|Dr. Marja and Dr. Henk,
Thank you so much for the kind words about our room in Las Vegas. I really do appreciate it. Since your visit and upon your recommendation, I too have discovered Renaud Garcia-Fons. I picked up his CD Entremundo which my son and I enjoy enormously. I will have to also get Navigatore soon.
All best wishes to you,
just read you piece about the DEQX. Given the fact that digital FIR filters (these allow correction of amplitude and phase separately) are known since the late 80s, including their obvious advantages for loudspeaker design, it is more than astonishing that high-end manufacturers still refuse to use that SOTA technology. Apart from Meridian that is. DSP in speakers seems to be more accepted and used in the pro-camp, Klein+Hummel, KSDigital and Dynaudio offer pro-speakers implementing DSP, maybe that there are more, but I'm not extremely familiar with the pro-camp.
NHT has come to use DSP, maybe also Bang&Olufsen, but where is the high-end stuff ? Floyd Toole once wrote that self-adjusting speakers will be the future, which of course needs DSP. If high-end designers are not striving for utmost faithfulness, then where's the need for high-end ?
DSP is there, the processors have become affordable, why is high-end so reluctant to use it ? Why is high-end so reluctant to use the active approach with its undeniably superior performance ? Instead they still fiddle around with obsolete passive crossover networks to design speakers which will end up in being used in sub-optimum configurations.
You said "I dare to say that the advantages inherent in the DEQX solution mandate a close investigation by any loudspeaker engineer who is seriously about perfecting the art". Well, I would rather say that high-end designers are not serious about perfection, at least the great majority, otherwise we would have seen a substantial change in the approach to speaker design some 5 years ago.
Before I forget, Klein + Hummel's top-of-the-line model O500C is using FIR technology, maybe worth an auditioning and/or a review.
I own a pair of Manger-equipped speakers (the Coincident Speaker Technology Odysseys) and I can confirm that the Manger driver is the most natural sounding in my experience. Like you, I prefer tube amplification and that is what I use. You made an error in your revie ; there is a company which manufactures tube amplifiers with the bandwidth required by the Mangers : Atma-sphere, whose amplifiers have full power at way above 200 KHz and whose frequency response at I watt is over 1 MHz! Give them a try; I think you will find the Mangers can not only be explosive but they can sing with the best of them.
Reading your review of the Audio Aero DAC, I see where you stated you have kept your eyes open for an affordable alternative to the Zanden DAC. Last year when I went to upgrade my digital front end -- then a Theta DB II & EVS Millennium 2 DAC -- I went crazy spending months talking to people on line and searching out reviews that were honest and objective. I became very frustrated b/c the *word on the street* was that the Dodsen MK II & Audio Meca Enkianthus DACs were the real *bargains* in audio that would sometimes crush the 10K plus DACs in the right system. However, except for a review on TNT Audio of the Enkianthus, you cannot find a decent review of these DACs? Through due diligence, I was able to bring a MSB Platinum DAC, Audio Meca Enkianthus DAC and Bel Canto DAC II into my home over a period of time. The Dodsen just didn't present itself to me but I did drive a few hours to northern Ohio to hear one at a fellow audiophile's home.
IMS the Audio Meca was just phenomenal! I paired it w/ the Audio Note CDT-2 (another piece that gets very little attention although I know that it is now no longer in production but what a piece for 3K and why the big mags did not give it attention knowing Audio Note's reputation is another frustrating matter?) and the glorious Omega Mikro Active Planar digital cable and Omega Mikro active power cord. People come here and just drop their jaws at the analog sound of this front-end combo.
I have thought of your site as a place for *average* guys like myself to go to and read up on both affordable pieces and the occasional dream component. It would be pretty easy to contact Perrota Consulting and get the Audio Meca stuff and Dodson would probably love to get his handiwork reviewed and the word spread about his efforts. What a great piece this would be for your site, an *affordable* DAC shoot out of the Audio Meca, Audio Aero, Dodsen, MSB Platinum and maybe something from Accustic Arts? Just food for thought. You know that the Audio Meca uses the same DAC chip set that your Zanden does? I am in no way affiliated w/ any of these companies, just a guy that would love to see what others think about some of the pieces I have been thru on this never ending journey.
Dedicated AC line w/ Acme Cryo Outlet.
Audio Magic Stealth fed by Elrod EPS-3 Sig PC
Audio Note CDT-2 transport fed by Omega Mikro red active PC
Audiomeca Enkianthus DAC fed by OM blue active PC and OM Ebony planar digital cable.
Melos Maestro pre (all-tube and audience cap tweaked to death!) fed by OM red PC
Cary/AES Superamp DJH all NOS tubes fed by Shunyata King Cobra V2 PC
Silverline Sonatina speakers fed by Omega Mikro planar IV active cables and Bybee Ultra purifiers on both top and bottom posts.
Omega Mikro Ebony twin tube active ICs from DAC to pre
Nordost Valhalla ICs w/ Old style Bybee purifiers on both ends from pre to amp.
Lots of walker audio triple point cones, Symposium rollerblock Jr's, Orchard Bay Titanium and the transport sits on top of a custom polycrystal shelf
|From Marja & Henk by way of personal e-mail [no quote credit included]:
Martin and Ruth, aka Spike, the next big girl/boy duo (so they hope) add some synth and a new background vocal to the mix. He saves the song and she emails it to Polyphonic Human Media Interface who, within 24 hours, will tell them whether their song will be a hit. When the results arrive they hover over the 20-in. screen and click on the returned mail. There is a graph, showing a cluster of many dots, like a constellation, and somewhere in the cluster a red spot. The spot marks their song, not quite a bullseye, but still in the throng. "It's scored a seven," Ruth says, scanning down. "We're in. The record company will definitely meet us now." Their future suddenly looks a lot rosier.
Sounds unlikely? It shouldn't. Because, while no one's talking about it, it seems that the whole record industry is already using just this process. From unsigned acts dreaming in their garage, to multinationals such as Sony and Universal, everyone is clandestinely using a new and controversial technology to gain an edge on their competitors. And just as with athletes and performance-enhancing drugs, there is a remarkable reluctance to talk about it. But the secret is out: the record biz, once that bastion of wayward creative flair, is succumbing to the plain old-fashioned science of statistical analysis.
The magic ingredient set to revolutionise the pop industry is, simply, a piece of software that can "predict" the chance of a track being a hit or a miss. This computerised equivalent of the television programmer Juke Box Jury is known as Hit Song Science (HSS). It has been developed by a Spanish company, Polyphonic HMI, which used decades of experience developing artificial intelligence technology for the banking and telecoms industries to create a program that analysed the underlying mathematical patterns in music. It isolated and separated 20 aspects of song construction including melody, harmony, chord progression, beat, tempo and pitch and identifies and maps recurrent patterns in a song, before matching it against a database containing 30 years' worth of Billboard hit singles - 3.5M tunes in all. The program then accords the song a score, which registers, in effect, the likelihood of it being a chart success.
Ever since its initial trials, HSS has proven a hit with record labels who sent material to Polyphonic in hope of a second opinion. HSS confidently predicted Norah Jones's meteoric success (tipping no less than 10 songs on her debut album Come Away with Me) well in advance of her chart-topping appearances and in the face of an industry unconvinced she would have any commercial impact. HSS also picked out all the Maroon 5 hits, including both "This Love" and "She Will be Loved". Other artists, including Anastacia, J-Lo and Robbie Williams are also rumoured to have asked for the hitmaker's analysis.
