[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
December 2002


Mark Levinson No.390S for review?

December 28, 2002


Way back when, I sent you a letter asking about your progress on the Mark Levinson No.390s review, and how it might compare to the Audio Aero Capitole 24/192. As a former owner of a Levinson No.39 and current owner of a Capitole 24/192, I am understandably curious and eager to read of your results. Were you ever able to secure a No.390S for review?

Thanks and keep up the great work!

Dennis Francis

Yes, you will see a review of the Mark Levinson No.390S early in 2003. I will compare the player to the No.39 and the original Audio Aero Capitole 24/192. Stay tuned....Marc Mickelson

Axiom M2i

December 26, 2002

To Doug Schneider,

I have been shopping for bookshelf speakers for my office for some time. My biggest problem is space. I currently have some old Infinity SS2001 speakers that are about ten years old, and I can't help but think that some of the newer stuff would sound better. I am really limited in space to something about 12" tall, 8" deep, and 8" wide. All of my gear would be considered classic stuff I suppose -- a Carver 490t tube reference CD play with a Carver TFM-55 amp. I have an XMradio that I use for a tuner. I do not have a preamp and simply use a high-quality switch box to switch source. I also have a Sunfire Super Junior subwoofer. This whole setup is in my office at work. (I also listen to headphones a good bit and have an ASL MG Head headphone amp and use Sennheiser HD 600s for headphones).

I keep coming back to your review of the Axiom M2i. I have a pretty open budget and can spend well more than the $255 that the M2i goes for. But, as I said, I keep coming back to your review. Are the Axioms really that good? What would you suggest in the size I have mentioned? I really can't go much over 13" in height or 9" in width and depth.I appreciate your time should you decide to read and reply to my e-mail.

Thanks again,

Mark Monroe

Well, you can spend more and if you look carefully you can get better, but you can also do a whole lot worse. Indeed, the M2i is that good....Doug Schneider

Where to begin?

December 19, 2002


My husband and I are at odds as to where to begin in our stereo quest. The goal is to have a nice home-theater system. I think we should begin with a receiver and bookshelf speakers and then add to them. He wants a stereo-in-a-box setup that will have five speakers, subwoofer, and receiver. We want to spend between $1000-$1200 right now. We live in a townhouse, but certainly plan on eventually buying a house. What are your thoughts on the stereo-in-a-box setup and where to begin?

Dena Pett

Given your budget and aims, you should have a look at GoodSound! and Home Theater & Sound, which cover budget audio and home theater respectively. You will get a number of ideas from the reviews on these sites. I personally would build incrementally, starting with a good surround-sound receiver and stereo speakers, then adding other speakers as your budget allows. You will have to wait for the full surround-sound experience, but you will also build a more enjoyable system in the long run. Stick with speakers from the same manufacturer and preferably from the same line, as they will be matched to work together....Marc Mickelson

What a subwoofer does for music

December 18, 2002

To Doug Schneider,

I listen mostly to small-group acoustic music whose sound occurs mostly in the midrange, and I have never felt the need for a subwoofer on technical grounds. But I had two experiences -- one at Goodwin's Hi-Fi in Boston and the other at the CES in Las Vegas -- where the introduction of a subwoofer on midrange-heavy music expanded the soundstage and the three-dimensional image of the music.

Those of us present clearly heard the effect of switching the subwoofer in and out. We theorized that when music is played live, part is heard direct and part hits the enclosing walls and then bounces off to our ears. But the walls, in response to the mid-frequency music hitting their surfaces, emit their own low-frequency sounds, which, when heard via the subwoofer, further define the enclosing space and contribute to the "realness" of the music.

Any comments?

Michael Goldin

I assume that this is in response to my review of the Revel Performa B15 subwoofer, in which I noted "how much presence can be added to music" when a subwoofer is used. Whatever the case is for the extra low-frequency information -- whether a byproduct of other reflections, other resonances and resultant frequencies generated from music playing in a room, or fundamental frequencies that are simply created by the instruments -- when a subwoofer is kicked in, you certainly know it. That's not to say that you must have a subwoofer, mind you. I'm well known for proclaiming the glories of minimonitors. However, that's often because I find that many speakers have poor-quality low-frequency response, or for a variety of reasons are difficult to place in certain rooms. The quality of the sound of the B15 along with the plethora of features to accommodate for room interaction, though, puts the it into a class of its own....Doug Schneider

London calling

December 17, 2002


I am based in London, England and just Joe Public with an interest in music and hi-fi. I would like to know where to buy your magazine. I have read the various Internet postings with great interest. I also note that you are reviewing the Mark Levinson No.434 amplifier. Please advise if this has been done and where I can find the article, as I have a great interest in this amp. Also, are you due to review the Levinson No.390S? It would be great to have some feedback on this unit as well.

