[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
May 2001


May 28, 2001


Your site is terrific! Do you publish a magazine on paper? If so, how do I find out about it?

...Guy Russell

We don't publish a printed magazine, but we do put out a quarterly E-Mag, which is an electronic magazine in Adobe .pdf format. You can see and download it at www.soundstagemagazine.com. To see our entire lineup of websites, visit www.soundstagenetwork.com....Marc Mickelson

May 24, 2001


Regarding your review of the Magnan Signature speaker cables and silver bronze interconnects: hmmm! You guys! Such bull. Try this test, as we have. You'll soon hear that your ears, aren't telling your brain the truth about what they think you're hearing. You'll save the audio community money; after all, that's what makes you money.

...Emmett R. Diehl

May 23, 2001


I really wish you'd review the RE Designs amps. After much research, I purchased this fantastic amp, for years the reference amp of Marty DeWulf, and think your audience should know more about them. Three thousand dollars for two monoblocks? Gasp! I'm not affiliated with RE Designs, just an audiophile who got sick and tired of high-priced, mediocre audio components.

...Marc Grayson

May 20, 2001


Audio Aero's Capitole 24/192 CD player is getting lots of accolade. How do you compare the Capitole 24/192 CD player to the Mark Levinson No.39? Your detailed comments would be much appreciated.

Thanks and regards,

...Ahsan Habib

I haven't heard the Capitole 24/192 CD player in my system, but we have arranged for a follow-up review, at which time I will compare it to the Mark Levinson No.39....Marc Mickelson

May 14, 2001


I read the SoundStage! review of the Talon Khorus and the measurements (also your editorial). I finally got to hear the speakers at the NYC Home Entertainment Show. Your observations (in your editorial) about the Khorus are on the money. My wife did not know anything about the Khorus or the measurements, and the first thing she said after the demo was (and I quote): "Everything seems to be colored somehow." There was something amiss. All the pieces got overlaid with a weird sonic quality. I am sure there are people who do not mind it and will be happy with the speaker (and it does do a lot of things better than most). I want to thank you for the integrity of your reporting. Save for your measurements and your comments, the press would have us believe that these are the greatest speakers in this category. Measurements matter -- if for nothing else than to confirm that we are all not hearing things.

...Vivin Oberoi

May 11, 2001

To David J. Cantor,

Thanks for the great review [of The Bobs' Coaster]. Rock on!


...Joe Bob Finetti

May 8, 2001

To Bill Cowen, Marc Mickelson and Jeff Fritz,

Nice review of the Shunyata Hydra, Bill -- exactly what I expected to hear. I am considering purchase of it, although I am also close to thinking about the Sound Application CF-X (which many say is the Ferrari of PLCs). I am surprised that the review did not compare to the CF-X at all, as I thought you guys were familiar with the product.

Anyway, I have spoken with Jim Weil at length (Sound Application owner/designer). He has found the Hydra somewhat "grainy" as compared to the CF-X. Do you concur? If you had to own one or the other (excluding cost as a factor), which in your opinion gives the ultimate performance?

Everyone I have spoken with who has tried the CF-X has raved -- it seems to be universally recognized as a no-compromise product of exceptional build quality. I find with Shunyata, Caelin Gabriel focuses on the Stardust material so much when asked for explanations, but what about the quality of the rest of the power cord's construction? That being said, I am currently auditioning a King Cobra V1 on my Audio Aero Capitole 24/192 CD player, and like it very much (especially after a day or two), and am comparing it to my other power cord -- from Coincident. Coincident is no slouch, although slightly more air with the King Cobra.

In summary, who IS the best person to speak with at SoundStage! regarding a Hydra/CF-X comparison? I know you guys don't like to give recommendations; however a little point in the right direction would be really helpful. To put my system in context, it is undergoing a transformation, but will consist of the Capitole 24/192; Coincident Super Eclipse speakers, and four amps in a biamp setup: a pair of highly modified Golden Tube Audio 300Bs on highs; and a pair of also highly modified Altec 1570BT triode monoblocks for bass. Cabling will be all Coincident Reference line (and maybe a bit of Cardas Golden Cross since its still around in my current system).

