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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 15
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Our readers respond…we respond right back!

Send your comments to either drobinson@positive-feedback.com or dclark@positive-feedback.com

 

Hi guys,
Firstly, thanks for reviewing the DK amp as I requested in a letter in one of the recent issues. I knew it was good! I have been shouting this from the rooftops for a while now.

Anyway, as promised I am coming back to you with some feedback on the Xindak SACD player.

I have now owned this player for three months. It suffers from several problems:

1. It will not play any normal hybrid SACDs at all.
2. It will not play any hybrid surround sound SACDs
3. It will not play surround sound SACDs
4. It will not play copy controlled CDs
5. It has skipping problems with any disk. It is irrelevant that the disk is new, old scratched or has just been treated with CD cleaner. the problem is intermittent and does not seem to be related to whether the unit has warmed up or not. Also, if the CD is replayed it may not skip at all or may skip in another place! 

Conclusion: It is too sensitive.

The Xindak ONLY plays standard CDs and SACDs. I also know of a friend who has identical problems with his Xindak.

Due to these problems I have replaced the Xindak with a Shanling and spent some days comparing the sound quality of both.

My system is:

Pink Triangle PT too Turntable (Rega RB 300 with Incognito re-wire) DK VS1 amp MkI ( I am told that all internals are identical to the MkII version reviewed in issue 15 other than the inclusion of a loudness facility and the cosmetics on the front fascia) Trichord Delphini MkII phono amp Placette interconnects between all equipment Speaker Art Super Clefs Speakers Supra Sword speaker cable Earmax pro headphone amp Sennheiser HD 650's I hooked up both CD players simultaneously using the same interconnects.

The only difference is that the Xindak had been properly run in and the Shanling was straight out of the box. I used the stock Chinese tubes that come with both CD players and Siemens CCA's in the DK amplifier (these are very neutral).

I allowed both CD players to warm up for a few hours then sat down to do some serious listening. I used a number of different types of music varying in quality from SACD, HDCD, MFSL, and DCC CDs.

I used both the headphones and the speakers for evaluation purposes. Even fresh out of the box the Shanling sounded as good as the Xindak, especially through the tubed output. Three days later there was absolutely no comparison. The Shanling trounces the Xindak in everyway, including looks!

Whereas before I always complained about the lean sound of the Xindak when compared to my Analogue source, when I played the MFSL LP version of The Modern Jazz Quartet Live at the Music Inn Vol.2 (with Sonny Rollins) with the MFSL CD version of the same album, whereas the difference in the sound quality of the Xindak and the turntable was a whopping 25% (even my wife who is happy listening to a transistor radio commented on the difference!). With the Shanling this gap narrowed to less than 10%. To state it simply the Shanling trounces the Xindak in all departments, especially in the most important to me—musicality! The tubed output particularly gives late night jazz and vocals an extra warmth and breathiness around the edges that I personally find attractive.

Needless to say, the Xindak is back in the box winging its way back to the supplier who exchanged for the Shanling.

thanks and Regards
Raymon Moonilall


Hi!
First, thanks for the best audio magazine on the net!

Regarding Thom's question (see below), a way to solve the problem with *getting to hear the discs* he could read the disc on the computer and then—supposing he has a burner on the very same machine—burn the contents to a regular non-hybrid disc.

best regards

Stefan

Hello Stefan...
Thanks for the endorsement! We hope our readers enjoy PFO as much as we get a kick out of putting it together.. .it's good to hear some appreciation from time to time.

Your solution to Thom's RCA Living Stereo CD layer reading problem is certainly a decent work-around. But it's frustrating to have to use alternatives like this one to get to hear that layer on the SACD.

I suspect that he's either got a player that needs cleaning, or firmware that needs updating. I'm sure that Simaudio will get a solution to him sooner or later, if it's the latter.

Thom, make sure that you keep us posted on your situation, eh?

All the best, Stefan....

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


David
Great review on the gestalt of the sound of this machine v. the Modwright et. al. It would really have been helpful for a potential purchaser if had commented on the Redbook performance as most of us still are forced to listen to a majority of our music in that flawed format.

