[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
December 2001


December 27, 2001

To Jeff Fritz,

I was interested in your review of the Outlaw ICBM for two reasons. First, I'll probably go ahead and get one. And second, you mentioned using the Von Schweikert 3.5s during your tests.

I am hoping that SoundStage! is planning to review Von Schweikert speakers soon. I use the VSR home-theater system right now to great effect (it's based on the original VR-4s). I would love to see a review of his new VR-4 IIIs in a home-theater system, using his new center-channel and new surrounds. I am considering upgrading. But a SoundStage! review would certainly help in making this decision (along with helping many others, I'm sure, who are interested in the new Von Schweikert line of speakers).

There must have been a reason why you were using the 3.5s and his new sub. Hopefully it was because they were being reviewed as well. Thanks.

...Brent Tuthill

You are indeed correct -- the new VSR home-theater speaker system is under review right now. That review, though, will appear at the SoundStage! Network's home-theater site, Home Theater & Sound. Look for it in the upcoming months. In the meantime, we have an interview in my monthly column, "The Director's Chair," with Albert Von Schweikert himself. It is also available at Home Theater & Sound. Oh, and you'll just love the Outlaw ICBM....Jeff Fritz

December 24, 2001


Hello! How are you doing? Is the turkey coming along well?

I'm just dropping a line to wish all the folks at SoundStage! a merry Christmas and a happy new year filled with all the good things life has to offer.

And yes, SoundStage!, happy birthday to you too.

Warm regards,

...Prashant Pathreeker

December 20, 2001

To Jeff Fritz,

For multichannel music, I use a Panasonic RV80, which has built-in decoders for Dolby Digital and DTS. It has six-channel outputs, and my preamp has six-channel inputs. I recently purchased a DVD-A disc, Two Against Nature by Steely Dan. Can I use my current preamp, which does not have a decoder built in but does have six-channel inputs? With a new DVD-A player, will it have decoders for DD and DTS?

...Joe Dasilva

It makes good sense for all DVD-A players to have built-in decoders for Dolby Digital and DTS because you simply must use a six-channel analog connection for DVD-A. Since this is the case, you may as well use the same connection for everything else. Therefore, your logic makes sense. My Technics DVD-A10 does have decoders, nullifying the need for an external processor. With a player like this, you can use your current setup without any changes or modifications. It would be a simple swap. Typically, you would choose either the correct side of a dual-sided disc, or choose the correct track from the DVD-A's menu, and you're off and running with your format of choice....Jeff Fritz

December 18, 2001

To John Crossett,

I just read your Stan Getz review, and it left me with a question mark over my head. If Eagle Jazz is claiming this is Stan Getz's final concert recording, it may be -- on their label! Doing some digging in the jewel cases, I found that Verve/Gitanes Jazz has them beat by about eight months with the two-CD set from 1992 entitled People Time, which is a duo with Kenny Barron [314 510 823-2]. This was taped in Copenhagen on March 3-6, 1991 with Mr. Getz passing on June 6.

This recording, while quite good in performance, lacks some serious midbass (or maybe even lower midrange) and gives you that hollow, tipped-up sound fairly common with live-concert recordings.

Thanks for your time. Can someone have too many good Stan Getz recordings?

...Todd Southworth

December 17, 2001


I just read your review on the Bel Canto DAC1 from September 1999. Is there anything out now that you feel is better that the Bel Canto at its price point? I have an EAD amp and EAD TheaterVision P with Vienna Acoustics Beethoven speakers.

...Tim Flemke

I haven't found another DAC that I like more than the DAC1 (now the DAC1.1) in its price range. I use the DAC1.1 as my reference, and I still enjoy its communicative, easy-on-the-ears nature....Marc Mickelson

December 16, 2001

To Doug Schneider,

I recently put my first hi-fi system together: Rega Mira 2000, Rega Planet 2000, Axiom M22Ti, Rega Planar 25 with Clearaudio Virtuoso cartridge. However, I did buy this with the knowledge that I'd be upgrading soon; I wanted to have a system in place to evaluate the new components I was looking at. My big problem is, I can't compare the Axioms to other speakers  since no one in the US carries (or has heard of) Axiom. My question is, how expensive a speaker must I look for to substantially better the Axioms? I'm considering speakers in the $1500 to $4000 range such as Silverlines, Reference 3A, Triangle, ProAc, Vandersteen, and Thiel. I'm likely to replace the Mira with an Audiomat Phono 1 and Prelude, but that depends on the speakers.

In short, I have a smallish (12' x 14') room; do I go from the Axioms to...what? The Mira must be able to drive them in the meantime, until I replace it. Also, the Audiomat dealer isn't within driving distance, so I can't hear the Prelude with any speakers.

