Jitter Abolished?

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IMahler's Symphony 4·Loudon W

". ..it blew me away to a point Ithought Iwas too jaded
to experience." Frank Doris, The Absolute Sound, Issue 1001-
TELEPHONE 919-596-1107 / FAX 919-596-2037 -I- Quoted with permission oldie absobte sound'



"Words are ms to hang ideas on." -- Henry Ward Beecher

Lany Archibald was moving office. As Stereophile's CEO believes that whatever you need should be close

to hand and that you will always need

everything, aknot of interested staffers gath-

ered to see what archaeological items

would be unearthed from the shrinking

piles of paper on and around his desk. My

haul? Imanaged to rescue some otherwise

dumpster-destined 1986 issues of PC magazine J. Gordon Holt had founded --


on the seminal idea of judging an audio

Browsing through those magazines, I component by how it sounds--and steer it

stumbled across awriter referring to a286 into the mainstream. Without losing sight

PC with a 12MHz clock as "blindingly of the publication's roots, compromising

fast" -- compared with the 166MHz its integrity, or dumbing down the words

Pentium machine the same $3000 could it published, Ibelieved that it was possible

buy today, the best of 1986 would appear to produce ahigh-circulation audio maga-

brain-dead! An ad for an add-on 60Mb zine that would enroll its readers in its

hard drive promoted how affordable it world of ideas to amuch greater degree

was at just $1350 -- ljust paid $179 for a than had previously existed in the field of

second 512Mb drive for my 486! The hi-fi publishing.

RadioShack Model-100 was the profes-

Iwas lucky enough to find, one by one,

sional writer's laptop of choice -- its mea- ateam of talented writers and editors who

ger 24kb of user RAM, about 4000 words' shared my vision. Guys and gals, you're

worth, was considered alot in '86. And the best! Iwas also lucky enough to find

Microsoft's Windows and Word for you --the best, most perceptive readers in

Windows were being reviewed against the world. My thanks to all of you, writers

strong competitors like GEM Desktop, and readers alike. You've changed the

DESQview, Volkswriter, Wordstar 2000 world of audio.

Plus, and other contenders for the "Where

From this vantage point of 10 years

Arc They Now?" Club. (The exception after Icrossed the pond, that world has

was XYV/rite III Plus, which Istill use, certainly appeared to change. The stable

except that Inow run it in aWindows of US magazines in 1986 included 71w

window so Ican toggle between it and Absohrte Sound, Audio, Stereo Review, Hi-Fi

Word 6.0.)

Heretic, High Fidelity, The Boston Audio

It was in May 1986 that Ileft the UK Society Speaker, The Audio Amateur, Speaker

magazine Ihad been working at for 10 Builder, and The Sensibk Sound. Stereophile

years, Hi-Fi News &Record Review, to join was adigest-sized publication appearing

Larry Archibald and J. Gordon Holt at eight times ayear and averaging around

Stereophile'. While HFN/RR was com- 150 pages per issue. Between 90 and 100

mercially successful, the fact that it was of these pages were editorial, the 50,000

owned by alarge conglomerate meant or so words being written by ateam of 20

that it was not as flexible as Ineeded it to editors and reviewers. Its readers were as

be to push it toward the goal Ihad envi- vocal and involved as they are now, but

sioned. However, Stereophile had the seeds there were only around 25,000 of them.

within it of what Iwanted to achieve: In (When Larry bought the magazine in

the same way that the nascent High End's 1982, it had fewer than 3000 readers and

commitment to sound quality would the number was falling. For LA to estab-

eventually make it the Audio Estab- lish arate of circulation growth sufficient

lishment in the '90s, Iwanted to take the to reach 25,000 in just four years with

only minimal capitalization is atribute to

his street smarts and business integrity.) I

was Stereophile, Inc.'s full-time employee


The magazine you hold is the first of my

second 10 years. To date, Ihave contributed

about amillion and aquarter words to 116

issues of Stereophile, as well as producing

eight recordings for the magazine. In 1996,

Stereophile, Inc. employs around 45 full-

time staffers, with 60 editors and writers

contributing an average of 120,000 words

to each of 12 full-size issues every yeac Our

average magazine size in '96 is 300 pages,

150 of them editorial, and each issue is

devoured by more than 80,000 audiophiles

and music lovers.

Other than High Fidelity and Hi-Fi

Heretic, the 1986 magazines are still

around, but have been joined by Stereophile

Cuide to Home Theater, Fi, The Audio

Adventure, Tracking Angle, Listener, 71w

Audiophile Voice, Sound Practices, Class Audio,

Positive Feedback, Home Theater, Bound For

Sound, Vacuum Tube Valley, Widescreen

Review, and The Audio Critic To judge by

the sheer volume of words published each

year, high-end audio in 1996 is healthier

than ever.

But words alone are not necessarily a

good indicator of health. As the High End

has grown over the past 10 years, it has

also fragmented. Who'd have thought in

1986 that anachronistic single-ended tube

amplifiers would be the hot thing in '96?

While the sound quality of today's best

gear is significantly higher than what

could be achieved 10 years ago, so is its

price! And are Home Theater and Car

Audio really threatening the High End?

Or are they bringing new people, with

new voices, to our often too-insular


Whatever the answers, I'm sure that Fil

meet you here in 10 years' time. And

however the world will have changed,

there will still be aplace for music lovers

to escape into the best kind of virtual real-

ity -- that created in one's own mind via

the magic of music! Because, in the words

of the sadly mortal Lowell George, "If you

like the sound of shufllin' feet, it cain't be


--John Atkinson



Here's a for the
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70 SHOW TIME! Jonathan Scull and Markus Sailer report on (lie first (um inqlor international audio shows ,,1 1996.
Take thejourney with Howard Blumenthal as he describes the evolution of his system, and as David
Vican--a student--details his climb up Mount Compromise.
Robert Harley olkts practical advice on hou' to buy CD players, digital processors, and
CD transports.
The acerbic siwer/sote,riter talks with Sttve Guttenberg aboutJim; wealth, and the need to be
loved by abunch ifstraqeers in adark room.






149 149





132 155
185 185




JULY 1996

VoL.19 No.7

3 11 29
53 59
193 203
225 242


As W E SEE IT John Atkinson looks back at his 10 years at Stereophile, and on to the next 10.

LETTERS Ibpics this month: Stereophile's Festival CD; praise problems, and politics; attaining musical nirvana; hwrahsfor "Car Tunes"; how loud is loud; missing Ayres; and speeding up the dock.

INDUSTRY UPDATE High-end news, including dealer-promoted manufacturer seminars; recommendationsfrom theJapanese Conference on Advanced Digital Audiojake Magnan cable alert; the death ofMichael Gerzon; The Park Lasse Group's Ring Cycle; an interview with Delos'sJohn Eargle; and what's new in Germany



nports on the Single-Ended Triode Seminar and offers his ob-

servations on the Audio Electronic SE-811 monoblock power amplyier

ANALOG CORNER Michael Frenurgives news on the Evabytefiont, then takes us on avisit to Transco to see how discs are lacquered, and to Times Square/or the opening of Virgin's new MtgaStore

BUILDING A LIBRARY Stephen Francis Vasta's in-dtpth review ofthe recordings available of Mahler's huirth Symphony.
M·A Recordings wins its second "Recording ofthe Month" banner, this time for Eduardo Paniagua's Medieval Spanish Dances. Also: Ravel asid Debussyfrom Boulez; first recordingsfrom MacMillan; aterrific new suitefrom Prokoliev:ç -Romeo &Julietfrom 71/son Thomas; seldom-heard music of12(izsa and Schullhoff; and nsore UnderJazz & Blues you'll.find Shirley Hons,Jane Ira Bloom, and Barbara Dennedein, plus die retunss clHerbie Hancock, Joins McLaughlin, and Taj Mahal. More Popular reviews include new discsfrom Pulp, /ge Pop, Sting,Joe Henry,John Wesley Hardism, The Philosopher Kings, and, God help us, Vina Sumac. More hen; too.

MANUFACTURERS' COMMENTS Tiles of terror, titillation, and temerity.

THE FINAL WORD Publisher Larry Archibald reports on CEMA's Orlando Show.

231 W HERE TO BUY Stereophile
114 Stereophile CDS 122 Sterayihik Sonata cp 229 Sorophile BINDERS

VVVVV · V · · ·
EDITOR .. John Atkinson
PUBLISHER. Larry Archibald ASSISTANT PUBLISHER. .Gretchen Grogan
MANAGING EDITOR... Deborah Starr
SENIOR CONTRIBUTING EDITORS ... Martin Collorns, Michael Freiner, Jonathan Scull
CONTRIUUTING EDITORS (FIARDWARE) Lonnie Brownell, Roben Ikutsch, Shannon 1>ickson,Jack English,
Larry Greenhill, Muse IGuratievith, Riesell Novak, Robenj Reina, George Reisch, RichardJ. Rosen, Markus Sauer,
Don .9. Sam, Steven Stone, S0111 Tellig, Barry 14,111U
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS (MUSIC) Paul L Altheuse, Carl L &nigher, Robert E. Benson, Leslie S. Berkley,
Peter Catalano, Thomas Conrad, Alortimer H. Frank, Robyn Hawn, Bah le:clues, Barbara Jahu. Igor Kipnis, Roben &rifle, David Prince,
Michael Ross, Richard Schneider, Allen St.John,,fean Tarshis, Afichael Ullman, Stephen Francis Vora
OVERSEAS OPERATIONS (UK)/SURSCRIPTIONS Nido King (44) 181-289-1571 FAX (44) 181-289-1572


PRESIDENT ... Ralph Johnson


BUSINESS MANAGER .. .Mid:rile Slob:mkt




FULFILLMENT MANAGER ... Steven R. Bilytler






PionincrioN DusEtrrins .. Rebecca Willard



PRODUCTION Anne Pounder, Laura Ranlificjoseph

An COPY MANAGER ... Dee Soirlett

Airr 1)iitErroit ... Natalie Brown




Nancy lry. Kathryn Golden, Steve Graven, David Hendrick, Mary Plans,

Vince Royhal, 11111.Sinadines, Kristen Witz, Jane Wide/

EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI AFOREIGN Ken Nelsen ·Nelsen &Associates, bk. 62 Wendova Rd. ·Umkers, Neu, York 10705 (914) 476-3157 ·FAX (914) 969-2746
West' OF THE MISSISSIPPI Fe NATIONAL DEALERS Laura J. Atkinson ·Lekbxhio Associates ·Santa New Mexico
(505) 988-3284 ·FAX (SOS) 982-5806


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"Strrrophile" 288-3236


"John Atkinson 74472,255"




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· V··· ···

Editor: Please excuse me for being blind, or something. But upon quick perusal of the April Stereophik Ican't seem to find the address to mail letters to the editor to ... if Ican e-mail them that would be most convenient, or you could send me the USPS address, so Ican kill trees while corresponding to your publication.

Mr. Schreier is correct in that ive do seem to make

it hard to find out how to reach us. (We bury the

address on the page_facing the inside back cover)

Snaihnail should be sent to PO. Box 5529,

Santa Ft; NM 87502; you can e-mail me at

john.atkinson@tanet.com; 288-3236@mci-

maiLcotn; 74472.255@Compuserve.com; or

you can flux me at (505) 983-6327


Editor: Regarding Stereophile's Festival CD: weird selection, cold and sterile interpretation, impeccable recording. It absolutely lacks musical emotions and shows me how much the music is a problem of soul and meaning. Not, certainly, of technical matters.
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Thank you for the compliment on the engineer-

in' quality ofour Festival recordie Mr. Tekh,

and the implied endorsement of (J. Gordon)

Holes Lou' --"71re better the sound, the worse

the pelinmance" However, as Festival's engi-

neer and co-producer, Ibelieve that the perjOr-

mances on this CD, captured live in concert at

the 1995 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival,

literally crackle with passion. Readers who

would like to make their own minds up should

see the advertisanent on p.114 of this issue Jr

details on how to order this CD. Let me know

what you think.


Editor: Ibelieve it is time that you re-evaluated your destiny as prolific writers in the electronics world as we know it.
Ihave been involved in the audio industry for 17 years in one way or another. We owned ahigh-end store for seven years and we really created a niche market. Along with that, Ihave a consulting firm for people who have plenty of money but lack the time, or the desire, for gut-wrenching night sweats to research the products by themselves. Most of these people don't want to be educated in the electronics world. They simply want great audio and video for their home enjoyment. The cost of these systems can range from $1500 to $100,000. It all depends on the clients and their needs.
In my garage, there sit --at least at this time anyway --six motorcycles of different nationalities, sizes, shapes, and colors. Allow me to share the names of some of my stable mates. One Ducati 916, one Ducati 907ie, one Kawasaki ZX-6R, one Kawasaki 1978 KZ1000a2, one Yamaha 1982 Seca 650, one 1983 Honda custom 1000 cruiser. All immaculate, all dusted off with a California Car Duster nightly.
I've been biking since Iwas nine years old and Ihave yet to experience aMoto Guzzi Daytona 1000 sidle up alongside
Letters to the Editor should be sent to 'The Editor, Po. Box 5529, Santa Fe, NM 87502. Fax (505) 983-6327 We regret that resources do not permit us to reply individually to ktters, particularly those requesting advice about specific equipment purchases. We are also unable to take telephone calls regarding equipment purchases. Were we to do this, asignificant service charge would have to be assessed--and we don't have time to do it anyway! Although all letters are read and noted, only those of general interest are selected for publication. Please note, however, that published letters are subject to editing, particularly if they are very long or address more than one topic. All correspondents should include their name, address, and adaytime telephone number.

of my Ducati 916 and say something like "My duck out-corners your goose on any day of the week. Even if my grandmother were riding in the pilot's scat." Or "The drag coefficient of the left faring on my Bimota clearly is lower than your Triumph Triple Speed's."
My long-winded point is that we ride different pieces of equipment because it is fun and always provides anew learning experience. We become much more broadly educated being exposed to high-tech units like the ones listed above. Not one of them, by the way, sucks. They are all different. All unique in their own way. All of them Jun.
The same applies for audio and video gear. My main system probably retails in the neighborhood of $45,000. But I have five audio systems in my house, and the one that gets the most use is the Aiwa mini system (with subwoofer) that's located in the kitchen. There is nothing quite like the experience of cranking up some bass-laden disc and having the silverware and the china put on their own little concert.
All kidding aside, remember when audio and video was fun? You remember, back when we didn't have our collective heads stuck so tightly in our sphincter muscles. No one knows how we got stuck there, but by God we did. If you don't think so, have alook around. Or better yet, look at Stereophile's most recent "Recommended Components" list.
Try to be alot more objective, folks, in what you print as good, better, or best. It's all so very subjective and everyone's tastes, ears, and pocketbooks are different. Let's all try to have alittle more fun and enjoy music for what it is. A form of art, not afunction of mechanical ability.
I'll tell aquick story about the man who was auditioning avery expensive audio system in our store. It was awellrecorded string ensemble that at that time was adirect-to-disc vinyl pressing that was extremely lush-sounding. After



It falls apart, destroys amplifiers, there's no bass and no volume, only one person at atime can listen, it takes up too much

space and it's dangerous. But its clarity is beyond any other loudspeaker known to man.

The year was 1978, and

everyone said Iwas mad. Back then, their fears of ecstatic loudspeaker technology were well-founded. But Iwas

obsessed with the clarity and determined to create a loudspeaker the like of which this world had never known.

After four years of struggle and disappointment, Martin-Logan introduced the Monolith I. We had eliminated every problem

and overcom> every fear.

All that remained was the incredible clarity.

When you become disenchanted

by the ordinary we invite you to experience Martin-Logan technology. One of our chosen specialists will show you

what it is to touch space, feel an image, relish asublime madness.


the disc was finished, Iasked the client ring at my local CVS Pharmacy for $5.49. tics leaks into their writings. However, as it is an

how he liked the sound. His reply: "The

When Ifirst put the ring under the election year, Iwill comment on acouple qfpolit-

sound is terrific, but the ant that farted transport, Ithought it was going to look ical points-- hey, he started it!

slightly left of the front stage center objectionable, but actually you hardly First, judgingfrom tv/tat is done rather than

sounded completely inaccurate and see it. At first Ihad it filled up with too what is said, whether apresident is aDemocrat


HOWARD R. PAUL much air. Ihad to let some out, to or aRepublican appears to have little bearing

Sound Decisions Unlimited where the player sits on about an inch on the need of the government to raise taxes.

Allentown, PA of air cushion or less. But it does work Reagan, Bush, and Clinton all raised taxes.


miracles. Itold my wife that this was The American public wants entitlements, the just an example of good old "Yankee American public ends up paying for them, as


ingenuity." When Iread about home- pointed out by one ofmyfavorite political writ-

Ihate those pussy single-ended triode made remedies and tweaks in the edito- ers, the very conservative PJ. O'Rourke, in his

amplifiers. "Power" amps my eye!

rial pages of Stereophile, Ifeel that alone 1991 book Parliament of Whores. (How

MATTHEW HATFIELD is worth the price of subscription.

conte it takes "humorists"-- O'Rourke and

Eastern Illinois University

ROBERT S.MATTHEWS more recently Al Franker; -- to provide the


Springfield, VA most penetratingly perceptive comments on pol-


itics?) Finding the means to prevent an elecMr. Matthews is correct to experiment with the toratefrom, to quote O'Rourke (who in turn is


ring's air pressure. The idea is to create a paraphrasing de Tocqueville), "voting them-

Tom Norton's "Measurements vs mechanical high-pass filter; if there's too much selves rich" without being elected out ofoffice is

Listening" sidebar following the review air in the ring, both the Q (springiness) and the the biggest problem facing democratic govern-

of the Jadis SE300B in the March conter frequency of the filter will be too high, ments ofevery political persuasion.

Stereophile (p.122) is akiller. All audio- resulting in constant motion as the ring is excit- Second, ¡fpre-1990 Soviet Russia is the para-

philes should be required to memorize ed by the transport's vibration. This is the oppo- digm ofwhat happens when governmentgets too

it word for word.

site of what you want, where the transport big, those whofeel that any govenunent is wrong

Chasing coloration and distortion in a vibrations should be damped and absorbed.

should rententber what coluntnist Meg Green-

system with complementary coloration

field wrote in arecent Newsweek: "71w absence

and distortion is like adog chasing his
tail: If he ever catches it, all it does is A LIBERAL BITCH FEST?

ofgovenunent is not paradise; it's Bosnia."' In my view, whether you are Republican, Demo-

hurt. It also makes for adepleted bank Editor:

crat, or Independent, the issue in question is

account, acloset full of cables, tweaks, "Give us achance," Stereophilds promo- tlISIlling the optimal amount ofgovemment te)

and electronics, and is the major cause of tional flyer said, so Isubscribed. One allow the individual to live with maximumfree-

Audiophilia nervosa and eventual with- year later, Iwish Ihad saved my money. dom while ensuring him or her thefieedom_from

drawal from the High End.

For the past year, issue after issue, being oppressed by those more powdfid. Personal

People who design, manufacture, and Stereophiles writers have felt the need to freedom needs to be balanced against societal

sell these expensive tone controls -- lace their writing about stereos with pa responsibility.

"... crooked wires with gain" indeed! litical editorials.

Now that I've probably upset tight and

-- should realize that they're only dig-

Now this may surprise you urban let's return to the real world.


ging their own grave.

sophisticates, but us conservatives love

Good work, Tom. BRAD LEHMAN music and high-end stereo. Why mix pol- VIVE LE VINYL

Designer, Virtual Mode itics with stereos--what do the two pos- Editor:


sibly have in common? Why can't acom- Greetings. Last night Ihappened to tune munity of music lovers come together in on NBC's Tuesday-night sitcom, Third


without turning it into aliberal bitch fest? Rock from the Sun. The basic premise is

Idon't usually take the time to write let- So, for the record, the NEA should be four aliens from an advanced civilization

ters to Stereophile but Ijust have to thank abolished, Ronald Reagan was agreat attempt to experience and learn about

the lady who wrote aletter on behalf of president, Newt Gingrich is an intellec- the planet Earth by taking human form

her husband ("Letters," March '96, p.13). tual genius, the NRA is protecting and dwelling among us. One subordi-

Thank you, Mrs. Kristen Breeden of American freedoms (see, some of us nate joins aCD club. When the package

Nanaimo, BC, Canada. Your letter was have more than one hobby), and finally, arrives, the aliens eagerly examine the

so intriguing that Ijust had to go out to if Bill --I Feel Your Pain --Clinton had contents. The leader, John Lithgow,

my local pharmacy and get an "invalid not raised my taxes, Iwould still have holds up aCD and says, "Hmmm, prim-

ring" to place under my CD transport to disposable income with which to pursue itive. Don't these Earthlings know about

see what all the hiss was about. Yes, you my hobbies. Goodbye Stereophile, this $35 the superiority of vinylr

arc absolutely correct: by using this ring will be spent apolitically ... on stereos.

Ilaughed myself to bytes. Vive le

(which Icall awhoopee cushion) and not



spending $175 for something called the


Havertown, PA

Seismic Support Platter for CD players, I
did indeed clean up the sound and add Sorry to see you go, Mr. Hunter, but "liberal bitch IT'S ONLY ANALOG ...

new life to my system. Supporting the fest"? Really? Front Michael Freiner on the left to Editor:

Cl) transport on acushion of air does Sam Tellig on the right, Stereophile actually Isubscribed to Stereophile for about five

give you better depth and amore open has abroad spednun ofpolitical beliefamong its years; although Ienjoy browsing the


contributors, though it is true that the writers' cen- entire magazine, my favorite column is

Itold my wife that this has got to be the ter ifgravity leans more to the left than to the

Tiveak oft/it' Century!!! Ibought my invalid right. They also vary in how much of their poli- 1"Thc Last Word," Newsweek, May 20, 1996.



You be the judge!

Fo) ACO ER 1(11)141,1, 1)11 1

('I) TR

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Michael Fremer's "Analog Corner." I have noticed an increase of advertisements for analog gear in Stereophile lately, and Ifind this very encouraging.
Irecently found myself at the all-toofamiliar crossroads of being forced (for monetary reasons) to choose whether to upgrade my analog set or my digital set. Not being one to follow the masses, Ilaid down my hard-earned money and brought home a VP! Jr. turntable, AudioQuest PT-6 toneann, and Sumiko Blue Point cartridge. To say that this was a gigantic sonic improvement is an understatement. It was more of arevelation!
Ihave considered myself somewhat of an "audiophile" for many years, always more concerned with the equipment than with the music. For the first time, Iam truly enjoying music! Ihave gone from constantly analyzing what was coming out of the speakers to sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the music. Correct me if Iam wrong, but that is what we arc striving for, isn't it?
Icredit my new joy of music to the analog direction that Ihave chosen. CD may be the "perfect" music medium, but who says music is perfect?
Others may find satisfaction in digital, but for me, analog is the only path to true musical satisfaction. Wasn't it Mick Jagger who said, "It's only analog, but I like it, like it, yes Ido."Tom ALBRECHT
Loveland, OH
Editor: Iwanted to write aletter in the hope of saving others some time in their quest for audio nirvana. About three years ago Istarted to actively pursue an interest in Home Theater and stereo equipment. I knew afew things as true, thanks to Stereo Review and Consumer Reports: You don't need aCD player if you have a laserdisc player; vinyl was dead, due to its inferior sound; tube gear was troublesome and inferior to solid-state; and all CD players and amps sounded pretty much the same.
When Ifirst read Stereophile, Ithought it was interesting but out of touch. I viewed most high-end products with such skepticism that Iassumed all expensive gear (especially tweaks) were a con man's livelihood. In the past three years, alot of my beliefs have changed. If Ihad taken much of what was written in Stereophile seriously, Imight have had an easier time in arranging asatisfying stereo system.
What finally assisted me to the point of satisfaction was adealer two hours away from me in Gainesville, Florida. Having

no high-end dealer hem in Tallahassee, I had to turn to mail-order for most of my gear. Anything that wasn't stocked at Circuit City just wasn't available. After wandering into Sound Ideas during a visit with my mother, Irealized that putting asystem together unaided was a quite difficult task. How could Ibe as familiar with this sort of gear if Ihad not seen that much of it? Thankfully, the salesman who helped me, Jason Beal, knew what Iwanted. After talking for a few moments, he knew the sound Iwas looking for and how Icould get it.
Iwasn't looking for visceral slam at concert volumes, Iwanted beauty and accuracy. Jason suggested electrostatic speakers biamped with tubes on top. Great, but aren't these things ridiculously expensive and problematic? No! My fears were allayed and trades arranged to mate me with more perfect gear to please my ears. My older equipment will now find amore appropriate owner and I'm delighted with my new digs. It's great to see astore allowing trades so customers can upgrade without pricing themselves out of the hobby. 'just wish Icould have started with these guys from the ground up.
How does astore in Gainesville provide the service alocal store could not? Well after realizing that the 6' MartinL,ogans could not be shoehorned into my Caprice Classic, Jason offered to drive the speakers up and install them. Once at my place, he heard the system and knew what was right and what wasn't. Solutions were found that enabled me to add new amps and trade out the old. Used cables (no break-in period) were added at avery fair price. (I still wonder who traded up from Straight Wire Maestros.)
My reason for writing again is to suggest that ifalocal audio hut isn't an option, one fairly close might be. I've gotten great service. Idon't think Icould have finished the system properly on my own. I'm very thankful that Jason and Ihit it off so well and that he was prepared to give me such attention when Ilived two hours away.
Ihave come to believe many things that three years ago Iwould have ridiculed. Here is my short list: ·A $600 record player plus aVAC-inthe-Box phono preamp can bury a $4000 CD player --easily. The cheapest way to beautiful sound is vinyl. A $35 Grado cartridge and arecord cleaner can challenge most every CD player I've yet heard. When comparing the same material on vinyl and CD, my friends always pick the licorice pizza. ·Electrostatics can play loud, sound

good with rock music, and won't melt your amp. ·Tubes arc the real deal! My Cary amps are auto-biased and are hardly any more trouble than solid-state. Like vinyl, tubes are often maligned. Don't fear the tube. Great used gear is out there. (It was reading the March '96 Stenvphik (Vol.19 No.3) that convinced me to go tube. Though I went with 100W monoblocks, your articles were instrumental in that decision. This last step has completed my audio quest and leaves me satisfied.) ·Spend the extra dough on good cables. Nonaudiophiles can easily hear the difference between agood cable and an inexpensive one. ·A lot of those crazy-sounding tweaks work. Really. ·Separates sound better. Especially in Home Theater, where most people use a receiver for everything. A Home Theater system cannot produce music as well as amusic-only system. How can something image with aTV between the speakers? ·When aStereophile writer recommends atweak or piece of gear, he means it. His name is on the article and he is easily called to the carpet on his opinions. Also, in the years I've been reading Stereophile, I've never felt that the writers' opinions were based on advertising dollars spent in their mag or were influenced by anything but their opinions.
I'm not stopping my interest in hi-fi. I will continue to read Stereophile, but with an observer's eye rather than a consumer's. Ihope you and your advertisers won't mind. WOODY COMPTON
Tallahassee, FL

Sounds as thoneh you've put toether amusical

.,stetn, Mr. Compton. See you around the used-

vinyl bins!


Editor: Well, it's high time to send an e-mail message of gratitude to the greatest magazine ever produced --at least in many of our opinions here in southern California. About ayear and ahalf ago I came into some money and was headed for the closest "Good Guys" or brain/ wallet-zapping department store, when Pat Brady (a high-end audio friend) rescued me by asking if Ihad considered getting professional advice on high-end audio gear rather than blindly heading, like asheep to slaughter, to achain store for mid-fi garbage.
Imade one of those life-changing pauses, turned completely around, woke



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up from the consumer-zombie fog that too many of us are trapped in, and avoided one of the bigger mistakes of my life. Isubscribed to Stereophile, purchased Robert Harley's Complete Guide to HighEnd Audio, and entered a brave new world! A world of music, humor, intrigue, controversy, expert opinion, passion, stunning equipment, and even more humor. Inow have a truly high-end audio/Home Theater system (recently greatly upgraded by the wonderful Von Schweikert Research VR-4 speakers) and life couldn't be better.
Along the way I've found avery enjoyable hobby, met afew strange dealers who couldn't sell or communicate --one even ignored my desire to spend $10,000 on some initial purchases --but through Sterrophilès articles, letters, ads, and other audiophile friends, I've realized alittle ofthe American dream. Ambrosia Audio helped immensely along the way, too; what aclass act they are.
Thanks, Stereophile; keep up the good work, and thanks for not caving in to the snivelers and for spurring us on to higher and higher audio life changes!
ROGER MCNICHOLS, JR. Owner, Good News America



Thank God for Wes Phillips's "Car

Tunes"! All of these years I've been sub-

scribing to Stereophile, Ihave wished for

some real guidance in weeding out the

gems from the rubbish among car audio

equipment and, until now, no publica-

tion with any real credibility has

reviewed this stuff. Out of the roughly

80,000 Stereophile subscribers, I'd bet

that most of us have stereos in our cars.

I'll go out on alimb and venture to say

that most of us still love our tunes, even

while we're driving (maybe even more

so... gasp!). Ihave found car CD-player

sound quality to vary wildly. Please do a

head-to-head comparison of avariety of

mainstream audio CD players and find

us agood-sounding unit.

The addition of the quarterly "Car

Tunes" is but another feather in

Sterrophile's cap. Year after year, Iam

heartwarmed to see nothing but acon-

tinual increase in the quality of the



Dayton, OH

Editor: Iopened my April 1996 Stereophile and delved into one of my favorite sections, the letters. Iwas shocked to see the

reaction Wes Phillips's 12V column

received. Ididn't think the audiophile

community had such a loathing for

mobile audio enthusiasts. Iwork in an

audio store that sells the likes of B&W,

Proceed, Cary Audio, and NAD. The

real kicker is that not 20' away from

the $15,000 Matrix 801/Proceed/Cary

Audio Design setup is the infamous

"car room." In the time thave worked

at this store, Ihave never received any

negative comments about our carrying

car audio, or having it in such close

proximity to the home gear.

In the last couple years, Ihave noticed

atrend in the high-end community: No

one listens to music anymore! The driv-

ing force that got me into the audio

business was the music. Ienjoyed lis-

tening to and performing music. That's

what audio is all about: accurate repro-

duction of music performances!

Iwill admit Ihave acar-audio system

that would be considered above aver-

age, but the time Ispend in my car is

much more enjoyable because Ican lis-

ten to music! And music that is much

more accurately reproduced than is pos-

sible with astock or even an inexpen-

sive aftermarket system.

No true audiophile can say that they

are not amusic enthusiast. They should

enjoy music that is produced better than

by atypical stereo, whether it be at

home or in the car.


Lafayette, IN


Editor: I'll start reading that "Car Tunes" column as soon as Michael Fremer and Wes Phillips get together and tell me how to play LPs in my car.M. ROBERTS

Editor: This letter is being penned in response to the comments written by Tom Larson and Justin Havemann (March '96, pp24-27) concerning the integrity and objectivity of the review process as applied by Stereophile.
Mr. Larson slams the magazine, basically saying Stereophile has turned into a large "infomercial" for companies who spend alot of money on advertising. Mr. Larson then goes on to say that manufacturers of high-priced equipment "will see that very few succeed in the long run, and that those who do have had to bow to a price/performance criterion that your magazine has, for the most part, left in the dust."

Irespectfully disagree with Mr. Larson, especially on this last point, where basically he is completely mime tdon't know what manufacturers he is referring to, but the makers of high-priced equipment that Iknow of, people whose hard work and dedication gave the music-lovers' community adefinable reference, have endured quite well, hardly aflash-in-thefaceplate kind of thing. These companies each have anywhere from 10 to 25 years of success. Companies like Krell, Audio Research, Mark Levinson, B&W, Wilson, Thiel, and McIntosh come to mind. These companies set anecessary precedent: How good could it be? If it were not for this kind of approach, would companies like Rotel, NAD, Arcam, AudioLab, Adcom, Mission, Pioneer (UK), and Marantz (UK) exist? Idon't think so. In my lifetime Iwill probably never spend more than the equivalent of $3000 on any single piece of equipment --but Iam not going to begrudge Robert Harley, for example, if he decides to buy a$15,000 pair of speakers if he feels that it is worth it to him.
Living in aforeign country, supporting afamily, struggling to make ends meet, then seeing (or reading about) someone seemingly drop 10 or 20 grand at the drop of ahat certainly gives me something of ashock and acertain amount of envy. But let's not kid ourselves. The people who can do this may be wealthy, but they are wealthy for a reason. It didn't happen by accident. They worked their asses off, made specific decisions, made sacrifices, set specific goals regarding how they wanted their lives to be. As readers, we benefit from the resources they have and we should really just leave it at that.
There is, however, an issue that Mr. Larson hints at and that Mr. Havemann addresses more completely: The question of objectivity within the scope of the review process. I, too, have noticed that above acertain price point, certain manufacturers' products cease to be looked at critically. Iwill never forget Stereophile's review of the Mark Levinson No38 remote-control preamplifier (August '94). Keeping in mind this was a $3000-plus product, the reviewer stated that this preamp sounded dark and veiled, robbing the music of its life and vitality. But somehow, by the end of the review, this product was recommended, and praised for its heavy, thick faceplate and convenience features. My God, the reviewer could have been talking about atoaster oven!
Ido not believe this was an objective review that served the reader! However,



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Ialso do not believe that this product mance supersedes individual biases

was recommended because the maga- would clearly be set apart as exceptional.

zine was accommodating one of its


advertisers. A writer/reviewer is ahu-

Valladolid, Spain

man being, and being ahuman being,

he made ajudgment call: He was reluc- DOING IT RIGHT

tant to give acompany with awell- Editor:

deserved track record of outstanding Iwork for awell-known stereo shop in

products anegative review. Not because the Detroit area. Iwould like first off to

he was evil, but because he was faced say -- thanks! After reading Stereophile

with amanufacturer with whom he for quite some time, Ifeel you need to

could not be completely objective. (ft hear some appreciation. It strikes me as

should also be noted that shortly after extremely ironic that most people

this preamp's introduction to the mar- whose letters you publish complain

ketplace, Madrigal Laboratories created about how they have to read your so-

an "S" version of it that, Iunderstand, called "nontechnical, garbage articles"

improved greatly on the original's short- by so-called "nonqualified writers,"

comings, elevating its performance to a when appreciative audiophiles like

level consistent with the rest of the myself have to read these trashy, nega-

Mark Levinson product line.)

tively biased letters that don't tell me

What we readers need is an objective, anything but the fact that these people

unbiased viewpoint, which needs to be live sorry, confused lives!

that much more critical when the market

How do these people gauge true tal-

value of said product is equivalent to ent? If they can't appreciate agood, per-

that of anew car or amortgage down sonalized style of reporting that adds

payment. For example, we have anew personal, qualified opinion, bias, and,

speaker from Jadis. John Atkinson is best of all, feeling, how can they begin

faced with adecision: Who reviews this to appreciate the true talent of amusi-

product first? Let's see. Who has more cian? Do they sit down with pad and

Jadis equipment than the other review- pencil and only review the technical

ers on staff combined? Who has the aspect of the music they hear?!

Jadis tiepin, the Jadis cuff links, the Jadis

Ihave been ajazz musician for over

signature car (gold trim), the Jadis/ 12 years and Ibelieve if you don't know

Cross pen-and-pencil set, and the spe- how to recognize the "feel" of music,

cial Jadis prophylactics (Ultra Golds)? you have no business listening! (This

Hmm ...I know! Jonathan Scull! He doesn't just apply to jazz, of course.) My

would be the perfect person to give aJadis only hope is that when Istart playing

product aneutral, unbiased review. Not!!! professionally, these people will not lis-

Please note that Iused Jonathan Scull ten to my music!

as an example of what Ibelieve to be a If it is atechnical, no-feeling aspect to

flaw in the magazine's review policy, not cheaper equipment that these people

because Ithink he does bad work. On want, I'm sure Popular Mechanics or Stereo

the contrary, Ihave a great deal of Review would suffice. Whatever your

respect for his work and opinion.

fancy -- leave the talent to people like

Here is what Isee as being afunda- myself who can appreciate it! If price is

mental problem. Clearly reviewers or your quarrel, no excuse Not everyone

evaluators have their own biases and can afford a Rolls-Royce, but who

their reference systems reflect that bias. would refuse aride in one? Well, prob-

That's predictable; that's no problem. ably the same people who write these

There's aproblem when an evaluator/ nasty, annoying letters!

writer has, say, apreference for valve Next time, leave your negative, selfish,

amplification and the magazine has a the-world-is-here-for-my-tastes atti-

valve amplifier to review. Said reviewer tudes at the front cover and read posi-

is given the valve amplifier to review tively. You will most likely want to

because "it's right up his alley." Wrong, renew that canceled subscription!

Bucko! This person should also hear the


amplifier to see how it measures up or

Alma's Hi-Fi, Farmington Hills

compares to other valve amplifiers, but

the person who should handle the M ONTHLY GEMS!

majority of the evaluation should, in my Editor:

opinion, be someone who has no bias Don't ever cancel my subscription to

toward valve amplification. In this way, Stereophile. It is the funniest technical

products and reviewers' evaluations publication on the market today. Ican

would be more clearly discerned by the hardly wait for it to arrive so Ican spend

reader. And thus products whose perfor- the evening savoring the contents and

laughing hysterically. Iam amusic lover, retired lawyer,
amateur pianist, and amateur recording engineer, some of whose records have been aired on NPR.
First, Iread the "Letters" column. It's great when threads go on for several issues. The discussions remind me of pompous old theologians vigorously and uncharitably debating minuscule differences in liturgy --it couldn't be more amusing.
The purely technical articles are great as they are always educational and help to keep me up-to-date on the current technology and the fabulous plans for the future.
The reviews of new equipment are a real gas -- especially if you have amedium income. Consider the engineer who is producing a$52,600 amplifier and who is rather vague about the tubes and had no handbook or instructions for the reviewer. The reviewer liked it for analog, but overall preferred another amplifier. Should Ibuy two? For a few hundred dollars more, Icould purchase anew, perfect, 7' Steinway piano that will work for all music and all musicians and will last almost forever with proper care.
The description of the equipment and how it works is set out in such [mellifluous] but unspecific English that it is matched only by the metaphysical poetry of Blake.
CD and LP reviews are simply personal preferences and not worth reading. Depend on your own ear and taste.
Do continue the serious discussions of tweaks, green felt-tip peas, and hockey pucks. I've scrounged afew pucks from the Boston Bruins and pasted them around my music room, but they just don't hack it. The Asians must have kept the secret. At any rate, they offer mental stimulation and much merriment.
Best of luck and -- with very straight faces --do continue to produce these monthly gems.
Editor: Iwould like to introduce some of the Stereophile readership to a drug they seem to need desperately. It's called ExLax. My God, some of the letter writers (and some friends of the staff) are so clang uptight, there just has to be some solution to the problem. Maybe constipation of the colon causes a"constipation of the mind." No more room for new ideas. A couple of things in the



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April '96 issue irked me, however:

thoroughly harmonic presentation."

1) The issue of speaker imaging and/or Scull is the King of Journalistic

disappearing, brought up by Herb Quackery


Reichert in the review of the Kassai

Stoutsville, MO

Silver and Parker King in "Letters." Let
me get this straight. Imaging is bad. INDEED

Okaaaay. Speakers should not sonically Editor:

disappear. So the sound should stay Jonathan Scull should write a book

firmly attached to the loudspeaker? about something.


This would be better? Okaaaay.

Chicago, IL

Gentlemen, Isuggest an extra dose for

both of you.

He is.

2) Home Theater is evil. Thou shalt
only listen to two-channel stereo with How LOUD?

SE tube amps. No satanistic CDs-- Editor:

only vinyl! Forget it. Ilike my Home "As We See It" in February pointed out

Theater. If Iam then atasteless conspic- several good reasons for bench-testing

uous consumer, so be it. Ialso have a the components slated for review, but

nice, powerful car stereo and Iwill rel- failed to mention the most important

ish reading Wes Phillips's reports in this reason: To find out if the manufacturer

area. So there!

cares enough to send you areview sam-

Please feel free to insult me some ple that meets its published specifica-

more, Mr. Letter Writer! That is what tions. The assumption, of course, is that

really bugs me. If my likes and dislikes it will. After all, both the review sample

differ from yours, Imust be amouth- and the specifications are completely

breathing mush-head. Imust be on a under the control of the manufacturer.

mission to Destroy The High End. I Strangely enough, however, that does

must be ignorant and deaf! Doses all not appear to be the case. JA's review of

around! On the house!

both the Joseph Audio RM7si and the

3) Asuggestion to Jonathan Scull. You Totem Acoustic Mani-2 in February

are overlooking an area to tweak. show them to have only about half the

Completely! Ican't believe you missed claimed efficiency. What surprises me is

it! Why, sir, the area is none other than the cavalier way you brush past these

yourself-- your very body! First, the failings. If you bought a car with a

brain operates on electrochemical 200hp engine and found out that it was

impulses, right? Why not a Shakti really only 100hp, would you shrug

strapped to your noggin? Speakers will your shoulders and accept it?

cause vibrations in your body. How do

Of course not. You'd be madder than

you drain them off? A king-sized hell, and demand your money back. Yet

ClampRack! How about Mpingo discs JA didn't seem terribly concerned that

on your butt? My God, the possibilities the Mani-2, for instance, had only 40%

are endless! Why, the mind reels at the of its claimed effidency. If Iwere in

possibilities for tube socks and cable your position, Iwould send the speak-


ers back to the manufacturer, telling

Just polcing alittle fun, Mr. Scull; Ilike them that the product was unaccept-

your reviews. One more thing -- what able. After all, if Stereophile can't count

is your wife's nationality? German? on an honest review sample, what hope

Polish? Russian? You forgot to remind is there for the rest of us!

me in your Kassai review.

This is especially significant since, in

GLENN KINYON the last analysis, the published specs are

Oklahoma City, OK what the manufacturer is selling. He

doesn't have to continue using the same

We understand that J-10's tie is French. From drivers you tested. He doesn't have to


use the same binding posts. All he has to


do is meet his published specs. Nor is there any reason to believe that the next


unit out of the box will perform as well

Ifound Jonathan Scull's March '96 as the one you tested.

review of the Audio Note Kassai Silver In conclusion, were you not surprised

power amplifier amusing. A $52,600 that Israel Blume cried "foul" ("Man-

amplifier with ahigh level of distortion ufacturers' Comments," February '96,

of 7.5%. He then connects apair of p.244) when you failed to fix the

Alpha-Core Goertz silver interconnects defects in his Troubador speaker? If Mc

and says, "It continues to impress and Blume can't be bothered to check his

amaze with its clean, wide-band, fast yet product before sending it to you, he

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richly deserves the poor review he



Seattle, WA

While broadly agreeing with Mr Strong's point, if
there is one sperification that almost alllotaLweaker marnyiraurers disagree on, it is voltage SeILSWVIiy; te, what souredpressure level (spl) at astandard distance (1m) aloudspeaker will product' for astandard input voltage; nominally 2.83V, eq-uimlent to apower dissipation of 1W in an 8ohm nyistor.
lite reason is that loudcpeakers do not have aflat nyonse1fa loudspeaker driven with 283V sineWal'eS produces an spl of 85dB at 1m at almost awry frequency between 1001-Lz and 10kHz, but has a.sharp maximum spi of 90dB at 1kHz and an equally sharp 111WillIUM spi of80dB at 3kHz, what is its sensitivity?"Sornewhere around 85dB" is the corral answer, et the manufacturer would probably say "90dB"-- the loudspeaker does ge that loud at one frequency, after all.
At Stereophile, /assess Selisitipity by driving the speaker with pseudo-random noise fiorn my DR Labs MLSSA .enerator, capturing the speaker's output with the MLSSA system set to its storage cope mode, then calculating the B-weighted spl using the MLSSA software Iuse the Bweighted figure because published research has shown tha.t it best corresponds to aloudspeaker's perceived loudness. (See' R.M. Aarts, "lite' Calculation of Lnidness of Loudspeakers during Lis-

taring Tests," Preprint 2928, presented at the 88th Audio Engineering Society Convention, Montreux, 1990.) However, this gives afigure .entrally below the manufacturer's specified SenSitipity, particularly when it has alack qt.etleTe in the low treble.
Too Loup?
Editor: Wes Phillips stated in the January '96 Stereophile (p263) that he listened to the Thiel CS7s with his spi meter pinned at about 110dB. Ihave two comments and concerns.
We rely upon your subjective "measurements" done through your ears and auditory systems. Is it possible that some of your staff have so damaged their hearing or have at least changed it from listening at such high levels that what they hear may be significantly different from that heard by much of the population? Seriously, consider having your staff evaluated by an Ear, Nose, & Throat specialist to determine if they have unusual hearing losses in any of the registers. Ido not think this is too much to ask considering how carefully you measure other elements in your evaluation chain.
Second, Iam sure that we are all aware of the danger that exposure to high

sound pressure levels presents to our continued enjoyment of the audible world around us. Perhaps Stereophile could publish an article on the measurable hearing loss that changes from generation to generation depending on the exposure to headphones, loud rock bands, etc. Ithink we are all aware of the loss that some rock musicians have
suffered in performing on stage, etc. In brief, is the measurable hearing of
your staff representative of the rest of us? Have you damaged certain areas more than the rest of the population or due to "occupational" exposure?
ERICJ. THOMAS, MD Middletown, CT

hDarb.itThoofmlaissteinsi, nogfactouarvsee,racgoerrelcetvetlshatt otowmdakBe

a is

dangerous to the' point ofstupidity, and Ido not

do so. Most audiophiles seem driven to rum my

hi-fi up, as Ihabitually listen to music at

70-80dB spls. (JA, upon his first visit to my

o apartment in Brooklyn, politely asked,
really listen at this vohune?") However,


the reviewing process, Ido have to determine

what aspeaker's performance parameters really

are This includes evtremely low-level listening as

well as testing the speaker's upper limits --

which, in the Thiel's case, are, shall We say,



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extreme. At car magazines, for instance, it is

takenfor granted that the reviewer will drity the

vehicle under test until it fails, but it is also

assumed that the reviewer does not, as amatter of

course, drive the same way around town. That is

what Iwas doing with the CSZ and Iwas care-

fill to limit the Intel: of my exposure to the

eXCeSSiVe sound pressure

The point is well-taken, however, that 'should

be carefid not to give the appearance ofencourag-

ing this sort of reckless ("Waterman. 1ans also

intrigued by Dr. Thomas's suggestion of an arti-

cle on hearing loss as an ever-growing (and gen-

erational) ¡SSW. Thanksfor the idea!

Along those lines, Iant reminded ofabook I

once read --1 can't remember the author's name

--called The Tuning of the World, which

explored the notion that the progration ofelec-

tricity and electric motors has retuned the _fre-

quency of civilization to 50 or 6011z, whereas

this would not have been true of say, amedieval

village. The author did also paint out how much

louder background levels have become--evil,

/Or what we call "silence" (Actuall), the book

'wasn't well-written, but it was so intellectually

stimulating,' didn't care that muds)

Regarding Dr. Martin'sfinal point, most ofthe

core skein Santa Fe do haw their auditory sys-

tems checked regularly by audiologists, who find

our hearing at least "nonnal" We, ofcourse find

this humbling.




Why no review of the Ayre V3 amplifi-

er? Ihave read several very positive

comments from your staff when they've

auditioned the V3 at various shows. My

dealer intimated that Stereophile has run

reviews in correlation to the amount of

advertising that a manufacturer pur-

chases. I'm sure this couldn't be true.

The Ayre, with its lack of overall nega-

tive feedback, inductor-filtered power

supply, and three-stage design, seems to

be innovative and apparently sounds



Dallas, TX


can have the same ¡ilea by causing the small

company to because financially overstretched.)

Instead, Ayre-- wisely, in my

-- dlOSefirSi

to establish asupportive network ofretailers, and

anly then to seek areview in this magazine Wes

Phillips has areview sample of the V3; his

review will appear in late 511111111er.

Editor: Iwas thinking about why digital transports cost so much --for me, the reason appears to be to allow astable clock to be derived. Idon't understand why people are designing transports in this way when there's an obvious way to do a better job easier and cheaper.
I'm asystems software person. Iview the transport/DAC problem as adata supply problem. Iwant the bits from the transport to be delivered to the DAC at 44.1kHz (or whatever the clock frequency) exactly. Ipropose having a 4x CD-ROM drive that can play "Red Book" audio data at four times the normal speed. The S/PDIF signal from this drive goes to acomputer with an appropriate interface. It reads the bits into aRAM FIFO buffer. At the same time a44.1kHz clock is used to read the words from the buffer and send them to the DAC. The words arrive from the

transport four times faster than we send them to the DAC, so we need only to request data from the CD-ROM drive when the buffer needs topping up.
This eliminates the clocking problem completely. The clock used for the DAC is independent of the transport mechanics ... This technique is used routinely for computing applications, when aconstant stream of data is required to be passed along to another device. When Isee things like aMark Levinson CD transport costing $9000, it frightens me that people have missed such an easy way to do this. And once the audio is encoded digitally, there is absolutely no difference between an audio bitstream for aDAC and abitstream for anything else.
BILLY NEWPORT pcmaiPmailpoilly@ittwdpub.amnail.com
If aCD playback systan were to be designed from scratch, Mr. Newport's topology would undoubtedly be the way to e. (A similar suggestion was made in the _lime "Letters" column by Peter S. Lnyly) But given that everybody buys conventional CD playback equipment, the Genesis Digital Lens, reviewed in this issue by Robert Ha:, uses alame RAM FIFO (FirstIn, First-Out) bier to achieve asimilar ¡MIMInity from datastream jitter, but with aconstant input datastream.

Despite what your dealer told you, there is no connection between whether a manufacturer advertises its this magazine and whether their products are chosen fir reliefs,coverage We've revietved almost eiyry loudspeaker made by Snell Acoustics, /iv exampk but in 32 years, dity have adveriised just once! In the case of the Ayre V3, we have wanted to review this intriguing amplyier Pr some time, but Ayre has been
leery of submitting asample Jiv formal review because of the implications of magazine coverage _far asmall start-up mangfacturer. (Everyone understands that areview that is in any way mgalive can put anets' company out of business; it is not widely appreciated that apositive review



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······ V

V · · · VVVV

V · ·

US: Wes Phillips
Dealers promoting mantfacturer and designer seminars should fax (do not call) Wes Phillips the when, where, and who at (505)
yyou're 983-632Z at least tight weeks bejitre the
month of the event -- je, - putting on something in Scrember 1996, you should get the irtfirrmation to Wes no later than July 1. Mark thefa' x cover sheet "En- the attention of Wes Phillips --Dealer Bulletin Board." Promoters of hi-fi shows and audio societies promoting manufacturer visits should also fax Wes the details as soon as possible.
California: Atlantic Stereo (445 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa) will host an afternoon with Stereophile's Robert Harley on Saturday June 22 at 2pm. Bob will discuss avariety of topics, from how to get the best sound from your system to the latest in digital audio. Bob will also sign copies of his book, The Complete Guide to High-End Audio. Call Tom Farinola at Atlantic Stereo, (714) 646-8895, for more information.
The Digital Ear (17602 E. 17th St., Suite 106, Tustin) and Theta Digital will premier Casablanca: A Tale ofIntrigue and Romance on the evening of Wednesday June 26. The West Coast premiere of Theta's Casablanca surround-sound processor will be hosted by Producer/ Director Neil Sinclair. Call (714) 5447903 for precise time and reservations.
Future Sound (851 California Dr., Burlingame/San Francisco) will present a seminar on Monday June 24, 7-7:30pm, featuring Doug Blackwell of Transparent Cable Blackwell will discuss audio and video cables, and demo Transparenes cables with and without their unique networks. For information and reservations, call (415) 342-1476.
Georgia: On June 23, the Atlanta Audio Society will host Dennis Had and Billy Wright of Cary Audio Design and Charles Whitener of Western Electric for a seminar featuring Cary's SE amps and Western Electric's 300B triode. Location is, as yet, undetermined. Call

Chuck Bruce at (404) 876-5659 or John Morrison at (770) 491-1553 for further details.
Louisiana: Audio Orleans is moving its salon. The new address is Metairie Road, Metairie, LA 70005. Store hours are from 10am to 7pm, MondayFriday; 10am to 5pm, Saturday; or by appointment. For more information, call (504) 737-2026.
Nevada: The Upper Ear (3900 W. Charleston, Las Vegas) will host an afternoon with Stereophiles Robert Harley on Monday June 24, 7:30pm. Bob will discuss a variety of topics, from how to get the best sound from your system to the latest in digital audio. Bob will also sign copies of his book, The Complete Guide to High-End Audio. Call Steve or Richard at (702) 878-8212 for more information.

panel display TV will be featured. Call (206) 524-6633 for additional information and/or reservations.
Overseas: Wes Phillips
Singapore: Inktvell Publications Pte Ltd. has announced High End Singapore '96, a high-end consumer show featuring audio and Home Theater products. It will be held July 26-28, 1996 at the Mandarin Hotel, Singapore, at 333 Orchard Rd., Singapore 238867. Tel: (65) 737-4411. Fax: (65) 732-2361. There will be apanel discussion, "The State of High-End Audio and its Effect on Consumers," as well as seminars from visiting manufacturers. Equipment, accessories, LPs, CDs, books, and other associated gear will be on sale. Inkwell Publications: No.9 Lorong 101 Changi, #03-08 Park Ct,, Singapore 426641. Tel: (65) 344-3866. Fax: (65) 244-5880.

Washington: Definitive Audio will pre- Malaysia: Inkwell Exhibitions (M) Sdn

sent the Home Theater/TI-IX Experience Bhd has announced High End Malaysia, a

IV on Wednesday June 26 and Thurs- high-end consumer show, to be held

day June 27 at their Bellevue store, near August 2-4, 1996 at the Hotel Istana at

Seattle. High-end industry representa- 73 Jalan Raja Chulan, 50200 Kuala

tives on hand for demonstrations will Lumpur, Malaysia. Tel: (03) 241-9988.

include Paul Matwiy (Lucasfilnt THX), Fax: (03) 244-1245. The main seminar

Sam Runco (Runco), Chris Browder will discuss "Can There Be aSuccessful

(B&W), David Birch-Jones (Marantz), Integration Between High-End Audio

Randy Taylor (Definitive Technology), and Home Theater?" There will also be

Dave Nauber (Madrigal Audio seminars from many visiting manufac-

Labs/Proceed), Mark Goldman (Wilson turers. Equipment, LPs, CDs, books,

Audio Specialties), Doug Blackwell and accessories will be offered for sale.

(Transparent Cable), Colleen and Steve Inkwell Publications: 43-C Jalan

McNaur (Rote! and AMX), Steve Pandan, 2/3 Pandan Jaya, 55100 Kuala

Daniels (Linn), Terry Leiby (Wodyne), Lampur, Malaysia. Tel: (03) 223-8911.

Kevin Morris (Pioneer Elite), Curt Petty Fax: (03) 223-8912.

(Draper Screen), Harvey Gilbert (Audio Research), Pete Halenbeck (Faroudja Laboratories), Dave Gordon (Thiel), Wendell
Diller (Magnepan), Mike May (BANE),


Gary Watkins (Mitsubishi), Buzz Goddard (Lexicon), Craig Matthews (Sharp-

Japan: John Atkinson

vision), and Andrew Ritzinger (Pana- As we reported last month, the Japanese

sonic). In keeping with the event's focus Conference on Advanced Digital Audio

on emerging technologies, demonstra- (ADA), held April 15, made arecom-

tions of pre-production DVD and flat- mendation regarding the standard for



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DVD to be used as the next-generation audio carrier. From the preliminary information, it looked as though avariant of Sony's Direct Stream Digital had been selected. This turned out not to be exactly the case.
The ADA's recommendations, presented as aspecification wish list to the DVD consortium companies working on ahigh-quality audio disc to be based on DVD, were as follows: frequency response up to 100kHz; dynamic range over 144dB in digital domain, 120dB in analog domain without reducing the frequency range below 20kHz; basic provision for two-channel stereo, with multichannel upgrades possible; no data compression, though lossless packing would be acceptable; maximum playback time the same as CD, at 74 minutes; easy down-conversion to current digital playback standards and up-conversion to new formats without degradation; acceptance of single-sided, single-layer 5" discs; and backward compatibility for the new players so that they will play the existing catalog of conventional "Red Book" CDs.
Technically, the ADA's proposed specifications seem appropriately high quality and appropriately flexible. And Meridian's Bob Stuart points out that the ADA proposals are more about archival purposes than they are about a consumer nwdium. However, the last point is evidence, to me at least, that this proposal is being driven by the hardware manufacturers, whose business plan primarily involves selling customers new players. It depends on software companies independently producing the necessary music discs. For any form of HQAD to get off the ground commercially, however, it means recruiting the software companies from the outser, something, for example, that Sony worked very hard at behind the scenes before the launch of Cl) in 1982.
That, to me, was the beauty of the Acoustic Renaissance for Audio proposal, published in Stereophile last August (Vol.18 No.8, p.53). By using aduallayer disc to make the new discs backward-compatible (so that the existing population of players would be able to extract Red Book CD audio and only the new players would extract the new high-resolution data), the record industry would only have to have asingle inventory in the stores. And that might persuade them that it would be worth them getting behind the new medium. At present, they arc deathly afraid that any form of HQAD would be an invi-

tation to piracy. It's bad enough, they feel, that CDs allow pirates in mainland China to mass-produce their copyrighted material -- one estimate is that as much as 30% of the cassette versions of ahit release offered for sale in the US arc counterfeited copies, mastered from aCD. And HQAD would offer pirates the original 20-bit data!
Unless the record industry is intimately involved in the decisions to implement the format and their needs considered, it is hard to see why they would want to help get any form of HQAD off the ground. And without their help, HQAD is going to stay on the horizon alot longer than anyone expects. A similar problem is affecting the DVD launch. The hardware manufacturers are still gung-ho that players will be offered for sale in the US this fall. But whether customers will have discs to play depends on the cooperation of the film and computer industries --and they are still hung up on such "minor" issues as copyright and copy protection!
US: Wes Phillips with John Atkinson
Cable manufacturer AudioQuest has announced that Andy Regan has accepted the position of Executive Vice President for the company. AudioQuest's President Bill Low explained, "This position recognizes Andy's role and willingness to contribute and exercise responsibility in all arcas of company activity."
Mark Goldman, Wilson Audio Specialties' Director of Sales and Marketing, is leaving the company to become President and majority stockholder of Sound Components in Miami, where he was due to join partner and longtime owner Susan McGrath on June 17, 1996. Before he joined Wilson, Mark was one of Sound Components' top salespeople.
John Bicht of Versalab -- remember his superb-sounding Model 2.3 record player --announced that he will begin manufacturing a new, custom-made, no-holds-barred turntable, available in "extremely limited quantities." Interested parties should contact Versalab --920 Witthuhn Way, Lexington, KY 40503. Tel: (606) 224-2650. Fax: (606) 224-8290 -- for information concerning price and availability.


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Some chair shuffling at Stereophile: samples,' the differences between them

Ralph Johnson, who was Stereophile, are smaller than the difference between

Inc.'s Show Coordinator for its 1992 Los either of them and the fake cables.

Angeles and 1993 San Francisco Shows,

While both sets of cables have ablack

rejoined the company in May as woven jacket, that of the real cable has a

President. Ralph, who most recently slightly wider diameter and is made

was in charge of anonprofit organiza- from nylon. The fake cable jacket is a

tion in Washington, DC, will be respon- polyester monofilament expando sleev-

sible for the overall running of the com- ing similar to what Magnan used some

pany as well as overseeing the Home time ago. Real Magnan cables have a

Theater and Specialty Audio Shows. serial number on the identifying badge;

Former President Larry Archibald moves upward to become CEO and Chairman of the Board, but remains Publisher of Stereophile, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, Schwann Opus, Schwann Spectrum, Schwann Artist, and Compact Disc Review Digest --and most important, will continue writing "The Final Word." Stereophile Editor John Atkinson continues in that position while becoming the company's Vice President/Editorial Director. Assistant Publisher Gretchen Grogan, who joined the company from


the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival at

the end of 1994, also becomes the fake ones don't, and the label is different

Executive Producer of Stereophilds in appearance. Both cables use gold-


plated RCA plugs, with what appears to

be heatshrink over their barrels and the

US: John Atkinson with Wes Phillips

familiar Magnan red and green bands. The fakes use physically different RCAs, however, with more of the colored

The world of high-end audio is apret- bands showing. Real Magnan cables use

ty honorable one, the cowboys having awide-spaced air/Teflon dielectric.

moved on many years ago. (They're

We have told the advertiser who

probably involved in marketing net offered the fake Magnans for sale that

browsers these days.) However, we his advertising will no longer appear in

recently heard asorry tale from aread- this magazine. Mr. Cacciamani stopped

e4 John Cacciamani, who purchased a payment on his check, so he is not out

pair of 1m Magnan Type Vi intercon- of pocket on the transaction. But if you

nects from a dealer who advertised are offered Magnan Type Vi intercon-

them for sale in Stereophiles "AuclioMart" nects by someone other than an autho-

section. It turned out that the cables rized Magnan dealer, don't part with

werefakes --they sounded "dramatical- your money until you have had a

ly inferior" to the sound of another pair chance to compare them with the real

of Type Vi Magnans that he owned.

thing, or at least check their series resis-

David Magnan sent us apair of gen- tance and shunt capacitance with amul-

uine cables to compare with the fakes. timeter. You should note, however, that

While the ersatz interconnects looked when this issue hits the newsstands, the

very similar to the real thing, there were person making the fake cables will

some differences, both physical and probably try harder to make his cables


look and measure like real Magnans.

The fake cables each had aseries

What Ifind particularly interesting

pin-to-pin resistance of 28.5 ohms, a about this story, however, is that the

series shield resistance of around 0.3 reader who bought the fake cables was

ohms, and a shunt capacitance of alerted to the fact that something was

approximately 20pF. By comparison, wrong by the cables sounding different

the genuine cables (serial number from what his experience with Magnan

3143) had series pin-to-pin resistances Type Vi had led him to expect.

of 512 ohms (red) and 43.7 ohms Accordingly, Iasked Wes Phillips to

(green), shield resistances of 0.6 ohms, take alisten to the two pairs of cables.

and shunt capacitances of around 50pF

(red) and 70pF (green). While Iwas

somewhat alarmed by the electrical differences between the two Magnan

1The differences are apparently due to variations in the impedance of the bronze ribbon used as acenter conductor by Magnan.

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Wes Phillips comments: Mr. Cacciamani has good ears. Taken on their own merits, the fakes aren't bad cables, although -- as he points out -- they are not in the same league as the Magnans. The counterfeit cables sound harmonically lean. The low bass and the highs, through the loss of information, actually sound "cleaner" -- there's less overtone excitation accompanying the fundamental. This occurs throughout the frequency range, but is especially


noticeable at the extremes. Spatial pre-

sentation also suffers from the loss of

The press kit's headline reads:

low-level information. Transients are "Unheard Bob Marley Classics 'soon

softened -- and since this is an area come' on JAI) Records, restored mas-

where the Magnan Vis excel, it is quite ters reveal early soulful side of Reggae

obvious. The counterfeit cables add legend." The CD is aresult of two years

hardness to vocals, particularly tenor of restoration and remixing from the


team that originally worked with

If these fakes were offered through Marley back when these were recorded,

retail outlets, marketed in an honest and 1967 to '72. Listening to the tales of the

upright fashion -- rather than leaching restoration from (original) engineer Joe

off another man's good reputation and Venneri during the presentation, and in

hard work -- Iwould say that their the multimedia portion of the CD, was

designer does not lack talent, it's to his interesting. (Joe was an original mem-

shame that he lacks scruples.

ber of The Tokens!) The tapes were a

US: Jonathan Scull

real mess and had to be baked before use, and even then were only useful for

We get invitations. This one was from acertain limited number of hours.

JAD Records (330 South Spalding

The multimedia portion of the disc

Drive, Suite 104, Beverly Hills, CA they showed during the presentation

90212. Tel: (310) 552-0010. Fax: (310) was full of interesting tidbits for Marley

552-0040). It was in the form ola mock worshippers. It includes: aphoto gallery

Cl) jewelcase sporting aphoto of Bob of rare and never-before-seen photos of

Marley smoking afair-sized joint, and Marley "and other Rastafarian subject?

sporting afair-sized smile on his face. (so Hollywood...); afull discography of

The flip side informed us that Bob Marley songs; atimeline of his life cap-

Marley's original producer, Danny Sims, tured by "renowned historian" Roger

was about to unlock the vault "to atrea- Steffens; the first release of the rare spir-

sure trove of previously unreleased itual "Selassie is the Chapel"; a full-

songs--Sixties Soul Shots. JAD Records length music video of the first single

will showcase their new release of Soul "What Goes Around Comes Around";

Almighty: The Formative Years, Val., and the most interesting part, an "In the

S.O.B.'s, 204 Varick Street, NYC, Vault" section that allows the user to

6-9pm, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres." toggle between the original and restored

There's nothing like an open bar and versions of four unreleased tunes.

a free meal to get those journalistic Comparing the two certainly highlights

juices flowing! Kathleen and Iarrived the fine job done in restoration.

earlyish and found anice table from

As far as the sound goes, the CD's

which to observe the festivities. S.O.B.'s, really not too bad. Plenty of BIG REGGAE

afamiliar downtown music spot, soon BASS, of COILBSC, and the rest of the mix became crowded with artists and music isn't too muddled. In fact, although

industry types. They appear, in general, imaging in the high-end sense seems to

to be abit more slick than audiophile have taken ahit, the tonal balance is rich

types. Must be the money that's up for and melodic, and the overall presenta-

grabs, the very thing so many find so tion is anything but screechy.

elusive in high-end endeavors. ("I'm

JAD Records was founded in 1965

doing this because Ilove it, because I by soul singer Johnny Nash ("J") and

need to do it... for sure not to make producers Arthus Jenkins ("A") and

money!") We watched alot of embrac- Danny Sims ("D") to release music by

ing, kissing, hugging, and backslapping Nash. Down in Jamaica, Mon, they

going on, and Ihave to admit the atmos- signed Marley in 1967 -- as a song-

phere seemed pretty convivial. The writer! "Stir It Up" and "Guava Jelly"

drinks were pretty good too.

were written and sung by Nash. And


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the rest, as they say, is history. Interestingly, avery vivacious and self-possessed Nzinga Garvey, granddaughter of Marcus Gamey, turns out to be the CEO of JAL). The entire production is acooperative effort betweenJAD, Navarre Corporation, Rock On Rom, and Graphix Zone.
· IIr<1
UK: John Atkinson
Famed English mathematician Michael Gerzon, one of the developers of the Ambisonics surround-sound system and a leading audio creative thinker, died in London on May 6ofpulmonary disease. His recent work involved the rediscovery of the late Alan Blumlein's work on stereo microphone techniques (see the booklet for Stereophile's Test CD 2), the development of subtractive dither systems to increase the resolution of digital systems, the correction of loudspeaker amplitude and phase errors using Digital Signal Processing (DSP), lossless audio coding, the development of a"distance" control analogous to the ubiquitous pan-pot but operating in the image-depth dimension, and the proposed DVD-based High Quality Audio Disc, where he was one of the advisors to the Acoustic Renaissance for Audio, the group led by Meridian's Bob Stuart and Canon's Him Negishi.
In 1978, Michael was made an AES Fellow for his work on directional psychoacoustics -- along with the late Duane Cooper and others, he had laid much of the theoretical groundwork for surround-sound audio recording and reproduction and was the co-inventor, with Peter Fellgett, of the Soundfield microphone. In 1992, he was awarded an AES award for excellence for his development of Ambisonics. At the time of his death, Michael was as involved in the practical implementation of his depth-control ideas with an Israeli company called Waves, who are software suppliers of signal processing and user interfaces for the Windows and Macintosh professional audio and multimedia markets; their TrueVerb product is based on his ideas.
Michael would have been 51 in November, it had been obvious for some years that his health had not been good was an asthmatic). My favorite memory of Michael was at the 1992 AES Convention in Vienna where, presenting apaper he had co-written with his long-time collaborator, Peter Craven, on the audio applications of DSP, he

drew aflat straight line on the overhead Saturday, Siegfried on Easter Sunday, and

and said, "You all know what that is; it's Gütterdammening on Monday, this was to

the frequency response of aDSP-cor- be the only Ring cyde to take place in the

rected loudspeaker. And you also all UK this year. The promoters, The Park

know that it sounds tenible:" He was dra- Lane Group, celebrating their 40th

matically introducing the fact that, with- anniversary in 1996, are to be congratulat-

out first clearly defining agoal, follow- ed on carrying the whole 'inject through

ing an over-simplistic design path does in the absolute minimum of time --less

not lead to excellence.

than seven weeks from concept to actual-

In the words of Bob Stuart, who e- ity, in conjunction with SBC, Teldec, the

mailed me to let me know the sad licensees of the Unitel recordings, and

news: "I am not overly sure that the ATC Loudspeaker Technology, England's

audio world really recognized Michael's premier professional monitor loudspeak-

genius. We will miss him."

er company.

UK: David Inman

No work makes greater demands on the abilities and stamina of singers, play-

The shadow of the late Herbert von ers, designer, producer, and indeed,

Karajan hung heavy over London's audience, than Wagner's great Ring.

South Bank last Easter. For it was Karajan Sixteen-and-a-half hours of concentrat-

who, after falling out comprehensively ed adrenalin and symbolism, not to

with the powers-that-be in Bayreuth, mention incest, greed, jealousy, vio-

founded the Salzburg Easter Festival in lence, betrayal, battle, murder, and sud-

1967 as his personal platform to mount den death -- oh, and abroken sword

Wagner's four-opera cycle, Der Ring des and spear, magic fire, and adragon, all

Nibelungen, using the opportunity to spread over three evenings plus apre-

record the cycle at the same time.

lude. At Bayreuth, Mecca for all true

This year, 29 years after the founding Wagner lovers, and other houses

of the Salzburg Festival, London's Queen mounting acomplete Ring cycle, there

Elizabeth Hall played host, over the will normally be abreak of an evening

Easter weekend, to another Ring cyde -- or two during acomplete cycle of all

nothing less than the entire Bayreuth four operas. Time to catch one's mental

Ring in the Barenboirn-conducted, Harry breath, but at the same time abreak in

Kupfer production. Only this presenta- concentration. How much more re-

tion was remarkable for another reason markable then -- unique, in fact -- to

--it was an audio-visual event. The pro- be able to hear the entire Ring cycle

duction was that recorded/filmed by over just three days. For once the scat-

Unitel at Bayreuth in 1991-2; it was tered superlatives of The Park Lane

shown in the QEH in HDTV with digi- Group's advance publicity were justi-

tal sound reproduction of the highest fied. "Unique," "The First Time," "The

quality. Spread over just three days, with Only...," "Special." How true.

Das Rheingold and Die Walküre on

There had been only two other simi-

London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, viewed from the audio engineer's position, next to the three ATC SCA2 preamps.

STE REO PH ILE, Jun, 1996

lar performances, one each in France

and Germany, with, reportedly, less

than wholly satisfactory results in the

sound-quality department. Much of the

credit for the outstanding success of the

London event goes to Alan Ainslie and

his colleagues at ATC. The Park Lane

Group had worked with Ainslie before

and asked him to become involved on

the basis that an event such as this stood

or fell on the absolute necessity for

sound quality of the highest order. That

may seem obvious, yet how often has

an otherwise successful event failed

where sound quality is concerned?

Queen Elizabeth Hall is the middle

one of three concert rooms in London's

South Bank complex. Normally used

for concerts by baroque or chamber

orchestras, QEH scats 900 in asteeply

raked auditorium. The projector occu-

pied the rear five rows of seats while the The right-channel speaker array: two pairs of stacked ATC SCM200 monitors with amplifiers on the floor

audio control point was also at the back next to dwm.You can just see the famed ATC soft-dome midrange units.

of the auditorium, set alittle to one side.

The videotape, with its digital picture the back to draw the sound into the valued at £120,000 ($190,000), the con-

and embedded soundtrack, was fed into auditorium."

trol van and its equipment, and you're

the hall from acontrol van parked out-

The active speaker system consisted looking at more than three quarters of a

side the building -- facilities provided of four pairs of ATC SCM200s, each million dollars. Serious Home Theater.

by HD Scanners. The D1 HDTV signal pair having 1700W of amplification plus

Although taken from the same

passed first through a BRB (Bit 2dB headroom. The SCM200s were film/recording sessions, the 4-channel

Reduction Box), where it was expanded arranged in two-cabinet arrays with the HDTV audio mix is different from that


dual bass drivers vertically aligned and tweeters inboard (see photo). Two SCM100 cabinets mounted vertically one above the other formed the center channel, placed below the center of the screen. Each SCM100 has 350W of amplification plus headroom. The rear ambience channels were a single SCM50 with 350W on each side at the back of the auditorium. The rear ambience channels were not band-limited,

on the commercially available lascrdisc and CD. Adry run in the hall not being possible, ATC monitored the laserdisc beforehand. Its dynamic range was alittle over 60dB, with anoiscfloor 85dB below peak. It was assumed that this would be similar for the 4-channel HDTV version, which proved to he the case. The design objective for the system in the hall, therefore, was to have peak levels of 110dB available from the

and the amount of low-frequency stage front channels only, with significant

noise they carried caused one or two headroom. In practice, during the per-

and where From there


anxious moments for the survival of the small (relatively) rear speakers!

formance, peak levels were generally found to be between 95d13 and 100dB.

sent to the massive Hughes/JVC ILA-

Control was from just two ATC A very small amount of gain riding was

M435S HDTV projector that occupied SCA2 control preamplifiers, one used used in the quietest passages because

the last five rows of seats in the audito- for the rear channels, one for the front. the Hughes/JVC projector produced an

rium. The projector had to throw 35m The center channel level, once set with ambient sound level in the center of the

(114') onto ascreen 14' high and 33' athird SCA2, was not altered. The pre- hall of around 60dB, despite it being


amps drove 100m of balanced audio heavily surrounded with black cloth

The four audio channels went direct- cable from the control position at the drapes.

ly to the sound system provided and rear of the auditorium to the speakers

One neat touch: As at Bayreuth, the

manned by ATC. This actually consist- on the platform at the front below the end of each interval was signaled by

ed of five channels of audio; the front screen. At no time was there any mea- music. Siegfried's horn call summoned

main stereo left and right channels, the surable video or supply-related noise or the audience back into the auditori-

rear left and right pair of ambience interference. No equalization was need- um. An imaginative little touch, and

channels; plus, because the QEH screen ed or used.

one that made the event even more

is almost 40' across, asynthesized center

The total power available from the memorable.

channel -- L+R, reduced in level -- to ATC system on program, including

Did it work? Was the experiment a

provide audio locked to the on-screen headroom, was 10kW. For those inter- success? Do we ask The Park Lane

images. As Alan said, "It's really just a ested in such matters, the total value of Group to do it again, perhaps with other

big hi-fi system operating in normal the sound system only was £80,000 Unitel HDTV productions? We know

stereo mode, with abit of ambience at ($126,000). Add that to the projector they are interested. The answer from



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this admittedly committed Wagnerphile US market, we will have to wait and End stereo systems. Truth be told, Ialso

is an emphatic "Yes!" The opportunity see. (A spokesman for Nakamichi felt the dynamics were abit restrained.)

to experience a state-of-the-art Ring Japan subsequently denied the UK But hearing the back-slap of the massed

cycle over a limited and appropriate report,.) More next month.

chorus off the rear wall made the hair on

time-span, in nonstressful conditions

my neck stand straight up. Or was it that

and at relatively negligible cost (£42.48,

crowd from Stereo Review sitting behind

or $67, for the complete Ring), was real-


ly not to be missed.

Lifting asuspicious eyebrow at the

Yes, of course there were criticisms,
some subjective, some objective. The US:Jonathan Scull

Tascam, Iexpected asplashy, digital top end, but the recording sounded any-

spi was, for some of those present, too The debate rages on. Will Home thing but. It's no tweaked-out external-

high at times; the dynamic range Theater kill off the High End? Will it ly clocked Nagra-D, but it seems to

appeared too great at others. These reach some critical mass of basic quality have done acredible job of capturing

points will always be made -- even at and stop there? (Like the Blob?) Is there the performance. Perhaps ashade dark-

home. There were no subtitles; there aHome Theater system that can even sounding for my taste, but enjoyable,

was no audience reaction (the perfor- play music? Who but the few, after all, smooth, and ambient nonetheless. If the

mance was filmed without audience) can afford separate systems?

demo was any indication, I'm sure it'll

or "live" atmosphere. There were

Absenting ourselves from these grave sound superb on most Home Theater

occasional odd changes in visual and questions, let us consider affable John setups. Itook the opportunity to chat

sound perspectives; there were the Eargle and Delos. John is director of with John Eargle:

usual problems of seeing/hearing recording for this label, and has worked Jonathan Scull: Will you describe the

singers and actors in close-up. But this with Amelia Haygood there for some- recording technique that you employed on this

was not Bayreuth. Nor did it attempt to be. thing over 15 years. I've often enjoyed new disc?

It should not be judged that way. This listening to their CDs over the course of John Eargle: The important thing is

was, quite simply, a different event my reviewing career. So Iwas interested that although the disc does sound, to

and a terrific way to spend Easter to receive an invitation to apress launch my ears at any rate, very fine in stereo,


of their latest release, LittonDallas (DE the same material is also stored on an 8-

A detailed critique of the film/pro- 3196), as it proclaimed in bold lettering. track medium. The aim is to have

duction/performance is not appropriate Andrew L. and the Dallas Symphony something archived for future possibili-

here except to note that this Ring seems Otchestra and Chorus doing Tdiaikovslcy's ties in multichannel sound. In other

to be considered one of the more suc- 1812 Overture, Litton's arrangement of words, Iselected the tracks and micro-

cessful of recent years, since the The Sleeping Beauty, asymphonic ballad phones specifically for the flexibility of

Chereau centennial production. Inter- called The Voyevoda, and the Coronation making asurround-sound mixdown at

estingly, also at Easter--shades of Cantata.

alater point.

Karajan/Salzburg? --a new production

You woke me up for that?! Another Scull: Let me ask you about the mike setup,

opened at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, 1812?! Well, it's recorded in what Delos John.

by the same team -- Harry Kupfer, calls "VR2"-- VR squared -- which Eargle: The two main microphones --

designer Hans Schavernoch, and con- connotes Virtual Reality Recording. labeled "two" and "three" in the dia-

ducted by Daniel Barenboim, General What we have here is aDolby-encoded gram -- are Sanken CU-41s. Those

Music Director at the Berlin State Surround disc that is, of course, fiilly microphones are my favorite cardioids

Opera, with many of the same protago- compatible with stereo playback. Instead because they have exemplary off-access

nists. Early reports indicate that the pro- of fighting it, or sticking its head in the response. Most cardioid microphones,

duction builds on the Bayreuth one and sand and ignoring it, Delos is recording once you get substantially off-axis,

is even more spectacular visually and to the Home neater crowd. As John begin to show ahigh-end rolloff. These

artistically. Perhaps Unitel will film that, Eargle points out in the following inter- maintain their pattern control fairly

and we can see and hear it next Easter. view, there's an enormous installed base high up in frequency. Ican turn every-

Please, Park Lane Group.

of Home Theater owners --1 suppose thing off except these two microphones

UK: John Atkinson

some of them must be growing tired of watching Barmy in Surround.

Meridian's website has anew address:

With that in mind, Kathleen and I

http://www.meridian-audio.com . headed over to the Rose Building at

Better change those links.

Lincoln Center one rainy Friday. We

According to the May 13 issue of munched smoked trout (it's Lincoln industry bible Audio Week, Nakamichi's Center, after all), and met Delos doyenne



UK distributor has announced that the financially ailing Japanese specialtyaudio company, hit by the strong yen, was to abandon the audio market once current stocks of CD players and cassette decks had been sold. Instead, the

Amelia Haygood for the first time. A short presentation and ademo followed. The Tascam DA-88 8-track digital recorder that was used in the recording fronted THX Harman Citation gear, playing to their own stand-mounted sur-

Dallas mphony Orchestra & Chorus


company will move its product focus round speakers. Rear surrounds were

into the world of computers, where it dipoles. The Chorus on the 1812 sound-

already has afactory in mainland China ed smooth, ambient, and well spread-out

making optical CD products. What this over quite alarge soundstage. (But not as means for Nakamichi's presence in the deep as I've come to expect from High

Delos,Tchaikovsky, Andrew Litton, and the Dallas SO.



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and probably walk away with areason-

The reason we went with five chan- Scull: Ahh, John, "both" setups, as you say.

able recording. Iwouldn't want to... [laughs] but if Ihad to, Iprobably could. And then the flanking microphones,

nels here is that it's an existing format, and the Consumer and Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA)

One might

you Ji.el it's appropriate to

have ahigh-end two-channel stereo system

and aseparate Honte Theater rig?

marked "one" and "four," arc says that there are ten million of these Eargle: Right. And Iwould prefer to

Sennheiser MKH-20s omnis at aheight setups around the world. And the vast have them in different rooms, myself...

of 12'. These were chosen for their majority arc here in the US. If that Iwould like there to be aplace where I

super-flat response and super-low noise number is anywhere near true, then can go look and listen and another place

level. Everything else from that point on there is asubstantial installed base of where Icould listen with my eyes shut.

is a negotiable item, so to speak. It users.

Scull: When earlier ive spoke, you had quite

depends on the recording. The number Scull: The setup we heard the recording adean opinion than most regarding the

and type of mikes can be almost what- through at the press Jiinction was astandard audiophile call Jr 24/96-24-bit quanti-

ever you have, as long as they're really Honte Theater ne

zation, 96kHz sampling rate. Most people

good cardioids. As you look at the lay- Eargle: Yes, astandard Home Theater seem to be lookingfànvard to 24/96 as some

out for this recording, the positions system. Albeit avery-high-quality one.

marked with the little arrows are directional microphones. And the ones that have an X in the middle arc omnis. Scull: recorded eight tracks on aTascam

Me Citation components] show alot of the handiwork ofJim Fosgate. Scull: Well, you, Jr one, obviously don't think that Home Theater means the death of



high-end audio. It would seem you're trying to

Eargle: Right. And that's processed bridge the gap?


through the Prism AID [from the UK]. Eargle: Well, you know, Jonathan, if


That's 24-bit if you wish. We're coming you define the High End broadly, in out of it at 20 bits and storing the signal, terms of companies that cater to an


which was then used in making the upscale market, you'll find that all the

stereo recording. And then Ialso fed, manufacturers at the High End have kind of panacea fir the problans of digital from the console, the eight channels of gone into Home Theater products. So, I lint seem to/eel quite strongly othenvise.

the Tascam DA-88.

don't really see the two as being incom- Eargle: Well, Idon't deny that more

Scull: What was your goal with this recording technique? Eargle: Well, the first goal, of course, is to make asuperlative stereo recording.

patible at all. In fact, they're mutually supportive.
In fact, Idon't even have aHome Theater system at home. [laughter] I

is better, in every aspect of what we do here. And Iwould dearly love to see all of these things happen and Ihope that they can. But Ihave asuspicion

'Cause if you don't do that, if you sacri- have so little time to listen to music that that when we try to do everything for

fice anything at that point, then you're Idon't want to occupy that discre- everybody, we're going to run out of

really not doing what you're paid to be tionary time watching video. I'd rather room.

doing. Iwould say that this is as good as play music. And Ihave alot of stuff that Scull: It's astorage problem?

any recording I've ever made, and this I have to play -- even competitive Eargle: Well, let me put it this way. Say

probably is the best orchestral recording I've ever done. And in order to ensure that, we monitored the recording in stereo.

recordings that Igo out and buy to spend time listening to. But Idon't see anything essentially wrong with having both setups in your home.

you plot an X/Y graph, and along the X-axis you plot the sample rate, and on the Y-axis the "listenability" of what you're doing. If you plot the quality

level against the sampling rate, you'll

find that, yes, for avery low sampling

rate, everybody can hear that the high

end isn't extended enough. Then, as

you go up to higher numbers, you find

that curve begins to rise rather steeply.

