Enjoy the Music.com

Letters To Us



Hi Bill, 

Thanks for the insightful column re Denon 2900. I agree with you about its sonic characteristics and price/performance ratio, after break in, having recently purchased this combo player. It is causing me to rethink my hardline, died in the wool 2 channel only approach. I have a good, IMHO, 2 channel high end audio system (Legacy Whisper, Krell fpb 300, Sig Tech calibrated acoustic correction, Meridian 518, CAL Alpha 24/96 DAC, Tadeo Active Antidote 2, Bybee loudspeaker filters, AR ES1 and Bryston phono pre-amplifier, Bel Canto pre 1, etc.) and a ~3.5K home theater system. Now, with many good interesting multi-channel SACD and DVD-A's out there - I may have to redo my surround system for good sound and possibly sell my 2 channel system - they are perpendicular to each other and my room sounds better 90 degrees from my Sony GWII 60 LCD rear projector which I enjoy. However I am running out of space for all these speakers - so I may have to bite the bullet on 2 independent audio systems in the same room and I can not move the Whispers by the TV - so I have to rethink this. 

One thing you mentioned has me extremely interested - you mentioned that your HTPC far outperforms the 2900 with video sources. Could you please send me details of your htpc hardware components and important relevant software necessary to achieve this??

I would greatly appreciate this. I look forward to your further




It is very difficult sometimes to mate your audio with your video system, especially due to room speaker and TV placement. As you seem to be an audio rather than videophile, I'd try to put the monitor between the main loudspeakers, just further back by 2 to 3 feet to decrease interference with the sound stage. Keep all of your present audio equipment, and go for matching the Legacy speakers with their center and surround speakers. If you are usually the only one listening and watching, leave out the center loudspeaker and redirect the center sound to your main loudspeakers.

Possibly trade the Meridian for one of their pre-pro's for control of the system. For information on my HTPC ,go to my previous articles in the ARCHIVES section, VIEWPOINT, CHAPTERS 7, 16, and 36.With a good computer, a great sound card such as the M-Audio 1010, RME or Lynx, a top of the line Radeon or Geforce video card and a program such as PowerDVD or WINDVD for DVD's and DSCALER for external NTSC video, and MediaCenter 9.0 for CD playback, the audio and video will be the best your system will be able to reproduce except for HDTV. Just set the video card to match the resolution of your monitor, and run it at 60Hz or 72H. and enjoy.





Thanks for your continued contributions to Enjoy the Music. It's one of my favorite reads, and your column is always a gem.

Your comments on Jack Elliano's DRD amps always piqued my interest, and Ron Welborne's new kit versions of DRD amps for 45, 2A3, and 300B tubes appear to be good deals. He found that the sound of the DRD circuit was improved by reducing the output power. Ron uses Electraprint trannies in the kits.

I would be very interested in a review by you of one or all of these kits (which are available assembled, too). www.welbornelabs.com

Vade Forrester


Thanks for the comments. I believe Ron has licensed the circuit from Jack, and is using Jack's transformers, which I am sure makes Jack happy as he prefers the transformer designing, and winding. Would love to review one and will have to contact Mr. Wellborn for a review sample. I am still using three of Jack's 300B DRD units for my front horns and love them. The DRD circuit is the biggest advancement in tube circuitry in the las 50 years in my opinion. 




Dear Mr. Jensen,

Greetings. I am taking the liberty to write to you to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your reviews of the Dynaudio Confidence C2. The C2 happened to be one of the speakers which I was interested in especially because of the use of the new generation Esotar 2 tweeter. In reading your review, 2 matters in particular caught my attention:

1. You mentioned about your smallish room and your reason for choosing the C2 for review as opposed to the larger C4, can you advise your room dimensions or size for comparison purpose please?

2. You also compared the C2 to Vienna Acoustic Mahler and to which I would presume you have listened in your listening room, is there a review posted by you of the VA Mahler? I have read (in Stereophile) that the Mahler's bass (50, 60hz) can be problematic in smallish room, and I am curious to know if you find the Mahler's side firing woofers and the bass a problem in your room?

