Enjoy the Music.com

Letters To Us

January / February 2009

Sorry Steve, but I am going to tell you that even for the use you describe in your Sonos review the Logitech solution is superior. The answer is their Duet and their new controller. The reason it is superior is that the open source nature of the software means continuous upgrades and the ability to expand the capability of the system from literally a world wide network of software developers, who provide the capability for free. And the new Logitech controller is sufficiently close to the capability of the Sonos to render the open source nature of the software to be a deal closer, in my opinion. And while I do own a Transporter, which is an excellent DAC, you do not need to own one. With the Duet and the new controller you can use any  DAC you choose, all high end versions of which are better than  either the Duet or the Sonos for critical listening. Anyway, I think any software engineer will tell you that the closed and proprietary nature of the Sonos (or the Sooloos for that matter) renders them fighting the trend of modern software development. Label me unconvinced of the merits of the "easier' closed system solutions after trying both, and very happy to be using Logitech and its implicit army of worldwide developers working on my behalf. Like the iPhone with its thousands of applications appearing from independent developers, closed source systems are not the future of software or high-end audio.

Randy Lert

 

Randy,

Thanks for your e-mail Randy, as I recall the new remote was not available when I initially got the Sonos system. Still, on remote-only concerns the Sonos is so easy to use, has backlit buttons and I find that even blindfolded I can very easily work it. As for the closed Sonos versus open Duet systems, I agree open is better. It all boiled down to my preferences of an easy to use system that did not require constant fiddling. As I am using external DACs where necessary, you are right in that sound quality is moot, per se, as provided the bits are sent flawlessly all things are equal. What I did like about the Sonos system is they you get an impressive amount of free music via 'paid for' subscriptions to various online entities plus the usual introduction offers. Of course there is so much free music out there to enjoy that perhaps the free subscriptions might be moot.

The key deciding factor for me was the analog input on the Sonos, which the Logitech does not have. This is a huge deal if you want to stream your turntable to the bathroom or outside during a party... or the bedroom. Perhaps Logitech will have analog inputs on their next generation of units. Let us hope so, it I a grave mistake to have them not available for users such as myself.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

January / February 2009

Dr. Bill Gaw,

I just read your fine article describing your system. It was quite illuminating. I do have one question. You mentioned that the Onkyo Integra was worth the price since it would cost twice get something better. Is there any pre-pro that is better at any price that does all the things the Integra does? I am having a hard time finding any multi-channel pre-pro that decodes all the things the Integra does (including DVD-Audio, SACD, DTS, Dolby, Blu-ray, etc). Add in Audysey room correction also.

I would like a higher end DAC for the multi-channel hi-res formats then what's in the Integra but I can't find anything around? Do you know of anything? I thought the latest Cary Audio Cinema11a/v solution would be better but it does not decode half the formats of the Integra.

Frustrated digital audio head,

Marc M.

 

Mark,

Unhappily, I know of no high end pre-pro out there for a reasonable price that will do everything the Integra will do. There are several companies such as Krell and Anthem working on it now and there should be several available by the summer. Stay tuned. Integra has also come out with an update to the Integra that has added several features for a modest increase in price.

Dr. Bill Gaw

January / February 2009

Dear Steven,

Oh boy another article about the death of the CD player and likely the CD? Not so fast. Just because digital downloads have gotten more popular, single tracks in particular (most likely throwaway hit
music) doesn't mean the CD player or Redbook CD is going away anytime soon. Kind of sounds like the rumors a few years ago about the death of printed books, newspapers and magazines as the Internet got more popular. For the most part didn't happen. We're finally after 20+ years getting some CD's that sound very good. Better mastering and production, XRCD, and more recently SHM, HQCD and Blu-spec, along with some great players I think are insuring that the standard CD will be with us for the foreseeable future. Just looking at the new mega buck high end players recently unveiled convinces me of that. I doubt that these relatively small companies would put the money into R&D and production if the CD was on its way out. I think a big reason why CD sales dropped is the high prices. Back in the late 80's, early 90's Tower records sold major label CD's for about $13.99. Instead of prices holding or going down as more CD pressing plants came online, they went up. I stopped shopping at Tower when they had major label releases priced at $18.99 or higher! Plus they stopped restocking back catalog and small label music, which they used to excel in. IMO they cut their own throats. Downloading certainly didn't help. People weren't going to pay almost $20 just to get a couple of their favorite tracks.

