Letters • August 2012

Allnic or Audio Research?

August 29, 2012


I am curious if any of the reviewers have had an opportunity to do a comparison of the Allnic H-3000V phono stage (with the upgraded transformers) with the Audio Research Reference Phono 2 SE (or non SE). If so, what are the sonic differences between these two great phono stages?

Arnie Sanders

The Allnic H-3000V and Audio Research Reference Phono 2 SE are my two favorite phono stages, and I have both here right now. They have some important functional similarities, including multiple inputs and alternate EQ curves (the Allnic is infinitely adjustable in this regard, while the Audio Research has Columbia and Decca in addition to RIAA).

There are some broad sonic similarities as well, including a unique depiction of space. Their fullness (especially from the Allnic) gives musicians a kind of palpable realness that I find particularly appealing. The difference in their spatial presentations really comes down to the enormity of the Reference Phono 2 SE's soundstage versus the spooky holography of images within the soundscape of the H-3000V. Both always bring out the best in analog, never adding crispness to enhance the sense of detail or speed, or leaning out the midrange.

Preference being what it is, I'm sure one of these phono stages will appeal to you more than the other. I haven't yet been able to make that call. -Marc Mickelson

Reader list

August 22, 2012


Please add my e-mail address to the e-mail updates list. I'm a big fan of your website and would love to know when upcoming articles and blogs are published.

Marco Sepúlveda

Signing up for the reader list is easy. Just send e-mail to rl@theaudiobeat.com. After you join, you will receive notices of all new content on TAB, not offers for products guaranteed to [ahem] increase the size of your woofers. -Marc Mickelson

Ypsilon and Tidal or. . . ?

August 21, 2012


I am contacting you because I’m looking for a new system, and I have just read your very interesting review on Ypsilon Aelius mono amplifiers. I would like to know if you think that Tidal Piano Cera or Contriva loudspeakers would be a very good match with these amps. The CD player I will connect with my future new system is a suite from MSB Technology, DAC, clock and transport. Do you think MSB would be a good match with Ypsilon electronics? Other amplification on my checklist is Convergent Audio Technology (CAT), Vitus Audio and ASR.

Sam Aversenq

I think the Ypsilon Aelius monoblocks would be a very good match with many speakers, including the two Tidal models you mention. Both amps and speakers resolve without sounding aggressive, and the Ypsilons have enough power to drive just about any speaker. My limited experience with MSB digital gear indicates that it would fit right in with both the amps and speakers, matching their easy resolution.

You also mention CAT, and while my personal preference would be for a CAT preamp and amp (the latter is also very powerful and perhaps an even better match for the Tidal speakers you're considering), you might find that the Ypsilon amps bring you closer to your personal definition of live sound. You should probably try to hear both before buying. I have no experience with ASR or Vitus Audio electronics, so I can't help you there. -Marc Mickelson

Surround-sound processor that's the equal of a two-channel preamp?

August 16, 2012


I have an important question for you that I think your readers would be interested in. I am wondering whether the new surround-sound processors are comparable to my two-channel preamp. You see, my plan is to integrate my two-channel into a five-channel system without losing any fidelity for two-channel analog. I had assumed that I needed the best two-channel equipment I could afford for my LPs. I own the top Cary SLP-05 tube preamp for my two-channel music to go along with two Cary mono tube amps, which power the mids/highs of my Legacy Whisper XD speakers.

I planned to purchase a very good five-channel processor to use with a future Oppo Blu-ray player, along with a third mono tube amp to power the wonderful Legacy Marquis center-channel speaker. The issue is that every piece of equipment takes up limited space on the rack and requires more expensive cables. With very good amps powering my Legacy Whisper XD speakers, can I sell my two-channel preamp and put the rack space and money towards a very good surround-sound processor that could service both two-channel analog and surround digital? Apparently, their are very good processors out now that could replace my preamp without affecting the quality of my analog rig. What do you think?

Jeff Levine

A number of years ago, one of the principals at Paradigm/Anthem told me that the top Anthem surround-sound processor (the Statement D2, I believe) sounded as good as any audiophile preamp when used for stereo music. He was serious and I was seriously skeptical. I was going to test his claim by reviewing the processor, but the review never happened.

So at least one company, at one point in time, thought its surround-sound processors challenged two-channel preamps. Bryston also thinks very highly of its processors, and I've heard them used for two- (and sometimes three-) channel playback with Magnepan speakers to great effect.

However, as with anything related to music reproduction, your only way to know for sure is to audition a couple of units. I would start with Anthem and Bryston, which are fully solid state. If you're wanting tubes, I think your only option is the Fosgate FAP-V1. If you don't use a separate phono stage, you'll have to factor one of those in as well. -Marc Mickelson

Esoteric P-02/D-02, equipment better than recordings?

August 10, 2012


Any possibility of reviewing the new Esoteric P-02/D-02 combination, the successors to the P-03 and D-03? I would enjoy reading this, and how they compare with the P-03/D-03, which you reviewed six (?) years ago.

As a follow-up question, at what point is the equipment so much better than typically recorded music quality that further great expenditures are not really worth the cost?

Bryan Allen

I'm working on my review of the Esoteric K-01 right now (it took a long time to get the review unit), so I don't know if the P-02/D-02 will be in my near future. This combination was at the recently completed California Audio Show, and it was part of one of the better systems I heard there.

Your final question is an especially good one -- and one that's impossible to answer with any surety. On the one hand, we're still so far behind the live event in terms of absolute realism that there remains a great deal of room for improvement. On the other, the recording process is inherently unable to deliver that absolute realism, so there's only so much to be achieved.

I'm listening to a wonderful reissued LP of Dave Brubeck's Time Out right now, and the improvement over even early six-eye pressings is immense. "Better" is still clearly possible, perhaps mostly through greater refinement in the processes between recording and replay, and that may be all we can hope to achieve going forward. -Marc Mickelson


August 6, 2012


Many thanks for a continuous stream of great reviews, articles, blogs and news on The Audio Beat.

I read the Reference 250 blog and review with great interest. Your comparisons are one of my favorite parts of every review.

For obvious reasons, not least a rivalry going back 30+ years, and the arrival now of a set of Anniversary/Reference equipment, would a shootout between the Conrad-Johnson GAT/ART and the Reference Anniversary/Reference 250s or 750s be possible?

Lloyd Lee

I'd be game to do a few compare/contrast sessions with the Conrad-Johnson GAT preamp and ART amps, but I don't think Conrad-Johnson would be willing to send those products for that use. In general, manufacturers don't like "shootouts," especially when their best products are involved. The line between different and better can be so tenuous as to be nonexistent, and yet readers still come away with a winner and loser in mind. Also, when you have an entire roster of products to cover in one article, all of them are short-changed.

However, if I can get those Conrad-Johnson separates in for review, a comparison within the article to the Audio Research Reference products would be a natural. -Marc Mickelson

The Jayhawks: CD or LP?

August 1, 2012


Thanks for a great review of the Audio Research Reference 250s. No mention of Main Offender, though. But I did get another suggestion out of it: the Jayhawks' Hollywood Town Hall. CD or LP?

Patrick Vancompernolle

Both the CD and LP of Hollywood Town Hall sound very good, especially for such such dense electrified music. The CD is probably a safer buy if you don't know the music, but the LP's liquidity pushes it ahead sonically. The Jayhawks' Tomorrow the Green Grass is also available on LP, but Hollywood Town Hall is the place to start. -Marc Mickelson


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