FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 1
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live in France, Paris.
You have touched upon a very interesting question, one that is of great relevance to me right now. The preamp is the heart...and in many ways, the soul...of an audio system, in my view. The 5103 is a very fine preamp, one that I have favorably reviewed, but I have been doing further audio voyaging, looking for other approaches and designs.
In Positive Feedback Online, Issue 2, I'll be reviewing the Audio Research Reference Two, Mk. II. This will be followed later in the year with a review of the new Balanced Audio Technology VK-51 reference preamp.
The ARC Ref Two is not a "warm" preamp, being remarkably neutral. "Warmth" in a preamp is hard to pin down long distance. You'll want to take a look at tube-based designs for sure; beyond that, it's hard to advise you, Christophe. Tube preamps can very mightily in sound...even a given preamp can change its character, depending on the tubes that you use.
Don't forget your interconnects (which you did not mention). You might give Cardas a try; they impart a musical richness to the sound that can be most seductive in a given system. I'd also check the power cables that you're using; I recommend the Cardas power cables in the Klout-based system, since that is what I went with, after experimentation.
You question about new speakers cables with the Komri is also timely: Jennifer Crock of JENA Labs is making a 2 pair -> 4 pair custom set of JENA Labs speaker cables for me to try with the Klimax/Komri combination. As I said in my review, I have a growing feeling that the standard Linn speaker cables are not quite the thing for bringing out the best in the Linn system.
I'll report on my results by this fall.
Thanks for reading Positive Feedback Online, Christophe...and thanks for your questions!
David W. Robinson
My main motivation for writing this is Dave Glackin's interview with Stan Ricker and Stan's mention of the great mastering engineer George Piros. I had the good fortune of working with George for many years when we were both at Atlantic Studios in New York. He would often tell me stories of his days with Bob Fine and his other experiences in the record business, usually interspersing his comments with language that would make many "gangstas" blush. It was great to see George remembered. I know I'll never forget him.
One last thing before I conclude: In the reviews of the Aurio and Daruma roller bearings, two things came to mind. First, I believe Vistek is offering ball bearings to be used atop the Aurios now, so contact with the bottom surface of the component is minimized. I wish the reviewers had tried this as I believe it improves performance significantly. Same for the Darumas. I wish the reviewer got to audition them "topless" (i.e. with only the ball making contact with the component). Here again, I believe performance is significantly improved. The second thing that came to mind in the reviews was the omission of the fact that these devices work by preventing vibrations from ENTERING the gear (primarily those of seismic nature, coming from the ground, through the floor and supporting shelves).
Fun web site. Keep up the good work.
the compliments and reflections, Barry. We're working hard to make PF Online a place of
Your points on the Aurios and Daruma are well taken. Thanks for the heads-up! When we originally did the review these were relatively new. With so many end-users having experienced these, it is nice to know that there is more than one way to skin a cat. A follow-up is in order then. Oh, and yes we were aware as to the "design" and "intent" of the devices. Sorry for the omission. We will also have a review of the Townshend Sinks in a few weeks.
I have no problems with what the Linn Komri claims to accomplish. The physical layout looks like, if done well, it could appear as a point source radiator. But a claim that it is superior to another well proven design should include an explanation of why it is superior and some attempt at a logical proof of this superiority; it should not be a couple of words without any explanation at all. Both audio reviews and Joe D'Appolito deserve better.
Please note that this is not an attack on the Linn speaker, a product I have never heard, just an appeal for more objectivity and clarity in the audio reviewing process.
No, not at all. Couldn't be further from my mind.
Perhaps, but with none of the malice aforethought that you seem willing to attribute. I must confess to no interest in "objectivity," a category that I do not believe exists in human affairs, much less in things audio.
Clarity? I believe that the review is quite clear, so far as it goes.
And so I must refuse your gauntlet, Allen, since I have no interest in the conflict that I never sought in my original commentary.
The other point is that, for example, if my flip-pass-flip idea were applied, for example, to a tube preamp, and that preamp was either single-ended (Class A) or push-pull (Class AB), for example, then in the Class A case the tube would have to be perfectly linear over the entire signal level for no-change to occur. Similarly, the Class AB case which uses 2 tubes in push-pull fashion would have to have two perfectly matched tubes for this flip-pass-flip idea to show no change.
Basically, I'm agreeing with Clark about the definitions of polarity and absolute polarity, but I'm also saying that the result of that polarity reversal switch depends on where in the signal path you put the switch.
