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Positive Feedback ISSUE 30
march/april 2007


Our readers respond…we respond right back!

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Hi Doc!
I really enjoy your reviews and philosophy. Like many who read your excellent PFO magazine, I simply have neither the time nor opportunities to acquaint myself with the best of audio gear. Nonetheless, I have some sense of what I think is of value and performs to my liking.

My current quest is to find cables/interconnects to go in my system. I have already the starting point (Audience Adept Response + chords as well as Shunyata Hydra + Python Alpha etc cords. I plan to sell the "loser" after testing both sets with the whole system when completed) along with the Esoteric X-01 Limited source. I have Shahinian Obelisk speakers and the whole set of Acoustic resonators for my room.

I respect your long-term fidelity to the Jena cables—but wonder how you rate them against some recent "contenders" such as Kubala-Sosna Emotion (rated very highly by your colleague Jim Merod in PFO) as well as Crystal cables. (Interestingly, the Jena and Crystal designs seem to reflect the feminine touch of their makers while the K-S cables remain clearly masculine. Probably totally irrelevant anyway.)

What does concern me, however, is that both the KS and Crystal allow for "money-back" auditioning which certainly inspires confidence in their makers, while I believe that Jena does not allow the same luxury. Any thoughts or suggestions on my endeavor?

Kind regards,

Chris S.

PS I have a custom "digital switching" class D amp being built for a ridiculously low price that the well known audio engineer swears will match Any other type of amp at $15,000 or more. I remain agnostic.

Greetings, and thank you for the kind comments.

For a long time I tried various sorts of wire. Once hearing Jennifer's product, that was it for me. I knew exactly what it was doing, and this is what I had been searching for.

Since then, nothing I have heard elsewhere has made me question this for nano-second. I know how they are made (who else has the designer hand assembling each piece?). I know if there were better raw materials on the planet, they would be in her wire, and I know her ears ...they are simply incomparable.

Remember, slick covers and good marketing are no substitutes for reliable engineering.

As to the whole purchase arrangement, hell, give her a call ...she will talk to you about it. If nothing else, I promise you a fascinating conversation.

As to a Class D switching amp that betters anything for up to $15,000 ...well, I would love to give such beast a serious listen ...but as a writer I know too well that rhetoric, is sometimes just that. Caveat Emptor.

The Good Doctor

Just a minor nit, but why does every designer of high end speakers claim that his special, careful design of the cabinet (which is usually quite impressive and extravagant in this class of product) eliminates mechanical resonance like the Gamut designer claims? Every time I lay a hand on these perfectly designed speakers I feel significant vibration. I have no doubt that most of the time there has been considerable effort put into significantly reducing the resonances that get through. And the designers should be proud of their results. But the word is "reduce" not "eliminate."

Why this need to make extravagant claims rather accept accolades for what really is accomplished?

Allen Edelstein

To the good Doctor,
Wait for a couple more years and you'll know how I feel when I get up.

I put my response in bold, the good Doctor.

But enough of that and back to the meat of your article.

Chuck, thanks for the letter. It is good for the old ones to meet at the edge of the fire, smoke the big smoke and drink something comforting. The company of other graybacks is a blessing.

A wise audio friend of mine told me at the middle of the Age of Perfect Sound Forever, that everyone who had tweaked and assembled good analog based systems, just threw everything out the window when they stuck a CD player into the chain.

My journey to digital was not to leave our ancestral ways …the caribou herds had vanished and those I relished the most were simply not to be seen in vinyl any longer. It was change or die. For me, it is always the music I follow.

Think about it, when you have both sources there and if you have the CD and the LP of let's use the Doors Riders on the Storm, which one do you think had the superior sound and what source did you try to make sound better? 

That is a fair question, because I tweeked vinyl as much as I do digital, in proportion to the money I had available at that time …but now, with parallel systems the only reason vinyl gets a bit less attention is that I have less music that is listenable on it. I have a great table (custom made Jena Labs/Technics SP-10 with an SME-10 arm) and Cardas Heart Cart and a killer BAT VK-P-10 SE phono stage …all hooked up with (you guessed it) Jena Labs wire.

So which sounds better, my clapped out copy of the record, or the carefully Esoteric 3'D'd CD? The CD.

Why it was the sound of your system when the CD was playing that made you unhappy and set you on the course of tweaking and buying and selling components until you hit upon a combination that made CD tolerable? Then the LPs sounded like crap, so you just let them collect dust while you tried to pin the tail on the digital donkey.

Naw, I listen to both. Truthfully, in spite of my best efforts my LPs always gathered a certain amount of noise, which as ALWAYS bothered me, especially in classical music. I used to transfer them off to 7/5 IPS open reel for many years, just because of that and cassettes for the car. Eventually, I got buried under all the different sorts of media I was juggling and I had to make some tough decisions. I kept my records and CDs and got rid of the rest, and now I acquire 90% digital and 10% LPs. I do confess that early digital did send me scurrying back to tubes, at least for the signal end. Now, I love my records, but I find enormous enjoyment in digital as well.

