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Positive Feedback ISSUE 26
july/august 2006


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I'm in search of a new pre/amplifier although my Dynakit SCA-35 still runs fine. The review of Ed Kobesky leads to the Cambridge line of amplifiers (although I will need a phono stage). My question refers to which Cambridge to choose, the 340A or the 540A. Another question is if it is reasonable to compare the 540A to the Marantz SR4320 Stereo Receiver as far as overall sound is concerned. (Questions above due to limited budget of about $500 US).

Thanks a lot for your attention,

Veber Chagas, Sao Paulo, Brazil, S. America.

What speakers are you running? That will be the deciding factor considering that the Marantz has about twice the rated power of the Cambridge 340A. 

That said, 've heard the Marantz and the Cambridge 340A is far more musical―the level of detail and control it exhibits are far better than the Marantz, which has a pleasant but decidedly easygoing character to it. So in the end, it comes down to how much power you need. For a pair of small bookshelf speakers, the 340A should do fine. If you need more grunt, the 540A would be the way to go. 

If you like the Marantz brand, then check out their new integrated amp. I don't recall the model # but it's in the $500 range. In your market, an Arcam DiVa A65 would be around that range too, as would a Rega Brio. All are good choices―the Marantz has the most power, followed by the Arcam and the Rega. Conversely, the Rega has the most finesse, followed by the Arcam and finally, the Marantz. 

Good luck,


For the money? NAD has some excellent integrated amps at that price point. I reviewed one for Stereophile. It's successor the C370 I've seen on sale for as little as $499. Don't believe it has a phono-stage but you can add one for like under $150. 

The Marantz would be fine, too. I bought one for my mother, and it is sounds swell with a good pair of speakers. 

Was listening to it just yesterday. 

Chip Stern

Hi Veber Chagas,

I've recently been doodling around with my Marantz DV 6600, their lowest priced "Universal" CD player. I found inside, when I had occasion to take the lid off and look around, the audio output board was made of discrete parts. That was a bit of a surprise, at this price point ($500 MSRP). 

Years ago, I had taken some early Sony CD players apart, found the audio out section was driven by standard 8 pin op-amp supplied by a small electrolytic cap. I usually replaced the op-amp with something sexier (wider band, faster, able to slew more current), and likewise supported it with a polypropylene capacitor of double the rated value in micro-farads. As the 6600 had no such parts in the audio-out section, I was disappointed that I couldn't do the Poogeing exercise.

What I thought at my leisure was: a discrete parts circuit would likely have the ability to handle more current, be pretty quick without the inherent speed and current limitations of a many small chips, and would likely sound better than a circuit built around an inexpensive chip. I think Marantz has caught on to this because the higher-priced parts of their line use HDAM modules in the output of their CD players, pre-amps, and power amps.

The HDAMs are complex output/ buffer circuits, with high parts-density, that are about as big as a matchbox. They can be, by careful selection of parts, voiced. The Marantz engineers, I infer, know all about the virtues of discrete parts in the audio output stage of their DV6600. I assume the Marantz SR4320 ought to have a pretty good sounding audio section, even though I haven't heard it, because it is in the same price niche at $429 MSRP, and because the Marantz Website claims all discrete parts in the amplifier output section.

If I were you, I would go and spend some time with the unit. Find a dealer who won't mind if you bring some of your favorite CDs, and go there at a "least-busy" time, like a Monday or Tuesday afternoon. And hear for yourself. I believe the biggest bargains in the industry are to be had in the price range of interest. And when I looked it up at the Marantz website, I found the #4320 had a phono section, as well.

I believe the large manufacturers really do their best job designing at this price point. And, Sony or Denon might also have a pretty good piece at that price. Does the competition offer AM-FM? Phono? More power? If I were you I'd shop for the best price.

I have nothing against Cambridge, and I know they do a hell of a job on their special products. I've just found the industry giants just can't be beat when it comes to features, power ratings, and sound quality at the entry level. I know you know this, but I'll remind you, you'd get a phono stage, an AM-FM radio, a line stage input (for CD players), possibly other pre-amp features (muting, etc.), a remote control, as well as an 80 wpc power amp for your $429.

Finally, the large manufacturers often give some discount from list, more than boutique manufacturers, because the off-shore tax structures encourage them to redesign and roll their products over more often. Everything I've said is likely true of Panasonic, and Mitsubichi, etc. as well. I've been playing with Marantz gear lately, so I can speak with some authority about how the DV6600 sounds. Otherwise, "Shop 'til you drop."


Hi Bob
I enjoyed your review of the Metronome T2i. It's amazing how Redbook keeps getting better and better. I'll be sure to listen to the Metronome gear at the up coming Rocky Mountain show.

In your review you compared the T2i to some other state of the art gear. I own the current Signature Edition of the Meitner gear. I can tell you that the SACD performance of the LE (current model) is improved but what really impressed me was the improvement in Redbook performance. I now find that a well recorded Redbook CD sounds very close to SACD. And I mean a well recorded SACD as some SACDs sound like crap IMO.

Yes, you already know the question. Namely, are you comparing the T2i to the current Meitner Limited Edition or the older model? Also, did you have it in the same system?

You also have my interest as to which tube player you are referring to. In Colorado I already have the APL NWO 2.5 tube player on my must listen to list.

