[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
January 2005


Comparing three Reviewers' Choice speakers

January 31, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

Can you compare the performance of the Paradigm Signature S2, PSB Platinum M2 and Von Schweikert VR-1 in important areas like soundstaging (width and depth), imaging, the midrange and the treble? And considering the fact that I have no way to compare them in my room, do you think the Paradigm S2 and the PSB M2 are worth the extra money? In other words, do they offer significant improvement over the VR-1?

Nelson Hakarish

For a detailed description of the performance characteristics of these three speakers, you'd be best off simply re-reading each of the reviews. Are the S2 and M2 worth the extra money? Providing that you have the money, yes. If you don't have the money, the VR-1 is an outstanding performer that costs about one-half as much as the S2 or M2, and while not quite as good, comes far closer than the difference in price suggests....Doug Schneider

"...Which power cords you used..."

January 27, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

Neither the Stello DA220 nor the Benchmark DAC1 reviews list the power cords that were used. Did you, in fact, use "audiophile" power cords with the DACs? If you did, I'd like to know which cords you used, and how the sound of each DAC responded to those power-cord changes.

Todd Beck

Normally, with all my reviews, whether of DACs or otherwise, I simply use the supplied power cord from the manufacturer. My goal is to write the review of the product as the product comes to me. The only thing I did do was plug the units into the ExactPower EP15A, which I feel is one of the best power products on the market and improves sound quality more than any power cord I've used....Doug Schneider

"Did you find any hardness in the high frequencies?"

January 24, 2005

To Jeff Fritz,

I enjoyed your review of the new Classé CA-2200 amp. I'm contacting you because I just installed a pair of Classé CA-M400 monoblocks in my CD label's reference system, and I was hoping to pick your brain if I might. I'm finding the amps to have similar attributes to your description with respect to transparency, detail, and soundstaging, but the top end is very hard-sounding and the midrange is a bit on the cool side. The amps are two days out of the box, so I expect them to mellow out a bit (actually, I pray they do!). Classé says it takes about 300 hours. They replaced MBL 8011s, which convey a completely different sonic presentation. Did you find any hardness in the high frequencies?

Ken Golden
The Laser's Edge

I did not find the Classé CA-2200 hard-sounding in any way, but the big monos may have a different sonic signature. I've also found that my room is fairly absorptive, despite the windows behind my speakers. It focuses very well and does not tend toward brightness -- if anything it's a bit warm-sounding. I've come to this conclusion after listening to many amplifiers and several speaker systems over the past year and a half. So, perhaps what you're hearing is related to the monos specifically, or it could be chalked up to differences between our systems and rooms. I'd certainly give the amps a chance with more break-in and see what develops. Send an update after you've put a few more hours on them....Jeff Fritz

Music servers

January 21, 2005


I attended CES 2005 and heard an interesting discussion over lunch about the benefits of using a music server instead of a CD player (irrespective of whether it's a one-box unit or separate transport and DAC). The proponent of the music-server approach liked the concept of burning CDs to a hard drive and creating playlists of his favorite tracks from multiple CDs, which he could then listen to without having to get up, find the next CD and change it -- kind of like a "favorites" compilation CD but on a hard drive.

I did come across an exhibitor of a high-end music server at the St. Tropez. Since hard-drive storage is cheap, CD tracks were burned uncompressed onto the hard drive, and the demonstrator then created playlists of favorite tracks in various music categories.

Obviously, the devil is in the details about how the music server is designed and implemented, but I found it an interesting approach.

Any thoughts on the music-server versus the CD-player approach?

Michael Goldin

I didn't overhear the discussion you did, but I did come across the exhibit at the St. Tropez you are likely referring to -- VRS Audio Systems. Over at the LVCC, there were many music servers; they are hitting the market in great numbers these days in response to the custom-installation market and the desire to stream music around an entire house. These units are maximized for convenience and can do much of what the VRS unit can.

