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Letters To Us

December 2008

Dear Clarke,

Kindly excuse this generic-style letter: the above-named product review was unsigned. Presumably the author can be contacted. I'm interested to learn how this particular open baffle/dipole speaker compares with any planars the writer-reviewer may have had experience with (ex.: magneplanars). Secondly, was the review somehow qualified by the nature of the speaker being a D.I.Y. one? It was a very balanced review, by the way, with serious attempts to have its performance measured in a multitude of ways (via differing amplification, for example).

Yours,

Laurence Alter

 

Hi Laurence,

Thanks for your kind words about the Hawthorne review, I certainly try to make my writing as relevant as possible to the widest variety of people. I must admit I haven't spent a ton of intimate time with any planars, but I have heard Quads and Martin Logans in a few different dealer set-ups. My experience with them (which has been all over the map) has probably been as much a reflection of the vagaries of the rooms I've heard them in as anything else. Three aspects come to mind when I think of planar speakers:

Treble: probably the biggest strength of any of the planars I've heard were their sweet, seductive highs. If there's any area they improve on the Hawthornes it would be here, however the Sterling Silver Iris' top end is smooth and grain-free enough that I doubt it would be a problem for even the most die-hard planar fan.

Bass: Planar drivers have no real bass to speak of...every one I've heard was accompanied by a box subwoofer, either built in to the cabinet (Martin Logans) or crossed-over to a pair of outboard units (Quads). The Hawthorne Sterlings have good dipole bass (with a caveat or two I mentioned in my review)...and once you've heard good dipole bass, acceptable substitutes are hard to come by.

Soundstaging/Imaging: I've heard planars do these well and I've heard them do these poorly...probably depending mostly on set up. The Hawthornes, or most any open baffle speakers for that matter, deliver the most lifelike musical presentation I know of (when set up properly)...I certainly don't think any planar-owner would be downgrading here.

No qualifications for the Hawthornes being DIYable... in fact I didn't even know the review was going to be run in our DIY section. Darrel is a meticulous craftsman, his work is of higher quality than some of the commercial speakers I've had in for review, but I see no reason you couldn't get as good a result (at least sonically) building the baffles yourself. In my (very limited) DIY experience, at least half the work is getting your stuff to look good.

I hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions!

Clarke Robinson

December 2008

Steve et al,

I have heard arguments from knowledgeable people on both sides of this: Argument for: Interconnect from preamp to amp needs to be 2 meters or less in length and- the loudspeaker cable should be 8 feet or more in length (not less than 8 feet).

Counter: The interconnect can be longer than 2 meters (within reason) and- Argument the loudspeaker cable should be kept to a shorter length presumably not much more than 8 feet.

Situation: My Convergent Audio Technology (CAT) tubed preamp sends a signal through about 5 feet of Blue Heaven interconnect to a Marchand Tubed Active Electronic Crossover which in turns sends the signals to two Audio Reseach VT100 Mk II via another two sets of 14 foot lengths of Nordost Blue Heaven interconnect; the Magneplanar MG 20s are vertically bi-amp'ed and the signals come via Cardas "Neutral Reference" cable in 8 foot lengths.

Resolve: Should I reconfigure to (in my case) 6 foot runs of Nordost Blue Heaven from the crossover to the tubed power amps and use 14 foot lengths of Cardas cable from the tubed power amps to the loudspeakers or, leave the system configured as is?

The system seems/sounds pretty darn good as is but would it be better with much shorter interconnects??? An inquiring mind seeking expert opinion(s).

Andrew Winterbotoom

 

Andrew,

Many thanks for your e-mail and info. Yes, and seems we all agree to agree or disagree. In the end I feel keeping an open mind and listening makes the most sense.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

December 2008

Steven,

I'm looking for a reasonably priced DAC to go from my office PC to my 2ch music system. PC does not have optical out but can be added. (Vista). Audio system is NAD C325BEE and Dynaudio speakers I built 25 years ago (17W75, D-52AF, D-21) plus sub of same vintage. Home system is Conrad-Johnson with speakers I had built 5 years ago (Dynaudio 2x17wLQ, D-52AF, D-210) + HSU VTM3 Mk3. Yes, I'm picky… going on anal. Okay… maybe a little beyond anal. Was looking at Keces but am open to options (prefer < $500).

