[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
September 1997


September 23, 1997

If you don't mind I have decided to do a review of a Home theater System for those of your readers who may be interested!! First I would like to say that this review is not an advertisement, but is based on the better part of the last two years of my own personal intensive research! After listening in many sound rooms with many various component matches, such as Def Tech's, Von Schweikert VR-4's, Mirage (full line), Platinum Audio (full line), Proac (full line) to mention a few - It wasn't til I came across the Meadowlark Herons that I realized for Hometheater as well as Audio reproduction the Herons at a price point of $4K was the real standout in the pack! Now let me explain further for your readers' benefit! While the VR4's and the Pro Ac's were most certainly excellent in most all respects, and I'm sure there are other speaker manufacturer's out ther undoubtedly as well, it was the HERON'S that stole my HEART! While they were as accurate as their competitor's some at four times the cost (Proac Response 4's) they to my ears delivered an unbelievably accurate mid-range, while truly able to deliver low end down to 28Hz just like the specs say! But they go far beyond the specs, because they truly deliver sound dynamics seemingly at the high as well as the low end frequencies with an ability to totally slam you into unbelievability or rather AWE is a better word in their incredible delivery!!! I urge any of the readers who might be interested in a system that can truely raise your pulse rate as well as your overall senses to go and audition them, the only thing you will have to gain is the finest current home theater main speakers money can buy! The following is the system I am about to have installed, to include a newly built home theater room, replete with double wall soundproofing! Heron's main left and right towers (Lightening Fast, Tremendous Dynamic Range, Transparent and walk away from other manufacturer's when considered for HOMETHEATRE!!!!!!!! ESPECIALLY!)

  • Petral center channel (Currently the absolute most accurate center channel available)It is flawless in delivering pristine sound re-production!!!! Perfection when used with Herons.
  • C-150 Mesa Passive sub-woofe r, unbelievably accurate and seamless with Herons At a retail of $795.00, I haven't heard better at any PRICE!
  • Meadowlark Kestrals for surrounds with Bi-Wire option.
  • Chang state of the art CLSH-1000 Power Conditioner
  • Sony state of the art DVSP-7000 DVD Player
  • Cables are Tara Master Gen 2's for main speakers & center, Reference gen 2 Interconnects for the rest of system
  • Aragon 8008X3 front three channels (Don't think that this amp can't DELIVER!!!!) It may not be a monoblock, but it is the REAL DEAL for mere mortals!
  • Chiro C-300 rear channels and sub (Read review in Hometheater Magazine - last month's issue). Chiro C-800/w DD/DTS and special Robert E. Greene upgrade connector, dramatic increase in sound information from the C-800 to the DD/DTS unit!! ( For those of you new enthusiasts wondering about the quality of the Chiro, not only at its price point BUT TOTALLY on its own merit it is one of the very finest processors out there. And when you take into consideration, that it is half the price of many of its competitor's (Proceed Pav, Theta Casablanca, Lexicon). It is a real bargain!

The cost of this total system after Approx 20% discount overall is 16K! I hope this review truely helps the home theater enthusiast. Remember, it is the culmination of fanatical research and direct listening over 2 years!!! In closing this system stated above, for those interested in the best is in a word, INCREDIBLE!!!

...Dominick D.

September 22, 1997

To Greg Smith,

Over the past year, I have been following your discussions on Rotel products and decided this past weekend to start my Home Theater collection. I had purchased Rotel's RTC 970 AM/FM Dolby Pro-Logic Surround Pre-Amplifier and the RB 976 60-watt X 6 channel power amplifier.

I wanted to purchase the Rotel's RDA 980 Dolby Digital Decoder ($799) but the salesperson told me I should stick with another brand, like the Yamaha's DDP-2 Dolby Digital Decoder ($499), because they have put more research into their product.

Can you assist me in this matter of deciding what to do? I wanted to stay with the same brand (Rotel) products but now I don't know.

...John M.

Consider how most Dolby Digital products are produced:

  • A decoder chip, typically from Zoran or Motorola, is selected.
  • The board required to support this chip is built.
  • Circuitry to link with the incoming digital signal gets implemented.
  • The analog output connections are wired up.

I'm not trying to trivialize this process, but the fact is that there isn't a whole lot going on that requires "research" into the product being produced. Now, if you were trying to make a whole decoder from scratch without using somebody else's chip, that would be a different story, but that's not what you get with decoders in this price range. The literature I've got on the DDP-2 doesn't suggest they've done anything special.