In the interest of community, and our shared love of Music (with a capital M), here is a wonderful link for everybody to peruse. It is an extensive glossary of musical instruments from around the world, and amazing in its breadth. There is so much music and information "out there" that we never see here in the U.S.. For those who love the music of other cultures, an invaluable resource as well. It's at http://www.worldmusicportal.com/Instruments/instruments.htm
David and Dave, keep up the great work.
alan m. kafton
sending this along, Alan! It's a very useful resource, and is hereby recommended to
readers of Positive Feedback Online.
To fuel my understanding and wish to know an equipment: Marantz SACD Player SA14, would you please advise how can I find it from your contents?
Hello ML... We're glad to hear that you're find PF Online to be a helpful audio resource. Please drop by regularly! We have not yet reviewed the Marantz SA-14. My very favorable comments on the Marantz SA-12S multi-channel SACD player will be appearing in the near future here on PF Online.
I have written reviews myself, of software packages. My editor was in your camp, and we returned many things unreviewed, often with notes describing the flaws we found, and an invitation to submit revised products for review, without prejudice. I can see the validity of Atkinson's position, as well. His argument would likely be that his policy keeps manufactures honest, since whatever they submit will be reviewed, even if the review is unfavorable.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on these viewpoints, and even to hear what motivated your choice. This is a core question in the reviewing business, and informed debate is a good thing. I myself don't know where I stand, the editor I spoke of was my uncle, and he is a man I have the utmost respect for. But I cannot decide if he is right on this one.
Shannon, thanks for the kind words on the site. As to your concerns to our "no-bad-review" policy, I would like to respond by saying that we are not really part of that camp. Nor are we part of the "if it stinks it is our duty to say how much" camp either. Where we see ourselves standing is more in the middle. I don't feel it is our role to beat-up on products, nor are we here to decide the fate of any company's successlet the market place do that. Besides, for the most part, audio today is a sea of great-sounding products, each with their strengths and weaknesses. Yes, there is the occasional turd out there, but when we select products it is more from what we would like to hear along with what we feel the readers would like to see, then trying to be the "audio police."
Yes, we have received products that did not work for the reviewers involved and ended up not being published, they simply could not find much to say that was positive. Why beat a dead horse? But these are by far the rare exception (I can think of only two over the past 5 years and in each case the maufacturer decided either to pull the product from their line or redesign it). It is our policy that if it is sent for review and I get all the reviews in, we will publish the reviews as they stand. Naturally, the manufacturer can offer any response they feel is warranted. And yes, we have had a few plead with us not to print reviews as they were "raves." This they felt would be a death blow to them as a business. By the way, all are still going strong!
What we feel needs to be said in a review is an honest response to what a component sounds like within a systemmeaning you will get the good with the bad. And remember, it is the system you are listening to, not an individual component. Our reviews as are fairly well balanced, in that we make every effort to explain not only why we liked a product, but perhaps why we didn't.
But when we write that a product doesn't do this or that, it does not mean that the product itself is "bad." Just that we preferred something else. On the other hand you may find the product to be the cat's meow. Which is why we use multiple reviewers; while one or two may have loved this or that about the product, the other(s) may not, or vice versa. Please read some of our reviewes in the audimusings' Back Issues section and you will gain a greater understanding of what we are doing.
It is my belief that all audio reviews are, at best, no more than indicative. The comments of even a good writer should be regarded as transitional impressions, expressed as momentary guides for further exploration by the audio seeker who reads them. They are conditional, not relative, not absolute. This means that all reviews should be kept in perspective, and should always be tested by the audiophile in his or her own listening room. The enjoyment of audio and recorded music being an intensely existential moment, arising out of profound spiritual depths, there is simply no other way to validate a response.
You must do this for yourselfan act that requires exertion, passion, and attention to detailno one else can do this for you. Any attempt to substitute the views of an "audio authority" for your own maturing sensibilities (the education of which is the supreme task of the audiophile) is doomed to die the death of the derivative soul and the dilettante.
The true audiophile is deeply empirical, while understanding that the source of musical ecstasy is far beyond the ability of mere measurement to fathom. He or she is therefore free to try anything, disbelief suspended, knowing that there is much that can only be known by a willingness to try.
We must take the responsibility for the quality of our own audio and musical experiences, for no one but us can carry the burden of our preferences and our choices.
Why "no negative reviews"? For epistemological reasons, really. Every audio system is an interrelated whole, a combination of interactive strengths and weaknesses. Changing a single componentindeed, changing a minute detailcan, in my experience, change the character of the whole thing.
