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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 42
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Our readers respond…we respond right back!

Send your comments to either drobinson@positive-feedback.com or dclark@positive-feedback.com

Dear Editor,
re: letter from Richard Beers/ President T.H.E. SHOW, in response to Clay Schwartz review.

Many thanks to Richard Beers and Mike Maloney for once again putting together one of the best "perfectionist audio" shows on this planet. I was motivated to write this letter in advance of my own review, after reading Mr. Beers' understandable outrage at the poor attitudes of other PFO writers. Unfortunately, my full review is delayed by family illness. But herewith, a preview: 

As always, I toured CES with Mastering Maven Extraordinaire Stan "The Man" Ricker. We spent hours in the VMPS/Ampzilla/Kimber room, and couldn't agree with you more... it was exceptional. We were also mightily impressed by the Magnepan demo that you mentioned. Other rooms that floated our collective boats were: Herron Audio (thanks to Keith Herron and "The Disc Doctor" Duane Goldman), The Hovland Company (thanks to old friends Bob Hovland, Jeff Tonkin, Mike Garges, and Alan Crespi), Hansen Audio (Lars Hansen did it again), Merlin Music Systems (and my close friend and survivor Bobby Palkovic), Art Audio (and fellow racing fanatic Joey Fratus, who has persevered against all odds), Cardas Audio (and George Cardas of course, who is a prince among gentlemen), Audio Power Industries (not actually exhibiting, but seeing Les Edelberg with or without "best tie" was a treat), Manley Laboratories (we missed actually seeing you this year, EveAnna), Audio Machina (and the ever-effervescent Karl Scheumann), Ampzilla 2000 as above (and the tremendous character Jim Bongiorno, himself a stalwart survivor in his own right), legendary audio designer and audio bud John Curl (who designed and built the first really good-sounding solid-state electronics for the Mark Levinson company in the late 1970's), famed producer Joe Harley, who with Ron Rambach is reissuing stunning-sounding 45-rpm LPs from the Blue Note jazz catalog of the Golden Era under the Music Matters label), legendary protector of the blues Chad Kassem, (who is reissuing complementary stunning sounding 45-rpm LPs from the Blue Note jazz catalog of the Golden Era under the Analog Productions label), good audio friend Alan Kafton of audioexcellenceaz, EAR USA proprietor extraordinaire Dan Meinwald, Israel Blume of Coincident Speaker Technology, and his lovely wife, and of course our very own Clark Johnsen (have I got the tweak for you ... would you believe eucalyptus buds? ... I knew you would).

Forgive me if this list spills over into the CES show, but because of the family illness I mentioned earlier... I'm forced to write from memory and without notes. But even without my detailed notes.....you get the drift. A phenomenal time was had by all (except for earlier reviewers who apparently don't appreciate the industry). As usual, Stan and I enjoyed T.H.E SHOW more than walking the endless miles through the Venetian to see the CES "High End" Show. No wonder we at PFO prefer the term "perfectionist audio".

Audios,
Dave Glackin
PFO Associate Editor at Large


Larry Cox,
Well, I read it and didn't see where Larry adjusted the thing for just music, which is what I would have done in preference to a movie setting. Maybe because of its price, it was assumed that it wouldn't be that important. It is to me as I recommend things to people all the time at all price levels.

Did I read the review wrong? My friend once got pretty good results from a $100 KLH sub from Costco mated to his Altec Valencia's. I don't expect that it will end up sounding like a REL or even close, but it should do OK on music. My own equipment list can be found on the asylum.

Tommy

Tommy,

What I did for music was dial back the settings for both output, lowered the pass to let in only the lowest bass and keep the subs a bit further out from the walls.

Lowering the volume output allowed the subwoofer to provide some bass, but not at the volume level of the main speakers. The effect, as with movies, was to provide a bit more foundation, though it remained somewhat "indistinct" bass.

Surprisingly, this allowed sounstaging to open up a bit more. I lowered the pass so only the very deepest bass put out by the A-Sub was present; unfortunately the very deepest bass was also where the A-Sub was at its weakest, but that's also true of the best subs.

And, pulling the subs further out into the room reduced the effects of the front wall which made the bass a bit tauter. Truth be told with movies, more foundation or higher output levels were more fun than the levels for music. I don't know what the sound of a dinosaur's foot on the ground sounds like, so I wasn't disturbed by levels that were too high.

I like that you are thinking that there is performance available at all levels. There seems to be a sense in audiophiles perhaps even more so at the asylum that if it ain't great it's a turd and that's just not so. I think the A-Sub is pretty remarkable value at its price point, it's another name to put next to the lower level Hsu's even if it's not a REL - JL Labs competitor.

Cheers,

Larry


Hallo,
Lately I've been thinking of The Big What If:

What would happen if there ever were to be a scientific basis for the things we so enthusiastically and often opinionatedly discuss, namely sound reproduction?

What would happen if you actually could scientifically produce a perfect sound system, and do it in a way that anyone could afford it?

Not just 70, 80, or 90% but so real that at least 990,000 out of a million people couldn't tell the difference at least when seated in the right spot. Exact verisimilitude.