So how did I find audio happiness? Unfortunately I didn't have anyone so gracious as to loan me an extra run of exotic speaker wire. Oh no, I had to assemble two complete systems, one for the digital source and the other for analog.

I don't suppose you would care to be more forthcoming about the specifics and the why? Sounds interesting to me.

But in the here and now, the end justified the means in both our cases.

Happy continued listening, from another weary traveler.

The sheer repetitive, feckless banality of this fallen world makes music ever more precious. There is very little magic left and a great deal of it I derive from the marvelous ability to have a library of wonderful books, great movies, and terrific music. I am still amazed that technology allows me to do this. I can read Bradbury, go watch Robinson Crusoe on Mars, and THEN listen to Stravinsky directing Rites of Spring …whew, such an age we live in!

BTW, next up is a 4 day stay in Montreal this week, if you attend look for the other oldest geezer there.

Chuck Lee

Yatahey, Chuck … always remember, the oxen are slow, but the earth is patient.

Hi, in your current article, you mention your BAT VK 51SE with ECC99 mod. What's the mod? How does it sound?

Thanks in advance!



The mod is by Jena Labs, you should contact them for details, but it is not hugely complicated. How it sounds is smoother and more harmonically engaging. I have had it in place through 50 and 51 iterations.

The Good Doctor

Hello, Dr. Sardonicus,
Hey there Andy, thanks for the note …my comments are inserted into your original text in bold.

I just read your piece concerning digital playback and the advantages of bi-wiring Jena Labs' speaker cables.

I mostly agree with your observations, on both fronts. Regarding bi-wiring, I've long been an advocate, but for some reason, the advantages are particularly profound with Jennifer's wires. Not sure why. When I had my Von Schweikert VR-9s, I bi-wired them with double runs of Dreamdancer, and the improvements over single-wiring were, in a word, revelatory. Not cheap, by any means, but revelatory.

With Jennifer's wire it has something to do with getting up around 20-25 leads, and you are absolutely correct …speakers will vary with some liking the bi, others preferring a single run of the same number of leads. Crazy stuff. But what happens with her stuff is that there simply is no metallic taste in your mouth, and this is particularly significant for digital which can lean to the tin foil side of things.

I've also long been an advocate of digital playback, despite being buffeted everywhere I turn by the myopic (and tiring) chant of "Vinyl-is-final-and-there-is-no-discussion" by analog diehards. I've owned several very highly regarded turntables in my time, and while analog playback had/has many charms, as digital playback evolved, I became less and less willing to accommodate the many limitations and sacrifices demanded by analog reproduction. Just wasn't worth it to me. I owned the (pre-SE) Meitner combo and, at the time, thought it one of the best sources I'd ever heard. I've since moved on to a very highly modified Esoteric X-01, and my desire to ever delve back into analog has shrunken to practically nothing.

I love playing records, but I confess I am not willing to do the hair shirt thing. My transition to digital was primarily because of the availability of new music. It just dried up on analog.

I have never understood this internecine blood sport of opposing sources, topologies and the like. Waste of time. If someone prefers something, well …cool, that is their preference …it does not have to become a religious jihad.

Can you tell us some more about the modified X-01 …I have long thought that the VRDS mechanism is ne plus ultra for digital playback, and I understand their DACs are approaching the incredible case and mechanical work Esoteric/Teac has always offered.

There's a lot of room for both analog and digital devotees in this hobby, and I appreciate the views of the "black-waxers." I don't agree with them, but I certainly understand their passion. I just wish there was more open-mindedness on BOTH sides, and that the natural disagreements could be voiced more civilly. Myopic thinking does no one any good. In the end, just trust the best instruments God ever created: your ears. You can't go wrong that way.


Andy Claps

Well, Andy, I go a step further. I think the entire rancorous debate is more reflective of the overall distribution of personality disorders within the hobby, than anything else.

I had a great friend growing up. His dream car was his '68 Barracuda S fastback, with the 440/six pack. Mine was the '69 L88 396 Camero SS I drove. Both were very, very fast, and each was more or less completely different to drive. When we raced, sometimes he won, sometimes I won, but whatever our preferences, we both were (and are) in agreement that they were amazing pieces of machinery for the time. We certainly NEVER bagged on each other's ride …it was considered uncivilized. If I suddenly won the lottery, one of the first things I would do, would be to track down the best example of that car I could find, put a big red ribbon on it, and have it delivered to his house.

I recognize that my tastes in music and my grail for audio performance are highly esoteric and individualized. I know what the absolute sound is …it's in my head.

I also recognize that someone can be just as passionate, just as transported, just as validly pursuing something completely different from what I want. That does not make them stupid (well, mostly), it's just that we disagree.

As to vinyl versus digital, or tubes versus solid state …why is it an "either/or" frame?

I say, I will have both, please.

