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Positive Feedback ISSUE 6
april/may 2003


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Hi David,
Excellent review of the JE VZN 100 OTL. Question. Class A OTL amp threw how much heat in your listening room? I noticed in one picture you have shades pulled up and windows open. Is that a tell tale sign of the heat you were experiencing?

My listening room is a lower level with one small window and I am concerned about heat build up in room during summer months in the Midwest. I currently have a Berning ZH270 "quasi OTL" but the JE VZN 100 is intriguing to me as I am driving Merlin VSM speakers and the VZN sound very very good with that speaker.

Any thoughts appreciated. PF Online is excellent. Please keep it coming!


That's a pretty decent question, Jim.

The Joule Electra VZN-100's do toss some heat, all right. A total of 12 output tubes, plus the input section, is bound to do so. You don't mention the cubic size of your room, so I don't have any sense of its ability to handle/dissipate BTUs.

Summer time in the Midwest can be pretty warm. I assume that you have central air conditioning in your listening room; if you don't, then you'd find the thermal load to be significant. (Non-audiophiles would say "prohibitive," but, then again, they don't have the commitment of the audio obsessed, do they?)

Provided that you have some way to vent the heat, and you don't have to sit too close (6' - 7' is a good range), you should be OK. The synergy between the VZN-100s and the Merlins is *very*'ll be missing out if you don't connect these two.

We enjoy creating PFO for our readers, and always like to hear that you find it to be a good place to be.

Stay tuned!

Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

Hi David,
Thanks for the reply. My dedicated room is 19 X 14 with one 3X2 awing style window at the intersection of the rear wall (equip area) and the ceiling. Pretty typical construction for lower levels in the Midwest. Room is kalcoated plaster, cement floor, carpet w pad and various room treatments including MG deluxe tuning pack as well as 4 Argent Room Lenses. I sit about
10 feet away from the VSM speaker fronts up against the rear wall. (that is treated) Excellent Sonics in this dedicated room.

Since I already own the Joule LA 150 pre and the VSM the VZN 100 would be a gimmie less the heat issue. Maybe a small quite fan to run in the summer when the AC isn't on would help push the hot air out of the room?

Bobby Palkovic also really like the Berning with his VSM. It is such an interesting design and if I'm not mistaken, the first place I ever read about it was in Positive Feedback in the "Gizmo's" column if memory serve me.

Thanks again.

To Max Dudious…
Hi, I read your review of the Marantz SA8260 and I appreciated your commentary. I recently purchased this player for my home office and it's been a pleasant surprise. I opted out of the higher-priced Marantz models and I'm glad I did. You almost convinced me to look at their receiver, the 9200, but for a home office it’s way overkill.

Right now I'm using the SA8260 with a Blue Circle CS integrated and Spendor S3/5 speakers. This makes for a pleasing, all-day-listening system that I could probably only improve with tubes. But I think Marantz deserves more credit and seems to be giving mid-fi a better name. More power to them!


Hi Andrew,
It's always nice to have one's opinion seconded. If I may take a kind of historian's stance, I believe the "mid-fi" range of products have benefited most from the advent of the CD technology, and more recently the SACD technology and THX (minimum requirements) licensing. I think anyone who hasn't heard it would be surprised at how good the Marantz 9200 receiver is.

a receiver is as good as a true audiophile quality amplification rig: when you stop to think of it, how could a multi-channel amp sharing one power supply do the job as well as seven channels each with its own power supply? But a well designed multi-channel SACD player with an MSRP of $1100, with the newer and better DACs and clocks that can do the job as well as a $10K or even a $20K multi-channel SACD player?—I have no doubt is possible. And hearing the Marantz 8260, I have met the future and it is now!  As King Pleasure used to sing to Charlie Parker's tune, "Right now's the time."

Thanks for your note, "a corroborative detail that lends verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and uninteresting narrative."


I saw your review of the Granite Audio Preamp on PF Online. Very good read, and obviously it piqued my interest in this line that I have never thought twice about before.

