[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
May 2002


Finish of Polk speakers

May 29, 2002

To Doug Schneider,

I had a question about the picture of the Polk LSi9 in your review. In the picture, the speaker appears to be dark brown. On the Polk website, it is stated that the company offers cherry and ebony finish, neither of which looks anything like the speakers in the review. Is the picture in the review what the ebony finish looks like in real life? If so, then the Polk website has made the ebony finish look nothing like it actually does. The only reason I am concerned is because I am in the process of ordering the speakers online, and I have no way to see them except online (no dealer within 200 miles of Oregon), so I am going solely off pictures. I was going to go with black, but if they are actually more brownish in color, I might have to reconsider. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Aaron Cook

We cannot verify the color of other LSi9 speakers, but the picture on with our review does represent the LSi9s as they were sent to us. However, that's not to say they are indicative of current production. Things happen, so to get to the bottom of this, we wrote Polk Audio. The following reply comes from Paul Di Como of Polk Audio:

"The color of production ebony looks more like the photo on the Polk website than the photos on the SoundStage! site. It is black with prominent straight grain and gray/silver highlights. A possible explanation for the tint of the SoundStage! photos are that we had some samples of an ebony veneer with highlights that were almost purple. We didn't like it and decided not to use it. No one here remembers using that finish on pre-production units, but it is remotely possible that the pair sent to SoundStage! had the purplish veneer. Therefore, we would recommend using the current pictures on our site as a better guide."

Trusting what's on the Polk website is our best advice....Doug Schneider

Gershman review?

May 25, 2002


A Gershman dealer mentioned that SoundStage! may offer a review of the new Gershman Acoustics' Chameleon speaker that was well received at both CES and at the Montreal audio show. Is this in the works, and when will it appear?

Larry Novelli

We talked in Montreal with Ofra Gershman about reviewing and measuring the Chameleon, but so far we haven't received a pair of the speakers. Stay tuned, however....Marc Mickelson

Coincident measurements

May 22, 2002

To Bill Cowen,

I have a question about the speaker measurements that accompany your review of the Coincident Total Eclipse loudspeakers. Coincident advertises these speakers as having a sensitivity of 94dB, which, if true, makes them very attractive to someone like me who uses low- and medium-power tube amplifiers. But below the first graph on the SoundStage! speaker-measurements page, the sensitivity is listed as 86dB! This is a major discrepancy, and I wonder why this didn't come up in the review process. If it's true, it takes the speakers out of the running for my consideration and certainly raises questions about claims made for the speaker by the manufacturer. Am I reading your measurements correctly? This is a key issue since I am seriously considering purchasing these speakers.

Tony Biancardi

Yes, there was quite a bit of controversy about the measured versus claimed sensitivity of the Total Eclipses. A few things to note:

(1) I didn't do the measurements. They were done at the NRC in Canada, in an anechoic chamber. My review was just the subjective portion of the test.

(2) Room reinforcement will play a role in ANY system to increase measured sensitivity versus that measured in an anechoic room. In an anechoic chamber, there is nothing to reflect the sound, so the measured sensitivity will always be lower than "real world" scenarios. The reason the anechoic measurement is used is because it is a constant, and no two "real world" rooms are exactly the same. That said, the measurements done in an anechoic chamber do not typically result in an 8dB reduction in sensitivity (usually more like 3dB but again, that will vary from room to room). So, in this case, the anechoic measurement is somewhat lower due to the physics, but the manufacturer's claimed sensitivity is also embellished, in my opinion.

(3) I achieved good results driving the Total Eclipses with a 10Wpc SET amp. But I couldn't play exceedingly loud with it in my 17' x 25' room. I feel that the Total Eclipses need around 25 watts or more to truly come to life, and they also need to be played at reasonable volume levels (these are not speakers that sound their best played softly). That's my opinion, as I mentioned in the subjective portion of the review. Israel Blume would disagree, but we'll just have to agree to disagree on that point.

