Your space to participate, comment & critique.

For published correspondence June - December 2010 click here; February - June 2010, here; September 2009 - February 2010 here; June - September 2009 here; January - June 2009 here; May 2008 - January 2009 here; December 2007 - May 2008 here; July - December 2007 here; February - July 2007 here; November 2006 - February 2007 here; June - November 2006 here; April - June 2006 here; February - April 2006 here; December 2005 - February 2006 here; September - December 2005 here; July - September 2005 here; April - July 2005 here; February - April 2005 here; December 2004 - February 2005 here; September - December 2004 here; August - September 2004 here; July - August 2004 here; February - July 2004 here; June 2003 - February 2004 here; June 2002 - June 2003 here.


By repeat inquiry, here is the owner's manual of the Garrard 301 vintage turntable [856KB PDF] whose rebuild Jeff Day described in his series of articles.

Why do so many people think that micro vibration control is a myth? All those tricky footers and weird cables and stands surely must be a business founded on trickery and hypnotism or the selling of snake oil. Actually micro vibration control is serious business. After all your entire hearing is based on it. The logic is right there in front of you. Just look at the numbers. The loudest sound you can withstand before sustaining temporary damage to your ears is about 123dB SPL. You know, the sound from right behind a jet plane. In order to produce this amount of sound pressure the air molecules themselves get displaced all of 11 microns - 10 times less than your average human hair is thick. Fast forward. It is late at night. All in the house is quiet. You can’t sleep. Far far away you can make out the chirping of a lonely cricket outside. It is very faint yet you are sure that you hear it distinctly. This sound is caused by a vibration of air molecules displaced by only 11 picometers. That's about 1/20th the diameter of an average sized atom. You can begin to appreciate that the human ear is a remarkably sensitive detector of vibrations and functions on a subatomic level of precision.

But what about our equipment? What should it care about micro vibrations? It doesn’t have ears, does it?. Actually it does and by far more sensitive ones than ours. Metal conducts electricity because it contains countless shared electrons amongst its atoms. Together the gazillions of individual outer shell electronics make up a cloud of negative charge. This is similar to how gazillions of individual atoms in the air make up an invisible cloud of something we breath (and sneeze into) called air. Air provides a conduit for pressure vibrations. Likewise the electron cloud in a metal provides a conduit for charge vibrations. Since electrons make up something akin to a malleable gas of charge, you can see how it can be vibrated just like air pressure to create sound waves. The air is stuck to the earth via gravity yet remains a fluid. Electrons are stuck to the metal via subatomic bonds yet act like a fluid too.

How much does this fluid vibrate in our sound system and where did Diana Krall’s voice come from in the first place? When the needle vibrates in the record groove, a micro vibration of its tip  causes a small current of about 0.191nW (nanowatts). A nanowatt is a thousand millionth of a watt. So 0.191nW is only about a fifth of a nanowatt. That we can't hear. It's why our system first amplifies it. Let’s say your speakers play at a comfortable listening level with 12 watts of power. That’s a real-world number for most. So we have to amplify the original signal which was 0.191nW 63 billion times to get 12 watts. Let’s say these 12 watts generate 80dB SPL at your listening chair. When the sound wave of Diana Krall’s 500Hz note finally hits your eardrum at 80dB SPL, the actual molecules in the air are vibrating at only 0.15 micrometers maximum displacement. That’s only 0.00015 millimeters.

In digital the problem is the placement of samples in the time domain (jitter). People can hear the results of digital signal jitter figures of less than 50picoseconds. That's 50/100.000.000.000th of a second. Next time you are at a football field, go to one of the goal lines and stand on it. Look all the way across the field at the other goal line. You are looking at one sample. Yes, the far goal line is the next sample in the audio. Now take but one step towards it. Make it a millimeter step please. That is the amount of jitter you can hear in an audio stream. Of course it never occurs only once but in a statistical way this small deviation from the perfect goal line is what you are able to hear as an artificial distortion when it is off each time by a maximum amount of that much. So we are well equipped to hear tiny micro vibrations especially when these are amplified 63 billion times as with vinyl before we take a listen with our very sensitive hearing to investigate what might really be going on at a sub-atomic level in our sound system's circuitry. And if that is not enough, think of a microphone as a capacitor which provides you with the music signal you would very much like to hear. Think about all the other capacitances within your gear’s circuitry which provide you with ghost signals you'd very much rather not hear!

Louis Motek
LessLoss Audio
Hello Srajan,

I'm a reader from Hong Kong. First of all, love your articles - they are written with fun and professional manner that is very unique in the industry. Based on your reviews on the M&D speakers, I bought the Mini+ and the Omniharmonier. They work great with my Zodiac+ and the Threshold 10e monoblocks!

Now I want a bit more bass. I know the Mini+ has a lot more bass than most bookshelf speakers but I want to have deeper bass. Consequently I'm looking at the the M&D Muse Sub. I'm wondering if you will review it anytime soon?

Many thanks in advance!
Ray Lok

David Kan had an earlier version of the Muse Sub which, if I'm not mistaken, then underwent a revision to postpone the assignment. You might check with David directly on status.
Srajan
Hi Ray,
Yes I do have the paired subs but they carry the Maximus subwoofer name plaque. After penning the first two pages of the review, Daniel told me to put it on hold because he was changing the design. He did send me two replacement class D amps (much quieter) but he didn't want me to finish the review. From the discussion we had I was under the impression that the Maximus sub would become front firing. Then I noticed the new Muse subwoofer/stand which was confusing because all Muse models are floorstanders except for the center speaker. Compared to the Muse sub info posted I could not see any difference except for the rear port. The performance of the obsolete M-sub can be summed up as musical rather than theatrical. While M&D speakers deliver deeper and faster bass than their competitors, these M-subs are much milder than the major power packs like Sunfire or Velodyne. It's better for music than movies. However I suppose adding the rear port could liven things up.
David

Hi David & Srajan,
Thanks for the info. I'm gonna use them for music. Would they sound too 'artificial'? Maybe I should just email Daniel Lee for updates on the sub. Surprisingly there are no reviews on the Muse sub on the internet. Btw your reviews on the M&Ds are very helpful. I tried a bunch of small bookshelf speakers and was very disappointed, especially by those from B&W. When I was right about to give up I randomly came across your articles, auditioned the M&Ds a week later and bought them immediately :-)

I also bought the Anthony Gallo 3.0 based on Srajan's review. I agree it doesn't move enough air for a full-range speaker but for its price (& look) I don't think there are any alternatives in the market. I only wish the 3.5 upgrade program were available in Hong Kong. Surprisingly almost nobody in HK has heard of the Gallo brand (or M&D). Furthermore the showroom had a nasty setup that created immediate disappointment. But with my blind faith based on your review I bought them anyway. Hooked them up to my Threshold SA1 monoblocks and W4S DAC2 and I was completely satisfied for what I've paid. Your comments on the 3.0 were spot on. Anyways, thank you so much for the reviews, they definitely give me more insights and allow me to open up to alternatives in the audio market.
Ray Lok

Hi Ray,
Yes, contacting Daniel is the best way to go. No, the M-subs are not artificial at all, not the way I use them by just adding a shade of low-octave substance to make musical instruments sound closer to the real things. I wrote a Chinese review on the Maximus Monitor for Audiotechnique 音響技術 back in 2006 but as you know in Hong Kong they only promote brands with big advertising dollars. The magazine hasn't wanted me to write any audio reviews since. 
David

Thank you for your reply. I tried the Muse sub in the M&D HK showroom. It was pretty decent. Indeed it doesn't sound artificial at all. I would use the word 'honest' to describe it. The price was a bit higher than expected (almost more than the Mini+). I'm wondering if you have any other recommendations? Or will you be reviewing any subs in the near future? I also 'accidentally' tried out the Fantasia and it was very impressive. I only wish they havd a better audio source in the showroom. And yeah, I have a friend who used to write for some car magazines in HK but they won't let them do head- to-head comparisons such as Audi A3 vs. BMW 1 series. Consequently he resigned. I really do hope you guys can continue to review the non mainstream audio gear.
Ray Lok
Hi Srajan, I am terribly sorry to ask you to do this but we would like a comment retracted from the site! The reviewer from 6moons who covered the show was there on behalf of Select Audio (one of our competitors), he is also good friends with a disgruntled ex employee of our who has been spreading rumours about our business.

Throughout the entire show report no other room got a bad review, just details about their system etc. Our room got "this was weighty sound with subtlety but despite the Utopia range being able to do so much very right I always suffer a certain detachment from the music after prolonged listening. I'd need an even more prolonged listening session to put my finger on why". I feel that is was not ethical for him to comment on our room or on Select Audio's room!

We would kindly ask that our room has details about the system and that the following comments be removed. I appreciate that the comments made were not views of your own or views of the 6moons website!

Regards
Gary Campbell
Kronos Audio Visual

Because Chris is friends with an ex employee of yours and your shop is a competitor of another outfit Chris likes to hang with, there's any conflict in the context of a harmless show report comment? If I applied this selectivity, the Gallo folks should want a retraction for not playing loud enough; the Art Audio folks for choosing a speaker that seemed barely adequate for their SETs; and everyone not mentioned by Chris should want a public apology from me for not being mentioned. What's negative about "weighty sound with subtlety" in the first place? If Chris didn't feel fully pulled into the music and says so, I'm not inclined to censor it. Please remember that Chris contributes to 6moons pro bono. He spent his time, money and effort to attend the event and promote it including your presence. He derives zero benefits from writing a show report other than sharing his love of a hobby with like-minded folks.

Attending shows invites all manner of criticism. One glance at any forum shows how. Having participated in show exhibits as a national sales manager for various audio companies in the past, I understand what's involved from all sides. This has me think you're overreacting. I see nothing unethical. Where a disgruntled ex employee spreading rumors about your business comes into play I fail to grasp entirely. I thus can't comply with your request, sorry.
Srajan
Hi Srajan,
couldn't resist writing a few lines after so many years of entertaining reading. I guess then a "thank you" is definitively in order.On the other hand, what prompted my email is the Gallo Acoustics Classico III blue moon award. It says "Very short, high performance floorstander with reference 3.5 speaker design DNA". Could a quote ever be so obvious!!!! 
  • Yes the speaker is short!
  • Yes, it's a floor stander!
  • Yes, it's high performance (you are not reviewing wall mart boxes here, right?...)
  • and Yes its drivers are from and old model, inserted into a plain vanilla speaker box from the 40's so that you can lower cost.
Very disappointing both intellectually and a doubtful prize for a re-hash. You've done better than that....
Pere Barceló

Going from $6000 to $2000/pr and managing to offer very equivalent and in certain regards better performance while curing the SciFi look - I think that deserves some recognition, don't you? What other speaker manufacturer can you think of who's pulled that off? A 60% discount at full retail is quite a feat in my book. The challenge was same/similar performance, a lot less money and a more traditional look. Challenge met. The award caption needs to be obvious for those who come to it not through the review but directly.