Another reason I think the CD will survive is the fact that not everyone has a computer. Not everyone that has a computer has a broadband connection suitable for downloading music. I doubt the major record companies will abandon the physical disc, and thus abandon a still relatively large and easy to reach market.

Being an audiophile I had high hopes for SACD. Unfortunately it didn't make it in the mainstream marketplace. The relatively limited number of releases available didn't (doesn't) for me make it worth buying a SACD player. Now they're talking about Blu-ray audio. If DVD- A and SACD didn't make it, why would Blu-ray? Most people aren't that concerned with sound quality. The downloaders who only want a couple of tracks from a record seem to be happy with the low bit, low rez stuff for their computers and iPods.

CD isn't perfect, but it is getting very good. For me its still the best way to purchase music, and get a physical product for my $$ along with booklets, pictures, special packaging, artists signatures, etc. You don't get that with a download. Being a collector, in some cases the packaging is as important as the music. I doubt I'm alone in feeling this way.

Anyway sorry for rambling on, I couldn't help writing a response to your article.

Regards,

Steve Henderson.

January / February 2009

Hello Jeff,

Just finished reading your great review on the Glow Amp One and had a quick couple of questions. I'm looking at purchasing a tube amp for my Klipsch B3 speakers that are rated at about 93 db and will be used with a Mirage powered subwoofer. In your opinion, is the Glow the more musical amp versus the Factory Modified JoLida 102B that was reviewed by Scott? Also, was the rating scale used in comparison to a money no object SEP or if not what is that in comparison to? Thanks again for the great review and for any help that you can give.

Sincerely,

Scott Grinstead

 

Hi,

I haven't had the opportunity to listen to the JoLida so I can't make a comparison. I am, however, listening to the Glow as I type and have used it happily with Tannoys of about 93dB/W/m, but a less than benign load. I  wouldn't mess with a sub though. They are just too hard to integrate satisfactorily. Keep it simple. You don't only have the problem of crossing it over in the right place and the right way with the right slope but you will also find quite a disconnect between the sonic  signature of the solid state Mirage, the Glow and the Klipsches. As to rating, rating corresponds to value for money and in terms of value for money, the glow is a steal.

Jeff Rabin

January / February 2009

Steven,

May I request some advice? I have a 10 year old Roksan Caspian CD player (and amplifier) that requires a service. Roksan are quoting £163 for this. Am I better off just buying a new CD player? Many thanks for your assistance.

Best regards,

Deepak Chanrai

 

Deepack,

That is a great question. Part of the equation is that your CD player is a decade old, and as such much of the digital technology inside of it is greatly outdated. The other end of the equation is that many people today are migrating from CD players to burning their digital discs to computer hard drives and using a system with an external DACs to enjoy their music collection. There is a lot of convenience and ease of use in doing this.

Barring that the Roksan Caspian is not some vintage super magic unit of legendary vintage pedigree, if it was me I'd scrap the unit and seek out a more modern device either being another CD player or, a decision I made, the complete elimination of a CD player and burned my digital disc collection to a large hard drive for music replay. Hope this helps.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

January / February 2009

Mr. Faller,

Scott, I really am intrigued by the MHDT Havana since Jon Ver Halen and I spent an evening comparing his Paradesia+ with my Sony XA777ES player. Your excellent review put me over the top. I plan to place all of my music on my hard drive and forgo the cd player. I am a little bit ignorant as to what is needed in a computer to get the job done (well) when using an outboard DAC, like the Havana. Any educational suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also, I am unable to get any kind of response from MHDT. Are they out of business, as far as you know?

