Letters • January 2012

Vivid or Coincident?

January 27, 2012


I'm considering speakers to replace my Usher Be-10s. Two speaker companies whose products I'm considering are Vivid and Coincident Speaker Technology, and I understand you may have experience with both. My price range is in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. Can you briefly provide comments on your experience with the Vivid G2 or G3 Giya and Coincident Pure Reference Extreme (PRE), highlighting the primary differences. I currently have Modwright electronics (solid-state amp / tube preamp), a Linn Klimax DS and JPS Labs Aluminata cabling. I'm curious if the PRE would work well with the Modwright gear. I understand TAB may have a review of the PRE coming out soon, which I anxiously await.

Keep up the always-informative reviews.

Van Waldrop

I have direct experience with the Vivid G1 Giya but not the G2, G3 or Coincident PRE. I can say from my experience with both brands at shows that they are rather different in terms of sound. The Vivid speakers are about unerring honesty to the signal fed to them, while the Coincident speakers are about the re-creation of the performers in your room. These are simplifications, of course, but they reflect my general feelings about both brands (although, again, I don't have firsthand experience with a Coincident speaker).

You might want to wait until Roy Gregory's review of the PRE appears and then read it after reading mine of the Vivid G1 Giya. I suspect there will be ample contrasts. -Marc Mickelson

No comparison

January 25, 2012


Once again I'm writing an audio-review publication because of one of my pet bugaboos: omitting product comparisons. Here we have an upcoming series of articles on a specific class of audio gear: the small monitor. You start off with a bang by choosing two ultra-high-end monitors [Raidho C1.1 and Crystal Cable Arabesque Mini] and publishing the reviews at the same time. However, there's almost zero mention of any comparison between the two products. Yes, I realize there's a substantial price difference, but both products are playing in extremely rarified company. While I understand publishers' reluctance to portray any product in a negative light, comparisons between components can still be made without placing a value judgment on the differences. And while any reader can read the two reviews and get a feeling for the differences, an actual direct comparison between specific qualities would be much more illuminating.

Make no mistake, I'm not in the market for products of this caliber, nor do I leave it to reviews to make my purchasing decisions. However, reviews can be useful tools when shopping.

Thanks for the great work that you all do.

Joseph Pagán

Thank you for your measured and constructive critique. Rest assured, direct comparisons will be upcoming, but they will incorporate more than just the two speakers already covered.

On the agenda are a range of more affordable products, both new and established models. The two completed reviews set the gateposts on a frame of reference within which we can examine the other products being considered. Once we have a feel for the characteristics and requirements of each model, then we will be in a position to assess their comparative virtues. The intention is to have more than one listener examine at least some of the speakers under review, as well as organizing some group listening -- multiple listeners, multiple products. By the end of the process, hopefully we will be in a position to at least discuss the following questions:

  1. How close do the more affordable speakers get to the cost-no-object designs?

  2. How close do the cost-no-object designs get to overcoming their physical limitations? Could or should we judge them as speakers, as opposed to small speakers?

  3. Can the current crop of small speakers deliver genuinely satisfying long-term results?

  4. Do changes in our understanding of system topology and advances in drive-unit and/or cabinet design suggest that soon, the advantages of small speakers could outweigh the benefits delivered by larger enclosures?

Some of these discussions will be general, and some will be specific.

On a more general note, direct comparisons can indeed be useful, but not always as useful as they might appear. As we can only listen to a system, not an individual component, what you are actually assessing when making such direct comparisons is how well the given components work in the context of the system surrounding them. Yes, you can identify the changes in terms of driving electronics, cables, etc., but with the increasing awareness of the role that system infrastructure plays in the musical results produced, the list of variables is unmanageably long. Reducing those variables down to simple ABA comparisons within a single system context (so long the de facto methodology for audio reviews) certainly produces definitive answers, just not to the question being asked -- unless you happen to have the exact same system the reviewer is using, not to mention the exact same room and records.

Hmmm, methinks it's time for an article. Oh, that would be the one that's already half written. A timely application of boot to backside then!

I hope you'll enjoy the further installments in the small-speaker series. As with any such project, it's as much about the process itself as the products. -Roy Gregory

Letters, "Shun Mook madness"

January 23, 2012


Your Letters page is the first thing I go to. Endlessly entertaining and informative. However, the latest provides a special pleasure -- a segue to the Shun Mook madness I'd earlier overlooked. Why didn't I use my intuition? I should have hoarded the fabric-wrapped power cords to ancient toasters and such -- those charming, superannuated gizmos one used to pick up here in Maine for pocket change.

The endlessly interesting Mr Ying occupies the outer edge so many of us seem delighted to approach. My listening room (it doubles rather unconvincingly as our living room) is festooned with Stein Music Magic Stones and Diamonds. Guests routinely ask, "What the hell is that thing on the ceiling?" It looks like a giant cockroach. (It's a Blue Magic Diamond.) Am I willing to give them up? Sooner a kidney!

Mike Silverton

Signing up

January 20, 2012


Could I sign up for your reader list?

I love your site. My favorite article is still the one about the visit to Shun Mook. Great stuff.