Thanks,

Cary Scheck

 

Cary,

Thanks for your e-mail. In the December issue we will have a review of a great $900 DAC. While this is a bit more than you were planning to invest, it is worth a listen. Have a look at the December issue, which will be online in two weeks or so. Many thanks.

Until then, please look at our archived reviews.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

December 2008

Steven,

Figured I would send along these shots after reading your latest review and seeing your room. If this room weren't above the garage and the home theater wasn't in the basement I would never have been able to start playing. (Just last year at age 43). One of the shots is the room before I realized both would fit. I like a completely open spot between and behind the speakers - but one makes due. I have one system facing for listening. (AMC tube amp, CD and TT) One on the side for listening (Magnepans -- Old/Huge Pioneer receiver w/ CD and TT). That system shares the sub through a switch with...

Another for playing along to songs while drumming (headphones on the side. I use a laptop on a TV tray next to me to control the songs and recording).

The room is 19 x 13 (feet).

Mike

   

Mike,

Nice set! I have been meaning to give a listen to the Constantinople cymbals. Was in NYC a few days ago and did not find them at the usual sources. FYI: It seems to solve my splash cymbal desires I will need to have Sabian custom make it for me. My plans are to have a run of 50 or so made, then sell off a few to help recoup my expenses.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

December 2008

Steven,

Beginning with the sites you provided to me in the attached email, I explored a lot of different opinions and reviews on MP3 players. I ended up with a Cowon iAudio U5. I have to say that I'm blown away with this thing and it cost less than $100. I can't believe these aren't more popular or at least more well known. Thanks for your starter tips.

Paul Freiwals

 

Paul,

Thanks for your e-mail and understand your frustration. While I suggest the Zune due to sound quality, you can find answers about sound quality on the www.head-fi.org discussion board. A great retailer is www.headphone.com and they do indeed know about sound quality. Always glad to help.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

December 2008

Dear Steven,

I am just learning now about 'audiophile sound"-rather a late starter. I have a second -hand Classé 10 power amplifier (two of them) , and a Classe 30 pre-amplifier and  Music Fidelity Dac 3/24, and a Nad 321 BEE CD player, ( I use the Nad as the transport). My interconnect is a Van den Hul D103 MKii, and my cable wire is anti cable. My sound is good-but I would like it too be much better. I was thinking of a new CD upgrade? If that is the way to go, which CD player would you recommend to do justice to the Classé setup, even though they are old models?

Thanks,

Plato

Plato,

Thanks for your e-mail. If I were you, I'd give up on CD replay per se and get a music server and a Wavelength Audio DAC. You will copy your CDs to a hard drive, use a controller of some sort to choose the music you want to hear, and the DAC for decoding the digital bits. Given the very high-end your system is, in my opinion you should upgrade to the best system, and a music server with DAC is where it is at nowadays.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

December 2008

Hi,

I meant to write you sooner but am enjoying the music too much (to thank you as a reader and as a winner in your contest) i really appreciate your reviews and insight....in fact, most of my equipments are purchased based on your recommendations and other reviewers in enjoy the music) -- from Cyber 211(with NOS GE VT4C of course) to DIY Audio Note E loudspeakers to pair them with. Now that i have caught the DIY bug, I plan on modding the Cyber 211 with fancy RCA connector/speaker binding posts, cryo hook up wire, and M caps as you have suggested in the follow-up review. One question, would you know what those two caps values are? I don't want to cut them out to find out. any experience with rolling of E88CC and 5687 tubes?

Thanks so much for the great e-zine.

