SoundStage! Feedback: November 1999

November 28, 1999


After reading your latest editorial, I have to say thanks for holding up the candle of integrity! I have many websites of audiophilia to choose from, but yours comes first in my list of bookmarks. I always look forward to your next issue. Also, nice touch with the PDF-format E-Mag.

...Alan Graham

November 27, 1999


Just a suggestion regarding your Frankfurt show coverage: why not add some links to the manufacturers, and in the case of the Analogue Audio Association, why not support them by saying how to get in touch if we are interested? Do you have their address? Otherwise, nice pictures. Of course, it would be even better if you could arrange a few listening tests and report back on what the products actually sound like!

...Mike McGrady

Doing show coverage is, at best, hectic, so tracking down Web addresses is not always possible -- or feasible, especially when we are posting coverage while at the show. Your suggestion about listening tests is a very good one, and we are always trying to procure review samples from European manufacturers. We are, after all, a worldwide publication....Marc Mickelson

November 24, 1999

Dear SoundStage!,

Having been a happy SS! reader for about two years now, I have not had much chance to compare this magazine to other established audio periodicals. Part of the reason is that sometimes "free is better," or "the Web is more accessible" (believe it or not), as most other publications are printed matter, and more importantly, I got practically all information of interest to me from SoundStage!. Just recently, I had a chance to sample a few others -- Ultimate Audio, Stereophile, and The Abso!ute Sound among them -- in a humble attempt to expand my audio horizons. To my great surprise, I found that I could not relate to almost any of them. They mostly review equipment that is so exorbitantly priced that it has no relation to my life, the reviews are long-winded and dry (reminded me of a lab measurement protocol), and what's worse, they are not educational (as are SS! columns). It seems that the reviews are not written for people; they are written for audiophiles. I could not envision writing to any of the reviewers in those mags. So why bother with them? In short, the good things are appreciated in comparison. Marvelous job, gentlemen!

...Sergei Sokolov

November 23, 1999

To Doug Schneider,

The Thiel CS2.3 review in SS! was a rave, but I noticed the speakers didn't make it into the Reviewers' Choice section. But the Cliffhanger speakers did. Should I consider the CHS-2/W-2 over the 2.3s, or is this an unfair comparison? I wasn't even aware of Cliffhanger until I read SS!. Thanks for the enlightening and interesting reviews, and for reviewing a greater cross section of products than those from the better-known big name companies. Keep up the great work!

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts on this subject.

...Dan Harris

P.S.: It would be good if you could compare/contrast speakers that are from the same company. The Thiel CS1.5s made the Reviewers' Choice, for example, but the 2.3s did not. Why? What factors prevent it from joining the 1.5? Just some feedback to consider.

Reviewers' Choice is awarded to products that either exhibit state-of-the-art performance regardless of cost or exhibit extremely high performance for the price. What should be noted, though, is that just because a product does not receive a Reviewers' Choice designation does not make it a product worth ignoring. We have reviewed, and some of us own, outstanding products that do not quite qualify for that designation, but they are very good products nevertheless. All the speakers you mention our reviewers, including myself, liked greatly. Just because one of them did not get a Reviewers' Choice award does not make it any less worthy of auditioning. The reviews, like the awards themselves, should only be used as a guide...Doug Schneider

November 22, 1999

To Marc Mickelson,

I just read your review of the Meadowlark Kestrels. Now that it's been two years since you've reviewed them, have you found any other speakers that do a better job at $1250?

...Al Youn

In the interim, I personally haven't found a floorstanding speaker that adds up to the Kestrels. However, some of the Clements models that I've heard about look promising, so they may be worth checking out too. The Kestrels are still a very good deal....Marc Mickelson

November 21, 1999

To Greg Weaver,

Regarding the review of the PWB rainbow foil you did previously, I have  very exciting news for you! When reading the PWB web page where the foil is discussed, it was mentioned that a charge is added to the foil during manufacturing. I recalled reading in Speaker Builder that ordinary plastic film packing tape has also a charge as a result of its manufacture. This is the kind usually about 2.5" wide and brown in color used to tape shut flaps on cardboard containers. Guess what? I found it works just as well as the PWB foil, probably for the same charge reason. Try it out for yourself. There is one small problem: the glue on the tape is stronger than on the foil and can damage the CD when the tape is removed. A solution is to put the tape on a bit of Post-it note the same size and use the Post-it's much milder glue to affix it to the CD. I can't believe that such a common product has this kind of effect! It is also readily available and can be tried with minimal investment. Now we can afford to use it on many items in the audio chain.