HSS doesn't come cheap. At €4,000 (£2,800) to score a finished CD, it's no surprise that some are viewing it with suspicion. Certainly Mike Smith, A&R director at EMI, believes that HSS as a hit predictor merely reinforces decisions taken by A&Rs, those record company employees given the job of discovering new songs and artists. "A good A&R has a very accurate instinct for what the market needs," he says - and the fact that 95% of hit songs in the past 50 years are high scorers seems to back him up.
Tom Findlay of Groove Armada puts it into perspective: "HSS is a kind of polling instrument, but a lot of artists already poll stuff as they create it. We do. With [their song] "Superstylin'", we DJ'd various versions to see what kind of reaction each got live." What human beings may lack in mathematical accuracy they make up for with cultural understanding. Besides, Findlay says, "while there is a rules of construction in play - verse, bridge, chorus and so on - the aim as a musician is to make the musical statement you want to make. The end game is not to get the mathematics right." Though that doesn't mean it shouldn't be a money-spinner too.
HSS's crucial design flaw is that it can only look at the past. Those "leftfield", illogical and grassroots-inspired departures from the norm, such as disco or drum and bass, could not have been predicted - but they shift the mainstream and provide the momentum any culture needs to remain fresh. As Smith says, "Art is the one area where people can, and should be able to, make radical statements. Anything that encourages safe, consensus-driven music should be used with caution."
So perhaps it isn't so much about what the software does, but more about what it says about the music business. Some of the biggest names in the industry - such as the former head of Sony Records UK, Muff Winwood, and Tommy Mottola (the man who has put more divas on the map than anyone - and in the case of Mariah Carey, married one) - have backed the software. Labels within all of the major corporations are now using the software. It seems only a matter of time before it reaches tipping point to become an industry standard, like Dolby or ProTools.
Of course, the appeal to record labels is obvious, as it offers a rational underpinning for commercial decisions. With the recordings themselves being the least expensive element of launching an act, the marketing resource being the greatest, and most companies being run by bean counters, we can be certain that this kind of analytical software won't go away.
But neither is it all bad. Ironic as it seems, with the industry struggling it may be that radical application of HSS could inject some much-needed energy into the business. Mike McCready, CEO of Polyphonic, believes HSS will help executives make braver artist-related decisions. A high HSS rating may, paradoxically, encourage bolder, more unusual signings.
It's all in the clusters, you see. Hit songs, typically, fall into one of a number of groupings - there are around 50 in the US and 60 in the UK where, traditionally, tastes have been more diverse. Belonging to the same cluster does not mean songs sound the same, though, more that they are mathematically similar. And the analysis has thrown up some very unlikely musical bedfellows: Some U2 songs are in the same cluster as Beethoven, while spandex ultra rocker Van Halen sits right alongside MOR piano babe Vanessa Carlton. It is for this reason that Polyphonic are confident their software won't homogenise our already stratified and similar sounding charts. They are already working with one radio station to expand their playlist without losing audience share by selecting songs with the correct mathematical rhythms. In a world where drearily repetitive playlists have become the norm this could be the answer to an oft-uttered prayer.
This strategic approach may seal the software's place in history. McCready explains how they are helping a very well known "smooth male jazz crooner" who is finding it difficult to break into the US market. The label's marketing department are promoting him to the Norah Jones audience. But Polyphonic's analysis has shown that the crooner's song patterns are more similar to Linkin Park, Aerosmith and JayZ. This kind of interpretation offers an unprecedented rationale for appealing to a seemingly unlikely demographic.
There is also an HSS Basic model on offer to struggling musicians. With a good score, the story goes, you will get a record company to take a second look. While some artists may be lost under this new regime, others will surely be found.
But its greatest usefulness might be, as Smith says, in "helping with that all too frequent record company problem - a band that has written an album without any hits on it. Using the technology they might be able to write the radio-friendly songs required for the album release." For any artist that relies on success in the singles charts, this technology provides a useful barometer of work-in-progress. Ric Wake, producer of international acts such as Jennifer Lopez and Anastacia, has drawn the technology into the heart of the creative process. When you're only a few "mathematical rhythms" away from a great hit this could save hours, days, even weeks of studio grind. At the end of each day, relevant tracks are downloaded and feedback is presented the next morning. Supporters of the software argue that it does not detract from the artistic process; it is still the humans who must find the solutions to a low-scoring song.
Ultimately HSS is like focus groups to advertising, or audience research to film - it helps those afraid to be accountable to make decisions. But make no mistake; HSS aims to become a generic term, as Hoover is to vacuum cleaners, and a standard part of the signing and creative process for labels and producers. "'What's the HSS score?" should be in the first line of questions of any band at any stage of their career, says Tracie Reed of HSS. "We promise 100% success rate for songs released rather than the usual 20%. Which makes it a justifiable investment." And it would have to be in the current cost-cutting climate.
Though it might make the accountants happy and ultimately, even the artists and audiences too, isn't HSS just still a little, well, boring? Isn't half the fun of the pop industry the mistakes, legendary, apocryphal episodes that go into making the best - and worst - of the records we listen to? With HSS, would we have had Led Zeppelin's Red Snapper escapades (no singles here), Brian Wilson's lost Smile album, Jeff Buckley et al?I doubt it. But while there's no doubt the romance has gone and while it might feel like a sad mathematical indictment on these most indecisive and creatively fearful of times, you had better get used to HSS. Your listening DNA is about to be mapped.
The following excerpt is from your Brinkmann review. I fully agree with you - but suggest that timing is everything. It is the cornerstone. So few OEMs get this right and yet without it, what's left just becomes a bloody cacophony.....
Please pass this on to your colleagues - there's many very salient points in these two little paragraphs which are absolutely central to the whole business of music reproduction and appreciation....
"... Over the years, I have become much more interested in timing and dynamics, in particular, the manner in which the music develops resolves and decays. The way in which a component or a system presents dynamics, including shadings and contrasts, can be among the most important and nevertheless misleading features of playback. To my ears, so many components present music in dynamically uneven ways: lots of punch in the midbass, but no dynamics at all in the higher frequencies. Some components are known for their big midrange bloom that is not matched anywhere else in the frequency spectrum. These are attention-getting attributes to be sure, just as a tipped up presence region gives one the impression of high frequency information and an artificially large soundstage. These are designer tricks and listeners are often caught unawares. Customers are taken by the sales pitch only to find themselves trading in their equipment a few months down the road. Too often, what passes for dynamic components or systems are simply unbalanced ones.
Timing is even more important to music and its reproduction. Many systems are let down by poor timing. Music without proper timing lacks coherence and falls apart. Rare is the backloaded hornspeaker that produces bass in time with the rest of the music. I am not passing out secrets here. Getting the timing right in such designs is as much a problem as is producing highly articulate, pitch-accurate lower frequencies more generally. It can be done of course, but it is one of the reasons why getting a full-range driver in a backloaded horn to sound right is a major engineering feat and often costly as well..."
Just finished reading your impressions of the Overkill Encore system. As usual, I found it to be articulate, thought provoking and stylishly prosaic. I do look forward to your reviews because our reference systems are peppered with so many common pieces [Duos, tube amp and preamp, Accustic Arts Drive 1 and Indras]. Your arguments on behalf of the system's virtues are most incisive and compelling, but I wonder, just wonder whether heavily invested vinyl devotees such as myself and your own Mr. Coleman could find satisfaction in a setup that requires us to digitize our carefully nurtured analog signals before we sample them. You cite the Overkill's unparalleled ability [in your experience] to bring the recorded venue into your living [listening] room, nay, displace your listening room. I say to you that this is the greatest asset of competent vinyl reproduction as compared to competent digital reproduction [in my experience]. Any signal that is decimated and reconstructed thousands or millions of times a second loses the ability to fully invest [or divest] a listening room with the original recorded space in cases where there actually was a recorded space to begin with.
