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Positive Feedback ISSUE 54
march/april2011

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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 Mr. Nack,
I really enjoy your review on YG speakers. Congratulations on your new reference. The new reference is absolutely way better in every level than previous one. Fantastic.

Best,

Surja


Good Day,
I have been a long-time reader of PFO. I recently read over Steve Lefkowicz's segment and look forward to reading more of his reviews.

I do remember his writings from the 'Listener' days. I, too, was involved in a car accident and suffer from post-concussion syndrome, this can be very problematic/debilitating and I relate to his experience(s). Please pass this 'Welcome Back' to him.

All The Best
JA FANT


Hi David,
I had a conversation with you about the Marantz 9004 universal player on AudioAsylum. I know that you had the opportunity to audition both 9004 and Oppo 95. Can you comment on how you would rate their performance on SACD material? I'm mainly interested in both players as audio only machines, as high end manufacturers are not making multi channel SACD players these days, so I narrowed my choices to these two.

I have quite a bit concern about the Marantz player, even with the discount because it has been discontinued, it costs quite a bit more than Oppo. But the main issues for me is that it appears not to have setting to automatically select SACD layer vs CD. And Mch vs 2 channel. From manual it looks like Marantz will try to read the layer that was last selected, and if it didn't find it, it's the user's job to switch it over.

Thanks for your input.
Dmitri (avsBuddy)

Hello Dmitri…

Thanks for your inquiry. I do remember our conversation on AA.

I've been listening to the Oppo BDP-95 for several months in nearfield, right here at my editorial desk. I have it hooked up in a desktop system in tandem with the very good Bel Canto DAC 2.5 pre/processor, the Bel Canto REF 150 amplifier, and a combination of JENA Labs and Kubala-Sosna Emotion! Cables.

The Marantz UD-9004 is in PFO's reference home theater system, where it acts as our main Blu Ray player, and shares SACD multi-channel duties with our very fine Esoteric DV-60. It's linked up with our Linn Kisto surround processor, a pair of Linn 5125 five-channel amps, the Paradigm SUB 25 subwoofer, and Linn Akurate 242 (left/right front channel), Akurate 225 (center channel), and Akurate 212 (left/right rear). Cabling is via Furutech, Cardas, and JENA Labs, with a Furutech Daytona 303 multi-mode power filter, all on a fully dedicated 20 amp circuit with Furutech AC receptacle and cover plate.

As far as sound goes, I would say that the Marantz UD-9004 has the elegant, refined sound that Marantz is noted for. The sound of strings is silky; multi-channel sound is presented with subtlety and an excellent sense of harmonic rightness. The 9004 has a real ease in its playback that makes it easy to listen to music in either SACD multi-channel or Blu Ray for hours on end. The build quality is superb, and my time with the 9004 has been trouble-free. This includes several firmware updates that I've done via its Ethernet connector; these take time, but have worked very well.

Keeping in mind that I haven't directly compared the two units in the same system, I will generalize by saying that the Oppo BDP-95 has a more lively and dynamic presentation… punchier, and less elegant than the UD-9004. The Oppo players are exceptional bargains, and I've noted in the past that they really do represent the Swiss army knife of universal players. The 95 handles all of the major disc formats, but also does DVD-Rs with high resolution .WAV files, and even high resolution .FLACs, a truly terrific capability, especially if you're doing downloads from HDTracks. There are several firms, like Modwright, who are modifying the Oppo 95, with reportedly very fine results. Note that I have not heard the Modwright mods on the 95, so can't confirm these hearsay reports. Modwright is charging $1,750 plus shipping for its tube mods on the Oppo BDP-95 (see http://modwright.com/modifications/22); given what I've heard of Dan Wright's tubed mods in the past, I am sure that this will be a definite improvement, should you decide to go with the 95.

Hope this helps you, Dmitri.

All the best,

david


Hi Mr. Stern,
When will your review of the Bel Canto REF 500m appear on the net? I own the REF 500m and just love them! Will be fun to see what "the pros" think about them!

Best Regards, Stefan in Sweden

Stefan,

My thoughts on the Bel Canto appeared in the January/February issue.

http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue53/belcanto.htm

Let me know what you think.

Thanks for writing.

Peace,


Chip Stern

Hi again,
Then I HAVE read it!! Didn't remembered your name on the article!

You also seem to like (love?) them! It was actually after reading your article that I decided to buy them. I had listened to a friends Ref 1000 but I did think they sounded a bit cold and harsh. Maybe they were not completely broken in?! I don't know..

