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Gryphon Diablo 300

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To Aron Garrecht,

I was reading your review of PMC's IB2i speaker. I have some Monarchy Audio SE-100 Deluxe monoblock amps. They are class A for the first 20W and then class AB up to 100W into 8 ohms, or 200W into 4 ohms.

Would these power the PMC IB2i loudspeakers properly? Can the PMC IB2i handle lower-powered amps like tube amps?

Having spent some time with the PMC speaker, any thoughts or feedback you have about how they reacted to associated amplifier equipment would be greatly appreciated.

Best regards,
Jason
Canada

Your Monarchy Audio SE-100 Deluxe amps are very capable monoblocks, and I don't think they will have any problems driving the IB2i speakers. You may not get the utmost in control at higher volume levels, or experience all of the IB2i's dynamic capability like you would with a more powerful amplifier of, say, 300Wpc or more. But for day-to-day listening, I think you will have no problems whatsoever.

Regarding pairing the PMCs with a valve amp, the IB2i speakers, in my experience, were not speakers that scoffed at the idea of being fed minimal power. I experimented with powering the PMCs with a 75Wpc Rotel amp I had on hand and I had no real issues. The purity of sound was still there in spades, so much so that it easily showed the inferiority of the Rotel when compared to my Classé amps, but it was still an enjoyable pairing. My recommendation would be to feed the PMCs quality power, not worry too much about the quantity, and you'll come out on top every time. . . . Aron Garrecht

To Jeff Fritz,

At the beginning, I want to thank you. In my opinion you are the best and most truthful reviewer in the world and I know that many people appreciate it.

I have a pleasant problem. I've listened, a few times, to the Magico Q7 and I know that I don't want anything else. But, my listening room is only 325 sq. ft. Well, the choice is simple -- [the Magico] Q3 model. But I have another dilemma: what amp would be best? Is the Gryphon Mephisto an exaggeration based on my room? On the other hand, I want to have the best possible sound.

Regards,
Jon
Poland

Thank you so much for your kind words. I don’t deserve that sort of praise, but am surely glad you enjoy my writing. I'm also glad to have steered you in the direction of some truly fine gear that will make an outstanding system.

I think the Magico Q3 would be a terrific match to your room size. Pay extra close attention to speaker placement and get as close to a symmetrical setup as you can. Your efforts will be greatly rewarded if you do.

It is true that you need a really good amplifier with plenty of current capability to maximize the Q3's potential. The Mephisto would be ideal, yes, but short of that I also think the Gryphon Antileon Signature Stereo would make a fine power plant. It's less money, and perhaps a touch warmer sounding, but it will absolutely control the Q3 and drive it to its full potential in terms of SPL, bass depth and control, etc.

If you are able to hear this combination please do let me know your thoughts. I'd certainly be happy with a Magico/Gryphon pairing myself. In fact, I can't imagine anyone not falling hard for that sound! . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I just read your informative article on the Dynaudio Confidence C2 loudspeaker. One question though: How does it compare to the Magico S1 loudspeaker?

Cheers,
Eugene Everson
United States

There are actually a number of areas in which the Dynaudio Confidence C2 and Magico S1 are similar. Both have what I would describe as a neutral tonal balance, in the sense that there are no obvious colorations that over the long term would be annoying, or lead you to pick one type of music to play over them versus another. Neither speaker is at all bright sounding, and both speakers will play lower in the bass than you would imagine by simply looking at the driver complements and cabinet sizes.

Still, there are differences that might make you prefer one over the other. The Dynaudio has the advantage of having two midrange-woofers and two tweeters, which will allow it to play a touch louder in environments where maximum SPLs are needed. For example, I would pick the Dynaudio in a home-theater environment for just this reason. The soft-dome tweeter is also preferred by some listeners as well, due to its more polite nature in the very highest highs. On the other hand, the Magico is the more resolving speaker, allowing more detail to come through, which, for example, gives the listener a more thorough accounting of ambient details in live recordings. The Magico will also have an advantage in terms of articulation in the midrange and bass -- it is simply a more agile loudspeaker. Some would consider this a trait of the Magico's sealed bass alignment versus the Dynaudio's ported configuration, though many would dismiss this assertion. And, finally, the aluminum Magico has a clear advantage in the build-quality department, which is indicated by its greater weight per channel versus the lighter-but-larger MDF-based Dynaudio.

