[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
March 2004


Sony replacement?

March 30, 2004

To Jeff Fritz,

I currently own a Sony TA-E9000ES processor, and I wanted to add a TA-P9000ES preamp to my system for SACD and DVD-A. My search for the Sony TA-P9000ES has ended up empty. After I read your report from CES 2004 of the Margules Audio Daleth preamp, I'm hoping it will provide all the capabilities of the Sony TA-P9000ES. Will it integrate seamlessly into my existing home-theater system? Will it allow bypass operation so I can operate my home theater as I do today?

John Riddle

These are all good questions, and ones I hope to be able to answer sooner rather than later. I have not yet received a review sample of the Daleth, but I will inquire right away. Hopefully, if sounds as good in my system as it did at CES, we can finally pronounce a replacement for that Sony!...Jeff Fritz

Which power conditioner?

March 29, 2004


First, I enjoy your reviews. They are very helpful, and the Esoteric DV-50 review helped me decide on the player sight (and sound) unseen.

Now for my question. I am in a quandary as to whether a passive device like the Shunyata Hydra Model-8 is a preferred approach, or an active device like the ExactPower EP15A is a better option. I would be using the device with my Esoteric DV-50 player, an HD tuner, and Sony Plasma TV media controller and display. My Ayre K-5x preamp and V-5x power amp will be plugged into the wall (dedicated line and PS Audio Power Ports) per a recommendation from my buds at Ayre since they have their own power-conditioning solution.

I like the idea of current regulation (I have one of the original PS Audio P-300s), but I also like the Hydra Model-8 concept. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

David Crosby

The Hydra Model-8 vs. the ExactPower EP15A has been the hot topic since our reviews of both went live. In answering your question, I can only echo what I told those who wrote earlier: I haven't heard the EP15A, and Doug Schneider, who reviewed the EP15A, hasn't heard the Hydra Model-8. However, 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.

In your situation, with the gear you plan to use with either unit, you won't tax the EP15A's power limit (no such concerns with the Hydra Model-8). About the best advice I can give is to find dealers who can lend you units to try. I know Galen Carol Audio sells Shunyata products, and he would be the first person I'd call if I were in your shoes. I'm sure ExactPower can point you toward someone as well....Marc Mickelson

Paradigm Signature?

March 28, 2004


Do you have any plans to review the new Signature-series speakers from Paradigm this year?

Jason D'Silva

We have Paradigm Signature S2 and S8 speakers at the NRC for measurement right now, and you'll see reviews of both later on. There will also be a home-theater review of the speakers on our Home Theater & Sound site....Marc Mickelson

Go mono

March 26, 2004


My congratulations on a wonderful review of the Odyssey Audio Khartago. Let me suggest a follow-up. Here is my system: VMPS- RM-2s+ speakers in a 16' x 15' x 25' high room. The bottom end of the VMPS speakers are driven by two Stratos Extreme monoblocks. The top planar drivers and super tweeters are driven by two Khartago monoblocks. Am I a Klaus fan? I guess so. The preamp is a Tempest and CD player is a Symphonic Line model, with all Groneberg cable and power cords.

To my ears the monoblocks give the kind of slam in the bass that I have never heard before. The surprise for me was creating a monoblock approach on the top end. Since the gain is identical with the bottom-end monos, timing, phase and timbre are identical. The VMPS top end is around 96dB/W/m sensitive, so the smaller transformers do not seem a problem. The Stratos Extremes can pull over 500VA into the speakers' nominal 4-ohm woofers with ease.

I must say, I really enjoy these products in my configuration, listing room and with the variety of jazz and classical I listen to. I hope Klaus continues to get your and other reviewers' support. At the price point he offers his products, we have a jewel that should be polished and appreciated.

David Dobkin

Simaudio versus Arcam

March 24, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I always enjoy reading your reviews. You're able to write in a way that is understood by audio enthusiasts of all levels.

I was wondering if you could briefly comment on the Simaudio Moon Nova versus a CD player that I believe you are also very big on, the Arcam FMJ CD23T. The Arcam seems to be the benchmark player in the sub-$3000 market. At the $3000-and-below price point, which player is the better player all things considered (value for money, build, sonic performance)?

