Please send all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
I’ve gotten conflicting advice. One review tells me that a 50Wpc amplifier will be enough power for most people. Another review says that I should look for an amplifier that delivers at least 100Wpc just to be safe. What gives?
I’ll preface this answer with an explanation of amplifier power versus output level For every 3dB increase in output level from your speakers you need to double amplifier power. That means a 100W amplifier will only play 3dB louder than a 50W one, a 200W amplifier will play 3dB louder than a 100W one, and a 400W amplifier will only play 3dB louder than a 200W one! As you can see, you need plenty of power if you really want to crank things up, but not everyone wants to.
How much power you need depends mostly on the sensitivity of the speakers, the size of the room, and how loud you like to play your music. For most people, an amplifier that delivers 50Wpc into 8 ohms will suffice. I’m basing that on the assumption that most people don’t have really big rooms and they don’t play their systems extremely loud. For those that do like to play louder, or have a larger room, or have insensitive speakers, something in excess of 100Wpc might be more suitable. That extra 50W will allow 3dB more output, but it will also give you more headroom, meaning a larger margin of safety before the amplifier hits its limits and is driven into clipping and starts distorting badly. Perhaps that's what the reviewer who said "to be safe" meant. In the end, though, 50Wpc might be more than sufficient, since it depends mostly on the setup and the listening habits of the listener. Therefore, both of those reviews you read might be right. . . . Doug Schneider
To Colin Smith,
I read your article mentioning Decibel in this issue of GoodSound! and was all hot and bothered about extracting myself from all things iTunes, which as you mentioned [and I paraphrase], blows big time. However, after accessing the Decibel website I could find no mention of Macs or which version to use for Macs. Since I assumed that Decibel was plug'n'play, can you educate me on where my ignorance exceeds your knowledge?
The direct link to Decibel is here: http://sbooth.org/Decibel/. If you look down toward the bottom of the page under Requirements it says, "Decibel requires Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later." I see they're charging $33 for it now, which is still a huge bargain given that it sounds as good as four-figure CD players. Thanks for reading. . . . Colin Smith
To Doug Schneider,
I am looking for high-end audio systems based on active powered speakers for a 7.2 system in a 25’ x 20’ x 9’ space. Not only for theoretical reasons, but also for space and aesthetic reasons, I thought one would naturally favor systems which have amplifiers and subwoofers built into the front speakers. But I have not been able to find such speakers. In other words, I would have bought on the spot the Vandersteen 5A if it was fully active as it already has a subwoofer built in, or B&W if they built an amplifier and subwoofer into the 800D. By doing that, we eliminate amplifiers, subwoofers and thick cables, which are eyesores.
By the way, I need in-ceiling rear and side speakers because of a grand piano in one corner and furniture in another. Amazingly, despite what I consider the commonsense approach, I have not been able to find such systems. I would appreciate your advice. Thank you.
You bring up some very good points. First of all, active speaker systems do make a lot of sense, not only for aesthetics, but performance as well. The problem is that audiophiles haven’t been that accepting of them for a variety of reasons, none of which has to do with performance or commonsense. As a result, although you can find active speakers if you look hard enough, they aren’t as prevalent in the market as passive ones.
In-ceiling and in-wall speakers are a different story -- they’re extremely popular and many manufacturers make them, so they’re quite easy to find. The brands I’d look to for these products are Paradigm, PSB, Pioneer and Revel. Although there are many more companies besides these, the offerings from these four are excellent. . . . Doug Schneider
To Kevin East,
Thanks for the review of the MartinLogan Motion system. I had been eyeing the Motion 10s at Future Shop since they started carrying them. While there on an unrelated matter, and talking to one of the salesman I knew in the audio department, I noticed them on sale: $1800 or so for the 10s, a Dynamo 500, a 6, and a pair of 2s, with the idea that I could bring them back if not satisfied. I have been playing them constantly since Sunday and it could be my imagination, but every day they sound better. I am almost at the break-in point and they seem like keepers. Acoustic guitars are as great as with anything else, and I wanted a good home system to throw my recordings on to check my mix with my studio monitors. I can't seem to find fault at all other than it would be great to have a wood grain. I do have some guilt in that I kind of hoped I would end up with a Canadian-made speaker such as Axiom or Paradigm.
