[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
June 2004


Esoteric DV-50 one year later

June 29, 2004


I have been reading your publication for a long time and trust your reviews. Right now, I am looking to upgrade my digital front-end (currently a Sony DVP-9000ES) and the Esoteric DV-50 is one of the options. Do you still think it holds its own as a top-flight universal player a year after you reviewed it? CD-playing quality is still the top priority, and I am looking for a neutral, high-resolution player with a open, airy top end. Or should I look at a top-notch CD-only player since I can play most of the high-resolution formats with my Sony anyway? I value your opinion and would appreciate any input you might have.

Vivin Oberoi

A good question that I think I can answer by stating that I own an Esoteric DV-50. While you can achieve better sound with CDs (think Zanden Model 5000 DAC or Esoteric P-70/D-70 combo) and SACDs (Esoteric X-01 -- review to come), the DV-50 still holds its own against other universal players and is a very good video source as well. It should be on your list -- it's definitely worth considering for all types of playback, even a year after its initial review....Marc Mickelson

Which Axiom?

June 28, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I want try a pair of Axiom's bookshelf speakers in my small (20'L x 9'W) living room. I don't have a subwoofer. As far as the most balanced, true and unaffected sound goes, would you suggest the M2i or the slightly larger M3Ti?

Ken Sternberg

The more "neutral" of the two (i.e., the flattest on- and off-axis) is the M2i. You can see that in the measurements that you can access through our www.speakermeasurements.com site. The M2i will give you the most "unaffected" sound through the upper bass, midrange, and highs; however, it also has the least low bass, which can be quite important. Since you're not using a subwoofer, then, I would probably lean to the M3Ti because it's a little fuller-sounding down low even if it's not as flat up above....Doug Schneider

Have you forgotten?

June 25, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

Either the Paradigm Signature S2 speakers are much better than I perceived from your review or you have forgotten about several very good minimonitors available for around $2000, some of which you have reviewed in the past but did not make any kind of a comparison to in your review.

Derick Boyle

Actually, I'm kind of surprised that you think my review wasn't strong enough. In fact, I was trying to convey just how good the S2s are and used some of the strongest words I could. I guess I wasn't forceful enough. If you have any doubts, though, I will say this: I absolutely loved the Signature S2s. Although it sounds like an old reviewer cliché I'll tell you anyway: I bought the review pair. The reason I bought them is simple -- I want to use them as a reference for future loudspeaker reviews.

As for comparisons, I didn't forget. I can only put so much in any one review. Because I had just reviewed the Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.3, I thought it most relevant to describe in detail in the S2 review what you get when you move up the Paradigm price ladder. A good number of people who I have talked to since have told me they enjoyed that part.

In any event, one of my closing comments I hoped would sum up what I thought of the S2 in relation to the other minimonitors I had previously reviewed: "...a state-of-the-art bookshelf classic that is the benchmark by which other minimonitors should be judged." At this point in time, the S2 is my favorite speaker its type....Doug Schneider

The tools of our trade

June 24, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

As always, great coverage of the German High End show! Congratulations. There were a number of interesting products that we never see in the US, so it's fun to ogle the cool designs.

Excellent photos! Are you guys using a camera-mounted (bounced and diffused) flash? Which camera have you adopted?

Galen Carol

The camera I used for the show in Munich was my Canon D60 -- a 6-megapixel SLR, the predecessor to the current model, the 10D, which Marc Mickelson owns. As for the flash, you guessed right -- I normally bounce its output (a Canon 550EX) off the ceiling, which diffuses the light and illuminates the room and the equipment more evenly. When we're doing show coverage, we have to move pretty quickly, and we don't always get the shots we really want. But we appreciate it when people notice that we do get good ones....Doug Schneider

Tweaking Axiom speakers

June 23, 2004


I recently read your review of the Axiom Millennia M40Ti. I bought a pair for fun myself and thought I would let you know what I did to them.

I replaced the crossover components with a high-quality Mills two-ohm resistor on the tweeter, Alpha Core inductors of all identical values, and mounted everything on an epoxy board sandwiched between two sponges and buried in ten pounds of sand on the bottom of the cabinet. I lined the back wall with Blackhole and rewired the speakers with OTA 47 Lab-type continuous-cast Cu cable. Now these speakers have been jacked up several notches, powered with mono DIY 2050 Tripath amps mounted to the backs of the speakers, a Joule Electra LA-100 tube preamp, Scott Nixon non-oversampling DAC, and Sony DV-7700 tweaked transport. The speakers keep time with -- believe it or not -- my Revel F30s, and in some ways I prefer them. I love the coherency of two-way monitor speakers, as apparently you do also. The modded M40Tis have serious slam, and the tweeter has zero stridency. They no longer compress at moderate volumes, and on and on and on.