The Good Doctor

Among many other passages from the good Dr's epiphanic episode, I found this little tidbit to be particularly interesting:

"Now, exactly one year later, my system is comprised of the new EMM Labs CDSA SE single box SACD source (great DAC, increasingly questionable transport, sadly),..."

Could Dr. S. "expand" upon any transport woes in the EMM Labs unit?

Also, yes the Lindemann has now undergone some modifications making it the 820S (details all of which can be found on the Lindemann website). It'll be fascinating to hear what audible changes will result from these design changes. I do hope they are for the better and that all the finesse and magic of the original hasn't been lost.


L.J. Phillips.


I will be addressing the Meitner in more detail with a follow-up, but I will say that I don't find it to be mechancially on a par with its sonic performance. And, frankly, for ten grand, I think the current transport needs to be re-thought. I do fantasize about a Teac VRDS transport and the Meitner DAC ...

As to the Lindemann S, well, The Lindemann folks have gone silent without a word of explanation, after requesting and receiving my review 820 back for upgrading. Since they aren't answering I am assuming I will not be seeing the "S" iteration.

Ah well, c'est la vie!

The Good Doctor

Hello, David.
Maybe I haven't been keeping score, but have you ever published a formal review of any Jena Labs products? I know that you and Rick Gardner are especially fond of Jennifer's work-particularly her cables-and have made that point numerous times over the years, but I can't recall ever seeing an official review.

I've tried and/or owned tons of pricey interconnects and speaker cables, but never have I been as impressed as I have with Jena Labs cables. (The same holds true for her stunning 3D-X CD treatment.) They're not particularly flashy in any sonic parameter; they simply do everything better than anything else I've heard at comparable price points, but accomplish it in a surprisingly understated and "unhighlighted" manner.

Anyway, back to my original point. For some reason, Jennifer's products get very little press-at least mainstream press-and I'm surprised that, given your fondness for them, you haven't (to my knowledge, at least) published a formal review-or, better yet, a shootout between her cables and other SOTA contenders. I think the latter would be quite instructive.


Andrew Claps

Hello Andrew...

Good point. No, I haven't done a "formal" review of JENA Labs cables, frankly because they've been so much a part of what makes my system work for me that I don't break them out that way.

What I have done is give them periodic recognition with my Brutus Awards, and highlight them in reviews of other products. Understand that my Brutus Awards *are* my highest praise; long, redundant *War and Peace* reviews aren't necessary when I issue the BIG DOG! Additionally, Rick Gardner and Dr. S. have done an excellent job of explicitly detailing their virtues at PFO...I really have nothing to add to that commentary. I would agree with your assessment; the JENA Labs cables just seem to round out the music, somehow, with excellencies in all vectors.

If my chronic highest esteem and affection for these cables isn't clear by now, then our readers aren't reading very carefully or thoroughly.

As to "shootouts": I do NOT do these. Never have, never will. I view these as meaningless exercises, mainly used to baptize the flavor of the month. Every aspect of "shootouts" is suspect: assumptions, methodology, protocols, and utility to our readers. The back of my hand to it!

Glad to hear that you are enjoying yours, though...I know whereof you speak.

All the best,


Hi Larry
Just finished reading your review of the Jubilee. Thanks for the comparisons with the other carts in the Kontrapunct line (I have an A). I did notice that you had a Koetsu Rosewood on hand. How about a comparison with it--they're roughly in the same price range, right?

It's not just you, but everywhere I read reviews, I seldom see helpful comparisons like this that would aid in buying decisions.


Jeff Maxson


I don't have a quiver of cartridges with which to compare the Jubilee. I own everything in my review system and have no loaners. It's expensive to have a collection of expensive products, and perhaps like you can afford only so much.

Having said that, I need to provide a little context to my review. First my Koetsu was rebuilt by AJ van den Hul and no longer sounds like it did when it was simply a Koetsu. It's signature is now more like a black and white line drawing (rich in texture and detail) rather than the former cartridge that had lots of color though with a bit less detail. The rebuilt Koetsu is also more precise in the bass than it was.

Thus, calling my "reference" cartridge a Koetsu no longer seems accurate, frankly, it's nominally a Koetsu and de facto a hybrid.

Comparing my recollection of the original sound of my Koetsu, I'd call it an artistic interpreter of music. Always engaging, but it might be a bit off putting with too much editorializing or "excessive emoting," if that's possible. The Jubilee, by comparison, is more of a narrator, which means that it is as emotionally engaging as the Koetsu, far less often, but that's probably more like how art is. In my experience there are a lot of very competent recordings and live performances but far fewer concerts that last as a magnificent experience for years to come.

In short, I think I'd prefer to own both a Jubilee and an original Koetsu Rosewood. Which leads me to say that when I can afford it, I think I'm going to have Koetsu rebuild my cartridge and also purchase a Jubilee. They're both quite satisfying, if not all things at all times.

I doubt or at least don't think a cartridge costing what the Rosewood and Jubilee cost together would accomplish by itself all that the two might cartridges might be able to accomplish separately. Just speculation.

