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January 2005


I read with great interest your info on the ER 4p headphones. I am a High School band director who is looking for a way to turn down the sound in the rehearsal. My ears take quite a beating standing in front of an 80 piece band. I have tried the custom ear plugs, which make it hard to hear the higher frequencies. Would the ER 4p's work in conjunction with a microphone system to alleviate my problem? Would I hear a faithful reproduction of all of the sound, only at a lower decibel level? Would I experience that loud fingers in your ears type sound when I use my voice to give directions? Is there any other product out there that would better fit my problem? Thanks for any farther info you can give. 

Steve Kunkel


The ER4p should work well as they offer a high isolation. Naturally for best performance you may want to get custom ear inserts fitted to them. The Shure units have the highest isolation i know of so they should be better than other alternatives. Of course the sound you hear through the Shure ER4p is only as good as the microphones, the mic's positioning, mic amps, etc.

As a musician, drummer if you must know, i fully understand about desiring lower SPL levels to protect one's hearing. Wishing you and yours all the very best this holiday season. As always...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin


January 2005

Dear Mr. Olsher,

I enjoyed and appreciated your review on this amp. I have a SAP horn speaker which is designed for active bi-amping (removable crossover). I have the custom active crossover and the 45 tube amp for the midrange horn and supertweeter. I would like to use the F-1 for the two 12" woofers in each speaker. The sensitivity of the the twin woofers is supposed to be 102 dB. I contacted the distributor who talked with Nelson Pass. He said: "Dick Olsher is using it on the bottom end of the Panther speaker and is happy with a single 12" Emininence woofer. The F1 most favors the 8 ohm range, but will drive 4 and 16 ohms at about 6 watts or so." My goal is to obtain tight, quality, natural sounding bass that does not have the wooly character that I sometimes hear in some tube amps. This is why I am considering a solid state amp for the woofers. I wanted to get your thoughts on your experience and/or thoughts on using the first watt for this application. I appreciate your time.


Reg Sanders, MD


Dear Dr. Sanders:

Thank you for the kind feedback.

Being a current drive design, the First Watt F1 is not really compatible with most conventional bass box designs. I suspect that your twin 12-inch woofers are loaded in a vented enclosure. That implies a major bass boost when driven by the F1; in other words, boomy bass. In addition, the F1 would be much happier driving an 8-ohm nominal impedance woofer (single 8-ohm woofer), rather than a four-ohm or so load resulting form operating a pair of woofers in parallel. For these reasons, I would recommend a conventional voltage-controlled solid-state amplifier for your application.

Happy holidays!

Dick Olsher


January 2005

Dear Mr. Flood,

I'm a beginner in DIY but, in the past, I have made the feeding cable for my audio chain and, now, I'm building a mains filter: Wadia 23, preamplifier VTL de luxe, amplifier Krell KSA 50 watts and Magneplanar 3.3/R loudspeakers. Now I want to carry out an audio chain of completely different philosophy: amplifier with low watts and middle-high efficiency loudspeakers. I have seen some kits here in Italy but I believe that they are too expensive and, for this reason (besides the favorable euro-US dollars), I'm looking at American or Canadian products (Decware, Bottlehead, Mapletree Audio Design, Sophia, Handmade Electronics, Wright and Welbourne).

Of course I have to value the cost of the shipping and duty, but I think that, even so, the purchase will be cheaper. Besides I have to buy the right loudspeakers. Now the questions.... I could buy both the assembled product and the kits. In this last circumstance do you believe I will be able to assemble the kit (I have a 45 watts temperature controlled iron)? Could I have some difficulties with the construction or the translation of the manuals (I know English enough)? Another question... I don't want spend a lot of money (about 1500 dollars). What product do you advise? Some advice even for loudspeakers? I don't like the muffle sound of, for instance, Conrad-Johnson but it doesn't mean that I don't like the warm sound of some valves. Besides Magneplanar loudspeakers don't have great bass and, in my new chain, I would prefer an amplifier and loudspeakers with a little more bass without a good mid and high range. Maybe Do I claim too much? Probably Is it better the SET? c.. Could I have problems with guarantee and payment?

Thank you very much for information,

Leandro Lioce



Thank you chap, for the letter from across the pond. I do believe a SET amplifier with ultra-high sensitivity loudspeakers is a great route to audio nirvana, but that won't give you more bass than the flat panel speakers either. Both routes require a powerful subwoofer. I think the strong Euro should be exploited with American or Canadian products. I know Bottlehead, Wright and Welbourne and can recommend their products. I think if you can make a "mains filter," you can make an amplifier kit. The wiring diagrams are usually included. Besides, first you have to buy the right loudspeakers.

