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To Jeff Fritz,
I currently own a pair of the B&W 802 speakers with a McIntosh Laboratory amp and preamp as my at-home sound system. I am a seriously passionate music fan and love watching concerts (Coldplay, Eric Clapton, Santana, Adele, Billy Joel, etc.).
I have been advised that it would be a life-altering, valuable investment -- and would make a substantial difference in the sound quality I so enjoy -- if I upgraded my current system to the Magico M6 [loudspeakers] with an MSB DAC and MSB M500 Monos at a cost of around $350,000.
I read your articles on the SoundStage! Network and am looking for advice (mainly on the sound-quality difference) and wondered if you would have time to give me your opinion?
So, with that background and if you were me, would you keep the current system and just buy the MSB DAC, or would you switch out the entire music system, take the plunge, and go for the Magico M6 speakers?
Really appreciate your thoughts,
You’re considering a monumental upgrade to your stereo, not to mention a massive investment financially. I obviously can’t advise you on the second point and would never attempt to do that.
I can tell you that you’re contemplating owning one of the highest-resolution audio systems an audiophile is capable of assembling. I’ve listened to Magico/MSB-based systems many times at shows and can attest that the pairing can be pure magic. You’re also looking at the top models from those companies, so there is no question that with expert setup (which obviously you should get with such a purchase), the sound quality you should obtain will be beyond what most audiophiles will ever have a chance to hear. No doubt better than what you have by a substantial margin.
Sound quality is hard to quantify, though. A massive improvement to one guy is a moderate step up to another. So, ultimately, you need to hear what you’re buying to know if the sound quality on offer is “worth it” to you. What I can tell you is that you’ll have arguably one of the finest stereo systems money can buy. The rest is up to you. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
As of late, I’ve been pretty disappointed with a lot of the high-end equipment that’s being put out. It’s not that it’s not good, but that it’s not good enough.
Seeing the quality of the stuff that Benchmark puts out for a few thousand dollars, I find it amazing how companies offer and reviewers can think so highly of high-dollar equipment that underperforms.
I can understand paying for a Bentley. It’s about more than performance. With audio equipment, though, it should be all about performance, but that no longer seems to be the case. You can’t get away with this type of bullshit with TVs, but, with audio equipment, sure. It’s insane.
Last year, Stereophile did a review of a BorderPatrol DAC that John Atkinson said, in no uncertain terms, was crap. The reviewer that listened to it loved it.
Personally, I take reviews without measurements with a grain of salt.
Not everything audible can be measured, but everything you can measure can be heard. Noise and distortion are not good things unless you’re talking about a guitar amp.
All the best,
To Hans Wetzel,
As an avid reader of SoundStage! Ultra for several years now, I’m greatly looking forward to another voice in high-end reviews! And a request: [Please] review any speaker using Voxativ’s field coil driver! Whether from PureAudioProject or Voxativ itself, this modern interpretation of the field coil driver appears to bring something new to the table.
By the way, thanks for the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review of the Revel M126Be loudspeakers. We bought them for our listening room a few months ago!
Voxativ is interesting. I’ve been aware of the company for quite some time, and know they have a fervent following. I also know that field-coil loudspeaker designs are inherently compromised in certain ways. You’re simply not going to get linear extension down through the bass, or up through the treble, in the same fashion as you would with a well-executed two-way or three-way design that uses a traditional crossover. Yet, I’m also keenly aware that eliminating the crossover is kind of the whole point, and that our sensitivity to frequencies above 15kHz or so dramatically decreases with age. So, with certain types of music -- and more importantly, with certain low-powered amplifiers (due to Voxativ’s high-sensitivity designs) -- they could make for a sweet match. We’ll be sure to take a closer look at their offerings going forward. As someone who’s focusing on bookshelf speakers and modestly sized floorstanders, the Zeth looks particularly interesting. By the way, glad we could help with the Revels! . . . Hans Wetzel
To Jason Thorpe,
I just finished reading your Rush reviews and found it interesting when you got off the train. I will say, up front, that I am nowhere near the Rush fan that you are. I do agree that the later albums just don’t have what the earlier albums have. My problem with the later albums is that -- to my ears -- most of the music sounded the same. Especially Alex’s guitar sound. I found out about Neil’s death when I was listening to Jim Ladd on SiriusXM and he played three or four Rush songs in a row. Not that Jim never played Rush, but this was rather unheard of. A quick look online announced the news.
Great article. Makes me want to look into buying the reissues.
Keep up the good writing.
To Hans Wetzel,
I’ve been reading your great reviews for a while now and see you have a pair of Focal Diablo Utopia Colour Evos in for review. I’ve had a pair [of the original Diablo Utopia] now for four years and am very intrigued to hear what you make of them, as every time I’ve auditioned double- or triple-the-price floorstanding speakers, I still find my Diablos are noticeably better -- so far, to me, they are giant killers. Are the Evos really that much better? I strongly urge you to find a Devialet Expert [integrated amplifier-DAC, which I own] to try with them -- you might be astounded.
I can’t go into too much detail about Focal’s Diablo Utopia Colour Evo since my review has yet to be published, but there are a couple things I can mention. The big one is this: The Diablo Utopia Colour Evo is functionally identical to your Diablo Utopia, with the “Colour Evo” upgrades being entirely cosmetic. So, the Colour Evo version should perform identically to the pair that you’ve enjoyed over the past several years.
A benefit of being one of the biggest names in audio is that Focal’s Utopia loudspeakers can remain untouched for a long period of time and still be competitive with newer competition. Revel has adopted a similar approach with their Ultima2 line, which includes the highly regarded Salon2 and Studio2 models. Performance-wise, I don’t think they’re outclassed or left in the dust by any speaker that I’ve heard in recent memory. Is the Focal a “giant killer,” and does it still represent the state of the art in loudspeaker design? You’ll have to read my review to find out.