That would certainly be a day we would all more than welcome, but what do you think it would mean to the audiophile hobbyists/professionals the audio industry as a whole not to speak of its effects on the culture, particularly music preferences?

Time to pack your bags and go home? Game over?

Is it just a pipe dream or can it happen? What do you think?

I welcome your insightful thoughts.

Best Regards,

Wernher

Wernher

I love "what if" scenarios ... but the truth is, at our current stage of evolution, we know precious little about the universe, although our own narcissism continually suggests to most people they know lots, such as Alaska has bad weather because it is an island, and the Flintstones were a documentary.

I just heard a physics professor from Harvard state that they think the reason why gravity is so much stronger than other comparable cosmic forces is there is some particle associated with gravitons we have not seen that is carrying enertia from another dimension, and they are going to try to find it with a supercollider. Now THAT is something to chew on.

There is no such thing as exact versimilitude, if for no other reason than there are significant differences among people when it comes to neurology, and even more significant differences when it comes to perception (which is as much about manufacturing information, as receiving it). We know, for example, that in PET scans Japanese people tend to process nature sounds (rain, wind, etc.) in the part of the brain where we westerners process music ... no wonder there is such passion for "tuning" the sound of a Japanese garden!

And, we do not share the same asthetic. We don't like the same things. You may insist that dry Chardonnays are the best white wine, and I will continue to drink German Reislings, because I prefer them.

I think a day where all humans share the same perceptions is a nightmarish vision, and I for one, hope I am not alive to see it.

Doc S.

Doc,
Interesting points you raise. I agree with you. But... aren't we're all dealing with the same stuff (atoms, the motion of which sound is), no matter how we feel or what our capacities are? You seem to deny that there exists a single reality which we all hear and experience. Reality exists regardless of our perceptions of it. That's all we should, and can be concerned about. As you of course know, science doesn't deal with subjective feelings or opinions but measurable, reproduceable events occurring in physical reality. A perfect sound reproduction would simply mean that the sound that occurs in reality is exactly reproduced; the same event (statistically, as we can't say anything too precise about gases) takes place - just like the same event (imperceptible chaotic air pressure fluctuations aside) takes place, when you play back a recorded song again. And anyone who is located where that event occurs experiences the motion of those atoms with a very high degree of verisimilitude to the original event. Our senses have a resolution limit and can't distinguish differences below a certain threshold, so in practice 100% can be achieved if we can stay below the error magnitude that the senses are capable of distinguishing - just like a display screen that has an infinite resolution (as reality probably has) isn't necessary because we have limited resolution eyes. I seems to me that we just must learn to excite the movement of atoms in a very precise manner that very closely approximates what occurred in the original event (99.999% or whatever our resolution is, perhaps 98% is enough).

Regards,

Wernher

Wernher

I do disagree there is a single reality. In fact I have repeatedly heard observed by physicists and astronomers that the universe of which we humans are aware, has all of the characteristics of an apparition. Plato was right perhaps ... we only perceive shadows on the wall.

Science absolutely deals with subjectivity ... it must. Does it deal with subjectivity at the same confidence levels of physical processes? No. But even there we have the uncertainty principle and the inescapable relationship between perception and that which is perceived.

We have repeatedly seen demonstrated that people experiencing the "same" event (same place in the space time continuum) often have such different experiences they are impossible to rationally reconcile.

Besides ... I don't do this for certainty ... I do this for love.

Doc S.

Doc,
I can see your point. It has validity, though I'm not sure it's entirely applicable to what I have in mind. How about this: Would you agree that a system that 999,999 out of a million people agree is realistic IS in fact realistic? Would you be more confident that THAT system is more realistic than a system which only has one supporter? The point is that even if we can't be SURE, we can have different confidence levels, right? We can be more sure or less sure. Surely, if you observe something occurring again and again and again, millions of tests, and you always get the same result and some other test consistently again and again and again fails, you could start placing your bets on what's going to happen when you perform the next test with high confidence, which would only grow the more tests you run? So confident that you could actually say "in practice, THIS one is realistic, because it consistently passes the test, and ALL the others aren't, because they consistently fail the test".

Regards,

Wernher

Wernher

No, I would not agree. Realistic compared to what? Are you talking about the old rubric of the absolute sound (natural instruments, live recorded)? I have been involved in high resolution (DSD) short chain (seven mikes, no more than 50 feet of mike cable, no mixer) multichannel recordings, where I could experience both the live event and the recording in real time. The performers would argue about the realism of such recordings, listening to the master ... and even re-set their configuration (how they were positioned) based on it, while all the time arguing about its validity. These are the people who were there and they can't agree.

The fact that you might get a statistically significant number of people to describe the playback of a recorded event as 'realistic' only means that a significant number of people hold this belief, because the representation of a thing can never be the thing itself, therefore a recording can never be real ... it is a representation. I don't care how many people think a statue is "realistic" in its representation of a thing; it is still a statue.

Also, people don't tend to prefer reality ... they prefer fantasy. Give people two identical plates of food, one of which has had a teaspoon of additional sugar added ... see which they prefer. Show pictures of women, one airbrushed and photo shopped, the other untouched ... see which they prefer.

