Letters • May 2013

"A Survivor's Story"

May 29, 2013


A very nicely written and encouraging piece!

Garrett Hongo

The limitations of show venues

May 23, 2013


Thank you for the coverage of Pass Labs at the High End show in Munich. Regarding the line, "The sheer quantity of bass on this recording revealed that sometimes 150 class-A watts may not be enough." Sometimes the Xs 150s only can be used due to current restrictions at show venues and not the Xs 300s. That was the case at the Venetian Hotel during the 2013 CES. Pass Labs brought both models, but the hotel's power wasn't enough for the Xs 300s.

Perhaps Roy and the others will keep this "limitation" in mind, mentioning that it's often above and beyond the ability of the manufacturers to do anything about it. This is in no way a criticism. I know that writers at shows are too pressed for time to think of all the various ramifications, but the hotel itself can affect the sonic results.

Bryan Stanton

I think in this case the comment was generated by the cut "Words of Wonder," which you have to hear to fully appreciate. It's the most powerful, live-sounding rock track I know of, and it taxes both amps and speakers, especially when it's played very loud, which is almost always the case.

However, your point still is valid. The people who built these hotels and convention centers never anticipated the power demands of an amp like the Xs 300. -Marc Mickelson

Power conditioners and power cords

May 20, 2013


Even if my amps are plugged into a power conditioner, new power cords for them should make a difference, right? I mean, can I assume that getting the clean power from my conditioner to my amps is just as important as any other connection in my system? If I have the amps connected to the conditioner, that will make the clean power going to the amps even better, right? My dealer says that if I do that, I will really hear how good my Audience power conditioner is. Have you experienced that? Have you used aftermarket power cords that get plugged into a power conditioner and noticed a difference? I want to say that every link in the chain matters, even if the amp is already plugged into something that is supposed to clean the power. I hope all that made some kind of sense.

Michael Doukas

You ask a very good question, and you sort of answer it as well. Power cords are not just about cleaning up the power your components receive. Good ones, like those from Shunyata Research and ESP, for instance, also address noise your components add back into the power line or even aid in the break-in of your components' power supplies. Keep in mind that while for us a power cord seems like the last length of wire (after that of the power line itself), it's actually the first length of wire, doing its thing right before the AC reaches the component. Thus, good power cords do what they do even with power conditioners in use. The two work together; often they are designed to work together. -Marc Mickelson

Wilson's use of soft-dome tweeter

May 14, 2013


Has Wilson Audio alluded to possibly using the Alexandria XLF's tweeter throughout their entire lineup of speakers? Or perhaps just specific models? I'm sure that to do so would result in much tweaking of existing crossovers, etc.

Larry Phillips

While you can see signs of the XFL's soft-dome "Convergent Synergy Tweeter" (CST), as Wilson calls it, migrating across the line -- it's used in the Alexia, for instance, and I thought we'd see it in the Duette 2, which debuted in Munich -- according to John Giolas, Wilson's marketing and sales director, "it was designed specifically for the Wilson loudspeakers that feature a separately adjustable tweeter module, such as the XLF and the Alexia. . . , much of this having to do with working extremely well with the Wilson mid." This means the single-baffle, two-way Duette 2 will continue to use the Scan-Speak Revelator with a modified silk dome used for the original version of the speaker "but with the back-wave absorbent chamber from the Alexia version of the CST tweeter." More from John and to the point: "I think it is fair to say that the CST tweeter will never appear in the Sasha or Sophia, although both may get a soft-dome that is more suited to slanted baffles." -Marc Mickelson

Zanden or Robert Koda: "which would it be"?

May 10, 2013


If you were to choose between the Zanden Model 3000 and the Robert Koda Takumi K-10, which would it be? I am sort of interested in trying the Zanden and so was wondering.

Arshad Fudukin

You ask a tough question, both because the Zanden and Robert Koda preamps are among the best I've heard, but also because they sound rather different. The Zanden's circuit purity and simplicity -- there's just one tube -- translate to a very transparent sound, perhaps the most transparent preamp I've heard. It's fast, open and true to the source. The Robert Koda, on the other hand, is all solid state and possesses an engaging laid-back quality that's easy to settle in to. It also has some sweetness in the treble, adding to its relaxed character.

Which of these two very fine preamps I would choose would depend on what I was seeking in sonic terms. In qualitative terms, I could easily make a case for either one of them -- and happily live with either of them as well. I'm sure that's not the definitive answer you want, but at the high level that these two preamps represent, that's all I can offer. -Marc Mickelson

Workin', Steamin', Relaxin' and Cookin'

May 6, 2013


I really like the Tech InSights section. The info on cables will be helpful.

Analogue Productions is producing mono LPs from Prestige, including the Davis-Coltrane sessions Cookin', Relaxin', etc. I purchased the XRCDs of these titles on your recommendation months ago. I think they are in stereo. Would you recommend getting some of these mono LPs too? I noticed that Rollins Plays Bird is another one of the group; I purchased the XRCD on sale per your recommendation as well.

