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Positive Feedback ISSUE 45
september/october 2009


Our readers respond…we respond right back!

Send your comments to either or

The Higher End

About the "expectation of privacy" and those emails to Positive Feedback Online

Ye Olde Editor

We do like hearing from you, our readers. It adds a great deal fun to what we do, encourages our editors and writers, provides information we may have missed, and correction that we may need. This is all to the good.

Your communication with us these days is almost always via the highly rational path of email. And we do read it, responding to the constructive correspondence—which is most of it, really—as quickly as possible. (The destructive stuff is routed directly to the bit bucket. Didn't yo' mama teach you better than that?!) Dave Clark and I are generally pretty rapid in getting back to you if a response is needed from us, or in re-directing inquiries to the appropriate person at PFO if it needs to go to an editor or writer.

By the way: please understand that the writers and editors at PFO are helpful folks, eager to assist their fellow audio/music lovers, or they wouldn't be doing what they're doing. Nevertheless, PFO is not an audio consulting service. Please do not clog the gears with complex requests for assistance with the sourcing of audio gear in your personal setting. Remember too that PFO is not, and has never been, an audio ombudsman. If you are having problems with a particular vendor, company, or dealer, please avail yourself of the normal channels for such resolution; no audio publication has the time or resources to take on such a responsibility for consumers. Enough said.

With an increasing flow of emails to Positive Feedback Online, and upon evidence of some recent confusion on the part of our email correspondents, it's become necessary to re-state the ground rules by which we operate here. So gather round the campfire, friends…

Any time an email, or an exchange of emails, is both constructive and of potential wider interest, we exercise the reserved right to publish it in "Reverberations," the letters section of PFO. This is, after all, a publication, a "journal for the audio arts." We are seeking to further educate and entertain our readership in our common love for fine audio, and contributions in the form of emails/letters from our readers are one way that we accomplish this goal. When you write to any of us… our essayists and reviewers included… we assume that you are aware of our nature as a publication, and that you write to us in the light of that knowledge.

This means that—unless you request confidentiality explicitly in your email or letter—there is no expectation of privacy here at Positive Feedback Online.

To put it another way: Any email or letter sent to this journal will be considered fair game for publication, unless you state in the document itself that the contents are private/confidential.

So… our default is PUBLISH.

The reverse is also true: the editors do reserve the right not to publish an email or letter. We are not obligated to publish your letter or comments simply because they are submitted. And hostile, negative, sarcastic, destructive emails or letters are never published.

So…sometimes we DON'T PUBLISH.

Finally, our subtitle for "Reverberations"—"Our readers respond—we respond right back!" is not a guarantee that we will always respond to an email or letter that is published. Often we do; sometimes we don't… usually when we don't, it's a case of res ipsa loquitur.

So finally… sometimes we PUBLISH WITHOUT RESPONSE.

I think that makes things clear. Having said all of this in the name of clarity, keep those cards and letters coming in!

All the best,

David W. Robinson


Hello Mr. Mercer,
Well said! You are absolutely right. The benefits of combining the convenience of portable music devices and high-quality audio equipment should be self-evident. The people who mostly use iPods and downloads and those with disc-based collections would be able to enjoy both. That’s why my next player will have a USB connection; my discs will still be there, and I could audition tons of new artists on an iPod.

Using discs for music is derided by many, but music companies and equipment manufacturers continue to introduce new CDs, SACDs, and the hardware to play them. Discs and downloads can coexist. Sit back and enjoy the ride.


Mark Lombardi

In issue 27 several Boulder products were reviewed including the DAC 2020. As the article progressed, details of the sound and operation of the preamp and amp were included in the article but the performance of the DAC was not commented on except to say that it would be reviewed in a later issue. Curiously, at Steriophile, a somewhat similar situation occurred where a review of a couple of Boulder items including the DAC ended up ignoring the DAC in the review comments.

I was wondering if you or the participants in the original review could comment on the performance of the Boulder 2020. I am interested solely for my own personal information but, frankly, even given the high regard that Boulder products are associated with, the lack of any review comments causes me some concern as I consider the purchase of  a Boulder 2020. My instinct tells me that in these two cases, the 2020 did not measure up and rather than bash a Boulder product, the DAC was simply ignored in the final reviews, but I would be delighted to be wrong on this point.

Thanks for any comments you would care to share with me.


Don Gordon

Hello Don...

As a matter of long-standing (20 years now) policy and practice, Positive Feedback Online does not comment on what it does not publish. What we decide to evaluate and comment on is in the magazine; what a reviewer or editor decides not to comment on is not there. Self-evident, I know, but perhaps it needs to be said.

