[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
July 1997


July 27, 1997

Great report on Hi-Fi 97. One thing that might make reading the report would be to have links on the various "Floor" pages so that you could easily traverse from one floor to another.


Good point!....DAS

July 27, 1997

Dear Doug,

On behalf of the other participants in suite 905/906, i.e. Clayton Audio, John Marks Records, TRI Audio Marketing, SoundRack Systems and Waveform, I would like to sincerely thank you and your reporters, for the fond memories of the musical attributes heard whilst being listeners therein. Those of us music lovers and audiophiles now online, are fast approaching a critical mass and I also know that I can speak for many in the community in welcoming the net Zines such as SoundStage! to the ongoing process of more enjoyable music listening. As legitimate forms of interest and review, you have the added advantage of near instantaneous dissemination of information and opinion. The opportunity for reciprocity is also welcomed. You lads have the boundless enthusiasm and energy of youth and live the real meaning of the word amateur. I know the pay stinks, but keep the faith. It is a hobby after all.


John Otvos
President, Waveform

July 26, 1997

I just wanted to respond to Doug Blackurn's statement about speakers that are designed to be time/phase aligned [Standout Room Report in Hi-Fi 97 Coverage...DAS]. He mentioned that his three favorite rooms had speakers that were designed this way.I wonder if he didn't know that they had this criterion if he still would have picked them.I would like to know in what ways they were they better than say the Merlin VSM.The Merlin uses second order filters in their crossover and are not specifically time/phase aligned however they are electrically in phase, and there's very little phase shift over the audible range.I recently bought a pair of these and would like to know in what specific ways does the Vandersteen or Dunlavy speakers outperform them.I think that there is no single single factor that determines a loudspeakers overall performance capability. To single out one area and exclude all other speakers that aren't designed this way seems ridiculous unless there is a clearly identifiable aspect of the sound that makes it superior in every case. I'm very familiar with the sound of the Vandersteen 3, and the DunlavyIII. I feel these are both fine loudspeakers but in my opinion don't come close to the resolution, neutrality, smoothness and dimensionality of the Merlins.I can't think of any other speaker that even comes close in this $ 4500-6000 range.Anyway, I love-em.Mark Mickelson really nailed it on every point. Excellent review. I hope more audiophiles get to hear these magnificent instruments.

...Allen B.

Doug Blackburn has a rather long reply that we've elected to attach to the end of this document.

July 25, 1997

Great coverage of the Show. I came to the same conclusions r.e. BOS-Audio Note, LAMM, especially the AN & Avantgarde speakers. Would you happen to have the telephone, address or email for the Bay Area Audiophile Society? Thank you for your help.


Scott W.

Hi Scott, sorry but I don't have their phone number, however, I invite any Bay Area member who may be reading this to send it to me and I'll make sure to pass it on...DAS (das@sstage.com)

July 24, 1997

Hi Doug,

I like what you guys are doing on the web (it's about time more advertisers took you seriously). I also really dug (pun intended) your hi fi show write up in Audio Ideas Guide. I recently read an interview with Ray Kimber and his comment on the advantage of silver in cables was that they could heat them up to add the dielectric and it wouldn't warp the shape as much as copper. He felt all the energy spent on developing cable geometry and shape was better retained by the silver, thus effecting a "better" sound. Food for thought. Keep up the good work.


Hello Scott, thanks for the response. The Canadian based Audio Ideas Guide reprinted our FESTIVAL DU SON ET DE L’IMAGE '97 report in their latest issue. Audio Ideas Guide is not only one of the finest audio publications in Canada, it is one of the finest in the world! Each issue packs a huge amount of very useful reviews and information.

As for the Kimber Kables, our writers have had some of Kimber's newest in their hands for quite some time and our readers will be seeing the results in upcoming issues...DAS

July 23, 1997

Dear SoundStagers,

We would like to thank all of you for mentioning our Kharma and OLS room in your Show and Standout Room Report. But even more thanks for having us listed, by several editors, amongst the best sounding rooms of the Hi-Fi '97 show.

Everybody hopes to be recognized at such a show, especially when you are a new company on the market, but your comments about us are more than we could ever hope for. Thanks!

At the WCES in Las Vegas we will demonstrate, if the room size is o.k., the Kharma Exquisite Reference 1a in combination with LAMM AUDIO's outstanding amplifiers. Hope to see all of you there too.

