no specialized shops or centers to listen to these products and Aqua don't give their products for a listening test at home.
1) You write that Denafrips seems to not be so transparent as the Formula. My question is: is the Denafrips capable to reproduce the ambiance, space between instruments, air, height of voices, dimensions of the room, anyway ? If you have to give a score to the two dacs for this aspect of the reproduction, which would it be? 2) Which of the two dacs has the most natural and believable sound (on the whole, therefore not too much bass, no harshness, cleanliness, instrumental timbre, sound colours)? The manner to evaluate this feature should be the satisfaction level after a listening test. 3) Which of them has the most explicit PraT? 4) If today you had to chose between Formula and Denafrips (or another), which would it be? Thank you. Kind regards, Paolo Verzegnassi
I'll jump straight to 4) and tell you that I recently replaced the Formula with the Terminator. This now gives me a direct I²S connection via HDMI, between both the Soundaware D300Ref USB bridge and the Jay's Audio CDT2 MkII disc transport which does make a difference. Sonically, I'd rate the Denafrips as denser/weightier but that's relative to the Formula without xHD upgrade. I never heard the latest version. Functionally the Terminator has more input options and supports DSD which Aqua do not. As a reviewer, more options are useful. For myself and on sonics however, I'd consider either a final machine at the top of the DAC game. I've simply mixed things up for a change. Srajan
Srajan, I've read several of your audio reviews on 6moons and greatly appreciate your insight. I am looking for an amplifier or monoblocks to go with my Kinki EX-P7 preamp. My speakers are Stirling Broadcast 3/6: a tiny bit on the warm side for me, looking to brighten up a tad. I see you have reviewed a few amps I have been considering, in particular: Modwright KWA 100SE, Kinki EX-B7, Audiozen Lysios IGBT.
As far as sound preferences: I tend to favour high clarity/definition in the treble, quick bass and not overpowering in the midrange. I guess the obvious choice would be to match with the Kinki monoblocks, however, I don't mind changing things up a bit. Variety is good. Solid state or tube is good (whether those listed above or something different you might recommend). I'd really like to know your opinion and appreciate your time. Thanks again, Doug
For the specific sonic action you're after, the ModWright would be the wrong choice. It's not that kind of amp. I haven't heard the EX-B7 yet but they should arrive shortly. I'd think they would make the most natural mates on all fronts - financially, sonically and visually. My review will obviously say what I think. From my circle of acquaintances, the Job monos should also be on your list. Srajan
Hello, I am interested in the Rethm Bhaava speakers and read your informative review. You had tried the Bhaavas with a Bakoon amplifier with surprisingly positive results and with the First Watt SIT to enjoyable results. But I was wondering if you’d ever heard that speaker with good, significantly less expensive and more traditional solid-state amplification that pushed heavier wattage (say100 or so)? If so, how did the Bhaavas react? Many thanks, Leonce Gaiter
If I had, I'd have said so. Traditionally, this type driver prefers high output impedance for low damping. Conventional high-power transistor amplifiers will instead provide high damping, leading this type driver to suffer poor bass, a forward presence to brilliance region and overall dryness. That's why most of these speakers are driven by lower-power SET amps or the type of unusual transistor amps I used. Also, speakers of such efficiency don't need the high power or gain and, on such amps, may reveal noise issues which standard speakers would not. But you might ask designer Jacob George what he thinks of 100wpc transistor amps for this model? He'd have the most knowledgeable answer. Srajan
Hello, I am regularly reading your reviews for already many years. I must confess that for me and some friends, the format is difficult to read on a tablet. The characters are very small. Do you think you can change that in the future? Apart from that, all is perfect and well written. Good continuation ! Pierre Keler
The site was never formatted for tablet or mobile consumption even though you could enlarge the type in your browser right now. But yes, we're about 4 weeks out from relaunching in a dynamic format. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I've enjoyed your bit about I²S. It reminded me of my CEC transport, with what they call SuperLink, essentially parsing out all the varied signals. It sounds very very good. Always liked I²S when given the choice, though not every time. Fred CraneAncient Audio and B.M.C. too used multiple RCA or BNC connectors to create their paralleled I²S data lines. Srajan
