Requests, Musical Fidelity, Paradigm Atom, Heart CD Player,
Herron Audio And Much More...
Note: This column is a relatively new feature and items contained here have been updated this month or are new. Others have now been eliminated. This column may not appear every month but as often as the occasion arises or the need continues. In general I expect it to contain comments on a wide range of subjects including equipment and music, but not in great depth. Consider it a lumping together of items not long enough or of sufficient interest to warrant a full review or lengthy article by themselves. Comments, suggestions or questions as always for
Enjoy the Music.com™ are welcomed. Clicking on the appropriate place will send your e-mail comments to me.
Starting off this month with three requests:
Request #1 - I need some more input from our readers that have had experience with the main types of mini tubes (6DJ8, 12AX7, etc.) that are being currently manufactured or distributed for sale in the United States. Comparison with the older well-known brands as listed last month would be appreciated.
Request #2 - Do any of our readers have some background information on the sound track album "Body Heat"? Much of the filming was done a mile from my home. I had heard that the album was almost rare and usually had a plain white cover. Now I find it as a 45
r.p.m. album with pictures on front and back cover. Is this common or a rarity or a late remastered production?
Request #3 - A repeat... we seriously request your input, comments, suggestions and questions and particularly so for Karl's
A Musical Fidelity System -
The Result Of Putting Them Together
Each of the components has been reviewed separately in detail and for the most part very favorably by me in the past three monthly issues of
Enjoy the Music.com™ and still available to be read by clicking on the equipment review section. I commented very favorably on each of the component's attractive appearance - no plain ol' dull black boxes here! However that favorable impression does not hold up when all the pieces of equipment are lined up on a shelf and used in a typical low-level lighting situation of a home environment. Now a small mélange of distracting lighting indicators destroys any possible family image of oneness. Individually each is fine with the relatively uncommon blue LEDs of the preamplifier leading the way in my informal poll of viewers. The CD player has a rather brightly lit green display that can be dimmed. The M 250 amplifiers have both an orange and blue LED glowing in the dim light of evening. The designer of the cases for this trio of products just could not be the person who chose the lighted indicator buttons.
Both Musical Fidelity's A3.2 CD player and their A3.2 preamplifier were "painted with the same brush" in my reviews of them. Basically each was a solid performer and an excellent value in the "moderate price range". Each had a rather sweet and smooth top end, adding nothing to any digital nasties whether creating the digital signal (the A3.2 CD player) or amplifying the signal (the A3.2 preamplifier). Musical Fidelity's M 250 amplifiers while also offering value, a moderate price tag and plenty of raw power, were unable to match its siblings' sweetly refined treble response. The 250s audibly emphasized or revealed some brightness and harshness from less than ideal sources.
As an aside to the preceding comments, I had occasion to speak to two dealers recently about some other equipment and found out by chance that both are Musical Fidelity dealers. Both agreed with my assessment of the A3.2 products. Both also conceded that the M 250 amplifiers are probably in Musical Fidelity's lineup for systems that needed a great deal of power at a moderate price or for the bottom end of bi-amplified loudspeaker systems. It is note worthy that the 250s are almost alone among Musical Fidelity offerings by not having their highly promoted choke filtered power supplies. I dislike having to ever eat my words.
I will go out on that famous limb and suggest safety for anyone choosing one of Musical Fidelity's choke filtered power amplifiers to carry on the promise of the preceding sweet, smooth and musical sounding high end components.
Veteran audiophiles will remember a promotional premise initiated by the Linn turntable company. Basically the premise was to spend your money on the components at the beginning of the audio chain (such as a Linn turntable) rather than at the end (such as
loudspeakers or amplifiers). In other words, if the beginning is not excellent it does not matter so much what is done later on in the chain.
With the above background information, here is the Musical Fidelity scenario I am reporting on. With their smooth and sweet CD player starting the audio chain and in turn feeding their equally smooth and sweet sounding (A3.2) preamplifier fed into the slightly aggressive and at times a bit harsh sounding MF 250 amplifiers, what do you think the resultant sound quality was? The logical conclusion choices would seem to be:
A - sweet and smooth as with the A3.2 player and preamplifier
B - a bit bright and harsh as with the M-250 amplifiers
C - almost neutral as if A and B either cancel or complement each other. The middle choice, B, is what resulted.
The sound of this system of Musical Fidelity components was dominated by the sound of their amplifiers; the powerful but not smoothly refined M 250s. Briefly described, my first experience with a Musical Fidelity system (of their moderately priced models) is of attractively styled, well-finished and fine value components with a consistent solid and sweet sound. If their amplifier is not one of the choke filtered power supply models, then expect a slightly diminished impression of their usual smoothly musical top end response. Detailed specifications as well as review information are available on all three of these products by going to Enjoy the Music.com™'s equipment section.