Srajan

Hey,
won't argue on the speakers's sound/value. Haven't heard them so couldn't comment on how good value they are for $2.000. Plus don't have near as much experience listening and trying gear! Anyway, I guess I was just fed up with an "award slogan" that seemed to state the obvious. By the way, since we are at it I must confess that I've been on the hifi rollocoaster lately. I used to spent a reasonable amount of money on gear. Specially on speakers. Owned good models from Proac, Kef, Von Schweikert, B&W, Monitor Audio etc, etc. I've become a second-hand bargain hunter lately.

I got to tell you that at least in speakers you could be getting ridiculously good value and sound from ex top models and too me at least there seems not too be much of a measurable improvement in the technology over the past decade. Can people really tell the difference between the old Revel Ultima Salon and the new model? The B&W 805 Signature and the new Diamonds, Kef's Reference V1 vs. V2 or Paradigm's V1 vs V3? I guess side by side under perfect conditions - maybe. You are well into reference territory and it might come down to taste? Anyway, long story short, in these times of crisis both worldwide and in high-end, maybe a second-hand column might be interesting? How much is second hand as a percentage of all high-end sales anyway? Just look at AudiogoN and others. Just my two cents worth of advice/input. Forgive my aggressive comment before as it's always easy to criticize from outside looking in.

Regards,
Pere Barceló

Criticism is always welcome. I just don't always agree with it -:)

Second hand in hifi is a huge market. Back on the award for a second - the Classico III sells new for less than a Ref 3.5 sells for used. Here you can buy new for the price of used. That's big. Re: turning second hand into a feature, it obviously involves buying first before you can write about it. Neither I nor my contributors can afford to buy things just to review 'em. We're not trust-fund babies.
Srajan
Hello Srajan,
my compliments on the very complete review of the Gallo Strada loudspeakers. I recently purchased them with the tall stands and I am still trying to find a way to overcome the lack of punch in the 100-200Hz region. My brother  who lives in another state has the JL Audio f12 subwoofer which is one of the best subwoofers made. In your opinion would using the crossover on the sub up to 150-180Hz give some of the weight of the 3.5? I ask if you discovered any ways to bring a little more presence in this region and still keep everything coherent.

Thank you and keep up your quality writings,
Paul

I've long since sent the Stradas back. The way to 'meatize' them, apparently, is to pull a Pierre Sprey (of Mapleshade Records fame). He likes to set them up on a very short massive maple stand firing upwards at the necessary angle. Anthony told me he's heard Pierre set up the Stradas plus TR3 in his house like that and outperform the 3.5 (which he never thought possible until Pierre actually did it in front of him). That I haven't tried. Instead of boundary reinforcement from a wall, this exploits the floor.

As my review tried to explain, the big difference between Strada and 3.5 is the crossover. In the 3.5 the 10-inch driver and midranges blend through the series crossover so you've got the support from the big driver in the critical power region. The Strada just rolls off unfiltered. Bringing in a subwoofer to duplicate what the 3.5 does with its 10-inchers should be challenging. If you bring the sub in high as you rightly reason you should, you could end up with too much overlap to get a muffin top where the love handles spill over the belt. If you bring it in too low you won't get the effect you're after. This could be an instance where filtering the Strada through the sub crossover's high-pass might be better. In other words you roll out the Stradas electrically to create a mirror image between where they fade and where your sub enters. Success would depend on how sophisticated/inaudible the sub's high-pass is and what kind of phase shift it introduces.

Another obvious solution would be to wall mount the Strada. Anthony told me that close wall proximity really fleshes them out. Of course it'll affect soundstage depth and perhaps your setup won't allow it but it would be a very viable and intended solution. So you've got three things to try.

1/ floor coupling
2/ wall coupling
3/ subwoofer augmentation in either filter mode (in/out through the subwoofer into the Strada) or augmentation mode (directly into the Stradas, subwoofer line-level or speaker level but this I suspect will be less successful).

Srajan
Hello David,
I follow your reviews for a quite some time and would like to thank you for your amazing work. Within your M&D reviews I could not find any information on how these boxes perform during quiet listening (late night volumes). I am very curious about this. Can you give your insight? Does the low speaker sensitivity affect performance at low levels? Also I am interesting in your opinion about M&D's wideband AMT. Throughout the model range does the increasing area of the AMT driver and lower crossover point bring real benefits? Can these larger drivers produce more dynamics and more resolution over the smaller units? I am sorry for a lot of questions but I don't have an opportunity to hear these speakers so I completely rely on your opinion.

Kind regards,
Marian Podmajerski

Hello Marian,
Thank you for your kind words. The myths surrounding M&D speakers that they are hard to drive and insensitive to low sound pressure levels have just been busted by our editor’s review of the latest addition to the M&D line – the flagship model Fantasia-S. Please take your time to read through his detailed report and you’ll appreciate that he's genuinely impressed with M&D excelling in “dynamic reflexes”. Two quotes that might concern you most (both from the concluding page):

"The Fantasia retained its drivers' unfair speed and response advantages. This flatly outgunned the Aurelia on articulation and micro-level magnification."
"The greatest asset was magnificently dynamic contrast resolution at already very low levels. The most pleasant quality was its built-in tonefulness."

Srajan also touched upon the "smaller power-gobbling siblings". In case one of them is on your shopping list instead of the Fantasia-S, I’d like to offer my second opinion here since I own most if not all of these bookshelf models. (By the way, they do possess the same DNA of dynamic reflexes.) From my previous torture tests some amplifiers did clip during certain challenging fortissimo passages when they were pushed. But look at the amps I’m using now: two Trends TA-10 bi-amping the Maximus Mini, two Winsome Labs Mouse bi-amping the Sapphire and one Mouse driving the Topaz. I have no complaints whatsoever, nor the speakers. (And I could happily live with Virtue Two.2 bi-amping the Diamond+).

Talking about bi-amping that might well be your ticket to finely balancing tonal subtleties to your preference at low level listening. I’m now using a 37-year old B&O receiver to drive the Ruby. The receiver is equipped with loudness and hi/lo filter controls which come in handy shaping the low-level frequency spectrum. Horizontal bi-amp will give you more or less the same flexibility.

Best regards,
David  

My review was specific to the new top model whose greater air volume for its F3 bass figure has been normalized to make it easier to drive among other things. I do not believe my comments can be extended retroactively to all M+D models, particularly not the smaller ones. Those never struck me as that ideal for low-level listening. I suspect that the primary reason for the change in the new top model is that taller AMT and having it run down to 400Hz. The improvement in resolution this gives (I call it dynamic contrast in the review) tracks down into very subdued levels and to my mind makes this model quite different in that regard to particularly the small M+D monitors. I'm not familiar with their Muse series models which add a rear-firing AMT. This in effect doubles the surface area and probably approaches the tall unit in the Fantasia. The Muse models seem quite cost-effective too.

Relative to power requirements for the smaller M+D boxes it's not just about achievable loudness (which may not require that much power). It's also about proper control of their woofers which requires current. Just how good an affordable mid-power amp really is on them can only be determined by comparison to one that provides far stouter current output. It seems to me that the smaller the M+D boxes get (whilst retaining the brand's unusual bass extension and output capabilities) the more demands they put on amplifiers and the less they excel at whisper levels. Greater internal air volumes make for less internal pressure and easier work for the amps.

Srajan

Thank you both for your time and explanations. What Srajan explained was exactly what I was thinking at first. It is that the larger AMT module squeezes the air better than the smaller ones (it's logical). Exactly this I needed to clarify.

Thank you one more time for your help. Keep doing the wonderful review job.

Gratefully,
Marian
Hello David,
So I got my M+D Maximus Monitors this morning. I bought them used but mint from a dealer for $750 for the pair. They had about 100 hours on them. I don't have a fancy amp but each has an Outlaw 2200 driving it so they get plenty of power. I think this is the best money I have ever spent on anything. I am absolutely blown away. Even after reading the reviews I was not prepared for these speakers. Miles beyond anything I've owned. Thank you again and again and again.

Wiley
Hi David.
I've been reading again and again your reviews on the Virtue Two.2 amp and the Mark & Daniel speakers. I have to say that the more I read them the more I salivate. The purpose of this email today is first to thank you for such nice and involving reviews and second to ask advice. What would be your advice regarding a decently priced synergistic combo of Virtue amp with M+D speakers? It seems to me that of all M+D's affordable models the Ruby and Maximus Mini are your favorites. Is that still true?

Do they need bi-amping or can a Two.2 + JT linear power supply do the trick? Do you advise linear, battery or 130-watt SMPS power supply? Are the M+D stands really needed or can I find another quality stand closer to my home country of France?

One more info that might be useful is about my aim to use the recent Burson HA-160D as source. I hope that the Virtue amp and M+D speakers would mach from a synergistic point of view with deep well-controlled bass, amazing PRaT, full-bodied sound, intense texture, a more front-row than laid-back presentation, palpable ambience and a real feel/thickness of the music.

Any advice is welcome.
Respectfully, Quentin

Thank you for your kind words. Mark & Daniel speakers have been making impressive progress through their latest models. Our editor Srajan's in-depth 5-page preview on the Fantasia-S reveals all. The broad stroke is that M&D has been pushing the envelope of higher resolution and 3-dimensional articulation while balancing the opposite end of the more 'traditional' audiophile values of tonal balance, timbral subtlety, soundstage/ambience and musicality. I do have a special affinity for the Ruby and Mini because they were the first two M&D models I encountered and the first impression is more unforgettable than others.

They also happen to be more affordable. As a matter of fact you can't go wrong with the Virtue Two.2 partnering any M&D bookshelf speaker. Their stands—two models—are a perfect match acoustically and aesthetically and excellent value for money too. But it doesn't mean they cannot be substituted with any decent stands as long as they please your eyes. I know the M+D stands are fully assembled, bulky and heavy to ship. However, just think that they'll probably be the only pair of original stands in France.

