Enough gain with PH7?

February 26, 2009


You helped me last year with a query regarding the Audio Research Reference 110 amplifier and Thiel CS2.4 speakers. I'm delighted to report your guess was right -- just stunning.

I have another favor to ask. I know you're a fan of the current ARC Reference series, and I see from the equipment lists in your reviews that you have some experience with the PH7 phono stage and Dynavector cartridges. I was wondering what your thoughts were pertaining to the PH7's 58dB of gain and a low-output moving-coil cartridge. I would like to use a PH7 with a Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua, whose output is 0.26mV. (My line-stage preamp is an ARC Reference 3.) I guess the lowish gain of the PH7 worries me a bit. My dealer has checked with ARC. They don't recommend the PH7 with cartridges that have less than 0.5mV output. This does seem to exclude a number of very, very good low-output moving-coil cartridges. I won't have the option of trying for myself, so I am dependent on the views of others. Of course, I am wondering why ARC didn't put in the option of adjustable gain with the PH7, like they did with the Reference phono stage, but I guess that's another matter entirely.

Kevin O'Connor

I think your dealer received some bad information regarding the ARC PH7 phono stage, which I own and use with two low-output MC cartridges: the Dynavector XV-1s (0.3mV output) and XV-1s Mono (0.25mV). The PH7, which derives all of its gain from active devices and not from a step-up transformer, as the Reference phono stage did, has ample gain for these cartridges, and I know that Audio Research has used the PH7 with the XV-1s at CES, so they obviously must not consider the cartridge's gain too low for the phono stage. It's important to note that your preamp provides gain as well (your dealer can raise the gain of your Reference 3 by 6dB if you need it), and your speakers, if sensitive, help too. However, when I'm using the PH7 and Reference 3, there is plenty of gain....Marc Mickelson

Shunyata, Jeff Rowland reviews, please

February 23, 2009


I’ve enjoyed reading your reviews of Shunyata Hydra Model-8 and V-Ray power conditioners, and various Helix power cords in recent years. I see that Shunyata has now released the V-Ray Version 2 and a new family of five CX power cords. I’m looking forward to your reviewing these to see how you compare the V-Ray and V-Ray v.2, and also how the new CX cords compare with the Helix Alphas, especially the Python. I’m using the V-Ray, with Pythons powering most of my system. Five new CX cords are a lot to compare, especially versus the previous three Helix Alphas.

I’m also a fan of Jeff Rowland equipment and understand they have released a new high-end preamp, the Criterion. I’m very interested in hearing your evaluation of this. I’m presently using a Synergy IIi. It would be interesting also to know how this compares with the recently reviewed preamp from Esoteric, the C-03.

Equipment is so expensive that it really requires a lot of consideration before making any changes, and you certainly should expect significant improvements to justify the expense involved. I depend upon you and others to help make well-informed decisions. You have been very helpful in the past, and I enjoy reading your reviews each month.

Brian Allen

I will definitely be writing about the new Hydra and CX-series power cords later in the year. I'm waiting for the power cords to show up. Jeff Rowland equipment is a little trickier. Although we've toured the company's facilities, we haven't been able procure review equipment -- yet. Perhaps your letter will help in this regard....Marc Mickelson

"...an amp in the $10,000 to $15,000 price range"

February 20, 2009


I currently listen to an Esoteric X-03SE CD/SACD player to a BAT VK52se preamp to McIntosh 501 monoblocks feeding EgglestonWorks Andra ll speakers.

What I was wondering is if you could recommend a couple of solid-state amps that might provide a bit more resolution and "air" to the instruments without losing the solid foundation and flow to the music that the 501s provide. I generally listen to jazz fusion; therefore, bass and drums are important to my listening.

I am looking for an amp in the $10,000 to $15,000 price range.

Tony Polinski

The first amp that comes to mind, given what you're seeking, is the Luxman M-800A stereo amp, the smaller brother to the B-1000f monoblocks I reviewed last year. I wrote a sidebar on it for that review. With the M-800A, you will probably gain some bass definition along with greater overall resolution and spaciousness. The Ayre V-1xe would also be a good choice for you. It's certainly among the very best solid-state amps I've heard....Marc Mickelson


February 18, 2009

To Uday Reddy,

I read your review of the Luxman L-509u integrated amp, and I'm considering buying one to replace my Hovland HP100 preamp and McIntosh MC2000 amp. I'm leaving a large home to live in a condo in the New Orleans French Quarter, so downsizing is a must (4500 vs. 1200 square feet). Did you have the opportunity to listen to this integrated amp at low volume levels, and if so, what was you impression, please? Condo living dictates that I have to be neighbor friendly, but I don't want to purchase an integrated that loses its magic when the volume goes low.

