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Positive Feedback ISSUE 31
may/june 2007



One of the greatest benefits to moving to electronic distribution is the intoxicating freedom of space. Print magazines must, per force, exercise extreme control over space, because with only a dozen issues a year, each issue, each article is size-limited.

This disallows the luxuries ezines can afford themselves. We can loosen our belts, add another plate to the table, and stretch out.

Of course, this means that we have be ever vigilant not to become self-indulgent with this bounty.

In this specific case, I am allowing myself the luxury of extended correspondence with a reader. In days past, letter writing was an art. Now we have deteriorated to the point of "drive by" communication, via email, text messaging and other forms of communication where only the bottom line gets through. In another time, the way we communicate with each other would have been considered brusque and gauche.

So, Sherman …set the Way-Back Machine for a simpler and more cordial time…

The following is the continuation of a dialogue between a reader and the Doc... for the prescript...

To the elusive and reclusive Dr. Sardonicus,
I just had a few questions about the VMPS RM 30s speakers in the doc's Epistemological Epiphany. And if this is not you could you forward it to the good Doc.

Newform R645 LoudspeakerWell I am a "mature audiophile" with several systems in different joints and for my, ahem, 60th, my better half has said yes to me about a new system for my study, where now retired I spend a good deal of my time, and typically have a reasonably crappy system that I spend most of my time with, blah, blah, blah.

So I have never had a pair of electrostats and was considering Quads, ML's and even the quirky Canadian New Form Research 645 V3 turbos. The VMPS do keep coming up for me though. My room is about 15 x 14 and I listen to mostly quartet, and solo jazz and classical. Seems as you mature, hearing and all, you tend to get into the composer's, jazz, classical, more mature works, Ludwigs String Quartets, Miles etc, etc. Not to mention the evolution of appreciation for the midrange over all else.

I do love the bass though... down to the low thirties though and was wondering what your feel about them VMPSs sight unseen and to this point unheard in my reasonably sized study.

Man their current price lists with the upgrades sure ratchet up the price in a hurry—near 6-7 g's, not a problem though. My brother gave me for Christmas past an MBL integrated amp, and I have a nice Accuphase ready to go. And so knowing full well you probably get badgered incessantly for recommendations, I humbly submit my request. Not only that but I would also let VMPS use the setup to demo up here in Vancouver, B.C. where nary a distributor exists.

My main system is by the way a custom pair of Tannoy Gold 15" rebuilt in custom cabinets, with a pair of Nestorovic NA-1's Audible Illusion pre, and Barclay CDP.

Thanks Doc, and only if you have the time, do your really dig those speakers that much. And say what do you think of their wave guide, groovy or not?

Kindest regards from a reader and supporter of your earlier print daze...

sam h. vancouver, b.c.

Hey Sam, thanks for the nice letter.

Let me respond.

Interesting observation about the "older" listener. I just find, in general, while the genres I listen to don't change ...I seek water from a deeper well in each of them. It takes more to touch me now ...

I have always been drawn, and repelled by the various forms of membrane and ribbon based speakers. The closest I ever came to actually ponying up, was a pair of Apogee Duettas, driven by a Krell, that I really enjoyed ...uh, until I heard how fragile they were. In retrospect, probably my caution was well-considered. Of course there were the EMITs in my Infinity QLSs but rest of the speaker was dynamic.

For me, the VMPS captures most of what I love about this topology, but offers none of the limitations (they play LOUD, don't break, and have terrific dynamics).

All I can say about the price is that getting the full dress rig (all the upgrades) and remaining under ten K is remarkable. They really are that good.

I cannot speak to bass integration other than in my room, where the largish sub got shoved to the very back of the room and behind everything, up against glass no less, and I had very little trouble dialing it in. I am a total bass head and it fills my coffers.

I am less enamored of the lens least in my room. I am told they are a function of the room, listening position, etc. BUT thing is, you can use them or not, as you wish. The speaker is VERY adjustable. One of the things I appreciate is that it will work as well in a home theater as in a high end two channel audio only rig.

I understand considering the venerable Quads (everyone has to have a pair once in their lives, right?), Martin-Logans, and I too have had some curiosity about the Newforms. If you get a change to hear them, drop us a line with your thoughts, K? The hybrid ML's have been very popular ...but try as I might, I have been unable to warm up to them.

