|SoundStage! Feedback: November 2000
November 28, 2000
To Neil Walker,
I have stumbled upon an interesting tweak that I thought you might be interested in. I know you must get a lot of e-mail, so I'll update my contacts with you. I have a pair of Paradigm Atoms with a Luxman LV-100 integrated amp, Kimber PBJ interconnects, Pioneer Elite PD-65 CD player, Studiotech sand-filled stands, Energy subwoofer, and have replaced Kimber 4PR speaker cable with AudioQuest Type 4.
My son is putting together a competition sound-off car and had some extra Dynamat Premium sound-deadening material laying around. I took some and cut some squares and placed them on the speaker stands' top plates and put the Atoms on them. What an amazing change this has made. I am not a scientist or anything, but I guess the elimination of the transfer of resonance to the stands has brought out more sound. More of everything. There are voices in the background I've not heard before, and the imaging goes from the floor to the ceiling and from left wall to right and beyond. The shrill resonance I was experiencing in the upper mids on some piano and electronic music (William Orbit's) have been eliminated altogether. The Luxman had been very articulate but fairly dry. Now there is less dryness and more of a fullness and continuity along with the articulation. Very sweet, indeed. I've taken the Dynamat pads off and put them right back on again.
I also tried this tweak with a pair of little Optimus Pro Lx-4s. These guys were so bright I couldn't listen to them, even though they are much more articulate than the Atoms. Now, since I've put the Dynamat between them and the stand's top plate, I believe I like them more than the Atoms. It's nice to find something that brings more enjoyment to listening to music.
November 24, 2000
There has been a lot of talk about Talon Audio and the Khorus speaker. Having read the review in Stereo Times and later on at SoundStage!, I took a look at the measurements that you had done at the NRC. To me, these show some serious problems -- both the drop from 200Hz downwards, but also the drop from just below 2kHz (and confirmed by your listening to the speaker). Most of the folks who have listened to the Khorus are impressed by the speed and bass reproduction. The measurements indicate that what the Khorus does from 200Hz and down should be audible. I am absolutely not siding with Talon, but I am just curious as to how to understand the two seemingly different sources of information -- the review and measurements. The NRC is known for its expertise, and it appears to me that they could not have made such flawed measurements. Please shed some light on this matter.
As we've stated, we stand by the measurements we published of the Talon Audio Khorus. Of course, we urge all audiophiles to hear products they are interested in for themselves. Talon Audio has, in fact, responded to the measurements formally, and you can see their letters below and at the end of our review....Marc Mickelson
November 20, 2000
I know you have reviewed the Bel Canto DAC1 and received many e-mails about it. So why not review the Birdland Audio Odéon-lite upsampling DAC, which is only $980, and compare it directly to the famous Bel Canto? People love shootouts, so lets do it! Also, please include EVS Millennium II DAC in the comparison.
BTW, I trust your ears because a few years back you gave a very positive review to JPS Labs Superconductor cables. I was intrigued, so I ordered cables from JPS Labs, Cardas Neutral Reference, MIT Shotgun, Alpha-Core Micro Purl, LAT, Pure Silver, Transparent Audio, TARA Labs, Harmonic Technology, and others, and I had a shootout. My findings were that, without a doubt, JPS Labs was the best. Keep up the good work, and good luck.
You'll be happy to know that a review of the Birdland DAC will appear on 12/1, after a few delays. Keep an eye out for it. And as I write below, we hope to get a DAC from EVS soon....Marc Mickelson
November 19, 2000
I thought I'd send a quick e-mail regarding a product that's gaining a fair amount of attention lately. Rick Schulz's Millennium II DAC is getting some pretty spectacular reviews, and I'm really curious to see if SoundStage! will consider reviewing the product. I'd love to see an independent review done, so I'm not just reading customer feedback on audioreview.com, which seems to inevitably praise almost every product with five-star rave reviews. Are you guys familiar with EVS and are they legitimate with their claims? Any feedback to these questions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your consideration.
