Letters • July 2012

Reference 250 review: when?

July 24, 2012


It's been almost a year since your blog on the Audio Research Reference 250s, and I'm still waiting with anticipation for your review!

Any chance of a review of the Sain Line cables too?

Patrick Vancompernolle

Luckily, I haven't had the Reference 250s for a year without producing a review. I've only had them for a few months. I'm finishing my review now, with the goal of posting it by the end of the week. Sorry for the delay. You're not alone when it comes to waiting for this review, as others have let me know, but I want to get it right before making it live.

I may write about the Sain Line cables -- which the people at Audio Research have touted to me -- but not until next year. -Marc Mickelson

LessLoss and Shunyata: separated at birth?

July 18, 2012


When reading your recent review of the LessLoss Tunnelbridge cables, I couldn't help but think that I'd already read about the concept before. So I reread Marc Mickelson's review of the Shunyata Zi-Trons and couldn't help noticing the similarity:

"This circuit, called (pronounced 'Zi-Tron'), is said to address a form of distortion that comes from the insulating dielectric's storage of the electromagnetic field that's created by the conductor itself. Zi-Tron is a patent-pending circuit that neutralizes the electric charge differential between the conductor and the dielectric. A second conductor carries a signal derived from the main conductor, and the fields generated by the two of them cancel each other."

To me, the LessLoss and Shunyata technologies sound the same. Seeing as you have used Shunyata cables in your system, the question is are you also going to try the Zi-Trons? It sure would be interesting to read a comparison of the new Shunyata and the LessLoss cables.

Naveed Latif

I’ve been waiting to see if anyone would notice what you mention. You’re the first and of course you are correct!

The technology principles behind the two wires are indeed the same; however, the implementations are (relatively) quite different. Shunyata has an elegant non-AC-powered solution, which they’ve patented. It allows a broader application that includes speaker cables and power cords. Without the power supply and associated items required by LessLoss, the Shunyata solution is less expensive, at least at the low end of their three-tier product lineup.

I’ve used the Shunyata Zi-Tron Cobra cables and have been listening with a full Zi-Tron Python loom for a couple months now. They arrived a bit too late to complete break in and be included with my LessLoss review. Because reviews of both LessLoss and Shunyata were published recently I doubt we’ll cover a direct comparison -- at least not in the near term.

Although they’ve done it differently, both companies have accomplished something significant. Theirs is the first truly new technology in the high-end cable arena for some time now, and it makes a very real sonic difference. I don’t know what is your system, but if you get the chance to try one of these new wires I’d encourage you to find out more.

The technology not only addresses electromagnetic distortion, it removes from consideration the dielectric as a source of coloration among cables not using it. So it is not surprising that the differences between the two brands are more of quality than kind. To my ears the Shunyata cables offer slightly better imaging and dimensionality with slightly richer tonality and a more natural sense of attack on the leading edge -- both brands are very good and those differences may be relative to my own system. However, because Shunyata has their Zi-Tron speaker cables (the best I’ve heard to date) they are steps ahead of LessLoss. And the absence of a power supply makes the Shunyata brand easier to set up and maintain, although that may be less of an issue once all is in place. Throw in the price differences and there you have it. -Tim Aucremann

Remote-controlled preamp with Lamm M1.2s?

July 13, 2012


I really enjoy your reviews on The Audio Beat.

I'm wondering if you could help me. I notice you are using an Aesthetix Calypso Signature preamp with your Lamm M1.2 Reference amps. I also own the Lamms, but I am looking for a remote-controlled tubed preamp for them. Have you enjoyed the Calypso with the M1.2s? I have heard others recommend Audio Research preamps, so I would be grateful for your opinion, as my short list was the Audio Research Reference 5 SE, the Calypso Signature or the VAC Renaissance units.

