Your space to participate, comment & critique

For published correspondence June 2003 thru February 2004, click here.
For published correspondence June 2002 thru June 2003, click here.

First of all, let me congratulate you on your fine website. There are a few reliable audio publications on-line, but none approaches the finesse of your design. Second, I must tell that I've read several of your reviews (and essays) in GoodSound, SoundStage!, Enjoy The Music, and now 6 moons, and I do like your style... Even today I like to read over a review you wrote back in 1999 on the Lyrrs: not because I own a pair, but due to your delightful prose. Those analogies with bullfighting and the fish that was supposed to be dead are so much fun to read (and to the point). A golden ear with a dull pen doesn't grab me. A writer should be aware of his craft. That's why I'll keep visiting 6moons.

N. Vidal, Portugal
Hi John,

I just finished reading your review of the Art Audio Symphony II. I had to drop you a line. I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your reviews of audio equipment. We exchanged e-mails a few months back about the Art Audio Carissa. It was because of your review of that amp that I started considering SET amplification for my system. At the time, I was already set on tubes but of the PP variety. I thought, "With his description of the Carissa being as enjoyable with pop and rock as his 500-watt monos, he is either brilliant in describing it that way or he's lost it". Well, not to embarrass you but the description was brilliant. So, I investigated and researched further. I was able to purchase a Carissa. And in the context of my modest system, I'm having a ball. Thank you.

Now I'm on a journey to find a great tube pre for my system. Right now I'm using the pre section of my NAD 320BEE integrated. It has tone controls. And with the bass set to neutral and the treble slightly attenuated (11 o'clock position) the sound is really great. The problem is, if I don't tone down the treble a bit, the sound gets forward, bright and two-dimensional, with less weight and body.

I recently auditioned the Eastern Electric MiniMax in my system. The E.E. sounded better than the NAD with the tone controls defeated, but the presentation was still very bright, forward and fatiguing. Also, the NAD and Carrisa together are whisper quiet through my 98dB efficient Klipsch Forte. With the NOS tubes in the E.E., there was an audible whoosh through the tweeter from about 3' away although this didn't bother me during listening sessions.

My thoughts are that I need a pre that walks on the dark side. I need something that is going to give me big bass through the 12" woofer of my Klipsches, with warm lush mids and sweet highs - a pre that's been voiced from the bottom up. FWIW, I heard detail clearer through the E.E. but not more detail than with my NAD if that makes sense. The Fortes are either very revealing or just bright. But I love 'em. I'm going to check out the deHavilland Verve and the Cary SLP 98. I was wondering if you could share your thoughts. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Robert Harley advises in his book to get to know the reviewers and find the ones you trust and rely on. Well John, you're on my short list. You scored a slam dunk on the Carissa for me. I also wanted to say thank you for all your hard work. I don't take what you do for granted. I realize it takes a great deal of time to do what you do. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Very Best Regards,
Scott McIntosh
Hello Srajan,

I read your Accustics Arts review and saw that you addressed all my questions - guess I should have read that first. BTW, I purchased an Ensemble transport (hence my interest) and my experience upgrading from an older Wadia T20 was exactly the same as yours with the Accustics Arts. It had more resolution and was more natural at the same time, in just the same way you described - a clear improvement.

Paul Bujold

The review was excellent! I have my Third Rethms for over a year now and I agree with your conclusion. Having owned other excellent speakers in the past, like ProAcs and even the Verity Parifal Encores, I believe nothing comes close in terms of dynamics and presentation. Mine are flanked by a Rel Strata Sub.

When listening to symphonic music, I find the speaker lacks weight though. Another speaker I used to own was the Shahinian Acoustics Hawk. These are by far the best speakers for symphonic reproduction, IMO. They are also omni-directional. I sold them when I got into low-powered tube amps. They are the only thing I miss about leaving solid state.

Enter the Duevel. I got to hear these at CES and thought they had one of the best sounds of the show. I plan to read your review of these as well. I'm curious to know your opinion about these speakers and how they compare to the Third Rethms. I 'm looking not to replace the Rethms but find an alternative, purely for the use of symphonic music.

I see you're on the East Coast. Anywhere near Long Island?

Very truly yours,
Jim Dalto

I read with great interest your review on the Accustic Arts CD Transport. I owned one 2 years ago and found, like you did, that it provided great resolution although I must admit after living with it for 6 months, I wondered if it wasn't actually a bit bright sounding - almost fatiguing. Substituting the Audio Note reference transport at roughly the same price point yielded much better results.

Anyway, my main comment isn't the performance of the unit but rather its price. When I bought mine, it retailed at $2950. A few months after I bought mine, the retail had gone up to $3350. Now it apparently is up to $4800?

It would be very interesting to know why it has seen a 60% increase in cost since its introduction here in the States. Common pricing modesl would suggest that it should go down as one-time costs to set up import/support functions amortize. I'm convinced that pricing practices are a significant problem with our odd little industry and I should know: I continue to fight the good fight for better music.

I recently purchased a $12,000 pair of single-driver rear-loaded hornspeakers. Concurrent with that purchase I looked into the complete restoration of an antique Chickering piano and found that completely restored Steinway pianos can be had for $10,000-$20,000. Seems amazing to me that the comparatively simple speakers should cost as much.

Who's getting rich in this industry?

Best Regards,
Rob Phillips
Eden Praire, MN

That's an excellent question. It ain't me, that much I know. That said, importer/distributor margins constitute another middleman markup for which, besides making a necessary profit, these parties are supposed to do advertising, trade shows and servicing for the products they handle. If distributors sell consumer-direct, you eliminate the dealer margin and could end up paying pretty much the same as the retail in the country of origin. Essentially, the distributor makes the usual dealer margin and that's that. But add dealers + distributor/importer and pricing will go up significantly. Is that what happened with the Accustic Arts Drive 1? I'm not sure but suspect so.