We are familiar with EVS, and we've contacted them about reviewing their DAC, which they've said they will supply us. Watch our list of upcoming reviews for announcement of an EVS DAC review....Marc Mickelson
November 18, 2000
To Marc Mickelson,
I just read your review of the Soliloquy 6.3s. After digesting the article, I don't think they would be good in my room. However, I wonder if you would be so kind as to give me your opinion on the "fit" of the Silverline Sonatina.
My room is 15' x15' and open at one side except for a 5' run of wall that separates it from another room in my finished, carpeted basement. Because of the "wife factor," I am forced to place my speakers NO MORE than 8" from a back wall (the right speaker is actually at the end of the five foot run) and about 7.5 ' apart and toed in to the listening position.
Silverline (Alan Yun himself!) has said "no problem." I'd like a second opinion (with no recourse to you, of course!) if you would be so kind. I would drive them with a Luxman R-117 160Wpc (receiver!). I bought a pair of Mordaunt Short Performance 860s about a year ago, and I wonder if any thing at this price point would be an improvement.
Finally, I am also considering the JM Lab Electra 915, the Audio Physic Tempo III, and Vienna Acousic Beethoven (maybe Mozart). Would any of these work better in my application? I know I am asking a lot from a man I have never met, but you must understand that I live in Nebraska and have no local dealers for any of these products. I thank you in advance for any assistance you may be able to provide.
Glad to help -- we answer these kind of questions all the time. I would say the Sonatinas will work well in your room, which is of reasonable size (it's actually wider than the room in which I reviewed the speakers). The Sonatinas like tubes, but 160Wpc will drive them easily. I'm not familiar with the other speakers you mention.
One thing to consider, however: Silverline has released the Sonatina Mk II. We will be publishing a review of it before the CES, and contained in that review will be a comparison to the original version of the Sonatina. You might want to wait for this review to appear....Marc Mickelson
November 17, 2000
I have to tell you that I love your SoundStage! site. I visit weekly, and for the past year have made most of my audio-purchasing decisions based on reviews in SoundStage!. Keep up the good work!
I have a question, or maybe a request, I'm not sure. At one time, I thought, you had music reviews categorized by ranking, similar to your Reviewers' Choice site. Did this disappear, am I looking in the wrong place, or did this never exist and maybe I'm confused?
During the last few years, hardware has become so revealing that it's getting painful to listen to less-than-stellar recordings. I'm to the point now where I won't even by a new CD unless I know the recording is of very high quality. Did you ever consider sorting by recording quality or maybe a "best recording of the month/year" page?
Anyway, I don't want to take up to much of your time. Thanks again for all the great audio info.
We have published our "Bustin' Out Our Best" lists, which are filled with generally very good-sounding recordings, as well as the year's best recordings, a new installment of which will be going live very soon. You can find both on the main music page in the right-hand column....Marc Mickelson
November 15, 2000
To Doug Schneider,
Since the US elections are killing me, here's your chance to brighten my day. Paradigm System Two or PSB Alpha HT system (A/V, Mini, Alpha center, 10" subwoofer): Which is the better home-theater system? I appreciate your help since it's impossible to addition them side by side.
Frankly, you could not have picked a more difficult set of speakers to compare. What Paradigm and PSB offer at the respective price points is extremely comparable. This is further compounded by the fact that both are excellent values for the money. In terms of performance, there will certainly be some nits to pick, but they are going to be close. As you know, I just reviewed the Paradigm System Two and found it extraordinarily good for the money -- enough so that it received a Reviewers' Choice designation. That said, I'm going to take a different route here and suggest something else that you may consider. Both systems are comparable and priced similarly, I believe. I've always recommended in these cases that you look closely at whom you buy this system from. I always find audio systems to be longer-term purchases than simply walking out the door with the gear. So who will give you the best service? What if you want to upgrade? And perhaps, can somebody be more competitive in terms of price (although I'm always willing to pay a little more for an increase in services the store may offer). In any case, two excellent systems from two excellent companies -- now consider which store you would rather buy from....Doug Schneider
November 10, 2000
I just read Mr. Farnsworth's letter to the editor. What will be the follow-up to this situation, which needs to be remedied?
