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To Jeff Fritz,
I think you answered your own question when you stated that you’ve discovered that the best performing products are not always among the most expensive. In the happy instances where price doesn’t define the state of the art, we are treated to breakthroughs that may help bring the best within reach of more of us. I think this should be a defining goal of your publication. I’d advocate for extraordinary performance -- rather than price exclusivity -- being the primary criterion for selecting products for review.
I really enjoy Ultra and especially your insights. Keep up the good work.
To Howard Kneller,
Thanks for another great review on the newest Symposium Acoustics Osiris Stealth Ultimate stand. As you recall we spoke about a year ago and I purchased a five-shelf Symposium stand based partially on our conversation and I am delighted with its performance. Although I must admit I am starting to suffer a little Symposium rack envy after seeing the latest stunning solution! The purpose of this e-mail is to ask a question: Could the latest Symposium racks’ performance be further enhanced if one were to insert IsoAcoustics GAIA I feet as the final barrier and isolator between the rack and the floor?
I use the GAIA IIIs underneath my speakers and most recently my turntable to great effect. Something to consider. Keep those reviews coming.
Thanks for the kind words on the Symposium Ultimate review. Yes, the Ultimate racks are something. I was thinking of trying to swap out a few parts and upgrading my Symposium Standard racks to Ultimate status. However, inspecting both racks revealed that, although they are based on identical design principles, they share very few common parts. The Ultimate rack is really a complete upgrade from the Standard.
I have not auditioned the IsoAcoustics GAIA footers, which may be fantastic. But looking at the company’s website, I noticed that the GAIAs have some type of rubber or polymer-based bottom, although I really cannot tell exactly what material is used. As you know from the Ultimate review, Symposium eschews the use of such materials. Having spent the money on a Standard rack, I would be reluctant to insert a product under it that does not work the way Symposium envisions. I am very big on sticking with a single design philosophy when it comes to my system. As a result, I mostly stick with one manufacturer each for components, cables, etc.
Personally, I would try swapping out the Standard rack’s footers for some Symposium SuperCouplers, which are used on the Ultimate rack. Doing so would likely not be too expensive.
Having said all that, it never hurts to try anything, as long as you can return the GAIAs if necessary. It is also good to always keep an open mind, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you ultimately switched back to the Symposium feet. . . . Howard Kneller
To Jeff Fritz,
I just read your article on reviewers, and I have to say that I do find the way you describe reviewing gear to be the “right” way, if something like that exists.
I agree with you on the points [you made], and therefore I really hope that many reviewers will follow your path on how to do things.
Thank you very much.
To Jeff Fritz,
I enjoyed your article in which you described your high-end setup with Magico speakers and Soulution electronics -- simple in terms of the amount of components. You are using an Oppo BDP-103 and an Apple MacBook computer in addition to your DAC.
I noticed you are using your DAC straight to your amplifier instead of a preamp. Is this a matter of subjective preference when you decided to go this route? Did you have a preamp in your chain previously?
I’m trying to reduce and go to an all-digital setup similar to yours but on a much smaller scale cost-wise with the components.
I did have a preamplifier in my system, and a very good one at that: an Ayre KX-R Twenty. I’ve always gravitated toward the simpler system models, however, and being digital-only in terms of source components only made that inclination stronger. When I reviewed the Soulution 560 DAC-preamplifier I knew I had found the, um, solution. It produced the best sound I’d heard in my system.
So, yes, I believe you can successfully dispatch with the traditional preamplifier provided you have a DAC that was designed to drive power amplifiers directly. If the volume control in your DAC is a mere afterthought, you will be disappointed. Thankfully, more and more manufacturers are building DACs with preamplifier sections as good as what you might find in a dedicated component. When you add the fact that you do away with a set of interconnects and the connectors and circuitry required to link those components, then the opportunity for better sound quality becomes possible. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
What is your opinion of the loudspeakers from Magnepan?
In my opinion, they are one of the true standouts in all of audiophiledom. Their ability to create a large soundstage that reveals every minute detail with precision without adding any of their own character to the music is second to none. It is true that there are specific setup stipulations that the user must apply to get that result (clean, high-power amplifier; [correct] placement in the room; good source material, etc.), but this is true of every loudspeaker that is a contender at this level.