I am in the market for a good tube preamp, so that I can add vinyl to my system. Currently my system is all digital for I use a transport (Sony S7000) into the digital inputs on a Theta Casa Nova.  In turn this feeds an Art Audio Concerto MK2 KT-88 tube amp, which powers some JMR Offrandes. Cabling is currently a mix of cyro treated DIY interconnects and PC, Synergistic AC Master Coupler, Tara Labs D2 digital link, and Analysis Plus Bi-Oval 9 speaker wire.

My desired preamp will preferably have a good phono stage, HT bypass for convenience, quality volume control w/ no remote preferably, top notch performance, with an utter black background, no noise, hiss or hum please.

Scott Oliver
Music Lover/Audiophile

Glad you liked my piece for PF Online. I like writing for them a lot, they are a very knowledgeable group of people, and the editorial staff, while very strict about accuracy and balance, allow you to fully express your opinions.

I am happy to share my thoughts and experiences with you regarding the Granite Audio Preamp. Please refer down to the body of your message where I put my answers.
Mike Malter

Mike Malter From my experiences with the GA, this encapsulates my experience. In my conversations with Don regarding his engineering of the preamp, he said that he did a lot of extra work into making it quiet so that it could properly support the phono stage so you get the benefits of an extremely quiet preamp too.

There was no noise whatsoever, none - no hiss or hum. Having said that, of course if I put my ear right up against my speakers I could hear a slight hiss - there is no equipment I have listened to that doesn't produce some little sound at this distance and level - but from a practical way of speaking - no hum or hiss.

Let me say something about the black background and the phono stage that I did not put into my piece (I did not have this experience at the time - possibly something I can build into my reviews in the future - not only write about what I hear while the equipment is in - but what I hear when the equipment is gone). This comes from listening to records through my own preamp and phono stage and is something that I am realizing now about the sound of vinyl in general.

I am hearing, in general, a higher level of a kind of a slight scratchy and static like sound that was not apparent while listening to vinyl through the Granite Audio. It has just dawned on me that what I thought was problems with my records was actually something produced by my either or my phono stage or preamp. I am not saying that hisses and pops are gone, just that in general vinyl was quieter in general when listening through the GA.

Scott Oliver The preamps I have been looking at include the Hovland HP-100, Lamm LL2, Audio Note M2, Art Audio VPL, Kora Eclipse, EAR 864, BAT VK-3i,  well basically most of the well respected brands that offer a preamp in the 2-5k range.

So now you can see why the Granite Audio piece, attracted my eye. If I had to pick any of the above preamps as my personal favorite or one I desire the most it would be either the Hovland or Lamm, but the Hovland is really out my price range, even used. But looking at the internals of both of those, does not make the Granite Audio piece pale by comparison. The Hovland looks to be a bit more hardwired, and the volume control seems to be more specialized. The Lamm on the other hand looks to be a much more inferior design in comparison. It all sits on one board, the transformer looks to be very small, and then it also uses the same Alps Black Beauty volume control as the Granite. Throw in all the other high-end parts used plus the design lay-out and the Granite Audio continues to look intriguing.

Mike Malter I agree with you about the quality of parts and the design. Everything that Don does is like this.  He is a craftsman by nature, and everything he does is to the highest standards with the best parts.

Scott Oliver So what I am writing about is to get some more of your thoughts on this preamplifier. Specifically if you could foresee any problems with it fitting in my system.  

Mike Malter This one I will have to beg ignorance on. I don't really know how it will fit into your system, or how music will sound with it in there. Also, this drives directly into your tastes as well.

Scott Oliver Did the granite produce any hum and hiss in your system?

Mike Malter None. Actually, when I had my Audio Research equipment (VT 100 and the Reference One) there was much more hiss. It was audible at my listening position. This was never the case with the GA.

Scott Oliver I also hoped you could expound a bit more on how the preamp compares to the Audio Research and Audio Note M3 preamps.

Mike Malter Sure. I had really high hopes for the Audio Research equipment. I was not enjoying music through my setup and was working to get something going I would really like. The first piece of equipment to go in was the Audio Research Reference One. The minute I put it in I felt the sensation of cold fear running through me as I thought I made a tragic mistake. Hum and hiss at my listening position - and an antiseptic like quality to the music. Yes the sound was "better", there was this holographic sound and it was a cut above my Parasound.  But the
music was dry and never musical and enjoyable.

