[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
August 2001


August 29, 2001


Not to long ago, Doug Schneider did a very nice review of the Wyetech Topaz (211) amp. However, at that time I thought he had missed the boat -- owing to the 88dB efficient Cliffhanger speaker used in the test. Audio systems are after all a system and the careful selection of components is needed to optimize the synergy that we all seek in our listening experiences. Doug spoke very well of the Wyetech amp, but having heard that amp on may occasions, I thought that the lack of synergy with the speakers he used masked the magic of that amplifier.

Recently, I had the opportunity to purchase a Wyetech Topaz amp (this is the more current 572B-based unit, not the 211 model that Doug had evaluated). In any event, the mating of the Wyetech 572B with Coincident Total Eclipse (14-ohm impedance! 94dB efficiency!) is a match made in audio heaven. This combination simply has it all -- transparency, dynamics and tonality. The holographic sound, the layering of orchestral sections, the delicacy of fine detail, the astounding and realistic bass response, and the almost liquid/ textured midrange (male and female vocalists are present in your listening room!) point to a unique synergy between the Coincident line of speakers and the Wyetech super amp. What is truly impressive is the incredibly low noise floor. With the amp on and the volume pot turned fully, there is nothing but dead silence from the speaker. I've yet to hear any speaker/amp combination that even comes close to the Coincident and the Wyetech when it comes to making music, which is different from playing a recording. With these two components, the suspension of disbelief is complete, and you believe that the musicians are in your room.

You owe it to yourselves and your readers to audition the two products together. For me, I've stopped buying speakers and amps. I have no desire to look any further.

...Bill Krause

As our NRC measurements show, Coincident is generous in the sensitivity and impedance figures for the Total Eclipse. Of course, this matters not at all with the right amp driving the speakers, as you've discovered....Marc Mickelson

August 28, 2001

To Srajan Ebaen,

I just discovered your "Y-Files" last week. I was alternately laughing out loud and smiling with recognition. I have been at this audiophile game for more years than I care to remember, but oh what joy it sometimes provides me!

I read all the columns from oldest to newest last Thursday. I couldn't stop. I really enjoyed the encounters with the extreme systems and the Kansas City dealer.

My current system centers around four pieces: the Avantgarde Acoustics Duo 2.0, the Balanced Audio Technology VK50SE, the Graaf GM-20, and the Marantz SA-1. I am finding so much sheer joy in the music with this system that my spirit has been renewed and the excitement is back.

Please keep the words coming.

...Grant Jacobson

August 27, 2001


I thoroughly enjoy reading your E-Mags and in fact have downloaded two of your issues (5 and 6) since I discovered the site.

My questions are:

Your current issue states that it is issue 8. Did I miss an issue between 6 and 8?

How can I find and download earlier issues?

Thank you, and I am looking forward to reading the back issues.

...Rajan Francisco

Yes, there was a 7th issue, which you must have missed. Regarding all back issues, we cannot keep them online because of space/bandwidth limitations. However, we are working on an arrangement to include all back issues on CD-ROM with a select issue of the print magazine Quebec Audio. We'll announce the details when we know more....Marc Mickelson

August 25, 2001


I found the review of the Reference Recordings Baroque Favorites collection in E-Mag vol.2, no.3 to be curiously devoid of substance. The review does not identify who performs the music, does not list any of the musical works, nor does it describe the performances at all. These are glaring omissions. Sorry, but just saying that it contains works by Bach, Handel and Vivaldi doesn’t cut it. Are they lively or relaxed performances? Played with period or modern instruments? Next time, will we get a review of Mozart symphonies that does not identify the orchestra or conductor, and does not specify which particular symphonies? I suppose that any comparisons with competing recordings would also be way beyond the scope of the review.

OK, it’s an audio, not a music magazine, so let’s turn to that. First of all, the description of the sound was not very informative (“great”), whereas I feel Reference Recordings have a distinctive sound that would be a matter of personal taste. Second, as a remastered reissue, how does it compare with the previous incarnation? People who are fans of the Reference Recordings label may very well already own the older CDs. Is the remastering so much better that they should bother to replace them with the new version? Where is the comparison? That was probably the single most useful information that could have been provided to the readers.

Let me state for the record that I already have these recordings, although in the original LP releases. My own opinion of the recordings and performances is irrelevant; the point I am trying to make is that this is not a proper way to write a review. Think of the quality and completeness that you strive for in your audio reviews. The musical reviews deserve no less.

...Richard Woo

August 22, 2001


Regarding your speaker-measurement graphs from the NRC, do you know at what level they are smoothed? One-third per octave seems to be the industry-accepted way. So I want to know if that is what the NRC uses, especially on the graph with THD on the bottom and response on top. Thanks for the information, and thanks for providing the graphs!

