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Dear Robert H. Levi,
I currently reside in Saudi Arabia and there are only a handful of so-called high-end products that are sold in this part of the world. I read your review of the Nuforce 9 & 9.02 amps and I am really interested. May I ask you, are they in the same league as Audio Research?
Eagerly awaiting your reply,
As the answer to your question hinges on the kind of loudspeakers you may use and the kind of music you listen to, I'll try to be helpful without that key information. Within its price range, the NuForce Amplifiers are tip top of the heap. They will out perform all competitors, solid state or tube, producing at least 200 watts per channel that I know of under $3000 per pair. This assumes your speakers are 87-89 dB efficient and you listen to bold, dynamic music. Speakers 90dB+ efficient may be candidates for lower power vacuum tube [valve] designs which have certain imaging and textural qualities that the NuForce's do less well. Audio Research is a superb manufacturer of amplifiers and very recommendable. To equal the power output of the NuForce 9.02, the tube unit from ARC would be 4 times more expensive [in America.] It would have sonic advantages I believe, but certainly not 400% more sonic return. The 110 from ARC at 100 watts per channel is $3000 in the US, and offers a richer, warmer presentation than the NuForce should that be sufficient power for your speakers.
The NuForce is a cutting edge solid state design and a stand out new product. It is so advanced, you would have to go to the solid state Pass X350.5 at $8000 US to beat it sonically by a small margin. At only 12 pounds each and highly flexible with both balanced and single ended inputs, it will not fail to please. At only $2500 US for the mono pair, they are the deal of the century. I love ARC, but just wait till you hear these NuForce 9.02 babies sing their tune.
All in all, you can't go wrong! Remember the first law of High Fidelity, "You never know what you are missing." Without samples of both brands in your system, whichever is in place will sound great to you.
Best regards and wonderful listening always,
Robert H. Levi
David L. Handler
Thanks for sending this along; I'll cc: Max to see if he wants to comment, as well.
All the best,
Regarding the Concierto de Aranjuez, which has become one of the most frequently recorded of 20th century guitar concertos, I'm sorry that I couldn't have mentioned each. Certainly I have left out many of other people's favorites. Mea Culpa. But as YOE points out, the Romeros do a great job on nearly all their recordings, and you can't go to far wrong with one of theirs. Like I said, you'd have to be a malicious evil-doer to mess up a masterpiece on purpose, but short of that, most any capable guitarist (acting in good faith) will get good results if he sticks to the score and just plays it—the music is that good. Sorry if I didn't mention everyone's favorite.
I'm sure you get many emails like this - but here are some of the things I would like to see:
1) Review - Prima Luna Prologue 2.
Max Dudious here, with some tentative answers to just two of your tough questions. When you read them you might understand why most writers will duck them. But I'm feeling courageous today. KT-88 shootout: I guess you mean you'd like to break down what the strengths and weaknesses of the sounds of various manufacturer's KT-88 tubes amount to. Let's say some are "drier" (greater emphasis on mid-treble range), and some are "warmer" (emphasis on mid-bass range). A system, or room, or interaction of speakers in a room, that already emphasizes the mid-treb region would not like the drier tubes, and might do better with the warmer tube. So, any shootout between the various manufacturers tubes would have to keep all that in mind. Of what does the shoot-out referee's system consist? Is his system warm or dry? He would have to specify each of his components, and describe the acoustic of his listening room, and then try to figure out how this or that brand KT 88 combines with the rest, and to be really "scientific," he'd have to quantify everything through a sound pressure meter, and/or a computer. Do you see what I'm getting at? To do even a passably good job would take a lot of time and attention to detail, and the results would be met with instantaneous letters saying, "I got the exactly opposite results when I tried those tubes in my system."
Just for one small difference, damping factor. If a KT-88 driven amplifier's tubes had even the smallest variance in their specs (compared with the O.E.M. tubes) the damping factor would be changed. The amp could be seen as having bass that was too floppy, or too stiff. This would be considered a problem of the tubes. But if, say, one little value on one crucial resistor were changed the sound might improve. Does that imply there is something wrong with the amp? No. It is just that one tube might sound as good as another if the damping factor were adjusted to make each sound optimal. So it would not reflect on the "goodness" of the tubes. But if you had chosen to put the KT-88s in an amp, which by blind luck made a more fortuitous match with the speakers it had to drive, everyone might say Brand X beats Brand Y by a mile. So, you'd think you're investigating tubes, but you'd be comparing damping factor, or the interaction of the amps with the speakers. What could you say? How could you avoid being involved in a series of such snarls?
