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I wish I had the “audio language” to properly describe what I’m hearing with the Phy drivers. It’s like I can now tell when performers are smiling at each other during interplay, or actually see them “dig in” to their instruments during moments of excitement, etc. These things really communicate. They are unique in their ability to relax you (physically and mentally) while providing you with such a coherent reproduction of whatever you are listening to. They do not make bad recordings great, but they certainly go a long way in allowing any recording, regardless of pedigree, to be at least interesting.

There is something fundamentally right about music reproduced in proper phase, without smearing. All performers become “grounded” rather than some ethereal facsimile of a human being floating between your speakers. Music has color and dimension. This phase phenomenon is similar to the improvements one hears with single ended circuits, and non- oversampling, filterless DAC technology. The Phys take these designs to the next level. The drivers are not immediately exciting like a Lowther, but they are also not fatiguing. The more you listen, the more you realize that all of the info is there, but not shoved in your face. The info that IS there, is full of natural color. Speed is not hyped. Tone is king. I’m seriously digging these things. I might order the Auris cabinets. I’m that enamored. I have not had my shoulders relax while simultaneously being so incredibly enthralled buy my system ever. They are certainly for music lovers and not the average audiophile. They are so not about depth, soundstage, subterranean bass, blah, blah, blah. The bas they deliver is sooo natural and real. They do image and do portray normal audiophile assets, but the priority of those things are placed in their proper order. Tone, rhythm, timing, nuance, emotion all come first, as they do in real life.

Chris Keating

Thank you for the window into Takeda San's Miyabi. It's gratifying to see how far the 'art' in the art of science can go. You also made some assertions involving your views of current political affairs. Thank you. It seems that discussion of those things that most effect our daily lives, i.e. the structure and politics of our society, have become taboo of late. Considering one of the primary ills that led to the American Revolution was the inability to meet and discuss, it seems odd that whenever someone has an opinion other than those trumpeted by our leaders, (who seem hopelessly cobbled by the business of politics) that they are held to ridicule.

I can only speak on those places I have some experience but most Western European countries discuss their politics fervently. The same is true in many South American countries. When sitting in a diner and grabbing some coffee, woe is he who isn't up on the politics of the day because they will be taken apart by those around you and debated. I'm unsure how this fell out of favor in the though passionate informed opinions for elements of our society are in poor taste. They are what made us.

Historically, those Americans viewed as great patriots are the ones who stood up and gave an opinion when it wasn't popular. It should be OK to differ, to disagree. Good men have paid for that privilege with their lives. One could say it is a responsibility of citizenship to speak out, lest you have little ground to complain when things turn.

Your assertion in that one sentence made me think of a couple of quotes from our leaders:
Thomas Jefferson: "I hope we shall crush in its birth the moneyed corporations, which dare already challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

On November 21, 1864 toward the end of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter to Colonel William F. Elkins. In it he wrote, "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned, and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war."

Perhaps somewhere in these are clues to your concerns. I'm unsure, but certainly glad it can be discussed openly.

Thanks again,
Fred Crane
Dear Srajan

Given the ecstatic consumer feedback on Audio Circle, I'm looking forward to your review of this Red Wine Audio amp. Particularly interesting is that you will be comparing it to the Bel Canto 300, bearing in mind that BC elbowed the Tripath chip in favour of the ICEPower. Does Vinnie's implementation, and in particular the battery PS, put the Tripath back on top?

If this amp is as good as some have said, then please test the limit of its capabilities on speakers that have unfriendly impedance curves and that are insensitive - my own Quad 989s for example dip down to 4 ohms and are 86dB.


Will do. My most "unfriendly" speakers are the Gallo Ref 3.1s - 88dB, 4-ohm woofer. That's not remotely a worst-scase scenario but it's all I got.


Dear Srajan,

Just a couple of quick lines regarding the perceived superiority of EAC'd copies versus the original.

I came across this purely by accident. I had copied "3 EPs" by the Beta Band, using EAC and couldn't believe my ears when the copy blew away the original, hands down. The occasionally strident top end had gone and the musical image seemed to extend further out beyond the speakers. It was simply less fatiguing to listen to.

I worked in the industry for some years in the UK and have seen the bullshit fly thick and fast. There are, however, times when the ears don't lie. My system is not a high end rig by any stretch of the imagination, but the gains are patently obvious to me.

6moons is simply light years ahead of the rest of the audio media out there. It's a pleasure to read.

Best wishes to you and all your contributors
Mike McOwan
" I watch my own homeland being destroyed by a capitalist aristocracy that's bent on imperialistic conquest of weak and humble lands..." - Jeff Day

This goes beyond merely irresponsible ... this is reprehensible - not to mention ignorant and just plain stupid. Did you just feel that strange "shrinking" sensation? Yeah, that was your readership.

Steve Harmon
(husband, father, grandfather, software engineer, audiophile)

Jeff's e-mail is -:)

In general, I try to keep our commentaries free of politics. In this case and because it tied into the Genji opening, I left it in. I would say then that everybody is entitled to an opinion and that those who react with "plain stupid, reprehensible and merely irresponsible" ought to know that someone else, somewhere, will view their opinion exactly the same.


You are cited overtly on the Overkill Audio site in a product review. Please be aware that this company does not pay their bills. I would be wary of them using your name and review on their website because it could cause your site to look bad in the future. If Overkill Audio is this dishonest to their suppliers, then it is reasonable that they can be as dishonest to their customers in the future.

Brian O'Neill
US Enclosure

This is the second unsolicited e-mail to similar effect I've received this week. The last was from a customer who had paid for a replacement of a blown Overkill Audio woofer but never received the new driver. Attempting to contact the company for comments, my e-mails bounce back. As I've learned since, Derek Wilson was in the hospital for complications from a heart attack and faces surgery again later this year. He had to put all of his belongings in temporary storage and to date (6/21), doesn't yet have broadband access to capture previous Overkill Audio e-mail. He can, however, be reached via his wife's e-mail at until his connection goes back up. We're sorry to hear of these complications and wish Derek and Petra all the best.


Dear SE,

Love the website. You have singlehandlely returned the art of audio reviewing away from magazine ad copy back to where it really belongs - trying to articulate the sound of a component without reference to politics and ad dollars. Keep up the good work. Additonally, please scale back on the previews and teasers. I can't wait for the full reviews. Get that Red Wine review up asap (lol).

Doug Milch

But I can't help myself -:)


Dear Srajan,

Just discovered your site and boy is it good! I have owned a Garrard 301 for 15 years after buying it from a friend for £50 in almost perfect condition with all the paperwork. It had been in his loft for 10 years after he had taken it out of his hifi console. It was mounted on a piece of 1/8" ply! He didn't want it as he was going digital. It takes all sorts!

I made my own plinth from stuff in my wood store which inevitably was an MDF-shaped inner plinth cased in Oak and resting on short spikes. The latest incarnation is fitted with a Rega RB1000 and Ortofon Kontrapunkt B. Your article on plinths has galvanized me into action to do a better job as the old original DIY unit does sound a bit recessed in the treble region, I guess due to the MDF.

I do have the capability to build a solid wood two part plinth and will do so asap. I have made a base for the 301 to sit on after some experiments, consisting of a 50x500x400 mm concrete flagstone encased in solid ash exept for the underside which has matching feet 80x50x30 mm.stuck on with adhesive. This improved bass tightness and power and cost me almost nothing.

Another tip about correct speed I use is to glue a small piece of magnetic strip to the end of the eddy current brake arm. Differing amounts of strip will give different speed adjustments, experiment to find which amount gives a good central setting for the speed knob - again, free and quick.

I will keep you posted on progress as it develops. Thanks for talking my language by the way. I work in a hifi shop and they all think I'm a bit potty/eccentric but none of the other staffers use vinyl let alone own a 301. Say no more.

Regards ,
Alan Lovelady

Jeff Day at is responsible for that series of articles and you may want to exchange e-mails with him about his latest findings as he's collecting feedback from the field to include in his next installment. You may also want to reference the Shindo Labs and Loricraft websites for their takes on Garrard plinthification.


Srajan -

If you have not already, I hope you can find the time to read -- and publicly comment -- on the essay by recording engineer Bob Speer entititled “What Happened To Dynamic Range?” The number “0 for 267” is the most distressing I have read in the 50-plus years I have spent chasing high fidelity. And I finally understand that my ears are not mistaken: What I have been hearing the past few years from contemporary recordings is not music, but as Speer puts it, distortion with a beat. Combined with Lynn Olsen’s comments on the inherent, woeful shortcomings of the CD (as expressed in Positive Feedback articles, first regarding SACD and then in his review of the Monarchy DAC), there is little reason to spend thousands of dollars on equipment capable of extraordinary resolution of the slightest electrical nuance. It is an exercise in impotence. There is no nuance there to begin with.

Despite the dynamic range limitations of vinyl compared to the promise of digital recording on CD, I now know why one can hear music more faithfully reproduced on analog vinyl produced from master tapes. In fact, I’m beginning to think iconoclast Clark Johnsen is right, we would be better served listening to 78s of the ‘30s.

At any rate, as you have have listened to 1000s of Cds over the past few years looking for intense emotional connections and relying on absolutely state-of-the-art equipment, I would very much hope that you will weigh in on this topic. If Speer is right—and 0 for 267 seems to strongly support his position—then it is time for influential voices to speak out. With as much dynamic range as possible.

R. A. McCormack

It doesn't take fancy equipment to know that's true. Anyone who has a CD recorder and watched the record signal meter deflect already knows that to get 3 bars of 3dB each to flicker is about the limit on most stuff. Don't take that number completely literal as we have to account for the meter's sensitivity and calibration. But the upshot is simple. Don't worry about macrodynamics but rather, microdynamics. Ask how many intermediate loudness points your system can resolve between the highest and lowest. Hence my personal preference for high-efficiency speakers. They tend to be responsive enough to reveal very small changes in amplitude, to convey as much ripples in the water as possible, even if their peaks (dynamic range) aren't as high as you'd like from the CD medium.



1st, 6moons is my favorite review source on the planet and you're my personal favorite reviewer. Components I have bought largely based on your opinions (auditioning is rarely possible) over the last couple years include:

  • Gallo Ref 3s
  • MiniMax CDP
  • AT headphones
  • Zu Druid
  • Onix SP3

Anyway, so, now that I've buttered you up, I have a simple and direct question that I would love your opinion on: Would the F3 be suitable to drive the Gallos, assuming I don't need volume higher than 85dB, that I'm bi-amping the 2nd voicecoils, and that I'm using an active (tube) preamp? Since you own both components, and are the smartest audio guy in the world, I think you must have the definitive answer on this question.

I have no experience with low-power SS amps so I just don't know. I was a hair's breadth away from buying a pair of 845 SET monoblocks (Consonance) until I read your review of the F3.

I'm looking for SET sound, indeed - that incredible 3D soundstaging and minute detail retrieval (the non-fatiguing kind, that is).

I currently power the Gallos with AES Six Pacs, which are some good juice, but since hearing a good SET amp for the first time I know I want to go that route. OR, a nifty little super-simple new sand amp that sounds just as good – or better (no distortion).

I will try this amp only if I'm convinced I'll give up *nothing* in terms of that you-are-there SET presence. Do you think so?

A heartfelt thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Paul Folbrecht

Under the conditions described above, an unqualified, unhesitant "Yes!" I've run my Ref 3.1s off the F3 without dedicated bass amp and at levels higher than that (with a passive pre). I was tickled enough to pen a little follow-up to suggest not to write off the F3 for its 15wpc power rating if you're not sure how much output voltage you really consume at your usual listenig levels. I think that given your particular scenario, the F3 might well be the perfect amp to accomplish what you're after without spending silly money.


Hi Srajan,

I'll begin by saying you've become my favourite reviewer, simply because of the level of descriptive and anaylitical detail you manage to convey, without reliance on the usual music auditioning thing, that is, simply moving from CD to CD with subjective listening impressions. This is obviously based on a very fine tuned and mature listening experience. It was largely your review of the Modwright that led me to purchase it, precisely because of your reviewing style, though I know nothing about tubes. Living in a bit of a hi-fi backwater ( Brisbane, Australia ) , I purchase largely on faith, although advised against doing so by my more experienced ( and somewhat cynical ) hi-fi bretheren. Trust in the integrity of the reviewer is paramount and one must be able to identify with more than just sonic ideals. Something else about the reviewer has to feel right. I don't know if people tell you, but your service and your honnesty is highly appreciated. Moving on to my other reason for emailing, I found with the Modwright paired up with Plinius monoblocs, the sound can be a little too punchy ( as you remarked, the 5687 tubes are a bit like 6N7's on steroids ). This is a bit distracting with quieter, meditative flute etc. and I am wondering if the solution here is to experiment with other compatible tube types, with which you may have had experience, that are more laid back. I love the nuances and detail of the Modwright . If I moved on to a preamp like the Bel Canto Pre 3 ( your review which I read ), would I get more of this nuance and detail than the Modwright, delivered perhaps a bit more neutrally. If so, would I lose out on some of the Modwright magic in other respects ? Have you any suggestions as regards this, given I have this punchy amp, which had been previously paired with what must have been a relatively passive pre.

