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Letters To Us


September 2005

Dear Mr. Flood,

We corresponded a month or two ago about my new Meadowlark Swift speakers. (They are still breaking in, but sounding better!) I'm grateful for your advice concerning them. This time around, I'm on the horns of a trilemma: I'm in the market for a good tube amplifier (for my 1.6 Magneplanars) and I can't figure where to jump. My budget will handle no more than $1,000 to $1,200, and suddenly there's a lot of competition in that area!

The first amp I considered seriously (and I can obtain a good price on this one- — an AQ 1003 DT Antique Audio model) especially after reading your article on this item. I'm curious about some of your seeming ambivalence, where you admit you hadn't compared this amp to the Cayin amp. What I'm wondering is, in the time between the article's publication and now — have you heard anything in this range which you prefer? There are now, to my knowledge (and maybe others to yours), two equal-sounding (there are no reviews of the Cayin yet) amplifiers on the market: The Cayin A-50T and the Primula Prologue One (and also Two)! This deal for the AQ 1003 is not going to be available long, so I need more information soon: in your opinion, should I consider one of these the better for my application?

I'd appreciate your thoughts.

Thank you,

JJ Gregory



My impression of Maggies is that they love a ton of horsepower. So while I was thrilled with the ASL AQ1003DT integrated tube amplifier with big ole horns and powered towers, I am not so sure they will excite your Maggies enough to make them sing. Of course, a powerful subwoofer makes all the difference, if it integrates tightly with the Maggies. I heard and loved the coppered-colored Cayin TA30 on big ole horns, but did not seriously audition them in my own home with my own equipment. For Maggies, I would consider the more powerful of the three choices - the one that puts out significantly more power as the impedance measurement gets lower.

Yours in Listening,



September 2005

Hi Steven,

i came across your list of kit and noticed you've heard two amps i'm considering. The Airtight (either the ATM1 or ATM-300B) and the Art Audio Diavolo. I've heard both these in different systems but wondering what your impressions on the differences? I'll be using them with a 92db Living Voice OBX-R2s, my room is small at 11x13 foot and my diet is primarily jazz, acoustic, vocals. I'm after the best sound and by that i mean the clarity that digital amps do so well, combined with palpability and texture of SETs with transparency and amazing speed/microdynamics/jump factor. Modern day valve that's not soggy or overtly dark/soft/rich. Bass is important but very low on my list.

Many thanks,




Thanks for your e-mail. While Air Tight makes wonderful products, for speed and clarity i would highly recommend the Art Audio products. My memories of the ATM-1 were of a rosy tube sound rather than a fast and more neutral 'sound' of the Art Audio Diavolo. Hope this helps.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin


September 2005

Hello Jeff,

I believe the KIT1 review is first one of yours that I've read. I already spoke to Steve R. and told him I like the review a lot :) , and the way you write. Being a "part time" reviewer myself (for a local Croatian audiophile website) I enjoy reading  reviews that aren't only like: "ok, here's the tech crap, and it sounds like..." if you know what I mean.

But! (there's always a but), the "negative" sides of the amp you listed do not exist with Audio Note loudspeakers, or any other high (very
high) efficiency/flat 8ohm load speakers. Concert levels? Rock music? Classical? Sure, no problem. To really get the drift of Audio Note you need at least Audio Note loudspeakers; all other Audio Note stuff (DAC) wouldn't hurt too. Then again, that would be a review of a complete Audio Note rig, but (2 buts is better then one!) and not only the KIT1 amp.

Therein lies the problem.
Excuse the "I know it all attitude", being only 23, I'm allowed to do that - but (anyone counting?) from my experience, Audio Note amps (and speakers) NEED each other to work. Sure, you can use other brands, but (yeah..) it will probably work best if you pair AN with AN (and then some Audio Note). The two best hi-fi (maybe hi-fi ain't the best word) setups I heard both consisted of a lot of Audio Note stuff (one was complete level 5+avantgarde, the other DIY amp-Neiro copy and DAC 4, and AN-E).  I myself, own a pair of Audio Note AZ-Twos (cheap stuff, only $1k/pair) and AN based DIY copy amp, basically a 211 SET. So, you own the KIT1 amp! Do yourself a favor; go buy some AN speakers (perhaps editor Steven R. Rochlin  will let you use his AN-J/SPx ).

Keep up the good work guys and greets from Croatia,

Dalibor B.


Hi Dalibor,

I am glad you liked the review. I enjoyed writing it. A lot of people, however, seem to have misread my review if some of the letters I have received and posts I have read on a discussion board are any indication. But, as ever, when people are confused by what you have written, the fault is always with the writer and not the reader. Here, therefore, I hope I may make myself understood a bit better. I would like to say at the outset that I did like the amp, contrary to some opinion. Indeed, I liked the amp so much that I bought it. If this is not a case of deeds speaking louder than words, I don't know what else in Hi Fi reviewing could be.

That I expressed criticisms of the amp which might be alleviated by higher efficiency speakers with particularly benign impedance traces, does not obviate the two weaknesses that any single-ended amp of this sort is likely to have: low power and a poor damping factor. With most speakers, the results with such an amp are quite predictable, light bass and compressed dynamics. With the right speakers, magic.

