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Positive Feedback ISSUE 32
july/august 2007


Our readers respond…we respond right back!

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I am a voracious audio and music lover. We "junkies" crave information and seek out publications as well as net forums and e-zines like PFO to feed the beast within. To maintain the highest integrity is a challenge, however, as many are accused of unethical favoritism by giving positive coverage to friends and advertisers. With PFO, I have never sensed this conflict of interest.

I was a magazine subscriber to PF back in the day when Harvey was running loose, and visit your online site almost daily to see what's new. I honestly feel your coverage is balanced, professionally written and engaging. Your writers are articulate, passionate and write with creative flair. I recently saw that Mike Lavigne was on your staff. His reputation as a person and audiophile is of the highest standards in the audio community, and I applaud this decision to bring him on board.

To the many years ahead of you as you light the path before us ...I salute what you have done for all of us in the past, as well as looking forward to the many exciting products and issues you will seek to cover.

Brent Rainwater, Audio Addict

Hello Brent…

Thanks for sending along such kind and enthusiastic comments …we certainly appreciate hearing them.

We work very hard to make PFO educational and entertaining for our readers, all the while maintaining the integrity of the journal. Our writers don't always agree with one another, and there is a wide variety of interests represented, but I believe that our diverse group serves a very broad array of audiophiles. (And you're right: Mike Lavigne is certainly a respected member of our community. He's been with us for a while, and is a good audio friend.) They are all unique voices—honoring those voices makes editing quite the challenge!

Gizmo was certainly one of the truly remarkable people here…I still miss him.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to compliment our work. It was a lift in the midst of "Monday as usual."

All the best to you,


John Brazier is right, if anything understated, about the Pass Labs X1. It is a truly outstanding preamp. Prior to using an X1 I used a direct out from a dCS Delius to a Krell amp. Adding the X1 put more punch into the system (and of course more switching capability, which was my immediate reason to get it) with as much or more resolution and sound stage but no other noise or sonic footprint I could detect. I would say that there may be something to Pass claims of very very low noise thresholds using the X1 as intended in balanced application. In any event, it is a wonderful, blackly quiet, powerful, high resolution preamp. No one would be disappointed with an X1 in any system.


Kevin Callahan
Anchorage, Alaska

Hi, is it possible to find out where Mr. Gordon purchased his record storage racks? They are exactly what I have been looking for.


Keith Palmer 

The LP racks that are shown in the photos of my listening room [see, for example,] are the old style "Rackit" systems which are still being made by Per Madsen Designs. The modules are not cheap, $56.95 plus shipping. I also use the optional top and base ($39 each). You do need to assemble the racks, which means screwing in the bolts that hold the wooden parts together. A power drill makes assembly much easier. A hex wrench and also a hex bit are supplied with each purchase so that you can either assemble manually or with a power drill. The units do have a very high spouse acceptance factor. Thus, the Rackit System is ideal for high visibility areas. For areas where appearance is not critical the Ikea Bonde bookcase is ideal. While the largest Bonde bookcase is not listed in the Ikea on-line catalog, our local Ikea store did carry a Bonde bookcase which is 28" wide, 85 inches high and 15" deep. The bookcase is made up of 12 cubicles each 13.25" x 13.25" and 14.5" deep. Just the right size for LPs. The bookcase has masonite on the back for added strength and to keep the LPs from being pushed out the back. Cost was $169. Since it stores over 1000 LPs I don't consider that a bad price.

I hope you enjoy your vinyl.

Roger Gordon

I would like to make a suggestion to your readership. Many of us do not have a local dealer for many of the fine audio products found on the net or in your favorite audio rag. As we know, speakers really do need to be heard first hand. My suggestion is to just make a vacation destination out of it. A fine city like Seattle or San Francisco has many more brands available to listen to than most of the country. Fine dining and many other attractions make them great destinations anyway, so just pack your favorite discs and have an adventure.

