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For published correspondence April to September 2011, click here; December 2010 - April 2011 click here; June - December 2010, 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.

Hello,
As an audiophile it took me years to find a solution to the problem of incompatibility of my Audio Refinement Complete Alpha (integrated amp and CD player) and JMlab Cobalt 815. I still have none. The set was perfect before becoming “Alpha” but now trebles are bright and sharp, the sound is thin and weak. Although DH Labs’ Q10 Signature Loudspeaker cables and HiFi Tuning Supreme fuses brought the system to a kind of fluency and musicality after two weeks of burn-in time and although trebles are better than before by gaining detail, the sound of the system is still unbelievably weak. Besides I still use Chord Chorus as an interconnect and power distributor is System and Magic Black Noise Derive and Power Chord DH Labs Power Plus (a fantastic cable). My former loudspeaker cables were Chord Odyssey.

Do believe me, it is a very depressing situation. My system is still playing too loud, even the voice button shows the low indicators. As a result I’ve decided to change my amp. Now I wonder which one is better, Hegel H70 or Exposure 3010S2? The audio magazines have positive comments about either. But I wonder which one plays bodily thick, organic, natural and soft? And later on I want to change my loudspeakers to Wilson Benesch Arc. If we consider all these, I wonder which one could be my correct and perfect choice? One of the distributors here in Turkey says that the Hegel H70 is even better than the Rega Elicit, which has bear a €3000 amp in a magazine’s group test. On the other hand, it’s compatibility with Gallos is incredible. So would you please tell me your opinion. Which one shall I choose? Can you please also tell me about their advantages and disadvantages?
Best regards and thank you.
Burak Meriç
Istanbul Stock Exchange Magazine
Chief Editor

I'm afraid to say that your approach seems symptomatic of a basic belief that 1+3+2=6. Audio is far more nonlinear than that and personal tastes vary wildly. Things simply don't add up neatly. Blanket recommendations like "buy Apple stock" are impossible. You've identified some aspects you don't like about your present system (bright, sharp, thin and weak). Now you must do some personal investigations with local dealers or audiophile friends. You have to determine who makes the kind of sound you prefer or aspire to. Do any of the systems you like have something in common? How does that reflect on what you have?

Just saying "I'm hungry, what should I eat?" isn't enough. You'll have to live with the answer for a long time. This requires knowing what you want. Right now you sound very confused. No stranger can really help. You first need to learn what is causing the things you don't like about your present sound—identify the cause—before you can find the cure. Diagnostics are key. Much learning is involved and it's all personal, not universal. If you don't know where to start, find a local dealer, join your local audiophile society, make friends with other audiophiles and educate yourself to various approaches to sound, various flavors etc. You'll learn more clearly what you want, what it takes to get there and what you have to do with your present setup to move it in that direction.

You have to apply some intelligence and resourcefulness to this quest. Go on a sampling spree of local audio systems. Go to Extreme Audio in Istanbul for example. They have 12 sound rooms and a vast product mix to experiment with. Pay them some money to spend a whole day there and put different things together for you that'll match your budget and room size. That'll create some clarity, purpose, focus and direction.
Srajan
Hi Srajan,
I enjoyed your review of the Aries Gladius. My speaker explorations of late have been moving towards that design direction. When I have the time I might try to DIY using the same drivers. Right now I've been listening to poorer cousins of that school of design. Have you heard, or heard of the Vandersteen VLRs? They're a very interesting affordable option for the phase-coherent obsessed such as me. I like them quite a bit. Richard Vandersteen admits he hasn't marketed them very much, which I think is a disservice to the audio community!

I have both the Omega Super 5 monitors and Vandersteen VLRs in house. I've been living with the Omega Super 5's for the past year and recently received the Vandersteen VLRs. The Omegas should be familiar to you - single driver sound from a 4 incher - very coherent, clean dynamic midrange but limited bass, very peaky response (huge spike at 10 kHz) and weak treble with high intermodulation distortion. I plugged the port because I prefer sealed bass just like you. The Vandersteen VLRs are kind of a dark horse - 6-inch polypropylene woofer with coaxial 1-inch metal dome tweeter, 1st-order crossover (of course) in a sealed cabinet. The sound from the VLR is nearly as coherent as the Omega with only a slight reticence in the upper midrange probably from the crossover and slight emphasis in lower treble from the tweeter - but paying major dividends in both bass and treble extension and overall lower distortion.

I enjoyed the Omegas quite a bit when I hacked together my own phase-coherent digital FIR equalization (topic for a different story) but the equalization required swings of 24dB to flatten the response in-room. The equalization also wasn't compatible with non-computer sources and the system was rather finicky. So I got the Vandersteens as a possible replacement and so far they're sounding like the definite victor. When I connect up the Vandersteens with digital FIR equalization again I expect to be very impressed.

The one other option I would consider is the Gallo Stradas but I saw a phase plot of them once and it shows a 60 degree swing for the tweeter (due to capacitance?) which worried me. Also they're in a higher price bracket - I got both the Omegas and Vandersteens for $700 per pair. Used Stradas are very rare and go for about twice as much. The rest of my system, you might recall, has a Dan Wright modified MSB Link 3 (driven from a computer) into a Virtue Audio Sensation M901 with battery PSU and two Martin Logan sealed 10" subwoofers.
Cheers,
Andrew Hon

My first serious speaker was a Vandersteen 2ci bought used from Peter Litwack at Music by Design in Sausalito. That said, I'm not familiar with the VLT model. I am with the Strada and not surprised they rarely show up used. My suspicion is the Vandy would give you more bass.
Srajan
Thank you for your review of the HRT Streamer II+. What caught my interest more was your impression of the U3. Last time I asked you if the U3 improves your DAC even if you only do 16/44.1 - I guess it turned out that it really does. I had once considered buying the Octave DAC because of its Blue Moon Award and affordability but the only reason I changed my mind is that doesn't have any USB inputs. But obviously the U3 solves the issue as well as make it even better. I'm aware you're currently reviewing the Burson DA-160 as well, which is supposedly an upgraded DAC from the HA-160D's own DAC section. Depending on the outcome of your review, I'm finally (whew...) going to replace my two-year-old Stello DA100 Signature with a superior DAC. What do you think is the overall best performing DAC in your collection: HA-160D, DA-160, U3/Octave or Antelope Gold? (Though I highly doubt I can afford the latter with my current budget...)
Songkyun Han

The U3/Octave combo at $1.500 so far is my favorite. I still have to do more listening to the Burson DA-160 but unless something changes, the U3/Octave wins (and yes it's more expensive and less flexible). The U3 even improves the Zodiac Gold. I wouldn't have thought it but it really is quite the magic bullet. That review in fact will come up next. Which could, by implication, mean that the Eximus DP-1 will be the one to wait for. But I think that's targeted at around $3.000 - U3 on board plus all the functionality of the Burson HA-160D.
Srajan
Srajan…
Just an old-fashioned thank you note. This is obviously as far removed from an "old-fashioned" anything as one can get given the form of composition & delivery but you get the idea… I guess. While it borders on comically embarrassing, I nonetheless felt compelled to write you a brief missive to convey an appreciation you might find yourself scratching your head over. As in, "What’s with this guy?!?" Despite that  reasonable query, I’m not quite a mental miscreant haling from any village. Though I need to get to the point lest I prove otherwise thru further incoherent rambling.

I’ll not burden you with the background leading up to my current plight but I’ve seen better days than I am now. By the way, with insomnia’s support and coffee’s contribution, I’ve discovered there are not only 24 hours ascribable to each day but 24 available to each night as well. (Okay, maybe so… but we didn’t refer to it as a village).

"Und der Punkt?" Glad you asked. With the above mentioned anxiety-draped crutches, I found ample time to account for awaiting the other brogan to drop. I circuitously stumbled onto your mention of the Brik amp & DAC availability, wrote you regarding them (from my desk in my village boarding-house room), embarrassed myself with the juvenile thought of acquiring toys I couldn’t afford to have shipped but alerted myself to your magazine’s equipment review archives in the process.

At the risk of furthering my chagrin over the tenor of this communiqué—though it’s not likely I’ll run into you grabbin’ a burger at The Vortex in Little Five Points, oui?—I found (der Punkt) incalculable solace in reading your (collective) reviews. Regardless of the fact that everything’s out of my unemployed reach, I got/get to enjoy, by proxy, "playing with" all of the gear eloquently written about by you & your staff.  The goofy part is that I feel I’ve also gotten to know all of you in this retrograde journey from now ‘til early 2008 (so far).