The same sort of thinking would impinge on comparing old U.S. and U.K. amps with new Chinese amps. What output tubes? What damping factor? How dry the room? How high the moon? Metal film resistors? Polypropylene capacitors? What speakers would you listen to? Dynamic or Electrostatic? Whose software? etc. etc. You could get just about any sound out of either of those amps. And we haven't mentioned interconnects and speaker cables.
That said, although the tests you's like to have performed are beset with problems, there is usually some consensus arrived at after lots of folks diddle with tube rolling and the like. For example, Brand Z is "noisy," Brand W is "glassy sounding," Brand V is "wooly" on bass. I'm not sure how this is arrived at. Maybe all the guys at Audio Asylum take votes, or over time the consensus is arrived at. I remember back a ways, some early Asian tubes came through with their grids all askew, while others did not have the plates and the grids parallel, etc. It seems the manufacturers didn't care enough (probably didn't understand why it was necessary) to get these basic elements correct. The tubes in question did not sound good. They sounded "off" but not terrible. Constant vigilance is the price of great sound. You have to sweat every detail. Who first said? "The devil is in the details." Mies van der Rohe? David Robinson? The Giz? I'm not sure, but I'm saying it here.
I'm also saying that anyone who claims this or that tube blows the others out of the water is displaying his naivete. He needs to go on to Tweaking 201. When someone says that Brand X tubes have come to be known as good, it usually means over time, many guys, with many different systems, have tried Brand X and gotten good results. The reputation builds slowly over time. After a while it becomes accepted that Brand X is good in most equipment, with most systems. But to make a consumer's report table with different brand names is, in my opinion, just one data point which would be challenged the moment you published it. If you don't believe me, try it yourself.
Hate to be the one to tell ya.
Next, try Ligeti.
Running BAT gear single-ended is like putting Bridgestone tires on a Ferrari.
Just for the record, Formula One Ferraris run Bridgestone tires. That is why they won the U.S. Gran Prix in 2005. Michelin couldn't supply its teams with a safe tire, so only the Bridgestone teams contested the race.
However, I do agree with the point you are making.
I know they do, check out Mr. Ferrarri's comments that the tires were the problem at "each of the corners" of the car.
Any particular reason why you tested the BAT VK-51E with the solid-state power amp rather than the VK-75? I ask because I'm thinking about going the BAT route but don't need the extra power solid state offers. It would be to drive Sonus Faber speakers, probably Guarneri, maybe Cremona. I listen to classical, especially opera, in a 21 x 17 room with a 7 foot ceiling.
Thanks for the comments.
I would love to do the 75's and I will approach BAT about them.
However, the VK-600 is way more than just being about power. You simply have to hear it to understand. But, even very efficient speakers benefit from huge amounts of current, high control, and endless headroom.
You're a very gifted writer and immense fun to read. You also have good judgment. The combination of the two is rare.
Keep up the good work.
The e-TP80 is not so much a conditioner as a power distributor with filtered and non-filtered mechanically decoupled star-wired outlets. The new e-TP609 offers three sets of unfiltered outlets—fine for amps as well as the front-end—and both feature the ever so gripping Axial Locking System that optimally hand torques each duplex against its surrounding anti-resonance material. Both feature a layer of EMI-eating GC-303, also found wrapped around Furutech's Reference cables.
Bob, those are LED on the right panel! The bottom one glows green when power is present, and touching the center nub will light the red LED above it when polarity is correct.
Furutech's heavy science and engineering approach lavishes attention on each and every aspect of power and signal transfer. Just handling one of their lush silver-plated bronze phosphor RCA male spring filaments is amazing. The unique Ground (Earth) Jumper System eliminates magnetic distortion in power connectors. We know that current flowing in a cable and connector creates an encircling magnetic field. Furutech engineers found this induces current flow in the screws holding the connector and shell together, creating an interfering magnetic field. The Ground Jumper System conducts screw-borne currents to ground. Strict attention to details. And all metal materials are deeply cryogenically treated then ring-demagnetized. You can keep your cables, connectors and CDs that way with an RD-2 CD and Cable Demagnetizer or the soon available LP-sized DeMag! Anti-stat ion guns will be a dime a dozen on Ebay!
I really hate my job at the moment and feel more than a little depressed, but your excellent archives are just about keeping me sane.
thanks once again
The VR-9 SEs are excellent products all right ...as a matter of fact, I consider them to be exceptional. My review of them is in the works; stay tuned. PFO's Mike Lavigne also has a pair in his listening room; if he bestirs himself, you may hear from him, as well.
