[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
August 1997

 

August 26, 1997

Dear Doug,

Two days ago I discovered SoundStage!......and cannot be happier. I have been printing and reading back reviews, articles and editorials to catch-up we you guys. I assume this is an internet only publication.

I cannot agree more with your review (02/1996) on the 803's. I presently own a pair (series II) for the past year or so. With them I have rediscover the way music should sound (all types). In one word....excellent. A true class A performer. And yes the bass will go down to around 35Hz in my room. Equipment used....at the front end, Marantz 63SE into a combo (I2S) Alchemi DTI Pro/DDE 3.0, CJ-PV10A into a pair of ROTEL RBX980's (vertical bi-amp). Analog gear includes and old Micro Seiki DDX1000 with and AQ-PT8 using a Graham junction box and SW-Virtuoso Interconnect. Cartridges used are Benz Micro 20S and Ortofon MC15.

I'm still working on tuning my new dedicated music room (26'x 12'x 7.9'), finding better sounding (inexpensive) interconnects (currently using AQ Topaz's and Quartz and AQ-Indigo/AQ-Crystal bi-wire combination for speakersz). I would like to try DH-Labs cables.. any comments on this?

In your article you mentioned "Sound Anchor" as a stand for the 803's. Could you please tell me their phone number or a dealer representing them...do they have a web page?

Have to go.... enjoy very much your reviews, keep up the good work.

Best regards,

...alexg@mwt.net

Hello Alex, we're certainly glad you found us. Your letter outlines one of the key advantages of maintaining a web-publiction - online history. We enjoy it when people 'dig out' our old reviews from The Archives. Athough I no longer own the 803's, I still feel the Sound Anchors are an excellent addition to that speaker. As for the DH Labs, we've had great experience, but as with all potential purchases please try before you buy! Other budget cables that look promising are Kimber's new Hero. Look for a future review. Thanks for taking the time to respond...DAS


August 26, 1997

This is a response to the Mouthoff piece about stratospheric priced hi-end equipment.

In a country with a raging bull economy, where a $33,000 Ford Explorer is outselling $22,000 Honda Accords and Ford Tauruses, the cries of cheapskates grow less and less credible with each record mark of the stock market.

In an era where Dan Rather and USA Today report on ordinary folks becoming millionaires because they socked away money into mutual funds, the price of hi-end audio/video becomes closer to everyone's reach.

With a used market in the INTERNET so huge , it's one more reason that cheapskate complaints are losing credibility with me. I am not born in a rich family, I work for a living just like anyone else. But I am smart enough to sock money away in CD's (the money kind, not the music) and mutual funds. And it has reaped me dividends that allow me to enjoy this hi-end A/V hobby. I'm also smart enough to have learned to navigate the internet and find great bargains in the used but hi-end websites!

The bottom line is: there are enough resources in today's era to increase our wealth without being born in it! I am getting a little tired of so called "regular" people whining about affordability when they can use their energy to accumulate wealth that is within any person's grasp!

More so than ever before in the history of mankind is the opportunity for wealth so easily within reach of anyone willing to use that organ between their ears!

...Benny


August 15, 1997

Hi Greg,

I have just read your article in SoundStage! after reading about it in an Australian HiFi newsgroup (rave review by the way). I have a question. Does the sand only add mass or does it provide other damping qualities? For instance, would a floating shelf made of granite do the same job without sand? This would be a lot more aesthetically pleasing (but more costly of course). Also, if the components are already quite massive is any extra mass loading required? My amp weighs about 45 pounds and CD player about 27 pounds.

Anyway, thanks for the interesting article.

Hope to hear from you soon,

...Vladimir

Vladimir - Yes, mass is the ticket, so marble will do nicely. The more massive the component, the less effect the mass UNDER the component yield. You still should add something to the top of the chassis when possible to tame cabinet resonance and unwanted vibrations.

I have had lead shot suggested which, aside from providing mass, will also provide an RF/EMI shield! Thanks for reading SoundStage! and for taking the time to write...Greg Weaver


August 12, 1997

The Hi Fi 97 reporting - while not too bad was much too delayed for a Net Zine. You lost out to print in several cases and this is a pity.

