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Boulder 2060 details

June 26, 2010

Editor,
 
I just read your comments (
"Ayre Acoustics and Boulder Amplifiers: (Mere) Miles Apart") written on the 1st of November 2009 (sorry to be so late), but found it quite interesting. Do you happen to know by any chance if the Boulder 2060 uses a ring-core or a "standard" transformer in their design? Thanks and keep up the great notes. It helps us novices a lot.
 
Regards,

RM

The Boulder 2060 uses two 2500VA toroidal transformers that are suspended on cork and potted inside a stainless-steel case. The case is then bolted down to the chassis. You can just see it at the bottom of the 2060 photo in the article. It is all very impressive from a construction standpoint, and I can tell you that the amplifier runs dead quiet in operation. There is absolutely zero hum. . . . Jeff Fritz


". . . agreed on the Simaudio 750D"

June 11, 2010

Editor,

It will be interesting to see how this 32-bit DAC technology finds its way into their Andromeda CD player.

Similarly, it'll be interesting to see how their new proprietary ďMoon bipolar transistors,Ē now used in the 700i and 600i integrated amps, find their way into the W8, W7M and W7 amplifiers.

Larry

We current have a review underway of the 600i -- and I expect some discussion of those new output devices. Time does move on, and I do imagine that over time weíll see the Simaudio line evolve based on these new parts. Weíll do our best to keep you informed. . . . Jeff Fritz


ARC versus Bel Canto

June 8, 2010

Editor,

I would really appreciate it if you could give me an opinion about how an Audio Research CD7 and the Bel Canto CD2/DAC3VB/VBS1 combo would compare. My system consists of:

Bel Canto CD2 and DAC3
Audio Research LS26
Audio Research Reference 110
MartinLogan Spire

As I cannot listen to an upgraded DAC3VB, I do not know if the upgrade will be worthwhile. Also, I have a chance to buy an upgraded CD7. I listen mostly to jazz, light rock and classical music.
 
Thanks, 
Yin Cheng

This is another one of those win-win situations, since both purchases are good ones, but there is an important point to make: The Bel Canto rig provides multiple digital inputs that can be used for other external sources such as a computer-based server to play hi-rez audio, but the Audio Research CD7 does not have a digital input. If thatís not a consideration, the choice will come down to one excellent source versus another. If a digital input makes sense for you now or in the near future, then that would sway my recommendation to the Bel Canto for obvious reasons. . . . Jeff Fritz


Absolute nonsense, indeed!

June 3, 2010

To Jeff Fritz,

Gee, Jeff, it was swell of you to comment on my blog. I was particularly impressed by the expert way you took so many of the things I said out of context. On your third point, for instance, you quoted some of what I said but not all.

You had me writing: "Sonically, the TBP Zero v2 is surely a work of genius, and so is the TBC Zero preamp. Their creator, Naoto Kurosawa, is a genuine master. Now if he can only bring his great talent to bear on the problem of reliability with U.S. current -- and then if someone over here can find the guts and taste to take on the Technical Brain line -- then we very well may have a new reference standard in electronics." 

Now, what I actually wrote was: "Sonically, the TBP Zero v2 is surely a work of genius, and so is the TBC Zero preamp. Their creator, Naoto Kurosawa, is a genuine master. Now if he can only bring his great talent to bear on the problem of reliability with U.S. current -- and then if someone over here can find the guts and taste to take on the Technical Brain line -- then we very well may have a new reference standard in electronics -- at least for a good number of 'fidelity to mastertapes' and 'absolute sound' fans. However, these are both big hurdles, and until they are completely overcome, Iíll think of the Technical Brain amp and preamp as tantalizing but ultimately frustrating dreams of what is possible in high fidelity but has not yet fully come to pass.

Do you see any difference between the two versions? Apparently not.