Even doing recordings with absolutely state of the art equipment and techniques, I have never been confused as to reality.

I once saw the extraordinary actress Agnes Moorehead interviewed. The interview talked about critical analysis of her motivation in one scene in a movie, where all the critics agreed as to her portrayal. She laughed and explained that at the time of the scene being shot she was trying not to throw up from a bad meatball hero sandwich she had eaten at lunch.

Doc S.

Doc,
Good points I hadn't thought of. This is a heavily hypothetical scenario and I expected several cans of worms to appear - they just did. :-)

Sure, it will be a representation, but, in this hypothetical scenario, so close to 100% that it exceeds our hearing resolution - just like a high resolution picture can exceed our eyes' resolution.

I don't think there's need to involve people with their opinions at all. Logically it's no more complicated than making the air in the room move the same way as it did when it was picked up by the microphones. Would you agree? Ideally, if you placed the microphones in the room and recorded the reproduction, you would get the same result as the original recording (with negligible differences, since nothing can be 100% perfect, but it can exceed our senses' resolution, and be 100% in practice).

Regards,

Wernher

Werner

The physical functioning of sensory apparatus, and perception are not the same. Our eyes can detect down to one photon of light, but they are limited in their design, nonetheless. We know that ultraviolent and infrared exist, but we cannot perceive them directly. Are we impacted by these frequencies and the entire radiated spectrum? Of course.

Our brains manufacture as much information as they take in from the outside. Our reality is created, even by our culture, certainly by what we believe. For each, it is different.

This idea of resolution in audio has been one of the drivers for the 20-20kHz limitations of CD being "ok" because these ranges are outside normal hearing for adults. However, the fact that we are impacted by frequencies outside these ranges is largely a scientific fact. Have you ever found anyone who says that hidef TV should, or is indistinguishable from the event being shown on the tv? Of course not.

Can I tell the difference and do I prefer the difference between DSD (which is not bandwidth limited) and 44.1k PCM ... of course I can and do. Also I have had the advantage of having been on both sides of the recording process in all these formats, from direct-to-disc, various magnetic tape speeds, PCM at various resolutions and DSD. I am very comfortable with my conclusions. It matters not at all to me that people with little or no direct experience agree or disagree. I have never experienced any confusion between the reality of the original event, and the recording. Never.

There is no way to reproduce the micro level of sound pressure against a microphone diaphragm at the macro level of room pressurization by a reproduction system. These are different levels of events. They cannot be equivalent.

When we were recording, I could walk from the control room to the performance venue during the same song. I could stand in the wings of the stage, at the back of the auditorium, at the center position of the microphone or machine feed in the control room, or at the corners ... each were different aspects of the same phenomena. Are any of them "real" with respect to the listening position of the musicians or any or all of the people in the audience? What about the subsequent recording? Not at all. Tell me which is real .

Here is my suggestion ... find music you love and equipment, the sound and operation of which you enjoy; have a nice glass of wine and forget about the rest of this nonsense. You make yourself crazy.

Doc S.

Doc,
Consider this: you're blindfolded and wear ear plugs. You're led to a room and sit down. Loud orchestral music starts playing. The ear plugs are removed. Your head is held in place so you can't hear any spatial cues that would give away the speakers (stereo collapsing to one side). Then the sound quality changes dramatically. What you heard was today's best system and now it's a real orchestra. The song ends and you think it was just the orchestra playing but in fact at one point of silence it was switched to the new system and you noticed no difference. This could be repeated a million times, back and forth, and nearly everyone would be fooled and think that they're listening to just one source - the original. Perhaps it could be that good. In principle it seems possible, but is it in practice - that's up to science to figure out.

It would have to replay not only the spatial cues from the room (stereo doesn't seem enough), it would have to essentially place you within the same waveform of sound that runs through and resonates your whole body. You must have the air moving nearly exactly like the original (down to perhaps 0 Hz) to have that sensation. Otherwise you'd notice something obvious, your gut feeling, is missing. 

I think it would have to be about that good to be called science at all; it couldn't leave room for opinion and discussion. To be called science, it would have to be objectively and verifiably correct. It would have to shut people up permanently and just leave them listening in awe - like we do at live concerts. Judging by the track record of science I think science is our best bet, and probably our only hope.

Regards,

Wernher

Wernher

Science is very seldom about absolutes ... it is about probability.

And what possible purpose could this serve? Besides, what sort of technology do you imagine that can replicate all of the spatial cues we are so sensitive towards?

Again, have some nice wine, enjoy the music.

Doc S.

Hi Wernher,

I don't remember hearing from you before. I guess you addressed your note to me as a kindred spirit. I'm flattered. Meanwhile, to the task at hand.

I've owned various systems that I would play at parties, say, solo guitar music, and people entering in the hall would say to me, "Don't tell me you've hired one of the kids from The Conservatory to play while we dine." I'd smile mysteriously. And this guy, on one occasion, went walking around the first floor of my home looking for a guitarist that wasn't there: saying, "I could have sworn there was a guitarist right in the room." Yesterday upon the stair I saw a man that wasn't there. I saw him there again today. I wish that he would go away.

