[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
April 2005


Jasmine integrated?

April 28, 2005


I saw the Jasmine integrated amplifier featured in your show report, but I have been unable to obtain any further information about it online. Does the manufacturer have a website? Do you know any dealers in my area (Long Island, New York)?

Joe Cambareri

The distributor for the Jasmine EL34 integrated is Fixaudio. You can find contact information at www.fixaudio.net....Marc Mickelson

"Red Book done right is better than SACD"

April 27, 2005


Glad to see you're finally moving over to prefer Red Book CD playback (I'm referring to your review of the Zanden Model 2000 Premium transport). Red Book done right is better than SACD. One reason you and so many others were suffering was due to the disc itself. It is now an accepted technique that ripping the bits off a CD to a hard disk drive, then burning those to a CD-R will give better (sometimes much better) results. Some products to consider are RealityCheck and Exact Audio Copy -- the latter being software, while the former being an all-in-one product. Mobile Fidelity now makes "audiophile" CD-Rs -- these are preferred over mass-market ones.

Another (totally different) idea is to use a transformer-based passive line controller (TLC) as a preamp. These will help any digital system -- Red Book or not. Apparently, an active linestage is not the best "buffer" for digital sources. Products here include Sonic Euphoria and AVTAC. Try 'em!

John Harnick

I've been all digital for over a dozen years, and while I still believe in the superiority of SACD, CDs played on the Zanden Model 2000 Premium transport/ Model 5000 Signature DAC combo are certainly SACD's equal in effect. Jim Saxon has written about Exact Audio Copy on our SoundStage! A/V site, but I've been too busy to experiment with it. Ross Mantle has written about the AVTAC Pasiphae on Ultra Audio. I'll have to make some time to look into both of these products....Marc Mickelson

Thanks, and a question

April 25, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

I have read a number of your reviews and found them very helpful in my search for my ideal speaker. Your reviews have given me insight into various speakers and allowed me to either focus on certain models or rule them out. Obviously, speakers sound different to each individual, and one person's tastes are not the same as another's. However, it is not possible for me to audition every speaker. There are so many and there is not always a dealer available nearby. Also, for a relative novice, there is a bit of guesswork involved, as speakers may well sound different in the showroom than at home. So thank you for your great reviews.

So far I have listened to Paradigm Reference Studio 20; B&W 303, 600, 601 and 602; KEF Q1; Krix KDX-M; and some other Australian-made units.

I recently heard a pair of KEF XQ1 speakers, and while I didn't have the time to take a long listen, they sounded terrific. I will return for a more detailed audition, but I was wondering if you have reviewed this speaker.

Justin Knott

Although I can't speak for all publications I can let you know that KEF has never contacted us about reviewing the XQ1 or any other speaker models. If they did, we'd surely line one up and most likely measure it, too....Doug Schneider

MB Quart in US?

April 21, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

Can the MB Quart Vera VS 1F speakers that you reviewed be bought in the US?

Roy McDaniel

MB Quart speakers are available in the US -- that's where the review pair came from -- but I'm just not sure where. However, if you look up Rockford Corporation, you will see that they are the parent company behind MB Quart as well as a number of other well-known brands and they're headquartered in Arizona. My suggestion would be to phone or e-mail the company and talk to an MB Quart representative, who should be able to direct you to a dealer. While that might seem like a lot of work just to find the speakers, your effort will be rewarded. The Vera VS 1F speakers are fabulous and currently one of the best-kept secrets in audio....Doug Schneider

Made in China means...?

April 18, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

I read your review of the DK Design Group VS.1
Reference Mk II integrated amplifier
and found the product very interesting, but not in a good way. DK Design Group's amplifier is a rebranded model from China, by a Chinese company called CAV Audio. You can see some of this company's similar offerings here and here. I took a good physical look at both the DK Design Group product and CAV's line, and found the LED display dial and rounded metal remote to be identical, and same for the chassis.

Also, although DK Design Group lists many products on their website, this amplifier is apparently the only one that exists in physical form. Every other "product" is a computer-graphics picture, some of which look laughably impractical.