Sometimes reviewers intend to continue a thread, and even announce that they will do so, but the project dies out, or they lose the inclination to write more on a product. This happens. Dr. S. never returned to the thread of the 2020 DAC, which he as a writer for PFO may chose to do.

I cannot comment on the 2020 personally, as I didn't have a chance to evaluate it in any depth in my own system, so I can't help you with your request.

I do note that three years have passed since Dr. S.’s essay on Boulder, which is a very long time in digital audio development. My personal reference for stereo CD and SACD playback, as I announced a year ago, is the Playback Designs MPS-5. It's the best I've heard in those formats, and includes a rich set of I/O options. (See my review in PFO Issue 39, at Quite a number of us at PFO have come to the same conclusion; ditto a number of my colleagues at other fine audio publications.

For universal players with multi-channel playback and DVD video capabilities, but WITHOUT Blu Ray support, the Esoteric DV-60 is very hard to beat (see our archives for the two evaluations I've done on that unit). For universal players with multi-channel playback and WITH Blu Ray support, I’ve recently received the Marantz UD9400 Universal/Blu Ray player. My initial impressions are favorable; details (such as I chose to publish!) later.

Thanks for your inquiry, and all the best to you on your audio journey.


Dr. David W. Robinson

Dear Greg/Editor,
RE Stanley in NZ’s query about cables and Mod Wright, I wondered if Stanley knew Mod Wright is sold through Reference Audio in Devonport, Auckland in NZ: The phono Stanley is interested in is currently advertised on the Reference Audio website.


Michael in Wellington, New Zealand

Dear Greg Weaver,
I like your review on the Von Schweikert VR-5s that you bought (lucky guy!). [See PFO Issue 40, at] I also noticed you use Stealth MLT speaker cable. I have the Metacarbon interconnects; they transformed my system and reflect exactly the kind of sound i am looking for.

Because the MLT are expensive and I can't hear them in New Zealand before buying, my question is, does it give the same kind of sound and difference as the Metacarbons?

I am also interested in the ModWright SWP 9 Phono that you use. Are we looking for the same kind of sound if I buy one of the ModWrights one day? Again, I can't hear these in New Zealand. I like the sound you describe for the VR-5s, too. I.e., I want vivid, rich, transparent, pace and rhythm, slam, dynamics, punch, excitement—no laid back boring stuff!

Your wisdom would be appreciated.

Best regards,

Stanley in New Zealand

Hello Stanley,

Thank you for the kind words; I do indeed feel quite the "lucky guy" to be able to live with the VR-5 Anniversary. They are remarkably musical devices.

As to the STEALTH Hybrid MLT speaker cables, they are a bit different in their overall presentation from the Nanofiberswhich I reviewednot the Metacarbons that you reference in your letter. I’m not sure how to address your question exactly, since we are not talking about the same cables or experiences.

However, I will tell you that overall, I found the Nanofibers to be a bit on the "warm" side of neutral, albeit with a very fluid, liquid midrange. Pianos and female vocals were remarkably lifelike in tonality, texture, and size. However, some of the sparkle and shimmer that cables like the STEALTH Indra or the Kubala-Sosna Elation convey seem somehow diminished. It is my suspicion that the Nanofibers somehow suppress, in some minimalist fashion, the highest frequencies.

The Hybrid MLTs are remarkable neutral, yet extremely fast and transparent. They offer an almost effortless feeling to the transfer of music as it flows through them. In this respect, I believe them to be much more faithful to the uppermost two registers (5,121-10,240Hz and 10,421-20,480Hz) than the Nanofibers.

However, you may be interested to learn that I have settled on a new loudspeaker cable as a referencethe Von Schweikert Master-Built Signature Bi-Wires… They surpass even the MLTs in their ability to produce fluid, liquid midrange, rendering even more lifelike in tonality and size. Review in the works…

Thanks for reading my rantings at Positive Feedback Online, and for taking the time to write.

Greg Weaver

Hello Marshall,
Thank you for your great comprehensive review on the MBL 5011. I especially like the comparisons to Lamm L2 and Audio Note M77.

I have examined your system; you actually own this mbl noble line equipment to go with your Kharma exquisites. You also mention that your system is voiced for harmonic richness and musical involvement over accuracy and detail.

I have Kharma CRM 3.2 speakers and I am trying to choose between an MBL 5011/8011 setup vs Lamm L2 Ref/Lamm ML2.1 setup.

Was your choice based on affordability? Because your review and sonic preference steers more towards Lamm I think.