I recently drove a few hours to listen to the VMPS speakers with Brian Cheney. It wasn't my listening room but I could tell in an hour that the RM30's were for me. I have auditioned many a speaker and it was obvious that my ears liked them. When the bell tolls, you know! Once I buy them, it is all about placement, adjustment and room treatment. The basic voicing and tonal qualities are 80% of it. Ancillary gear, cables, room treatment etc are whats left. So Take a nice trip, listen to some speakers, have a good time and trust your inner knower. Above all, have fun in a great city. Remember, purchasing a speaker is just like marriage, if the bell is not loud and clear about doing it, then look further. She is out there and waiting for you. And she is hot!

Paul Matulich

Hi Dave,
I thought I would let you know that I did get a pair of the Townshend supertweeters for my Teton's. You were pretty much right on with your review of these. It seems to make all area's of the music more harmonically correct. I always have felt the Teton drivers were integrated very well but with the supertweeter they seem more seamless than ever before. I am still in the experimental stage with them but so far they sound best on top in the middle aimed down towards the listening position. I am surprised given the positive effect that these can have on your sound that there is not more buzz about using these. Many people are spending much more for cable upgrades etc and not getting near this much improvement. Again, thanks for your previous input.

Larry Keats

Greetings from my listener's chair. I am getting some resistance from viewers to my website (see – Editor) about an after market audio product that I make, and I'm hoping that you will permit me to address this with one response in your publication.

I wanted some tweeter surrounds for my box speakers. I went to several large fabric stores in my area (metropolitan Houston) looking for wool felt. What I found was very thin and composed of wool plus synthetic fibers. Too thin, I thought, to do the work that needed to be done and, itself, reflective. One sample was 60% rayon. I bought some anyway and fashioned some doughnuts. This replaced neoprene tracts around my tweeters that came with the speakers. I couldn't hear a discernible difference between the two so I kept looking. I wound up buying a couple of linear yards of high grade all wool felt with a thickness of 3/8" from an industrial supplier. Thought I would use the rest to make some wall treatments. I then had a local machinist make me a template for a 2.5" cutout for my tweeters and stamp and deliver to me a 4" by 6" rectangular pair to fit the width of my speakers. I listen with a pair of two way active monitors with over and under mid/bass drivers and a 1" dome tweeter. My speakers are placed in an equidistant triangle with my listening chair well away from my room's boundaries.

After auditioning for a week or so I decided that there was less need to treat my side walls in my 12'x15'x8' room. Less seemed to be hitting the walls alongside my speakers, up to a point at any rate. What did I hear? I could hear deeper in to my soundstage. My speakers disappeared as sources to a greater extent, and completely on some recordings. Instruments and vocals had a rounder shape with more complexity in timbre and tone. More “truth" I would say. A proverbial veil has been lifted on the recorded event. Physically, not euphemistically.

My purpose in doing this in the first place was to remove waveforms shorter than the width of my speaker cabinets from being reflected to my listening position and being mixed in with the first arrival and higher harmonics of my midrange along with all things high frequency. I think this is precisely what's happening and why I'm a happier camper. This has been written about by John Dunlavy and others in the past, and you can see the importance of sound waveform behavior in modern speaker design. It occurred to me in the process that every component upstream of my speakers was being compromised to some extent to include the quality of my recordings. After all, our speakers are the voice of our systems, right? The characteristic sound of my speakers has not changed, only my temperament has. I'm less anxious to change recordings and more beholden to my music.

The doubters to whom I refer are not disputing the science, but rather what I charge, claiming this can be done for ten bucks. Well, I spent more than that in gas and couldn't get this quality of improvement or fit and finish alone. Forget about hand tools with this density. This is a product of evolution, with my having started with different materials and different shapes. I doubt that any have actually made a comparison, but interested parties can read a review by John Sunier at

I challenge anyone to hear for themselves. I offer my services with a money-back guarantee if a person would like to make a comparison and/or is not satisfied with the result. I will be surprised that if at the end of a few listening sessions you aren't as enthusiastic as I am. 

