Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - NAD Viso HP50 Headphones (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - GoldenEar Technology's Anechoic Chamber (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - PSB's M4U 4 Earphones (April 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - GoldenEar Technology's Triton Two+ and Three+ Loudspeakers (March 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- KEF's LS50 (February 2016)

Please send all questions to feedback@soundstageaccess.com. All questions sent to this e-mail address will be replied to online. If you do not wish to share your e-mail with other readers, please do not send it. But if you have a question, chances are others are wondering the same thing. Therefore, you will be helping not only yourself, but other readers as well when your question gets answered here.

To Hans Wetzel,

Wow! A dismissive attack on vacuum tubes and record players on an audiophile website written not as a letter to the editor, but by its editor as if his opinion was fact -- incredible.

Everyone has their preferences (and is entitled to them), but dismissing LPs and tubes altogether as outmoded just seems silly, especially in such a brief essay. Perhaps you're just trying to be controversial? It's one thing to say tubes and vinyl aren't for you, but quite another to dismiss them out of hand.

For my part, I've never heard a 100-percent solid-state amplification and digital-source system at any price point that didn't leave me just a bit cold. That includes high-resolution digital sources and top-end solid-state amplification. That's not to say there was nothing enjoyable about these systems, quite the opposite. Still, I wouldn't trade a less-expensive tube/vinyl system for any more expensive solid-state/digital system I've ever heard.

Some folks like vanilla and some folks like chocolate. Arguing that the "vanilla folks" are somehow misguided is just foolish. Same goes for preferences in audio. Yet audiophiles seem prone to being absurdly hidebound as to their particular preferences being "correct" and anyone who doesn't agree being "deaf." Unfortunately, it seems that many audiophiles enjoy looking down their noses at anyone whose system preferences, ideas about audio, taste in music, etc., don't agree with their own more than they actually enjoy listening to music.

Ironic then that an audiophile website devoted to less-costly entry-level gear and thus designed at least in part to draw in new high-end enthusiasts would publish an outright dismissal of a fairly large sector of the hobby.

Sincerely,
Travis Cunningham

A few points in response.

My monthly writings, per their filing under the "Feature Articles" section of the website, reflect only my personal opinion. Accordingly, my intention is not to be controversial, but rather to illustrate my own views on various aspects of the high-end audio scene. I can see how many tube lovers would heartily disagree with me, however.

In turn, I think if you reread my piece you would find that I support this very subjective opinion with nothing but facts. Tubes are a 100-year-old technology that by definition are outmoded (or old-fashioned) within the context of high-end audio. Their characteristic warmth is a result of audible distortion. Lastly, they generally have a shorter lifespan and are less efficient than transistors. I don't think any of these points are in dispute.

Finally, I am in total agreement with you that everyone is entitled to their own preference. My piece expresses only my lack of understanding as to why many listeners prefer tubes and LPs over more modern designs. I don't believe I wrote that such listeners were in any way wrong or "deaf." I don't think that my hearing is any more correct than other listeners'. But where I take issue with your "vanilla/chocolate" example is that there is no objective criterion for evaluating the qualities of one flavor over the other that are not, on their face, arbitrary. In high-end audio, however, subjective opinions about equipment are often taken in tandem with technical measurements. On that basis, I don't fully appreciate why tube fans prefer a sound that is "colored," in a way, by vacuum tubes. My ultimate point was that solid-state designs are getting much better at capturing the musicality and warmth that you seem to find so appealing in tube/vinyl rigs, perhaps making the newest generation of solid state gear attractive to listeners like you and me.

Fittingly apropos of all this, I will be reviewing an amp/preamp pairing that includes a single vacuum tube to "smooth the harsh digital edge." I am very much looking forward to hearing the duo in action, and appraising it not to see if it accords with my personal taste, but on its own performance-related merits. I may yet come to like tubes! I hope this afforded some context and clarity on my original piece. Happy listening, Travis. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

Thanks for the reply. At the time when I e-mailed GoodSound!, I was having trouble deciding which "upgrade path" to take. In my previous "audiophile" life, I would obsess over the hardware, and as I began this process it started happening again. Then I remembered some advice I was given when I first entered the high-end world: speakers first, then work from there, and have fun.

As I write this, I'm waiting on a pair of A2s from Audioengine. Unless the A2s really impress, they'll go back and I'll try another pair. All of the speakers you suggested were already on my short list, with the addition of the EmotivaPro Airmotiv 4.