Bi-amping and upgraded power supplies are more of a question of good, better and best. Yesterday I was trying to choose between an N-router, extreme N-router or extreme N dual-band router. Your decision is much easier because you can always start basic and upgrade in the future. Just bear in mind that some M+D models are no bi-wirable (Ruby and Topaz) and will rule out bi-amping unless you add another pair in d'Appolito configuration (which arguably could be a better idea). If you are bi-amping and want to save money, the 130-watt PSU is more than good enough. Personally I'm not such a big fan of the battery supply because of the charge/maintenance issues. Between subtle sonic improvement vs. tangible ease of use and peace of mind I opt for the latter. 

I do not have experience with the Burson but if I could achieve good results with my obsolete low-end digital source, hey you can't go wrong. Sorry for the late reply. I just retrieved your message from the junk folder.

Best regards,
David
Hi Marja, Hi Henk,
I'm a writer for The Absolute Sound. I read your road trip/new home article on the moons and wanted to say hi. I have enjoyed your writings over the years. You guys have good taste and good writing skills. I want to say congrats on the new home and set up. It looks fantastique!

My best!
Peter Breuninger
Hello Srajan,
I read the correspondence between you and reader Itamar Axelrod. Just wanted to add my 2 cents. It's easy to think of raising or lowering the bass level as an independent operation but it is not independent. Since the level of the mid-horn is fixed, when you raise and lower the bass level via the controls on the Avantgarde powered woofers, you are actually introducing a shift in crossover point for the subs. The same thing occurs in powered sub systems that are run with other speakers. It's very often the source of comments such as "those subs didn't blend with the mains" or "the Avantgarde subs didn't blend with the horns".

Whenever I've heard a system about which these comments were made, I agreed with the initial comments but then was able to get a better blend. When the bass level is slightly raised it meets the horn's output at a slightly higher crossover frequency (the reverse is true if bass level is reduced). So if the system sounded fairly cohesive to the owner but bass level was slightly increased, the owner didn't just increase bass quantity, he or she may have also decreased the quality of the 'hand-off' from bass to mid.

When getting close it's important to remember to back off ever so slightly on the crossover whenever adding level. And the opposite is true. If reducing bass level, the effective crossover point will be lowered so it's important to tweak it slightly higher. Both operations by ear of course. And it's amazing how many times—in the case of Avantgardes—the woofer polarity may need to be reversed.

It's easy to tell if it's required. Play a simple recording of voice. Whichever polarity produces the most forward image of the voice is correct for that room. I found that I could never predict which way would be best. Always had to listen. I think it's because the effective slope is 12dB/octave which never seems to be as predictable as 6dB (1st order both in same polarity) or 18dB (3rd order - polarity reversal between lower and upper drivers). And if the owner had never previously tried the polarity reversal and it turns out that it was best reversed, a slight readjustment of bass level & crossover point are usually required. When there is no urge to get up and change it from recording to recording then it's good and it's time to forget the mechanical and go for the music!

Wishing you All the Best in Music & Sound,
Jim Smith
Srajan,
I hope this email finds you well. I am not sure if you remember me but you and I have traded a few emails in the past regarding Modwright, Esoteric-C03 and a variety of other things. I am also very close friends with Ted Brady whom you communicate with frequently. I am the one who he mentioned to you is auditioning the Teddy Pardo power supple for the Antelope Zodiac+ DAC. I have moved to Boston and currently live in an apartment; as such cranking music to high SPL is something that is tough as I don't want to be a nuisance to my neighbors. As such I am very much wanting to build a headphone system. I know you do quite a bit of headphone listening and wanted to bounce a few questions of off you.

My listening tastes are for a lush midrange but not at the expense of muddled bass and a rolled-off top end. While I definitely favor warmth through the mids I very much value speed, articulation and subtle cues and transients. My current system consists of: Weiss DAC2, Antelope Zodiac+ (demoing and waiting on power supply before making a decision), Wyred4Sound STP-SE pre, Aesthetix Atlas (w/ upgraded 6SN7's) amplifier, Raidho C-01 monitors http://www.raidho.dk/speakers/c-series/c-1.0/overview and cabling is all LiveLines interconnects speaker cables and power cords with a few various power cords by other manufacturers. I thought this may give some insight as on balance I am pretty happy with the overall sonic signature of this system. I definitely have a lot of thoughts on the Antelope versus the Weiss but will reserve my comments until I have a real power supply to listen with. I may try an Aesethetix Calypso preamp at some point as I have been so enamored with the sound of the Atlas that I would consider hearing what the matching synergy may or may not provide.

My budget is around $3,000 - $4,000 for a headphone and amplifier. I will most likely use a LiveLine IC and PC to connect it all because as you know once you start using Frank's cables it is very difficult to use anything else :) The headphone that I am most seriously considering is the Beyerdynamic T1 with the ALO cabling. I have considered the Sennheiser HD8000 as well but they seem to be a very polarizing headphone. I imagine the detail and speed would be very appealing but I have a real sensitivity to hardness or brightness and so I am a bit skeptical of them. I am looking at the Woo Audio 2, the Woo Audio 5LE and the Yamamoto as my top contenders right now but am very open to other suggestions. I may try the Burson later down the road. I know that the three designs all utilize different topology with the Woo2 being an OTL design, the 5LE being 300B and the Yamamoto using the 408A. I was hoping you might be able to provide me some insight on sonic signatures of these and possibly even a recommendation of a combination? I have read through your reviews but also wanted to reach out directly. Any assistance you might be able and willing to provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

David Kimmel

The magic combo with the Yamamoto amp is the Audio-Technica W1000 and W5000, not surprising really given that the amp was designed/voiced with them. For the T1 I have the non-LE version of the Woo 5 and it's a great combo. But frankly the Audez'e beats all of my headphones by a not insignificant margin meaning it tops the HD800, the T1, the AKG K-702, the Grado PS-1000 and both HiFi Man HE-5LE and HE-6. I don't really listen to the others anymore except for review purposes. Since you're asking my very subjective opinion, I'd focus squarely on the LCD-2 with ALO leash, then get an amp for it. As you know I have both the Burson HA160D and Woo 5. With the Audez'e the Woo does certain things better but on balance I find the Burson superior - and it's a lot less money. This includes a DAC which I prefer to my Weiss DAC2. In fact I run the Burson as DAC in the big rig all the time. My reco would thus be the Burson/Audez'e combo and the only question is whether to get the non-DAC Burson or splurge (considering we're coming in at half your total budget) on the Burson with DAC. The Audez'e is a very dynamic very linear bass-extended but moist dark headphone which really takes to Burson's class A transistors in a big way, not needing the usual plumping up tubes give. So that'd be my dream rig.

Srajan
Dear Srajan,
Following your intriguing articles/reviews on passive preamps I will highly appreciate if you'd be willing to clarify your impressions. I currently own a pair of Avantgarde Duos. FirstWatt's J2 is currently on my wish list (can't audition it locally so I'll have to buy one and try it out). I have a DIY passive preamp (RVC) using a high-quality stepped attenuator. Will it suffice to use with the J2? What kind of sound signature could I expect from this combination? How do you think it'll match with my Duo? I listen mostly to classical music (large/complex orchestral works are a major part of my menu). Thanks!
Best Regards,
Itamar Axelrod

P.S: I used to own Yamamoto's A-08s (using my RVC to preamplify it)  but the combination did not have enough weight and drive to pull through complex music passage (it sounded too "light").

Seeing I've not heard the Duos with the J2 and a passive preamp, your guess is as good as mine -:) As a reviewer, I prefer not to get entangled in guess work when it's other people's money at stake. 
Srajan

Fair enough, I hear ya. Is Pass Labs' standard products line (e.g. the XA30.5 and the INT30A) any hint to how the FirstWatt line sounds? For example, if I get to audition the INT30A and it has a sonic signature which is to my liking - should I go head and purchase the J2 without looking back?
Thanks again,
Itamar Axelrod

I think the FirstWatt is better (with the exception of the XA30.5) -:)

I see, so in your opinion: INT30A < FirsWatt < XA30.5. I got it right?

Not exactly. Bottom line, Pass Labs is the commercial offering for regular speakers, FirstWatt Nelson's love child for more efficient speakers. Pass Labs makes more power and has more massive power supplies. All the FirstWatt amps must fit into the same chassis with the same heat sink and use equivalent power supplies. The magic is in the circuit configurations adapted to specific applications. I'm a 'non-conventional speaker' guy at heart even though my current Tangos look quite ordinary (they are not). I don't need the power of Pass Labs. As a result, I tend to find the FW amps to be more sophisticated and sonically advanced. But they're not really universal. In case of your Duos with active bass systems, you need extremely low noise but still good control, speed, bandwidth and resolution. Here I think FW is ahead of PL. My favorite FW amp is the F5 (now discontinued but routinely available refurbished and under warranty from www.renohifi.com), then the J2 (still current).

Dear Srajan,
Iam now a happy owner of the J2 thanks to your recommendations! So far it's the quietest most natural and dynamic amp I've heard in my system. And its has a wonderful tone - something in between the 'grainess' of standard SS and the lushness of standard tubes. I love it! I have now 20-25 hours of break-in on it, the highs and the mid-bass frequencies seem a bit lacking. What kind of figures regarding break in are needed to reveal its complete character?
Thanks again!
Itamar Axelrod

Pleased to hear it. I'd give the J2 a few hundred hours and then it takes about 30 minutes to come on song with each listening session. You know when it's ready because it stops getting hotter -:)

Once you've clocked a few more weeks of time, you might then want to revisit the voicing of your Avantgardes by playing with the toe-in and the woofer crossover point and attenuator setting. Very small shifts in midbass strength (where the crossover hands over to the horns) can completely alter the perceived balance of bass to treble. This is something the Avantgardes need (are sensitive to) each time you change out amplification. Ultimately you might experiment with active preamplification too.

Srajan
Hello Srajan,

I allow myself to advise you on the Klinger Favre DAC. Certain forums speak well of it! It should be widely superior to the Aqvox. I am always in search for the best no-compromise DAC. I wait for the reviews on the Burson DAC as well as the Luxman DA-200.

Cordially,
Patrick

We have no current plans or commitments for the Luxman.

Srajan
David,
ust writing to thank you for your reviews. I am reentering the world of budget hifi after quite a while. After listening to many speakers and reading your reviews I am finally pulling the trigger on Mark & Daniel for a couple of rooms in my apartment. I didn't even know about the company. Neither did I know how affordable good sound could be. Now I feel compelled to buy budget items, e.g. Dared, Winsome, etc. and stick them in all of my rooms! At any rate, thanks for your thorough and helpful reviews. I look forward to more.

