Enjoy the Music.com

Letters To Us

March 2009

Phil,

I am currently looking to replace a very old Meridian 207 CD player. In looking around the internet, I came upon your 2004 review of the Meridian G08. The latest version, the G08.2, is one of the units that I am considering and among others, the Naim CD5x. With the latter, I would also be considering an outboard power supply. My available cabinet space would force me to the High Cap. The recommendation of an outboard power supply on what is considered an up market unit, (if you really want it to sound its best) is a little bit much. The Meridian is an Up sampling unit, while the Naim CD5x is not.

Two other units that I have interest in are the updated Ayre CX-7eMP and the Simaudio Moon 5.3. Finding dealers that carry more than one of these brands makes comparing them difficult. Have you had an opportunity to do any comparisons of the the players on my list? The Meridian G08.2 is the highest priced unit, but is just about even with the Naim CD5x / High Cap combo, with the Ayre and the Simaudio coming in at a little bit less.

As most of us are, I am looking for strong well-defined bass and smooth, clear highs, i.e. vinyl like. The core of my system is McIntosh, both electronics and speakers. Your comments will be appreciated.

Thank you and best regards,

Bill Thomas

 

Hi Bill,

No, I have not tried the Ayre or Simaudio at home, although both are excellent companies. However I suspect Meridian knows more about getting good sound out of CD than any other company and I would continue to recommend the G08.2 in this class. I'm not sure just how extended the McIntosh components are in the deep bass and extreme treble, so I don't know if they will reveal all the meridian has to offer, but the Meridian never sounds digital and images well.

Enjoy The Music,

Phil

March 2009

Hello Nels,

I finally managed to get my Salk Sound HT3. I have to still look into the shipping now... Anyway....wanted to share them pics with you....since your ST review cemented my decision to go for the HT3.

Thank you very much and regards,

Alwyn Pinto

 

Alwyn,

Congratulations on the new HT3s- they are gorgeous. I have not heard them, but have never heard of any buyer to be anything less than thrilled with them. I have also noted that I rarely see a pair for sale- a good sign in this fickle hobby.

This is probably a first for me- someone buying a model I did not review.

Enjoy!

Nels

March 2009

Steven,

Thanks for your previous help on getting music from my pc to my stereo. now some more stupid questions. exact audio copy, foobar2000, etc is way over my head. at the same time i do not want to lose audio quality. since i am familiar with iTunes, i do not buy music from them since it is compressed, but can't i just rip CDs to my hardrive using iTunes as long as it is in lossless files?? if this is ok and the sound quality is ok (if exact audio copy and foobar2000 get me a 100 on a scale of 1 to 100 and iTunes gets me a 97 or 98) i can live with a 97 or 98 since i know how to rip CDs using iTunes. and finally, how do i know when using iTunes when ripping CDs if the i am in the lossless file type mode? one more thing, if i use the audioengine set up, will this get me internet radio? if so, can i run the internet radio through my dac or does it have to go the amp? your help would be greatly appreciated. new to this pc transport idea, but is sounds exciting.

 

Hi,

Excellent questions. Yes lossless. Check with the software's configuration. As I do not use Apple software by choice, you'll have to ask others for specific settings. Anything less than lossless is, well, less. Some feel that 320kbs mp3 is fine.

Internet radio is:

www.pandora.com

www.last.fm

www.slacker.com

www.shoutcast.com

www.radio-locator.com

As for Internet radio through your DAC, you can if your computer has a digital output. Sorry for being brief, am way over my head in workload as am about to release the March 2009 Review Magazine. Feel free to ask the audio enthusiasts at www.audiokarma.org/forums/index.php or www.audiocircle.com/circles/index.php as they are wonderful.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

March 2009

Hello Anthony,

This e-mail is in regard to your review of the Juicy Music Peach II pre-amplifier. It was a great read, and of particular interest as I have just purchased the last Peach to be built by Mark. I recently (last Friday) purchased a pair of used Klipsch speakers, so I was lurking around on their forum for some info when I came across an entry mentioning Mark's retirement. On the off chance that he had any remaining stock I e-mailed him. Imagine my surprise when he replied he had one left. i jumped on it, and I think I'm going to be glad I did. I should preface this by saying that I purchased a Merlin pre-amp from Mark about a year ago. A great little piece of gear. So, with anticipation, and a bit of sadness, I'll wait for the UPS man to drop off the Peach. I found in my small bit of dealing with him, that Mark is a straight-up, quality guy, and if he sells the business we should be so lucky as to have his products re-produced in such an amazing fashion. Just thought this might be of interest to you.

