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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 7
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Our readers respond…we respond right back!
Send your comments to either editorpf@attbi.com or pfo@charter.net

 

 

Hello Max, 
I was reading your review on page 6 where you claim that the SR 9200 will deliver "980 freakin' watts!"  After reading Marantz's published specifications which state 530 watts power consumption I am wondering how this could work?

J. Karl Meinhardt
BSEE
Santa Cruz, CA

Dear J. Karl Meinhardt:
Thanks for keeping me on my toes, not being an electrical engineer myself. I came up with that number by adding (erroneously, it now seems) the numbers also in Marantz's published specifications for the SR 9200 in their owner's manual. Inside the rear cover (no page number), on the page designated "Technical Specifications" it reads:

Audio Section:
Power Output
Front L&R (20 Hz - 20 kHz): 6 ohms 160 W/Ch
Center (20 Hz - 20 kHz): 6 ohms 160 W/Ch
Surround L&R (20 Hz - 20 kHz): 6 ohms 160 W/Ch
Surround Back L&R (20 Hz - 20 kHz): 6 ohms 160 W/Ch

And since they also claim their output for full rated power, I added them up. If you do, it seems that each pair is claimed to deliver 320 watts, or 960 watts, and when you add on the additional 160 for the center channel it comes to 1120 watts. That seems to be their claim. I don't know how else to read it.

Elsewhere on that same page they do state their Power Consumption is at 530 watts. They also state that is in (STEREO MODE RATED POWER). It is the only phrase that is in all Capital Letters on the page, so that we might pay attention. It seems you omitted those words.

There are some vagaries here that are not of my doing. When they make these statements of power output, they do not specify constant average power, r.m.s. (root mean square); or measurements of peaks the individual amplifiers are able to deliver. They also fail to specify what the power consumption is for all seven channel output when played simultaneously.

Your email ping raises many questions about to what degree of rigor the published "specifications" of the industry should be held. I am in sympathy with your confusion, for on closer look it seems these conflicting statements are in contradiction, and managed to trip me up. Thanks for your keen eye and investigative reporter's instinct. I hope we might be able to keep the smoke and mirrors out of published specifications. And I'll forward this exchange to Marantz, to my knowledge one of the manufacturers with the highest integrity, for their comment.    

Max Dudious


Dear Editor,
Didn't anybody notice that the common transport in Robert Levi's review of the Audio Magic DAC was the Sony SCD-1? Not exactly a transport purchase match for a $2500 direct price outboard DAC, now is it? A Sony DVP9000ES is a more realistic price-point choice, as both a transport and modded player.

I believe that the combined Sony mods (clock, Blackgates, tube output), reviewed in these very pages, are considerably less than $2500, plus mfg recommended ancillaries. That, to me, would have been a more logical, interesting, and comparative review.

BTW, those ancillaries would also include additional moneys for hi-rez shelving, and isolation. In the context of such a system, one would probably need to figure an additional $500-$1000.

Robert Hart
Audio Tweakers

Bob,
We have several more reviews of the DAC by reviewers who may have more appropriate set-ups, though I question your conlcuions.

Thanks,
Dave Clark, Editor
dclark@positive-feedback.com


Dear Positive Feedback:
I have just finished enjoying John Pearsall's "The Twentieth Century and the Birth of Audio Technology" Part 2 in online Issue #4.

This is easily the most informative and entertaining article I have ever read on the history of recording technology, and it answered many questions I have had for years (such as the technical reasons behind the sudden and dramatically improved high-frequency response and clarity of records that I noticed as a teenager in the mid-1970's).

I also enjoyed Mr. Pearsall's position on the many examples of "regressive technology" which corporate clowns have unleashed on gullible consumers over the decades. I still prefer the sound of well-recorded records to that of CD's, and I have thousands of them of all speeds and vintages which I play on a roomful of radio-station turntables. (I like records so much, that I bought a Presto 6N lathe in 1985 with which to cut my own!)

Please let Mr. Pearsall know that I really enjoyed his article,and appreciate his obvious expertise, clear perspective, and entertaining writing style—If he ever writes a book along these lines, I'll be the first in line to buy it!

Gary Nairon
Nashville, TN
gfilms@bellsouth.net

Hello Gary...
Yes, John has been a pungent and incisive commentator on the audio scene for many years with PF/PFO. He would be pleased to hear that you enjoyed his article; I'll pass along your response next time he and I chat.