Best,
Mike

Thanks for your kind words. It's such a reward for me knowing that you save time and money in pursuing pleasure in audio and music. 

David
Dear Srajan,

I just read your honest article again: http://6moons.com/industryfeatures/cables/1.html. So you want cheap and distortionless cables founded on science - understandable. Well, I can get you distortionless now. I made it but it costs a lot so it is not cheap and will never be very popular. I made it as cheaply as I could though. In a nutshell it is an interconnect which has an amplifier inside of it. The amp powers a shield which lies between the center conductor and the outer shield. The center conductor is solid silver and gets the signal we want. The middle shield gets the same signal but from the cable's amp and it alone experiences all the distortion. The outer shield is ground. The lossy signal is in the middle shield. The center conductor exists as a cable never seeing any capacitance or inductance, hence no skin effect. The middle shield's signal gets burned up in the cable's circuitry and never makes it to your destination gear. Simple and elegant but hard to make well and cheap.

• $1800 one stereo 1.5m RCA type.
• $2500 for the power supply unit (powers up to 4 stereo pairs simultaneously). Two USB to USB mini type cables required (ca. $30 bucks).

Good power cables are recommended. A Firewall is recommended too. And so it becomes an expensive solution. Couldn't figure out how to make it dirt cheap: http://www.lessloss.com/audio-interconnect-cables-c-72.html

As for tweaky-geeky gagly-costly, yup I know just what you mean. And I don't really like it either especially because I will not have clients every day for it even though I love the results. So I have another plan as well. We are making two new cables both called the Anchorwave. Anchorwave loudspeaker cable: 1.8m stereo pair, DIY terminations, $1,588. Anchorwave RCA interconnect: 4ft Stereo pair incl. Fururtech terminations, $784. No externals. These are great 'physical realm' passive cables with all the tweaky-geeky stuff built in so you just pick'm up and plug'm in. 

Well for 50 bucks extra we'll supply 8 Furutech loudspeaker spades and the needed hex wrench to install them. You smile when you connect the spades because you get to choose the angle of rotation, since only you know the angle between your amp and your speaker binding posts. Forced tweaking. I know. We're horrible.

Louis Motek
For me as a regular visitor to Christchurch, New Zealand over the past  15 years (relatives etc) it was sad to see the awful images from the recent disastrous quake there. Reading the Plinius (made in Christchurch) review made me wonder just how folks survive times like this. Life is what happens while we're busy making other plans - again. I'm sure we all hope they pull through this.

Chris Skelton

I thought the same thing. Hopefully our review will be a small tribute to all of them.

Srajan
Dear Srajan -
First let me say how much I appreciate your site. It has been such a great resource for me, a genuinely essential part of my hifi education (which I've had to do on my own with books, magazines and online not having any audiohile friends) and genuinely helpful. And, my current amp the Glow was on your high recommendation and indeed has been tremendous, surpassing other contenders like a Decware amp I had high hopes for and so far remains unseated even though I am in the process of choosing my next upgrade . Anyways, just wanted to say thanks for all your great work.

And one suggestion: a print feature on your website that strips the images and puts all the text of a review on one page. When I want to print out a review—which I often do for various reasons—I have to either waste lots of paper and toner or spend far too long cutting the text in between all the images and pasting etc. Anyways, just a suggestion if you have the opportunity.

Yours sincerely,
Jason Rosensweig

I write my reviews directly to HTML so there's no word doc to fall back on for a stripped-down version. Given my work load, it's not feasible at the present time to create two different versions of our reviews. It's a good idea mind you but simply not in the cards. Select everything on a web page then copy the text and pictures. Now paste the lot into Notepad or another plain text editor. This will save just the text bits of the page.

Srajan
Dear Srajan,

after quite a while I feel the need to send a few words of approval and admiration about your work. I like the way of understanding and joy that develops while reading your reviews - a lot. No comparison to any other writer I know! And: congratulations on your new listening room. The wider space looks much better suited. Unfortunately I remember you said the staircase is quite narrow and large objects (like some of my speakers) will unlikely suit your back to be lifted upstairs.

I spent the last 2 years doing research and now built up a whole new palette based on the result, which started with a new nearly time-crherent 3-way that I would love to find its way upstairs to your room. Perhaps someday in the future, it's not yet ready for sale. Finallly I also have that "nearly time coherent" technology implemented into the larger horns with very good results (Gammahorn). Norbert Wokusch will report on both by the end of this year on his audioeagle website.

David Haigner
Hello Srajan: Just a note of no consequence. I was reading your latest review of the HB-1 speakers and noticed (since the photos are so good!) what nice art work you have on the walls. I will pass over that review of what is an interesting but rather futile product representative of a special kind of Japanese obsessive/compulsive approach to audio, which is very much part of their traditional approach to many crafts. I rather look forward to your time with the VaporWare speakers which are far more interesting in terms of reality and accessibility. Another small-form factor speaker that should be on your short list is the Evolution Acoustics MMMicroOn.

Yours from Southern France
Shepperd Strudwick

Ha, those are all my wife's paintings. She's good, I agree. She just got a charge learning we're not the only ones to think so -:)

The VaporSound Cirrus is going to Glen Wagenknecht in Canada since two-way shipping to Switzerland at present is a bit punishing for Ryan. However, he's talked of a new product based on a custom commission that could become a full-on production item. If Glen's review attracts sufficient responses for Ryan to feel comfortable shouldering ship fees to Suisse; and if that 10-inch two-way ultra high-output monitor ends up in his lineup - then I will sooner or later get to listen to one of his creations. The Evolution Acoustics MMMicroOn I've seen mentioned in the CES 2011 show reports to glowing fanfare. If the company contacts us for a review, it'll probably go to one of our US/Canadian writers.

Srajan
Hi Srajan,

I visit 6moons almost every day especially for your reviews and have followed your long and still inconclusive Spatial/Emerald one. Although their efforts are valuable and under constant improvement, I believe this discussion is similar to the passive vs active loudspeaker of years past. We audiophiles have certain preferences in speakers, amplifiers, cables etc. which makes a less systematic approach better. I think the Audyssey/Trinnov route is not the correct one for audiophiles either because of Home Theater preferences.

Take a look at Holm Acoustics' DSPre1 recently reviewed by Robert E. Green at the Absolute Sound. They answered my email telling me they will have 24/192 USB capability this year. They only replace the preamplifier with proprietary DSP that takes care of speaker correction (very important), up to three-way digital crossover and room correction. It works with any combination of speakers and amplifier, doesn't need an expert manipulating everything remotely and is very easy and intuitive to use by the end user (check their videos). In my opinion this is the correct approach for audiophiles. It is similar to DEQX and in the opinion of REG—and I believe Earl Geddes' too—great sounding.

Thanks,
Vladimir Dorta

Where the Spatial package at present seems unique is the remote access. Rather than 'needing' it to seem a liability, I view it as an asset and major feature for those end users who don't want (feel competent, comfortable) to get involved in measurements and setting up compensation equalization. It's for them the Spatial system is really designed. At least that's my take on it. It also seems that interfacing Spatial with a conventional hifi system is just around the corner. Clayton took delivery of the first USB-based microphone preamp this weekend. If it performs as anticipated, any computer (PC or Mac) will be able to take the required measurements and then any DAC (USB or Firewire) can be used to correct standard single-amp speakers without requiring a processor. That's vital for those who don't wish to purchase a new preamp/processor like the Holm (or in Spatial's case a TC Konnekt or Orpheus) because they're too deeply invested into an expensive ARC, cj, Lamm or whatever stereo preamp.

In either case, digital room/speaker correction—preferably directly on digital files to avoid redundant conversion cycles—does seem the future.

Srajan
Hello Srajan,
my name is Hassan Hodgkinson from Perth, Western Australia. Can I start by saying I’ve enjoyed many of your articles and audio component reviews? I just wanted to write to clarify and correct what I believe is misleading information about some of the technical aspects of loudspeaker magnetic motor design which I come across from time to time in various audiophile reviews. As a starting point I’d like to reference the below article from your website. This is not the only article to which my letter speaks but is an example of one:
http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/acousticzen/adagio_2.html

In the above there are some points and claims made about “underhung” vs. “overhung” woofer motor systems and I believe that these claims need to be clarified so as to better inform your readers on this topic. Taken directly from this review, a manufacturer comments as follows about the underhung motor topology:  “Since the magnetic force on the coil is constant and completely symmetrical... there is a constant relationship between applied coil current and generated force...because the voice coil is always surrounded by the same amount of metal and magnetic flux density, the electrical impedance is also independent of position and cannot produce distortions by this mechanism. Very good thermal coupling of the voice coil to the top plate, which always surrounds it, contributes to high power handling and low compression.”

The part relating to constant electrical impedance vs. voice coil position is valid and this is certainly one of the virtues of the underhung approach. No issue here. However you will note a claim is also made that with an underhung design the magnetic flux surrounding the coil is completely constant and that because of this there is a constant relationship between applied current and generated force. I wish to take issue with this and state that contrary to popular belief this is not quite so. Anyone who takes the time and effort to model a typical underhung woofer motor topology using sophisticated Finite Element Analysis software will easily see that along the length of the long underhung gap there is a slight increase in flux density towards the “rear” of the gap (that part of the gap closest to the magnet and visited during rearward travel of the coil). The reason for this is quite simple: magnetic flux always wants to take the path of least resistance (reluctance) or in this case, the shortest return path possible.

Now it is possible to correct for this asymmetry in underhung designs by very slightly tapering of the gap but my point is simply that absolute symmetry of flux density is not inherent in the underhung design as often claimed. Some may argue that I am splitting hairs and that for all intents and purposes it is very nearly symmetrical but in that case I could also argue that it is indeed possible, with care and optimization, to design an overhung geometry with a very nearly symmetrical stray field and therefore, very nearly constant generated force on the coil and this in combination with higher local flux density which brings me to my next point.

There also happens to be another distortion-producing mechanism which the underhung design is particularly plagued by: modulation distortion. When you have a very long gap it is inherently harder to push the iron in the pole tips very far towards full magnetic saturation. This is because you have increased the cross-sectional area of iron surrounding the gap in relation to the amount of magnet and/or pole-trunk cross-sectional area. So even if you go to town with a very large magnet to try to overcome this you will still reach “pole-trunk” saturation well before you reach “pole-tip” saturation. And when the pole tips are running at a lower flux density or “magnetically cooler” so to speak, you get more back-modulation effects from the AC field generated by the voice coil and an increase in 3rd harmonic distortion.

