[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
December 1997


December 29, 1997

To SoundStage!: One audiophile's story.

I''ve been an audiophile for almost 20 years (I'm 46). I have approximately 1500 LP's and 1000 CD's, so I really consider myself a music lover more than an audiophile. I've been through a whole parade of equipment and a lot of dough to support the chase over the
years. Also, I was, like many still are I guess, completely under the sway of the audiophile mags for many years (Stereophile, TAS, etc.). I've done the tube/solid state thing, endless upgrades, wires, tweaks. etc. Some of the equipment I've owned included Rowland, Theta, Vandersteen, Snell, Martin Logan, Emminent Technology, Bryston, Conrad johnson, and more I can't even remember, including several kits I built over the years (hafler,dynaco).

I basically checked out a few years ago ( I only found your site while browsing to see what's been going on since I've stopped following the scene closely). To make a long story short, I guess it took all those years and all that equipment for me to get my sonic priorities straight and trust my own ears more than a reviewer's. I'm now much more excited about a music release than version VIa of some preamp. I also ended up with very non audiophile stuff. Around '93, I was so fed up and tired of seeing so much income evaporate, I was going to buiild my own speakers (Speaker Builder magazine has a lot of plans that aren't difficult), and settle on some neutral electronics for a CD based two channel system (records have fallen to about 2% of source time, even though I have more records than CD's and love the music, it seems like such a hassle now).

Anyway, I learned about Boulder Amplifers (from a Stereophile review) and got in touch with the Company (Jeff Nelson). I ended up acquiring Boulder amps and preamp (250AE's and L3) and, based on Boulder's recommendation, Westlake Audio speakers (BBSM 10). This is stuff you never hear about as it's more pro-geared, but, to my ear, it emabarasses the typical high end stuff. Clarity, dynamics, tonal accuracy, low distortiion and resolution like I'd never heard from big buck audiophile approved equipment.
My sonic prioities finally found their home, (one of my several sonic truths -for me- imaging is a hoax, it's about neutrality, accuracy and proper dynamics in a well engineered package).

I haven't haunted an audio salon forseveral years, and, have no desire to. I guess that's the point of this note. There comes a time when you must stop, at least until the next significant technological breakthrough occurs. The quest is fun, but ultimately unsatisfying. Once the natural focus becomes the music, i.e. you can't find anything "wrong" with the reproduction, you can get off the equipment treadmill and be a lot happier. Anyway, if you guys respond to these types of epistles, I'd be interested in your thoughts about the hobby in general and whether any of you have had a similar experience. The point of this was not to say my equipment is better than anybody else's equipment, but it sure sounds like it to me, and I've been through a ton of it. The point is: clarify and articulate, to yourself, what you are really looking for in a stereo system, what is important for you to really appreciate the music you like. For me, everything I tried for years was somehow colored and flavored, now (for me) it's not and I don't have to worry about equipment. It's wonderful.

...Julian C.

Hello Julian and thanks for taking the time to write. You have told a story that probably hits home with a lot of people. The endless quest for equipment, though upgrade after upgrade, can be tiresome and discouraging. Furthermore, sometimes the goal of what one is trying to achieve becomes lost as the new products hit the shelves and the pocket book empties.

The goal, in my mind, is fun and enjoyment of music. It doesn't need to take endless dollars to achieve it either. I don't doubt that your system is very pleasing to you - that is because you assembled it the right way, with your own ears and your own instincts. I wish more people would do the same.


December 25, 1997

I enjoyed reading your reviews of the equipment and tweaks - the advice provided was very enlightening. I have just auditioned the Alon II speakers (by Acarian) with Coda Continuum amplifiers. After auditioning, I thought this combination was a very musical and moving experience for the price. I would appreciate if you could do a review of this equipment in the near future if time permits.


Thanks for the feedback Chang. The items have mentioned we are aware of, but have not contacted the companies. Another to watch out for at CES '98. Thanks...DAS

December 24, 1997

As you prepare for your trek to CES, as a friendly reminder, take plenty of film. As a special request (My English teacher is probably turning over in her grave. Two sentences starting with "as".) please include pictures of the latest Theta products in your CES coverage. Thank you!

Happy Hoildays!

...John L.

Hi John and thanks for your reply.  We certainly will cover Theta, and as well, every other room we come across.  Furthermore, check our CES 98 site on a daily basis since we will be publishing special pictures on a daily basis...DAS

December 24, 1997

Just got through looking at your listing of exhibits for the '98 CES Show in "lost wages" January 8-11, 1998. I'm interesting in seeing evaluations of the Australian Ambience Hybrid Speaker systems. I have no connection with the company. In the loudspeaker DIY areas of the Web there have been some interesting discussions about Tony Moore's (Ambience) "true ribbons," hence my interest.

The CES webpage located Ambience in the Alexis Park area, room AP2554. Would certainly love to see you folks check out these speakers and provide an evaluation.


...Bob A.

December 17, 1997

Thank you, I really enjoy the online magazine.