Also, are you a Holst Planets fan? I have several versions. I don't really need another unless the new Esoteric SACD is superior to other versions in both sound and more importantly performance -- as the music sellers seem to indicate. Do you know if this is the case?

Jeff Levine

In the sense that those Prestige titles -- Workin', Relaxin', Cookin' and Steamin' -- are great music and the Analogue Productions versions are likely to be definitive (at 33rpm, that is), they are worth owning. I reviewed a pair of titles from the series and they are wonderful modern reissues that are also replicas of the original titles. They will also likely sound better than the originals. As for whether to buy the LPs, you'll have to make that call for yourself. Some of us -- myself included -- will buy beloved music over and over again in different formats, while others have no tolerance for owning multiple copies of the same music. With those XRCDs, which I also have, you own arguably the best versions at CD resolution (of course, they also also exist as SACDs). If sometimes only an LP will do for listening, the Analogue Productions LPs will soon be available, and I wouldn't be surprised if they increase in value over time.

By the way, I don't think the XRCDs are in stereo. All of those recordings from from the same extended session on October 26, 1956 -- early for stereo jazz recordings.

I can't help you with The Planets, although I can tell you that there's a relatively new XRCD24 version of it out too. -Marc Mickelson

Covering older products that still compete today

May 4, 2013


First, thank you for giving us the best web magazine in the business. I enjoy it almost daily for inspiration as well as information.

Over time there are products that show extraordinary abilities and thus prove themselves against the competition, even beyond their assumed life span among the "best of the best." One good example is the Lyra Connoisseur 4.2L SE, which I believe you would agree on. Do you think it would be interesting for your readers to have a product like this tested against today's best (or rather, tested against today's standards)? I really think so, and I can think of other examples, the Audio Research SP10 Mk 2 being one. I can appreciate that there could be challenges, such as finding examples in good condition, but I would not be surprised if grateful readers and generous importers would be willing to lend their gems for a test against the level of quality we see in the greater products of today. Another example of a product I have owned myself is the Sonus faber Extrema, which I really loved and still miss. Maybe this is a stupid idea, but please give it some thought and let me (us) know what you think.

One reason for this idea, is a growing concern over the perceived decreasing life span of really good equipment nowadays. Therefore, taking on and testing older but excellent equipment may well prove that it's worthwhile giving your purchase decision due consideration and thought (not to mention testing) and then buy quality products with a view of giving them a longer life in your system, rather than today's two or three years that often seem to be the general idea. Or am I just being nave and going backwards in to the future?

Mikael von Schedvin

In fact, the Connoisseur remains my preamp of choice and is already the yardstick against which I measure the current competition. Likewise, I wrote a blog a few months ago regarding a comparison between the Clearaudio Master Reference/Master TQI and the current VPI Classic 4/JMW 12.7, so the long-term value and virtues of the best equipment is something we are very aware of.

It has always frustrated me that audiophiles chase a constantly moving target set by reviewers' references. When I was in retail, I lost count of the number of times a customer would buy the then "reference" preamp (probably the Audio Research SP11) only to want to upgrade a few months later because a reviewer had declared something else to be superior! If you liked what the SP11 did when you bought it, and it was one of the best preamps then available, it doesn't stop being a great product just because something else is declared better. More to the point, it certainly doesn't stop being the best product for you. Yet, no matter how many times you explain (and demonstrate ) this, audiophilia nervosa means that most customers will still chop in a really great product for something that may or may not be better, may or may not be better for them or work in their systems -- all for the dubious reassurance of third-party endorsement. Slavishly following reviewers' changing opinions is the audiophile equivalent of a child's comfort blanket, and makes about as much sense.

In practice, a great product is a great product today, tomorrow and for some considerable time to come. "Better" is not only in the ear of the beholder; it is system- and cost-dependent too. The fact that a reviewer judges product B to be better than product A doesn't mean that the improvement makes a swap between the two financially sensible. In fact, if you think in terms of systems, rather than in terms of individual products, then the right product will nearly always outperform the "best" product, so closely matched are the units at the top of the performance tree.

The notion of revisiting older products is one I've long entertained, so yes, it is definitely something we should contemplate -- and I think I have just the project to start it with! -Roy Gregory

". . .it was time for me to send this note"

May 1, 2013


I just finished your review of the new Wilson Benesch loudspeaker. Bravo -- what a wonderfully written and well-conveyed review. I simply loved the opening -- and I kept reading, and reading some more, even through phone calls and e-mails.

I often admire the reviews you produce for The Audio Beat. You are consistent, easily understood (no small feat with the added complexity of products these days) and on point all of the time. I thoroughly enjoyed this review as well, and it was time for me to send this note to you directly. Excellent work.

Mark Schifter


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