Cerwin-Vega speakers for classic rock?
October 30, 2008
To Vade Forrester,
I recently read your review
of the Cerwin-Vega CLS-215, an excellent review. I cannot seem to find speakers I can
live with. I listen to '60s and '70s rock and pop 99% of the time. This music is generally
not recorded very well and is typically bass shy. I now own a new pair of Dynaudio Contour
S5.4 speakers, which are great as long as you feed them a great-sounding recording.
According to your review of the Cerwin-Vega speakers, they seem to have plenty of bass. Is
the treble forward at all? I am trying to find a speaker that has a warm top end with good
dynamics and a ton of bass.The one thing about the Cerwin-Vega speakers I don't like is
the cheap finish and metal grilles, but I would sacrifice for the sound I am looking for.
I paid $11,400 CDN for the Dynaudio speakers, and I am not satisfied at all. Any
suggestions for other speakers, or I will have a go with the Cerwin-Vegas? My budget is
approximately $12,000 CDN.
I wouldn't characterize the CLS-215s' treble as
forward; I found it pretty neutral. I agree about the CLS-215s' finish -- kind of shabby.
If you want bass, the CLS-215s have it, and it's pretty tight. The CLS-215s aren't great
speakers, but for their price they are quite a remarkable value. However, I would expect
your Dynaudio speakers to be much better than the CLS-215s. Dynaudio makes superb speakers
with quite good bass. Have you tried other amplifiers to see if you can get the type of
sound you want that way? Or if it's more bass you want, have you tried adding a
USB Monica DAC with NAD CD player?
October 27, 2008
To Colin Smith,
In the last paragraph of your article on the
DIY Paradise USB Monica DAC, you mentioned that you tested this DAC with an NAD C521i
CD player as transport. Would you please tell me your opinion about connecting this DAC to
a ten-year-old NAD C514?
You will likely hear an improvement using the USB
Monica or any other modern DAC with your NAD player. The USB Monica and its peers use more
refined designs and, significantly, more developed components than were available ten
years ago. For instance, a great many CD players used the 5532 op amp (which is probably
used in your player; it is in mine) in their analog output stage. The old 5532 has a poor
reputation among audiophiles (though current-production versions are said to be much
better), so taking it out of the equation is a good thing. Also, clocking circuits are
much more accurate these days, and many current DACs feature very low jitter. A
contemporary DAC may also allow you to try upsampling your player's output so you can tune
the sound to your tastes. Based on my trials with my NAD C521i and the USB Monica, an
Audio Note Kits DAC 2.1 and a Benchmark DAC1 Pre, I think you'll be happy with the
improvements any of those DACs will offer....Colin Smith
October 24, 2008
I am a fan of SoundStage! and interested in Wilson
Audio's MAXX. As you have great experience with this speaker, may I ask you some questions
Prices for the MAXX in my country vary a lot: between the
MAXX 1, MAXX 2, and MAXX 3, a used MAXX 1 costs $24,000, a new MAXX 2 $42,000, and a new
MAXX 3 $68,000. What would be your choice based on the price difference above? I've read
somewhere that the MAXX is like the world's largest headphone, due to its super-narrow
sweet spot both vertically and horizontally. It produces unlistenable sound when you stand
up or are offset to the left or right from the center sitting position, Do you think this
is true? I want to have great speakers for family movie time or sharing music with
friends. With such nature, the MAXX doesn't seem suitable for me.
I've also heard that the greatest dynamic capability of
MAXX is due to large bass transducers, and that the midrange drivers and tweeters are not
up to the same task. Hence, at high volume, the mids and highs become distorted. The
loudness sweet spot is also narrow, as there is only a narrow range of loudness that the
speakers show coherence.
Do you think these criticisms are true based on your
experience? I really love to see the MAXX in my room, but the criticism of one reviewer
makes me worried. Unfortunately, there are no demo units for listening tests at my local
The person giving you advice on the MAXX, of any
generation, seems to have a few axes to grind, or perhaps hasn't heard the speaker
properly set up. My lengthy experience with the MAXX 2 is very different from everything
you describe. More than with most speakers, proper setup is vitally important with the
MAXX. Once the speakers are configured and positioned correctly, the MAXX 2s, and indeed
all Wilson Audio Speakers, cast a large soundstage that is the antithesis of
"narrow...both vertically and horizontally." I'm not quite sure what you're
saying regarding the dynamics of the woofer and output of the midrange drivers and
tweeter, but I can tell you that the MAXX 2s are one of the most coherent large speakers
I've heard -- the equal of the X-2s Series 2s in this regard. This isn't volume-dependent
either. At low or high volume, the MAXX 2s display acute spectral balance and all of the
detail buried in the music.
