Davis LPs: Black Friday versus Mobile Fidelity
Record Store Day will be Black Friday, November 29, and Sony will release a mono version
of Kind of Blue then. Is this worth having, because Zia Records here in Las Vegas
will call me when it comes in, and I was also thinking about getting the 45rpm version
from Mobile Fidelity?
noticed that the store has several Record Store Day Miles Davis mono LPs in stock. Do you
know how these compare to the mostly stereo versions from MoFi? I want to pick up some
Miles Davis LPs. Recommendations?
a huge fan of Zia
Record Exchange. I've been to all of them -- in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson. They're
great for new and used LPs and CDs, and a good place to sell music you prune from your
collection. I've found some real rarities there for reasonable prices. Unfortunately, I
don't live near one, so I won't be there on Black Friday, but I will go to both locations
in Las Vegas during CES.
Friday and Record Store Day are different, although they are promoted by the same group,
and there are special recordings available for both. So far, six Miles Davis mono LPs have
been released as part of the promotion: three during last year's Black Friday, and three
more for this year's Record Store Day. I have all six and they are worth having unless
you don't want to have multiple copies of music you already own or plan to buy. Kind
of Blue is one of the rare early stereo recordings that sounds good in stereo -- no
giant hole in the middle of the soundstage. If you are only going to buy either the Black
Friday mono version or the Mobile Fidelity stereo, go for the MoFi stereo, as it will
undoubtedly be one of the label's true highlights (and will likely increase in value over
time). The same goes for the other Record Store Day mono and stereo MoFi versions,
although stereo versions of Round About Midnight and Milestones don't
exist, so your choice there isn't quite so clear cut.
will still be buying the last three Miles Davis mono LPs available on Black Friday, even
though I have a mono original of Kind of Blue (which I bought from one of my
college professors). It's such rich music that having other versions just gives another
reason to listen to the music again (and again). If I can't get them at Zia's, there's
always eBay. -Marc Mickelson
Voice speakers "fussy about room placement"?
you for the insightful seminar that you gave at the recent TAVES about
the importance of speaker placement and room acoustics. However, I cant help
thinking that the Living Voice Avatar IBX-RW loudspeakers that you used in the
demonstration were not only very revealing but also very fussy about room placement.
any case, you most definitely proved your points.
your suspicions, I can assure you that if anything the Living Voice speakers are more
forgiving of room placement than many designs I might list -- one of the reasons that I
chose them for the demonstrations at RMAF and TAVES, a scenario in which I'd have to
extract meaningful performance from them in not just one, but two unfamiliar (and very
different) rooms. Recent examples that have come my way that demonstrate this point
include the equivalently priced but wider bandwidth Wilson Benesch Square 5 and the
considerably more affordable Focal 807W and KEF R900, all of which are more positionally
critical than the Living Voice Avatar IBX-RW.
this might (and in many cases probably should) come as a shock, virtually all speakers are
capable of considerably more performance than they're delivering. System setup is an
exercise in realizing potential and the speakers can only deliver what they're fed. Setup
issues further up the chain will mask performance attributes and musical communication
from the speakers and the listener, just as surely as the positioning of the speakers can
mask the performance of the system itself. The trick here (as demonstrated last year) is
to ensure that all aspects of system set up are considered. That means that you need to
look at the integrity of the AC supply and electrical grounding, the coherence of the
cable loom and equipment supports/mechanical grounding as well as the placement of the
speakers. But get those things right and the full impact of even tiny shifts in speaker
position will become obvious -- just as they did at TAVES and RMAF.
other thing: consider what it is that you are actually doing when you move the loudspeaker
-- balancing its low-frequency output against the bass modes in the room. This bass
reinforcement needs to be carefully juggled if you are to get it just right. In the case
of a wide-bandwidth design, too much reinforcement becomes an embarrassment; in the case
of many a stand-mounts, maximizing the added bass becomes critical to achieving convincing
scale and weight. One reason the Avatar is less critical than some is that it hits the
happy medium between these two extremes, better able to cope with less than perfect bass
integration than either speakers that are smaller or larger than it. In this regard, its
sensitivity (94dB) and easy drive characteristics (flat 6-ohm load) also help, allowing
the amplifier to get a decent grip on the speaker. But the bottom line is simple: Take the
considerable time and trouble to feed any speaker properly and you will be surprised just
what comes out. -Roy Gregory
just read your review of the Gryphon Legato Legacy phono stage, and
I am very intrigued by what you heard and wrote. I am currently using the Allnic H-3000 and have enjoyed it for the past three and a half years.
