Audio Research 100.2

November 28, 2008


I note that your review of the Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval interconnects and speaker cables references your use of an Audio Research 100.2 amplifier. A review of that product was not published. I realize that your use of this amplifier dates back several years. Despite this, several audiophiles are interested in your thoughts and comments about the strengths and weaknesses of this amplifier. I am contemplating a future purchase of this amp for a second system, and I welcome your input prior to my pulling the trigger.

Joe Abate

Yes, a number of years ago Audio Research sent me a 100.2 simply because they wanted me to hear it. I was glad for the loan, and I should have reviewed the amp. The 100.2 was one of those products that sounded immediately right -- pure, direct and uncolored. Its clarity throughout the frequency range was immediately obvious, but along with this was a sense of ease that kept the clarity from tipping into stark analysis. The 100.2 did not sound full or warm; you won't mistake its solid-state circuitry for tubes. It also didn't have the extreme bass depth and power of other solid-state amps. However, it got out of the music's way better than many amps that cost far more, and that's what I remember most fondly about it. We should all be so lucky to have it in a second system!...Marc Mickelson

Which power conditioner?

November 25, 2008


I am in the process of purchasing a new power conditioner for my A/V system, and I thought it best to get input from you before I make my final selection. I mainly use my system for watching satellite HDTV and Blu-ray movies, and listening to 5.1-channel music DVDs, SACDs, DVD-As and stereo CDs.

The following power conditioners are mentioned in many A/V forums, but I have yet to read a truly negative review of any of these units, and this has made my selection very difficult: Shunyata Research Hydra V-Ray, BPT BP-3.5 Signature Plus, Chang Lightspeed's CLS Cinema 6.0, Torus Power RM20, Audiophile APS PurePower 1050, and Running Springs Audio Danielle2.

I installed two new 20-amp breakers on the left-hand side of my main service panel, using existing space provisions directly below an existing 15-amp breaker (installed by the builder), which currently supplies power to a bonus room. I also installed two "homeruns’ of 10-2 Romex from each new 20-amp breaker to audio-grade outlets. The existing 15-amp circuit will only be used to supply power to three home-theater seats and a light switch that controls six recessed can lights.

Mike Miller

I've had firsthand experience with power conditioners from a number of makers, including Chang, PS Audio, Sound Application, Shunyata Research, ESP, Monster and Panamax. The best I've used is the Shunyata Hydra V-Ray, which was designed for implementations like yours that require mixing products and from which it will receive power from dedicated outlets. It's the one that improved the sound of my audio system in the most obvious way, not just changing the sound and causing me to wonder if what I was hearing was truly better, or perhaps even worse. If the V-Ray fits into your budget, it's the product I recommend that you try. I don't have firsthand experience using the V-Ray with a TV or other display device, but I'm sure the people at Shunyata can give you some anecdotal feedback on this....Marc Mickelson

Integrated amp or receiver?

November 20, 2008

To Philip Beaudette,

I read your review of the NAD C372 integrated amp and wondered if you could answer a question I have. You mention in the article that you had been using a 75Wpc home-theater receiver to drive your speakers and that replacing it with the integrated amp opened your eyes/ears to the potential of your speakers.

I'm presently using a Yamaha RX-V730 A/V receiver (75Wpc) to drive my older Mission 762 speakers -- for both TV and music -- but I am starting to listen to more music and thus want as good sound as I can afford. I had been thinking of purchasing a newer A/V receiver that would incorporate a direct-to-analog path, thus giving good sound, but I am now thinking perhaps I could keep what I have for TV and invest in a two-channel integrated amp for music. Does an integrated amp really provide better sound than an A/V receiver?

Ken McGuire

Good question. I won't make a blanket statement and say that integrated amps always sound better than A/V receivers (there are many high-end receivers I've never heard, so I can't possibly know how good they sound), but in my experience I will say, yes, I think stereo integrated amplifiers sound better than the A/V receivers to which I've listened.