Douglas A. Milch, Esq.

Hello Douglas...
Glad to hear that you enjoyed the review; I hoped that our readers would find the comparisons of "house sounds" among SACD mods to be helpful.

As to the Red Book question: there just wasn't enough time for me to gather impressions on that front, and go through the work of comparing the modded players in that format. I can generalize and say that the modding I've heard has always benefited RBCD playback as well, but qualifying this with greater verbal precision would have taken chunks of the fourth dimension that I didn't have.

It's been a very busy time, you see....

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Dear Sirs,
I've read a lot of discussion regarding the Living Stereo reissues recently and so I went out and picked up a couple. They were the Chopin/Rubinstein and the Mussorgsky. I tried dozens of times to play these discs on my Sim Nova CD player but only the Mussorgsky managed to play once (and only once). Both would cue up and play fine on my computer CDrom player.

My question to you is have you had/heard of any problems whatsoever with these hybrids playing on Redbook CDs? I called Stereotypes where I purchased the Nova and they could offer no help.

I have emailed Simaudio but no heard back as of yet. I have many other hybrid discs and all of them have always played fine and so I want to think that there is something going on in the manafacture of the LS reissues that is giving my Nova fits. What do you think?? 

thanks,

Thom Middlestadt

Hello Thom...
This is pretty strange.

While not unheard of, difficulty detecting and playing the CD layer of a hybrid is not a problem. And the Simaudio CDPs have a very good reputation for quality. Some thoughts towards a solution:

1. What vintage is your Sim Nova? Are there any firmware updates available from Simaudio that might address this question? The fact that your computer plays these is some indication that there may be a vintage question.

2. Have you cleaned the lens of your Nova lately? There are a number of CD lens cleaning products on the market, which can whisk away any dust that may have collected on your lens.

3. Have you tried an SACD-safe CD surface cleaning/enhancing product? (E.g., Walker Audio's Vivid, or Record Research Lab's Shine-Ola?) It may be that a cleaner, more polished surface would assist your Nova to read up the discs properly. As far as I know, there is nothing in the production of the RCA LS that should be causing a problem, but in a world of shifting standards and emerging industrial processes, who knows?

Try the above, and let us know how things turn out, Thom.

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Editors,
I would like to thank David and Danny for responding to an earlier e-mail regarding the review of the Loricraft RCM. I think my original e-mail was perhaps vague. Just to be clear, I didn't mean to claim that the Loricraft cleaned as well as my VPI 16.5. I don't know this and didn't want to imply that I do. I also misstated that Danny didn't have experience with other RCM's. My apologies. I would like to restate my point to Danny:

I am aware that the Loricraft has greater suction and a clean thread for each LP. And yes I agree that theoretically that should make a cleaner record. I also agree that more often than not (but not always) there is a correlation between price and quality. However, we don't know how much vacuum is needed to adequately clean a record. If, for example, the VPI (or Nitty Gritty for that matter) sucks ALL of the solvent and dirt off, and I'm not saying that it does because I don't know, clean thread and greater suction won't make a difference. On the other hand if the weaker suction of the VPI left some dirt behind, and if the Loricraft cleaned better, then the difference in price may be justified. That's why I felt that a side by side comparison of two RCM's would be meaningful. If side A of several LP's was cleaned on one machine and side B on another one, both reviewer and reader could draw conclusions based on differences in surface noise. One point that I won't question: the VPI is noisy! Thanks again.

Dragomir Propadovich


Hi there,
Is it possible for you to do an extensive review of this magnificent reissue series on SACD, and also an interview of people who are involved in this project (ie. The series' producer Mr. Daniel Guss & remastering engineer, Mr. John Newton)?

Thanks!
Suebsak J. 

Hello Suebsak J.,
That's a tall order! Time permitting, I'll be profiling the playback that I'm getting on the first set of ten RCA Living Stereo SACDs.