While I’m wearing my sycophant chapeau, I’d also like you to know your ezine is my favorite—by far—because your writing skills/approach and copious photos set you apart from the other guys - including us. I’m no techno-wiz who understands all of the electro explanations & discrete description stuff. I’m a music-loving, hardware-admiring, industrial-design-appreciating village dweller.

Thanks for both the stress relief and basic simple pleasure I enjoy from reading your mag and visiting your personal listening rooms, Srajan. Admittedly I hafta occasionally add a little klonopin when the day’s really been bad but I get to slog thru another one with a fond listening session or two under my belt, after a night spent in your collective digs.  I owe ya one!!
Warmest regards,
Fred Sartin

I'm ever mindful of the other shoe and quite expect it to drop one of these fine days when the fun and games are finally over because writing about performance hifi has become too irrelevant to most given economical and related hardships. I'm also mindful that our (self-appointed) roles are equally those of entertainers as they are of technical writers. It's a hobby about sensory pleasures. Reading about it should be educational to some extent of course but it certainly also should be fun. I'm pleased to hear that our approach works for you. As you work your way backwards in time towards our beginnings, you'll probably discover that we've gotten a bit better at our jobs since. At least I like to think so. I find that nothing beats learning by simply doing it - over and over again until we tire of certain excesses to get more simple and say more with less. Still a long way to go though. Perhaps enough time remains on the clock.
Srajan
Dear Marja & Henk,
Thank you very much for your enjoyable and unique writing about our new cables. We were glad to learn that this article appeared in 6moons. At the moment the audio business is very difficult for us not only due to the high Japanese Yen but because of our national crisis of the tsunami and nuclear accident afterwards. Your review encouraged us to develop new products. By the way, the cylindrical dampers for the Limited are actually brass, not aluminum. They are finished with a small slit to eliminate electric eddy current and gold plating.

Best regards,
Takeshi Hayashi/Nantec Systems Inc.
Hello. I recently bought some LiveLine cables from Franck Tchang. I bought one pair of speaker cables and one pair of balanced interconnects. My system is a HT/2ch system. The stereo portion is an Integra 80.2 HT processor with an Oppo 83se player. I have a Bryston 4b-ST amp and use a pair of Focal 1027Be speakers for my L/R speakers. I had been using older Transparent Audio speaker cables. To say the LiveLine made an impact is an understatement. I heard a benefit right away. Everything sounds more real to me. But what really amazed me are the vocals. On one CD it was amazing. I have been listing to this CD for 20 years. I thought I knew what the singer was singing.  But I heard what he was really singing for the first time after I put these new speaker cables in. Music and movie sound tracks sound much better now. I just wanted to let you know that I am a happy customer and am so impressed with what these cables did for vocals that I plan on getting a speaker cable and balanced cable for the center speaker at some point. I can only imagine how much clearer the dialog will be after I do that. 
Mike Doukas
Hi Srajan,
just saw this from Centrance on your site: "The USB argument comes down to jitter management. It goes as follows. In asynchronous mode the device is clock master. In adaptive mode the computer is. Either works fine if correct design principles are followed. Here is the tricky part that often gets omitted. No matter which side is clock source (PC or DAC), both devices are still connected via USB cable. The digital data on that cable is always irregular because the computer is involved. Computers do many things at once. They end up sending data over USB in irregular intervals no matter who is the clock master on the bus. This irregularity causes jitter."

I believe this statement is factually in error, as a journalist I hope you will follow up, perhaps with Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio and the first developer and proponent of asynchronous USB data transfer for audio. The Wavelength Streamlength asynchronous USB code uses fixed frequency oscillators which clock the data out of the USB receiver's buffer at a fixed frequency with absolutely no influence from the computer side of things in terms of timing. The jitter at that point is solely the jitter inherent in the clock itself and has no inaccuracy caused by the computer. I am not claiming that asynchronous USB data transfer is jitter free (nothing is, of course) just that as implemented by Wavelength and partners using their code, jitter levels are not influenced b any irregularities in data timing on the computer side. Centrance should know better than to make self-serving inaccurate statements such as this.
Thanks,
Barrows

I leave pissing matches to the engineers, Barrows. There's plenty of propaganda for asynchronous USB. I wanted to provide some counter propaganda for adaptive with a link. Now readers can see two sides on the subject and decide for themselves who to believe. More importantly, perhaps they'll begin to worry less about buzzword compliance and trust their ears to decide what best works for them. This review and quote from Centrance isn't about Wavelength Audio or its designer Gordon Rankin so I won't pursue this direction. But I would certainly expect that you contact Centrance and dispute their statement with them to get satisfaction on a subject you feel strongly about.
Srajan
Just out of curiosity, when will the review of the Emillé Ara be available? I saw it once during the Seoul Audio Show as a headphone amp but never got to audition it properly. I wonder how good it is as a DAC/headphone/amp.
SongKyung Han

The review unit was recalled because following dealer feedback Emillé had instigated numerous design changes. This made what they'd sent me no longer current. Then the international sales manager resigned who'd been our liaison for all past Emillé reviews; and I learnt that overall reliability of their products across the line had been very spotty (though all our review loaners worked perfectly while we had them). We've thus not worked with the company since. It appears they must first address certain core issues and rebuild their global infrastructure.
Srajan
Hi there! I touched base with you briefly before the Pnoe review had gotten very far and remarked about what a wonderful new place to call home you had managed to find. And it looks even lovelier now that it’s been fleshed out a little with the plants and what not. As a Duo owner I was very intrigued by what your overall impressions of this single driver behemoth would be and, apparently, it was seductive enough to make you become owners. Congratulations on acquiring one of the great pieces of audio art extant. They are almost as seductive looking as the peerless (in my opinion) Jadis Eurythmies of yore and probably sound better. And frankly, I can’t believe these things are priced at 'only' €20.000 when I see so many other mid-level products from the likes of Wilson, Marten, YG and a slew of others going for much more. I am unabashedly envious.

But actually the main reason I chose to write is because I wanted to tell you how enjoyable it was to read a (basically) rave review that wasn’t awash in hyperbole and hysterical superlatives. You found a way to express pleasure and satisfaction that actually showed some poise and restraint but still communicated the meat and bones of the strengths of the speakers. Bravo…so positively anti Valin. Anyway, enjoy your new housemates and I hope you report further as you settle in with one another. And, may I ask, is the Devialet going to take up residence as well?
Best regards,
Alan Trahern

Hi Alan,
thank you for your comments. The Pnoe is indeed an extraordinary offer in the market not only sound wise but also—even though still a lot of money—financially. With regard to the Duo, the Pnoe is in the same league of aesthetics but sonically quite different. When switching from Duo to Pnoe and vise versa, one has to adjust from in-your-face power to subtle and emotionally loaded but both exhibit great dynamic capabilities and control. In further reports you will see the Devialet make appearances again. This all-in-one deck is not only a music lover's delight, it is also a reviewer's must have with Swiss army knife alike versatility.
M&H 
Srajan,
First, congratulations. I have been visiting your website for years and you continue to provide the best experience for those of us who revere good music and the gear that plays it. You review the best selection of equipment, you have far and away the most in-depth and revelatory reviews, you provide the most stunning hi-rez photos, and your format allows you to bring us the passions, motivations and musical philosophies of many great designers in the industry. Your decision to provide multi-segment previews prior to the full review and especially the decision to join with non-English speaking audio journals across the pond, have really set you apart from all of the other audio journalists vying for our attention.

Now, to the business at hand. I must beg your indulgence for clearly I must be missing something. Many of the world's best and brightest audio designers assign great importance to the time alignment of speaker drivers. So much so that they spend vast amounts of time, money and effort researching and manufacturing speaker cabinets designed to time align the drivers. They slope the baffles, they stagger the drivers, they even create separate driver enclosures that can be individually adjusted for time alignment (à la Ascendo and others).  And all this in order to reconcile a mere few inches of physical difference in the wave launch of the drivers.

