[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
May 2008

Usher questions

May 27, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

I read your excellent review of the Usher Be-718 speakers in SoundStage! and was quite fascinated that a fairly small bookshelf speaker could produce such good sound, especially bass.

Before I bought my current speakers, JMlab Focal 707s, I read your review of JMlab 706 speakers. The 707s are slightly larger, but I assume are similar overall. I also was interested in your review of the Paradigm Signature S2 v.1 speakers as well.

Though I am very happy with my Focals, especially after they had broken in, I am thinking of upgrading to higher-end speakers, though I want to stay with a bookshelf speaker. Some floorstanding speakers I have auditioned have seemed to me to sound boomy and imaging did not seem as good as with my Focals. I am, however, looking for more bass than my Focals have and am interested in the possibilities of the beryllium tweeter.

I have a few questions. You mention that the Usher speakers are less sensitive than others. I am using a Vincent 100Wpc hybrid integrated amp and was wondering if that would be enough to fully power the Ushers in a room that is approximately 20' by 16'?

Have you had a chance to compare the beryllium version of the Paradigm Signature S2s with the Ushers? The Paradigms are less expensive. Friends who have Paradigm speakers rave about them.

Finally, do you have any thoughts about biwiring? I am currently not biwiring my speakers, using Analysis Plus speaker cables, and am thinking about getting another pair of speaker cables for biwiring.

I look forward to reading more of your reviews.

Robert Krause

P.S. -- I live in Lexington, Kentucky, and I noticed that SoundStage! is  planning a review of the Thiel SCS4. As the Thiels are manufactured here in Lexington, I will be auditioning these as well. Will you be doing the review of the Thiels?

I’ll address all your questions in order - hopefully all of them.

The Be-718s put out quite deep bass, but they sacrifice sensitivity to do that. So, you need a more powerful amplifier to get them up to a comparable volume level than a higher-sensitivity speaker. Is your 100Wpc Vincent amp enough? I would think that it should be sufficient to get the Be-718s up to respectable volume levels, but your room is quite large and that becomes a factor, too. Basically, you’ll probably have to try it in your own room to really know.

I compared the Paradigm Signature S2 v.1 to the Be-718 in the Be-718 review. Overall, I liked the Be-718 a little more, but they’re more expensive than the S2 v.1s and quite a bit less sensitive. I have not heard the S2 v.2, although I did review the S1 v.2.

Biwiring is kind of like your speakers and your amp in your room -- you’ll have to try it to know. There’s no hard-and-fast rule that says that biwiring is better than single-wiring, or vice versa. It depends a lot on the design of the speaker.

Finally, the SC4s. S. Andrea Sundaram is doing the formal review of them, but I have a pair here that were measured at NRC and I’ll more than likely listen to them and contribute my two cents in a sidebar in that review….Doug Schneider

Subwoofer with S1 v.2?

May 23, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

You had been thinking of doing a follow-up review of the Paradigm Reference Signature S1 v.2 speakers with a good subwoofer. Is this in the works or did it get put on the back burner?

David Keys

When I was at Paradigm a month or so ago shooting a video for our new SoundStage! V site, I learned that Paradigm might introduce a sub that matches the S1's look. Therefore, instead of matching the speakers with any ol' sub, no matter how good, I thought it best to wait to see what surfaces because the new sub would be the ideal mate. Therefore, keep checking back....Doug Schneider

Mesa Baron -- ten years later

May 21, 2008


I've been reading SoundStage! for a long time and your articles always catch my eye. You always put the test in its proper perspective -- for me at least. I'm just now finishing your article on the Mesa Baron amplifier from 1998. Thank you for having that archived, as that amplifier may come into my possession (an older version with 5881 tubes) sometime soon. I would be very interested to know how you feel the Mesa Baron would sound with a pair of ATC SCM-12 speakers. They are from the pro-audio arena as well and require a good bit of power to do the music right. Preamplification would be handled by either an AudioNote M2-B or a Rothwell Indus SE dual volume control (coarse and fine adjustments, not left and right channels). Sources are at present a highly modified (4-volt, transformer-coupled output) Pioneer Elite PD-65 CD player and a PC-based 44.1kHz/1.41Mbps bit-perfect system that's still growing in complexity. Very good mid-level wires are here as is line conditioning.

At present a single Roksan M-series stereo power amplifier is powering the ATCs with the aforementioned pieces, the AudioNote M2-B preamp the favorite choice now. The Roksan, at just 85 watts, is doing surprisingly well. It has always sounded bigger and stronger than the specs would indicate, and the AudioNote is a big-sounding preamp, I've been told.

