[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
February 2006


"It is gratifying to read a review that is so objective and accurate"

February 20, 2006

To Jason Thorpe,

Just a note to thank you for your review of the Wilson Benesch Discovery speakers. I bought a pair to go with my EAR 509 Anniversary amps and then came across your review. I think you are spot on about their qualities. It is gratifying to read a review that is so objective and accurate. Some reviews would baffle a Jesuit. As my fellow Scotsman, former audio reviewer, and successful author Ian Rankin once admitted, he just made the review up on occasions without taking the product out of the box. Some of the other guys in the business may as well do the same, for their comments are so far removed from reality.

Hugh McAlinden

Stands for Paradigm Signature S2s?

February 17, 2006

To Doug Schneider

I own a pair of Paradigm Signature S2s, and I found the stands that they sell with these speakers are pretty much worthless. In one of the letters you received concerning the S2s, you mentioned that you like to use 26"-high stands with the S2s. Could I ask you what specific stands you are using?

Brent Balduf

I use a pair of Osiris stands with the S2s, which are excellent, but, unfortunately, the company is long out of business. Still, you might be able to find some on the used market. On the other hand, that certainly isn't your only option because I've never found that there's a shortage of good stands. In fact, the best I've used are ones from a company called Foundation, which used to be UK-based but is now owned by Focus Audio in Canada. Their stands are heavy and nicely built, and although they don't really make any sound of their own, speakers that sit atop them tend to sound their very best. In fact, the only thing I can complain about is the price. The ones I have under a pair of Focus Audio speakers cost $1100 for the pair!...Doug Schneider

The importance of "the loudspeaker"

February 16, 2006

To S. Andrea Sundaram,

A quote from your Energy RC-10 review:

"The component of your audio system that most strongly influences the character of the sound you hear from any particular recording is the loudspeaker. Conventional wisdom has been that you should, therefore, devote 50% or more of your system budget to speakers."

Try a good amp ($5000) on a cheap speaker ($500) and then a good speaker ($5000) on a cheap amp ($500). You will be surprised.

Zavier Sheran

The resolving power of any audio system is dependent upon the weakest link in the chain. Highly resolving speakers with a less resolving amplifier cannot convey all of the detail on a recording. When I refer to the character of the sound, I am not talking about resolution, but tonal balance, speed, and weight. The amplifier-speaker interaction does influence all of these characteristics, but, in my experience, not as much as does the speaker itself or the speaker-room interface.

Greater resolution generally comes with a higher price (not always, as you know by reading the RC-10 review), but at any price point, one can choose speakers, amplifiers, and sources, with different characters to their sound -- bright/dark, warm/neutral, articulate/rounded.

The RC-10s will sound like themselves no matter the amplifier you use. Since they are so neutral, you may be able to get them to sound a little warm with a warm amp or a little bright with a bright amp, but you'll never get a dark speaker to sound bright with a bright amp....S. Andrea Sundaram

Two on the Energy RC-10s

February 10, 2006

To S. Andrea Sundaram,

I've been looking at many small loudspeakers of late for both music and home theater -- Wharfedale 9.1, Usher S-520, Athena AS-B1 (a little on the inexpensive side), B&W DM303, and Mordaunt Short's Avant 902i. After reading your review of the Energy RC-10, I said to myself, "This may be the speaker that I'm looking for." But then you mentioned the amount of "free space" it requires. I'm stuck with a 11 1/2' x 12 1/2' room with maybe a foot off the wall to spare. Will this amount to much of a difference in sound (boomy bass) and thus make a purchase of these fine speakers a mistake?. I'd value your opinion.

Steve Anders

You are likely to encounter problems whenever you place a rear-ported speaker near to a boundary. That said, Energy includes foam plugs for the ports of the RC-10s when such placement is necessary. With the plugs in, I found that bass articulation was reduced somewhat, but was still quite good. I expect that the RC-10s would work well in your situation....S. Andrea Sundaram


To Doug Schneider,

I'll put the same question to you as I did to S. Andrea Sundaram. I'm working with an 11 1/2’ x 12 1/2’ room. S. Andrea mentioned lots of free space (four feet) from a wall in his Energy RC-10 review. I've got about a foot to work with. Is that a deal-breaker for me?

Steve Anders

S. Andrea Sundaram wrote the RC-10 review, but I did a sidebar, so I know the speakers well. In his review, he mentioned getting the speakers away from the wall, and I naturally use almost all speakers I review away from walls. However, that doesn’t mean you must do that. Energy does supply the RC-10 with port plugs, which will basically eliminate the output from the back, but it will reduce bass output -- that can be desirable, mind you, when you butt speakers up against the wall, because you’ll get reinforcement of the bass frequencies due to the close proximity of the boundary.

That said, I think you’d be missing out by simply discounting the RC-10 because of your limited space. You’re going to have the same placement issues with most speakers, so I’d give the RC-10s at least a try. At $550, they’re a stone-cold bargain that’s too good to miss out on....Doug Schneider

Clearaudio or Shelter or Ortofon or...?

