[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
February 2002


February 19, 2002


I was anxious to read your review of the Atma-Sphere MA-1 Mk II.2 amps. I recently purchased a pair and have been breaking them in. About a week after, I decided to reconnect my old amplifier to see how it sounded. (The system had quite a few new components: new Audio Aero Capitole 24/192 CD player, Piega P10 loudspeakers, Silversmith XLR interconnects). When I reconnected the Pass, the first things I noticed were increased macrodynamics, much improved weight and slam in the bass, almost too much though. I think that realistic bass is somewhere in between it and the Atma-Sphere amps.

When going back to the MA-1, I made sure to use much shorter speaker cables. The difference was significant -- more weight and extension. The Piegas' impedance drops to 3.8 ohms at 80Hz. I bet the Wilson speakers behave similarly. I wonder if you had the chance to use much shorter speaker cables. Please share your experiences.

Another solution to speakers that are designed for solid state is to use an autoformer. I have just ordered one today. (Atma-sphere also makes one, but the ZERO lets you connect it directly to the amp and the speakers; this way you don t need speaker cables!) The autoformer is similar to a transformer but has only a primary winding. This lets you modify the impedance as seen at the amplifier's output. In my case, I would like the P10 impedance curve to go no lower than, say, approximately 8 ohms (3.8 x 2 = 7.6 Ohms). This will improve the damping factor, weight and slam of the bass. Autoformers do not negate the OTL design but make speakers that were designed for solid state work well with tube amplifiers. Other tube designs work well with autoformer, such as your Lamm ML2 amps. I think of them as a tool that lets you dial in the speaker impedance to the ideal power curve of your amplifier.

Are you also doing a review of the Atma-Sphere MP-3 preamp? I am very interested in the results. I heard it and was very impressed. Will you be responsible for the Tenor review? This is the amp that I think could be the best ever!

...Henry Ericson

Thanks for conveying your experiences with the Atma-Sphere MA-1 Mk II.2. I used eight-foot speaker cables, but nothing shorter.

I remember Ralph Karsten telling us about his own autoformers when we visited him last year. I didn't think to try these because the amps didn't exhibit any obvious frequency-response aberrations with the Wilson speakers -- nothing out of the ordinary, that is. Also, to keep the review on the amps, it would have been best not to add anything else in the reproduction chain.

I won't be conducting the Atma-Sphere MP-3 review, but I am the reviewer for the Tenor Audio 75 Wi amps. Stay tuned to read about both products....Marc Mickelson

February 10, 2002


First off, I like your audio reviews better than all the others. Thanks.

Any plans to review Blue Circle's new CS integrated amp? I have one on order, and I am looking forward to getting it. An in-depth review from you would be nice.


...Don Cooper

Yes, a review of the Blue Circle CS is in the works, so you should be able to read about this new integrated amp on SoundStage! sometime soon....Marc Mickelson

February 5, 2002


Do you know if Timbre Technology still exists, and if so, their DAC? Could be I'm in for a DAC that's really an alternative for most of the DACs manufactured today. In an effort to upgrade my Audiolab/Camtech 8000 DAC and trying out some well-respected units (Perpetual Technology, Meridian, Theta), I gradually get the impression my priorities in audio reproduction might be somewhat out of the ordinary -- that is, not exactly shared by DAC designers. I don't care too much for soundstaging (illusion); I don't even care that much for stereo. Give me a good recording in mono and I'm happy. What I value very highly is a convincing reproduction of instrumental timbre, timbral contrast, the sound of an instrument in space. I think if this is correct, other aspects will be right too. But I don't hear it, not even in very expensive equipment, and so I don't think designers think along with me. They must be after something else, something more spectacular probably.

So, is there an alternative? Reading your review of the Timbre TT-1 DAC, I get the impression that there might be something out there that could possibly give me what I want. The problem is that Timbre is completely unknown in this part of the world (The Netherlands). And what's even worse, I can't find anything on the Internet about the company. Can you help me?

Best regards,

...Renze de Vries

The last I heard, Timbre was still in business doing mostly upgrades to older DACs. The phone number I have for them is (215) 540-9812.

I don't personally use a Timbre DAC anymore -- I needed something 24/96 capable for reviewing -- but I still admire it greatly. As an alternative, I suggest seeking out the Bel Canto DAC2, which is the latest version of the DAC1 that I reviewed long ago. It's a very fine unit, and it costs less than half what the Timbre TT-1 cost long ago....Marc Mickelson

February 3, 2002

To Jeff Fritz,

I'm not terribly familiar with SoundStage!, though I suspect I will be shortly. Please forgive me if I'm asking something you've already addressed. I was looking for reviews on the Coda 04r preamp. I own one, and have never heard better, period. Unfortunately, you're the only other soul in the whole universe whom I'm aware has one. My buddy's up-to-date Madrigal/Proceed doesn't sound nearly as good by his own admission. It costs like $5000 or $6000. Of course, it does do some wacky home-theater stuff. Do you still use the 04r? Have you heard the 05r?


...Paul Harnagel

The Coda preamps are indeed some of the best I've heard as well. I have the 05r now and can say it is a definite improvement over the 04r, a really fine preamp in its own right. The finer gradations of the Crystal Semiconductor volume control are helpful, and the noise floor is virtually non-existent. As well, the readout is improved (and a cool blue color!). We are likely not the only Coda preamp owners out there, but if we are, we can just keep it a secret between us....Jeff Fritz

February 2, 2002

To Doug Schneider

I am using a $169 Toshiba DVD player for music, along with a $279 Denon surround-sound system. No audiophile setup, to say the least! I want to upgrade to a CD player and integrated amp, but I'm going crazy with the myriad choices and combinations one has to sift through. (Did you mean that a $500 CD player will sound just as nice as a $1500 CD player in most respects?)

Audio journalists and consumes alike have rated the Creek 5250 SE integrated amp very, very high; they have also rated the Arcam DiVA A85 integrated amp high as well. As far as CD players, the Arcam CD72 seems to have a nice following, too.

For a CD player in the $600 to $1300 range, is the Arcam the hands-down best? And is the Creek really the best invention on the planet since sliced bread -- particularly in and around its price point?

I am using Paradigm minimonitor speakers, but I am getting ready to upgrade to the Paradigm's Reference line (Studio 20s or 40s).  Any advice here would also be appreciated.

Thanks so much for your time,

...Darrin Brown

I'll try to answer all your questions in order (there's quite a few of them). In terms of the differences between $500 and $1500 CD players, there may be some, but they certainly won't be nearly of the same level as the same price difference spent on speakers. You will get a wee-bit more sonic refinement out of a CD player and also, likely, better build quality -- small differences. In terms of speakers, that difference is much larger (this should help give you direction in your last question). In terms of the Creek gear, I haven't heard it, and I checked around here and no one on our team is familiar enough with it. But as far as the Arcam DiVA A85 goes, Wes Phillips rated it very highly in his review and we not only gave it Reviewers' Choice recognition, we also gave it an end-of-the-year award for Best Product Debut. The way Wes speaks about it that piece, it may well be the best thing since sliced bread! And yes, Arcam CD players are very highly regarded. As an interesting note, they were one of the first "audiophile companies" to build their own player from scratch....Doug Schneider


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