Letters • March 2012

Add me to the list, following Roy Gregory

March 30, 2012


Please add me to your e-mail list.

Just a quick note to say I’m very pleased that Roy Gregory is onboard. I've followed his reviews from the early Hi-Fi+ days, and he certainly still has the ability to get to the heart of the matter regarding components.

Geoff Fairlamb

To join the reader list and be the first to hear about new articles on the site, send e-mail to rl@theaudiobeat.com. I'm with you regarding Roy's abilities. I'm glad he's part of TAB -- something about which you'll be hearing more soon. -Marc Mickelson

Audio-shop memories

March 29, 2012


I really enjoyed your latest blog ["We Didn't Know How Good We Had It: Thoughts on Maggie Dealer-Direct and the Mini Maggie System"]. It immediately brought to mind memories of the stereo store at the mall from when I was a little kid. It was right across from the Orange Julius that, unlike the stereo store, my mother would bring me to after her shopping was done. The place always seemed rather mysterious. Waiting in line for my treat, I could spy lots of silver and black boxes with lights and young men engaged in spirited discussions. The lights were kept low, the music was loud and the equipment in the windows was always draped in maroon velvet, as if it was the crown jewels and not just the latest turntable or receiver.

I'm convinced these memories are the main reason I hold onto a Marantz receiver from the late seventies I acquired in a trade years ago. It still shines bright silver and the lights illuminate with a midnight-blue glow that can seem both cool and warm at the same time. The meters and gyro-touch tuning still make it seem like serious business goes on inside of it.

By the time I was old enough to go the mall alone, the stereo store had long since closed, a portent of today's market, perhaps. My memories may be better than the actuality of them, but that store remains magical and mysterious to me.

Eric Hetherington

I never tire of reading this stuff.

A note to readers: please send me your memories of your audio past, so we can all revel in them. -Marc Mickelson

More Blue Note XRCD24s?

March 27, 2012


Do you know if there are any plans for a new series of Blue Note XRCDs? If so, do you have the list? (I know there was a list at one time, but that was put on hold.) Are most of the XRCDs worth upgrading to from the Red Book equivalents -- for example, the XRCD24 of Diana Krall's All for You?

Jeff Levine

A second series of Blue Note XRCD24s was announced a little over a year ago, but I suspect that that is on hold -- or a dead issue -- given that the first series has been coming out in fits and starts. There are still thirteen titles coming from the first series, and some very good ones at that. You can see what's available and planned at the Elusive Disc website.

I own over a hundred XRCDs, so I guess you could say that I believe they are worth their extra cost. For me, the Blue Note titles along with other older mono titles -- especially the half-dozen of piano trios (led by Hampton Hawes, Red Garland, Ray Bryant, Kenny Drew, Don Friedman, and Wynton Kelly) -- are the best I've heard in terms of improvement over standard CDs of the same music. However, I have yet to be disappointed with any of them, including Diana Krall's All For You, which is her best album in my opinion. -Marc Mickelson

Ypsilon in top five?

March 22, 2012


I read your Ypsilon Aelius review. Where do these amps fall in light of your amplifier top-five list?

David Mueller

This is a questions I've been expecting. I purposely left this tidbit out of the review, because I didn't want the top-five list to become expected in every review -- or, even worse, a cliche. We are also working on a way of making it a permanent part of TAB.

But to answer your question, the Ypsilon Aelius monoblocks are definitely on the list, along with the Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 stereo amp, the Lamm ML3 Signature monoblocks, the Atma-Sphere MA-2 Mk 3.1 monoblocks and the Ayre MX-R monoblocks. -Marc Mickelson

Bringing back the bass

March 20, 2012


I read your review of the Track Audio spike kits with great interest. I recently moved from a dedicated room in the basement with fiberglass-reinforced concrete floors, to a new dedicated room with hardwood floors above the garage. Obviously, the move from an unsuspended to a suspended floor (albeit a fairly solid one) has drastically altered my perceived bass/midbass response (verified through measurement). Speakers are Coincident Total Eclipse IIs, driven by a Berning ZH-270 -- my equipment has been constant from one locale to the other. The new room is better in most ways compared to the old one, aside from the response up to about 250Hz.

While I would like to try the decoupling version of the Track Audio kit, I was curious if you or any of your associates have compared them with the Stillpoint Ultras as a speaker footer. While the Stillpoints are bit more expensive, we’re playing in about the same ballpark. The only other footer specifically designed for loudspeaker decoupling on suspended floors would probably be the Wave Kinetics 2NS (again, around the same price point).

Richard Palaski

Interesting question. Many people underestimate the impact of the floor coupling and the nature of the floor itself on the bass response of speakers. How often do we read the comment, "This speaker has great bass," or alternatively, "This speaker is bass deficient"? Under what circumstances and in what environment? The bass delivered by speaker systems is so utterly dependent on the situation in which they are installed that it is not unless or until you "enjoy" an experience such as yours that the reality of the situation really strikes home.

