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Your space to participate, comment and critique. Email srajan @ 6moons.com to submit your entry.

what happened to the ZMF headphone review? I saw it announced in the preview section but it seems to have disappeared.
Matthias Baston

It has. Since the loaners hadn't shipped yet, I opted out. Zach was 40 days behind but got decidedly turned off when asked why he hadn't kept me in the loop about his delays. Apparently a non-paying reviewer deserves no such correspondence from ZMF. Of course that made me wonder how readers might be treated. I understand all about small businesses encountering delays. My issue were the excuses for not communicating them. With direct sellers, open communications about order status are vital. So it seemed best to step away.
Hello Srajan,
I will receive my Gryphon Diablo 250 amp next week and I'm skeptical about the DAC to choose for listening on my PC. I currently have high-performance horns from exclusive GKF. I thought I might add an Audiog-d R2R DAC to compensate for the brightness of my HP compression. I do not have too much financial means to devote to this so could you give me some tracks to get an expressive but warm sound!
Patrick Dufour

I'm not sure why you didn't order the Diablo 250 with its own DAC module? If you trust the Danes with their amplification tech, why not their digital?
I've not heard the Audiog-d but M&H obviously reviewed it. My favourite DAC at that price would be the Denafrips Terminator.
have followed your advice for over a decade. Do you think the jump from the Hex to the Terminator is a worthwhile upgrade?
All the best,

I do. With closely price-matched digital, I'd usually say no but the Terminator is a different matter. If the price still is what it was when I reviewed it, then yes, it'll be a very worthwhile step up. I'm still contemplating one myself but this last move has applied many resources elsewhere so it won't be happening any time soon.

Thank you. I was going to anyway :) Its nice to have you as a backboard and knowing your taste over the years. What will be fun is that I run an inexpensive but well-built Audio-GD USB converter in both my systems that outputs I2S and I could not believe how much the Audio-GD dac loved that input via Cat5. interesting to see if the Denafrips is the same.
All the best,

Do let me know how you get one once the terminatering starts -:)
The pictures of your new listening room raise the question yet again. What about the cleaning lady? And guests blindly tripping over everything to get at the picture window? This is The Problem I Couldn't Solve. Have a nice Sunday.
Michele from Rome

With so many more windows in da crib, blocking one set really didn't factor. And what cleaning lady? That'll be me with the vacuum, sir -:)

So it isn't Ivette. Good for you both, I say.

My work space, my job to keep it tidy.
Dear Srajan,
I hope the efforts of the move have ebbed down a bit. Thank you for sharing your new space, not so much to satisfy the voyeuristic tendencies but as you rightly put it, to better understand what and how your are hearing. The general context of how and why is unfortunately still missing in many reviews/reviewers which makes the findings (if there are any at all to be had) and judgement less tangible for oneself. I use the opportunity of my recent move to reassess the various pieces of equipment (but also some fundamental assumptions and basics) that came together over the years to form the stereo as it stands today. A question on your new room. As only 2 ASI resonators can be (easily?) seen, did you reduce the usage of those?

As a kind of correction, I have seen now the 3rd resonator.

Actually, I currently use six. There's one high above the subwoofer on the ceiling ridge; one on the sub; two on the side window boxes; and two in the lower front corners. The latter are hidden inside tea-light fragrance dispensers since our lounge leopards Nori and Chai Baba love to otherwise bump the shiny resonators off their perches and play football with them all through the house. This way they can't see them and so far, so good -:)

And yes, having a clear sense for a reviewer's space is mandatory to relate to their findings. It was great to recently see Stereophile start doing video visits to their writers. But too many publications still fail to provide this most basic information. Hopefully that will change and readers can certainly do their part by asking for it. If a reviewer can't show us his space, it's either an unpresentable mess; or far too small to do justice to the kind of speakers he/she is known to review. Now showing the reality would end the illusion and undermine credibility. It's why we have had room photos since day one. They're essential data.
Hello Srajan,
That's a stunningly new gorgeous place. Enjoy! We moved in July and have two nice bright listening rooms now but they ain't like yours!I envy that long open space. And that fireplace! I have a friend with a setup almost exactly like yours, in a long limestone-walled townhouse dating from the 1850s with a kitchen at one end. He likes to play it loud and work in the kitchen. He gets the air pressurized but spares his eardrums. And when he wants nearer-field at sane volumes, he does that. 2 for 1.
Happy New Year,

A long space indeed allows for that. It's now the third place of this type we've been in and there's really something to be said for not having the usual rear wall close by. I don't think high gabled ceilings per se are necessarily that beneficial as they will create longer reflection paths but the geometry of this particular one plus the added exposed beams really do work very well. Dumb luck, that.
Dear Mr. Ebean,
I am Paolo Verzegnassi from Italy again. I am sorry to disturb but I only should ask a question. I would like to build an audio system that has as main feature dynamics (P.R.a T.). I often have read that you divide dacs into two categories. One of them is P.R.a T. Well, my question is this: In your experience, which is the best dac in this category without forgetting that the component has not just this quality?" Then it is my intention to add an integrated amplifier and mid-high sensitivity speakers that can keep the P.R.a T. factor high. Thank you.
Kind regards
Paolo Verzegnassi

