[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
July 1998


July 30, 1998

Release the latest issue on the first of every month. Keep the reviewers busy with products to review so that it is always worth checking your website  to see what is new. I do think that you do a good job already though -- much better than [other online magazines].

I also really enjoy the various columns as I like discovering new ways to tweak my system or selecting a portable CD player. I have been an audiophile for 18 years and yet I still find things to learn, courtesy of your various columns.


...Don Parkhurst

July 26, 1998

Re: Monarchy Audio SE-100 Delux monoblocks

So, this is essentially a review of an out of date amp? Seems like a follow up with the new one is in order.

...Rick Becker

We found out at the moment of the publish date that Monarchy had updated the amplifiers. As a result, we got in touch with them right away. Monarchy has agreed to send Frank Alles a set of the updated amps for a follow-up review. This will appear as soon as possible -- likely fall 1998....DAS

July 24, 1998

I've been surfing to your websites for a few weeks and I think you're doing a great job of publishing truly worthy information. I particularly like Greg Weaver's Synergizing series and his tips on wringing/"tweaking" the maximum amount of fidelity out of a system for the minimum amount of dollars.

One comment I have though is that I would prefer to see update dates on the
pages rather than the "New" splashes. These will help readers judge what is really new since the last time they came by.

Could you also please update the monthly Synergizing page with links to the other Synergizing pages referenced on the Feature Articles Archive page?

...Bill Canilang

Good points Bill.  In time we will be bringing all of Greg's articles out of that archive and putting it straight into the Synergizing archive.  His articles have a lot of great information and we certainly want to make it as easy as possible to find. Thanks...DAS

July 16, 1998

To: Doug Blackburn (dB)

A hi-fi newcomer, I've just read your archived Noisy Audiophile series. It pulled together everything I thought I might have learned so far about audio without striking a single false note. Beautifully written and every claim wonderfully well supported, qualified or explained. For the first time, I feel as though I have some real insight into the high-end world.

Many thanks,

...Ian Baker

Thanks for your comments, Ian. It's always good to hear that your writing is connecting with readers. I dropped the "Noisy Audiophile" name for my SoundStage! articles some time ago in favor of the new and improved "Maximum dB" you'll see on my monthly column. I also write the occasional product review and show report. You can also find me regularly contributing to Talk Online, the SoundStage! message/discussion area, using "dB" to identify myself. Hope you find some of these articles, reviews and answers to audio questions just as useful as the older Noisy Audiophile articles....Doug Blackburn (aka Maximum dB, aka dB, previously Noisy Audiophile)

July 13, 1998

[Please] remember that most of the world might like reading about single ended tube monoblock amps and megabuck systems, but we're more likely to spend $800 - $1500 on our entire system, at least until we catch a fatal dose of this Hi-Fi bug. Steve Rochlin is working on a section of www.enjoythemusic.com with components for less than $200. (Even the hardcore folks might be interested in similar recommendations for their office/family room/weekend cottage/teenager etc.). And keep those cheap tweaks, budget racks, home brew interconnects, and such coming!!

...Bruce Jones

July 12, 1998

Dear Editor:

I have read all of Greg Smith's entry-level articles and I must say that I am concerned that the advice he is dispensing to audio novices will lead to poor value and a seriously unbalanced system. In short, his formula for building a system is to buy the speakers first, then an amp which can drive them, and lastly a CD player, preferably multi-disc unit with a tonal balance that tries to alleviate the shortcomings or meld with the sound of the speakers and amp.

Common knowledge now is that the source is the most critical component, followed by the electronics and finally the speakers. Mr. Smith's advice treats the source as an afterthought. I know what will happen when someone sets out to build a system with this method. He will blow half his budget on speakers, too much on electronics and buy a crappy CD player with the remains. By the way, Greg's (former?) system featuring a Rotel multi-disc player and Klipsch speakers shows this imbalance nicely. He would have done much better to reverse the amounts spent on source vs. speakers.

In reading these articles, I am reminded of the many mistakes I made and some of the well-intentioned but misguided advice I have dispensed over the years that I have followed this hobby. The difference is that Greg Smith's advice reaches more people than I have probably met in my lifetime, and his learning curve will be costly, in terms of dollars and musical enjoyment, to a lot of other people.

I am sorry to sound so negative, but I feel very strongly that the entry level is sadly ignored by almost every credible audio magazine in North America. I enjoy your E-zine very much; in fact, it is exactly what I had hoped for when I first joined the Internet. I don't agree with everything in any of the decent audio publications, but I disagree vehemently with almost everything Greg Smith has written about putting together an entry level hi-fi.

Best Regards,

...Dan Bonhomme

While I recognize the "source is the most critical component" movement as having some interesting arguments, it's far from being "common knowledge." In fact, I don't even feel it's a correct approach nowadays. Fact is, when we're talking about digital components, the performance differences between the cheap and the expensive are narrowing every day. While it's easier to justify with analog sources, skewing an entry-level budget heavily toward more expensive digital gear is money wasted. It's very difficult indeed to distinguish one of today's $400-$600 players from even their $3000+ brethren, especially in a system of moderate cost.

