SoundStage! Feedback: May 2000

May 26, 2000


I just pulled up your website, and I must say that I have found some wonderful information on it.

I enjoyed your review of the Linn Ikemi CD player, as I am planning on buying a full Linn system. So I was wondering if at any point you or any of the other reviewers have reported on any of the following Linn gear:

Kairn preamp
LK240 amp
Keilidh or Keltik speakers

Many thanks. I have bookmarked the site and will return often!


...Mark Wagner

We haven't reviewed the equipment you mention, but we have reviewed other Linn products, and other Linn reviews are in the works....Marc Mickelson

May 25, 2000


Based on your review of the Monarchy Audio SM-70 amps, I bought a pair. I had a couple of questions, and C.C. Poon of Monarchy promptly answered them by e-mail. The lady who took my order was courteous and careful. The amps arrived when she said they would. The pictures don't do them justice. These are really attractive, well-made amplifiers.

I'm not going to play "junior audio reviewer," but these amps really sound good. This is my first experience with a true class-A amp, and the sound seems more liquid than what I am used to. These amps are more forgiving of poorly recorded piano and harpsichord, especially in the upper octaves.

Anyway, I'm quite pleased. Thanks for the review, and keep up the good work.


...Doug Burkett

May 25, 2000


Do you guys plan on doing a review of any speakers from Talon Audio ( I understand that they are a new company, but I went into a local dealer that carries such lines as B&W, ProAc and MartinLogan just to name a few, and I heard the Talon flagship speaker called the Khorus and was absolutely blown away. They made the other speakers in the store sound broken. Their patented applications sure seem intriguing as well; it seems that they are doing something very right because I have never heard such beautiful sound come out of speakers at any price. Their sound and SS! reviewing prowess seem like a match made in heaven.

...Michael Javenes

We've heard good things about the Talon Audio speakers, and as with most reader inquiries, we will contact the company about a review....Marc Mickelson

May 24, 2000


You don't appear to have E-Mags 1 and 2 available for download. Is this correct or am I just not looking in the right place?

If they are not available, then my suggestion is that they should be!

Best regards,

...Brian Hammond

We are unable to make back issues of our E-Mag available for download because of bandwidth concerns on the ISP's end. We can, however, supply them via CD-ROM for a charge of $9.95. If you are interested in this, contact SS! publisher Doug Schneider.

May 23, 2000


Kudos on SoundStage! in general and a specific request. Doug Blackburn recently reviewed the Channel Islands Link DAC mods and Monolithic Sound HC-2 power supply. To complete the cycle, how about reviewing the MSB upsampling and HDCD boards for the Link DAC?

Thanks and keep up the good work.

...Doug Farrow

We currently have for review a Link DAC with the "Half Nelson" upgrade (parts upgrade, but without AES/EBU), 24/96 upsampling and P1000 outboard power supply....Marc Mickelson

May 19, 2000

To Marc Mickelson,

I own a pair of the Silverline Sonatinas, and recently bought the Earthquake subwoofer. I run the Sonatinas full range, using a separate output from the preamp to drive the sub by itself, with the crossover set at its lowest 50Hz setting. (Important: I don't cross the Sonatinas over through the crossover in the sub.) Subjectively, my opinion is that the Sonatinas begin to roll off below 40Hz anyway.

Not to be too subtle about it -- this is a match made in heaven. The weight, authority, and presence in the lower octave is all there (even on acoustic bass and cello), without mucking up any of the things the Sonatina does so well. They blend beautifully. There might be the tiniest "hump" in the 40Hz-50Hz range where the speakers and sub overlap, but I need to do more listening. I highly recommend checking out this combo.

...David Zigas

May 16, 2000


Any plans to review any of the Odyssey Audio amps? The info at their website is quite intriguing. The review excerpts included at the website suggest that the amps may be very high-value products.


...Wayne Breyer

We have a review in the works, and it should be online sometime in the summer....Marc Mickelson

May 15, 2000


I see that you will be reviewing the Legend Audio Starlet integrated amp. Could you give me a time frame for when the review might be completed and put online? Also, would it be possible for me to get a preliminary report?

I am putting together a system consisting a tube integrated amp, which will adequately drive Joseph Audio RM22si or the ProAc Response 1.5 speakers, and, living in the Seattle area, the opportunity to audition potential combinations is very limited.