Hiya Srajan, I second Fred's heads-up on I²S. I'm curious to see how you get on with your players. It was somewhat disappointing to learn that matching sockets don't predict successful handshakes. You mentioned a miss between your USB bridge and the Aqua DAC's Ethernet port. How the hell is a consumer supposed to figure this stuff out? It seems like a classic hit and miss proposition; except that it'll be costly if one misjudges. John Fremont
Good point, John. It would seem to require contacting both manufacturers of whatever pairing is under consideration to have them confirm matched or mismatched wiring. I admit to being baffled myself why there have to be multiple ways to wire up an RJ45 socket for this purpose. Hopefully Métronome's HDMI version will play ball with how Denafrips do theirs. But this is far from the only example for how high-end audio lacks standardization. Pro audio just wouldn't work if they played it as loose as our sector does... Srajan
Hi Srajan, regarding the mild "softening" sound of the Lumin X1, you mentioned the Lundahl transformer being responsible for. Couldn't it be that the TI op amps before the Lundahls have an even greater impact on that? In general, op amps compared to discrete stages tend to do so. Response much appreciated. Best regards, Klaus Jakob
I merely suspected the Lundahls and clearly said so. There's no way to be certain. That would require extricating/replacing various parts to hear which one is contributing what. If you favour suspecting the TIs for the sonic quality I noted, by all means. It's guesswork on both our parts. And that leads straight at "€3 will buy you a cuppa Joe but having an opinion is totally free". At the end of the day, it's my review so I went with my guesswork. But it's perfectly possible that the opamps play their part. Frankly, I'm not sure why that's important. Unless one modified the X1, the sound is what it is. The important part in a review is to describe that by whatever means, experience and hardware triangulations a writer has at his/her disposal. Srajan
Hi Srajan, Great reviews on the Jay's transport/Denafrips Terminator DAC. You put a lot of effort into each review showing the many configurations that are available. Feedback from Down Under here is that the above units terminated with HDMI (I²S) bettered many much more expensive units including msb and Esoteric in a group listing test (USB, coax, XLR). The verdict was unanimous in favour of the Jays/Denafrips. End comment was so much more musical. Looks like the silver disc is not dead yet! Brian Livingston
I sadly reviewed each piece in isolation not together so I didn't get to try the HDMI interface. But I'm not surprised by the Aussie verdict. And absolutely, not only is silver disc not dead yet, it still has a mighty kick. It's in rude health in fact -:) Srajan
PS: Actually... I've just been informed that the Denafrips Terminator John Darko reviewed is coming my way for the I²S deed. In the meantime a Métronome AQWO has arrived which too features an HDMI I²S output so I have some comparisons coming up on that interface vs BNC and AES/EBU.
Dear Srajan, I hope that you are fine. I am a distributor from France. I’ve read your interesting review on the Soundaware D300Ref. If I understood, it seems you bought this unit after the review. Are you still happy with it? Is it a stable device? Also, do you plan to trying this unit with the I2S connection and clock synchro? Have you considered the possibility to test the D300Ref with an external music library storage and UPnP media server, particularly a Fidata model? I ask because I have discussed this product with Yuhsuke Iwahashi, the European distributor for the Telegärtner M12 Switch Gold. He uses a Soundaware D100Pro with an external rubidium clock. His recommendation for best sound is to use the D100Pro/D300Ref as a SD card player or, for the same level of quality, the Fidata. In that configuration, the D100Pro or D300Ref is used as a UPnP media renderer with its I2S output.AES/EBU seems to be very good too. The Fidata is used as musiclibrary storage & UPnP media server only... Best regards Marc
