Enjoy the Music.com

Letters To Us

April / May 2009

Hi Phil,

I am looking for a solid-state integrated amplifier. I have the Atoll IN100 right now. I tested the new Bluenote S-1 signature but did not like it - too clinical, not lush and full. Then I demoed a Luxman 505u and was blown away. I loved the richness, full-bodied but detailed sound. I could not believe the difference between the 3 amplifiers.

Question:
What other integrated amps should I try that are sonically comparable to the Luxman?
Accuphase, Aaron, Pass 150, Gamut...

You help is very much appreciated.

Best wishes,

Wolfgang Frank

 

Hi Wolfgang,

A great deal depends on the speakers you are driving, which you don't mention. I have the Omega Alnico single drive. Wonderful speaker with 92dD/W/m efficiency. I would take a look at the Pass Labs Int-150, the EAR Yoshino 834T and the Luxman. Please let me know which you like best.

Enjoy The Music,

Phil Gold

April / May 2009

Clive,

Hello from France. You use the Bastani atlas and seem to have upgraded to the 18" bass driver and now the new correction device has it brought much compared to what you described in your review? What amp(s) do you usually use?

Thanks

Gilles

 

Hi Gilles,

For amplifiers I use 300B SE (8W) with TX-102 transformers as the volume control. I drive the XTZ bass DSP amplifiers at line-level via a solid-state buffer. The 18" drivers integrate a little better with the main baffles as they are dipoles so they match the main baffles well. I find there's a trade-off between the bass punch and detail. The 15" drivers in sealed boxes can sometimes deliver a little more of a punch but the 18" drivers give more detail and subtly. I still have both types of bass units, some prefer the 15" and some the 18", which is best for you depends on your preferences.

Using DSP in rooms where standing waves are a problem brings huge benefit. If you have a larger room, say 8m x 10m then maybe you won't have so much of a need for DSP. If your room is more like 5m x 6m then it is very likely your room dimensions cause standing waves. Do some albums sound too bass heavy and fat in the bass compared to others? This can be due to bass on those albums coinciding with the frequencies of standing ways. They only way to be sure is the measure how the room performs.

Kind regards,

Clive Meakins

April / May 2009

Nels,

Great review. My roommate and I are considering taking the plunge on the Salk QWT. I have one concern (aside from buying speakers without hearing them first) if you don't mind me asking. Your review mentioned having your wife sit in the "sweet spot". This got me thinking about how my roommate and I went to go audition some Martin Logans (Preface series, not bad for the money...) and then also auditioned the models above it (Purity, I believe?)

While the Purity's were noticeably better, they had a huge drawback for our intended usage, which was the moment you stood up (raised your head above speaker-level) it sounded like someone had cupped their hands over your ears. It had an EXTREMELY narrow sweet spot. The Preface did not. (or if they did, it was far more generous.) Do the QWT's have a narrow sweet spot? Or is it generous? If there is a noticeable sweet spot, is the transition out of it extreme? At this point that is just about the last concern we have on the matter before purchasing.

For reference: We live in a Loft style condo. Concrete tile floors, 25 foot ceilings, room is maybe 30 x 30 foot (or a bit more) and we want to fill it with sound. We want this to be excellent music for intimate gatherings and house-parties alike.

Thank you for your time, and your excellent review.

Brandon Griffin

 

Brandon,

Thanks for you letter. I am glad you liked the review. As strong as the review was, the more I listen to music through the SongTowers, the more appreciate their strengths, which are many.

Martin Logans, huh? Back when I worked on the retail sales end of the business, I worked for a Martin Logan dealer. I understand exactly what you are saying. When I say sitting in the "sweet spot" I mean the best seat in the house. When critically listening for review purposes, I sit on the couch, between the speakers. For other listening I usually sit in my rocker/recliner which is positioned far more to the right side of the room. With planar speakers like the Martin Logans and Magnepans, I would not be able to do that. The fact that those speakers have a much more narrow stereo image than the SongTtowers -- they beam, both vertically as well as laterally, which make them a deal breaker for me. In my room, the "sweet spot" may be the best seat in the house, but any seat is damn good with the SongTowers.