From your perspective, and I know I should bring some home for an audition, but how do you think the Motion 10s stack up against the Monitor 7s? You probably get questions like that all the time. "What should I buy? What should I buy?" I teach guitar as well as do some retailing at a local music store and, after a few questions, I am happy to lead people in the right direction. My knowledge base is so much larger.
All in all, the Motions are a big improvement over my Atom v2 surround system, but, wow, that system is great bang for the buck. Also, I primarily use my setup for music. My partner and I take in more live music and listen to more music than any other people I know of, so music is primary over movies.
Thanks again. What a great site!
I have not heard the Monitor 7s, so I can't provide a comparison for you. As far as break-in is concerned, MartinLogan recommends 100 hours minimum -- the review samples were broken-in at the factory, so I didn't have a chance to hear them before that.
Generally, and I won't back off from the old axiom -- so to speak -- trust your ears. Trust what you hear, especially in your own environment. That said, I would also audition the Paradigms in your home, side-by-side with the MartinLogans if that's possible. It's the only way you'll get to a comparison that you can hear.
Décor is matter of taste. Sound is a matter of judgment.
Some time ago I was in the market for a new acoustic guitar, and the choice came down to a pretty nice Ibanez and a very nice Takamine (F series). The Ibanez had a punch to it the Takamine didn't, and the Takamine was quite a bit more. The salesman, a friend, said, "I know the Ibanez sounds sexy [looked sexier, too!], but the Takamine is simply a better-made guitar on too many levels." I bought the Takamine; still play it pretty much every day. Speakers are different. Sometimes you get what you pay for, and sometimes the difference in price isn't readily or even eventually apparent. That's why you trust your ears. Guitars and speakers are different.
Paradigm makes great speakers. So does MartinLogan. Go with the ones that you enjoy the most. I sent the MartinLogans back with a massive twinge of regret -- they were that good. But I have too much around here as it is, so a hard decision was a bit easier. I'm glad you like the site. We do too. Kindest regards. . . . Kevin East
To Doug Schneider,
I am currently putting the finishing touches on my system and have a question regarding speaker cables.
My system will be consisting of an NAD C 325BEE integrated amp, a Wadia 171iTtransport iPod dock, Monitor Audio RX1 speakers, plugged into a Torus BX2.5 power conditioner. My current interconnects are TARA Labs Vector 1.
My local dealer carries TARA Labs and I was doing some research online regarding Kimber Kable 8TC and AudioQuest Rocket 44 speaker cables. The cables will be biwired. My question is: Since I can’t demo the Kimber or AudioQuest speaker cables, would I be better buying TARA Labs cables, which I can demo, or the other two brands I can buy online from Audio Advisor for a really good price?
Please offer your opinion on how the AudioQuest or Kimber would suit my system.
I’d never recommend buying something without hearing it, but since Audio Advisor offers a money-back guarantee on the products they sell, you have a good way to minimize risk. (You should check the exact conditions of sale for these products by calling Audio Advisor directly in case there is something that would prevent them from being included in their return policy.)
It’s been a long time since I’ve tried TARA Labs or Kimber Kable cables, so I can’t help you much there, but I’ve long liked AudioQuest because of their reputation for offering high-quality, no-nonsense cables at sensible prices. If I were you, I’d definitely want to at least try out the AudioQuest cables, and possibly the Kimber Kable ones, because you have obviously taken great care in assembling your system so far and shouldn’t leave the last piece of the puzzle to chance. If I were in your shoes, I’d get at least one of those brands in from Audio Advisor (probably AudioQuest if getting two sets isn’t possible) and then compare them to the TARA Labs cables your dealer carries and keep the ones that work best with your setup. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I have a pair of Boston Acoustics A100 speakers from way back when. They’ve pretty much stopped working and I have to replace them. What do you suggest?