Thanks,

Paul

 

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the kind words about my review of the Juicy Music Peach II preamplifier. I also did a review on his Tercel tube phono stage a short while ago and I thoroughly enjoyed that as well. It will be a sad day for the audio world when Mark retires as he truly did put a lot of effort into making a quality product. Hopefully he will find someone to take over the business who is as dedicated and knowledgeable as he is. I hope you enjoy the Peach II as much as I did. About the fact that you just bought a pair of used Klipsch speakers, I too own a pair of Klipsch Klipschorns and I sometimes use them for my reviews as well as my Legacy Focus 20/20's. It really just depends on the amplifier I am using.

Thanks and please "Enjoy the Music".

Anthony Nicosia

March 2009

Nels,

I

Any information will be greatly appreciated - Thank you for your time,

David Voorhees

 

David,

Thanks for your letter. That is interesting about the Playstation, I was not aware it up sampled. Ok, on with your question. To make it easier to digest, I will break the questions down a bit.

First, there are both sound cards and external Digital to Analog Converters that up sample. There is a bit more to it when you get into computer audio. If you are connecting a Digital to Analog Converter to a computer via USB, the vast majority of them accept a maximum input signal of 16-bit/48kHz. Compact discs ripped to hard drive are 16 bit 44 kHz, so we are good there. As you get more into computer audio, you may find you want to download "high resolution" music, like the 24 bit 96 kHz albums available from www.HDTracks.com, as well as other sites. If your Digital to Analog converter has the ability to input a maximum of 16 bit 46 kHz signal, you have thrown it away at the input. Of course, if your converter up samples, it will up sample at the output what it downsampled on the input- not a good thing.

Depending on the computer's sound card, you might be able to output SP/DIF (Digital) signal straight from the computer to the Digital to Analog Converter. The bit rate and sample frequency will depend on the sound card, and should be adjustable (like your Playstation) after it is installed. Alternatively, you could use a USB converter. one end plugs into the computer (USB) the other end plugs into the Digital to Analog Converter, which then connects to your receiver or preamplifier. The downside is that many USB Converters only accept 16 bit 48 kHz on their input- any signal above that is down sampled (wasted.) The same applies with most USB Digital to Analog converters.

Apple: This is the easiest way (in my opinion) to get quality sound and because you will use iTunes as your interface, it is the easiest to use as well. This is the route that I ultimately went, and I don't regret it for a second. I listen to more music, a greater variety, and have greater enjoyment than ever before. The advantage to Apple's OSX operating system is that it is bit perfect right out of the box. A couple of ways you could go here- a Mac Mini ($599) connected to an external monitor or large screen television ($29 adaptor required for connection to large screen) or a Macbook ($899 and up.) You could even use the Mini without a monitor and control it with an iPod Touch or iPhone (via wireless network.) Because both the Mini and the Macbook have optical digital outputs, connection to most Digital to Analog Converters is easy, no adaptors required. The only thing you will need is a Mini Toslink to Toslink cable ($20 and up depending on brand and length.) Besides being bit perfect out of the box, the Mini and MacBook are both silent during playback- they will make noise when ripping your discs to hard drive, but that's it. Also, the built in optical outputs pass a 24 bit 96 kHz signal, a big improvement over most USB converters.

Microsoft: XP out of the box is not bit perfect. The built in Kmixer in XP mangles the digital signal and should be bypassed by downloading an ASIO plug in. (Check www.asio4all.com) Unfortunately, iTunes for Windows does not have the option of integrating the ASIO plug in, so is not recommended.

The following players will allow use of the ASIO plug in: Foobar, J River Media Center, Media Monkey and (I believe) XXHighend. Any of these can be found with a web search and downloaded. I preferred J River Media Center over Foobar. Others will disagree. Both Foobar and J River have the ability to up sample using software built into the programs. I have heard good things about the other two, but have no personal experience with them. Vista, to the best of my knowledge, is bit perfect out of the box.

