[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
November 2001


November 27, 2001


With all due respect, your review of the TARA Labs power cords is BS. How well do you sleep at night?

...Jimmy Lee

I sleep very well. I've written something that some people agree with and others don't. So be it. I heard what I heard and reported it....Marc Mickelson

November 18, 2001


Let me start by giving you the usual (I'm sure) thank you that you probably get in most letters. My real reason for writing you, however, is to ask if it's possible for you to make an archive of old E-Mag issues. I think many people would appreciate it, and it certainly wouldn't take much effort from you, but perhaps there are legal issues or similar that I'm not aware of.

Anyway, thanks again for bringing SoundStage! to my screen and keep up the good work!

...Tommy Enqvist

We don't keep back issues of our E-Mag online because of bandwidth and space limitations. We had worked out an arrangement with a Canadian print magazine to distribute them all on CD-ROM, but that has apparently fallen through....Marc Mickelson

November 14, 2001

To Doug Schneider,

I've been reading SoundStage! for quite a few years, almost since its inception. When I saw in your upcoming reviews listing that SoundStage! was going to review Acoustic Zen Satori speaker cables, I was very, very intrigued. I spent most of last year looking for a new set of speaker cables. Jim Merod from Stereo Times (they're not bad) turned me onto these cables from Robert Lee. I was looking for a good match for my Thiel CS3.6 speakers and McCormack DNA-1 Rev. A amp.

Was he right! I now consider the Satoris to be a true breakthrough product in two ways: they let much, much more of the music through accurately, and (important for cables) you don't have to take out a second mortgage to own these beauties. I would put these wires up against ANYTHING -- price no object.

The SoundStage! review got pretty close, but the reviewer's previous and only cable to compare with the Satori was "Generic Monster Cable." ARRRRGGHHH. I was just expecting more. I guess I was hoping you would assign someone much more experienced with high-end cable to review a product such as this.

Dare you take up the challenge to give them a listen?

...John Zurek

Marc Mickelson listened to the top-of-the-line Hologram and Silver Reference and reported on them in his sidebar to the review. As for the Satori, perhaps we'll do a follow-up at some point....Doug Schneider.

November 13, 2001

To Roger Kanno,

You recently responded to a previous e-mail of mine regarding upgrading an A/V system with an amplifier. You suggested using some reference discs and gave me a link to the SoundStage! picks.

Well, I picked up a few of those, and the one that jumped out and grabbed me and let me know THIS is music I like was the Eva Cassidy's Live At Blues Alley. I have always liked this type of music, but I never knew enough as to where to find it. I picked up a copy during my lunch yesterday, and then sat in my car and listened to the entire CD without skipping songs or fast forwarding. I had a long lunch! I couldn't wait to get home and listen to it again on my system, so I left early, went home and sat in a dark room listening. I was going to compare how it sounded with and without my new amplifier, but I just couldn't bring myself to stop the music from playing. Unlike your prediction that most will favor the song "Fields of Gold," although I liked it very much, my favorites were "Stormy Monday," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "People Get Ready," and "What a Wonderful World." Other than Eva's fantastic vocals, I really enjoyed listening to the instrumentals, particularly on "People Get Ready".

The other discs I picked up were the Ani DiFranco, Patty Larkin, and Roger Waters CDs. The jury's still out on these.

Thank you very much for all your help, and for choosing to recommend Eva Cassidy and sharing that info on SoundStage!.

...Mike Kistler

November 10, 2001


I am looking for a pair of small speakers to be used for a mixed bag of audio and video. It is important to me that the speakers sound good and are enjoyable at low volume levels. I often listen to music or watch television while entertaining, reading, or cooking, and since I am rarely alone (I have two small boys), the volume level is usually lower than I would normally listen to if I were alone. I find that many speakers which sound great at moderate or loud levels sound distant and muffled at low volumes. I am currently thinking about NSM or Axiom, and am assuming that since the Axioms are more efficient they would probably sound better at lower volumes. Any comments or suggestions?

...Kevin Kennan

The first speaker that comes to mind is the Axiom Millennia M3Ti SE, a favorite of many SoundStage! writers. Another to consider is the Paradigm Atom, which we've named a Reviewers' Choice because of the quality of its sound and budget price. Both of these speakers should sound good at low levels because of their rather even frequency response, and they shouldn't be hard to drive -- a mass-market receiver should do the trick. One suggestion here: find a receiver with a loudness switch, which is included to make speakers sound better at low levels by boosting the bass and treble a bit.

For other speaker suggestions, have a look at our sister site, GoodSound!, which is dedicated to affordable high-performance audio....Marc Mickelson

November 9, 2001


I read your review of the Acoustic Zen cables. I remember that you used to own ProAc speakers, so you know that they use binding posts with the thick rhodium-plated jumper pin that doesn't allow use of single runs of spade-terminated cables. Well, I am currently having that problem now, having encountered it when I attempted, yesterday, to connect my brand-new pair of spade-terminated Acoustic Zen cables to my ProAc 1SCs only to find out that it isn't possible. I need to acquire a set of binding-post jumpers that will allow me to connect my single-run spade-terminated wires. What do you recommend (best sound)? Thanks!