...Shayne Hodge

Both John Potis and I reviewed different models of Axiom speakers, and we both found that they compare to speakers costing quite a bit more. But what does this mean, and does it mean that they are better than more expensive speakers? The answer is yes and no.

First the yes. Indeed, I have found that the M3Ti (as John found with the M22Ti) plain and simply outperforms certain speakers that cost more than them -- not all speakers, but some. The Axioms aren't the only ones to do this, though. Some other companies have remarkably good speakers that offer better performance than some other companies higher priced speakers. Now for the no. Of course, they don't outperform all speakers, and regarding all the ones you mention, you may like all or some better than you like your Axiom speakers. Your Axioms give you a lot for the money and, as John Potis said, they can be used as "either as an interim solution or as a final selection."

What this means is that beyond them you must really try for yourself and compare. You may find a speaker you like better on the whole, and when you do, it's time to upgrade. But you may not be able to (at least quickly) if you really like the sound of the Axioms. Trust your ears, and when you find a new upgrade for your system, you will know it is worthwhile. Until then, be assured that you have outstanding components until you get there....Doug Schneider

December 13, 2001


I am about to build my own listening room in my home, and I wonder if you could give me any advice on what I need to do -- i.e., ideal room size and shape, materials, speaker placement. How far apart should the speakers be and how far from the walls? I am using Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 5s, and a Krell KPS-28 CD player, KCT preamp and FPB-300 power amp. Cables are Transparent Music Wave Super.

...Tony Rose

In terms of size, I've found that the larger you can make your room the better -- within limits, that is. My current room is 12' x 24', although I would like for it to be more like 15' x 24' or wider. This gives more options for speaker placement, including on the long wall. You want to avoid square rooms no matter the size. An earlier room I had was double 1/2" drywalled, which made for a room that was more solid and less resonant. If you won't be on a cement slab, this is even more important. And make sure you get the electrician to put in dedicated 30-amp lines in groups of perhaps four outlets. These will improve the power getting to your equipment.

Speakers vary in regard to their distance apart, although this often has to do with the width of the room in which they're used. Experimentation is necessary, but I find that eight feet is a minimum. Wilson Audio could give you advice for your speakers....Marc Mickelson

December 12, 2001

To Doug Schneider,

I was reading your review of the Paradigm Reference Active/40 speakers and went to the Paradigm website for more information. On the Active-series page, it states that the product has been discontinued. Considering the very good reviews that this product has received from yourself and others, have you heard any reason for the discontinuation (or was it just lack of sales)? Will there be a replacement for the Actives, or is Paradigm just dropping active loudspeakers entirely (sad news if true)?

...Warren Szkolnicki

I just recently talked to Mark Aling at Paradigm and he confirmed that yes, the Paradigm Reference Active series of speakers is discontinued immediately. It's a very unfortunate case, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the product. The speakers are outstanding, including the fully active home-theater system system that we have in-house but will now no longer be reviewed. It seems, as many have speculated, that the market is just not that accepting of active-speaker technology despite the inherent advantages in them.

I don't think that anyone put it better than Wes Phillips did in his review of them on onhifi.com: "It's just that I know it's a lost cause. No matter how good they are, no matter how convenient, logical and sensible they are, I know that audiophiles won't buy 'em, because audiophiles don't buy active loudspeakers. And non-audiophiles won't buy 'em because non-audiophiles don't buy $2000 loudspeakers." That's not to say that nobody bought the Actives; there are many lucky souls out there who did snap them up because, according to Mark Aling again, the dealers sold out of them far faster than anticipated. However, over the years Paradigm didn't sell enough of them to warrant continuing support of the technology....Doug Schneider

December 8, 2001

To Wes Phillips,

We've met once or twice. I live back here in Albuquerque and own an audio store named Audio Designs. I don't know if anyone over there has any NHT 1.5s, but I found that the new SB-3 crossover works more than perfectly in the 1.5s since they are virtually identical, both electrically and design-wise. I have done some mods before, but this was just incredible. Strangely enough, the 1.5s were supposed to have a similar crossover design, but last-minute cost-cutting measures prevented that. Anyway, this is just an idea as they are pretty popular amongst audiophiles, and we're recommending that all of our customers upgrade. We're selling the crossover for $75, $100 installed.

I know you like the SuperOnes. The new SuperAudio series from NHT is well beyond the SuperOnes. The SuperZeros, SuperOnes and 1.5s were reasonable facsimiles of high-end sound for about a quarter the normal high-end price. The new ones ARE high-end sound at a quarter the normal price. The SB-3s and ST-4s in particular are incredible values. We compared the little SB-1s to B&W's new DM303s, and the SB-1s just tore them apart, despite being half the size. It wasn't even close enough to allow for differences in taste. That's how good the new series is.