My response is simple: try both. I've used the Track Audio spikes with my Coincident Pure Reference Extremes and also the Stillpoints Ultra SS, both in place of the Coincident-supplied bras cones. On my (very) solid floor, the Ultras work best, delivering greater low-frequency transparency and texture, but it's not a make-or-break difference and either option is a significant improvement over the standard items. I've also dispensed with the foam decoupling pads between the outriggers and the cabinets. These are designed to protect the veneer, but they don't protect your sound!

I would recommend that you obtain examples of both solutions so that you can A/B/A the results and then purchase the preferred option. Bear in mind that to do this properly you will first have to optimize the speaker positioning for each set of feet, mark it and then when you swap from one to the other, adjust the speaker placement too. Why? Because the Track Audio feet run out at almost twice the height of the Ultras, and that's a big difference in the distance between the bass driver and its closest boundary.

Enjoy the challenge (and the free fitness regime) and let me know the outcome. -Roy Gregory

"Very pleased indeed" with Esoteric

March 15, 2012


I bought an Esoteric Audio AI-10 integrated amp to go with my SA-10 CD/SACD player. I am very pleased with the sound, very pleased indeed. In fact, the combination showed me how good my ProAc Response 3s are, especially in the mid-to-upper bass region, where I thought they were lacking. Previously I was using a Audio Research LS15 with an Ayre amp, and that combination was weak in the bass region. The Esoteric combination is especially good for choral music. It is very sweet with male voices, but not quite as sweet with female voices as my previous preamp-amp combination, but then that is the forte of Audio Research gear. When done right, it also offers a touch more luster -- or let's say dynamic subtlety -- than the Esoteric combination, but it is a rare preamp-amp that can match Audio Research's subtlety when all is optimized.

Who the devil listens that attentively nowadays anyway? If you're into Richard Strauss, you may very likely notice and appreciate that special sparkle of top-notch equipment. I cannot say that the Esoteric combination reaches that level of performance, but it certainly beats the preamp and amp I had before.

Tim Fleetham

Off this specific topic, I have the Esoteric K-01 in for review now, and I'll have a lot to say about it. -Marc Mickelson

"Cabling Your System"

March 9, 2012


You published a great article about cables and staying with the same brand all around [Tech InSite, "Cabling Your System"]. In fact, this article answered one of my questions. I have all Nordost in that I use Baldur speaker cables and interconnects. The only variance is the digital cable going from my CD player's digital output to my DAC, which is from Transparent. Am I losing anything sonically by varying only the digital cable?

Sheldon Simon

In the past, I would have told you that digital cables were specialized enough to consider them separate from your interconnects and speaker cables. However, I've come around to Nordost's way of thinking: "use the same cables right through the system," which creates a coherency that's easy to hear and appreciate. However, Nordost also mentions in their Tech InSite that "In practice, each cable in a system will often benefit from having its topology and electrical characteristics tuned to purpose." Thus, ensuring that your digital cable meets its specifications is probably more important than using a cable from the same maker as your other cables. Nordost's digital cables strictly adhere to the S/PDIF 75-ohm and AES/EBU 110-ohm specifications, so you have no worries there. Transparent's digital cables almost certainly do as well, although I can tell you from experience that Transparent and Nordost interconnects and speaker cables sound rather different. So I guess I'd recommend some auditioning of Nordost digital cables. -Marc Mickelson

Add me!

March 5, 2012


Please add my e-mail address to your subscriber's list.

Larry Ogden

Joining the reader list is the best way to find out about new content on The Audio Beat. Simply send a message to rl@theaudiobeat.com and you'll be added, receiving notice of all new articles we publish. -Marc Mickelson

Double PREs

March 1, 2012


I am  a regular reader of The Audio Beat. I fully agree with your evaluation of the Coincident Pure Reference Extreme speakers, but I have one question regarding your assessment. About the bass enclosures: Arturo Salvatore and Israel Blume think that the bass is substantially bettered with the doubling and stacking of two units per side. Have you tried this option or will you soon consider it?

Patrick Griffith

I'm glad you enjoyed the read.

I haven't tried the doubled bass units, although I have discussed that option at length with Israel. If the opportunity arose, I'd love to give the setup a spin -- although I'm less convinced about topping and tailing the head units. I'd want to look at lobing and comb-filtering issues from placing the tweeters so close together. It might work, but I'd need to hear it.

Bottom line when it comes to bottom end: there's no substitute for swept area -- and musically nothing does it quite like really good, really deep bass. The PREs' bass is exceptional for quality. If doubling up the bass cabs can add quantity without compromise, then the potential performance could be amazing. -Roy Gregory


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