Letters • November 2009

"The new reality" for music lovers

November 27, 2009


Take a look at this link.

Several years ago, it would have been easy to go to Amazon or CD Universe or CD Connection and buy this disc for $17.99 or so. Those years, it turns out, are turning into the good ol' days. Now just try to buy this CD. As you can see, one is available, period. And if you want it, you better be prepared to pony up $75 at Amazon.

Trouble is, nobody else seems to have it. I was lucky enough to snag one of the last three copies at Amazon for under $15.

So where does that leave the hapless music lover? Out of luck, unless he or she is willing to download a fidelity-compromised MP3. Compromising, in this case, saves you big as you can download this music for all of $8.99.

Unfortunate situation? Nah, it's flipping disgusting. However, it's the new reality.

Phil Erickson

Just another reason to be cautious regarding the rush to music downloading, especially if you care about sound quality. -Marc Mickelson

Plug orientation and polarity

November 24, 2009


I just have a quick question for you. In South Africa we use 220V power for our equipment. In the US it is 110V. When we connect a plug (looking at the plug from the front, with plug points facing you), we connect the earth wire at the top, (green), the live on the right (brown), and the neutral on the left (blue). Yesterday a friend informed me that he heard that in the US plugs are wired slightly differently, with the live and neutral wires swapped. Is that the case?

My friend reckons that if the wiring is done differently, that all power conditioners and power cords we buy from the US and use locally could cause the music to sound out of phase. Can you shed some light on this please, and give possible solutions to rectify the problem, if there is one?

Johannes Nel

I haven't been able to verify that positive and negative are switched for power cords delivered to the US and South Africa. However, what you are describing is a matter of electrical polarity, not acoustic phase, in which case a small device called the Elfix polarity tester can help you determine the correct polarity for your audio equipment. Do a Google search on it and you'll find information on its function and use. This device was rather popular in the 1990s, but I can't verify if it's still available (you can also use a volt/ohm meter to do the same thing, if you know what you're doing). I used an Elfix along with cheater plugs many years ago, and I recall hearing improvement by orienting plugs for lowest AC voltage between ground and each components' chassis. Be sure the ground is always connected, no matter how you orient your plugs, however. -Marc Mickelson

Which Lamm amps for Andra IIs?

November 17, 2009


Nice to see that you have continued with your audio reviewing.

While I think it is just a coincidence, you have reviewed most of the major components in my system, including EgglestonWorks Andra II speakers, Lamm M2.1 hybrid mono amplifiers, and the Ayre K-1xe preamplifier, all of which you gave glowing reviews to and which I heartily agree are top-notch components.

I have heard the Lamm M1.2 amps that you use, but only with different and more sensitive speakers. My friend uses Lamm M2.2 amps with his speakers, so I know what the differences are between the M2.2s and the M2.1s. (The M2.1s are just slightly less transparent and have just a touch of darkness to them. I also know that the M1.2s and the M2.2s sound very similar, with the M1.2s being just a touch sweeter.) Now, both my friend and I have replaced the stock Sovtek tubes with NOS Amperex 6922s (pinched-waist version), and this has helped the amps sound slightly sweeter and has even slightly reduced the darkness that the M2.1s have. I have also upgraded to Nordost Valhalla speaker cables, which further reduced said darkness. However, I can tell that there is still a bit of darkness to the M2.1s, or as you would call it, just a "filmy scrim" of darkness. Nice term!

Given the above, I am considering upgrading from my M2.1s to the M1.2s. To be honest, I would rather upgrade to the M2.2s, but due to financial constraints I need to buy used, and M2.2s rarely, if ever, show up used. M1.2s do tend to show up used much more frequently. So, my question is, Do the M1.2s provide the necessary "oomph" that the Andra II speakers need to get the bass response to be both deep and tight? My M2.1s do an excellent job in that regard.

Mark A. Helton

My thought is that this would depend on a few interrelated things, including the size of your room and the type of music you usually listen to. In a  medium-sized listening room, the M1.2 Reference amps should be able to handle the Andra IIs on just about anything, unless you listen to a non-stop diet of bass-heavy techno. They'd still be up to the job, but the M2.2s would probably be a better choice for minimizing amp stress.

The Andra IIs are reasonably sensitive, but not quite up to that of the bigger Wilson and Focal speakers I've lived with. That said, they move a lot of air given a stoutly built amplifier with a rock-solid power supply, and Lamms are about as good as you can get in that regard.

In a room of reasonably average size I can't see how the M1.2s wouldn't be able to handle the Andra IIs. By the way, the Nordost cables are a wonderful match with Lamm electronics. The Valhalla has been my reference speaker cable going on ten years.

I've never tube-rolled with any Lamm amp because I'm philosophically opposed to reviewers modifying the components they review, but if they're your amps, go for it. -Paul Bolin

Best Shunyata power cord?

November 9, 2009


I just got my Esoteric P-03/D-03 digital combo. Both products have 70 hours of use already. They came with Euro-style AC power cords that are not compatible with my US-style wall outlets. I need to buy new AC cords to use with them. I know you have Shunyata CX-series cords on hand. I need to buy AC cords right now, so I can't wait for your review. How good will the the Shunyata cords be with my Esoteric combo ? I am thinking of using a Python CX on both of them.

I hope this Esoteric combo will improve after more use, as you once wrote at SoundStage! Right now, I think it offers much improvement over my previous Audio Research Reference CD7.

Wiratorn Ruk

The Shunyata Python CX is an excellent choice and will sound very good with the Esoteric separates. It represents the best combination of cost and value in the Shunyata line. With it you'll experience what the Shunyata cords do so well -- and what you'll read about in my upcoming review. -Marc Mickelson

All that jazz

November 3, 2009


Superb jazz reviews. Each one was a thoughtful lesson in jazz history. Super.

Charles Murphy


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