Thanks Scott,

Lance Akridge

 

Hi Lance,

Actually going PC based is fairly easy. The easiest way to do it is to add a big hard drive to your existing computer, something around 1/2 terabyte. A FireWire drive would best best followed by an internal and then a USB external drive. Reason I have the USB last is that you don't want to overload the USB bus while you are streaming music. You want as little on that bus as you can so you get an uninterrupted stream of data to the DAC.

Once you have your drive in place, download EAC (exact audio copy), FLAC (free lossless audio codec), Foobar2000 and ASIO4ALL. EAC is for [near] bit perfect rips of you CDs to your hard drive. FLAC will compress your [now] WAV files. It will squish the files to about 60% of their raw size. Foobar will be your playback front-end for your computer. ASIO is used if you have Windows XP or an earlier version. ASIO is a plug-in that bypasses the Windows Kmixer kernel. The Windows driver sounds fine but ASIO really opens up the sound.

The guys over at Audio Asylum in the PC Audio forum can be really helpful. They've all been doing this for a while. A quick search will yield tons of answers to most questions. One last thing, don't let anybody over at AA try to convince you that the way the Havana converts data via the USB is bad or wrong. Get it setup and listen then let your ears decide if it sounds 'right'. There are a lot of hammer salesmen over there and all they see are nails.

As for MHDT not responding, I wonder if they were away for some reason. I've recently read that a number of people have just received their new DACs. I'd keep trying.  Hope you enjoy the Havana as much as Jon and I do. In fact Jon called and chastised me (in a friendly way) for not being more 'over the top' when I wrote about about the Havana. It really is quite the DAC...and when you consider its cost, I'm not sure a person could do much better with a comparable DAC topology.

Enjoy!

Scott Faller

January / February 2009

Dear Sir,

I have been given a set of Magnepan MGiii speakers with Magnepan matched crossovers. I first heard these 20 years ago when they had just come out of the box and it was amazing. I have held them for 5 years not having what I considered proper equipment to drive them. Being in a financial crunch I was considering selling them so I hooked them up to my old reliable Onkyo receiver just to see if they worked. They did and it was amazing. The sound was like nothing I have heard since that day Terry, my friend first let me hear them. I am now considering building a home theater/audio/library room in my basement around these speakers and selling two of the other sets of speakers I have accumulated over the years.

My concerns are providing correct wattage and clean power to the MGiii's. The factory website no longer mentions this specific model (no surprise). Do you know what the power requirements are? I am aware these are 4 ohm speakers. I have read that 8 ohm amps and receivers can handle the speaker but the issues of distortion and under powering keep arising. Can you please advise some brands and/ or models of receiver/amp/preamp or combinations? Do you really need 3 feet of space behind these for proper air movement? What kind of sound deadening materials can I use on the wall behind them? I am not an audiophile but being moved by the sounds created by the MGiii's had given me an appreciation of real quality sound.

Regards,

Scott Smiley

 

Scott,

Maggies are great speakers and you can call them to learn all the info you need, as they are great people. I do suggest two feet or so behind them and as for material behind them, that is a personal choice. I do suggest using some, and Sonex Acoustical Foam and the like works great. Happy listening and as always...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

January / February 2009

Dear Dr.Gaw,

I'm an audio lover for the past 25 years and all the time looking for the perfect sound which I regretfully haven't found yet! I recently read your review about Vacuum State DPA Amplifier with a great pleasure and I'd like to consult with you in that regard ,utilizing your enormous experience with various amplifiers. Your review was written 5 years ago-would you say your conclusion remain the same until nowadays ?! How would you compare the DPA with the following: AN Japan-Gakuoh Mono, Ongaku Mono and Top of the line-Mal Valve, Cat, Shindo, Mactone, Jadis, Zanden, Tron, Linear B, Monad Mono (Butler audio), Atma Sphere, FM Acoustic, JMF Audio?

