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To Jeff Fritz,

I loved the conundrum you set up [“Will the Real Ultra Products Please Stand Up?”]. You have hit it right on the head with what is wrong with the industry. The Paradigm Persona should be one of the most discussed products on the forums, and all you hear are the same things about people shopping for the same old names.

People can’t come to grips with the fact that Paradigm has vaulted themselves into the über speaker category with this new line of remarkable speakers, which says a lot about how established the old vanguard high-end-audio companies are.

We have the 9H set up with the remarkable T+A electronics, which are also in the über class of performance, technology, and build quality, yet cost considerably less [than their competition].

If you are in our neck of the woods -- the NYC area -- I would love to have you hear our reference setup. It is pretty special. Thanks again. Love SoundStage! Ultra.

Dave Lalin
Audio Doctor
United States

To Jeff Fritz,

I just reread your 1998 review of these speakers [Wisdom Audio Adrenaline Dipole 75 on SoundStage! Hi-Fi], which I have owned since before your review.

Could you be so kind as to tell me if you ever heard the later monopole version of this speaker?

I have enjoyed the dipole for almost 20 years, and wonder if I am missing much. Tom Bohlender [then of Wisdom Audio] told me that he only manufactured 30 pairs of the dipoles, and was sticking to monopoles.

Thanks for your help, Jack United States

That was actually my very first audio equipment review! What a blast from the past. Although I’ve not heard that speaker in many years, I still have fond memories of it. I never did hear the monopole version, at least not outside of possibly a brief listen at CES many years ago, so I can’t help you with that comparison.

As to newer speakers, there have definitely been some real advances: materials, modeling software, more advanced manufacturing techniques, not to mention the engineering improvements seen at so many companies. There is no question you could improve your stereo in the areas of neutrality and transparency, to name just two areas, by buying new speakers.

On the other hand, the longer I’ve been in this hobby the more I realize that being happy with what you have is far more rewarding than coveting the newest component. The fact that you have been satisfied for 20 years is not only a testament to your Wisdom speakers, but also to your ability to simply appreciate what’s in front of you. My advice would be to go out and hear some new speakers. If that drives you to upgrade, so be it. It might just drive you back to your listening seat in front of your Wisdom speakers. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

[How do you choose] which of your sites to place a product in? Seems to me to be a no-brainer. Review the product and then decide, based on PERFORMANCE, where it slots in. Then publish the review accordingly. Making price the major qualifying aspect for Ultra is simply a matter of practicing elitism.

Alan Trahern
United States

To Hans Wetzel,

Thank you for your wonderful review on Vivid Audio’s Oval V1.5. I haven’t had a chance to listen to any Vivid [loudspeakers] in person, but I like the technologies behind the brand and the “Alien” look. Here is my question for you and I’m looking for your advice. Thanks in advance.

I have a Sony TA-A1ES [integrated amplifier] and HAP-Z1ES [music player] powering my KEF LS50s. They are 6’ apart and 8’ from where I sit. I listen to Nat King Cole, Anne Bisson, Diana Krall, Adele, etc. I’m happy with this setup, but I want some more soundstage and energy to pull me into its space, or “sphere.” More bass and more transparency.

I found a one-plus-year-old [pair] of V1.5s at a dealer asking $3700. Would you recommend them as a big upgrade to my setup? What would I gain the most and would it match with my Sony integrated amp and high-resolution player? One more question: Would you recommend that I should skip the V1.5 and go with [Vivid's] B1?

Thank you,
United States

Since I own a pair of LS50s and reviewed the V1.5s, I can say without hesitation that you’ll hear a major improvement if you upgrade to the latter. Not only does the Vivid have a larger midrange-bass driver, it also has a notably larger cabinet that will allow for deeper and tighter bass response. Not only that, the Vivids produce some of the best soundstaging and “disappearing” acts that I’ve ever heard. Provided that they’re in good condition, I think the used pair of V1.5s is a steal. As for the B1, it’s likely a much more complete speaker than the V1.5 due to its three-and-a-half-way design compared to the V1.5's two-way layout; however, its even deeper bass and rear-facing woofer will load your room quite differently. If you have a reasonably sized room, the B1s might make more sense, but, personally, I think the V1.5s will suit your musical tastes just fine. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Jeff Fritz,

I really look forward to your SoundStage! Ultra online publication; seeing and reading about these ultra products is something I really enjoy, and your editorial style is also concise and seemingly honest no matter what the cost of the product being reviewed.

As for ultra-high-end [products], well, technology always trickles down and the true innovations are always rare. So I suggest a once-in-a-while summary of products that are beginning to feature these high-end technologies and rare-earth metals, and also let us know about the also-rans of this world in order to keep the other buggers honest. Maybe a thought piece featuring two products that are worlds apart price-wise but similar with the way they have used certain materials and are packaged.

Keep up the good work mate and remember it’s only ever about the music.

Kind regards,

To Jeff Fritz,

I think you answered your own question when you stated that you’ve discovered that the best performing products are not always among the most expensive. In the happy instances where price doesn’t define the state of the art, we are treated to breakthroughs that may help bring the best within reach of more of us. I think this should be a defining goal of your publication. I’d advocate for extraordinary performance -- rather than price exclusivity -- being the primary criterion for selecting products for review.

I really enjoy Ultra and especially your insights. Keep up the good work.

