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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 11
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Our readers respond…we respond right back!

Send your comments to either drobinson@positive-feedback.com or dclark@positive-feedback.com

 

 

Hi Dave,
Not that it matters much, but Misty River was there on account of yours truly as I convinced them they owned an audiophile label and put them in touch with T.H.E. Show who hired them to play the lunches and they put them in touch with Von Schwiekert. I also hired them to play our annual beer and pizza party I do in conjunction with Audio Asylum and that was amazing and thought I saw you there. Pictures are over on AA under Misty River and the Inmates.

The unfortunate thing is Misty River barely made ends meet this first year and hope that they can get some real gigs and return next year so I have so advised Stereophile and TAS that they were available for 2005. You guys want to have a party? I have rehired them for 2005 as has Albert BTW.

Best,

Bob Crump
TG Audio/CTC Builders

Dear Bob,
My apologies for not knowing of your leading role in the appearance of Misty River this year. I spoke to Jan Mancuso and got the full story about how, after she introduced you to their music, you were so taken with their talent and the quality of their recordings that you convinced Misty River that they should appear, and then you convinced Mike Maloney that Misty River should appear. I was enjoying the beer, pizza, and live music so much in your room that night that I shirked my pressly duties by not talking to you to find out what the heck they were doing in your room to begin with! Also, in retrospect, I feel that Misty River sounded their best in their fully acoustic performance in your room at TG Audio/CTC Builders that night, and I am revising my report to say so. You have my apologies for shortchanging you in my report, in my attempt to write it in half the usual time and have more of a life (it usually takes three full weekends every January to produce).

I'm overjoyed to hear that Misty River will return to Las Vegas in 2005. Thanks for everything that you have done to make that happen. I told the members of the band that listening to them was the most fun that I'd had at a CES in years, and I meant it.

Best wishes,
Dave Glackin


David,
I recently heard a fully modded 777 that has Richard's latest silver transformer mods in the audio path. I was very impressed to the point that I am going to go the ' mod route' with Richard. MY question to you however has to do with priorities. Before the existence (or at least your evaluation of same) of the transformer mods you had prioritized the Kern mods as follows:

  1. Super clock

  2. Transport mod

  3. Black Gates/Vishays

  4. Regulator mods  

Where does the silver transformer mod fit in this priority? It would be nice if it is # 3 that way much of 3 could be scaled back (cost reduced) as no longer necessary. BTW I enjoy PF very much and look forward to each update/new issue. Keep up the fine work.

I am not familiar with Richard Kern's silver transformer mods, and so cannot comment on it/them. I've cc:'ed Richard Kern with your question; he has a very good sense of what his "hierarchy of modification priorities" look like.

Glad to hear that you enjoy PFO...so do we!

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com

David
In response to your readers question concerning modification hierarchy with the Sony SCD-1/SCD-777ES, my recommendations are as follows:

  1. Super Clock 2 Transport Modification

  2. Audio Board Black Gates

  3. Audio Board Vishay's

These are the best bang for your buck mods. If you wish to go further, add to these modifications:

  1. Transformer Modification 

  2. Audio Board OP Amp Modification

  3. Audio Board Regulator Modification

The Sony the reader heard had all of the above modifications installed.  

Richard Kern
Audiomod

Thanks for the clarification, Richard; I'm sure that our readers will appreciate reading your latest recommendations on the sequencing of your Audiomod modifications.

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Brad,
I enjoyed your article on the Michel Gyro SE on positive feedback.  I've been listening to a lot of tables, tonearms and cartridges, and will be purchasing a Michell Gyro SE in the near future
my experience seems to correlate well with your review. After reading the entire article, I looked at your system description, and the Stax ELS-F81 caught my eye. I first heard and fell in love with this speaker in 1987, and was convinced upon my first listen that this was the speaker for me (I didn't care if the bass was limitedthe "magic" if you will was worth it). 

Unfortunately, I had been out of college only a few years, and my budget and student loans were a significant impediment. So no Stax for me. Well, I'm looking for that same experience. I've not been able to locate Audiostatics to listen to, but was wondering if you might be able to provide a sonic comparison of your Audiostatics versus the Stax. I'm also familiar with the Martin Logan CLSIIz sound, so that's another reference. I've listened to other electrostatics, like Acoustat, but I don't feel I've listened enough to say that I really know their sound.  