My room size is 17 x 13 x 8 (LxWxH in feet). I just wonder if I have enough space in my room to play the Mahler.

I look forward to hearing from you. Many thanks and regards,

Philip Lee


Mr. Lee,

My room is 15' 10" x 11' x 8' (note -- that will be posted very soon on the web site). Dynaudio had told me that the C2 would work better in an "apartment-sized" room than would the C4; that was part of the design intent. That is not to say that the C2s would not be very much at home in a larger room. My listening room in Paris (when I lived there) was 22 x 28 x 11.5 and the C2s would have had no trouble filling it.

I have only heard the Mahler at length in another reviewer's apartment, also in a room that was modestly sized. I have not had it in my room. That room was longer than mine but equally narrow, if not more so. I did not notice any problems in the bass with the Mahler. I have heard it in show conditions (admittedly not ideal) and in stores, in much larger rooms, and the bass is quite clearly there. I can't say whether the Mahler is somehow more subject to the bass limitations of any speaker in a smaller room. There are speakers with side-firing woofers that sound great in small rooms -- usually placed along the long wall.

A seat-of-the-pants guess (and that's all it is) on my part is that the Mahler would do very nicely in your room. The C2s would be happy as well. I don't think the room volume or dimensions would be especially problematic. I might try placing the Mahlers along the long wall -- just because I have heard it work. But I have to caution -- every room is different. I have placed speakers along both walls in my own room, and I prefer the sound every time along the long wall (more of a near-field experience).

Best of luck. I don't think you'll be unhappy with either speaker, but I understand that it is a significant expense, and it would be great to get it right.

Rick Jensen



Dear Wayne,

I've read your very instructive Meadowlark's Swift review. You seem to be well familiar with the Meadowlarks products. I would really appreciate if you could offer me some advice to help me choose between Kestrel 2's and Vienna Acoustics' Mozart. The latter quite impressed me when I auditioned them with their astonishing clarity and resolution. However, Kestrel 2's are also supposed to be very good, and are much less expensive. Unfortunately, they were not broken in yet and did not sound too well.

Thank you in advance,



Hi Alex,

I'd love to help you with this dilemma, but I don't feel comfortable ruling on two speakers that I haven't lived with at all--especially two such differently designed and priced models. I mean, you're comparing composers and water birds! :-) From the word of mouth I've been hearing, the K2, when fully broken in, poses a serious challenge to higher-priced competition. But I would be mildly surprised if it truly matches the refined mid/treble resolution of the Mozart. A fairer comparison would seem to be between the Mozart and the Meadowlark Osprey, which I am confident will at the least deliver decisively deeper and more powerful bass. I think you need to think about what qualities mean the most to you, and be guided accordingly. Good luck on your quest. 

Best wishes,

Wayne Donnelly




Thanks for the article on Michael Franks! I thought I was the only person in the 21st. century that likes him. There are very few vocalists that can touch my soul, others being Ella Fitzgerald (She is smooth jazz - not the current mish mash of Sax and drum machines), Stevie Wonder, early Al Jarreau, Joyce (Brazilian vocalist) Tom Jobim, amongst some of my favorites. However, instrumental music has always been my love.

Then I heard Michael in the 80's and went to a few live concerts in Los Angeles. Just as well really because I would have never heard of him if I had stayed in England! The bonus for me is that I am also a long term fan of the Yellowjackets, with whom Michael Franks has colla! borated with on many occasions. Plus he is also influenced by Tom Jobim.

I recently read that author P.G. Wodehouse of 'Jeeves' fame used the English language as an art form, which made him stand out amongst authors. I have similar thoughts about Franks' lyrics. His qualifications in English literature and language certainly gave him the tools to weave poignant lyrics that at least make the listener think. It's a shame that new music from him is very rare nowadays. 