Finally a claim is made about underhung topology that because of good thermal coupling to the fully surrounding metal, power handling is improved and power compression reduced. But it must be remembered that with underhung we are talking about a smaller coil to begin with so we start out with lower thermal dissipation capability and greater potential power-compression by way of this fact. Maybe we make up the difference by surrounding the coil with metal. Maybe not.

So in the final mix of the above trade-offs, the choice between underhung and overhung depends on the priorities of the designer and which distortion mechanism they feel is the lesser evil. Certainly the underhung is more expensive in terms of the magnetic material you need to throw at the job and that alone is enough reason for many designers to avoid it. But...it is not the only reason and the overhung approach does have some advantages which have nothing to do with cost of manufacture.

Best regards,
Huss
Mein Führer, it vorks!
Hi Srajan, so you've seen the future with the Emerald package. Time will tell but that was a hell of a review. Truth be told, if I could get Pure Music to customize room response on my Tannoys I'd go for it right now. Ah brave new world.

Michele Surdi

I'm talking with Clayton Shaw right now. It seems to me that installing the FabFilter and FuzzMeasure plug-ins in Pure Music (for compensation and data acquisiton respectively) might do the job since Spatial runs on PM as is. For the actively biamped Emerald Physcis speakers you need additional functionality for 4-channel streaming but 2-channel speakers like yours and mine should get by with less. I might learn otherwise but either way it's the future and what I shall be investigating myself. Without such correction, all hifi systems are plain dumb. No matter how much money you throw at them, you never get to the root cause, the sub 200Hz mess uncorrected room response causes. It's time to get smart and avail ourselves of the real advantage of running digital files rather than CDs or LPs - surgical corrections directly on the digital data.

Srajan
Hi Srajan,

I'm very appreciative of the great work you do keeping us all informed about audio in its many guises. Your recent review of the Antelope DAC certainly made me interested in it. I would like to know if you can tell me if the Gold did cancel out any weaknesses you found in the less expensive model. I have an opportunity to purchase one but I've held back based on your comments.

Thanks,
John M. Cage

Leizer Benvenishty told me to expect a Gold and Voltikus power supply when they have inventory after filling dealer and customer orders. Until then I wouldn't know. I've not heard either yet and they are rather new releases.

Srajan
Hello Srajan,

your photos of the Shunyata Hydra-6 in your GigaWatt review were disturbing given the accompanying descriptions from their website. It reminded me of other hifi incidents where certain descriptions didn't wash. There was the $150 Pioneer DVD sold as Goldmund DVD @ $8000; the $500 Oppo DVD sold as $3500 Lexicon; a $500 Parasound tuner sold as $2500 Magnum Dynalab; a $250 Philips LD player sold as $4000 Theta Data II universal transport (with one small board added at the digital output smaller than a box of cigarettes); a $300 Marantz CD-63 sold as $5000 MBL CDP-2; and the latest where Magico's Alon Wolf stated that the ATD drive unit he used in the Magico Mini Mk1 was 10 x more expensive than a similar Scan Speak unit when actual cost was comparable within 30%. It's sad to see hifi discredit itself in the eyes of careful consumers.

Ronald Wu
Hi Srajan,
I read most of your reviews and truly appreciate your insights. I am most interested in the Antelope Zodiac and Voltikus products and was wondering if they have kept you abreast of the release of the Gold? I see confusing listings that make the Gold seem available and the Voltikus soon but I see no reports of the Gold. Are you scheduled to evaluate that more audiophile-centric product anytime soon? (if you can answer!)

I currently have a Cullen-modified level 4 PSAudio DLIIIs for both my audio and head-fi setups. This box is pretty darn good analog-wise and digitally very good if fed low-jitter signals. It is clearly sensitive to different inputs, only shining with S/PDIF fed from well-clocked signals where indeed it can be spectacular in resolution, delineation and soundstage while retaining superb bass pitch definition and power. USB forget it. Perhaps a Sonicweld Diverter would solve that though.

I think that a versatile box such as the Antelope might work as a single-box solution especially as I consider the move to computer-based audio but I too want the solidity that as you claim the Plus lacks. So I am actively awaiting word about the Gold.

Keep up the great work,
John Spinks

Since my review of the Plus, I haven't heard anything from Antelope. While Igor had promised to dispatch a beta version of the software panel he was developing at the time (i.e. a feature applicable also for the Plus which hadn't been ready when reviewed but might make for a nice postscript) he never did. I'm not sure whether communications are the company's greatest strength. But, they certainly know how to find me if they're interested in a follow-up of Plus + Voltikus or anything on the Gold from our side.

Srajan
Hi Srajan

As a lover of your site and 'tweaks' I thought you might find this quite amusing:
http://www.nathanmarciniak.com/elemental/

Regards,
Lee Brindley
Dear Srajan,

I write to express my sincere appreciation for the passion and intelligence you and your colleagues at 6moons pour into your audio review work. You have helped me build an audio system, ModWright Oppo BDP-83 + Wyred4Sound amplification + WireWorld cable loom + Green Mountain Audio Rio w/Skylan stands, that provides constant excitement and pleasure.

Additionally I wish to thank you for introducing me to Renaud Garcia-Fons via your review of his work. I had the great opportunity to hear him and his La Linea del Sur quartet in Los Angeles recently was amazed by his talent and eloquence. You have taken me full circle from components to recordings to a live performance. Thank you for sharing.

All the best,
Peter Johnson
By the way, the Audez'e LCD-2 you recommended to me arrived awhile ago and wow, it sounds truly glorious especially when it comes to playing my favorite rock music. I ordered the Burson HA160D as well, which you wrote in your review is a great headphone amp for driving the LCD-2. However, I'm planning to throw away or sell my old broken CD player and buy a new one. Can you recommend any good CD player or transport that might go well with the HA160D/LCD-2 combo at a good price ? (Your Audio Lektor Prime seems like a powerful CD player,but $10,000 is too expensive for me). Also, I'm considering buying an iPod (not now but someday); any comment on which might be better for audiophile listening, iPod classic or iPod touch?

By the way, the LCD-2 sounds truly amazing, no kidding. It was waaay better than what I had expected to come from a pair of cans costing $1000. I never even heard about Audez'e until you mentioned it; thanks a lot for recommending such a mega über headphone. You definitely weren't hyperbolisticating. -:)

Gyeong-han Song

I bought the iPod Classic for its 160GB capacity and never tried the Touch so on that count I don't know which might sound better. Even so, with the HA160D you'll be in a position to add the cheap Onkyo ND-S1 dock and tap the iPod digitally which eliminates any concerns over Apple's output stage and D/A converter.

For the same reason (the superior DAC inside the Burson) you won't need an expensive CD player but merely a transport, i.e. a digital deck with a coaxial digital output. For the lowest dosh, I'd probably look at a Cambridge Audio machine but have to admit to not having paid much attention to that product category in quite a while to feel informed about who might have the highest value proposition. With the iPod/Onkyo setup, you wouldn't even need a CD player (unless your collection is so big that even 160GB transferred lossless won't be sufficient).

Srajan

If what you say is true, then I guess I should buy an iPod classic 160GB and an iPod dock. Now that mention iPod, I'm considering buying a music center (CD player/receiver + iPod dock) like this one from Shanling. (I've collected CDs for several years and despite every good thing you say about the iPod, I just can't see my collection of 100+ CDs go to waste.) Anyway, I just can't wait until that Burson HA160D arrives. LCD-2 already sounds superb with my tube headphone amp; I just can't imagine how better it can possibly get with a superior amp/DAC. My friends who came and listened to my LCD-2 are flabbergasted, I can't wait to see the look on their (and my) faces when they try it out Burson-driven.
 
You not only saved me a great deal of money from buying more expensive and less efficient products but also allowed me to step into a level of hifi I couldn't possibly imagine from my current budget and status. Unlike most audiophiles who email you asking for advice (I assume most of them are probably middle-aged American dads from middle-to-upper class) I'm a Korean student in my twenties attending a medical university in Seoul who happened to fall in love with hifi a couple of years ago. Since I cannot afford audacious loudspeakers with my budget (maybe within the next 10 years but not now) I had to stick to using my PC and my old cheap CD player as a digital source with a DAC, headphone amp and a pair of headphones. I never thought headphones, no matter how expensive or good, can possibly match the sound coming out from an entire audio system made of loudspeakers but you proved it otherwise and now I am prouder than most of my rich audiophile friends who spends more than $10.000 for their whole system.
 
How should I ever thank you. Most of those so-called experts or critics from Stereophile won't even reply to my emails when I'm already a subscriber.Your reviews are simply the best, not to mention the most middle-class-friendly audio reviews I've ever seen. Long live 6moons!

Gyeong-han Song

If you want an all-in-one system like the Shanling, make sure it's got a coaxial digital input so you can run your iPod digitally. Otherwise you're stuck with Apple's DAC and output stage. I actually would consider doing things a bit differently and cheaper. Once you've got your headphone stack assembled (iPod Classic, Onkyo dock, Burson HA160D, Audez'e), simply add a good pair of amplified speakers like these from Swans. This gives you active crossovers, dedicated amps for each driver, remote control for volume and just two attractive smaller speakers without boxes. And yes, there's no CD player (which I think you don't need at all but you seem to want that feature).

Srajan
Dear Srajan Ebaen,

on the basis of your laudatory review of the Burson 160D DAC/pre-amp/headphone amp, I purchased a unit from PartsConnexion in Ontario. This thing is utterly amazing. Right now I have a $200 Yamaha tuner hooked to the Burson, which in turn is connected to my Almarro A205a mkII.  The CBC can sound tinny. Not anymore. With the DAC I find the music is propulsive and the soundstage has expanded considerably. I listened to some disco (forgive me) through the headphone amp. Amazing. Anouar Brahem's oud on Le Voyage de Sahar has never seemed so rich and woody. How on earth Burson is making any money on this thing is a mystery.

Best wishes,
Tim Smith
Hello Stephæn,

Just a quick message saying how much I enjoyed your new 6moons articles ... great work! Was wonderful reading both the article on the Po Boys and the one on the horn sub. Must have been lots of work putting all that information together. A lot of detail and interaction among friends. The pictures put it over the top. To have only been there! You have a great group of friends!
Take care and enjoy the music!