I'm thinking that this Mesa amp, the ATC speakers, and the AudioNote preamp would make me a very happy listener, indeed.

John Martin

I'm not familiar with your speakers at all, and it has been ten years since I heard the Baron, so I really can't give you specifics on how the amp would mate with your speakers. However, more than any amp I've used, the Baron was affected by speaker load. The Baron's rather high output impedance changed the spectral balance of some speakers quite a lot, as the amp's output impedance reacted to the speaker's load. This was certainly the case with the Thiel speakers I used many years ago, and I'm sure it would be the case with many speakers produced today.

Thus, you should not take advice you get on this amp very seriously unless it comes from someone who has used it with your speakers. The Baron may sound light and open with some speakers, closed in and dark with others -- and altogether different with still others....Marc Mickelson

NHT, B&W or Revel?

May 13, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

I was just reading “The Traveler” from January 2006. I am in the market for a minimonitor in the $1000 price range. One of my choices (that I've heard) is the B&W CM1 (not sure if my 50W NAD C720BEE receiver will drive a pair, as they are rated at 84dB sensitive), so I have to hear the B&Ws with my amp. I've also heard the Revel Concerta M12, which I liked.

Most of the music that I listen to is acoustic, whether it be classical or folk. I don't listen loud, as I am currently using a pair of Mirage M-290s rated at 86dB sensitivity and rarely get the volume up past the 10:00 mark. I'm also interested in the NHT Classic Threes, but I have not heard them and no one around me carries them.

I was just wondering what your thoughts were when comparing the NHT Classic Three, the B&W CM1, and the Revel Concerta M12. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Mark Broome

All of these speakers have been reviewed and measured by the SoundStage! Network. Therefore, the reviews should give you a good idea of what the speakers sound like, and the measurements can give you some objective data on the sound (providing you can read the graphs) and, also, they’ll be able to tell you something about how the speakers will mate with your amp (mostly from the sensitivity, impedance and electrical-phase measurements).

Of those three speakers, however, I’ve only reviewed one of them -- the Revel Concerta M12. I thought it was outstanding, and it’s one of the speakers I’d consider buying. But, if you read the reviews, you’ll see the reviewers quite liked the others as well. Therefore, try to listen to each yourself.

One more thing I will say, though, is that you say that you have a 50W amp and that you don’t listen at loud levels. From my experience, then, your amp should have sufficient power for any of those speakers….Doug Schneider

"First Episode at Hienton"

May 8, 2008

To David J. Cantor,

Thanks for a great article. More writing like this which explores the value and meaning of everyday life should be done.

Nils Diaz

2001 Audio Aero review

May 5, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

I read and enjoyed your March 2001 review of the Audio Aero Capitole 24/192 CD player. I am interested in purchasing this player -- seven years following your review. I was wondering if you have had a chance to review a more recent version, as I understand further upgrades and improvements were made. Or if you are familiar with any other recent reviews on the Capitole and could refer me to them. I would greatly appreciate it.

I noticed that Audio Aero came out with a new CD/SACD player, the Prestige, but it's a bit pricier than the Capitole. Any thoughts on it would also be greatly appreciated. My goal, as you can see, is an all-in-one CD player with the ability to invert phase.

Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.

George Katsampes

I'm impressed by the "legs" these reviews have. Seven years ago is a lifetime when it comes to CD players.

As far as the Audio Aero CD players go, from what I understand, our reviews were what put the company on the map. After that, everyone else followed. Ironically, though, we haven't reviewed any of their products in years. In fact, that sort of surprises me. One reason could be that ownership of the company changed hands some time back and some of the people we dealt with there are gone.

That said, the Capitole 24/192 was a fine-sounding player, but there were two things that I learned over the long run that I couldn't glean from a short-term review. One thing was that Audio Aero had a habit of applying consistent upgrades to their players, even if the model names didn't change (i.e., changes were made and the model didn't necessarily become Mk II, Mk III, etc.). As a result, the one I reviewed wasn't necessarily the same as ones other people had, and those weren't the same as other models. Therefore, I have no idea what "generation" the player I had was, and which one you might buy would be. The second thing was that I learned that over the long term the original Capitole had a high failure rate -- I talked to many people long after and found out that plenty in the field had to be fixed. However, on the bright side, I learned that one of the things that did improve over the years was their quality control. Supposedly, later-generation Audio Aero products are a lot more reliable than the earlier-generation stuff. But, as I said, the company hasn't sent anything recently for review, so this is just from information that I've gathered since 2001.

Where does that leave you? Well, I can say that I still really liked what I heard in 2001, but be aware that what you buy may not be exactly the same as what I heard, and also make sure that whatever you buy on the used market is still working....Doug Schneider


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