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Gryphon Diablo 300

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To Jeff Fritz,

As a frequent reader, I appreciate your ability to question audio myths and your openness to new approaches in design concepts. I have bought the Devialet Phantoms without any listening before. However, I had a most convincing listening session with a Devialet D-Premier and Magico speakers three years ago. The consistent Devialet reviews and the most consequential decision of Devialet to marry the amp technology with the speaker crossover technology on one hand, and a point-source design on the other hand, look most convincing to me. And the listening results with the Phantoms are overwhelming and confirm my expectations. I am looking forward to reading your review of the Phantoms.

Concerning your remarks about the [GoldenEar Technology] Triton One speakers I think you focus too much on a flat frequency curve. More important is to have a phase-coherent behavior, especially in the crossover region, and to have a strong impulse response. Wadia proved with their DAC design the superiority of a phase-focused approach versus a flat frequency curve approach decades ago. Our ears are most sensitive to phase errors and can tolerate and compensate for frequency errors much better due to the pattern-recognition perception based on the experiences of our brain.

Best regards,
United States

Congrats on the Phantom purchase! I suspect that you will really be satisfied with them sound-wise, and equally enjoy their form factor in your room. Please do keep in touch and let me know what you think when you get them.

Your point on phase-coherent behavior reminds me of something Andy Payor of Rockport Technologies showed me years ago. He would reverse the phase of the midrange in one of his speakers under measurement and examine the resulting frequency response. The result was a deep null at the crossover region on the order of 40dB. What this meant was that, when the leads to the drivers were corrected -- and flat frequency response at the crossover region resulted -- was that the phase behavior of the loudspeaker at that crossover region was optimally achieved. While a speaker designer could achieve good phase behavior without optimizing frequency response, the best designers ensure that both are addressed. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I am presently in the market for new speakers and an amp. I have decided to go with a Pass Labs amp, but deciding on a speaker is proving difficult and time consuming. I have read most of the rave reviews of the GoldenEar Technology Triton One speakers, and for some reason the phrase “If it sounds too good to be true, then it is too good to be true” comes to mind. The reviews focus on the bass, and while applauding the mids and highs, give them short shrift. I have doubts about their appearance (yes, I’ve seen them) and whether I would want them in my listening room. Fit and finish are important.

It has been my experience that some highly rated, full-range budget equipment just doesn’t satisfy over the long term. It has also been my experience that manufacturers such as Oppo and Benchmark offer high-value, low-cost equipment. How do you separate the two?

I am seriously considering the Legacy Focus SE (perhaps the next model down) or the Zu Audio Definition Mk.IV speakers, both of which cost (at least) double the Triton One. I am not looking forward to moving these into the house for auditions, but . . .

Bob Willis
United States

Regarding your first point, I believe you have answered your own question. I am reminded of the plight of the in-wall speaker. That type of product is perfect for those who want unobtrusive, even "invisible" speakers, but will never satisfy -- no matter how good they sound -- the hardcore audiophile who loves the pride of ownership that comes with a very nice cabinet and high-tech drivers. The latter is the type of investment that makes a statement -- both sonically and visually -- in the listening room. If you value appearance and fit and finish as you say, then a fancier-looking speaker is what you should get. This hobby is, after all, about enjoyment, not merely prudence.

As for how to separate the really good high-value products from those that are truly too good to be true, here is my advice: you have to experience the products for yourself, firsthand, to see what type of fit they are with your likes and dislikes. I know tons of folks who just love their Oppo players and think the build quality is outstanding, but then again, compare an Oppo with a player from Esoteric and the differences will be readily apparent. Ultimately it comes down to your own tastes and budget. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I’ve owned NAD gear since the original 3020, and own a D 7050 today, so I read with interest your review of the M12/M22 combo.

Lurking at the same price, one quarter the size, and half the rated power, is the Devialet 120. What’s your take of one versus the other?

