New Belles or new speakers or . . . ?

October 20, 2009

To Vade Forrester,

I've enjoyed reading your reviews and notice you've mentioned that you have a good deal of familiarity with Belles gear. I have the 350A Reference amp and the 28A preamp. I’m also using the ATC SCM35 speakers and the Copland CDA 822 CD player. I like all of the individual components but I'd like to get a smoother, more refined, airier, bigger-soundstage sound. I'm thinking of trying the Usher Be-718, but I'm wondering whether the 28A is my problem. Any and all thoughts would be appreciated.



Thanks for checking out our reviews. The Belles 350A is a fine component, as is the 28A preamp. It's been a few years since I heard them, however, so my memory of how they sounded is somewhat fuzzy. I just reviewed the Belles VT-01 preamp (not yet published) and thought it was amazingly good, in several ways better than my more expensive Audio Research LS26. The VT-01 is pricier than the 28A at $4695, but it's a very nice line stage. Soundstaging is particularly good.

I haven't heard the 350A with the Usher Be-718s, but I've heard the MB-200 monoblocks with those speakers and they sounded great. My local Belles dealer (whose opinions usually dovetail with mine) tells me he did try the 28A/350A/Be-718 combination, and thought they sounded excellent. The Be-718s are real overachievers, and a terrific value. I haven't heard your ATC speakers, but I've heard some other ATCs, and my recollection is that while they sounded smooth and detailed, they didn't have a particularly well-defined soundstage. If you have a dealer that could loan you some Ushers that's probably where I'd start. Be sure to use them with good stands. I think the newer Belles gear would also improve the sound, something you might want to investigate later. . . . Vade Forrester

Bryston 4B SST2 questions

August 14, 2009

To John Crossett,

I just finished reading your review of the Bryston 4B SST2 amplifier. Years ago, I purchased a 4B for my Dahlquist DQ-10s and loved it; however, I lost it to my ex! I've recently rebuilt the speakers around an Anthem Statement A5 and find the neutrality a little too flat and bright. The DQ-10s are horribly inefficient.

I've been toying with the idea of switching back to two-channel audio, selling my A5 for this new amp. However, when I looked at the picture, I saw only one transformer? That's not a monoblock design, as my old 4B was. Also, the THD is three times higher for this new amp as compared to my A5. Has this product actually deteriorated in quality since my 4B? Would it still rank as a better-quality amp than my A5? I'm sorry for all the questions. I'm not a wealthy person and so I like to make informed decisions. My feeling is that you're tuned in and are a good person to ask. If you have the time, I'd appreciate your thoughts.



If you read my review then you know how I feel about the SST series in general, and the SST2 version in particular. Personally, I found earlier versions of the Bryston amps to be too bright for my ears. The new SST seems to have kept all the strengths that Bryston is known for and warmed up the sound considerably, with the SST2 version being the best yet. (That's why I bought the review sample.)

The SST2 version, like all other 4B SST models, is a true dual-mono design. While it may look as though there is only one transformer, there are really two -- one is above the other. As to the THD spec: Trust me, you'll never hear it as it's still very, very low. I wouldn't lose any sleep over that aspect at all.

Would I call the Bryston a better amp than your Anthem? Never having heard the Anthem in any kind of conditions where I could make an accurate judgment, I'd have a hard time saying. But I think the Bryston is a superb amp, with plenty of power for your speakers and that 20-year warranty that comes with it is a killer. Give one a listen if you can. . . . John Crossett

Which Luxman integrated for Aerials?

April 7, 2009

To Uday Reddy,

Thank you for the great review of the Luxman L-509u. I enjoyed reading it. I am looking for a new amplifier and am leaning towards one of the Luxman solid-state integrated models. It seems the L-509u and L-590A II offer superior sound quality, although the L-505 and L-550 are very good. Do you consider the L-509u and L-590A II sonic equals, or do you think one clearly stands above the other? My speakers are the Aerial Acoustics Model 6s.


Mark Lombardi

I really loved the L-509u, and if I hadn't been in the process of buying a new house, I would have definitely purchased one. Given my enthusiastic review of the L-509u, Philip O'Hanlon, Luxman's importer, urged me to have a listen to the L-590A II and arranged for me to have a sample for a few weeks. Although I did not have the L-509u on hand for comparison, it was still fresh in my mind and I was able to make some meaningful observations.

From a bass standpoint, the L-509u has few peers. It has solid control of the woofer, which allows faster and firmer bass response. While the L-590A II was no slouch, the bass extension was less deep and noticeably softer, though by no means flabby or indistinct. Where the L-590A II really excelled was in the midrange, with a tonal richness especially suited to acoustic music such as classical or jazz. I attribute this to its pure-class-A output. The Model 6 has a sensitivity of 86dB and has an impedance of 6 ohms, so you may want to consider the L-509u's higher power output, especially if you listen to a lot of amplified music such as rock'n’roll or jazz-fusion. That being said, the L-590A II did not strain to drive my loudspeakers to higher sound-pressure levels. In its favor, the L-590A II does come with a remote control, which Luxman does not offer with the L-509u. Overall, I don't think you can go wrong with either of the two Luxman products and if you have the opportunity, you should audition both. Good luck and let me know which amp you choose. . . . Uday Reddy