As for which version to buy, you can upgrade original
MAXXes to MAXX 2s, but you can't upgrade MAXX 2s to MAXX 3s. I am very intrigued by the
MAXX 3, which looks less like an upgraded MAXX 2 and more like a scaled-down Alexandria
X-2. I should be writing about it sometime soon. Until that time, I can
enthusiastically recommend the MAXX 2, which may be an especially good buy right now
because of the MAXX 3's introduction....Marc Mickelson
October 22, 2008
To John Crossett,
I just read your fabulous
review of a Chitose Okashiro CD. Do you happen to know anything about whom she studied
with and where? I think one of her teachers was the son of Artur Schnabel, but I am
interested in knowing more about her background. She is a dynamic force; we just listened
to her performing Scriabin, and anyone who can play and interpret this composer's work
Wow, you've dug up one of the earliest music reviews I
wrote for SoundStage! Amazing how the Internet can preserve one's work for
I'm glad you liked the review and Ms. Okashiro's
amazing piano work in particular. About the only information I have in regard to her
education is taken from the liner notes of one her CDs on ProPiano Records. She was born
in Japan and graduated from Toho Gakuen High School and the University in Tokyo. After
graduation, she went on to perform in a number of venues. In Aspen, she met Herbert
Stessin with whom she would study at the Julliard School of Music in NYC. After graduating
with a Masters Degree from Julliard, she completed the Professional Studies Program at The
Manhattan School of Music, where she studied under Karl Ulrich Schnabel (son of Artur
October 20, 2008
What's your take on the power conditioning? Right now I
have a Shunyata Hydra Model-4 with a Shunyata Python power cord and a Shunyata Guardian 4
with a Voodoo Mirage power cord. I plug my CD player, DAC and preamp into the Hydra 4 and
my Lamm 2.2 amps go into the Guardian 4. It sounds fine, but I'm thinking of one of two
options: sell the Hydra 4 and buy a Hydra Model-8
and plug all of my components in there, or sell the Guardian 4 and buy another Hydra 4. I
would use the new Hydra 4 for the Lamm monoblocks along with the same Voodoo power cord.
Is there a big difference between the Hydra 4 and Hydra 8?
My outlets are not dedicated ones.
My "take" is that power conditioning is
important to the final sonic outcome of a well-put-together audio system (and properly
implemented surge/spike protection is vital for protecting your investment). Regarding
your specific questions about Shunyata products, buying a Hydra Model-8 would be the
better of your proposed scenarios. The Model-8 is a more robust implementation of the
Hydra philosophy, with a greater amount of internal compound and better isolation between
outlets. It's also made for situations such as yours, where you need to plug everything
into one unit that's on a non-dedicated AC line. I use the Hydra Model-8 (and Hydra
V-Ray) with Lamm amps here, and they are a great match sonically....Marc Mickelson
Site redesign, Energy speakers
October 15, 2008
I really like your newly designed site. It's refreshing and
I just purchased Energy RC-10s.
They're the best small speakers I have encountered.
"...a down-to-earth, honest review"
October 10, 2008
review of the TW-Acustic Raven AC turntable was enlightening in the sense that you
seem to like music instead of -- as seems the case with many reviewers -- yourself. I am
serious, so please just don't click to delete this e-mail!
The reason I looked at the review is that I have a
20-year-old Basis Debut turntable, which, in terms of upgrades, only uses the latest
micro-thin drive belt A,J, Conti has produced and it is still going very strong with a new
SME V tonearm and a specially made version of the van den Hul Colibri MC cartridge. But I
am getting that itch to get something new, probably not as a replacement but as an
addition to the system -- a 'table with more silent bearings and more quiet motor.
