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.
To Doug Schneider,
The connectors on the back of my Yamaha receiver are looking pretty grungy. It’s probably not doing my system any good. What do you recommend for cleaning them?
The connectors on the back of my old Nakamichi receiver need cleaning quite regularly. I know it because the audio quality deteriorates significantly to the point that it sometimes cuts out completely. DeoxIT from CAIG Laboratories works great to clean them. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I only came upon your article today and I am in complete agreement that blind tests obtain more accurate and unbiased results. I plan to attend the 2011 Son et Image in Montreal at the beginning of April. I have been reading various speaker reviews online in preparation. However, after reading your editorial I now seriously doubt whether I am going to be wasting my time listening to various speakers one at a time. From previous experiences at this show I know there won't be any tests of speakers in the manner you described. Do you have any suggestions as to how I could, as much as possible, minimize the effects of the non-blind nature of this a show or, indeed, any other audio show?
Don’t miss out on Son et Image because there are no blind tests; it’s still a very good show and well worth your time if you’re shopping for speakers. Besides, no show I’ve ever been to has featured blind listening tests, although I think it would be fascinating and informative for visitors to take part in a well-conducted one. Even so, there are things that you can do to reduce your bias when listening there, the key component of what a blind listening test brings, which can help make the show-going experience more worthwhile.
One thing to try to do is listening to a system without first learning its price. This is the opposite of what many people do -- they ask the price of the components and then sit down and listen, so they’re biased right from the start. Another thing is to ignore the opinions of others, particularly the person who is conducting the demo. There are various designers and salespeople who will blather endlessly about various aspects of the components, but then only play music for a minute or two. They usually talk that much to convince you the components are worth what they’re asking, but, frankly, they should let the system playing music do the talking if it’s really up to what they say. Finally, take what you learn from Son et Image and use that to narrow down your speaker selections. Afterwards, proceed to seek out these products in order to evaluate them under conditions that allow for more critical listening. I’ve found that at Son et Image, it’s not just manufacturers and distributors exhibiting, but retailers who will invite you to their stores to listen more before you ultimately decide what to buy. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I picked up a CK-1 preamp made by [C.K. Audio Ltd.]. It sounds great.
I was wondering if you have any knowledge of this product/company?
I looked at the pictures you sent and can see that the unit is made in
To Doug Schneider,
I moved my speakers to another part of the room and now they don’t sound the same. They used to sound full, but now they sound almost muted and with less bass. Does the room make that big of a difference? Did I damage something?
It sounds like you have your speakers hooked up out of phase. In other words, the positive and the negative leads are reversed on one of the speakers and you’re hearing the cancellations that this can cause. Go and check all your connections very carefully at the speakers and at the amplifier. I’m 99 percent sure that’s the culprit. If not, write back. . . . Doug Schneider
To Ron Doering,
As an audiophile and a reviewer of hi-fi gear, I believe you can be of great help to me in deciding which amplifier to buy: the Creek Destiny 2 or the Musical Fidelity M6i. If my decision was based on reviews alone, I would have chosen the Destiny because I've read several reviews compared to almost none for the M6i. However, I felt relieved of my apprehension for the M6i after reading your review. The absence of units to audition is making my selection even harder, so I just have to ask you: Could you please help me decide which amplifier to buy and tell me why? I usually listen to jazz (mainstream, contemporary, fusion, Latin), but like all genres.
Very truly yours,
Given the amount of money you are planning to spend, I would strongly suggest that you audition both of these amplifiers in your system. Reviews are a great way to whittle down the pack, but, ultimately, it is your ears that must be satisfied. I have not heard the Creek, although I do know the company has a stellar reputation for making good-sounding gear. That said, on paper at least, these are two very different products. For one thing, the M6i is a much bigger and more powerful amplifier, weighing about 7 kg more and rated at 200Wpc versus 120Wpc for the Creek. But the Creek is more feature-laden, having switchable speaker outputs, a headphone socket, and an optional phono board.
I would suggest that you not only listen to each amplifier, but also see that the features (or lack thereof) and power output are suited to your needs. Thanks. . . . Ron Doering
To Ron Doering,
I want to start by saying that I really enjoy reading your reviews, particularly those for equipment on the affordable end of the spectrum. Since everyone has to watch their pennies these days, it's great to get some help finding equipment that's genuinely musical but doesn't break the bank.
