[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
July 2007

"A new sound"

July 26, 2007

To Doug Schneider,

I read your review of the Axiom M3Ti. I currently have a pair of Sound Dynamics RTS-3s, another budget bookshelf speaker that got a lot of good ink. I also have some Magnepan MMGs, but they are in storage for the time being.

I was wanting to get a new pair of speakers just to get a new sound going through my system. I have a Quicksilver preamp, Rotel amp, a AH! Tjoeb CD player and a Sony SACD player.

Do the Axioms present a distinct enough sound when compared to that of the Sound Dynamics speakers that I currently have, or should I just save a couple extra hundred bucks and go for something in the $500-$700 range? I listen to mainly acoustic jazz and some alternative rock.

David Soriano

I’ve gotten more e-mails about that review than any other. Axiom’s M3Ti, which just goes by M3 now, was a great budget speaker when I reviewed it, and still is. However, since then, many new speaker have come to market, including some from Axiom. The Axiom M22, for example, is a bookshelf speaker that is more neutral-sounding and plays louder. It would be a great option, as would many others.

As to whether the M3s would present “a distinct enough sound”? I have no doubt that they would sound quite a bit different from the speakers you have now, but, again, so would many others. In fact, changing speakers will make the biggest sonic change in your system – far bigger than changing amps or sources. The question becomes, then: Do you like the change? That’s purely subjective, and individual, and has to be up to you.

One more thing, though. Axiom was one of the Internet pioneers in terms of selling factory direct. They’ve been very successful at it. One reason is that, like others, they have a good return policy. If you don’t like what you bought, you can send it back. Given that sound preference is an individual thing, I think it’s a good thing that companies like Axiom offer this kind of guarantee, because it helps make shopping for new equipment much less risky….Doug Schneider

WATT/Puppy 8 finish?

July 19, 2007


I read your review of the Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 8s, and I am very close to buying a pair. I was wondering what color your review pair was. When looking at the picture on my monitor, it looks like one speaker is desert silver and the other Mercedes silver. I wanted to confirm they are the same color and it is just a difference on my monitor.

I am leaning toward the desert silver. I think the Mercedes silver would look great with my stuff, but I think that long-term color matching would work best with the desert silver. What are your thoughts having seen them live?

Michael Hatt

What you're seeing in the picture is the effect of the light and the camera's flash. Both speakers are desert silver, which is a little more golden than Mercedes silver. I personally like desert silver more than any of the other standard Wilson Audio colors. The lighter colors don't show dust and fingerprints as much as dark titanium and gloss black. Once you get your speakers, buy a can of Plexus, which is what Wilson Audio uses to put a wet-looking shine on the speakers after setup. It will make it harder for dust to adhere as well....Marc Mickelson

"...try to get ahold of..."

July 17, 2007


Great review of the updated Zanden DAC and transport! If you get a chance, try to get ahold of the Abbington Music Research (AMR) CD-77 for review. This thing is totally awesome, and many have compared it to the Zanden separates, but it retails for under $9000. I have not had the Zanden separates in my system, but I have had the Esoteric separates, the Meitner separates, the Meridian 808 Reference, and the Wadia 861 SE upgraded by Great Northern Sound. This AMR CD-77 bested them all. The thing weighs almost 90 pounds, and the build quality is like something I have never seen before (at least in digital). Even my old classic-rock CDs from the '70s, which I think are lousy recordings, are now quite listenable. I have only had the player for about three days, and it does require burn-in of about 300 hours, but I am completely floored. I no longer have to listen to my analog setup (I really mean it).

Bill Gerardi

Bryston B100 SST or...?

July 13, 2007

To Philip Beaudette,

I read with interest your review of the Bryston B100 SST and in particular the results of the measurements, which look very good and back up your review.

I was wondering if you have heard any other integrated (such as the Lavardin IT) that sells for a similar price that is as transparent, smooth and has as good a soundstage as the B100 SST.

