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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 34
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Our readers respond…we respond right back!

Send your comments to either editorpf@comcast.net or dclark@positive-feedback.com

Editor
I would just like to thank you for publication's quality and its helpful reviews.

PF Online is relatively new to me and I have enjoyed every issue for the insights and help. As I go through a system overhaul, your reviews prove very helpful.

Being a guy in the "economy" range of things, the recent "gaggle" reviews [from Dr. Sardonicus] have proved timley and informative as I search out to replace my speakers in the new year.

The reviews of recordings by Karl Lozier and Bob Neill are equally enjoyed. Thanks Karl for discovering jems like Ariel Ramirez, Misa Criolla, Navidad Nuestra/Guido Haazen, Missa Luba. Choral Arts Society of Washington. Bob's reviews of several Bach Cantata Cycles have been great ! What an age we live in!

Isn't nice to know that if we [prefer] a little more Luther [on one hand], or C.S. Lewis [on the other], we have that choice? Keep up the great work.

Anyways, wishing you and your staff a joyful Christmas season and New Year.

Kevin Parson

Those are very kind words, Kevin; thanks for taking the time to share them with us.

Our artistic community works very hard to provide our readers with helpful and entertaining articles. When our readers express their appreciation, it encourages our writers and editors more than you know.

Please accept our Christmas greetings and best wishes for a joyful audio journey in 2008, Kevin.

david


Mark Lawton,
I read your article on the new Marantz sacd player. I am going to purchase a new 2 chanel player and I was also considering trying to locate a Sony SCD1 mod'd or have one mod'd by a VSEI dealer. Is the Marantz a better sounding player than the Sony ? Every one raves about the Sony build quality, but used and 10yrs old?

Considering the cost is almost the same. What would your experience recommend?

Thank you.

Hello Napper,

I have never owned a Sony SCD-1, but I have owned a Sony SCD-333ES which was a 5-disc SACD changer that used the same digital section as the SCD-1. I had that player modified years ago by Modwright. It was a fine player, but even after the mods, sounded somewhat soft, was a bit foggy and lacked some bass impact. I replaced it with a Sony SCD-555ES SACD changer, the model that replaced the 333ES. This one had the new Burr-Brown chip set. I also had this modified more extensively by sacdmods.com. This was a giant killer player, great for the money. Finally, prior to the Marantz, I owned the Sony SCD-9000ES, which I had modified this time by Reference Audio Mods. This player went many steps further in some areas than the modified 555ES with which it shared the same digital chip set.

Now, although the mods on these various players were not the same and I can't compare apples to apples, my feeling is that the old Sony chipset (the very first SACD chipset made) that the 333ES shared with SCD-1 is not as good as any of the better quality later DACs found on later models. The Marantz SA-7S1 claims its chip set has the best specs on the market today, and listening to it, it's hard to argue.

The point of all this is that the one thing mod-ers don't replace is the DAC chipset, so you are stuck with whatever one comes stock in your player. For me, I would rather have a player with a more more modern DAC and upgrade parts around that. By now, most SCD-1s are likely to have high miles on them, though I have not rracked reports of reliability one way or another. I would need to hear a VSEI mod-ed SCD-1 and compare against my modified SA-7S1 to know which was superior, of course, but with the knowledge I have, I would recommend using the Marantz as your platform for building the ultimate dream machine.

Mark


Positive Feedback: I enjoy reading you and I just had to write you to about this power cord.

LessLoss Filtering Power Cable

It is rare that after 15 years of trying power cords, interconnect and speaker wires that I lucked out to find a product that stopped me in my tracks and made me sit down and take notice right out of the box.

Back in 1982 I started to realize the value of good interconnect and speaker wire was way before MIT and Monster cable started to take off. The man back then was Randall McCarter of Randall Research who did the mod on Dahlquist DQ-10, which by the way was one of the few that really improved this speaker to the point that it could stand on its own today against some of the best out there within in the $8000 plus price range.

Randy started to develop interconnects and speakers wires and due to his electronic engineering back ground he really put some thought into it, the wires were stiff as all get out, but the sound was an eye-opener. Once MIT and Monster hit the market with their advertisement dollars Randy could not longer compete and after a few years he through in the towel. His products by the way sounded better, was designed right and truly researched and had a much higher built quality and materials.