Thanks in advance for any feedback you might provide on electrostatics that can come close to reproducing (or exceeding, is that possible?) the Stax ELS-F81 magic.  

Eric Jacobs
San Jose, California

Hi Eric,
Good luck with the Gyrodec purchase it should give you many years of rewarding listening. With regards to the Audiostatics, within their limitations (which I will describe in a moment) they along with the STAX are the two most transparent loudspeakers I have personally ever heard. I would say that the STAX have the very slightest of advantages in this department but your memory of that kind of transparency will be well served by the Audiostatics. 

Now, I have not heard the absolute newest version of the Audiostatic (I owned two generations older and have heard one generation older Audiostatics) but I would assume that they are at least as good as what I have heard. 

So, what are the limitations? As you may know the STAX are quite limited in both bass response and ultimate loudness (they begin to sound quite hard as well at relatively high levels say around 90db), so a big room is definitely out. The Audiostatics will play louder with less strain and have actually a quite good bass response as long as they are at least 1 meter away from the back wall. Both have the best low level response I have ever heard except for some horn loudspeakers. Tonally, I would say the Audiostatic is more neutrally balanced from top to bottom (the STAX sounds a bit lightweight sometimes) but doesn't soundstage or image quite as good (still not bad at either). 

My understanding is that the latest generation has even better bass response and better imaging and soundstaging capabilities. One final caveat, these speakers will reveal all the defects in your system and deserve the best electronics you can give them and they are a demanding load for an amplifier. If your electronics are not up to it, they will not perform to their capabilities. However, if transparency is what you crave then I can say that the Audiostatics are among the very best of what is currently available.

Regards,
Brad Morrical


Hi David,
I hope you don't mind the unsolicited contact. I was just visiting the Positive Feedback website and decide to contact you. I'm attempting to promote Good Music Guide in an effort to create some dialogue among classical music enthusiasts in a civil and friendly environment. I've managed to recruit many new people to join the discussion forum recently and the activity has really picked up. I hope you might consider looking up the site and joining in the discussion. Maybe bookmark the site for future reference. The address is: http://www.good-music-guide.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl  I hope to see you soon. All the messages are posted on the forum itself. Nothing comes to your email account.
Tom
 

We'll publish this in our "Reverberations" section, so that our readers can avail themselves of this resource.

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Dear Sirs
I appreciate Bob Neil putting together a really nice system for under 10K, but having lived with the Audio Note CDT One and the DAC 1X Signature while my Sony 777es SACD was at Richard Kerns being modified I just want to say there is no way the Audio Note combo can compete with the 777 after being Kerned. The Kern modified 777 is even better on Red Book and of course the SACD is a whole different thing. To get the transparency, tunefulness and bass of the Sony you would have to at least get Audio Note DAC 2 Balanced and I still prefer the Sony. My reason for sending this is that my Sony after being modified still only cost me 2900.00 and is the heart of a 25K system that include Audio Note products. And this magazine had a significant influence on my purchase and modification by Richard Kern. I think the Sony should be checked out in any under 10K and for that matter 30K system.

Jack Roberts

Dear Jack

Thanks for this. The only Sony I've heard is the one heavily modified by Audience that sells for around $5K. I haven't put that head to head with the low-end Audio Note gear yet, mainly because of the price differential. I'll do that soon just to see what's up, now that you've put me onto it. I do think that there are probably a goodly number of digital sources in the c. $3000 range that would do very well in an under $10,000 system and would love to compare some of them at some point. Your preference for the Sony 777 in an Audio Note system is instructive: meaning you already know what AN is supposed to sound like, so you're not dragging in a new presentation or sound to compete with it but what sounds to you like a better version of the same thing!  The AN gear sounded fine to me, but I have a lot of gear to hear before anything I say is remotely definitive. It would be fun to try out a pile of c. $3000 cdp's on this system or one like it some day. I may take that as a personal challenge. I note that the DAC 1.1x Signature is due out soon as a Mk II. And who knows what the CDT ONE will emerge as by the time we have decent spring thaw up this way?!! Peter never sleeps.

