[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
October 2001


October 29, 2001

To Doug Blackburn,

My Belles dealer came over last night with the 350A, and we listened to it in my system. I noticed several improvements over the Spectron Digital One. First and foremost, the 350A has a more natural soundstage presentation. The Spectron has a real tendency to put some instruments in the upper frequencies too far forward compared to everything else. The 350A has a lot better perspective. Secondly, the bass of the 350A is extremely natural and powerful. I don't know that I've ever heard such natural and powerful bass. The Spectron had a tendency for midbass fatness in my system. That's gone now with the Belles (yes, I did buy it). Third, all sounds seem just a bit more natural. Where the Spectron had just a little bit of edginess, the 350A is very smooth, yet still very detailed. Fourth, the dynamics are improved. At low levels, the 350A sounds a lot better. Lastly, the 350A sounds extremely clean and natural at all volume levels. Anywhere from barely audible to extremely loud, the amp sounds very clean, natural and detailed.

Thanks for turning me on to this product with your review. I probably would not have never checked the amp out if I hadn't seen your review.

...Dan Kimble

October 27, 2001


I love SoundStage!, as do lots of others, and when it becomes necessary, I will put my money where my e-mail is and subscribe. What I'm wondering is whether or not there is a schedule as to when new reviews appear. I check back frequently, but is it bi-weekly, monthly, whenever it gets done, or some other arcane method? I have a lot of places I check, and if you have a schedule, I could be more efficient.

Please keep doing reviews on arcane companies as well as established ones, and don't forget there are people who can enjoy music on Paradigm Atoms as well as Wilson Wamms. Sterophile lost me a while back with the attitude that a $2000 plus amp is a minimum level. I love reading about super exotic gear, but reality has to check in occasionally. I think you do a really good job keeping a balance.

...Larry Hicks

SoundStage! is updated on the 1st and 15th each month. However, sometimes this happens in the morning, sometimes later in the afternoon, so you'll need to keep checking back on those days if you don't see new content. Four times a year our 15th update is replaced by our E-Mag, but you'll see a notation on our main reviews page for this.

As for budget gear, we will keep on the hunt. However, you should also frequent GoodSound!, which is all about "affordable high-performance audio." It's updated on the 1st and 15th too....Marc Mickelson

October 24, 2001

To Jeff Fritz,

I enjoyed your new "Surrounded" column. The Technics DVD-A10 DVD-A player is dirt cheap these days--$330--and I'm wondering how good a player it is. I would like to have a DVD-A player around here, but I'm not sure if I should spring for the Technics. Any thoughts? How does it sound with CDs?

...David Miller

As a first-generation DVD-A player, the DVD-A10 has some functional limitations inherent to all DVD-A players, namely its lack of bass management. With products like the Outlaw ICBM, this is largely irrelevant though. As a CD player, it is a steal in my estimation. It upsamples to 192kHz, which seems to help some recordings, typically studio mixes, while overtly highlighting live recordings, which I don't care for. No problem to turn that function off/on though. You can also turn off all the video circuitry, which yields a most delicate, precise sound with a fairly black background. It doesn't have the drive of a Wadia or Levinson, of course, but that only shows up on some recordings. For its price, it's a steal....Jeff Fritz

October 17, 2001


Awesome site. Thanks. You have helped me more than you could know.

...Leonard Musgray

October 10, 2001


I read with great interest the "Earmarked!" column about the Avantgarde Duo 2.2. Because I believe the US importer makes his own recommendations and owners manuals, which are different from the originals from Avantgarde, there are so many recommendations about the setup of these speakers. We've tried all the recommendations regarding setup, with cables and electronics too, but in our rooms with our amps (even with very different amps) the Uno and Duo sound best to our ears with the following:

The speakers should be set up a minimum of ten feet from the listening position.

The midrange and tweeter controls should be in the middle of the five positions (contrary to the recommendation in Stereophile). The original German manual recommends this, and it is the best too.

On a hard floor such as stone or wood, we use the original plastic feet with Point Pods from Symposium under one (yes, ONE) of the spikes under the bass cabinet, firing down and placed about one-third of the depth and toward the front.

Bass settings vary by placement and electronics. The settings in the column's picture (two o'clock for the frequency and twelve o'clock for the volume) are too high. If you start to turn back the frequency, you'll hear that comprehending voices and bass precision will be better, and the bass will go deeper too. We set both the frequency and volume to eleven o'clock, and in some cases the frequency even lower (nine to ten o'clock).

And perhaps the most important thing, the cabling and jumpers. The German manual suggests to use the following connection: one (no biwiring or triwiring!) speaker cable from the amp to the lower inputs of the tweeter and from here a jumper to the sub; from the upper connectors of the tweeter, a jumper to the midrange. We've tried all the possibilities and variations recommended and find this original recommendation to offer the greatest dynamics and most homogeneous sound -- when the jumpers are the right ones! We've tried now about ten brands, and the Analysis Plus Oval-9 jumpers are the best by far for both the bass and midrange. We've gotten the best overall sound with the Harmonic Technology PRO-11 speaker cable. If somebody want more precision, the Acoustic Zen Satori or the Coincident TRS is the way to go. But remember to use only one cable and the Oval-9 as jumpers!