I have purchased a pair of Aperion Audio 4Ts, and I'm breaking them in for two weeks before sitting to listen carefully. I wanted to ask about the way you placed them in your room. You said that you had them immediately against the wall per the Aperion instructions, but everything I've been able to find in their documentation says to have them 2' or more from the wall. They are front-ported, so I thought the only deficit that might be caused by closer wall placement might be image depth, but you said they imaged beautifully. Just wanted to double-check with you on that.
I saw that you run an NAD integrated; I've had a Marantz integrated for a few years now. Its midrange is very fluid, but it's not the most composed on dynamic passages. I don't know how much exposure you've had to the rest of the NAD range. My room is about the same dimensions as yours (11' by 14'), and I've read that NAD's lowest-powered integrated (C 316BEE) is very good. I thought I'd ask if you had heard anything about it, and would expect it to be up to muster with the 4Ts. Since I live in an apartment, I don't play anything very loudly, but classical music is 90 percent-plus of what I listen to and by nature it is very dynamic. So I thought the small NAD might be worth a look. If you have any thoughts or other suggestions let me know. Ditto on a CD player: I'm using the Oppo 980H, which is OK but a bit metallic on strings and winds. In case you're wondering, I'm rebuilding a system from the ground up after many years of just listening through headphones.
Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. My Aperion review goes back a year now to November 2009 and because I no longer have a copy, I cannot say for certain whether Aperion's 4T product manual that I used is the same as the one available today. Still, I did give a gander at the current setup manual available online and I see no specifics as to speaker placement with regard to the front wall, although the figure does suggest a close proximity. In any event, the manual does rightly recommend that you experiment with placement and trust your ears!
You did not indicate the model of amplifier you now use or its vintage. My understanding is that it has only been in recent years that Marantz has pulled itself back out of the mid-fi doldrums it swam in for so long. They appear to now be making some impressive gear, but I have not yet had the opportunity to audition a Marantz component. If you haven't yet heard, the NAD "house" sound is fast, dynamic, and punchy. At 40Wpc the C 316BEE is in the ballpark with my older C 325BEE, so I should think you will get good results.
Could the C 316BEE be improved upon? I'm afraid only you and your bankbook can decide that. Have fun shopping and let me know what you end up with. . . . Ron Doering
To Doug Schneider,
I am considering purchasing a tube amp but am wondering about how much hassle they are to maintain versus a solid-state amplifier. Any thoughts?
Every tube amp that I know of requires more maintenance than any solid-state amp that I know of. With a solid-state amp you simply set it up, plug it in, and it usually works flawlessly for many, many years without tinkering of any sort. With tube amps there are tubes that wear out and, usually, bias levels that have to be checked regularly and adjusted if need be. There might be other things you need to do as well such as clean the tube sockets. How often you have to change tubes and adjust the bias varies based on the design and how often you use the amp, but, obviously, the point made here is that tube designs definitely do require more work than their solid-state counterparts. . . . Doug Schneider
If I understand the general conclusion in the "Audio 101 Part Three: Amplifiers" article, it seems to me that you are saying that class-D amps are really the state of the art, and that older class-A and -AB designs are not really as good. Am I missing something?
Class-D amplifiers are state of the art in terms of efficiency, and they can certainly sound quite good. But I'm not ready to say that they are state of the art in terms of sound quality. For the very best sound, I still think more conventional designs have the edge, even if they are less efficient, cost more, and are physically larger. Ultimately, though, you could build a great audio system around any number of amplifier configurations, no matter which letter of the alphabet your amplifier type ends in. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Colin Smith,
I am thinking of changing my 20-year-old amplifier for a better sound. My current setup is a Marantz CD6002 CD player, Pro-Ject Debut III turntable, Cambridge Audio 640P phono preamp, Sony TA-F235R amplifier (30Wpc), Wharfedale Diamond 10.2 speakers, and inexpensive 6mm copper cables biwired to my amp.
I have a very small listening room, and the speakers are about 1.2m apart. I have tried the NAD 3020 integrated amplifier after reading so much hype about it and it now rests under my bed after I realized my old amp is much more detailed and offers deeper bass. I am quite happy with my sound except that I want something more “excitable” and with my current setup the midrange is somewhat sunken-in and appears rather drowned. I want to hear more than just the treble and bass. I also do not want to spend too much on a new amp. I have narrowed my search to:
Sony TA-F4A (go vintage?)