Best,
Bob Neill


Dear Sirs
Does Hi-Fi still exist for the average person anymore? What systems are the best value for my $? Are DIY projects reviewed in terms of value? What about re-built old amps?

While commercial products do bring in the advertising dollar more people need to re-find quality audio and that will not happen as long as there is a gap between $30 and @3,000 audio systems.

I want to spend my $ on music not the latest vintage fad.

Ben

PS. Since none of the low end vacuum tube amps I have seen on the internet, meet my requirements : namely a regulated power supply and a volume control and at least two inputs (DVD player and Computer); I am busy working on a DIY project. The odd part is the solid state stuff is harder to find and buy than the better quality audio components.

Hello Ben...
Yes, I believe that "hi-fi" still exists for the "average person."

Positive Feedback Online does a number of reviews during the year that concentrate on less costly designs. We have also published DIY projects over the years, as well as Pooge-ing projects that help a user take what he or she has and make it better for an investment in parts, solder, and time.

Good used gear can be found at more reasonable prices at e-Bay or audiogon; if you know what you're looking for, and proceed with the caution that all on-line transactions require, you can find some very good deals there. There are also modification services available, and some kit companies that can get you into tubes at a pretty decent cost.

It sounds like you know what you want. Have at it, and don't worry about the world of commercial products...that's a different thing altogether.

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Hello Sir,
I am Harry Blazer from Glacier Audio. We ran the booth at the ST. Tropez where Atma-Sphere, Gilmore Audio, van den Hul, SOTA, Silver Audio, Sound Anchor, Bright Star, Triplanar were featured. You were nice enough to include some pictures of Abraham Laboriel playing through the Gilmore Audio Model 2 speakers. You also were nice enough to publish some pictures of Ralph's new MA3s. These can be found at the following link: http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue11/ces04o.htm

Unfortunately, there were two errors.

1) This subheading accompanied the picture of Abraham Laboriel states:

Abraham Laboriel using the Gilmore speakers as his bass cabinets. Sounded good though the lowest octave was missing.

I think that it is important that I notify you that there seems to be a misunderstanding and misstatement of fact. First, Abraham Laboriel is the most recorded bass player in the world. He is five time winner of the NARAS most valuable player award
more than anyone else in the world. Abraham told each of the groups for which he performed that nothing has ever reproduced his bass sound more accurately than the Gilmore Speakers over his entire career, whether in the studio, live or at home. He would demonstrate this in many waysone of this was by playing his lowest open string that measures 33HZ (that's as low as the bass goes) and revel at the purity, richness, accuracy and transparency of the sound.

Second, we had measuring gear at the show which showed clearly that the speakers were reproducing bass down to 20HZ authoritatively. We know that the speakers were reproducing bass down to 16 HZ because of recordings that we played with 16HZ organ pedal tones. Our test equipment at the show only went down to 20HZ. It has previously been tested  down 3dB at 17 Hz, flat to 20 HZ.

So you can understand our frustration at having a speaker that one of the most respected bass players alive says reproduces his bass sound more accurately than anything he has ever heard and then to have seen your posted commentary accompanying the picture. Having played with Abraham on many occasions myself, with my own group, Johnny Mathis, Henry Mancini, Gary Burton, Lee Ritenour among others, I found this comment particularly perplexing. Don't you?

2) The subheading on the MA3's, the picture which follows Abraham's is as follows:

Oh, and he did it through a bank of Atma-Sphere electronics! Clean and very dynamic with amazing speed and definition.

Abraham was playing either through Atma-Sphere MA1 monoblocks or MA2 monoblocks, depending on the day, that were located beside the speakers. The MA3s that were photographed on the side wall were for display only.

Thank you for you kind attention.

