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To Jeff Fritz,
Unfortunately, I'm not sure I'll be able to adequately answer your question about how Devialet might compare to the likes of Gryphon or Soulution. However, your question about whether it was better than the best prompted me to head over to our local retailer and listen to the D-Premier that they still have in stock. While I know that it is an older design and (from what I've heard) not on the same level as the newest models, I wanted to give my impressions of the unit.
First, a disclaimer: I am not a particularly critical audiophile. I am not someone who is likely to ever purchase any of the units you review. I'm 27 and quite happy with my modest system (Magnepan 1.7s, Peachtree novaPre/220, Marantz SA8005 and TT-15S1 with a Vincent PHO-8 phono stage). Do I think a $10,000 set of speaker cables sounds better than a $100 set of speaker cables? Yes. Do I think they sound 100 times better? Nope, but I also don't think that should stop anyone from buying what they want. I prefer to listen and look; if I like it and can afford it I'll buy it. However, I digress . . .
I was able to listen to the D-Premier with B&W 802 Diamond and 805 Diamond, Sonus Faber Olympica III and Stradivari, and Magnepan 3.7i speakers. Across the board, I found it interesting how each of these speakers simply sounded more like themselves. It was as if an amplifier simply wasn't present.
Sources varied from LPs on a Pro-ject Xtension 10 to 24/192 PCM recordings of artists such as Ilya and Jesca Hoop played via USB through my Ubuntu-based laptop. We also listened to some Beethoven sonatas on SACD through Oppo BDP-105 and Marantz SA8005 players. Again, I could tell the difference between, for example, the Oppo and the Marantz, but it was almost like they were plugged directly into the speakers. I was able to hear exactly what the Xtension sounded like, if that makes sense.
This was my first experience with that kind of neutrality (the closest I've gotten to it was a set of Magico S5s on Constellation monoblocks, but it was at an audio show and, while still the best system I've ever heard, I doubt it was showcased as well as it could have been). It was highly revealing.
A note about form factor: As much as I love the idea of having a set of Gryphon Colosseum Solos standing proudly next to some Q7s -- so heavy that once they're in place that is their permanent resting spot -- it's quite nice to be able to pick up an amplifier and take it with you from speaker to speaker, hook it up, and audition a variety of equipment without the use of a forklift.
Anyway, there's my two cents.
To Jeff Fritz,
I thought I would take you up on your question challenge:
FM Acoustics: I haven’t heard anything from them for 20 years. The phono stage I heard was pretty good, if I remember correctly. They are perceived as a “luxury” company. I would answer that companies like FM Acoustics are exempt from the cost/value relationship because that’s what their customers expect. This isn’t confined to audio, as you may know. We have all heard the stories of "good" being priced at, say, $10k and not selling much, then when the same product is priced at $50k it sells better. Reminds me of the joke about the Russian oligarchs: One says to the other, "I bought this watch for $100k." The other answers, "That’s too bad, I know where you could have bought it for a million!”
Krell/Levinson: While they made good products in their day, this to me involves the “cult of personality.” Both lines were founded by driven, passionate men who, while making good products, sold themselves as well. Now that each is not involved, the brands are dying as they don’t have a promoter and may not have as good an innovator at the helm. Also, how much can you really do with the house sounds of each? Both are now selling to a market instead of driving that market. I can speak about Levinson directly as my dad purchased one of their CD players. It was one of the more troublesome pieces of audio equipment.
Devialet: Again, limited exposure to this but what I heard intrigued me. Definitely a product for the lifestyle-conscious audiophile. Could be a feeder product to those able to afford high end but not wanting to tweak around with the setup just yet. Devialet could bring them into high-quality reproduction from their Bose and Sonos systems.
