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Curious what's the best preamp you came across so far? I'm in the market for a good preamp. Thanks, Clint Tracy

Without specifying context, there's no such thing as 'best'. If you asked what my favorite preamp is—for our main system in the current room, from what I've heard that I could afford—it's the Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with Elrog ER50. But why that should matter to you I haven't the faintest. It won't automatically translate to your system and room. Having never listened together, you also can't possibly know the sound I value and whether that would be your sound or not. I'm sorry but with this poorly focused a question, I can't give a better answer. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I see you're investing again into your hardware stable with the passive magnetic preamp and Kinki monoblocks. Do you see a special valve amp in your future to be able to review their kind again? I realize that you had sworn off them but you seemed quite impressed with the Linear Tube Audio models so is there hope? I enjoy reading about the whole spectrum of fine hifi and ever since you abandoned tube amps, I had to go elsewhere for my fix. It would be nice if you could incorporate the occasional glowing amps again. Preamps just aren't the same. I hope you're staying healthy. You certainly seem busy enough to keep us all entertained. With my very best wishes, Francis Gammond

Funny you should ask. It seems something tubular not bells could be tolling in my belfry. If so, it'll be something ultra special and rare and a true benchmark to rejoin your kind of favorite game. So yes, hope seems alive and well on that score as it does on many others. Srajan

Hi Srajan, in a recent letter sent to you, you were asked which of several speakers that you have reviewed was your favorite. Of the ones listed you stated that you loved the Acelec Model One... and you loved the sound|kaos 3a even more, for different reasons. Also on that list was the Aurai M3 but you made no mention of it. The review you wrote highly praised this speaker and you gave it a Blue Moon award so you obviously were very impressed with it. Since the cost of this speaker is within my budget (the Acelec Model One might also be doable), I would like to know where you would put it with respect to the Acelec and the sound|kaos 3a. Cheers, Peter Borelli

How could the Aurai M3 have been on my list but me having made no mention of it? I'm not sure I understand the question. I've gone to great lengths in each review to describe each speaker's main strengths or character to the best of my abilities. You'll have to triangulate between them wherever I didn't make direct comparisons. I sadly don't have time to write mini comparisons for readers curious about how 'A' compared to 'Q' to 'Y'. Our 18-year archives would make that an impossible enterprise. You are correct of course that I rate the Aurai in the same elite company of compact monitors I've reviewed more recently. Cheers, Srajan

I am still curious. If you had to choose between the sound|kaos Vox 3a, the Aurai M3 or M1 as the only speaker you could have, which of these three would you personally choose? This is a question that you have answered before in an interview. You said it was an easy question to answer and that you already had it. At that time it was the Boenicke W5se. I will not consider your answer a recommendation. In the end, I will make my own choice and will hold no one but myself responsible. Peter

It always depends on which room I would shop for. In the current house, upstairs it'd be the sound|kaos Vox 3a, downstairs it'd be the M1. Srajan

Hello, I'm getting in touch with you as an organizer of the local Audio Video Show in Prague. Because this year is a little strange for all of us, we had a talk here in Prague and decided to get our local brands a little more recognition worldwide. I took the responsibility as a person who knows who to contact so here I am trying to promote several brands that want to be involved with you. I'll appreciate any feedback from your side. These brands definitely don't have big marketing budgets as I'm not mentioning bigger local brands like Xavian or Acoustic Quality you may have already heard of.

Anyhow, here's the list of brands you might want to know about.

GMG Power

    • young brand that produces high-end power filters - passive, reliable and oversized
    • not cheap but with prices between €3-10K still acceptable in the high-end world
    • I personally recommend X-Blocker, their cheaper smaller model
    • I use the bigger model in my personal setup and compared  itdirectly to IsoTek regenerators/filter or even the basic Stromtank model and this works better
    • this brand is highly interested in global promotion

Elfton

    • one-man company but with a slightly different approach
    • real high-end sound for very affordable prices
    • I suggest checking out their three-way €3'000 Ringo stand-mount, which works surprisingly well for its price
    • more at

Riha

    • again a one-man show backed by  one sales guy
    • focuses mainly on absolutely flat frequency response of speakers and maximum dynamics of electronics, not really focused on design
    • I suggest checking his Plus series of speakers, for example the ~€3'000/pr Kilo V2 Plus
    • what's maybe even more interesting is the 100wpc €2'000 B200 power amplifier, oversized, able to drive almost anything
    • more at

RD Acoustic

    • this company provides many interesting things
    • my personal choice would not be the obvious full-range hornspeakers but the RD EMI Neutralizer powert filter or some acoustic solutions, especially their  Hybrid Acoustic Diffuser that works extremely well in a few world-famous reviewers' systems
Nadral
    • very young company with a focus on a technical look and good parts, with speakers from €2-3K/pr
    • I actually had just a brief listening session at our show,but the N1 seemed pretty good to me

These five companies were a pleasant surprise at this year's show and as an ambassador of Czech hifi I'm giving my personal recommendation to check these out as being worthy mostly for interesting prices and associated sound quality. Daniel Brezina

Thank you very much for your ambassadorial note, Daniel. Except for RD Acoustics, I indeed wasn't familiar with the other four brands. I'd be more than happy to try and assist them with some exposure in our pages. Simply encourage them to get in touch with me directly and we'll see what we can do. Srajan

Srajan, nice review on that new autoformer passive. It read like a TAP-X in a different form factor with extra features. Quite the find. Kudos for sniffing out novelties that some of us can still afford. I especially like all the custom order options including true balanced from an AVC. I sensed that you were close to getting one for yourself? It must have smarted to realize how close it came to your big tube preamp! Patrick Croyden

Getting one did indeed cross my mind. And yes, hearing it vs our Nagra and Vinnie Rossi valve decks was a great reality check. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I’m over the moon about your Blue Moon Award, your review and those fantastic 10 pages you created. Thank you very much for your great work and support which literally changes our life. The life-changing moment for the guys of Life-Changer Ltd. In the past 5 years I spent so much work, time and money on the icOn. I worked 60-80 hours weekly for far less than the minimum wage. There were tough periods when I thought about giving up and only seeing the dark side of the audio world but I always felt that icOn has some advantages which my competitors lack. 'It may take time but truth will always win' was my motto. You came and suddenly proved and showed to tens of thousand of audiophiles that I was not wrong. Now I get so many emails and leads as never before. I hope we will meet sometime somewhere in person to shake hands and have a chat about other things too. Have a wonderful weekend! Pal and Agnes

Hello Srajan, I'm following your developing Terminator-Plus review with great interest. I guess I'm surprised that you find the clock sync feature to be the primary attraction so far. For many of us without a source to take advantage of it, that's perfectly useless. Any comments? Jeremy Wozny

I'm no digital engineer. But let's say I was. I look at the standard Terminator. I'm tasked to identify areas of possible improvement. After considering what's there, I point at the power supply to specify new ultra capacitors. I split the main circuit board into two to isolate analog and digital even more. I change a few key parts and the overall layout. I then upgrade the clocks and make them externally accessible. This turns out to be the biggest upgrade. Even I'm surprised. But voilà, applause from the company. I did my job. They're thrilled. I get to live another day. That one Jeremy Wozny is unhappy because the most room for improvement turned out to be with a new feature he has no use for doesn't even register.

Sorry to sound harsh but that's about the gist of it. The T+ is turnkey functional without that feature. It works like any other DAC. There's a built-in upgrade path which already works with the most affordable Denafrips DDC, the €450 Iris. Many audiophiles pay more for a power cord. Add €40 for 2 x 50cm Sommercable clock cables. Now Bob's your uncle. I see no cause for malcontent. After all, would you bitch if your new integrated had a pre-out you didn't need and a selectable balance control you don't use? If the general sound has your vote, excess features simply cover bases for other customers. That's what good product does. It accounts for the broadest target audience and the most diversified needs and applications. T+ is a statement product for advanced customers. The standard Terminator remains with the program. If you don't see yourself using a DDC or other source that's copasetic with the T+ clock sync, get the standard Terminator, Venus, Pontus or Ares II instead. Different price points, different features, different levels of system complexity. My review simply says that to tap T+'s full potential, its clock sync is mandatory because it's so effective. Reading anything else into it is just whining. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I see you signed up for the PhoenixUSB and expect a Q&A phone call. If I may, here are some things I'd like you to ask. 1/ with it in front of a USB DAC, is the DAC now prompted to operate in isochronous not asynchronous mode so the Innuos clock is master? 2/ what's the reason behind a 10MHz clock used by many external master clocks versus their 24MHz clock rate when neither relate directly to audio sample rates? 3/ why no S/PDIF or I-squared-S? 4/ how can an optocoupled USB input on a DAC be improved by "noise filtering" what happens in front of it? 5/ how can they justify €2.5K for this box? I look forward to their replies. Best, Volkmar

I'm well ahead of you, Volkmar. 1-4 and more are already on my own list. 5 I will attempt to determine versus competitors. Here I don't think companies can be expected to be 100% objective. They're supposed to believe their stuff beats the competition. Why otherwise bother? Things routinely are priced based on what they (are believed to) beat, not just on the parts inside the enclosure. That's normal business arithmetic. Are we to really expect that any firm would say "we're overpriced for what we deliver" to indulge our fantasy that we could DIY the gizmo for a whole lot less? All business is about profit. That only comes after all operational expenses are covered. These include salaries, ship fees, insurance, import/VAT fees, dealer margins, possibly even distributor margins, advertising, show attendance and more. And of course, if you can find the same or better performance for a lot less elsewhere, that's every savvy shopper's dream. I simply wouldn't expect one maker to send you elsewhere for comparable product that's cheaper than theirs. That's your job to sniff out and take advantage of. As a reviewer, I do attempt a certain value assessment wherever I'm informed enough to know of alternate options. If a product is unique to where I don't know direct equivalents, I can't. In the end, that area of perceived value is always up to each buyer to navigate. Srajan