Harry Blazer
Gilmore Audio

Henry,
Thanks for the information. While we were not out to discredit Abraham as a bassist
—his life achievements speak volumes for his ability to play bass—from where we were standing, and for the brief time we were able to listen, we never heard or felt the lowest octaves rattle our rib cages. Not that the speakers can't reach that low—as by your own measurements and listening they dowe just did not experience it. No doubt more an issue of what he was playing, than the speakers' ability to go that low. Would loved to have spent more time or to come back again for a longer listen, but time was an issue. Please accept my apologies if I have misrepresented your product in any way.

What we did hear was very impressive and it appears that not only do you have a killer product, but one that meets the needs of one of the best bass players alive today. On the other hand, would loved to have heard Bill Laswell pay some dub-stylings through them...!

As to the Atma-Sphere amplifiers off to the side, again my apologies. From where we were standing in the back, we assumed he was playing through that set-up to get such powerful and dynamic presentation.

Dave Clark,
Editor


Hi Jim,
Thanks for review of the Xindak SCD-2. In Bob Levi's review of the SCD-2, he noted a very long warm-up period (3-4 hrs) and the importance of hi-end power cords.

Did you find, like Bob, that the player required an extended warm-up? I'm wondering if Bob received a new player and the extended warm-up was simply a break-in phenomenon. Also, did you experiment with power cords?

Thanks!

Wayne Breyer

Wayne,
It may've been the case that I reviewed the same unit that Bob did & had the benefit of a greater break in period. I did find that the player increased its resolution and audio enchantment as a function of warm up... so, at Dave Clark's urging, I left the unit on continuously. I did swap cords
not oftenand I found the usual sort of differences between very high-end cords (such as Nordost and Acoustic Zen) and the less expensive ones (such as the PS Audio's microlab), tho' the over all impact of that swapping was far less dramatic than I've found with, say, the McCormack DNA 500 amp or the Empirical Labs "Distressor" pro audio compressorboth of which reveal-in-spades the cord that drives them.

As far as the Xindak's personality goes, my reckonings of its slight eccentricity had more to do with its mechanical and digital locking features that with its sonority or response to electrical or audio in-put of any sort. I wanted the player to respond to its remote immediately & perfectly. It refused, preferring something more whimsical instead. One accepts its "joke" since it sounds so bloody good.

Cheers!

Jim Merod


Hi, David:
I noticed in the last issue of PF that you intend to review Kharma's Grand Ceramique. Are there plans afoot to review the company's Exquisite line of speakers, as well? I recently had a chance to hear a pair of the Exquisite Reference 1Ds, and that experience, quite simply, rocked my audio world. Enough for me to purchase a pair of the smaller Midi Exquisites, in fact. The Exquisites are horrendously expensive, but they're one of the few "ultra" speakers I consider even remotely worth the expense. I know the 1Bs were reviewed in The Absolute Sound a while back, but I think the newer Exquisites are worth a serious look. Granted, they may not be the most realistically priced transducer for most folks, but their level of overall sonic achievement is without peer in my book, and I think they deserve some time in the spotlight. Thanks!

Andy Claps

Hello Andy...
I have certainly been extremely impressed with the Kharma Grande Ceramiques... frankly, more so than with any other loudspeaker that I've ever had in my listening room.

If there is any possibility of doing a review of the Exquisites, we'll certainly pursue it.

And for me, that's very enthusiastic....

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Hi David,
I really value your online magazine and read with great interest, your Meitner review in Issue 7. As I understand it, you plan on reviewing the DAC6 again with the new Meitner transport. Could you please give me some sense of timing for this? Do you expect the results to be much different from the first review? Thanks.

Scott Rogers

Hello Scott...
I am planning on updating my impressions of the EMM Labs DAC6 when the new EMM Labs transport is available. The good folks there have promised me a transport just as soon as they're available.

The timing is tough to say. I do believe that EMM Labs intends to debut their new transport at CES 2004; sometime soon after that is when I would guess we'll see it here.

Do I expect the results to be much different than the first review? Well, I'd be very much surprised (read, "shocked!") if Ed and crew are not able to significantly better the sound of the Meitnerized Philips SACD 1000. My discussions with them over the past year indicate that they are quite confident the results will be a noticeable improvement over the current transport system.

Of course, the taste is in the pudding; I won't be able to confirm that until I hear it in operation here at PFO River City.

When I know, our readers will know.

