Power cords for powered monitors

May 29, 2009


I hope you remember me. A few months ago I wrote you asking about interconnects for my Genelec 8050A powered monitors. As you suggested, I bought Shunyata Research Antares interconnects at a very affordable price, and I was surprised with their perfomanced. They are the best interconnects I have tried. As Im really happy with the Antares, I now want to try Shunyata power cords with my speakers. As you know, Shunyata has replaced the Helix line with the CX Series, so the price of the Helix power cords has dropped. Of course, I also read your Shunyata Python review, so I decided to write you again.

Im thinking of buying Taipan Helix Alpha or the Python Helix Alpha cords. Which one would you recomend for my powered monitors? I read that the Taipan Helix sounds fast, so many people do not recomend it for use with solid-state electronics. There is no difference in the price between both cords on the used market, so I can buy either one. Right now, I am using Synergistic Research AC Master Coupler power cords, but I think the Shunyata cords represent a step up.

Pablo Hoffman

I remember your question from a couple of months ago about interconnects for your Genelec professional powered monitors. I suggested you consider Shunyata Research interconnects because the company's products are used in many studios, where speakers like yours are often found. Because you are happy with your interconnects, considering the Shunyata power cords would be a logical move. Of the two you mention, the Python Helix Alpha would be the best choice. This power cord represented the point of maximum sonic payback for the money spent in Shunyata's previous Helix line. I used a few Python Alpha cords and thought they were terrific. One other option is to see what in Shuhyata's new CX Series equals your price for the older Python Helix. I have some of the CX power cords here and their improvement is not subtle at all, even when they are compared to the very good cords they replaced....Marc Mickelson

Which cables?

May 22, 2009


This is my audio system:

Marantz PM 8003 integrated amplifier
Sony CDP-XA7ES CD player
Polk Audio LSi 9 speakers
Polk Audio PSW 505 subwoofer
Tripplite line conditioner

I want to know which brand and model of speaker cables and interconnects you recommend for my audio system.

Manuel Encinales

There are many good brands of audio cables available, but the one I recommend for your system is DH Labs, whose cables are well-known budget-priced references. The BL-1 Series II interconnects and T-14 speaker cables offer very detailed sound at a very reasonable price: $99 per meter pair of interconnects and $138 per eight-foot pair of speaker cables. DH Labs also has a new interconnect called The Phantom that looks to be a tremendous sonic value at just $60 per meter pair....Marc Mickelson

Integrated amp for Energy speakers

May 20, 2009


Can you recommend an integrated tube or solid-state amp for use with Energy Veritas V2.4i speakers?

Steve Sawicki

I reviewed the Energy Veritas V2.4i over five years ago, and since then I haven't reviewed any integrated amps. I use a TEAC A-1D in my second system, and it's a good unit, but I think your speakers would outclass it considerably. However, I can make a few recommendations based on products I have reviewed or heard at shows. I'd replace my integrated with any of these.

My first choice would be the Audio Research VSi60, a 50Wpc tube integrated amp that should drive the 87dB-sensitive V2.4i's well in anything but a very large room and sound spacious and sweet doing so. If you need more power, Luxman and Simaudio have solid-state models at various price ranges that will drive your speakers no matter where you use them. In the used market, a Mark Levinson No.383 would be a great option, offering high power and user niceties that are still unmatched....Marc Mickelson

Arcam with Arcam, or...?

May 18, 2009


I'm curious of your opinion on matching components to obtain system synergy. Many audiophiles seem to feel that if you use components from the same brand, then the system becomes more than just a sum of its parts. Right now, I have a pair of Quad 12L active speakers and an Arcam DV135 as my source. I'm running this through a Denon mini-system (UD-M50), which serves as the preamp. The Denon system would no doubt be the weak link, and I'm considering upgrading it in the near future. Is an Arcam preamp to match the DV135 the best bet? I'd also consider preamps from companies such as NAD, Cambridge Audio, Naim, Rega, Parasound, and the like. I will also be adding a separate tuner.

I'd like to know what you think. Is going all Arcam a good bet, or is it important to consider how these other amps would work as part of the system? The other side of the argument would say that all Arcam might be too much of a good thing, that perhaps countering the smooth, laid-back nature of Arcam gear with a more lively amp would yield better results. I think the Quad speakers probably already have this; however.