I would appreciate your guidance from your experience. I am seeking musical involvement and natural presentation over accuracy and detail just like you are. My digital front end is Esoteric P-05/D-05 which provide enough detail and accuracy to start with.

Thank you,


Hi Burak,

First, my complements on the two rigs you've chosen for consideration. Both are first class. I have heard each of them with similar Kharma speakers at shows and at dealers. (The Lamm mono-blocks I auditioned for review were the ML1.1s.)

Affordability was certainly part of the equation, but not the main factor in my choice to purchase mbl gear.

Taking them in turn, the Lamm gear's most notable strength is its sophistication and unmatched timbral portrayal. The mbl's strengths are spread across a wide range of audio checkpoints.

In the big picture, considering all performance criteria, the mbl 5011 pre measures up to the L2 pre; the mbl 8011 amp is not at the level of the ML2.1s, provided each is used in an appropriately matched system.

Your speakers sensitivity would present a serious challenge to the ML2.1s wattage; the mbl 8011 amp at 220 watts into 8 ohms would bond with the CRM 3.2s in a heavenly embrace. Secondly, the mbl amp and pre have a darker tonal character, which better complements the tonal balance of the 3.2s.


Marshall Nack,
I have read many PF reviews, but I am emailing you in response to Mr. Nack's 2004 review of the Lamm L2 preamplifier. I was impressed with the review and seek his perspective with regard to building a new system.

I am planning to upgrade from my entry level equipment, provided that the end of the year is favorable. I currently have Naim gear (Nait 5i Integrated & CD), which has been good for the money that I invested. I plan to keep my Wilson Benesch Arcs, though I have considered adding a subwoofer (WB Torus if had the money; JL Audio Fathom more likely!). Like with the foregoing gear, I plan to look first for the gear on Audiogon. I listen almost exclusively to Classical music and plan to stick with a digital front-end, though the new player will be, like the Naim, an SACD player as 2/3 of my CD's are SACD (planning on Cary 306 Pro SACD Player or Ayre player). I live in an uptown condo in Charlotte, NC. It has a spacious main room with 9 ft ceilings. I plan to spend a larger percentage of money on the preamp than the amp or player.

I was hopeful Mr. Nack, or someone who is available to field thee questions, can comment, given the time that has passed, on how he currently feels about the L2. Moreover, and provided that he still believes it to be a top choice within its' price category, I was hopeful that he can recommend an amp or two that he thinks will pair well with the L2. I am considering the Audio Research 110 given its' reviews and price point (can't afford Lamm monoblocks!). If not, perhaps he has other amp/preamp recommendations.

I am also considering an additional pairing of a VTL 7.5 preamp and a Spectron Musician amp.

I would greatly appreciate your assistance in forwarding this inquiry on to him I look forward to any insight he can provide me with respect to any of the above. Thanks for your time. 

Alec Rogers 

Hi Alec,

Regarding the Lamm L2 preamplifier, it has been awhile, but my audio memory is fairly reliable, and I would still venture to place it among the best I've heard. Other contenders in that rarified domain would be the mbl 5011 and 6010D preamps, the TRON Syren and the Audio Note Japan Ongaku M77 pre-amp. While we're at it, the new Soulution 720 will be a force to contend with, but these last are at new price point.

I don't know the VTL 7.5 preamp, nor am I acquainted with the Wilson Benesch Arc speakers. Sorry, I cannot comment on these.

Marshall Nack

Whilst Karl Lozier's long article deals with older deleted Sony players, would the very expensive so-called Uber Clock/Terra Firma upgrades improve performance of the current Sony player, the excellent XA5400ES? [It] already has the lowest measured jitter via HDMI, which I find sounds better than with any analogue interconnect for both RB CD & SACD. Has anyone had the opportunity to compare the Allen Wright or Upgrade Co. modification of the XA5400ES to the stock player? Both have carried out mods, but as far as I am aware no comparisons have been made, which is essential before having this work carried out. Quite frankly I would be very suprised if the stock player could be improved sufficiently to justify expensive modifications, especially when HDMI is used into the Sony STR-DA6400ES receiver or the forthcoming Pioneer & Onkyo receivers which will incorporate low jitter DACs.

Gerald Bearman

I cannot comment on your question about mods to the XA5400, Gerald, since I have no experience with them. I suspect that Karl Lozier would be in the same position of inexperience.

I am therefore cc:'ing Allen Wright of Vacuum State with you inquiry; if he wishes to respond, he can tell you what they are doing with the XA5400, if anything.