Here's the kicker. Look at the supposed "factory" pictures. Pay close attention to the workbench, equipment and background. They are all typical of a Chinese factory. In one shot, you can also see a Chinese-style wall socket and plug. There is also the rusty, old truck used to ship the final products -- the rear doors and hinges are obviously not up to US specs.

Obviously there is nothing wrong with building products in China, but to rebrand an existing product from China and claim that it "outperforms similar models from Mark Levinson and Krell" is disingenuous to say the least.

B. Chow

You raise many points, and I'll try to address the relevant ones and perhaps give some perspective on the audio industry today.

First, to quote a famous line from one of my favorite movies, DK Design Group's Reference Reference VS.1 Mk. II integrated amplifier "...is what it is," regardless of who designed it and what country it came from. In my review, I pointed out that at its price, $2995, the VS.1 offers exceptional value based on its build quality and performance. I believed this then, and I believe it now.

As for DK Design Group simply "rebranding," that means taking an existing product and simply slapping a logo on it and selling it as an original product. Whether the Chinese-based CAV company you point out makes the VS.1 or not, I have no idea. I agree, though, that the products look similar -- but nothing is close to identical to the VS.1, so this situation wouldn't fit the definition of rebranding. Perhaps yours is different. And although my review never said that VS.1 outperformed models from Levinson or Krell -- I only mentioned that the VS.1 weighed about twice as much as Krell's similarly priced integrated and that the VS.1 looked somewhat "Levinson-esque."

Finally, on the one hand you say "there is nothing wrong with building products in China," but on the other hand you give a slap in the face to any product that might be built there. What you might not be aware of is just how many products today are being built in China for numerous North American-based companies, as well as others around the world. Recently I was at an audio show in Montreal and I walked into the room of two very well-known British-based brand names. The electronics are all now being manufactured in China, and according to the distributor for the speakers, the cabinets are right now being manufactured in China, and soon the drivers will be too, although he believes the set in the pair on display were still British-sourced. Honestly, these days, it's getting tougher and tougher to find out where anything is coming from....Doug Schneider

Vasant_K and Energy

April 15, 2005

To Jason Thorpe,

I recently read your review of Vasant_K / Energy C-3 combo. I am very close to going with your recommendation. Before pulling the trigger, I'd like to ask you a few questions.

Have you tried other sources and/or cables? How much difference would different source/cables make? Or do you believe that in order to achieve the best sonic outcome, I should stick to your choices? I have no experience with neither the source nor the cables in the setup you tested.

Robert Jen

I'd imagine that any good-quality digital source would sound great through the combination of the Vasant_K integrated and the Energy C-3 speakers. The Meitner Bidat that I used has a slightly dark sound, but not overly so. I currently have the excellent Benchmark DAC1 in-house, and I would be very surprised if it didn't fit in perfectly with the system you describe, both sonically and financially. As far as cables go, any of Analysis Plus's less costly cables would work just fine.

As I see it, you have a no-lose proposition. The C-3s are wonderful speakers that are very inexpensive, and the Vasant_K has a money-back guarantee....Jason Thorpe

Gallo Reference 3?

April 14, 2005


I know this is quite an off-beat question, but I'll take my chance. I was wondering if you have any plans of reviewing the Gallo Reference 3 speakers. I am very interested in measurements of these speakers -- by any means.

Many thanks in advance. Please receive my best regards and congratulations for the thorough reviews and solid equipment evaluations you perform.

Dr. Florian-Daniel Otel

We have talked with Gallo about reviewing and measuring the Reference 3 a few times, but we have not received any word from them that they will send us speakers. At this point, it doesn't look like you will see a review of the Reference 3 from us. However, we will keep trying....Marc Mickelson

What about the Brits?

April 13, 2005


I believe Britain knocks out some decent stuff, but none of it seems to appear in your coverage. Do you not consider dCS, Naim and Linn worthy of comment? From my brief excursions in to high-end-audio world, I would say it sounds very different to North American products -- not better or worse, just different. I also have to say that dCS is in my humble opinion far superior to the equipment you rate so highly in the digital world. Maybe you do cover it, but my lack of attention to detail has caused me to miss it!

