Letters • April 2010

Amps with Sasha W/Ps?

April 28, 2010


Thanks for the blog post on the Wilson Sasha W/Ps. Having lived with mine now for a couple of months, I share your enthusiasm for this wonderful speaker. And I especially echo your comments about their coherence, which is on par with several different ESLs I have owned over the years, including Quad 2805s.

Could you please elaborate on the various amps you used with the Sashas and your preferences? From the picture, it looks like you have both Lamm monoblocks and what appears to be an Audio Research stereo amp. Did the tube amp drive them in the bass to the same level of control as the Lamm amps? Would you also please elaborate a little more on the differences between the midrange and treble of the two amps with the Sashas? I imagine that these differences are similar to what you outlined in your review of the Lamm LL1 Signature preamp when you were using the MAXX 3's, but since every amp-speaker interaction is different, I'd like to understand the mid and treble differences too. Also any additional advice on setup tweaks, positioning, etc.?

Thanks again for publishing such a great magazine and for being so accessible to your readers.

Dave Neumann

I used both Lamm M1.2 Reference hybrid monoblocks and an Audio Research Reference 110 stereo tube amp with the Sashas. The Lamm amps definitely dominated in the bass -- they have powerful, weighty, well-controlled bass themselves. The low frequencies of the Reference 110 were a little softer and not quite as deep as those of the M1.2s. This is the same with the MAXX 3s, by the way, so while the Sasha W/Ps have that impedance dip in the bass, both of the amps handle it and retain their intrinsic sonic signatures.

There are distinct sonic differences between the Reference 110 and M1.2 Reference through the midrange and treble, and they align accurately with the two amps' differences in technology. The tubed Reference 110 sounds fuller and rounder through the mids and delicate and airy in the treble. The Lamm M1.2s are leaner through the mids and slightly lighter in tone, and their treble is more quick-paced and matter-of-fact. This is irrespective of the speakers. I will say that either amp matches very well with Wilson Sasha W/Ps, and I've seen Lamm and Audio Research equipment all over the Wilson factory and in the home systems of the Wilson sales force.

The speakers in my listening room were set up by John Giolas, who followed the same routine your dealer would use. I can tell you that the spots he identified in my room are generally where all speakers sound best. Toe-in changes for each speaker, however. I know that some people leave their Wilson speakers on casters, so they can move them around. I've found that spiking them improves their bass control, so it's worthwhile in every case.

I don't have any specific recommendations for tweaks to use with the speakers, but I can say that I heard the effects of any I added to my system, such are the Sashas' resolving powers. -Marc Mickelson

Moving-magnet cartridge for VPI Classic

April 22, 2010


I've always trusted your recommendations! I had a VPI Classic, but now have a Graham B-44 Phantom tonearm mounted on a TW-Acustic Raven One turntable. Yes, you are right -- the Classic is really darn good, and I could have been done with it had I kept it. Nonetheless, I am buying another VPI Classic soon, so I'll have two turntables. I realized that going to a higher-end moving-coil cartridge makes things more revealing. My dad's old LP's don't sound very good on these higher-end moving-coils. The sound is thin. I would like to keep the moving-coil cartridge on my Raven One. Since you are experience with the Classic, can you recommend some good moving-magnet cartridges for it? My short list includes the Grado Sonata series and the Clearaudio Maestro.

Noli Tan

I'm not sure that going with a moving-magnet cartridge on your soon-to-be second VPI Classic will make your old LPs sound less thin. In fact, it may make the problem worse, depending on the cartridge you choose. I don't have any experience with either of those you mention, although I note that you have a healthy budget for the purchase -- in the $1000 range. For less than that amount, I would consider the Ortofon 2M Black, which is not a thin-sounding cartridge. It is the best of the moving-magnets I've heard. However, my best recommendation is to stay with a low-output moving-coil, specifically the Audio-Technica AT33EV, which I used with the Classic. It has an even spectral balance that won't exacerbate the inherent thin sound of certain recordings, and won't hide it either. Street price is around $500, and I suspect you won't find a moving-magnet cartridge for double this amount that will sound better.