As the cable and accessory market grew I went along for the ride, cable after cable, brand after brand, expensive and not so expensive. You name a major brand name cable and I tried it and even some home brewed cables from the mom and pop companies, you know the one's who work out their garage as a side job and charge almost as much or more then the major manufacture, some sound quite good.

After 10 years I started to come to the conclusion that wires were a crap shoot at best, even reviews from reviewers are way down because you really don't know how they are going to interact with one' s system. Then of course you get educated and you learn good is good, after that your chasing your tail, let's be honest there is only so much a good cable can do, and what you want it to do is bring out the best in your system and not hinder the performance.

I had finally settled down and excepted the cables that I owned as being as good as it gets regardless if I switched them out, I could change the sound a bit, but I would not hear a significant improvement. By the way all of the last few I owned sounded real good.

Some of the Brands: MIT Oracle, Tara Lab the One, Harmonic Technology Magic and on, and most currently Shunyata Python & Anaconda power cords which I liked quite a bit though they were expensive also but they brought out the best in my gear to that point.

Then one day I was looking over the Audiogon site and I saw the ad for LessLoss power cords and I was ready to keep going but I saw the info tab and click it and up came an eight page PDF file on the design of this cable, well reading will cost me nothing so I printed out the information.

Not since Randy McCarter did anyone really explain the design of the cable and what improvement the cable would bring. I also read where Marty Dewulf enjoyed the cables and I have spoken to Marty several times during my years with Sony Electronics, and I have know him to be a honest and upfront guy and reviewer.

So my wheels in my head started to turn, and to be honest I was so happy with my system, but I figured I give them a try at $550.00 and order three of them for my system, after all I could sell the Shunyata's and cover the expense of purchasing if I liked them, so I did.

I ordered the power cords and I received an email thanking me and telling me around 3 weeks. I said fine and waited. After 2-1/2 weeks the power cords arrived. I pulled them out and I was impressed with the built quality, I thought just maybe they will sound ok, if I don't like them on my system and I use them on my plasma, DVD player etc.

So I plugged them up to my Marantz SA-7S1 CD/SACD player, McIntosh C200 preamp and the McIntosh MC402 amp and let them stay powered up for an hour and I then hit the play button and listened to "For Duke" (M&K Realtime recording) and started to walk away when the horn section went off and the solo started, I heard detail, speed and micro to micro swings in dynamics and overtones that I had not heard as easily before.

I went back to my listen chair and went to track 6 and 7 and listened to the piano, drum and standup bass, the detail was as good as I have heard, but the over tones of the instruments came forth with ease and a flow that I had not heard before, did it make the Shunyata's sound like crap? No, but the LessLoss were quieter, better extended in both directions and the dynamics swings were better, in fact my volume control was lower then it normally was when listening to the same disc and I switched the power cords a few times just to see if what I was hearing was right, the LessLoss was providing more current, reproducing less noise thus my system sounded louder with a ease to the reproduction.

Now mind you these were fresh out of packing, no time on them yet and they were better then the Shunyata's at ½ to a ¼ of the price. In fact what these power cords were doing I had not heard before from any power cord to date, DCCA (home brew cord I had tried, stiff to the point of being un-useable, good sound, but not good value for the money) or MIT Oracle (great on amps), Shunyata's (good on digital gear)etc.

I've now have had them a month and they have improved by opening up a bit, but that is it, my system images better, it's focus is better due to the lowering of the noise floor, you can hear music that is just there in front of you out of a silent background.

Choral Music, stunned me, the power and swing of the voices, the number of voices that were now produced clearly with no blur to them, I no longer had to "listen hard" to hear the individual voices.

Male vocals superb, female voices superb, piano reproduction when recorded well was like hearing the real thing.

Recordings from the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, and current era take on their recording quality in stark relief.

There is no highlighting with this power cord, no bloating, no bass over hang or lack of mid-bass, highs extend forever, yet never hyped, smeared or in your face, they are just there and extend forever. Now mind you these cost $550 apiece not $2000 or more. Less noise more music, less jitter from power supply noise, means more natural reproduction from CD players, in fact some older CDs now sound quite good, god knows how many good CDs I may have traded away, the Marantz SA-7S1 CD player is also a huge factor in this being so.

And even more important then money, they work exceeding well on preamps, amps, CD p layers and even my on my plasma TV.

They really lower the noise floor to the point of really considering the need for a line conditioner on any of my gear just like LessLoss white papers said, plug them directly into your wall" and you will hear what I am talking about, no more trade off's that you have to make when using a line conditioner, your system comes into it's own with these power cords.

