POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 34
Our readers respond…we respond right back!
PF Online is relatively new to me and I have enjoyed every issue for the insights and help. As I go through a system overhaul, your reviews prove very helpful.
Being a guy in the "economy" range of things, the recent "gaggle" reviews [from Dr. Sardonicus] have proved timley and informative as I search out to replace my speakers in the new year.
The reviews of recordings by Karl Lozier and Bob Neill are equally enjoyed. Thanks Karl for discovering jems like Ariel Ramirez, Misa Criolla, Navidad Nuestra/Guido Haazen, Missa Luba. Choral Arts Society of Washington. Bob's reviews of several Bach Cantata Cycles have been great ! What an age we live in!
Isn't nice to know that if we [prefer] a little more Luther [on one hand], or C.S. Lewis [on the other], we have that choice? Keep up the great work.
Anyways, wishing you and your staff a joyful Christmas season and New Year.
Those are very kind words, Kevin; thanks for taking the time to share them with us.
Our artistic community works very hard to provide our readers with helpful and entertaining articles. When our readers express their appreciation, it encourages our writers and editors more than you know.
Please accept our Christmas greetings and best wishes for a joyful audio journey in 2008, Kevin.
Considering the cost is almost the same. What would your experience recommend?
I have never owned a Sony SCD-1, but I have owned a Sony SCD-333ES which was a 5-disc SACD changer that used the same digital section as the SCD-1. I had that player modified years ago by Modwright. It was a fine player, but even after the mods, sounded somewhat soft, was a bit foggy and lacked some bass impact. I replaced it with a Sony SCD-555ES SACD changer, the model that replaced the 333ES. This one had the new Burr-Brown chip set. I also had this modified more extensively by sacdmods.com. This was a giant killer player, great for the money. Finally, prior to the Marantz, I owned the Sony SCD-9000ES, which I had modified this time by Reference Audio Mods. This player went many steps further in some areas than the modified 555ES with which it shared the same digital chip set.
Now, although the mods on these various players were not the same and I can't compare apples to apples, my feeling is that the old Sony chipset (the very first SACD chipset made) that the 333ES shared with SCD-1 is not as good as any of the better quality later DACs found on later models. The Marantz SA-7S1 claims its chip set has the best specs on the market today, and listening to it, it's hard to argue.
The point of all this is that the one thing mod-ers don't replace is the DAC chipset, so you are stuck with whatever one comes stock in your player. For me, I would rather have a player with a more more modern DAC and upgrade parts around that. By now, most SCD-1s are likely to have high miles on them, though I have not rracked reports of reliability one way or another. I would need to hear a VSEI mod-ed SCD-1 and compare against my modified SA-7S1 to know which was superior, of course, but with the knowledge I have, I would recommend using the Marantz as your platform for building the ultimate dream machine.
Positive Feedback: I enjoy reading you and I just had to write you to about this power cord.
LessLoss Filtering Power Cable
I was wondering if you could direct me towards a U.S. distributor for Lindemann. I'm interested in listening to, and perhaps purchasing the 820S. I've been watching their website for months, waiting for information regarding a US distributor or dealer to appear—no dice. I sent an email to them requesting the information and received no response.
It's the damndest (sic) thing-—I can't find anyone to take my money! Perhaps its part of the "erratic behavior of the company itself" you mentioned in Issue 31. Anyway, if you can shed some light on this, I'd sure appreciate it. It doesn't bode well for service/repair after sale, and it's got me spooked.
Thank you for your help, and keep on doing what you're doing.
Thanks for your kind comments. I really wish I could help, but to my knowledge they have never clearly established a US distributor and since they refuse to communicate with me, I have no way of finding out.
I would strongly suggest you give the Marantz SA-7 a listen... to me it combines the virtues of the Lindemann and Meitner at a significantly more attractive price.
Thanks for your prompt response. I'll take a look at the Marantz SA-7.
For what it's worth, there may be an article, or at least a comment, lurking in the type of situation we're encountering with the Lindemann player and company. I just went through the same thing with the Loth Silbatone JI-300 Mk 2. Highly favorable review (in this case "enjoythemusic.com"), but encountered nothing but frustration when I wanted to listen to, and perhaps purchase, the equipment. Useless websites, failure to get a responsive email, and nobody (including, like yourself, the author of the favorable review) who could tell me the name of a distributor or dealer in the US).
