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Positive Feedback ISSUE 22
november/december 2005


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Hi David,
I just finished reading your article regarding your Sony SCD-1 upgrades with great interest. I have e-mailed Richard Kern to inquire if he has upgrades for Sony C555ES SACD and Audible Illusions L2.

I have a question for you though; have you heard of David Schulte of The Upgrade Company? Have you had the opportunity to listen to any of his upgrades?

Thank you in advance.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Ben Licera

Hello Ben...

I don't know if Richard Kern is modding those players, but I do know that he does very fine work.

I've never heard of David Schulte or The Upgrade Company, so can't comment on that. I am personally familiar with the work of Allen Wright and Vacuum State Audio (, Paul Weitzel and Tube Research Labs (, Dan Wright ( and Richard Kern ( These folks each have their own philosophy and approach to modifications for SACD gear, specialize in particular makes/models, and all do fine work in their selected domain. I can recommend any of them with confidence.

Merry Christmas to you, Ben.


Hi Dave,
Do you or any of the [PFO] staffers know of, [or have] heard or reviewed the Denali loudspeaker system by Intuitive Designs (Dale Pitcher)? I've been able to glean some information, but no substantive analysis from an objective observer. They are very avantgarde and expensive.

Thank you.

Redell Napper

Hello Redell...

I certainly have not had any experience with the Denalis, and don't know if any PFO editor or writer has done so. (If any have, they can chime in.) Given their mass, this isn't surprising. The logistics of large speakers usually preclude serious reviewing under known conditions, leaving us with show impressions only.

If Denali wants to prove me wrong, they know where to find me.


BTW: In my opinion, "substantive analysis" is both helpful and possible, but the category of "objective observer" is a null set. No such creature exists.

Dispassion, yes; "objective," no.

All the best,


I do commend the efforts of PFO. Some one once used the term "lunatic fringe" as it relates to high end audio. But I truly believe that you folks display a passion and ardent support for our hobby, and the universe is large enough for all of the differing views and tastes.

While objectivity may be the goal I would agree that most of the time it is an ideal that few can obtain.

I thought that I had arrived back in 1973 with JBLs. Little did I know that a few years later Dalquists, Vandersteens, and Infinitys would change my paradigm.


Ain't audio wonderful!

Redell Napper

Hello again, Redell...

Thanks for the kind words about PFO. A lot of hard work goes into making this magazine both educational and entertaining, and it's good to hear from our readers that we are attaining that goal.

JBL's in 1973...I remember those days, and how I yearned for better audio than I had. (Being a broke college student is a tough row to hoe.)

Now I'm confused at a higher level.

All the best to you on your audio journey, Redell,


I've known Gordon Holt over 30 years and I'm probably biased. I stuffed envelopes, moved equipment, etc. and wrote a few reviews for him. And no one in American audio journalism deserves a Lifetime Award more. Thanks for awarding it. So hip hip hooray and a I raise a martini in salute to him.

Allen Edelstein

We agree completely about Gordon, Allen. Enough said, and cheers!


I knew Bud Fried quite well and this is just a bit of trivia in relationship to the Paradigm Studio 20v3 review. But Bud Fried would never have cared where the bass reflex port of a speaker was located since he believed bass reflex loading to be both incorrect and irrelevant. He found only two loadings to be of any use in a properly designed speaker (as he defined properly designed).

First, of course, was the transmission line. And second was the line tunnel (a highly stuffed port as in the Dynaco A25 and related to the Scandinavian Variovent designs, and which was derived from an old Ferrograph design in the case of IMF). All other loadings other than huge, built in straight bass horns, he would not have considered to be of any use in properly reproducing sound.

Allen Edelstein

I just read your Manley Steelhead article (excellent, by the way), and noticed your recommendations about the Linn Lingo power supply. As you'll recall, you recommended upgrading to the latest version available. 

A few questions from a new Lingo owner (prior Valhalla ~ have Linn LP12 Sondek/Cirkus/Trampolin). Two-week-old emails to Linn have gone unanswered. that are the differences in the new Lingo and the prior model? In other words, how can you be sure a "latest" model is received versus the older version. When was the latest version Lingo released?