Thanking you in advance for any information you can send my way,

...Jay Goldman

We just received the Starlet for review, so realistically we will not have the review online until August. Also, our policy is not to divulge any information about review items until the review is published....Marc Mickelson

May 11, 2000


Waaaaaaaasssssuuuuuuuuupppp! You guys are the greatest, but I do have a few suggestions/questions from the heart.

1. Is it me, or did you guys miss the mid-April update in terms of new  equipment reviews?

2. I am sure that you have been asked this one before, but I have to hear your answer. You guys are the best, but this one causes me some concern. Why aren't there any negative reviews? Certainly some reviews are more effusive than others, but I have never seen an outright negative review. Come on guys, there are some crappy pieces of gear out there! I just want to see an e-pub that can call a great product great and a horrible product horrible.

3. Why do some reviews have input from an additional reviewer while another does not (usually in the form of sidebars)? I think multiple/two opinions are the way to go. That way you get two different opinions from people with different tastes, equipment, and room acoustics. As in the medical community, a peer-reviewed article holds more weight than the conclusion of one investigator.

Thank you for all of your time and effort. You guys are at the top, but you can always get better.

...Mike Javenes

In regard to our mid-April update, we published issue 3 of our popular E-Mag instead. It offers a greater amount of content than our mid-month updates.

Regarding negative reviews, our stance when it comes to reviewing is to answer the most important question: what does it sound like? If we put ourselves into the business of good and bad, as opposed to what's heard, we end up writing reviews that convey what we like or dislike, not what the product is about. Often you can discern what a reviewer thinks about the worthiness of a product from the description of its sound. I know it is also the case that while bad products do exist, they sink very quickly because of all the good products out there and thus the power of the market.

Finally, not all of our reviews have sidebars or garner follow-up reviews because of logistics. We don't want to tie up products for many months or even years in order to offer multiple takes. Additionally, the shipping of large products can be costly and increase the chance of damage. However, you will see us try to do more of this -- as we are able to work with manufacturers to address the details I mention above....Marc Mickelson

May 11, 2000


I am a little confused about the answer to question 2 above. OK, so you try to provide an explanation as to how a product sounds. You guys do that very well, and that is one of the reasons why I love the pub (the other two biggies are the frequency of updates and the sheer number of reviews). But can't a reviewer "call a spade a spade," so to speak? For example, a speaker can be described as slow, boomy, with a chesty midrange and harsh highs. Can't a reviewer EVER state that he would not buy/use/recommend this product instead of sugar-coating everything?

Listen, I am the first to admit that my love is another's junk and vice versa, so there is something out there for everyone. But I would love to see you guys grow some balls (not meant disrespectfully) and call out a crappy product when warranted without fear of backlash from the manufacturer! There is one mag, and one reviewer that I read that do share the good with the bad. The mag is the Abso!ute Sound (see review of the Gershman monitors, or even the heralded Thiel flagship speaker), and the reviewer is Richard Hardesty from Widescreen Review. Mr. Hardesty has the biggest balls of anyone in the industry! Is he opinionated? Sure. Is he the best overall? Probably not. But I respect the fact that he is willing to stick his neck in the guillotine and stare at the blade. Can't SoundStage! get a little "edgy," and not so "every product has a place in the industry" polite?

Again, I love you and your mag, so I don't mean to sound unhappy, and I am not a layout/content expert, but I know my sentiments are shared by many other SS! readers.

...Mike Javanes

Let me clear something up: When we review an absolute clunker, which is very rare (believe it or not), you'll know about it. We have published reviews that bring to light one or more qualties that are not consonant with musical reproduction -- along with other qualities that are of some merit and perhaps others that are truly stellar. Such is a piece of audio equipment -- more complex than simply good or bad can convey.

What we want to do is give YOU the information you need to decide whether something is worth your time and effort to hear, and the only way to do this with savvy audiophiles is to act as journalists and convey the facts, especially the sound produced. Thus, the decision of relative quality is yours to make. Some other magazines go the other route, letting their reviewers act as judge and jury. This is a fundamental difference and frankly holds no interest for me as a reader because I know how often a reviewer's preferences don't mesh with mine, let alone the hearing of a person who always believes he is right.

I can also tell you, after having heard the Thiel CS7.2s at length, that the TAS reviewer was wrong about them. But in the end, here we are discussing THE REVIEW, which is a shame when the spotlight should be on THE PRODUCT.