The Duos work really well with the Vecteur Club Six integrated amp (the Four was a Reviewers' Choice in SoundStage!), but tell the reviewer he must remove the output board and solder the cables directly to the outputs! The difference is night and day.

Sorry about sending so many ideas, but I'm an old audiophile and must tell everybody who works with the Duos my experiences.

...Tibor Sole

October 9, 2001

To John Leosco,

In my search for a reference speaker, I listened very carefully to the B&W Nautilus 801s in at least three cities in western Canada and the US and with various amps and equipment, including a home audition of the Nautilus 802, 803, 804 and 805. (I wanted desperately to like this line!)

And I have to say I couldn't disagree more with your review. This speaker has one of the brightest, most fatiguing midrange and treble responses I have ever heard. Piano sounds sweet? Try bright, brittle, and metallic. Bass is dynamic? Yes, it plays loud, but the B&W lacks microdynamic impact. I found the bass muffled, fat, and totally out of sync with the midrange and treble.

I was even more flabbergasted with your comments on the soundstaging capabilities of this speaker. The images to my ear tend to be flat, two-dimensional, and directional, which is great if you're monitoring recordings in the studio, but useless for home use.

The one strength this speaker has, which you failed to mention, is its incredible retrieval of detail. But I suspect this is more a result of an elevated upper midrange/lower treble than any advancements in fidelity.

You want to hear great speakers, try those by Verity Audio, Revel, JMlab and, of course, Wilson. I bought a pair of old Wilson WATT/Puppy 5s and couldn't be happier. There are dynamics, speed, refinement, and spectacular imaging and soundstaging. Yes, they do look ugly, and the mismatched Velcro strips are hideous, but they are still the reference speaker that B&W can't seem to aspire to.

I do own a pair of B&W Nautilus 805s, and I think they are a spectacular minimonitor and don't seem to have the bass integration problem their larger siblings have. I used to own the Silver Signatures, but I had to give them up when I moved. The big Nautilus is also an excellent speaker but requires four amps to drive a pair of them. They have a sweetness and refinement the 800-series speakers (especially the 801) seem to lack to my ears.

The 800 series Nautilus by B&W is the pinnacle of a more aggressive and pushy sound, I suspect to satisfy home-theater requirements (that's where I use my Nautilus 805s) as opposed to music. They do sound spectacular on first listen, but I have found them fatiguing after a while. I can understand why many reviewers have mistakenly praised them, but it takes some discernment to figure out their true character and not be blinded by their flashy looks and bright sound.

Just my opinion for what it's worth. Otherwise, I do enjoy the SoundStage!, and it is always interesting to read opinions, no matter how off base.

...Dave Bassi

I believe the vast gap in our appreciation for the Nautilus 801 may result from two root issues: differing sonic values and associated components.

The first thoughts that enter my head when I think of the Nautilus 801's sound are dynamics, intensity, and power. These traits both draw me to the music and, I feel, more accurately reproduce the actual event. You may view these same characteristics as "aggressive and pushy." Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Many audio components take a pleasant view of musical reproduction over sterile detail, or vice versa, and their sonic character is constant from disc to disc. But sometimes live music is soothing and sweet, and sometimes it’s nasty, aggressive, and makes your ears hurt. It seems like you can’t have it all except in real life. Only the very best gear is both extremely revealing and, usually, delightful to listen to. Ideally, the sound should solely depend on the source material.

Regarding associated components, I've heard the Nautilus 801s sound bright and slightly metallic when powered full range by my old Krell KSA-150 amp. An Ayre V-1, on the other hand, produces sweet, clean mids with nary a hint of hardness on the top. The same KSA-150 when used as a bass amplifier gives powerful yet controlled, well-integrated bass. I've heard these speakers near their full potential in showrooms when driven by the latest Mark Levinson and Krell electronics.

I must take exception to your comment about failing to mention their "incredible retrieval of detail." While rereading my review, I count four uses of the words "detail" or "details" while describing the speakers' performance.

I stand by my conclusion that the B&W Nautilus 801s combine a level of full-range dynamics, musicality with detail, and pinpoint imaging within  a reasonably sized package that’s unsurpassed to my ears, especially at or below their price point.

Good listening!...John Leosco

October 8, 2001

To Andrew Chasin,

I just finished reading your review of the Ambience Super Slim 1800s [in the E-Mag], which I greatly enjoyed. Thank you. As an English expatriate audiophile and now a proud Australian, I was surprised not to have heard of Ambience before, but they join a number of highly accomplished manufacturers over here. A friend has had many dealings with Joe Rasmussen from Vacuum State Electronics (he's the "Lenehan" responsible for the Lenehan RTP preamp, featured on their website at www.vacuumstate.com -- an incredible amp, which has since been further upgraded!), and they produced some 40W valve monoblocks for him which are astonishing. I'm not normally a lover of valves, but this is night and day.