Same question as to RTP3D Preamplifier in comparison with best Preamplifiers in the globes including the above mentioned brands +Messenger, Tube Distinctions, Lyra and top of the line of Mal Valve ,Vitus and Martion? Also I'd appreciate your opinion as to the best combination with horn speakers like Martion, Haigner, BD Oris or Wilson or Intuitive design. I apologize for all the complicated questions and thank you in advance for your assistance. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Wishes,

Erez Weinstein

 

Erez,

I am still using the DPA 300's on my main speakers as I have yet to find a more truthful 300B amplifier out there. On the other hand, if you want the typical romanticism of others, such as the Ongaku or Mactones, go for it. Unhappily, I am not familiar with any of the preamplifiers mentioned.

As far as matching equipment, such as amplifiers with certain speakers, the infinite number of combinations precludes any suggestions on my part. What may work for me could be a disaster for you and your hearing sensitivities. Only experimentation on your part will determine what's best for you.

Dr. Bill Gaw

January / February 2009

Hi Phil,

I read your review of power cables with great interest especially your final comment "And if you're still using the cables that came in the boxes with your components, you too should be running, straight to your nearest Nordost dealer." I am in this category (despite having access to a Nordost distributor for wholesale prices) mainly because I have been unable to rationalize the effects of power chords, in particular 2 aspects:

1. at some point in the power chain one reverts back to ordinary electrician's cable, so how can the last meter or so make much difference?

2. at the very low frequencies of the power supply (50/60 Hz) none of the postulated cable effects (inductance, capacitance, skin effects) would seem to operate?

I should point out that, although I am a physicist by training, I do hear differences in components that are hard to measure and so have always used the ear as a final arbiter (indeed when I worked for Linn as their loudspeaker designer in the late 1980s, I convinced them to change from Bennic to Solen capacitors etc etc). My current system (a modified Denon multipurpose player that sends mainly 96kHz/24 bit digital signals directly into a Legend/DEQX Tikandi digitally active system) contains Cardas Golden & Neutral Reference interconnects and Nordost Heimdall (the poor man's Valhalla!) speaker cable chosen because I can hear small differences with these cables - I characterize them as 3rd order changes, compared to 2nd order changes of amps & sources and 1st order changes of loudspeakers which, despite recent advances in materials & electronics, are still the most imperfect part of the hi-fi chain - I never did, even at Linn, believe in Ivor's component hierarchy which was just a (very clever) marketing ploy.

I wonder if it is possible for you to give a sense of where power cables fit on my (or your) scale of importance e.g. are the effects as great as the interconnect & loudspeaker cables that you also reviewed? And whether you have any explanation to the 2 queries above? This would help me decide whether it is worth spending the hard earned dollars (even at wholesale prices as I would need 4 or 5 of them in my system).

Cheers,

Dr Rod Crawford for Legend Acoustics

 

Hi Rod,

Well, you ask that question at a very appropriate time, having been immersed in reviewing all sorts of cables in 2008. The relative influence may be quite system dependent, and also a function of the quality of the electrical supply to your house. There are plenty of people who do not believe power cables or indeed any kind of cables have much of an influence on the sound, and others that take the opposite view. I can just report on what I hear in my own system over an extended period of time. Surprisingly, I found the power cables making more difference than the speaker cables or interconnects, and I have heard quite a few manufacturers supporting this view. Interestingly, EMM Labs ship a serious after market power cord with their CDSA SE Player because they think it makes a significant difference, although very few manufacturers go to this trouble.

Enjoy the music,

Phil

January / February 2009

Hi Clark ! I really enjoyed your article about the Sierra 1 speakers; I also related to you calling yourself a music lover before an audiophile. I can not claim the latter at all; I'm simply a female with incredibly picky ears who has been looking for a new system ever since I had a fire in my apartment in 2007. Mind you, we don't have a lot of different "real" places to go to in NYC where one can test drive a lot of different components. I went to Park Avenue Audio, but my sense is they don't have a lot. I did fall for the Definitive Tech Mythos St, but didn't want to spend $1500 each.