I know you may feel that this is a question for my dealer. My dealer has the alleged reputation of occasionally selling demo/showroom units as new. I just heard about this, am not charging them as having done this to me, and just want to ensure that I have the latest model available. One thing that worries me is that they wanted to sell me the unit on the showroom floor, it was two years old, I declined and told them that I wanted a brand new unit. Are there differences in the exterior look of these two units?

Can you tell me where to find the serial # on the Linn Lingo? I've looked everywhere and cannot locate it (but have pretty poor eyesight). There does not appear to be one on the rear of my unit, where serial #s are usually located for audio equipment.

Hopefully, this is not too confusing. I appreciate your consideration and your help.



Hello Chuck...
Good question. The difference between the original Lingo Power Supply and the newer, revised version are very easy to spot.

The older Lingo is a long rectangular box with a black finish...a narrow front at about 6.5" wide, by about 3.5" high, and deep...say, about 14" or so.

The revised Lingo that I have is finished in silver (though black may be available...I'd have to check on that) and has very different, more square-like dimensions: about 12.75" wide by 12" deep by just under 3.25" high. This revised version was released in 2002, as I recall; I am not aware that Linn has updated the Lingo since then, though internal micro-revs are always possible. I cannot supply you with serial numbers on that question.

I would have no problem with purchasing a floor demo that was a couple of years old, provided that I received a full warranty on that unit (or a compensating and acceptable discount for a "balance of the warranty" transaction), and provided that the cosmetics of the unit were reasonable. Otherwise, I would seek to purchase a new unit, and pay accordingly.

Check the bottom of the unit as well as its rear for serial number information.

But never fear about mistaking version 1 and version 2 of the Lingo; there is no way to confuse the two, since the form factors of the units are quite distinctive.

I hope this helps you, Chuck.

All the best,


Thank you for the quick response. I have received the latest version Lingo, based upon your description. It was installed today by my dealer...unfortunately, the issues with hum appeared after he left. I've been doing some research on the web tonight regarding this issue. If you have any insight regarding a resolution, I am all ears.

Again, great review. It was the catalyst in my latest upgrade.



Hello Chuck...
Strange, I've never had a problem with hum with any of my Linn LP-12/Lingo/etc. turntable combinations over the past 17 years. The general quietness of Linn gear is legendary.

The first place to look is your ground wire for the turntable. Is it attached to a known good ground? If it isn't, then connect it and try again. If it is attached, then try *disconnecting* it...this is something that I've usually had to do with my LP-12. Go with whatever is quieter.

Beyond that, the traditional answer to an incidence of hum in an audio system is to find a SINGLE component (either the Lingo, your phono amp, or your preamp for starters) and use a cheater plug to float the ground on that one item. If it doesn't work with one, then try the other. Make sure that you have the Lingo placed well away from your LP-12, and as far away as possible from the rest of your audio chain. Also make sure that you have your phono interconnects nowhere near the Lingo, and away from sources of electromagnetic interference (EMI).

If none of this works, look at your system setup very carefully. Assuming that your system was noise-free earlier, and that the hum arrived after the installation (which is what you indicate in your follow-up), ask yourself the question, "What changed when the new Lingo was installed?"

Did you move anything? Re-plug differently? Run interconnects differently? Add or subtract anything? Alter the configuration of your audio chain in any way?

If so, then go back and try to reverse what was done, ONE CHANGE AT A TIME.

Never change more than one variable when trying to smoke out a hum.

You should be able to track down the source of the problem, Chuck, by following these steps...unless you suddenly have a coincidental new source of 60 Hz in your environment.

All the best,


Just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed your photo essays of RMAF. For that matter, congratulations on Positive Feedback in general. In my opinion, PF and 6moons provide most of the interesting industry coverage these days.

After reading one particular comment ("There are a lot of single malt lovers in fine audiodom"), I also wanted to provide you with a link to a few photos:

Please take a look at the last of the six photos.

There is another rack on the other side of the room with an equal number of bottles - and a completely filled LP rack. Commentary within the thread explains the collection.

