[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
September 2004

 

"Forget SACD"

September 29, 2004

Editor,

[In regard to your editorial, "Are They Listening?"] in my opinion, the reasons for the lackluster attitude of the average audio enthusiast towards SACD are two-fold. First and foremost, SACD is being marketed as a format most suitable for 5.1-channel sound and most audiophiles don't subscribe to multichannel as yet. Second, some SACDs may sound much better than Red Book CDs, but the difference in upgrading from an already good digital source to an even better one that plays SACDs is not worth the expense. Forget SACD -- the sheer volume of sales of audiophile CDs, such as those available from Mobile Fidelity and JVC, pale in comparison to the number of regular CDs bought at record stores.

Mack Khan


Paradigm vs. Paradigm?

September 27, 2004

Editor,

I very much liked your excellent and thorough review of the Paradigm Signature S8 speakers. You mentioned wanting to compare the Paradigm Reference Studio 100 v.3 with the S8. I wish you would have. Maybe you can add an extra article or follow-up of some kind on this comparison.You really have me curious. I own the Studio 100 v.2s and was considering an upgrade to either the 100 v.3s or the S8s. A dealer told me the 100 v.3s were only a small improvement over the 100 v.2s. Based on your review, the S8s must be the obvious choice.

Dan Ratliff

The Signature S8s are no longer here, so a comparison between them and the Studio 100 v.3s isn't possible. However, it sounds like you have a Paradigm dealer nearby who could demo both speakers for you. If you get to do this, let us know what you hear....Marc Mickelson


Joe and Todd

September 24, 2004

To Joseph Taylor,

Interesting that you have both Joe Jackson's Afterlife and Todd Rundgren's Liars in the same mini-review "pod" ["A Few You May Have Missed" music editorial].

Joe and Todd did solo performances on the same stage just four weeks ago (August 24) at Delacorte Amphitheater in Central Park, NYC. It was a beautiful night, and the intimacy and communication between artists and audience was remarkably intense.

Joe's solo set was phenomenal, especially since he doesn't do many solo sets these days. Todd's was the best solo show I've ever seen him do out of more than 30 in the last 15 years. The encore was Joe and Todd with a new-age string quartet named Ethel that had opened the show, and the musical cauldron got really hot. Todd, Joe and Ethel performed two songs at the encore: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," with most of the lead-guitar parts played by violins and violas, and "Black Maria," with Joe Jackson singing the harmony part and, once again, many of the lead-guitar parts taken over by the string ensemble.

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" has a special meaning for Rundgren fans. It was his showcase tune when performing with the ensembles on the "A Walk Down Abbey Road" tour a few years ago.

Your inclusion of both these artists in the same article makes me wonder if you were in attendance at Delacorte that night.

Grady Moates

I was not there, and I envy you. A friend of mine and I were thinking of going to see the show, but we both had other things scheduled. I hope someone recorded it....Joseph Taylor


Which Axiom speaker?

September 22, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I read your reviews of the Axiom M3ti and M40ti. They were a great help. I was wondering if you have had an opportunity to evaluate the M22ti. I have a small 10'x11' room with a 10' ceiling (carpeted and furnished). I have read some reviews of the M22ti, but the writers didn't compare the speakers with the ones you have heard. I listen to mainly classical and some jazz and have a discriminating ear (I am a music director and teacher). If you were going to put them in a small room in your home, which speakers would you choose? I realize I will probably have to use a subwoofer with any of the speakers I mention to hear the full frequency range of orchestral instruments.

Thank you so much for your expert advice. I am a fan of your reviews. Keep us musicians informed!

H.C. Reichold

My impressions of Axiom speakers are based on models I've heard two to four years ago. If the company has changed anything in any of those designs, it may negate some or all of the things I had to say.