So here is my dilemma. The great attraction of a single driver speaker has always been the lack of a crossover to mess things up. However, it seems to me that a single driver speaker that uses a backloaded horn to augment the low frequencies (such as the Arcadian Pnoes that Marja & Henk so entertainingly reviewed recently) would have to be considered a two-way, at least acoustically speaking. The backwave of a speaker like this is not suppressed or damped within the speaker enclosure.  Neither is it left to deflect, fragment and dissipate against a rear wall and room boundaries. Rather it is captured intact and redirected through a 3-meter backhorn to be a second forward wave launch. The problem is that this second wave launch is not mere inches behind the first - it is three meters behind the first! I would be greatly in your debt if you could explain how the ear (and ultimately the brain) can reconcile what appears to be an enormous disparity.

Thank you for your time and attention - and especially for 6moons!
Steve Harmon

Theory and practice. The lesser of two evils. There's any number of ways your question could be answered. Here are just two. 1/ Many of the world's best and brightest designers don't assign any attention to time alignment. 2/ For the reason you cite, many horn aficionados don't like backloaded horns.

Very much indeed could be said about this subject. I think most important in the end is personal experience. Have you listened to many time-coherent speakers? Do you always find them superior to their 'incoherent' competitors? How about physically time-aligned speakers with higher-order crossovers which induce more phase shift?

Audio is full of theories, measurements about things that matter less, no measurements about things that matter more, an incomplete understanding of how human hearing works... and many different ways to design and build components and speakers which, on paper, would mutually exclude or invalidate each other yet all find an audience.

In the process of wading through it all, one can either buy into a particular design philosophy with all that entails; or practice a more liberal 'whatever works' approach that makes the personal experience with anything paramount and the explanation about why and how supplemental entertainment but not the truth.

Because I've been doing this for too long not to have encountered too much contradictory evidence already; and because I'm not technically savvy enough to really understand all the intricacies (if I did I'd probably be designing audio rather than writing about it)... I prefer the live-and-let-live approach.

Relative to your question: The voice coil whence the signal emits into the room is the same for the direct and horn-loaded portions of the Pnoe sound. There's only one sound-creating event, not two. The rear wave of course is out of phase with the front wave and if the driver was suspended in free air, much of the output would cancel out. In theory the horn length is supposed to be such that by the time the sound emerges at the mouth, it's in phase again with the front wave to augment its output and delay bass rolloff. Of course this doesn't work equally well for all frequencies and as you pointed out, the arrival of the rear emission, depending on frequency, will be delayed by one or many more wave cycles and some of it will actually be out of phase with the front wave again.

In practice, the question is, how well does it work to the final arbiter of your ear/brain per se - and how well does it work relative to a very different solution. Is one squarely superior to the other? Are tradeoffs involved to make a decision not clear-cut but a matter of weighing one's compromises?

Theories can be very neat and tidy. Reality tends to be a lot messier. Messiness is much harder to understand and reconcile. So rather than try to understand it, I simply try to live with it. If you do this long enough, you develop an intuitive 'sympathy' for certain things that (for you!) seem to work better than others. You might even be able to explain why in ways that seem rational. In that case it's simply good to remember that someone else invariably arrives at a counter position he or she can enjoy and rationalize equally well and convincingly...
Srajan
Hello Srajan,
congratulation on your site which I consider to be the most exciting and on the cutting edge of audio reviews. Also I want to inform you that you practice my dream job since you can taste every single audio device no matter its cost. Anyway, the reason I am asking your help is: a few years back you reviewed the Raysonic CD168 and Music First Audio Silver TVC. I got excited and when the time came bought the devices. My current setup is the above units and the Martin Logan Purity powered speakers ( I think they are worth a review).

Based on my ears the best sound comes when the CD player is connected directly to the speakers and I use its remote control volume (even though in your review of the MFA you stated that the Consonance Droplet CDP, a similar product you ran at that time, improved with the preamp) so now a problem arises. Is the volume control of the Raysonic analog or digital and if digital, is it implemented with bit subtraction and eventual degradation of the sound?

I tried to contact Raysonic for an answer but after a few unanswered emails got the following from Steven Leung. "Thank you very much for using Raysonic products. Can you please tell me where did you purchase the unit and why these technical questions are useful for you?" Why is it useful for me? Go figure the customer support from this company. Can you somehow find this info for me?
Nikos Ranis
Mykonos, Greece

Two things, the more important first. Trust your ears. CDP direct sounds better to you, there's your answer.

That said, I agree with your frustration. One shouldn't have to ask this question in the first place as it should be answered on Raysonic's website. Since it's not, you did the reasonable thing to ask them. Now one doesn't expect to have to justify the reason for wanting to know or being asked where one purchased the unit as though one wanted free warranty service on a grey-market unit. I've been in the same boat with Raysonic before. I don't always get answers to my questions either and to your question I don't have the answer.

Usually analog volume is viewed/marketed as an extra/valuable feature with CD players which has you assume they'd talk it up. Seeing they don't it's fair to presume their volume control is digital. But - if your ears tell you it's better than detouring through a passive preamp, shouldn't that settle the matter regardless? This doesn't take away from questioning their customer service policies but you should be confident in your own ears. My review of the Resonessence Invicta DAC has a good section on the resolution of digital volume controls and where most of them start to throw away resolution.

Re: tasting audio no matter the cost, that's really not my focus. The more expensive things get, the less interested I am in fact. I do review very expensive stuff from time to time but I have to really believe the performance warrants at least some of the excess. The only way to do that before committing to an assignment is to hear things in my own system or at the very least at a show. I did such due in-home diligence with the Colotube amps and yesterday with the €60.000 Audiopax Maggiore 100s. I'm doing it later again this month with a new pair of Swiss carbon-fiber ceramic-driver active 3-way speakers.
Srajan
Hi Srajan,
like Dan and I am sure many others, I use your equipment reviews as the guide for purchasing equipment, sight and sound unseen and unheard, especially when you live down under in Oz. Just two examples are the Modwright LS36.5 and the Butler amp. I will be shortly purchasing the Audeze headphones so bring it on. M
y next purchase however is a new DAC. I currently own a NOS MHDT Paradisea using on old NAD CD player as transport. The NAD is slowly dying and my plan at this point is to replace it using either an iPod Classic and an Onkyo Dock or an Oppo player as transport.
T
wo questions please:
1.  In your opinion, what is the better sounding, the Mac through the DAC or an iPod via the Onkyo dock through the DAC.
2. I was fascinated with the review of the Metrum DAC and was wondering what is the better sounding in your opinion, the Metrum DAC or the Burson HA 160D.

I understand there will be differences in the nuances of sound but I guess the real question is, which one you would spend your hard earned dollars on. Keep up the great work and I also am really looking forward to the Marja and Henk review of the Arcadian Audio Pnoe, where, in my opinion, art really does meets sound. The Arcadian Audio Pnoe just look sensational in the photos.
Thanks,
Rob Bebrouth

Metrum. You'd have to use the Mac's combo output and connect via Toslink (glass not plastic fiber). The Burson has USB. On iPod/Onkyo/DAC vs. Mac/DAC I haven't run the comparisons. I use the iPod/dock/DAC combos I have for headphone listening and on the desk top, the Mac with track pad for remote in the big rig.

M&H brought the Pnoe upstairs into their big room which required a crane. The final review now published and contains photos and commentary of the various installs including at the Dutch show and two floors in M&H's house.
Srajan
Hello Srajan,
Thanks for the indepth and interesting Total DAC second opinion review/comparison. I have owned and cherished my Yamamoto YDA-01A for nearly 2 years. This Metrum Octave seems very special however. Both DACs seem cut from similar cloth to a degree. Would the Metrum be a definite step above or a sideward move (various tradeoffs)? I gather the Metrum in terms of tone/harmonics and organic character is as good or even better than the YDA-01 - but is it superior in terms of resolution, dynamics and bass?
Best regards,
Charles

You should ask Joël who inherited my Yamamoto and finds the TotalDAC a significant step up. I only know just how close the Metrum is to the TotalDAC. Which by triangulation might be sufficient but Joël could be more precise on just how the TotalDAC differs from his Yamamoto.
Srajan

Hi Srajan,
Well, that was some review of the Metrum Octave... "real people block the light and take up space". Beautiful. This sounds like the DAC for me. After Joël's TotalDac review I was quite excited but the Metrum is its equal (practically) for 1/5th the cost. I've purchase the Yamamoto DAC and ASI Liveline loom based on your reviews (you were spot on!) so here I (willingly) go again. Keep up your wonderful work.
Best.
Charles
Damn. $30K for those Colotube monos. Oh well. Trafomatic is a bargain then.
Alan Kafton

Yes. And Kondo approaches twice that. It's the game at this level. 100 hours of Swiss hand labor won't come free and many of the parts are very costly. That's why they deliberately cut out the middlemen - to not escalate the pricing any higher. There's always the €5.500 Kaivalyas. They also make more power. Are they as good? The review will tell...
Srajan
I've never downloaded stuff on-line yet, but I'm sure I'll get there. So your article on qobuz is apposite. I see we still have similar tastes in music though! Have several of the artists listed and was imminently about to get the Antonio Zambujo if I can find it on CD. Having had a near HDD crash recently, I still like having it on 'hard-copy' aka a CD! Oh, and thanks a lot for your rave on the Tap-X! Now I'll never find one I can afford! Will stick to my LFD I guess.
Chris Skelton

Qobuz is surprisingly easy to navigate even if you don't understand a word. I'm listening to a Mosalini tango CD I downloaded today right now. Re: the Tap-X, contact builder John Chapman. He'll put you on the books if a trade-in comes up and who knows, you might be lucky some other way. I'm sure he'll be helpful if you let him know you want one.