Once again, I'm very much enjoying Positive Feedback. Keep up the great work.

Kindest regards,

Mike Currie

Hello Mike...
Thanks for sending along the kind comments about PFO (and Srajan's fine work over at We work very hard to provide audiophiles with an interesting read, and seek to educate and entertain the fine audio community. Glad to hear that it connects with you.

As to single malts: Ye gads, that's an impressive collection you've got there, mate! Clearly you're a man after my own heart. A first-rate single malt is one of the most important audio "tweaks" in existence...the music is much more pleasant, somehow, while sipping one (Islay's preferred, in my

I tip a glass in your direction, Mike...all the best to you.



Hi David,
Just wanted to thank you and your staff for the great support you've given to RMAF. I also wanted to clarify a couple of points in your review of RMAF 2005 by noting that RMAF was never intended to be a continuation or resurrection of VSAC; in fact, the absence of VSAC was never a factor in the decision to create this show (nor was the "valve" theme of VSAC ever a consideration). RMAF is a home-grown Rocky Mountain invention.

Early in 2004, a few us active in the Colorado Audio Society raised the issue of an audio show in Denver (as we had a few times in the past) and were fortunate (and amazed) that Ron Welborne and Al Stiefel stepped up to take on the monumental effort (and financial risk) of starting up a new
audio show.

Also, I wanted to mention that the Colorado Audio Society provided much of the activity behind the scenes to make the show a go (almost every member volunteered at least 2-3 shifts during the event).

Anyway, please continue with your excellent online tome - always a fun read.

Best regards,
Art Tedeschi
President & Founder
Colorado Audio Society

Hello Art...

Thanks for sending along the clarification about RMAF. I knew that there was some connection between RMAF and the CAS, but didn't know the I do. I salute the Colorado Audio Society for assisting with this important regional audio show.

I *was* aware of the fact that RMAF was not intended to be any kind of direct successor to Doc B's VSAC, and I was very well aware that RMAF intended to have no particular emphasis on valves from the very outset...two different objectives governed these shows. VSAC was intended to concentrate on tubes, with particular emphasis on SETs, and also DIY. RMAF is an open show, with fine audio from all categories represented from the beginning.

I don't think that I had obscured these items, but now they are explicit, eh?

All the best to you and the CAS,


Hi, David:
Just for clarification's sake, I wanted to let you know that the 2005 Walker E-SST is NOT a new formulation; it's the same as the original Extreme. I spoke with Lloyd, and he said that there hasn't been any change to the formula. It's the same 'ol E-SST--which is a good thing! Thought you might
want to know, and clarify this for your readership. Take care.


Andy Claps

P.S. By the way, your assessments of the DarTZeel NHB-108 and VR-9 are spot-on. I've never enjoyed music as much as I have with them in my system. Keep up the good work.Hello Andy...

Thanks for the response. My nomination of E-SST for a Brutus Award this year was a follow-up to my nomination of the *standard* SST last year.

I didn't mean to imply that there was a newer E-SST; just that my 2005 Award was to the Extreme version (which I got very early in 2005) instead of the standard formulation (which I used in 2004). Ditto with Vivid (2004) vs. Ultra Vivid (2005).

As to darTZeel and the VR-9...amazing products, all right. It's hard to imaging a 'phile who wouldn't be impressed with these two.

Glad that you're enjoying're always welcome here.

All the best,


I apologize in advance for not remembering both reviews of Oritek interconnects. I just want to mention that as an X-1 owner(who actually retired these, for reasons that turned out to be correct-in a sense), that the X-2's ,even just .6 meters of it, are absolutely incredible. Ori said that they would dominate the system. They have, in a positive way. You can really appreciate these in an all analog system(1981 or earlier vinyl, generally). They did make digital easier to take-for whatever that is worth(almost nothing).

