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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 25
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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

 

Lynn,
Congratulations—you are virtually the first reviewer (in America, anyway) to challenge the virtues of the hi-rez media. Other reviewers have criticized hi-rez's sound, most notably Jon Valin of The Absolute Sound. But none of these guys laid it out graphically as to WHY it was not the answer that we all thought it was back in the late 1990's.

I guess J. Peter Moncrieff was the first - but his reports aren't widely read. Moncrieff was muckraking DSD way back in 1998—he knew what was going on. It's just sad that most others in our industry didn't or that it took so long for them to find out. It is sobering to have the grim realities of hi-rez finally come to light. The technical points J. Peter makes on DSD-SACD do hold up, except the 6 bit thing—but even that may have merit. As for DVD-A, it will never happen—given the impossible demands it places on both the power supply and converter. No way!!!!!!

It's a miracle that Red Book has progressed as far as it has, given The Great Diversion. This refers to the six-year wild goose chase that had many designers playing up to Big Corporations rather than investigating new and innovative ways to improve an already established (and scientifically accepted) audio format. Imagine how much progress would have been made—David Chesky echoed these thoughts in his Stereophile interview last year. Now, we'll just have to wait a little longer to see how good Red Book can really get.......

John Phelan

P.S. If done right, (it appears) we can extract 18 to 19 bits of information from Code Red - more reasons to keep on trucking !!!


To The Editor,
I wanted to take a moment to write in praise of two fantastic reviews that were just recently posted to your website. Marshall Nack's review of the MBL preamp and Sasha Matson's review of the PMC FB1+ speakers were two of the best of their type I've read anywhere recently. The Nack review in particular not only painted a complete aural picture of the MBL preamp, it also in its two comparisons gave me detailed thumbnail sketches of the Audio Note M77 and the Lamm Reference preamp. It was the kind of helpful comparison that used to be commonplace in  The Absolute  Sound, a magazine that is now a shadow of its former self. Though every single one of the aforementioned preamps is out of my price range I feel enriched for having read about them and I'm excitedly looking forward to Mr. Nack possibly reviewing the MBL 6011.

On to Sasha Matson's review, she? is right about the paucity of PMC reviews in American publications. I read a number of British magazines and so I've read numerous positive reviews of their speaker, but none that conveyed the outright enthusiasm of Matson's review. When I was finished I literally went right over to Audiogon and did a search for PMC, and I truly love my current monitors.

All in all, kudos to your two reviewers and to the editor that encouraged their thoroughness. If this is what I have to look forward in Positive Feedback, I'm very excited. Please pass this letter on to the two reviewers personally, and I don't care one way or the other if you post in on your site, I merely hope to encourage similar such outbursts from these two and your other reviewers as well. Good stuff!

Cheers,

Jonathan Daniels

Hello Jonathan...

Thanks for the kind words. Both Marshall and Sasha (who is quite male, by the way) write reviews that combine meticulousness with enthusiasm, a fine combination. Marshall's work is notable for his nuanced comparisons of components, accessories and system enhancements, while Sasha excels in his ability to connect a composer's soul (like David Chesky, he is an audio lover who writes marvelous orchestral music) with audio systems.

Outbursts! Yep, fine audio could use more creative explosions, all right.

I am pleased that you enjoy their writing, and Positive Feedback Online — we certainly have a great time publishing it!

All the best,

david


Dear David,
As a emmlabs owner (CDSD and DCC2) it was with great interest that I read your review of the new Signature Edition equipment. I was especially interested given the publicity and controversy that these additions have brought on Audiogon recently.

As there is no mention of the Signature Edition line on the emmlabs.com webpage, many people have been questioning the differences between the original units and the upgraded SE units. We understand there is now an upgrade path for the DAC6e and DCC2. Yet, Jonathan Tinn has repeatedly stated that the CDSD Signature Edition, is essentially unchanged compared to the last iteration of this transport. It was suggested that the Signature moniker was only added to this piece to complement the upgraded DCC2 SE and DAC6e SE units.