Finally, it's hard to right a review that is fully satisfying to every or any reader because everyone has their checklist of what's important to them and each checklist is different.

I try to write to give you a sense of a product on its own rather than tell you what it is in relation to others. It might seem that comparison to other products is a more definitive analysis, but it's not. I'm not capable of writing a definitive review as my biases, preferences and capacity to articulate the experience are suffused with me, my biases and my experiences - which aren't likely to be yours. Perhaps this note gives you a better sense of both me and the cartridges.

Hope you're enjoying music and your system.

Larry Cox

I have been reading the cable conversations and find them fascinating. But much to my dismay, I haven't seen poor Robert Fulton's name mentioned in the reviews that I have read so far.This begs the question, "am I really that old, and these guys so young that they have forgotten who the first "Cable Man" was?

Well, at least Mr. Fulton was the first to show the way for me.I bought into the whole tweak mentality after I tried and bought a pair of Fulton Gold cables.Heavy, unyielding, battery jumpers, you name it, but what an improvement over zip cord.And here we are 30 years later still trying to convince young and old alike that cables do make a difference.

Chuck Lee

This is with reference to the reviews of the M300 monoblock amps by Ed Morawski & Lester J. Mertz. My system consists of the following: Teac VRDS10 CD Player, Audio Research D130 amplifier, Audio Research SP16 Pre-amplifier, Musical Fidelity X-10v3 Output Buffer, Sonus Faber Grand Piano Home Loudspeakers, Sonus Faber Gravis Subwoofer, Van Den Hul & Chord Chorus interconnects, Kimber Monocle XL loudspeaker cables.

My amp is quite old and I am looking for a suitable replacement. I read the reviews of the e.One M300 monoblocks and my question to both the reviewers is "Are the e.One M300s better than the D130?" Recently I happened to listen to Krell KAV-400xi with a similar setup as mine. I was not at all impressed. I felt I was listening to music when we switched back to the Audio Research-Sonus Faber combo. Even my friend felt the same way. We felt everything was rolled off with the Krell. Probably by now you have guessed my taste. So, in both your opinions, considering the fact that I love the ARC kind of sound, do you think that a pair of M300s be a perfect replacement for the D130?

Eagerly awaiting your answer,

Yours truly,



It seems to me that you have musical tastes, tubes, VDH cables and sweet speakers that are in line with mine. However, I'm not sure why you want to change out the ARC D130, old or not.

The class D amps that I have heard do not sound like tubes to me, and I'm not sure this is the road forward, just another road.

I have two audiophile friends who use older ARC tube gear. One man pulled his D110 (I think) out after a year of experimentation with a SS amp specifically designed for his electrostatics. He had the D110 refurbished by ARC (power supply caps and so forth) and when he got it back he was so amazed that he never took it out of the system selling off the SS unit.

The second guy was a chronic equipment changer, always having everything modified, in search of musical bliss. He picked up a D130 off the web at a handsome price. Immediately began purchasing every NOS tube he could get his hands on. He attempted to use some Geneflex KT-88's and without reducing his bias blew up his nice ARC. They did repair (PS and output stage) and replaced all the tubes with there own label - with the admonishment that if he replaced or modified anything they would not touch his amp in the future.

Tube amp transformers take about twenty years to break in, usually when the caps start to deteriorate. Rebuilds are less than new stuff.

So, that's my view.


Dear Sirs,
Was wondering whether the break-in Robert Levi references in his review was with music playing (i.e. audio signal to component) or simply 12-48 hours running time. I guess my question is whether the battery outputs DC even when the component it is connected to (in my case transport) is in standby? Thanks for your consideration.


Dear Stewart,

The break-in is continuous battery powering with or without signal. It does not matter if the gear is in standby, the Bat Pack 4 keeps the cable live at all times. I found two days powering was surprising and improved over all previous performance. One week was even better. Two weeks was a bit better yet. The Pack 4 sounds better from the start over the Pack 3 probably because its a dedicated supply to only one pair of interconnects at a time. More expensive, but the improvement in dynamic range, airyness, and black backgrounds are stunning.

The Cyberlights are an exciting alternative to top metal cables and are now set and forget.

Great listening to you,


Hello Mr. Robinson,
I understand that you enjoyed your time with the Boulder 2060 amplifier. Can you please tell me, is the output stage of the amplifier also balanced?


Larry Phillips

Hello Larry...

I was sure that the Boulder 2060 stereo amplifier was fully (and truly) balanced, but I asked Rich Maez of Boulder to respond to your question. His answer follows.

All the best,


The 2060 is fully differentially balanced from input to output, as are all 1000 and 2000 Series amps. By keeping the audio signal in the balanced domain throughout the entire component, it allows the amplifier to pass along the cleanest, purest, most accurate audio signal. Balanced circuit design prevents noise or distortion from encroaching on the audio signal at any point within the amplifier. If an entire system is run in balanced mode, then the system will have much greater fidelity to the original source signal than a system that is not.

