Two speakers

July 29, 2009

Dear Doug,

My name is João Dias and I´m from Portugal. Congratulations for the excellent "magazine," which has been going 13 years without slowing down!

In Portugal, it’s not easy to listen to some products, and almost every upgrade for my system was done after reading reviews. Sometimes it was a good choice; others, well, a disappointment. In some cases, even after listening at the store, I had a very different result when the product ended up in my room.

Since I was a boy, I always had my sound systems in my bedroom. My bedroom is about 4.2m wide by 4.4m long and 2.5m high. The bed is near the floor, and it’s where I listen to music. I love detail and a kind of sweet and clean sound, but I also like solid, articulate bass response and a dynamic sound. Lots of ‘80s Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, and so on.

My system:

  • Plinius 9100 integrated amplifier (I love this piece)
  • Musical Fidelity A5 CD player
  • A Clearaudio turntable is on the way and a Plinius Jarrah phono stage is
    already here

I need your opinion about the right speakers. Some years ago I listened to KEF Reference 205 speakers with a Musical Fidelity amplifier and I just loved it. I have the opportunity to buy these models (used ones) but, unfortunately, I can’t listen before I buy: KEF Reference 201/2 and JMlab Mezzo Utopia.

What do you think? Thank you in advance for your kind assistance.

Best regards,

João Dias

Thank you for writing from so far away. Also, I want to thank you for recognizing just how long we've been publishing, and that we've never missed a publication date!

Of those two speakers, I only know the KEF 201/2 well because I reviewed it. I really like that speaker, but because it’s a smaller speaker, I fear that it might not deliver the kind of bass you want. The 201/2's bass is tight, but it's not super-deep. On the other hand, your room isn't that big, so it might be ideal. The only thing I know about the Mezzo Utopia is that it’s quite a bit larger and, as a result, will likely deliver much deeper bass. But will it be too much bass for your room? That’s hard to say, and that’s why it’s really best to try before you buy, particularly with speakers. Unfortunately, that seems to be the predicament you're in.

The only suggestion I have is this: err on the side of too little bass than too much. The reason is that if you have a small speaker that only delivers modest bass, you can play with the placement in your room to maximize the bass. For example, a speaker placed close to a wall boundary will produce more bass than one out in the room. On the other hand, if the speaker produces too much bass and overloads it, that's hard to get rid of, even with strategic placement. I hope that helps, at least a little. . . . Doug Schneider

New floorstanding speakers

July 26, 2009

To Vade Forrester,

I read with great interest your review on the Cerwin-Vega CLS-215 speakers. I am in the market for floorstanding speakers and have about $900 to spend. Do you know about the Axiom speakers? Any help would be great. I have a Yamaha RX-797 receiver. I only want stereo speakers. I have no need for surround sound.

Thank you,

Richard Rogers

Thanks for checking out our reviews. Unfortunately, I've never had the opportunity to hear any Axiom speakers, but we've reviewed several of them, and I see that they've gotten raves from our reviewers.

The CLS-215 speakers are quite large. They take up lots of floor space. They sound good, and should be a good match for a receiver, since they are pretty efficient. If I were thinking of buying the CLS-215s, I might consider the CLS-15s, which have a single 15" woofer in a shorter cabinet. They are cheaper, too. Pleasant listening . . . Vade Forrester

Cartridge shopping

July 20, 2009

To John Crossett,

As someone who is about to invest in either a Clearaudio Performance or at the very least the Ortofon Black model, depending upon finances, I would love to know your honest opinion on these two cartridges, as I see from your review of the Black from '08 that you know both of them quite well. As I tend to do a great deal of research prior to investing in anything these days -- I've Googled my heart out -- I have only been able to come across three cartridges that people tend to mention over and over again, namely either the Maestro, the Black, or the Dynavector DV 20XH.

I'm primarily a jazz diehard with a great deal of recordings from the early ‘50s until about 1988 or so, when many labels began to stop releasing LPs besides Blue Note and Classic Records. As my main focus has always been on jazz, I merely wish to have a cartridge that swings, yet without having the music thrown into my listening seat. I tend to love a sound that is laid-back without being dull, if you know what I'm getting at. I know that due to its maker the Maestro might be a better fit, but what I wish to have above all is the best-sounding cartridge out of these three.

I wish to thank you in advance for your assistance on this, as many dealers appear to have their minds set upon selling one or the other, yet in the end I tend to believe that those who have actually used said cartridges within their own systems are the ones I trust. Please share the knowledge.