Happier listening.

Jim Goulding

Ancient history, I know, but this quote from John Phelan in PFO Issue 25: "Then there is the mic'ing technique. The Classics (mostly) used three symmetrically-placed microphones, which is NOT theoretically-correct mic'ing. Three spaced mikes introduce phase anomalies which cannot be corrected later-any talented recording engineer knows this. These early mic'ing techniques are well below that of Blumlein or its close (purist-mic'ed) cousins."

There is no such thing as "theoretically correct mic'ing ", and if there was it probably WOULD introduce phase anomolies. Please read on.

Alan Blumlein patented his two microphone coincident recording technique as part of a larger patent filed on Dec. 14, 1931. Two years LATER in the United States, Harvey Fletcher of Bell Labs created a three-channel stereophonic system that utilized three microphones, three transmission channels and three loudspeakers.

Coincident microphone techniques (like Blumlein's) do not produce significant phase differences between the channels as do spaced techniques, and this is precisely why in some circumstances coincident techniques sound inferior to spaced techniques, and vice versa. Show me an engineer who only uses a single pair of coincident microphones and I'll show you an engineer whose recordings of wide, large ensembles probably sound distant and lifeless.

If you really want to call a stereophonic mic'ing system "technically correct," then I suppose your best candidate would be the French ORTF technique, which places a pair of microphones at the same distance as a pair of human ears. This intentionally produces a time arrival difference (and thus a phase difference) between the two channels that is roughly the same as is produced between your two ears. This greatly improves stereo imaging for a listener seated equidistant from a 60 degree pair of loudspeakers.

The Blumlein technique is fantastic, but so are the many other techniques. There is no single technique that sounds best on every acoustic ensemble.

(For that matter, just consider the inherent frequency response characteristic of a pure pressure gradient transducer and the design method (diaphragm resonance) employed to *mostly* counteract it, and you will discover a very significant *disadvantage* of Blumlein compared to a pair of omnidirectional microphones.)

So please, sometimes oregano tastes best, sometimes nutmeg. Depends on the dish you are working with. There is no "technically correct" spice.

Michael Schulz

Hello Jim,
I have enjoyed your writings for some time now. I am settling down to a pair of Mr. Lees Adagio loudspeakers ,with a few upgrades such as outriggers 3/8 thick diffraction felt around the tweeter, and several cap and resistor upgrades and all of Mr. Lee's cables and power cords. Trying to get a feel for what is what in your opinion how much time did you need for the Adagios to loosen up if you would please, do you recall as far as focus ,all cables have no more than 30 hours on them, except the speakers have about 80 hours of light time. I would greatly appreciate your observations for a time line for things to fully stabilize and focus. Keep up your very informative and interesting writings.

Best regards

Paul Letteri.

Paul thanks for your kind words. I do not have the upgraded version of the Adagios but suspect that an already superior speaker may be enhanced by the changes you've outlined. I found the pair I own to take off nicely right away and continue to add degrees of refinement over the next three months - subtle, incremental movement toward greater "openness". I've also noted that the issue of "focus", as I understand your inquiry, is immediately improved by the amount of room in all directions that I was able to give their placement. These seem to be speakers that, although somewhat unimposing with their physical footprint, truly gain huge amounts of transparency, integration and specific image representation as I've been able to put them at a significant distance from boundaries, walls, and impediments to their radiation patterns.

The issue of Acoustic Zen cables is somewhat distinct: e.g., the speaker cables take the longest to gain full realization. Perhaps your experience with this is different from mine, but I've found the cables to be fine out of the bag (as it were) and slowly maturing (like good wine). I cannot put a number of hours to these enhancements but I'd say that I continue to be surprised this particular system continues to improve after many months and that's not an deviant that bothers me in the least

Jim Merod

Hello Greg,
I have been ready your writings for some time and normally enjoy your accuracy, on the Acoustic Zen Adagios, out of the say 6 reviews, your's was the only one that said the bass started rolling off at 60 Hz. I found this amazing, for I heard these many times with Edge amplifiers and they were tight and fast and didn't loose any steam until we hit the high 30s.