Historically, a lot of discussion has gone on about the benefits of balanced circuit topology, with most of the "anti-balanced" side using the argument that it only helps in long cable runs. If you look at it a certain way, that's true. But if you look at it from that point of view, the entire system is a signal run. Balanced design also keeps the signal as pure as possible within the individual components as well as the cable runs. By keeping our 1000 and 2000 Series products fully balanced from input to output, we ensure that we allow as little degradation of the original audio signal as possible from the very source so that you hear the actual intents of the artist rather than any distortion that may have been added along the way due to our negligence.

Our 800 Series products (CD players, preamps, phono stages, etc.) are all differentially balanced from input to output with the exception of the amplifiers. Because of size limitations and the entry level pricing of the 800 Series, the very last link (the output stage) in the amplifier is not differentially balanced. The 800 Series still performs at a very, very high level, however keeping the last stage of the amplifier (the most expensive part of the electronics) unbalanced allows us to make the 800 Series accessible to a much greater audience.

Best regards,

Rich Maez Director,
North American Sales and Marketing
Boulder Amplifiers

I read Dr Sardonicus' column in which he raved about this KT88 amplifier. He referred therein to the Ming Da suggesting it was higher resolution than the KT88. I want to add some first-hand real world experience for the doctor; I have a ming da 3008AB which uses 805 output and 300B driver. I am running thirty year old magnepans on this and yes I too push hard as there is no alternative with magnepan. I have only had the thing six months but it came to me used; probably a year's worth of play under unknown conditions. I must say things are so far so good in the reliability department. And I most definitely would call the sound high res.

We put this up against my friend's class D and it held its own and then some. I echo the doctor's sentiments on the various pitfalls of overseas purchase; I ended up going with a distributor/OEM person for fear of the precise dangers stated about the darker charlatans who hide on the internet and on eBay.

I write to you only because I could not find Dr Sardonicus on the list of personnel. Please send this to him. Thank you to him and you for an excellent -zine.

Tom Higgins

Hey Tom…

Perhaps "rave" is a bit much, but I think the SQ is a very nice little amp indeed.

The ONLY Ming Da, I have any experience with, was the EL-34 unit I reviewed. I understand they have LOTS of models and that models are introduced and discontinued at a dizzying pace …not sure myself …just what I a'heerd.

I doff my hat to you at driving your maggies with the 805. It does suggest some ruggedness on the Ming Da's part and a certain "devil may care" attitude on your part.

As to the whole issue of Chinese imports, I will simply say …caveat emptor.

The Good (if cautious) Doctor

I enjoyed the cartoon at Vinyl Asylum (see [This was a link posted by Ye Olde Editor from]

Something else I am sure you can relate to: Last Sunday, I somehow managed to catch my shirt sleeve on the cantilever of my Magic Diamond cartridge, only to watch it snap clean off, tumble through the air and land on the platter of my Walker Proscenium Gold turntable.

Called Lloyd [Walker of Walker Audio]. Waiting for the arrival of another Magic Diamond. Sure as hell won't do THAT a SECOND time...

Thanks for all the great writing!

Kind regards,

Joe Galbraith

Hello Joe...

Oh nooooo!!! No, no, NO!!! 

As a fellow owner of a Magic Diamond on a Proscenium turntable, I can well imagine the feeling...for me it would be a combination of agony, disbelief, and disgust. (Which was the feeling I got when I found that a maid had destroyed the cantilever on my beautiful Linn Arkiv...snapped it off into the Twilight Zone ...and then lied about it. Fired her and her company ...but it still left me with an expensive MC to replace.) I don't let anybody near my Proscenium Black Diamond ...nobody! I do NOT want to go through a busted cantilever ever again—especially my Magic Diamond.

(Lloyd is such a good fellow; glad to hear that he took care of you. I think the world of Lloyd Walker....)

And you know, you're the second person over at AA's Vinyl Asylum who saw this cartoon and related a story of a damaged cartridge. Within the last hour! This is what I get for trying to bring a little humor to people's lives: a drawing becomes a lightning rod!

Jack Seaton told a story about Michael Gindi that involved a van den Hul Grasshopper, a sweater, the possible presence of adult beverages, and a collectible Sonny Clark LP. The ending was not pretty. (See for some decent cover art.)

BTW: Speaking of the Magic Diamond, make sure that you check out the excellent letter with interesting details about Micro Magic and the Magic Diamond from Christian Rintelen of Switzerland. (You'll find it in the PFO "Reverberations" section of our current issue at Christian is a friend of the design genius of Micro Magic, Reto Luigi Andreoli. The links he shared are terrific, and provide information that you won't find over on this side of the pond.

Hope you get over your MC funk. ..keep an eye on your shirtsleeves!

Glad to hear that you're enjoying PFO, by the way. We certainly get a kick out of doing it. 

All the best,


I wanted to thank Dr. S for the music reviews in Issue 29. Being familiar with a few of those mentioned and agreeing with his enthusiasm regarding those, makes it a certainty that I will seek out those I have never heard of.