Another time I had some folks over on a summer night and I played music with a blues beat that attracted people off the street to invite themselves to our "party." They thought there was a live blues band in our first floor, and I found that pretty flattering. So I've already had the mistake made from the next room, and from the sidewalk (about 45 ft from my open windows), which speaks to both the delicacy and the power of that system.

As far as making a facsimile that comes close enough that a hard-nosed audiophile would say, "just like live music in the room," well that's another story. I've reviewed some speaker systems in my day that cost as much as a big Mercedes. I've bought and built many a system, and I've played them for guys who design speakers and amps, and writers for different publications, and they've had some nits to pick; things like, "I know this recording, and the first chair cellist farts at the beginning of the 2nd movement, but it sounds enough like the French horn was blowing spit out of his horn, they left it in -- and I just don't hear it here. Maybe it's the drapes." So you can't please all the people all the time. Or, who is blowing smoke up whose bleep here?

Others have praised my system faintly, "The string tone is gorgeous, woody, resiny, with pizzicato and sustained tones very like I hear when I play with my string quartet: but, sorry to say, the brass instruments don't have the 'whiskers' I hear in live performance." Both of these types of answers are just trying to blow more smoke up my bleep, to demonstrate some sort of higher discernment. I usually dismiss most anything they might say after that. I shouldn't. Maybe they have something to offer I could learn from, but they got off on the wrong foot with me. I can't hear "whiskers" on the flute or trumpet unless it is a solo piece, or a moment in an orchestra when either might have a solo moment. So, who they tryin' to kid?

With "maybe it's the drapes," it's a snowjob from start to finish, letting me know he plays in a string quartet. I have neighbors who play in my town's symphony orchestra and I sometimes attend musical evenings at their home, and I do my share of symphony, opera, and chamber music attendance. I know what a violin sounds like. My neighbor has asked me in to listen to his bass viol with his regular strings, and with special strings made in Russia, and asked my opinion. So, who's kidding whom here.

I'm damn sure I know what a gut string guitar sounds like, and I know my system comes very close to "live" playing classical hand guitar CDs. I also know what a string quartet sounds like live, being at chamber music festivals for decades. I know what a human voice sounds like, when singing un-amplified. From a recording through my system, again, my big rig comes pretty close. On small scale music, my system gets exquisitely close.

Trying to shrink a real symphony orchestra down and trying to listen to it through my system is another bowl of fruit. Now we get into questions like, "Just what hall do you listen in most often? Where do you sit? Would you say that your seat in your hall is a tad forward or back in the room? Is your 'default system' (your standard of excellence in your memory) based on your favorite seat?" Most of the time the answer to that question is "Yes."

I don't know about where you listen to music, Wernher, but my town's symphony hall seats 2400 people and covers most of a square block. So there is a very good chance a given recording by your hometown orchestra will not match many, maybe 40 or 60 seats, or the area covered by the microphones the most convincingly. That leaves about 2350 seats in your hometown hall that won't honestly be able to say, "Sounds just like my seat, in my hometown hall." Only the recording engineer was likely to have heard what is on the CD exactly, from his seat. And the seats nearest his mikes might have the closest approximation of the snapshot of the performance that is the CD.

All this by way of saying, "No. I don't think any recording gets so close to the actual event that we could agree upon it as the definitive CD." The Absolute Sound is an ideal toward which we all strive. Even Blue Ray audio discs I've heard, though another step closer, are still at the mercy of the colorations in the microphones, in the mic cables, in the circuitry, and in the Analog to Digital, and the Digital to Analog converters, etc. Each step in the chain brings the potential for coloration. Just because the resolution is higher, it won't matter much if the Blue Ray uses inexpensive op-amps in the output stage. It won't sound much better than a Walk-Person portable. But, technically speaking, the new Blue Ray audio discs ought to improve things at the margin, perhaps 20-25%. That's a bit better at the frequency extremes, a bit better at spatial relationships, imaging, greater accuracy of details down in the mix. But, that said, I have some recordings in standard 16/44.1 format that sound very fine. Have you ever heard the Beethoven Symphony cycle on Arte Nova label, with David Zinman conducting the Tonhalle Orchestre Zurich. It is something else, from recording and performance standpoint. I get high listening to it.

So, my answer might be to paraphrase one of the audio writers who said that listening to music through an audio system might best be seen together as a new art form. That is, since we can never expect the "artificial" recreation of the recorded event via any sound system to fully satisfy the notion of a "perfect" facsimile of a live event; just get yourself a system that suits your taste and budget and, in the words of our Olde Editore, "Be Happy: Don't Worry." Would you stop listening to recorded music just because it can never be perfect?

Max Dudious

Thanks for the detailed response. Yes, I contacted you since you're interested in these things.

I take it you mean it can't be done and it's subjective, but we can get closer. I don't think there's need to involve people with their opinions at all. If In=Out that's when science says "This is it." and it needs to be able to say "Here's why:" to be science—there's no room for opinion. How to accomplish that is another matter, but logically it's no more complicated than making the air in the room move the same way as it moved when it was picked up by the microphones. Would you agree?