When the masses say otherwise I then have to look at what could be flawed, for one the Escalante speaker is over 3.5dB more efficient which is huge when using a pea sized amplifier to compare with the Adagios with the two driver and transmission line requiring power to control these drivers. Even Chip Stern from 6moons told me that when he went up to 150-wpc Rogue monoblocks-tube they loved the extra juice and were more controlled. The 40-wpc amp for sure was a big part of the problem. Mr. Lee for sure did not agree, or the masses. This matter should be addressed - 95% of the masses can't be wrong. I would like to hear from you when you have a moment.

Best regards,

Paul Letteri.


Thanks for you note. I don't know what you want me to say. I stand by EXACTLY what I said, as it is the experience I have had with them, both at shows and in my home. Let's revisit the statement you seem to have a quarrel with, ok?

"The only real foibles in their performance come at the lowest of frequencies and with their dynamic prowess. Though rated to 30Hz at the low end, the system really begins to roll off and lose accuracy and coherence in the last octave and a half or so, starting at about 60Hz, at least, in my room. There is information there, but as I've indicated, its output begins to drastically diminish from that point on down, manifesting as a loss of rhythmic coherence and a slighting of the weight and drive of the music."

I don't see the problem with this at all… First, I never said there was NO output below 60Hz. Rather, I said that it STARTS to roll off RAPIDLY at about 60Hz. While there is some output down to perhaps the mid to high 30Hz range, it is greatly diminished – something on the order of minus 10-12 dB. At that point, by the mid thirties, it vanishes completely.

The fact that it starts to roll off in the 60 Hz range is what has significant impact on what is OTHERWISE a nearly seamless coherence, especially from a product in this price point. My position is NOT one of maligning the bass performance per se, but rather to point out where the beginning of loss of the illusion of the "single voice" coherence of this product commences. In addition, to a lesser degree, to point out that they are, after all, not true FULL RANGE speakers.

Further, I don't understand this reference…

"…for 1 the Escalante speaker is over 3.5db more efficient which is huge when using a pea sized amplifier to compare with…"

I'm not sure what you are getting at with this reference. First, the Escalante's employ a pair of 12" drivers. Traditional acoustical and electronic theory tell us that larger drivers, even in a similar (both devices are ported, albeit, with slightly different approaches) suspension, will require MORE current to control than drivers of a smaller diameter. The greater efficiency you point to with the Escalante's comes from the electrical and mechanical alignment of the two drivers, not the mechanical and electrical Q of the drivers themselves.

And what pea-sized amps are you discussing? My review, as well as my time with them at shows, has had them hitched to MANY amps, most over 200-wpc. While I do have a low powered "gain-clone" (the 40-wpc CIA VMB-1) and the 125-wpc Emotive LMA-1 (both of which worked VERY WELL with them as I stated), most of the parings at shows have been with the 500-wpc Red Dragon Leviathan's. I have access to some big watt Hafler's and Adcom's as well. The same thing holds with any partnership: the bass begins to lose its magic around 60 Hz, and the impact and visceral attack starts to diminish there as well, REGARDLESS OF POWER.

I hope this has clarified what you have perceived as "flawed" information… It is not incorrect, misleading or in any manner inaccurate. As I said, these are MAGNIFICENT loudspeakers, a stirring achievement at the hands of Maestro Lee. They received my Reviewers Choice Award for 2006. I REALLY, REALLY LIKE THEM. Yet that does not change the fact of the matter. The truth is the truth: that is all I was reporting.

Thanks for reading Positive Feedback and for taking the time to write.