Rick

Thanks, Rick. Pete and I are indeed blessed with a wonderful group of friends. Stay tuned. Part III of the series will post this week.

æ
Hello Srajan, 
It is not likely that you don't already know of the Fone' Audio recording studio and most probably you already have some Fone' recordings. But just in case and by some odd chance you don't know of them, I want to tell you that their recordings are phenomenal. 

I attended a high-end audio electronics show in Rome about 3 months ago and it was there that I first encountered this recording company. I bought two thumb drives which contained 7 x 24/96 albums, 4 x SACD discs and 1 CD. And I must say that all of it is just phenomenal. Now, I already had some very good recordings in the classical music genre including two Bluray offerings by 2L. But with respect to clarity and fidelity of timbres, purity of tone, none of my other recordings demonstrate the high standard of reproduction that Fone' recordings achieve. Of all my classical recordings, these make me feel as though I am listening to real live' instruments. 

They don't present as wide a soundstage as some others especially not as wide as that presented by the 5-channel 2L BluRays. Don't get me wrong. The soundstage is not narrow. It extends well beyond and (especially) deeply behind my speakers (although with the Gallos and the CFA-1 I don't have practically anything that remains within the confines of my speakers). I am just saying that the soundstage is not as wide nor is the sound as big as in some of my other recordings. But within the soundstage that they do present, the sound of every instrument or group of instruments is absolutely clear, pure, holographic and precise. And the sonic balance, that is the relationship between all the performing instruments, is to my ear,spot on.

This Fone' sound, in my opinion, is the very definition of what hifi should sound like. This clarity and fidelity to real sound and sonic balance is also true of the Fone' CD that I bought, The Best of Violin/Salvatore Accardo performing. It is one of a limited production of 496 and it is what they call 24K Gold HiFi Reference recording. This means that it is produced using actual 24k gold. Here is what it says in the liner notes: Gold metallization research has revealed that among all types of metallization (e.g. aluminum, super aluminum, anodized gold-colour aluminum) 24-karat gold bears the most impressive specifications in terms of uniformity of metal deposition, reflectivity and the least number of visible pin holes. Lab tests have also confirmed that 24-karat gold CD have the highest laser beam reflectivity rating. The high reflectivity allows the reading laser beam to be reflected back to the photo detector at nearly full power, virtually eliminating any laser photo scattering, absorption of distortion, hence, dramatically reducing data reading errors."  

I am not a technician so I don't really know if any of the above is what really makes the difference. But something sure does and I can only attest to the fact that this CD is incredibly dynamic, tonally true and clear and musically balanced. I cannot speak for the quality of their 'normal' CD recordings because I do not own one. But since at present their catalogue only shows two 24K Hifi Reference CD recordings and I have one of them,  I am going to order the other (if they haven't sold out all 496 copies yet). When I do, I will also order one of their other CDs to make a comparison. 

Peter Borelli
Dear Srajan,
first of all I wish you a Happy New Year and thank you for the many great and useful reviews in 2010. As you will surely remember we met in Münich during the show a year ago. I've just started with the Burson HA160D after your recommendations and it really is a giant killer and sounds exactly as you explained! We've tried it against a customer's €20.000 Linn media player and the Burson via USB was better. Afterwards we tried it as a preamp against the customer's $9.000 Manley and again the same result. This small music machine is a winner.

I've ordered the Onkyo iPod dock too and want to make demos in my shop with this combo. I'm an absolutely not into computer audio yet and want the simplest possible solution with the Burson/Onkyo/iPod touch system. I simply want to load some high-res demo pieces from my HP laptop to the iPod and not play from the laptop. btw, two tips for review one day in 6moons:
• Odeon horn speakers from Germany. The latest Nr.28 is one of the best I've heard during my 30 years in high end.
• The latest Soundstring unshielded interconnect and speaker cables and Tricoremaxial power cords. These cables are the most linear and neutral I've heard (and I have here the LiveLines too of course).

Best Regards
Tibor Szegedi

At present the iPod can't hold hi-rez files so you're limited to Redbook. Simply install iTunes on your PC, then sync the iPod with your selections via a USB cable between Onkyo and your HP. Also check out April Music's new Adam digital-direct iPod dock here in Stereophile's show report.

Srajan
Hi David Kan,

There is a review of the Dared VP-16 tube amp on 6moons.com. I found a simple way to improve its sound vastly. The adjustable inside potentiometers as you wrote have a recommended setting of between 0.20V and 0.25V by turning them with a Phillips screwdriver. It's possible to adjust them between 0.105V and about 0.90V. I have listened to various voltages and found the rock bottom 0.105V to sound the best and most solid-state like. This setting likes a loud volume played though to sound its best and cleanest. If one likes moderate volume a setting of 0.150V is better. A voltage of 0.20 and above makes the sound softer and less dynamic but with more texture to it at low volumes. But, with moderate or high volume played all those textures are pulled out as well from the music with the rock bottom 0.105V setting. You achieve 0.105V by turning the screw clockwise to the bottom end. Do this and then put on some music with slam to it that you didn't think the Dared VP-16 handled well in the past and turn up the volume. Be amazed. Those drums and steel-string guitars are so hard-hitting and snappy now like transistors.

If one wants the 0.150V setting, use one 6SL7 tube that performs well and two good-sounding 6V6s that have close average reading, from the stack of four 6V6s when swapped back and forth in their sockets. Move the two chosen around in the four sockets in all constellations and set an average. For example, if one side is adjusted both to 0.15V and them when you swap the 6V6 tubes the reading is 0.135V and 0.165V, adjust them half way back to 0.15V, which means 0.142V and 0.158V. This setting allows for random tubes to be put in the sockets in the future without adjustments. They will come reasonably close to 0.150V. The potentiometers may get worn out if endless tweaking is done for every new tube.

Once you see that I'm right, please add this fix to the review so that all of us who own this tube amp can enjoy good sound. 0.105V rocks the best and is the easiest to achieve for those with no multimeter.

Torbjorn Holmberg
Hi Srajan,
Happy new year! Just wanted to apprise you of something. If you open up 2L's website and go to what they call—I believe—their ''bench test'' page you can download 12 of 2Ls tracks in whatever format you wish all the way from 16/44.1  to  24/192 (in stereo or multichannel)  at no cost whatsoever. Since my Music Streamer II+ supports only up to 96kHz I downloaded all 12 in that format. I believe that your Burson HA160D USB DAC supports up to 192kHz, right?

The versions I downloaded are very good. But it also happens that I already own nearly all of these tracks both in 2L's Bluray format (and also in SACD format, since when you buy the Bluray they also send you the hybrid SACD/CD disc).  My assessment is that the Bluray multichannel version is definitely best not only due to the extended width of the soundstage over the 24/96 download but also for the richness and denseness of tone and sheer musicality. The Bluray is also more resolved and transparent. The downloaded version is thinner, bordering sometime on being a little harsh and thus more fatiguing. I could listen to the Bluray all day and not become fatigued. 

The multichannel SACD version is a middle ground between Bluray and 24/96 but closer to Bluray than 24/96. The tone is rich and full rather than thinner. But it is to my ear, somewhat less resolved and controlled. Anyway the 2L downloads are free of charge and legal since they are being offered by 2L themselves.

I have just recently gotten into 24/96 and purchased some albums from Fone which I think are extremely good, better than the 2L downloads, fuller sounding and more resolved with instruments firmly placed 3dimensionally in a wider soundstage. The soundstage however is less up front. It tends to be deep and behind the speakers. 

I have also found a way for converting Flac files into a format that can be read by iTunes. There is a free application called Max. When downloading a Flac file, MAX opens up automatically and then it is only necessary to drag a file into the Max window, click on ''convert'' and Max does all the rest converting the Flac file to Apple Lossless and inserting it into the iTunes list while also getting all the pertinent information from the net about the songs that it converts. It is really easy to use. 

This last thing I may have already written to you about is called Pure Music. It is an application that attaches itself to iTunes and then functions as the player (eliminating iTunes from that task) and uses iTunes solely as a database from with it draws the selected files. This is not a free download but costs very little and it really enhances the final result. I realize that you may already be aware of all of these options but you never know! Maybe you can find some of it useful. Hope you are well and that the coming year is great for you and yours, 

Peter Borelli

PS. I downloaded a 24/96 file from HD TRACKS entitled 3 fervent travelers by Time For Three, a string trio (not classical music). I think this album is phenomenal in all respects - music, recording quality, etc. Given what I already know of your musical tastes, I think you would like it also.  
Srajan,
I have read your review about the Wyred and Yamamoto DACs. I am confused a bit about improving my digital sound. I don't know if you can recall but I was the one who has the Ocellia system right now and working with Samuel on improving it. I have taken delivery of my own Ocellia push/pull 300B monoblocks (the new version of the one you heard at Panjas). Using his own Ocellia preamp with prototype phono stage right now while I patiently await for the new preamp to be delivered in February, the Ocellia Calliope 30 Signature is on loan until I get my own pair (still waiting to see if I will get the coaxial driver or new twin tweeter version with two piezo tweeters on each end). The whole system is wired with Ocellia's new reference interconnect, speaker cable and power cords.

I am thankful that Samuel lives here in Montreal. He is really helping me out making the system work in my room and actually letting me hear how his system can sound versus what I have now. I do not think that any audio store would go to great lengths to come visit me in my house so many times to improve the sound even when the audio store has sold a client a complete audio system.

Now here is my problem. I currently use an Ayre C5XE player. Samuel dropped off his own hand-built reference CD/SACD player, the same wooden one you probably heard in Panjas. He wanted to show me what's possible with digital, how the system can sound when it is really good and when it is really bad. I think he was trying to tell me that my Ayre sucks by being more diplomatic. I was literally blown away by the sound! It really complemented his speaker. It sounds very very natural, transparent...and dare I say more analog?

I don't know if you had heard his player but I was completely amazed by how natural it sounded and it beat out a commercial product! It made my Ayre sound soo bright, opaque and digital. My question is, .I might get Samuel to build me one depending on price. However since he is also the Yamamoto distributor in Canada and he briefly mentioned that the tubed version sounds similar to his and he also has the Wyred Dac2, which to get.

I know this is  a loaded question which is very hard to answer but right now so many questions are floating in my head! I have never gotten really excited about digital since I got the Ayre and wanted to improve the analog part but Samuel's player changed this.

