[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
February 1998


February 27, 1998

I would like to see more reviews on audio equipment (amp, preamp, cd player, speakers) that are not as well known or advertised. For example, I would like to see review on components from companies such as Naim, Musical Fidelity, Llano Design, etc.

There are some very good audio products that are not publicized or advertised, so we would like to know more about them.

...Vang K.

Thank you for your comments. I consistently get a lot of email directed to myself that indicates almost a 50/50 split from readers either wanting to see reviews from what they perceive as very well known, high profile companies or from companies that can be characterized as much smaller without the means to promote themselves as extensively in the magazines.

What is most important to me is to see that our readers are diverse and wish to know about all products, well-known and not so well-known. From the beginning it has been our mission to find the best we can, regardless of the company or even their price. Looking at our past reviews from companies such as Sonic Frontiers/Anthem, Lamm, NEAR, Cardas, JPS Labs, DH Labs, Merlin, Klipsh, Panasonic, Headroom, Grado, B&W, Exposure, Clayton Audio, Parasound, etc. shows that diversity and depth.

What I can promise our readers is that we will continue to produce the best reviews and we'll keep our eyes wide open to any and all products...DAS

February 15, 1998

To: Greg Weaver [Synergizer, February 1998]

I just picked up the stuff to put together two interconnects. I must say I am pretty impressed. I can hear the difference even on my inexpensive equipment. (JVC 5 disk changer, Sansui receiver for $5 at a garage sale, which I had to fix, homebuilt 3-way speakers which cost $110 total) Also, I have all of this crammed into a small dorm room, which doesn't provide for good speaker placement.

I played Eric Clapton Unplugged and compared the cheap interconnects I have to the new ones. The treble is much clearer. I heard things I hadn't noticed before. Thanks for the great idea!

...Joshua W.

February 12, 1998

To: Greg Weaver

I am in the process of building the cables you described [Synergizer, February 1998]. Waiting for the silver to arrive. Thanks for the detailed instructions (and photos). I look forward to your article each month.

Have you experimented with speaker cables and power cords using silver? If so, what kind of stranding did you find to be optimum? Additionally, I suppose the dielectric would be critical with the power cord.

I am grateful for SoundStage! and again, I enjoy your contribution.

...C. Blanco

I have not yet turned my attentions to those two ventures in any detail yet. I have done experimentation's with speaker cables (see Loudspeaker Cables: Simple Passive Connection Or Complex Dynamic Components in our Archives). I have done some AC cable experiments, but I'm not ready to "go public" with them yet. It will probably all culminate in a Synergizing column at some point in the future....Greg Weaver

February 11, 1998

I really like Fringe. It is nice to see that you realize that not all of us can afford a dedicated room and super high end equipment.

...D. Hughes

February 4, 1998

Could you guys possibly review any MORE wire!! You listen to more wire than the FBI and Kenneth Star combined!! Home-made wire, kilobuck wire, fat wire, diet wire......I'm wired out. I expect your next issue to review a pair of wire-rimmed glasses with WBT connectors or a telephone cord with spades!! What's up with all this wire?

No half-hearing audiophile discounts the contribution of power cords, interconnects and speaker cable to a well thought out system, but you guys are wire crazy. Seems like half your equipment reviews lately (actually more than half in the February issue) have been devoted to wire products. How about more reviews of those 'boxes' all that wire   connects?

Wired for sound,

...Ray S.

Hi Ray...Next month we don't have a single wire review in the queue.   Scheduled review pieces include the Speaker Art Clef, Joule Electra VZN-80 mk. III amplifier, Aranov LS-9100 amplifier, and much more...no wire in sight -- promise!

February 4, 1998

I hope when that Video-On line is available, that we enthusiasts will be reading reviews on all the latest and greatest in HDTV Front Projection, and Rear Projection Technology that will be available this spring! Of course, I am referring to the refined Prototypes that were at the 98 CES!

It is very exciting for me as a true videophile that this technology (full blown) will ultimately be affordable to the masses! It would be GREAT if future plans allow for in-depth articles & interviews of the multitude of  HDTV products that will be coming out, not to mention the tremendous depth, and insight your writers will haveto say about it!! What do you say Doug?

...Dominick D.