While I respect your priorities as valid for your own selection criteria, for many people, spending half their budget on speakers is exactly the right move to make. And the thought of buying an amplifier without having some knowledge of the speakers it will drive is misguided in my opinion. I have a friend who is right now undecided about purchasing a large set of electrostatic panels vs. getting a more traditional speaker design with a considerably higher sensitivity. Should this person get an amplifier yet, before making that decision? I don't think so.

In reality, people don't just have constraints on money when putting together a budget system. They have restrictions on space, placement, and even decor. These factors demand addressing speakers early on. Speakers sound more different from each other than any other component in the signal chain, especially when you're dealing with inexpensive equipment. Selecting them last is certain to lead to disappointment for average entry-level buyers, as they discover that the remaining share of their budget doesn’t allow the level of dynamics or bass performance they want to satisfy their musical tastes while still keeping an appropriate level of overall quality....Greg Smith

July 6, 1998

How come you guys have never reviewed Legacy loudspeakers or covered their rooms at the shows?

...Troy Richards

Hi Troy...We know that Legacy speakers have a fine reputation, and the only reason we haven't reviewed them is because we haven't had contact with the company. We'll look into it. In regard to shows, which are challenging to cover as we do, we try to visit every room, and it's only an oversight if we don't say something about one manufacturer or another...Marc Mickelson

July 5, 1998

To: Greg Weaver

I will have my VR-4 Gen.II loudspeakers delivered in a couple of days [reviewed by Greg Weaver in the July 1998 issue]. Can you smell the excitement?!

I wonder: are they delivered with some kind of feet or cones? Do they need any? What did you use?

Best regards,


Hi Lars.  The VR-4 Gen.II loudspeakers come with steel spikes and if you have anything but a concrete floor, they should be considered mandatory. Their use allows for a tightening of the mid bass and a clarity from the mid bass on up into the higher midrange. However, take the appropriate allen wrench and tighten the spike seats in the base of the bass cabinets. This will help you down the road as you go to adjust them. Trust me on this one, I learned the hard way that they need tightened...Greg Weaver

July 4, 1998

Dear sir,I just discovered your site and am very impressed.

Unlike most of your readers, I am a female, who for 20 years has had a strong interest in audio and music. In reading some of the readers email to your site, several mentioned a February or March article that described how to put together a "cheap" or, shall we say, inexpensive set of interconnects using Radio Shack components (Though suspicious of Radio shack products, I'll believe your readers.). However, since I just discovered the site, I do not have a copy of the article or how to contruct the interconnects. I looked around your site but couldn't find it in the back issues. Can you help by directing me to the article on your site or e mailing me the article? I would truly appreciate your effort.

Thanks for your help...nice site.

...Name Withheld Upon Request

For each of the columnists' back-issue articles (in this case Greg Weaver's Synergizing column), you can find the links at the bottom of the current issue...Doug Schneider

July 4, 1998

I'm glad that you guys were able to work the bugs out of your show coverage. I agree that the net is now the best way to get information about hifi and other speciality products.

Websites like yours have replaced my favourite [print] magazines in providing the kind of information I need to pursue hifi as a hobby and sites like Digitalbits and The DVD Resource page have replaced Widescreen Review as my main source of information on home theatre.  In fact I find the websites of some of these magazines to provide more up to date information than the magazines themselves.

I also use the web to shop for hifi bargains from the Audio Advisor, HCM, Music Direct and others. In fact, I got a great deal on a used DTI PRO 32 from the Audio Advisor and thanks to Dave Duvall for faxing me the instructions which were missing!

Anyway, I was wondering what your plans are for the video section of  SoundStage!?


...Roger Kanno

Hi Roger and thanks for the comments.  I am glad to hear that you are finding the value of web in providing this type of information.  The sites that you mention I also frequent as they are very good sources of information.  And yes, the online retailers are a great way to find fantastic equipment deals.

As for the Video Online magazine, we're just getting going on it but in the future we hope to grow it to the scale of our Audio Online magazine complete with DVD and equipment reviews and feature articles pertaining to video and home theater...Doug Schneider

July 3, 1998

At the [Sony HI-FI '98] press conference, did they mention a release date, pre-order date, or price for the 7700 (other than "fall of 1998")?

Best regards,


At the press conference, questions were raised about exact availability and pricing of the new Sony DVD-7700 player.   "Fall of 1998" was all the information that was given.  As well, the model we photographed was only a 'mockup' of the unit.  We understand that the real unit is still under development....Doug Schneider

July 3, 1998

Excellent editorial by Mr. Schneider [How the Web Was Won - Monthly Editorial, July 1998]. We experienced the same thing when we were launching our site. The potential of the Internet is unlimited and an excellent way to reach customers. We believe that direct sale offers the audiophile excellent value and us the ability to know our customers.

I am glad that SoundStage! is online. It is easy to access at any time and it is much more dynamic and current than print publications.

...Tom Swenson

Thanks for reading. Yes, the Internet is a constantly amazing medium that we're finding is especially good for the discussion of high-end audio and music, probably because a large number of audiophiles are gadget people with computers. Our readership has grown exponentially over the last 18 months, and this has given us the opportunity to branch out and grow as a publication. Glad to know you like what we're doing....Marc Mickelson, Editor-in-Chief


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