The Gryphon Kalliope would top my list on that score. At lower prices, I very much fancy the Aqua Hifi and Metrum R2R machines.
Hi Srajan,
I read your review of the Denafrips Terminator and found it very interesting indeed. For a DAC to equal, or almost equal, Aqua's Formula DAC for 1/4th of the cost is some achievement. Unfortunately, I can't audition it because I live in Scotland but I'm seriously contemplating purchasing one based on your review. Can I ask, what one quality apart from its outstanding value, impressed you most about it? My system comprises: high end Marantz SACDP, Rega DAC, high end Marantz preamp, Meridian 557 power amp and a pair of PMC OB1i speakers. The system can best be described as being on the warm side of neutral with good resolution, separation and staging. Based on this info, could you please give me your thoughts on whether the Terminator would be a worthwhile addition?
Best regards,
John Fraser

If all my review talked about was the Terminator's good value, it would have been a rather short review. Anything else I had to say about it sonically is in there already so just gauge what you're trying to achieve against what I wrote and voilà.
Hello Srajan!
I've been reading a lot of your reviews and while I was on the one about the Matrix X Sabre Pro, I've found some statements that make the point about something I've never known how to explain! I have always been looking for what I've found to be defined as attack, transient attack and as you've defined, "crispy edge midrange". So here is my question: how do you think this characteristic interfaces and interacts with the definitions of a warm sound vs cold sound....and also what about the correlation with these same definitions with a sound which has less or more harmonics and detail?

I mean a sound with good transient attack like 'grainy' textured midrange (in a good sense) and that 'pops' almost scratchy but that I prefer....it's like having drier mids....but I perceive more presence at the same time.....what I do not get is that what is usually defined as a warmer sound had all of these things rounded off a bit like some saturation effect with softer edges (like the Sabre I've had on demo which wasn't the sound I was looking for). So does what I mean go in a 'colder' sound direction? I really need to make this clear because no one seems to get what I am looking for when I buy new stuff. Especially on the net I've made a lot of mistakes getting the wrong equipment!

The same goes for detail and harmonics. Can they coexist with all of this or is it something where one excludes the other? Is there a price to pay so that to get a sound with edge and attack you have to go toward a cold setting or is there something I'm missing? What drew me away from the path is that I was choosing between two different amps and the softer/rounder one defined by the other as warmer to me it was more distant while the one with good midrange edge was felt more present to me and even more analog if this definition is right. So is that edge in the end considered as more midrange detail? You are so right I wish I'd have read this review earlier. The balance of a system is so sensitive that even a small change can bring it in a totally different direction. Thanks in advance and I hope your experience can help me with this matter where 99% don't even get my question!
Sorry for my English!

First off and most importantly, trust your own ears and don't worry over what to call your preference. Warm, cold, quick, slow... those are just labels needed to communicate with others. When you listen to your hifi, there are no others, just you and the music. And... to communicate, words are needed and then it's important to know how to explain what you're looking for in a way others comprehend. So I can appreciate your difficulty.

To me, your 'quest' hits on a key point of system voicing. It's deciding where on the axis of fast/slow and dry/warm to set the needle. To me warmth implies a small amount of fuzziness and softness like the famous 'soft focus' which movie directors apply to close-ups of their leading lady. In sonic terms, it means feeling further away from the musicians so that the acoustics of the venue begin to dominate. An extreme example would be a church or cathedral with an echo that lasts for seconds. Every acoustic has an echo but it's much much shorter so we don't call it echo. But it's the same thing. Sounds overhang a bit and it's always a natural effect of moving away from the sound sources. The sound becomes warmer, softer, more mixed and reverberant. Standing close to the stage where the music happens means predominantly direct sound. That is fast and can bite by being sharper. It has very little or no 'echo' mixed in.

Many recordings stick microphones very close to the players - within inches of a guitar's fret board, practically down the throat of a singer. That proximity far exceeds where our ears would ever be in a live concert even if we stood as close to the stage as security allowed. So the recording itself will be extremely direct, possibly even 'in your face'. To tone that down, many audiophiles dial their system towards something warmer, softer and slightly blurrier to arrive at, by compensation, to where they perceive 'real' or 'more natural' to be. By the same token, some concert goers always buy first row centre seats, others prefer third row balcony. You're clearly a 'first row' listener so you're looking for more speed, immediacy, presence, directness and possible bite/edge when that's on the recording. To really come off requires not just the proper amp (in my book, ideally one that's wide bandwidth and direct-coupled to avoid signal-path capacitors) but a speaker that doesn't confuse the time domain; and whose cabinet isn't so active that it injects its own soft focus from box talk.