Any opinions/help/advice? Thanks in advance for your time.
With their lowish 86dB sensitivity, your Wharfedale speakers are a little tough to drive. For that reason I'm more comfortable recommending as powerful an amplifier as you can squeeze into your budget. Among the choices you list, the Marantz PM7001 (70Wpc into 8 ohms) best meets the power criteria, although that amp is discontinued and may be difficult to find.
As for the NAD 3020, keep in mind that it was considered excellent for its time and that as electronics age their performance level can drop off dramatically. For that reason I hesitate to recommend any vintage components that haven't had a thorough going-over. The youngest Sony TA-F4A was built 32 years ago and I wouldn't want to put much faith in the ability of its original parts to have withstood three decades of service and still be performing like new.
There are other alternatives you might want to consider. Cambridge Audio's 550A is well regarded and reasonably priced at $550. The contemporary NAD C 326BEE is also an excellent choice at $499. If you can swing it, Anthem's Integrated 225 ($1599) is a killer amp for the money and could serve as the basis for a higher-end system when you're ready to upgrade speakers and sources one day. In that regard the Anthem could be considered "future proof." . . . Colin Smith
I read a review by Ron Doering about the Musical Fidelity M6i integrated amplifier in September and enjoyed it.
I'm looking for an integrated amplifier to work into my surround system; it must have home-theater bypass. I like the M6i but I’ve also got eyes for this Harman Kardon HK 990. It was released in September and it has interesting specs but no reviews.
Are any of you familiar with the brand and have you any idea of the Harman Kardon sound? I want a two-channel integrated to match with my ATC SCM 19 bookshelf speakers. I'm really impressed with the specs of the Harman Kardon HK 990.
I’m very familiar with the brand but not familiar with that model, and none of our writers has reviewed it. I did look it up and can see why you’re quite taken by the specs and, probably, the features too. It’s quite powerful and there appears to be a lot jammed into it. It's certainly interesting. But even if we review it, it won’t be for quite some time -- and I can’t even guarantee that we will, since we’re filled up with other gear right now. However, I did some searches and found some articles on the HK 990 from professional reviewers as well as consumers who have had experience with it. Keep looking and see what you can find out.
The only piece of advice I’ll leave you with is this: look at the specs but don’t buy based on those alone. Specifications and measurements can tell you certain things, but they can’t tell you everything. Ultimately, you have to let your ears decide, so you should definitely try it before you buy it. . . . Doug Schneider
I just got an iPod Touch for my wife and we were wondering if there is some kind of free software application that would permit listening to the radio. That would be a first for us, as we don't even listen to computer music. Second question about the iPod: Could we use the USB on the Oppo BDP-83SE to listen to the Music Store on the player through our sound system?
The iPod Nano has a built-in FM tuner that allows the reception of regular, over-the-air radio signals. The iPod Touch, however, does not have a built-in tuner. But you can download apps that will allow you to listen to Internet Radio services like Pandora, Slacker, and others that are free. Since these are Internet Radio services, the iPod Touch requires access to a wireless Internet connection to receive these broadcasts.
Most audio/video devices such as the Oppo BDP-83SE cannot be directly connected to an iPod via the USB port. Many manufacturers sell iPod "docks" that connect to the iPod and output audio and/or video and usually provide playback control when connected to one of their compatible receivers or processors. Most of these docks only output analog audio and rely on the iPod's digital-to-analog conversion section, which is good but certainly not the best. However, some newer docks such as the one available for the forthcoming Anthem receivers can extract the digital signal from the iPod and send it to the receiver to utilize its higher-quality digital-to-analog converter. Wadia's standalone 170iTransport dock can also extract the digital-audio signal from an iPod and then present it to a DAC or processor via an S/PDIF digital connection.
You could also simply use an adapter to connect the headphone output of an iPod to the analog RCA inputs of a receiver or preamplifier. It won’t deliver the best sound possible because it’s an analog connection, but it will work. Some products like the Cambridge Azur 350A integrated amplifier that I have in for review even have a 1/8" input jack on the front panel for connection to an iPod or other MP3 player to make matters easier. . . . Roger Kanno