The VRS The Gold that we saw and listened to, however, takes things a step further by being optimized for high-end two-channel playback as well as having the convenience features and the ability to stream audio. The thought is that playback from a computer hard drive instead of from CD leads to inherently better sound. The Gold looks like a rather large CD player, but its included keyboard and monitor indicate that it's really a computer optimized for CD ripping and playback.

We will be talking to VRS to set up a review of The Gold, whose performance would be compared to that of some of the best high-end digital components on the market. The Gold represents a very interesting approach....Marc Mickelson

Esoteric or Denon?

January 18, 2005


I read your review of the Esoteric DV-50. I just came back from CES and heard the new $13,000 Esoteric player, but the DV-50 is more in my price range. I am looking to upgrade my own home-theater system. I was wondering if you've heard or seen the new Denon DVD-5910 with the new theater chip, which they say usually comes in very pricey players.

Is this Esoteric player in a whole different league, or can you discuss it and the Denon in the same sentence? The Denon retails for $3500, so it's not cheap. I was wondering what your thoughts are on this. I use my system for both music and movies.

Bill Marcus

I've read a little about the Denon player you mention, but I haven't seen it or used it. Much of what is going on with it is aimed at improving its video performance, and I used the Esoteric DV-50 only sparingly in that way. However, we have a review scheduled of the Esoteric DV-50S for our Home Theater & Sound site, and that review will, of course, discuss the player as a video source. You will probably get some answers from that review, so stay tuned....Marc Mickelson

Stello questions

January 13, 2004

To Doug Schneider,

I just read your wonderful and informative review of the Stello DA220 DAC. May I ask you a few quick questions? Is there a Canadian distributor for Stello (I live in Toronto)? Or do I have to ship it from the US? I read an old link on audioasylum.com that mentioned the voltage of the Stello being 220V only. What is the voltage on your test unit?

Thank you very much. Looking forward to more of your reviews!

Sam Wong

As far as I know, there's only a US-based distributor right now (although it would be wise for a Canadian distributor to pick up Stello; the products are quite special -- the DA220 and DP200 DAC/preamp were both reviewed by us and received Reviewers' Choice nods, as well as our end-of-the-year award for Best Product Debut). In terms of the voltage, the review unit was a standard 120V, suitable for use in North America....Doug Schneider

Digital cable for the Benchmark DAC1

January 5, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

I read your review of the Benchmark Media DAC1 with great interest, and I purchased one recently. I notice that you employed an i2Digital X-60 cable, which I am considering as well as the Illuminations D-60 cable. I wonder whether you have any thoughts on the relative differences between these two cables and whether you could make a recommendation. The folks at Benchmark seemed to feel that cables were not that important with this unit.

Art Nager

I've had quite a bit of experience with digital cables over the years, from ones that could not keep a reliable connection between my DAC and my transport, to others that made quite a profound and somewhat surprising sonic difference (whether that's good or bad I have yet to decide because different does not necessarily mean better), to yet others that seemed to be basically as good as it gets. In terms of the last group, I've learned that among these "as good as it gets" cables there is no correlation between price and performance. Oftentimes one cable has performed identically with certain equipment, while other times another cable has gained an edge in one way or the other. I use the i2Digital X-60 often in my reviews because I've found it to be universally good -- there hasn't been a transport/DAC combo it hasn't worked well with. These days the starting price is $199 for a 0.33-meter length. However, the cable I recommend that people start with is the DH Labs D-75, priced at $65 for a half-meter length, simply because it's priced lower and can compete with the very best. I've found that the D-75 is capable of achieving the same kind of "as good as it gets" performance with most equipment, so why spend more money if you don't have to?...Doug Schneider

Best of 2004

January 4, 2005


Thank you so much for naming my Mirrors and Windows one of the Best Recordings of 2004. I'm honored to be part of such a group of artists.

Dulcie Taylor


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