Overall, you've picked two really good floorstanders from two good companies that each know loudspeaker design through and through. Although only thorough listening sessions with each will allow you to really know for sure which model you prefer, I can say with confidence that you can't go wrong with either speaker. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

My compliments on a thorough review! You certainly covered a lot of bases to give readers good insight on the product and performance.

Recently, Aurender notified us dealers of the availability of the X100L and W20 music servers with 8TB of storage (two 4TB drives) instead of 6TB, for $400 more. Thus the MSRPs of the 8TB versions of the X100L and W20 are $3899 and $17,200, respectively.

Very shortly before I received their notice of the larger-capacity versions, someone ordered an X100L from me. He wisely opted to go with the 8TB version. Your readers may be interested to know of this new development. The 6TB versions of the X100L and W20 remain available. I'll have both the X100L and W20 on demonstration next week at the AXPONA show here in Chicago, in case you'll be attending. Thanks again, and keep up the good work!

Brian Walsh
Essential Audio
United States

To Jeff Fritz,

You’ve commented several times in both articles and letters that the Ayre KX-R is the finest preamplifier you have ever heard. Now that the new model -- the KX-R Twenty -- has been released, I am wondering what your thoughts are on the upgrade. I’m sure there are quite a few Ayre owners and potential owners who would like to know. Thanks for any thoughts you might have.

Regards,
Rodney Lam
United States

Funny you should ask. I’ve just now begun formal listening to the new Ayre KX-R Twenty (it’s been sitting for a couple of weeks while I’ve been finishing some other reviews). What I can tell you so far is that the improvement is easy to hear even without much break-in. Just last night I noticed some very specific characteristics that I’ve not heard in my system in terms of tonal density and bloom. The changes were actually quite dramatic. I’ve still got a lot of listening to do to this new model but if my initial impressions hold, I think Ayre owners should seriously contemplate the upgrade. I’ll certainly have a lot more to say on this subject but you’ll have to wait until my formal review appears in June . . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I very much appreciate your reviews, but I am in search of a dream speaker. I have listened to several models and I have chosen seven for [further] evaluation:

Marten Coltrane Tenor
Rockport Technologies Avior
TAD E-1 or Compact Reference
Magico Q3
Wilson Audio Alexia
YG Acoustics Hailey

Right now I have Infinity speakers with Karan Acoustics electronics in a room that is 40 square meters.

Best Regards,
J.C.
Portugal

The world of superspeakers is fraught with potential disaster for consumers, as there is simply so much variability between products at what are sometimes crazy price points. I therefore appreciate your letter and the fact that you are trying to narrow down your choices to a reasonable few. I'll start by saying that your list is pretty good, overall.

Those who have read this site for any period of time know full well that I am partial to Rockport and Magico. I won’t rehash all the reasons here, but suffice to say that I believe those brands offer a unique combination of super-high performance and outstanding build quality that combines in products that truly live up to their exalted prices. You can't go wrong with either.

I also think listening to the TADs and YGs would be a good idea. I think those brands have some good things to offer, though I would put them below the other two mentioned above by a couple of notches. I'm not partial to Wilson or Marten, so I would subtract them from the list.

I would also add Vivid Audio to your list. Their speakers, though they look quite different, are all about great sound quality. I also know the brand is very, very reputable. If you like the visual design of the speakers, they are worthy of an audition along with the others. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I continue to really enjoy your wonderful site with wonderful insights!

This is more of a general question with regards to what driver arrangement allows for an easier-to-share sweetspot for either multiple listeners or for just walking around the house while listening to music on your two-channel stereo.