I'm glad you enjoyed the review of the Ortofon Black cartridge. I certainly enjoyed listening to it. It and the Maestro come very close in their presentations and I think you'd be happy with either. The Maestro might be a bit warmer and the Black a bit more precise, but it's very close. I own the Maestro, and like it, but had I heard the Black first I might very well have leaned in that direction. As a jazz fan myself I don't think you'll go wrong with either, given your priorities. . . . John Crossett


July 14, 2009

To Doug Schneider,

I've been a very long-time reader of SoundStage! and consider you guys one of the best publications in the business. I've bought equipment based on your reviews and have never disagreed with your conclusions.

I am anxious to hear someone, anyone, review the just-released Wyred 4 Sound integrated amplifiers (STI-500 or STI-1000) which, at $2000-$2500, could be killers. Actually, I'd love to see it reviewed at SoundStage!, hence this email.

Bill Thomas

If you read my editorial this month, you'll see that we're looking to diversify our coverage. Until now, I'd only heard about the company in passing. This message has prompted me to look into them more. We can't guarantee that we'll review the products, but rest assured that they're now on our radar. . . . Doug Schneider

Power and the Magico V2

July 7, 2009

Hello Doug,

I was reading where Jonathan Valin gave a link to your review of the V2. I just finished it and found it very well written and informative. I especially appreciate the comparison to the Aurum Acoustics Integris Active 300B speaker system since my audio friend who lives down the street just bought a complete Aurum system which I helped him to set up.

I have been interested in the Magico line of speakers for some time, but cannot find a way to justify the cost -- until the V2 arrived, that is. My Boston-area dealer does not yet have a pair, but I eagerly await their arrival for an audition.

The question I have for you is regarding amplifier power. In your sidebar, you recommend starting with at least 150W. Is that at 8 ohms or 4 ohms? I have the incredible new Pass Labs XA100.5 amplifiers -- class-A operation delivering 100W at 8 ohms and 200W at 4 ohms. In your opinion, would these monoblocks have enough power to adequately drive the V2? I have a small room of 16' x 15' x 7.5'. My EgglestonWorks Rosa speakers are 87dB with a 6-ohm load (4-ohm minimum), but I have the feeling they could use even more power because that sense of ease and the explosive impact of live sound is slightly missing. Are the V2s really 89dB?

Thank you for any advice that you may have.

Peter Ayer

In an anechoic chamber, which is where we measured the V2, the voltage sensitivity is 86dB (2.83V/1m), which is what you'd expect from a speaker of this type. The amplifier ratings I mentioned were all in reference to an 8-ohm load. I found the V2 to sound better with higher-powered amplifiers than with lower-powered ones, preferring something that outputs at least 150Wpc. However, don't get hung up on just that. Use that as a guide and work from there. Certain amplifiers sound more powerful than they actually are. For example, my Blue Circle Audio BC204 amp sounds more powerful than its 150Wpc rating lets on. Other amps don't sound as powerful as their specs make it seem. Since I don't have any experience with the XA100.5, I can't tell you how it will perform. The only thing I can say is that given what you've said, it's certainly worth a try. . . . Doug Schneider

Arcam FMJ A32

July 3, 2009

Hi Doug,

I'm writing about your review of the Arcam FMJ A32 integrated amplifier that you wrote way back in 2002. I currently own a Classé Audio CAP-101 which was released back in 2002 also. It's very similar to the CAP-80 which you may be familiar with. Are these integrated amps more similar than different? Would I just be swapping one for the other and just making a lateral move?

I'd be interested in your thoughts.


Steve Anders

It's been almost seven years since I reviewed the A32 so any serious comparison is out of the question. Furthermore, I'm not that familiar with the Classé Audio CAP-100 or the CAP-80 even though I currently have a CAP-2100 (their current top-of-the-line integrated) in for review. That said, I distinctly remember being impressed with the A32 because it was near perfect in terms of sound quality and functionality. The only other thing I recall was that the build was a little flimsy when you compare it to something like, say, a Classé, which, regardless of the model, seems to have a more robust chassis. The CAP-2100 I have is made as well as anything out there. It's more expensive, mind you, but all the Classé models seem to have that substantial feel. So, in that regard, it might actually be a step backward. In terms of sound quality and functionality, as I already mentioned, the A32 really impressed me, but it's been far too long. . . . Doug Schneider