Relative to hard copies, you can always burn files to memory card for no moving bits. Or copy to DVD. The latter of course requires a DVD player but a $499 Oppo would have you all set. And yes, it'd take quite a number of DVDs but with memory cards available at 120GB these days, I could get my 11.000 uncompressed tracks I've imported so far on five of those...
Srajan
Hello Srajan,
The Metrum DAC review seems to be shaping up to be quite an interesting one. Looking forward to read your completed impressions for that DAC and the new Burson Audio DA-160 also. There are a couple of things I am curious about which were not clear from what has been written in the Metrum review so far. The first is whether those special R/2R chips just pass voltage from a voltage source to the output with the proper voltage level attenuation corresponding to the value of the digital sample being processed (like MSB DACs) or whether it is a current output R/2R DAC like the PCM 1704 DAC chip but has the current to voltage conversion circuitry and buffer circuitry built on the chip like some non-audio professional DAC chips. The other point is whether the 4 DACs per channel are used in some differential configuration or whether the samples are fed to them sequentially (Wadia-style) to allow for ample settling time per DAC chip and whatever other benefits come from that arrangement. I just thought that in case this DAC turns out to be a hit out of the park, those details might be useful for future comparisons.
Best regards,
Hesham Elshirbiny

Cees doesn't make the chips and his information is limited to what their maker has released. This meant some of my questions remained unanswered. It is my understanding that the chip in essence works like the 1704. Re: the configuration the outputs are single-ended not balanced and Cees all along said the chips were simply paralleled, not in any type of counter-phase arrangement. Again, some of my questions remained unanswered and anyone interested in this device will have to trust their ears.
Srajan
Hi Srajan,
I read your reviews and have purchased equipment using them as a guide. Zu Druids (modded) and Mini Methods, Manley Mahis, CIAudio VDA2 then a W4S DAC1. I find the W4S doesn’t draw me into the music and am now thinking of supporting fellow Aussies with the Burson DA160. I have a Wadia 170i as my source. I notice you use a Pure i20. Is there much between them? I’m thinking of getting a Mac mini instead of the Wadia/iPod. I only have about 120GB of uncompressed music, all Redbook rips. Which USB cables do you like? And is there any standout in the $200 - $300 range?
Thanks,
George Fink

I've never compared the Wadia to the Pure. I have an Onkyo equivalent and two of the Pure docks which might tell you something. Features and looks aside, at this level I don't think there'd be much of a diff. Re: USB cables, I've heard a nice improvement going with other than computer-store USB cables but I've not dabbled in the really pricey sector. I usually run the black Entreq with wood ends from Sweden.

Srajan
Hello Srajan,
given the amount of praise you gave Gallo Stradas and recently Burson 160D how come on your desk lies a BCD 5i and M+D mini's? I mean, one would think you'd want to be listening to them while working on 6moons articles...

Best Regards
Dadbeh Shaddel

P.S: Oh and btw I think 6moons and particularly your reviews have definitely set the standard for hifi journalism ... keep it up buddy!
Cheers

I already owned the M+Ds. After nearly nine years of doing this, I can't keep buying stuff that comes through here just because I like it. I'd by now need a warehouse if I did. If you remember, the Burson isn't a speaker amplifier so I'd still need a separate amp on the desktop. The whole idea with the BCD was to have just one box. The Burson is on my bedside table for a little headphone system.
Srajan
Marja and Henk,
Your piece on Todd Garfinkle and his high-resolution MA Recordings was so spot on (in my opinion) that I had to write and say thank you. I have had the pleasure of becoming an acquaintance of Todd’s over the past few years, first talking with him, then meeting him and his dad at an RMAF several years ago where I bought my first Sera Una Noche disc. I’ve caught up with him at several RMAF/CES outings since. His regular guy persona is very refreshing as is his passion for world music, minimalist recordings and finally high resolution formats.

A couple of years ago I told Todd how I was quite into hirez and he sent me some demo DVDs of his latest hirez music including much of what you discussed.  He also sent along some addtl goodies when I ordered his lone SACD sampler, MA on SA.  And he has taken great care in keeping in touch with this customer ever since. I want to thank 6moons for turning me on to Todd and MA Recordings via your Music In A Bottle sampler years ago. It opened me up to great world music and was the start of a beautiful friendship. 
Ted Brady
John,
if you ever refer to Earth Wind & Fire in a way that 'invokes' shame again, I will hunt you down and pull out your fingernails one by one until you sing out, with soul and in time. Your musical taste seems to have traversed from 'angry white boy' to the 'poet/borderline musicians club' to the music of disconnect... save that first glorious impulse you had as an unspoilt youth. You would be hard pressed to find an R&B/Funk band of note in the last 25 years that doesn't list EWF and Maurice White as a notable influence.

For shame my ass,
Fred Crane

Thank you Fred for combining a threat of violence and tremendous presumption—on your part—into one tidy little email. I doubt I will find a better starting point from which a letters page on my website could grow. However, it reads as though you got your George Clinton back to front. You freed your ass and your mind followed.  

Shame on your ass,
John Darko

Anytime John, glad I could be of service. My presumptions were based on your writing of your musical history though I had a bit of fun with them to be sure. Don’t worry, I haven’t really pulled out anyone’s fingernails since a fellow I met bad-mouthed George Clinton so you seem to be in the clear. You obviously feel very passionately about music as do I. You have to expect that when you belittle a group on a website geared towards people who feel deeply about music, you’ll get some negative response. Maybe even a counter attack.  

Feel free to use my communiqué if you think some positive discourse may result. So many website owners look to start a fire because they can, because without conflict they don’t have enough to say. Whether or not I agree with you, I imagine you have plenty to say. Of course I’m presuming - again.
Fred
I enjoyed your commentary on lifestyle and it spoke to me. I feel like a pariah because I have embraced the digital audio universe. Vinyl for me? No way. CDs? Still last century. So I read 6moons and daydream of Burson and Amphion.

PS: I took your advice and converted my CD collection into iTunes. But as MP3 files because that codec is common to all players. I’m enjoying more music then ever.
Leo Rodriguez
Reflecting on your excellent lifestyle e-paper, high-end audio is (to  the eye of 99.99% of the population) as far removed from music as Nitro boost kits for 1981 Honda is to personal transportation. Ikea and Apple provide unfussy nicely designed products that provide more value than what function dictates. Lifestyle is exactly what it  is and in both examples all elements of doubt and uncertainty have been cleverly engineered out. I would dare say that high-end audio cleverly engineers doubt and uncertainty into the products but that  would be unfair...

