Simaudio or Pass Labs with Dynaudio

August 31, 2009

To Uday Reddy,

I just finished reading your review of the Pass INT-150 integrated amp. I have a pair of Dynaudio Confidence C1 speakers and am considering the comparison of the Pass and a Simaudio i-7. Do you have any thoughts regarding this comparison? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Bill Bretz

While I don't have any experience with either Dynaudio or Simaudio products, I assume they're excellent, given their reputations. That being said, I really enjoyed the INT-150. While living in Connecticut, I had a dedicated listening room that was excellent but narrow in width. After moving to California, I was renting a home in suburban LA with a very compromised listening room that was quite narrow. Only after moving into my new home last month, with its wide and deep dimensions and cathedral ceiling, did I find out just how broad and deep a soundstage my Wilson Audio Sophias were capable of delivering (this after five years of ownership). The amazing thing about the INT-150 was that even in my previous room, it suggested just how capable the Sophias were. With the speakers placed so close together in my previous rooms, I experienced excellent 3D imaging, but these images were almost laser-like in focus and hyper-realistic. In my current room, I still have excellent imaging, but the sound is more diffuse, more like what you experience in a live setting. The INT-150 was providing that kind of imagery even in a less-than-ideal setting. If this is the kind of reproduction you favor, I'd highly recommend it. Additionally, the INT-150 provides excellent performance at a much better cost than similar integrated amps from other manufacturers. . . . Uday Reddy

Speaker sensitivity and tubes

August 24, 2009

To Doug Schneider,

I have been a long-time reader and know you have extensively auditioned both the Definitive Technology Mythos STS and the Usher Audio Be-718. I do like the Usher Be-718 but feel that its low sensitivity has its drawbacks. It does, however, sound clean, expansive and very even-handed. The Definitive Mythos STS speaker counters with higher sensitivity (I have not heard them in my home and will try to get a home audition).

I would love to try the Usher Be-718s with some low-power tubes, but that sounds like a recipe for disaster. A lower-power tube amp with the Definitive Mythos STS, however, seems plausible. Since you have listened to both, can you comment more on the differences between these two speakers?


Eric Ajimine

Sensitivity is not an indicator of sound quality, but will help to tell you how much power you’ll need to supply to make a loudspeaker play at a certain sound-pressure level. We measured the Be-718 to be 83dB (2.83V/1m), which is a little lower than average. The Mythos STS is a little over 89dB, which is slightly higher than average . (The average is about 87dB based on all the speakers we’ve measured.) You’re right -- low-power tubes with the Be-718 does seem to be a recipe for disaster, unless you have a very small room and listen at low levels. I didn’t try the Mythos STS with tubes, but it seems like an option worth trying.

The performance of the two speakers is comparable in that they’re both fairly neutral and have a beautifully fleshed-out midrange presentation. The Be-718 has impressive bass, but it’s no match for the Mythos STS which has a powered bass section and sounds like it has a subwoofer attached (some might argue that the powered bass section is a subwoofer). The Be-718 counters with superb highs that rival speakers multiples of its price. They’re similar sounding but different enough. . . . Doug Schneider

The "best bookshelf"

August 20, 2009

To Doug Schneider,

First of all, thanks for taking the time to read this. My name is Eduardo and I live in Brazil. I am a big fan of your reviews and how honest you are. Thanks!

I have the opportunity of my life to buy a very nice bookshelf speaker. I have B&W 704 speakers and I am not happy with them since they are too big for my room and lack refinement. They are also giving me boomy bass, mainly because I do not have much space between the speakers and the front wall.

I decided to go to bookshelf speakers for obvious reaons. I love jazz, blues, and classical music, but also rock, so I love bass too. I am looking for a very nice bookshelf below $10,000. Unfortunately, not all speakers are available to listen to.

I have short listed the following speakers:

  • Focal Utopia III Diablo
  • Focal Utopia Micro BE
  • KEF Reference 201/2
  • B&W 805S
  • Revel Ultima Gem2
  • Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor M

They have very different list prices, so my questions would be twofold: What is the best bookshelf you have ever listened to? Which one is the best value, or the bang for the buck, in the $4000-$10,000 range?

Best Regards,

Eduardo Carvalho, a music lover from Brazil

The best bookshelf speaker I’ve ever heard and the one that’s the best bang for the buck are the same speaker: the KEF Reference 201/2 that I reviewed almost two years ago and happens to be on your list. Good pick. But that’s not to say it is the best bookshelf speaker in that price range. I haven’t heard everything on that list in detail, and I certainly haven’t heard everything out there priced under $10,000 -- there are a lot of bookshelf speakers to consider. But, one has to start and stop somewhere. Your picks are interesting and it’s quite possible that you might strike gold there.

Besides the KEF, I’ve always liked the Utopia line and Revel’s new Ultima Gem2 looks like, well, a gem. I have the big Salon2 in my listening room right now and it’s quite something. If you want more to add to what’s already a good list, here are a few models: Rockport Technologies Mira Monitor, Paradigm Reference Signature S2 v.2 and Usher Audio Technology Be-718. Write back and let me know what you end up with. . . . Doug Schneider

Integris Active 300B versus Magico V2

August 17, 2009

To Doug Schneider,

I have Derrick Moss' Integris Active 300B system with the Integris CDP.