As regards his albums, I tend to put them in three groups: Jazz style albums before 'Passion Fruit', the album 'Passion Fruit' and pop/synthesizer albums after 'Passion Fruit' ! Why do I centre my views on around Passion Fruit? This album is unique in his repertoire in that to me is has a spacey, airy, new age feel in its production, with the tracks 'Amazon' 'Sunday Morning Here With You' 'Rainy Night In Tokyo' as examples. Needless to say it's one of my favorite late! -night albums. Even though Dragonfly Summer approached this album in style, it wasn't quite there.

I note that you used the phrase "Smooth Jazz" several times in your article. I think Franks was round a long time before this questionable style was defined. Many of the US radio stations that played his music in the 70's and 80's were once great contemporary jazz stations that played Franks alongside Pat Metheny, Count Basie, Mahavishnu Orchestra etc., etc. He is without doubt a smooth, laid-back artiste but to put him on the official Smooth Jazz list of artists does him a disservice. I have never had the sense that he has totally sold out to commercialism, which your Diana Krall and George Benson may well have done (they have enough money to be a little more risqui in their music but I guess that's up to them and their record labels)

Keep up the great work, Colin.




Thank you for taking the time to pen such a wonderfully informative response. It was a pleasure to read your thoughts.

The smooth jazz appellation was really quite easy to apply. Floridians say "down here," meaning the parts of the country that are not up north (New York and New Jersey). We have a smooth jazz format radio station "down here" that sometimes plays Michael Franks' music. I don't listen to the other stations much, except for NPR. But when I do, Franks is never on them. Yet, when I went to Manhattan last year, the search button found a station playing the same "smooth jazz" format. When I went skiing in Worcester this April (!), I also found a "smooth jazz" format station (all three owned by Clear Channel?). So, smooth jazz it is.

Franks is indeed a smooth, laid-back artisté. He may not have ever sold out to commercialism (I don't get that he wants that kind of lifestyle), but putting him on the official Smooth Jazz list doesn't do him any disservice. That is the shelf where his discs are found.

Yours in listening,





In addition to your valid criticism of the standard audiology procedures, let me add two more.

1- The frequencies should be presented in random order and with random ear selection. This would avoid the anticipation/expectation factor which may bias results.

2- The tones should be warble tones to prevent, as you note, the influence of a punctate loss affecting the overall recorded results.

Best regards,

Kal Rubinson



It gives me great pleasure to find that such a distinguished writer is willing to take the time to read and add to my article. I have truly admired your many reviews over the years. You are right on both counts. Unhappily, the way the typical audiology exam is done at present is only to get a gross idea on someone's hearing, and the ENT doctors are only interested in the mid-range. It would be like evaluating a speaker's frequency response by using one tone per octave. On the other hand, the way the young folks listen to music through headphones and at rock concerts, the only audiology exam any of them will need in a few years is an evaluation of which hearing aid they will need.




Dear Colin,

I have been a long time owner of B&W speakers, and was about to purchase the DM604 s3. Instead I recently purchased the Axiom M80's based on the strength of the reviews (including yours). While I am quite happy with the speakers, I have this nagging feeling that I would have been happier with the B&W's. So my question for you Colin is this, which B&W speakers do the Axiom's come to par with in your estimation? Thanks for your response.

Best Regards,

Amjid Yaseen



I love the tight yellow Kevlar cones of the B&Ws and think they give some of the best mid-range bass I have heard in their price range. The tall Axiom M80s give the more expensive B&W 803s a run for their money though. While I did hear both loudspeakers on the same amazing Pass X250 amplifier, this was not in the same room or music and movie reproduction system. Therefore, I would have to say my impression is that while the B&Ws do sound better, the M80s for a lot less money, come awfully close. Both loudspeakers have low impedance dips and require a powerful amplifier to get the most out of them. If you feel that you are missing something, Amjid, perhaps you need something else. Does you music and movie reproduction system have a deep sub-woofer? Maybe that might give you the boost that you are looking for?

