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Positive Feedback ISSUE 3
october/november 2002


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Hello all...

Charles Hollander has brought to my attention the news that David Chesky of Chesky Records has very recently undergone successful heart surgery. This was confirmed by a phone call to the good folks at Chesky.

We don't know what the nature of the procedure was, but Positive Feedback Online wants to take this opportunity to wish David a rapid and full recovery.

On behalf of PF Online,

Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

Dear David,
First allow me to thank you for taking the time to evaluate our Stereovox SEI-600 interconnect. I know that you don’t like to tackle many cable reviews, and I’m grateful to you for personally giving the SEI-600s the run at chez Robinson.

While I'm certainly pleased that you've come to the conclusion that the SEI-600 cables "are a real triumph of the cable making art," and worthy of your highest recommendation, I was also slightly confused by some of the characteristics you reported, as they not only didn't jibe with our own experiences, but also seem to have run somewhat contrary to the experiences reported by other end users.

After ruminating upon your words for awhile, I've come to a theory regarding the reported performance of the SEI-600 in your system: You had but a single pair of 1.0m Stereovox SEI-600 interconnects to evaluate in your system, with the balance of that system connected via the other two brands you mentioned. Considering this circumstance I was reminded of an old saying, here paraphrased: "If you put a drop of wine into a shot of whiskey—it will still taste like whiskey."

In the spirit of that wisdom it would be logical to predict that the Stereovox SEI-600, as a neutral conduit, would simply pass the 'flavor' of those cables installed before it in the chain. Further, the signal would also adopt the 'flavor' of those cables that came after the SEI-600s in the chain. A neutral interconnect placed into such a circumstance might tend to be perceived as the "love child" of the other cables dominating the system.

With this in mind I would like to offer you the opportunity to audition a complete Stereovox cabling system - interconnects and speaker cablesso that you might have a window through which to more precisely evaluate Stereovox products. Please let me know if this would be acceptable to you.

Best regards,
Chris Sommovigo

P.S. Correction: The SEI-600 is not a 4GHz cable, although its bandwidth is quite impressive. The 4GHz spec refers to the i2Digital X-60 digital cable, where we use special BNC's that permit signals up to and through 4GHz to pass with very admirable return loss characteristics. Although Stereovox and i2Digital are separate companies, I am involved in both companies, and thus it may have led to some confusion of facts between products.

Hello Chris...
Well I certainly hope that you appreciate the work! Cable projects are tough to do well, and often fairly close to thankless as a task.

If you'll supply PF Online in Portland with a complete set of Stereovox cables, I'll give them another listen in 2003. I agree that it's best to put as much of a given cable family into the path as possible, but that's often not feasible. As I recall, at the time this is what you could send along. When I have a single pair... well, I do the best I can. In your case, it went in the very critical position between our reference SCD-1 and the Audio Research Reference Two, Mk. II preamp.

VERY revealing, that, though you're quite correct on the overriding importance of system synergy.

So, send along a complete set... I'll valiantly essay a "Stereovox Redux" some time in 2003.

BTW: I was well aware of the fact that the 4GHz cable was a digital cable, and said so in the review. I moved quickly on to the "interconnects," identified them, and put a photo in at that point. If the transition isn't clear enough... well, this is a clarification!

All the best,

Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

Dear Sirs,
It seems very awkward that there should be that much difference in performance between systems (see the Audio Note CD2.1x review: There is definitely more to this story. I would certainly want to read a review of the reviewer's systems as they normally listen, without the AN CD player, to get a feel for just what is happening.

On the other hand, do the reviewers each understand that to which they listen?

It is absolutely scary to think that less than fully experienced people are writing reviews that go out over the web. Clark's #3 cover-over did absolutely nothing to help review #1 or #2. It is clear that none of these guys understands what they should about brick-wall filters or 0-times oversampling. Where is Bob Harley when you need him??

