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Positive Feedback ISSUE 18
march/april 2005


Our readers respond…we respond right back!

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Dear Editors
One interesting tweak is putting a humidifier in the listening room. This reduces static electricity, and it also makes the air slightly heavier, giving the sound more impact. Do not make the room too humid, however.

I am be wrong, but if we remember our high-school chemistry course, the molecular weight of H2O or steam is 2 hydrogen plus 1 oxygen which equals 2*1 + 1*1 = 18. Whereas the molecular weight of air is around 28. Hence, steam is lighter than air and adding humidity to the room makes the air lighter. So, I don't know what Clay is thinking, but I think he's got it backwards.

Russell DeAnna, Anniston, Alabama

Hi Mr. Robinson,
I hope that this letter finds you in both good health & spirits.

This is in regards to an email that I've had with John Acton on the subject of sharing his views of both the ProAc Tablette Reference 8 Signatures (see John's review in this issue) and the Quad Model 11 L which he owns. As someone who owns the former, yet have considered purchasing the latter as an alternate pair for obtaining something of a different sound from my system, I've noticed there hasn't been much written about either of these in the American audio press. I thought this review could be of the up most importance to those of us who own and truthfully adore both of these aforementioned mini-monitors. It's a rarity to come across reviewers who share a view as to the overall importance of said speaker systems, and who also can relate to the fact that many of us also love integrated amps as well.

I, for one, have been looking forward to such reviews for quite some time now, and would be honored to read his findings. Could you please consider adding this to the newer reviews being offered soon? Like my other favorite sources for audio-related information, and HiFi+, you all have become the best sources for educated consumers. I, for one, visit your site more than four times daily. (I must admit to missing your magazine in paper form. I still own several copies from the late 90s.)

I shall await your response to my letter of hope.

Sincerely Yours,
Oscar L. Johnson
Mini - Monitor Lover @ Large

Hello Oscar...

I'm glad to hear that you've found PFO, together with (an exceptional publication, by the way) and HiFi+, to be useful audio resources.

John Acton certainly has my blessing to comment on any aspect of the ProAcs, Quads, and integrated amplification. It's an important subset of audio design and configuration, to my way of thinking.

If John decides to pursue this, he'll notify Dave Clark, and we'll queue the project up in our "Coming Soon" section.

As to Positive Feedback in paper and ink:  yes, it was fun, and print publication will always be special...but frankly, I'm enjoying web-based publication a lot more. In this format, we can do much more to serve our readers than was ever possible before. And that's the most important thing
to me.

All the best,


David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

Dear Editors
With regards to the review of the Decware 1.5 loudspeakers in Issue 17, let me respond to the following by Jennifer Crock.

"According to Steve Deckert, the radial driver circumvents the problem of room reflections that can confound imaging with many forward-firing speakers."

Actually, omnidirectional or torroidial pattern acoustic radiation only ADDS to the amount and the complexity of the room reflections. The ratio of direct to reflected sound is also different from narrow radiation speakers, actually generating more total reflected energy! The sound from Omni or torroid radiation pattern speakers IS pleasant, and the complex reflected energy seems to be integrated less by the brain's Hass effect, than in less complex short reflection path setups. This results in an 'apparent' increase in resolution, by actually reducing the comb filter effects our brain internally creates when confronted with simple reflected waves inside the time window of the Hass Integration Zone. Jennifer Crock

While it’s true the 360 degree wave propagation adds to the amount and complexity of room reflections—lets not overlook the fact that those reflections are at 1/12th the amplitude. The result is similar to having all four walls covered with quadratic diffusers that bust the direct beam of sound (30 degrees) from a conventional speaker into a return reflection pattern of a 180 degree hemi-disk. The reflections are both reduced in amplitude and delayed in time enough so that the brain can easily distinguish them from the direct energy of the loudspeaker. This is difficult with conventional speakers in all but the most ideally treated listening rooms. A more detailed explanation can be found in the white papers for the Radial Loudspeaker.