Therefore, I was interested to read that you noticed the following:

…and then I added the EMM Labs CDSD Signature transport…

…to the mix. When the EMM Labs package arrived with the new CDSD, I pulled the previous generation CDSD transport from my system and installed the new transport. Like the DAC 6e Signature, the CDSD Signature looks slimmer than its predecessor. There is also a slight redesign of the logo area. Of greater interest to me was the fact that the metal tray of its predecessor was replaced with a new plastic tray with a more definite scoop, minimizing the possibility of loading errors. The action is pleasantly quiet, with good TOC load times.

After letting the unit warm up in repeat mode for a few hours, I sat down to listen to a highly agreeable recent SACD, the Mozart Gran Partita with the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble on NBELive.

The results were no less than startling. As much as the DAC 6e Signature improved on the 6e, so did the CDSD Signature transport over the prior generation…and the combination together was dynamite!

So, I am not sure why you noticed an improvement over your older CDSD, if in fact the SE remains unchanged in the line. Perhaps, the difference is because you had one of the original transports with the metal tray and the plastic tray transport does sound different ? Or perhaps, this relates to strictly the change produced strictly from your replacing the DAC6e SE in your chain.

I would love some clarification.

Thank you.

Lawrence Title

Hello Lawrence...

You raise an interesting point. The version of the CDSD that I had in my system formerly was the first edition of that unit with the sculpted metal tray. (The CDSD that I received for review was a version from very early in the product life cycle.) The CDSD Signature Edition now in my system has the plastic tray, which is much more definite in operation and definitely improved in sound over that earlier model. The reference that I made to a "predecessor" assumed the metal tray, as I made clear in my comments.

As I reported, this newer transport system was certainly an improvement over what I had in my system previously.

I do know that anyone who has the metal tray version of the CDSD should notice a substantial improvement in the CDSD Signature version.

I hope this clarifies things for you, Lawrence.

All the best,

David W. Robinson


Editor:
Will there be further information on the RUR CD burner/player product Clark Johnsen fulsomely praises in the foreseeable future? If so, can you give me some idea of when? Or is this another of those products like Microsoft periodically announces, that greatly raise anticipation levels and then never get to market?

Thank you for your attention,

Clyde Lindsay

Clark Johnsen replies:

Mr. Lindsay confuses operational description with praise; as for "fulsomely" I'm sorry he found such mere description "offensively flattering or insincere" (American Heritage Dictionary) but I guess there's no accounting for taste. Where praise was raised, was by reviewers who will shortly be publishing their own pieces, which accounted for the non-attributions.

(Speaking of the dictionary, here’s this informative Usage Note: “Fulsome is often used to mean “offensively flattering or insincere.” But the word is also used, particularly in the expression fulsome praise, to mean simply “abundant,” without any implication of excess or insincerity. This usage is etymologically justified but may invite misunderstandings in contexts in which a deprecatory interpretation could be made.”)

In response to my inquiry, designer Mark Porzilli wrote:

We have begun shipping the Memory Player in its most basic form, a digital drive only. The first run of Digital Drive Memory Players was sold out and the second run is now under construction; these we hope to ship in June.

We are trying to release the Memory Player with the tubed 32bit DAC in June as well although it might be “safer” to say July as actual production tends to have unexpected surprises.

The photography for the brochures, ads and websites was completed just last Friday. We do have a beta website where most information is correct BUT please be mindful of that qualification: www.memoryplayer.info Nova Physics has phone support toll free at: 1-877-272-1567. Or you may email our head of sales (George Bischoff) at george@novaphysics.com 

If it's any consolation to this gent, we are not a vaporware house. Melos & Pipedreams were very well known internationally, love them or hate them — 27 years all told.

So far ALL MPs have been sold to reviewers and the second run is similarly committed. None have yet been released to non-industry folk nor dealerships but we are virtually signed up with distributors in New Zealand & Germany. I expect the latter to suffer delays as the components to build 220v MPs are not in yet.

The first top of the line Memory Player with the 32bit tubed DAC will be going to Harry Pearson.


Hi Lynn,
Thanks for the added insight into the issues with SACD. I sure wish it was different and that all recordings were either analog or true DSD, and that all new releases were hybrid SACD. I just don't see hat happening. Actually, your article makes it seem even worse than I had anticipated, as I wrote mine purely from a consumer viewpoint.