The next piece to go in was the Audio Research VT100 amp. The hiss and hum was reduced somewhat now, and the music was smoother, but again remained clinical and dry and lifeless.

For me, at that time, Audio Research was my reference and I thought it must be right and something else must be wrong. I came to the conclusion that Digital was evil and was the problem - which got me to get back into vinyl. And, I found that with vinyl I could begin to relate emotionally in a positive sense to what I was hearing.

Scott Oliver The Audio Note M3 is kind of one of my holy grail preamps. How close is the performance of the Granite to this by all reports great preamp.

Mike Malter I really respect Audio Note equipment and really love their sound, and to me the sound of the Granite Audio and the M3 are very close (they both use dual chokes off of their power supply by the way). However, I found the sound of the M3 to be muted, or possibly too polite when compared to the Granite Audio. To my way of hearing, the M3 did not have that metallic shimmer, that sparkle that the GA has. I liked the sound of the M3 - but when compared to the Granite Audio, I did not find it musical.

I want to define musical to get clear with you and because this is such an important term for me. There is sound, you know the sound of the individual instruments, there is the soundstage and so forth. You can identify all of these attributes and describe them. Musical is different. When I mean musical, I am describing my feelings at the time while listening to what I hear. If I find I am relating emotionally to the music, and not to the gear's sound attributes that is musical to me.

I actually tried this as an experiment just to see if I was fooling myself and to better understand what was happening. I referred to a piece in my review, Orphee Aus Enfers. The first time I heard it through the GA, I started to laugh and was tapping my toes with the music. Then I went and put on two other phono stages, my own and one I was thinking of reviewing (They played both through my preamp and the GA). 

When those other phono stages went in it was like a switch went off.  I heard sound - I heard the sound of instruments - but it was not musical - not the same feeling or experience I had with the GA. Then I put the GA back in and played that record again, and yet again I got that same feeling - it was a feeling of being connected to music instead of being connected to sound.

Scott Oliver Please provide some feedback, as I do not have a dealer near me and am not sure if I can hear this thing before purchasing. Life is difficult when you have champagne tastes on a beer budget.

Mike Malter I hear the beer budget part. One option you have is to go to the Granite Audio website and try to contact Don directly. I think they have a home audition program or some such.

I read with interest your reviews with Dan and Richard - I've used Dan twice and am very pleased with his work.  It's great to see P-F and these two firms flourishing in the Pacific NW.

I'm also getting interested in digital photography and really enjoyed your image processing in those articles.  Would you tell me which program you used to create them?

Thanks very much, Steve

Yes, Dan Wright and Richard Kern are two remarkable audio artisans, doubt about it. It's been a real pleasure...and very explore their work, and share it with our readers here at PF Online. I do believe that series of reviews/interviews to be unique in fine audio publishing, and I think that it extends the literature on the subject rather significantly.

For all the image processing that I do here at PFO, I used Adobe Photoshop 7.0. Note that version 8.0 is due out within the next month or so, and may be worth the wait for the upgrade.

All the best,
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

I wouldn’t consider myself to be an audiophile yet, but I’m aspiring to be one someday, and I’ve just bought my first piece of what I though was an audiophile level piece of equipment, a Harman/Kardon CDR 26, CD player and recorder, but much to my dismay, when it arrived, I found a sticker on the back that said, "Made in China."

Not that I have anything against the Chinese people, it’s just that everything I buy that’s made there, breaks. I was wondering if you happen to know when Harman/Kardon moved their company there, and if they have managed to retain the level of quality that I thought they were famous for? Do you true audiophiles still consider them to be a high quality manufacturer?

In other words, did I really buy an audiophile quality piece of equipment, or just a name? Jeez, I gotta subscribe to some magazines or something. I’m out of touch. Any light you could shed on this would be greatly appreciated, and thanks in advance for any time you might spend replying.