Ray Lombardi
US Importer for Audio Note

First off the reported "audible" differences are issues that are difficult to argue with respect to "what" they heard. Sorry, but each writer heard what he heard and wrote truthfully so. On the other hand "why" they heard what they heard MAY be an issue of system compatibility or incompatibility. If the player does require a certain load, we should have been informed of that point—either verbally or in the owner's manual.

Ed is quite capable of dealing with things electrically as that is his background (he has built a fair amount of amplifiers and speakers so he knows what he is doing and is also an EE.) Therefore, he would have no problems dealing with load requirements. As to our qualifications, I have been writing and reviewing gear for over 10 years now, and Ed has been heavily involved in audio most his adult life, as has Greg. Both are very well versed in audio and post quite often on Audio Asylum. Ed has also owned more gear than most of our readers, so he knows what is going on.

And I also disagree with your comments as to my cover-over. It is obviously an issue of system synergy/compatibility and tastes. Which is what I said in so many words. And no, the review was not meant to be a report on zero or over-sampling. We report on what we hear, though when we can, on perhaps why. If Ed wants to go into oversampling, he is more than welcome, as are any of our technical editors.

Sorry someone did not like an AN product. Things like that happen. On the other hand, I and Greg loved it! Heck, I even bought one.

Oh, Bob is more than welcome to join in!

Dave Clark
Editor, Positive Feedback Online

Just for the record, my Plinius CD-LAD and SA-102 combo retails for over $8000! The specs on the CD-LAD preamp are:

Which is quite good, and should be suitable for any audio component.

The statement that reviewers OR listeners to Audio Note products have to understand brick wall filtering and digital technology as regards to over and undersampling (which Meridian for one doesn't even agrees is different!) is ludicrous.

Ed Morwaski

David ...Keep up the good work. Glad to see PF on the net.

I have read more than once your article, "The Creative Art of Recorded Music..." (PF Vol. 9 No. 3). I must say this is the most cogent, rational discussion of recorded music and its relationship to live performances I have ever seen. Treating recorded music as an art form in itself avoids all the nonsensical attempts to "recreate" the live experience in the listening room. Two thoughts come to mind:

Charlie Wiens, in an early PF, related his humorous but telling experience of having walked into a drug store and heard some of the most moving music he had ever heard. He was surprised to find it was reproduced by a table model radio (age and time may have fogged my recollection of the specifics of Charlie's experience, but the point is made). In a recording studio a drummer is frequently placed in a room separate from those playing other instruments (or singing). This is done to reduce the likelihood the sound from the drums will overpower the sounds from the other instruments (or vocalists). Why then should we worry about an absolute recreation of a sound field? Do we care that, in reality, the drummer is far removed from the other artists? Of course not. We simply want a satisfying experience.

While in London Gretchen and I attended two lunchtime concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields. One was an organ concert, the other a performance by small chamber orchestra. I actively listened with your PF article in mind. I wanted to see if the live concert experience was superior to that of the recorded experience. Of course, I have no way of comparing these specific performances with recordings, since they were only live (Q.E.D.?). I suggest the live concert experience may or may not be superior, but is simply different. It cannot be the same. Listening venues vary greatly, from the live performance to performances reproduced through the "sound system" of a car, a headset on an airplane, a mass market "hi-fi" system, or an annual-salary-or-greater system that thrills the visual and aural soul. Which is the best? That which brings pleasure. 

I especially appreciate reviewers in audio rags who point out that a particular system sounds better late at night, and sounds even better after a glass or two. Well, duh! The system will sound different every time you listen to it. At night the reviewer is probably more relaxed/tired than earlier in the day, and that single-malt Scotch will either heighten or dull the senses. The smoke from a few too many cigars may bollocks the electrodes on the Quad ESLs and create some pleasing arcing displays. Also, the power grid has fewer demands placed on it late at night than during the day, so the power delivered to the electronics is likely cleaner and more consistent, yielding an overall sound that would not be matched under different circumstances. 