Once in and while even someone jaded like myself gets a pleasant surprise, and the excitement comes back to what got me into this hobby in the first place, and that is the love of music, and the attempt to get my system to fool me once in and while to thinking that sounds like the real thing.

The LessLoss power cords have taken my system to that level to the point that when I am listen to my system I feel relaxed knowing the system sounds "right" no thought of this could be better or that could be better, based on my experience with many, many power cords, I could pick that up in a second, keep in mind I had my Shunyata's sitting right next to me to go back to, which I did just to give them another go. Same result, LessLoss was better top to bottom, imaging, and less noise totally from my whole system without the loss of dynamics or the slight veiling.

This IS the power cord to own, but order enough for your whole setup, once you insert even one of your power cords back into the mix you will hear your system take a step backwards (only when compared to what you just heard) and again I not saying your tried and true power cords will sound bad, it just these power cords are just so good.

My Marantz SA-7S1 was an eye opener and for the past 8 months I have never thought about another CD player, that was a first for me in the digital world, when I got the McIntosh's I felt the same, they cost much less then the gear I had owned in the past, yet sounded better and I never thought I own McIntosh that was "old school" Levinson, Krell , Rowland, ARC, C.J. etc was where it was at, the McIntosh gear taught me a thing or two.

The LessLoss power cord now enters into that club, it's the best, costs far less and takes your gear to the a level that you will say, I can now appreciate what I paid all this money for, your system will be as good as it can get, that what we strive for and these power cords will bring out the best your gear can be.

On a rating of 1-10 these would be a 20 (consider the cost also), you're done chasing your tail, you start enjoying your system and the music it reproduces. That is the best compliment I can give these power cords.

I no longer even think about another power cord or change of gear, I want more music and I will be out shopping quite shortly, nice to spend money on the music and not on equipment/cable changes over and over again.

You will be doing yourself a disservice by not trying these power cords, Martin Dewulf was right; these are "the new king of the hill".

Enjoy!!

Phil


Doc,
First, just a word to tell you that I appreciate your columns, and Positive Feedback Online generally. More than a cut above the others, and the friendly disagreement between staffers just improves the quality of your product.

I was wondering if you could direct me towards a U.S. distributor for Lindemann. I'm interested in listening to, and perhaps purchasing the 820S. I've been watching their website for months, waiting for information regarding a US distributor or dealer to appear—no dice. I sent an email to them requesting the information and received no response.

It's the damndest (sic) thing-—I can't find anyone to take my money! Perhaps its part of the "erratic behavior of the company itself" you mentioned in Issue 31. Anyway, if you can shed some light on this, I'd sure appreciate it. It doesn't bode well for service/repair after sale, and it's got me spooked.

Thank you for your help, and keep on doing what you're doing.

Ron Gordon

Ron

Thanks for your kind comments. I really wish I could help, but to my knowledge they have never clearly established a US distributor and since they refuse to communicate with me, I have no way of finding out. 

I would strongly suggest you give the Marantz SA-7 a listen... to me it combines the virtues of the Lindemann and Meitner at a significantly more attractive price.

Doc S.

Ron's response…

Thanks for your prompt response. I'll take a look at the Marantz SA-7.

For what it's worth, there may be an article, or at least a comment, lurking in the type of situation we're encountering with the Lindemann player and company. I just went through the same thing with the Loth Silbatone JI-300 Mk 2. Highly favorable review (in this case "enjoythemusic.com"), but encountered nothing but frustration when I wanted to listen to, and perhaps purchase, the equipment. Useless websites, failure to get a responsive email, and nobody (including, like yourself, the author of the favorable review) who could tell me the name of a distributor or dealer in the US).

Yeah, I'm an audiophile, which implies a priori a certain amount of brain damage, but who would purchase an expensive piece of equipment (or anything) without an opportunity to sample the product?

And where would I go for service? It doesn't make any sense. Good luck in your future endeavors. I'll continue reading.

Ron Gordon

Ron,

Apart from the frustration, there are two serious issues with such a situation; the first of which is what happens if you need warranty work? And the second is resale ...who wants to buy a very expensive (in the case of the Lindemann, more that $12k US) piece that will lose most of its value for resale? And this is in the context of being able to buy a great sounding Teac Universal (DV-60) (in the mid $5k range, the Marantz SA-7(@$6.5k) and even the Meitner ($10k) for significantly less money and good used market support.