It seems a lot more relevant to my real world financial situation, although with kids about to enter college, I am probably not going to be making major upgrades to my system anytime soon. (When I do, I will definitely make them through your advertisers. Quite likely the Silver Sonic Cables will be first on the list, followed by a better CD player.) I like to read Stereophile, but most of their reviews are of equipment that is, alas, out of my price range. The Sensible Sound seems too... sensible? I think there is probably better performance to be had by spending a little more than they recommend. I concede, the laws of diminishing returns have kicked in.

Finally, I'd like to encourage a repeat or expansion of your Best Recordings of This (or any other) Year article. I've gotten a few CDs I like from descriptions in the BMG and Columbia record club mailings. However, there are more misses than hits trying this way.

I actually bought one CD from a writeup in Stereo Review. I must have been crazy to think that anyone who thinks that all equipment sounds the same could have anything to say about music. (Not really. Long ago they printed a rave review of Starland Vocal Band's record. It was a winner. Elysian Field's Bleed Your Cedar was NOT.)

The SoundStage! reviews have all been quite good. I liked Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, so I took a chance on Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Session. A winner, so Dave Duvall's recommendations carry some weight with me.

I like Sara McClachlan, so I took a chance on Bruce Cockburn's Humans on Doug Schneider's advice. A big winner, I will definitely buy the Clash's London Calling.

I looked through Greg Smith's home page. We seem to have congruent tastes in music. He recommended Toy Matinee. I bought it (new) and and agree: the best band I never heard. This is probably one of my top ten records ever. Alan Parsons Project's I Robot goes on my list. I ran across Ke's I Am, Robin Holcomb, and Brian Wilson in the used bin at Record Theater. I Am is consistently good, and I have played "Nine Lives" off the Robin Holcomb CD many times. Brian Wilson's ok, I will give BW/Van Dyke Parks' Orange Crate Art a try.

So what about my own list? I keep going back to the Kingston Trio's The Capitol Years, Clannad's Annam, Eddie and the Cruisers (soundtrack), and A Woman's Heart with the Eleanor McEvoy/Mary Black duet of the title song. Other favorites I love to play LOUD when the family is out: Indigo Girls Rites of Passage and one which I bought long ago in Japan: From Inoue Yosui's Danzetsu album, a song which translates as "Boundless Ambition." This guy is a folk rocker, the song has it all: nice pace, good vocals, real emotion, and a church bell that will make you believe it is real.

Thanks again.

...Mark D.

December 16, 1997


Marc Mickelson's well-written review of the Lamm L1 preamplifier certainly fosters dire temptation. Linking it with his Lamm amplifier report, Marc makes a strong case that buying Lamm is the audio equivalent of finding the holy grail. I am reminded of the phrase "Final Purchase" which was used in stereo store ad campaigns in the late 1980's, and we know how final THOSE purchases were. But I think I know where Marc is headed and I understand his enthusiasm to get there.

Ten years ago, I spent the ungodly sum of $10,000 to purchase an ARC SP11 and M300MkII monoblocks and promised that I would buy only software after that. Until severely changed financial circumstances forced me to sell everything, including the stereo system, I was never happier as an audiophile. I think we must strive to reach a point where we say, this is "the end of the audio road for me." Usually that point is the guiltiest level of expenditure we can live with. Then, whether it lasts a lifetime or not, we can at least find temporary respite from the audio quest for perfection. Long live the Lamms of the world.

...Jim Saxon
The Audio Dealer in Paradise

December 15, 1997

To: Greg Weaver

My name is Steve Devan. I read your review of the TDS and picked one up as a result. I've only had it in my system for a day or so, so this is preliminary but it is an interesting little device. I have a mid-range price system (Golden Tube amplification and pre amplification, Rega Planet CD, and Inifinity Prelude Composition speaker). The system, especially in the mid-range, soundstaging and imaging is very good. Bass in my room tends to be a little muddy and slurry, especially at the lowest frequencies.

The reason that I am writing is to discuss your review of the high end system. The weird thing is that rhythmically, the TDS seems to help; it also seems to clean up the muddiness at the low end. This is the polar opposite of what you experienced. Strange little box. It is almost as though the two phenomena are closely related. I do get a little high end sizzle, but think I can control that by angling the speakers a little less severely.

As to the other stuff. The mid-range effects are dramatic. Voice in particular. There also is a filling in of the soundstage, which I find much more natural than the thinness I experience without the device. For $295, this truly is a remarkable little box. Wonder how they do it?

...Steve D.

December 9, 1997

Dear Mr. Schneider.

I just found your article on SoundStage! and as an avid headphone listener, I must add a few things to your article.

1. While I appreciate the work Headroom has done with their headphone amps, they are certainly not the only company that makes affordable, excellent headphone products. QED, Creek, Musical Fidelity and Audio Advancements (The Earmax: http://www.audioadvancements.com ) all have excellent, reasonable affordable amps for your cans.

2. This isn't mentioned in your article, but with some regular recordings, headphones offer all of the imaging that stereo systems do. On Stereophile's Test CD2, they use simple recording techniques which produces uncanny imaging from my cans. The imaging through headphones is wholly related to mic positioning in the recordings. If the mics are spaced 20 feet apart, then your head will feel twenty feet wide compared to the recording. Ten inches apart . . . I think you get the idea. You're listening seat is also at the same level (altitude) as the microphones.

