[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
March 2007


Importance of balanced use

March 29, 2007


I would be grateful if you could share your thoughts on the following question regarding the Esoteric X-01/X-01 Limited. Do you think the difference in playback using the balanced versus single-ended outputs is significant enough that pairing this player with an integrated amplifier such as the Krell KAV-400xi would yield better results then pairing it with an integrated amplifier further up the price ladder such as the Conrad-Johnson CA200?

Maybe a better way of stating the question is: Can higher-quality amplification in single-ended form negate or stem the advantage of using balanced outputs in a less expensive amplifier?

Bart Cecil

You ask a question that I can't answer with any certainty because I haven't heard all of the products you mention, so let me speculate. I would be apt to take the Conrad-Johnson CA200 and Esoteric player used single ended over the Krell integrated and Esoteric player balanced. As I understand it, the CA220 uses the same amplification circuit as the Premier 350, which I love. I would think that this alone would make for better overall sound, even though the Esoteric player will sound its very best balanced....Marc Mickelson

Aurum Acoustics Integris CDP -- "Wow!"

March 22, 2007


I have finally received my Aurum Acoustics Integris CDP and hooked it up. Wow! Even with my Rotel amp it sounds great. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon never sounded so good, and as for Keith Jarrett -- wow!

John Craven

Siltech SATT

March 21, 2007


I have corresponded with you before. I am from Singapore.

I am currently trying a pair of SATT-treated Siltech cables -- Forbes Lake and Compass Lake, both very expensive -- on my moderately priced hi-fi. I cannot believe how good they are, especially the Compass Lake SATT. They sound so bloody right and rich; it is as if my humble hi-fi equipment has been upgraded! Shocking. I am also a bit surprised that the Compass Lake SATT sounds much better than the Forbes Lake SATT, even though the latter is already very good. At their current prices, these cables cost approximately what my CD player, preamp and amp do! But they do make significant improvement, no doubt about it! It is wonderful to listen to music via these cables late at night at low volume. Every musical detail still comes out effortlessly.

Have you written a follow-up on Siltech SATT cables since your reviews a couple years back? I am interested to hear your opinion if you already have some listening experience with these exquisite cables. Actually, I am a bit in a dilemma. I don't know whether to go for Compass Lake or not, as they are really, really good, but they cost an arm or a leg!

Wee-Eng Koh

I have some SATT-treated Siltech Classic-series speaker cables here, and they are very good, though I'm sure not to the level of the Signature cables you have, which are still the very best cables I've heard. I haven't been able to write about the Classic SATT speaker cables, but I'll have to see if I can find the time to do so. The SATT process, which involves both heating and freezing, seems to be very significant....Marc Mickelson

Import or not?

March 19, 2007

To Philip Beaudette

I currently own a pair of Wharfedale EVO 30 loudspeakers, and I am looking at upgrading them as I believe they are probably the weakest link in my system. The rest of the equipment I use is a Marantz SA15 SACD player and Marantz PM11 integrated amplifier with AudioQuest Slate loudspeaker cables.

I have read a number of very positive reviews on the Revel F12, including yours, but my problem is that I am unable to audition this speaker here in New Zealand as there is no distributor.

Other reviews rated the F12 as better than the KEF IQ9 or Dali Icon 6. If this is the case I would be willing to import the Revels from Australia.

What would your recommendation be?

Blair Hatcher

I can’t say how the Revel F12s stack up against the other speakers you mention because I haven’t heard the latter two. Not being able to listen to the F12s puts you in a tough spot, and I normally don’t advocate buying a product you aren’t familiar with. However, having said that, I think the Revels offer remarkable value. They are neutral and have a very balanced sound. Add to that their quiet background and the ability to dig pretty deep (both in terms of details and bass) and they’re pretty hard to fault at their price. So, as you can tell, I have a great deal of respect for the F12s. If you’re willing to gamble a bit, I’d say there are far worse risks you could take in purchasing a pair of speakers without hearing them first. Therefore, even though I wouldn’t normally suggest this, I would consider importing the speakers from Australia. Besides, even if you ultimately decide they aren’t for you, there’s a very good chance you could resell them in New Zealand, especially if there are no dealers....Philip Beaudette

Which Reference amp?

March 14, 2007


First of all, I would like to thank you for your valuable reviews and contribution to the audio industry. Your comments are valued by many audio lovers, like me.

I just read your Audio Research Reference 110 review. It is simply excellent. Thank you. I read all of your reviews, of course, but I wanted to write this e-mail just after reading your piece. I also very well remember what you wrote about the synergy of ARC Reference products.

To my musical taste, I like ARC products. I use a discontinued VT200, a 200Wpc stereo amp. In case if you listened to VT series, can you briefly compare them to new Reference series in terms of musicality?

