Letters • August 2010

Which one-step fluid?

August 30, 2010


It’s time for me to get more record-cleaning solution. I am not looking to go nuts here. I would prefer to stick to a one-step process. I was using the cleaner that came with the VPI 16.5 machine I bought. I can get another bottle of the VPI stuff, or I can get some Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions One-Step Formula. Which would be better for me?

Mike Doukas

I'm a fan of the AIVS fluids, which are the best I know of at this point, and they're reasonably priced too. I've used One-Step Formula No.6 a great deal, and it works very well. I often use it on new or good-looking records that don't need anything more heavy-duty. Premium Record Cleaner Formula No.15 works miracles with really grimey records, but it also requires a water rinse. I honestly would recommend buying both cleaners (along with some water for rinsing), so you'll be ready for any record that comes your way. -Marc Mickelson

The cost of measurements

August 24, 2010


In the September 2010 Stereophile, John Atkinson published his follow-up to Michael Fremer's review of a Vitus Audio phono preamp. "...[T]here is nothing in its measured performance that would indicate why [Fremer] was so taken by its sound." I think I know -- its $60,000 ticket. I recall audiophilia's beloved philovinylite trotting out the old cliché (in his Constellation Audio interview) about something's being out of one's league if one has to ask about its price. The guy hears dollar signs. Isn't that what they call synesthesia?

Mike Silverton

Measurements hardly tell the whole story. Our ears are far more sensitive than any measurements known to man, though measurements are useful tools, of course.

However, measurements are more often than not subject to abuse and misinterpretation. For instance, based upon your letters I sometimes get, I know that many Stereophile readers never look beyond a loudspeaker's on-axis frequency response curve because they refuse to take the time to learn what the other measurements mean.

Worse, even when they do understand them, their ability to weight and consider their importance can be limited. For example, if you look at the Wilson MAXX3 anechoic response measurements you will see a noticeable trough in the 1-4kHz range. This prompted e-mail from the usual gang of idiotic Wilson haters citing it as "proof" that the speakers are poorly designed and that I'm "deaf" and that my positive response to them is based on your "hearing dollar signs" infantile insult.

Had these people bothered to actually read rather than look at the pictures, they'd find in the text that this slight lack of energy "tends to fill in below the optimal axis," which of course is where anyone listening to these tall speakers would be sitting. They'd also read that "the lack of energy in the low treble" shown in another measurement "tends to fill in off-axis."

As the great speaker designer Joachim Gerhard once told me, "Anyone can design a speaker these days to have flat on-axis response. What counts is in-room behavior in the real world." Obviously Dave Wilson designed his speaker to sound and behave properly from the listener's chair, not on graph paper for one particular measurement.

At one time Stereophile's measurements didn't include in-room response at the listener's chair. I had reviewed some Audio Physic Scorpios at a time when the magazine had just begun to measure in-room response. Fortunately for me!

I had predicted some of the smoothest, flattest response measurements ever -- at least among speakers I'd reviewed. In fact, the quasi-anechoic response measurements were positively roller coaster awful. However, the in-room at the listening position measurements were about as ruler flat as possible and were confirmed by the other measurements done in-room.

Yet, had the in-room measurements not been published, I'd surely have gotten foolish letters like yours here.

Despite our superior sensitivity, there are times when problems that are measured simply cannot be heard. Often they cannot be heard because despite looking like a big problem on paper, they tend not be so to the brain.

However, if you wish to be led around by the test bench when choosing audio gear, that's your choice. On that basis I'd have stopped playing vinyl. However, upon listening and not measuring, the vinyl almost always sounds better to me.

By the way, my preference for vinyl at the outset of the CD error -- I mean era -- was not predicated upon price. When CDs were first introduced, they were far more expensive than LPs, and CD players were far more expensive than the turntable I then owned.

I made my choice on the basis of listening, not measuring or "hearing dollar signs." My enthusiasm for the sound of the Vitus phono preamp was similarly based. -Michael Fremer

Reference Phono 2 loading

August 19, 2010


Nice review of the Audio Research Reference Phono 2. I am puzzled at your cartridge loading at 47k ohms. I would have thought loading at 47k would have made the music sound too airy and bright and perhaps lacking in bass control and weight. How did things sound at lower loads compared to 47k?

Shane Ryan

What you express is along the lines of what I expected, but it didn't work that way with the Transfiguration Orpheus cartridge. The sonic difference at 47k versus lower-impedance loads was a matter of degree -- the higher the load the more instruments and vocalists became defined in their outlines with slightly more dimensional relief against the background. An imperfect analogy might be the difference in photographic depth of field at lower-numbered f-stops, which yields more contrast between foreground and background objects. At lower impedance loads, this contrast was slightly less, as with higher-numbered f-stops.

While I never heard the Reference Phono 2 sound forward, certain recordings that I knew as bright persisted as such. On those, lowering the impedance did slightly smooth out aggressive highs from the likes of piccolos and glockenspiels. To my ears, overall recording quality had significantly more impact on sonic satisfaction than impedance load.

