Letters • October 2010

SRA Scuttle

October 29, 2010


I enjoyed your photographs and descriptions of the equipment displayed at the RMAF.

I was interested to see Silent Running Audio's new Scuttle rack in your overview. I've been looking for a performance upgrade to my two single-width Synergy three-shelf racks, without the five-figure cost. Your reviews of other SRA racks have been helpful in providing product knowledge and credibility. I've heard that Scuttle is priced at around $6000, which is still expensive but more within reach than a Craz².

Since you've seen the Scuttle, and are very familiar with SRA Craz racks in your own system, do you feel this may deliver much of the performance, rigidity, and sonic improvements as Craz² at a more affordable price?

Your description says Scuttle needs to be assembled, which I am happy to do. Does this significantly reduce rigidity, and as a consequence sonic improvements, compared with the Craz racks?

Any further information you could pass along about Scuttle is appreciated. Audio dollars are precious, and I need to be reasonably confident they will make a positive return on investment whenever spent.

Bryan Allen

Based on my discussions with Kevin Tellekamp of SRA, you have described the goal and performance of the Scuttle perfectly. It is supposed to "deliver much of the performance, rigidity, and sonic improvements as a Craz² at a more affordable price." (Its introductory price is actually $5000.) Based on the rack I saw in Denver, I would say that having to assemble the Scuttle won't result in compromised rigidity. The cross braces and shelves are thick and very heavy, and the whole thing is reminiscent of the Craz2, coming together with the same battleship-like solidity.

There will be some slight changes made to the rack I showed in the RMAF coverage -- mostly ones that make routing cables easier. Kevin has promised TAB the first review sample, and we hope to have it soon. -Marc Mickelson

Glass, wood, or...?

October 26, 2010


Great RMAF coverage as usual.

I have an unrelated question. As a general rule, am I correct in saying that wood shelves are better than glass for electronic equipment? I've heard wood provides better vibration control. Do you concur?

As a side note, I have Synergistic Research MIGs for vibration control, but I was wondering if wood was still a better material to use with the MIGs.

Sheldon Simon

Before I began using a Silent Running Audio rack, I experimented with shelves made of different materials, including MDF, wood, glass, stone and Corian. By far, glass was the worst, always adding a hard, grainy character to the sound. (Perhaps there's no correlation in terms of its use for shelves, but glass has a resonance frequency within the range of the human voice -- that's why singers can hit notes that will break it.) In general, I've found that shelves from dense natural materials -- wood and stone -- sound best, even if they are used with other products, like your Synergistic Research MIGs. Even better have been the results I've achieved with SRA products, which use wood and composite materials in strategic ways. If you're looking only for shelving material, TAB advertiser edenSound uses a dense, waxy composite material called TerraStone for its products, and this can be fashioned into shelves. I've had very good results with edenSound platforms. -Marc Mickelson

H-3000 versus Reference Phono 2, part 2

October 23, 2010


I read your response to the reader letter in September where you mentioned that the Allnic H-3000 was a bit fuller in the mids and bass compared to the Audio Research Reference Phono 2, which was a little lighter. How do the upper mids (or presence region) and the treble sound compared to those of Reference Phono 2? Also, was your H-3000 the new model with the larger transformers?

How was the amount of gain compared to that of the Reference Phono 2? Higher or lower? Can the MC gain be lowered from its high position?

I am currently demoing the Reference Phono 2, and I find that the upper mids and treble are well detailed but also refined and smooth (which I like). I have about 130 hours on the unit.

I think I have found, like you, that while the bass goes low, there does not seem to be that much fullness and weight in the upper bass or lower mids. My Conrad-Johnson amps and Sonus Faber Stradivari speakers are a little lean in the bass, so I am perhaps looking for a little more fullness than the Reference Phono 2 is giving me, but I do not want to lose the refined, smooth upper frequencies.

I also find the high gain just a few dB too high for my system -- manageable though.