Thank you,

Time to roll da glass. E-mail Dan Wright, tell him which direction you'd like to push his pre and then try some of his recommended 5687s. That's the beauty of tubes, especially with just a pair of small-signal valves. For not a lot of scratch, you should be able to optimize your investment to 100% suit you. It's the best option to pursue before considering an outright component swap -:)


Zu guys,

Having a rave to get people interested in high-end audio was a brilliant idea, even if it didn't go over well. I read about it somewhere, checked out your site and you somehow single-handedly got me interested in high-end, and I'm just some random 26 year old engineer. I'll get a pair of those Druids as soon as I can scrape together some scratch. We need innovators to keep driving the economy forward, so I hope you keep fighting the good fight and find a way to bring more people into the fray.

Ryan M.
Hi Ken,

Nice review on the Diavolo. I thought it might become a lost treasure debuting so long ago. The PX-25 was the first Art Audio I tried. Wasn't quite to my taste and thought it might be AA's house type of sound. After talking to Joe, I tried the Symphony II. Bought it on the spot. Then the Diavolo. Bought it too. Still have them both. A month ago, I tried their Carissa Signature and now have all 3. I've been in this hobby for quite awhile and Joe is one of the finest men I've met.

How long do you think before the Symphony review comes out? Have you heard the PX-25 or Carissa Sig? Like to know your opinions if so.

Keep up the good work,
Hello Srajan & Co.:

It has been a while since I wrote to the feedback section. I have been trying to educate and implement ways for the audiophiles in the U.K, to become more astute as to the goings on in North America and beyond. You would not believe the amount of people still on dial-up modems. Or not at all. 6moons, SoundStage and other magazines are totally Greek to many people over here .Back in the States, I have been involved with Audio since the mid 70s.

I try to show customers value and quality for their hard-earned moneys and several customers even stated the U.S scene looked over-publicized and questioned certain outfits' honesty or whether they're scams. wen in fact until very recently, the rule of thumb was buy U.K only, which is stupid in a competitive world market. This is why I have struggled trying to prove a point. System synergy is much more important than how much you spend. I am happily anticipating returning to the States as soon as possible, where the average audiophile is 100% more informed and easier to deal with. Besides the current president, 75% less taxes is another great incentive to return.

The best to you and your staff,
Paul J Letteri

Audio pimp scams? Or magazine scams? While there are outfits who deal with items they're not franchised for or who advertise things that haven't been released yet, I'm not informed of widely distributed publications that should be called scams. Whether US audiophiles are better informed than their UK counter parts I don't know. But it seems sensible comparing market sizes, that there's a broader variety of goods in America, hence the press will tend to cover a broader variety of brands and models that its primary domestic audience can actually purchase. Little sense for a UK pub to talk about goods that aren't available in the UK, is there? Consequently, it's likely that the average British consumer reading UK mags exclusively could be less up to date on the global market than US readers. That's quite possible. But whether that makes a US audiophile "easier to deal with"... trying to sell him something? I'm sure you'll find out for yourself soon enough.

As far as Internet access goes, Internet magazines such as ours are, obviously, designed for an audience that's web-savvy and, preferably, beyond modem connection. There's advantages and disadvantages as with everything and I'm fully aware that our graphic-heavy format is optimized for broad-band users and that a certain segment of older audiophiles isn't computer literate or keen on reading anything on the Internet. C'est la vie. We can't please everyone and don't even try...


Hi Jeff,

Best of luck with your Music Lovers series. Just a quick plug for two integrateds I've grown to love:
  • AudioSector's STi (Peter Daniel's now making them with the same guts as the Patek Srajan so loves, for about $1200)
  • Manley Stingray (built like a tank with fab EL84 sound)

Seems like Vinnie Rossie at RedWine's new concoction (the Signature 30) is worth a listen as well, judging by the buzz online. Anyway, great idea - looking forward to reading more.


Kudos, for posting the well-written Fred Crane response. Dialog is what makes 6moons great, and as a reader I appreciate when an editor has the humility to present an argument from all sides.

You want tube sound from solid state? One manufacturer has been doing this for quite some time. Pair a decent tube pre amp with any YBA amplifier (not YBA design or Audio Refinement) and you get a spectacular system that can drive any speaker, not just high-efficiency high cost Zu whatevers - and you don't need a self-powered sub system to fill out the lower frequencies either. YBA has an entirely new line of high end products out, so this a perfect time to explore their product line. Their stuff is not inexpensive, but next to a pair of ZU Definitions, YBA is clearly affordable.

Mark Magee

That's cheating, Mark -:)! Any solid-state amp preceded by a tube preamp should telegraph the valve signature and take on some of its characteristics. What I had in mind (assuming you are referring to my preview of the Red Wine Audio Signature 30) is a transistor amp that you could run with a TVC or conventional passive/solid-state active pre and enjoy without reservation as a valve amp hound. That's a very hard thing to find in my experience. Valve pres with solid-state power amps are a perfectly viable recipe of course but a different project altogether from what this particular focus proposed.


How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon the bank
here we will sit, and let the sounds of music
creep in our ears; soft stillness in the night
become the touches of sweet harmony.

little billy shakespeare - merchant of venice

Dear Srajan and Sean,

I love a good conspiracy. I believe that JFK was killed by Fidel- turnabout is fair play. I think the executions of the African American intellectuals who led the Civil Right's Movement was likely not a coincidence. I believe the CIA helped Pinochet dispatch many a fine person in Chile. More recently I believe the latest presidential ticket should have read; Halliburton/Enron. I'm leaving a lot out but you get the idea.

I try to keep my vision wide. That's why I was a little surprised at my lack of harmony with your report on the Zu Rave, aka the non-show. If the industry wanted to undermine Zu, wouldn't they have started during the review process? I believe the speakers are very well thought of by the HiFiI press at large. Why this sudden about face outside LAX after the speakers are a hit? In fact, there was press at the event early on as pointed out by Sean Casey. It is my understanding that the press will write just about anything, if it's there. If I may quote Mr.Casey, "We thought we would have no problem pulling 500+ locals to pack the ballroom and force HiFi to come to terms with the whole DJ culture stuff."

As part of the HiFi scene, I for one can't wait to be brought to terms with DJ culture. I don't have any kids to help me along. I do however have a confession. I have been to raves. Though not young, I don't know whether I qualify as old. I was born 6/6/66, making me 40. I have raved, felt the sweat pour down my face, the tribal one-ness, trance-like states, and the nubile affectations that dance around it all... but I never confused it with music. I am hopelessly antiquated in my belief that music, somewhere in its derivation had a person(s), instrument(s), and lots of practice.

There seemed to be much emphasis placed on the ability to be loud at the 'Rave'. Zu makes speakers that play cleanly and loudly. Is that, in and of itself, the reason for their success? Maybe the secret to their success is more along the lines of portraying a musical event close to the original. Very loud music - very loud things in general often represent the lowest common denominator. An ignorant American traveler, when confronted by a look of bewilderment from a native Chinese man, simply repeats his words louder. The young musician on the stand, bereft of a logical place to take his solo, plays the loudest highest note, regardless of its relation to the piece of music and often gets a fair response from the audience. The man who first runs out of wit in a debate will often compensate by raising his voice. Loudness has quite a history, more often than not it is the chosen volume of ignorance and oppression. The idea that the younger generations enjoy little, save loud aggressively rhythmic music is both short sighted, unfair, and all too easy a stereotype. This isn't to say that loudness doesn't have a place, but it doesn't have a much of a place, alone.

People eat the food placed before them, but eventually, given the opportunity, they forage on their own. Maybe I can bring Mr. Casey to terms with the sound of a cello in the hands of a master. I can tell he has the passion to show me what is valuable to him. In the end, Mr. Casey remarked that the old guard of HiFi should be replaced. He referred to the musical tastes of "today's" music lovers as being broader than ever. Aren't we all today's music lovers? Isn't part of the sacredness of loving music that it need never end in one's life. Must love of one genre replace another? When Mr. Casey puts on a few more years, will his validity as a lover of music become less if he fails to relate to what's new?

"In matters of taste, there is no debate." -Latin Proverb

From what I read, the old guard, who made the Zu Movie the best attended function of the weekend, were the only ones who came to the party. Their demography also likely makes up the lion share of people who buy Zu products. The younger set has an i-pod and need not drive to LAX to dance to loud music that by its nature, has less need to be HiFi.(argument accepted) But lets be honest, this hobby has always lived in the minority!!

It was your own that abandoned you, Mr. Casey, and that must hurt. Not to worry, the old guys will keep writing checks so long as your product is good.

There were 100 "industry types" waiting at midnight. Had they made the decision to stay till morning and have their hairlines blown back even farther, they would have done so with 40 staffers and a few lost souls on layover. The fact that there was little reporting was not an attack, it was an act of kindness. You make an awesome product that I'll likely own at some point, but if you want to start a movement, you'll have to learn how to throw a party.

Best regards,
Fred Crane
Hi Jeff,

I saw your post on Audioasylum regarding EL84 opinions. I own a Leben 300CX with NOS Mullards, as well as a Fi X, which I run with Emission Labs 45s from time to time. My speakers are Omega Super Hemps. Right now I prefer the Leben over the Fi. Micro and macro dynamics are much improved. Tone is not the same, but perhaps more true to life. The Leben is much quieter.

If I had to live with one, I probably would pick the Leben. Of course, I have not heard anything sound really bad with the SuperHemps. The Fi X is much better with the Bendix 6106 rectifier, however, so it would be a very close pick with that tube in place.


Hi Joe,

I think your tastes run similar to mine, as that's exactly what happened with me when the TEAD Linear A displaced my beloved Fi 2A3s from my main system. That Leben 300CX is something I've been lusting after for quite a while (ever since I read Paul Candy's review of it back when). I wish I could afford to add one to my amp stable. Jonathan Halpern is breaking in one of the new EL34 Lebens to send me for review as part of the new Music Lovers series I'm doing. I'm really looking forward to giving it a spin and telling folks about it.

Thanks for writing!

Kind regards,
Hi Srajan,

Remember this quote: "One $995 integrated transistor amp I'm certain would be a super match is Peter Daniel's Audiosector piece below. Add an Eastern Electric MiniMax tubed CD player for $899, some Zu Cable interconnect and Zu's Ibis speaker cable and presto, a $6K+ minimalist system I'd be proud to own and so would you." From this page:

Well, you are absolutely right! I have Libtec and Gedde cables, one step below their best. Also, I have some NOS Amperex tubes in the MiniMax.

Peter is working on, or has finished, a Patek integrated. Here's a pic. The room setup sucks but for now, it's the best I can do. My custom Zu sub is hiding in the back. Better to have than not at all.

Thanks again for the best audio site in the known Universe ;-)

Don Cooper
Hi Srajan,

I've had great results with Boston Audio Design's Carbon footers under components - the best so far. KR amps, Nibiru phono stage, Nagra preamp (all after Austin insisted I try them with the turntable mats I ordered). On the last order I got him to make up some custom socketed footers with the idea of using them under my spiked stands. Where they've ended up is under the Gallos (& Zu Defs). Unbelievable improvement, not only in bass quality. You've gotta have these under the Gallos:

Peter Hardie

Hi Srajan,

I am still overly impressed with my Original CD-2008 mk2, and I am trying to get my hands on the revised Leonardo for comparison - it sounds like they were not cut from the same cloth in any way.

Your review of the Leonardo was very interesting to me. From what I heard at the Montreal Audio Show (Festival Son et Image), I would have to classify the sound I heard as sterile and lacking in basic musical values - I concur with your review findings wholeheartedly! Having said that, I was not familiar with the rest of the system in any way, so any conclusions drawn are flawed at best.

I know that you have Paul Candy on your staff. If this angle would interest you in any way, I'd be willing to send my 2008 to him for review. I feel that it is at or near the top of its price class in performance, and it does have the striking looks to match. I have met Paul in person rom a transaction we completed years ago, and corresponded with him several times via e-mail.

I feel that there may be a serious injustice done if the whole Original line is judged by the review of the Leonardo. I think that the audio community deserves to know about the lower Original players, and what value they might be.

Kevin Boxma

Not to worry. Original's importer Mr. Ping Gong has remained in touch about the revisions for the Leonardo and once everything is finalized, I'll have a second look at it. I'm told it's a very different sounding machine now. If so, it should be a real contender since build quality and aesthetics were already top notch. If Paul has time and is up for it, you're certainly welcome to proceed. There can never be enough publicity on good machines that more people can afford than plastic surgeons.


Srajan -

Great magazine you have here! Absolutely blown away by your deciding to move to Cyprus. I'm one who feels like moving when I feel like a place is tapped out, but my biggest move was only 3000 miles. Hope it is great for you out there. Writing to tell you about a collaboration between myself and my friend Alex Nolan. When I met you before, I was at the 1st RMAF showing Ocean Acoustic loudspeakers with Alex's stainless steel speakers on the side of the room. I'm not sure if he was there at the time however. We finally got to working on these horn loudspeakers late last autumn and showed them at the last day of T.H.E. Show. They still had some bugs to work out of them, but we have improved the design and are ready to show people something a little bit different from what they're used to.

The horns are triamped through 3 solar-powered class T amplifiers (still finalizing what power levels and setup), active crossover, Fostex T90 tweeter, JBL 2435 HPL midrange driver and a B&C 10PLB76 10" woofer driving the bass. The bass horn is a modified exponential expansion, the midrange is tractrix, and the tweeter mouth is mounted off the side of the midrange horn (the pictures of that part didn't come out with the midday sun there but I'll have better ones pretty soon). The midrange/tweeter horn is a polished carbon fiber composite piece molded in-house, the bass is double walled heavy gauge stainless steel dampened by several hundred pounds of sand. It's a fairly large piece as well- I forget the exact amount, but it was around 12 feet tall. It has a real visual impact.