You noted that you own a Yamaha RX-V730. That's an interesting coincidence because the 75Wpc receiver I was referring to in my review of the NAD C372 was the Yamaha RX-V630, nearly identical to what you use. I switched to using a stereo integrated amp for a couple of reasons. The first is that I never used the surround capabilities of my receiver, and only listened to two-channel music. The second (which relates to the first) was that I eventually decided that rather than owning a receiver with a huge list of features I never used, it made more sense for me to invest in the best-quality stereo integrated amplifier I could afford. I haven't looked back.

As you alluded to in your e-mail, I've read that video circuitry can interfere with the analog signal path of the audio circuitry, thereby degrading the audio signal. I think this is likely part of the larger reason I've been more impressed with integrated amps over A/V receivers, namely the simplicity in the design (i.e., circuitry) of a dedicated stereo integrated amp. Whatever the reason, I found that when I started using an integrated amp, I realized my speakers exhibited better dynamics, more control and power in the bass, and an overall bigger and more transparent sound. My advice to you is what you've already suggested: Keep the Yamaha RX-V730 for TV and movies (it is a good-sounding receiver) and look at buying a stereo integrated amplifier for music....Philip Beaudette

Which Shunyata power cords?

November 18, 2008


I`d like to get your recommendation regarding the use of Shunyata Research power cords -- Anaconda or Python -- with the following gear: Audio Research Reference CD7, Reference 3, Reference 110 and Shunyata Hydra V-Ray.

By the way, when are going to get to review the new signal cables from Shunyata?

Mike Diaz

I think you have a few options for your gear. First, you should use an Anaconda Helix Alpha from your V-Ray to the wall no matter what other cords you buy. Then, if you can afford it, using Anaconda Alphas with all of your electronics would maximize what those cords do best. However, to save some money, an Anaconda Alpha with the amp and Python Helix Alphas with the preamp and CD player would also work very well. Finally, going with Python Alphas all around would be the least costly combination and would still get you very close to the sound you'd achieve using all Anaconda Alphas.

My review of the Shunyata Aurora-IC interconnects and Aurora-SP speaker cables was a delayed a bit, but you'll see it in early 2009....Marc Mickelson

The best?

November 14, 2008


In your opinion, which is the best amp and best preamp out there? The ultimate, the best of the best, something that will stand above the rest if money is not a concern? As you already know, every company claims to make the best equipment, and every dealer that represents their products says the same thing. Since you have the privilege of listening to quite a few different brands, I'd like to know which amp and preamp walk the walk and talk the talk. My speaker, the Genesis 2.2, already comes with its own power amp for the bass towers, so all I need is an amp and preamp to drive the midrange/tweeter tower. I want something that is beautiful to look at, something that is powerful, with clarity, detail, effortlessness and musicality. I want something that will bring the maximum performance out of my speakers.

Many people refer me to the likes of Krell, FM Acoustics, CAT, Spectral, Clayton Audio, and Accuphase. Again, I am looking for beauty and performance. Whatever amp and preamp I buy, I want them to be the last ones I own.

Also, you don't have to stick with the brands that I've mentioned above. You can suggest something that I've never heard of. After all, you're the expert.

Ed Chan

You ask a question that's impossible for anyone to answer, because no one has experience with every brand available and no one is truly "the expert" on your tastes except you. It is very risky to rely on the suggestions of any one person -- or any committee of people -- putting disparate products together and expecting to reach a worthwhile outcome. This is a recipe for dissatisfaction, and it's even more questionable as a strategy because of the cost of the equipment you're considering.

All this said, I can certainly make a few suggestions based specifically on what I think might work well with your speakers. You and your ears have to take it from here.

For solid state, the best electronics I've heard are from Ayre and Luxman. The Ayre KX-R preamp and MX-R mono amps are reported to be amazing products, better than the company's previous top-of-the-line preamp and amp, which I've heard and think are wonderful. I've heard the Luxman C-1000f preamp and B-1000f mono amps in my system, and I can attest that they are a truly great combination.

