SoundStage! Feedback: August 1999

August 27, 1999


I noticed on your Coming Soon page that you will be reviewing the Wyetech Topaz amp. I've heard it on a number of occasions and believe you will be very impressed. However, the Opal preamp by Wyetech is probably an equally outstanding product, and I would suggest you contact Roger Hebert and try to review the two products together.

...Bill Krause

We do have a review of the newer Wyetech Jade preamp in the works. Perhaps we'll cover the Opal at a later time....Marc Mickelson

August 26, 1999

Dear Editor,

After frequenting your website for over a year now, I must say that I still find it one of the better and more interesting audio websites to indulge my interests.

I have a couple of issues to raise, and with due respect, I hope they would not fall on deaf ears. I do hope you take them as constructive observations from a SS! reader.

A few months ago, I inquired about when SS! was going to do some reviews on the Plinius range of amplifiers, and the reply I got was is "in the pipeline." But that was almost 10 months ago now. I frequently check your Coming Soon page, but the Plinius name is nowhere in sight. Why? What about Mission speakers and Cyrus audio components? You seem to favor reviewing Arcam gear of late, but there are also many good UK brands out there too. SS! seems uninterested.

Next, I note you guys have for the last year or more been frequently reviewing high-end interconnects and speaker cables of various brands, but what about the "mid-end" ones? Kimber Kable, for example, has some long-established, good-performing speaker cables in the less exotic VS and TC ranges, but they have never been reviewed in SS!. I realize they are not as "high end" as Kimber's recent, newer Select cables, but some reviews on the more affordable VS & TC cables would not go amiss, I am sure, with your readers. I know that AudioQuest, Wireworld, van den Hul and others would have less expensive offerings that would be of interest to your readers too. What say you?

Well, these are my thoughts, and all I am asking for is a better balance of the range of audio items you review every month. Give your readers more variety -- not so heavily biased on only the highest-end stuff.

Kind regards,

...Darryl Lee

I sort of chuckled when I read your note because Plinius is a company we are STILL talking with about a review -- even after a year of waiting on our end. They had promised us an amp and integrated amp for review, but then had trouble getting units that weren't sold before they arrived in the US. I talked with Advanced Audio Technologies, the US distributor for Plinius electronics, about ten days ago and we are again promised an amp and integrated amp for review. Stay tuned -- and keep checking our Coming Soon list.

We have also made recent contact with Kimber and hope to arrange something with them too. Often we are at the mercy of manufacturers -- we can request something, but not all requests are granted. We'll have to see what happens in this regard with Kimber....Marc Mickelson

August 25, 1999


Are there any plans in the works to provide McCormack owners with some insight into the three upgrades (revisions A, B and C) available to DNA-1 amplifiers and offered by Steve McCormack through SMC Audio?

...Richard Landis

One of our reviewers is having his DNA-1 updated very soon, and he will be writing about the process and effect. Once he has his amp back, we will announce the review on our Coming Soon list....Marc Mickelson

August 25, 1999


Tara Labs offers a lot of cable at various prices, but very little has been mentioned on SoundStage!. Do you have an opinion about their line of cables? Entry level or top of the line.


...Joseph Lee

I've personally owned Tara Labs RSC Master cables, and I thought they were very fine. We have at least one review of Tara Labs products coming up....Marc Mickelson

August 24, 1999


I enjoy reading your magazine, and I thought I'd throw out a suggestion. Since you are an online publication, how about doing some more reviews of speakers only sold direct like the Shamrock Eires, perhaps comparing and contrasting them.

Some of the speakers I'm thinking of: ACI Sapphire III, Biro Technology L/1, and Legacy Audio Studio.


...Timothy Brown

We've had this same idea and so have been in contact with some of these companies, with varying success. However, we have talked with other companies that sell direct, and you will see some of their products covered in SoundStage! soon....Marc Mickelson

August 23, 1999


When will the Silverline Sonata review come out? This is a company whose time has come. I heard the Sonatas driven by an Art Audio Diavolo amp and wow! It was all goose bumps and magic.


...Eric Ajimine

Our review of the Silverline Sonatas will appear on 9/1....Marc Mickelson

August 19, 1999


I'm a Brazilian SoundStage! fan, and I saw that you'll be reviewing the Bel Canto DAC1 and Wadia 830 CD player. I was planning to buy the Wadia 830 here in Brazil. Should I wait until the Bel Canto review appears before buying? I have heard that is a wonderful up-sampling DAC.

