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Letters To Us

October 2007


I have a 12x24 foot room and i need a new subwoofer for it. I'm not really sure what kind i should go with or what size? I mostly listen to music, and I have def tech speakers and i Denon receiver. How much should i spend on a subwoofer and how big does it have to be. I'm really lost when it comes to subwoofers, every time i go to the store i want to buy the one the salesman has, however i feel the are selling me one two powerful for my room size. If you could give me some kind of direction that would be great.


Phil Moricone



Thanks for your e-mail. In a room that large i'd suggest two smaller subwoofers versus one larger one. The total cone measurement of two 8-inch woofers is quite big. Also, bass is stereo and so in your large room it may be best to treat it as so. As i recall, the Denon receiver has a preamplifier output, so you could use those to send the signal to the subwoofers. As for how much to invest, only you can decide and suggest you seek companies like Aperion Audio and Axiom Audio, as they sell direct and offer high value for the dollar products.

Keep in touch and let me know how it goes.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin


October 2007


You are (now) the only high-end reviewer - who has auditioned reference-level digital gear - to claim that SACD sounds better than CD. This, in reference to your EMM review a few months ago. Yes, there are still a few holdouts who prefer SACD at lower price points, where SACD use to sound better, overall. But I'm not so sure this is true anymore.

Read Wes Phillip's review of Chord in Stereophile recently or Robert Levi's (PFO) review of the Metronome CD system, late last year, to see just two reviewers preferring CD over SACD. Even your colleague in the U.K., Alvin Gold now reports that CD is "about the same" as SACD through the Marantz CD player he currently reviews. A big change for him. Finally, ask anyone who has heard a reference-level Red Book-only system (like the Reimyo or Zanden, playing CDR's) if they prefer SACD as a format... and they will say they do not.

I don't mean to pick, but we must question your listening skills when it is apparent to myself - and now a good number of audio reviewers - that SACD does not sound better than CD - at reference-levels.

Technically speaking, SACD is a failed format. This, because virtually all DSD recording and mastering is done with 4-5 bits - not 1. Did you know this?

Maybe this is why John Atkinson said in his Sept. "As we see it" column that the hi-rez formats are not so "hi-rez" after all. And he was a big supporter of SACD.

John Harnick

P.S. With new gear coming out by the month, Red Book is advancing at a break-neck speed. New systems from Esoteric, MBL, Spectral, DCS and most importantly, Linn, with their Klimax DS DAC, all promise to show us what can be done with a "low-rez" audio format. Nova Physic's Memory Player advanced the read-in section of digital playback last year. These co. are doing the same for the processing and converting parts of digital, this year...


Hi John,

Thanks for writing. I enjoyed reading your comments, but I believe you may be reading more into certain other reviewers' words than they were intending. For example, John Atkinson's excellent "As we see it" column which you refer to says:

"With the launches of Super Audio CD in 1999 and DVD-Audio in 2000, for the first time music lovers were offered media capable of capturing and playing back audio data with sufficient resolution and bandwidth to be capable of audio transparency; the culmination of the trail of improvement."

He continues:

"The advent of SACD led to a renaissance in classical recording quality - Telarc, Pentatone, Channel Classics, Linn, orchestral labels such as the San Francisco Symphony, even DG, RCA, and Sony are all releasing discs that surpass the sound quality available from the "Golden Age" of classical recording."

You wrote:

"Maybe this is why John Atkinson said in his Sept. "As we see it" column that the hi-rez formats are not so "hi-rez" after all."

I'm sorry, I read the article through and I can find nowhere where John says any such thing. Perhaps you would like to take this up with him directly.

Your summary of Alvin Gold's opinions were quite a surprise to him! I forwarded your note to him and he replies:

"What is in this letter by no means represents my settled view, which hasn't changed. I have reservations about some of the cheaper SACD and universal players, which often show no real advantage, but from mid price territory upwards there is ample scope to do something meaningfully better than Red Book. As for Marantz, you could refer him to my review of the Marantz Premium SA-7S1 in HiFi Choice."

He continues:

"My views continue to favour SACD, which I suppose qualifies me as a ‘holdout’. I have reservations only about some of the low cost universal players, which usually process numbers as PCM, and are clearly suboptimal, architecturally and in practice."

You also write:

"Technically speaking, SACD is a failed format. This, because virtually all DSD recording and mastering is done with 4-5 bits - not 1. Did you know this?"

