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To Jeff Fritz,

We exchanged e-mails several months ago in reference to the Rockport Technologies Mira II, which you have been very positive about. It seems that the new Atria has really improved upon the Mira II in several areas. If you heard this model at CES, could you briefly reply with your impressions?

Also, in your “Virtual System 1,” can you identify the rack (plywood-like shelves with aluminum or stainless support columns) that the Calyx Femto is sitting upon?

Thank you,

Unfortunately, I cannot identify the rack in the photo. Sorry about that. But I can tell you that the Atria is a far better speaker than the Mira II. There is no question that in terms of resolution and transparency the Atria is much better -- superior drivers will do that, and the Atria is better equipped in that regard. That was easy to hear at CES, though I do not think the room was ideal.

From what I have been told by Andy Payor, the Atria’s cabinet is also a bit more elaborate than the Mira’s, which is likely imparting an even cleaner wave launch for its drivers. Although what I heard at CES was impressive, I can’t wait to hear the Atrias with some good solid-state amplification and my music server. I want to put these speakers through their paces in the worst way. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

Did you end up keeping the Vitus Audio MP-L201 preamplifier from TWBAS 2012? How do you rate the preamp? If not, I would be interested in knowing which preamp you are currently using as a reference. Happy 2013.


I did not keep any of the Vitus Audio equipment from TWBAS 2012. It is certainly fine equipment for those who can afford the price. My reference preamplifier, and simply the best I’ve yet heard in my system, is the Ayre KX-R. It is, at $18,500, the finest electronic component I’ve ever owned and is indispensable in my system. I would gladly put the Ayre up against the priciest Soulution or DarTZeel units -- two fine brands that make great preamps -- any day. Many people own the KX-R preamp and know how spectacular it is, but there are a number of audiophiles who shop in the stratosphere and would not consider the Ayre, due to its "reasonable" price. After all, preamps that cost north of $50,000 must be better, right?

If you want to hear one of the best preamps on the market at what is a relative bargain, go and hear the Ayre KX-R, or better yet, arrange to borrow one for your system. I think you’ll be shocked at what you hear (or, more accurately, what you don’t hear!). Please do let me know if you have any other questions and what you choose to buy. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I read your review of the Vitus Audio SS-101 amplifier with great interest. I presently own the SM-101 MKII monoblocks, but was wondering if the Boulder 2000 Series would be a better fit for my tastes: extreme neutrality, dynamics, and transparency. I was also considering the Burmester 911 MK3 monoblocks.

I would greatly appreciate as detailed a reply as you can give in this regard. I did a brief comparison of the Burmester mono amps with my Vitus amps and found that the Burmester gives a light tonal color to all recordings, which raises a little doubt about its transparency, but had better control over the bass than the Vitus. The Vitus also had very soft focus. Did you feel the same with Vitus or is it some ancillary equipment causing that?

Warm regards and happy holidays,

The last Vitus amplifiers I had in-house produced extremely controlled bass and had an excellent sense of dynamics. They did not sound overly warm or throw an artificially large soundstage, but were not what I would call hyper-focused either. Still, my recollection of the Boulder 2060 was of extreme neutrality and transparency -- two of your requirements. The Boulder gear is, like the Vitus, not warm or artificial in any way, and, as of this writing, might be the quietest (along with the defunct Halcro) amplifiers I've ever had in my system. I have never had Burmester in my system so I cannot comment on them.

One other contender you should definitely consider -- particularly at the price point -- is Gryphon. The newest Gryphon products are faster-sounding and more transparent than anything the company has produced in the past, but they still retain the best attributes of the older gear, namely vise-like bass control and a massive soundstage. My understanding is that the new Mephisto is also very transparent. A single Mephisto might be just what you are looking for. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

Since you are an audiophile expert I feel comfortable asking you your honest opinion instead of calling dealers that are trying to sell their products. I am in the hunt for a serious loudspeaker and I have a few in mind. I've read that you've owned quite a few yourself! The top of my list has the Rockport Altair, MBL 101E MKII, Genesis G2jr, and Von Schweikert VR9-SE.

I have a listening room roughly 20' x 30' and I do listen to all types of music: R&B, reggae, jazz, salsa, pop and rock. I am really confused on which one to choose -- it will be my last speaker. I have read that MBL is really good but weak in the bass so it can't fill my room, but some people say the opposite; the G2jr and VR9-SE are active so they provide some serious bass but some people says active speakers use cheap crossovers; the Rockports get nothing but great reviews. Please educate me if the MBL is really weak or hollow and also if the Rockport is really all that. As of right now whatever you pick will be my choice because I feel you’ve been pretty direct in your reviews. Happy holidays to you and your family.