Kind regards,
TreMa Sound

Trevor de Maat

July 22, 1997

For the most part you did a good job of covering the show. I spent three days trying to cover as much as possible. It is difficult to see everything you want to see, not to mention spending any time at any one room.

One thing however. You guys, as a group, sell your readers short by not covering some of the home theatre rooms. I enjoy both music and home theatre. There was a surprising number of innovations in the home theatre venues which has an impact on the music side. I sense that some of your reporters were ashamed to be seen in home theatre rooms. This is nonsense.

For example, in the Cinepro room there was a very interesting display of a 6 channel amplifier playing music. I was astounded at how good the system sounded. You guys did not even mention it.

My point is that at future shows it would be in your best interest to assign someone who is not afraid to embrace some home theatre to report on how this technology is influencing the music side of things.

...Alan Ross

July 21, 1997

Your 97 Hi-Fi Show report is the best!!!

...M. Diaz

July 17, 1997

Dear SoundStage!

I just finished reading the article authored by Jim Saxon regarding his visit to Madrigal and wanted to thank you and Jim for the comments and allowing him to share these special experiences with others. As for Jim's hearing, if he has any misgivings about his age or hearing ability, I would not be able to agree based on the fact that where he as were sitting, things do sound different.

Regardless, Mr. Saxon could always consider becoming a writer. I thoroughly enjoyed the article. We look forward to his next visit.

Thank you, Jim, for taking the time to be with us and for letting us (and others) learn more about your reactions to the latest products.

Best regards,

Mark Glazier

July 9, 1997

Congratulations on the reviews of two great products. I purchased the Room Lens after reading the review, and am amazed at the results. They are exactly as you described. I also discovered that re-positioning the Room Lenses is necessary for optimum results when even a cable change in the system is made. Sometimes these changes in the positioning of the Room Lenses is fairly substantial. I couldn't understand at first why this is necessary. After some thought, it makes sense. If you consider that speakers are air pumps, and that each time you make a change in your system you alter the way they move the air, it is clear why the Room Lenses need to be re-positioned with changes to your system. It makes me wonder over the years how many pieces of expensive equipment I went through tuning my system to the room instead of the other way around. That is why this product is so special. They can be moved to accommodate these changes, and get the most out of each product. Todd Laudeman of Argent is a great guy to deal with, incidently.

I was actually auditioning the Audio Magic Tubed Interconnect in my system before the review was published. I was also amazed at the results of this product in my system. I was ready to buy one, but took the coward's way out and waited for Marc's review. His conclusions backed up mine, and I purchased one. One thing about the product though. I had three CD players I tried it with. It worked well with a Micromega Stage 3, but highlighted the problem with this player (congestion at higher volume levels or complex musical passages). It did sound "tubey" with a Classe CDP 1. The bass softened significantly. With the Accuphase DP65, it was absolute magic (audio magic? - sorry, couldn't resist). The point is, an audition is an absolute must, since the effects varied. Jerry Ramsey is also an excellent person to deal with.

Thanks again for the reviews and the work you put in auditioning these products for our benefit.

Best Regards,
...Gary R.

July 7, 1997

Hi-fi manufacturers routinely justify the high cost of their products along the lines that "if it doesn't cost a fortune, consumers won't perceive it as high-end." I wonder which came first: the high-price horse or the perception cart? My instinct is that somewhere around the early 1980s, the high end discovered one basic economics lesson learned by most cottage industries (which most of the high end is): it ain't economically viable, so we have to make it viable by charging sky-high prices. Which is also what happens at the cottage end of, say, the car industry -- think for instance, of the ludicrously high price tag on the Vector sports car (which didn't save the company) or, in Britain, the absurd prices charged for Aston-Martins. Most of the high end, it seems to me, comes from the Aston-Martin school of pricing. And nobody gets value or money.

The end result of all this, of course, is apparent to everyone: the high end is dying, because people know when they are being ripped off. From my point of view, this has produced two good side-effects: First, one trend apparent in the past couple of years is the introduction of new, (slightly) more-realistically priced products from high-end producers -- integrated amps such as Krell's KAV300i, integrated CD players from the likes of Wadia, improved products at no price increase (eg, the new Martin-Logan Aerius i). This kind of thing is always a sure sign of falling demand. Second, people like me have been driven away from the mainstream high-end into the world of home-built single-ended amps, home-made interconnects and speakers that deliver more bang per buck, etc. All of which means I now listen to music, not hi-fi. The audio extremist backlash starts here.

...Peter H.