Thanks for your help.

Ben Casey

We are completely online and free. Just point your browser here on the 1st and 15th each month to read our newest reviews. To see a listing of all sites that belong to the SoundStage! Network, visit www.soundstagenetwork.com.

The reviews of the Mark Levinson No.434 and No.390S will appear early in 2003....Marc Mickelson

WilsonGloss gunmetal blue

December 11, 2002


In your recent review of the Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 7, you mentioned a new gunmetal-blue finish. Do you know of any links or sites on which I can see the color you mentioned? I enjoyed your review of the WATT/Puppy 7 considerably. Now if only Santa would be kind enough to bring a pair of the speakers to me for Xmas.

Kind regards,

Michael Fish

I referenced the gunmetal-blue finish in the article I wrote on touring the Wilson Audio factory. Here's a link to that article and a picture that doesn't capture the beauty of the finish but will give you an idea. Perhaps Wilson Audio has finish samples they would sent to you....Marc Mickelson

Unison Research Unico

December 10, 2002


I have been contemplating buying a Unison Research Unico integrated amp, yet I am somewhat uncertain if it will drive my speakers with good enough bass. (Please refer to www.quadral.com for information on the Ascent 850). Just a few minutes ago, I saw the SoundStage! review of the Silverline La Folia speaker, in which you mentioned that the Unico worked very well with this speaker. Hopefully it will work well with my speaker too. I really need your expertise and opinion on this.

Simon Lee

From the looks of it, your Quadral speakers are of sufficient sensitivity for the 80Wpc Unico to drive to very loud levels. I am using this integrated amp here to drive Magnepan MG1.6/QR speakers, a notoriously tough load, and it does so with ease. Unless your room is very large or you listen at very high levels, you should be satisfied with the Unico's power output....Marc Mickelson

Sophia in Sweden

December 6, 2002


I read Stereophile, The Abso!ute Sound, Hi-Fi News and Hi-Fi+ on a regular basis for basically one purpose: getting advice on equipment on the never-ending search for hi-fi nirvana. Although I have been able to get some fairly useful advice from said magazines (especially Hi-Fi+ and TAS), I have to admit that it was quite sensational to find SoundStage! and read your various reviews. I especially appreciate that your reviews are more to the point than the ones from certain other reviewers.

The other day I found your review of the Wilson Audio Sophia, which is one of three speakers that I have listed for my forthcoming speaker upgrade. The other two are Revel Ultima Studio and Audio Physic Avanti III.

When I read the review, I was amazed to see that you had actually reviewed the Sophias with a system otherwise identical to my main system: Mark Levinson No. 39 CD player, Audio Research Reference Two Mk II preamp, Audio Research VTM200 power amp. I use either all TARA Labs or all ARC Litzlink/Litzline cables. I play vinyl on a top-graded Linn LP12 with Arkiv B and Linto phono stage.

My happiness was, however, somewhat degraded when I found that no specific comment was made as to the sound of the Sophias driven by the ML/ARC equipment. Although I can surely understand that the Lamm equipment is of true high-end quality, I would really appreciate if you could drop me a message with just a few comments on the Sophias' performance with my current setup.

On reason for my extensive use of various magazines including SoundStage! is that it is practically impossible to get the chance to audition equipment in this price range in Sweden. The market is just not big enough, and the dealers may carry one high-end brand but can seldom put together a good supportive system, let alone set up an A/B comparison between, for instance, two high-end speakers. Furthermore, their listening rooms seldom match the sound potential of the equipment.

Therefore, please make my day and give me some feedback on the setup I am about to choose. The Sophias are at the top of my list, followed closely by the Revel Ultima Studio. However, the Studios may have been optimized for the ML electronics and are (maybe) therefore not equally suitable for tube electronics. Furthermore, when I asked ARC to comment on the review by Mr. Fremer on the VTM200 (in Stereophile), I also asked for their speaker recommendation in this price range. Although ARC wanted to keep their response somewhat diplomatic, they did mention the Sophias as an excellent choice, and they also noted that ARC uses various Wilson Audio speakers to audition their equipment before shipment.

I really look forward to hearing from you, and I thank you in advance!

Mikael von Schedvin

As you've noted, I used the Sophias with Mark Levinson and Audio Research equipment, and while I didn't comment on the combination specifically, all of my impressions of the Sophias were gleaned from using all of the equipment I mentioned in the review, not just my Lamm ML2 amps. The ARC VTM200 amps sounded big and dynamic with the Sophias, and I never had any desire for more power. The Mark Levinson No.39 CD player was also a fine partner because of its high resolution.

You may be interested to know that following CEDIA in late September, I visited Audio Research and heard their multichannel system, which used Sophias for the front channels. This was the best multichannel sound I've heard, and on certain cuts, the room was replaced with a illusion of a larger space filled with instruments and voices. A great audio moment for sure.

You may be interested in my review of the Revel Ultima Studio speakers, in which I make a comparison to the Sophias. You can find the review in our archives....Marc Mickelson

In the beginning...

December 5, 2002


Thank you very much for mentioning my involvement with Doug Schneider in the beginning of SoundStage!. It's nice to be remembered. SoundStage! was something I was proud to have been a part of, and you should be proud of its evolution.

I'm still enjoying quality audio and video gear at home. With the advent of universal players, it's a great time to be able to enjoy the best of SACD, DVD-Audio, CD, and DVD-Video with the ease and convenience of the one-box concept. If we could only get beyond Hollywood and the politicians, think of how all today's great gear could develop that next step -- with multichannel digital connections and HDTV!

Cheers to another great year online. Keep up the good work!

See ya,

Dave Duvall

Energy Veritas?

December 4, 2002


Do you intend to publish reviews on Energy Veritas speakers -- 2.4, 2.0R, 2.0C? I'm very interesting in these speakers, and I can't see them on your "Coming Soon" page.


Pini Ringort

You're in luck! We are right now arranging for reviews of Veritas speakers for SoundStage! and Home Theater & Sound. You will see the reviews next year. Once the speakers arrive and we know which models we have received, we'll update the SS! "Coming Soon" page....Marc Mickelson

WATT/Puppy 7

December 3, 2002


While I sure don't have your ability or resources, I can say -- as my Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 7s play downstairs right this minute -- that even in the "rooms away" test, these speakers simply sound more real than what has preceded them.

Thanks for the interesting read.

Bob Wood

Reviewers' Choice for Arcam CD23T?

December 2, 2002

To Doug Schneider,

Nice and well-written review of the Arcam CD23T. Based on your review, I am curious as to why this player did not make Reviewers' Choice, especially since it has a sane price attached to it.

Although I have not heard the Arcam player, I have spent considerable time with the dCS Elgar and Purcell, which use similar though more elaborate technology. If the Arcam is even close, then it is worthy of an RC tag.

Anyway, good job on all the reviews and site update this month.

Neal Hood

Based on your glowing review, the Arcam CD23T CD player would seem to readily qualify as a Reviewers' Choice. Unless I misunderstood, you felt this was almost as good as it gets, yet price-wise, it's nowhere near as expensive as it gets. While $2500 isn't cheap, in the realm of high-end CD players, $2500 is at the low end of the scale.

So how come it didn't make the grade?

Wayne Breyer

Our Reviewers' Choice designation goes to products that either represent exceptional value and/or offer state-of-the-art performance. In my review, I wrote:

"All of this makes assessing the overall value of the CD23T difficult. Its price is not exactly pocket change, and it plays only CDs in a time of higher-resolution digital. However, the CD23T's performance is just about the equal of the best CD-only components you can buy, but its price is far lower."

I feel that there are some CD players priced lower that can be considered "higher value," and likewise, a select few digital sources that can be considered "better." However, that should not take anything away from the CD23T -- it's a stellar performer, one of the best on the market regardless of cost. Although there are a couple of players that I feel edge it just a tad, anyone who buys the CD23T can be assured that he purchased something that is extremely good....Doug Schneider


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