Sincerely yours,

You have a very good shortlist there, Edwin. Frankly, I think that in the right room and with the right electronics any of the speakers you've chosen would provide a wonderful listening experience, although each would be quite different in its presentation. I strongly suggest that, if possible, you find a way to listen to these speakers yourself. I do understand the logistical problems that entails, however, but this is an expensive proposition and you want to absolutely make sure you get it right.

If it were my money -- and you are spending a considerable amount of money! -- I would choose the Rockport Altair, which is now in its second version. It contains the newest Rockport-developed carbon-fiber cones and the beryllium tweeter from Scan-Speak. If bass is a primary concern, the 15" woofer of the Rockport will make you smile each time you listen to it. The Rockport would be on my shortlist of about three models if I were choosing a "last" speaker. So to be blunt: Yes, the Rockport is all that! Good luck in your quest and please do let me know what you pick. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Howard Kneller,

I read your review of the Synergistic Research Element cables with great interest. I am interested in either the Copper or Tungsten speaker cables for my Magnepan 3.7s. If I understood correctly, you found the Copper to be a bit overwhelming in the bass, but I have heard from another guy who compared the two cables that the Copper has a warmer, more harmonic midrange, and would be a better match with my Magnepans. Perhaps the edgy highs you mentioned would not be that great with the ribbon tweeters. What are your thoughts on all this?

When I purchased my ICs I was hesitating between Accelerator and Precision Reference and at that time you recommended that I get either the Accelerator, which I bought, or the Apex (too expensive). If memory serves, you said that the Precision Reference was a bit too analytical and cold for your taste. I was wondering if the Tungsten has a similar sonic signature or if they are warmer sounding? Not easy to get the right cables. Your input would be highly appreciated.


I don't think I said that the Precision Reference cable was too cold and analytical. It really depends on the application. I used those interconnects for a number of years with great results. It just depends on where you place the cable and the particular equipment that you have. But you are very right -- it is sometimes difficult to get just what you are looking for in a cable.

The beauty of the new Element cables is that you get the cable that fits your budget. You can always use the Enigma Bullets to tune the sound of your system to match your tastes and equipment. If you are choosing between the Element Copper and Tungsten, I would suggest going with the latter, so long as it is within your budget. I do not think you will regret it. As you move up the line, you will get more detail, holographic images, and refinement. I venture to think that either would be good, but that the Tungsten would be revelatory. Of course, there is simply no substitute for trying each cord in your system. . . . Howard Kneller

To Jeff Fritz,

I have read many great articles and reviews you've written about Rockport Technologies speakers. I’m a user of Rockport's Mira Grand. I would like to know your opinions about the Mira Grand II and the Avior. Is it better to upgrade to the MG II or the Avior? Which one is better according to your extensive listening experience? I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,
Chih Wei Huang

I think this is a no-brainer decision: Go for the Avior. This newest model has the latest Rockport Technologies midrange and woofer drivers along with the well-thought-of Scan-Speak beryllium tweeter. Taken as a group, this driver complement is easily superior to that in the Mira Grand&nbspII. As well, the Avior's cabinet is one of the most robust MDF enclosures that Andy Payor has ever built. It is quite inert. Lastly, the Avior represents Payor's latest thinking on loudspeaker design -- and based on my experience, all good designers improve their art and science over time. The newest Rockports are the best ones yet.

So, to sum up, I think the Avior is the clear choice for you. You'll be getting a speaker that is head and shoulders better than what you currently have, which is really saying something. So get the Avior and don’t look back. . . . Jeff Fritz

To S. Andrea Sundaram,

I enjoyed your article on "What's Wrong with Digital Volume Controls?," and I have some further questions. Last year I switched over to a dedicated SACD player and have been pursuing (classical music) SACDs almost exclusively. As a result, I totally changed my system at the time: got rid of my CD player, preamp, DAC, and amp, and switched to the SACD player feeding an integrated amp. (I have no plans to pursue DSD/high-resolution computer downloads, therefore no plans for a DSD DAC). I've been enjoying the music greatly, but it was such a drastic change all at once that I still have doubts. Do you have any suggestions as to the best way to attenuate volume between the analog outputs of my SACD player and the amp? In other words, what to put in between my SACD player and the speakers for optimal sound? The question gets more complicated if I want to go to multichannel SACD and use digital room correction such as Audyssey or similar. Any thought, suggestions, insights would be much appreciated.