As to harmonics, I tend to prefer amps with less feedback and fewer gain stages. It seems that as the number of gain stages increase and global feedback grows, the sound gets drier and more damped. So if I were you, I'd tell people that you're looking for a fast yet simple transistor amp with low feedback and bandwidth to 200kHz. And obviously, none of this is about right or wrong. It's simply about a personal preference and understanding that you're dealing with opposites where, ultimately, one precludes the other. An ultimately fast dry damped sound will be very crisp, clear, possibly bright and very detailed. An ultimately warm sound will be thick, rich, heavy, slow and also muddy, foggy and confused. So now it's simply a matter of figuring out where between those two polarities you like your sound the best. Then words stop to matter and the sound is just what it is and who the hell cares what someone else calls it.

...."and who the hell cares what someone else calls it" hahahaha that was great! Thank you soo much for your reply. It really was professional without going into the hyper technical. It made everything more clear to me but there's just one final thing: in short,.if a specific amp behaves like you've described because of its circuitry design, it usually does it across the whole freq range?Because I have three different experiences:
1 an h/kardon with that dry front-row sound but slow and muddy bass
2 a weird Musical Fidelity which has powerful but muffled bass, a rounded midrange but a too open harsh treble (and this was the amp which got me confused about the whole subject. How would you define this sound? I mean does it get marked as warm on the midbass and mids and cold on the tweeters? How can this weird overall balance happen?
3 some Nordost Red Dawn speaker cables which brings you to the front row as you've described because they project music more in your face, talking about space much more present... but the sound is again more rounded and less dry like if you were listening from "third row balcony" as you've described! Again it's a weird mix which brings me off the path! In this case I was demoing with a Naim Supernait2 which sounded right to me but just swapping the power cable with Red Dawn had this effect).
4 last but not least how would you describe an analog sound?

Anyways thank you again for your patience and your feedback. Sorry to bother you again but you're saving my life just in time before I get neurotic so I can save money for hifi rather than doctors and medicines !

You're forgetting that the amp and speakers make an interactive pairing. The speakers are 'reactive' in that their behaviour tends to influence the amp so a proper match is important. Loose woolly bass can be the result of insufficient power and/or damping or a room interaction, particularly with ported speakers. A 'fast' amp will put more demands on the tweeters. Unless of proper quality, those can get a bit shrill and strident. And as you've noted, certain cables can change the sound a lot too and Nordost in general tends to fall into the fast lean camp. It's impossible to predict with certainty how things will combine but in sequence of dominance on the sound, it's the room first, then how the speakers play the room (also depends on good setup) and how the amp controls the speakers. Preamp and source are further down the list. Cables can make big changes, sometimes more than the preamp and source. Most of us can't do anything about the room. So it becomes vitally important to select a speaker that's not too much for the room (overloads it with bass); and which can be located to perform optimally (hardly ever close to the wall or in the corners). If you go with an active speaker, you tend to start out far closer to your ideal sound and then certain adjustments on the speakers can fine-tine things further. That route eliminates the amp/speaker uncertainty and cable dependence (you'll still need to feed those speakers a source but that cable, unless you go Wifi, will be quite marginal in impact). Active speakers to check out would be by Audio Engine and KEF. As far as analog sound, I wouldn't worry about it. Even the 'experts' can't agree on what it is. It's just another label. Sound is sound. You either like the flavour or you don't. Cross 'analog' off your list of things to worry about and just consider the sound in terms of a pleasing tonal balance where nothing jumps out or is texturally different; and where the perspective (close-up or distant, fast/direct or warm/distant) is to your liking.
I own an Auraliti PK90 USB file player that I purchased new when it first came out. I have read your reviews on both the Auraliti (October 2015) and your recent review of the SOtM SMS 200 Ultra (November 2017). I am considering replacing the Auraliti with the SOtM but I was wondering, since you have heard both, what your thoughts were. The interfaces don't matter to me. It's just the sound improvement, if any. I'm trying to avoid a sideways move here that only costs me money. Is the PK90 close enough to the SOtM that I should keep it and wait a while longer? I use LPS on the Auraliti and would also use it on the SOtM.
Thank you,
John Koestner

The writer who heard both is Frederic Beudot on staff. I never heard or reviewed an Auraliti so couldn't help. You can reach Frederic at frederic at 6moons.com. I own the site but far from every review we publish is written by me -:)

Does the fact that I did not buy the SOtM and still run the Auraliti answer your question? I actually find the Auraliti to have a slightly more organic sound, more fluid and broader, deeper imaging. The SOtM is more precise but also a bit colder. All in all they are very close and I slightly preferred the Auraliti so no reason for me to invest. If you do not own the linear power supply for the PK90, that’s a much bigger improvement than changing file player. Of course if interface matters, then it is checkmate in favor of the SOtM but since you say it is not a decision factor for you (in which case you are like me), then save your $.
Hope that helps

Thank you so much for answering. It makes me very happy to know that every once in a while I may have a question and you guys are willing to respond individually to fellow hobbyists. Now I can relax about the digital for a while as I am also considering a PS Audio P10 Regenerator.
Thanks again,
John Koestner