I'd suggest that the next time around - speed be the essence and your comments can follow.

...RK

For the Vegas CES 97 we published our show report within 2 weeks. We wanted to produce a concise report - quickly - and we did. For the San Francisco show we wanted to do something even better. For Hi-Fi 97 we made a deliberate effort to hold off publication (for about 6 weeks) and produce a report that would rival any magazine, print or web, in terms of photos and reviewer commentary. That was accomplished as well. Furthermore, we're more than a full month ahead of what will be seen from the print magazines in North America.

However, you do have an excellent point that outlines a key advantage of the web -- speed. While we were fast, we could be even faster. Unfortunately, our financial resources are limited and if we were able to afford even a cuple of full-time writers I know that we could produce an incredible, in-depth show report within 2 weeks of a show. For CES 98 we plan a compromise. If all goes as planned we will provide almost real-time coverage (at the show, as it happens) with the remaining commentary and photo coverage following. We intend for it to be our best. Thanks for your input...DAS


August 12, 1997

I couldn't be happier to find your site. As a long time music listener who has only recently delved into the specifics of good audio, I appreciate your information.

I want to know if you have done any testing on a new receiver from Mondial Designs (the manufacturer of Acurus and Aragon components). The receiver is the Mondial AmFi Theater1. It is billed as Mondial's foray into the mid-fi A/V receiver market.

...Jim

It is e-mails like this one that make working on this site enjoyable for us. As for the Mondial products, we have unfortunately not been able to successfully acquire review products.


August 10, 1997

I was wondering if you had heard cheaper SE designs like the Golden Tube SE40, or the similar offering from Caztech? If so, could you compare them to more expensive and better known amps?

I heard Caztech's SE40 compared to a Home Theater amp from Rotel and there was really no comparason -- the tubes absolutely excelled in mid and high presentation, while the Rotel had a much tughter and meatier bass.

I have a chance to get that very Caztech I heard for $550, but I was wondering if there was anything else I should hear before buying.

Thanks,

Austin J.

Caztech is a Canadian company that impressed us greatly at CES '97 in Las Vegas where they displayed with Swans Speaker Systems. Since then, however, we have not had the opportunity to audition their products although we'd like to! The prices seem very reasonable. As for the Golden Tube SE40, again, we do not have a review sample on hand. However, one of our contributors, Mike Fenech (mikef@soundstage.com) owns the Golden Tube and refers to it in his reviews. Other tube amps we have on hand for review? I have just received the Amp-1 from Anthem ($1195 USD). Look for a review to appear in the October or November issue. As well, Marc Mickelson is due to receive the $2195 USD Tigris integrated amplifier from Mesa. Scheduled review publication is about the same time. There is certainly no shortage of interest in affordably priced tube components...DAS


August 10, 1997

Hey ya'll--you have a fun site. I do have one question that I think sometimes affects the way that we define "hi-fi". Some audiophiles are interested in making reproduced music sound as what they define as "the best" to them (where personal tastes like 'more bass', 'warmer midrange', etc. come into play), whereas some are more interested in making reproduced music sound as if they are hearing it live. I was wondering how the members of your staff feel about this. My view is that if a classical recording sounds very you-are-there, then all other types of music will sound incredible, too. What do you think about it?

Also--Dunlavy SC-III's--will they be in by the August issue?

Thanks alot! It's great to be able to get interesting (and free) info about a great hobby.

Kendall T.

Hi Kendall and thanks for the response. You make an interesting point. If I follow you correctly, you are asking whether our reviewers try to create systems that they like to hear, regardless of whether it would be deemed 'accurate,' 'live,' or 'real' sounding. For example, do they make the midrange, bass or high frequencies 'artificially' pronounced because that is a sound that suits them. Although it is very tough to generalize, I would say that from my discussions with them (and reading their reviews) most of the SoundStagers prefer, and build their systems around, neutral components. That is to say - 'real' or 'live' sounding. Equipment that passes as much musical information along as possible with little sonic signature of its own. However, this should be taken with some caution. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to know if your system is passing all the information on a recording unaltered even if it sounds real. Why? Because most of us don't know what the original performance really sounded like in the studio, concert hall, or wherever it may have taken place. Subsequently, we don't know what distortions were introduced to the recording. If a system sounds real, is it passing the musical information through in a neutral manner or is it adding its own distortions that, in the end, make it sound real or live!