Being that I have no dealers near, I am doing the buying online and making sure I can return the product if its not satisfactory, which almost any reputable online dealer offers. I know I mentioned my budget for this upgrade being around $300. I've paid more for interconnects in the past, so this is pretty cool! It's real easy to just throw money at something, but the real challenge for me seems to be getting almost the whole slice, the most sound, for the least amount of scratch. I still keep up with a lot of the high-dollar stuff; it's fun to read about, but it's more fun when something a fraction of the price is about as good.

Thanks again,
Jay

Every component is important to one degree or another, but speakers should definitely be the anchor of any system. You're also right in saying that the real challenge is finding the products that offer the most performance per dollar spent. That's our goal at GoodSound!, and it's gratifying to find a product that really overachieves. 

The A2s are great little nearfield monitors -- my own mother has a pair! Good luck, Jay. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

First let me say I've enjoyed GoodSound! for years. I no longer have a traditional stereo system; I've scaled back and now listen to music primarily on my computer. I have a Dell laptop, which is reasonably new and fast (for the time being). I'm currently using a pair of M-Audio AV 30 speakers.

I'm looking to improve my setup's sound. Where is the best place to start: speakers, DAC, etc.? I don't want to just throw money at it. I want to get the most bang for, say, $200-$300 or so.

Thanks again for your publication, and sensibilities on getting a lot for a little!

Jay

Thanks for the kind words about GoodSound! You are far from alone in primarily using a computer for your musical needs. That said, there are numerous directions you could go to maximize your sound quality for a modest sum.

Upgrading your speakers would be my first suggestion. While I have never personally heard the M-Audio AV 30, it looks to be a step up from more traditional and widely available computer speakers. With that in mind, to improve on the M-Audios might require a slightly larger outlay. For $398/pair, the NHT SuperPowers marry the pedigree of NHT's SuperZero 2.0s, which Roger Kanno favorably reviewed last fall, with built-in amplifiers for use as computer speakers. Another option would be Audioengine's $399/pair A5+, which I am very fond of. I suspect they don't quite match the NHTs for out-and-out resolution, but they more than make up for it with larger bass drivers, multiple inputs, all the wiring you could possibly need and a handy remote control. Both NHT and Audioengine sell matching subwoofers for their speakers should you crave a more full-range setup going forward. Orb Audio's Mod1s are another option, though I suspect they would be something of a lateral move from your M-Audio AV 30s.

Once you are happy with your speakers, I would suggest investing in a small digital-to-analog converter (DAC), of which there are many available for around $300. Audioengine, AudioQuest, CEntrance, Emotiva and Musical Fidelity are good companies to start with, but, frankly, most any DAC should noticeably improve the quality of sound coming from your Dell laptop.

I hope this helps, and let us know if we can be of further assistance! . . . Hans Wetzel

Greetings Andrea and Vince,

I read your reviews about the Alpha Design Labs GT40 and the Cambridge Audio Azur DacMagic Plus.

In my system I use two-channel audio (no headphones) and I already have a DacMagic Plus. I was wondering if getting the GT40 would be an upgrade to my system by replacing the DacMagic Plus.

Any suggestions?

Thanks and best regards,
Miguel

Vince has not heard the GT40, nor have I heard the DacMagic Plus. Based on his review and some other characteristics of the Cambridge Audio unit -- the DAC chips used, support for higher sample rates, multiple filters, and asynchronous USB -- I would expect it to outperform the GT40. The GT40 may be attractive to somebody who is looking for a phono preamplifier, ADC, headphone amp, and DAC in a single, affordable box. At its price, I don't find it compelling as simply a DAC. . . . S. Andrea Sundaram

To S. Andrea Sundaram,

I'm thinking about trying to replace the stock interconnect that came with my Denon DP-500M turntable, under the assumption that it's not particularly high quality and that a reasonably priced replacement might improve the sound quality. Is this worth considering? If so, are there special considerations for choosing an interconnect for a turntable rather than a digital source? And how do I deal with the ground wire?

Thanks,
Mike

Since your turntable has RCA jacks, experimenting with different cables is a relatively painless process. (You don't have to rewire the tonearm.) I wasn't able to find any specific information about the grounding wire for your Denon, so I'm assuming that it is a completely separate lead. Just leave that connected to your phono preamplifier or receiver. Otherwise, it's no different from any other source. Most reputable dealers will offer a return policy on cables, so I don't see any harm in trying. . . . S. Andrea Sundaram

To Doug Schneider,

I am curious if you have any reviews of Definitive Technology's new monitors coming soon. I've read quite a bit about these speakers, but I haven't seen any full reviews. Anything you can tell me?