Since you've read my review, you already know that I bought the unit and that I tried USB bridge and SD card mode both via AES/EBU, finding SD even superior. If I had tried it with Fidata, I'd have said so. If I had tried it with the word clock or IS2 mode, I'd have said so, too. At the time, I didn't have DACs with the matching socketry. I later tried the D300Ref in network mode with Audirvana as UPnP renderer. This routed audio data from the iMac library through a network switch to the D300Ref. It didn't sound as good as USB direct nor the ultimate SD card mode. If you read my review of the Kinki DAC, you'll see that I tried its word clock input off the D300Ref and heard essentially no difference. Since the D300Ref review is published, I consider its case closed and am not planning on doing a followup on it. And yes, I'm still very happy with the Soundaware. It's only been two months since I bought it... Srajan
About your recent Jay's Audio review, I knew it. It’s something I’ve felt deep down inside for some time. 16 bits can be all one needs if done properly. Kudos for being open-minded enough to hear it for yourself, and to go to the trouble of trying just about every permutation extant. People are much too caught up in the numbers game. Also, the way you tease it out, like the old cereal movies I saw as a kid, had me primed for what I knew to be the ending and yet I enjoyed it all the same. I only wish I had the space to accommodate the gear as it would be the perfect set up for this old Luddite who still finds PC audio too daunting a task to partake in. All the best, Tim
Greetings Srajan. As a long-time reader of 6moons, I thoroughly enjoyed your recent review of the Jay's Audio CDT2 MKII CD transport. I especially enjoyed your analysis of the current state of the high-end CDP category as a whole. As you point out, brands like Denon and Yamaha are already using proprietary transport solutions, and when stocks of the CD-Pro2LF inevitably run out, the brands relying on this part will have to make new plans. I believe there's also some uncertainty around TEAC/Esoteric's future, given the financial woes of their majority shareholder Gibson. But I digress. I'm not a finance guy. I thought you might be interested in what appears to be an incredibly high-end completely proprietary CDP from French firm JMF - the DMT 3.7. The website is located here. I shudder to think what it might cost yet it's heartening that this kind of development is still ongoing. Hope it's of interest to you. Kind Regards, George Low
I stopped by to see JMF at the Munich's show alternate venue this year and last. Very interesting products indeed. Had a bit of a French/English language barrier issue so I never learnt more than what I saw. Thanks for the reminder, George. Srajan
Rank prejudice? You’ve always had it in for the Nagra CDP. I wonder why. Actually, it mounts a Philips CD-Pro. As I wrote you, I had a new one installed a few weeks ago, quite unnecessarily as it turned out. Matthieu’s stock trick during his time as a sales rep was picking up the player by the open transport and swinging it around nonchalantly. Michele
I have nothing against the CDP per se. I just find its CD-Pro mounted atop the ejecting sled an unnecessarily over-engineered bit of show-off-manship grand Swiss watch complication style. And that comes at a very real price when a far simpler top-loading implementation of the same drive would accomplish the same thing. And unlike for example the Jay's Audio top loader currently in for review where a child could replace the transport module if it went bad, a Nagra must return to the factory. To me neither that nor the extra cash paid for a piece of superfluous engineering extravagance are attractive. But as you said, Nagra really went to town on their mechanics to make them virtually bullet proof. Someone once said that it ain't bragging if it's true. I think that applies here. Srajan
Of course it’s engineering showoff grande complication style. Never found a source to match it though, up to and including the earlier dcs and Esoteric stacks. On a more serious note, it was time that somebody stood up to the streaming boondoggle. Rentaradio,pfui. Michele
Hi Srajan, have you changed your camera recently? Cheers, Dawid
Yes. Why? Srajan
Your photos got far better. Dawid
Blame the camera then -:) Srajan
Aye. All angles are the same but macro work, colours and overall plasticity got improved quite significantly and i.e. Lumin X review shows this very clearly. Now your photos look like made by a small modern mirrorless camera. My bet is Fuji. Some two months ago I've sold my rather expensive Canon full-frame DSLR and a number of L series lenses, got Fuji X-T2 and am perfectly happy. Photo work is fun again. Cheers, Dawid