I truly love the sound of the Total Eclipses -- that's why I bought them. They have so many endearing qualities that I just haven't heard in speakers at their price point. But they do need a reasonable amount of power. Their benign impedance makes them "SET friendly" from the aspect of amp/speaker frequency-response interaction, but they really need a fairly stout SET amp to come alive.

I hope this helps. If I can answer any other questions or concerns, please let me know....Bill Cowen

Frankfurt coverage

May 17, 2002


I visited your coverage of the Frankfurt High End show. It's terrific! I simply cannot believe how vibrant the high-end design and engineering community appears to be in this part of the world. So many companies, so many weird, wonderful products, most of which I have never heard of. I'm entranced by the "flying egg" speaker.

I appreciate your bringing this information to all of us.

Kathy Gornik
Thiel Audio

Cables, measurements, and "Ultra Audio"

May 15, 2002

To Jerry Kindela,

I was very intrigued and entertained by your "Ultra Intro" article, and I look forward to reading more of your column in the future. If this obsession of ours is a disease, please let them never find a cure. Using the Sahuaro Wires as a first topic was a brave move, and one I hope you'll continue. But it raised an issue or two for me.

I am one of the much-maligned engineers, so measurement and analysis are my thing. In my work, if I can't measure it, I can't prove it. But before anyone gets the wrong idea about where my comments are going, let me first say that I am a firm believer that cables are a critical system component, and that different cables can indeed affect the audio signal they transmit in different ways. When I heard pseudo-science babble used to make arguments like "Most scientists agree that at the time of the Big Bang..." in describing the Sahuaro wires, my natural tendency was to tune out. I have learned through experience, however, to keep a lazy ear half listening just in case. I have found that these type of statements fall into four categories: (1) The person has no understanding of the subject, and his product is hopelessly doomed to failure; (2) He knows that mystery and intrigue are an effective marketing ploy; (3) The subject is far too complex for people who lack the necessary training, and it is easier to wrap it in mystique and/or pseudo-science than try to explain it to someone who won't understand anyway; and (4) The person has found a real phenomenon that has no current explanation and is struggling to understand it. In the case of the Sahuaro wires, I suspect that Ron Paquette falls into category 3 or 4, with maybe just a hint of 2!

Why do I come to this conclusion? His postulation "that electrical and mechanical resonances are essentially the same thing" is an outrageously oversimplified way to describe a real and measurable phenomenon that is described in most high school physics textbooks. An alternating current creates a constantly changing magnetic field. A metal that is subjected to a changing magnetic field generates an eddy current that generates yet another magnetic field that opposes the first one, which causes the metal to physically move. Do this at any of the right combinations of power level and frequency and, voilá, you have a mechanical resonance, which starts creating its own currents and magnetic fields and so on and so on, producing distortion! So there was enough of a hint of reality in this explanation that I'm willing to believe he may just be on to something with his idea of resonance damping for cables. If I get the chance, I'll check them out.

Which leads me to explain my apparent conflicting views on audio cables of "If I can't measure it I can't prove it, but yet I still believe." First, note that I do not say "If I can't measure it then it doesn't exist." The evolution of science is primarily driven by researchers observing an unexplained phenomenon that leads them to develop new methods to detect, measure and explain it. Just because our current level of technology and understanding can't explain something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Second, many of the critical factors of good cable design and cables' effects can be measured! I have the benefit at work of advanced equipment that many cable manufacturers probably couldn't afford, and I have a habit of testing all the audio cables that I can get my hands on, and different cables do indeed measure differently. Zip cord and interconnects that come with the equipment measure horribly, with your entry-level retail audio cables measuring only slightly better. I have found very expensive cables whose measurements are so poor that it is impossible they are not audibly altering the signal, typically from manufacturers that make wild pseudo-scientific claims, and should be soundly denounced as snake oil. I have also found that cables most people agree sound good usually measure well, and that in general more expensive and better-sounding cables measure better and more similarly to each other, which leads me to believe that there are some established basic design principles that all good cable designers (or should I call them engineers?) employ.