I sent a press release and a couple of pictures, if you want any more info there is a website at or email at (the response might not be through that email though- still working out the bugs with that). Stay tuned- other ideas and projects are coming real soon.

Justin Grant
Hi Srajan,

First of all, congrats on your move. When I heard I got jealous. Such a bold move. I hope it's everything you expected. I did go to the Zu Rave and there were a few industry types there like myself. The sound was a bit rough until they really started to crank it at midnight. Then it smoothed out considerably. Interesting midbass palpability. The midrange was kind of muddy. More muddy than a good club, but I guess that the horn mids that are used in many good clubs are hard to beat at that level. Enjoyable nonetheless. The speakers rocked. Much of the music playing did not have a lot of bass below 40Hz or so, believe it or not. So an occasional crescendo or bass riff that did get down there really stood out and was awesome in its power and sweep.

At about 12:00 they raised the volume to really ear-damaging levels, I think they were running 100dB average! Louder than most clubs in my experience. Then it kept going up. I bet it got to 105dB by the end of night. I put in my earplugs after 11:00 and left by 12:30 but my ears still rang into the next day. I unfortunately did not hear as well Saturday due to the effect of the volume but by Sunday my hearing was better.

So while I agree with all the general sentiments about the show, it was really far over the line as far as auditory health was concerned. L.A. is a very tough market to have a musical event, and I think it needed the right publicity, possible promotion by a local radio station and a better location. I don't think many clubsters in L.A. would go to a Sheraton hotel of any sort, let alone one near LAX to hear music - very uncool locations. Just a bad set of circumstances.

I've been to a lot of raves in my past, and in fact just attended an outdoor rave type festival in SF a couple weeks before with 7 stages of music ( The music at raves is not much different now than when I attended my first one in 1989. I couldn't say that I can remember a single line of melody, a bass riff or anything from either the Zu Rave or the other one I attended. The music is ephemeral and disposable. What kind of music is that? One that may set or alter your mood or your body but that is largely without a message.

Not many press were there, in fact, it was only Josh that I saw. I guess if press did come, they may not have wanted to report such a failure of attendance anyways. Josh definitely put a positive spin on it compared to my conversations with him that night.

You didn't miss much from this show, it was pretty boring all around and attendance was not great.


I read the Sonic Flare "paper" as well as your Editorial about the Zu rave party. This thing is both bad and an unfortunate sign of times.

As the Zu guy stated, there is a massive market outside of HiFi. Trying to connect the younger rave crowd with the balding audiophiles crowd was probably doomed from the start, but nevertheless a very brave and bold proposition. Kudos to the Zu guys.

Problem is not music, problem is HiFi. Seems that HiFi is for plastic surgeons only, or balding guys who want to make a statement about themselves. It's hedonism gone on the wrong side. Ikea parkings are jam-packed on each weekend. In the store you find young couples - the future of HiFi (call it FuFi). They go Ikea because they can find what they can relate to: good design, decent quality in a no-bullshit environment.

I just can't relate to HiFi dealers. $50K speakers and $2K cables are for the "others". You go to a record store, you just don't see balding "audiophiles". Trouble is not music. Trouble is the dealer catering to balding plastic surgeons. The equation fits: one liposuction buys you a set of cables. One face lift buys you the Nagra amplifier.

If the (retail) industry is to survive its aging "clientèle", it should probably start by treating ordinary people like real customers or else Ikea will start selling FuFi gear. Hum, that's a neat idea. Of course, manufacturers could also just get together and set up cooperative factory outlets or Internet outlets.

Somehow, the industry is a giant that slowly swallows its own tail. Media convergence is more than Home theater...

Robert Gaboury
Gemme / Atelier
Hello Jeff:

I read your introductory article on music lovers with much interest. Through a series of seemingly random steps, I find myself upgrading my interest in listening to music, which has resulted in upgrading my sound system. Research toward the system upgrades has let me to your site and your column.

I'm in my mid-forties now, was once a semi-professional musician -- renaissance chamber music -- but moved on to get a 'real job' in software development. In the first phase of life, listening was what I did with the best part of my attention, both in rehearsal and performance and also as an audience member. Funny thing, hi-fi was not much of an issue. First, I didn't have much money, but mainly, I think, I never expected reproduced sound to be 'the experience': It was an artifact, like a score, that could be used to hear what my colleagues and heroes were doing, but to have 'the experience', one goes to the concert.

Incidentally, as my ambition tapered to match my talent, I spent time playing a variety of musical styles, on upright bass, as a way to keep involved in the musical experience while I siphoned off the best part of my attention toward making a living.

In the second phase of my life, I found myself too involved in my career to get much of the musical experience. I stopped practicing, my concert attendance went down. There must be a pendulum swing in play here, a sort of delayed reaction to withdrawal, because I came to spend more time listening to recordings. From there proceeded the waxing interest in hi-fi. Now I'm seeking the experience through recordings.

So, reading your article, I had to ask - am I one of these music lovers? First off,I am a bit flummoxed by those who have a huge interest in their equipment, and the quality of sound that comes out of it, at the expense of what music they listen to. I am a member of a fledgling audiophile club and have shared listening sessions with this type of audiophile. Mark up one point toward my being a music lover. Also, I do have a relatively simple system, somewhat like you describe, and I even listen to music while cooking. Seems I fit your demographic quite well.

There was one thing that I didn't get from your article though, and that was the desire to spend quality time just sitting and listening. Yes I like music so much that I will listen to it half-heartedly, like when cooking, but the brightest spot in my new audiophile hobby is when I can sit myself down in the sweet spot and have the experience of the music. I would submit that this is part of fascination of the music lover subset of the audiophile, if that's what I am. This fascination is what drives me to spend money on my system, and arrange the furniture in a way that mildly annoys my wife.

This fascination reminds me of a parallel emerging hobby - enjoying wine. I guess this is another interest that stems from focusing on a career to the point where I have some disposable income, which I could never experience as a starving artist. I've always liked wine, but there is something fascinating in using wine tasting to refine the palate, to enjoy subtle and elusive tastes, which creates this friendly cycle of desire. It's a different interest than being a drinker for intoxication or a collector of rare and exotic wine. In that sense, this pursuit of a taste experience reminds me of the music lover audiophile experience.

I'm not certain why I was prompted to send this ramble off to you. Maybe I think you could benefit from some input from a person who seems to fit the demographic you have targeted for your upcoming articles. In any case, I will am looking forward to more of your writing.

Trevor Tunnacliffe

Your concept of the music lover hits home with me. I just sold Merlin speakers, Purist Dominus cables and GNS modified Wadia because I am more satisfied with my iPod. What direction to go next is the question. My past choices were considered but at the end of the day, the music lacked purity or musicality. It was articulate, accurate and maybe even fun like a club instead of organic and natural

I'm convinced that the hard drive is a very important source. At the same time I think satellite radio is not to be forgotten. We'll see.

Looking forward to future installments.

Hi Srajan,

Truly enjoyed your Water and Waves article - made me want to leave work and head up to the lakes region in Northern Saskatchewan with my kayak. I've been an addict ever since I paddled the southern coast of Alaska near Mt. St. Elias (Icy Bay, to be exact). I understood exactly what you were talking about in your article - nice to know an experience is shared.

I had a drawing teacher a while back who had a similar take on "seeing" as you have on kayaking - if you ever have a chance to read anything by Frederick Franck, I highty recommend it. His most famous book is the Zen of Seeing, but he's published upwards of 30 books on the subject. He's an amazing man - used to be a dentist (he worked with Albert Schweitzer in a rural African mission in the 1950s) but always kept time for his art. A truly wonderful man.

On a less interesting note :)

When you had the new Bel Canto PRe3 in your possession, did you have a chance to hear it with your Yamamoto on your Definitions? Given your observation of it being similar to passive preamps, I'd wondered if they'd be a good match (with Druids). Brian at Venus has already assured me that the A08s is magical with the Druids, so I'm not concerned with the combo (per your posting with another reader last month where you noted that you'd not heard them together)...

Anyway, keep paddling - enjoy!


Pleased to hear my attempt at conveying the special thrills I get out of something as simple as paddling came across to another fan. About the PRe3, I'm in fact running it right now instead of the Music First. It's a very close call plus it gives me remote and gain for the occasional attack of insanity coupled to recordings that are recorded very low. So yes, the PRe3/Yamamoto combo is fantastic in my book. I'm a big fan of mating a superior SET amp to a passive (or passive acting) preamp. No noise, no additional flavoring so that the special interface between amp and speaker remains pure. There's certainly lots of different ways of doing things but this particular one really works for me.


Hi Jeff,

Thought you might find this interesting. Because of a string of recent audio frustrations mainly having to do with a digital player that has basically been a lemon, I found myself wanting to simplify my system even more and go back to running without a preamp (I guess this sort of fits in with the music lovers series, that is me). But I realized that the Linear A was just too much gain for me to do that.

So I impulsively bought a Shindo Cortese from Matt at Pitch Perfect Audio in San Francisco(about the nicest, most obliging guy I have ever dealt with in audio by the way). Long story short, this thing is a dream. I think it is even more synergistic with the Duos than the TEAD and that is without any preamp.At 10 watts, I think it is right in the Goldilocks sweet spot for the Duos. My 45 amps just didn't cut it and I was finding the TEAD to be too much really. The Shindo is just right for me.

It has a beguiling yet subtle warmth that immediately made my system sound even more coherent than the TEAD combo and what I've heard about Japanese transformers must be true because the bass also seems better. I could go on. I just think you ought to hear one in your system if you get chance. I have a feeling that you might be very impressed.

Best Regards,
Cliff Carney

Hi Jeff,

Some music lovers must have a dedicated room because their spouse cannot stand music all day long - moreover, they also play music. I play the saxophone (a Yamaha pro) and this is my third system after well over thirty years into the hobby and I just bought my last TT.

However, your article is great and full of insight. Keep up the good job! I am three months shy of 53 and a teacher of English and the principal of my own school for a living.


Hi Jeff

it is fascinating how few of my audiophile colleagues understand the meaning of 'musicality' and how frustrating it is trying to explain it to them. There is nothing controversial about it but I do believe it is a concept that is difficult to grasp until it is demonstrated to you via two systems, one musical and one less so. Even then a lot of the audiophiles I meet are so entrenched in the 'hi-fi' aspects of the system that musicality and tapping of the feet in rhythm with the music still does not seem to come to them. It is only when they realise how little they actually listen to their clinically perfect hi-fi systems that they realise they have been on the wrong quest all along.

So far the most musical pieces of equipment I have heard are ( and they are rare): Anything made by Audio Note. Peter Quortup is just down the road from me and I have had the opportunity to meet the man and his philosophy, however I was a great fan of audio note equipment well before I moved near his business. Naim and Jadis, but some find the more 'hifi' aspects such as soundstaging accuracy of tonal colour etc possibly limited to a certain extent. All converters which are non-oversampling; paper cones as opposed to other modern materials; valve amps, 2A3s slightly more so than 300Bs.

Never been convinced by the US equipment but then my experience is limited. But the Canary CA339 monos could not come close to Audio note or Jadis for musicality.

Hope this helps give you some of the perspectives from the UK.

Dr Luke Salih
Hi Jeff,

I have finally finished my speakers and matching audio rack and the system is sounding very good: CEC belt drive transport, Audio Note Dac 3.1 Bal, Lamm LL2 Deluxe preamplifier, deHavilland Ultraverve preamplifier, Marchand active valve crossover, AirTight ATM1 power amplifier, GamuT D200 power amplifier, Richard Gray Power Company 1200 power supply, Marchand Valve phono stage,Parmenter Fat Boy horn speakers. I have the Weiss Medea Dac on order and a Simon Yorke S7 turn table to finish off my second demonstration system.

I hope you are well and if you are ever in NZ please come out for a visit.

Best regards

I thought you and your readers may be interested in my recent experiences. I have followed with interest your various reviews with the AKG headphones and the many different amps you have tried and tested with them.

The following are some of my recent experiences with two Chinese-made amplifiers I bought via Ebay. To start at the beginning, I recently bought a pair of AKG K1000 headphones (now unfortunately discontinued). These headphones are of low sensitivity and sound best when driven by a class A valve amplifier. I therefore thought I would try a low powered valve amplifier and decided to purchase two amplifiers I had seen on Ebay which seemed incredibly cheap for what was on offer. One being advertised as a 300B single-ended amp using an EL34 driver, which I thought may be interesting and a little different to the normal 300B setup (I believe Sophia Electric and Heart use this combination). Likewise I also bought another single ended-amp this time with an 807 output valve (David Manley of VTL likes this as an output valve).

Both these amps produce around 10 watts according to their specs, which I thought would be adequate for the AKGs. Payment via a personal cheque proved to be no problem, although when buying always take into account the relatively high costs for delivery from the Far East, typically around £65 -£90 for surface mail depending on weight. The amps took around 7 weeks to arrive which seemed like ages, so next time I may consider air mail although the costs are much higher. They arrived well packed. However, on opening the 300B amp, I found there was no EL34driver valve but a 6P6P valve; this I subsequently found out is equivalent to a 6V6 valve. There were no instructions included as to where the valves should be fitted, nor to any change in the specification. Very similar problems were found with the other amp, here the output valves were different to those specified, instead of 807s they were FD422s which I later found out are equivalent to 2E22 valves, both valves using a top cap but of very different dimensions.