Regards,

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Dear Sirs
First of all, let me say that I really enjoyed Tom's comparisons of these new recordings and hope he continues to perform this "public service"

I would like to make one suggestion and poise a question for your critical response. The suggestion is to include, if known, the source material for the LP; i.e., was the LP cut from an analog or digital tape? The question is—for those LP's cut from a digital source (and I suspect all three of the LPs Tom reviewed are in this category), how can the LP sound better than the CD? Is it because a D/A conversion must be made for the LP to be cut? Are there other variables involved I don't understand? In other words, explain how (and, maybe, even more importantly, WHY) an LP would ever be cut from a digital source.

Thanks

Mike Ludewig

Mike,
If you recall, in the early days of CD the discs were always marked to identify the three steps of the production chain: for example, "ADD" denoted that the music was recorded on analog tape, then mixed and mastered in the digital domain. Of course, the third letter is never in question. By definition, CDs are digital and LPs analog. But it can be almost impossible for LP buyers these days to know if the music was recorded and mixed digitally or not.

Contrary to your assumption, I believe at least two of the three LPs in my review are "AAA" affairs. In the case of the White Stripes, there’s no questionthe band flies its analog colors proudly. As noted in the review, Elephant was recorded on all pre-1963 tube equipment, and the LP’s liners are explicit: "All songs on this album were recorded to eight-track reel-to-reel... Mixed to quarter-inch reel-to-reel...   No computers were used during the writing, recording, mixing or mastering of this record." No doubt, this is analog all the way.

The Lucinda Williams album is a bit trickier. I have seen photographs of the recording sessions, and the music was definitely recorded on an analog console. Neither the LP nor the CD, however, note whether the tapes were subsequently mixed or edited digitally. However, given the vinyl’s gloriously airy and natural sound (with Lucinda’s down-home, Blonde on Blondeworshipping sensibility as circumstantial evidence), I’d bet my last hundred bucks that the World Without Tears LP is also all-analog. It epitomizes all of the qualities that reviewers routinely refer to as "analog-like."

Looking at the notes to Mambo Sinuendo, the "D" word does indeed rear its head. The tracks were recorded in Havana on analog tape, but they were "Mixed at Capitol Studios, Los Angeles… Digital Editing by Rail Jon Rogut and Jared Smith." So this appears to be an "ADA" piece of vinyl. Not to pat myself on the back, but could this be why I found little difference between the LP and CD versions?

In fact, I’m well-acquainted with the sound of ADA LPs. I have dozens of Fantasy’s Original Jazz Classics reissues, which in the ‘80s took the original session tapes of great jazz recordings from the ‘50s and ‘60s, transferred them to digital tape and pressed them on vinyl. These sound pretty good, but the digital signature is audiblethey tend to be a little sharp and airless, though still preferable to the contemporaneous CDs. This was essentially my opinion of Mambo Sinuendo as well. Given the analog mastering, the LP was slightly more dynamic and warm than the CD, but just slightly.

This (finally!) gets to the point of what you’re getting at in your message, Mike. Though I generally prefer a well-mastered LP to a well-mastered CD, a best-to-best comparison of the two formats is indeed very close. There are some wonderful-sounding CDs out there. But the practices of engineers when mixing and mastering in digital have a tendency to result in CDs that are brighter and harder than the original tapes. This doesn’t need to happen, but it does. For one, digital editors often have an unfortunate need to "clean up" the source tapes: remove tape hiss (thereby deadening tonality), splice tiny flaws, etc. Then mastering engineers tailor the sound to what they view as the dictates of the mass market, i.e. highly EQ’d and compressed and LOUD even with the volume turned down. The net result is CDs that sound sharp and clinically "perfect," but processed and unnatural.

The JVC XRCD reissues, for example, have shown how good CDs can sound when supreme pains are taken in all steps of the production chain. But they remain the exception and not the rule.

Tom Campbell


Hi David
I am a relatively new reader of your online magazine and was very interested in your followup comments of the above system.

You repeatedly make the comment that this is the finest DIGITAL playback that you have ever heard. Is there an implication here that you feel that the finest analogue is still superior? Could you also please indicate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Meitner vs the dCs combo. I look foward to your reply.