I type this on my iMac and it just crossed my mind that our family have a total of 4 iMacs, 2 Apple TVs, 2 iPod Touch and 1 iPhone G4... and yes, my desk is from Ikea. While I have been amassing Apple  technology, I am still debating on what DAC I should get. The only  thing that stops me is, you guessed it, doubt and uncertainty.
Robert Gaboury
Methinks this would qualify for an audio outrage, of ol' audio inmates having too much fun. This lady was at the Newport show. She had set up to sell her great jazz related paintings. She is a refreshing kick in the pants in the best possible ways. I also had fun with Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen who had me put on his badge for a photo. He said that more people would buy his speakers & cables since I don't look like I'm from China. I told him that I would scare the girls away. He didn't mind since his back was killing him that week. A funny man indeed!  We always have a good time when we are visiting. More time needs to be spent with people we enjoy, aye?
D. Ellis
Hi David,
I (Michael/46) want to say thank you for your wonderful and objective review of the KingRex T20. I love to listen to music when I'm sitting in front of my PC and I don't like the amplified plastic speakers you can get for a few euro at any computer store. My setup until yesterday was a Cambridge Azur 340A using the on-board sound chip from Realtek, which wasn't too bad. My speakers still are a pair of Acron 300C from the 1980s built by an ex-engineer of the German company Braun. They were also sold in the US under the a/d/s label if I recall correctly. It's a small sealed bookshelf with an aluminium chassis. DM750/pr (around €375) was a lot of money then. I found them by cleaning the basement of my 74-year old neighbour. Nice guy! He wanted to put them away.

I'm using Linux Ubuntu 11.04 (64-bit) and the KingRex was promptly recognized without additional drivers. After reading your review I decided that this little T-Amp was what I had been searching for. I got the T20U new packaged with a 2-year warrant for a really good price - €220 which is €50 less than one usually pays for it in Germany.

What can I say? It's not burned in yet but I'm really impressed by the sound. The voices of Alison Krauss or Katie Melua are giving me the heebie-jeebies if you know what I mean. As it is now it's already amazing, much better than using the onboard sound chip and Cambridge. Now I'm already thinking about purchasing a pair of the John Blue JB3s but I guess I have to hear them first... or should I just trust you and buy them? With the KingRex you were right so...

Many thanks and all the best for you and your family!
Michael from Germany/Aachen

P.S. When I'm moving I have only have to take my 2 cats, no piano :-)

Hi Michael,
Thank you for your kind words. I'm still enjoying my KingRex and JB3 (aided by Altec Lansing xa3001 subwoofer) as my PC setup.
Best,
David
Today the Burson HA-160D came home. I listened to it with my AKG K-701 for a few hours. It is very very good. With this amp the music has much stronger bass and better rhythm. It was expensive but a really good buy. Now I will buy Pure Music. Maybe I will buy the great headphones you recommended later. Thank you for recommending a great great amp!
Tachibana Hoshi
Have you heard of a Finnish band called Nightwish? I don't know if rock is one of your favorite genres but Nighwish's two recent albums, Once and Dark Passion Play, made me chill to the bone. Not only because they are really good but because the LCD-2 truly shines with them. Both albums were recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra so they are a mix of heavy rock music with classic orchestra. As you know I listen to ALO-recabled LCD-2 with Schiit Lyr and I think Nightwish's albums are among the few pop music albums where one can truly appreciate the supreme quality of the LCD-2. I've never heard of more thundering bass that makes my adrenalin surge (these albums have some serious bass even for heavy metal), treble of such clarity with female vocals (yes, Nightwish's lead vocals are prima donna-class sopranos) and the soundstage of an entire philharmonic orchestra that reverberates my ear canals. Try out some of my favorite tracks such as Nemo, Ghost Love Score, The Poet and the Pendulum and Amaranth and you'll see what I mean. Any person, audiophile or not, will be blown away at the sound LCD-2 delivers with these albums. I just love my Audez'e. I love 'em!
 
SongKyung Han
Hi Srajan, 
I'm a fellow audiophile guy who loves music. I've been reading a thread at head-fi where a guy is saying lots of bad things about your reviews and giving your site a bad reputation. I think its not fair, you guys always make fantastic reviews. It just a shame to see people like that. I hope there's something to do. 
Best. 
Rob W.

Thanks, I wasn't aware of this thread. I just took a look. Burson indeed notified me about 2 weeks ago that their USB protocol wasn't asynchronous as they'd originally believed and told me (apparently this part of the design was OEM'd and they'd been misinformed by their supplier). Obviously I corrected that info in the review. As to liking or disliking our reviews in general, people can think and write whatever they please. There's enough who enjoy our efforts and benefit from them. There are others who prefer other sites or publications. That's exactly as it should be. Pick and choose as it suits you. No need to get upset. If I got upset, I should change professions. It's part of the deal.
Srajan
Srajan,
great site, great reviews and an almost daily guilty pleasure to visit & browse. I enjoyed your class D piece today which again is refreshingly unafraid to leave behind audiophile "vorurteile". I wanted to bring to your attention that besides Hypex and ICE amps, Linn has been using class D switch-mode amps for quite a while. Linn of course is a story of its own but I respect that they where bold enough to go class D and offer ultra slim, lightweight amps in the statement product category. Of course they militated their risk by being very much like Apple. They can sell their stuff to their customers no matter what. But like Apple they are usually right about the technical merits they claim.

Writes a happy Apple user with a little Airport Express-> Project-dac-> Crimson poweramp -> Mission speakers all DNM cables mid-fi setup. Better dac later this year; that sub 1k burson looks interesting!

Looking forward to your next FirstWatt piece. Also would be very curious to get your take on those Tocaro speakers from Güthersloh.

Good luck & thx,
Max Reismayer
Hi Srajan,
Just finished reading your review of the Spatial software to correct for room related response problems. Over the years I have made many attempts to achieve state-of-the-art sound in my various listening room(s) by changing hardware, preamps, amps, cables, speakers. Needless to say, none of them was really successful. Most of the time I could improve one factor usually while causing new and different problems and thus prolonging my quest for a system that could satisfy me for any length of time. With the opportunities presented by digital audio, the Spatial approach appears to be a major step in the right direction. I am also familiar with your review of the Audez'e planar headphones with the Burson front end. I'm at the point of wanting to cut to the chase from a system perspective and spend more time listening instead of juggling equipment. So I'm leaning toward the Audez'e approach to achieve real musical reproduction in this lifetime and going with modest small monitors and a sub in my multi-purpose listening room where optimization is at best challenging if not impossible. As has been the case over the years I have only been able to listen to a selection of music that is pleasing to me at realistic levels when I have the house to myself .... similar to the headphone experience but much more limited. I know that these solutions are polar opposites but would be interested to know your opinion on how the Audez'e approach compares to the Spatial.
Regards,
Tom Hartmann

For anytime as loud as I want applications and most people with practical constraints, nothing beats headphones. Not only that but the level of fidelity achievable by eliminating the room is far higher - for far lower costs. That said, the soundstage wraps around your occipital like an airline pillow which for many listeners feels wrong as it's slightly behind 'em, not in front. And of course soundstage width is more or less confined to the few inches between your ears and physical on-skin impact is MIA.

So the core questions to answer are, do I value fidelity over large-scale impact and scale? Am I liable to want to listen at 2:00AM at rock-out volumes or otherwise groove when it's not convenient for anyone else? How much money have I got to do it right?

With Spatial, the financial and other disadvantages of speaker-fi vs. headfi have been equalized a bit. Of course you still can't get a state-of-the-art full-range speaker for $2.000 where most the world's best headphones max out. Ditto for ancillary amplification. And, a cubic room with massive standing waves won't be completely tamed no matter how much digital EQ you throw at it. That said, Spatial strategically, predictably and easily helps you to linearize the response (even if not perfect than far better than it's been), then build in (if desired) a bit of personality contouring to suit your tastes. If you like a bit more presence energy, a bit more sparkle on top or somewhat meatier bass, all that can be done. There the chief challenge is to communicate what you're after to your remote operator; and the operator's ability to 'translate' what you want into hard EQ figures (how much, exactly where) without being there.

I personally could be happy with just a headphone system. I know many who, while concurring with all the above, could not. For them the headphone perspective/presentation is all wrong. Those who ask my advice who don't have problems with headfi - they're all told to forget speaker-fi and invest $2.000 to $5.000 into a kick-ass headphone system and be done with it all.

Everyone else who needs/wants the bigger more life-like presentation of two-speaker stereo will henceforth be told to go Spatial before throwing any more money at component upgrades. Of course that only works with PC-fi. Old-timey LP/CD only listeners are out of luck.