Instead a certain sort of heightened airy sameness seems to overlay all digital soundscapes [pleasant and musically harmless as it may seem], with the end result being a feeling of added separation or distancing between you and the actual event as it occurred in its space. I believe this could account for why you prefer the Zanden way to the up-and- oversampling way. The Zanden impresses as more natural and less artificially [digitally] overlayed. When I play my Ultragroove direct-to-disc recording of Virgil Fox playing the Rufatti pipe organ on my Walker TT, I am sitting in a pew in the church in Garden Grove, California. Plenty of digital recordings give me gobs of air, dimensionality and space but not a single one can displace my listening environment with the exactitude, magnitude and credibility that that outmoded old medium can.
Why don't you hop in your old jalopy and let me show you what I'm talking about. It's Mardi Gras time here in the Crescent City and the mudbug season is starting to kick into high gear. Plus great live music is to be found everywhere. What better reasons could you possibly need to take a little sightseeing trip eastward. Mardi Gras is one of the great sights to behold in western civilization and you would also be afforded the chance to experience humidity again [real humidity] once more before you die.
On a final note, tell me how deeply Bella Sonus growled on those heroically engineered woofers.
Very valid point, Alan - but what about my 2000+ CDs which are not available on vinyl? For a listener like me, vinyl present a similar conundrum to SACD and DVD-A - while the formats may be superior, the software choices for the eclectic music lover are not.
And your point is, indeed, well taken. I myself have not become a hi-rez digital format adopter for the very same reason [not to mention that such a small subset of all material available on hi-rez actually began life in hi-rez when recorded]. My comments were simply meant to shed light on the dilemma posed to the vinylphile by the 100% digital solution as represented by the Overkill product, not to in any way dis it, and to suggest to you that the strong suit of the Overkill is very possibly already the province of quality vinyl reproduction in certain important ways. Indeed, if I was fully vested in digital, I'd be sorely tempted to investigate this approach, pocket book notwithstanding.
Hi Srajan & Jeff,
My sincere compliments on an incredible website. Nothing like it and absolutely the very best! Here in Cape Town South Africa, there has not been turntable talk for many years, but things are changing as the first current model Clearaudio product has recently gone on show in a local highend store.
I particularly enjoyed your Garrard 301 review (ex ebay purchase) and hope the proud owner enjoys every minute playing music on it. If you have a look at www.blueangelaudio.com, you will see what I keep myself busy with. The Garrard plinth was made by myself more than 12 years ago and still runs as quietly and sweetly as when the Garrard technician signed the handbook many moons ago. I had plans for this plinth design to produce it as a flat-pack kit but got too many hassles from perspex fabricators here in Cape Town. [See below.]
Instead, I decided to research moving coil phono cartridges and this project (started nearly 5 years ago), has just been completed. Stereophile recently published some news and a review of my Blue Angel Mantis mc has been published in Feb 2005 HiFiNews.
With very best regards
A J Hanekom
Proprietor - Blue Angel Analogue Audio SA
I thought you might be interested to learn that my Wyetch Sapphires arrived yesterday and it doesn't take long to hear that they are very special and I suppose they will get even better over the next 100 hours or so. Much quieter than the P4s, more clarity in the midrange and with "big' music, better articulation of all the pieces without any loss of coherence. I think the P4s did bass extension better but it wasn't as tight. Highs are clearly superior with the Sapphires. I noticed something quite interesting as it is clearly a psychological perception the tempo of music seems faster through the Sapphires than with either my old Moon W-5 or the AN P4s. I guess that must be that PRAT thing. Soundstage and imaging make me smile. I'm almost convinced that the oboe player is hiding behind the buffet.
So, you are off the hook I am thankful that I was influenced by your comments. There is no doubt that the Sapphire is far superior to the ANs and still offers a full palate of detail to complement the new-found smoothness.
Kenneth S. Meen, Ph.D.
I read your preliminary article on the Benchmark Media DAC 1. You may already be aware of this but I would like to inform you that the output impedance of the DAC 1 has been changed from 1K+ ohms to 30 ohms. Benchmark says it makes no audible difference but the Empirical Audio engineer says differently. He says after lowering the output impedance:
"Holy smokes! - this is sounding like a Turbomod now. I finally changed the output resistors so that it has about 120 ohm output impedance on the RCA outs. With some break-in on the Black Gates, it is sounding superb now. Very airy and 3-dimensional. I don't think there is any need to change the op-amps. In fact, the HF response of these op-amps seems cleaner than the OPA-627s used in my P-3A DAC. Still, need the wife to make the final call as to which one is better."
This change alone may make the unit sound better unless you have a unit with this update. Just wanted to let you know.
I enjoy reading your reviews.
A nice review on the vintage Fisher receivers but no mention was made of the condition or of replacement of the capacitors in the three units. If they were original, their various states of degradation could make significant differences in the performance.Were the caps changed? Or even checked?
I agree that degraded coupling caps can greatly affect the sound.Mention was made of this issue, indeed. I said that none of the coupling caps were replaced, because the voltages were correct throughout. In other words, if the coupling capacitors were leaky, it would show up as improper voltages on the grid or plate pins, or as DC on the grids. This was checked.
All multisection electrolytic capacitors were also checked for proper voltages on each section. This was not stated specifically, but is implied by the statement that I checked all bias, plate, and filament voltages. After all, many of these are the voltages supplied by the multisection cans.
We also checked the ripple on the B+ and looked for proper filtering. No hum was heard, either...another factor indicating good ps e-lytics.
Bad multisection electrolytics are a common problem in these vintage tube receivers. I have replaced them before. It just so happens that I got lucky with these. Note that we did find two bad selenium rectifier bridges, another common problem.
I would also point out that wholesale replacement of all of the coupling caps in all three units would remove a variable in the original stock production...which was a factor that we wanted to consider.
Here's a note that might interest you. It's from a Hong Kong audiophile who wrote to me over a Hong Kong audiophile forum. It mirrors your own findings of Shindo & Wilson. Here goes: "In case you're still with this thread (Review 33), we have good news for you. Not that we found your stolen goods but today we achieved marvelous result with the F2a Sinhonia driving a pair of Watt 7 + Puppies. I never liked Wilson speakers but after today, I must confess I was quite wrong.
The reason we tried this combination was that Jules Coleman claimed that the Sinhonia was a perfect match with Wilson Sophias in his review. Just out of curiosity, we tried this amp on the Watt/Puppy 7 instead.
The owner of this Watt 7 seems to be a loyal disciple of Dave Wilson, using a pair of Nagra 845 monoblock as per his holy instruction. Well, I think Dave Wilson would rewrite his bible if he had a chance to listen to the Sinhonia driving his baby. All the hyper details from the Watt 7 are blended and harmonized, enabling one to concentrate on the music instead of the details, the razor-sharp imaging, the 3D holographic soundstage - which are the selling points of Wilson speakers. The peculiar thing is that these elements are still there but they just won't catch your attention anymore unless you focus on them.
Compared with the Nagra VPA, the Sinhonia sounds smoother, with even more details and microdynamics. I never expected a pentode PP amp to beat real triode PP amps in these areas. Re: power, VPA seems to have a bit more reserve but that might only be psychological since the Sinhonia sounds more natural and polite than the Nagra. Also, the VPA has higher input sensitivity.
With the huge population of Wilson speaker owners in the US, if you can convince just a tiny fraction of them to try the Sinhonia, you'll be busy for the next few years! Fyi, the Sinhonia is equipped with stock tubes, except the 6BM8 replaced with NOS TFK. The Nagra VPA runs original Chinese 845s but the four ECC83 are replaced by ribbed plate NOS TFK. Preamp used in this shootout was the Kondo M7 Silver. Front-end was a Roksan TMS. Cables were all Kondo KSL throughout, power cords NBS and Siltech... the pricey ones."