Will you be at HE or VTV next week?

Steve Lefkowicz
Senior Assistant Editor, Positive Feedback Online

Well, Steve, I see the inexpensive SACD burner (widely deployed in PC's and Macs) as non-negotiable. HD DVD burners are coming very soon, H.264 full-resolution HD can be burned in existing DVD burners, and any modern dual-processor computer can edit and burn HD video with its 15 to 18 M/bps signal. Heck, I have two new computers that can do this: my AMD X64 3800+ dual, and my dual G5 2.7GHz Macintosh, both with drives over 250 GB, and both supporting 1080P displays with DVI and VGA outputs.

So the "computers aren't powerful enough for DSD" argument is a complete crock—DSD is not harder to process than HD video, with its severe requirements of very high compression and decompression ratios which have to be accomplished on-the-fly. The glaring absence of prosumer-priced Firewire-based (Firewire was specifically designed for HD video and multichannel high-res audio) ADC/DACs and Plextor-quality SACD burners clearly points to deliberate decisions within the Sony hierarchy to limit the availability of DSD recording technology to major studios. I give major credit to Sonoma for their new multichannel workstation, but that's still a long way from prosumer pricing—and where's the SACD burner for the PC or Macintosh?

Unfortunately, the major studios are racing to the bottom in their attempt to clip, distort and degrade a stale 20-year-old format, and are facing sales that are rapidly declining in favor of formats that are even lower-fi. Thanks to decades of relentless propaganda from Philips, Sony, and also Dolby Digital, most people believe that compressed digital is "perfect." They dug their own grave on this one with billions of dollars of PR seen in every home-theatre store and movie theatre in the world.

Well, golly, maybe a few people believed it! Having accepted Dolby Digital, with its 8:1 compression ratio, as perfect—and you'll see witless defences of it to this day in every audio forum—of course people think that MP3, AAC, and WMA are perfect too. In the absence of competing information—and fat chance they'll see any in corporate media—most people believe what they're told.

In the minds of tens of millions of Americans, we are in Iraq because Saddam attacked us. Even the troops in the field believe that. Is it true? No. Was it ever true? No. Did bits and pieces of the truth coming out have any effect on US policy? No. If the corporate media world is so careless of the truth in something that affects the fate of great nations, why should they give a damn about a tiny little audiophile concern? From their perspective in their boardrooms in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles, they make the truth, and it's our job to believe it.

I'm not being cynical here, but I have worked in PR myself. Not everyone falls for an outright lie, but a lot do, at least long enough to make the sale. Sony, Philips, and Dolby have been tooting the horn of digital perfection for two decades now, and spent a lot of money to get people to accept it as the last word in hifi. That is why anything better than 256 kbps compressed audio is a niche product—remember, it's not Red Book, but Dolby Digital on DVDs that set the quality standard for most people.

Audiophiles and music lovers have to wake up and smell the coffee. We are on the wrong end of two decades of nonstop propaganda. Nobody is coming to our rescue. We do not own the media. We have almost no influence. Only a few AES engineers are on our side—most sold out to the compression brigade in the mid-Eighties, when nearly all papers published in the AES Journal were about this or that "transparent" compression scheme—and still are.

I see niche-marketing along the lines of Linux—also on the wrong end of massive corporate campaigns of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD)—as the only way forward for high-quality sound. The artists, at least the ones with any talent, are on our side too. DSD and high- res DVD audio are little bitty corporate sidelines that don't affect the big picture, which is all about Digital Rights Management (DRM), or getting hardware manufacturers to accept systems of hardware-based encryption, backed up by the Federal teeth of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (which makes discussing ways to defeat corporate encryption—anywhere in the world—a Federal offence). This is not hypothetical: a Russian man was arrested in the USA after publishing— n Russia—a software protocol for bypassing DVD encryption. He was eventually released, but it made the point: the entire world has to follow US law, and suppress discussion of ways around DRM encryption.

Think about that a moment: the media companies, and their ever- faithful employees in Congress, have successfully overturned the First Amendment, and the courts are on their side, not ours. In the current political climate, the chances of overturning DMCA are nil.

