Enjoy the Music.com

Letters To Us

 

March 2007

Hi,

I need a high quality music recorder deck, what is your recommendation?

Warm regards,

Kamran

 

Hi Kamran,

Our reviewer Bill Gaw would probably suggest the Tascam DV-RA1000HD High Definition Digital Recorder. Please see his article by clicking here. Always glad to help.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

March 2007

Steven,

So you don’t think the omega iTower sounds great for 300 dollars?

Jason Grimes

 

Jason,

Thanks for your e-mail. If you enjoy them that is great. My article was really more about claims within the catalog, "Color me stunned (at first) as the store Sharper Image, once know for selling very high quality products, is now promoting $199 to $299 single-tower speakers for the iPod and making all sorts of sound quality claims... While audio plug-ins can benefit some systems like the Shaper Image iTower, one would hope it would not a chosen solution over getting higher performance products in the first place."

i note Sharper Image claims in the all-in-one single tower SM252BLK specifications, "two subwoofers — with 60 watts of power and a frequency response of 100Hz to 16KHz."

Please see various glossaries online for the definition for what is considered a subwoofer.

ALSO

A speaker designed to produce the lowest audio frequencies at an adequate volume. Most subwoofers, or "subs" as they're commonly called, are designed to operate from 80 Hz downwards, as the ear can usually pinpoint the source of any higher frequencies. The bass units of small three-piece systems are commonly referred to as subwoofers, but they often have limited output below 50 Hz or so. www.diysubwoofers.org/define.htm.

Am curious about their use of the word "subwoofer." Some technically skilled engineers in the field of audio would probably agree with me that 100Hz lowermost frequency response may not truly be a subwoofer.

So...

I called Kelvin at Sharper Image 1-800-344-5555 and asked him about the subwoofer situation and 100Hz specification. He says the information he has is "insufficient to answer my question." Kevin, who was a really nice guy on the phone, took down my information and said Sharper Image would be e-mailing the answer concerning the subwoofer claim and also the claim of stereo.

Years ago I purchased various items from Sharper Image and love their stores, to this day I still visit them at various locations during my travels. While my heart harks back to the days of Sharper Image really being on the cutting edge with some really cool and advanced gadgets, perhaps my heart sank when seeing the iTowers. It would be like the great manufacturer McIntosh making a $99 amplifier that, well, was like the average $99 amplifier found in various retail outlets.

The point I was trying to make within my article is that consumers are purchasing lower-than-CD resolution music. The 16-bit/44kHz technology for CD is decades old. So instead of, as technological advances would dictate, increasing sound quality we now find ourselves with the lower than CD iTunes music. We will no try to discuss the even higher resolution DVD-Audio and SACD (available for years), or the new HD-DVD or Blu-ray formats.

And I quote my article, "In conclusion, today the high-end audio industry has the greatest opportunity to show people the difference between their chosen low-fi system and what true high-end audio can achieve. This is our Golden Opportunity, so let us not blow it!"

As a sidebar, SRS is a very impressive technology. Just got off the phone with Mike at SRS Labs and I love the things SRS Labs have been doing. Psychoacoustics is something that has intrigued me for many years. It began when I purchased the then new Lexicon CP-1 surround processor about a decade ago. To make a long story short concerning surround sound, Mike admits that of course a $300 tower will not produce stereo like an audiophile setup and this is honest and fair. It is also fair to say SRS Labs does some truly outstanding work in their field and they provide solutions for the audio market.

So I guess bottom line is while we could hope to get, as an example, the performance of an approximate value $65,000 Z06 Corvette at basic $16,000 Chevy car pricing, the reality is of course different. Because I am a musician and audiophile, my hopes are to see consumers find interest in enhancing their musical pleasures via products that deliver a good amount of what is capable. Perhaps I am an old codger or a bit more discriminate than the average consumer, yet it is good to at least have today's consumer aspire to achieve better than circa 1984 sound quality in 2007. It is a combination of factors that starts at the source of the music and extends all the way to the loudspeakers.

Hopefully you, as a consumer, value music and perhaps could invest more than $300? If so, hopefully my nearly hour long in making calls and typing this is not in vein. While I could make suggestions, I feel at this time it would be best for you to look around at various alternatives. Perhaps visit a better audio store and decide what level of sound quality you desire. If you have not done so, please consider listening to a $5,000 or so audio system as it may be good for you to hear the possibilities available in that price range.

There are various self-powered loudspeakers that work with the iPod and please seek out listening to as many of them as you choose. My hopes are that you find a system that provides you an enjoyable experience for many years to come. If that just so happens to be the iTower so be it. If it just so happens you discover something else, are dare we say, a nice $1,000 or more separates system that offers better technical performance, that is great too. In my opinion it is not what "sounds great for $300," the point is what are you willing to invest to receive years of musical pleasure. If it is only $300 then perhaps the iTower is the product for you.