Frank Gortz 

Dear Frank,

I specifically compared it to the Meitner gear at a well know audio salon in my area on JM Labs Utopia's. The Metronome was more musical and you are there on CD. It was a close call on SACD vs. CD. There was always an organic rightness to the Metronome and a touch of dryness to the Meitner stack. That comparison was with Halcro amplification on both. The tube units were the Modwright Sony 999 Version 2 and the E.A.R. Acute CD Player [more on this amazing piece in an upcoming review.] Go hear the Acute if you can! The T2Ai Signature is Metronome's latest solid state 2 box piece and a killer music machine!

Best listening to you,

Robert H. Levi

Dear Bob,
Thanks for the reply to my questions. I'd like to clear up a mistake that I made in my inquiry. I referred to the latest Meitner gear (Dac6e and Dcc 2) as the Limited Edition. Actually, it's the Signature Edition. I also owned the Esoteric X-01 Limited Edition and mixed the two up (Limited and Signature). Sorry if there was any confusion as to which model I was referring to. The only way to tell the difference between the the newer and older Meitner models is the small nameplate attached to the faceplate. The old one is red and blue with white letters and the new one is black with white letters.

I'm assuming that you compared the Metronome to the older Meitner (no longer in production) model since up to this time the newer Signature Edition is only available through Jonathan Tinn the EMM Labs Vice President in charge of Sales.

The Halcro amps are outstanding, very quiet amps. However I find them on the light side of neutral (dry). Now I understand why you found the EMM gear on the dry side. On the older Dac6e and Dcc 2 (I have owned both) I used a slightly warm sounding amp to correct this. The excellent Gryphon Encore. Now with the EMM Signature Edition I've found the perfect balance with the Lamm 1.2 Reference. Or is that Limited?

The Gryphon is still great as well. Anyway, I hope you get a chance to hear the new EMM Signature Edition units. I think you'll be impressed.

Frank Gortz

Thanks for covering the National Head-Fi Meet in Issue 26. Biased though I may be, I thought it a wonderful, fun summer read.

I hope you don't mind that I linked to it in the top forum navbar at Head-Fi.

I hope to meet you at the next National Meet.

Best Regards,



Hey Jude,

I really enjoy my headphone listening, and I think every audiophile worth the wax in his golden ears ought to be alert to it too. I try to "entertain and instruct," as the ancients said was the duty of every poet and writer, and as I am an ancient writer. If you try to do that, you wind up being accused of being a cheer-leader for the industry. I am guilty of that. I think audio technology has taken some leaps in my generation, and arguably one of the largest leaps has been in headphone listening technology. One part of my job is to turn guys on to the new generation bargains; like my recent review of the good sounding Marantz DV 660 "universal player," which has a discrete parts op-amp in its audio-out circuit; and my review of the new Shure E500s in-earphones, both in the current issue, which (though expensive re 'phones) are a bargain when compared to free-standing speakers. Similarly, if PFO readers are interested in personal, mobile music systems, Head-Fi is an organization they should be turned on to. It is not a lost cause, despite your name. Besides, you guys give one hell of a party.

Thanks for your kind words.


Enjoyed your review very much of the Silent Speakers.

So nice to see budget equipment given a serious review in an appropriate system with appropriate comparisons. I can't stand it when reviewers say "this doesn't compete with my $20k component in my $100k system but at 1/umpteenth the price you would not expect it to...".

I'll be searching for your previous reviews and looking forward to your next ones.

Craig Stenstrom


Thanks for the nice words. You can search for my prior work in PFO, but I have just returned from an almost three year absence while recovering from an auto accident, so search the early issues first! You an also find reprints of many of my articles from Listener magazine by Googling my name. Many companies still have those articles on their web sites.

Over the many years I’ve been involved in audio, though I have on occasion owned some very expensive gear in the past (how about speakers that sold for over $3000 way back in the late 70s!) I have always been far more interested in those products that achieve sound quality way beyond what their MSRP would suggest. I have always been able to find equipment that by its price would be expected to be just okay, but in reality performs and hangs with the big-ticket items. There is a reason why integrated amps from Naim, Creek, Rega, Exposure, Antique Sound Labs and many others can compete with much higher priced gear, and that’s because good technical design by itself doesn’t have to cost a lot. Also, the influx of newer, improved quality gear from China should force the market to improve quality and value overall.

I get great satisfaction from my system, and the only really pricey piece in it is the Linn turntable combo. However, having owned it for about eighteen years, I think I have gotten my moneys worth. Otherwise, speakers for $500 (Sound Dynamics 300ti); amplifier was $799 (Antique Sound Labs MG-SI15DT-S); preamp was $745 back in 1985 (PS Audio 4H). I just replaced my Marantz SA8260 ($1100) with a new Marantz SA8001 (about $900, review will be in soon) and all my cables together were just under $1100 Nordost Solar Wind).

Stay tuned, as we are constantly looking to find affordable, high quality equipment that plays music really well, often times better than products costing many times their low prices. I have products in house right now for almost every category; all selling for less than $3000, and so far, all are quite good if not downright exceptional.

Keep listening and keep reading PFO!