To Jeff Fritz,
Those are four really good questions ["Can Someone Please Answer These Questions?!"] and, unfortunately, not being privy to any inside information, I can only speculate and then only as regards the first and last ones. It seems rather apparent that both Krell and Mark Levinson are producing significantly gutted designs as regards parts quality and casework, etc., and hoping to continue to trade on the names alone and what those used to imply. As the saying goes, they are simply “shells” of their former selves. I’m sure the audio savant will run from them in the opposite direction in droves, leaving just a few high-end newbs who have only heard the names but not followed the descent of these brands in the last several years.
Your comments on the FM Acoustics brand took me by surprise. Is there any marque in the high end more shrouded in mystery and reverence? I know no one who’s ever owned, seen, or heard any of their gear. The casework seems to be crammed full of all manner of parts like Vitus, Soulution, Boulder, and the like, but as far as I know it’s just another another solid-state class-AB design with maybe one rather unique implementation they refer to as Feed Forward (I guess in contrast to negative feedback). However, none of these things would, ipso facto, prevent their gear from delivering the Holy Grail of musical messages. At least you’ve been able to dip your toes in the water of that which is FM Acoustics. Which brings us to Devialet.
Another brand that begs the question “What is it that’s so special about its design/build as to place it in the firmament of the best out there?”. Again, no exposure to these ears but I’m willing to allow that all that’s been said isn’t just smoke. Based on your audio references, I’ll be very interested to hear your take once they’ve graced your audio portal.
To Jeff Fritz,
I enjoy all your thoughtful reviews and would appreciate some insight/suggestions.
My system is somewhat similar to the one in your Aurender X100L review: currently Ayre KX-R preamp (which has just been sent to Ayre for the Twenty upgrade), Classé CA-M600 monoblocks, Nordost Odin speaker cables, Berkeley Alpha DAC Series 2 (already purchased the new Berkeley Alpha DAC Reference and awaiting its delivery), Magico Q3 speakers, Harmonic Technology cables in most other places, Ayre CX-7e MP CD player used as a transport, and Shunyata Research power cables.
Music server: I love my Sonos-system connectivity so much I embarrassingly find myself streaming music frequently, having it generate fun, random playlists, and listening to music I don't even own. But I need a better music server for critical listening. It seems really expensive to me to buy the top Aurender W20 player, which doesn't even have a CD drawer to rip CDs. If the Aurender X100L compromises sound quality in comparison then I wouldn't buy the X100L. Have you tested other music servers? It has been suggested to me to try the Aria music server. Any experience with Aria or other music servers? What's your "buy this music server" suggestion?
Interconnects: I'm thinking of upgrading to Nordost Odin all around, and I'm willing to but that will be a really expensive upgrade. Thoughts?
Speakers: As nice as the Q3s are, their bass just doesn't "punch" and lets me down when I listen to more outgoing bands like Muse, etc. My last speakers were the current B&W 800 Diamonds, which have marvelous bass, which I miss. Their highs were just a bit too etchy (wow that violin almost sounded like a piece of paper tearing) and I found them tedious to listen to for some types of music or for extended sessions. My system is in a custom-designed move theater so there are two adjacent JL Audio Fathom f112 subwoofers that I could use to augment the Q3. But my experience has been that sonic matching with subs is difficult. I'm toying with moving up to the Magico Q7s, but, again, it's a very expensive step. I'm concerned that while the room was designed and built by an audio engineer, the speakers really cannot be moved more than a few inches either way so I might be making a really pricey step without being able to idealize the sound. Even though it would still likely be great. Help!
Amplifiers: I like the Classé amps, but think upgrading to the new Ayre MX-R Twenty monoblocks would be a potentially harmonious step. Thoughts?
I appreciate your input. As you can tell I like to make changes! I have always found audio to be fun and wonder what to do next. I would appreciate your help!
Gregory D. Searcy
Greg, thanks so much for the kind comments. Your system sounds phenomenal and I'm sure it brings you great enjoyment. You've asked a number of questions and I'll be glad to tackle them one at a time. You are considering some significant upgrades and they are not to be taken lightly!