Michael Marr

The Simaudio Moon Nova and the Arcam FMJ CD23T are two of the best CD players in the price bracket you outlined. Unfortunately, though, I never had both in my system at the same time and couldn't do a meaningful A/B comparison -- that's key with CD players since the differences among very good players is often slight. Still, I can generalize and talk about the overriding traits of each that impressed me. As for the CD23T, I found it exceptionally smooth, highly detailed, and never, ever fatiguing. As for the Moon Nova, it's punchy-sounding with very good bass and a lively, up-front character. As for build quality, both worked completely reliably the entire time I had them, but the CD23T is a little "lighter" feeling, while the Moon Nova has that "build-like-a-tank" feel that Simaudio is known for....Doug Schneider

Joule Electra still compare?

March 23, 2004


Let me, first of all, say that I am a big fan of you (and your reviews). I am a professional (classical) musician, and find your writing to be always intelligent and to the point with regard to the essential issues of audio.

I'm a bit apologetic about writing to ask you your opinion about this, since I would assume that you are inundated with similar requests.

You had given the Joule Electra VZN-80 a pretty favorable review back in 1998. I'm interested in exploring the OTL route, and looking at a used pair. I'm wondering how you would think this amp compares with others that you have listened to in the mean time. The problem today is that it is virtually impossible to listen to equipment at home unless you purchase it, new or used. I guess the question is, at the price point, would you still recommend a listen? My current amp is a Music Reference RM-200 (with Silverline Sonata II speakers).

I'd appreciate any words of wisdom. Many thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

David Shuler

We answer lots of e-mail, so I'm glad to help. I remember the Joule Electra VZN-80 well, and its sound would absolutely hold up against today's competition. I can't make direct comparisons between it and, say, the Atma-Sphere MA-1 Mk II.2 amps I reviewed in early 2002. But I can say that the VZN-80's sound was very good in 1998 and I'm sure it still is today.

Other OTLs to consider? I would say the Atma-Sphere M-60s are worth checking out, the MA-1s too if you can afford them....Marc Mickelson

Esoteric DV-50S?

March 22, 2004


Your review of the Esoteric DV-50 has certainly spurred me to seek an audition of this player. I do hear, however, that it has already been superceded in Japan with a new DV-50S model. At first, I thought the S stood for the Silver version, but not so. Apparently there are several valuable internal modifications. TEAC America seems to know nothing about the DV-50, let alone the DV-50S. Do you have any knowledge of this?

Spending over $5000, I would like to know if a new version is already in production and set to be released.

Gary Wright

I contacted TEAC America and was told that there is indeed a DV-50S that will be available in the US later this year. My contact at TEAC America told me that the upgrades for the DV-50S are only in terms of its video performance. There is a new video DAC -- the DV-50S will have a 14-bit/216MHz video DAC, while the current DV-50 has a 12-bit/108 MHz video DAC. The DV-50S also adds DVI output, which the current DV-50 does not have.

TEAC America plans to offer an upgrade kit for owners of the DV-50, but they're not sure what the price of it will be -- or what the US price of the DV-50S will be when the player is finally available....Marc Mickelson

Focus Audio questions

March 19, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

Hello from Singapore. I read your review of the Focus Audio FS-688, and I am really interested in this loudspeaker because the great things you describe about it seem to be exactly what I am looking for (except, maybe I would like a little deeper bass -- not more bass, but deeper bass). I also read elsewhere that you all are reviewing the FS-788 -- any news on posting yet? I am also interested in FS-788 because I think it goes deeper. But I'm not sure the midrange-and-up magic remains with the 7" driver of the FS-788.

By the way, my stereo system is in my bedroom. So, maybe a pair of FS-688 is good (loud?) enough? I do have a REL Stratas subwoofer.