When I bought my old Infinitys back in 1993, the speaker I really wanted then was the Magnepan 1.6QR, which has many of the same endearing qualities of the better Martin Logans. Unfortunately, my room wouldn't work well with them. Funny thing is the wouldn't have worked well in any room I've had since then either. For your requirements, forget the Martin Logans- I just don't think you will be happy with their limitations. You also did not mention what type of amplifier you have- the Martin Logans require lots of clean current- they are generally a tough load for the amplifier to drive. The Songtowers, although they are worthy of the best amplification your budget will allow, are a much easier load on the amplifier, and will allow a wider range of choices when it comes to amplification.

As far as buying "sound unheard", Jim does offer a money back guarantee. I doubt he has ever had to honor it. Another idea- if you like the speed of the Martin Logans, Jim has developed a new version of the Songtower, the RT, with a new front baffle and ribbon tweeters (a $700 option) that has, like the Songtower QWT, been extremely well received. I suggest you call Jim and speak with him. He won't try to "up sell" you. Tell him what you are trying to accomplish and he will help you. Jim is one of the "good guys" in audio. While I have read that people generally prefer the RT to the QWT, I do not feel slighted in the least, or that I am missing anything by not having the RT here.

I hope I have been helpful. If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask. Also, please let me know what you and your roommate decide.

Nels Ferre

April / May 2009

Hi Dick Olsher,

I am currently using the Perreaux E160 integrated amp & Final 0.3 electrostatic speakers, both are about 5 or so years old. When I listen to piano jazz music, the attack of the note doesn't seem to be there. I've listen to conventional speakers, my brothers Triangle Antal Esw and I can hear strong sound of the hammer hitting the string when a strong piano note is played. I am referring to the Three Blind Mice sampler CD I have, I think the track is called "Aqua Marine".

Is this a signature of electrostatics speakers or just the Final 0.3? where attack of the sound is weaker than cone speakers.

Many thanks,

Lenny Phung

 

Hi Lenny,

Electrostatic speakers are borne for speed. An extremely light Mylar diaphragm is much easier to accelerate and stop than is a cone weighing many grams. So I don't think that the problem has anything to do with a lack of attack.

Most likely the issue is one of amp-speaker interaction. ESLs are picky when it comes to matching amplification, more so than conventional speakers. It sounds like the Perreaux E160 is rolling off the presence and treble regions reducing the harmonic overtone structure. Keep in mind that the impedance of any ESL resembles that of a capacitor, which decreases with increasing frequency. If the Perreaux E160's source impedance is not particularly low (around 1 Ohm or higher) it will roll of an ESL's upper octaves.

My advice is to try an amp with a source impedance of 0.1 Ohm or less - I think you'll be amazed at the transformation in terms of impact and immediacy.

Best regards,

Dick Olsher

April / May 2009

Anthony,

Follow your review of the new Bryston 7B SST2 C-Series Monoblock Power Amplifiers I have a question. I'm consider buying an Open baffle (and dynamic) concept loudspeaker (Emerald Physics-C1). Is this new Bryston Amplifier could make a very good match? And should I go with Bryston as well for the Preamp?

Thanks and have a nice day!

Benoît A. Lanteigne

 

Hi Benoit,

Unfortunately I have not the privilege to yet audition the new Bryston Preamplifiers although in theory there is something to be said for synergy. That being said if I were to audition a Bryston preamplifier I would do so with their top of the line BP26 model as it has as standard equipment both balanced and unbalanced input and output connectors. I certainly did enjoy running the 7B SST squared C-Series amplifiers using their XLR connectors the best and would do so if I owned them. I reviewed them with a solid-state preamplifier and never felt the need to use a tubed unit as they exhibited a tube like transparency already. Again an audition is a must as only you are the one that must be satisfied and your personal tastes, associated equipment as well as room will play an integral role in how well you like something. As for the Emerald Physics new CS1 loudspeakers I have read a little about them and do like the open baffle concept but have yet to audition any of their speaker line-up. According to their website the CS1's have a sensitivity of 102dB/W/m. The Bryston's are very powerful yet they are designed with the thought that the first watt must sound good and I found them to perform well even at a relatively low output level for them. I did listen a little with my highly sensitive (104dB/W/m) Klipsch Klipschorn loudspeakers and enjoyed their pairing although for the review I used the less sensitive (96dB/W/m) Legacy Focus 20/20 loudspeakers. I hope this helps you a little and if I were you I would not hesitate to call the manufacturers to ask for further advice. I found James Tanner at Bryston Audio to be extremely helpful and you could email him