Srajan, I noted that you took delivery of the Terminator-Plus. Care to share any first impressions on how it compares to the one you have? Inquiring minds want to know how these two bad boys compare. Holger Scharmacher

Sorry, I wouldn't. That's what the review is for. It'll all be revealed in due time when the new unit has clocked some time and I'm certain of what I'm hearing. For now it's running in and staying warm for a few non-stop days so the circuitry is fully on song. In my experience, digital wants to be powered up constantly to sound its best. Srajan

Srajan, just a quick heads up that I don't agree with Jeffrey Bart. Your site is super easy to navigate and your archives are the most sorted I've seen anywhere. Don't change a thing. Let the discontents go elsewhere I say. All the best, Conrad

Jeffrey is perfectly within his rights to dislike it. I don't mind criticisms. To do something about them, they simply must convince me. I've implemented numerous changes over the years in response to reader requests or suggestions. This particular one just misses the cut. Anyhow, I never think I must please everyone. As long as I please enough people to keep doing what I enjoy doing, I'm good. In the end, it's all just words and pictures. There's only so many ways to organize them. Everyone has their own preferences. Those simply shouldn't stand in the way when dealing with implementations that don't conform to them. It's like the layout of a super market. They're all different but after a short while, you know how each organizes their aisles to find what you're looking for. It's only the first time that can be disorienting. "Where, arrgh, do they hide the bloody Q-tips?" Srajan

Dear Srajan: I was curious. As a reviewer, do you still consider yourself an artist like the musician you used to be? I'm asking because ever since the lock-down, I've started to keep a journal and I'm curious what your perception is on the writing process. Thanks a lot for any feedback you might have. Seamus Walsh

That's a very interesting question. Thank you for that. You may not know it but my name actually means 'creativity'. And I really do consider myself actively involved in the creative process. But I never think of myself as an artist. That would feel like taking ownership and stealing credit. "I am an artist." That's a most self-referential statement. It implies that I'm the doer. To me that's not the case. My creative process is just a download from elsewhere; occupying the same space or vibration as inspiration. I'm merely a recipient. My part is to show up and get involved. Experience then tweaks the small stuff but the actual creation already happened in the ether if you will. So the process isn't making something. It's discovering what a something is which spontaneously shows up when I bother to show up for the physical act of typing on a keyboard and letting it come through. There's no ownership, just participation and discovery.

Also, the notion of being an artist immediately raises the question on what art is. That's far too loaded and presumptuous for my taste. I stay away from the whole thorny issue. I simply feel lucky that I get to make a living from something I really enjoy; and that it happens to have a certain usefulness to others. So my feedback is to not worry about any formal concepts, titles and processes. Just trust that something of personal meaning wants to express itself through you. Trust that showing up as a recipient on a disciplined regular basis will whittle away at certain obstructions and efforts until the 'download' happens easily and quickly. That's it. Eventually your own voice reveals itself and doing it becomes like breathing. You can do it anywhere, anytime. And like breathing, it's not really our doing. If it were, we'd all forget to breathe while we sleep. We'd never wake up.

Finally, in my experience one can only write how one thinks. Writing visualizes our thinking. It betrays discontinuities, faulty logic and all manner of imprecise fuzzy thinking which is easier to spot on the page than in the grey matter. So the process of writing is a feedback mechanism. As our writing clarifies to get simpler and more accurate, so will our thinking. That alone is reason enough to do it. Who cares whether it's art? Srajan

Dear Srajan, that was surprisingly useful, thank you. I hadn't thought of it quite like that. I guess I'm not yet at the point of the easy download. I'm still struggling with the right words to have what I feel match up what I write. Did that take you a long time? Seamus

When people tell me they can't write, I tell them to write like they speak. Speak to someone, even yourself - simply on the page. Anyone can talk. That's all there is to it. And yes, the process involves our growing sensitization on how/whether the words really match our finest sentiments and intention. To that there's no end. Like with any craft, practice chips away at obstructions. I've been doing it for 20 years on an essentially daily basis. Whether I've improved I'll leave for others to judge. What I can say is that the process still inspires and intrigues me the same. On one level, audio is simply what perpetuates it. It keeps presenting ongoing prompts. Product shows up, there's people behind it, history, tech, questions to ask, things to learn, listening to do, describing a subjective experience in ways that hopefully communicate without boring. It's my ongoing boot camp to whittle away at this craft. So don't set yourself any schedule. Focus on the journey rather than destination. It's a personal journey of discovery. When your voice suddenly shows up, you'll recognize it. How I don't know but you will. That's for certain. It'll be a fun day. Srajan

That is an enticing thing to anticipate. So far my download channel seems clogged most of the time. It's still more of a struggle than rain clouds letting go. But I'll hold on to the promise of time and that growing experience will make the difference. Thanks again. Seamus

They say that any craft—making sushi, playing the piano, writing haiku—takes at least 10 years of diligent practice to master. Don't be in a hurry with unrealistic expectations. And if you can, leave judgment out of it. It's not about comparing yourself to others or even conforming to your own ideas. It's about discovering what comes when that other stuff let's go. It's about engaging the 'muscle' so it wakes up and gains shape and responsiveness. It's bound to happen in its own time. Srajan

Srajan, yours is one of many audio sites I read every month. So I wonder why you segregate your site into various sub sections when competitors like darko.audio and Mono & Stereo put all their content on the same page so the newest is always at the top. I find that much more convenient. Jeffrey Bart

The answer is simple. If you do like M&S and run 5 to 6 news posts a day on the same page as your reviews, the reviews get bumped from that constantly refreshing page within a day or two (unless the page simply gets longer and longer which theirs doesn't). Why would I want my reviews to disappear from view after such a short period of time? They're the main attraction and focus of my site and hard work. They carry far different weight than cut'n'paste press releases. The M&S way treats them exactly the same which I would take serious issue with. I prefer to have my reviews easily visible for two months so that readers who only occasionally visit won't miss them. Now they won't have to go look for what's new in the archives. It also gives proper exposure to the makers who pay to ship us their goods and have them written up. Plus, my site is obviously called 6moons and had that basic structure since 2002. Changing it to "one moon" invalidates the name. If you didn't know already, creating a brand with a signature identity is hard enough. That's even truer today when WordPress sites are the norm to often look/work more or less the same. I paid good money to transfer the original design to WordPress with custom code and special plug-ins. Up-ending a signature look/identity made no sense to me. What's more, the initial drop-down menu on the home page features, across each moon, the date when that chapter was last updated. Then the newest content is always on the top (news, feedback and industry features) or in the top-left position (previews, reviews). I don't really see what's too complicated about that. Feel free to disagree but I'm not changing it. It's worked just fine for 18 years already. Srajan

Srajan, saw the Perreaux disappear from the upcoming reviews. May I ask what happened? Was looking forward to learning more about it so feel a bit bummed that it seems to have vanished?  Cheers, Chad

Exactly nothing is what happened. Their UK distributor asked for the review in January, now it's mid July. They've not communicated or otherwise managed this solicitation so it was time to delete the Perreaux folder from WordPress as something that wasn't going to happen. Sorry for that. Srajan

Hi Srajan, your SQM review really moved me. Seldom I read a hifi story that was written with so much humor, knowledge and thoughtfulness, delicately touching very subtle differences - and at the same time keeping the right perspective on everything in a very professional way. I have been an editor in chief myself for 9 years and I know I tried, but I must acknowledge my superior in you... Please have a look at my blog post about your review here: All the very best, Eelco Grimm

Hi Srajan, in his post, Paul writes "I currently clock-slave my SOtM SMS 200ultra Roon endpoint to my Audiogd HE20 DDC. The Audiogd has 10MHz clock i/o so with Terminator Plus I could slave both to the superior clock in the Terminator Plus." Denafrips use a 45MHz clock, Audiogd and SOtM a 10MHz clock. How would that work? Tim

It wouldn't. Paul got that mixed up as well as the 50/75Ω standard. He's right of course for his current setup. But for the Denafrips, he'd want the matching Gaia, Iris or Avatar units or anything by another brand that uses the Denafrips clock standard. Srajan

Hi Srajan, thank you for the recent review of the LessLoss Blackbody. Am I correct in thinking that you weren't as excited about it as you are about the Firewall? I notice that you're still using that and it got the award and the Blackbody didn't. I want to know how to properly think of this kind of tweak. Ricky S.

I define a tweak as a sound-improving product so not a primary sound maker. Take out a sound maker and there's no sound. Take out a tweak and the sound continues (just less good if the tweak is effective). It's imperative then to start with solid sound makers which play together well before getting tweaks where the cost of certain ones would buy far more improvements invested into better sound makers. And as my review said, I did find the Firewall to be rather more potent. It also disappears nicely behind the speakers where multiple Blackbodies especially wired up quickly look fussy. So I ended their review by suggesting that you'd consider this type tweak when you already have everything else (sorted).