Paradigm Atom Loudspeakers
I have using these diminutive reproducers for about three years. I was not intending to mention them because of "their age". After seeing reviews in two other magazines recently I decided I should mention them. They are mini marvels for their size and price at less than $200 a pair. I use them in what poses as a home theater system in my home. Toss in Paradigm's center channel #170 which uses two of the Atom's woofer/midrange drivers flanking one of it's tweeters, add one of their subwoofer systems (preferably with at least a ten inch driver) and
you will have a pleasant and well matched moderately priced home theater setup. For best results place a couple of Atoms behind your listening seat and you can then becoming truly surrounded.
Heart Model 6000 CD Player +
New Model Announcement +
Frank Stuppel (www.fsaudioweb.com) is the importer and distributor of this excellent moderately priced player. The standard model, as reviewed by Dick Olsher, is almost, but not quite sold out as of November twenty fifth. There will be no more after these few are sold, but the importer has received some of the latest Marantz updated and tweaked versions sold as the Marantz 6000 OSELE and then modified even more by the Heart Company of Holland and featuring the tubed output stage. Price had to be raised to cover this more expensive model by Marantz. I have received the new model and have listened at length to it. The family resemblance is there in spades and it is overall a slight but definite improvement. Bass response is a bit more extended with a sensation of more power and punch (not fuller or bigger sounding) plus a bit more detail overall including the bass range. Tonal balance seems to have added a touch of sparkle in the top end along with even greater clarity. There is probably very little more that can be done to improve this time proven basic Marantz design.
A Second Opinion - Result Unchanged Plus An Update...
Check Our Equipment Review Archives For Walcott Amplifier And New Model
Enjoy and get informed by an excellently written review by Senior Editor Dick Olsher of a great amplifier. The review so intrigued me that I just had to listen to a pair in my home. My friend, Dr. Jim, let me borrow his pair for a three-day weekend. Within the first few minutes it was obvious that these were the best amplifiers I have ever had the pleasure of hearing in my home. My setup is far different that Dick's,
yet the results were the same. Never heard of them? That's understandable, they
do not have to bother to advertise and so they do not. Luckily they do not spend money on meaningless design features to impress people visually though I find them esthetically pleasing.
Audibly they are competitive with, or superior to, the most expensive amplifiers advertised in music oriented and audiophile magazines. They are tubed and still walk over most of the best solid-state amps in the bass range! The stereo version of these superb monoblock amplifiers have not yet gotten into production because of a backlog of orders for the original monoblock versions.
Hank Wolcott has informed me that this month the first new model in many years will begin production and be available after the first of the year. It will look exactly like the original model in most respects, but will be a stereo
(two channel) model at a substantial price reduction. Do not let a forthcoming announcement of a omni directional loudspeaker surprise you. After all, you read it here first.
Seems Logical Why Most Of The
We Review Seems To Be Highly Rates -
A Continuous Reminder
Why not I ask you? After spending quite a bit of time and money to attend the annual CES in Las Vegas, I (and other
Enjoy the Music.com™ reviewers) try to pick out items that are least decent sounding while seeming to be interesting or promising. Actually I try to aim higher than that either on an absolute basis or on a value basis. I spend many days reviewing even the simplest items and weeks for most of them. Actually poorly performing equipment often takes longer. A reviewer has to bend over backwards to make certain a negative comment is accurate; manufacturers get rather touchy about the subject. Compatibility issues may arise, instruction manuals may be confusing or even contradictory and the manufacturer may request return of his product for inspection or send out another sample. That means more break-in/burn-in hours. Who wants to spend extra time evaluating items that don't seem at least promising?
Remote Controls - Final Update
Do you have things such as a satellite dish, VCR, cable, DVD player etcetera hooked up to play through some half way decent speakers while watching the TV or monitor? How long would it take you to explain/show someone how to use everything in your system - then could they actually do it or would it take them half way to forever to get it down pat? Universal Remote Control Company's MX-500's retail price is less than $200. Check out the web site at
www.hometheatermaster.com and see if you can download the latest users manual - that should answer questions you may have. May you be blessed with needing only one remote for everything video and audio and topped off with ease of use. Updating my report is that so far all is going smoothly with this excellent remote control though I have not finished doing everything with it that I may want it to do for me.