I wrote a blog about fabulous-sounding pieces of gear that, admittedly, have had protection-circuit problems. (BTW, did you know that the TBP Zero v2s aren't the first high-powered high-end amps that have had problems? Maybe not, huh?) I wrote my opinion in my blog (not in The Abso!ute Sound magazine) and I was completely upfront about my reservations; indeed, I started off with these words: "I've been putting off writing about these products for two reasons, neither of which has to do with the incredible sound they are capable of delivering when fully functional. First, at the moment Japanese-made Technical Brain is not distributed in the U.S. This may change -- I'll certainly let you know if it does. Second, I've had a succession of problems with Technical Brain's electronics; indeed, almost everyone who has used the monoblocks (at least here in the States) has had one or both of them fail on him at some point (Alon Wolf, who showed with them at CES 2010, is an exception). The trouble appears to be that spiky U.S. current tends to trigger the amp's (intentionally) rudimentary protection circuit, which instead of shutting down breaks down, blowing a resistor, rather in the same way an ARC 610T blows a resistor when a tube goes south. Unfortunately, minus U.S. distribution and support, the blown part means the amp has to go back to Japan for inspection and repair -- or its author Naoto Kurosawa has to come to the States to fix it. Unless and until this little problem is rectified, I cannot in good conscience recommend the Technical Brain monoblock amps [in spite of their superlative sound]."

I was also upfront about the kinds of listeners the TBP Zero v2 would appeal to: "Now some of you may have reservations about the overall balance of the Technical Brain gear, which is pleasantly sunny but fundamentally neutral in timbre. I love its presentation because to me it consistently sounds like an uneditorialized version of the real thing. This said, the 'sounds good to me' and perhaps even some of the 'absolute sound' contingent may feel it leans a bit too much toward the lean or austere side. There are certainly richer, more beautiful-sounding amplifiers to be found (the Soulution and BAlabo high among them), and amplifiers with more bloom (the ARC 610T, par excellence, although the Technical Brain actually sounds more like ARC in overall balance -- minus the ARC tube ampís juicy layer of fat on the bottom and plush layer of velvet on top -- than any other solid-state amp Iíve auditioned). But when it comes to resolution and dynamic contrasts . . . well, I just havenít heard one that equals Technical Brain."

It might have been nice to audition these amps before dismissing them (which you could have easily done at CES 2010), but then listening before passing judgment obviously isn't part of your agenda -- which is more than a bit surprising coming from the editor-in-chief at [the] SoundStage! Network. You say: "I have no interest in hearing [Naoto Kurosawa's] products, or writing about them, until I can say with certainty that they are a safe bet for the consumer." Admirable, absolutely admirable! Pat yourself on the back for that one, as I'm sure you did! It's great that we have upstanding people like you around, However, just out of curiosity, how in the world were you planning to find out about the TBP Zero v2's reliability without trying it out? Well, I guess you could read a guy like me, but then -- alas -- you have to put up with the fact that I actually auditioned these amps and wrote about what I heard, which is a no-no in your book. Catch-22, eh what? BTW, putting aside the outrageous fact that I listened to these amps before commenting on them and their problems, how is what you said substantially different from what I said? Didn't I write that, in spite of their sonic excellence, I could not and would not and will not recommend them until they are 100% reliable -- and find U.S. distribution? Was that not looking out for consumers? Or maybe you missed that part.

FYI, these pieces of junk won multiple Grand Prix awards from Stereo Sound magazine in Japan. Indeed Technical Brain has, I believe, won more top honors than any other small Japanese solid-state manufacturer. The amps I blogged about were the same junk that Alon Wolf of Magico -- a guy who could have chosen any amps in the world to show with -- paired with his Magico M5s at the M5s' introduction at this year's CES. It is the same piece of junk that Robert Harley thought was so remarkably innovative when he examined its gain stage several years ago at CES.

No one is covering up the TBP's problematic past, least of all me. Outside of Japan, it has had a problem with its protection circuit, which, when triggered by a voltage spike (on start-up or shut-down), tends to break, making it impossible to turn the amp on. That problem, BTW, at least in the v2 version Iíve listened to, has never caused a failure in the amp's gain stage or power supply, or any damage to speakers. I freely grant that it is no fun to use an amp that you're not sure will power up. Even though this problem may have been solved recently by the addition of a surge-suppressor to the protection circuit (I haven't had a failure with the amp since its installation), I'm still not yet sure it is fixed, and out of an abundance of caution I've not recommended the amps -- and won't until I am certain they work all the time, every time, and until Technical Brain finds U.S. importation. Until then, the products will remain -- as I said in my blog -- tantalizing fantasies rather than real-world options.