To the editor:
Flattered as I was to be listed in the same sentence as Bose, Sony, Mark Levinson, HP and Gordon Holt (well minus the Bose), I feel it necessary to punch a little bubble or two in Clark Johnsen's hyper-inflated writing about RealityCheckCDs™. I have not heard this product but I have no doubt that it can improve the sound of commercial CDs and for the reasons Johnsen states. I have heard CDs made from commercial discs that were stored in computer memory and re-clocked that sounded much better than the original CD and having seen commercial CD-making, I'd rather watch sausages being stuffed. The "bits is bits" crowd is and has always been wrong, and when Johnsen reminds everyone that retrieving bits from a CD is an analog process, he does a public service.

However, to conclude from this improvement that CDs now equal or surpass analog playback—especially when the original source material was analog—is an illogical jump that Johnsen is all to eager to make.

When Simon and Garfunkel's engineer/producer Roy Halee tells me that the initial transfer of his analog master tapes to digital "destroys" the sound he recorded, I have to listen up. Ditto Neil Young. Halee also recorded Graceland and most of Paul Simon's solo work, as well as Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, and The Notorious Byrds Brothers and many classical sessions for Columbia (you can read an interview with him on my website So once the damage has been done in the original transfer, I don't care what you do to the CD to make it better, it is not going to sound as good as the master tape, or in my opinion, as good as a properly played back LP.

But don't take my word for it: Roy Halee, who's heard more master tapes than everyone reading this combined, prefers LPs to any digital medium. And of course, he's not alone in that preference. I understand there are others who disagree but what I'm saying is, yes, let's get CDs to sound as good as possible and kudos to Clark for trumpeting the RealityCheckCD™ process, but let's not get too crazy.

Clark may think this is the "greatest audio invention" since, well the last greatest audio invention he was sending around, a piece of which I still have attached to his letter claiming that, but back in the real world, the device/process whatever it is, is yet another Band Aid™ for a barely adequate, outdated digital medium. Clark needs to be a little more Gordon Holt and a little less Ron Popeil.


Michael Fremer
senior contributing editor, Stereophile

P.S.: The Rick Lee Jones 10" LP (A Girl and Her Volcano) Johnsen used in one of his demos was DIGITALLY RECORDED in the first place, so that demo proves almost nothing.

Hello Michael...

I have to admit that I agree with you on this one: Red Book PCM and commercial issue CDs are dreadful, and in my opinion have done great harm to our experience of recorded music since their arrival in significant quantity back in the early '80s. As Ed Meitner has pointed out (see Mike Pappas' interview with Ed in PFO Issue 11 at, the PCM quantizing process itself harms the integrity and thus the fidelity of either mic feeds or master tapes. Furthermore, PCM masters are themselves further harmed when they are run through the mass production process that is used to produce most CDs. (Some CD production, like JVC's XRCD24, seems to be more carefully run, but that's the exception, not the rule. And even these pale next to SACDs, properly done.) I have spoken with other well known audio engineers about the problem of the double destruction that their recordings go through when first transferred to PCM master, then further reduced via mass production to pile-it-on optical. For example, Joe Harley talked about this with me years ago, as did Steve Hoffman. It's just a question of how large the loss, how heart-breaking the final CDs are. It's not even close. As a matter of fact, I've never spoken to a single audio engineer about this problem who didn't say that they couldn't believe how bad the final result of commercial pressing to CD was. The difference between the PCM master and the final product was tragic...never mind the analog master. Only people who have never heard master tapes, or done audio engineering, would argue any other position.

Sausage stuffing, indeed. And bits...well, they ain't bits.

I have already heard what CD-R burning can do to improve the sound of commercial CDs; PFO's Jennifer Crock and Rick Gardner have shown me samples that are certainly more pleasant than the commercial original that they were taken from. Some players, like my Linn CD-12, can make the little silver monsters sound better than usual, as well. Ditto the EMM Labs CDSD/DAC6e, which takes Red Book PCM, undecimates the stream, then (ironically) runs it through the DSD D/A. A definite improvement, all right.

Because there are strong indications that commercial Red Book can be bettered by CD-R "re-recording," I have contacted George Louis and arranged to have one of his systems sent here to Portland for me to try. If it improves Red Book, then I'll certainly make our readers aware of it. Lord knows, Red Book needs all the help it can get.