Srajan
My Schiit Lyr just arrived today! After 8 hours of burn-in it is without a doubt a much better amp for driving my Audez'e LCD-2 than my previous amp which actually costs twice as much. Although I still wonder how the LCD-2 might sound with the Burson you recommended first, I'm perfectly happy with the sound I'm getting from this simple setup I have right now. I just can't wait to see how it would sound after complete burn-in, tube-rolling with the 6N1Ps which I also ordered, and with the ALO cable for LCD-2 which I ordered yesterday. I think I finally reached my sweet end-of-the-road nirvana for hi-fidelity. Had it not been for your excellent reviews and kind answers, I would have spent a lot more than which I've spent right now and still be in the middle of nowhere. It took me awhile, but now I can proudly say I'm one of the happiest headphone audiophiles in Korea. Oh man, this is too good to be true! All thanks to you Santa Claus!
Gyeong-han Song
Hi Srajan,
A year ago I fell head over heels into the hifi hobby with the purchase of a used Onix/Melody SP3. I love that little bugger and hope to live with it for a decade or so. I've rolled in NOS tubes to very happy effect. For source a Squeezebox touch sends digital out by coax to a Wyred4Sound DAC2. Power regeneration from a PS Audio Power Plant Premier feeds the whole system. My speakers are 2-way MBS-1 monitors from Grant Fidelity augmented by a pair of SVS SB-12 subs low-passed at 45Hz.  I am itching to upgrade them and wonder if you can share any insight on speakers you've mated with your SP3.  I know that you were impressed with the Onix into the Gallo 3.1 and I am tempted to look for a used pair of them. Have you tried it with any Zu speakers? I have read that Alan Wang at Melody likes to show his amps with Zus. I am hoping to invest around $3k new or used. Thanks for any experience or speculation you can provide.  I am always entertained by your reviews and hope you may have a second to spare for advice.
Yours sincerely,
Rusty Miller

The original Gallo Ref3.1 was rather more demanding on amps in the bass than the new far costlier 3.5. With the SP3 Zu speakers would be a perfect fit meanwhile. I've not personally heard the new Omen line or Soul Superfly but I'm sure they'll fit into the house sound with a few new refinements from when I last looked into the brand. Not knowing your Grand Fidelity speakers I can't really speculate on the what and how much of possibly better but as far the speaker/amp question is concerned, any of the Zus in your price range should really work well with the Melody amp. When I asked Mr. Wang which his personal favorite amp was in the entire line he pointed at the SP3 -:)
Srajan
I very much enjoy your reviews on 6moons and elsewhere. I listened to your podcast recently and was reminded of a quote that I read or heard somewhere. You can buy 90% of great sound for (let's say now $20.,000). The other 10 percent will cost you 20-30 times that amount. I followed that principle and bought a very decent Onkyo system for $1.500 in 1985. (The EP 200 speaker had a ribbon tweeter). It satisfied me, my two kids and my wife with every kind of music imaginable. I used the same principle to move up to Harbeth 30 monitors (both kids write and record songs so I wanted a monitor speaker); Dan Wright's Bon-modded Sony ES9000 (for the benefit of Katrina victims); Dan's 9.0 linestage, his KWA 100Se amp, a P3-24 turntable and Auditorium 23 cables. The last piece of the puzzle will be a phono preamp, which I believe will be a Leben 30eq.

My first question is, have you tried the 100SE with the 9.0? If so how would you analyze the fit? Second, I was impressed with your article on Spatial Computers. How would that fit into my system? I have contacted them but not yet heard back. Even with a synergistic system I find quite a variance in my Radio Shack test signals due to the limitations placed by my room. I want to keep things as simple as possible but this challenge seems important to address.  Thanks for your sensitivity to the value/price ratio in your reviews, and for your passion about the practical pursuit of great sound.
Dave Myers

Never tried the 9.0 with the KWA-100SE. The 9.0 made tracks to one of my reviewers on staff before I bought the amp. Re: Spatial, it now works with any system that runs a computer and outboard DAC. The finals on my Spatial review will post shortly. Clayton has finally solved the routing issues we encountered so I'm due for the calibration session tomorrow.
Srajan
Nice review on the Living Voice OBX-RW!  Personally I find Samuel’s Ocellia cables to be a "down-to-earth" alternative to the Kondo wire.
Jeff Wilmoth
Amazing stuff. Thank you for the review, Devialet certainly deserves the award for a genuine advancement in sound reproduction. Certainly the most significant piece of equipment of the last decade. Bravo!
Robert Gaboury
Montréal, Canada
Hello,
Having chosen a new generation of loudspeakers in 2007 (Fertin Acoustics Model 7), I conceived of an installation able to translate as well as possible the beautiful sound quality of these loudspeakers. Although aiming at a totally digital system, I chose for the midrange and treble a 300B amplifier equipped with EML 300BXLS following your advice.

I’ve been laughed at by some solid-state professionals who believe that triodes are simply antediluvian technology. But your analysis is quite correct since Dominique Mafrand believes this system is the best configuration in the world. Already Gilles Gagné from Canada and Francis Robert, technicians responsible for Radio France, had found the sound incredibly musical. Musical restitution instead of musical reproduction is my philosophy. It seems to me that you could have added in the ideal music chapter for these tubes organ, which was my main concern since I cannot travel from the Baleares to the Baltic Sea and from Leipzig to the National Cathedral of Washington. But now I have these organs at home.

The Fertin Acoustics loudspeakers were used by Da Vinci Audio Labs and shown at Las Vegas 2009 but they were enclosed in an analogical configuration. I chose another way which seems to work. Although I remember a short article from you in 2009 (?) I cannot find any mention of Fertin Acoustics loudspeakers in your magazine. We have now crossed the frontier between solely loudspeakers manufacturer and hifi system designers. You may go to the Madotec website (www.madotec.fr) where you’ll find the report of D. Mafrand’s visit in the south of France where we live.

Yours sincerely,
Jean-Claude Imer (Jean-Claude in the article)

P.S.  If you have difficulties reading French, just tell me and I’ll try to have it translated for you.
Dear Srajan,
I continue to read your USB DAC reviews with greta interest. I ended up buying the Burson HA-160 DAC and completely agree with your description of its sound - the unit sounds to me almost like a mid level turntable - the beef and essential flow are all there but you don't get all of the freakish details popping out of the music. I know you have already tried the Burson with the Weiss Firewire converter without much difference compared to USB but I wonder whether it might be possible to coax even more details out of the Burson using a different "high-end" async USB-S/PDIF converter such as Audiophileo, Halide Bridge or Wavelink.  Maybe feeding the Burson just the right digital signal will be the magic trick?  Adding one these units would still keep the total costs of the Burson setup under $2K and with Audiophileo or Wavelink you add 192 sampling to the computer capabilities.

Thanks for the great reviews. 
Regards,
Bryan Kestenbaum
Hi Srajan,
I read your review of this Resonessence DAC with some interest. I find it interesting that the differences you note (vis à vis the Burson and Weiss) are most likely due to the nature of the power supplies and output stages rather than digital processing. I do believe that the ESS 9018 has some theoretical advantages over other converters but these advantages may be inaudible; or that the 'best' platform for the ESS has not yet been made as a commercial product.

I am currently using a DIY Buffalo II DAC from Twisted Pear Audio which features an ESS 9018 coupled with full discrete shunt regulated power supplies (8 of them) and a Twisted Pear Audio Legato 2 fully discrete output stage.  Currently I run S/PDIF into this DAC via a Wavelength Audio Wavelink asynchronous USB-SPDIF interface. The sound is absolutely fantastic: highly resolved but with plenty of tone, texture and very complete harmonics.

It will be interesting to see what the result is when a manufacturer produces a no-compromise ESS 9018 based DAC with truly optimized discrete power supplies and a really good discrete output stage. I suspect the new Weiss Medea (ESS 9018 and fully discrete output stage) will be worth a listen although it is way outside my price range.

Thanks for your reviews, I really enjoy 6moons.
Barrows
A very sincere thanks to all: Some time ago, I set on a path to upgrade my headphone experience. I try hard to avoid the excitement treadmill common to many audiophiles, who every three months replace equipment which three months previous they had found to be the best ever. I owned my Grado RS-2s for 10 years, and my Grado RA-1 amp for five. I reached a point where I thought I could do better, and purchased a Trafomatic HeadOne based on Srajan's recommendation. It was a most definite step up with my RS-2s, and it was now time to upgrade headphones. Based on Srajan's rave review, I went for the ALO recabled LCD-2. I was disappointed at first. I thought the sound way too dark, slow, lacking air and dynamic punch. Ken was incredibly helpful and offered to replace his flat weaver copper cable with his new rounded silver coated copper cable, which he assured me would have greater extension up top, a less heavy midrange and greater dynamic headroom.