The chances of the courts defending the First Amendment against corporations are nil.

Fortunately, the Internet is required for corporations to function, and the nasty pay-for-preferred-access schemes being discussed by the telcos and cable companies will probably meet with tremendous consumer (and corporate) resistance. I think the attempt to turn the Internet into a cable-TV Home Shopping Network will fail—if nothing else, it will drive widespread adoption of WiFi access if telcos and cable companies attempt to slow down service for non-premium content.

The open Internet is an environment where audiophiles and music lovers can thrive, along with small niche businesses—which is really a description of the entire history of hifi business. There have only been brief moments in the sun; most of the time, we were artisans doing obscure things, not that different than model railroaders, in the immortal words of Doug Adams, "mostly harmless."

Sometimes we've benefited from big companies—the glory days of RCA stereo recording in the Fifties comes to mind—and other times they've tried to squash us. This comes and goes, and with any luck, we remain. We outlasted RCA, and I bet we'll be around after the media empires of today are gone. We just have to stick to what we know best—telling the story, over and over again, that there is beauty in music.

Music has been a part of humanity for at least 100,000 years, and will be us always, long after communism, capitalism, nationalism, and this-or-that "ism" are nothing more than dusty footnotes in a history book. All we have to do is keep on doing what we're doing right now.

Lynn Olson

Senior Assistant Editor, Positive Feedback Online
http://www.nutshellhifi.com/


Dear Sirs,
As owner of the SA-CD.net site referenced in "and Steve says... SACD is a failure!" (PFO Issue 25) I'd like to take issue with a number of the points raised therein. As someone with a somewhat vested interest in the future of the format, I'll keep my comments largely to the facts.

Firstly, on the comment that SA-CD.net lists "only 3773 SACD titles, and many of those are duplicate releases with slight differences between US, European and Japanese issues." this is incorrect. There's few titles on the site for which there are duplicate listings, and generally only when the disc's contents differ. The aim of the site is to provide a single focus for professional and consumer reviews (and subsequent discussion) so having multiple listings for a single title works against the site's intention. Where multiples exist (different pressings/availability for different markets) these are differentiated by the respective links to vendors around the globe.

Next "a large number (the majority, actually) of those are reissues of older music." this is also incorrect. It may well have been the case in the early days of the format ...and a healthy market still exists for re-masters of popular classics ...but most new music appearing on the format is that from new recordings made especially for the format, often of multichannel and/or original DSD (or high- resolution PCM) recordings.

Next "All SACD disks have to be Hybrid Disks". There's only been a handful of non-hybrid (that is single or dual layer) discs issued over the last 2-3 years so it seems to me that this criterion has already come to pass.

As for the marketing of the format, there has been (and continues to be) endless discussion on internet forums and in the media by self-appointed marketing experts, but few seem to be aware of the efforts that Sony (and Philips) have made in the media (print, radio etc) plus promotional activity in the industry (where it could be argued that it really mattered). That Sony didn't go the extra mile to make Super Audio CD a household name is for reasons known only to them. Personally, I suspect that they wouldn't have got their money back in today's fractured market where devices like the iPod and the iTunes Music Store have the public interest. Sony (and many manufacturers from the consumer electronics industry) continue to include SA-CD capability in a range of devices (the upcoming Playstation 3 being a notable example) so who knows what the future holds.

Super Audio CD is an established format with a small but growing market. This is evidenced by the continued availability of new releases and interest in the format by new visitors to my site. I suspect the format will long outlive these prognostications of its demise ...most of which use arguments little changed from the days when a lot less music was available on the format.

Stephen Best
www.SA-CD.net

Stephen,

First off, I would like to say I think you do a fantastic job with SA-CD.net. It is my primary reference for searching for SACD releases and I think everyone interested in SACDs should have it saved as a "favorite" on their computers.

Regarding the "only 3773 SACD titles…" comment, I have to admit my main emphasis should have been on the number of releases. After all the years SACD has been out, still having less than 4000 releases, whether they are unique or not, is not a sign of success. I probably should have tempered the comment about the duplicate releases, as it was written out of a feeling (somewhere between plain disappointment and abject resignation) that to this day, I cannot get the hybrid versions of Peter Gabriel's work without spending an absurd amount of money for the European import.