Given the reality of system synergy, the only way that I could in good conscience produce a negative review would be if I had energetically and exhaustively evaluated the component under all possible conditions, and had optimized all aspects of system performance. (Clark Johnsen did an excellent summary of what would be required to do this several years ago in PF; I should re-print it to remind us all of the long list of what that involves.) Then, and only then, could I reasonably conclude that a given component in a given system was "bad"and even that would be conditional.
The logistics of reviewing and economic considerations would impose this, even if I wished otherwise. I think it best to be philosophical about the limits of what can be done in audio reviewing, and proper to be honest about those limits.
On the other hand, a good impression really means something! We have found something that works, and that should be shared.
In summary, "bad impressions" are inconclusive (because they are not exhaustivewe must not argue from silence here), but good ones are indicative. I should say that I also assume that people want to know "where the gold is," not "where the gold aint." Then again, human nature has saddened me more than once. Regardless, I long ago decided for these reasons only to publish reviews of the magical moments, those special times when wonderful things happen in a listening room. Any component or system that is submitted for review that doesnt "make magic" for one reviewer is often sent to another; if it strikes out another time or two, it is simply returned to the designer/manufacturer/distributor with a polite "no review."
The fact that we couldnt find the magic doesnt mean that someone else, somewhere else, might not; we should walk humbly in light of that fact.
Some people do indeed say that the publication of "bad" reviews "keeps the manufacturers honest," or "establishes the credibility/integrity of a review magazine." I disagree; such a practice ensures neither of necessity. There are dishonest designers and manufacturers; there are corrupt/inept journalists; "negative" reviews can sometimes be used to produce the appearance of integrity, without actually producing the fruit thereof.
Every editor is free to pursue his or her own path. John Atkinson and I disagree on the question of publishing negative reviews, but thats neither here nor there, I think. Positive Feedback Online and Stereophile are two radically different publications, with different worldviews in some important regards. Ultimately, the reader must choose which worldview is kindred, and read accordingly.
Glad to hear that you are enjoying the Positive Feedback Online site, by the way! I give the credit, and real kudos, to Dave and Carol Clark, our gifted web site editorial team. Its a fine, clean layout, highly compliant with various browsers according to the email that Ive received easy on the eyes, no?
All the best,
I should note that I am now also an installer for the Allen Wright Vacuum State SACD mods. See http://www.vacuumstate.com for more information. My prices for installation are the same as those listed on Allens web site. Note: There is a waiting list for these boards. Contact me if you wish to be put on the list. These boards can be put in most Sony SACD players.
David W. Robinson mentions Audiocom's Super Clock upgrade for his Sony SCD-1 in this issue of Positive Feedback Online. This is a $248 part that replaces the stock oscillator on Sony's digital board. This add-on board lowers jitter to such an extent that the sound is improved in all respects. The labor to install this mod is $100. This part is HOT! I cant keep them in stock.
The Super Clock Power Supply that David mentioned is also available. The cost is $263 for the part and $100 to install. This is a good mod for those who dont have their Sony's modified with black gates in the existing Power Supply.
The Sony modifications listed below come in three different types. The first two modifications are my own. The others are from Audiocom. The first modification I offer replaces 32 resistors in the audio board with Vishay vsh type resistors. I also replace 12 capacitors in the low pass filter section with REL polystyrene capacitors and I replace two Electrolytic capacitors in the power supply with Black Gate caps. The total cost is $460. The labor is $200 and the parts are $260. Parts for this mod are stocked at all times and the turn around time is 48 hours.
The second modification is the same as the first, except I use Vishays best S-102 resistors in the audio section. The total cost is $720, labor $200 and $520 parts. The resistors for this mod are not stocked, but I can get them in a few days. These Vishays have the best transparency and detail I have found.
third modification is the Audiocom modifications from the
The complete modification cost is $1982 for the parts. My labor to assemble the complete
kit is $450.
Note: The Audiocom Super Clock and Super Clock Power Supply are EXTRA! They can be added to any mod on this page.
All of the above parts can be obtained in 2 to 4 days from Audiocom's American parts distributor, Reference Audio Mods. Allen Wright Boards take one week to get and they must be ordered 5 boards at one time.
If you have any questions feel free to call me at: 503 - 659 - 6599 or 503 - 490 - 8602
nice to know that all the hard work on the new site is appreciated.
I am trying to offer something just a bit different by the way the site looks and
navigates. Wanted it to look more like a print magazine than a web-zine.