February 8, 2006

To Jason Thorpe,

I just finished reading your review of the new Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge. Thanks very much for your very informative review. I am currently in the market for a new cartridge. My current frontrunner is the Shelter 501, which you spoke highly of in your review. My current cartridge is a Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood on a Nottingham Analogue Spacedeck with Ace Space 'arm and the phono stage is an EAR 834p. Although I am very happy with the setup on jazz, classical and acoustic music, I am a little under-whelmed with the performance on rock albums. On a lot of rock LPs, the music can sound congested, particularly during busy or complicated passages with multiple instruments

So I am looking for a cartridge that will perform well on rock music (probably 50% of the music I listen to), but is still capable with jazz and classical. I have read great things about the Shelter 501 and heard that Tom Fletcher of Nottingham has given an endorsement of these cartridges (total hearsay). Anyway, I was intrigued by your comment on the Ortofon Blue Rondo being a great rock cartridge.

Any insight you could provide on advantages/disadvantages of the Ortofon or the Shelter cartridges, based on my needs and current set up, would be greatly appreciated.

Ethan Thomas

At this point, I'm hesitant to recommend either the Ortofon or the Shelter to you. I've used two Clearaudio cartridges, including the Aurum Beta S and the Wood Classic, and neither of them has sounded congested to me. On the contrary, I've found them both to possess outstanding clarity and dynamics. Your 'table is also of exceptional quality, so I don't think the fault lies there. And I've owned EAR products in the past, so I doubt your phono stage is at fault, unless the high output of the Clearaudio is overloading it.

So I'm thinking that maybe something is amiss with your setup. If you purchased any of the analog front-end new, you should have recourse with your dealer. Can you get him to make a house call? If not, this may be a fine opportunity to purchase an alignment gauge such as the Pro-Ject model, which is a treat to use.

I'd say that you'd be best served getting the best out of your present setup, and once it's working optimally, then consider a new cartridge.

To answer your question though, I'd be hard-pressed to pick between these two excellent cartridges. The Shelter is a bit more expensive, and, frankly, it sounds it. The Shelter is a bit more lush through the midrange, but not excessively so. The Ortofon is a bit leaner, but has a kick-ass low end. In all, it comes down to preference. Personally, I find the Shelter a bit more tuneful, and a bit more sophisticated, so it'd be my choice, but with rock music, you might find the Ortofon more suitable....Jason Thorpe

Esoteric DV-50S or UX-3?

February 6, 2006

To Jeff Fritz,

I just read your very good review of the Esoteric UX-3 universal player. I have the DV-50S. I use it for two-channel CD playback and as a SACD/DVD-A, DVD-V player. Would you consider the UX-3 an upgrade for me, or would I have to step up to something like a UX-1 or another top-tier product? I happen to like my DV-50S very much. I know that it has a high jitter factor, but I like it nonetheless. I am just wondering.

Mike Doukas

Speaking of the DV-50S, I said in my review that "It is, however, easily trumped in terms of two-channel sound quality by the $3000-more-expensive UX-3," and "…but in absolute terms there is no real comparison in sound quality: the UX-3 wins hands down." I absolutely can’t imagine anyone not favoring the UX-3 in every regard, so I can confidently say to go for it. Since you use it for two-channel sound only, you won’t miss the multichannel outputs of the DV-50S, which is the only real advantage that player has over the UX-3….Jeff Fritz

Are inexpensive speakers sensitive to partnering electronics?

February 2, 2006

To Doug Schneider,

Great review of the Ascend Acoustics CBM-170. By chance, have you listened to a pair of Onix Reference 1 speakers, and if so, what is your opinion of them versus the CBM-170s? Could the Ascends sound bad on cheaper electronics, or are they sensitive to upstream components?

Scott Grinstead

I’ve never heard the Onix speakers, but our GoodSound! reviewer, Eric Hetherington, has and liked them a lot.

However, I’d like to clear up a misconception that permeates about low-priced speakers being more or less sensitive to upstream components than more expensive speakers. I suspect that really this is one of those audiophile myths that gets passed down through the ages. I have seen it, and I get a lot of e-mail regarding it. Many loudspeakers, high-priced and low-priced, are sensitive to the other components they’re used with, and I’ve found absolutely no correlation with price. For example, I’ve used very inexpensive speakers such as the CBM-170s and the Axiom Audio M3tis, which only cost a few hundred dollars and are amazingly revealing of amplifier, preamplifier, and digital-source differences. And I could rattle off a dozen or so other loudspeakers priced under $1000 that are too. As well, I can name some expensive speakers that are revealing as well, but not necessarily any more or any less revealing except for, perhaps, the bass, since it costs quite a bit of money to deliver good bass.

That said, if you pair the CBM-170s with bad-sounding electronics, cheap or expensive (again, don’t assume that because it’s cheap it sounds bad and because it’s expensive it sounds good), there’s a good chance you’ll hear that....Doug Schneider


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