And once you've come to apoint at the

knee of the nerve... Peter] Imean

the knee of the curve...

Scull: Freudian slip...

Eargle: The nerve of some people!

[laughter] Anyway, the curve breaks,

there's astrong knee, and beyond that

point no one can hear an improvement.

Now what is that number? It's probably

somewhere between 44.1 and 96.

Scull: Want to be more specific?

Eargle: Actually, I'm not going to say

where. But Ihave afeeling that it's

probably alittle bit closer to 44.1 than it

is to 96. There really isn't much point in

going with higher numbers there unless

Recording engineer John Eargle (left) finds that chatting with Jonathan Scull is not (lulu: arc ordeal by

you have room to spare. Now, asimilar

audiophile" he had been fearing.

curve will be observed if you start look-



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ing at the data word length. Once you pass 16 bits, I'd say that the break point is going to be somewhere between 16 and 24. Probably around 18, 19, or 20. And once again, when you've passed that curve, there isn't much more reason to go on unless you have alot of room to spare.
Another very important ingredient here -- once we break out of our stereo two-channel mold of thinking --is the number of tracks. For example, if we plot the sound-quality factor against the number of channels, we'll find out that that curve is rather general and it stays general for along time. Until we get up to maybe 10 or 12 tracks. For example, let's say that we have enough information storage space to run 96k at 24 bits. But let's say that we're limited to two channels; then we can only get, let's say, 120 minutes. Okay. We go to four channels, but that's only 60 minutes. (I'm choosing these numbers just to make the point.) If we want to have four channels at 60 minutes, well, that's an imposition on alot ofpeople. Record manufacturers wouldn't like that because they're used to the playing time of the CD, for example, which is touching the 80-minute mark. Idon't think that would be an acceptable compromise for any manufacturer who wanted to stay in business.
Now let's say we change the sampling rate or the data word length and we get back to our 80 minutes. That seems to be reasonable, and we can get another channel or two. And why take agiant step beyond 16 bits when you still have microphone noise to deal with? You know, it's alimiting factor in alot of recordings. Scull: Anything you'd like to leave us with? Eargle: All Ican say is keep the faith and... [laughter] don't just spend your time watching video. Because when you're watching apicture, you let your hearing get awfully sloppy. Ido believe that. Ithink you hear best when you can turn off the visual cortex and shut your eyes. That's the way Ilike to listen. Ihear alot more when I'm not having to watch something. Scull: Thanksfor your insights, John. Eargle: Well, actually, Jonathan, it's a pleasure to chat with you ...
US: Barry Willis
Owners of CD players are being taken to the cleaners by unscrupulous dealers, as in the following story:
Ihave ablind neighbor, Marta, for whom music is an even more important part of life than it is for me. This


Percussion Timpani






11 2nd Violins

6 Violas

Basses 13

1st Violins





John Eargle's microphone setup for the Delos Tchaikovsky recording in Dallas's McDermott Hall. Mikes I and 4are flanking omnis, 12' high; mikes 2and 3are the main stereo cardioids, 12' high; mikes 5and 6are astereo cardioid pair for the woodwinds, 10' high; mikes 7and 8are spaced omnis for the chorus. 15' high; mikes 9and 10 are spaced cardioids for room pickup, 15' high; mikes II, 12, and 13 are accent mikes for the harp, timps, and basses, respectively.

woman, agraduate student in psychology, is an aspiring musician who lives alone, with her guide dog, on very little income.
We were having dinner recently when she told me about her CD player, amoderately priced Denon, which several months earlier had begun to skip. She took it to her local chain store, where she had purchased it, to have it serviced. (Sighted people have no idea what abig production something like this is for the blind: They have to arrange for a friend to help them unhook the offending equipment and drive them with it to the store, or, in Marta's case, hire ataxi.) Someone at the store-- she could not remember whom-- tested the player briefly and could not verify the problem, but said he would send it to their service center for examination.
The player went away for acouple of weeks. One day Marta got acall saying it was ready for her to pick up. The service center, she was told, had run her machine for several hours and had been unable to verify the problem. She arranged for another friend to drive her to the store and get it. She paid the min-

imum charge and took the player back home, where it immediately began skipping again.
She lived with the skipping player for afew more weeks until afriend found time to take it, and her, back to the store for round two. This time the service center verified the problem and told her it could be cured by agood cleaning. Marta's cost: $90.
Afew weeks passed between her second visit to the store and the day she brought the "repaired and cleaned" player home. (The time scale for ordinary transactions becomes enormously stretched out for those who depend on the help of others.) After aneighbor reinstalled the player in her system, Marta found, to her great disappointment, that it still skipped. She was so angry and so disappointed that she stopped using it altogether.
Sometime later she again called the store. Again they told her she would have to bring the player in for service, or, they said, she could buy anew one. When she asked if they would apply her $90 "repair charge" toward the purchase of anew machine, she was told that too much time had passed for them



to do that. Net results: Marta was out the cost of one "no problem found," one "repair," one purchase at full retail, and several rides to the store. She was the one who got cleaned.
Years of cassette deck and VCR problems that can be cured by cleaning have conditioned the public to believe that CD players need it, too. Dealers, of course, haven't bothered to tell anyone that the cleaning of CD players is nothing but amoneymaking ritual. Skipping CD players are almost all due to afew simple causes: damaged or defective discs, weak lasers, bad tracking motors, and bad spindle motors. Cleaning isn't the cure.
Gullible customers who fall for this scam don't understand that if a CD player is operated in reasonably clean air, there is nothing in it that will need cleaning. Ever. Discs do not shed oxide, and there is no physical contact between the disc and the laser's lens. The only possible instance where cleaning might help aCD player is when the machine is used in afilthy environment, like asmoky bar. Even in the worst case, cleaning requires nothing more than an easy wipe of the lens with an alcoholmoistened cotton swab -- aprocedure

that takes less than aminute to perform. international press. I'm speaking of

$90 for this is an outrageous ripoff.

Swoboda Audio Modification, or

I'm not particularly religious, but I SAM.2

sincerely hope that if there is some sort

Company president Michael Swo-

of retribution in the afterworld, the nas- boda, 38 years old, holds adegree in elec-

tiest places in Hell will be reserved for trical engineering. For his diploma, he

those who prey on the helpless.

designed an electronic loudspeaker regu-

lator that subsequently found commer-

cial success in the flagship of German

loudspeaker manufacturer IQ. This pro-

ject sparked Swoboda's interest in audio

technology. He sent several German

Germany: Markus Sauer

audio magazines an "interview" with himself that he'd prepared to raise inter-

The German section of "Industry est in his ideas. In 1985, the largest of

Update" has concentrated so far on com- them, Audio, hired him as areviewer,

panies that already have US distribution. telling him, "You have the technological

I'd like to broaden the scope abit and run background and the ears it requires.

some portraits of companies that have yet Don't worry about writing --we'll teach

to cross the great divide, but that Ifeel are you that." Swoboda stayed at Audio and

of general interest to American readers, learned the hi-fi business. He left in

either because of technological interest or 1987, having made lots of contacts in

just to impart abetter understanding of German hi-fi, and found work as afree-

the German market --in normal times, lance engineer for anumber of speaker

one of the most important sales areas for manufacturers, designing active loud-

US companies.

speakers and subwoofers.

This installment sees another first in

In 1990 he bought his first Sony CD

that it features not amanufacturer in the player, the CDP-X557. Not entirely

normal sense, but amodifier -- akind of company that's common enough in the US but sees little mention in the

2 Swoboda Audio Modification, Lindaidnihe 11, 45259 Essen, Gemany. Tel: (49) 0201-468080. Fax: (49) 0201-468090.

content with the sound, he tinkered with some modifications -- the usual stuff, he says: changing some capacitors and op-amps. In these early trials he saw potential for further improvements in sound by more radical operations on the player's innards.
To this day, Swoboda is deeply impressed with the quality and depth of Sony's engineering. In 1991 he decided to design his own analog filter and output. He built these on aboard that fits inside the Sony player. When his friends heard the modified player they immediately wanted one for themselves, and Swoboda began to think that there might be amarket for his creation. He went to his old magazine, Audio, and presented them with the player, amodified CDP777. The magazine ran an enthusiastic report, commending the player as the best integrated CD player they had ever heard. Swoboda was in business.
The story could have ended there. Quite afew modifiers have an initial success, but then the original manufacturer gets wind of the matter, the lawyers speak, and the modifier is back where he started. Swoboda was lucky: Sony Germany compared a modified 777 with their then-new 779, both in the lab

Michael Swoboda proudly presents his board The SAM board for Sony CD players contains the digital filter and the output stage.
and in the listening room, and decided that Swoboda was actually on to something. Instead of putting him out of business, Sony Germany took him under their wing and treated him as aquasi-official tuning shop, analogous to the relationship between AMG and MercedesBenz. Sony Germany will honor the warranty on its products after they've been modified by SAM. Sony even invited Swoboda to be a co-exhibitor at the Frankfurt high-end shows.
Sony saw the potential of selling

players to customers who were too "tweaky," too immersed in high-end sensibilities, to buy aplayer from agiant company. They also saw that cooperating with Swoboda would keep customers loyal to the brand who otherwise might have wanted to take astep beyond the stock offerings. In return, Swoboda is completely open with Sony about what he does; Sony's central repair shop in Cologne has complete documentation of all changes to the stock players, and is able to repair modified units.
SAM subsequently offered its modification board for anumber of other Sony models besides the 777, including the 77, 779, and 707 CD players and the DTC-59ES and DTC-670 I)AT players. Instead ofjust dropping in the existing board, SAM invested considerable work to adapt the modifications to the electrical environments of the different units. Grounding proved critical, making the difference between abarely noticeable improvement and the sort of difference Swoboda feels consumers should get from one of his mods. The result was ahuge success: On some Sony models, as many as 80% of the units sold had been modified by SAM.
In early 1995, SAM presented anew


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version of the CD-player modification, appropriately named Type 2. In Germany, this costs the equivalent of $1050, including VAT (Value Added Tax). This mod consists of adouble-layer board: One side carries astar grounding plane; the other combines the analog filter (the heart of the modification), averyhigh-quality amplification stage, and a dedicated power supply that takes its voltage from the stock transformer.
In the filter, Swoboda aims for aconstant group delay up to frequencies of 70kHz --normal filters have aconstant group delay of only up to 25kHz. One element of Swoboda's filter is afrequency-dependent negative resistor (FDNR). The output stage, which Swoboda describes as the CD player's built-in preamplifier, employs expensive op-amps that give ahigh output current. Much work has also gone into the power supply: The board features 34 selected capacitors that give the power supply ashort "reaction time" and provide avery low output resistance to ensure stable operation of the SAM board under all musical circumstances. It's direct-coupled, with no capacitors in the signal path.
All internal links are gold-plated, using high-quality Swiss Multi-Contact parts with less than 0.1 ohm contact resistance. This is important to Swoboda, who believes that many players, especially English models, may sound fine now, but will rapidly deteriorate through oxidized internal contacts. His board should keep its sound for years.
When asked how it's possible for arelatively small German company to improve upon the efforts of Sony's Japanese design team, Swoboda says that he employs some parts that Sony could never use at the price point the stock players have to meet -- and he has much more time to select components on sonic criteria. The latest version took 700 hours of listening to find the best components, grounding arrangements, and so on.
Computer simulations and measurements can take the designer only so far, at some point, the designer has to sit down and listen. Sony Japan gives its engineers afixed time budget for the complete player, so work on asingle stage can never

A Swoboda-modified Sony CDP-X707; the SAM digital filter board and output stage sit in the rear right corner.

take as long as it might when someone admits that the top Krell player beats his

takes the finished product and then creation, but maintains that below the

works on just one stage. Swoboda has the ultra-expensive models, his is the best.

highest respect for Sony engineers. The The German magazines unanimously

mechanical and digital parts of the players agree -- rare in itself, because one mag-

are of extremely high standard, he says-- azine will normally be delighted to find

better than anything one of the smaller flaws in another magazine's favorite. (If

high-end companies could create, and you thought competition was fierce and

much, much cheaper than the same pro- internecine between American rags,

duct would have to be if built by asmall- you should see the German market.)

er company. (The single most expensive

SAM does have one product that's

component that goes into making abud- completely its own, independent of

get speaker is the cardboard packaging; other manufacturers. It's an active digi-

large-scale manufacturers at least get a tal cable, costing ca $600 including VAT.

good price on cartons, but it would some- Swoboda is tight-lipped about the

times be easier for asmall manufacturer innards. The cable seems to contain

to hand-deliver the products.)

active electrical impedance matching

Iwas able to compare stock and for reflection-free transmission of digi-

modified Sony CDP-X707 players in tal signals, which translates as lower jit-

Swoboda's system, which consisted of ter. In Swoboda's eyes, this is akludge,

the Mark Levinson No38 preamplifier, trying to make the best out of the ill-

Adyton Cordis 1.6 power amplifier, and judged S/PDIF data transmission stan-

Dynaudio Confidence 5speakers, with dard. Swoboda thinks aCl) deck and its

triple OCOS speaker cables. This is one converter should be connected with

of the best systems I've encountered in four lines: word clock, left and right sig-

my manufacturer visits; the sound was nal data, and bit clock. In the current

completely freed from the speaker standard, all four of these elements are

enclosures, with very good image speci- encoded into asingle datastream, which

ficity and depth.

creates all sorts of problems. Internally,

We listened to arecording of the Liszt these elements are kept separate. This is

Piano Sonata and, as acomplete contrast, the principal reason, Swoboda says, that

an Ofra Haza selection from her separate CD players and D/A convert-

Yemenite Songs album. In both cases, the ers have ahard time beating areally

modified player offered much better well-thought-out integrated Cl) player.

insight into the structure of the music.

Swoboda is now adapting his modifi-

Where the stock player certainly sound- cation to the latest Sony creation, the

ed good in its own right, the modifica- extraordinary CDP-XA7ES, which is

tion was rhythmically more assured and unique in keeping the laser pickup unit

tonally richer, and had a greatly stationary and moving the Cl) under it,

improved sense of musical flow. A more for lower resonance in the pickup and

relaxed sound, cleaner highs, and more thus fewer readout errors. Swoboda holds

convincing dynamics completed the pic- high hopes for this model, especially

ture of an altogether very worthwhile because of the further-improved power

upgrade, certainly worth the price.

supply, which now features separately

This was one of the best sounds I'd regulated voltages for just about every

ever heard from CD. Swoboda freely stage.




Setting The Stage for the Hologram -

The 2C3D System

A component of the


The MIT Z-Series


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MIT's updated Z-Series is the ultimate foundation for your system. Setting the clean, absolutely quiet background needed as afoundation for the holographic image created by the 2C3D System. MIT's building block approach lets you to assemble an AC treatment configuration for the specific power requirements of your audio system. The Z-Series will supply the clean power your system needs to reproduce the details that allow you to suspend disbelief.

"I'm convinced that no matter the stature of your front end. the Z treatment will open your ears to its sonic potential. Ican't imagine ever listening again to adigital source without this caliber of AC -line conditioning." Dick Olsher, Stereophile, Vol. 17, No. 12, December 1994
/ More Than Just Cabler

2C3D, Two Channel-Three Dimensional Hologram and the 2C3D logo are certification marks of MIT
For more information or the dealer nearest you call MIT at (916) 888-0394 MIT products are manufactured and sold by CVTL, Inc., Auburn, CA. USA
Distributed in Canada by. Aralex Acoustics (604) 528-8965

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Why is it always so different at the movie-theater?
IsDoes the popcorn taste better in the dark? it the People? What about sound? The galloping horses. Thunder.
Explosive soundtracks?
PSB loudspeakers -- with lifelike tonal balance, spatial imaging, and full range capability -- extend your video viewing to bring the excitement and impact of the theater into the comfort of your home. The popcorn is on you.
For your nearest PSB dealer call Toll Free 1-800-263-4641.



Ijust got back from the Single-Ended Triode seminar at the Adams Mark Hotel, in Philly, hosted by Peter Breuniger, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Audio Society. (Thanks for the invite, Peter.) The meeting room was packed --maybe as many as 300 men and one woman. (Mere may have been more women; Isaw only one.)
If there had been more women present in Philly, keynote speaker Harvey Rosenberg would probably have had to tone down his speech. Actually, it was after his opening speech that Harvey proposed that the designers of single-ended triode gear be invited to contribute to aTriode Sperm Bank. This way, an impregnated woman could be certain of giving birth to an "artistically sensitive" soul. Only great designers would be invited to make --all, adeposit.
Herb Reichert, of Audio Note USA, also spoke and made the point that this single-ended triode phenomenon is not about nostalgia -- it's about getting people involved with the music. Dennis Had, of Cary Audio Design, made much the same point.
Jacques Cazehis, of Caztech Audio, just outside Montréal, showed an interesting pair of 805 monoblocks that will be in production soon --price not yet set. Iwas impressed, too, by the sound of the Komuro 805 monoblocks, manufactured by Komuro Audio Labs of Brooklyn, N.Y., and selling for $8500 apair.
"Komuro goes up on amountaintop for several days," said Harvey Rosenberg, "and contemplates the effects of different transformer laminates on the sound. Stuff like that."
All amplifiers were playing through a pair of Swans Allure speakers--the commercial implementation of ahighsensitivity design by erstwhile Stereophile writer Dick Olsher. This was in avery large hotel conference room filled with several hundred people. It was amazing that the speakers could play at all, given

Audio Electronic SE-81 Imonoblock power amplifiers

the very low power of many of the amplifiers. (Yes, the amps often clipped.)
Dennis Had demonstrated his Cary 805, which has become asingle-ended triode classic. This monoblock has some staying power--despite the fact that some audio scribes apparently wish that this whole single-ended phenomenon would go away. It won't.
But the amplifier Igot most excited about?
It was probably the cheapest amp at the seminar--the $1595 (assembled) Audio Electronic SE-1 stereo amp, using one 300B output tube per side and rated at 7watts achannel. As with other Audio Electronic products, the price varies depending on whether you want it built-up or as akit, and which 300B output tubes you prefer. "Brownbottom" Chinese tubes are supplied as standard. This amp is sold direct to the customer with a 10-day, money-back guarantee. For info, you can call Audio

Electronic (a subsidiary of Cary Audio Design) at (919) 460-6461 or fax them at (919) 460-3828.
"Maybe 30 watts of power is too much," declared Dennis, after demoing his Cary 805 monoblocks on the Swans Allure speakers. "Let's try 7W instead."
At that point, he switched over to the Audio Electronic SE-1 Signature, and, as if to rub things in, cranked up the sound.
Okay, so the 7Wpc amp was under a little stress -- dynamic compression more than anything else. But the amp played, and the sound was quite appealing, especially when Dennis didn't crank up the volume.
While waiting for the SE-1 Signature to arrive, I've been listening to the Audio Electronic SE-811 monoblocks, which retail direct from the factory for $1995/pair.
The amp is named for the SV-811-3 output tube from Svetlana, of St. Petersburg, Russia, my wife's hometown--we drive by the factory on the way to Uncle Mischa's dacha. The tube was developed by Svetlana with input from Dennis Had and George W. Badger, President of Svetlana Electron Devices, here in the States. The idea was to modify the design of the 811A transmitting tube --taking the anode plate cap on top "downstairs" to pin 2, and



Redefining Effortless Fidelity.

5740 Green Circle Drive /Min inka. Minnesota 55343-4424 /Phone:

39-0600 FAX: 612-939-0604

removing 75% of the grid wires to make this alow-mu audio tube.
The result? An inexpensive, directly heated triode audio tube that can retail for $29 -- afar cry from the $150 or more you can pay for asingle 300B. 1

monic presentation --and more spatial resolution. While Ididn't use the CD-17 much with these amps, Idid use the Meridian 508. Ifelt Ilost some of the Meridian's superb presentation of space.
As for the "light from within" that I

The amp starts off with a6SN7 dual- described with the Jadis SE300Bs in my

triode as the first gain stage. This is January and February columns, some of directly coupled to the screen grid of a it is there with the SE-811. Still, with this

Now avallible through dealer network

Russian 5881, which forms the second amp, it's more amatter of light shining driver stage. The control grid of the on the music than light shining from

5881 is tied down to the cathode so that within.

the tube emulates atriode. Output cou-

pling of the 811-3 tube to the loudspeaker is through an air-gap transformer -- since this is a single-ended design, you need the large air gap to avoid transformer core saturation. Solidstate rectification is used; this is chokefiltered so the music supply voltage "doesn't move avolt from whisper level to crescendo level," says Had.
All you really need to know is that the amp is asingle-ended niode, and is rated to put out 12Wpc into 4 or 8 ohms. Because the 811-3 output tube uses a thoriated tungsten cathode, it burns with avery bright white light.


You won't be sitting in the dark with

these amps!

So how does the SE-811 compare

There are some attractive push-pull

with an amp that uses the pricey, often tubed alternatives for just under $2k,

Contact factory for list of authonzed dealers

dicey (prone to failure) 300B output including the AudioPrism Debut and


the Conrad-Johnson MV-55, each

The SE-811 monos have agood deal priced at $1995. Ithought that both

of the same clarity, purity of tone, and amps gave me more body, more bloom,

absence of grunge Ihear with other sin- and agreater sense of space than Igot

gle-ended triode amps, including those from the pair of SE-811s. These qualities

that use 300B output tubes. Violins are things you also get from agreat

sound particularly extended, smooth, 300B-based amp ...like the $3795/pair

and sweet --more so than they would, I Cary 300SE monoblocks. Or try the

think, with any conventional push-pull 300B-equipped Audio Electronic SE-1

tube design. There is agrainless quality Signature for $1595.

about the upper midrange and treble

The SE-811 has its single-ended

that identifies the SE-811, for me, as a virtues, too. As Isaid, the top end is par-

single-ended design.

ticularly smooth, sweet, and extended

What's more, for aI2W design, the -- no hardness, no grit, no grunge. I'm

SE-811 packs some bottom-end punch. not sure you can get the same sound

The Audio Electronic monoblocks were from apush-pull design. Also, with the

able to drive apair of Hales Concept SE-811 you're getting alot of amp, ifnot

Two speakers to surprisingly high levels alot of power, for the money. You're

Stereo Dual-Mono power amp ./ Output Transformerless design · Power Output: 85W into IQ or
60W into 412 · <.251-2to drive dynamics or
electrostatics .7 Distortion primarily even-order
harmonics by use of triode output tubes N/ Auto-biased

with deep, tight bass. (However, amore powerful push-pull tube amp, the AudioPrism Debut, provided even deeper, more powerful, and better-defined

getting apair of well-built tube monoblocks for just under $2k. Most other manufacturers give you asingle mono amp for this price.

bass --as you'll read next month.) It was too bad, therefore, that some of
the 300B magic was missing. Ihave much the same reaction to the
SE-811 amps as Idid to the Maranta CD-17 CD player Iwrote about in June. Iwould have liked aricher, fuller liar-

The pair of SE-811s worked reliably in my system--no problems at all. And none of the tubes, including the SV-811-3, is expensive to replace. All in all, the Audio Electronic SE-811 is an innovative, interesting, and enjoyable amplifier -- aunique product, not just


1Svetlana is said to be also working on aversion of the 30013.

another me-too design. Well worth investigating--but I'm still a 300B man myself'.

116 Main St. St. Peters, MO 633/6 TEL: (314) 946-4232 FAX: (314) 925-0800



Non Negative Feedback: The Real Solution to 1M Distortion

Practically all amplifiers, regardless of price, employ adesign technique way, we can add two levels of current boosters to the emitter

called Negative Feedback (NFB) to ensure wide bandwidth, stable operation followers. Quite revolutionary. Thus we achieve lower output Z, and since

and generally low distortion. NFB amplifiers handle back-EMF reactance an inverted configuration is used, we entirely avoid the collector current

from the load by introducing acanceling signal at the input. Great stuff. nonlinearities of regular Darlingtons. That was the easy part.

Downside, however, is that the benefits of NFB are at the expense of lower

open-loop gain. In other words, if an amplifier is based on

Our competitors choked. Their engineering departments were

the concept of NFB, it is based on the concept of a

unable to design inverted Darlingtons with the necessary

correcting mechanism that introduces compromise. The result? For starters, aNFB amplifier will exhibit

thermal stability for solid bias current and an absence of oscillation of the phase margin. Not us. We designed separate

higher IM distortion. In addition, NFB loops lose control at maximum power conditions, and perform
particularly poorly near clipping. Bad deal.

temperature compensation for the first driver and subsequent levels, strengthened the compensation
transistor mounting and designed an aluminum heat

radiator with asmall time constant. The result: Rock-

At Onkyo, we wanted to avoid NFB altogether and

steady bias. Next, to prevent the oscillation caused by an

find an ultimately smarter way to handle load

output impedance peak at 20-30 Mhz we induced phase

back-EMF reactance and minimize IM. So we invented arevolutionary new Non-Negative Feedback (NNFB) circuit. NNFB seems logical,
but without feedback you have to lower distortion and output Zin the amp section itself. To address this, our engineers scrapped

correction at the base of the output level transistor. An air-core coil works, but we found that ferrite beads
in the jumper wire are far better (high magnetic permeability at low frequencies, low Q, and high
loss at the 20-30 MHz point). Perfect. Bottom line: Grand Slam. We nailed NNFB. All of the obvious

the typical emitter-follower connection, and

benefits. None of the drawbacks.

came up with atwo-level inverted Darlington

circuit with amulti-level connection to an


Our NNFB amplifiers are not based on a

inversion amp with emitter ground. Very

principle of performance compromise. They

slick. Because the circuit is inverted, only the initial level Vbe is output, and attack the underlying problems of amplifier design directly. Our research has

the circuit retains A-grade operation. This pays off with lower Vbe-lc led us to identify and solve the challenges that other designers retreated

distortion and lower output Zthan any other Darlington circuit. Instead of from. The innovative design of our NNFB amplifiers provides exactly what 100% local feedback to each emitter-follower level, Onkyo uses atwo-level you need from apower amplifier: wide bandwidth, stable operation, and

connection of emitter-ground inversion amps, each with its own gain. This very low distortion. High performance, without compromise.

More good news: We also chucked known transformer technology, and
perfected our own design--no more messy clean-ups after embarrassing flux leakage! More importantly, we've got EM induction noise down to seriously
low levels. To the point: You get leakage from both the perimeter of the power supply transformer (no signal) and center core (signal present). Particularly bad is asudden increase in leakage (and noise) at maximum output. The proprietary Dual-Core AEI transformer radically improves on
traditional toroidal units, and even tweaked-up toroidals. We designed anew type of core, with peripheral and opening ratios larger than before. This allows an
increase in the number of coil windings. The hybrid uses awound core system (low leakage with no load) and acoil around the center part (low variation with or without
load). Works great--with one problem. Production


ities of Audio

Transformer &Capacitor Design

told us it would be tough to automate the process of winding the center coil. We solved this with abobbin mounted where the two cores are ¡oined. We can wrap the coil by rotating the bobbin. No sweat. Even better, the bobbin allows heavier gauge wire because of less stress during winding. The result? Lower resistance, which means greater efficiency when providing power to the circuit. For the listener, the new AEI transformer means pure musical signals, essentially free of any induced transformer noise. Thus the very low distortion levels achieved by our NNFB design are not compromised.
But, there's more. Onkyo went one step further and designed its own Audio Tuned Reference Capacitors. Not only do they provide greater power delivery at low frequencies, they give you tremendous continuous power reserves that last as long os the music demands them. How do we know? We conducted listening trials with over 900 different capacitors. Exhaustive research but we've ended up with the best sounding capacitors ever. Very expensive, but worth it.

Power To Spare Comes Only From Reed High Current Drive
Finally, our engineers got extremely aggressive about Integras current drive capability. The other guys keep bragging about their reserve power capabilities, but they always measure into awimpy 8ohm load. Not exactly high-end quality. Onkyo's ability to handle low impedances is based on 6-ohm loads and lower--delivering measured results that set us apart from the rest of the pack.
Non-Negative Feedback architecture. Dual-Core AEI transformers. Audio Tuned Reference capacitors. Discrete output stages. Hand-selected resistors and transistors. Amodular chassis. All Onkyo hallmarks that add up to serious levels of reserve power and torque--just what's needed to handle the most demanding musical passages.
When you buy apower amplifier, the design and manufacturing techniques, measured specifications, and developmental testing are all critically important. But what is most important is the amplifier's ability to consistently deliver high power levels into low impedance loads, with the greatest possible transparency. The drive capability of Integra amplifiers in your listening room is one of our proudest accomplishments. And our competitor's worst nightmare.
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There's news on the Exabyte the good little digital clone it is, it would front: In my April column seem that Exabyte is not the culprit. ("Now the Bad News," p.58), I Bornstein was kind enough to send me

Impulse! LP creams both of them, of course!) So whatever's causing music to come back shrunk from the CD dry

reported rumblings in the mastering both versions of West Side Story that Cin- cleaner, it's probably not Exabyte. Case

community about the growing use of the Exabyte computer backup system in

ram cut for Grundman and Sides, which Icompared to the JVC original.


CD production. The 8mm tapes allow He also sent me the BMG Record Club Talk about having one's ducks in arow:

glass masters to be cut at double speed, editions of the outstanding Impulse! Acoustic Sounds' Chad Kassem has

thus halving production time, and time SBM jazz reissues so Icould compare David Wilson's Audio Research tube-

is money so "look at the clock!" -- that's those Exabyted discs with the GRP ori- driven, tricked-out Neumann SX74 cut-

for all you My Little Mamie fans.

ginals pressed by MCA. Hey! Ithought ting lathe set up at RTI's Camarillo,

No sooner had the ink dried on that that exercise went out with the death of Calif. plating and pressing plant. So now

story than Ireceived acall from aMary vinyl!

veteran mastering engineers Stan Ricker

Bornstein, who consults for Cinram, an

I'll spare you my findings since this is and Bruce Leek can cut alacquer, take it

Indiana-based CD-manufacturing facili- supposed to be an analog column, ex- down the hall for plating, and have a

ty. Bornstein worked at A&M for many cept to say that if the Cinram edition 180-gram test pressing in hand with

years, back when sound quality was job was mastered from Exabyte, and the Polaroid-like speed and convenience

number one there, and Bernie Grund- JVC one wasn't, Exabyte's no villain. In (well, maybe not quite that quickly).

man ran Herb Alpert's cutting lathe. An fact, the Cinram version was, if any-

So how has Chad Kassem progressed

ex-girlfriend of mine worked at A&M thing, slightly better focused at the very from being a mail-order supplier of

when Ilived in Los Angeles, so Igot to bottom, and McCoy Tyner's piano RCA "Shaded Dogs" and Mercury Liv-

hang around the lot alot and Iactually sounded more coherent. (My original ing Presence LPs to an award-winning

met Bornstein (and Grundman, for that

matter) --it's asmall platte4 ain't it?

Ialso wrote about the BMG/RCA

Victor, The Songs of West Side Story, aLen-

nie B. tribute album, a while back:

Grundman and Oceanway's Allen Sides

were not happy with the sound of the

final CD pressed by JVC, despite the

Oceanway all-analog production. What

was going on in the pressing process that


final Cl) sound compared master? There was talk of

Exabyte being the culprit.

Cinram presses discs for the BMG Re-

cord Club. And while Cinram was not

doing arecord-club version of the Len-

nie tribute at the time, Grundman and

Sides wanted to hear what Bornstein's

plant could CD-R and

dao w1i6t3h0it,taspoe.thGeyuessesnt

him a what?

According to Bornstein, both Grundman

and Sides were quite happy with the Ex-

abyted results that sourced two ways:


from CD-R. Grundman corroborated.

So whatever's causing stuff to come

back from the shop not sounding like

Times Square is home of Virgin's new, aptly named MegaStore.


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Icalled Transco immediately and set

up an appointment. Transco President

Bob Cosulich was solicitous; after all,

lacquer manufacturing isn't exactly a

breaking story, so it's not every day that

areporter requests aguided tour.

Today, there are two main lacquer

manufacturers in the United States:

Transco on the East Coast, and Apollo

on the West. Apollo's equipment origi-

nally belonged to Audio Devices in

Connecticut (which also made record-

ing tape, with which some of you old-

sters are surely familiar). Capitol bought

the company and moved the equipment

to Winchester, Virginia. When Capitol

decided to get out of the business (with

Raw aluminum discs off the pallet

the introduction of guess what?), it sold

the lacquer manufacturing gear to

executive producer for his own label of my reviewing time covering just Apollo, which hauled it out west.

(Jimmy Rogers's Blue Bird and Nancy vinyl. Who would have thought this

Ididn't want to get into adiscussion of

Bryan's Lay Me Down, both on Analog possible afew years ago?

who manufactures the best lacquers. Nor

Productions Originals), afirst-class reis-

did Ipoll all the usual suspects to find out

suer of outstandingjazz, blues, rock, and LACQ UERS FOR SLACQ UERS

who supplied their lacquers. Iwas just

classical music on audiophile-quality At HI-FI '95 in Los Angeles, History of curious about how lacquers are made,

vinyl and gold CDs, and now owner of Recorded Sound's Len Horowitz and Iwas happy to be able to find the an-

atop-shelf disc-cutting facility?

slipped me apromotional lacquer from swer acar ride away. Iwill say, though,

Answer: hard work and, more impor- acompany called Transco in Linden, that I've seen both brands of lacquers at

tant, awillingness to admit to not know- New Jersey. Horowitz is an analog most cutting facilities I've visited.

ing everything-- and listening. Yes, Chad enthusiast and mastering engineer once

Linden is just south of Newark, in

does love to talk -- you usually have to employed by Westrex, the inventors of that industrial stretch where you won-

cut him off in midstream or you won't the 45/45 stereo cutting system. Some der what they were thinking when they

get any work done -- but he does listen. of you may be familiar with History of nicknamed it "The Garden State."' ft

That's obvious from the wide-ranging, Recorded Sound's "direct to lacquer," kind of looks like El Segundo, Cali-

often way-out-in-left-field choices in his 45rpm, red-vinyl Big Daddy release

reissue catalog. There's something for every taste, and beyond that, he offers vinyl fans a chance to explore some

from 1990, on which the group covered The Cars' "Just What INeeded," Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love," and afew

1As aNew Jersey resident, Ithink the "Garden State" sobriquet refers to the vegetative state the New Jersey electorate was in when it elected Christie Todd Whinnan Governor.

great-sounding, out-of-the-way stuff other tunes, as if they

they wouldn't ordinarily heat

were written and re-

Irecently received some test pressings corded in the 1950s

of the first group of Chad's "Revival doo-wop style. (They

Series" 150-gram releases, and when did the same to the en-

they're available, you'll be in for amusi- tire Sgt. Pepper album on

cal and sonic treat. Kassem has chosen an ahilarious Rhino CD.)

eclectic mix of well-known and obscure

Anyway, the promo

(Sidney Maiden?) jazz and blues re- lacquer's color Xerox

cordings for reissue, including Vielonious cover shows three chil-

in Action, Monk's first nonstudio record- dren entranced by acut-

ing. The mastering job creams both my ting lathe -- I assume

original Riverside and the OJC reissue. Horowitz's --in the pro-

One thing's for sure: There's nothing cess of cutting alacquer.

soft or "tubey" sounding about the test Underneath, it says:

pressings Ireceived. While each sound- "the new generation...

ed unique, they all shared afew com- Transco." It's been sitting

mon characteristics: superb dynamics, around on a shelf for

incredible focus and clarity, and aquiet almost ayear, and while

that'll have you dropping to the noise- Iwas contemplating Kas-

floor. And at $17.50, you can buy them sem's high-/low-tech as-

without gulping.

sembly line, Ithought "A

Between these issues, and Classic's, visit to alacquer manu-

MoFi's (do not miss MoFi's reissue of facturer! What could be

Nirvana's Nevermind), DCC's, and all neftlier?!!! And it's only a

the rest, I'm reaching "critical reviewing hop, skip, and an oil

mass" -- which means Icould spend all refinery away!"

The daily grind--an aluminum blank is ground to perfect flatness.




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forma, but without the ocean backdrop. During the 50-minute ride from home (in the souped-up 72 Saab 96, of course --could you believe Eduardo Benees letter in the February issue, getting on my case for beefing up the engine?), past Giant Stadium, past the big, stinking oil refineries, past the Port of Newark, IKEA, and the International Airport, Itried to imagine what I'd find when Ireached Transco.
All Icould think of were the abandoned hulks of steel mills you see in the rust belt. Ikept fixating on some huge, dark, postwar apparition, mostly empty and cold now but for asmall area of activity where afew lonely souls trickled out the occasional lacquer: a far cry from the thousands that used to roll off the assembly lines like Model Ts during vinyl's heyday.
What Ifound off New jersey Route 1 was asmall, clean manufacturing facility --storefront-sized as seen from the street but actually much bigger -- meticulously run by two brothers-inlaw clearly more interested in playing golf than playing records. Bob and his partner Fred got involved in the arcane business of record-lacquer manufacturing in 1971 by injection: They married the daughters of former Transco owner Chet Conk. Hey, that's okay. These guys know which side their nitrocellulose is buttered on. Make good lacquers or it's back to the public links!
Ah, but l'in being obnoxious (so what else is new?). In fact, according to

Cosulich, Conk

himself had gotten

involved in the

business through his


who used to work

for Presto, acompa-

ny that made tran-

scription discs be-

fore the magnetic

tape era. The two

formed Transco and

began making their

own transcription

discs. When tape

came into the mar-

ket, they formulat-

ed a lacquer that

could be plated, and

so survived into the

next era.

The flattened, polished aluminum disc is ready for lacquering

During the 1970s, with nitrocellulose.

Cosulich told me,
business was booming. "So things slowed SLIPPING DISCS

down alot in the '80s?" Iasked. "Not So exactly what is a"lacquer" and how

really," he said. Capitol had shut down its is it manufactured? The first step in pre-

Virginia facility and so Transco became paring avinyl record is to cut the groove

"basically the only game in town," mil- for one side in aperfectly flat disc made

ning 24 hours aday.

by coating an aluminum blank with a

Toward the late '80s, however, busi- thick layer of nitrocellulose lacquer. Bob

ness did slow down, so Transco got into Cosulich took me on aguided tour and

the tape-distribution business, where it showed me the process, beginning at

still is. Last year, happily, lacquer sales Transco's other facility afew miles away

volume went up, though Cosulich on the saine street. There, aluminum

wouldn't divulge numbers. This year, discs arc baked into submission in a

he told me, they're ahead of last year so large oven to make sure they're perfect-

far. The trend is upward, my vinyl-lov- ly flat. Transco buys the 12" and 10"

ing friends!

discs in large pallets. Once the discs

Once covered with lacquer, the blanks are cured in racks.



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have been baked and cooled, they're washed and then polished in giant grinding/sanding machines until they're silky-smooth. The equipment is so specialized, Transco has to manufacture its own sanding discs for the machines.
The polished discs are hand-inspected, carefully packed, and driven over to the main plant, where the final coating and curing takes place. The lacquer itself is aflammable, explosive, nitrocellulose-based material pre-mixed with solvents, resins, plasticizers, and dyes to form a Concord-grape--colored ooze with the consistency of honey that Transco buys in 55-gallon drums from Randolph Products, another New Jersey firm.
The goo is pumped into Transco's tanks, where it's filtered before application. Excess is pumped back in to the tank, but not before being filtered again. In fact, Cosulich told me, the lacquer is filtered continuously. What else is this stuff used for? A variation makes nail polish, and at one time, pencil and airplane paint were made from nitrocellulose-based lacquer, but no more. Cosulich also told me the formulation used today is virtually identical to what was used during the "golden age" of vinyl, though certain materials have changed due to stricter environmental regulations. Idon't know about you, but I'm willing to give up abit of noisefloor to help save the environment.
As you might imagine, lacquer fumes

are quite noxious, and Transco is moni- year to teach to the Transco employee

tored by both state and federal (EPA) who now does it pretty much full time.

environmental agencies, which actually

So that's the lacquer story. Iwant to

insist that the gases be incinerated thank Bob Cosulich for taking ahalf

rather than be vented into the atmos- day out of his busy schedule to show

phere. You know those environmental me around his facility. By the way, if

wackos. Given the added expense, it's a you think records sound like dynamite,

wonder we can still compete against you're not too far off. Nitrocellulose is

cheap, foreign-made lacquers.

explosive, so if you have astock of lac-

Over at the main facility the pol- quers, keep them locked up and out of

ished aluminum discs are carefully the hands of your local militia, or they

unpacked and run through the lacquer- may be ground down for pipe bombs!

coating machine that applies a thin
layer to one side. Once out of the LIKE AMEGA-VIRGIN

machine, the lacquers are carefully The evening before my lacquer excur-

stacked to cure for afew days. Then the sion Iattended the pre--grand-opening

process is repeated to coat the other party for Virgin's new Times Square

side. The double-coated lacquers are MegaStore, said to be the world's largest

then put in adishracklike device and "record" store. With press badge in

filed away for afew weeks of final cur- hand, Ientered early so Icould explore

ing. After the curing process is com- and shoot pictures before the hordes of

plete, the lacquers are carefully boxed invited guests packed the place and

and shipped off to disc-mastering hous- obscured the view.

es around the world.

This is one giant multifloor extrava-

Of course there's QC. Cured lac- ganza! With over 150,000 CDs, 7000

quers are tested by the batch for noise laserdiscs, Idon't know how many

on Transco's in-house lathe. Silent audio and video cassettes (who cares?),

grooves are cut and played back. Rejec- and apromising though not particularly

tion rates are low, according to Cosu- thorough vinyl section; abook store; a

lich, mostly because everything is care- cafe; aperformance stage; about ahun-

fully monitored during each step in the dred listening stations -- even some

procedure, and Transco's been at this video-software viewing stations -- and a

for avery long time.

Sony multiplex movie theater in the

Another part of Transco's business is basement, you could spend the day and

manufacturing cutting styli for every not see it all.

brand of cutting head: Westrex,

By the eighth glass of champagne I

Ortofon, Neumann, you name it. It's a wasn't seeing much anyway, but before

very specialized skill that took about a the libations and the hors d'oeuvres


Yup,Virgin has vinyl.

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Listening stations at the Virgin MegaStore.

turbo-charged their way through me, I Polonsky's short-but-sweet pop master-

did manage to get some pictures and piece on American Records) to see how

take some notes. The store is very well- they sounded. Verdict: good enough to

organized by format and musical genre tell whether or not the recording was

(there's even a"Vintage" section for '50s decent.

rock) and very well-stocked, with a As an experiment, Ichose amusical

good mix of imported CDs and LPs, title in my collection to see how long it

and lots of independent and out-of-the- would take me to locate it in the store.

way stuff (on Cl)). The boxed-set selec- Not bad. And they'll order anything not

tion, however, was not up to snuff (store in stock on CD or vinyl, domestic or

reps told me that stocking was far from imported.

complete). Back-catalog depth was also

But aside from the improved selec-

pretty good, and the shelf design made tion of vinyl -- enough to get me to

for easy pickin's.

return; in fact, had the registers been

One thing that really impressed me: open that night, Iwould have spent

The CDs in the listening stations and plenty on imported and domestic vinyl

on the feature racks above the bins --and the sheer volume of CDs, did

seemed to have been chosen as much anything really distinguish the Virgin

by the enthusiasm and tastes of the sec- MegaStore from other record stores?

tion managers as by record-label strong-

Not really.

ann marketing tactics. That's good! It

A while back in this space Iwrote

helps give the store aunique personali- about the folly of stores mixing expen-

ty. None of these chain stores has the sive gold CDs in with the regular prod-

charm of independently owned "mom- uct. Unfortunately, Virgin makes that

and-pop" operations, but it seemed as if mistake. By chance, Ihappened upon

whoever was in charge of the Virgin the example Iused in my column: Back

operation was allowing the underlings to-back in the Bob Marley section were

to express themselves --at least on a both PolyGram's $8.49 CD of Exodus

limited basis.

and Mobile Fidelity's super-sounding

The listening stations, by the way, gold CD at $29.95. Which do you think

were very well-organized, flexible, and the uninitiated would buy?

easy to use. Each station offered achoice

My feeling is: As long as you're

of four discs, and you could choose any going to stock audiofool goods, have an

selection on each. With high-quality audiofool section with both gold CDs

Sony headphones at each station and and thick vinyl. Instead, the MoFi and

lots of volume, fidelity was pretty good. Classic Records vinyl was mixed in

Iauditioned discs Iknew (like Jonny with the regular stuff in the curvaceous

vinyl section. Didn't see no DCC vinyl

(or gold CDs, for that matter) or any of

the other audiophile vinyl we know and


Speaking of the vinyl section, it was a

curious grab bag: lots of great imports of

stuff unavailable on domestic vinyl like

Bjtirk's two solo albums -- the second

one's on pink vinyl --and the usual sus-

pects (Kiss, My Ass on colored vinyl,

Bruce Springsteen's Greatest Hits, etc.), and

lots of MoFi product, but very little

independent-label domestic vinyl,

which is where most of the interesting

action is -- though Idid spot Everdear

on Tim Kerr Records. (The CD is on


There's also an entire section of 12"

dance singles and an almost hilarious $2

and $3 cut-out bin, which contained LPs

probably locked away in Virgin's English

basement for adecade. (Wham!, any-

one?) On the other hand, some of the

English cut-outs, like some old Graham

Parker albums, were really tempting.

It was clear to me that the staff at the

Virgin MegaStore does not include any-

one hip to the current vinyl scene. Too

bad. Maybe that will improve. At least

they're trying.

Meanwhile, if you visit the Big Apple

and you're searching for vinyl, make

sure to visit Other Music, across the

street from the downtown Tower, on

Fourth and Broadway. They have a

superb selection of indic music on





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hh, Paris. City of light! Never mind the light, how about the food? Let me tell you, after close to aweek in

the UK (avoiding les vaches folic --

the mad cows, that is), we were

more than ready for alittle French cuisine.

Kathleen and Ihad been in England visit-

ing practitioners of the high-end audio art,

UK style. (More on our entire European

audio tour and accompanying interviews

coming up soon.) We took the high-speed train to Paris --

the Eurostar -- from London's Waterloo Station to the Gare

du Nord. A three-hour ride, and only 20 minutes under

water! Painless, fast, and easy. On the Paris side, the Eurostar

flew so quickly that the traffic on the National appeared to

As you might imagine, Salon HiFi 96, held March 22-25 at the Palais des Congrès de Paris, was astylish affair. We glanced at arelatively slim Catalogue Officiel: slim and elegant in comparison to the usual WCES brick. At least the French take their hi-fi (say "hee-fee") shows seriously; Friday morning opening ceremonies were attended by one Monsieur le Ministre Main Madelin, no less. (Imagine Newt or "Who Me?" Al D'Amato clutching their tonearms, hi-fi scissors at the ready, with aword or two about the importance of music and High End in our homes... never mind.)
Isaw some familiar names while scanning the roster of manufacturers: Accuphasc, Adcom, AKG, Alphason, Apogee, Audio Note, Audio Research, AudioQuest, B&W, Boston Acoustics, Bryston, Cello, Celestion, Chesky, Creek, Cyrus (familiar in the UK at least), Dynaudio, Electrocompaniet, Energy, Flatline, Focal and its parent company JMIab, Infinity, Harmonix, Jadis, KEF, IClipsch, Krell,

U-10V1 "FIFO


be going backwards! (Believe me ...the way the French drive, especially Parisians, they weren't going backwards!)
Our Paris visit proved to be more amore tightly knit and cosseted affair than had our British audio adventures. (Well, you know the English; they hate to show any emotion.) It started as soon as we stepped off the train on abeautiful, mild, March Paris evening right into the waiting arms of Jacques Mahul (the "JM" of JMIab/Focal) and his International Marketing Director, Patrick Decobecq. Jacques, involved with the organization of Salon HiFi 96, was our official host for the show. They make agreat pair; Jacques's poetic, suave, and sophisticated manner proved a perfect foil to Patrick's half Belgian, more earthy sensibility.
We ate at awell-known restojust across from the station. I think Jacques was atouch dismayed by the small mound of bags we were schlepping; "No," Ihad told him on the phone from Old Blighty, "right across from the station is fine, we're traveling lighe Iunlimbered my French and, after aglass or two, was making myself understood. (Kathleen reports it took afull two days before she could abide my French.) "John-a-tan," Jacques told me laughingly near the end of the meal, "you're sense of hu-moor is so corrosive" Cor-roseSIEVE, as he pronounced it, and quickly added that that is considered agreat compliment in France. But of course ...

Lowther (familiar to the horn cognoscenti), Audiomeca, Macintosh, Magnum Dynalab, Marantz, Micromega, Mirage, Mission (UK again), Mobile Fidelity, Monster Cable, Mordaunt-Short, NAD, Transrotor, Pink Triangle, Pro-Ject, Proceed, PS Audio, Quad, Revoit, Rogers, Rotel, RPG, Scan-Speak, SEAS, Shure, Sikech, Snell, Sonus Faber, Sound Lab, Tannoy, Teac, Telefunken, van den Hul, Vifa, Well Tempered, Wilson, WireWorld, XLO, and YBA.
There were also afew French companies not well known outside la rtgion, like Cabasse (although they may be doing something about that soon -- they were at Hee-Fee '96 last month here in New York), speaker and electronics manufacturer Cairn (enjoying good French street cred), speakers by Jean-Marie Reynaud, and

electronics from Audio Sculpture --Audio Matière as they're known in the States, imported by Ron Hedrich at Mango Audio Labs (847-674-1265).
And, somewhat offputting to this reporter, Ihave to tell you that there was aBIG Home Theater presence from the major manufacturers: Barco, Bose, Canon, Denon, Dolby, Faroudja, Harman/Karclon, Lexicon, Loewe, NEC, Pioneer Runco, Sony, Thomson, and Vidikron. Did Isee asign reading "Onlcyo Universe"? Ithink so, and believe me, that's what they have in mind for you! Many, many video rigs, all of them spinning that old porkboiler True Lies. After two long years watching Schwarzenele..er and his tumescent Jumpjet, I
thought Iwas at lastfree of this pestilential movie. But no ... it was everywhere in Paris! "Here's my invitation ..." kabloom.
(Being ajournalist, Iknow just what Arnold means!) Touching the internationalist pulse of the High End in
Paris left me with strong impressions regarding Home Theater's chance of killing off stereo replay. In fact, Iagree with Jacques Mahul in the June Stereophile (p208); Home Cinema will become just good enough to support the visual

medium that it really is at heart, and pretty much just stop there. Relatively good quality for the mass market, and nothing more. Certain high-end companies will introduce relevant pieces certain to be more refined than those the giants turn out, but Ibelieve there will always be adevoted cadre of music lovers who will need to listen to fine music on ahigh-end stereo system of whatever pedigree.
That said, we did have an enjoyable quasi-Home Theater experience in the Cello room, presented by Paris dealer David Blecher of Presence Audio-Conseil at 51, rue Saint Louis en l'Isle, who also handles well-regarded French manufacturer Yl3A. (The store is just next to Bertillon, for whose famous ice cream Japanese tourists wait in line for as much
as an hour.) M. Blecher played some ... unusual and quirky
material on the big all-Cello Performance Amp rig, including, as Iglance at my notes, "slightly Dalí-esque French vocals, Yiddish folk music (I), and an evocative if somewhat flatulent oboe piece," switching speakers as he went. This included the diminutive Seraphim active models, which gave avery good account of themselves in comparison to the gigantic multi-driver Masters.
After atime he switched on the video projector and popped The Three Tenon into the player. We enjoyed experiencing the three boys exuberantly belting it out on the two front stereo pairs, rather than in



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any form of surround. Ie have to tell you, this, followed by a rockin' Tina Turner singing "Undercover Agent for the Blues," seemed pretty enjoyable in comparison to the sound of rending flesh on tap elsewhere in the Palais des C.ongra
One could not help but notice how big Home Cinema has become in France. In fact, Ilearned that France is the second largest consumer of Home Theater after the States, followed by Britain. The number of French audio/video magazines with booths at the show, and the milling throngs before them, spoke eloquently to this. "It's truc the French are cinema-mad," explained Jacques Mahul.
This is an interesting cultural phenomena, and might explain the dearth of committed French audiophiles. "You
see, Jon-a-tan, we are acountry of many individualists," con-
tinued Jacques. Paging through the press release, Ifound, under the title "tendances," apaean tofièvre du numérique. "Il nous genic une simplicité et un confort d'utilisation..." Of course, for

Club Lowther's horns -- and they're not kidding!
way into their always jammed salon. Designers Jean-Bernard Gabet and partner Jean-Phillipe Martin (of A II Ingenierie) were also showing anew, smaller moving-coil speaker designed for Jadis, finished in light oak and similar in appearance to the bass module of the Eurythmic 11. They call it the Model 7, and use amore normal driver complement in its design. It will cost something in the region of $10,000. Farther down the mezzanine, we came upon Club Lowther Europe-Ouest (Brussels 322-736-78-94). We entered and fell into agaggle of bright-eyed single-ended zealots. (Why are single-enders always so excited all the time?) We were surrounded by Lowther single-driver units, their bizarre-looking paper cones and weirder-than-weird phase


France, therein lies the tale. "It offers asimplicity and a'com-
fort' (or case) of use ..." That, sadly, says it all in anutshell.
But before we hurtle off into oblivion --in 5.1 discrete channels -- let me tell you what was up regarding high-end audio. First stop Jadis, located on the mezzanine level at the
Hotel Concorde Lafayette. The hotel conjoins the Palais des Gmgrès where the bulk of the exhibits were to be found. Friday morning everyone was still in the tuning stage, but we had achance to listen to the Eurythmie lis ("Elevens," as they're properly called) driven by the JP200 (their magnificent dual-mono, four-chassis preamplifier, essentially two JP80s). It was fronted by the new SE845 monoblocks, all wired up with Long Island's finest, Nirvana cable. The 845 is rated at 20W, pure class-A, auto-bias, and zero-feedback, and is powered by one 12AX7, a6SN7, and one tall, glowing, and somewhat phallic 845. The husky yet elegant monoblock is built up on asingle chassis similar to one of the chassis of the big four-chassis JA500. (I can't even call the '500 agiant anymore, as the Jadis JA800 is rumored to have begun making its appearance... the mind boggles!)
With double the power on tap of the SE300B, and arepu-
tation for gusto in the bass, the 845 did sound big, colorful, and bold. This in a room large enough to support the Eurythmies, Imight note. As aresult, the sound was really much better than at the 1996 WCES. (This is not aswipe at US importer Northstar Leading The Way-- there were no
I rooms at the late and unlamented Sahara Hotel.) Digital nt-end was the JD1/JSI, and I'd say they were getting truly delicious sound in there by midday Saturday with apair of SE300Bs. In fact, during show hours it was hard work squirming our



plugs thrusting out at us from awide variety of enclosures. They featured anice looking preamp called the Arion
Eros (Tout afait, as the French would say) and matching
Nemesis amp, aparallel 300B affair featuring agranite front panel that, according to the documentation, "adds the final touch of class." Also on offer were several power and integrated amps. The good-looking, yes, sexy electronics are made in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland! Call Club Lowther for aSE care package, including anewsletter and do-it-yourself speaker projects.
While visiting Lowther Land, Kathleen and Ihad the pleasure of meeting for the first time Pierre Lurné and his wife, Christiane, of Audiomeca. Several of their front-end
Jadis --even 1- 10 was speechless' 73

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components, including the new Ambrosia D/A converter, were featured in various rooms at the show. The only photo Iwas able to snap of Christiane was with her hand up in front of the camera; Pierre was far more photo-friendly. And we had the pleasure of meeting early SE proponent and journalist Jean Hiraga, who occupied himself during the show by giving well-attended lectures on room acoustics, speaker setup, and Home Theater.
Skipping the Pioneer/Apogee Home Theater rooms on the mezzanine, we landed in another familiar single-ended landscape -- Audio Note. As with the Jadis Eurythmies, Audio Note's room was much larger than at WCES. However, as the Avantgarde Compact Trio horn speakers were fresh from the factory and not as yet broken-in, dealer Phillipe Heitz of Triode & Co. elected to use one of AN's own speakers from the SE series. These units feature pure silver reference hookup wire, pure silver-wired inductors, and Black Gate bipolar capacitors. We turned an ear to the 27W Ongaku, M7 preamp, DAC 4 Signature setup, and found the presentation indeed smoother and more appealing than AN had managed at Vegas. But Iwas keenly disappointed not to have auditioned the Avantgardcs. Another time, perhaps.
Having exhausted the Concorde Lafayette exhibits, we turned our attention to the main show venue, the Palais des Coned's. Ifound an elevator in the connecting passageway

JMIab's masterpiece, the Grand Utopia




Audio Matière Ultima 60W SE amplifier

that zoomed us up to

5 (fifth floor), close to the

always crowded JMIab suite, and the stunning presence that

is their Grand Utopia speaker.

Let's talk about the Grand Utopia for aminute. Saturday

evening Jacques and Patrick ushered us in for aprivate lis-

tening session. Gérard Chretien (Directeur Général Adjoint --

don't even think about asking me what that means...) spun

silver discs on an all-YBA system (CD1 Blue Laser/

Signature Six-Chassis preamp, and two pairs of biamped

Signature Four-Chassis amps). Françoise Vacheron

(Responsable Export--and Ican see why, her charm only

exceeded by her competence) made sure we were all con-

tent. Content as in ... "Do you 'ave a glass of JMlab Sauternes?" And potent stuff it was, too ...

The Grand Utopia gets my Absolute Best Sound At A

Show Award with Triple Créme Fraîche and aFlourish, as

front-ended by the YBA electronics. Iwon't dwell on the

details of construction as you'll have read about them in the

May issue of Stereophile. They are truly warm, gorgeous, and

sculptural in aspect, and fittingly, the user covers the drivers

when not in use with beautifully finished wooden baffles.

There are no supplied cloth or foam grilles. (I applaud this

"hands-on" and slightly ritualistic approach.)

The sound was phenomenal. My notes: "Extremely

coherent and super-detailed, yet always musical. A dop and

powerful bass, transparent and luscious midrange, clear and

crystalline highs. The decay of the reverberant field always

well-developed. A smooth, suave, and lyrical presentation.

Strings have just the right resin and sharpness without feel-

ing edgy. Terrific imaging, natural, not bloated or puffed-up.

All in all, amost tubelike presentation, without aglass bot-

tle in sight." (Except the ones containing the Sauternes. A

little more, s'il vous plait?)

Although we used the JMIab suite as an unofficial watering

hole, wandering the rest of the fifth, sixth, and part of the sev-

enth-floor hallways in the Palais, we ran into much of audio

note, if mostly in static form. (The only "live" action was

Home Theater. We "saw" Karen Sumner's Transparent

Cable -- in abox. Nice-looking box it was, too. We noticed a

little Krell amp on Sonus Fabers with apair of Wilson

WITTS next to them, but no sound. For alittle touch of

home, we ogled agaggle ofAudio Research amps hooked to

big Magnepans ...but alas, no music. B&W were doing

Home Theater demos up on niveau 7, but it was always too

crowded to even get in the door. They displayed their speaker


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Is it live? The Cabasse Atlantis loudspeaker.
lineup elsewhere, including the Atomic Escargot That Ate Paris, otherwise known as the Nautilus.
"Soil-de musique... soif d'image...?' ('Thirsty for music... thirsty for image... ?) TV-Micro Hi-Fi from Lema/Tokaï (Tel: (33) 140 85 87 87, Fax: (33) 147 94 88 37) have an amusingly tart answer for you. Among other offerings, they've got aCD Mini Hi-Fi in aCoca-Cola Can, including an equalizer (just what you need), atwin-cassette deck, speakers that open out from the "can" (which stands just under 3' high) with wireless speaker connections, and 40Wpc output. Cute.
One dealer had an exhibit in an out-of-the-way cul-desac between main floors. We found it with asign pointing the way to the back stairs proclaiming "Crisis!" in large red letters. Just so... as we recognized most of the brands represented, we followed the serpentine markers and found afew speaker systems on display from Genesis, aclutch ofAudio Alchemy front-end components looking quite nice, ditto Meridian, the big Gryphon Antileon amp (lit up but not playing) with a good-looking new integrated amplifier behind it, abrace of diminutive Cary single-ended amps, a few offerings from Pass Labs, and an Illuminati Orchid AES/EBU interconnect dangling from apegboard, surrounded by Kimber Kable.
One guy making music, and getting quite an audience to boot, was Jean-Jacques Van Leeuwen of Audio Matière. He was powering some interesting-looking Leedhs speakers with his Ultima single-ended 60Wpc amplifier and distinctive front-end components, including aspecial stand he was at pains to show us. He's difficult to understand in either French or English, and Ialways feel like backing up and checking the exits when he starts regaling me about his products, eyes glowing like flaming charcoals. One thing... he's committed.
Cabasse, makers of speakers and electronics, is another French firm that eschews Home Theater. They had ahuge exhibit with an informal cafe squeezed in behind their display, aconference room, and an auditorium in which to demonstrate live music and play back through their speakers. We had avery Parisian lunch of cold cuts, scrumptious fresh bread, cheese, and wine with Export Manager Christophe Cabasse. He's one of three Cabasse sons working in the firm, started back in 1950 by papa Georges.
Meanwhile, what's that eyeball from outer space that I'm holding in the accompanying photo? And just what is that

pyramid staring at? Well, that's their statement product--the Cabasse Atlantis. It's afour-way active system. (How about hyperactive? Two 200Wpc internal amps, and two 400W amplificateurs nestle within!) And the eyeball... that's Cabasse's big thing. They call it S.C.S. (Source à Cohérence Spatiale, or Spatially Coherent Source technology, if you prefer. Christophe doesn't mind, he flips back and forth between languages without blinking.) "... the first four-way speaker capable of radiating like asection of apulsating sphere -- the ideal 'point source." Cabasse is known for its research work with the French Navy, and claims to have the largest anechoic chamber devoted exclusively to music reproduction equipment in the world. We spent about an hour on the last day of the show listening to the charmingly presented live music demo, interspersed with playback on avariety of their speaker systems. It was, even for these trained ears, not always asimple matter to tell when the musicians began to mime and the speakers took over. Iunderstand from Christophe that he and his brothers are interested in again making their presence in the United States, and Ihope they succeed in bringing their very innovative product line to our shores. Sunday night we attended an exquisite affair. Our host, Jacques Mahn!, had arranged for dinner aboard ayacht for hisiMlab/Focal people. Asort of moveable feast. Kathleen
5 a
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and Iwere to be ... the main course! Review-air àla coq! After casting off, we enjoyed champagne, canapes, and aboisterous awards ceremony on the fard deck. Then, with romantic Paris slowly passing on either bank of the Seine, we retired below for dinner.
Poor Jacques had completely lost his voice that afternoon, and sat Kathleen and Inext to him. My instructions were to use my "cor-rose-sieve" humor to make everyone laugh! Hey, Ilike agood time, and was much aided in this regard by the Japanese contingent, including Mr. Hiroyoshi Noda and Mr. Okihiko Sugano. Man, these guys knew how to party! Basically, everything in liquid form disappeared toute de suite, as did abottle of Russian vodka brought to our table by the deep-voiced Peter Y. Chernov, "Correspondent, Dealer," as inscribed on his Moscow business card. Twas Peter who sold the first pair of Grand Utopias in Moscow, Iam told. When Iasked him what the purchaser did, Peter responded, "He listens!" still laughing!
The elegance, charm and conviviality of this special evening never waned as we purred up the Seine to lisle Saint Louis and back. It was like adream. At our table, the two Mr. Lees from Korea adopted Kathleen for the evening, it seemed. And Alex Manninger of Inakustik in Germany (his wry smile and natty manners betraying his Hungarian roots) and Kenneth K. Yun, Managing Director of Betrue Ltd. in Hong Kong, were more than ready to enjoy the finer things in life. As did Daniel Jacques of Audio Plus Services, newly appointed importer ofJMlab in the States.
Next installment: Details of our journeys in the UK, including visits and interviews with Max Townshend (of Townshend Seismic Sink and Rock Reference turntable fame), Frank Denne (of Formula One Ligier/Footwork fame), Craig Milnes and Andrew Scholey at Wilson Benesch (of carbon-fiber fame), Martin Colloms (of journalistic fame), and Robert Churchill (of Churchill fame), and Bé Yamamura of Yamarnura Churchill (of giant cork single-driver speaker fame). I'll also cover our visits and interviews after Salon HiFi 96 with Yves-Bernard André and his wife and partner, Ariane Morin, at Yl3A, plus avisit with Jadis's Jean-Paul Caffi and speaker builders Jean-Bernard Gabet and Jean-Phillipe Martin of A II Engineering.



he Austrian market is an interesting one. The indigenous hi-fi industry is so small it practically doesn't exist,

with afew honorable exceptions I'll

mention later. The country is just

too small to support an industry of its

own, not when the complete world mar-

ket is available. The same phenomenon

also means that it is not economically

feasible to have an importer layer

between manufacturer and dealer. In

Austria, therefor, many dealers also act as

importers, with the goods they import

often being distributed only by the deal-

er himself or through some friendly


shops. As aresult, the market is extremely fragmented. Despite (or because of?) these disadvantages, the Austrian
market seems to be pretty healthy, as evidenced by the show that's the subject of this report. 1996 saw anew show in Vienna, with anew date (March 21-24, colliding with Paris, unfortunately), anew concept, and anew team oforganizers.
Sonority four-channel headphone amplifier
This date was chosen because there is no other show in the German-speaking countries within afew weeks of this event, although Isuspect the organizers were surprised by the shift in the Frankfurt show's timing from August to May.
There used to be and possibly still is ashow in Vienna in October. This was initially successful, but attendance has been dwindling for the past few years. 1995 attendance, for example, was around 2200. Clearly, anew concept was called for. Dr. Ludwig Flich, ajournalist with aweekly column on music and audiophilia in Der Standard, Austria's answer to The New livle Times or The Washington Post (it's printed on pink paper like the UK's Financial Times), had been toying with anew concept in the back of his mind for some time. He thought the old show, which was devoted exclusively to hi-fi and high-end gear (with but asmall intrusion of Home Theater), was no longer really viable. He wanted ashow that would still have its core in music entertainment, but for abroader, less exclusive clientele. He also thought that the show should do its utmost to be accessible to the unconverted instead of promoting aclublike appeal only for insiders.
Flich found ateam of professionals to realize the show: his wife, Michaela Flich, and Barbara Rosenberg, who has experience of over 200 fashion shows under her belt. These two worked for about 10 months to bring the new show to success. Together, they had anumber of really nice ideas: For example, every exhibitor liad to announce the products on display on asign next to his room's entrance, with special

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mention of "highlights" and product premieres. The show was advertised not only in the audiophile media, but in the general press (where Flich's Der Standard connection undoubtedly paid off) and, especially, in the women's press. As aresult, the show attracted not only the hardeore fans who every exhibitor knows on afirst-name basis, but people from all walks of life. There were asurprising number of women who were not in tow to some male showgoer, but who were exploring good sound on their own. Ispoke to a number of exhibitors who said that they had not often had so many visitors who were not on their 13th system, but who had amodest system or even no system at all. One software provider said that at audiophile shows, he sells usually an 80/20 mix of LPs and CDs. At this show, the mix was 60/40 in favor of CD, an indication that anormal, nonfreak audience made up the bulk of purchasers.
Another nice touch was to make the show attendance possible for families, by providing akindergarten for children (dubbed "Kinder Play-Station"; Iwonder what Sony thought of this misappropriation of its latest wonder product's name). There was anumber of workshops, too, at least five aday,
Arion's Nemesis amplifier
where either the organizers demonstrated something of importance to audiophiles, or where one of the exhibitors gave aformal presentation of one of his products. These workshops consisted of a 15-minute presentation and 10 minutes of Q&A and were very popular.
A further highlight of the show was the presence of the oldest playable Beesendorfer piano in existence. Sporting serial number 7, dating from 1828, and sounding like across between amodern concert grand and aclavecin, this piano had been recorded afew days before the show, with works of Schubert and Maria Szymanowska played by Rosario Marciano (professor of piano in Vienna). CDs and LPs were available at the show and the artist also performed live, so the public could make its own live vs recorded comparisons.
All this effort paid off. Show attendance was around 5400, anumber that is sensational for acountry with alittle over 7 million inhabitants; Thursday was slow, Friday good, Saturday excellent, and Sunday almost as good. Barbara Rosenberg says the organizers were aware that Thursday was difficult, but that the show started on Thursday to give everybody achance to have their systems sorted by Friday. 98% of the show went according to plan; only minor things went wrong (for example, five girls were fired on Thursday because they didn't show the level of courtesy and friendliSTEREOPHILE, JULY 1996

ness the organizers required). The staff of the Vienna Marriott hotel was superbly cooperative, probably not least because the hotel has been pre-booked for five years. The exhibitors were full of enthusiasm for the show, many already booking for next year.
One of the novel ideas mentioned above was to integrate large and small manufacturers under one roof. Sony, Philips, Grundig, Matsushita (Technics, Panasonic), Virgin MegaStore, Pioneer--those are all names you don't find at normal audiophile-oriented shows. Not surprisingly, they all emphasized video/Home Theater; equally unsurprisingly, nobody mentioned DVD -- no need to rock the CD boat before the new product is in the shop.
Even less expected was the inclusion of new entertainment media; je, games, computers, and CD-ROMs. For example, IBM showed an interactive game called Quest for
Fame. The game's object is to "blaze the trail to stardom with Aerosmith -- America's premiere rock band." You are given either aspecial pick-up or aspecial guitar to be connected to a compute4 which needs to be configured with aCDROM cartridge, asoundcard, and some speakers. The player is given on-screen advice on how to play the guitar, rhythm or lead, by apart of the screen that looks like an electrocardiogram. The goal is to strum the guitar in time with several Aerosmith songs; the player doesn't need to know any chords, he just has to strum in time, pitch being taken care of by the computer (crudely). It used to be that you needed to know three chords to be a rock'n'roll star, but thanks to the miracle of computer technology, you can now do without even one. If you play in time well enough, you finally reach the game's highest level and play before a100,000-strong audience in amock stadium. Compaq introduced akeyboard-cum-scanner, the object of which eluded me. More germane to this magazine's subject, anumber of software (read: music) companies also exhibited. One interesting introduction at the show came from Tacet, aGerman record label that has anumber ofinteresting offerings. New at the show was aCD called My Audiophile Companion (TACET 51), which contains, among others, tracks to demonstrate the differences between analog and digital mastering, tube and solid-state microphones, and several types of A/D converters. Further iterations are planned, with titles like Vie Truth About Analog and Digital or The Chamber ofHonors ofSound Engineering. Tacet is the label of Andreas Speer, arecording engineer well respected in Europe. On the audio hardware side, let's start with the Austrian offerings. LOG' is acompany that builds loudspeakers and tube amplifiers. They played a system consisting of the Prolog tube preamp (AS 49,9002 in either line- or phonoonly form, AS 69,900 with line and phono functions), the
1 LOG Ges.m.b.H, Ziegelstr. 13w, A-8045 Graz, Austria. Tel/Fax: 43 (316) 681076. Addresses are given only for Austrian companies. 2All prices given in Austrian schillings (AS), speaker prices per pair. SI roughly equals 10 AS. Austrian prices include VAT at 20%.


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album for the first time? You carefully lowered what was probably a Shure stylus onto the record and watched the label go around and around as you listened to every note. The name you trusted with your favorite records then should be the same name you trust now. Shure. Only with agenuine Shure cartridge or stylus can you be sure to get the quality, craftsmanship and audio performance your one-ofa-kind albums deserve For more information on Shure's new full line of cartridges and styli and to receive a free cartridge & stylus selection guide, call your local Shure dealer or I-800-25-SHURE for the dealer nearest you.

Apolog tube power amp (30Wpc, AS 49,900, available also as an integrated amp), and Epilog loudspeakers. These consist of the Epilog-I two-way speaker, sporting amodified Foster paper-membrane, full-range driver and ametal-dome supertweeter, and the Epilog-I Bsubwoofer, which uses a9" Focal driver (AS 29,900 and AS 24,900 respectively). The idea is to use the two-way in normal-sized rooms and to add the subwoofer where the room's size or the desired sound pressure levels are beyond the capabilities of the stand-alone speaker. The power amp uses 8417s in apush-pull configuration, the designer preferring these tubes to the more usual 6550s.
This setup basically sounded very good --very open, unmuffled, with low coloration and excellent dynamics in both the micro and macro senses. One caveat concerned the bass. Both parts of the speaker are configured as bass reflex designs, which in this hotel room (on the small side for this speaker system, Isuspect), led to some integration problems with the bass alignments. Ithink it would be agood idea to either make one of the designs asealed enclosure, or to introduce some form of electronic crossover with steeper cutoff slopes than available passively. (Oh, and designers hate this form of second-guessing by journalists after only abrief exposure to their designs.)
From palwill, acompany that is somehow related to LOG, came aturntable. Finished in chrome and of skeletal construction, this beast was definitely not styled so much as engineered. The base consists of three height-adjustable feet linked together by massive rods, which gives afaint whiff of
Vienna Acoustics Beethoven speakers

UM/ Wu
Mark Levinson No.36S DIA converter
the Mercedes three-pointed star. As is the base, the platter is made from brass, 9kg (20 lbs) of it. The bearing is of the inverted type. Price is AS 38,000.
MACE3 showed apreamplifier (AS 20,000) and prototypes of aD/A converter (AS 27,000) and power amplifier (AS 40,000). The name "MACE" was chosen in honor of designer Michael Cech and means "mouse" in Czech. (A discussion of the name's connotation in the international market may result in arenaming.) The design was extremely understated and elegant. Internally, the amps are wide-bandwidth designs. All units can be linked with aserial computer port to give aplug-and-play unit: if you select the CD input on the preamp, the DAC will wake from its sleep. Naturally, afull system remote is included in the price. The power amp sports anovel protection circuit that sits completely outside the signal path. These electronics, with the help of the latest version of the Audio Physic Spark loudspeaker, threw a huge soundfield with very natural-sounding instruments firmly located. They also went surprisingly loud without distortion and generally sounded very pleasant.
Vienna Acoustics,4the company whose Mozart speakers so impressed the Stereophile gang at the 1996 Las Vegas WCES, had aworld premiere with their Beethoven speaker (from AS 39,990/pair, depending on finish). The timid and bass drivers of this model sport polypropylene diaphragms. Ihave found that this rather soft material usually leads to a slightly indistinct bass range. Not so at Vienna Acoustics; the company has developed "Spider Cones," which are reinforced in apattern that somewhat resembles aspider's web to give good definition down to the lowest notes. Real deep bass is difficult to judge in those flimsy hotel rooms, but the Beethovens gave an excellent account of themselves.
Moving on to German companies, the Sonority KSR 501 is afour-channel tube headphone amplifier that forms part of acomplete system with the matching Ultrasone HFI-3D four-channel headphones (AS 21,000 all-in). Via a second volume control on the amp, the listener can adjust
3 Contact: Peter Haidinger, Thoneben 108, A-8102 Sentriach, Austria. Tel: 43 (3127) 28550. Fax: 43 (3126) 28551. 4Vienna Acoustics, Leluicrgasse 15, A-I235 Wien, Austria. Tel: 43 (01) 8896815.

Unison Research Mystery One tube preamplifier

house design built not on achip, but from discrete elements. Dither is programmable; eight noise-shapers, each fed with adifferently dithered signal to spread out errors, and eight 34-bit internal word length, high-performance digital filters are used. Both analog and digital sections are symmetrical throughout. The internal data path is 24 bits wide, so the unit should be upgradeable for use with the future DVD disc. The improvements are said to reduce the DAC's sensitivity to jitter, achieved by changes in the internal architecture. The upgrade is retrofittable, so the investment of current PDM ten twenty-four owners is protected. In May, dpa will introduce the 500 Spre- and power amps, configured in what dpa supremo Robert Watts calls "Compound Squared Class-A," using extremely high-speed bipolar transistors.
Micromega (from France) had a


the loudness of asecond pair of drivers integrated into the headphones at an angle that allows their sound to reach the listener's ears from behind. The goal is to make headphone listening more spatially convincing and less fatiguing. With double the normal driver count, the headphones were as heavy as you'd expect, but the sound certainly had more weight than usual with headphones, which normally sound anemic to me. The amp uses aPCL 86 tube in asingleended design, which gave the expected smoothness and freedom from grain. The 2W output power is more than enough for headphone listening; loudness was no problem. A normal, two-channel version of the amp is also available.
An+Di showed aprogrammable power amplifier that has been the subject of apatent application on 71 technical points. The final version will probably be shown in Frankfurt, so I'll reserve amore thorough description for the report from that show. The same goes for the new Audionet CD transport, which was shown in prototype form. The transport mechanism is one of the familiar C.E.C. belt-driven types. The exterior is ahuge disc, made from MDF with astone base.
Canton was proud to be the recipient of the Innovation Award (a scheme instituted for the show) in the Highest Fidelity/Transducer category with their Digital-1 loudspeaker. The Digital-1 is adigitally corrected loudspeaker that can be adapted to aspecific room resonance signature, to give a perfectly flat amplitude response in the listening position. This system will be the subject of aseparate "Industry Update" article because of its far-reaching significance.
dpa digital from the UK premiered arevised version of their PDM ten twenty-four Limited Edition Reference Series Digital to Analogue Converter, to give it its full (overblown) title. This top-of-the-line DAC is unusual in that it employs 128x-oversampling, allowing the analog output stage to be extremely simple. The DAC itself is an in-

Faking it with the help of IBM

world premiere for new versions of their up-

gradeable Stage CD player, now called

Stage 4, 5, and 6. The substitution of

the old series was made necessary by

those dumb European Community

rules on electromagnetic compati-

Rectification is via an EZ 80 tube.

bility, and Micromega took the

A passive power-supply filter is

opportunity to also improve the

used; all switching is done via

sound of the player. Prices are

relays. Price is around AS


33,000. Asystem consisting of

Another French company,

a Garrard 401 turntable

Jadis, showed anew medi-

mounted in a Loricraft

um-power push-pull tube

plinth, with an SME 3012

power amp called DA 5.

arm and Denon DL103

This is currently aGerman-

cartridge, the above-men-

market special, but will be

tioned preamp, acouple of

available in modified form

Unison Smart 845 mono

and probably under adiffer-

power amplifiers (a single-

ent name in other markets.

ended, direct-heated triode

The top Pro-Ject turn-

design using the 845 tube),

table model 6.1 will gain a

and gigantic, high-sensitivity

new tonearm later in the year

Apertura Atlante loud-

that was shown in prototype

speakers (from France), was,

form and looks much improved

unfortunately, underwhelm-

over the old, rather fiddly affair.

ing. The usual triode hallmarks

Linn Products, from Scot-

of smoothness and freedom from

land, laid the emphasis firmly on

grain were present, but these

their multiroom and Home Theater

virtues stood no chance against a

products. Their sound was curiously

multiplicity of vices, including severe


coloration, an undynamic, sat-upon

Unison Research from Italy pre-

sound, and ageneral lack of drama. Not

miered the Mystery One preamplifier, an all-

being familiar with most of the individual

tube line stage distinguished by the use of a battery for the grid voltage.

components in that chain, I'm loath to make a Grundig's Spate Fidelity music center judgment, but I'm pretty sure that the choice

of loudspeakers was an unfortunate one.

Apertura speakers may have ahigh sensitivity, but that does-

n't make them automatically suitable for being driven by a

triode amp with its high output impedance and sensitivity to

load. Good sensitivity alone means nothing; aspeaker will

be suitable for triodes only if blessed with auniform and

high impedance.

Sure enough, anew, much smaller Apertura speaker

called the Nova (AS 23,000), an unpretentious but sophisti-

cated two-way floorstanding design, sounded much better

driven by (Swiss) Goldmund solid-state gear afew rooms

down the floor. This was my first exposure to Goldmund

after ahiatus of some 10 years, and Iwas impressed. A

megabuck system consisting of Mimesis 39 CD transport,

Loricraft Garrard 401 with SME 3012 and Denon DL103--underwhelming, unfortunately.

12+ DAC,2preamp, and 8.5 power amp, and using all Goldmund Lineal cable, sounded recognizably CD and recognizably solid-state, but on alevel Ihave not too often

heard bettered. And this under show conditions! Dynamics,

timbre, imaging -- wow!

That these two companies presented together is no coin-

cidence. Christian Yvon, the man behind Apertura, was also

the designer of the Goldmund Dialog speaker afew years

back and is rumored to be working on a new all-out

Goldmund speaker. Goldmund also showed its first integrat-

ed amp. Called the SR (for Square Root, to signify that it

embodies the essence of Goldmund's thinking on amps), this

meticulously built and immaculately laid-out, line-only

beauty joins the Krell KAV-300i and others in the new

super-integrated league.

A.J. van den Hul from the Netherlands had aprototype

The palwill turntable

of his new carbon loudspeaker cable, which will be called



Dr. Ludwig Flich, the shows spiritus rector.
STE REOPH ILE, Jun, 1996

highly artificial. Worst offender in the high-level, bass showoff sweepstakes was JBL, who managed to disturb

demonstrations 50 yards down the floor.

In 1997, the Vienna Sound & Vision Show will be held

March 13-16 and will probably include in-car audio.



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Take the journey with Howard J. Blumenthal as he describes the evolution ot his system.

grade bugs

Every few months, the upgrade bug bites. Last fall, it bit pretty hard. Rather than continuing my component-by-component improvement program, Idecided to move the entire system to the next level. And this time, Idecided to do the job right. Before Ibegin to describe the obsessive behavior required for aserious upgrade, here are some parameters...
My room measures 16' by 16', anice size for ahome office [though it is in general a good idea to avoid rooms where two or more dimensions are the same due to the consequential bunching up of low-frequency room modes--Ed]. It's an unusual space: The ceiling follows the roof line, so part of the ceiling is flat and two surfaces are angled (450).
There are four telephone-booth--sized additions: three for windows and one for adoor. Carpeted floor, but the walls and bookshelves are hard and reflective.

The authors listening chair.With aRotel RB-990BX power amplifier and Thiel CSI.5 speakers (seen here with and without their grilles), musical ecstasy was achieved!



My budget, my personality, and my wife agree that $10,000 is probably too much to spend on astereo system, and that $6,000--$7,000 should be enough to take agood leap forward. (My personality also permits a30% fudge factor.)
My music listening covers awide range: classical (pleasant background while writing), jazz, world music from everywhere, blues, and sometimes pop, vocals, shows, opera. Rock is fine, but Iseverely overdosed on rock in my recordreviewing years, so it's no longer as much fun as it once was.
Imention all of this because aclear picture of physical space, budget, and musical preferences is essential for asuccessful journey. Without all three, it's easy to get lost.