Regards,

Wernher

So, my answer might be to paraphrase one of the audio writers who said that listening to music through an audio system might best be seen together as a new art form. That is, since we can never expect the "artificial" recreation of the recorded event via any sound system to fully satisfy the notion of a "perfect" facsimile of a live event; just get yourself a system that suits your taste and budget and, in the words of our Olde Editore, "Be Happy: Don't Worry." Would you stop listening to recorded music just because it can never be perfect?

Max Dudious

Wernher,

Laws of physics and acoustics? Physical limitations of transducers.

Influence of economics. Costs of doing business.

Meaning of music so different to differing people: music as spirit vs. music as entertainment.

Meaning of listening experience so different to differing people: music as immersion vs. music as back ground.

Lifestyles of people looking for diversion vs. those looking for a meal.

In short, sound quality and immersion in a musical experience is inherently limited. I have lately been listening to Pierre Boulez's Edgar Varese recordings on Columbia, relishing the wonderful sonic pallet of the composer's percussive timbres, the quality of the recording itself, the visionary tendencies of the music. On a good sound system or in my car.

Is the same person watching American Idol going to give a damn or vicea versa.

Music is something you share one person at a time. An actual investment into a music system represents something else again...

Chip Stern

Chip,
Thanks for the reply. I agree with you. But all that represents the current world and doesn't address the "what if" possible future scenario. You may take a more down to earth approach, but to me the point is exactly in speculating the "unthinkable". I think this is an important (if speculative) question that I haven't seen discussed thoroughly or at all.

Regards,

Wernher

You are more subtle than me, Brother Wernher.

People more or less in the industry have been trying to figure out how to reach members outside the congregation for some time.

What if? Well, speaking only for myself, I am very much in a here and now mode, dealing with my mother’s health issues, driving a taxi five nights a week, trying to get the odd bits of writing done for the likes of Positive Feedback and Playbill.

So much as I might like to speculate, my imagination ain’t there at the moment.

Likewise, writing about gear like tube amps from Rogue and Manley is very old school, is it not? Although digital gear like the Luxman DU-80 universal and the Bel Canto Ref500 monoblocks represents something of a futuristic technology, the manner in which it is sold, and type of people who might appreciate it, are very much from inside the congregation.

So... I am at a loss as to speculation of what might come? I do not own an iPod. I am not into mp3s and download culture. I like physical music mediums. I suspect the future involves some sort of access grids... the iTune store just raised its prices from $0.99 to $1.29 a track, ostensibly raising the price on hot items while lowering the price on older catalog items.

I am long out of touch with contemporary pop. I have been in the music game as a writer, a player and a music journalist for over 30 years, so I have some reference points for conjecture, but given the economy at the moment, I think audio types are trying to hold on, hold their own. I know I am.

Peace, bro, and thanks for your thoughts.

Chip


Editor:
Yesterday with great interest I read Karl Lozier's review with background of two new recordings of Grieg's Peer Gynt music. While I've not heard either one, and he does make them sound enticing, I agree with Karl that the performance to beat is Thomas Beecham's.

Yet I found myself wondering, how did it happen that I'm not familiar with any recording from the Thirties? That was the era that produced the best performances, or many of the best, and I continually scour the territory for more. And wasn't Peer Gynt nearly my first classical music?

I thought no more about it that day, until around eight o'clock the Harvard radio station WHRB had a program dedicated to Franz Schrecker the composer, as conductor. First thing up: Peer Gynt! The Berlin Philharmonic from 1932, and man was it great.

Funny how those things work.

The Symposium CD is available from MusicWeb and includes several recordings of Schrecker's own work, which to judge by what I heard last night are as worthy of hearing as his Grieg.

Franz SCHREKER (1878-1934) The Complete Surviving Recordings

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2005/June05/Schreker_1271.htm

clark


Editor,
Max von Dudious' provocative piece on Bach/Grimaud advertently focuses attention upon the uniqueness of Bach that is one of his grand glories. Bach's music is timeless and untethered to specific instruments or combinations therof. That composers such as Elgar could transmute Bachian gold into murky orchestral base metal, and attract large numbers of traditional British music lovers, speaks to the universal attraction of Bach. The DGG Sitovetsky transcription of The Goldberg Variations for String Trio (Raichlin, Imai, Maiskey DGG477 6378) is by variation, exquisite and at time, pedestrian. No matter, it is THE MUSIC beyond the String Trio or the massive Elgar orchestration that involves the music lover like NO OTHER music can. There is an elemental psycho-spiritual appeal to Bach's music which transcends instrumental application, practice of Zen, love of wolves, or, ineffably, mere earthly matters.

As Pablo Casals put it: "Bach is the God of Music." Enough said...

C.D. Basetto


Hello John,
I noticed that on a recent review of yours for the Pass Labs Int-150, you paired it with a recent purchase of mine -the SimAudio Moon SuperNova CD Player.

As a SuperNova owner I am interested in what Integrated amp you would recommend to go with it. I am upgrading from my Krell 300i integrated amp and want an integrated amp (space constraints) that truly compliments the performance of the SuperNova.

