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11/02

Hi Wayne,

I guess a little background is in order...

Long ago I purchased a pair of Aerial Acoustics Model 7s and read your review after the fact I believe it was in Fi magazine). I was amazed at how similar our ears "meshed" in regard to what appealed to me with those speakers, as well as the shortcomings of the model.

Well, let's fast forward...

I moved from the west coast to Florida and my listening room shrunk from 13' x 29' x 7'6'' (WxLxH) to 10'8'' x 9'8'' x 9'4'' (WxLxH). Almost a perfect cube and small. Absolutely horrible. Although I am in love with these speakers (especially its treatment of female vocals and dynamic impact) I find that the bass modes (I calculate them to be centered around 56Hz and probably it's relatives) tend to be a bit much for a speaker with the bass response of the Aerial and the size of the room.

I was intrigued by your Meadowlark Swift review and I am wondering if you think this should be on my list for auditions? I am also thinking of revamping to get an integrated amp maybe the Blue Circle CS... Would these speakers work in the room? Does it have the same natural ease that I found in the Aerials?

I appreciate your time and keep up the good work!

Happy Listening!

Don Currie

 

Don,

Well, you are certainly right about your new listening room. I imagine the Aerials create some serious standing wave problems. Perhaps you should look into some tube traps or other room treatment; putting something like those in the corners might help.

On the face of it, it would seem almost apples and oranges to throw the $995 Swift into the discussion. But they do indeed have a lovely midrange, probably at least equal to the Aerial 7 considering the relative dates of development. And in such a small room you might find their bass response more pleasingly proportional. I would say it's worth a home audition. Remember, as I pointed out in my review, Meadowlark speakers take a while to break in fully.

Good luck and good listening,

Wayne Donnelly

 

11/02

Dr. Bill Gaw,

I just HAD to send you an e-mail (I know you must be flooded with them).I just finished building a home theatre PC. I won't go into much detail except to say that my Hercules Fortissimo II sound card with optical out and my new ATI Radeon 7500 gave me quite impressive DVD playback for the money. To improve the look of my PLUS UP880 with hardware components such as hardware line doublers etc would have cost thousands.

Where I am going now? Home AUDIO PC! I would greatly appreciate it if you could send me any links relating to digital sound processing (DSP) with respect to software based upsampling. I am convinced that the technology exists for computer software to do the same job (if not better) that hardware based DA converters and up-samplers can do.

What I really want is to get my hands on are cutting edge "multimedia players" which not only can do 16/44.1, but can do some upsampling for me. Am I nuts? Do these products exist yet? I know one can "rip" CDs and do all sorts of file conversion, but it is not my intent to copy or pirate music - I just want to PLAY my CDs with the MOST amount of accuracy that I can.

By the way: I am ALSO a follower of Allan Wright and have "braided" many a pair of silver fine-wire speaker interconnects. I have also used Teflon jacketed OFC (30 gauge) wires with excellent results. Only Wright fans seem to know the incredible value of his projects - but I have more than one friend who picked these cables over expensive interconnects and were amazed!

At the end of the track "Fade to Black" by Dire Straits, we hear a drumstick tap on virtually its own weight and dribble across the surface of a symbol. On a hi-fi system with a good transport/DAC one can hear FIVE more distinct little taps at the end of the track just before the final "ker-bash" (thanks to DIY Focal speakers too - of course.) Guess what - my computer reveals these subtle sounds at a mere 16/44.1! As I said earlier - any info on Software based CD players (with upsampling) would be greatly appreciated. I am also researching software based digital crossovers. By the time I have grey hair I hope to have a fully operational Digital PC based system which I intend to run into my 300B "B-Glow" mono block tube amps! Hee hee. :o)

Why? I am nuts of course.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I don't normally send strangers "drive-by" style e-mails like this - but there are SO FEW PC sound enthusiasts out there it seems. And you definitely seem to know what you are talking about!