I can't thank you enough for assisting myself and David Thrower in our quest for a properly integrated special listening experience. As a national lecturer in customer service, you will be added to those few who really get it and stand out in a world where customer service has become a lost art.

Dr. Lou Shuman
Vice President of Clinical Education
Align Technology

Dear Srajan,

I continue to read more and more of the 6moons site, appreciating greatly the approach to reviewing products and finding the writing style delicious. Thanks!

Douglas Klein
Tucson, AZ

PS. Do you visit with Brian Kurtz these days? What a great guy he is! We became friends a couple years ago. I wish the distance between Tucson and Austin wasn't so great.

PPS. Also looking forward to my annual visit to SF-Taos sometime this fall. Hoping you are having an enjoyable and beautiful summer season.

To all 6moons readers:
Should you ever visit the Santa Fe/Taos area, consider yourselves as having a standing invitation to visit our humble 6moons headquarters. The main attraction, if I may say so, is my growing collection of unusual WorldMusic I love nothing better than sharing. Simply call me at the number above with a bit of advance warning and we'll do the audiophile thang. An added bonus? You'll get to go on-line afterwards with detailed reports on how my system sux.

Cheers, Srajan

Hi Srajan,

I am absolutely floored at the musicality of the audio-technica W1000 headphones. Mine arrived Saturday and it has been so nice not having to worry about waking up the little woman when wanting to turn the volume up. Thanks for enlightening this music lover to the world of headphones. I bet I haven't had a pair on in 25 years. They sure are comfortable/enjoyable and although I miss the soundstage aspect, the other things they do so well that I can overlook this minor detail.

Thanks for the heads-up on this one.

Bill O'Connell
Dear Srajan,

Love your site and your style. Please keep it up and do not be tempted to "sell out". Not all audio gear is created equal. Good knowledgeable and clear opinions will sell a magazine. I know it is a fine line but it can be done (look at Germany). I notice you appreciate horns. We are in the process of building the "ultimate" horn system. It is probably one of the most ambitious, commercially available loudspeakers ever build. It is a 5-way horn-loaded system based on the ALE compression drivers. This is the real deal. I think you will get a kick out of it. Next time you are in the SF area, please give me a call and I will arrange an audition.

Best regards,

Alon Wolf


Well, your fine review along with the review from BFS and the snippet from PF has led me to do something I have never done before. My local dealer has not brought in the Gallo Acoustics Reference III, so I ordered a pair sight and sound unseen (or is that unheard?).

I was considering going with the Meadowlark Osprey or the Silverline Sonatina II, both of which I've heard and like very much. But this speaker sounds like something that I just can't pass up! I'll let you know the results when they show up!

Let me also say here that I am loving your online reviews! It's a fun, honest and classy style that I don't find anywhere else. You've also introduced products to me that I would not have known about and have not seen reviews of elsewhere. Keep up the good work!

Mike Cole

I wanted to take the time to congratulate you on what I believe is your first full appearance on the 6moons webzine. Since we traded emails months ago about some vintage equipment, I have anxiously awaited your written treatment of vintage components and their place within or at the center of a modern system. After reading your Tannoy discussion while bored in court yesterday, I think you have succeeded admirably in putting vintage stuff in context with modern audiophilia. I should also add that your writing is fresh, keeping with what appears to be a 6moons Editorial style to differentiate itself from some of your rather staid and rote counterparts. Most importantly, you also 'name names' of other components to describe sound quality, something that most reviewers don't or are unwilling to do. This helps the reader translate your written verbiage into an aural format. Great to see candid comments on other equipment rather then the 'well, product x under review excels vs. x at its price point' type generic writing.

By carbon-copy to Srajan, I would also like to emphasize one of the ancillary benefits that a writer like Steve brings to 6moons - it increases the credibility of the webzine. More specifically, by emphasizing the sound value and staying power of certain historical components, it signals to the reader that your writers are not simply drafting copy for a manufacturer's newest product. Stated otherwise, I don't think that companies such as Eico, Pilot and fFsher will be offering Mr. Marsh trips to their factories in Italy while coincidently reviewing some of their products. This ensures that 6moons does not continually throw up appearances of impropriety that some of the written mags do on a regular basis.

Steve, you may recall that we traded emails about finding a high powered Fisher tube amp to run with my Coincidents. Other then sell the Coincidents, I have not done anything on that front due to my twin toddlers taking up too much time. I have however convinced my wife to allow my vintage Tannoy 12" reds to grace my not-so-large NYC apt. So I think im going to continue using my Radiocraftsmen c500 Williamson triodes and Fisher 400c pre. The 400c has a bit of brashness at the upper end but that issue is for another day...The Hovland intrigues...below is a pic of the Tannoy cabs. Once they are rewired for active bi-amping, you are welcome to listen any time. That triggers some ideas for more columns from Steve -.not just great old tube stuff but underrated, more modern equipment like the Meitner MTR monoblocks. I take my pair over Classe, Krell or Adcom anytime. Keep up the good work.

Doug Milch

Bravo on the recent review of the MiniMax/W1000s. It surely stimulated temptation.

Patrick Nicolas
Just finished the review on the Eastern Minimax CDP & audio-technica Souvereign ATH W1000 headphones. As always, great job!

I feel that your website is cutting edge and one of my favorite places to visit.

Thank you,
Donald Nunez
Hello Jules,

I recently purchased an Indra based on your review. I find it quite amazing and revelatory. 6moons is the equipment review website (and of course far better than any mag) to be reading. I thoroughly enjoy your writing. Thanks.


Dear Jeff Day,

I wanted to write you and let you know how refreshing your bio on 6moons was! Your love of guitar playing, live music, and a desire to experience the emotion and atmosphere of music in your home were all things I can relate to. I myself am just begining to learn how to play the guitar. My grandparents who recently passed away bought me as a gift a Larrivee OM 10 steel string acoustic. Some day it would be nice to be worthy of the instrument.