I can make up my own mind -- as long as I get a clear and accurate appraisal of the subject at hand -- and I suspect you can too. Ultimately, I'm interested in equipment as a means to an end (music), not an end itself....Marc Mickelson

May 9, 2000


Just a quick note to endorse Jeff Fritz's findings on the Nirvana S-X Ltd. interconnects, only more so! Having listened to the usual plethora of cables, I find that the Nirvana interconnects (and especially the S-X Ltd.) allow me to experience the fullest musical impact with our Avantgarde horn speakers.

Nirvana is the only cable that makes me immediately forget about the sound of the system. With the Nirvana S-X Ltd., I find the immediacy and presence of the musical performance to be noticeably more compelling. The effect is akin to how you feel at the end of a great live concert. Although the music is over, it is still resonating around somewhere in your soul.

I attribute this not only to the cable's tonal purity, but actually more to its extraordinary low-level resolution. Instruments just seem to be that bit more alive, and their notes seem to leap out from nowhere (not in an imaging sense, which is unusually well defined), yet their decay is the closest to what I hear live. This low-level resolution is absolutely necessary for proper dynamics, and without excellent dynamic linearity, the music ultimately fails to move us emotionally.

For me at least, Nirvana is an unquestioned BEST BUY.

Best regards,

Jim Smith

May 8, 2000


First of all, congratulations on the inclusion of Wes Phillips to the staff of SoundStage!. His experience and knowledge at evaluating equipment and music will be of great help to your readers. He is a very open person and easy to talk with, as I have confirmed from the e-mail we have exchanged lately. Two thumbs-up to SoundStage!.

Second, I would like to see a review of cables from Sonic Horizon. From the information presented by the company, I can tell that their cables are well constructed, with excellent parts and at prices that are very affordable. My price range is not at the top line, but under $125.

Finally, keep on doing the great work you always do.

Best regards,

...Jose Garcia

We agree that Wes is a significant addition to our staff, and his own site,, is a terrific read, due in large part to Wes's experience and good humor.

We do have a review of some Sonic Horizons power cords in the works; after this, we will probably request some of the interconnects and speaker cables....Marc Mickelson

May 8, 2000


I have a suggestion for a review. I am in the market for a power cord, and there are such a bewildering array of choices that it's hard to know where to begin. What I would like to suggest is a review of the some of the more popular power cords at each price level. Not to compare the cords in order to determine which is best, but just so readers can get an idea of which cords to review.

Cords I am considering and which you may wish to review: Shunyata Sidewinder, Gutwire Power Cleft, JPS Labs GPA, Silver Audio Powerburst, TG Audio Labs HSRi, Siltech 12M EMC SPO, Cardas Cross, and PS Audio Lab cable.

How's that for a list? The worst part of it is that I plan on using the cords on my TV and DVD player, both of which use a two-prong cord (no ground), so I will have to cut the IEC to fit, which will preclude my ability to return the cable if I don't like it.

Besides, auditioning multiple cables, especially when plugging them in and out of a system, is a real pain and is obviously something I'd rather leave to someone else (like you guys).

Great magazine by the way.

...Troy Richards

May 6, 2000


With regard to the Nirvana S-X Ltd. interconnect review presented in SoundStage!, I have a few serious comments to make. By implementing one short length of a reference-grade audio cable in a stereo system (also consisting of Transparent Audio's Super interconnects and Harmonic Technology's Pro-9 speaker cables), there was no possibility to achieve any logical listening observations with regard to the reviewed cable, as the musical capacities and limitations of the system were determined by the other cables used in the system at this time. Can the specific performance characteristics of one individual spark plug be evaluated when implemented together with three others of a different type? Can the specific capacities of a new tire design be evaluated when mounting only one of these on a test vehicle together with three other pre-defined tires?

I know by experience that by using Nirvana S-L interconnects and speaker cables together with this one length of S-X Ltd. interconnect, a well-defined and more balanced synergy would have occurred during the review. If the system had been wired with only S-X interconnect cables as an option, the improved performance would have been breathtaking. By mixing cables with totally different transmission characteristics and design in the same system, the S-X interconnect had no possibility to let the reviewer experience their ultimate performance capacity, revealing today's pinnacle of detail, resolution, transparency, silence, focus, imaging, dynamics and microdynamics, frequency-extension extremes and tonal neutrality.

The Nirvana S-X interconnect is, in my opinion, the most transparent and musical audio cable available today at any price, presenting performance characteristics only possible through state-of-the-art technology, materials and research. The slightest change in any system setup will instantly be revealed by these cables, which gives any true audiophile the opportunity to tune his or her electronics to close perfection.

