SoundStage! Feedback: March 1999

March 26, 1999

To Greg Smith:

The AMC 3020 and CD9 look (and from your column, perform) a lot like a
rebadged NAD budget amp and CD player. Does this account for the
Taiwan/British connection?

...Duncan Rosie

AMC was actually one of the original OEM manufacturers for some early NAD products. Also, Weltronics engineer Peter Bath has a long history designing audio components, and derivatives of his work are in production throughout the industry. But although NAD and AMC products may appear similar, there's currently no direct corporate relationship like you suggest between the two companies. Frankly, NAD has such a well-known history of rebadging production from OEM sources that even if there were shared parts here, it would be more likely that they originated with AMC rather than with NAD....Greg Smith

March 26, 1999


I would like to take the time to tell you how much I enjoy SoundStage!. I find the reviews to be detailed and informative. I subscribe to six audio publications and find that I enjoy SoundStage! the most.

I find it hard to understand how the Joule Electra ZVN-80 Mk III could be left off your Reviewers' Choice list. In your own words you "were even more impressed" by the amp than you were with the LA-100 Mk III preamp, which made the list. I believe you also said this is in the top two of three tube amps you have ever heard. "It does things that are rare for any amp" was another line from your very well-written review.

Isn't the Joule Electra/ Merlin room consistently winning your "best sound" at the CES and Stereophile shows?

I am sure the omittance of this fine amp was merely an oversight. Re-read your fine review and I am sure you will reconsider the VZN-80 Mk III.

Thank you for your time

...Brad Fisher

Thanks for reading, Brad. The Joule Electra VZN-80 Mk III's exclusion from Reviewers' Choice was not the product of oversight but of a very tough decision. Two kinds of products make it into Reviewers' Choice: those that are simply the best-sounding regardless of price, and those that perform in various ways far beyond their price. We consider all Reviewers' Choice products as "Class A," but for different reasons.

The LA-100 Mk III made the list because Todd Warnke, who wrote a follow-up on it, suggested it, and I couldn't disagree. It's a preamp that challenges more expensive models, some of which are
much more expensive. The amp, which is an OTL design, is not as suitable for all audio systems as the preamp, and it is also nearly twice the price of the LA-100 MK III.

In the end, although a product is not selected as a Reviewers' Choice component, it still may be worthy of your consideration. Thanks....Marc Mickelson

March 25, 1999

Hi Marc,

I really enjoyed your review of Lamm ML2. A SET amp that does it all
is the subject of serious daydreaming.

However, recently I stumbled across a review of another set of single-ended tube monos that seem to do it all. They are the KR Enterprise VT-800 MKs, where VT stands for "vacuum transducer." Compared to ML2, the KR amp is heavier (85 pounds each), more powerful (a review says 75W, but the importer says 160W), has better claimed frequency extension (15Hz-35kHz.), but is cheaper ($21,500 USD).

I was wondering if you would be interested in reviewing this amp and,
particularly, directly comparing it with the ML2. I hope you could check out what could possibly be a better buy than the Lamm ML2.

...David Won-Jun Song

Thanks for reading, David. I not only know about the KR Enterprise amps, but I am scheduled to review a pair. I will do some serious head-to-head comparisons with both the Lamm ML1 and ML2 amps. Stay tuned....Marc Mickelson

March 19, 1999

To David J. Cantor:

It was so nice to read a review in which the spirit and zeitgeist of the music
was so succinctly captured. It was great that the review was of the
Pistols. I think you captured the genius of the band with admirable economy.
The band had a genius, but like you, I don't listen to them often, or for long
when I do. I have found that when my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter asks for "faster music please Daddy" not even the Ramones or Minutemen will satisfy her like the Pistols. And because of that, I am afraid. I am very afraid! Fine review, and I look forward to reading more.

...Trey Monroe

March 18, 1999

Hey Guys,

Bravo to your comments on civility and the lack of it in our industry. If only
the dealers in the high-end community would realize that they shouldn't be
competing with one another but rather with the other industries where their
potential customers might spend their discretionary income. Thanks for
validating a view I've long held.

...Steven Palmieri
Director Sales & Marketing
McCormack Audio Corp. of Virginia

March 17, 1999

Name That Tweak! An Audiophile Quiz

“The soundstage just opened up, with appreciably greater front-to-back
depth. Bass extension was noticeably improved, and the upper midrange
and treble became more transparent and crystalline. The stereo image
snapped into focus and there was more definition and 'air' around each
instrument. Although I am usually skeptical of such things -- this is one
tweak you just gotta have!”