Yours in listening,




Dear Bill,

I read your article with interest. There is no date on the article, and I was wondering when you wrote it? By the way, this is a common problem. There are a vast number of articles on the Internet with no dates, where the date is very important for pegging the comparative state of the art with the available technology at the time. There is no way of telling whether your review was written pre-Radeon 9700 or pre-Audigy 2. I was considering using these as components in an HTPC.

Any opinion on this, or have you already written an article that encompasses these components?

Best regards,

Richard Hamilton - Gibbs



I do an article a month and am presently on Number 46. At present the 9700 is an excellent video card, and possibly the best for HTPC. I would probably go with the Radeon if I didn't already have the Geforce TI-4600 which I bought one week before the Radeon came out. The Audigy 2 is a decent audio card which does not come up to the sound standard of the M-Audio REVO, 24/96 or 1010, or the Lynx or several other high end pro cards. Its advantage is the ability to do DVD-A decoding, but its sound is less than high end. Unhappily no other company has been licensed yet to do DVD-A decoding through a computer. Go up to the AV Sciences web site www.avsforum.com under home theater computer, the best site I know of on the topic.



Editor Steven R. Ropchlin says: It is eay to see when an article is written, simply look at the web page address and you will see a "date code" such as 0600 (June 2000) or 1299 (December 1999). Always glad to be of service.

Steven R. Rochlin





Thanks for your newsletter - I was interested to read Dick Olsher's review of the CD trimming device as I had just ordered one.

Yes it would seem it makes a difference but, thinking about what it does in a bit more detail - and comparing it to, say, an auto wheel balancer (which is trying to do exactly the same thing ... make a rotating thing rotate more smoothly!) - I can't help thinking that just getting a perfectly round CD is not all you need to do for "perfect spinning".

We are talking here about correcting some manufacturing defects (off-centre hole, not perfectly round circumference). But... is the polycarbonate exactly the same thickness all the way across the CD? If it is not then this mass imbalance will cause vibration during rotation, despite having a geometrically correct circle.

Whaddya reckon?? Maybe you need a second device which will grind flat - and clean and polish, I guess - the surface of a CD on each side?

Keep up the good work.





While digital disc manufacturing has been refined over the years as has testing during the process, there are still defects and such. The lathe helps with out of round discs yet we also must understand something that can not be corrected, the digital pits and grooves being not perfectly centered PLUS the quality of the pits (cleanliness). The Lathe helps only one of many situations. Sorry to add the proverbial "fuel to the fire", yet "perfect sound forever" appear to be flawed.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin




Dear Steve,

I have read your excellent review on the Reference 3A MM De Capo-i speakers and I am aware that these are, actually, one of your favorite stand-mounted monitors. I have read a little about these speakers and it seems that they are very demanding about the type/kind of amplification to suit them, in order to get the best out of them.

As I am trying to build my next system - which I hope it would be the final one (a system for life, if that exists!) - I would like to put you a few questions about foreseeable synergy between these monitors and Quad amplification.

Given your experience and expertise, would you say that the tubed Quad II-forty amplification might be the right one for this kind of idiosyncratic speaker? Or should a solid-state version (Quad 909) be more adequate? In other words: for someone in love with QUAD amplification (specially tubes), is this a speaker to consider or should I strike it off the list of candidates?

Let me add, for your guidance, that my musical preferences are classical, choral, jazz and some rock. And that on my list of digital sources there are machines as the Quad 99 CD-P or Gamut CD1.

Your comments and/or advice will be most appreciated. Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards


PS: I apologize for my English as this is not my natural language.