I was a little disappointed by these changes in the specs and that I was not informed prior to them being sent to me and that there was no indication with the delivered amps. I subsequently sent an email to the supplier about these problems, and his answer was not very informative or helpful. Now for the pluses. Both amps were undamaged with a full complement of valves mainly of Chinese origin and both appear to be well made with a decent chassis, one being stainless steel, the othe a chromium plated steel which looks particularly attractive with the black enamel transformer casings (a bit like Art Audio). Both amps are hard-wired using what appear to be decent components including Alps pots, Elna and Wima caps. I suspect some useful upgrading here could prove to be interesting, perhaps some Black Gate caps. Socketery is good quality with WBT-copy loudspeaker outlets and gold-plated phono inputs, the front rotary controls feel solid and well made and smooth to operate. By the way, the volume control on the FD422 amp appears to have indented positions suggesting it is a discrete resistor type which obviously it is not. Both amps worked perfectly when switched on with no real transformer hum or vibration evident even after several hours of use.

Now to the sound with the AKG headphones. The 300B appears to have less gain than the other amp with the volume control required to be around half to three quarters open depending on the recording level for my listening levels. With this amp, the midrange is very smooth and revealing, without any sense of grain particularly towards the top end,. The bass is reasonably well defined but doesn't appear at the moment to be very tight but more of a warm rounded bass sound yet overall still enjoyable. The FD422 amp being a pentode output is very different sounding to the triode 300B. The sound at first was much brighter, more get up and go with what appeared to be a tighter bass and a wider stereo image (all probably due to more treble energy). I have now used both amps for probably around 20 hours or so and they are now sounding much more refined and smoother, in particular the FD422 amp which is now less bright but still very detailed. Both amps give a very detailed sound from the AKGs, with images well outside the head, particularly on well recorded discs such as the Steve Strauss "The Dirt" taken from the CD Just like Love on the Stockfish label (available from Germany).

Overall my initial observations are that for most CDs I prefer the pentode-powered FD422 amp for driving the AKG headphones as it has more drive and better bass with a good open top end which generally makes for a good listening experience. Regarding the 300B amp, I think I will need to get into the high-efficient single driver loudspeaker territory, which I have been considering for a little while. In general I have been well pleased with my purchases even with the changes to the specification and would recommend this method to anyone who is considering doing the same particularly at their current low prices, although as I found out, you need to be aware that there are some problems when buying equipment from abroad which you can't see or hear before purchase.

Can I close and say how much I enjoy your Internet magazine and the many articles and reviews. The range of equipment that seems to be available in the USA is much better than here in England and you make me very envious at times.

Mike Bearne
Hi Jeff,

Very glad to read about your new column. I have an idea for a suggested system that I'd like to hear your take on. I am not in any way a hobbyist:
  • Gamut L3 speakers
  • Brinkmann Integrated
  • Rega Apollo CDP

Kirk Lundahl

Hello from Athens Greece!

Congratulation for your fantastic reviews and gorgeous pictures. My name is Demos Dravopoulos. Im a fanatical fan of the 6moons site and the owner of various amplifiers and speakers (like the Blue Circle NSCS amplifier that I own and I'm very very happy with, Proacs etc.)

I would like to see reviews of the following equipment in the near future and I hope to check out some of those European brands soon! :
  • Pathos Classic One Integrated amplifier
  • Jadis Orchestra amplifier
  • Anything from the Studio line of Proac speakers.
  • Anything from the YBA line (like Classic Integre DT or Classic series). They are old but they offer something unique for the world of solid state.
  • New Guarneri of Sonus Faber.

Hope to see some reviews in the near future, especially from Jadis, YBA and specifically the Class A Stereophile-rated Classic One.

Best Regards,
D. Dravopoulos

Hey Jeff,

I just read Simon's letter suggesting the Lavardin IS Reference for review. About that I can only say: What a good idea. I've been living with mine for a year now and still find it as good as on day one. For a bit of context, I owned or had in my system before: Mission Cyrus, Rega, RedRoseMusic, Cary Audio. Best ones were Naim Nait 2, E.A.R 859 and the Eastern Electric M 520. While they all had their strengths, I kept missing something with every one. The Lavardin is fantastic. Except for extreme power, it really has it all (for me). And it needs hardly any warm-up at all, stays cool and looks nice as well.

Give it a listen, you won't regret it.

Kind regards
Hi Jeff,

I’m really looking forward to your new features. I count myself as a music fan who’s looking for equipment that will help my CDs sound their best. And every dollar I save on equipment I count as that much more to spend on music.

But I have to tell you, if the Leben CS600 (which looks to be a beautiful piece) retails for over 5,000 clams, and this is the type of gear you plan to focus on, you’ve already contradicted your mission as I understand it.

In any event, I always enjoy your writing.

All the best,
Jeff Stockton

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the note and kind words - I really appreciate it.

This should be a fun series. I plan to review a fairly wide spectrum of gear price-wise, from a quality music lovers system in the $2500 and less price range, to more expensive systems composed of gear like the Leben and Living Voices. The article comment 'Anything from the mundane to the exotic will be considered for inclusion' is intended to be inclusive of all price ranges.

The music lovers series focuses on simple systems - source, integrated amp, and speakers - that flatter the music in a way that serves a wide variety of music, well recorded or not. Simple doesn't necessarily correlate to inexpensive, although it can, and some of the systems covered will be inexpensive, but some will also be expensive. These will be the kind of systems that a music lover can buy, exit the gear buying merry-go-round, and keep for the long haul while they enjoy their growing music collections. Primarily I intend to focus the reviews at the system level rather than the component level, although I'll describe the components in enough detail to give a feel for what they're about.

Srajan's realsizing articles focus more on value, and if that's what your area of interest is you might want to give them a read as they're very good.

I hope that helps clarify the intent of the music lovers series for you.

If you have particular ideas in mind for music lovers, be sure to let me know what they are. Thanks for writing and reading 6moons!

Kind regards,

Hi Jeff,

I have been following with great interest your series of reviews on the Garrard 301 rebuild, especially as I live in the UK where they are still reasonably plentiful. I thought you might be interested in some background info on the Loricraft plinth. I have one, carrying a Garrard 401, Hadcock GH242 and Cartridge Man Music Maker III. My other deck is a Nottingham Analogue Dais with Moerch UP-4 and Ortofon Jubilee cartridge.

Given the cost and seriously heavy engineering that went into the Nottingham, plus their reputation as some of the best decks available, you'd think that the Dais setup would be ahead of the Garrard one by a country mile. But provided the Hadcock arm is used on the Garrard, this just isn't the case. The Nottingham might (it's close) have a slight edge in separation, but the Garrard is somehow a whole lot more involving. This is leading me to think that I ought to abandon belt-drive altogether and go the whole hog with idler drive.

I said in the above paragraph 'provided the Hadcock arm is used'. This brings me back to the Loricraft plinth. Most of what you pay goes into the hardwood box that looks pretty but contributes nothing to the sound as far as I can see. The turntable and arm are mounted into a one-inch thick piece of MDF, which is placed on four squash balls which fit into hollows in the surrounding case - the idea being that the balls absorb the energy and provide isolation. The problem I found was that because the arm is sitting on a surface, it allowed to move and is picking up energy from the motor drive. With quite a lot of arms, there would be noise breakthrough from the motor which would be audible as a 100Hz thrumming. The top end of the frequency range would tend to be slightly grainy, and imaging indistinct when compared to the Nottingham, though still with a terrific sense of involvement.

Mounting the Hadcock proved to be a revelation because the ball bearings in the pivot seem to act as an isolator, meaning that rumble levels are massively reduced. It is now silent, and the result is quite simply astounding. It seems to me that the Loricraft solution can be greatly improved on. To me, it seems a little bit crude, compared to the Shindo, and even the Cain plinth which decouples the arm boards. MDF seems an odd choice (cost?) given that the rest of the world decries it and uses birch ply or hardwoods. The fact that I get rumble unless I use the Hadcock is a little bit limiting!

Incidentally, if you want to get in touch with Terry O'Sullivan, you need to phone him - email response is very touch and go. However, when you do get though, you'll probably be on the phone for 30 minutes minimum - he does like chatting!

Have you had any feedback from Jonathan Halpern about the Cain plinth and how it compares in concept to the Shindo? I suppose my ideal would be the 301 in a Shindo plinth with 12" Schroeder DPS and Music Maker III cartridge which, despite having experience with more expensive moving coils, remains one of my firm favourites.

There will be a separate and probably equally long email going to Jonathan about the Shindo, and whether there's a UK importer! Sorry about the length of my email.... :-)

Kind regards,
David M Loader
Hi Jeff;

Thanks to your informative review on the Linear A, Vibe Lithos 7, I recently purchased this pairing to mate with my new Avantgarde Duo Omegas (owned previous generation Duos before these). Living just across the bridge from Tom's HQ in Wales/Bristol made the acquisition all the more easier (especially after my experiences with faffing around for a number of years with UPS shipping - Wavelength Venus monos from the USA, plus a number of other 'usual Stateside suspects' in my rather average attempts to realize audio nirvana via single-Eended triodism!

Thus far (30-40hrs useage) I am very happy with the TEAD/Duo Omega combo (light years improvement over the 45 bulbs me and the missus were used to glaring at on those cold winter evenings)! I read your recent TEAD phonostage review with interest and noticed that you and a fellow audio-nut (Clinton, who I would hazard a guess is Mr. Clinton Yap in London?) had experimented with Watford Valves Harma range of EL84s with a measure of success. There have been occasions when (after my 45/300B experiences) I have wondered whether this combo could be a little 'cuddlier' without losing the resolution they are capable of producing? (Remember; my Duo Omegas are even more sensitive than their predecessors, so things are cooking at between 8-9 o'clock on the Vibe dial and resolution is definitely all there)!

If you think it would be worth giving the geezers at Watford a call and ordering up a set of their valves for the Linear A, can you let me know what I am asking for, and whether they require matching as a quad or as eight?

Other than that, thanks for the insight on the most suitable partnership for my German addiction.

Owen Mallia
Hi Srajan,

Using advice from your website, I have just completed a major overhaul of my audio system, so I wanted to drop you a note with the details, possibly for inclusion in your letters section. Thanks to your sage advice, I am now experiencing a new level of musical satisfaction that I only wished for before. The relatively affordable magic recipe I have discovered (using mostly ingredients recommended by you and the others on your site) is as follows:

Main Ingredients:
1 - pair Audio Technica ATH W-1000 headphones. These are super comfortable and easy to listen to for hours.
2 - Channel Islands Audio VHP1 headphone amp. The sound coming out of this little box is wonderfully warm and full.
3 - Scott Nixon Tube DAC (USB version) with 3xac power supply. This is a true USB-direct-I2S DAC with tube buffering and no oversampling. Except for the USB input, it is identical to the unit reviewed on 6moons.
4 - Dell desktop computer filled with WAV files of my favorite music on a 160GB hard drive. Someday when the budget allows, I may upgrade to a separate fan-less computer as a dedicated music server, but for now my basic Dell is serving me well. With the headphones on, I can just barely hear its fan during pauses in the music.

Added spices:
1 - EAC Exact Audio Copy software for copying CDs to my hard drive
2 - Foobar software for audio playback with the Windows K-mixer bypassed (See here for many tips for improving sound on a Windows computer, especially if it is a dedicated music server. The tip entitled "Do Not Map Through Soundcard" describes specifically how to bypass the dreaded K-mixer in Windows.)
3 - Ozone MP Analog-modeled Audio enhancement software used very sparingly as a plug-in for Foobar for a little extra body and tube like sound (available here)
4 - 4Front Headphones software plug-in also used sparingly to add a little space to the headphone sound (available for free here)
5 -Various other little tweaks including ERS cloth, Clearview Double Helix MK II-Plus Powerstrip and Vibrapods.

Optional added extras:
1- Acoustic Research TDS 202 Sound Enhancer: adds a subtle boost to low level sounds for greater microdynamics. I got mine for $10 on Ebay.
2 - Zcable Z-Sleeve Extra Heavy: I use one on the headphone cable and it cleans up the sound tremendously. Since I do not need all of the cable length on my headphones, I was able to circle the cable to pass through the Z-sleeve four times for added effect. Be sure to try removing other power conditioners (with the exception of ERS cloth) as the Z-sleeves often work best on their own.
3 - Microwave browning dishes: the poor man's version of the ERS cloth. These are white ceramic dishes used to brown food in a microwave oven by absorbing the microwaves. They also seem to absorb EMF and/or RF interference when placed near audio equipment or power systems. You can pick them up at thrift stores for $2-5 each. I swear I can hear a more definite difference with them than with the ERS cloth, although they are rigid and not so attractive so sometimes the ERS cloth is a more elegant solution. A lot of my system is hidden in enclosed areas so I use more than a dozen of these dishes.
4 - Dakiom R203 Feedback Stabilizer: I did not even hook this up when I got the Scott Nixon DAC as the feedback stabilizer is supposed to help with equipment that uses negative feedback and the Nixon DAC does not. But then just for the heck of it, I put it in the chain and whatever it does is great even without a negative feedback design. It somehow further smoothes out the sound without sacrificing clarity.

Directions: add all ingredients together and let sizzle in your ears. Seriously, this combination sounds consistently so much better than my old speaker system (Soliloquy floorstanding speakers and Jolida hybrid integrated amp) that sometimes I almost can't believe it. I think I was always fighting an uphill battle against the bad acoustics of my small 12' x 15' foot office with the speaker system. And as a bonus, I no longer have the large floorstanding speakers taking up space in the middle of my small room. In fact, I have covered my small equipment stand with a cloth and when I am not listening the entire system disappears from view.

