|SoundStage! Feedback: August 2000
August 26, 2000
I'm glad to see you are adding measurements to your product reviews. Measurements ARE necessary for compatibility and can save us time in not listening to products that will not work in our systems regardless of how wonderful they may sound.
As an example, the Mark Levinson No.383 integrated amp now under review has a low input impedance -- much lower than the stated 100k ohms. It's actually 10k ohms according to Stereophile. My CD player states a minimum impedance of 10k ohms, so I would not waste my time auditioning this piece because my CD player will be working too hard to drive it (to a source component, the preamp is a load), and I don't want to be at the "minimum" of what the manufacturer recommends.
My point is that nowhere in the review will this be mentioned. The unit may work very well with the reviewer's source components and be highly recommended, but still be a waste of time for the reader!
Anyway, good luck with the measurements. I'm sure they will add great value to your reviews.
At this point, we are only able to measure roughly one pair of loudspeakers per month, but our goal, as we progress, is to measure all products we review....Marc Mickelson
August 25, 2000
I was wondering where the measurements were for the Kharma Ceramique 1.0 speaker review published in your latest E-Mag. I know the reviewer loved the speaker, but how does it compare with other speakers in its price range that weren't there for the reviewer to listen to? And shouldn't all speakers be listened to blind, with a standard, excellent speaker for reference? Then I can go and hear, say, a PSB Stratus Gold and know when you say a speaker is more detailed then the Gold or has more bass extension. I'll know exactly what you are comparing it to.
Plus the Ceramique 1.0 looks good -- how much of that is going into the subjective evaluation of the speaker? I like the blind-listening test you did, but please carry it further. Make all speaker reviews blind-listening tests. Truth in audio -- only a few ways to come at it, and it seems that with this review, you went backward instead of forward.
Among the many reasons that we will never do only blind listening tests is that they aren't possible logistically. Our test at the NRC was possible because of the IEC-standard listening room and staff to set the test up -- and the special equipment too. Although we value the blind experience, and will conduct more blind tests in the future, we also believe, as our readers do, in carefully wrought subjective reviews built around careful listening, which is the backbone of our reviewing process. Also, a mandatory element of each review we publish is a comparison, albeit not always with a well-known product, but usually one that we have reviewed -- or the reviewer owns and knows well.
In terms of measurements, we were not able to measure the Kharma Ceramique 1.0, but we will be publishing more measurements with reviews as time goes on....Marc Mickelson
August 24, 2000
To Doug Schneider,
Thank you for an extremely insightful review of the Simaudio I-5 integrated amp. Your choice of descriptions and references was very beneficial to us guys needing a professional opinion.
August 23, 2000
I have purchased a (trial) Stratos amplifier by Odyssey Audio. I cannot tell you how impressed I am. I had the company upgrade the filtering caps to 120,000mF types. The amp is not yet fully broken in, but it is clearly showing already its sonic "magic." I am driving a pair of B&W Nautilus 803s and using a Celeste P5003 preamp. For source components I have a Sony 7700 DVD player (as transport) going into a Meridian 518 and then to an Assemblage combo: D2D-1/DAC 2.6 fully upgraded. All interconnects and speaker cables are from Harmonic Technology. I have a dedicated room built from scratch measuring 25'L x 14'W x 8.4'H and treated for proper reflection/absorption (with RoomTunes).
I cannot believe there will be that much improvement from the standard Belles 150A. For comparison and critical listening, I play my familiar Reference Recording samplers, including the XLO disc and Tutti and the HI-FI magazine CD. Of immediate notice was a larger and fuller soundstage with more slam and authority. Dimensionality also extends to both the rear and sides, and very importantly, not forward. The Stratos is very neutral, mating well with the P5003. It is very sonically balanced. It has very extended frequency extremes, especially the upper-midrange and high frequencies. Perhaps it has to do with its wide frequency response, 400kHz as published. It lacks high-frequency etching when compared to the 150A, making it easy to listen to for extended periods of time. This amp has a sweetness of its own! It is not harsh by any means and focuses superbly. It has a good balance between tube circuitry and the best solid-state designs. I know this as I have been building tube kits for many years now. I am hearing notes from my 803s that I never heard before!
I could not resist opening it up. I was surprised by its simplicity and the lack of more output devices. It has only two pairs of discrete output (Japanese) bipolars per channel. Also I was surprised by the small toroid (400VA). The filtering is good. A small critique here is that some of the solder joints are not good. I can do better. Some joints (speaker and RCA posts) look a little cold, but that can be easily fixed. Impressive heat sinks, binding posts and overall great metal work for the price of the amp.
