[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
February 2005


High resolution explained

February 25, 2005


The following was explained in Borders in an attempt to define various software formats.

"JVC XRCD24 is much the same as XRCD and XRCD2; that is, they are made with a special process of sorts and the "XR" signifies enhanced or extra resolution, even though the final product basically is the same as any other CD. This contrasts with SACD and DVD-A, which use a DVD to store more sonic information on a disc and achieve greater resolution. Of course, these discs will not play in a DVD player, but rather require a special SACD player and DVD-A player. Most SACDs have an additional CD layer, however, and that layer will play in a standard CD or DVD player, but not the SACD layer, which again requires a special player. DVD-As do not have a second layer, but there is something called a DualDisc that contains a standard CD on one side and a higher-resolution DVD or DVD-A program on the other. I guess most of these will play on a CD player -- at least the CD side will -- and the DVD side will probably play on most DVD players, but I am not sure if a DVD-A is required for maximum resolution. Moreover, some SACD and DVD-A disc will play in surround sound like DTS, which again requires a special player that has multichannel capability. There are also DAD discs, which offer greater resolution than CD and will play in any DVD player. CD, DAD, DVD-A, and DTS are recorded in PCM, while SACD uses DSD. However, some CDs are recorded in DSD and converted to PCM and some SACDs are recorded in PCM and converted to DSD. In my player, a Sony DVP-999ES, all CDs apparently are converted from PCM to DSD prior to output. This means that a CD recorded in DSD and converted to PCM is then reconverted to DSD."

Why would anybody wonder why the general public has been slow to accept high-resolution playback?

Joe Mudry

A system recommendation

February 22, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

A few months ago you reviewed Paradigm's Reference Signature S2 loudspeakers and a few years before that the Perreaux 200iP integrated amplifier. Would this pairing provide a synergistic match? You described the Signature S2 as being neutral and extended, almost not there at all, and the 200iP as being easy to mate with all of speakers you had on hand. I was particularly impressed by the frequency response and distortion plots of the Signature S2 as well as the way you described how you found yourself just listening to the music and not the speaker. You also said the 200iP was clean, refined and in complete control of whatever speaker you had it connected to, with a full, gutsy presentation of the audio spectrum. These are all attributes I value in my audio pursuits.

Such a system would be in a fairly small dedicated listening room, 16' x 13 1/2' with an 8' ceiling. Ultimately, I would like to add a sub to round out the bottom end of the Signature 2s, but I fear the Signature Servo might overpower such a small room. I am also considering the Sonus Faber Concerto Home speakers, which I had the opportunity to listen to recently. I found them a little on the dark side, but very seductive and comfortably easy to just relax and listen to.

Any feedback you can provide on my considering this setup would be very much appreciated. I find the reviews in publications such as SoundStage! to be a great service to us obsessed with the high-end bug. Thanks and keep those insightful reviews coming.

Salvatore Mistretta

Paradigm's Reference Signature S2s are extraordinarily good bookshelf loudspeakers. While at about $2000 per pair they're not cheap, they can outperform a good number of far pricier two-ways from companies that don't have the design and manufacturing wherewithal that Paradigm has.

As for pairing the Paradigms with the Perreaux, I can imagine (although I've never tried it) that the amp and the speakers would work just fine. The 200iP has more than enough power and could easily drive the Paradigms in the size room you mention. However, synergy is defined as the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Will the Perreaux 200iP powering the Paradigm Signature S2s be any more special than other high-powered, high-quality solid-state integrated amps with the S2s? I believe there are a good number of amplifiers that would mate nicely with the S2s, and the Perreaux would be one of many that would work well....Doug Schneider

Full-system reviews

February 18, 2005


I would like to see full-system reviews on SoundStage!, because what is heard when components of the same brand are used together is a synergistic effect. It would be terrific to read a head-to-head review of a Lamm preamp/power-amp combo against a Mark Levinson combo or maybe a Halcro or Linn combo. Brand-mixing separates is hard to do and expensive, so I want to know how good a complete system developed by a high-end company like Linn is, and how it performs versus your reference system.

Guillermo De Simone

Unfortunately, it's not feasible to review more than one product at a time, especially when we measure so many of the products we review. We do often comment on how certain preamps work with certain amps from the same manufacturer, and we actually have written about full systems in the past, in our "Standout Systems" column. Also, Jeff Fritz often writes about preamp/power-amp combinations in his "The World's Best Audio System" column on our Ultra Audio site....Marc Mickelson

Warmth and accuracy

February 16, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

I enjoyed your review of the MB Quart Vera VS 1F. It sounds like a well-balanced loudspeaker. I noticed that you compared it to the Focus Audio FS-788. You stated that the Focus speakers had a great midrange, but it's not entirely accurate. I own a pair of '788s and find their midrange to be very accurate. It is a tad warm, but accurate. I wish the speakers played a tad louder, but I use a sub, so it really doesn't matter. I find a super-clean and accurate midrange can sound sterile and mechanical in some systems.