I am a fan of tubes, so I would also recommend for your consideration the Audio Research Reference 3 preamp and either of the Reference mono amplifiers (Reference 210 or Reference 601T), the CAT SL1 Legend preamp and JL3 Signature Mk 2 mono amps, or the VTL TL-7.5 II preamp and the Siegfried mono amps.

All of these electronics except those from CAT are truly balanced. This matters if you have a truly balanced source, which probably sounds its best connected balanced. Also, because you're seeking an amp and preamp, you increase your chances of success by sticking with units from the same company, which will be designed to work together and will match sonically....Marc Mickelson

" amp you reviewed ten years ago..."

November 13, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

I hope you don't mind a question about an amp you reviewed ten years ago, the Sonic Frontier Power 1, but, as a financially limited want-to-be audiophile, like many in my shoes, I am often looking for a vintage upgrade rather than the latest state-of-the-art product.

I am currently running a pair of 1992 Vortex Screens with a 100Wpc Nakamichi TA-4A receiver. The Screens are rated at 87dB and the Nakamichi receiver does a pretty good job of making these old Von Schweikert speakers sing, with a decent amount of air and a wide-open soundstage, at least when compared to my previous system. The Nakamichi receiver's amp lacks some of the bass slam that a previous Marantz amp offered, but it more than compensates with its sweet and open clarity.

Will a Sonic Frontiers Power 1 drive this speaker and likely be an improvement? At the moment, I have the chance to pick one up for just under a grand and would love to hear what the Screens sound like with good tube electronics, either as a complete replacement or in a biamped configuration with the Power 1 driving the treble-mid module. I just don't know if the amp's 55 watts will do the job.

Dave Fox

Wow, you're certainly right -- I reviewed that amp ten years ago! Time flies, and, as I've said before, these reviews we write and keep online have "legs."

Frankly, having never used the Vortex Screens and not having used that amp in so long, anything I say here is a guess at best. Still, I think there are a few comments worth making since I think that the 55Wpc that the Power 1 is claimed to deliver might cause you some problems.

Whether or not the Power 1 will be powerful enough will have something to do with the sensitivity of the speaker but also how big your room is and how loud you wish to play your music. If low or moderate listening levels in a small-to-mid-sized room are your cup of tea, you might get away with it. But if you listen fairly loud and your room is fairly large, my bet is that you'll run out of power, particularly if you're used to a solid-state amp that can deliver 100Wpc into the same load and still isn't giving the kind of bass slam you want.

Therefore, my suggestion is to be very cautious here. The Power 1 might be just fine for your needs. On the other hand, it's just as likely that it won't work well and you'll decide to flip it back onto the used market in short order....Doug Schneider

Which Esoteric?

November 12, 2008


I greatly enjoy your reviews, and I am glad there is always substance to them rather than the typical fluff. I greatly value dynamics and bass power in my music. I am using BAT, Levinson, Kubala-Sosna and B&W products. With those products, would you spend more money to go to an Esoteric X-01 or X-03 (are they similar in bass and dynamics?) over the DV-50? I do not need the DVD section, and I am using balanced analog outputs exclusively.

Bill Barotti

I have no experience with the Esoteric X-03, so I would strongly suggest that you audition it before you buy it. You may find that it represents little improvement over the DV-50 -- or none at all. Regarding the versions of the X-01 I've heard, each would be an obvious upgrade over the DV-50, and any one of them is a great choice for someone like you who values bass power and dynamic ability. The X-01 is a more robust product than the DV-50 (which is well made itself), incorporating much of Esoteric's best technology into a single box. Given that your system is already balanced from source to amp, I don't have to tell you that this is certainly the way to connect an X-01....Marc Mickelson

"...keep on reviewing the good stuff!"

