You are reading the older HTML site

Positive Feedback ISSUE 50
july/august 2010


Our readers respond…we respond right back!

Send your comments to either or

Whatever happened to Dr. Sardonicus? I am missing his writing...

J. Morstad

[Dr. Sardonicus responds thusly:]

Hey... nice to hear I didn't vanish in complete (justsubstantial) obscurity.

Utterly candid... I mostly got completely fed up with breathtakingly indifferent and incompetent shipping companies... and trying to find ways of schlepping heavy equipment around without further compromisingmy aging and disabledbody (or those of myarea Positive Feedback cohorts, who are also not getting any younger). And I gotfed up with the inexplicable antics ofsuppliers, which ranged from various forms of verbal abuse to someone who actually set up a fraudulent (allegedly) UPS account in my name and triedto bill me for the shipping of a review piece I declined to review.

But probably more deadly... with thefinal receiptofJennifer Crock's speakers my system has finally become transparent to the listening process, and it has always been about the music for me. I feel kinda done about equipment.

I told David Robinson I wouldswitch to writing about music, and I will...but... for now, I am completelyengaged in my new marriage (we just had our first anniversary in July) and, like most, trying to ensure my ongoing economic survival.

However,as David R. knows, over the years I have taken breaks, and eventually I regained the passion to write, and foundsomething that interests me for subject matter.


Dr. S.

Hello Docs,
Inclusive of the Sardonicus(s)...

Thanks as ever for your ongoing efforts and fine reviews. I too was wondering - had the Sardonic one moved over and off the horizon? His savory ripostes and well tuned (dis)missives are sadly missed. Last I read of his was in or around an issue that included a letter I believe called Audiophrenia. That was delicious! I too am cowed and aghast at such almost fetishistic excess—a recent review elsewhere of the new Behold Preamp DAC - $30,000 USD base price, $58,000 as reviewed!!! What did the upgrade include, a new BMW? It never occurred to me until now that constant moving of heavy hardware could pop a back out. And hey who wants to do any heavy lifting when resources are, you know, reserved for connubial bliss, good company, fine meals, chocolate, sailing, and of course listening to music.

I also recently noted in your mail section a well considered outline of your reasons for posting and not posting readers emails. I agree. In the spirit of appreciation of your journal I am sending this along. You may think it off the mark though. This is fine with me but I suspect you may personally enjoy the read. As this has little to do with hardware in particular, it is likely not fit for publication but in any case could you pass it along to Dr. Sardonicus? As it is more or less meant for him.

And so...

Last spring I was healing from a loss and in the process rekindled relations with some beautiful and wonderful First Nations friends, including their children. [For those unaware, these people are those who were First here in North America, ten thousand years first here, before we “discovered” them and shortly thereafter almost killed them to extinction with our smallpox and various other contagions. Curiously in their cosmology and mythology, they are not even First Nations as they too believe there were First People before them] I consider the many I know of the current generation, several generations now removed from the forced indoctrination of the Residential School system, to be practically enlightened in their connection to the natural world around them.

Their young children to me have more going on spiritually than I ever had as a child. For these women and children I have come to know their spirituality is a natural evolutionary growth into understanding their own traditions. It comes from their parents, their elders, their closeness to nature, their tribal collective awareness and their own natural openness and tendency to connect in this way. They have taught me by both a mysterious osmosis (see below) and intimate personal inclusion that I have spent most of my life a prisoner of consciousness not my own. Wow, about time I got that!

And to listening...

Dr. Sardonicus, edgy and unnerving polymath that he is, will no doubt see my writing to be inspired by Martin Buber—no, he would say lifted. I cannot remember where it is sourced because it exists as residue in my sixties collegial memory, but hey who cares, at least something stuck. I finally understand what Buber meant by this metaphor, only to find it not to be one at all. I was taught this by a beautiful 11 year old First Nations girl, the daughter of a close friend, a tall willowy deep hearted dreamer who along with her equally beautiful and prescient aunt helped me transition through my loss. I have learned immensely powerful lessons from this child who was willing to sit with me by the Fraser River, her River, for days to months on end losing my self in the moment with her. [The First Nations up here in B.C. on the West Coast of Canada along the Fraser River are collectively called Sto:lo – i.e. People of the River].

What I learned from her was how to listen, finally hear, surrender to the moment, really lose my self, lose my self in the music. And I am not talking about high end sound gushing lushly through my system. This little one has taught me, late in my life, in truth not soon enough, the deep water meaning of hearing, the tangible life stream of energy that flows through the earth to me and how to get my self out of the way. Taking this lesson to heart, it has translated now into listening a whole other way.

In gratitude for her merciful patience and love, I wrote this appreciation of learning the everything and nothing from her, surrendering to the moment of listening. She tells me she randomly prints it out, reads it by the river and places it on the river to be carried away to the sea. She also likes that someone who understands her has written a poem about her. This was a first for her, my lovely interactive cosmic tweak.