I personally have a simple rule to separate initial infatuation from serious desire: after you lived with the thing under consideration for a bit, take it back out, then see how quickly you forget about it again; or not. If it keeps haunting you, you met a good one. If it fades from memory, it can't have been important enough. That applies to not just tweaks but any other piece of hifi hardware. Our hearing is incredibly adaptive. It's why when we first make a change, it always seems big. As we live with it, it becomes our new normal. The initial difference and all the surrounding hoopla and pleasure are absorbed in a new status quo. We might even wonder whether we've been had or imagined the whole thing. Then it's time to take the stuff back out. See what collapses, shrinks or otherwise deteriorates. Now remind yourself that you lived with that for a lengthy period before. In the big scheme of it all, how important is the latest change, really? And what do you consider a fair price for its temporary gratification which you know will become less and less special as time goes on because your hearing will adapt to no longer know the difference? These answers are entirely personal but the questions are universal. Srajan

Srajan, hope you are well. As you dig into digital clocking, I'm confident you will be convinced. Closer to analog not in tone but in pace. I hate to say it at the risk of voodoo but the cabling you use matters too and it matters if it is 75Ω versus preferred 50Ω. I currently clock-slave my SOtM SMS 200ultra Roon endpoint to my Audiogd HE20 DDC. The Audiogd has 10MHz clock i/o so with Terminator Plus I could slave both to the superior clock in the Terminator Plus. SOtM make an excellent 50Ω BNC cable, one of the very few out there. Swapping in a 75Ω Oyaide BNC digital is subtle but noticeable. Not as good as the SOtM 50Ω. May have nothing to do with the impedance but I suspect it does. Lots of chatter on the MSB blogs over the years about the benefits of 50Ω cabling for the clocks. Paul

I didn't know 50Ω was preferred. With the Terminator Plus and Gaia, we do deal with 75Ω terminations and not a 10MHz clock either. But I'm not surprised to hear that these cables too make a difference. This being about square waves at very high frequencies, the requirements will be a bit different than for typical analog bandwidths. What exactly that means relative to cable construction and the best suppliers of such cable I'm simply still foggy on at the moment.  Srajan

Dear Srajan: I see you have different reviews with Denafrips coming up and wondered whether you're planning on trying the new Terminator with the Gaia? Like you I would prefer a DAC that is a true one-box solution to no longer need extra boxes to sound its best. Thank you, Robert Christer

That's indeed the plan, Robert. I'm presently trawling the web to acquire two 75Ω clock-sync cables to explore that feature of the Terminator-Plus with Gaia and Avatar when they all get here. You'd think that with its superior clock, the Plus might be immune to the charms of preceding clocks. But with its clock outputs wired up, it'll be in fact its own clock that controls the send clock of either this DDC or transport. And that I've not done before to have any notion on what to expect. Should know soon enough though... Srajan

Srajan, saw that Frederic will review the Denafrips Pontus. Any chance you guys will cover the Ares II? Some of us only have limited funds and that model already has all the interesting main tech of R2R and NOS. Sincerely, Craig Norton

As it happens, Frederic was just asked to compare Ares II to Pontus so you're in luck. I now changed the link graphic to make clear that this has become a 2-for-1 assignment. Just don't ask Frederic how those two compare to the Venus and Terminator. He's never heard those so won't know. Srajan

Bravo, Srajan. I just caught up with your icOn4 preview. Once again I learnt things I've not found on it anywhere else. Sometimes I think that manufacturers must deliberately withhold information from your competitors only to give it to you when it's your turn and make you look good. How did you swing that? Just kidding of course but still, it happens often enough to make one wonder. Blake

Sorry Blake, I signed an NDA for that. Mum's the word or I'd have to kill you after. But seriously, I have no idea. I'm just curious and put myself in a prospective buyer's shoes. What then would I want to know, about the company or piece under consideration? What's not obvious but interesting? I ask and (most the time) get the answers. Presumably others forget to ask? That bit isn't rocket science. It just requires continued enthusiasm to put into action. No mysterious machinations at work. Srajan

Really? "Divide and conquer: Sly on the left, Arnie on the right, Netflex in the middle." I got a good chuckle out of that one with my morning coffee. Nearly spilled a mouthful, lol. Thanks a million! Victor

Can't take credit for that. I made a typo and was just about to fix it to Netflix when I realized this made a good point. So I left it rather than turn it into Nitflex. Sometimes dumb luck wins out. And you too? Everyone around here in Ireland says thanks a million. What if I only have one euro?  Srajan

Great to see all the compilation lists. I already recognized that we had similar interests in music but great to dip into that now. The Requiem (for Paco de Lucia) reminds me of a concert I was at, Paco Pena's Flamenco Mass. Obviously some of the audience had never heard Cante Jondo. Paco plus extra guitarists plus some other gitano guys sitting there. It starts nicely enough, nice tasteful guitar. Then suddenly, one of the guys lets rip with that hoarse guttural singing. Gasps of surprise—even horror?—were heard from the audience! Chris

Quite. I was in the home of an audiophile in Granada and had brought a personal compilation on a CDR. Naturally I asked to hear proper Flamenco. The attending Spandiards clearly winced. I asked them about it. They consider it "primitive" and don't understand why foreigners like it. It's as though this primitivism questions the Catalans' high cultural standing. Having the remote control as the guest of honor, I did the needful. I turned the volume up. Srajan

Year 2010. Dave Hewitt delivers to me his clone of the Pass F3 amp. We connect it up, he "sits" in my listening chair about 2 metres from the Ocellia Calliopes. "It’s like listening to giant headphones" he said.

Year 2020. My desk-side Zigmahornets work likewise, playing Gerardo Nuñez as I type. Close-field is it! Chris Skelton

Gerardo Nuñez. Good man! If you haven't yet, check out Rafael Cortéz on my Musical waves N°11 playlist in the music reviews pages. Srajan

Dear Srajan, a question about amps, please. I know that you use the Liszt monos in your main system. As per their website, they are no longer made. Recently you reviewed a Kinki Studio stereo amp and compared it very favorably to your monos. If you went shopping today, would you consider that Chinese amp to be a fair replacement for your monos? Thanks for any clarification you can give. I look forward to it. Volker Knier

That's simple. Yes. If I ran power-hungrier speakers in a far bigger room thus at higher volumes, the mono equation could step forward to be counted. At my usage, they had no advantage over the stereo amp I could hear. To really gild that lily, Kinki have their own monos. Those don't really produce more power per se but add low-impedance reserves and power supply stability "under heavy attack". I've not reviewed the 2020 versions and the stereo amp already left for its next review. So I couldn't make that comparison even if I wanted. Honestly though, I'd not hesitate to replace my LinnenberG with the Kinki. I have no need to make such a change so I won't. But purely on sonics, I'd consider it a wash. So if the Germans gave up their ghosts tomorrow, I'd go Kinki because it'd save a lot of money. Finally, I know that one of my fairaudio colleagues owns a Liszt stereo. That's not on the LinnenberG website either. I thus suspect that Ivo still makes Listz stereo or mono amps by special request, just doesn't openly advertise it perhaps because he feels that his Widor amp is better? Let's find out from Ivo directly. Srajan

In 25+ years, I never betrayed my belief in any of the gear I built. However models change whenever I see opportunity to come up with something better, not just an upgrade or Mk2 version. Too often improvements are too radical to make them fit into old constructions. That's part of my game, one may like it or not. Fortunately some do and each time I come up with something new, we generate sufficient interest for a small production batch. It was never my intention to build up a large company. Instead we have real handmade products with as much attention to detail as possible. Here I'm talking about Liszt already. Widor is much better in my opinion and even did sell better when looking at the sales revenues. But there are a few people wanting mono amplifiers with a moderate footprint like Liszt. What to do when Liszt is completely sold out? Build another batch? Wrong company. My answer is to launch an improved mono version based on Widor. This will be the G.F. Händel scheduled for the end of the year. The accompanying preamp/dac G.P. Telemann replacing the original Telemann is already in the starting blocks. Ivo Linnenberg

Srajan, thanks to your latest Darko column, I followed the threads it triggered. OEM work isn't new. As you point out, hifi had it ever since NAD, probably sooner. Most of today's class D uses OEM modules. Why are people upset now that a Chinese brand decides to branch out into a second brand? As long as it's good product for a good price, why whinge over who makes it or what it might be similar to? Most Icepower or Hypex amps just differ in bling and price. This stuff seems more different than that. I must be missing something that sticks in other people's craws. Were there more threads with more information about this? ...Craig

First off, I can only speak for myself. Musician's strange evasiveness to my questions triggered me. In hindsight, my questions confronted a non-disclosure agreement between them and their chosen OEM. All evidence points at Denafrips being that OEM. Yet the same NDA forbids them from acknowledging it. So the inevitable denying, obfuscating and eluding now looks bad and people feel lied to when those who (must) withhold the answers just follow the letter of the law. To avoid this type of show-down in the instant world of well-informed consumers, the inspired-by product would have needed to look and be more different. What's more, the Musician sales force was likely unprepared when I and others asked our questions. The OEM didn't foresee such reactions to the Musician product launch and the rest is now history.

Two, OEM indeed has been with us for decades. As I said to someone else on the subject earlier today, very few cars today are purely from the brand whose logo they fly on the bonnet. Factories share entire automotive platforms, sub assemblies and parts. Usually those mixed origins are simply better concealed.