I used 100% Redbook and SACD. If I do not pursue Samuel's player (I don't care if it doesn't have USB input), which is better? Yamamoto or Wyred? I am talking about Redbook and SACD playback. The fact that I can store my CDs to hard disk and download hi-rez files is nice to have but not necessary yet. I will be looking into buying a MAC laptop when I am ready to go this route

Or are there any options you can think of? I am not about hifi but a more natural sound. I am actually enjoying digital right now that I borrowed my friend's classical music and opera. Even though I didn't listen to it before, having a musical system that is emotional allows me to enjoy this type of music. Any advice appreciated...by the way, any chance you will cover the Montreal Audio show this year (Son et Image)?

Ren

Before my last house move two months ago, I took inventory of my hardware and parceled out excess gear to my team to not overload the new house. The Yamamoto DAC went to Joël so I've not had it in a while. That said, the Wyred4Sound DAC2 falls into the Weiss DAC2 sound category while the Burson HA160D mimics how I remember the Yamamoto. The Burson has replaced the Weiss as my primary DAC. For $1.150 it's got coaxial and USB digital inputs, 10V out max signal strength with the analog attenuator fully open, three analog inputs and one pair of RCA pre-outs plus two headphone sockets. Burson is presently working on a DAC-only version. Already the HA160D can be ordered with fixed pre-outs if one wishes to use it as a DAC rather than DAC/preamp. Considering it's half the price of the Yamamoto, that would be another machine of that particular class of sound.

That said, what you're currently experiencing is what happens when a gifted designer with a complete system vision works with you. Seeing you're seeing eye to eye with him on what sounds good, I'd stop even considering playing outside that game and simply follow Samuel's advice. If you can't afford his digital machine, I'm sure he can put together an alternative that'll follow the same general idea. Why work with a guy like that and then second-guess him? He's there working in your house, I'm halfway around the world. Clearly his hands-on advice should matter more to you than any guess work I could offer.

Srajan
Hi Srajan.

Merry Christmas to you & Ivette. Only recently have we obtained high-speed Internet again so I've been somewhat out of touch with the world...your site does download to my Blackberry though! Have now permanently moved to Vancouver Island where I've recently finished construction of our new home (16-month project). My Rives Audio designed sound room/living room is pretty much complete other than to build a large bookshelf for the back wall. I'm trying to arrange the Duos with help from Jim Smith's book (wish he was here).

I think I've found an outfit not too far away that sets up mainly theater rooms but does have an RTA tool and are willing to come out and take some measurements when their new software arrives. Meanwhile I'm trying to position speakers from the back wall and my seating area from the speakers...and then there are the actual woofer controls too. It's a little overwhelming for me to say the least. If I could only just sit in my chair and remote control all the movements...yea wouldn't that be cool.

The room does look good though. Ceiling quadrants with RPG 'BAD' panels suspended and backlit with rope lighting. Floor to ceiling triangle bass traps behind the speakers, bass traps in 2 back corners, 6 soffit vents and a couple of BAD panels on back wall french doors and 2 more wall absorbers. As it will ne pretty quite around here over the holidays, I hope to find time to play with speaker placement. When I actually get this all together I'll send you a few pictures if you like.

Enjoy the holiday season, and of course all the Best In The New Year...and yes to your new digs too!

Ed King
After seven years of trouble free if moderate use I decided I would not be upgrading from my Nagra 845 VPA monos in the foreseeable future so I went  for the next best thing, a complete factory refit and overhaul. This not so incidentally was also meant as a test of Nagra's vaunted professional as opposed to boutique status. I am very happy to say that with the collaboration of Roman-licensed dealer Dimensionehifi the Nagras were serviced in Cheseaux in seven days, with Herb Bartels promptly providing a detailed cost estimate. Expense—comprehensive of four factory-matched output tubes and the replacement as requested of a marred top plate—was held well under €2000 including return shipping and carrier proof packaging. This kind of service goes some way towards justifying high-end prices.

Michele Surdi
Srajan,
Hello and merry Christmas to a friend that I've never met. 6moons my homepage at work. I read it every day when I get into the office. Much like a middle class car buff who loves reading about high powered sports cars that he can never afford, I love reading about high-class audiophile equipment that I can't afford. It gives me a reason to daydream and think about what I would buy if I ever won the lottery. I live in the suburbs of Detroit. My house, while upper middle class a few years ago, is now not worth the bricks used to build it. That's not my fault but it is my reality. I want a pair of Gallo Stradas more than anything on earth but Santa didn't have the money to bring them to me this year. You see, I have 3 children and a stay at home wife. That's not a complaint and I'm not whining. In fact I'm proud of the fact that I can still provide for them in Michigan when most of the people I know have no job and are struggling to keep their homes.

What I am communicating to you is this - I'm the average middle-class schmo that you sometimes reference during a review of Franck Tchang's latest masterpiece or an MBL monster or Avantgarde system. It's fun to read about those awesome speakers but I will probably never be able to afford one. However, one of your reviews got me to open up my check book for me, not my family, but this daddy got a new toy that I love, thanks to you.

The Dayens Ampino was a piece of gear that I read about on 6moons and I bought one, no audition necessary because I trust you. This thing is outstanding. I've had it for about 6 months and I am the guy you talk about in your review as the perfect candidate for that amp. You see, I have the $700 Canadian speakers from Axiom with an Orb audio subwoofer. In combination with the Dayens, my sound is fantastic!  Then I read a reader submission from a very bright man named Michele Surdi and I took the leap. My system now consists of those same speakers but with an HRT Music Streamer II and DAC with Pure Music software running over my iTunes and Dayens interconnect cables tethering everything together. Wow!

I have an unbelievable stereo system that leaves my friends and neighbors slack-jawed. I owe this to your website. I love 6moons because amid the $100K systems reviewed for the rich and privileged, you make room to review components that us normal middle class people can maybe aspire to. You know, the people who can't spend more than 300 dollars without getting some seriously dirty looks from the wife. I wish I was a millionaire. I'm not. But the Dayens Ampino that I heard about on your website makes my system sound like I am a millionaire as far as my friends are concerned. I thank you for that. I also thank Mr. Surdi for turning me on to Pure Music software and the HRT Music Streamer II.  It's all just so awesome.

I wish you, your family and everyone at 6moons a very special and happy Christmas and a wonderful new year.
Best regards,
Steve Kozle

I can't afford half or more of the shit I review. It's more of a dream than real job (which doesn't make the work part any less real to be sure but still). That's why finding overachieving more budget-friendly things like the Ampino, HRT stuff, Schiit, Black Cat cable etc is what I enjoy most. Pleased to hear we helped you put together an enjoyable system without too many dirty looks from the family treasurer -:)

Srajan
Happy holidays and thanks for the great reviews and interesting discussions. The site just gets better and better. I grumble about your new-found love of computer-based source and ear-phones (neither of which interest me at all) but I read everything avidly just the same! My only legitimate bitch regards your music reviewers who seem to have given up entirely, which is a great pity since without the music the whole exercise is futile.
Yours
Shep Strudwick

It's true the music reviews have been stagnating. There are legitimate reasons - paying work, health, family and such so I oughta pick up the slack. Gotta find the time first though -:)

Srajan
Hi Srajan:
You had made mention of an earlier version of Ryan Scott's Cirrus monitor that was originally to be carried by Balanced Audio Technologies in an article titled 'Status Quo Me Arse!'...and you'd previously tapped Mr. Candy to write 'em up. Now that this speaker is an official release via Scott's own company Vapor Sound as you've noted in a recent 6moons news article, I'm hopeful you or one of your cohorts will be getting a pair in for review. Hell, if not, with your blessing I'll write the review. I'm really keen to 'hear' how these things perform, seeing as there's no dealer network and they seem like one hell of a bargain.

Joseph Wolkosky

A review will depend on Ryan's interest in the first place and having a loaner pair available. We've not heard from him so the ball is in his court. If he's interested in a 6moons review, I'd be happy to do the honors but two-way shipping to and from Switzerland could be unattractive to a start-up US manufacturer. In that case we'd have to find a US-based writer with interest and an open slot in the schedule (not automatically a given). And agreed, they do seem like one helluva bargain.

Srajan
Dear Srajan,
I just read your article Little big differences and could not keep smiling.The reason is that over the last few years I have removed quite a lot of foam bass absorbers, which only sucked the life out of recordings but did not really do what they were claimed to be designed to do – trap bass. The only bass trap I know which really is effective below 100Hz is this one from MSR. Measuring of listening rooms helps people understand what's going on and which acoustic treatments really make sense. RT60, frequency and impulse response measurements are very important. Recording studios have very low reverberations times—sometimes 0.2s—which is too low for music reproduction. That is why professional studio absorbers might be just too much for private rooms. Floyd Toole once said that you don’t really need any studio absorbers in your listening room except for bass treatments. One can achieve very good results using furniture, pictures, carpets, lamps etc. And I totally agree with him.

We do offer absorbers but they are mostly design objects made of eye-friendly materials and should be considered mere add-ons. Of course in case of the HighEnd Munich show they are not add-ons but really a must. Congratulations on your new listening room. It must be much better than the one in the gallery. BTW, I believe that our Septimus diffusers or more home-friendly lamp between the speakers will make sense in your room. Yes I know, they would cover your picture but still…

Best Regards,
Dmitry Valdin
Transparent Acoustic
Srajan,

I just read you fantastic review of the Audeze LCD-2. I own a maxed out Woo Audio WA5 (all possible Woo upgrades) with EML 300B mesh, EML 5U4G mesh plates and 6SN7GT VT231 smoked glass RCA. I also own the HD800. I am about to order the Audeze LCD-2, however I would really appreciate your advice. Is the WA5 a great match for the LCD-2?

I truly enjoy electrostat sound and was thinking of buying the Woo Audio WES and Stax SR-007 Mk2 before I bought the WA5. Now I am thinking I can get even better sound with the WA5 + LCD-2. Do you agree?

Thanks so much in advance.
Regards,
Robert Zimmer

I'm personally not a stat man so that puts my tastes into a different sector than yours. That said, I too own the fully loaded Woo (I simply run it with all Create/Synergy glass but earlier used the EML 300B XLS and matching rectifiers). On the LCD-2, I ultimately prefer the Burson HA160D over my WA5 but someone else could very easily go the other way. It's a bit of give 'n' take, with the Woo winning on tone and dimensionality, the Burson on dynamics and bass control. What I will also say is that to my ears, the Audez'e most firmly relegates the HD800 to third place. It's not an electrostatic sound however. It's far denser and wetter and voluptuous. But we all have different tastes. If it was me, I'd forget about the Stax (I've heard them), go with the Audez'e and Ken Ball's upgrade cable, run that with your Woo and call it quits. Reader Joe Eagleeye runs his LCD-2 with the Eddie Current Balancing Act 300B amp and gave up on his Avantgarde Duo Omega/Shindo system in a 1500sft open loft for it. He's happy as can be so clearly the Audez'e + DHT proposition sings. I'll look into this particular combo in the new year with 300B and PX4 and compare it to the Woo. That Woo is one mighty fine amplifier!