I purchased the Arcam in the first place as an upgrade to my CD player, and mostly because it was the best high-resolution audio player that I could afford at the time. I wasn't necessarily intent on adding further Arcam components, nor am I against it. Right now, I'm kind of partial to the new NAD C165 preamp, to be honest. I know I'll have to do some serious, hopefully in-home auditions first.

Daniel Lenghardt

The guiding principle of matching components based on their sound is to effect a whole that is greater than its individual parts, and it's why we write reviews that describe the sound of the products in such detail. As is almost always the case, products from the same manufacturer work best together electrically and sound the best together as well. In your case, Arcam would be the place to start when shopping for a preamp, but in your system it's the match of the preamp and your active speakers that you're trying to optimize, so you may find a preamp from a maker other than Arcam that sounds better with your Quad speakers. As you've identified, in-home audition is the best way -- the only way, in fact -- to determine which preamp sounds best in your system and to your ears. Because of all the buying and selling that goes on online, audiophiles easily overlook the importance of a local dealer, but providing units for in-home evaluation is where dealers outdistance online sellers and provide a vitally important service for their customers. Many an audiophile -- myself included -- has bought the wrong product because he didn't demo it in his system first....Marc Mickelson

"...looking for an all-out assault on rich, rich mids and a liquid top end"

May 13, 2009


I enjoyed your Mark Levinson No.383 review very much. As always, you seem to communicate in straightforward terms that are easy to understand and enjoyable to read. I know you're a tube kind of guy, so I would like very much if you could comment or pass on some advice regarding tube amplification. I am looking to get into tubes and have been into solid-state gear for 35 years. I have owned McIntosh, Mark Levinson, Sunfire, Audio Research and Marantz. I am looking for an all-out assault on rich, rich mids and a liquid top end. I will sacrifice bass as I run subs with line-array speakers that are only 82dB sensitive.

Having said that, could you point me in the direction of tube heaven? Thanks, and don't ever stop writing reviews!

Barry Borza

Because you were reading a review of an integrated amp, I'll assume that's the sort of "amplification" you're interested in. If not, I'll make a power-amp suggestion as well.

You say you've owned Audio Research equipment in the past. As a group, the company's latest tube products are extraordinary and easy to recommend. I've heard the VSi60 at shows, where, within its power rating, it sounds a great deal like ARC separates. However, it outputs only 50Wpc, so it probably doesn't have enough power for your 82dB-sensitive speakers. If you are seeking a power amp, the VS115 will provide a helping of Audio Research Reference sound and enough power for your speakers, I suspect. The LS26 preamp is a great match for this amp. All of these products will give you the "rich, rich mids and...liquid top end" you seek without sacrificing the frequency extremes. They are modern tube products, not ones whose main feature is their soft, nostalgic sound....Marc Mickelson

Argent Room Lenses and tall speakers

May 12, 2009


I have read the review of the Argent Room Lenses from Doug Blackburn, which he wrote quite a while ago. I can buy a used trio of them. I have only one question. I am the owner of the Dunlavy SC-V Signature speakers, and as you probably know these are higher than the Room Lenses. Is this a problem for the effect on the acoustics of this product?

By the way, continue your superb review work. I always love to read your reviews.

Siert Klunder

Argent Room Lenses are Helmholtz Resonators. As such, they interact primarily with the air volume of your room, not with the direct output of your speakers. However, if you place the Room Lenses off to the sides of your speakers, as shown in Doug Blackburn's review, they will be in the line of your speakers' off-axis output and will have some physical effect on the sound, somewhat like foam or panels used at the first-reflection point. Either way, the height of your speakers shouldn't be an issue for the Room Lenses, which are rather tall themselves....Marc Mickelson

LJT Manufacturing

May 11, 2009


I’ve been following your reviews on SoundStage! for a while now and have been enjoying my Boston Audio Mat 1 for quite some time.

I would like to share a great find -- a Canadian company called, LJT Manufacturing, an aircraft-parts manufacturer that has turned its attention to turntable tweaks. I’m glad they did!

I ran across Larry, the company owner, at the Montreal Son & Image show in early April and had an opportunity to speak with him at his shop in Newmarket, ON. If you check out the website www.ttweights.com, you will see that the products are very reasonably priced.