Steve Lefkowicz

Hi Clark,
I read your online articles about CD treatments and note your prior favourite was Auric Illuminator (new version). Has this changed since your review as Auric Illuminator was not included?

O how I wish I knew! I tried two days ago to get this done, but other listening projects interfered.

Whichever treatment you now favour, are these 'one off ' treatments or do you need to keep reapplying them from time to time to maintain sonic improvements?

Good questions! My impression of the fluids is that they remain, as does the effect of the Audio Desk Systeme; the rest may in time fade, it's difficult to know for sure.

Thirdly, I am also very interested in the Ringmat Statmat CDi Blue (the favourite of many such as HiFi+'s Roy Gregory as a passive form of static control. Would this complement the above or do treatments such as Auric Illuminator deal with the static issue?

[Sigh] Again, wish I knew! As a rule a fluid will dispell static charge at the time of its application, assuming you use a non-static cloth. But soon as the CD goes back in its case it charges up again. I've not tried the Statmat.

Not much, hope that helps.

Thank you, Gedas


I just finished reading your review of the Fremer turntable set up DVD. Given Fremer's experience and your positive review I have no doubt that it is excellent. But there appears to be one serious omission if I read the review correctly. There are 3 turntables set up, and all of them listed have no suspension. I think there should have been a least one example of a turntable with suspension, perhaps even the ubiquitous Linn since there must be so many of these turntables in use today.

Allen Edelstein

Hello Allen,

Well, I guess you raise a good point. NONE of the three included primers deal with fine-tuning a sprung suspension. However, I suspect this is because that approach can vary rather drastically, both in design and methodology. Honestly, this is a question better posed to Michael. Why not ask him? Thanks.

Greg Weaver

Hi Max,
I read your comments regarding my email to you about the Marantz 6600 which was printed in the current letters section of Positive Feedback Online. I wanted to let you know the player I was extolling is a Sony SCD CE 595, not a 505. It operates in multi-channel, 2 channel, and straight CD decoding. It also has 5 analogue outputs for 5.1 multi channel setups in SACD. The mod that's mentioned has no tubes in it, even though the company is Tube Research Labs.

The Internet buzz is quite positive for the modded player. Mine is stock and I'm quite happy with it. Not bad for $130 BUCKS.

Al Norberg

Hi Alan,

What can I say? You seem to have made a terrific purchase. Since I'm also an inveterate bargain hunter, I say "Right On!" If you are pleased with the Sony CE 595, and it sounds good to you, I can only point out in my best, "Toll U Sew" fashion, that you may not know it, but you support my position that "This year's post-production mods are next year's chip-set." That is to say, you can get pretty good performance from an entry-level piece, and often damn good performance from a mid-fi piece, if you know the product line well.

Happy hunting.


Just read the "Fluids 11" article (I believe it was called). Man, you guys need to get out more.

Usually that's where we are, but sometimes there's work to do y'know.

I can't imagine anything much more tedious or not fun than doing a CD fluid shootout.

No contest there! But comparing, say, CD players is no joy either.

Just clean the frickin disc when you buy it and then enjoy some music.

[Sigh] But with what? We who are hobbyists care about particulars. If it's *just* the music you want, then why bother to clean at all?

Also you may have missed the point of most of my articles, viz., that within the industry generally, including publishing, the beneficial results one can get at home are largely ignored, not factored into the paradigm of what I call latchkey audio. It is our self-styled masters I take to task!

Shine Ola works for me. A lot of that funky stuff can screw up discs.

All the more reason for our research, no?

This is the kind of stuff that gets novices going down the wrong path, worrying about ridiculous details

I beg your pardon!

...that, frankly, don't matter if you have assembled a reasonably musical system.

Looks like you're on the side of our masters! ;-)

I repeat an injunction first offered to my readers over a decade ago: The time you spend on your system, earns greater rewards than the money you spend.

If you haven't experienced the rewards of "tweaking", then I guess I'm happy you're happy.

But I like the site. Keep up good work.

Thank you! clark


Thanks for reviewing the Marantz 6600. I'll have to audition it at my local dealer and see how it stacks up against my Sony SCD CE 505 CD/SACD player which cost me a princely 130 dollars. It's reviewed in 6 Moons & Enjoy The Music magazines with the Tube Research Labs mod that costs 500 bucks, and it's a carousel to boot.

I now have a Pioneer Universal player that I use strictly for video.

Al Norberg

Hi Al,

I'm not sure exactly what the competition is between the Marantz universal and the Pioneer universal, which might be fair; or the Marantz DV6600 universal vs. the Sony 505 CD/SACD player, which might not be. If you want to imply the Sony is a better value at $130 than the Marantz 6600 is at $500, I think it might be more felicitous of you to mention the Marantz has a video section and the Sony does not. That might level out the playing field. If you have to spend $500 for a tube audio section mod, then you wind up spending $630, and you still don't have a video section. I'm not sure I see where you are going, or what your point is. 

In theory, I can see how a tubed audio line stage might make a very significant improvement over the kind of transistorized audio line stage usually found in entry level CD/SACD players. If that's your point, then I agree. Tube Research Labs is unknown to me, but if such mods are what they do [among many other things; Tube Research Labs is a superior audio design and modification company located here in the Pacific Northwest. Under the leadership of Paul Weitzel, they are a first-rate firm and do work of a very high order. – Ye Olde Editor] I think it's likely they'd do a professional job. I'm sure you'll be happy with the improvement. 