This highlights a huge problem, which is, how damned difficult it is to make a decision about speakers. It's like a mail order bride. You can look at the pictures and read the descriptions all you want, but until you hear them set up in something remotely approaching your environment, with your ancillaries, you are rolling the dice.

What I can say with confidence, is that the folks who frequent my listening room are among the most jaded and cynical listeners out there ...and to a person, they have all commented favorably on this speaker, which sells for a fraction of anything else I have had in the room for ages.

The Good Doctor S

Thanks for your gracious reply. I too like your note of seeking water from a deeper well. and in agreement, as moving deeper into the music as a metaphor for listening is apt, yessiree. My biggest improvement on my hardware with is not all top of the line, but right up there,—was switching interconnects to Nordost, and then replacing all cable with the stuff. An absolutely transcendent improvement made especially in the deeper water. Thanks for the insight. I can say I know what you mean.

As to the Newforms, well I have actually heard an earlier iteration, version one at Zen Mastering Studios here in Vancouver, run by one of the nicest persons you would want to meet, Graeme Browne. He has done some good and notable work, most recently with Robert Silverman for Stereophile recordings. He is in one of there recent recording session stories looming large,—well over six feet.

At the time he kindly let me and a friend audition the Newforms in his studio, being used for almost nearfield listening, he had a mediocre amp—a Parasound I think, so I brought over one of my Chords, and also a Bryston (dead black quiet and good for auditioning speakers).  The mids were brilliant and as a line source they has a great sound stage but so translucent as to border on kind of a sibilant edginess which would tire me out, but was great for examining music and mixing, which was their dedicated use.

They are now in a version three, which has apparently improved all around external x-over etc. caps . Graeme has, now that he is moving along nicely in his career, switched to a surround sound Lipinski Audio system, with their matching subs. These speakers come with nice factory made traveling / shipping bags, and he regularly take a pair on an outing - live recordings etc.. Cool idea.

They again are remarkable but—perhaps his amplification again—didn't deliver the goods for me. After all I have been on Tannoys for about thirty five years now, so the over analytical monitor style a la Joseph Audio, Merlin, Genelec are too precise for me, almost as if actually and with effort squeezing the music out of the sound, i.e. not effortless. For his purposes though a fine find.

As to the encouraging words about the VMPSs thanks doc, I may take the jump and if I do, now comforted by the crafting of the wooden crates they come in, will likely take the plunge (my 60th is in November by the way) so sometime between now and then. May load them up even with the lens as from past experience, I have found not knowing how they would sound—would bother me. Sigh. but sadly and still not jaded!!

Cool anecdotal story and great audio experience: Last fall being taken over the Howrah Bridge in Mumbai, (Bombay) in a kind of rickshaw, with my Indian guide, side kick and co traveler a beautiful Muslim polymath from Hyderabad named Mounira. This is the busiest damn bridge in the world—teeming with tens of thousands of people a day, wealthy, derelicts, people walking with massive loads on their back. I had the ubiquitous loaded ipod with a pair of Shures, in ear, phones. Mounira was leaning against me tired and I was listening to an Indianish cross album with U. Srinivas and Michael Brook—called suitably—Dream. The trip to, across, and past the bridge was accompanied with this music—all other sounds blocked out except this surreal accompaniment. Was perhaps the most exquisite, dream like musical experience I have had in my life to this point. Ahhh! And in the midst of this Mounira actually fell asleep, a talent only cultivated in the busiest city of the world by its residents. As we reached our destination she was actually stuck to me kind of melded by our perspiration seeping through clothes, an inevitability Indian experience. Lovely too.

Thanks again,

Remember your lines, and don't bump into the other actors,

Yer Kindest Sardonically Audiophilian Regards

sam h. vancouver b.c.

photo of the Barclay plugged in for insurance photos a beauty though runs hot. Older AR pre.


Good to hear from you. I enjoy your letters.

I know that the effect cable has continues to be controversial, but over and over again, when we find the right lash up for our specific systems, magic happens. Particularly gratifying is the fact that there is no one, best alternative …it depends on us and our specific perceptions.