A River Told

Last spring he sat
for days and days
by a river
with his young teacher

a sage first nations girl
who set as her task
to teach him to sit
by the river
to walk in the rain
as if under the sun

This was all she intended
this girl of eleven

One river is all rivers

She would sit through
these days with him
knees folded under her chin
black hair shimmering along her back
leaning into his right side
in silence

they became one with their river
and a season passed
one into the next

To him there were moments
on that sacred ground
with his dark eyed

in which his world
seemed to arrive
for a moment
to a full order

He beheld it as present
all at once
before him
with no beginning
and no end

the girl would turn her head
as if to ask
is everything all right

The world would seem to stop
a tone unheard then heard
would rise of a sudden

whose uninterpretable score
and deep resonant current
the ordered world is

These moments seemed immortal
none more evanescent

They left no content
that could be preserved
no trace
but between the memory of two beings
the love of two hearts
the glimpse between eyes
a knowing between

one breath
and the next
and the next

She taught him wordlessly
that in these moments
a force enters into creation itself
into mankind’s heart

and the radiation of this force
penetrates the ordered world
and thaws it
and again
and again

And this

all this is the river

Sit quietly and listen

Oh! Listen
Was all she said

I thank her every day.

Now when I am listening late night to my new Coltrane, Miles, Dolphy, Rollins and Mingus reissues, well ok, and Gotan Project, Olu Dara, Hamsa Lila, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Gould and Uchida—I am getting this whole other dimension. My investment was not in hardware but in the time spent sitting and listening by this sacred river with my dark eyed dakini.

So this is hearing. Ahhhh! My feet are not yet on the ground. All praise to our First Nations. And thanks dear Docs for keeping us all posted and up-to-date on the best delivery systems and BTW Dr S I got the BAT—gloriously present and absent at the same time—thank you.

Rekindling Regards,

sam h.

rain coasting along the fraser

vancouver b.c.

Interesting review of a speaker [the Living Voice IBX-R2; see] that I have strongly been considering.

I wonder if [Roger Gordon] could clarify, however, his comments on tonal accuracy. I have heard the LVs with an EL84 based amp and an EL34 based amp, and the tonal performance differed a bit based on the tube in use. I wish I could remember more about them, but I do remember that. I own an 845 amp, which is actually less rich than the DHs, an Art Audio. Certainly, an 845 amp typically does not lack tonal richness.

So, did the reviewer note the tonal anomalies with more than the 845 amp, or at least make adjustments for the amp's signature in his conclusions? Thanks.

JM Dry

Dear JM,

The listening comparisons that I based my review on were done strictly with the E.A.R. 890 stereo amp using 6550 tubes. I did not use the 845 deHavilland SET amps at all for those comparisons. As I mentioned in the article, the deHavillands were not happy driving the IBX-R2s full-range. Thus, I had to use the E.A.R. 890 exclusively. Would using a different amp have changed the sound of the IBX-R2s? Certainly. As we all know, any change in the signal path changes the sound coming out of the speakers. However, while changing the amp will effect the sound coming from a speaker, it does not change the fundamental nature of the speaker. It was the fundamental characteristics of the IBX-R2s that I was trying to comment on, not the actual sound emitting from the IBX-R2s which will vary with different components upstream.

After I had sent the draft of the review article to the USA distributor for his comments he wrote back and told me that I had "nailed" the sound of the speakers. Since the distributor has heard the IBX-R2s driven by a number of different amps, both tube and solid state, in his own system and others, I am happy to know that his ears and my ears were in agreement as to the fundamental nature of the IBX-R2s.

I really enjoyed listening to music through the IBX-R2s. The way they recreate the emotional side of music is wonderful to behold. Unless you are really hung-up on accuracy, like I am, you will probably enjoy the IBX-R2s thoroughly.

Enjoy the Music.

Roger S. Gordon

Dear Editor,
Thanks for choosing our new VR-33 speaker for your consideration. We realize that magazines are inundated with hundreds of products and that the entire high end audio market has become saturated with "me too" products that are virtually indistinguishable from each other.

Since Von Schweikert Audio is primarily an engineering company and does not focus on sales or marketing as much as other companies, it is always a joy to find that we have designed a product that has caused an extremely positive reaction to those reviewers, dealers, and customers who have had a chance to hear our new design in the release stage.

As Mr. Zurek points out, the VR-33 was designed to be a "break-through" product in sound quality, ease of placement, and price considerations. That we have used technology "inspired" by speaker systems costing up to $37,000/pr gives great confidence to those audiophiles looking for a reasonably price system that can sound like live music in their homes—without breaking the bank!

Thanks to Mr. Zurek and Editors Mr. Clark and Dr. Robinson for giving us this chance to show PF readers just what potential customers can expect when they invest in a Von Schweikert Audio speaker system!