(via the Internet)

To which that expert on things HK, Auro d’Oro replied:

Dear Neal,

There are so many aspects to this apparently single question that one could wind up in a swamp, with cross-currents, and eddies (whirlpools), that change from time to time. But as a fool who rushes in where wise men fear to tread, I’ll have a go at it.

There are many products that are made in China ranging in price from "ridiculously cheap" to "ridiculously expensive." From what I understand, even Sony is getting many of its designed-in-Japan products assembled in either Taiwan or mainland China. The results are a mixed bag.

If the assembly plant is honorable, they agree to terms that specify they must use all critical parts (chip-sets, capacitors, resistors, transformers) designated by the designer (manufacturer, part number, etc). However, there are unscrupulous guys in every country, and there is a minor sub-industry of manufacturing "look-alike" parts, or "part forgery." So unsuspecting American companies can get stuck with parts that are really bad.

One story that has made the rounds is that a Chinese company had an industrial spy in a Japanese capacitor-making factory. His job was to find the formula of the dielectric used in some pretty expensive capacitors. He came back with that in hand and his Chinese company began making capacitors according to the formula. The problem was that in "forming" the capacitors gave out a gas that was largely hydrogen, and when that collected inside the chassis of a piece, say a computer, the smallest spark could set it off. So there was a rash of computer fires, until the cause was tracked down.

is alleged to be a true story, told to me by a usually reputable source. But even if it is apocryphal, it serves as a warning about what might be happening in certain pieces of audio gear on a lesser scale. Key parts, chosen for their sonic excellence, might be substituted with "forged" parts that just don’t sound as good.

What we have here is a question of "character" of the factory. It must have come home to them that if they cut production costs by substituting cheap parts for expensive parts, the companies they supply might go out of business. And as such, they would be cutting their own throats. The Chinese are practical.

Some companies have been through this and found it is better for all involved if they don’t cut such corners. As the legal system in China isn’t up to our standard, everything comes down to a handshake. American companies (as well as Japanese and European) who use Chinese factories to assemble their products, know the factories with good reputations and try to deal with them.

It isn’t my job to keep score on these matters. I can’t say, for sure, this product line seems trustworthy, but this other does not. I think that Harmon International has a history of trail-blazing in these areas. If they don’t know who enjoys a good reputation, and who does not, that would surprise me.

For that matter, someone ought to keep score on the repair records on audio gear by brand name. But that would require a staff, and annual tabulation of data, and I don’t know of anyone but Consumer’s Report who is set up to do that. You might query them. They might be able to send you a xerox of their latest data on Home Consumer Electronics Equipment. Beyond that, I have no clue beyond word of mouth. But thanks for your most interesting question.

Auro d’Oro

Dear Auro d’Oro,
How could I properly thank you for this most excellent answer? All my suspicions were properly addressed in your letter, which is to say that we’re left with questions, and we should be. Anything else would have been...bull cookies. Some things we simply never will know, but at some point, we need to stop worrying, hope for the best, and just enjoy what we have. Nothing in life is certain, except death, taxes, and that sooner or later, your car is going to break down.

However, your letter helped me to have more confidence in my purchase, because there is one more thing, beside the above mentioned ones, that we can definitely count on, and that is human greed. If a company thinks that they may wind up losing a huge profit by cutting corners, then they are much less likely to do so. You seem to hold H/K in fairly high regard, which was a relief to me, and what with their prices being as high as they are, and their probably well-paid Chinese employees being well aware of the fact that they make more money than their neighbors...well, I guess that’s just about as good as we can ever hope for.

So. Thank you, for taking the time to pen such a...perfectly correct, response. My mind is now perfectly, and correctly, at ease, and ready to stop worrying, and enjoy some music, which is our ultimate goal to begin with. Right?

Bottom line, the old expressions hold true, "Ya rolls yer dice, and ya takes yer chances," or something like that. But, "Ya get whatcha’ pay for," applies, at least to some degree, too. Thanks again. You were very helpful.


Hi Neal,
I'm glad we see eye to eye on this one, and thanks for your kind words.  Truth, is this is not an audio-industry-only problem. It is more general. And in particular, you can verify the story by going to Google and asking it to do a search on the following entry "capacitor failure Taiwan". You will see a number of articles that go into the story in great detail, naming names, etc. This is a problem of, dare I say it, Globalization.

