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Letters To Us

 

September 2004

Hello Mr. Gaw,

I enjoy reading your reviews very much, lately on pc whose findings are material for me in making up my mind on what new cables are "best", or worth a listen... In Chapter 59, you write about periodically "checking your tubes." I have some tube gear, too (ARC REf 2, CAT, CJ, Melos 400) but am never sure when it is working to its best in terms of tube wear.

What is the procedure which you follow here, is there a review on it and what hardware (tube tester) do you use, please?

Many thanks and best regards from Switzerland,

E. Sutter

 

Gruss Gott Herr Sutter. Wie gehts?

Thanks for the kind comments. I sometimes wonder if anybody reads my column, never mind get any information out of it. Tube wear is a problem, as they seldom fail catastrophically, although I have had a couple of 300B and 2A3 tubes that lost half or all of their filaments, but that can be heard as a significant decrease or lack of output. The usual problem is an increase in tube noise as hissing or popping or distortion of loud passages, which can be heard. On the other hand, the vast majority of aging usually leads to a slow fade-out of sound quality, which over time leads to a darkening or lack of rightness of music reproduction.

One interesting thing I have found is that not all tube noise is secondary to the tube, but is caused by the contact between the tube pin and socket caused by oxidation of the surfaces. One should clean the tube pins and sockets frequently or use Walker Audio's SST silver salve as described in my previous articles.

As far as testing is concerned, there has not been a true tube tester made in 50 years. I use a Kaye tube evaluator, which checks for noise, output voltage and filament integrity, but it is also no longer being made. You may look on eBay for one of these or an older tester, but make sure that you get the instruction booklet and the different tube profiles otherwise the unit is worthless.

Bill

 

September 2004

Wayne,

I have read your reviews of the Von Schweikert VR-1, VR-2 and VR-S/1 sub. I enjoyed your reviews very much and they were helpful to me. I need your advice and guidance. I do plan to make a Von Schweikert purchase. I just want to find the best fit for my space and listening enjoyment. My choice is down to either the VR-2, or a combination of the VR-1 with their sub. My listening will be all Classical Music, and the system will be in my home office where I spend many hours. The area of the room is 11 ft by 18 ft, and I am constrained to place the speakers along the longer wall.

With this being said, my questions are as follows:

1. I have never had a sub before. Would one sub combined with the VR-1 really be seamless and sound well integrated? Will the bass deficiencies of the VR-1 be overcome and will the bass sound like it is coming from both speakers, even though the sub is separate? Or will the bass sound disjointed or detached? If you know Saint Saen's Organ Symphony for example, will the sense of sound imaging and integration be the same with the VR-1+Sub vs the VR-2?

2. You rated the VR-1 with high marks that exceeded or equaled the VR-2 in all areas except sub-bass and mid bass below 200Hz. With the sub added to the VR-1 how would you have rated the combo vs. the VR-2 in these areas? Looking at the VR-1 and VR-1/S as a system, what score would you have given these for the sub and mid bass compared to the VR-2? Would any other scores change for tonality for example?

3. Are there any negative impacts of having a VR-1 + Sub combo versus having only the VR-2 that should make me go in that direction instead.

4. In the event I go the sub route, I noted from your review that there were two ways to connect the sub: to the preamp or to the speakers. For classical music do you recommend one method over another? If you connect through speaker cables does this mean you need the same quality speaker cables for the amp to sub run and the sub to speaker runs? I am concerned with this because I have already invested in an expensive Cardas Golden Cross cable for the speakers, and I cannot buy a duplicate set of this same cable for the sub. It seems to me that if you use a cheaper cable for the amp to sub, you will lose something in the transition to the Cardas from the sub to the speakers. Is this correct?

B. Ziegler

 

Hello B. Ziegler, 

Wow! I'm fatigued just from reading your letter! Let me make what could be a full-review-length reply short and to the point. If I were in your situation, and choosing from these alternatives for a one-time purchase and long-term usage, I would go for the VR 2s. If I wanted to allow for future upgrades, I'd choose the VR 1 & VR S/1. OR,, for another $500, upgrade from the VR 1 to the LCR 15, which would provide somewhat better dynamics and richness. If you do go with the sub, I definitely recommend using the line inputs to run it in parallel with the stereo speakers. Hope this helps! 

Cheers,

Wayne

 

September 2004

Wayne,

 Do you know anything about B&W 801 series 80 studio monitors? I know a fellow who wants to sell a pair that are twenty years old. I understand that the factory crossovers were a problem and that alternatives can be purchased. Apart from age and cross overs, are you aware of any info of value (i.e., website, etc.) and what is a fair price for an old set of speakers like this?

Thanks,

Bill

 

Hey Bill, 

I'm afraid I'm not much of an old B&W 801 maven. I did for a few months own a pair of 801 Matrix Series 3, dating from about fifteen years ago, and they were considerably better than the first-generation 801s. I sold them to a friend who is still happily using them. My pair was greatly improved by adding Bybee purifiers to all three drivers. As for prices, I wouldn't want to hazard a guess, given the many variables one may encounter in 20-year-old speakers. You might check with the Audiogon bluebook for guidance there. 