Of course, with the headphones there is no room interaction at all interfering with the sound, and also no problem with sound from the speakers physically vibrating the electronics. With the closed design of the W-1000s I am also somewhat insulated from distracting external noises including the fan of my computer. In fact, the other day the phone rang right next to me and I did not hear it. This is especially helpful as I no longer get into a struggle with my wife when she is watching TV elsewhere in the house at the same time as I am listening. I used to turn up my system to drown out the TV, so then she would just turn up the TV!

With this new headphone system, I am often deeply moved by the music and sometimes even experience chills running up my spine as I listen. I almost can't wait to hear what the next song will sound like as I let the Foobar software randomly play disc jockey with my music collection (like having my own radio station that only plays my favorite music). Specifically, the sound is that elusive blend of non-fatiguing smoothness and yet clear detail. The sound is so musical and involving that I effortlessly drop out of my mind and into a spacious mode of pure listening. Compared to the AKG K-1000 headphones I had a few years ago, this setup is much easier to listen to. The AKGs also had great detail, but I was never able to smooth out the sound to where I could listen for hours (probably I never could afford the right amp to feed them).

So thank you, Srajan, and all of the other reviewers on 6moons for steering me to a system that brings me such pleasure. And especially thank you for including reviews of lower priced equipment that more of us can afford. It seems especially easy and affordable to achieve great sound with a headphone system following the recommendations on your site.

And by the way, have you had a chance to check out the website of the record label I told you about where they split every penny 50/50 with the artists? Not only that, but their pricing is based on whatever you choose to pay! (Minimum $5 for a downloaded album of music in your choice of different formats including uncompressed WAV or various compressed file formats, although you can also get a physical CD mailed to you for $4 extra). You can listen to all of their music on the site for free before buying and they encourage you to share your downloaded music with up to three friends. They have quite a variety of world music, jazz, new age, rock, and classical. Their motto is "We're a record label, but we're not evil" so they also have a sense of humor.

Keep up the good work, my friend and enjoy your new home.

I am compelled to put digit to keyboard after finally receiving and listening to my new CD payer - the Eastern Electric MiniMax. You are partly to blame for this new purchase, and I want to thank you.

I am a born-again audiofile (trainee) who has been listening to CD through an all Naim system for far too long now. I began opening my ears (and mind) to alternatives about 6 months ago. I have always been intrigued by valves/tubes and wanted to know where to start. By coincidence I met Nick Green from UKD here in the UK, who is the distributor for all things high quality and Italian, and I listened to a selection of his Unison Research offerings. My choice ended, rather surprisingly, with the Unico-P integrated amp, which I felt offered more subtlety over the raw power of its siblings. I have lived with this amp now for 3 months, letting me know what my near vintage (1998) Naim CD payer was actually capable of.

Then I found your reviews...

Now, my admission to being a trainee is not in relation to my time spent in the circus of hifi, but more in terms of my limited budget. I have chosen a non metropolitan existence, enjoy growing my own vegetables and breathe clean air every day, but alas my income is less healthy. In terms of hifi, I have a clear sense of what I like and dislike - I knew what I was after. I have been trying to find a dealer to enable me to listen to Opera's Consonance linear, having spotted a used one for sale at an almost affordable price. Without that pleasure, I decided to throw some caution to the wind and order a MiniMax. I was able to have it for a month and return it, just paying the transport costs if I was not happy.

Emails should be short and to te point, and have obligitaory spelling mistakes, so I will wrap it up here. I bought the MiniMax. It sounds fantastic through the Unico-P. My thoughts now go to owning a pre and power set up like the one reviewed, but I am running a pair of very tube unfriendly speakers, (Celestion A-compacts 87db/4ohms) and the whole change will cost too much. I see you are re-visiting the Eastern Electric integrated and I will await the review with eager ears.

Many thanks for doing what you do, it makes people happy!

Hi Jeff,

I loved the music lovers series intro. Reading your definition of what a music lover is, I realized that I am exactly that.

Knowing that, I'd like to recommend a system for review. It's not my system, but Bob Neil's of Positive Feedback. It is the system I am building towards. I am quite taken with the JM Reynaud sound. I have owned the little Twins in their MKIII iteration and am now planning on buying the Signature version of the Twins. Every time I have left them (which is twice now) I have longed to have them back. I have found myself initially seduced to a different sound only to be disappointed later. Bob recommends driving the Twins with the Manley Stingray and an Audio Note front end. Other than Bob Neil, Reynauds never seem to get any love from reviewers. Stereophile reviewed the Twins a year or two ago, but the reviewer just didn't get them. They are not audiophile speakers. They have guts.

If you read the postscript of the latest Reynaud review in Positive Feedback, you'll see the system he heard at Bob Neil's.

Thanks for listening,
Drew McAllister

Bonjour Jeff,

The short version: Reviews or Sugden A21SE and Lavardin IS Reference would be great!

The long version, keep reading!
I just read your 6moons music lovers teaser and even though I never thought of it that way, that's exactly what I am. I read reviews here and there, websites, magazines, go to the Montréal show every year yet, in the end, what I am always looking for is the lack of hi-fi sound. Something that doesn't sound mechanical but musical, whatever that means (the world to me). So, be it solid state, tube, digital, SET, balanced, 48 bits, 192khz, Burr Brown, Crystal, Wolson or made of cheese, quite frankly, I don't give a damn! I do give a damn about value, all rounder and reliability though.

What I read often about (which is perfectly okay, just not my cup of tea) is neutrality, accuracy, last word in this, in that, bass, bass, bass, close to the real thing, bla, bla, bla... Well, guess what, Callas is dead already and Streisand does a concert every 56 years so the next best thing to me are good ol' redbook CDs. Already got 1500 of those. Of course, 5000gm first Japanese LP pressing mastered by God himself are good indeed but a tad hard to find at my local shop where the kid with the Mowhak at the counter has no clue who Rickie Lee Jones is and since I have no clue who Blink 182 are well, you get the picture here... Beside, my turntable died a long time ago and I am way too lazy to change sides in those iPod times.

I have heard my share of good stuff at hi-fi shows, a lot of products du jour that received AAA +++ reviews that sounded disappointing in the end. Very rarely have I heard components that produced real magic though (my sort of magic that is, everyone has is own I suppose). Oddly enough, those magic discoveries usually were fairly affordable. I'm thinking tiny ProAc Tablettes some years ago, the first time I heard a Linn Majik integrated (compared to my 1985 JVC receiver that is), Cary's Rockets, even the new Arcam Solo sounded pretty darn good and musical beside 10 times more expensive gear that sounded good yet somewhat souless to me...

Of course, I never heard an Audio Research product I didn't liked and the Kharma rave is, to me, very true also. Talk about a speaker that is musical indeed! There's Verity Audio as well... and the complete $50,000 Aurum Acoustics system, now that was musical allright! Again, you get the picture here...

To keep you awake a bit more, I am coming to a point here (...), hopefully within the next year or so, I will be able to swing $5-6K to finally put a musical system together that will remain that for years to come. I don't plan on upgrading or put my cables on spikes and tweak my left speaker with an exotic wooden puck while the right one will need one made of titanium or daily motivational speeches. No, I want to buy the right stuff, get it over with and spend more time cleaning the place while screaming with Aretha to the delight (!) of my neighbours!

What I want? Bloom, bloom, bloom, disappearing speakers, musicality, equality between Björk, Nina, Sarah, Ella, Otis, The Cure, Coltrane or Schubert and non hi-fiish sterile sound. Non-mechanical sound. Colorations? Why not! Be it musical colorations. Fine by me!

First step will most probably be the Totem Arros. Cheap, cute, very petite, really do disappear, and can be very close to the back wall. No crazy bass perhaps but if Massive Attack pass the test, we might have a winner. Not super sensitive though. Not sure it is that crucial for real-world listening.

The player could be the new Rega Apollo, the CEC TL51XZ or some good DVD/CD player (Arcam?) would be handy too. Redbook supremacy is the priority though. We'll see...

Now, and that is my suggestion here (about time, huh?!), about the integrated. I think that's where I might have trouble finding the compatible one that will sound musical and magical and will be a great match for the Arros. From what I've read about integrateds -- and that's a lot -- the new Sugden A21SE and the Lavardin IS Reference seem to be different and musical and have both a certain magic about them. Haven't heard neither yet. Have heard most of the British ones (Arcam, Creek, Naim, Musical Fidelity, NAD) all sounded good to great but none had the magic, the soul that makes me think, who cares if there is no remote after all even if I want one really badly...

Both Sugden and Lavardin are more expensive than the rest and reviews are sparse yet everytime I read about them, I read incredible musicality, real magic and so on. If you ever got a chance to review either or both, that would be great. Is the extra $$$ worth it to gain the so-called magic Lamm and Shindo Labs possess? Are we closer to that than a 399$ NAD BEE?

That is my point and my question here I guess. And I think, to some degree that is yours (point) as well. About musicality, perhaps not budget considerations. Mine will be around $5K so I may be able to squeeze in a more expensive integrated if it's really worth. It for genuine musical sake. Of course, if it was $2K, the NAD BEE would be perfectly fine. So is a Toyota Corolla. But a Volkswagen Jetta is much more fun to drive for a bit more $$$ without going the BMW road. That old analogy yet again... Where does the magic starts?

Bottom line, I have a big mouth and if you've got a chance to review either the Lavardin and/or Sugden, that would be great. Other than that, the new music lovers corner is a great idea and a place I will be coming back to for sure.

Lucky you, I am finally done!!! ;-)

Hello Srajan,

My financial and professional commitment to a business start-up required that I downsize the two sound systems I had carefully pieced together over the years to provide what I considered to be extremely fine sound. In my downsizing efforts, I've had the good fortune to discover a low-cost alternative that really needs to be exposed to, and explored by, others.

As you have been on the leading edge of exploring new alternatives in your realsization series, and your words reach so many who are interested in today's music alternatives, I'm writing to recommend highly that you take a listen to this equipment and post your thoughts for your readers.

As background, I owned two highly regarded SET amps in their price-range, one retailed for $15,000 (mono amps) and the other for $4,500 (integrated), and a great preamp, all of which were fed by well-regarded DACs receiving their digital signal from MAC Minis. My main system utilized Silverline Bolero speakers and my second system includes Zu Druids (purchased before your review).

I've now sold my SET amps, preamp, and DACs and have replaced the Boleros with older Silverline Sonatina II speakers that were sitting unused in a closet. In financial terms, I have reduced the retail cost of my electronics from $29,500 to Euros 3,500 and subjectively reduced the quality of my main speakers.

The result? I now have a sound system that is not just incrementally better but a revelation! I feel like I've experienced the same paradigm shift as Jeff Day found with the Tom Evans equipment. But, I've saved a ton of money! I have listened to numerous systems over the years and I've been able to hear most all the top equipment that you and other reviewers have trumpeted, yet I have never heard a system that pulls it all together as well as my newly acquired main and office systems.

For a generalization of my sound preference, I have always enjoyed well executed SET amps more than any other. I have never found mainstream solid-state appealing and have not found the 47 labs or its derivatives to be quite satisfying. I confess I have not yet heard the better T-amp or ICE amp derivatives, the FirstWatt series nor have I heard the new Tom Evans amps. I have heard the Audiopax amp, which I liked but found a bit lacking in dynamics in the setup in which I heard it.

I can only attribute this new level of musical satisfaction to my new DAC and integrated amp, which are both from Altmann Micro Machines (AMM). AMM came to my attention several months ago by way of a link from the AudioSector website. I was intrigued by the overriding philosophy of the designer, which is similar to that of 47 labs' designer yet different, more organic and even less polished.

I was contemplating an AMM purchase when I read Dick Olsher's review of zero-oversampling DACs on Enjoy the Music, which included a rave review of the AMM Attraction DAC. The review, plus the fact I needed to replace the equipment I had sold, prompted me to immediately purchase the AMM Attraction DAC (Euros 1,000) and BYOB amp (Euros 750). I have since bought a second AMM DAC and amp.

For the first time, I made a purchase without having heard the components. I confess it was a Hail-Mary attempt to find a satisfactory, low-cost alternative to a very good sounding but expensive system. I was going only on the Olsher review and the gut-level feeling I had reading through the AMM websites. Yet I had no other alternatives that sparked my interest so I gave it a try.

I can only say that I find this equipment to be the best kept secret in audio. Rather than write my own review, I will simply point you and your readers to the Dick Olsher review.

I agree with every single statement made by Mr. Olsher, adding only that the BYOB amp is of the very same cloth. The amp supplies the absolute best 10 watts I've yet heard. Every single attribute of the DAC conveyed by Dick is delivered in spades by the amp as well.

I hope you will take a listen to these components and add them to realsization series. It would be interesting to see how you perceive AMM's Attraction DAC and BYOB amp to compare with your current favorites.

Hi Jeff,

This is great! An awesome idea. I'm really looking forward to your first installment of this series.

Good luck!
Best regards,
Pat Kernan

Loved the article on introducing your Music Lover Series. I think I am going to enjoy that series. Ultimately it is all about the music. It was put to me once during an audition by the guys at my local high-end store that the limiting factor were the CDs I brought. Well, what good is a system if it doesn't play the music I like?