The thing that bothers me is that every time Magnepan is discussed, it is always with the inclusion “. . . for the price.” It seems to me that a loudspeaker ought to be judged purely on its ability with its price having nothing to do with it -- be it super high, super low, or average price.
When the ultra-high-end loudspeakers are being judged, it is always with the disclaimer “cost no consideration” because they are so high dollar. Why isn’t the same applied to the other end of the spectrum, where it's “cost no consideration” even though they are so affordable?
I would love to get your two cents on this. Maybe I hold too high of an opinion of Magnepan to justify this argument. My ears don’t think so. Loved your article on the Devialet Expert 1000 Pro. Well done.
Your observations are quite astute. It is true that reviewers of ultra-high-priced gear oftentimes minimize what can be accomplished at lower price points. The truth is that high price doesn’t automatically equate to high performance. There are just too many examples I could name where a lower-priced product outperforms a more expensive model. Yet some reviewers have fallen into the trap of either being biased by price, or, worse, protecting more expensive gear, possibly because they have some side deal with the manufacturer that they benefit from. Either way, it doesn’t sound like you’ve fallen for that. Good for you.
As for Magnepan, you very well may be right. I know lots of audiophiles who love them. They don’t send us review samples, though, so I can’t comment first hand. That’s the only reason you don’t see them on this or our other sites. If you really like their sound, then that’s what’s important. Enjoy. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I enjoyed reading your review of the [Devialet Expert] 1000 Pros and I know that your conclusions will be controversial to some, but then the industry needs shaking up a little.
The reason for this e-mail, however, is to ask you to do a formal review of another Devialet product in the shape of the Phantom.
I have read too many half-hearted reviews and I cannot understand the apparent unwillingness of reviewers to be objective about these speakers. I have a pair of Silver Phantoms and love, love, love what they do.
Having your type of system, where you seem to have reached a level that you are happy with, will be out of reach for many, and that’s fine; we all like things to aspire to. However, if can you just do a review of any of the Phantom range (preferred if it was the Gold) simply reporting what it sounds like would be great. Forget about the lifestyle aspects, just what it does, good or bad, from your own perspective.
The Phantom may not be all the things Devialet says it is, but it does sound, to me, ridiculously good and makes many systems sound pretty ordinary, overpriced, and overrated.
Look forward to hearing what you report.
You’ll be happy to know that we have a review of the Gold Phantom coming the first part of 2017. Although I did not conduct the review, SoundStage! founder Doug Schneider did, and his write-up will include what we believe to be the world’s first third-party anechoic measurements of any Phantom model. Look for the review on SoundStage! Hi-Fi, likely in February. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I just ordered a pair of Magico M3s. I’m retired, and by selling my [Magico] Q3s, selling some stock, a credit card, and a bit of dealer financing, I decided to go ahead with the purchase without the MPods. Should I have done that or do you think the addition of that option is something I should absolutely think of doing if I can?
First, congrats on the purchase of your M3s ($75,000/pr.). Although I have not heard that model, I’ve heard its predecessor, the M Project, numerous times and it never fails to sound amazing. The M3 looks to be packed with the latest Magico technology and is certainly one of the best-looking speakers on the market right now.
As for the MPods, I do have a set installed on my Magico Q7 Mk.II speakers. I was a bit skeptical at first, and I’ll ask you to wait until my full review for the whole scoop, but let’s just say that I would strongly consider adding the MPod option to your pair of M3s, even though the $9600 they cost may be a bit disconcerting -- admittedly, it’s a lot of money. I will say right now that they definitely make a real sonic improvement, at least on my Q7s. Furthermore, there is also some satisfaction in knowing that you left zero performance capability on the table. In for a penny, in for a pound. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
Trust you are well. I believe I read somewhere that you had some experience with the new Paradigm Persona 9H and that you liked them a lot. Not sure, so I thought I had rather approach you directly. As you may be aware, I have the Rockport Avior, which I love. The only thing against it is lack of adjustability and probably scale.
Any views how the Persona 9H would stack up against the Avior and if you think there is any merit in a change?
I have always respected your rather impartial and candid views. So I’m grateful for some advice.
Many thanks in advance.