You have a Pass Labs Int-150 in your system, and after having it and calling it "one of the finest int. amps you ever heard", I am interested in:

- would you buy it for the SuperNova again?

- finest integrated amp as compared to...?

The Int-150 is a new product to this market in Toronto, and yours was the only review I could find (in English). Why the Pass Labs, and not the SimAudio i-7?

The dealer that sold me the SuperNova sells Jeff Rowland and is recommending their 250 watt/channel Continuum integrated amp. They know I like a dynamic sound, solid bass, vivid 3D depth to the soundstage, all to reproduce the complex rocking sounds of my treasured prog rock music from the late 60's and 70's.

I would appreciate your unbiased opinion.

With the Krell 300i integrated amp I have Transparent Music Link Plus interconnects, Transparent Music Wave speaker cables, and JM Focal Labs Utopia Be Micro speakers on stands. Also, a Velodyne SPL Sub woofer.

The listening room area is 17 x 11, open and extended another 12 feet at one end for the kitchen, with the speakers on the long wall away from the kitchen end. The ceiling is 8feet, and the floors are carpeted. I am about 9 feet from the speakers.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,

Mike Sinclair

Hi Mike,

Congratulations on your recent purchase of the SimAudio SuperNova! In my opinion, the real beauty of the Sim player is its nigh-perfect combination of transparency and analog-like warmth. With that in mind, the SuperNova has gotten along well with every amplifier (solid-state or tubed, balanced or single-ended) with which I've matched it.

I have heard the Sim I-7 in combination with the SuperNova, and it is a very complementary pairing. Just bear in mind that the I-7 also possesses a similar midrange warmth and bloom that *might* just be too much of a good thing.

For me, the Pass INT-150 evinces a sublime mix of transparency, dynamism and musicality that I really like. I also really like the conrad-johnson CA200, and if your budget is limited, the Ayre AX-7e is very nice.

I have not personally heard any of the newer Rowland stuff, but the word-of-mouth is positive. Definitely worth investigating...

And, hey - don't ever be ashamed of your prog proclivities. I share your affliction, and will never give up my King Crimson and Yes CDs, despite the persecution I routinely experience at the hands of my so-called friends.

Regards,

John


Hello Dave Clark,
Your piece on computer audio for Positive Feedback was a stroke of journalistic genius, thank you very much for this most timely overview on Digital Thinking. May I just suggest that you ask Mark Porzilli the same 10 brilliant questions. Some of us over here in Europe consider him to be the Einstein of Digital Audio, would be a pity to miss his ideas on the subject (his eagerly awaited White Paper, due to be published an March, 30th, could turn out to be much too scientific for most of us).

Kind regards

FRANZ MANOLA | ORF | Leiter Corporate Design- und Plattformmanagement


John Brazier,
I like the direction you took with the NuForce Icon mated to the Silverline Minuets. The digital/desktop arena is very exciting and products like these you've put together open up a lot of possibilities. Most especially to those armed with a computer loaded with iTunes.

As an alternate to the possible over-matched Benchmark DAC you considered using, (mismatched only in price relative to the system), I would like to bring to your attention a DAC you may or may not have yet tested- Blue Circle's $169 USB Thingee.

Crude in appearance, housed in PVC pipe, yet delivers mind blowing musicality and beautifully warm detailed sound. It plays dead quiet with great imaging and sound-stage. USB powered so no need for any power supply. At this price, flat out stupid good in the value department. I absolutely love the thing and thought you might find it to be a nice frugal alternate, computer oriented DAC.

http://www.goodsound.com/equipment/blue_circle_usb_thingee.htm

Thanks,

Frank


Ms Goodwin,
10 years is a long time for any product and that SACD is actually still around means somebody (Sony et al) are making a bit of money out of it, which is a good thing. Because the sad truth is, if they were not, SACD would be long gone. Unfortunately your Battle-cry to expand the format may for the lack of a better phrase, be falling on deaf ears. I think your biggest up stream battle is, the average person just cannot tell the difference in sound and probably worse yet, if given the actual choice, they certainly would not pay a premium for the SACD formatted product.

I am not trying to paint some kind of doom and gloom for SACD, but what you really need for SACD to gain market share is the equivalent of HD DVD and Blu-Ray fisting it out like some Las Vegas fight-night. The Battle Royale that ensued where Blu-Ray ultimately won, took a mountain or marketing money and promotional exposure where people could not BUT trip over themselves in the process of the fight. At the end, a 2 year old baby knew the differences between Blu-Ray and HD DVD or so they would like us all to believe.

For the moment SACD really has nobody to compete against so they, Sony are not motivated to expand something unless they, in this case Sony, believes they will lose market share and the million dollar question is, to whom? Why should they spend money to create demand for something when at the end of the day they really have no competing format? On the other hand, I have read minor rumblings about Blu-Ray expanding on the audio side courting people like Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music) and Stewart Copeland (The Police) (http://www.blu-raydisc.com/assets/Downloadablefile/Blu-ray-Disc-News-07-10-08-16253.pdf) which is ironic because again, they Sony are the intellectual property holder of both SACD and Blu-Ray formats. For that I could only see them expanding to keep any kind of competition out of their so called domain or maybe they believe Blu-Ray will become the next format.