Your English is wonderful! The 3A MM De Capo-i is not hard to drive nor "idiosyncratic". It is easy to drive and highly revealing of the upstream equipment. The Quad amplifiers should work well with them. The 3A are, in fact, one of the easiest to drive monitor loudspeakers. The only "problem" is that they are very transparent and, hence, will not allow less then good equipment to hide their faults. i prefer excellence over half-baked, inefficient designs. Of course in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin





I have read a couple of your reviews on Enjoy the Music.com™ and found them to be very informative, well written, and helpful. I am certainly no audiophile but am looking for an affordable system that will sound great to my ears. I am considering the ASL Wave 8's that you highly regard in your review. My problem is that I am cheap and want to find an alternative to ASL's $250 pre-amplifier, and don't want to get involved in a DIY attenuator (as described in Steven R. Rochlin's article). Do you have any suggestions for a low cost pre-amplifier? Two more questions: (1) In your opinion, would there be any advantage to running Axiom's M22ti's instead of the M3ti's? and (2) Would a Sub be easily and effectively integrated into this system? Any feedback will be much appreciated.


Bill Christiansen


Thanks for the compliments, I can tell that you are a truly a wise gentleman! The only less expensive and acceptable solution I would suggest is a vintage integrated tube amplifier and pre-amplifier such as the small Scott and Eico integrateds that have been doing so well on eBay and the forums lately. You need a knowledgeable person to go over the old unit, clean it up, replace old parts and bring it up to speed. Try NOS Values. Otherwise look for a used Dynaco or the Bottlehead Foreplay pre-amplifier kit.

Haven't heard the Axiom M22tis, just the bigger brother M80s. On a tight budget, yours or mine, the M3Tis with a integrated tube amplifier makes sweet little system in average size rooms. A sub would integrate easily into such a such a system, simply split the RCA output cables.

Yours in listening,





Doc Gaw and Neil Walker...

Please HELP!!!

Here is my Dilemma... I have the chance to buy one of two systems... Both supposedly in mint condition!

* A Basis 2500 with a Graham 2.0 tone arm and a Lyra Parnassus Cartridge asking $4000 and I'm trading in a my used Lexicon DC-1 DD/AC-3 Processor ($700) for a total of $3,300


* A VPI TNT V Hot Rod with SDS and the JMW 12.5 Tone Arm but no cartridge. Selling for $4800 and no trade in considered, but I can sell the Lexicon on eBAy or locally for $700 so net would be $4100

You are the Golden Ear and I'm just getting into High End Vinyl... Which would you go for? Yes, money is always a consideration, but will stretch to make the correct decision, and money well spent and without regrets is well invested! Also I am not into a high maintenance system! But I did hear the SDS was impressive (is that something that would work with any turn table or just the VPI???) and a great adjunct to the VPI TNT system.

So Kind Sir!

PLEASE HELP with your HONEST Opinion! I have a deposit on the Basis but I'm sure I can work things out!

A quick reply would eliminate my stress and in decision! Would I buy the Basis and then regret not getting the VPI?

I have Krell KAV Amps and the new Lexicon MC-12B and am working on upgrading to the Best B&W's I can afford... Hopefully the Nautilus 801's or 802's... I like neutral (to slightly warm rather than too bright), accurate imaging, wide soundstage (I'm big into Home Theater and 7.1) and love the smoothest, quick bass but also love to hear the cymbals fade out to silence...

Appreciate your opinion GREATLY!! Heck I will pay for it! Thanks!!!

Best Regards,

Kevin M. Soss



These are the most difficult of queries as there are so many variables. First, both setups are very good for the money. I am familiar with other Basis products, but not this unit. I had a Graham 2.0 tonearm in the past and it a superb unit. Just make sure the unipivit joint is tight. The Lyra Parnassus cartridge is also a very good unit, but I am always leery of getting a used unit unless I can check out the suspension and needle for wear.

The VPI with tonearm is probably the superior unit if in good shape, but also much more expensive. But if its one thing I've learned you get the best unit "you can't afford " so you won't be losing money trading up in the near future. If it comes with the SDS unit, you are getting a very good deal. Considering the quality of your other equipment, go for the VPI.




As much as I would like to give you a definitive answer, I cannot.

Let me explain. Although you have given me complete details about the systems you are contemplating, I have not heard these particular combinations. Even if I were extremely familiar with each system, I do not know your listening preference and could therefore not advise you with any certainty.