So with that caveat, I find the M3ti and M40ti to share similar sonic attributes, and similarly the M2i and M22ti do, too. For example, the M2i and M22ti are the most neutral of the four -- in other words, the most "linear," which means equal amplitude across all frequencies. The main difference between the M22ti and M2i is that the M22ti, with its additional driver, produces more bass and can play louder. I find the M3ti and M40ti not be quite as accurate, but they still sound very good -- in fact, some find them to sound better because they're a little more relaxed in the midrange and richer in the bass. The M40ti produces quite a bit more bass than the M3ti, and I believe it produces more than the M22ti, too. Frankly, I may well have done the M40ti a little bit of an injustice in my review by not praising it enough. It delivers impressive overall sound and good bass for less than $500, and you don't need stands. Then again, a lot of people I know love the M22ti speakers for their accuracy.

I believe that all of the models you mention can be made to work quite well, but it's going to be you who decides what it is exactly that you want. Do you painstaking neutrality, or are you willing to forego that for a little bit of warmth, relaxation and bloom? This is where your own ears will have to decide....Doug Schneider


$400 speakers

September 21, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I've found your reviews very helpful in my quest to find a great speaker in the $400 price range. I first started out with the Axiom Audio M2i, then the M22ti. I haven't heard Ascend Acoustics speakers yet. What is your opinion comparing the two product offerings in my price range? Do you think either one comes out ahead? I have a small/medium-size living room attached to a kitchen.

Chris Harris

When you mention Ascend Acoustics, I suspect you're referring to the CBM-170, which I reviewed. The M22ti and CBM-170 are both excellent speakers -- and both have strengths and weaknesses. Most noticeably, the CBM-170 I found to be a touch sweeter on the top end, while the M22ti has tighter, deeper, more forceful bass. I can listen to both "sub-less," although the M22ti is definitely the more fuller-sounding of the two down low. On the other hand, the CBM-170 is $72/pair cheaper, and while that may not seem like much to some, it could be important to others. Finally, I'm glad to say that both come with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. And since there's no way that I can say that one speaker is definitely better for you than the other, I can safely recommend that you try both before you settle on one....Doug Schneider


Floorstanders or minimonitors?

September 20, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I'm just beginning the chore of putting together a home-entertainment system that will be used for music as well as movies. I'm going to start with the front speakers; my budget is around $1000 for the pair. I auditioned a pair of Monitor Audio Bronze-series floorstanders ($600) and thought they sounded pretty flat. I'm currently auditioning a pair of Axiom 60ti speakers, and while I like their bass, I think the mids and highs are kind of weak. (Louis Armstrong's voice has a tinniness.)

Someone recommended that I should consider minimonitors because in my price range, with floorstanders, I will end up sacrificing a lot of quality in the mids and highs. That's when I read your review of the Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.3. I listened to them yesterday and thought they sounded good, but there's such a big difference between the store and your home. I have an larger-sized living room with 20'-high cathedral ceilings.

Do you agree about the minimonitors, or can you recommend something I might be happy with in a floorstander. I guess I'm trying to get the best value I can for the dollar. Also, I want a speaker that will give me flexibility since this is only the first of many components I'll be buying. (I also listened to the B&W 603 floorstanders, which were OK, but I wasn't crazy about them.)

Darrin Straff

Some people make gross generalizations about minimonitors and floorstanders, thinking that they are entirely different beasts. I don't. A minimonitor is simply a smaller speaker, and one in need of a stand. A floorstander is a speaker that has "grown" to the floor. And while it is true that some floorstanders have more drivers and are capable of higher output than minimonitors, that is not always the case. There are a good number of floorstanders on the market that are similarly configured in terms of drivers as minimonitors and capable of delivering no greater output.