Armed with this virtual map, Istepped out. Ifound the actual steps, the "getting there" part of the journey, to be enormously instructive. Doing the job right, however, has occupied about athird of my waking hours (and, to my dismay, hours normally spent dreaming, too) for three months.
Iwas agood student, and I've never lost the hang of homework. As it turned out, Starophile became akind of textbook--not the absolute word, but far better than any other available printed material.
Like many people, Istarted by browsing (and then, to my astonishment, nearly memorizing) the magazine's "Recommended Components" list (in Vol.18 No.10 in my case, but




most recently published in Vol.19 No.4). Ibegan with loudspeakers, but eventually broad-
ened my search to include anew preamplifier, ampliflei CD player, interconnects, and speaker cables. I even had my room tuned.
The "Recommended Components" list suggested that Iwas not a"Class A" kind of guy (too expensive), and that Ihad passed by "Class D" some time ago. In the loudspeaker category, "Class B" felt pretty comfortable.
Entering Class Bwas like drifting into anew world. You can't go into the average stereo store and expect to see Class Bproducts. You need to visit only the better stores -- and most cities support only one or two such dealers. You also need to act like aknowledgeable customer, otherwise the salesperson will size you up as unimportant. Unfortunate stories abound: One salesperson spoke into my ear during my entire audition of Martin-Logan loudspeakers, telling me what to think. Another refused to reposition bipolar Mirage M-3si speakers, insisting that they sounded best when placed 4" from the back wall.
In time, Ilearned to arrange listening sessions by appointment, to bring my own music, and to identify precisely what Ihoped to hear. This encouraged the salespeople to take more of an interest, suggest alternatives, and nix some "Recommended Components" as unsuitable for my tastes.
The search began at aPhiladelphia dealer. Ihad high hopes for the Martin-Logan Aerius. I've owned Magnepan MG-lc loudspeakers, so this seemed like the right move. The Aerius's sound was clear, and made even more so by a fine recording on the new PopeMusic label. Lori Lieberman's "Drive On" features her crystal-clear voice backed by guitar and afew other instruments. The experience reminded me of working in arecording studio (I've spent lots of time in them, mostly as aTV producer). The first few minutes on the next CD, William Alwyn's Symphony 4 on Chandos, presented aslight metallic ringing accompanying the violins. The more Ilistened, the more I noticed this subtle but annoying sound. Itried afew more CDs, heard the same thing, and left the store. Icompared notes with afew friends and found out that some peo-


My, my. Things nowadays are not always what they're cracked up to be. We're almost positive it all started with the egg-free egg. Yum. Then came caffeine-free coffee, with the taste gone, too. In amatter of days, the conscience-free politician followed, who within moments was justly run over by his own badge-engineered car. And now, here comes the ultimate horror: The Dynaudiofree Dynaudio speaker.
No way! Just kidding! In fact, it's just the other way around; 90% of all other highend manufacturers do not painstakingly develop and build their own speakers at all. Instead, their designers tend to use our justly famous Esotar and Esotec tweeters, only to sell them to you, the truth-loving American public, as their own most expensive creations. We, being true Danes, still believe in a100% in-house production.

Every single part of our beloved Contour 1.8 (the one our works raccoon Knudsen is just checking for alien intruders) is stilhoeticulously hand built by our dedicated Danish master craftsmen.
With our legendary oversized voice-coils, our incomparable first-order crossovers, the flat driver membrane geometry and thy minimization of phase problems. From truly superior materials, in extremely limited numbers. To create beautiful, true music. And nothing else.
If you want to experience the original (!) Dynaudio effect, please call us at (847)288 1767 or fax us at (847) 288 1853 for afree copy of our inimitable "Book of Truth". You'll love it. Because unlike most speaker
companies, not only do we build our own speakers. We write our own ads and brochures, too.


pie hear this sound, and others don't. Iheard it. And Ididn't like it.
Alocal chain carries both Snell and Mirage, so Iheard several models in asingle visit. It was here that cautions about amplifiers and their ability to tightly control bass began to make sense. Using the best from Adcom and B&K, Icouldn't get away from the blobby sounds in the Mirage M-3si's low end. As Iwas moving toward the room where the Snells were set up, Iheard the same Mirage in aHome Theater setup. Great speaker! Perfect for Home Theater, lots of richness and

knowledgeable salespeople, and good listening rooms. It was here that Inixed the Energy Ventas 2.8 (by this time, Ihad just about memorized the Class B recommended speakers; the task was something like collecting baseball cards and just keeping the ones Iliked). Too boomy. Ifound that Iliked the PSB Stratus Gold (the sound was true and the bass kicked, although the cabinet was pretty clunky).
At about this point, Istarted thinking about amplification, realizing that the amplifier could make abig difference in the sound of the loudspeaker. This became clear in subtle


detail, no question about excitement during car-and-truck chase scenes. But these speakers weren't right for me. I already have aHome Theater --and I'm very happy with my combination of NHT 1.1 monitors and SW2 subwoofers.
Based on my brief in-store demo, Snell's good reputation in Home Theater sound seemed well-deserved, but Iwas disappointed by an unnatural emphasis in the midbass. Not ideal for my music listening needs. Imoved on.
Iextended abusiness trip to Boston to spend some time at Goodwin's Audio, astore with afantastic selection of highend products (all well-organized and beautifully displayed),

ways. By now, my main test CD was John McGlinn's recording of Show Boar, specifically the second half of "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine," in which Teresa Straus (Julie), Frederica von Stade (Magnolia), Bruce Hubbard (Joe), and Karla Burns (Queenie) are backed up by the London Sinfonietta. There's so much going on here -- plenty of small details at every point in the sound spectrum -- that if the piece plays on the right amp with the right speakers and the right CD player (and the right cables, etc.), it's thrilling. Iknow this music pretty well, and I've trained myself to hear the subtleties.


Itall began when Ibought an issue of Stereophik Enjoyable reading at first, the magazine turned into a

below the $500 mark, Ihad to exclude floorstanding full-range models. Ichose Monitor Audio 7minimonitors ($380/

periodic supply of necessary insights pair) over Celestions, MB Quarts,

and information. Now Ianticipate B&Ws, and NHTs for their relatively

every new issue with sweating palms neutral midrange, the amount of detail

while accusing our mail-lady of pur- they were able to reproduce, and be-

posely delaying the mail so she can see cause, Ihave to admit, Ifell in love with

me suffer. Iswear!

their appearance. However, they

And so, while waiting on the steps of sounded way too bright for my sssizz-

the house for the latest issue (it is, after ding audio-video receive4 but one has

all, the 26th), Iam always thinking of to suffe4 no? (This characteristic would

how to go about achieving the sound I also introduce further trouble and para-

dhieoarainndtohtehesrhs.owSurroeo, mrsd olfovDeeftioniltisitveen

Auto a

noia into my journey in audio land.) Several paychecks later, Ibalanced their

Mark Levinson digital combo with Cary performance by adding a Velodyne

monoblocics through MIT cables and F1200 subwoofer. The fast, tight, and

Wilson WATT/Puppies, but did Itell well-controlled low frequencies this

you rm astudent? You can imagine how produced blended incredibly well with

much Ican save from my dayjob. How- the minimonitors. Ipositioned the 7s

eve4 such banalities cannot stop anyone deep into the room, 7' apart and sitting

from the joy of music reproduction, so I on 28" stands, with only an inch toe-in;

strategically spread the purchase of my Iback-walled the sub in between them.

system-to-be over athree-year period.

Twelve issues of Stereophile later, my

With good luck, asteady supply ofinfor- ears were bleeding from listening to

mation, and the right compromises in the receiver/Monitor Audio combina-

the least painful places, Iwas hoping to tion, but what should its substitute

put together akiller stereo.

be?! What could Iafford under the

First, Ilooked for speakers. With my $2k mark and love at the same time?

supply of cash pointing to models

Ilistened to an integrated amplifier

from Cary, which Iliked but did not trust: Ifound myself peeking at the tubes and calculating their maintenance cost and the amp's system limitations. Too many ifs and unknowns, and even though Iliked the sound a lot, Ijust could not make myself spend all my money on an amplifiet Ineeded something reliable and flexible. Then it happened --Wes Phillips had just reviewed the McCormack Micro Line Drive in Stereophile (Vol.18 No.6, p.87)-- and Ifound adealer in Seattle, Madison Audio, who carried components by McCormack. The MLD was the answer to my preamp quest. It is both incredibly musical and affordable, and it also solved my other problem of how to incorporate the subwoofer into the system without degrading the signal path: Iused the MLD's passive output to run the speakers and the active output to feed the sub! This worked marvelously. Not only does the sound have all the positive aspects of apassive preamplifier, it also has all the dynamics of the active stage. Iwas happy.
After frequent weekend visits to Madison Audio, Ifound myself falling
in love again -- my girlfriend is very



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mended component. Ithought about buying two

(one for each channel; Ithen learned what "bi-

amping" really was about and decided it was too

tricky). Then Ispoke with some people in the

know at Rotel who suggested the RB-99011X:

essentially two mono amps in asingle box. The

convenience of this approach appealed to me. But

Ididn't see the RB-990BX on the "Recom-

mended Components" list, and this worried me

-- until Iread Edward J. Foster's uniformly posi-

tive review in nst/inich. Ilistened to this 200-

watt Rotel amp in afew other stores, compared it

with Adcom, Acurus, B&K, Parasound, and some

other brands. Certainly Iheard differences, but

none caused me to change my mind. As Ispoke

with infonned friends in the business -- Iwrite a

syndicated newspaper column about consumer

electronics, so many of my friends arc writers who

Totems Model Ispeaker--shown here in both available finishes--was acontender.

cover the field --everyone had glowing things to

say about Rotel. So: one decision made. Rotel's

Using the PSB, we tried several different preamps and

new RC-995 preamplifier completed the matched set.

amps. Seeking both clarity and wannth, Istrongly preferred

Speakers were still aproblem. Avisit to NYC's Sound by

aRotel amplifier. Would Ihave been happy with an amp

Singer introduced me to a$9000 Krell CD player, and aKrell

from Acurus or EA!)? Perhaps, but to my ears, in that room,

amp and preamp of similar quality. They were amazing --

with those speakers and those cables, on that day, the Rotcl

there's no missing the difference between this gear and the

was very satisfying. But which Rotel?

equipment I'd planned to own, but... (do Ireally need to

Ihad initially hoped to save some money with aRotcl

finish this sentence?). The trip allowed me to cross some

integrated amplifier, but Icould easily hear the advantage of

heavy-sounding Sonus Faber speakers off my list, but

the Rotel RB-980BX power amplifier, aClass C recoin- encouraged me to get to know the various Audio Physic

understanding. This time, it was with bright speakers. The Micromega was

the sound of McCormack's power twice as much as the Maranta CD-

amplifiers. The only dilemma was 63SE, which Ihad also considered, but

whether Ishould choose the Micro the extra money was well worth it for

Power Drive, which would save me an the richer, livelier musical feeling of

all-too-needed $400, or the DNA-0.5.

They both sounded very capable, and almost sweet, without "etched" highs. Iwas amazed at the musical presence of these amplifiers, especially of the little MPD, but its bier brother ultimately won the race by afew lengths.
However, even though Iauditioned both of the dealer's demo samples at home, when Ifirst plugged in my very new DNA-0.5, Ihad aheart attack. I just spent all my money on sound that was flat and dry! Gone was the rich forest of Loreena McKennitt's Mime Mask CD that Iheard with the dealer's


pieces. But for every hour played, sev-

eral trees came back; after 80 hours of

playing, the amplifier's sound was rich the Micromega. On the other hand, it

again, and so full of emotion that it only cost halfofwhat Iwould have had

made my Rebecca cry.

to pay for aMeridian 508, to which, to

My CD player, the Micromega my ears, the Micromega got very close.

Stage 2, which has avery low output

Finally, to make my dream system

impedance, proved to be agood match work to its fullest capabilities, Ihad to

for the passive preamp. Its harmonic find the interconnects it deserved. The

balance, resolution of detail, and sweet, setup was now more revealing than

liquid character complemented the fast before; it let me hear all the changes

DNA amplifier. It also helped tame my that occurred. For example, the afford-

able Kimber PBJ interconnects worked

well, but they closed-in the imaging

and sounded just atouch too crisp for

the already bright/sensitive system. I

needed something that sounded

relaxed and liquid, with awide sound-

stage and areasonable price tag. My

search came to an end when Ilistened

to the Music Metre Caliber intercon-

nects. This great, affordable cable gave

me all the relaxed textural smoothness

and all the spatial information of the

more expensive competitors with only

afew small drawbacks: The soundstage

could be a little more expanded in

absolute terms and the transparency

could be improved if Iwere willing to

spend several hundred dollars more. (I

wasn't.) Nevertheless, after three years

of gathering, Iwas finally able to har-

vest the richness of the gear developed

by the McCormack, Micromega, and

Music Metre audio gurus.

As Iam waiting on the steps of the

house today, wiping my sweaty palms

into my jeans (it is, after all, the 29th),

athought crosses my mind: Would I

be able to improve the sound of my

Monitor Audios by rolling off their

frequency band below the 80Hz

region? The audio road unfurls before


--David Vican



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and, because the higher sounds seemed to bounce all over


the room, Istarted getting headaches. It took afew days to

find the "sweet spot." When Ifound it, the imaging became

even sharper (and the headaches never returned).



Iplayed aRossini overture for my wife, who knows that music well. She thought it sounded good (first time she had heard the new system), but alittle "light" She wanted to hear more kick, more authority. We tried afew tracks from

John McGlinn's Annie Get Your Gun, notable for exciting

(and very well-recorded) tom-toms and other percussion.

The sounds were there, but they didn't punch through. I

moved the speakers around some more, and listened to

PLA3I1C CUlleed 91.11V1MG

some Charlie Mingus to confirm that the bass was indeed

being reproduced accurately (no question -- the bass was

tight and more accurate than I'd heard with any of the other

speakers I'd tested). Ialso tried the drum track on TDK's

Ultimate Guide to Great Sound CD, and the drummer ap-

peared before me. Very accurate, every sound exactly as it


should be, nice depth in the bass, but again, the lowest noise never reached into my solar plexus.


Still, there was so much Iloved about the CS1.5.1he choral

voices on Robert Shaw's new recording of Mendelssohn's

Howard Blumenthali challenge: his room!

Elijah were so realistically presented. There was this nice

sweeping bass line, and it held the presentation together beau-

speakers better, especially the Step, an excellent monitor loudspeaker.
The Step compared very favorably with another of my

tifully. Not too pronounced, but very much as it might sound in aconcert hall. Blues sounded great: The nuances in Mississippi John Hurt's voice and guitar were spectacular (on

favorites -- the Totem Model 1. If Iwas to buy apair of

Memorial Anthology from the small Genes label). Coltrane

monitors (and the essential stands), these Totems would be

sounded great -- deep, rich, detailed. But then, I'd put on Dr.

the one. Ikept returning to this speaker as areference. I Didg, arock band whose central focus is (of all things) a

liked the clarity, and the Totem's ability to provide acrisp,

didgeridoo, and it just didn't sound thrilling. There was no

very musical presentation of every CD Iplayed.

question about the accuracy of the reproduction. Nor was

Then Iheard the Thiel CS3.6 --somewhat beyond my budget, and, based on several conversations with my (emi-

there an issue with the way that the speakers filled the room with life, energy, and magic. If Icouldjust increase the power

nently sane) wife, probably too big for the room. Still, the definition, transparency, depth, richness, and altogether fantastic sound of these Thiels was something Icouldn't forget. Ispent an afternoon comparing the Thiel CS3.6, CS2 2, and CS1.5. Ikept loving the '3.6; at the same time, Ifelt that the sound of the '1.5 was lively and immediate, and that, in many ways, it seemed like aclose relative to the '3.6. Two extremely positive Stereophile reviews of the Thiel '1.5 (Vol.17 No.8 and Vol.18 No.11) encouraged me to try them at home.
By now my listening room was equipped with the Rotel geai; including Roters best consumer CD player, the RCD-975.1Iadded the pair of Thiel CS1.5s, readied them with about 200 hours of pink noise, and was extremely pleased with what Iheard. (They were connected to the amp by AudioQuest Midnight cables; AudioQuest Quartz cables were used to interconnect.) This was abig step in the direction that Ihad hoped to go --the music felt so real, there was so much detail, and every instrument seemed to present itself absolutely perfectly in space.
These speakers were easy to place. Imessed around with placement, essentially maintaining a 10', 9', 8', or 7' triangle. The 10' distance provided the best soundstage and the best bass (closest to the back walls). The closer locations provided a little more detail, but the sound became bright,

of that bass--not by alot, just by alittle more --I could get more authority for the symphony, more resonance in the sounds of the cello, a stronger bass line for serious rock recordings. Ireturned to my increasingly thick stack of Thiel reviews, hoping to find an audio writer who had compared Thiel's CS1.5 with the CS2 2. Iwas hoping to see a few sentences that read, roughly, "Everyone who has the '1.5 knows it's amazing. The sound is so clean and musical, and you wouldn't want to give
that up. Well, the '2 2 sacrifices just a bit of
that detail, but the extra bucks buy the one thing the '1.5's 6'A" woofers cannot provide -- more exciting bass." There was no such

1Rotel also sells aCl) player in their high-end line.

RoomTunes Deluxe Just-a-Rack

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ers don't think the way consumers do. At this stage, Iknew Iwanted Thiels. Ihad listened to
dozens of loudspeakers, and Idefinitely preferred the sound, the look, the finish, the style, the size and shape, the reputation, the naine, everything about the Thiel loudspeakers. The issue was which of the Thiels ...I'm convinced that this is the way asmart consumer thinks ("I want aVolvo, a Honda, aMitsubishi, aNikon. Now which model can I afford?"). Ididn't know what to do.
While Iwas thinking this through, Chip Rendle from RoomTunes visited. Iwas still having problems with sound bouncing around the room. Chip applied two CornerTunes to the tops of two window alcoves located behind the 1.5s. Immediately, the reflections subsided. This was fairly amazing: What looked like four small throw pillows improved the overall presentation by about 20%. Everything sounded better -- the bass improved, the treble stopped ringing -- everything came together. We tried an EchoTune on aback wall, but because the top of my back wall is already angled 45°, it made no difference and we took it down.
Chip also put together the Deluxe Just-a-Rack (really handsome Rocky-Road flavor -- gray faux granite; my kids

Room treatment devices courtesy of RoomTunes--"This was fairly amazing'

thought the shelves were made of rock). Here's something I wouldn't want to do myself-- balance 24 different corners (four for each of six shelves). Chip did it all by eye, without alevel. Since Ineeded the rack anyway, Ididn't count this as part of my budget (okay, I'm cheating abit, but this whole stereo renovation idea came about because Iwas redoing my
No home office; like abig company would, Ishifted the ex-
pense from one budget line item to another). Did the rack improve the sound? huge difference, but Ineeded the rack anyway.
Chip then brought out the Solid Brass Audio Points. I protested. It was enough already --"every little tweak in the book," Ithought to myself. He insisted, and placed three points under the amp, the prearnp, and the CD player. We replayed our test recording (at this point, "I Got the Sun in the Morning" from McGlimes Annie Get Your Gun, useful because of its strong female voice, tom-toms, and lots of instruments on top of each other). Each instrument took its place in space more securely than before. Alan Feinberg's The American Romantic, an Argo piano recording, sounded "like there's areal piano in the room," according to my wife, who thought the idea of tuning aroom was ridiculous (she now reluctantly admits that the music does sound better).
As for cables, Idecided that life was too short to experiment with every possible speaker cable and interconnect. "Recommended Components" had good things to say about AudioQueses cables, so Itried the mid-priced variety. Midnight for speaker cables. Quartz for interconnects. Both sounded fine.
Then Ivisited afriend who owned apair of Thiel CS3.6 loudspeakers. Gulp. Everything that Iliked in the Thiel CS1.5s was there, but so was the bass, and more authority overall. This still-unresolved issue needed attention. Icontinued to hope that the CS2 2would be the ideal compro-

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mise, but Ineed more information. Icalled Thiel. Ieven faxed ahand-drawn diagram of my
room (see illustration), complete with measurements. Greg Evans showed the sketch around, and discussed my desire for "more punch" with various hue! experts, including Jim
Thiel. All agreed that the '2 2would be only asmall step, a loudspeaker purchased more for its slightly laid-back sound and polite presentation than for flashy midbass. The '3.6 was the more appropriate solution. Itook adeep breath, checked out the available space for the larger speakers (a foot or so
higher) ... and didn't say aword to my wife until Iknew the
speakers were on the way. By now, Ihad memorized every word written by Robert
Harley (Stereophilt), Anthony H. Cordesman (Audio), and other writers whose words filled the booklet of CS3.6 reviews. All insisted upon a"muscle amplifier," going on to suggest brand names that seemed beyond my means. Iliked the Rotel equipment. Greg calmed my fears -- turns out,

resulting improvement was fairly astonishing. Ron started by equalizing the distance to the back walls
--58", not aquarter of an inch more or less. He then measured and adjusted the distance from each speaker to the listening position. The visual image of the music seemed to improve --voices and instruments began to appear where they belonged. Still, it wasn't pinpoint perfect.
We were testing with Suzanne Vega's Solitude Standing CD, and with each adjustment, Suzanne's place at center stage became more secure. Nevertheless, Suzanne sometimes bounced off the left wall. The smallest possible adjustments --many not more than le or even V --moved her back to the center and eliminated the bounce, and at the same time deepened the soundstage. This went on for a good hour, not only with Ms. Vega, but also with David
e Holland's Extensions and some Couperin Motets. Ron shoved
the speakers this way, acarpet fiber that way, and every time he made achange, the voices moved and the overall


most people run the CS3.6s with either Adcom or Rotel amplifiers (he knows this from the warranty cards). Comforted, and abit cross with the audio writers who nearly led me astray, Idecided to take the leap.
After schlepping these 107-lb cabinets up the stairs and into my office, we attached the cables, turned everything on --and grinned. Nobody -- not my wife, not me, not my friend Ariel (who had helped me schlepp) --none of us said aword. We just watched Miles Davis play his trumpet. Miles was in the room with us -- the speakers melted away. An amazing phenomenon. Ihad read about this meltaway business, but now it was actually happening in my own room!
Incidentally, there was no problem with the Rotel RB990BX, no compromise in sound with this $1000 amplifier. In fact, this is awonderful combination, one that I'd wholeheartedly recommend. (If you're in aletter-writing mood,
feel free to su *:est my next amplifier .... or preamp.)
The few final steps turned out to be more important than Iwould have guessed. Iswapped Rotel's RCD-975 CD player for the Meridian 506; the transformation was comparable to the swap between the '1.5 and '3.6 loudspeakers. Bass was more plentiful, more rigidly controlled, and more accurate overall. The same could be said for every part of the musical range. Individual instruments were presented with greater character --again, the words that Ihad read in Stereophile came alive. Monk's piano sounded more like apiano. Jacqueline du Pré's cello sounded more like acello. CheeYun's violin sounded more like aviolin. In short, everything was much better (these incremental transformations always caught me by surprise).
Incidentally, this is the place in the story where vinyl stops sounding better than digital. Even some of the warmth available with vinyl seemed to materialize with this CD player. (Admittedly, abetter turntable, cartridge, and phono preamp would no doubt change my mind.)
The Meridian suggestion came from Ron Goldberg, an audio writer and producer blessed with the ears ola skillful audio recording engineer. Ron spent ahalf-day tweaking my system. Not with accessories: He spent the time adjusting the positions of the speakers. As with room tuning, the

sound improved. Icould never have done this myself-- and

Idon't know that most people have friends whose ears are

so well-trained. But fractional adjustments really do matter

--and they matter alot!

The very last changes came with new cables. AudioQuest

Argent replaced Midnight. That was the big final step that

pulled everything together and helped to define, for me,

what the term "coherent sound" really means. At this point,

there had been so many positive transformations, but here,

again, was another huge leap. Ron and Ihad been skeptical,

but now there was no question in our minds -- better cables

really do result in better sound. Are the Argents worth

$750/pair? Are they more than twice as good as the $295

Midnights? In aword, "Yes."

(These speaker cables also eliminated an unwanted reflec-

tion off the back wall, one that we had planned to tune out

with aRoomTunes piece! It just disappeared when we

changed cables.)

We also swapped the AudioQuest Quartz interconnects

for the same company's Lapis. There was an improvement,

although not as profound. On the other hand, Iwon't be re-

placing the Lapis with the Quartz in my system.

Whew! Three months and about $10,000 later, Ihave

reached acomfortable place to rest and listen to some music.

Does the journey end here? Probably not. But the combination of Thiel, Rotel, Meridian, and AudioQuest should

keep the bug from biting again. At least for awhile.


HowardJ. Blumenthal is Editor-in-Chiefof WOW!, anew online servicefrom CompuServe; Senior Producer and creator ofWhere in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, apopular and Emmy Awardwinning daily children's series on PBS; Creative Consultant and co-
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Rhi-fi system's digital front-end can be as simple as aCD player or as complex as aseparate CD transport and multi-box digital processor with ajitter eliminator in between. Whatever the configuration, your audio system's digital front-end is avital link in the reproduction chain, and the source you'll probably spend the most time listening to.
The digital front-end reads information from adigital medium such as aCD and uses that digital information (which has been stored as binary "ones" and "zeros") to create an analog signal to feed to the rest of your playback system. Retrieving the digital data that represent the music and converting that
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data to analog form are very exacting processes. Consequently, the musical differences between digital components can be vast
Since its commercial introduction more than adecade ago,2 CD playback technology has advanced more rapidly than have other fields of audio. The sound quality of the first CD players was afar cry from the musical performance available from today's high-end CD players -- even budget machines. Moreover, the musical and technical performance of current state-of-the-art transports and digital processors was unthinkable to the designers of first-generation CD players.
Of all the components that comprise ahigh-end system, the digital front-end is the most likely to be left

2The Japanese launch was in the fall of 1982, the European launch in the spring of 1983, and the American launch in the summer of 1983. --JA

The Digital

behind in technology's inexorable progress. The continual

improvement in the musical performance of digital com-

ponents can make choosing adigital front-end more diffi-

cult than selecting other audio components. The audiophile

is faced with the choice of spending asignificant amount of

money on components that are likely to be bettered in a

year (and at alower price), or spending very little now for

aless satisfactory piece and waiting until the products more

frilly mature.

But this factor can also work in favor of today's consumer.

Technological advances have resulted in superb musical per-

formance from today's moderately priced digital products.

Your purchase today reflects more than 12 years of progress.

Further, your investment will be protected it you

keep your digital front-end for many

years. The secret to enjoying

your digital source in the


long run is choosing

TihneteSrf/aPceDIiFs a standard consumer format for transmitting digital audio, primarily between aCD transport and digital processor. (S/PDIF stands for "Sony/Philips Digital Interface Formae' after the two companies who invented the Compact Disc.) A professional version of S/PDIF, called AES/ EBU (Audio Engineering Society/ European Broadcast Union), is sometimes included on consumer digital audio products. Although the CD medium is limited to 16-bit data words, both the S/PDIF and AES/EBU can carry up to 24-bit words. CD transports can have avariety of output connections. The four main types are coaxial electrical (an RCA jack), AES/EBU electrical (an XLR connector), TosLink (EIAJ) optical, and ST-type (AT&T) glass-fiber optical. Virtually all high-end transports have coaxial output at the minimum, with some offering all four outputs. A transport will often indude coaxial output as standard, and offer AES/ EBU or ST-type optical as an option. These output options usually cost between $200 and $400 each. To use STtype glass-fiber or AES/EBU outputs, however, your processor must be able to accept these interfaces. Sonic differences between transports are almost certainly solely the result of jitter in their S/PDIF outputs. Recovering the correct ones and zeros from the disc is relatively straightforward; the digital output from atransport is abit-for-bit identical copy of the source data. The timing of those bits, howeve4 can greatly affect playback quality [see «Bit h

Bits?" in the Mardi '96 issue of Stereophile --Ed].
The only way to choose atransport, therefore, is by listening to several models within your price range. It's agood idea to audition atransport with the processor you'll be driving with it. All transports have their sonic strengths and

audible difference with some processors than with others.
The interface between transport and processor will also affect the sound. Sonic differences exist not only between types of interface (coaxial, ST-type optical,

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weaknesses; listening to candidate transports with the digital processor you'll be using will allow you to get the best musical match. Moreover, different digital processors will affect the transport's sound. The digital front-end's sound is determined notjust by the transport and processor, but how they work together.
Transports will sound different depending on the processor they are driving because digital processors respond differently to transport jitter, the timing variations in the digital datastream that is output by the transport. This datastream jitter is either passed along to the digital processor's word clock (where it degrades the sound) or is rejected by the digital processor and is less sonically detrimental. Consequently, transports make much more of an

AES/EBU, and TosLink), but between cables within the same interface family. Two coaxial cables may sound nearly as different as two transports. A top-end coaxial digital interconnect costs about $200. If you're on abudget, try a75 ohm video cable, available from your local RadioShadc for about $6.
Incidentally, evaluating transports and digital interconnects is much easier than comparing other components: The levels are automatically and precisely matched. All transports and interconnects will produce the same listening volume when driving the same processor -- the transport or interconnect doesn't change the ones and zeros in the digital code.
--Robert Harley



C.E.C.TL 0 belt-drive CD transport

If you opt for aCD player, look for one that has acoaxial digital output on an RCA jack. This wallet you use the CD player as atransport if you upgrade to aseparate digital pro-
cessor in the future. Unfortunately, almost all mass-market CD players, as well as laserdisc players, use an inferior optical connector called "TosLink" (see sidebar) rather than an electrical coaxial jack. If you drive an outboard digital processor with aTosLink plastic-fiber cable, you won't be getting the sound you paid for. Make sure you choose aCD player with acoaxial digital output. That way you can be assured of aclear upgrade path in the future. Those with amore ambitious budget -- more than, say, $2000 -- should choose aseparate transport and digital processor. This isn't ahard-and-fast figure but ageneral guideline. Ican think of some superb $2000 CD players and afew mediocre transport/processor combinations at that price. If your budget is greater than $2000, however, the separate transport and processor is probably the way to go. There are many advantages to separates. First, separat-
ing the disc playback mechanism from the D/A converter allows each portion to be optimized for its specific job. Second, isolating the two sections keeps electrical noise radiated by the transport away from the critical D/A and analog output stages in the processor. The result is better sound. Third, aseparate transport and processor allow you to take


the one that best suits your system and musical taste. This way, it won't be obsolete tomorrow. Choose your digital source carefully; you'll enjoy music more now and be less inclined to replace it in afew years. [Although the possible advent ofa"High Quality Audio Disc" or a"Super CD" based on the DVD might make some buyers wary ofinvesting in ahigh-performance CD playback system, Ihave to say that Ibelieve thefull commercial implementation ofan audio-only DVD isfurther offthan you might think. -- Ed.]
The first decision in choosing adigital front-end is whether to buy aCD player or separate transport and digital processor. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. I'll look first at who should buy aCD player and why.
Those on amodest budget should opt for aCD player. By combining the transport and processor in one chassis, with one power supply, one front panel, one shipping carton, and one AC cord, the manufacturer can put more of the manufacturing budget into better sound. Moreover, there is avery good technical reason for having the transport and processor in the same chassis--there is no jitter-inducing S/PDIF interface between the transport and processor?
Many excellent CD players are available for under $1000. Some CD players that can legitimately be called "high-end" sell for as little as $300. This is, however, the lower limit of true high-end CD players. Below this level you're entering the realm of mass-market products designed for maximum features and minimum manufacturing cost, not musical performance.

3See Malcolm Omar Hawksforcl's and Chris Dunn's article on this sub-

ject, "Bit Is Bits?", in the March'96 issue of Starophile.



advantage of improvements in digital processors. With separates, you can upgrade the processor while keeping your transport. Finally, the cutting edge in state-of-the-art digital playback is all taking place in separates.
Once you've decided on separates, you must allocate the digital front-end budget among atransport, aprocessor, and adigital interconnect. (A good digital interconnect can make the difference between good and great sound from your digital front-end.) If you plan on keeping the components you select for along time, get atransport and processor of equal quality, spending about 35% of the digital front-end budget on the transport and 65% on the processor. If, however, you're one to constantly upgrade components, you may want to think about buying astate-of-the-art transport and alesser-quality processor. This will allow you to take full advantage of the rapidly improving sound quality of processors. Then, when you've found aprocessor that suits you and your system, you'll have afirst-class digital front-end.
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When shopping for adigital front-end, remember that technical performance is secondary to sound quality. Magazine reviews often go into great technical detail describing adigital product's design and the components within it. Although interesting, such descriptions don't tell you how the product sounds. Manufacturers will often tout their products on the basis of some technical innovation or the use of the latest parts. Many technical factors influence acomponent's musical performance; parts quality is only one small factor. Don't buy aproduct just because it uses aparticular DAC chip or digital filter. Many digital processors with excellent parts pedigrees don't measure up in the listening room. Listen to the product and decide for yourself if it sounds good. Just as you wouldn't consider buying an amplifier based on how little distortion it has, you shouldn't choose adigital component because it features parts used successfully in other designs.
Another claim you should ignore is aprocessor's word-clock jitter specification. As has been shown in Stereophile, jitter degrades the sound of CD players and digital processors. Some manufacturers make unverifiable jitter claims, sometimes even picking ajitter number out of the air. When shopping for digital components, forget the marketing hype and just listen.
These are rough guidelines; the best combination of trans-
port and processor can only be decided by listening, not by

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meeting an arbitrary price point. The transport purchaser should be aware, however, that future breakthroughs in transport design could make superb-sounding transports available at very low cost. Some think it may even be possible to make aperfectly jitter-free transport using an inexpensive electronic output circuit.
Perhaps more than any other component, digital products come in arange of "flavors"; the sonic and musical characteristics of different brands and models vary greatly. This variability has its drawbacks --"Which one is nght?"-- but also offers music lovers the chance to select the fiont-end that best complements their playback system's characteristics and suits their musical tastes. The different types of musical presentation heard in CD players, transports, and
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digital processors tend to reflect their designers' musical priorities. If the designer's parts budget--or skill --is limited, certain areas of musical reproduction will be poorer than others. The trick is to find the processor that excels in the areas you find most important musically and is asynergistic match for your system.
Selecting adigital source specifically tailored for the rest of your playback system can sometimes ameliorate some of the playback system's shortcomings. For example, don't choose a bright-sounding digital processor for asystem that is already on the bright side of reality. Instead, you may want to select aprocessor whose main attribute is asmooth and unfatiguing treble.
All digital products have their own strengths and weaknesses. Only by careful auditioning --preferably in your own system --can you choose the product best for you. To illustrate this, Ipresent two hypothetical listeners, each with different systems and tastes, and two hypothetical digital processors. The example highlights the importance of system matching when choosing adigital front-end. I've used adigital processor in the example, but the concept applies to transports, CD players, and even different digital interfaces. Although the following discussion could apply to all audio components, it is particularly true of digital: Not only are there wide variations in sonic characteristics between processors, but apoor-sounding digital processor at the front-end of asuperb system will ruin the overall performance.
Listener A likes classical music, particularly early music, Baroque, and choral performances. She rarely listens to fullscale orchestral works, and never plays rock,jazz, or pop. Her


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system uses inexpensive solid-state electronics and somewhat bright loudspeakers, the combined effect of which is to make for adetailed, forward, and somewhat aggressive treble.
Listener Bwouldn't know acello from aviola, preferring electric blues, rock, and pop to classical. He likes to feel the power of kick drum and bass guitar working together to

sparkle in the treble and punch in the bass. Processor #1's better dynamics and tighter bass not only better serve the kind of music Listener Bprefers, but also complement his system.
So which processor is "better"? Ask Listener A after she's auditioned both products in her system; she'll think Processor #2 is vastly superior and will wonder how anyone could like Processor #1. But Listener B will undoubtedly feel that A's preferred processor lacks rhythmic power, treble detail, and dynamic impact. To him, there is no comparison; Processor #1 is the better product.
This example is exaggerated for clarity, but shows how personal taste, musical preference, and system matching can greatly influence which digital products are best for you. The only way to make the right purchasing decision is to audition the products for yourself: Use product reviews in magazines to narrow down the choice of what to audition. Read the reviewer's description of aparticular product and see if the type of presentation described is what you're looking for. But don't buy


drive the rhythm. His system happens to be alittle soft in the top octave, and not as dynamic as he'd like.
Now let's look at the sonic differences between two similarly priced, inexpensive digital processors and see how each would -- or wouldn't -- fit in the two systems.
Processor #1 has terrific bass: It is tight, deep, driving, and rhythmically exciting. Unfortunately, its treble sounds alittle etched, grainy, and overly prominent.
Processor #2's best characteristics are asilky-smooth and sweet treble. The processor has acomplete lack of hardness, grain, etch, and fatigue. Its weaknesses, however, are asoft bass and limited dynamics. It doesn't have adriving punch and dynamic impact on drums compared to Processor #1.
Ithink you can guess which processor would be best for each system and listenet Putting Processor #1 in Listener A's system would only exacerbate the brightness. Moreover, the additional grain would be more objectionable on violins and voices. Processor #2, on the other hand, would tend to soften the treble presentation in Listener A's system, providing much needed relief from the relentless treble. Moreover, the sonic qualities of processor #1 -- dynamics and tight bass--are less important musically to Listener A.
Conversely, Listener B would be better off with Processor #1. Not only are its musical characteristics better suited to the type of music he likes, but the system could use alittle more STE REOPHILE, JULY 1996

aproduct solely on the basis of aproduct review. The reviewer's system and musical tastes may be very different from yours. You could be Listener A and be reading a review written by someone with Listener B's system and tastes.
Use reviews as aguide to products to audition yourself, not as absolute truth. You're going to spend many hours with your selection; listen carefully before you buy. It's well worth the investment in time. Moreover, the more products you evaluate and the more careful your listening, the sharper your listening skills will become.
It is important to realize that the specific sonic signatures described in the example are much more pronounced at
Linn Karik CD transport 109

lower price levels. At the very highest levels of digital playback, the sonic tradeoffs are much less acute. Instead, the best products have very few shortcomings, making them ideal for all types of music. The better the processor, the fewer and less extreme the tradeoffs.
Asignificant factor in how good aprocessor or CD player sounds is the designer's technical skill and musical sensitivity. Given the same parts, two designers of varying talent will produce two very different-sounding products. Consequently, it is possible to find skillfully designed but inexpensive products that outperform more expensive products from aless talented designer. Higher-priced products are not necessarily better.
Don't get stuck on aspecific budget and audition only products within anarrow price range. If an inexpensive product has received arave review by areviewer you've

utes that contribute to agood-sounding digital front-end. How high apriority you place on each characteristic is a matter of personal preference and musical taste. In the following sections, I've outlined the musical and sonic qualities Ilook for in digital playback.
The first quality Ilisten for in characterizing how adigital component sounds is its overall perspective. Is it laidback, smooth, and unaggressive? Or is it forward, bright, and "in your face"? Does the product make you want to "lean into" the music and "open your ears" wider to hear the music's subtlety? Or do your ears tense up and try to shut out some of the sound? Are you relaxed or agitated?
A digital product's overall perspective is afundamental characteristic that defines the product's ability to provide long-term musical satisfaction. If you feel assaulted by the


grown to trust, and the sonic description matches your taste, give it an audition. You may save yourselfasignificant chunk of money. If you decide not to buy the product, at least you've added to your database and can compare your impressions with those of the reviewer.
In addition to determining which digital products let you enjoy music more, you should listen for specific sonic attrib-

music, you'll tend to listen less often and for shorter sessions. If the product's fundamental musical perspective is flawed, it doesn't matter what else it does right.
Key words in product reviews that describe an easy-tolisten-to digital product include "ease," "smooth," "laidback," "sweet," "polite," and "unaggressive." Adjectives like "bright," "vivid," "etched," "forward," "aggressive," "analytical," "immediate," and "incisive" all point toward the opposite type of presentation.










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There is afundamental conflict between these presentation extremes. Processors that are smooth, laid-back, and polite don't offend, but they often lack detail and resolution. The absence of aggressiveness is often at the expense of obscuring low-level musical information. This missing musical information could be the inner detail in an instrument's timbre that makes the instrument sound more lifelike. It could be the transient nature of percussion instruments; a slight rounding of the attack gives the impression of smoothness, but doesn't accurately convey the instrument's dynamic structure. Very smooth-sounding digital products often have lower resolution than more forward ones.
The other extreme is the digital product that is "ruthlessly revealing" of every detail in the music. Rather than

instrument intact and asense of space and air between the instrumental images. This is easy for analog to accomplish, but quite difficult for digital. A recording with excellent portrayal of timbre and space helps in identifying which digital products preserve these characteristics.
Another important quality in digital playback is soundstage transparency. This is the impression that the space in which the music is presented is crystal-deat open, and has a"seethrough" quality. The opposite of transparent is opaque, thick, and congested. Soundstage transparency is analogous to looking at acity skyline on aperfectly clear day. Just as smog or haze will reduce the skyline's immediacy and vibrancy blurring the resolution of detail in the buildings, so too will soundstage opacity detract from the musical presentation.


smoothing transients, these products hype them. In asideby-side comparison, the ruthlessly revealing product will appear to present much more detail and musical information. It is more upbeat, more exciting, which appeals to some listeners. This presentation, however, quickly becomes fatiguing: You feel asense of relief when the music is turned down -- or off. The worst thing aproduct can do is make you want to turn down the volume or stop listening.
This conflict between lack of detail and aruthlessly revealing approach can be resolved by buying ahigher-priced processor. I've found afew models that can present all the music, yet are completely unaggressive and unfatiguing. ["Reconunended Components" tells which ones thty are --Ed.] This is arare quality and one that Ifind musically important. The digital front-end must walk afine line between resolving real musical information and sounding etched and analytical.
Digital reproduction has atendency to homogenize individual instruments within the soundstage. This tendency to blur the distinction between individual instruments occurs on two levels: the instruments' timbral distinctiveness and their spatial specificity.
On the first level, digital products can overlay the music with acommon synthetic character that diffuses the unique texture of different instruments. The subtle tonal shadings that distinguish each instrument are buried by the synthetic character. The music sounds as though it is composed of one big instrument rather than many individual instruments. Instead of hearing separate and distinct objects (instruments and voices) hanging in three-dimensional space, the listener perceives a synthetic continuum of sound. There is a"sameness" to instrumental textures that prevents their individual characteristics from being heard.
The second way in which digital playback can diffuse the separateness of individual instruments is by presenting images as flat "cardboard cutouts" pasted on top of one another. The instruments aren't surrounded by an envelope of air and space; the soundstage is flat and congested; and you can't hear clearly where one image ends and an adjacent image begins. Good digital playback should present acollection of individual images hanging in threedimensional space, with the unique tonal colors of each STE REOPH ILE, JULY 1996


I've focused on these aspects of the musical presentation for

evaluating digital products because they vary so greatly from

one product to another. Beyond these specifics, the best

question to ask yourself is "How long can Ilisten without

wanting to turn the music down--or off ?" Conversely, the

desire -- or even compulsion -- to bring out CD after CD is

the sign of agood digital front-end. Some components just

won't let you turn off your system; others make you want to

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This ability to engage you musically is the essence of

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Loudon Wainwright III talks with Steve Guttenberg about Fame, Wealth, &the Need to be Loved by a Bunch of Strangers in aDark Room

"71w doctor reached inside ofher, He turned me 'round then pulled me out" --"April Fool's Day Morn" (1982)
é éA fier the War (H) my father
Loudon (H) came home with his bride Martha (I). My parents had sex and nine months later Iwas born albeit almost backwards...." So begins the life (and record-company bio sheet) of singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III. With his eponymous debut album in 1970, he was already spilling his guts, seemingly revealing every aspect of his life. And stark, bitter slices of the down'n'out lifestyle, like "Black Uncle Remus" and "Central Square Song" on his first two records, did not widely promote the notion that Mr. Wainwright was afun kinds guy. However as anyone who's seen him in concert can attest, the LW HI wit is as dry as the Mojave and as sharp as the crease in abond-trader's pants, his face is made of pure Neoprene, and he's got the best comic timing in the singer/songwriter biz. And, 50 years after the blessed event chronicled in "April Fool's Day Morn," he's still telling all. With the 1972 hit single of "Dead Skunk" (#1 for six weeks in Little Rock, Arkansas) came limousines, ladies, and LW III's allotted quarterhour of fame. In addition to three 1975 appearances on MASH, the following decades saw afew more strong albums, then a few weak ones, then a long stretch of no albums at all. But beginning with Fume & Wealth in 1982, Wainwright returned to a more stripped-down, acoustic sound on an unbroken (to date) string of discs full of strong, insightful songs that mix mordant wit, remarkable emotional maturity, and sometimes dis-


Dearest Daddy with your songs Do you hope to right your wrongs? You can't undo what has been done To all your daughters and your son Thefacts are in and we havefound That basically you're not around Dearest Daddy try as you might All you are isjust uptight You sing of my mother and me Somewhat sentimentally You sing ofafather and son When all you dofrom him is run You like to think that things are okay By singing things that you should say Dearest Daddy with your songs Do you hope to right your wrongs?


Darling Daughter can't you see lite guy singing the songs ain't me Ht's someone people wish Iwas What Ican't do this dude does And fthe songs seem slightly pat Iknow life's messier than that They'rejust songs and life is real They'rejust my version how Ifeel And you don'tfeel the same Iknow How it went down or it should go My mistakes you label wrongs Iexpiate my guilt with songs Wry I'm uptight or not around Those whys continue to confound Darling Daughter can't you see The guy singing the songs ain't me

--by Loudon Wainwright Ill, V 1995 Snowden Music Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


turbingly frank personal confessions. It all reached apeak--or

maybe ahigh mesa--with 1992's History, and continued with

Career Moves and the recently released Grown Man (reviewed

on p223). LW III also writes and records the occasional top-

ical ditty for National Public Radio and ABCs Nightline

On the occasion of his first quarter-century in the busi-

ness and his first half-century on the planet, Mr. Wainwright

spoke with Steve Guttenberg in mid-January about the con-

tinued blurring-together of his art and life.


Steven Guttenberg: After 26 years on the road and 15 great recordings under your belt, 1can safely say that you're notjust getting older, you're getting better. Loudon Wainwright III: Like the finest wines and
cheeses ...
Guttenberg: Yes, you're maturing nicely. You seem more comfort-
able since moving to Virgin Records. Wainwright: Igot together in 1992 with Jeffrey Lesser, my co-producer and engineer. We made arecord called History here in New York, primarily with two other musicians, it turned out. Then Iconvinced Virgin to let me make alive record, Career Moves--that was aserendipitous event. So when it came time to do the next one, we lined up the same people [plus bass and drums] and made Grown Man. Guttenberg: Are most ofyour songs autobiographical? Wainwright: From the last couple of records, certainly most of them are. The characters are people in my life, I'm quite often the protagonist of the song, and the events are quite often blow-by-blow descriptions. On the other hand, the songs are crafted, some things are changed --it's my version that I'm offering. I'm telling you this because Iknow you're leading up to my disclaimer in "Father/Daughter Dialogue," which everyone has noted. Guttenberg: Your daughter Martha sings, "Dearest Daddy with your songs /Do you hope to right your wrongs?" And you respond, "The guy singing the songs ain't me" Wainwright: The song is adescription of an argument that my daughter Martha and Ihad; that was an accurate thing to say in my half of the song. It's not unusual in an argument, when you're pinned down, to say, "It's not me, it's somebody else." The songs are my version; it's just asong, or aperformance, or aCD --it isn't the way Iam in real life. Idon't walk around the street jumping up and down, lifting my leg up, and sticking my tongue out. [A fair assessment of the visual element ofan LWIII concert. --Ed.] Though Iam an oral person. That's my point: These songs, these CDs, these performances, they're just that: songs, CDs, performances; they're rooted in my real life, but they're different. Guttenberg: Yet the members of the audience believe that's the real Loudon we see on stage. Wainwright: And Ithink they should feel that, in the same way that when you go to the theater you see an actor become Trigorian or Richard III or Oedipus Rex. You see the person do atransformation. That's what should happen and that's what's so interesting; it's believable even though there's aguy jumping up and down, sticking his tongue out -- somehow it's believable, it's human. Ihope they believe it's me, or that it's someone they know: aneurotic, middleaged guy, kind of paranoid, somewhat misogynistic. Isuppose you could describe me that way. [laughs] Not really! Guttenberg: You're not afraid to show the audience the less attractive side ofyourself Wainwright: That's one of the great show-biz rules: You have to procure the audience's love and then hold on to it. You can't alienate them. Imean, even if you're spitting at


Loudon Wainwright III (1970), Atlantic SD 8260 (LP. nia) Album II (1971), Adantic SD 8291 (LP, nia) Album Ill (1972), Columbia CK 31462 (CD) Attempted Mustache (1973), Columbia CK 32710 (CD, nia) Unrequited (1975), Columbia CK 33369 (CD, nia) T-Shirt (1976), Arista 4063 (LP, nia) Final Exam (1978), Arista 4173 (LP nia) A Live One (1979), Rounder 3050 (CD) Fame & Wealth (1982). Rounder 3076 (CD) I'm Alright (1985), Rounder 3096 (CD) More Love Songs (1986). Rounder 3106 (CD) Therapy (1989), Silvertone 1203-2-J (CD) History (1992),Virgin 86416-2 (CD) Career Moves (1993),Virgin 88273-2 (CD) Grown Man (I 996),Virgin 40625-2 (CD)

your lack offame; do people recognize you on the street? Wainwright: No, not much; it's certainly not aproblem. I think everyone in show business is hung up on [fame]; if they deny it they're disingenuous, if not lying. The truth of the matter is, people who are singers, or actors, or writers, or painters, or architects, or doctors --they want to make it, they want to become known, they want to make money. They want to be loved. This is one ofthe driving forces ofthe human condition. Show-business people really want to be loved. In fact, it could be argued that they need to be loved by agroup of people in a dark room. That's what they're into. Irecognize this, and, as you say, I've written about it my whole career. My desire for it, my revulsion about it or toward it, my need for it, my frustration about not getting it, all the aspects... Guttenberg: You had itfor alittle while with "Dead Skunk." Wainwright: Yeah, and it was revoking in some ways, horrible. Ihated it --it was grotesque. It can be grotesque at that level where you're riding around in cars and there are 14-yearold kids pressing their faces up against the window for no reason other than your song is on the radio. It made me very uncomfortable, particularly at that time. Iimagine that now I would see it with alittle more humor and detachment, but I was 25 when it happened to me. It kind of blew me away. Guttenberg: So it cured you ofthefixation to have a#1 record? Wainwright: No, it didn't cure me. Idon't yearn for a#1 record, but maybe Iwant those faces pressed up on that limo to be, you know, 30-year-old women. Idon't know...
Why should Ibe coy about this? 20-year-old women [laughs], or 45-year-old intellectuals; I'll take awide spectrum of people, including the 14-year-old kids. Istill want to be admired and adored; I'm just realistic about who's going to be doing that, how much rm going to get, and I'm happy when it hap-



them, if you're Johnny Rotten or Courtney Love, whatever they do, you have to engage them and hold them. It's a show-business rule, and it's true -- like most clichés. Ican push it to the limit. An example of that would be the hospital song ["That Hospital"], where I'm talking about an abortion. In alive situation you can actually hear the audience gasp sometimes --it's just alittle close.
But you don't want to totally alienate [the audience] -- you have to push them to alimit. It's one of the things I'm trying to do in the songs. Guttenberg: Where do these songs come from? "The Birthday Present" [from Grown Man], was recorded while you were taking a shower' -- is that where you wrote it? Wainwright: No, Iwas bone dry and fully clothed when I
wrote that one. Iwrite songs everywhere --in acar, aplane, or yes, in the shower. Iget up in the middle of the night and scribble something down. I'm always out there fishing for something... and you could catch something in the shower. Something happens and you don't know why it happens. There's amystery element where the pieces of the puzzle fit together, you don't know why, but it's quite beautiful. Ihave no explanation for it. I'm more than grateful when it happens; it happens not as much sometimes as Iwish it did. Guttenberg: You've written so many songs about beingfimous, or

1According to, ah, Virgin Records, during this recording session "a condom (unlu-

bricated) was used to protect the microphone."



pens. I'm not desperate for it, but Istill want aspects of it. Guttenberg: Lees go back to the beginning ofyour career, and your first record, on Atlantic Wainwright: Well, the first person Iwent to see was John Hammond, Sr. at Columbia, who signed Robert Johnson, Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen. He liked [the demo tape] alot. But then my manager took it around, and Nesuhi Ertegun at Atlantic Records liked it alot too, and he offered more money. Having bought all those Aretha [Franklin] and Ray Charles records, Ithought Atlantic was pretty cool; Iwas excited to be on that label. The first thing they did was to stick me in the studio with Arif Mardin, who was Aretha's producer, and abunch of musicians. And thatjust didn't work. So Ifinally convinced them to just let me make avoice-and-guitar record. Later, Idid move to Columbia, where they stuck me with musicians. Guttenberg: Against your will? Wainwright: Not against my will, but Iwas skeptical and nervous about it. [Album 111] is apretty good record. Ilistened to it recently, and it did have the hit single ["Dead Skunk"] on it, so Isuppose it was asuccess. Guttenberg: After "Dead Skunk" you left Columbia for Arista, and the picture gets alittle murky... Wainwright: There was an air of desperation about my career at that time. It had started off with abig bang, then things started to slide after the "Dead Skunk" thing. The

records didn't sell, the critics were turning off, the career was hemorrhaging. And it felt like that --it felt bad. Those records [T-Shirt and Final Exam] show akind of desperation. This is what happens in acareer: It goes up and down, stays down, then maybe goes back up again.
It's funny... when Ihad my two commercial successes, I felt, "Wow, it's really happening!" In interviews people would ask, "What are you going to do next?" Isaid, kind of ruefully, "Probably make acouple of bad records." Iwasn't too far off, though the really bad ones came acouple of years later. Guttenberg: But then you hooked up with Richard Thompson. Wainwright: Yeah, we did abunch of things together in the ,nid-'80s; he co-produced two of my albums [I'm Alnght

were careful not to fool ourselves: those big speakers, it's dark, you can diddle, you're in there for hours, you've had too much coffee --you can really jerk yourself around. Richard was very helpful; they're produced, not overproduced. Guttenberg: Two of the records you've done with producerJeffrey L.5ser [Grown Man and History] feel specially connected. Wainwright: I'm running into people all the time who say that History is their favorite record of mine --I'm glad it's a relatively recent one. People respond to it because of its tone and mood, and specifia. lly because it's about families. It resonates in that way. So Iwas alittle worried about going into the studio because of History's success. Grown Man is lighter in tone, alittle brighter, but is in away connected to History.


and More Love Songs] and played on four. That was delightful --Richard is great fun, ahilarious man, he does wonderful impressions, accents, he keeps everybody laughing, and he's just alittle bit better than me at tennis. Not much. Guttenberg: Did Thompson lire" you in the studio? Wainwright: Well, Ithink Richard realized what was wrong with some of the records was that Ihad gotten swamped by production, and that the song wasjust not in the "front" of the track. My vocal performance and the words of the song have to be protected. Ithink Richard was very aware of that. We

Ithink they fit nicely together. Guttenberg: After listening to you for the last 25 years, I'm lookingforward to the next 25. We're growing old together Wainwright: Are you ready to go to the nursing home or the hospital? Because that's where we're headed. Guttenberg: You're going to take me ther Ihope. Wainwright: Well, Ithink that's my job. Guttenberg: Does it scare you? Wainwright: It's not scary, and "joy" is not exactly the right word. I'm going anyway, so Imight as well write about it. S


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· · V V · · V

VV · · · ·

Martin Colloms

Solid-sute. remote-controlled, stereo integrated amplifier with five line-level inputs including one tape loop. Power output: 150Wpc into 8ohms (21.8dBVV), 300Wpc into 4ohms (21.8dBW).THD: <0.06%. midband. rising to 0.3% at 20kHz. Input impedance: 210k ohms. Input overload: 9V RMS. Maximum voltage gain: 36.1dB. Input sensitivity: 55mV unbalanced, 28mV balanced, for full power, volume control maximum.

Output impedance: 0.16 ohms. Power consumption at idle/standby: 50W. Dimensions: 19" W by 15.5" D by 3.T' H. Warranty: five years, transferable. Serial number of unit reviewed: SN 8795110051. Price: $2350. Approximate number of dealers: 45. Manufacturer: Krell Industries, 45 Connair Rd.. PO. Box 0533. Orange, CT 06477-0533.Tel: (203) 799-9954. Fax: (203) 799-9796.

IsKrell risking its reputation? With the ICAV-300i, an integrated amplifier that was originally envisaged as an export model, but for which home demand is clearly increasing, the Connecticut-based amplifier manufacturer is dabbling in low-cost territory. Previous Krell amplifiers have been known for their prodigious drive capability. Time and time again, it is found that the true measure of the bass performance of abig speaker isn't realized until aKrell power amplifier is brought into service. But how could an amplifier with a meaty 150Wpc specification and full remote control be built to sell for just $2350?
The answer lies partly in the growth of Home Theater, an area where Krell has been gaining experience with goodquality, competitively priced, multichannel amplifiers. There was also a precedent in the KST-100, amodestly priced 100Wpc Krell power amplifier that found favor in Europe afew years back.
The answer also lies in backing away from Krell's earlier design philosophy of maintaining the amplifier's output voltage into very low impedances of 1 ohm or below. If performance is to be sustained when the load impedance halves, then, all other things being equal, the size of the amplifier power supply as well as the number of output transistors and their heatsinks must double. For Krell to specify perfor-

Krell KAV-300i integrated amplifier

manee down to 2ohms and below, they must pass the costs of doing so on to the customer.
In the end, it all boils down to application. So, if you back off from the unbreakable, drive-anything amplifierdesign philosophy and say, "Hey, let's be reasonable, let's forget those possible 1 and 2ohm loadings, and instead target and specify for well-designed 4and 8 ohm nominal speaker systems. Now let's see how the design equations fall out." The ICAV-30Ors output is specified as 150Wpc into 8ohms, doubling to 300Wpc into 4ohms, but the amplifier is not intended to drive lower impedances. Sure, it will still be capable of frying a3ohm load, but you shouldn't expect the bass slam that you get

with an amplifier designed to drive lower impedances.
Krell's literature describes the KAV300i as belonging to their "A/V" range of products. It has significantly softer, rounder styling than the larger KSA amplifiers. It may lack macho handles, but the '300i is well-finished, mainly in black textured enamel, with asilvercharcoal aluminium fascia offset by black-anodized end caps. Its panel logo is the new, downward-arrow Krell "Audio-Visual" symbol.
But regardless of Krell's philosophy or the unit's origins, Idetermined to view this product as an entry-level Krell amplifier, one with an unusual coin-



bination of useful features, offered at a tempting price. You get five inputs, including the tape (monitor) facility. One input (B1) is balanced; one of the singleended inputs (S3) may be configured, via an internal switch, as adirect or "through" input for an audio/video setup, where the surround processor provides volume and balance control. (A hex wrench is supplied for getting inside, and also for replacing major fuses should this be necessary.)
Two kinds of output are available from the KAV-300i: loudspeakers are connected via one set of gold-plated five-way binding posts per channel; there is also aset of single-ended preamplifier outputs via gold-plated RCA jacks. Note that the loudspeaker terminals remain active even if the unit is run only as apreamp. This isn't areal problem, since in this mode no power need be drawn from the speaker terminals. However speaker cables should not be left connected, in case the plugs short-circuit the amplifier outputs.
Amodel of simplicity, the front panel carries ahorizontal row of circular control buttons made of milled stainless steel. From the left, we have the power switch, electrically servo'd, with soft-

start and standby modes. The power light glows red for standby, changing to blue for "operate." The next five buttons deal with input selection, while the remaining two cover volume up and down. LEDs show the status of all modes -- the balance offset, mute, active input, and standby/operate. In addition, aset of 11 LEDs graphically shows the volume setting.
This amplifier will mainly be operated, Iexpect, via the remote-control handset, asatisfactorily chunky plastic molding. As well as duplicating the power/standby, source select, and volume control buttons on the amplifier's front panel, the remote gives the user access to the balance facility This can be shifted unambiguously in five ldB increments in either direction. The final touch is the inclusion of some basic control functions for a Krell-compatible CD player or transport (including many Philips-type RCS-coded units). Igrew to like the handset with its dulled finish and positive-click membrane-type buttons.
The case is of aluminum alloy, and its good conductivity is exploited in the form of additional surface area for the modestly finned internal heatsinks. Though these do not have an optimum

orientation, an alloy block is bolted through to the lower case section to aid heat conduction. No external fins are present, though there are some ventilation slots in the top cover. Iestimate that the unit should not be run continuously at full power into 4ohm loads for extended periods. The heatsinking is fine for normal peak-program duty, however.
Inside, the compact, low-profile chassis packs amodest-looking, toroidal, steelband-shielded transformer. This is rated at 400VA, but to ahigh-regulation Krell specification. (If this were not the case, that 300W into 4 ohm specification would be well out of reach.) Considerable thought has been given to protection, which in this design is by fuses (the bi 14:er ICrells use electronic protection operating via power relays). Gross short-circuit and speaker-fault protection is provided by 12A fuses at the output; these are located beneath the output terminals and are user-accessible from the outside. A 12A fuse should be good for continuous full power into 2ohms; I don't reckon it would ever blow in normal use. There are four additional 12A


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fuses inside protecting the plus and misguided, especially if their realization occur between audio separates and the

minus voltage rails to each channel in required high feedback. Although not audio connectors at each cable end.

case of device or circuit failure. Finally true in all cases, it does seem that ampli- Knowing in advance the matching crite-

there is the AC mains fuse, which is inte- fiers that achieve agood overall techni- ria for the pre- to power-amp connec-

gral with the IEC AC input receptacle. cal performance with low global feed- tion, the designer doesn't have to over-

Remarkably compact in layout, the cir- back sound more natural than those that engineer the interface in expectation of a

cuitry is largely symmetrical for both rely on high feedback for linearization. range of load problems. This may help

channels, with ashort path from input to
output. It is also dual-mono from the sep- SYSTEM

simplify the preamp section as well as further boosting the performance of the

arated transformer secondary windings Several good-quality integrated am- integrated amplifier.

onward. The smaller, upper board is the plifiers were on hand for comparison at

Provided that such an amplifier has

input and control section, noteworthy for the time of this test. These ranged from been appropriately designed with the

its desirably high input impedance of the inexpensive Exposure XX to the right components, it will show again in

210k ohms. Earlier Krell products often Musical (British) Fidelity A1000, and performance compared with similarly

had rather low input load impedances, included the new, expensive Ensemble specified separates. Within its modest

but the '300i will load source components Evocco. Reference power amplifiers frame, the '300i did show this advan-

lightly, even suiting D/A processors with included the recently discontinued tage, allowing it to rival more costly

tubed output stages. The inputs are AC- Krell KSA-200s, aNaim NAP250, an two-box combinations. For readers

coupled using polypropylene dielectric Audio Research VT150SE, and aCon- familiar with my personal numbering

capacitors. The potentially noisy micro- rad-Johnson MV55. Source compo- system, the ICAV-300i scored 22 points

processor complete with its own power nents included the Krell KPS-20i/1 and (25-30 points defuies top amplifier

supply, is located well away on the front KPS-30i CD players, while comparison sound). For reference, ICrell's pre-1992

panel board together with its associated preamps included an Audio Research power amplifiers, which cost 3-4 times

buttons and LEDs.

LS22 and a C-J PV12. Cables were the price of the little '300i, also scored

Balanced/single-ended input condi- Siltech, van den Hul, and Transparent. ratings in the low 20s when partnered

tioning is achieved with Krell's discrete Loudspeakers ranged from the Wil a with asuitable preamplifier.

BJT-input, class-A amplifier. This has a System 5and WIT!' to the Ensemble

The ICAV-300i delivered avery well-

low output impedance appropriate for Profusia, the Quad 63, and the KEF balanced sound, with no obvious errors

driving the microprocessor-programmed Reference Four.

of tone or timbre. The ICrell's midrange

volume-control section. This features a
precision MDAC chip (a PMI DAC SOUND

sounded quite rich, and if not quite to the best tube standard, it didn't glare or

8043, one per channel) used as apreci- Installation was abreeze. The ICAV- shout even when operated flat-out.

sion multiplying attenuatot This stage 300i ran fairly cool and reached astable Overall, the midrange was relatively

outputs asignal in current form; cur- sound quality in amatter of 10 to 15 clear, low in grain, and fine-textured. It's

rent/voltage conversion is accomplished minutes from standby. In operation, the not as liquid or as transparent as aPre-

by a well-respected op-amp chip, a remote control was slick and smooth- mier 8, aVT150, or aKAS-2, but then,

SM2131, which feeds the resultant voltage acting, with no funny noises, offering very little is! (Spend alittle more on

signal to the DC-coupled stereo power positive input selection as well as an your system's cables and some of this

amplifier stages on the lower board

even, wide-ranging volume control difference can be made up.)

This larger board also incorporates the action of good resolution (just how the

The soundstage had fine depth with

power supplies, which are integrated KPS-201//'s volume control should surprisingly good transparency. The nat-

with the stereo channels. Adual winding have been -- see Stereophile, April '95, ural timbre and equally natural-sound-

on the transformer feeds separate rec- Vol.18 No.4).

ing, well-layered perspectives were as

tifiers and moderate-capacity Nichicon

Serious listening commenced after a convincing on classical music as they

supply reservoir capacitors, two 8200p1 week's conditioning and informal use. were on rock material. Focus was very

electrolytics per channel. Krell practice is The ICAV-3001 turned out to be aseri- good, stable over the entire dynamic

followed for the driver-section power ously good amplifier. Fresh out of the range, and was allied to good image

supplies, which use multiple paralleled box the '300i sounded promising. It width. Reproduction of low-level detail

reservoirs for a controlled low im- could play loud and neither change in and ambience were fine.

pedance over the audio bandwidth.

tonal character nor appear short of

Like the mid, the KAV-300:'s treble

All discrete, the power amplifier cir- breath. In its raw state, however, it lacked was neutral and self-effacing, with little

cuitry follows Krell design principles, some of the clarity and refinement that grain evident. It sounded unforced, with

with arrays of complementary differen- became nicely apparent after the initial clean vocal sibilants, while cymbals

tial stages possessing awide bandwidth. 20-40 hours of use.

were rendered both open and un-

The fully complementary output stages

Writers and engineers have recently exaggerated.

use custom, high-current T03-can Mo- been discussing the advantages of well- In the bass, the little Krell went satis-

torola bipolar transistors, six per chan- designed one-box CD players with their factorily deep with fine control and

nel. These have an intrinsic peak rating jitter-free direct link between transport above-average slam. While the all-or-

of over 40A per set and are operated in and decoder. There is asimilar advantage nothing low-frequency grip of abig KSA

class-A/B at moderate bias. The '300i with asingle-box integrated amplifier. wasn't present, the bass was entertaining

amplifier stages employ low values of Not only is the signal path shortened, --punchy, fast, and articulate. Although

global negative feedback, reflecting cur- you also eliminate typically two soldered it did sound slightly soft -- though not

rent thinking that the quest by designers connections for each channel as well as a tending to boominess -- the amplifier's

in earlier years for high specific damp- length ofexternal cable. More important, bass timed well. It was nicely rhythmic,

ing factors and very low distortion was you get rid of the ground currents that with afoot-tapping beat. Here, the littlest



"Best Sound At ,Show"
At the Los Angeles Hifi '95 show,
attendees cast their ballots for the best sound at show. Despite the usual mega-buck
contenders, arelatively unknown company with a small pair of $1299 speakers
emerged to place on the best sound list.
Must be the M&M's.
The award-winning RM7si. from $1299/ pair.
4111111M. · IEV IV CD VATI CD IV S
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Krell amplifier may just have the mea- conditions, the output level fell by 2dB,

sure of its bigger brothers.

rather more than is seen for the big

While the '300i could kick the Wilson Krell power amplifiers. Nevertheless,

System 5around pretty well, this speaker the ICAV-300i was still putting out

really needs to be driven by bigger ampli- 250Wpc into 4ohms; this is actually a

fiers like the KSA-300S on better, ICrell's greater amount of power than the

delightful KAS-2. Howeve4 you could power transformer's specified 400VA.

have real fun with the '300i driving This seeming impossibility is explained

Wilson WITTs. Genuinely high sound when the transformer regulation is

levels were possible -- the ICAV-300i taken into account. If you are prepared

with the WITTs gave aperformance to push atransformer really hard, it will

which, in context, sounded surprisingly go on delivering more power, but at

close to a KSA-200S partnering the poorer regulation. For this design's total

System 5, acombination costing more continuous output of 500W, the trans-

than twice as much.

former must actually be supplying

Dynamics were well-rendered and, something like 750W.

in conjunction with the good rhythm

Both this behavior and the relatively

and timing, gave good listener in- small internal heatsinks indicate that the

volvement. Aural fatigue was low even ICAV-3001 will not be the amplifier of

after prolonged listening sessions. Many choice for continuous, flat-out duty into 4

times Iforgot completely that my cost- ohms or lower loadings.' This isn't aKrell

ly high-end amplification was out of the dreadnought, but it is more powerful

circuit! In fact, later on, when the review than many other amplifiers, particularly

system was in astate of flux, it proved in its dynamic capability. There's certainly

convenient and acceptable to throw in no shortage of peak current. That 250W

the '300i, so well did it perform in more peak program, 8ohms, grew to 400W

expensive company.

peak into 4ohms with 620W peak avail-


able into 2 ohms. These figures are backed by ample peak current, measured

In line with ICrell's design practice of at approximately ±45A.

recent years, the KAV-300i is alow-

It may be compact, but there's nothing

feedback design, which means that we downsized about the very good load tol-

shouldn't expect extravagant results for erance shown by the '300i. The output

damping factor or its more practical impedance measured a moderate 0.3

equivalent, output impedance. Nor is ohms -- this somewhat dependent on

exceptionally low distortion likely. the amplifier's thermal history, and high-

Nevertheless, Krell amplifiers aim to er than the specification --and was virtu-

deliver clean, neutral power to arange ally constant over the audio frequency

of loudspeaker loads, and while this range. This is equivalent to an 8ohm

base-level design isn't rated for 1or 2 damping factor of 27. Mild changes in

ohm duty, it does crack the whip pow- bass damping and impact may be noticed

erfully into 4and 8ohm loadings.

when comparing this amplifier with big-

Noting that my test sample was a ger amplifiers of lower output imped-

European model with anominal 230V, ance. With source impedances below 02

50Hz supply specification, Ipowered it ohms, however, these differences tend

from the typical UK voltage of 242V, a toward inaudibility.

well-within-tolerance 5% lift. Output

DC offset was respectably low at the

readings for this unregulated supply speaker terminals, 10mV left channel

amplifier will therefore have benefited and 8mV right channel. Iinadvertently

by around 8%, depending on trans- tested the protection with momentary

former quality and its regulation.

full drive into ashort circuit. This abuse

With that proviso, this is undoubtedly blew the 20mm supply fuse in the 3-pin

a powerful amplifier, especially con- IEC power input socket. Conveniently

sidering that it's acompact integrated there was aspare already clipped in the

type. Into anominal 8ohm load, single- little inbuilt sliding drawer.

channel driven, it delivered close on

Imade distortion measurements both

200W continuous (23dBW) from 20Hz after amodest warm-up and after some

to 20kHz. The good 20Hz figure was a full-power operation had heated up the

surprise in view of the modest power amplifier, to an estimated 60°C on the

supply. The peak-program output ap- internal heatsinks. Bias levels had clear-

proached 250Wpc -- this is some little ly altered at the higher temperature, and


midband 1W distortion had increased

A more demanding power test com-

prised firing up both channels with a tougher 4 ohm loading. Under these

t1heAnqueIsHtiFon,1,3-apfoawctercopnrfeicromnedditbiyonDiangn mD'nAgwosatsinoou.t of


from 0.035% (-70dB) to 0.07% (-63dB). This behavior is partly related to the low negative feedback, but neither distortion figure would be considered audible.
At full power, the harmonic distortion level was typically 0.07% at low and mid frequencies, rising to 0.56% by 20kHz. Again, Idon't consider this rise to be aurally significant, and at lower powers the 20kHz distortion level improved-- to -57dB (0.14%) at 1W into 8 ohms, for example. The twin-tone intermodulation results -- these are more important in subjective terms as a measure of high-frequency quality -- were good, the 1kHz difference tone lying at -70dB (0.033%) at full power (fig.1), rising to -67dB at 1W into 8 ohms. However, some higher-order products can be seen clustered around the 19kHz and 20kHz fundamental tones, which mightjust take the edge off upper treble clarity.
Fig2 shows the distortion harmonic spectrum for a200Hz tone at 1W into 8ohms (OdBW). This shows odd-order harmonics to predominate, mainly the third and fifth, with arapid decay in level for higher orders. The second harmonic spectrum (fig3) concerns the breakthrough of power-supply ripple under astressed power condition with a low-frequency tone (37Hz). The amplifier was driven to two-thirds the rated power into 4ohms. The dotted vertical markers in this graph are aligned with the harmonics of the UK's


II,n" """'

STOIll el NO olz


Krell 1(AV-300i, HF intermodulation spec. 0-urn, DC-25kHz, 19+20k14z at 150W into 8ohms (linear frequency scale).



Ken MI Ill 1044,10

.. 41 Hltet,



Krell KAV-300i, spectrum of 200Hz sinewave. DC-2kHz. at IW into 8ohms (linear frequency scale). Note that the third harmonic at 150Hz is the highest in level.

50Hz supply. Thus spectral lines that don't coincide with the markers are simply due to distortion of the 37Hz fundamental. There is one 100Hz supply harmonic present, but this is at a mild -80dB relative to full level.
Squarewave testing for stability showed aclean risetime barely affected by adverse loading, even apure 211F of capacitance. This is one stable, tolerant amplifier.
Though the ICAV-300i is capacitorcoupled at the input, the frequency response (fig.4) was fiat and wide. Imeasured +0dB, -0.5dB from 8Hz to 31kHz, while the benchmark -3dB or "half: power" points were at 0.6Hz and 90kHz. Channel separation was fine, if neither state-of-the-art nor to modern CD or digital standards. Irecorded crosstalk at -68dB at 20Hz, -86dB at 2kHz, and -70dB by 20kHz. (These figures were somewhat dependent on input termination and whether Iwas using the balanced or single-ended inputs.)
The ICAV-300i was quiet both physically and electrically, the latter measuring better than -110dB for background noise relative to full power. Channel balance was better than ±0.015dB at high volume-control settings, with ±0.02dB accuracy even at a -60dB setting!
Iwon't elaborate too much on the behavior of the 256-step volume control except to point out that there was a deep -93dB of maximum attenuation, while the next few settings ran -72, -68, -66, -62, -60, -58, -55dB, etc., and that

Fig .3

Krell KAV-300i, spectrum of 37Hz sinewave, DC-200Hz, at 200,N into 4ohms (linear frequency scale).

«L. tie tee.

enteitlt bell «eel .·

ee Ft. ee le ef it At.



OP. teem

Fig.4 Krell KAV-300i, frequency response at IW into 8ohms (5dB/vettical div.).

above -50dB, amore critical region, the resolution improved to 1dB or better. I checked astack of settings from OdB (full level) to -20dB and noted afine resolution of either 0.5 or 0.75dB according to the position in the code. There was an almost irrelevant 02dB of backlash according to whether Iwas increasing or decreasing the volume. The backlash increased below -60dB, which initially confused me. The microprocessor appears to respond too rapidly to volume setting inputs -- to access fine-level steps, avery quick action on the remote handset button is needed. I feel the internal volume-setting rate could be usefully slowed, though it should be noted that Ionly noticed this behavior on the test bench.
The '300i's input impedance was confirmed as being adesirably high 210k ohms, while the input also showed a wide dynamic range, accepting up to 9 volts before the onset of mild distortion. At full volume, 55mV input gave the IHF-standard 1W output, while 580mV produced full output into 8ohms. This medium sensitivity is well-matched to modern source components.
The preamplifier section's output impedance was moderate at 120 ohms. The preamp wasn't as powerful as aseparate, fully specified Krell preamplifier, but it will drive arange of normal amplifier loads, putting out up to 8.5V of level. It performed equally well for both balanced and normal inputs.


Ifeel that Krell has awinner in the

ICAV-300i. At $2350, it may be de-

signed to be cost-effective, but it's a

Krell thoroughbred nonetheless, able to

punch way above its weight. Not least,

there is its ability on music signal to

dump well over 200W per channel into

an 8 ohm speaker and 300W into

"kinder" 4ohm speakers.

The versatile input facilities, the sat-

isfactorily high-resolution volume con-

trol, and the fine infrared remote com-

mand system are all definite pluses.

Remember, too, the preamp output

terminals--if the '300i is a good-

sounding integrated amplifier it must

also be a pretty good-sounding pre-


All in all, the Krell KAV-3001 offers

very good dollar value and is aseriously

good amplifier into the bargain. For me,

it's alikely Class Bcontender knocking

on the door of Class A in Stereophilds

"Recommended Components" listing. I

firmly recommend it.




Robert Harley listens to Genesis's de-jittering & "resolution enhancement" device

De-jittering device with "resolution enhancement" dither generation. Inputs: AES/EBU, RCA coaxial, BNC coaxial. TosLink optical, ST-Type optical. Outputs: AES/EBU, RCA coaxial, ST-Type optical. Display readout: CD subcode data (track time), transport speed accuracy (in parts per million), output word length (16 or 20

bits), dither mode, signal lock, input sampling frequency. Dimensions: 19" W by 2" H by 8" D. Weight: 12 lbs. Serial number of unit tested: 111115. Price: $1800. Approximate number of dealers: 30. Manufacturer: Genesis Technologies, Inc.. PO. Box 669, Minturn, CO 8164S Tel: (970) 827-9515. Fax: (970) 827-9519.

Lees say you play aCD on apoorquality CD transport and store the digital audio data in amassive computer memory. You then repeat the process, but this time play the CD into the memory from the finest CD transport extant (say, the Mark Levinson No31). A week later you feed the two sets of data from the massive memory into adigital processor and listen to the music. Would the CD transports' sonic signatures be removed from the signal? Could you hear adifference between the transports aweek later?
Ibelieve that the two reproductions would sound identical. Because the memory's output clock bears absolutely no relationship to the transport's clock, the sound would take on the characteristics of the memory's output clocking circuitry. Any jitter in the transport and the digital cable driving the memory would be completely removed from the digital audio signal. [I have performed a similar experiment, storing the datastreams from nominally identical but derent-sounding discs on alaw computer hard drive. When the two sets of data are played bade _from the hard drive, thcy now sound the same-- Ed.]
That's the theory behind the new Digital Lens from Genesis Technologies. Designed by Paul McGowan, the Digital Lens uses not an hour's worth of memory, but afew seconds -- long enough to isolate your digital processor from any jitter or speed inconsistencies in your transport and let you listen to CDs in real-time. This is why Genesis Technologies calls the Digital Lens ajitter eliminator rather than ajitter-reduction device.
While McGowan was at it, he took the opportunity to add other interesting features to the Digital Lens, including selectable output word length and dither generation.

the Digital Lens is operated exclusively by the supplied remote control. (This remote also controls the woofer servo amplifier on Genesis loudspeakers.)
Because the Digital Lens operates entirely in the digital domain, the unit has only digital inputs and outputs. One of every input type is included: AES/ EBU, coaxial on aBNC jack, coaxial on an RCA jack, ST-Type optical, and TosLink optical. The output complement consists of AES/EBU, Coaxial (RCA), and ST-Type optical.
In addition to its primary function as a jitter-reduction -- er, jitter-elimination device, the Digital Lens performs what Genesis calls "resolution enhancement." In this mode, the Lens adds dither (a small amount of noise) to the output signal and increases the output word length from 16 to 20 bits. Unlike Audio Alchemy's resolution enhancement in their DTI·Pro and DTI·Pro 32 --which attempts to calculate the additional bits using Digital Signal Processing techniques -- the Lens simply adds dither to the digital signal (see sidebar).
Dither mode 1operates only when the Lens is outputting 20-bit words. This setting activates bits 18, 19, and 20. In other words, Dither 1tacks on three bits of dither to the end of the 16-bit samples read from the CD.
Dither mode 2adds dither at the 15bit level. This mode can be used in either 16-bit or 20-bit output. No matter what the dither mode selected, the Lens never changes bit 16 so that the HDCD1 control code buried in bit 16 will pass uncorrupted through the Lens to your digital processor.

You can select between dither modes and output word length from the remote control. Genesis says Dither 2 softens the sound of older CDs that may be hard and bright. Most DACs, according to Genesis, like the 20-bit mode with Dither 1. Agreen LED illuminates in the display when in 20-bit mode, and another part of the display shows which dither mode you're in. Pushing acertain sequence of buttons on the remote will engage Dither 1and Dither 2simultaneously (dithering bits 15, 18, 19, and 20). You can hear for yourself the difference between the two dither modes by putting your ear up to aloudspeaker's tweeter: Dither 2produces an audible hiss/buzz.
You'd think that adigital processor that will pass only 16-bit data wouldn't benefit from Dither 1and 20-bit output words; these processors truncate (cut off) any bits below 16. According to Genesis, however, that isn't the case: 16bit processors, and even processors using 1-bit DACs, sound better when fed dithered 20-bit data. Genesis doesn't know why, and there's no theoretical basis for believing it's true. However, as we'll see, stranger things can happen.
Dithering the DAC chip in your digital processor isn't the exclusive province of the Lens. Some processors that use the Pacific Microsonics PMD100 HDCD decoder/filter take advantage of the PMD100's dither-generation function. The PMD100 can be programmed to add one of seven levels of dither to the signal. Only afew processors use this feature, which requires amicroprocessor to program the PMD100's dither generator.

The Digital Lens is housed in aslim, attractive chassis with a beveled lethick front panel. Adisplay section takes up about athird of the unit's width. No controls are provided on the front panel;

Genesis Digital Lens



The Lens displays the CD's subcode information on its front panel. Subcode is nonaudio data -- such as track number and track time -- recorded on the CD along with the audio signal. When you see your transport or CD player counting track time, it's getting that information from the subcode. 1 This part of the Lens display simply duplicates the transport's display.
After being connected to atransport,

1A Cl) kb eight subcode channels, designated "1"


Channel Pis simply ahit that goes high

two seconds before the start of atrack. The first gen-

eration of Cl) plavers used the P flag to find track

beginnings. Sullcode channel Q contains all the track

number and time information as well as the emphasis

flag and other housekeeping data. Sub.:tale channels R

through W were oriinnally reserved for graphics

encoded in anow-definat format called CI)+G -(Plus

(;raphics). Each subcode channel has adata rate of

735k hits per second.