You should trust your ears. Listen to each system for a fairly extended period of time, say two hours or so, at least twice, until you can make a general judgment of each. By then, you will have a good sense of which one you prefer. Don't listen for only highs or lows -- try to get a sense of the overall musicality of each system. Regarding the system without the cartridge, is the seller willing to insert a cartridge for testing purposes, preferably the one you would intend to use with this system?

Good luck -- let me know what your decision is -- both of these systems sound very promising. Your personal taste and preferences will have a lot to do with your final choice.

All the best.






Please HELP!!! I just read your review of the Basis 2800 and the Graham 2.2... I was very impressed!

here is my Dilemma... I have the chance to buy one of two systems... Both supposedly in mint condition!

• A Basis 2500 with a Graham 2.0 tone arm and a Lyra Parnassus Cartridge asking $4000 and I'm trading in a my used Lexicon DC-1 DD/AC-3 Processor ( - $700) for a total of $3300


• A VPI TNT V Hot Rod with SDS and the JMW 12.5 Tone Arm but no cartridge. Selling for $4800 and no trade in considered, but I can sell the Lexicon on eBAy or locally for $700 so net would be $4100

You are the Golden Ear and I'm just getting into High End Vinyl...

Which would you go for? Yes money is always a consideration, but will stretch to make the correct decision!

Also I am not into a high maintenance system! But I did hear the SDS was impressive (is that something that would work with any turn table or just the VPI???

So Kind Sir! PLEASE HELP with your HONEST Opinion! I have a deposit on the Basis but I'm sure I can work things out!

A quick reply would eliminate my stress and in decision! Would I buy the Basis and then regret not getting the VPI?

I have Krell KAV Amps and the new Lexicon MC-12B and am working on upgrading to the Best B&W's I can afford... Hopefully the Nautilus 801's or 802's... I like neutral (to slightly warm), accurate imaging, wide soundstage (I'm big into Home Theater and 7.1) and love the smoothest, quick bass but also love to hear the cymbals fade out to silence...

Appreciate your opinion GREATLY!! Heck I will pay for it! Thanks!!!

Best Regards,



Dear Kevin, 

In my experience, making specific buying recommendations--especially to someone I don't know--is likely to end up teaching me once again that "No good deed goes unpunished." But I'm a slow learner, so here's what I think. 

Basis and VPI make some of the best-sounding turntables around. Also, both are well established companies that should be around for long haul. you may want to take into account the size of the two models; the TNT requires considerably more space. But you make two statements which most influence my recommendation: first, that you are a relative newcomer to hi-end audio, and secondly that you don't want a high-maintenance system. 

I suggest you go for the Basis/Graham/Parnassus, and not only because it will save you money. The Basis is easy to set up--virtually plug and play--and is totally unfussy--my 2800 has needed ZERO adjustments since I have owned it. Comments from friends who own/owned the TNT indicate that it is a bear to set up, and it requires frequent adjustments--e.g., re-leveling the air suspension pods. 

I have not used the 12-inch JMW arm, but I'm sure it is excellent. The Graham is probably the closest thing to an industry standard of quality for a pivoted arm. It is a stunning piece of engineering, and in my experience is totally trouble-free. Finally, as my review stated, you can upgrade to the 2.2 by simply replacing one part. And, the Lyra Parnassus is a fine match to the arm. 

On the other hand, your question about whether you would regret not buying the TNT suggests that in your own mind your are more impressed with it than with the Basis. How susceptible to you may be to that kind of buyer's remorse, I have no way of knowing. But I suggest you ask yourself if the bigger and more elaborate table appeals to you BECAUSE it is bigger and more expensive. If so, your satisfaction from owning it may outweigh its greater need for tweaking. BTW, the SDS speed control can be used with other turntables, including Basis. 

Ultimately, I don't think you can make a bad choice here. Either option will deliver wonderful sound. 

Good luck,

Wayne Donnelly





Hello Mr. Becker, I was reading your articles on wire and was wondering if you would share information regarding type and brand of your Mil Spec Wire used for interconnects and speakers? Thank you for your time away from listening to music.





