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.
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.
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?
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?
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
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
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
"...an 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
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.
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
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
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.
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
"...keep on reviewing the good stuff!"
November 10, 2008
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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