But Clark is aware of my long-standing resistance to the notion that any re-recording process via CD-R...or, for that matter, any upsampling/oversampling/no oversampling/etc. with standard CDs ...can produce CD-Rs that are "better than SACD" (properly done, and ideally with pure DSD handling via the Meitner chipset), or equivalent to vinyl (again, properly done). Can't be done; a dim, double-hammered PCM image of the mic feed or master tape simply cannot be made the equivalent of the original...nor can Red Book PCM be made "better than SACD" by any process. I do believe that they can be made more euphonic (that tricky concept!)...but equivalent to inherently superior formats? No, absolutely not.

Mic feeds and master tapes are our ultimate references in fine audio. Once a mic feed or master tape is directed to the 44.1kHz/16-bit quantizer/encoder, then the damage is done. We might be able to make the result less ghastly ...and I can well believe that Clark is correct in asserting that George Louis has done so...but that will not overcome the inherent limitations of the harmful PCM process that occurred in the first place. The increasingly phase-random character of Red Book PCM, which rises with frequency, would greatly harm soundstaging and imaging all by itself. Quantization at 16 (nominal) bits limits dynamic range and produces the "digital glare" that we all know so well, while a sampling rate of 44.1kHz is simply insufficient to deliver higher frequencies with phase correctness. Thus the generally two-dimensional presentation that most CDs give us, even of great recordings. (E.g., the RCA Living Stereo reissues on CD years ago.)

To my ears, of digital formats, only properly handled DSD via the Meitner chipset shows that digital that behaves like analog is the way to go. Bandages on the gangrene of Red Book are not to be mistaken as reference grade.

And the Walker Audio Proscenium Gold Signature system has shown me (again) just how amazing great vinyl is. There are things in our grooves that are magical...far beyond anything that CDs can deliver, under any circumstances that I've tried. And I've tried a lot of them.

We must never forget: Red Book PCM was a format of convenience, not a standard for high fidelity or increased resolution. Great for the record company execs and retail music outlets. Background music for the uninterested. Handy and dandy for people who don't give much of a damn about quality. But not a reference quality audio format.

In sum: Commercial CDs can definitely be made to sound better than "bad," but they cannot be made to become a higher resolution format. Which is why I never got rid of my turntable or LPs, why I have two open reel recorders, why I followed DSD/SACD with such interest, why I'm still upgrading my turntable system, and why I have spent so much of my music-loving life reminding our readers of where the gold really is.

Stimulating stuff. Thanks for writing, Michael.



In response to Michael Fremer's letter (see below), I first want to set one thing straight: I do not own, nor have I owned, nor shall I ever own a Ricki Lee Jones vehicle. In fact I feel the same way about every "female vocalist". Maria Callas, Ella Fitzgerald, that's a different story. The item was chosen by someone else and played to me; granted it wasn't half bad, so I simply reported. There were other pieces played as well.

Regarding "original source material", thing is, I don't have access to mastertapes. Geez Luiz! Who does? Best I can get is good original and remade LPs played over either a Simon Yorke or a Walker Proscenium with Kondo-san cartridges, Allan Wright or Kondo-san electronics and lots of similar not-too-shoddy stuff. And I'm tellin' ya, the RCCDs sound pretty damn good. In fact, for perhaps the first time in my life (memory fails occasionally), I listened to one the whole way through. I mean, on a high-end rig.

Nor am I unacquainted with CD-R's in general, having been sent a bunch by several swell guys who said they were probably as good as RCCDs. They weren't. Better than CDs, yes, give them that.

Then too, are we necessarily compelled to believe Roy Halee? Who's to say that digital tapes actually sound good? Isn't it conceivable that a bit-correct optical disc can reproduce music better? There's so much we don't know about digital, about audio, so many loose ends, the future is still wide open territory. As myself an ex-optical engineer specializing in "systems", I can assure everyone that the digital-optical Mars Lander Camera was far more thoroughly system-engineered than anything digital-audio. Yes the funding was there, while in audio the discoveries must be made willy-nilly. That's why the pictures from Mars are beautiful but the music from compact discs isn't, mostly.

