[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
July 2001


July 30, 2001

To Doug Schneider,

[From the review of the Final Laboratory Daruma 3-II Isolation Devices]:

"When a speaker driver operates, it is attempting to move air at the required frequency. If it is pushing against the air and the cabinet itself is allowed to shift backward or sideways, you can undoubtedly expect a change in sound. But I would consider that change to be a distortion element and not something I want to add to my audio system."

Don't knock it until you've tried it. My speakers sound better when placed on small rubber stoppers, which allow the cabinets to rock gently at a frequency of around .5Hz. Much clearer bass than when Blu-Taked to stands.

My theory is that this tweak damps excess energy which would otherwise excite cabinet resonances. Someone else showed that given the mass difference between the cone and cabinet, the cabinet would only move a few microns in response to cone extension, and even if you could prevent this by using rigid spikes, its distortion effect is trivial.

I suggest you forget what you think you know, and just consider any footing device as a tuning mechanism to change the sound in some way. Better/worse is only relevant within the context of your system: I needed to trim a boomy bass resonance, so wobbly speakers work for me. Somebody else with a lean bass may prefer to spike, which couples the bass energy to the floor and enhances impact.

...Richard Murdey

July 26, 2001

To John Potis,

I have purchased and auditioned a few of the speakers you have reviewed, and I am very impressed with your accuracy. I cannot say this for all of those who review audio gear. Five stars for your writing as well.

...Tim Nolan

July 25, 2001

To Marc Mickelson,

In response to your statement "Nobody wants to fuss with records anymore...ALMOST," I would submit that you show your ignorance when it comes to the audio business as well as how "uneducated " your ears must be! Your blanket statement would be news to the many fine audiophiles whose ears CAN tell the difference between good vinyl and the digital crap that is in it's place only in the car or on a portable!

Please continue to pass along your definitive wisdom. The world needs another comedian!

...J. Evans Tabor

I had to dig to find out where I wrote this, and found it on our Vinyl board.

Have you been in a Goodwill lately? By chance, I was in one last night. There were LOTS of records and a handful of turntables too. Audiophiles are not the ones donating their records and turntables, and that's the point. "Nobody wants to fuss with records anymore...ALMOST nobody." And this is good news for those who do value vinyl....Marc Mickelson

July 23, 2001


I read with interest your review of the Kenwood DVD-A player and was wondering if you have any reviews of SACD coming up. To me, this is a far superior format, and I'd love to know your thoughts and when you think either of these may become a mainstream format, stable enough to invest in.

...Adam Meyer

Right now, we have no reviews of SACD hardware planned. This is due to not being able to procure review samples from the various companies that make the hardware. We hope this will change as this year progresses. We will have at least one more DVD-A review this year, however.

In terms of when either format will be worth investing in, I can say that SACD seems to have the edge in sound quality (based on the demos I've heard), but DVD-A has the DVD name and commensurate consumer support behind it. I still buy lots of CDs, so I'm probably like you -- waiting for things to shake out more....Marc Mickelson

July 19, 2001


I enjoyed Doug Schneider's review of the Final Lab Darumas. The Darumas are one of four commercially available "roller bearings" of which I'm aware: Yamamura-Churchill, Symposium and Vistek being the other three.

I have also designed my own version, which I call Hip Joints (which they resemble with their "ball and cup" concept). Hip Joints are designed for a lower resonance frequency and a shallower bowl (i.e., less damping, for a steeper roll-off above resonance).

There are two things I wish were contained in the review, or possibly, would be appropriate for a follow-up:

1. Comparisons with one or more of the other commercial roller bearings.

2. At least TRY them under loudspeakers. This is something I haven't gotten to try as yet, but I plan to. Despite the fact that the idea of moveable speakers goes against the concept of firmly anchored speakers, perhaps there is more knowledge to be had. Let's not dismiss the idea simply because it doesn't "make sense." Perhaps our view of what "makes sense" will change. It's happened before, and I personally find an attachment to what we "know" can often prevent us from knowing more.

Of course, if roller bearings offer no benefit with speakers or make the sound worse in some way, then that could be reported and we'd "know" something else. I've heard from a number of reliable ears that they offer benefits for speakers; only listening will tell.

...Barry Diament

July 11, 2001

To Marc Mickelson,

[Regarding your review of the ESP The Essence power cord], oh come on, Marc. Do you really think a power cord will make any difference? Aren't you embarrassed to give that kind of review? This is what gives audiophiles a bad name.

I'm here to tell you, a power cord (assuming the conductors are properly sized to handle the current) will make absolutely no difference to the sonic quality of music.

...Michael Craft

I heard what I heard, and I described it in my review. I continue to recommend ESP power cords, as well as other brands....Marc Mickelson

July 9, 2001

To Srajan Ebaen,

As always, your reviews are much fun and educational to read. Great job.