Most of the work that's going to impact on sound quality is getting the analog parts at the back properly designed. Considering how successful Rotel engineers have been in the past with producing good sounding circuits in that application, I have no reason to believe that the guys at Yamaha are doing any better. The price difference between the two is most likely directly related to the use of better grade components in the Rotel unit.

The really cynical might even suggest that the "research" companies like Yamaha do is really into figuring out how to produce their products as cheaply as possible to keep profits up. I wouldn't be surprised to find a bit of this motiviation influencing your dealer as well. The margins they get selling Rotel components are not likely to be nearly as favorable as the ones Yamaha provides, so they might even make more selling a Yamaha product even if the list price is less. ...GS

September 19, 1997

Regarding the Merlin VSM-SE loudspeaker review:

--- "verisimilitude"???????

Keep up the great work!!!!

...Kendall T.

September 8, 1997

SoundStage! seemed to be the only publication produced by a bunch of mainstream guys having fun auditioning and writing about audio components and music. The articles on DIY isolation tweaks were excellent. I think that is what hobbies are all about. I'd hate to see you drift from that focus because I feel that the vast majority of audiophiles in this country feel the same way.

I understand the need to produce profit. If you need to shift your focus to accomplish that, I understand that too. I just don't want to see you gravitate toward all the other audio publications. You're different, and I hope you stay that way.

Best regards,

...Doug M.

Hi Doug, you hit the nail on the head with your description of us. That is exactly what we are. We certainly do have fun audition and writing about equipment and it is the reason we got into this in the first place. As a matter of fact, judging by the feedback given to us over the last few months, it has only reaffirmed to me that the voice of the 'average' audiophile is sorely lacking in high end. I firmly believe that the vast majority of audiophiles are people who spend a considerable amount of money and time on their systems, however, they are not fanatical to the point of, say, selling their houses and cars and ruining their family lives to get that latest and greatest interconnect or DAC. Far too often consumers and reviewers lose perspective on just what is important in this hobby. Balance is really the key here and it is something that we intend on improving on in the future when we consider products for review and make plans for future articles. Thanks again...DAS

September 7, 1997

Dear SoundStage!

I like your 'zine a lot. But it seems that you've abandoned trying to adhere to a monthly schedule. I think this is unfortunate for 2 reasons: You lose that "fresh" feel that readers get when they anticipate a new crop of stories, instead of stuff just dribbling in. And, as a former journalist, I know the value of having a fixed deadline to hit. It's all too easy to "let it slide" for a couple of days if there isn't that discipline.

Anyway, keep up the good work.

...David Z.

Hi David and thanks for the comments. We have been mixed on whether to produce 100% of our content at the beginning of each month or "trickle" it in. Our publishing schedule has normally been that on the 1st a brand new issue hits the Internet, and on the 15th some new articles may appear. The update on the 15th is minor compared to that of the 1st. We have also been known to slide a future articles in here and there. As well, letters such as this one obviously benefit from being on the Net as soon as possible so these are usually updated every couple of days.

By having consistent updates, we are taking advantage of what the Internet offers, a more rapid medium for displaying information to readers. However, you are right that some people prefer to have the entire, brand new issue up at the beginning of each month. This is good feedback that I will be taking and discussing with my editors and contributors. Thanks...DAS

September 4, 1997

I believe, that REVIEWS of at least certain home theater products is sorely needed, in order to satisfy the thousands of newbie Hometheatre enthusiasts such as myself! Although there undoubtedly is more audiophiles out there, than there are Videophiles like myself, it is home theater technology that brings BOTH interests together! And I further believe that there is an ever-growing AVALANCHE of interest toward home theater!!! I also realize that you and the other reviewer's may feel differently, based on some of your, and their statements to queries from others in this forum! I am writing to you in the fervent hope, that you and the other reviewer's will SEE the IMPORTANCE as well as the EVER-GROWING popularity that home theater not only promises, but DELIVERS!!!

...Dominick D.

September 3, 1997

In September's "Mouthoff" you showed admirable courage in expressing your opinions about movies and movie actors. Your bio notes explained why you chose movies, instead of sports. I doubt I have logged as much movie time as you, despite being half a generation older, but as a college classmate of Gene Siskel, I claim status as a movie critic by proxy.