Three, in a personal email to me, Mr. Zhao of Denafrips explained that to keep his growing forces employed, he must be involved in OEM/ODM work. It's about the long-term fiscal viability of his enterprise/factory and the reality that a single global reseller in Singapore won't be enough to sustain them forever. Anyone who loves Denafrips and wants them to continue to be successful must accept that the same tech could be shared with other brands.

Four, this story also touched on cultural differences in business conduct. I attended a Shuguang event in China where I learnt that government-operated factories like theirs are told what to produce. Today it could be vacuum tubes, yesterday it might have been refrigerator assembly, tomorrow it could be tractors. The notion of a large work force in a factory stocked with industrial equipment that doesn't operate at max capacity seems anathema to them. If supplying multiple brands with similar products increases productivity and sales, that's considered to be the obvious solution and anyone not grasping that would be a dunce. A Westerner meanwhile might view it as brand dilution, disloyalty or questionable ethics. It's easy to go judgmental. Only someone responsible for a work force of 50 will understand what people like Mr. Zhao face daily to insure that they don't have to let anyone on their staff go. Srajan

Hi Srajan , I tried today your nearfield "headphone-like" speaker setup: GoldNote DS10 + Bakoon AMP-13R + sound|kaos Vox 3a spaced 3.5m apart and fully toed in towards the listening position on the sofa at ~1.80 meters. May I invite all 6moons readers to give it a try? It's like discovering Sicilian ice cream after a lifetime of British one! Listening to Jazz at the Pawnshop, the feeling of liveliness is the best I've ever experienced. Thank you for sharing these ideas! Vincenzo Picone

As you found out, it's particularly effective with little speakers which don't pose the same cosmetic challenges and are easily moved back to 'normal' should such a wide free-space setup clash with the décor. You could move them even closer to your hot seat if you wanted still more immersion. Srajan

Hi again. I tried wider & closer to my hot seat. The level of immersion is indeed outstanding!  More precisely, the difference is on intimacy, balance and overall relaxation.  I suspect this is due to the fact that room interaction is now very low, anything else at play?  It feels like listening to my HifiMan HE1000 with a more believable soundstage and a more palpable sound. You once wrote about 'the musicians in my room' vs 'I feel I am there' hifi dilemma. This is definitely the latter. I put on Mehldau’s O Que Sera and it brought up memories of Sicilian gelato. Remind me, decor aside, why do we set up audio systems the way we normally do? If you are up to, I suspect I won’t be alone here to appreciate more tips from your experience in getting the best out of this kind of set-up (eg. how to get the bass right). Thank you for what you do. Vincenzo Picone

Yes, it seems that the closer we are to our speakers; and the farther away from our walls they are - the less room interference we hear. It's not so dissimilar from Joachim Gerhardt's original setup for Audio Physic speakers. We also suffer less SPL-over-distance losses and can play a bit lower for the same perceived sonic intensity. Now the speaker works less hard which usually means, with less distortion. As you noted, eventually it becomes a kind of enormous headphone facsimile. The only overreach happens when the center image collapses to then listen to 'dual mono'. Then you've stretched the speakers apart too much. Moving our speakers farther into the room also invokes less 'room gain' in the bass. Now the trick is to find the right front-wall distance for the speakers, then move the seat closer to get back to the extreme nearfield inside the room's open space position. Personally I'd rather have a bit less bass and more clarity and speed in the midband. There's an even more 'radical' setup which Pierre Sprey of Mapleshade originally championed for the smaller d'Appolito Gallo speakers. Now one sets the speakers on the floor and angles them up to make up for the tweeter alignment to the ear. The steep toe-in and close seat position remain. The low placement harvests boundary gain from the floor and can make smaller speakers act much bigger. It simply looks odd so might require a dedicated listening room to be acceptable. With your Vox 3a, you have a built-in plinth so could take them off the main stands, then experiment. Put something suitable underneath the front of the plinth to create sufficient rake so that the widebander aims clearly at your ears not shins. Presto, a whole new game to experiment with.

As to why people don't experiment more with non-conventional setups I don't know. Speaker placement tests cost nothing yet can make a huge difference. Of course dealer showrooms want to maximize floor space so they tend to want speakers closer to the front wall. Ditto for photos in adverts. They want to play down the cosmetic intrusion speakers as furniture have on a room. And at hifi shows, only big cash-rich companies can afford the big ball rooms. Everyone else ends up in a small hotel room where the challenge is to get the most number of people in and still make decent sound. Again speakers tend to sit closer to the front wall so the presenters aren't down to just three chairs. From all that, most people get the idea that that's how speakers ought to be set up. If you look at how I have set up my Audio Physic in the downstairs room and Acelec Model One in the upstairs room... they're both set up wide, steeply toed in and far away from the front wall. I can't do more than show by example. If people pay no attention or are afraid to experiment for themselves, I can't help it. I even do it on my desktop with the silver Fram Midi 150. They're off the desk top on tripods, toed in steeply and with risers beneath the front legs to angle the tweeters directly at my ears. Huge very focused sound with proper depth regardless of the big monitor screen in the middle. In this photo, the smaller black versions were in for review so the right one covers up the right bigger silver monitor. But it's there looking straight at me. That's how one does panorama stereo on the desktop whilst decluttering the actual work surface. Srajan

To quote Yoda, "much to learn I still have" and luckily so. Sprey’s radical setup with the Vox 3aA is on the menu for this afternoon! Two last questions from me for today: I understands you use your Zu Sub upstairs which you see as an optimal solution to achieve true and balanced low reach when combined with a top monitor... how to avoid time misalignment (if any) in a nearfield setup? More generally, are there any specific advantages of the conventional speakers setup vs nearfield? Vicenzo

If I heard any real advantages for conventional setups, I'd use them instead. As to my sub, I run it on a 10Hz low-pass which, on the 4th-order slope built in, still bleeds through beyond 40Hz but low enough to not distract. Then I build in a 3-6dB boost at 20Hz and set the sub attenuator very low. That compensates for not having a steeper filter. It's just a bit of fill for mostly the 1st octave. Now there's also more pronounced bass attack from a down-firing 10" sealed driver that immediately sees the floor. If there are any timing errors, they're far overshadowed by the gains in extension and spaciousness. For my scheme the monitors should be good to 40Hz. Mine and yours are. Srajan

Srajan, you're making the rounds. Following the link in your reply to Corey, I read the AS thread and saw your article linked. I also found this: "The article by Srajan for Darko probably got it right: it's the same Chinese manufacturer working as an OEM and selling two very similar DACs to 2 different brands. Does it suck for Denafrips? You bet. But if the design isn't theirs and they didn't lock down an exclusive on the design from the OEM, I don't think there is much they can do. This is not at all uncommon with Chinese plants." If this poster is correct, does that mean that Denafrips isn't its own brand but an OEM platform whose guts are in other brands too? If you could shed some light on this, I'd appreciate it. I'm still a bit confused about it all." Holger Scharmacher

As I understand it, you approach an OEM to build you a branded product. You specify certain features and cosmetics and they build it. You end up with your warehouse filled with goods branded Holger Hifi. Marketing and selling the lot is up to you. Such contracts often contain an NDA. Nobody except you and the OEM know of the connection. For all intents and purposes, Holger Hifi is your product and design. The OEM is the ghost writer, you put your name on the book to get all the credit.

In this case, I always assumed that Mr. Zhao himself owns the Denafrips brand and that Vinshine Audio stepped in later to assist with marketing, then gained exclusive global selling rights. That's because Alvin Chee has never presented himself as owning the brand, only representing it. Whenever I had design questions to which he had no answer, he got the answers for me from Mr. Zhao. If Mr. Zhao builds Musician Audio as it seems, it and Denafrips both come from his factory. That doesn't automatically imply that he owns the new brand. A Chinese Holger might have registered it in his own name. So I don't know whether the poster's assumption is correct. Is Mr. Zhao a 'hidden' OEM who supplies two brand owners with similar product? Or does he, as I suspect, own at least one if not both of these brands himself just as other designer-owned/operated manufacturers do but decided to sell them through two different channels with out-of-office personnel since he speaks no English - Vinshine Audio in Singapore and whoever operates the Musician Audio brand? If you want to know details, you'd need to ask Vinshine Audio and/or Musician Audio and Denafrips. I don't know. But I agree that it's a very good question. So I asked Mr. Zhao. He explained by personal email that besides his own brand Denafrips, he is also in the OEM/ODM business to keep his large crew of 50 workers and engineers busy and employed. Those OEM/ODM contracts are protected by non-disclosure agreements so neither he nor his business partners can go into any specifics. Alvin Chee is his de facto marketing/sales department for the Denafrips brand and also operates the Denafrips website. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I want to respond to your latest KIH column [#77 - Ed.]. I fall into the camp of agreeing not to pursue such a review. Here is why. On behalf of prospective buyers, you asked direct questions only to receive evasive answers. That's a shaky place to start a review with. If they won't answer basic questions about who their designer is and what factory their product comes from, what else do they hide and why? You also made a good point about various acceptable levels of outsourcing. I remember a LessLoss review in which you mention that the DAC board is from Soekris. I don't mind that. I only would if they had presented it as their own and I later found out that it wasn't. Transparency is important to me. So thanks for being vigilant on our behalf. I appreciate that. I also like that you left room for opposing opinions. In our current Covid 19 situation, many will look for the highest value and the Musician DAC promises a lot. I found their website. They offer 30 days to return the product and a one-year warranty. That seems very normal and gives assurances. I simply dislike being lied to so I would not buy from this company. I also don't think that it says great things about the Denafrips owner so I would strike them off my list as well... Corey

This case is peculiar also because Mr. Zhao only made halfhearted attempts at disguising the connection. I saw it just looking at photos and descriptions. He didn't work very hard to create something more different. His proprietary USB transceiver is openly shared. The overall concept and specs are the same. How the chassis goes together is. If you want to be perceived as unique, bolting on a different face plate and changing some internal parts isn't enough. When people catch on as they are now, what's the reward for this strategy?