Obviously you have a passion for the SACD format and I will be very honest with you and say I have never heard an SACD myself, but I will in good faith believe you and the many others who trust their ears to this higher ground of sound, and believe you in saying it is a superior format to Redbook CD regarding sound quality and like you, I believe in higher sonic virtues in music. Again, after 10 years since introduction, SACD based on what I can tell, has really not gained to much traction other than in a fairly niche market place, but if we look back over those 10 years we may be able to see where the market trends have brought us for better or worse:

Wal-Mart and Target become the largest retailers of physical music in the U.S.

Tower Records, one of the finest purveyors of musical distribution with a catalog deeper than the deepest oceans goes BK... twice and is now gone. (If you ever had the chance to visit the original shop at Columbus @ Bay in SF or the Lincoln Center Store in NYC, you know how great a loss that is.)

  • Apple iTunes becomes the largest music download retailer in the world.

  • Starbucks outsells even Wal-Mart and Target for some specific CD releases.

  • Amazon throws its hat into the ring by selling digital down-loadable music.

  • Vinyl sales gain even in the midst of Oil hitting record highs, no pun intended.

  • At the end of the day, in order for you to expand your beloved SACD format you are going to have to do a few things...

1. Get a competing company to create an SACD like format that will go head-to-head with Sony and sell for as cheap as or cheaper than traditional Red-Book CDs.

2. Expand that to allow users to download this format of music

3. Convince companies to build competing products that can play the product or have current devices easily upgraded with software to allow for the new formats to be played

4. Make and actually sell the product for less money than the current Red-Book product, because in today's economy that would be the only way this is going to pan out.

5. Start a major battle with Sony that will force their hand to spend billions to fight your new format off and hope they, Sony wins. Ta Da - SACD FOREVER!... OR:

A. Have the Beatles re-release everything they ever did in SACD ONLY!

B. Or have President Obama add an SACD expansion line as a part of his umpteen trillion dollar stimulus package, because after all in these times, we all need to hear our music in the highest possible quality format!!

Postmortem: The Day the Format Changed – I cannot wait for the new renaissance of folks who will be clamoring for the old days rushing out to buy old antiquated CDs like that of the vinyl resurgence. The inevitable struggle and feeling we get during that 15 minute scuffle and moment when you finally get a corner of that tightly wrapped cellophane torn back so you can remove the magic contained within, only to then wrestle with the security-tape-strip glued to the top of the brand new cracked jewel case. Now close to the grail, you finally flick open the cover and in your zeal to remove the sonic gems held within, mandatorily break off a few tangs of the disc-holding plastic teeth contained within this high quality case and eagerly grasp within your hands the thin round 12 cm diskette you cannot wait to listen to. And only just before you slip it into your slick slide drawer opening, you inspect the rainbow iridescent squiggles etched on the aluminum disc held inside the clear plastic from which the sonic treasure resides as if you can actually view the music like on the grooves of a vinyl LP. As it gyrates within your machine you finally sit back in your seat and then proceed for the next 10 minutes fumbling with your big fat fingers in a monumental quest to remove the 5x5 inch square glossy stapled paper booklet printed in 6 or less font type face - ah the good ol' days! Where are my glasses!?

Frank Mercurio

Walnut Creek, CA

Hi Frank,

Thanks for the well written letter, I enjoyed it from start to finish.

I think the biggest hurdle to overcome is the major record companies willingness to spend an extra 50 cents or so for the additional SACD layer, as they don't feel there will be enough increased sales to include it as many SACD player owners are willing to purchase the Redbook CD if they don't release the SACD. With 20 million SACD player owners out there, I think we can change their minds on the bottom line by boycotting CDs and emailing the recorded companies and requesting the SACD version. If our voices are loud enough and demanding enough, the record labels will realize that to get our business 50 cents per disc is a small price to pay.

Record companies approach SACD/CD hybrids in two different ways.

1) Some are single inventory only, which means the titles they release on SACD/CD hybrids are not released separately on CDs and thus their SACDs are priced the same as CDs and the companies absorb the extra cost.

2) Some are double inventory, meaning they release both SACD/CD hybrids and regular CDs, thus the SACDs cost $1 to $4 more than the CD versions.

The most desirable approach is #1 single inventory, and I believe this will only happen with a lot of demand and the increase of SACD ownership from 20 million to 100 million, which I believe can be done if every SACD owner recruits five new SACD listeners. It will not be easy, but a long hard battle. But I believe this is the only way to save physical musical formats and both the CD format and the SACD format otherwise everything will become internet downloads.

The thing that should make the SACD/CD hybrid format valuable to record companies are:
1) Copy protection.
2) High resolution Multichannel for surround sound music lovers.
3) High resolution Stereo for 2 channel music lovers.
4) A CD layer for compatibility with the millions of devices that play CD.

There was a format war between SACD and DVD-Audio that almost no one knew about. The format war should be between SACD/CD hybrids versus single-layer CDs.