Steve Deckert

Dear Sirs
Srajan notes in his article Chips and Bile ("Why is it that audiophiles as a group tend to be so war-like, so ready to pick up the axe and whip to bash skulls and open skin on anyone who disagrees? It's nearly as bad as religious persecution or the unyielding stance of racial intolerance."

For the same reason people once burned "witches" at the stake—or categorically opposed the (then) notion that the earth moves around the sun: ignorance.

Ignorance or misunderstanding of how devices work, why they work or do not work.

Further on, Srajan writes, "The enjoyment of music is a predominantly emotional matter."

I strongly concur. To take this a little further, we must remember that it is a system (hi-end paraphernalia and the various peripherals) that reproduces this music at our homes—this music being the one responsible for our emotional involvement & reaction.

In any "discussion" of paraphernalia, two important things come to play:

a) It is very difficult to rationalize upon our emotional reaction to music—indeed it is difficult to rationalize emotion (whether musical or other), full-stop.

b) Rational (or rationalistic) comments regarding paraphernalia and peripherals (tweaks, etc) invariably engender an emotional, rather than rational, response from interlocutors.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: we all concur that music creates an emotional reaction, speaking into humans’ psyche. In this light, any question placed upon any piece of equipment (that serves to create this reproduced musical experience) can, and often is, construed as an attack on this very (emotional) experience—rather than the device, i.e. the object, of discussion.

Of course, there is often an obvious non-sequitur between such comments and their emotional corollary responses—which only serves to open the chasm between interlocutors leading more often than not to a "dialogue de sourds" (dialogue of deaf persons) as the French say.

Ultimately, the sort of "new age" credo, "if you can hear it (i.e. it touches you emotionally for whatever reason)—that’s what counts", may be the best way out of the deadlocks.

Otherwise, we’re all part of a fraternity where all’s well—but when it comes to the nitty gritty, the cudgels and the staves come out.



Dear Editor,
I read with interest Jim Olson's review of the Levinson 33H. His comparison to the Lamm M1.2 was most edifying. Of particular interest to me was his description of the 33H's dynamics and sound stage presentation. The Levinson brand (NOT a company, by the way, as he suggests) has been around for many years and I can recall hearing demonstrations in years past wherein my impressions of the Levinson house sound I would have to describe as on the polite side of neutral; very smooth but detailed. Enough so that I had never seriously considered their pre and power amplification for my own system. Just a little laid back for my tastes. In fact, one of the things I prize very much in my own system is dynamic headroom.

However, a couple of years ago while visiting a friend in the Portland area we stopped by a local audio emporium which sold Levinson gear. We were treated to a demonstration of an all Levinson system driving the high end Revel speakers. The presentation was so intense that I felt literally pinned to my chair and after several minutes had to turn off the sound, feeling that I needed a rest from the onslaught. The combination of the very dynamic Revels with the also very dynamic Levinson amplification lent new meaning to the term "bleeding edge". Unfortunately, it was my ears that were doing the bleeding. I wouldn't characterize the sound as bright, exactly. Just painfully intense. Needless to say, based on my prior experience with Levinson gear, I had not been prepared for what I heard.

I mentioned this experience on one of the internet audio forums once and was immediately pounced upon by a Levinson fan who criticized my choice of demo material as the problem rather than the system. Those who have read Jim's review however will note that he specifically mentions that these amps made even bad recordings sound good. I have played this same music on many other systems and have never had a repeat of the Levinson/Revel experience.

I suspect that it was more a matter of synergy than of good or bad recording or equipment per se and makes a very good case for a thorough home audition of gear one might be considering, especially at this price point. Too bad while Jim had both the Levinson and Lamm gear he didn't try a little bi-amping with the Levinsons on the Puppy's and the Lamms on the Watts. That might have been a killer combination; a pocketbook killer for sure.

Thanks Jim, for the great review!

Will Wright
Seattle, Washington

Hi there,
Just read your Kondo cable review on PF and I am about to do something I haven't done in a long while. That is... enthusiastically agree with a professional reviewer!

I have been a long time fan of Kondo San's finest cables. I've had AN-Vz interconnects and AN-SPz speaker cables since 1998, and over the years have eventually gotten and added KSL-LP, KSL-Vz, KSL-SPz and of course the biggest surprise of all: the KSL-SPc.