In a developing thread on Audiophile Style, Chris who received a review sample answered a reader inquiry "this DAC looks similar to Denafrips DACs. Is it made in the same factory?" with "the USB driver has the Denafrips logo and the Musician name." Other people see and wonder the same things. Now the evasiveness of Musician's sales manager only digs a deeper hole. Their website presentation adds to it. Why this charade and deception? It's bothered me enough to not want to proceed. It seems Chris is approaching the same point. On the same thread: "I've been communicating with Aoshida who solicited this review from me and I can't say my experience is any different. The Pegasus uses the Denafrips USB driver and even has the Denafrips logo on the driver. So far my questions have received evasive answers, misleading answers and some that I'm not sure if they are lies or just accidental misstatements. I have more questions into Musician Audio but so far no response. If I can't get answers that enable me to present more information to the AS community, I will not be able to review this DAC. I just can't, in good faith, support or publicize or recommend a product from a company that I can't stand behind."

I also felt that Musician seem keen to ride the coat tails of Vinshine's hard work on behalf of Denafrips. They developed a reputation for the brand to make it and its designer a desirable commodity. Launching a sister brand without acknowledging it feels predatory. Then there's the obvious riddle why, if one wants to benefit from established good reputation, one would subsequently deny the connection. It's bizarre. Of course had I not spotted the Denafrips connection because I wasn't familiar with that brand, I would have signed up for the assignment. Given the emerging Denafrips design DNA, I expect that it would have emerged as another very fine high-value product. It's simply impossible to un-know something after the fact. So for me that door closed. And the cat seems out of the bag now.

I remain curious how others will feel about it. On one level, it's just a cultural phenomenon. What seems questionable in one culture is perfectly acceptable and normal in another. I suffer from my own value system. Others could have a far more relaxed response. That said, I'm starting to share your sentiment about Denafrips relative to Mr. Zhao. I own his Terminator which I'm very happy with. All my interactions with Vinshine over the years have been first class. Reader feedback about their products has invariably been positive so customer service checked out as well. In short, at least in my book Vinshine and the Denafrips success story are intextricably intertwined. It's what keeps me excited about the brand and confident in recommending it. This latest development undermines it. Perhaps after I'm done with my upcoming Avatar, Gaia and Iris reviews, I'll take an extended break from Denafrips. I really don't want to impact Alvin Chee for things that are entirely beyond his control or doing when he's been nothing but a joy to work with. But neither do I want to reward Mr. Zhao for what I consider questionable business ethics. What to do? Srajan

Srajan, great Darko column! Straight to the point, reviewers are obliged to present all the facts known to them. It's a layer of protection for buyers. If you don't feel treated properly, a buyer who is not in the public eye could be treated worse. Whether product sells over Amazon like the JAVS stuff you just reviewed, the buyer decides if that's comfortable. As long as you document problems and solutions, I see no issues. Where products are made or sell makes no difference. I expect a review to cover all angles so I can make informed decisions. That's the only line I see. You're perfectly right that once you know something, it's your job to communicate it. Declining a review because you don't like what you know defeats that purpose. The most helpful thing would have been to accept the Pegasus review, then present all of it in it. That would make this information easily available to shoppers that google the brand or model. Now it's all buried in your letters section. That's far less helpful. If serving readers really is your top priority, you should rethink your policy. That's my feedback on the subject. Charles Kerrington  

These are valid points that have occurred to me already. Sometimes facts are simply ambiguous as in this case where straight answers were in short supply. Are reasonable suspicions and apparent evidence enough? Reviewing isn't investigative journalism. If it were, I'm certainly not trained in that. Now my preference is to decline the job. But your point is well made and taken! Srajan

Hello Srajan, wondering if you have heard anything recently from COS? I was talking with the distributor yesterday and we know they take their time with production but they have been unusually quiet on communications whereas they had previously been very good. Could well be the supply chain challenges that many are facing with the current situation so wondered, as you have a review booked for the D10, whether they had been in touch. All the best. Richard

The last I heard was indeed about supply-chain delays but COS also wondered whether introducing a new product during the lock-down crisis was a good idea. I was assured that I'd still get a review loaner but no commitment was implied as to exactly when. I've not checked back since because I didn't want to pressure anyone. They have to time the roll-out of new product as they see fit and if their dealers are cash poor at the moment and some perhaps barely hanging in… it indeed could be poor timing to ask them to bring in a new model at this time and pursue a review that won't have the usual business follow-up because nobody has spare change. Srajan

Srajan, I just caught up with your JAVS reviews. You have an uncanny knack for discovering new brands. I appreciate that you mention tech support is still lacking. Is there something unusual going on with your Mac-based front end that could cause the signal lock failure at lower sample rates? Perhaps your operating system isn't up to date? Or perhaps your buffer settings are incorrect? ... Connor

My iMac is just a dedicated server for locally hosted music. I don't use it for anything else. I've deliberately not updated its operating system or iTunes. My combo has been rock solid for years. From experience I know that OS changes often interfered with Audirvana/PureMusic which then required updates to catch up. I've long ago opted out of that silliness. Don't fix what ain't broke or you break it. The obvious flip side is that it could now be harder for a maker to replicate issues like the JAVS reclocker has. My misgivings are only tech support's utter lack of response. They've not asked word one about my OS or iTunes install, what versions of Audiorvana/PureMusic I use or requested that I run any particular tests to help them understand the situation. Three weeks have gone by without any communications from their department. My contact Gunhee is caught in the middle and putting on a brave face. If I were a paying customer, I'd want to return the deck and get a refund. As I wrote in my review, I tried different buffer settings to no avail. If I knew what their machine expects to see, I could make it happen. Until I hear from them, I'm in the dark. It's probably a small silly thing. But sorting it is on the docket and only they can make that happen. That's the whole notion of customer service. Until now, parent company Soundcat supplied dealers with import product. Their dealers took care of customer service. With JAVS, Soundcat are the seller=dealer. Now the onus is on them to provide customer service. It's that reality which they haven't adapted to yet and which might require some additional infrastructure to accomplish. Hopefully it's just early days and all that is planned and coming. I simply must report on my actual experience, not tall tales of a promised future. Srajan

Hi Srajan, this is my first letter to 6moons to ask for your advice. I was going to buy the Aurai M3 for my small 3.5x5m room following your review and Blue Moon prize to substitute 2 KEF LS50. I tried first to find a shop as you recommend to be able to listen to this speaker but nowhere in all of Spain can find anything (not even in the northern French cities or London or Milan). Is this normal? I am sorry but I am not as strong in hifi. Do I understand well from your letters this morning that if I buy an Aurai M3 today, I will not get the same model/quality you tested because they are changing it?  The problem with the Accuton is the reason for this or something else?  Do you think I should wait or buy another pair of speakers that have similar quality/budget? From my reading of 6moons I understand that Albedo Aptica or SoundKaos Vox3 are very good options. My current amplifier is a Devialet 250 Pro and my wife/daughter and I listen to classical music in particular opera (Verdi, Brahms, etc) and Baroque music (J Savall) and home cinema. Thank you. José-Maria Perez

Two things, José. The Aurai Audio brand is very new. The product used to sell only in South Korea where Simon Lee's company imported it. Over the last few months, the French designer and owner of the company decided to branch out to also sell outside of the Korean market. It's why there currently are no dealers. While the product has been around in Korea, for the rest of the world it is brand new so a dealer network must still be developed.

Two, the Accuton driver issue only applies to the 8-inch not 6.5-inch unit. I've already asked and been assured that the M3 selling now is identical to what I reviewed and what reader Paul already received (he is very happy). The adjustments are only necessary on the floorstanding M1 model.  Because you listen to a lot of classical music and use the Devialet amplifier, I think you would make a very inspired choice with this particular loudspeaker. To audition it, contact Alain the designer and ask where. His email is alain.pratali # gmail.com. Srajan

Thank you Srajan! But I am confused. In the picture Paul sent some days ago his Aurai M3 in the library has a front port.Your M3 had the port in the back. Paul also said his M3 was a different unique model. How can Alain say that Paul M3 is identical to what you reviewed? He thinks you and we are blind or else! You say in your letters that Alain also told you the 'M3 tuning/filters' is changing because he did not like what his South Korea partner had asked (the M3 model you tested). How can he now tell you that the M3 for sale today is exactly the one you reviewed? If it is, it means he decided to sell the South Korea M3 he does not fully like just because you liked it?

