M1.1s "still viable?"
corresponded in time past, and your input helped me make some very significant audio
decisions. Out of the volumes of audio reviewers, I've gravitated to a very small few who
I believe offer honest and impartial reviews. You are at the top of that very short list.
Thanks for all you do.
we spoke last, I had an all-Mark Levinson system -- No.390S CD player/preamp and No.33H
monoblocks -- along with Revel Salons. I have since switched gears altogether. I'm now
running a dCS digital combo -- Delius and Purcell -- into PBN Denali amps, which are fully
differential monoblocks that produce 900 watts each. The Denalis are feeding Wilson Audio
WATT/Puppy 8s in Mercedes Silver. I love the sound of the new system over the old, but I
am looking to upgrade the amp to a reference-quality amp like those from Lamm. I'm not
sure I can afford the M1.2 Reference monoblocks, which I know you herald. Will the M1.1s,
which I also know you were impressed with, be added to the short list? I know the amp
might be a bit dated, but is it still viable? I like the idea of the hybrid approach.
differences between the Lamm M1.1 and M1.2 Reference are not profuse, and the heart of
both amps is the same hybrid circuit. While I know firsthand that the M1.2 is an upgrade
sonically, the M1.1s are competitive with most amplifiers produced today, especially at a
deeply discounted used price. I would still counsel you to hold out for the M1.2s, which
also show up used, but the M1.1s are about as good a compromise as you can make if you
covet the M1.2s but want to save some money. Lamm amps are also a synergistic match with
Wilson Audio speakers. -Marc Mickelson
DAC and USB
would you rate the Zanden Model 5000S DAC? Is it able to hold its own with the march of
time? I would like to set up a server-based front-end and was looking at options.
it a prerequisite that a DAC today should have a USB input? Is that the future interface
or will a standard AES/EBU or S/PDIF suffice? I just want to ensure that if I am investing
in a DAC today it will continue to hold its own tomorrow.
I still consider the Zanden Model 5000S to be half of the best CD-playback rig
I've heard. Of course, the other half is the Model 2000P transport, and the two units must
be connected via I2S. I see no reason you shouldn't be able to achieve similar
results using a computer as the source, provided you connect via I2S, which may be possible
with M2Tech's HiFace EVO. This appears to be (perhaps among other things) an input/output
converter. It may allow you to take in digital data from USB and output to I2S. I say
"may" because Zanden hasn't tested this with its I2S implementation but
should sometime soon. FYI: Esoteric distributes M2Tech products in the US.
The Model 5000S can handle only CD-resolution data, so you'll need another DAC
for listening to 24-bit/96kHz and 24-bit/192kHz music files. However, most of what you
play will likely be from CDs you rip, and here the Model 5000S will shine.
DACs sold today, a USB input is mandatory, as computer use is really what's driving the
sale of these units. I can't imagine any producer of a new DAC not including a USB input.
How does Zanden get away with not including USB for the Model 5000S? It was introduced
before connecting a computer was a common practice. It's also only for CD-resolution data
and intended for use with the Model 2000P transport. It's an anachronism and happily so.
is possible, however, to use a non-USB DAC with a computer, either via a soundcard that
has S/PDIF output or one of the USB-to-S/PDIF converters available. Perhaps the best of
these is the Halide Design S/PDIF Bridge, which is an integrated digital-to-digital
converter and USB-to-S/PDIF digital cable that implements Gordon Rankin's Streamlength
asynchronous technology for sending the digital stream from a computer with the least
amount of jitter. It's very worthwhile sonically and it's easy to install, as I noted in
my blog, "Over the Bridge: A Shortcut to Computer Audio".
came across your article "Over
the Bridge: A Shortcut to Computer Audio" from last December and couldn't
help but be interested. I have a Timbre TT-1 2000 DAC that I picked up a couple of years
ago and purchased a Halide S/PDIF Bridge BNC version when it came out. Back around
December, I ordered a dB Audio Labs Tranquility DAC with Essential USB cable. The
Tranquility and subsequent Signature Edition have been getting very positive reviews.