Regards

Zarir

Hello Zarir...
I will be commenting on this question in the near future in my "The Higher End" column.

Regards,

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Dear Sirs
Noted a comment from last fall that you were trying to get one of these to play with. Any success? Is there a US distributor? I love mine, bought through a dealer who went out of business, and would like to hear what you think. Nice piece on the Joule Electra amps. I have those too. I enjoy your magazine.

Skip Clemmons

Hi Skip
Well, we were sure *trying* to get a Platine Verdier last fall, Skip, but ran into logistical problems and had to cancel the project.

At that time, Verdier had no US distributor, which make the project much more difficult for the UK distributor to justify...and eventually, he opted out. I don't think that I blame him! Fine turntable logistics are daunting, especially when shipped overseas. Support is tough, and communications can be intermittent, depending on the source.

We've had several turntable projects fall through for reasons like these...plus the fact that many turntable manufacturers don't seem to be very interested in reviews these days.

C'est la vie!

Glad to hear that you're enjoying PFO. We do.

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com



Dear Editors
(In response to Michael Mikey@silk.net)
Michael talks about not hearing "drastic" differences in Paradigm speakers, but he does so having listened to them in less than optimum fashion. With approximately 20 speakers in the room, it wouldn't be anything less than amazing if just one of them were properly set up or positioned. This is not to mention that you've got 20 passive radiators being directly excited via airborne vibrations. As such, the fact that he was able to hear "3 points" of difference from lowest cost to highest cost ( in that room ) is quite amazing in itself.

The bottom line is, you have to audition a component as you would use it. This is especially true of speakers as moving them just a foot in one direction could drastically alter how it loads into/excites the room. As such, I hope that Michael will take this into consideration when auditioning components in the future. Otherwise, he may end up missing out on something great simply because the device was not allowed to perform up to its' capacity in a less than optimized system. 

Sean
aw_dee_o@hotmail.com


Dear Editor
Dan Drasin's "How to Debunk Just About Anything" included the statement: "Occam's Razor," or the "principle of parsimony," says the correct explanation of a mystery will usually involve the simplest fundamental principles. Insist, therefore, that the most familiar explanation is by definition the simplest! Imply strongly that Occam's Razor is not merely a philosophical rule of thumb but an immutable law.

This is a prevalent and unfortunate misunderstanding of Occam's work in Theology. His "razor" is not a "philosophical rule of thumb" that predicts the outcome of an investigation. Rather it is a suggestion for methodology only, and is in itself outcome-neutral.

While Drasin did not go all the way into the common error of stating "The simplest explanation is most likely to be the correct one," his reading is sufficiently close to that error that I felt compelled, as an amateur Medievalist, to correct the record.

Taken in context--and let us not forget that the context after all was Medieval Scholastic Theological speculation, and not audio engineering—what Occam meant to convey was "Because the simplest possible explanations involve the fewest variables, they should—in terms of methodology--be dealt with first."

There is a long stretch between a theologian's suggesting that it makes the most sense—given the then-prevalent felt need, which was based on both Aristotle and the Geometers, to deal with all possible explanations of a circumstance—to dispose of the simple cases first, and the reductionist determinism of the usual modern mangling of the "razor."

Cordially,
John Marks
John Marks Records: http://www.jmrcds.com
Free newsletter on culture and the arts:
http://www.topica.com/lists/jmrcds

Hello John...You make an excellent...and important...point. Lest we perish of blood loss on the "bleeding edge," I publish!

Nihil obstat. Imprimatur!

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


David
I am about to upgrade my SCD 777ES. Based on your reviews, it seems that the single best upgrade now is the Superclock II. What else would you do to keep it under a grand?

Warm regards,

Larry Glasner
Thousand Oaks, CA

Hello Larry...good to hear from you again.

If I wanted to keep the hot-rodding of the Sony SCD-777ES under a grand, I would do the Superclock II, and also do Richard Kern's transport mod. This upgrades the caps in the transport section, which results in quite a noticeable gain in transparency, in addition to the Superclock II's increased resolution and detail. The combination of the two has a resultant benefit on soundstaging and imaging...particularly in image depth.

Well worth doing, Larry...you'll be pleased with the results I am quite sure. I certainly was.

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com 


Editor:
Does it make sense to do all the Richard Kern mods, and then add Dan Wright's tube output stage? Or is that defeating the purpose of Kern's mods? Also, does the SCD-1 have dig ins?