Best regards,

Albert Von Schweikert

CEO/Chief Engineer

Dear Editors,
The strongest praise a reviewer gives a product is the declaration that they have purchased the review unit. These reviews are notable to me as a consumer as it ostensibly takes out of the equation any commercial interests that implicitly or explicitly exists.

To that end, both JM and GL have had recent reviews of speakers that have ended with the fact that they have purchased the review units, specifically the Acoustic Zen Crescendo and Von Schweikert VR4-SR Mk III. These both seem like superlative transducers and I am deciding between the two. I have heard the VSAs extensively and the AZs only at RMAF.

My question is: Has either JM or GL heard the other's speaker and come away with any impressions? I know these questions are posted frequently on internet forums and ultimately the answer always boils down to "trust your ears" and I will certainly proceed as such. I pose the question from the standpoint of what does each reviewer think of the other's reference.

Thank you.

Isaac Chankai

I have heard the Acoustic Zen on a couple of occasions. I don't know if JM has been able to listen to the VRS4MKIII as they are still in shirt supply. I preferred the sound of the VS obviously. My primary factor was the way that Albert designs the speakers to mimic the way sound enters the microphone. The bass is also tuneable.

While I like the AZ speakers my ears did not mate well with the tweeters. To me they were a bit shrill. The VS has a very neutral and balanced tweeter that never seems at all harsh but delivers shimmer and sparkle as well as I have heard it. I take it the Jim traded on his Adagios for the Crescendos. I never listened to the Adagios but the Crescendo is a great speaker but I simply prefer the ambience factor and the tweeter delivery. I don't think too much about other reviewer's systems unless I can actually listen in their rooms with their associated equipment. I would be interested to know what Mr. Chankai's system is comprised of.


Gary Lea


I have not, to my recall, heard the VR 4.iii speakers, though it is possible that I've been in a room in Las Vegas @ CES in which those speakers were up and running, but I was (as occurs too often) distracted my conversation or overdue person/professional intervention.

My recent review of the Paramount Tech amp stands & Sound Master amplifier outlines the multiple set of speakers that I called upon for that review report. In there I noted my use of a smaller Von Schweikert monitor reference speaker that is a constant companion to my recording and mastering work. In sum, that highly over-achieving monitor is outflanked in performance, in my estimation, only by the Audience 2+2 monitor reference speaker, which is the junior speaker in a line of emerging (thoroughly definitive) Audience speakers that culminate with their amazing 16+16 speaker... which, I'm willing to assert, is quite literally the most revealing, engaging and gorgeously "real" & truly "musical speaker I have heard in my life. Strong words, but the Audience 16+16 defines the state of the speaker art in my estimation.

The Crescendo speakers are thoroughly satisfying in the most immediate way... not "state of the art," as the Audience speaker is, but (for the money) a remarkable bargain and a speaker that, point blank, I can [ and do ] live with on a constant basis.

I wish I could compare the VR4 iii with the AZ boxes. I cannot, from direct experience, do that. However, given my longstanding knowledge of Albert's various speaker iterations over the last 20 years or so—and I have heard many & now own these I wrote about—I'd be surprised if the VR4 iii is not an over-achiever, too.

The issue at stake for me is always sonic accuracy, no coloration, and that difficult to define quality "musical truth and magic"... elusive performative energy that I've found in VERY FEW speakers at any price & virtually never at a reasonable price, like the Crescendoes ... with hope these notes are of use...

Jim Merod

Thank you for the thorough and prompt follow through on my question. I appreciate the insightful response. I also wanted to express my appreciation for P-F. It is a valuable resource for audiophiles and I look forward to every new issue. I will actively support your sponsors and thus P-S.

Best regards,


Marshall Nack,
You did not mention much about the noise of the Air Compressor in your review, could you please comment some more! Would you place the Compressor in ANOTHER room and run a long tube into the listening room?

This is a total of over $10,000, if you want your Turntable, CD Player, Preamp, Mono Amps on ELpF platforms!

That's why individual isolators like Black Ravioli or Herbie's Audio Lab, even if not AS effective seem MUCH more reasonable.

Which do you think is the best place to use your single ELpF, a turntable or CD Player? How about a Pre-amp vs. Power Amp usage for them?

Thanks for your further comments!


I guess I didn't make that clear. I hear the air compressor click on once or twice a day. A few seconds later, I hear it click off. Noise is not a consideration. I have it located on the floor of my living room, right beside my audio rack. This is the big benefit of using an expensive, commercial air compressor.

I would isolate the turntable first, followed by the transport. A few days ago, I put the ELpF under my solid-state ASR phono stage... and was caught off guard by the magnum-size effect.

It's unfortunate and even embarrassing that you have to spend further thousands, after you've already spent thousands on the component itself. But, no lie, the effect is not the same as any other footer or support I'm familiar with (and I used to be known as the tweakaholic).

The competition for the ELpF is not the passive footers you mention, but the mega-buck platforms from Halcyonics and the like.


Marshall Nack

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