Unlike you, I'm not a photographer but a cheating savage not of the noble sort. I use the exact same glass as before (Lumix/Leica, one wide angle, one macro) but got a Lumix G-80 2:3 mirrorless body. The macro work now is shot in 4K video. Then I do focus stacking (not in-camera but Photoshop) to select a range of frames with perfect focus in particular areas to overlay them for compensation for limited depth of field. Gives better results than F-stop manipulation with a single frame. For the regular work, I occasionally do something similar. I shoot multiple exposures and focus points of the same image, then overlay a few to pull out specific areas of specific layers in Photoshop. It gives me perfect focus and lighting in multiple areas that otherwise wouldn't be treated equally. It's cheating and a pro would know how to get the same or better results with proper setup but I'm a bleeding amateur. Here I'm interested only in the results, not the process. Very different from writing which remains my focus. There process is as important as the result. For photos, I've always used Lumix, my lenses are Lumix so I stuck with the brand. In Dublin they have a very good old-fashioned shop with very knowledgeable personnel who freely give of their time and expertise. That's how I ended up with the G-80. I got to handle it and try it out and compare it to Canon, Leica and Nikon. And like all modern cameras, it also does video. That'll come in handy in the future... Srajan
Thanks for explanation. It seems then that your previous body was the show stopper. Well, the result is better, that's the most important part. In photography, all tricks are allowed, even the dirtiest ones. When I shoot bugs, I stack images as well. It's quite surprising how good cameras became with video over the years. Something to exploit in the future, yes. Cheers, Dawid
Greetings Srajan, I guess you probably get many e-mails like mine so I expect that you may don't read it/never answer but I try anyway because I'm quite puzzled about a purchase and I think you could be the person I need for helping me through this. First I'd like to thank you for your wonderful job at 6moons, with your numerous very precise and well written reviews, which are very useful. Please excuse me for my probably bad English, it isn't my formal language (I'm from France). Well, I own a pair of Coda CX monoblocks, which you had for test with the rest of the Coda European line of amps and preamps several years ago.
I deeply read your review and I think I came to the same conclusion than you: theses amps probably shine in only the right conditions. I've owned them for several years and well, never been totally satisfied. They lack some warmth and liquidity to my taste and I find them to be a bit too much on the neutral side, which brings my Rosso Fiorentino Siena speakers to a bit of harshness with big rock guitars for example. Looks like they need an extremely big amount of power to give their best but my room isn't very big (20m²) so I guess it never happens, even with my quite low-sensitivity speakers. They're not bad but I'm now looking for something with more tube-like sound, something more seductive, even if I'd prefer to stay with solid state amps because I often leave them on all the day. My preamp is a Pass Labs X0.2.
I have the opportunity to get a used pair of McIntosh Mc501. You never reviewed them but I guess that, with your huge experience over the hifi world, you probably know them, or know some other McIntosh amps that are close to them in terms of sound. I always heard that the 501s had this tube-like liquidity and very fatigue-free sound. I'm highly interested in getting them but I won't have the opportunity to compare them side by side with the my Codas CX. Could you please tell me what you think about this change of amps? Am I going to the right way? Hope you'll have enough time to give me an answer, but I'll understand if not. Anyway, best regards and thank you for your very useful work, Sylvain Dolisi from France
You're right, I never heard McIntosh for myself, i.e. in my system. With their background in valve audio and the use of autoformers for their solid-state outputs, my natural inclination would be to believe that yes, they'd fall into the exact sonic class you're looking for. But that's just an assumption. I'm curious why you've not considered Pass Labs. You already got their preamp. Of course the McIntosh are used so at a good price. If you found one of the Nelson Pass XA.8 models, you'd surely get the sonics you're after. Owning their smallest stereo amp, the XA-30.8, I can say that from personal experience, not just a gut feeling. Being class A, they do get warm. It's perfectly safe to leave them on all day but it does throw away heat and impacts the utility bill. Back to the 501s, I'm in the same position as you are. I've heard the same things about them as you have to entertain the same notion about their compatibility with your desires; but also no personal experience to be 100% certain. Sorry for that. Srajan