I thought you would like to know that your buddies out there in the forest (i.e., Axiom) have their act together. These are tweakable-to-the-nth-degree speakers.

Daniel Mason

DAC questions

June 22, 2004


I saw your fine review from a year or so ago of the Bel Canto DAC2 (and the prior review of the DAC1). Have you had a chance to hear the Benchmark DAC1? Price is similar, but a little less for the Benchmark.

Also, has anyone done any affordable interpolators, not just the dithering and filtering approach? Perpetual Technologies has a stand-alone preamp-processor (and programmable) box, I understand, but interpolation adds more than $1000 to the overall cost, I believe.

Exciting times even for regular CDs!

Bror Saxberg

I just read the review of the Stello DA220 and it sounds like it a great DAC. I was wondering if you had compared it to the Bel Canto DAC2.

Frank Gin

I haven't heard the Benchmark DAC1, but Doug Schneider has one in for review. He just finished reviewing the Stello DA220, which looks to be worth considering in the Bel Canto DAC2's price range (unfortunately, he hasn't heard the DAC2).

Because so many DACs these days upsample, interpolators seem to be rare. The only unit I've used between a DAC and transport that I've liked enough to consider buying it was the Genesis Digital Lens, which addresses jitter and, I believe, can output different word lengths, up to 20 bits....Marc Mickelson

Overstating and reinventing

June 21, 2004


I quickly read your review of the Audio Electronic Supply SixPac amplifiers. I just wish to say that your estimation of what these amplifiers would sell for, if there was a retail link in the supply chain, is grossly overstated. Even at the normal dealer markup of 40 points profit, these amps would list for $4000 USD. Of course many dealers would give a 5-10% discount off list price these days, thereby lowering the actual retail price further.

There also is a very good chance that the manufacturer would offer a lower price than $2400 at wholesale to the retailer because many of the costs associated with direct-to-end-user pricing are carried by the retailer, not the manufacturer (think Bose here).

When you overstate the profit margins that retailers receive I do not think you help anyone. I'm sure the writer was paid thousands of dollars for this review -- do you see what I mean, when you overstate what people make?

We have been in business for 15 years, and it is a great business if you do not mind working seven days a week and constantly reinventing your business model to satisfy the ever-changing world.

Thanks for your support of audio.

Bryan Taylor

Music editorials

June 16, 2004

To Joseph Taylor,

I just wanted to drop you a quick "letter" to let you know how much I enjoyed your editorials I've just found on the SoundStage! website. I found the site while filling out the warranty information for a new pair of Wilson Audio Sophia speakers purchased for my mastering studio at Masterdisk in NYC. I agree with your assessment of lost classics of '60s and '70s rock and could probably add a few more -- perhaps After Bathing At Baxter's by the Airplane, Butterfield's East/West, or Fairport Convention's Liege And Leaf. I believe we share a sensibility about that music.

Now I'll go back and explore the rest of the website.

Don Grossinger

Reflections on the Boss

June 14, 2004


I was just reading through the archived music reviews and happened on a review of Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love. I was thinking about and listening to this mostly unheard album just the other day. It is remarkable that this was the Boss's last truly compelling album, and it was produced in 1987. I mostly agree with the review as it stands, especially the discussion of its sonics. ( If you want to hear truly awful sound listen to Springsteen's Live in New York City album. I sometimes wonder if the people who produce his stuff have hearing problems.) The review fails to mention that Springsteen's masterwork was Born to Run, produced in the early '70s. Born to Run epitomizes the narrative, confessional style of rock that separated Springsteen from other hopefuls of the Jersey Shore such as Southside Johnny. Others had more talent, but Springsteen at his best had more passion. That passion coupled with simple, truthful lyrics created some compelling music. It is a shame there just wasn't more of it.

Don Tyler

Maggies or MartinLogans?

June 10, 2004

To Wes Phillips,

Nice review of the Magnepan MMG W speakers. I am in the market for flat-panel (hanging) home-theater speakers. How would you compare the MMG Ws to the MartinLogan Fresco speakers? I have a tough space, so I would love to save some cash on speakers. Rest of system (tentative):

Velodyne sub
Adcom GTP 830
Adcom amp
Arcam DVD player

Any insight would be much appreciated!

Sean Taylor

I've only heard the Frescos at CES, but I'd say they were quite a bit higher in aspiration than the Maggies. Don't get me wrong, I still love the Magnepans (but they're $300 per pair) while the Frescos go for seven times that amount -- heck, the Fresco wall brackets cost almost as much as the MGM Ws!

That doesn't mean you won't be happy with the Maggies, but if you can afford more speaker, maybe you should look at a different model than the MGM Ws.

