[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
August 2005


More speaker measurements, please

August 31, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

Just a suggestion: It may be interesting to provide impulse-response plots for your speaker measurements. This would help indicate whether the drivers are all phase correct and time coherent.

Adrian Gerlich

In the next year or so we hope to expand and improve our speaker-measurement program. Impulse response is on our list, as are other measurements that we feel would be useful to consumers. Our mission with these measurements is to ensure that what we publish is correct and relevant, so that some correlation to the speaker's sound can be gleaned....Doug Schneider

Floorstanders or bookshelf speakers for HT?

August 26, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

In an archived letter, you wrote that you review more small speakers than anyone in North America. Hence, you are the ideal person to answer my question.

In general, in order for one to achieve optimal home-theater sound, do you believe it is mandatory to use floorstanders as mains or can good bookshelves serve as well? I ask this because I've seen varying amateur opinions about this on various audio fora; I want to know what a professional such as yourself thinks.

Jim Mittica

Floorstanding speakers generally produce deeper bass than bookshelf-sized speakers due to the larger cabinet and other factors. Some, then, automatically believe that floorstanders up front are the optimal way to go for home theater. However, I've heard bookshelf speakers augmented with a very good sub produce as good or better results in terms of bass extension than many floorstanders. To me, then, there is no easy answer, and probably no correct answer. In my opinion, depending on what the speakers are and what subwoofer is being used, it's quite possible to build a spectacular home-theater system around floorstanders or bookshelf speakers....Doug Schneider

Paradigm or Amphion?

August 23, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

I have been reading your reviews with pleasure for a while, and I was wondering if you could give me some advice on minimonitors. I know that you reviewed both the Paradigm Signature S2 and the Amphion argon2 a while ago. Both got high marks. Can you compare the two? I am not really worried about the amp driving them: I plan to get a Music Fidelity A5, which should have enough power to deal with both of them. So leaving out difficulties (or lack thereof) of driving them, what would you say are the main differences: in precision, tonality (or lack of tonality, hopefully), soundstaging, size of sweet spot, and difficulties in placing them?

I have an unconventional living room: a high, vaulted ceiling, open on one side to the entrance hall; a dead corner that might trap sound; and windows on the back wall (covered by blinds). Stability of the soundstage against acoustic particularities of the room is of some importance to me.

Christian Borgs

It's virtually impossible for me to compare and contrast the two speakers for you because the Amphion argon2 has been gone from my listening room for so long now. What I can tell you, however, is that both speakers are exceptionally well designed and are what I consider "reference caliber" for small two-way monitors. As well, although one is from Finland (Amphion) and the other is from Canada (Paradigm), both have the same underlying design philosophy of flat frequency response, wide and controlled dispersion, and low distortion. This does not mean they'll sound exactly the same, mind you, but it does mean that they'll likely perform similarly in your room.

Now, about your room. Being similarly designed, I suspect neither speaker will be better or worse in your room -- the acoustical challenges you face will affect them both similarly and neither, that I can see, has any strength or weakness compared to the other in terms of how it will perform there. Without trying, though, it's hard to say exactly how any problems will manifest themselves. After all, I've seen some rooms that looked ideal but performed dismally, while I've seen other rooms that appear unconventional but work out just fine. What you're going to simply have to do is try the speakers in our room and then do what you can to the positioning of the speakers and in terms of possible treatment of the room to get the best out of your audio system....Doug Schneider

Digital recording "for the budget audiophile"

August 15, 2005


What are audiophiles doing these days for home recording of compilations and transfer of old LPs to digital media? Is everyone just waiting for the DVD-A vs. SACD vs. CD format war to end? Is it silly to spend money on an audio CD burner at this late date? Home-recording-equipment reviews are virtually extinct at this point. Do our SoundStage! mentors have any advice for those of us who really don’t care to use computer CD burners or trade iPod playlists? Advice for the budget audiophile on this topic would be most welcome.

Sherri Zann Rosenthal

You ask an intriguing question. CD shows no sign of going away, so it is still the format for now and the future. Thus a CD burner is definitely not a bad idea. In this regard, I've come across an interesting product for budget 'philes and people who don't consider themselves audiophiles at all: the TEAC GF-350 minisystem, which you can see here. It's a modern-day spin on console stereo of yore, as it includes an AM/FM tuner, analog turntable and a CD player/recorder. Transferring LPs to CDs is unbelievably easy, and if you want to use your own turntable, the GF-350 has an analog input. You will read a review of it on SoundStage! A/V soon....Marc Mickelson

"Unknown Classics of Classic Rock"

August 9, 2005

To Joseph Taylor,

Just ran across your music editorial from 2003 dealing with the "Unknown Classics of Classic Rock." For me, you hit the nail right on the head! Very few stations on the Internet get off the well-worn path musically, and it's a damn shame! I did run across one that was a bit unique -- Gray Ponytail Radio. I found it at www.indata.com while researching something for work and it proved to be quite enjoyable.

Thanks again for the article even though it took me a few years to discover it!

John Morgan

"...a notch better?"

August 4, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

Excellent review of the Ascend CBM-170 speakers! I was curious, have you listened to the Onix Reference 1 Mk II speaker? How does it compare? I know the Onix is about $1200, but I've heard that they are a notch better?

Scott Grindstead

I've never heard to the Onix Reference 1 Mk II speakers, so I can't tell you if they're good or not. However, if they're $1200 per pair, and I know the CBM-170s can still be had directly from the manufacturer for $328/pair, then the CBM-170s are still as great a deal right now as when I reviewed them over two years ago, even if another speaker that's almost four times as much is a "notch better."...Doug Schneider

"The experience of listening to music is the most rewarding -- and the most important."

August 3, 2005


I thoroughly enjoyed reading your editorial this month ["A Mixed-Up Message"]. You've pinpointed a bad trend that I've noticed in other audiophiles but also most sadly in myself.

I first got excited about audio when I purchased a pair of good computer speakers. Pink Floyd took on a new dimension for me, and I knew that my listening experience could be vastly improved with a component system. I ended up buying a system while still an undergraduate and became a full-fledged audio fan.

I've since upgraded from the original components (this time while working on my Master's degree), and I now have a system I am very happy with. That being said, I've noticed that I spent a lot of time reading online audio reviews when I could have been listening to music. It occurred to me at one point that I had become so caught up in seeing what other equipment was out there that I wasn't turning off my computer and simply listening to music. The problem wasn't that I didn't like my system. It was just that I wondered if changing it would provide a sound I liked better. While this seemed harmless, I realized I was spending way too much time pursuing audio from a materialist perspective and not enough time doing the thing I loved -- listening to music.

I think there are a lot of others like me. I spoke with an audio dealer on a recent visit to Calgary who told me that he has had customers in his store who won't even listen to the Paradigm Signature S8, his most expensive floorstander, simply because it wasn't expensive enough (despite the fact this speaker could probably holds its own very well against its pricier competitors). I suspect that people like this often spend exorbitant amounts of money on audio just for bragging rights and for the "perfect system," which for them is ultimately unattainable.

I just wanted to thank you for shedding some thoughtful perspective on this issue. The experience of listening to music is the most rewarding -- and the most important. The constant desire to upgrade and improve is distracting and may even ruin that experience.

Philip Beaudette


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