Indeed, it was because they aren't yet real-world options that I blogged about them rather than writing about them in the magazine. What you seem to be saying, if I read you right, is that I shouldn't have blogged about them at all (hell, I shouldnít have even thought about them, I guess), that the fact that they sound fantastic and that many other folks who have heard them also think they sound fantastic shouldn't matter to me or to anyone with the consumerís best interest at heart, that the only thing that matters is that their protection circuit has been unreliable. Well, I got news for you, buddy: When you're in charge of The Abso!ute Sound website, then you can order me to blog about whatever "junk" you yourself prefer (Iím sure itís swell, even if you haven't heard it); until then, this is a free world and I will blog about whatever I want to blog about.

After this, I will have nothing more to say about your marvelous editorial. Unless, of course, you donít print this letter word for word, in which case I will.

Yours truly,
Jonathan Valin
Executive Editor, The Abso!ute Sound

Thanks for the note, Jonathan. Just a few points. First, you state, ". . . how in the world were you planning to find out about the TBP Zero v2's reliability without trying it out?" I'm glad you asked. This is precisely the reason that real sales channels and distributorship should be required before a product is reviewed. I would assume that you're not implying that just because the amps work for a while in a reviewer's system that they can be declared reliable and ready for sale. Are you an engineer? If, on the other hand, a product is demonstrated by multiple dealers across the geographic area that it is sold, then some track record of reliability can be established over time. It is that track record and professional support that gives the consumer confidence in buying the product. This helps to establish the legitimacy of the product and should also give a review publication confidence that they are writing about something that, if it performs well, can be safely recommended to a consumer. A solid history of Internet-direct sales can accomplish the same thing. In the case of Technical Brain, there is neither. You are putting the cart before the horse. Perhaps that was your intention all along.

You state: ". . . you have to put up with the fact that I actually auditioned these amps and wrote about what I heard, which is a no-no in your book." Yes, you reviewed the product. I have written about hundreds of products that I've "actually auditioned" over a period of 12 years with the SoundStage! Network. I'd be happy to send you some links. Some of it is pretty good reading!

You state: ". . . but then listening before passing judgment obviously isn't part of your agenda -- which is more than a bit surprising coming from the editor-in-chief at SoundStage! Network." I did hear the amps at the 2010 CES (with the Magico Q5, not M5. The Q5 has the fancy aluminum cabinet. See our show report.). I do not dispute that they might sound great. I did not comment on their sound in my Ultra Audio "Opinion" because I have never had them in my room. And I will not do so at this time given the reasons I outlined in my article. That doesnít mean that they donít sound great. (But an "order of magnitude" better than anything else, really?)

Lastly, and whether you want to acknowledge it or not, your over-the-top praise of the Technical Brain amplifiers does constitute an endorsement from a professional reviewer that is strong enough to perhaps convince some audiophiles to take a chance on them. I would not want that buying decision on my conscience. Have you have read the accounts of some users and the claimed ex-U.S. distributor right on The Abso!ute Sound website? (Or is it your personal blog site?) If these people were burned for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars as they say, then certainly you see how this damages the High End. Since you are promoting these products through your writings, do you have any obligation to look into this, since the claims were made on your blog?

Ultimately you are of course free to write about whatever you choose -- you're absolutely right about that -- and I wouldnít have it any other way. . . . Jeff Fritz


ďTechnical Brain-lessnessĒ

June 1, 2010 

To Jeff Fritz,

Your Technical Brain article is spot on. Thanks for a concise critique of J. Valinís astonishingly weird blog about the Technical Brain amps. I had to read it twice because I couldnít believe he could state that the TB amps are essentially boat anchors and yet make those extravagant performance claims. If you want even more of this story, check out the letters on the TAS website from the guy who had the ďguts and tasteĒ (to use Valinís phrase) to try to import the TB stuff into the US.

As you say, itís shameful that unobtainable -- as well as inoperable -- gear garners such raves from a reviewer while more deserving equipment is largely ignored.

Keep up the good work.

Best regards,

Darryl G. Lindberg


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