Michael has accused me of going "over the top" in my latest column. When you're writing from the ramparts a less declarative and more declamatory style is needed. (Speaking of ramparts, you should see the video of the speech I gave at the 1983 Boston D Party -- it startles me even today, that I was so aggressive, and funny.) Also I have written dozens of articles and posts and of course a book on absolute polarity, all of them quite sober and the book could be a doctoral thesis -- for all the good my decorum did. Absolute Polarity has not been established in audio circles as the sine qua non it really is.

Not only that, but I have now written three columns on Reality Check. As I grew ever more emphatic, George reports that sales increased accordingly. That might make me nervous, except the customers are all deliriously happy. Why did I choose to be so outspoken? Because neither the newsstand press nor the high-end mags and websites have told their readers that certain tricks are available to improve CDs beyond what any available player, transport of DAC (known to me) at any price can accomplish. This is a clear disservice to the people. If shouting my fool head off is what's needed to reach them, so be it.

Finally, "Clark needs to be a little more Gordon Holt and a little less Ron Popeil." Can't say I agree. Mr. Popeil was a highly successful inventor and marketer, the Edison of our time. That he was also an entertainer should not upset a comedian of Mr. Fremer's skills. And how well did Popeil's Vegomatic perform? Wikipedia: It turned out that the Vegomatic was too efficient at chopping vegetables, and that it was impractical for salesmen to carry the vegetables they needed to chop. The solution was to tape the demonstration. Once the demonstration was taped, it was a short step to broadcasting the demonstration as a commercial. Aha! One should be less like that?As for Gordon, not only has he called the Wood effect (Absolute Polarity) "balsa", but from the start he bent over forwards to accept CD sound. Methinks Mikey has his players switched.

Oh, a word or two to my editor too. "We must never forget: Red Book PCM was a format of convenience, not a standard for high fidelity or increased resolution."

Well, then: Was the 45/45 stereo cutting system chosen for increased resolution, or for convenience? Was the LP format itself chosen for increased resolution, or for convenience? Was the cassette… the 78rpm disc… the NTSC TV system? Fact is, most every standard in the audio/video arena had nothing to do with higher quality. That does not constitute a proper argument against any of them, because sooner or later we do learn how to deal with each, usually just about the time they disappear. CD would seem to be no exception.

Clark Johnsen

Actually, Clark, I do believe that you would find that DSD was developed precisely because of its higher resolution and higher quality. Sony initiated the project to provide true master tape quality in a stable digital format that could be used to protect its growing investment in assets like the Columbia/CBS analog trove. It was definitely intended to be a higher standard ...the remarkable thing about DSD is that Sony/Philips was able to deliver it as a new consumer format, as well. 

As a matter of fact, this is one of the things that struck me as most extraordinary about DSD...something that I noted in my writings years ago. I observed that DSD represented the first true movement to higher resolution, as opposed to convenience (cassettes, CDs, MDs, DCCs, PCM sloping off into MP3 and iPodville) that audio had seen since the development of open reel tape recording.

So DSD/SACD does represent an exception to the general dumbing down, cult of convenience that has robbed audio of so much of its promise.

And as to NTSC...well, then again, there's HDTV, no? And Blue Ray/DVD-HD is at hand very shortly now. Not everything is downhill in terms of resolution, particularly in home theatre.

You don't have to defend lower resolution formats like Red Book to make your point that George Louis' RealityCheckCD™ system can make the little beasties sound better. I would rejoice over that fact all by itself, and can well believe it, as I said.

But the gap between silk purses and sow's ears remain, my dear Johnsen....

Ye Olde Editor

Clark has done it again! It's a great article written as only he can, with interesting literary and informative industry allusions that always make an otherwise prosaic subject into an interesting journey through audio history.

Here's my quasi-technical explanation of why audio "bits are bits" differs from the "bits are bits" of symbolic data. Audio is a form of streaming data, meaning that the timing of the expression of the data is all-important. Symbolic data such as a printed score are data wherein (there's my legal writing style creeping in again) the timing of the expression of that data has no effect on its meaning. I.e. the exact timing of the print-out from a computer printer of the separate notes of a musical score doesn't change the meaning (symbolism) of the score in any way, nor does the printer's speed or the computer's speed of sending the data. Neither the color of the printed notes nor their size on the page or even the particular font affects the musical meaning of the score's symbolic representation of the music—not one iota.