But interviewing the producer and the mastering engineer is far more difficult to arrange. Since I have no direct contact with these individuals, we'd have to find a friendly intro via a third party.

If that occurs, then by all means this would be a fascinating project.

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Danny,
Just a point of information: the Keith Monks record-cleaning machine is still available (or at least his website is still active). See http://www.keithmonks-rcm.co.uk.

I have just bought a Loricraft PRC3 to replace my VPI 16.5. Whilst the VPI worked perfectly well - though not as well as the Loricraft—it was mainly the noise of the VPI that convinced me to get a PRC3.

Love your magazine.

Thanks.
Geoff

Hello Geoff...
This is an important clarification; heck *I* didn't know that the Monks site was online! Thanks for sending it along.

I own the VPI 17F, and if there's one thing that I wish were different about it, it's the noise that it makes. I always wonder whether or not my ears are quite up to listening after I finish my cleaning.

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Editors
Nice review by Danny Kaey on the Loricraft. But, since he has no experience with a VPI or Nitty Gritty, how are we to know which is the superior machine? Surely one of your other reviewers own other machines. Let's hear from them and have a real comparision between the Loricraft and their RCM. Otherwise, why would I dump my VPI 16.5 and shell out 2 Grand for something that does the same job? I'm a little surprised you didn't do this from the gitgo. Not to sound too much like sour grapes, I enjoy reading your magazine on a regular basis. Thanks.

Dragomir Propadovich

You make a valid point about the desirability of comparisons, Dragomir. Whenever possible, we run a component past 2-3 reviewers to get multiple takes on a component.The logistics of getting a product like to Loricraft to multiple reviewers who are experienced with the Nitty Gritty and the VPI is more challenging, though. There are other reviewers in our LA group who may be able to add to the commentary. I have significant experience with the Nitty Gritty in years past, and have owned a VPI 17F for many years; if we can get the Loricraft from Los Angeles up to Portland, perhaps we could add to the project.Glad to hear that you enjoy PFO.

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com

Dear Dragomir,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my review – I would like to offer a brief follow-up to your points.

First, you are incorrectly stating that I have had no experience with other machines, notably the VPI and Nitty Gritty’s; while it is true that I did not have either of these machines for personal use and testing, I have observed very closely their modus operandi and am very familiar with their attributes, both positive and negative (positive = modest price points). As I clearly stated in my review, the one major and quite frankly from a theoretical performance perspective, superior and distinctive difference in execution of one and the same principle (wet washing records) leads me to believe that all other things being equal, the Loricraft will do a better job cleaning records each and every time, due to the ingeniousness of the design approach. Extrapolating from that firsthand knowledge and understanding, I presume to know which machine would do the best job at washing your records, without actually having physically present any of the other machines, which by default share identical operating procedures. In my humble opinion, it would merely be a technicality to have both machines running side by side and then conclude that the Loricraft is the better machine due to the entirely different and superior execution process.

Second, you inquire as to the prospective of dropping 2k on yet another record wet wash system which you claim does the exact same job as your trusted VPI. In my review I clearly mentioned that this would be something each individual would have to figure out for themselves; after all, a $150 Rega 250 tone arm plays music just as does the Kuzma Airline at 8k. Extremely low operating noise (in my estimation reduced tenfold over comparable products) and a demonstratively superior washing system would in my book handily qualify the Loricraft for purchase. Alas, you don’t have to take my word for it; virtually every industry expert has declared the Keith Monk’s wet wash system to be the defacto standard for such procedure; how could you possibly go wrong when the Loricraft is designed around the exact same, identical principles?

Enjoy the magazine!

Best,

Danny Kaey


David thanks for the great magazine. I subscribed for years and have enjoyed your magazine even more online. Thanks also for you were one of the major influences on my purchase of a 777es four years ago, and the Kern mod I had done just before he started doing the transport mod. I had the clock II and all the rest at the time. Thanks, for the years of musical enjoyment I have had from this unit.

You have hinted for months now of a review of some of the newer Kern mods. Is there any chance of this coming soon? I almost sent it off two months ago, but $2000 more is a lot to sink into this unit.

