[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
November 1998


November 27, 1998

Dear Marc Mickelson:

It's hard for to know if our lives will be better because of the virtues of Music Sciences O2 Blocker.

Mostly anything done to a hi-fi system will (in my mind) change the performance in some way. This leaves room for O2 Blocker to have some desirable effect. However, neither you nor I really seem to know. A truly desirable effect might be shown with a blind test, or through the use of accelerated aging in the lab.

Since all the information we have are the claims of Music Sciences and your experiment with pennies (which might not correlate to hi-fi equipment in living rooms), we cannot conclude anything about the value of the product.  

In this light, valid conclusions to the review might be:

  • Give it a try -- it won't hurt.
  • Save your money for something else.
  • Wait for a follow-up review -- in five years.

Instead the concluding remark is “Highly recommended."

I find this very misleading, and out of line with the serious level normally displayed at SoundStage!

...Erling Tind

BTW, keep up the good work at SoundStage! -- the best site on the Internet.

Hi Erling:

I do not argue or conclude that O2 Blocker will improve/change the sound of your audio system, even though Music Sciences thinks it will. However, given the way it protected new pennies left outside, it stands to reason that it would similarly protect electronic equipment that's not nearly as roughly treated and thus keep its sound from degrading. Given this, its cost -- $15 in my case -- seems very reasonable.

Thanks for the kind words about SoundStage! We try....Marc

November 23, 1998

I think this is one of the most value-packed audio magazines anywhere, and  one of the most informative and intelligent web-sites. The few times I've written to columnists, I've been surprised by their quick response (that they responded at all!) and by their generosity.

What a great crew! Thank you.

...Sherri Rosenthall

November 19, 1998

To Greg Weaver,

I greatly enjoy your SoundStage! articles and their thrifty and slightly skeptical approach to audio.

I am somewhat confused by your digital cable article. I was under the impression that digital cable should be coaxial. I have this impression from home-audio sources, such as a Transparent Cable seminar I attended, and from my pro-audio background in theatre sound. The argument goes that digital signal transfer requires a much wider bandwidth than that required by audio. For this reason digital signals are usually carried on coaxial-type cable which can accommodate the bandwidth.

In pro audio we are advised not to transfer digital signal on our regular audio cables.

I am also under the impression that a 75-ohm cable is advised for S/PDIF digital transfer and that there is an inherent problem with this as an RCA connector normally provides 50 ohms. There are, I think, only a few digital cables on the market which use a crimpless connection between RCA and coax cable to provide the 75 ohms.

Perhaps your answer would be that I try your cable and see. As we all know, theory and reality do not always line up in audio. Unfortunately I own a one-box Micromega CD player and can not test your cable at home.

Any thoughts you have would be most appreciated.

Keep up the good work!

...Jonathan Darling


Thank you for your considered letter. I almost started the piece with a disclaimer stating that there was no scientific reason for why I built working as well as it did, but changed my copy right before publication as I felt it might detract from the likelihood of people actually trying it for themselves.

You are, of course, correct in your engineering thoughts and observations. If you remember the piece, I stated that I had tried several other concoctions which were less than overwhelming in their resultant performance. I cannot explain why the thing sounds good; I can only tell you that listening to it was proof enough for me. As a matter of fact, I sent it to Jim Saxon (the Audio Dealer In Paradise) for yet another opinion. And you might try it sometime for yourself to verify or dispel and preconceptions you might have about the issue.

Thanks for taking me to task on the issue with such a level head...Greg Weaver

November 12, 1998

This e-mail is for all you guys at SoundStage! (Doug, Marc, both Gregs, James).

My name is Prashant. I am 22 years old, Indian, and living in Macao, a small Portuguese colony 90 miles west of Hong Kong. I just set up my first-ever separates stereo system. It comprises the following:

  • Arcam 10 integrated amplifier
  • B&W CDL SE speakers
  • Pioneer DVL 909 player

I did a six-month research period where I educated myself, which basically involved a million hits to your website. Just a note to all you guys out there that it's a fabulous site and the information is very helpful for beginners and audiophiles alike. Max dB and Finge -- these columns are fab.

My system is about one month old now, and Feb. 99 will see an upgrade to biamping with the Arcam 10P, new cables, and a dedicated system rack and speaker stands. How about a review of a biamp setup with smaller monitor speakers like mine? And another thing, most of your reviews include a whole lot of jazz. How about some rock like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and new age rock along with a dash of dance/rave/trance? These are my favorites, but there are a whole lot of youngsters who want to be educated about music but have different tastes in music from the test discs that you folks use. I guess classical music and jazz come along with mental maturity, not just puberty!