Thanks,
Dave Schmit

Hello Dave...
If you're thinking about trying to get the "best of both modding worlds" this way, I wouldn't do *all* of the Kern mods. Any mods done to the analog output section should be avoided, since Dan Wright's tube output section would bypass those anyway.

I'd recommend that you look at doing the following Kern mods:

1. Superclock II

2. Kern SCD-1 transport mod

3. Possibly the Superclock power supply

...then have Dan take it from there with his tubed output plus his exceptional power supply. That would give you an exceptional digital front end, plus the finesse of tubes on the analog side.

For the latest, I would check with Richard and Dan if you're thinking of having this done. They live about 20-25 minutes from each other...a "tag-team project" is quite feasible.

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com 


Dave
Just like to say that I read and like the Positive Feedback info and reviews and appreciate the insight offered. Read your recent review on the DH Labs Revelation IC’s. I have the DH Labs BL -1 Series II interconnects which is their entry level IC below the Air Matrix and the reference Revelations at around 80$ a meter. My system sounds very good to me, but after a recent upgrade in speakers (ACI Sapphire 25th Anniversary Editions), and to a Musical Fidelity A 300 integrated amp, I am looking to upgrade my IC’s going from my Pioneer Elite DV –C36 source. I also have DH Labs Silversonic T14 speaker wire, and DH Labs sub cables to my ACI Titan sub. I have decent aftermarket power cords throughout, a dedicated electrical circuit for audio, and upgraded receptacles.

A better IC is next on my list (I know the Pioneer Elite is pretty average, but the upgrade to a dedicated CDP will have to wait). Recently auditioned a pair of Straight Wire Crescendos that a friend let me borrow and liked them very much. I like a sound that is neutral, balanced, resolved, open, detailed, dynamic, deep and wide, and slightly warm. The Straight Wire IC’s seemed to fit the bill, in my system anyway, and I am considering finding a used pair of them.

Since I obviously like the DH Labs "sound" which is very neutral and balanced to my ears, I was wondering if you had any thoughts about how the Revelations would compare to the Crescendos. Actually the MF A 300 is probably the defining piece of equipment in my system as far as the signature of the sound I have. Any thoughts about how the DH Labs Revelations might match with my setup would be appreciated. I am not very experienced about various IC’s, just want to move up to some that are in the same class of quality as my speakers and the MF A 300.

Thanks for your time if you are able to offer any brief comments.

Tony Riordan

Tony, Sorry but I have no experience with the Straight Wires. I would think that the revelations may be a good choice as they are a bit darker and "non-analytical" in way that could make just the right mix with the rest of your set-up. Contact Greg at DH and see if an in-home trial is a possibility.

Thanks,
Dave Clark, Editor
dclark@positive-feedback.com


Hello Dave
I have just purchased a Cary 306/200 and really enjoyed your review and suggested modifications. I find your tastes similar in terms of presentation and I am happy to report that my wife Lisa is also a part of the music mix at our house.

I am working with Ron and the folks from Music Direct on the mod to the Cary 306/200. I think I have all the right size/colour dots and I have now collected 6 onlines. What/where would be your next stop for the additional pair of onlines inside the 306/200?

Thanks,
Cyril

Cyril,
A good question. I am thinking about opening the unit again and adding more dots to all the rectifiers as well as a few more Onlines on the cable that runs from the transport to the DAC board (which needs to be treated very carefully when removing the top board
it does not disconnect!). And perhaps on the upsampling chips too! Definitly try Onlines at the IEC!

Thanks,
Dave Clark, Editor
dclark@positive-feedback.com


Mr. Robinson,
I read your review of the VZN-100 in Musicwood. I've heard the amp and also think it is tremendous. I have the "Rite of Passage" on order from Jud in black Musicwood and should be receiving them shortly. Jud really deserves the accolades. He's a special man!

Thanks,
Joe

Joe
I agree with you, Joe; Jud Barber is an incredibly talented OTL designer, whose work has given a lot of joy to those of us who've heard it. Not only is he a fine audio designer, he's also a heckuva nice guy!

Great designs, by a wonderful human being. That's worth celebrating....