I referred your questions to a mastering engineer, Shahin Al Rashid, Director of Sales for EMM Labs. He replies:

"I don't believe that there is any reviewer out there who can really seriously say that CD is better than SACD or even DVD-A. The issue with SACDs has always been the availability of good and plentiful material and the associated media-centric DRM which stifles its acceptance among the newer digital only distribution systems. This, coupled with the fact that the larger labels have literally shot themselves in the foot by demanding a ridiculous premium for SACDs which were horribly mastered or just converted to the medium with a host of errors, caused the current mainstream demise.

One thing good is that without the larger labels, smaller producers are able to flourish and there are greater and greater boutique labels that are currently exclusively producing only SACDs because the ROIs are much better and easier to support without all the piracy. SACDs releases surprisingly are increasing every month. Being a mastering engineer myself, I have to say that there is nothing quite like a DSD project that has been recorded correctly direct to disk and mastered using its high end tools. Actually the DSD recordings themselves are done in 1-bit DSD. It's when you are doing signal processing within a digital audio workstation that, depending on the workstation, it will either convert it to multi-bit DSD data or, like my Merging Technologies Pyramix workstation, real-time convert it into 32-bit 352kHz for processing and hence real-time preview. The actual source and subsequent mix-down after the fact is still 1-bit DSD data.

Regarding the technological issues, if you are using standard off the shelf PCM technology then your CD reproduction will be the same as SACD obviously. If you however do DSD conversion properly then you don't have this issue and the SACDs will sound a whole lot better than CDs, especially when the SACDs are new DSD recording projects. In fact a LOT of studios record and master in DSD and dump to CDs because the quality (those that actually still worry about quality) is that much better."

As to my own experience, I have extensively auditioned a lot of digital sources. In fact I make something of a specialty in this area. I have enjoyed a number of fine CD players, the best of which are the Meridian 808 Signature Reference, the Nagra and the E.A.R./Yoshino Acute CD which I have just reviewed enthusiastically for the upcoming issue of a print magazine. I have also heard the Memory Player, but was not particularly impressed during my relatively short audition. I enjoyed both the Reimyo and the Zanden, although they are out of the price range of most listeners. I agree that the frontiers of Redbook reproduction are continually being pushed forward. Perhaps you in turn will agree that the same is true of SACD Players, where Esoteric, Ayre, Linn, EMM Labs, Muse, dCS, MBL, Accuphase, Krell, Musical Fidelity, Shanling, Marantz, Halcro and others are competing for the high end market.

I don't normally take a position on technologies, digital versus analog, tube versus transistor, single-ended versus balanced. Instead, I prefer to listen and report what my ears hear. But in this particular case of SACD versus Redbook, I am convinced there is much greater potential in the SACD format, since the bit density is four times higher. The best SACD Players I have heard sound clearly better than the best CD Players, and I suspect that will always be the case, regardless of the commercial success of SACD. Far from being an SACD holdout, I was not convinced of the superiority of SACD until about a year ago.

However much our opinions may differ, I am always pleased to hear from someone who is so passionate about audio.

Enjoy the music,



October 2007


I have a Sony D-25, and I cannot find a replacement battery. Any suggestions?

Joe Delvey



Always glad to help. They have them for $34 each at  gotbatteries.com.../battery/1/SONY/BP-2EX/BP2EX/CC215

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin


October 2007

Dear Steven,

Or a reviewer that might have experience with these or similar products. I have a question if you can please help. I have in my system a Classé power amp It's 100 wpc. I'm using an Audible Illusions preamp. I'm in the process of upgrading my digital front end to the new Rega Saturn. (I currently use a Marantz cd player going into a Cal Sigma. Which the Rega Saturn is replacing). I'm using ProAc Studio 100's. I'm using Kimber PBJ interconnects throughout and I have 8 TC speaker cables internally bi-wired. I have been told in the past to use the same brand of cables throughout the system. Is this correct? Would the Kimber Hero be a better choice? Without spending a lot more money. I like Kimber however from your experience does this seem like a good match? Should I replace the power cord to the new Rega Planet CD player? and with what?

Yours Truly,

David Miller



Thanks for your e-mail and cables can be a synergistic thing. Pertaining to Kimber, the PBJ is a good value for the money, though of course as you go up their line you get more refinement, so yes i agree as you want to enhance your system you may want to upgrade from PBJ. As for the power chord, once change at a time so get the better Kimber interconnect, listen, then try Kimber's power cable... then listen.