Well, that's all from my side. Keep up the good work.

Warm regards,

...Prashant Pathreeker

November 11, 1998

To Marc Mickelson - Editor-in-Chief,

Read your latest editorial. I don't entirely agree with it, though. Sure, it's very good to describe "facts" about how the component sounded in equipment reviews. One problem with that, though, is that it's highly unlikely that any verbal description of the sound is going to communicate anything very specific to many people because of extreme lack of consensus about what any of the key descriptive terms really mean.

But that's not my main objection. I think you are wrong in relegating the reviewer's subjective feelings about the equipment to such secondary status. I think that those are what most readers are primarily interested in. We know you guys have heard a lot of gear and are passionate about audio. We respect your ears and your opinions about audio gear. So if some piece of equipment really "turns you on," I think that is the most important thing for you to communicate in a review. We're never really going to understand what the component actually sounds like from a review no matter how eloquently descriptive you are. But you can communicate personal excitement and enthusiasm for a product in a review sufficiently to inspire your readers to make the effort to go out and audition the piece for themselves. You personally did a pretty good job in this respect with your

reviews of the Lamm amplifiers. You communicated clearly that you love those amps, and that's why I'd be sure to audition them if I were considering buying amps in that price range. Frankly, I really can't remember much about exactly what you said about their sound. But I do remember the enthusiasm you communicated.

Contrast the recent SS! review of the Wisdom Audio Adrenaline Dipole 75s. I was pretty disappointed with it. I've now had the opportunity to audition these speakers several times at length, most recently with top-of-the-line electronics (Levinson 33Hs, 333, 39, Transparent Ref XL cables, etc.). These speakers are sonically so far beyond anything I've heard before (and I’ve heard a lot of good stuff) that I want to shout it from the rooftops "people -- go hear these and your life will be changed forever." Although I think your reviewer liked these speakers quite a lot and described them in favorable terms, the tone of the review did not communicate any intense personal enthusiasm. In this era where virtually all reviews are favorable, a reviewer needs to go "over the top" when he reviews a product that is really special if he wants the readers to "get it."

I do think that you are on the right track in advocating more comparative reviews wherein the component under review is compared sonically with similarly priced well-known products. This is probably a much more effective way to communicate the sonic qualities of components than pure "description." Most of us have heard Levinsons, Krells, Brystons, Wilsons, Dunlavys, etc. So if you can compare unknown products with familiar ones, you probably tell readers something they can relate to.

Thanks and keep up the good work,

...Craig Zastera

Hi Craig, thanks for taking the time to write. Opinions on audio gear are so plentiful these days -- on the Internet and various print magazines -- that I don't feel we add anything to the discussion by offering more. As I write in the editorial, my likes and dislikes are not relevant for most readers. And you should see the e-mail we get from readers who question when a review doesn't fully describe the sound we hear.

Now, this does not mean that likes and dislikes will be stripped from our reviews. What it does mean is that they will be justified, described. In most cases you won't notice this new direction. And don't worry -- when we like something, you'll know it. Hyperbole, however, is the prevailing attitude in any number of reviews, and savvy readers see right through it. We want our enthusiasm to mean something other than just business as usual....Marc Mickelson

November 10, 1998

Dear SoundStage!,

I like your online magazine and stop by frequently! Here are my suggestions:

  1. Get rid of that damn pop-up window!
  2. Review some equipment by Naim and more equipment by Rega.
  3. Get rid of that damn pop-up window!
  4. Make Greg Weaver write TWO columns a month (well, I guess that's
    not much of a reward for a job well done).
  5. Get rid of that damn pop-up window!

Best wishes,

...Todd Wells

November 9, 1998

To: Doug Blackburn

I enjoyed your company tour of Vandersteen Audio, as well as your previous interview with Richard Vandersteen...I can't wait to read part 3.

I have been a Vandersteen owner for about 15 years,and am one of those that agree with Richard's comments about the perceived drawback of Vandy's being dark and slow. If driven with the right electronics, I don't think you can beat their performance/cost ratio -- but then the best speaker will always be what sounds best to the individual listener, no matter their level of education or understanding about serious audio.