Can the measurements I perform explain all the differences we hear? Absolutely not! Do I believe every manufacturer's claims? Not likely! Will future developments in technology and knowledge explain the differences? Possibly! Do I use measurements as a first line screening tool? Yup! Do I use listening as my final criteria? You bet! Have I started tinkering with DIY cable designs? Most definitely!

So congratulations on your new column, and I hope that my response shows that not all engineers are bad, not all audio claims are good, and the true answers, as always, lie somewhere in the middle.

Terry Aben

Better sound for less money?

May 9, 2002

To Doug Schneider,

I just read your review of the new Dahlquist QX6 bookshelf speakers. Hmmm. Another very good sub-$500 stand-mounted design. In the review you list Paradigm, Polk Audio, Axiom, Athena Technologies, Energy, and now Dahlquist all as producing good sub-$500 stand-mounters. I'd add Mission, Wharfedale, KEF, PSB, Heybrook, JMlab, and (even) JBL, as turning the same trick -- surprisingly good sound at very reasonable prices.

Is it simply time to admit that pretty much every reputable speaker maker has figured out how to put together a really good sub-$500 two-way? I bought a pair of PSB Alpha Minis (the second iteration, with binding posts) for $150 on closeout, and while they aren't the end-all, they sound amazingly good. I'm still shocked by the neutrality, imaging and detail they manage. They're tiny, plain-Jane boxes with non-removable grilles that sound just great. So I might think Paul Barton is a genius, but....

In the past year or so, I've read rave reviews of budget boxes from every speaker brand listed above, from a wide range of high-end publications. Each review has practically tripped over extolling the virtues of these "little wonders." It seems every time I turn around, there's a new "budget reference." I'm getting whiplash!

Couple this with the fast-dropping price of good DACs (as in cheapo DVD players that'll also decode higher-resolution digital formats) and the fact that digital amplifiers are soon going to be cheap, cheap, cheap, and it's starting to be true that sound that would have cost thousands of dollars to achieve just ten or so years ago will soon cost hundreds for a whole system. I'm not talking about Bel Canto digital amplifiers, but stuff from the likes of Sharp (i.e., the minisystem recently reviewed on GoodSound!). Imagine the day when a one-box minisystem from Sony, Sharp, or Aiwa sounds better than the carefully selected separates system of years gone by.

All I can say is the higher end of the high end better get its stuff together and fast. What will they have to offer anyone when truly great sound is available for a song? When the $400 minisystem of tomorrow sounds better than the $4000 system of today? What will $1000 buy then? Ten thousand dollars worth of today's sound? I really wonder if we're all headed for a hugely precipitous fall in the price of truly great sound along with a concomitant fall in the level of complexity needed to achieve it. There's a whole host of implications attached to this line of reasoning. At the extreme, it could be the real and final death of the high end. (The only ones left will be the turntables, tubes, and horns, all like cockroaches after nuclear oblivion.)

I wonder if any of this rings a bell with you.


Travis Cunningham

It certainly does....Doug Schneider

Speaker sensitivity

May 8, 2002


I am currently looking for speakers to replace my three-year-old Tannoy Mercury M2 bookshelf speakers. I was reading Greg Smith's review of the Dynaudio Audience 40 and was wondering if my Audio Analogue Puccini SE could drive either the Audience 40 or Audience 50. My room is roughly 2.25m W x 4.00m L x 2.5m H. I am using a Rotel RCD971 CD player along with AudioQuest Quartz x3 interconnects and Midnight 3 speaker cables. Mostly I'm listening to acoustic, new age, classic-rock and pop/vocal music.

Nazri Yusof

As our NRC measurements show, the Dynaudio Audience 40 speakers are low in terms of sensitivity at 85dB. However, your room is not overly large, so provided you don't listen at live levels, your Puccini SE integrated amp should power the speakers just fine. I suspect that the same would hold true for the Audience 50 as well.