A half-century-plus of life has given me and my ears the ability to hear things that no one else can hear. That same half-century-plus of life has caused my hearing to diminish in ways that others will not have experienced. What I hear and how I hear it are personal. Scientific and analytic attempts to categorize my listening experiences have benefit, but must take into account my individual situation, and not be used to make me feel that I cannot achieve my personal listening Nirvana.

Enough of this rambling. You and I have not had the opportunity to chat for some time, so it feels good to express opinions to one who accepts them for what they are. I look forward to the online PF  Keep my subscription going.


Ron Hayhurst
Portland, OR

Hello again, Ron...good to hear from you!

I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the article that Rick Gardner wrote, based on conversations that he and I had. I believe this area to be one of the most crucial to the development of audio as an art form. In my opinion, lovers of fine audio must shake free from bondage as "lesser citizens" to the world of live music. Audio is NOT live performed music; it is AUDIO. It has its own imperatives, its own aesthetic, its own unique set of possibilities. It also has its own unique delights and ecstasy, as my dear friend Gizmo pointed out in PF many years ago.

Give a call some time... let's catch up! The single malt's on me, eh?

All the best,

Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

Leo Massi (1931-2002)
One of The Good Guys

On October 17, 2002 the audio industry lost one of its truly good guys: Leo Massi passed away after a severe heart attack. Leo imported products such as The Black Cube phono stage, and the Blue Note line of turntables, tone-arms, and cartridges, as well as Sehring loudspeakers. His wife, Marilyn, survives him. Adam Dragon, Leo's chosen successor, will run his business, HyEnd Audio.

Leo had good eyes and good ears. He recognized attractive styling when he saw it, and he knew good sound when he heard it. He used to say he made a living on his ears ("I got two.") and his wit ("I got one half."). That kind of charm was one of the traits that made friends for Leo—his classy, self-deprecating style.

I can't remember when, but at one of the Hi-End shows, I ran into Leo and said, "Gee, I'm hungry, Leo. What do you say we go to the Carnegie Deli for a sandwich?" Whereupon Leo pulled a zip-locked plastic bag from his jacket pocket, took out a wedge of aged Parmesan cheese, and managed to cut a slab for me with a pocket knife he had on him for just such emergencies. He was kind and thoughtful, quick with a quip, and quick with an unexpected helpful gesture. He was a gentleman. And fun to hang with. I'm sure he'll be missed. I know I'll miss him.  

Auro D'Oro

Dear Sirs,

First, what a fantastic ezine you are running—please keep it up. I visit your site frequently, and try to buy from you advertisers whenever possible.

I am in the market for a new digital front end and am torn between a dedicated CD player (such as the Electrocompaniet or Audio Aero) since I have a ton of CD's and don't ever see replacing them all, OR jump on the SACD bandwagon realizing that more and more music in this format will be made available in the future. I have been leaning strongly on the dedicated-CD side of the fence since the reviews of SACD players typically say great for SACD and only fair for CD playback.

However, your DIY article on the SCD-1 (which I assume applies equally to the 777 Series) has me wondering if the mods you describe elevate the CD-only performance of this machine up to the level of the better dedicated CD machines? (or at least very, very close).

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this matter. 

Best Regards,
Steve Lefley

Hello Steve...

Glad to hear that you're enjoying PFO! We're having a great time, but it's always good to hear that our readers are having a good read.

I haven't commented as much on the CD side of the modding, Steve, and I guess that I should. My passion is much stronger on the side of DSD, SACD and LPs; it keeps me from spending as much time with CDs as I have in the past.

Time is short... it's late here... but I'd summarize by saying that the mods that I've described to my SCD-1 have shown fine improvements on the CD side. In some ways, the Superclock, the Black Gates and the Vishays were even more noticeable on the CD side than the SACD side, though I think that's because Red Book PCM is starting from a lower level of reproduction.