I would imagine you have been following the exchange for some time. The speaker supplied to us was measured accurately. However, in the letter below, Talon has indicated that they do not feel the measurements we published represent a properly functioning Khorus loudspeaker. Talon has been invited to send another speaker to the NRC, should they wish. That decision, though, is entirely up to them. Should this happen, the results will be presented on SoundStage!. Other than that, we feel this issue to be complete....Doug Schneider
November 9, 2000
We wish to express concern over the measurements posted on SoundStage!. We are not sure what happened, but we are confident that they do not show the impedance or frequency response of a properly functioning Khorus. Please refer to www.talonaudio.com/measurements.htm to view how the Khoruses test in our lab. This being the case, your editorial would have a questionable foundation.
We rely on measurements daily to build, test, and design our loudspeakers. Many designers lean solely on frequency response. We pursue far more demanding measurements such as rise time, square waves and "waterfalls" (i.e., rapid, time-coherent, rise AND decay). Frequency responses are chiefly concerned with amplitude. Uncompensated phase rotations can produce all sorts of deformation of the signal creating one of the main sources of "pace and rhythm" errors that make one "flat" speaker sound so different from another.
We believe that its up to the designer to sift through these issues. Flat frequency response is tremendously important, but only AFTER relative time coherence is attained.
It is interesting to note, as well, that while some seem to hear great changes in the burn-in process, others downplay its effects. We have measured new Khoruses with an impedance of anywhere from 20-22 ohms at 48Hz (the upper of the two peaks of its impedance curve). We have also measured an 8% dip in impedance value at 2kHz again, in an unburned-in Khorus. After several weeks of solid running in, the 48Hz peak drops to 15-16 ohms, while the upper midrange dip rises to "flat." In looking at Ohms law, E=IR, we find that as the voltage stays constant, the current "draw" would effectively increase in direct proportion to the R drop of about 25% at 48Hz, while the 8% rise in impedance value would reduce the uppermidrange output by the same amount. To us, these measured changes are dramatic, and contribute heavily to the final refinement of the product. Certainly those who have lived with the product for an extended period of time seem to echo these findings.
We are grateful to Grant Samuelsen for his thorough review and impressions of the Khoruses. Our place is to build a better speaker. We rely on the comments of reviewers like Grant to fully communicate the speakers' sound. There are a number of aspects in speaker design which are often difficult to decipher with aural impressions alone. It would seem that Grant heard, and enjoyed, the attributes related to this design approach. And, clearly, although we all have our personal opinions, he has not been alone in his estimation of the product. We would recommend that everyone listen and decide for themselves him/herself.
Michael Farnsworth, President
November 8, 2000
Just to keep this hobby in perspective, you have my permission to kick me if I ever develop that new disease "Talon measurement rage." It's not worth getting bent out of shape over. There will always be speakers that measure poorly but sound very musical. No one has made a perfect speaker, and everyone has "a preference." From a single voice in the vast stereo wasteland, have some fun with the seriousness.
November 7, 2000
I just wanted let the reviewers at SoundStage! know that your publication is the best reference for REAL audio information and guidance. Real reviews, real information, real technical specs, and real people. Thanks for not loving every piece of equipment that runs through the place.