As always, give the cables about 100 hours to settle in. Have a great weekend and as always, in the end what really matter is that you...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin


October 2007


An the Heels of Steven's exhorting readers to drop you a line - here we go. My impulse is mostly tweaked by your lineup of major musical influences i.e. hard core jazz fanatic. Monk, Miles, Coltrane, Mingus, Dolphy, Murray, Coleman, Zorn yeah uh huh! I am actually old enough to say that I have heard many of these folks play - most regrettably not Coltrane.

As a kid I used to save up money in Montreal to fly down on weekends and hang out in jazz clubs dodging addicts and big NYC rats. Student rate return from Montreal in the mid / late sixties was only 50 bucks.

I too keep coming back to the same influences you have outlined. My personal feeling is that these men all were manifestations of jazz in its purest, most spontaneous and open form, many current players still don't hold a candle to any of them - the most exemplary and multi-talented (as well as the one who practiced the most) Eric Dolphy - wow still blows the doors off of any musician before or since, bass clarinet, flute (a rarity) not to mention his sax playing. I love the Coltrane cd set at the Village Vanguard playing with Dolphy and the producer had the genius to record and make all four nights (or is it three). You get to hear three or four versions of most pieces and it is mind blowing! Especially when Dolpny's sweet sax slips in a solo.

Very much like the Miles set Friday night at the Blackhawk. My kids are just about out the door, and I have had the most amazing audio Karma as my dad was a phile in his day and I have always listened to Quads or Tannoys since I was about 7 years old.

Today I have in my main system a pair of Tannoy Golds in custom cabinets with integrated stands, all rosewood veneer no cloth grills - Nestorovic NA-1 monos a Barclay cdp and a ARC pre. in heaven. I also have a Harbeth / Bryston system up in Whistler.

My favorite all time performer, not necessarily musician was Roland Kirk, who I saw play at least a couple of dozen times. Wild! My favorite piece of his music, playing through a tenor and alto at the same time, Dvorak on the left and Sentimental Journey on the right!

Anyway welcome aboard, looking forward to future reviews and wow are the Sierra -1's that good.

Sam H.


Hey Sam,

Thanks for the note! Great to know there are some jazz fans in the audience. I'm pretty jealous of anyone who gets to spend time in NYC (I've been only twice), but in the mid '60s! There was a lot going on... must have been fantastic. Dolphy was amazing...his breed of inside/outside jazz pretty much hits the sweet spot for me between the avant-garde and more traditional, swinging stuff. Never saw him live, of course (he died four years before I was born) but I first heard him on the Mingus workshop album, "Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus"...there's this incredible bass/bass clarinet duet with Mingus during "What Love" that sounds like the two guys having a conversation.

How could I forget Roland Kirk!?! There were so many aspects of his thing that seem gimmicky on the surface, but listening reveals he was the real deal. He was like Louis Armstrong in that respect: he could clown around on stage and then knock you out with his soulful & virtuosic musicianship. I came to know his playing through the album "Volunteered Slavery", well before I knew he was blind and played three woodwinds at once. It's a live record, and when he introduced the band I thought "Stritch Manzello" was the flute player!

Thanks for mentioning Miles' "Live at the Blackhawk" set... obviously I've known about that for a while, but hadn't gotten around to seriously checking it out until this weekend. Great stuff!

As to the Sierra-1, yeah, I realize my review was an unqualified gush-fest, but I seriously love these speakers. Wouldn't have been right to do it any other way! That said, I can't say I'd recommend upgrading (downgrading?) from your Tannoys, especially if you're already in heaven.

Thanks again for writing!



October 2007

Hi Nels,

I read your "Naim X Series System" review. As I've got Naim CD 5x and old NAC 72 + nap 140 combo, do you think nap 150 is powerful enough for my Harbeth Monitor 30 ( 85dB/W/m but very easy load\crossover)? There's a Bob Neil review about Monitor 30 on Enjoy the Music.com....

Thank you and best regards,

David Peretti


Hi David,

Thanks for your inquiry. In my listening room, which is rather small and on the live side, I had no problem reaching quite loud listening levels. I gave out before the NAP150 did. This will all depend on your the size of your room as well as room treatments (carpets, draperies, overstuffed chairs, for example.) That said, it is certainly worth a shot, I suspect you will be quite pleased. Your dealer should offer some type of home audition period to make sure it will fit your needs.