Since you already have a universal player, I'm sure you'll be tickled by a dedicated, tubed, audio-only CD/SACD player, and it would be a judicious use of your cash. Go for it.


Just a quick note on your review of the DAC 1. Mr. Levi notes that virtually no other reviewer or owner (including this one) reports a deficiency in the quality or quantity of the bass response of the DAC1. He nevertheless recommends setting the jumpers in the DAC1 to 0 attenuation.

The zero attenuations setting is for use in professional studio setting where higher voltage levels are both necessary and expected. The 0 dB level of attenuation setting produces an output of nearly 15 volts rms (and considerably more voltage peak to peak) at the outputs., with a CD recorded level of 8 dBs (maximum CDE level). Most non professional line level units cannot handle this voltage, and will overload with maximum 0dBs signals. This appears to be true of the Pass X1 and is probably true of the EAR unit used by Mr. Levi.

The analog overload at the line stage input may well produce anomalies in the bass, but even if Mr. Levi's line level stage can tolerate those levels, most home users cannot. His recommendation is I believe in appropriate.

Dear Dr. Abrams,

Utilizing both the AES/EBU and the SPDIF inputs with the jumpers reset for full unimpeded gain, I could not overload the Pass X1 with either CDs, LDs, or DVD audio from any source. Neither could I overload it with proprietary recordings at 24/96 from my Alesis Masterlink. The volume control on the X1 is set at the identical position for normal listening via the DAC1 as it is for phono listening from the output of my EAR 324 Phono Stage. I searched the manuals and found no listing for absolute maximum voltage output, only a cryptic note listing 2 volts max output when delivered with the factory settings of buffers engaged. Whatever, it is nearly faultless musically without any buffers, not so with them, and I recommend you give it a try in this wide open hotrod mode as I did. I never went back!

Best regards, Robert H. Levi

In his article on CD cleaning fluids (Issue 26), Clark Johnsen offhandedly dismisses untested L'Art du Son as reportedly exhibiting, "oddities of application," whatever that means. I have found this fluid simple to apply and to result in profound―almost transformative―improvements in every CD I have applied it to. Just a gentle shpritz, than dry with a microfiber towel with a linear motion to edges of CD.

Each of my two sons, consistently cynical about any "improvements" their wizened father claims for his system, independently and immediately homed in on the improvements this fluid made after A-B'ing the same song on a disc: richer, fuller-bodied, with removal of digital tizziness and thinness we theretofore did not realize existed. After 35 years of audiophilia, I found this fluid to make as much difference as a significant DAC or transport upgrade. (I use a modded CEC TL-1X transport and Dodson 218 DAC―no slouches these!) Harry Pearson was not imagining things when he found the same for this fluid.

I would suggest Mr. Johnsen give L'Art du Son a try before dismissing it, even based on unconfirmed reports.

Neal Glazer

Clark Johnsen replies;

Mr. Glazer, I didn't "dismiss" L'art du Son so much as explain its absence, along with another contendah; and I specifically stated that this had not been an exhaustive survey. We'd love to try it! The improvements you describe certainly do fall within the range of our experience here, and I am glad for the confirmation that spending big bucks on CD gear at this primitive point in its development is sheer folly. Finally your letter betrays you as not so much "wizened" as good old-fashioned wise.


Regarding the never uninteresting Clark Johnsen's Lotion's 11 article (Hey! Ocean's 12 is up to, well...). This typically well-written piece concerning the ongoing CD cleaning condumdrum(s): Basics man! You applied the various fluids directly to the tested CDs WITHOUT first cleaning/washing the CD itself?

Your reference to "the feel of the suface" during the CD wiping process should surely have hipped you to the fact that CDs, given a brief wash with dish detergent (I prefer the blue Dawn) and warm water and patted dry leaves the disc feeling much "cleaner" than pre wash. This of course is the printed side of the CD, as I try to never touch the "play side" (old LP "logic"...).

Whatever this washing process actually removes (mold release emulent seems to be the primary candidate...) can be felt through typical tactile texture. The damn disc justs FEELS cleaner! Seems this is a better place to begin the other processes, as WHATEVER was there seems gone. You now have a cleaner canvas to start the polishing process, with less chance of interaction between "mold release" and emulent du jour (or month depending which/how much you go through).

Irregardless of this possible oversight, I concur with Mr. CJ that the process of applying one's favorite conditioner to them stupid plastic discs makes for a much more musical listen...and "better sound!" My current fluid choice is the Nanotec 8500, though the JENA Labs product looms on the horizon.

Then again I still have quite a bit of Auric Illuminator I, and I suppose the II could be an "improvement". Then again there's...

Thanks for the article!

Richard Bryan
San Francisco

Mr. Bryan, I do not disagree with a word you said. In fact, as an expansion on my own written views, I find it all highly commendable. Thanks too for the compliments.

However, please notice that in the hierarchy of treatments, although we did begin with the raw disc, we moved first to the ClearBit, a simple combination of surfactants (i.e. detergent). So: Been there, done that.

As for Dawn, it's the choice soap in all my inner circles and not just audio. Small world.