Right now I use Living Voice Auditorium Avatar OBXR2 which has an outboard xover and therefore require 4 pairs of cable, and I use 4 runs of KSL-SPC on it and the sound is supremely natural, big and dynamic.

Anyway, I totally agree with your review. I have heard a lot of cables—including the over rated ridiculously priced stuff like Siltech, Transparent, MIT, NBS etc but none of these have the ebb and flow, the timing, the organic wholeness, the timbral naturalness, and realistic micro/macrodynamic expression of Kondo San's cables.

Just wanna say congrats on a job well done!


Hansen Dy
Manila, Philippines

Dear Hansen Dy,
First, thanks very much for seconding my observations regarding the Kondo cables. It's always gratifying to have one's subjective impressions corroborated.

The Kondo cables do offer something special, but one has to be ready to accept it. It's all too easy to make your high-end stereo sound spectacular and impress people. In the long haul, the spectacular becomes tiring. One has to renounce this in order to accept the Kondo's naturalism.

But keep in mind the high cost of the top Kondo wires—not everyone can afford them. These folk are lucky, 'cause the Kondo sound can be gotten in the affordable SPc speaker cable.

Marshall Nack

Iron Man Seeks Protoge to Carry the Torch

Pay crappy.
Hours long.
Must provide own solid shoes.
No dweebs.
Must be able to talk to people and look real interested.
Quick grasp of quantum dot technology useful.
Ability to walk fast essential.
Triathlete training a plus.
Must be a compulsive obsessive... no exceptions*.
Ability to deal with quirky off-kilter personalities (other than your
own) goes without saying. But we felt compelled to make it clear.
(And you will be tutored by the Iron Man himself... you poor bastard.)

Send resume to

Iron Man (ret'd)
c/o PFO

*The Equal Opportunities Act be damned.

Dear Sir,
I find it hard to believe that you allow Fown-Ming Tien to review AV123 products. Under the screen name "Mad Dog" he has over 2500 posts on the AV123 forum and the the phrase "Hooked on Onix" under his screen name. He is known to have a more than a customer-client relationship with Mark L. Shifter of AV123. It is very hard to believe he is being objective in his reviews of AV123 products given the above. I applaud your willingness to review consumer direct products. I know AV123 has some good products but please use reviewers that will not raise the question of bias. I think Mr. Tien's relationship with AV123 should be reviewed, "given the open and voluntary nature of the artistic and editorial community here, with its self-monitored standards of excellence..." 


Chris Quinn

Well Chris, what I see in your email is an awful lot of innuendo and hearsay ("He is known to have...", etc.), and not much else. And since I have no idea of who you are, or what your interests/motives/conflicts of interest might be, I'm sure you'll excuse me for taking your "hard to believe" with a ton or two of hard rock salt. 

A data point or three for you: 

1. I have no problems with a PFO reviewer being enthusiastic about a product/product line, especially since I do not believe that "objectivity" exists in human experience. (Dispassion, perhaps; objectivity, no.) Fown is welcome to participate in open audio forums, the same way that you or I are. 

Or to put it another way: passionate advocacy is not a sin in my book. Actually, I see it as a virtue. 

2. Whether you understand/agree or not, most fine audio reviewers are "biased" towards products that they like. And guess what? That's what they usually review! 

Me, I always dated women that I was attracted to, smoke cigars I enjoy, and sip only the single malts or Ports that connect with me; I reckon you do the same. (And if not—why not?) 

Fine audio reviewing is very much like that, you know. 

Fown may be "Hooked on Onix"; for me right now, it's Wavac, EMM Labs, Walker Audio, Magic Diamond, JENA Labs, Cardas, Omega Mikro, darTZeel, Linn, E.A.R.... well, you get the picture. And guess what? I'm likely to review more products from these fine folks. If Fown really likes AV123, I'll probably see more reviews from him on the line. I don't have a problem with that... as a matter of fact, that's exactly what I expect to see from a reviewer who's really taken with a product line. 