Anyway, I digress. As a user of Acoustat Spectra 1100s, which are of similar dimensions to the Ambiences (well, a bit wider), a couple of your observations really struck a chord with me. The image-height effect that you described (and which seems to belong to all tall panels) is truly addictive, and lends tremendous body and realism to vocal performances. My system clearly places male vocalists a few inches taller than female, hard as that is to believe, but any well-recorded duet seems to demonstrate it. The Acoustats also feature that same "rolled off" top-end quality which you mentioned -- there's nothing actually missing, just a minor subjective lack of "air" at the top. I still wonder whether it's something we've become accustomed to as an artifact of dome tweeters, so clear and perfect is the treble in every other respect.

Finally, I don't think you mentioned whether the Ambiences were afflicted by that bugbear of the panel speaker -- the "giant headphone" effect. Despite my best efforts to optimize positioning, the Acoustats have a sweet spot of about three square inches in my room, rendering social listening impossible.

Thanks to everyone concerned with the website, which has given me pleasure for many years, and happy listening.

...Andy Fawcett

Thanks for your kind words regarding my review of the Ambience 1800s. Thanks also for the pointer to Vacuum State Electronics; I'll be sure and check them out.

Regarding "the 'giant headphone' effect," this did not seem to be a problem with the Ambiences, but perhaps I should have pointed this out explicitly in my review. The excellent Innersound  Isis that I reviewed several months back, on the other hand, had a very narrow soundstage, which rendered the speaker suitable for solo listening only....Andrew Chasin

October 5, 2001


From your A/V Tour 2001 report, I have learned the following:

"...Audio Aero gave a first glimpse of their new Prestige A/V player, which is supposed to be available in December. It supports multichannel SACD, DVD-V, CD, CD-R, CD-RW and CD-V, and it also has Dolby Digital and DTS decoders built in. Reportedly it will have a volume control, so all you have to do is connect the player directly to the amplifiers! It's hard to ask for much more. The price is estimated at $8000 USD, and you can be assured Doug [Schneider] wants it for review."

Do these people have a website where I can learn more about this superb player? I am from Germany and would like to obtain this information. Also, where can I buy it in Germany?

...Udo Frobarth

Yes, Audio Aero does have a website, www.audioaero.com. I don't think the Prestige A/V player we reported on is available yet, but you can write Jean-Paul Combelles at jpc@audioaero.com for details....Marc Mickelson

October 4, 2001


I am on the brink of finally getting my Clements loudspeakers, and I am scrambling to get some other components and connections before they arrive.

In terms of value for dollar, what would you recommend for a CD carousel? Some that I've heard are really clanky and noisy-sounding; no doubt they are older models. In terms of a machine that reads CDs well, even those that are badly scratched (I take a fair number of compact discs out at the public library, and some are really battle scarred), is there one that stands out in your mind? I don't want to pay crazy money as I'm trying to get this system complete without having to raid my savings account!

In terms of cables, are there any that you'd recommend, both for speakers and interconnections between components?

I can't thank you enough for your time. You've been a huge help over the last 12-14 months.

...Charlie Hollis

I don't have much personal experience with carousel CD players, but one that I saw at CEDIA a year ago stands out. It's the Kenwood CD-425M, which you can see and read about here. As far as convenience goes, it's great. I also know that Wes Phillips has reviewed the Sony CDP-CX400.

In terms of cables, I'm very fond of DH Labs Silver Sonic and JPS Labs Ultraconductor, both of which I've used, but some new cables we saw at CEDIA from TARA Labs look to be very worthy of consideration. We posted a news story on them.

I also discovered today a line of silver interconnects and speaker cables from Audio Magic that run $79 and $112 per pair respectively.

I think that about covers it!...Marc Mickelson

October 3, 2001


I am writing in all the way from India. This is my first e-mail to you, although I have been reading your online magazine for almost three years now. Right about now you are probably asking,"What took you so long to write?" Well, every time I've wanted any information, your website had it right there, so there was never a need to actually write in.

I always look forward to reading your reviews. They have educated and guided me through the journey of being an audiophile. My current system is modest in comparison to what most of the reviewers at SoundStage! have, but nevertheless it has provided me with countless hours of satisfaction. I have a Krell KAV-300iL integrated amp, B&W CDM1se speakers, and a Pioneer DVL-909 DVD player.

I am in the process of upgrading my player by adding a DAC. The MSB Link DAC III would be the ideal choice considering the most important thing when I buy audio gear is the price.

As a faithful SoundStage! reader, I request that reviews have a direct comparison of this product -- how would it match up if a direct comparison were to be made between it and another products?

Warm regards,

...Prashant Pathreeker

A mandatory part of every SoundStage! review is a comparison. However, the only SoundStage! writer who owns an MSB Link III DAC is Roger Kanno, and he's been busy writing for Home Theater & Sound, our home-theater site. Roger owns a Krell integrated amp too. You might want to write him at roger@soundstage.com with any specific questions you have.

October 2, 2001


I seem to remember seeing a list of recordings that equipment reviewers like to reference when they test audio equipment. I thought it was a site that I could get to from the SoundStage! homepage, but I can't find it. Can you help? Thanks.

...Howard Small

The list is still there and updated for 10/1. You can find it here....Marc Mickelson


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