Dear Srajan, Thank you for your review of Cube Audio's new speaker and driver tech. I was gladdened to see that Jon Ver Halen of the recently minted Refined Audio is out in front of them. He had Lowther for so many years and made a go of it despite inherent challenges. I imagine he'll do gangbusters with Cube if people don't make any assumptions prior to hearing them (which, sad to say, I did). Much of our listening this past year has led us to semi-active and active designs but who doesn't love a great FR? I see that Marja and Henk are reviewing Trafomatic's new Pandora Monos. To my ears, these are the most luscious commercially available amps to come from the House of Sasa. I would love to hear them on the Cubes...and I imagine many amp designers are thinking the same thing about their particular offerings. Thanks again, Fred Crane Prana Distribution
I didn't know Jon had taken on Cube. Good on him - and a nice endorsement for Cube. Few will appreciate their accomplishment as Jon can-:) Srajan
Hi! Reading the review of the Kii Three was very interesting. Meanwhile I missed your impressions of the sound from analogue sources souch as the Vinnie Rossi DHT preamp and others. How does the sound from analogue sources with the A/D converter compare with direct digital sources? Did you try this? Would a tube preamp as the Vinnie be able to run long wires to the speakers without degrading the sound? Transistor preamps often have a very low output impedance and in that case it wouldn't be an issue. Regards Thomas Nielsen
If I had tried it, I'd written about it. Also, I don't own a Vinnie Rossi DHT preamp. I reviewed it but returned the DHT conversion kit. I do have the AVC version without tubes. But I don't have any analog sources like vinyl or tape or radio. Using a DAC's analog outputs only to convert them back to digital inside the Kii Three then back to analog made no sense to me when you can eliminate that DAC entirely and drive the speaker off the same digital source you'd use for the DAC. Seeing how the Kii Control I had on review acts as a three-input switcher, I also didn't see any rationale in using an external preamp as go-between for my digital sources. Why make things more complicated and costly than they have to be? You obviously could do what you're asking; and would have to with vinyl. To my mind and with digital, it'd simply defeat the entire Kii Three concept with its innate elegance, hence I didn't try it. Srajan
Srajan: Nenuphars are simply amazing! They seem burnt in now and there is no more need for the Voxativ sub for most of the tracks. Tried SIT 1 and several tube amps. Even flea amps like the 46 stereo from Thomas Meyer (a bit more than 1 watt only) work perfectly. Give me another day for details please. Have to say though that for me, these Cubes are the most significant find of the last three years! ATB DanHappy to hear you concur. That's why they got our most rare award - to highlight the gravitas of their discovery. Srajan
Hi Srajan! Since you are now living in Ireland, this is a record you should be aware of. It is very good recorded in a Castle on the coast of Ireland. On my homemade SIT monoblocks and open baffle speakers (Betsy, Eminence), it has a very live feel to it. It is a collaboration between some of the finest Norwegian/Irish musician. And as you are also playing Lynni Treekrem's Haugtussa which is also one of Kirkelig Kulturverksted eminent recordings, so is Tideland by Dolores Keane and Rita Eriksen. Best, Olav Håland
Srajan: Just read through your Kinki headphone amp review. I got a very good grasp on its sonics, thank you. You did mention the Pass unit in passing as though to suggest the THR-1 was similar. Did I read that right? How about its use as a preamp? Just thinking out loud... Holger
I suspect that the Pass and Kinki are cut from similar cloth, hence the mention. But with the Pass long back at its maker, I couldn't be more specific. One thing is clear, though. The Pass makes a terrific active preamp without remote whilst the THR-1 on faux XLR is only a buffered passive volume control. That's a big difference if you mean to multi-task. Srajan
Hello Srajan, I knew Terry Cain fairly well and lived only 60 miles from him while he was still with us. I purchased a pair of Abby’s directly from Terry and later added a Bailey sub. Very well integrated combo, but can be quite fussy regarding amp matching. With the Cain’s, I’ve been most happy with tube amps and MOSFET solid state (a few, not all). I have a Sony VFET amp that I perhaps should try with the Cains. I am on the list for a First Watt SIT-3, likely to arrive next month. As you’ve heard and reviewed both the amp and the speakers, what would you expect from such a marriage? Thanks, Rob Schatz