This system was chosen for its ultimate transparency and low-level detail retrieval; therefore, the PLC that can best augment this with no fundamental down sides would be great. I have heard that the CF-X is the best in the world, with frequency extension in the Gigahetz region, with no measurable down sides. I would really like to hear some impressions of the two products as a comparison. Thanks guys!

...John Sutton

I have not had the opportunity to hear the CF-X in my system, and thus could not discuss it in the review. It would've been nice to have been able to compare the Hydra to all the other units on the market, but there are just way too many to deal with. I've already received a few e-mails asking about comparisons to the Richard Gray's and Bybee units. Just so many possibilities, and so little time.

As to the "grainy" sound referenced by Mr. Weil, I can say definitively that I heard no such quality with the Hydra. In fact, the Hydra's ability to remove and/or reduce grain, grit, etc. is one its more endearing qualities. While I can't compare it to the CF-X, I'm scratching my head at such a term being used to describe the Hydra, to be perfectly honest.

Build quality? First rate. Exceptional, even. And I agree with your assessment of the Coincident power cord. It's an outstanding performer, and even more so when you throw the price into the equation.

Srajan Ebaen will be doing a comparison of the CF-X and the Hydra shortly. I, for one, will be most interested to read his conclusions....Bill Cowen

May 7, 2001

To Srajan Ebaen,

I have been seriously considering the purchase of the EVo 200.2 after demoing it in my home for a few days. I have to say, when I first put it in, I wasn't that impressed. I didn't really hear anything that made say "Oooh, listen to that." In fact, I didn't hear much at all. It took a few days for me to appreciate that this was a good thing.

After re-reading your review of the EVo 200.4 and your comments on the 200.2, I had some questions about an area that seems inconsistent. Basically, your initial assessment of the 200.2 was "The soundstage is extremely three-dimensional, layered and holographic, again very similar to that of single-ended designs, but with even blacker backgrounds"; however, "I still prefer tubes for their romanticism." Fair enough.

However, you noted that when you compare the 200.4 in the 120Wpc mode vs. the 360Wpc mode that the 120Wpc mode seems "more relaxed, less apparent detail." I'll read that as being more similar to a tube-style sound.

I guess my question is this: If the EVo 200.4 in 360Wpc is EVEN MORE stark and resolution focused, why would you prefer that presentation, when it is even less romantic and tube-like than the "more relaxed" approach of the 120Wpc output? I ask because I will buy one of these amps, but I have not decided which. My speakers are 87dB sensitive, have a nominal impedance of 6.5 ohms, and are stand-mounted two-ways with a high-pass cut off of 65Hz. Basically they should be pretty easy to drive for either amp.

Finally, does the 200.4 also have the leanness of the midbass that I heard with the 200.2? More, less, the same? I plan on using a TACT RCS to raise the 60Hz-80Hz region a little to give the amp a bit more warmth -- any thoughts or comments are appreciated.

Thank you again for your fine reviews.

...Michael Cody

A fair and perceptive question, but I thought I did make it clear that I liked the EVo 200.4 bridged (with tubes up front!) exactly because it is very different from my tube amp. I was told that the EVo 200.2 which I based my side-bar comments of Marc Mickelson's review on, was not a pre-production unit but had been improved since then. Further improvements went into the 200.4. In "regular" mode, it truly is very much like my SET, minus the air/bloom thing that only tubes do. When I stated that because of this similarity, I wasn't about to change amps, this was meant as a compliment. For a solid-state amp to come this close to SETs is scary. Bridging the EVo 200.4 without tubes created too much resolution for my taste, something I first encountered with the original TacT Millennium amp. Putting a tube preamp up-front, however, resulted in injecting some magic/warmth plus gave incredible bass control and slam and superior detail to my SET. This now was plenty different from what I'm used to, but in its own way every bit as compelling, hence my strong recommendation.