Doc S.

Doc,
Yeah, you're right on both counts. Still, I have to wonder how someone brilliant enough to design a piece of high-end audio equipment can fail to understand the importance of setting up a good infra-structure.

And how does one explain putting up a website with "Contact Us" listed prominently, and then ignoring emails from potential customers who are looking to buy your product. In the case of Lindemann for example who has gone to the trouble of establishing an English language website, how could they ignore the fact that many of us in the US speak English (and have a bit of money to spend on equipment)? Should I assume that I'll be making a purchase and receiving support from their Slovakian distributor?

Although I'm not personally experienced with the "business" of high-end audio, we're all familiar with the sudden appearance and disappearance of high-end companies, and the clients who invested in them being left in the lurch. It just seems good business, not to mention common courtesy, to build the bottom of the pyramid strong. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, so forgive me...

Ron Gordon

Doc S responds …. 

You make a perfectly reasonable, but erroneous assumption. High-End audio is less about "business" and more of a quirky, sometimes artsy, sometimes "scammy," offshoot (like your weird cousin that no one wants to talk about in public).

We often have hobby-ists or creative talents who are not so stable (emotionally or financially) starting a business around a product or an idea, with no business plan, little or no reliable financing, and often a less than optimal personality and skills set for business management. A brilliant designer or engineer may very frequently be the worst possible manager or product representative. 

I constantly marvel at the kinds of interactions I have with manufacturers, distributors and the like ... that run contrary to civility, rationality and any possibility of a positive outcome. I frequently joke that the high-end is more similar to ancient forms of agriculture and religion than modern business.

For example, ask any high-end boutique manufacturer if they have an actual business plan, if they know their cost of capital, how they manage liability, what their marketing analysis shows, etc. Most often you will get a blank stare. Now, take that line of thought and apply it to things like predictable quality control, warranty support, etc., and wrap it around audiophiles as a consumer group (paranoid, panic and angst riddled ...and nit-picky to the level of OCD). THAT is a hellish admixture. 

At any point in time you can sign on to the net and see some thread where this or that supplier or manufacturer has stopped responding to telephone calls and emails ...and has either suffered a complete emotional meltdown, or ran out of money. How many delicate wonders have passed from existence because of the lack of business acumen or the presence of some personality disorder that makes it impossible for them to deal with others constructively on a sustained basis? 

And this before we get to the big boys who practice variations of insanity and internecine battles that also defy logic. 

I used to be perplexed by these things; now I simply accept them as part of the unique nature of this hobby and try to be amused. 

Caveat Emptor (for REAL)! 

Doc S.


The following is a response from Max Dudious to a letter from Gerald Bearman that appeared in Issue 33.

Gerald,

I guess you know my work on the topic, or you wouldn't have forwarded a copy on to me. I, too, have had good results (fabulous results, if you consider the price differences) with an inexpensive ($600) "universal" Marantz CD player, DV6600, playing through a Marantz multi-channel Receiver SR 9200. It is hard for me to compare that excellent sounding piece with the higher priced model I also reviewed, the SA-11S1, because I didn't have them both in-house at the time. I know that there are several things you didn't mention, or seem to take into account.

I believe that it is the reviewer's responsibility to present the piece under review in the best possible light, assuming that's how the manufacturing team heard it before they released it to the public. So before I make a final judgment on a piece I want to hear how it sounds with different pieces of gear, different cables, in different rooms (for speakers), etc. Then, when I feel I've gotten it to perform as well as I can, I offer my opinion.

I've had some pieces, from prominent manufacturers (it is against my policy to name), that I couldn't get to sound as good as I felt they ought to, and I've disqualified myself from reviewing them. I do give the manufacturer the benefit of the doubt. Also, I don't like to give nasty reviews. I prefer to leave that for others. That's another of my personal policies. I only review products that I'm enthusiastic about. It's really easy to be nasty, and that's not who I am. Call it a personal quirk. Call me chicken.

I've never reviewed a Marantz product that I didn't think was doing at least an above average job in some way. I have ducked out on reviewing one or two. I do remember the CD/SACD player in question, the SA-11S1, 'cuz it had many HDAM modules in its circuit and I was fascinated by HDAMs at the time. These modules have certain technical functions: they match impedances between stages, or act as buffer amplifiers on the output sections (which allow for long cable runs, among other things).