I would say that the modded SCD-1 is indeed right in there with the best of the dedicated CD players of the type you mention. Certainly those of us at PFO in Portland (Rick Gardner, Jennifer Crock and I) who own the
SCD-1 like its standard CD playback pretty well... but its modded playback is well ahead of that.

Let's just say that the modded SCD-1 has significantly closed the gap with my reference CD-12, and leave it at that.

This means that for about $5K (SCD-1 plus a couple of grand on the mods), you can have exceptional performance on both sides of the equation.

If you need multi-channel playback, there are several folks (Richard Kern and Dan Wright) right here in Portland who could do the XA-777ES M/C for you, as well.

And that, sports fans, is an awful lot of bang for the shekel.

All the best to you in your audio voyage, Steve...

Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

Hi Dave!
Was reading through the most recent installation of the interview with Winston (actually the details on the listening room, etc) and really enjoyed it. It looks like it HAS to sound fantastic! One possible correction, though: The speakers appear to be Avalon Ascents, probably Mk. II's. Aside from the dome midrange, the outboard crossover standing behind the speaker seems to be a giveaway. Also, the Eidolons have angled bevels at their base, as well.

Chris Sommovigo

Howdy Chris...
Yes, Winston's room does sound fantastic... no doubt about that! You're probably right about the Avalons; I can't claim to be an Avalon expert, and now that you mention it, I think I remember Winston referring to these as Ascents. Where I probably messed this up was when he informed me that he had upgraded to the Eidolon Diamonds.

Ah well... c'est les boo-boos!

Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

I'm rarely jealous of anyone... I figure that I've done my share of good things for humanity, and some day I'll be repaid (after all, EVERYONE knows there are just so many calories floating around in the universe... the same for arthritis. Lots and oodles of both have been absorbed by my body, thus protecting thousands... if not millions of others).

BUT, I'm SOOO damn jealous of that room!  AND, if the room wasn't enough to make me moan and groan, the storage area was the final straw... broken back for Mike!  Whereas I know the gorgeous method of storage in my home is the envy of many a home designer—not everyone can pile a hundred or so fruit crates in their dining room!

Oh ya, Rick Gardner and I are twins—from behind, anyway!  Well, maybe he hasn't absorbed as many calories gathered from the ether, but that's because I saved him. He owes me a thank you for not allowing those calories to drift his way! He looks like he has more hair where hair's supposed to grow, so if he can give me some of that, I'll call it even!

Mike Peshkin

Howdy Mike...
Yes, you and I are in the same floating receptacle: Winston's listening "room" is actually better described by what I've teased him that it is...a "listening cathedral"! It is a superior work of design that took Winston and friends some ten years to think out and construct.

Most of us are doing well to simply have a "dedicated" room, which can be hard enough to obtain. I've done that, but hope for more generous proportions in the future. I "do" have separate media rooms and equipment storage areas in mine (though not as large as Winston's), live in a quiet neighborhood, and have "wall-within-a-wall" left and right in my room... that helps. Ditto on some of the light cambering left and right.

Unfortunately, the room is irregular, which is not such good news. If I do another room, the next one will be RIGHT.

Rick is a great fellow, a fine listener, a master chef, and a close friend. I don't think that he's willing to donate hair, though... sorry!

All the best,

Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback

Dear Editor
Thank you for publishing "Fun With Used Equipment, or How to Put Together a $3000 Audiophile CD Player for $555!". I just received a NEC CDR 602 in the mail today, and it is an obvious improvement over my previous transport. Amazing, considering that I paid $30 including shipping. I have been thinking about how I should go about improving my front end for some time now, and your webzine has given me a wonderful and incredibly cost effective solution. Thank you Ed Morawski and Positive Feedback Online.

Aaron S.

Sounds like you're having an awful lot of fun, there, Aaron!

We're glad to hear that you found Ed's article to be helpful. You don't have to spend a mint to have a great time in audio....