Anyhow, here's my component recommendation - the Decware ZBox. It is a tubed linestage specifically designed to improve the sound of digital sources and, what can I say, it works! It's the type of component that makes all recordings sound more musical alright. My guess is that it complements otherwise all solid-state systems such as mine particularly well. Since it runs the tube at reduced voltage, it merely gets warm to the touch and should last a long time. I haven't had any trouble with it in the year that I've owned it. The only downfall, for customers who don't like to fiddle with their equipment is that you do ... need to fiddle with it on installation. Should you review it, therefore a few tips:

(1) You absolutely must change the supplied tube to get the most out of it! I don't know what Steve Deckert supplies at the moment, probably a new 12AT7. I say dump that tube, forget about new tubes and even NOS tubes. Get hold of a vintage Amperex Bugle Boy 12AU7 (1st choice) or Mullard 12AU7 (2nd choice) from the 1960s or earlier. I tried about a dozen different new, NOS and vintage tubes and the above were the only ones that stood out. In my system the Mullard gets the tone and musicality right, while the Amperex improves soundstage depth on top of that.

(2) The ZBox has a somewhat limited dynamic range. You may notice hum during quiet passages or distortion during loud ones. The key to improving this is first of all to use a 12AU7 tube, not a 12AT7 nor, worst of all, a 12AX7. Then, if your CD player or DAC has a volume control, set it as high as possible without causing ZBox to distort on the loudest and/or bass-heaviest passages of music. If your digital source doesn't have a volume control, use the volume pot built into the ZBox to attenuate the signal just enough so it doesn't distort. Hopefully, with a 12AU7, you should be able to leave the ZBox volume control turned up full. Once you have it set, you can forget about it from then on. Use the volume control on your preamp to control volume.

Well, I hope the above doesn't disqualify the ZBox on account of being to fiddly. It is worth hearing!
Max Busch
Hi Jeff,

I am glad to see you take on the quest of music vs. sound - that will make for a nice balance on 6moons; even though to be honest, this site is by far the least affected of all by the measurbator syndrome (the editor will probably cut that but it is the best way I can describe it).

I have had, until recently, the same system for over 10 years. Good old Rogers LS 3/5a speakers and their bass woofers AB1, a Sphinx Project 10 integrated amplifier and an Accuphase DP 55 D player - the whole thing cabled with cheap generic wire. It did music everywhere I went for 10 years, moving 5 times and over many oceans, plugged into various transformers to accomodate local voltage - I would unplug it at one end and plug it in at the other end of the move and music would flow. Midrange was obviously the strength of the system - good thing because that's where the heart is (classical, small scale orchestral, chamber music and overall vocal music).

And then I started to read 6moons - and I was doomed. After a year, it became obvious that there was a way to take my system further (by a fair margin) and enjoy my CDs even more. Now, this website should be forbidden to young men, married, with 2 kids, who just bought a house on 2 acres on the east coast... because multi thousand dollar systems ain't for us - not for another 25 years anyway, when the kids are done with college.

So I settled to build a system that gives me more of what I had for a "reasonnable" budget. The CD player is still the Accuphase. I went with the Onix SP3 (the best tube amp for that kind of money - anything remotely close is twice the price or more) and recently added the FJ OMs (John Potis product of the year). And I upgraded my cables to the cheap but reliable Cobalt cales.

The midrange of this system is spectacular, dense but transparent at the same time. The highs are just slightly rolled-off which is what I like - and the bass is actually slightly deeper than with the LS 3/5a and AB1 combo. Soundstaging is extremely wide but not overly deep (could be a result of my room too with a floor to ceiling fireplace 4 feet behind the speakers).

The limits: bass obviously but also a certain compression with big orchestral works. The lack of depth and the inability to read the various layers of the orchestra shows on those large orchestral works. This issue is related to the interaction between amp and speakers. If I put my Sphinx in the chain, the clarity of the various orchestral layers returns and the feeling of compression is lifted (but tones become "solid state" again and the midrange quality loses some of its richness). Since I listen to small scale music 95% of the time, the Onix stays but one day I'll settle for an amplifier that delivers both (yeah right, in another 15 years maybe).

The next upgrade will be a REL subwoofer (thanks Srajan for the advice!) and Zu speaker cables (to retrieve more details at low levels when I listen at night with everybody asleep). I know what my ideal music system is; I heard it 12 years ago and the music virus got me that day in that very room. It was a Teac transport, a top of the line Audio Note DAC, an Ongaku integrated amp and Audio Note's top of the line speakers of the time. It was 12 years ago at the Audio show in Paris - and I still get all warm and fuzzy when I think about what I heard out of that system...

Looking forward to reading these new articles.
Frederic Beudot

I always look forward to reading (and rereading) your contributions to 6moons. I remain especially impressed and intrigued by your reviews of equipment/art of Messrs. Evans and Garber. Like you, I am also a huge proponent of system synergy. I keep hoping that you will soon update your bio/system page.

Your latest idea for a Music Lovers Review Series is wonderful. I look forward to your contributions. I favor LPs and CDs over equipment and listen primarily to modern to avantgarde Jazz (I have about 3000 LPs and 300 CDs), but I also love Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Emmylou Harris and small-scale classical music. One of my favorite music systems for the kind of music that I listen to included an Audio Note SORO integrated amplifier driving a pair of Audio Note AN-K (Snell) 2-way speakers. Most of the music came from a Linn LP 12 - Ittok with a Grado Master cartridge. CDs are played on a Njoe Tjoeb modified Marantz CD player. Sadly, I fried my SORO almost two years ago. I replaced the integrated SORO with a Crimson CS610C and CS620C.

Here are a few of the things that I like and the couple things that I don't like about the Crimson electronics -
  • I Love the fact that the Crimson makes music. - I could stop here, but I won't. Complex music is easier to hear - again, after #1, nothing else matters, but I am not talking about sound effects...but "complex" music in which a lot is going on ar the same time, multiple melodies or rhythms is more "accessible".
  • Crimson loves phono - I like the fact that phono is integral to the CS610C and that an upgrade path includes the ability to try a moving coil. I later upgraded my Grado to a Reson Elite moving coil cartridge.
  • Crimson doesn't sound "electronic" like many other solid state amplifiers. I know the flat earthers say it is only about pace, rhythm and timing, but they are starts with pace, rhythm and timing but the human voice (or an instrumental approximation of the human voice ) needs to sound "human" or the artificiality of home stereo zaps out all the fun. The Audio Note SORO was far from perfect but Joni Mitchell sang and the great American backwoods countrified balladeers sounded like people through the SORO. I tried an OTO in my system and the Crimson sounds fuller than the OTO (like the voices come from the chests of singers, not just their mouths). The Crimson CS610C/CS620C is better than the OTO in my system in my living room. The Crimson may be as good or better with the human voice than the SORO...I don't know because I incinerated the SORO, but Crimson sounds much more human to my ears than either Naim or Linn.
  • Crimson appeals to my minimalist aesthetic. I love the fact that it is just two small boxes.

Two little things that I don't like:

  • I will miss the physical beauty of tubes and farting around with tube rolling.
  • The Crimson makes a loud electronic pop when I turn it off.

Even though I like the Crimson, I still miss my SORO. Reading your reviews of the Tom Evans equipment, your and Michael Lavorgna's reviews of the Fi amps and Jules Coleman's reviews of the Shindo equipment, have left me wanting to hear a different version of musicality for my records and CDs.

Thanks again for you impassioned and well-crafted writings on musical hi-fi equipment.

Charles Parrish


I always enjoy your writing. It's the enthusiasm that bubbles through, and then I want to listen to some music on my own rig. Which must be the whole point of the exercise, no?

And now you have come up with a good idea - systems for music lovers.There is still something fascinating about gear. Magic and dreams meet in hardware, and I still once in a while have to fight the urge to buy something new. (This little viral upsurge is always caused by reading reviews.....)

Reviewers get all the promiscuous fun and the consumer pays the bill.

Instead of upgrading I have gone the other way. Downgrading. I reached a summit and found I was still obsessively unsatisfied and started going downhill instead. I still have the expensive cables (and some stupid Titanium pulsar points which I refuse to use - because they remind me of, well, how stupid I was).

On the downgrade path I could still buy lots of new machines (and sell the old ones to half price). But now I seem to have reached an equilibrium (of sorts). A review of Leben got my juices going. And then there was Almarro. And then there was Cambridge Audio. And chip amps.

Yes Yes. I have had my speakers for 5 years. (I feel I should get an award for this). And amp/CD for three. Sorry about the density of my waffling - maybe I am trying to get something of my chest.....

Perhaps my hard learned lessons for music lovers?

Buy a cheap valve amp with cheap easily replaceable valves. Buy a really cheap CD player (of the same make as the amp). Don't waste money on cables. Plug your iPod into the system (and not the computer). Don't plug the iPod into your ears. Make sure the loudspeakers are not ported and small (for those who live in Europe).

So, my suggestion for a review: Synthesis from Italy. Beautiful to look at. Lovely tone. Spendor from England. A reliable legend and sound. Kimber cables. Cheap. I just might allow two tweaks: power cables and remove the dust daily.

When the urge to grade "up", "down" or "laterally" appears - lie down on the couch and ask yourself if it will make your life any happier. Stay on the couch until you answer NO. Now I am going to turn on my system and turn off the computer. Why don't you do the same?

(A Danish fan!)
Hello Jeff,

Congratulations on the third of three great reviews on TEAD. I would still like to know how the Vibe stacks up against Srajan's passive reference tranformer-based attenuator to see if passive is really better. Again, you write a great review and again, Tom Evans is very fortunate that you got the job.

Brad Connery

Hello Srajan,

About your mention of Uesugi in the News Room. Uesugi is a old Japanese brand, probably bought now by Teac/Esoteric. Uesugi is not present either in the US and European markets. Jean Hiraga of "La Revue du Son" is a specialist in the history of the Japanese brands.

Many thanks for your fine website, informative and very competent.

Alfred Maistriaux
I encountered the 6moons website last summer and have quickly become enamored of its approach. While I do not agree with all of the writers all of the time, I have found the approach to be one I can enjoy not just for its various points of view but for how accessible the reviews are even when discussing items I would never consider for my personal use. There is still a powerfully pragmatic part of me that asks, "just how many music discs is this sonic improvement worth" but I hope to audition the Gallo Reference IIIs when I can find the time to visit the nearest dealer and will seriously consider making them a personal housewarming gift once I obtain a home of my own. If I can hear an improvement up to that price, I think I can forego purchasing a few recordings while I enjoy my music library once again.

I understood the concepts behind the micropower and single-driver movement when the basics were described in the various articles covering the loudspeakers and amplifiers on your site but I really "got it" the day my "Son of T-Amp" and Audiodigit's CS-1 arrived. The loudspeakers can be found here and I ordered the one-off yellow/brown multicolored model in the lower photograph. A friend was present when I fired everything up and half a minute later I was turning to him with my old RCA/Radio Shack amplifier and BOSE 101 monitors saying, "do you want these? No charge: just help me make some room in this apartment." The poor fellow was dumbfounded and to this day I still feel some guilt as he truly thought I was doing him a favor. I waited until he had left to cue up my favorite Judee Sill tracks as I had a good idea of what it would do to me but I was not prepared for her voice to reach out across thirty years, caress my heart and make me completely break down crying while listening to her sing. It was at that point that I understood why you and the team of writers and reviewers you have assembled do what you do. Thank you very much for your hard work and wonderful writing.

Peter Cooke
Dear Srajan,

Your Zu Definition Pro FollowUp is a mind-opening litmus paper on "how to analyze a product in a comparative approach" by wisely questioning the accepted sonic norms and understanding them from a creative and honest perpective. Your article also redefines the basic criterion on hi-fi reviewing. It further puts my shared views on audio to paper in a stylistic and creative way. Thank you for that.

Now, "the portrait and the criterion of the audio reviewer" has been redefined. This is a new path to follow.

Sezai Saktanber
I agree that the appearance of the listening room is important. Mood affects how we hear music and being in a relaxed mood makes it much easier for me to enjoy music and to be receptive to what the musicians are doing. It simply makes sense to spend some time, and money if necessary, on having an attractive room that you feel relaxed and comfortable about spending time in.

My room doubles as the 'library' with 8 square metres of bookcases filled with books down one side wall. Besides looking nice, it's a cheap and helpful acoustic treatment providing some absorption to balance 2 open archway entrances on the other side of the room. I also have a comfortable chair set up next to the back window and it's a nice, relaxing room in which to just sit and read.

And that brings up the other important thing in listening room decor: comfortable chairs. If you're going to spend a lot of time listening to music, it simply makes sense to spend a bit on getting a chair that is comfortable for the duration of a long listening period. It's easy to listen to 3 or 4 discs in a night, and that can take 3 to 4 hours. Many chairs simply don't remain comfortable over that period of time simply because they're too soft and don't supply support in the right places. You end up collapsing in them and start fidgeting after 20 or 30 minutes, and then you're no longer listening to the music but listening to the discomfort of your body. Money spent on a good chair that supports you comfortably for an evening's listening session is definitely not money wasted.

David Aiken
Hi Srajan

Got my Druids and am really liking them. I'm wondering if you could tell me what the differences would be w/ tube pre and SS amp vs SS pre and tube amp, for instance Modwright 9.0/F3 vs. Bel Canto Pre3/Yamamoto. (I have space/$ for either combo, but not both.)

How would they compare, and which would you choose? I believe you've said you'd want tubes in at least one part of the chain.


Your two proposed rigs are both exceptional and rather similar performance wise. In short, they're both winners and I have 'em both. I really would be hard-pressed to say which I like better but at the end of the day, I'd probably lean towards the second system. The only proviso I should insert is that I haven't heard the Druid on the Yamamoto. Being a 12-ohm load, the amp should be in heaven but I remember how in Decware's case, their 6wpc amp was actually happier into the 6-ohm Definitions. I'd commune with Brian at Venus HiFi who has tried the Yammy/Druid combo and could tell you for certain. I'm sure it's a dream match but I'd rather have someone with personal experience confirm it.



