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To Jeff Fritz,

I have zeroed-in on the Sonus Faber Venere 3.0 and was glad to read I have chosen well. Your review was most helpful to me.

If you could help me further I'd be much appreciative. I am finally able to buy a system that is not boxed together like my previous stuff. In the future, I do not want to mess around with surround sound. I would like the SF Veneres to be my speakers, but do not know what to run them with.

I do like the option of radio. So I think I want a receiver. It would not matter if I had to add that later. I also want to listen to CDs and iPods and watch movies.

If you would be so kind as to recommend the components that would maximize the SF speakers I would really appreciate it. I would rather buy used but will buy new. Thanks for your considerations.

Tom

I've been super impressed as of late with the Cambridge Audio gear. Looking at their website, I would audition the Azur 651A integrated amplifier, which, at 75Wpc, has plenty of power for the Venere 3.0s. It is a stereo-only unit, and since you say you do not want surround sound, this choice will maximize your sound quality with just two loudspeakers. In addition, the 651A has a USB input so that you can feed it digital signals. This will open up a world of possibilities for you -- your iPod obviously being one. At $800, it seems a steal.

You could also look into NAD's products, which we know to be very good, particularly their integrated amplifiers. They also have models with digital inputs so that you can feed your iPod directly into your amplification component. If you have a spare laptop, you might want to consider ripping those CDs so that you can forgo buying a separate CD player. Lastly, there are some integrated amplifiers on the market that have tuners built-in. Mostly, though, tuners show up in receivers. If that is really something you want, do look into both NAD and Cambridge receivers -- both companies offer ample models to choose from. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I have been thoroughly enjoying your "What I'd Buy" series of articles. I appreciate that you are going across a wide span of budgets and not simply sticking with price-no-object gear.

The article that is currently most germane to me is your most recent one about speakers. I am looking to upgrade my venerable yet still excellent-sounding Revel M20s. The main reason I want to upgrade is to get a fuller (deeper) soundstage. As far as sound quality is concerned, I still love the M20s.

I've narrowed down my choices to the Focal Electra 1028 Be, Magico S1, B&W 802 Diamond, and Revel Ultima Studio2. If you do not mind me asking, which speaker would you get? Thank you in advance for your time.

Sincerely,
Anthony

Your Revel M20 loudspeaker is a two-way, bookshelf-type design. As such, it is limited in the bass when compared with larger floorstanding speakers. You say in your letter that you want a deeper soundstage, but you don’t say anything about deeper bass. If, however, deep bass is a priority for you, then looking at a larger multi-way speaker such as the Focal you mention is a good idea. With more drivers and a larger cabinet you'll certainly gain the ability to play your music louder and reproduce deeper bass. Of the speakers you mention, I'd probably go with the Focal. I like its Be tweeter and, more importantly, Focal makes highly resolving speakers that are evenhanded from the top of the audioband to the bottom.

If deep bass and overall loudness capability -- when compared to these large floorstanders -- is not a primary concern, then there is no question in my mind that the Magico S1 is the best-sounding speaker of the bunch that you mentioned. It will play lower in the bass than the Revel M20 you have, but its primary advantage will be its higher resolution and far more precise sound. I suspect that you'll get exactly the soundstaging improvements you're looking for with the S1, as its transparency will let through every nuance contained on your recordings. The Magico S1 is where I'd put my money. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I read your review of the Sonus Faber Venere 3.0 and will be auditioning them in three weeks (I have to travel a couple of hundred miles to the nearest retailer). I have a question about room placement with them. I am limited in how far from the front wall I can place the speaker -- 12” to 14" maximum. How sensitive are the Veneres to this? The room is 15'2" x 17' 6" with an 8' ceiling and the speakers are on the 17' 6" wall. Seating position is about 9' 6" from the speakers. I currently have a Cambridge Audio Azur 651R A/V receiver driving an older pair of Paradigm Monitor 9s and want to upgrade the Paradigms. I listen to 75% music, 25% movies.

A friend has a pair of KEF R700s but he has found that they really need to be 36" minimum from the wall -- I assume the R900s react in a similar manner? The only speaker that I have recently read about that states placement close to the front wall has minimal impact is the Salk SongTowers, but I have no ability to audition them and that worries me.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated!