I've got a mile-wide smile and a tear in my eye as I listen to my recently acquired Firstwatt F1 amp and AKG K1000s. My system is not complete by a long shot but thank you for reviewing this wonderful product and letting everyone know how beautiful it could make the K1000s sound. Looking forward to further reviews and adventures with the K1000.
|I recently saw your review of the Mini-Max CD player and audio-technica headphones and because of your recommendation, purchased them both. It has been over 20 years since I have seriously listened to music. I have a hearing impairment. Any ambient noise such as restaurant buzz, auto road noise, air-conditioner fan etc. seems to cancel out spoken voice and makes music sound like mud. Because of this, I have been stuck with listening to books on audio tape and talk shows on the radio.
My wife recently bought me a Bose noise-canceling head set and portable Bose CD player. I had to go down to 1/2 price books to buy a CD to try it out because I had none. I was on the road, staying in a motel and that night I listened to the "1812 Overture" and the other music on that CD at least 3 or 4 times. I did not remember music sounding that good.
I have since bought a portable amp for the CD player and of course the Mini-Mmax CD player and audio-technica headphones. I have just gotten thru the burn-in period and can say that the sound is marvelous. Even with my hearing impairment, I am able to enjoy the benefits of the better quality components.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that review. I would not have made that step if not for it.
Now, I would like to try tube rolling. I do remember the wonderful sound that my old Dynaco amps produced back when my hearing was normal....and I remember the disappointment when I heard the "new generation" solid state amps that were replacing them. So, the Mini-Max with its tubes are a wonderful find.
I have found several reviews where the reviewer changed to Amperex NOS tubes, so I am assuming that is a good choice. Do you have any suggestions as to the tube to try and could you please recommend a NOS tube dealer?
Although I will never be able to afford, nor justify, the cost of some of the "extreme" audio rigs you talk about, it is a real blast reading your reviews about them. You are indeed a gifted writer. I am a subscriber to your newsletter and look forward to reading every one of them. I am also building a library using your music reviews as a guide. My first purchases were the two CDs by Misty River Band. They remain my favorite.
Thanks again for your help,
Jerry T. Smith
Between your fine initial and follow-up reporting of equipment theft in Vegas and this new AAD article, you continue to stake out a most interesting position in the 'zine world: you use your media access and e-access to upfront identify with and acknowledge moral and equitable positions. Seems to me that you may just be sui generis. You know, I never know what I will receive over the e-mail ethers from 6moons: super music reviews, over-the-top reviews of insanely expensive exotic and arcane gear available to those who have money to burn or, as you did today, acknowledgment and an attempt to repay a prior good deed.
What gets me is that you have created a climate in which your readers can and do respond freely to your offerings. Not too shabby.
From the deep winter chill of 18 degrees in Boston, I remain on the lookout for speakers for my ancient system and am now listening to Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy on the ipod.
John from Boston
Congratulations. I've looked forward to your first release since I first learned about it. I remember some e-mail exchanges re: Lynni Treekrem and Kari Bremnes and the difficulty of finding them in the States. The ZeroGravity Bazaar is a wonderful concept so congratulations on bringing the first phase to life.
Let me know if you ever had the opportunity to hear "Engleskyts" by Anne Lise Berntsen and Nils Henrik Asheim [Not - Ed.}. If not, I'll send you a copy.
Thank you for doing what it is you do.
If Jonathan Halpern and John DeVore are unable to obtain financial compensation for their losses resulting from the theft at T.H.E. Show, perhaps 6moons could sponsor a fund to assist our two fellow audiophiles. I would gladly be the first to make a contribution.
|A quick note to all involved.
Kathleen and I played Music in a Bottle yesterday for the first time and we'd like to congratulate you all on a superb recording. Mysterious, thought-provoking, subtle... a well-curated collection of your work, Todd. And as always, each track recorded'n'mastered beyond reproach. Are you blushing? I bet you blush easily. Each of you "spoke" personally in the tight confines of the booklet very poetically. Except Srajan! (-"
Good seeing you all at CES.
|Reader review of Eastern Electric MiniMax: Introduction/Reasoning
I'll try to answer the inevitable question first. Why exactly did I buy a one-box CD player and headphone amplifier when I already had a reasonably nice system consisting of a Rega Planet 2000, Aural Thrills Force Active Gold ICs and Singlepower PPX3 (henceforth known as the Rega/PPX3 combo)? In short, there is a strong possibility that I will lose my dedicated computer/listening room in the relatively near future. Up until we moved, I had always bought space- conscious components but with a dedicated listening room it seemed like I was in heaven so I ended up buying components that I would not be able to fit anywhere else in our home. When we first moved into this home a year ago, my daughter Trinity had not even been born so the prospect of another child seemed far off. Recently though my wife and I discussed the timing for our next child which brought the prospect of losing my dedicated room to the fore so I started keeping my eye out for a possible solution which I would be able to fit into our fairly tightly packed living room or bedroom.
Enter the MiniMax. I had read Srajan Ebaen's 6moons review back in June in which he raved about not only the CD player but its internal headphone amp. At the time it was priced out of my league at $1350 and the space issue hadn't come up but not long after my wife and I had our “discussion”, I noticed Morningstar Audio Imports, the North American Eastern Electric distributor, had a special on Audiogon for a demo model that was much more in line with my budget. What’s more, Morningstar is now selling the MiniMax direct for $899. I didn’t end up buying the demo model but I was intrigued enough to do some research. The big question of course was how good is the internal headphone amp, really? The decision to buy the MiniMax was not an easy one. In all probability, it meant selling off the rest of my equipment which was a daunting proposition. It took some extensive discussion with Bill O’Connell of Morningstar, Alex Yeung, Eastern Electric’s designer, Srajan Ebaen of 6moons and a few owners at Head-Fi and Audio Circles before I was convinced enough to place an order.
What’s In The Box?
When I picked up the MiniMax at the post office,I was surprised by how small the box was. I knew that it was only a ¾ sized component but it still seemed small. Upon my arrival home I opened the box to find there were no peanuts or other packing material but it was triple boxed with nice snug fitting boxes.
Taking the player out, it looked as if despite the tape over it, the drawer had come open. I plugged the unit in expecting the tray to go back but nothing happened. I tried the eject button but again nothing. I fiddled around with it and realized it was an added piece that had come loose which just snapped back into place. Besides that minor glitch. I found myself really impressed with the build quality, very solid with a nice finish on the top, sides and rear. The jacks on the rear seem to be nice quality gold and the inset tubes have covers over them to protect them. The front is slightly curved with a silver finish that has a bit of sparkle to it. Very different than the average piece of gear and I must admit even though I’m kind of a black component guy. this does look very elegant in a simple, understated way.
The remote control is quite something by itself. It appears to be made out a solid piece of metal with the same kind of finish as the face plate. It’s actually quite a bit smaller than I was expecting from the pictures but is heavy enough to be wielded as a weapon if need be. Other items included in the box are a detailed manual that even has schematics, a pair of cotton gloves for tuberolling and extra pads for the back side of the remote. I wondered at the pads but when reading through the manual, I found out that in order to change batteries the pads have to be taken off to get at the screws, a rather odd design choice but only a minor quirk in the grand scheme of things. The entire package exudes quality and gives the owner a sense of confidence in the product without ever having turned it on.