I have read your news update on the Duevel Planets omnidirectional two way loudspeakers. Recently the online tech site Gizmodo released information about the Modal Scientific omnidirectional loudspeakers designed by Kunihiro Tsuji. As an idolator of good design, I am heavily critical of industrial/product design. Although omnidirectional loudspeakers have yet to be fully embraced by audiophiles, Tsuji's MUJI-like approach to aesthetic design is so well done that almost anyone is attracted to them. I have no association with Modal Scientific and felt that this new product my be consistent with the interests of 6moons staff and readers. For more information see:


Your new room pics - very nice. My biggest complaint when I visit audio guys' rooms is that many of them pay no attention to the aesthetics of the setup and room. Feels like you're in a lab. You did a good job there.

I once visited John Tucker's listening room at Exemplar Audio. His taste was not my thing, but the room was incredibly peaceful and calming. I actually joked with him, accusing him of putting up some native American magic, since he had a lot of stuff like that around. Before the first note came out, you felt good. Just goes to show audio's only a little about the sound.

It'd be interesting for us to read your thoughts on
putting together a room. You've seen and photographed a ton of different systems and setups, and given your experience and the collective experience of your writing team, maybe one of you could put together an article for us about the factors going into the total aesthetic experience of listening, beyond the actual sound system. Or maybe it's pointless. The truth is, people that get it (and you can never really tell from pictures alone - I guess you have to actually be in the room, but I believe photos can definitely give one a feel for the overall experience of the installation) do interesting installations, and people that don't, don't. I guess I'm thinking that it might be food for thought for people that haven't really paid much attention to this.

Anyway, keep up the good work. Your site is by far the best on-line right now and the clear choice if I could only pick one to keep up with.


Since I work out of my home, its aesthetics and comfort factor are vitally important. The same goes for the audio room where I spend far more time than I should. It's an interesting suggestion to write about this but for one, I think your pointless point is on the money and for two, there's people with actual credentials -- interior designers, custom installers, Feng Shui practitioners -- who'd probably be far better to comment on this subject. I know what I like but talking about things on a more universally relevant level is probably out of my ken. But I might give it a shot. I like a challenge and if I fail, I'm sure I'll hear about it soon enough -:)


Hi Srajan,

I have visited your website from time to time and found it really useful and interesting. A non-musical question to start with: your photos of your new home & listening space in Cyprus are amazing... I am an amateur photographer whose results don't quite match up. Out of interest, what camera & lens are you using? R u shooting with tripod and studio lights? Your photos appear to be incredibly sharp with excellent lighting.

Now a question more relevant to your website: I am considering getting a Krell SACD player (the Standard). I could not find a review on your website and wondered if you had a view on either this player or the SACD format. I have a great option on an ex-demo unit in the UK in new condition. I currently I am using a Bryston BP25DA pre-amp that has an in-built DAC that does a great job for decoding red-book, but this does not help me with the allegedly superior formats that I wonder about in terms of upgrading my system.

You may be interested, I went to the PMC headquarters in Luton recently as said pre-amp/DAC was in for repair. Very understated premises from the outside, but once you get beyond the exterior one is presented with exceptional people and an aura of excellence. Very interesting seeing the workshop where the speakers are made, not massive in scale, but great seeing craftsmen diligently at work.

Best wishes,
Richard Leeman

We have not reviewed the Krell but Ken Micallef who also writes for other publications may have - I seem to recall something to that effect and you might want to check with him. Not surprised to hear the PMC outfit is tight. Catering to recording studio professionals, they're working to high standards. I don't use a tripod or studio lights but simply ambient light and a Nikon Coolpix 5400 with some Photoshop touchup work. I have a tripod, of course, but I've learned to hold still enough and very rarely need exposure times that exceed my ability to not shake. But truly, I don't even consider myself an amateur photographer. I'd fail misterably doing anything beyond what I'm doing for 6moons. As with everything I do, I'm simply self-taught and learn and get better as I go along - and that Nikon is a really good little machine.


Hi Paul,

Well, it took 4 1/2 months, but I got the custom Zu sub. The main box is 12W X 12D X 15H not counting the baffles or the amp heat sinks and is sealed. It weighs about 55lbs and has massive spikes and came with a Birth power cord too. The two 10 inch drivers fire to the sides. It's finished the same way as the Tones. I also ordered a pair of Zu Gauge speaker cables for the sub.

I haven't had a chance to hook it up yet, I have been so busy at work with not to many days off. I hope to have it hooked up in a day or two.

Also, I tried the Birth power cord on my CDP and think it is a great upgrade.

Don Cooper

PS: I have listened to the sub for about a week now and love it. I don't think I can listen to the Tones again without it. It doesn't have a great deal of impact (doesn't shake things off shelves etc.) but does have excellent extension and tone. It sounds like a natural extension of the Tones.

PPS: Today I called Zu and ordered a pair of Druid speakers and Libtec cables! I wanted the Druids from the beginning and just cant resist any more :-)


I am writing to compliment your gorgeous photographs seen throughout your various reviews. They are some of the best indoor shots taken with (seemingly) ambient light I've ever seen. For instance the shots of your new room just pop right off the screen. Amazing stuff! Not to discredit the photographer's role in the process or anything, but I was curious what camera you're using?

Nathan Marciniak

Do discredit the photographer. He's an aim'n'snap kinda guy. Alas, I do some "post-production" work in Photoshop. The camera is a Nikon Coolpix 5400. John Potis has the more current 8 megapixel version, Jeff Day uses the same as mine. For amateurs, these Nikons sure do take pretty pix. The "museum" setting in particular is useful to avoid flash but get auto compensation for dimmer lighting conditions. Of course advancing beyond the auto modes to adjusting particular values comes in handy when you have severe backlighting as I have in my room, what with the bright white Cyprus light coming in thru the window behind the rig. But it's primarily the Nikon's optics and software smarts that are to credit for the picture quality.


Aloha Jeff,

I am sure you are still getting emails about your Garrard 301 reporting. Well, I am a reader that just learned about 6moons and loves it! I was tinkering with these Garrards back in the early 90's along with the tubes and just let things go for while as they say. Well, your article has inspired me to try a new project. I wanted to ask you which arm did you end up using with your 301; the Rega RB250, SME or another one?

Also, did you try out the SME 3009? I was curious if it would sound nice and if there were any advantages with having the fixed headshell or the removable one? I like you enjoy Jazz and have some cherished 78rpm records so I think I would need to have a separate setup for this, correct? I will follow your advice and get the Denon DL 103 cartridge but will have to find another one for 78s.

Look forward to hearing from you. Thank you so much.


Hi Kyle,

Thanks for the kind words - appreciated. I love these old Garrards, they're a lot of fun.

I actually haven't selected a permanent tonearm yet but of the ones I've tried I like the SME 3012 best with the Denon 103 cartridge. The Denon can get a bit tizzy sounding with shorter tonearms. The Denon is a low compliance cartridge and seems to sound best with longer tonearms, at least that's my experience so far. Higher compliance cartridges (most modern carts), work great with the shorter and stiffer modern tonearms. If you go with a shorter 9" tonearm, I'd go with something like the 47Labs MC Bee cartridge, which is really incredible in a shorter arm.

The detachable headshell is nice if you have several cartridges you want to swap in and out. In the next few months the tonearm article for the Garrard Project (part 3) will be ready as will a review of a new and relatively affordable plinth & tonearm combination.

There's more coming!

Kind regards,

Hi Srajan

Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I'm now listening to 55-watt pure Class A SET monos. The topology consists of 6SL7 and 6SN7 triodes to drive paralleled 6C33Cs. The circuit is very simple to my eyes, with very few parts, only three coupling caps. The designer Vladimir is using Philips caps, never knew they made 'em, anyhow will replace with V-Caps. Srajan, I think I did it, I think I found it, the missing link, amp not ape. The sound is very much like listening to the Art Audio Jotas, midrange is dead-on in comparison, bass just a tad less with a little more control, the treble is almost a clone, just a tad less extended, staging is more see through and I dare say trumps the Jota - plus more headroom, 55 glorious watts. How do parallel 6C33Cs sound almost like single 32Bs in every way? I'm blown away and can only say hearing is believing. V-Caps may very well take the Audio Mirror amps to a level beyond the Jotas, or any other single-ended amp for that matter. It's that crazy but powerful.

I mentioned to Vladimir I'd be giving you a report on his amps, it made him happy to hear this. Srajan, if you decide to listen for yourself, or better yet, review Audio Mirror Amps, mention me when you call on Vladimir,, his direct phone is # 281-880-6156. One more thing, these amps only cost $1,800. Wow!

Mark Gasparre
Dear sir,

First of all, I live in Bangkok, Thailand and am a big fan of 6moons. I'm building my new systems based on your reviews (Consonance Ref 2.2 Linear and Consonance Ref 1.3 transformer passive preamp --I can't find Music First Audio preamp here so I'll try the Ref 1.3 which shares very similar specs as MFA butis much cheaper) plus Yamamoto A08S + Zu druid MK4 + Zu Ibis cable.

I'm also interesting in getting Zu Varial but I want to wait for your revelation on the name of the mystery amorphous cable that mentioned in your review on September 2005. I'm not sure whether you have revealed the name in 6moons already. Could you please let me know?

Thank you very much for your time.

Best regards,

I'm afraid that particular cable remains shrouded in mystery still. Last I heard, they were having consistency issues with the supplier. There is only one source for the raw conductor on the planet at present and the company involved with using it for audio is exceptionally finicky about quality control. Rather than coming to market prematurely, they prefer to wait until all the production issues are sorted out. Otherwise, they'd risk tarnishing their stellar reputation.


I read with great interest your Pandering vs. Catering feature. I am a professional caterer (food not audio) and think your statements were spot on accurate. Catering is all about giving people what they want. Although, I find that sometimes people do not really know what they want. Or even when people do know what they are looking for, often are not able to take into consideration all the variables and implications their choices and opinions may bring. Being a professional caterer is about having enough knowledge through training and experience to help people make the decisions and choices they want. It is also about making certain they will continue to be satisfied with their choices after the fact.

My experience with 6moons reviews has reflected this style of "catering". There is no shame in revealing and repeating the truth more than once. When I say truth, I mean the reviewer's honest professional opinion. Reviewers have the benefit of experiencing many more components than the average end user. If the truth is there are certain manufacturers that are onto to something special (as in the case of Zu Cable), it would be doing the readers a disservice not to make sure the truth is heard. Not clearly stating (and restating) the reviewer's opinion could be called pandering towards the benefit of ignorance.

Srajan, you and I are both former Avantgarde Duo owners. I owned the Duos before 6moons came to be, but when I read your reviews of the Duo, your opinions became valuable to me because they were validated by my own experience. When 6moons started reviewing the Zu Cable speakers and started talking about "realsization", my curiosity was piqued. Based upon the information I read in your reviews, I made it a point to personally audition the Zu Definitions. After the audition, I sold the Duos (which for those who do not know are awesome speakers) and bought the Definitions. The reviewers "catered" to my listening tastes and guided me to making the right choice - at least the right choice for me. I would not even have known of Zu Cable's existence were it not for 6moons. You are catering to this caterer and in this case, I am thoroughly enjoying what I'm hearing.

Fred Manheck
Hi Srajan,

I hope you are getting settled okay in Cyprus, enjoying the beautiful spring over there. Did all your cherished equipment make it without any problem ? That's always my worst worry when I have to move from one country to another, but knock on wood, after 5 moves - so far so good - I just hope you are as lucky.

My question today will sound like I want a free consultation but more than a product endorsement (I read your reviews for that), I'd like to know, based on your experience, what area is likely to yield the best improvement to my system - knowing that of course there are a few limiting factors...

Currently I listen to an Accuphase CDP55 feeding an Onix SP3 (completely retubed) driving a pair of FJ OMs. Speaker cables are Cobalt (nice copper cables but not the most detailed in the market - but very well priced too), and my interconnects are Consonance Billies - like the cobalts, very sweet and relaxed.

The system is relaxed with a great midrange, not very extended on top but that suits me just fine. My room sounds lean and therefore bass extension is clearly the weakness of my system by far. I can move the speakers closer to the back wall (they are currently 3 feet away) but the mids starts to muddy slightly and imaging becomes ever so less precise. And since imaging and medium are what I live and die by in a system, I will leave the speakers where they are.

The second element I would like to improve is the level of detail, the speed and energy of the music. In one word, can I keep the sweet mids but have a slightly less relaxed sound ? A little more detail and jump factor ?

Now my real dilemma is where to start ? My wife won't let me have anything bigger than the OMs in the living room (which unfortunately is the best sounding room by far) and room treatments are out of the question (and I agree with her, why have a solid stone fireplace to hide it behind reflectors ?).

It seems that to increase slam and energy I could move to a less relaxed CD player than the Accuphase. A Consonance Droplet or CD 2.2 linear might do it (or the new Bel Canto Dac could be the ticket) - but I am debating whether the very transparent Zu Cable Libtec and Varial combo would not achieve even better in that department.

And when it comes to bass, should I go directly to a separate subwoofer; or a room equalization device like the DEQX or TacTc ould solve the problem? I am also wondering if the Onix has enough control of the OMs or if I should look for an amplifier with more solid bass extension and control and maybe a tad more detailed (like the Manley Stingray or Shrimp + Mahi , or a McIntosh MC275- or the new BelCanto S300 perhaps?).