Bob Daly

The truth of the matter is that any speaker that produces appreciable low bass will interact more with room boundaries than speakers that are low-frequency limited. Boundaries will reinforce the low frequencies; therefore, moving a speaker further into the room will limit this phenomena. Speakers like the KEF R900 and R700, as well as the Sonus Faber Venere 3.0, all produce fairly low bass for their size and price. Therefore, in many rooms these speakers will need a bit more distance from the front wall in order to sound properly balanced in the bass.

Specifically regarding the 3.0, the one technical characteristic that does play in your favor is the fact that the speaker is front-ported. This design element gives the speaker a touch more flexibility when placed close to a wall, and therefore makes your preferred setup quite possible. There are so many factors that will determine bass performance with large speakers in real rooms in addition to simply the dimensions of the space, however. The construction materials used in the room, the absorption rate of the furnishings in the room, etc., not to mention the type of music that is most often played and at what volume, will all impact on what you hear. All this is to say that I would not feel comfortable hazarding a guess as to whether the Venere 3.0 would work in your room with the placement you are limited to. You could certainly give it a try, and I would not be surprised at all if you were thrilled with the sound. Please let me know how it turns out. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I am a bit surprised you have left the Usher Be-718 bookshelf speaker off your list ["What I'd Buy: Loudspeakers Under $15,000"]. I have owned a pair and they were simply amazing (I was a fool for selling them). I believe they would be as good as anything up to about $10k!

And also the Usher S-520. I have a pair playing now and I believe those are the best value in audio since the NAD 3020B amplifier!

Regards,
Paul Skillicorn

My list of loudspeakers is not all-inclusive -- there are certainly some really good models out there that did not make my list. Remember, though, that these are the speakers that I would personally buy. Therefore, to make the list I must have some familiarity with the product, obviously. The brands and models that I list in my article I have come to know and appreciate for their quality, and I would not blink an eye if a family member or close friend chose to buy a model that I recommended.

At this point I just can't say that about Usher. I'm glad you enjoy your speakers, but we -- meaning any SoundStage! Network writer -- have not reviewed an Usher speaker for quite some time and so I'm really not sure just what the company is producing these days. Frankly, I'm not even familiar with their current product line. Perhaps this will change in the future. I'd love to hear a current model from the company to see if my ears would agree with yours. There's always room for a follow-up article after all! . . . Jeff Fritz

To Peter Roth,

Hope you're well. I read your review of the Magico Q1 and am considering buying them. I currently use Ayre Acoustics' DX-5/KX-R/MX-Rs.

1. My room is 13' x 19'. Do you feel the Q1 is too small?

2. How did they mate with the MX-R amplifiers?

3. Did you use them for two-channel for movies?

Thanks,
Dan

At the cutting edge of stand-mounted speakers, only the two-way Raidho D1 and the three-way TAD CR-1 are contenders in the same arena as the Magico Q1. All deserve consideration, and all can fill a room your size with aplomb and strength, if not subterranean bass. The Q1, with electronics identical to yours (mated perfectly to the MX-Rs, by the way), had no trouble energizing my 15' x 15' room (music only in my Compact Reference System). Frankly, I could argue that these two-way speakers are the best examples of what Magico and Raidho can do. The TAD CR-1s I heard at CES, partnered with Ayre's new AX-5 integrated, sounded fantastic in a room somewhat bigger than yours, and provide more bass energy than the other two -- they are larger, three-way speakers.

Unless you are committed to a stand-mounted speaker, however, you may want to consider the floorstanding Magico S1, which apparently plumbs lower than the Q1 (larger interior volume), is quite a bit cheaper, comes in a breadth of colors, and has most of the resolution of its Q-series brother. Finally, as wonderful as the Q1s were in my room with the Ayre gear, I purchased the floorstanding Vivid Audio Giya G3s I reviewed earlier this year (and which I now enjoy for hours a day). . . . Peter Roth

To Garrett Hongo,

T.H.E. Show Newport Beach is coming at the end of May. Will you be there? Two weeks ago I heard the new Audion SET integrated amp running KT120 tubes with my Quads. It sounded great. I am wondering if you have heard any Audion equipment, specifically their Black Shadow 845. Have you heard the Audion Quattro four-box preamp? Have you heard any 845 amps like the Sophia Electric, or Mastersound? Do you think the 845 amp would be a good match with my Quads? Thanks for your input.