Select the tweak that would most likely produce the effects described in
the preceding passage:

A. Interconnects
B. Vibration isolation devices
C. Speaker cables
D. Marijuana
E. Frontal lobotomy

...Frank Gordon

March 16, 1999

How about a review of the Basis 1400 turntable? A comparison with
the Pink Triangle turntable that you reviewed would be great!

...Eric Nelson

We'll see what we can arrange; however, Tony Fafoglia, the fellow who reviewed the Pink Triangle turntable, is no longer with SoundStage!, so  another writer will have to tackle the Basis if we can arrange it....Marc Mickelson

March 12, 1999

To Todd Warnke,

I enjoyed reading your Totem Arro review. I have been trying to find a dealer in my area so I could listen to both the Arro and the Sttaf, but there
does not appear to be one. (Have you heard a pair of Sttafs?) I will need to be on the lookout as I travel to other parts of the US.

As a staff member at the Minnesota Orchestra, I also enjoyed your
mention of our recent Bruckner #9 disc. I believe it will be responsible for turning many audiophiles into surprised Bruckner fans.

Keep up the good work,

...Reid McLean

March 12, 1999

Hello Todd,

Nice review of the Totem Arro speakers. Your review reminds me of my favorite disappearing speaker, the now-discontinued JMlab Daline 3.1, which has a very good bottom end. They were very slim, about thirty-something inches tall. I thought them the best speaker in the JMlab line. The company ought to bring them back.

...Al Norberg

March 11, 1999

Dear Editor,

Rather than have Fi go online, why not get their writers here? Some
of the writing in that mag was the best anywhere, anytime. For example,
what's Wayne Garcia doing now? Did you see his review of the Magneplanar MG12/QRs in the March 1999, and sadly last, Fi? It is surely one of the best reviews of an audio component any of us has ever read. It gave us not just a tremendous feeling for the speakers, but in a series of
brilliant, thought-provoking analogies drawn from painting, challenged
our notions of what counts as real in audio. What this country needs is
more audio writing with philosophical insights like these. Also, great
succinct descriptions of musical moments that wonderfully capture the
point of it all, like “a rim-shot that accents a phrase like a beauty
spot on Marilyn Monroe,” or “Eric Dolphy’s alto-swooping, jabbing,
flickering.” Yes! That’s exactly what Dolphy does. You could read whole
books about jazz and not find the essence of the music expressed better.
I haven’t paid much attention to Magnepans -- I’ve always seen myself as a
box and cone man -- but if the speakers can inspire writing like this,
I’ll have to check them out.

Any chance of reading Garcia here?

...Gregg Shores

March 11, 1999

Hi Marc,

Bright Star has a new Reference Series of their Air Mass, Big Rock, and (maybe?) Little Rock "ultimate isolation" components. The Reference series is apparently made of some kind of fancy composite, heat-fired material. Also, they are claimed to use different inner tubes in the Reference Air Mass, which are supposed to provide isolation in the horizontal plane as well as the vertical (this has always been a benefit that VibraPlane has emphasized).

The Reference series is also quite a bit pricier than the standard line of Big Rock and Air Mass components. I'd be very interested in a review that might shed some light on whether or not these new Reference Series Bright Star devices actually provide audibly superior component isolation as compared to the standard series. I currently have four complete sets of Bright Star isolation components -- one under each of my two Levinson No.335 power amps, one under my Levinson No.39 CD player, and another under the electronic crossover ("brain") of my Wisdom Audio Adrenaline speakers.

I corresponded with Barry Kohan of Bright Star as to whether it might be possible to replace just the plinths of the older series with plinths of the new material (because I thought that was probably the critical part). He said "no" because (he claims) the new material provides significant benefits in the box itself as well as the plinths.

Another isolation product that I'd be most interested in seeing you review is the Arcici Suspense rack. That's the one where five acrylic shelves all hang from the same set of air isolation devices under the top shelf. It costs around $2000, which really isn't bad at all if it provides sufficiently effective isolation for five components without the need for additional isolation devices on a per-component basis. I'd be very interested in hearing whether this rack (alone) provides isolation comparable to or better than other more expensive approaches (eg Bright Star).