You might want to
consider looking at my website, www.SACDmods.com ,
to see an alternative for audiophiles with a smaller budget.
Well hear Gizmo in the whisper between the electrons, Peter....
Positive Feedback Magazine
Paul Weitzel has been producing and designing ultra high-end audiophile components under the Tube Research Labs, Inc. brand name since 1990. Anyone lucky enough to own any of his amplifiers, and other of his products, can only be aware of their exceptionally high quality. His power cables have been available since the start of his company and are second to none. Ive had some since 1995.
I agree that the sonic merits of the First Impression Gold Series Cables are without question the best I have ever used. I only ask that you give credit where it is due, and that is to Mr. Weitzel. Its only fair that your readers be aware of the facts in the development of the FIM Cables. Im certain that Mr. Ma is probably embarrassed at the omission of his long-time friend and collaborator in the creation and production of this fine series of products. Im sure that it was not your intention to damage the reputation of Mr. Weitzel, or to minimize his part in this project, so hopefully this sets the record straight.
I never told Positive Feedback that FIM Cable was my design. However, the Reviewer has, naturally and excusably, made an assumption that the design was mine since it was developed under the auspices of FIM. Mr. Paul Weitzel did show that part of the review to me, raising a similar query. I told him that I did not tell Positive Feedback that the design was mine. In fact, as far as I can remember, the reviewer never asked me about this. Perhaps, I underestimated Pauls feeling about the subject at that time. He might subtly wish me to clarify this with Positive Feedback. I did not do so because, on the one hand, personally I did not think it was a big deal, and on the other I was busy and was preoccupied with other things at that time. Besides, it was not entirely wrong. There are so many designs and products out there. Who really cares?
The true background of this matter? According to Paul, he has had years of experience in designing cables, among other things. Some years ago, he did show me a couple of his hand-built cables. I did not pay too much attention to them at that time.
I have also had over 20 years of experience with cable designs through marketing some very high-end cables. I have had numerous opportunities to discuss designs with audiophile cable manufacturers, and have offered suggestions on certain designs.
As for the birth of FIM Cable: initially I did not go into cable manufacturing business because I am semi-retired and have been very busy with the production of FIM recordings. Due to Pauls repeated encouragement, I eventually agreed to start investigating the design of cables some two and half years ago. Another reason that prompted me to go into this field was that at that time, I was looking for better cables for my music room, and I found that the cables I had did not satisfy me. We started to carefully audition cables by other manufacturers, and finally used Pauls several prototypes as the basis for R & D. We listened to a good number of various construction formats together. I made suggestions, gave my OK to the final design, and provided funding. We asked an OEM manufacturer to build the cables. Hence, it is a joint design, not a design solely by either myself or Paul Weitzel.
I hope this is clear. Thank you for bring this matter up.
(To which I would add that I wrote the review, I had not actually checked into the ancestry of the design; I simply attributed the work generically to the head of FIM. It was not my intent to disparage Paul Weitzels creative workI was simply unaware of it! Apologies to Paul, who is a very fine fellow, and a gifted audio artist.Ye Olde Editor)
Of course, it seems possible to change or remove the headphone protection components, but this would be more difficult and perhaps would cause reliability problems. Im not sure what their purpose is.
If you want to get a quick idea of the sonic effect, use the Denon remote and set the output level down to -6. Then turn up the gain in the amplifier to get the same loudness. Removing the cable as described above is even more effective.
I dont know if this fix is valid for any other Denon CD players, but judging from criticisms of some of them, it would be worth a look in the case of recent models.
readers of Positive Feedback:
Gizmo was an inspirational messenger of musical ecstasy. He unabashed enthusiasm infected thousands of us audiophiles with a renewed enthusiasm for listening. You didnt have to agree with his tastes or theories. Just reading his words or talking to him on the telephone was sufficient to get your audio juices flowing.
Motorcyclist, audiophile and tweaker to the nth degree, Harvey epitomized a soul whose journey in this life was to touch those who were fortunate enough to meet and talk to him and instill them with a passion for their lives and avocations.
I vividly remember spending hours on the phone with the gruff voice that was Dr. Gizmos. The discussions were about our journeys towards our own musical ecstasy and audio expression. Dont get me wrong: we were from totally different audio camps. His was one of tubes and horns; mine was the world of solid state and direct radiators. Yet we found lots of common ground.
The searchand the resultswere our area of commonality. It didnt matter if the subject was single malts, music or women. I can recall a long discussion we once had about Snapple flavors (all of it off color!)