My encounter with the Cain Abby is 13 years in the past, waaay too remote to even have a hunch. Power and noise of the SIT-3 should be no issue. Whether the Abby prefers an old-style 1:1 output/impedance scenario like a classic no-feedback SET would provide with an 8-ohm or 4-ohm output impedance; or loves the SIT-3's somewhat lower figure which gives a bit more damping... that I couldn't predict. But you should know for yourself soon enough. As my review of the Cube Audio Nenuphar described—a speaker in a similar vein as your Abby—I thought the SIT-3 was the hammer with it. More I don't know. Yet. A friend of mine owns SIT-1 and just got his own pair of Nenuphar. He also owns many single-ended triode amps. He promised some feedback on how the SIT-1 monos compare to tubes into that load, what they might leave under the table and where they might go further. That should provide good data points also for the SIT-3. Srajan
Dear Srajan: I have just finished reading your exciting and provocative review of the Cube Audio Nenuphar speaker: "Exciting" because of the ardor your review communicates – a particularly persuasive feature of your best reviews; "provocative" because this review caused me to revisit reviews for Pass Labs XA30.8, XA25, First Watt SIT-1, Sit-3, Boenicke Audio W-5 and W-11 and the Vivid Giya G-4 as well as prompting a re-examination of philosophies concerning audio music (re)production. Suffice it to say, I have increasingly come to appreciate and agree with your "weltansicht": that the notion of an absolute sound is misguided; that one’s music system must be informed by and tailored to personal preferences (spiced) in alignment with the type of music one listens to; and the hard truths of financial resources, product availability, and the physical context (environment) in which a system is used.
This would seem to be especially true in choosing (right-sizing) a speaker for one’s space. The review indicated the Nenuphar could perform well in both smaller and larger spaces. However, I was a little unclear what size room would be best for that speaker. Would the Cube Magus or Nenuphar Mini be better suited to a smaller room? Given the unique design of the driver, does it make a difference?Likewise, in reading Dawid Grzyb’s review of the Boenicke W-11, given the breathing room it is said Boenicke speakers require, one wonders what size room would best be suited for the W-11 (as opposed to the W-5 or W-8)? Indeed, albeit acknowledging the role proper amplification plays in the subject, explicit advice of some kind is of interest and perhaps vital importance when many of the enticing devices reviewed on the 6moons site are simply not to be found (much less heard) by many of your readers. Do you have any general advice along these lines?
Thanks again for an excellent review and for all that you and your colleagues do to keep interest in music reproduction alive, and the blue flames of desire burning bright. Godfrey Herndon
My advice would always be to contact the manufacturer. Most reviewers have just one room where they review. Their experience is specific to that alone. Some have two, at the most three rooms. Whatever those happen to be, anything falling outside their dimensions they couldn't possibly know about. They have to speculate at best. Meanwhile manufacturers will have done shows in different-sized rooms, have dealers with varying facilities, have their own rooms and that of employees to possess a certain data base of broader experience to cull from. If you contacted Cube for example and said "I've got 3.5 x 5 metres with standard ceilings to work with and the speaker can't be further than 60cm from the front wall, what's the appropriate best model in your catalogue for me", I'm sure they'd have a very clear opinion. Likewise for copasetic amps. If you contact Sean at Zu, he'll tell you what amps he's tried with their various models, which ones he liked best and why. It doesn't guarantee you'd agree but it's a good starting place; often better than a reviewer who has a far more limited arsenal of hardware which may or may not be ideally suited to a given review subject. Srajan
Hello Srajan, Very interesting and educational review of the Cube Audio Nenuphar speakers. Your attempts to try various amplification to get the best match was a good lessons for many. Right, it's like finding the perfect soul partner. One has to make an effort to find the best fit. Congrats Cube Audio team, it's truly well deserved based on what I've read from your 6-page long review! Awesome! Many thanks. Alvin