So last weekend, I caved at Best Buy and bought 2 Mythos St speakers, a definitive tech subwoofer and a Denon receiver ( plus TV, but that's another story). The Geek squad delivered it and ( honestly) I hated the sound _immediately. _ High ends literally hurt my ears; muddy sounds make me nuts ; there was absolutely nothing there like the full yet separate sound I heard in the store. They tried to manually adjust the treble and bass separately, but after 20 minutes, the guy said that those are both now pre-set on every amp out there ( WHAT???).

So what's a picky but poor girl to do ? I want my music to be so beautiful that I could weep and I really believe that something exists for me. I would like to sign up for Sirus or XM ( are they merged? whatever you recommend) because I like international broadcasts; I'd also like to get into using and listening to mp-3 or iPod ( I'm a little behind the scene) and would like to plug it all in and have a TV and DVD player as well. That said, the music components are the most important to me and I really don't need a TV in my living room.

Whew, hope you can help. Till then, thanks for your time and my best to you,

Lynda A.

 

Hey Lynda,

Sorry for your rude introduction to audiophilia! Audio systems exist solely for our enjoyment, and its a downer for sure when they produce the exact opposite. I'm not specifically familiar with the equipment you purchased, but on the surface it doesn't seem bad...I would probably recommend a Denon receiver to someone with your specific needs (although I use Onkyo myself in my home theater). Not sure what's up with the "bass and treble are pre-set at the factory" thing...if you send me the model number, I can attempt to sort that out for you.

Overall, your choice of speakers affects your sound more than any other component. However, the most underrated "component" in any audio system is the room. The speakers and the room work together, creating (and then shaping) the sound waves that we actually listen to. That, I think, explains the difference between how your system sounds at home and how it sounded in the huge space that is Best Buy.

Assuming you still have the gear in question, I recommend experimenting with speaker placement. The Geek Squad is fine at getting things hooked up properly, but they're not acoustic engineers. Take a look at these
articles:

www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/manufacture/0602/index.html 
www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/speakerplacement.html 

...play around a bit, and let me know how it goes. You may find that the idea position for the speakers is one you can't live with long term...that's fairly common. I keep mine in a mildly obtrusive "compromise" position most of the time, then move them into a massively obtrusive ideal position for critical listening, listening parties, writing reviews, etc.

Putting together an emotionally moving audio system is something of a journey, but figuring out how your room works will help you no matter what you end up with. Of course, taking time along the way to stop and enjoy the music makes it all worth while. I hope that helps, and I hope you had (or are having) a great holiday!

Take Care,

Clarke Robinson

January / February 2009

Hi Steven Stone,

First thanks very much for the review on the PSB Imagine B bookshelf speakers. I own a pair and find them fantastic and agree very much with the review. One question I do have though is the statement about pairing them with a subwoofer:

"If you use the Imagine sans port plug I suggest you set the subwoofer's high-pass at least 10 Hz below the Imagine's published roll-off specification of 52 Hz for optimum low frequency integration."

Are you recommending that you set the subwoofer crossover at 42Hz? This is the first time I have heard that type of recommendation where there would be a gap between the low frequency response of the bookshelf and the high-frequency cutoff of the subwoofer. Can you please explain the logic for this? I have a PSB Subsonic 6i subwoofer and the best performance is around 65Hz (realizing of course the standing wave issues).

Thanks very much,

Tony Olsen

 

Hi Tony,

Thank you for your note. If you are using an electronic crossover 65 Hz will work fine. If you are using the PSB's in a nearfield set-up as I did you may find that without a crossover using this setting may result in a more full midbass response that ideal. My "logic" is that most subs do not roll-off sharply above their high-pass settings, so if you set it at 65Hz without an electronic crossover limiting the "spill" you will have more doubling from both the sats and sub in the 55 to 85 region than would be ideal.