Hello Dominick and thanks for your input.  Right now we are trying to carve out exactly what we want to provide in Video Online.  One trip to the magazine stands and it is easy to see that there are a multitude of very fine video magazines -- more than in audio.  We want to do something unique and valuable in Video Online and be a resource of information that cannot be found elsewhere.  Keep the ideas flowing and I invite input from any others...DAS

February 3, 1998

Greg Smith's recent article about interconnects ("Who Do You Believe?") includes a discussion of ABX comparison of components. While his description and critique seem generally good, I have two complaints about his treatment of the subject.

First, Greg's complaints about the "ABX box" are an instance of beating a dead horse. Of *course* the extra gear introduces problematic extra variables! But a switching box isn't necessary for doing proper double-blind testing. Most people who defend double-blind comparison of components (Stewart Pinkerton comes most readily to my mind) in such forums as RAO and RAHE have been making this point for some time, as I would think Greg would know. ABX isn't about a device, it's about a method: a way to compare two (at a time) components to determine if listeners can ACTUALLY discern subtle difference(s) between them.

Second, Greg points out the difficulties involved in achieving true level-matching of two systems with two different frequency responses, and points out the connection of this issue with that of measurement. This is all true, but not necessarily very relevant. The level-matching issue will indeed make it essentially impossible to allow a listener to objectively choose a favorite when comparing two components in an ABX test, but choosing a favorite isn't the point of ABX testing! The point of an ABX test is simply to determine whether or not a listener can truly distinguish between two similer
components. Even without complete level matching, *if* a listener (or, more importantly, many listeners of a large group) *still* cannot distinguish between two components, then a valid and interesting result has been obtained.

I don't think that measurements tell us everything about components, but I also don't think that a purely subjective comparison under uncontrolled circumstances (anything far from double-blind) necessarily tells very much. The skeptics who say that they doubt that most listeners can really distinguish between (say) decently-build solid-state power amps or (more pertinent here) similerly-constructed interconnects are maligned by many, including Greg, as being purly objectivist measurement-oriented folks, but this is simply not true. It is equally untrue that a magical non-intrusive ABX box is needed to do the sort of comparisons that we skeptics advocate.

This whole business of comparing cables has obviously generated quite a lot of heat lately. Greg is interested in the issue of how to decide which of several cables is superior, or at least preferred, and some cables do indeed sound different enough that this is an issue to investigate. However, Greg and many others who are interested in this issue are sometimes too quick to dismiss the opinions of many folks about the more fundamental issue of discernability. With regard to some of the expensive but not too-radically designed cables, we simply aren't convinced that anyone can reliably tell the difference between these US$200 (say) cables and some much cheaper, but reasonably designed items. As just one measure (oops...) I'd say that more newsgroup discussion is of the "do cables matter" sort than the "which cable is best for me" sort. I don't mean that I think most cables are in fact indistingishable, but I do suspect that more are indistinguishable than some people think. I also believe that those who claim otherwise bear the burden of proof, especially given the extreme variation in price.

All this aside, I think that Greg's "Entry Level" columns were some of the most useful information about audio equipment on the entire Internet.

...Sean S.

February 1, 1998

I just read Greg Smith's "Who Do You Believe" article and agree with most of it. I just thought one point needs some clarification.

The point about accurate measurement is well taken. No test can be constructed perfectly. Assuming for now that the measurements do not accurately model the system being tested, then we can't rely on objective measurements for comparative analysis.

The point about double blind listening tests is well taken also. It is very hard to set this up without any bias. I don't think the "varying frequency response" problem with level matching (including specific source material characteristics) is insurmountable. For now, assuming no one is doing it properly, we can't rely on this to test the accuracy of the reviewer.

You do say at one point:

"If I'm told the frequency response between two cables are the same, and that the transient response is perfect for slow signals like audio, yet still hear a difference, I see that as a failure on the measurement side. It's certainly not an excuse to deride those who hear the difference."

You actually have not provided a basis for this argument. You have supported the concept that the tests can be inaccurate, and that the reviewer's perceptions cannot be verified. This does not show that either testing or listening provides a more accurate comparison.

The burden of proof does not fall on objective measurement any more than it falls on subjective reviewing. It falls on both equally.

This situation will improve eventually. The measurements will inevitably become more accurate. We can hope that the problem of ABX testing is handled better, because without it, the process of subjective reviewing can never be made reliable (read: verifiably correct).

...Evan B.

February 1, 1998

I think you do a splendid job. My wish would be to see more about the single ended triode scene, which I find to be the most healthy trend I have seen in audio in the last twenty or so years.

SoundStage! is truly a great website, thanks for going to all the work to do it.

...Jeff D.


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