...Dan Dunfee

November 19, 1999


Thank you for your comments on the JPS Labs Superconductor2 cables. I have tried them and they are indeed very good.

The dealer suggested I try the JPS Labs Kaptovator power cord. Although it sounds excellent, I am unable to determine its merit related to the other top power cords because I cannot obtain the others for audition. I would, therefore, appreciate your opinion on the Kaptovator (relative to other cables) if you have had a chance to audition it.

I already have other JPS Labs power cords in my system. In light of the Kaptovator's price, it is only to be expected that it performs better than the other JPS Labs cables. Unfortunately, it is relatively difficult to get access to various cables in Canada for audition and comparison. Most cable manufacturers are located in the US, and Canadian dealers usually require purchase of the cables on special order. Therefore, the views of reviewers such as you at SoundStage! on the comparative merits and synergy of relatively inaccessible equipment are invaluable to many audiophiles such as myself.

Thank you in advance for your response.

...Wolfgang Schlader

I haven't heard the JPS Labs Kaptovator power cord yet, but a review is in the works for publication after 1/1/2000....Marc Mickelson

November 18, 1999

To Marc Mickelson,

Regarding your Linn Ikemi review, it's Lucinda Williams, not Victoria, Marc. Good review of the Ikemi, nonetheless. Thanks.

...Mark Taylor

Whoops. GOOD eyes! I'm also a Victoria Williams fan, although it's hard to mix the two up musically. Thanks....Marc Mickelson

November 17, 1999

Dear Editor,

I enjoy your website very much. I go there for all my info. However, I was wondering if you have been hearing the same rumors that I have, that Von Schweikert is going to start making speakers again. Have you heard anything like this, or is it really just a rumor? Thanks.

...Bruce Droit

We've heard the same rumor, but nothing has been substantiated. You will read about it first on AudioVideoNews if and when it happens....Marc Mickelson

November 16, 1999

To Marc Mickelson,

Regarding your "Standout Systems" column this month, I was just wondering if when using the Grado headphones, you noticed a low hiss from the AirHead. I used to have the SR60s ( I just sold them to a friend ) and I now have the SR325s. I also have the Sennheiser HD 600s. With my Grados, I always get this low hiss when connected to the AirHead, which can be annoying when listening to classical and the music is very quiet. With my Sennheisers, I don't get any hiss at all.

I wondered if you noticed this hiss with the SR60s and if it bothered you. Since I just basically listen to a portable set up at work, I've been wondering if I should dish out for the HeadRoom Supreme amp, which in their own words would only appear to offer 20% improvement over the AirHead.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

...Sanjay Chugh

Yes, I do hear a bit of hiss, but it doesn't bother me -- I'm used to it with headphone listening. I was thinking as I read your message that I couldn't remember hearing the same hiss with the Sennheiser 'phones I tried, and you also noted this....Marc Mickelson

November 15, 1999

To Marc Mickelson,

I was an early adopter of Bel Canto's DAC1. (In fact, I love Bel Canto's stuff. I also own their preamp and SET 80 monoblocks.) My transport is an Accuphase DP-90 -- one of the best out there, I believe. My system (with the recent addition of the Silverline Sonatinas) sounds wonderful.

I am, however, interested in this Pioneer DVD-player phenomenon -- Chad Baures at Bel Canto has been after me to try it. Do you think it's even worth trying, given the quality of the Accuphase transport? As much as I love my current transport, I could always use the kind of cash a swap could generate.

...David Zigas

I would definitely recommend trying it, and be sure to try some 24/96 software too. Although the Pioneer DV-414 is no great shakes as a transport when compared to audiophile standards, it works wonders with the Bel Canto DAC1, perhaps due to the DAC1's handling of jitter. If you try a Pioneer player, however, be sure to turn on the 24/96 outs as I describe in my follow-up or you won't hear what 24/96 software can really do.

November 14, 1999

I read the article from the March 1996 Noisy Audiophile concerning solid-state versus tubes with great interest. The article discusses mating a tube preamp with a solid-state amp for made-in-heaven sound. Since 1996, Jolida and Luxman and maybe others have come out with hybrid designs, i.e., tube preamp and SS amp in an integrated chassis. Have you had any thoughts about this since 1996?