Isn't it a tragedy when someone like Joan Osborne gets, in effect, mis-handled.

Did you ever see Janis Joplin live? I did, at Woodstock and in Montreal and it stands out in my memory, particularly Montreal. Over my 17 years as an independent recording engineer I have seen more than a couple of worthy artists/bands sink without a trace. Thanks again!

Russell Dawkins

Thanks for the ping. Ms. Osborne is a treat indeed.

I am not sure she has been mishandled, but I am sure that making a great recording is a helluva lot tougher than people think or there would be more of them.

I saw Janis, and most of the bigs back in the day. I am pretty sure I was at Woodstock, I mean I have this cancelled motel bill from upstate New York, and this vivid image of Gracie drinking directly from a bottle of Dom Perignon, but I can't ABSOLUTELY be sure…

But yes, The Doors, Hendrix, Joplin, Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Cream, The Dead, Steppenwolf, Ike and Tina, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary, John Fahey. Bo Diddley, Donovan, Chuck Berry, The Moody Blues, Ravi Shankar, Ten Years After, The Zombies, The Searchers, Paul Revere and the Raiders …and on and on …all etched in my aging synapses …those memories, when I am gone, like tears in the rain (as Roy would say) …there was a time that was all I needed.

Ah well, good times, good times …

The Good Doctor

Hi David,
I read your comments about the magic diamond cartridge and couldn't agree more... and I had to smile because many people talk about these MCs (many w/o having heard them, but that's the web...) and nobody seems to know more about them... so I figured you might be interested in a little background.

The guy behind these Swiss made cartridges is reto luigi andreoli, a good friend of mine. He studied architecture at the ETH in Zurich (also Albert Einstein's alma mater), but audio has always been his home turf. don't be fooled to think he's a cartridge manufacturer just because his MCs get such rave reviews—he's more of a contemporary Leonardo da Vinci, a true genius if I know one. He was a concert pianist, still occasionally builds houses, plays a wicked guitar and when he wanted to know more about cartridges, he went to the garrot brothers in Australia to learn the trade from them. He worked with them for (iirc) three years. (before committing suicide, they offered him their company, but he declined.)

Anyway, he also builds VERY good amplifiers and loudspeakers. I've added the PDF of an article we published in sound practices about my blue thunder speakers.

He also built my turntable, an EMT 930 with two tonearms. I think you know Lynn Olson; here's what Lynn wrote about my system when he was in Zurich: john Atwood also commented on my turntable needless to say that I also use reto Luigi Andreoli's cartridges; my favourite is his top model, the "tondose" which uses the housing of an ortofon SPU (it's the grey headshell on the rear arm in Lynn's article). in 1992 I bought a battery powered line stage from him that to this day is my preferred line amp and I keep returning to the pair of custom push-pull amps he built for me in 1994.... all in all, your description of the magic diamond cartridge (see PFO Issue 23, January/February 2006, at pretty much sums up his "trademark sound," if there is such a thing: it has drive, punch, a very solid bottom end, a smooth and yet detailed midrange, a natural top end with no glare; lots of details and air, and at the same time very homogeneous. I'm sorry, but the best way to describe Andreoli's sound is: if I were an LP, that's exactly how I would want to sound. .... ;-)

Did you know that all magic diamond cartridges have spherical styli? I find this especially noteworthy because according to conventional wisdom it should be impossible to have such an extended, smooth top end with a spherical stylus. but what do I tell you—you know how good this cartridge sounds... however, Andreoli is convinced that spherical is the only way to track an LP correctly. And the proof is in the pudding... his explanations are absolutely logical and convincing; it's not black science but simple, straight thinking of what a stylus tip does in the groove. Compared to a spherical stylus, all other styli produce more distortion. This is not only logical, but is backed up by the scientific studies the BBC conducted in the 60s. They also thought that an elliptical stylus should have less distortion than a spherical stylus and were very astonished when their studies showed the opposite.

In the 90s, I published a hifi magazine not unlike PFO (just nowhere near as big and thorough). For this magazine (HiFi Scene Schweiz), Andreoli wrote a two-part article on LP reproduction that has been dubbed "seminal" by people who don't use such a term lightly. The article is in German, but there are many scribbles that illustrate w/o words why cartridges should have a spherical stylus. You can download the article as PDF from my website (which is in English):; it's the last of the three links on that page. the article caused quite a stir in the German speaking hi-fi world because he put the finger right there where it hurts...

Andreoli is a very low-key person. The owner of the Swiss hi-fi shop "Dietiker-Humbel" is Andreoli's cousin and that's probably the reason why is to my knowledge the only shop that sells Andreoli's entire product line. He builds most of his stuff in very little series—and down to the last screw, he builds all by himself. the build quality of his stuff is absolutely incredible, fit & finish are quite simply sensational for one-off products. This kind of quality cannot be cheap, but here in Switzerland, his stuff is not nearly as expensive as in the US or in Asia. And this for a very simple reason: he sells most of his stuff directly or thru one dealer. The price range for his cartridges is between CHF 3000 and 5000 (US$ 2500 - 4200; your magic diamond would be the $2500 cartridge. Just goes to show how distributors add to the cost of living or listening...)