Thanks and remember to enjoy the music,

Anthony Nicosia

April / May 2009

Hi Clarke,

I have some comments and questions about your review of the Marantz
SA8003... Mainly about the section on the USB input. You wrote:

The USB input is powered by an NEC uPD63901 microcontroller (designed for use in car audio head units), and it enables the SA8003 to play MP3, WAV, WMA and AAC files directly off a USB hard drive, pen drive, or iPod (*it does not function as a USB DAC, as connecting a laptop to the Marantz with a USB cable does nothing*). *The uPD63901 does its own D/A conversion, so files read from the USB input completely bypass Marantz' CS4398-based digital section* (*and cannot be output via the Marantz digital outputs*). The USB signal still benefits from going through the SA8003's discreet analog output stage, but overall the USB sound is not quite up to par with what the SA8003 does when playing a shiny disc. *Of course, this hardly matters unless you are using full-resolution WAV files, the only lossless format playable on the Marantz*.

I am curious about the source of your information. First because the SA8003 does indeed play apple lossless files (ALAC), I have the unit and all the songs on my iPod are in ALAC and it plays them fine. So well, in fact, that I have a hard time believing that they are not decoded by the Cirrus /CS4398/. I hear no degradation between a CD and the iPod.

Also, stating that the files can not be output by the digital outputs is the entire point of the files being output via analog, they've already been decoded and don't need to be output digitally. If they were to be passed trough digitally then they would need to be decoded by either the DAC in the receiver or a separate stand alone DAC.

You also state that it takes "90 clicks" to get to an artist in the middle of your iPod, This can easily be achieved by entering 9+0+enter or 0+9+0. I agree the interface is less than optimal but this statement leads me to believe you haven't spent much time with the unit. You review has been repeated as fact all over the internet so I would appreciate any reference or documentation you have regarding the processing of the USB data. I also have an email into Marantz regarding this issue and am awaiting their reply.

Thank You,

Jim Hamilton

 

Hi James,

Thanks for writing in. It's nice to know that people are actually reading this stuff, and even better to know that you are taking a detail-oriented approach to it. To your points:

1. I purchased the SA8003 after the review and just tried it: you are correct...the SA8003 *does* play Apple Lossless files from an iPod! However, it does not play them from a USB flash drive, which is how I tested them for the review (I tried a number of other formats as well, like FLAC, which can't be played from an iPod). I have no idea why that is the case, Marantz' manual states that it plays AAC files only up to 320kbps, but does not mention Apple Lossless. Great news for iPod users!

2. The information about the USB input bypassing the unit's digital section I obtained by taking the unit apart and investigating the circuit myself. The UPD63901 is on a small board near the front panel of the unit (and it has a crystal oscillator on it, which it wouldn't need if it weren't doing D/A conversion). There is a single ribbon cable out of the USB board that leads directly to the unit's analog section. That's why you can't output USB to the digital outputs...the USB signal never touches the SA8003's digital circuitry.

I'm glad that you find the sound quality of the USB input enjoyable. As such, I wouldn't be so concerned with what the Marantz does with it's digital signal. If it sounds good to you, who cares? I did say that the Marantz' USB sound is "not quite up to par" with it's CD sound. I still feel that way, but the difference is very subtle, and I certainly don't think (and didn't write in my review) that it sounds bad.

3. I did notice during the review period that the remote keypad can be used to navigate through an iPod playlist. I omitted that from the review because, frankly, I thought that section of the piece was getting too long as it is. Perhaps it should have been included, but there is never enough time during our 60-90 day review period (typical in the industry) to include *everything* we find with these machines...sometimes details are left out just to improve readability.

Also, you should be aware that this review, like all the reviews published on Enjoy the Music.com, was sent to the manufacturer for fact-checking before publication (in this case, Maarantz' VP of Marketing Kevin Zarow). Any serious errors I can only assume would have been caught, although I don't know why they didn't know about the Apple Lossless compatibility...perhaps Apple slipped that one through on their own.

Thanks again for reading and writing in! I think the information you provided will help people make purchase decisions that they will be happy with for a long time to come.

Best,

Clarke Robinson

April / May 2009

Hi Steven,

Does popular stand alone DAC decode music data from SACD? or just red book CD only?