John Steel

We cover what we are able to procure for review. We've had no luck getting dCS or Naim gear for evaluation, and no recent luck with Linn, although we have reviewed a fair number of Linn products in the past. We will keep trying, however....Marc Mickelson

Recommended components?

April 11, 2005


Why don't you have a "Recommended components" guide?

John Harnick

We do! See www.reviewerschoice.com. This will be revamped very soon to include a listing of every current product that we've named a Reviewers' Choice....Marc Mickelson


April 8, 2005


I have just read your review the Audio Research CD3 Mk II CD player. In it, you state that ''SACD is still the best thing that digital currently has going for it." I do not pretend that your statement is wrong, but I am not sure that it is right either. I have a universal player, a few DVD-As and SACDs, and a ton of CDs. With a few exceptions, SACD and DVD-A have much higher resolution than CD. On the other hand, my best DVD-A sounds better than my best SACD. Try Diana Krall's When I Look in Your Eyes or The Look of Love, or Santana's Supernatural on DVD-A. I have some good SACDs, but none that sound better than these DVD-As.

I believe more in the superiority of the recording engineers than of the format itself. Yes, even some CDs are superior to SACDs and DVD-As. I find that the sound of the Dark Side of the Moon SACD is only marginally better than that of the CD and far inferior to the DVD-A titles that I mentioned.

The problem with DVD-A and SACD is not only production, but also distribution. There are very few stores that sell SACDs and DVD-As in Canada. I suppose the situation is the same in US. There are a good number of universal players on the market, plus some DVD players that support either DVD-A or SACD. If companies put enough software in the stores, it will sell.

Hugues Ouimet

"Please rank..."

April 7, 2005

To Doug Schneider,

I know you can't reply to all e-mail, and if this message is ignored, I'll understand. However, could you please rank these speakers on a 10-point-must scale (ignore price -- the "best" speaker must receive 10 points with the others following).

Please rank the following speakers: Focus Audio FS-688, Paradigm Reference Signature S2, Von Schweikert VR-1, and (if possible) the B&W N805 and PMC TB2. Remember, rank purely on how they sound.

John Wynsen

It's hard for the reviewer in me to rank speakers and not consider price. The Paradigm Signature S2 is about two-thirds the price of the Focus FS-688, and the Von Schweikert VR-1 is about one-half the price of the S2 and one-third the price of the FS-688. Nevertheless, I guess you're looking at it on an absolute scale and as if cost were no object.

I don't know the B&W and PMC models, so I have no comment on those. I rank the S2 and the FS-688 as equals -- they're both beautifully built, strikingly styled, and they sound fantastic, although they don't both sound identical. Under the rules outlined above, I guess both of these would get a 10. The VR-1 has a nice real-wood cabinet, but doesn't have the impressive-looking veneers that that the Paradigm and Focus speakers have, and it doesn't have a super-shiny, high-gloss lacquer finish. Sonically, it's cut from the same cloth as the Paradigm and Focus speakers. Still, it lacks the subtle refinement that the S2 and FS-688 both possess. It's one of those speakers that gets you most of the way there but at a fraction of the cost. The number that jumps to mind is an 8. If you consider all the rankings, you can see why I think so highly of all three speakers....Doug Schneider

CD3 Mk II confusion

April 5, 2005


I am currently reading your review of the Audio Research CD3 Mk II. You state, "The CD3 Mk II captures the differences, even showing mastery of the hybrid SACD's high-rez nature" in regard to the Bob Dylan hybrid disc you mention. How were you able to play an SACD on the CD3 Mk II? I thought this unit was a CD-only player. What am I missing? I see that this disc is a hybrid SACD, but if you played the CD layer on the CD3 Mk II, how are you able to make a statement regarding the "high-rez nature"? I'm confused.

Greg Morris

A very good question caused by some imprecise writing. I used an Esoteric X-01 along with the CD3 Mk II, and that's how I played the SACD layer of the Dylan hybrid release. I compared the SACD and CD layers with the X-01 to the CD layer played on the CD3 Mk II. I hope that clears it up....Marc Mickelson


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