Rick

I will indeed be at the Newport show, covering it for SoundStage! Global on my semi-regular blog.

The only Audion amps I've heard are the EL34 ones at a couple of audio shows and I thought them terrific with Sonist Concerto 3 and Recital 3 speakers.

As for 845 amps, I've heard all in the Mastersound line, from the Compact 845 to the Final 845 (reference level). You might look at these two reports I've written, one on Mastersound at Top Audio (Milan) and the other a factory tour.

It's hard for me to say whether any of the Mastersound 845 amps would work well with your Quads, however. A lot depends on the interaction of the amp with the impedance swings of the speakers. Whatever the case, I'd think you'd at least need the 50W monoblocks for the higher output power. These Mastersound 845 monoblock amps would output about the same power (50W) as a pair of deHavilland KE50As.

Finally, I'm in the process of arranging an Ultra Audio review of the Viva Solista 845 integrated amp -- likely this coming fall. But if you've already auditioned the Audion integrated with your Quads and they were terrific, why not listen to what your ears say? . . . Garrett Hongo

To Jeff Fritz,

I was indeed surprised and elated that you have voted the Gryphon Mephisto as the most expensive amp you would like to own. I can't agree with you more. Match it with its preamp, the Pandora, and you would be even more surprised at how good it can get.

I am writing to you to also suggest that you have a listen to the CH Precision C1 and D1; they have appointed a new distributor in the US. I would like to hear your views on that pair.

System:
Magico Q5
CH Precision C1 and D1
Gryphon Mephisto and Pandora
Kubala Elation interconnects and speaker cables
Gryphon VIP power cables on Gryphon equipment

Cheers,
Benjamin

I have indeed heard very good things about the CH Precision equipment. Doug Schneider and I will be covering the Munich High End show next week and will see if we can track this company down to have a chat with them about potential reviews. Although I would love to hear their equipment in my system, the products seem a bit elusive at this point, at least in North America. Hopefully they will be at the show.

Regarding Gryphon, I did get word last week that I will be receiving a Mephisto for review. Look for an article to appear in late summer in my "The World's Best Audio System" column. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

Thanks in advance for reading and responding to this email. I’m looking to make a major purchase of a set of speakers to replace my Energy Veritas 2.8s. I’d love to get your opinion on the following candidates:

1. Rockport Aquila (used)
2. Revel Salon2 (used)
3. Rockport Avior (new/demo)
4. Gershman Black Swan (used)

I want a highly respected and great-sounding, neutral speaker with a flat frequency range that extends to 20Hz and has great measurements to back it up. I also want to know what the -dB point will be for each speaker at 20Hz (-3 to -5dB, preferably).

My room is 21' x 18' x 8' and my amp pushes 300W into 8 ohms and 600W into 4 ohms. I hope to move the equipment into a slightly larger listening room this year.

I like the Revel Salon2‘s deep bass and flat frequency response, but I read it's power hungry.

I like the Avior because it incorporates Andy Payor’s newest drivers and technology. On the other hand, I don’t know if its frequency response will be flat or how many dB it will be down at 20Hz. No one has reviewed or provided measurements on the Avior and I don’t want to read a Stereophile measurement six months from now that looks like a roller-coaster track.

I read good things about the Aquila and Black Swan, but I have the same reservations as I have with the Avior. Based on the info I provided, in what order would you place these on your purchase list and for what reasons? Thanks again.

Ray Knight

There is no question in my mind that I would buy the Rockport Technologies Avior. There are several factors. You've hit upon the fact that the Avior has the latest Rockport drivers, and I think this is a key point. But I think there is an even better reason, given your criteria: each and every Avior is measured and tuned for flat response by the designer himself, Andy Payor. Payor believes strongly in the highest level of quality control -- and flat frequency response -- and therefore he personally measures each and every speaker before it leaves his shop. The crossovers are adjusted until the speaker meets his stringent standards for acoustic output. I've seen this process myself and it is impressive how detail-oriented Payor is. This process ensures that the customers are truly getting what they paid for. I suspect that if you asked, he'd be happy to tell you how your personal pair of Aviors measures, should you order a new set.