In spite of many "reviews" that I have seen so
far, I have never had sleepless nights about potential problems like "variable
pitch" because of the "titanic resistance" that the cartridge should
experience due to the "heavy modulation" in the LP's groove, as opposed to the
superior pitch and timing (isn't that the same?) due to the use of idler wheels rather
than drive belts. This business is full of audio voodoo, and although I attend at least
two classical concerts per month, I don't hear any of these "problems," at least
not with my audio gear.
Apparently you don't either, and I'd like to thank you for
a down-to-earth, honest review that gives me a fair-minded idea of what music on this
product sounds like. A breath of fresh air, as opposed to other reviewers' blabbering away
about what sort of miraculous phenomena they may dream up, as a reviewer apparently should
I have consulted you once before a couple of years ago when
you were all digital, but I am glad to see that you are back among the analog crowd!
Cables for use with professional monitors
October 7, 2008
I've contacted you because I want to know if you have any
experience with professional powered monitors like those from Genelec, ATC, PMC and Adams.
I am a high-end enthusiast, and right now I am listening with professional powered
monitors. I bought a pair of Genelec 8050A
two-way monitors, and I want to buy balanced interconnects and power cords for them. I
usually consult the Audiogon forums, but unfortunately powered monitors are not so popular
in the high-end world.
I have some distant experience with powered monitors,
which have some inherent advantages over passive speakers, including the matching of the
amplification to the crossover/driver combination and the crossovers' use of a line-level
signal. In terms of cables to use with such speakers, two high-end brands come quickly to
mind because these companies' products are used by musicians and in studios: Analysis Plus
and Shunyata Research. Have a look at their product lines and pick the cables that fit
your budget. I have used both companies' products with great success....Marc Mickelson
Arcam & B&W?
October 6, 2008
To Doug Schneider,
I have just read your review of the
Arcam FMJ A32 integrated amp. I found it excellent in terms of your detail and
comparisons. I have been hanging on the balance for a little while now as to which way to
go, and after reading your review I have opted for the A32. As in your review, I will be
using the FMJ CD23 as my main amplifier. I wondered, though, if you have ever reviewed the
B&W CDM9NT speakers. These are the speakers I will be using along with Nordost's Super
Flatline Gold speaker cables. What do you think of this combination?
What continues to impress me most about the Internet is
how often older reviews still get read. I wrote the review of the A32 over five years ago,
and it's as easy to find now as it was when it was first published. You certainly don't
have that luxury with print magazines. However, we don't write about everything -- and the
B&W CDM9NT speakers fall into this category. In fact, to me, we don't have nearly
enough reviews of the products, something that will change quite soon.
However, I can't see any reason why the A32 couldn't
work well with the CDM9NTs. The current specs on the amp are that it can deliver 100Wpc
into 8 ohms and 170Wpc into 4 ohms, and there's nothing untoward in the CDM9NT's design
that would suggest a problem. The A32 should be able to drive those speakers quite well.
Plus, one thing I recall about the A32 is how neutral and transparent it is -- basically,
a clear view into the recording. Therefore, it shouldn't impart any sonic signature of its
own and simply let the speakers do the talking -- er, "singing" is perhaps a
That said, there's no guarantee that you're going to
like the A32 -- everyone has his own tastes. But you should at least try it. If and when
you do, please write back and let me know how it turned out....Doug Schneider
MP-3 Mk III phono loading
October 2, 2008
Forrester's review of the Atma-Sphere MP-3 Mk III, he states: "The default input
impedance is 47k ohms, but if you screw resistors onto the terminal strip, they will
replace the standard load."
Unless Ralph Karsten has started adding relays to the phono
stage, these load resistors will not "replace" the 47K but rather parallel it.
Given the relative low values of load resistors (for argument's sake, below 1K), this has
the effect of reducing the input impedance to a value close to the load resistor.
The math is Load=((47000 * load resistor value) / (47000 + load
resistor value)). The 47k ohms is always in the circuit.
Otherwise, thanks for another great issue.
Thanks for pointing this out. You are correct -- the
resistors are in parallel to the 47k-ohm load, which changes their actual value so little
that this is essentially what the phono cartridge "sees." As Vade Forrester put
it, "The important point is that you don't need to make
any calculations; you should just pick a load resistor you want to use with the
cartridge and the actual resistance won't be meaningfully different."...Marc