However, their characteristic sound is very smooth. If you play this CD player with a very smooth amplifier, or very smooth cables, or you have a highly damped listening room, or any combination of those, I can understand the result you reported, "lifeless sound." I'd guess, in an attempt to be non-combative, that you didn't take those kinds of things into account, or you'd have mentioned them.

And then there is the question of associated gear. I've found some of my library of cables do better with some kinds of gear than others. At their best, most cables give wide-band frequency response, good sound staging, lots of air around instruments, etc. But not all cables work well with the same gear. I think it has to do with impedance matching, and the small but noticeable peaks and dips that each cable has. Some sound better than others with one piece of gear. It's a bit of a mystery. Sometimes interconnect cables from one manufacturer sound great with speaker cables from that manufacturer. Other times the sound improves if you "mix and match." A little olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, some oregano, a little Dijon mustard, a squeeze of lemon juice. You must know the drill by now. Try brig hter cables.

Some pieces sound great at low volume, and others need to be pushed to louder output. I've had some amplifiers that don't sound really good until you play them at lifelike levels. While others sound pretty terrific at low levels. I think that is a design decision. I don't remember your reporting on that. If you listen at low levels, that's fine. But, unfortunately this piece might not come alive at low levels. Maybe you will have to get another because you weren't M.F.E.O. (As the little girl in Sleepless In Seattle says, "Made For Each Other.")

Finally, while it is relatively easy to notice "more" in judging audio equipment, sometimes "less" is the more desirable attribute. Less boom, less tizz, less in your face presence, are only three I can come up with that are easy to hear. There are others that take more self-training: less smearing, less blurring, less masking. Sometimes less is really more.

Maybe if you experiment a little with the variables I've listed (cable matching, removing or repositioning some upholstered furniture and/or drapes, trying some brighter amplifiers) you'll get better results. Just swapping out the CD player controls for only one variable, but it doesn't take the other factors I've mentioned into account.

I got good results from the SA-11S1 CD player. I found it removed some annoying qualities (screechy, metallic overtones) from human voices I found very disagreeable, and similarly sweetened violins and fiddles. This meant I could listen to opera and blue-grass singers with less irritation.

For all the good reviews that this piece received, is it possible that your personal result with the piece is an outlier on the curve? We who do a lot of reviewing have worked long and hard to be able to pick up subtle improvements in the sound, and if a whole group of us are more or less in agreement about a piece of gear, and disagree with you, is it possible you didn't try hard enough to find the virtues in this piece of gear?

I'd ask you to try again. See what might be needed to bring the piece back to life for you before you sell it.

Max


Hi,
Robert H. Levi's review of The NuForce SE Amp was very informative. I was wondering if he could have commented on the comparison of this amp against great solid state amps like the McIntosh MC401 and the MC501 mono blocks. I really respect those amps, the way they make music sound so real and enjoyable.

He mentioned them in short note, but I thought it would be great to hear his comments, so I could better access the musical reproduction of this new technology. I know digital amps have been hit hard on the negative side by TAS and Stereophile.

Thank you!

Phil Baatz

P.S. I am dying to read Rick's further comments on the Marantz SA-7S1 CD/SACD player. I own it and I really am so happy with it, I have not thought of even looking for a digital front end in the past 8 months of use. This is a first for me in 20 years of dealing with a digital front end, and I am a LP collector with a Sota Cosmos turntable.


Sirs,
Just wanted to write in to say that I am enjoying Gary's journey immensely. Although I've never had the means to follow any kind of high-end muse, like many others, I have aspired to greater heights than I could ever hope to reach without winning the lottery.

I too have settled into a more rational way of enjoying music and Gary is one of my guides. A writer for the rest of us music lovers.

Dan Marois


Hello Mr. Stern,
I'm working my way through the Positive Feedback web site and I have just finished reading your piece entitled "Reflections From The Cornfield: Making Bricks Without Straw". I had to find out who this Chip Stern was because his was the first online article I had read that contained no irritating grammar and all that goes along with that. I had to find out why this writer had so much respect for the words he wrote.

Without knocking other knowledgeable journalists for their lack of rigueur I must say that your writing stands out like a hundred-watt bulb in a Christmas tree. Now that I know who you are I know why.

Reading you is a breath of Internet fresh air!! I hope to read you for a long while still.

Dan Marois

 

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