By the way, having reviewed Devialet’s Expert 130 Pro, I don’t doubt that your Focal/Devialet tandem is flat-out fantastic. Despite being a few years old, I still believe that Devialet makes state-of-the-art amplifiers, and I’d probably own a pair of Devialet monoblocks if I were exiting the reviewing game today. If I were in your shoes, I would be in zero rush to upgrade either my speakers or my amps. . . . Hans Wetzel
To Jeff Fritz,
I have read with great interest your reviews of the T+A PA 3100 HV [$23,500], McIntosh Laboratory MA9000 [$10,000], and the Luxman L-509X [$9450] integrated amplifiers, and thank you for the comparisons. Very helpful.
I have Wilson Sabrina loudspeakers and use a Bricasti DAC with network board to drive my amp directly. After some mechanical breakdown of my amp, I am in the market for a new integrated.
Which of the three that you reviewed might be the best match for the Sabrinas please?
Appreciate you comments.
These are all fantastic products and each model has strengths. Based on price, the Luxman and McIntosh are the two that would attract me most. From there, it is really a question of taste. Both should drive your Sabrinas with no issue, though the Luxman, at 120Wpc into 8 ohms, is much less powerful than the McIntosh, which will give you up to 300Wpc into the same load. Although these two integrateds do sound different -- which I detailed in my Luxman review -- they have much in common. The only way to decide is to experience them yourself, though I know that is sometimes easier said than done. The good news is that, either one you pick, you’ll have a fantastic amp that should give you many years of pleasure. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I know that the review of the Sonus Faber Olympica Nova III is upcoming, and I recognize that you may not wish to respond to my question before the review is published. But I thought I’d ask anyways. I am just about to put in an order for a pair of them, and wanted to ask your impressions.
Are they worth the asking price, and is there another pair in the price range that you would consider better?
Thank you kindly and best regards,
My review of the Sonus Faber Olympica Nova III loudspeakers will appear on February 1. Although I don’t want to give away the content of my review, I can tell you that you have good taste in speakers and I think you’ll be very happy with your decision. Once the review posts, please do write back with any questions you have. Thanks for reading. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
If you were a very happy owner of a pair of Rockport’s Atria speakers, would you consider trading in for the Atria II?
In your opinion, is the II better enough to justify the expense of making this change? The Atria is ideal for the size of my listening space (12’ x 15’).
Thank you for your advice on arriving at a good decision, from a reader’s standpoint.
I have not heard the Atria II at length, but I do think, based on what I know of the current round of upgrades Rockport has made of its loudspeaker line, that the new model is improved. Although I can’t predict whether the amount of improvement will be worth it to you to spend what is necessary to trade up -- those judgments are always highly personal -- it is a safe bet to say it is a better speaker in several ways.
I’m going to suggest you keep what you have, though. The Atria is a mighty fine speaker, and absolutely ideal for the size of your room. As you can see from watching our recent SoundStage! InSight videos, you have a finely crafted and expertly tested set of speakers. If I were you -- “a very happy owner” -- I’d enjoy what you have and not think too much about upgrading. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I just read your article “My Most Controversial Review Ever.”
Thank you for having written it. We all need writers like you, with independent points of view and unbiased / impartial / non-influenced opinions.
The NHB-108 Model One’s first cry debuted in 1999 in my garage, then was officially introduced in 2002. Twenty years after its inception, it is still in the limelight. I am very happy about this.
The way it reproduces bass was the most controversial thing about it, and it would take more than just a few lines to explain the hows and whys about what is “good bass extension,” both in terms of measured and perceived performances.
At the end, the fact that people talked about this meant that it was something I had to “improve” in order to make an even wider audience be able to fall in love with the NHB-108. Then entered the NHB-108 Model Two, with an entirely revisited audio circuit, which is directly downscaled from the NHB-458, and with some additional -- last-second updates -- tuning, which makes it sound in between the NHB-458 and the very latest NHB-468.
Maybe if you will have the opportunity to listen to it, you will find that it will be worth talking about for the next 20 years to come.
Thank you again for being an active and consistent writer in this audio industry, and at the service of the common holy grail we are all attempting to reach: best possible emotional music reproduction.
With my very best regards, and . . . Happy New Year 2020 !
To Jeff Fritz,
I read with great interest your nice review of the T+A PA 3100 HV, which is on my short list of amplifiers. I have had no chance to listen to it and would like some recommendations. I presently own the Marten Coltrane Alto speakers, which are really fantastic, but are powered by a tube amplifier (Audiomat Aria, 30Wpc class A), which is missing enough power to feed them correctly (even though I like the sound very much). I would like to get your feedback about the combination of Marten Coltrane Alto with T+A integrated amp (PA 3100 HV or PA 3000 HV). Thanks a lot in advance.
The T+A PA 3100 HV is indeed a super-nice integrated amplifier, and one that I would happily have powering my system if I were to go the integrated route. I have little doubt it would match well with your Marten loudspeakers.
The big issue, at least in the United States, is price. When I reviewed the PA 3100 HV, it retailed for $23,500 USD. I also reviewed the Luxman L-509X recently, which retailed for $9450 when I wrote about it, and which I would say is just about equivalent to the T+A in terms of sound and build quality. Obviously, at less than one-half the price, I’d choose the Luxman every day of the week over the T+A. You’ll have to see what the prices of these two products are in France, and of course what the quality of support from your local dealer would be like, in order to make a reasonable comparison. And it goes without saying that listening to these two products is the only way to decide which one sounds better to you. . . . Jeff Fritz
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