The various pieces of equipment in my home theater system had many applicable codes listed with the model MX-500. Though all would work a few basic control functions, typically one would operate many more functions than the others. So when setting up this model try out all the listed codes for your equipment as one or two may be much better than the others. This easy to use and easy to read remote can and does "do it all". Though the preprogrammed codes worked fine with all my components it has a fine learning feature if needed. The macro feature with adjustable timing intervals also works fine. At less than $200 it should enable you to do almost any and every thing remotely. Keep your old remotes for possible backup. Battery life seems to be almost six months even though the screen never turns off. Highly recommended.
Herron Audio Model 150 Amplifiers
The Company continues efforts to improve on their fine products. Latest example is their solid state M-150 power amplifier. A recent upgrade is said to noticeably enhance low-end fullness and richness and Keith Herron thinks he has reached the final plateau in his design. All amplifiers sold in the past few months incorporate the latest minor changes. I have received the recently upgraded version. No other upgrades are anticipated, and his unique design seems to have been taken to its limits. It could be described as having a sound quality reminiscent of the best so-called class A designs without the penalty of either a hot chassis or heat sinks. In addition to running almost cool, it is lightweight and by now should be recognized as a unique design with excellent sound and the above peripheral benefits. This "final upgrade" has added a slight but definite fullness or richness to the entire bass range (call it a definite hint of quality tube sound) without any excessive bloom and with seemingly even greater clarity and detail overall. Descriptions of the Herron amplifiers will no longer include a tonal balance on the lean side of neutral. The former realization of great clarity and detail in the entire bass range (cellos and horns included) remains. Still missing is any more than the slightest hint of solid-state harshness or grain in the highest frequencies on some recordings at high levels.
Can Computer Sound Woes
With New Monsoon
The answer is yes, if its either the Monsoon model MM 1000 or the MM 2000. The Level 9 Sound Designs Inc.
www.monsoonaudio.com has notified me of the new models the Monsoon Planar Media 7 and 9 that are even less expensive than the previously recommended ones. Supposedly the quality is still as high with the new designs. Hopefully I will receive a pair to check that claim. They have also developed a somewhat larger model for advanced computer audio or typical home audio use. I should receive a pair for review shortly. The Monsoons have typically been the answer for a small and simple system for any relatively small room. They have an input jack for a CD player. Nothing else is needed! It is not designed to over power computer game players. With any reasonably good source it is simply remarkably clean, clear and seemingly distortion-less. It is almost specifically designed to have the 2 small flat panels behind, one to the right and one to the left of the monitor and the little woofer/multiple amplifier box on the floor near the wall as in the kneehole area of a desk.
We have used the Monsoons for some years now. I have fooled people into believing they were listening to a high end stereo system costing 100 times as much when these tiny panels were next to the high end speakers and played at a pleasantly moderate level with Diana Krall singing with her trio. All this for $200 - perhaps the biggest bargain I have ever found! Unfortunately the original two models mentioned were hard to find. These are licensed by Bruce Thigpen of Eminent Technology. Eminent Technology offers a more attractive and slightly larger version, model # LFT-11 featuring wood trim for the frame around the flat panels and so on, website
www.eminent-tech.com. Hopefully Bruce Thigpen will send his system to me to play with so I could then also recommend it to you. I have heard it at CES in Las Vegas, but not in my own home.
Maybe DVD-Audio (DVD-A) is getting more and more of a possible foot-in-the-door for increased sales and sales potential. Retail store clerks are selling more and more regular DVD players now as customers replace old CD players. Now if the manufacturers could add the true DVD-A's surround sound capabilities sales might really take off for DVD-A. The buzz is that in short order there will be a mini flood of players that can offer good DVD-A sound plus all or almost all other formats. Some introductions to be at CES and others to follow shortly thereafter. Buzzes being heard in the industry or out in the field:
1A - Pioneer has been shopping its rather well received model DV-47A around to other companies anxious to be able to put their own logo and name on the product to have something to market soon by eliminating a long development period.
1B - Marantz has taken the Pioneer unit and tweaked the audio sections quite extensively with truly good audible results. Supposedly the fairly good video section was not upgraded in this new Marantz Model DV-8300.
1C Companies such as Denon have decided to start from scratch with hopefully superior designs and are rushing them to market. Denon hopes to show their resultant design at CES in January if no hitches occur and have it for sale by the end of February.
2 Coasting along on the coat tails of the extremely successful Denon model 5803 AV receivers, generally acclaimed as the best the industry has to offer, Denon has brought out the new #3803. It has a bit fewer of everything, including watts of output power, a couple fewer inputs and choices and does not claim THX certification. The buzz is that it comes extremely close to the ultimate #5803 model in nearly every way for a fraction of the price. Supposedly it is in a back order mode before actually hitting the market. I should receive my sample by the end of this week and plan to give it at least a brief review in next month's column. This unit promises to be a genuine bargain for those of us who like to save some real bucks in our home theater system.