I just have to comment about a DIY project that emulates the Rollerblocks. I originally did it to simulate the Darumas, but it turns out to be like a round Rollerblock. With other additions, it converted into my DIYrumas. The results were very similar to your findings using the Symposium Rollerblocks: better dynamics, tighter bass, more openness, greater soundstage depth and width. Air was much increased, revealing many details hidden before. The best part of it was the cost -- about $10 for a set of three. The Rollerblocks' $295 per set represents my total investment on a used NAD C540 ($281) + DIYrumas. So, as you see, it paid to do a DIY set.

Parts are three copper end caps (about 1 1/4" ), three 1 1/2" metal concave door knobs (from a hardware store), a cup of fine sand, epoxy glue and three 1/2" metal ball bearings. Fill the end caps with sand to within 1/4" of the top, glue the underside of the knobs and press into the sand. Top the knobs with the bearings and set them under the equipment. Be ready to hear the improvements. The project is inexpensive, fun, easy and best of all, the DIYrumas work fantastically.

...Jose Garcia

July 7, 2001


We have read your review [High End 2001 coverage] and love to say that we are listening to an amazing Brinkmann integrated amplifier wired to Brinkmann two-way loudspeakers and nothing seems to sound better. Real music.

...Max Marchini
...Franz Soprani

July 6, 2001


Thanks for the nice review of the Transparent Reference XL cables. It would have been nice if Doug Blackburn had commented on the Magnan products as a second part. I own all Magnan Signature cables and speaker wires, and I am always wondering how they continue to stack up.

Thanks for the job you and SoundStage! do, and I will continue to support your advertisers as I did when Doug reviewed the Magnan products and I replaced my Nordost with Magnan.

...Hunter Mattocks

It's not always possible for us to send products from one writer to another for a sidebar, either due to the shipping costs or our desire to turn a product around quickly. We will include sidebars when we can, however....Marc Mickelson

July 5, 2001

To Doug Blackburn,

Congratulations and thank you for your excellent "Exploding the Myth of the Cone Footer" column.

Somebody had to write this and, Doug, you took the words right out of my mouth. I can't believe how many times I still see experienced writers (in print and on the Internet) use the term "isolation cones." It sure is starting to look like many writers take their information straight from the manufacturer's promo sheets.

Perhaps when it becomes more general knowledge that cones don't, can't, won't isolate anything, there will be more talk about what does isolate (e.g., air for vertical and and rollers for horizontal), and we'll all be on the way to better-sounding systems.

Happy listening!

...Barry Diament

July 5, 2001

To Doug Blackburn,

[Regarding "Exploding the Myth of the Cone Footer"], what in God's name do you listen to music for? Why not just listen to test tones all day and move around your little wooden erector set? Or maybe listen to music, but do it crouched in front of your audio rack while sliding a "damper" up and down a "trombone-like" power cord. It's shit like this that makes most people take one look at "audiophiles" and say what a bunch of wankers. You write about the dark side of audio -- you're the one on it. I'm not disputing the fact that all resonances have some effect on sound, but you're off in la-la land. Why don't you try this, listen to your system while hopping up and down on one foot in the sweet spot with your pants on your head and you shirt stuffed into your underwear. That will change the sound too. But you'd probably only try it if I charged you a couple hundred bucks. The fact that people are dumb enough to spend THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars on audio fugazi while other people starve in the world is an indictment of the absolute stupidity of all the golden-eared, "your system sucks and hurts my ears if you didn't spend more than (insert outrageous, ridiculous, absolutely asinine sum of money here)" so-called audiophiles out there and the audio writers who stroke them.

Here's the best advice in the world -- forget how much you spent, and making the next tweak, and trying to impress your snob audio buddies, and whether you mass loaded your speakers with sand, lead shot or a combo of the two or if you snuck some cat litter in there, and at what ratio and in what kind of sacks and if it's settled over time, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum, and just try to ENJOY THE MUSIC! For all the lip service audio mags and writers pay to their "love of music," what I mostly read is inflated hyperbole, kiss-ass reviews, and your special brand of, "Hey, why don't you spend a couple grand on Lincoln Logs?" Ugh!

How's that for a rant?

...Travis Cunningham

I got your point. I'm just not sure it applies to me. There are a lot of people out there who need to understand what's going on so they don't have to waste time listening to things as closely as I have. It hasn't been that much of a burden actually. I hate football, basketball, baseball, hockey et al ,so while the rest of the guys waste an afternoon (or a weekend) in front of the tube, I spend an hour messing with some arcane aspect of audio so I can figure out what's real and what's not. For the rest of the time I don't waste watching a game, I enjoy some music or the company of my wife or friends. It really isn't much of an obsession. You'd be surprised how much you can learn spending an hour here and an hour there.

Did I recommend that people spend huge sums of money on stupidly expensive accessories with stupid explanations for why they work? No. I did the opposite. Did I try to help people understand the reality of the dumb stuff they are being told by people trying to extract their money? Yes.