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Hi guys,
Finally, someone reviews a speaker I spent a lot of rewarding time with a few years back ! I think the review does the speakers justice, with the following additions or comments: The speakers are pretty sensitive to placement. I experimented ad nauseum in my relatively small room, and had best results with the speaker propped about 8 inches off the floor on concrete blocks (cheap standins for real stands)... there was a persistent and steep dip in the 125 Hz region that this placement helped mitigate by getting the port away from the floor. My REL Storm subwoofer, carefully setup, also helped solve this problem. As one of you noted, the sound was better without the grilles; also, the speakers were best firing straight ahead rather than directed towards the
listener.

The huge strength of these speakers is the utterly flat midrange... as far as my RS SPL meter and I could tell, they were completely flat from the upper bass to the lower treble. Besides the 125 Hz dip I mentioned, there was also a siginificant peak around 6kHz, and the speakers cut off rather sharply after 12 kHz, accounting for the rather mellow presentation. After talking this over a little with the designer, I learned that without the 6kHz peak, the speaker sounds too dull. I even experimented with the alignment of the woofer, unscrewing it and removing the rubber surround whichpurposely of courseputs it 1 cm further forward than the tweeter. I discovered that this move greatly reduced the coherence of the sound (silly me, of course!).

The Preludes were sensitive to speaker cables, instantly distinguishing to the untrained ear (my girlfriend) the rather large sonic differences between a double run of 8TC and a pair of DH Labs Silver Sonics. The speakers were also very revealing of component upgrades. I used them with heavily modded Counterpoint hybrid electronics, which partly accounts for my experience of them as warm and full... Tom Campbell's experience of them as somewhat lean probably reflects his use of the Coda and Marsh amplifiers. By the way, I always thought their sensitivity was closer to 86 dBw/m than 91.5! They liked power, did really well on Bryston solid state, and poorly on flea powered amps. Their bass dynamics were very impressive when the recording (and amp) allowed it.

So thanks for the review. Their smaller siblings, the Duets, look very promising as well and it would be good to see a review of those... poor man's Merlin TSMs.

Cheers and Happy New Year !

Tom Schuman


Dave,
Many thanks for your response to my rant. It certainly isn't a crime or a fax paus in my view to have a "best" catagory(I didn't think you'd review something you hadn't heard in your own listening room!). And you're correct, we will not agree, nay, never, regarding certain aspects of reproduction that we find (as individuals) to reprersent what each of us consider with what ever adjectives we use to describe what we hear. Isn't this the fun? You say tomato, I say... I certainly enjoyed what the DCS did for CD as well as SACD especially with their transport reading the disc's (and of course lets not forget our particular CDs that we use as references) and I certainly didn't say I didn't thoroughly enjoy the EMM. It was excellent as well. I only used it as an example. My concern is that we fall into what is "best" as an absolute and with regards to what I read from Mr.Stern (with whom I agree)  this leads to a High-end audionervosa (biggest, best, newest). New people see the best as a defined "thing" and not a collection of different alternatives to achieving the best, a certain audio zealotry if you will, which can lead away from the goal.The best in a satisfying musical experience.

Thanks again for writing me back, you've made my day!

J(John)Dix

P.S. Of course I dig the gear too! I forgot to mention in all of this high browed discussion that I enjoy your publication and the fact you don't seem to have a political agenda. Wow. That IS different!

Hello again, John...

You're certainly welcome, though I didn't really see your comments as a "rant." You raised some good issues, ones that were worth responding to.

Quite true that fine audio, like any realm of personal taste and preference, is ruled by relativities. That's why I don't bother getting involved in the various absolutist dogfights in audio, and stay pretty mellow when it comes to reviewing. Our work here at Positive Feedback Online—so far as it pertains to reviewing—is a set of impressions, of reports from the front lines, that are, in the nature of things, contingent and indicative. They are a journal of audio discovery by our community, written in the hopes that they will prove helpful to others.

