Letters • January 2016

Sam Outlaw's Angeleno

January 26, 2016


Thanks for bringing this recording to my attention -- I'm really enjoy it! I'm just waiting for the vinyl to arrive.

Steve Graham

Cost-no-object digital: Esoteric or dCS?

January 21, 2016


I would like to hear your opinion on the Esoteric Grandioso transport, DAC and master clock. Have you listened to this model? Can you make a comparison between the Grandioso and the dCS Vivaldi? If the goal is the ultimate neutrality and accuracy, which of them would you choose? Is the Vivaldi still your favorite regardless of price?

John Michas

With both the Esoteric Grandioso and dCS Vivaldi separates, I'm at the same disadvantage: I've not heard either of them in my system. I have heard the four-piece dCS Vivaldi system extensively at shows, often with electronics and speakers I know well, and each time it has wowed me. I'm not a believer in the "new is always better" mantra when it comes to digital playback; I know of a few older digital products (the CEC TL1 transport and Timbre TT-1 DAC among them) that still sound wonderful, and the Zanden separates that I've praised get their sound from NOS Philips DACs. However, dCS has really hit on something special with the Vivaldi; each time I hear it, it has sounded like the best digital playback I've ever heard, and by a big margin. It doesn't blind with science; its advanced technology makes music, always sounding pure, powerful, very detailed and easeful all at the same time. If I would have won the recent Powerball jackpot, I would have bought a Vivaldi system. So, yes, I guess it's still my favorite way to play digital music here and now. -Marc Mickelson

Inadvertent, inexpensive upgrade

January 18, 2016


Once again one of your reviews has inadvertently opened my eyes to another tweak which I’ve been able to implement on my own system with positive benefits. In your outstanding overview and review of the Naim Audio Statement NAC S1 preamp and NAP S1 mono Amps you mentioned, almost in passing, the audible benefits of damping the heatsink fins of the S1 amplifiers with a piece of insulation tape. Cost? Nary a penny -- on a pair of amplifiers costing $76,000 each!

My own speakers have internally amplified active low-bass units with a sizeable heatsink at the rear of the speakers. Sure enough I tried the insulation-tape trick and was delighted with the results: a cleaner presentation with clearer backgrounds, clearly audible on a number of favored tracks. Not wanting to risk leaving any gooey tape residue on the heatsink, I set about making an alternative damper from a block of packaging foam. After measuring the gap between the fins (a very regular 1 cm) I carefully cut grooves into the foam with the blade of a Stanley knife to create a comb like block which very easily slipped on to the heatsink fins without a problem and provided a good level of resonance damping (tested by gently tapping the fins before and after).

So apart from an excellent read, Roy, you have inadvertently provided me with an inexpensive system upgrade. Thank you!

Andrew Liepins

Wilson trickle-down

January 12, 2016


Reading about the Wilson Alexx and the technology that has trickled down to it from the WAMM project for both drivers and cabinet materials causes me to wonder if the Alexandria XLF and Alexia are also to be updated/modified to incorporate all the latest that Wilson has to offer. Any word on that?

Larry Phillips

A good question. I heard nothing that leads me to think that either of those two speakers was up for updating in the short term. (Wilson Audio is still plenty busy with the WAMM replacement's development.) But it stands to reason, given how Wilson propagates drivers and materials throughout its speaker range, that at some point the Alexia and XLF will take advantage of the work done on the new WAMM. I am scheduled to get an early pair of the Alexx to write about, so I'll be able to compare it to the Alexia, which is my current reference. -Marc Mickelson

Fuse news

January 9, 2016


Fuses -- is there anything to the concept of high-end fuses? Do they make a difference? One concern is if the values are not exactly the same between the fuses a manufacturer uses and a high-end fuse. That may be an issue if something goes wrong, no?

Do you recommend high-end fuses or best to stay away?

Sheldon Simon

Your question is the result of healthy skepticism. How can a fuse that protects the product influence the sound? As with everything audiophile, my best advice is to try a couple in your system and let your ears determine if you want to purchase them or not. I have firsthand experience with the Isoclean gold fuses, and there certainly is something to them, because they have improved the sound of my Lamm M1.2 Reference monoblocks. More anecdotal evidence: Warren Gehl of Audio Research, who listens to every product before it leaves the factory, not only hears differences among different fuses, but he has found that they sound different depending on the orientation within the socket, and he changes their direction as he sees fit.

As for fuse values, never use a value higher than the one required, but a lower one should work without issue, other than blowing more quickly -- no small concern when a new audiophile-approved fuse may cost $100 or more. Also, be sure to use fast-blow or slow-blow fuses where they are spec'd and not substitute one for the other. -Marc Mickelson


January 5, 2016


Please don't take this in the wrong way, but I was reading your blog about the Harmonic Resolution System products and the very valid point you made of looking at reviewers' associated equipment. Clearly, the equipment you use is a combination of your own choice but also what is being swapped in and out for review.

I read with a great deal of interest some time ago, and again more recently, your review of Entreq grounding products. You gave the products a glowing review, yet I noticed in your recent review of the Naim Statement electronics that they are not in your system nor seem to be replaced by an alternative product. Is there any particular reason for this, cost/benefit or other?

The reason I ask is that I am thinking of trying some Entreq products, although I am very happy with my current system, but I must confess that I am a little wary of opening this potential can of worms for it could quite easily approach $10,000 to fully ground my system.

Dominic Bexon

I’m glad you are enjoying the articles on The Audio Beat. I found the Entreq products to be excellent and thoroughly recommend that you investigate them. The only reason they are not a permanent part of my system is that for reasons known only to the distributor in the UK, when I tried to buy them for my own use, it never happened. After a string of excuses, one following another, I eventually gave up.

As always with products that impact the system’s operating environment, the exact benefits/effects will depend on the precise circumstances in which they are used. Likewise, the first step -- wherever possible -- would always be a separate clean ground for the system, possibly the single most cost-effective upgrade you can make. Once that’s in place, then the Entreq products will be able to show their true worth. -Roy Gregory

Using Sort Kones

January 1, 2016


I recently bought a Hegel H360 integrated amp and was thinking of trying some of the Nordost Sort Kones underneath it.

In 2012, you mentioned to a reader that you thought the Kones worked best in fours. Do you still hold that opinion today and would that apply to both an integrated amp and a transport?

I’m looking at using the BC version of the Kones for this system. The Hegel is pretty busy inside, with the separate power supply for its onboard DAC and so on.

Thanks, and all the best for 2016.

Larry Phillips

Sort Kones will work in threes, but four is almost always better.

With the Hegel, I’d start by using three of the Kones points up -- one centrally placed at the front, under the transformer, the other two wide at the rear, under the output stages. If the stability is marginal, then it is worth trying two at the front (those caps are going to vibrate) and one centrally at the rear. Once you have decided which of these arrangements you prefer, you can try taking the fourth Kone and with its point up, you can slide it around under the chassis until it grounds on a low point. Job done.

Results will depend on what the amp is supported by. Avoid glass (even laminated glass) or MDF shelves. Laminated woods or bamboo work really well. If you want to experiment cheaply, then the IKEA Aptitlig bamboo chopping board is a great place to start. it will be too small in footprint terms to look right under the Hegel, but it will show you how important the supporting surface is -- and you can always redeploy it elsewhere in the system. -Roy Gregory


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