3. What I do require of our editors/reviewers is that there be no quid pro quo, no corruption, no secret, undisclosed business relationships with fine audio firms (all such relationships are fully disclosed at PFO), no violation of the integrity of the review process, and no misuse of either their position with the magazine, or the reputation of PFO.

I have terminated writers more than once for proven (see that word "proven"?) transgressions; you may be sure that I would do so again, without hesitation, at need. 

In other words: Our writers are free to be passionate in their reviewing, but they are NOT allowed to fake orgasms.

What they say they love, what they praise, must be truthful and real. Only in this way can our readers be alerted to designs that they may likewise be passionate about. 

Makes sense to me, anyway. 

You are welcome to review our "Big Ten," an internal PFO document that we published back in Issue 6 at

You'll also find it on our home page (where no one can miss it) at

Those are the principles that have guided us for many years, not "objectivity," that vast null set. 

I am glad that you do appreciate our openess to reviewing consumer-direct products; like our reviews of modified products, our publication of DIY, and our reviews of classic audio gear, we seek to give PFO readers a much broader perspective. 

Which is what I hope you have now.

All the best,


David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

Dear Chris (Tex-amp)
Thank you for your email. Since David Robinson has already replied to your email in great detail, I will only address your accusation that my relationship with Mark Schifter is more than that of customer-client. Your accusation, entirely unfounded and without any truth, is rather amusing to me. While I will admit that our relationship on a personal level has developed into a mutual friendship due to the great respect we hold for each other; when it comes to my relationship with his company as a reviewer, this remains one that is purely professional in nature. Although you seem to be closely following my reviews, I find it interesting that you failed to mention that I have reviewed a good number of other non-AV123 products and that other than the Onix H34 tube amp, my current two channel system contains no other products from AV123,

Fown-Ming Tien

Hello Mr. Robinson,
I've just read your review of the EMM Labs DAC6e. I understand that at some point they're planning on bringing out a 2-channel version of this unit. That would be great for my purposes, when teamed up with the CDSD transport.

Currently I own a Reimyo CDP777 which, IMHO, is pretty close to SOTA for Redbook CD playback. I'm wondering if there are any more "steps up" I can take for CD playback, apart from Zanden and dCS? I've listened to the Weiss products but didn't quite like the sound when combined with my Gryphon equipment.

Am I correct in thinking that it appears that the EMM Labs products are geared towards SACD playback, with the CD playback being secondary?? Given that, combined with your having used the EMM for some length of time, how is it's Redbook CD playback vs. other SOTA digital sources?? At about $22K for the EMM pair, the price point is appealing - but I'm most interested in Redbook CD playback.

Any words of wisdom or feedback would be greatly appreciated and held in confidence.


L.J. Phillips.

Hello LJ...

You'll be pleased to hear that the EMM Labs DCC2 stereo processor/preamp has been in production for over a year, and is such a stellar performer that I gave it a PFO 2004 Brutus Award. (See its award and performance summary in PFO Issue 16, at It's a wonderful design in every way. You can obtain pricing and order from Jonathan Tinn:

The EMM Labs CDSD is likewise a "top o' the heap" SACD/CD fact, I am listening to mine as I sit here writing to you. (Telarc's Hohvaness: Mysterious Mountain, the smashing St. Helens! It's exceptional, and synergizes completely with the DCC2.

Don't worry about CD playback via the EMM Labs gear. I own a Linn CD-12, and can tell you that the EMM Labs gear, which oversamples and undecimates the Redbook PCM signal, then sends it to the DSD converter for processing (lovely, lovely!), is top-flight in CD playback, as well. I prefer its sound to that of the CD-12, as I pointed out nearly two years ago when I first heard the EMM Labs system.

So you need not worry about holding my views in confidence; I've long since made them known in print, LJ.

I would say that you can proceed with confidence. The EMM Labs gear is my current reference system on both the SACD and CD side of the'll be delighted either way.

I certainly am.