As far as your speakers go, the EVo 200.2 will have all the power you need. My assumption is that because of the massive transformer in the 200.4 (incidentally, the same one as in the 200.6, so you can appreciate that you're getting a lot extra here), the bass control even in regular two-channel 120Wpc mode is superior to the EVo 200.2. That seems certainly the case based on the particular EVo 200.2 I heard a year ago. I'd say try before you buy. In your case, the only reason to get the 200.4 is for the sonic difference in bridged mode, NOT for the increase in power. And no, in bridged mode, there is zero leanness in the bass. The bass IS dry, however -- very controlled but without the added warmth that most tube amps give in that region....Srajan Ebaen

May 6, 2001

To Marc Mickelson,

Thanks so much for your Onix A-60 review (and for the series on integrateds as well!). It has helped me in my shopping for an integrated amp. I have a question for you, if you would be so kind to answer. I am considering the Onix A-120 as well as the Onix P-3000 preamp/A-2150 power amp (with 150Wpc) combo. I know you have not reviewed the amp/preamp combo, but in my investigation I have found myself in the middle of the integrateds vs. separates debate. As I read, it seems that integrateds offer smoother sound and are intended to bridge the amp/preamp to achieve the best sound from the company's separates. Separates, however, because they have to account for the variables in terms of amp/preamp combinations, have a more disparate sound. Yet, separates have more flexibility for upgrading. What is your opinion on the matter, especially if the separates come from the same company? Thank you so much; I have appreciated the help you and your staff have provided. They have been prompt and helpful with e-mail questions I have asked. I appreciate how SoundStage! really wants to educated the public about audiophile components.


...Bryan Rommel Ruiz

Glad you liked the Onix review and found it helpful. Your question about separates vs. an integrated amp is one that we've all probably pondered at some point. My preference is for an integrated amp if you can't afford separates whose sound you enjoy or are considering separates and an integrated from the same company. The lower price of an integrated amp is certainly a factor, as is the need for one less set of interconnects. Also, the design of preamps and power amps usually involves making both reasonable partners for a wide range of electronics. An integrated doesn't have to take into consideration the preamp/amp interface....Marc Mickelson

May 5, 2001

To Srajan Ebaen,

I am writing to you from India. I am a regular reader of your reviews in SoundStage! and have profited from them. I acquired a Bel Canto DAC1 after its review in the magazine. And as per advice, I partnered it with a Pioneer DVD-414 -- albeit quite successfully. Then came the urge to upgrade. I sometimes get a feeling that the Pioneer is a little less full-bodied. Frankly, with the confusion about SACD and DVD-Audio, I am not sure what one should do. I'd prefer a good transport with the DAC within about $1000 USD. I could stretch if it included a DVD-V capabilities or even SACD playback. Some that come to mind are the Sony 9000 ES SACD player and the new Phillips 1000 SACD player.

I look forward to your advise.

...Madan Rajesh-Al

You're not the only one confused by the current format wars. Until a universal player appears that plays regular 16/44 CDs as well or better than the best current standalone CD players, my advice frankly is to stay put. You could upgrade the Pioneer, but perhaps applying some serious mass loading (sand bags, lead, bricks, etc.), internal damping of the chassis (SoundCoat or something equivalent, a car audio dealer may have something like it) and affordable footers might get the Pioneer's performance up a notch. If you want to spend money, I'd suggest contacting the folks at Bel Canto if you haven't had them install their DAC 1.1 upgrade yet. That will make a worthwhile difference and costs very little. We all expect that a universal player of true merit ought to come along soon -- and not just a jack of all trades, but a player good at everything....Srajan Ebaen

May 4, 2001


Well, I've just finished auditioning the Audiomeca Mephisto II CD player in my home system. I had it for about a week, courtesy of Stewart Marcantoni of Weekend Environments in Port Orchard, WA (360-874-1201).

I won't bore you with a long, detailed review, but the bottom line is that sonically I was knocked out by this player's performance. My reference CD player is a Mark Levinson No.39, and I also have a Bel Canto DAC1. Let me assure you that the differences in sonic performance between the Mephisto II and either of my current units was astonishing -- greater than I would have thought possible from a digital source upgrade alone. As a rough basis of comparison, I should mention that a year or so back I auditioned a dCS Elgar DAC converting 24/192 from their 972 professional upsampler in my system (different amps then, but same speakers--Wisdom Adrenaline 75 dipoles). Although the dCS gear was also noticeably better-sounding than the Levinson No.39, I don't recall that the differences seemed as great as with the Mephisto II!