If you have a noisy desktop system (that is hopefully in another room away from your audio system) this is where the Logitech Squeezebox ($299 stock, many modifications/upgrades available) comes into play. Connected to your Digital to Analog Converter, it accesses your music over your wireless network so that you can enjoy your music without the distraction of computer noise. As my MacBook is silent (and in the same room, wired to my system) it is not necessary for me.

As far as Digital to Analog Converters, I have been quite happy with my KECES DA-131. The improved 131 Mark II ($349 plus shipping) was just introduced. It can be found on eBay. This unit accepts up to 24-bit/192kHz on the input, and up samples any signal to 192 kHz at the output. My digital setup "looks" like this: External Hard Drive> MacBook> KECES>Preamplifer. The KECES is a good "starting point" and like me, you may be happy and not feel the need to upgrade. As the computer audio is hot (and getting hotter) there are a ton of converters available in all price ranges, from many reputable manufacturers. The KECES does (like most converters) sound better after it has "burned in" -it took 300 to 400 hours to sound its best.

I hope this has been helpful. An excellent resource is www.computeraudiophile.com. The web site's Owner/Moderator, Chris Connaker, really knows his stuff, whether you are talking PC or Mac. The site has something to offer everyone, from beginner to expert, and they are really friendly there to boot. I have asked a few questions there myself.

If I can be of any additional assistance, or if you need further clarification, feel free to ask.

Best Regards,

Nels

March 2009

Hi Steven

I just read your article on the Sonos music system. As a newcomer to pc based music, I am thinking about putting all my music on my pc. The problem is to get the music to my living room about 25 feet away from my computer room. I have spoke to the folks at hag and am considering getting their hagusb and running a digital cable from my pc to DAC. I can run the cable outside the house. Hag said 75 feet of cable will not effect the sound quality. The other idea is getting the blue circle audio "thingee" and doing the same thing. My current system is a musical fidelity a32 amp and matching series DAC, Arcam CD 72 player along with jm labs cobalt series 3 way speakers. My ultimate goal would be to buy another labtop and use that as my transport, but the wife is not going for that yet. So now comes your review of the Sonos system. If i put all my CD's on my pc and use the Sonos system, I find it hard to believe I will not loose any sound quality over my arcam/musical fidelty DAC combo, but if you say I will not lose that quality, then the Sonos system makes the most sense. I do not have 4 rooms of music, only one room, so it sounds like I can get by with their simplest set up. Any ideas. Would you go for the hagusb cable combo, the "thingee" cable combo, or the Sonos system??? Thanks for the great articles. 

Appreciate any help,

Colby

 

Colby,

If you need a single room system and do not mind an additional ADC to DAC encoding that is a touch better than 'CD quality', the Audioengine W1. It is not better than a Sonos system imho because you have added more things in the signal chain. In addition, with the Sonos system you have bit-for-bit ripped your CDs to a hard drive and therefore have a very accurate reading of the digital bits. Another advantage of the Sonos system is the ease of use, flexibility and it comes loaded with many great ways to enjoy the many online free music 'radio' sites. Just remember for Internet radio you'll need to have the Sonos hooked up to your broadband Internet connection.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

March 2009

Hi Steven,

I

Hey, Roy Allison is one of the most respected names in the industry, and if anyone knows what he's talking about, he does. But other well-qualified engineers have taken other approaches, also based on good science. 

This is not to say that there is no science involved; my modest diffusers and absorbers have made a tremendous impact on my listening room for the better. I'm just saying that I think there is a point, like other aspects of audio, where, within the boundaries of sound science, one enters the arena of personal taste. I, for one, don't like a live room (also encouraged by Michael Green at Room Tunes, if memory serves); my diffusers expand my side and rear walls only in a relatively damped listening room; otherwise, my room closes in on me. I don't know if I've gotten to the "reverberant field," but I've gotten to where I want to be! A lot of hunting and pecking and pinholes in the sheetrock, but I like it. Again, I would be the last person to disparage Mr. Allison's conclusions. But I do think there is room for honest debate about some of these matters at the level of personal taste. As you say, Steve, all of this science serves but one purpose, and that is to...

Enjoy the Music!

Sincerely, 

John Kugler

 

John,

Apologies for the delay in replying have been inundated with e-mails. Fully agree there are more ways tom 'skin' the proverbial acoustic treatment 'cat'. Years ago I had a dedicated room and tried many different techniques. The one I settled on was a live-end dead-end. Basically, I had all walls from the first reflection point of the speakers to the back wall covered in foam (including the floor and ceiling). The part of the room where I sat was 'live' with the exception of the relatively small reflection point on the wall behind me, which was covered in acoustic foam.