I wrote a portrait of Andreoli in an earlier issue of HiFi Scene Schweiz. It's also in German, but at least with a picture of him. If you're interested, I'll scan the article and mail it to you as PDF file.

That's it for the moment. Pardon my English—it's not my native language... I hope I hadn't bored you to death with my laudation.

Have fun with your magic diamond!

Best regards,

Christian Rintelen


Hello Christian …what a pleasant letter! Many thanks for taking the time to write to me.

Lynn Olson has been a audio friend of mine for many years now. I blasted off on the link you sent me to Lynn's Nutshell photo essay about his trip to Europe in 2005 …what a gas! Lynn has way too much fun at events like thatyou can tell.

 The details about your friend Reto Luigi Andreoli and his work with the Magic Diamond were fascinating. When the Magic Diamond arrived ahead of Lloyd Walker and Fred Law's installation of it, there was no documentation to speak of, and I couldn't Google up much of anything about the MC or its designer. I am deeply in love with my Magic Diamond…and now Lloyd tells me that there is a new top-level model out at over twice the price. C'est l'audio! Thanks for sending along the links to your HiFi Scene Schweiz magazine and your website …I enjoyed checking it out.

If you'd ever like to re-publish translations of selected articles from your archives over here at Positive Feedback Online, I would be delighted to share them with our English-speaking readers. Contact me if that appeals to you …you are always welcome here!

And by the way, I considered your English to be far superior to my Deutsche!

All the best to you, my friend,


I am relatively sure that you won't remember my correspondence this past summer concerning my soliciting your advice about Cary gear and Reimer Tetons, but I thought that I would give you an update on what I have done/found. I went ahead and got the 306 SACD, SLP-05, and the Cary 805ae amplifier and paired them with Reimer Tetons, Acoustic Zen Sartori speaker cables, Acoustic Zen Silver Matrix interconnects, and a Richard Gray 600 conditioner/protector.

I am in heaven. I can't get enough time in my listening room to satisfy me. The system does so many things well. the tone and soundstage are fantastic. I could not be happier with my choices. this is my first good stereo, and it has been a very enlightening experience for me. I never knew that music could sound so good. I had my neighbor, Mike Lavorgna (an audiophile and former reviewer for 6Moons) over several times while I was building the system, and he was impressed with it. He is into single driver speakers, but thought that the Tetons/electronics sounded real good! Thanks so much for what you do!

Al Solina

Sure I do... and congratulations on a killer set-up that is bringing you hours of enjoyment ...which is what it's all about!

Dave Clark

Dear Dr. Sardonicus,
I was reading your review about the JLTI and can not (sic) agree more with you about the sonic character of this machine (the strengths and also the downsides).

In my setup it made the music sound thin and unbalanced as it lacked significant bass weight. It wasn't just the lowest octaves but rather the entire presentation that seemed too tilted upward—however very relaxed in the highs do to slightly attenuated high frequency. Additionally, the lower frequencies from virtually every instrument were absent.

In absolute terms, I did find the JLTi a bit lean in the lower ranges. I suspect, however, that in most two-way systems (the most likely pairing for a machine at this price point), this would not be noticed. Because the ACI Sapphires have a somewhat rich bottom end, for example, they would be good match here.

Put the JLTi in with a tubed integrated (such as the SQ-88 I am currently reviewing, and the ACI Sapphires, and the additional richness would offset the player's deficits in the bottom end.

Since I know the Lindemann 820 and I have to agree with you—this is simply the best player I have heard so far I had hoped to hear something more about the direct comparison of the JLTI to the dCS8i and the JLTI to the Lindemann 820.

While I am not uncomfortable comparing the Lindemann and dCS, I think tossing a modified DVD player in to the mix is inappropriate. I liked the dCD's sound, with a presentation more similar to the Esoterics I have heard, but the Lindemann is in a separate, more rarified category.

Why I am asking: You may know Allen Wright states on his website: "The $US1650 JLTi pictured above has, in listening tests in dealers showrooms and at an Audiophile club meeting, come out on top sonically in comparison with the dCS P8i priced at $US14,999.

I can't comment; I wasn't there. I think this is an unfortunate way of saying, "Hey, this mod'ded DVD player sounds really good."

I would be interested if you would agree that this statement holds true (at least from how I read your review it seems that you liked the dCSP8i more).

It would never occur to me to compare the two. They are apples and oranges.

From the "cost no object" standpoint what player would be your first choice what the second and what the third (only comparing sonic quality - not price not built quality)?

At this very moment in time, I would rank my favorite players as: The new EMM Labs one-box CDSA SE player, followed by the Lindemann 820 (a new version is supposedly shipping to me soon, so we will see). Right now, those are the only two I would consider owning for myself.

I would be very much interested to hear your comments.