However, and a big "however" at that, I preferred the sound of the Timbre so
much more. It just had an amazing richness to the sound and brought out so much from
voices. So I returned the Tranquility, less the restocking fee. Fine, I lost money, but I
gained more respect and appreciation for what I had. I was previously using a Unico
integrated, which I really liked, but I bought a Simaudio PW-5000. I found that the
Simaudio really complemented the Timbre, and its neutrality allowed me to hear what the
DAC could really do.
of my music is 16-bit/44.1kHz so despite the temptations, I don't think I will be parting
with my Timbre unless something goes wrong. I do find it is somewhat picky in that the
optical doesn't work and the BNC has to be installed just right for it to work. Given your
extensive experience and knowledge, I was interested if you had any recommendations or
tips on how to better use the Timbre or how to get the most out of it. I use a Mac Mini
for my server, so my system is 100% computer based. I was an early adopter, first using a
Roku Soundbridge, then Squeezebox, before moving on to a Mac.
fan of the Timbre DAC! I first bought a TT-1 in the early 1990s, and like you, I owned one
of the rare TT-1 2000s sometime after that, selling it to move to something else. About a
year ago, I purchased a standard TT-1 again, and I've enjoyed using it as you are -- with
a computer as the source. In the rush to computer audio, people have overlooked
great-sounding pre-USB DACs like the TT-1. Their loss.
terms of getting the most out of your DAC, you are already doing an important thing (as
far as I've been told by Gordon Rankin and others): using it with a Mac instead of a PC.
Beyond that, you may want to have yours repaired, so connection isn't so finicky. When I
last spoke to David Goldstein, one of the principals of Timbre, a year ago, he mentioned
that the people at Rainbow Electronics/Shoreline in California have the jigs needed to
open the DAC (as you know, it has a unique rounded chassis that doesn't allow easy
internal access) in order to do repairs and updates. You can get contact information
through the Shoreline website.
Your TT-1 2000 must have had BNC added (I know that some DACs did). That makes it a
particularly rare unit, as my earlier TT-1 2000 didn't have that. From my experience, this
should be the best-sounding way to connect computer and DAC.
also recommend experimenting with the Genesis Digital Lens, if you can find one used --
they are very sought after. I have always found it to offer noticeable improvement,
especially with the Timbre DAC. You will have to add a digital cable to use the Digital
Lens, and the DH Labs D-75 is both inexpensive and very, very good. -Marc Mickelson
hybrid amps, Magico speakers
is the best model of Lamm hybrid monoblock? I've asked my dealer to bring in the
D'Agostino Momentum and Audio Research Reference 250 to try with both of my speakers. I'm
curious if the 110-watt Lamms will be sufficient for my Revel Salon2s. To get the
Momentums, I will have to keep only a pair of speakers. I must sell either my Wilson
Sophia 3s or the Salon2s.
and now the talk of the town is the Magico Q3. How do you feel about the Magico sound? In
your opinion, why do some reviewers seems to love it so much?
Lamm M1.2 Reference is fully class A, while the M2.2 runs in class A for the first 40
watts or so and then class A/B after that. The M2.2 is roughly twice as powerful,
therefore, than the M1.2. The two amps sound very similar, but the M1.2 sounds slightly
better -- fuller through the midrange, sweeter in the treble and more spacious -- at
higher levels. Vladimir Lamm will tell you the same thing.
power output of the M1.2 is actually around 150 watts, and a pair of the amps will drive
all but the most insensitive speakers. You should have no issues with your speakers. The
M2.2s are for the few speakers that the M1.2s won't drive.
for Magico, I haven't heard any Magico speakers in over two years, and that includes at
the shows I've attended, so I'm not the person to comment on their sound. -Marc
for Focal speakers
read with great interest your
review of the Focal Electra 1008 Be speakers posted in January 2011. I'm building a
new system from scratch that will be primarily for audio only (music lover), not cinema.