All the best,


David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

I was very intrigued by your comments on the CyberLight and integrateds in general. Well I am here to tell you that done properly an integrated can be a superb product. This was clearly evident with Kevin Hayes latest creation the PHI BETA Integrated. I recently took delivery of the PHI BETA Integrated 110, but first must tell you that it replaced the PHI 110 stand alone amp and VAC preamp (I had a VAC REN preamp and auditioned my friends VAC PHI Preamp with the PHI 110) and the PHI Integrated is definitely superior to the separates and quite frankly the best audio I have heard period. Perhaps its the 100 pound amp AND 42 pound power supply with two umbilical cords 6 feet away from the Integrated, separately powering the amp and preamp sections.

Well, leave it to the brainchild of Kevin Hayes to not only 'get it right', but frankly knock it out of the park.

Dynamics of SS with the magic of tubes, I really hope you get a chance to audition one of these, it's Kevin's best to date IMHO. Now, if I hook up my DAC to the integrated with the CyberLight... hmmmm... one step at a time!

Keep up the great reviews!


Howdy Scott...

Well this is bloody good news! I have been haunting my good friend Kevin to get me the VAC Phi Beta Integrated ASAP. He's I'm going to hold him to it. (Fair warning, Kevin!)

Your report parallels several that I've been hearing from round and about, but I have yet to hear the PBI for myself. Kevin and I spent quite a while talking in his room at THE Show. I was very impressed by the profile of features and specifications that he enumerated for me; the VAC Phi Beta Integrated appears to be a stellar combination of features and performance. I'd just like to be able to confirm that for myself, here in PFOland, River City Branch.

We'll see. Kevin, you listening?


All the best, and thanks for the encouraging report, Scott. Glad to hear that you are enjoying PFO. We work very hard to make it a worthy read....

All the best,


David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

I have been a reader/subscriber to Positive Feedback and a litany of other audio musings long before my hair turned grey and waist band matters became lifestyle conversation. I am a life-long collector of music, in particular LPs, and have amassed a considerable collection that range in genre and style that, to me, reflects a life well spent with a mistress of music and sound. My audio equipment is like good wine, easy on the senses, a mix of analog playback and vacuum tubes; sounds manifested to beauty by Nova Evolutions (aka Big Boyz), original design by Murray Zeligman.

But beauty or not, I never met a LP that I did not have a love/hate relationship with respect to pops 'an clicks and all the the other noises emitted from those black discs. I appreciate the the joys and difficulties expressed by PF contributors Robert Levy, Myles Astor, and Roger Gordon in their vinyl sojourns, each with a different twist, a different solution, but they, as most audio contributors, have yet to discourse on a process to clean vinyl records which integrates with all types of record cleaning fluids, all types of record cleaning machines or manual efforts to deeply remove gunk, thereby leaving the groves and only the groves to reach ever closer to the music, the listener, the experience.

I have experimented with scores of different methods to clean vinyl records but none made a difference akin to my desires. That was until several years ago when I lashed upon several ideas, one I shall disclose that is so simple and so radically different that LPs are actually freed to modulate that encoded in the groves, usually no gunk(s) included. The process has been successful, increasing the "love" and decreasing "hate" via LPs .


I use steam to clean vinyl records. Yes, steam. In my opinion, the process is relatively simple, inexpensive and has no drawbacks. To steam clean, I adapted a hand held homemaker consumer product to clean the groves of new and used vinyl, generally, as a pre-cleaning to further record cleaning whether mechanical or manual, with or without record cleaning fluids. I discovered that all fluids home-brew or audiophile do leave a sonic "fingerprint" that is easily eliminated by a final quick-steam and vacuuming. Many of the attributes attributed to expensive recording cleaning fluids can be easily duplicated with the use of steam. I personally use ultra-pure water inexpensively purchased by the gallon from auto-parts retailers.

Some notes of caution: USE COMMON SENSE - steam can scald: Use only consumer hand held steamers such as the "Hot Shot" or "Shark" stripped of all adapters and NEVER touch the vinyl recordings with the steam nozzle. Be mindful steam will remove only the gunk , never the imperfections created by imperfect manufacturing or abuse. I have found that the process of steaming first, cleaning second, light steaming and drying third works for me. So do your self a favor and "Get Steamed"


Charles Rehm 

Hello Charles...
Thanks for sending along this interesting idea. I don't quite know if my stomach is up to the thought of steaming my LPs (might work with Miles Davis, though!), but this is an approach that I haven't heard of before.