Steven Stone

January / February 2009

Dear Dr. Bill Gaw,

I was just wondering if you might briefly describe the subjective differences between the RAAL and the T500A mk2; alas I can't afford the waterdrops, but the 140-15D looks extremely interesting. Great column btw! Best wishes for the holidays and thanks very much for any advice you can provide.

Chris

 

Chris,

One can construct a home built waterdrop by going to Home Depot and purchasing the round forms used for concrete and cutting them to proper size to attach to the RAAL drivers, then filling the space inside with fiberglass insulation or possibly Sonex. I have found no need for this as I have hung them on brackets in free air above the mid horns.

Their advantage over the T500A is their quickness and their ability to go out to beyong 35000 Hz. I know, we're not supposed to hear that far out but there have been experiments that show that humans do react to those high frequencies, possibly by their interaction with the lower frequencies. Of course if you are listening only to CD's with their 20,000 Hz. cutoff this is no advantage, but DVD-Audio, SACD, Blu-ray, and analog can have these frequencies. In my system there is more air and feeling of space.

Their disadvantage is their 95 dB per watt sensitivity compared to the 106 dB efficient T500A, which matches better to most mid horn drivers. In my system this required a preamp placed between the active crossover and RAAL. Luckily I had a superb preamp from Larry Smith hanging around which fit the bill perfectly.

Best Regards,

Dr. Bill Gaw

January / February 2009

Hi Clarke,

I received two of the DN-C640 CD players recently and experienced problems with a CD stopping for no apparent reason in the middle of playing a track. I really can't trust these decks. Why can't Denon solve this problem? You should know that the most important feature of a CD player would be to play a CD without stopping. I saw you updated the firmware. My firmware is A-1.11 and drive version is V1.001.Can you give a web link to download the new firmware or you email me the firmware. Think a lot.

Batecam

 

Hi Batecam,

I don't have a link, as Denon typically provides firmware updates via CD-ROM, and unfortunately I have since deleted the files they sent me. I got them from their tech support people at this link... who emailed them to me because I was in a hurry to make a deadline. There is probably a similar page somewhere on www.dm-pro.jp. For the record, however, I never had any problems with the player stopping in the middle of a track. If the decks are new, they are probably still under warranty, and may require service or replacement. You have probably already thought of this, but you might also check to make sure the CDs are completely clean (no fingerprints, scratches, etc.).

I hope that helps!

Clarke Robinson

January / February 2009

Steven,

Regarding Dan Shanefield's article about absolute polarity. I think he is missing one basic point - which is, unless you have speakers which have all drivers connected with the same polarity (i.e. typically 6dB slopes - or, better still, a full-range driver) … you won't be able to hear absolute phase anomalies.

Regards,

Andy Redwood

 

Andy,

Thanks for your e-mail. Agree that different types of crossover networks do indeed affect the driver polarity; there are still ways to hear polarity for those who have good speakers that have relatively accurate phase characteristics. You point is valid, and perhaps it is high time loudspeaker manufacturers start stating the polarity swing of their products, too.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

January / February 2009

Steven,

Long time no talk.... Got a question for you. With all of the great new vinyl re-releases out there, is there a sure fire way of finding out which are in fact mastered from an analog master and therefore a true warm happy analog record? I did some research on the Michael Jackson 25th anniversary Thriller and the consensus on the web is that it was in fact a digital re-master and not from the original master tape. (If you know different let me know.) Anyway any info you have on the subject would be appreciated.

Enjoy the music!

James E.

 

James,

Excellent question! The only way of KNOWING is to see if they state they used the original ANALOG masters. If they do not say it, I would be leery. Classic Records reissues seems to always use the original analog masters as does Analog Production/Acoustic Sounds.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

January / February 2009

Hi Scott ...