I mean if I do this, I will have $4000 in mods to a unit I paid $1500 for four years ago. Anyway I would love to hear what you think. Are there any new units under $6000 that would compare

Thanks,
Jack Roberts

Hello Jack...

Many thanks for your very kind comments. We all work very hard on PFO (as we did before with PF), and hope that our readers find it to be both educational and entertaining.

Funny you should ask about my Audiomod 777 (transport caps mod) review... I'm just finishing this article up as your email arrived!

Overall, I was very impressed with what Richard has done with the 777. He's certainly lifted it from the ranks of the "OK" to the level of "something special." (Allen Wright of Vacuum State Electronics has also achieved this level of superiority with the 9000ES... my review on the exceptional VSEI 9000ES is already in the works.)

New SACD players under $6000 that would compare with the Audiomod 777 fully tricked out? Hmmm... tough question! First of all, I didn't hear Audiomod's fully decked out set of mods on this 777; there were some resistor mods that weren't done, nor did Richard go to the ultimate level on the output transformers, for example. Nor have I heard anything like every new SACD player out there. The stock Linn Unidisk 1.1 is quite a fine player (another upcoming review), but at $11,000 is nearly twice as dear. The Unidisk 2.1, which is closer to the price specified, is a product that I have not personally heard. PFO's Bob Levi has just purchased one, I believe; perhaps he'll write it up for us sometime sooon.

So, I'd have to say that I haven't heard anything in the $6K range that exceeds the performance of a good Sony transport (SCD-1, 777, 9000) that Richard Kern, Allen Wright, or Dan Wright have modded. I've said it many times before, and will say it again: a hotrodded SACD player can be made to outperform stock players out to nearly twice their price.

In my current hierarchy of SACD playback, only the EMM Labs gear puts a ceiling on what the modded players do. An EMM Labs DAC6 and CDSD transport will set you back a fair sum... ditto the EMM Labs DCC2 stereo rig... but they do seal up the sum for excellence in my current experience. No modded player (or other stock player that I've heard) has outperformed the Meitner gear yet.

Assuming that you're drawing the line at $6,000, and that you already have a modded 777 in hand, I'd probably continue down that path for now.

If your budget ever grows to $12,000, then you should revisit this question, Jack.

For what it's worth... and all the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Hello David,
I loved your magazine and love the PFO web site. I enjoy your articles, but have to admit Gizmo was my favorite. He was like the Jerry Williams of talk radio or the Eddie Andleman of sports radio, real entertainers. I'm an audiophile that has built a system on a beer budget.

Raising a family curtailed my hobby, but I still managed to build a system around a Bryston 4B amp (30 years old and still going) and a pair of Dahlquist DQ 10's. My system now is the Bryston, a Superphon Revelation pre-amp, a sony turntable, and over the years 3 different inexpensive CD players, and a pair of homemade speakers. The speakers consist of 2 Dynaudio 10W30 woofers each in their own enclosure, crossed over to satilite speakers by Radio Shack (4 inch mid, litheum tweeter). They sound very good, just a tad hot around 2000Hz.

I will not buy any music unless it is hybrid SACD or vinyl. Someday I'd like to transfer all my vinyl to 24/96 DVD. In the mean time I'd like to enjoy our hobby as much as possible. I've kept my eyes open for CD/SACD players that are inexpensive. A year ago I purchased a Sony SACD player that sold for $200, but was disappointed by the sound.

Recently a Pioneer DV-578A (plays SACD & DVD audio) caught my eye in a Best Buy flyer for $150 plus $37 worth of SACD's to boot. So I bought it, with 30 days to return it if I am not happy. I'm comparing it now to my JVC XV-N40, they sound pretty similar on CD's, with the Pioneer I surely can hear the potential of SACD. My question to you is, can this Pioneer be modified to sound better, or is it just too cheap of a player for that?

If it cannot, what theshold player would you recommend that sounds decent now, and can be modified in the future? The Pioneer sounds pretty darn good, but I value your opinion.