Robert Karlsson
United States

While the NAD Masters Series components that I reviewed do share a number of strengths with the Devialet 120 -- such as quietness, great bass, and excellent transparency -- the French amp is simply better in every regard. It is a benchmark product that will be hard to top with anything else. Now, if you want the flexibility of separates, then the NADs are a hard proposition to pass up. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

Benchmark Media Systems has a new amplifier out, in a similar vein [insofar as disruption is concerned] as Devialet, Soulution, NAD’s Ncore [implementation], etc. The major difference [with Devialet] is that it only amplifies -- no sound processing, correction, or DAC. It is described as the "quietest, cleanest amplifier on the planet." Bold claim, but it just might be true! It has tiny size, high efficiency, and amazing specs (greater than 130dB S/N ratio). It’s also made in the USA and has a five-year warranty, all for $2995. So, how does it sound?

I appreciate your open-mindedness to review new technology and products as the industry evolves -- and to embrace the disruption!

Greg Simmons
United States

The Benchmark amplifier you are referring to is the AHB2. It does appear to be a measurement wonder. As for how it sounds, our own Hans Wetzel, who also happens to be the charter member of the Philadelphians for Kanye fan club, has one in for review currently. You’ll see that article on our sister site SoundStage! Access very soon.

As for embracing the disruption, here’s how I look at it: You can either embrace it, or you can bury your head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening. Frankly, I’m enjoying it. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I hope this email finds you well. Just a quick question: I purchased a pair of Sonus Faber Venere 3.0 speakers and really like them. It's a lot of speaker for the money. I know you are pretty familiar with this speaker. I currently have Aragon separates (8008BB amp and 28K preamp). I was thinking about upgrading to either a Parasound Halo A 21/P 5 combination or a Hegel H160 integrated.

What are your thoughts? Thank you in advance.

United States

Congrats on your new speakers! I'm sure you'll find many years of enjoyment with them. Regarding electronics, your Aragons are certainly getting a bit long in the tooth. They must be, what, at least 15 years old? Age not withstanding, the Aragon equipment of that vintage was always considered really good by everyone who heard it. Although it would seem logical that the newer Parasound and Hegel electronics would eclipse the Aragons -- and they very well might -- I'd have to know for sure before buying either. What I can tell you is that you've chosen two good brands to consider. I think Hegel and Parasound are really knocking it out of the park these days. So my advice is to see if you can get a home audition and then make up your mind. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I just got my [new] Rockport Atrias delivered. I have them set up with my Cardas Clear cables.

After setting up my speakers, which sound fabulous, my dealer thinks I should move onto Transparent cables. The Transparent Ultra MM2 is around the same price as my Clear, but I am hesitant to make more changes for a modest improvement. Do you think it is worthwhile, or am I going sideways from Cardas Clear to the Transparent Ultra MM2?

Any input would be sincerely appreciated. Thank you in advance.

United States

There is certainly some synergy with Rockport speakers and Transparent cables. I know Andy Payor, Rockport's owner and resident speaker designer, uses Transparent at his facility. However, I'd hold off a bit on making more changes. First, you need to make absolutely sure that your speaker positioning is locked in. Finding the perfect locations for your new speakers in your room will optimize the sound of your system more than any other single thing you can do. Second, you need to allow the Atrias to break-in properly. As the suspensions loosen on the drivers, the sound will change to a small degree. Only after break-in and positioning are complete, would I assess the system and consider further upgrades. Maybe it take a month or two, but better that than spending more money only to realize you had exactly what you wanted to begin with. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

What are your thoughts on pairing the Magico S5 speaker with the Magico QSub-15 vs. the Magico Q3 with the QSub-15?

Aaron Barnes
United States

Since the only area of sound reproduction that the S5 has, arguably, an advantage in is in the bass, I think the Q3 would easily be my choice for your proposition. With the low bass reproduced by the QSub-15, the S5’s slightly fuller bass voicing would be rendered almost meaningless. And with the added transparency in the mids and highs that is part and parcel of the Q-series sound, the ultimate performance ceiling with the Q3/QSub-15 pairing would be higher. Bottom line for me would be to go all Q. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Howard Kneller,

I enjoyed reading your review of the new Esoteric [Grandioso] separates, in part because I own the K-01 player and have been fascinated with the build quality of Esoteric transports. Having foolishly jumped on the SACD bandwagon early, I soon discovered the long-term effects of Philips transport issues and the massive failures all the machines that used them wrought. This drove me to Esoteric. Ironically, most of my listening with the K-01 today is with standard CDs. I am continually blown away by this player’s sound on just Red Book.