And just how symbolic the printed score really is, becomes obvious when it's performed by different musicians, different conductors or the same orchestra with the same conductor at different times. As further illustration of some differences between symbolic data and streaming data I offer this: If you take a CD-ROM of your bank account and read it or print it out from any computer or printer it must print out an exact symbolic representation of your bank account, otherwise we wouldn't be able to rely upon computers because the amount of money in your bank account would depend on which computer or which printer was used.

Now if only I could sell RealityCheckCDs™ by delivering on a promise that a RealityCheckCD™ duplicator would make a RealityCheckCD™ ROM of your bank account that would increase its balance more than the cost of the RealityCheckCD™ equipment and accessories! I'd instantly become the world's wealthiest man. In fact, I wouldn't even have to sell any equipment at all because I could simply make multiple generation RealityCheckCD™ ROM copies of my bank accounts until I'd amassed the world's largest fortune. I wouldn't be surprised if that reminds you of a perpetual motion machine. For computer technology to be useful, every succeeding generation of a CD-ROM must contain exactly the same symbolic data after it's gone through error correction.

If the extra space that became available with the advent of DVD-audio had been used to allow sufficient data redundancy and error correction, rather than used to achieve a higher sampling rate and longer word size (24 bit words), it probably would have gone a long way toward improving the reproduction of music. It still wouldn't have addressed all the timing issues but it would at least have eliminated all bit errors. With CDs the error correction scheme isn't nearly as robust because if too much data is missing or misread by the player then the player interpolates and fills in the missing data by means of an algorithm. That usually corrupts the musical streaming. The player's output then no longer reproduces the original music as it was before being encoded to the CD. When the degree of data errors exceeds the interpolation ability of the player then its output briefly mutes the music.

Back to my previous example, if that level of error correction was applied to a CD-ROM of your bank account and there were so many errors that to fill in the missing data it needed to interpolate, then say if it wasn't sure if you had $50 or $60 in your bank account then it might interpolate it to be $55—and if there were too many errors or too much missing data it might even mute your bank account. (Would that mean you had zero dollars in your bank account? Hmm ...) Thus musical bits and symbolic data bits are treated quite differently by computers and as Mr. Johnsen so astutely points out, different computer-based hard drives sound different if only because their DACs operate differently, as is the case with the DACs and analog sections among CD players.

I've heard about some computer programs used to rip audio CDs to computer hard drives that continue to rip until there are two identical files. If that be the case, it's analogous to asking random people the time of day and as soon as two agree, then using that time as the correct time. If this is the true state of affairs regarding the ripping of audio CDs to computer hard drives, what does that say about computer-based hard drive music servers? I suggest that anyone who rips an audio CD to a computer hard drive do multiple rips and do a bit for bit comparison to see if the files agree in order to verify the accuracy of that file as it wouldn't surprise me in the least if not all the ripped files are bit for bit identical to the original. And if they're not, then how does one know what the exact bits are on the original audio CD?

To recapitulate, the accuracy of symbolic data is independent of which computer or printer reproduces it, whereas the opposite is true for CDs. Perhaps this helps to illustrate why "bits are bits" isn't sufficient to explain some of the differences in music reproduced from a digital file stored on a hard drive, a memory card, SACD, DVD or a CD versus the retrieval of symbolic data from CD-ROMs, hard drives, or memory cards that aren't significantly affected by jitter or the timing precision. Thus the missing component of the sonic equation is the jitter and exact timing of a music CD's playback.

Best regards,

George S. Louis, CEO

Digital Systems & Solutions

Hi David,
I once read a post in Audio Asylum that there was an old article in Positive Feedback which featured a review of the various Townshend Rock turntables. So, I was wondering if you could tell me which issue was the Rock turntable reviewed or if it is even true. Could I purchase the article if you could located it?