Greg Weaver

Hi Dave,
I enjoyed reading Sam's glowing review of the Mini Strata loudspeakers. Are there any future plans to review the Reference 3's from AV123. I'd really like to see the 'pros' and 'cons' of their flagship Reference line. Could they compete and how well do they compare against other speakers in their price range? Strengths and weaknesses type thing, even against the Stratas.

Have you personally had any experience with the Ref 3's?

I'm not trying to butter you up or anything but I think you have an excellent publication and group here. I've been an audiophile since the late 60s and although I don't work in the music world/academia, both my wife and I have graduate degrees from FSU. Music is food to us.



None so far... Dave

Greetings from Texas. I am very curious as to your view of how the MBL 8011am pair compares to the sound of the Dartzeel amp that you also reviewed one time. Any opinion that you can share? I own the Dart but have interest in the MBL as well as I see a 6010d in my very near future. Thank you for your consideration.

Hi Tim,
I reviewed the DarTZeel NHB-108 Model One amp back in October 2003 and thought it was very good at its asking price, which was around $10,000.This purist implementation was the first amp I'd heard that solved some of the bugbears associated with solid-state topology. The way it did this was by making SS sound like tubes. This guy had the sweetest treble I'd come across and there wasn't an aggressive bone in its body. Overall, it had an ingratiating softness.

However, it wasn't good enough to make me want to keep it. My main reservations were its polite bottom end and macro-dynamic performance. Time passes and now many SS amps sound like tubes-including the mbl 8011 AM at $12,400/pair. These monos do everything likeable in the DarTZeel's mid and treble, and don't have the weaknesses mentioned above. On the contrary, they have better slam and bass quality than a Krell (I'm picking on Krell because that's what they're known for). You get it all, not to mention at a considerable price differential in the mbl's favor. I bought the review sample.

Frankly, at its current MSRP around $18,100, I cannot see the DarTZeel NHB-108 on the landscape.


Marshall Nack

Hi Dave,
I was reading your review of the Townshend Super Tweeters with much interest as I have the Reimer Teton's as well. The Reimers in my system have a good full range sound with very good highs via the ribbon tweeters all on 18 watts. I have found that I prefer the tweeters on the inside rather than on the outside position. The outside position seems to add some soundstage depth but seems to take away much of the transient information I hear with the tweeters inside. I am curious to know which configuration you were listening to when doing the Townshend review. After spending more time with this have you noticed any downsides to the super tweeter or is this a no brainer upgrade for the Tetons?

Thanks for taking the time to review my email and I will appreciate any comments that you may have.

Thanks much,



I was and am using the speakers with the HiVi tweeters/ribbons on the outside. For my room that offers the best sound overall. The Townshends do make a difference and the review says it all.... a no brainer for just about any speaker and so far no downsides. But that is just me....


Dave Clark

Dear Sir,
I very much enjoyed Arnis Balgalvis excellent review of the Nova Physics-memory player. The review answered all my questions except one, that being the build quality of the transport. I would appreciate any insight into this aspect of the device that you can give me.

Fred Pascopella

Hello Fred,

Here are my thoughts on the build quality of the MP.

The Nova Physics Memory player is built to a good professional construction standard. There is nothing that makes it stand out appearance-wise in the commanding way that a piece from, say, Jeff Rowland does. At the same time everything is professionally finished: the layout of the connectors is uncluttered, and the general appearance is very unobtrusive. The panels of my black anodized version gave the unit a direct no-nonsense aspect, though with a tendency to lean towards the plain-jane look.

The front-panel touch-screen adds a very nice high-tech tangibility and highlights the innovative intent of the transport as a whole. The CD tray slides out quietly enough, but it does not have the sensual feel that something like the Linn CD-12 or the Esoteric P-03 display. Overall, its looks do not convey the very sophisticated technology that is contained within this marvelous machine.

Best regards,

Arnis Balgalvis