Using the MiniMax
The front fascia, from left to right, has a power switch and indicator, headphone jack with HDCD indicator just above it, next in line is the volume control which is quite small in comparison to the knobs we see on most dedicated headphone amps. In the middle of the player is the transport and just under it the display. On the right side are the main controls arranged in circular pattern with one in the middle. Operating the MiniMax is very easy, the buttons on the remote are laid out in a rather unique fashion but easy enough to get the knack of. The controls on the player itself control the basic functions of play/pause, stop, eject as well as forward and reverse. The tray has a very smooth motion to it, no jerking noisy transport here that’s for sure. An interesting feature is the tray will automatically close after approx. 30 seconds if left open. The display itself shows the typical track and time information and has 3 levels of brightness which are controlled from the remote.
The volume control itself is very smooth but my only real personal complaint with the operation of the MiniMax lies here. The gain seems quite high for the levels I listen at which means I have very little room to adjust. Added to this is the smaller knob makes it a little harder to get a good grip on which makes fine tuning that much harder. This is a personal complaint though and I wouldn’t want to see the gain lowered on a permanent basis because some people will listen at louder levels or use less sensitive, higher impedance headphones which means they will use that gain. I am looking into getting the gain lowered and will post in regards to this if I manage to work something out.
The MiniMax accepts tubes from the 6DJ8 family. This includes 6DJ8, 6922 and 7308. Their European designations are ECC88, E88CC and E188C while their Russian counterparts are 6N1P and 6H23N. Other usable tubes are the E288CC and 7DJ8/PCC88. Tuberolling is reasonably fast and easy. Simply make sure the tubes are cool, twist the casing and pull it off, swap tubes, put the casings back on and your done.
The MiniMax now comes with a pair of Electro Harmonix 6DJ8s which is a pretty decent tube, a bit warm and not as refined or linear as the better tubes but a very nice tube to start out with. I don’t have a wide variety of tubes for the MiniMax at this point so it’s hard for me to tell the exact level of effects it will have but from what I’ve experienced so far is it is possible to fine tune the sound but the effects are not quite as dramatic as tuberolling the PPX3. That said, I did find the Telefunken PCC88s were the best tube in my possession offering a well balanced, detailed tube that a bit of smoothness and warmth to it but not overly so. This is the set of tubes I used for my evaluation.
A Note Regarding Listening Preferences
In one form or another, I’ve been involved in high end audio for almost 20 years now and I’m still discovering and redefining what it is I’m looking for. Back in the late 80’s to early 90’s, I found most equipment assaulted the ears with overly bright, harsh treble so I tried to find equipment with a laid-back, even rolled-off treble. I was in heaven the first time I heard a tube amplifier, the smooth highs and rich, liquid midrange were to die for. Having played cello and bass guitar for a good portion of my life, I prefer a deep, well defined and punchy bass which can be a hard find in a tube amp but not impossible and I’ve felt I could trade off something in the bass in order to achieve the rest.
Ever since I started my love affair with the RS-1s, I’ve found my priorities changing or maturing to a degree. I still prefer that smooth, liquid, rich midrange and tight well defined and extended bass but I’ve realized that highs can be reproduced with great clarity without being overbearing and harsh. Pace, rhythm and timing or PRaT has also become a very important factor for an enjoyable listening experience. For me, the worst thing a system can do is accentuate or exaggerate sibilance. By accentuating I mean those overly hot, sizzling s’s and t’s, the ones that make you cringe and run for cover for fear they might burn a hole in your eardrum. Exaggerating sibilance can be a little harder to define. This type of sibilance can actually be smooth but draws attention to itself by being drawn out longer or at a louder level than is natural.
When I first bought the RS-1s, I didn’t have any problems with brightness or sibilance. In fact, the RS-1s have one of the sweetest most realistic treble regions I’ve come across but somewhere along the way, problems with sibilance crept into my system . I tried correcting this and managed to go from the sizzling accentuated to the smoother, exaggerated, more drawn out type. So when I ordered the MiniMax there was also an element of frustration with my system as well.
I was born in the early part of October which according to astrology makes me a Libra. The astrological symbol for Libra is the scales signifying balance which is supposed to be a strong trait of Librans. I don’t put much stock in astrology but I will admit that symmetry and balance are strong part of my life. With that in mind, if I had to describe the MiniMax in one word, it would be balanced which is probably one reason I like this piece of kit so much.
The MiniMax is balanced in many different aspects. No one frequency range draws attention to itself, there is just a coherent evenhandedness that allows one to view the music as a whole without distractions of an overly bassy or overly hot reproduction. One can hear the faults of a bad recording but I’ve found for the most part they are quite listenable with the MiniMax. It doesn’t gloss anything over but neither does it render the music in a brutal unforgiving fashion. In fact, I am continually impressed by the natural portrayal of instruments and vocals which gives the MiniMax a definite sense of realism in its reproduction of music. One of my biggest fears was that the MiniMax’s tube output would become overly warm and lush. While this can be pleasing, it can also become a hindrance to overall musical fulfillment. The tubes do lend a subtle warmth and ease to the music but it never seems to cross the line into becoming overly smooth and romantic. In contrast to what one might expect, the MiniMax excels in drive and punch. For me PRaT (Pace Rhythm and Timing) has become a very important aspect of music reproduction and the MiniMax was no let down in this respect. It does PRaT better than any player I’ve heard so far. There have even been parts of songs where the phrasing seems different, lending itself to a new interpretation of what the musician was doing at that moment. It really seems to capture and control the essence of the rhythm and clarifies more complex musical structures with ease.
One thing almost everyone that has heard the RS-1s agrees on is they do something very special with electric guitar. It’s one of the traits that first drew me to the RS-1s and the MiniMax only furthers the magic. In Aaron Weiss’s Soundstage! review of the MiniMax, he says in reference to Phish’s “Rift” that “…it (the MiniMax) lavishes the guitar work with such sublime beauty that you soon forget the production shortcoming.” I don’t have that particular recording but I thought it summed it up nicely. The distortion on electric guitar comes through with clarity and grunt that is astonishing but not in a fatiguing manner by any means because there is a warmth and richness about it as well. There is a similar beauty to acoustic guitar as well but it’s in a different manner.
The RS-1s are a contradistinctive headphone. In my rather limited experience with them, I’ve found they seem to work best with “faster” equipment but also thrive on the added warmth and richness that tubes can provide. So again balance comes into play. After having spent some time with the Rega Planet 2000, Active Gold IC and Singlepower PPX3, I feel I went too far with that combo. On the surface it sounded warm, smooth and inviting but in comparison to the MiniMax, pace seemed restricted and the combo overly smoothed things out so that some of the treble anomalies I’ve noted were accentuated with things like sibilance. While not overly hot, it became exaggerated and dragged out which in some of the worst cases made it sound disassociated from the music as a whole. With the MiniMax, sibilance takes on a very natural character, it never seems to bite or become disassociated. At the same time, it’s still apparent that some CDs are just recorded with that way although with the MiniMax, they are much easier to listen to.
This may sound like a contradiction to my previous statement but the highs on the Rega/PPX3 are very smooth and palatable although so much so that things like cymbals can lose their natural bite and ring. I hate to say it but the Rega/PPX3 sounds somewhat veiled, like someone put a blanket over the music so it loses detail and impact. The MiniMax gives much more of the illusion that there are real people singing and playing instruments while the Rega does a good job at recreating a musical experience.
I lay a big part of the reason for this feeling that I went too far with Rega/PPX3 combo at the feet of the Rega. The Rega seems to try to capture a more analog like sound but it does so by restricting the frequency extremes, recessing the treble, pumping up the midbass a smidge and contrary to other people’s findings in comparison to both the MiniMax and the Cambridge 640C, I found the Rega to hold back the music in the PRaT department. The Rega sounds rich and inviting, almost tubelike in character which also helps give it that more analog feel (I find it ironic that the player with tubes sounds less “tubey” than the purely solid state player). The Rega accomplishes this tubelike quality by smoothing over transients and detail and adding warmth and richness that, while pleasing, seems fake in comparison to the MiniMax.