When measuring the jitter in digital processors, it's

not uncommon to see a spike of jitter energy at

7.35kHz. This jitter is induced in the digital interface

by the subcode. Simply throwing out this unneeded

subcode reduces jitter in digital processors.

the Lens will show anumber on the two PLLs within the jitter box, signifi-

display's right-hand side. This number cant jitter reduction can be achieved.

indicates the transport's speed accuracy, The first PLL locks onto the incoming

measured in Parts Per Million (ppm). signal, the second PLL filters jitter. The

We're not talking about the transport's Meridian 518, Audio Alchemy DTI v2,

jitter, but its average deviation from the DTI·Pro and DTI·Pro 32, Sonic Fron-

standard output frequency. Because of tiers UltraJitterbug, and others use this

crystal oscillator tolerances, some trans- technique.

ports run slightly faster or slower than

Genesis has taken atotally different

the correct frequency. The highest devi- approach to jitter reduction. The Lens

ation Genesis has seen is 250ppm speed receives the S/PDIF or AES/EBU out-

error, with 5Oppm being atypical value. put from your transport with aconven-

The Mark Levinson No31 read 8ppm tional input receiver (the Crystal

speed error, the Sonic Frontiers SFT-1 CS8412) and PLL, but there the simi-

had 45ppm error, and the Parasound larities end. Having recovered the data-

C/BD-2000 showed 35ppm.

stream, the Lens totally breaks it down


into its component parts. The raw audio data arc extracted and fed into a500

Nearly all jitter-reduction boxes that fit kilobyte Random Access Memory

between your CD transport and digital (RAM). The subcode is displayed on

processor use the same approach to the Lens front panel, then not used

reducing jitter, filtering jitter from the again. Other housekeeping bits in the

transport's output with acircuit called a subcode not needed by the digital

phase-locked loop (PLL). By cascading processor are thrown out. At the Lens


Dither: If you think about the literal which the digital system ignores low-

meaning of the word dither --"a con- level signals. But by adding alittle

fused or agitated state" --you're half- dither noise, the reverberation decay is

way to understanding how dither smoother, hangs longe4 and sounds

works in digital audio. Dither is asmall more natural. A consequence of this

amount of noise added to the signal improvement is greater soundstage

that makes digital behave (and sound) size and depth, along with more nat-

more like analog. This noise allows a ural tonal colors. The only drawback

digital system to resolve low-level is aslight penalty in signal/noise ratio.

information below the amplitude of its

That's dither added to an analog sig-

Least Significant Bit (LSB). Without nal before A/D conversion. The

dither, signals with amplitudes below Digital Lens adds dither to the digital

the LSB are simply ignored by the signal before it gets to your DAC. The

quantizer, the signal never traverses principles are the same, but the bene-

two quantization steps, arequirement fits of dither are less dear when you

of encoding the signal. The small consider that the signal has already

amount of dither added to the signal been digitized.

causes the wanted audio signal to tra-

Dither added by the Lens constant-

verse quantization steps and thus be ly exercises the lower bits in your

encoded with more fidelity to the orig- DAC. According to Genesis, this con-

inal waveform. The dither "agitates" stant bit activity at the lowest levels

the tiny audio signal so that the quan- makes the sound more analog,like. In

tizer becomes "confused" about which addition to improving resolution of

quantization level the signal is hover- low-level signals, dither causes the

ing near, causing it to vacillate between signal to decay into background noise,

two quantization levels and thus more rather than dropping off into the

correctly encode the audio waveform. black hole of digital silence.

An undithered signal has high dis-

tortion and poor low-level perfor- Jitter: "Jitter" describes timing errors

mance. Reverberation becomes more in digital audio systems -- errors that

and more granular and coarse as it can cause audible degradation of the

decays, then drops off into an unnat- music. Although jitter is an arcane

ural black silence, the point below technical term, understanding how

jitter affects the sound of digitally re-

produced music is fairly simple.

The only point in the playback

chain where jitter matters is at the

digital/analog converter chip in your

CD player or outboard digital proces-

sor. The DAC chip takes in 16- or 20-

bit digital audio samples and converts

them to analog values. A sample is a

binary number that represents the

analog signal amplitude at the time

the sample was taken in the analog-

to-digital conversion process. The

higher the analog amplitude, the larg-

er the value of the binary number.

A timing signal controls when the

DAC converts the incoming samples

to analog. This timing signal, called the

"word clock," looks like asquarewave.

On the clock's leading edge, the sam-

ple is loaded into the DAC. On the

falling edge, the DAC converts the

sample to an analog output Jitter is

variations in the time between similar

clock edges.Jitter causes the samples to

be converted at slightly wrong urnes,

which creates amplitude errors in the

output The right amplitude at the

wrong time is the wrong amplitude.

This mechanism is how atiming error

in the DACs word clock is translated

to an amplitude error in the final analog

output signal.

-Robert Harley



output, the S/PDIF datastream is to removing jitter is trickier than it

reconstructed from scratch.

sounds. The Lens actually measures the

The Lens achieves its jitter rejection transport's output frequency and assigns

by putting the audio data through the just enough memory to accommodate

half megabyte of buffer memory. The this error. A transport whose clock is

clock recovered from the transport close to the reference frequency (the

clocks the audio data into the memory, Lens's output oscillator, which has an

but the output clock that feeds the data error of 2-3ppm) would need less

to your digital processor is generated by memory space than one that was less

aprecise, carefully realized clocking cir- closely matched. Because the input and

cuit in the Lens. This technique totally output clocks aren't synchronized, the

isolates your digital processor from the buffer tends to fill up slowly over the

transport's clock -- and its jitter. As in course of playing aCD on fast trans-

the opening thought experiment, ports and run toward empty with slow

where we read music from aCD into a transports. Genesis claims that the

huge memory, the Lens's output clock Lens's half megabyte of RAM won't

driving the digital processor bears overflow or empty with transports hav-

absolutely no relationship to the input ing a1000ppm error over a70-minute

clock from your transport. In theory, CD. Most transports use about aquar-

the Lens should be an impenetrable ter of the RAM's two-second storage.

barrier to transport jitter.

It's easy to see how the buffer's elas-

The audio data may be read into the ticity could compensate for transports

Lens with your transport's jitter super- whose output clocks ran faster than the

imposed, but the data are read out with Lens's fixed-frequency clock -- the

the precision of the Lens's output stage. buffer gets fuller and fuller as the CD

Considering that the Lens's buffer can plays through. But if the transport runs

store more than two seconds of audio, slower than the Lens, the microprocessor

no trace of the transport's jitter signa- lets the buffer fill with up with as much

ture could possibly remain at the Lens's as two seconds of music before the out-

output --in theory.

put stage starts clocking it out. The

Implementing this drastic approach buffer would then get less and less full

as the disc plays through.

Note that the Lens's output clock

runs at afixed frequency, and can't be

"pulled" in frequency like a Voltage

Controlled Crystal Oscillator (VCXO)

can. Genesis found that VCX0s had

inherently higher jitter than the Tem-

perature Controlled Crystal Oscillator

(TCXO) used in the Lens?

The AD1890's output is jitter-free,

but the sample amplitudes can be slight-

ly different from what is required. The

part takes in the right samples at the

wrong time, and outputs the wrong

samples at the right time. [The differenc4

however, is specified by Analog Devices as

being below the 16-bit noisefloor. --Ed.]

Ironically, the error introduced by this

process is conceptually identical to the

error introduced by jitter.

Genesis's RAM-based approach in

the Lens allows the input and output

clocks to be asynchronous, yet maintain

perfect bit-for-bit data integrity. It just

*etobk arks


Iorruturr, l,r srnoue. Alrctor

1or infonnition: 1-800-726-2.016
PO box i152 ·Wilk-import, l'A 12701 ltw 1-717-1-78-210) ·e-mail: orAcc,,,s@aacom

2 The Analog Devices AD1860 Asynchronous Sampling Rate Converter chip, the device at the heart of the Digital Domain VSP and Z-Systems jitterreduction boxes, also has input and output clocks that are independent (that's what the "Asynchronous" means). The AD1890, however, changes the audio data by interpolating new samples between the input samples. At the output, the chip continuously throws out lots of unneeded samples to achieve the desired output sampling rate. Only asmall percentage of the final output samples are identical to the input samples. What you put in isn't what you get out.

won't perform sample-rate conversion, afeature not needed in aconsumer product.
By making the memory shorter when driven by transports with aprecise output frequency, the Lens avoids the situation of having atwo-second delay between the time you push Play and when you hear music. With a2s delay, there's the danger of pressing Pause, hearing the music continue, thinking the transport didn't accept the command, and pressing Pause again -- which would start filling the buffer again. This RAM assignment technique saves alot of confusion. In addition, the buffer dumps its data when the transport is put in Pause, then starts over when the transport goes back into Play mode.
On the subject of the RAM delay, the Lens poses a problem for a Home Theater system: The audio will be out of sync with the video. Genesis addresses this problem with a "LaserDisc" mode that bypasses the RAM. Instead of using the memory for jitter elimination, adual-PLL input receiver takes over to reduce jitter in the incoming datastream. This feature also lets you hear the effect on the reproduced sound of removing the RAM buffer.
The Lens gets its name from its function: focusing incoming data to aprecise point at the Lens output circuit. That data could be jittered and have an incorrect frequency, but the Lens will always output ajitter-free signal at aprecise output frequency.
Because the Lens's output circuit is active whether or not you've got a transport connected, you can have the strange situation of seeing your digital processor locked when no transport is driving the Lens. Seeing that phenomenon drives home the point that the Lens completely reconstructs the S/PDIF or AES/EBU output signal from scratch rather than trying to clean up the transport's output signal.
The Lens suffers from one drawback inherent in all outboard jitter boxes: It must convert its jitter-free output into the S/PDIF or AES/EBU format to drive your digital processot By putting the audio data back in S/PDIF, transmitting it down acable, and recovering the clock with aPLL in your digital processor,jitter will be re-introduced. Thejitter in your digital processor may be lower in amplitude and have acleaner spectrum with the Lens, but it will still have some interface jitter as well as the intrinsic jitter of the digital processor's input receiver. Audio Alchemy's I2S bus alleviates



this dilemma, but it works only with large effect on the Lens's sound quality. cable complement was reversed depend-

Audio Alchemy processors.

Arow of resistors next to the four opto- ing on the digital processor's input


isolators set the bias.


The actual output driver chip (a flip-

Ialso tried the Lens with the Sonic

Some letters that have been published in flop) is socketed, a move that has Frontiers SFT-1 and Parasound C/BD-

Stereophiles "Letters" column have im- already proved its utility. After listening 2000 transports--two very different-

plied that designing adata buffer to elim- to the Lens for a few weeks, Paul sounding machines. Other processors I

inate jitter is atrivially easy, inexpensive McGowan and Arnie Nudell visited my auditioned the Lens with included the

task. In fact, the Lens took Genesis two listening room to hear the Lens in my killer Parasound D/AC-2000 ($1995),

years to design and de-bug. However, its system. They also brought anew output Theta Chroma 396 ($830 with HDCD),

price is just $1800.

driver chip that they've incorporated Adcom GDA-600, and Sonic Frontiers

The power supply uses two trans- into standard production.3 After they'd Assemblage. The Parasound uses alow-

formers, one for the entire Lens except installed the new output driver, the jitter UltraAnalog AES21 input receiver,

the output circuit, which is powered by soundstage had more depth but instru- the Theta, to be reviewed next month,

the second transformer. The power sup- mental textures were less smooth. We features astandard Crystal CS8412.

ply to the output buffer and output clock went back to the original chip before

The rest of the system was aSonic

is regulated by acustom, discrete regula- they decided to leave in the new output Frontiers SFL-2 preamplifier driving

tion stage using four transistors. driver. (I can't comment on my prefer- Audio Research VT150 tubed mono-

McGowan tried aconventional three- ences -- or what Ithink of aproduct -- blocks, with Genesis II.5 loudspeakers at

pin voltage regulator chip, but found it to manufacturers while a product is the end of the chain. Interconnects

degraded the Lens's sonic performance. under review.) But after about half an included WireWorld Gold Eclipse,

The rest of the Lens's 48 chips are sup- hour, the Lens sounded much better AudioQuest Diamond X3, and Audio-

plied from three-pin regulators.

with the new output driver, presumably Quest Lapis. Loudspeaker cables were

Two microprocessors control the because the chip had warmed up.

short runs of AudioQuest Dragon II.

Lens's operation. One microprocessor

All transports and jitter-reduction

The system was plugged into the

handles the housekeeping chores (the boxes McGowan examined use an MIT Z-Center, with MIT Z-Cord II

display and remote control, for exam- inverter gate to generate the negative- AC cords on all the front-end equip-

ple), and the other controls the audio polarity or cold half of the AES/EBU ment. The power amplifiers have inte-

processing: calculating the incoming output signal. Because all gates intro- gral power cords, but were connected to

frequency, assigning RAM, and generat- duce what's called "propagation delay," the wall outlet through an MIT Z-

ing dither. The Read-Only Memory the AES/EBU output's negative phase Stabilizer II. A Merrill Stable Table and

(ROM) chip controlling the audio con- lags the positive phase very slightly (by Billy Bags 5500 equipment rack provid-

trol microprocessor is socketed, allow- the amount of the gate's propagation ed support. The transports under audi-

ing software upgrades simply by chang- delay). This delay between phases tion also sat on aBright Star Audio

ing achip. It takes 2000 lines of code to reportedly introducedjitter in the digital Little Rock 2isolation platform.

run the Lens. The half megabyte of processor the AES/EBU signal was

RAM is contained in two large chips.

driving. The new output driver chip LISTENING

Input pulse transformers couple the subjects each phase to the same number Adding the Lens to my system pro-

incoming datastream from atransport of gates, thus introducing no time lag duced astartling increase in soundstage

to aCrystal CS8412 input receiver. The between phases. The difference in size, bass definition, vividness, resolu-

Lens's most interesting circuit, however, sound between the two output driver tion of detail, palpability, and timbral

is the output stage. Great care was taken chips was not subtle.

realism. The Lens made the soundstage

in its design; all that work before the

Not counting the four opto-isolators noticeably wider, deeper, and more lay-

output could have gone to waste if the and IC regulators, the Lens uses 51 ered. After getting used to the Lens in

final stage compromised the signal. The chips in all, all of them packed onto a my system, Itook it out for compar-

output stage consists of aTCXO to pro- single large printed circuit board. The isons. The soundstage's left and right

vide the timing reference, awaveshap- Lens's build quality was excellent (stur- edges contracted toward the loudspeak-

ing circuit, an output driver, and its dis- dy chassis, thick front panel, high-quali- ers; the hall's rear wall moved forward;

crete power supply. The entire output ty jacks), and the implementation and the wonderful ambient bloom

stage is on an isolated section of the cir- seemed fully realized. The complex around the presentation shrank. Putting

cuit board. Signals are electrically de- board had no jumpers or Band-Aids to the Lens back allowed the loudspeakers

coupled from the output stage by opto- make it work. The Lens also performed to more easily disappear into the sound-

isolators. These devices break the elec- without ahitch during the six weeks I stage.

trical connection between their input had it for audition.

Interestingly, the Lens provided the

and output, transferring the signal by
light instead of electrons. Opto-isolators SYSTEM

most dramatic soundstage improvements in recordings that are already

use photo-transistors and photodetec- The Digital Lens spent most of its time stunning. A good example is the spec-

tors inside 8-pin packages that look like in my system between the Mark tacular performance and recording of

ICs. Astonishingly, McGowan found Levinson No31 transport and aClassé Mozart's Piano Concerto 21, with

that the bias to the opto-isolators had a DAC-1 digital processor. The digital pianist Eugene Istomin and the Seattle

cable between the transport and Lens Symphony (Reference Recordings RR-

3If you bought aLens with aserial number lower than was the excellent Iluminan DataFlex 68CD) -- Stereophiles "Recording of the

111209, it has the old output driver. Contact your dealer or Genesis for afree upgrade, which is simply amatter of replacing asingle socketed chip. You don't even need to know which end of asoldering iron to hold.

Studio. An AudioQuest Diamond X3 AES/EBU cable connected the Lens to the Classé. This input/output digital

Month" for May '96. This HDCDencoded disc has fabulous space, depth, and layering, the full extent of which



was revealed by the Lens. It sounds spacious already, but the Lens made the hall sound bigger and more expansive. Putting the Lens in the signal path made the overall perspective alittle more distant and less up-front. This characteristic was more apparent with moderately priced converters such as the Adcom GDA-600, Assemblage DAC-1, and Theta Chroma 396 processors than
with the Classé DAC-1. Smaller recordings benefited from the
increased space to alesser degree. Guitar and vocal recordings --"Lonesome Road" on Mighty Sam McClain's Give It Up to Love (AudioQuest AQ-CD1015), for example--had more air around the image outlines and aless dry rendering, but the improvement was not to the extent heard on naturally miked recordings made in large halls.
The Lens also increased the apparent space between images. It tightened image focus while resolving more bloom around image outlines. This
quality further heightened the impression of hearing instruments in space, and increased the sense of layering from the front of the soundstage to the rear.
A common sonic thread among jitter-reduction boxes I've tried is atightening of the bass. Jitter seems to soften the low end, reduce pitch definition, smear bass dynamics, and dilute the music's rhythmic drive. Putting ajitter box between atransport and processor tightens the entire bottom end and better resolves the dynamic envelope of double bass and bass guitar. The Lens's effect on the bass was huge, and greater than I've heard from any jitter-reduction device--even the Digital Domain VSP, which provided an enormous bass
improvement. Although the Lens tightened up the
double basses and bass-drum whacks in symphonic music, Ifound the most meaningful bass improvement it offered was in music with kickdrum and acoustic or electric bass. A great track forjudging bass tautness, definition, and dynamics is "Wishing Well" from Michael Ruffs Speaking in Melodies (Sheffield CD-35). If the bass isn't well reproduced, the kickdrum loses some of its impact and power, the bass guitar smears into acontinuum that makes it harder to hear pitch, and the attack of individual notes is blunted. The song's powerful rhythmic quality, along with the upbeat and energetic feeling from the musicians, is easily diminished if the bass isn't exactly right.
The Lens's effect on this track was remarkable. The kickdrum and bass

seemed to lock together in time and impression that instrumental timbres

pitch. Icould better hear the dynamic were portrayed with greater realism --

envelope of the kickdrum cut through acoustic guitar had more "guitarness,"

the rest of the mix. The bass guitar piano more "pianoness." Listen, for

sounded "tuneful," and more like aguy example, to the piano in the previously

playing abass guitar than an undifferen- mentioned Istomin/Seattle recording of

tiated "low-frequency component" of Mozart's Piano Concerto 21. The Lens

the music. The way the Lens snapped made the piano sound more coherent

everything together infused the music and focused, while simultaneously tak-

with amore upbeat and exciting quality. ing off abit of the glassy character on

I've heard this track lots of times (it's a transient leading edges. Ialso heard this

standard in my critical auditioning), but smoothing of timbres in other instru-

never as Iheard it with the Lens in the ments. Acoustic guitar had less of a system. There was just agreater feeling mechanical hardness and more warmth

of people playing music, with more life and beauty; woodwinds lacked the glare

and energetic drive.

that tends to make them sound synthet-

Another way the Lens took my sys- ic, and strings had aliquid sheen rather

tem anotch higher in performance was than ahard edge. This slight softening of

its resolution of fine detail. Listening to timbres, combined with the resolution of

familiar recordings through the Lens fine detail, was, Iconcluded, responsible

revealed low-level information and for the heightened sense of timbral real-

detail previously unrealized. "Leather ism with the Lens.

Cats," from Oregon's Beyond Words

A higher-resolution presentation is

(Chesky JD130), was agood example often in conflict with asense of ease and

of the Lens's resolution. Although I've musical relaxation. Not with the Lens.

listened to this disc extensively, Iheard Although the Lens made the sound

breathing, creaks, and other sounds I more vivid and alive, it simultaneously

hadn't known were there. Ididn't enjoy decreased etch and the hard mechanical

this record more from hearing the ex- character that often overlays the music.

traneous noises, but they did highlight The result was more music and less

just how much low-level detail the Lens fatigue.

could uncover.

Putting the Lens in LaserDisc mode,

What Idid enjoy, however, were the which bypasses the memory and its jit-

musical benefits of this higher resolution. ter reduction, let me hear the difference

Subtle nuances that were lost or barely in sound quality due to the more pow-

hinted at without the Lens were sudden- erful RAM approach. With the Lens in

ly vivid, palpable, and alive. Ralph LaserDisc mode, the sound was still

Towner's superbly recorded acoustic gui- better than with no Lens, but the magic

tar on Beyond Words had more inner detail was gone. The soundstage noticeably

of the kind that you hear from the live narrowed and become less deep, and

instrument. The Lens's superior resolu- the sense of transparent air between

tion made the guitar more lifelike and images was reduced. Instrumental tex-

real, and less like acanned reproduction. tures lost some of their liquidity, and the

In addition to revealing more timbral trace of glare and mechanical hardness

detail, the Lens also made instruments returned. The bass also softened, losing

more separate and distinct. The presen- the super-taut quality that I'd been

tation provided agreater impression of enjoying.

individual instruments in space. This

Most of my listening was in Dither 1

quality helped unravel complex pas- mode (bits 18, 19, and 20 dithered). I

sages: Quieter instruments could still be found that Dither 2 (bit 15 dithered)

heard in the presence of louder ones. tended to close-in the presentation,

The Lens made it easier to follow indi- slightly reduce clarity, and reduce top-

vidual threads, from woodwinds in octave extension compared to Dither 1.

symphonic music to sax and trumpet during unison phrases in jazz. A good example of the latter was the ensemble


playing on Teodross Avery's In Other A logical point of comparison for the

Words (GRP GRP-9788), in which this Lens is Audio Alchemy's similarly priced

remarkable young sax player works out DTI·Pto 32 ($1695). Both units are jit-

with trumpeter Roy Hargrove in some ter-reduction boxes that offer "resolution

straight-ahead blowing. The Lens kept enhancement," although via very differ-

the sax and trumpet from congealing, ent techniques. The Audio Alchemy

and better maintained the two instru- approach of adding extra bits seems

ments' identities.

more sophisticated than simply dithering

Throughout the auditioning, Ihad the the signal. But the Lens's RAM-based



de-jittering can't be matched by adualPLL system such as that used in the DIT·Pro 32
Both products improved the bass, tightened soundstage focus, better resolved low-level detail, and made the presentation bi 141 er and more airy. The Lens excelled in the bass, which was tighter and better-defined than with the UTI·Pro 32. The Genesis box also produced smoother and more liquid instrumental timbres. Ialso thought the Lens was more open and extended in the upper treble, and produced a bigger soundstage. Overall, Ipreferred what the Lens did in my system.
If the Lens is indeed able to completely isolate the transport and its interconnect from adigital processot it should make every transport and interconnect sound identical.
It didn't The Mark Levinson No31 still sounded better than the Sonic Frontiers SFT-1 and Parasound C/BD2000, for the same reasons it sounded better without the Lens. Moreove the SFT-1 was still more forward-sounding than the No31 or C/BD-2000, and the Parasound transport's softish bass and more laid-back presentation remained with the Lens in the signal path. The Lens, however, reduced the magnitude of the differences between transports, leaving only traces of their musical characteristics. How the transports' jitter signatures got through the Lens's RAM and ended up at the DAC, where it influenced the sound, is atotal mystery.
There's more. When Paul McGowan and Arnie Nudell visited, Nudell described the sonic benefits of taking a bulk tape eraser to CDs. McGowan and Iwere skeptical. We all went to the local RadioShack, where Nudell asked the guy behind the counter where the bulk tape erasers were kept. He asked if we wanted an eraser for audio or video tape. Ijumped in and said "CD," which probably gave him fodder for jokes at the next sales meeting; "Some idiot wanted abulk tape eraser for his CDs!"
Back at the house, we listened to Zappa's The Yellow Shark (originally Barking Pumpkin R2 71600, but now part of Ryko's FZ reissue series: Rykodisc RCD 40560) without the Lens in the signal path, then "demagnetized" the CD with the bulk tape eraser and listened to it again at matched leyeh. It was clearly different -- and better -- after being treated with the bulk tape eraser. The sound become more vivid,

the soundstage more transparent, and MEASUREMENTS

the apparent size of the hall increased. It Iapproached the Lens measurements

was a larger difference than Ihear from two perspectives: its effect onjitter

between many digital interconnects.

at the word clock inside adigital proces-

We repeated the experiment on a sor, and how it changed low-level wave-

new disc, but this time with the Lens forms with its dither-generation func-

between the Mark Levinson No31 tion. First the jitter.

transport and the Classé DAC-1 proces-

Fig.1 is the Theta Chroma 396's

sor. Although the difference was not as clock-jitter spectrum made by driving

great as with the Lens out of the signal the Chroma with aPS Audio Lambda

path, the bulk tape eraser still made the transport playing the CBS Test Disc.

CD sound better.

The test signal was a lkHz, -90dB

Ialso had on hand two CDs made undithered sinewave. We can see the

from the same master tape, but cut on now-classic spikes of jitter energy at

two different mastering machines. The lIcHz and its harmonics, the result of

two CDs were verified to have bit-for- the test signal creating interface jitter.

bit identical data. Ialso had jitter-analy- The RMS jitter level, measured over a

sis graphs of the two CDs' EFM signals: 400Hz-20kHz bandwidth, was 230

one disc had much higher jitter in its picoseconds.

pits than the other disc. In ablind test,

Fig2 represents the identical test con-

Nudell and McGowan instantly picked ditions and signals, but with the Digital

the disc with the higher measured jitter Lens between the Lambda transport and

as sounding worse -- even when played the Theta processor. The periodic jitter

through the Lens.

components are much lower in level

First, why should demagnetizing a (except the spike at 4kHz), and the spec-

CD change its sound? And how doesjit- trum is generally cleaner. The RMS jit-

ter in the pits of aCD end up at the ter level also dropped from 230ps to

DACs word clock, where it changes the 160ps.

sound? And if the Lens is aperfect bar-

Repeating the measurements with a

rier to any jitter upstream of it, why Classé DAC-1 processor yielded less of

could we still hear the difference an improvement injitter performance --

between high- and low-jitter CDs, and the DAC-1 had betterjitter performance

the effects of demagnetizing the disc?

to start with. Fig3 is the DAC-1's jitter

If anyone has the answers, I'm all ears. spectrum when processing a 11cHz,

O a
ma, Jew

Own» 10411000· 101111.0·1

Om* U.



.0.00 10.0

SAM U. Yin Una Ia.

14.1· 1.11·1


Fig. I Theta Chroma 396, word-clock jitter spectrum, DC-20kHz. when processing IkHz sinewave at --90dBFS from PS Audio Lambda transport (linear frequency scale, IOdB/vertical div., OdB= Ins).

· · ·
,COO 20 " MOO .00

C.··· 0061 111. 4 011011,.. 1110.4.11011110·010,

MOO .··


Classé DAC- Iword-clock jitter spectrum. DC-20kHz, when processing IkHz sinewave at --90dBFS from PS Audio Lambda transport (linear frequency scale, IOdB/vertical div.. OdB= 1ns).



co le Oa

.01 .40 .00 Mee .01


ill. U. ·Allak






Fig .2

Theta Chroma 396. word-clock jitter spectrum. DC-20kHz, when processing IkHz sinewave at --90dBFS from PS Audio Lambda transport with Genesis Digital Lens in-circuit (linear frequency scale, 10dB/vertical div., OdB= Ins).




Classé DAC- I. word-clock jitter spectrum.
DC-20kHz. when processing IkHz sinewave at --90dBFS from PS Audio Lambda transport with Genesis Digital Lens in-circuit (linear frequency scale. 10dB/vertical div., OdB= Ins).



-90dB sinewave without the Lens. The RMS jitter level was 135ps. Note the rather high levels of signal-correlated jitter. FigA is the same measurement, but with the Lens in the signal path. The spectrum is only slightly cleaner, but the RMS level dropped to 105ps.
Looking next at the Lens's effect on low-level waveforms, fig.5 is the Classé DAC-1's reproduction of a 1kHz, -9031dBFS undithered sinewave with a 16-bit input signal. We can clearly see the three quantization steps at this level: 0, +1, and -1. Fig.6 is the same waveform, but with the Lens in the signal path and set to Dither 2(dithering the 15th bit). This is alarge amount of clither -not unexpected, considering you can hear hiss from loudspeakers when the Lens is in Dither 2 mode. Note the expanded scale, needed to show the high level of dither energy overlaying the 1kHz sinewave. Whether or not fig.6 represents an increase in fidelity to the
100044 »Mu 60 Wu MO. MO. 00
400u 40.

original signal is open to debate. What really surprised me was fig.7, the
Classé DAC-1's reproduction of this waveform with the Lens set to Dither 1. The Lens took in 16-bit data and output 20-bit data, with the lower three bits being dither. For some reason the waveform now appears to have four quantization steps, not three - as if some of the energy from the +1 level appears as the narrow spike below the -1 level. Note how narrow this new waveform component appears, seen as the negative-going spike between -50p.V and -100p.V. The signal's zero crossing axis also appears shifted from the zero horizontal division. Note fig.'7's different scale; the waveform now traverses the range between ±100p.V rather than fig.6's ±80p.V. Ican't think of any mechanism that would cause this behavior. Perhaps Genesis can provide some insight into this question in their Manufacturer's Comment.
Genesis supplied me with jitter measurements made on the Lens by Bascom H. King using his custom S/PDIF jitter analyzer. The Lens was driven by an S/PDIF signal generated by adevice made by PrismSound that intentionally adds jitter to an S/PDIF signal. The signal was jittered by a100Hz squarewave with ajitter amplitude of 10 nanoseconds (10ns). Fig.8 shows the jitter spectrum in the S/PDIF signal at the Lens



00. 1 ,0. 1,0). 410.

r1,40 1.4 4 00. 4 50.


Fig.5 Classé DAC-1, waveform of undithered

IkHz sinewave at -90.3IdBFS (16-bit

0 0


544.400.4 4 CL···· DAG 1 11041 Of· MC N.


40. 00

10. la.


100. J. 00. Ire. 441040



Classé DAC-1, waveform of undithered IkHz sinewave at -90.31dBFS (16-bit data) with
Genesis Digital Lens (Dither 2).

$10.4004. C.··· WC, 140.









480 » 14.


Genesis Digital Lens, word-clock jitter spectrum of S/PDIF input signal. DC-20kHz, measured with Bascom H. King jitter analyzer (OdB. IOns). Jitter signal is 100Hz squarewave with an amplitude of 10 nanoseconds (10ns).

:10:14. 1,05 S,1411

0werruon oulp.4 or Ca... 01.101 ens 10.114 101.1


4000 WOO


SM. 100. 150.


Y. 1110. 1,040 400. "O. 1¢144

Fig.7 Classé DAC-I, waveform of undithered IkHz sinewave at -90.31dBFS (16-bit data)
with Genesis Digital Lens (Dither I).

Fig.9 Genesis Digital Lens, word-clock jitter · spectrum of S/PDIF output signal,
DC-20kHz, under the same conditions of fig.8. measured with Bascom H. King
jitter analyzer (OdB= IOns).

input. Note that the 100Hz jitter component coincides with the OdB horizontal division, which is calibrated at lOns. You can see all the odd-order harmonics of the 100Hz squarewave in the jitter spectrum on the S/PDIF signal.
The Lens's output jitter spectrum was plotted (fig.9) while the unit was being driven by this massively jittered signal. The Lens's total removal of interface jitter (see figs.11 and 12) is impressive. The Lens apparently does what it's designed to do: isolate the output from any incomingjitter. The residual jitter in fig.12 is the jitter analyzer's noisefloot which is in the single-digit picosecond range. (The spike at 120Hz is probably power-supply noise.)
Although the Lens appears from these S/PDIF measurements to eliminate jitter at its output, it doesn't eliminate jitter in digital processors. The Lens's output may be perfect or nearly so, but that doesn't mean your system will be jitter-free. Nonetheless, the cleaner word-clock jitter spectra and lower RMS jitter level measured in digital processors with the Lens connected correlated with the improvements in sound quality heard in the auditioning.


The Genesis Digital Lens is the most

serious attempt to date at reducingjitter

in outboard digital processors. Judging

from the auditioning and measure-

ments, Genesis's unique memory-based

approach has achieved its goals.

The Lens's effect on the musical

quality of my playback system was truly

extraordinary. Adding the Lens ren-

dered improvements in nearly every

area of musical performance: sound-

stage size, bass definition and dynamics,

clarity, detail resolution, and timbrai liq-

uidity. Iheard no drawbacks when

adding the Lens, only gains.

The Lens produced the kind of

improvement that left me disappointed

when it was removed. Ienjoyed music

much more with the Lens installed, par-

ticularly when discovering newfound

musicality in my favorite recordings.

Moreover, the magnitude of the Lens's

increased musicality was greater than dif-

ferences between many transports. 'This

suggests that amoderately priced trans-

port/Lens combination would be abetter

choice than asimilar amount of money

spent on atransport without the Lens.

The Genesis Lens has become an

essential part of my playback system. If

you audition one, Isuspect that it will

become apermanent part of your sys-

tem, too.




Michael Fremer wonders if this phono cartridge's patented ring-magnet design enables it to run rings around the competition.

Low-output moving-coil cartridge with ahard, anodized, reinforced aluminum cantilever: a PA, grain-oriented diamond stylus; yokeless ring-magnet design; and a "Multiple Density Progressive Suspension." Source impedance: 3 ohms. Recommended stylus downforce: 1.8 grams. Compliance: I5cu (Icu = 1x10 cm/dyne). Weight: 7.5 grams. Channel separation: 30dB or better. 200Hz-10kHz.

Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz. il .5dB. Nominal output 250pV (3.45cmis,1kHz). Recommended load: 1-47k ohms. Serial number of unit reviewed: 1663. Price: $3800. Approximate number of dealers: 25. Manufacturer: Immutable Music Inc., Tokyo. Japan. US distributor: Sumiko, 3101 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705.Tel: (SIC) 843-4500. Fax: (510) 843-7120.

The Temper is the second-generation Transfiguration cartridge, manufactured by Immutable

sides. Also, since the stylus almost hides from you when it's in the groove (or on the alignment device), dialing-in the

the high standards set by both the Clavis DC and the AudioQuest Fe5.
But let's move past the considerable

Music, Inc. in Japan. The man behind Temper had me losing mine.

break-in period and get to what the

Immutable Music, Inc., Seiji Yoshioka,

Otherwise, positioning requirements Transfiguration cartridge has been do-

has designed the most convincing- are routine, though--as with most high- ing ever since. The Temper, in either the

sounding cartridge Ihave heard in my performance cartridges-- the Temper Rockport arm or the Graham, present-

system to date.

demands precision alignment to give ed as neutral asonic picture as I've ever

How does the Temper accomplish its you all it can. Igot the best sound with heard from atransducer. It sounded liq-

magic? If you read my cartridge construction in

description the April


the body tilted ever-so-slightly back from parallel with the record surface. As

uid and luxurious from the very highest to the very lowest frequencies. Its abili-

issue's review of the Clavis DC and advertised, 1.8 grams proved to be the ty to portray both the sonorous midbass

AudioQuest Fc5, you understand the optimum tracking force.

"bloom" of the larger stringed in-

basics. The Temper's coils are wound on
a2mm by 2mm "Ultra Super" Per- SOUND

struments (viola and cello) and the luxurious high-pitched glow of the violin

malloy former, which the company Iknew the cartridge needed breaking- was unsurpassed in my listening ex-

claims exhibits the "highest permeabili- in, so initially Ijust played music and lis- perience. Like the bouquet on afine

ty" and the "lowest hysteresis distortion tened for the Temper's overall sonic wine, it just kept coming at you.

currently available."

character. Even without break-in, the

The sense of the Temper "glossing

The former/coil assembly sits directly inside the core of the ring magnet via

Temper was remarkably free of any sort of grain structure in the upper mids or


alaser-cut square hole (fig.1). To the highs. Nor was there ahint of an etchy right balance of snap and grit and smooth

best of my knowledge, this construction or sharp character, even on sibilants. The shimmer to high-frequency transients. If

is unlike that of any other cartridge. Ac- Temper wasn't and isn't an aggressive- you don't take the time to let the Temper

cording to the manufacturer, the placement affords avery high level of magnetic efficiency, which allows the use of

sounding cartridge --but neither is it laid-back or soft-sounding.
Consider that the associated equip-

break-in, you might conclude that it lacked low-level resolution, ambience retrieval, and inner detail, but you'd be

fewer coil turns to generate the same ment Iused for this review included the wrong. Quite the contrary, in fact: Once

voltage, thus lowering the system's mov- Modulus 3A tube preamplifier, Cary it was ready to go, the Temper gave me

ing mass.

CAD-805 monoblocks, and Yamamura more of those things than any of the



Temper on airbearing

the arm

Millennium 5000 cables. No one has accused any of that gear of being "bright" or "analytical" --quite the opposite. Only the Audio Physic Virgo

other cartridges I've auditioned. The Temper presented male and fe-
male voices with aconvincing sense of body, head, and mouth. That included

mounted on the VP! TNT Mk3 turn- speakers have arap in some circles of vocal sibilants, which were never

table, using both the Audible Illusions sounding "analytical."

Modulus 3A preamplifier's built-in

During this preliminary auditioning I

phono section, and the Audio Research was disturbed by aquality Iheard in the

PH3 outboard phono section. Later, I upper midrange and above: an "oily"

used both the Graham LSGIC and
Rockport 6000 arms on the SOTA Mil-

sensation due to alack of transient snap. There was, and is, aspectacular sense of

lennium turntable (review to come).

an "acoustic bubble" on appropriately

Setup of the Temper is extremely dif- recorded material, but Ididn't feel the

ficult because you cannot easily see the cartridge had a"grip" on the top end: It

cantilever from the front unless you seemed to smooth things over abit. It

look under the curved front face. And didn't appear to be able to resolve infor-

given that the cantilever is relatively mation in the manner of some of the

short and rides fairly low, it is hardly eas- other cartridges I've reviewed. Nor did I

ier to view the elusive shank from the initially find image solidity to be up to

Transfiguration Temper MC phono cartridge



smothered or smoothed over; neither did they sound sharp or mechanical. They just sounded real.
Tonally, the Temper was neutral. It

timbrai, textural, and dynamic character of low-level detail was unsurpassed in my experience. The perceived noisefloor was extremely low. Even at the

ly in reviews that you really ought to find: Mel Tonné and Friends Recorded Live at Marty's (Finesse W2X 37484) is one of the most convincing small club

was neither warm, nor cool, nor glassy lowest amplitude levels, the cartridge's recordings I've ever heard; all Ican tell bright, nor dull, nor was it sluggish or overall character remained consistent in you is that the Temper's rendition of it

fast or anything easily identifiable. It is not acartridge intended to sound good on just one kind of music. Instead, it

its purity liquidity, and tonal neutrality Iwas going to try to get through an
entire review without including my

was the most convincing yet: tonally, texturally, and especially in the sound of Tormé's voice and the decay at the end

does them all well, which means it observations on an actual recording, of words and phrases. It was possible to

needs to be agreat tracker.

because that has become aboring cli- distinguish Tornié's direct voice into the

There are afew other tonally neutral, ché, and if you're not familiar with the mike and its low-level decay, the club's

"high trackability" cartridges Ican think vinyl, what have you learned? Nada. I sound system and its decay, and the ex-

of, such as the later iterations of the mean, if Isay to you "Take Nebechna's citation of the room acoustic itself and

Shure V-15, but they don't stir the soul Symphony in Eon Libido Records with its decay. The end result was the most

like the Temper. Why not? For one Pinchas Tukas and the Fairbanks Sym- convincing sensation of being at alive

thing, they don't have the Trans- phony Orchestra. In the third move- performance I've yet heard at home.

figuration's liquidity, body, and bloom. ment there's aflute glissando doubled

Idon't know if that clarifies things for

After break-in, the Temper was able to by xylophone. I've never been able to you, but everything happening behind

keep going "up" after the transient with- follow each musical line separately until the main event of Mel singing was por-

out getting lost in a high-frequency the Temper." So what? What does that trayed with amuch greater complexity

haze. It presented the snap of real instru- really mean to you ifyou've never heard through the Temper than through any

ments without adding an artificial- the record?

other cartridge I've heard. With other

sounding electronic edge.

But Ican't help myself. There's this cartridges, it felt as if either the room

The Temper's ability to resolve the two-record set I've spoken of previous- had dried up or I'd processed the

recording with areverb unit -- which I


Ring Magnet

In most other regards -- soundstaging, front-to-back depth -- the Temper

Ultra Super

was no better or worse than the best of


the others. 'Which is saying agreat deal.


We've reached the point where all this talk of "the soundstage seemed wider


and deeper" is approaching absurdity with regard to cutting-edge gear. How

much bigger and wider can it get?

Even though this is alow-output car-

tridge, overall dynamics-- especially

Initial Soft Damper
Secondary Foundation Damper

Magnet Supporter

bass dynamics --were superb: The Temper got the texture and tone of acoustic and electric bass correct -- beautifully balancing the transient and harmonic overtones with supple control.

Fig.I Transfiguration Temper ring-magnet generator
North Pole Piece
Former and Coils
Fig.2 Conventional MC phono cartridge generator

Magnet South Pole Piece

Did the Temper sound the same through the Modulus's phono section and the Audio Research PH3? No! So how can Ibe so certain of what I'm describing? I'm referring to overall character here, because everything else in the chain is talking. Through the Audible Illusions' phono section, the midrange was abit thinner and the bass lost a small bit of control and detail, but the overall delicacy and low-level resolution were enhanced. Through the PH3 (full review to come) there was more midrange flesh on the bones, and abit better bass definition, but somewhat less resolution and delicacy in the upper frequencies. Nonetheless, the overall character of the cartridge -- its micro-dynamic resolution and astonishing low distortion -- shone through



using either phono section.

same sense of an "easy acoustic bubble"

As to which phono section was "bet- came rolling through my head: com-

ter," Ican't say. Neither suffered any glar- plex, yet totally coherent. And despite

ing problems, they just presented things where Istood, each instrument's place-

from slightly different perspectives.

ment was quite apparent. Where do


these people who say imaging and soundstaging don't exist listening to live

The week before Isent this review to music get that idea?

Santa Fe, Iwent to two concerts, one at

Maybe if you sit in the upper tiers of

The Village Vanguard (Joe Lovano aconcert hall you face awall of mush,

Quartet) and one at asmall Long Island but down on the floor in agood seat?

club called Stephen's Talk House (Jj. You can hear where things are coming


from! Icould close my eyes at The

At the former, Isat at the front table Vanguard and hear Hart's ride cymbal

with the house sound-reinforcement in one place and his splash cymbal else-

system behind me. At the latter, Istood where in space, and so could you.

at the back of the room at the bar. At

That quality ola "coherent bubble" of

The Vanguard, the bell of Tom Harrell's ultimate transparency, the preservation

flugelhorn was no more than three or of the harmonic envelope around every

four feet from my head. Lovano's sax instrument and musical event, and the

was even closer. Behind and to my right astonishing purity of tone are what set

was Billy Hart's drum kit, and Anthony the Temper apart from other cartridges

Cox played an amplified stand-up bass I've heard, and make it sound more like

next to him.

live music to me, in my system.

It was loud and it sounded "live"
(duh!), but it was never bright, or thin, CONCLUSION

or antiseptic, or dull, or thick, or etched Before writing this review, Iwent back

(save for Cox's bass, which, through the and auditioned anumber of very-high-

amp and speakers, took on a"faster" quality phono cartridges, including

and more brittle tone than an unampli- those I've already reviewed for Stereo-

fied stand-up bass would have). In phile. Iwould be thrilled to listen to rec-

other words, it never sounded like a ords with any of them:They all whomp

CD -- but damn if there weren't times every CD system I've heard. The art of

Iwas reminded of my system playing cartridge design has reached ahigh, if

records, especially with the Temper in expensive, level of sophistication.

there. This was for one particular rea-

Which one would make you happi-

son: the smoothness and liquidity of est? Ican't say. Iwent back to the Trans-

the attack and decay of the sounds of figuration Temper and tried to find the

the instruments.

downside: How could anyone listen to

No matter how hard Hart hit the it and not be amazed and impressed?

drum kit, it shimmered in a sweet No one spending $3800 on aphono

though raucous way, sending up huge cartridge is going to be using it with

clouds of sound that swirled over and shabby associated equipment, so let's

around him in abig bubble, attacks and leave that out of the equation. Even

decays merging in the sonic mist. though the Temper is rated at 025mV

Harrell's horn produced a big, airy (25011V), its perceived output seems

sound that, while brassy-sounding lower than that of the similarly rated

blowing right into my ear, was never Clavis DC. If your phono section isn't

hard, although it did produce aparticu- quiet, and doesn't couple high gain with

lar sonic excitation in me that filled my low distortion, you may not be happy

senses and seemed to swell my head. with the Temper

(Some would say that that's the last

If you have RF or ground-loop

thing my head needs.)

problems, you'll have to solve those

Lovano's alto, tenor, and soprano before you'll enjoy listening to the

saxes had delicate, feathery tones even as Temper. If you don't let it break in for

they were "reedy" and "brassy." The avery long time, you might think the

sound never hardened up or got etched. cartridge's ability to resolve inner

All of those sensations are what Ihear detail and ambience is deficient. But if

with the Temper (on great recordings, of you give it time, Ibelieve those reser-

course), more so than with any other vations will vanish, though if Ihad to

cartridge I've auditioned.

ascribe aparticular "coloration" to the

While Istood way back from the Temper, it would be asmall but wide-

stage at the JJ. Cale show, which Ithus ranging amplitude lift in the upper

heard as amixture of direct-from-the- mids and lower highs.

stage and through-the-PA sound, that

While the Temper is currently my

favorite cartridge, in my system as it is

now configured both the Claws DC

(which costs amere $1895) and the Au-

dioQuest Fe5 ($2550) are surely in the

same league. Depending upon your

system and your taste, either may prove

to be more to your liking than the

Temper. Icould live happily with either

of them, but of the three, the Temper

would be my cartridge of choice --cost

no object.

My taste isn't really that important,

though. What is important is your taste

and system. Ihope I've given you a

peek at what to expect from the

Temper. While the Transfiguration sells

for $3800, the importer, Sumiko, offers

atrade-in program: Ifyou exchange any

moving-coil cartridge that costs $1000

or more at retail for aTemper, they'll

lower the price by $1000. In other

words, there's agood chance you can

get aTemper for around the same price

as the 0.4mV--output AudioQuest Fe5,

or about $900 more than the Claws

DC. Whichever you choose, Ithink

you'll agree with me on one thing:

Given the right associated equipment,

any one of them will sound more like

real music than any CD system at any



We're speechless! You'll be too, when you hear musical,
transparent sound that is affordable!
7,749 W ebt`,..xl Dr. NI. (hrrh. .MO II4404 .114-926-0260
Shown: DAC-1, T-1, SP-213. 0-75, DM-100, D-150



Steven Stone, with Wes Phillips

Phono preamplifier capable of being powered from three different power supplies. Voltage gain: 56dB at !kHz. Input impedance: 470 ohms in parallel with 6.8nF (Stype); 560 ohms in parallel with InF (K-type). S/N ratio: 74dB, unweighted. Output voltage: 70mV. Output impedance: <10 ohms. Channel separation: 95dB at 1kHz. Dimensions: Prefix: F W by 41 /2 "D by 0.5" H; Flat-Cap power supply: 17W by 12" D by 21/2 "H; Hi-Cap power supply: KW by 1r D by 31/ 2 "H. Super-Cap power supply: 17W by 12" D by 31/2 "H. Weights: Prefix: Ilb; Flat-Cap: II lbs; Hi-Cap: 15 lbs;

Super-Cap: 27 lbs. Warranty: 5 years. Serial numbers of units reviewed: Prefix: 113066/110113; Flat-Cap: 103088; Hi-Cap: 101126; Super-Cap: not known. Prices: Prefix. $700 with DIN connector to ARO tonearm; Flat-Cap power supply adds $550; Hi-Cap power supply adds $1350; Super-Cap power supply adds $3900. Approximate number of dealers: 32. Manufacturer: Naim Audio Ltd.. Southampton Road, Salisbury SPI 2LN, England, UK. US distributor: Naim Audio North America. 2702 W Touhy, Chicago. IL 60645.Tel: (312) 388-6262. Fax: (312) 338-6202.

N dim is one of those companies that manages to find adifferent way of doing almost everything. The Prefix phono preamplifier is acase in point. It may look unique, almost bizarre, but it is actually acommon-sense design that integrates beautifully with Naim's other products.
Like the Sears Roebuck catalogs of yesteryear, whose products you could choose based on performance and price, the Prefix gives you achoice of good, better, and best, depending on which power supply you select. The price ranges from $1250 with the Flat-Cap power supply to $2050 with the Hi-Cap supply to $4600 with the Super-Cap.

The Prefix is aslight variation on a tried-and-true Naim phono circuit that's appeared in the company's preamplifiers for 25 years. Managing Director Julian Vereker designed the circuit in 1971, and refined it for moving-coil cartridges in '74. The design goal was to create aphono stage that would remain stable without massive amounts of global feedback or a limited bandwidth, each or both of which would substantially reduce fidelity.
The Prefix circuit accomplishes its design objectives in several ways: First, the RIAA curve is divided into upper and lower frequencies, which are addressed by different parts of the circuit design. Second, the Prefix shortens the run from arm to preamp, thereby reducing the amount of RF noise being introduced to the circuit. The goal is to achieve maximum bandwidth combined with minimum noise.
The Prefix circuit's three separate parts together produce aphono preamplifier with approximately 56dI3 of voltage gain. The primary gain-stage uses five Zetex npn transistors, made to Naim's low noise specs, to amplify the whole wide-bandwidth signal. The signal then goes into an RC network to

Inside view of Naim Prefix phono preamplifier

correct just the upper frequencies of the RIAA curve. Athird gain block features aselective feedback loop to apply the proper RIAA curve for the lower frequencies. The result is an RIAA-equalized output signal at anominal level of 70mV to feed the inputs of aline-level preamplifier.
The Prefix evolved from the Link, a small phono preamp made by Naim at the behest of Linn and designed as an electronic replacement for outboard MC cartridge transformers. When Naim introduced their Armageddon power supply for the LP12 (see Wes Phillips's review in February '96, Vol.19 No2, p.145), they decided to "brush up" the Link, and the Prefix was born.
At first made only for friends, and on avery limited basis, the Prefix became a"real product" only about two years ago. Naim's Julian Vereker told me that since vinyl has now become an "enthusiasts' medium," Naim felt that potential owners would have the pre-

requisite sophistication to properly use the Prefix.
Unlike many phono preamps that have variable gain, input resistance, and input capacitance, the Prefix isn't intended to be auniversal device. It was designed to work inside the Linn LP12 or German-made Phonosophie turntables with low-output moving-coil cartridges. The "S" version (made originally for the Supex cartridge) has aresistive load of 470 ohms. The "K" version
(made to suit the Linn Karma and Troika cartridges) is set to 560 ohms, and the "E" version is suitable for EMT-based cartridges like the Roksan Shiraz. The Prefix is small enough to fit inside the Linn turntable; only the cable running to its power supply signals the Prefix's presence. It will work with other turntables -- the VP! TNT, for instance -- but will not nestle into these quite so elegantly. The Prefix comes supplied with either a Naim ARO or an SME/DIN connector, so it will attach to any tonearm with that



sort of termination. In my system it sits just underneath the Graham toneann, supported on aNavcom puck.
Ibegan imr sonic explorations with the least expensive version of the Prefix -- $1250 with the Flat-Cap power supply -- and worked my way up. I've recently reviewed several phono preamplifiers in approximately the same price range as the base-price Prefix (see Stereophile, September 1995, Vol.18 No.9, p.151), so I'm somewhat familiar with the performance one should expect at this level.
The Prefix's primary attribute in this incarnation was its smoothness. The sound was suave and laid-back, perhaps even too laid-back. Dynamic energy seems to be somewhat attenuated. Both the Michael Yee PFE-1 and the Gold Aero dB-45 had more dynamic contrast and slam. On blockbuster recordings -- like the latest Classic Records release to cross my desk, Tchaikovsky's Symphony 6, the "Pathétique," performed by Pierre Monteux and the Boston Symphony (Classic LSC-1901) -- the "goosebump factor" was severely truncated; or, as 13.13. King would say, "the thrill was gone.... "
While not as dynamic-sounding as the competition, the Prefix was certainly its equal in terms of soundstage

size and depth, handling frequency extremes well, with plenty of air on top and good extension on the bottom The Prefix was very quiet, except for aslight amount of RF breakthrough. Icould hear an FM station very faintly if my system was turned up to maximum listening levels with my ear near the Dunlavy's tweeter. It tickled. The first Prefix unit Ireceived had substantially more RF breakthrough, but a small change in the grounding scheme (something about asmall loop of wire inside the Prefix being eliminated) reduced this to aminimal level. Depending on your geographic location, RF may or may not be aproblem. Forewarned is forearmed.
The much beefier Hi-Cap power supply really helped the Prefix come out of its shell, with far more dynamic punch, ease, and transient agility. On Tim and Mollie O'Brien's Take Me Back (Sugar Hill SH-3766), the raw power and majesty of Nick Forester's and Tim O'Brien's vintage Martin dreadnought guitars came through with the Hi-Cap, while with the Flat-Cap the transient attack was dulled and some energy lost.
im's and Mollie's voices also had less grain and more dimensionality with the Hi-Cap, and bass extension was better.


Analog source for this review was aVPI TNT Jt turntable with outboard fly-

cerer, Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope, and WireWorld Eclipse (both balanced and single-ended). Speaker

wheel, mounted with aGraham 1.5 cables were Dunlavy Labs DAL-8Z,

TC tonearm. Cartridges included Audio Magic Sorcerer, Synergistic the van den Hul MC-1 Super, Research Resolution, and Audio-

Dynavector XX-11 low-output MC, Truth Argent Hyperlitz.

Fidelity Research/van den Hul FR-

Other accessories induded Room-

1, Denon 103/van den Hul, and a Tunes Ceiling Clouds, Acoustic

Denon DL-SI. The turntable was supported by aBright Star base and Townshend Seismic Sink.

Sciences Tube Traps, Arcici's Levitation stand, Shakti Stones, Fluxbuster, PAD break-in disk, Music

Preamplifiers in-house were the and Sound ferrite beads, Audio-

Audio Research IS-5 1V1k.II, Threshold T-2, Pass Aleph P, and Carver Lightstar Reference linelevel units, with Vendetta SCP-2C and Gold Aero dB-45 outboard

Quest ferrite clamps, NoiseTrapper power strip, Synergistic Research power cords, TARA Labs RSC Master power cords (with Pass Aleph 0), Coherent Systems EAU-1 Elec-

phono units used for reference. troclear AC-line conditioner, Audio-

Power amplifiers were the Jeff Quest record brush, Gryphon Exor-

Rowland Design Group Model 6, Manley Reference 240, and Pass Aleph 0. Speakers were the Dunlavy Signature SC-Vls.
Interconnects included Straight

cist conditioning tool, Nitty Gritty record-cleaning machine, Radio Shack sound-pressure meter, Kleenmaster Brillianize CD cleaner, and a Corgi Toys James Bond Aston-

Wire Virtuoso, Audio Magic Sor- Martin DB-5.

--Steven Stone

Steve Swallow's acoustic bass on the Gary Burton Quartet's Duster (RCA LSP-3835) sounded tighter, with more dynamic verve and punch. Also, Larry Coryell's big, blond Gibson L-5CES was more believable, especially when he turned down his amp to play acousticonly chords behind Swallow's solo on "Ballet." The acoustic of RCA's famed Studio B came through better with the Hi-Cap, with more room ambience and separation between instruments.
Compared to the (unfortunately longdiscontinued) Vendetta SCP-2C, the Prefix with Hi-Cap supply is acontender. The Prefix did have abit more grain than the Vendetta, but was its equal in bass extension, soundstage width, depth, and dynamic power. The Vendetta had aslightly more forward presentation, with sound starting from a plane at the front of the speakers. The Prefix soundstage began several feet behind the speakers--more like Row E compared to the Vendetta's Row-B presentation. The Vendetta, with its hand-picked and -matched FETs, was quieter, without atrace of noise other than avery-low-level hiss when my car was near the Dunlavy tweeter.
Which did Iprefer? It depended on the material. On multitrack popular music and full orchestral recordings, I preferred the Vendetta's superior resolving power and ability to unravel dense mixes. With jazz, acoustic, and bluegrass, Iprefer the Prefix's more laidback presentation and slightly lower "electronic" signature.
At the top of the Naim heap is the Prefix with Super-Cap power supply. Fortunate souls who already own a Naim 52 preamplifier, which comes with the Super-Cap, can just plug the Prefix into the back of the NAC 52. That makes the Prefix a mere $700 bauble. Most of us don't have aSuperCap lying around, so the $4600 cost makes the Prefix/Super-Cap an expensive rig.
At almost twice the price of my reference Vendetta SCP-2C, one would expect substantially superior performance from the Prefix/Super-Cap. Alas, it didn't totally clean the Vendetta's clock. While the Prefix did excel in many sonic parameters, it wasn't dramatically or universally superior, and offered up no mind-numbing sonic revelations.
Granted, the Prefix/Super-Cap was a more natural-sounding phono stage than the Vendetta, and shed the last trace of grain that had still been present



with the Hi-Cap supply. This grainless (Charles Munch/BSO, RCA LSC-

presentation made the Vendetta sound 2341) emanating from Boston Sym-

slightly mechanical and electronic in phony Hall's Aeolian Skinner organ

comparison. Tori Amos's voice on were faithfully rendered by the Prefix.

"China" (Little Earthquakes, eastwest/ (This cut is also great for ironing out the

Warner Bros. 7567-82358-1, German wrinkles in your pant legs.)

import LP) had amore lifelike quality

The Prefix was more three-dimen-

through the Prefix, with no trace of sional than the Vendetta, but lacked the

electronic grain or glare whatsoever. On Vendetta's explicit lateral imaging. With

this dense mix the Prefix was equal, but the Prefix, the horns on a45rpin test

not superior, to the Vendetta in dredg- pressing (cadged from Classic Records)

ing up low-level information. The of the last movement of Rimsky-

Prefix still possessed the more distant Korsakov's Scheherazade seemed to start

perspective of its less expensive incar- from farther back in the hall, but lacked

nations; the result was asoundstage that the Vendetta's pinpoint imaging. With

was less up-front than the Vendetta's.

the SCP-2C Icould almost count every

While the Vendetta has always been bell on stage. The solo violin also

achampion in bass extension, timbre, sounded more palpable through the

and slam, the Prefix was its equal. Phil Prefix, but was more precisely located

Lesh's big Gibson EBO bass sound on in space by the Vendetta.

"Brokedown Palace," from the Grateful

The Prefix/Super-Cap combo did

Dead's American Beauty LP (MFSL 1- have better inner detail than its less ex-

014), had excellent definition, with all pensive siblings, but still didn't super-

the subtle dynamic shadings preserved. sede the Vendetta in this regard. On

The double-bass drone at the beginning Lyle Lovett's "Church," from Joshua

of Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra (Fritz Judes Ruth (Curb/MCA 10475), back-

Reiner/CSO, RCA Victrola VICS- ground vocalists had slightly better clar-

1265) was enough to make amonkey ity through the Vendetta. The Prefix did

stare longingly at an obelisk. Even sound more natural, especially on Lyle's

organist Bed Zamkochian's 16Hz pedal voice, lacking the Vendetta's sightly

notes during Saint-Saëns's Symphony 3 electronic signature. Granted, Ihave yet

to hear any phono preamp that bests the

Vendetta at dredging up every iota of

information from a record's grooves,

but the Prefix came closer than any-

thing I've heard.

--Steven Stone

The Prefix sample measured was aK version and was used with aHi-Cap power supply. The Prefix doesn't invert polarity. Its input impedance measured 484 ohms at 1kHz, and its voltage gain ahealthy 55.7dB, again at 1kHz. Its output impedance was around 4ohms at 1kHz and 20kHz, though this rose to 500 ohms at 20Hz. Prefix owners should make sure they use apreamp with line-level input impedances of at least 10k ohms, if the balance is not to become alittle lean. The Prefix's actual RIAA error is shown in fig.1: The slight rising trend throughout the treble might be just audible, while the low frequencies start to roll off below 30Hz.
Despite its MC-compatible high sensitivity, the Prefix had low levels of noise. Its unweighted S/N ratio measured 52dB over a22Hz-22kHz bandwidth, this improving to 60.5dB when A-weighted. (Both figures are refer-

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...M. Ns. P.*. Piss 4..ar 1M, .14·0.my .1 IM..· [GI 50:00 0 0 4000

Fig. I Naim Prefix, RIAA error at 3mV input at IkHz into 100k ohms (0.5dB/vertical div.).

Movoped· Mon hens t110


tco Mt. · 1M




Fig.2 Naim Prefix.THD+noise vs frequency at 3mV at 'kHz into 100k ohms.

enced to anominal MC input level of 35411V at lkHz.)
Fig2 shows how the Naim's level of distortion and noise varied with frequency. The input level for this test was ahigh 3mV at 1kHz, which minimizes the effect of noise on the plotted distortion level. Cruising at agood 0.1% level over most of the audioband, the distortion rose somewhat in the lowfrequency region, though not to any serious extent. Fig.3, taken with an input level of 43011V (equivalent to a 3mV input at 1kHz), reveals that the primary distortion component at bass frequencies is the benign second harmonic. Even at this very high input level, the second harmonic lies 48.7dB down from the fundamental (just above 0.3%). Power-supply components can be seen in this graph at 120Hz and 180Hz, but these are well down in level. (I experimented with all the various grounding arrangements before performing any measurements to minimize hum.)
The Prefix has excellent headroom. Fig.4 shows how the THD+noise percentage changes as afunction of output voltage with a 1kHz input signal. Clipping, defined as 1% THD+N, is not reached until the output voltage is 7V RMS, equivalent to an input voltage of 12mV, which is 27.6d11 above the nominal MC input level of 50011V. The overload margin at 20kHz was similar, though it did fall alittle at 20Hz, to 21.4dB, which is still excellent.
--John Atkinson

Sme 44.1,.. 50.0 sp....01M grew 00



120 0 DO

MO MD 3000 MO MO 4000 MO MO 1040 1.(4.


Naim Prefix, spectrum of 50Hz sinewave, DC--I kHz, at an input level of 427pV (linear frequency scale). Note that the second harmonic at 100Hz is the highest in level, at --48.7dB (about 0.33%).


Fig.4 Naim Prefix, distortion (%) vs output voltage into 100k ohms at IkHz.


The Naini Prefix is areliable, time-test-

ed design originally created for people

who own Linn turntables and Naim

electronics. It does, however, have

appeal beyond those narrow confines.

With abit of ingenuity, it can be adapt-

ed to almost anything with an SME-

type toneann connector.

The three power supplies available

for the Prefix each offer substantially

different performance levels. With the

Flat-Cap power supply, the Prefix is

pleasant-sounding but not terribly

exciting. The Hi-Cap gooses the Prefix

up to performance on apar with the

discontinued Vendetta SCP-2C, while

the Super-Cap propels the Prefix into

the rarefied megabuck category where

even subtle improvements in per-

formance come at substantial increases

in cost. To the analog enthusiast, the

performance may be worth the ex-

pense. In terms of value for dollar, the

Prefix/Hi-Cap combination is aclear

winner, but it's nice to have the option

to chase after unicorns via the Super-

Cap if the spirit so moves you.

Can one product merit Class C, B,

and A ratings by merely changing its

power supplies? If it's name is Prefix,

the answer is Yes.

--Steven Stone

Steven has done an exemplary job of

describing the Naim Prefix and its associated power supplies, but Ifear we come to slightly different conclusions regarding its merits. Not to beat around the bush, Iseem to like it one hell of a lot better than he did.
Partially, Isuspect, because he has a Vendetta SCP-2C and Idon't. Iadmire the Vendetta and agree that it deserves the passionate praise of its adherents, but Ifind, ultimately, that Itire of its relentlessly "upbeat" presentation of the music --the more "laid-back" (or, as I'd put it, natural and unforced) presentation of the Hi-Capped or SuperCapped Prefix is far more to my taste.
I'm also made uncomfortable by "value" comparisons with acomponent several years out of production. The Vendetta was agood buy in its day --so good, in fact, that it was probably mispriced in relation to what it cost to manufacture. Considering the big jump in component parts prices, it would undoubtedly cost alot more in 1996 bucks --probably something more or less in line with aSuper-Capped Prefix.
As aLinn owner, Iwas able to take
advantage of the Prefix's "mount-to-theplinth" design, and Imust say that keeping the cartridge's signal path as short as possible makes alot of sense to me. Even out here in New Mexico, Inoticed an immediate reduction in the RF-gencrated "haze" that so frequently overlays the music. Of course, this can't be solely attributed to the insertion of the Prefix at the end of the tonearm and keeping the low-level signal path short --I'm sure that other aspects of the Prefix's design also contribute to its RF rejection --but it sure can't hurt. And, since it deals with both step-up and phono EQ right at the 'table, you can run longer cables to your preamp, giving you greater latitude in placing your rig.
Ilived with the Hi-Capped Prefix for
along time, mostly because Ifound its sound so satisfying, but also, Imust admit, due to my confusion over the whole Flat-Cap, Hi-Cap, Super-Cap nomenclature. Ithought Ihad aSuperCap; rather, Ithought the Hi-Cap was the top-of-the-line Naim power supply. Nothing in my listening seemed to contradict this conclusion. The presentation was natural-sounding, with lovely liquidity through the mida and up into the highs -- which, in turn, were airy and quite grain-free. Bass was fulfillingly deep and taut. The flow and pace of my favorite records not only seemed intact, but seemed even more musically imperative than ever. Need Itell you? I was one happy camper.



Then, Naim Audio North America's Chris West dropped a bomb. "You ought to hear it with the Super-Cap, if you're impressed now," he suggested.
"Why? Ialready have aHi-Cap" "Sigh." Apparently, I'm not the only person this system has confused --but we got it all sorted out and Ireceived a Super-Cap to audition. Physically, the Super-Cap is hard to confuse with any of the other Naim power supplies. It's as large as most receivers, and I've owned lighter anvils (actually, it was asegment of rail cut from an abandoned C&O right-of-way, but you get the idea). The Super-Cap is one heavy mutha. You reach apoint where you get tired of summing up differences between components with phrases like "wider soundstage," "greater depth," "more profound intertransient silence," and "wider dynamic range" --but what can Ido? That's what Iheard. And hearing, we audiophiles say, is believing. But there's belief and then there's belief the difference between suspecting something's true and knowing it down to the molecular level of your being. The Hi-Capped Prefix is very, vety good; the Super-Capped is,
V "I can't believe it! çlioeljl gust h to call
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quite simply, among the best phono Blue CDP 7243), and found it com-

preamplifiers I've ever heard.

pletely not to my taste. Enough of this,

This might be agood time to come sez I, and pulled out my LP of Waits's

back down to earth with acaveat or two. Blue Valentine (Asylum 162). The room

The Prefix doesn't give you alot of flexi- immediately filled with stale cigarette

bility. Steven mentions the "K" model smoke and blinking neon light. Waits,

(loaded to 1001N/560 ohms), as well as an old drinking buddy, was alternately

the "E" model (400p.V/560 ohms), breathing beerily bathetic tales of the

which is what Iused with the extraordi- underworld into my ear ("Romeo Is

nary Sumiko Tranfiguration Temper car- Bleeding") or indulging in strutting

tridge. There's also an "S" model (10011V/ braggadocio ("Whistling Past the

470 ohms) intended for more general use. Graveyard"). Wow! Had Iever heard

That's it, for choice --actually, Nairn can the acoustic bass swing so hard, or exist

customize these specs somewhat; consult so palpably? No. Had Waits ever

your dealer --other than being able to sounded so present? No. Had Iever

have the Prefix accept either SME/DIN been more affected by the plight of the

connectors or Naim's ARO mount. Six little chippie with "$27 and an Alligator

choices. That alone may eliminate the Purse"? No. Had Ihad enough? Hell no!

device from your short-list

That led to Heart Attack and Vine (LP,

Gain could conceivably be aprob- Asylum 295), the Downtown Train EP

lem, although my experiences here were (Island 12IS 253 -- Keith Richards on

consistendy favorable. At its nominal guitar! In my living room!), and, ulti-

2501.1.V, the Temper isn't the lowest-out- mately, to Lost in the Stars (A&M SP9-

put cartridge I've ever used, but it still 5104), on which Waits sings Weill's and

demands alot from aphono section. Breches darkly cynical "What Keeps

While Idid have to crank my line-stage Mankind Alive?" The song's loathing

preamps abit to achieve realistic vol- and despair spoke to me in the most

ume, this wasn't aproblem. In my hous- direct manner imaginable, and led, in

es (I moved during this audition) the turn, to my pulling out disc after disc of

Prefix was as silent as atomb. Low-level Weill, Lenya, and Eisler. The last song

detail was beautifully presented against of the evening was Dave Van Ronk's

ablack velvet background, and dynam- bitter "Last Call" from Songs for Aging

ic contrasts were delineated vividly. I Children (Cadet CA 5004).

didn't experience anything like Steven's

That session took me through a

problem with faint radio breakthrough. thread of 13 discs lasting seven hours

If you have RF problems -- or if, like and change. Igot tired of sitting, but

my friend Ruben, you live in the path of never of listening. If Ihadn't had to go

some hospital's radio-paging system -- to work the next morning, Imight have

you should try to arrange for aloaner listened longer, but Stereophile, she is a

before committing.

jealous mistress.

But if you are willing to accept alimit-

Yeah, Iknow -- the above is just a

ed menu of cartridge options, the Prefix variation on the old "I pulled out record

is capable of performance that puts it in a after record as I..." schtick, but, like

very select group ofcomponents. Idid all most clichés, that one arose out of the

of this issue's "Quarter Notes" audition- need to express auniversal truth: When

ing with the Prefix. With the new discs I dealing with something as powerful as

was startled by something that was miss- music, anything that preserves the sense

ing --a "sound." From disc to disc, Iwas of wonder and constant rediscovery of

entranced by how individual each grace is agood thing. For me, the Naim

sounded. Iwas never conscious of any Prefix--in its Hi-Capped version and

pervading character that could have been even more in its Super-Capped version

attributed to the Prefix itself.

-- does that.

As Iindulged myself, throwing on

Is it the best out there? Undoubtedly

every old favorite disc that whimsy dic- not -- for one thing, it imposes limi-

tated, Iheard details that had never tations on associated cartridges that

come to the fore before -- even on 20- many will not find acceptable. And it's

year-old, much-played and -beloved expensive as well. But if you've got the

discs such as the early Tom Waits jack and can live with acartridge that

records. Even more, Iwas startled by the Prefix will accommodate, it will re-

how deeply Iresponded to their emo- ward you with anever-ending voyage

tional gestalt.

of discovery through your old and

Let me see if Ican recall the chain of beloved records. Not to mention how it

events correctly.... Ah, yes: Ihad at- will introduce you to the wonders of

tempted to listen to Holly Cole's CD new ones. For me, that's a-plenty.

tribute to Waits, Temptation (Metro

--Wes Phillips


Jack English auditions the Perfectionist Audio Components Pro Reference III/10K preamplifier and Super IDOS AC line conditioner

Perfectionist Audio Components Pro Reference 111/10K Audio Control Center (ACC) line stage.Tube complement four I2AX7 tubes. Controls: tape/source, input selector. balance, volume. power. Inputs (all single-ended): five line-level; tape in/out Outputs..two sets. single-ended. Frequency response: 10Hz-100kHz, t0.15dB. Input impedance: >300k ohms at any volume control setting. Maximum voltage gain: 22dB. Maximum output 28V RMS. Dimensions; 17.5W by 12" D by 3.5" H. Weight: 20 lbs. Finish: black with gold engraving. Price: $10,000 with phono preamplifier, rack, and power supply.
Perfectionist Audio Components Pro Reference 111/10K phono preamplifier. Tube complement: four 12AX7 tubes. Inputs: one set, single-ended. Outputs: one set. single-ended.Voltage gain: 44dB. Input impedance: 47k ohms in parallel with 100pF. Input overload: 350mV. THD: <0.01%. S/N ratio: >90dB ref. rated output Channel separation: >50dB. 20Hz-20kHz. Dimensions: 17.5" W by 12" D by 3.5" H. Weight

20 lbs. Finish: black with gold engraving.
Perfectionist Audio Components Pro Reference 111/10K High Isolation power supply Internal line filtering; multi-regulated voltage references; PAC Power Cable. Dimensions: 17.5" W by 12" D by 3.5" H. Weight 20 lbs. Available for 120VAC or 240VAC. Dedicated rack: brushed-gold finished aluminum; Zorbex/acrylic feet
Perfectionist Audio Components Super IDOS (Isolated Digital Outlet Snip) AC power conditioner and noise filter. Price: $500.
Common to all: Approximate number of dealers: 22. Manufacturer: Perfectionist Audio Components. PO. Box 387. Malverne, NY 11565-0387. TeL (516) 887-2708. Fax: (516) 887-6009. Internet http://gramercyios.com/idos/.

0 TIIAT WAS THEN ... utside, it was an absolutely beautiful Saturday morning. Inside, things were eerily quiet with tension lacing the air. The contenders had arrived some time before and were lounging about as lifegiving current flowed through their soon-to-be-challenged circuit boards. Warm and well-rested, they were prepared. But what of the judges and jury? Iwas certainly ready for them with ample food and drink, asystem that was performing optimally with no lastminute glitches, and enough LPs to set any audiophile's heart aflutter. There was little Icould do but wait. Over the next few hours, almost adozen deadly serious audiophiles would arrive. The battle would begin in earnest.
And that was how it started one morning over 13 years ago. A number of us had assembled what we believed to be asampling of the finest preamps (and step-ups) available in the world at that time. We were going to spend the full day listening and judging. At the outset, each of us had preconceived notions and personal favorites. After all, these were our own preamps that were to be thrown into the fray. But let me go back abit further.
Some time before this battle of the preamps, amutual friend, Morris Goldberg, had introduced me to Larry Smith, who was gaining notoriety for the massive bases he was making for direct-drive turntables. When Iwas finally able to visit Larry, he proudly displayed his latest brainchild --a monstrous-looking, fourcolumn speaker system. It sounded horrible! Being ever so polite, I was immensely grateful when the evening

Perfectionist Audio Components Pro Reference III/10K preamplifier

wound down to its inevitable end. As it my listening room. It was butt-ugly --

turned out, Larry had assumed Iwas just period. There was aseparate power-

another rock-loving crazy with no appre- supply chassis (still rare at that time),

ciation for things audiophile and had with ahuge umbilical. The look and

pumped up the bass and treble. That's feel of the preamp as well as its color

what rockers preferred, right? No, Idid- combined to screech out: "Military sur-

n't expect to run into Larry again.

plus!" My negative expectations mount-

When the day of the battle arrived, I ed with every passing minute. Once the

was more than alittle surprised to find preamp had been switched on, the tubes

Jim Saxon Ilugging acouple of boxes turned out to be noisy. Even the pots and

full of what turned out to be the origi- switches made dreadful, unwanted nois-

nal Perfectionist Audio Components es. With prolonged dread, Iexpected

(PAC) Pro Reference preamplifier into something much like my audition of

Larry's monstrous speakers. Iwas con-

1Jim now owns ahigh-rnd audio shop in Costa Rica. vinced the PAC preamp was not going



to mount much of achallenge.

ended outputs, along with agrounding volume spectrum added an appreciable

But was Iin for asurprise! The sonic post. That's that. The ACC has five amount of emotion to pieces where

performance of the Pro Reference was line-level inputs "controlled by aself- volume gradations are part and parcel of

stunning -- it blew us all away! It was the cleaning rotary selector switch." The the composer's intent; the "Volcano"

hands-down winner, each of us rating it latter has indicators for "Tuner" and movement from Hovhaness's Mount St.

as superior to our own carefully chosen "CD," with the other sources num- Helens Symphony (Delos DE 3137), for

preamps. The ungainly Pro Reference bered to correspond to the input jacks. example.

found anew home that day and it held The phono stage can be plugged into

In addition to the soft being soft, the

center stage in my system for many any of the three numbered inputs. The loud was very appropriately loud!


remaining controls on the front include There was little doubt Hovhaness had


atape/source selector, balance, and vol- been able to capture his subject matter ume (all large round knobs). Both the in an almost you-are-there fashion.

The latest incarnation of Larry Smith's ACC and HIPS units feature power Large-scale dynamic swings were

preamplifier, the Pro Reference III/10K, buttons identical to that on the phono invariably attention-grabbing. Equally

represents more than 15 years of evolu- stage, though the one for the ACC important, the Pro never lost its com-

tionary development work on the same actually functions as amute switch.

posure when things got really loud.

basic circuitry, reflecting a zealous

For $10,000, Ithink it fair to expect One of my tests of this characteristic,

adherence to a set of inviolate un- more features from a preamplifier. accompanied by uproarious introspec-

derlying principles. They begin with an Many preamps at this price level offer tive laughter, was repeated plays of

unswerving devotion to the venerable remote control, polarity inversion, a "Southbound Pachyderm" by Primus

vacuum tube--specifically thel2AX7A/ true mono switch, and other user- (Tales from the Punchbowl, Interscope

ECC83. As the design has progressed, friendly features. The PAC phono stage 92553-2). As the volume went up, the

successively greater emphasis has been could also have offered loading options music just kept getting louder, with no

placed on issues of relative physical to accommodate awider range of car- confusion, no hardening, and no loss of

location, isolation, power-supply regu- tridges. In this context, the III/10K is resolution.

lation and filtering, ventilation, wiring essentially abare-bones model, maxi-

Because the backgrounds were

(including umbilical and power cords), mized for sound quality. While Iagree black, everything heard was the music

sonic neutrality, accuracy, and dynamics, that sonics are the most important con- itself, almost in stark relief. Sounds

to name but afew.

cern, they are not the only thing that were precisely articulated with remark-

The PAC III/10K is ahuge monster matters.

able resolution of detail. A lovely illus-

of apreamplifier. It consists of three sep-

Ergonomically, the inconsistent ori- tration was Island's reissued 1977

arate chassis (phono preamplifier, line entation of the ACC's input and output recording Pictures (The Laser's Edge LE

stage, and power supply) bolted togeth- sockets (le, up and down, and side by 1024). Mastered by Bob Katz using his

er in adedicated aluminum rack. This side) is potentially hazardous. It was vir- proprietary hardware, and discovered

ensures adherence to PAC's principles of tually impossible to remember what through the never-ending progressive-

physical separation, proper ventilation, went where; Ialways had to inspect the rock pursuits of The Laser's Edge, this

and overall aesthetics. The package rear of the preamplifier before connect- CD sounded simply superb. Per-

weighs approximately 65 lbs and stands ing anything.

cussion, in particular, was rendered

just over a foot tall. Each chassis is
curved, machined, and anodized, with LET THE SHOW BEGIN...

with breathtaking precision. All of the electronic processing was laid bare, yet

the lettering hand-engraved and gold- The PAC III/10K was definitely one of at the same time it was also clear why,

filled. The stand is brushed-gold ano- the quietest tube preamplifiers Ihave from an artistic perspective, it had been

dized aluminum, which blends well ever used. Iwas impressed -- but not used in each instance. Through the

with the three preamp sections.

entirely. While the preamp itself was PAC preamp, it was obvious why

One PAC ALC(power cord) con- admirably silent, the volume control everyone had gone to so much trouble

nects the High Isolation Power Supply was noisy. Might it have gotten dirty to resuscitate this release.

(HIPS) to the wall AC supply. Asecond, after traveling all over the country?

The fine resolution was consonant

smaller PAC ALC runs from the HIPS Maybe. Ican't rule out this possibility, with the preamp's fine performance in

to the Pro Reference III phono pre- but Ialso couldn't help but remember the time domain. Sounds started, sus-

amplifier, and an umbilical cord con- having similar frustrations with my tained, decayed, and then stopped quick-

nects the HIPS to the Pro Reference III original Pro Reference. No big deal, ly and precisely. No matter how complex

Audio Control Center (ACC). A sup- but not something you would want in the material, each note or sound

plied set of PAC interconnect cables -- aproduct this expensive. As long as I remained clear and clean, with great

twin-axial, multi-conductor silver wire didn't touch any of the controls, how- speed and articulation. With rapid-fire

with aTeflon dielectric and ground lead ever, the unit was exceptionally quiet cascades of notes and sounds, Philip

for proper shield connection and alist for atubed design, at almost any vol- Glass made me feel the torment of the

price of $160/1m pair--connects the ume setting.

beast on "Les Tourments de la Bête" (La

phono stage to the ACC. When

Ibegan all of my initial evaluations Belle et la Bête, Nonesuch 79347-2), while

plugged into the wall, the preamp main- using the PAC ACC's line-level inputs, Art Zoyd forced me to experience the

tains aconstant low-level current flow. listening primarily to CDs played on terror of the vampire (Nosferatu, Atonal

Other than the power button -- a my Mark Levinson front-end (No30.5 ACD 3008).

nice push-on/push-off job with an and No-31). The backgrounds were par-

Sounds were lovingly transformed

LED at its center -- the phono stage has ticularly quiet: dark edging toward into music. All was well. Fm sure you

no controls. There is one set of single- black. The Pro Reference's ability to won't be surprised that my feet were

ended inputs and one set of single- effectively handle this lower level of the tappire on more than one occasion,



because the big Pro Reference was superb in conveying rhythm and pace, making it an ideal dance companion. (Okay, it might be alittle ugly, but the evenings were still young.)
Nothing whatsoever was added to the music to distract my attention. Ah, but all was not perfect, as it rarely ever is. The Pro had two relatively minor shortcomings that also defined its character. The first was aslight softening in the treble. This was translated into softened bells and mildly subdued cymbals on the Hovhaness recording. On Cassandra Wilson's latest (New Moon Daughter, Blue Note 32861-2), this turned out to be ablessing in disguise. My copy was one of the very first released and suffered from anumber of minor ills that were somewhat obscured by the soft top.
The second was aslightly reduced sense of mid/upper-bass weight. Ido not mean to impugn the bass extension, which was fine, nor do Imean to imply any loss of clarity in the lower registers, which were excellent in this respect. There simply seemed to be some reduction in weight and oomph when listening for the propulsive impact of the Glass opera, the purposeful drive from the Island disc, or the smooth rhythmic glue offered up by the acoustic bass on Johnny Hartmann's IJust Dropped By to Say Hello (Impulse! MCAD-39105).
My early passes at the phono stage were all done using the PAC ACC without the IDOS. Iwas pleasantly surprised to hear the same general set of musically faithful traits as Ihad through the line stage by itself. As before, backgrounds were impressively quiet, dynamics were appropriately expansive, detail was resolved with precision, and transients were handled with alacrity. The better the recording, the better the musical results. Since many LPs sound superior to CDs, the overall presentation via a Versa Dynamics Model 12/Sumiko Transfiguration analog front-end was consistently more satisfying. Equally important, the phono stage had plenty of gain and worked very effectively with the somewhat low-output Sumiko Transfiguration.
As did CDs through the ACC, analog benefited from quiet backgrounds, which worked hand in glove with remarkable resolution of low-level detail. A great example was the Classic Records Buddy Holly reissue (MCA 11161). The PAC's transient and re-

solving capabilities were both fully exploited by the clapping percussive line from "Every Day." Each handclap was unique and minutely variant in time, making it clear that click tracks never did have aplace in rock'n'roll. Holly's idiosyncratic warbling was crystal clear and in-the-room. The resolution of Holly's voice was captivatingly natural; indeed, this was consistently the case with all vocals. Ilistened to Janis Ian on her less-thanaudiophile-quality recoreling Stars (Columbia PC 32857); the refined reproduction of overtones, breathing, and other sounds associated with singing all worked together to put her in my listening room. In adifferent vein entirely, Ireplayed "Don't Renege On Our Love" (Richard and Linda Thompson, Shoot Out the Lights, Hannibal 1303) to hear just how many ways Thompson could pronounce the word "renege" and how unusual each sounded relative to my own pronunciation. Okay, Iadmit it. Igot alittle hung up on hearing things that had never been revealed quite so clearly in my system before by apreamp.
Once again, dynamic performance was stellar, and Iwas well pleased with the way the III/10K handled my R2D4 selection of Rachmaninoffs Symphonic Dances (Athena ALSW-10001). Soft passages were very soft; loud passages were very loud. Dynamic contrasts were explosive when appropriate, and all of the subtle level gradations were emotionally engaging. On music that insisted upon being really loud really often, such as Falco's 12" single of "Rock Me Amadeus" (A&M C12Y3001), the PAC was up to the challenge. Nothing changed in character except the volume. There was no loss of resolution, no hardening, and nothing offensive added to the performance. On music that required lower volume levels (eg, Kitaro, Silk Road I+Silk Road H, Gramavision 18-7019-1), the PAC was once again very much at home with its detailed yet smooth overall delivery.
As with the line stage, there was a mild softening of the treble, which took the form of abit less jangle on guitars, somewhat reduced presence for triangles and cymbals, and adiminished sense of harmonic structures on uppermidrange sounds, such as female voices. Since Iheard the same shortcoming
with the ACC, it was impossible to say whether the phono stage was actually guilty of anything in this regard. Try as Imight, Icould not run the PAC Phono Preamplifier through my CAT SL-1 Signature line stage without invasive

levels of hum. Iwas therefore unable to isolate the source of specific phonostage sonic characteristics.
Another characteristic that I was unable to separate from the performance of the ACC was aslightly lightweight midbass. This was apparent on elements as diverse as the bass lines from the MCA Buddy Holly recording to the orchestra's weight on Kabalevsky's The Comedians (RCA/Classic LSC-2398). This was noteworthy in that the Transfiguration cartridge has a particularly impressive bottom end.
The combination of the light midbass and slightly softened treble resulted in a less airy (top end) and spacious-sounding (bottom end) presentation. Normally open and expansive-sounding recordings such as Arvo Pares Tabula Rasa (ECM 1275) became abit closeddown, although they still had very good dimensional characteristics in terms of depth, width, and overall stage size, coupled with an appropriate perspective. This held true with my reference ProAc Response Four speakers as well as with the intriguing Hales Concept Fives.
In a related way, the phono stage seemed to emphasize clarity and resolution of detail over richness and harmonic body. Everything sounded extremely precise and well-defined, but not sumptuous. Jon Hassell's "Chor Moire" (Dream Theory in Malaya, Editions EG EGM 114) was re-created with spectacular precision, whether the ping-pong stereo effects or the cacophony of sounds reminiscent of the Purist Audio Designs System Enhancer CD-R. Transients sounded quick, complex passages were resolved, and everything was kept tidily in order. On the flip side, things sounded less fleshy and substantive. The PAC's phono-stage character leaned a bit toward the ruthlessly revealing side of neutral, unlike older, stereotypical tube units.
Perfectionist Audio Components firmly believes that many things affect the sound of asystem. When their prideand-joy preamplifier is going to be part of that system, they want to control as many potential negative influences as possible. That's why they include their own interconnects and power cords as part of the III/10K package. Not convinced they had done enough, PAC also sent along acouple of their $500 Super IDOS units. One of these units found its way to me thanks to the Sherlock Holmes--like efforts of Wes Phillips. The



Super IDOS (Isolated Digital Outlet in clarity and detail, which put an added The biggest change, as the noisefloor

Strip) is arectangular box not unlike a auditory spotlight on everything musi- was depressed even lower, into virtual

power conditioner in appearance and cal. A great surprise was the enhanced obscurity, was added clarity of low-level

appreciably more substantial than either delineation of Rodney Whitaker's bass information such as harmonic struc-

PACs IDOS or IDOS II outlet strips.2 work, as he hit most of the notes mim- tures. This was true throughout the fre-

The Super IDOS includes an AC volt- icking Tcodross Avery's sax leads on quency spectrum.

meter to monitor the AC wall voltage, "Mr. Wonsey" (My Generation, Impulse!