...Bill Windle

No smoothing is applied to our measurement graphs....Marc Mickelson

August 21, 2001

To Marc Mickelson,

I was wondering if you have any plans to upgrade your Levinson No.39 CD player to the new No.390S and/or review the 390S. As a No.39 owner, I would be very interested in hearing what sort of improvements the No.390S offers relative to the No.39.

I have been auditioning various one-box CD players lately, looking for a replacement for my No.39. In particular, I've had the Audio Aero Capitole 24/192, the new Electrocompaniet EMC-1 upgraded to 24/192, and the Audiomeca Mephisto II 24/192 in my system. All of these are sonically superior to the No.39, but unfortunately none of them can match the ergonomics or user interface of the No.39, nor do they offer HDCD decoding, so I haven't pulled the trigger yet on any of them yet.

...Craig Zastera

When I attend CEDIA next month, one of the things I want to talk with the Madrigal folks about is reviewing the No.390S. I don't know if they'll send it our way, but I'll certainly pursue it...Marc Mickelson

August 17, 2001


I am an avid music lover (and part-time musician), and without resorting to endless useless and costly upgrades, I have finally managed to create what I feel is an absolute dream system within a reasonable budget:

Musical Fidelity A300 dual-mono integrated
Musical Fidelity A3CD CD player
Rega Planar 2/Goldring cartridge
B&W CDM NT1 speakers
MIT cables throughout

I thoroughly enjoy listening to both vinyl and CD playback, and my music ranges from Joe Pass, Lee Ritenour, Verdi, Antonio Forcione to Pink Floyd (no heavy metal or rap). I am really looking forward to seeing your upcoming reviews on the two Musical Fidelity products that I am extremely satisfied with. I wonder if you will come to the same findings that I did -- musicality, timbral accuracy, tube warmth, midrange (although this is solid-state!), deep and tuneful bass, timing, dynamic range and soundstaging -- all the elements that make long listening sessions an absolute pleasure.

Yours sincerely,

...Abel Baptista

At least one of the Musical Fidelity reviews should appear within the next couple of months....Marc Mickelson

August 12, 2001


I just stumbled on your August monthly editorial. It seems somewhat presumptuous that whatever the modification Herron did to John Potis' amplifiers was all and completely having to do with RFI entering the AC line, hampering a power cord's ability to improve the amplifiers' performance. It's simply not that simple (or in other words, much more complex), and in my opinion, if John noticed less of a change with AC cords after the mod, then the mod, for whatever reason, may have introduced a limiting factor. Either we need to know exactly what modifications were performed or John needs to do a bit more experimentation into the whys and hows of his perceived results.

...Joe Skubinski
JPS Labs

John's quick comments were not meant for publication, and it's my fault they were published. However, I used them to make the point that the perception of why power cords work is not as important, to me at least, as the fact that they DO work....Marc Mickelson

August 11, 2001

To Doug Blackburn,

[Regarding your "Exploding the Myth of the Cone Footer" column], I'll be reading this one over and over. Simply lifting my power conditioners off the floor and placing a brick-and-Styrofoam combo under them and then lifting all the wires with bubblewrap was on the level of an equipment upgrade -- lowered the depth of the background. I experimented with each piece of gear, stands, and the speakers and have found what works best in this room. Yes, everything sounds different, but when it all is dialed in, the sheer ease of vocals, dying of notes and low-level retrieval are so musical, in such a right, emotional way, I'm through playing. Now I just buy new music and smile, although "everything old is new again." When you hear the truth, you just know it, instantly.

...Lloyd Smith

August 9, 2001

To Doug Schneider,

I have just bought a pair of Paradigm Atom speakers. I have read your reviews on both the Atom and the Axiom M3Ti. I am not sure if this is because the Atoms are not properly broken in or what, but I find the top end much subdued and lacking while the midrange is more forward and pronounced. You describe the M3Ti's top end as being more pronounced. Am I correct in assuming that while the Axiom is balanced, in comparison to the Atom, the Axiom's top end is more forward? And if this is so, would you advise someone like me who prefers a more pronounced top end over midrange to take a chance on the M3Ti?

I have also purchased the Hsu VTF-2 subwoofer and read a review on the mix between the Axiom M3Tis, which provokes the question of a "marriage in heaven." I am not too happy with the mix I have between the Hsu and the Atom and this is primarily why I am seeking your professional advice.

With kind regards,

...Senior Chen

I have heard both these speakers at length and will start off by saying these are both stellar speakers for their respective prices -- and yes, very balanced in terms of their overall sound quality (obviously both being somewhat bass shy). This said, I would characterize the M3Ti as having a slightly more forward top end compared to the Atom, and this can give it a heightened sense of detail. Matching a subwoofer to speakers can sometimes be difficult. In terms of the review you read, I assume it was the one on GoodSound!. Right now, Srajan Ebaen has the Atoms in for review. It's possible that he will also try them with the Hsu subwoofer. It will be interesting to see if the results are comparable.