Oh, I happen to like music -- that's why I listen to it. You know, musicians can spend entire days in instrument shops listening to the sound of various instruments without ever playing any music and nobody gives them crap for doing so. Why can't an audiophile spend an hour here or there learning about what affects his system? I'm old -- an hour here or there over 30 years adds up. I didn't have to do it all in one year and become the demented creature you apparently think I am, but maybe you didn't understand that....Doug Blackburn

July 4, 2001


SoundStage! is great reading. Keep up the good work. But why no Classé reviews? I have a Classé CAP-150 integrated amp that is a great-sounding amp in my opinion. I really like the integrated-amp reviews, and I for one would like to see an integrated-amp showdown! Classé vs. Krell vs. Simaudio vs. Plinius. How about it?

...Tom Catalde

We've talked with Classé about reviewing some of their products as well as doing a factory tour, but nothing has materialized so far. We'll keep at it, however. Keep an eye on our list of upcoming reviews....Marc Mickelson

July 3, 2001

To Doug Schneider,

First, I'd like to express my appreciation for your wonderful reviews and for discovering Axiom speakers, as I'm helping friends with upgrading their systems from Best Buy. The comparisons between the M3Ti and M40Ti and with other brands proved to be especially informative and were appreciated. Below are some of things I was looking for -- they were missing (or unclear) in your reviews, but, of course, these may only serve my purposes and may be beyond the scope of your reviews.

(1) I value the "driver integration" very highly and consider it a very critical yet difficult task in speaker design; this also explains why all the speakers I've used are either planars or full-range drivers in horn-load enclosures. I thought it'd be nice to address this aspect, even in reviews of such low-cost speakers. In fact, in addition to the sonic character and tonal balance of these speakers, I was looking for phrases like "well-integrated between drivers," but I could not find them. May I assume that "well-balanced" mentioned in reviews actually means that the speakers do very well in this area?

(2) I was hoping to know how the speakers work with relatively low-powered tube amplifiers or gain some sense of minimal power requirement, especially in the case of single-ended triodes (300B, 8-9Wpcs) and in view of the over-estimated efficiency rating for M3Ti. In addition, are M40Tis really good matches for tube amplifiers in general (based on their sonic characters and tonal balance described in review)? I have some reservation in this case and suspect that M3Ti might be a better match. Even though it's safe or logical to state that these speakers will likely work well with modestly powered tube amplifiers based on the specifications, I thought it'd be nice to include this information in the reviews and to also back up your assessment.

(3) It seems that Canada has become the country that produces "bargain of the century" speakers nowadays. Other than the JMlab 706, which I haven't had experience with, some other small speakers that you mentioned in reviews for comparison haven't actually impressed me for some reason. On the other hand, I was pleasantly impressed by the performance (and price) of the Sound Dynamics RTS-3 on one occasion when driven by a tube amplifier. Those RTS-3s, though seemingly less well constructed compared to Axioms, seem to be the closest competitor or alternative to M3Ti (or even M4Ti) and can be had for less -- around $170 (used) to $250 new. I thought it'd be more informative and complete to include the same Canadian-made RTS-3 in comparison, and I'd certainly love to learn your thoughts on M3Ti vs. RTS-3, if that's ever possible.

Thanks again for providing us with such a wonderful website and reviews, and thank you for your time.

Kindest regards,

...Ta-Chen Wu

As far as driver integrated goes, you can take my omission in mentioning it as meaning that all is A-OK. Actually, I've found with all the well-engineered dynamic speakers I've listened to that integration hasn't been a problem. Where it has been a problem is with speaker designs that use vastly dissimilar driver types or drivers with much different radiation patterns.

Are the M3Ti or M40Ti good with low-powered tubes? Their sensitivity is rather low at approximately 86dB, although their impedance does not present much of a problem. I guess it would depend just how loudly you listen. A better choice in this regard might by the M80Ti, which measures a full 90dB anechoically (review upcoming). As for the RTS-3, I have not heard that speaker.

However, your comment about Canada becoming the home of "'bargain of the century' speakers" is a bit surprising. Canada has been producing extremely high-quality, cost-effective speaker designs for two decades. Most of the companies, including Energy, Mirage, Paradigm and Axiom, trace their current design roots back to the research Dr. Floyd Toole did at the National Research Council, which gave all those companies and designers a whole arsenal of information with which to make great loudspeakers....Doug Schneider

July 2, 2001


I am beginning to suspect that you have a favoritism for Canadian products (Axiom, Blue Circle, etc.). Could it be that DAS is a Canadian? (Oops, sorry.)

Anyway, I would like to see unbiased reporting on affordable UK speakers
(Tannoy, Mission, B&W, etc.) to see how they fare with the current "champion" in this category.

Thank you.

...Alan Nakamura

We have two B&W reviews in the queue, one of which you should see on 8/1. We've talked with Tannoy and should be reviewing one of their new Dimension speakers soon....Marc Mickelson


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