Go to a commercial wire supply company and ask for "mil spec" wire. It is silver plated copper, very finely stranded wire in an extruded Teflon housing. It is manufactured by many companies in a variety of colors. The distributor will probably have a 100'minimum in any given gauge, but it is in the neighborhood of 10 cents to 25 cents per foot, depending on the gauge. You will have to do your own braiding or twisting of pairs, as well as soldering. (I have a friend do the soldering with silver solder, as I lack the experience and the special temperature controlled iron). Also, don't skimp on the RCA jacks--buy good ones.

Since that report I have achieved far superior results with 24 gauge (in the boondogle weave as used by Kimber in their PBJ cable) in my interconnects, as opposed to the 18 gauge I had been using. 

Also, I have replaced my 16 guage. speaker cable with Coincident CST-1 cable from Coincident Speaker Technology, at $500 for a 6' pair of single run cable. (I don't know anything about the construction of the Coincident, but you can check out their website). This is a huge jump in cost over the mil-spec wire, but while the focus is about the same, the transparency is greatly improved. 

If your rig is in the $5-10K range, the mil-spec wire could be a good value for you as speaker cable. Once you have figured out your optimal speaker placement, keep your speaker wire as reasonably short as possible. I had been using 12' length, but since reconfiguring my system, I am now able to use 6'cables.

BTW, I am still using the Balanced Power Technology AC power cords, to good effect.

Hope this helps. Best of luck.

Rick Becker




Hello Bill,

I came across your bio on the Enjoy the Music.com™ site and noticed you were using the m-audio 1010 as your source, so I just had to ask you a question! I'm a college student in Boston, so when I first got started in audio, I couldn't afford a regular CDP, so I started experimenting with using a computer as a transport. Later, I built an HTPC around the m-audio Audiophile 2496. Originally I was running it into an NAD T752, now I'm running it into a B&K AVR-202. I actually never thought of using the cards own DAC's, just because I thought the amount of noise inside the computer case would be too much for getting a good clean signal... but now I'm tempted to try it out.

Anyway, my question was, how do you feel the HTPC with M-Audio compares as a transport (or transport and DAC) to other non-computer units? Is it comparable to budget CDP's (< $1000), similar to the multi-thousand dollar units, or even better? Each year, I feel I learn a bit more from my past mistakes, and so I wanted to try putting together a new system this year, starting with a top-notch source and work my way thru to the front-end. However, I realized I have no idea whether my HTPC is a "top-notch source". My current system is B&K AVR-202 -> McIntosh MC-2505 -> JM Labs Electra 915.1's. The next one will be of comparable grade, perhaps a bit higher. Do you think I should bite the bullet and get a non-PC transport? I'd try and borrow a unit from dealers around here, but there really aren't any in Cincinnati (where I live for the summer), and I'm usually much too busy when I'm up at school, so I wanted to get a used one and try it out, but I didn't want to go on a quest of endless folly, especially since my current front-end (i'm using some PSB's for the summer, since I don't have room for the jm labs in my bedroom) may not reveal the differences between a better source. Since you must've listened to tons of CDP's, I'd be curious to hear what you think. Also, I'd imagine you've tried quite a few tweaks on it? Especially if you're a follower of Clark Johnsen :) I was thinking of AC isolation, and/or vibration isolation, not sure how effective that'd be. Interesting to know if you've found any effective tweaks for an HTPC. I haven't had great luck searching for info on AA and AVSforum.

Thanks for any light you can shed! I really like your audiolics series too, I'm still reading thru it :) I just had the pleasure of meeting Steve Rochlin about a week ago, before he left for Germany, and have been really amazed with the quality work and reviews that goes into the ETM site. Hopefully, when I'm back in Boston in the fall, I can get a chance to meet you in person.