I ask because I am changing my current amp (Chord CPM2600 -- very, very good, but an older design and less easy to listen to than the latest, expensive Chord equipment) and have narrowed my choices down to the Bryston B100 SST or perhaps the Lavardin. However, I have not had opportunity to hear either, so your insight would be gratefully received.

James Cobb

I haven’t heard the Lavardin integrated you mention, so I can’t offer any comparison with the Bryston B100 SST. As I’ve mentioned to readers who have e-mailed me in the past, I like the B100 SST more than any other integrated amplifier I’ve heard thus far. To my ears, it has all of the attributes listeners desire in one convenient package. That you can add a very high-quality DAC and phono stage is simply a bonus.

My only concern regarding your purchasing the Bryston (or the Lavardin for that matter) is that you haven’t listened to either of them. You really owe it to yourself to audition both (and any other integrated amps at this price) before committing to a purchase. Reviews offer a great starting point for making a shortlist of the products you want to investigate further. However, a reviewer’s preference for a given sonic signature might not be your own. Earlier this year I received an e-mail from a reader who bought a product, based in part on a review I’d written of it. Although he agreed with my observations regarding the sound of the unit, he found that that sound wasn’t right for him and ended up returning the unit. Obviously I’m not saying this to deter you from buying the B100 SST but to make you aware that even this integrated might not be all things to all people....Philip Beaudette

Cowboy Junkies and distortion

July 9, 2007

To Doug Schneider,

Thank you very much for a well-written review of the YG Acoustics Anat Reference Main Module speakers. I have listened to the Cowboy Junkies’ "Mining for Gold" and realize how valuable this track can be as a test for bass extension! Beyond that, I had a question regarding the distortion measurements for the YG Acoustics speakers. Why did distortion increase by nearly 10dB with only a 5dB increase in SPL? I would have expected a linear relationship -- maybe I'm naive. Should this be expected or does this hint at a problem? I understand waveguides can reduce distortion, but I'm curious what else was done to reduce the distortion of the Vifa tweeter.

Joel Foust

Distortion won’t rise linearly for a speaker that’s hitting certain limits. If you think about it, a speaker will only be able to play so loud until it just can’t deliver more output. At that point, if you try to drill more and more power into it, distortion will rise drastically until the speaker is finally destroyed.

As for the Cowboy Junkies’ The Trinity Session CD, which “Mining for Gold” is from, see if you can find the Canadian release if you don’t have it already -- RCA 8568-2-R. I’ve heard various copies that our US-based writers have and those discs were lacking dynamics and didn’t have nearly the same kind of bass extension as my Canadian copy….Doug Schneider

Which DAC?

July 6, 2007

To Doug Schneider,

You have reviewed the Benchmark Media DAC1 and the Stello DA220. I have a budget of about $2000. I have a few DACs short-listed for the purpose.

There is the Electrocompaniet ECD1, Northstar Extremo, Benchmark DAC1, Stello DA220 or Stello DA220 Mk II. Which DAC would you suggest ?

Alwyn Pinto

I can only recommend what I know. Out of those I have reviewed the Benchmark DAC1 and both Stello models. I haven’t used the Electrocompaniet or Northstar at all. Therefore, out of those three that I have reviewed, my favorite is the Stello DA220 Mk II – an outstanding DAC that competes with the cost-no-object crowd, but at a reasonable price….Doug Schneider

Preamp for Lamm ML2.1s

July 3, 2007


What is the best preamp for the Lamm ML 2.1 mono amps and their 18 watts?

Abeille Immo

You can use a wide array of preamps with the ML2.1s, including Lamm's own L2, but the two best I've heard are high-gain models that mate especially well with these low-gain amps. If you want remote control, the VTL TL-7.5 preamp is especially good with the ML2.1s. I haven't heard the new Mk 2 version of this preamp at length, so I am referring to the original version, which uses 12AX7s. If you don't need remote control, the CAT SL-1 Ultimate Mk 2 is very good as well. The sound is a little more weighty than with the VTL preamp. I have also used the Aurum Acoustics Integris CDP CD player/preamp at length with the ML2.1s, and it's very good....Marc Mickelson


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