Hello Peter,

You make some valid points that I think hits at the heart of high-end audio's current woes. There seems to be a definite fixation with astronomically priced products. While I do like to see, read, andultimately hear these pieces, they are not the core of what audio is about for most of us. Furthermore, it seems that many reviewers and consumers are not content to accept anything less that the most expensive. Does this also make it the best? Sometimes...sometimes not... It is, unfortunately, a very real and harmful trend.

I see one trend coming back into audio that I believe will again help our hobby grow. As you point out, for numerous reasons many people are being "driven" from conventional high-end for numerous reasons. One of those is the seemingly escalating prices. There is, happily, a resurgence of interest in DIY type projects and the such. The Parts Connection's success with the DAC-1, DAC-1.5, and now the DAC-2 shows this. I hear more products are one the way from that company that are priced attractively as well! As more and more people begin to "roll their own" I think that a little bit more common-sense may prevail as people get back to what this is supposed to be about - music and fun....DAS

July 3, 1997

I just want to compliment you on the excellent interview with Kevin in SoundStage! ["Tu-be or Not Tu-be" by John M. Upton]. Kevin is super knowledgeable about NOS tubes and is a great person to deal with when ordering tubes. His tubes are not necessarily cheap but you know you are getting the real thing tested and matched. I also loved the pictures of the NOS tubes with their original boxes. This article is an excellent example of online magazines at their best.

Keep it up!!!


July 2, 1997

To: Greg Weaver,

Nice article about contact cleaners and enhancers (Synergizing Part II - Clean Connections And Signal Transfer). I also use Progold spray and wipes to clean and enhance my connections. Lemme relate my experience w/ 'em.

I agree about the improvements brought about by the Progold enhancer. It is not at all subtle especially if you treat every connection including the AC plugs all at the same time. I disconnect everything and clean all contacts once a month . . . in an effort to get optimum performance from my system w/c is BTW never turned off and has been consecutively powered for 2 years now save for a few intermittent power failures and cleaning sessions (and auditioning of new components ;) )

I agree too that they are not the best cleaning solutions around - in fact I had difficulty using it to clean the solid silver spade lugs of my WireWorld Silver Eclipse cables. Silver oxide is extremely tough. Cotton buds and cotton cloths didn't work until I accidently rubbed my finger on the darn spade and lo! It was cleaner. One spray + few finger rubs (or caress :) ) had the spades spankingly shiny and free of any dirt. I don't know if this is healthy or not . .. but hey - anything for audio, right? :) Perhaps I should give the DeoxIT a try . . . thanx for the tip.

Also, check out the TPC from XLO, it makes the highs sweeter and airier, mids lusher and bass more defined. And costs 1$ per pack w/c is enough to treat the whole system. And is complimentary to the effects of ProGold.

BTW - will you be putting out an article about dedicated Audio only AC mains? I want to install one but dunno how to do it.. .

Best regards,

July 1, 1997


I read your review of U2's POP and was wondering if you have changed your mind at all about it after further listening? I am an avid U2 fan and was honestly dissapointed when I first heard it. After about a week of serious listening I am hailing it one of their best. I absolutely love the album and listen to it constantly. I think that it has some very well written songs --> "Gone"..."Playboy Mansion"..."Deadman". The more you listen the more meaning you pull out from each song. Other than the track Miami I can honestly say that i really enjoy all of the songs. As far as the sonics go, they are horrid. But the music definitely outshines that.

Matt S.

Hi Matt, I can say that my mind may have changed slightly, but not all that much. It is still not a very popular disk in my collection. I am glad to hear you are liking it more (and I have have heard similar comments from friends of mine). 'Achtung Baby' DID grow on me, but not 'POP' (although I like it better than 'Zooropa')...DAS

Doug Blackburn's reply to Allen B., July 26, 1997

Hi Allen, thanks for taking the time to write about speakers and speaker performance relating to my comments in the SoundStage! Hi-Fi '97 show report. There is a characteristic that speakerswhich are time & phase aligned all seem to share... coherrence of the soundfield at all frequencies and (I hate to use a touchy feely expression like this) an 'organic wholeness' that is missing from designs that are not time & phase aligned. That said, I will also be the first to say that there are speakers, more than one model/brand too, which are time & phase aligned that I just cannot get excited about because of some other aspect of their performance which I do not appreciate. I will also say that there are speakers which are NOT time & phase aligned that I find entertaining and useful. There are many more 10s or 100s (1000s???) of non-time & phase aligned speakers on the market than there are TPA speakers. From that group of non-TPA speakers, I can honestly say that there is a pretty small percentage that I reall like for their OVREALL perfrormance. Looking at the group of speakers which are TPA designs, the models I enjoy are a much higher percentage of the total available models.