Wee-Eng Koh

I'm quite sure the FS-688s would play loud enough for a normal-sized bedroom, providing you have an amplifier with adequate power. If you want more bass from the speaker, you might want to look at the FS-788. The review of that speaker will be published on April 1....Doug Schneider

Likes "Surrounded" system

March 18, 2004

To Jeff Fritz,

I have read your column on the Paradigm Studio 100 v.3 speakers. I really like the setup. I don't know a lot about setups, but I really want to have it like this. I want to have good amplification, but I don't want a multichannel power amp, but I also don't like the idea of two stereo amps and one monoblock for the fifth speaker. Would you advise buying five not-too-expensive monoblocks, all matching? And what about the preamp? Is it OK to have a six-channel preamp and not use the sixth channel?

Are you sure a sub would not add to the system, even if you did not allow any crossover action against the Paradigms? What brand of components come to mind, if only $15,000 is available?

Sorry about all the questions. I have read just about everything you ever wrote, but now I'm a little confused. I do like the idea of five matching Paradigms and an SACD player to go with it.

Skip White

A subwoofer would serve to eliminate the need for any bass management in the system I wrote about. Add one of the Paradigm Seismics and you would be able to reproduce the LFE channel on SACD and DVD-A in a discrete fashion. So yes, add a sub if you can. Secondly, monoblock amplifiers all around along with a multichannel preamp, especially in a matched system like this, makes good sense if you have the space and budget. Using only five channels of the preamp is fine. What makes equally good sense, however, is something like the Threshold Dragon V, which combines a high-quality multichannel amplifier and preamp. The configuration of the amp/preamp is not as important as the quality of the components (and hence, the sound)....Jeff Fritz


March 17, 2004


McIntosh has come out with a new 75Wpc tube integrated that looks very interesting. From my experience, most of the audio press, except for Sam Tellig, pretty much ignores McIntosh. This looks like a very interesting, albeit expensive, new product. I would really like to know how it stacks up against the competition. Any chance you might get it reviewed on SoundStage!?

Joe Franceski

We've contacted McIntosh numerous times about reviewing their products -- via e-mail, phone and in person at various shows. We've gotten different responses, including "Sure, we'd love to set something up." But we have yet to get farther than this. So while we would probably be interested in reviewing and measuring the item you mention, I don't think we'll be receiving a loaner anytime soon. But we'll keep trying....Marc Mickelson

Print mag?

March 11, 2004


Help me out here. I've been hearing about SoundStage! for the past year. I run into your reviews almost anytime I'm looking for info online. Today I decided that I was going to let my subscription to Stereophile expire and start a subscription to your magazine. Well, after 15 minutes on your site, I couldn't figure out how to order the magazine. I don't know if I'm a complete moron -- it wouldn't be the first time I've had a brain fart. So help me out here. Is SoundStage! a print magazine or an Internet-only e-zine?

N. Harris Brooks

We're completely online and free, and have been since 1995. Just visit www.soundstage.com on the 1st and 15th every month to read the latest reviews, columns, and features. Also, visit www.soundstagenetwork.com to see a listing of all of our sites. SoundStage! is just one of more than a dozen interrelated sites....Marc Mickelson

Different speakers for Song Audio amps

March 10, 2004


I've just read your review of the Song SA-300 MB amps with some interest.

I have to say I enjoyed your review, but I felt perhaps that the choice of speakers used to review was not the most ideal to ascertain the amps' full potential. It's not always easy to get the right speakers at the right time, and I must admit I have not heard the Song Audio amps or the speakers used to audition them with, but I have heard 300B 8W SETs around the same price range or less that display similar sonic characteristics when partnered with certain speakers but suddenly open up in the bass and treble when partnered with others.

It would have been interesting to compare the sound, particularly the treble and bass, when partnered with high-sensitivity (e.g., Audio Note) and/or single-driver speakers.

Beng T. Tan

We had an incident a while ago with some mono amps that were partnered with the wrong speaker -- one whose sensitivity was not high enough (the amps' power output was below the manufacturer's specification as well). I did a follow-up review in which I used the amps with my Wilson Audio speakers, and they worked well.

This is not to say that the WATT/Puppy 7s are the perfect load for every amp. Instead, we will pursue follow-up coverage of the Song Audio SA-300 MB amps with another speaker or two. As I noted in my review, the sound I heard from the Song Audio amps at Son & Image in Montreal last year was very good, so we want to see if we can find a good speaker match for them....Marc Mickelson

Sonic differences of interconnects

March 9, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

Thank for you the informative equipment reviews! I am fairly new to high-end audio and experiencing something that presumably defies common opinion.