Of course, my recommendation of the AT33EV is based on the fact that you're going to use the Classic with your existing phono stage, which can accommodate a low-output moving-coil cartridge (0.3mV for the AT33EV). If not, then the 2M Black is a worthy fall-back choice. -Marc Mickelson

New ProAc or...?

April 19, 2010


I live in the UK but have read and appreciated a number of your reviews in the past. In part, on the back of some of your recommendations, I have an Audio Research system comprising a Reference 110 amp, an LS26 preamp and a Reference CD7 CD player, but I am still using my old ProAc Response 2.5 speakers, which clearly need upgrading.

I was thinking of the ProAc Response D38R (with ribbon tweeter), and I am excited by the new Carbon Pro 6, but I am looking for suggestions. My listening room is perfect for neither shape nor openness, given the vagaries of old houses with irregularly shaped rooms and beams and too much furniture! I appreciate this doesn't make it ideal, and I am probably more an avid listener than an audiophile,

I have seen reasonably priced used Wilson WATT/Puppy 8s on offer here. Is this a very different sound, and should I consider Wilson's other speakers? Do they lack warmth? I don't play music at very loud levels; often my volume control is around 10 on a scale of 1 to 100. I am really just looking for a couple of suggestions of things to compare with my current ProAc-attuned ears.

Dominic Bexon

Wilson and ProAc are two speaker brands that mate particularly well with Audio Research electronics. Audio Research has demonstrated with both brands many times, including at this year's CES, where I heard the ProAc Carbon Pro 6, which was the most-promising new speaker I heard at the show. By chance, I happen to have a pair of the Wilson Sasha W/Ps set up here, and they are being driven by a Reference 110, with a Reference 5 and Reference CD8 in front of them -- a wonderful combination. I think there are broad similarities between the sound of Wilson and ProAc speakers, including great coherence and an overall music-gracing demeanor. ProAc speakers are generally a touch sweeter in the treble, and Wilson speakers have better dynamic prowess -- good for when you're playing music at low levels, which you appear to do -- and greater bass depth. Given that you already own a pair of ProAcs, another would seem to be the best choice. If you are looking for other brands to consider, I certainly recommend that you hear a current pair of Wilson speakers, if not the Sashas then the Sophia 2s, which always convince me that they represent David Wilson's best work whenever I hear them. None of the Wilson speaker lacks warmth, and, as you know, the same is true of speakers from ProAc. -Marc Mickelson

Tube amp for Sound Lab speakers

April 14, 2010


I have corresponded with you in the past. I recently upgraded my MartinLogan speakers to Sound Labs. I am driving them with a Conrad-Johnson Premier 350 amp and Act2.2 preamp, with an Ayre C-5xeMP as source. My room is 20'W x 35'L x 8'H and treated with 16 bass traps in the corners for superb bass articulation. It's a great system! You should review the Sound Labs. The new PX technology is amazing.

I am wondering which tube amps would work with my speakers. I tried the 140W Atma-Sphere MA-1 monoblocks. They were superb through the midrange but weak in the bass and treble; they also lacked the panel control the C-J Premier 350 provides. (By the way, the Atma-Sphere amps were by far the best amps I have heard with my MartinLogans. I thought the C-J Premier 350 was as good as it gets, but the lower-powered Atma-Spheres smoked it in all areas other than the bass.)

Are there any tube amps you would recommend? Would the 100Wpc CAT JL2 Signature Mk 2 work?

David Matz

The CAT JL2 Signature Mk 2 is always my first choice for a tube amp that will drive tough speaker loads. While it's rated at 100Wpc, it sounds much more powerful, probably due to its massive output transformer. Its sound is full, weighty and staunch. The output-transformerless Atma-Sphere amps are much more load sensitive than the JL2.