Thanks,

Lenny Phung

 

Lenny,

Virtually none due to the lack of demand for SACD digital output plus Sony's insistence on being very fickle about allowing digital output and external DAC decoding.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

April / May 2009

Hi Steven,

Hi from sunny Malaysia. Could i ask for your views and take you back in time a wee bit. There is a pre-owned VAC avatar up for sale and I followed your review to gather some insight into the sonic characteristics of the equipment. I have always wanted an integrated tube amp and this is the first which I have come across. With the VAC pedigree, a natural attraction. Unfortunately, the item is some 200 miles away.

Is the amp musical? does it breath music and as some reviewers may say..."I just got drawn into the music". I find my taste have changed from an etched soundscape ie. each musical instrument occupying its own individual space in the sonic soundscape to one where the music just comes out natural as an open balanced sound, without any instrument fighting for attention. I would also rule out a clinical or overly warm sound.

I realize it is difficult for me or for most to describe a sound in words but I would very much appreciate your feedback on the matter.

Sincerely,

Derek

 

Hi Derek,

Thanks for your e-mail and yes, the VAC Avatar is wonderfully musical. Naturally you can make subtle changes to the 'personality' of the unit by using the romantic-sounding We300B, or go with TJ/Sophia Mesh Plate for more accuracy, yet it never should sound etched or clinical. Yes, a very well-rounded sound that should bring you years of musical bliss. As you know, VAC is a highly regarded brand and they deserve the praise. So yes, I highly recommend the Avatar and please let me know the results once you have had it for a few weeks. As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

April / May 2009

Dear Wayne, 

My question relates to passive 'bi-amping" with tubes mid/hi [VTL S-400] and solid state [Parasound JC-1] on lo to drive B&W 800D. I recall an old reply you sent somebody to similarly drive low impedance Duntech speakers. The gain on VTL S-400 is 27.2 db and the Parasound JC-1 is 28 dB. Do you think this a potential match up.

Regards,

Peter Clarke

 

Hello Peter,

Well, from the amplifiers you mention -- both excellent-sounding and very powerful -- I feel safe in guessing that your listening sessions are not focused primarily on clavichord music. (Reviewer humor.)

My personal preference for bi-amping is to use identical amplifiers for the top and bottom, matching the tonal qualities across the frequency spectrum. But it is not at all uncommon for audiophiles to use tubes on top and transistors in the bass. That said, I am somewhat dubious that this scheme will work for you with passive bi-amping. Yes, the two amplifiers have very similar gain specifications, but that is not the crucial issue. Much more important in determining how loudly each amplifier will play for a given setting of your volume control are the input sensitivities of the amplifiers and the impedance each will see when connected to either the upper or lower-frequency terminals of your loudspeakers. Now, it may be that in your particular case all of those characteristics will wind up in yielding closely matched, accurately balanced playback; in any case, trying the configuration should not cause any harm to your equipment.

You could of course use an active electronic crossover which would enable you to fine tune the output of the different amplifiers. Pass Labs has very high-quality hobbyist electronic crossovers, though they are not inexpensive. If you are handy with electronics, you might want to look at a pro-sound crossover such as a Behringer; those cost considerably less.

What ever you decide to do, I wish you good luck in your explorations, and good listening!

Best wishes,

Wayne Donnelly

April / May 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 48 kHz. 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/96kHz 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 S/PDIF (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 192 kHz 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 300-400 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 Ferre

April / May 2009

Hi,

I'm thinking of stepping into the world of hi-fi since I'll be leaving the world of head-fi.
But there seems to be a big question over what kind of equipments and sound signature i should be looking for. I'm listening mostly to rock and metal. All of my albums are studio recorded.
Any recommendation on what i should be looking into? I know i need deep and fast bass. As far as soundstage and imaging, i guess it isn't that obvious when listening to metal album right?

Best Regards,

Yih Yan

 

Yiah Yan,

The best suggestion would be for your to visit your local high-end audio dealers and listen. Bring your music with you and find what you feel best suits your desires. Because in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

April / May 2009

Hello,

Among many so called audiophile sites, I find your experienced, no-nonsense writing a blast of fresh air, and being an incurable audiophile, I've heeded your advice and been pleasantly surprised by the results - except on my bank account. :-) Lately I've been thinking of The Big What If:

What would happen if there ever were to be a scientific basis for the things we so enthusiastically and often opinionatedly discuss, namely sound reproduction?