All the best,

David W. Robinson
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

Clark johnsen
I think this is some of your best writing to-date and, if not, some mighty fine writing regardless. Vivid, cinematic—in the way that sincere reverie should be. There's a film in here somewhere... no shit. Thanks for writing such an unselfish, sincere piece.


Steve Braude tells me that you're going to post your correspondence about the sonic effect of black CD-Rs. I've got to tell you that I find the improvements wrought by copying onto black disc to be absolutely stunning, and wholly consistent: images become rounder and more three-dimensional, and the sound becomes smoother and more liquid... in short, everything becomes more analogue-like. And I'm not talking about some sort of sonic overlay or coloration; fine detail is revealed, not obscured. Here's an example: Murray Zeligman played a Charlie Byrd CD for me, first the commercial CD and then a black copy burned on his computer. (As I recall, playback equipment consisted of a Sony SACD player, tubed pre-amp and speakers designed and built by Murray, minimally-modded Sunfire power amp, and JPS interconnects.) The CD was of a live performance by Byrd and his combo, recorded in what sounded like a small-ish club. I forget the label (Concord Jazz, perhaps?), although I can tell you that the sound was pretty good to begin with.

But with the black copy you could suddenly hear that Byrd was playing a nylon-stringed guitar. And whereas on the original CD you could tell the approximate size of the club by the reverb time, on the black copy you got a definite sense of the sound hitting the club's walls, giving you a much more specific sense of the club's size.

And there's more: on the copy it was much easier to "hear into" the sound and keep the separate instrumental lines straight. And each instrument sounded rounder, richer, more vibrant, it's color more fully saturated, more...real. And these separate images added up to a musical whole in a way which was completely unmatched by the original. Real music was hap'nin' on the black copy.

I haven't been this impressed by a "tweak" since Braude demonstrated the remarkable Audio Desk Systeme CD-truing lathe. I won't try to tell you that the two of them together make CDs sound as good as SACDs, because they don't... but I will say that if we'd had these tweaks from the beginning, we might not have been dissatisfied enough with CD to feel the need for SACDs in the first place. And unlike the CD lathe, the black CD-R blanks are cheap!

BTW, Roy Gregory's excellent 'Hi Fi +' had a brief write-up on Audio Desk Systeme's new CD cleaner, which looks even more over-the-top than the lathe and is priced accordingly. It's a miniature hyperbaric chamber into which cleaning fluid is pumped at twice atmospheric pressure, and in which the disc is spun with the fluid hitting it at different angles. The company's website claims audible benefits as great as for the lathe (which IMHO is  infinitely more effective than your recent blind test revealed). Any plans to do a write-up on it? (It's waaay out of my price range, but that doesn't mean I'm not interested!)


Richard Frankel

Your comments are very similar to what I'm hearing from Jennifer Crock and Rick Gardner, Richard. There seems to be something very interesting going on in the CD-R process that produces "more musical" discs. I'm not sure what it is... we're all speculating about it... but it does seem to be real.

No such disc beats SACD... but they do sound better than "standard" CD's. Jennifer has wondered whether the injected molding processes used in mass production (as opposed to the thermal processes used in CD-Rs) have something to do with it.

Or is it the color of the CD-Rs?

Good questions!

David W. Robinson
Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online

I forgot to mention one of the most amazing tweaks I tried in the past year: dubbing CDs onto Memorex black CD-Rs. The improvement is astonishing, and in my experience the Memorex sound better than the Imation. I'm doing this for all my treasured CDs. It makes some early CDs (e.g., from DG) sound almost acceptable, and it makes great ones sound even greater. If you haven't tried this yet, do so immediately. Trust me... I'm a doctor. (You don't need to circumsize them first on the Audio Desk Systeme, but that only makes it work better.

