Legacy link:
legacy_200w
This new site was launched in July 2010. Visit the older site to access previous articles by clicking above.

Back Cover

Gryphon Diablo 300

We welcome all feedback. If you'd like to make a comment on an article or ask any questions, please e-mail feedback@soundstageultra.com. If your letter is selected for publication, your name will be printed but your e-mail address will NOT be.

To Jeff Fritz,

In your SoundStage! column ["Buy What You Want"] you’ve seriously misconstrued what I said in Munich.

First of all I regularly stream music on Tidal. I listen to music on SiriusXM on my car’s Bose system. I have 4000+ digital files on my Sooloos system. I travel around the world listening to music on my iPhone using Westone custom in-ear headphones.

So why or how would I say that the only way I can listen to music is on vinyl?

If your aim was to paint me as a cartoon version of an audio enthusiast, well mission accomplished, at least for gullible SoundStage! readers.

If you wish to set the record straight in print, you’ll amend what you wrote to reflect what I actually said, which was that when I sit down to listen to music to the exclusion of all else at home, on my big system, lights out, only vinyl keeps my full attention and for hours at a time.

When I sit down to listen to digital, whether Tidal, CD resolution or high-resolution files, I’m good for only about ten minutes before I feel compelled to switch to vinyl.

Michael Fremer
Editor, analogplanet.com
Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

In my column, I wrote: “He can’t enjoy digital recordings; it takes analog sound to relax him and get him into the music.”

You just stated: “When I sit down to listen to digital, whether Tidal, CD resolution or high-resolution files, I’m good for only about ten minutes before I feel compelled to switch to vinyl.”

I guess your point is a little too nuanced for me. But at least you’ve “set the record straight.” . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

It looks like Rockport [Technologies] and Magico both decided to make $60k/pr. speakers of similar sensitivities, using proprietary drivers of similar sizes and multiple 10" woofers in curved cabinets of similar sizes. Both are a step down from their statement products, but still heroically built! Hmm. Seems like a perfect opportunity to compare and contrast these two speakers from two companies that are very well respected but have very different followings/philosophies. I know I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. The [Rockport Technologies] Cygnus in particular is a speaker I would certainly consider moving up to, but I’m curious if the extra nearly $30k wouldn’t be better spent on an Avior and a pair of really great subs.

James Velimesis
United States

It seems the real action these days in superspeakers is in the $50,000-$60,000/pr. price range. I think it is within even a wealthy audiophile's reasonable expectations that they should be able to purchase a state-of-the-art-like loudspeaker for that considerable sum. Do we really need to accept compromises in our loudspeakers when we can spend Mercedes money?

I know you are referring to Rockport's new Cygnus ($62,500/pr.) and Magico's new S7 ($58,000/pr.). Suffice to say that both of these speakers would be on my shortlist if I were spending that kind of dough. If my budget permitted, I would most certainly move up to the best speaker I could buy instead of going the sub route. There might be exceptions depending on my room, of course. But generally, I believe in getting the best speaker you can afford to anchor your system and then building around that. . . . Jeff Fritz

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,
Michael
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 . . .

Sincerely,
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?

Regards,
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!

Thanks,
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.

Andrew
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.

Albert
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?

Thanks,
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