Much to my surprise the cable did make a substantial difference for the better. Ken also convinced me that the HeadOne, though a great amplifier, simply lacked the power and muscle needed to bring the best of the LCD-2. I decided I would give the experiment one last shot and sold my HeadOne for a Schiit Lyr. The Lyr took the LCD-2 to a new level: it retained a ravishing tonality and tremendous vibrancy but no longer sounded dark or closed in. Still there was something wrong. For some reason violins often sounded more metallic than they should. After experimentation I noticed my left driver produced a high pitch flutter on some frequencies. Alex at Audeze very kindly offered to test my headphones and though he did not find anything wrong he still gave me the full benefit of the doubt and sent me a new pair to test against mine on my equipment. The new pair, which Alex kindly allowed me to keep, confirmed the problem on my pair that tests had not picked up.

I am now at the end of my journey at least for some time. With my Lyr (now equipped with the 6N1P tubes, which I like better than the E88C) and my ALO recabled LCD-2, I can safely say I am enjoying the most vibrant alive top to bottom tonally ravishing sound I have ever enjoyed at home. All this thanks to three small companies eager to make terrific sounding products at affordable prices and who always put the customer's satisfaction first; and thanks to a very eloquent reviewer who is not afraid to tell it like it is.

I feel sincerely grateful for all the effort you all have made to accommodate my concerns. Please keep up the great work.
Jacques Miniane
Dear Srajan,
I enjoyed reading you review about the Resonessence Invicta as I have with many of your other reviews. I wish more reviewers would take the time to go into the same level of detail, care to make the relevant and important product comparisons and be as open about their judgments and evaluations. I am writing this email to make a suggestion that you also review the TotalDAC R2R Dac which Joël Chevassus has recently reviewed. The reason I am making this suggestion is that reading your DAC reviews over the past two years, I think you have covered most possible DAC chip/analog output stage combinations; e.g. "older" DAC chips and newer claimed state-of-the-art ones with opamps and with analog output stages like those combinations used in the Weiss, Burson, Wyred4Sound and Resonessence DACs and others. The only thing that seems missing to complete insight in this circle of electronic permutations, if you may call it so, is a review of a well designed purist discrete-resistor R-2R Dac like those from MSB Tech and Total DAC. However there were some indications in Joël's review that the Total DAC performs at a higher level than the entry-level and signature DACs from MSB so it is likely the more worthy DAC . It would also be interesting to see how the TotalDAC fares against (as you call it) other "known quantity" DACs.

Best regards,
Hesham Elshirbiny

P.S. I am looking forward to retire my AKG 702. My LCD-2 with ALO wiring is on the way thanks to the numerous comparisons between different headphones on your website.

It is my understanding that the maker of the TotalDAC is potentially interested in a follow-up from yours truly so it might just come to pass. Of course the Invicta and Wyred4Sound etc will long since have left the building but with a bit of triangulation using my Burson and Weiss DACs some insight into relative standing should still be possible.

Srajan
Hi Srajan,
I hope you don't mind me contacting you. I just wanted to let you know that for the last few years your website has inspired me to the point of creating my own audio business in Australia. In fact your reviews have in many ways guided me into what I have offered and exposed me to brands that I have not been fully aware of beforehand. I have taken on Red Wine Audio, WLM and Trafomatic directly because of your reviews and insights into their products.

I have just taken delivery of a demo stock order from Trafomatic which includes the new Aries that I commissioned and also the Kaivalyas and matching preamp. While the Aries is a fantastic single-ended amp that I just love to offer at its entry-level price, the Kaivalyas are just the absolute bomb. What an incredible sounding amplifier not for the wow factor that dies off over time but for the sheer dynamic range, outstanding detail without being over the top in any way. I can understand your comment in the review that some tube lovers may find the Kaivalyas a bit too pedestrian but for me I think they hit some amazing middle ground that keeps me listening long after I should be asleep. By commissioning this amp I think you have brought something out of Sasa that takes his amps in a whole new direction. 

The main reason I purchased the Kaivalya was simply for people in Australia to hear something that hopefully will break these EL84 misconceptions you described. I know as a retailer it is a silly purchase as I will never make money from them but as a personal purchase they are hands down the best thing I have ever purchased. I must have read your review on the Kaivalya 20+ times before my pair arrived and still in person it is just incredible to believe a tube amp can perform this way for this price. Not sure if you mentioned it in your review but I find percussion instruments especially brushed cymbals to be better than I have ever heard (as a former drummer this was apparent from the get got). Just sublime realism and texture. I am thankful for being Sasa's representative in Australia and able to offer something of this caliber.
All the best,
Tony Schmidt
Audio Addiction Australia
Hello Srajan,
I'm following your Invicta review with great interest. An email to you about a year ago put me on to the Wyred DAC2 and I've had it in my system since its release. I've been amazed by the DAC2's performance for the price since I've been using it but the potential for the Invicta to blow the other members of this family out of the water is intriguing, mostly because of how good it will have to be.

Regarding the card reader I've become somewhat of an expert building PC servers with Windows 7 (based on the Genesis Loudspeaker and CMP2 server plans as well as many other things I've found on the net). I know that the sound quality can be improved dramatically by doing things like disabling the HD graphics drivers, shutting off the networking capability and powering the fans externally (I have normal and audio-tweaked Windows installations on my server) so I'm definitely on board with eliminating the computer from the equation. What puzzles me about the Invicta card reader is why they went with that medium instead of something similar to the new Oppo's SATA input? The SD card is such a limited medium that it's going to take forever for it to replace 3.5" HD capacity and once we get more into high-res files, another eternity to store that library. Gary Koh is a member of our audio society here in the Northwest. After extensive listening tests, it's Gary's contention that music played from an SSD does not result in better sound quality than a SATA-connected external HD provided the external drive is powered externally.

Anyway, I just wanted to give you some food for thought.  The Invicta is no less exciting as the possible future-king-of-the-hill DAC. I believe they're taking a bold step into the future of DACs but I'm not convinced their approach is the right one.

PS: I just noticed the new pages you posted and the results of your comparison with the card. It's not altogether surprising. Though a computer-less setup is better in theory, the Invicta/Oppo approach requires additional circuitry onboard the unit and it may take time for designers to figure out the key to harness the theoretical advantages. I found a middle-road solution online a few months back with the Stealth Audio Player, a small freeware music player that has no GUI and plays entirely in memory. You just create your playlist and right-click play to start it. I've noticed a slight benefit to minimizing Foobar when playing in my audio-tweaked boot section so I've taken to listening that way. Logically a player with no GUI might sound even better. However it could not stand up to Foobar sonically. I suspect not having the ability to select the driver (as you can with Foobar) may be its shortfall. It's possible that the Stealth employs a Windows version of WASAPI instead of the Wyred4Sound version and maybe the asynchronous mode of the DAC is not working?

Btw I laughed when I read your description of how people tend to skip around while listening with a computer. I rarely listen to albums all the way through anymore and I'm often skipping around to passages of tracks that make my speakers do something to my brain (that I seem to like), a momentary sonic fix. Having gone back to playlists for a while with the Stealth I still prefer hopping and skipping to the inconvenience of traditional listening.

Best regards,
Darin Forkenbrock
Hi Srajan,
As a former reviewer with The Absolute Sound, 1983-98, I appreciate the very thorough if lengthy comments on the Wyred4Sound DAC-2 and Audez'e LCD-2. These are the two I use for my desktop system and they are extraordinary. At the time I joined TAS I had no system but only a headphone system. Two Futterman headphone amps Julius custom built for me and two STAX SRX Mk IIIs, each sounding different. Panasonic DD turntable, SME and Supex cartridge and various preamps. Harry had to set me up with a system, the rest following mostly panel radiators. Box speakers to this day sound like boxes to me. A long story. As you can see, what goes round comes round. I don't bother with my large system much, don't have the time or patience. It's set up as the home theater system now. Once properly set up the Audez'e is substantially superior to the competition at this time including the HiFiMan 6.