The other reason I am writing you is to ask your opinion concerning your current speakers. I have been struck by how limited and compressed most hifi systems are compared to live acoustic jazz, classical and other types of music. A friend of mine suggested taking a look at the Avantgarde horns but I haven't yet heard them (they are also not cheap). My greatest concern is that even if I like the demo, I have come to learn the hard way that demos in general are not able to impart a long term listening experience. In other words, one can be impressed with a given speaker at a demo only to take it home and come to feel that the presentation is a bit tedious. What may at first seem like great dynamics, impact and detail after day in day out listening can feel more like stridency, edginess - fatiguing. I noted that you now are listening to the Avantgarde horns. Would you possibly be willing to share your "long-term" listening opinion on them?

Very gratefully,
Dear Chip,

here are my 8 reasons for being a fan of your writing: Because you

  • understand that at this level, there is no best, just a matter of personal preference
  • come up with wonderful and entertaining truisms like "More power is not always necessary but always welcome"
  • have tangents that are often more interesting than other writers' reviews
  • drop inYiddish phrases
  • have actually been a working musician and producer, bringing a rare and welcome perspective to the reviewer's chair
  • understand that the search for a new piece of equipment or definitive recording is often as much fun as enjoying it
  • are finally on the web where your writing can run free without the space restrictions of the printed page
  • wrote "Bricks without Straw", a milestone of audio opinion

Any idea when your own long-overdue website will be up?

A fan,
Jay Valancy

Dear Marja & Henk,

Thank you for your detailed and very entertaining report on our show. Your suggestion at the end of your piece to separate audio from video is something we've considered in the past and will look at again for next year's events. You should know, though, that this is more difficult than you might imagine.

Some very traditional high-end audio manufacturers now dabble in multi-channel music and even prefer to showcase their latest and greatest products with video. Yet they still prefer to be on the higher floors where they know their customers will be looking for them. Also, they prefer not to be next to the Sonys and Samsungs that need to be located on the lower floors due to room-size requirements.

I think that in some ways, audiophile companies benefit from the video manufacturers' presence. A home theater enthusiast may be wandering the halls in search of the next big widescreen experience only to find himself drawn in by the great-sounding music coming from a truly high-end demo in a non-video room (more than one attendee has relayed a story like this to me). Despite our event's long-standing association with Stereophile, there are still a great many attendees that show up because of mass-marketing we've done -- in The New York Times, The Village Voice, various radio stations etc. -- and are largely unaware of high-end audio and its possiblities. I'm aware that the cross-pollenation between Home Theater and Audiophilia is annoying to some traditionalists but I truly believe our show is representative of the market today. There are very few, if any, high-end retailers left that showcase two-channel audio exclusively. Most have felt the economic need to incorporate home theater products into their showrooms - and in a big way.

Anyway, I'll close as I opened and thank you again for the attention you've brought to my event. I thought you might be interested in where we're coming from and also that we do pay close attention to the thoughts and suggestions of journalists like yourself who have been covering this event for quite some time. I'm sorry we forced you to miss the Munich show (something I usually attend) and we're working on making sure we don't conflict with them again.

I'll hope to see you this November in San Francicsco.

Brian Georgi, Director of Events
PRIMEDIA Home Technology & Photography Group
Dear Srajan Ebaen,

I'm Robert Kaye, an internationally published journalist and national award-winning copywriter. My feature stories/ reviews have appeared in Global Rhythm, Bass Player, Modern Drummer, New Age Voice, Jazziz, Dirty Linen, ?Travel Host, Events USA, various publications in Florida and on several websites. I've also written copy for record labels, PR firms, music equipment manufacturers and festivals.

I was doing some web-search re: Louis Winsberg's album Jaleo which I just happened to obtain last week from the Internet (for only $1.99!) and have subsequently fallen in love with. It's a brilliant album, admittedly. I concur whole-heartedly with your review. The album is a masterpiece of Nuevo Flamenco, indeed. What an unexpected treasure! I was familiar with Winsberg's work with the French/AfroCaribbean fusion ensemble Sixun, but this is much different if not more profound.

Your knowledge of Flamenco is impressive also. Are you familiar with some of the excellent projects by another Frenchman who also delves into Flamenco, 5-string contrabassist Renaud Garcia-Fons? He's a brilliant composer and evocative instrumentalist. (RGF is on a couple of tracks on "Jazzpana II".) Also, if you liked Winsberg's Jaleo, you may like Paraiso de Color and two other albums by a former group from Barcelona known as Jaleo, lead by guitarist Diego Cortes. There's also Tino di Geraldo's first solo album, Bulerias. Here in North America, (Canada), there are two albums by Miquel de la Bastide that are fairly strong. But you're right in stating that Winsberg's Jaleo expertly combines various genres while giving a respectful nod to Metheny's lyricism. The more I listen to the album, the more I hear, the more I grow to love it. My only negative observation: As a bassist, I wish there were more salient bass work (a la Carles Benavent, Renaud Garcia Fons or even Tino di Geraldo) on the album.

Having just a few moments ago clicked on to your website (from Winsberg's site) I will continue to explore it in more detail. I like what I've read/seen so far.

Much respect,
Robert Kaye


Perhaps I wrote you too soon. I just now discovered your review of Renaud Garcia-Fons' Navigatore. Once again, you're right on the mark! It's nice to know somebody else out there appreciates RGF's exceptional genius - not only as a profound instrumentalist but as a composer/arranger par excellence.

FYI: I have an advance copy of the sampler CD of Entremundo, RGF's new album, which is predominately Flamenco-based. I can burn you a copy if you'd like. I'm going to be writing a feature story on him for "Bassics" magazine very shortly. I'll keep you informed. Do you have Jean Louis Matinier's solo album, Confluences? RGF is on that. What about Suite Andalouse with Flamenco guitarist Pedro Soler?