Stephen Braude
(Via the Internet)

Dear Sirs;
First, I think you have a FANTASTIC produc—please do whatever it takes to stay alive and well. I was an avid reader of both PF and aM, and was sooo sad when they went belly-up. But your ezine is a fantastic replacement and one I visit regularly. I will also try to support your advertisers whenever possible.

Second, can you tell me how to make email contact with Gary Beard? I found his Cary 303/200 review interesting, and we both use Merlin TSM speakers, so I'd like to ask him a few questions.

Thank you very much, and please keep up the great writing.


Thanks for the kind words. Actually, neither went belly-up, we just found print to be too cumbersome compared to the web! Gary can be reached at:

Dave Clark,
PF Online

Hi David,
…I am the guy Clark did an article on about 4 years ago when I had my Crown Macro Reference. Clark was in Omaha with his magical toys and tried them out on my system.

Ah so! I have vague memories of that episode in Clark’s journals...

I read your magazine and I know how you like the SACDs. My problem is that I have recently heard great vinyl. I want to upgrade my SACD machine and the vinyl thing has greatly confused the issue.

I have chosen (at cost!) to do both, since I consider both to be true audiophile formats. (And don’t we wish that open reel tapes had been feasible?!)

What SACD player do you have? I can say (as I have at PF Online) that upgrading your SACD player can be enormously rewarding... the sonic benefits are truly amazing! Right now I am listening to Mark Levinson’s SACD of his original 1975 30ips analog recording of Krigbaum doing Bach’s The Art of the Fugue... true master tape sound via my modified SCD-1. No doubt about that at all. For $1,500-$2,000 you can have someone like Richard Kern take an SCD-1 or 777 and take it to levels that you didn’t even know existed... I know.

But you don’t have to give up vinyl; PF Online will be spending the next year or so exploring and profiling (no "shoot-outs" though... execrable creatures!) various fine turntable designs. The best turntables approach the master tape (or recording process, in the case of direct-to-disk) differently, but with the same intent. The best of the best are astonishing in their abilities... we’ll be commenting.

If you can afford it, I heartily propose that... in response to "either/or?"... you respond, "BOTH!"

Further to confuse the issue is what is being said about the Audio Note DACs. I have one shot to maximize with and it needs to be done right. I noticed in your equipment that you have an Audio Note DAC. I just need a bit of your opinion on this matter. If the Audio Note will make me forget about SACDs...

No, in my opinion it will not. I had the AudioNote DAC 3.1x in place for several months here; the Linn CD-12 clearly bested it... for that matter, so did the dCS Elgar/Purcell combination (though that was less than the CD-12 in my system.)

And as to making you forget about SACDs: no, standard CDs cannot be made to do that.

They can be made very much better than they are, but *the specification and encoding method are simply insufficient for full and proper fidelity in audio.*

What SACD does with ease, CD can only vaguely approximate... and if you upgrade your SACD player, the "no contest" becomes rather pathetic.

I’ll avoid the temptation to muse upon "silk purses" and "sow’s ears," and leave it at that.

Everyone makes their own choices, and everyman’s audio voyage is his own, but this is how I see it. Best wishes to you in yours, John!

John Mazur
Via the Internet

John continued the discussion as follows:

Thanks so much for the info.

The SACD player I have is the "little" Sony ‘NS 500 that sells for $200. I did have an SCD-1 a couple of years ago. I got rid of it because the sound was not all that spectacular. I did not know of the tedious break-in that was required.

John is referring to the now well known "400 hour break-in" that the SCD-1/SCD-777ES require to really hit their stride. If you didn’t know about it… now you do!

From what I had on the Cal Audio CL-20 playing DADs compared to the SCD-1, I was extremely disappointed with the Sony. Now I know what can be had with the nifty little Sony.

Glad to help, John… enjoy the audio voyage!

Could you please forward info for contacting Richard Kern on SACD mods?

You can reach Richard Kern of Audiomod at 503-659-6599, or via email at His web site is at

John Mazur
Via the Internet

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