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com 


Dear Sirs
The subjectivity and hyperbole in audio reviews is frustrating. It's amazing how often I've read a review on a particular item of audio equipment and come across some sort of statement about how similar this item is in quality compared to other items costing much more. This type of comparison is done often enough that it seems like there shouldn't be any audio equipment left to compare to in that same price bracket. Just once I'd like to come across a $1000 item that is only as good as a $500 item. It makes me wonder if the reviewer is trying to find the truth about the audio product's quality, or simply producing advertising for the company of the product being reviewed.

There are a lot of items in the audio world that don't even make sense to me. For instance, so much concern is made over cables (some costing thousands of dollars for a small length) when all the wiring and welds within a particular audio product are seemingly ignored. How could one cable with two connectors make any noticeable difference when connected between products that consist of dozens and dozens of wires and welds along that same signal path? It just doesn't make sense.

I was once in a listening room of Paradigm speakers consisting of about ten pairs ranging from the lowest Cinema speaker to the upper mid-level Monitor 9 speaker. They were all connected to the same CD player via a switch that allowed me to instantly listen to any pair of speakers. I listened to several different types of classical music, including vocals, and was prepared (and expecting) to hear significant differences. I was shocked at how little the differences were. In fact, if I had to value the differences between speaker pairs, each better pair might receive a higher score of about 1 point on a total scale of about 50. What was most shocking was that when I switched between the Cinema and Monitor 9 I didn't get the 10 point jump that logic would tell me, but rather more like about 3. This comparison opened my eyes (and ears) to the subtleties of the audio world.

What annoys me is that the reviews often use words like "shocking" and "drastic" to describe the differences between lesser and better products, giving me the impression that color is being seen for the first time in a world of black and white. However, a Fisher-Price toy is not being compared to a high-end audio product.

Why can't audio equipment be compared in a way that is much more scientific and objective?  Why aren't actual measurements of the sound made? If our ears can hear a difference, then certainly a device can detect that difference and plot it out to prove it. Frequency response graphs are made for speakers, so wouldn't this data also show the difference among audio products?

I wish that a reviewer was given a 10 or 20 second piece of music to review, not knowing what he was reviewing (players, cable, speaker, etc.). He would listen to the piece over and over again for about 20 sessions in order to evaluate it for each of the categories that Enjoy The Music evaluates (tonality, bass, resolution, etc.). Then he would listen to the same 10 or 20 second piece over again for another 20 sessions, not knowing what or if anything had been changed. He would go through this procedure about 10 times to test 3 or 4 products. Then another reviewer would be subjected to the same analysis. Ultimately, we would discover if there would be consistency in the reviews, especially when the reviewers don't know what audio equipment combination they are listening to. For example, you could review 3 CD players in random order for 10 times so that some players might be played in repeated succession. Then the review would be valid because it would eliminate subjectivity and bias. You would then have a review that would produce the truth of the audio equipment's quality, and not what the company wants you to tell your audience. People buying audio equipment that was favorable by this review method would be able to have confidence that their money has made a good purchase, because most audio equipment cannot be properly auditioned.

Thanks for your response.

Michael
mikey@silk.net


David,
What are you using to hold your cables off of your floor? I guess I'm itching for a new tweak in my system. If it's listed in your equipment list, I'm missing it.

My system (from the wall): Hubbell outlet, Magnan Signature power cord, Richard Gray 400s, Wadia 860, Nordost Quattro Fil RCA, Atma-Sphere M60 Mk2 with factory power supply and resistor upgrades, Cardas Golden Reference biwires, Merlin VSM-M.

I have a few tweaks thrown in: Black Diamond Racing cones under my amps. Walker pucks on top of the amps. ERS sheets in a couple of places. Lead shot on top of the Merlins. I think I'd like to pick the speaker cables up off of the ground. I'm open to any other suggestions.

Many thanks,

Chris Mathes
New Orleans, LA

Yes, I think I forgot to mention that item, Chris. I have a set of ceramic cable suspenders that I've been using for years...dark brown, looks just like what you see on older power poles. Don't remember who makes these, but they've served me well.

My audiobuds George Cardas and Jennifer Crock often use tubes to hoist their cables and interconnects. If you've got some used/cheap medium-sized tubes, this works very well.

PFO Senior Assistant Editor Rick Gardner uses the larger glass bricks to suspend cables, also to good effect. Any of these should do you well...have fun.

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com 

 

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