Thank you,
Greg Simmons

The best solution is to run the output of your SACD player into a power amplifier with a relatively high input impedance and a passive volume control on the front. That arrangement actually describes many modern integrated amplifiers -- maybe yours. A traditional integrated amp -- one with a preamplification stage, followed by the volume control, followed by the power amplification stage -- has exactly the same drawbacks as using a preamp/amp. That said, you may well obtain excellent results with such a system. As you say, going the multichannel route can get far more complicated. I don't like the idea of sacrificing the purity of a DSD signal by using digital room correction on it as that adds an analog-to-digital and then digital-to-analog conversion, which are probably both happening in the PCM domain. Again, though, the practical results matter more than the theoretical considerations, and the benefits of room correction may outweigh the slight loss in resolution from the extra digital conversions. The only way to know is to give it a try. . . . S. Andrea Sundaram

To S. Andrea Sundaram,

I've read your articles for a while now and always enjoy them, so great work!

One thing you might consider, regarding volume control of digital sources, is what's done by Lyngdorf, and maybe NAD. They have products that control the volume by varying the current from the DAC, rather than by trimming bits from the signal. I might be saying this in a very clumsy way, so take your chances with what I say!

I heard a system driven by TacT gear back when, and it had astounding resolution even at low volume. It was a "musical" experience, quite true to the instruments on the recordings. TacT is a precursor company to Lyngdorf, and I'd guess that Lyngdorf has moved forward with that technology.

Kelly M.

As I mentioned in the article, there are a number of ways in which to implement a digital volume control. They are all subject to the same limitations regarding dynamic range, but some most certainly do sound better than others. . . . S. Andrea Sundaram

To Jeff Fritz,

I have an integrated amplifier, the Gamut Di150, and a Soulution 745 SACD player. Which speaker -- the Audio Physic Avantera or the Magico S5 -- is better? I want a speaker that is musical, transparent, and produces no listener fatigue.


The Audio Physic speakers are solid bets in most cases. I've heard them for years at Munich's High End show and they always put on a good show. Their main strengths have to do with soundstaging: excellent depth and the ability to be spread wide and still produce a dense wall-to-wall stage.

That being said, the Magico S5 is a superior loudspeaker. In terms of low distortion and sheer neutrality, you won't beat it at the price, or perhaps anywhere near. When the S5 was introduced, I projected that it would be Magico's best-selling loudspeaker, and I think it is on the way to becoming just that. Based on my short audition, I can say with confidence that it is extremely transparent but also robust in the bass and easy to listen to. So, as much as I like the Audio Physic speakers, hands-down the Magico is the speaker to get. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Howard Kneller,

Thank you for your audio reviews. They have been well written and much appreciated by me. I purchased a full set of Marantz Reference gear based upon your findings in SoundStage! Hi-Fi. And I have been thrilled with their performance.

Currently I am using these electronics with YG Acoustics Carmels. Cabling is Nordost Tyr and Valhalla. I feel I am approaching that level of sonic bliss that I have been chasing for over a decade. I will be trading up to the Kipod II Signatures soon, pending research concerning the soon-to-be-released passive subwoofer version.

Could you enlighten me on your thoughts about your Esoteric amplifier and how it may compare to the Marantz MA-9S2? I could happily live with the Carmels, but my undying audiophile desires lust for that last octave, hence the Kipod, and then possibly the Anat. My dealer will accommodate trade-ups, so I can slowly buy my way into audio heaven. Thank you for taking time to indulge me.

PK Das.

Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you are enjoying the Marantz and YG gear. 

I think you will find that the Esoteric amps offer an increase in performance over the Marantz amp. They are both great amps. They sound rich and full-bodied, but the Esoteric amp also sounds a bit cleaner, faster, and more detailed.

I am currently using the Esoteric A-03 class-A amp in favor of the A-02 class-A/B amp that I reviewed. Other than the class-A/B amp's better leading edge, better grip overall on the drivers, and better microdynamic spark, the class-A amp outperforms the A/B one. The class-A amp is faster sounding, as well as more open, dynamic, and musical.

I think that trying the Esoteric gear would be fruitful. It certainly would not be a waste of time. On the other hand, the Marantz is probably one of the more underrated amps out there and is very good, too. Give a listen and see what you think. . . . Howard Kneller