I'll suggest the main takeaway is don't hesitate to experiment -- particularly because the Reference Phono 2's pushbutton impedance loading makes this irresistibly simple. -Tim Aucremann

Where did it go?

August 18, 2010


Just out of curiosity, why did you drop your forthcoming review of the AudioQuest William E. Low power cords? Did not like them?

Adam Mokrzycki

I deleted the "upcoming" link from the Equipment Reviews page on TAB because there were more than enough current reviews to fill out the page. I'm actually working on the review right now, and it will go live after another review I've just finished. You should see it by the middle of September, if not before. -Marc Mickelson

Entry-level phono stage?

August 16, 2010


Are you at all familiar with the Opera Consonance PM-6 phono stage? I borrowed one from my neighbor. It seems to work pretty well, but I'm a novice regarding analog front-ends. Any thoughts on or experience with this unit? It retails for about $450, doesn't have variable loading, but it seems to sound pretty good. My analog system is entry-level: Music Hall MMF 5.1 turntable and a Goldring GL 2200 cartridge.

Sheldon Simon

I have no firsthand experience with the PM-6; I did review some Opera mono amps years ago, and they seemed to be well made. The solid-state PM-6 offers 40dB of gain for moving-magnet cartridges and looks to be a good match for your Goldring GL 2200, whose output is 6.5mV. If also has a second gain stage that bumps it up to 60dB, so you'll be able to experiment with moving-coil cartridges too. As you mention, it has no provision for loading, which it appears is fixed somewhere around 800 ohms. It's a 'tweener phono stage, offering more gain than other entry-level models but still outdistanced in various way by units in the $1000 price range. -Marc Mickelson

Sound Lab and Shunyata Research?

August 12, 2010


Great review of the Shunyata Research CX power cords and V-Ray Version II power conditioner. Do you think my Sound Lab speakers, which have toroidal transformers, Jensen capacitors and mills resistors, would benefit from the CX cords? Or do you think they would be a waste of money?

Also, how does the V-Ray Version II differ from the original?

David Matz

First, yes, I think your speakers would benefit from Shunyata CX power cords. Your speakers have the sort of robust components that are used in amplifier power supplies, and the speakers' circuitry likely radiates noise back into the power line. These are both conditions that the Shunyata cords were designed to address. Shunyata seems especially proud of a cord that I didn't write about: the new Black Mamba-HC CX, which costs less than any other in the CX line. They would be a good place to start.

As for the Hydra Version II, I'll assume you're talking about differences in the product itself as well as its sound. In terms of parts, the Version II uses a better noise-squelching compound, a newly designed filter network and a new bus system. Sonically, the Version II is quieter than the original, delivers better dynamics, and sounds more forceful. -Marc Mickelson

A Rockport review in TAB's future?

August 8, 2010


First of all, congratulations on your expertise in writing reviews.

I wanted to ask if in the near future you will be reviewing some Rockport speakers. A review of the Altair would be very interesting. I haven't heard this speaker, but if it compares favorably to the Tidal Contriva Diacera SE, it would interest me a great deal.

Ciro Naples

Right now, we have no Rockport reviews in the works, but that could change at any time. Paul Bolin or I will make a point of talking to Andy Payor of Rockport about reviewing his products the next time we see him -- either at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in October or more likely at CES next January. -Marc Mickelson

Upgrade an LP12 or buy a Classic?

August 5, 2010


I currently have a Linn Sondek LP12 turntable, and I am wondering if I should spend $5000 on upgrading it (adding the Keel and Direct Drive motor) or consider other turntables, like the VPI Classic. I also use a Thorens TD-126 with a Grace 707 'arm. I have a Linto phono stage and moving-coil cartridges. I try to buy 45rpm albums when possible.

Kreg H. Kneeland

Between spending $5000 to upgrade your Linn LP12 or a little over half that to buy a new VPI Classic, I know which choice I would make The Classic is a  terrific 'table, one that, I suspect, owners will be keeping for decades, like your LP12. -Marc Mickelson

ProAc it is

August 1, 2010


I would like to thank you for the advice and input you have given me in recent months as I search for a replacement for my ProAc Response 2.5 loudspeakers. You were absolutely right to steer me to hear the Wilson Sophia range, and in its latest Series 3 guise, it is nothing short of fabulous. My listening room is also my sitting room, and sadly the culture clash of the Wilsons was hard to integrate -- in hi-fi terms, not a perfect synergy. Frankly, I was unable to provide enough space for the Wilsons to breathe and image correctly and hence sing at their best. I settled in the end for the new ProAc Carbon Pro Six, which is also a remarkable loudspeaker and, in passing, beautifully veneered. It has a smaller footprint, and with downward-firing ports, it is extremely room tolerant and unfussy in its placement. It is one of the few loudspeakers I have heard that seems to be able to compete with that noteworthy Wilson bass, if perhaps just a little less dynamic.

In both cases, I was very lucky that my dealers were prepared to set up the speakers for a few days for me to try at home.

My thanks again.

Dominic Bexon


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