Ed Morawski states that his Technics SL-1200 has perfect speed because it monitors itself, adjusting its speed along the way. That reads well, at one level. In practice, it doesn't work the way he thinks it should. The problem in execution with this method is that the correction can only occur after the fact. It "sees" an error and then applies correction. The correction could be being applied when the speed error may no longer be occuring. It would be like trying to correct the water level of waves in the ocean. Okay, the water rises up, so lets take some of the water away. But the moment you take the water away, you're taking away water during the ebb of the wave rather than the crest.

A MUCH better solution is from a unit like the VPI SDS speed controller, which is applying consistent power to the turntable, eliminating the voltage swings that could affect the turntable speed. There are also other problems associated with a direct drive turntable like there being no isolation between the motor and the platter, allowing the arm to more likely pick up motor vibrations than a good, isolated motor design which a good belt-drive design can provide.

While the Technics turntable is decent, it is not state-of-the-art, nor is it necessarily the best-sounding easy to use table in its price range in my opinion. I'd still take a Rega, Pro-Ject or MMF, unless DJ-ing is my primary objective.

Jeff Bellin
Salem MA

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for you input. Frankly though I think a circuit that automatically corrects the turntable speed within a very brief period of time is just as effective- if not more so- than a "voltage regulator" as used by VPI.

I also would much rather put my faith in a direct drive motor and a true electronic speed control than a belt drive which is essentially a rubber band. Come on Jeff - changing the position of the rubber band on a drive pulley to change the speed from 33rpm to 45rpm is 19th century technology.

Lastly, your comments about the sound of the Technics are yours. There are plenty of people who hear it quite differently. I value the Technics for it's sound- and it's value in an overpriced audiophile world.

Ed Morawski

I regard to the review of the FB 1+ loudspeakers. I have personally been building transmission line loudspeakers, starting in the late 50s at Cornell Univ. A small model was built and distributed by ALCOR Inc in Ithaca, NY. At that time we referred to them as acoustical labyrinth loading. I experimented with small models using 51/4" and 6" bass drivers, but the surrounds had a short life due to the large excursions necessary to produce reasonable bass. Models using 8" and 10" drivers seem to be, to me, the best compromise between cone size and mass. I am also familiar with Baileys work with transmission line speakers.

The 200 hr. break in period confuses me, perhaps it is the use of acoustical foam that requires a long break in. Originally we used long hair lambs wool for the rear damping, moulding and forming it into the corners for smooth transmission with changes in density throughout the line. Too labor intensive for a production loudspeaker. I have used fiberglass insulation, polyester wool, rug felt alone and in combination. i.e.: the rug felt in the corners and the poly-fil in the line. The lambs wool fell out of favor due to moths and mildew.

I am using a a trans-line using a 10" driver, as a sub-woofer (40"h x 20" d x 14.5" w) coupled to 2-way outriggers. It is bi-amped with an old McIntosh 225 for the mids and highs and a solid state amp for the low freq. The outriggers are slightly toed in , but I don't feel as it makes much difference. The bass just happens to be in the center, but my son has a 8" unit sitting in the corner of his listening room crossovered at approximately 100-150Hz . Since I build them myself I am free to change drivers when some thing better comes along (not too often).

Well, I just thought you would be interested in comments from an old audio pioneer.

Warren A. Schrick

Greetings Warren,

Thanks so much for responding to my comments vis a vis the PMC 'Transmission Line' FB1+ Loudspeakers ...If I am correct in interpreting your comments, the transmission line approach is indeed a tricky thing to execute correctlly, and perhaps even more so- to do it on a commercial basis.

So I sincrerely thank you for sharing your own experiences with that.

Best Wishes,

Dr. Sasha Matson

I agree with Dr. Sardonicus, that:
SONY has trouble finding its ass with both hands on a good day, and their ineptness and arrogance concerning DSD/SACD is simply breathtaking."If it wasn't for Sony we'd all be enjoying Hirez 24/96 or 24/192 PCM. And with 32bit DACs becoming available, crank that up.


Dan Evert


Thanks for the agreement… uh, I think.

But, first… I don't consider 96k PCM to be high resolution, not at the playback level, and sure as hell not at the recording level.

You have a Jones on for 19+ PCM in playback, so be it… to each his own.

At the mastering end, there simply is no comparison. Begin with the highest resolution, widest bandwidth system, and then let the market fight out the distribution. That medium is DSD.

I would just sleep better knowing that Ani Difranco's next album will be recorded in DSD (yeah, right.).

Dr. Sardonicus 

Altec Lansing, located in Milford, PA, in the Pocono Mountains, is manufacturing the A-7 Voice of the Theater speaker using the original tools. They are located on I-84, 5 minutes from the NY State Line. Rogue Audio is also about a half hour from there. I thought your high efficiency people might like to know this. They are selling direct to the customer from their website.

Al Norberg

Good afternoon,
In Sasha's interview he made a comment about Sam Tellig's praise of the a certain line of loudspeakers from France. I assume he was speaking about Triangle because Sam has praised this speaker line quite frequently. What was his comment trying to get at? Was it that Sam's praise has gone over the top (in quantity) or that he believes the praise is not deserved? As I own a pair of the Celius 202s I am interested in the answer.