This weekend I brought home a Periphery Ring to see if it would fit on my turntable, and boy did it ever! This ring and the HeavyWeight record clamp increased space, definition of soundstage, and bass performance like no other change I’ve ever made to my system. I love vinyl!

I would recommend if you have any time to look into this and possibly review, you do so. I think more exposure to products like this will only improve our hobby and let people enjoy their systems more.

Joe Cespite

I will look in to LJT's products and see if we can arrange some coverage. On its homepage, the company shows a Yamaha YP-D10 direct-drive turntable completely decked out with its products. Among the 'tables I have is a Yamaha YP-D8, which is very similar. It's nice to see those great old 'tables from the 1970s still making music....Marc Mickelson

Audiophiles and music lovers

May 8, 2009


I was reflecting on your May 2009 editorial.

I bought my very first record at 13, (Sly and the Family Stone's "Stand") a 7" single that I played on a portable battery-powered record player in the basement.

My oldest daughter celebrated her 11th birthday six months ago. She badly wanted an iPod because all her friends had iPods and it was the cool thing to show off at school. She has a much, much bigger music collection than I had at 16, all bought online. The year before, she got a radio-CD player. When we take trips in summer, she brings her CDs to play in the car. My youngest one (8 years old) has a Yamaha piano, an an acoustic guitar and she keeps asking for an electric one. She could have asked for any Barbie set, but she chose musical instruments.

Music will always be a large part of our lives. I don't know if my kids will ever become "audiophiles," but I guess they're "music lovers" and that's quite all right with me. I can't say I like their music (Katy Perry, Kat deLuca), but my parents didn't like Jimi Hendrix either, so...

Robert Gaboury
Gemme Audio

Esoteric with McIntosh?

May 7, 2009


I enjoy your reviews and value your opinion. I want to buy a new two-channel system. However, I do not want to upgrade and upgrade and upgrade. I want to buy once. Rather than continually upgrading, I'd rather be listening to great music!

Here's what I'm thinking of purchasing: a McIntosh MCD500 CD player, two MC501 amps, a C1000 P&T preamp, and an MR88 tuner. I think McIntosh gear is just beautiful in both appearance and sound. For speakers there is only one option: I love the Revel Salon 2s. My cables will be Cardas Golden Reference.

My question to you is about the CD player. Do you feel the Esoteric X-01 D2 would be a worthwhile option (or should I say upgrade)? Is there a major benefit in keeping it all McIntosh besides the obvious cosmetics? Some people say there definitely is; as for me, I not totally convinced there is. I enjoy SACD, so I'm limited with McIntosh. Saving money was not the deciding factor here; the MCD1000 is CD only (that's why I chose the MCD500).

What is your take on this?

Edwin Owen

It sounds like you are assembling a very fine system, and your approach is a pure one: You want to listen to music, not equipment. I think your instinct to consider a different digital player is a good one, especially when you mention of the Esoteric X-01 D2, which I have here for review now. McIntosh has made its reputation on the strength of its amps and preamps, and you obviously like the look as well. Although the silver X-10 D2 will look jarring next to the dark, handsome McIntosh gear, I think you'll find it a very worthy addition to the system you're assembling, and it is certainly a player I would consider. It is well engineered -- Esoteric has made its reputation on the strength of its digital gear -- and its sound is in the upper echelon of single-box digital players -- with CD and SACD. Be sure to connect it balanced, in which case it will sound its very best....Marc Mickelson

Aurum Acoustics system?

May 6, 2009

To Doug Schneider,

I'm considering the Aurum Acoustics Integris system as a whole and have a couple of questions. If you have time to respond, I would appreciate it.

First, I've listened for several years intermittently to a modest number of systems. My music taste is eclectic, ranging from Gregorian and early madrigals to bop, folk and new age. I don't often listen loud, though I sometimes dance to R&R and look forward to being affected by everyone from Sinatra to Patricia Barber, Grace Potter and [gasp] Diana Krall.

There is no way to audition Derek Moss's gear. Fidelis AV was his US importer, and they have returned his demo system. Nobody I know owns his gear, and only two friends -- whose opinions I respect, and who have been at this much longer than I -- have heard the Integris system. One thinks it's the system with which he could get off the merry-go-round; the other thinks it was very respectable but not definitive. They're both savvy listeners.