What would happen if you actually could scientifically produce a perfect sound system, and do it in a way that anyone could afford it?

Not just 70, 80, or 90 percent but so real that at least 990,000 out of a million people couldn't tell the difference at least when seated in the right spot. Exact verisimilitude.

That would certainly be a day we would all more than welcome, but what do you think it would mean:

1 to the audiophile hobbyists/professionals
2 the audio industry as a whole
3 not to speak of its effects on the culture, particularly music preferences?

Time to pack your bags and go home? Game over? Is it just a pipe dream or can it happen? What do you think? I welcome your insightful thoughts.

Best Regards,

Wernher Schaefer

 

Wernher,

Sure, it could happen one day and I welcome it. Frankly, it is almost possible with the new ear/hearing transplants. We could be on our way to directly delivering impulses to the brain. As such, a simple capture/replay of said signals is all that is needed. 

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

April / May 2009

Steven,

Wondering why Ian White wasn't on the email roster. I am new to computer audio and noticed in review he said he had set up a number of homes with MiniMacs. I am interested in how to control the music files either through Windows and iTunes and what outboard devices (other than standalone units like say Olive) one can use to organize music to get to DAC. Would love a shootout of desktop and portable DACs at $1000 like the new Wavelength versus others. But first things first. Any good tutorials on Windows player/iTunes online and add-ons be it hardware (maybe touch screen?) or software to group and launch files. Thin you and 6moons have the best web sites out there on this (given current conditions) absurd yet life essential hobby.

Cheers,

Chazz

 

Hi Chazz,

Thanks for the compliment, the many guys who write for Enjoy the Music.com work quite hard. Alas, Ian White has not been writing for us for some time. As for computer audio, try the website www.computeraudiophile.com. The gentleman who run it is great and there is much knowledge there to be found. Personally, I love the Sonos system and use external DACs.

Always glad to help and as always…

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

April / May 2009

Hi Rick,

First of all, let me to wish you and your family a great 2009! Hope everyone is well. I came upon your review of the Penaudio Charisma/Chara speaker yesterday which you reviewed back in December 2004. What caught my eye is the fact I actually bought something similar only three weeks ago: The Rega RS3. Similar build, and perhaps similar sound. But the Regas costing a lot less. In fact the RS3s were the least expensive speakers I heard at In Living Stereo in New York City. They bested the following:

1. ProAc Response D2 ($3,400)
2. ProAc Tablette Signature 8 ($1,900)
3. Dynaudio 140 ($1,800)
4. Rega RS5 ($1,600)

I wonder how the RS3 ($1,200) would have fared facing the Penaudio. Have you heard the Regas?

Thanks and best regards,

George

 

George,

This takes me back just a little bit. I will confess that I have not had the opportunity to have an extended listen to any of the four speakers that you cited. I don't know the Regas at all. I have heard the ProAc D2s and my quick reaction was that they were very good. It is, at least theoretically, hard to separate the Charisma/Chara -- which are essentially a full-range system -- to some smaller monitor-size speakers (all except the Regas).

The three companies you mention are all serious manufacturers of products that tend to be very fine in their class -- in just about every class in which they are found. In fact, I would say that they are all "modest" manufacturers -- they wish to have their products speak for themselves, and the products speak forcefully with a minimum of noise and fuss.

That said, though I do not know the Regas, if you preferred the Regas to the others, they sound as though for you they are quite the bargain. The Penaudio system is, and remains, darn good. I have listened again just recently and am buying a pair of Serenades for myself. The Charisma/Chara, while not quite as refined as the Serenades, have a strikingly similar sound - neutral, controlled, unfancy, and eminently musical. But they do cost a bit more than all the speakers you listened to. I would say that if you are pleased with the Regas, be happy. Personally, I get as much joy out of a pair of honest $300 mini speakers as I do out of far superior speakers. I think it has to do with expectations and mindset -- a little bit of the phemomenology of perception. Sounds like the Regas are primed to make you happy. If it were a less reliable company in my humble experience, I would make lots of other suggestions. But you listened against really good stuff, so trust your ears. They are the ears through which you will be listening!

