Letters • May 2012

MA-2 Mk 3.1 lust

May 29, 2012


I am a big fan of Atma-Sphere but not yet an owner. For the past few decades I was an avid McIntosh owner and possessed many, many of their units. Lately have gone the SET route with efficient speakers.

I would like to know if you still have the MA-2 Mk 3.1 monoblocks. I envy your having those to listen to. They would be the amps I would love to have (only if I could afford them!).

Phillip McCreary

As I stated in my review, the MA-2s Mk 3.1 monoblocks are my favorite amps, so I completely understand your interest in them. I think you would hear a great difference from your earlier McIntosh electronics, although like McIntosh monoblocks, the MA-2 Mk 3.1s will drive speakers that need some real power behind them. -Marc Mickelson

Which Stillpoints?

May 23. 2012


Was it the Stillpoints Ultra 5 or Ultra SS you were referring to in the Quadraspire Sunoko-Vent T Bamboo review? Which is better, the Sunoko-Vent T Bamboo or Stillpoints ESS rack? How doe the Nordost Sort Kone TC stack up against the Stillpoints Ultra SS, and how do these two stack up against the Stillpoints Ultra 5, which is quite a bit more expensive?

Brent Rody

I'm glad to see that the readers are awake and spotted the mistake in the review copy; the Stillpoints are of course Ultra SS's, not Ultra 5's. I could make excuses based around changing nomenclature etc., but that would just be avoiding the issue. Sorry for any confusion. The copy has been corrected.

Now, to your questions.

The Stillpoints ESS is significantly better than the Sunoko-Vent T Bamboo -- but costs something like ten times as much, so it better be. Having said that, using Ultra SS's or Sort Kone TC's will elevate the performance of the SVT Bamboo considerably.

The Ultra SS and Sort Kone TC are very similar in overall quality, but differ slightly in their sonic attributes. The Stillpoints major on clarity, transparency, focus and precision while the Sort Kones retain a greater sense of weight and impact. Both add significantly to the sense of musical flow, momentum, pace and structural organization; musical performances simply make more sense with either technology properly used, but the Sort Kone TC tells you what is being played while the Ultra SS tells you more about how it is being played, possibly at the expense of some overall shape and presence.

Bottom line -- both are excellent and will significantly improve any system.

There are also a couple of practical considerations.

Sort Kone TC's are taller and add more height to the equipment, so they may or may not fit in your rack. They also do not allow for leveling of equipment resting on them, which may or may not matter, but if, for instance, you are using both a CD player and a turntable in the same rack, both need to be level and Sort Kone TC's would depend on the two shelves being precisely parallel as your only adjustment is the rack itself. Both devices are best used in fours, so you'll need the same number whichever route you go.

As to Ultra 5's -- they are on their way, so I haven't heard them yet. In fact, the next stage in the racks saga is a full Stillpoints solution, based around an ESS rack and the various feet (Mini, Ultra SS and Ultra 5) so there is a comprehensive review of the Stillpoints system in the works -- as well as a few of the alternatives. -Roy Gregory

Reference 250 review?

May 17, 2012


Will The Audio Beat be reviewing the Audio Research Reference 250 monoblocks in the near future?

A couple of years ago I read your favorable review of the Ayre MX-R monoblocks, and I am currently looking for my ultimate power amp to pair with my Audio Research Reference 5 preamp.

Patrick Vancompernolle

I have Audio Research Reference 250 monoblocks in my system right now, so a review is coming. I have two others to finish first, and then I'll begin work on the Reference 250 review. So stay tuned. -Marc Mickelson

TAB t-shirts?

May 14, 2012


I would like to know if you have any t-shirts available with The Audio Beat logo on them. If so please let me know how I might acquire one.

Phillip McCreary

Actually, I do have t-shirts with the TAB logo across the front. They're screen printed on garment-dyed t-shirts, so very good quality. Contact me for details, including sizes and colors available. -Marc Mickelson

Shunyata Zi-Tron cables

May 10, 2012


I am contacting you again because I want to know if you have tried the new Shunyata Zi-Tron interconnects and speaker cables. I am using the old Shunyata Antares and Orion interconnects and speaker cables. I have contacted Shunyata and they have said that the new Zi-Tron cables all outperform my Antares and Orion. All reviews and comments about the Antares and Orion are excellent, but I haven't found any reviews of the Zi-Tron series.