...Mike Craig

I continue to find the combination of a carefully selected tube preamp and solid-state amp to offer some of the finest sonic performance available for someone looking for musical sound without additions or deletions. I continue to seek a solid-state preamp that can deliver the goods as well as the world's best tube preamps. It may exist. I've heard promising prototypes that have not gone into production. But for now, I'm still enjoying the sound of great tube preamps. In terms of whether Jolida or Luxman is capable of packaging a great tube preamp and solid-state amp in a single chassis, I would say that the odds are against them, but the effort is interesting. I have not heard either product, so I can't comment from experience. But it is not that common to find one company making great preamps and great amps, let alone putting them into a single chassis....Doug Blackburn

November 12, 1999


There seem to be a number of high-quality amps being introduced at around $1200. Would it be possible to compare some of these directly? I'm thinking of:

Belles 150A
Monarchy SM70 (monoblocks)
The new PS Audio A300 (when it gets introduced)
Bryston (actually priced around $800 and $1600, depending on power)
Musical Fidelity X-AS100
Various Rotel, Adcom, NAD, B&K, Creek, Arcam, Acurus (and others I'm sure)
Odyssey Stratos

For me at least, this is the approximate price point that makes a lot of sense given the rest of my system. I'm sure I'm not alone. It seems like you can now get a big part of the high-end magic at this price point, so I would be very interested in seeing how you feel they compare (especially since there is no way I'll be able to audition all of these).

...Jonathan Buckley

We have reviewed the Belles 150A, and we have a review of the Hot Rod version coming in our next E-Mag. We also have reviewed an amp from Bryston and the Monarchy monoblocks, and we may review the Odyssey Stratos in the future. The logistics of comparisons are tricky, but we'll see what we can do....Marc Mickelson

November 11, 1999


I just found your site a week ago. Congratulations! Please keep up the excellent work.

...Jesus Rincon

P.S.: I'm very interested in the Audio Physic Avanti Century review. When is it coming?

We expect the Audio Physic Avanti Century review to be published on 12/1....Marc Mickelson

November 10, 1999


I just read the advertisement for the Taddeo Digital Antidote, which I thought was interesting and wanted to pass it on. The maker of the Taddeo Digital Antidote states that regular CD playback has phase errors which result in an unnatural high-frequency response. Moreover, this fact has been overlooked for years. This is interesting because brickwall filters can cause unnatural ringing due to the 44 kHz sampling frequency (for which oversampling is used), but I had never heard of this phase error described on the Taddeo website. I thought it might be interesting to have your technical editor address this in an upcoming column ( perhaps with a review as well). Anyway, I very much enjoy your website and reviews and am looking forward to the Cardas Audio tour.

Interior pictures of components, including speakers and cables (like the Japanese stereo mags) would be a great way to improve your already detailed reviews.

By the way, I have a degree in electrical engineering and have been an obsessed audiophile for over 12 years.


...Troy Richards MD

November 9, 1999

Success is difficult to come by and rarely undeserved when found. Congratulations on your E-Mag. Surely you will become a dominant force as the bandwidth of your medium grows. I look forward to downloading your first 100-page web-zine in five years, an act that by then will take all of two seconds.

You guys provide a great product and services to your readers.

...Chad Baures
Bel Canto Design

November 9, 1999


Back in August, I wrote and asked about the prospect of a SoundStage! review of McCormack's upgraded DNA-1 amp (these upgrades, in versions A, B, and C, are offered direct by the amp's original designer -- Steve McCormack). You were kind enough to reply the same day, informing me that one of your reviewers was having his or her amp upgraded and would be writing about the process and effect. As a DNA-1 owner considering a version B upgrade, I'd be very interested to hear what your reviewer has to say. When can I and other McCormack amp owners look forward to SoundStage!'s review?

...Richard Landis

P.S.: Just wanted to let you know that one of Stereophile's reviewers regularly uses an upgraded McCormack DNA-l in his reviews and that this upgraded version is noted in that magazine's recommended components. In the hopes of getting more than one learned opinion on the McCormack upgrade, I e-mailed Stereophile's John Atkinson several weeks ago. I'm still waiting for a reply.

Jim Causey's amp is at SMc Audio for upgrade now; his review will hit our pages sometime early next year, perhaps 1/1/2000 if his amp is returned soon....Marc Mickelson

November 8, 1999


I would like to thank you and all of your colleagues for providing the most informative, entertaining, and just plain enjoyable writing on audio that it's been my pleasure to experience. The world of hi-fi would be a barren wasteland without the creative reviewing that goes into each and every SoundStage!. You guys are GOOD!


...Will Dent

November 8, 1999


I was reading some of your integrated-amp reviews and was wondering if the Plinius 8150 would be a worthwhile review product for SoundStage!.