The "sibilant edginess" you attribute to the Newform ‘stats are why I have never been able to warm up to the Martin Logans. I find that effect (while initially attention-getting) to be ultimately amusical and fatiguing. I refer to it as a "tin foil" effect. However, there is a HUGE range of sensitivity for this, and many listeners experience it quite differently, and with great favor.

Here is a really spooky thing. The absolute closest I have ever gotten to that electrostatic magic without other compromises is with a massive cinema horn through the mids and low highs. Jennifer Crock is currently working on a design that incorporates a two-way horn, with some secret innovations, to produce what will be a truly world class speaker, drivable with any amplifier (if it is quiet) you might choose, even the flea power SEs. The dispersion characteristics of these massive horns simply immerses you in air uncanny.

As to the Tannoys, I have always secretly lusted to put together a truly vintage system, with perhaps the Churchill's as the center piece; pure analog, pure tube …classics from when audio was just for fun, instead of being a blood sport. Ah well, perhaps if I win the lottery (everyone NEEDS four audio systems, don't you think?).

We also agree on analytic equipment. I have heard many systems that excel at autopsy level analysis …but the music is moribund. Again, we do not all come to this hobby with the same needs and desires. Intellectually, I can understand that for some people, most of this occurs at purely the mental level. They are visual and analytical and take, apparently, great pleasure in being able to sort frequencies out like berries in a basket.

Me, I want sex, sweat and gut level emotional responses. If it don't touch me, I ain't interested. But that is just my way.

Congrats on your pending 60th. I just celebrated 56 …and it is so much better than the alternative.

I didn't know about the wooden crates for the VMPSs. Of course, remember, I get review samples, and since companies know that most reviewers are like the Samsonite Gorilla, they tacitly accept we will do questionable things with their precious equipment. Wooded crates for speakers are a pain in the butt, and the only way to go for big uns.

Your delightful Indian anecdote stirred memories of spending several weeks with a lovely Brahmin woman named Miccoo, who lives in Mumbai, showing her around the North West, learning to fix gobi and paratha and hearing contemporary Indian music, which I adore. If you have not yet, get the movie Bride and Prejudice, this truly joyous version of Jane Austin's, Pride and Prejudice is set in modern India …a truly celebratory film. Oh yes, and the sweat, well …that is another story.

It is a delight to have civilized discourse, and rare enough in this hobby to warrant publishing it.

Thanks Sam, be well.

I want to thank you for reminding me that amongst all the churlishness in this pursuit, there are pearls of great prize.

I am more pleased than you know that I have motivated you to correspond.

The Good Doctor

oh one final addendum, I had the good fortune of growing up with Tannoys and stereo Quads, we lived in a ritzy neighborhood full of Docs, lawyers and Irish Griffentown Mafiosa like us—in Montreal. I do know their sound, but not the most recent Chinese versions. Oh yes and this before birth control too, I am the oldest of ten kids, and I was raised with seven of them sisters, and still in recovery mode from both my upbringing surrounded by women, and Catholicism itself!

 As a kid I always was amazed at how the sound would come out of our Quads and would as a very young child walk around them in amazement.

Tannoy:Canterbury 15 HEThe Tannoys we then had were full dress 12" golds—I think called Canterburys and I remember being baffled by their mysterious keyhole at the bottom of the grill to keep us curious kids out I guess, all run with Quad Amplification. And a vast improvement over the kitchy 5 watt consoles around at the time.

I am forever grateful to my old man who is still kicking, but deaf as a doornail due to being too close to the mortars in WWII. Music has always thus heard had a healing component to me. One of my earliest experiences remembered, listening to Beethoven's 9th and not being able to control my tears, a surprise to me at the time—maybe 5-7 years old. The deeper well again. Yes I have found when deep into the music I become emotionally labile - the opposite to stabile—i. e. easily moved, deeply moved.  It has always been good medicine to me, keeping me loose, off my game, open, in a random, Taoist chaotic kind of way. And all this opposed to the kind of serious business I do. The vibe it creates in me has chilled out many a client. So spending the bucks has always been rewarding to me and a better investment than to the Doctor! you know the MD version


as it were Doc!

Over and out

 sam h.  van. b.c.