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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 24
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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 Mr. Nack,
I use Kharma CE2.2 in my system (you can find it here :
http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?vdone&1123459787&read&3&zzlMatth
eus&&
.

I was thinking of replacing the Siltech Forbes Lake with another, more 'warm' cable. That's why I was thinking of Kubala Sosna or Harmonic T. What type of K-S do you use and what would you advise me?

Thanks and greetings from Flanders in Europe

Renaat Mattheus

Hi Renaat,

Never having tried (or heard) the Siltech cable, it's impossible to make comparisons to it. I can tell you, however, that all models of Kharma speakers like the K-S Emotion wires. I have also found the TARA Labs .8 series very compatible (except that you need a lot of it to really hear what it can do--review coming in a couple of months). If you want a LOT of warmth, the Harmonix SLC is a top choice. All of these cables will add warmth. The K-S will add the most bloom; the Harmonix will give you more slam and a more acoustic voicing; the TARA is the most neutral and has the most body.

Looks like you have a well chosen rig (I visited the link to Audiogon). You gotta try the TAOC PTS-F under the CE2.2 next.

And the journey continues: let me know how it works out.

Marshall Nack


Dear Sirs,
I also own ACI Sapphire IIILEs, and your review of the Dussun DS 99 in Issue 24 prompted me to buy the Dussun DS 99 directly from Ping Gong—it was an "open box" and had just come back from a reviewer (probably the same one you had).

I have since discovered that you can buy this integrated (and the other Dussun products) directly from China from ORNEC Audio Distribution ( http://www.ornec.com for US $226 plus roughly $135 shipping, for a total of somewhere around $361.

A reviewer quoted on the site makes the comment that this unit is exactly the same unit as the Red Rose Passion, which Mark Levinson sells for US $3000. I looked this up, and sure enough, it sure as hell looks like the same unit.

This is an interesting part of the Dussun DS 99 story. I suggest you include it in your follow-up.

Gary Wilbert
Charlottesville, VA

Gary

Thanks for the note.

I want to offer a strong word of caution. Without commenting on this specific source, Dussun units coming directly from China (as with any number of Chinese manufactured audio components) are often being equipped with mystery substandard transformers, installed by by unscrupulous and frequently incompetent gray market folks, and passed off as factory fresh. You get no guarantee support and no help if things go awry. I have heard some pretty grisly stories Caveat Emptor!

All I can say about the Red Rose thing is that I am aware they source from Dussun, but I don't really know anything more specific.

Regards,

Dr. S

Dr. S.
I appreciate the advice, and I thank you for responding.

Has anyone actually done the comparison? Why is the conversation about direct Chinese imports composed mostly of rumor and under-the-table messages?

It's not that I don't believe you—I do. I'm just puzzled why nobody does the obvious—i.e. order one from China and another from Ping Gong, open them up and report the results? What are we afraid of?

Gary Wilbert
Charlottesville, VA

Gary,

I don't think anyone is "afraid." The "who" is an interesting question. If Ping does it, it will simply appear self-serving. We (PFO) are not into investigative journalism, nor are we equipped for this, even if we wanted to. It's not our role to go any deeper into this than we have. I will stick with my original pronouncement; caveat emptor!

It's quite simple. If you buy a factory-sourced Dussun piece, it has been specifically designed and equipped to work with our AC power. If you don't, then "someone" has to retrofit the piece with an appropriate transformer and do a good job both in selecting the transformer and replacing it. If the FACTORY struggles with making this work, which they have, what chance do you think BOB's IMPORTS will have of doing it correctly? Their profit depends on doing it cheap and doing it fast. They couldn't care less about reliability or sonics.

Dr. S

Ye Olde Editor adds the following thoughts:

Dr. S is correct about PFO not being an investigative audio journal. Doing that sort of thing properly is neither within the charter of this publication, nor is it of particular interest to me. The logistics of purchasing equipment to do a hardware tear-down and comparison is expensive and time-consuming; don't underestimate the resources that would be required to do this properly, Gary. Furthermore, once we did this with one product, we'd have to apply the same criteria to all products, to be fair. This would mean permanently altering the long-time (nearly 17 years old) mission and culture at PFO, which is not going to happen. PFO is not the Consumer Reports of fine audio. Neither, to my knowledge, is anyone else.

