Legacy link:
legacy_200w
This new site was launched in July 2010. Visit the older site to access previous articles by clicking above.

Back Cover

Gryphon Diablo 300

We welcome all feedback. If you'd like to make a comment on an article or ask any questions, please e-mail feedback@soundstageultra.com. If your letter is selected for publication, your name will be printed but your e-mail address will NOT be.

Editor,

I have read your reviews. I am just wondering if you have had a chance to listen to Burmester's B100 loudspeakers. If you have, what are your impressions of them? How would you rate them or how do you think they compare to other high-end speakers like Rockport's Altair?

I currently run an all-Burmester system, and I am just wondering if I should shop for another set of speakers from other companies.

Thanks,
Wayneker

I have heard numerous Burmester loudspeakers (sorry, don't know all the model numbers) at shows through the years and have, on occasion, been very impressed. Generalizing, they always seem to throw large soundstages and have the ability to fill large rooms easily. However, nothing I've heard at shows leads me to believe that they are in the same league as the Rockport Altair or a number of other speakers such as those from Vivid Audio, TAD, and a few others. To me, these companies are a clear step up when it comes to speakers. I guess the takeaway is this: listen to the Burmesters, by all means, as they may be what you want to match with your electronics, but definitely hear the other contenders for the state of the art in loudspeakers before you buy anything. . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

Great review [of the Weiss DAC202), very commonsense and that is what is needed in reviews!

I am trying to figure out how far up the DAC price-point chain I need to go to hit the peak of the value curve ($2000 up to the $6700 that the DAC202 costs). There are not many dealers where I live so I have no opportunity to go listen to much, let alone make comparisons. I have Gemme Audio speakers, Brinkmann mono amps, and a Simaudio preamp.

Have you heard the Bryston BDA-1? Maybe it is a starting point on the curve, and I am wondering if I need to spend $6700 or if the value-curve peak is somewhere before that and diminishing returns start to take over?

Thanks!
Jim

Part of the value proposition of the Weiss is the built-in preamp. It is a state-of-the-art DAC, but when you add in the preamp section the value-per-dollar in a system is increased. If you have a digital-only system it could easily replace your Simaudio, making the purchase easier to swallow. The starting point on the value-performance curve, however, is clearly the Ayre QB-9. At $2750, it represents state-of-the-art sound in a sensible package that is easy to use -- a real no-brainer if you have only a single computer source. I've not heard the Bryston, so can’t comment on that, though their products are almost always well received. . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

Thanks for your review of the Weiss DAC202 on Ultra Audio.

I am struggling between the Weiss DAC202 and the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC. I will be auditioning the Weiss DAC202 in the coming week or so. I have some friends who have the Berkeley and I enjoy the sonic qualities.

I would like to see if you have also tried the Berkeley and what are your impressions between the DAC202 and Alpha DAC. Thanks and best regards.

Patrick

I have not heard the Alpha DAC in my system, but Ultra Audio contributor Simeon Sandiford uses one in his reference system and has had nothing but great things to say about it. It has a stellar reputation and features some of the same advantages as the Weiss, namely a digital volume control so that you can bypass a preamp. If you are thinking of setting up a computer-based system, the biggest consideration is what type of digital output you'll use. Although both DACs have a number of input types, only the Weiss has a FireWire input that makes it the perfect partner for a Mac. That was one deciding factor for me -- along with the stunning sound quality, of course. The DAC202 is my reference DAC, and I can’t really find fault with it at this time. . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

I'm always following your articles and I thought I might shoot you a question for my new project. 

At the moment I have the Vienna Acoustics The Music speakers matched up with the Krell Evo 402e amplifier and 202 preamp. And to be honest, when I heard these speakers in the store I didn't even bother looking at anything else -- that's how good I think they are. I'm now in a position to better my current setup so I thought I might ask you for your expert opinion, advice, and recommendation. Let me give you some info first: I have a large room and my budget allows me on the order of about $100k (AUD). Given the parity now with the USD I thought it would be a great time to do the project now. And if it makes a difference I can even stretch that a little further -- say $120k. I'm looking at the following speakers and amplifiers (and will match the source according to amp):

Speakers: Sonus Faber Stradivari Homage, Focal Scala Utopia, Rockport Aquila (Altair, but out of my price range), Magico Q5, or maybe even Kharma

Amplifiers: Halcro DM88/DM10 with DCS Puccini CD; Boulder 1060 or even 2060; other brands I have looked at but not too keen on are Pass, Mark Levinson, and Lamm 

Which would you suggest? Thanks in advance for any advice and recommendation. 