Also, the Audience 40 and 50 have been replaced by the Audience 42 and 52, and we have not reviewed these -- yet....Marc Mickelson

Where to find The Tube?

May 7, 2002


I saw Die Röhre - The Tube [Tacet 74] on your "Reference Discs" column. Where can this be purchased on vinyl?


Russ Ravella

Elusive Disc has The Tube both on CD and 180-gram vinyl. Great on both....Bill Brooks

"Spy System"

May 6, 2002


Although slightly flawed with an ending that could have been better executed, Jim Saxon's column this month was one of the most interesting audio bits I've ever read.


Nigel Fincham-Smythe

Thiel review

May 5, 2002


I am currently shopping for speakers and listened to the new Thiel CS1.6 speakers and they sounded great. I was reading your reviews of speakers online and was wondering if you have heard them yet and what your thoughts are about them. I have an Adcom power amplifier and Adcom preamp, Marantz CD player, Nakamichi cassette deck and Allison 4 speakers (these are about 22 years old).

Mark Donenfeld

We have the CS1.6es in for review and measurement. However, we can't give out any information before the review appears. Sorry....Marc Mickelson

Blue Circle AG3000

May 4, 2002

To David Dowdell,

I just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed your review of the Blue Circle AG3000 preamp. It was much fun to read. I felt as if I was enjoying this lovely piece of audio equipment with you. I was intrigued about the volume-control implementation. This is a very similar design to my Ayre K-1x. Same setup, but the Ayre uses belts and gears to move the four volume controls with one knob. The Ayre is also an awesome preamp.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for a great journey. Great job.

Rich Maurin

Subscription to Madagascar?

May 3, 2002


I would like to subscribe to SoundStage! magazine for two years. I am living in Madagascar, and there's no credit card system in my country yet. In order to realize that subscription, could you please provide me the following information:

Two years subscription's rate plus post office air-freight expedition charge to Madagascar

Your bank account detail to allow me to do a TT advance-payment transfer.

Thanks in advance for your kind reply.

Liao Didier

SoundStage! is completely on the Internet and free, so you need no subscription. Just visit our site on the 1st and 15th each month for new reviews, columns and feature articles....Marc Mickelson

Amphion argon2

May 2, 2002

To Doug Schneider,

I appreciate very much SoundStage! equipment reviews as they provide me with invaluable information on new products. After reading your review of the Amphion argon2 loudspeakers, I found I just couldn't resist owning a pair. Your comment on the speaker's performance in small and mid-sized rooms further heightened my interest as I am living in an apartment. I hope you can advise me on the approximate size of the small and mid-sized rooms mentioned. I'm also wondering what would be the ideal room size for this speaker. In your concluding paragraph, you also mentioned the importance of proper setup in the right room. Is there any particular area I should pay attention to in the setup of the argon2?

I'm also considering purchase of a new amplifier. I would appreciate your advice on the character of the amplifier I should consider for matching with the argon2.

Thank you very much for your valuable time.

I. Mongkol

I have two listening rooms, one approximately 13' x 15', the other approximately 12' x 18'. The argon2 has surprising output capability and could easily play loud enough in these rooms. However, it does not have really deep bass. For me, this is fine, but others may well want the sort of bass that a subwoofer can provide. If I had bigger rooms, though, I would likely opt for one of the larger Amphion models.

As for setup, the argon2 can image like crazy with proper placement. Ensure your head is at the "acoustic center," which is directly between the woofer and tweeter. As well, make sure the setup is symmetrical -- meaning the room is as even on the left as it is on the right. In terms of amplifiers, the argon2 has only 85dB sensitivity, a bit less than average, but the minimum impedance dips to only 7 ohms. All in all, the argon2 is rather amplifier friendly, and any good amp 50Wpc or greater should suffice....Doug Schneider


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