My equipment is an Arcam CD23 CD player, Plinius integrated amp, and Audio Physic speakers. All of my equipment is fully broken in, and I am experiencing all the characteristics of a decent system -- good resolution, pinpoint imaging, soundstaging (including height). I am happy with my system, but I want to experiment by upgrading my interconnects (I am currently using Vampire Wire copper).

My dilemma is that I am not hearing much difference with the different interconnects. The best I can hear is when I use Nordost Blue Heaven. If I listen hard, I can hear a little loss of weight in the sound. I know that my speakers are capable of much better resolution and clarity, because I have heard them with a high-end Burmester system.

Any thoughts on why I don't hear differences? Perhaps a mismatch in some way with my equipment? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated, including any recommendations on interconnects that match well with the Arcam CD player.

Rajesh Verma

Cables are a very contentious issue. On the one hand, some feel that all cables sound identical, while at the opposite end of the spectrum there are those who can supposedly hear the scale of differences one normally associates with speakers. I feel that although cables can make a difference, the differences are never what some make them out to be. That said, you seem to have an outstanding system, and by all means, keep experimenting with wire, but your ears are telling you something very important -- with what you've tried you haven't heard much of a difference. I personally don't believe there is any "mismatch" or other such problem. You're on the right path. Keep looking, ignore the hype, and when you find a cable that truly does something for you then you'll know it -- with your ears. When that happens consider laying down the cash for them -- but only then....Doug Schneider

Bogus upsampling

March 8, 2004


I feel a little strange in voicing criticism of a technical article, but I figure you should be informed of what I thought was an appalling attempt to dupe consumers into buying products based on what I contend is bogus technology (upsamplers, upsampling CD players, and upsampling DACs).

Heeb basically made the leap of faith that upsamplers are inherently superior at rejecting input-clock jitter, without explaining why they might be superior. A DAC could very well be equally good at rejecting it. He used this as the root basis of his whole explanation.

Also, feel free to look up the numerous posts I've made on the subject on the Audio Asylum site. I only talk about it because upsampling has been proven to be a "junk" technology, yet numerous audiophiles have been spending thousands on upsampling products in hopes of improving their digital rigs. And I say it's mostly money spent in vain. (There might be improvement in some cases, but it's not the upsampling itself that's doing it.)

Todd Krieger

We forwarded your message to Thierry Heeb of Anagram Technologies in Switzerland, who replied:

"I would like to take the opportunity to answer some of your concerns about my quoting in the upsampling article on SoundStage!.

"First of all I would like to apologize if my English did introduce some confusion. I'm not a native English speaker and so mistakes can arise.

"(1) The difference between upsampling and oversampling. This was only quoting the definitions we are using. Indeed a 3/2 upsampling (for instance 48 to 72kHz) can be synchronous or not. It is not asynchronous is all cases. Imagine the 3/2 x Fs clock is generated from the incoming Fs clock, then the conversion would be synchronous. Only if the 3/2 x Fs is decoupled from the incoming clock can you talk about truly asynchronous conversion. As you see I never said that upsampling need to be asynchronous.

"(2) Regarding your criticism about jitter rejection, unless there is technology in jitter rejection with upsamplers that we don't know about (such as an internal FIFO buffer or something), the premise is nothing more than a shot-in-the-dark attempt to conjure up a reason why upsampling is "superior" to conventional conversion methods.

"A digital sample-rate converter (especially if it is a true asynchronous one as the ones we are talking about) cannot work without an internal FIFO. Thus your remark has to be reconsidered. Moreover, if you think purely digitally (and in terms of digital signal processing), what matters about the incoming data stream is the data alone. Even if the stream is heavily jittered, the digital signal processor will not even know it. Think about a PC playing back a .wav file. Data reading from the HD will be sequential (i.e., read some portion of music much faster than playing and then play it through a RAM buffer). If you think in terms of jitter, this is enormous jitter. But still the output is correct. What happens is that there is a FIFO buffer between HD read and playback allowing for the smoothing of the peaky nature of data read.