I DID like the sound of their integrated amp, 300 something, in a local store so after a lot of reading on the net I decided to go for the 500m. And I don't regret it at all!

I have been a "Krell-man" for the last 16 years, so I was little afraid that I was gonna be disappointed, but NO. The Canto's are different in sound, but I don't think the Krell was that much better! Just different and dark sounding! But I wouldn't say that out loud in front of a die-hard Krell fan!

Bought Supreme Hifi fuses for them and it made them a bit better also. Highly recommended! Too bad I didn't notice that there were 2 fuses/amp. But now I have something to look forward to!

Keep up your good/fun writing. A joy to read all of you at 

Stefan,

I was never a Krell enthusiast, although my exposure was fairly limited, and never had them in my own system. I had a McCormack DNA500, a real SS muscle amp, in my system for a while, and I really enjoyed its performance.

I did not think the Ref1000 sounded cold OR harsh; relative to the Ref500, as I described at length in the article (and this is telescoping things in a simplistic manner), comparatively warmer and more tube-like—full-bodied and solid. I don't think anyone who owns them should feel the least bit tempted to slit their wrists.

I thought the Ref500 were sweeter and more open and transparent, maybe a bit quicker, cleaner and more dynamic. Lovely amps. I really have enjoyed using them, and have enthusiastically recommended them to a number of friends and PF On Line readers.

As with all things electronic, it is dicey to judge things in a vacuum. How the amps match up with your loudspeakers is a key component of the sound, and of one's final judgment.

I'd be curious about the rest of the system, particularly the speakers, and your final thoughts on the Ref500, system synergy and how everything matches up.

Glad you liked the piece.

Yours in music,

Chip Stern

Hi,
I fell in love with the "Krell sound" the first time I heard it in 1996. I was sort of hooked!

Haven't heard Mc Cormack. I live in a small town about 900km north of Stockholm, so it's hard to listen to different brands...

And in 2001 I had the chance to listen to Wilson Watt/Puppy, and fell in love again. Then got me a pair of Sophia2 in 2007, but had to sell them when I moved to this small house last October. So I am stuck with Krell/Wilson until Jan this year when the Krell broke down. And it was too expensive to repair it, so I thought I would try another brand. So I'll have to wait and see if I will fall in love for the third time, the amps are about 10 weeks old now. I guess time will tell. But they do sound GOOD I think!

Not cold or harsh!? Maybe my friend has a problem with his speakers, (Kef 201/2), cables (old Synergistic signal/speaker) or powercords (no-name)? Front end was a MacBook Pro/Amarra. Or it's because he lives in a concrete apartment? I don't know. To my ears it didn't sound good..

But I'm very happy with my 500m. I live in a house with "soft" walls and have good sounding cables and CD player. And a dedicated listening room (the living room), just the stereo, no TV there!

Weiss Jason/Medea (Transparent Ref Dig cable)

Shunyata Antares, Andromeda and Python CX.

Wilson Duette

Various ASC Tube Traps

The 500m seems to have unlimited power. I listen to everything from NIN to The Cure (mostly The Cure!) I haven't tried them whit any other electronics yet, but maybe in the future...

But to sum it up; I think Ref 500 together with Wilson/Shunyata sounds GREAT!

Hope you understand me, it's difficult for a Swede to explain in English.

Best Regards, Stefan

900 km north of Stockholm, huh? For someone who disdains winter, I have always been fascinated by all things north. I can recall telling a Canadian friend how I was always intrigued by the possibility of visiting Hudson Bay, and he disabused me of that notion, explaining it was iced in for all but 2-3 months a year—sounded foreboding.

Your English is fine, SF, least ways, far better than my Swedish.

As for the harsh, frozen sound your friend was getting with the Bel Canto Ref1000… I can recall auditioning an Equi=Tech Balanced Power Isolation Transformer at an audio dealer's and getting some lousy results, until we swapped out a Synergistic Research AC cord somewhere down the signal chain, which seemed to be creating a funky interaction with other neurological and gastrointestinal components until we swapped it out, but I kind of doubt that. Likewise a non-preamplifier front end in your friend's system. Most likely, an interaction between the speakers and a concrete room.