Some dynamic speaker manufacturers go with a single tweeter (point source?), while others opt for an MTM (D'Appolito) arrangement. From what I've read so far, it appears that you've had experience with at least one brand that features both arrangements: Rockport -- the Avior and the Altair as point sources, and the Arrakis as a D'Appolito of sorts.

Perhaps you've experienced the Arrakis at Andy Payor's studio in Maine, but if I'm not mistaken, you had the Altairs as references for a while.

Do you have an impression of which approach gives a little less of a "head in a vice" type of room loading? While the Arrakis may give a huge sense of scale, does one have to be paying a little bit more attention to it and sitting in the sweet spot to "get it" or is it the opposite? Does more "air filling up the space" or a more realistic "live" feeling go to one arrangement over the other?

And finally, I've read rave reviews of the little Atria. Does the next step up, the Avior, also with its new Andy Payor-created drivers, come close to the Altair in overall feel, power, and music making?

With many thanks for an eminently enjoyable site (love the letters section!)!

David
Canada

Precise imaging -- regardless of where you sit -- is a function of many variables. One of the most important is the off-axis linearity of the loudspeaker. What you want is for the off-axis output to be a fairly close approximation of the on-axis output -- assuming, of course, that the on-axis output is fairly linear to begin with. When this happens, all of the reflected sound winds up arriving at the listening seat without huge response aberrations that can cause that dreaded diffuse imaging and soundstaging. Of course, other variables come into play as well, like pair matching between a set of stereo loudspeakers. Are both the right and the left speakers putting sound into the room identically, or are there acoustical differences in the audioband that could lead to a shift in the soundstage that should not be there? And of course room acoustics play a pivotal role in all of this.

So the short answer is that there are many variables involved. Speakers that are designed to have smooth on- and off-axis output, when put into a symmetrical room with good acoustical properties, will have the clear advantage when it comes to sounding good no matter where you are in the listening space. I have had point-source speakers and various forms of MTM designs in my room that have all imaged and soundstaged quite well. Still, I can say that in my particular room the most precise-sounding speakers have been from point-source-type designs. I believe this to be the case at least partially due to my room design, which has a sloped ceiling that interacts with really tall loudspeakers (as MTMs can be).

Regarding your specific Rockport question, I've experienced almost all of the Rockport line (though not all second-generation models) and I can tell you that they all image and soundstage with the best of them. As to how each would sound in your room, of course I have no clue. I'm sure Andy Payor can guide you on this better than I can. As to whether the Avior is close to the Altair II, that's hard for me to say as well, because I have not had either speaker in my room. I believe the Avior to be an extremely capable speaker at what I feel is a fair price given the build quality, engineering, and technology that have gone into it. (The same can be said of the Atria, which I did review.) The Altair, with its composite cabinet and larger woofer arrangement, would certainly have some advantages that would be quite important to some listeners in some rooms. Altair II vs. Avior: It's certainly a good question that I know many Rockport fans have pondered. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I thoroughly enjoy your writing and the way you keep it real and honest.

I am in search of my dream amplification to power my Vivid B1 speakers. I used to be a tube guy but have migrated to solid state. Currently I'm using a DarTZeel NHB-108 or Herron M1As, each of which has its own remarkable virtues despite the price-tag difference. I have read with interest your review of the Coda 15.0. Do you think it could straddle the difference and come out ahead? And have you heard Coda's matching 07x preamp?

Thanks,
S.P.
France

It appears that the Herrons now sell for $6850 per pair in the United States, while the current price of the DarTZeel NHB-108 seems to be approaching $30,000 from what I can see online (I'm not sure what they're priced at where you live). That is quite a discrepancy in price, though, and we should all know by now that price does not always equate with sound quality.

Still, from what I remember of the DarTZeel and with my limited experience with Herron, both of these brands have a lot to offer. I know audiophiles who have found homes in both brands' camps and are quite happy with the results. If you are still searching, though, then it means there is something that you still seek that you feel you are not getting with those aforementioned products.