First, the music server. I did really like the Aurender X100L. Really liked it. So if I were buying a music server today, I would probably go for the X100L, because I believe it to offer outstanding performance while the cost is still somewhat reasonable. In short, I think it would be a nice addition to your system.
As for the cables, Nordost's Odins are, I'm sure, quite something. As to how much difference it would make in your system, I can't really say. In this instance, I would see if your dealer has some cables he will loan you so that you can decide for yourself. This is the most prudent step, I think. It won’t surprise me if you end up liking what you hear.
There is absolutely no question that the Magico Q7 loudspeakers are vastly more capable in the bass than the Q3. If you like the Magico sound -- and your room can handle the size -- then I can hardly imagine that you would not find tremendous satisfaction with the Q7s. Bass will definitely not be an issue if the room placement works and you have the power to drive them satisfactorily.
As for your last question about the amplifiers: I have not heard the new Ayre MX-R Twentys in my system. I can tell you that the original Ayre MX-Rs have been a wonderful match for numerous speakers I've had in for review -- everything from Rockport, Sonus Faber, Kaiser, and on and on. The one speaker they don’t match well with in my experience is the Magico Q7. The sound is thin and light. Might that change with the introduction of the Twenty upgrade? Time will tell. Big congrats on the KX-R Twenty -- you'll be thrilled with that one, I'm sure. It's a real gem.
Do keep me informed as your auditioning process continues and you zero-in on your upgrade strategy. I think you're in for one heck of a ride. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I liked your Ayre KX-R Twenty review. Are you planning to review the MX-R Twenty anytime soon? I am an MX-R owner and would be most curious to read your review. I also own the Ayre DX-5 DSD as a source, and use an Audio Research Reference Anniversary preamp in my rig. Fabulous as it sounds, I’m intrigued with the option of upgrading my MX-R to Twenty status, hence my interest. Thanks a lot!
I do believe I will have the opportunity to review the Ayre MX-R Twenty, though I do not yet have a timeframe. I think the new units will start shipping in July, though that may have changed. Ayre also announced that the VX-R stereo amplifier will be getting the Twenty upgrade as well, though I feel pretty confident that they will complete the MX-R Twenty first, since that model was announced back in January at CES 2014. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I read with great interest your review of the Gryphon Audio Designs Mephisto with the Magico Q7s. It was a very informative review! Would it be possible for you to comment on the Mephisto's mircrodynamics and timbres when compared with a high-quality SET amp? Also, could you comment on the soundstage perspective you were getting (i.e., were you getting a mid-hall, back-hall or row-15 type of perspective)? Some components seem to place the front of the soundstage in line with speaker front while others either push it back or slightly forward of the speaker plane. It would be very helpful to know where the soundstage front was in your system. I appreciate that this will change with recordings, but just how did the Gryphon compare to the other amps you have used with the Q7s with such as the Vitus monos? Any feedback you can provide would be much appreciated, as the Mephisto and Q7 are on my shortlist at present. My preamp shortlist includes the ARC Reference 10, Lamm Signature series, the new version of DarTZeel’s NHB-18NS, the Gryphon Pandora, etc. Many thanks and happy listening!
The soundstage perspective with Gryphon amplifiers is quite something to behold, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. The Gryphon amplifiers -- and the Mephisto is supreme in this regard -- have the ability to produce deeper and more substantial bass than any other amplifiers I have heard (although those from Boulder, the big Musical Fidelitys, and Anthem’s M1 are also good). This gives music a foundational heft that serves to greatly expand the acoustic of your room, because the acoustic of the recording venue is so aurally apparent. Although I got quite good soundstage depth, what seemed to happen, especially with well recorded live music captured in large venues, is that there was an expansion of the soundstage in every direction, effectively removing the walls of my listening space. Frankly, I think the Mephisto is the perfect partner for the Magico Q7 -- I would look no further if you have the means.