These are speakers I am very interested in purchasing, but I want to make sure I do not go
too short on the amplification for them -- as you stressed, they need decent
present I'm looking at integrated amps from Arcam and Cambridge. Are these products
adequate to bring out the best in the Focals, or should I be looking at higher-end
separates? Specifically, amps I'm looking at are the Cambridge Azur 740A and the Arcam FMJ
A38, which are about 100Wpc, as well as CD players from both companies. I am also looking
at Blu-ray players from Oppo and Cambridge, although I am likely to use those with other
speakers in the music-theater area (looking at Paradigm speakers for that system).
think that one of the situations Focal owners need to confront on a regular basis is that
of the inadequate amplifier. I have had the 1008 Be working superbly on the end of a
£25,000 amplifier combination. My point being that their potential is high, and though I
don't necessarily see this as completely valid, they can and do respond to this level of
amplification. Not all speakers do, regardless of cost.
to answer your question as to whether the integrated amplifiers you mention will "
bring out the best" in the Focals, I would have to offer a definite "no." I
am not criticizing the amps, you understand, but rather, praising the speakers. I should
add that you will get a thoroughly decent sound with either amp and the Focals, but I like
to view components in terms of their musical potential, and the 1008 Be has lots of that.
with my uncompromising hat on, I would gently suggest that you try to push the quality of
both the CD player and the amplifiers as far as you can. I don't want to give you specific
suggestions at this stage, but I would certainly nudge you gently towards a lengthy
listening session before you buy, if this is possible. -Chris Thomas
ARC and CAT amps
just read with great interest your report on
the new Audio Research Reference 250 monoblocks. Very interesting indeed. These amps
are very high on my list at present. I know this wasn't a detailed review, but I was
wondering if you had any thoughts or comments on how the amps would compare with the
Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature amp you reviewed a while back, especially in
terms of low-level detail, transparency and bass control. I live in Ireland and it's
impossible for me to have side-by-side comparison of the two amps. Any feedback you can
provide would be appreciated.
I sat listening to the Reference 250s, I honestly thought that the amps they remind me of
the most are those from CAT, which pair sheer power with many of the more refined aspects
of musical reproduction. It's been such a long time since I heard any CAT amp in my
system, however, and I've never heard the Reference 250s here, so unfortunately I can't
speculate on how the two might be alike (or different) except in the broad way I mention
above. It would be tricky to do a head-to-head comparison of the amps, because the
Reference 250s have only balanced inputs, while CAT amps are single ended, and many fully
balanced preamps sound slightly different from their XLR and RCA outputs. -Marc
article -- as always -- on phono cables.
a tad confused. When you refer to "phono cables," are you referring to the
interconnects between the turntable and phono preamp? I'm using regular TARA Labs
interconnects from my turntable to phono stage and the same from my phono stage to preamp.
It sounds OK. Am I using the right type of interconnects? I'm still a tad green on analog,
so bear with me.
the way, your articles beat everyone else's out there. Keep up the incredible work.
by "phono cable" I mean the run of wire from the turntable to the phono stage or
phono input of your preamp. (After the phono stage, the signal is at line level, so
standard interconnects are fine here.) You are ultimately connecting your phono cartridge
with this cable, and its tiny signal has special needs. As you've discovered, if your
tonearm is not hard-wired and you have terminations with RCA jacks (or, in the rare case,
XLRs), then you can use a run of interconnect. However, you will likely achieve better
performance with a dedicated phono cable whose electrical properties and, moreover, way of
addressing noise will allow your phono cartridge to sound its best. Both of
the Furutech phono cables I wrote about are available with RCAs as well as straight
and angled DIN connectors on the upstream end. -Marc Mickelson