[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
September 2007

Burn-in of a Stello DAC

September 21, 2007

To Doug Schneider,

I recently bought a Stello DA220 Mk II DAC and was wondering how long you would expect burn-in to take before a marked improvement in sound was evident. Compared it to my Audio Alchemy DDE v3.0 with the PS2, the Stello DAC is better, but not by much.

Thanks for all the reviews, and I hope you get time to relay your thoughts on the burn-in question.

Andrew Stammers

I know that the Audio Alchemy DDE v3.0 was a pretty respectable unit in its day, but I’d expect that you’d find the Stello DA220 Mk II to be quite a bit better. I wonder what music you are listening to. For example, many years ago I made a switch from a Denon DCD-1300 CD player to a Denon DCD-1520. When I first listened at the store, I didn't hear much of a difference between the two. However, a technician pulled out a recording of a musician playing acoustic guitar. There were a lot of plucked strings on one track that required the players to render a very accurate treble range. As I learned, this was more or less an acid test for CD players at the time, and when I listened to both Denon players with this music, I found the '1520 to be vastly superior. It was far cleaner-sounding and much more detailed.

Therefore, my suggestion would be to try plenty of music, but, in particular, focus on things that I think the DA220 Mk II excels at. For example, its ability to convey detail is extraordinary for the price. Therefore, try music that has a fair amount of recorded space -- usually minimalist jazz recordings are like this. In fact, the ones from Chesky are ideal demo discs. See if you can hear into the recording more and if you end up hearing a more spacious presentation. When I use the DA220 Mk II, that’s what I hear….Doug Schneider

Stock or Shunyata?

September 18, 2007


I just read your reviews of the Shunyata Anaconda and Python power cords. I currently use all of my ARC gear (Reference 3, Reference 610Ts, PH7) with their original factory power cords. Do you think it is essential to use top-of-the-line power cords like the Anaconda with top-of-the-line tube gear like Audio Research? The last thing I want is to sacrifice neutrality and liquidity for additional frequency bandwidth.

Any feedback welcome.

Hakan Kalkan

No, I wouldn't say it's "essential" to use cords other than those that ARC ships with its gear. They're very good and chosen for their sonic properties. However, you will hear improvement with cords like those from Shunyata, and given the very high level of your system, I suspect you'd find this sound worth the extra cost. Perhaps you can borrow a pair of Anaconda Alpha power cords for your amps and give them a listen....Marc Mickelson


September 12, 2007


Thank you for your response to "CAT or ARC or VTL?" last month. Your advice along with a day trip to the Adelphi Centre in Singapore made it possible for me to decide on and purchase a full system. The Adelphi Centre is four floors of audio equipment, providing an opportunity to compare mid-fi side-by-side with components that push the extremes of the high-end envelope. Some dealers allow components to be carried to a neighboring shop to provide true comparison. It was an educational and enjoyable experience.

I mentioned previously that I perceived the ARC combination a tad slow for my listening tastes. However, when the ARC Reference 3 preamp is used with Lamm M1.2 Reference amps, the pace and rhythm are back in Asafa Powell territory. The ability to compare Wilson and Thiel and Revel speakers using VTL, ARC, CAT, Lamm and Ayre electronics took the guessing element out of the procedure and made me feel confident with my final decision. I now have an Ayre C-5xe universal player, ARC Reference 3 preamp, Lamm M1.2 Reference amps, and Wilson Audio Sophia 2 speakers, all connected balanced with Stereovox cables. This whole campaign has lasted several years, but now, thanks to SoundStage! and the Adelphi Centre, I can kick back and enjoy the show.

Mark Dafter

Energy or Paradigm?

September 4, 2007

To Doug Schneider,

Four years ago I was looking for a new pair of speakers. I read your review of the Energy Connoisseur C-3s and made the decision to buy them, replacing my B&W 602s. Now I want to change my C-3s, and I am interested in Paradigm Studio 20 v.4s.

I just want to know your opinion about these speakers. I prefer a sweet sound but with fine detail in the highs. I have an NAD C272 amplifier and NAD C162 preamplifier.

Your opinion is very important for me. Thanks for your help. I live in Bucaramanga, Colombia, South America, so it is almost impossible to listen to any speakers before buying them.

Horacio Caceres

It's a real problem when you can't audition loudspeakers easily. Speakers, more than any other component in your system, will affect the sound quality you hear. Furthermore, whereas things like CD players and amplifiers often sound quite similar, two speakers rarely sound alike.

That said, I reviewed the Paradigm Studio 20 v.3s and liked them a lot, but I haven't yet heard the v.4 models. And since I know that Paradigm often does substantial re-working of speakers when they upgrade a line, I have no doubt that the v.4 will sound different than the v.3. Therefore, I can give little insight at this time. We are scheduled to review these speakers, although they haven't arrived yet....Doug Schneider


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