We can only hope the electronics industry figures out a way for everyone to live with a computer without having a capacitor (you'll notice they almost never use the word) - explode.

But I'm glad you're feeling better about your purchase.

Auro d'Oro

Thanks for the good article on modder Dan Wright. For the record, Dan's "basic truth" version of the Philips SACD 1000 can be had for less than $1400 (This includes the price of the recently discontinued stock Philips unit, which goes for $400-500 on the used/demo market.)

Dan is great to deal with, and for the money, I can't imagine more quality sound for the buck. After three months with this unit, I'm still "rediscovering" many of the better-recorded CDs in my collection, to the extent that I don't feel the need to buy SACDs exclusively, though the few I've acquired provide the frosting on my audio dessert. The overall sound of the Modwright product is both extremely smooth and revealing, which I attribute to Dan's DAC-tube-two-channel design.

(Signed) Geeb.     

Glad you enjoyed the article, Glenn. Dan does do some exceptional work, and this interview was our attempt to make people more aware of his audio artistry, as well as to let them know about his audio philosophy. His mods do sound great, all right; he deserves to do well. We hope that more people interested in tubed output SACD will give his designs a go.

All the best,
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

I read your "I don't drive stock!" article on issue 6 with great anticipation, as I am very interested in upgrading either an SACD1000 or Sony 777. The article provides some great info on Kern's 777, but I was disappointed that you didn't elaborate on the Modwright's machines through comparisons with other machines.

You said that Dan and you had a "truly great time [...] comparing his work to [...] Meitner DAC6", but didn't say anything about how Philips stacked up to your reference Meitner. What a tease!!! Please provide more info on the comparison results. I am particularly interested in the modded SACD1000 since it seems to represent the most bang for the buck ($600 for the stock unit + $1250 for Dan's "Signature Truth Mod"). I'd appreciate any info on how it compares to Dan's own 777, Kern's 777, Meitner and Linn 12.


Gee, Henry, you don't want much, do you?

(Insert eyes askance hereabouts...)

As a general observation, careful listening and the writing of useful comparisons is demanding work. The more permutations that you cover well, the more logarithmic the load. Given my current schedule, I can probably live with your disappointment, eh?


Having gotten that brief biff off my chest, my review of the Meitner DAC6 will include some notes on comparisons with the various 777's I've heard, as well as the Linn CD-12. That review...together with my review of the Joule Electra Marquis Mark III OTL monoblocks...will be published any day now. It should answer many of your questions.

All the best,
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

What happened to the DIY section. Love to read about Metier et-al, but can only approach my aspirations with home brew. Have you permanently deserted, temporarily put on hold, or should I pull my head in and be patient?

Kind regards

Be patient, Grant. DIY articles are...well...DIY. They happen when someone gets one done and to us. We'll publish them when they come in.

All the best,

Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

Hi Dave,
I only recently discovered PF online and I'm glad I did. I've been following the reviews of the Aria WT-100 with great interest. Being a WT-100 owner myself and having a pair of ESP Harps connected to it, I was especially interested in Art Shapiro's review of the Aria driving his ESP Concert Grands. While his review was positive overall, it was most definitely not overwhelmingly so. I do think a single Aria WT-100 is just not enough for those big old Concert Grands. Despite their high efficiency, the mult-driver design demands big power to really open up. Even my smaller Harps are only barely served by the single WT-100 and I have plans to add another as soon as I can afford it. With this in mind, I would suggest a second go round for Art with a pair of WT-100s bridged as 500 watt/per channel monoblocks driving his Concert Grands. Bet Art would be much happier then, and PF could publish an interesting follow-up to compliment the other reviews of the Aria.

Joe Mendez

You make some good points. I'll see what we can do for a future follow-up with Art!

Dave Clark, Editor

I currently use one pair of Pure Note Epsilon 1m RCA between my PT P3A DAC and SIM Audio Moon I5. You  nailed the sonic character of the Epsilon to a tee in your review of the DH Labs Silver Sonic. "The Pure Notes offered more presence, detail, and a sense of "silkiness" to voices that was very captivating, but again, this was more an issue of taste than one of either cable being "better" than the other."