Cheers,

Wayne Donnelly

 

September 2004

Hi Bill,

I enjoyed your review on the DPA-300B PP amp very much. I just want to follow up on your review. I am just wondering how is the sound of your second pair with regular 300B tubes? Does it has more midrange magic then your first pair?

Thanks,

Tuck

 

Tuck,

A full review will be upcoming in October. Yes, they have the 300B magic without the SET distortion. As a matter of fact, the distortion numbers are in the solid-state range with tube sound. More to follow.

Bill

 

September 2004

Hi Colin,

Thank you for taking the time to read my email. I just wanted to take a little time and thank you for doing a piece on my most favorite of all times, Michael Franks. I have been a fan of his for about 27 years now (since I was 12 years old, I am now 39). I have had the immense pleasure of meeting Michael and I am able to say that he is not only a talented writer, musician and performer he is also a very nice man. He is soft-spoken and intelligent and has always been grateful to his fans. I've always enjoyed his wit and his clever lyrics, way back when I was 12, I didn't even know what he was singing about in a lot of cases, all I knew was that I loved the voice, the wonderful music and the words and how they flowed and touched my heart.

As an adult, I can now say t hat I do understand what he was singing about and I love how he so eloquently puts into words things I've felt but didn't quite know how to explain. So, in closing, thank you again for the article on Michael Franks, I think he is like a rare jewel that only very few get to see/hear and even fewer truly understand and are touched by his inner beauty and strength.

Sincerely,

Laura Limon a.k.a Texas Lady

P.S. I always go back to his lyrics from "The Rainbow" Antonio's Song on the "Sleeping Gypsy" release, and I quote" Pleasure is the child of pain", that one little quote speaks volumes and is very true.

 

Thank you, Texas Jazz Lady...

For taking the time and trouble to send your kind words. Michael Franks is indeed a rare jewel of intelligence, appreciation, wit, poetry, voice and musical talent. Since he lives on the other Florida coast, I hope I am lucky enough to meet him someday.

Yours in Listening,

Colin

 

September 2004

Hi Steve, 

I enjoyed your review of portable CD players, as I have been thinking about them and the I-pod. In case you know anyone who wants one, I have a Mint D-555 that has been used for one week about every other summer, and sits stored in a box the rest of the time. Just thought I'd mention it. I am really curious about getting a D-25 :-) I played my daughter's Aiwa machine, and was pleasantly surprised how good it sounds plugged into my main system.

Personally, I found the D-555 rather dry sounding.

Regards, Bill

 

Bill,

Thanks for your e-mail. Like you, have a D-555 here and find it lacking (as compared to the D-25). You can always place your D-555 on eBay. As for the D-25, they seem to be getting quite a premium nowadays due to my review. Was looking to purchase another D-25 and what was once only $40 is now fetching over $150!

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

September 2004

Steve,

To review a modded unit like the Denon DVD 5900 is a mistake once you get to the price of the mod 5900 you should be in audition before you buy territory, not mail order and hope. An unfortunate byproduct of the modding experience is that you start out with something you can afford have it altered into something you cannot and if anything goes wrong...

Please stick to reviews of unaltered original manufacturers equipment.

Chris

Please do not interpret this as a knock on DIY.

 

Chris,

Thanks for your e-mail. Indeed reviewing tweaked equipment can be both good and less than perfect, yet there are many pieces of equipment that seem to benefit from such things. To ignore the entire industry that professionally modifies gear would do a great injustice for those who desire ever higher musical enjoyment.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

September 2004

Hello Wayne,

I just found and read your review of the Meadowlark Osprey vs. the Von Schweikert VR 2. It was very helpful. I was wondering if you have had a chance to check out the Von Schweikert VR 4 Jr? They are now closer to the price of the Osprey ( I can get them for $3,400) than the VR2 and have a place where I can audition them but can't audition the Osprey.

Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Charles Ford

 

Hello Charles, 

Von Schweikert Audio just informed me that a review pair of VR 4jr loudspeakers is on the way to me. The review speakers have been fully broken in, so I expect to have the review done for the October or November issue of our Review Magazine. I have already heard the VR 4jr enough to know that it is a significant improvement over the VR 2. I no longer have on hand a pair of Ospreys, so I will not be able to have a similar head-to-head shootout, but I will comment on the different comparisons within the limits of my audio memory. I hope the review comes in time to be helpful to you. 

Wayne

 

September 2004

Hello Mr. Donnelly,

I'm writing in regard to your review of the VTL TL-7.5 preamp from January 2004. Very simply, in that review you state that the 7.5 performs much better using the balanced mode than using single-ended. Did you find the performance difference to be easily noticeable?

The reason I'm asking is that, I'm currently looking for components to audition for a major system upgrade. To this end, I've come across VTL's 7.5 preamp and Halcro's dm68 power amp. The odd part of this is, Halcro seems to have undertaken a circuit design which is optimized for use as single-ended. One of your colleagues reviewed the dm68 and stated that using Halcro's "minimal path" input, yielded considerably better results than any other. This input is single-ended. So in my search, it's hard to find OEM's who are all going in the same direction.