Your electronics choices certainly can drive just about anything you want to get, so get a speaker that really gets you excited....Wes Phillips

The "ravest" of them all

June 9, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

Thanks for the Paradigm Reference Signature S2 review. I have read all your reviews, and this is perhaps the ravest (I just made up an adjective!) one you have written. Since I am looking for a high-quality small speaker, this is yet another speaker I have to listen to, and quite probably the one to own.

Vladimir Dorta

Although you'll have to hear the S2 before you buy it to know for sure, I highly recommend not to buy anything else until you do at least audition it....Doug Schneider

Auricapped Belles 21A

June 8, 2004


Nice review [of the Belles 21A preamp with Auricap upgrade]. I believe that with the 21A series, Dave Belles went with only one pair of tubes, instead of the two pairs that the 20A used, but the important thing is the sound. I've heard the stock 21A in my system, and while I admired it, it didn't quite persuade me to trade in my Audio Note M2 Phono. Maybe I can see if the Auricaps make the difference.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your reviews.

Vade Forrester

Studio vs. Signature with Servo-15

June 7, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I am in the process of updating my home theater. I have always liked the sound and price of Paradigm speakers. My question is how well will either the Studio 20 v.3 or Signature S2 sound using a Servo-15 sub for two-channel stereo music. Will four of these speakers and a center-channel be adequate for home theater in a medium-sized room that has a vaulted ceiling and open to the dinning/kitchen?

I have auditioned the Studio 60 v.3 with the Servo-15 for both applications and they sounded very good indeed, but if I am going to use the Servo-15 for bass during both music and home theater, I am not sure the extra money for the floorstanding speakers is well spent.

Jeff Walser

You're right. Does it really make sense to spend money on a speaker with quite deep bass if you're going to augment the bass with a very good subwoofer like Paradigm's Servo-15? My first inclination would be to try what you're proposing -- match the Servo-15 with either the Studio 20 v.3 or the Signature S2. As for which of those two will mate with a sub better, the first place to look for an answer is our www.speakermeasurements.com website, where we keep all the measurements we have done on speakers throughout the years. If you check out the Studio 20 v.3 and Signature S2 you'll see almost identical bass characteristics -- this means that each will work similarly with the Servo-15. Since that's the case, and you could go either way, you'll have to decide -- most likely by ear and by pocketbook -- which one you like better. I found the S2 to sound better, but, of course, it's quite a bit more expensive....Doug Schneider

Nordost Valhalla vs. MIT Oracle v.2.1

June 4, 2004


After reading your reviews of Nordost Valhalla and MIT Oracle v.2.1 speaker cables and interconnects, I can't help but wonder how these two giants of the audio market compare. As I am quite familiar with MIT cables, I recognized much of what you described about them in your review, and you gained my respect by writing about such difficult cables and interconnects.

You didn't mention MIT Oracle in your Valhalla review (maybe Nordost would not allow that?) for comparison. I am on the verge of buying new interconnects and want to audition at least an alternative to Oracle. I am intent on listening to Valhalla at home. Would you be so kind as to indicate where the major differences between these two cables lie? Transparency, palpability, ease, naturalness, and detail?

Is either of these a clear winner to your ears? Or does it really depend on system and personal taste?

Marcel Mourits

MIT Oracle v.2.1 and Nordost Valhalla are rather different cable lines, but both are at the top of the heap. As I point out in my review, MIT Oracle v.2.1 has more of a sound of its own, one whose low noise and solid low frequencies dominate. Oracle v2.1's sound is less overtly transparent (although the cables do not noticeably color things) than Valhalla's, which is as neutral and nonexistent to my ears as cables get. My choice of the two would be Valhalla, as they work very, very well with the electronics and speakers I have, but if I had different equipment, I might very well choose MIT Oracle v.2.1.

Given your questions and the price of Oracle v.2.1 and Valhalla, another cable line you should strongly consider is Siltech G6 Signature. I will be reviewing G6 Forbes Lake interconnects and Eskay Creek speaker cables sometime soon.

Also, no company has ever tried to tell us what we could or could not compare to their products in a review, least of all Nordost, which is run by extremely friendly and knowledgeable people. There are too many products we would like to write about to deal with a company that tries to steer our reviewing process in such a way....Marc Mickelson

Who and when for Paradigm S8 review?

June 3, 2004


I was wondering who is doing the review on the Paradigm S8s, and when you expect to publish it. I am very interested in buying a pair of S8s, and I would like to read your review before I do.

Kevin McGowen

I will be writing the review, which is still a couple of months off. It will likely appear on August 15. We'll be publishing measurements of the S8 as well....Marc Mickelson


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