SoundStage! Feedback: February 2001

February 23, 2001

To Marc Mickelson,

I just finished reading your review of the AES Super Amp, which is quite timely given that I'm making my initial foray into the tube-amp realm. Until now, I've been looking at used equipment, thinking I could probably get more bang for the buck, but this AES amp has me reconsidering my strategy. Any advice you could offer here is most appreciated!

On eBay I've been tracking a Conrad-Johnson MV-75A with KT-88 tubes. It's an older amp, but seems to get pretty good reviews on Of course, most everything seems to rate high there. I'm also tracking a Cary SLA-70 with the same tubes as the C-J. I've been trying to keep my spending under $1k, but realize that the advantages of buying new equipment might be worth the extra cost.

I have Chapman speakers T-7 speakers (three-way, 4 ohm), a PS Audio passive preamp, and the MSB Link DAC III. I listen to lighter rock and country, some jazz, vocal standards.

Any advice for tube-amp wannabe?

I appreciate your time, and keep up the great reviews.

...Steve Clapp

With your speakers and passive preamp, I doubt the AES Super Amp would be powerful enough to play music at a suitable level. Perhaps a pair in mono configuration could, but then you'd be out of your price range. In terms of used pieces, Conrad-Johnson and Cary are good names because the companies will be able to service the amps should you have problems....Marc Mickelson

February 22, 2001


When can we expect to see your review of Lamm's L2 preamp? Where in your multitude of sites will I find it?


...Charles Houston

The review of Lamm L2 preamp is still more than a month away from publication. Any review item listed on SoundStage! will be reviewed there....Marc Mickelson

February 21, 2001


I'm depressed. Living in Wyoming requires travel to large cities to seek out high-end audio gear. This past weekend, I made a trip to Denver, Colorado for an audio fix. My goal was to seek out a replacement for my aging and troublesome PS Audio Lambda transport, and to drool over some of the latest audio treasures. I've been to Denver before and know the major players, but this trip was different.

First I went to Listen Up, what I remember as one of the largest high-end dealers in the area. A decade ago this store had a HUGE selection of gear, and one could compare at least five different component options within a price range. Their emphasis has strongly shifted toward home theater with about half of the rooms showing video. They had some excellent components
on display, but the options have been whittled down to just a few. In my price range and area of interest, they offered B&W, Mark Levinson and Meridian. That's it. Nothing new here.

I really wanted to go to Sound Hounds, a former source of both excellent components and a huge inventory of used high-end gear. I found out that this Denver staple had closed its doors a couple of years ago.

I stopped at Cherry Creek Audio. This store had about six dedicated rooms of high-end audio gear and probably the best selection in town: Audio Research, Theta, Pass Labs, etc. Nice Store, but one thing hit me square between the eyes: This was Saturday afternoon in the city, and I was the only customer in the shop. I remember having to make an appointment to get into a store like this on Saturday afternoon. And despite their huge selection of gear, they had no CD transports for sale. I was informed that separate CD transports and DACs are dead, and that maybe I should check out the used market. Good advice, I guess.

I then went to Soundings, another Denver long-time dealer. When I asked to
see their CD transports, the salesman did not know what I was asking for and had to ask another gentleman for help. The second guy was very obliging and we talked for awhile (I wish I remembered his name). He wished they still did more high-end audio himself, since he was obviously an audiophile, but said the market just is not there to make a living or keep a store open. Mid-fi and video is how to make money. He opened the phone book and called a guy who supposedly had some "neat toys" available "by appointment only." I left with the address.

At first I thought I'd taken the wrong turn. I was in a residential area and my address was to a house. I rang the bell and was greeted by John Barnes. This guy has extended his home into an audio dealership, with no signs out front and by appointment only. He does have some super gear like Accuphase, Boulder, Cary, Electrocompaniet, etc., and his equipment sounds great. I'll be back.

After my day in Denver, I spent some time reflecting on what I'd experienced. High-end audio was always a niche market, but in the big city, I could always find several dedicated shops with enthusiastic patrons. No more. It appears high-end audio has been reduced to a few die-hards who seek out their passion in residential areas, as an afterthought in most store fronts, or over the Internet. The dedicated high-end store appears almost extinct. Yes, it was just one day in one town, and maybe I'm overreacting, but I've checked the pulse of high-end audio and it seems to me that it's almost dead.

Have you experienced the same symptoms in other cities?

...John Leosco

The best audio shop in my area, Salon One Audio in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, closed some time ago after years in business and amassing a clientele from Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and the Twin Cities. It sold home-theater and mass-market equipment, but it was first and foremost a high-end-audio store. Manufacturers in the know will tell you that the vast bulk of the market is in lower-priced goods, not the esoteric stuff. But we at SoundStage! get e-mail all the time from budding audiophiles on the road to obtaining better sound, so it seems that the Internet is able to spread the word and pull in new buyers of high-end equipment. Whether there are enough of them, however, remains to be seen....Marc Mickelson

February 16, 2001

To Doug Schneider,

I read your reviews of the JMlab Mini Utopia and the Verity Audio Fidelio loudspeakers. I wondered if you had a chance to see the measurements of both speakers from NRC? I believe they reveal that the bass on the Mini Utopias is actually better than that of the Fidelio. After having reviewed both, if you could only own one pair of them, which would you choose?

I am interested in both speakers, but have a unique amp -- vintage push-pull
(tube) 7Wpc. It seems that based on the NRC measurements that the Minis would be far more compatible due to their sensitivity and highish impedance, but I still was curious about which speaker you would prefer. I am aware that your tastes are unique, and different than my own, but then again so is everybody else's on this planet. Therefore what you think actually can by quite helpful.