Have a wonderful weekend and now go out there, bring your iPod, CD or DVD-Audio discs and do some listening :)

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

Steven,

I guess my point is this is marketed for the iPod and not a high end home audio system. Your article is biased due to your high end taste, bad mouthing the omega iTower which is a very good product. There are no RCA connections or any other that are normally used with home hi-fi. The only auxiliary input that is offered is a 3.55 mm stereo audio jack and using that with a pigtail is not the first choice for a surround sound home audio theater.

I too miss the days of the sharper image museum but obviously they had to change for marketing reasons. How do you know what users are purchasing as far as lower than CD quality music? Itunes is not the only source for music of course.

Jason Grimes

 

Jason,

You make a good point concerning what consumers may be looking for. After all, not everyone is looking for better audio and, perhaps, simply desire sound of any sort. Was using iTunes as an example, as they have sold millions of lossy compressed songs. Would you rather have everyone pay 99 cents for lossy compressed music or lossless?

Over the years the general idea of hi-fi (short for high-fidelity) was to offer increasing performance characteristics for better overall performance. This was the general idea from the 1950's to around 1990 or so. It appears the masses now have more access to the exact opposite, which is lower quality than they may have had a decade earlier. Would you agree that compressed audio such as that offered by iTunes is lower music resolution than CD? Would you agree that many inexpensive audio products only further lower the possibility to achieve a basic low distortion 60Hz to 20kHz sound production? And lastly, do you feel it is a good thing that millions of consumers are not aware of what is truly capable from a high-end audio system, so they know the differences?

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

March 2007

Bill,

I read your review of the APC S15 and it sounds like it would "help" my system. I live in a NY area co-op so the power is all over the place. Unlike you, my system is in the baby stages as I'm only using a Cayin 100T tube amplifier and a Rega Apollo Cdp. The Cayin runs my front speakers when I use my surround sound system which includes a Anthem Avm 30 processor and a 5-channel Rotel Amp as well as a plasma. Following several members advice I installed a dedicated 15amp circuit and this helped a lot. For now I'm only using a Richard Gray 400 conditioner but that does nothing to regulate the voltage especially with the dips I experience. I have an opportunity to get an Exact Power 15 Ampere for about $1,650 or an APC s15 for about $1,000. For me that's a big enough difference in $$ to consider the APC. During your research did you see any comparable reviews or opinion about the APC vs. the Exactpower? At this point I'm leaning to the EP but I need to make a decision in the next day.

Any insight you can provide a RAW newbie would be appreciated.

Miles Martin

 

Miles,

Have not used the Exactpower equipment but have never seen a bad review on it. I believe it has the added advantage of being able to use a balanced AC circuit, meaning taking 240 volts from both sides of your service and converting it to 120 volts. This has the advantage of somewhat more noise reduction but you'd probably have to run another line to your room. If you only have the one 15 Ampere line, then you'd probably be better off with the APC unit for its cost. Again, every house is different as to what sort of noise is coming into the system and what needs to be filtered out, so its really a matter of experimentation to find the proper unit.

Bill

 

March 2007

Dear Mr. Gold,

My apologies for the unexpected interruption into your day, but I was hoping you could offer some practical / professional advice regarding a amplifier purchase I am considering making.

To back track a bit - About 3 years ago, I had the opportunity to hear a Rogue Audio Atlas amplifier (50 watts per channel) pouring out of some Linn bookshelves. Needles to say, I was impressed. Flash forward 2 years later and I then had the opportunity to hear a pair of Totem Arros put on an show, while speaker shopping for my solid state amplifier. Suffice it to say, those humble little speakers stunned me with their huge soundstage & wondrous pace. Unfortunately, my solid state electronics had way too much power to even consider them (Jamo 7 channel 150 watt a/v receiver). And like a brick it hit me - maybe a separate 2 channel system would be just what the doctor ordered. Then I began to considered the cost of what building a high quality 2 channel stereo set-up would be like & reality set in - Yikes!!

Long story short, I spent most of last summer researching respectable, but reasonably priced 2 channel amplifiers & came up with a list of the following possibilities:

Conrad Johnson CAV 50 or MV 60 integrated amplifier (1st choice - but definitely would have to be used in order to afford) 
Rogue Audio Cronos (The integrated version of the Atlas amp - at $1700.00 it's not the cheapest possibility, but definitely reasonably priced for the quality level) 
Jasmine Piano (similar in price to the Rogue, definite image presence and highly praised by Positive Feedback Online & found a used one for $900.00) 
McIntosh 275 (Although legendary in status - they seam all to common - you can find oodles of used ones for sale online, not to mention you can still get them from the factory and yet there is very little price difference between the two) 
McIntosh 240 (Pros: rare, good pedigree, singularly cool, found a used one for $900.00/ Cons: a bit long in the tooth - potentially costly future repairs) 
All this goes to say, I'm not sure what to do - holdout for a CJ, jump on the Rogue, Take the relative new Jasmine or stop looking a gift-horse in the mouth an choose one of the McIntosh amps. The bottom line is, while I don't have the huge budget of the typical audiophile, I do want something nice. 

So, any words of wisdom to offer?