The most obvious quality of the Mephisto II's sound was a huge soundstage -- both in terms of width and depth. It seemed as though the walls of the room were being pushed back. But this was not the only area where the Mephisto II excelled. Detail, resolution, and microdynamics were extraordinary. Sonically, I thought the Mephisto II was the best CD player I have ever heard (and this includes the Linn CD12). But I do have some complaints about its features, especially relative to the Levinson No.39 which has every feature I could ever desire.

First, the Mephisto II offers no polarity-inversion capability. Second, although it offers a disc-repeat feature, it cannot repeat individual tracks or arbitrary segments of the CD (the No.39 offers all these options). Third, its display cannot be dimmed or turned off. Further, the display characters are too small -- difficult to read from even six feet away. Fourth, the remote is of the cheap, plastic variety -- inappropriate for a player at this lofty price point. Finally, I had several instances of mistracking, which were somewhat disturbing. I have a CDR of Louis Armstrong, which my Levinson plays perfectly, but which the Mephisto II had great trouble with. Sometimes, it couldn't seem to locate the TOC. Other times, it would play several tracks OK, then start mistracking severely. It also seemed unable to index to specific tracks.

There were three or four other CDs on which I encountered tracking problems. The Mephisto II offers a "tracking adjustment" (a bad sign, in my opinion), but although this control did seem to affect tracking, I wasn't able to find a single position that cured all mistracking (and I could never get the CDR to play perfectly). Stewart said that he had not encountered any such tracking issues with other Mephisto IIs, so perhaps the problem was peculiar to this sample. Also, since most CDs exhibited no problems at all, it's quite possible that the fault was at least partially due to the CDs themselves -- perhaps the Mephisto II's transport is just very sensitive to small defects that other players can handle.

Anyway, I strongly recommend that SoundStage! try to get an Audiomeca Mephisto II for review. Based on my experiences, I have to suspect that sonically it will rank among the very best CD players you've heard. I'd be very interested in hearing how you guys think it compares with the Simaudio Eclipse, the Audio Aero Capitole 24/192, and the other great CD players you've auditioned.

...Craig Zastera

May 3, 2001


Could you please tell me where I could obtain the two CDs you mentioned in your April 2001 editorial; namely Doreen Smith's A Tribute to Julie London and Milt Jackson's Bags Meets Wes. I have called a few specialist suppliers in Australia, and nobody has them.


...John Lukas

I bought my copy of Bags Meets Wes at a local music store, and I picked up the Doreen Smith CD in Montreal while I was covering the show there. I would try Music Direct (www.amusicdirect.com) or The Elusive Disc (www.elusivedisc.com) for both titles....Marc Mickelson

May 2, 2001

To Doug Schneider,

In one of your reviews you claim to have heard the difference between various digital cables and claim that this is enough to quell any debate about the possibility for two different digital cables to yield different sound qualities. You claim to be a "believer."

Well, this isn't really a religious issue, Doug. It's a matter of engineering. Unless you're telling me that one cable is so bad that it's dropping bits (which is probably NOT going to be a subtle-sounding thing) there is NO possible way for a cable to affect the sound quality of a digital bitstream. In fact, this resilience is exactly the POINT behind digital interconnects. A digital cable might degrade the analog signal upon which the digital information is encoded, but as long as the degradation is within acceptable limits, the digital signal will be received in its perfect entirety. Would you expect the quality of floppy disk you use to affect the "fidelity" of your word-processing document? Heck no! Either it works or it mangles your document. Same with digital audio. It's not like you can smear a CD and just lose the high frequencies, or something. It just doesn't work that way.

You can hear differences between two different systems operating on digital audio, but the differences only stem from the D/A conversion and whatever happens after that.

When people claim to hear a difference between digital cables, especially people who purport to be authorities, it raises an interesting question: if people can imagine differences between digital cables, perhaps they are imagining the differences between analog cables. That, however, truly is a matter of opinion.


...Jonathan Birge

There was a time when I, too, believed that no digital cable could make a difference. In fact, even today I find the differences between many digital cables to be nil. However, my thinking changed a number of years ago when I auditioned that Illuminati D-60. In my opinion, that's one the best digital interconnects out there, and the difference that it makes is most shocking. I urge you to seek out that particular cable and then write back with your observations....Doug Schneider


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