Thanks for your help.

Dick Tzou

Hello Dick...

Back in PF's print days, we did do a cover profile of Max Townshend and his company, composed of several essays from Townshend and Jack Dinsdale, his design engineer; this was in Vol. 6, No. 2 (Winter, 1996), pp. 14-26.

This was intended to be the introduction to a review of one or more of Townshend's turntables. Unfortunately, Townshend was never able to supply a review sample of the Rock Reference/Excalibur tonearm, or, as it turned out, of any other turntable produced by Townshend. After several years of trying unsuccessfully to obtain the promised review product, I cancelled the whole project. I have yet to see a Townshend turntable any place except the occasional CES, and have no idea of the status of Townshend Audio's turntables.

This means that the answer to your question is, "Sorry, but we never reviewed a Townshend."



Hi David,
You sure make those 833's sound awful tempting. Too bad my rich uncle is in such excellent health. But the reason I just have to chime in has to do with your assessment of transparency as being the "…holy grail…" of high end audio. I came to this exact conclusion a while back and heartily second that observation. Writers consume gallons of ink waxing over black backgrounds, stage width and depth, microdynamics, tonal shadings etc. ad nauseum. All of these things are partial manifestations of the overall gestalt which can be best described as transparency and without transparency our audio systems can never be adjudged to be capable of that ultimate yet unmeasurable benchmark of perfection---utter purity [so sayeth I, anyway].

Thanks for listening.

Alan Trahern

Hello Alan...

I'm glad to hear that I made the Wavac HE-833 v1.3s sound so tempting...because they are. I'd hate to have people misunderstand how wonderful they are; sounds like I got the message across.

As to rich uncles: I know what you mean. You're doing better than I am, least you have one.

My comments on transparency have been a long time gestating. There is a distinct theme in fine audio reviewing that consists of "a veil was lifted!" or "another layer of haze/grunge/muck/whatever was peeled off!" or "clarify/purity was noticeably enhanced."

And so on.

It strikes me that so much of what is considered desirable...timbre, tonal extension and coherence, Art Dudley's "PRAT", soundstaging, imaging, dynamics (micro/macro), "inner detail," etc., all rest upon the foundation of a system's transparency.

Does a system (for it is a question of synergy, not of an individual component considered in an abstraction that simply does not exist) deliver an audio signal (ideally a signal as close as possible to the mic feed...e.g., DSD), and do what it can to stay out of the way? If so, then all the other dimensions of audio performance listed above shine forth. If not, then they are all affected negatively.

I have made no secret of this over the years. For better or worse, I want the pure, clear, unadulterated mic feed or master tape in my listening room. If what I hear is unlovely, then I can take the matter up with the recording engineer and his studio...which is as it should be. If there is unlovely audio engineering going on, then let's expose it, and work to improve it. Let's not cover it up with treacle at any stage of the audio chain.

In other words, give me truth; I'll deal with beauty.

Or so it seems to me, Alan.

All the best,


Hello Roger,
I enjoyed your article detailing your experiences with Rives Audio and room acoustics. The only thing that I could possibly argue with is the term with which you head the article and mention in your last paragraph - "The Final Frontier". Why oh why should room acoustics be consigned to the bottom of the priority list? The improvements that even rudimentary care to room acoustics can make often dwarf the differences many speaker cables, interconnects or power cables costing far more bring to your listening experience. Heck, the careful placement of bookcases and some homemade top corner and bass traps in my room made improvements that I doubt even very expensive components could have wrought. I honestly believe that a lot of the "audiophile" tendency of consistently changing gear is a futile attempt to overcome bad room acoustics.

All I would like is for room acoustics to be pushed up from "the final frontier" to something that needs attending too after the first system has been assembled. Thanks again for highlighting this important area.



Hello Craig,

Glad you liked the article. I agree whole-heartedly with you that room acoustics are of primary importance. Your listening room does more to determine the sound than any other component. Yet, for the reasons I stated in my article, as well as others, most audiophiles put room acoustics at the bottom of their priorities. That is not the way it should be, but that is the way it is.

Enjoy the Music

Roger Gordon