A few things I’m curious about with your experiences: Did you experiment with the clock both on and off? I’m just wondering what role the clock made overall. And for the DAC? Just wondering what role, for example, the DAC by itself would have made, or the transport mated to another DAC. If I were to slowly upgrade my K-01, would first adding the D1 make a difference? Or the clock? Or using the P1 transport with the internal DAC in the K-01? I’m trying to do this incrementally, but the nature of these beasts does not make it easy. Thanks again for a very insightful review.

Phil Hammer
United States

There are very few transport mechanisms, if any, like the Esoteric VRDS units. They are simply in a class by themselves. Also, I agree, Red Book over the K-01 is absolutely ravishing. In fact, if you ask me to grab my best-sounding discs, I am going to primarily go for Red Book, not the many SACDs that I have here. I have the K-01X in house now. It will be interesting to play DSD downloads though that unit, and see how they fit into the picture. I am breaking it in now.

The G-01 clock made a very substantial improvement when connected to the Grandioso gear. If you are spending that kind of money to begin with, it would be a wise choice to spend a bit more and get the clock.

But maybe the way to go is to start with the D1. The K-01 can be used as a transport with a pair of D1s, although that player won't perform as well as the P1. This is because there is so much more data that passes through Esoteric's new transmission format, ES-Link4.

If you upgrade your system incrementally, starting with the D1 makes sense. Then you could add the P1 and/or G-01. Or if you primarily listen to computer audio, you may decide to just stick with the K-01, adding just the D1 and G-01.

Please let me know how it goes. Thanks. . . . Howard Kneller

To Howard Kneller,

I haven’t seen much discussion on the Esoteric C-02 [preamplifier] online. I saw the piece at AXPONA 2014 and have been intrigued, yet nobody seems to be talking about it. Yours seems to have been the only published review, at least that I can find, so I thought I’d reach out for your opinion.

I’m considering buying one of these to replace a McIntosh C2300. The Esoteric would be mated between an EMM Labs XDS1 V2 and a McIntosh MC402, driving Avalon Eidolons. I’m wondering whether the Esoteric would add a bit of liveliness to the high frequencies, some transparency, and punch. The C2300 is very neutral and quiet, but maybe a bit boring and uninvolving. Or maybe it’s just me!

Anyway, I’d welcome any thoughts you might have as to the benefits that the Esoteric might bring me.

Best wishes,
Howard Rothstein
United States

Thanks for writing. I think the Esoteric would be a significant trade-up from the McIntosh. The C-02 is not hot in the high frequencies, nor does it have the most absolute slam out there, so I am not sure if it will give you what you are looking for or not. I can tell you that it should certainly add transparency, and maybe even a more quiet background. Also, it is extremely involving to listening to and and a bit romantic sounding.

The best thing would be to see if a dealer can arrange a loan. I definitely think it is worth giving it a shot. I hope that helps, even a bit. . . . Howard Kneller

To Jeff Fritz,

I've been listening to my Devialet 400 for about a week now. I totally agree with your review. I traded in two McIntosh mono tube amps (MC2301) and a McIntosh MC2300 preamp. I was quite fond of them, but the monolithic weight got to be too much for my 70-year-old body.

Anyway, my dilemma now is what to do with my PS Audio DSD DAC. The internal 400 DAC is really amazing, as is the PSA DAC when used in a conventional way. Same problem with my PS Audio NuWave converter.

The SAM has breathed new life into my Sonus Faber Cremona M speakers. I'm using a Mac Mini via USB for my iTunes streaming since the 400 is just inches away. I've tried the Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections as well, but I like the Amarra DSP results, so I'm keeping that in the loop. The technology of the 400 is superb as is the quality.

Hope it stands the test of time. Thanks for the great review. I actually read it before and after I purchased the 400. Helped me buy it, made me glad I did.

United States

Congrats on your Devialet 400. I imagine your system sounds superb, especially with SAM processing helping out those Sonus Fabers. As for your PS Audio DACs, two words: sell them. You can use the money to fund your Tidal music streaming service for a long, long time. Nothing left to do but enjoy! . . . Jeff Fritz