The Coda 15.0 would, I believe, improve upon the DarTZeel and Herrons in terms of bass power and slam. Do you feel that is what you are missing? The Coda amplifiers have massive power supplies and can deliver tons of current -- speakers that have prodigious bass capabilities oftentimes require that. The Codas have a knack for grabbing hold of and controlling bass drivers, and that leads to a very visceral yet controlled sound in the low frequencies. The Vivid B1s are capable of physical bass pop and surprising depth (though the B1s cannot play as deep or loud as the larger Giyas, obviously); therefore, I believe they would benefit from Coda amplification in that regard. As for the rest of the sound spectrum, the 15.0 is certainly no slouch in any area. I've not heard the 07x preamp. So I say go for it, and see if you don’t think the Coda is a perfect match for your Vivid speakers. . . . Jeff Fritz

Most companies have a best value or "best bang for the buck" product in their lineup and I'm wondering if you feel that it might be the Avior in Rockport's case, assuming for a moment one's room has enough volume for any of them. Even though you have ranked the Magicos and Rockports in the very top tier of "speakerdom," when it comes to my eventual purchase, the Rockports are going to be an easy winner. That's mainly because Andy Payor has adhered to a basic tenet in engineering when it comes to his enclosures -- the KISS principle. As for the Q7s, I’m sorry, but I'm going to have to go on a rant here: Wasn't it Einstein who said "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler"? Just one. Just one errant bolt among the literally hundreds of fasteners that go into assembling a Magico speaker is all it would take to make a perfectly great-sounding speaker like the Q7 into a veritable cabasa (a musical instrument that sounds like ball bearings rattling inside a tin can). Of course Magico surely must use Loctite or similar products to secure their fasteners but I feel that it’s just a matter of time before we hear about issues related to their overly complex structures and joining techniques, if there aren't some already. Given the Q7's evident success, it might give one pause to argue with Alon Wolf's approach -- the proof-is-in-the-pudding sort of thing. But how long will the pudding taste good is what I'm wondering about and not willing to take a chance on.

Returning to the Rockports: If I am not mistaken the Altair and Arrakis do not yet enjoy the use of the latest Andy Payor-designed drivers, do they? Do you think that Mr. Payor might eventually develop his new drivers for his two top-of-the-line speakers or do you think that they are just fine the way they are? I think that there is a second version of the Arrakis already. Finally, there seems to be no real consensus among audiophiles about the use of subwoofers. Would using two good ones like REL Gibraltars along with the Aviors be almost as good as having a pair of Altairs or Arrakis?

Many thanks,
David

You’ve asked a number of good questions and I’ll try to answer all of them. To address Rockport first: I certainly think the Avior is one of the highest-value loudspeakers Andy Payor has yet designed. The performance capabilities of that product are sky high, and compared with a lot of other speakers on the market that sell for the Avior’s price, or even considerably more, there is no question that the Avior represents a terrific buy that can be considered a “last purchase” for many audiophiles. I personally would not use a subwoofer with the Avior and would not suggest that you consider it either -- at least not at the start. The Avior is capable of very deep bass and I think it would be a mistake to assume that it needs help in the low frequencies. Integration issues with a sub could ruin the sound, in fact. If my experience with the smaller Atria is any indication, the Avior should be more than sufficient in the bass department for most any listener. Give it a shot. Would an Avior with subs equal an Arrakis? Most definitely not -- the Arrakis would be better across the board.

As to whether the Altair and Arrakis use Payor’s latest drivers, I know that the Avior and Atria use “ground-up” Rockport-designed drivers whereas the Altair and Arrakis use a hybrid design: Rockport cones coupled with Audiotechnology motor systems. I’m not aware that any changes are afoot in that regard.

As for Magico and the Q7 specifically, this answer will be longer because there are many implications not just for that brand but for the industry at large. The first thing that I will tell you is that you cannot look at the apparent complexity of a product and determine whether it will or will not have problems. Obviously, in terms of manufacturing, exceedingly complex products like automobiles and jumbo jets can be made to operate near flawlessly. By the same token, I’ve unboxed a kid’s bicycle -- certainly a simpler form of transportation than a plane or car -- and had issues with it right from the start that precluded its use. Why? It all comes down to the processes that are in place to ensure that when the product is manufactured there are consistent assembly and quality-control measures. The company must simply have a commitment to a very rigorous testing and QC protocol in order to ensure the consistently excellent results high-end buyers are paying for.