I cannot agree with you on point of "if a classical recording sounds very you-are-there, then all other types of music will sound incredible, too." I see your point, however, I have heard systems that have sounded very good playing classical music and not so good at, for example, pop and rock. I find it very difficult to find a system that sounds good with any type of music.

As for the Dunlavy SC-III, I apologize for jumping the gun on that one. I was a little premature in announcing that in our 'upcoming' section. Our own Todd Warnke has the SC-III, but has also been buried under an avalanche of other review equipment. Todd assures me that the SC-III review will appear just after the John Dunlavy interview. Look for the interview to be published in September...DAS


August 7, 1997

Great article, and absolutely correct in every particular [Monthly Mouthoff, August 1997 - "Dream a Little Dream"]. Keep up the good work!

...Jeff


August 6, 1997

"A Dealer's Perspective On The High Price Of High End"

Well DAS you did it this time, "Dream a Little Dream" this month's "Mouthoff" truly got my attention. The concept of a balance of the audio for "The Rich and Famous" and the "Not So Rich and Famous" is truly what this industry needs. By reading certain magazines one would think that only multiple six figure income types can enjoy good music at home!!! And yes, I'm as guilty as the next guy for lusting after mono block amps, speakers the size of coffins and the like, but the truth is audio companies produce those state of the art products for the advancement of this crazy hobby and because there are a few people that can afford them. But what everyone needs to remember is, it's not the $20,000.00 mono amps that makes this business go, it's the trickle down models, the $3000.00 stereo amps that real people actually buy.

I hope SoundStage! can get the point across that if one chooses to chase "state of the art sound", one will die broke and very unhappy. We need to realize that good sound can be had for less than those other magazines would have you believe. And that is what makes this fun, finding that piece of equipment that offers 95% of the performance for 30% of the price.

In the end, "The High Price of High End" can only be changed by the buying public, the ability to listen with your ears not someone else's and vote with your wallets for the system that performs at the 95% level for a reasonable price.

Sincerely,

Steve Lyde
www.themusicshop.com


August 5, 1997

Hi Todd,

Having auditioned the Red Dawn speaker cables in my system for 2 weeks. I must say that I mostly concur with your findings [please see Todd Warnke's August 1997 Nordost Red Dawn review]. They are very neutral cables. I had been using the MIT T2 biwire cables at the time and they were badly smoked across the board. What I loved about them is the deep, fast and full bass that is extremely satisfying especially for rock music. The slightly warm and superbly clear edge free midrange and superbly extended highs are major bonuses. I must say that I also love the red/silver computer-ribbon-cable look.

Unfortunately or fortunately, near the end of the auditioning process when I was just probably a few days away from owning Red Dawns . . . one of my wealthier audiobuddies was upgrading his Wireworld Silver Eclipse cables to the Gold Eclipse II and was willing to sell his cables for the price of new Red Dawn. The Silver Eclipse lists at $2K / 8' pair. That was 50% off! Since I use WW Eclipse interconnects but could not find any Eclipse speaker cables since they are sold-out already (and hence not possible to audition at home) - I was ecstatic so I borrowed them and had a shoot out at home.