I have a pair of B&W Nautilus 800 speakers, and I am generally pleased with the way the VT200 drives them. The VT200 does not have ultimate authority in the bass, especially when trying to drive N800s, which are not the easiest load for any power amplifier, but it has a lovely midrange and a huge soundstage. To me it was one the best stereo tube power amplifiers ever made.

But time moves on and even good things are replaced by better, as VT series is discontinued. I am sure Reference-series amplifiers are way ahead. If I upgrade my amp to a new Reference-series amp, do you suggest Reference 110 as a logical choice, or due to power considerations, think Reference 210s or 610Ts would be better and more logical partners? Do you suggest it might be a good idea to go for Reference 110? In this case, I will reduce the power by half, but will upgrade to a better and new ARC power amplifier that won't be so costly. Or do you suggest going at least with Reference 210s? My budget is enabling me to consider even the 610Ts.

I know it is a hard thing to write or reply to every individual mail, but I will be very happy if you spend a couple of minutes and reply very briefly to mine. To me, you are one the wiser people in high-end audio, and your understanding of ARC products is a big bonus for me. One last question: Will you review Reference 210 or 610T in the future?

Hakan Kalkan

Given that you're used to the power of the VT200, I would rule out the Reference 110 with your speakers and simply buy the Reference 210s, which should represent a major step up for you. You said you can afford the Reference 610Ts, but they are very big and put out a lot of heat. If you get by with 200 watts now, you won't need the 600 of the 610Ts. As I wrote in my Reference 110 review, I think the Reference 210s are among the handful of the best amps currently available. If I were to buy a pair of the Reference mono amps, I would buy the 210s without a second thought....Marc Mickelson

Active or passive?

March 12, 2007

To Doug Schneider,

May I ask your view on the debate over which are better, passive or active speakers? I have been reading positive arguments for choosing active monitors. Please shed some light on this issue. It will help me in making a decision.

Dan Ronquillo

I don’t think there’s much of a debate. Quite simply, an active speaker system can be made to be superior to a passive speaker system. In fact, many designers talk quite openly about it. The problem is, however, that many consumers don’t get it, often thinking that mixing and matching their components will yield superior results. As a result, we don’t see many active speaker systems on the consumer side of the marketplace.

However, the ones I have heard have been outstanding. Paradigm’s Reference Active/40 speaker system, for example, couldn’t be touched for $2000 per pair. NHT’s Xd system offers killer looks and sound for $6000. And the Aurum Acoustics Integris Active 300B, while pricey at over $30,000, in my opinion represents the state of the art. See what I mean? Too bad there aren’t more of them….Doug Schneider

Rockport with Gryphon and Boulder

March 7, 2007

To Jeff Fritz,

During your factory tour, did you have the chance to hear the Rockport speakers with different electronics? I'd be very interested to know if there were any audible differences or particularly good synergies between the speakers with either the Gryphon or the Boulder electronics -- two lines of products which sound quite different themselves.

Marcel Tan

I did not get an opportunity to hear both electronics lines switched in and out of the same system, which would have been the only meaningful way to compare the two. Andy Payor does feel both are good with his speakers, but there were also a number of other lines at the Rockport facility that were being used to good effect as well. I did note that the Gryphons were used in his reference system, and Payor seemed very comfortable with their sound overall. If you’re shopping in that exalted price range I’d definitely hear both lines – and a few more -- before making a decision….Jeff Fritz

"They're at the top of my list of dream components!"

March 5, 2007


I really enjoyed your recent article about the Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 8 loudspeakers. I was immediately reminded of the Home Entertainment show in New York in May of 2001, which was my first exposure to high-end audio systems outside of my brother's apartment. He and I heard a demo of the WATT/Puppy 6 playing a track from Mickey Hart's Planet Drum and were both blown away. Of all the systems and loudspeakers we listened to that day, the WATT/ Puppys really stood out, and the experience has stuck with me ever since. It's hard to imagine an improvement on that design, but clearly Wilson has managed just that with the WATT/Puppy 8. They're at the top of my list of dream components!

Kieran Downes

Which ARC upgrade?

March 2, 2007


I've read your review of the Audio Research CD3 Mk II CD player several times in the past year and have a question if you care to answer it. I own a CD3, which I run single ended into a Manley Shrimp preamp. Given the limitations of retirement, which I'm forced to consider, would you go for the Mk II upgrade or sell the Shrimp and track down a used ARC LS15 or LS16 if you had to choose one over the other?

Laurance Maney

In your situation, I would look specifically for a used LS16, which has balanced inputs. I would bet that the CD3, like the Mk II version, sounds its best balanced, and therefore using it that way would give you the most sonic return on your investment. If you have an ARC amp with balanced inputs, you could also use the LS16's balanced outputs.

One added expense, of course, is that you'll need new interconnects, but such hidden outlays are part of high-end audio....Marc Mickelson


[SoundStage!]All Contents
Copyright SoundStage!
All Rights Reserved