Letters • December 2011

Vitus Audio?

December 29, 2011


Here's a question for you -- purely subjective of course. Do you have any experience with Vitus Audio? I'm thinking of their new RCD-100 CD player and RI-100 integrated amp to power a pair of Wilson Audio Sophia 3s that I recently acquired from a crazy day-trader on Canuck Audio Mart.

Larry Phillips

I've talked with Hans-Ole Vitus many times -- he's a very friendly fellow -- and we've discussed a review of his newest phono stage, but that piece has yet to appear. Thus, my only experience with his equipment has been at shows -- I've not heard anything in my system. I know Roy Gregory has reviewed Vitus Audio products and thinks highly of them.

Sorry I can't be of more help with Vitus. If I were looking to power Sophia 3s with an integrated, I'd consider one from ARC (tube or solid state) or possibly a Conrad-Johnson CA-200, whose amplifier was based on the Premier 350, still one of the finest solid-state amps I've heard. -Marc Mickelson

The "next step"

December 23, 2011


I have a problem with my next step, and I know you are the right person to consult on this matter. Here in Finland I don't have the opportunity to get any these products for audition at home. I just have to order blind.

I was wondering about a new amp and new preamp. I am considering Lamm M1.2 and Audio Research Reference 250 monoblocks, the Audio Research Reference 5 and Reference Anniversary preamps. Which of these do you prefer?

I have Wilson Audio Sasha W/P speakers, an Audio Research Reference CD8 CD player, an Audio Research Reference 3 preamp, Audio Research Reference 210 mono amps with KT120 tubes and Transparent Opus MM2 interconnects and speaker cables.

Have you heard the Reference 210s with KT120 tubes? I really like the Audio Research sound, but I know that especially with Wilson speakers the Lamm amps are also an excellent choice.

Jussi Lyly

First, I don't think you can go wrong with any of the products you're considering. However, staying within the Audio Research product line makes sense, given that you obviously know and admire the company's house sound. My first recommendation would be to get a Reference Anniversary preamp, but Audio Research stopped taking orders for them in late April, so you'd have to see if the distributor in Finland has a unit in stock, which is a long shot. After that, if you can afford it, I would say that a Reference 5 in combination with a pair of the Reference 250s would be a very worthwhile upgrade. I have yet to hear the Reference 250s in my system, but what I heard at Audio Research in the summer convinced me that they are very serious amps. If you want to save some money, I used the Reference 3 with Lamm M1.2 amps and loved the combination, and as you note, Lamm amps are great with Wilson speakers (as are Audio Research amps). I haven't heard the Reference 210s with the KT120 output tubes, so I can't give you any insight there. However, that change would surely be the most economical for you. -Marc Mickelson

Ayre DX-5 DAC

December 20, 2011


I'm trying to decide whether to replace my Ayre C-5xeMP with a DX-5, and came across your review. I'd built a computer-based audio server and have been listening to it in conjunction with an Ayre QB-9 DAC. Compared to my C-5xe with the MP upgrade, the audio server with the QB-9 was noticeably lacking in transparency on almost all the Red Book program material I tried. I was hoping that the DX-5, with its USB input, could provide the same or better experience when playing music through the audio server as does the C-5xeMP.

I enjoyed reading your August review and was wondering whether you'd kept the DX-5 and whether you had any insights that could help me.

Rob Shostak

I did keep the DX-5, purchasing it as my reference, and I've not regretted it. As I pointed out in my review, the people at Ayre believe that the USB DAC in the DX-5 is superior to the QB-9 (it has a better power supply and uses better circuit-board material, among other things), so with it you might achieve what you want -- CD playback that's as good (or better) than that of your C-5xeMP. I can't tell you for certain that this will be the case, as I've not done all of those comparisons. As I mentioned in my review, I found the DX-5's performance playing discs to be superior to that when it was used with a computer as a source, but my Windows-based computer is hardly optimized for sound quality. Time permitting, I plan to set up a full-blown Mac-based server in 2012, and I should be able to say more about this then. -Marc Mickelson

The passing of Audio Research's founder

December 17, 2011


Oddly, to date, yours is the only e-zine to mention the passing of William Z. Johnson -- he truly was a giant in the industry, and we all owe him our thanks for his great contributions. Good for TAB.

Larry Phillips

This is odd. William Z. Johnson's passing is important news within the audiophile community and therefore deserves mention at least -- and full-blown tribute in reality. -Marc Mickelson

Lamm darkness?

December 15, 2011


I've done quite a lot of research with regard to Lamm amps and Aesthetix preamps, and it looks like you are the only one in the press with this combo. I am considering buying the Lamm M1.2 Reference amps to use with my Aesthetix Io phono stage with volume control. The amps would drive Wilson Audio Sasha W/Ps.