...David Vair

As far as the measurements go, the Mini Utopia extended strongly and then began rolling off rapidly about 60Hz. In room it has a powerful, almost visceral presence. Reading the Fidelio measurement is a little trickier. The speaker has a rear-firing woofer. In the first measurement shown, much of the woofer's energy is not shown. You must look at the additional measurement we produce that "spliced" the output of the woofer to the regular frequency response. In that you will see that the Fidelio has strong output to under 50Hz. That said, both speakers are outstanding, but very different. The Utopia is lively, quick and dynamic. The Fidelio is more laid-back and a little bit more full through the lower registers. Which is better will really depend on your taste in music and sound....Doug Schneider

February 15, 2001


You have had the Mark Levinson No.383 integrated amp listed as an upcoming review for quite some time. Do you have any forecasts as to when the review will be published?

Thank you,

...Brian Miller

The No.383 review will be online on March 1. It's in the finishing stages right now....Marc Mickelson

February 13, 2001


Our family compromised, with the home theater and dedicated music units having to be one. Equipment used is a Rotel RSP-985 processor, 985 Mk II multichannel amplifier, B&W CDM 7 speakers up front with CDM 1s in the rear and the CDM CSE. We currently use a DVD player for music and movies (a Sony DVP-S570D) and would like to get a new DAC. The three choices are: MSB Link DAC III with the Full Nelson upgrade, MSB power supply, and Monarchy Audio 24/96 DIP; the Bel Canto DAC1; and the Perpetual Technologies P-1A/P-3A combo with the Monolithic power supply (the last being the most expensive). All are decent products, but which do you think would be the best choice for us? Which is the all-around best bang for the buck? Will SoundStage! be doing any comparisons of these models?

Many thanks,

...Susan Lust

In our review of the Perpetual Technologies P-1A/P-3A combination, I compared the duo to the Bel Canto DAC1. We have an upcoming review of the Monarchy DAC that will also include a Bel Canto comparison. In terms of "bang for the buck," we've named the Bel Canto and MSB DACs Reviewers' Choice products and feel they offer particularly high value. Both can upsample and decode 24/96 signals, although your Sony DVD player will probably not output such a datastream.

The only way to find out which is best for you, as the DACs you mention do sound different from each other, is the tried-and-true method: Start with our reviews and the descriptions of the sound of the various DACs, but audition each unit you find particularly interesting in your system. The list you've compiled is a good one, and you should find a DAC among them you'll like. I use the Bel Canto DAC1 as my reference and love it, while Roger Kanno and Doug Blackburn use the MSB Link DAC....Marc Mickelson

February 10, 2001

To Marc Mickelson,

It would have been interesting to hear about Bel Canto EVo 200.2's reaction to the various power cords you mentioned and the Shunyata Hydra, particularly if the amp is as sensitive as a high-current solid-stater.

...Steve Woolsey

A very good point. I found that the EVo 200.2 wasn't all that particular when it came to power cords. I used a number of different models, and I settled on the Shunyata Sidewinder "Venom" because its price was in line with the cost of the amp. Our review of the Shunyata Hydra is in the works, so I won't comment on it and the amp at this point....Marc Mickelson

February 7, 2001

To Marc Mickelson,

Nice take on the Thiel 3.6es from your February '96 article, "A Bum Rap." I couldn't agree more -- I just bought a pair used from a dealer and couldn't be happier. I'm using Classé CA-200 amp, Conrad-Johnson preamp, Meridian front-end with MIT shotgun interconnects and currently Kimber 8TC speaker cables (waiting on my MIT cables to be "un-biwired"). The Kimber is doing a fine job. I've never heard instruments sound so much like real  instruments! Thanks for your comments.

...Jerry Ward

February 4, 2001


Perhaps I am mistaken, but last summer it seemed as though you had new reviews on or about the 15th and I think the 1st of the month. I have found myself not coming to your site due to the long period of time between reviews. Why has the review cycle slowed?

...Mike Marcellas

Our publication cycle hasn't changed a bit -- 1st and 15th every month. The content doesn't always go live on the morning of these days, as was the case on February 1, but it will be live during the day -- and always has been. On the 15th of February, we will release another issue of our E-Mag, so that's where you'll see the mid-month reviews for February. For months during which we do show coverage around the 15th, we will sometimes not have the time to post those mid-month reviews....Marc Mickelson

February 3, 2001


Thanks for all the great writing on SoundStage!. Can you give me more information on the Television CD you mentioned in the recent review of PowerSnake AC cables? Is this the same as what I found on CDnow -- imported EMI of Television's 1992 reunion? If not, where can I find it?

Thanks a ton!

...W. Chang

The CD I referred to in the Shunyata review, and in many others, is Capitol C2-98396, and I've bought used copies for various friends of mine. has copies available now, so you can try there. You can also look up the band and CD on for more information....Marc Mickelson

February 2, 2001


I recently purchased CAL's CL-2500 CD/DVD Player ($2500) and do not understand why I cannot find one review on this player at any website. Supposedly, according to Stereophile, they will have a review on this player coming (if room is available).

Also, it was my understanding that the CL-2500 incorporates all that the CL-20 does and is supposed to be an upgrade.

Would appreciate your input and thank you.

...Barbara Pentony

We have tried to get one of these players, along with the other CAL 2500-series products, for review in SoundStage! or Home Theater & Sound, but we haven't been able to procure a review sample from CAL. Perhaps your letter will spur on the company to send us one....Marc Mickelson