One other reason I'd buy new is that you just don’t know what's happened to a used speaker throughout its lifetime. Being mechanical devices, speakers are prone to all types of damage due to shipping issues and environmental factors, not to mention being overdriven and abused by previous owners. I'd feel safer buying a new set. And in my book the Rockport Avior is tops, given the list that you provided. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Garrett Hongo,

I regret not having met you this last AXPONA, but I didn't want to disturb you as were deep in enjoyment in the Border Patrol room. I see you have upgraded to the Von Schweikert VR-44 from your VR-5HSEs. I may just follow suit. I have acquired a pair of YG Acoustics Carmels and find them to be the best speaker I have had, within their limitations.

I was hoping to tap into your experience regarding the TW-Acustic table. I own a Raven AC and 10.5 arm (based on your review). I have ordered a set of Black Knight feet from Jeff Catalano. He felt these are the best, but let's face it, he is a little biased. Have you heard these footers on your 'table? And how do they compare to the Stillpoints? I was wondering where you purchased your Stillpoints feet, so I could try them as well for comparison.

Are those the Stillpoints SS and Mini-SS on the motor that you are using? Do you recall the adapters that were needed.

I'm currently using a Dynavector XV-1S and perhaps will try a Lyra Titan i, or maybe even an Atlas -- if the analog gods are willing. The system is all Manley: Steelhead, 300B preamp, and 250 monoblock amps.

Thank you kindly for your help,

PK Das

Nice to hear from you again. And, my, how your system has grown!

I myself do like the Von Schweikert VR-44 Aktives very much. They are excellent for me.

As for the TW-Acustic 'table and its feet, I have the new Stillpoints Ultra and like them. They were a nice upgrade from the old Stillpoints, focusing images within the soundstage much better, creating nice upticks in resolution, soundstage depth, and adding cleanness and precision in attack transients, lengthening decay transients. In short, the Ultras increased dimensionality and clarity all around. As a reviewer, I purchased mine directly from Stillpoints. The Black Knight footers I haven't tried, but Jeff Catalano of High Water Sound, the TW-Acustic importer, absolutely knows what he is doing. But I haven't tried the Black Knight footers in my own rig, so I can't compare them with the Stillpoints Ultras.

I am using the Stillpoints Mini-SS on the motor. The size of the Mini-SS adapters was M4. The size of the Ultra adapters was 1/4-20.

You've made excellent choices regarding your system. For a cartridge, I think the Dynavector XV-1S is pretty near the top of the heap. And I like the Manley electronics too, especially the Steelhead and Neo-Classic 250 monos. I'm not as familiar with the 300B preamp. . . . Garrett Hongo

To Jeff Fritz,

I've read your articles on the Magico speakers and am considering replacing my YG Acoustics Carmels with Magico Q3s or Q5s. My question is: Do you consider the Q3s or Q5s a good speaker for a smaller room? My room is 10' x 12', and I'm considering moving to a room 12' x 15' -- larger but still pretty small. I'm looking for a little more bass, and it sounds like the Q3s or Q5s would offer more bass, but possibly not worth the extra expense considering the room size. Any thoughts on this? Thanks for any advice you can give, and I really enjoy your articles -- keep them coming!

Barry Frazelle

Two definite advantages that the Q-series speakers have when discussing how they might interact with a given room is their sealed-box bass loading and their very neutral design. They have, in my experience, very linear response in the low frequencies without the typical bass hump that many speakers have. The result is that they don’t tend to sound boomy or thick in the bass at all, but lithe and articulate, yet still deep and powerful. That being said, I still think the Q5 would be too large for your new space. It is a four-way design and I think it might be pushing things to get the proper distance from the speakers to the listening position without imposing on the room boundaries too much. It would be too tight a squeeze in my opinion.

The Q3, on the other hand, might just work perfectly. It is a three-way speaker and significantly smaller than the Q5. It doesn't have the 20Hz bass extension that the Q5 has but will play appreciably lower than the two-way Carmel. My opinion is that it will work quite well in a smaller space. I also think you should get increased resolution and transparency as bonuses. All in all, a very fine sonic upgrade from your current speaker. . . . Jeff Fritz