The Silver Eclipse had an even fuller and weightier bass while only a tad slower and marginally less tight than the Red Dawn. The midrange is full and solid - and richer/more seductive/and more palpable than the RD.The highs are equally smooth and extended but unlike the RD - does not emphasize siblilants and harshness in bad recordings. It sounds exceptionally sweet while not sounding dark or syruppy. The SE, in the tradition of the best silver conductored cables was more liquid sounding with nary a trace of hardness or edge, the soundstage background seemed blacker and subjectively less noisy, the focus and layering of instruments in the soundstage are more delineated and last but not the least - there is unparalleled musical and harmonic coherence in the presentation. A few secs into Rickie Lee Jones' "The Moon is Made of Gold" and I knew it would be hard to let go of the SEs. There was something very *right* about the presentation that is only hinted at by the RD ... that is akin to Single Ended Triode *magic* so I bought the Silver Eclipse instead. (Later - I borrowed a pair of Transparent Music Wave Reference just for fun . . . and they were thoroughly trounced as well!!!)

The Silver Eclipse (or most WW cables for the matter) has not received much attention from the high-end paparazzi althought the much more expensive Gold Eclipse and the cheaper Eclipse, Atlantis and Orbit has had their share of glory. Wireworld now says that the new soon-to-be-released Silver Eclipse III is significantly more neutral and more coherent than my SE I's. They will be released shortly. I enthusiastically recommend that you call David Salz and ask for a loaner!

sincerely,

...Hansen


August 4, 1997

This was my favorite "Mouth Off" to date and really hits close to home. I was at Hi-Fi '97 also and came away with something that I didn't really realize until a few weeks later as I was out listening to potential equipment purchases. That elusive last 5-10% of sound just does not matter to me. I do not listen at the sound levels necessary, have a room big enough, use music that shows it off, or have the patience to tweak everything. Using my own budget of under $10,000 for speakers, electronics, source and cables, I will have no problem getting sound that is competitive with the most expensive I saw. Here's one vote for the emphasis on less esoterically priced goods.

...Terry


August 4, 1997

Yes, Yes, Yes!!!!!

Doug, please send a copy of "Dream a Little Dream" to Stereophile, they need to read it. That's exactly the way I've felt for a long time. It's a rare month when they review something I could actually afford. Why do I keep subscribing? Beats me. I like getting mail?

BTW.........Your online magazine SoundStage Is the BEST!!!!! That's the way a stereo rag should be, I read it cover to cover (or frame to frame?) Each month. One small suggestion, is it possible to make a "Back" and "Next" button within each frame? After every review I read I have to go one or two pages back just to get to the next article.

...Todd

Hi Todd and thanks for the response and encouragement. I would bet that you do keep subscribing for more reasons than just getting mail. Afterall, Stereophile is one of the very magazines that I own a subscription to (I read almost all of the rest, but I don't necessarily buy all the issues). I like Stereophile a lot and feel it worth my money. I also feel that they do a really good job at hitting a wide range of products. I could stand to see more 'everyman' type products, however, there are probably people who want to see more expensive products. Expensive is also a relative term. My home stereo retails in the neighbor of $12,000. Very expensive to some, but sane by my standards. With what's available today I could spend many times that, but would it be that much better?

I think that the real problem lies with the perceptions of some in the industry that feel that the 'only products that really matter' are the very expensive products. To me, they are only fooling themselves. Take, for example, a dealer who said to me, "I don't take any speaker cable priced less than $1500 seriously." And he's a dealer! Imagine the help he gives the average audiophile (My response: "So if I wrapped some zipcord in a garden hose and used duct tape to decorate the outside and told you it was $1500 would you think it was serious?" His response: "Screw off.")

I keep hearing about how high-end audio is dying. Is it? Or is the high priced bigotry killing it?...DAS


August 1, 1997

Wow is it surprising to see what music you guys love! Teenage Head? Sex Pistols? The Clash? YES!

I got on this hideous high-end trend mill because I love music and wanted to really hear Franka Zappa 'going for it'. Bag the equipement - let's have some fun!

Here's my three dessert island picks:

  1. Replacements - Let It Be
  2. John Coltrane - Live at Birdland
  3. Mary Margrete O'Hara - Miss America

My favorite records of 96:

  1. The Evaporators - United Empire Loyalists
  2. Olivia Tremor Control - Dusk at Cubist Castle
  3. The Archers Of Loaf - The Speed of Cattle

Rock on...

...John

 

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