Harveys enthusiasm "jump started" many of us who had strayed off the audiophile course. I gave his book, The Search for Musical Ecstasy, Vol. 1: In the Home to many friends, and the results were always startling. Guys connected with what he was saying, and started their own journey as a result. Harvey was the great enabler of mens audio journeys.
When a man has passed from this life to the next, those remaining ask themselves what did he contribute to society? What mark has his life made?
With Harvey, the answers are many-fold. His life touched a number of us in ways that only his loss has brought into focus. A passion for living, seeking the highest, and exploring the avenues less traveled were trademarks of Harvey. Being outside of the "box" and reveling in it made Harvey...well, it made him Harvey. Who else could have appeared on the cover of this periodical wearing a kilt, headdress and smoking a cigar? Only Harvey.
So how do we honor his spirit? I would have to think that Harvey would want all of us to carry forward with a zeal for life and music. (Of course he wouldnt want us to forget about single malts and women either!) Helping others in their audio quest, whatever that might be, is at the heart of this.
To honor his spirit and passing, I will be pouring two glasses of fine single malt this evening and listening to some great jazz. I will be rejoicing, knowing that Gizmo is wherever he is, looking over all of us while listening to the greatest sound system in the galaxy!
Harvey, you were one-of-a-kind, and I thank you for spending part of your time in this life with us.
I was saddened by the demise of N.Y.A.L. and the legal battle Harvey was involved in at the time.
Due to life circumstances, a divorce, and addiction issues, I lost touch with the audio hobby, and it wasnt until I got into recovery in 1998 that I picked up an issue of Positive Feedback and discovered Harvey was alive and well and still fighting the good fight. I remember my sense of loss after it sank in, that no, this wasnt one of Harveys practical jokes. I remember emailing Harvey, offering him my original copy of Understanding Tube Electronics, because I felt it should be included on his web site, and talking a bit about my journey up to then (thinking that "Hell be too busy to reply." Much to my surprise, later that same day he sent me a reply and gave me some encouragement on my journey.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the eulogy you wrote for the Triode Guild web site, and to add my hearty agreement to your views. I, for one, have no idea where were going to find someone to fill his shoes. Kudos to the people maintaining his web site; I hope that something can be done to preserve his writings, both for their humor and the fact that he made me "think" about searching for the grail when its been in front of me all along (e.g., my ST-70).
Forward to my next thoughts: through Positive Feedback I also discovered Listener magazine, which also carried a column by Harvey. They seem to be publishing on a very regular schedule. I hope that Positive Feedback isnt going to stop publishing. I personally buy your magazine at my local bookstore and haven't seen a new issue since the end of 2000.
Id appreciate hearing from you on this. The truth is important and I believe that Positive Feedback and Listener are about the only alternatives to mainstream audio reviewing that are left.
Please keep up the fight.
(And yet here we are on the Internet, Fred! Were keeping up the good fight from a place that Gizmo understood all too wellthe Net! Stay tuned; well be easier to find, and will be read by far more people online than we ever could have been in print.
The following email came from Jim Susky, cc:ed to PF, and is printed for reader edification.
To: Mike Dzurko,
Gardner and Robinson
Did you not encourage Mr. Gardner to use your in-line RCA male/female R/C network between preamp and power amp? I used this (with the 85hz pole) when I implemented a Sapphire/Titan system in 1998. Mr. Gardner apparently ran the Sapphire full-range filling in the bottom with the sub. I wonder whether this may have impaired the sub/sat blend making the sub constantly audible?
I used the R/C network, and found it a simple matter to remove the electric-bass-like "purr" by tweaking the Titan level and crossover frequency using plucked stand-up bass on Holly Cole (cant recall the albumDont Smoke in Bed?) I was able to achieve a successful blend in both my basement and in the basement of my friend whose money I was playing with (I used a mid-80s Berning EA230 for the Sapphires).
Anyway, congratulations again, Mike. If I werent chasing a bi-amped horn-based system with pro-audio drivers, Id probably have a pair of Jags at home by now. Maybe later.
I still have the Crown Macro Reference, although it is now sharing its 240-volt circuit with a PS Audio P600 Power Plant, which I also reconfigured for 240-volt input. The Power Plant feeds the rest of my audio and video equipment.
Every power upgrade I have made over the years starting with two dedicated 20-amp circuits to my audio closet in 1981 has resulted in a "not subtle" difference, as you indicate in your review. Thanks again for the long-ago tip.
Mike Pappas responds: