[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
January 2004


A replacement for the Sony TA-P9000ES

January 31, 2004

To Jeff Fritz,

I just came across your September 2002 column regarding 5.1-channel preamps ("Multichannel Music's Swiss Army Knife The Multichannel Preamp"). I am in need of just such a separate so that I can fully appreciate the advantages of DVD-A and SACD. I'd heard of the Sony TA-P9000ES and have been trying to find one for purchase (US version) for quite some time. The Sony, and your article, are somewhat dated, however. I wonder if you might know of a more recent sub-$1000 alternative.

Joe Wizorek

I have indeed found what I hope will be a fine replacement for the Sony TA-P9000ES. The unit is from Margules Audio, and I will have a short preview in my February "Surrounded." Its list price is $1200, so it does cost a bit more than the Sony, but the apparent build quality and advanced functionality give it the potential of being an even greater bargain. And unlike the Sony, you'll actually be able to buy this one! Stay tuned for more details....Jeff Fritz


January 30, 2004


Just a word to tell you how delighted I am (and we are) that my album (Marc Vallée Trio - Hamadryade) received, amongst others, an award for Best Hi-Rez Recording of 2003 from SoundStage!. It's an immense honor!

Marc Vallée

Subwoofer for M3Tis

January 27, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I purchased a pair of Axiom M3Ti speakers and I love them. Thank you! I am interested in the Axiom subwoofer, the EP-175. Do you think it is worth buying? I have a medium to large room. I listen to music videos, CDs, and DVDs.

Any other recommendations? I had a Paradigm PW-2200 with another system that I liked, but I felt it was mainly a home-theater sub. I did like it though. I was uncertain about the aluminum woofer, but I really like the M3Tis'.

I'm a big fan and have followed your articles over the years and purchased a lot of equipment based on your recommendations!

Tim Zdrale

Glad you like the M3Ti speakers. They're not the only good-sounding inexpensive speaker you can buy, but they're certainly one of them and I believe them to be quite special even after much time has passed. In terms of Axiom's subs, I've heard them all in showroom-type settings and have come away impressed. The biggest concern in your system, I'd say, would be the size of subwoofer since you seem to have a fairly large room. If so, the EP-175 is a good option, or even the larger EP-350. The EP-125, I'm pretty sure, will be too small. And while I cannot say with any certainty that the EP-175 or the EP-350 will be the perfect sub for you -- your ears will have to decide -- I can recommend Axiom products confidently because of Axiom's 30-day money-back guarantee. If you're not satisfied, simply return whatever you purchased....Doug Schneider

StudioLAB Reference One

January 26, 2004


Great review [of the StudioLAB Reference One loudspeakers]. They sure look (and sound?) like a pair of Totem Arros. As they say, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery -- at least they "borrow" Canadian.

Peter Muzzi

A keen observation. However, the Totem Arro has the more traditional tweeter-above-woofer driver alignment....Marc Mickelson

Von Schweikert VR-4jr ASAP!

January 23, 2004


The Von Schweikert Audio VR-4jr looks and sounds fascinating, based on your excellent CES 2004 coverage. It could become a groundbreaking product at an important price point, if it measures well and withstands a critical subjective assessment. Please review it as soon as possible!

Craig McDougall

We talked with Albert Von Schweikert in Las Vegas, and a pair of VR-4jrs will be coming our way for review. We'll also be measuring the speakers at the NRC....Marc Mickelson

In praise of ProAc

January 21, 2004


I love minimonitors. All the speakers that I have owned and auditioned in my 20-year audiophile life have been minimonitors. I have a collection of eight pairs of them from different manufacturers over the last 20 years.

The reason I am writing this e-mail is to urge you to review ProAc's Tablette Reference 8 Signature. I've been auditioning this speaker for the past month, and I can honestly say that it defies logic! I don't know how to phrase my astonishment since I am not a reviewer, but I think that this speaker produces the best soundstage, midrange, and treble of any minimonitor past or present (at least from those that I have auditioned, and they are many).

I think that Stewart Tyler has made a miracle! Hats off to him.

Aris Petropoulos

We will be reviewing the new ProAc Response D38 later this year. I will ask about reviewing the Tablette Reference 8 Signature as well....Marc Mickelson

Multichannel music with no six-channel inputs?

January 19, 2004

To Jeff Fritz,

I have a Yamaha home-theater receiver with internal AC-3 decoder from 1998. I just purchased a Denon DVD-2900 DVD/SACD player. It will not output SACD via the fiber-optic digital cable. The Denon manual tells that SACD in 5.1 output is only available by six analog RCA jacks.

My problem is that my receiver has a coaxial digital input and a fiber-optic digital input (I use the fiber-optic input for DVD playback). I do not have six inputs on my receiver. I currently have four speakers connected to my receiver (center-channel speaker is a phantom using the two front speakers, and subwoofer is a phantom using the four speakers).

Is there a product that will allow me to connect six analog SACD outputs to my digital line and still bypass the decoding by the receiver, or do I need to buy a separate amplifier that has six input channels and is connected to the same four speakers as my receiver? Do you have any suggestions?

David F. Schultz

Unfortunately what you really need is a new receiver with six-channel inputs. There is no device I'm aware of that will take six-channel inputs and digitize them for transfer to an older receiver. Remember that you're dealing with SACD and DVD-Audio -- two different digital animals all together -- and they need separate decoding, hence the universal player. Analog-to-digital-back-to-analog conversion would likely defeat the purpose of pure high-resolution multichannel audio anyway.

You are on the right track with respect to avoiding the receiver's processing. You do want to bypass internal processing, so look for a receiver that bypasses any digital conversion -- some analog bass management is OK....Jeff Fritz

P-70/D-70 vs. DV-50 playing CDs

January 16, 2004


Thank you for your excellent reviews of Esoteric products. I live in Japan and could not help notice Esoteric's new and very impressive single-box X-01 and UX-1 VRDS SACD/universal players. I don't know when these will be sold in the West, but they sound great (no DSD signal output, I am afraid).

I would be very interested in your view of the Redbook performance of the DV-50 and the P-70/D-70 combo. No contest?

Michael Kandarakis

As my reviews show, I greatly admired both the Esoteric DV-50 and P-70/D-70 combo. But in terms of their performance with CD, the P-70/D-70 is in another league, even though the DV-50 sounds very good. In broad terms, the DV-50's CD performance reminds me of the sound with the Bel Canto DAC2 -- easy on the ears and not the last word in resolution. The P-70/D-70, however, is easily the most resolving digital combo I've heard, and while I wouldn't call its sound laid-back, I also wouldn't say it's unpleasant in any way, although poorly recorded CDs can make it sound this way. For good or bad, you get from the P-70/D-70 what you feed it -- everything you feed it. There's also the matter of the built-in digital volume control of the D-70 DAC, which works very well and allows you to get rid of your preamp if you only have one source.

Esoteric has just announced its intention to sell two pricier and presumably better-sounding multi-format players in the US, and perhaps one of those will shorten the gap in CD playback between the DV-50 and P-70/D-70....Marc Mickelson

How much better are the VR-1s?

January 15, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I'm shopping for a high-quality, handsome bookshelf speaker to match up with my Rotel RX-1050 integrated amp and Rotel RCD-02 CD player. I've just read your reviews of the Von Schweikert VR-1 and the Axiom Audio M3Ti speakers. Can you explain just how much better the VR-1s are compared to the M3Tis to justify the $700 difference? You seem to love both speakers, and I'm just wondering if the VR-1s are really that much better-sounding.

Mike Campton

I first wrote about Axiom's M3Ti in June of 2001, and even though it's coming up on the third anniversary of that product review, I think just as highly of that speaker today. I still believe it to be a great-sounding speaker even when compared to the greater competition it has today, and for $275 it's still a steal. However, the Von Schweikert VR-1 is a better speaker, and it should be at almost four times the price ($995 per pair). But for that price you get better build quality, a more substantial cabinet, and real-wood veneer. And sonically the VR-1 performs to a higher level -- it has deeper bass, cleaner highs, more robustness in the midrange, and better dynamics. If someone were to simply give you one or the other, take the VR-1. However, lacking this, price becomes the key factor. Is the M3Ti a spectacular speaker for $275? Yes! Is the VR-1 worth the extra $700? If you want those things that I mentioned, then the answer is Yes! again, because spending more money is the only way you're going to get it all....Doug Schneider

Blues Story

January 14, 2004


I'm the producer/director of Blues Story, and I just wanted to throw you a big thanks for choosing it as one of the year's best DVDs. It was a 10+-years labor of love, and the recognition is much appreciated!

Jay Levey

Computer-based digital

January 13, 2004


I am a big fan of your publication. I find it neutral and unbiased. Also, I love to see your coverage of those smaller new audio companies. Thank you very much.

At the last VSAC show, Cain & Cain was using a computer-based digital source from VRS. The result was amazing -- it broke the "rule" that no computer can sound good. And this piqued my interest. There are many professional sound cards on the market at reasonable prices (that is, when comparing them to hi-fi equipment). Sound cards from Lynx (Two B), RME (Digi96/8 PAD and 9624) M-Audio all seem promising.

It would be very interesting to compare these sound cards to some high-end gear, CD players and external DACs. Would you be interested in setting up such tests and let us know more about the new computer digital technology? It will be fun to see the results.

And again, thank you for doing such a great job. I enjoy all the reviews very much every month.

Jack Ker

We'll see what we can do, although such comparisons are much easier said than done. Also, we saw the VRS Revelation at CES. It's an intriguing product....Marc Mickelson

VR-1 or VR-2?

January 7, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I read and enjoyed your review of the Von Schweikert VR-1, and I was considering the VR-2 until my audio dealer told me about Source Technology speakers. He says they sound incredible even though the company does virtually no advertising.

Have you heard the VR-2s? Any comments you would share? Have you or anyone you know heard any of the Source Technology speakers? If so, could you comment on them?

Larry Miller

I have not heard anything about Source Technology speakers -- and couldn't even find them on the Internet! I can't help you there.

However, I did manage to sneak a listen to Von Schweikert's VR-2 at a dealer when I was traveling a few months ago. In fact, we did a quick A/B between the VR-1 and VR-2. The VR-2 sounded very similar in the midrange and highs, but obviously had much more bass. If you want big bass, the VR-2 would definitely be the way to go -- it's appears to be everything the VR-1 is and more. However, that dealer also pointed out that he had many customers who were very happy with the VR-1s mated to Von Schweikert's VR-S/1 "minisub." I did not get a chance to hear that setup, but he said customers liked the sound, as well as the placement flexibility that a sub/sat system gives....Doug Schneider

Which award winner?

January 6, 2004


First, you have a fantastic website which I visit regularly. Thanks!

I hope you can clarify something for me. I am currently using a Richard Gray's 400S power filter and I'm ready to upgrade to something much more effective (and costly!). I was about ready to spring for the Shunyata Hydra Model-8 based on your review (and others) when I also see the ExactPower EP15A receiving one of your 2003 awards. Since both of these products are intended to address the same "problem," how does one chose between them?

Steven Lefley

You have given rave reviews to the Shunyata Hydra Model-8 and the ExactPower EP15A. Now for the tough question: Which would you rather have? I have heard the EP15A, and it is impressive. I also like the real science behind it (regeneration of clean power) vs. the "magic dust" element of the Hydra Model-8. Also, one would argue that if your power droops or surges or vacillates or whatever, the EP15A will be able to handle this so that your equipment gets a steady supply of voltage and clean sine waves, whereas the Hydra Model-8, because it does not regenerate, can't repair a clipped power sine wave. Help please.

Ray Farris

The problem with answering this question is that Doug Schneider reviewed the ExactPower EP15A and I reviewed the Shunyata Hydra Model-8, and neither of us has heard the other unit. To further complicate things, we gave both units awards for 2003, albeit in different categories. Both are obviously fine products. I can't imagine not using the Hydra Model-8, and I'm sure Doug feels the same way about the EP15A. Therefore, the tough work is on you -- to hear both and then choose. Sorry.

On the other hand, I recommend the Hydra Model-8 without reservation, and I think if you get one, you'll be very pleased. It's a great product....Marc Mickelson

Where to read about budget speakers?

January 5, 2004


I just recently found your site and I love your articles. They are really informative and helpful. I'm just wondering if you have maybe a review or a listing of some good speakers for people on a budget. There are a couple names that come up in my search, and they include Acoustic Research, Polk Audio, and JBL. I'm just wondering which one would be a nice set for a beginning audio enthusiast. I'm not able to spend much more than $500 CDN on a set of speakers. I know I shouldn't expect miracles, but I would find it helpful if maybe someone could point me in the right direction.

Tyler Austin

We have entire site for you -- www.goodsound.com. It's all about budget-priced high-performance audio equipment. You'll find many reviews there that will help you in your quest....Marc Mickelson

What to plug into a Hydra Model-8?

January 2, 2004


I would like to ask you a few questions about your use of the Shunyata Hydra Model-8. What exactly did you have plugged into the unit in your primary system? Were the power amp(s) connected to their own dedicated circuit?

I currently run a Krell FPB 200, which I do run into its own circuit, and I could not imagine buying two of these products for cost reasons to service both dedicated circuits in my room. Do you think it would be beneficial or detrimental to have the power amp plugged in as well?

Derrek Yorga

I plugged my entire system, amps and all, into the Model-8. I don't have dedicated lines (yet), but the amps sounded better when used with the Hydra-8 than run into a separate outlet....Marc Mickelson


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