Shodhan Trivedi

The Calypso Signature is a very good preamp, though I would not place it in quite the same class as the Audio Research Reference 5 SE or Aesthetix's own Callisto. I have heard a number of Audio Research line stages with the Lamms over the years and all have been an excellent match. I would also consider VTL's tubed preamps if I were in your situation. I used the original TL-7.5 line stage with the Lamms and had excellent results with it. I am not really familiar with the VAC unit but can enthusiastically recommend you hear the VTL, Audio Research or Aesthetix line stages. As always, let your own ears make the choice for you, as these preamps all have their own unique individual sonic characters. All are excellent components. -Paul Bolin

"Interesting" reading

July 10, 2012


I just read your review of the new Shunyata Zi-Tron Cobra cables. It's so interesting in many ways -- the superior wire for two-thirds the price (or thereabouts), that Shunyata would introduce such a product at all, the change from the braiding technique, etc. And interesting how you went about reviewing them, by demonstrating how revealing they were of the Columbia Six-Eye LP without using the the Columbia curve in the Audio Research phono stage and then with it.

Congratulations for introducing such a powerful change in Shunyata's offerings and for being so damn interesting in how you did it.

Garrett Hongo

Reference 250s vs. MA-2 Mk 3.1s vs. M1.2 References

July 6, 2012


I read your articles on The Audio Beat regularly and really enjoy your factual and lucid descriptions of the equipment you review.

My question today is your opinion of the Audio Research Reference 250 monoblocks vs. the Atma-Sphere MA-2 Mk 3.1 and Lamm M1.2 Reference amps.

My current system consists of:

Audio Research Reference Anniversary preamp
Audio Research Reference Phono 2 SE phono stage
Audio Research Reference 210 amps
Oracle Delphi Mk 5 turntable with van den Hul Frog cartridge (hopefully to be replace with a Dynavector XV-1s sometime in the future)
Tri-Planar tonearm
Audio Research DAC 3 Mk II with Ayre D-1x as a transport
Vandersteen Model 5A speakers
Granite Audio cables (these are amazing and very well priced direct from Granite Audio)

I eventually want to replace the Reference 210s with one of the amps I mention and would really like your assessment (pros and cons) of the amps given my current system configuration.

Rob Mika

Normally, given your system, which is a reflection of your sonic priorities, I would simply tell you to buy the Reference 250s and be done with it -- and that is certainly still valid advice. However, you also mention the two amps I've heard that mate especially well with your Audio Research electronics, the Lamm M1.2s and Atma-Sphere MA-2 Mk 3.1s. I don't want to trump my own upcoming review of the Reference 250s, but I will say that they and the Lamm and Atma-Sphere monoblocks are rather different. The Atma-Sphere amps are the most light-filled of the three, the extreme transparency of their midrange and treble giving them a dominating sense of lucidity. The Lamm amps are darker and more corporeal, especially through the mids, and their bass has more heft and power, though I've never found the bass of the Atma-Sphere amps lacking. In between the two, and offering a very wide palette of virtues, are the Reference 250s, which in many ways are the amplifier equivalent of your Reference Anniversary preamp, which should give you an idea of the completeness of their performance.

I don't think you can go wrong with any of these amps, which isn't always the case when you're trying to shoehorn them into a very good existing system. But I am sure that you will find one of them to be more right than the others. -Marc Mickelson

Do CD transports "make a difference"?

July 1, 2012


I currently connect the digital output on my CD player to my Benchmark outboard DAC. Since essentially I’m using the CD player only in a transport capacity would switching CD players, or “transports” if you will, possibly make a sonic difference? Or is it mainly only the DAC that can make a difference? Would one transport basically sound like any other transport?

Sheldon Simon

Transports absolutely make a sonic difference, owing to various factors, including the quality of their power supplies, the CD mechanism used, and their output options. So by all means experiment. One cheap alternative is a Pioneer DVD player with S/PDIF output (I don't suggest using TosLink unless you have no other option). You can also try a Genesis Digital Lens between your CD player/transport and DAC. This is a small RAM buffer that essentially cleans up the data from the transport before it goes to your DAC. Improvements with it can be dramatic, but these are not easy to find, as they've been out of production for more than a decade. -Marc Mickelson


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