Michael DeKort

I appreciate Michael DeKort parsing my comments with such exactitude. Unfortunately he is crediting me with more specific knowledge than I either possess or intended to display. As is my wont from time to time, one wants to have a little fun with these reviewsmost of them are WAY too serious, dry, and buttoned-down for my taste One of the things I admire about Sam Tellig's writing, (and Roy Hall's not infrequent 'Manufacturer's Responses' in Stereophile), is the substance is indeed leavened with some humor. At this point if Sam Tellig seems to have written numerous reviews of French hi-fi gear, one could also say that I have written my share of reviews of gear made in North Carolinaspecifically Cary Audio. Of which I am currently reviewing a new pair of monoblocks that Dennis Had has created built around the 45 triode output tube. So we all have our favorites. I an sure that Triangle, Celius, or other worthy hardware made in France, is wonderful stuff. For the recordI did not mention any French high-end manufacturer by name in my article.

Best Wishes,

Dr. Sasha Matson

I've on occasion considered Lowthers as midranges as well, but the thought would vanish as quickly as it appeared and I never pursued anything.

I'm therefore very interested in your project. I have a few questions (sorry if these are answered in your article):

  • which woofer exactly are you spec-ing (8555-00 or 8555-01)?

  • are you talking vented enclosure (vs. sealed)?

  • do you envision a floorstander or classic monitor-style enclosure like a Spendor SP1/2?

  • are the Lowther drivers compatible with speaker grills?

  • any problems with an externally mounted x-over (for endless hours of tweaking)?

  • this may be hard to answer but in keeping with preserving the "Lowther sound," what kind, type, brand of amps do you think would best suit this speaker?



Hi Russell,

I once was at a lecture where in the Question and Answer period someone asked the speaker a seventeen part question. The speaker's reply was, "Would you please repeat the question. It's all very complicated."

 Any way, here we go.

1 ) we are thinking of the 8555.01 to start, but we might go to the 8555.00 if we have to. As you probably know, the .00 is about 1 dB more efficient.

2) Sealed or ported box? Since we can't build all the examples as fast as the computer can model them, we'll probably stick with one or two, and those would be a box of the size the computer specifies, sealed first, and then ported, to see which performs best. And the winner is ...

3) Floorstanding or other? That would depend on the results we get. There are some designs with side-rails that allow the designer to get the box up off the floor. They are more expensive, but can be better looking. Of course you sacrifice some floor bounce, which can yield a nice bass lift of a few dBs. So the best answer I can come up with is, "we'll see, when we get there."

4) Most of the early Lowther catalogues show grilles. I guess the answer is, "Yes, Lowthers are compatible with grilles."

5) Could we offer the speaker with an external crossover? Sure! They way I see it, the consumer would purchase the drivers from Lowther-America and Madisound (who also would make up the xovers), and when you build, or have built, the recommended enclosure, you could mount the xover on the rear wall if you wanted. It would be up to you.

6) Tube amps, Single Ended Triode or Push-Pull, seem best; but pentodes are close behind. Then quality solid state amps would come in close behind them. They really do well with any, once you get the "Dudely notch-filter" hooked up. Solid State would improve the bass a notch, while tubes favor human voices. That's the way it has been, World Without End, forever and ever. 

I hope that answers your questions. There may have been more. I think I deleted another of your emails confusing it with spam. So please resend it. Questions like this make it clearer to the readers just what to expect when they sign on to this project. Please let me know if you want to sign up, that way we can include your name in the list for some discounts we may be able to wrangle.


Dear Mr. Nack,
Thank you so much for your candor. Specifically, "After a week of listening and much A-B testing, my premonitions came true: the termination materials began to come undone-one of the RCAs became loose. This shouldn't be the case in a cable costing $50, let alone $5000-"

Kindly pass along my thanks to Mr. Robinson for allowing you to report everything and not worrying about advertising dollars. I always read the reviews of the top of the line gear and experiences of consumers. If for example the importer is known to be rude an uncooperative from my point of view if that is the attitude BEFORE a sale, what can I expect should a service issue arise in the future? Likewise if the connectors are coming undone at the top of the line level then that for me dissuades me from the Illusion 4D interconnects and speaker cable. It would not matter to me if you wrote that these were the best interconnects you ever tested bar none. At 57 I do not want things bouncing back for service. End of rant.

Again, thank you for out and out saying, "This shouldn't be the case in a cable costing $50..." because too often we have lowered expectations at lower price points believing we simply have to accept a greater frequency of repair.

Many thanks once more.

Christopher Frank

PS I am back to shopping for the Nordost FREY (in lieu of the Illusion 4D) Have you heard these

Hi Christopher,

I wholeheartedly agree with you and also want to express my thanks to David & Dave for Positive Feedback Online's policy of integrity. This goes a long way towards reinforcing the e-zine's superior reputation on the web. I've heard it mentioned often.

Quality of construction is frequently bypassed in reviews. At the prices these jewels go for, I feel it has to be reported on... especially when it falls short. The consumer needs to know this. By the way, I got the impression that Audio Magic is easy about doing cable repairs, should the need arise.

Finally, I'm not a fan of Nordost cables. I tried one years ago and moved on. But if you like what the Illusion 4D sounds like, I do have a cable to recommend: TARA Labs The .8 series. More to come on these in next month's issue. Let me know if you try them.