While the MiniMax’s CD performance is important and it is excellent in that regard, I think most of the people on Head-Fi that have seen this player are just as curious about its internal headphone amplifier. Srajan Ebaen intrigued us with his 6moons review and in this, my feelings pretty much mirror his. It is definitely a worthy performer that I feel is in at least the same league as the PPX3. The PPX3 sounds different but I don’t feel it is an “upgrade”. In fact, if push comes to shove, I would have to say I prefer the MiniMax on its own than paired with the PPX3.
The PPX3’s strongest suit is in its warmth and richness while still maintaining a decent dynamic performance. At its heart, it is a tube amp though and as such, the solid state amplifier of the MiniMax is faster, punchier and more dynamic. Upon first listen, the bass is probably the most apparent difference between the two. The PPX3 is weightier sounding with more midbass emphasis, but it is slower and less defined than the MiniMax. Extension is good in both but where the MiniMax is evenhanded into the lower registers on a song like Bela Fleck’s “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo”, the PPX3 seems to start losing its composure on the lowest bass notes. This is not drastic. I can’t say I noticed this quality in the PPX3 before but in comparison now the MiniMax just seems to have a better grip on the bottom end.
The PPX3 is also the richer sounding amplifier. The MiniMax is by no means dry but the PPX3 captures more of the ambience. The decay of instruments and the “room” are more apparent with the PPX3, giving it a deeper sounding headstage. While the decay and ambience are still there with the MiniMax, there is more speed and emphasis on the attack, giving it a more forward presentation.
Another noticeable difference between the two amps is in the high frequencies. The PPX3’s highs are very smooth and palatable but in this instance they seem a bit overly so, taking away some of the natural ring and shimmer to cymbals. The MiniMax is more forward and extended, giving the high end a bit more presence. If the quality of the high end was questionable, it could be a breaking point for the MiniMax but luckily the MiniMax doesn’t disappoint which in turn gives the MiniMax a very natural sounding high end.
Overall as I mentioned before, I prefer the MiniMax on its own for its more balanced presentation. Having played both bass and cello for a good portion of my life the MiniMax’s bass performance is big selling point with me. The MiniMax is fast, dynamic and punchy with a touch of warmth and excellent detail that is never pushed down your throat. There is an undeniable synergy between the amp and CD section of the MiniMax. With the PPX3, the balance is shifted in favor of a more laid back performance with a plumper bass, lusher midrange and smoother, slightly recessed highs. Both are quite enjoyable and I could keep both to give myself variety but in reality these differences are not as big as I may make them seem. Mix that with my space concerns and it doesn’t seem like a realistic option. Plus, if I’m in the mood for it, I could tube-roll the MiniMax to have a bit more of the lushness and richness of the PPX3. For that matter, the PPX3 could probably be tub-erolled to sound closer to the MiniMax.
So have my feelings towards the PPX3 changed? Not at all, if anything it has only given me more respect for the MiniMax’s internal amp and the synergy it has with the CD section. I don’t really see one as being “better” than the other. It’s more of a personal preference on which flavor one will prefer. If someone is looking for a reasonably priced tube amp, I still feel the PPX3 is an excellent choice in its price range while the MiniMax shows incredible value as a total package.
How Does It Work With High Impedance Headphones?
I didn’t do extensive testing with harder-to-drive headphones but I did borrow a pair of HD600s from another local Head-Fier, mackay maus. I can’t say the HD600s suffered any being used directly out of the MiniMax. The same type of differences in sound between the PPX3 and MiniMax I noted with the RS-1s existed with the HD600s. The MiniMax drove the HD600s with just as much ease as the PPX3 and the volume levels were even quite close so there is plenty of gain even for the harder to drive cans.
There is at least one place that is offering two levels of upgrade packages for the MiniMax. In my opinion this adds value to the product because it offers an easy upgrade route while keeping the same small all in one package. I’ve talked with Underwood Hi-Fi/Parts Connexion and in addition to their regular upgrades, I’m happy to report that at an additional cost they can upgrade the headphone section as well. This type of modding/upgrading doesn’t particularly interest me at the moment, I’m quite happy with the sound I’m getting from the MiniMax now. I would be interested auditioning an upgraded unit but without hearing the final result beforehand, I would be afraid I might lose some of that magic if I changed things around - but who knows how I might feel about it down the road. It’s definitely nice to know the option is there if I so choose.
So here we have it a CD player/amplifier combo in one ¾ sized box that plays in a league well beyond its selling price. This should appeal to anyone with a limited amount space like the college student in a dorm or someone looking to set up a bedside or office system or even someone who is just plainly interested in a high performance CD player and amp at a bargain price. So far I’ve concentrated on the MiniMax as a combo unit but for those simply looking for a source only, the MiniMax should definitely not be discounted as I feel given its showing in comparison to the Rega, it should easily compete in the <$1000 region and maybe even above.
If I come across as raving too much about the MiniMax, it’s because I feel the balance of the MiniMax’s virtues and its near total lack of negatives for me makes it a near perfect product especially given my limited space situation. Sure there are better sources and amps out there but I feel that to get a significant improvement, I would have to spend thousands of dollars which is beyond my means. My hat goes off to Alex Yeung for designing a product that balances its characteristics, that has a build quality and performance well beyond what its price tag would suggest. Finally that promise of a decent performing one-box solution is a reality with the MiniMax and as a bonus, its tube output allows some fine-tuning to suit personal preferences. With another type of “mini” entering the household sometime in the near future, I have the feeling buying tubes will be the extent of feeding my upgrade bug for a good while to come. I'm happy to say the MiniMax makes me quite content with that possibility.
Would you believe the MiniMax CD player and the Audio-Technica ATH-W1000 arrived today! Both were packaged very well. I could not believe the MiniMax had a pair of white gloves inside the unit. I took the clue and put them on as unpacked the unit and placed it on my table. Both you and Bill are right on with your comments that these products are very well made and sound great together. For the first time in my life, I heard details in my music collection that I never knew were there. My first CD was Atmospheres' Guitar Reverie. On the front cover, it says, "Amongst the calming sounds of songbirds near a stream in a lush forest, an acoustic guitar sings soothing melodies of tranquility, relaxing the body and soul." The birds sounded like there on a branch right next to you and the acoustic guitar had details that are normally heard when I play one. My next CD was Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. I never knew that the beginning of the "Wish You Were Here" song had someone sniffle and yawning right before David played his Gibson acoustic. I am looking forward when the 100 hours of break-in is completed! I let our six-year-old daughter listen and she did not want to take them off! She got right up and started to dance with a great big smile on her face! Thank you again for your superb advice, products and service.
Best personal regards
Thanks for the great coverage and compliments for the Globe Audio Marketing room at THE Show/CES. I'm sure it is gratifying for all of our product suppliers (including Nirvana Audio and Foundation Research), but particularly for our new Austrian friends, Hannes Frick and Martin Schutzenaur of WLM, who were present in the North American market for the first time. We are glad that you enjoyed your time with us.
As far as my humble DJ'ing abilities go, I have to give much credit to you as a source for my musical education! I'm always trying to expand my musical boundaries, and that always includes a trip to the MA Recordings booth at the Alexis Park every year. Between the music I have found there and elsewhere (including the 6moons "Eleswhere" ;-) and the excellent CD that you have put together, we have seriously infected Jody Hickson, the prez here at Globe Audio Marketing. He practically cleaned out MA's supply on the last day of the show!!
Keep up the good work and we'll talk to you again soon.