What's more important is that you like the sound of the speakers, and that they're suitable for your room. I'm not surprised that you like the Studio 20 v.3 -- I think it's an excellent loudspeaker. What I worry about, though, is if it can deliver enough output for your room, which sounds like it's quite large. The speaker is fairly small and has only two drivers. My suggestion at this point is this look at a subwoofer in conjunction with the 20 v.3. A subwoofer can really flesh out the bass and relieve the speakers of having to produce those troublesome low notes, and it increases the placement options for the main speakers (subs can often be tucked away in a corner or put off to the side). Alternatively, Paradigm just released an entirely revamped Monitor series of speakers, and the largest speakers in that lineup -- the 7, 11, and 90P, which happen to be floorstanders -- appear to have the output capabilities suitable for your room. Paradigm's speakers also tend to have a "family resemblance" in terms of sound, so if you like the 20 v.3, you'll find the new Monitor speakers to your liking, too....Doug Schneider


Newbie questions

September 15, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I'm new to the hi-fi audio scene and have recently purchased the Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.3 speakers based on your review. I love the way you write and explain the component(s) you're reviewing -- to a newbie, your writing makes things a lot easier to comprehend.

I plan to drive these speakers with the Linn Classic Movie System that I purchased through eBay. I was wondering if you would be able to recommend a set of speaker cables to run this system. Since the Linn comes with BFA connectors, do I need custom-configured speaker cables?

Also, I live in a pre-war building with AC that may be sketchy. Do I need a power conditioner? I've been considering the Richard Gray Power Company's 600S unit. What do you think? On another note, would it be wise to replace the power cord on the Linn unit? I read that it can really make a difference.

Any answers would be most helpful to an enthusiastic hi-fi novice.

David Franco

Congratulations on some fine component purchases. You have the foundation for a simple but very effective system. Obviously, you will, have to get speaker cables terminated with BFA-type connectors on the amplifier end, but I wouldn't go crazy and get really exotic cables -- just get good ones that are well constructed and feature good-quality connectors. I took a quick glance through a few companies' websites and found that many companies offer BFA connectors for their standard cables -- you shouldn't have too tough of a time finding something good and reasonably priced cables. In terms of your AC power, I would simply play with your system first before you invest heavily into any type of power conditioner. Your Classic Movie System's power supply should be able to handle minor fluctuations and noise without too much issue. If the problems are worse than that, then maybe you should look into something more elaborate. For example, I live in a large apartment complex where the power levels can vary quite substantially. Passive power conditioners don't help with that. Instead, I use an ExactPower EP15A, which is an active unit that keeps a rock-solid 120V flowing to my system. Of course, the EP15A is quite expensive, and that's why I recommend experimenting with your existing power before even looking into these types of devices. As for the power cord, the same advice applies, but even more rigorously. Power cords, I find, are more or less tweaks to improve the sound of a component -- there's no a power cord is going to fix sagging voltage or similar problems. So if you want to tweak the sound of your component, by all means experiment -- but they key is to experiment, and let your ears be the final judge....Doug Schneider


Paradigm Signature S8 review

September 6, 2004

Editor,

That was my point all along, Marc! Don't be afraid of the light! You've seen it -- go to it!

Forgive the sarcasm, but at the ripe old age of 29 I've transcended the world of snake-oil cables and Mercedes-paint-finished cabinets for truly excellent, affordable sound. I'm smug knowing the savings I'll enjoy over my lifetime with no sacrifice in performance. At this rate, I'll be retired by 40! [The review of the Paradigm Signature S8s was] your best article if I may be so bold.

You might recall I commented on, or rather vehemently objected to, your use of the term "...they may be a bargain of sorts." in your Wilson Audio MAXX 2 review last month, and Paradigm is the very reason. I even mentioned enjoying an entire Paradigm Signature home-theater system and the Anthem electronics Roger Kanno writes about in his sidebar to your review -- for less than the MAXX 2s alone!

I'm dying to know, how did the S8s compare to the MAXX 2. Oh that's right, the mighty MAXX 2s are immeasurable. What a Pandora's box the 90% less expensive S8's would have opened if they bettered the MAXX 2s at the NRC. Best not to rock the audiophile establishment.