I agree fully with your observations about both components, LCD-2 and DAC-2. However, you can do more to make them even better. First, use a good USB cable between computer and DAC. I use the Nordost Blue Heaven. And of course,use good software that is better than iTunes. iTunes is not listenable. Fidelia is an excellent sounding solution using the latest algorithm, twenty bucks, cheap and the last remaining bugs are being fixed. (Hog mode and Memory mode, auto switching of sample rates that have to be manually set for the DAC-2). Support is good too.

I don't use a headphone amp because no amp is better than any amp. I go direct out of the W4S DAC-2 using the balanced cable from Audez'e with an adapter to the RCA jacks in  the back of the DAC-2. You can probably have a custom cable made up not to need the adapter. The adapter btw allows me to go to or near to the max on the DAC-2s digital volume, preferred for max resolution. Next I adjust the parametric EQs, three of them, incorporated in Fidelia.

42Hz  +1.68 dB
2115Hz +1.68 dB
5000Hz +0.56 dB (you may or may not want this for added sparkle)

"Spread" the parametric EQs (drag) about an octave wide. To the max. These adjustments bring the experience to a higher level, fixing the minor quibbles about the darkness and lack of presence, adding back the spatial and ambient clues you may have been missing. Please let me know your impressions if you try these fixes. Photo att.

AGB

I've long since returned the DAC-2 loaner. Unless we purchase gear it goes back after the review. Agreed on USB cables and iTunes pure. I use Konstantin by Entreq for my USB and Firewire cables and PureMusic 1.74 in memory mode with pre-allocated RAM as the music player (I also have Amarra 2.0 but prefer PM).

My headphone amp of choice with the LCD-2 and Ken Ball's round chain-mail cable over the stock harness is the Burson HA160D. I've never had any complaints about the chewy lush Audez'e voicing. In fact it's what makes it special to me so I have no desire to change it. If I want something lighter with a somewhat different tonal balance I can go to the HifiMans or Sennheiser HD800 -:)

Srajan
Srajan,
Hi. Just wanted to share some of my experience at the 2011 Seoul International Audio Show, which ended today. I'm sure you've been to countless audio shows such as CES but for me this was the first time. And wow! I got to listen to many systems that cost over $50,000! Admission was free to those who made reservations beforehand so it was quite a worthwhile experience. Turns out Emillé and Allnic were indeed some of the decent audio makers in Korea as you told me. There was also April Music of course. I took some pictures with Mr. Lee.
 
Oh, but the best of all was that I got to try out the legendary Sennheiser Orpheus system (HE90/HEV90)! They were made in the early 90s as Sennheiser's effort to challenge Stax in electrostatic headphones and only 300 systems were made and distributed worldwide. One of them showed up at the show. I had to make reservations and get in a long line to try it out for a couple of minutes. It was the first time I listened to an electrostatic and to tell you the truth, it sounded quite different from my orthodynamic LCD-2. I know you're not very fond of electrostatics as some people are but I slightly preferred the HE 90 to the LCD-2. Oh well, the Sennheiser Orpheus is pie in the sky. I'm perfectly happy with my LCD-2 so that will do.
 
Happy listening!
Kyung-han Song
Hi Srajan,
I've been reading your great reviews with such detailed photos of the insides of the equipment where I truly see the 'truth' in the products you review. I'm a young hifi enthusiast (31yrs old) and built my first DIY project using the JX92S widebander. I love them in an MLTL. Currently I'm in love with OBs using Alpair 10 and Eminence Beta 15 driver and in a new project run the discontinued Beyma 12CX with the Alpha 15 in an open baffle biamped with 2 x DIY F5 FirstWatt amps and a MINIDSP. The Alpair 10 OBs were fine without correction as I used them in 900 x 1200mm baffles. The Beymas are great in dynamics but currently use a passive xo centered around 5.500Hz and I need to eq them more. Regarding Spatial I was so inspired by your review on Emerald Physics that I purchased a Behringer ECM8000 calibrated by Cross-Spectrum. I'm going to use that with the EMU 0404 interface to do measurements, which hopefully I'll accomplish next week when I receive my microphone. I found the DIY route so rewarding. If I had to buy commercial speakers I would need to spend thousands where probably Emerald Physics and their kind would be top priority.

Your approach to hifi is so liberating. I wish you good luck on being one of the pioneers on advocating DSP-based hi-performance systems in well-written reviews.

Cheers
Henry Ekajaya Kristanto
Srajan,  
that original harshness about which I wrote you with the Burson HA160D is now gone. It was gone after only 5 days of 24/7. It has now been 7 days and I think that this DAC is phenomenal. It is everything that you described, especially the tonal density. You told me to wait two weeks before judging thus I have every reason to believe that over the next 7 days there will be even more improvement. Hard to believe that it could yet be better but your advice so far has always been spot on.

Peter Borelli

As I told you, I don't know about certain forum comments which diss the Burson. I routinely have $4000+ DACs come through here and thus far not one has compelled me to upgrade from the $1.150 Burson. I expect that expensive machines ought to beat it and I'm sure one coming through here eventually will. My question is, will it be sufficiently better for me to be interested - and if so, how much more will it cost for the privilege? It's likely I couldn't be bothered. Unless something game changing came alone. Which is possible. It just happens very rarely so I'm not holding my breath. Too many folks are concerned with 64-bit this, 140dB S/N specs that and overlook that the real magic is in the analog circuitry, how I/V conversion is implemented and the power supply. If you have a variable output DAC you want analog volume. Where far costlier competitors go digital, Burson gives you a precision stepped resistor pot. You want sufficient drive. Burson gives you low output impedance and a max 10V out. You want a stiff power supply. Burson gives you a twin toroid job with discrete regulators where others at thrice the price sell you a cheap SMPS. I'm very happy with the Burson even though it does nothing for street cred -:)

Srajan
Dear Srajan,
I had been waiting for your review of the Schiit Lyr for a while now and I wasn't disappointed, this is one great review! I was at a HeadFi meet in London a few weeks ago and I had the opportunity to test the entire Schiit line-up with multiple headphones (HD800, HD650, LCD2, K702, HE4, HE5, HE6). While the Asgard and Valhalla are decent amps in their respective price brackets, I have heard equally if not more pleasing budget amps before. However, I was very surprised by the Lyr especially with the K702 when one considers assembling a budget rig. The K702 scaled up well when paired with the Lyr and it seemed to unleash more low end grunt from the K702 than I ever heard before (without compromising soundstage and details clarity). I which you had talked a bit about your impressions with the Lyr and the K702 to give an idea of what can be achieved without going over the $1,000 mark (maybe we'll see an addendum to the review - one can only wish).

Cheers
Lionel Yron

With 12 pages on Schiit and more than eight headphones in my stable I had to draw the line somewhere.
Srajan

And I have read every last one of them - three or four times :-) Once addicted to music, us readers never have enough of equipment reviews! Good stuff. Looking forward to the Amphion/HDP review.

Cheers
Lionel
Hi Srajan,
Firstly many thanks for the 6moons site, you are my reference for all audio items. I have followed your reviews (and of course the team) for a number of years and tried some of your recommendations, starting with the Yamamoto headphone amplifier and the ATH-W1000s that you used at the time, which have given me many hours of listening pleasure. I am also a Burson fan having been one of their early adopters for the 160 series buffer and an advocate of their design philosophy. The Pure Music software is also a given as an Apple fan myself.

I also commend you on the ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Realization’ awards as I imagine a lot of readers like myself cannot begin to afford some of the fantastic kit that is out there. I have experimented with some of these items and also some kit direct from China. I realise that there is a lot of shall we say ‘gray’ issues around purchasing kit in this manner, but I have found some good suppliers through research and I think that’s the key. I have a Matrix mini-i Dac from Jeffrey Tam, which has proved an excellent purchase and Jeffrey provides great service. Also as I spend some time in Canada each year, I deal with Grant Fidelity in Calgary who specialise in Chi-fi as they call it.

I would like to draw your attention to an article written by Rachel at Grant Fidelity who provides some great advice on this subject. As you are quoted in the text you may have already seen the article but I think it’s a great read for anyone wishing to experiment. There is a link on their website www.grantfidelity.com.

As a newbie to on-line retailing I have really struggled to work through the vast array of equipment available and I am amazed that everyone survives – but glad that they do. I am still trying to narrow down a list of items to sell before launching fully and also where to pitch the offering but research is part of the fun of course. The 6moons site helps a lot so thanks again and best wishes to all involved – keep sharing the love.

All the best
Richard James
8th Dimension Audio
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