As for a system completely dedicated to audio, I recently got joined the lat 20th century and purchased a 1080p, 42” plasma TV (a Panasonic Vierra), and placed it directly in front of the amp stand in my 2-channel system, and from watching movies and listening to music on DVD-V and CD, I would comment that notions of segregating audio from video (I have no sub-woofers and no surround components) strikes me upon reflection—as someone who did indeed segregate such gear—as unspeakably anal, another dickish example of audiophile received wisdom/snobbery, such as how any sort of equalization is always bad (I have a Manley Massive Passive which makes me smile), or that plugging your amps into balanced power will compress/current limit your sound (please… my Equi=Tech 2Q has ample reserves of power to shrug off the current demands of the Bel Canto Ref500 or the Rogue M-180, and produce a true foundation of bass that vastly extends my system's dynamic range, transparency, apparent volume and dimensionality).

Your Wilson Duette/Shunyata hook-up sounds delicious, and yes, my impression of the Bel Canto Ref500 is also of unlimited power, least ways, all I need to drive my Dynaudio Confidence C1 to full-throated rock concert/symphony hall levels. I also suspect that the Duette monitors couple with your soft-walled dedicated listening room a hell of a lot more efficiently than the larger, floor-standing Sophia models you felt compelled to sell when you moved to a much smaller sonic venue.

Chip


Dear Mr. Clark,
Mr. Alenik took time to respond to my letter and I thank him for the exchange.

If I may point out, Mr Alenik overlooked a few facts that corroborates some of my observations. Yes, Wolfson and AnalogDevices and Burr-Brown and others do manufacture quality DAC chips, and those chips find their way into iPods (Wolfson), TVs, set-top boxes, car stereos, and a lot of other mass-market devices as Mr Alanik obviously ignores. If mass market equipment didn't exist, high end manufacturers would have nowhere to source hi-end chips, as was the point of my letter.

When Mr. Alenik fantasize about my ignorance of quality sound, or about my daughter's tastes, he makes uninformed assumptions, and just because she (my daughter) likes Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin, Béla Bartok and Giuseppe Verdi, doesn't seem to qualify—at least for me—as quantity over quality, because music appreciation is a much finer intellectual exercise than sound appreciation and this is where I am at odds with Mr. Alenik.

Thank you

Robert Gaboury

Montréal, CANADA


Sirs,
Just thought I'd let you know that even in my NAD C375BEE, the one "Supreme" fuse did for my system, what you experienced in yours... word for freakin word!! You Da Bomb Greg:O)

Hello there,

As I recall, that particular NAD integrated runs about $1300, right? I don't know if it used a GMA or 3AG sized fuse, but either way, that would represent around a 4% or 6.5% addition to your original investment. Clearly you found it as sonically worthwhile as I did!

While this is what I would have expected and hoped to learn, I can't thank you enough for sharing this info. These fuses are clearly a valid and affordable tweak, and I'm glad to know folks are discovering their musical impact! I know a handful of equipment designers who SWEAR by the implementation of such upgraded fuses, even though they may not use or endorse this exact brand and version. Thanks for reading my rantings and for taking the time to write,

Greg Weaver


Sirs,
I just finished Chip's review of the Bel Canto and the Rogues'.

If I may paraphrase Bill Graham when asked about the Dead in concert: "Chip is not the best at what he does, he is the only one who does what he does".

Great to have him back on your site!

Jay Valancy


Dear Mr. Dave Clark,
While I was traveling visiting Sophia Electric dealers, I read Mr. Jeff Day's review on Sophia Electric 91-01 mono-block 300B single ended amplifiers. I would like to specially thank positive feedback to assign Jeff, an industry renowned reviewer to do a review on Sophia Electric products and thank Jeff for his great detailed review.

In the age of blog and twit, an age of quick online posting, there are a lot of internet reviewers that basically just fire shots before asking why, they usually repeat the specifications only to get the review going. Jeff is clearly not that type. Jeff got the amplifier back in September, 2010 and spent a few months in listening and comparing to various top brands of amplifiers. Jeff asked a lot of questions by phone and by email before finalizing his review in January, 2011. The review is information rich for the readers and interesting in style with wonderful photos from a Leica-phile (someone craze for Leica precision) prospective.

I studied Jeff's research and writing style from various online review articles after Positive Feedback assigned the review to Jeff. I was impressed with his review on vintage Empire 298 turntable that I bought a vintage Empire turntable as a result by reading his article.

I feel that the whole internet community should know that Jeff has done a great job in audiophile reviews. We, at Sophia Electric, are fortunate to have met such a great reviewer. Lastly, we learned that Jeff bought his review pair of Sophia Electric 91-01 300B amplifiers as his reference amplifiers. Jeff's action proved his love for the Sophia Electric 91-01 300B mono-block amplifiers. He voted with his own wallet and spoke out from his whole heart.

A greatest sincerely truthful review in my memory! Thanks again.