King and Moore's "Man in the Oven"

four outlets optimized for digital com- IMPD-181). Another pleasant surprise (Impending Bloom, Justice JR 0801-2) pro-

ponents, four outlets optimized for low- -- added resolution always leads to sur- vided agreat example of an acoustic bass

level analog components, and four analog prises -- was the pairing of Felix sounding richer, clearer, and closer with

outlets. PAC claims the unit effectively Cavaliere with The Manhattan Transfer the Super IDOS. Words like tighter,

shunts digital noise generated within the on "Groovin'" (ronin', Atlantic 82661- faster, fuller, and cleaner could be used

system to ground.

2). Having followed the career of the with equal meaning and appropriateness.

As Ibegan this phase of my testing, I (Young) Rascals from the beginning, I While audible, these effects were far

looked lovingly at my analog and digital have always been disappointed with the from monumental and might be progres-

front-ends. There was my beloved Versa inability of their recorded catalog to sively less so depending upon the overall

turntable. "No way!" Ithought to myself. capture the magic of their live perfor- system resolution. In the mida, vocals (eg,

"Best leave well enough alone." Every mances or even come close to the Dire Straits, Love Over Gold, Warner Bros.

time Ihad changed any of the multiple down'n'dirty quality of the band. While W2-23728) sounded closer, c1earem and

power cords --or sometimes sneezed -- this recording didn't have the band itself more natural.

my hum problems would begin anew. I'd to capture, it did agreat job at re-creat-

The audible improvement was simi-

leave testing the PAC III/10K with the ing that fascinating Cavalierc voice.

lar on the woodwind section from the

Super IDOS to my digital front-end --

Chicago Symphony's performance of

the Levinson pair. After all, the focus was SUPER IDOS ALL THE WAY... Rirnsky-Korsalcov's Scheherazade (RCA

supposed to be on digital noise. But Idid- The time had come to really hear what 68168-2). This provided awonderful

n't really think this would be entirely fair. the Super IDOS could do. Idecided to example of fuller, more natural-sound-

After all, the Levinson pieces sit at the top of the Cl) food chain. What chance would the Super IDOS really have?
Expecting nothing, Isat back and punched a few buttons on the old remote. Hey! It was louder. Damn. I

plug both the digital front-end and the Pro Reference III/10K directly into the Super IDOS, which itself was plugged into an Audio Power Industries Power Wedge/Power Enhancer combination. (Even with my courage at its maximum,

ing harmonics and overtone structures. In the treble, violin overtones and the triangle were similarly improved. To a lesser extent, dynamic contrasts were just atad clearer. In essence, virtually everything sounded slightly more right

must have inadvertently turned up the volume. No, wait a minute. Inever touched the volume, and while the

Iwasn't about to plug my ConradJohnson Premier Eight monoblocks into anything but the wall.)

because alittle bit of something very

wrong had been exorcised by the Super


--Jack English

Levinson remote can do plenty of things, there was no way it had pumped up the output But the system was louder.
No, it wasn't-- it just seemed so. After many back-and-forth comparisons over anumber of evenings, it became apparent that what the Super IDOS had done was to effectively

This time Iwas sure there would be little or no effect vs runningjust the digital front-end through the IDOS. Once again, Iwas surprised, but only mildly. With the preamp plugged into the Super IDOS, there were still further reductions of noise, but this time the improvements were relatively minor.

The output impedance of the PAC Pro Reference III's line stage measured 371 ohms. Its input impedance measured just under 134k ohms at maximum gain, increasing at lower settings of the level control --it measured just under 600k

scrub away still more of the dreaded

background grunge. As the underlying

noisefloor was lowered, the music

became all the more prominent, rather

than actually being louder, as Ihad

thought at first.

Icame to know and appreciate this

effect, which was most immediately

obvious on simple musical performances,

such as Tuck & Patti's cover of the

Beatles' "In My Life" (Learning How to Fly,

Epic EK 64439). But Iwas astounded at

how evident it was even on dense, loud,

multitracked stuff like Sponge's Rotting

Piñata (Work OK 57800).

With the removal of the low-level

noise, many other things improved.

Chief among them were improvements

2 Reviewed by Sam Tellig in October 1991 (Vold4

No.10, p.81) and by Corey Greenberg in November

1991 (Vol.14 No.11, p.171).



Perfectionist Audio Components Super IDOS AC line conditioner

ohms at unity gain. The output impedance at the tape outputs was just over 25 ohms with a25 ohm source impedance and just under 600 ohms with a600 ohm source impedance, a clear indication of an unbuffered output. Tape recorders plugged into the PAC's tape loop should be left turned on.
The DC offset at the PAC Pro Reference IIFs line outputs was 0.8mV in the left channel, 0.9mV in the right. S/N measured 732dB (22Hz-221cHz, unweighted, ref. 1V out). The line stage doesn't invert polarity assessed at its main outputs; the phono stage is also noninverting. Linestage voltage gain (aux input to line output) measured 25.4dB. Unity gain was reached at approximately 11:50 on the level control. The phono-stage gain measured 43.7dB. Phono input impedance measured 41k ohms. Phono S/N measured 63dB (22Hz-221cHz, A-weighted).
The phono stage reached overload (1% THD+noise, assessed with an unequalized input) at 175mV at licHz, 407mV at 20kHz, and 14mV at 20Hz --good figures. (The variation with frequency is normal on this test and is aresult of the RIAA phono equalization curve.)
The line-stage frequency response is shown in fig.l. It is very flat, the only anomaly being 0.8dB of volwne-control mistracking at low settings of the level control (9:oo shown). The phono frequency response is shown in fig2. There is sig-
*TEMOI41... MC PM 01404·004.· · bee., 1401410410.1401 21.4

Fig.1 PAC Pro Reference (from bottom to top): line-stage frequency response at maximum gain, unity gain, and with the volume control set to 9:00 (right channel dashed, 0.5dB/vertical div.).

41114.001.4 PAC Pm.... 10 ON

.1.0.*, ····.44.0.01


· 0000

4 0000

0 0

· [CO
1000 44.

Fig .2

PAC Pro Reference (from bottom to top
above 20kHz): phono-stage frequency response at 53mV (1kHz) and at 10mV (I kHz) (right channel dashed. 2dEtivertical div.).

nificant deviation above 20kHz, which varies with input level. But there is little to be concerned with in the audible range below 20kHz. (Since there is little or no energy on an LP at 80kHz, the rise visible at this frequency with a10mV input might well be of little significance.) There is a small rolloff in the bass, however, which may subtly influence the sound -- remember that JE consistently remarked on the unit's lightweight bass character
The PAC's phono- and line-stage channel separation are shown in fig3. This is good performance, with the rise in crosstalk at high frequencies likely due, as usual, to capacitive coupling between channels.
The variation in the line stage's THD+noise with output voltage (at lkHz) is shown in fig.4 (maximum volume-control setting). The line stage will put out nearly 33V before reaching 1% THD+noise. The THD+noise vs frequency performance is shown in fig.5
*TT 01101.1440.0 0* C.0414.44. · 4440404,

1 b



PAC Pro Reference. crosstalk (from bottom to top at IkHz): L-R, phono; R-L.
phono: L-R, line; R-L. line (10dB/vertical div.).

001% ,
Fig.4 PAC Pro Reference, line-stage distortion (%) vs output voltage into 100k ohms.
STEM 00.[ PAC ..11·444.e· Imo T..n.··



PAC Pro Reference.THD+noise vs frequency at (from top to bottom): phono stage at 10mV (I kHz) input; line stage at 100mV input (right channel dashed).

VI 0 0

04.94bl I PAC I1M P .···bp· PI Yelp 4.04«tne.


)0 OD

40 00



1:0 00





. 0 .00 MO 0 104*


PAC Pro Reference. spectrum of 50Hz sinewave, DC-1 kHz. at 10V into 100k ohms (linear frequency scale).

-- avery good result. Finally, plotting the output spec-
trum of the Pro Reference III driving a50Hz line-level input at ahigh output of 10V into 100k ohms produces the result shown in fig.6. All of the artifacts are below -60dB, with the second harmonic highest in level. At a lower output level -- a more typical 2V, which is sufficient to drive most amplifiers to full output -- the artifacts (not shown) were at least 10dB lower in level.
The test-bench results for the PAC Pro Reference III are very good. Only the unusual performance of the phono stage above audibility is worth noting.
-- Thomas J. Norton
Having tried the PAC Super IDOS with anumber of other digital front-ends and preamps not discussed in this review, I have been left very impressed. By itself, the Super IDOS is strongly recommended as doing exactly what PAC claims --it eliminates digital noise from overall system performance. This came as apleasant and welcome surprise.
The Perfectionist Audio Com-
ponents Pro Reference III/10K pre-
amplifier is abit too complex to sum up in atidy sentence. For starters, $10,000 is a significant sum for a preamp. Second, especially at this price level, I would like to see better ergonomics as well as additional features. Third, and
surprisingly, the III/10K performs better
when run through the Super IDOS. However, considered as a package -- Super IDOS, ALCs, and PAC Interconnect, along with the Phono Stage, ACC and HIPS--the Pro Reference's sonic performance is stellar It is strongly competitive with anything else Ihave heard. When it comes to sound quality, the PAC preamplifier offers truly worldclass performance and merits a welldeserved place in Class A in Stereo/Ai/es "Recommended Components."
--.lack English



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Wes Phillips listens to the Grado Reference Series One headphones through the Audio Alchemy HPA v1.0, McCormack Micro Integrated Drive,
and the Melos SHA-Gold headphone amplifiers

Grado Reference Series One: Open-air, dynamic, supra-aural headphones. Frequency range: I2Hz-30kHz. Nominal impedance: 32 ohms. Sensitivity at 1kHz: 96dB.Weight: 9 oz. Price: $695. Approximate number of dealers: 510. Manufacturer: Grado Laboratories, Inc.. 4614 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11220.Tel: (7 I8) 435-5340. Fax: (718) 633-6941.

Audio Alchemy HPA v1.0 headphone amplifier with HeadRoom Audio Image

Processor Output power rating: I500mW (8 ohm load). Frequency range:

DC-100kHz. THD: 0.004%. S/N ratio: >100dB. Maximum input voltage: 3.7V

6.5V. Maximum output voltage:

Maximum voltage gain: 8.8dB. Dimensions: 5.5" W by

4" `IN/ by 1.5" H. Power supply (Power Station One): tI2V, 800mA (external). Serial

number of unit tested: none. Price: $259 (with Power Station One): Power Station

Three adds $259. Approximate number of dealers: 150. Manufacturer: Audio

Alchemy. Inc.. 31133 Via Colinas #1 II, Westlake Village, CA 91362. Tel: (818) 707-

8504. Fax: (818) 707-2610.

McCormack Micro Integrated Drive headphone amplifier/minimalist preamplifier/(very) low-wattage integrated amplifier. Outputs: two Y.," stereo phone jacks

(front panel); Ipair line-level RCA jacks (rear panel); 1pair speaker binding posts (rear panel). Output power: 5Wpc (7dBW). Frequency response: DC-250kHz, -3dB. Absolute polarity: non-inverting. Inputs: 2line-level via RCA jack Input impedance: 20k ohms. Output impedance: 0.2 ohms, V." stereo phone jacks; 100 ohms, line-level RCA jacks; 0.2 ohms, speaker binding posts. Dimensions: 9.5" W by 9" D by 3" H. Shipping weight 8lbs. Serial number of unit tested: 0416. Price $695. Approximate number of dealers: 75. Manufacturer: McCormack, 5421 Avenida Encinas, Suite J, Carlsbad, CA 92C08.Tel: (619) 930-9550. Fax: (619) 930-9550.
Melos SHA-Gold vacuum-tube line/headphone amplifier Tube complement two 6DJ8s. Inputs: six line, one tape-loop. Outputs: one single-ended, amplified; one singleended, passive; one balanced XLR. Maximum voltage gain: 8dB. single-ended; 24dB, balanced. Absolute polarity: non-inverting. Frequency response: 15Hz-200kHz, -IdB. Input impedance: 52k ohms. Output impedance: 15 ohms, line; 0.5 ohm. 'A" stereo phone jack Dimensions: Irvv by 17" D by 3.5" H. Shipping weight: 21 lbs. Serial number of unit tested: 51207233SHAG. Price: $1995. Approximate number of dealers 35. Manufacturer: Melos Audio, Inc., 452 Lincoln Blvd., Middlesex. NJ 08846. Tel (908) 302-2552. Fax: (908) 302-0507.

years ago, Iuncovered apiece of - and who, no doubt, assumed my my father's secret soul. Hidden screams were caused by my arm being in the back of acloset was a jostled. Idon't have aclue what hap-

treasure trove I'd give anything to pos- pened to the hat or the headset.

sess today. It was my father's stash of So it was like being reunited with an

mementos from his service in the old, dear friend when Iopened the

Eighth Air Force during WWII: his A- wooden presentation box containing

2leather and lamb's-wool flightjacket, a the Grado Reference Series One head-

silk scarf with adetailed topographic phones. There was the same steel band

map of his Theater of Operations covered in leather, connecting retro-

imprinted on it, his "50 mission hat" (an looking mahogany canisters. The RS1s

Air Corps lid with the shaping frame don't seem techno; they look like they

removed, carefully crumpled through belong to an earlier age.

A the middle so that every mother's son
would know he was no FNG), his rup-


Grado Reference Series One headphones

tured duck, and, thrust in one pocket, DU TEMPS PERDU:

must scream. "I started with [my uncle]

his old headsets - apair ofBakelite ear- THE GRADO REFERENCE

Joe when Iwas 12 years old, sweeping

pieces held together with aleather-cov- SERIES ONE HEADPHONES

the floors." Joe is the Grado who made

ered steel strap. They were funky-look- In one sense, these headphones do the name an audiophile staple, manu-

ing cans, but to me, they spoke of all of belong to an earlier age. When Ivisited facturing high-quality (and frequently

the nobility and courage displayed by Grado in Brooldyn last year, Iwas cheap) phono cartridges. He also devel-

the boys who flew over Fortress Europe. shown the facility, which harkens back oped two different, superb, albeit quite

Idon't actually remember ever plugging to atime when small operations like it unusual, tonearnis - one in the '60s

them into anything, but Isure wore regularly made the stuffwe used. Grado and one in the mid '80s. Before selling

them for years in every fantasy situation, ain't no three-acre automated factory, the company to nephew John, Joe

from plucky French underground guer- that's for sure. It's located in aresidential designed and marketed ahighly regard-

rilla to Wes Phillips, Space Raaaangeml

neighborhood, in a brownstone that ed series of headphones, the Grado

Istill have the ruptured duck and the was once John Grado's grandfather's Signature Series. "It was achallenge for

scarf. The bloody, mud-encrusted jacket produce store. These days, it's filled with us, knowing Joe was going to discon-

was cut off me by Emergency Room lathes, winding machines, drills... the tinue the Signature headphones," said

personnel, who decided that Iwas machine tools that it takes to produce John Grado. "We wanted to show that

delirious when Iinsisted that Icould Grado's cartridges and headphones.

we were capable of innovating and

stand the pain as they removed my

The building whispered to me of a being creative - everything Ido was

swollen, fractured arm from the sleeve century of hard work; to John Grado, it influenced by him, but Idesigned all of



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our current line of 'phones." These have been phenomenally well-
received. The SR-60 redefined people's expectations in affordable headphones and were easily driven by the low-powered outputs of portable tape and CD players. The SR-80, SR-125, and SR325 have all garnered praise from the audiophiles who use them. JA seldom travels without his SR-125s, and Inumber several Grados among my personal references. But the Reference Series One headphones represent adeparture for Grado, by dint of both materials choice -- wood! --and pricing.
"The idea of using wood just came to me one night," explained John Grado. "We went through quite afew species of wood before finding this mahogany -- which type, we'll just keep our secret for the moment. When you're building speakers, you're supposed to want a dense, really hard wood -- well, that's not mahogany. But it works really well -- Idon't always spend alot of time figuring out why something works; sometimes I'm just satisfied that it does. Maybe the mahogany has alower resonant frequency, or maybe its resonance just doesn't emphasize something in my driver I'm not saying it would work
in all cases, but it seems to work well with our driver."
Iwondered what else makes the RS1 different from the rest of the line. "We

fine-tuned the driver," he responded. "We paint aformula on them to control resonance -- we call it 'dc-stressing'; in the RS!, we do it twice, and very, very precisely. We damp the chassis behind the magnet cover. We also put aperforated cap on the driver, which tunes it further. Idon't really like the word 'tweak,' but every component of the RS1 is very carefully chosen and very precisely adjusted -- by ear, of course. We design by listening, so these 'phones arc areflection of what we like, of what we hear." Indeed, nothing seems to be unintentional about the RS1: Grado's product literature makes much of the sonic effects of the width and thickness of the stainless-steel spring that connects the earpieces; the glue that bonds the spring to the earpiece assembly; the length of the height-adjustment rods; the rear-screen material; the type of wire and number of turns in the voice coil; the shape and thickness of the driver cap; and many other, seemingly small, er, tweaks.
A perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets where no crude surfeit reigns: I'd been building abacklog of interesting headphone-related products to review, so Itook the opportunity of my examination of the RS1s as an invitation to an orgy of 'phone and 'phone-related listening. My primary source was the

Audio Research CD1 CD player, which played through the Audio Alchemy HPA v1.0, or the McCormack Micro Integrated Drive, or the Melos SHAGold. Kimber 'Cable KCAG connected the source to the headphone amps. Everything rested upon DH Cones and was plugged into an API Power Wedge 112. Iused several pairs of headsets for comparison, including the Grado SR-80 and SR-125, Sennheiser HD-580 and '580 Jubilee.
While Ilistened to awide range of music during the audition period, I'm going to focus my comments on two songs: "Rasd al-dhil Bashraf Sammai," from this month's "Recording of the Month," by the Eduardo Paniagua group (see Les Berkley's review in this issue), and "Third Uncle," from Brian Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy), remastered and Super-Bit-Mapped on Virgin's Eno Box H (Virgin 3 V23Z 39114, 3-CD set). The Paniagua track (the whole disc, in fact) is avery special pairing of performer and recording. I received an advance copy afew months ago and just can't get enough of it --
I've been playing it constantly. "Rasd ..."
is akiller track: The first 100 seconds
are solo oud-- the oud is an Arabian/ Moorish instrument loosely related to the European lute --vigorously strummed, which is then submerged under one honking big frame drum (snared, or


I'm an audiophile; worse yet, Fm areviewer. It's my job to hear some of the most incredible

Twang. Iwas in heaven, bouncing along to the long-forgotten rhythms of "Cannonball," "Ramrod," "Three-

average of three hours per day. The answer is that Iwas listening to the Grado Reference One headphones

audio gear on the flee of the planet. Thirty Blues," and ahost of other for the first time.

So it isn't much of asurprise that I favorites from my youth. The weather

Okay, rve never used the Grados

love the cutting-edge stuff!

may have been dreadful and my (or any headphones) in my reference

Ikept repeating thoughts like these workday had yet to begin, but Iwas at system, nor have Ilistened to any

in my mind like amantra as Isawi- peace with the world.

audiophile-approved CDs or LPs on

tered along, walking from Penn

Istruggled through aday of endless them. Yes, I'm sure any number of

Station to Rockefeller Center one meetings and voluminous memos. It passersby have wondered aloud about

morning on my way to work. But as I was time to head home. With alight- the guy wearing these weird-looking

did, Imust have looked like the ened step and another foolish grin, I headphones. But Ihave listened to a

Cheshire Cat. My grin stretched from was joined by Booker T and the MG's ton of music with the Grados and

ear to eat Deep in my shoulder bag (The Best Of.., Atlantic 81281-2). So the enjoyed every minute ofit. It's rare that

was aRadioShack Optimus CD-3400 commute was going to take an hour any audio product can come along and

portable CD player: hidden in it was a and half--who cared? Iwas home- simply bowl me over. In this case, I

Motown disc (MCD08058) contain- ward-bound with the Memphis Sound! yield. Ijust love these headphones!

ing not one but two of Duane Eddy's

So why was everything so great They have become my constant travel-

greatest albums --Have Twangy Guitar that day? After all, Ilisten to my ing companions. Thank you, John

Will Travel and $1,000,000 Worth of portable CD players (I have four) an Grado --what's next? -lack English



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hung with rattles) and asmaller clay drum. The final two minutes have an end-blown flute, rebec, and tambourines joining in cacophonously --all in awonderfully reverberant acoustic. Dynamics, complex overtones, lots of timbrai color, oodles of low-level detail -- this one has them all.
"Third Uncle" is astraight-up rock'n'roll rave: astuttering bass-line that's joined by walls of screaming guitar distortion, chanted vocals, and athletic drumming. As Iremarked to my wife after listening to MoFi's remastering of Sonic Youth's Goo, "Is there anything louder than an intellectual with abig amp?"
"One with aMarshall stack!" Joan riposted. Can't tightly argue with that logic -- and "Third Uncle" sounds like Phil Manzanera is playing through the biggest stack you've ever seen, er, heard.
Citius, Altius, Fortius: The Reference Series Ones sound clean and dynamic. They portray music as an active art form, in that the tune really moves along through these cans. They have an immediate sense of warmth, detail, and dynamic va-va-va 14)om that is well-nigh irresistible.
Through the Grados, the Paniagua track had incredible impact. The drums sounded huge and RIGHT THERE!, while the oud floated, warmly sustained by the weight of the air in the reverberant space. Eno's "Third Uncle" sounded massive and irrefutable, as if cops could break into crack-houses with it. Kablani! and they'd be in the living room.
But listening to those same songs with the $450 Sennheiser HD-580 Jubilee revealed afew details that the Grados, as enjoyable as they are, obscured. The Paniagua Group's immense drum lost alot of shuddering impact with the Jubilees, but hidden in all of the massive sound were telling minutiae, such as the rattles strung snarelike across the drum's membrane. The Grado, looser in the bottom octaves, emphasized that sense of slam, which, attractive as it was, did not truly reveal all that was on the recording.
Similarly, the attack transient on the oud sounded spectacularly vivid through the Grados, but the rapid decay of the string tone lacked particulars. The Sennheisers did not have that same level of excitement on the attack, but they did bring out alot of gut-string warmth and room-informed decay.
The Sennheisers clearly revealed the analog origins of "Third Uncle" by passing through tape hiss undiminished. It

HeadPhone Amplifier v1.0

Audio Alchemy HPA v1.0 headphone amplifier

was barely audible through the Grados. very savvy audiophile friends who are

Spatial re-creation, such as it is when just ecstatic in their praise of the RS1s

using headphones, is also not the RS1s' (see Jack English's sidebar to this

strong point. Imight be tempted to review). If you value headphone listen-

ascribe that to the supra-aural nature of ing enough to consider buying arefer-

the beast -- the transducer sits right on ence dynamic, then you should audition

the ear -- except for one thing: The the RS1s. But listen carefully and for a

Grado SR-80s and '125s, also supra- long time.

aural, both sound more spacious than the

RS!. I'm no engineer, so take my conjec- BETTER TO BE THE HEAD

ture with agrain of salt, but Ihave to OF THE YEOMANRY THAN

wonder if--in their careful "de-stress- THE TAIL OF THE GENTRY:

ing" of the transducer -- Grado doesn't THE AUDIO ALCHEMY HPA VI.0 actually over-damp the diaphragm. This HEADPHONE AMPLIFIER

would explain the loss of spatial and For headphone listeners, this is truly a

ambient information and the blurring golden age -- we have multiple choices

(obscuring, actually) of low-level detail. at many different price levels. During

Just one more thing. I'm your proto- the course of this review, Ihad as many

typical glasses-wearing geek, and I as five headphone amplifiers (and, in

found the spring-steel headband in- several cases, multiple power supplies)

tensely uncomfortable if Iwore the set up for comparison. Yet many people

headphones for any length of time. The don't understand why we might want a

band pressed the earpieces against my headphone amp in the first place.

ears, where they dug into my glasses

Here's areason: Ilive with an intelli-

frames, which in turn clamped the gent, dynamic, astoundingly tolerant

nose-pads on my spectacles firmly into woman, who doesn't seem to mind

my nose. If you can follow that logic, (much) that I've turned every room of

you will understand me when Isay that our house into amad scientist's maze of

wearing the RS1s for prolonged periods wires, boxes, and speakers. Yet, having

made my ears and nose hurt.

gone that far, she unreasonably refuses

Glancing over the above, Irealize to be forced to share myjob with me 24

that Ihaven't sufficiently given the hours aday. Sometimes she insists on

Reference Series Ones their due. I sleeping. So Ineed to use headphones at

enjoyed listening to them because of the certain times of the day (and night, of

excitement and musical momentum course) -- even though Ihave access to

they brought me. Despite some dis- some of the finest preamps on earth.

comfort, Ifound them fun -- and Ido None of which, Imight add, sport a

believe that that's what this music stuff headphone jack. That's the most basic

is all about. But seven hundred clams is reason one might desire aheadphone

alot of moolah, and Grado himself has amp: simply to have aplace to plug in

set avery high standard with his more- your headphones.

affordable headphones -- one that I But portable cassette and CD players,

wonder if he has truly surpassed with mass-market receivers and VCRs,

the RS1s. Ifind the SR-125s more laserdisc players and A/V receivers all

extended and less colored (and have typically boast headphone connections,

been told that the SR-325s are even so people who own those components

better). On the other hand, Ihave some don't need a headphone amplifier,




Audio Note cable promises you nothing

Nothing added to the signal Nothing taken away

In 1975, Hiroyasu Kondo set out to find anew way to transport signals without interfering with them. It was clear to him that connecting audio components with zip cord was like pumping spring water through rusty, clogged pipes.
He began making the first high fidelity silver cable. Silver has the lowest resistance of any metal, but was thought to be too expensive. But price was never aconsideration for Mr. Kondo.
Pure Italian silver is drawn through diamond dies Mr. Kondo made himself, producing wire far more precise and uniform than any he could get from wire makers. Each strand is covered with six layers of polyurethane, eliminating surface oxidation and diode effects. No other silver cable is made this way.
In the past twenty years, many manufacturers have followed the lead of Audio Note in silver cables. They have tried fat or thin, flat or round, stiff or flexible, stranded or solid. But nothing equals the sound

engineering principles and hand craftsmanship of Audio Note.
"Just listen to how this cable preserves the textual purity and integrity ofasoprano's upper registers. Folks, it doesn't get any more liquid or pristine than this," said reviewer Dick Olsher in Fi magazine.

111111 ar

:· ·


He was talking about AN-SPX speaker cable. AN-Vx is the matching interconnect cable. Silver speaker cables start at $100 per foot and silver interconnects at $300 for a one meter pair. They are available with solid silver RCA plugs and loudspeaker spades. Audio Note also makes cables from 99.9999% pure copper, starting at $5 per foot.
If you are looking for something to plug the cable into, Sound by

Singer recommends the legendary Ongaku amplifier from Audio Note, about which Cyberfi on-line magazine reviewer Jonathan Kettle said "Listening to the way the Ongaku turns musical recordings into musical performances is such atranscendentally mesmerizing experience that you can easily start to question your sanity."
Audio Note makes speakers, cartridges, DACs, amplifiers and pre-amps, designed to give you the body and soul of the performance, rather than mere sonic pyrotechnics. Complete systems start under $5000.
You can hear them at Sound by Singer, under conditions that respect the music and respect your judgement. You will hear your own records as you have never heard them before.
And you will hear nothing from the cables.
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right? True, you can plug a pair of 'phones straight in to those compo-
nents, but their headphone sections are vestigial at best. The amplifying circuits aren't particularly powerful -- or clean, for that matter. They lack clarity and cohesion, and they wash out alot of tonal color -- listen for any length of time and you'll be reaching for the analgesic bottle. Besides, alot of us connect our LDPs to D/A converters for better sound, and you lose the benefits of that when you employ the laserdisc player's 'phone jack.
But the main reason you should consider using aheadphone amplifier is the complexity of the task of driving headphones in the first place. Think about what conventional headphones are: moving-coil transducers with impedances that vary from 32 ohms to 600 ohms, with sensitivities that vary by as much as 27dB. That's alot to ask a27c op-amp chip to cope with.
Audio Alchemy's solution to this problem is, like all of their products, compact and well-thought-out. At $259, the HPA v1.0 is the least expensive amp in this survey--and at 5.5" by 4" by 1.5", it's for darn skippy the small-
est. It can fit in an audiophile's shirt pocket --if you take the pocket-protector out first. It comes with an outboard power supply, the Power Station One, but it can be used with AA's Power Station Three, which almost triples the PS1's 250mA output--and at $259, also doubles the price. If you wish to use the HPA on the road, it runs off AA's Robyn IDC battery power supply, but --since the HPA runs in class-A -- not for long (about two hours).
Connections are minimal. The rear panel has a mini-jack power-supply connection and two pairs of RCA jacks: source input and pass-through output (not affected by the volume control). This last is athoughtful addition for those who must plug the HPA into their only tape loop; it means they still have the use of the loop for atape deck. The front panel has a1 /4"stereo phone jack in the middle, afluted volume control knob to its left, and abutton engaging HeadRoom's Audio Image Processor to its right. That's it.
Need Imention that, in aunit the size of acigarette pack, the HPA v1.0's circuit paths are extremely short? The
small chassis is packed with parts of amazingly high quality, given its list price. Voltage gain is via Analog Devices OP-275 op-amps running in pure classA, while complementary pairs of Toshiba output transistors (also running

in class-A) handle the current gain for -- things sounded just too darn warm

the discrete output stage. (These 'n'fuzzy to be believable. That big bass

Toshibas are also used in AA's 0M-150 drum's attack was aggressive, but I

and 0M-50A power amplifiers as pre- could not hear the rattles clearly.

driver transistors.) The volume control Switching over to the Jubilees, Irealized

is aprecision-matched, conductive-plas- that the HPA/RS1 combo was obscur-

tic Dale potentiometer that has aseri- ing detail, especially in the round full-

ously sensuous, silky feel -- and is billed ness of the oud's string tone. The leaner

as having superlative tracking over its midrange of the Jubilees (not necessari-

entire range.

ly their most endearing trait) and their

Iasked Audio Alchemy's Richard superior bass tautness restored musical

Liddell how they could afford to pack and low-level ambient information.

all of that into aproduct that was going

"Third Uncle" had drive and slam

to hit the street for $200. "We tend to galore with both headsets, but sounded

use as many of the same parts as possi- much more muscular with the Senn-

ble -- that way we know what they can heisers.

do and we can buy them in enormous

Then Iswitched power supplies, hav-

quantities, which makes them afford- ing finally gotten my Power Station

able." Not that I'm complaining, mind Three up and running. (Originally Ihad


been sent aPS3 with a1/ 4A fuse, which

You've noticed, of course, that the proved to be incredibly persnickety dri-

HPA has HeadRoom's Audio Image ving my Audio Alchemy Digital Line

Processor, Audio Alchemy is one of Control preamp. I discovered, after

only three companies licensing this blowing four fuses trying to drive the

technology. (The other two, Sonic HPA, that this is the wrong value --it

Frontiers and Counterpoint, have not should have been 1/ 2A all along.)

yet sent us products to review.) We've Switching to the Power Station Three,

written at some length about Head- things just got better. The difference in

Room's own units (Vol.17 Nos.1 & 2), bass was profound: tighter more con-

paying specific attention to the effects of trolled, with better pitch definition. The

the Alp. For adetailed discussion of that highs also sounded sweeter, with less

process, refer to my review of the graininess and much better clarity in the

Home HeadRoom (Vol.18 No.1). Es- differentiation of adjacent tones (and of

sentially, what the AIP does is spread similar consonant attacks like p, b, and t).

the sound, giving amore realistic sense Now we were talking!

of lateral cohesion and avoiding that

annoying left ear/center-of-head/right Headroom: HeadRoom's own $399

ear headphone signature. It adds asense HeadRoom Supreme headphone amp-

of depth as well. Ifind this circuit lifier seemed the logical comparison to

addicting and miss it when it's not there the HPA v1.0/PS3. The portable Head-

or not engaged. Ithink that all high-end Room can run off either asmall wall-

manufacturers should consider it essen- wart, or an external four-D-cell power

tial in aheadphone amplifier, so I'm pack. Iprefer its sound with the battery

particularly pleased to see that several of pack, so Iused that for my comparisons.

them are beginning to use it -- especial-

They were both very good, but the

ly at this price point, where most com- Audio Alchemy sounded just ashade

panies would be looking for stuff to coarser, with abit of grit in the upper

leave out.

octaves. On the Eno track, this added

an edge that was not out of keeping

Tota in minimis existit natura: The with the music -- an effect that I

first thing Inoticed when listening to enjoyed, even as Iquestioned its faith-

the HPA v1.0 was the control that the fulness to the signal. The Audio

amp manifested over the headphones. Alchemy controlled the headphones

Its 6.5V output immediately asserted with greater authority, however, and

itself. The sound was big, dynamic, and propelled Brian Turrington's bass-line

warm -- with lots of low-level informa- along like crazy.

tion. Listening to the Paniagua Group's

The Paniagua track, of course, did

disc, Iclearly heard great amounts of not benefit in the same way from the

spatial detail (even more with Alchemy's edginess. There the leading

HeadRoom's AIP engaged). Idid find edge of the plucked oud just sounded

the HPA's warmth and that of the coarsened and somewhat fuzzy. The

Grado RS1s combined to be far too frame drum had greater body and slam,

much of a good thing, however. but its reverberation in the room sound-

Ironically, this excess of richness served ed diminished. The HeadRoom was, to

to leach liquidity from the sonic picture my ears, slightly but significantly better.







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Audio Alchemy HPA, frequency response at IV into 100k ohms with HeadRoom
circuitry engaged (top below IkHz) and bypassed (0.5dB/vertical div.).

51101E0f.! Arno

.1 o Pne··· ce · IV ···

1...14 LAI





14 100


Audio Alchemy HPA, frequency response at IV into 100k ohms with HeadRoom circuitry engaged and driven by L+R signal (top below IkHz) and L-R signal (0.5dB/vertical div.).

Fig.3 Audio Alchemy HPA. small-signal 0kHz squarewave into 100k ohms.
However, you need to consider afew things before deciding which you want. If you travel, the HeadRoom can play off of its battery pack for over 20 hours -- which will get you pretty far around the world before you have to recharge. The Audio Alchemy, run by the Robyn power supply, will only play for acouple of hours. On the other hand, if you're going to add headphone capacity to an existing preamplifier, the HPA's pass-through is areal boon. Ifed the signal from the AA's outputs into the SHA-Gold, compared them to the signal coming into the SHA-Gold straight out of the CD1, and heard virtually no difference. (I'm hedging here because I don't want you to lose all respect for me -- the fact is, Iwas hard-pressed to detect any change.) 'This is another feature that Ithink every headphone amp should have, and it may well be enough to convince many of you to test-drive an HPA v1.0.


Audio Alchemy HPA, crosstalk (from bot-
tom to top at IkHz): L-R, R-L, processing
off: L-R, R-L processing on (10dB/vertical div.).


·· o

0 010

Fig.5 Audio Alchemy HPA, distortion (%) vs out-
put voltage into (from bottom to top at 5V): 150 ohms and 40 ohms.



Fig.6 Audio Alchemy HPA,THD+noise vs frequency at 4V into 40 ohms.

Ialso approve of the upgradability of

the power supply. It's true that it can

double the price of the unit, but you get

to choose what level of performance

you desire (or can afford).

All in all, Audio Alchemy's HPA v1.0

is well-thought-out and implemented. I

found alot to like in its sound and

found several of its features indispens-

able. It's an impressive product at an

affordable price.

--Wes Phillips

When in doubt, sing loud: All of the following measurements were made from the front-panel headphone output. The polarity of the Audio Alchemy
v1.0 was noninverting. Its input impedance was 882k ohms, its output impedance 027 to 029 ohms, depending on frequency. S/N measured an excellent 105dB (22Hz-22kHz, unweighted, ref. 1V). DC offset measured 12.5mV in the left channel, 11.5mV in the right. The tracking of the Audio Alchemy's volume control was reasonably good, with a maximum left/right deviation of




Audio Alchemy HPA,IkHz waveform at 4V
into 40 ohms (top); distortion and noise waveform with fundamental notched out
(bottom, not to scale).

0.5dB at half rotation and less. Maximum voltage gain was 8.9dB.
The Audio Alchemy's frequency response into ahigh-impedance load is shown in fig.l. The response with the HeadRoom processing selected is plotted at the top; the latter is shaped in an attempt to compensate for the typical ear/headphone response. The frequency response is plotted again in fig2; this time the output of the left-channel response is shown with the left- and right-channel inputs both in phase and
out of phase. Here the processing is seen to be quite similar to that used by
HeadRoom (see JA's review of the HeadRoom headphone amplifier in the January 1994 Stereophile, p.173). The lkHz squarewave response is nearly ideal and is not shown. The 101(Hz squarewave (fig.3), taken in the unprocessed mode (as were the remainder of the measurements below), is very good, with agood risctime, just aslight rounding of the leading edge, and no overshoot.
The Audio Alchemy's crosstalk is shown in fig.4. Notice that the channel
separation is considerably reduced in the processed mode (in much the same manner as it is reduced by loudspeakers in aroom).
Fig.5 plots the Audio Alchemy HPA v1.0's THD+noise vs its output voltage. Note that the maximum output is about the same with either a40 ohm or a150 ohm load, though there is asmall (and probably insignificant) difference between the two loads just before the point at which the distortion begins to rise rapidly. The output is about 6.5V at clipping (1% THD+noise). This is over 1 watt into 40 ohms -- more than enough to induce permanent ear damage with virtually any headphones.
The variation in THD+noise vs frequency for an output of 4V into 40
ohms is shown in fig.6 -- an excellent result. The distortion waveform (40
ohm load, 2V or 100mW output, lkHz input) is shown in fig.7. It is very low in



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Audio Alchemy HPA, spectrum of 50Hz sinewave. DC--I kHz, at 4V into 40 ohms
(linear frequency scale). Note that the fifth harmonic at 250Hz is the highest in level.


v., 0


Audio Alchemy HPA, HF intermodulation spectrum, DC-22kHz, 19+20kHz at 4V into 40 ohms (linear frequency scale).

level and largely second-harmonic plus

noise. Driving the Audio Alchemy with

afrequency of 50Hz at an output of 4V

into a40 ohm load results in the distor-

tion spectrum shown in fig.8. Even at

this very high level, the distortion pro-

ducts arc all below -90dB (0.003%).

Similarly, fig.9 shows the output inter-

modulation spectrum for an input of

19+20kHz at ahigh output voltage; all

the by-products arc under -80dB

(0.05%). The test-bench measurements

of the HPA v1.0 were first-rate in all


-Thomas J. Norton

What, Ihear you asking, is an integrated drive? The MID is part of McCormack's much-lauded "Micro" series (see my review of their Micro Line Drive in Vol.18 No.6), which are designed to offer the same dedication to quality as McCormack's full-size components, but at alower price (and in asmaller package). The MID was initially the Micro Headphone Drive, sporting two 1 / 4"stereo phone jacks on the front panel, atwo-position input switch, and avolume control. The rear boasted two inputs and an output (controlled by the volume pot). It was designed to be a high-quality headphone amp and a minimalist preamp. In this configuration, Iran into it at the 1995 WCES

where --almost as agag--Steve Mc- connectors. Remembering Audio Al-

Cormack had made up afew 1/ 4"stereo chemy's response to the same question,

phone-plug to 5-way binding post con- Iasked Steve McCormack how they

nectors. He could, he explained, run kept prices reasonable while stuffing

small speakers from the headphone the Micros with costly parts. There was

outputs. There was aserious purpose along pause. 'Actually," he said in asub-

behind the joke, of course. Showing dued voice, "I'm often accused, by [my

that the MHD could drive speakers partner] Joyce in particular, of putting in

spoke volumes for its ability to drive more than Ishould [given the price at


which we sell them], but Ijust can't

Ieven got my hands on one of those escape the desire to put in as much as I

units -- and enjoyed it very much as a possibly can. When you're dealing with

headphone amp and as apreamp. But these price ranges, you have to make

before Icould commit my thoughts to compromises, so it becomes areal mat-

the care of WordPerfect, Joyce Fleming ter ofjuggling what to trade off. When

of McConnack Audio called to ask me Ihave the opportunity to make some-

to ship the unit back. Steve had changed thing better, Ifind it impossible to leave

the output MOSFETs and connected it alone. It does dig into our profit mar-

them to sturdy binding posts on the rear gins, but I'm ahappier guy."

panel. Thus, the Micro Headphone

Like the Micro Line Drive, the MID

Drive became the Micro Integrated employs acombination of op-amps and

Drive, capable of putting out 5Wpc.

JFETs. This gives McCormack "a lot of

That's apretty insignificant amount the convenience of designing with op-

of power -- why bother? Well, Ifound amps along with much of the same per-

lots of uses for it: You could hook it up formance qualities that Ihear from fully

to your computer and use it as part of a discrete circuits." Then, it feeds the sig-

very-high-quality multimedia package; nal into a complementary pair of

or you could use it as part ofan office or MOSFETs fitted with abiasing circuit.

bedroom system; you could even, as I "It's interesting how this changes its

intend to do at HI-FI '96, travel with it nature," states McCormack. "Now

and apair of small efficient speakers, to we've created asmall power amplifier.

provide alittle musical sustenance on Because it is apower amplifier, it's a

the road. Besides, we live in atime marvelous line amplifier. It'll drive any

when there arc $60,000 integrated sort of cable, any length of cable, any

amplifiers with just as little wattage -- kind of input circuit -- whatever. In

I'm sure that neither Joyce Fleming nor some ways, it has made me rethink some

Steve McCormack would own up to it, of my ideas about building preamplifier

but Isuspect asatiric barb in there, circuits. It sul4:ests that the ability to run


alow-impedance load with afairly seri-

Like the other Micro series compo- ous amount of current may actually

nents, the MID is handsome and very improve the performance of the MID as

solidly constructed, and uses extrava- apreamplifier, whereas traditional think-

gantly expensive controls, parts, and ing might suggest otherwise."

McCormack Micro Integrated Drive headphone amplifier


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Man likes marvelous things -- so he any other amenity. Except, that is, for

invents them and is astonished: The that glorious sound. In reviewing the

McCormack is amarvelous headphone Micro Line Drive, Isaid, "It is capable

amplifier. It sounds fast and tight and of transparency and an immediacy that

liquid. Although some might find it a damned few megabuck preamps can

shade lean, Ifound its lack of warm'n'- aspire toward." That's equally true of

fiizzy midrange arelief. I've already said the MID. If you don't listen to head-

that I miss the HeadRoom Audio phones, you'll get more flexibility from

Image Processor when it is not present, the MLD, but if you do listen to cans,

and so Idid. But it's hard to cavil about the Micro Integrated Drive could be

the sound of the MID.

the way to go -- if you don't mind plug-

"Third Uncle" was meaty and propul- ging and unplugging sources.

sive; the opening stutter of bass was solid

So how is it as an integrated amp?

and almost physically present. Dzint-dah, Surprisingly good. Don't expect alot of

dunt-dah and then in tightening intervals controlled bass or high sound pressure

with the saine motif duntdanduntdandunt- levels, though. But driving speakers

da... through the McCormack, it sound- with a sensitivity in the 88-92dB/

ed as solid as someone bouncing aquar- W/m range, such as the RA Labs Black

ter off asuitcase'.

Gold References Iused, it can really

"Rasd..." was also served well. The play some music. It images well, stays

big frame drum shuddered so that the true to tonal color (other than lightness

air practically sizzled --an effect clearly in the bass), and rocks like alittle dick-

articulated in contrast to the snares ens. Earlier, Isaid I'm taking one to HI-

bouncing off the membrane. The FI '96 -- when Iget it there, I'm going

silence at the end of the track left the to find the most efficient pair of horns

ensemble's reverberation suspended in there andjust crank this sucker. Ibet it'll

the air so palpably that it almost seemed wake the neighbors.

like an imitation of itself--how could

Idon't know how many buyers look-

anything sound that perfect? Ihad a ing for an integrated amplifier are going

hard time keeping to the point while to consider the McCormack Micro

listening to the McCormack; one cut Integrated Drive desirable, but the extra

would stretch to two, two to awhole flexibility is practically free. Those of us

disc, and the disc would, more often wanting areference-quality headphone

than not, remind me of one other thing amplifier, and possessing offices, com-

I'd like to hear. Can Icomplain about puters, or multiple systems, we're the

that? No! But it did stretch out the customers the MID was really targeted

reviewing process.

at --and, if I'm afair example, we'll be

Imentioned that some might find staying up late just to think of places

the MID lean-sounding --it certainly (and ways) to use this affordable little

adds the least warmth of the three head- wonder.

-Wes Phillips

phone amps reviewed here -- but is it

tonally correct? Ithink it is. It's fast and The height of art is to conceal art:

tight and as detailed as can be. Timbres All of McCormack's measurements were

do not seem simpler than they are, but made from the rear-panel binding posts.

exult in their quirky little signatures. By It didn't invert polarity. Its input imped-

contrast, the Audio Alchemy's warmth ance at 1kHz was 27.4k ohms at full vol-

is additive.

ume (slightly higher at lower settings of

As apreamp, the MII) also shines. the control). Its output impedance was

Steve McCormack wasn't kidding below 0.04 ohms at low and mid fre-

about its ability to drive long cables into quencies, increasing to amaximum of

nearly any impedance -- I regularly 0.125 ohms at 20kHz. The output imped-

used my 60' interconnects, both to drive ance at the line outputs was 99 ohms in

the MID as aheadphone amp, from a the left channel, 101 ohms in the right.

remote source, and to drive amplifiers

S/N measured an outstanding

in different rooms.

108.7dB (22Hz-22kHz, unweighted,

No $700 preamplifier has any busi- ref. 1V). DC offset measured 0.4mV in

ness sounding this transparent. Period. the left channel, 0.5mV in the right

And it takes charge of an amp like you (0.1mV and 0.6mV, respectively, at the

wouldn't believe. Pair it with any ade- line outputs). The tracking of the Mc-

quately powered amplifier and say Cormack's volume control was good,

good-bye to flabby anything. Musical, deviating no more than 0.17dB down to

that is --it won't put asix-pack on your half rotation and 0.46dB at one quarter.

abs. (Mine either, clammit.) Of course, Voltage gain at the maximum setting of

it's pretty minimal -- it only has two the control was 5.7dB (low gain), 13.7dB

source inputs and lacks atape output or (medium gain), and 27.1dB (high gain).


.eadree le. L. ere bee«, nee.


Fig. I0McCormack Micro Integrated Drive frequency response at (from top to bottom at 50kHz): IW into 8ohms. 2.83V into simulated speaker load, and 2W into 4 ohms (5dB/vertical div.).

Fig.I IMcCormack Micro Integrated Drive, small signal IOkHz squarewave into 8ohms.
eel 1.0.1
Fig. Ii McCormack Micro Integrated Drive. crosstalk (from bottom to top at IkHz): L--R, R--L (I OdB/vertical div.).
(The remainder of the measurements were taken at medium gain). Since the McCormack is designed to be used not only as aheadphone amplifier, but also as a low-power amplifier for driving loudspeakers (and additionally as aminimal line preamplifier), Itook anumber of its measurements into typical loudspeaker load impedances. Fig.10 shows its frequency response into 8ohms, 4 ohms (the latter not recommended by the manufacturer), and our simulated real loudspeaker load. There is little to comment on here.
The almost perfect lkHz squarewave response is not shown. The 10kHz squarewave (fig.11) is asolid result, with very good risetime, minimal rounding, and no overshoot or ringing. The crosstalk is shown in fig.12. The only thing worthy of comment here is the slightly different separation for each channel, which at these levels is unlikely to have any audible consequences.
Fig.13 plots the THD+noise against



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Fig. 13 McCormack Micro Integrated Drive. distortion (%) vs output power into (from bottom to top at IW):40 ohms, 8ohms, and 4ohms.
Fig. I4McCormack Micro Integrated Drive, THD+noise vs frequency at ((rom top to bottom at IkHz): IW into 4ohms, IW into 8ohms, and 100mW into 40 ohms (right channel dashed).
Fig. IS McCormack Micro Integrated Drive, 1kHz waveform at I00mW into 40 ohms (top): distortion and noise waveform with fundamental notched out (bottom, not to scale).
the output power in watts of the Micro Integrated Drive. The 2W power output into a40 ohm load will be more than adequate to drive virtually any headphones. Into 8ohms, the McCormack's discrete clipping point (1% THD+noise, lkHz) was 4.8W (6.8dBW) into 8ohms and 42W (32dBW) into 4ohms, one channel driven. With both channels driven, the 8 ohm clipping was 2.7W (43dBW) left and 2.5W (4dBW) right. Into 4 ohms, the latter figures were 1.9W and 1.8W (-0.45dBW), respectively. (The AC line voltages for these measurements ranged from 115 to 117V.)
The variation of 'THD+noise with frequency for an output of 4V into 40 ohms is shown in fig.14. The THD is relatively high into loudspeaker loads, but notably better into a40 ohm load at 100mW, this more typical of headphone use. The THD waveform at 100mW



1.00 MO 0 Y00 .000 Y0.0 .000 .0 MO MO 1010

Fig. 16 McCormack Micro Integrated Drive, spec-
trum of 50Hz sinewave, DC--I kHz, at 3.3W into 8ohms (linear frequency scale). Note that the second harmonic at 100Hz is the highest in level.

(111«01.1.1 eler.mr. Ma. erne t4tiret. I ··

we ·ear

4* ell


o aOM


Fig.I 7McCormack Micro Integrated Drive, HF intermodulation spectrum. DC-22kHz.
19+20kHz at 2.3W into 8ohms (linear frequency scale).

(1kHz input) into the same 40 ohm load

is shown in fig.15. It is primarily second-

harmonic, but with some higher-order

components also present. At 1W into

either an 8ohm or a4ohm load, the pri-

mary component becomes third-order

but with clearly evident higher-order

components (not shown).

Driving the McCormack with afre-

quency of 50Hz at an output of 3.3W

into 8ohms results in the distortion spec-

trum shown in fig.16. All of the compo-

nents are below -90dB (0.003%). Fig.17

shows the output intermodulation spec-

trum for an input of 19+20kHz at 2.3W

into 8ohms --just below the point at

which clipping is visible on a'scope trace.

The artifact at 1kHz is at -82dB

(0.008%); the largest artifact is at 18kHz,

at -65dB or about 0.06%.

The test-bench measurements of the

Micro Integrated Drive were excellent

if your intent is to drive headphones.

While it will likely perform adequately

in driving loudspeakers for casual listen-

ing, its power limitations should caution

against unrealistic expectations for that


--Thomas .). Norton

It's hard to know what to call the SHAGold. It is asuperb headphone amplifier -- maybe even the target all future

headphone amps need to shoot at -- but it's also afull-function preamplifier. At two grand, it's not exactly aunit you'd add to your current system just to get aheadphone connection... Wait a minute! What am Isaying? I'm sure that there are folks out there who would add this to their existing reference systems as casually as I'd buy the Audio Alchemy -- but they'd be missing out on agreat line stage.
Icould be wrong about the target audience for the SHA-Gold, but Isuspect that it's, uh, me. That is to say, audiophiles with some budget limitations who want an essentially uncompromised preamplifier that also offers state-of-the-art headphone amplification. With tubes, preferably. And as long as you're at it, maybe even remote control.
The remote control is an outgrowth of the biggest difference between the SHA-Gold and Melos's original SHA-1 (reviewed in Vol.15 No.10 and still in production, with only minor changes): the "Photentiometer" volume control. Russ Novak described the Photentiometer in great detail in his April review of the Melos MA-333 Reference (Vol.19 No.4), so I'll just summarize here.
Melos's Mark Porzilli maintains that the performance of most state-of-theart preamps is compromised by "270 degrees of convenience" -- their volume controls. He points out that at 9:00, the average potentiometer has low resistance and capacitance and, relatively speaking, high rectification. Turn the control to 12:00 and you increase resistance and capacitance, but reduce rectification. This, of course, has an effect upon the signal. Many designers get around this by utilizing switched resistors, which Porzilli calls "Band-Aids." He claims that they just switch the problem into adifferent arena.
His solution? A heavy-metal (nickel and chromium instead of the more frequently used carbon), 100k ohm resistor is connected in series with asecond, light-sensitive, cadmium-sulphide resis-
tor adjacent to an 8V light bulb. This resistor changes its resistance in proportion to the brightness of the light shining on it. The brighter the light, the smaller the proportion of the signal voltage sent to the next amplification stage. This "Photentiometer," Melos claims, results in constant series resistance in the signal path and far less variation in capacitance over the control's
entire range -- and, lacking moving parts, it eliminates the partial rectification effects of switches and wipers.



I've ever heard, especially when used

with the passive output. As always, with

passive preamplification, you trade off

some bottom-end authority for trans-

parency, but Ifound the SHA-Gold

traded less than most. (I was using 20'

runs of XL0 Type 3.1 Signature into a

KSA-300S amplifier, which was driving

Aerial 10Ts. The Krell KPS-20i// was

my source. Even with the long cables,

usually areal no-no with passive amps,

Melos SHA-Gold headphone amplifier

Iwas getting spectacular bass and afast,

limpid top-end, brimming with low-

The output buffer voltage on the room lights and looked again. There's a level information.)

SHA-Gold has been increased to 40V lot of illumination inside the SHA- If you need to drive less efficient

peak-peak, up from 8V in the SHA-1, Gold: arow of red LEDs on the right speakers, or a more capacitive cable,

which is associated with an increase in side of the circuit board, two tubes, the you'll want to use the active output --or

the stage's input impedance -- to better bulb inside the balance meter--but I the balanced, which yields an extra 6dB

than 10M ohms --"effectively `unload- couldn't see the Photentiometer any- gain. It's not that big asacrifice, although

ing' the preceding tube amplification where. Then, Iran the volume up and it does close down the top-end atad.

stage," Melos claims. This, they say, down, and there it was, mounted under Either way, you hear exceptional sound-

results in an almost purely resistive load the circuit board! Turn the volume up staging and way, way, into the music.

for the two 6DJ8s --which is theoreti- and it dimmed; turn it down, and the The Paniagua track stood every hair on

cally ideal. Frequency response has light grew stronger, shining greenly my body upright when played through

been improved slightly, but the biggest through the circuit board, throwing the the passive outputs of the SHA-Gold.

change in the basic circuit is that voltage traces into stark relief. Cool.

The drum moved so much air that I

regulation has been increased "by afac-

The remote control is asimple wand. could watch dust motes, shining in shafts

tor of about 1000," according to Melos's At the top, it has alarge red button, of sunlight, get pushed out of the way by

George Bischoff. (I thought Bischoff labeled "Power." This does not, in fact, its passage--and then the preamp

was being uncharacteristically vague turn on the power, it disengages the allowed me to wallow in the long, long

when he said this, but the 1000-fold fig- mute function. Next down the wand is decay. Iheard minor intonation changes

ure is repeated in Melos's product liter- apair of wedge-shaped controls, mount- on the flute that had passed unnoticed

ature, so Iassume it's accurate -- if ex- ed one over the other, labeled "Chan- previously, and the forward, almost

traordinary.) The regulators use LEDs nel" These, it turns out, are the balance relentless, momentum of the track's last

as voltage references.

controls. Below them is another pair of two minutes was manifest.

The SHA-Gold doesn't lack for vertically mounted wedges, labeled

"Third Uncle" just slammed. It was

inputs: It has six--including one line- "Volume," which --much to my sur- harder, better-driven, and solider than I

level input marked "phono." (I find this prise -- actually control the volume. think I've ever heard it. Iplayed it over

confusing, don't you?) There is also a There is also asmall button, labeled and over, pogo-ing in the middle of my

tape loop, two single-ended outputs -- "Mute," which engages (but doesn't dis- living room until Iwas breathless. (Not

one amplified, one passive -- and apair of XLR balanced outputs. An IEC-style AC plug allows for custom power cables.
It's rack-mountable, 19" wide with mounting slots at the corner. The front panel is striking From left to right, it sports an on/off toggle switch; an illuminated window containing an analog balance-meter, agold-plated, motorized

engage) the mute function. Got it? that it takes that long, these days.)

Good --it sure took me awhile. I'm

As aheadphone preamp, I've never

sure that Melos is sourcing this remote heard the SHA-Gold's equal. It has con-

wand from somewhere --a TV, judging trol, fast response, unbelievable liquidity,

from the labels -- but Ithink they and that glorious, grainless tube spacious-

should consider relabeling the functions. ness. Fve stated that Imiss HeadRoom's

MP and wish that high-end manufactur-

Natus ad glorianu Other than that, I ers would adopt it as astandard, but the

have no real complaints about the SHA- SHA-Gold is so transparent and free

Gold's performance. It is unquestion- from electronic artifacts that Iwonder if

volume control; a gold-plated source ably superior to the original SHA-1 -- switcher, a14" stereo 'phone jack; and a as it should be, at twice the price. The tape monitor/source toggle-switch. In SHA-1 sounds darker overall, but also

it wouldn't be too revealing for the MP. I'd love to do an A/B --but until Ido, I wouldn't change athing.

the upper right-hand comer there is an LED that blinks when the SHA-Gold is muted. Plugging headphones into the phone jack mutes the line outputs.
Ipopped the lid and looked inside.

manifests ahardness right in the critical midrange area -- Ihave friends who swore the SHA-1 was as transparent as all get-out, but Icould never ignore those two distractions.

You have no idea what the real limits of your headphones' bass response are until you've heard them on the SHA-Gold, nor have you aclue what those overtones really sound like. All of

Once again, Iwas impressed by the level of craftsmanship as well as the quality of the parts. You expect alot

Besides, if the SHA-1 was transpar- the drive and transparency that the unit ent, what would that make the SHA- manifests as apreamp are equally obviGold? Virtually nonexistent? Hmmm, ous when it is used as aheadphone

fi-orn a$2000 component, and in the that has anice ring to it... Because the amp. It really clamped the Grados SHA-Gold you get alot. Ialso wanted SHA-Gold -- whether because of the under its control, vastly reducing the

to see the light bulb, which was not Photentiometer or not, Ican't say -- flabbiness of the bass and improving

readily apparent. So Iturned off the disappears as completely as any preamp their articulation of timbre down un-



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der. They still sounded rolled-off on were also made from the back-panel top, though. The 580 Jubilees always preamp outputs. sound taut in the bass, but the SHA- The Melos was noninverting, both

Gold gave them greater body than I've from its headphone jack and its main heard them manifest previously. On outputs. (Using its balanced output, pin

the other hand, their midrange lean- 2was wired to be positive, pin 3nega-

ness was thrown into high relief by the tive.) Its input impedance was 82k ohms. Melos's liquidity and transparency. Its output impedance was 0.53 ohms at

Surprisingly, my HD-580s and the the headphone jack, 21 ohms from out-

Grado SR-125s sounded the most nat- put 2.

ural and least compromised through

The S/N ratio measured 81dB from

the SHA-Gold. Melos has real winner in the SHA-
Gold. As aline-stage preamplifier, it is at the very top of the heap. $2000 should, and can, buy alot of preamplifier --

the front jack, 73.6dB from output 2, and 67dB from output 1 (all 22Hz22kHz, unweighted, ref. 1V). DC offset measured 2mV left and 8.9mV right from the headphone jack, 7mV/5.9mV

there's awfully fierce competition at from output 2, and 2.1mV/22mV from

that price point. The Melos belongs on any preamp shopper's short-list But if you listen to headphones and you need areference-level preamp, Ican't think

output 1. There was considerable fluctuation in the readings, due to verylow-frequency noise, as is typical in tube designs (the figures given were the

of another choice: It stands alone--way measured maximums).

out front.

-Wes Phillips

The tracking of the Melos's volume

control was good: the left and right out-

Too much of agood thing is won- puts had amaximum of 039dB deviaderful: The Melos's measurements tion at half rotation of the volume con-

presented here were taken from the trol. Voltage gain at the maximum setfront-panel headphone jack unless oth- ting of the control was 18.6dB at the

erwise stated -- since the SHA-Gold headphone jack, 192dB at the balanced was reviewed primarily as aheadphone output, 132dB at output 2, and -2.3dB

amp. Selected measurements, however, at output 1(the "passive" output).


t tledet ittUrtett ...try me

IOtte tc`tt,

pto It
Fig.18 Melos SHA-Gold, frequency response at IV into 100k ohms (0.5c18/vertical div.).

Fig. I9Melos SHA -Gold, small-signal 10kHz squarewave into 100k ohms.
The frequency response of the SHAGold into a high impedance load is shown in fig.18.1he 10kHz squarewave response is shown in fig.19. The latter has good risetime and the typical slight rounding at the top leading-edge cor-


That's the wor
being used to describe the sound and
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2111110.021 1.102 5414G010 C,0·4·· 20 re MOO


221.101111011 0 0 .00 +era 40.2 .00 IMO

2212.0121 2014 2.4202. rd .10 2a 00 2.

Fig.20 Melos SHA-Gold. crosstalk (from bottom to top at 100Hz): L--R. R--L. output 2: L--R, R--L. headphone jack (10d13/vertical div.).
/701100,1111.0 1·1.21010.411010 110 011·12·1001.11121111110....1

Fig.22 Melos SHA-Gold.THD+noise vs frequency
at (from top to bottom at IkHz): 3V into 40 ohms, headphone jack; 300mV into 40
ohms, headphone jack. and 1V into 100k ohms. output 2.

Fig.24 Melos SHA-Gold, spectrum of 50Hz sinewave, DC--I kHz. at 300mV into 40 ohms (linear frequency scale). Note that the second harmonic at 100Hz is the highest in level but that the spectrum is dominated by an AC supply harmonic at 120Hz.
1111110.001.0 01·1001111.43·2011100.01·Nreee..aler


· ·


Fig.21 Melos SHA-Gold, distortion (%) vs output

voltage into (from bottom to top at 2V): 100k ohms, output 2; 150 ohms, head-
phone jack; and 40 ohms, headphone jack.

Tome ems
Fig.23 Audio Alchemy HPA, IkHz waveform at 250mV into 40 ohms (top); distortion and

ners associated with the ultrasonic rolloff seen in fig.18. At the bottom

noise waveform with fundamental notched out (bottom, not to scale).

leading-edge corners, the slight notch- level is well above that likely to be

ing seen is not ameasurement or print- required by most headphones. The ing artifact, it was also visible on an ana- THD+noise vs frequency plot for an

log oscilloscope trace. Ihave no ready output level of 1V is also shown for out-

explanation for it, other than aslight oscillation that only occurs in the negative portion of the signal. It is also just

put 2(unbalanced, left channel). This is suitably low. The THD waveform at 250mV into 40 ohms (1kHz) is shown

barely visible in the 1kHz squarewave in fig23. It is heavily second-harmonic.

response (not shown), which also has a As the output level increases to 2V (not

very slight overshoot at the top leading- shown) higher harmonics begin to

edge corners, but good risetime and no appear, but the second-harmonic com-

visible ringing.

ponent remains dominant.

The SHA-Gold's variation of channel

Driving the Melos with afrequency of

separation with frequency is shown in 50Hz at an output of 300mV into 40

fig20. It is only fair as preamps go, but ohms results in the distortion spectrum the crosstalk is well-matched between shown in fig24. Power-supply products

channels. The somewhat lower-than- predominate (120Hz, 240Hz, 360Hz, average separation, particularly at high etc). The largest artifact of the 50Hz

frequencies, should not be of audible sig- input signal is the second-harmonic


(100Hz) at --75dB (about 0.017%). Fig25

Fig21 plots the variation in THD+ shows the output intermodulation spec-

noise with output voltage of the Melos trum for an input of 19+20kHz at 2.17V

SHA-Gold into 40 and 150 ohm loads into 40 ohms, just prior to visible clip-

(headphone output) and ahigh-imped- ping of this waveform. The difference ance load (output 2, unbalanced). The component artifact at 1kHz is the high-

headphone output voltages should be est in level, at --42.5dB or about 0.8%.

more than sufficient to drive any typical This is asatisfactory, though not particuheadphones to extremely high levels. larly notable, result.

The line-stage output clips at 2.5V,

The test-bench measurements of the

lower than expected, but sufficient to SHA-Gold were reasonable, though it drive any power amplifier to full level. did not perform as well on an objective

The Melos's THD+noise level is basis as the other headphone amplifiers

plotted against frequency in fig22 for reviewed by WP in this issue. The tech-

outputs of 3V and 300mV into 40 nical results suggest that headphones

ohms. As expected from fig21, the 3V with impedances above 40 ohms are

distortion is moderately high, but this best suited for use with the Melos.


220 00

1.1011 *Olt 11.112 .41112 1.11, 11011 M. 1401 ,2 Oa. 20. 22

Fig.25 Melos SHA-Gold, HF interrnodulation spectrum. DC-22kHz, 19+20kHz at 2.17V into 40 ohms (linear frequency scale).

Certainly, WP did not have anything negative to say about the preamp's subjective performance.
--Thomas .). Norton
If you're aheadphone user it's hard not being happier than apig in acorn-crib these days. Grado is offering not just one, but awhole line of reference-quality headphones, and Audio Alchemy, McCormack, and Melos all have designed superb headphone amplifiers at three very different price points. If you've got the gelt, go for the SHAGold. But at one-third the price, the McCormack offers rarefied performance and an entry into transparency heaven. And for less than half the price of the MID, Audio Alchemy's HPA v1.0 extracts music from your favorite discs that you'd never hear straight out of your receiver, CD player, or cassette deck. It's hard to lose, with choices like this. Now truly is an age of gold.
--Wes Phillips

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Russell Novak

Three-way, floorstanding loudspeaker system. Drive-units: 10" bass driver in sealed enclosure; 5" midrange unit and 1" metal-dome tweeter on open baffle. Crossover frequencies: 400Hz, 3.5kHz. Frequency response: 34Hz-25kHz. t3dB. Sensitivity: 87dB/W/m. Nominal impedance: 8ohms. Minimum impedance:4 ohms. Dimensions:

49.5" H by 12.75" W by 15.5" D. Weight 95 lbs each. Serial numbers of units reviewed: 0406/0407. Price: 84950/pair in black ash, natural oak, American walnut; 85850/pair in Santos rosewood.Approximate number of dealers: 60.Acarian Systems. 15 Woodview Drive, Nesconset NY 11767. Tel: (516) 737-9369. Fax: (516) 981-3476.

Atthe 1995 Winter CES in Las Vegas, Acarian Systems' Alón Vs occupied one of the very large

ian Systems. A long-fiber, felted cone material was chosen for its very high stiffness-to-mass ratio and good inherent

rooms in the Sahara Hotel Tower. From damping. According to Marchisotto, this

the middle of the room they threw a cone imparts less coloration than driver

wall-to-wall image at least 25' wide, and cones made of polypropylene or alumi-

completely filled the space to the rear num, which can have prominent sonic

wall with layered sound. This was sur- signatures.

prising, as these floorstanders are of rela-

The tweeter and midrange driver are

tively modest size.

mounted on asmall, flat baffle, braced at

The V represents asignificant refine- the back, that stands atop the woofer

ment over its predecessor the Alón IV cabinet. The drivers operate as dipoles,

The IV received rave reviews Iwhen it radiating from both front and rear; this

was introduced in 1992 to establish the can give the speaker amore open sound

trademark qualities now associated with than when the drivers are mounted

the Alón line: large soundstage, prom- inside acabinet. Marchisotto states that

inent midrange response, and avery dy- when smaller drivers are mounted in-

namic, upfront presentation with plenty side the woofer cabinet, as in most de-

of bass impact. Iliked the N, but felt its signs, distortion-causing vibrations are

upper midrange and bass could be too transmitted to the midrange and tweeter

prominent with alot of recordings. The V in four ways: 1) enclosure panel reso-

is said to retain most of the bass extension nance; 2) enclosure air-column reso-

of the IV, but is more controlled. The nance (standing waves produced inside

midrange unit and tweeter are also new. the box); 3) delayed resonance caused

Carl Marchisotto, designer and presi- by sound re-transmitted through the

dent of Acarian Systems, has aimed the cone after reflecting off the enclosure;

Vat the audiophile ear, ie, audio-only or and 4) trapped air forcing the driver to

combination audio/Home Theater in- resonate within its bandpass (je, a

stallations. With its smaller woofer, he midrange driver mounted in abox might

feels the V will fit better in average-to- have aresonant frequency at around

small listening areas that might be over- 200Hz; however, if mounted on abaffle

loaded by the bass output of apair of in free air, as in the Alón V, it resonates

Ns. He continues to recommend the IV out of its bandwidth, at around 50Hz).

for Home Theater installations in which

With its gently curving edges, felt

drama and larger rooms are the rule.

collar around the tweeter, and half


"hood" behind the tweeter, the baffle's odd figure-8 shape is designed to mini-

The Alón V's woofer cabinet is made of mize diffraction from its face. In acon-

125"-thick (1.5" for the front baffle) ventional design, sound is thrown back

double-walled MDF with two layers of at the listener from the sharp edges of

damping pads, plus internal bracing. the baffle, affecting imaging. In the

The speaker's removable base allows Alón V, off-axis sound "wraps back" to

the user to get at internal parts without the rear of the speaker and is not re-

removing the drivers. The Q of the infi- flected back at the listener. The baffle

nite-baffle woofer/cabinet combination sits back from the front of the cabinet to

is 0.75; Carl Marchisotto feels this gives provide adegree of time alignment with

superior speed to the woofer.

the woofer, and is angled back to pro-

The low-distortion, long-throw bass vide time alignment between the tweet-

driver was designed especially for Acar- er and midrange. [Staggering the drive-units

does not in itselfprovide time alignment unless

1Robert Deutsch reviewed the Alón IV for Slereophile in Febniary 1993 (Vo1.16 No2).

the crossover phase response is also taken into consideration. -- Ed.]

The midrange driver uses apaper cone with two layers of plasticizers. As with the bass driver, Marchisotto opted for the highest stiffness-to-mass ratio. He feels this combination is very light, sonically neutral compared to polypropylene or Kevlar, and maximizes control over the cone. A small hole in the dustcap is said to improve phase response and equalize air pressure at the coil. Instead of conventional ceramic
Acarian Systems Alón V loudspeaker



magnets, acobalt magnet structure was the speakers in my apartment, he and alively midrange. Music Metre Sig-

chosen for lower distortion.

brought in the latest interconnect from nature provided alovely amber-colored

The aluminum-dome tweeter's reso- Discovery Cable (tel: (908) 359-2485) presentation, warm bass, forgiving tre-

nant frequency is out of its bandwidth and his own speaker cable, the reason- ble, and arich midrange. TARA Labs

and is therefore theoretically inaudible. ably priced Black Orpheus, in atri- RSC Generation 2was dynamic, and

An open plastic-cage structure to the wired configuration. After giving agood neutral from top to bottom. Consis-

rear of the tweeter holds asound-ab- listen to the manufacturer's preferences, tency is atrademark of the Alón V; it

sorbing pad positioned to prevent off- Ispent some time experimenting with seemed to have no quirky reactions to

axis high-frequency information from other brands of wire. After all, not wire, and got along with most.

diffracting off the top of the cabinet.

everyone is prepared to replace expen-

Ultimately Icame back to Discovery

The crossover uses damped second- sive wire at the same time one is drop- Cable interconnect and Black Orpheus

order filters for all the drive-units, to give ping thousands on aspeaker system. speaker wire because they matched this

slopes between 6dB and 12dB/octave: a The good news is that nothing made speaker best, sounding slightly sweeter

low-pass for the woofer, abandpass for the speaker sound bad.

and more liquid and having awider

the midrange, and ahigh-pass for the

Itried bi-wiring with TARA Labs soundstage than some combinations. If

tweeter. High-quality parts arc used, RSC Master Generation 2 speaker you have the bread, listen to these wires;

including polypropylene capacitors and cable and aWonderWire jumper be- if not, don't worry about it.

oxygen-free copper Litz wire for the coils (inductors). There is no circuit

tween the midrange and tweeter binding posts, and got good results. In fact,


board, and wiring is point-to-point.

the overall speaker performance re- Front-End: Sonic Frontiers' superb

For reasons discussed below, Acarian's mained largely the same. The sonically SFT-1 digital transport drove a Mon-

own Black Orpheus speaker wire ($5501 neutral RSC gave marginally cooler archy 22B DAC via Illuminati single-

10' tri-wire set) may be considered part sound due to aconsideration I'll de- ended digital coax. Sonic Frontiers claims

of the design. The wires running to the scribe presently. Though atiny bit of vanishingly lowjitter for the SFT-1; ifjit-

bass drivers are 13-gauge silver-clad cop- detail may also have been lost due to the ter be the source of much digital nasti-

per, while the pairs connected to the jumper, further listening confirmed that ness, SF has awinner. None of the tradi-

tweeter and midrange arc a 13-gauge the Vwill make changes plain to the ear tional CD tweaks (mats, sprays, even an

combination of stranded copper and sil- without its sound ever getting ugly.

outboard re-clocker) could be heard to

ver-clad copper wires. Each wire is jack-

Substituting other interconnects for have any effect on the sound. That tells

eted individually. Marchisotto subscribes Discovery Cable became acompletely me the transport is doing its job. The

to ahypothesis I've heard advanced by predictable exercise. The sonic char- Monarchy DAC continues to impress

other wire manufacturers: lise lower acteristics identified with each brand with its dynamics, soundstaging, smooth-

the capacitance of the wire, the lower over long experimentation with other ness, and bargain price (still around

the coloration.

system configurations were perfectly $1000). The Illuminati cable, already

replicated. Kimber ICable KCAG was commented on by JS in the May issue


beautifully extended in the highs, and (p.195) and now available in two

Marchisotto knows his wires. Setting up had excellent control of the bass region AES/EBU models, allowed sweetness,


The VTL tubed monoblocks mated so well with the Alón V that Iwanted to reacquaint Stereophile readers with them, and comment on developments since J. Gordon Holt first reviewed the amplifier in October 1988 (VoL11 No.10).
Though the sweet, liquid, holographic quality of triode tube operation has often been written about, it
remains difficult to describe unless you've lived with it in your own system. It's... seductive. Detail is presented in acasual, graceful manner that sounds natural and real. The music simply exists in space. You don't tire of the sound as it continues to surprise and charm. In aquiet, darkened listening room there are few experiences quite so magical. Ibelieve that

the Alón Vs provided the venue for took the opportunity to experiment. I

the full character of these amplifiers was astonished by how well these

to emerge.

amps disciplined and directed the

The problem historically has been speak= A well-controlled speaker ac-

the lowered power of triode operation tually does the opposite of what the

and its marginal ability to handle dy- word suggests: Dynamics and bass re-

namic peaks with insensitive speakers. sponse have that casual, natural, al-

That has not been avalid concern for most offhand feel that indicates suf-

several years now, as several companies ficient power is available -- even in

are producing high-powered triode amps.
Iremember auditioning the VTL

triode mode.
The neat thing about the VTL is
that it can be switched between triode

225 with the Mirage M-1 speaker six (250Wpc) and tetrode (nearly 500Wpc)

years ago. It sounded smooth but dis- operation with aflick of two switches

tant, and bass definition was aprob- on the front panel. The earlier model

lem. The big Mirage is very current- ran in tetrode mode only at 350Wpc.

hungry and needs amuscular solid- You don't lose alot in tetrode mode

state amp to gain full control. With --a bit of stage width, abit of liquid-

the newer M-lsi in my living room ity and sweetness -- but you gain
and the VTL MB-300s on hand, I much added power for those thun-



transparency, delicacy of timbre, and lowed by the SFL-2. But as the SFL-2

stage width to emerge. Filially, the Clear sounds more dynamic, and therefore

Image Audio T4 Power Line Isolator worked better at lower listening levels

gave me the cleanest AC I've heard, with with this speaker, Iopted for it. As both no discernible effect on the components. the Melos and Krell have similarly dis-

tant perspectives, the sound became abit Amplifiers: Through the kind offices too distant and =involving for my tastes

of Dan D'Agostino and Luke Manley, I when either was used with the Alón V.

was able to obtain two state-of-the-art

Next came one of those anomalies

amplifiers of very different breeds: the that makes the optimization of ahighKrell KSA-300S and the Vacuum Tube end audio system ablack art. With the

Logic VTL MB-300. In this talc of two SFL-2 preamp, Isubstituted the VTL

amps lies the key to the Alón V's ul- 300 running in triode mode for the

timate performance.

Krell. The VTL measured virtually the

Straight out of the box, the V had same as the Krell --and Imean top to

two characteristics that should be taken bottom -- yet they sounded sig-

into account when matching equip- nificantly different.

ment. Measured from the listening

Listening with the Krell, I was

position, the speakers showed abroad reminded (if not exactly offended) by

plateau in the midrange frequency re- less than well-recorded material that the

sponse, atkragiug between 2.75 and 4dB Alón V had amidrange peak. It could

high between 630Hz and 125kHz. The be heard on good material, too. Solo pi-

Vs are abit reticent in microdynamics ano on Debussy's Suite bergamasque (Fran-

and do not "bloom" -- it become fully çois Thiollier, Naxos 8.553290) sounded

dynamic -- until amusic-listening level slightly hollow and nasal; the upper

of around 80-85dB, which may be abit range ofSinatra's voice on Only the Lonely

high for apartment dwellers.

(Capitol CDP 7 48471 2) was more

Though it wasn't always troubling, prominent than Iknow it to be. With

that broad midrange peak was audible the VTL 300s, Thiollier's liquid piano

on about half the recordings in my col- tone lost the nasal coloration and Sinlection. To maximize performance I atra's voice was restored to its normal

began with the Krell amp and tried all balance. 'The tube amplifier seemed

combinations of preamplifiers Ihad on capable of ameliorating the Alón V's

hand: the Melos 333 Reference, the midrange characteristic. Why this Sonic Frontiers SFL-2, and a passive should be so when these speakers mea-

shunted volume control. The peak was sure the saine with both amplifiers, I'll

least prominent with the Melos, fol- leave for the engineers and theoreticians

to decide. But the VTL monoblocks were clearly the order of the day with these speakers.
The Alón V reflected changes in hardware and software so well that I'm tempted to review associated components rather than the speaker itself-- such was the degree of audible change accompanying changes in system configuration. This is a tribute to the speaker.
Soundstage: While the width and height of the soundstage remained largely the same with each amp and preamp tried, the apparent depth perspective changed radically. With the Krell '300S and/or the Melos Reference preamp, I got aRow 20 presentation. With classical music (Novak, Serenade in F, Marco Polo 8.223649), the orchestra could be perceived as a whole unit. Sound emerged from asilent background, and one had agood sense of cohesiveness. Spotlighted guitar work in front of an orchestra (Rodrigo, Gmcierto de Aranjuez, Naxos 8.550729) was beautifully rendered and tonally sweet.
With the VTL amps and the SFL-2 preamp, the speakers brought me to Row 10. Separation between instruments and orchestral sections increased. Microdynamics improved duc to the closer positioning, and consequently the tempo of the music better asserted it-

derous Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony crescendos. However, Irarely needed that power with the Mirages, and never needed it with the Alón Vs.
Luke Manley tells me there have been substantial changes to the MB300 since it was first introduced. The current version's overall circuit topology is similar, but a6350 has replaced the 12BH7 phase-splitter tube. The 6350 has ahigher amplification factor and transconductance, higher current, and lower impedance. Manley feels it smooths the sound compared to the original MB-300. One circuit board with tighter, simpler circuitry replaces two boards on the original model; this is said to result in alowered noisefloor.
The main reason for the power increase is the all-new Signature output transformer. There's an art and ascience to winding transformers, and tube devotees will note the changes

here. Manley states that they've increased the number of sections in the transformer, which improves couplings between windings and increases efficiency by lowering insertion loss (whew!). The primary impedance of the transformer is more closely matched to the plate impedance of the output tubes for more efficient current transfer to the speaker.
More windings and better winding-to-winding couplings are claimed to give awider frequency response, especially at the top end. Manley reports that the amp measures flat from 20Hz to 251c1-1z at full power. The larger transformers also allow more output current -- the 1988 version of this amplifier could deliver 6.6 amps, while this version will do 11 amps --which might account for the vast improvement in performance with my Mirages. VTL uses 9-gauge wiring in their Signature transformers

to give a20-amp capability There will have been some cos-
metic changes to the MB-300 by the time you read this. Tube biasing will become an internal procedure --it's currently accomplished with aswitch and meter on the front panel and a screwdriver adjustment at each output tube --and an additional power supply will be included for the driver stage. Total power output will remain the same. The model number will become the MB-450 Signature and the price will increase to $6990/pait
Audiophiles who have read about but not yet heard ahigh-powered triode amplifier in their own homes need to do so. Get friendly with a tube head; make him loan you his amp for the weekend. If your speakers are capable, the improvements in sound quality should not be subtle.
--Russell Novak



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self. This was especially apparent on

The midrange sounded very uncol-

Munyungo Jackson's Munyungo (VTL ored, but, as noted earlier, there's a

VTL002), which has a number of broad peak in this region. It can be dealt

rhythmic elements pulsating behind a with, however. The treble was clean and

swinging piano solo.

sounded extended, but Ialso detected

Image height was right with the the quality of forgiveness in the speaker:

Mons driven by the VTLs. Singers Bright recordings with bright wires and

seemed about 5-6' tall and naturally bright components failed to drive me

recorded orchestral music appeared at from the room. This is important for

the height of the drivers, while ambient audiophiles whose libraries are selected

information simply billowed within the on the basis of artistic performance and

front of the room. The Alón Vs always must put up with some marginal-

generated anicely layered image in the sounding discs. The tweeters were very

room. It began about an inch in back of sweet on good tube or transistor amps,

the drivers and ran back to the rear wall and provided sufficient low-distortion,

and corners in amanner so convincing upper-octave information to allow me

that Iwas briefly astonished to hear to focus on instrumental placement and

Munyungo yelling "Oye, samba!" from ambience cues.

the right rear corner of the room. The

more Ibrought the Vs out from the Do You TWEAK?

wall, the larger the soundstage pro- The Alón Vwill be atempting object of

jected. Iended up with the cabinets 6' affection for tweakers. The free-stand-

from the rear wall and 3' from the sides, ing baffle holding the midrange and

with foam baffles at the side walls to tweeter drivers suggests experimenta-

diminish early reflections. Isat 9' away tion with the application of resonance-

from the speakers, 4' from the wall absorbing material. Mortite (available at

behind me.

hardware stores), Sorbothane, or any

Get the Blade Runner soundtrack removable deadening material might be

(Vangelis, Atlantic 82623) -- it has neat applied to the baffle rear. Proceed care-

sound effects with which one can judge fully, listening and measuring as you go.

changes in soundstage. The Alóns gen- Carl Marchisotto points out that appli-

erated an enormous "soundstage" (one cation of damping materials can result

that probably never took place outside in resonances being shifted to aless

of Vangelis's synthesizer) with this desirable part of the frequency spec-

recording. There's atelephone "busy trum; consider this cheap tweak an

signal" buried deep in the right channel experiment and a possibility, not an

at 0:17 that shifts outside the right ironclad recommendation.

speaker to agreater or lesser extent as

--Russell Novak

associated components are switched.