RGF and I are in periodic contact with each other. He has a master class in Seattle sometime this or next year and is looking to add more gigs here in the States. Perhaps we can work together to facilitate that for him? Let's explore.

Speaking of talented French musicians, have you heard any of the albums by guitarist Nguyen Le? RGF is on his Bakida album, FYI. He's another Occident/Orient composer and instrumentalist worthy of wider recognition. I've an in-concert CD of Le, RGF and Tino di Geraldo; whew! RGF roars through "Bajo Andaluz" on it. Astounding.

I'm grooving on exploring your website.

Peace and Qs,
Robert Kaye

Hello Srajan,

Wanted to drop you a note to let you know that I love your magazine and the style and substance as well as your values both lifestyle (love where you've chosen to make home by the way), spirituality and things audio. In fact, I have a hard time reading any of the other magazines now as your reviews and approach seem more "real" and substantive, with far less commercialism that seems to degrade the other publications. I've let my Absolute Sound subscription expire and have not renewed...

Owen Lawlor

I would love it if you would put together systems under $2000. If you had a section of your magazine with reviews of gear that would work in this type of system, I believe you would be connecting with a very large part of the audiophile community who are starving for info.I know there are other sites reviewing this type of gear but I would love to see your writers doing it. I love the group you have assembled over there and I respect their opinions.

I think there are a great deal of people who are a little fed up with what we believe are ridiculous prices of most of the gear that is usually reviewed. I also think many people have gone the expensive route and never really enjoyed the trip and are looking to downsize.

A small section each month dedicated to what I think is a pretty large percentage of the audiophile community would be welcome relief.

I would also like to critique your magazine. I feel it is the best available today due to the good-spirited nature you bring to the entire magazine.

Humble Pie
Critic's Corner, Audio Asylum

Good suggestion. The first such review will be the all Eastern Electric Minimax stack - at ca. $1,350 per item, a bit higher than your price bracket but a step in the right direction I dare say. The next one already lined up will be Klaus Bunge's $1,500 Odyssey Audio marvel (you supply the CDP, he includes everything else in that price). The trick with affordable systems reviews is that unless it's all from one manufacturer, you can't upfront be certain that what you assemble based on price/specs will actually work that well as a system. And going through endless substitutions until you hit upon *the magic* isn't fair to those manufacturers whose products you asked for and then rejected.

But one-manufacturer systems are different - say Arcam, Adcom, Naim, Cambridge Audio, Audio Refinement etc. Lemme see what we can line up beyond the two that are already in the chute. Good idea - thanks!


Dear Paul and Srajan,

Too often, good efforts go unrecognized. We would like to express our appreciation for your presence in our room at HE 2004. First, you visited our little demonstration room out of so many outstanding presentations. Secondly, you even gave us very nice comments on your website. Your approval definitely makes us think there is always room for great products at great values. In today's wild jungle of high end audio, support freely given is a rare commodity. We are glad that we found a little light in the growing commercial darkness. We are engineers as well as audiophiles and only have one goal – to offer the industry great products at great values. Thank you again for your help and support. Our hats are off to you.

Yours truly,
Albert Wu
Sales Manager, New York Office
Hyperion Sound Design, Inc.

To Srajan and the 6moons team:

It was a pleasure meeting you and your team in NYC. Besides being true audiophiles and music lovers, you all seem like a great group of diverse people who know how to enjoy life to the fullest. We at Gingko Audio are also grateful to 6moons for its willingness to cover smaller upstarts like us who, without the big budget for big-time advertising, would have never gotten noticed in the press. Thanks for being an advocate for the little guys.

Vinh Vu
Gingko Audio

It's our sincere pleasure - we're little guys ourselves and know what it's like to struggle upwards...


Praise for 6moons: It's one of the best audio magazines, print or web, available today. Together with StereoTimes, you guys are quite superior to the print rags. I love the reviews of relatively obscure, new equipment from new makers -gotta give those guys a leg up.

Thanks for the fine efforts!

Kristian Soholm
Critics Corner, Audio Asylum

Very good job with your review of the eAR amplifier. Not only was the sound character and overall performance well articulated, but your comparative comments added a bit of perspective. I thought this was a fairly well-done review. Much better than many that I have read on other sites lately.

By the way, I am curious as to what tube amps are your references or preferences (you mentioned tube amps in the first part of the eAR review)?

Neal Hood

My reference/preference tube amps are the Audiopax Model 88 monos.

Mr. Coleman,

As one who was fortunate enough to be involved in the beta-testing for Stealth's Indra cable and subsequently became an owner of 2 Indras, I totally agree with everything you said in your review. I have had many superb interconnects in my system, from HMS to Valhalla to XLO Limited Edition and many others but what I heard after installing the Indra was what my ears had been searching for since I started on this journey many years ago. Many cable companies state that their cables 'get out of the way' of the signal but until now I didn't really know what that meant.Serguei's cable does just that. My system is very good and able to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of cables that reside within. My cables have the Cardas terminations but I am going to send the source to preamp 1m cable back to Serguei for a Stealth-terminated replacement. I agree that adding a second cable does not make the kind of 'jaw dropping' improvement that the first does but it still is additive in my system. Thanks again for a superb review and my only sorrow in all of this is that Serguei doesn't have enough cable to fashion a few pairs of speaker cables.

Dave Smith
Hi Srajan,

It's Chris, Ka7niq from Audio Asylum. I just wanted to thank you for your show report. I did several listening evaluations for Randy Smith of the original Mesa Baron prototypes, when Randy was just getting into high end audio. The Baron prototypes were my amps! They were Mesa M 180 monoblocks.Randy used to tell me how he would have people play music while he listened to different caps etc.

Randy was written up in the Audio Adventure magazine and I was mentioned in the article. My name is Chris Tucker from Seattle. If you ever see Randy, tell him I said hi. Thank you for mentioning Albert's speaker, Srajan!

