Letters • December 2010

Preamp for MX-Rs?

December 29, 2010


Thanks for the review of the Ayre MX-Rs. I own them and have a similar opinion as you. I also tried the KX-R. Curious you didn't make a comment or two on the preamp. Do you plan a review of it as well? I've had it in my system (along with a BAT VK-51se and currently using a Nagra PLL with the MX-Rs).

I am curious about changing preamps. The Nagra seems to do a lot right. Others better it in some areas, like the KX-R has lower noise floor, allowing more detail to come through, but it seemed a touch cooler versus the Nagra. The Audio Research Reference 5 is something else I am curious about.

Great e-mag you have. I enjoy it immensely.

John Frech

I didn't have the KX-R in my system long enough to come to any conclusions that I would have been confident to include in the MX-R review. I did think it was impressive, and it seemed like a great match for the amps in terms of low noise and treble sweetness. I don't have any plans to review it, because I just don't have the time (in the short term, that is; perhaps something could be arranged for later in 2011).

The preamp I used most with the MX-Rs was the Audio Research Reference 5, and it was a wonderful match, adding some body to the midrange and into the bass. I could certainly be happy with that pairing.

It's very satisfying to know that you enjoy the site. We sure put a lot of work into it. -Marc Mickelson

Thoughts on Vandersteen

December 23, 2010


What are your thoughts on the Vandersteen speaker line, in particular the new 2CE Signature II that came out fairly recently? I know they are time and phase aligned. Have you auditioned these speakers? I know in the literature that Vandersteen speakers seem to be highly rated. I am considering trading in my B&W 804s for these Vandersteens. Any thoughts? I was also wondering if my Cary 120S tube amp will drive them adequately. I think they are 86dB sensitive, as compared to 90dB for B&Ws.

Sheldon Simon

I once owned a pair of Vandersteen 2C speakers, and I have heard versions that came afterwards a few times. However, I can't remember the last time I heard any Vandersteen speaker other than the Model 5A or 7 -- they are what's used most often at shows. I've always thought the Vandersteen 2- and 3-series speakers were exceptional at their prices -- singular in some ways, including their low-end weight. I don't know if they will represent an upgrade for you, as I'm not familiar with your B&W speakers and don't know what you're hoping to achieve.

Regarding amplifier power, your Cary 120S delivers 60Wpc in triode and 120Wpc in ultralinear. I don't think you'll experience any issues with Vandersteen 2CE Signature IIs and either amplifier mode, unless your room is very large or you like to play your music very loud. In the latter case, just switch your amp to ultralinear and you should have no problems at all. Vandersteen recommends 40-160 watts for the 2CE Signature IIs, and I've heard earlier versions of the speakers driven by puny stereo receivers, and they sounded far better than I thought they would. -Marc Mickelson

Buying a Craz²

December 21, 2010


I enjoyed reading your recently released Silent Running Audio Craz² review. I know you have used SRA equipment racks for some time now and are very familiar with them. The rack that would work best for my system is a Craz² Six, with space for six components. Is it possible to reply with your opinion of how close their new Scuttle might come to the "Six"? In your opinion, would a Craz² Six perform as well as two single-width Craz² Three units?

Also, does SRA sell through dealers or only direct?

Bryan Allen

It is impossible for me to guess how close the performance of SRA's new, lower-cost Scuttle rack is to that of the Craz². Kevin Tellekamp of SRA says the two are "close." "The only competition that Craz² has comes from its little brother Scuttle," according to Kevin. TAB will be reviewing the Scuttle at some point -- hopefully sooner rather than later.

In terms of which Craz² configuration to buy, a Craz² Six, with room for six components, would be functionally identical to two Craz² Threes, which would accommodate the same number of components spread over two separate racks. The cost of the two Threes would be much higher than a single Six, however -- nearly double, in fact.

The vast majority of SRA products are sold factory direct, although the company does have distribution in foreign countries and dealers located all over the world. Direct sale makes it mandatory for buyers to communicate with SRA regarding their purchases and ensures that SRA gets the best data about the buyer's system from which to build each rack. -Marc Mickelson

Speakers and subs with MX-Rs?

December 17, 2010


Thank you very much for your recent “accidental” review of Ayre MX-Rs!

I’m thinking of replacing my Parasound JC 1 monoblocks with MX-Rs. The trick is that, in addition to a pair of speakers, I’m using a pair of REL Stentor III subwoofers. The good thing about the JC 1s is that each amp has two pairs of speaker binding posts, so I use one pair to connect the speaker and the other to connect the sub. As I understood from your nice review, a single MX-R has only one pair of binding posts, plus it has that unusual Cardas knob. If I bought the MX-Rs, would I be able to properly connect both a speaker and a sub to a single MX-R? If so, how would I accomplish that?

Would you bless my plan to switch my Parasound JC 1s for Ayre MX-Rs? Would the MX-Rs sound much better? Unfortunately, there’s no chance for me to audition the MX-Rs before buying them in my country. Hence, I can only rely on the independent opinion of experienced professionals like you.