Thanks very much,
Michael Ruggieri

Hello Michael...
It's always good to hear from a reader who remembers
PF all the way back into its "Gizmo Days." In my opinion, he was one of the very finest and most interesting writers that audio ever had; I still miss him as a friend and colleague very much.

I'm also glad to hear that you're doing what you can with your system...with study, effort, and attention to detail, quite a lot can be done. What's really important is the passion and the elbow grease...money is secondary to commitment. And I agree completely about SACDs and LPs...that's where the glory is!

It is my understanding that the DV-578-A converts SACD's DSD to PCM, Michael, which means that you are still not hearing the possibilities of DSD without the coloration of PCM encoding.

I'd recommend that you check with Allen Wright of Vacuum State Electronics (check out http://www.vacuumstate.com/Son-kits.htm), Richard Kern of Audiomod (http://www.audiomod.com), or Dan Wright of ModWright (http://www.modwright.com) to see what your options are for entry-level, hot-roddable, DSD-faithful SACD players might be.

Me, I ignore any SACD player that doesn't handle DSD with DSD D/A's, and would advocate that lovers of fine audio do the same. I'm sure that Allen, Richard, or Dan can give you a list of entry-level players that are suitable.

Hang in there; a properly modded SACD player can give you a truly fine musical experience at a tolerable price...heck, I'm listening to one now!

All the best,

david
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online
drobinson@positive-feedback.com


Dear Mr. Campbell
Just wanted to provide a couple of quick thoughts about your recent Element Cable Review. Firstly, well done!! Great writing of the non-stereophile kind. More importantly, you put the Element cable in context of the marketplace, which more reviewers must do. I have gone through numerous cables in the past few years and agree wholeheartedly with your conclusion that very good even great cable is now being offered at a real world price from folks like, Chris Ven Haus, Signal, et. al.

One thing that your review did nicely however revealed a fatal flaw. In praising the performance of the Element to competitive levels, you request readers to provide their thoughts on how the Element stacks up to the mega price competition. Well in the very same issue your college Mr. Forrester reviews a pair of pricier Purist Designs. It would have been much more informative for readers if you had had sent the UPS man over to Mr. Forresters and stacked the Elements right up against the Purist Design for a footnote in your review.

Douglas A. Milch

Hi Doug,
Yes, I surely realized I could be stepping into a big pile of doggy-doo by inquiring how the Elements might stack up against megabuck competition. But I left it in the review in the spirit of initiating some constructive dialogue.

PFO has actually reviewed any number of very expensive cables in recent months. I suppose we could do one of two things: engage one of those other reviewers to evaluate the Elements vs. their reference cables. Or, as the Elements are still sitting in my system, perhaps I could essay the job myself, and review a big-buck pair of cables for the first time.

I'll let Dave or David weigh in on what might be preferable.

Thanks very much for your kind words, and for the thoughtful response.

Regards,
Tom Campbell


Dear Sirs,
Dave Glackin writes in Positive Feedback Online Issue 14 (http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue14/berry.htm):

"The eight cuts from the original single LP Concord release are spread over nearly three sides on this two-disc 33 rpm reissue by Pure Audiophile. Three bonus tracks from other Concord releases, which mate very well with this album, round out the two LPs. The soundstage is wide open, and the LP has excellent dynamics, transparency, instrumental timbre and inner detail."

But a review of a re-mastered re-release is not complete, I think, without a comparison to the original. Should we seek it out used or go for the new one?

By the way, the price for this new 2 LP set (original is only one) is not given, and I could not make the manufacturer link work.

Thanks for your excellent ezine.

