Letters • November 2015

"Music is first!"

November 24, 2015


Please share with us the names and catalog numbers of the CDs that Warren Gehl recommended and played during your visit to Audio Research. I'd like to see if any are of interest to me. Music is first!

Peter Kuntz

Warren and I talk about music all of the time, and we're both fans of just about anything on the ECM label, as there's always an interesting cut or two (or more) on every disc.

In addition to the CDs I mentioned in my article (Suzanne Vega's Close-Up Series [Amanuensis 2507 and Art of Noise's Moments in Love [RCA Ariola 651757]), Warren and I played these when I visited Audio Research.

  • Roy Hargrove / Christian McBride / Stephen Scott Trio - Parker's Mood [Verve 314 527 907-2]

  • John Abercrombie - Current Events [ECM 21311]

  • Bela Fleck with the Marcus Roberts Trio - Across the Imaginary Divide [Rounder 191422]

The John Abercrombie CD is long out of print and therefore not easy to find (or cheap when you do find it). The other two are common and shouldn't cost much. -Marc Mickelson

Power for a computer

November 17, 2015


My Mac computer is plugged into the wall, but the DAC in the line conditioner. Do folks plug the computer into the line conditioner as well?

Sheldon Simon

Computers generate an incredible amount of noise. I've mentioned in the past that when I worked in IT I moved many computers because they interfered with radio reception. I suspect that audiophiles plug their computers into line conditioners, because doing so will improve the system's sound. This occurs because so many line conditioners have isolated outlets (often intended for digital) that separate the products plugged in to them from the outlets for the other components and don't allow digital noise to pollute the entire system. Thus, for this reason, you should plug your computer into your line conditioner (provided it has isolated outlets, that is); in fact, a better idea would be to have a second line conditioner plugged into a separate AC circuit that you could plug your computer into. This would isolate it even better. Running the computer off battery power and placing it physically away from your DAC would be better still.  -Marc Mickelson

Enough power for 20.7s?

November 11, 2015


Interesting read, as always.

Was the Reference 150 SE powerful enough for the large Magnepan 20.7s? I can get a good deal on this amp, but I am a bit hesitant, because I'm not sure whether it is a good match for my 3.7s or not.

Hasse Jerresand

In a word, yes. When I was at Audio Research, I asked about the Reference 75 SE and the 20.7s, and Warren Gehl said it was marginal in terms of power, but I can attest that the Reference 150 SE was a great match for the biggest Maggies. At no point during my listening did the amp seem to strain, and we were playing the music at high levels. As you know, Magnepans present a uniform load to an amplifier, but they need power because they are not very efficient. The 150Wpc Reference 150 SE had plenty of power for the 20.7s and would for your 3.7s too. -Marc Mickelson

Luxman and CD

November 5, 2015


I just read your Luxman D-08u review and have one question for you. Everyone knows that the SACD format is really good and if we want to have something on the same level with CD then we need to spend more money for a better CD player. So could you write a few words about how this Japanese tank is with CDs? I don't want to compare with SACD, but what is your opinion about CD only? I am considering a full Luxman system with the D-08u as the main source, but I have 3000 CDs, many SACDs and a big collection of files too.

Lucas Luq

I agree that, as important as SACD playback is, one also needs to have as good a CD player as possible, because the vast majority of discs are not SACDs. In case it doesn’t come through from my writing, I still consider LP playback the gold standard -- leaving aside tape, which is really not a practical medium for anyone other than the 1% or reviewers. That said, it has been hard to get excited about CD sound when compared to truly exceptional LP playback. Two things shifted for me over the last year. First, several of the latest generation of CD players started to catch up and sound very nice indeed, to the point of setting me on a search for a modern digital playback system to keep around long term. Hence the search for a one-box CD/SACD player. Furthermore, short of finding the SACD player of my dreams, I wanted to see if the current crop of CD players was good enough to obviate the need for an SACD player.

I did compare the CD layers of hybrid discs (the Luxman allows switching between layers) between the Luxman and competitively priced top-end CD players from Audio Research and Aesthetix, and I found the Luxman playback of Red Book audio on par with these players. As indicated in my review, however, I also recently listened to the Neodio Origine, a much more expensive CD-only player, in a familiar system, and then in my own home. This remarkable player brings out so much in Red Book audio that I never suspected lay hidden there. I now spend far less time listening to vinyl and far more time exploring old and newly acquired CDs.

I was recently told that the computing power of a smart phone today equals that of a several-hundred-thousand-dollar mainframe computer of yesteryear, and the price of course is millions of times less than the earliest computers. I wish I could say that the same trend has occurred with CD players. Although the improvements have been dramatic, they come at a dramatic price! - Dennis Davis

New Time Out

November 1, 2015


I received this morning the announcement from Acoustic Sounds of the appearance of Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, newly pressed by Analogue Productions and Quality Record Pressings. Surprisingly your review was added to this announcement -- "surprisingly" because the impression is given that this newly pressed vinyl record was only launched the other day.

Anyway, I am still in the possession of a Dutch pressing [CBS 62068] from 1964 in mint condition which I bought 50 (!) years ago and which I obviously played immediately this day, finding a fantastic, detailed sound on my Thorens-Quad setup. I'm wondering if there would be any difference in sound quality with Analogue Productions' newborn child? The only way to find out is to spend around $60 (includes shipping to Europe) and compare the two records, which I find too much for satisfying my curiosity.

By the way, checking Discogs I found around 800 vinyl copies of Time Out or related to Time Out for sale, many in good condition at reasonable prices. Isn’t it fascinating how things don’t change in a half-century time span?

Peter de Rooy

The new version of Dave Brubeck's Time Out from Analogue Productions is a single 33rpm LP; the version I reviewed in 2012 was a two-record 45rpm set. So presumably the mastering of the new version is different and the sound probably is too.

As I observed in my review, Time Out is not a rare record by any means. I have a number of original pressings, and I paid no more than a couple of dollars for any one of them -- and more often than not much less than this. However, as I also observed, none of those sounds as good as the Analogue Productions 45rpm set I reviewed. Paying the cost of a new copy of the album is certainly a personal choice; for me, even with all of the copies I have, the Analogue Productions pressing is worth the money because it really did reveal more of the recording itself, and this was rewarding for a record I know so well. Time Out is a classic, and I suspect there will be more new pressings in the future, not to mention digital versions (of which I have five or six already). Marc Mickelson


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