Charlie Schnyder

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

Anthem's cooling system

January 16, 2012


I was just reading the TAB piece on the Anthem M1 amplifier.

The use of “cooling pipes” has been going on for several years in the computer industry -- namely, some of the very high-speed graphics cards for gaming use this method for cooling the chips on the card. Interesting to see it spread across different applications.

Larry Phillips

This is perhaps yet another connection between high-end audio and computers. We'll be talking with Anthem about getting a pair of the M1s for review, at which point we'll find out about the fine points of that cooling system. -Marc Mickelson

Magico "hype"

January 13, 2012


Your CES coverage of the Magico Q7 is interesting, but in order to achieve the sound you describe, they appear to be using a whole lot of gear that no one is able to acquire. Moreover, to further my general dismay, they won’t even show us what it is they’re using. What’s the point of that?

I much prefer a display like that of VTL, with the Rockport Avior. Everything in the room is available to the public to buy and re-create the sound in their own space.

The hype around Magico is very reminiscent of that generated by Stereophile when Halcro first came ashore.

Frankly, all of this stuff is starting to get a bit silly. For the price of $165,000, one better be able to design and build a great speaker -- and if one can’t, then perhaps a career change is in order.

Philip Marcel

While you sent your note to me, I didn't write the blurb on Magico; one of the other writers did. I actually didn't hear the Magico Q7s during CES. -Marc Mickelson

Top five amplifiers

January 10, 2012


I was reading your site and there was lots of conversation about your top-five-amps list. Can you tell me what amps are on your list?

Jussi Lyly

I first mentioned my personal amplifier "top five" list in passing in my review of the Ayre MX-R monoblocks, and I have been surprised since at how much interest it has drawn.

Here is my current list of amps in no particular order:

Atma-Sphere MA-2 Mk 3.1 monoblocks
Lamm ML3
Signature monoblocks
Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 stereo amp
Ayre MX-R monoblocks
Luxman B-1000f monoblocks

The list currently represents a cross-section of amplifier technologies -- from push-pull, OTL and SET tubes, to high-power solid state. This is not by design. My only criterion has been overall sound quality, not the technology required to achieve it.

Let me say that there are three very promising amps that may end up supplanting ones on the list now. They are the Ypsilon Aelius monoblocks, the Audio Research Reference 250 monoblocks, and the Convergent Audio Technology Statement monoblocks. I have the Ypsilon amps in for review right now, and I've talked with the people at Audio Research and CAT about reviewing the others. -Marc Mickelson

DX-5 "hesitancy"

January 5, 2012


I have hesitancy with respect to the Ayre DX-5 because of rather tepid comments made by a couple of reviewers in regard to its SACD playback performance (the Stereophile review was one of them; I've forgotten the source of the other). I gathered from your review, however, that your experience with the DX-5's SACD performance was at least on a par with that of the C-5xeMP. Do I have that right?

Rob Shostak

To my ears, the DX-5 is superior to the C-5xeMP with SACDs and all other discs. It better differentiates the sound of all of them. One thing you have to account for when playing SACDs with the DX-5 is the player's output voltage, especially if you are using it single ended and not balanced. It's very low, and if you don't have enough gain elsewhere in your system, SACDs in particular will sound dynamically blunted -- "tepid" would certainly describe it. I've heard this here, so it's not speculation, and I pointed it out in my review. -Marc Mickelson

Cable synergy

January 1, 2012


My interconnects and speaker cables are all from the same manufacturer, Kubala-Sosna. My AC cables are from Running Springs Audio, as is my power conditioner. My system uses an outboard clock for the transport and DAC, and the two timing cables are from Stereolab. These were selected for their performance as true 75-ohm cables and connectors, which is most important in this application.

I can see where interconnects and speaker cables from the same manufacturer would be an advantage, as they are directly in the signal path. I am not so sure that having AC cables and 75-ohm BNC timing cables from the same manufacturer as the interconnects and speaker cables is as important, or even important at all.

There may be a synergy in having the AC cables and power conditioner from the same manufacturer, which is why I have done this. There may be junctions in a system where it is not possible, or is less preferable, to have all from the same manufacturer. In my system, the AC supply is considered a subsystem, the components and speakers another, and the timing cables a specialized application.

I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the above cable-synergy issues. I am always open to a better way of doing something. The Tech InSites articles on cabling were very well done. Thank you for presenting this.

Brian Alberts

While I agree with you in theory -- that signal-bearing cables are different from power-delivery products -- my experience has been, at least with Shunyata Research products, that using the same interconnects, speaker cables, power cords and power conditioner does indeed have a sonic payoff. I suspect that the same is the case with Nordost cables -- using them everywhere only increases the effectiveness of them all.

However, I can also say that when I've used Shunyata interconnects and speaker cables with Essential Sound Products cords and power distributor, for instance, I could discern what the ESP products were doing and didn't find the presentation lacking, even as it was not identical to that with the Shunyata power products. I suspect, therefore, that the synergies between the signal cables and power products are more different than alike and a unified approach to each is what's most important. For what it's worth, we're talking with a company now about a Tech InSite on power delivery and distribution, and it's not Nordost, which sponsored "Cabling Your System." -Marc Mickelson


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