Any information or thoughts you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Regards,

L.J. Phillips

 

Hi L.J., 

The second sentence of your inquiry sent me back to my review, where I verified that the "much" in the phrase "plays much better" was added by you, not stated by me. I make that point not to play "gotcha," but rather to frame my clarification: 

Perhaps the only unquestioned advantages of balanced connectivity are enabling very long cable runs and common mode rejection: the cancellation of noise that occurs in common on both the positive and negative paths of a differential balanced component or cable. I'm sure this latter factor contributes to the superlative quietness of the 7.5, but placed in a system this preamplifier seems equally quiet when connected via single-ended interconnects. 

In terms of sound quality, I should have made clear that I was talking about the 7.5 connected within a balanced differential system. Depending on the component, the presence of an XLR connector does not automatically signify a balanced component. When I first acquired my VTL MB-750 Reference monoblocks they had both RCA and XLR inputs. However, the XLR input simply mixed down to a single-ended path; the XLR input jack was really just for convenience of connectivity, and I preferred the sound using the single-ended RCA inputs. Subsequently, I had VTL install a number of upgrades, including the new "Super-balanced" input stage they had developed for the new $40,000 Siegfried Reference monoblocks (which are a true differential design). Even though the 750s are not a differential architecture, the truly balanced input stage makes them now sound best through the XLR input. 

Similarly, I get slightly better sound with a balanced connection between the Dodson DA 218 DAC and the 7.5. However, the difference is subtle, and I have no illusion that I could walk into my listening room with the DAC connected single-ended and quickly recognize the difference. I have no complaints whatever with the single-ended connections between my Thor TA-3000 phono preamp or Sony SCD 777ES SACD player to the 7.5. If everything else in my system were single-ended, I would still consider the VTL 7.5 and the $18,000 CTC Blowtorch the very best preamplifiers I've ever experienced. 

I have not listened extensively to the Halcro preamplifier, but I'm sure it is excellent. At this level, I don't think you should rely solely on reviewers' comments for making you purchase decisions. But let me suggest that there is a lot more to quietness than the type of input connector used. 

Best wishes,

Wayne Donnelly

 

September 2004

Hello Steve,

I have been reading your reviews and enjoy it thank you! I was going to purchase the SF Cremono Auditor or Electa Amator 2s but I talked an Italian friend he told me to listen to Aliante One PFs. He tells me that they are a real bargain even at their retail price. It is almost impossible to audition them but after reading your review I am leaning towards them. I really love the warm and romantic sound of SF speakers but how would you compare the Aliante Ones to SF sound? I would really appreciate at least a short answer as I assume I am not the only one who emails your for this kind of question. Thanks in advance.

P.S. It is strange that these speakers are sold well below their retail price on Audiogon. One is selling for $1,700 with matching stands, used of course.

Celal

 

Celal,

Thanks for your e-mail. SF loudspeakers are quite nice, and you do pay for the lovely wood work and prestige. Have a feeling the Pininfarina are not as well known so their used price is lower. At $1,700 they are indeed a bargain to my ear in my system.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

September 2004

Steve,

Hi, I read your review of the Cardinal X1 and recently bought one for a good price (just waiting on shipment). I just wanted your opinion regarding speakers. My current speakers are Alón Lotus Signatures (original version). The Sigs are rated at 89dB sensitivity. My listening room is a small space - about 10' x 12'. Do you think I'll have sufficient power to run the Sigs? If not, what are your loudspeaker recommendations? Do you have any experience with the Cain and Cain I Ben double horns?

Thanks for the help.

George

 

George,

Thanks for your e-mail. First i would see if your existing loudspeakers provide enough volume with the Wavelength. If yes, you are all set :) If not, then i can recommend Audio Note, Reference 3A, and Avantgarde horns as a few suggestions. Feel free to read my reviews of these loudspeakers within our Review Magazine archives as seen by clicking here. Always glad to be of service. Of course in the end what really matters is that you... 

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

September 2004

Hello,

I was wondering if there was going to be a HIFI show this year, 2004, in New York, or did I miss it?

Bernard Stevens

 

Bernard,

Thanks for your e-mail. Alas, you missed the NYC event. Good news is that we have extensive coverage online and can be seen by clicking here

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

September 2004

Hello Wayne,

I read your reviews and took your email advice. I purchased the Von Schweikert VR-2's, and now have about 100 hours of hard play on them (Fat Of The Land by Prodigy). The burning-in is tough, but noticeably worth the effort. I love what these small speakers can do, and I very, very much appreciate your kind advice. I selected the African Hazelwood which, for once, both my wife and I love seeing in our living room. Bass output is accurate and extraordinary, bass and kettle drums with realistic power that I have never heard before on my CD collection. On some recordings, instruments are very true... wood, brass, stringed, and especially big piano. I thank you very much for your knowledgeable counsel.

Very best regards,

Ted Palmer

 

Hi Ted, 

I remember our exchange very well, and I'm delighted to hear that the VR 2s are performing so well for you. Thanks very much for taking the time to write, and keep on enjoying the music. 

Best wishes,

Wayne

 

September 2004

Thank you. What a wonderful site.

 

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