I hope this helps.



October 2007

Hi Clarke,

I thoroughly enjoyed your review on the Ascend Sierra-1's. It was very well written and fun to read. If you have the time, I have a question:

Do you think the following receiver which I so happen to own, would suffice in driving the Sierra-1's? I'd really like to avoid buying a new AVR right now, but I'd equally dislike buying these speakers only to find my current AVR couldn't handle them or tainted their sound.

Sony STR-DE897
Front power per channel (surround mode): 110 watts per channel x 7 (into 8 ohms at 1 kHz, THD 0.7 percent), or 100 watts per channel x 7 (into 8 ohms 20 to 20,000 Hz, THD 0.09 percent) 
Rear power per channel: 110 watts per channel x 7 (into 8 ohms at 1 kHz, THD 0.7 percent), or 100 watts per channel x 7 (into 8 ohms 20 to 20,000 Hz, THD 0.09 percent)

I plan to listen to them primarily in a 2-channel setting. Possibly, if budget permits, I might add the Sierra Center channel for film/TV viewing. I appreciate any feedback you may have.


Jeremy Fifer


Hey Jeremy,

Thanks for writing in, and for your kind words. The Sierra-1 presents an easier load to the amplifier than many speakers both higher and lower in price. While I haven't heard your current receiver, I believe the Sierra would sound great being driven by it, or really most anything save for certain tube amps and those 10-watt Tripath jobs. I'm a strong proponent of the idea that you get your greatest bang for the buck in upgrading speakers over any other component. From "reading between the lines" of the specs you sent, I think there are gains to be had from upgrading your amplifier, but the Sierra can "grow with" any changes you make to your system in the future.

I hope that helps!



October 2007

Hi Steven,

I read your Max Rochlin Memorial cable article with great interest and wonder how the Belden 1505 stacks up against the Belden 1694 which I use for my digital coaxial connection between my Squeezebox 3 and Altmann Attraction DAC. I believe the 1694 is also a true 75 ohm cable which I custom made with Canary connectors. I have pitted the 1694 against some silver exotic digital cables and somehow preferred the el cheapos!

On a similar note, I have also been conducting some unscientific experiments with cables and found that certain iterations of Belden are really excellent no-nonsense cables – 1800F for balanced interconnects and 8241F for RCA interconnects. I might also try the Belden 9913F7 cables which are 50 ohm, coaxial design, more popular with radio ham enthusiasts who use it for cabling antennas.

Best Regards,




Thanks for your e-mail and glad your enjoyed the Max Rochlin Memorial Cable article. Alas, have not tired those Belden cables, though agree there are quite a few they make that indeed reach up to 'audiophile' standards. With DIY and at these low prices, try as many as you can and feel free to report back so i can plush your finding within our Letters page :)

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin 


October 2007


I am thinking of buying an Esoteric SA-60 and read your review of the SA-60 in AA Chap 92, and wanted to know if you had heard the SA-60 modified by a company called Reference Audio Mods. Or if you have heard anything about this company. Are they like the companies (Parts Connection, APL, etc.) that modify the Denon 2910 and 3910.

I am wondering if I should leave well enough alone with a new SA-60 and use it as is. I love your column. Wished you lived in Tucson.

Maurice Deutsch



Wish I could answer your question, but I contacted Reference Audio Mods several months ago and asked for a modded unit to be able to make direct comparison but they were unable to fulfill this request. I guess they don't buy their own units but modify only those supplied. I can understand this as small modifiers working on tight budgets and cannot loan out multi-thousand dollar equipment for reviews especially without being sure of a good review. I did find the mods to my Denon decks by Parts Connexion were cost efficient, but they are a different company. If you go ahead and do this, I'd be happy to use your unit for review purposes.




I'd probably be reluctant to modify the SA-60 without reading a review by someone I trust, who can compare it before and after. By the way, have you used or heard the Benchmark DAC 1. A friend of mine suggested buying a low cost CD/SACD player like the Marantz sa8001 and running the CD stream through the Benchmark.

Maurice Deutsch



I agree that having someone mod such an expensive and excellent piece of equipment without hearing it first would be foolish. That's why I didn't pursue it as they wouldn't loan me one for review. I have heard the Benchmark unit and it is quite good, maybe even excellent for the price. A great value and well worth the price. Sounds like a great idea.




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