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but I rarely buy music over the Internet. I still like going to record shops (or whatever stores stock more than a limited selection these days) to buy my music. I have recently ventured to Tower Records, Barnes and Nobles, Borders Books and even one of the few Best Buy locations to still have an SACD display, and you what? Most (that is more than 50%) of the disks available were reissues of old classical releases (most of I have on vinyl) or of old rock albums that I either already have or don't want. I didn't waste my money on "audiophile" records back in the day (that is, records released primarily because they sounded good, regardless of the fact that the music was generally awful) and I don't really want to start now with SACD. I generally won't buy reissues of things I already have on LP (though I might consider it on occasion if the disks were hybrid disks).

What was far worse in my opinion was the fact that it was so difficult at these shops to even find SACD. No one I talked to at the Barnes and Nobles or Borders knew what SACD was, and neither had separate displays for them. The Tower Records had a small display that had SACD and DVD-A mixed together, and the selection was minimal at best. The Best Buy was what you would expect. About 50 titles, mostly early reissues (single layer Sony classical, some blues and rock), but that was about it.

Okay, let's say I should modernize and shop online. I just searched Amazon.com under Popular Music" for "Hybrid" and came up with a total of 360 hits. Several of these 360 were regular CDs that had "hybrid" in the title. Checking the classical listing did result in 702 hits, but at least in the first several pages, most were reissues of old recordings. Although I do have to admit that in terms of classical music, the best performances probably are to be found in the reissues anyway.

The best product in the world doesn't amount to much if people don't know about it. SACD should have been the next big thing. It should have been the new format for recorded music. I worked for a large company for enough years to know that you can make the best product that your industry has to offer, but if you can't get the market to buy it in sufficient quantity, it will still fail.

Actually, you are pretty close on your last comment. I will admit that I started writing this column almost three years ago, but hadn't finished it before my auto accident (that kept me out of the loop since then). It sat unfinished until just a week or two ago, when after a few days of shopping for new music I started to feel that nothing really had changed. I opened up the old file, did some necessary updating and finished it.

I do hope you right, and that SACD continues to grow and becomes a commercial success to match what I feel is a great technological success.

Steve Lefkowicz


Hi Mr. Nack,
I use Kharma CE2.2 in my system (you can find it here:
http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?vdone&1123459787&read&3&zzlMatth
eus&&
.)

I was thinking of replacing the Siltech Forbes Lake with another, more 'warm' cable. That's why I was thinking of Kubala Sosna or Harmonic T. What type of K-S do you use and what would you advise me?

Thanks and greetings from Flanders in Europe

Renaat Mattheus

Hi Renaat,

Never having tried (or heard) the Siltech cable, it's impossible to make comparisons to it. I can tell you, however, that all models of Kharma speakers like the K-S Emotion wires. I have also found the TARA Labs .8 series very compatible (except that you need a lot of it to really hear what it can do--review coming in a couple of months). If you want a LOT of warmth, the Harmonix SLC is a top choice. All of these cables will add warmth. The K-S will add the most bloom; the Harmonix will give you more slam and a more acoustic voicing; the TARA is the most neutral and has the most body.

Looks like you have a well chosen rig (I visited the link to Audiogon). You gotta try the TAOC PTS-F under the CE2.2 next.

And the journey continues: let me know how it works out.

Marshall Nack


Dear Sirs,
I also own ACI Sapphire IIILEs, and your review of the Dussun DS 99 in Issue 24 prompted me to buy the Dussun DS 99 directly from Ping Gong—it was an "open box" and had just come back from a reviewer (probably the same one you had).

I have since discovered that you can buy this integrated (and the other Dussun products) directly from China from ORNEC Audio Distribution ( http://www.ornec.com for US $226 plus roughly $135 shipping, for a total of somewhere around $361.

A reviewer quoted on the site makes the comment that this unit is exactly the same unit as the Red Rose Passion, which Mark Levinson sells for US $3000. I looked this up, and sure enough, it sure as hell looks like the same unit.

This is an interesting part of the Dussun DS 99 story. I suggest you include it in your follow-up.