Alexander Gulidov

Normally (or should I say, "in my experience") subwoofers used in two-channel systems get their signals at line level from the preamp. Your subs, however, are getting their signal at speaker level from your amps. While each Ayre MX-R has a single pair of speaker binding posts, you can still connect two pairs of speaker cables to it by stacking the spades for both and then tightening with the knob. The Cardas posts allow you to tighten by hand, so this would probably be easier than with other amps that have single pairs of traditional binding posts that require a wrench or socket driver for tightening.

Unfortunately, I have no experience with the Parasound amps you mention, so I can't give you any insight regarding if MX-Rs would represent an improvement for you and by how much. However, if the sonic personality I describe in my review -- "unrivaled transient fidelity, acute rendering of space, extreme quietness, and treble sweetness" -- appeals to you, I doubt you'd be disappointed with the MX-Rs. They are special amps. -Marc Mickelson

Phono-stage gain

December 13, 2010


Do you by chance have experience with the following phono stages: Aesthetix Rhea, Lamm LP2 Deluxe, and EAR 88PB? Concerning the LP2 Deluxe, do you find the gain on the low side?

Noli Tan

I have a great amount of experience with the Lamm LP2 Deluxe -- I'm listening to it right now -- and no experience with the other phono stages you mention. An analog-playback system doesn't only get gain from the phono stage -- although that's where the lion's share comes from. The Lamm's moving-coil gain is around 58dB, which may or may not be suitable, depending on the output of your cartridge, the gain of the rest of your system, and the sensitivity of your speakers. I'm using Lamm M1.2 amps, which have 32dB of voltage gain, so I don't find the LP2 to be lacking with my .25mV Dynavector cartridge. However, using an amp with 20dB of gain may result in truncated dynamics and lower ultimate loudness. A higher-output cartridge may fix this, as may a speaker with sensitivity in the upper-90dB range.

So my answer to your question about the LP2's gain is that it depends on the rest of the system. -Marc Mickelson

Hoping for an Ayre DX-5 review

December 10, 2010


Is there any hope at all that you will review Ayre DX-5 sooner or later?

Alexander Gulidov

I mentioned the DX-5 at the end of my MX-R review, but I failed to say definitively if I would be reviewing it. I will be, although not until sometime in early 2011. -Marc Mickelson

Memories of Cabasse

December 9, 2010


Thanks for the short article on a brand unjustly forgotten in our American audio hobby. Both Cabasse and Elipson have a first-class history of research in sound reproduction, and I remember fondly, back in the late '70s, my visits to a typical French audio dealership on "a quiet street" to listen to the Elipson floorstanders that briefly appear at 00:38 in this movie.

L'Ocean's technology is already filtering down in size and price. It is called the Baltic Evolution, a stand-mounted triaxial satellite costing less than 10,000.

Vladimir Dorta

Lamm at CES: "Would you please be my ears...?"

December 5, 2010


Exciting news from Lamm! The new Lamm ML2.2 mono amps will be demonstrated at CES 2011. I was reading the official announcement at the Lamm website. Lamm will be biamping Verity Lohengrin II speakers with two pairs of ML2.2s. Now that's anti-recession thinking!

I cannot possibly attend CES, so, Marc, would you please be my ears at this particular demo? After living with the Lohengrin for some three years now, the old cliche is truer than ever: it's the first watt that matters most. With 95dB sensitivity, my speakers never require more than a couple watts, so 18 watts are a comfortable thought.

Tell me if I need to save up when you get home.

Ron Ploeger

I have known for some time about the two formidable systems Vladimir Lamm is going to demonstrate at the CES, featuring Verity Lohengrin II and Wilson Audio Alexandria X-2 Series 2 speakers. I also knew about the debut of the ML2.2 mono amps, which incorporate some of the mighty ML3's technology. I'll be getting a pair for review immediately after CES.

I'll be covering CES while the show is going on, and you can be sure I'll hear both of the Lamm systems at length. You won't have to wait until the show ends to read my impressions or see the systems. Just follow TAB's coverage of the CES and THE Show beginning January 6. -Marc Mickelson

Ayre KX-R review?

December 1, 2010


Great review of the Ayre MX-R amps. Will you be reviewing the KX-R preamp as well? Any hints as to what you thought of it? By itself and also coupled with the MX-Rs?

Mark Hoepfl

You are the first to ask about the KX-R, and I expect there will be others as well. Unfortunately, I have no plans to review it, because I just don't have the room in my schedule. When I had it here, I was concentrating on the MX-Rs (and didn't have the DX-5 player to complete an all-Ayre system), so I didn't listen with the KX-R for very long. What I heard was very impressive, however. It was as quiet as the MX-Rs and as sweet in the treble. It had an inherent liquidity and the sort of transparency that all great preamps display. It worked very well with the MX-Rs, never editorializing to the point of obscuring what the amps do so well. In sonic terms, the two seemed matched strength for strength, which I'm sure was the goal. The KX-R was a joy to use and just as attractive and well made as the MX-Rs. -Marc Mickelson


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