I just want to hear from you about the characteristics of this combo. I am afraid that the Lamm amps will sound dark. Unfortunately, my dealer here in Singapore does not stock the M1.2s for me to audition.

Andy Valliem

I do not find the second-generation Lamm hybrid amps (those with the .2 designation) to have the residual darkness that the first generation had. I've used the Aesthetix Io very successfully with the Lamm M1.2 Reference amps and have never found that combination of components to sound dark. It should also be noted, however, that I have always used Nordost Valhalla and, more recently, Odin cabling, which have the most extended top end of any cabling I have heard. -Paul Bolin

More Tech InSites, please

December 12, 2011


I found the Tech InSite "Cabling Your System" very interesting. It is hard to convince some people that cables do matter and should be addressed, but oh well.

Right now my system does not have completely matched cables, but after reading that article, I am going to match as much as I can. I also plan on getting the Audience aR6-TS for my most important components. For my front speakers I am using Live Line cables. For my center-channel speaker cable and center and surround balanced cables, I am using older Transparent (my first step into high-end cables). I was planning on upgrading my center-channel cables, but after reading your article I am also thinking about matching the balanced cables for my surrounds as well. Getting matching surround speaker cables will just not be feasible, so they will stay as they are. That would a nearly matched system as far as cables go.

I hope you will have more articles like "Cabling Your System."

Doug Michaels

We are talking with other companies now about creating Tech InSites on other topics. We'll also be adding case studies to "Cabling Your System," so you'll definitely see more of this kind of content. -Marc Mickelson

Cable consistency

December 9, 2011


How important is it to use interconnects and speaker cables from the same manufacturer? I'm using Transparent interconnects from my DAC to my preamp and a Transparent digital cable from my CD player's digital output to the DAC,  with Nordost Baldur speaker cables. I replaced my Nordost interconnects with the Transparent, but I still have the Nordost on deck as spares. Also, is it crucial in your opinion to use interconnects and speaker cables that all belong to the same family? Is there any advantage?

Sheldon Simon

Your message dovetails nicely with TAB's new Tech InSite, "Cabling Your System," especially rule 1: "Treat cables as a component in themselves; make sure that you use the same cables throughout the entire system." This is primary for good reason: a unified cable "loom" effects "a huge improvement in overall musical coherence, rhythmic integrity, intelligibility and musical drama." It's also the foundation from which the other rules make the most sense. Furthermore, because the conductors were designed to complement each other (and sometimes are the same conductors), you will hear similar improvement when using interconnects and speaker cables from the same line or family.

Of course, Nordost would make a case for your using Baldur throughout your system, but I suspect they would also say that using Transparent cables throughout is better than mixing and matching. -Marc Mickelson

"Game-changing products"?

December 7, 2011


You wrote in your Nordost Odin review, "I have spent much of the last fifteen years reviewing audio components. In that time, Odin stands as one of the five most important and game-changing products I have heard."

I'm sure you were asked this a few times when this review first came out, but what were the other four most important, game-changing products?

And what real-world-priced cable line have you come across that you like?

Jonas Harrow

The other products that really changed the way I thought and heard were:

  1. Halcro dm58 amplifiers.

  2. VTL TL-7.5 Signature line stage, original version, the first 21st-century tube preamp.

  3. Wilson Audio Sasha W/P loudspeakers, my long-term reference.

  4. mbl 1511 transport and 1521 DAC, the first great digital gear I heard in my own system.

I speak only of components I have had in my home system long enough to come to meaningful judgments about them.

As for less expensive cables, all in the Nordost Norse series are very good. -Paul Bolin

Wilson at Audio Research?

December 4, 2011


When you blogged about the Audio Research Reference 250s, the accompanying pictures were with Wilson MAXX 3s, right? Was that at Audio Research? I have Sophia 3s with Reference 250s and was just thinking. . . .

Anthony Schultz

You are correct on both counts. Audio Research uses MAXX 3s in their big room (which has recently been remodeled and rebuilt), and they were a wonderful combination with the Reference 250s. Audio Research also uses Sasha W/Ps for product QC. -Marc Mickelson

Sunray pricing

December 1, 2011


$154,990 for the Tidal Sunrays? Hey, ten bucks is ten bucks. Were they $155,000, I'd not consider a purchase. This reminds me much too much of the $199.99 airline tickets (and the like) we've grown accustomed to seeing.

But seriously, ladies and germs, I enjoyed the review. You do a nice job.

Mike Silverton


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