Recently, I listened to the Magico V2 in a dealer's showroom (Goodwin's High End, as set up by Paul Chambers and a colleague) and was blown away. Boy, given some lead time, they can set up a system! In 19 years of listening -- intermittent, I admit -- I've only heard "musical" systems three times: the V2s provided the third. I feel confident that Derrick's gear is capable of something very similar, but I haven't gotten the setup right yet. I've been at it for about six weeks, working with both Jim Smith's tips and Derrick's.

My 18th-century listening room has a 7' 1" plaster ceiling and is 16' long and 13' wide. There are pine floors covered with 1/2" padding under a handmade wool carpet that abuts the wall behind the speakers, plaster walls on three sides with raised filed paneling flanking the brick fireplace (which is filled with furniture and low bookcases). The room was cluttered with the first setup: along the short south wall there was a bureau centered behind the system, and a second bureau to the west, necessitating an asymmetrical setup. (The bureaus are basically not moveable, partly due to family pressure and to their antique value: there's no other safe place for them). The system sounded clear and clean, but the bottom was loose, not extended, and there was little coherence.

In my frustration, I've cleared out the desks in the room, removing almost all the clutter, to allow placing the speakers on the north wall. They are about 35" from the front wall (measured to the center of the tweeter), 53" from the side wall, and I've moved the seating position well into the room, to follow Derrick's suggestion for nearfield listening. Bass is better, there is more coherence, but the system is not yet playing the room; it's not musical, to my ears, as Goodwin's setup was with the V2s.

Upon cleaning all the connections with Walker's cleaning kit and adding the Isoclean fuses, things got much better, less grunge (I wasn't aware of any before) and it's listenable now, but not "musical."

What are your thoughts? How did you set up Derrick's gear -- or did he set it up for you to audition? I'm willing to try positioning along the long wall, etc., to get the sound where I feel confident it can be. I would welcome your suggestions for dialing in the room.

With best wishes,

David Kellogg

To answer one of your questions first, Derrick did a nearfield setup with his speakers, but at the end of the review period after I’d auditioned the speakers with my own setup, which had the speakers farther apart and further from my listening position and, obviously, closer to the walls. I heard certain qualities with his setup -- notably, a tight and focused soundstage -- but I liked my setup better.

As for your predicament, one thing to be wary of is that when you compare systems in two different rooms -- even identical systems -- it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. The room itself has an enormous impact on the sound. What you heard at Goodwin’s may not translate to your room and, vice versa, what you’re hearing in your room may not be the same at Goodwin’s even with the same gear. Therefore, the V2s may not sound the same in your home as they did there.

I picked up two important things from your letter. First, that most of your issues seem to be with the bass. Second, you’ve got room constraints. Now, here’s something to know and remember: Kevin Voecks of Revel often says that the room has more of an impact on what you hear below 300Hz than the speaker does. People often overlook this when they’re evaluating, or trying to correct, the bass performance in a speaker. It’s also why speakers that produce less bass can work better in some rooms (they don’t go as low, so they don’t excite the room with super-low-frequency information) and why nearfield setups can sometimes work better (when you move the speakers away from the walls you reduce the effects of the room).

Don’t be too quick to blame the speaker, particularly one that can go down to 20Hz like the Aurum speaker can. Setup is critical and what you might be wise to do in this case is consult with someone who truly understands room acoustics and can come over and not only evaluate what’s happening in your room, but help you set up your system to make it sound the best. . . . Doug Schneider

Break-in and the Magico V2

August 11, 2009

To Doug Schneider,


I don't know how long a break-in period your demo pair had, but if they're anything like the Magico Mini lls I own, they will continue to get better and better for several hundred hours. The bass on my speakers is still improving after 400+ hours or so.

I enjoy your frank, to-the-point reviews.


Brendan FitzGerald

I don't know how many hours I had on the V2s, but the ones I received weren't new. Also, the information I received from Magico's Alon Wolf was that they were pretty much ready to go. . . . Doug Schneider

Aurum Cantus V2M review?

August 6, 2009

To Doug Schneider,

After reading excellent reviews on the Aurum Cantus V2M, I would love to see what you have to say about them.

Could you please consider the Aurum Cantus V2M for a review?


Willy Nielsen

I've looked at this speaker at shows, but we've never researched it further. You have my interest piqued, so I will look into it. Suggestions like these are always welcome! . . . Doug Schneider

Measurements and the Amphion Argon2 Anniversary

August 3, 2009

To S. Andrea Sundaram,

I read your interesting review of the Amphion Argon2 Anniversary speakers and I am very interested in how they measure compared to the "plain" Argon2.

Will you put up these measurements on the website?

Best regards,

Jesper Rudefors

I, too, would have liked to see measurements of the Argon2 Anniversary, but due to time constraints, we did not send them to the NRC to get measured. Measurements that I conducted in my own listening room showed them to be very similar, but these are not rigorous enough to be published. . . . S. Andrea Sundaram