As for a comparison with a good single-ended-triode amplifier, I’ve not done it. And honestly, I don’t think it would work all that great anyway. One of the things you are paying for with the Q7 is the ability to reproduce a huge dynamic envelope. Although the Q7 is quite efficient -- and you could surely drive a pair of them with a minimal amount of watts -- it can also absorb a huge amount of power and put it to good use by producing superior micro- and macrodynamics. The combination of Gryphon Mephisto and Magico Q7 made music come to life in my room like nothing else I’ve heard. If I were you I’d get the Pandora preamplifier to match with the Mephisto and be done. Along with a pair of Q7s, a great source, and appropriate cabling, I can’t imagine a better system. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Howard Kneller,
I just finished reading your review ["Synergistic Research High Frequency Transducer (HFT) and Frequency Equalizer (FEQ) Room Treatments and XOT Crossover Transducer"] and I’d say it is spot on. I had similar results using two five packs of HFTs, one FEQ, and one pair of XOTs. For the first couple of days after installing them, I didn’t actually believe what I was hearing: much better detail, a more full and wide soundstage, and precise imaging. To be sure I was hearing things correctly, I took down the HFTs, unplugged the FEQ, and disconnected the XOTs. Sure enough, the sound was less detailed and the soundstage was not as full and enjoyable. So I reinstalled everything and the sound I had returned. I originally purchased these devices only because it was a no-risk proposition with the money-back guarantee. It only took me about 24 hours to realize they would not be going anywhere. I don’t have even the slightest clue how these things work, only that they do.
To Jeff Fritz,
First of all I would like to thank you for all your help.
I am using the Gryphon Audio Designs Mephisto power amp with my Magico Q5 loudspeakers, and would like to know what preamp you would suggest. I am thinking of the Audio Research Reference 10.
I look forward to your suggestions.
I remember way back in the day, the go-to pairing was a Krell power amplifier (the KSA-250 was a favorite) and an Audio Research preamplifier. Of course, the thought was that the Krell could easily drive any loudspeaker and sound quite good while doing it, but that it could be further improved by a tubed preamp and, arguably, ARC made the best ones. Lots of good systems used just this combo.
On the other hand, I've always been a proponent of mating amplifiers and preamplifiers from the same manufacturers -- the theory being that, since they were designed together, their performance could only be optimized by staying together. So, of course, my first advice would be to hear a Gryphon preamplifier to see if you can improve your system with more Gryphon products. However, your idea to use an Audio Research Reference 10 is an intriguing one. The Magicos are ruthlessly revealing and the Gryphon amplifier is capable of tremendous resolution in its own right. Adding a touch of tube sweetness to the mix might be just what you want. At the very least the two brands will provide an interesting juxtaposition for you to ponder -- Gryphon and ARC are both terrific, but are very different. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I enjoyed your review of the Rockport Technologies Altair. I just purchased a used pair built in 2009 with the soft-dome tweeters. I am considering the upgrade to the beryllium-dome tweeter with the new crossover. I know your early (2007) review of the Altair was with the soft-dome tweeter and I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to compare to a more recent Altair with the beryllium-dome tweeter. If so, can you share your thoughts? I don’t expect the difference to be night and day, but I’m also interested to know if there’s anything the beryllium-dome tweeter doesn’t do as well as the soft-dome tweeter.
Congratulations on purchasing a very fine set of loudspeakers! I know you're in for a treat. As to whether to upgrade them, I would and here's why: The Be tweeter is better than the soft-dome tweeter in my experience. It is simply more extended and will sound more brilliant, therefore making certain types of music sound more alive. It also has the ability to unravel scads of detail, making it a real resolution monster. In short, the Be tweeter is a gem in an already great loudspeaker.