Srajan
Hello Srajan,
I live in Zürich and purchased a Pace Car II and Overdrive Signature DAC from Steve Nugent (plus a dedicated PSU from Paul Hynes because I didn’t like the cheap wall warts on this price level of gear). The Empirical Audio boxes are connected to a ModWright modified Transporter—I'm also using Dan's LS/PS36.5 preamp—so that I can switch inputs to listen to the Transporter’s analog tube output stage (6SN7 NOS Tung-Sol round plates) or to the analog output of the EA Signature DAC. This feeds a GamuT designed external Gradient crossover to Quad ESL63s, Gradient SW63s and Kings Audio electrostatic super tweeters (plus a complete set of 13 Franck Tchang resonators).

I was delighted that you had chosen the Empirical Audio Overdrive DAC for review but recently couldn’t locate the coming soon link and was wondering whether you had dropped the review or postponed it? When I asked Steve Nugent about it, his reply was "Chris, he is almost finished with the review. He just wants to compare it this weekend to a dCS Debussy. Already he compared it to a Weiss Minerva, Weiss 202 and others. It should be published in 2 - 3 weeks. Very positive so far btw."

The EA gear has not really received extensive reviews and there are still quite a few shortcomings, i.e. the loud fan in the Overdrive DAC (which I replaced with a more expensive Papst fan) which is very audible with nearfield listening; the cheap wall warts (replaced by a decent Paul Hynes PSU); enclosure resonances (dampened by Shun Mook and brass Mapleshade weights); plus the fact that the Pace Car reclocker does not automatically adjust to music with different sampling rates (you must manually switch this unit from 44.1k to 96k for example and wait); various Substation PSU +18V relay problems - and I also question the length of service life support if Steve decides to do something else in the future… plus the price for all of this in comparison to the competition (Weiss/Berkeley). Sometimes I do get the feeling that there is quite a bit of cost cutting going on here relative to the $6’000+ price level of the EA DAC/Reclocker combo. This does make me wonder if I made the right choice in investing upfront payment of over $6’000 worth of digital gear which Steve considers to be 'ne-plus-ultra'. That’s why I am very interested in your—third party—opinion. I would really appreciate it if you would let me know the status of the EA Overdrive DAC review.

Many thanks to you and best wishes,
Christopher Vacano

First off, Mr. Nugent clearly confused me with somebody else. I wasn't even supposed to get the product until Jan/Feb of next year since my current schedule is too booked. The reviewer with the dCS clearly is someone else. Two, after being solicited I expressed exactly the same concerns about the fan but Steve assured me I'd not hear it. After your email which suggested different, I contacted Mr. Nugent again saying that an audible fan in a non-PC source component for home use would kill the assignment for me.

Here is his reply: "I have adjusted the fan speed down and the other issues this customer had with both the Pace-Car and Substation have been addressed. This was likely an early Overdrive and I know it's not the latest Pace-Car USB which does switch sample rates automatically. The original wall warts have been upgraded as well. This customer had the opportunity to return the unit for these upgrades—most of them at no cost—but evidently chose to do his own mods.

"There is a review out soon from Dagogo on the Overdrive. This unit did not have the quieter fan but the reviewer used some foam to quell the noise successfully. I believe you will be surprised at how good it is. He compares it to the Weiss 202 and other much more expensive DACs. Since the review sample was returned to me, I also installed new upgrades: the V-Cap CUTF caps as well as a new clock that I will be offering. These take the DAC to a much higher level. Also there will be feedback around year's end from the Colorado Audio Society on the Overdrive. The Overdrive is not your conventional DAC but it is this way for SQ reasons. I recommend that you read these reviews when they come out and then reconsider. This DAC was in the system that got best of show from TAS. There is a reason for this."

Here's the thing. I don't know how the Dagogo writer felt about it but if I had to quell fan noise with foam in a Weiss or Burson or Antelope or Wyred4Sound DAC, I'd consider all of them broken. As is, none of them are designed to require a fan. Given that Mr. Nugent seems to think otherwise is one of multiple reasons why I informed him today that I will not proceed. He has quite a number of reviews lined up already so he seems all set on getting coverage for this product. I'll now have to pass on his advice to me also to you: "I recommend that you read these reviews when they come out." -:)

Srajan
Hello Srajan,
Just read your Cable Crisis piece and I have some comments:
1. "Our cables are based on a unique patented technology…"
For the time being there is only one patent granted by the Eurasian Patent Office. It is based on search and opinion on patentability by the Russian Patent Office. The original claim 1 was rejected, the granted claims are a combination of original claims 1+2 and 1+3. FYI, an international application does not result in a patent, the examiner performing the substantive examination in the international phase only gives an opinion with regard to patentability. The application then enters the regional and/or national phase in the countries indicated and there a patent is granted or not.

The original application was filed in US on 3 August 2007. Normally, the USPTO publishes applications 18 months after filing, which has not been done. There isn’t a granted US patent either. Kokurin has entered the regional phase at EPO but so far no supplementary search has been done. I had a quick look and in the technical field concerned there is a classification entry called 'dummy conductors', where the application is already classified and which contains more than 3500 documents. I’m curious to see what the EPO examiner finds during his search and if there will be a granted European patent.

2. "My US patent lawyer called this technique ‘a major invention’."
The only way to know whether or not an invention is indeed an invention is to have a prior art search. So far, the US hasn’t performed any.

3. "As such solicitations register on me— I’m no lab rat, remember—this one had real promise. There was a granted rather indefinitely pending patent."
As I have said on several occasions on audio asylum and elsewhere, a granted patent does mean only one thing: that the claimed subject matter is new and not obvious to the expert in the respective technical field. What it does not mean is that the device works as described, which in this particular case is the compensation of signal transmission errors caused by skin effect; or that it is any good or better than other similar devices. I’ve examined and granted a couple of hundred patents in the last 22 years and when the applicant claims that the invention works as described, then that’s fine for me, I won’t bother checking, market and consumer will take the final decision. If established laws of nature are violated then the story is different. That’s why perpetuum mobile for instance is explicitly excluded from patentability.

4. "Still, I’ve long wondered why cables sound different. The root of the problem was described in Prof. Hawksford’s article here."
With all respect to Hawksford, HFNRR and Stereophile are not exactly peer-reviewed scientific journals so the article could be full of errors and incorrect assumptions and conclusions and no one would notice. Has Hawksford ever published on this issue in a scientific/technical journal? I looked in relevant engineering databases and technical journals, there are plenty of Hawksford publications but nothing on cables.

The main difference between Kokurin’s cables and other cables seems to be the loss current compensation, meaning that in all of the other cables there is no such compensation. All of those other cables hence have one feature in common: they experience loss current, still they allegedly sound different so there must some parameter other than loss current that causes these differences. If they all sound different while having this common feature, what enables Kokurin to say that this feature is the root of the problem?

5. On his website Kokurin speaks of breakthrough technology and mentions the Moscow Academy of Sciences so I wonder if he has published his findings. The same databases and technical journals I looked into for Hawksford came up empty-handed when looking for Kokurin. In any case Kokurin apparently is willing to throw serious money at this issue. If you look at the front page of the international application you see that he designated all major countries and all of the regional patents possible. At EPO alone he will be paying about €5000. And this is peanuts compared to what he has to pay once a patent is granted and he has to translate the whole into the language of all the 33 designated European member states and pay the renewal fees. But if it works and has real technical benefits for the processing speed of computers, which operate at frequencies well above 20kHz where skin effect is an issue indeed, then this patent might be a good investment.

Regards,
Klaus Rampelmann
Hi Srajan,
Just wanted to say that I read your iStreamer writeup on 6moons and thought it was fantastic. You really nailed what the iStreamer is all about and I think it would fit in with audiophiles and non-audiophiles quite nicely. Also, your site is amazing! I've used it quite a few times for reliable reviews and the knowledge of your staff has always been enlightening. HRT has sent me a review sample of the iStreamer and I should have an Unbox-Review up by the end of this week. I'm super excited about getting my hands on this new product, especially since I'm an iPad owner who has been waiting for such a product to come around.

Thanks again for the great reviews and take care. 
Kind Regards,
Dave Zamora
Dear 6moons guys,
Like you I fell in love with the Mark & Daniel speakers the first time I heard the Ruby at Audio Volo in 2008. I had come to audition a set of BC Acoustique A3 floor standers but was disappointed. They were set up wrong woofers pointing outward. I was about to leave the store when I saw the Orange Ruby. I asked Steve to hook them up. I was blown away. They kicked ass on the BC Acoustique A3. I bought them after about 30 seconds of listening. I have since become a dealer for Mark & Daniel.

It's now 2010 and I  own the Ruby, Topaz, Monitor, Diamonds, Maximus Subs and 2 sets of Aragorn. I set up the first set of Aragorn with the bottom port open connected to the Bass Extender Stands as designed. I never bought the Omni Tweeter because I see no need. After several months of listening I just didn't care for the Aragorn. Not until I called an audio friend who also sells M&D speakers. He told me to remove the Aragorn from the stand, reattach the bottom cover to seal it as it is without the stand and put it back on the BES. That was it! Now they rock. The stands do not work. They make the bass uneven, washed out and not as deep as with the speakers sealed.

I kidded M+D's Loren about the slot for the Omni Tweeter being wasted space until I had an idea. In the 70s I owned stacked Large Advents which sounded fantastic for around $300 for two sets. My friends would come over and just shake their head in disbelief as they had spent hundreds more for other speakers of the time and the Advent stack just took no prisoners..

So I thought of a use for the Aragorn slot: the Aragorn Super Stack or ASS for short. Attached is a photo of the stack just before going off to the painter. I had a custom interface bracket built to hold the stack together. I will report on the sound as soon as I have reassembled it and set up for a listen. Let me know if you would be interested in hearing the Aragorn Super Stack. Coming to a listening room near you soon!

Jeff Simpson
Hi-Fi Designs