Hi Srajan,

I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your unique perspective on audio and your reporting. Your coverage of shows is thorough, opinionated and a pleasure to read and your reviews of a wide range of products are truly valuable. I even like the design of your web site! Kudos and keep it up!

Hi Srajan,

That was an honest review on the eAR amp. Stereo Times has the more powerful eAR2 MKII but have decided not to review it. I think that's kind of fishy. I owned the eAR2 and ran my 1-ohm Scintillas with one. Using my Aleph P preamp's variable gain, I could get my Skinnies to full blast. I concur with you, the eAR lacks body. Its highs are beatifully natural, with just a bit of glaze. The bass is actually pretty good. I had Pass Labs X600 amps on my Skinnies first. The eAR creamed the Pass amps on every count except weight.

I sold my eAR recently. Before selling, I sent it to an amp builder friend of mine. He had created some great class A amps in the recent past that were very smooth. He listened to the eAR, saw promise and sent it back. Then he went to work building his own ICEPower amp.

I have his new H2O mono amps.The power supply and filtering he implemented are far more sophisticated than with Peter's eAR amps. The H2O has a far larger torroidal and twice the capacitance of the eAR2. This amp is actually warm sounding. Voices have weight. The highs are still airy but without the eAR's sheen. The bass goes deeper and with greater control. It can be alarmingly deep with the Scintillas' great bass panels.

One of the nicest things about the H2O is its price - 2k stereo, 3k mono.The builder is getting help developing a web site. Sales are booming just by word of mouth. I am frankly amazed that Peter had the ICEPower technology all to himself for two years. I've heard the Evos and I wouldn't trade a good ICEPower amp for one.

You were right about the Coda too. I heard the H2O and the new Coda on the same system. The Coda was much more in your face, with lots of slam. The H2O is more polite, with a holographic presentation. With acoustic sources, it was a slam-dunk for the H2O. Instruments were so much more real sounding.

The Road not Taken [by Robert Frost]
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both.
And be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, and having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; though as for that the passing there had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

"The Road not Taken" by Robert Frost poses the dilemma I faced as a young impressionable audiophile in the early days of hi-end audio with no electronics background and limited funds. It was mid 70s when I first got the hi-end bug. My roommate and fellow 'phile with soldering skills guided me to Dynaco kit and helped me build a Stereo 400. About a week later, we were ready to fire it up. Nothing! After hours spread over day of chasing solder joints and triple- checking everything, we threw in the towel and, my spirit broken, sent it to Dynaco to get the damned thing to work.

Not wanting more of the same, I bought the PAT 5 assembled. The remainder consisted of a Kenwood direct-drive TT, a Nakamichi cassette player and 4 floor-standing Ultralinear 3-ways with 12" woofers (definitely mid-fi). Audio life was good.

Then someone introduced me to TAS and it was all over. I remember reading a review of the Gale Loudspeakers. I was smitten by their small size and modern look - chrome end caps with chrome tubular stands. I located a dealer in Coral Gables/Florida. He let me listen to the Gales and then played Ed Long's Sonex time-aligned loudspeakers at the same price. I left with the Sonex boxes! Funny, I frequented their store on a weekly basis and don't recall them having any tube components. However, they did have an HQD system - double-stacked quads, tweeters in-between, driven by 6 Mark Levinson monos and fronted by a console-mounted reel-to-reel.

My salesman/friend brainwashed me from the get-go with his mantra "If it glows, it blows"! Over time, I replaced the Dyna with a Bryston 3B and eventually a Levinson ML-1 preamp, Rega TT, Black Widow and Magnepan uni-pivot tone arms. Head amps included a Levinson JC1AC, Mitch Cotter Blue Brick and an untold number of MM/MC cartridges. One of his favorite lines was "Cartridges don't kill styluses, people do"!

I remained in the ss camp (that should sound the alarm) for over 20 years. It took constant brow-beating by two tuboholics before I finally stuck my toe into tube waters with a (to this day) popular 100wpc tube amp, then in its second generation, now in its third. I pampered it with a matched octet of Svetlana EL34s and some extensive mods at the end of which, both of these die-hard tube guys agreed that my Kinergetics KBA 75 Platinum sounded better! Was the KBA 75 a freak or the popular tube amp a dud?

When it died, the company was out of biz. Since then, I have owned some 10 ss amps but never found one to compare at anywhere near $5000 with the KBA. Being a pure class-A design, it also burned some serious electricity even at idle, a hidden cost that few consider.

Eventually I played with a variety of Accoustats, experimenting with both interface and servo-amps -- stock and modded -- and I even fabricated some custom frames. While the servo amps were significantly better, they were old and unstable. All manner of things failed frequently and parts were scarce. I shocked the shit out of myself on many occasions. You haven't experienced a tube turning cherry until you've seen one these babies glow. This was way too much hassle for me, so I returned to the security of solid state's bulletproof designs. I deluded myself that ss's strengths far outweighed its weaknesses.

Ss's main strengths are convenience - turn it on, leave it on (especially great for bedtime listening), slam, no issues of tube aging or scarcity. Some circuit designs suck the life out of tubes in no time.

I believe ss's main weakness comes to the fore when combined with the digital medium. The result is a most unhappy marriage. Much like passive preamps, ss detail can be initially mesmerizing but it doesn't take long for listening fatigue to set in. What to do? Well, I tried hybrid integrateds and could have been very happy except that my volumetrically large room demanded more power - a lot more. I upgraded to speakers that could move a lot more air and were considerably more efficient. I tried a couple of tube CD players, eventually settling on a Xindak SCD-2, which is now modified and feeds on NOS tubes. While the Xindak significantly improved my sound, I did not get the full measure of how good it is until a week ago.

But first, a bit of reflection...