I like everything about the Epsilon cable except it may be a tad too silvery or silky. I also find if I change other cables or power cords to silver contructed cables to my system the "silveryness" edges too far up. Interesting how the amount of silver and copper through out all cables can combine to create a certain balance of sound. I classify the too much much silveryness as  "hyper- real". Stunning but not necessarily accurate. Piano keys ringing on for every can be fatiguing. Vocal sibilance can be overemphasized and be distracting.

Which leads me to my question. From your experience what cable might keep the presence, detail and overall refinement of the Epsilons but have a little less silvery with a tad more warmth? Ideally, in the same price range as the Epsilon. The DH Labs Silver Sonic you described seemed to offer some of these qualities but it sounded like I my loose some of the refinement of the Epsilon also.

Here's my system:

Digital Frond End:
Adcom CD as transport only
AZ MC2 Digital Cable (I believe there's silver in this cable also)
PT P1A, P3A and Monolithic P3 Power Supply, Perfect Cable RT320 Power Cord
Audio Magic Reference I2s (silver over copper) between the P1A and P3A. (I am trying out the Revelation Prophecy I2S- more detail and extension top & bottom but too much silveryness).
Epsilon RCA 1m

SIM Audio Moon I5 Integrated Amp, Perfect Cable Power Cord (Copper only)

ML Aerius i electrostatic hybrid
Rel Strata III sub
AP Oval 9 speaker cables
Aftermarket power cords for the speakers (copper only)

AC Conditioning:
Dedicated 20 amp line, PS Audio Powerport
Quantum Symphony and 2x Electroclears
BPT BP1000 Balanced Power Regulator
Custom Audio PC with Furutech Rhodium and Gold Connectors (copper only)
(All equipment including speakers plugged into BP1000)
Audio Points used extensively under all equipment and speakers.

Any other suggestions are welcome to help get the system just right!


We will have a full Epsilon review next issue. And I agree it can lean a bit to the silver side, but it all depends on how one has their system balanced. Here, a bit too much silver, at another reviewer's, just fine. For the money it is a hard choice, as at that price the Epsilons are a steal. Yes the DH stuff omits the silver sound, but in doing so is a bit warm and forgiving. Not a bad thing in the right system. And another great cable for the price.

Now if you have the money and want all the Epsilons can deliver (and be warm no silver edge or character at all) times 10, then the Audio Magic Clairvoyants are the ticket - but $2200 a meter too. These are by far one of the best I have heard in the silver line of cables. Or perhaps another of the "best so far" are the stuff from PranaWire. In looking at your system, I would not think that the silver would be an issue. Seems pretty well balanced sonically. Perhaps a room issue?

Dave Clark, Editor

Hello David,
Based on various postings I saw on audioasylum, I understand you have heard, in you own system, a various reference level digital playback systems, including Meitner, Modwright's Sony players (have you heard his Philips1000?), Richard Kern's Sony player, etc. I am in the market for a new cd/sacd player and would like to get your opinion, if you don't mind. Meitner set up is out of my price range, but Kern and Modwright stuff might be doable.

What were your impressions of these various machines, and how do they stack up to meitner for SACD and CD? Any input will be appreciated. I will not post any of your responses online. Thanks.

Henry Kim

Hello Henry...

Actually, a number of my postings on the Kern mods are already online at Please check the archives.

My notes on the Kern transport mod for the SCD-1 will be appearing in Issue 6 of PF Online, appearing after April 1. As a companion piece, I also comment on the ModWright SCD-777ES and ModWright Philips SACD 1000 w/5687 tubed output. You'll be seeing them, and the photographs thereof, in that same issue.

There will also be interviews with both Richard Kern and Dan Wright in that issue...stay tuned!

I cannot possibly respond in an email to your request, Henry, since you're really asking for a complete matrix of impressions. Read the back issues of PF Online...including the "Reverberations" section of Issues 3-5...and Issue 6 as soon as it comes out. Between that and AA, you'll be well served.

All the best,

Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online