Mel

Dear Mel,
You are correct, of course, about the desirability of comparing a remastered reissue of an LP with the original. And I have done this in the past when possible. See, for instance, my review of the 33 and 45 rpm Classic Records versions of Heifetz playing Bruch's Scottish Fantasy in
Positive Feedback Online, Issue 1 (http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue1/heifetzglackin.htm). I have done such comparisons whenever I have had the original LP in my collection, or could easily borrow it locally from friends such as record maven extraordinaire Ted Conger. I had actually never considered approaching the LP reissue firms themselves about borrowing a copy, but your letter inspired me to do so. I have received a very positive response from Robert Pincus at Cisco, for which he has my deepest thanks. I expect a positive response from Dennis Cassidy of Pure Audiophile. And Michael Hobson at Classic has kindly offered comparative listening sessions at his shop in the past (but the time factor is prohibitive for me here). As a result of your letter, I intend to ask the manufacturers for loans of original LPs in the future, when I do not already own them and cannot obtain them locally. Thanks for the great suggestion.

Now to get to Shortcake, my personal opinion is that Stan Ricker can infuse more information from a master tape into a record groove than anyone else on this planet. To see why I believe this, read the introduction to my interview with Stan that commences in Positive Feedback Online, Issue 1 (http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue1/ricker1.htm). I've watched Stan work many times. I am hard pressed to imagine that the original sounds better than Stan's remastered version, unless the tapes have deteriorated. Assuming that my opinion is correct, then the question is: How much better is the Pure Audiophile reissue than the original, and is the reissue worth the price of admission? I have admittedly fallen short in that area, and can only report that the reissue stands on its own merit as an excellent product for those who like the music.

Regarding the spread of an original single-disc album over two discs, Stan reports that this gives him the engineering freedom to produce a higher quality product. Most specifically, inner diameter distortion problems are greatly reduced when he doesn't have to cut so close to the label. This is a significant problem with LPs. Yes, this makes a single disc grow into a double disc, and yes, the price goes up commensurately. The price of most things in perfectionist audio is such that most of us must weigh the tradeoffs before buying, and this record is no exception. I'm sorry that I didn't give you enough information to make an informed buying decision. I will endeavor to take your suggestion and do better in the future (in my next review, as a matter of fact). But please recognize that it may not always be possible to obtain an original, sometimes because they are simply too rare and too valuable to either purchase or lend. The life of a reviewer is never simple. Read my bio under "Meet the Staff" and you'll understand why I've sworn off reviewing equipment!

Sincerely yours,
Dave Glackin

Further to this discussion,
I pulled out the original and gave it a spin. Pretty nice recording.... I think it had been recommended in The Absolute Sound as nice but nothing exceptional. It didn't make any of the HP lists (as did Berry's D2D "For Duke"). I think the music is mediocre, the kind of thing one could hear from professional musicians at a club, but I can accept that others have different opinions.

Nice stereo spread. Not much depth; multimiking? In the style of the time, drums from speaker to speaker--again suggesting a multi-miked recording.

But, and this is a big BUT, the original had less than 20 minutes on a side. That leaves plenty of room for Stan the man to make a fine reissue on one LP.

Stretching this recording to two disks (at 33.3 rpm yet) and charging $50 for this extravaganza makes me surmise that Pure Audiophile thinks each customer to be a Pure Audiophool!

As the original can probably be had in excellent condition for a couple of bucks, all the more reason for your reviewer to have offered a comparison. I'm certain Pure Audiophile could have provided a loan of one.

Mel


Editor
Your review Of the Audio research VT100 amp (see Positive Feedback Online, Issue 3, http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue3/reference2.htm) reminded that I had always wondered. If BAT's calling the 6H30 a 'super' tube had a meaningful reason behind it or was it just some more audio hype to help sell some admittedly very good tube amps. Victor Khomenko of BAT explained why he calls the 6H30 tube a 'super' tube at a New Jersey Audio Society club meeting. The beauty of the 6H30 tube as used by BAT and Audio Research among others is its low output impedance allowing it to easily drive the next tube amplification stage without the need for an extra cathode follower stage. This has potentially two advantages. It saves a stage which makes the design both simpler (good in itself) and less costly (I'm not implying cheaper here). And secondly some designers don't like the sound of a cathode follower stage (due to the high local feedback it entails?).

Allen Edelstein

 

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