Ryan J.

We actually have the StudioMonitor 55s and 45s in for review right now. Roger Kanno has one pair and Philip Beaudette has the other. The reviews will likely be published in the next couple of months. One of the reviews will appear here on GoodSound!, the other one will appear on SoundStage! Hi-Fi. . . . Doug Schneider

Hi GoodSound!,

I am from India. I have B&W 683 floorstanding speakers. I want to match an amplifier to these speakers. Can you help me out? Two amplifiers are on my mind: the Cayin 265Ai (pure class A) and the Sugden A21a (pure class A). Will these amps match with my speakers or are there other amplifiers you would suggest?

Thank you,
Kaushik

Although I've owned a number of B&W speakers in my lifetime, I'm not familiar with the 683s, so I looked up the B&W-supplied specs to gather a little more information. Their sensitivity is rated as 90dB, which is a little bit above average, and the impedance is rated as 8 ohms, but with a 3-ohm minimum. That 3-ohm spec indicates that they should be used with an amplifier with good current capability, although the highish sensitivity indicates that it doesn't need to deliver all that many watts of power.

Overall, that bodes well for the amps you've chosen -- their manufacturer-supplied specs indicate power output of less than 50Wpc for both (into 8 ohms), and, from what I can tell, the dip to 3 ohms shouldn't be an issue with either amp. But will the 683s play loud enough for you with these amps? There's no easy way to say because it will depend on your room size and, also, how loud is loud enough for your tastes. I hope that helps. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

I just stumbled upon your article, "Avoiding Buying Crap."  I am looking to upgrade and have looked (researched) many of the names that you suggested. If you do not mind, I have a question. For a speaker budget of $1000, should I consider floorstanders or stick with bookshelf speakers? Also, in that price range, do you prefer any specific models? I am in RI and have to travel to listen to these speakers, so any advice that you can pass along would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you,
Chris

This is a common question that has no easy answer. With a $1000 budget, you should consider floorstanding and bookshelf speakers, since there are quite a few models of each type that may suit you. If you go with bookshelf-type speakers, though, you must also factor in the price of stands. (They're often called bookshelf speakers, but most audiophiles put them on stands, so it's for that reason that I prefer to call these small speakers stand-mounted designs.) Specific model numbers and names would be too difficult to recommend in any reliable way, but if I were in your shoes I'd look at the various models in these lines right now: Monitor from Paradigm, Verus from Aperion Audio, StudioMonitor from Definitive Technology, Image from PSB, and Aon from GoldenEar Technology. There are others you could look at, but there are a number of floorstanding and stand-mounted designs in these line-ups that would satisfy most listeners. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

You seemed quite impressed with the new Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 55 at the audio show some time ago. Now that they have hit the stores, I was wondering if we can expect a review sometime soon.

Sincerely,
Frank

You're correct -- I wrote about the Definitive Technology 55 when I covered CEDIA Expo last year and I was very impressed. We just received a pair, but I won't be reviewing them; instead, Philip Beaudette is handling the review and it will appear in one of our sister publications, SoundStage! Hi-Fi, along with measurements done in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council (NRC). Look for that review to appear in May or June. . . . Doug Schneider

Hello GoodSound!,

In recent months there has been quite a bit of positive press regarding GoldenEar Technology speakers. Reviews of their Triton 2 towers have been so positive that their Triton models and new Aon bookshelf units all have my curiosity.

Being a relatively new company, there are no GoldenEar dealers in my area so I will need to drive a few hours to audition their offerings for my two-channel system. Prior to taking that step I am doing some preliminary research, which includes contacting your "Ask us" forum.

Has anyone at GoodSound! had an opportunity to listen to any of GoldenEar's offerings and are there any impressions or comments? Are their speakers truly that impressive at their price points? Or is it all relative and a matter of taste?

Sincerely,
Ron

We’ve heard GoldenEar’s Triton 2 towers at shows, but we've never reviewed them. However, a pair of their new Aon 3 bookshelf models landed on our doorstep and we’re getting ready to measure them and then slip them in the review queue. They won’t be reviewed on GoodSound!, though, but on our sister site, SoundStage! Hi-Fi. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

What is the speaker on the right-hand side of your website?

Joseph Piggott

Currently, it’s the Definitive Technology Mythos ST. . . . Doug Schneider