Honestly, are the MAXX 2s really 800% better as their price suggests? Or do the S8s bring you 9/10ths the way to perfection allowing for an entire Signature/Anthem home theater and a new car instead? I hope you now understand why the Wilson Audio review evoked such a passionate response. I'm immune to such profligacy.

This is a pivotal article, proving my point that expense doesn't equal performance. Wait until you review some of Paradigm's lower-priced offerings, your price/performance ratio is about to be redefined. If ever there was a time to call a speaker a bargain, this was it!

Mark Slywka

Imagine if I reviewed audio equipment the way you "review" it, by making value judgments about products I've never heard and then drawing conclusions based on those judgments. My college logic instructor would be turning over in her grave.

Because you mention a line from my review of the Wilson Audio MAXX 2s, I will quote two from my review of the Paradigm Signature S8s: "I've reviewed many speakers that cost several times the Signature S8s' price, and I've enjoyed a few of them more. In a world without these speakers, I'd call the Signature S8s my own." One of those speakers that I've "enjoyed...more" is the MAXX 2 (another is the WATT/Puppy 7), which is in another sonic league from the Paradigm speakers -- and it should be given its great price. This does not mean the S8s aren't terrific speakers or even a terrific bargain -- both of these things are true. It simply means that at least in the case of the MAXX 2, you get much more when you pay much more.

Why didn't I compare the MAXX 2s and Paradigm S8s directly? The difference in price is huge, and the comparison would reveal little about the market segment that the Paradigm speakers, and their potential buyers, inhabit. I also had a speaker here, the Thiel CS2.4, that is direct competition in terms of price and sound quality.

Your "passionate response" to my MAXX 2 review is obviously based not on any audio concern but rather solely on the price of the speakers. SoundStage! is an audio publication, which means we'll leave the decision as to how you should spend your money to you. Your vote on this matter has been recorded....Marc Mickelson


Can the public attend T.H.E Show in Indianapolis?

September 3, 2004

Editor,

Regarding your editorial this month, is the public invited to the T.H.E. Show in Indy at the Capital Conference Center September 10-12? If so, do you know the hours and the cost to get in? Also, do you have any additional info on the events?

You have a great website. Love the reviews.

Jerry Geyer

Unfortunately, T.H.E. Show in Indianapolis is not open to the public. T.H.E. Show in Las Vegas is, however....Marc Mickelson


Which Magnepans?

September 2, 2004

To Wes Phillips,

I read your great review of the Magnepan MMG Ws and MMG C. For a 50/50 music/movie setup, I was considering the MGMC1 in a 5.1 system using a B&W 600 series for the center-channel speaker (the Magnepan center is close to $1000 vs. $400 for the B&W), and would appreciate your opinion on a couple of issues.

After further consideration or listening beyond what you had discussed in your review, do you think the MGMC1 is worth more than twice the MMG W's price? From what you can tell, in what ways that matter are they really differentiated? Do you think the pairing of the MGMC1 with the B&W will be acoustically awkward? Would I be better off substituting the MMG C? Overall, do you think that for less than half the money, should I just go with two pairs of MMG Ws and an MMG C?

Since Magnepan is a high-end product, and they've produced a very economical MMG series (which is not really advertised and only available through Magnepan), I just can't quite understand who they are trying to reach, except to provide an exceptional value to anyone who happens to discover the opportunity.

Adam

I get really bugged when the center-channel isn't timbrally matched to the left and right front channels, so I probably wouldn't like the B&W/Magnepan team-up. I'd opt for the MMG C.

By the way, since the rear channels generally carry ambience information rather than primary musical signal, I'd economize by scaling down to the MMG W in the rears and use a pair of the MGMC1s up front.

If that saves you enough money that you can spring for the MGCC2, I'd go for it. The center-channel is so crucial in film playback....Wes Phillips

 

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