...Hai Chu

We have talked with Plinius many times about reviewing various products, and the 8150 integrated amp is one of them. They sell very well, and so getting a unit for review is difficult. If we can get one, we will review it....Marc Mickelson

November 7, 1999


Thanks for all of your help. I have ordered a pair of the Silverline Sonatas from Steve Klein in Nashua, NH along with Harmonic Technology interconnects and speaker cables, a new cartridge for my 'table, new power cords...the list goes on. My upgrade turned out to be more extensive than I planned, but I can't wait to set it all up and start listening. I'm particularly excited about the Sonatas. They are really fantastic speakers.

Anyway, many thanks for saving me lots of money (that immediately went into other stuff!) and giving me better bass....

...Greg Scholl

November 6, 1999

To Greg Smith,

Thanks for the great advice on the earplugs in your October column. Due to attending many concerts in my 22 years, I have noticed the beginnings of mild tinnitis. Noticing that my ever-increasing interest in audio and my declining hearing are polar opposites, I went ahead and purchased the earplugs you recommended for the George Clinton and P-Funk All Stars show. They were comfortable, I could talk to my friends with them in, and best of all, NO RINGING EARS!


...Dave Orwick

November 5, 1999


Is your magazine available in hard copy? I do not have ready access to a computer. How do I go about ordering a subscription if this is an available option?

...Glenn Wasserman

Unfortunately, our publication is online only. We do have a separate downloadable publication called our E-Mag that you print and read offline....Marc Mickelson

November 3, 1999

Dear Editor,

Well, your editorial, "Surprise!," was a timely response to a mean-spirited editorial I just read today in Vol. 12 #1 of The Inner Ear Report, a Canadian-published magazine. For some reason, E. Leopold is "thoroughly pissed off....," presumably at SoundStage! and all of your reviewers, whom he characterizes as "simply hobbyists who may be very good at web design...but they fail to convince me of their audio expertise." E. thinks you guys are just "self-appointed critics who get most of their (your) scoop from already published hardcopy material," not to mention the fact that "any of their (your) advertisers will get a good review...." How do you get away with this? Easy. "...the Internet makes it possible to pose as an expert, as credentials can easily be faked with no one the wiser."

Sorry if I find this editorial amusing, since its author is obviously very upset that SoundStage! exists, and his assertions are very damning, bordering on slanderous, and published in what appeared to be a tasteful high-end-audio magazine. It is just so absurd to me that of all the possibilities he had to write about to advance our body of knowledge and enthusiasm, he decided to play cheap-shot artist, and intentionally harm an industry colleague. E. (whatever his name is -- to digress briefly, it is ironic that in two paragraphs he challenges your reviewers to publish their credentials, yet you won't find his real name printed anywhere in TIER), is angered and threatened by the notion of Internet review sites in general. If his real concern is about misinformation on the Internet, then he would be better served by taking that up in another venue, rather than by scapegoating a legitimate enterprise. I have no patience with TIER, whose nit-wit editor would allow such a tasteless and immature diatribe to be printed.

But I'm curious to know if SoundStage!'s editor was already aware of this attack, and wrote "Surprise!" as a non-confrontational response? Keep up the good work.

...Bill Thomas

We knew about this editorial, which is not the first one to go after us, but we had not read it. Why do other publications care about us? Because we are competition and successful at what we do. No, they don't worry that our reviews happen to be accurate and helpful to readers, and our columnists are followed closely. Instead, I suspect they covet our list of advertisers, who don't pay anywhere near print rates and get even better exposure, worldwide at that. If anybody can put up a website, why don't those who are so angry with us do it -- and reap the easy rewards they say we've not deserved? We know why: it's a TON of HARD work -- a lifestyle and not a mere job. Such diatribes are childish, and you and I are not the only ones who know it. Like it or not, we've arrived and we're not going anywhere -- but up.

My "Surprise!" editorial was mostly directed at Internet sites that sell and provide editorial content in some way. We KNOW what's wrong with this scenario, and I thought shedding a bit of light on it wouldn't hurt....Marc Mickelson

November 2, 1999


Your site is rapidly replacing a certain well-known magazine as the most trustworthy source for high-end audio.

...Richard Gordin

P.S. Any target date for the Silverline Sonatina review?
P.P.S. I've been very impressed with SoundStage!'s ability to publish regularly on the first of each month.

The Silverline Sonatina review is scheduled for the next issue of our E-Mag, due on December 15. And thanks for noticing that we're there the first of every month (we publish on the 15th too). It's never easy to keep such a schedule....Marc Mickelson

November 1, 1999


Help me. I am feeling really dumb right now. I found your site a few days ago and was able to find old reviews of equipment dating back a few years. I
can't figure out how I did it. If you could please point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.

...Todd Tucker

Follow the link from the front page to Audio Online, then to the Archives. There you will find our reviews from past issues....Marc Mickelson