My name is Joel Harris (s1rrah on Head-fi), I too am a huge fan of the MHDT products and have had similarly good fortune as your own in regards to just one day finding a Havana on my door step. Mouse and the gang sent me one to demo/review at the Houston Head-fi.org meet a couple months ago. Suffice it to say, I've worked out arrangements to keep the Havana and my still beloved Paradisea has been on the shelf ever since.

I found your comments regarding the Havana vs. Paradisea to be eerily on  point with what I too have noticed after several hundred hours of critical listening. Especially the low level resolution advantages of the Havana, which have seriously transformed the listening experience on some of my more delicately/quietly produced chamber music.

Wanted to thank you for a fine review. and BTW I beg borrow or steal a decently tested Bendix 6385 tube! You won't be sorry and they are easily worth the 100 or so bucks you'll end up paying for one. Sonically, that tube has no equal to my ear in the Havana.

Best,

Joel Harris

 

Hi Joel,

Thanks for the kind words regarding the article. After I finished writing it, I did a quick search and came to your posts about your impression of the Havana. You're right, it looks like we are hearing the same thing which is great affirmation. I was lucky enough to be able to do a true A/B with a remote switch to hear and write about the differences I heard between the Havana and the Paradisea. I still enjoy the Paradisea and use it in my office system (modified JoLida 102b and the Aperion 632LRs) but the Havana has found a home in my main reference system. I doubt seriously that any other USB tube DAC will replace it. It's simply a superb DAC, regardless of cost, providing you and your system crave the NOS sound.

I've got one of the Bendix 5670s. Its definitely a nice sounding tube but in my system that little WE396 fits like a glove. Smooth, detailed, superb harmonics and tonally 'right' when mated to my speakers.

Enjoy!

Scott Faller

January / February 2009

Hello Scott,

Having just read your Enjoy the Music.com review on Havana DAC, I was hoping that you may be able to add a small extra dose of your opinion back to myself regarding 'when to go NOS vs up-sampling'. I have at home what I consider to be a very musical, detailed and revealing system that pleases me very much. CDP is Vecteur L4.2, Vinyl is done with either Lenco L75/slatedeck plinth or Thorens TD-160/SME. Audiomat Arpege' powers Equation 7 speakers and, once in a while, little Maggie MMG's. I have been toying with the idea to upgrade CDP with used Audiomat DAC (Tango 2.5) but have yet to hear a DAC behind my Vecteur... partly because the stand alone box sounds terrific, the Tango is expensive and hard to get used and, generally have not felt need too.

Now curiosity is driving me to find out if I am missing something by not using later model DAC's... hence my read of your review. I really appreciate your points on system synergy, but I am having hard time coming to terms with discerning just which DAC technology would compliment my system. As stated, my system is very detailed... maybe a little 'light' (not bright). Some times I feel that more body (maybe just some good old fashioned coloration) would be just the right touch to my set up. Audiomat produces, from all accounts, superb DACS that would obviously work well with Audiomat amps (which are all tubed) These are up-sample DACs. Have heard Benchmark at dealers store before and thought it was atrocious.... could not see this in my system ever. Now with the NOS Havana on the scene, I was hoping you could shed a little light on the 'target' audience for this DAC. Would you consider this DAC, used as stand alone initially (PC source later) be genuine upgrade to higher calibre CDP? Or is a product in this price point merely a means to bring more affordable sources up quality/enjoyment level that I may already be experiencing. Could I be barking up the wrong tree??

Any reply that you can find time for would much appreciated Scott,

Take Care,

Cory Kerik

 

Hi Cory,

I wish I could say that I've heard any of your system components but unfortunately I haven't so it would be hard for me to say with any confidence how the Havana might sound in your system. On the other hand, my system is extremely detailed and forward sounding which may or may not be similar to yours. In my system, the Havana is a perfect match in my system. Loads of detail without the edginess of an upsampling DAC. The Havana, when used with the right tube, adds plenty of 'body' to the sound without any hints of being lush, warm or colored. Of course, the great thing about tubes is just 'roll' them and you get a completely different character from the DAC to bring balance to your system.