Sincerely,

Richard Wugang


Hi Marshall,
It has been awhile since we last exchanged messages regarding the Core Design Rack, and discussing Tone Woods like the Black Walnut used in said products.

But AZ I'm following this new review, you know I've to ask..., do I need to concentrate on just applying these to the wall directly behind the speakers?, or should I at least take into account covering the upper ceiling corner positions behind my listening area as well?.

At present I'm using The Golden Sound Acoustic Disc, which you obviously out grew some time ago, so I'm open-minded enough to know there's something to what you're hearing.

If, I covered my entire listening space - that requires 27 Sugar Cubes all totaled, or should I merely focus on the primary 17 needed for the front wall only and be just as content!.

Regards,

Oscar

P.S.

And last but not least, please know that you do have someone whom has the utmost respect for your reviews and in fact trust in them as well.

Oscar

Hi Oscar, 

You can start like I did in the review and get a good feel for what the Sugar Cubes do. Or, you can go right to what I ended up with: 11 on my front wall, 1 in each ceiling corner, 1 at the first reflection points on the sidewalls, 1 on the rear wall, and several placed on glass furniture I have in the room. As with anything else, be careful not to over do it.

I think you'll be impressed with the improvements over the Golden Sound Acoustic Discs.

Regards,

Marshall Nack


To Robert Gaboury: 

Sir, 

While I understand your desire to make High-End audio more relevant to the next generation, I'd rather not render it irrelevant to actual audiophiles. You seem to be focused on the aspects of convenience, simplicity, and storage capacity, but make no actual mention of what actually defines the High-End… sound quality! 

You are troubled by the association of High-End with high price. I find that association troubling too, because it is held widely by the uninformed, and used as an excuse to settle for mediocrity. While there often is a correlation between price and quality, and it is much easier to get great sound if you have mega-buck to spend, there are many bargains in the High-End, for those who want to seek them out. Those of us with limited budgets find components which perform well above their price-range, and build wonderful sounding systems from them. 

Because, once again, High-End does not mean high price. It means high quality sound.

From your letter, I am not sure you understand just what that is. If you are satisfied by the sound of MP3 files on your daughter's iPod, perhaps you should stop reading right now, because we may have no common ground to meet on. 

The reason audiophiles are attracted to tubes, cables, etc. is that they make the music sound better, more natural, more enjoyable. Those components simply make better music than your daughter's iPod, or your neighbor's mass-market system. Yes, they are more costly. But they sound better! 

The most advanced DACs are made by companies like Wolfson, Analog Devices, Burr-Brown, and Crystal who specialize in developing digital-to-analog technology. They are not found in your iPod, or your car, or your mass-market CD player. And they sound much, much, better than the cheap DACs you will find there. It makes sense that not all the components of a CD player should be developed by a single group of engineers, and that specialization will result in better technology. But there is at least one example to refute your ‘Nada'. A little company named Sony has produced their own DACs… and some pretty nice-sounding ones at that. 

You're right that “the next big thing” is being developed right now. It's probably something really cool, like wireless earbuds or an iPod the size of your fingernail. And it will have absolutely nothing to do with better sound. The next big advance in audio is probably on someone's drawing-board too. But sadly, you (and your daughter) will not care. 

And it really is sad, because you should be teaching your daughter the qualitative difference between her iPod and even the most modest High-End system. Instead, your impressed that she has MORE music than you did as a kid… even if it doesn't sound anything like music. Quantity before quality!

If the High-End does have a future with the next generation, it's because many others have taken the time and trouble to show young people exactly what they're missing. But with all due respect, Mr. Gaboury, first you'll have to find out for yourself. I hope that you will. Listen and learn! 

Happy Listening to all! 

Art Alenik

Capo. Beach, CA

See the letter from Robert below...

Sirs,
About the Future of High end Audio...

Interesting point of view. High end audio is more often than not associated with high price. However, the bulk of R&D in audio is done in the low-fi. There was a time when "trickle down technology" had some meaning in HiFi. These days, we should refer to "trickle up technology". Let's face it, much, much more money is spent in audio R&D into wireless, cellular DSP technology, than anywhere else in HiFidom.

Most of the technology found its way into $20 cell phones and $200 music docks and it's all right. It may trickle up to mega bucks systems eventually, if there is still a market for that.