Marshall Nack

Sorry I can't recall when but I remember a construction article in the defunct Audio magazine that used a 2 Lowthers crossed over low to 2 JBL woofers (I can't recall the driver or loading) that tried to do similar things as you are looking for. Interestingly in addition it was also an early example of a bipolar design which was why it had 2 of each driver, 1 Lowther and 1 JBL on each side of the enclosure. Maybe someone recalls more details about this speaker.

Allen Edelstein

Hi Allen,

Long time no hear, since our years ago meeting on Smith Avenue. I think I share your memory. Not of that exact exercise, but of a Lowther set of plans with a forward firing driver, and a rear firing driver. If you connect the two out of phase, you could sum the output of the two woofers back wave low frequencies, and then direct them down a common horn, and the result would be the equivalent of a 12" woofer. (Even the Lowther engineers were aware, decades ago, that the bass needed help.) If the Lowthers were 98 dB efficient, then you'd need a 15" JBL, or equivalent. Olsher's BassZilla is a similar attempt, with a 15" woofer.

Thing about most 15" woofers is, they aren't subtle. They can play loudly, make low frequencies, move a lot of air, but they aren't quick or lithe. They don't pick up on harmonics, nor textures that, say, a good 9" woofer can. They give you brute force, especially in a horn loading. And in corner horns a pair of these can couple the air in the room in a way that approximates a 4' concert drum, or an organ in the great church of St. Sulpice in Paris. My wife and I caught that. The trick with using 15" woofers (or 18") is the crossovers, and that is a whole other story. I think you have to use electronic crossovers with variable knees and slopes to tune to the response necessary for the room you find yourself in

Regarding the Audio article, I ran into Gene Pitts at a conference in recent years, and I have his card. I'll ping him and see if he can recall such an article.

The Lowther C45 is a much different beast than any of the 8" drivers. It actually lends itself to use as a mid-range. So we'll see just how many of the readers find this attractive. I'm using one of them in the midst of what was once a Dynaudio Consequence, and it does wonders for the midrange. The speaker never sounded better.


Mr. Dudious,
I have read your article on the use of Lowthers as midrange drivers with some disappointment. Although you obviously have spent some time with Lowthers and have some idea of their capabilities, you have opted to choke off one of the primary advantages in your design.

Let's go back just a bit. Lowthers are called full range drivers, and by the definitions of a few years ago they are. But it seems that the range we wish to reproduce has widened a bit. Where most Lowthers go from 50Hz (cabinet dependent) to 17kHz or so (driver dependent) we now want our speakers to go from 20Hz to 30kHz. Adding a subwoofer to a Lowther system is quite common. Adding a super tweeter is done infrequently based upon my feedback from customers. But in these systems the Lowther driver is usually allowed to run full range and then augmented at either end, or at least over a very wide range (i.e. BassZilla).

By limiting the Lowther to use as a mere midrange you will fail to grasp one of the most important parts of the Lowther sound—coherency. The vast majority of the music coming from a single source gives that sound the same wholeness that it deserves. Instead you have chosen to chop it into 3 little parts going to 3 different speakers with 3 different time constants due to the crossover and the resulting phase shifts in the bandpass areas. I like to joke with customers that when they see three microphones in front of the musicians, a big one for bass, a medium one for midrange, and a small one for treble, they should buy a 3 way speaker system to reproduce that music. Lowthers are better able to reproduce the sound that a single microphone records. This should be obvious.

I agree that any Lowther will make a superb midrange. If it can go a few octaves above and below the crossover region it will certainly be able to reproduce the narrow range you ask of it with speed and articulation that is uncommon. Perhaps if you are very extremely lucky, or very, very persistent, the resulting sound will be seamless. But when the Lowther is used full range or wide range the seamless nature of the reproduced sound is a known factor.

As a Lowther owner you should be able to recognize the difference in sound between your full range PM5A based system, and the 3 way system you have developed. Certainly you are not suggesting that the 3 way has better musicality or coherency? I would suggest that you expand your use of the Lowther to take full advantage of its capabilities.

It appears that you have chosen to take the Lowther C45 and insert it into an existing system using the same crossover points, but have failed to take into account the additional strengths that it has. I would strongly suggest that you start from scratch with the crossover points to develop a more musical system. If you wish to pursue a better design then an appropriate level of support could be provided.

Jon Ver Halen
Lowther America
708 660-9312

Hi Jon, 

To tell you the truth, I agree with everything you've said. I've entered into the task, before you suggested, and found a man with extensive xover design experience who will begin anechoic chamber measuring of the characteristics of the Lowther C45 so he can go on to computer model a xover based on the C45 used in its widest-band. I see you hedge your bets a bit at the end of your letter, which largely praises the 8" Lowthers, and why they don't need to be used as a midrange (apples), and you eventually say you agree the C45 (oranges) would make an excellent midrange. I'll take that as assent, if I can't claim that you endorse the project wholeheartedly.

Those who think outside the enclosure always have to take some heat. I forgive you.


(Mr . Dudious to you)

Long time, no talk to.

I hope you're doing well. Obviously, you are staying busy.