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that widebanders of this very type prefer low-powered single-ended triode amps. In hindsight now, this seems to have very little to do with their actual output devices and far more with their high output impedance, i.e. very low damping factors of just 1 or 2. Very few transistor amps behave like that, hence that category of amps has been bypassed nearly by default for the "100dB single-driver club". But when you use a transistor amp with a 4-ohm output impedance which now mimics SET behaviour on that count, voilà - ideal results with such speakers. Definitely not a one-size-fits-all proposition but a matter of right tool for the job -:) Srajan
Nenuphar would make powerful amps with typical low output impedances sound like crap; or they it. That's a 2-way street. They'd be the wrong tool to review the vast majority of modern amps with. So Codex stays firmly put. On the other hand, Nenuphar opens doors to low-power triode types with damping factors of 1 to 2, i.e. circuits with high output impedances which shun feedback. Now Nenuphar sounds stunning and this type amp gets to show off its magic which often dims with standard speakers. As a reviewer, I can't act like Joe Private, get my favourite system together, meaning just one of everything, then call it quits. I need all kinds of hammers in my tool chest to, hopefully, always have at least one appropriate tool for the job at hand. Does it mean I'd love to keep Nenuphar around? Hell yes! It's an alternate flavour and approach every bit as valid; and one that, for the type music we enjoy the most, really works the magic treat. It also keeps the SIT-1 in business for which no other speaker in inventory is really correct. Cube Audio just told me that I'm allowed to hang on to this pair for ongoing use on extended loan. So it seems we haven't heard the last of Nenuphar yet by a long shot. Muchos gracias, Grzegorz. My tool kit just grew by leaps and bounds. And given Nenuphar's exceptional resolution, it'll be a helpful new microscope to look through for assignments that give me trouble telling much if any differences. I'm looking at you, certain digital. Srajan
Hi Srajan, I have 2 components I really love but one has to go because of an impedance mismatch. My preamp/DAC PS Audio Direct Stream will stay. My OB speakers are Spatial M3 Turbo S @ 4Ω, two 12" drivers, one being coaxial. I .love them because in my shitty room they do not create problems but a huge, huge stage. No booming and no room interaction. I could doa factory upgrade to 16Ω but my FirstWatt J2's power will be half, probably with less distortions. Anyway, as you know it is only 13W at 4Ω. Second, the First Watt J2 amp is not doing well with 4Ω but also I love it. So I need from you a speaker recommendation to sing with J2 up to $3'000 used value; or a better more powerful amp. Did not like a few heritage Klipschs (horn coloration), Reference 3A (deep into 4Ω from 8Ω nominal), single drivers like Cain Abby, Coral Beta 10 into back-loaded horn shouted too much like Lowthers. Nelson said Tannoy HPD but I don’t like vintage. Or do I keep my Spatial OB 4Ω and go for FW F7 or Pass XA30.5? I don’t think you’ll recommend SIT-3, right? Let me know what would you do in my shoes. Cheers Marius
Keep the speakers. Finding some which work this well in a shitty room is a miracle I'd not expect to clone that easily. You've already won 75% of the battle! So it'll be the new amp route - in my shoes. I'd look into the Pass Labs XA25: 50wpc into 4Ω, 100 into 2Ω, 1Ω capable, $1'600 less than XA-30.8. If I didn't already own the 30.8, I'd have bought the XA25 review sample. It has a certain special something which I thought went beyond the 30.8. For lower impedances, the Pass Labs amps with their bigger power supplies have the advantage over the FW which, really, are made for special-ops speakers. And I'm afraid yours don't really fit that category. But again, absolutely keep them. The speaker/room riddle is far harder to solve than the amp/speaker connection -:) Srajan
Srajan, one of these days I'm gonna write you a stinker but not just yet. The Unum thing was a masterpiece of reviewer balance. Still, I resent the F5 simile. No way my FirstWatt is cool, distant, whatever. If it was, I wouldn't have kept it and I've got three custom triode flea amps to prove it. PS: Westminster is in China? Who knew. Michele Surdi
An observation and a head scratcher. 26dB of local feedback goes a long way in confirming your impression of the Unum amp’s sound. A Swedish car with "…a 10 year Swiss warranty." Alan TrahernIn Switzerland, Volvo had a special program for cars sold there, hence that sterling 10-year warranty on our low-mileage used car bought there. That warranty is not honoured in Ireland however... Srajan
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