Sincerely,

Preston Sniher

 

Preston,

Thanks for the kind words, Preston. I really think a very good computer with a high end sound card, such as the M-Audio and RME, can do as well if not better than the best high end CD players. The good news is that one company, and maybe a couple will be coming out with programs that will decode DVD-A into multi-channel in the next month or so. That leaves only SACD, which probably will be a long time in coming.

Yes, Allen Wrights cables are amazingly good for their cost and energy of construction. If you think the braided cables are good you should try his silver foil cables. The best page for computer audio-video use is at www.avsforum.com under home theater computers.

Bill

 

11/02

Gaby,

Love the 12B4A amp articles! Plan to build this up as soon as I can get the output transformers in. I've been looking for something to use some 12B4A's that I've had for a while, and here you go -- same purpose too -- something small for a small room or office. Next question. Been thinking about the Monsoon flat panel speakers I have on my desk for my computer system. They seem to sound amazingly good for the amp that's built in, processing MP3s through my SoundBlaster card.

Wondered if you had any thoughts on modifying them to be used with the 12B4A amp. They sure are small and come with a nice little 8" subwoofer for the low frequencies. Just a thought, and haven't found anything on the web yet.

Another semi-newbie to the whole DIY tube audio scene,

Chris Hamilton

 

11/02

Tony,

I have owned a pair of Campanile "Highs" since early June. They replaced a pair of Crosby Quads/Entex LF40's. The remainder of the system includes a Rockport turntable, CTC Blowtorch preamp and Wolcott monoblocks as well as Valhalla and Acapella cabling. While my experience has paralleled yours in many ways, it has also differed. After almost three months of 24 hours play and another month of sporadic use, I still wonder if the speakers are fully broken in, particularly the 10" SEAS woofers. I would agree that the tweeters require little break-in, the Dynaudio mids somewhat more and the woofers the most.

I also find the speakers much more critical of associated equipment than you; they really sing with the right tubed amp but can be analytical with the wrong solid state amp. Another case in point is my CD set up which I had previously thought acceptable, if not equal to the Rockport. While the Rockport was truly heavenly, the cd was almost unlistenable on the Campaniles. The same has been true of speaker wire. While the Valhalla is very good, the speakers really sing with the Acapella speaker wire which seems to have the transparency of the Valhalla but a richer harmonic envelope.

I could also quibble with your comments re soundstage and with your ultimate rating; however, as the Campaniles employ different midrange and woofers, this would be unfair. You have done an excellent job of capturing some of their strengths, particularly the purity and extension of the tweeter and the incredible blend of the drivers. I wish you had done a better job of capturing the other attributes which make them so special, a solidity of image and three dimensionality coupled with realistic dynamics. Again in fairness, I will admit that in comparison to the Campaniles, the Violins are somewhat uneven, somewhat compressed in lower midrange dynamics and lacking the totally focused soundstage of the larger speaker. I also wish that you had been able to listen to them on the Audio Aero amps used at CES.

Use of stainless steel spikes in place of the feet provided or a thick granite plate beneath the speakers results in improvements.

If you have not tried their wire products, I encourage you to do so. Any chance that one of the larger speakers in the line will be reviewed?

N.F. Crowder

 

N.F. Crowder,

Thanks for your email and tips regarding the Acapellas. Regarding woofer break in, your Campaneli Highs have an array of four woofers per channel (compared to one per channel for the Violins), and because of that they will obviously need considerably more break in time, and since the array produces three times the volume by the nature of its design, turning up the volume during this break in will also help. I found the Acapellas to work well with a variety of both tube and solid state equipment, but the wire I was using was either XLO signature or better Cardas, although I am not going to criticize the Nordost, I do not think it is a synergistic match for the Acapellas, as you yourself are finding out with the Acapella wire as well. The results I achieved were in conjunction with my system and were compared to the Infinity Betas, obviously different front ends, amplification as well as the rooms the systems are played in, will all have an effect on the final sound produced. I have also heard the Campanelis and I agree they are a significant step up from the Violins. However, I did not find the Violins to be either compressed or lacking dynamics at all in my 16.5 x 40' listening room. For listeners who do not have large listening rooms, the Violins will be easier to set up and get just right, those 4 10" woofers per side on the Campanelis can really reach down into the lower frequencies, and that much bottom end in a room that is too small can introduce its own problems. I can not tell you the status of the bigger speakers being reviewed here, I hope so, but my listening room does not have ceilings tall enough for them (darn!).