Sincerely,

John Lui

 

John,

Thanks for your note and glad to hear you are enjoying the music :) Alas, I never got around to trying too many caps and as the amplifier is no longer here I do not know (can not remember) the value of the capacitor though ask the manufacturer as they know. Am sure you read the Capacitor review seen at on sister
DIY Magazine and this can be a great guide. As for tube rolling, I have so many here I forget which ones tried. As I recall, the usual NOS ones are as good as everyone says, I can not remember specifics as my tubes are still boxed away as I just moved to a new place about two months ago and am still digging out. So is the life of being exceedingly busy :(

Of course in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

December 2008

Hi Steven,

DYI is not only for young kids. We older kids (65+) still do it via kits from Bottlehead and Transcendant as well as a pair of open baffle speakers using Hawthorne Audio 15 inch Silver Iris drivers. 
For a relatively small amount of money you can get better sound doing it yourself than going to the commercial sources.

Regards,

Bruce Schlein

 

Bruce,

Thanks for your e-mail! Agreed, DIY is for everyone of ALL ages :)

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

December 2008

Hi Phil Gold,

I read your review on the interconnect cable tests and you mention at the outset that it was one tough review. Really? You took the high road and ranked the cables in order of price. How tough is that? Why is the most expensive cable the best Phil ? Capacitance issues ? You never explained. You know it would be possible that the most expensive cable might sound so-so in my system. You didn't mention this likely scenario. I know you are in the entertainment business and your audience is naive when it comes to electrical interface issues, so you should have a disclaimer at the beginning of your articles. Something like this "This is a purely subjective test done by someone who doesn't have an advanced degree in electrical engineering and could and probably will be prejudiced by the cost of the products involved". There, now that's better isn't it.

Bill Irvin

 

Hi Bill,

You are absolutely right. This, as with every review I write, whether of music or equipment, is a purely subjective review. This one was based on what I heard during extended listening tests over the best part of a year. I have no degree in electrical engineering and I don't think I can tell you why the cables sound as they do - although I went to some pains to tell you why each manufacturer thinks his product excels.

Is it possible the highest rated cable would sound so so in your system?. It is possible but highly unlikely. Being an audio journalist I have heard a great many systems and tested many cables under many different circumstances in my time. The range of Crystal Cables are consistently excellent in every system I've heard - they do minimum damage to the signal passing through them. I don't believe in using cables to correct for faults in the rest of the system, so I suspect if you have a fine audio system you would love them. As I wrote in Part 1 of my three part review, I did all my listening tests and rankings before I looked up the prices of all the cables involved. But the result is not altogether surprising. How can a manufacturer sell a $2000 cable to an educated audience if a $1000 cable is audibly superior?

If you don't like subjective reviewing, you will probably not enjoy much of the material on this website, or on many other websites and journals that cater to the audiophile. If you think that sound must correlate closely with a few simple measurements of capacitance, resistance, inductance and so on for cables, or harmonic distortion levels and S/N ratios for amplifiers, or wow and flutter and rumble for sources, you may be missing out on many fine tube based components, analog turntables and so on. I'm not saying your approach is wrong, but you may be looking in the wrong place for purely objective reviews. I can't actually point you in the right direction because I have little faith and therefore interest in purely objective reviews so I wouldn't know where to direct you.

With each component I review, my rankings are based primarily on how much, after extensive listening, I enjoy the music,

Phil

December 2008

Hello Steven,

I just read Clarke Robinson's excellent review of the Hawthorne Sterling Duet. As the owner of the first, and so far only, pair of Hawthorne Sterling Silver Trios (two 15-inch Augie bass drivers per side) I concur with all that Mr. Robinson says regarding the Duet's. In my 35 years of serious pursuit of music reproduction in my home I've never had nor heard anything as musically satisfying as the big Hawthorne's - and I've owned some pretty "serious" speakers during that time.

Best Regards,

Doak Wattigney

 

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