...John Ashman

December 4, 2001

To Doug Schneider,

I just read your excellent review of the Mirage OM-7 speakers. I enjoyed your article very much and wanted to write you. I am currently looking at purchasing the OM-9s. The seem very comparable to the 7s, are less money, and apparently don't need as large a room to put them in for good quality sound. Have you listened to, and/or reviewed the OM-9s?

I have the same criticism (if you could call it that) with the OM-9s as you do for the OM-7s. It's not a full-range speaker (not intended to be), so I would be intending to team the speaker with a subwoofer, even for stereo music, just to add a little bottom end to the sound. If I'm going to add a sub regardless, do you see any advantage to the OM-7s over the OM-9s?

One other thing I'll ask you seeing as I thought of it: In your article you wrote about a CD player you used being in 24/96 mode. Is this unusual to find on a CD player? I'm leaning towards Marantz components as my next receiver, CD, DVD, etc. purchases, and I am wondering what I should be looking for in the components I buy.

I enjoyed reading your article and will look forward to hopefully hearing from you soon.

...Michael Smith

Although I have not heard the OM-9 at length, I have seen it a number of times and it's a fairly different design than the OM-7. The OM-7 is a three-way design and is closer to the company's OM-5 loudspeaker (the OM-5 has a larger cabinet and powered woofer section). The OM-9 is a bipolar speaker like these (it radiates sound to the front and rear), but it is much smaller and is a two-way design. I would assume that given its size and driver configuration it would not not have nearly the bass the OM-7 does. This is, of course, where a subwoofer can come in. However, matching a subwoofer to your main speakers can be difficult -- not impossible, but sometimes difficult to get true integration. There are a lot of factors in terms of which would work better, including your own room. Auditioning both of these speakers at a good dealer is recommended. We hope to get the OM-9 in for review at some point and listen to it ourselves to let readers know how it compares.

In terms of the 24/96, this is usually in relation to a CD player's digital-to-analog converter section and how many bits it can accept and how high a sampling rate it can support. You may also see things like 24/192, particularly in the new DVD-A players coming out. Keep in mind, though, that CD is a lower-resolution format that operates with 16 bits at 44.1kHz. In a pure CD player, the extra bits and higher sampling frequency may or may not actually be relevant. A lot depends on the design and implementation....Doug Schneider

December 3, 2001


The idea that some audiophiles believe there is too much detail in today's audio systems mentioned in the John Potis Naked Truth Audio review is illogical drivel. An audio system can only transmit what it's fed, unless it distorts so much that no audiophile would listen to it. Indeed, since no system is perfect, we are listening to less than 100% of the detail on our systems, probably much less. The culprit producing too much detail -- i.e., more detail than one would hear at a live concert -- is the software. That is, the recording caught more detail than the live listener would hear. And a "good" system would, of course, reproduce that extra detail. If it didn't, it would be an inferior system. If you want an "accurate" system you have to live with this "problem." Or you can assemble a system that modifies the signal to your liking, a non-audiophile system. Only an accurate system with properly recorded software will even begin to sound real.

This is another case of blaming the messenger for the message.

...Allen Edelstein

It’s only “illogical drivel” if you want to separate the system from the software and blame one or the other. As no home musical experience can be had with only one or the other, they must be considered as parts of one system. And since we have no ability to influence how the musical event was captured on CD, our job is to work with what we are given and assemble a system that reproduces that CD in a way that, as you say, sounds “real.” The problem is that what sounds real to you may not sound real to me because our frames of reference are different. The concert hall you are familiar with sounds different from the one that I’m familiar with. Making matters worse is the fact that even if we listened from within the same hall, unless we occupied the same seat our frame of reference would still be different as different locations within the same hall will still provide a different sonic experience. And as neither of us have ever experienced a live concert while hanging from the ceiling (as a recording mike does), neither of our versions of “real” are going to match what the microphone heard. Let’s not even get into all of the music that didn’t even have its roots in a real live musical event or the differences in our rooms or the multitude of other mitigating factors involved. It is for all of the above reasons that there are so many interpretations of what sounds “real.”

As for your assertion that“An audio system can only transmit what it's fed, unless it distorts so much...,” the fact is that they all distort the signal that they are fed and there is no such thing as a system that can produce exactly what it is fed. They all editorialize and they all present the music with different flavors and levels of detail, and on that I don’t think there can be any informed, logical debate. For the record, I’m not sure on which side of the “accuracy above all else” debate I fall, but that’s irrelevant anyway. My job is to report on what I heard. Your job is to decide if that sounds like something that may sound "real" to you....John Potis


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