Sorry when I read the other letters I think I am not alone in being a bit lost with Aurai. I talked to a expert friend and he said this much confusion has never happened in his memory on 6moons. Why don't you ask Aurai to send you the final model of M3 (whatever it is, front or back port, his or south Korea tuning/filter etc.) when you test the new M1? I am ready to trust you because of your very extensive experience but I want to make sure I can buy the model you test and describe if I decide to. But honestly given your level of surprise with the M1 you received I am worried to purchase it today. It's already difficult to buy something without being able to listen first, it's not safe to buy it if the product is still prototype and an owner that seems not to have decided what to do (plus the quality issues you found). If you think I am wrong please let me know. My family loves listening to music and relax. Can you please recommend other speakers (budget 5-9K euro) as I sold my KEF speakers and would like to buy new ones before summer (KEF LS50 were really good, I would like better bass and more 'elegance' in opera voice sound). Muchas gracias por todo, José-Maria

In my M3 review it does state that port orientation, tweeter tuning, veneer options, even upgraded parts like Duelund caps and such are part of Aurai's customization menu. Paul's crossover includes upgraded Duelund parts. He asked for Walnut veneer in a matte finish, front ports and a specific tweeter tuning. The filter parameters that determine where and how fast the drivers fade in and out (the filter hinge frequency and attenuation slope) are fixed, however. Alain assured me that the M3 I reviewed was/is that same production filter tuning. And you're asking me about the M3, not the M1. If that answer doesn't satisfy you, do contact Alain directly. It's why I made his email available in the first place. I'm not his mouth piece. I don't work for him. I've never even met him. I can only pass on what I was told. In such situations, it's always best to go directly to the source. So write Alain. I've clarified things as much as I can based on the information I have. Now I'm done.

It's also not appropriate to insist that I review a second M3 with a different set of custom choices. The filter tuning will remain the same. The other choices are up to each buyer. Do you want me to review each possible version - tweeter hot, tweeter flat, tweeter soft, port front, port back, 100 different veneers, filter parts from Jantzen, Mundorf, Rike, Miflex? That would be silly. So again, contact Alain directly. Tell him your concerns and desires. Then decide what you want to do based on what you learn. Srajan

Srajan, I do praise your effort for depth and clarity. Allow me to disagree (respectfully) with Craig’s comments. Some of the issues you spotted with Aurai are not inconsequential...

• buyers buying a M3 but getting a different sound than what you reviewed/praised with an award (if it was a prototype it should not get one)

• buyers buying a M1 and getting an off-spec Accuton/filter setup

• sloppy QC which might lead to other mistakes

People invest their hard-earned money on these products and deserve the best, always. I have come to trust 6moons over the years and I, like you, look forward to the unfolding of this story. Jeff  Hammond

Srajan, a question if I may. Recently you have reviewed or profiled a number of monitor speakers and I want to know which is your favorite. The ones I'm asking about are the Mårten Design Parker Duo, sound/kaos Vox3a, Aurai M3, Acelec Model One, Børresen B-01 and Boenicke W5se. I know that you own the Acelec so that may be my answer right there. But I still want to ask to be sure. Thank you. Rakesh

I have in fact showcased the Mårten but not heard it yet so couldn't comment. The Børresen I did listen to in Denmark but what I subsequently reviewed was a floorstanding version. That leaves the three others. Of those, the sound|kaos and Acelec exceed the older Boenicke. With my two last standing, the Acelec fits more in the Magico vein where the sound|kaos doesn't really have an equivalent I could point at. I obviously love the Acelec or I wouldn't have acquired it. I loved the sound|kaos even more for somewhat different reasons so ideally, I'd have them both to switch flavors and moods. That's about the best breakdown I can manage with your question, Rakesh. Srajan

Hey Srajan, just saw your Z1 preview [Børresen - Ed.] and the first pix of its final cabinet. That looks a lot more stylish than the first basic box. How soon can we expect to learn what it sounds like? Have you an ETA yet? Hopefully soon! Charlie Benson

When I confirmed the nomenclature (I'd seen Z01, Z-01 and Z1) and final pricing, my contact Morton at the factory told me they expect first delivery of cabinets from their Chinese supplier by September. Due to Corona, everything there and with international shipping has been delayed so their schedule for first roll-out is pushed back by a few months. Srajan

Dear Srajan: I just read Jeff's letter to you about the Aurai review and your response. I've read the preview today and the latest additions to it. Unlike Jeff, I don't think you're cutting them any slack. You're just describing what happened. I will admit that it feels a bit uncomfortable to be exposed to such behind the scenes stuff which could be simple human error and some miscommunications. Ideally all that would be handled before a review, by whoever is in charge of the loaners. Things do happen though and then it only matters how they're being sorted. Who can claim to never make mistakes? I say carry on just as you have and let the chips fall where they may. With my best regards, Craig

It's a fine line indeed between dishing and omitting. I'm with you on human error, miscommunication (especially with Google translator as middleman) and my subjective reactions to all of it. And I likewise agree that doodoo happens and that it only matters what's done about it. On that score, I suspected that I had a product issue, the product was promptly recalled, the issue just as promptly confirmed and efforts are presently underway to address it. If those efforts are successful, we should be looking at a very fine product. Is it really that important then that getting there was just a bit more circuitous than it usually is? By reporting on the whole process, every reader hence prospective buyer can make that determination for themselves and I feel confident that I neither glossed over things or exploited them to punish someone for normal human error. Hey, next time I make a mistake, I hope people will give me the same break and opportunity to fix it. This isn't life 'n' death stuff. This is just hifi, with people trying to make a living from giving customers pleasure. Srajan

Okay. I’ve got my preamp; high impedance input, low impedance output, bandwidth 60kHz, into power amp with fast rise time/slew rate, high damping on into…..Firewall for speakers! Convincing review, knowing about the 'Fleming' effect of counter electromotive force in speakers. My big 15-inch bass unit must put some reverse energy out. But then I read about Spec Corporation's RSP-901EX 'sound processor' that reads so similarly. It’s a jungle out there! And I bet a comparative review would conclude that both work well. Toss that coin? Chris Skelton

Here's what another speaker/electronics designer said when reading the maker's descriptions and my review of the LessLoss parts: "I know what this is. It's really the best place for a mechanical low pass filter to eliminate Brownian noise, digital pollution, auto-magnetic induction and so forth. I believe they use carbon-sintered copper. It's very soft and very tricky to manufacture. But what really matters is understanding why we have such pollution in the first place, then how to remove it. I have a system at the output of my CD player which cleans up the signal of quantization noise. I've been working on this for 30 years to have several solutions. I even have it on the midrange driver of my top speaker model. Digital pollution is the real drama for audio performance."

Boenicke Audio and sound|kaos have begun incorporating this LessLoss tech as OEM modules inside their loudspeakers. I don't pretend to understand how it really works. I've heard that it does and to a surprising degree. Others seem to as well. What's more, at least one other engineer 'saw it' right away to understand its purpose, function and design, calling it a mechanical low-pass filter. That's about all I can offer. With the upcoming  Blackbody v2 assignment, we should get on even thinner ice. If I can't hear their effect, I'll say so. If I can, I'll do likewise even if the 'how' of it will predictably elude me. I'm simply of the opinion that I needn't understand how/why something works to enjoy a benefit. Sussing out whether there is a benefit or not then is the only task at hand. That and attempting to quantify the amount of improvement so prospective buyers have realistic expectations. Srajan

Hi Srajan, hope you and the family are staying safe in these difficult times. I have made good use of the lock-down time and wrote my autobiography, Life Is A Game. I hope to publish it sometime this year in the UK. Of course, I have also been listening to lots of music. You may have already come across these two albums but I wanted to share them with you just in case. Behzat C By Cemal Kismet and Pilli Bebek (music from the popular Turkish TV series Behzat C); and Uyandirmadan by Pilli Bebek. Best wishes. Mevlut Dinc aka Mev Dinc

I don't know either so will go and check them out, thank you very much! Srajan

Srajan, I am an avid reader of your work and like your insights, discipline and fairness in writing audio reviews. In particular, I have come to appreciate your direct style in smoking out sub-quality or sloppy manufacturers and conversely highlighting the ones who deserve all of your (and your readers') attention. To be honest I am puzzled by how much slack you are cutting the Aurai team. I have to admit that I too am a romantic and like to think that one can help the hidden artist get discovered and get the merit (s)he deserve. But here we have:

• speakers that are produced for the Korean market (Simon Audio provides the brief / tunes them / buys the production) by a 'private label' designer (Alain) who outsources a lot of the work to a third-party manufacturer (Antoine)

• after your initial very positive review of the Simon Audio M3 monitor (then rebranded Aurai after the fact) which Simon sent you with his new amplifier, Aurai makes a mess of their 'grown up' M1 model production & review process.

• the one issue that shocked me most is that even before you could correct the alleged problem with the 10Ω resistor, Alain @ Aurai "agrees with you" that the M1 sound is by design sub par ("too slow and audiophile, it is what Simon asked for") and that the speaker needs a deep overhaul to embody his personal philosophy (not Simon's)... only to discover afterwards that Accuton has changed somewhat the driver's specs. This could actually imply that the Simon-designed M1 is "right" in the first place in delivering a more mature M3 sound whilst keeping the speed & transparency you liked so much. In fairness to Simon, he stood by his convictions on the value of the current M1 when you had issues (which you are fully entitled to) and Alain kept agreeing with you (he much less so!!).