I would appreciate your thoughts, as demoing an H-3000 may be difficult.

By the way, great mag.

Shane Ryan

The H-3000 I reviewed did not have Allnic's new transformers. That unit has since been upgraded (which costs $2200 for H-3000 owners), and I'm now listening to the new H-3000. I'll be blogging on it soon, so I'll keep my comments short, but I will say that the difference is well worth the extra cash just in terms of the unit's greater dynamic abilities.

The upper midrange and treble of the Reference Phono 2 and H-3000 are rather similar -- a bit more corporeal with the H-3000 and a bit more airy with the Reference Phono 2. This difference helps account for the H-3000's spooky layering of images. I think the maximum gain of Reference Phono 2 is a bit greater than that of the H-3000, which is adjustable in four increments. Neither had a problem with the 0.25mV output of my Dynavector cartridges.

Given that you're seeking a bit more low-end fullness, an upgraded H-3000 is worth a careful audition. I know there are a few dealers in the US with demo units, and given the amount of money you're about to spend, the cost of a plane ticket and night in a hotel seems like a prudent add-on. -Marc Mickelson

New Maggie?

October 18, 2010


I am wondering about the prototype speakers in Magnepan's room as shown in your "TAB's Summer Audio Roadtrip." Looks like MG3.6es, or perhaps they are working on an MG3.7? Did they happen to mention anything about this by chance?

Hasse Jerresand

Those weren't prototype speakers or MG3.7s. As I pointed out in my article, Wendell Diller of Magnepan likes to use "your eyes against your ears" when he sets up one of his demos. Those speakers were an old pair of MG3.6es with no grille cloth. They were used purely for show -- to make us think we were going to hear a brand-new speaker. Instead, Wendell demonstrated his three-channel stereo concept (about which we'll be publishing a blog soon) and those rough-looking speakers weren't even connected.

Magnepan is tight-lipped about new speakers under development, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see a new model at CES in a couple of months. -Marc Mickelson

VT115 vs. Reference 110

October 14, 2010


I have an Audio Research VT115 amp paired with a Wadia 581se CD player and ESP Concert Grand speakers. I am happy with the sound, but I will upgrade to an Audio Research Reference 110 amp if it will make a significant improvement in the music. I have read that the Reference amps sound much better, but I haven't been able to audition one. Please give me your thoughts on this.

Ananth Desikacharlu

Because I've not heard the VT115 in my system, I can't tell you how its sound compares to that of the Reference 110 and therefore if it would offer "significant improvement" for you. However, my experience with Audio Research's product line -- much of which I've heard -- leads me to believe that a Reference 110 would be a worthwhile step upward. I also have a Reference 110 here and it remains the best stereo tube amp I've heard and an amp I recommend without reservation. It's powerful -- offering a true 110Wpc -- and can drive just about any speaker, and along with that power comes refinement that brings out the best in the speakers and electronics with which it's used. Ultimately, if you like your VT115, I suspect you'll love the Reference 110. As with all of the Audio Research products I've heard, this move upward will offer more of what your current amp does so well. -Marc Mickelson

Tonearm rewiring

October 12, 2010


I'm the guy who wrote you about my Thorens TD 125 Mk II and Linn LP12 turntables with SME 3009 Series II and III 'arms respectively.

I'm keeping both 'tables, and I'm looking into getting the 'arms rewired. In looking on the Internet and talking with a couple of people who do this work (in the US, Canada and the UK), it seems that there are a number of opinions as to which wire is best. The choices seem to be silver litz wire, silver Kondo wire and Cardas wire.

Do you have any experience with any of these? A guy in Canada feels that the Silver Kondo is too detailed and might not wear well over time, while a guy in the UK feels it yields great results.

Then there is the question of wiring from the cartridge clips to the RCA connectors or terminate at the 'arm base and use a high-quality phono cable, which some feel offers less resistance.