Gary Wilbert
Charlottesville, VA

Gary

Thanks for the note.

I want to offer a strong word of caution. Without commenting on this specific source, Dussun units coming directly from China (as with any number of Chinese manufactured audio components) are often being equipped with mystery substandard transformers, installed by by unscrupulous and frequently incompetent gray market folks, and passed off as factory fresh. You get no guarantee support and no help if things go awry. I have heard some pretty grisly stories Caveat Emptor!

All I can say about the Red Rose thing is that I am aware they source from Dussun, but I don't really know anything more specific.

Regards,

Dr. S

Dr. S.
I appreciate the advice, and I thank you for responding.

Has anyone actually done the comparison? Why is the conversation about direct Chinese imports composed mostly of rumor and under-the-table messages?

It's not that I don't believe you—I do. I'm just puzzled why nobody does the obvious—i.e. order one from China and another from Ping Gong, open them up and report the results? What are we afraid of?

Gary Wilbert
Charlottesville, VA

Gary,

I don't think anyone is "afraid." The "who" is an interesting question. If Ping does it, it will simply appear self-serving. We (PFO) are not into investigative journalism, nor are we equipped for this, even if we wanted to. It's not our role to go any deeper into this than we have. I will stick with my original pronouncement; caveat emptor!

It's quite simple. If you buy a factory-sourced Dussun piece, it has been specifically designed and equipped to work with our AC power. If you don't, then "someone" has to retrofit the piece with an appropriate transformer and do a good job both in selecting the transformer and replacing it. If the FACTORY struggles with making this work, which they have, what chance do you think BOB's IMPORTS will have of doing it correctly? Their profit depends on doing it cheap and doing it fast. They couldn't care less about reliability or sonics.

Dr. S

Ye Olde Editor adds the following thoughts:

Dr. S is correct about PFO not being an investigative audio journal. Doing that sort of thing properly is neither within the charter of this publication, nor is it of particular interest to me. The logistics of purchasing equipment to do a hardware tear-down and comparison is expensive and time-consuming; don't underestimate the resources that would be required to do this properly, Gary. Furthermore, once we did this with one product, we'd have to apply the same criteria to all products, to be fair. This would mean permanently altering the long-time (nearly 17 years old) mission and culture at PFO, which is not going to happen. PFO is not the Consumer Reports of fine audio. Neither, to my knowledge, is anyone else.

So there's no conspiracy involved at this end, nor any lack of courage. The point is simple: AVOID GRAY MARKET GOODS. There's always a reason for unusually low prices, whether it's on a street corner, in a spam email trying to sell you "genuine" Microsoft software or "real Cialis," or audio "distributors" who are trying to market low-ball audio gear that's been cloned from the original design. AAA Audio's disclaimer of these products is obvious, and should be warning enough, no?

Dr. S's commentary on the subject has been anything but sub rosa; you should heed his caveat.

And to tell you the truth, I find the price of the legitimate Dussan gear to be remarkably reasonable, and their performance is stellar as I can personally attest. Why would I bother with the risk and hassle of knock-offs when I can have the legitimate product with full warranty for a song?

All the best,

David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief]

Ping Responds…

Hi Gary,

How are you? How does the amp sound now?

I heard your story from PFO. It is well understood. We have 30 days money back guarantee. We want every of our customer happy. You can still return it for a full refund.

I d' like to give you some information before you make your decision.

1. Dussun only supply their 120v products to us. We are the only authorized distributor in North America. You can buy 102v from only few places, not sure about Ornex, but the products are modified. To make the unit to run for 120v, needs to change the transformer and adjust the circuitry to handle different current, the voltage from the transformer will be the same. From the grey market you get a 120V products with a after market transformer, they buy 220v in China and change the transformer, the circuitry is not adjusted for the current level. Basically it is a fake Dussun. Since Dussun is so good, some people make transformer for it. Never heard such story for other brands. It will not sound good, it does not last long.

Several people e-mail me, they have problem with Dussun they bought some where. I'd really like to help them, but technically, it is impossible. They did not buy Dussun products. They bought junk.