Bran Blaze

I just answered a similar question in which I recommended Rockport Technologies, TAD, and Vivid loudspeakers. These, to me, are the top speaker brands to consider if you are putting together a state-of-the-art system. Certainly the others you mention might also be contenders, but you have to narrow the field somehow and the ones I listed are simply beyond reproach in all the areas that I consider important. 

I am a big fan of the Boulder electronics, particularly the 2060 amp, though at lower price points I'd certainly consider the Pass gear. Boulder and Pass both have great reputations for excellent sound and tremendous reliability, as well as great service after the sale. . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

I've read your articles and reviews for years and I respect the fact that you've always purchased the equipment you review with. It is a refreshing change of pace in a time when some "personalities" in the industry seem to demand that their gear be paid for by someone else. You've always struck me as a straight-shooter.

My question involves a speaker search I am lucky enough to be embarking on. Basically, considering your experience, what speaker systems would you listen to if you were going for a state-of-the-art system? The budget is $100k and my room is 29' x 25' with 12' ceilings. I'll be using Boulder amplification like you. Thank you in advance for your advice.

Bryce

Thank you for the kind words. You are in an enviable position to be considering such a purchase. It is certainly an exciting undertaking. While there are many speakers that would qualify as candidates, probably the easiest way for me to narrow them down for you is to consider what I'd purchase if it were me in your place. With that mindset, three speaker systems stand out as candidates: 

The Rockport Technologies Altair Series II with the beryllium tweeter and revised bass driver would rank right up there at the top. My previous ownership of the original Altair was a magical experience for me and if the new one is even better, well . . . 

I'd also listen to the Vivid Giya-series loudspeakers. I heard the G2 at the most recent Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and was transfixed by the sound. It is lightning fast, single-driver coherent, and has dynamic range that is startling. 

Lastly, I'd listen to the TAD Reference Ones. These have always, year after year, impressed me greatly. If they can be set up to sound poor, I haven't heard it. They're full sounding and tonally beautiful -- essentially, impossible for me to find fault with after a handful of show auditions.

All three of these speakers have one thing in common: world-class engineering. This translates into sound that, although different with each one, is utterly true to the music in the end. Any one of them would make me happy as a "last purchase" and a way off the high-end merry-go-round forever. . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

I've been a longtime fan of your reviews. I remember reading your DarTZeel amplifier review (SoundStage!, May 2005) in which you noted it might be a bit overpriced compared to its peers. A very honest opinion and a first for me when reading a review where typically you have to dig through the innuendo to try to figure out how the reviewer really felt.

My question is regarding the Weiss DAC202. I am interested in the DAC202 not only for its D/A conversion but also the ability to use it as a preamplifier. I have always been curious whether DACs with the built-in preamp capability benefited from a top-tier preamplifier, such as the Boulder preamplifier that is part of your reference system. I know the typical answer is that no preamp is the best preamp, but I rarely have seen comparisons where this was carried out with a top-of-the-line preamplifier. Did you get a chance to compare the DAC202 connected directly to your amplifiers versus through the preamplifier? If so, what were your impressions? Thank you.

Chris

Although I did not listen extensively to the Weiss DAC202 as a preamp during the formal review, I have had a chance to do so in subsequent months (I bought the DAC202 to use as a reference). I've found the volume control in the Weiss to sound better than any other source-implemented volume control that I've used. In fact, it is basically a wash with my Boulder 1010 preamp that I also use as a reference. They are both utterly transparent, and I'd have a hard time picking one out over the other in a blind test. Ultimately, I need a neutral preamp for reviewing sources with analog outputs, such as DACs, and the Boulder is a fine choice in that regard because it is neutral and extremely transparent. But if I was a digital-only audiophile and not in the review business, I could easily see myself bypassing the expense of owning an analog preamp and going with the Weiss exclusively. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Garrett Hongo,

I really appreciated your descriptive review of the deHavilland KE50A mono amps. So much so that I’m considering their purchase. The system I’d like to finalize by next year centers around the Legacy Whisper XD speakers. The amps I’m considering are the Ayon Titan, EAR 890, or the DH 50As (plus Mercury 3 preamp). The one area I’m a stickler about is the noise of the tube amps. I know the Ayons are reputedly very quiet. Would you be so kind as to offer your perspective on how quiet the amp is, and with the Mercury pre as well? Looking forward to your upcoming reviews.

Regards and thanks,
Bruno

Thank you for your comments! They're gratifying to hear.