I would appreciate a more in-depth review of the Nirvana audio cables (including their excellent power cords) in SoundStage! at a later date. This does, however, require a lot of interest and knowledge by the reviewer, as the design and scientific boundaries for state-of-the-art performance of signal transmission will be pushed to its extremes.

Thanks for letting me voice my opinion. Yours sincerely,

...Peter Ruth

May 5, 2000


I would like to have the Camelot Arthur 24/96 and Assemblage 2.6 external DACs reviewed together. Both of these units are 24/96 capable, use excellent parts, are similarly list priced, and affordable for most consumers. It would also be nice if you use them with and without some form of jitter reduction, as it would be great to know how much improvement is possible with this addition.

What I am saying is this: I assume these are both wonderful units, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. From what I can decipher, from their spec sheets, they employ the best of the technology available. How about giving us some solid information that we can use to make what is a major purchase decision for some of us.


...Richard Dane

We will have reviews of the Assemblage 2.6 and 3.0 DACs online, along with a review of the Birdland Odéon-lite upsampling 24/96 DAC. We'll see what we can do in terms of the Camelot DAC....Marc Mickelson

May 5, 2000


I take issue with your "Flavors" editorial. If there are a myriad of choices in audio, it is due to the fact that anyone can do it. The big problem is that anyone has! The next big decision is how to market this genius. It's a great hobby for passive listening and amateur designing. The intention here is not to erect a class barrier in as much as professionals only need apply. Yet it is this very aspect of amateur enthusiasm which bedevils the direction of audio, especially as it pertains to the question: What is good sound? I'm reminded of a comment from 1987 by Mike Kay of Lyric HiFi: "John, the best loudspeaker in the world is a sold loudspeaker."

Acoustics and audio are sciences, not pure sciences but an applied ones. One must grudgingly admit that it is indeed the small by comparison high-end sector of audio which is most guilty of this flavors approach. As the trend in this direction became larger, more and more gifted, inquisitive minds have exited audio for other pursuits or simply became less public in their work. Such was the demise of Audio magazine. Yet it is the scientists who are the genuine amateur enthusiasts. We as manufacturers, have only to tap into this huge body of research, still ongoing, which is largely documented within the AES papers, to make genuine contributions for future generations. Audio products and the formats in which they must perform have become far too sophisticated to design simply by listening or evaluate by casually sitting in front of a system with no repeatable parameters.

The main reason for the systematic demise of audio as a science is the utter refusal of audiophiles, both at home and within the purview of their business affiliations, to conduct some form of systematic side-by-side comparative listening tests. The Internet is rife with too much subjective opinion, and yes we all use it to aid our marketing. Guilty as charged! Music has its fff and ppp. Audiophilia has its ccc, or chasing complementary colorations. As has already been pointed out elsewhere in this site in an interview with PSB designer Paul Barton, with real controls, most people most of the time will choose the same aspects of sound quality which objectively will be interpreted as measuring in a neutral manner. Dare I whisper the word flat? Without a detailed concept of what neutrality is, we're standing at Ben and Jerry's counter again. It is this short term "good for business" approach which is the contributor? This needn't be the legacy we leave for the future buyers of hardware and software.


John Ötvös
President, Waveform

In some ways, we agree with each other: There IS too much subjectivity in audio writing (and especially on the Internet), which is why explaining the flavor of a piece of audio gear is so important (and so hard for some). It involves close observation of the reproduced sound and not a quick "I like it a lot," which tells nothing about the subject (unless the subject IS the reviewer, which can be the case). If done with a keen ear, observation weeds out the clunkers; it is also more akin to strict journalism than being an audio critic, which is a term we at SS! avoid....Marc Mickelson

May 4, 2000


I've never said it before, but I really enjoy your thoughtful and complete reviews. With the explosion of 24/96 upsampling DACs, I was wondering if you have have heard the Taddeo Digital Antidote Two. It appears to be a filter rolling off gently in the analog stage, unlike the Wadia. They have a lot of interesting information on their website. The price is only $995 USD for the new filter, and they are bringing out a filter for DVD players too. I'm really curious to see how it sounds.


...Lloyd Smith

We have a review of the Taddeo Digital Antidote Two scheduled for 5/15 publication....Marc Mickelson

May 3, 2000


You have never reviewed any of the Mirage OM-series speakers. Is this because you don't like them or just haven't had the opportunity to demo them?

...David Baiton

We have expressed an interest in reviewing the Mirage OM-series speakers, but we're reviewing a couple of other Mirage/Athena models first....Marc Mickelson