Richard Vandersteen has a unique problem here that he probably shares with few other high-end audio manufacturers -- he has developed a serious high-end product for such an affordable price, the price of his speakers are also within the budget for those owners of cheaper mass-market electronics. (I don't have "The Absolute Reference System," but I do drive my Model 3s with about $15,000 worth of Mark Levinson, Proceed, and Classe Audio electronics.) The Model 3s are not perfect, but I have yet to hear a speaker at twice the price that gets as much right as the Model 3s do. Bravo Richard Vandersteen!!

I just shipped my Model 3s back to become Model 3 Signatures. When I called Vandersteen Audio to inquire about the upgrade, the receptionist (I didn't catch her name) replied: "I'll let you talk to Richard." I ask myself, "Did she mean Richard, as in Richard Vandersteen." How many companies do you call, as a general consumer (without even asking to speak to the boss), and get put through to the founder and chief guru? I was just as impressed with Richard Vandersteen and his company as I have been with his speakers for the last 15 years!

Your interview with Richard should have been very enjoyable and extremely interesting. Bravo Doug Blackburn!! Keep up the great work!

...Mike Krebs

November 6, 1998

I was sifting through your 'archived' Feedback sections once again today and ran across a particular comment from your staff in the May listing....in there you respond to a reader's comments about your review of the Newform Research R8-1-30s (aka R830).  You stated that John Meyer [of Newform Research] was going to send you a new speaker to review and report on the R630. Has he done so yet and are you doing a review soon???  Or, are you still waiting on the speaker from him???

I have had quite a few emails back and forth with Mr. Meyer...he's a wonderful person to converse with and has gone out of his way to answer any and all of my questions...I am very interested in his line of speakers (especially the R630, the R645 and the R65SS!!!), but I would appreciate hearing a well regarded and insightful (IMO) review from you guys about the speakers before I make the plunge myself...So how about it!!???  Anything exciting to report??

...Shane Sangster

Hello Shane, thanks for your interest. I've been in touch with Mr. Meyer a number of times and our goal is to get one of his latest generation loudspeakers in.  Unfortunately this has not happened yet.  I liked what I heard from the R8-1-30 and am certainly keen to try out the model you have mentioned -- the R645.  The R645 uses a ScanSpeak woofer, similar to that found in some very high performance loudspeakers on the market, as opposed to the Peerless unit found in the R8-1-30.  Reportedly this results in better driver integration which should please us audiophiles.  I've contacted John Meyer again and hopefully we'll be able to report on any  progress soon...Doug Schneider

November 5, 1998

The recent interviews with manufacturers have been really great [re: Insider's Forum]. It's very interesting to get inside the minds who design and manufacture audio equipment.

I consider SoundStage! to be the best internet audio related publication by a wide margin. Keep up the excellent work.

...Brian Dykes

November 4, 1998

To: Doug Schneider

Re: Screw the Spade Lug

I have to tell you to check out the Kimber Postmaster. I use them with the Cardas posts and they don't come loose. Even with thick cable like AudioTruth Forest they just do not move.....they come with heatshrink and solder and the compressible silicon wafer between the conductors on the spade really does work  -- they are cheap too.


PS. the O shaped spade is the best idea I have heard in a long time.

November 3, 1998

Dear SoundStage!,

Any forthcoming review on the Von Schweikert VR-8 or VR-6 loudspeakers? These are reputedly two of the best speakers there are, so please review them. (Doug Schneider's article on the VR-8 is actually a "factory tour.")


...Jose P. Florendo

Hi Jose. As we do in cases where readers ask us to review something, we will contact Von Schweikert Research and see if we can arrange for a  review of the VR-6 or VR-8...Marc Mickelson

November 3, 1998


SoundStage! helped turn me on to the wonderful Speaker Art speakers. In an industry filled with hype and driven by marketing companies it is a joy to discover a product whose performance does the talking. 

I never thought I'd find a loudspeaker that combined the smooth open sound of high-quality minimonitors with impressive, clean bass response -- all in a relatively small spouse-pleasing package. 

Hopefully other readers will be prompted to look beyond the mass-market over-hyped products to something unique, an impressively designed product built with passion and expertise.

...Steve Patterson

November 1, 1998

I think your equipment reviews are pretty much on the mark right now -- a good blend of affordable and expensive (at least to me) products. The reviews are in plain english (neither too flowery, nor too technical) and written by people who sound as if they enjoy what they are doing and are not necessarily trying to impress anyone.

Keep up the good work!

...Joseph D. Appierto


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