The results were very inspiring and was amazed at not just how this lowered the already low ambient noise floor when no music was playing, when music was being played I could so very clearly heard the size and shape of the recording venue. Of course not everything was a plus, as multi-track recordings and especially movies, I could very easily discern editing, differences in the acoustic environment of the studio's techniques, etc. Of course this is where the very best recordings, especially 'audiophile' minimal mic'ing music, shined.

Nowadays I have a more live room and am debating adding more acoustic devices to tone it down, yet the room has a very nice natural 'sound' to it. All rooms are not created equal and in the past the lesser rooms I had would not have been so kind. So yes there are many factors and in the end the most important aspect of a high-end system is probably the room and how the loudspeakers interact as it pertain to the listening position.

Of course in the end what really matters is that we all…

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

March 2009

Hi Phil,

Still have the EMM Labs CDSA-SE as your reference. I'm in the process of changing all my gear. I need to downsize to a single box player vs. my Dodson DAC and SCD-1 I use as a transport. I would appreciate your input regarding this or another player you prefer. Your review of this player was very thorough and methodical...my brain seems to work the same way.

Thanks,

Rick Jameson

 

Hi Rick,

I'm still gung ho on the CDSA SE, provided you don't need digital inputs, and yes, it's still my reference. The latest version has a superior drive unit and better feet, and older versions can e updated for the difference in list price. If you don't need SACD then the latest Meridian 808 V2 or the EAR Acute will get the nod, depending on budget.

Enjoy The Music,

Phil

March 2009

Hi Dr. Bill Gaw,

That's quite an array of equipment for one small room! I was born in 1950 and spent the early part of the 1970's playing rock music up and down the north and south shore of Mass. The audiophile bug hit in the late 1970's when I retired from music as a full time job and began working in the real world. But music, either playing in weekend bands or listening as an audiophile, has been my constant companion. I can't help but wonder what your system would sound like if some most?) of the gear could be isolated in another room.

All that stuff in the pictures just has to degrade the sonics somewhat. I know how easy it is to accumulate audio goodies, but that's what spare rooms are for. Before you respond with" but that gear is what I need", I still think isolating the electronics in another room would just have to sound better. Thanks and have fun, I am anxiously waiting the arrival of a new pre amp and power amps.
Ain't this fun?

Chuck Lee

 

Hi Chuck,

Thanks for the comments. I tried putting all of my equipment in a room built off of the media room about 15 years ago and running long very high end interconnects to the media room amplifiers next to the speakers with mixed results. It didn't make an appreciable difference, and having to go into the other room every 25 minutes or so to flip vinyl was a pain.

Actually very few of the pieces are not being used at azny time. Remember, I'm running a 7.1 system with all of the speakers being tri or quad amped. Also, the video equipment is electrically disconnected when I'm listening to music, and the pre-pro is disconnected when listening to vinyl.

As to their mere presence being a problem, their mass on the Arcici rack is actually only 1/10th the mass of the Walker Turntable, so shouldn't make a difference. I agree that mixing video with audio equipment probably does make a difference, but the convenience of being able to switch from one to the other quickly through the pre-pro negates the possible improvement of separating the systems. Plus, I don't think my budget at this point would allow for a second room construction of such high quality for both sound and vision.

Bill

March 2009

Hi Phil,

T

BTW, I had tried a Gamut d200 mkiii with my ACT1 and had found the combination uninspiring; I also tried the NuForce and was impressed for a little while, before realising they didn't do enough "air", so I went back to my tube amp (Canary ca-100, a great match IMHO with WB). Also have you hard the new WB trinity?

M

Stephane Prunet

 

Hi Stephane,

The Gamut speakers are not better than the Act1's across the board, but do have a sweeter treble and a more extended bass. The Act1's are more coherent, image better and are lower in distortion. Plus they look like a million bucks. If I were upgrading I'd make sure I was making improvements across the board.

My recommendation? Contact Wilson Benesch and see if you can get your Act1's upgraded like mine were a number of years ago. They developed a new driver which makes a tremendous difference to the presence of these speakers, but this driver was not used in any of their other models as far as I know so the upgrade may not be available any more.