All the best,
Prior to all the tweaks, I did experiment briefly with the height of the spikes on the Kharma CRM 3.2 FE. Adjusting speaker height can effect small changes in the tonal balance―the closer to the floor the darker the palette. But higher up gives it more room to breathe and better tone.
But I have good news for you. There is another spike base available at less than half the cost--the TAOC PTS-F Spike Plate set (MSRP $300/set of 4). These work about as well as the Harmonix. I actually prefer them. You don't get the Harmonix acoustic tuning, but you do get tons of weight and a more neutral frequency sweep. Check out my review for more info: http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue22/taoc.htm
Happy new year to ya, Howard
Removing those spike plates were a no go as well. I'm led to believe that the spikes are intended to be at its highest positions. May I ask how your speakers are positioned? Like how far apart and distance from the back wall etc.? and did you like the Taoc spike plates or the Harmonix RF-900? Ever tried the Black diamond racing ones?
I have a LONG, rectangular listening room-32' long x 12' wide x 8' high-ideally suited for the rule of thirds: speakers are positioned one third into the room and about 24" from the sidewalls to the edge of the front baffle, facing straight ahead; the listener sits another third into the room. I have hardwood floors.
And you have a problem with the carpeting. Usually it's recommended to use long spikes that can penetrate through to the floor. But then your're faced with needing something under the carpet to receive the spike points.
Given the carpeting, none of the spike receptacles are a good option. Have you considered using a hard platform above the carpet? TAOC makes just such a platform, the Sound Create Board, and I can vouch for its salutary effect.
BTW: the Harmonix and the TAOC spike bases are the best I've come across.
This turntable is EVERYTHING you've described. My words simply have never captured the full scope of what this turntable accomplishes, but your words came closer and they match my experience with this turntable on every point.
If you think your readers may be interested in some additional comments from owners that match to your own assessment of this turntable, here are some links to post by owners at both Audio Asylums and your own publication a few months ago:
And let's not forget the article Albert Porter contributed to PFO in Issue 17 on his Evolution of a Source, a lifetime search that ended with his purchase of the Walker Proscenium: www.positive-feedback.com/Issue17/source.htm
Thanks for this great essay!
I appreciate your kind words about my essay on the Walker Audio Proscenium system. It was a long time in the making...over a year...and took a great deal of time and thought to write. Paradigm-shifting designs are that way; the significance of the change makes brevity impossible. Lloyd and Fred have done an astonishing job of taking their design philosophy to the limit, and it required a lot of words and photographs to describe their accomplishment properly.
Unless you've actually sat down and tried to convert impressions of what you hear and feel into expressions of what it meant ...in a way that will resonate with others ...you have no idea of the difficulty of the task.
It's all about impression and expression, you see.
On one hand, you must be possessed of experienced, trained senses...what I have called "sensibility" ...to discern the worthy and the unworthy. (cf. Hebrews 5:14: "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.") This is what I mean when I speak of audio connoisseurship: the conversion of mere sense (which most of us are born with) into sensibility. A person with sensibility can form coherent impressions that are significant.
On the other hand, you must master language and writing to the point of being able to convey richly, and with some degree of power, those impressions that you've formed. A person with the gift of writing can embody his or her hidden, internal world through expression. Like any other gift, writing ...the gift of the word ...must be used, or it will atrophy; the senses must continue their training, or they will lose ground. There's a pound of perspiration for every ounce of inspiration in all the arts.
The combination of impression and expression is what it takes to review or critique in any domain, including fine audio.
Some people have the sensibilities, but cannot write. Some people can write, but do not have the sensibilities.
Some people have neither; a relative few have both.
And impatience or laziness will deprive even the gifted of their gifts.
Enough for now, I think. Were I to write more, it would be another essay....
The links that you sent along are very helpful; Audio Asylum can be a very valuable resource for audiophiles. It is a trove of the collected wisdom (and the collected unwisdom!) of audio lovers from all over the globe; I recommend these links to our readers as additional takes on the virtues of the Walker Audio Proscenium system. Albert Porter's article in PFO is also a useful reminder.
You're certainly welcome to use my photographs for your scrapbook, Rush; I'm glad that it will help you to recover the memories of your time with Lloyd and Fred.
All the best to you in your audio journey...
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.
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 (http://www.vacuumstate.com), Paul Weitzel and Tube Research Labs (http://www.tuberesearchlabs.com), Dan Wright (http://www.modwright.com) and Richard Kern (http://www.audiomod.com). 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.