My business partner in Audio Tweakers had tube amps when I met him. He replaced them with a Gaincard amp long before it became noticed - and I'll tell you, his system sounded damned good! Alas, when he moved to his new digs, his listening room tripled in volume. 25 wpc just couldn't cut it. Without naming names, lots of expensive and gloriously reviewed ss amps (by the most highly anointed reviewers) spent significant time in his system and they all sounded good - but good is relative, as in "compared to what"? HP's review of the ASL Hurricanes initiated the changing of the guard for Alan and, at long last, me.

Now, as good as the Hurricanes are, ASL lacks quality control - every pair we sold had different QC issues including transformers that were wired out of phase! Neither our customers nor we have time for such unnecessary nonsense. So a bargain is no longer a bargain. Okay, I'm finished venting but I think you have a right to know. And it points out a missing aspect in magazine reviews - long-term experience. Our industry would be the better for it if they took a page from the insurance industry vehicle crash tests - they have had a definite impact. But everything happens for a reason if you just give it enough time to play out.

Such problems opened the door for us to explore other tube amps. Next up were the $12,500 Ming-Da MC300B/845A monos - oh baby! If your room isn't too big (and your speakers are reasonably efficient), these are a very hot ticket to musical bliss, beautifully built and flat-out gorgeous. Alan pumped them full of NOS tubes and they sang an even sweeter tune. While we both prefer them to his Hurricanes, his new prototype speakers are nowhere near as efficient as his prior references, so about 6 weeks ago, Alan brought the Mings over to see how they would perform in my digs.

From the first note, they were galaxies beyond my ss amp (duh, they are 6 times as expensive - and oh yeah, they are tubes). Up to a point, they were everything I could ask for - but my room was a bit too challenging for their power output at least on large scale music. However, the die was finally cast: Time for a tube amp crash course. Once again, the www is an invaluable tool.

If you've visited our website, you know that I developed a $10K System which I've remained faithful to for years until it became painfully obvious that no SOTA loudspeakers at this price-point could properly couple with and energize my room. The speakers I am using now (can't tell you their name as we are no longer affiliated with the company) retail for more than the entire $10K System - but if your room is not as challenging as mine, everything in the $10K system makes magic - just replace the ss amps with tubes or hybrids. One of the smaller Ming-Das models should be an excellent choice.

The amps (excuse me - the tube amps) I now own have just over 100 break-in hours on them and retail for $4000pr. They are designed the way all hi-end tube amplifiers should be designed - ground-lift switch, triode/ultralinear switch, XLR and RCA inputs, 4 and 8 ohm taps, on-board tube bias meter plus the ability to use a variety of driver tubes. But features without substance are self-defeating so let me tell you about their substance.

Bear in mind that they are 1/3 the price of the Ming-Das which I love and had in my system for 6 weeks so my ears were fully adjusted. The newcomers need another 100 hours to be considered fully broken-in but from the first note, they did a much better job of exciting my big-ass room than the thrice-as-expensive Mings. The Mings dance a more delicate dance (think wide receiver), these are more tight-end but both possess strong attributes of the other's strengths. One of my audio buddies heard them at CES and was excited with my choice. He came over this morning at 10 AM and didn't leave until 1:30. He called from his way home and said how much he enjoyed listening to my system and that it was the first time it competed with his. To put that into perspective, he added a 21' x 46' room to his house just for his A/V system. His turntable, arm and cartridge cost more than my entire rig. As you can imagine, music in his room is absolutely wonderful!

I would love to reveal the name of my new amps but I have not yet asked as to the possibility of Audio Tweakers carrying the line. I hope its maker will agree for they have certainly raised the bar for what one can expect at this price. point. Either way, I'm fully converted: Tubes rule!

For those who do not yet know what the true differences are between transistors and tubes, first I would say that this is somewhat design-dependent. Generally speaking, ss amps get the initial attack right but lack bloom. Bloom defines the size, three-dimensional shape, resonance, perhaps even the tone of the instrument. Holographic is another word often used to describe what good tube designs are capable of. They seem to light the music from within, amplifying it in all directions, caressing each air molecule along the way.

These effects are often defined as "palpable presence", as in reach-out-and-touch-the-musicians.

My experience with ss amps is that they sound flat (think card board cut-outs) and two-dimensional by comparison. Another thing I notice is that transistors' high frequencies tend to sound cold and whitish, as though held under an intense spot light that washes out color or tone - brass cymbals sound like steel. This, combined with most digital, is like a double dip into edginess.Yuck!

My exhaustive experience reading ss reviews over the years (and owning many recommendations), is that reviewers are misleading us. The possible reasons:

  • They do not want to hurt the ss manufacturers' feelings (who are doing the best they can with the medium)
  • Their reports are tainted in hopes of the almighty advertising dollar
  • They can't hear
  • They are hedging their bets just in case SOTA tubes are not available.

Now, the availability of SOTA valves just might be the Achilles heel of the vacuum tube proposition. Still, I feel compelled to ride the tube wave. I swapped out the stock tubes on my new amps for Mullard 12 AU7s from the Ming-Das and was again awed at the level of improvement.

Gotta run, it's time to go on an Easter egg hunt and stock up on the best tubes available. I'll leave you with this:

Two roads diverged in the yellow wood. After 30 years of following the one with sand, I doubled back, took the one that glowed and that has made all the difference

Robert Hart
Audio Tweakers, Inc.