Globe Audio Marketing
A quick note with regards to an article in the Canadian version of Time Magazine, Jan. 17th/05 edition "The Science of Happiness". The TIME polled "Do you often do any of the following to improve your mood?": Listen to music (55% women and 52% men); second talk to friends/family (63% women and 51% men)... men actually 1% higher with listening to music. Sex was at the bottom with 18% women and 25% men.
Thanks for posting the news of the burglary. The spirit at the T.H.E. Show was one of camaraderie and shared audio enjoyment. This crime taints an otherwise joyful event. I had the opportunity to meet both of the victimized exhibitors - fine gentlemen and audio enthusiasts, in addition to being part of the hi-fi industry. I would be happy to contribute to a cost recovery fund if one should be established.
I sincerely hope this does not affect their otherwise positive outlooks. The worst thing the thieves could do is steal the enthusiasm of those great audio representatives.
Another thanks for your time at the show, your energy added to the atmosphere - it was a pleasure chatting.
Re: the burglary at T.H.E. Show 2005: It would appear that Halpern relied upon the hotel's duty to protect his equipment to his detriment. As usual there is more here than simple legal liability, which, of course, is not clear. Regardless, you have taken the moral high ground. Good for you. But, then again, from the little that I have learned about the value system that underpins 6moons, your position doesnt surprise me. Nonentheless it is worthy of an acknowledgement
From another perspective, the organizers of the show and the hotel have reaped a sweet profit from the show and can well afford to make good on the loss; it would be plain ol' good public relations ... not to mention good karma. As you know, what goes around comes around.
I remain, in cold blustery Boston,
I read the reviews comparing the Pre2, the Pearl and the Audiopax 5 with the intent on finding the most neutral of the three since my audio philosophy biases on the side of invisibility of components. My view parallels Stan Warren's notion that audio components should be as neutral as possible, adding nothing nor detracting anything from the signal. Recently I employed an engineer to build a Stan Warran active buffered preamp which was placed between my Philips SACD-1000 (Stan Warran modded) and my Accoustic Reality Mk11 Ear1 monos with custom cables made by Gregg Straley, also of the SW camp. The sound of my system was very clear, detailed and natural but seemed to me to lack a certain palpability and 3-dimensionality of notes (not soundstage) which left me in a sort of desert of musicality. Your reviews on the preamps is slowly turning me around to possibly replacing my SW active buffer with the Audiopax Model 5 to add that missing dimension of palpability of musical sound.
Not being a person to embellish false compliments, I must say that from reading your reviews, you are very sincere, honest and knowledgeable in your hunt for audio nirvana. Compared to other reviews by other professional reviewers, your reviews read like poetry but a poetry of reality. Well, it looks like at some point in time, the Model 5 will be in my system sans my wife's approval. Happy New Year!!!
Thank you for Jeff Day's review of the Superscope PSD 300. It is a fine product and it is nice to see some recognition of professional products like this (as well as the Benchmark DAC) which are of interest to audiophiles and music lovers. I have owned the PSD 300 for almost three years and it has performed well.
Those 6moons readers who enjoy both modern music and dance may be interested in a project I completed with the modern dance company, Choreo Collective. Our objective was to complete a multi-media piece designed to be viewed over the internet. My composition was entitled "Eight Files" as I wrote the piece in eight movements, or "files" each lasting 84 seconds or one unit of "internet time", allowing easy downloading. To keep bandwidth requirements low, I wrote Eight Files for a solo bassoon and PSD 300. All of the sounds (taken from the dancers themselves) other than the bassoon were recorded and then manipulated using only the PSD 300.
Other than the internet presence, the piece has been performed live about five times including a performance at the American Dance Festival. It has also received quite a bit of press.
If anyone is interested in hearing and seeing the piece, please go here. Be warned: If you don't like atonal or indeterminate music, you will probably not like this.
Congratulations on your fine magazine. I look forward to reading each update!
Let me begin by complimenting your site - it truly is refreshing to read your informative and entertaining reviews and articles. I was excited and intrigued enough by your review and update of the Meadowlark Kestrel 2s (as well as the review for the Unison Unico Level 1 and 2 mods tested with the Kestrel 2) that I soon plan to make the 90+ min. drive to Northern NJ for a listening test.
In my own listening, I have been fortunate enough to listen to the Rogue Audio Tempest Magnum integrated amp. Numerous sources, including 6moons, have reported a strong synergy between the Kestrel 2 and the Tempest Magnum. I have been informed that the new Tempest II Magnum is currently available and would like to know if you plan to review this piece of gear anytime in the near future. Thank you for your time.
First I want to wish you a Happy New Year.
Re: your Consumer/Pro Convergence article: As you might remember, I am using digital studio monitors, the Klein+Hummel O500C. They are not exactly affordably priced but when you look at what you get for the money, I dare to call it a bargain. To my knowledge there is no comparable speaker out there so it may be interesting to put them to a review. One of the major advantages of the 500 I see is the fact that you don't need a preamp, you can connect two sources (one digital, one analog) and use the in-built digital volume control. I know someone in Germany who has the 500 (in white) + an Accuphase SACD-player, that's all. No longer do you need to pile up components (CD transport, DAC, pre-/power amp).
If you look for more affordable models, I would suggest the Klein + Hummel O300D, sporting the same ATC midrange driver which I hold responsible for my 500's extraordinary clarity and cleanliness. Even more affordable are the small Genelec 1029 (which I'm using in our kitchen) + subwoofer.
Todd is the man! I used to work at the Thirsty Ear in Bozeman and got to know Todd a little bit a couple of years ago. Thanks for putting his info up on your site, very cool. (I havent been in contact with Todd in a while, but it sure seems like he's got it going pretty nicely!)
One thing from your mini article on Todd's show, there is no sales tax here in Montana. So that 40 bucks a night is just that, 40 bucks! Thanks for putting out such a great website, I bet I look at it just about everyday. I have emailed some of your writers and they've always been very kind to send good info in their replies.
I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for your contributions to 6moons. Not only have you brought to my attention some outstanding equipment but without exception, your reviews have been educational and thought-provoking. In particular I refer to your insights regarding microdynamics and resolution, which have greatly aided my understanding of, and appreciation for, musical reproduction.
Keep up the great work!
|Hello Mr Srajan,
it is nice to write to you at last. I am a journalist of the biggest Polish magazine "Audio" and an editor of the web zine "High Fidelity OnLine". I am interesing to review your first CD. Could you send it to me? If yes, please let me know.
I have long loved the poems of Saint John of the Cross. Since reading your recommendation of La Nuit Obscure, I've kept poking around the net to try and find a copy. Finally, a DJ for a world music show that runs on PBS-type radio stations suggested I try amazon.fr to find a copy of La Nuit Obscure - San Juan de la Cruz (she'd been sent her copy from a listener in Germany). This proved to be the golden ticket. Though I can't read French and the names of the artists were not listed, when I enlarged the album cover image, I could clearly see their names.
This was an interesting lesson. Even when searching on the amazon.com Mothership returns a big zero, you might still find that obscure international CD on a regional version of Amazon.com. Clearly the databases don't do a cross-check. Here is the link:
As a favor to the DJ and to your readers who like world music, here's the radio show: The Dance of the Earth (every Sunday 3 - 5 p.m. KUSP) and Crosscurrents (alternate Sundays 5 - 7 a.m. KUSP - this is in the Monterrey Bay, California area.) with DJ Gypsy/Giramondu. Live on the web at: http://www.kusp.org and http://www.popmatters.com
Your article today [Consumer/Pro Convergence) is correct. My source is a Macintosh running iTunes with Apple Lossless encoding. It feeds an Apogee Mini-Dac through its USB input. I have remote control of iTunes through a Palm Pilot, running an application called Clicker. It controls iTunes via Bluetooth. It's a wonderful sounding front-end by almost any high-end standard and the freedom of having your whole music collection in the palm of your hand is addicting. For icing on the cake, the Mini-Dac has a volume control so you can run without a preamp if you want and it also has a very good headphone driver. Want to input SPDIF too? No problem, all the data is buffered in RAM and clocked out with a low-jitter clock. It's a great product.