The other -- maybe even more important -- benefit of sending your speakers back to Andy Payor at Rockport Technologies for the upgrade is that he will ensure in the upgrade-and-tuning process that your new-to-you speakers are performing at their absolute best. This way you will be sure that your considerable investment is ready for many additional years of enjoyment. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
We spoke some time ago regarding Magico and other speakers.
I have started my search for "the perfect" system and have listened to the Wilson Audio Alexia and TAD first. Although I found the build quality and finish of the Alexia quite impressive, I was disappointed by its sound. Electronics were the new beefy Devialet amplifiers, by the way. It was as if there was a woolen blanket softening and coloring the music. Voices were in the background and laidback. It also raised a lot of questions for me as to why the reviews of the Alexia are so positive. To ensure that my disappointment was not caused by the electronics, a set of MartinLogans were hooked up (I use them in my current system), and no softening was audible.
The next opportunity was to have a good listen to the TAD Evolution One and the Compact Reference. Although everybody was raving about these products I was, again, not very impressed. I did like the clarity of the Compact Ref., but the sound was boxy, very pinpointed, and lacked fundamentals in the bass region. When I closed my eyes I still could hear the music coming from the different drivers. The Evolution One did not appeal to me at all -- just a good speaker but nothing special. All electronics used were top notch: all the big TAD pre and power units including a TAD front end. The guys demonstrating the TADs were flabbergasted that I was not impressed and told me it was almost impossible not to like these speakers. I remember driving back home wondering if I have gone mad not liking these beautifully built speakers.
Last week I had the chance to listen to the Magico Q3 driven by a Spectral pre and power amp. After about ten minutes it was clear that I was on the right track. Tight, quick, very coherent, open, resolving, and dynamic. What a difference from the Alexia and TAD. For the first time in about 20 years a new glimpse of audio heaven had opened up to me; the last time was with the MartinLogan Statement run by Cello pre and power amps. As I am used to electrostatic speakers, I was also impressed by the super-fluid treble, which was transparent, open, and quick, but never sharp or soft. Besides the sonic qualities, I admire Magico's effort in building and designing almost all their technology, such as cabinets, filters, and drivers, themselves instead of using "cheap" paper cones, for example.
Although the Q3 can play loud without noticeable distortion, I did miss deep bass fundamentals and slam. In my "perfect world," a speaker must be as lifelike as possible including this range as well. So the quest continues, as I will be listening to the Q7 in about two weeks. I can't wait to hear them after my experience with the Q3. Maybe there is a "perfect" speaker for this mad man.
In the meantime, a possible new reference, the M Project, is about to hit the market. Besides its more attractive pricing, it will incorporate the latest drivers and has a smaller depth size. The Q7 depth size raises some serious opposition at home. Do you think that the new M Project will be a serious Q7 competitor, and worth waiting for to have a good listen? Anyway, big steps have been made in my search for the perfect system and your advice and comments are highly appreciated.
Many thanks and with kind regards,
No one has heard the new Magico M Project speaker as yet, so it is impossible to say definitively whether it will be a serious competitor to the Q7. But based on the specifications that have been released, I think it would be wise to hear it if you are serious about owning a loudspeaker at that level. The details on the drivers look quite ambitious, and the cabinet is surely a beauty. As well, there is no question that its size and weight will make it more approachable for many listeners, where the room is smaller and/or the décor is not as flexible.
On the other hand, the Q7 will, I'm sure, be more capable in the largest of rooms, particularly in the bass region. The Q7 also has a cabinet that is supremely ambitious, and I'm not sure that will be equaled anytime soon. The Q7 remains the best speaker I've heard, when taking all performance characteristics into account. I'm sure you'll love it.
Ultimately, only listening to these two superspeakers in the same environment and with the same electronics and program material will tell you for sure which you will like best. I would advise you, though, to move fairly quickly on the M Project if you are leaning in that direction. My understanding is that only 50 pairs will be built and I imagine they will get scooped up pretty quickly. Good luck in your search, and do let me know which way you decide to go. . . . Jeff Fritz
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