November 6, 2000
I just read your review of the Perpetual Technologies devices. How do these and the other DACs you mentioned compare to a Theta Pro Basic IIIA? I am currently using the Pro Basic IIIA with two Theta TLCs, a Monarchy Audio DIP Mk II and then an Assemblage UJB-1. I have a Sony ten-disc changer with TosLink output feeding the first TLC. The rest of the digital cables are DH Labs D-75 with BNC connectors. The output of the DIP is AES/EBU with a DH Labs D-110. The UJB-1 also uses a D-110 to feed the AES/EBU input to the Theta Pro Basic IIIA. Do you recommend any digital cables, 75-ohm BNC and AES/EBU, that are better than the DH Labs? The jitter boxes and 75-ohm BNC connectors really helped clear up the sound of the Pro Basic IIIA. When I first bought the Theta I thought it was very smooth, but somewhat dark and lifeless. Now it sounds completely different, very clear and natural.
I really love my Theta DAC, and I am having a ball changing cables (digital and analog) to improve the sound. I have upgraded many of my interconnects from Kimber PBJ to various Cardas models. IMHO, the Cardas Crosslink is far superior to the similarly priced PBJ. My favorite Cardas is the Neutral Reference. The Cross is also excellent.
What is most interesting about my stereo is that it is in my car. I am using a Radio Shack inverter to power the Theta Pro Basic IIIA, the DIP and the UJB-1. I have absolutely no hum. The sound is fantastic through my Dynaudio three-way speakers in the doors.
What an interesting system you have! I owned a Theta DAC a long time ago and counted terrific bass among its merits. I can't say how exactly your more recent Theta DAC would compare to the Perpetual Technologies units of the current day in terms of sound, but it would be very interesting to see if Perpetual Technologies would be able to help you down the road with their speaker- and room-correction software. The company has expressed plans to measure discontinued speaker models for correction, so why not car speakers?...Marc Mickelson
November 3, 2000
First, let me compliment you and your staff on an excellent publication. I love both the E-Mag and the articles and postings at your website. Keep up the good work!
I'm writing you specifically to comment on your October editorial. On one hand, I'm very glad to see that some manufacturers are finally designing some all-in-one digital players. I have my doubts if either the SACD or DVD-A format has a future. I guess I won't consider either of them a mainstream format until I see software for sale at my local Hastings or K-mart, and I don't care about jumping into a new format until it becomes mainstream. We'll all have to wait and see what these new players sound like.
The thing is, I'm tired of waiting. What I need -- right now -- is a great CD player at a fair price. Something that would be right at home with my B&W 801 Nautilus speakers and Ayre and Krell amplification. Most of the latest players I've heard in the $2-3k range aren't a significant upgrade above my Theta Basic IIIA. The Accuphase and dCS upsamplers are no doubt awesome, but above my price range. Where are all of the excellent players in the $5-9k price range? I've been waiting for Theta, Mark Levinson (and what used to be Wadia) to make a great CD player with upsampling in the $5-9k range for three years now, and I've seen no takers. I've also seen no newcomers jump into this gap in the market. Where is the review of the Simaudio Moon Eclipse?
What I want is a great-sounding CD player. The unit should be built like a tank with a solid transport, and offer an upsampling DAC. As a bonus, if the player had enough juice to drive a pair of amps directly with a variable output, had a remote with volume, and sold for about $8k, I'd jump on it in a second. If a new digital format takes off, fine. I'd be glad to buy another player in 2-3 years, even if it's able to play CDs very well in addition to something else. If you hear of one, please let us know. If you don't, please let the manufacturers know. Thanks.
You're in luck because two CD players that we have in for review right now fit the bill for you. Doug Schneider has both the Resolution Audio CD55 and Audio Aero Capitole with 24/192 upsampling capabilities. You can expect one of the two reviews to be online next month, so stay tuned. The Moon Eclipse review is pending the return of the player to Doug. Simaudio needed it back, but Doug is supposed to get another....Marc Mickelson
November 1, 2000
I just read your monthly editorial on measurements and their place in reviewing. My wife and I are big music enthusiasts. We have come to believe that what we hear corresponds well with the measurements associated with a component (especially in the case of speakers). I want to commend your publication for making the effort in providing the NRC measurements. I wanted to let you know that there are folks like us who do care about these.
Also, SoundStage! is my favorite site. Keep up the great work.