The piano in Clark Terry's recording of M EASUREMENTS FROM JA

"Pennies from Heaven" (Portraits, I estimated the Alón V's B-weighted

Chesky JD2) does asimilar thing in the sensitivity to be 86dB/W/m, which is

left channel. The wider your stage, the about average. The impedance (fig.1)

farther outside the left speaker that dips to 4ohms in the upper bass and

image will move. If soundstaging is lower midrange, the former region as-

your thing, you'll love these speakers. sociated with amoderately high elec-

trical phase angle; as these are frequen-

Dynamics: As Istated above, the Alón cy regions where music has alot of

V's microdynamics were aminor prob- power, agood 4ohm-rated amplifier

lem. The preferred amp and preamp should be used. The impedance peak at

compensated nicely, as did the choice of 40Hz indicates the tuning of the sealed

DAC. The presentation remained woofer enclosure -- rather high in fre-

refined, never out of control. The

speaker will never move as much air as

Mereepl. Madan Yen 3in*

lohrnel Mr 1.31·1


something with multiple drivers and a I00

10 00

large speaker/room interface, but it's 160 De.

satisfying, and has dignity and decorum. 140 Oen

43 DJ

Tonal quality: With only a10" bass driver and amoderate-sized box, it's surprising how low these speakers go -- in my room, flat to 25Hz. Bass presentation was controlled and notes were well-delineated; the speaker will never "woof' you out of the room.

Fig. I Alón V, electrical impedance (solid) and phase (dashed) (2 ohms/vertical div.).


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20.0 Commulat ve Speoteel Deoeg

100.0 log Frequenold - Hz


-9.54 dB, 588 Hz (168), 8.888 mac (1)

0.00 12.00 25.00 37.00
50.00 62.00 msee


Alón V. cumulative spectral-decay plot of accelerometer output fastened to the midrange/tweeter baffle just below the drive-units (MIS driving voltage to speaker, 7.55V; measurement bandwidth,

I 11111111 1 11111111 I IIIIIII

1 IIIIIll II111111 I IIIIIll li



Alón V, acoustic crossover on midrange axis at 50", corrected for microphone response, with nearfield woofer response plotted below 300Hz.



1 11111111 11111111

1 1111111




Frp,/ency Ftz


Akin V. anechoic response on midrange axis at 50, averaged across 30 ° horizontal window and corrected for microphone response, with nearfield woofer response plotted below 300Hz.

dB 0.0

60 00 30.00






60.00 deg



Feeemency File Display

(Equalised to slice re) -24.10 dB, 688 Hz (18),


log Froeguencg - Hs

(Smoothed to

96.088 deg (NUAUEFORMNALOH5-37.FRQ)(37)




Alón V, horizontal response family at 50", normalized to response on tweeter axis, from back to front differences in response 90°-5° off-axis; reference response; differences in response 5*-90°

quency for the size of the speaker. Two wrinkles can be seen in the im-
pedance traces. The one at 26.4kHz is due to the tweeter's "oil-can" resonance and is inconsequential. The second, around 185Hz, implies that there is a major cabinet resonance in this region. Fig2 shows acumulative spectral-decay plot calculated from the output of asimple PVDF plastic-strip accelerometer stuck to the open baffle just below the

midrange unit. In fact, two strong resonances between 180Hz and 210Hz can be seen in this graph; the one at 184Hz was also present on all surfaces of the woofer cabinet. An even stronger resonance is visible at 80Hz, while one much higher in frequency lies at the cursor position, 578Hz. Neither of these modes could be detected on the woofer box. The effect of these resonances will be minimized by the small radiating area

of the open baffle; however, the strong 184Hz resonance of the woofer enclosure might produce afeeling of midrange congestion at high playback levels. As RN su 14:ests, it might be worth experimenting with damping materials.
Fig3 shows the individual responses of the Alón V's three drive-units. As suspected from the impedance plot, the woofer is tuned to quite ahigh frequency. Its output peaks between 40z and 70Hz, rolling off at 12dBloctave below that region, and more gently in the midrange. In aroom, boundary reinforcement will extend the low frequencies somewhat - RN found that he could get flat response down to 25Hz - but this speaker will never frilly satisfy bassheads. The shape of the woofer curve might suggest some upper-bass heaviness, but RN was not bothered by anything amiss in this region. Note also that the woofer cabinet resonance at 184Hz is strong enough to introduce asmall notch and peak into the woofer's output.
The woofer appears to cross over to the midrange unit just below 700Hz, though there is some overlap between the drivers. The midrange unit itself has acouple of narrow peaks and dips in its passband before crossing over to the tweeter above 3kHz, again with significant overlap. The tweeter's ultrasonic resonance rises 15dB above the nominal reference level, but at 26AkHz this will only disturb bats and very young children, neither of whom have sufficient disposable income to afford the Alón V.
FigA reveals how these individual drive-unit outputs sum on the midrange axis at adistance of 50". (I chose the midrange axis for this measurement because this is 37" from the floor, atypical listening height.) Individually, the midrange and treble regions are fairly flat and smooth, particularly the treble. The latter is shelved-down by 4-6dB, however, which explains the speaker's rather forgiving nature. The low midrange is also alittle shelved-down, giving rise to the upper-midrange prominence in the Alón V's balance noted by RN.
Vertically (not shown), the Alón V's balance doesn't change too much as long as you sit with your ears somewhere between the tweeter and woofer axes, 37"-43" from the floor. Above or below that region, suckouts appear in the midrange/tweeter crossover region, rendering the sound too hollow. Laterally (fig.5), the Voffers pretty smooth, even dispersion in the treble. A big dipole notch develops in the midrange



1 11 Ï1 11 11

111111I 1
5 /norms
Fig.6 Alon V. step response on midrange axis at 50" (5ms time window. 30kHz bandwidth).

unit's off-axis output, however, which

suggests that the degree of the V's up-

per-midrange energy can be amelio-

rated by careful experimentation with

room placement.

The Alón Vmay have aslanted-back

baffle and physically staggered drive-

units, but by no means is it atime-

aligned design. Looking at the step

response on the midrange axis (fig.6),

the small, positive-going spike just after

the 4ins mark is the tweeter output, the

larger, negative-going spike that follows

is the output of the midrange unit; and

the slow, later-arriving, positive-going

step is the woofer. The tweeter and

woofer are connected in positive

acoustic polarity; the midrange unit is

connected with inverted acoustic polar-

ity in order to achieve aflat response

through the crossover regions. So don't

judge loudspeakers by their appearances

-- the choice of crossover filters has as

large an influence on whether aspeaker

is time-aligned or not as the physical lay-

out of the drive-units.

Finally, the Alón V's waterfall or

cumulative spectral-decay plot (fig.7) is

impressively clean throughout the

upper midrange and treble. As aresult,

and as RN found, this speaker will have

very good presentation of recorded


--John Atkinson

dB 12.0 -
6.0 0.0 -




Cumulative Spectral Decay

10080.0 log Frequency - Hz

10.34 dB, 1110 Hz (25), 0.000 nsec (1)

0.00 0.60 1.26 1.87 2.53 3.13 mama MLSSA

Fig.7 Alón V. cumulative spectral-decay plot at 50" (0.15ms risetime).

ticular opportunity for the audiophile who currently owns an entry-level system: It will clearly reflect subsequent system changes, giving the owner areliable yardstick for total system improvement. It is also mildly forgiving when it comes to associated components; the V should remain listenable while your system is built or re-built around it, enhancing enjoyment as you go.
If you don't plan to spend ten grand

on speakers, Ienthusiastically recommend the V. It's largely accurate, images like achamp, and responds to the smallest changes in associated components, wires, and tweaks. The Alón provides the potential for sound that is very near the state of the art. Its minor shortcomings can be worked with if you like its sound: sweet, precise, refined, and controlled, with alarge, airy soundstage.
--Russell Novak


az o` th 7ekle,, ,

After living with Alóns for over six months, Ihad to think long and hard about replacing my Mirage M-lsi speakers. My ultimate decision not to do so was based partially on short-term economics, some tradeoffs in sound quality and presentation, and the desire to upgrade by several levels when I finally take the plunge.
What niche in the market will the Acarian Alón Vfill, and who should buy it? For all the excellent qualities listed above, Iwould not encourage someone who already owns a$5000 pair of speakers to turn over one set for another. However, Ibelieve the Vpresents apar-

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Belt-drive CD transport with remote control. Digital outputs: Coaxial S/PDIF (RCA 75 ohm), AT&T optical (ST-type), balanced AESIEBU (XLR). Power consumption: IOVV. Dimensions: 15.6" (400mm) W by 4.1" (105mm) H by 14.8" (380mm) D. Weight: 20 lbs. Accessories: Remote control. RCA cord, and 510gm disc stabilizer.

Serial numbers of review samples: K4700012, E4Z00343. Price: $2995. Approximate number of dealers: 65. Manufacturer: Chao Denki Co., Ltd., 1919 Nagayatsu YoshimiMach iHiki-gun. Saitama-Ken, Japan. US distributor: Parasound Products Inc., 950 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111. Tel: (415) 397-7100. Far (415) 397-0144.

Several years ago, at aConsumer Electronics Show party in aChicago blues bai; aretailer told Michael Fremer and me that our job as reviewers was to tell the public what was best. My reply, sharpened by several Leukenkugels, was, "You got it all wrong, buddy. Our job is to tell you all about acomponent, and let you decide if it is best for you. And, by the way, invade my personal space one more time and I'll deck ya."'
You see, some people just don't get it No, scratch that. Most people just don't get it. They think that the point of a review is whether or not the reviewer has afavorable opinion of apiece of equipment.
Bzzzt. Wrong. The reviewer's personal likes and dislikes should be irrelevant to atruly wellwritten review. A reviewer's opinion of aproduct is far less important to you than your opinion. My job isn't to supply you with opinions, but to furnish you with an accurate description of the component's ergonomic and sonic characteristics so you can make up your own mind as to whether aproduct will be to your liking.2 As Pearl Harbor (of Pearl Harbor and the Explosions) once said so eloquently, "Don't follow me; I'm lost
too." Any reviewer or audio expert who thinks he or she knows what's good for you is no better for your future than a politician with asimilar attitude.
On to the review at hand. Trickledown theory isn't limited to the economy. Here's hoping that in technology it's atad more successful than in the fiscal arena. The C.E.C. TL 2shares the philosophical basis of its bigge4 far more expensive brother, the C.E.C. TL 1 (reviewed by Robert Harley in Vol.16 No.7 and Jonathan Scull in Vol.17 No.5). Rather than the direct-drive system

used by most CD transports on the market, C.E.C. uses abelt-drive system to spin the disc. (Back to the future?) Luckily for the consumer, the TL 2isn't merely an exercise in anachrophilia -- the folks at C.E.C. have some sound and sensible reasons for using belt drive.
The C.E.C. has an austere exterior that will charm some folks and turn off others. Muse Kastanovich's first words upon spying the TL 2 were, "Cool looks." My wife's were, "That's really dull." I'm in the middle -- Ithink it's cool and dull at the same time. The TL 2's flat-black finish has a decidedly industrial feel. The front panel sports an On/Off switch, Stop and Play/Pause buttons, and two Skip Track buttons. The green display panel has aplay indicator, pause indicator, time display, memory indicato4 track-number display, and repeat indicator. That's it for the front panel.
The TL 2is atop-loading machine. The transport opening has its own sliding Plexiglas door, which must be fully closed for the machine to operate. (99 '4.% closed just won't do.) The TL 2 has digital outputs on the back for ST optical, coaxial electrical S/PDIF, and AES/EBU. Something for everybody.
The remote control has all the standard features, plus amemory button in case you forget where you put your glasses or wish to hear Cut 5as Cut 1 (this is great if you're listening to opera and want to find out what's gonna happen in the end). Make sure you put

fresh premium batteries in your remote control -- mine came with old wussedout third-world batteries that lowered the remote's range to about 6" from the front-plate. With fresh bunny batteries the remote worked fine up to 35' away. The angle of acceptance for the remote is about 25° off-axis -- reasonable, but not fantastic, performance.
The TL 2comes with its own set of gold-plated spiked feet, and cups for the feet to sit in so they don't leave their mark on your shelf Since the TL 2is a top-loading design, its CD drawer is much easier to access if it's on the top shelf of your equipment cabinet -- oth-
erwise, make sure you allow at least 3" of clearance, or you're gonna drop and scratch alot of CDs getting them in and out (where's that CD flipper Ireviewed back in Vol.16 No.10?).
Rather than rotating the CD with a servo-controlled motor attached directly to the spindle, the C.E.C. TL 2uses a belt that decouples the motor's vibration from the CD. Less vibration equals fewer digital read-errors. C.E.C. also feels that they can make abetter spindle bearing with this design --a spindle can have less sideways motion, wobble, and slop when its only function is to serve as an actual spindle, not adevice for passing rotational energy to the transport platform.
Coupled with this belt-drive system is adisc stabilizer, which weighs about 1 lb and sits on top of the CD. This stabilizer's flywheel effect results in avery stable rotation, allowing the motor to be alow-torque type that can achieve very

IIcan get testy acouple of days into aCES.
2Just the other day amarketing guy told me over the phone, "No, Ihaven't seen acopy of your review yet; Ihope it was agood one." My pat reply was, "All my reviews are 'good.' That's because my reviews are accurate descriptions of the intrinsic qualities of the component." How's that for ego?

C.E C. TL 2 belt-drive CD transport 177



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smooth changes in velocity.

olution at best, or e) there are no longer optical connections.

The final technological fillip in the vast differences between high-quality

The midrange, on the other hand,

C.E.C. TL 2formula is the isolation of transports.

sounded ever so slightly more natural

the CD from external vibrations, not

Let's assume for amoment that a) is through the TL 2transport. William De

only with the disc stabilize4 but also not possible, b) is akettle of worms that Rosa's cello on Cellist's Holiday sounded a

with the 5mm-thick extruded-alumi- life is too short to explore, and d) is ridic- bit more liquid and harmonically cor-

num chassis and gold-plated brass ulous since Ican hear differences be- rect. Let me emphasize that this differ-

spikes Imentioned earlier. Does this tween cables, interconnects, cartridge ence was minor, on the Michael Ruff

vibration isolation work? It took quite a VTA, different preamps, switching from CD Icouldn't discern any differences in

bit of rapping, tapping, and yanking to Triode to Tetrode settings on the Man- the midrange whatsoever.

finally knock the TL 2out of its groove ley Reference amps, and different press-

Dimensionality -- soundstage width,

while playing aCD, so Iguess the isola- ings of the same LPs through both of height, and depth -- were also identical

tion scheme is pretty successful. The TL my systems. That leaves only c) and e) between the two transports. As an act of

2 is abit large to use while jogging, as possibilities.

utter masochism and self-abasement, at


Perhaps the EAD products with their the end of my test period, after spend-


Digital Flywheel jitter-reduction sys- ing hours doing A/Bs, Ilabeled the four tems are obscenely successful at reduc- inputs Iwas using on the EAD DSP-

To compare my reference PS Audio ing differences in jitter between various 9000 "1," "2," "3," and "4," and had my

Lamda CD transport and the C.E.C., I transports. It's quite possible. The only wife switch between them, noting her

used both RCA and AT&T ST optical other explanation for the infinitesimal3 selections as she went. Meanwhile I

connectors to tether the transports to differences Iheard between my refer- wrote down which source Ithought I

the EAD DSP-9000 DIA. Ididn't use ence PS Audio Lambda and the C.E.C. was listening to. Iflunked the test,

the AES/EBU connections because I TL 2 is that they're nearly identical- achieving an accuracy rate of only 15%.

didn't have two identical digital XLR- sounding transports. Is that possible? At In another words, flipping acoin would

fitted cables. In comparing two devices, least as possible as me waking up tomor- have been a more accurate way of

it's important to avoid introducing any row morning able to play guitar like Eric telling which input had been selected.

extraneous variables -- Ilearned that in Clapton. Uh-huh.

Should Ishoot myself now or wait till

junior-high chemistry class, about the

So where does all this gratuitous in- after dinner? Iguess it depends on

same time Ilearned you can mix stuff tellectual violence leave us? With a what's being served. Before taking any

together to make really bad smells. bloody short sound section, that's what rash action, Idid more A/B-ing with

While there were some minor differ- -- this, after many hours of A/B-ing to known sources, and heard the same dif-

ences between RCA coaxial and ST the point that there are certain CDs that ferences noted earlier in the review. I

optical connections with each transport, Iwouldn't mind never, ever heating again guess the moral is that you should never

these differences were slight indeed. as long as Ilive,4 and some household do any critical listening while your wife

With both transports the ST optical tasks (such as removing all the cat hair is in the room, or that the emotional

connector was somewhat superior: from the entire expanse of my 10' by 12' pressure of blind testing can make you

Harmonic balance through the optical semi-antique Saruk rug with aDyna- less capable of hearing subtle dif-

cables sounded more natural, with less Clear tube-socket brush) that look more ferences than when you're in less stress-

of amechanical edge and abit more appealing than comparing transports.

ful listening situations. After participat-

dimensional reality.

The most noticeable difference be- ing in blind speaker tests in Santa Fe a

Idid hear some differences between tween the C.E.C. and PS Audio trans- couple of years back, Ibelieve the latter

the C.E.C. TL 2transport and the PS ports was in the area of bass dynamics. theory to be true. It's almost as bad as

Audio Lambda transport, but they were The PS Audio consistently displayed trying to listen to asystem at CES with

so slight through the EAD DSP-9000 more contrast, impact, and dynamic the manufacturer breathing down your

DIA that changing the connecting hard- punch on mid- and low-bass informa- neck, expecting you to say something

ware on apair of interconnects would tion. Whether it was the bass line on insightful after two minutes of listening.

seem, in comparison, to produce asonic Michael Ruff's Speaking in Melodies "Uhhhhhh, nice rhythmic drive."

difference of cataclysmic proportions.

(Sheffield Lab CD-35) or the low har-

One undeniable and consistent dif-

After Ifinished my listening sessions monics of Noreen Cassidy-Polera's ference between the PS Audio Lambda

with the TL 2, Ireread Robert Harley's piano on Cellist's Holiday (Audiofon CD and the C.E.C. TL 2is that the TL 2

and Jonathan Scull's reviews of the 72046), the sound came through on the takes longer to start to play the first track

C.E.C. TL 1to see what my peers had Lambda transport with more dynamic of aCD. It also takes longer to jump

noticed when comparing transports. I articulation and drive than on the from track 1to track 4. Isuppose this is

was aghast at the large sonic differences C.E.C. unit. This difference was appar- due to the TL 2's drive system; it just

they described between different trans- ent through both RCA coax and ST doesn't come up to speed as fast as the

ports, and in JS's case, between cables,

PS Audio. Though slower, it's not eons

spikes, and even Shun Mook resonance 3An infinitesimal difference is one that is so small that slower; it's not like you can hum all of

devices used with these transports. it's almost nonexistent.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" backward

Either a) I'm becoming deaf, b) JS and RH are two really ultra-creative writers;

4I'm of the opinion that the only proper way to compare transports is via real-time A/I3 testing. You've got to have two identical CI> playing at the same time on

while you're waiting, but serious Type A personalities may find the lag stress-

c) the EAD D/As Itested have such good jitter-reduction interfaces that dif-

both transports, and go back and forth between them to identify differences. Relying on your sonic recall ability --playing the same disc in each player separate-

ful. The overall reliability of the TL 2 was impeccable, without any glitches or

ferences between sources and tethering schemes are extremely attenuated; d) both my stereo systems are low-res-

ly and then comparing notes--is afar-too-imprecise methodology. There are only afew discs in my collection that Ihave as doubles. During testing they wore out their welcome.

peculiarities throughout the severalmonth test period. While this may be disappointing to the tweaks in the audi-






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ence, the TL 2can be set up and then ignored. Ifind that admirable.
About two weeks after Ithought I'd put this review to bed, Ireceived apanic call from Parasound. Seems aprototype TL 2 had been hand-delivered to Robert Harley while he was in Santa Fe.5They were right. The unit Ihad reviewed had come from RH's bottomless digital stash. Expletives deleted. Right after CES, Parasound next-day-aired me a current production model (serial number E4Z00343).
This new sample was certainly not the same as the transport Ioriginally reviewed. It sounded noticeably superior to the prototype. The next time any manufacturer sends me (or any other Stereophile reviewer) aprototype and it falls into my hands, I'm gonna torch it!
So how does the "real" C.E.C. TL 2differ from the prototype? According to
5My policy is that any sample of aproduct that arrives in our hands is assumed to be intended for, and suitable for, review. We don't do consultancy work, nor do we advise manufacturers on how their products could be made to sound better other than via the mechanism of aformal review.

Richard Schram, Parasound's fearless leader, there are many small differences between the units. Supposedly, the production model has more precise parts values than does the prototype. Many parts have been changed to try to achieve afar more accurate and betterstandardized performance. (On exactly what parts had been changed, Parasound was mute. Isuppose Icould have cracked both units open and done the old A/B thing, but rm not abudding audio designer, so Idon't really care exactly what was changed.)
Returning to square one, Iwas mortified to find that, yes, even through the EAD DSP-9000 III, transports can sound different. My apologies to RH and JS for doubting their infinite wisdom. Iam mud beneath their feet.
Compared to the prototype unit, the production C.E.C. TL 2was not only smoother throughout the midrange, but more dynamic, with awider and deeper soundstage, better bass dynamics, and finally, superior inner detail. On the Michael Ruff CD Speaking in Melodies, Ruff's voice sounded less mechanical, with amore natural timbre, especially in his upper registers.

Upper-frequency information, for ex-
ample the cymbals, had noticeably more air and less of aharsh leading edge.
The most shocking difference between the original unit and the current one was the presentation of bass information. Not only did the new TL 2 sound more dynamic on drum strokes, but the bass had more impact and more precise tonality
After the new TL 2 made mincemeat of the original sample, Imoved it into my large listening room to do battle against the PS Audio Lambda. Once again, it was immediately clear that Iwas listening to avery different transport. Compared to the Lambda, the C.E.C. sounded consistently more natural. Whether it was the saxophone solo on "Inca Roads" from the Omnibus Winds' Music by Frank Zappa (Opus 3 19403) or Elaine Spitari's voice on "Walk the Dust" from KBCO's Live at Studio C: Volume 1, the C.E.C. was slightly more relaxed in the
midrange, with ahair less mechanical tonality. The acoustic bass on "If IHad aMillion Dollars" by the Barenaked Ladies (KBCO Live at Studio C: Volume 4) had more punch and weight through the C.E.C. Most of these dif-

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ferences weren't huge; however, they really nice equipment stand.

were consistent on many different

sou rces.


On especially well-recorded material The moral of this review is simply this:

donc in natural acoustic spaces (pop Don't be bullied by some expert (in-

music need not apply), the C.E.C. had cluding and especially yours truly) into

the ability to unravel slightly more spa- spending alot of money on atransport

tial information. On the Opus 3Zappa unless: a) you like the way it looks and

Cl), the rear and side walls were better performs so much you don't care if it

defined, with slightly more dimension- sounds any better than your current

al layering between instruments. On unit; or b) you actually hear an improve-

Cellist's Holiday, Icould also make out ment in the performance of your digital

slightly more dimensional and spatial information.

front-end prototype

TwiLth2pitroidnsutcaelldedp.raWcthiicallely tnhoe

With the production TL 2, in blind sonic improvement over my reference

tests administered by my oh-so-unbi- PS Audio Lambda transport, the actual

ased wife, Iwas able to consistently production-model unit was certainly

identify the small differences between better. A thousand dollars better? Per-

the two transports. I'm not sure that I haps it all depends on your disposable-

can confidently say that the sonic dif- income level. Bottom line: The C.E.C.

ferences between the two units is TL 2is the best transport I've had in my

worth the cool thou difference in price. system. If you have $3k to spend on a

Agrand buys alot of CDs, concert tick- CD transport, the TL 2should certain-

ets, asuper-premium cable or two, or a ly be on your audition list.


The following equipment was used for this review:
Reference digital front-ends were the PS Audio Lambda CD transport and Sony D-7 DATman connected via coaxial, AES/EBU, TosLink, and AT&T optical connectors to EAD DSP-7000 Series III or DSP-9000 Series III D/A processors.
Preamps in-house were the Threshold T-2 and Carver Research Lightstar Direct line-level units, and no preamp at all with the EAD DSP9000 III, which has adigital-domain volume control. Power amps were the Manley Reference 240, Rowland Model 6, and Pass Aleph 0. Speakers were the Dunlavy Signature SC-Vls in my large room, and the Avalon Eclipses in my small room.
Interconnects (all balanced) included Audio Magic Sorcerer, Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope, and WireWorld Eclipse. Speaker cables were Dunlavy Labs DAL-8Z or Audio Magic Sorcerer (with the Dunlavys), and Synergistic Research Signature 2 and 3 (with the Avalons), in 8' lengths. Digital cables were Mod Squad Wonder Link 1 coaxial, Audio Magic Sorcerer coaxial, TARA Labs RSC Master AES/ EBU, and AudioQuest, Parasound, and Sony fiberoptic cables with ST


Other accessories included Room-

Tune CornerTunes, EchoTunes, and

Ceiling Clouds; Acoustic Sciences

Tube Traps and Shadow Casters (in

small room); Arcid Levitation stand

(in large room); Roomilme Just-a-

Rack; Arcici Superstructure H;

Soundstyle X503; and Billy Bags

amp stands. All major components

were on Bright Star Audio Big Rock

bases and Little Rock top-plates (in

small room). Also in use were Shakti

Stones; FluxBuster, PAD break-in

disc; Music And Sound ferrite

beads; AudioQuest ferrite damps;

Noise-Trapper Power Strip; Syn-

ergistic Research power cords (with

Manley Reference 240 amps and

PS Audio Lambda transport);

TARA Labs RSC Master Power

Cords (with Pass Aleph 0 amps);

Mango AC cord (with C.E.C. TL 2

transport); Coherent Systems

EAU-1 Electroclear AC line condi-

tioner, AudioQuest record brush;

Gryphon Exorcist conditioning

tool; Nitty Gritty record-cleaning

machine; Radio Shack Sound Pres-

sure Meter; ICIeenmaster Brillia-

nize CD cleaner; and a1992 Gib-

son J-1000, one of only 73 pro-

duced at the Boseman, Montana


--Steven Stone

"Simply Stunning"
--Tom Miller. The Audio Adventure. Jtdv 1995
That the Petite can reach the summit of small loudspeakers is due to its bass, which is more like that of amedium sized speaker
than that of amini."
--AK Chan. Audiophile Magazine. June. 1995
"Let's just dub them 'first among equals':
--Wes Phillips. Siereophile. Vol. 19 No. 1. Jan.. 1996
15 Woodview Drive Nesconset. NY 11767
516-737-9369 Fax 516-981-3476



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Every time we assemble "Recommended Components," there are loose ends that bother us, bother

coloration. Icouldn't detect any of this character in my own room. But Tom's
description of the WITTs' sound was right on: ahuge soundstage, asuperbly palpable midrange, arather laid-back tre-

er cables were MIT MH-770 CVT The Meridian was set to take in 16-bit words and output 20-bit words using its Shape D noise-shaping -- note that your DAC must have an internal data path with

the readers more, and bother the manu- ble, and anoticeable bottom-heaviness, more than 16 bits -- and was used to

facturers most of all. Where to put the with a somewhat restricted low bass. adjust volume and to switch between the

$8888/pair Wilson WITT speakers in While TJN had commented on how two sources.

the April listing was acase in point. Tom loud the Wilsons went without sound-

The sound was indeed "frighteningly"

Norton's January review (Vol.19 No.1, ing stressed, Ibecame increasingly enam- good! All audiophiles say that what they

p.177) was almost uniformly positive, ored of this aspect of the speaker's sound. want is "accuracy," but then there is

but when Iasked him if the speaker There was afreedom from grain and nowhere for problems to hide. Is that

should go into Class A, along with the strain that allowed me to hear deep into what we really want? Iwas reminded of

similarly priced B&W Silver Signature the recorded soundstage and allowed the the scene between Tom Cruise and Jack

and Thiel CSZ he shook his head. "It speakers to get out of the way of the Nicholson in A Few Good Men, where

doesn't do quite enough for me," he music. Without listening fatigue, my Cruise explains that he is just looking for explained. Martin Colloms, co-author of music sessions tended to last along time. the truth. "The truth!" bellows Colonel

that review, was less reticent: "Wilson's

The Puppy Paws ($320/eight) are Jack. "You can't handle the truth!"

most completely balanced design to essential to get the best from the WITT.

Without an analog preamp, even an

date," he raved, adding that the WITT With them, the bass was the tightest I excellent one, in the chain, Iwas more

was "undoubtedly afull-range Class A have heard in my room, kickdrum ap- aware of recorded background noises

component at awholly realistic price."

propriately punching the air, while bass that had previously gone unnoticed. On

I"solved" the impasse by putting the guitar attack wasn't blurred by reflex Stereophiles Robert Silverman Liszt CD, speaker into high Class B and asking boom and sogginess. And did Isay that for example, there are some children

Mark Goldman of Wilson Audio the soundstage was huge? It was. And playing in the far distance at the end of

Specialties for afurther pair of review that the speaker is superbly transparent? Liebestraum.They don't get in the way of

samples. "Better than that," said Mark, It is.

the music -- but I'd never heard them

"I'll bring apair out with me from Utah

Now that I've heard the WITT for before. On old recordings, like a'60s

and set them up in your listening room." myself, Ihave to conclude that it cross- Delius collection (EMI Studio CDM 7

And so he did, carefully explaining es that magic border: This is atrue Class 69534 2), Istarted to hear things, like

what he was doing as he zeroed-in on A loudspeaker.

--John Atkinson analog tape squashing, that used to be

the WITTs' optimal positions by listen-

smeared over into pleasantness.

ing to how the room affected the sound of his voice. Fig.1 shows the resultant averaged in-room frequency response


But on high-quality recordings -- the new Brahms Violin Sonata reading from Arturo Delmoni on John Marks

measured at the listening position: a

eader Gregory Comnes of Records (JMR 2), for example -- the

slight excess of bass and mid-treble, but

Tampa, Florida took exception Meridian 518 just allowed the music to

amazingly flat overall. For serious listen-

to my January review of the soar, sweeping me away with it. It does-

ing Iused my usual Mark Levinson dig- $1650 Meridian 518 Digital Audio n't get any better than this!

ital and Linn analog front-ends; amplifi- Processor (Vol.19 No.1, p249): "Shame

At OdB (unity gain), Icould hear no

cation was Mark Levinson No38S and on you for missing the point..." he difference between the Meridian 518 in

No333, with aMeridian "digital volume thundered. "You allude to Meridian's the chain or out, other than the general control" also seeing service; speaker claim that, when used as adigital pre- improvement in the sound's tangibility

cables were MIT MH-700 CVTs.

amp, the 518 can sound `frighteningly that Ireported on in January. However, I

When Ihad auditioned the WITTs in good,' but you didn't have time to use it found that adjusting the volume below

Martin's listening room, Ihad been as apreamp! How long could it have -12dB took away some of the magic.

bothered by aresidual "cupped-hands" taken to hear what for most of us is the (Some of it could be recovered by setting

most compelling reason for CD-only the 518 to add pre-emphasis) Whether

I11111111 I11111111 111111111 1 users to own this piece: the elimination you can get away with this limited vol-

of acompromising analog stage?"

ume-range adjustment will depend on

With apologies for the lateness of this the gain structure of your system. With

Follow-Up, here is my opinion of the the relatively low-sensitivity WITTs,

sound of the Meridian 518, used as a OdB was very loud, but not uncomfort-



"preamp" between Mark Levinson ably so with pure-sounding recordings. No31 CD and Panasonic SV-3700 DAT Your mileage may vary, particularly if

I 11111111 I I1111111 1 11111111



sources and my Mark Levinson No30.5 you have high-sensitivity speakers and a processor, which in turn fed a Mark small room. But if you can get away with

F004440 014:

Levinson No333 power amp driving it, Meridian's 518 digital preamp will

Fig .1 W ilson WITT,spatially averaged Vs-octave

Wilson WITT speakers. Interconnects take your system to the next level.

response in JA's room.

were balanced AudioQuest Lapis; speak-

--John Atkinson




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tors are 18 awg LGC copper and six are 20 awg FPC copper The FPC copper acts like a bypass, allowing
most of the high frequency benefits of this superior material The less expensive LGC copper provides
bulk so Crystal provides a powerful full range sound. Together the LGC and FPC allow Crystal to have extraordinary performance at a reasonable price


111 .11/111

15 awg 18 awg LOC Copper Primary PE Insulation PP Filler Mylar Binder PVC Jacket (UL CL2)

lype 4. istemobhaebec Como:men, UR Factory prep 8' pr $85 10' pr...895
Custom prep 8' pr $70 10' pr. .866 Double [(more 8' pr .1127 10' pr...$147

5250 /foot 12' pr...$105
12' pr.. .586 12' pr...1187

AO TYPE V", 4 conductor Hyperlitz ILGC copper.

·I, 22 awg FPS Solver

Promary Teflon Insulation

Foam Insulation Foil /Mylar /Foil Shield Braided Shield LOC PVC Jacket

5m .$175 Irn...$225 15111 $275 2m.. 1325 3rm $425
AG VIDEO /DIGITAL ZlC. double balanced.
solid FPC-6 Copper. Resistance welded RCA.


Long _Grain
iii huit ,r.:c
22 awg LGC Drainwire 22 awg LGC Copper Polypropylene Insulation Foil Shield PVC Jacket IUL CL2)

Functionally Perfect "Copper 99 9999%

5m pr. .067 lrn pr. $9$ 15m pr. 573

2m pr...$131

3.11 pr

itrn pr..1113 5rn pr.. $129 Cen pr...$145

w X1Rs

.5m pr...1117 lrn pr $125 1Sin pc .1133

a, unit 51:e

AO TURQUOISE XV., double balanced, solid


ri .


111111L, .041>..tikte.4#

22 awg FPC-13 Copper Primary Teflon Insulateon

Foam Insulation Frei /Mylar /Foil Shield Braided Shield LGC

Long - Grain

artual sire

PVC Jacket
5m $72- 1m $8.5 15m $07. 2rti $110 3ril 1135

22 awg LOG Dramwore 22 awg LGC Copper

per, teflOn.

Primary PVC Insulation Fort Shield PVC Jacket lUL CL2)

20 awg FPC Copper 18 awg LGC Copper Primary PE Insulation PP Filler Mylar Binder PVC Jacket (UL CL2)

AO Crystal. Slate Blue .

$9 /foot

Factory prep. 8' pr...$219 to' pr $255 12' pr...$291

Custom prep. 8' pr...5204 10' pr. .5240 12' pr $276

Single Biwire 8' pr .$219 10' pr. .5255 12' pr...$290

Double Biwire 8' pr. $368 10' pr...$440 12' pr...$512

110 INDIGO". 8conductor Hybrid Hyperlitz With FPX /LGC coppers. Crystal's "little brother."

actual xkii

Long Grain Copper
17 awg 20 awg IOC Copper Primary PE Insulation PVC Jacket (LPL CL2)

Reps 2. Burgundy Satin

$1 ../loot

Factory prep. 8' Pr...163 10' pr...$89 12' pr...$75

Custom prep. 8' pr...$50 10' pr...$58 12' pr...$82

Double Biwire 8' pr $900 10' pr..1112 12' pr.. .8124

AO F-18'.. 4 conductor Hyperlitz /LGC copper.



20 awg
Long Grain · PVC Copper Jacket

iii *MI sire

F-18, White, 14 AWG

$1.95 /foot

Custom prep. 8' pr .852 10' pr...580 12' pr...$58

Double Bowe 8' pr...$104 10' pr...5120 12' pr..$138

AO F-14'.. 2conductor Hyperlitz /LGC copper.

IMMIC bet.-
15rn $33


.5m or $35 1m pr. 139 3m $42 3`" pr.$55 dm pr .163

1.5m Ix $43 5rn pr $71

2rn pr.. $47 gin pr .179

20 awg FPC Copper 18 awg LOC Copper Primary PE Insulation

lifetime. Warrant,.

STRAIGHT MRS Mega-Link Premium Digital/Video
cables use clear locket over black fabric braid with blue tracer /75 OHM coaxial geometry coated high purity silver /copper conductors /foam teflon insulation. Available on RCA, XLR, BNC same price.
5m $IM 1m 0120 r5m $106 2m $190

DST Powered Cable One Jitter.free. Powered Digital



"To sl in k room Toshiba Optical In 1e1conned


AO JADE... SyrnrnetnCal Coax. sold LOC. UC CL-3

22 awg LOC Copper Neg. 22 awg LGC Copper Pos. Primary PVC Insulation PP Filler Foil Shield PVC Jacket (UL CI-2)

5mOr $22" 1m pr 525 15rn pr $27»

3rn pr ..835 4rn pr $40

5m pr..145

2m pr...$30 6m pr...S50

PP Filler

Mylar Binder PVC Jacket 0.8 CL2)

20 awg Long Grain

di Mal àire

Indigo 2. Dark Blue

$8 /foot



Factory prep. 8' pr $171 10' pr...$195 12' pr. $219


Custom prep. 8' pr $158 10' pr...1180 12' pr...5204 F-14. White. 17 AWG

95e /foot

Single Biwire 8 pi $170 10' pr.. .8195 12' pr.. /219 Custom prep 8' pr...8311 10' pr...$40 12' pr...$44

Double Elmore 8' pr...$272 10' pr...$320 12' pr...$388 Double Biwa° 8' pr..172 10' pr ...WOO 12' pr...1038

y s s JERR RA igN 419 14th Ave. S.E. ·Mpls, MN 55414

y 800 ·229 ·0644
612-378-0543 ·FAX 378-9024 ·E-Mail info@NeedleDoctor.com



AUDIO chemy

DLC remote controlled pre-

Four-input. two-output

Includes PS1)


Lifetime Warranty
STRAIGHT WIRE 111 RT1 0S0 Reference Intercon-
nects use individually insulated ultra pure 15% silver /85% copper conductors 8 microporous foam teflon insulation. XLR same once. Priced per paid 5m $300 1m $450 Ibu. $600 2m $750 3m...$1050 4m $1350 5m. $1650 6m.. $1950 VIRTUOSO) Reference Speaker uses pure 15% silver /85% copper conductors. $50 /ft. Priced per pair!
5ft $65085 $11)50 10 tt $1150 126 $1350 DoubM Bhvire: 811...81900 10 5--S230012 tt enoo

DDS III Sony-based CD Transport/Player with mechani-

Shakti Stone-4230 The ShOld1 Sto(1es. aRecommended Component in the

cally and electrically-isolated. damped sub-systems; con-

tains extensive AC line filtering


April 1996 Stereophile. neutralizes EMI. RFI and other

ultrasonic distortions that are generated by component

power supplies. digital clocks, and external sources. This

effective system enhancing device contains patent pend-

ing ultra-sonic filter technology in a poured stone

ecnlosure degend to tit easily and attractively on most DDE v3.0 (includes PS4) Premium. HDCD-compatible

components. At $230. you will want Mold! Stones p_mo4, convener can be conf igured for digital domain

throughout your system.

remote control with optional 89C51 Microprocessor and

RW·1 Remote Wand


ACD II Sony-based CD Player/ Transport oath coaxial output and fultfune.on remote control. Includ-

ing volume achust



mair wiRE MAESTRO II Reference Intercon-



Uttra·Dac Single-chassis combi-


nation DITB/DTI·Plus The "corn-


i re>plete DAC solution" with special ver- DTI .Pro (includes PS4) Digital Transmission Interdace-

Standard, unbalanced Passion unit now all Vishay. sion PSU, PowerStationThreetUltra

$439 Precision "de-anomie instrument with 32-bit. floating

Three inputs plus adirect input/tape output Stereo 31 -

point. Resolution Enhancement SDSP computer and

step attenuator Silver wired. All WBT. (See HIFI News DITB (now withPS1) Digital Decoding Engine 01.1 -High upgradeable software

Ape! 93 for Marton Colloms' revoew).

performance. Crystal Semiconductor-based One-bit D-


-- to-A Converter; discrete passive integrator



nects (Stereophile Rec. Comp.) Certified coated cop-

per conductors XLR Same once. Priced per paid



$275 15m

$355 2m


3m $595 4m $755 5rn $815 6m $1075

NIAESTRO II Reference Speaker Cable (Stereophde

Rec. Comp.) has 384 strands of 32-gauge certified

coated copper. 530 /ft. Priced per pair!

DTI v2.0 (Includes PS4) Similar to OTPPro but without

5fl $3808 tt $664) 10f1. .5603 1211 $800 15 tt 5660 ElectraClear EAU-1 ultimate power conditioner ...... 5395

the resolution enhancement system


Double Biwire) 8h $1120 1011.. $1360 12 ft. $1600 "I hate to admit if. but this thing actually works, on fact, darn well even rey non-audiophile colleagues in the National Sym-

phony were Irepressed by the musmal improvements this black DAC·MAN Dual input, high-value DAC. includes Ins set

box delwers." Lewis Lipruck Stereopnrie August 1991

of Analog Cables made for Alchemy by Tara Labs...$118


Dll·Plus dual-input "de.hittering" comp. re/twos PLL


5Hz bandwidth


Ile11111< Wart 0111V
swim« wiRE RHAPSODY II Premium Intercon-
nects use OFHC. XLRs same price. Priced per pair!

C-10110 bands of octave equalization; built-in pink noise

generator; calibrated lab grade microphone; realbme

spectrum analyzer; nor -15 dB sliders'


DDS Pro Reference quality. twin-chassis CD Transport

with Pioneer "Stable Platter" mechanism ,ultra low litter

master clock oscillator circuit. PS Bus Standard output,

multi-regulated high current power supply


5 m 3m

$1201 m $270 4m

$1501 5m $330 5m

$180 2m $390 6m

$210 $450

RHAPSODY Il Premium Speaker Cables use 11 gauge coated OFHC conductors. 5/5/ ft. Priced per pair!

5h..53808 ft...$56010 5..5680 121LS/30015 ft 5880 The Richter Scale (Stereophile Rec. Comp.) 6bands 1/

Double Sistine: 86.51120 10 ft...$1360 12 ft 51600 2octave equalization from 22 5to 125 Hz. sweep warble

tone test generator: rumble reduction circuit


HPA v1.0 (includes PSI)

Outstanding, Class "A"

Headphone Amp with

HeadRoom Special Image



RudloPrism FM Rntennos
are all Stereoplule Reo Comp

AP-7500 7* tall, FM only, black finish


A1, 8500 5' tall. Omni directional w/rernote:

FM only, black finish


Lifetime %minty

SMNGHT WIRE Encore Premium Interconnect uses
OFHC coated conductors. Priced per pair!


$80 1m $100 1Sen

$120 2m


$180 -1n) $220 5m $260 6m $300

Encore Premium Speaker Cables use 12 gauge CON-

ed OFHC conductors. $8 /ft. Priced per pair!



$160 10ft

$192 12 ft


Double Biwire, 811.8320 10 ft...$384 12 ft 1448


AP-6500 Oren idirectional. passive no gain

black /real wood ..........

$99 /$125


STRAIGHT WIRE Duet Brave Speaker Cables use (12)
18 awg coated OFHC cond. $12/ ft. Priced per pale
5a $164 8ft $235 10h $254 12 ft $332 Single emir.: 8ft...$251 10 6_5290 129 4347 Double Biwire: 8ft...$472 10 ft...$568 12 ft $664

Octave Bwre Speaker Cables use (8) 18 gauge coat-

ed OFHC conductors. 58 /ft. Priced per pair!


$112 8It

$160 10 ft

$192 12 ft


Single Biwire: 8fl...5171 10 ft...$203 12 ft $235

Double Biwire: 811..5320 10 5...5384 12 ft 5448

Sextet Biwire Speaker Cables use 6OFHC 14 gauge conductors. 55 /ft. Priced per pair!
8h $100 10h $1201211 $140 15ft $170 Single Biwire: 8h.. $106 109...S128 12 ft $148 Double Biwire. 8It.. $200 10 ft...$240 12 ft $280

Quartet Blum Speaker Cates 4 OFHC 14 gauge

conductors 53/ ft. Priced per pair!


$63 105 __US 12ft

$87 15 tt


Single Biwire: 85...871 10 ft..583 12 ft 585

Double Biwire: 85...8126 10 ft...$150 129 4174

Plus Four

Plu, Four top-of-the·line Inte6onnect Is atotally nex geometry utilizing 4conductor, with both foil and braid shield, for superior performanee and mu,icality. SCR ,aine price Priced per pair!

Plus Four .5 m...$550 1m...$650 1.5rn...$750 2m $850 Signature .5 m...53801 m..5450 1.5m...$520 2m $590 Discovery .5 m...$2001 m...5240 16m...$280 2m $320 TC One .5 m...$60 1m...$80 1.5e,. .8100 2m...5120
Signature top-of. the-line Speaker Cable is the latest addition. and a'mall) nevi &oust. S36/0. Priced perpairt

Signature 611.8450 811_8600 106--$750 1211 $900

fa 1-2-3

611.8260 811.8320 1011...$400 12tt .$480

oudioquest RF Stoppers


n'n Sr...$60/4 pe

Fwrnee.... mere. err Jr...539/8 pc

A AO Double Direct-Gold Banana B Phoenix Gold Dual Banana Plug

$30 /2pc set $9 each

C Monster Cable XTerminators

$30 /2pc set

D SW Delia Locking Banana Plugs .... $30 /4pc set

E SW Delux Single Banana Plugs

$25 /4pc set

F AO Single Silver or Gold Banana .-- $18 /4pc set

G Raskin Deluxe Gold Banana Plug

$7 /2pc set

H SW Crimp-on Single Bananas Phoenix Crimp-on Single Banana
I KimberKable Post Master

$10 /4pc set $8/4 pc
$14 /2 pc set

J AO 814 Silver or Gold Spade .1" 515/ 4pc set

K SW Spade /Jumbo Spade $5·· /$10 /4pc set

L AO Direct Silver or Gold Spade 5/16" ... 75$/each

M AO Direct Silver or Gold Spade n/a"

75*/ each

N AO Direct Silver or Gold Spade 'he 75e /each

0 SW Gold Spade mini

75e /each

P Phoenix Flexi-Connect Pins 0 AO Direct Silver or Gold Pin lugs

SO/ 4pc set 75e /each





R SW Gold Pins

$1 /each

S AudioTruth Lapis 8 Diamond R.C.A.... $150 /4pc

AudioTruth Opal 8 Emerald R.C.A.

$100 /4pc

T KimberKable RCA Plug

$50 /2pc

U SW Gold Locking RCA Plug 10 .5 mm 515 /each


Purifier 2 16 oz $14 / gal $34 1gal . $59 Purifier 1 16 oz $14 ·/ gal $34 1gal $59

MODEL 1.5 Automatic scrub-

bing. automatic rotation. slide-out

waste fluid tray





DC1 ...SIT'.


4 pc


Spindle Kit


512' t

45 Adapter




Record Eeiu2thiri

MODEL 1.0 Manual application of

fluid, manual brushing 8 rotating

during vacuuming


MODEL 1.5 Fl Auto fluid application.

auto-scrub, auto rotattan, vinyl wood

grain cabinet




RECORD MASTER cleans 455. 78s. & LPs manually with built-in adapter

#1 Power Cleaner ...$25 (1/2 02) ...$145 (402) #2 Record Preservative
$25 12 oz) .5145 (160z)
#3 Record Cleaner ...$16 (2oz) ... $50 (1 gal.) tf4 Stylus Cleaner... $14 (20z) 45 Stylast Treatment. .. $22
Record or Stylus Brush...52


#1, #2 883

$48 $39 $63

04 8 #5


91, #2, #3, #4 8 #5


CD Cleaner ... $1695 (1 oz) DIGI-LAST". CD Protective


$12 /20 pc


4LPs for $75
1LP for $23 Double LP for $33
4CDs for 589 1CD for $23 Double CD for $38
liveried Mellen"
11111911 ";

fblk singer



A. S-711 Head Cleaner 2oz.

B. ProGold Mint Spray 159

C. ProGold 05 Spray D. ProGold G100 Spray

E. 02 Blocker Spray 2oz.

$9" $8" $15" $24"

Power Conditioners

G9 (A IA 119 IA (9



8 outlets 16 analog, 2 digital/video.

on/off sweets contrds all alters: being%

Protection. 1.240 watt switched dn.

duplex. ISA circuit breaker: custom

powered cord

clean line fanion Ill Analog $229 1-1800 wan unsvatched outlet ISA cir curt breaker: custom fixed power coed
clean line junior 111 Digital ... $299 1-240 wan unsvalched degitalAndeo Oct. let 2A circuit breaker. custom fired power cord.

CLOSEOUT! innto,i verb








F. Galaktos ,'

'Met $99/ set

G. AO Laser Guide


H. AO Ultra Connect


I. A.R.T. 0-151


J. A.R.T. TR 30


1/ 1TWEAK FOR 96

UltraClarifier Tabletop Model reduces finger fatigue "Anyone cae eaP'y hew distinct differences on sound query "HIGH FIDELITY MAGAZINE (Sweden) April

1993 "My favonte


Socket Savers ....$16"2 pc

Gold Aero Tubes



569/2 pc

Sovtek Tubes


MIDAS tiibe dampers $89 /pr.

CD Clarifier ranteeldoons-
Battery Eliminator o $19
Sr,. beSar tet nukes Ds sound aim -SENSIBLE cromicente. Whew. 43. Steen Bard
', USA

$15 ea /2 for $14 ea /3 for $13


Hubbell $1414/each or
2/ $25

The Postman Binding POSI Wrench
bahlimeh -


AO Big Feet webs, AO CD Feet AO Self Stick Sheet xi -

$60 $39 515

Record Ciecring


Restore your precious LP records to
like new condben vent the SOTA Record Cleaning Machine, you will experience the full sonic potential of your precious



A. RoomTune Video Ra kLowboy 20 -11 lc 24-Dx 53 W:8-1


B. RoomTune Deluxe J starack DJR 361127 -H 15.75' x:3 ici'.: 10. t, 5379

C. RoomTune Glanumack CR24.2 74 -Hr 15.75'D x2175 W. 84 lbs


D. RoomTune Basic·Ra k 8824/4 2a -flr th.75" Dx23.75 W. 32 lbs ...


E. 8-Tech Blos iiiiirdiugic Speaker Stands-36' ht holds m1020105


F. R.T. VPI Tune-Table VP1·Tf 24-3 24" H

31" W. 82 bs


G. Roonaune Basle-Rack Speaker Stand 16,20,24-Top Plate

x7.5" 19 11, 5120

H. RoornTune Clamprack CR36-R 36' Ha 15.75"D 23.75" W.120 lbs.


L 13"Tech 6..10.a-type Bracket suppers speakers up to 13 Os, black-enure


J. 8-Tech Ultra·Gne Speaker Bracket speakers up to IS lbs: swivel/tilt, black


K. RoornTune BR38,6 - o, 15.75" y23 75" W. 48 lbs . L. RoornTune 'Mee Basic Rack 20-Hx19" D 28-W.41 Ois

5240 S144

M. RoornTune 13035,5

15.75" 0x23 75' W. 42 Iles .



Deluxe CD HydroBath


CD Laser Lens Cleaner

CD Scratct: P.

· '


Sonic Circles Stabilizer Rings

Se /5 pc $11 Woo $25

Bang & Olufsen
100,Beocom 1400 High Fidelity
Telephone $100



Standard I0 rat"

559 /

Large 1.5 1-1/4"a1-1/5" 599/ ·

Large 2.0 1.11ear .... S135 /

Audio Prrsm



Large ... $84" / 3pC $28"/ ea Small ... 554" / 3pc ... $18" /ea


Reading about transparen-

cy or focus takes you so




Tore is an

"aural dictionary" . .515


FT'S BACK! The famous 81.0

Test 8 Burn CDt Just plarmg

am di ut u inipreir. the tinted

ie iieur aerryr.er ?km dwum·



.. ..... ...


Hardcover mrsoll ncer!

Se,. by author %en

$40 Hew


BT24 ::oks ow,ces

Pudo Video Control Center

Gryphon Exorcist


Koss OZ 2000
phone noise redo.

nary rneroii technology

rernoves outside noise e. reduceS letener

fatigue Great for air travel ....$179

taw, Warregy

Koss ESP 950


Des namable electrostatic streopitone is PORTABLE, it comes complete with its own carrying case and separate bat hey pack "My raconter'


Dispels magnetic build-up in sensitive audio

Bnght Star


circuits. .5150

Isolation Platforms Big Rock


Big Rock 2/3/4 Little Rock 1/2/3

5149/$125/S99 $129/$179/579 Sterrophtle If,. Comp.

Morae n Gormony

419 14th Ave. S.E. ·Mpls, MN 55414


612 -378 -0543 ·FAX 378 -9024 ·E-Mail info@NeedleDoctoncom

Mll LI le`alltyl

Cartridge %ligament Tool


26400 COSMOS

Stab, Referenc


COSMOS Turntable .94500

NOVA Tumtable $2695 Star Turntable.. $2395








SAPPHIRE Turntable



Pro-ject 6 v. ADC XT cartridge Pro-ject 6 will. Pant Special cartridge

$599 $749

eq21:4.. AA:0e or USA
SATTELITE Turntable Satin Black .
Mars. USA

Pro -peut 1.2 w/A0C XT cartndge (dame .4340

Pro-jest 1.2 wEllue Point oeInd9e


TO-520 vr/SME-312 $3799TD-520 w/TP90 ..81799

TD -320 MK ni suspension s


Aesthete Benz Demagnetizer $199 Intecang you Tan carenges cencrmarr.is as sernple as ABCD ·I. the Aesthete Ben/ Cartslge Dernagnenzer. The NM Amencan designed and manufactured cartridge demagnetizer. the ASCO -I. is the affordable way to assure top performance ham your analog front-end Once aweek. empty plug et your turntable leads to the ABM ·Iate aerate the genne renp en down cycle 0111e atrapen demagnetizing sig-
nal "Everyone who Sonto analog is sure to want one at tee rule baftery·poweeed car-
"CO, de , agnehzers horn Aesthete "
Record Clamps

"...abr.'s«. 'barrister



The GEO-DISC"' features an easy

to use. 3-dimensional visual

alignment system for rapid.

uni..oinpliurted cartridge aligrment

In just minutes it provides critical

alignment to within 003 of an inch.

The proper and precise alignment

with the GEO-DISC' ° can liter-

ally result in asonic improvement

as significant as the addition of

anew stereo component.. at afrac-

tion of the price "My favorite."




SOTA ICLAMP My favonte- $50

J.A. Michell Silver


J.A. Michell Gold

. $60



Harmonix Tuned Stabilizer .$495
Record Mats


Stylus Tracking Force Gauge


Ortofon Stylus Force Gauge .$0

discwasher D-Stat II Mat ... 412

ouThoquest SorboThane Record Mal

Kr track. damps record and platter WY

favorite "


Ringmat MK II OVC


Sota Supermat


Hannon. Tuned Platter .. $595

Tonearm Cables


180 g vinyl record
Cartridge Demagnetizer

Reissued by popular demand the

'Amazing" Cardas Sweep Record

Ultrascacalty deans styla and candever Degausses cartridge and other system




SC-2 Stylus Care



SC-2 Refill



COMET Gloss Black Acrylic with cartnde COMET Gray Mato. Sate, Black w COMET Gray w/ Sumiko Blue Pont S.
4 0.e

TD-180MK in 3-speed (33. 45. 78)
Esoteric Sound


oudioquest Z

12rn $95

oud.oquest Emerald 12,0 /5150

oudioquest Pro

1201 /$275

Cardas Ouad-Link

125rn /9123

Cardas Hen-Link ... 125e, /MO

Kimberkable KCAG


STRÀJGKI Y4FIE Maestro II ..1m /$180

STAMM( SAFE Virtuoso




S399 5499

PLANAR 9 Planar 9with cartridge Planar 3with cadndge Planar 2with cartndge Planar 78 with cartridge

$2350 $599 $399 $399


!chides buolf-en phono pre-amp.





DP25F br/ /cartridge


3-Speed turntable. PlaYe 33. 45 .28PPM

Vintage 3-Speed...S345; RAB 3-Speed



Kenwood KO-291R KO-492 F JVC AL-A151 sen -automatic

$99 /$109 $120

Mo-Fi Rice Paper Sleeves

(10) $03 (501 $35 11001 $70

discwasher VRP Sleeves

1101 $7 1601 $33 11001 $53

17 Rcepaper Sleeves 150490 000440

12' Cardboard Outer

.85c /ea

12 - Fitted Poly Outers



tr Fitted Oct Resealable 1501 en)

12 Pppr Pot, Inners 1501 815

12 - Paper Inners ...SO/ IT Gold Paper Inners 71Is 1501

sir 1/20

54 Ceilrider Alignment Tool

DB Systems Protractor
12850111 Tonearrn Wrap Surniko

S20 550


Leads 4,--.

oudioquest HL -5". LC-OFC Sumiko Premier HL-29 Sumiko Silver 32 mrn . Sumiko Silver SO mm

$15 512 $26 . .$.32

Uncle Bill's Tweezers



Great for Head Shell Leads




Your Choice



clearaudio r eel/



YMYRS vinyl cleaner/restorer/scratch



Stantfm CC 1Br,11 & Fluod

MC ·7500 /f7E-7.p

GAMMA-S /RE-Ty 5850 /$425 MC ·5000 /RE-Tip


S1400 /$700




$1150 33990 /$1995

INSIDER /RE-Tip 57500 /$3750


Original London (Dacca) Brush 2Sets of
Brushes. Carbon Fiber & Aromatic Poryarnide

Rohmann /RE-Tip

$2000 /MOO $16001 61300
$1300 /51160

ZTE+1 /Stylus

S30 /$20

ZCE+1 /Stylus

$35/ $30

2F3E+ /Stylus

$(40 I$33

2F2+ /Stylus

$55 /$36

ZF1+ /Stylus

$65 /$45

2+ /Stylus

$85 /555

21+ /Stylus

$95 /$75

Signature Jr. /Stylus $119 /$62

Z2+ /Stylus

5130 /$110

8MZ /Stylus

$170 /$90

MCZ It /Stylus

$255 /$135

TLZ /Stylus

$000 /$225

XTZ /Stylus

$600 /$375


MC Ruby Trade lother cartridges) Reference
Trade (other cartridges) MC WO
Trade (other cartridges) MC MO.9 Trade (other cartridges) MC L0.4
Trade (other cartridges)

$3000 $2000 $2500 $1750
$1200 $1000 $1200 $1000 $1200


$1800 /1200



IMINIMIIIP Transfiguration

Temper Trade w/cartrOge cost over



Temper Trade vecartndge cost

under $1000


escwasher 04 Brush System
4.1 e

. $19

steeeopme flet Cony, Hunt EDA Mark 6Record Brush .. 520

AO 7000Fe5TM (.4 mV) .$.2550

MC-30 Super Mark II RE-Tip (exchange)
MC-20 Super Mark II RE ·Tip ·· ' de! MC-10 Super Mark 0 RE -Tip ...change(
MC-15 Super Mark II RE-Tip (exchange)

$499 $409 $399
3299 5242
$199 $174


Blue Point Special RE-Tip (exchange)

Glider (1 mV or new 22 mV) $750

New Glider high output 2.2mV

Trade /RE-Tip

$600 /$400

' 51165 $800

$225 $195

Blue Point /RE -Try $119 /$95

RE-Tip BP to BPS



AO Record Brush over 1 Million

conductive carbon fibers clean

and control static


Phono Preamplifiei,


ELITE (.5 mV: Gyger I) RE-Tip (exchange)
MC-10 Super/RE-Tip $125/5105

$517 $350

Gold IA my) Silver (25 mV) ··$350

Trade /RE-Tip

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Lindy, and an extended coda closes the movement.
The second movement serves the formal functions of aScherzo, although it isn't officially labeled as such. The eerie quality of the angular, chromatic first subject is enhanced by the employment of asolo violin, scordatura -- that is, with its strings deliberately tuned one tone higher than normal, producing an aggressive, unsettled tonal effect. This group alternates with acheerful, Li/Wier-derived "Trio" section, whose clarinet theme recalls the rustic tone of the opening; ahighlight of the movement is this theme's unexpected blossoming into glowing I) major (at cue 11).
The third movement, labeled "Ruhevoll. Poco adagio," encompasses some of Mahler's most sublimely lyrical moments. The first theme, a longbreathed G-major melody introduced by divided cellos and violas, rises through the strings as the textures fill out. The second subject is introduced by sobbing oboe accents in the minor, moving through a sweetly lyrical violin motif, its yearning upward leaps graced by portainoitos before rising to desolate climaxes. Both themes return in embellished, varied forms, in amanner similar to the Adaqio of Beethoven's Ninth; at the first theme's second return, aseries of terraced accelerations culminates in a firm unison horn statement. The peaceful string-dominated passage that follows proves atemporary lull, as forte violin pickups abruptly yank the music into a triumphant E-major climax whose open textures and brass calls suggest a kinship with that of the first movement. Now it's time for the movement's real coda, which fades out gently, settling not on the "home" key of G, hut on 1); is this an early example of the composer's "progressive tonality"?
No; the amiable, sauntering G-major clarinet theme that opens the Finale effectively resolves the tension implicit in the Adagio's conclusion -- a point sometimes blurred by conductors or producers who allow too long apause between these two movements. This movement is asoprano-and-orchestra adaptation of Mahler's own "Das himmlische Leben," asong from the Des KHALI' Wunder/torn ("Youth's Magic Horn") collection of folk poetry. The verses provide a child's-eye view of heaven, in which its denizens prepare a feast: St. Peter catches the fish, St. Martha is the cook, the angels bake the bread, Herod is the butcher (grisly idea, that), and St. Cecilia leads the court musicians. The composer directs the sopra-

no to sing in achildlike manner and without parody; the main motifs are the opening clarinet theme and amore violent, menacing tutti based on the first movement's introduction. Serenity wins out in the symphony's closing E-major strophe and coda (there's progressive tonality for you!).
The symphony's melodic appeal, varied orchestral colors, and relative brevity (most recordings run under an hour)

have made it among the most popular in Mahler's output (along with Symphony 1, the choice of those allergic to singing). The music is harder to perform than it sounds, however, especially the first movement, with its sometimes quick transitions between differently paced themes. The overall pattern that emerges is that the earlier performances arc better disciplined. The third bar of the work offers atest case: The indicated ritard is


Conductor/Vocalist Orchestra

Label & Number

Sym.4 TT

Disc TT

Date SPARS Price Rec Code Range



Vanguard SVC-24 52:21

Utah SO


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52:21 1968 AAD

55:02 57:07 54:49

1960 1987 1986


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57:03 63:04 53:37 55:01 58:27 73:40

1992 1991 1967 1983 1992 1995


Inbal/Donath/ Frankfurt RSO
Inoue/Kenny/RP° Jarvi/Finnie/RSNO




RPO CDRPO 500759:08

Chandos 8951


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EMI 69667



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60:12 6605
51:50 50:49
58:37 60:55 55:47
58:10 58:03
54:34 57:56 7508

1978 ADD 1956 ADD

1961 ADD

1967 ADD 1957 ADD

1969 1983 1980


1978 ADD

1958 AAA

1992 ODD 1991 DDD

1991 DDD

1960 MD

1983 1965 1965



Sony 42416

57:56 73:41 1965 ADD

Walter/Halban/NYP Walter/Seefried/NYP

EMI 64471
Sony 64450 M&A CD-656

54:53 50:16 52:54

4:55:28 67:33 73:27

1982 1945 1953


Walter/SchwarzkopfNPO M&A CD-705

59:20 101:50 1960 AAD

Wit/Russell/ Polish Nat'l. RSO

Naxos 8.550527 56:54 56:54 1992 ODD

F M Syms.1-3. 5-9
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Im Sommerwmd F
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Overtures M
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handled in various but successful ways in missed: the tempos are slow and ener-

Though many people still automati-

the older accounts (and in the newer vated, the violins sound scrawny, and cally think Bernstein when they hear

ones by older conductors), while in the Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's mannered per- Mahler, and his two versions are win-

newer ones the clarinet run and the formance is the antithesis of the com- ning in their passionate commitment,

flute-and-bells chords tend to come poser's instructions.

neither is quite afirst choice: there are

unglued, sometimes dramatically (d

Klemperer, in a 1956 concert, is some artsy ritards (not confined to the

Jârvi, Hirokami, Casadesus). Insufficient forthright to the point of running sec- Trio), and aconsistently rushed treat-

tions of the first movement together ment of the first movement's climax


(Walter, too, does this), with incorrect that undercuts its power. The NYP redynamics, tempos frequently accelerat- cording is colorful and sensitively ing as they proceed, and markings such phrased, with an especially beautiful as Ruhig (restful) generally ignored. His solo oboe, though Bernstein's intensity studio account boasts magnificent, results in some overloud playing and crisply accented Philharmonia playing, exaggerated accents. His Amsterdam with divided violins serving to enrich remake has amore lucid first movethe counterpoint. The first two move- ment, aflowing Adagio (fortunately not ments have a steady, familiar late- dragged, as the aging Bernstein was Klemperer gait, but the Adagio, more prone to do), and amobile, fresh Finale like an Andante, is abit pushed and un- in which he carries the composer's feeling, while the baleful Schwarzkopf wishes to their logical conclusion by again compromises the dramatic Finale. using a boy treble (Helmut Wittek, Jascha Horenstein's early-'70s stereo who on records works out as well as account, despite alightweight orchestral grown-up soprano Reri Grist); there's sonority (or recording), is amodel of some Concertgebouw resonance proportion, scrupulously executed, with around solo instruments, but the

asinging line and wonderful forward ensemble acoustic sounds dry.

wind detail. (This recording, Unicorn

Over the years, this symphony has

Souvenir UK CD 2024/25, is currently consistently drawn an attractive, relaxed

rehearsal time? Conductorial indiffer- out of print in the US; Unicorn-Kan- response from Sir Georg Solti. His earence? Sign of the times? Similarly, the chana may reissue it. It has also been lier recording has recently reappeared

"codetta" passage in the first movement available on aClassics for Pleasure CD on a minimally documented Classic

calls for an immediate relaxation of in the UK and an Angel Eminence LP Compact Disc reissue of the original

tempo and mood, but it doesn't always in the US, both currently unavailable.)

happen that way (best are Reine4 Bern-

Toscanini never conducted Mahler's

stein, Previn, Haitink III, and Hirokami). music, but the recordings of George

Historical documents include a Szell and Fritz Reiner emulate the Mae-

Welte-Mignon piano roll of the Finale stro's razor-sharp discipline and textual

played by Mahler himself (available on fidelity. Szell provides fiendishly precise

Golden Legacy GLRS 101). It has ensemble (save for afew brief tempo

curiosity value, but typically sheds little disagreements within the orchestra),

light on contemporary performance meticulous accenting, and impeccable

practice; the piano action sounds stiff balances, ensuring stupendously clean

with alimited dynamic range, and the detail --in the Scherzo, you can even

touch is uneven in the semiquaver runs hear the chords created by the moving

(this doesn't sound like rubato to me). string lines. The Clevelanders' trim

More to the point are performances by strings and perfectly blended reeds are a

the composer's disciples Bruno Wakes; pleasure, and there is plenty of feeling,

Otto Klemperer, and Jascha Horenstein. especially in the gracious, Liindlerisch

Of the three currently available Walter Trio sections; the transfer is vivid. RCA

recordings (still another, with the has discontinued Reiner's CD in the US

Vienna Philharmonic from 1955, was (it's available in Europe), but Classic

available in Europe as DG 435 334), the Records has issued an audiophile LP fac-

1945 studio recording and 1953 con- simile of RCA Living Stereo LSC-2364

cert, both from New York, are similar on silent vinyl; the remastering brings a


in their detailed textures and moderate tighter bass focus and more brilliant

but firmly propelled tempos (though bells and triangle to the dryish sound

the "Codetta" episode is pushed and familiar from the original. Once past a Decca/London LP; orchestrally it's still

restless). The Sony studio account is charmless introduction, Reiner shapes one of the best -- rhythmically firm but

more clearly recorded and better con- an impressively detailed reading cen- unpressured, crisply articulated with

trolled, but Desi Halban is amediocre tered on aspacious, dignified Adagio that clear, detailed textures, and evoking

soloist, Irmgard Seefried in the fuzzier rises to impassioned climaxes. The CSO mystery and draina in the Adagio as well

concert recording is more assured tech- provides lovely, rich string textures and as warmth. Sylvia Stahlman's acidulous

nically as well as more communicative. light-fingered, delicate woodwinds; Lisa timbre disappoints in the Finale; the

The 1960 performance, from Walter's della Casa is afirm-voiced if unimagina- sound is clean, with some boomy bass-

Vienna farewell concert, can be dis- tive soloist.

es and an occasional odd hollowness to



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the horns. Solti's remake follows asimilar pattern; the Chicago orchestra produces ahigher-powered tone than the
Concertgebouw, so that the playing is sometimes too loud for piano, but the overall effect is still one of relaxed musicality. Dame Kin, despite her weak lower-middle, is an alert, sensitive, creamy-toned soloist. (Certainly, if you want the CSO on CD, Solti is preferable to Levine, whose relentless intensity and spotlit reeds produce agrim insistence out of place in this radiant music, despite Judith Blegen's excellent singing; it's out of print anyway.)
Bernard Haitink's interpretive development and growth can be traced through three recordings of this music. His 1967 version is shipshape but too sober, disregarding indicated tempo adjustments in the first two movements and uniformly gray in sonority --perhaps partly arecording problem. (This sonic grayness afflicts de Waart's account, also recorded in the Concertgebouw -- an attractive and wellproportioned performance, although Charlotte Margiono makes heavy weather of the Finale.) Haitink's first digital remake is more characterful,
more willing to adjust tempos between themes; detail is clearer, with more colorful reeds (assisted by the multimiking) and lighter, less resonant basses. His incisive Berlin edition may just be one of his finest outings ever, injecting still more variety into his basically straight approach; he captures all of the Adagio's high drama, and draws silky, dark sonorities in the Finale, with Sylvia McNair a deft soloist. (The Berlin orchestra sounds equally affecting in those movements on the deleted Karajan, which also has splendid singing from Edith Mathis; but the ensemble in the first two movements is occasionally slippery.)
Audiophiles will undoubtedly favor one of Denon's two entries with their exceptionally clear engineering. Inbal's is well-paced and well-integrated, with smoothly singing strings and arefined overall tone quality, but he underplays the accents, which, coupled with the low level and distanced perspective, shortchanges the drama. Jun-Ichi Hirokami's recent issue sounds even more vivid, registering joyous climaxes and subtle orchestral contrasts equally well. Hirokami takes lots of care over matters of structure as well as of balance, but his Adagio is abit square and short-winded; the RPO's sonority is unusually rich and full, undercut by the odd ensemble or tempo inconsistency.
Not to be lost in the shuffle is André

Previn, who realizes the expressive implications of detail within the warm, cushioned orchestral sonority that marks his best work. The climaxes blossom attractively, while the Adagio's opening fairly bathes in luxuriant string tone. There's ample strength as well -- only the Adagio's terraced accelerations feel spineless -- and the moderate tempos strike an unusually thoughtful note in the outer movements; the colorful recording has good depth and presence.
Kubelik and Abravanel, among other
Mahler cyclists, deliver similar performances: briskly paced (sometimes too much so), with airy, buoyant textures. Kubelik runs sections of the first movement together, and his Bavarians sound a bit unpolished; Abravanel, despite almost precipitous tempos and some raspy string attacks, maintains amore consistently cantabile feeling. Tennstedt is also in ahurry in the first two movements, improving in awarm, flowing Adagio; his detailed response notwithstanding, the rhythm is loose-limbed, the playing disappointingly scruffy, and the sound lacks depth and fullness.
Sir Colin Davis has improved the Bavarians markedly since the Kubelik days: the reeds are better matched than before, and the solo horn tone has real velvet. His broad reading combines polished elegance and rugged strength --if only he hadn't burdened the latter two movements with agogics, tenutos, and Luftpausen, some of which work, all of which distract. Maazcl's straighter Vienna account is similarly spacious; the softedged attacks and transparent textures are appealing, but the sonies are less present and impactive. His earlier, more disjointed recording is superfluous, save for Heather Harper's soprano solo.

Neemeprvi has the right sort of tex-

tures, with forward reeds and horns

over abody of warm strings, but suffers

from some poky tempos and sloppy

coordination as well as amiscast con-

tralto in the Finale -- the notes are all

there, but the color's wrong, like a

French horn playing a clarinet solo.

Esa-Pckka Salonen gives a decent

overview, but the first movement is an

amiable runthrough that ignores the

development's shadows, while the ruba-

to Trio comes off as inappropriately

sophisticated; Hendricks is an airy, flut-

tery soloist. Giuseppe Sinopoli, typical-

ly, points up numerous individual felic-

ities without a real overview; the

orchestral playing ranges from deft to

rough, Gruberova sounds worn in the

Finale, and the sound is peaky in tutti.

Neumann benefits from the distinctive

Czech string tone, especially warm and

pleasing in the lower midrange; but the

rhythms can be square, and the wind

tone is peculiar when not actually mis-


The biggest disappointment is

Christoph von Dohnányi's: aconven-

tional performance, indifferently played

by agreat orchestra. Ludwig's is square

and sometimes hasty, except in aflow-

ing Adagio, while Anny Schlemm

sounds peculiarly dark and covered;

Skrowaczewski's climaxes are too fre-

quently soft-edged and weakly profiled,

with some slow-motion and unstable

tempos; Inoue's soft strings and horns

sound too recessed (this sounds like an

aesthetic choice, not arecording prob-

lem) -- it doesn't even sound like the

same orchestra as Hirokami's; question-

able tempo relationships and bits of

poor ensemble spoil the first movement

of Casadesus's lyrical reading.

In the lowest price ranges, those

who dislike Szell (in Sony's Essential

Classics configuration) may enjoy the

smooth, shimmering string playing in

Antoni Wit's exceptionally well-pre-

pared, musical performance (although

the clarinet lick just before the first-

movement recap doesn't happen). This

is preferable to the previously cited

Kubelik, or to Haenchen's compara-

tively routine reading. The unlisted

Nanut (Stradivari SCD 6050, 54:18)

offers acheap alternative to Bernstein

for the boy-soprano option, but I

haven't heard it.

As for overall recommendations at

full price, I'd take Haitink/Berlin, Bern-

stein/DG, or (depending on your taste

in singers) either of Solti's recordings.

At midprice, the Previn can stand with

the very different Szell.




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t` 5


Selected by RL, JA, and WP


/tseems to me that the best performances of medieval music have in them atouch of sadness even when, as here, the tunes are played with affection, enthusiasm, and joy. Pardy, of course, this is amodernday response on the performers' parts: to be truly involved in the music, they must lament, if only alittle, the loss of the age that produced it --in this case, Spain before the Reomquista. Nor is this view entirely new. Legend says that there are still families in Morocco who hold the keys to their houses in Spain, and the literature of the Middle Ages is full of longing --amor de lonh-- for the Golden Age. For many throughout subsequent history, Moorish Spain embodied this ideal, a vision of Hebrew philosophers and Arab poets in flowing caftans, the halls of the Alhambra resounding with their voices while dancers spun to such passionate music as Eduardo Paniagua and his ensemble play for us. Cruelly, this is not the true picture, but then all pictures lie.
But what amarvelous evocation of this spirit Paniagua has created in this, his second disc for M'A Recordings. (His first, Calamus: The Splendour ofal-Andalus, was Stereophile's May 1995 Recording of the Monti.) With gorgeously varied

EDUARDO PANIAGUA GROUP: Danzas Medievales Españolas
Eduardo Paniagua, flautas de bisel, nay, fujara, psakerio, tromba marina, darbuga, tar, eimbalos, caraqueb, cascabeles; Cesar Carazo, canto, viola de brazo; Wafir Sheik, laúd árabe, darbuga, pandero, sonajero; Jaime Muñoz, axabeba, kaval, chalumeau, dulcimer, sonajas: Enrique Almendros, flautas de tres agujeros, gaitas, gaita charra ytamboril, tar, címbalos, campanas; Luis Delgado, zanfona, laúd, dutar, vihuela de peñola, santur, fujara, cancan, darbuga, zarb, hendir, pandera, tambor, tar
M'A M034A (CD only). Todd Garfinkle, prod., eng. DDD. TT: 7205
Available from WA Reconlings, Tel: (818) 907.9996, flax: (818)783-4938.
instrumental textures, complex rhythms, and unerring choice of material, they open up our journey through the Spain of the Five Kingdoms. In their hands,

the music truly lives again. These are not tourist resorts we are going to, but real places where people danced, laughed, gambled, made love, and created art for the same reason we do today --because they could not do otherwise and live. The music they made, as realized on this disc, is neither quaint nor funny, although it has that strangeness that delights min all art, whether old or new.
Paniagua and his collaborators use many instruments, all researched from medieval illustrations or descriptions: ouds, psalteries, flutes, chalumeau, bagpipes, and the widest range of percussion you can imagine, from cymbals to tambours to drums. All of this is beautifully recorded: Finger cymbals shimmer in the air, plucked strings blossom in beautiful warmth and roundness, and drums have skins and volumes of air inside them and lots of bass impact and punch. The best thing, though, is the wonderful sense of space (from digital!), the portrayal of instruments played in avast room with ahugely long decay that never blurs the performance. Lately, I've gotten to hear alot of recordings that exemplify the whole high-end thing, this is one of the best of them.
--Les Berkley

BEETHOVEN: Triple Concerto, Op.56; Fantasy for Piano, Chorus, & Orchestra, Op.80
1)aniel liarenboini. piano; Itzhak Perlman. violin; Yo-Yo Ma, cello; 1)aniel Barenboini, Berlin Philharmonic
EMI 55516 2 (Cl) only. John Fraser, prod.; John Kurlander, mg. 1)1)1):TT: 55:13
For many years, the "Triple" Concerto was a stepchild among Beethoven's more auspicious works -- often dis-

missed as trifling. Today this view has shifted, partly because the advent of LP has led to the music becoming better known and thus better understood. If not among Beethoven's most sublime scores, it remains asignificant middle-

period masterpiece: lyrical, assertive, and masterly in its incorporation of Baroque concerto-grosso principles into the grand design of Classical structures.
'This new recording of the work, strongly individual yet eminently stylish, can hold its own with the best. Indeed, it represents the finest Beethoven performance Ihave ever heard



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from Barenboim, who, as pianist and °-

Part, but MacMillan is acomposer of

conductor, is a central figure here.

vibrant colors and textures, of vital

Striving for grandeur but remaining

rhythms and dense layers of sound; both

unmannered, he projects with his collab-

the performers and the recording team

orators a majestic first movement, at

understand and realize his singular com-

once gentle, soaring, and imposing. With

plexity excellently well.

Perlman and Ma providing virtuosic

This work is coupled with one of

playing enriched with gorgeous tone and

equal dramatic intensity-- a piece of

phrasing, this collaboration suggests (more than most others) how rightfully

music-theater named Busqueda --which uses as its libretto fragments of the Latin

this work belongs beside Beethoven's G-

Mass and the lamenting poems of

Major and "Emperor" piano concertos

Argentinian women whose children

and his Violin Concerto. Rarely, in fact,

have been taken by the secret police.

has the finale emerged with the kind of vibrant toughness it has here, atoughness made all the more striking by being juxtaposed to an unusually expansive slow

Pierre Boulez at 70, on two new DG releases: noncommittal Debussy. hot-blooded Ravel.

(Busqueda, meaning search, is the name of agroup in Oxford, England, whose aim is to trace the politically annihilated.) It is given by three sopranos, 17 instrumen-


talists, and aspeaker, all ofwhom have an

The Choral Fantasy is also impres- hardly the beckoners of promised sen- obvious commitment to the wider

sive. Those who delight in its peculiar sualities. Furthermore, until its final implications of this work's cause.

brand of humorous improvisational movement, La Mer effects little tension lunacy may find this reading abit too or excitement.

-Barbara Jahn

controlled, but the approach works.

In contrast, Boulez's Ravel, with the

EMI's in-concert engineering, if realistic in perspective, suffers at times (most-

Berlin Philharmonic, is a more hotblooded affait This Daphnis (he had pre-

PROKOFIEV: Romeo andJuliet: Scenes Michael Tilson Thomas, San Francisco Symphony

ly in the Fantasy) from the slight harshness of string tone often attributed to

viously recorded the ballet for Columbia with the New York Philharmonic, da)

RCA 68288-2 (CI) only). Andreas Ncubronner, prod.; Markus Heiland, eng. DOD. IT: 78:10

digital technology Still, this release is and La Valse have all the passion and

warmly recommended.

excitement one could want-- winners in Recorded and issued during the debut

--Mortimer H. Frank all respects. True, there is evident direc- season of Michael Tilson Thomas in his

torial control, without that off-the-top- new role as Music Director of the San

of-the-wall exuberance that Charles Francisco Symphony, this release also

DEBUSSY: Nocturnes, Première Rhapsodie, Jam, La Mer
Pierre Boulez, Cleveland Orchestra & Choisis I)G 439 896-2 (CI) only). Karl-August Naegler, prod.;
Klaus Behrens. Stephan Flock, Rainer Maillard,

Munch often brought to these scores, but this is an important disc, one in which La VaIse actually conjures up charm before its final peroration, and

serves to inaugurate MTT's new contract as an exclusive RCA Red Seal artist. MTT brings with him the
Miami-based New World Symphony,

Andrew Wedman, engs. 1)1)1). TT: 70:58 RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé,La Vabe Pierre Boulez, Berlin Philharmonic: Berlin Radio

Daphnis tells its classical story with almost visceral dynamism. The reproduction,

of which he remains Music Director, as well as the London Symphony, from

Choir DG 447 057-2 (Cl) only). Karl-August Naegler, prod.:
Jobst Eberhardt, Klaus Behrens, Wolf-Dieter Karwatky, engs. I)DD. TT: 70:46

however, might be aslight deterrent for some: In addition to partial opacity at very loud climaxes, the microphone

which he has stepped down from Chief to Principal Guest C,onductor.
For this new recording of Romeo and

pickup rather unnaturally displays a Juliet excerpts, MTT has left Prokofiev's

Boulez, Debussy, and Ravel would semi-distant orchestra in an all-too- own three concert suites in the library

promise to be an almost unbeatable empty auditorium.