Too many things start not adding up: is Alain here to please a reviewer's taste or share with the world a creation he really believes in? Who is the real father of the M1 (and M3?) as it stood yesterday and probably tomorrow once the Accuton spec changes are factored in and the initial sound signature is back? King Solomon would say it's Simon's. Why does Aurai fully outsource the production, tuning and quality control of their M1 demo model for a review which could change the trajectory of their business? Will this happen as well for paying customers? Keen to hear your perspective & keep up with the great work!  Jeff Hammond

If cutting slack is short-hand for frank reporting, I fully concur. Just yesterday I pointed out to Alain that should the revised M1 I'm getting back sound like the M3 I reviewed (thus different from how he described the Simon voicing), the M3 I reviewed must already have been that new voicing. Which of course belies the time line. It's also strange because the brand Aurai hadn't been formed. The product was still branded Simon Audio. I must have reviewed an M3 tuning which Simon himself never heard? Tha'd be peculiar to say the least. What's more, why bother to subsequently send me an M1 with the original Simon tuning if the M3 hadn't been that; and when we now know how Alain really fells about Simon's sonic preferences? Wasn't such a decision bound to blow up Alain's promise that "the M1 is the mature woman in full bloom of the young girl of the M3"? Like you, I find that many things don't add up.

What's more, why did Antoine's measurements and listening tests not discover the alleged problems with the driver/filter interaction? If my 8-inch Accutons were off spec, how many off-spec M1 are there in the field? It's hard to believe that, from his parts inventory, Antoine picked for my M1 loaners the first and only off-spec mid/woofers he ever received. Either his test gear is of insufficient quality; or Alain trained him insufficiently on how to properly use it and analyze its results. Antoine's listening skills also must be poor when we know that he play-tested this pair. And what possessed him in the first place to change resistor values in an attempt to "improve the sound"?

Which arrives at your question. Why use Antoine to finalize the speakers? Why not have him just build the cabinets and Alain do the final filter tuning and QC? It suggests a more appropriate division of labor based on apparent competence. Again like you would, I reminded Alain more than once. Their willingness to accommodate customer requests is admirable. A reviewer's job is simply to describe a default production sample. I can't deal with a moving target that's been voiced (from the distance!) with my own tastes in mind. So I don't know what to think. Part of my policy is that once a review is committed to by both parties, I see the process through. I don't kill things when the going gets murky. I'm well into this now so it's not about cutting slack. It's about finishing up my joint commitment to the maker and our readers whilst trying hard to keep personal assumptions and suspicions at bay. It's why I quote explanations straight from the horse's mouth. If that horse chat doesn't make sense... intelligent readers will know not to kill the messenger.

At this juncture, I must simply confess to being suspicious about holes in the narrative. Alas, I'm happy to see that how I chronicled this unfolding tale so far allowed you to trace all the steps and inconsistencies just as I see them. That tells me that at least on that front, there's proper transparency. For the other half, I can't take responsibility. But this tale isn't finished yet. I will try my best to still arrive at more clarity. Srajan

Dear Srajan, thank you for transferring your reader's comments. Here are my answers. Who is the inventor of the M1, M3 etc. speaker line? Alain Pratali. Simon helped as producer, listener and reviewer. Alain has everything including manufacturing skills. But he can't do all of it especially the cabinets. So he asked Antoine to make them. The actual speaker design from concept to driver selection, modifications of drivers, crossover design, prototyping, tuning, retuning is all done by him. As the one who asked for this, I help with voicing whenever I visit Marseilles to listen together. Almost 20 years ago I visited Alain's home to hear his amps and speakers. I stayed in Marseilles for about two days. We had a good time listening and meeting his neighbors. During my visit I was so surprised by the sonic difference of his system with a modified Oracle amp and original Model One prototype which has been in my office ever since. When I returned to Seoul, I could not forget the experience. So I asked Alain to sell me the speaker I'd heard. He was very kind to sell me his only pair. I still have it. About six years ago, I had a chance to work with the ODE group, one of the biggest import companies in Korea. They wanted their own audio brand and I introduced them to Alain's speaker.

I wanted to give more people a chance to hear it by having it go into production. So I asked Alain to remake his tweeter and restart the speaker. By then Supravox was in poor shape and no longer could supply that mid/woofer. Alain switched to Accuton and Scanning drivers which I agreed with because he is the only designer who can make them sound excellent. His Model One and Three were very good but ultimately ODE decided against us by asking for more and more design changes we didn't agree with. Around that time I left April Music and started work on my new company Simon Audio Lab. I wanted to keep my dream alive and worked with Alain to make me 30 pairs of M3 and 20 pairs of M1. Those are still playing in Korea. It's very hard to find any 2nd-hand pairs. Alain and Antoine worked long and hard to support my dream. I then ran into cash-flow problems which delayed new sales of their speakers. It also meant that they were never introduced at any international audio show. That's when I introduced you to Alain and our M3 to start for him the process of global exposure. Some months ago Alain told me that he wanted to create his own brand to get involved in global sales. I immediately agreed that this would be the right way forward. My own support is insufficient. Our local market can't generate enough sales to justify global distribution. So now Simon Audio is just the importer for Korea and Alain and whoever he signs on as dealers or distributors will start handling the other markets." Simon Lee

Hi Srajan, I'm really enjoying your music recommendations with links to Youtube videos and also really enjoy NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. I'm curious to know how you listen to these? Is it simply through your Mac connected to your DAC? I'm trying to figure out the best way to get these to my stereo. Thanks very much! Mike 

I own the vast majority of this music as files I bought or discs I ripped. I'm using YouTube to share it because to listen that way doesn't need a subscription or special software. So rather than write up music in a music review using words, people get to actually hear it for themselves as sounds. That's the whole purpose and why sound quality doesn't matter. If with these features you discover an artist or album or track you like and you want to enjoy it at better resolution over your main system, buy that album or listen to it through one of the full-resolution subscription services. Srajan

Hi Srajan, I just saw your new date feature. Brilliant. I no longer have to click on each moon to see what's new. Now it's all there at a glance just before I enter the site. That's a nice little update to 6moons. Thanks a lot! Mark

You're welcome, Mark. It just struck me recently. One feature I'd lost when we redesigned the site to adapt to mobile users was the date announcement when each site chapter had last been updated. I thought on how best to add it again, then my very crafty IT consultant Brett made it happen. I'm very happy with how elegantly he integrated this feature with the lowering moons menu. Srajan

Dear Srajan, I just finished your latest Darko report on passive radiators. I hadn't really paid attention to such bass loading but now I'm curious whether it can also be used in subwoofers? Thorsten

It absolutely can and is. The new REL 212/SX for example combines 2 x standard front-firing woofers with one down-firing 12" passive. Velodyne's Microvee MkII flips those numbers to one front-firing active woofer and two passives, one per side. GoldenEar's SuperSubs use front/rear-firing active drivers and top/down-firing "planar infrasonic radiators" to keep pretty much every surface busy. Srajan

Back to the Job, as luck would have it I found a used integrated 15 minutes from my home! It sounds wonderful and now I have the Job INT to compare against the Job 225. First, I really love the clarity and speed of the Job/Goldmund sound. I didn't expect this but the Boenicke W5 slightly prefer the Job 225 with a Schiit Saga+ preamp and a Border Patrol Dac. To me the sound is a bit more exciting for lack of a better way to describe it. Thanks again, Mike

The Job 225 you obviously season with the Border Patrol DAC and to a lesser extent the Schiit Saga+. The Job INT gets a digital signal (or converts its analog input to digital which amounts to the same thing) so there the Goldmund sound dominates 100%: fast, precise and perhaps a bit lean. If you want a bit more body or density, you can't really add it to the INT but you can easily steer the 225 by whatever else you strap to it. Srajan

Very fair point. That's a good way to describe it and of course, with my speakers, source etc, it's emotional for me but one should also be critical and track all these variables. I have an old Scott 222B here as well which uses EL84. I find that they sound pretty close, clear and warm. So it's interesting that there are several ways to get to a similar very good place. Perhaps like meditation? Mike

Indeed. The whole notion of the absolute sound or one single path to attainment are both total crap. Srajan

Srajan, did I just see sound|kaos + LessLoss? I read your Vox 3a review and just now the Blackbody preview. In that you mention Boenicke and sound|kaos as two early adopters of the OEM Firewall modules. You didn't in your Vox 3a review so that must have happened later. My question now is, will new sound|kaos production add these parts standard or make them a costly option like in Dawid's W11 pair of Boenickes? Thanks, Holger Scharmacher

Martin indeed received his first Firewall samples for testing after I'd finished my review. I seriously doubt that he can include them without making them a surcharge option. Those bits aren't cheap. But whether that means the price for a standard Vox 3a will go up to include them; or whether he'll have two prices, with/without LessLoss... that I don't know. For that you ought to ask Martin directly. Or perhaps his website already has an update? Srajan

Hi Srajan, I am considering the Bakoon 13R. Should I wait for your review of Pass INT25? Also, do you feel the Bakoon will be a reliable unit? That’s always one of my main considerations because there’s no service available in India and it’s really a pain sending a faulty unit back for repair as custom rules are very tricky, not to mention the cost of sending it back. Best, Prem

My track record with Bakoon has been ace. Obviously though, I can't give guarantees. In the off chance that this unit needs service, you'd send yours to either Korea or Japan. Neither is that far from India. Then the unit itself is ultra compact and the shipping box small to where even the postal service will handle it. Until the Pass gets here, I obviously can't comment. Seeing how I've already reviewed the amplifier which it is based on, it'll be quite different to the AMP-13R. If the Bakoon has your interest due to existing reviews, the Pass is bound to be another sonic take. Srajan