Thank you,

...Antonio Wolff, Jr.

The DAC1 review will appear on September 1; the Wadia 830 review is scheduled for later in the year. If you are willing to wait for a few weeks, you can at least get an idea of what the DAC1 is about....Marc Mickelson

August 18, 1999


Let me ask you again, who the heck is doing your movie reviews?

Once again your movie critic is absurdly misguided. While on holidays last week I got to see The Blair Witch Project and The Thomas Crown Affair. Blair Witch sucked big time, and I thought The Phantom Menace was overhyped. I have yet to talk to a person who even remotely liked Blair Witch or found it even a little scary.

As for The Thomas Crown Affair, I loved it. 'Nuff said.

...Allan Hansen

August 18, 1999


Considering that the Shamrock Eire loudspeaker and Mike McCall have been discussed so much, I decided to try out one of McCall's kits. As the SE-1 plans sold for only $25, I felt safe testing it out. This way, I would get something by a designer who obviously put more work into his designs than I think he gets back in money, but I would be without the financial risk of shipping the Eires here without even having seen or listened to them.

The results with the SE-1 speakers were over all expectations! If you were amazed by the results of Mike McCall with the Eire using Scan-Speak drivers, you won´t believe what he pulled off using lower-cost drivers. The drivers used in SE-1 are all made by Vifa. The total cost of the completed SE-1 kit was around $300 using high-quality components. They can be compared to commercial systems higher in price. It was really fun building them, and my sister was very happy getting them. If you ever have the chance to build this kit, do so.

In fact, I have gone ahead and ordered the plans for the SE-2 based on the results with the SE-1. This time, it is my girlfriend who demanded that I built similar speakers as those my sister got. My sister listens to a lot of Irish music, and she was very happy with the clarity in the midrange. To be honest, my own speakers don´t have a chance to keep up -- and they cost about three times the price of the SE-1.

Regards from Sweden,

...Magnus Östberg

August 15, 1999


Pardon my enthusiasm, but I see you are planning an upcoming review of a product that I have considered buying, having NEVER heard it. This is the Bel Canto Design DAC1. Could you tell me when this review will likely be posted at your website? I might wait if, say, it will only be a few weeks. But if it's not likely to happen for a couple of months, I will probably go ahead and roll the dice. Bel Canto offers a no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee for 10 days. There's just the nuisance factor you know, and I've always found your reviews to be among the most reliable in the industry (no kidding). You wouldn't wink and give me any hints would you? No, that wouldn't be kosher.

Thank you for your indulgence,

...Bill Thomas

The review of the DAC1 will be online on September 1, so stay tuned....Marc Mickelson

August 12, 1999


Are there plans to review any Dynaudio speakers soon? I was particularly interested in a review of the Audience 50 speakers. I noticed a complete lack of reviews of products from this company. Any reason for that?


...Joel Senger

We have been waiting for a pair of Dynaudio Audience 40s, but they haven't arrived. Your letter reminds me to remind Dynaudio about them. We do have a review of a Dynaudio home-theater system in the works right now, however....Marc Mickelson

August 10, 1999


I would like to thank you for the review you wrote of our Contact CD. I think you have captured the essence of the album and your opinions are at the same level of the majority of listeners: too relaxed but great sound.

You will be happy to know that we have just released a new CD with a little more life. It is of a jazz trio, and the program is very well balanced.

All the best!

...Yves Bérubé
Fidelio Audio

August 10 , 1999


Whatever happened to budget audio? Before Greg Smith went to the "Fringe," you had someone dedicated to writing about products we poor students could afford, or at least hope to afford sometime this decade. I'm not asking for a drop in standards -- obviously reviewing cutting-edge equipment is important. However, it is much more of a challenge for a manufacturer to make a great-sounding CD player for, say, $500 than it is to make one for $3500. I would really like to see one of your reviewers stay on the low end of things and examine those companies that have to make compromises to make good sound for affordable prices.

...Dave Orwick

We still do have writers dedicated to budget audio products, namely Jim Causey and Paul Schumann. And over the past year I've reviewed a pair of under-$400 integrated amps, so our commitment is still there. However, what you are noticing is that the budget price point is creeping upward, at least in our reviews. In the coming months you will see reviews of more sub-$1000 electronics and speakers, and as we can get units from mass-market manufacturers, we'll certainly report on them too....Marc Mickelson

August 9, 1999

To Marc Mickelson,

Thanks for your review of the Johnny Dilks CD. I am in almost complete agreement with your comments in the review.