I did write about my impressions of the prototype of the Paradigm Persona 9H, then called the Concept 4F, which was played at Munich’s High End back in 2015. It was an impressive demonstration, and left me with high hopes that the most expensive Paradigm speaker ever made would be something special. But the Concept 4F was just a prototype, and I’ve not yet heard the production version of that speaker, which is what you are considering. There’s just no telling how the 9H turned out without hearing it.
How would the 9H compare with the Rockport Avior you own now? I can only offer some conjecture based on what I’ve heard of the prototype and the Avior, so here goes: There is no question that the Paradigm will play louder, particularly in the low end, where its four 8.5” woofers powered by a 1400W amplifier would likely fill any room with ground-shaking bass. Its DSP-based Anthem Room Correction circuitry would help integrate that massive bass in your room.
However, just because the Paradigm can play louder and deeper in the bass (DSP helps in that regard), I have no idea whether you’d prefer it to your Avior. Rockport speakers are expertly voiced and meticulously constructed and tested, yielding a sound that is sublime. The Avior has been tremendously successful and, if you’re fond of its sound, would surely be hard to beat. I’d never suggest you consider changing to the Persona 9H based on my impressions of the prototype or the specs of either model. You’d have to compare them side-by-side. The Rockports you have are fine instruments that make music sound like music. I’d stick with them unless you know with certainty you prefer something else, and the only way you’ll know is by listening. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
My name is Jason Li. I’m a reader of your articles and I have a question that I hope you can answer. I’m about to purchase a set of Gryphon Mephisto Solo amplifiers. I’m hesitant regarding the choice of preamplifier. I have heard the Ayre KX-R Twenty preamplifier in a different setting and really liked what I heard. However, I have always preferred to buy amplifier and preamplifier from the same manufacturer for obvious reasons. But there is not a lot of info about the Gryphon Pandora preamplifier, and Gryphon is known more for their power amplifiers, not their preamplifiers, so I’m very tempted to go with the KX-R Twenty. But since this is a considerable monetary investment, I would like to have as much information as possible. I remember reading a review of the Gryphon Mephisto by you, and you had a KX-R preamplifier if I’m not mistaken. Could you please tell me a bit more about your impressions of the Gryphon and Ayre combination? Have you perhaps heard the Pandora/Mephisto combo?
I’m grateful for whatever information you can give me. Thank you.
With kind regards,
I did pair the Gryphon Mephisto stereo amplifier with the Ayre KX-R preamplifier. In fact, this was the primary way in which I auditioned the Gryphon, and you’ve obviously read my very positive impressions. I have no doubt that the combination of Gryphon Mephisto Solo monos and Ayre KX-R Twenty would be outstanding, likely eclipsing what I heard with the stereo Gryphon and original Ayre KX-R. If you choose to go this route I’m sure you'll be thrilled.
Still, I am of the school of thought that great manufacturers -- and make no mistake, Gryphon is one -- optimize their amplifiers and preamplifiers to perform best when used together. I have heard of several audiophiles around the world who have Mephistos and Pandoras and seem to love their systems. There is a predictability to the sound when the preamp and power amp are produced by the same company.
Of course, the expected answer is to “go hear them for yourself,” but I realize this could be difficult if Gryphon is not sold near you. For example, Gryphon is not sold in the United States, where I live. I am not sure of your situation in South Korea. If you cannot listen, I would advise you to buy the Gryphon set and be done with it. Good luck and let me know how it works out. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I enjoyed reading your article addressing Doug’s concern about the future for audio, let alone high-end audio. I have been an audiophile since high school. I have worked at a large university since graduating college. The reason why the future is grim is because the current generation of college kids, for the most part, are not collectors of physical mediums. Remember when you were in college in the ’70s or ’80s and went to a party? Your host would not only have an audio system, but also books and records in his or her living room. This is not the case anymore with college-age students. Everything is online and most listening is personal through earbuds.
However, there is a future for audio in general with those small groups of music lovers that are LP or CD collectors. It will be much smaller than previous generations, but they will ensure the future of audio. Indeed, it is these groups of young people that have embraced the LP once again. Those college-age students who do collect CDs and LPs will be those people who will get into high-end audio. Remember, however, this is a smaller group than previous generations. Companies like Rotel and Pro-Ject, among others, are catering to this market with their very reasonable prices for the quality of sound.
Dr. Ross Scimeca, Head Librarian
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