So there's no conspiracy involved at this end, nor any lack of courage. The point is simple: AVOID GRAY MARKET GOODS. There's always a reason for unusually low prices, whether it's on a street corner, in a spam email trying to sell you "genuine" Microsoft software or "real Cialis," or audio "distributors" who are trying to market low-ball audio gear that's been cloned from the original design. AAA Audio's disclaimer of these products is obvious, and should be warning enough, no?

Dr. S's commentary on the subject has been anything but sub rosa; you should heed his caveat.

And to tell you the truth, I find the price of the legitimate Dussan gear to be remarkably reasonable, and their performance is stellar as I can personally attest. Why would I bother with the risk and hassle of knock-offs when I can have the legitimate product with full warranty for a song?

All the best,

David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief]

Ping Responds…

Hi Gary,

How are you? How does the amp sound now?

I heard your story from PFO. It is well understood. We have 30 days money back guarantee. We want every of our customer happy. You can still return it for a full refund.

I d' like to give you some information before you make your decision.

1. Dussun only supply their 120v products to us. We are the only authorized distributor in North America. You can buy 102v from only few places, not sure about Ornex, but the products are modified. To make the unit to run for 120v, needs to change the transformer and adjust the circuitry to handle different current, the voltage from the transformer will be the same. From the grey market you get a 120V products with a after market transformer, they buy 220v in China and change the transformer, the circuitry is not adjusted for the current level. Basically it is a fake Dussun. Since Dussun is so good, some people make transformer for it. Never heard such story for other brands. It will not sound good, it does not last long.

Several people e-mail me, they have problem with Dussun they bought some where. I'd really like to help them, but technically, it is impossible. They did not buy Dussun products. They bought junk.

Look fourth posting, his amp got "hum".

http://www.nysound.com/exec/servlet/CategoryServlet?action=productdetail&itemID=kos-2010-01001&formID=0

You better off to get a 220v version and run a 110v-220v converter. Then you need a power filter. Most cheap converter are noise. They add up the cost to the same level as our price.

2. Price: We have much higher cost than grey marketers. They all do drop ship from China, they have no cost. I do not know about the tax. We pay international shipping, import tax and fee, US domestic transportation to warehouse, warehouse, sales tax on every unit we sell and every penny we make, service, promotion, US labor cost and so on.... I do think that our prices are very reasonable.

Just some information for you. Thank you again for purchasing our products, but you still can return it for a full refund.

Ping Gong
AAA Audio, LLC
phone: 617-614-0562
www.aaa-audio.com

Ping (and, via Dave Robinson, Dr. Sardonicus at PFO):
I've just started listening, and so far I like what I hear.

I appreciate your information on the difference between "knock-offs" and the real thing. I sent the email to PFO yesterday because I think the entire issue of direct importation from China needs discussion and education for consumers. It's very confusing. It's not hard to find the websites where these products are sold, and I'm sure lots of potential buyers are going to these sites and wondering whether to take a chance. I've read the discussion on the Asylum, and while it's aiming at the issue, it sheds mostly heat and no light.

I think we need some real research and education by the journalists. Someone needs to do direct comparisons and report the results. Perhaps PFO is up to the challenge. Right now I sense that the audio press is avoiding the issue for fear of alienating their advertisers, which I think sends the implication, whether intended or not, that the locally sold product and the direct Chinese import are the same. If they're not the same, let's do the work to find out and then let's report the results.

I do not doubt that you are right that Ornex may be selling a different product. I have heard the same thing from other posters at Audiogon and at the Asylum—i.e. that voltage and other differences are not fully accounted for in the direct China import.

The other side of the issue is that some high end brands (like Red Rose) have long been reported to be importing products that are essentially similar to the Chinese products and simply re-badging them (and perhaps making the kind of modifications you do). I'd like to really know—from someone with technical expertise who could take the covers off and make the comparison—whether the Dussun DS 99 is essentially the same unit as the Red Rose Passion. Dave Robinson, take note—there's a good article lurking here.