If you do decide to purchase new speakers, there's a few I would recommend, if they are in your price range. They would all be serious upgrades. Top of my list would be the new Magico V2 ($18K), the Revel Ultima Salon2 ($22K) and Vienna Acoustics "The Music" ($25K). I haven't tried the Trinity but it certainly looks interesting on paper. The Act is a superb speaker and you should certainly consider along with the others I mentioned.

Please let me know how you proceed.

Enjoy The Music,

Phil

 

Hi Phil,

Thank you so much for your prompt and informative answer. I understand you upgraded your ACT1s with the Tactic drivers? Did you also upgrade the tweeters? Can I ask you how much you paid for the upgrade of your ACT1s, and to comment on the results, you seem very pleased with the results?

Yes WB still offers that option, but I have hesitated so far, not knowing the results or someone who performed it, and also seeing that the cost of the upgrade (around 2500$) would almost allow me to trade up for a used pair of the new ACTs (however I did listen to the new ACTs and was a bit surprised to find them less musical / more "restrained" and analytical than my ACT1s).

Lastly, yes the Salons 2 are highly reviewed, but they might be too big for my room, are the Studio 2 equally impressive?

Kind regards,

Stephane Prunet

 

Hi Stephane,

No, these are not the Tactic drivers, but they do use advanced new cone materials. The change is to the bass mid/range drivers only. All the Ultima II speakers are impressive - choose the one that fits your room and budget. There is also a new model below "The Music" that you may find a better fit - "The Kiss" at $15,000.

Cheers,

Phil

March 2009

Hi Rick,

Today, I read your October 2002 article in Enjoy the Music.com. Did you ever try using the Symposium Svelte Shelf under the bass modules of the  Von Schweikert VR-4 Jrs? If so, were they better than the Boston Audio Tuneplates?

Thank you,

Paul Hnida

 

Hi Paul,

The Symposium Acoustics Svelte Shelf is a good shelf but I expect it is considerably more money than a set of the Boston Audio TunePlates or the SoundDeadSteel IsoFeet, which are essentially the same. The SDS version now has some cosmetic upgrades and a foam surface that my be helpful in protecting exposed wood floors. Since I only have one Svelte Shelf, I had no way of comparing a stereo playback against the TunePlates or Isofeet. Monaural comparisons are not as effective as stereo in my experience. 

The TunePlates and IsoFeet only raise the speaker up a very small fraction of an inch. The Svelte Shelf is considerably thicker. But I suspect the viscoelastic polymer between the aluminum or stainless steel squares is more effective in converting motion into heat than the material between the metal sheets of the Svelte Shelf, but I have not tested this out in a lab.

It is also easier to tip the speaker to one side to place the squares under the feet than it would be to lift the entire loudspeaker up off the floor and then carefully center it on the Svelte Shelf. The spikes have the potential of pitting or scratching the metal and this might be easier to minimize with the small squares since you can tip the speaker to one side to reposition one rather than sliding the spike across the surface of the Svelte Shelf, which would undoubtedly scar it. I believe Symposium Acoustics also sells something called the Fat Padz which are like little square Svelte Shelves that might also be effective, but I have not tried them.

Have fun, Paul. Nice to hear from you again. The VR4-Jr is a great loudspeaker, as I've said before.

Rick Becker

March 2009

Hi Steven,

After reading your fine article on the Sonos system I ordered a ZP90 from Sonos and was looking forward to trying the system. To my surprise, the ZP90 DOES NOT connect to my wireless network. In fairness Sonos does have on their website that you will need another device to connect to a wireless network, either a Zonebridge or another ZP90 that is mentioned in one sentence that I did overlook when ordering. I think your readers should know that to utilize the wireless capability of the ZP90 (retail $349.00+S&H) that you will need at least a Zonebridge ($99+S&H). That puts the entry level Sonos system at $448.00 without the hand controller. The ZP90 is going back and I will be ordering the Squeezebox Duet. It's a shame that I won't be able to try the Sonos, but I'm not moving either my computer or stereo system up a floor just to plug the Sonos in, and I sure don't have wires that long. What a disappointment.

Doug Clary

 

Doug,

You make a good point and yes, you need one of the Sonos units hardwired to your router. While this is probably not a big deal for most users, sadly it is for you. Enjoy the Duet, it is a good alternative provided you don't need analog input to stream your high-end rig's music around the house.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

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