Look fourth posting, his amp got "hum".

http://www.nysound.com/exec/servlet/CategoryServlet?action=productdetail&itemID=kos-2010-01001&formID=0

You better off to get a 220v version and run a 110v-220v converter. Then you need a power filter. Most cheap converter are noise. They add up the cost to the same level as our price.

2. Price: We have much higher cost than grey marketers. They all do drop ship from China, they have no cost. I do not know about the tax. We pay international shipping, import tax and fee, US domestic transportation to warehouse, warehouse, sales tax on every unit we sell and every penny we make, service, promotion, US labor cost and so on.... I do think that our prices are very reasonable.

Just some information for you. Thank you again for purchasing our products, but you still can return it for a full refund.

Ping Gong
AAA Audio, LLC
phone: 617-614-0562
www.aaa-audio.com

Ping (and, via Dave Robinson, Dr. Sardonicus at PFO):
I've just started listening, and so far I like what I hear.

I appreciate your information on the difference between "knock-offs" and the real thing. I sent the email to PFO yesterday because I think the entire issue of direct importation from China needs discussion and education for consumers. It's very confusing. It's not hard to find the websites where these products are sold, and I'm sure lots of potential buyers are going to these sites and wondering whether to take a chance. I've read the discussion on the Asylum, and while it's aiming at the issue, it sheds mostly heat and no light.

I think we need some real research and education by the journalists. Someone needs to do direct comparisons and report the results. Perhaps PFO is up to the challenge. Right now I sense that the audio press is avoiding the issue for fear of alienating their advertisers, which I think sends the implication, whether intended or not, that the locally sold product and the direct Chinese import are the same. If they're not the same, let's do the work to find out and then let's report the results.

I do not doubt that you are right that Ornex may be selling a different product. I have heard the same thing from other posters at Audiogon and at the Asylum—i.e. that voltage and other differences are not fully accounted for in the direct China import.

The other side of the issue is that some high end brands (like Red Rose) have long been reported to be importing products that are essentially similar to the Chinese products and simply re-badging them (and perhaps making the kind of modifications you do). I'd like to really know—from someone with technical expertise who could take the covers off and make the comparison—whether the Dussun DS 99 is essentially the same unit as the Red Rose Passion. Dave Robinson, take note—there's a good article lurking here.

The point I'm making is that it's not a black and white kind of issue. Consumers have gotten more savvy, and they know that a lot of products from China get sold (whether with modification or not) at multiples of their original price by U.S. companies. It's just human nature to sniff out the trail to its source and see if there's a better deal possible somewhere else—these people aren't evil. If the OEMs can do it, so can the consumers. That, I think, is ultimately the risk for the audio industry in going to China for manufacturing.

All of this being said, I recognize that your products are being offered at very fair prices and that they carry a guarantee—which is what gave me the confidence to buy the Dussun DS99 from you. And, you are not marking the product up to ten times it's original price.

Everything I have come to know about you so far reinforces that you are a fair and competent audio dealer, and I am glad I bought mine from you and not from New York Sound or Ornec. In addition, if I buy another Dussun product, which I am contemplating, I will buy it from you.

I hope PFO can shed some light on the whole controversy. They do a good job, and I appreciate their contribution to the hobby.

Sincerely,

Gary Wilbert
Charlottesville, VA

The Doctor Responds…

Ping (and, via Dave Robinson, Dr. Sardonicus at PFO):
I've just started listening, and so far I like what I hear.

The legitimate Dussun 99 is one of the true gems of audio. I used it to drive the huge XLH Reference 1812s to "drive you from the room" levels, and it maintained it's sweet, almost tube-like character, throughout. Jennifer Crock of JENA Labs was present and she doesn't like anything …she is impressed enough that she intends to write a sidebar. For circa $500 retail, everyone should have one, if just for a back-up.

I appreciate your information on the difference between "knock-offs" and the real thing. I sent the email to PFO yesterday because I think the entire issue of direct importation from China needs discussion and education for consumers. It's very confusing. It's not hard to find the websites where these products are sold, and I'm sure lots of potential buyers are going to these sites and wondering whether to take a chance. I've read the discussion on the Asylum, and while it's aiming at the issue, it sheds mostly heat and no light.