They certainly are from way back when. I don’t know which series you have, but they’re decades old and even though they've obviously served you well, it’s a good idea to replace them. It’s impossible to recommend specific speaker models since there’s little information provided, but I will recommend some brands that make excellent, well-priced speakers: PSB, Paradigm, Aperion, Focus Audio, and Amphion. There are many more I could recommend, but that’s a good start and you can find reviews of models from most of them on this site. Send us another e-mail anytime if you have more questions. . . . Doug Schneider
To Colin Smith,
I just read your article on sources, "Audio 101 Part 6: Sources Continued," and I'm actually in the process of watching for a good deal on a new Mac Mini. I have a handful of SACDs and was wondering how I would go about ripping a hi-rez copy to the Mac. Any suggestions?
The problem SACDs have always faced is that they require a proprietary drive to read them, a fact which really limited their mass appeal. Unfortunately, I've never heard of an SACD drive for computers so I doubt you can rip your discs to a PC or Mac. At this point the only way to get high-resolution music onto a computer is to download it or copy it from a DVD disc or other drive, if the files are in a computer-readable format like WAV or FLAC. . . . Colin Smith
To Doug Schneider,
I have a question about the Bryston 2B SST2 power amplifier. I never see any reviews on it. Is it any good?
You’re right, there aren’t many reviews on the 2B SST2, probably because it’s Bryston’s least-expensive power amplifier and reviewers tend to gravitate toward the more expensive components in a line. That’s actually unfortunate because there are a lot of budget-conscious audiophiles in the world. But we actually reviewed it, just not on this site. The 2B SST2 was reviewed by Bob Wood on SoundStage! Hi-Fi, our sister site. We even measured it too. I just looked up the price and the 2B SST2 retails for $2750 today.
Is it any good? I’ve never heard it, but I suspect it is, not only because of Bob's review. Bryston says that all their amplifiers share the same circuit design and build quality, so, therefore, they tend to sound the same. The biggest difference is the power output, which has mostly to do with how loud you can play the speaker it's partnered with. The 2B SST2 is said to deliver 100Wpc into 8 ohms; the larger and more expensive 3B SST2 is rated to deliver 150Wpc into 8 ohms; and the still larger and even more expensive 4B SST2, which I have here, is rated at 300Wpc, again into 8 ohms. There are more powerful Brystons yet. In a nutshell, the 4B SST2 is excellent, so if the 2B SST2 sounds just like it and simply delivers less power, it must also be very good. You can read a recent article about the 4B SST2 on SoundStage! Hi-Fi. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I’m curious if you guys have any reviews of the newest Aperion speakers coming up. So, are there some Aperions lying around that we’ll learn more about?
You’re likely referring to the new Verus line. It’s not a formal review, but Jeff Fritz did write about the new Verus Grand Tower on our sister site, Ultra Audio, in an article called “Benchmark Systems, Part 3: The $5000 Full-Ranger.” A full review of the Grand Tower is coming March 15 right here. Currently, we’re trying to bring in-house the Verus Forte Tower, which is released this month and sells for $990 per pair. We’re pretty confident we’ll get a pair for review. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I read about the PSB Imagine Mini and am wondering if you’ll be reviewing it. I’m looking for a bookshelf speaker that’s less than $1000 per pair and I noticed it. Anything you can tell me?
It’s funny you should bring the Imagine Mini up. We covered it in our CES 2011 report on SoundStage! Global and it’s been a hot topic since. I was talking to PSB’s Paul Barton today and he’s going to try and supply us with one of the first samples. The speaker is actually not on the market yet, but we hope that our sample will arrive here next week. What we don’t know at this time is if we’ll publish the review here on GoodSound! or on SoundStage! Hi-Fi, our sister site. Either way, I have no doubt that you will see a review of the Mini on the SoundStage! Network fairly soon. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
How do I know what makes a good-quality speaker and how much it will cost? I need speakers for an expo. It will be busy and noisy, so they need to be good quality. They can’t be too loud, just clean and crisp and clear. It would be great if I could get some help!
What makes a speaker “good” varies depending on the situation. Your situation is different than that of a home. If you’re going to be using the speakers at an expo where it’s noisy, they will have to play quite loud to overcome the sound around them, and they’ll also have to be very durable as well as easy to carry around. With that in mind, I’d recommend looking at speakers from companies that cater to the pro-audio/public-address side of things such as Peavey, Roland and Yamaha. I looked up what they’re currently offering and found some powered speakers in their lines that aren’t too expensive and would likely suit your needs quite nicely. . . . Doug Schneider