You might also want to check out Bay Area country favorites Red Meat (not to be confused with Red Red Meat from Chi-town or the comic strip by Max Cannon): straight-ahead country like you don't find much of anymore -- certainly not in Nashville, as they found out when they played three nights there earlier this year. They've played with Dilks on a number of (very fun) occasions and are opening for Buck Owens in San Francisco on September 29.

Their first CD, Meet Red Meat, contains 12 originals, and their second, 13, produced by Dave Alvin, is 12 originals plus a rollicking cover of Johnny Horton's "One Woman Man." Their songs are really strong with very clever, and often slyly funny, lyrics. Musicianship is top-notch; they've been together as Red Meat for over six years, and they've been musical friends for much longer.

Audiophilically speaking, they're pretty well produced. They record in top-notch studios, and Mark Linnet did the engineering on 13 using a tube stage and custom mikes on the drums. On the ol' SoundStage! Recording Quality scale they're a solid 3.5 little red boxes, maybe 4. Still, my WATT/Puppy 6s tell me their discs are no Famous Blue Raincoat, if you know what I mean. But hey, I'm a fan, so I give 'em 5 LRBs for Overall Enjoyment.

Their website is a bit hard to find, so here it is. It includes a link to CDNow so you can hear RealAudio clips from both albums.

Keep up the great work with SoundStage!

...Andy West

August 7, 1999

Dear Editor,

When will you be posting the Linn Ikemi review on your website? Please inform me as I'm very interested about what your findings will be.

Kind regards,

...Martijn van der Weide

The Ikemi review will appear in October or on November 1....Marc Mickelson

August 5, 1999


SoundStage! is great!

I'm somewhat frustrated at not being able to get much information about the Bow Technologies ZZ-Eight CD player. Do you know if it's imported into the US, and by whom? If I could get a telephone and/or fax number so that I can contact them, I would be most appreciative.


...Chris Aubry

Here's the information we have:

Bow Technologies USA
16179 Royal Oak Road
Encino, CA 91436
Phone: (310) 474-8421

August 2, 1999


I have never, in my life, had anyone describe my music in words the way that I feel when I am composing/expressing it musically. Wow! Srajan Ebaen REALLY gets where I'm coming from. I am 33 years old and have read a lot of reviews of my music over the years. This is the first time I read one that left me with a lump in my throat.

After shopping my record to 35 labels to no avail in late 1997, I had no choice but to release it myself. Reading reviews like this helps build steam for me to keep plugging away and feeling a validation for what I love and need to do -- compose and record music.

Your readers can  listen to my entire CD on my website; they can also view my four-minute video of "Ceremonies."


...Armen Chakmakian
TruArt Records & Terama Ouré Music (BMI)

August 1, 1999

To Marc Mickelson and Doug Blackburn:

I just wanted to say thanks for your reviews of the Clayton Audio M70s. Your reviews pushed me over in deciding to give the Clayton amps an audition. I have had a pair now for roughly a month and can not believe how much of an improvement they are over my previous monoblocks. Like you Doug, I can't believe their output. I was using Legacy Audio mono amplifiers, which are rated at 450Wpc into 8 ohms and 800Wpc into 4 ohms, to drive a pair of Legacy Audio Signature IIIs, and I did not believe that 70Wpc (into 8 ohms) could provide the bass impact of the Legacys. Boy was I wrong. Even in the low-bias setting, the M70s have no problems with any music. I just finished a listening session with Patricia Barber's Café Blue, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Twenty and Keb' Mo's Slow Down, and the M70s didn't miss a beat. They are so open and natural with a wide soundstage that it sometimes seems if you closed your eyes, the musicians are in the room with you.

As Doug suggested, they are improved with a better power cord. I am using
TEK LINE's PC-12W and it really lets the M70s show their potential. No current restrictions with this cord. While it costs a little more than the one Doug recommended, I think the overall improvement it provides is worth its cost. As to Doug's other recommended tweak, I don't have the space to put the Bright Star products below and above the M70s, but with Greg Weaver's DIY stands (actually using two) and adding the Salamander Designs Mega Spikes, the amps seem very isolated.

I was glad to see someone take up reviewing new products where other magazines seem to review mostly products from their main advertisers. Keep up the great work. I really enjoy your website.

...Steve McCoin