Dave Cerei

I don't believe that an audio product can sound slightly warm and be 100% accurate. To me, that little bit of warmth is a euphonic coloration that, while pleasurable, is not completely true to life. On the other hand, I'm not about to say that such a sonic signature is not a good thing. I reviewed the FS-788s and loved them, as I have other great components that have imparted their own pleasurable signature to the sound....Doug Schneider

Being "true to the source"

February 15, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

In your review of the DK Design Group VS.1 Reference Mk II, you mentioned the highs were not of reference quality. The rubbish tubes in there had a lot to do with this. I put some mid-'60s Amperex tubes in and the sound was, no bull, 15% better on top -- more air, sparkle and definition. Next time, possibly do a review with and without NOS tubes to hear the true potential of the beast. Other than that, as always, your reviews are pretty true to the source.

Keep up the excellent writing.

Paul Letteri

I'm glad you enjoy the reviews. As for being "true to the source," that's exactly what I tried to do by reviewing the VS.1 in its stock configuration -- "as shipped, as is," as I said in the review. My goal was to give readers an indication of what the product sounds as supplied by the manufacturer. If it sounds better with other tubes, I wouldn't be surprised; if the manufacturer wants the customers to hear the unit with those other tubes, my suggestion would be to supply it with them. Otherwise, investigating every possible tube combination to tweak the sound of a review product this way and that way would make writing any review impossible....Doug Schneider

Benchmark, Stello or Redgum?

February 11, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

I bet you get this sort of e-mail all the time. I will get right to the point. I read your recent reviews of the Benchmark DAC1 and Stello DA220 DACs and not-so-recent review of the Redgum Audio RGCD5 CD player (the current model is the RGCD5ENR).

First, one sentence of encomium. You are my most-trusted reviewer, ever since I read your Blue Circle BC2 review, auditioned the amps, and bought them. I have needed for a while a CD source up to their level of ability.

I'm a musician and not into stereo components for the gadgetry, the light show, the specs or the bragging rights, but for the music. A couple days ago, after listening to the smooth, open and beautiful music coming from a friend's Redgum RGi60 integrated amp, I looked into a Redgum CD player, and was pleased to find your 2001 review.

You clearly like the Benchmark and Stello DACs very much, but of the Redgum, your comments took on a different, more emotional tone, which caught my attention. You wrote, "Vocals were smooth, full and rich. Acoustic guitar shimmered with resonance, body, and excellent high-frequency extension. Drums (recorded in a late-'70s way) bloomed with warmth and weight. Hugh Marsh's violin stood out with great clarity. It didn't matter that the RGCD5 has no track display. I know this album all too well, and I just played it over and over again."

The Redgum costs more than the others -- $1600 when you reviewed it, and $2550 now, thanks in part to the devalued US dollar. But my BC2s finally need a digital source worthy of them. Your description of the Redgum is as close as I've heard to what I think music should sound like. Auditioning is impossible. I'd simply have to buy (they sell direct, perhaps with a demo period). I have long marveled at the sound of my friend's Redgum integrated, and only recently looked into the possibility of a Redgum CD player.

Basically, then, can you still warmly recommend Ian Robinson's player as you did in 2001, and in the company of the Benchmark and the Stello DACs?

Thank you very much, and please keep up the good work.

Joe Intili

It's been some time since the Redgum player was in my house, but I do remember that it had a very good, slightly warm sound, although functionally it was a little quirky with the CD-ROM drive it had built in as its transport. Still, I remember liking it a lot, as I did the RGi60 integrated as well as other Redgum components I've heard.

While I can't say much more in detail about the Redgum CD player so many years after hearing it, I can say this about the Benchmark DAC1 and Stello DA220 DACs that I reviewed more recently and which I believe have upped the ante for price and performance from a digital front-end: For about $1000, each of these units offers such outstanding performance that I can't imagine spending any more on a DAC unless I decided to go all out and get something that's absolutely state of the art, like the Zanden Model 5000, or perhaps the super-high-end Esoteric P-70/D-70 separates that Marc Mickelson reviewed. That would be, of course, if funds were unlimited, which isn't the case for the majority of people. Most importantly, though, the DAC1 and DA220 aren't just budget references -- they're outright fabulous DACs that come within close range of the state of the art. Even if you have the money, you'll wonder if it's worth spending more than the cost of either DAC. Whether these two components will "connect" with you the same as they did me -- the DA220 I've now purchased for my own system, and after even longer listening I like it even more -- remains to be seen. What I know is that you don't have to spend a whole lot of money to get first-rate digital sound....Doug Schnieder

Infinity vs. Energy

February 9, 2005

To Jeff Fritz,

I enjoyed your column on the Energy act6 system. I'm torn between it and the Infinity TSS-1100. Any plans to write about the TSS-1100? If not, any thoughts? It retails at $999.