When it comes to the price point of the Havana, don't let that fool you. MHDT is a small family run shop in Taiwan who doesn't have a large dealer/distribution network that gets 40 margin points on the sale so the pricing is very reasonable. It is truly a superior sounding DAC, hence my generous ratings. It might just be exactly what you've been looking for in your system. If you go for it, let me suggest the WE396 or the Bendix red bank tube. Those two are the most neutral sounding tubes I've used in this DAC and as you'll find, the NOS JAN tube supplied is a little thick and rolled.

When it comes to using it as a USB DAC fed from a PC (or MAC), providing you use a lossless file format and a decent computer interface with ASIO, you will be amazed at how this little unit sounds. I've had and heard a number of very expensive traditional CD players that don't sound nearly as good as the Havana does when fed straight from a PC (or MAC). In fact, I don't use a CD player in my system any more. Its either vinyl (two decks) or the Havana.

Hope that helped and kind regards,

Scott Faller

January / February 2009

Good Day Mr. Faller,

First let me take the opportunity to thank you for the review of the MHDT Havana, along with the other reviews you have written. The MHDT in particular does not get much mainstream attention so your impressions are most welcome.

I wanted to ask a couple questions if you don't mind. I am currently looking for a source for my system, which I use solely for headphone listening (all my listening is done through 'phones). I will be using a Woo Audio WA2, which is a relatively warm OTL design. I will also be using my Macbook as the source of lossless audio files, connected via Toslink (which I prefer to USB). My questions are:

- Do you find the DAC relatively warm in character? I am just a little weary of pairing up a warm DAC with an already-warm amp for and overly lush or euphonic end result.

- Did you perhaps get a chance to try out the Toslink input and was it asgood as the coax/USB? - have you perhaps had a chance to listen to the Cambridge Audio 840C? If so, how you would compare it to the Havana?

In regard to the last question, the Havana and 840C could not be more different; at the moment these are the two sources I have on my shortlist. The Cambridge will be a little more expensive; the added feature of being to play discs is useful (though not mandatory as pretty much all of my listening is done via the Macbook). The 840C has obtained some very high praise and I wonder if the Havana plays in the same sonic league in terms of its detail extraction and refinement.

With kind regards,
C. Lerner

 

Hi,

Thanks for the kind words about the article. Unfortunately I haven't heard the Woo 2 but I think I understand what you mean about it being 'warm' sounding. If you have offset the 'warm' character of the Woo with some forward sounding headphones, I would suggest the Havana as your source. If your headphones are somewhat neutral-to-warm the 840c might be a better match to bring your system into balance.

Let me drill down a little further on the questions you asked. The Havana definitely is not warm, lush or euphonic. In fact, it is one of the most detailed non-oversampling DAC's I've listened to, if not *the* most detailed. The caveat to that statement is that you must use a revealing tube like the WE396 or the Bendix. You are right, the Cambridge is a completely different animal. It upsamples where the Havana doesn't and there are fairly significant differences in the sound. In turn, you will get more 'perceived' detail because of the upsampling algorithm its onboard chip uses. This is why I said if your amp is warm and your cans are neutral to warm, an upsampling DAC might be 'right' choice for your system. I did try the Toslink on the Havana and it sounds fine. Just be sure to use a decent Toslink cable. The one I used was the Glass Audio Toslink that I picked up off eBay. Decent sounding cable for sane prices ($25).

I'd like to suggest one thing before you invest your money in a DAC. Go out and listen to a good non-oversampling DAC/CD player and then directly compare it to one that upsamples. Make sure you listen to both on a reasonably revealing system. You need to hear the sonic differences before you commit to one or the other. Maybe you could even take your amp and cans with you so you can get a 'live' demonstration of the sound.

Hope that helped and kind regards,

Scott Faller

 

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