Best regards,


PS: I really like your projector :) I've been living with the 8500 (not the LC, air-coupled lenses) for a year now, and been thrilled with the performance. Unfortunately, it must go this year to be replaced with a digital unit, because I will never never never try putting something in my dorm room again that weighs more than I do (especially when it needs to be more than 5 feet off the ground).



An Electrohome 8500 in a dorm room? I don't think my room in college would have held one never mind the throw distance you need. If you read my previous articles in the Archives section, you'll find that I have discussed previously the use of the computer as the reproduction device for audio and video. When set up properly with the proper cards and software, the home theater computer can beat by far the best video reproduction of DVD's available except possibly for running an SDI DVD transport into a Teranex line quadrupler, for about 10 times the cost. As far as audio, I also had the Audiophile 24-bit/96kHz card a couple of years ago, and found it equivalent to many sub $3,000 D/A converters. The 1010 bumps that up into the several thousand dollar range for $600 street, and gives you the ability to do 7.1 surround.

In addition, get a large hard drive and transcribe all of your CD's to it either full bit or using a lossless program such as APE, and use Media Center with its digital signal processing for playback. You'll never look back at the super expensive transports and converters. Take the B&K unit out of the chain. You won't need it, except possibly for doing Dolby digital 5.1 surround from external sources. Come up for a listen when you get back from summer break.






My name is Jim Best and I read your review "Cool Audio System on the Cheap". I'm fortunate to have hooked up with your article, in that I have just sold my HT setup: Marantz SR6200 AV Receiver, B&W CDM1-SE (L/R), B&W LCR 60S3 center channel, and JVC XV-S500 DVD/CD player.I had the CDM1's for over 2 years, but the rest was less than 6 months old. This setup just didn't do it for me; probably it's a decent system for someone else, but it just didn't trip my trigger. Also, like Elvis, I killed my television, got rid of the 32" flat screen JVC monitor. Discovered that this whole (hole) Home Theater thing was destroying one of the coolest pleasures I do with my friends... Go out to the movies!

What I liked about your article was your enthusiasm for the theme: "Cool Audio System on the Cheap". You weren't sellin', you were showing; you weren't convincing, but empowering. Your tone, your enthusiasm are what I picked up on from the first. I want to thank you for your enthusiasm, your knowledge and your innate desire to honestly share this knowledge with other people. Thank you.

The purpose of this email is to comment on your review, and ask for your guidance on a few issues I've developed since reading your review.

1). I know you suggested a DACT stepped attenuator for volume control, but I am considering a Parasound P/HP-850 preamp. Would this be a good choice? Or would the ASL AQ2004 tubed preamp be a better choice with the Wave 8's and Cicadas? I am concerned about not having a buffer between amp and source. Either of these alternatives are just a little more in cost than what it would take to get the DACT set up with its own chassis and connectors. So cost is irrelevant - P/HP850 @ audioadvisor $250 w/free shipping; ASL AQ2004 $299 + shipping. I guess my major concern is that I have experience using the variable output of a CD player running into the inputs of my amp (Sony w/Burr-Brown DACs circa 1988 into Forte Model 3 amp and B&W Matrix 1 speakers). This was a very fatiguing setup, but for the longest time I convinced myself that it was accurate. Have things come that far since '89?

2). Regarding the speakers; I was looking at Fostex and the FE206E full range drivers in their mini-monitor enclosures. Have you any experience with these speakers? If so, how do they compare to the Cicadas? These are at the same price as the Cicadas.

3). Aside from the Ah! Toejb, what other digital sources would you recommend?

Steve, I appreciate your time and again thanks for that 'Cool' review. Look forward to hearing from you and reading more of your reviews.


Jim Best



Thanks for your e-mail. ALWAYS glad to help. Alas, never heard the Parasound P/HP-850 preamp or the ASL AQ2004 tubed pre :-( . Same comment goes for the loudspeakers you mentioned and the AH!. The Moth loudspeakers are quite good for the money, also check out the Amperion Audio offerings. Hope this helps my friend. Of course in the end what REALLY matters is that YOU...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin



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