I appreciate your opinion because I know that you tried and recommended the Antares and Orion cables. I am looking forward to your answer. Which Zi-Tron cables do you recommend I try first -- the interconnects or the speaker cables?

Pablo Hoffman

Yes, I have used the Zi-Tron Cobra interconnects and speaker cables -- the least-expensive Zi-Tron models -- and they are terrific. You can read my review of them here. I will be getting a full set of the Zi-Tron Anaconda cables at some point soon.

I'm a believer in the notion promoted in our "Cabling Your System" Tech InSite -- to employ a full set, or "loom," of the cables, not a single pair of interconnects or speaker cables. Therefore, I suggest you find a dealer who will lend you the lengths of Zi-Tron interconnects and speaker cables you need to outfit your entire system, power cords too, if possible. This is the only way to hear the full glory of these cables' considerable abilities. -Marc Mickelson

Time Further Out review

May 5, 2012


I just read your review of Time Further Out. Thank you so much! I'm again responsible for this choice and, yes, I have a few originals lying around as well. The monos have a charm all their own (a little deeper bass on the drums). Also, my jazz-loving friends and I like Time Further Out better than Time Out. It strikes me us a better and more musical album. I also have Countdown: Time In Outer Space. That's more of a demo LP, but a couple of cuts are a lot of fun.

I had no idea that Ralph Gleason changed his mind on Brubeck, but then again this is the same Ralph Gleason who wrote the notes for Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, and I can't think of his words on the back of any other late'-60s folk-rock LPs, so. . . .

Perhaps you realize that to many audiophiles that this is "just another Brubeck LP." The female-vocal/noise-floor/wide-soundstage crowd is so clueless. This is the same mentality that causes people to own only one Willie Nelson LP or one Johnny Cash LP (the first Rick Rubin Cash). After diving into Willie's best work (Phases and Stages, Red Headed Stranger, Yesterday's Wine) I can't even stand Stardust anymore, and yet, so typical of high-enders, that's all they know or want.

Thank you for helping us sell better music. Of course, we have to satisfy all markets too, but I'm glad there's still some room for good music. Perhaps it's always good to remember just who reads this stuff.

Robert Pincus
Impex Records

Sinatra and Blue Note recommendations?

May 1, 2012


For Sinatra, I have CD box sets of the Capital singles and his Columbia period. I would very much like some of his best Capital and perhaps a few Reprise records. What should I do for these? There are a few Mobile Fidelity LPs, such as Only the Lonely, Nice and Easy and Live with the Basie Band. Should I should look for originals at the record stores?

Could you also give me a short list of the must-have Blue Note remasters, in terms of both Music Matter LPs and Audio Wave XRCDs?

Jeff Levine

Regarding Sinatra, who sold many millions of records, original pressings and reissues (and re-reissues) are not difficult to find for a few dollars. I have lots of them, and I think the Mobile Fidelity pressings sound better. There are two vintages of these: the ones that have been released over the past couple of years, and those from the Sinatra set that MoFi sold in the mid-1980s. You'll pay hundreds for one of these sets, but then you'll also have 16 of the very best Sinatra albums in a nicely made box. Still, the titles you can buy new today, which you mention in your letter, are definitely worth having, especially Only the Lonely, which is a Sinatra classic.

Regarding Blue Note reissues, I could make the case that every one from Music Matters is a must-have, as they are all among the cream of the Blue Note crop, musically speaking. However, there are a few that really stand out for me: Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch, Sonny Clark's Cool Struttin', the pair of Tina Brooks titles, Lee Morgan's Search for the New Land, Grant Green's Matador and Talkin' About, Larry Young's Unity, Herbie Hancock's Empyrean Isles, The Magnificent Thad Jones -- I could keep going. Unfortunately, I don't think any of these are out on XRCD24, although I believe that Talkin' About is in the queue for this year. If you want digital, you can't go wrong with any of the XRCD24s available now, although Jackie McLean's Bluesnik and Kenny Drew's Undercurrent would be my choices for the best among equals. -Marc Mickelson


The Audio Beat • Nothing on this site may be reprinted or reused without permission.