I haven't heard the dCS SACD system yet. If I ever do, and I liked the results, I would report it here at PFO. What I have heard and judged "the best" in my listening room, worthy of the Brutus Award for 2003 in its category...the EMM Labs Meitner DAC6...is given in that context, and not as an "absolute." Audiophilia nervosa is a pathetic form of obsession; we are trying to free people from such slavish behavior here at PFO! Once lovers of fine audio realize that they are at liberty to educate their senses...to move from "sense" to "sensibility"...then they are free to love what they love, and to do so intelligently, passionately, and without being threatened by the preferences of others.

And wouldn't that be something!

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Editor,
I really enjoyed your article, although it is incredulous (to these ears and eyes) that you could be so on target regarding all but exalting 'pile to such a lofty position. Not that I have any axe to grind, but please, TAS was, and is the 2 channel audio measuring stick.

TAS has lost my advertising dollar by allowing R Greene to dig his heels into B & M and the manufacturers who support them, in his speaker review 2 issues back. When called on the carpet, Harley paid me lip service, and I told him I would not advertise again until I saw an apology to all of us in his editorial- fat chance of that, but so goes the industry. Indeed, I saw the hand writing on the wall years ago, and began an educational website with online store hoping to reach the new blood that ALL mags ignored. Too little to late, I'm afraid. We are now left with generations of incest, and zero new hobbyists.

'Pile is akin to pabulum, and has been. Not that it wasn't often a fun read, with the likes of Corey G, and Sam of old.

Robert Hart
www.audiotweakers.com


Hello David,
I thought I would share this note and perhaps you know more than I...  I am always complaining of the poor quality of the recording industry...even high end labels...poor micing, mixing mastering, etc.

My friend goes to Brazil every year...brings back some very nice brands of jazz...I must say without exception, these labels, CD's, which are entirely in Portuguese are absolutely excellent, artistically, technically.

I wonder if the Brazilian love for music also goes into a more conscientious recording and mastering process???

Joseph Ciarrocca
Brunswick Maine

Hello Joseph...

There are certainly a lot of poor recordings/masterings/pressings being made in the music biz. Too many crappy gadgets, too many ham-handed cooks, spoiling the broth I think!

Many years ago I lived in Brasil; it's a wonderful place (and a disturbing one), filled with extraordinary music. I will never forget the escolas de samba on thousands of street corners during the week of Carnival in Rio... one of the most extraordinary experiences in my life!

I haven't listened to Brasilian recordings in quite a while, so can't comment on their relative quality, but I am tempted to speculate that there may be less opportunity to screw up the recordings than in many studios in the USA. An awful lot of these "half acre of mixing boards, companders, and Eqers"... plus the crummy zip cords, power supplies, and mics... simply need to be dropped into the nearest landfill and forgotten.

Fine recordings are more likely to be produced with simple, direct topologies populated with superior components that are well-matched, and well known, than by the witch's brew of trash that are very common even in smaller studios.

Any studio that practices "less is more; quality, not quantity" in its work is much more likely to produce excellent recordings... in Brasil, or the USA.

All the best,
 
david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Editor,

After reading this months(?) issue I see we (you) are following the Audiophile outline of magazine design and format. I have no problem with the recognition of products that show an advancement of the state of the art of our hobby.  I do however see sameness in all of the audio magazines either in print of on-line in that you have decided to chose one product in each of your audiophile catagories for "best" .

I am neither a neophyte nor an aged sage of the high-end, however, I've been around long enough to have noticed a particular trend in this pursuit of ours. This has to do with the choosing of a "best" product in a endevour that has more than one "best" at any given time because of the nature of the beast, i.e. the imperfection of the equipement and it's inability to deliver all the emotional content as well as complete technical accuracy required to achieve a level of performance above all others.

Since it is beyond doubt that no single component reproduces the absolute musical event absolutely it is to some that certain aspects of the playback of a given performance is reproduced by a given piece of gear in each catagory more accurately than another but not "in total"(all aspects of repro). Each one has it's weaknesses as well as strengths. My feeling is that you have a group of as few as two or three or as many as you can justify that are at defining the state of our art than the majority. Some are better at reproducing dynamics and detail while others are better at the emotional end or the overall sense of a musical performance in the total but lacking in one aspect.