I don't want to destroy what I like, namely the imaging and the gorgeous midrange - and I am wondering where I should start as my next best improvement. Based on your experience, what area should I look into first if my #1 priority is to increase detail and "jump" factor and bass extension is only secondary ? I know, you will say get some Zu Druids and since I bought the OMs I have heard the Zus again in a different environment with fabulous results - but they do not pass the wife acceptance test anyway, so (almost) no regrets...

Best regards and thanks for your advice,
Frederic Beudot

By design, the amount of low bass the OMs can deliver is restricted so a sub would give you more weight and extension -- I'm thinking REL here -- but you'd automatically also warm up the sound. That's what adding bass nearly always does. I'm not familiar with the Accuphase CDP to know how it'd compare to the Opera players but based on the reputation of Accuphase alone, I doubt you should trade it in for something else. Redoing the cabling with Zu does strike me as a viable idea in theory but again, I don't know your cables to be sure. EQing the OMs for more bass would place a high burden on the Onix since you're now asking it to produce in a rather non-linear fashion below where the OMs give out. Not a good idea with a medium-power tube amp. I'd be far more in favor of adding a superior sub that offers very fine adjustments of its crossover point. Again, REL. I'd check the Sumiko website for pricing and room size recommendations re: the various REL models to identify one that seems suitable.

Once you've overcome the leanness in your room/system, the presentation will feel far ballsier, more grounded and with more jump factor in the critical mid/upper bass region. That alone could give you what you're after. If later, you feel the need for more subjective speed, the Zu cable idea strikes me as very valid and on the moons, would be confirmed by Stephaen and Paul who've had similar experiences with it.


Hi Srajan,

I really enjoyed the articles on Kondo/Living Voice and Komuro. The latest issue of Hifi+ also had some good reviews of a few high-end Japanese brands. Further, every now and then I pay a tidy sum here in the US for a copy of a thick Japanese audio magazine with its reviews and articles on reader's systems (I can't read a word of it!). I myself own the Leben CS300x integrated amp. It sounds wonderful, but it also looks fantastic and is laid out beautifully inside.

There is a compelling artfulness, passion and obsessiveness that seems to go into the Japanese school of audio design. With 6moons' cultural perspective, it would be interesting to read an anthropological study of this phenomenon. Your Komuro article began to explore the topic.


There's no lack of willingness but a distinct lack of anthropological chops on my staff. Unless one of my guys moonlights on the side in this field. In which case, consider me in awe. But I fully agree, there's something unique about how Zanden, Shindo, 47lab -- even Esoteric in the corporate sector -- go about executing their products that seems nearly part of a cultural obsession with perfection. Check out the post three down from yours. It taps into this exact issue. I highly recommend you download the word doc referenced there (it's archived on our server and perfectly safe). In fact, one of my ambitions is to eventually have a Japanese correspondent or reviewer on staff who could connect us to the Japanese audio underground. I'm afraid we haven't scratched the surface yet of what some of its audiomaniacs are up to. If any Japanese writer feels compelled to answer this call, contact me. I'd love to talk...



My name is Mike Rodman and I've had the strange professional combination ofworking a dozen years in the newspaper business and another dozen years in the consumer electronics business - a two-fer in the Sadistic Employment Index.

Since writing has been my most recent work (I went back to newspapers in 1991, after leaving them in 1977), I can relate to your piece of today: "Pandering vs. Catering." While reading it, it was easy for me to remember outraged community members whenever I dug up a story not particularly good for whatever favorite son was on the end of the skewer.

So since I've enjoyed every bit of the time I've spent at 6moons in the past few months, please allow me to give you the same advice a good editor once told me: Let the dogs bark.

Just keep doing what you're doing - and thanks for all your efforts. They do not go unappreciated.

Warmest regards,
Mike Rodman

P.S. -- If you care, my book can be found at:

Unfortunate, the need to occasionally step onto the blacktop after school. (Please pardon my Colloquialisms Americana. I can hold a conversation in completely figurative verbiage leaving me understood by a total of three living people and a Siamese cat named Zephyr)

The logic of your or any reviewer's situation I feel almost loathe to point out. It's like looking at a dog and saying, 'look, its a dog." If you like an artist's conception and expression, you will likely enjoy more than a single instance of his or her work. Similarly, if a designer proves innovative, this tendency will hopefully carry over to more than one music-producing magic box.

The inanity of the conversation brings to mind a man I admire. An elegant man from Washington D.C. who managed to lead a band through the South during the Jim Crow er; .who preserved the safety and dignity of his musicians by buying his own rail car, so that their conversations would never stoop to whether or not they were able to eat in a road side diner. To keep yourself elevated in the pursuit of that which you seek, ignoring the world's desire to drag you into a conversation that is beneath you, without merit or other than your goal...that was Duke.

Beneath us then, this young teen fem boy posturing of he said she said and water cooler exposes. Let what is great be great and let the dialogue continue. Those of us who recognize 'background music' as an oxymoron will stay in pursuit of that higher ground.

Thank you for your efforts. They have been both entertaining and helpful in my pursuit.

Best regards,
Frederick Crane
Checking in on your writing today - very much appreciated you priorities and your once again defense of your editorial rights and priviledges. Hey, I am in total support, give me a list of names and I'll gas up the Falconjet, pick up a bat and go straighten out a few of these nit-pickin' dunderheads.

Say, I am writing to attach a file [158KB down-loadable word doc] that gives the story of what Morihiro Hosokawa is currently up to - only in Japan would a member of a Noble House drop out of sight after running the country to become a potter. And not just any potter. The interview is great. Especially the details of his eccentric, Porsche-driving pottery master. I include this because of the recent articles on Living Voice/Kondo-San and also your recent addition of Nori Komuro who, although very "americanized", still displays the fastidious devotion to detail only the Japanese seem committed to.

There is a simple reason for this. When after the war they were first entering the camera industry -- Nikon etc -- as well as the car industry a few decades later, it was not just their determination that lead to the superior product. It was their fastidiousness. On a typical assembly line in NA at the time let's say for cars, cameras or televisions, the management would allow for a mistake/fault rate of up to 5%! Not to mention whatever else slipped by the inspectors.

The Japanese always strive for a 0.00% error rate on any assembly line or business. And they press hard - think Toyota. Anyway, I am going on as usual due to a large Afghani chai. Say when I meet you whenever that may be, I will present you with two of MH's chawan bowls - I am drinking from a smallish one as I write. Remember Srajan - keep centered, remember your lines and don't bump into too many other actors. I'm doing battle with minute staph critters and listening to Ali Akbar Khan and believe it or not, the Kronos String Quartet's Thelonius Monk "cover" album.


I had the pleasure of meeting Komuro when Mike H. and I were members of the Philadelphia audio society. I remember listening to his 845 single-ended amps and commenting that I had never heard anything like at that time. We were at Peter B.'s house and JC Morrisson was there also. I don't know if there is a nicer, more humble genius anywhere than Komuro-san.

Chris Keating
Hi Srajan,

Thank you for your e-zine and for posting so many reviews. I was eagerly awaiting the Darzteel review. What ever became of it?

James Duncan

Good question. Mike Malinowksi was promised the show unit of last year's Denver show. Despite countless promises and explanations, he still hasn't received it and we've by now given up. Mike put in a visit with Herve in Switzerland and had planned on including that factory tour material with the review. By now, I consider the review cancelled though I'm at a loss to understand why. It's something for darTZeel and their current US distributor to work out and consider.


Dear Paul;

Here's an idea I had about an article for your column: What bugs readers about reviewers.

1. How can reviewers write constructive or otherwise criticism about a component when most setups I see in postings or articles are crap? There is usually more than one pair of speakers in the room sending out sympathetic vibrations. The soundfield is compromised of plants, rattan furniture, fireplaces or the kind of audio aesthetic one would expect to find in a TLC makeover. Some pictures show equipment piled six deep with no regard for cable dressing, vibration, EMI or RFI or any other impediment we readers are cautioned to avoid. Are we playing Simon Says?

2. We listen to music not equipment. Most of us do not listen to Scandinavian jazz, self-indulgent blues ( which may not be contradictory), cannon shots or silent dog whistles. How about telling us how the equipment sounds with music people actually listen to as opposed to the soundtrack from Patriot Games?

3. We of the middleclass do not understand why someone would pay $350,000US for an amplifier. Why not have Sting come to your house? My stereo sounds better after a $14 bottle of Chilean red wine. I also don't want Sting commenting on my yard work.

4. Most of us already own all the music we like on at least two formats. We buy new music because we're bored and it gives us an excuse to drop out of the shoe store while the loved-one browses. Let's find the most satisfying way to enjoy what we have rather than finding another way of reproducing it. Boomers are losing both their hearing and their patience. When are we going to get the Beatles in HDCD or on 200 gram vinyl? Is it Yoko's fault again?

5. Finally, why am I never around when Girls decide to Go Wild?

Yours truly,
Jim Brock


These days I am testing a pair of Druids in my own setup, inspired by your review, and my impressions confirm your writings. The midrange is very good, as you say, but I don't think I can live with the poor treble recreation. It's too opaque. I prefer the openess and better imaging presented by the Gallo Reference 3, even though they are almost too electrostatic in the treble. I tested them half a year ago, even then inspired by your writings, and found them to be a bit too lean in the midrange. Since then there is an updated version of the Gallos that is even better according to you and others, which sounds very promising to me. If I buy them, what preamp and amp do you suggest for them? The conditions are twofold: I want a bit more image density out of the Gallos (but not as much as presented in the Druids) and I don't want them to enhance the electrostatic tendency (or reduce the openess, for that matter). Let's say we have the following amps and preamps to play with: NuForce Reference 9.02, AudioSector Patek SE, ModWright SWL9.0 (balanced version) and Audiopax Model 5. Which amp and preamp combination, according to your expertise, would do the best possible work to satisfy my expectations of the sound coming from a pair of Gallo Reference 3.1s? (My source is a Level 5 upgraded Sony SCD-777SE by Allen Wright.)

ModWright + NuForce
Audiopax + NuForce
ModWright + Patek

If Patek SE is chosen, I probably need two of them, right? (And I guess Model 5 and Patek is not a possible combo if the Gallos demand two Pateks, since the Model 5 is an unbalanced unit?) What signal cables and loudspeaker cables do you suggest for the winning combination?

I trust your judgement and look forward to your advice and conclusions!

Thanks and best regards,
Leif Svedlund

Due to the events chronicled in my review of the NuForce 9 monos, I'm not 100% confident in recommending them. However, my man Edgar in Australia purchased a pair of 9.02SEs for personal use so that's quite an endorsement. Since you're asking me, I'd recommend the ModWright/Patek combo with Zu cabling (the latter is dirt cheap for how good it is so simply select a model based on your price comfort zone). One Patek would be all that's needed for 45wpc stereo, in which case there's no need for a balanced ModWright (which, in fact, I was unaware existed). Bridging the Pateks for 100-watt mono only gives you an additional 3dB of headroom, not anything I reckon you'd ever tap with the Ref 3.1s so save yourself the expense or spend it on CDs or records instead -:)


I was interested in your review of the new Cartridge man tonearm and your mention of the ET2. I have an ET2, which I loved for its lack of colouration and distortion, but I found it much less dynamic than an OL1 and now use anOL Encounter. I would have thought that the Composer would suffer from the same problem as it is a low pressure design- my explanation for the "problem". After reading your review I am tempted to give it another go, but with a carbon fibre wand.

I would appreciate your comments on this. Does the Conductor sound less dynamic than other arms you have tried? Is it better than an ET (in your opinion?)


Hi Iain,

Thanks for the email. Ordinarily I'd answer privately, but your email seems not to be working so I hope you're okay with a public reply. In short, I find the Conductor as dynamic as any other arm I've used. I'm still working on my ET2 (restoring, rewiring, filters and pumps - I believe the ET2 needs lots of pressure to get the best out of it) so it's early to give a comparison, but I wouldn't be surprised if lack of proper pressure and maintenance issues might lead to dynamic problems with this arm.

Obviously the capabilities of any arm has a lot has to do with matching the right cartridge - particularly compliance and resonance issues. I don't think comparisons between the ET2 and the Conductor are going to be all that meaningful, as the solutions employed all along the design process are different.

Hope that helps.

Dear Srajan,

Many thanks for making past issues on reviews of Hi-Fi equipment availlable for surfers like myself at no cost. I read a few reviews. I like those which are right to the point and I found some of them to steer off topic and waffle too much. A major improvement is to be more specific and not to stray off the main idea of reviewing the equipment. Once it waffles off the main topic, it tends to bore me.

Thanks for hearing my comments.

Tean Tan

As you rightly noted, we're entirely free of charge to our reader. Seeing how many of those enjoy what we're doing, I very much doubt that we'll change what we do and how we do it anytime soon. If that means you're bored, perhaps the best tactic would be to stop reading us and to go where there's less waffling going on.



I just wanted to let you know that you nailed the review on the X-03. I had over Don Shaulis, the reviewer for Stereo Times, over and we were both awed by its sound. I had let him borrow it first to try as a transport in his all TacT digital system and the sound had too much of an edge but with my tube amps it was perfect.

I have gone through over 12 transports and CD players over the last 2 years and was always disappointed but the X-03 put a smile on my face. t is the first time I have wanted to listen to CDs since I purchased another record player 2 years ago and seen how far its sound was still ahead of digital.

Now, you must let me know what you think of the external reclocker with it as soon as you get a good listen with it in the system.

Thanks again,
Rick Eller