Enjoy...

Tony Maresch

 

11/02

Steven,

I recently installed Nirvana S-X ICs and speaker cable, to go w/the Nirvana harness (for my Avantgarde Duos) and the Nirvana balanced digital IC. I sat in awe last night thinking that whatever it is, Creamer really put his finger on it. He knows what live music sounds like, and how to make wire sound the same way. I write this to you because I remember your S-X review a little while back... it was, as the Brits say, spot on. 

David Zigas

P.S. -- The nice thing about an "all Nirvana" rig is that the effects seem to be cumulative.

 

David,

Many thanks for your e-mail and glad you enjoyed my review of the Nirvana S-X cables. Agreed, they are truly amazing. Of course what really matters is that you...


Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

11/02

Mr. Olsher,

Based on the positive reviews that you and others gave to the TJ meshplate 300b's, I contacted Richard at Sophia Electric (he lives in my area) totest out a quad. Absolutely amazing! My monoblocks, which are quite enjoyable with Sovtek Reflektors, became far more more musical with four TJ's fresh from the box. Break in has only expanded the improvement. Won't try to describe the difference -- if I were able to do so with any eloquence, I'd probably be writing for Enjoy the Music. One thing I wanted to ask you about the TJ's -- have you found them to be durable? Although having the TJ's conk out after 300 hours or so wouldn't be as bad as having four exorbitantly priced WE 300b's go down early, I'd still be peeved (at the tubes, not the reviewers who gave it a thumbs up).

Thanks in advance for any comments you can provide. Thanks also for the many great reviews and articles (from you and the others at the Enjoy the Music). Keep up the great work -- you're a boon to audiophiles and music lovers alike.

Chris Ensley

 

Dear Chris:

Many thanks for the kind words. We at
Enjoy the Music.com™ take our stated mission very seriously. Therefore, we're pleased that we were able to make a significant positive difference in your listening pleasure.

Re the TJ Mesh Plate 300B, I have not experienced any problems to date. Though you should know that I'm rarely able to focus on any particular amplifier project for very long. That is, unfortunately, the nature of the business I'm in. Do let me know what happens when you hit the 300 hour mark.

Enjoy the music...

Dick Olsher

 

11/02

Wayne,

Thanks for the review of the Meadowlark Swifts in the current Enjoy the Music.com™. A couple questions, though.

First, you didn't compare the Swift with the Kestral HR. Could you shed some light on this? The contrast between the old and new designs would be very interesting, as I am considering the Kestral HRs to replace my JMR Twins. Is this line intended to replace the old line (Kestral, Shearwater, etc.) in time?

Second, although the new design is supposed to produce bass into the mid-30's, your ratings suggest the speaker begins to weaken in the mid-bass, and you give it only a 75 rating for the sub-bass (under 60Hz). Does this suggest the design is not as proficient in bass production as might have been claimed (35Hz)? 

Thanks for getting across the point of the musicality of the speaker. I completely agree with this quality of the Meadowlark line, and it can't be stressed enough. The accurate tonality is also a Meadowlark strong-point (as reflected in your 94 rating), but the imaging number seems a bit low. Meadowlarks have been known as 'the disappearing speaker' because of their imaging abilities. Is the size of the speaker limiting in this area?

Thanks again, Wayne, for the review. I have a local dealer, so I will try to hear these for myself in the near future.