-Igor Kipnis and constructed his own suite. The first

combination, the Debussy album in fact

to do this on recording was Leopold

having already garnered a Grammy

Stokowski in an as yet unreissued early-

award a few months ago. Previous

'50s stereo recording with the NBC

recordings by Boulez of the Debussy Nocturnes, La Mer, and Jeux are still in the Odyssey catalog, but the newer record-

MacMILLAN: vidtatio sepoichtr.· Bouquet's? Ivor Bolton, James MacMillan, Scottish Chamber
Orchestra Catalyst 62669-2 (CD only). Colin Matthews, prod.;

Symphony players for RCA. Recent recordings along these lines include those of Peselc/Royal Liverpool on

ing (with a fine Clarinet Rhapsody)

Tony Faulkner, mg. DDD. Tr: 69:00

Virgin Classics, Salonen/BPO on Sony,

reveals greater clarity and transparency

and Dutoit/Montréal on London. Each

in the Cleveland Orchestra pickup. MacMillan's Visitatio Sepulchri is asacred of these conductors has had his own

That said, there are problems that the opera based on the medieval liturgical ideas with regard to content and conti-

listener may want to consider. In spite drama, with the addition of two chants nuity. MIT sees his version as an alter-

of Boulez's exquisite sense of balance from the Catholic liturgy. It tells of the native to the full score: He provides

and extraordinary sensitivity to instru- angels conveying the news ofJesus's res- nearly all of Act Ias asymphonic expo-

mental sonorities, Ifind his interpreta- urrection as they stand before the empty sition, the essentials of H as akind of

tions emotionally noncommittal. His tomb. It is scored for chamber orchestra dance suite, and acondensed III and IV

no-nonsense Debussy is about as far and seven singers --three male and three in which melodic factors culminate in a

away from the glamor and voluptuous- female angels, plus acantor whose part is Liebestod. Even among recordings of the

ness of Stokowski, for example, as one written in Sprechgesang. Framed by an complete ballet, only the Previn/LSO

could imagine. The wordless sirens of orchestral prelude and asetting of the Te (EMI, da) can match MTT/SFSO in

the third Nocturne might strike seafarers Deum, one might be forgiven for expect- musical as well as sonic terms.

as beautifully etched curiosities, but are ing apiece of "monastic austerity" à la

The Decca/London production



team led by Chris Hazel during the

Blomstedt years, and for MIT in

Miami for Argo, would appear to be a

hard act to follow. The sound captured

by MTT's chosen production team is

much closer and far more intimate than

the Haze11 team's highly refined audi-

ence perspective, which combined a

certain cool distance with pinpoint

transparency and detail. Neubronner

and Heiland take us out of our audience

seats and place us on the podium for a

conductor's-ear view of the music.

Although somewhat controversial, the

execution is consistent, convincing, and

in no way artificial. Such an approach

could prove to be intriguing if not cap-

tivating to listeners who would not oth-

erwise be able to hear aperformance

from this vantage point. The dynamic

range is stupendous, whether register-

ing the pinpoint delicacy of mandolins

or the entire orchestra led by full-

strength brass.

MIT has declared his intention to

record live (as he has here) whenever

possible. As he puts it, "there's nothing

quite like the performance an orchestra

will give when playing for its own audi-

ence, which loves it." In addition, the

orchestra plays in the concert deploy-

ment to which it is accustomed, not with

the artificial redeployments that make

the mixing easier but often play havoc

with musicians' ensemble sensibilities.

It should be apparent that MIT has

invested apowerfial range of emotion

into the performance, and has encour-

aged an equally broad and powerful

range of imaginative possibilities from

his players. les extremely rare to hear

chances being taken in recordings, but

this is where MTT's audacity is brought

to bear in ways that vindicate audacity

and live recording. Somehow, the audi-

ence behaves beautifully. In the words

of Henny Youngman, "You know

they're out there, you can hear 'em

breathing," but not coughing and hack-

ing. This is MIT at his best, and it gets

him off to agreat start in his new post.

The sound quality should earn this

recording aplace in display rooms, test-

ing labs, and audio shows as well as

home collections.

--Richard Schneider

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concertos 11St 4 Mikhail Rudy, piano; Mariss Jansons, St. Petersburg PO EMI 55188 2(CI) only). John Fraser. prod.; Michael
Sheady, rug. 1)1)1). TT: 65:01
This is the final disc of the series given by Mariss Jansons and the St. Petersburg PO with Mikhail Rudy as soloist

e in the Rachmaninoff Concertos. Iwas
extremely impressed by that of the

Third (coupled with the Paganini

Rhapsody, EMI 54880), and find this

account of the Fourth as convincing,

particularly as both the original and

revised endings are given. Rudy is a

poetic and lucid musician who may

well lack the weight and drama of

many another renowned devotee, but

who more than makes up for it by a

searching intensity that often lays bare a

line of texture or point of detail that

can remain buried below the sumptu-

ousness of Rachmaninoff's harmonies. Concerto 1 is a less immediately
attractive work despite the truncated and uneven nature of 4. However, this student work, which was also extensively

Miklós Rózsa's complete music for solo violin is played by Isabella Lippi: charm and passion in reference-quality sound.
homeland to create apersonal statement

revised, shows abrilliance and singulari- of passionate depth. The angular, enerty of mind that bear all the hallmarks of getic first movement leads to areflective

Rachmaninoffs later style. The St. set of variations in the second and a

Petersburg Orchestra gives both works rhythmically complex third. Even if you

their total attention, the sheer fluidity don't feel compelled to return to the

and neatness of their playing atribute to earlier works, the Sonata will haunt you,

their thorough rehearsal of the score under the guidance of Mariss Jansons. The recording too is very fine, the problems of balance that Iwas unhappy

will compel you to repeated listenings. So will the impassioned playing of
Isabella Lippi and John Novacek. Displaying no evidence of the labors

about in the Third Concerto disc having

been rectified here.


required to give birth to these often tortuous works, Lippi seduces you with her effortless agility and her impas-

sioned soulfulness. Novacek plays his

RÓZSA: Complete Music for Solo Violin Variations on a Hungarian Peasant Song, North
Hungarian Peasant Songs & Dances, Duo for Violin & Piano, Sonata for Solo Violin Isabella Lippi. violin:John Novacek, piano Koch International 3-7256-2H1 (CI) only). Michael Fine, prod, mg.; Fred Vogler, cog. DIM. TT: 62:09

part with equal fervor and afluid touch. The duo's playing is heard through a
superbly transparent window on the instruments, portraying the rich body and natural sheen of the violin as well as the crystal-dear overtones of the piano. This

recording takes aplace among the very
"Hungary ... was where my music best violin/piano recordings Ihave heard.

began and where it has ended.... It is

Rózsa, who passed away shortly after

stamped one way or another on virtual- this recording was made, is quoted as

ly every bar Ihave ever put on paper." saying that it is all he could have hoped One of the many remarkable things for. Ishare the sentiment.

about this release is its revelation of the

--Robert Hesson

hold that Hungarian music had on Mildós

Rózsa (quoted above, from the liner

notes) both before and after the 40-some years he spent composing film scores in Hollywood. Much of this music outHungarys Bartók and Kodály, especially the Variations and the Peasant Sore and Dance. Both from 1929, these incorporate

SCHULHOFF: Flammes Kurt Westi, Don Juan; Jane Eaglen, Donna Anna, a
Nun. Margarethe, a Woman; Iris Vermilion, La
Morte; others; RIAS-Kanunerchor Berlin. Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlinjohn Maticen London 444 630-2 (2 CDs only). Michael Haas, prod. DIM/ TT: 2:14:02

Hungarian folk themes the composer collected in his native country. The works are charming but without serious challenges for the listenet The Duo of two years later carries hints of the mature composer to come, with more complex forms, original themes, and richer emotional journeys.
Leaping over five decades to the

Impressionistic, expressionistic, jazzy, without alinear story line, and composed by aJewish Communist in 1932, Flammen didn't stand achance with the Nazis. But it's a marvelous work -- inventive, entertaining, possibly unique. The libretto is only 38 pages long; more

unaccompanied Sonata of 1986, we find than a third of the music is simply

acomposer who has become fully him- orchestral. Imight even go so far as to say

self, having absorbed the music of his that arecording does Flammen greater



justice than astaged performance, and and voice size for Leonora, and sings

London's engineers have here given us a with style and passion. Leo Nucci is

marvelously vivid account of this com- mediocre as the Count--he pushes

plex score.

and strains, and the overall effect is too

The mythic Don Juan is at the opera's effortful, although Ilike his fine han-

center but here he is condemned to pas- dling of the triplets in the first-act finale.

sion and life -- he can find no eternal The show's star is Shirley Verrett, who,

rest. He travels from time to time, place at 59, still had plenty of voice and agen-

to place --this opera has not only Donna uine plethora of temperament, some

Anna and the Commendatore, but Faust raw singing aside.

and Margarethe -- his conquests give

Zubin Mehta's leadership is alter-

him no joy despite the fact that he nately energetic and flaccid; it's

wreaks havoc wherever he goes. The impossible to tell what's going to

character of Death (as mezzo) follows come out of his baton next. The

him; she seems to truly love him but can fourth act is fiery, but similarly ener-

not make him her own. Ithink you get it: the opera inhabits afantasy world without rhyme or reason: Just agreat

gized moments in the second act go by without notice. The score is presented complete.

Dorian continues to expand the recorded legacy of the late Eduardo Mata on three excellent new discs.

deal of stunning and atmospheric music,

London's engineers have given us a intense, controlled interpretations, it

with small nods to Berg, Korngold, and a big, rich, honest recording (unlike comes as abit of asurprise to hear him

hint of Weill -- but at the same time Sony's recent Trovatore, which sounded so obviously bring out the neo-romantic totally original. Ihave listened now five as if each instrument had been milced elements in some of this music--as, for

times, and while Ikeep trying to fit it separately) that does justice to the example, in the Melodía en el Llano (Noon

into acategory, Ican't. Idon't mind.


on the Prairie) by the Venezuelan

The performances are excellent,

Pavarotti fans will need this; other Antonio Estevez (1916-1988), or the

with Kurt Westi aclear-voiced Don, curious listeners could do worse. It's not Romance des Pescador from Manuel de

jaded, exhausted, and unable to rest; Milanov, Byirling, and Warren on Falla's El Amor Brujo. But overall, it is

Jane Eaglen is superb in ahandful of RCA, but it's not bad at all.

Mata's delineation of the hot-blooded,

roles representing the women in his

--Robert Levine pent-up passion in so many of these

life; and Iris Vermilion is almost dark

scores that helps so effectively to evoke

CLASSICAL COLLECTIONS enough as Death. Mauceri leads atight,
riveting performance, and London

the proper atmospheric color. One can hear this throughout the varied pro-

allows us to hear this hallucinatory











grams, whether in the vividness of the

score in all its glory. Approach with an

two solo percussion pieces by Mexico's

open mind -- this is more fulfilling than anything by Shreker, and offers great pleasure in its own, special way.

CHAVEZ: Chamber Music Xochipilli (An Imaginal AZItY Musk); Suite for 1)ouble
Quartet from The Daughter of Cokhis, Tambuco for Six
Percussion Players; Enter:QM-for Nine Instruments;

most famous and prolific composer, Carlos Chavez (1899-1978), the popular Little Train from Caipira movement from

-- Robert Levine

Toccata for Percussion Instruments Eduardo Mata, La Camerata (Panamerican Chamber
Players); Tambuco (Mexican Percussion Quartet)

Villa-Lobos's Bachiana Brasileira No2, or the sharply accented, complete five-

VERDI: // trouatore Luciano Pavarotti, Manrico; Antonella Banaudi,
Leonora; Leo Nucci, Count di Luna; Shirley yerros, Azucena; others; Orchestra e coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Zubin Mehta

Dorian DIS-90215 (Cl) only). 1)avid H. Walters, prod.; David H. Walters, 1)ebbie Reynolds, engs. DIM). TT: 66:12
ORBON: Tres Versiones Sinfónicas VILLA-LOBOS: Bachiana Brasileira No.2 ESTÉVEZ: Melodía en el Llano CHAVEZ: Sinfonia India (Symphony 2)

movement Homenajes (1921-41) of Falla. The playing by the Venezuelan orchestra is good if not absolutely perfect (unison cellos in the first movement of the VillaLobos are not entirely together), but

London 430 694-2 (2 CDs only). Christopher Raeburn. prod. DDO. TT: 2:11:52

Eduardo Mata, Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela
Dorian DIS-90179 (CD only). David H. Walters,

instrumental color has been well captured by the engineers, and the sound-

Here's asurprise entry in the Trovatore sweepstakes, and it's apretty good one at that. The selling point is obviously Pavarotti, and he doesn't disappoint: In

prod, eng.; Craig D. Dory, Brian C. Peters. engs. DIM) TT: 61:59 FALLA: El Amor Brujo With: Sewn Popular Spanish Songs (orch. Berio);
Homenajes; Three Gmtered Hat. Suite 2 Marta Senn, Eduardo Mata, Simon Bolivar Symphony
Orchestra of Venezuela

stage is especially well delineated. The

many impressive arrays of sounds to be

heard throughout all three CDs provide

highly stimulating listening for the

audio enthusiast.

--Igor Kipnis

1990, when this was recorded (one can only wonder why London waited so

Ikrian DIS-90210 (CD only). 1)avid H. Walters, prod., cog.; Brian C. Peters, eng. DDD. IT: 6805

long to release it), he was in very smooth voice, and while his involvement is never better than generalized tenorish behavior, his singing is quite beautiful. That said, his voice is still a

It's difficult to single out any one of these three programs as being better than the others, either for the quality of the performances or for their sonic display

DAWN UPSHAW: White Moon: Songs to Morpheus Songs by Warlock, Handel, Monteverdi, Seeger.
Schwanter, 1)owland, Villa-Lobos, Crumb, Purcell 1)awn Upshaw, soprano; Margo Garrett, piano; Sergio
& Odair Assad, guitars; others; Members of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

size or two too small for Manrico, and that might deter purists.

potential. These are among the last recordings made by the Mexican con-

Nonesuch 79364-2 (Cl) only). Tommy 1Crasker, prod.; John McClure. eng. DI)D. TT: 46:34

The almost totally unknown Banaudi ductor Eduardo Mata before his untime-

(no one Iknow has heard of her before ly death in 1995, and they all effectively As is customary with this artist, here is an

or since this recording) is as good as one reveal his strong flair for the music of intelligent, thoughtfully put-together

gets nowadays in the Verdi soprano Spain and Latin America. Allowing for program, this time of songs of a"noctur-

department. She has the right attitude Mata's penchant for classically oriented, nal" character: each has something to do



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with sleep, oblivion, or the moon. One might fear that the resulting recital would


be soporific, one would have been close. The music is interesting --fi-om Peter


Warlock's shadowy "Sleep" to Arnaka's exquisite lullaby from Uncoronazione di Poppea (although this is written for atenor in drag and sounds better lightly sung by a

JANE IRA BLOOM: The Nearness of You Jane Ira Bloom, soprano sax; Kenny Wheeler, flugel-
horn, trumpet; Julian Pnester, trombone, bass trombone; Fred Hersch, piano; Rufus Reid, bass; Bobby Previte, drums

male voice) through Ruth Crawford Seeger's odd, eerie "White Moon" and

Arabesque Jazz AJ0120 (CI) only). Jane Ira Bloom, prod.; James Farber, eng. DI)D. TT: 68:14

four songs by George Crumb based on

poems by Garcia Lorca (although these For her last record, Art and Aviation,

last are far more interesting for their Jane Ira Bloom wrote abeautifully sug-

accompaniments of banjo, flute, electric gestive piece called "Coleman Haw-

cello, and percussion than for their vocal kins's Parallel Universe." It celebrates

lines). But the whole effect is too mellow for its own good, and Upshaw is peculiarly lifeless. She sings Villa-Lobos's Bachiana

Hawkins's famous recording of "Body and Soul," and suggests what ajazz musician inevitably does, and what

Soprano sax player Jane Ira Bloom displays witty compositions and beautiful ballad playing on The Nearness ofYou.

Brasikira No.5 with utter dispassion; here, as Bloom does consciously: She creates in

throughout the program, she seems to be her improvisations amusical world that HERBIE HANCOCK: The New Standard

whispering. Yes, Iknow, it's supposed to suit the program, but she sounds unschooled in the wrong way--not spontaneous,just unschooled. I'm afan of hers,
but Idoubt I'll be returning to this CD. The instrumentalists are superb. The
sound is as recessed as the attitude: a

parallels the original composition. Bloom goes one step further when she comments on the improvisations and compositions of others in such original compositions as "Nearly Summertime," which introduces the Gershwin tune with some eerie three-part writing for

Herbic Hancock. piano; Michael lirecker. tenor &
soprano sax; John Scofield, guitar; Dave Holland, acoustic bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums, electric perc.; Don Alias, pert.
Verve 314 529 584-2 (CI) only). Herbie Hancock, Guy Eckstine, prods.; John Pace, eng. TT: 72:06
JOHN McLAUGHLIN: The Promise John McLaughlin, guitar; with Jeff Beck, Sting. Trilok
Gurtu, Al Di Mcola, Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, many others

perfect match, but not for these ears.
--Robert Levine

the horns. Then there's "Midnight Round"/" 'Round Midnight," on which

Verve 529 828-2 (CI) only). John McLaughlin, Eddie Kramer, prods.; Kenny Jones. Gustav Hobel, Maurice Uzana, Max Costa, Rene Ameline, Ed Rak,

EARL WILD: The Romantic Master: Virtuoso

Piano Transcriptions

Bach-Wild: H0111111àty à


L. ROIlef d'Omphale. Handel-Wild: Harmonious

Blacksmith Varianons. Chopin-Wild: Largo from

Piano Concerto 2. Rachmaninoff-Wild: Alas

Nights. Tchaikovsky-Pabst: Paraphrase on Sletping

Beauty. Tchaikovsky-Wild: "At the Ball"; "I)ance of

the Four Swans" from Smut Lake. Fauré-Wild:

Improvisation on "Après un reve." Mozart-

Backhaus: Serenade front am QomttttiChurchill-

Wild: Reminiscences of S11014' White. J. Strauss, Jr.:

"One Lives But Once." ICreisler-RadunaninoEE


Earl Wild, piano

Thelonious Monk's familiar melody
unfolds over an insistent bass line played by flugelhorn and trombone that seems to parallel Monk rather than support him. As acomposer, Bloom's a

Eddie Kramer, (nip. TT: 73:41 BARBARA DENNERLEIN: Take Off Barbara Demerit:in, organ; Mitch Watkins, guitar,
Dennis Chambers, drums; Ray Anderson, trombone; Joe Locke, midi vibraphone; Roy Hargrove, trumpet; Mike Sim, saxes; Lonnie Plaxico, bass; Don Alias, percussion

wit. She likes to probe the future, as in

Verve 314 527 664-2 (Cl) only). Barbara Ikimerlein, prod.; Jim Anderson, eng. TT: 68:44

"The All-Diesel Kitchen of Tomorrow"

and "Yonder." k's not acoincidence that PolyGram is working hard to revive their she composed amajor piece for NASA. jazz label, Verve. Their approach seems

When she sticks to the present, her to be signing established jazz stars and

view is waggish, as we hear in "It's a packaging them in amanner that has

Corrugated World," which begins commercial appeal without compromis-

Sony Classical SK 62036 (Cl) only). Michael Rolland Davis, prod.; Ed Thompson, eng. DDD. TT: 66:54

laconically with apatter of drums and bass. Then the horns play aboppish

ing the music. Hancock, McLaughlin, and the more recently signed John

This scintillatingly played assemblage is

sheer fun for the ear. Wild, who in large

part is responsible for the arrangements,

has often used these pieces as encore

material (I'm thinking particularly of the

delightful Swan Lake extract). His ability to

improvise, which owes agood deal to the

manner of Rachmaninol£ is of course the

raison d'étrr for the collection. Needless to

say to those familiar with Wild at his

inimitable best, the playing is at all times

elegant, free, and rhapsodic (the Chopin

slow movement), wonderfully brilliant (as

in the outstanding Strauss-Tausig), and full

of color and momentum (the Saint-Saëns,

which almost makes one forget its orches-

tral original). The piano reproduction fea-

tures an intimate ambience with agood,

unexaggerated feeling for the surround-

ing space.

-Igor Kipnis

theme whose sections lead to achange in rhythm and an unexpectedly anxious accelerando. The slow tempo returns only after acouple of solos. The effect is of sections laid up one against the other -- in parallel fashion.
Bloom also plays ballads beautifully. Here they include Kurt Weill's "Lonely House" as well as "The Nearness of You." She's given to slow tempos on the ballads and quick, angular lines on her originals. Her solos are consistently intriguing, and she has atopnotch band behind her: It is particularly good to hear Julian Priester again in such achallenging context. The recorded sound is fine, even if on some numbers Priester's trombone and Wheeler's flugelhorn seem to merge. The bass and drums are particularly clear and solid in image.
--Michael Ullman

Scofield are all Miles Davis alumni who have written their own pages in the history books. Dennerlein, while not their equal, is nevertheless aserious player whose music remains highly accessible. In this trio of CDs the approach achieves varying degrees of success.
Hancock's theory is that, like the old standards, the new standards should come from the pop music of the day. The idea isn't without merit, but his choice of modern material leaves much to be desired. Former Eagle Don Henley's "New York Minute" contains little in the way of the melodic or harmonic content that would inspire great improvisation. Luckily, Hancock & Co. quickly dispense with the tune and launch into the kind of modal interplay that helped forge their reputation. Prince's "Thieves in the Temple" and



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for newcomers or fans, The Promise is a "Take the A Train" -- but Strayhorn's terrific sampling of an artist who has songs remained for the most part dis-

more than fulfilled his.

tinct Whereas Ellington's writing and

German organist Barbara Denner- playing were brash, percussive, with

lein's 1995 release on her own Motor abrupt cadences and unresolved disso-

Music Label has been picked up by nances, Strayhorn's compositions and

Verve for American distribution, and it occasional solos were sly, sinuous, elusive

contains more of the joyful jazz-funk despite their strong melodies. Had they

that Dennerlein offered on her Enja and been painters, Ellington would have

Mesa/Bluemoon releases. With her been acubist, Strayhorn an impressionist.

usual posse of Chambers, Watkins, and

Pianists in particular seem to love

Anderson, she has forged a sound Strayhorn's writing. When Tommy

entirely her own.

Flanagan was offered his first record date,

Take Off adds ahost of newcomers he wanted to record only Strayhorn

who only serve to prove that more is songs. (That project had to wait.) Fred

not always better. Plaxico's acoustic bass Hersch learned the more obscure

is recorded like organ bass pedals --so Strayhorn from Flanagan, he says, and why not just play them? (Play them she from pianist Jimmy Rowles --but he

The eternally youthful Herbie Hancock returns
to acoustic jazz on The New Standard --with Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, and others.

does on a smoking version of "Hot House.") Lodce's midi vibes only further cloud the already indistinct sound, and

plays as if he's learned them directly from the source. His solo version of "Lotus Blossom" is agentler version of

Kurt Cobain's "All Apologies," on the other hand, merely offer competent blues noodling.
Bob Belden's low-key arrangements do nothing to elevate tunes like Babyface's "When Can ISee You": atrack that had little to offer originally other
than its arrangement and production. Speaking of production, The New Standard is recorded like apop album: up front and in your face. Granted, a very good-sounding pop album, but recording Jack DeJohnette like arock drummer is near criminal.
The idea of new standards isn't bad, but there arc definitely better tunes available (Joni Mitchell, Sting, late Paul Simon, Steely Dan). These guys playing this stuff is like Paul Prudhomme cooking at McDonald's.
John McLaughlin, God bless him, has always followed his own path. The
concept here is to present an overview of the directions down which that path has led, and the famous friends met along the way. The bands of Mc-

the solos of Sims and Hargrove merely

take time away from more interesting

soloists like Anderson, Chambers, and

Ms. D. herself.

Still, the strength of Dennerlein's

music is not in sounds and solos. What

she offers is the spirit of jazz before it

took itself so seriously without compro-

mising the music or forsaking the future.

Like McLaughlin, she follows her own

path and always conveys the ecstatic ele-

ment in making music. For this alone,

she deserves to be in current company:

With PolyGram's push and some hipper

production, she could write her own

page in the books.

-Michael Ross

FRED HERSCH: Passion Flower Fred Hasch Plays Billy Straylions
Fred Hersch, piano; 1hew Gress, bass; Tom Rainey, drums; Andy Bey, vocal; Nurit Tines, piano; string orchestra conducted by Eric Stern
Elektra Nonesuch 79395-2 (Cl) only). Fred liersch, prod.; A.T. Michael McDonald, eng. 1)DD. TT: 62:42

Duke's own. Hersch and his trio play lighter, almost whimsical versions of "Day Dream" and "U.M.M.G." -- one of the charms of this altogether delightful disc is the bright interaction of the members of the trio. Rainey and Gress dance about Hersch on "U.M.M.G.," follow him instantly when he ventures outside the chords for acouple of bars, and support him vigorously as he begins to swing more intensely. This is stateof-the-art trio playing.
The string arrangements are pleasant and unobtrusive, and Andy Bey's singing of the morbid "Something to
Live For" captures the mood of asong that is one of the few famous Strayhorn tunes Idon't particularly admire. This disc is recorded with impressive clarity, and the recording reproduces Hersch's elegant sound excellently. My only complaint about adisc I've been listening to over and over: It lacks my favorite Strayhorn composition, "Chelsea Bridge." Maybe next time...
-Michael Ullman

Laughlin and Beck once toured togeth- During his life, composer and sometime

er, and the axe-slingers join here for John Lewis's "Django." This version forsakes some of the tune's pensive beauty to pay tribute to its namesake's incendiary playing.

pianist Billy Strayhorn was content to remain in Duke Ellington's long shadow. Ellington liked to call Strayhorn his other alter ego, but what may have made their decades-long collaboration so sucessful

SHIRLEY HORN: The Main Ingredient Shirley Horn, vocals, piano; Joe Henderson, Buck Hill,
tenor sax; Roy Hargrove, flugelhorn; Charles Ables, electric guitar, acoustic bass; Steve Novosel, acoustic bass; Steve Williams, Elvin Jones, Billy Hart, drums Verve 314 529 555-2 (CI) only). Shirley Horn, prod.;

Fire is McLaughlin's stock and trade; was the younger man's evident lack of

1}avid Baker, cng. IMI)? TT: 53:59

whether with Di Meola and de Lucia ego, his willingness to write for Ellington

on "El Ciego," or Trilok Gurtu on the and sometimes under Ellington's name. Shirley Horn's art -- so subtly nuanced

Shakti-like "The Wish," or jamming with Sting on the too-brief outtake from "The Wind Cries Mary" cut on a Hendrix tribute album.

He came to Duke in the late '30s with a song, "Lush Life." Ellington, who knew how to turn an arch phrase himself; was intrigued by its world-weary lyrics, their

in its feeling, so often hushed -- needs the nurturing mood of the moment to reveal itself. She does not sing ballads exclusively, but when you think of her

Recorded in avariety of places, all of air of sophistication and "distingué you hear smoldering ballads so slow the tracks share aslightly over-reverb'd traces." Soon Strayhorn was working for that meaning gathers first in the

murk that must be to McLaughLin's lik- Duke full-time. He picked up Ellington's silences, then in the words.

ing. But don't let the sound put you off, style -- he wrote the band's theme song,

It's not surprising that Horn would be



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attracted to the notion of recording in

the warmest, most comfortable setting

of all: her own home in Washington,

DC. We're not given much informa-

tion about how the recording was

made except that "a truck bigger than

Shirley's house," from Big Mo Re-

cording, pulled up, and engineer David

Baker set up shop for four days in her

living room.

In the liner notes Horn says that

what she had in mind was "a little taste

of yesteryean" when "the guys" would

often gather at her house after agig to

eat and drink and jam. She invited some

special guys to the sessions that resulted in The Main Ingredient. Charles Ables and Steve Williams, her regular bassist and

Taj Mahal enters his fourth decade in the music biz with his new Phantom Blues.

drummer, accompany her on most of the tunes. But gray eminences like tenor saxophonists Joe Henderson and

TAJ MAHAL: Phantom Blues Private Music 82139-2 (CE) only). John Porter, prod.;
Joe McGrath, eng. TI': 48:03

Buck Hill, and major new voices like

trumpeter Roy Hargrove, sit in for sev- Taj came of age in the "anything goes"

eral numbers. Steve Novosel, Billy '60s when the concept of ablues band

Hart, and Elvin Jones spell Ables and that featured four tubas and covered

Williams in the rhythm section.

Monkees tunes didn't raise an eyebrow.

Shirley did the cooking, "a different menu every night." (The liner notes contain the recipe for her "famous beef-and-beer.") The unguarded intimacy of these evenings is audible in the music. "The Look of Love," "Fever," and "Come In from the Rain" are pop

Here we are in the "watch your step" '90s and what we get is standard r&b tunes: "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," Brother Ray's "Lonely Avenue," Fats's "Let the Four Winds Blow"; some new tunes that sound like standards, like Pat McLaug,hlin's greatest Al Greene song

songs dignified by Horn's wise, exquis- that Al never recorded, "Don't Tell

itely modulated whisper. There are two Me"; and the obligatory Eric Clapton

classic performances on the album, one and Bonnie Raitt cameos.

featuring Hargrove and one Hen-

Tj's voice is sa great --a party in

derson. "The Meaning of the Blues" is itself--and matches the material about

aperfect vehicle for Horn, as much dramatic recitation as song. Hargrove's flugelhorn is aglowing, sensitive intel-

three fourths of the time. That the band is competent but uninspired is underlined by the fire of Clapton's two per-

ligence that barely moves beside her as formances. The sound is neither here

Horn makes you sit very still in your chair: "...and blues were only torch songs / Fashioned for impulsive ingénues. /But now Iknow, too well I

nor there, not live but not the consciously produced amalgam so prevalent on blues records --sort of like an expensive demo.

know /Too well Iknow the meaning of the blues."
"You Go To My Head" starts with

Only on the funky last song, "The Car of Your Dreams," do the spirits of Taj the explorer, Taj the mixer of genres,

four minutes of Henderson ruminating over the melody in his breathiest cool (so soft you hear the keys clicking) before Horn finishes his thoughts by

Taj the party master gel into the kind of

blues man that might still call himself

Taj Mahal.

-Michael Ross

sighing the opening line: "You go to my

head /And you linger like ahaunting refrain..." Slowly, slowly they sway through the song, entwined.
The sound is not perfect. Elvin Jones's

JACKY TERRASSON: Reach Jacky Terrasson, piano; Ugomia °kepi°, bass; Leon
Parker, drums Blue Note CUP 835739 2(CD only). Jacky Terrasson,
prod.; Mark Levinson, cng. DDD. TT: 4905

brushes on "You Go To My Head" are

badly over-miked, and the soundstage is all in the same flat plane. But when you're aguest in someone's house, and you're being shown such awonderful time, it seems impolite to complain.

This recording is going to get alot of attention in both the jazz press and the audiophile press. The jazz press keeps a close eye on Jacky Terrasson because he is one of four or five current candidates

--Thomas Conrad for the title of "next piano messiah."

(The jazz community is ever in waiting for messiahs.) The audiophile press will be interested in the fact that Reach was recorded in the living room of Mark Levinson himself
Since the long-gone days when Rudy
Van Gelder engineered (for better and for worse) all Blue Note albums, the label has demonstrated an inconsistent commitment to sonic quality. Now, suddenly, Blue Note shows up with an album recorded on custom-modified
microphones over Cello electronics. The signal went through an Apogee AID converter and then to aNagra-D recorder. The mastering employed both Apogee's UV-22 process and Cello's Audio Palette. The recording was done live to two-track, with the three musicians grouped closely together (a session photo confirms the proximity), and with only two "carefully positioned" microphones.
Jacky Terrasson is an interesting talent who has been overpraised. His influences are not yet integrated into an individual voice. Monk is audible in the
pregnant pauses, Tatum in the left-hand stride and right-hand sweeps, Powell in the speed and brittle touch, Evans in the frequent moments of quietness. Terrasson has atendency to grandstand (he overwhelms standards like "I Should
Care" with torrential arpeggios and jarring shifts in tempo), and he's in love with repetition (exhausting all patience on "For Sentimental Reasons"). Yet for
all his immature indulgences, there are moments when you hear why there's a buzz on the street about Jacky Terrasson. His imagination never rests, and sometimes he finds revelations. On his
medley "Reach"/"Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"/"Reach," he dares to barely touch the keys in the middle section, and the theme pokes through like aray of sunshine.
Sonically, Reach is aunique recording of apiano trio. In the liner notes, Mark Levinson mentions an admiration for unnamed "legendary vintage recordings." Indeed, the first impression -- when those piano notes clang and hang in the air to open "I Should Care," and Ugonna Okegwo's bass begins to pluck
from far away, and Leon Parker's brushes faintly splash on the snare --is one of 4it vu. Vintage recordings were also acoustically mixed and employed distant
milcing. But they never approached this level of dynamic range or bandwidth.
Reach is no doubt successful in achieving Levinson's goals for audio quality. The piano is rendered with its timbral complexities gloriously intact,



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and there is an eavesdropping sense of the space in which the recording was

drawer in more ways than one. So Why Isn't Marti Jones Famous? Bad

made. But this album also shows that

timing. In the '80s, afemale singer had

there is no single "correct" or "best" way to record music. Levinson's approach -- like that of every engineer

to do the Madonna shtick or the Cindy Lauper shtick to get noticed. And since Jones released her last album (1990's

-- involves tradeoffs. Especially in jazz,

R2D4 "Any Kind of Lie"), women like

when the bass and drums feel disembodied, an important emotional con-

Sam Phillips, Liz Phaii; PJ Harvey, and others have made it okay to be agirl.

nection to the music is lost. As avery special example of ametic-
ulous and "unprocessed" recording,

Will This Make Her Famous? Probably not, and that's ashame. This live collection from a1990 concert compiles most

Reach provides fascinating insights into

of the best material from Jones's early

how most recorded music is changed.

albums, leaning heavily on Any Kind

I'm glad it was made this way. I'm glad

and 1988's equally cool Used Guitars.

that not all recordings are made this


-Thomas Conrad

On Joe Henry's new Trampoline, the glass is most definitely not half empty. So how come he ain't famous? ASJ has some ideas.

The arrangements are true to the albums -- this is a good thing--and

most of the departures are for the better,


thing might just be working. JV/H as on Old Friend. And ifJones and husopened for Bruce Springsteen -- the band Don Dixon aren't quite in the top

Boss's first opening act since the Ford rank of songwriters (this sampler could

administration -- on his Tom Joad tour. convince you otherwise), they more

JOHN WESLEY HARDING: John Wesley Hanling's New Deal
Forward R2 72250 (CD). John Wesley Harding, Chris Von Sneidern, prods.; Chris Von Sneidern, ens. IT: 53:05

What About aFanions Blue Raincoat? This disc has awarm, flannelly feel. But the shirt's from John Prime's closet, not Eddie Vedder's.

than make up for it by borrowing well: cherry-picked covers of Clive Gregson, Elvis Costello, and Loudon Wainwright III round out the lineup. A lovely

JOE HENRY: Trampoline Mammoth 92686-2 (C1)). Patrick McCarthy, Joe
Henry, prods, ene. TT:41:35

So Why Isn'tJoe Henry Famous?Because the world isn't kind to countryish song-

record, made doubly important by the fact thatJones's studio albums are out of

MARTI JONES: Lire at Spirit Square Sugar Hill SHCD-5502 (C1)). Don Dixon, prod.;
Mark Williams, Tracy Schroeder, ens. TT: 71:17
Every music lover has aSo-Why-Isn'tHe/She/They Famous? list. Right at the top of mine arc, in alphabetical order, John Wesley Harding, Joe Henry, and Marti Jones. As karma would have

writers who turn phrases like "Below me bandits make the beach /And open mussels with their teeth," and owe more to Hank Williams than to Garth Brooks. Ask Lyle Lovett. Or Steve Earle.
Will This Record Make Him Fanions? It just might. Henry's fans --all three of

print. (Look for an all-new record from Ms. Marti later this year.)
Emote Blue Raincoat? This might be the best-sounding live rock album you'll ever hear. All ofasudden half your room is gone, replaced by the Spirit Square auditorium, complete with an appreciative audience. Even the applause sounds

it, these three Better'n'Madonna But Not As Rich artists all released albums

us--might be disappointed, but new producer Pat McCarthy has tossed out


-Allen St. John

the saine month.

the pedal steel and gone for thoroughly

So Why Isn't John Wesley Harding Famous?Because he's afriend to the poor and was never known to hurt an honest

modern, almost alternative arrangements. Most of these settings would work on a Tori Amos album, and

THE PHILOSOPHER KINGS: The Philosopher Kings
Columbia CK 67451 (CI) only). Lenny IkRose, prod,

man. That's reviewerspeak for "damned Henry's cover of Sly Stone's "Let Me if Iknow."JWH has apop sensibilty sec- Have It All" borrows more than alittle

rug.; The Philosopher Kings, Mike Roth, prods. 11': 52:53

ond to no one this side of Brian Wilson; he's smart, relentlessly ambitious, and he

from the (I'm serious) Red Hot Chili Peppers.

There is amyth that rock and roll was created by amateurish teenagers and that

puts on agreat live show. Sounds like a McCarthy has also changed Henry's any hint of instrumental or vocal adept-

recipe for failure to me.

delivery: sing a line ... pause ... sing ness diminishes the credibility of the

Will This Record Make Him Famous? It another line -- so as to let the profundi- music. In fact, Elvis and the boys were

isn't his best record, butJWH's New Deal might be the one that helps people make sense of him. Why We Fight--and,

ty sink in. The words don't suffer ("We quite competent musically, and Chuck shouldn't waste one moment's grief /I Berry was neither ateen nor anaif. mean what else we going to leave our (There is an extremely rare record of

for that matter, Here Comes the Groom -- kids /When we're gone someday"), but Berry backed by the Steve Miller Band

were too tuneful to be shunted off to the grunge ghetto, too cryptic for the easy-listening crowd. The pigeon's too big for the hole. Neiv Deal is Harding's folkie turn, strictly solo, and it showcas-

the problem is that the snail's-pace singing lets Henry's gift for melody leak out between the floorboards.
What About that Fanions Blue Raincoat? 'Fraid he'll haveta get wet. Henry's

at the Fillmore West on which he plays remarkable Charlie Christian-like guitar solos.) The music's excitement derived not from untutored flailing but from the development of anew form: a

es Wes's songwriting, which remains Shieletoivii sounds just gorgeous, and hybrid of swing, country, blues, and r&b.

some of the sharpest around: "Triumph of Trash" and "God Lives Upstairs" are

most of his others aren't far behind; Trampoline isn't quite an ear-scorcher,

The Philosopher Kings offer that kind of excitement. Their music is a

just acouple of the highlights here. The but there's ametallic edge that grates, hybrid for the '90s. In these days of

unbridled ambition of the earlier especially in contrast with Henry's post-modern pastiche it's not unusual to

albums is toned down abit, making this one easier to take. And the flannel-shirt

timeless songs. The exception is the luscious "Topless Shoeshine," which is top

come across aband that combines hiphop, r&b, surf, blues, jazz, and pop.













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î What's hard to find is one that makes
the mix work in away that sounds nat-

body, but he still picks at his soul. His approach to suffering remains problemat-

ural and unforced. The Philosopher

ic, like Sting ("King of Pain"), he encap-

Kings not only make the aforementoned combo sound natural, in their sure musical hands it sounds inevitable.

sulates the dumb suffering of the living world in a broken-winged bird and wavers between kicking out the jams and

This is not dilettantism. The PK?

repression: "I got lots of feelings /But I

jazz is notjazz flavoring. They don'tjust

hold them down /That's the way Icope

feature guest trumpeter Terence

/With this shitty town" ("Look Away").

Blanchard as ahipness badge. The bar-

Part shaman, part scapegoat, part

monk sophistication of their music, if

shamelessly indulgent stupid idiot,

anything, seems to call for someone

Sixties musicians lived the life and

edgier, as Jon Levine's McCoy

reported back so that we know enough

Tyner-ish piano butts up against the

to keep away from the edge. Ig wasn't

often gritty guitars of Brian West and

the worst, but he was close. "So now that

James McCollum.

Mr. Iggy Pop in apensive mood. He's abit more,

I'm straight /I'm settled too /Ieat and I

Gerald Eaton's vocals manage to combine jazz, hip-hop, rock, and

urn, lively on Naughty Little Doggy. Beth Jacques cackles in glee.

sleep /And Iwork like you" ("Look Away"). "Not hardly," quoth the Duke.

smooth Brit-pop attitudes into astyle of his own. His voice, dry and in your face, wraps itself around that other thing that has been missing from much modern

est diploma. (Such are the happy-talk absurdities of the Bowie era; to wit, "Shades," an ode to apair of sunglasses,

Some gigs are tougher than others.

rock -- melody. These guys write actual from Blab Blah Blab, 1986.) At last, he's

tunes! The 131(s walk the edge of slick but
stay on the real side with lyrics like "when the wheel cogs choked to kick

having those flashbacks, and with his new band The Fuckups he's returned to form: off-key, off-color; and straight at the ideological basics -- sex, drugs,

PULP: Different Class Island 314-524 165-2 (Cl)). Chris Thomas, prod.;
1)avid "Chipper" Nicholas, Julie Gardner, Pete Lewis, engs. TT: 5203

up blood -- and spit out everything you rock'n'roll, big cars, babes, and pain.

ever wanted." And the sound, though

From the opening tussle between Iwas reading somewhere one of those

lush and pure pop artifact, is sparse and Hal (Schernerhorn) Mezmerize force- actuarial tables that compared the typical uncluttered, leaping out of the speakers feeding beat-up old guitars through jazz-pop musician's intelligence (last)

into the room -- abeautifully produced Boogie Rectifers and arhythm section with lifespan and insurability (some-


yielding very little to the sonics of the where between anewspaper reporter

Willful primitivism has conspired to Tet Offensive, it's amiracle but you can and a weekend hang-glider pilot).

narrow the possibilities of forward still hear Iggy: "Step up it's fight time / Couple that with apropensity to trash motion in rock music, thus, the endless Kick scratch and bite time /Ain't talk- hotel rooms (and go broke defending

recycling of the '60s and the '70s. lithe ing about no more fun /But that don't the lawsuit), mutilate the body, and

music is to evolve it has to retain its bother my bad ass none" ("I Wanna abuse the mind, and you wonder how so

sense of excitement and discovery, its funky swing, while allowing for ahigher level of musical sophistication, all displayed by The Philosopher Kings.
The weird part is, they're from

Live"). In short, this is Fun City all over again, minus the alarming stage act with vomit and broken glass (he learned something from Bowie), and plenty politically incorrect. "Pussy Walk," for

many records ever get issued at all. Because death-defying acts always pull
a crowd, Is'pose, UK crowd-pleaser Pulp's second release on Island, Derail Class, entered the Brit charts at #1 last fall.


-Michael Ross instance, gives new meaning to the Fsçentially a five-piece, keyboard-heavy

term "dirty boogie." So, nothing techni- backup band for vocalist, writer, and film

cally wonderful here for the 'piffles studentJarvis Cocker, the thrill, ofcourse,

IGGY POP: Naughty Little De.m, , Virgin America 841327 2(CI» Thom Wilson, prod,

(Shure mikes, Ampeg amps, some Mesa Boogie, a little pre-production from

is to see if he can still walk: Hot on the heels of the single release of "My

crag.; Iggy l'op, prod.; Mike Ainsworth, Chris Fosdick (pre-production), engs. TT: 40:26

Context Studios, N.Y.), but for once a Legendary Girlfriend" (1991), he took a garage act doesn't sound like it was dive out of awindow to impress the lady

Well, what to say about the Igster? For one, he's smarter than he looks (dropout, University of Michigan, 1966). Second, having irretrievably sabotaged David Bowie's effort at social reclamation in which he was sprung from the looney bin (mid-'70s),

recorded in one.
Not that it matters. As plain as the nose on your face, what those checkshirted youngsters of the Pacific Northwest are pleased to call "grunge" is one pale imitation of what we used to call rock'n'roll. In the days when we expected our musical icons to walk it

and put in over ayear in awheelchair with abusted pelvis (see actuarial tables). Cocker (any relation to that other Sheffield native son,Joe?) is clearly one of those guys who will do anything to get some action. If feats of daring fail, he
turns to the magic mirror of videotape; the promo for the 1994 single "Do You

straightened out (so to speak), and marched off to Berlin to learn discipline, production, and how to carry a tune (Iggy Pop né Stooge né James Osterberg sings fine when he wants to), our Mr. Pop spent way too long playing a1uude-popping lounge lizard with an

like they talked it, Iggy went through basic with Jim Morrison. Like other war correspondents of the head, surviving Vietnam vets of lifestyle like Lou Reed and William Burroughs (the Hunter Thompson of the Medicare generation), Ig may have stopped gouging his

Remember the First Time?" was aselfdirected 26-minute film featuring auteur Cocker and bassist Steve Mackey popping the question in question to abunch of duly flattered British swells.
So, is Deetent Class ("what you initially dismiss as kitsch... [but is a] heartfelt



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tend toward straight pop or pop-gospel,

and while they don't have the poetic

insight of aGorka or aDiFranco, they

may reach more listeners with accessible

pop-music production values. The

works here are sung by professionals,

with the best sound coming from (I am

not kidding) Tiffany! Yes, that Tiffany.

Is there aproblem here? Yup. You

see, the liberal advocates for the home-

less have conspicuously failed to absorb

the lesson that Rush, Newtie, and the

boys seem to have got down pat: It

doesn't do just to preach to the convert-

ed. There's nothing on either of these

Pulp: Just abuncha working-class stiffs from Sheffield, England? Or aDifferent Class altogether? Jarvis Cocker gazes heavenward at left.

discs, with their simplistic liner texts, that would convince someone driving

desire to find glamor and romance in the homeless, the rich, or any other nonexis-

commonplace," New Musical Express) a tent construct. Songs, for the most part,

step forward from first Island LP His 7·1 are written about individuals, events, or

Hers and the 1993 inclie singles compila- feelings. Fortunately, most of the partici-

tion Pulipintro: lise Gfi Recordings? Yeah. pants in The SilvenvoufHorneless Project have

Melodies remain insinuating, and figured this out without my help; thus,

Cocker has matured to the point where there are alot of good solid tunes to be

he's willing to add that ever-popular heard here. Three or four of the 16 tracks

British political hand-job, class struggle, are certifiably preachy, and acouple more

to his lyrical preoccupations with sex and are abit too sugary, like those made-for-

revenge. In "Common People" and "I TV movies where all the bums quote

Spy," he somehow manages to combine Shakespeare and take baths, but the

the wherewithal of Morrissey with the majority have areal point and make it

retributive persona of actor Michael effectively.

Palm turning Kevin Kline into concrete

Details help Bill Morrissey and

(A Fish Called Wanda). The effect is hys- Cheryl 'Wheeler to limn real characters,

terical and charming, but for God's sake, while an oblique viewpoint works for

don't give those kids the vote.

John Gorka (in agreat duet with Nanci

But it's much too late for goodbye: Griffith) and one of my current guitar

The self-described weirdos are out of the heroines, Patty Larkin (who is similarly

down the middle of the proverbial road

to pull over and help asingle mother

with her hand out

Sound quality is actually abig plus on

the Silverwolf CD -- low budgets mean

no gadgets. And yeah, Ido think that a

society in which we can spend $5000

on speaker wire or $75,000 on a"sport

utility vehicle" to drive on paved roads

is abit out of balance. Maybe we could

convince that high-end dealer who

requires adeposit for listening to instead

get customers to buy these discs. Ilike

the idea!

-Les Berkley

STING: Mercury Falling

A&M 31454 0483 1(impon LP); 31454 0483 2(CD).

Sting, prod.; Hue Padearn, prod., cis.; Simon

Osborne, eng.

ITs: 52:13, 48:18'

barn, all over 'Top ifthe Pops (as guest host), and, in arelated item, John Major's con-

servative pois just lost half their bids for

re-election. "I was always aware of not fit-

ting in, totally," muses Cocker, triumphant. "[Now] I'm intrigued to see what American people think about us

[wheedling our way] into mainstream

society." Working-class Brit as American

Mainstream? Uncle Newt's got asurprise

waiting for you, boy.

-Beth Jacques

(A Homeless-Spirific Sung Cycle) Silverwolf SWCD 1002 (CI) only). Various prods. &
Various Artists Miramar 23075-2 (Cl) only). Various prods. & erip.
The homeless become an issue in these pages from time to time, when some reader argues, "How can you spend $72,000 on ahi-fi when people are starving?" But whatever your politics, you cannot write asuccessful song about the

joined by Mary Chapin Carpenter). The old King of Pain seems to be posi-

Being areal poet helps Ani DiFranco, tively mellowing in middle age. Mercury

who contributes the least folkie piece, a Falling is his most positive, upbeat, and

truly killer monologue-with-music angst-free since the Police days. And,

called "Coming Up." (Kerouac -- look ever mindful of the pop formula, Sting

to your laurels.) Folk stalwarts like Tom has always known the value of agood

Paxton and John Stewart also show up, hook, and here he does more hooking

both with serious stuff, while the ever- than Divine Brown. The result is a

reliable Greg Brown throws in some sprightly, memorable, polished slice of

welcome humor, and Tom Prasada-Rao sophisto-pop that's bound to be radio-

adds good guitar work and interesting friendly. What it lacks in dark, brooding

instrumental textures.

intensity it makes up for with the kind

The songs on In Harmony with the of memorable ditties you find yourself

Homeless, while not really up to the level whistling all day.

of the Silverwolf stuff, are still interest-

Sting is repeatedly lambasted in critical

ing because they were written by for- circles for being ponderous and preten-

merly homeless people (helped by pro tious. Idon't get it. His songs are philo-

writers) who have passed through a sophical and somewhat formal lyrically,

rehab program at the LA Mission. but what do you expect from an English

Oddly, this disc both breaks and rein- schoolmaster turned popmeister? Noth-

forces stereotypes. While it's certainly a ing ever sounds trite or contrived, and

positive sign to see ex-street people one always gets the sense that he believes

doing solidly creative work, it's depress- what he sings. Sting's real strengths, how-

ing to note that of the 13 contributors, ever, are a sophisticated, cross-stylistic

11 are black, one is Latino, and one is feel forjazz and pop and his strong, flex-

white, and all have suffered from serious ible singing voice. He puts both to good

substance-abuse problems. Their songs use here. The band, essentially the core



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group who've backed Sting for awhile now --Dominic /vlille4 Kenny Kirkland. Vinnie Colaiuta --play with spirited ea.
"The Hounds of Winter" (from whence the album title came, m'lords and ladies) shows just how good a

clammed up and stuck by the mean Princess story. Ireally don't care. What remains is the music, which is by turns hilarious and unbelievable, singable, danceable, and lots of fiai. It's immortal, world-class kitsch, and that voice... It's

singer Sting is -- he croons like a

everything everyone ever said it was: a

Motown soulman over this catchy

four-octave range, amazingly compre-

groove. Actually, the album title is also cleverly reprised in the dose4 "Lithium Sunset." Elsewhere, variety is the order of the day. "I Hung My Head" is a

hensive tonal palette, coloratura control, and terrific rhythm and phrasing. That Sumac never used it for anything but the transcendent tripe on these five albums

strangely dark and troubling tune about

either shows atruly breathtaking lack of

accidental murder, but sounds like an

taste or that she really loved this stuff... or

ode to spring as the singer skips over the

both. She sounds as if she's having as much

tune, seemingly belying the life-anddeath subject matter without care -- incongruous, to say the least. And the

The immortal Yma Sumac: Capitol reissues her entire back catalog as RL labors mightily to explain why this is A Good Thing.

fun as Carmen Miranda on acid. What's so much more evident in 1996
than in 1950 is how American it all is.

obligatory cowboy song, "I'm So Happy ICan't Stop Crying," answers the question: What would Merle Haggard

music more than they enjoy listening to it. But it does mean that those who have long harbored amusical Love That Dare

Here is "World Music" long before that niche was even agleam in amarketing consultant's shrewdly squinted eye. Only

sound like had he joined the Beatles? Not Speak Its Name (there are more of in HollywoodLand USA could such a

les a good bet these chord changes us than you think) are now out of the transparent pastiche of plastic Bizet,

would not have occurred to Merle, or closet. It also means that the back catalogs ersatz exotica, recycled Ravel, laments

even Bob Wills. The most lively, infectious, rocking tune is "Twenty Five To

of our secret saviors --I mean Esquivel and Yma Sumac--are in print for the

from the Russian steppes, generic Latin arrangements, Restless-Native chants,

Midnight." And guess what, digifans? It's available only on the LP. What possible rationale did A&M have when they put out a48-minute CD and a52minute LP? Clever marketing gimmick to sell afuture CD single? Who knows.
Sonics are clean and well-mixed. The LP is smoother but not radically superior to the CD. Because the LP is apricey UK import, I'd recommend that Sting
fans opt for the digits on purely economic grounds. Still, there's that extra track...
Get the CD anyway. With pop music this well-crafted and hummable, you're gonna want this one in the house, the

first time in decades, and that we can at potboiler soundstage cues from the

last replace those grimy, martini-stained Mysterious East, and formica flamenco

LPs furtively bought for pennies at garage be passed off as "authentic" anything at

sales in the seedier parts of town.

all. (And God knows what language, if

You know the Legend of Yma any, she's singing in.) What this music

Sumac: "Born high in the Peruvian really is is movie music about movie

Andes, adescendant of [Atahualpa, ]the music, the ultimate exercise in self-refer-

last of the mean kings.... While still a ential Hollywood navel-gazing, the nar-

small girl [Yma Sumac] began taking cissism of apopular culture in its infancy

part in the religious pageants ... of the -- all without ahint ofirony. And only in

sun-worshipping Indians and became America could it actually work.

almost deified by them ... an official

On its own terms, work it definitely

government delegation traveled into does. ReSearch claims that Sumac's first

this remote mountain region to... hear LP, Voice of the Xtabay, not only sold by

what they secretly believed to be a the hundreds of thousands, but "is the

myth.... Moises Vivanco, ayoung com- only LP in history never to have gone

car, and the portable player.

poser and authority on mean music, fell out of print!" There's agood reason for

--Carl Baugher in love with avoice and later fell in love such longevity: This stuff isfun, and not

with the young woman herself ... "

just in the camp, fixed-rictus, so-bad-

So wrote Capitol Records' press office it's-good way.

YMA SUMAC: The Complete Capitol Albums

in 1950, in the liner note to Sumac's first

Voice ifthe Xtabay is the place to start --

Voice of the Xtabay Arranged & conducted by Les Baxter, Moises Vivanco
The Right Stuff/EMI T2-91217. TT: 48:43 Mambo! Arranged & conducted by Billy May The Right Stuff/EMI T2-80863. TI': 31:00 Legend of the Sun Vitgin

LP, lice ifthe Xtabay. But there's another legend about Yma Sumac: That she's really ambitious little Amy Camus (spell it backward) from Brooklyn (or was it the
Bronx?), blessed with triple-jointed pipes,

it's the most varied, the richest, and by far the most generous in playing time. In its latter half, when Les Baxter's soppy orchestra gives way to Moises Vivanco's more varied settings for guitars, flutes,

o TLehgeeRnidghft tShteuJfifv/aEroMI T2-91250. TT: 34:51
The Right Stuff/EMI T2-36355. TT: 31:40

hot Latin looks, an inspired and indefati- and percussion, some true Peruvian roots gable promote4 and the bottomlessly begin to show. Sumac delivers vocal per-

Fuego del Ande The Right Stuff/EMI 12-32681. Bill Miller, prod. TT:
36:02 Allfive: Composed, arranged, & conducted by Moises
Vivanco, except as noted. Tom Cartwright, reissue prod.; David McEowen, mastering. CDs only, all recorded in mystical mono.

gullible American public of the early '50s. According to a feature interview in ReSearch's Incredihb, Strange Musiy Vo114 Yma Sumac, if not exactly mean, is a native of Peru, and went back there in the

cussion, swoops, piping coloratura, and guttural groans and growls --all can be found in any single 30-second section of any of these tunes. Sometimes it's even music: "K'Arawi," "Wak'ai," "Wayra,"

Ihave never wanted afad to die faster than the one currently being marketed as "Space-Age Bachelor-Pad Music," if only because most of those who now embrace it seem to love the idea of such

70s to live for 14 years before returning to her adopted home of Los Angeles, where
she still lives and occasionally performs. Ipressed The Right Ste Capitol/
EMI's subsidiary reissue label, for more hard data re one Amy Camus. They

and "Malaya!" are haunting, mysterious, and infectious by turns.
Then there are the production values: More vocal special effects were lavished on this record than must have been true for any other album of the





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time. Sumac dubs her voice over and over in duets and trios with herself, backed by achorus of little Ymas -- years before this would become common studio practice. Weird percussion effects punch in and out, and tons of reverb is glopped all over everything. It's all just... perfect.
Mambo! (1955) is as interesting for Billy May's wild horn charts as for Sumac's singing. On Legend of the Sun
Virgin (1956) Vivanco proves that he probably really was Les Baxter all along. Then there's Legend of the Jivaro: "Yma Sumac and Moises Vivanco... went into the Jivaro country armed only with trinkets, good intentions, and atape recorder.... There, her mastery of the Jivaro dialect... helped facilitate the research in that strange and obscure society...." They emerged from the jungle of the headhunters (or was it the LA Arboretum?) with amovie soundtrack tricked out as pop ethnomusicology ca 1957. The "tribal" drums and basso ooga-booga chants in the background are straight out of blackface Hollywood -- say, Secret of the Incas, 1954, starring Charleton Heston and.. .Yma Sumac. The album cover says it all: atopless Sumac in lipstick and shell necklace, breasts discreetly veiled by clouds of dry-ice vapor rising from the cannibal-size cooking pot she's leaning over as she rolls heavily mascara'd eyes at aplastic shrunken head. In the background, out-of-focus native dancers
strike mystic poses, and the sacred virgins sway...
Fuego del Ande (1959) is astraight-
ahead South American pop album -- Sumac explores her rich, ample, luscious low register as she sings traditional and folk songs from the Andes, backed by flutes, twangy electric guitars, and castanets from Moises Vivanco and His Orchestra Tipica. But this is folk music as sung by apop Hispana Joan Sutherland, with avoice just as fruity and diction just as bad: The fully operatic Sumac sounds as if at any moment she's about to segue into La traviata. The tunes are snappy, the voice ravishing. Of all vocal pleasures, these are truly the most guilty.
How to explain The Grandeur and The Mystery of Yma Sumac? Ultimately, the mysteries of her origin are less interesting than the fact that, despite her own unerringly wrongheaded instincts and those of everyone around her, there is undeniable vitality and sensuality in every track of these appalling-
ly entertaining records. Something struggles to be released here that is

more than just a world-class voice shackled to a fifth-rate creativity. Peruvian or not, Incan or not, talented or not, Yma or Amy, what Sumac really is is apolyglot original in the American Fain. That that grain is actually the finest of vinyl veneers only makes her more authentically one of our own.
Word has it she's preparing her comeback album. God forbid she's discovered good taste. Ijust couldn't stand it.
--Richard Lehnert
PRINCE, etc.: Girl 6(original soundtrack) Warner Bros. 46239-2 (CI)). Prince, 1)avid Z., The
Family, The New Power Generation, The Starr Company, Vanity 6, prods.; Stephen Marcussen, rug. ??1).1T: 62:16
The Purple Popster apparently found time between his recent nuptials and the ongoing battle with his record company to contribute four new songs to Girl 6, Spike Lee's recent phone-sex comedy. At this writing, he's left Warner Bros. (he'll compile three "from-the-vault" releases to fulfill his contract), but there's no word yet on the status of his marriage to protégé Maytc. Ihope it lasts longer than the shelf life of this soundtrack album.
The four new tracks are good ones, but represent little change from the tried-and-true formula. By Prince standards, they're about average. "She Spoke 2Me" is aslinky funk groove punched up with tart horn samples and Prince's multitracked vocals. "Count the Days" is an angry, vengeful ode disguised as a bluesy gospel jam. The lyrics are ragingly anticlerical.
"Don't Talk To Strangers" is asmooth, pseudo-spiritual warning wrapped up in the kind of melodic hook that seems to endlessly populate Prince's repertoire. It's sung from the perspective of adeparting lover who's acontrol freak. Sound familiar? Don't worry, you'll remember the tune long after the words leave memory. The title track, "Girl 6," is aheavily sample-laden dance concoction written by Prince keyboardist Tommy Barbarella. It comes complete with Prince lyrics that sound like they were dashed off to meet production deadlines. Not the kind of thing to make you forget "When Doves Cry."
Sonies are excellent, with less of the upper-register stridency that often afflicts Prince's albums. And Marcussen's mastering may be responsible for providing amuch more satisfying sound on the familiar material (ie, "Girls & Boys," "Erotic City," "Hot Thing,"

etc.). Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl" sounds significantly better here than it did when it came out in the mid-'80s, as does The Family's "The Screams of Passion."
Hardcore Prince completists will want this for the previously unreleased tracks. Spike Lee fans will buy it too, I guess. And there may be afew casual dance-music fans who'll appreciate this kind of sketchy, Princely overview. Everybody else -- forget it.
--Carl Baugher
LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III: Grown Man Charisma 840625 2(Cl) only). Loudon Wainwright
III, prod.; Jeffrey Lesser, prod, cog., mix. TT: 50:09
In such strong recent albums as I'm Alright, Therapy, and History, meta-folkie Loudon Wainwright III has claimed as his own the no-man's-land of family dynamics in songs ranging in tone from harrowing seriousness to incisive hilarity. No one's better suited to the task: Wainwrighes intelligence, comic timing, hair-trigger bullshitometer, and finely honed ironies allow him to explore the deeper, darker levels of confession, shame, and shirked responsibility with amazingly deft wit. And if Grown Man doesn't make the guilty (you and me) squirm quite as consistently as those earlier albums did, Wainwrighes still facing the responsibilities of adulthood and adultery with a dry-eyed clarity that makes most other singer/songwriters sound as if they're wallowing in the easiest self-pity.
Wainwrighes 49 now, old enough to sing a duet with his own daughter, Martha, on "Father/Daughter Dialogue." It's apainfully honest confession of parent to child, questioning with deadpan simplicity the value of confession itself. If LW III never quite says how he _Hs, the song's simple statements of evocative fact make that redundant. The song is soberingly mature in its acceptance of the absence of answers.




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"That Hospital" is just as powerful,

LW III singing of all the times he's vis-

ited the place, standing by at the births,

abortions, illnesses, and deaths of par-

ents, wives, children, friends. The

premise is obvious, the writing almost

simplistic --but no one's written this

song before. And the lonely "A Year" is

scary in its nakedness as Wainwright

begins another child's life and story,

only to walk away again: "I touched

your tiny perfect hand before Iwent

uptown /Ididn't pick you up because

I'd have to put you down." In the humor department are "IWI-

WAL" ("I Wish IWas A Lesbian"), a

hilarious stomp about aconfirmed het-

ero's wistful dream of leaving the male/

female trenches, and "1994" 's darkly

comic observations about genetic engi-

neering. But "Cobwebs," which com-

plains long and obliquely about the

increasing abuse of "like" as conversa-

tional filler, is no more consequential

than its subject.

Balancing "Cobwebs" and the equally

uninspired "Housework," "Human

Cannonball," and the tide tune is aclos-

ing quartet of songs as disturbing for

their hopelessness about men and

women as for the price Wainwright has

evidently paid to write and sing them

with such quiet authority. In "Just a

John" he sees himself repeating his

father's pattern of infidelity and boozy

contrition; in "I Suppose" he tries to talk

his heart into allowing him to love and

be loved one last time (the ol' ticker

remains unconvinced); in "Dreaming"

he wishes vainly for escape from choice

and thought ("Dreams might be pretend

/But at least dreams end"); and in "The

End Has Begun" he recognizes too well

the first signs of love's end, having been

there before --an old story, but LW's

quiet surrender is something new.

Wainwright has said that making stu-

dio albums is not his idea of agood time.

Follow yer bliss, Loud: the backup musi-

cians here do afine job, and the sound is

pretty damn good, but the more tasteful

and clever the arrangements are the

more they underline their own super-

fluity. As anyone knows who's seen him

in concert or heard his first two albums,

Wainwrighes songs cut cleaner, sharper,

deeper, and funnier with just his voice

and acoustic guitar.

Next time. For now, Grown Man is

the latest, and one of the better, chapters

in Loudon Wainwright III's continuing

coming-of-age story. Most of the time,

it only hurts when he laughs -- and vice


-Richard Lehnert







· · · · · y · VVVVVVVVV


CARY/AUDIO ELECTRONICS Editor: Iam delighted and honored with the opportunity to read and reply to the latest review of an Audio Electronics product in

In my opinion, the review process conducted by Stereophile is agreat service to the audiophile community, and at the same time is of great benefit to legitimate audio manufacturers. A better product will

money for a preamplifier. The package price of the Pro Reference III/10k represents aconsiderable saving over the price of the individual components. (Pro Reference III, $4300; Pro Reference III phono,

Stereophile: areview of the new SE-811 single-ended monoblock amplifiers. Iam also pleased that Sam Tellig is reporting on the

emerge after the final critiques are in. In keeping with this spirit, we at Audio Electronics are now manufacturing SE-811

$3200; HIPS installed, $3500; special rack, $650; interconnect, $160. Total: $11,810.) We would also like to note that the Pro

events of the most recent single-ended amplifiers with "oil-filled" coupling capac- Reference III/7.5k (Pro III and HIPS with-

symposium held in Philadelphia.

itors in the gain signal path to the SV-811- out phono) is available for $7500.

A few revealing points about the surge and continued strength of the audiophile community's hunger and desire for real triode single-ended amplifiers were evident in the attendance at the seminar. The gathering took place in alarge ballroom at the

3grid circuit as astandard design. This is in response to Sam Tellig's desire for acloser walk to the 300B sound from the 811s. As of this writing Ibelieve we have sent to all SE-811 owners aset of the oil-filled coupling caps at no charge. This change will

All vacuum-tube amplifiers are subject to the subtle tonal variations between different brands of tubes. The aged and tested tubes we supply with the Pro Reference preamplifier have been selected for electrical characteristics. The brand we use is cho-

hotel, and by the time all the attendees took their seats there was still ahuge number of people. In simple terms, it was "standing room only." The significance of this was that only afew months earlier the Philadelphia Audio Society had held asur-

put some -lie, shining from within" to the sound of the new SE-811s. This change and improvement is the result of an ethical review process conducted in your pages.
Thank you once again for the opportunity to have avoice with the Stereophile

sen on the basis of reliability, ready availability, and "neutral" subjective character. Listeners (or their systems) preferring slight tonal changes may wish to experiment with some of the "exotic" 12AX7 tubes on the market. Pro Reference owners

round-sound video presentation at the same hotel. With over $100,000 of equipment, only ahandful of people even both-

readership. Oh yes... as rve stated in the past, "real tube ampleas glow in the dark."

are always welcome to send their "experimental" tubes to us for electrical testing (on aTektronics curve tracer) at no charge.

ered to show up. To further emphasize the success of the single-ended symposium, the next society meeting held by the Philadelphia Audio Society featured push-

President, Cary Audio Design NAIM PREFIX Editor:

The nominal phono cartridge load of 47k

ohms is high enough to allow the cartridge

loading (resistive

ping) to be adjusted

near the cartridge where cable reactance

pull vacuum tube equipment... a very small turnout for this one was reported by aSociety member.
For fear of being repetitive, Ireassert the same comments as Sam Tellig about the audio scribes. Single-ended real triode amplifiers are not some whimsical phenomenon to be scoffed at. The worldwide audiophile community has always had an appetite for better and better sound. It just so happens that "triode single-ended amplifiers" deliver the "Quell!
Regarding the new Audio Electronics SE-811 amplifier, Iwould like to relate just how much fun it has been to develop and design the SE-811. As ateenager Iremember well the triumph and jubilation when I built my first 500W ham radio amplifier. The tubes utilized ... yes ... RCA 811A triodes operating in single-ended mode. Renaissance, second youth, or plain old fond memories consumed me as Igave birth to this new pair of single-ended triode amplifiers. Only this time (39 years later), the new audio version (SV-811-3) of the 811A triode tube put asmile on my face.

Thanks for the review. Noting that Steven Stone used aFidelity Research cartridge, Julian Vereker of Naim would like to comment that for five years he has used a Fidelity Research FR1 Mk2 cartridge with his own ARO tonearm/Phonosophie turntable and Prefix "K" type.
PERFECTIONIST AUDIO COMPONENTS PRO REFERENCE & SUPER IDOS Editor: Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Jack English's insightful review. Jack's careful observations and keen musical understanding will surely help the reader understand the Pro Reference concept and further our search for musical truth. Jack has experienced, and beautifully described, the phenomenon we call "Dynamic Focus" -- the ability to re-create all the contrasts of live sound.
We agree that $10,000 is agreat deal of

will have little effect. (Try this sometime; you will be pleasantly surprised.)
The Pro Reference III/10k preamplifier is asingle-purpose product. Control and amplification of delicate low-level audiofrequency signals requires single-minded devotion to the laws of physics, and careful control of the electromagnetic environment. When achoice must be made between matched internal signal impedance and "inconsistent" input and output socket orientation, signal integrity must prevail. Unless you are areviewer, changing components constantly, the "vertical" orientation of the inputs and "hori-
zontal" orientation of the outputs should not pose ahazard. Features such as polarity inversion, or atrue mono switch, while having apossible use during initial system setup, add complexity to the signal path. Therefore they add distortion, making them unsuitable for listening to music.
The "noisy" volume control Jack mentions has several possible causes. Dirt and contamination, excessive DC offset from the CD player, and improper system



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grounding (Jack's turntable hum sounds very suspicious) are all potentially problematic for the Pro Reference's sensitive high-impedance circuits.
In Jack's description of the Super IDOS he failed to mention what we feel is avery handy feature. The AC voltmeter is not only used to monitor line voltage, it has a "test" mode that can be used to test the AC polarity of all components in the system.
It is satisfying that Jack has learned the benefits of eliminating Digital Grunge. His experience might be further enhanced by taking the scary step of plugging his turntable into the Super IDOS and his power amps into an additional IDOS (or IDOS II). Due to the possibility of current limiting by conventional line conditioners, we always recommend experimenting with their removal. The patented IDOS circuitry deals with aspecific problem in audio systems. It is not aBand-Aid, trying to solve problems after the fact. In many systems, adherence to the KISS principle works.
In closing, we would like to thank the entire Stereophile staff for their efforts to bring knowledge and music into the lives of their readers, and Wes Phillips for bringing some sanity into ours.
LAWRENCE C. SMITH President, Perfectionist Audio Components
AUDIO ALCHEMY HPA-VI.0 Editor: Thank you very much to Stetrophile and Mr. Wes Phillips for his excellent review of our HPA-v1.0 headphone amplifier. The writer does agreat job of describing "the headphone experience" and how the HPA-v1.0 helped him encounter it. Like other fine amplifiers, the HPA-v1.0 shines when matched to an equally capable transducer. Under these conditions, the "experience" can be remarkable.
Our goal was to offer the consumer an extraordinary value while still living up to the scrutiny of the high-end audio marketplace. The statement that the HPA-v1.0 is "an impressive product at an affordable price" indicates that we achieved our goal. As Wes mentioned, the HPA-v1.0, like all other Audio Alchemy products, benefits from the economies of (relatively) mass production. The combination of aminiature class-A power amplifier with Alchemy's rendition of the HeadRoom AIP could only be done at the $259 price point by sharing componentry with the DAC-in-the-Box and VAC-in-the-Box products.
We would like to remind consumers that the ultimate in performance, the Power Station Two fully regulated power supply, can be used with the HPA-v1.0. Wait 'til Wes hears that combination!
PETER MADNICK Vice President, Audio Alchemy
MCCORMACK MICRO INTEGRATED DRIVE Editor: My thanks to Wes Phillips for having too

much fun listening to the Micro Integrated Drive and the new Grado 'phones (which are wonderful).
While the MID is not the amp Iwould grab to drive my subwoofers, it is surprising -- even startling, occasionally -- to hear what afew good-quality watts can do with an appropriate set of speakers. Irun one on my computer rig and another in the bedroom, and they never fail to impress me. You just don't expect an amp that small to be able to do anything, let alone rock out! However, the MID is intended primarily as ahigh-performance headphone amp and preamplifier and, as Wes correctly points out, that's where it really excels.
Micro owners (and potential owners), take note: Later this year we plan to introduce the "Micro Power Station" -- an upgraded power supply for the Micro series. This will be alarge transformer in a Micro package, capable of powering all of the Micros (except the power amplifier) simultaneously. It will provide improved performance for all the Micros, and it will push the Micro Integrated Drive's power into the 6-7W range! Idon't know who out there actually needs that kind of raw, brute power, but lately I've heard rumors of amplifiers in the /OW range (», so Iguess it's okay.
Final note to Wes Phillips re: "Aurea nunc vere stint saecula." You talkin' to me, pal? You wanna step outside and say that??
STEVE MCCORMACK Designer, McCormack Audio



We feel an urgent need to bring some er-

rata from the April 1996 (Vol.19 No.4) issue

of Stereophile to your attention.

It was stated in "Recommended Com-

ponents" that the "SHA-1" is being delet-

ed due to its being discontinued and re-

placed by the "SHA-GOLD." This is not the


The SHA-1 is still in production and

continues to sell well.

The SHA-GOLD is aseparate product

and retails at nearly twice the cost.

Please rectify this error as soon as possi-

ble, as it is wreaking havoc among our




ALÓN V Editor: Many thanks to Stereophile, Russell Novak, and John Atkinson for this review of the Alón V. We know that it takes agreat deal of effort to review ahigh-end loudspeaker system that possesses the transparency of the Alón V. Indeed, one is never fully sure one is not listening to component interactions or room interactions rather than the inherent characteristics of the loudspeaker under scrutiny. These interactions must be evaluated in addition to the situation wherein anew component of superior performance reveals deficiencies further up-



stream in sources or components. In fact, the more perfect the loudspeaker becomes, the more this becomes adilemma for the reviewer. While we realize that it is impossible to try all combinations of components, it is unlikely that at any one time agiven reviewer will have an optimum set of componentsjust waiting for the arrival of apair of Alón V Mk.IIs. Still, we see that Russell used one CD transport, one DAC, two preamps, and two amplifiers. It is interesting to note that the Alón Vs changed their sound dramatically with an amplifier change and significantly with apreamp change. What about transports, DACs, and other preamps? They are notorious for affecting the midrange balance and other characteristics of ahigh-end system, such as microdynamics and the ultimate resolution floor of the whole system.
Recent research in high-end sound indicates that the manner in which components arc mounted has alarge effect on sound and on micmdynamics in particular. This is atricky business, but it appears that
isolating components mechanically pays big dividends in transparency and resolution of microdynamics. Solid, massive stone structures that may be reasonably dead acoustically can and do transmit subsonic vibrations with high efficiency. This will have the effect of masking low-level information. We raise this point as Alón loudspeakers are renowned for the revelation of lowlevel detail, if not the ability to provide room-filling sound with 2W In another magazine, the Alón V Mk.I1 was described as atransducer that takes on the characteristics of the source and partnering components. We feel this is as it should be.
Given the fact that the Alón V Mk.II is a vertical array, it is naturally sensitive to the vertical listening or measuring axis. In addition, individual rooms will provide different measurements, as will different placements in the same room. Measuring on asub-optimum axis, John's curve is still ±2.5d11 from 100Hz to 15kHz. Note:John generally measures at aheight of 37", while we measure between the midrange and tweeter axis. The effect is not that important for listening but
is significant for measuring. There is no one right place to measure aspeaker, as they do not have output terminals.
We find it of sonic interest that John measured the tweeter output arriving before the midrange output. We go to the extra expense and effort to have aseparate baffle tilted back at a9° angle, with the
tweeter counterbored by 3732" and the
whole array stepped back from the woofer --just to have the tweeter arrive first anyway? There is either something amiss with John's measurement or with this loudspeaker. After all, the Petite is much less expensive to build--but must be tilted back 9° to time-align the tweeter. We never claimed that the Alón V is phasealigned, but that it is time-aligned. The leading edge of the applied waveform will arrive at your ear at the same time from the

drivers. [Moving the microphone down a/eu'

Regarding the cost increment required to

inchesfrom the Alón Vs midrattee axis, where I own the superior performance of aC.E.C.

peditnned my main measurements, does brine the Belt Drive CD transport, I'd remind

outputs of the three drivers into approximate Stereophile readers that there is agrowing

alignment. However, as Imentioned in the review, number of even higher-priced Cl) trans-

it is actually the fact that the midranee unit is
Russell states, "The Alón V reflected

ports that don't have nearly the formidable musicality of the CE.C.s (or of the C.E.C.built Parasound C/131)-2000, for that matter). Few CD transports at any price have

changes in hardware and software so well that I'm tempted to review associated components rather than the speaker itself--

the build quality and unabashed feeling of luxury you get when handling aC.E.C. It is the build quality of the C.E.C. Belt Drive

such was the degree of audible change CD transports that gives them atactile feelaccompanying changes in system configu- ing that is positively luxurious. Since your

ration. This is atribute to the speaker."

CD transport is the one component you're

Russell sums up by saying, "The Alón obliged to touch every time you use it, and

provides the potential for sound that is very

near the state of the art." We don't think

we could have said it better ourselves. We

also admit that we are glad we are not

faced with the task of reviewing an Alón V



it is astellar performer, many will consider this little self-indulgence worthwhile.
Now, about that prototype TL 2. Parasound never submitted aC.E.C. TL 2to Stereophile to review. When one of our staff carried the first production Spica TC-

President, Acarian Systems 60s to Santa Fe for John Atkinson's review,

M ARILYN M ARCH ISOTTO we learned that Bob Harley would be vis-

Vice President, Acarian Systems iting Stermphile World Headquarters that

C.E.C. TL 2

Editor: Steven








was most welcome. Naturally, we arc


reported, "Bottom line: The the best transport I've had in

my system." Steven also raised some very

interesting issues in his review.


After Bob 1, he asked

had reviewed the C.E.C. me to keep him advised of

future C.E.C. CD Belt Drive develop-

ments. The TL 2prototype was brought

mostly to show Bob how C.E.C. was start-

ing to approach alower-priced model, as

well as to show off my personal influence

on its cosmetic design. No, JA, it wasn't

brought to get afree consultation. It was





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(215) 725-4080 ·Fax: (215) 725-4495


only there for show and tell. However, we Steven Stone didn't know what Iknew:

made one big mistake: Our employee left that the prototype was barely suitable for

the prototype at Stereophik instead of carry- casual listening, much less acritical review.

ing it back

Steven, nearly every part inside the TL 2was

To avoid the risk that it might be con- changed from prototype to production.

strued as acandidate for areview, Para-

Iappreciate Steven's agreeing to listen to

sound called Stereophile several times to re- aproduction model, which was sent by

quest the return of this prototype. Its ultimate fate was to take up permanent resi-

overnight. effort into

It's his


of 2.

dence in our Hall of Prototypes. (I don't Perhaps that explains why he dwelled at

have the heart to torch expensive proto- such length on the performance of aunit

types, but I'll admit it would be tempting that nobody could ever purchase and was in no

to euthanize them with agentle lob off the way comparable to the performance of a

Golden Gate Bridge, which seems more production unit. I'm sure the last thing he

appropriate, considering where we're wanted was to write asecond review of the

located.) Eventually, Igave up trying to re- TL 2.

trieve this prototype and forgot about it.

So thanks, Steven, for keeping the faith

(No, JA, Ididn't ny terribly hard to get it on C.E.C. CD Belt Drive, and your coop-

back, because Ididn't need it back.)

eration in taking the extra time to review

Considering the plethora of equipment the real thing. Now, would you please

handled at Stereophile, we should never have return that prototype? RICHARD SCHRAM

left this unit. Ican fully appreciate JA's poli-

President, Parasound Products

cy that if aproduct is there, it's fair game.

One day, we received aphone call from ROTEL RCD-950

Stereophilcis Nancy Fay requesting aphoto Editor:

of the TL 2. This was agood news/bad The fax from Stereophile with the review of

news call. Nancy calls for photos when a the Rotel RCD-950 CD player arrived at

product review is forthcoming -- indicat- breakfast time, and, not having anewspa-

ing the review is virtually complete. We per to read with my cornflakes, Idid the

searched our records in vain to find when unthinkable -- I read the review from

we shipped aTL 2to Stereophile for review. beginning to end. The normal practice is to

When it dawned on me it was the proto- flip to the end and read the conclusion,

type TL 2that had finally surfaced, Iwas avoiding all the waffle and hype.

very concerned. Obviously, reviewer

I'm very glad Ibegan at the beginning,

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because Ifound Muse Kastanovich an en-

tertaining writer. It's obvious from his style

that he is passionate about audio and is able

to convey that to the reader. He has anice

turn of phrase. Gre Le. Dunn, "our man from Missouri in Tokyo" and scribe of the

instruction manual, is delighted to know

that someone took the time and trouble to

read his prose. We now want Gres: to add

alittle bit of Muse's humor, then maybe

more people would take the time and

trouble to struggle through the do's and

don'ts. John, Ithink you've found agreat

new writer, and Ihope your readers appre-

ciate him!

On with the review. Our copy did not

include any graphs produced by Robert

Harley, and we have been unable to repli-

cate his measurements. Our own measure-

ments [that show normal noisefloor behav-

ior] are appended; we would be happy to

chat with Robert to see what's going on,

but the good news is it doesn't seem to have

any deleterious effect on the sound. We do

agree with Muse that it is very important to

break-in aCD player, and that running-in

for aperiod of time prior to auditioning is

absolutely essential.

So, thank you for the digestive aid at

breakfast time. I'm grateful Ididn't need

the Alka-Seltzer!


VP & General Manager, Rotel of America

ULTRASYSTEMS AT WCES Editor: Iguess this falls into the category of "You can't please all the people all the time," but Iwas surprised, upon readinig your WCES '96 Las VVeegass Show Report April, p.63] to find no mention of any of our products. Though it may seem asmall thing in comparison to product reviews or "Recommended Components" listings, Stereophile has all but become the "publication of record" with respect to our industry; recognition of our efforts at the trade shows is important for asmall company like ours.
So while there were several mentions of the great sound coming from the room we (and Pass Labs) shared with our exhibiting partner, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, nobody mentioned the great Chameleon speakers, or the RoomTune ClampRacks and Acoustic Treatments, or the Audio Points, or Michael Green's Cable Grounds.
Analog got lots of coverage, but what about the half-dozen VPI TuneTables in use around the show? This is RoomTune's first dedicated rack for analog front-ends and accommodates (for instance) all the VPI TNT permutations available (with and without flywheel, etc.).
Oh yes, and those other 46 rooms using RoomTune acoustic treatments!
Given the omission, could we ask for some extra-special effort to come see us in Waldorf=Astoria Room 719 at your own HI-FI '96 Show in NYC? We will be launching the new "i" series of the popular Revolution Series speakers from Michael Green, including new "tuneable" Home


Theater speakers, plus afew other surprises. Not to be missed! Thanks!
ROBERT STEIN UltraSystems/Michael Green Designs




We would like to thank Stereophile for re-

porting on our newest product, CD

Blacklight, at the Winter CES. After read-

ing Sam Tellig's Show report [April, p.451

we felt it important to clarify the origin of

CD Stoplight and add aside note to the

"Recommended Components" description.