I find your speaker project to be an interesting one. I have been interested in the Lowther drivers for some time, but have been scared off them by a few friends who have issues with their quirks. This seems like a great way to play to the strengths of the Lowthers, while minimizing the weaknesses. I hope I can find some time to get into this as it rolls along. I have to believe there are others out there that will want to give this a try.

If I might, let me suggest you take a look at as a possible source for custom made boxes. Lee Taylor is a really good mechanic ( not to mention, he makes some really nice speakers of his own design) when it comes to building boxes.

Keep me in the loop on this if you would be so kind.

Best Regards,
Art Almstead
Twisted Pair Designs

Hi Art,

Indeed, long time no hear. You seem to concur with the theoretical model, that one can eliminate the Lowther's problems by using it as a mid-range. That was my goal. I hope you can build a pair of these, so you can hear for yourself what I'm saying. All the benefits of the Lowther, without the difficulties, are possible by using the C45 driver as a mid-range. The speaker will be much smaller and easy to build. It plays loud enough to drive any small to midsize room. And, relative to the quality of its sound, it's a bargain.


Dudious Max,
Lowthers as midranges. Been there, done that. 

This comment was not meant to be rude. I have been through the gamut of high end speakers from almost any imaginable angle for nearly forty years now. I owned a high end and pro audio dealer for many years which allowed me to investigate multi-way large compression driver based horn systems as well (very nice).

It took me until six years ago to find the magic of Lowthers. I am not one of those Di-Hard Ethnocentric who claim that Lowthers' are the perfect speaker when used as a full/wide range unit. I do not believe that adequate bass is available without low frequency augmentation (via subwoofers, I use two). I have used DX55s, DX3s, and DX4s, and most recently, a rare pair of PM2 MKII Ticonal magnet drivers configured with BassZilla type hi/lo pass crossovers. I used Fostex 900a tweeters on top and two horn corner loaded subs on the bottom.

These systems sounded nice, BUT, compared with my Medallion back horns and Tractrix 150hz front horns, they were lifeless. I have definitely come to the conclusion that if one wants all of the magical sound that the best Lowthers are capable of, then they MUST be allowed to run full range, warts and all. I am not claiming that full range Lowthers do not have issues, they do. But, if you want to experience the spooky, uncanny, and incomparable life that they were/are designed to produce, then you gotta be willing to accept the warts as well.

Also, horn loading of the better Lowthers is considered a means to increase bass output from the rear of the cone, and to balance the higher frequencies. I have never come close to acquiring enough bass with back horns to even compete (in the lows) with my B&W N805s, hence the subwoofers. However, horn loading my Lowthers dramatically transforms the entire Lowther system! It is a complete transformation. Dynamics, detail, transparency, clarity, detail, coherence, imaging, LIFE, it is all ramped up to an astonishing level.

I agree with your point that Lowthers could potentially be a much better seller if they promoted their use as part of a multi way speaker system, but, then it would no longer represent Lowther's design.


Good to hear from you Chopper 87.

The thing about being a Lowther owner is that it is hard to think outside the envelope when you're dealing with a "legend." Me, too.

If I get it right, you were using a pair of Lowthers as wide-band midranges, over two corner horn sub-woofs, and with a pair of Fostex 900A super-tweeters on the top. Then you say these systems were "nice," but not as vibrant as the no-longer in production Lowther PM2 MKIIs, and only when in your medallion back horns, coupled to Tractrix 150Hz front horns. You must have a one-of-a-kind system. My Man! Good job. You also must have stock in some plywood firm!

Seriously, that sounds like a cool system. You're lucky to find the drivers, and how to deal with them.

My prototypes are in a room where I also have a pair of PM5As in a box of David Dicks' design. There are some differences in "presentation" of the sound, but none that can't be explained by the difference in size between the C45 (a 5" driver) and the PM5A (an 8" driver). The C45 beams a bit more, and it doesn't make as large a sound stage. But it does make an ample 3-D image with lots of depth. Otherwise, the two sound very similar. Take it from me, this set up (SkanSpeak, Lowther, Vifa) is really very good, and the woofers and tweeters each have their own well-earned pedigrees. The irony is, all together they still sound like a Lowther, only with the warts removed.

Why stick with the factory designed enclosures if they are known to have warts? I'm afraid we are on opposite ends of this debate; but I hope we can still be friends.


Dear Sirs,
I would like to second Clark Johnson on the virtues of 78rpm records at their best.

I have a collection myself, which I have hauled around for years & play using my Thorens TD124/SME arm/Shure with my high end system, and without proper equalization correction. I have tried using an octave equalizer, but found it has limited value. Using a vintage preamp, such as the Macintosh C-8 with its excellent & flexible controls, is inconvenient due to its high level output. You then need a separate mono amp with extra speaker cables. Or else you must unplug & reconnect your interconnects, also not convenient when this means reaching around tight spaces behind equipment.

I never have been able to locate a mono phono preamp with appropriate and flexible equalization curve controls, with a low level output to feed into a main preamp. For a short time, in the early 1990s, there was such a mono phono preamp, the Owl 1 Restoration Module, but the maker was out of business by the time I learned of it.

If Clark Johnson has any advice on dealing with this issue I sure would appreciate hearing it. One would think that such a device would be of great value for archival collections as well.


Gardiner McCauley

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 !!!