There are too many options, and I'm not looking to get into a trial-and-error thing.

I'd like to know your thoughts on the topic and what I should watch out for. The wiring in both 'arms is over 30 years old.

Bill Thomas

I have no experience with rewiring a tonearm -- or having someone else do it for me. I know that Tri-Planar uses Cardas wire for its tonearm, and that's a rather strong recommendation in my opinion.

As for terminations, the fewer of them you have the better. Thus, as Tri-Planar does, having the 'arm wired from the cartridge clips to the RCA (or XLR) connectors is best. However, this doesn't give you the opportunity to experiment with different phono cables, either DIN or RCA terminated. Also, if your 'arm is hard-wired from cartridge to connectors and you move your turntable, you may find that you now don't have enough cable, which means you'll have to rewire a second time.

If I were in your shoes, I'd simply rewire your 'arms internally with Cardas tonearm wire, and keep the terminations as they are -- whether that means using a separate phono cable or not. This will also likely be the cheapest option of those you mention. -Marc Mickelson

Ayre or Audio Research?

October 8, 2010


I follow your reviews and I trust your ears. I need your help. I'll be in Denver at the upcoming Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, and I want to choose between two digital players, Ayre C-5xeMP and Audio Research Reference CD8, to add to my modest system: KEF Reference 201/2 speakers, Krell Evolution 302 amp, Audio Research Reference 3 preamp, and Transparent cables.

In your opinion, what would be the best choice between these two players? I do not intend to spend more than $10,000. My budget is limited to that amount. If there are other players I should consider, please list them.

Victor Pinheiro

"The best choice between these two players," both of which I have here, depends on your needs and priorities. First, you can play only CDs with the Reference CD8, while the C-5xeMP also plays SACDs and DVDs. Both have balanced and single-ended outputs, and they sound their best balanced. However, the Reference CD8 sounds very, very close to how it does balanced through its single-ended outputs. In terms of sonic qualities, the C-5xeMP is lighter and leaner, while the Reference CD8 displays greater physical presence, a very direct midrange, and exemplary bass definition.

For CDs only, I personally would choose the Reference CD8 for all that it does so well sonically. However, I need to play music from other digital formats, so I own a C-5xeMP.

Given your $10,000 budget, you might also want to investigate the new Ayre DX-5, which adds Blu-ray playback. It represents Ayre's latest thinking on digital playback, and it incorporates a top-flight USB DAC, so you can also use it with a computer. I will be getting one to write about soon. -Marc Mickelson

Ayre MX-Rs: when?

October 5, 2010


When do you expect to publish your review of the Ayre MX-R amps? I was ready (after a great amount of thought and a slow build up of cash) to pull the trigger on Lamm M1.2s (to be used with my Audio Research Reference 5, Wilson Audio Sasha W/Ps, and Shunyata cables), but after I saw that you were going to review the MX-Rs, I decided to hold back. I'm generally not a fan of solid state and like the Lamm hybrid concept, but I've heard great things about the MX-Rs and knew a now-former Audio Research dealer who sold a few Reference 5/ MX-R combos. I await your comparison. A sneak preview would be great, and I would not reveal your thoughts to anyone. However, I can also appreciate if, like the rest of your readers, I have to wait for the public release.

R. Wade

My review of the Ayre MX-R amps is still more than a month away from being published, but I can tell you that the MX-R is a member of a select group of the very best amps I've heard regardless of technology. I hate it when equipment reviewers titillate instead of inform, anointing some new product as "the best" without adequate explanation, but I can't get around that with the MX-Rs at this point. To find out specifics, you'll have to wait for my review. I don't think you can go wrong with either the Lamm M1.2s or Ayre MX-Rs, but I'm sure one will be more right for you and your system than the other. -Marc Mickelson

Add me

October 1, 2010


Please add me to The Audio Beat's reader list. Fantastic site -- great reading.

Andrew McCormack


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