Hi Srajan, fabulous review of the new Kinki EX-M7 amp. I also noted your previous review of the Nord amps minus of course the new Purifi boards. I'm thinking of moving from my Devialet Expert 220 Pro to a Lumin T2 streamer which, thanks to the new Leedh processing reviewed by Joël Chevassus, doesn't require a preamp. Do you have any thoughts about which amp might suit my needs? The EX-M7 or a Nord with the new Purifi board? They aren't all that far apart in price. My speakers are the Vivid B1 Decade. Cheers, Michael Fanning

My Nords are in the closet as is the Purifi amp. They're my backup power brokers should I need them but for day-to-day listening, I'd much prefer the Kinki. For class D to play on its level, I'd look at an AGD Production Vivace or Merrill Audio Element 114. Srajan

Hey Srajan, any idea when the Adamantis review will continue? It seems to have been in lock down for longer than usual. Chad Norig

The last time I talked with Paul Rassin of Æquo, they were waiting on their first clam shell cabs from the initial mold master. He told me then that if no adjustments to the mold were necessary, they'd be very close to finalizing the project. If not, he simply couldn't predict how many subsequent mold revisions might be needed. Nobody has ever worked with this material before. So it will have to be a lengthier learning curve before the desired mechanical tolerances for the nanocast enclosure halves are perfected with all the required internal chamber dimensions. Srajan

I just learned about the new Buchardt speaker from your news page, then went to their website. Wow. That looks like a ton of speaker for the money. Bass to 17Hz from 6" drivers? Have you been asked to review it? I would love to see whether it lives up to these specifications! Greg

It looks like early days so no, I've not heard from Mads yet. We've reviewed his smaller speaker. He knows how to find us. If he was happy with what we did there, perhaps we'll hear from him again when these are in full production. If their launch is anything like his last, they'll be swamped with orders to not need/want early reviews to drum up extra interest. Then it makes more sense to wait until word-of-mouth sales slow down so reviews can create a second wind when it's actually needed. Buchardt have generated a very good reputation in a rather short amount of time, with a lot of happy user feedback. Perhaps dig a bit deeper into that to get a good idea of how their other specs have already correlated to actual owner impressions.

As to the A700, four 6" woofers will equal the surface area of a single 11" woofer but bring four motors to the task. Add low-impedance class D, active drive/filters and DSP. If you're used to passive speakers, it's always shocking what a good modern active design can do in a much smaller box. A sealed design will also run cleaner than ports and its earlier roll-off can be much delayed with digital compensation and high class D power behind it. So it's not impossible to go low and loud if you have stout drivers and plenty of power in a more compact enclosure. Srajan

PS: I just converted an industry feature on the A700 and new Buchardt ampifier into a formal preview since Mads confirmed today that he will send me a pair of A700 when they're ready. So you're in luck...

Srajan, any ideas what's up with Rafe Arnott over at Audiostream? He's not posted to that site or Innerfidelity in more than a month. Do you know whether he's alright? In these scary days, one wonders all kinds of things. Brian Haddock

I'd noticed the same but didn't know why. I just asked John Darko. Apparently Rafe no longer works for the organization which owns these sites and is readying his own endeavor as Resistor Mag. That's all I've managed to dig up. I'm sure we learn more when he launches. Srajan

Srajan, any plans to review Vinnie's integrated? As fond as you are of his preamp, you've not heard any of his latest transistor efforts. That should interest you, shouldn't it? Klaus

Having covered LIO and the L2 linestage quite extensively, I never expected Vinnie to ask me to do the L2 integrated and he hasn't. I'd certainly be interested but I think it's very important that other people weigh in on the brand. I just took a look at Vinnie's Audio Circle. I saw him mention forthcoming reviews from Ken Kessler/Paul Miller of HiFi News, David Robinson of Positive Feedback and more. The PTA review already dropped so there's a lot lined up. By the time that's unwound, I doubt anyone will want more ink on a subject that should have been extensively covered thus quite exhausted by then. Srajan

Hello Srajan, I have a question that may have been covered somewhere but been away from hifi for a bit so woulda missed it. What's your favorite tube in the Vinnie Rossi pre these days? Thanks, Jeremy Wozny

Elrog ER50. Even though it's a 7V direct-heated triode, it works fab on the machine's highest 5V setting. Sonically it's a super 45. It's quick, lit up, transparent and energetic. The Elrog 300B and WE300B I have are warmer, thicker and slower. The Western Electric 50 slots between those and the ER50. If I change speakers or amps, I can reach for one of the others and shift sonics in the direction I favor. But for my standard system when nothing else is in there that needs 'corrections', the Elrog ER50 has my final vote. I've also tried Takatsuki 300B, Living Voice/KR Audio 300B and KR T-100. Srajan

Srajan, you were so impressed with the M3 that it was one of my favorite reviews this year. Now I'm wondering why the bigger M1 must be changed. I understood that Simon wants his own voicing. Like you explained, that's perfectly reasonable. Wasn't the M3 you reviewed already that except for a lower tweeter level? Doesn't it seem strange to you that it sounded so different from the M1 you have now? You know that l really like your reviews. You always put a lot of effort into covering all the bases and even include reader comments when you have them. Between these two reviews, something seems not quite right. Do you agree? In any case, I look forward to how your M1 review will finalize. As always, keep up the good work. Many thanks, Michael

I would agree. How this story unfolds is unusual, Michael. You remember our earlier exchange. When I reviewed the M3, it effectively still was a Simon Lee house brand model. It was designed and built in France, co-voiced by Simon and exclusively sold by him in his domestic market. After my M3 review published, Alain decided to expand sales globally. For that he created new brand Aurai Audio and I made that adjustment to the M3 review. As I just learnt during the M1 review, he now wants to revise the crossovers for the global models that aren't destined for Korea. Beyond that, he wants to remain flexible and respond to special customer requests. What that means relative to the M3 I reviewed I don't know.

Like you, I can't explain the present difference between M3 and M1. Going in, Alain was adamant. The M1 would be "the M3's young girl matured into a woman in full bloom". Like you seem to be asking, I wonder that if the M3 was Simon's voicing just with a softer tweeter setting, why would the M1 be so much warmer and slower? I don't have the answer either. Let's see what the M1 does when it returns. We do know that Antoine made a small mistake in the M1 crossover. His new resistors just didn't arrive yet and I already reboxed the M1 for a Monday pickup. Whether the wrong resistors alone caused the big difference or there was another mistake I'll ask Alain when he had a look. That's all I can do.

I also heard from Simon. "Here in my room, no competition between Model One and Three. Three is excellent but no comparison to One which has everything except for the speed where I think Model One is closer to concert sound, 3 more to real acoustics. I believe that you will have the solution very quickly since Alain is a fast worker as well as a no-sleep engineer when he works on something. So it will be no problem, just some bad wiring or positioning." Srajan

Dear Srajan: I'm very excited about Joël's Lumin review and the mention of the Leedh volume control in software. Any chance you'll do a follow-up for a second opinion? ... Holger Scharmacher

I'm not really a streamer/server guy. I still prefer my iMac with an external reclocker. So I wouldn't want to burden Lumin with such a request just to explore their new volume control. However, if Leedh start to sell their software as a plug-in for Audirvana, PureMusic, J.River etc, I'd jump at the opportunity. I seem to recall Joël mentioning that something with Audirvana was afoot. If so, my game would be on. Srajan

Hello Srajan Ebaen, I'm an audiophile from China and want to inform you of a new DAC called Musician Pegasus. It offers PCM1536, DSD1024, R2R and I2s like you enjoy at very good price. Available worldwide on eBay. Perhaps you want to review it? Bai Fong

Bai, I already checked into it, thank you. It did look so much like a Denafrips Ares II including the back panel, concept, specs and presentation that I asked Musician Audio directly. Their sales manager Willing explained that having one designer operate 2 or 3 brands side by side is a very common practice in China "which nobody complains about. Musician and Denafrips are two independent brands. No copy problem." Coming from the same designer, there indeed is no copy infringement. It's in-house copying. Selling through two different organizations does keep the brands separate to those who don't know better. Product ships from the same factory. Behind the facade, the product is either identical or very very similar. Being two separate brands is just for show. We're not a Chinese magazine where that practice might be admired or normal. I also remember a grey-market warning on the Vinshine Audio site which acts as the global Denafrips sales point and warranty center. I can't help wonder whether that back door activity wasn't a precursor to the subsequent launch of Musician Audio. It too involved the Ares model. In which case, it'd be a double no for us to now review the Pegasus. There is some chatter of a forthcoming review on Audiophile Style so perhaps look there? Srajan

First M3 impressions.

Wow.

You better have your house in order with these. Cold and not broken in for sure, the tweeter is the best lens I have ever heard. The bass is spectacular even though not fully fleshed yet, the phase correctness and impulse response are the best I have heard, micro and macrodynamic capabilities the best I have heard in this category. Unwavering regardless of how you try to trip it up.

After break-in, maybe it's time to finally remove the STP SE and inject a touch of romance, we'll see. May consider the new reference Athena active preamp from Denafrips. Looks to be a lot of bang for the $ to add what I may need given the Denafrips house sound. Either way, I can already tell with confidence that this is a speaker anyone would be wise to work backwards from to suit taste. Efforts likely to be rewarded.

How are the M1 coming along, they look fantastic in the photos. Stay well, Paul

I just updated the ongoing M1 review. Very pleased to hear you're already seeing the promise of the M3. There's more to come. Srajan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quite. Srajan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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