Letters • February 2016

On "Hedging Your Bets . . . "

February 25, 2016


In the audiophile press these days, there is all too often much dissension, far too much disagreement, and far too little common sense and wisdom. It is so easy to read a review about cables -- and I know you have experienced this -- only to be literally bombarded with comments by ill-informed people who would’t know a high-quality audio system if someone showed them the way. And so it goes, so much of what is written online is more a cause for debate than possessing any actual intrinsic value.

In general, I have always enjoyed reading your reviews. I read and placed a high value on your review of the KEF Blade before buying a pair. I took to serious heart your comparison of the Jeff Rowland stereo amp as compared to the monoblocks when used with the Blades. Your review enabled me to check with KEF about the possibility of problems with my Esoteric A-02 stereo amp. Fortunately, all worked out quite well and I am still in love with these speakers. I went through a similar process with your review of the VPI 3D-printed tonearm, which I also purchased with a Classic Signature turntable.

Your "Hedging Your Bets . . ." article, however, while not a review, is such a wonderful, common-sense article, I felt compelled to write you to tell you how much I enjoyed it. I’ve read it three times now, in fact. Everyone in the audiophile press probably receives more negative comments than positive. So, one, I wanted you to know how accurate and well written that piece was, and two, I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed it. Because no matter what, anyone who writes for an audiophile publication deserves to also receive praise as opposed to all the negativity so prevalent in the comment sections.

Thanks for a wonderful article.

Steven Smith

Fuse values

February 23, 2016


You recently said you had success with Isoclean fuses. Question: I spoke to the fellas at Upscale Audio, where I purchase my PrimaLuna amps, and they concurred that fuses can make a difference. They recommended increasing the values a bit. For the 2.5-amp fuses for the monoblocks, they recommended using 3.15, and for the preamp, they recommended increasing from 1 to 1.25 amp. Are these amperage increases safe/wise?

Sheldon Simon

You have a unique case here. Normally you never want to increase the value of a fuse, because that means it won't blow as quickly and damage to your amps could occur. However, you have the people who made the amps recommending a very small increase, so it's probably a safe thing to do. It may be the case they they've discovered that the lower values were too low and fluctuations in the AC line caused the fuses to blow when they shouldn't have. In any case, if the maker recommends the increase and presumably will honor your warranty, it's okay to follow. -Marc Mickelson

Blue Circle balanced?

February 16, 2016


We've exchanged a note or two in the past. I have the Blue Circle NSL amp here now and I am, of course, loving it for all of its obvious reasons. But I have a question, one I've always had actually.

When I run the NSL with a Blue Circle 107 preamp, I prefer it single ended. Over the years I seem to remember your preferring Blue Circle gear running balanced. For me, with single-ended connection, the sound is a bit airier, more open, more incisive, more brilliant. Bass instruments seem more present. I think I hear clearer imaging. I always hear that in comparing the two modes, even on other folks' amps. On XLR, the sound is richer, a bit thicker, more beautiful but less incisive. Gilbert feels that while A/B will reveal differences between SE and XLR with the NSL, they are less pronounced with this amp that others. While it ain't night and day, I hear the differences pretty clearly.

You may not agree with my description of the differences but I'm curious why you tend to prefer the sound in balanced, if you do.

Bob Neill

I prefer using all equipment, not just Blue Circle, balanced if that equipment is truly differentially balanced, as the benefits, including a lower noise floor and greater dynamic alacrity, are pretty easy to hear. Companies like Audio Research and VTL go to such great lengths to design and implement balanced circuits that it seems like a waste not to pay for them and not use them. As for Blue Circle, because I'm always using Gilbert Yeung's amps and preamps with other makers' products, and very often with an Audio Research or VTL preamp or amp, I use them balanced by default. And when I've tried single-ended connection, I've never stayed with it for long, because balanced just sounds better to me.

I assume in your setup that you're using the same cables for both connections. Of course, different cables could account for profound differences.

Sorry I don't have a more substantive answer for you. The act of reviewing audio equipment often means using each product in the same way as the one it replaced, and for me that means balanced. -Marc Mickelson

Ayre, Ypsilon or . . . ?

February 11, 2016


Hello from India! At the outset I would like to thank you for your fantastic and informative reviews. Living in India, I don't get much of an opportunity to audition systems and place great value in reviewers such as yourself for information and advice.

I currently own the Magico Q1 speakers and drive them with the darTZeel CTH-8550 integrated amplifier. I mainly listen to vinyl and my cartridge is the Ortofon MC Anna. For digital I have the Playback Designs MPD-5 DAC and a music server.

I really like the sound of my system in general, but I was looking to upgrade to get even better performance. I feel my system is truly superb for small-scale music, jazz and vocals but seems to lack when playing larger scale music and complex and very dynamic rock or even jazz. Of course I understand my speaker has limitations, but I still feel that maybe sometimes the darTZeel may be lacking some power.

I was hoping to upgrade my darTZeel to separates and needed your advice. You highly rated the Ayre MX-R as well as the Ypsilon Aelius. I was considering both these brands and products (along with matching preamps) and needed you advice on which way to go for my Magicos. How would you compare their sonic signatures?

Other brands I am considering are the Soulution and the darTZeel separates.

I would be glad if you could please offer your thoughts.

Rahul Shroff

The choice between Ypsilon and Ayre is a tough one, but if I had to make it, I would choose the Ayre separates for a couple of specific reasons. First, while a pair of MX-R Twenty amps and a KX-R Twenty preamp are not cheap, they cost less than a pair of Ypsilon Aeliuses and an Ypsilon preamp to match (the difference may be greater here in the US, however). In this case, the extra money would buy you something: a different sound that I can't say would be a better sound, especially with your speakers. And this leads to my second reason for recommending Ayre: even with all of the praise I heaped on the Ypsilon amps, I prefer the sound of the Ayre MX-Rs. In a nutshell, it's more natural, and this is something I value.

One more thing worth considering is Ayre's support of their customers: MX-Rs and a KX-R can be upgraded to Twenty status, and I'm sure that will be the case for whatever comes in the future. This preserves your investment in the best electronics Ayre offers. -Marc Mickelson

Analog 101

February 4, 2016


I found "Analog 101" while reading through the "Four Play" blog. What a great technical paper!

Can I make one suggestion, though -- for old farts like me who like to print out and read the paper, rather than looking at the screen. There are eleven links at the bottom of the first page, so you can jump to the section that interests you. How about adding a twelfth link for printing, which will allow the complete document to be printed with one command rather than having to jump from link to link and print each one individually.

Andrew Redwood

We do create print versions of the site's equipment reviews, so people can read them offline. Your point regarding printing "Analog 101" is a good one, however, and I'll put it on our ever-growing to-do list. It will take some work to reformat all of those pages so they print well, especially with all of the useful pictures. -Marc Mickelson

Reader list

February 1, 2016


Add me to the reader list.

Mark Dyrbye

Done! To join TAB's reader e-mail list and find out about new articles first, send a message to rl@theaudiobeat.com.


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