In terms of successfully matching the Atoms with a subwoofer, Neil Walker had successful results using Paradigm's PDR-10. If you don't get the results you are looking for and you have tried every type of combination in terms of settings and placement, you will likely have to try a new subwoofer or a new speaker....Doug Schneider

August 7, 2001


I just finished reading the review of the Coincident Total Eclipse by Bill Cowen. It's extremely favorable if not an absolute rave. Why was the Total Eclipse not given a Reviewers' Choice? After all, he bought the speaker to be his reference after reviewing it. That is, all things considered, the highest award a reviewer can make.

...Bill Krause

A Reviewers' Choice product has to either be state of the art or provide performance far beyond its price. Bill couldn't say for sure that either of these applied to the Total Eclipse....Marc Mickelson

August 5, 2001


I read your editorial with some interest, especially the last question/statement from a reader about digital cables. I know they are a competitor, but I would refer you to the Stereophile website archives and an article entitled "A Transport of Delight: CD Transport Jitter."

The article describes testing done on a number of transports and digital interconnects. An interesting finding was that digital cables can introduce jitter or change the distribution of the jitter already in the signal, which is definitely audible. Also, this effect could be large with inexpensive DACs and negligible with some of the better DACs that seemed to be able to reclock the signal more effectively, much along the lines of the experience you mention with the AC cords and the Herron monoblocks.

Hope this gives you some extra ammunition for answering those reader e-mails.

...Kevin McGowen

August 4, 2001


[Regarding your current editorial, "Mad About Power Cords"], when I had my Simaudio 4070 amp upgraded to the SE edition, I then had a chance to try an add-on power cord. I bought a $49 USD Absolute power cord figuring it could be no worse than the stock cord. I wouldn't be out much money if it were all hogwash. Well, I cannot impress upon you how much of an improvement the power cord made -- it was not slight and not subtle. It was as if I had upgraded to the Simaudio Moon 3 amp. I've heard the Moon 3 and some of the magic was in the 4070 SE with a better cord. Interesting, eh? A friend who hadn't heard my system in a year dropped in and was wowed. He commented on the sheer ease of vocals and how the bass now had a wonderful grunt and growl that he loved. Me too. Do power cords make a difference? Absolutely!

...Lloyd Smith

August 3, 2001


Recently, there has been some confusion about the new integrated amplifier, Rosette 1, offered by Red Rose Music and Mark Levinson. Many people believe that the Rosette 1 is identical to a Chinese-made integrated amp, the Korsun U2, which sells one-tenth of the price (to be exact, $2000 vs. $188). I think it is your responsibility to find out the truth. It is your responsibility to tell us if they are identical. If not, what are the differences?

In my opinion, this event could be the biggest scandal in the industry of high-end audio. If these two amps are identical or almost identical, what Mark Levinson has done is extremely unethical. It will greatly damage the confidence of consumers of high-end audio. Personally, I would also use your handling of this incident as my judgment to your professionalism. Please don't let me down.

...Jack Che-Ping Su

We can certainly look into it and see if we can get both units for review, and comparison, but there is no guarantee that either company will supply them....Marc Mickelson

August 2, 2001

To Doug Schneider,

I would first like to say that your reviews of minimonitor speakers have been very enjoyable and created a great database for the rest of us to reference.

My question concerns the Paradigm Active/40 speakers. I understand that to get an opinion that really matters, I have to listen to them myself because everyone's taste is different. However, I and others frankly don't have the time to review all these components, which is why we read SoundStage! and every other relevant audiophile mag. Since you have been reviewing many high-quality speakers and electronics for some time now, you and other reviewers are in an unusual position to comment.

In looking through the archives, you have reviewed a very impressive list of speakers: Verity Audio Fidelio, JMlab Mini Utopia, Waveform Mach MC, Revel Performa M20, Gershman Acoustics X-1; also from Coincident Speaker Technology, Merlin, Von Schweikert Research, and B&W -- just to name a few. In light of your experience with these designs, where would you place the Paradigm Active/40s without consideration to cost, simply on the merits of sonic performance? Ignoring all the concerns and questions of whether one is using tubes, solid state, spending X amount on gear, etc.-- in other words, if you just went home and could plug in and play so that it just sounded damn good, which speaker would it be?


...David Vair

In the comparison area of the review, I wanted to stress that when compared to much more expensive speakers, the Paradigms are not necessarily deficient (save for, perhaps, subterranean bass extension), but simply different. Given their price of $2000 per pair, that lack of deficiencies is what makes them such an extraordinary value. As I mentioned in the review, they easily compare to speakers costing two or three times their price.

The Active/40 certainly qualifies as a "plug in and play" speaker, as do numerous others. The problem in answering this question with any certainty is that I have yet to find the perfect loudspeaker -- and I doubt I ever will. No matter how expensive, each speaker has trade-offs. However, around my house today I find myself listening to three speakers most often: the Paradigm Active/40, the Revel Performa M20, and the Mirage OM-7. The fact that all these speakers cost about $2000 shows just how much performance you can get these days....Doug Schneider


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