3. Headphone listening his high-end on the cheap. My QED amp, Sennheiser HD600s, and Marantz CD-63SE provide hours of personal listening pleasure for a reasonable price. I do, however, see an Earmax in my future.

4. With the rise of Headroom, headphones are being taken more seriously. Sonic Frontiers (including some Anthem models) offer high quality headphone stages on their pre-amps. Bryston does the same on the BP-60, but with no headroom processing.

At any rate, these are some of spur of the moment thoughts on headphones. People don't seem to consider headphones a high-end medium. But with the work of Grado, Sennheiser, Headroom, and countless others, I hope to see this change.

Binaural Regards:

...Michael S.

December 7, 1997

Dear Sirs:

I must say it was a pleasant surprise to stumble upon SoundStage! when I finally got online. While a part of the pleasure may have been based in part upon bias (...it's nice to see products I already owned {like Timbre, Merlin, JPS} get great reviews...great minds think alike, right? Ha!...), it has also been satisfying to come across something which is Done Well.

One question I have is on potential future formats. Will we ever see a time where more than one component can be the focus of a review piece? As an example, I will say that I am currently researching isolation gear (cones, pads, platforms...you name it), and would love to come across a review somewhere in which the reviewer(s) gave a comparison of various products within a given class(e.g. Black Diamond Racing cones vs DH Cones from Golden Sound vs gemstone cones from Marigo Audio Labs, etc) or for different approaches to a general problem (e.g. air platforms like the Seismic Sinks or Osiris Ariel vs vibration dissipators like Tekna Sonic or Signal Guard or Symposium vs vibration resistant items like The Shelf or Golden Sound pads and mats, etc. etc.). Getting a good review on one item is a great step in the right direction, but the more steps the better!!!

Another question, this time with a twist on the last question: would it be possible to get a number of reviewers to work on a single product (if only for separate opinions in capsular form), especially when it's a radical product (eg The Room Lens, TDS units, etc. The 2nd opinion on the TDS was indeed done, and much appreciated...).


...Dave D.

Hello Dave and thanks for the letter. Your points are very well taken and, as a matter of fact, we are trying to do some of the same things you suggest. It is true that component interaction, in different systems, is vitally important for consumers to know. If we had the budget funds I would try and make sure that equipment that does fall into that category does get 'moved' around. Unfortunately, we have to work within our means. Still, in 1998 you will see more multi-reviewer pieces. In particular, with OTL amplifiers, we are planning a series where Marc Mickelson and John Upton will each audition a select group of these products. It will be interesting to see how they work in the varied systems. Again, I wish to thank you for taking the time to respond...DAS

December 5, 1997

I would like to see some information about system matching and experience with certain equipment that works well with other equipment. I have recently joined the ranks of Jr. Audiophile and I enjoy experimenting with different products in search of my dream system. Other than that, I think your publication is very informative and well designed. Keep up the good work.

...Ed S.

December 2, 1997

I just read Jay's review of Fleetwood Mac's The Dance and I just wish that I could share his enthusiasm for it. It just doesn't cut it for me when compared to the originally recorded performances. I have been hoping for an up to date remastering of Fleetwood Mac and especially Rumours.

If only Steve Hoffman at DCC, Glenn Meadows at Masterfonics or JVC with their XRCD technology could get a hold of these titles I think that the results would be nothing short of fabulous. Heck, I'd even settle for a regular "run of the mill" 20 bit remaster.

...Irwin Z.

Hi Irwin...

For me, The Dance is not about excellent audiophile quality. I agree with you, the quality of this recording could be much improved. And, remasters of the two albums you mentioned (as well as others that come to mind by this great group) would be 2 die 4. This release is more fundamentally about a musical journey made by some great musical veterans who still deliver those classic songs with renewed inspiration, emotion and passion. Thanks for your note.

Cheers....Jay Piriz

December 1, 1997

Very good move getting the music reviews in their own section. As far as what this reader would like to see -- vinyl. Lots of it.

...Doug A.

Lots of vinyl you say? Well, come in here my boy have a cigar you're going to go far :-{)+ . i'm literally travelling across America finding and buying all the the vinyl i feel worthy... and more! Please stay tuned to SoundStage! as many music reviews from audiophile and non-audiophile labels will be coming soon. (As one of my friends say) Music, the vinyl frontier. Thanks for your time...Steven R. Rochlin

December 1, 1997

Cover DVD and Home Theater. Oops! You're already set to do so in 1998! Kudos!

...Dave B.

Hi Dave, our intention is to begin producing SoundStage! Video Online in mid-1998.   The focus will be DVD software and Home Theater hardware reviews.  At the moment we don't want to jump into it since we want to make a conscious effort to do it right.  It's unfortunate we cannot do it right now because I feel that there is not yet an online web-zine taking the issue seriously.  There is ample room for growth, that's for sure. Thanks for your support...DAS


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