Unfortunately, I did not have on hand the perfect speakers for this amp. Instead, I used what I had on hand, ranging from a sub-satellite combination from Axiom, to Doppenberg TWQPs, on through Radio Shack LX5s, Tannoy D700s and Robert Deas's Quad ESL57s. The only speakers that I had available that I probably also should have given a go would be a pair of M2 Mirage Bipolars that I understand are hugely inefficient.

I know that with horns of 100 db or so of efficiency I could have easily staged my own ring cycle to deafening levels, but I don't have any high efficiency horns. Someday some fabulous Avantgarde horns will darken my door and when it does I will be ready. Of course horn speakers are not the only route to Audio Note Kit bliss. As I understand it, unsurprisingly perhaps, that Audio Note's own range of speakers work particularly well. It is a pleasure that I may sometime have a chance to enjoy.

As I mentioned in the article, although I did not find have on hand the 'perfect' speakers to use with this amplifier, I still enjoyed my time with the Kit 1 immensely, so much so that I bought the amplifier.

Another criticism that came up was my use of a preamplifier with the Kit 1. While it's true that the Kit has a volume control, it only has 1 input and I am a multi-source kind of guy. Sometimes I like the radio, other times vinyl. CDS and SACDs even get a spin. I even have an Ipod. Therefore, I did not want to be forever leaning over hot 300Bs switching cables. Therefore, I chose to use my Class A Nad Silverline, a very good and very transparent pre-amp so that I might switch between and, lazy bugger that I am, change the volume control at my seat. It is not a 'cheap pre-amp' in quality or price. The NAD Silverline is very good precisely because it has almost no character of its own. To the amp's credit, the other tube pre-amp I used with the Kit 1 was, actually, nauseating. Of course,, I could have used a passive-switch to choose sources, I suppose, but the only one I have here is a crappy AV one.

A last criticism has been my discursive writing style, a point that you choose to compliment. Hey, I leave the technology and specs to those who know what they're doing. That I got the amp to work on almost the first go, and this from someone who never graduated from plastic to balsa model airplanes, is both a testament to Brian Smith's great kits and, well, Robert Deas' soldering. 

In any event, the summer is drawing to a close and I am reminded of just how beautiful the Adriatic is this time of year.


PS: Split is the only place in the world that I have ever seen Opera Singers smoking behind the theatre between acts!

Editor Steven says: No one gets their hands on my Audio Note speakers but me. Color me greedy that way ;-)


September 2005


I have Quad 99 pre-amp and Quad 909 power amp paired with Arcam CD73T CD Player, Kenwood 5020 Tuner (good olde) and B&W DM 602 S3 speakers. I also own an extra Quad 306 power amp. The Quad electronics sound wonderful, musical and would be very interesting for a review by your panel. However it seems that you have never embarked on such an adventure.

I was just wondering if you have plans of auditioning the Quad 99/909 combination or 909 power amp alone and if not I would like to know why.


Milos Dunjic



Thanks for your e-mail and very nice system you have there! We would love to review Quad gear yet their representatives have never fulfilled our requests nor asked us to review their gear. Sometimes manufacturers are very busy and we fully understand their possible lack of understanding regarding the worldwide exposure the Internet has to offer.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin


September 2005


I live in San Francisco and want a big sounding small system (home theater in a box?) but really am not that impressed with Bose. I primarily will be using the systems to watch DVD’s, but also listen to all varieties of music (inc. Jazz, rock, blues, classical). Can you offer any advice on brands?

Thank you,

Brad Schmidt



Thanks for your e-mail and there are simply too many brands to list here. You may want to visit your local high-end audio dealer to get a better idea as to alternatives to simple mainstream units like Bose. Bose has a great marketing team while high-end audio is generally made by true music enthusiasts. Hope this helps and of course in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin


September 2005

Hi Steven,

Ii need some advice as I'm dedicating a room in my house as a 2 channel den. The question is will a 22watt set amplifier be enough for the reference 3a De Capo speakers? The room size is 19 x 16 with 10ft ceilings. thanks for your time.

Rob Rochlin



Thanks for your e-mail. The amplifier may be powerful enough for normal listening levels in a room that size with average acoustics. You may desire more wattage depending on how loud/dynamic peaks your music desires. Therefore 50 watts may be more appropriate. Also, with a room of that size you may want to consider a self-powered subwoofer if you enjoy music with plenty of bass below 50Hz such as pipe organ or dance/techno.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin


September 2005

Hi Phil,

Can you please list the recording/mixing engineer and the producer in your review of Patricia Barber? It would be like reviewing a dance company without mentioning the choreographer or a film without the director.


Leslie Ann Jones


Hi Leslie,

Thank you for reminding me. Many if not most musical reviews do omit these credits and I usually mention them only if the recorded sound is outstanding. Here are the missing credits:

Recorded by Philip Harvey assisted by Peter Costello Front of house engineer Jay "Sonic Marvel" Tenhove Wired by Jim Anderson at Studio 505, NYC assisted by I Hua-Tseng edited and assembled by Allan Tucker at Foothills Digital, NYC Mastered by Bernie "The Wizard" Grundman in Hollywood Product Manager Tara Chiari

Enjoy The Music,

Phil Gold


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