I’ve been a reviewer now for about 16 years and have experience with a huge cross section of products at virtually every price point. I can’t tell you how many times I have been excited to review a new product only to have my enthusiasm deflated once the item is actually in my room. Specs are great, photos and press releases can be instructive, but until you examine the actual thing in person you really don’t know what you’re getting. Many times I’ve been appalled by the lack of quality control in high-end audio, even from products that seem relatively simple to put together. From an expensive speaker with a dead driver right out of the box to cracked finishes and missing bolts, I’ve seen a ton of issues, even from some of the high-profile brands that many people know.

Back to Magico and the Q7: Do you realize that Magico has a Klippel system in their factory for the purposes of quality control? I can count on one hand the number of loudspeaker companies in the upper end of the market that go to that length to ensure that their speakers’ acoustic outputs are nigh-on perfect before they leave the factory. If Magico attends to even the smallest flaws that a system like the Klippel will expose, you can rest assured that they tighten all the bolts precisely and use methods to guarantee that the structural integrity of the product is sound. I can tell you that I’ve never heard of a bolt coming loose in a Magico speaker nor have I had any issues at all related to the quality of Magico’s products that have been through my room. Here’s a challenge: Call some of the luxury speaker brands and ask them all the same question: “Do you acoustically test every speaker that leaves your factory?” Prepare for gasps as they try to answer. You’ll suffer no issue like that with Magico. They do it the right way.

In summary, I do obviously hold Magico and Rockport at the top of my personal superspeaker hierarchy, and I could see listeners gravitating strongly toward one or the other brand depending on sonic preferences, aesthetic considerations, etc. But either way, what I can also tell you is that in terms of quality control, these two companies are as good as it gets in our industry. Let’s put that one to rest for once and for all. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Howard Kneller,

I must say your review of the Esoteric C-02 preamp really got me thinking. I am currently using the Esoteric C-03 preamp and the A-02 amplifier and I feel they are one formidable combination. On the other hand, about six months ago I upgraded my DAC from the Esoteric D-07X to the D-02. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for the difference this upgrade provided. It was undoubtedly the single most significant upgrade I have ever made. Along with the Aurender S10, the digital section of my system is remarkable. For speakers I have KEF Blades, and all cables, interconnects, and power cords are either Nordost Valhalla 2 or Odin. Based on these components, will an upgrade to the C-02 really be a transformational thing? I realize this is a very difficult question for you to answer but I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have.

Regards,
Paul

That is a nice system that you have put together. Yes, the jump from the D-07X to the D-02 is quite remarkable.

With your components, I would recommend the C-02. If the components were of a significantly lower level of performance, you likely would not get as large a benefit in trading up. I think that the C-02 would be particularly beneficial for you if you like symphonic music, as the C-02 is really a timbre-delineating machine.

I will note that I have not heard the C-03X. At substantially less cost than the C-02, that unit may be worth looking into. Whether the C-02 will give you that transformational performance increase that you are looking for is something that only you can determine. But the improvement in refinement, noise reduction, and presence will be very substantial and I would go for it if you have the means. There are, of course, many ways to spend your audio dollar in order to improve performance, but one of the maxims I have found true is to never underestimate the benefits of a great preamp.

By the way, I am not sure if you ever considered the A-03 class-A amplifier. I think you will find that, while the A-02 has rock-solid grip over the drivers and a microdynamic sparkle that benefits many speakers, the A-03 has a sweeter and more open sound than does the A-03. I can't say that one is better than the other, just that there are different strengths and compromises associated with each. Assuming you are comfortable with 50Wpc (a interesting question as the KEFs are benign on paper, but a bit less so in practice), you may want to look into the A-03, depending on what type of sound you prefer. I hope this helps. . . . Howard Kneller