This amp is a superb amp. As I stated earlier, it has a "magic" of its own. I can't imagine how much better it will sound after it is fully broken in! I'm wondering when SoundStage! will publish its review, and if the amp will be included in the Reviewers' Choice listing. I'm guessing it will.
Our review of the Stratos amplifier is still a month or more off, so stay tuned....Marc Mickelson
August 22, 2000
I totally remember reading a review for I Fiamminghi's Tango CD. I actually purchased this CD on the basis of the review, which I could swear was on the SoundStage! music site.
However, I haven't been able to locate it in the music archives (I wanted to forward it along to a friend). Am I a few sandwiches shy of a picnic, or is this review missing?
Your memory is spot on. We did publish a review of the Tango CD, but it was inadvertently left out of our archives. You can see the review here. Thanks for the reminder. I will add a link to our archives...Marc Mickelson
August 21, 2000
I have always believed in using high-quality interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords. Over the years I've used van den Hul, Goertz, JPS Labs, and Wireworld (Gold Eclipse III), which gets to be a rather pricey proposition for a system. Recently I had the opportunity to audition a full system of cables from Coincident Speaker Technology. These included power cords, interconnects, and speaker cables. I've found these to be exceptional products at truly affordable prices. Resolution, harmonics, dynamics, and tonal balance were comparable to those of the best cables that I have heard. In fact, I preferred the CST-1 interconnect to my Wireworld Gold Eclipse III, a cable which cost four times the price of the CST-1. Similarly, the new Coincident power cord in head-to-head comparisons with the Top Gun Model 11 and Electraglide power cord proved to be a hands-down winner in several systems.
I suggest that SoundStage! contact Coincident's Israel Blume to test these first-rate, truly affordable cables.
We've reviewed quite a few Coincident products over the past few years, and perhaps we'll write about Israel's cables too....Marc Mickelson
August 20, 2000
I always enjoy your insightful reviews. Can you please review the ProAc 3.8 speaker and Audio Research 100.2 amplifier? I have many friends who also read your reviews regularly, and they also would like to hear your thoughts on these new and exciting products.
I hope to take this request seriously! I am a very loyal reader.
We do have more ARC equipment coming in for review, and given your interest, I'll see if we can get the 100.2 amp. ProAc is trickier because the US distributor doesn't often send out review samples. But I will still see if we can get our hands on the Response 3.8s....Marc Mickelson
August 19, 2000
To Marc Mickelson,
I enjoyed your review of the ProAc Response Four speakers. I'm looking for a monitor-type speaker for two-channel listening to replace my PSB Century 400is (which cross over to a Bag End subwoofer). Yesterday I auditioned a pair of ProAc Response 1SCs and was extremely impressed. I plan to add either a Simaudio I-5 or a Cary CAD-300SEI integrated amp to my system later in the year. I've seen very few reviews of the ProAc speakers and was interested in any input you have on the matter, or other speakers I should consider at the same price point. Thanks for your input.
The ProAc Response 1SC is a very fine speaker that has a number of the characteristics of the much larger and more expensive Response Fours, tonally at least. The next issue of our E-Mag, which should be ready for download in the next day or so, has blind-listening ratings on five different minimonitors, so you may want to check that out....Marc Mickelson
August 16, 2000
I' m surprised with the sheer volume of work you guys do. Slipping? I think not. Isn't everyone entitled to some downtime and relaxation? It's summer, guys. I know it's hard to keep everyone happy, but this work must be very time-consuming at least. I'm sure most of us understand and appreciate this.
August 15, 2000
You guys are slipping. First the update last month with only one review, then a few updates that come days later than they should, and now this with your E-Mag being late. You guys are still the best, but what is going on? Even some talk has generated on the newsgroups about this.
The E-Mag is a lot of work -- as are all of our sites, the roster of which only keeps growing (see www.soundstagenetwork.com). We have not missed a month of publication EVER and do keep our schedules, albeit with some delays on the 15th. I apologize, but quality takes time, and I think you will be pleased once you see the newest issue of the E-Mag. We aim to be back on our regular schedule....Marc Mickelson
August 9, 2000
To Marc Mickelson,
I am an avid reader of SoundStage! and the E-Mag pretty much since the beginning. I was puzzled as I read your review of the Soliloquy 6.3s to find that your ProAc Response Fours are "departed." Where did they go? Do you have a new reference? Not that I would strongly consider buying a speaker because it's your reference -- I'm just nosy! I'm a minimonitor guy like Doug Schneider -- more specifically CANADIAN-built monitors.