All the best,

Dr. David W. Robinson

Vacuum State has undertaken a major research project on the SONY 5400 SACD/RBCD player with great success. The Upgrade which we are now marketing through our worldwide agents is less expensive than the Upgrades to older SONYs, yet sounds as good as a fully Upgraded SCD-1!

As a standard Upgrade, we fit our TerraFirma Lite clock, and a replacement I/V converter/output buffer module in place of the original SONY audio section.

The result of this Upgrade can be found on our website at:

or you can find the original (and a large number of replies) at:

As we only have one 5400ES at present, it was not possible to do a back to back test with an un-Upgraded unit, but I can assure you the Upgraded one sounds SERIOUSLY better than stock.

Also, as I have nothing to test the HDMI link with, and CERTAINLY no intention to buy a suitable SONY receiver, I may never know if our Upgrade helps that connection, but I expect the TerraFirma Lite clock would, and of course the new analog section would not. The TerraFirma Lite is a advanced clock, and as such can affect the sound of any digital equipment, no matter how "jitter free" the DAC chip or HDMI link is claimed to be.

But I personally do not consider a receiver owner to be Vacuum State's target market, maybe we are old fashioned but with $30,000 worth of tube equipment to test our work on, I rather doubt if a receiver can be in the same arena. We don't require/expect our clients to be as well equipped as us, (although many are) but someone with good separate preamp & power amps, tube or solid state, is where we focus our attention.

Regards, Allen Wright (Founder & CEO)
Vacuum State GmbH
Buesingerstr. 5
8203 Schaffhausen
Ph: + 41 52 62035 81
Fax: + 41 52 62035 83

Your article on Allen Wright's Terra Firma clock appeared while I was having the onboard version installed in my Sony DVP-S9000ES player. I bought this player new in 2001 and had mods 1-6 installed a few years ago. The latest mod makes a big difference and is a great pleasure. The Mozart Clarinet Concerto (Dean/Queensland Orchestra, Melba SACD) brought tears to my eyes.

VSEI's representative, Warren Gregoire, was very helpful and it was (as usual) a pleasure to do business with him. Along the way he fixed some other problems with my player so that it now works as if it were new. He told me that this was the first Terra Firma clock he had installed in one of the Sony players and he was very excited by the result. He left me a phone message about it that was almost giddy.

So, thanks in public to VSEI and to Warren Gregoire of San Leandro, CA. What was once a good player has become a work of art. I'm proud of it.

Arthur McEvoy
Los Angeles, CA

Thanks for the heads up on Mullard tubes.

I bought a pair for my Audio Valve Eclipse, and they were such an improvement I bought another pair as spare. It will be shame if no other tube manufacturers take up the slack when the NOS Mullards are gone. The 12AU7 bettered the stock EH, a pair of clear top RCA, and Ei yugo tubes. Articles like this are why I keep coming back to Positive Feedback.

Chuck Lee

Hello Chuck...

We're very glad to hear that the Mullard tube article by Bob Levi ( in Issue 44 helped you. Bob knows the good stuff!

Positive Feedback Online seeks to educate and to entertain, and have some fun while doing it. Looks like that happened...enjoy!

All the best,


I usually listen to a sports station for background noise when I drive. But to day I needed something else and remembered I had a CD the BBC did on Pentangle, my favorite all time 'popular' performers, the British acoustic jazz/folk super group of the late 60s and early 70s.

It's always wonderful to play Pentagle again every time but this time it recalled a piece of trivia about my friend, the giant audio lost, just a few weeks ago. The first Pentangle LP on Transatlantic Records was the first non-classical album reviewed in Stereophile. And years later Gordon told me it caused a bit of a brouhaha for him. He rated the recording quality very high but received many letters telling him he was nuts. It turned out that the album was re-mastered for the USA and released on Warner Brothers records. Most of the Stereophile readers had unfortunately purchased the more widely available Warner Brothers LP. The wonderful music survived, of course, but the recording quality didn't. I was a budding audiophile in those days and wasn't aware of the huge differences in recording quality. But I had a friend who did. And he had both copies of the album and demoed them for me. And my mouth dropped and I learned one of my big lessons in sound reproduction. The Warner brothers had the sound stage and openness of a piece of card board and the Transatlantic was like a stereoscope.

Over the last weeks I've thought often of Gordon and recalled how unique and important he was to our hobby. Without him it would be very different today. We wouldn't recognize it. It's been years since we had the privilege of experiencing his inventiveness, his humor, his insight and his impeccable writing and it's too easy to forget that this quiet man was a giant. A very few weeks ago I lost a friend and audio lost a titan.

Allen Edelstein

New Jersey, USA