But, I am looking to see what is available that actually would provide a definite step up
in sonics and not just different sonics. I use the Lyra Olympos SL cartridge and will also
have a Lyra Atlas in about a month. Do you consider the Legato Legacy a real step up or
just better in some ways and not as good in some aspects compared to the H-3000?
do you have an opinion of a phono stage that is a definite step up compared to the Allnic
H-3000? I have read some good initial feedback about the new Allnic H-5000 DHT. Any
You certainly don't ask easy questions, and I say this for a reason you point
out: different does not mean better, especially when you're talking about phono stages
like the Allnic H-3000 and Gryphon Legato Legacy, which are in many ways qualitative
peers. That said, I do think what the Legato Legacy does so well would certainly lead some
listeners to conclude that it's better and not just by a little bit. Its quietness, tonal
completeness and bass power are impossible to miss. On the other hand, the H-3000 images
in a way that's truly 3D, and it is probably the best I've heard in this respect.
you want a phono stage that's definitively better than your H-3000, the Legato Legacy
would come to mind, depending on your sonic goals and tastes. Other possibilities are the
Audio Research Reference Phono 10 and Allnic H-5000 DHT. I've not heard either of these,
however, so this is purely speculation, based on the companies, their products and the
cost of both units. Roy Gregory has the H-5000 DHT for review now. -Marc Mickelson
dust from records -- fast!
this is nuts, but you know the cans of air computer stores sell, spray dusters, are they
safe to use on vinyl?
use aerosol dusters to blow dust off records. I try to do it in quick bursts, not so
vigorously that there is condensation on the record surface, although even that doesn't
seem to be harmful to the record. It disappears in a few seconds. -Marc Mickeslon
for the Stillpoints review
want to thank Roy Gregory for his
insightful review of the Stillpoints products.
particular, the order of placement (speakers, line conditioners, etc.) is extremely
helpful, since the usual audiophile train of thought would be: source, preamp, power amp.
bought Minis (always start out with a small investment, when unsure, is my way of going)
and put them under one of my ASL Hurricane amps (only one of them, since I bought three of
the Minis). There was an obvious improvement, far out of proportion to a mere $375
investment -- more like $1000 in improvement. And that's the minimum I'd say the
Stillpoints make. A case could easily be made for $2000 when used with a line conditioner
that will still shake, rattle and roll energy back into the system, so one doesn't even
hear what one paid for. Not truly, anyway.
I purchased a second set, and, with one of the Hurricanes in for repair -- and using an
integrated amp I had on hand -- put the first set under the integrated and then the second
set under my PS Audio power conditioner. It was like unto a completely new -- and better
-- line conditioner entering into the sonic picture. I experimented with placement of the
isolation feet -- as I usually do -- and found that very, very slight changes in position
either improved the sound or, conversely, lessened the quality (but never to the point
where the improvements were less than stellar). It's a matter of simple improvements in
the noise floor or, in the optimal positioning, improvements in timing, and more
"tension" -- or "stop and start," in the sense of a waltz sounding
dramatically more "waltz-like" with the accent clearly on the first beat. With
some components, once can hardly tell a waltz from a shuffle beat. No fear of that with
few reviewers, when reviewing isolation devices, make it clear that experimentation is an
extremely significant factor in the satisfaction of a device -- or the all-too-common
disappointment. Add in the fact that far too many people adhere to the philosophy of
plug-and-play (audiophiles can be every big as lazy as anyone else: cables on the floor,
equipment stand in the corner with standing waves buffeting it), thereby losing out on how
much more sense the music makes when time is taken to allow you to hear the end result,
which is music in all its beauty and focus. This is unfortunate and explains how so many
people come to wonder: Why does this idiot reviewer praise this product so highly?
From solid state to tubes
want to thank you. I took your advice and upgraded from a VPI Classic 1 to a Classic
4 with a JMW 12.7 tonearm. It has been with me for three months now, and I have
enjoyed it very much.
now need to upgrade my power amp -- a Krell FPB600 -- and need your advice again. I'm
keeping my Krell for home theater and want a tube amp. I have followed some of your
reviews of tube amps -- Coincident and Vacuum State, in particular -- but I have never
auditioned a tube amp here in Vancouver, as not many dealers carry them (that I know of).