I moved from Arizona to Wisconsin late last year, and the prospect of moving the very large and heavy ProAc Response Fours across the US (for a second time) was daunting to say the least. So I sold them. Later this year I should reveal what will be my next reference, so stay tuned. The allure of a minimonitor, with the moving I've been doing, is very tempting!...Marc Mickelson
August 7, 2000
To Doug Schneider,
I am an audiophile from Athens, Greece, and I've read your review on the JMlab Mini Utopias. I totally agree with what you say. My current setup consists of: YBA 1a HC power amp, YBA 1a preamplifier with special power supply, and YBA 2a CD player. I do not play the Minis on their dedicated stands but on Target stands. Please comment on the sonic improvement of their own stands. Finally, I would appreciate recommendations on speaker cables and interconnects. What about Siltech 4s Gold interconnects and LS-180 speaker cables? Did you happen to audition them?
Your comments would be much appreciated.
I don't doubt that your own Target stands work well. Target makes outstanding stands, and providing they are the right height for the Mini Utopias, they should work well. However, JMlabs' own stands for this speaker match visually as well as sonically. They hold the speaker at precisely the right height, are very inert in their construction, and are double-spiked -- meaning they have spikes between the speaker and stand, and the stand and floor. The only downfall is that they are a little pricey, which is undoubtedly attributable to their fine appearance. As for speaker cables and interconnects, I used both my reference Nirvana cables (S-L speaker cables and interconnects) as well as Nordost Red Dawn Revision II speaker cables and Quattro Fil interconnects, which worked very well....Doug Schneider
August 5, 2000
SoundStage! is wonderful -- truly the best of its kind. I very much appreciate the efforts of all who contribute. But I am writing to express my frustration and confusion over the selection of video/home-theater products for review.
There is so much happening in the home-theater arena -- HDTV satellite systems, progressive-scan DVD, convergence products, to name but a few developments. A wide selection of truly high-end preamp-processors are available (e.g., at about $3k, the new Sunfire piece; at about $4k, the new Bryston piece; at about $4.5k, the EAD Ovation; at about $6.5k, units from EAD, Meridian and Lexicon, etc.). The price of high-quality scalers is dropping fast, and DLP and plasma displays are getting quite good.
Yet, with all these exciting products, we get reviews of A/V receivers, surge suppressors and low-priced, standard DVD players. And while the R.E. Designs six-channel preamp is apparently a "world-class" performer, with its relatively limited utility and appeal, does a review make sense in view of the relatively few home-theater products that SoundStage! reviews? With all due respect, I think that the selection of home-theater products for review could be substantially improved.
I'm not suggesting that only high-priced components be reviewed. I'm not suggesting that only cutting-edge technology be reviewed. What I am suggesting and hoping is that you seek, in your selection of home-theater products for review, the balance that you've achieved in terms of your selection of audio products (high-end vs. lower end, established technology vs. new technology).
Thanks for a great webzine.
One of our goals for this year was to bulk up the coverage of home-theater products and perhaps even break out that area into a magazine that covers HT the way SoundStage! covers audio. This is still in works, but as your letter indicates, we haven't yet achieved our goal. You will see more home-theater reviews as time goes on, a good number of these on processors, but for now, we recognize that we're still trying to catch up to our plans....Marc Mickelson
August 3, 2000
To Marc Mickelson,
P.S. I bought the AES AE-25 Super Amp and it is SUPER with my Silverline Sonatinas!
I have heard the Arpège, but only in an unknown system, so I don't know how it contributed to the sound I heard. If you have the Super Amp, I would stick with it. That is one heck of an amp....Marc Mickelson
August 2, 2000
To Marc Mickelson,
I enjoyed your review of the Soliloquy 6.3s.
I recently heard the Gershman Avante Gardes and liked them, but they need lots of power to
sound their best. This is why I wanted to read about the 6.3s. I am planning on buying SET
amps. My question is how do the 6.3s compare with the Gershmans? Both go down to 25Hz, but
do the 6.3s have the tonal richness of the Avant
...Ivan de Beky
I have only heard the Gershman speakers at shows, so I can't comment on them in any meaningful way except to say that they sounded very good the times I heard them. The Soliloquy 6.3s have an abundance of tonal richness and soundstage well. Setting them up for best sound can be tricky, but I outline how to do this in my review....Marc Mickelson