PFO readers, take note: Use approaches like these at your own risk. All standard disclaimers apply. Etc.

And may your tics 'n pops fade away....

All the best,


David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

I have been following your reviews of the Harmonic Technology CyberLights. It seems to me and maybe others that the significant improvement noted makes a strong case for buying a high quality integrated, thereby eliminating the nasties caused by the IC between amp and preamp. Your thoughts?

Michael Condon

You make an interesting point, Michael. Certainly we have seen that there are times in fine audio when "less [path] is more." For example, I think back to the early and middle 1990's, when there was such a proliferation of PCM digital processing chains: transports, converters...then anti-jitter and additional processing boxes. It got to the point that I saw combinations of gear that would either fail to link-lock, or would lose the link intermittently. It was too much.

Not good!

On the other hand, integrateds face the challenge of other trade-offs: how to find the highest degree of combined functions, without significantly compromising performance. You are right that integrateds lose some of the signal path, but they do so by increasing the proximity of a multiplicity of functions, some of which are not necessarily good neighbors. Power supplies, shielding, EMI, optimal signal pathing, thermal dispersion, function control, optimal performance, assembly considerations...all of these enter into the mix. Inevitably, multiple design parameters (e.g., power output, optimal signal pathing, thermal dispersion, power supply) have to be less than they could be, simply to gain the physical proximity that an integrated must have. That's why I've been willing to live with longer preamp to amp signal paths, even with the RFI and coloration issues, just because I preferred to try to solve that problem rather than compromise on the others.

Then again, different pokes for different may prefer a different set of listening room challenges, which is perfectly fine.

I am doing two things to address this question personally, and which I will share with our readers in due time:

1. evaluate the Harmonic Technology CyberLights in my own listening room, and assure myself that the IC's involved in the analog-to-photonic conversion sound good; and,

2. review a high quality integrated. Kevin Hayes of VAC has promised to send along his very promising VAC Phi Beta integrated; if he gets it here in a timely fashion, I hope to share my impressions of it before year's end.

All the best,


David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

Just wanted to extend my kudos to Mr. Beard, for it is the love of music and not the equipment that makes the audiophile.

L.J. Phillips

Dear Mr. Phillips,
Your kind words are greatly appreciated.

I still enjoy audio, but have avowed to never again allow the process to take precedence. I have recently decided to build a new 2 channel system, albeit a more modest one. I am going to continue writing for PFO, having a new focus on lower cost components that offer excellent value for the audiophile on a budget. From now on, I am going to enjoy listening as well as writing (hopefully) good reviews in the bargain. One thing I can promise, I will never again be reviewing gear by listening to one "great" track over and over and over and over…

Cheers, and thanks for reading.


Dear Editor,
Are there any plans for a review of this new speaker ? I had the opportunity to hear the VR9's recently, but it's too expensive. Kevin told me about the 7's. But I would like a professional review opinion before I pluck down 30 big ones. By the way the 9's were probably the best speakers I've ever heard. Thanks to Jonathan Tinn of Chambers Audio and his customer Andrew Clamps for setting up the audition. There is such a great camaraderie amongst we audiophiles.

Redell Napper

Hello Redell...
At this point, having done the VSR 4's pretty thoroughly, I'm hoping to get a pair of the VSR 9's in the door here for a review, though I wouldn't mind doing the 7's as well. This is still at the discussion stage, so we can't promise anything yet.

As a former owner of the original VSR-4's, the VSR-4 Silver Edition, and the VSR-6's years ago, I am a fan of Albert's brilliant design work. If it's up to me, PFO will be doing a lot more work with the VSR line, Redell. We'll post any scheduled project in our "Coming Soon" section.

And you're quite right: Jonathan Tinn is a very special person, who always does things in a superlative way. In my experience, there's no better dealer in fine audio than Jonathan.

All the best,


David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online