This just in from chuckling Mac user Les Turoczi:

Abbott: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
Costello: Yeah, thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.
Abbott: Mac?
Costello: No, the name's Lou.
Abbott: Your computer?
Costello: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.
Abbott: Mac?
Costello: I told you, my name's Lou.
Abbott: What about Windows?
Costello: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?
Abbott: Do you want a computer with Windows?
Costello: I don't know. What will I see when I look in the windows?
Abbott: Wallpaper.
Costello: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.
Abbott: Software for Windows?
Costello: No, on the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business.
What have you got?
Abbott: Office.
Costello: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?
Abbott: I just did.
Costello: You just did what?
Abbott: Recommend something.
Costello: You recommended something?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: For my office?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: OK, what did you recommend for my office?
Abbott: Office.
Costello: Yes, for my office!
Abbott: I recommend Office with Windows.
Costello: I already have an office and it has windows! OK, let's just say, I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?
Abbott: Word.
Costello: What word?
Abbott: The Word in Office.
Costello: The only word in office is office!
Abbott: The Word in Office for Windows.
Costello: Which word in office for windows?
Abbott: The Word you get when you click the blue "W"
Costello: I'm going to click your blue w if you don't start with some straight answers. OK, forget that. Can I watch movies on the Internet?
Abbott: Yes, you want Real One.
Costello: Maybe a real one, maybe a cartoon. What I watch is none of your business. Just tell me what I need!
Abbott: Real One.
Costello: If it's a long movie I also want to see reel 2, 3, and 4. Can I watch them?
Abbott: Of course!
Costello: Great, with what?
Abbott: Real One.
Costello: OK, I'm at my computer and I want to watch a movie. What do I do?
Abbott: You click the blue '1'.
Costello: I click the blue one what?
Abbott: The blue '1'.
Costello: Is that different from the blue w?
Abbott: The blue '1' is Real One and the blue 'W' is Word.
Costello: What word?
Abbott: The Word in Office for Windows.
Costello: But there's three words in 'office for windows'!
Abbott: No, just one, but it's the most popular Word in the world!
Costello: It is?
Abbott: Yes, but to be fair, there aren't many other Words left. It pretty much wiped out all the other Words out there.
Costello: And that word is real one?
Abbott: Real One has nothing to do with Word. Real One isn't even part of Office.
Costello: Stop! Don't start that again! What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?
Abbott: Money.
Costello: That's right. What do you have?
Abbott: Money.
Costello: I need money to track my money?
Abbott: Yes, it comes bundled with your computer.
Costello: What's bundled to my computer?
Abbott: Money.
Costello: Money comes with my computer?
Abbott: Yes. No extra charge.
Costello: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?
Abbott: One copy.
Costello: Isn't it illegal to copy money?
Abbott: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.
Costello: They can give you a license to copy money?
Abbott: Sure, why not? They own it!

Dear Dr. Henk Boot,

Thanks for your coverage of our new VR-4jr speaker system at the Rotterdam hifi show!

Best regards,
Albert Von Schweikert

Thank you so much for the "early edition" of your Reference III review. I am really drooling now! That has got to be the coolest, most hi-tech looking speaker ever. I want it! Now all I have to do is convince a dealer to bring it in. If it sounds anywhere as good as it looks, I'm there!

Thanks again for picking another cool piece of gear for review!

Michael Cole
Dear Mr. Ebaen,

I just finished reading the review of the Silverline Audio Bolero speakers which I very much enjoyed. As a matter of constructive criticism may I point out the one flaw I detected? The writer, Mr. Potis, made the point of praising the binding posts. However, there was no picture of them. Nine nice pictures of the front (or part thereof) but none of the rear. I found this a little disappointing as I was intrigued to see such praiseworthy items. It is always nice to be able to view the "bits on the back" of a speaker, or, indeed, any piece of equipment.

Please consider making sure that pictures both the front and rear of equipment appear in the reviews. (I will leave out the shameless grovelling praise for your site - at least this time. Gotta save something for next time I write.)

Best regards,
Brad McIntosh
Hi Brad,

Thanks for your interest and your point is well taken. I'm attaching the photo of the binding posts [see above]. As you will see, they don't look like anything special in the photo. The picture just doesn't do them justice, hence I decided not to bother including it.

Thanks for reading!

All the best,
John Potis
Hi Jules,

don't get me started on the detail=analytical/dull=musical propaganda promoted by lazy manufacturers and salespeople all throughout the 80s and 90s. The industry is still trying to dig itself out of that pit, despite equipment that is arguably less colored than ever before.

The concept that true transparency is required for true musical communication is so obvious to those who get it, it's assumed that everyone understands this concept. Unfortunately the above bias is still used by many industry folks to promote their "flavor" at the expense of educating consumers about what really counts: Getting the system out of the way of the music!

Well, like I said, don't get me started.

Again, great job spreading the word and looking for the truth, and thanks very much for the kind ink.

John deVore

Hi Srajan,

thanks for your prompt response. You are the real reason why your site keeps growing in both stature and significance. The cast of characters that you have assembled is, as you said, very giving of their time and talents. This is very much apppreciated, even by those of us who aren't as "audio literate".

Dudley Miller

Hi Chip,

I just read your introduction to the Denon DVD review and almost choked on my soup as I laughed out loud! Now that your Audio Asylum buddy mentions it, I just sold my BMW for about half of what I paid for it new 4 years ago, and this same model was very favorably reviewed by Road & Track. I'm wondering if you and R&T are somehow in cahoots on this "dupe the unsuspecting public into paying twice for what an item will be worth after it's been well used" conspiracy?

But actually, thanks for pointing out what took me a long time to figure out - that synergy between the system, the room and our musical preferences is everything! With the right system/room/music, moderately priced equipment can sound truly wonderful. And I've heard very expensive components that sound terrible as well. It also depends so much on what type of music you listen to - my system is pretty-well optimized for my taste in Folk and Chamber music, but I have no doubt that it will disappoint someone who prefers Electronic or Opera. That doesn't make my components bad, or the people/pimps who recommended them to me bad either.

Unfortunately, the web has made it way too easy for some people to anonymously make irresponsible statements and take childish pot-shots at people. Even worse, there are others who believe them...

Steven Lefley

Dear Steve,

Thanks for the kind words and for getting past all the contentious name-calling and characterizations to focus on what really matters - the music. Of course your system is optimized for you, your room, what you listen to...and what you can afford. That doesn't necessarily mean it wouldn't sound good playing heavier music. Everything is relative, which doesn't mean some audio components and loudspeakers aren't better engineered than others. But ultimately, personal taste comes into play all the way up and down the line, from audio designers to dedicated listeners.