In Jim Smith's Get Better Sound, there's an assertion that all systems that sound great have slightly elevated output between 192-384Hz. While I'm skeptical about so blanket a statement, Smith, too, is a highly respected authority, having won numerous "best sound of show" awards for systems he has voiced at CES and RMAF.

I'm not in the habit of buying any audio gear without hearing it, so I am trying to learn from Audiogon's two self-proclaimed Integris owners what "life has been like" post-acquisition. Further, I don't want to step into that place here. I give up the authority of my own ears to those one supposes "should know."

You lived with the system for awhile, but that was also some time ago now. May I ask your postpartum impressions? Art Dudley wrote in Stereophile that the Integris system missed giving us "the best of both worlds," by which I took him to mean that the integrated approach, particularly with active speakers, didn't satisfy his ears or soul. He also claimed a somewhat less-than-glowing bass output (could this be the flat frequency response in the telltale (euphonic?) frequencies that Smith alludes to?) and a limited degree of emotional involvement for his preferences. I don't know Art Dudley, and I am aware of some fraction of the personal preferences that can influence a written review. In fairness to Derrick Moss, there's no accounting made of room treatments in Art Dudley's room, and we all know that can be nothing short of determinative in a system's performance. Further, the bass section of the Integris system's amplifier has been reconfigured since the Dudley review.

I've tried, from respect for your time, to keep this concise. I have never had a reference-level system, and I am more interested in musicality -- to me, being emotionally transported -- than I am in a never-ending search for a perfect blend of components. I am a self admitted romantic, and I want to be moved when I listen; it's one of my vehicles to balance out caring for a cranky and demanding elderly parent. (The blessing of diminished hearing is not wasted on me at present; may it never afflict either of us.)

Thank you in advance for your time. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. My present system is a JoLida 100 CD player (stage 1 mod) and JoLida 502 amp (both tube, tweaked), and older Triangle Gaemma Stratos 260 speakers with Mike Morrow cabling.

David Kellogg

I do have some very strong "postpartum impressions" of that system. In fact, I was just discussing it with someone the other day. Quite simply, it’s the very best stereo system I’ve ever had in my room. It’s neutral but not sterile, revealing but never clinical. Counter to the comments that it doesn’t have deep bass, I can certainly say that it does -- which is also confirmed by our measurements (-20dB at 20Hz). I suspect that those who don’t think it has deep bass are probably used to speakers that aren’t as neutral and have an strong emphasis at anywhere from 80-120Hz. That emphasis gives the speaker more punch and the impression of low bass, even if there is none. Which brings me to Jim Smith’s comment about an emphasis from 192-384Hz. Honestly, I’ve never heard that, but I have heard some great systems with no emphasis in that region, so I’d dismiss that blanket statement, too.

That’s my impression, still, and if I had the money I’d buy it. Should you buy the system based on that? Definitely not. Two people can hear the same system in the same room and one might think it’s great while the other won’t think it’s anything special at all. I witness this at shows all the time. It’s impossible to predict which side you’d come out on -- definitely don’t gamble.

On the other hand, do try to hear it if you can. It’s really worth a listen, and perhaps it’ll be the system of your dreams, allowing you to get off the merry-go-round. Since you’re thinking of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on this system, can I suggest a quick plane ride to where Aurum Acoustics is located? Newfoundland is very nice this time of year….Doug Schneider

The "human" side of the MAXX 3s -- and Diana Krall

May 4, 2009


Nice review of the Wilson Audio MAXX 3s. It's actually one of your better ones, I think. I liked how you tried to convey that the voicing of the Wilsons is moving from an analytical to a "human" nature. Ironically, I was reading the review with morning coffee, Diana Krall's Love Scenes purring from my Verity Parsifal Ovation speakers. Ha! I almost sprayed the monitor with coffee when you mentioned the same recording in your review. How's that for irony?

I had the fortune to see Diana Krall live on Thursday night at Massey Hall, and all I've got to say is "Wow!" Go see her live -- it will be a night you won't forget. She's on tour now. Just to catch her live is perhaps the most "human" performance you'll see and hear this year.

David Dowdell