Happy New Year, Yours in Listening,


another reply

Hi Leando,

When it comes to kits, the best I've heard that should meet you needs is probably Ron Welborne's 300B DRD monoblocks. I recently had a pair in my room to audition and they were stunning. In fact, after the first of the year I will be building a pair for myself. The DRD is an extremely clean sounding amplifier. When it comes to loudspeakers, I would look towards the Audio Note line. They are mid-90's efficiency and are very musical. They will mate to a 300B extremely well. Peter Q. offers many different variations and price ranges. He even has DIY kits if you feel so inclined. You may want to look at his kit amp line also.

As for your English, you seem to have a good grasp of our language so the instructions should be no problem for you. Your 45 watts soldering iron will be just fine. You can always hook a dimmer switch to it to regulate the temperature if you wish (be sure to put it in a proper housing of course). Regarding payment and guarantee, Ron (I'm sure) will accept a wire transfer or a credit card (he sells worldwide). Ron is a very honorable guy, so you will have zero worry's about guarantee. I think when you are done assembling the Welborne DRD's, Audio Note Speakers coupled with your VTL pre and Wadia CD player, you will be extremely happy with the sound. Now you just need to add a turntable :-)

Happy building!
Scott Faller


January 2005

Hello Colin,

I was glad to see your review of the ASL Aq-1003dt this month. I have owned this amp for almost a year and have been very pleased with it, but rarely see it mentioned. I was wondering if you could suggest some compatible equipment that might best suit my needs. I currently have the amp hooked up to a pair of JM Reynaud Twins (MK2), a Cambridge Audio D500SE, and am using Dh Labs Silver Sonic BL-1, and Q-10 for cabling. I use this system to listen mainly to classic rock and a little bit of jazz, and am finding it to be weak in a few areas. My first concern is the lack of bottom end from my speakers, which is to be expected for monitors their size. I am considering purchasing a pair of floorstanding soliloquy speakers (6.2, 6.3, etc.). Do you think this would be a reasonable upgrade, or is this amp underpowered to really give such speakers the input they require? I also find that the sound can become too washed out. During strong guitar solos I have a hard time hearing the detail in the background. I think this may be a result of using a budget CDP, do you think upgrading to something such as the Ah Tjoeb 4000 would be a step in the right direction? Thank you for any advice, I always look forward to your columns. 

Todd Olson,


I am NOT surprised that the French loudspeakers give your ASL amplifier a hard time, since they have nominal 4-ohm impedance, meaning impedance might actually be much lower or steeper in other parts of the curve. Their frequency response is only 55Hz to 22000 kHz, which means that you are missing a good deal of bass and harmonic information. I have
not heard the Soliquoy loudspeakers, except to say that they have a good reputation for quality sound and a much deeper frequency response. I did drive Aperionís slim 522D Powered Towers easily with the ASL AQ 1003 DT integrated EL34 tube amplifier, but those loudspeakers also have their own solid-state woofer amplifier. I think adding a deep powered subwoofer, like the SVS tubes, is a reasonable upgrade. It will extend your musical range and add excitement to your movies. The Cambridge Audio CD player also seems to have a good reputation. Before trying something new though, I would experiment with something like my vibration isolation platforms, or the Gingko Audio ones to see if that helps bring out the details.

Have a good year, yours in listening,



January 2005


The Walker Audio Extreme Silver contact treatment interests me but.... It is commonly accepted that copper wires sound smoother than silver , which yield greater detail. I enjoy the copper approach for its smoothness and am quite willing to give up any more detail to be gotten by the silver. Does using this contact treatment give a more detailed silver type sound and less of the copper type sound?


Jeffrey Rose



Not that I can hear. What it does is removes the gap that occurs in any free connection allowing the electrons to flow more freely across the connection. I think the effect is similar to soldering the wires, but better as one is using pure silver rather than lead.



January 2005

Dear Phil, 

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the Pro-Ject Tube SE phono stage. So much the more since your review triggered a trip to my local dealer and subsequent purchase yesterday! In my brief listening here at home, I heartily concur with your observations and thank you for sharing your expertise and opinions.


Steve Greene


January 2005


I am having trouble finding Pro-Ject gear out on the west coast of Canada, can you tell me where you picked up yours? Also, I found a used "Speed Box" for sale but the price was $122 Cdn., from a guy in Canada, but you quote the MSRP as $129 Cdn., so was that a mistake?

