Letters • August 2015

The Pentangle

August 25, 2015


I found a great copy of this LP and listened to it (and the group itself) for the first time last night. Thank you!

Alan Trahern

I'm glad I'm not alone in discovering The Pentangle late -- it's quite a recording, both sonically and musically. It sounded beyond impressive with the Lamm LP1 Signature, which really uncovered the fine points of the recording. Now, to find a UK pressing of it. -Marc Mickelson

CAT review?

August 20, 2015


I really enjoyed reading your detailed review of the Shunyata Sigma power cords. Very informative and you actually used a number of my favorite tracks.

I noticed that you have the CAT SL1 Renaissance Black Path preamp, so I was wondering if you were planning to do a full review of it. Have you compared it to any other state-of-the-art preamps, solid state or tube, and if so, how did it compare in terms of transparency toward the back of the soundstage, low-level detail and ambience recovery and microdynamics? Any feedback you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Ashish Varma

I try to listen to a wide variety of music when reviewing, so it's nice to hear from a fellow eclectic listener.

I've compared the CAT SL1 Renaissance Black Path (Ken Steven's latest version) to my previous references, the Conrad-Johnson CT5, Musical Design Chameleon Elite and Audio Research Reference 3 preamplifiers. While none of those are current and state of the art, they are all exceptionally musical and quite transparent. The Black Path Renaissance delivers micro detail, transparency and the soundstage to a level I have never heard in my system, all without being the least bit analytical. Its retrieval of low-level detail is prodigious.

For what it's worth, Ken Stevens has told me on several occasions and said publicly that the SL1 Renaissance Black Path is actually better than the late-2000's CAT SL1 Legend preamplifier, which my esteemed editor owns and considered state of the art when he reviewed it. If only I had the green for Mr. Stevens' latest, the Black Path Legend! It boggles the mind. -Vance Hiner

DAC with CD player?

August 14, 2015


I'm considering purchasing the new PS Audio NuWave DSD DAC. Have you heard anything about it? I'm thinking it would elevate my eight-year-old Cambridge Audio 850C CD player. I have the new DAC on loan and hooked up right now, and when I A/B test with and without the DAC, there is a difference but not a profound one. Is the DAC in the 850C that good? I wonder if I'm missing something. I figured the effect of eight years of technology would be profound.

Sheldon Simon

It is true that audio technology marches ahead, but that doesn't always make for absolute improvements in sound. For instance, I still use a 20-year-old CEC transport for playing CDs, and I've not heard its equal, at least for what I value. When adding a DAC to a CD player, one consideration is the digital output itself, which will certainly add jitter and degrade the sound to some degree. I guess then the question is, does the DAC itself make up for that? There is really only one way to answer this -- by listening. Determine if what you hear is indeed better or just different. In my opinion, you will probably find "better" more easily by replacing your CD player completely; however, you would then lose the functionality of the PS Audio DAC, including high-rez file playback, which, technically at least, should be better than CD. So it goes -- a step forward in one direction can be a step back in another. -Marc Mickelson

Focal with BorderPatrol?

August 9, 2015


I have the BorderPatrol P21 amp with a BorderPatrol preamp, and I am contemplating the Focal Diablo Utopia speakers. No chance to demo, but from your experience, would this be a good pairing? My listening room is 6.5m x 4m x 2.2m with concrete floor, walls and ceiling.

Magnus Nyström


It really is that simple. The Diablos love tube power while their generous nature means that the P21’s drive, control and structure will dovetail perfectly with the speakers. You’ll need to try them on both the 4-ohm tap and the 8-ohm, which will deliver a little extra level at the price of control. I suspect the latter will prove preferable, allowing the music to really breathe while making the most of the Diablo’s remarkable sense of scale.

That brings us to the only real issue -- maximum volume. At the end of the day, 20 watts is still 20 watts and 89dB is 89dB. Your room might not be huge, but it’s not small either and I don’t know how loud you play, what you pay and how far you sit from the speakers. However, I’m guessing that earth-shaking levels and deep, deep bass aren’t your musical be all and end all, or you wouldn’t own the P21 and be considering the Diablos. Musically speaking, I think the pairing will dovetail superbly and I’ve always really enjoyed the Diablos driven by tubes.

One tip: I’d definitely look at using something other than the Focal stands (Track Audio are the best I’ve tried). Other than that, if you still feel the need for an alternative, I’d look at one of the Living Voice floor standers -- probably an IBX or OBX depending on space. -Roy Gregory

Allnic and Dynavector

August 3, 2015


I could sure use some help regarding the Dynavector XV-1s cartridge and Allnic H 3000 phono stage. What settings for gain and impedance have you found to be the best?

Thank you for all your hard work and writings for The Audio Beat. I am a devoted fan.

P.K. Das

In my review of the Allnic H-3000, I noted using the 10k-ohm setting for the X-V1s, and I will stick by that, although I would also begin with the 47k setting, or no loading at all, to hear what it offers. That has sounded best with other phono stages, including the one in the CAT SL-1 Legend preamp. As for gain, that's more of a personal preference and how much you want your analog playback to equal the output of digital. I usually set gain around 60dB, which would be near the +24dB/x20 setting of the H-3000. -Marc Mickelson


© The Audio Beat • Nothing on this site may be reprinted or reused without permission.