Rick Jameson

Right now I'm listening to the Miles Davis Sextet's Jazz at the Plaza at a reasonable, and nearly realistic, volume level with a wide, deep and stable soundstage. With the door closed, the music outside the room is audible, but hardly obtrusive, so I'd seriously doubt that your neighbors would object. Turning the music down so that the sound was barely audible outside the room had no effect on the soundstage, nor in the flow of the music. Remember, the L-509u also has an excellent headphone output for those times when you need to keep in mind the time of day or when you really want to turn it up....Uday Reddy

"Colored" sound

February 17, 2009

To Doug Schneider,

I'd like to ask about the Von Schweikert VR-1. I own a pair, but I was rather confused when a few of my friends said this speaker is "colored"? What is the actual definition of "colored," and what do you think?

Ridzwan Kaium

When someone says that a speaker is "colored," he usually means that it's not neutral and that has a "coloration" in the sound. For example, a speaker that has a bright or dull top end or recessed or pronounced midrange can be called colored because these deviations stray from neutrality. An absolutely neutral speaker would be one that doesn't have these deviations and would contribute very little character of its own to the final sound.

You can tell a lot about where a speaker is neutral or not by the frequency-response measurements that we do. If you look at the measurements for the VR-1 that we did some years back, you'll see a generally flat response across the audio band. There is a touch of emphasis between 600 and 1100Hz, so it does stray a little bit from neutrality. I suspect that it's designed in there to give the speaker a little more presence in that range, which can sound nice with vocals. But, overall, this speaker, while not the pinnacle of neutrality, is far less colored than many I've seen and heard. I don't only say this because of the measurements but also from what I heard when I reviewed it in May 2003....Doug Schneider

Which ProAc?

February 13, 2009


Before buying any hi-fi components I try to read as many articles as I can from the Internet (SoundStage! is one of the first sources) and magazines, and then I listen.

I have been doing the same thing for loudspeakers. My first pair was of ProAc Studio 125s replaced then by Focal Lab Beryllium Be 1027s (nice treble!), but I could not be involved in the music because I still had in my ears -- two years later -- the sound of my old ProAc speakers.

So I decided to go back to ProAc. I can buy demos of the Response D38 and Response D80 at very competitive prices. I have listened to both, but I cannot make up my mind. Each has its own personality.

You wrote, "The Response D38 is an emotionally involving speaker, easily one of the two or three best that I've heard in this regard" in your April 2004 review. What would you say about the D80?

Nicola Mazzaro

What would I say about the D80? I'd like to say a lot about it -- ProAc speakers are among my very favorites. They always sound immediately right to me. However, I've never heard the D80 -- in my room or at shows. I reviewed the D38, and, in retrospect, I probably wasn't positive enough about it. There are many speakers that cost double or triple its price that aren't nearly as good. I completely trust Stewart Tyler's abilities as a speaker designer and listener, so I suspect the D80 would be something special to hear. But that's only speculation. I will see if I can arrange a review of it....Marc Mickelson

Tube amp for Synchrony Ones?

February 11, 2009

To Doug Schneider,

I read your review of the PSB Synchrony One speakers and agree they are great-sounding. I have a pair that are being driven by a PrimaLuna DiaLogue Two amplifier. You mentioned in the article that you did not think that tubes were a good match with these speakers. I do not know if you are familiar with this tube amp, but it sounds spectacular with these speakers. The amplifier puts out 38Wpc but sounds a lot more powerful. I would welcome any input you have regarding the matching of this amp with these speakers.

Quin Neal

Because of the Synchrony One's generally low impedance -- as low as 3 ohms in a couple spots and not rising much about 5 ohms for much of the audio band -- it's going to be a challenging load for many amplifiers and that's why I tend to recommend beefy solid-state amplification and not tubes. However, this is a generalization and not a hard-and-fast rule. Not all solid-state amps do well into tough loads, while some tube amps, even if it tends not to be their forte, do. Also, a lot will depend on your room size and how loud you like to listen.

That said, I don't see anything in the published specs for the DiaLogue Two to indicate why it's able to handle these speakers so well, but the experience you're having is more important in this case. Keep me posted and, also, feel free to fill me in on your room size, speaker placement, and how loud you like to play your music....Doug Schneider

Power conditioning and JENA Labs

February 9, 2009

To Howard Kneller

You recently did a story on a visit to Kevin Tellekamp's listening  studio in which a comment was made that no power conditioning was used. This is not really true and is misleading to the reader. We are the manufacturers of the power cords used in Kevin's system, and, believe me, they are power conditioners in their own right. Kevin uses our JENA Labs Model One AC power cords. These cords contain a highly sophisticated noise-filtering system optimized to not restrict the high-current-flow requirements of audio equipment, and to heavily suppress noise and AC-distortion products that are the cause of poor background "blackness," a lack of soundstage depth, and other non-musical anomalies. We make several models of AC conditioners in both on-the-cord and standalone versions, all of which incorporate Silent Running Audio vibration-abatement materials as part of their construction. You might want to add an amendment or edit the article to reflect the fact that there is indeed rather sophisticated AC conditioning in the system. Of course, this in no way diminished the extreme quality of the AC-delivery system that precedes our equipment.