Happy New Year Greetings! I just took a look at your Superscope PSD300 review and enjoyed it a great deal. In addition to the fun of being able to record your guitar lessons and improving your practice routine, the unit's sonic performance benefits in your big rig are a very pleasant bonus.
This summer a prestigious prep school in my area asked me for advice since they needed to replace some trashed recording gear that had been in use [and abused] for about 5 years. They run a terrific summer music festival for highly talented high schoolers and wanted to continue to capture those many concerts for their own archives. [By the way in my Sept. 2004 essay for 6moons, I mentioned these concerts and some of my own separate recording efforts there]. Their Sony DAT machine and Rode mics were really not even operable due to heavy mishandling by students who never were properly trained in operational procedures.
I looked over various choices and after considering budget, convenience and modernization needs, I suggested the junior version of the unit you have, namely the Marantz CDR300 plus a Crown SASS stereo microphone. Upon delivery I was given the gear to evaluate it, and to prepare a user-friendly operations manual for the student technicians who would be the end-users during the summer and beyond. It was very gratifying to see that the Marantz piece, which is available for around $800 retail, [essentially the same unit you have, minus the second drive] performed really well and, in conjunction with the SASS mic, gave recordings that were way above average. The prep school is very happy and so am I. In addition to fine sounding cdrs, the prep school now has a more convenient way to play and edit their concerts and their technicians got the hang of the operations very readily.
Of course, when push comes to shove, I can detect sonic differences using my own pro DAT gear, Millenium Media mic preamp, and Schoeps microphones in direct comparison to that package. However, those differences are clearly not obvious on 98% of the playback equipment that these musicians and friends use to listen with. Additionally, they spent about $1700 in total, while I have about $8K tied up in the pieces I typically use for remote recording.
Anyhow, I thought you might be interested in my experiences with a unit similar to the one in your review. In closing, I do think looking into real microphones would give you a surprising thrill and, if you wish, I would be happy to talk with you about options there too.
Cheers and best regards,
good to see a Benchmark review underway. Have had the DAC for a while here and very impressed from the start. It's replaced my highly modified (Allen Wright) Sony 9000 SACD, which easily replaced the Audio Aero Capitole 24/192 (sold some time back). Benchmark come from a pro-audio perspective, so don't have much awareness about using better than adequate cables. A few observations:
This DAC reveals any change. No matter what Benchmark says about using any digital interconnect, this thing needs a good one. Illuminati is much better than any cheap coax, but sounds slightly rounded off compared to Crystal, which is the best - the Crystal having similar effect as power cords and speaker cables do on other components. I love Crystal power cables on everything (except Border Patrol power supplies the only component I've found that's sounded worse on them).
So far, a Philips 963sa DVD/SACD with Crystal power cable is the best-sounding CD transport. More open with depth & dynamics, better detail and clearer top end than my Sony SACD, even with Crystal. The Philips' upsampling light is on whenever playing a CD, but I don't know if that's what's passing through the digital out.
I don't have a Minimax CDP here to compare, but have bought a couple of basic Panasonic DVD/ DVDaudio players to use as transports ($120ea). These are recommended by Benchmark for being able to output the full resolution DVD audio from the digital out (once the menu pref is turned on). All others players they tested were crippled for obvious reasons. Tried it and it does seem to work on the only DVDA sampler disc I have much improved sound quality.
Make a big difference. It exposes heavy stranded audiophile power cables having thickened bass and blunted dynamics. Crystal is the best. Next best - a basic foil/braid shielded computer-type power cable. Much better than the heavier shielded audio power cable.
The Panasonic as transport doesn't sound special (as does the Philips) It has a small two-pin power socket, so will replace it and try earthing it to compare again with CrystalPower.
I'm more than happy with the KR 300B integrated that's just arrived. By far the most impressive sounding amp I've had here. The weight, dynamics and effortlessness is unexpected from low-powered tubes. Sounds ideal with the Gallos. It has a sharpness & clarity I haven't heard from tubes before, but not bright just well balanced with great bass weight and effortlessness.
Cheers & happy new year
Reference Audio Systems
I am excited to see that you are performing a review of the Benchmark Media Dac1, a product I am considering for my next audio purchase, but I hope I may influence you to slightly alter your plans. As you may be aware, there is also the Apogee MiniDac that is similar to the Dac1 in size, price, features, comes from the professional recording industry and also has received high praise in the audiophile press. But there is one glaring error so far in the audio press: no one has performed a head-to-head comparison of the two units. So may I humbly suggest that you take the maverick role and do what others have not yet dared?
My good friend and tube guru just told me about the Butler Concept amp because 1/, I wanted a tube hybrid amp but was interested in the Pathos Inpol circuit with a tube front end, and 2/, he sugested the A100 because of the hybrid technology as well as the fact he worked with Mr. Butler closely at Dean Merkley and knew about his new circuitry hybred amp with a 300B tube!
So, I go to the site and eventually come to your review on the Butler TDB2250 and two immediate things jump out at me. Powerful tube amps and Tinnitus.
I too have Tinnitus and also use a ballsy pair of monoblock amps. These are Tom Tutay's redesigned Altec Lansing 1570b amps. These amp produce 165 watts of PP Triode (only) from two DHT 811A tubes per amp. The output transformers are very different from the era. And yes, you feel the tension of power behind the music like having your foot on the pedal of a big V-12 or something similar.
Now where am I going with this and your precious time? Well these amps do not give me the huge ringing in my ears which you know about along with your well-descibed neurosis about finding the perfect tube. You described me to the tee. I own too many tubes. "But there's always one just a little better", I dream about in my sleep. Your review of Butler's TDB2250 amp screamed at me clearly saying, try this amp out. That's my point. For the first time I read an audio review that speaks to me in an ephiphanic way.
Mind you, I do not own the equipment you do (or have access to) , but I do own Coincident's Super Eclipse II and a sleeping giant of a preamp, Quicksilver's Full Function preamp (80's model) along with a Bel Canto DAC-2 and two different types of transports. I do have a quality synergistic system that could make a nice home for one of Butler's amps. Not to mention enough tubes to pay the morgage for a couple of months. Yet, his A100 only use one per amp. What will I do? I need more tubes! Ah! but there are many different 300B tubes to choose.
So tonight, after talking with Willy about radical tube circuits and the amps that use them and reading a review from a guy who has Tinnitus and is also a bit fanatical about tubes, I can say it's been a good night. The door has cracked open just enough to illuminate something completely new to see. Thanks.
All the best,
BTW, My Dad has tinnitus too and he does not listen to music at all, nothing.
I just read your Zanden review which included portions of your earlier Indra review. Upon finishing it all I could think was "Damn, I wish I could write like that!"
With best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year,
Thanks for the CD reviews last week. It is rare that I read a bunch of reviews and mumble to myself that "I gotta hear this"--- hey one review, maybe two; but 6 or 7?
Keeping your closing metaphor consistent: "ride tall in the saddle"; and mixing the metaphor by addition: "go gently over the waves".
Keep your ears open and have a fine new year. I look forward to more of 6moons rising in the new year.
From the cold bleak Boston urban landscape,
Based on your list of world music picks, I think you'd really like this disc. Check it out. Also, the new Lila Downs CD is awesome; better than the last.