If SACD was promoted like BluRay was with large kiosks promoting SACD and tons of SACD software at places like Wal-Mart most people today would actually know what the hell SACD is! The only SACDs ever at Wal-Mart were the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Universal players are as little as $150, yet I have never seen a single one at Wal-Mart. So as far as the general public is concerned SACD has yet to be introduced.

Finally the Jewel Case is not a perfect device as you so eloquently stated, the new Super Jewel Case with the rounded corners are a little better made but the print type in booklets can be small indeed, and thick ones are sometimes not so easy to remove. I don't have any suggestions to improve those.

Frank you should treat yourself to a listen to SACD in either stereo or surround sound.

Happy listening,

Teresa


Sirs,
As you know, I rarely, if ever, critique "the critiquers". After all, opinions are like noses—everyone has one. (Some smell better than others, that's all).

But in the case of your latest "Review" of The Show, posted recently by Clay Swartz and Karen Wong, entitled "Apolcalypse for T.H.E. Show", etc, I must take exception.

I realize Positive Feedback has a very liberal and all encompassing journalistic policy but let us take a close look at this article.

Firstly: what took them so long? "Weeks" to compose something that obviously took no research hours or much thought process at all?

And, while opinions are one thing – facts are another. Mark Twain said, "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please". These two really need to check on "facts" before publishing—or, better yet, NOT be allowed to publish until they've mastered some of the rules of the game. Ray Kimber put it well during an Audiophile conference last December: "We, as an industry, need to police ourselves." I couldn't agree more.

It is not just the first two paragraphs of the article are extremely destructive in nature to everything we have built for over 12 years (assorted malcontents have been attempting to bury T.H.E. Show since its inception) but they are also littered with inadequacies and downright distortions.

The two claim there were "less than 20 exhibit rooms" at T.H.E. Show. In reality, there were nearly 50. I have no doubt, however, that these two only saw 20—if that. Their claim is that they made their way through T.H.E. Show in two hours, including eating lunch. By reading their entire expose, it is quite obvious they hit the three large banquet room exhibits connected to the Lobby area, but skipped the over 40 regular Exhibit Rooms down the walkway. If I were an exhibitor, I would be furious. Good reviews or bad reviews don't matter as much as being ignored. Our exhibitors work hard and sacrifice to be there and they do not deserve this type of disingenuous "reviewing" ...or lack thereof.

Being more specific, obviously they wandered into the Athena Ballroom where PBN Audio, dnp, Digital Projection, Inc, Digmoda, Straight Wire, Edge Electronics and more put on an impressive home theater demonstration.

All exhibitors involved in the presentation were so pleased with the amount of business they conducted during T.H.E. Show all have indicated they'll be returning and perhaps expanding in 2010. All these two said were, "the sound was nowhere near audiophile quality and… it was hard to see the picture".

Did they think, even once, to tap someone on the shoulder and tell them they were there to review the demonstration? Could they not have waited until the busy folks in charge were done talking to clients so they could enjoy the system at its fullest capacity? Oh, that's right ...they only had two hours, didn't they?

It was, believe me, one of the most impressive exhibits of its kind in Las Vegas during T.H.E. Show and CES and these two were negligent again. Better to say nothing. I think they may be "in over their collective head".

They took much of the second paragraph to review a brand new concept presented by Magnepan. Oh that's right. They were in a hurry. AND, as if an after-thought, the last line stated: "They also had a room where they recorded live music and them played it back via the recording". That's not bad reviewing. That's not bad journalism. That's an insult to third grade grammar teachers across the globe.

The last line actually refers to the truly dynamic live-vs-recorded exhibit put together and executed masterfully by Brian Cheney of VMPS/Ampzilla 2000 and Ray Kimber of Kimber Kables. The live performances excelled and the entire demonstration, if experienced from beginning to end was truly enlightening on so many levels. Oh…..that's right. These two were on a limited schedule. So limited, in fact they threw away a one-liner on a demonstration unique by any standards anywhere in Las Vegas during the week without actually mentioning the companies, talents or ultimate outcome.

In closing: back to the top. The headline: "Apocalypse for T.H.E. Show". Mr. Webster tells us "apocalypse" is defined as "revelation, discovery, disclosure, to uncover, reveal". Perhaps had these two spent more time at T.H.E. Show they could have achieved those goals.

I believe the word they were searching for was "apocalyptic" which is defined partially as "presaging imminent disaster and total or universal destruction". Somehow, I don't believe these authors fall under the category of "sage-like". Plus, that's a pretty darned large word to describe a "slow" high-end audio show. A bit blown out of proportion, I'd say, particularly when used by people who never even pushed away from the FREE lunch table long enough to actually experience the entire show.

T.H.E. Show was, indeed slow. So was everywhere in Las Vegas including CES during this rotten economy. But, overall, we did quite well with nearly the same amount of exhibits as the previous year. Almost every exhibitor in 2009 has initiated their return in 2010.

Of course, if these two spent more time actually reviewing and talking with exhibitors, they would know that.

Richard Beers, President
T.H.E. Show Las Vegas
The Home Entertainment Show
www.theshowlasvegas.com

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