However, you don't have to give up on Atma-Sphere amps completely. If the MA-2 Mk 3.1 monoblocks are in your budget, you might find that they are the perfect amps for you. With their greater power output -- and greater number of output tubes -- comes better load tolerance and better low frequencies. The bass of these amps was never unacceptable to my ears, and their midrange transparency was unequaled. The MA-2s are truly one of the audio world's great amps, even with speakers that may seem inappropriate for them on paper. -Marc Mickelson

Reference 110 vs. M1.2 Reference

April 9, 2010


I read that you used both an Audio Research Reference 110 stereo amp and Lamm M1.2 Reference monoblocks in your review of the Lamm LL1 Signature preamp. Since you have listened to both amps recently, how would you describe their sound? Would you say that the M1.2 Reference's 110 watts are more powerful than the Reference 110's? I'm using Magnepan MG3.6es which, as you know, need a powerful amp.

H.O. Jerresand

There are general sonic similarities between Lamm the M1.2s and the Audio Research Reference 110 -- an inherent naturalness that's very enticing, at least to my ears -- and some specific differences. What you'll hear foremost from the M1.2s is greater bass depth and control and a less rounded and physical midrange than that of the Reference 110. The Reference 110 can cast an immense soundstage, both in terms of width and depth, and while the Lamm amps are very good in this regard, they aren't quite as adept. The Lamm amps are a bit more incisive on transients than the Reference 110, and they sound a bit drier in the treble, though they are not inherently dry-sounding.

The actual measured output of the Lamm M1.2s was a bit over 150 watts (they're rated at 110). Even so, I think either amp would drive your speakers well. For a brief time, I used M1.2s with MG3.6es, and the results were glorious. While the amps cost much more than the speakers, the sonic outcome made a very strong case for the price discrepancy. -Marc Mickelson

A plug for edenSound

April 3, 2010


I have a question on isolation products -- two in particular. Are you familiar with either the Herbie's Audio Labs product called the Tenderfoot or Synergistic Research's MiG. Both go under components for isolation. Any word on either one?

Sheldon Simon

I'm not familiar with Herbie's Audio Lab at all, and while I've visited Synergistic Research (and still need to write about that visit), I neither saw nor heard any isolation products there.

However, let me plug a company I just wrote about and whose products I use, edenSound. I have used edenSound TerraStone footers under various components, and they worked well, isolating equipment from structure-borne vibration. They also effectively dissipate static electricity. The sonic effects are worthwhile: better image focus, greater space, and a slightly more inky background. Best of all, at $55 each, they are inexpensive compared to their competition, especially for what you get.

The company also makes entire platforms from the same TerraStone material, and they are very effective too. -Marc Mickelson

Blue Note digital -- what to buy?

April 1, 2010


I read your review of the Blue Note XRCD24s. Do you know if Music Wave is planning to produce more than the 25 titles announced? I have about a dozen Blue Note LPs and would be happy with another couple dozen CDs perhaps. If these XRCD24s are the best available, then I would like to know whether I should pick the best out of the forthcoming 25 -- knowing there will be more coming -- or just buy the whole batch because these 25 will be it.

There is also a new set of Blue Note SACDs from Analogue Productions. I do not know how the sonics compare with the XRCD24s', but the titles of this set seem at least as good, although I am no authority on Blue Note titles.

The point is that I want to pick up two or three dozen (to go with my dozen LPs) of the best Blue Note CDs available.

Jeff Levine

According to Joe Harley, the producer of the Music Wave Blue Note XRCD24 series, there will be more than the initial 25 titles. As Joe put it, "There may be more, but you can safely say 50 for sure." In terms of which titles, Joe has said that many will be duplicates of Music Matters LPs, but not all of them will.

In regard to the Analogue Productions SACDs, I haven't heard any of them, but I have noted the titles. They are many of the best known -- Blue Note's greatest hits, so to speak -- though not always the best in terms of music. Joe Harley knows his Blue Note recordings cold, and so far, with Music Matters and Music Wave, he's made some daring choices, none of which has been less than terrific musically. So to get both the more common Blue Note recordings and the ones that are lesser known but significant, you'll have to pick and choose between the XRCD24s and SACDs. -Marc Mickelson


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