One of the problems with TPA speakers is that it is very much more difficult to design and build a successful TPA speaker than non-TPA speakers. If you slap a TPA design together without excruciating care to overcome the potential problems, you end up with what is pretty much a mess, sound-wise. Putting together a non-TPA speaker that sounds at least pretty good is far easier. This is why there are so many more companies making non-TPA speakers - it is easier. You just throw out one performance parameter and stop worrying about it. So what if the impulse from (for example) a snare drum whack arrives at the listener's ear at 3 different times? I do. The tweeter, midrange and woofer usually are all delayed in respect to each other in non-TPA designs. A snare whack may require sound from all 3 drivers (or at least from 2 of them) That original whack happens in real-time as a single dynamic event. WHen it is split into 2 or 3 delayed events arriving at your ear at 3 different times, the original event is simply not as realistic as the original. It cannot be as realistic.

Some of the more sophisticated high-end electronics designers spend a lot of time studying the speed with which audio frequencies move through their components. They apply a specific frequency at the input and measure the time it takes that frequency to move through the component to the output. Different frequencies travel at different speeds. These designers will then fine tune spacing of PCB traces, or wire lengths or capacitor types/materials or other fussy details trying to get all audio frequencies to travel through the component at the same speed. They do not do this level of detailed analysis for the fun of it, it is a royal pain in the butt. But the sound quality of their components which have this level of detailed analysis applied to them is better than if they had not taken time to do it. Interestingly, the time differentials between audio frequencies propagating through an electrinic component are very small in comparison to time delays which occur in non-TPA loudspeaker designs! If the time delays in the electronic signal are important enough to sweat over. The larger time delays that occur in loudspeakers because of crossover design and physical driver mounting are even more worth pursuing and eliminating.

If you consider sound a 'solid' for a minute... I know this is a strange concept, but it is an excellent visualization tool. Lets take that snare drum whack and represent it as a 2 foot long plexiglass rod. Everytime you hear that snare drum whack, you experience it as a 2 foot long plexiglass rod. How do you get that 2 foot plexiglass rod to appear in your listening room with the same diameter, the same transparency and polish, the same length, the same density and mass? This is the job your audio system has to do. If you pull that original perfect 2 foot plexiglass rod through your non-TPA system, when it appears in your listning room, it is still recognizeable as a 2 fot long pleziglass rod, but there are variations in diameter because the rod has been pulled through electronic components and speakers at different speeds at different frequencies. This has distorted the physical presence of the original event. It is impossible to have the non-TPA system reproduce the plexiglass rod without distorting it. Of course the TPA design if not excrucuatingly perfected with years of effort will add different kinds of distortion like an irregular surface texture because of drivers that overlap more than they really should for best performance. But sweating the details in a TPA design will avoid many problems.

Designing TPA speakers is so hard, that many designers just choose to not address it. In the 1990s, proper and successful TPA designs are requiring more and more resources in the areas of test equipment, computers, computer software, and brute-force manpower hours. These can just be too much for small speaker companies to deal with.

Summing up this long answer... TPA speakers are not guaranteed to better overall than any given non-TPA speaker design. There are more pitfalls and problems to overcome when designing TPA speakers. But I find that, for me, well executed TPA speakers offer a sound that is just "more right" more often than some of the best non-TPA speakers. I did not know, nor did I suspect that the Christian Limited 10.5 speakers were TPA designs until I had already decided they were very likely going to be one of my favorite sounds at the show. As I was asking questions about the speakers after listening, I learned that they were TPA designs. However, they would have been onn my short list even if they had turned out not to be TPA speakers. I tried to avoid the obvious mega-buck "best sound" selections. The Vandersteen 5 speakers used in the Audible Illusions suite are kind of "out there" price-wise (circa $9000, other models are also TPA designs and prices start at $700/pair). But the Christian speakers ($2,500) and the Dunlavy SC-III (also 'mid-priced') prove that you can get real high-end sound at prices that are reachable for many audiophiles, if not now, then maybe in the future when income catches up with 'needs'. My preference for TPA speakers does not mean that there are no good non-TPA speakers, but those non-TPA speakers really would have to be spectacularly good in other performance areas to make me accept the time distortion they impose on the audio signal....dB


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