...Christopher Cabral

This is a problem because of that darned pin ProAc uses. I can suggest three things. First, contact Acoustic Zen and ask them to make you a pair of jumpers. Second, I used a pair from JPS Labs that were made of the special terminating wire from their top-of-the-line NC Series speaker cables. They're great. Third, in a pinch, I would run one leg of the spade through the hole with the jumper pin and that would work, although the connection would not be optimal.

I guess you could also get a second pair of speaker cables, but that would run you more money than new jumpers....Marc Mickelson

November 8, 2001


Some time ago, you stated that you would do a comparo between the Mark Levinson No.39 CD player and Audio Aero's Capitole 24/192.

Well, what's up?

A HUGE SoundStage! fan,

...Dennis Francis

We are at the mercy of Audio Aero and its North American distributor, Globe A/V, to get us a Capitole 24/192 for follow-up. They've promised one to us and reiterated this a couple of times, but a unit hasn't come in yet. I will prod them again....Marc Mickelson

November 4, 2001


I am searching for a modestly priced headphone amp for my Sennheiser HD 500s that I can take with me on the go. I am looking to spend the most probably $200. I don't mind lugging something a little hefty around, but compactness is welcome. My Panasonic SL-CT780 portable CD player needs an amp to power the cans properly. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

...Chris Neibauer

HeadRoom is the place to go. They sell only headphones and related products, and their $159 Total AirHead amplifier is an upgraded version of the original AirHead that I use and enjoy....Marc Mickelson

November 3, 2001


A big thanks for your Wilson Audio article! It was a big surprise this morning, and I have waited for such an article for a long while. In fact, I was (like many others) wondering where Wilson's "out of the air" pricing came from, and this explains some of it. But still I wonder why I couldn't upgrade the drivers of my WATT 5, which I owned a while ago. I admire the work that's done on SoundStage! in general, and a big thanks to all of you running this site.

I'm a German fellow who owns the WATT/Puppy 6 and some Mark Levinson gear, but unfortunately I left my system in Germany to take a job in New Zealand for about two years. So I'm here, miss my system, and keep myself updated through SoundStage! and your connected websites. Meanwhile, I work on the upcoming Lord of the Rings movie's digital effects, and I hope to give you guys some of the pleasure back that I gain through your websites.

If you don't mind, I would like to know how big the difference between the WAMM and MAXX was to you.

...Matthias Menz

Two years is a long time without your audio system, especially one with the pedigree of the equipment you mention. My condolences.

As for the WAMM and MAXX, they were really different ball games in different parks. If my room were of a normal size, like that of John Giolas, the Wilson Audio marketing director, I would spring for the MAXX and live happily. The WAMM did its thing in a huge room, and if I had such a room (and a matching back account), the WAMM would be my choice. Both speaker systems were captivating....Marc Mickelson

November 2, 2001

To Doug Schneider,

Thanks for your review of the Audio Aero Prima 24/192. Your review indicates that the Prima 24/192 oversamples. I've read about the benefits of upsampling in the last year or so, but what of oversampling? I don't think that I've read anything that actually explains the distinction between the two. Would you kindly explain the difference? Is it a negative that the Prima doesn't upsample? Is that what the STARS processing in the flagship Capitole is about?

I gather that notwithstanding an inability to upsample, the Prima is still an excellent CD player, perhaps as good as it gets at the $1500-$2000 price point. So then, excellent performance would appear to be attainable without upsampling. And I'm guessing that upsampling doesn't necessarily guarantee excellent performance. Is it that, if done right in conjunction with other aspects of a design, upsampling is a good thing -- but that's not to say that a $400 DVD player with a $1300 upsampling DAC from Bel Canto or Birdland is going to beat out the oversampling Prima 24/192?

Also, regarding the tubed output stage of the Prima: (1) Do you know or can you guess at expected tube life; (2) what is the cost of replacing the tube(s), and (3) do you expect that the availability of the mini-tube used in the Prima could become a problem a few years hence?

Thanks for your advice and for the review.

...Wayne Breyer

An excellent question with an answer that may surprise you. In August, I had the opportunity to visit dCS, makers of highly praised products like the Elgar DAC and the Grieg upsampler. During that visit I had an hour-long discussion with Mike Story, the designer of these products, and asked the same questions you ask. I came out of that meeting with the following information.

Most of what has been written in the US-based audio press about upsampling is just plain wrong. Writers have attributed many sonic characteristics to upsampling that may or many not be applicable (not to say that they didn't hear good things, but whether it was upsampling or another aspect of the design is the question). Furthermore, the definition of exactly what upsampling is seems to vary greatly from company to company. One company may claim to do upsampling and another may well dispute whether they really are or not. Who is doing it right seems to depend on exactly whom you talk to. In terms of what upsampling, properly implemented, actually accomplishes, the answer is pretty surprising too. According to Story, there is absolutely no increase in resolution as many have speculated. Instead, he believes any benefits are due to better transient-response performance....Doug Schneider


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