Respectfully yours,

Cliff Wallace

P.S. A quick comparison of the McIntosh 240 vs. the Jasmine Piano yields the following:

Power: Not a concern since both are roughly equal, 40 - 43 watts respectively.
Visual character - Everything seams relatively equal, as both amplifiers have a unique presence.

 

Hi Cliff,

I have no idea why you would think your Jamo receiver has way too much power for the Arros. They may not be the highest quality watts but there is no danger of there being too many of them! What you need to avoid is an amp with too little power for the speakers you want to use. Try them together. I agree with you about the Totem Arros – very good speakers indeed, and remarkable bass output for their size.

I don’t have much personal experience with any of the amps you mention, but my advice is to use your own ears.

Enjoy the music,

Phil

 

March 2007

Scott,

I read on a board somewhere that, after living with it for a while, you prefer the Bolder modded analog outputs to any add on DAC you've heard. I was thinking about getting the Mdht Paradisea DAC. Which do you think would be the best upgrade?

System: (short version) 
Plinius 8200 or Sherwood 5000II into refurbished Quad 57

Music: (in order of preference) Bop Jazz, Jazz oriented Techno, Rock, Blues, International and Folk. Thanks for any help you can provide.

Warren Keppler

 

Hi Warren,

Actually, I like them both, the Bolder modified analog output and the Paradisea DAC. It really comes down to the system that they are in. If the amp and the speakers have a commanding control on the bass and a dryer midrange, I'd probably introduce the Paradisea to the system. If the system has slightly weak or flabby bass, I'd probably go for the modded Bolder. Those are (sort of) broad statements but what it all boils down to is system matching to meet your personal tastes.

Knowing a bit about your system (but never actually hearing that exact combination), you may well enjoy the Bolder modified analog outputs over the Paradisea with your Quads. The Bolder will provide you with much firmer bass and a more exacting midrange. I don't think your Quads need any of the bloom that the tube will give you unless that is specifically what you are looking for out of your system.

Hope that helped.

Regards,

Scott Faller

 

March 2007

Brett,

I enjoyed your review of the McIntosh MS300 Music Server. It did cause me to have one question:

Why is there any difference in sound between original and a file stored in "lossless" format (FLAC)? Doesn't lossless mean no loss from the original bits. How does the sound change if the data expands out to match the original bits? I am confused. What causes the differences?

Thanks,

Marc Munford

 

Dear Marc,

That is indeed an interesting question about what differences if any exist between the original and one that is encrypted in a “lossless” format such as FLAC. If this was a perfect world and everything was equal then you could indeed take an original file and convert it to FLAC or other “lossless” file format without any change whatsoever. Unfortunately in my view, there exists no perfect world, and there does not seem to be a perfect answer to your question. However, I will do my best to give you my personal thoughts on the matter.

According to most schools of audiophile thought, the best sound is accomplished by putting the least number of things between the original source and the listening system; this is also true of the creation of a FLAC file. So the first issue comes about when you take your CD and place it into the CD player or transport for playback and encryption into the FLAC file format. In theory the information that is transferred is identical to that on the original CD. However, for many different reasons one of which is jitter this information is not exactly the same, though in the case of the McIntosh is seemed very close.

Now, the information is then passed through a series of algorithms which store it in a smaller file than the original. Once again, in theory, this file should contain the identical information to the original. I am certain that if you looked at it on paper it would indeed contain identical information, but that does not always translate to a perfect copy in the case of music. Sometimes there exist anomalies or signatures that just don’t convert perfectly or fully during the process.

This information is then taken from the FLAC format and then converted by whatever device you are using so you can listen to it. Once again there exists the possibility that the algorithm might yield a slightly different product then the original. Do different DVD-A players sound different? Well, personally I think they do sound different, but they all read the same lossless format, MLP, and in theory they should sound the same. The same is true here.

When I took a CD with the McIntosh MS300 and had it rip it into a FLAC file so I could store it on the hard drive, I found the copy to have most if not all the same sound as the original. Even when I did hear a slight difference it was subtle enough that I really had to listen to hear it. Ultimately how much of an issue the conversion plays in the quality of the stored music is as much a personal opinion as a review itself. In the case of the MS300 ripping the files and storing them as FLAC and then playing them back, any degradation was well offset by the amount of functionally and features you gained by doing it.

I really hope that I have answered your original question to your satisfaction. I know I have probably given you far more information than you wanted, but I hope that by doing so I have given you some insight into why the original and a “lossless” copy might not sound exactly the same.

Brett

 

March 2007

Brett,

Good review of the Mac server....

William Klassen

 

William,

I would like to thank you for both the compliments and the words of wisdom....
am glad you enjoyed it. I have several more in the works, please keep your eye out.

Brett

 

March 2007

RE: Enjoy the Music.com New Format

I agree re your decision not to have us all clicking multiple pages to read a review!!! And my fingers need the rest as well. It is the one thing that drives me nuts about (magazine name removed to hide the guilty) which is an otherwise attractive site – I spend more time clicking than reading.

Richard E. Jensen

 

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