Yeah, I'm an audiophile, which implies a priori a certain amount of brain damage, but who would purchase an expensive piece of equipment (or anything) without an opportunity to sample the product?
And where would I go for service? It doesn't make any sense. Good luck in your future endeavors. I'll continue reading.
Apart from the frustration, there are two serious issues with such a situation; the first of which is what happens if you need warranty work? And the second is resale ...who wants to buy a very expensive (in the case of the Lindemann, more that $12k US) piece that will lose most of its value for resale? And this is in the context of being able to buy a great sounding Teac Universal (DV-60) (in the mid $5k range, the Marantz SA-7(@$6.5k) and even the Meitner ($10k) for significantly less money and good used market support.
And how does one explain putting up a website with "Contact Us" listed prominently, and then ignoring emails from potential customers who are looking to buy your product. In the case of Lindemann for example who has gone to the trouble of establishing an English language website, how could they ignore the fact that many of us in the US speak English (and have a bit of money to spend on equipment)? Should I assume that I'll be making a purchase and receiving support from their Slovakian distributor?
Although I'm not personally experienced with the "business" of high-end audio, we're all familiar with the sudden appearance and disappearance of high-end companies, and the clients who invested in them being left in the lurch. It just seems good business, not to mention common courtesy, to build the bottom of the pyramid strong. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, so forgive me...
Doc S responds ….
You make a perfectly reasonable, but erroneous assumption. High-End audio is less about "business" and more of a quirky, sometimes artsy, sometimes "scammy," offshoot (like your weird cousin that no one wants to talk about in public).
We often have hobby-ists or creative talents who are not so stable (emotionally or financially) starting a business around a product or an idea, with no business plan, little or no reliable financing, and often a less than optimal personality and skills set for business management. A brilliant designer or engineer may very frequently be the worst possible manager or product representative.
I constantly marvel at the kinds of interactions I have with manufacturers, distributors and the like ... that run contrary to civility, rationality and any possibility of a positive outcome. I frequently joke that the high-end is more similar to ancient forms of agriculture and religion than modern business.
For example, ask any high-end boutique manufacturer if they have an actual business plan, if they know their cost of capital, how they manage liability, what their marketing analysis shows, etc. Most often you will get a blank stare. Now, take that line of thought and apply it to things like predictable quality control, warranty support, etc., and wrap it around audiophiles as a consumer group (paranoid, panic and angst riddled ...and nit-picky to the level of OCD). THAT is a hellish admixture.
At any point in time you can sign on to the net and see some thread where this or that supplier or manufacturer has stopped responding to telephone calls and emails ...and has either suffered a complete emotional meltdown, or ran out of money. How many delicate wonders have passed from existence because of the lack of business acumen or the presence of some personality disorder that makes it impossible for them to deal with others constructively on a sustained basis?
And this before we get to the big boys who practice variations of insanity and internecine battles that also defy logic.
I used to be perplexed by these things; now I simply accept them as part of the unique nature of this hobby and try to be amused.
Caveat Emptor (for REAL)!
The following is a response from Max Dudious to a letter from Gerald Bearman that appeared in Issue 33.
I guess you know my work on the topic, or you wouldn't have forwarded a copy on to me. I, too, have had good results (fabulous results, if you consider the price differences) with an inexpensive ($600) "universal" Marantz CD player, DV6600, playing through a Marantz multi-channel Receiver SR 9200. It is hard for me to compare that excellent sounding piece with the higher priced model I also reviewed, the SA-11S1, because I didn't have them both in-house at the time. I know that there are several things you didn't mention, or seem to take into account.
I believe that it is the reviewer's responsibility to present the piece under review in the best possible light, assuming that's how the manufacturing team heard it before they released it to the public. So before I make a final judgment on a piece I want to hear how it sounds with different pieces of gear, different cables, in different rooms (for speakers), etc. Then, when I feel I've gotten it to perform as well as I can, I offer my opinion.