Best regards,
Gaines Wilburn
United States

To Howard Kneller,

Thanks for another great review on the newest Symposium Acoustics Osiris Stealth Ultimate stand. As you recall we spoke about a year ago and I purchased a five-shelf Symposium stand based partially on our conversation and I am delighted with its performance. Although I must admit I am starting to suffer a little Symposium rack envy after seeing the latest stunning solution! The purpose of this e-mail is to ask a question: Could the latest Symposium racks’ performance be further enhanced if one were to insert IsoAcoustics GAIA I feet as the final barrier and isolator between the rack and the floor?

I use the GAIA IIIs underneath my speakers and most recently my turntable to great effect. Something to consider. Keep those reviews coming.

United States

Thanks for the kind words on the Symposium Ultimate review. Yes, the Ultimate racks are something. I was thinking of trying to swap out a few parts and upgrading my Symposium Standard racks to Ultimate status. However, inspecting both racks revealed that, although they are based on identical design principles, they share very few common parts. The Ultimate rack is really a complete upgrade from the Standard.

I have not auditioned the IsoAcoustics GAIA footers, which may be fantastic. But looking at the company’s website, I noticed that the GAIAs have some type of rubber or polymer-based bottom, although I really cannot tell exactly what material is used. As you know from the Ultimate review, Symposium eschews the use of such materials. Having spent the money on a Standard rack, I would be reluctant to insert a product under it that does not work the way Symposium envisions. I am very big on sticking with a single design philosophy when it comes to my system. As a result, I mostly stick with one manufacturer each for components, cables, etc.

Personally, I would try swapping out the Standard rack’s footers for some Symposium SuperCouplers, which are used on the Ultimate rack. Doing so would likely not be too expensive.

Having said all that, it never hurts to try anything, as long as you can return the GAIAs if necessary. It is also good to always keep an open mind, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you ultimately switched back to the Symposium feet. . . . Howard Kneller

To Jeff Fritz,

I just read your article on reviewers, and I have to say that I do find the way you describe reviewing gear to be the “right” way, if something like that exists.

I agree with you on the points [you made], and therefore I really hope that many reviewers will follow your path on how to do things.

Thank you very much.

Flemming P.

To Jeff Fritz,

I enjoyed your article in which you described your high-end setup with Magico speakers and Soulution electronics -- simple in terms of the amount of components. You are using an Oppo BDP-103 and an Apple MacBook computer in addition to your DAC.

I noticed you are using your DAC straight to your amplifier instead of a preamp. Is this a matter of subjective preference when you decided to go this route? Did you have a preamp in your chain previously?

I’m trying to reduce and go to an all-digital setup similar to yours but on a much smaller scale cost-wise with the components.

Best regards,
Michael Pappano
United States

I did have a preamplifier in my system, and a very good one at that: an Ayre KX-R Twenty. I’ve always gravitated toward the simpler system models, however, and being digital-only in terms of source components only made that inclination stronger. When I reviewed the Soulution 560 DAC-preamplifier I knew I had found the, um, solution. It produced the best sound I’d heard in my system.

So, yes, I believe you can successfully dispatch with the traditional preamplifier provided you have a DAC that was designed to drive power amplifiers directly. If the volume control in your DAC is a mere afterthought, you will be disappointed. Thankfully, more and more manufacturers are building DACs with preamplifier sections as good as what you might find in a dedicated component. When you add the fact that you do away with a set of interconnects and the connectors and circuitry required to link those components, then the opportunity for better sound quality becomes possible. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

What is your opinion of the loudspeakers from Magnepan?

In my opinion, they are one of the true standouts in all of audiophiledom. Their ability to create a large soundstage that reveals every minute detail with precision without adding any of their own character to the music is second to none. It is true that there are specific setup stipulations that the user must apply to get that result (clean, high-power amplifier; [correct] placement in the room; good source material, etc.), but this is true of every loudspeaker that is a contender at this level.

The thing that bothers me is that every time Magnepan is discussed, it is always with the inclusion “. . . for the price.” It seems to me that a loudspeaker ought to be judged purely on its ability with its price having nothing to do with it -- be it super high, super low, or average price.

When the ultra-high-end loudspeakers are being judged, it is always with the disclaimer “cost no consideration” because they are so high dollar. Why isn’t the same applied to the other end of the spectrum, where it's “cost no consideration” even though they are so affordable?

I would love to get your two cents on this. Maybe I hold too high of an opinion of Magnepan to justify this argument. My ears don’t think so. Loved your article on the Devialet Expert 1000 Pro. Well done.

Thomas Shafer
United States

Your observations are quite astute. It is true that reviewers of ultra-high-priced gear oftentimes minimize what can be accomplished at lower price points. The truth is that high price doesn’t automatically equate to high performance. There are just too many examples I could name where a lower-priced product outperforms a more expensive model. Yet some reviewers have fallen into the trap of either being biased by price, or, worse, protecting more expensive gear, possibly because they have some side deal with the manufacturer that they benefit from. Either way, it doesn’t sound like you’ve fallen for that. Good for you.

As for Magnepan, you very well may be right. I know lots of audiophiles who love them. They don’t send us review samples, though, so I can’t comment first hand. That’s the only reason you don’t see them on this or our other sites. If you really like their sound, then that’s what’s important. Enjoy. . . . Jeff Fritz