I think your letter is a great opportunity to address this issue, straight up.

Labor and material costs, as well as the relative value of the Yuan, means that Chinese manufactured goods are going to enjoy a significant price advantage in the market place. Of course, this price advantage is worthless if the quality is not there.

The transformer is the heart of any amplifier. We are not talking about changing bumpers on a gray market BMW here. I know for a fact that Dussun spent a great deal of money and effort coming to grips with our AC schema, without losing reliability and sound quality. Do you honestly think some hack is going to be able to buy a cheap transformer off-the-shelf, and produce equivalent results? If so, please email me, I have a piece of the true cross I am selling.

So you save a few bucks initially. It won't sound or last like the factory piece, and you are SOL if you have any issues with it. Just toss it in the bin and move on. Penny wise and pound foolish.

I think we need some real research and education by the journalists. Someone needs to do direct comparisons and report the results. Perhaps PFO is up to the challenge. Right now I sense that the audio press is avoiding the issue for fear of alienating their advertisers, which I think sends the implication, whether intended or not, that the locally sold product and the direct Chinese import are the same. If they're not the same, let's do the work to find out and then let's report the results.

I am unaware of any issue with advertisers, one way or another here. I think it is pretty straightforward …absent compelling information that these importers provide equivalent parts and installation expertise, you are buying an inferior product when you go gray market. If price is your only consideration just go to Circuit City and be done with it. At least you get a 30 day return and manufacturers warranty.

If the grey-market folks want to submit proof their mods are factory equivalent, let's see it.

I do not doubt that you are right that Ornex may be selling a different product. I have heard the same thing from other posters at Audiogon and at the Asylum—i.e. that voltage and other differences are not fully accounted for in the direct China import.

I will just say there are a number of horror stories out there. Caveat Emptor!

The other side of the issue is that some high end brands (like Red Rose) have long been reported to be importing products that are essentially similar to the Chinese products and simply re-badging them (and perhaps making the kind of modifications you do). I'd like to really know—from someone with technical expertise who could take the covers off and make the comparison—whether the Dussun DS 99 is essentially the same unit as the Red Rose Passion. Dave Robinson, take note—there's a good article lurking here.

This is a completely separate issue. Audio manufacturers buy parts, assemblies and even complete components from other sources. This is so common as to be inconsequential. Re-labeling is common and accepted. You don't really think that Polaroid makes DVD players, do you?

There are a small number of manufacturers of speaker drivers, CD drives, capacitors, power supplies, etc. that many manufacturers use for sources.

It is silly to criticize this practice. Imagine critiquing a speaker manufacturer because they buy their drivers from Theile or Focal…

To simply re-label a piece manufactured elsewhere is also common.

As to markups, this is a market issue. If someone wants to charge a grand for three feet of jacketed Belden wire they bought at the local electronics supply house, this is their choice. You don't have to buy it.

The point I'm making is that it's not a black and white kind of issue. Consumers have gotten more savvy, and they know that a lot of products from China get sold (whether with modification or not) at multiples of their original price by U.S. companies. It's just human nature to sniff out the trail to its source and see if there's a better deal possible somewhere else—these people aren't evil. If the OEMs can do it, so can the consumers. That, I think, is ultimately the risk for the audio industry in going to China for manufacturing.

You have to keep in mind, all this is new, and economic relationships with China will be sorting out for decades. But we have been here before. Look at your car, your TV set, your computer. Like it or not, we are transitioning into a world economy and we cannot and should not isolate ourselves.

All of this being said, I recognize that your products are being offered at very fair prices and that they carry a guarantee—which is what gave me the confidence to buy the Dussun DS99 from you. And, you are not marking the product up to ten times it's original price.

Everything I have come to know about you so far reinforces that you are a fair and competent audio dealer, and I am glad I bought mine from you and not from New York Sound or Ornec. In addition, if I buy another Dussun product, which I am contemplating, I will buy it from you.

I hope PFO can shed some light on the whole controversy. They do a good job, and I appreciate their contribution to the hobby.

Sincerely,

Gary Wilbert
Charlottesville, VA

Gary, thanks for taking the time and effort to write. I think this is a very worthwhile topic.

Doctor S.

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