The deHavilland KE50A monoblocks are extremely quiet, particularly with the deHavilland Mercury preamp -- my own reference electronics. However, I'm not familiar with the Legacy Whisper speakers you mention, though I've heard other Legacy speakers. I'm somewhat familiar with the Ayon line of amps, as I own a "relative" of sorts made by VAIC/Mastersound in Italy. Of course, Ayon has its own designs and has created some fine amps, exceptionally engineered. But I'm not familiar with one called the Titan. There is an Ayon KT88 amp called the Triton. 

I've also reviewed the EAR 890 stereo amp and think highly of it. 

It might boil down to a question of power and matching with your speakers. The KE50As are about 40W of output, the EAR 890 70W, and the Ayon Triton 125W. 

The KE50As drive my Von Schweikert Audio VR5 HSE speakers (91dB/6 ohm) very well in a smallish 12' x 15' x 8.5' room. If your room isn't too large, I should think this would be an excellent match. Why not contact Kara Chaffee, owner and chief engineer of deHavilland? She's extremely affable, wants her clients to be completely happy, and can perhaps advise you in even better detail than I.

However, if your room is medium to large, you might look at the EAR 890 or Ayon Triton as alternatives. The 890 has plenty of giddyup. I haven't heard the Triton, but I like most all Ayon electronics. Good luck! . . . Garrett Hongo

To Garrett Hongo,

I read your most thoughtful reviews and think you got the EAR sound right and did a very good job delineating the 868 and 890. However, the comments on changing tubes in the 890 make it sound far more difficult than it is and I think you scared people off unnecessarily. While not convenient to remove/replace the cages, it isn't that tough and can readily be done in 20 minutes -- hardly a deal breaker, especially considering the sound. Of course, with the cages off, it's virtually instantaneous to change tubes.

What I think makes the 868 and 890 really special is their ability to put a very real image of a performance in the room with awesome tonality and dynamics. More than audiophile traits like being the airiest or most finessed, they get to the heart of the matter by being no-nonsense reproduction machines. They sound like real music and lots and lots of people really love this.

Thanks,
Jay Kaufman
Audio Revelation

Thanks for bothering to read and comment. Appreciate the feedback.

Regarding tube changing on the 890 stereo amp, I just quoted Dan Meinwald (EAR distributor), pretty much. Maybe I shouldn't have included it, but, since I'd first gotten the amp with KT90 tubes . . .  

In my review of the EAR 868 preamp, I pointed out that the Mercury preamp versus the 868 was airier, but that I preferred it on very specific, likely idiosyncratic music -- opera and choral -- while the 868's character was more suited to jazz and rock than the Mercury. I think readers might easily figure out for themselves which preamp might better appeal to them based on this comparison. Mahalo. . . . Garrett Hongo

Editor,

I read your JL Audio Gotham review and you were using TrueRTA software with the Behringer ECM8000 microphone for frequency-response data collection. I have purchased the ECM8000 and it requires a phantom power supply. Do you use a preamp or the Behringer PS400 to provide phantom power to the ECM8000? As of now, I am using the RadioShack SPL meter with TrueRTA and I would like to set up the ECM8000 to get better results.    

I am looking forward to your reply.

Best regards,
Kent

I use an MXL Mic Mate line-level XLR-to-USB adapter. It provides the phantom power supply for the microphone and interfaces with your computer without any additional drivers required. It is dead simple to use, and is also fairly inexpensive. . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

Thank you for your excellent article on integrating Paradigm S2 v.3 speakers with Paradigm's top-of-the-line subwoofer. This was of particular interest to me as I am about to purchase two S2s, which I intend to integrate with my JL Audio Fathom f113 subwoofer.

I would suggest that you arrange to get a loaner Statement D2V from Anthem and run ARC on your setup. I am an electrical engineer, and before I tried ARC, I would make the same kinds of statements as you regarding speaker optimization using a room-correction program versus manual adjustment. What I found when I ran ARC was that while I was able to remove low-frequency room resonances as well as the ARC system, I could not produce anywhere near the precision and clarity in the frequency range existing for several octaves around the cutoff between my speakers and the Fathom. This difference was not insignificant, but rather took my existing system to a new level of performance. As an aside, I consider the Anthem D1 and its successor D2V the finest, most adaptable, and usable pieces of audio equipment that I have ever owned.

I am glad to see that someone else is extolling the virtues of audio-only linear PCM recordings made at 24-bit/96kHz and 192kHz. I have also purchased all of the Blu-ray 2L audio recordings and found that they are the highest-quality recordings that I have heard on any medium, be it CD, SACD, or vinyl.

Keep up the good work.

Best regards,

Stan