November 10, 2008


Great review of the Wilson Alexandria X-2 Series 2! It makes me want to update my own X-2s to Series 2s.

Did the Wilson team set up the X-2 Series 2s exactly as they had the Series 1s? If you are seated in the sweet spot, are the inside panels visible or do you hardly see any part of the inside panels? I'm just asking to determine the degree of toe-in that John Giolas and Trent Workman used.

Man, keep on reviewing the good stuff! BTW, I read your review of the Tri-Planar Mk VII UII and can confirm the beauty of that tonearm since I own it.

Rey Martirez

I don't have the Alexandria X-2 Series 2 speakers here any longer, so I can't tell you how much they were toed in. However, when John and Trent set up speakers in my room, they rely on their knowledge of the room and copious notes to help them. In the case of the X-2 Series 2s, they positioned the speakers, in their words, "very near the original X-2 locations." "We pushed and pulled to some other locations, but they ended up within a quarter inch or so to the original." So I think it's safe to say that if you have your X-2s updated, you can just put them right back in the same spots afterwards....Marc Mickelson

Energy or Axiom?

November 6, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

I read the SoundStage! review by S. Andrea Sundaram on the Energy Reference Connoisseur RC-10 and was interested in this little speaker. I believe you also listened to this speaker and had praise for it. In the past, you have reviewed the Axiom Audio M3Ti. Can you comment on which one you prefer? I have the M3Ti, and it sounds good for its price, but I am looking for a different sound. Maybe the RC-10 would be used in a second system or possibly replace the M3Ti as my primary stereo system.

I like listening to jazz, classical, and easy listening. I also have a subwoofer, which can be used.

Lu Verdun

I like both speakers, but the RC-10 is a little better both in terms of build quality and sound -- I found it a little sweeter at the top end and with deeper bass. However, it's also more expensive, at least back then. When I wrote about it for the review sidebar, it was priced at $550 per pair, whereas the M3Ti was about $300. Almost twice the price -- not insignificant. That, though, was years ago and things have changed price-wise and competitively. Today, there are plenty of other options to look at, and I would check them out. Still, the RC-10 was a good speaker then and can still be considered a good one today if you want to go that route....Doug Schneider

RMAF turntables

November 4, 2008


I just came across your "Daily Features" article with nice description
of three of the most interesting turntables at the RMAF. Very nice pictures and descriptions!

However, I would like to suggest some corrections to present more complete information about the turntables.

The Artemis turntable is shown with a Koetsu cartridge and a Schroeder tonearm (not a Koetsu tonearm as described in the picture caption). In fact, Frank Schroeder designed the 'table for Artemis, which should probably be mentioned in the article.

Similarly, the DPS turntable has been available (even in the US and Canada) for some time -- i.e., more than five years. Willi Bauer of the German company DPS designed it and has been manufacturing these turntables for several years now. Recently, Ayre has taken over the North American distribution and will be providing a new power supply for the North American market. The DPS is a beautifully designed and beautiful-sounding turntable. I have owned one now for close to two years, and it truly is a world-class 'table.

I am looking forward to more articles and comments on the above turntables, should you get the opportunity to review them.

René Stock

Thanks for your correction and additions. I knew about Frank Schroeder's and Willi Bauer's involvement with the Artemis Labs and Ayre turntables, but our show reports are written on the spot, so there's not always time (or mental energy) to include every bit of information on the products we cover.

One note: Ayre's relationship with DPS is more partnership than distributorship. Ayre is merging its strength in electronic design with Willi Bauer's strength in mechanical design. Ayre designed a three-phase power supply for the DPS turntable from scratch. Each of the three phases requires an amplifier circuit, so Ayre built three miniature MX-R amps to drive each phase. This may be the only no-feedback fully balanced power supply on the market. Ayre is distributing the DPS turntable in North America, and in Asia too.

I have commitments from Artemis Labs and Ayre to write about their turntables in 2009, so I'll be discussing all of this further then....Marc Mickelson