I've had some pieces, from prominent manufacturers (it is against my policy to name), that I couldn't get to sound as good as I felt they ought to, and I've disqualified myself from reviewing them. I do give the manufacturer the benefit of the doubt. Also, I don't like to give nasty reviews. I prefer to leave that for others. That's another of my personal policies. I only review products that I'm enthusiastic about. It's really easy to be nasty, and that's not who I am. Call it a personal quirk. Call me chicken.
I've never reviewed a Marantz product that I didn't think was doing at least an above average job in some way. I have ducked out on reviewing one or two. I do remember the CD/SACD player in question, the SA-11S1, 'cuz it had many HDAM modules in its circuit and I was fascinated by HDAMs at the time. These modules have certain technical functions: they match impedances between stages, or act as buffer amplifiers on the output sections (which allow for long cable runs, among other things).
However, their characteristic sound is very smooth. If you play this CD player with a very smooth amplifier, or very smooth cables, or you have a highly damped listening room, or any combination of those, I can understand the result you reported, "lifeless sound." I'd guess, in an attempt to be non-combative, that you didn't take those kinds of things into account, or you'd have mentioned them.
And then there is the question of associated gear. I've found some of my library of cables do better with some kinds of gear than others. At their best, most cables give wide-band frequency response, good sound staging, lots of air around instruments, etc. But not all cables work well with the same gear. I think it has to do with impedance matching, and the small but noticeable peaks and dips that each cable has. Some sound better than others with one piece of gear. It's a bit of a mystery. Sometimes interconnect cables from one manufacturer sound great with speaker cables from that manufacturer. Other times the sound improves if you "mix and match." A little olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, some oregano, a little Dijon mustard, a squeeze of lemon juice. You must know the drill by now. Try brig hter cables.
Some pieces sound great at low volume, and others need to be pushed to louder output. I've had some amplifiers that don't sound really good until you play them at lifelike levels. While others sound pretty terrific at low levels. I think that is a design decision. I don't remember your reporting on that. If you listen at low levels, that's fine. But, unfortunately this piece might not come alive at low levels. Maybe you will have to get another because you weren't M.F.E.O. (As the little girl in Sleepless In Seattle says, "Made For Each Other.")
Finally, while it is relatively easy to notice "more" in judging audio equipment, sometimes "less" is the more desirable attribute. Less boom, less tizz, less in your face presence, are only three I can come up with that are easy to hear. There are others that take more self-training: less smearing, less blurring, less masking. Sometimes less is really more.
Maybe if you experiment a little with the variables I've listed (cable matching, removing or repositioning some upholstered furniture and/or drapes, trying some brighter amplifiers) you'll get better results. Just swapping out the CD player controls for only one variable, but it doesn't take the other factors I've mentioned into account.
I got good results from the SA-11S1 CD player. I found it removed some annoying qualities (screechy, metallic overtones) from human voices I found very disagreeable, and similarly sweetened violins and fiddles. This meant I could listen to opera and blue-grass singers with less irritation.
For all the good reviews that this piece received, is it possible that your personal result with the piece is an outlier on the curve? We who do a lot of reviewing have worked long and hard to be able to pick up subtle improvements in the sound, and if a whole group of us are more or less in agreement about a piece of gear, and disagree with you, is it possible you didn't try hard enough to find the virtues in this piece of gear?
I'd ask you to try again. See what might be needed to bring the piece back to life for you before you sell it.
He mentioned them in short note, but I thought it would be great to hear his comments, so I could better access the musical reproduction of this new technology. I know digital amps have been hit hard on the negative side by TAS and Stereophile.
P.S. I am dying to read Rick's further comments on the Marantz SA-7S1 CD/SACD player. I own it and I really am so happy with it, I have not thought of even looking for a digital front end in the past 8 months of use. This is a first for me in 20 years of dealing with a digital front end, and I am a LP collector with a Sota Cosmos turntable.
I too have settled into a more rational way of enjoying music and Gary is one of my guides. A writer for the rest of us music lovers.
Hello Mr. Stern,
Without knocking other knowledgeable journalists for their lack of rigueur I must say that your writing stands out like a hundred-watt bulb in a Christmas tree. Now that I know who you are I know why.
Reading you is a breath of Internet fresh air!! I hope to read you for a long while still.