Sincerely yours

Sven Werner


Thanks for your comments. I have reproduced your letter here, in its entirety, with my comments marked in italics.

The Good Doctor

Dear Mr. Nack,
I live in India, a very difficult place to build a decent hi-fi system but rich in music, and have managed to assemble a modest system with a Arcam CD-192 and Yamaha cassette deck sources, VTL-TL5.5 line-stage with Mullard NOS tubes, Ayre V-5 power amp, Vandersteen 2Ce Sig, Rel Strata-5 subs, Audioquest Cheetah and Gibraltar cables, Richard Gray 400 and XLO and VH Audio power cords. Recently I acquired a Rack of Silence and now getting a Taoc AS-3 rack (intended for my DVD player and surround processor of my HT integrated with my hifi). I read with great interest your review of the Taoc and though I use the Solid Tech ROS now, I am curious to find out more about your experience in the footers you selected for it. I read that you finally chose a Harmonix which I am afraid is beyond my reach. Though I would consider feet or disc of silence, they also appear quite expensive and I don't know whether you tried the Finite Elemente ceraballs which appear to be reasonably priced. Also, my CDP and preamp are on the ROS and the power amp on a Taoc AS-1 as I found the the ROS sounded a bit thin with the power amp but sound great on the Taoc. Your views and experience will be of great value to me.

Thanks and best regards.

G. Chidambaram

Cochin - India.

Well, Mr. Chidambaram, although I am not familiar with your components, I must complement you on your choice of racks. The ROS is the best of the racks up through its price point (around $1500, depending on options) but, because of its design, you have limited compatible footers. With the Harmonix out of the picture, the Feet of Silence are first choice. They sound great and will give your components maximum stability. If you are the careful sort, the Ceraballs have very good word-of-mouth, although I have never tried them. They also have a wide base, which is important, as they must sit on the ROS cross-brace.

The TAOC AS series is my top choice in next leg up shelving (Around $2500 for a five shelf unit.) These are my reference racks, and I have found nothing to make me want to jettison them. You overlook the most obvious, and perhaps the best, footer for it: the TITE-35S, also made by TAOC. With Harmonix out of the picture—even with Harmonix in the picture—these would be my first choice, depending on what sonic adjustment your system needs most.

Suggestion: Just as you found with the power amp, I'd definitely try the preamp and CDP on the TAOC AS. I expect this would yield a similar improvement.

Marshall Nack

Dear Dave,
I believe that you must be one of the few who have experience with the Wavac LCR-X2 phono amp and will be able to draw conclusions about how it compares with other cost no object phono amps. I have one on hand. Could you please tell me whether others like Art Audio, Manley, CJ, Lamm or E.A.R. are better?

Niels Christiansen

Hello Niels...

I did have an extended experience with the LCR-X2 and the excellent Grand Prix Audio Monaco turntable paired with the Dynavector DV 507 MKII tonearm and the Dynavector DRT-XV1s MC cartridge (see my "Impressions" article in PFO Issue 25 at The LCR-X2 is wonderfully engineered, and shows the usual attention to detail that has made Wavac legendary. Of course, the prices of Wavac components are uniformly stratospheric, as well; the LCR-X2 lists for $25,000 the last time I checked. One thing I can say about Wavac: you spend a LOT of money, but you DO get exceptional quality. (That's not always true with every expensive component in fine audio.)

Then again, very few of us can get very serious about MSRP's of $25K for a phono amp, eh?

I have no personal experience with the Art Audio, CJ or Lamm phono amps, so cannot comment on those.

I have had the Manley Steelhead (MSRP USD $7300) in for a visit, back in 2003 (see I liked it quite a lot, and gave it a Brutus Award in 2003. In comparison, the LCR-X2 was quieter than I remember the Steelhead being, and seemed to present its music out of a clearer sonic background. On the other hand, the Wavac phono amp doesn't have any of the extremely handy multiple I/O's and configurable impedance and capacitance loading of the Steelhead, nor its volume control. In fact, the Steelhead is still the handiest swiss-army-knife-of-a-phono-amp that I know of right now.

The E.A.R. 324 phono amp, on the other hand, is not quite as configurable as the Manley, but does allow for switchable MM and MC operation, variable loading, and its transformer-based design is both quiet and very clean. At the price point that the 324 occupies ($3995), I'm not aware of a more versatile phono amp at this time...though I'm certainly not omniscient.

The current top o' the heap for me in phono amps is the latest iteration of the Walker Audio Reference Phono Amp, which I gave a Brutus Award in 2006 (see It tips the financial balance beam at a MSRP of around USD $13,000 or so, and like the Wavac doesn't have configurable options, but it's the best I've heard up to this point in time. And it does this at half the cost of the Wavac.

If you're shopping for cost-no-object phono amps, the Walker is my choice.

Best wishes to you on your audio journey....


Dear Doctor S.,
You Couldn't Be More Right! The recording of "Love" is just incredible. There is one thing better. Go see it, it will blow your mind and you don't even need any help from your friends.