"In this sense, you are right that such a device needs a FIFO. Please note that in my original text I never said that there is no FIFO involved. Moreover, you can see that at no point in the article do I say that there is a theoretical superiority of upsampling with respect to other technologies.

"(3) From your text: "What Thierry basically tried to do was explain why asynchronous conversion has better jitter performance than synchronous conversion." But based on the false premise that upsamplers had markedly superior input-clock jitter rejection, asynchronous upsampling would likely add the jitter spectrum from the input clock to the jitter spectrum of its own output clock.

"As told above, yes there is a FIFO, yes there are sophisticated jitter-reduction mechanisms inside an asynchronous upsampler without which they would not even work. Thus a true asynchronous upsampler must include those mechanisms as some of them can be done in the digital domain where brickwall filters live much happier than in the analog world, jitter rejection performance of asynchronous converters are at least on par, if not better than, synchronous devices."

Thierry Heeb
Anagram Technologies

Focus Audio soon?

March 5, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I'm interested in Focus Audio loudspeakers and was wondering if you will be reviewing the FS-788 anytime soon.

Dave Cecere

Ever since I reviewed the FS-688s and then received the FS-788s, there have been quite a few people interested in that speaker. Indeed, the review is coming soon. The speakers have been measured, are in my listening room, and I hope to have the review for an April update -- May at the latest....Doug Schneider

Horn colorations

March 3, 2004


Just a quick comment on your review of the Song Audio SA-300 MB amps.

I own Avantgarde Duos, and I don't hear the cupped-hands coloration you mention in your opening. That doesn't mean that I think you are wrong, or that it doesn't exist with my speakers. Instead, I write to make the point that it may be a question of priorities -- what each listener finds important. It could well be that I listen right past a cupped-hands coloration because the other things the speakers do well -- as you also described -- dwarf the impact of any such coloration for me.

I suppose it could also be the result of my other gear and setup, but I doubt it. I'm sure the Avantgarde folks did a great job of selecting gear and making their speakers sound the best they can.

My priorities were probably what made me think, the first time I heard Avantgarde speakers, that I had never heard anything that sounded as good. Even though they were far beyond what I ever thought of spending, the impression was so powerful that I pursued the speakers and eventually ended up with a used pair. I don't tend to change equipment much, and with luck I expect to listen to the Avantgardes for the rest of my life. As background, I previously had cone and dome box speakers, with both solid-state and tube amplification.

Keep up the good work on the website. I enjoy it.

Brian Wright

Connecting the P-70 and D-70

March 2, 2004


Firstly, I would just like to say that I really enjoy your equipment reviews on the Internet -- definitely an excellent source of reference for future purchases.

I have a rather minor query. I am contemplating the purchase of the Esoteric P-70/D-70 digital combination. In your review you mention the need to connect the two pieces via their AES-3 connectivity and word-sync option, and   through the D-70's balanced outputs as well.

In order to prepare myself correctly for the acquisition of these pieces, can you please give me a little guidance on the cables I will need to get the most from the P-70 and D-70? I currently use the Audiomeca Mephisto 'X'/Enkianthus 'X' combo and connect them with a half-meter XLO Limited Edition AES/EBU cable (this is the only digital cable I use at present). Will I require a second one of these to connect the Esoteric separates, and will I require any extra cables to complete the marriage between them both? If so, can you mention a favorable brand/model/type of termination for any of the extra cables I may require?

I apologize in advance for burdening you with these rather mundane questions, but I live in the UK, the importer isn't very helpful at all, and you are the only person I know of who has had the units in his system with a level of success.

Owen Mallia

Yours is not a mundane question at all. You will need two AES/EBU cables and a BNC-terminated coaxial cable. I used two DH Labs D-110 cables and a single D-75. You have an AES/EBU cable already, so all you need to buy is an identical AES/EBU cable (they have to be identical because they each carry signals for one channel) and any BNC-terminated cable. I don't know how much your XLO AES/EBU cables costs, but the DH Labs cables I mention are very reasonably priced, and buying all of the cables I mention could cost you less than staying with XLO....Marc Mickelson


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