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Positive Feedback ISSUE 57
september/october 2011


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Brooks Berdan Remembered
...I was fortunate enough to have known Brooks for 30 years. Brooks had a quick wit, and you never knew what kind of barb he would greet you with upon entering his store, but it usually ended with "it must be all that digital you've been listening to." Brooks was friendly and knowledgeable. He was blessed with the innate feel for hardware that a true craftsman develops over time. He also knew what sounded good and what didn't.

When it came to high-end audio and sports cars, Brooks always had a recommendation to solve your problem, even problems you didn't know you had. Brooks started with audio relatively early in life. By the mid 70s, he was the first to show that Dahlquist DQ-10 loudspeakers performed much better if the drivers in the left and right speakers were mounted such that the layout was a mirror image left-to-right. Brooks always did have a strong intuition about audio that was built from practice.

I first met Brooks when he was developing his reputation while working at Bill Gross' company Gross National Products, starting in the late 70s. After his stint there, he took the plunge and opened a store of his own, in which all of you stand. He expanded the store in recent years, to house his burgeoning audio museum. Very recently, he expanded it radically to add on more museum and listening room space. The store has been wildly successful, establishing a national reputation. If you're looking for analog, this is the place. Brooks established a true audio mecca, the likes of which I've seen nowhere else. His accomplishments will live on to inspire audiophiles worldwide, hopefully for decades.

Brooks had a collection of exotic sports cars, including a Pantera, an Acura NSX, a Ferrari F355, a Lamborghini Contouch, and a Porsche that his father had owned, not to mention a twin-turbine Pontiac Firebird. Brooks was also an innate craftsman in the maintenance and restoration of these cars. Tha Pantera was his special joy. It was in perfect original condition, and it won several prestigious awards at the annual Concorso Italiano in Monterey. (Through his cars, Brooks got to know the local constabulary, which never hurt when he got a little, um, enthusiastic).

Brooks enjoyed the life of those who get to turn their passions into their work. Brooks was able to do that for decades, and we should all celebrate that. We are here to remember him as a fine human being, one whose like will rarely tread upon this earth again. But I still hear a distant voice, saying "Glackin, you idiot, do it this way."

Dave Glackin

Hello Mr. Stern,
I decided to buy a Sony SCD-XA5400ES, but learned from the company Web site it is no longer available; can you recommend any SACD players similar to the 5400, with balanced outputs?

I contacted Sony and was told there are no plans for a new SACD model. I hope they have not abandoned the format; maybe they will surprise us with a replacement.


Mark Lombardi


I just purchased an Oppo BDP-95 Universal Player, which sells direct for $999.95, is built like a tank, plays all disc formats, including Blu-Ray (and SACD of course), has fantastic audio resolution, and excellent video...and yes, it has balanced outs.

Me editors at PF Online, Dave Clark and David Robinson, who know from high end and high value both, recommended the BDP-95 in the strongest possible terms and... and... and?

PS: I am a very happy camper. It is just a terrific piece of high end gear at something resembling a real world price.

Coincidentally, I am getting in a Signature Model BDP-95 from the Upgrade Company, which is the same unit modded to within an inch of your life (ostensibly...we shall see)for $2395.

PF just asked me if I would be interested in doing a review of he modded version, and I thought, yeah, sure, why not, be interesting to hear (and see) how something that sounds so fucking good could sound (and appear) even better.

I am confident that the mods do indeed do something significant, but for $999? Seems like a no-brainer to me. But a lot depends on the rest of your system. I have a VTL 5.5 pre, Manley Massive Passive tube EQ, Rogue Audio M-180 monoblocks, a Pasasonic 42" 1080p HD Plasma, Dynaudio Confidence C1 mini-monitors, Equi=Tech balanced power isolation transformers, the very best JPS Labs and Acoustic Zen AC cords, interconnects and speaker cables... not ultra-super duper-cost is no object high end, by some highfalutin standards, but it ain't chopped liver either. 

I had a 10K Luxman DU-80 Universal in for review two years back, which I really fucking loved, but you know what--I don't miss it. Does it sound better? More than likely, but out of sight, out of mind; if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.

At a certain point you just say, it sounds good enough.

The BDP-95 sounds good enough. Does the Signature model from the Upgrade Company sound better? We shall see? Good enough to plunk down greenbacks?

Stay tuned.

Chip Stern

In response to Clark Johnsen's latest column in Issue 57, "From Clark Johnsen's Diary: For Lunch a Tasty Pair of Well-Tempered Electrostatic Loudspeakers, and for Dessert, Black Ravioli" FWIW, I've found most mylar-sounding ("wax-paper on a comb") planars are due to capacitors rather than the actual mylar diaphragm, ironically enough. On ESLs, the capacitor at fault is usually the electrolytic subsonic-filter that protects the signal-transformer from saturation from any discharges by the DC charge on the diaphragm. It always makes me wonder if a transformerless 845 tube amplifier could directly power a transformerless ESL; or, perhaps, a modified push-pull where it pushes on one stator & pulls on the other; or, if that's problematic, then possibly a single set of step-up autoformers. Anyway, that may eliminate the need for high-voltage large-capacitance devices which has a propensity to contaminate treble. 


Martin Leach

Moderator of the Planar Asylum discussion board at Audio Asylum

Webmaster of the Maggie User Group

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