Therefore, I posit the following: The greatest living actor is Al Pacino (I thought he was more convincing than Robert De Niro in Heat, released last year). If you compare the Pacino of Dog Day Afternoon with the one of Scarface with the one of Scent of a Woman, I think you would agree his range has been broader than R De N's Raging Bull/Taxi Driver persona, which carries him from film to film. The only time DeNiro was other than himself was as Rupert Pupkin in King of Comedy, once of the most tiresome movies ever made.

The second best actor is Jack Nicholson. De Niro is third.

The greatest dead actor is Humphrey Bogart. The best old actor is Jack Lemmon/Paul Newman (tie). Sean Connery is the best bald actor followed closely by Gene Hackman. The best foreign actor is Peter O'toole, now that Laurence Olivier is no longer with us.

The greatest male "movie star" will always be Clark Gable.

The heir apparent to Humphrey Bogart is Nicholas Cage, although Tom Hanks' performance in Philadelphia gives him a claim, also. William Hurt is an excellent actor but I find him too insipid. Two other "young" actors who may eventually claim the king's throne are Ralph Fiennes and Tim Roth.

Arguably, the greatest actor of all time (still living, but thank God no longer working) is Marlon Brando. Old guys claim it is Paul Muni. Bogie gets my vote, but Brando's films of the early fifties, Viva Zapata, Julius Caesar, A Streetcar Named Desire, and On The Waterfront have secured him at least a top-three position in the pantheon of actors.

The greatest living actress is probably found among the perennial Acadamy Award nominees: Susan Sarandon, Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek, and Sigourney Weaver. My vote goes to Emma Thompson, who has just joined the group. Jodie Foster IS easier on the eyes than any of the others, so I can understand your choice.

The greatest actress of all time is Katherine Hepburn. (I never found her appealing but when one counts the number of Acadamy Award nominations and wins she has, only Better Davis comes close.) Grace Kelly would have whomped Hepburn had she not married herself out of an astoundingly promising career.

The number one female "movie star" is Elizabeth Taylor, who remains beautiful, even in old age. You realize, of course, she was on the cover of Life magazine in a bathing suit in 1945!

Today's top director is Steven Spielberg. Jaws is the best-directed movie of the last quarter-century and rewards yearly viewing. The all-time best director can be found among this group: Fred Zinnemann, George Stevens, Billy Wilder, William Wyler, John Ford, John Huston and Frank Capra. Steven Spielberg will soon be among them (no, I don't mean dead.)

The decade that produced the most entertaining movies was the 1970's which started with Patton (1970) or The French Connection (1971) and ended with Apocalypse Now (1979) or Raging Bull (1980), depending how you figure a decade.

The worst decade was the 1980s, although the 1990s are threatening to take honors for the century.

The blockbusters of the fifties, sixties and seventies will never be repeated. The Bridge on the River Kwai, Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, Patton. Can you imagine how much they would cost, today?

My favorite movie is Shane (directed by George Stevens), followed by A Man for All Seasons (directed by Fred Zinnemann). I can't pick a number three, can you? Apocalypse Now rates highly on my list, although I think Platoon was more moving (maybe a case of Barber's "Adagio for Strings" winning out over Wagner's "Ride of the Valkeries).

Finally, I would proffer a decade-by-decade listing of dominant actors and actresses:

  • 1930's: Clark Gable and Katherine Hepburn
  • 1940's: Humphrey Bogart and Greer Garson
  • 1950's: Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly
  • 1960's: Paul Newman and Sophia Loren
  • 1970's: Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway
  • 1980's: Robert De Niro and Sissy Spacek
  • 1990's: Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep

Al Pacino was second to Nicholson in the 70s, and to De Niro in the 80s. But Scent of a Woman is something neither of those two titans could have ever pulled off.

...Jim Saxon
SoundStage! Contributor / Insomniac

September 1, 1997

Re: September "Mouthoff"

Couldn't have said it better. I've been to a few Hi-Fi shows, and the thing I dislike most is the pontification of some of the experts there. I come to a show to find out about new products, hear equipment I wouldn't normally be able to audition, (and never have a hope in hell of affording) and get advice from people who are supposed to know more about this stuff than I do.

I don't go to a show to get slammed because I haven't got the latest and the greatest amp, pre-amp,cable, etc. Or to be told that I can't possibly build a hifi/surround system out of one unit, and I must have separate systems, or if not that, I must choose between hifi or surround, because it's just not done to have both.

There... I feel better now...


...Phil W.


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