I was trying to make that clear all the way through my piece, and it's important for people to realize that something which recommends a component to me might not work for you. That doesn't make you an idiot or me a whore; people need to read between the lines to discover where they fit into the equation. For someone who listens to a lot more jazz, the tubed-midrange signature of the Ah! Njoe Tjoeb CD might be the ticket; for someone who listens to more acoustic folk and chamber such as yourself, I'd think the more pristine rez of the modified Denon might be a better match. Likewise, my Musical Fidelity vs. Cary comparisons at the beginning of the piece. And then, of course, there are all of the other system and room issues to factor in.

The web has indeed fostered an acrimonious underground of self-referential whore wannabees, who revel in their own ignorance and resentments and prejudices. Only takes a few bad apples to validate each other's inadequacies and spread a lot of wrong-headed, ill-informed inflammation without having to be accountable for what they say. There are also a lot of very cynical individuals on the web functioning as paid hitmen -- really! -- paid or rented out for hire to spread disinformation and to badmouth the competition.

I guess going after my AudiogoN friend as I did was akin to using a Cyclotron to swat a fly -clearly he was not a very knowledgeable or experienced person. But the conspiracy theories he espouses are so specious and so clearly motivated by a complex web of insecurity and jealousy that fuels the legions of whore wannabees.

I'm gratified that you picked up on the humor in it, and that the real world audio lessons I tried to convey to this chat room habituate were not lost on you. As you suggest, a modestly configured stereo system, assembled with care and musical discretion, can be every bit as satisfying -- reduced in scale perhaps, but not in aural veracity -- as the higher priced spread. And the influence of the room is every bit as important as system synergy. Addressing one without addressing the other, and it won't matter how much money you spent on your rig.

By all means, stay in touch, and feel free to share with me the details of your audio system. I'm always fascinated to see how people get different systems to work in different rooms.

Warmest regards,
Chip Stern

PS: The minute you take a car or a stereo out of the showroom, it is automatically depreciated in value. Hell, I had a 1982 Toyota with 60,000 miles on it, in great shape, but the Blue Book Value was like $1500. Insane, but that's how it broke down for insurance purposes. So my car was actually worth more broken down into its component parts than it was in one piece--which is what happened when it was stolen off the street where I live.
Hi Stephaen:
First I want to say "WOW". I want to commend you and the rest of the folks at 6moons for an excellent presentation and layout of the review. The pics and text are arranged very nicely to keep the reader's attention focused on the wide, easy- to-follow pages. It got me very exited when I saw the finished job (I have read it over several times). Keep up the good work and I am glad that 6moons is very alive and well. Thanks.

Hi Jules,

I just read your Shindo review cover-to-cover, which I must say is rare these busy days. Nicely done, a truly enjoyable read, and I couldn't agree more: the Shindo gear is a revelation, comparable in my experience to very few others (Kondo is one of the few). I continue to find myself at In Living Stereo sitting in front of the Shindo shrine, playing disc after disc. The Monbrison calls to me always. It's also interesting that you're a fan of the Counterpoint preamps. I've got a small herd of them myself, and I do like them (for analog playback in particular).

Anyway, thanks for the pleasure of reading the review. I look forward to others (I wish Srajan would post the reviewer along with the component under review, so one could easily read one's favorite writers and avoid one's least favorites...).

Nice meeting you in Vegas and in NYC. I hope to see you again soon.

John DeVore
As of today, the name of the reviewer appears below the equipment review link so a reader no longer needs to open the link first to ascertain its author. Excellent idea! Srajan

Nice job on the Rethms. Just a quick note: Lowthers don't "shout" anymore with their new whizzer design (at least my PM2As don't shout). Smooth as a babies bottom now. Take a peak at my review.

Scott Faller, TNT-Audio
Hi Srajan,

I just finished reading Jules' Shindo review (really great work) and I was thinking how nice it would be if the reviewers' names were on the links to the reviews. It would be nice to be able to read only reviews from a certain reviewer in order to get a "feel" for that person's taste. I've found myself searching laboriously to the end of a review just to see who wrote it, then deciding if I want to read it. I think it's important to "read up" on a new reviewer, by finding out his impressions of equipment I know, or comparing one view with another.

Just my impressions. Keep up the great work, Srajan.

John DeVore

Hi John,

great suggestion, and one we've (closely) implemented recently. The name of the reviewer is now the very first item of every review, and we also have our hardware review archives sorted by writer (besides by date of publication, alphabet and component category) to allow exactly that process of familiarization which you describe and which I agree is vitally important to "get to know" a writer, his biases, preference and what he/she listens for. The "by writer" archives are here.



I really enjoy your website as we have very similar systems and I value your reviews. You have been the culprit of my obtaining a full set of the GPA products.

That aside, I wrote this email to let you know that I think your new format of clearly stating the reviewer, list of gear used and price of equipment under review to be excellent. The pictures are also a very nice touch.

Thanks and keep up the good work.

Ryan Stratton
By the way, extreme kudos to you for applying the term 'charisma' to what I have been calling 'synergy' in a audio system. It is a great way to visualize this extremely elusive attribute, and one which I believe drives us all to seek improvements to our systems.

Steve Lefley

Hi Steve,

That was the result of one of those inspired early-morning shower sessions where I get some of my best ideas. The reason I like this image is because, with people, charisma and personal flaws can coexist without anyone debating the very real phenomenon of charisma. And in my personal experience, many systems with charisma, on a so-called objective audiophile check-list judgment call, do exhibit certain shortcomings or even flaws - and yet, they have this magic, and many more "perfect" systems don't. Glad to hear it seems a useful term in this context.

Cheers, Srajan