...Craig Zastera

We'll contact both companies, Craig, and see what we can arrange....Marc Mickelson

March 9, 1999

Hello there! I just wanted to say that you guys are doing a great job. I'm just someone who thought it would be nice to let you know because so many times we don't take the time to let others know what a good job they're doing. Well, keep up the good work!

...George W. Weathington III

March 8, 1999

It saddened me to hear about the demise of Fi. I enjoyed its articles, its audio and music reviews, and its slick layout. The magazine was just as good as, if not BETTER than, Stereophile. Inform the editor(s) to build up readership through a website and maybe start up again. It's a tough and small market out there, and people have to get to know you. I will surely miss it. Why is it that the good ones die young?

...Steven Page

March 5, 1999

To Doug Schneider:

I read with great interest on your review of the NSM Model 5, but I can't get it here in Singapore. I can get the NSM Model 10s and I noticed that you also mention a little bit about the NSM 10s in your review of the NSM Model 5.  Is the Model 10s a good speaker? Please advise as I am thinking of buying it.



Thanks for your interest.  The NSM Model 10S is certainly a worthwhile speaker to audition.  Look for the full review to come online within the next couple of months....DAS

March 3, 1999

I would like to see, as soon as possible, reviews of the Thiel CS2.3 and the Von Schweikert Research VR-3 Gen. II. I'm breaking in a new pair of 2.3s right now and would love to compare notes. As to the VR-3 Gen. II, I've always loved the VSR sound, but I found the VR-3 to be not up to the quality of the other models. I have great hopes for the VR-3 Gen II.

I'm sure that much of your audience will be interested in the above too.

Thank you.

...Art Altman

Thanks for the suggestions. One of our reviewers has a pair of Thiel CS2.3s right now; we'll contact Von Schweikert about the VR-3 Generation IIs too....Marc Mickelson

March 3, 1999

Good article regarding cleaning records (The Vinyl Word, March 1999). Last year Michael Fremer ran articles on cleaning and one point that he made is worth passing on - before using a record cleaning machine on a used record, it's worth a "pre-cleaning step" using separate pads that can easily be rinsed out. This avoids having the surface dirt coming into contact with the pads and brushes of the cleaing machine. This is especially true when cleaning the first side of the record - while the record is spinning, the other side (still uncleaned) is depositing loose dirt onto the pads of the vacuum slot.

...Brian Kheel

March 3, 1999

Please relay the following message to the 52-year-old attorney [mentioned in BackStage!] who is about to assemble his dream Theta/Spectral/ProAc system: Do yourself a huge favor and audition a Naim CDX CD player before committing yourself to the Theta equipment. Many of us out here with ears that seem like they might be comparable to yours have made that late correction and been extremely grateful for the counsel to do so. You don't have to be a 'Naimie' to appreciate the company's CD players, which are among the very best in the world and at extremely reasonable prices. The word on the CDX -- and new CDS II -- is getting around, but not quite fast enough. At least wait for Michael Fremer's upcoming review of the former in Stereophile.

...Bob Neill

SoundStage! will be reviewing the Naim CD 3.5 CD player with FlatCap power supply. See our Coming Soon page for a listing of equipment reviews we have in the works....Marc Mickelson

March 2, 1999

Do you know of any audio reviews that have been done on Brickwall filters? Thanks,

...Craig Thompson

I don't know of any reviews on Brickwall filters. However, this month Pete Goudreau talks a bit about them and API products. See Pete's Place #3 on the main Audio Online page....Marc Mickelson

March 1, 1999

Re: Snake Eyes SnapShot! DVD Review

I thought that there was no edit in the opening scene too, at first. However, something made me go back to the scene when he is coming down the steps past the video monitors and a small group passes in front of him. Had to go to slo-mo but, bingo, there was an edit. It just looked wrong so I backed it up. I though it was gonna be another one, really, kinda like Altman's copy cat maneuver with the opening of "The Player," but I swear buddy, watch it and you'll see it is there.

...Greg Weaver
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!

A second look is in order I guess!  I did notice the rush of people and thought something may have been wonky too, but running through normally it looked like a quick blur.  Time for a frame by frame analysis!   Should there be an edit it is unfortunate because this is an exceptional opening scene to a so-so movie....DAS