CD Stoplight was engineered during my

tenure at Clear Image Audio and licensed to

AudioPrism for distribution, thus explaining

"by Clear Image Audio" on the packaging.

It has been six years since CD Stoplight

was introduced to the general public During

that time it has enjoyed critical acclaim and

great success in virtually every comer of the

globe. To our knowledge, no one has suc-

cessfully duplicated its performance.

When Victor Tiscareno, Director of En-

gineering of AudioPrism, and Ipurchased

AudioPrism in 1994, we began to expand

upon the investigations conducted for CD

Stoplight. During the past two years we

have discovered additional phenomena

that affect the extraction of musical infor-

mation from the compact disc medium.

Our new product, CD Blacklight, is the

result of this research.

A note of caution concerning application

of any chemical substance to your compact

discs: Our research did conclude that some

sonic improvement can be had by using a standard art marker or some pigmented

coating. Unfortunately, no commercially available coating formulation we tested met

every part of our design performance crite-

rion, or used apigment/vehicle combina-

tion that would not potentially harm polycarbonate yet provide repeatable document-

ed performance. After testing by amajor

CD manufacturer in the US, with whom

we are exploring licensing for OEM ap-

plication, their engineering staff was able to

independently document repeatable mea-

surable improvement in the reduction ofjit-

ter with the application of CD Stoplight.

CD Stoplight is a purpose-engineered

product that reduces jitter, will not harm compact dices, and is nontoxic and easy to

apply. If applied as directed, it may be han-

dled hundreds oftimes without fear ofchip-

ping, flaking, or peeling. Should CD

Stoplight need to be removed from the CD, with caution it may be removed by simply

soaking the disc in warm, soapy water while

gently rubbing the edge.

We would be remiss if we did not thank Stereophile for reporting the virtues of CD

Stoplight, as well as hundreds of thousands

of audiophiles throughout the world who

have made "putting on the green" nearly as popular as Sr. Patrick himself. We only

hope that "glowing green in the dark" will

be as well received.



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Editor: We are very pleased with your magazine in general, but one major mistake and one room missed (our major audio room) happened in the WCES report issue (April'96).

attention you and so much of our industry paid us at the 1996 WCES. We have worked hard on speaker design, casting technology, and materials development, and it is gratifying to have this work recognized in such terms. However, we would like to clear up afew minor misconcep-

sole responsibility for Dark Matter and any designs that derive therefrom, we continue to deny any responsibility for the sudden repossession of these products by any alien forces, hostile or otherwise.
Ric CUMMINS President, Rosinanté

1) On p.87, Robert Deutsch reports on tions, particularly as regards materials

Unity Speakers' new technology with EAD front-end and SIMA amplifiers. Sim-

development. Rosinanté has patents pending on Dark

Audio stopped producing amplifiers under Matter. The rumors surrounding this mate-

the SIMA brand in 1994. Since 1992 Sim- rial, including but not limited to the evil

Audio has produced amplifiers under the slanders regarding Dark Matter's origins, or

Celeste brand name. Three models were that there were small grayish-hued repre-

used in that specific room: one 1412, two sentatives of Rosinanté wandering about

W, and one W-4150.

the Show, are strictly denied and discour-

2) As aStereophile customer, Iexpect, at aged by Rosinanté. In point of fact, the

the minimum, to be visited and written alit- material was developed in-house by myself

tle about Ithink that abusiness relationship in consultation with the aforementioned

is two-way, if it is not, one should drop the ashen employees, who were left at home in

relationship. Our main audio room was on Kansas where they create less of astir.

the second floor of the Sahara Bi-Level fea-

The amplifier we showed with was my

turing our new P-4002 dual-chassis pream- personal amp, aFourier Triomphe, that

plifier ($1595). The W-4150se amplifier (al- we redesigned to demonstrate the viabili-

so new) was driving the Gershman Acoustic ty of the Dark Matter as achassis material.

Avant-Garde speakers.

The electronics were left nearly un-

Imay forget this in my next life, but I touched and reflect the terrific quality of

hope it will not happen again.

Fourie?s circuit design.


We are continuing development of the

Editor: Iwould like to correct some information in the April 1996 WCES report.
While complimentary mention was made of the loudspeakers in the Cary room, the project was undertaken not as a"showcase for Focal drive-units" -- the ribbon tweeters, for example, are Raven --but, in conjunction with Kimon Bellas of Orca, was initiated by our wish for loudspeakers of the highest quality and aesthetic.
Contrary to your statement, this was very much a"labor of love." Handmade throughout with an uncompromising attention to detail, the project is by necessity a somewhat limited edition. However, commissions for either model would be most welcome at (310) 455-3266.

C,eleste/SimAudio Dark Matter and will shortly introduce a

consumer-available product line that will


include bases for several major tube com-


ponents as well as OEM chassis for Fourier

As ayoung company, we appreciate the and others. Of course, despite our claim of

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Sawyer's News (707) 542-1311


Studio City Dave's Video, The Laser Place (818) 760-3472

Bristol Sound Unlimited (203) 584-0131

Torrance Stereo Hi Fi Center (213) 373-6796

Danbury Carston Stereo (203) 744-6421

Tustin The Digital Ear (714) 544-7903

Hartford Al Franklin's Music (203) 869-1900

Van Nuys Audio Den (818) 786-4240 Ventura Billy Bags (805) 644-2185
Walnut Creek Sound Distinction (510) 944-4740

The Stereo Shop (203) 523-7250 New Haven Take Five (203) 787-9127 New London Roberts (203) 442-5314 Simsbury

Stereo Unlimited (510) 932-5835

The Audible Difference (203) 651-7945

Woodland Hills Shelley's Stereo (818) 716-8500

DELAWARE Wilmington Overture LLC (302) 478-6050

COLORADO Arvada SoundTrack (303) 425-6700

FLORIDA Boca Raton Better Sound (407) 338-8898

Front Row Center (407) 241-1767 Stereo Shoppe (407) 391-0552 Clearwater Rising Sounds (813) 787-1133 Coral Gables Sound Components (305) 665-4299 Fort Lauderdale Southport Home
Entertainment (954) 537-3353 Hollywood Hollywood Sound (305) 921-1408 World Book 8. News (213) 465-4352 Jacksonville House of Stereo (904) 642-6677 Key West Audio Video International (305) 294-4018 Madeira Beach Book Nook of Madeira (813) 392-8541 Margate Good Sounds (305) 969-2550 Miami Audio by Caruso (305) 253-4433 Sunrise South Florida Sights
8. Sounds (954) 349-8766
GEORGIA Atlanta Music Audio (404) 252-5360 Dunwoody Audio Solutions (404) 804-8977 Marietta Audio Atlanta (404) 499-0145 Martinez Stereo Shoppe (706) 863-9143
HAWAII Honolulu Audio Directions (808) 732-6550 Classic Audio &Video (808) 732-9625
IDAHO Coeur d'Alene Everything Stereo (208) 772-3348
ILLINOIS Belleville Audio By Us (618) 277-9500 Champaign Glenn Poor's Audio Video (217) 356-5456
Record Service (217) 384-2999 Chicago Music Direct (312) 433-0200
Van L. Speakenvorks (312) 769-0773
Superior Audio Systems (312) 226-4848 Chicago Heights Music in Motion (708) 754-3770 DeKalb Classic Hi Fi (815) 758-4434 Des Plaines Algonquin Records (708) 827-0673

Naperville Quintessence Audio (708) 357-4190 Orland Park Sound 8. Vision (708) 403-2500 Palatine The Sound Lab (708) 776-8888
INDIANA Fort Wayne Audio Video Lifestyles (219) 436-4669 Three Rivers Audio (219) 422-5460 Indianapolis Tone Studio (317) 257-0601 Lafayette Sound Lab (317) 449-4211 Terre Haute The Audio Connection (812) 232-1663
IOWA Beftendorl Reference Audio Video (319) 355-3200 Davenport Camera Corner's Visions
8. Vibes (319) 391-8144 Planet Audio (319) 344-8833 Des Moines Audio Video Logic (515) 255-2134 Iowa City Audio Odyssey (319) 338-9505 Hawkeye Audio (319) 337-4878
KANSAS Wichita Custom Sound (316) 681-3555
LOUISIANA Baton Rouge Art Colleys Audio Specialties (504) 926-0244 Harahan Audio Orleans (504) 737-2026 New Orleans Wilson Audio (504) 866-3457
MARYLAND Annapolis Hi Tech Electronics (410) 266-0818 Baltimore Soundscape (410) 889-1134 Burtonsville JS Audio (301) 989-2500 Ellicott City Gramophone. Ltd. (410) 465-5500 Kensington Soundworks (301) 589-1191 Lutherville Gramophone, Ltd. (410) 821-5600 Silverspring Capitol Classics Newsstand (301) 598-2669 Towson Silver Screen &Sound (410) 296-0202
MASSACHUSETTS Arlington Cameras Inc. (617) 648-8111

Boston Goodwin's Audio (617) 734-8800
Looney Tunes Records (617) 247-2238 Brookline Audio Studio (617) 277-0111 Cambridge Audio Lab (617) 864-1144 Looney Tunes li (617) 876-5624 0Audio (617) 547-2727 Framingham Natural Sound (508) 879-3556 Hopedale RA Labs USA (508) 478-5413 Needham You Do It Electronics (617) 449-1005 Pittsfield H.B.S. Stereo Systems (413) 443-3434 Shrewsbury Goodwin's Audio (617) 734-8800 Worcester O'Coin's (508) 791-3411
MICHIGAN Dearborn Almas Hi-Fi Stereo (313) 584-1860 Ferndale Imagery (313) 544-8370 Iron Mountain Sound City USA dba Sound North (906) 744-9400 Kalamazoo The Aural Kiosk (616) 384-5787 Royal Oak Audio Dimensions (810) 549-7320 Saginaw Listening Room #2 (517) 792-3816 Traverse City The Sound Room (616) 947-4710 West Bloomfield Soundquest Audio (810) 737-0005 Superior Sight &Sound (810) 626-2780
MINNESOTA Hopkins Audio Video Dimensions (612) 932-9414 Hi End Audio (612) 933-4064 Minneapolis Audio Perfection (612) 866-0083 HiFi Sound Electronics (612) 339-6351
Needle Doctor (800) 229-0644 Rochester Amalgamated Audio (507) 286-1320
MISSOURI Columbia Keith Audio Group (314) 445-9716 St. Louis Flip's Stereo Place (314) 842-1600
Great St. Louis Sound Co. (314) 993-0002



Music tor Pleasure (314) 645-0304 Theodosia Integrative Services (417) 273-2150
MONTANA Billings Inner Sanctum (406) 656-6193 Bozeman Thirsty Ear Hi Fi (406) 586-8578 Great Falls Rocky Mountain Hi Fi (406) 761-8683
NEVADA Las Vegas Image & Sound (702) 876-3401 Metropolitan Newsstand (702) 798-8002 Reno Wild West Electronics (702) 825-4600
NEW HAMPSHIRE Hanover Camera Shop of Hanover (603) 643-4545 Dartmouth Bookstore (603) 643-1233 Milford Book Ends (603) 673-0851 Nashua Ensemble (603) 888-9777
NEW JERSEY Bernardsville Sight F. Sound (908) 766-7888 Freehold Freehold Stereo Video (908) 866-9500 Linwood Sounds and Images (609) 926-1630

Marlton Hi El Connection (609) 983-0002 Music on the Square (609) 988-3700 Middletown Stereo Dynamics (908) 671-1559 Montclair Cohen's (210) 744-2399 Ridgewood Sounding Board (2011 445-5006 Trenton Hal's Stereo and Video (609) 883-6338 Upper Montclair GSA Audio (201) 744-0600 Verona Audio Connection (201) 239-1799 West Caldwall Woodbridge Stereo (201) 575-8264 Woodbridge Woodbridge Stereo Center (908) 636-7777
NEW MEXICO Albuquerque Audio Designs (505) 298-9185 Hudson's Audio Center (505) 296-6978 Page One Newsstand (505) 294-2026 Sound Consultant (505) 821-9626
Sound Ideas (505) 292-1188 Santa Fe ASound Look (505) 983-5509 Audio Designs (505) 984-9185 The Candyman (505) 988-8933

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Downtown Subscription (505) 983-3085 Galisteo News (505) 984-1316
NEW YORK Albany Altair Audio (518) 452-3525 Batavia Unicorn Audio (716) 343-6470 Binghamton JSG/Audio Video (607) 723-2212 Brooklyn Eagle Audio Video (718) 438-4401
Ubiquity Distributors (718) 875-5491 Lake Grove Audio Den. Ltd (516) 360-1990 Latham Clark Music in Albany (518) 785-4322 Liverpool Audio Excellence NY (315) 451-2707
Signature Sound (315) 622-4137 Lynbrook American Audiophile Trading (516) 887-7530 Manhasset Audio Video Creations (516) 365-4434 Merrick Performance Audio (516) 378-4389 Mount Kisco Fox & Sutherland (914) 666-8088
The Sound Mill (914) 241-1230 Nanuel Stereo Exchange (914) 623-3333 New York Coliseum Books (212) 757-8381
Dina Magazines (212) 674-6595
J&R Music World (212) 238-9000
Lyric Hi -Fi (212) 439-1900
The Magazine Store (212) 246-4766
Park Avenue Audio (212) 685-8101
Sound by Singer (212) 924-8600 Stereo Exchange (212) 505-1111
Union Square Magazine Shop (212) 246-4766 Cambria Heights, Doyens T.D Electronics (718) 528-4956 Rochester Fairport Soundworks (716) 264-6410
Rowe Audio (716) 442-8230 Sound Concepts (716) 442-6050 Scarsdale Listening Room (914) 472-4558 Syracuse Clark Music (315) 446-7020
Gordon Brothers (315) 446-9440 West Babylon Audio Visions (516) 661-3355
NORTH CAROLINA Cary Advanced Audio (919) 481-3880 Raleigh Audio Advice (919) 881-2005 Winston-Salem Audio Spectrum (910) 650-1888
Platinum Audio (919) 765-1949

OHIO Boardman The Sound Shop (216) 629-8191 Cincinnati Audible Elegance (513) 793-3737 Ohio Valley Audio (513) 451-4855 Columbus Progressive Audio (614) 299-0565 Dayton Audio Etc.... (513) 429-4434 Dublin Audio Encounters (614) 766-4434 Findlay House of Hindenach (419) 422-0392 Lakewood Play It Again Sam (216) 228-7330 Lyndhurst Hi-Tech Hi -Fi &Video (216) 449-4434 Toledo Jamiesons' (419) 882-2571
Paragon Sound (419) 882-1010
OKLAHOMA Bartlesville The Sound Station (918) 336-2240 Oklahoma City Contemporary Sound (405) 755-0795 Tulsa K-Labs Audio (918) 665-1113
OREGON Beaverton Chelsea Audio (503) 641-3533 Corvallis Northwest Audio Labs (503) 753-0472 Eugene Ronny's Stereo (503) 344-2454 Portland Chelsea Audio (503) 226-3533 Fred's Sound of Music (503) 234-5341
PENNSYLVANIA Allentown Take 5Visual Sound Systems (610) 791-5151 Chambersburg Squires Electronics (717) 532-2875 Doylestown Trac Records (215) 348-5633 Erie Custom Audio (814) 833-8383 Harrisburg Hi Fi House (717) 737-7775 Jenkintown The Stereo Trading Outlet (215) 886-1650 King of Prussia Tower RecordsNideo #830 (610) 265-2525 Philadelphia David Lewis Audio (215) 725-1177 Pittsburgh The Audio Gallery (412) 521-9500 Audio Options (412) 421-1099 Selinsgrove Village TV &Stereo Shop (707) 374-0150 Shippensburg Squires Electronics (717) 532-2875 Tipton Tipton Audio Video
(814) 684-2795 Willow Grove Soundex (215) 659-8815

RHODE ISLAND Providence Ocean State Audio (401) 943-2580
SOUTH CAROLINA Columbia Upstairs Audio (803) 256-3277 Greenville American Audio (803) 288-4293
SOUTH DAKOTA Brookings Zephyr Audio (605) 697-5326
TENNESSEE Johnson City The Soundroom (615) 928-9233 Madison Audio Video Environments (615) 868-7710 Memphis Underground Sound (901) 272-1275 Nashville Cumberland Audio (615) 297-4700 Nicholson's Stereo (615) 327-4312

WASHINGTON, DC Serenade Records (202) 452-0075 Tower Video (916) 373-2561
WEST VIRGINIA Charleston American Audio (304) 343-2244 South Charleston Absolute Sound (304) 768-7874
WISCONSIN Appleton Suess Electronics (414) 733-6464 Cudahy Cudahy News & Hobby (414) 769-1500 Glendale Sound Investments (414) 438-1818 Madison University Audio 1608) 284-0001 Mequon Sound Designs (414) 242-5599 Wisconsin Rapids Salon I (715) 421-5910

TEXAS Amarillo Don's Hi-Fidelity (806) 353-9625
Sound Systems, Ltd. (806) 353-9527 Dallas Audio Home (214) 247-1487
Home Entertainment (214) 931-2102
Krystal Klear Audio (214) 520-7156 El Paso Soundquest (915) 779-5421 Houston Dynamic Audio Visual (713) 266-4555
The Groove Audio Video (713) 523-2900 Lubbock The Sound Wave (806) 792-7299 Plano Home Entertainment (214) 931-2102
UTAH Orem Crandall Audio (801) 226-8737 Salt Lake City Audio Design (801) 486-5511
Audition Audio (801) 467-5918
VIRGINIA Abingdon Alpine Audio (540) 628-3177 Centreville Gifted Listener Audio (703) 818-8000 Falls Church High Tech Electronic Services (703) 534-1733 Richmond Audio Art (804) 644-8903
Stereo Trading Post (804) 320-2684 Virginia Beach Digital Sound (804) 424-5850
WASHINGTON Seattle Bulldog News (206) 632-6397
Definitive Audio (206) 524-6633
Hawthorne Stereo (206) 522-9609
University Bookstore (206) 545-4387 Silverdale Nuts About Hi Fi (206) 698-1348

CANADA National Distributor DeWinton, Alberta Ruehle Marketing Box 24, Site One, RR1
ALBERTA Calgary K&W Audio 1424 Fourth St SW Loyalty Sound, Ltd 1107 Eighth St SW Smart Audio Video 4216 12th St NE. Bay 1 Sounds of Music 220 Seventh Ave SW Edmonton Audio Ark 10745 124th St Audio Plus 9934 82nd Ave Medicine Hat Audio Excellence 657 Second St SE
BRITISH COLUMBIA Burnaby Book Warehouse 4820 Kingsway #M163 Coquitlam Austin Books 1105 Austin Ave Courtenay Clarion Books 8, Music 480 Sixth St New Westminster Royal Book Mart 600 Agnes St Richmond Book Warehouse 6340-9 No 3Rd Vancouver Book Warehouse 632 W Broadway 1150 Robson St 2388 W Fourth Ave 674 Granville St. 4th Floor Elite Electronics 2220 W Broadway #101 Sikora's Classical Records 432 W Hastings St The Soundroom 2205 W Fourth Ave Victoria Sweet Thunder Records 575 Johnson St
NOVA SCOTIA Halifax Atlantic News 5560 Morris St
ONTARIO Concord Audio One 3200 Steeles Ave W. Hamilton Village Audio --Westdale 1059 King St W. #2



Kingston Just Hi-Fi 239 Princess St London London Audio 716 York St Hepean Euphonies Audio &Video 1480 Merivale Rd Oakville Oakville Audio 210 Lakeshore Rd E. Ottawa Distinctive Audio 903 Carling Ave Pembroke Pembroke Audio Video 69 Pembroke St W. Rexdale Audio Empire 1003 Albion Rd Richmond Hill American Sound 9108 Yonge St Audio Excellence 8763-A Bayview Scarborough Grand Electronics 19 Milliken Blvd Thornhill Brack Electronics North 7616 Yonge St Toronto Brack Electronics 69 Front St E. Great National Sound 615 Queen St W. L'Atelier Grigorian 70 Yorkville Ave Unionville Digital Hi-End 5221 Hwy 7#3 Waterloo Soundstage 59 Regina St N. Whitby American Sound Whitby 233 Brock St S.
QUEBEC Montréal Opus Audio 5154 Boul. Décarie Son Or/Filtronique 9343 Lajeunesse Ouébec C.O.R.A. 131-18 Rue E. Ste-Foy ROTAC électronique 2873 Chemin Ste-Foy
ARGENTINA National Distributor Buenos Aires RJ Martinez Tel/Fax. (54) 1-585-1413
AUSTRALIA National Distributor Templestowe, Victoria Audio OImports Tel: (61) 3-1994-8413 Fax: (61) 3-9846-2407
BALTIC STATES Riga, Latvia ATTrade 13th of January Street 13 Tel (3712) 211-688
BELGIUM See Benelux
BENELUX National Distributor Vlijmen, Netherlands Durob Audio BV Dept. DC Publishing Tel: (31) 4108-12-555 Fax: (31) 4108-17-583 Hasselt, Belgium Ghijsens Hifi Store Tel (32) 11-22-96-59 Tel (32) 11-22-95-71
BRUNEI Bandar Seri Begawan Auvisual Haven Tel (673) 244-88-40 Fax: (673) 244-88-41

CHILE Santiago Comercial Rupaygo Limitada Tel/Fax (562) 2-209-2134
COSTA RICA Curridiabat, San Jose Parlatek SA Tel/lax :(506) 225-8231
CROATIA National Distributor Split Media Audio Tel: (385) 589-742 Fax (385) 214-03-76
CZECH REPUBLIC Prague Ego vos Audio Studio Tel (42) 9000-1180 Fax: (42) 9000-1181
DENMARK National Distributor Charlottenlund Matrix Aps Tel: (45) 39-402-100 Fax (45) 39-402-340 Copenhagen Fredgaard Radio Norrevold 17 Hi -Fi Entusiasten Tagensvej 162 Rungsted Hi-Fi Huset Pennehave 7 Vejle SK Sound Vissingsgade 71
FRANCE National Distributor Toulouse Acoustic Precision Sad Tel: (33) 61-75-06-64 Fax: (33) 61-73-58-82 Audio Salon Tel: (33) 61-12-33-66 Brest Brazil Tel: (33) 98-43-1188 Cannes Vector Tel: (33) 92-99-0720 Paris Affirmative Tel: (33) 47-34-1682 Port Royal Audio Tel: (33) 30-64-9222 Creation Audio Tel (33) 40-20-9528
GERMANY National Distributor Geisenheim-Stephanshausen Eclectic Audio Tel (49) 6722-8060 Fax (49) 6722-8067
GREECE National Distributor Athens N.M. Acoustics Tel: (30) 1-292-2724 Fax: (30) 1-293-3168
National Distributor YK Audio Tel: (8522) 524-8775 Fax: (8522) 845-0746 Kowloon Branch Tel: (8522) 392-6368 Fax: (8522) 392-6328
IRELAND National Distributor Blackrock, County Dublin Cloney Audio Tel (353) 1-288-8477 Fax: (353) 1-283-4887

JAPAN National Distributor Tokyo AXISS Corporation Tel: (81) 3-5410-0071 Fax: (81) 3-5410-0622
Seoul Audio Mart Fax (82) 2-514-2089
MACEDONIA TP, Kodi Export-Import Tel/Fax: (389) 91 11 83 66
National Distributor Kuala Lumpur The Sound Stage Tel (60) 3-717-6969 Fax: (60) 3-719-4188
MARTINIQUE, FRENCH WEST INDIES St. Joseph Frequence Audio Conseil Tel (596) 64 69 63 Fax: (596) 57 96 39
MEXICO National Distributor Mexico OF Heaven Sound Tel: (52) 5-563-3187 Fax: (52) 5-563-8110
NEW ZEALAND National Distributor Petone, Wellington DR Britton Tel (64) 4-6366-272 Fax (64) 4-5688-065
NORWAY National Distributor Eidsvaagneset Audio Media Tel'Fax (47) 55-25-62-14
PHILIPPINES National Distributor Quezon City Upscale Audio Tel/Fax (63) 2-931-3742
Warsaw Hifi Sound Studio. Ltd. Tel/Fax: (48) 2-774-8154
PORTUGAL National Distributor Ana dora Alasolll Tel: (351) 1474-8709 Fax: (351) 1475-1367
Rio Piedras Heights Speaker Warehouse 1701 Parana Tel/fax' (809) 274-0927 San Juan Nova Electronics Ave de Diego 270 Interior Puerto Nuevo
Bucharest Valimpex --High End Audio Tel: (40) 677-3750 Fax (40) 677-2743

National Distributor Lucca Sound 8. Music Tel: (39) 583-55-301 Fax: (39) 583-419-115

Moscow ATTrade Ostozhenka 37. Kor 3 Tel (7) 095-291-5086 Fax: (7) 095-291-5871

Esoterica Tel: (7) 095-917-4385 Fax: (7) 095-917-8762 Neo Tek Tel: (US) (408) 973-0946 Fax: (US) (406) 725-8335 The Purple Legion 40/42 Maxim Gorky
Nabereznay Tel: (7) 095-233-1442 Fax: (7) 095-248-3352
SINGAPORE National Distributor The Adelphi Stereophile Audio 1Coleman St Tel/Fax: (65) 33-66-790
SOUTH AFRICA National Distributor Alberton, Gauteng Hi -Fi Excellence Tel: (27) 11-907-9092 Fax: (27) 11-907-8399
SPAIN National Distributor Valencia Sarte Audio Elite Tel: (34) 6-351-0798 Fax: (34) 6-351-5254
SWEDEN National Distributor Stockholm Hi-Fi Art Tel: (46) 8-661-6300 Fax: (46) 8-660-2207
SWITZERLAND National Distributor Geneva Hi-Fi Portier Tel: (41) 22-784-0050 Fax: (41) 22-784-2904
Bangkok Mining Group Ltd. Tel/Fax: (66) 2-241-5330 Music World Co., Ltd. Tel (66) 2-276-5190 Fax: (66) 2-276-2456 Hi-Fi Club Fortune Town, 3rd floor
TURKEY Istanbul RKD Muzik Tel: (90) 212-241-3411 Fax: (90) 212-231-9673
UNITED KINGDOM National Newsstand
Distributor Feltham COMM Magazine Marketing Tel: (44) 181-844-1000 Fax: (44) 181-751-2666 National Dealer Distributor Wollaton Wollaton Audio Tel: (44) 115-928-4147 Fax: (44) 115-928-0625 Belfast Zeus Audio 2-4 Great Victoria St Bury St. Edmunds Bury Audio 47 Churchgate St London KJ Leisuresound 26 New Cavendish St Musical Images 18 Monmouth St Oxford Oxford Audio Consultants Park End St Reading Reading Hifi Broad Street Mall
Caracas Ardica Tel/fax :(58) 2979-1844
YUGOSLAVIA Belgrade Vox Trade Tel: (381) 11-222-4322 Fax: (381) 11-140-689


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· V ...........

· · ·

STEREOPHILEs ALMOST-COMPLETE INDEX lists every article that has appeared in Stereophile from Vol.3 No.1 through Vol.19 No.7 (1971 through July 1996), and every component reviewed by Stereophile since Von No.1. (Please note that an index does not include the review or article texts) Currently available only on 51/4"or 3'/;.." floppy disks (MS-DOS, raw ASCII only). Send $19.95 to Stereophile Almost-Gm:Woe Index, 208 Dehytdo St, Santa 14, NM 87501. Please indicate disk size.
ATTENTION QUAI ) AND SPENDOR OWNERS! Factory-authorized sales and/or service for Quad, Spcndor, Gradient, Entre, and Acoustic Panel Systems. New and used Quad equipment bought/sold. ESL/ESL-63 updates, stands. and subwoofer systems available. For further details, contact Mike or Randy, QS&D, 33 McWhin Loop 0108, Eredoiclubing, VA 22406,
(540) 372-3711, fax (540) 372-3713.
THE AUDIOPHILE NETWORK ON-LINE -- Keeping you informed, entertained, and connected with audiophiles nationwide since 1984. By modem, (818) 988-0452, 8N1. Featuring: classifieds, databases, forums, online shopping. Internet e-mail, newsroom, library, conferences. For details, e-mail TANINEO@ tanet.com. Vice (818) 782-1676, TAN, 6930 Vahean Ave,
Suite 205, Van Nuys, CA 91406-4747 GENE RUBIN AUDIO, Ventura, California -- Franchised dealer kw Naim, Roksan, Music Reference, ESL Spendor, Creek, Rep, Epos, Totem, Quad, Onix, JPW, Dynaco, OC-9, Sumiko, Goldring, Revolver, Target, and more. Always lots of used gear. Established way back in 1979! (805)658-831/.
"SOUNI) YOU CAN TOUCH," featuring: Apogee, Arcam, Audio Research, CAL, Classé Audio, Grado, Magnum 1)ynalab, Martin-Logan, Mirage, MIT, Power Wedge, ProAc, Quad, Target, Theta, Well Tempered, WircWorld, JF Woodworks. Audio acellenn; Liverpool, NY; (315) 451-2707 Visa/MC/ArnceciLhscover.
SME 3012-R: Newest version of this superb archival toneami. Suitable for all recorded sources, including LPs, 78s, 16" transcriptions, acetates, and metal. SME Owners: Upgrade through exchange to current updated Series II Improved, Series III, and Series "R" models. New SME headshells, Fluid Damper Kits, manuals, and parts. Audio "78" Archival Supplies, a POI Sae 18Z San Ansehno, CA 94979, (415) 457-7878.
SINGLE-ENI)ED IN OHIO. Cary, Golden Tube, and Woodside. Speakers (>90dB) from Audiovector. Swans, and Harmonic Precision. Also, MIT/MIT-Z, Townshend, Elac, Magnum Dynalab, NOS (JAN) tubes. Demo specials. Free shipping. By appointment. Visa/MC. The Music House, Centemillc; OH. (513) 4392667
AUDIOPHILE & SCHOLAR --University Audio Shop, Madison, Wisconsin -- Acurus, Aerial, Aragon, Audio Research, B&IC, CAL Creek, EAI), Golden Tube, Hales, JoLida, Krell, Lexicon, Linn, MartinLogan, Mic-romega, NEAR, Paradigm, Purist Audio, Rega, Runco, Spica, TARA, Totem, Vandersteen, Von Schweikert, YBA. (608) 284-0001.

RATES: Private, $1.10 per word, $22 minimum on phone-in ads; Commercial, $3.85 per word, $154 minimum on all commercial ads. (A word is defined as one or more characters with aspace, dash, or slash on either side.) PAYMENT: All classified ads must he prepaid with order. Phonein ads must be prepaid with order. Phone-in ads are credit-card only: MasterCard, Visa, American Express. MAIL TO: Stereophile, Classified Ad Department, P.O. Box 5529, Santa Fe, NM 87502, or CALL: (505) 983-9106. PAX: (505) 9836327. DEADLINE: Ms are due on the first working day of the month, two months in advance of the issue in which your ad will appear. For example, if you want your ad to run in the October 1996 Stereophile, you must submit it by August 1, 1996. No refunds.
ACOUSTICALLY TUNED WALL PANELS connol flutter echo, reduce reverberation and reflection patterns. Fabric-wrapped, mid- to low-range-frequency panels, all sizes with EZ mounting. Ideal for inside corners/parallel walls. Visa/MC. Acoustical Panel Systems, Inc, (800) 277-7978.
SII)EREALKAP --THE WORLD'S MOST musically neutral audio capacitor regardless of price, pseu&science, technobabblc. or magic rituals. For information. call, fax, or write to: SiderealiCap, 1525 Brian Plan; Escondido, CA 92025. Tel: (619) 743-1997,fax (619) 743-2192.
FANFARE FM TUNER on the Internet. We invite you to visit our new Website at http://uninvArlarncom. Get the latest news on FM and digital radio, plus tips on improving reception. 1)ownload our latest product info. You can also call us at (800) 268-8637 or (905) 793-7953, _lax (905) 793-5984. E-mail to info@ finthirecom or write to Fanlare FM,BOX 455, Biel°, NY 14225-0455 for our newsletter.
STATE-OF-THE-ART CROSSOVER NETWORKS. Upgrade any speaker system. Replacing your crossovers improves highs, increases dynamics, and creates abetter soundstage. Hovland MusiCaps and software available. Free 1)esign Guide. Allpass Technologies, Inc., 2844 Clamour Dr, Apopka, FL 32703-5972, (407)786-0623.
"EXCEPTIONALLY WELL-FOCUSED soundstage, even tonal balance without treble emphasis, an organic cohesiveness to the sound that is hard to forget," plus favorable comments about the Cormorant interconnects' midrange and bass; from I)ick Olsher's h magazine survey. Full excerpt, other literature available. 30-day audition. 1in pair, $129, shipping $4.5048. Visa/MC/I)iscover. Solid Gin. Technology, 3808 144.stviav Avenue, 144.st Palm Beach, FL 33407, (407) 8427316.
li&W, LEGACY, KEF, THIEL, and other loudspeaker owners: Would you like to improve on the great sound you already have? Try apair of"Golden Flutes" by JPS Labs --a necessity for proper bass extension. Please call or fax (716) 685-5227 anytime to drastically improve your listening pleasure. Please also inquire about our unbelievable interconnects!

STEREOPHILEs RECORD-REVIEW IN1)EX lists every record review published in Stereophile from Vol.10 No.1 through Vol.19 No.7 (January 1987 through July 1996). Also includes indexes to "Building a Library" and musician interviews, and indicates Records To Die For and Recordings of the Month. (Please note that an index does not include the review texts.) Available on 51/ 4"or 31/ 4"floppy disks (MS-DOS, raw ASCII
only). Send $9.95 to Stenvphile Record-Review Indee, 208 Delgado St, Santa Is, NM 87501. Please indicate
disk size.

"I HAVE SPENT FAR MORE time listening to music
since installing the Zero-One" --Rich Warren, Chicago Tribune, 9/1/95. Discover what changed audio reviewer Rich Warren's mind about affordable high-end Cl) players. The 1)aniels Audio Zero-One player stands sonically shoulder-to-shoulder with Spectral, Levinson, and Theta, hut costs only $789. Newly available: the superb Daniels CD-5.1 player with phase-coherent wiring throughout. Perhaps the ultimate digital statement, $1899. No-obligation in-home audition. Phone, fax, or write Daniels Audio Corporation, 178 North
Ridgeland, Oak Park, IL 60302. Phone (708) 383-3319;fax (708) 383-3230.
WE OFFER PERFECT-CONDMON-with-warrarity AM, Anna-Sphere, Audio Research, Cary, C-J. Gryphon, Krell, Levinson, MBL, MIT, NBS, Proceed, Spectral, Unison Research, Transparent, Wadia, and many more high-end components. Call for inventory list, or visit showrooms at He End Audio, 41-25 Kissena 131vd. 115MM, Flushie NY 11355. Tel: (718) 961-8842,
fax (718) 886-9530.
LONG ISLAND, NY AUDIOPHILES and Music Lovers--We specialize in fine pm-owned high-end components: Aerial Acoustics, Avalon Acoustics, Spectral Audio, Wilson Audio. Ikalcr for Audible Illusions, more to come soon. Call for audition today. Sul.....cr Specials:
Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 5, $9500; CAT SL I Signature Mk.11, new, $4750; Transparent Audio Cable Ultra in stock. Voice/fax (516) 321-8%9, AA.S. Ltd, PO. Bay 671, Babylon, NY 11702-0671.
CALL MOUNTAIN AUDIO for best discounts on
over 55 top brand names, including: Audio Research, Bang & Olufsen, 138tW, KEF, Celcstion, Mirage, Ikfinitive, Vclodyne, NHT, a/d/s/, M&K, Nakamichi,
Rotel, Denon, Adcom, Onkyo. World-wide shipping. Mountain Audio, Inc, (615) 242-2600.

GET THE SOUND you've been searching for with Echo Busters 1)ccorative Acoustical Treatments. Control echoes, reflections, distortions, and reverberations with our handcrafted, custom-designed kits
starting at $119. Satisfaction guaranteed. Free information, (5/6) 433-6990, (516) 433-6794 fax; e-mail: mikeatoe@aolcom.

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PROCEED PDP 3 DAC, mint in box, $800. (360) 568-4480.



GUARANTEE 5% MORE than what my competitors quote you on your used ARC. Cello. Krell, Levinson. Spectral, Wadia, etc. Call me last. Dealer for Aragon,
Acorns, Audio Alchemy, Kimber, Sonic Frontiers, XL0. Audio Chamber, (510) 549-2178.
AT LAST! EVERYTHING YOU NEED to know about buying and enjoying high-quality hi-fi! The Gnawhie Guide to High-End Audio, by Roben Harley, is packed with inside secrets on getting high-end sound at low prices. how to set up your system for the best sound, :old how to become abetter listener. With more than 450 pages and +200 photos and illustrations, The
Cnnplete Guide to High-End Audio is the ultimate reference book on high-quality music reproduction. Written for beginners and experienced listeners alike. Find out
why Sam TeIhg says, "Before you make amistake, buy Bob Harley's book." Only $29.95 (soficovcr) or $39.95
(signed hardcover). plus $4.95 Sedi ($6.95 outside continental US). Full money-back guarantee. Call toll-free: (800) 848-5099 for your copy, or send check or Visa/MC information to Aeapdla Publishing PO. Box 80805, Albuqueram NM 87198-0805.
AUDIO UNLIMITED OFFERS Accuphase, Acoustic Energy, Acrotec, Aesthetix, Air Tight, Audio Artistry, Audioineca, Audio Note, Basis, Benz-Micro, Chang, Chario, Coda, dpa, Dynavector, Ensemble, Graham, Harbeth, High Wire, Ikeda, Kuzma,
Magnum Dynalab, Magro. Meret, Micromega, Musical Iksip, Music Metre, Musc, NSM, 01111X, Rega, Sound Anchors, SOTA, Spendor, Symphonic Linc, Totem, Unity Audio, Wheaton Triplanar, Wilson Benesch, YBA, and more. Call/fax John Dames at (303)691-3407 2341 W Yale Are, Etwlewood, CO 80110.
AUSTRALIAN AUDIOPHILES -- new arrivals: CAT Signature Mk.II and JL1, Pass Labs Aleph 2and 3. Wavelength Cardinal, Vibraplane, Bluenote valve dampers, Crown Jewel cartridge, Shakti, Bella Voce
speakers (Shun Mook). Call for newsletter. HighEnd
Audio, (02) 674-7158, fax (02) 624-3684, petennri @ozemailcona.au.

WE CAN HELP YOU CHOOSE excellent-sounding, dependable audio equipment (plus video). We offer friendly. knowledgeable advice, hands-on experience, free delivery. We carry: Mirage, NAD, Cary, Nakainichi, Acunis, Kimbcr, KEF, Parasound, Kincrgetics, Quad, PS. Fried, Audible Illusions, Spendor, Target, Carver, many more. Free catalog! Read &others Stereo, 591 King Sc, Charleston, SC 29403, (803) 723-7276.
THE GREATER SOUTH BAY AUDIOPHILE SOCIETY, serving Los Angeles and Orange Counties, the San Fernando Valley, and beyond, is accepting new members. For people who love music and would like to meet with other audiophiles, call (310) 427-4207
IF YOU ARE AN AUDIOPHILE and stranded in Iowa or without alocal dealer --don't despair. Audio Video Logic in Des Moines can help! Choose from Acorns, Angstrom, Aragon, Audio Power, Audio Research, AudioQuest, CAL, Ikfinitive Technology, Dunlavy, Eminent Technology, Enlightened Audio, Kinergetics, McCormack, Magro, Martin-Logan, Monster Cable, Onkyo, ProAc, PSB, Sanos, Sundt°, van den Hid, Wilson Audio, and more. (515)255-2134.
STEVE SMITH GETS HIS REWARI)S! Isn't it time you got yours? Join Steve in our successful promotion of best-buy products from Arcam. Fried, 138cIC, Magnum Dynalab/OCM, NEAR, Musical Concepts/Design, many more. For details concerning this great opportunity, contact Steam Onsultants, (317)474-9004.
TRANSPARENT ULTRA INTERCONNECT lin $600; 15m. $650; Audio Magic Sorcerer interconnect, lm, $450; MIT T2 speaker wire, 8', $200; TARA Labs Master Genii interconnect, 1m, $275. Call Rush, (541) 484-4098.
MERMAN 565 SURROUND PROCESSOR, $2700; Meridian 618 Digital mastering processor, $1700; both less than Iyear old, original boxes, manuals. Donas, (770) 604-5332 weekdays. (770) 476-8659 Saturdays, EST

COUNTERPOINT SA-I000 PREAMP, premium tubes, original packaging, $400; Kellwood KT-3500 tuner, $125. Gary, (407)658-6213.
THRESHOLD FET-10/e PREAMP (black) and SA-2 mono amps (silver), all mint with manuals. (303) 7569158.
ACURUS MIC.1 INTEGRATED amplifier upgraded to Mk.11 status, only $640. Man, (915) 598-8366. HI-FI CHOICE --Naim, Creek, Rega, Linn. Epos, Totem, JPW, Harbeth, Exposure, Klync, Plinius, Siltech, Alts, Graham, Benz, van den Hul. Goldring, 1)ynavector, Target, Proton. (305) 891-9540.
WILSON WHOW III with granite top, ($13.000) $7500; Wilson WATT 5/Puppy 5. ($15,000) $10,500; also one Wilson WATT 5/Puppy 5for center channel, ($7500) $5000; all approximately 6 months old. Krell KSA-150, $2500. Call (800)941-4602 and leave ottessmy.
LAMM MODEL MU MONOBLOCKS (Steravphik Class A, Vol.19 No.4, April 1996), $7000. Bob, (419) 238-2442, evtension 285 weekdays, or (419) 238-4747 evenings/weekends. QUAD ESL-63s AND ACOUSTAT MODEL Is; Quad ifs 8621/8622. Acoustats have matching subwoofer. No room for apartment living. Best offers. Call Dam (205)905-0365 days, (205)974-9961 evenings CST
CLASSÉ 25 POWER AMPLIFIER, 2years old, mint, lifetime warranty, ($4000) $1900; Straight Wire Maestro interconnect, 15', RCA, mint, ($835) $375. (212) 564-1961 daytime EST
MERIDIAN 563 DIA CONVERTER, 5850; Sound 1)ynatnics 300 TI speakers, $450; AR LS7 prcamp, $850; XLO Type 5speaker Cable, 8', $395; MIT, Tice digital cables, $70. (603) 595-7180.
ELP (FINIAL) LT-1X LASER TURNTABLE, new, $15,000; CEDAR I)C-1 digital real-time tick-and-pop &clicker, $10,000; EAD T-8000 Series III universal transport, black, $3000; Rowland Consummate, $3500. (505) 662-1415, 667-1330.

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Fine-furniture quality CD storage systems with angled shelves & non-slip surface that holds a single CD upright. Solid hardwoods & textured finishes. Custom sizes and finishes also available. Write or call: 1-800-848-9811
Davidson-Whitehall Company 555 Whitehall Street Atlanta, Georgia 30303
(4041 524-4534 fox (404) 659-5041

310 517-1700 310 517-1732 fax














The Original VMPS Subwoofer ($379ea kit, $459 assem) is one of four low distortion, high output, lowcost Subwoofers with first octave bass extension suitable for both high quality music and AN applications. All models feature our carbon filled, butyl surround active 12" driver (single or dual voicecoil) and a slotloaded, mass loaded bottom firing passive radiator with user adjustable bass damping. Our Passive Crossover ($35ea kit, $45ea assem) allows full utilization of your system's main amplifier, avoiding the low current, poor quality parts, and output level restrictions typical of so-called "powered" woofers, to say nothing of the chuffing vent noise, cardboard enclosures, and double digit THO of many competing designs. Hear VMPS at the dealers below, or write for brochures and test reports on our flagship FF1 and FF3 Focused Field Arrays with the unique, rigid diaphragm, push pull planar Dyviaribbon midrange ($3600$8800pr), the "Best Buy" llover II and lbwer II Special Edition floorstanding systems ($499-$938ea), the shielded OSO 626 AN monitor ($289kit, $349assem) and more. Kits are supplied with assembled cabinets and most prices include free shipping in 48 states.
ch, 'tone Aucllo
3429 Morningside Dr. El Sobrante, CA 94803 (510) 222-4276 Fax: (510) 232-3837
Hear VMPS at: The Listening Studio, Boston; Electronic Interiors. Little Falls NJ; Dynamic Sound, Washington DC; Stereo Limited, Columbus OH; Pace Audio, Decatur GA; Chattanooga Valley Audio, Rossville GA; Audio/ Video Ambience, Franklin TN; Tech Electronics, Gainesville FL; Arthur Morgan, Lake Mary FL; Sounds Deluxe. Clarendon Hills 6, Napierville IL; Audio Exchange. Mishawaka IN; Audio Connection, Terre Haute IN; Today's Audio. Burton MI; M. Alan Assoc., Cincinnati OH; Ruth Industries, St. Louis MO; American Audio. Greenville SC; Shadow Creek Ltd. Andover MN; Mark Curry, Las Vegas NV; Hal Broda. Escondido/Beverly Hills CA; Sounds Unique. San Jose CA; Syncopations, Stockton CA; Ultimate Sound, San Francisco CA; Rama Audio, Sun Valley CA: ltone Audio, El Sobrante CA

CARY 300B Sei, gold faceplate, subwoofer line out, and VAIC VV30B type 1tube, less than 20 hours, $3200; Forsell Airforce One Signature/Flywheel, $5800. (818) 574-0105.
TRANSPARENT SPEAKER CABLE, 40% OFF; brand-new 20' pair Super Bi Cable, ($3100 list) $1860 OBO; 1set Transparent Premium jumpers, ($155 list) $95. Tim at (806)756-4425 before lOpm CST
WHAT YOU DONT KNOW does hurt you! Free paper on RF1! Noise-fighting accessories: ferrite cores, $5.50; shorting plugs, $125; power-line conditioners from $75; Alternative to the Shakti Stone $25 Write for catalog. Virtual Mode 1Old Coram Road, Shelton, CT 06484. (203) 929-0876.
TUBES, NOS AND USED: 2mp Gold Lion ICT77s,
150 hours, $200; 4 Sylvania 6CA7, NOS, 5200; 12 Telefunken 12AX7s, used, good, $200; 3RCA 12AX7s (Great Britain), NOS, $30; 2RCA 12BH7, NOS, $20; 2 GE 5965, used, good, $20; 4 RCA 7581A, NOS, $120; $600 for lot. (908) 874-8080.
VAC 90C1 AMPS, new tubes, $2500; Cary SLP90 preamp, new tubes, $995. (214) 434-2820, 8am to 11pm,
Dallas/FL flkirrh metro area
PURIST AUDIO: Maximus Rev. A speaker cable, 6', $450; HD1, 1m balanced, $175; Colossus 8' power cord, $150 each; Clarity silver power cord, $275; Cardas Quadlink power cord, $75 each. Tubes: GE 211, $135 each; Valve Co. 6SN7GT, CV 1985, $35 each. (415) 592-3589, CA. CORNER AUDIO: Quicksilver, BEL, Linaeum, EAD, Audio Physic, Immedia, Michael Yee Audio, Lightspeed, Lyra, WireWorld, PSE, Tice, SOTA, Benz, 'Clyne, AMC, Sound Anchors, RPM, Sumiko, Audio Matitre, Yamamura, Mango, Townshend Audio. Used and demos available, trade-ins welcome. (503) 2271943. AVALON ASCENT Mk.I1 speakers, figured walnut finish, mint condition, original owner, boxes and manual, 59500. (847)705-0106 after 5pm CST

AUDIO RESEARCH CD-1 PLAYER, $1900; CAT SL1 Reference Mk.11 preamp, $1900; VTL 225 DLX amps, KT90s, 52200/pair; Martin-Logan CLS speakers, $950; prefer NYC pickup. Tel: (718) 370-3078.
AUDIO NOTE P4 300B MONOBLOCKS, 17Wpc, similar to Conquest, ($7895) $3695; M2 preamplifier, ($3195) $1995; Merlin VSM, mint, ($4000) $1995; partial trades. (604) 658-2234 PST
PROAC STUDIO 100, oak with Target ST50 stands, ($1650) $1250; Cary SLA 70B Signature, oil caps, ($1895) $1350. Mr Willes, (800) 227-6121 weekdays.
QUICKSILVER M60 AMPS and Line Stage preamp. Dallas/Ft. Worth area, cannot ship. Phone metro (214) 434-2820 8am to 10pm.
BUY-SELL-TRADE-REPAIR High End and vintage audio equipment, parts, manuals. Huge inventory. Free list. Available by mail, fax, or WWV/: www.audio dassicscont. Audio Classics, Ltd, 34 Gardiner Place PO. Box 176S, Wilton, NY 13856. (607) 865-7200, fax (607) 8657222. e-mail: info@audiodassictcom.
PREMIUM-GRADE PARTS! Absolutely the best selection of audiophile-grade parts at fair prices! MIT MultiCaps, InfiniCaps, SCR, Black Gate, Elna,
Nichicon, Vishay, Caddo& Holco, Mills, Yamamura, etc. capacitors and resistors. All types audio connectors, chassis wires, custom cables, Alps, Noble, TIED. Hexfred diodes, copper-foil inductors, tubes, vibration damping sheets and isolators. Deflex panels, hospitalgrade AC connectors, tools, accessories, free catalog! Michael Percy, Box 526, Invmress, CA 94937, (415) 6697181 tel, (415) 669-7558 fax.
GOLDMUND 10C PLUS DAC, latest, (new $13,000) $6700; Forsell Air Reference CD transport, $3100. (703) 573-7963.
REGA ELICIT, 80Wpc integrated amp, ire,trirer in Choice magazine, ($2000) $950. (201) 853-5205,
4-7pm EST AUDIO ALCHEMY D71·Pro, $475; I/DE v1.1, $200; both for $625, good as new. Rob, (219) 693-6400.


Expensive Electronics Without the Expense'













Just 4Blocks From the Capitol .430 State St. Madison, WI 53703

1-800-906 HI-FI (4434) FAX 1(608)255-4425


STE REOPH ILE, Jun» 1996

TUBES FOR SALE --Two matched eight-robe sets of GE 6LF6s, unused since 1992 purchase. Best offer. (713) 493-4494.
NEW NBS STRAIGHT WIRE cable, whole line. Welcome MIT, Transparent trade-in. (818) 585-2228.
AUDIO ALCHEMY DDS-Pro transport, new, ($1600) $1150; CAL Alpha DAC, mint plus 2 sets of tubes, ($1500) $800. Call John, (914) 963-2013.
SOUTHER LINEAR ARM, Tri-Quartz (can be upgraded by Clearaudio to Tri-Quartz Improved for $600), with original packing, $1200. Robert, (603) 8816156 days, (508) 597-5419 evenings, 8-10pm EST
PURE SILVER INTERCONNECTS and speaker cable. Interconnects, $150/meter pair, speaker cable. $100/meter. Both with pure, solid-core silver wire, Teflon insulation, Cardas silver/rhodium terminations. Money-back guarantee. Don't pay more! (770) 4578748 before lOpm EST
MOI)ULUS 3A, used 5 hours only, $1290: Quicksilver 8417 tube mono amps, new tubes, mint, $800. (509) 235-8811.
RARE NOS TUBES from Western Electric, Genelex, Tclefimken, Mullard, Amperex, Siemens, RCA. etc. Selected and matched. (801) 224-4809, fix (801) 2246059, e-mail:jb-tubes@manet.
NAGRA T-AUDIO 3-SPEED ANALOG recorder, finest available, with meter bridge, without time code; new, original owner. (201) 746-2794.
SONY TAE-88B preamp, 5575. (713) 864-0674.
AUDIO RESEARCH D-115 Midi amp, $1300; Audio Research LS-7 preamp, $900. Call Dave, (504) 885-8660 days
MARTIN-LOGAN MONOLITH III, ($7000) $3500, dark oak trim, latest; Krell KBX crossover for Monolith, ($3500) $1500, not used. Tel: (315) 469-8384.
LINN LP12 with Wok arm and Asalta cartridge, very low hours, mint condition, ($4000) $2250. Call John, (810) 629-4844 EST
C.E.C. 1TRANSPORT, $3100. Call (210) 805-9927
WILSON WAMM VII, ($147,000) $83,500; original owner. perfect condition, serious inquiries only. (801) 377-2881.
MORCH DP6 TON EAILM, extra-heavy armtubc, silver wiring, brand new, never used, $1300. (604)783-5433.
DENON DCI)-2700 CD PLAYER, ($1200) $550; Carver TX-11a tuner, ($700) $425; new condition, will ship. John, (410) 247-4712.
AUDIO RESEARCH CLASSIC 60 power amp, complete set Russian tubes, excellent condition, original packing, $1800, serious only. Lee (770) 476-8736, Atlanta.
GENESIS II SPEAKER SYSTEM complete with bass amp and cables, mint condition, stupendous sound, priced to sell quickly. Call Jay, (908) 753-6757 EST
SONUS FABER MINIMA AMATOR, original boxes, one year old, mint, ($3000) $1650. Call Tony, (213) 621-7696 befooe 11pm PST
TARA LABS RSC Master Generation 2, 1m digital, $175; 1m/1.5m interconnects, $230/5295; all new in box, all XLR. (804) 378-3786.
INFINITY IRS BETA, $6000; ARC 0400 Mk.11, $3200; SOTA Sapphire, SME tonearm, Blue Point Special, $1000; all excellent condition. (919) 658-3909 days, (919) 751-2000 after 6pm EST
TAS ISSUES 5-68, $150. Sterrophiles, 1983-1992, $100. Mint, plus shipping. (913) 843-8337 evenings. TEAC A3340 HIGH SPEEI); ReVox A77 High Speed; F90 Pioneer cassette; dbx 124+224; Adcom GFA-555 mono; Carver 4.0T; Reel-to-Reel Design speakers; Rotel 855 Cl) mod by Stan Warren; Carver TFM 15CB amp; Adcom GDA-600; Reference Line Preeminence 1preamp; Soundcraftstnan Pro Power 10. 4-channel, 205 watts; Teac X10R. Many prerecorded reel-to-reel tapes, all formats; audiophile LPs and London Phase 4 LPs. Many CD-ROMs. Will sell to hest offer. ferry Mergzies, 4803 180th St. SIg Lynnwood, WA 98037 (206) 745-4969.

NITTY GRITTY 2.5FI, new in sealed box, retail $555, sell $355. Rare NOS tubes from Telefunken, Mullard, Ampercx Bugle Boy, 1960s-vintage 6922, 7308, C.ca, 12AU7, 7316, 12AX7, 7025, 5AR4, EL34, red-base 5691; Tung-Sol 6550; New Tesla final-version KT88S, E34LS. Curve-tracer matching, low-noise selection available. Kevin Dag (909) 982-2386 PST Emailfor list: upscale@primeneuom.
PIONEER PD-65 with G&D transforms, mods, $550; Bel Canto Design Aida DAC, $550; Levinson No.38S, $3700; Levinson No-37, $2900; Spectral DMA-180, latest, $5000; Goldmund Mimesis 36 transport, $9000; OCM 500. $1600; offers considered. (914) 621-3551, leave mare:
JBL S3100 HORN SPEAKERS, winner of the C.O.T.Y. in Japan; very high sensitivity, perfect match for single-ended amps, used only 100 hours, full guarantee. $8000 list, sacrifice $4700 OBO. (514) 685-9479 phone/fax.
KRELL KSA-250, $3450; Apogee Stage, ($2600) $1400; trades okay. Wanted: Adcom 565 or 555 Mk.11 amplifiers. (718) 217-1349, NYC
GENESIS V, $7900; Levinson 23.5, $3700; Rowland Consonance with phono, $1800; E.A.R. 509 Mk.11, $2700/pair; Threshold DAC le, $1100; all mint, offers. Call EKhan, (860) 464-7409 evenings EST
WADIA WT-3200 TRANSPORT, $1180; VTL MB150, latest, $2600; Krell MDA-500, $6900; B&W 801 III, $3500; Theta Progeny D/A, $600; Kinergetics SW 800 subwoofers, $2500; Rowland 8, $5900. (909) 627-3869.
BEL 1001 Mk.II, $1800; Theta Data Il transpon (AT&T), $1300; Audio Research LS2, $1200; Audio Research DAC 1-20 (AT&T), $1000; Tice Micro Block, S250. John, (619) 224-9005.
'THETA DATA II TRANSPORT with DS·Pro Basic II, D/A converter, includes upgrade, optical link cable, and balanced output, immaculate condition, ($6220) $1950 complete. (503) 629-8166 before. 3pm PST

MARANTZ 7, $2500; 8b, $1500; both like new, in original boxes, etc. McIntosh: MC40s, pristine, $1400; MI200, brushed alloy faceplates (4), $400. Akre 157011 160W triodes, $1150; RCA 2A3 (NOS), $55 each matched pairs; Tung-Sol 6550 (NOS). $75 each; Heath W6, $1100/pair, Maranta 500, $700; lonovac (1), mint, best offer, Meridian Mills, $1450; Levinson stacked Quads (4), $2100. Vintage component headquarters. Specializing in fine tuner alignment and tube equip-
ment upgrade and troubleshooting. N.Y.S.1, (718) 3777282, M-E 3-6pm.
KRELL KSA-50s, absolutely as new, four-year warranty, great amp, ($3300 list) $2300 OBO. 11m at (806) 756-4425 before lOpm CST
A/D/S/ M30 LOUDSPEAKERS, rosewood, 3-way bandpass enclosure, gorgeous looks, sound, ($8500 new) $3000, 14 months new. (516) 783-0288.
MARE LEVINSON No31 TRANSPORT, new, 5year transferable warranty, $5500; Sonic Frontiers SFL2, $2300; Sonic Frontiers SF1)-2 Mk.11, 5months old, $3500; Audio Alchemy DTI-Pro 32, $900; two Audio
Alchemy DST digital cables, 1m, $90/each; !,2m Kimber KCAG digital cable, RCA, MO; 2m Purist Audio Elements balanced interconnect, $90; Audiostatic ES 600 4-panel full-range electrostatic speaker system. ($10,000) $4500; all excellent condition. Lany, (312) 2713887
PROAC RESPONSE LS speakers with Target R4 stands, $1575, excellent; ARC LS2 preamp, $1275, mint, original boxes, manuals. Michael, (608) 785-8083.
MARIGO REFERENCE POWERCORDS (3), $180 OBO each. (703) 866-1843.
TOTEM TABU SPEAKERS, ($2995) $2100; Celeste 4070SE power amp, ($1900) $1300; both NIB with warranties; Thiel L5 speakers, ($2445) $1450; Audible Illusions 3 preamp, ($1700) $1000; both latest, both very low hours; VPI Mk3, Premier FT3 arm, Blue Point, all low hours, all mint, $800. (810) 751-4393 before 11pm EST

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Your Guiding Light to Audio Excellence

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9375 Chesapeake Street Potomac Square Unit 113
La Plata, Maryland 20646
(301) 753-1650
(301) 934-8736




AU1)10QUEST 1)1AMON1), 4m, XLR, ($2700) $900; I)ragon, lm, ($1100) $350; Eagle 7A, Kincrgetics KCD-40 and class-A monoblock amps, Audio Control SA3050A RTA, Rolex 2-tone Datejust, call. Wanted: 'Umber KCTG 2m and 3m XL1t; trades? (505) 2813095.
WARM, SWEET SOUN1) from CDs-at last! The Audio Sipal Enhancer from Z-Man eliminates brightness from CDs while restoring the warmth, timbre, and fullness of individual voices and instrumenis. Impressive results with $2000 to $14,000 audio systems. Connects between analog outputs of Cl) player and preamplifier. Retail $198 plus shipping. Dealer inquiries desired. ZMan Gar, (616) 246-7929.
SUMMER CLEARANCE ANI) DEMO SALE: PS Audio Lambda II; Totem Model Ones; Totem Manis; Threshold T-3 remote-control preamplifier, T-100, T-200, T-400; Meridian 500 series; Aerial 7s, Aerial 10s; Sonic Frontiers HDCD processors; CD players; remotecontrol preamplifiers; Conrad-Johnson classic ampritiers. Conrad-Johnson high-performance preamplifiers. Please call Audio ASSOlitall, (601) 362-0474.
DUNTECH SOVEREIGN 2001 SPEAKERS, biampable model, special light-oak finish, superb condition, look mint, just out of crates, reasonable. Call (908) 753-6757 EST
JEFF ROWLAND MODEL 5, balanced with transimpedence update, $3299; ICEF 107/2, $2499; Counterpoint Natural Progression monos, $3095; Esoteric P-10, $895; C-J Premier 10, $1595; all mint with warranties. PS Audio SL Three, $965; Bryston 313, $1065; 413 THX, $1595; Celeste 4250SE, $2295; P4002, $1195; all new, full warranties. (303) 384-9828.
NEAR 50Me SPEAKERS, oak, mint, $1250; McIntosh MC2105 amp, $750; SAE 201 amp, $200; HK Fourteen tuner, $50. Pick-up only. kntura, CA. (805) 650-1480.
VTL COMPACT 100 MONOBLOCKS, latest version with tube cages, $1400 one pair. (505) 988-8988.

BRYSTON MI PHONO PREAMP, balanced, 6 months old, mint, ($695) $380. Monster Cable M1000 Mk.III interconnects, 3', $80; 7', $120; M1000, 1/2m,
$50. (704) 862-3338.
THE AUDIO REVOLUTION has begun. Explore
the best high-end audio and theater systems for free! Purchase your next system upgrade or find new music online at httpUunvw.andiorevolution.corn. The best audio manufacturers, retailers, and software sources are signing up everyday. For advertising information and online marketing strategies, call Jetty Del Colliano at
(800) 404-0261, «fax (213) 931-8064.
THIEL CS.7 SPEAKERS, 3months old, Morado finish, ($9500) 16500; Levinson 38S prcamp, ($6500) $4500; Cary 300 SEI amplifier, used 15 hours, ($3700)
$2600. Alan, (404) 255-7609 (venires EST
CLASSÉ AUDIO TEN amplifier, $1200; Audible Illusions Modulus L-1 line stage prcamp/headphone amp, $900; both excellent condition, outstanding sound. (505) 989-4325.
QUAD ESL-63, $1200 with stands; OHM F, $750;
A.E.S. Cybele, look like Vandersteens but use 360° Kevlar cylindrical tweeter, ($2200) $1000; Sa-Fi Joule with stands, almond, $600; Sony 87ES DAT, 10 hours use, ($1800) $800; KSS 230W OTL monoblocks,
$3500, have two pairs, will sell one. (414) 845-5055
MEWS SHA-1, $699; PS Audio 7.0, $899; Cary SLP74, $1099; Sonic Frontiers Anthem PRE 1, $1299; Proceed PRE, $1599; X1.0 Type 5, 8', $749/pair, Cary SLA-30/SLP-30 combo, $1499; HTM, $649; B&W 801 III with Sound Anchors, $4800; 800 ASW, $1249; PSB Stratus Gold, $1699; Cary SLI-50, $1699; Anthem INT1, $1050; Marantz CD-17, $999. Serious inquiries. (317) 447-4673.
YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO CALL! We arc tube specialists. Call. No dealer in your arca. Call. AMC, Audio Note, Audiomcca, Audio Research, Cary, Quicksilver, MS, Soundlab, Swans, Unity, Vil, more! Call Arizona Tube Audi, Tempe, AZ (602) 921-9961.

ATMA-SPHERE MP-I, $3500; Anna-Sphere M-50, $20410; includes Z-transfomier, optional power tubes. (509) 922-8362 anytime after 3pm EST
LEGACY FOCUS SPEAKERS, cherry, stained walnut, 1)1 years old, mint condition, asking $2700; Golden Flute bass filters, excellent condition, 1200/pair. Call Grig (706) 613-9824 (penile and weekends EST
DUNTECH BLACK KNIGHT, ($6995) $2150; VMPS large subwoofcr, ($650) 1275; Theta Pro Prime, $600; Cardas high-speed cable, 1m, $40; TARA Labs
Phase II speaker cable (2), 10', $35 each. Trades consid-
ered. (502) 729-2478 evenings CST
AAA CONDMON: Cello Audio Suitc, Cello Strings interconnect (30m), Cello Performance amps, $18,500; Levinson No-31, Madrigal datalink, Billy Bap stand, $9000. (610) 891-0803.
ROTEL RB-990 AMPLIFIER, $450; RC-990 preamp, $340; RP-900 turntable and Grado 2F3, $200; Philips FB1000 speakers, $2400; Kimber !Cables, $150. David, (919) 541-5846, 8-5 weekdays EST
EAD T-7000 TRANSPORT, $675; Proceed PDP 2 with Series 3audio upgrade, $675; Madrigal MDC-2 cable, $100; all products mint. Call Steve, (9/0) 6290448 after 8pm EST
AUDIOLAB'S NEW 80005 IS HERE! It's an in-
tegrated amp, apreamp, and apower amp all in one it even has remote control!!! Call for itennation on this and the full range of Audiolab products available. Sound Savings Audio, (800) 518-6680 orfix (800) 518-6681.
USEI) AND DEMO SALE: Genesis II; Sonic Frontiers SFL-1, SFL-2; Audio Research SP9, LS1; Counterpoint SA-I000 and SA-2000; Krell KSA-100a, KST-100, KSL-2, more; Lexicon CP-1+, CP-3+; Conrad-Johnson Premier 9, Premier 10, Premier 12, MF-2200, PV-10a; Wadia 8, 15, 21; Vanderstcen 111, 2Ce; Sonus Faber Electa Amatot Minucto; SOTA Sapphire, SME IV; Metaphor 2, 5; Wilson WITTS; MIT Z1; miscellaneous Mark Levinson. Call Audition Audio, (801) 467-5918, fax (801) 467-0290.

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CARY SLP94, $1650; SLP74, $1050; 300SE Signature,
volume controls, silver caps, transformers, ($6695) $4700; Alwc 604E, $400; Quad USA Monitors, $2500; TARA RSC Master, 1.5m, XLI)., ($600) $350. (801) 226-1018.

MIRAGE M-3s, $1375; PS Audio 5.5, $675; Philips C.1)80, $349; AR mmtable/MMT arm, $325; Grado TLZ (new), $225; PS Audio Power Sonic (500W isotrans), $169; Target TT5T, $149; AudioQuest Quartz,
0.5m, $59; 4.5m, $149; AudioQuest Midnight biwite, $139; Target TH, $59; Systeindek I8/AR arm, $139; Grado 8MZ, $49; RF filters. Call (409) 883-1581 days, (409) 883-5005 nights

with En anti, AudioQuest 700Onsx (40 hours), pump, tank, and stand, paid over $8000, asking $4200; Counterpoint SA9, double-chassis phono stage, the best, $2450; Sonic Frontiers SFD-2, $2500; PS Audio Ultralink and Lambda, $2000 OBO. for, (602) 3714993 or (602) 572-9302.

tube mono amps, class-A bias, mint, ($2800) $1450. (503) 393-2323.

NESTORV1C TYPE 5Mk.IV speakers, oak, ($4500) $2700; Signature, walnut, ($6500) $4200; completely
remised NA-1, $5000; BAT VK60, retubed, ($4500) $3200; Klyne 7LX3.413, ($5000) $3250. Bob, (520) 7426130 MST

EASTERN AUDIO --Select excellent-condition

equipment. Used: SOIMS Faber Electa with Target stand,

$1680; Tice Power Block IL $810.


)1)rive, $1000; Micromeip I)uo CD, $1350; Duo 135,

$405; Pioneer Elite CLI )95, $1200; Theta Pro Basic, $900. Pwamps: ARC LS3, $935; C-J PV8, $845; Krell KEG. $3450; Kl'E, $650; Spectral DMC6 II.$1400. Amps: Aragon 80081113, $1625; Audio Note PISE,
$1100; Counterpoint SA 12. $540; Threshold 5200, $1075 ... mid much more. Demo: Adcom GSP-560, $480;
Pioneer Elite VSX99, $1680. Plus more cables. Call (718)
961-8256.1w Luis, inormey list. litv (718) 961-8315.

WILSON WATT 5/PUPPY 5, $10,500. Krell KST100, $1500; 'CRC with phono, $3300. Threshold FET10 with e-power supply, $1400. Levinson No20, $4500;
No20.5, $5500; ML-2, $3400; No26S, balanced, $4400; No.30.5, original, $9000; No.38, $2800. Nalcamidi 10001', $1400; 1000MB, $2500; 1000 DAT $3500; Audiomeca Mephisto, $1800; Theta Pro Genii', $1700; Wadia 64.4, $1700; Wadia 32X, $800; Goldmund Meta Laser One, $1400; Meta DIA, $900; Meitner PA6i, $700; McIntosh MR78 tuner, $950;Jadis DP60, $2200; Classe DR-7, $1800; Transparent Ultra balanced, 2m, $900; 1m, $800; MIT CVP Reference
Terminator, MI-350, 1.5m, RCA, $1000; XL0 Reference, RCA, 25', $700; 18', $600. (718)692-3926.
PERFECT CONDITION WITH WARRANTY: Krell: MD-10, $4350; ICPS-20i, $6250; KPS-20i//, $7400; ICRCHR, $4800; 'CRC, $3550; 1CSA-150, $2550; 1CSA-
200,$4850; KSA-3005, $6450. Mark Levinson 26S, $4800. Jadis DA-60, $4800; Jadis Defy-7 III. $4500. Maranta 813 (perfect), $1800. Loudspeakers: Ensemble, Gershinan Acoustics. Cable: Alpha-Core, AudioQuest, NBS. Call fix. Anna-Sphere, MBL Buy/Trade. Tri: (908) 688-8381.
API POWER WEDGE SALE! Buy a!Wit(' and receive
an API power cord (Link 313,6') absolutely fire. All other API products on special, too. Call for pricing information. Sound Savings Audio, (800) 518-6680, orfivc (800) 518-6681.
AUDIO ALCHEMY 1711·Pm 32, $989; 1)DS·Pro, $1199; Scut DAC-Xlt D/A. latest, (retail $20,000) $6900 OBO; Clements Reference 11T7, rosewood ($6600) $3300 0130; Pioneer LI)52, $1900 0130. 1536 W 25th St. 1069, San Ark°, CA 90732. Tel: (310) 8314675,fm· (310) 831-4689, e-mail: htfibri@usapipelitte.cont.
TFIIEL CS2 2, BLACK, transferable warranty, boxes, $1950; Sound Anchor stands, $100/pair; Audio
Alchemy DTI.% with Power Station Three, $450; Margo Labs Apparition Reference digital cable, 0.75m, $215; XL0 Type 4.IS digital cable, 1.0m, $125; MIT ZCord II, $85; MIT Z-Cord, $35; Goldinund Cones, $20
each; Michael Green Audio Points, small, $12 each. (303)850-0363 MDT

HI-F1 EXCHANGE --Large selection of quality used high-end components at huge discounts. We buy, sell, and trade. Call for inventory list. (718) 423-0400, or visit our showrooms at 251-11 Northern Blvd, Little Neck, NY 11363.
RCA LSC "SHADEI ) 1)C)GS," Mercury 900(X), London/re Bluebacks, Lyrita, Argo, EMI ASD, British 1)ecca, rare monos. Call (212) 496-1680;w (212) 4960733. Han",Gilman, 243 W. 76th Sc, Apt 113, Nal, Wyk, NY 10023.
XODDICS: "EE" TAPES. Elcassettes. AKG C522XY-V, C451/CK9. AT4050. Fostex 3040. Panasonic SV-255. Sennheiser MK E-300, ME64/K6, Sony ECM-MS5. Uher cases. (814) 454-2022.
$100 PAID FOR MINT WHITE-LABEL promo LI's of Mercury SR90212 (Chabrier/Paray). Others wanted! Randall Goldman, Box 3, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270. Tii/fax (888) 872-6929.
WHY SPEND MONEY on expensive "audiophile" LPs when thew are so many records with real music on them, by the world's greatest artists, with better sound, for less money. Fifty superb jazz recordings for $10 or less. Hundreds of great rock records auditioned and reviewed. Ikcca and EMI classical LK superior to any, and they're all in our free catalog! (800) 487-8611, (818) 980-3313.
28,000 HI's. PRIVATE COLLECTION, hard-to-find, out-of-print, mint, 1110e sealed, 1950-1995. Classical, soundtracks, original casts, pop-standard vocal, opera, rock, jazz, ethnic, greatest hits, country, soul, piano/ organ, reliinous, big-band, comedy, Latin, folk, easy-listening, guitar, Christmas. Available individually or in lots. (203) 227-8326.
VAST PRIVATE COLLECTION: Jazz, classical, pop, rock, r&b, show twits. soundtracks, 78s, more. (718) 7352647 SASE: Smith, 328 Ilabush #250, Brooklyn, NY 11238.

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HIGHEST PRICES PAID for CDs and LPs. No collection too large! Classical, Jazz, Rock, Audiophiles (SR/LSC/EMI-ASD), more. 140,000 tides in stock. Free brochure! Plittal018 Record Exchange, 20 Tulane St, Airionots, NJ 08542. (609) 921-0881, rinownerconn/ -allp.
HIGHEST PRICES PAII) for classical LPs, mono and stereo. Will travel for large collections. Call Lawrence OToole, PO. Box 138, Bears:41k NY 12409, phone/fax (914) 679-1054.
WANTED: TUBE HI-FI ANI) SPEAKERS, tube theater amps, corner speakers, horn drivers, coaxial/ triaxial speakers, crossovers, tubes. Altec, Electnwoice, JBL, Jensen, McIntosh, Quad, Dynaco, Scott, Lowther, Fisher, Heath, Eico, RCA, Tannoy, Leak, Marantz, Western Electric, etc. Also hie-end ARC, C-J, Linn speakers, etc. Also old guitars and guitar amplifiers. Sonny Goldson, 1413 Magnolia Lane, Midwest City, OK 73110, (405) 7373312. (405) 737-3355fax.
CASH PAID for all types used audio/video equipment. Buy and sell by phone. Dealer for: AudioQuest, Audio Alchemy, BAcK, Marantz, NAI), NHT, Paradim, Philips, Sunfire, SOTA, Straight Wire. Stereo Traduis,' Outlet (since 1984), 320 Old York Rd, Jenkintown, PA 19046. Top dollar paid for used audio. Call (215) 886-1650, fax (215) 886-2171.
WANTED: OLD, NEW, McIntosh, Marantz, 1)yna, C-J, EV, JBL, Linn, Levinson, Klyne, Cello, Spectral, Tammy, Krell, Fisher, Thorens, Altec, Jensen. Maury Corls, (713)728-4343, (713) 723-1301 fax.
BUY-SELL-TRADE-REPAIR High End and vintage audio equipment, parts, manuals. Huge inventory. Free list. Available by mail, fax, or WWW: wunvaudioclassics. corn. Audio Classics, Ltd, 34 Gardiner Place, PO Box 1765, Walton, NY 13856. (607) 865-7200, fax (607) 865-7222, e-mail: info@audiodassiss.com.

WANTED: THRESHOLD SA4e power amp. Fax details to: Go Hwa Seog, Seoul, Korea, 82 (2) 781-4499. WANTED: PS AUDIO power supply for 4.5 preamp, 250 or 500 watts. Eric (403) 569-9574 MST
WANTED: PROCEED PAV; Nakarnichi turntable; Counterpoint SA-2/SA-6; Mirage Mlsi; Sony Esprit PSX-600; a/d/s/ CM7, L1590. (310) 831-4675,fax (310) 831-4689. heri@usapipelincrom.
COLLECTOR BUYING: (working or not, mono/ stereo) Tannoy, old tube Marantz, McIntosh, Leak, Futterman, Quad, REL, Fisher, Altec speakers, Sequerra tuners, Krell, Mark Levinson, ARC, turntables, arms, etc. Also, used wristwatches: Rolex, Audemars, Omega, Rado, etc. (used watch parts and tools). Traveling often, Midwest and East Crust. Trade welcome. (718) 387-7316.
WE ALWAYS PAY BETTER! Don't let go of your ARC, Aragon, Cello, Krell, Mark Levinson, MIT, Spectral, Theta, Threshold, or Wadia without calling us. Showroom in West L.A. Call Sign= Products, Inc, (3(0) 826-3686, (310) 826-4356 .k Sornie.
WILSON AUDIO SPECIALTIES, INC. is looking for aqualified sales professional. Domestic and international travel required. Please forward résumé to: Wilson Audio Specialties, Inc. Attn: David Wilson, 2233 Mountain Vista Lillie, Provo, UT 84606.
MAJOR US MANUFACTURER of audio and Home Theater loudspeakers seeks qualified parties interested in distribution for the following areas: Mexico, Central and South America, Japan, Australia, and India. We offer a broad product line, unique technology, and over 10 new products planned for near-term introduction. Please respond by fax to (317) 581-3173. Provide background information on your company, including lines currently represented.

The Stereophile
Indexes every record review published in Stereophile from Vol.10 No.1 (1987) through this issue. Also includes indexes to "Building aLibrary" and musician interviews. Available on 5%" or 3X"floppy disks (MS DOS,raw ASCII only). VVVVVVVVV
Send $9.95 to: Stereophile Record-Review Index 208 Delgado St., Santa Fe, NM 87501
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Ten and ahalfyears ago, Igave John Atkinson acall at his home near Brighton, England. "John, how'd you like to become Editor of Stereophile?" "Why Larry, how nice to hear from you. I'm flattered by the offer -- I'd really like to think it over for just abit."
I, of course, thought, "SOL --`think about it' surely means 'wait alittle bit before politely turning the offer down.' "After all, in November 1985 JA was Editor of what was then the best hi-fi magazine in the world, Hi-Fi News &Reavd Review--making him the best hi-fi editor in the Englishspeaking world. Though Stereophiles fabled history went back to 1962, the reality was that it was an upstart, digest-sized publication with just 25,000 circulation.
JA now says that his reticence masked real enthusiasm. He even jokes that he started packing his bags immediately after hanging up the phone. In any case, the rest is history. John's 10th anniversary as Stereophile's Editor was this past Memorial Day, and Stereophile has been the better for every one of those 10 years. He is still the best editor in the English-speaking hi-fi world, in my opinion. It's not my place to speak of any pre-eminence we might have achieved, but whatever we have, we owe it
to John. You'll notice some changes in the mast-
head with this issue: JA is at the top as Editor, J. Gordon Holt continues in second place as Founder and Chief Tester, I've moved down to third place as Publisher (a more typical location), and our extraordinarily able Assistant Publisher, Gretchen Grogan, has been moved to an "upper" masthead location.
Iwill continue as Publisher of Stereophile, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, Schwann Opus, Schwann Spectrum, Schwann Artist, and Schwann Compact Disc Review Digest. I've been lucky, though, to have my job as President of Stereophile, Inc. taken over by Ralph Johnson, who ran our Hi-Fi Shows between 1991 and 1993. Ralph is agreat
guy with a background in organization management. We're delighted to have him back working with us as President, and as Executive Director of our Hi-Fi Shows.
Iwas fortunate in late May to be able to squeeze in aday at the events put on by CEMA (the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers' Association) in Orlando: CES

Orlando, The Digital Destination; CES Habitech '96; and CES Specialty Audio & Horne Theater. This last show had the most negative advance publicity of any show I've ever heard of, primarily from its own exhibitors. "Joke," "fiasco," and "disas-

Most companies were basically showing what they'd already exhibited in Las Vegas in January, though there were interesting new products from Conrad-Johnson, Runco, Pioneer, Denon, Parasound, Dwin, Atlantic Technology, and Thiel.

ter" were the words most frequently used

DVD was discussed by the mid-fi elec-

to describe it. Last year Iwas criticized by some for
appearing to whitewash the reality of the 1995 CES Specialty Audio & Home

tronics manufacturers, but no earthshaking announcements were made. The hardware guys are basically waiting for the software guys to agree to acopyright methodology

Theater Show held in June '95 in Chicago. -- all except for Thomson/RCA, who are Idid give that Show the benefit of the proceeding with their launch plans regard-

doubt by allocating more weight to the less.

mildly positive verdicts from people who

Idid see two new home-audio products

had actually exhibited in Chicago than to that were good enough to feature in ashow

the heartily negative assessments of non- report, both ofwhich will be included in our exhibitors. Many people's opinions of the coverage of HI-FI '96 in the September

'95 CES grew more negative after the event, perhaps because they sought reasons for not doing Orlando in '96; on-site, they

issue. One was the new super-high-end, 20th-anniversary preamp from ConradJohnson; the other was the Thiel CS6,

thought it amodest success. Imay be criticized again, but the 1996
Show didn't live down to the negativity of

which looks much like the CS7 (though more graceful, at least to my eyes), but which seems to incorporate alot more engi-

its prognosticators. It was amodest-sized neering refinement The coaxial midrange/ Show: There were 31 individual demon- tweeter goes down to 500Hz (the similar-

stration rooms, plus one medium-sized looking unit in the CS7 only extends down ballroom with eighteen 10' by 10' booths. to 1kHz) and is built 100% in-house by

The Show Guide listed 66 companies -- Thiel, as are all the CS6's drivers.

about athird the size of the 1995 Show.

Iwas very impressed by the CS6 -- its

Attendance also looked to be down from specs are similar to those of the CS7 but it

last year, though figures aren't available as I costs less: $6990/pair. Iwouldn't be sur-

write this. Iwas only in Orlando for the prised to find that the final version sounds

second day of the Show, and can't give a even better than the '7; based on audition-

comprehensive summary of exhibitor opin- ing under show conditions, Iabsolutely can

ion. Nevertheless, the people Italked to confirm that the CS6's non-final protowere moderately pleased with the atten- types do. Absent journalists missed Jim

dees they saw. Some were downcast, others Thiers stunningly clear product exposition,

more upbeat, but none were bitter. which, in fairness to his design ingenuity, Exhibitors reported good attendance from he should redeliver at the 1997 Las Vegas

Florida and the Southeast as well as from WCES.

Latin America, with asmattering of people from other parts of the US and the world.
The Show was less fruitful for the press,

As Ileft Orlando, the CES SA&HTs future was murky. Exhibitors were emphasizing the positive, but it could not be

as reflected in the paucity ofjournalists Iran into. (Audio, Stereo Revietv, Stereophile, and Home Theater each had one editorial person that Isaw; TWICE, atrade magazine that was publishing the Show daily, had more.)

called a knockout hit Two consecutive Shows, with declining support from exhibitors and attendees alike, don't augur well. As Ileft for HI-FI '96, CEMA members were huddling in aseries of meetings to

decide what future they'd like to shoot for. If

eStereophile---141./9 NeZ July 1996, tau Number 198.
Stereophile (ISSN #0585-2544) is published monthly, $35 per year _fiv US nuidents by Stetrophik, 208 Deleado, Santa

Iwere one of them, I'd be getting tired of doing shows that could only be called "modest successes" because of how astonishingly

Fe, NM 87501. Second-dass postage paid at Santa li. NM and at additional »utilise iffices. POSTMASTER: Send addres chutes to Stereophile, P.O. Box 46902Z Escondido, GI

low the expectations for them had been. We'll see what CEMA does.


Printed in the U.S.

--Larry Archibald



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