I'm also not sure what is good for my system: Aesthetix Callisto Eclipse line stage,
Aesthetix Io Signature phono stage, Hansen Emperor speakers, VPI Classic 4 with Dynavector
XV-1S cartridge, Sony SCD-XA9000ES digital player, Nordost Valhalla interconnects and
listen at 70-80dB, which is very loud to me. My room is 18' wide by 25' long with a 9'
ceiling. I listen to all types music except opera, heavy metal and punk. My budget for a
new or used tube amp is not more than $12,000.
was thinking of a new Coincident Dragon Mk II or a used Cary 211FE, or perhaps used Lamm
ML2.1s, used Tenor 300HPs or 75WIs, or VTL MB-450 Mk IIIs. There is a used Nagra VPA-845
for less than $8000.
understand that SET is best for sound, followed by straight triode. Are 8 watts able to
power my speakers?
ask a question that, whilst specific in detail, crops up with regularity: the owner who
wants to chop in a high-powered solid-state amp and wishes to know whether an 8-watt
triode can do the job of filling its shoes. The answer sits somewhere between a flat
"no" and "that depends." Let me explain.
of the most critical (possibly the most critical) interface in your system is the
one between the amp and the speakers. Not only do the characteristics (output power and
load tolerance) of the amp have to match the demands of the speaker (sensitivity,
impedance and bandwidth), the amp also has to deal with the back EMF generated by the
loudspeaker -- and that can be crippling. You'll note that I used the term
"match" when discussing this relationship. Too much power can be just as
damaging as too little -- especially if it is of the wrong type. Thus, sensitive speakers
(93dB+) are generally used with lower-powered amps -- and vice versa; there's a reason you
own that Krell! Although the audio industry is fond of ignoring the laws of physics, I'm
afraid that the watts generated by power amplifiers are not a variable commodity nor a
sliding scale. A class-A watt is actually the same as a class-AB or class-D watt. A triode
watt is the same as a pentode watt, and they're both the same as a solid-state watt.
said that -- and just to confuse things -- there are some exceptions to the
high-efficiency/low-power rule. Avantgarde produce the 109dB Trio system and pair it with
their own solid-state, 150-watt amplifier(s)! Sadly, the converse is rarely true, and even
SET amplifiers of legendary driving capability like the Lamm ML 2.1 still need speakers of
at least 90dB to sound at their best.
the confusion? Why do people believe that tube watts are somehow worth more than their
solid-state equivalents? Because of the thing nobody talks about -- back EMF. This can
seriously upset solid-state output stages, but (most) tube amps hide their active devices
behind a darned great lump of steel -- the output transformer -- that renders them far
less sensitive to disturbance. The greater the number of drivers in a speaker and the more
complex its crossover, the more potential there is for generating damaging back-EMF
let's look at your speaker. Assuming it is the original Emperor (not the E) it has four
drivers and considerable bandwidth capability. At 87dB and a nominal 6-ohm load (I can't
find any more detailed information) that sets all the alarm bells ringing! I'm not saying
it's impossible to find a triode amp that will do the trick, but a single output device,
SET? Highly unlikely. You might make gains in the midrange, but the bottom end is either
going to soften and lag or become curtailed. In short, the speakers won't deliver the
performance you've paid for -- because the amp driving them is a poor match.
what would I recommend? You'll need a high-powered tube amp and given the budget, that
means a push-pull pentode or a possibly a hybrid. Top of my "tube" list would be
the new VTL ST200 or the Audio Research Reference 150. The Audio Research is likely to be
a sweeter and slightly warmer sound with a huge soundstage and highly developed acoustic.
The VTL (assuming that it follows form) will be more muscular with greater authority,
drive and sense of musical purpose. Either would be a fine match. However, a third option
suggests itself -- the Aesthetix Atlas Signature. I rate the Aesthetix amplifiers
extremely highly and the Atlas Signature is the sweet spot for value. it is genuinely
unburstable, has the presence, color and dynamic heft that make tube amps so beguiling,
combined with the sort of grip and dynamic range that make music an almost physical
experience. I also happen to know that Hansen have used the Atlas monos at shows with --
you guessed it -- the Emperor, to excellent effect.
sure that any of these three options will offer both a dramatic change from the Krell and
also a substantial upgrade. In your situation, they make sense sonically and electrically,
in a way that no SET ever will. I guess that the mighty Canary 200-watt, parallel
single-ended monos might be an option -- but they bust the budget so wide you could sail
the entire US Navy through the gap!
be in Toronto at the TAVES event this weekend. If by chance you'll be there and would like
to pursue this discussion, drop by the TAB seminars and we can have a chat.