Scott Ellis

The Infinity system carries a 20% price premium over the Energy system, though I don't know how the street prices compare. It looks to me like the TS-1100 setup includes a larger subwoofer (12" with the Infinity vs. 8" for the Energy) and satellites with two woofers per cabinet. That tells me it should possess more output capacity, which may prove beneficial in a large room. How does that equate to sound quality? I have no idea. The Energy act6 delivers exceptional sound, but unfortunately I have not auditioned the Infinity system. As always, listen to both if you can, and buy the one that sounds best to you....Jeff Fritz

From a Classé owner

February 7, 2005

To Jeff Fritz,

I just read your review of the Classé Audio Delta CA-2200 stereo amplifier and must say I totally agree with what you have stated. Classé has, in my opinion, done a great job. I recently purchased all three Delta-series components (CP-500 preamp, CDP-100 CD player, CA-2200 amp). I still have yet to get to the 300-hour break-in. I would just like to say that with every hour of listening, the components seem to be opening up like a flower, revealing more clarity and depth. I thank you for your time, and I really enjoy reading your reviews no matter if you like or dislike the products. I am always impressed with the way you can put the review into laymen terms and not have to use a lot of technical info that may not have anything to do with what the product does or sounds like.

John Crowe

Will MP1 restore bass dynamics?

February 4, 2005

To Jeff Fritz,

I just read your "Surrounded" column on the Audio Research MP1 multichannel preamp, and I think the MP1 may be just what I'm looking for. I own a Cello system and have added speakers and Cello amps for multichannel audio. I purchased an EMM Labs transport, DAC6 and a Switchman for the preamp. The trouble is that the bass dynamics are reduced, and this robs the music of life and drive. In two-channel mode I have come to blame the Switchman, because swapping the Cello Palette or a Blowtorch for the Switchman restores the bass dynamics. I own an ARC LS5 tube preamp and an older ARC LS3B solid-state preamp and have been happy with both. Could you please comment on the MP1's bass performance and overall balance? I understand it would probably not sound like my tubed LS5.

Jim Geihsler

I have not heard the EMM Labs Switchman, though I would like to. I can say that the MP1's bass is strong -- it's quick and transparent, so I don't think you'd be disappointed. I have a buddy who has both the Switchman and a Reference 2 Mk II and he uses the ARC for two-channel stereo as he feels it betters the Switchman in most regards. So maybe you're onto something. Maybe once you're hooked on an ARC preamp, others just lack that certain something. Give the MP1 a whirl and let me know what you think....Jeff Fritz

How many surround channels?

February 2, 2005

To Jeff Fritz,

I just read your excellent article on surround-sound speaker placement. I am having a house built in Arizona and trying to decide how many rear surround-sound channels for which to pre-wire. A 5.1 system seems like the popular choice, but most new receivers are 6.1 or 7.1. Are the two rears (5.1) enough or should I add a rear center-channel? I think the two rear center-channels are overkill, especially since there is not much being recorded in true seven-channel sound.

Just as your article mentioned, I would also like to use two old but factory-rebuilt ESS Tempest LS-4 floorstanding speakers as the front left and right. They sound great, but are 6-ohm speakers. Will I have trouble finding other speakers (center and rears) to match? I thought the Klipsch RB-25 speakers I just heard sounded good and similar to my ESS. Any thoughts on using ESS with the Klipsch?

Also, what do I do with my 35-year-old McIntosh amp, preamp and tuner? I most likely will be buying a Yamaha V750 A/V receiver.

Ken Miller

If you're going to be installing cable inside the walls anyway, go ahead and wire for 7.1 sound. It's good insurance for future upgrades, and at the stage you're at, the project will never be easier or cheaper. When you go to buy speakers, by all means start with a basic 5.1 system. Since you'll be pre-wired for more, you can always go back and add additional channels later if the need arises. My guess is that it won't.

As for speaker brands, Klipsch makes a good product. If they sound similar to the front speakers you already have, that's a bonus. If you've heard 'em and liked 'em, buy 'em and don't look back. As for the McIntosh gear, you can definitely use that amp and the tuner. Simply connect the amplifier to the preamp outputs of the Yamaha and use the Mac to power your main speakers. The tuner will connect to any of the stereo inputs on the Yamaha. The preamp, however, isn't really usable, but I'm sure someone on eBay would love to see it come up for auction!...Jeff Fritz


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