The point I'm making is that it's not a black and white kind of issue. Consumers have gotten more savvy, and they know that a lot of products from China get sold (whether with modification or not) at multiples of their original price by U.S. companies. It's just human nature to sniff out the trail to its source and see if there's a better deal possible somewhere else—these people aren't evil. If the OEMs can do it, so can the consumers. That, I think, is ultimately the risk for the audio industry in going to China for manufacturing.

All of this being said, I recognize that your products are being offered at very fair prices and that they carry a guarantee—which is what gave me the confidence to buy the Dussun DS99 from you. And, you are not marking the product up to ten times it's original price.

Everything I have come to know about you so far reinforces that you are a fair and competent audio dealer, and I am glad I bought mine from you and not from New York Sound or Ornec. In addition, if I buy another Dussun product, which I am contemplating, I will buy it from you.

I hope PFO can shed some light on the whole controversy. They do a good job, and I appreciate their contribution to the hobby.

Sincerely,

Gary Wilbert
Charlottesville, VA

The Doctor Responds…

Ping (and, via Dave Robinson, Dr. Sardonicus at PFO):
I've just started listening, and so far I like what I hear.

The legitimate Dussun 99 is one of the true gems of audio. I used it to drive the huge XLH Reference 1812s to "drive you from the room" levels, and it maintained it’s sweet, almost tube-like character, throughout. Jennifer Crock of JENA Labs was present and she doesn’t like anything …she is impressed enough that she intends to write a sidebar. For circa $500 retail, everyone should have one, if just for a back-up.

I appreciate your information on the difference between "knock-offs" and the real thing. I sent the email to PFO yesterday because I think the entire issue of direct importation from China needs discussion and education for consumers. It's very confusing. It's not hard to find the websites where these products are sold, and I'm sure lots of potential buyers are going to these sites and wondering whether to take a chance. I've read the discussion on the Asylum, and while it's aiming at the issue, it sheds mostly heat and no light.

I think your letter is a great opportunity to address this issue, straight up.

Labor and material costs, as well as the relative value of the Yuan, means that Chinese manufactured goods are going to enjoy a significant price advantage in the market place. Of course, this price advantage is worthless if the quality is not there.

The transformer is the heart of any amplifier. We are not talking about changing bumpers on a gray market BMW here. I know for a fact that Dussun spent a great deal of money and effort coming to grips with our AC schema, without losing reliability and sound quality. Do you honestly think some hack is going to be able to buy a cheap transformer off-the-shelf, and produce equivalent results? If so, please email me, I have a piece of the true cross I am selling.

So you save a few bucks initially. It won’t sound or last like the factory piece, and you are SOL if you have any issues with it. Just toss it in the bin and move on. Penny wise and pound foolish.

I think we need some real research and education by the journalists. Someone needs to do direct comparisons and report the results. Perhaps PFO is up to the challenge. Right now I sense that the audio press is avoiding the issue for fear of alienating their advertisers, which I think sends the implication, whether intended or not, that the locally sold product and the direct Chinese import are the same. If they're not the same, let's do the work to find out and then let's report the results.

I am unaware of any issue with advertisers, one way or another here. I think it is pretty straightforward …absent compelling information that these importers provide equivalent parts and installation expertise, you are buying an inferior product when you go gray market. If price is your only consideration just go to Circuit City and be done with it. At least you get a 30 day return and manufacturers warranty.

If the grey-market folks want to submit proof their mods are factory equivalent, let’s see it.

I do not doubt that you are right that Ornex may be selling a different product. I have heard the same thing from other posters at Audiogon and at the Asylum—i.e. that voltage and other differences are not fully accounted for in the direct China import.

I will just say there are a number of horror stories out there. Caveat Emptor!

The other side of the issue is that some high end brands (like Red Rose) have long been reported to be importing products that are essentially similar to the Chinese products and simply re-badging them (and perhaps making the kind of modifications you do). I'd like to really know—from someone with technical expertise who could take the covers off and make the comparison—whether the Dussun DS 99 is essentially the same unit as the Red Rose Passion. Dave Robinson, take note—there's a good article lurking here.

This is a completely separate issue. Audio manufacturers buy parts, assemblies and even complete components from other sources. This is so common as to be inconsequential. Re-labeling is common and accepted. You don’t really think that Polaroid makes DVD players, do you?