Best,

Rick Becker

April / May 2009

Hello Wayne,

I always enjoy your reviews and am particularly interested in the one you did back in 2002 of the Meadowlark Blue Herons. In that review you mentioned having EgglestonWorks Andras and how the Herons excelled in "speed, dynamics, extension, inner detail, delicacy, and spatial resolution" over them. I am not sure if you still felt that way after writing the article, I but I do see in your bio that you no longer have the Andras, but do have Heron 2's. So perhaps you did?

These days, both my audio budget and my spouse's tolerance for continued gear swapping is near nil. Fortunately for me at this point in time I have a very rewarding two-channel system in place. It has taken me a while to emulate a pair of Andras but I've sort of done so with my pairs of Fontaines and ACI Titan subs. Happy as I am, my radar is always up on any bargain improvements, especially if available locally (Atlanta area).

Which brings me to the reason for this e-mail. There is a pair of Herons (not 2's) for sale locally for which I'll try to get an audition if the seller is willing. If I like them better than my Fontaines+Titans I'll consider selling my Fontaines and one Titan to finance their purchase. But I am reluctant about this particular pair as they've had a rough life thus far. Quoting the A'gon ad (seller is Meadowman):

"These were built for one of the Principals of Tara Labs. Internally wired with RSC, Upgraded caps and resistors. These are truly unique examples of this amazing speaker. I purchased these sight unseen and sound unheard. They arrived at my home with all woofers faulty, both Audax HD3P gas piezo tweeters not working and a tear in one of the HM100Z2 midrange drivers. Over the past 2 months I have replaced EVERY faulty driver. I spent 10 years as a salesman working for one of the first Meadowlark Audio dealers in the country. I have probably sold, owned and set up as many pairs of Meadowlarks as anyone out there. The replacement work was done by me using the correct solder and techniques. The tweeters are NOS, The Mids are NOS, the woofers have been fully re-coned (not re-surrounded, re-coned)by Madisound. I have the receipts for all the drivers. These are in all senses a "new" pair of speakers from a performance standpoint. I have put about 120 hours on them any they are starting to make real magic."

As confident as the seller is, this story sounds scary to me. How/why would someone ruin drivers in $9k speakers? Are the crossovers wrecked too? Is the rebuilt as good as the original?

Anyway, I am interested in your opinion...

1. What do you think about replacing my Fontaines with the Herons?
Is this a significant improvement or lateral move?

2. Now that you have Heron 2's, what do you miss, if anything, about your Andras?

3. Should I (a non DIY kind of person) be scared by the story or the fact that Meadowlark is no longer in business?

4. How can I tell if this guy is being truthful?

5. Do you know this Meadowman person?

FYI, in case it matters, the rest of my system:
Opera Audio Consonance Reference 2.2 (original, not linear) CDP ("factory" modified).
Mapletree Audio 2A SE Linestage (12SX7GT NOS tubes).
AVA Fet Valve Ultra 550 (Mullard NOS tubes).
Fontaines are high-passed with ACI 85Hz passive in-line filters (so no Mullard "mud" present).
Titan subs are connected as stereo pair, set at 55Hz.
ICs, speaker cables (DIY), and PCs are all of common grade.

Thank you and best regards,

Dan

 

Hello Dan,

First, a small confession. My on-line reviewer profile is outdated and ready for an update. I no longer have the Meadowlark Blue Heron 2s (sold to a friend) or the Eggleston Andras (passed on to my brother). I am now listening happily to the Analysis Audio Amphitryon planar/ribbon loudspeakers. Now, about your dilemma. I am sympathetic, but your questions 1-5 assume that I have virtually supernatural powers of judgment. Here's the best I can manage:

1. You want me to compare a jury-rigged sat/sub I've never listened to with an excellent but long-discontinued full-range speaker I haven't heard in years, and that you fear may not be in top shape? Sorry, I'm bailing on that one.
2. At the time of the switch, I had no regrets.
3. All the drivers & components are off-the-shelf, so it's less scary that Meadowlark is gone. 
4. Gimme a break!
5. No.

Since you are in the same area, I suggest you ask for a direct audition of the BHs. If they sound right and they float your boat sonically, and you see their appearance, you'll have the data you need to make a decision. But remember, it's your call 'cause it's your money. Good hunting!

Wayne Donnelly

 

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