Let's be honest, the world's most advanced DAC chips are not found in uber sound systems. The best DSP technology is not found in High End audio systems. Most High End manufacturers are only packaging mainstream technology into expensive looking boxes. Can you name one CD or DAC manufacturer that actually design and manufactures such chips? Nada. How many amplifier manufacturers repackage digital technology developed for the automotive market? How about a digital cable "manufacturer" advertising a "low-jitter" cable? Did any member of the audio press actually object to the fact that there is no cable induced jitter anyway?

I know most if not all members of the audio press are enthusiasts who want to spread the joy of the hobby in an honest, candid way, and it's OK. However, there is something a little troubling about the association of High End and High Price—because it is just not true. People of my age (I'm 53) are familiar with "source-preamp-amp-cable- speaker" - my kids are not, because the whole chain fits into an iPod. My 13 years old daughter has more—way more—music than I had at her age, and she never, ever bought a single CD in her life, nor did she ever went to a music store.

The HiFi press is acting as if young people are not attracted to music— this isn't true. They are not attracted to irrelevant things such as cables, racks, tubes, resonators, magic clocks, SET, etc. Why should we need power regulators when iPods run off the grid? Why should we even be concerned about Hi-Rez download while Cloud computing makes it obsolete?

The next big thing in audio is being developed right now and it won't make it into HiFi magazines, because the aging readers do not, cannot change what they learned over the years, or perhaps because they find it hard to realize, let alone admit they are wrong.

Active drive speakers never caught on in the audiophile market. Somehow, those same audiophiles marvel at the stupid complexity of a 4th order passive network, or the totally anachronic "phase alignment" of passively driven components. As long as the audio press in general is not opening up to another reality, the market will continue to shrink and isolate not only from the young, but from everyone—because the younger generation is also getting older.

Anyway, I must say I read the article with a tiny glimpse of hope.

Best regards

Robert Gaboury
Montreal, Canada


The Higher End

About the "expectation of privacy" and those emails to Positive Feedback Online

Ye Olde Editor

We do like hearing from you, our readers. It adds a great deal fun to what we do, encourages our editors and writers, provides information we may have missed, and correction that we may need. This is all to the good.

Your communication with us these days is almost always via the highly rational path of email. And we do read it, responding to the constructive correspondence—which is most of it, really—as quickly as possible. (The destructive stuff is routed directly to the bit bucket. Didn't yo' mama teach you better than that?!) Dave Clark and I are generally pretty rapid in getting back to you if a response is needed from us, or in re-directing inquiries to the appropriate person at PFO if it needs to go to an editor or writer.

By the way: please understand that the writers and editors at PFO are helpful folks, eager to assist their fellow audio/music lovers, or they wouldn't be doing what they're doing. Nevertheless, PFO is not an audio consulting service. Please do not clog the gears with complex requests for assistance with the sourcing of audio gear in your personal setting. Remember too that PFO is not, and has never been, an audio ombudsman. If you are having problems with a particular vendor, company, or dealer, please avail yourself of the normal channels for such resolution; no audio publication has the time or resources to take on such a responsibility for consumers. Enough said.

With an increasing flow of emails to Positive Feedback Online, and upon evidence of some recent confusion on the part of our email correspondents, it's become necessary to re-state the ground rules by which we operate here. So gather round the campfire, friends…

Any time an email, or an exchange of emails, is both constructive and of potential wider interest, we exercise the reserved right to publish it in "Reverberations," the letters section of PFO. This is, after all, a publication, a "journal for the audio arts." We are seeking to further educate and entertain our readership in our common love for fine audio, and contributions in the form of emails/letters from our readers are one way that we accomplish this goal. When you write to any of us… our essayists and reviewers included… we assume that you are aware of our nature as a publication, and that you write to us in the light of that knowledge.

This means that—unless you request confidentiality explicitly in your email or letter—there is no expectation of privacy here at Positive Feedback Online.

To put it another way: Any email or letter sent to this journal will be considered fair game for publication, unless you state in the document itself that the contents are private/confidential.

So… our default is PUBLISH.

The reverse is also true: the editors do reserve the right not to publish an email or letter. We are not obligated to publish your letter or comments simply because they are submitted. And hostile, negative, sarcastic, destructive emails or letters are never published.

So…sometimes we DON'T PUBLISH.

Finally, our subtitle for "Reverberations"—"Our readers respond—we respond right back!" is not a guarantee that we will always respond to an email or letter that is published. Often we do; sometimes we don't… usually when we don't, it's a case of res ipsa loquitur.

So finally… sometimes we PUBLISH WITHOUT RESPONSE.

I think that makes things clear. Having said all of this in the name of clarity, keep those cards and letters coming in!

All the best,

David W. Robinson

Editor-in-Chief

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