Ralph Sands



Dear Ralph,

I was glad to see your letter, because it offers me a chance to comment on the subject of numerical ratings. But first, to answer your initial question, I didn't compare the Swifts directly against the Kestrel Hot Rods because I no longer have the Kestrels. They are now making a close family friend extremely happy. And no, I was not unhappy with them -- quite the reverse. Speaking from memory, it seems to me that the HR Kestrels are slightly more open in the high frequencies, and that they have somewhat more authority in the bass. I think you need to do some careful listening to decide for yourself if you agree, and whether you think the difference is worth the additional $700. I do think that the Swifts are quite likely to affect sales of the standard Kestrels. And yes, I think it is likely that Meadowlark will eventually redo their product line of to reflect their latest developments, although I have no authoritative basis for that opinion.

Now, about those numbers. You say that my ratings suggest that the Swifts "weaken in the mid-bass," and are not as good in the sub-bass as claimed. You then say that the 88 score for imaging is rather low. I suspect that many other readers probably interpret the numbers in the same way. I am a pretty serious wine drinker, and through years of talking to other wine lovers I have discovered that many people won't even consider buying a wine unless it scores above 90 from The Wine Spectator or The Wine Advocate. The critics who assign those numbers may have very different tastes and perceptions, and another writer might offer a very different score.

Audio reviewing is not so different. Although in my experience most audio reviewers try to be objective and fair, we all have our preferences in sound, and many factors could affect the numerical scores we assign. In the past, writing for TAS, Fi, Ultimate Audio and Listener, there were no such numbers involved in the final judgment of a component. Because the numerical ratings are part of the
Enjoy the Music.com™ methodology I am doing them, but I must confess without a lot of enthusiasm or conviction. There is a real danger that reviewers and readers alike can fall prey to grade inflation -- which may lead us to believe that any score under 90 represents poor performance.

OK, back to your questions. Let's look at how the Swifts stack up against two loudspeakers that I recently chose for Best of the Year honors: the $9,995 Von Schweikert dB-100 and the $8,800 Meadowlark Blue Heron. The dB-100 -- with its two 8-inch aluminum cone woofers in a large transmission line, and dedicated 600-watt amplifier in each cabinet -- scored 99 for sub-bass. That was probably two or three points too high, but this was the first time I had tried assigning numerical values, and the speakers do produce prodigiously deep and powerful low frequencies. The Blue Herons -- with very advanced and expensive mid and high-frequency drivers, are among the very best loudspeakers I have ever heard for imaging, and I gave them a 95. 

Compared to those scores, the $995 Swift scored a 75 for sub-bass and 88 for imaging. Given the price differential, I think that is pretty impressive. Keep in mind that I'm not grading on a curve, but on a universal standard. If you go back and read my comments, you will see that I am very impressed with the Swift. And even in the numbers, you'll notice that I rated Value For Money at an extravagant 110! Moreover, by the way, the review pair is now in my small system, replacing the Hot Rod Kestrels.

Numbers need to be considered in context. And you should trust your own ears -- after all, it's your money and your system. But don't worry about the Swifts. As my review title said, they are real butt kickers.

Best wishes,
Wayne Donnelly

 

Wayne,

Thank you very much for the wonderful review of the Swift. I appreciate it greatly. Thanks, too for the copy of your correspondence.

The "grade inflation" that you speak of also has me miffed. When I attempt to write product descriptions I have to place myself within the milieu of idiotic hyperbole that is common to our industry. To be worthwhile, a piece of gear must "Blow me away" or "Redefine the category". Every woofer, every tweeter has to be "Centuries ahead of its time."

So now, the word "good" can actually come across as a condemnation. The scale does indeed seem to stretch from 90 to 100 in many folk's minds. It's silly. Does the audio customer really want all of this smoke blown up his backside? Maybe so. But I certainly do appreciate your sobriety on the issue.

Sincerely,

Pat McGinty
Meadowlark Audio Inc.

 

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