As an example you have designated the EMM 6 as the state of the art in digital playback (please don't play the "industry so states" card). I agree it is one of the most detailed and enjoyable processors I have had to priveledge to listen to. It is also slighty forward in the upper mid and treble range and can be somewhat fatigueing in long listening sessions.

I am not disagreeing with your selection other than to say there others that excel in other areas of digital playback and could be included (Bermester, Goldman, DCS,etc) in this particular catagory. I guess I'm saying that maybe it is time we have catagories of "best" that that include more than one manufacturer (if warrented) that bring a level of musical enjoyment that are above the rest. I've read other publications that had class "A", "B", "C", etc, and now show a class 'A+". What's that?

My apologise for the long winded diatribe but this is a subject that seems to be in the "How To" section in putting together an audio mag. We need to take a different look at how we define "the best".

Best Regards,
J. Dix

Interesting points, Mr. Dix. In response, the following:

1. Without debating the etymology of "best,"  I would say that I agree with you that selecting a "one best" can be misleading. This is why I stated explicitly in my introductory comments that our selections would be based upon components that we had personally heard, and that any no-mentions would not be indicative of a lack of merit, but only of lack of personal experience in our listening rooms. In other words, our selections would be indicative, not exhaustive. Assume that there are other worthy designs in existence...I do!

2. Your suggested model seems to me to drift from the "Audiophile outline of magazine design and format" (I'm not sure what you mean here) to a Stereophile or TAS model, in which there are a number of products in a category. As I stated in my introduction, beginning in 2004 we will be involving the larger PFO editorial/review group and their personal experiences/choices in our selection process. At that point, there may well be a larger pool of selections per type, recognizing something that we at PFO have been saying for a very long time now:  that system/room synergies are at the heart of what produces excellence in audio...and that a given component may do superbly in one setting, and poorly in another. There is a certainly relativity at work here.

3. A very fine example of this is your assessment of the EMM Labs DAC6. My experience of the DAC6 disagrees with yours quite fundamentally. Slightly forward in upper mid and treble? Somewhat fatiguing in long listening sessions? Not in my experience! Nay, never! We will agree agreeably to disagree here.

4. Re: Burmester, Goldman, dCS...the first two have not been in my listening room, so I cannot comment on them. I have had the dCS Elgar/Purcell system in place for an extended listen, courtesy of the good folks at Audiophile Systems (thanks Gary Warzin!) I did not find the sound on standard CD playback in my system to be nearly as compelling in comparison, say, with the Linn CD-12, much less the EMM Labs DAC6. I have not commented on the SACD playback of the dCS gear, since I have never heard it. Once more, as I noted in my introduction, the Brutus awards are based on listening in our listening rooms. If I were to get a Burmester/Goldman/dCS system in for review, then I could consider it for a given year's Brutus award...otherwise, it cannot due to a lack of empirical contact... not due to a lack of merit.

5. Re: "A," "B," "C," "A+," etc....this is a model that Stereophile has used for many years now, and that TAS under Robert Harley has developed, with their own structure. Twice per year, Stereophile does a "Components of the Year" update; I don't know the periodicity of TAS's taxonomy. These systems allow for what you're advocating:  a method of recognizing a number of worthy designs in each category, with layers designating levels of subjective appraisals of performance. These are organized as continuums of quality; "C" is, roughly speaking, "not bad/OK" through "A+," a relatively newer category roughly mapping to "Superb, the best currently known to us." (Check with Stereophile's April or October...as I recall!...issues for details as to the meaning of each category.)

This is not something that I envision doing here at PFO. The idea behind the Brutus awards is for PFO to tip our hat to "the best" that we've been listening to over the past year, plus recognize people who have made substantial and ongoing contributions to fine audio (the Lifetime Achievement awards) or to audiomaniac extremities (the Gizmo award). We hope that our readers find it to be helpful and...as I said...indicative.

The "best" is indeed a tricky thing to appraise. Ultimately, every lover of fine audio has to listen, read various sources (of which Positive Feedback Online is one), and educate himself or herself. Then one is in a better position to know where to go on one's own audio voyage. It is in that spirit that the Brutus awards were developed, and are offered to our readers.

All the best,
 
david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com

 

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