There are a small number of manufacturers of speaker drivers, CD drives, capacitors, power supplies, etc. that many manufacturers use for sources.

It is silly to criticize this practice. Imagine critiquing a speaker manufacturer because they buy their drivers from Theile or Focal…

To simply re-label a piece manufactured elsewhere is also common.

As to markups, this is a market issue. If someone wants to charge a grand for three feet of jacketed Belden wire they bought at the local electronics supply house, this is their choice. You don’t have to buy it.

The point I'm making is that it's not a black and white kind of issue. Consumers have gotten more savvy, and they know that a lot of products from China get sold (whether with modification or not) at multiples of their original price by U.S. companies. It's just human nature to sniff out the trail to its source and see if there's a better deal possible somewhere else—these people aren't evil. If the OEMs can do it, so can the consumers. That, I think, is ultimately the risk for the audio industry in going to China for manufacturing.

You have to keep in mind, all this is new, and economic relationships with China will be sorting out for decades. But we have been here before. Look at your car, your TV set, your computer. Like it or not, we are transitioning into a world economy and we cannot and should not isolate ourselves.

All of this being said, I recognize that your products are being offered at very fair prices and that they carry a guarantee—which is what gave me the confidence to buy the Dussun DS99 from you. And, you are not marking the product up to ten times it's original price.

Everything I have come to know about you so far reinforces that you are a fair and competent audio dealer, and I am glad I bought mine from you and not from New York Sound or Ornec. In addition, if I buy another Dussun product, which I am contemplating, I will buy it from you.

I hope PFO can shed some light on the whole controversy. They do a good job, and I appreciate their contribution to the hobby.

Sincerely,

Gary Wilbert
Charlottesville, VA

Gary, thanks for taking the time and effort to write. I think this is a very worthwhile topic.

Doctor S.


Dear Mr. Robinson (you maladroit, you)
I wish to take exception with your snippy sidebar to the fine, excellent, transcendent universe altering preview-review Dr. Sardonicus did of the Lindemann 820 (you are wrong and you smell badly).

The doctor gets at the heart of the music loving audiophile’s needs while you, sadly, miss it completely (you are wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong …and you smell badly).

Everyone I have spoken with (my cat) completely agrees with me!

I think you should print a retraction (you malodorous bolus of hog phlegm) and admit that you miss-spoke (you are wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong …AND you smell badly).

Sincerely,

Rick Gardner (an individual human, in no way associated with the demi-deity Dr. Sardonicus).


Dear Sirs,
In his review of the Edge 8GM amp, the reviewer states:

They can be powered up without speakers hooked to them—something other class D amps can't do.

While the Nuforce amps may have or had a problem with this, the Acoustic Reality eAR Two and the H2O S250 do not have this problem. I think Mr. Levi is incorrectly attributing design flaws in specific amp implementation(s) to class D amps as a whole.

I would not knowingly buy a amp that would self-destruct merely by plugging it in without a load or recommend such an amp to anyone else.

Bob Wilcox

Nor is Bob suggesting you do. He is just making a point that there are other class D amps that can not be powered up unless they are connected to speakers (NuForce for example), unlike the Edge under review, and apparently those from Acoustic Reality and H20—neither of which he has had an opportunity to audition, and as such can not comment on.

Dave Clark


Dave,
I think your review of the Cary unit was very earthy and cool. It contained enough information to be technical and enough personal perspective to realize that an actual human being listened to the product. It's a bar for reviews IMO.

SO many reviews are just fluff, and it was very refreshing to read your article.

WTF was Fred's problem on AA? Good lord, what set that poor man on fire? I think it was set straight in the subsequent 20+ posts, so all is well in the end, but WOW.

Thanks for taking the time to perform the review, as the Cary 306 is rock solid on my end. As you allude to in the review, if there was any mistake that Cary doesn't know what they are doing....it's gone now. I completely agree.

Regards,
Mark Nestor
Damascus, MD


Dear Robert H. Levi,
I've been reading Positive Feedback online for quite some time and I came to know of a lot of products that I've never heard before through your wonderful website. Let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for the wealth of information that you and your contributors are imparting through this great website.

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,

Yours sincerely,

Jocy

Dear Jocy,

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

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