Please visit our website www.jenalabs.com for more information about our large range of products and our 40-plus-year involvement in music recording and sound-equipment engineering. We have been in business as JENA Labs for almost two and half decades, producing the highest of the high end in interconnection and AC-power-conditioning devices. We are about to release the first of a series of speaker systems and have a range of active electronics in the lab at this time being co-developed with my good friend, the legendary John Curl.

If your magazine has any interest in experiencing any of our products, we would be interested in discussing the loan of some appropriate products.

Jennifer WhiteWolf-Crock
JENA Technologies LLC

The Silent Running Audio article did not state that there was no filtering occurring within the system, only that there was no dedicated power conditioner. As you are aware, it is not uncommon for a manufacturer to integrate some form of power filtering into amplifiers or power cords. Nonetheless, we are more than happy to take this opportunity to inform SoundStage! readers about the power-filtering aspects of the Jena Labs Model One power cords, which were, for our listening purposes that day (almost all of which was analog), used exclusively on Kevin Tellekamp's mono amplifiers....Howard Kneller

CAT and Thiel?

February 6, 2009


I read your review of the Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 stereo amplifier. May I have your advice? Would it drive well Thiel CS7.2 loudspeakers?

Ozi Mura

Thiel speakers are often tough loads for power amplifiers. However, if any tube amp can handle a pair of CS7.2s -- which are terrific speakers, by the way -- it would be the CAT JL2 Signature Mk 2. As our measurements show, its output impedance is 0.7 ohm, commendably low for a tube amp, and it meets its 100Wpc specification at 4 or 8 ohms. However, this last point doesn't indicate how much subjective power this amp has -- enough, I'm sure, to drive the Thiel speakers to higher levels than you would want to listen for any extended time....Marc Mickelson

Focus Audio Signature FS-788

February 4, 2009

To Doug Schneider,

Does your opinion still rate high on the Focus Audio Signature FS-788 two-way floorstanders? I am considering purchasing a used pair. I am in the market for a speaker that totally disappears, throws a huge soundstage, and can keep images that are clearly focused. My room is 14' x 25' (although I must sit 12" from the back 14' wall), so relatively nearfield.

Can you provide me your opinion on these speakers, along with any other speaker suggestions you might have?

Mike Finnedt

I really liked FS-788 speaker when I reviewed it -- very good sound overall, extremely good drivers, and a nicely finished cabinet. But, as you're probably aware, Focus has radically updated its lineup and added speakers less and more expensive, including a whole new lineup of Signature models. How the original FS-788 fits into all this I don't know. In a case like this, a lot will probably come down to the price and whether you can get the FS-788 cheaply enough that you'll be happy with it and not want to investigate other Focus models, or other speakers in general. It's a very good set of speakers, but certainly not the only ones out there....Doug Schneider

The right cables for an all-ARC system

February 2, 2008


I have an all-Audio Research system comprising a Reference CD7 CD player, a Reference 3 preamp and a Reference 110 amp. I listen mostly classical music, especially vocal, but also rock.

Can you please recommend interconnects that are best suited for my system? Also, will I have enough power to drive Sonus Faber Amati Anniversario speakers, which I found in excellent second-hand condition? They come with Nordost Valhalla speaker cables, which I could also buy at about 50% off the list price. Would you recommend that I go ahead?

Lefteris Hiliadakis

If you are set on buying the Nordost Valhalla speaker cables along with the Sonus Faber speakers, then I recommend buying Valhalla interconnects as well. This will extend the performance of the speaker cables throughout your system, which will have great synergy because of your use of only Audio Research electronics and Nordost cables. You won't want to upset this. If you are not set on the Nordost cables, I suggest that you audition Shunyata Research's newest interconnects and speaker cables, the Aurora-IC and Aurora-SP. Their sound is wonderfully balanced, and Audio Research used them at the CES last month. No matter which interconnects you buy, be sure to connect all of your ARC gear balanced in order to hear it at its very best.

Your amp will drive the Sonus Faber speakers easily. As our measurements of the Reference 110 show, the amp delivers its power rating of 110Wpc at 8 ohms -- not all tube amps do -- and that will be enough power to play music at very loud levels....Marc Mickelson