Thanks for any help,

Bob Clarke


Hi Bob,

Thanks for you questions. They are pretty straightforward. I received my Pro-Ject gear for an extended audition period only from the Canadian distributor, Essential Audio. Kurt Martens, President of Essential Audio came round himself to setup the turntable, and I found him to be an extremely knowledgeable and helpful fellow. Without knowing your exact location, I can't direct you to the closest dealer, but there are several Pro-Ject dealers in BC. You might try Blue Door Electronics in Parksville. Given that a new Speed Box is $129 Cdn, and yes, that is indeed the current list price, a used one at $122 Cdn doesn't sound like much of a bargain. I do think the Speed Box gives a worthwhile improvement to the sound, so I strongly recommend it.

I hope this is helpful. 

Enjoy the Music!



January 2005

Hello Rick, 

I enjoy a similar system as yours in 2003. I want to change my current Cary 805 amps for something more transparent, fast, extended and tight (and also cheaper) I have just read your review of the Manley Mahis monoblocks I also think about Atma-sphere S30. Could you do a comparison among the S30 and the Mahis? Do you think that they will be better than the Carys in those related aspects, specially transparency and extension?

Manuel Garcia



I have not had an opportunity to audition the S30, though I might have heard it at a show--I'm not sure. The Atma-spheres are certainly very highly regarded, as are Manley and Cary. I define transparency as being like taking sunglasses on or off--the entire acoustical image becomes more or less dark. Focus, on the other hand is like putting prescription eyeglasses on or taking them off -- you can read the fine print better, or not at all.

Again, I've heard the 805s in numerous systems at shows, but not in my reference system. I suspect the Mahis have greater transparency, but perhaps not quite as much focus. As to frequency extension, Both will go relatively low...

Best wishes,

Rick Becker


January 2005

Hello Wayne,

I first heard of you when I read your review of the Von Schweikert VR2 speaker on his website. You were kind enough to respond to my inquiry. Based mostly on your review, I purchased a pair of VR2's in African Hazelwood. We, my wife and I, have really enjoyed the great sound, and the good looks too, of these speakers. They are excellent performers. I wanted to thank you very much for your sage advice and the great work that you are doing.

Very best regards and happy holidays,

Ted Palmer


Hello Ted and thanks for writing,

It's most gratifying to hear that your VR2s are bringing you so much pleasure. I wish the two of you happy holidays and years of music listening together.

Best wishes,



January 2005

Hi Colin,

In your current on line article about ASL the amplifier, your reviewer mentioned it is the "business vehicle of Tasha Goka." Are you referring that he owns Antique Sound Lab? I thought it was own by someone else? Please let me know as I own an AQ1001 as well as other tube equipment and I like to keep up to date on my facts.

Thank you and best regards,

Martin Ng


Thanks for asking Martin,

According to Tash Goka, they are not the manufacturers. ASL products in DT versions are specially made for them and North American distribution. We import and distribute them. ASL is owned by Joseph Lau and his wife Diane and he own Divergent Tech. and Reference 3A loudspeakers. Now we know.

Yours in Listening,



January 2005


I read your review on Meadowlark Blue Heron - it is great review i would ask you what do you think about that speaker with Unison Research 6S amplifier do you think they can work well together

Gideon Stein


Hello Gideon, 

I am not personally experienced with the Unison Research S6, but I believe that this 35 W per channel tube integrated amplifier would sound good with the Blue Herons within its power range. The first-order crossover and fairly consistent impedance curve of the BH are both tube-friendly characteristics. However, the limited power output of the S6 would limit listening levels beyond a moderate playback volume. So the answer depends on your listening preferences. If most of your listening is at quiet levels, the S6/BH combination should be OK. If you like to pump up the volume you're going to need a bigger amp. 

Best wishes, 

Wayne Donnelly


January 2005


You wrote a review of the antique sound labs AV8 mono blocks (the $99 ones) not too long ago. I know they are out of production but I figured I would ask around and see if anyone knew where I could source a pair of them.


Keith Nathanson


I did indeed Keith. Love what the dirt-cheap ASL Wave 8s did with both quality cone and big ole horn loudspeakers. These charming units give a good measure of the tube sound, but have now matured to $345 Wave AV-20 DTs. I asked the accommodating Tasha Goka to forward many of his 2A3 and new amplifiers for review. I will certainly try to get my miserly little hands on those cheap puppies to see hear what they are worth. Since my understanding is that the amplifiers are made for ASL in China, I canít help you "source" a pair, except to suggest that you troll eBay and Audiogon for sales.

Yours in Listening,



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