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To Jeff Fritz,

I've some past experience with Rockport speakers and I'm interested in their new Avior. I'm thinking about two possible systems to front the Avior: the first is the new Vitus RCD-100/RI-100 combo; the second is the Gryphon Mikado or Scorpio/Diablo pairing. Both of these pairings are the entry-level amplification from these two great Danes -- both integrated amps run in class A/B as opposed to their bread-and-butter class-A designs.

I recall reading some comment in a forum that Rockport (as a brand) responds best to class-A amplification. But don't most loudspeakers respond to class A favorably? Unfortunately, the next step up the product lines for both Vitus and Gryphon results in a major price jump -- perhaps not in line with the speaker pricing. By that I mean that if I were to move into their higher-end gear, I'd be inclined to do the same with Rockport's speaker offerings.

Given your experience with all three brands, do you have any thoughts or recommendations before I start making tracks to audition these pieces? In general terms, to which of those systems might you lean given the Rockport speakers?

Thanks for your thoughts.


Before I comment on the electronics, let me just say that I think the Rockport Technologies Avior looks incredibly promising. It is, in fact, the first offering from the company with completely in-house-designed and -manufactured Rockport drivers. I recently spoke with Andy Payor at Rockport and he stated that these drivers were quite special and that the Avior is really singing with them. I think you are in for a real treat with those speakers.

As for electronics, your shortlist includes my two favorite brands of amplification. I think the world of both Gryphon and Vitus. Both companies produce products at the very pinnacle of the industry: sound, build quality, reliability, aesthetics . . . it's all there. However, I do think these two brands have their own distinct attributes that make them not quite interchangeable. The Rockport speakers are designed with a number of electronics feeding them up in the factory in Maine, but I do know for a fact that Andy Payor prefers Gryphon over all other brands and that, therefore, there is a certain synergy with the two companies' products. Gryphon electronics somehow seem to walk the fine line between highly resolving and warm/analog/spacious simultaneously. The power reserves are mammoth and the user interface sublime.

But you certainly can’t discount Vitus either. I lived with the Vitus SS-101 and the first-generation Rockport Altairs for over a year. The Vitus gear is some of the most neutral equipment ever made, but it doesn’t ever veer into a "typical" solid-state sound either. It is ultra quiet, yet naturally organic at the same time. And its power reserves are equally mammoth due to the peerless power supplies the company uses.

Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with either brand. Pay no attention that these are their entry-level products -- the brands' house sounds come through regardless. There are subtle differences between them, as I said, but they both will mate perfectly with the Rockport speakers. Whichever you choose, your system will be a keeper. Congrats. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

Just to throw my two cents in on "Comparisons on Paper: B&W 803 Diamond vs. Tidal Contriva Diacera SE," I feel that the Tidal is the better speaker, hands down. At the same time, I could live with the 803s, as they are very nice and do a lot of what I would want my speakers to do. At the same time, the Tidal is just a richer, more fulfilling audio listening experience waiting to happen. I will confess that I reviewed the Contrivas, the non-Diacera model, and it was the best speaker I have had in my house. About 12 other audiophiles who came by to hear them would tell you the same.

I have heard the 803s at one of the local audio salons (Audio Consultants), and though they are a nice speaker, my opinion is that they do not perform to the same level as the Contrivas. I would put the 803s in the same class as the Vienna Acoustics Mahler's, which I would prefer over the 803s. As to your question, in terms of value, six times better? I won’t go as far as to say that, though in my opinion, I would give it at least a five!

Michael Wright
Contributor, The SoundStage! Network

To Jeff Fritz,

I just read your Coda Technologies 15.0 review. Two questions:

1) How hot does it get? I have a Levinson No.335 that gets warm to the touch after extended use.
2) Will it drive Magnepan 1.7 or 3.7 speakers or should I consider the Coda 30.0?


For your application, I would get the 30.0. Having the additional headroom offered by the 30.0's 330Wpc into 8 ohms makes the most sense to me for the Magnepans you mention (the 15.0 is 150Wpc). It should also run a tad cooler than the 15.0 due to the lower amount of class-A power it produces (the 15.0 does not get scaldingly hot, but does get quite warm). Ultimately, I think either amplifier would be fine in terms of heat and power output (they are close to the same amp, just biased differently), and both would be a definite sonic improvement over the Mark Levinson 335. I just made the comments about the 30.0 in case it's a huge concern. Either way, you're in for a real treat with the Coda. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Garrett Hongo,

I just finished reading your review of the EAR 868 preamp, as this is a unit I’m considering. I understand it’s transformer coupled and I am not sure about the approach. There are so many preamps to choose from, it’s hard to know what to do. The other unit I’ve been considering is the Cary SLP-05, which is fully balanced and I am wondering if you could comment on how they might compare or if you have any other units you’d recommend.


"Transformer coupled" usually means that the output signal is coupled to a transformer instead of to a capacitor. This is generally a more expensive approach than capacitor-coupling in preamps, and transformer-coupled preamps are sometimes considered a cut above the rest. In the EAR 868, output transformers convert the single-ended circuit to balanced, rejecting common-mode interference and outputing a balanced signal.

However, the 868 doesn't have fully balanced circuits per se. The Cary SLP-05 does. But I have not heard the SLP-05 in my own system -- just at shows. That said, I like both preamps, and I don't think you could go wrong either way. If you can, I recommend that you audition them both and choose the one most sympatico with your ears, system, and budget.

One thing to remember, though, is that the EAR 868 can be had as a full-function preamp with a built-in and impedance-adjustable phono stage. The Cary SLP-05 is a line stage only. . . . Garrett Hongo

To Jeff Fritz,

I just finished reading your review of the Accustic Arts Amp II-AC, as this amp has been recommended to me. Do you still feel the same way about it?

Two things, I guess: Are these available used on the North American market, and if so, what kind of money do they bring in? I understand they run hot and this worries me a bit given that heat tends to shorten the life of electronic gear, and at these prices is a concern. Is it cause for concern?


It's been seven years since I reviewed that amplifier. Honestly, I have almost no recollection of it beyond what is in my review. As to what the value is on the used market, I also have little to offer. The company has had somewhat of a low profile, at least in North America, as of late, and that lack of brand recognition would not seem to bode well for its used value. The products that seem to hold their value the best are the ones that are widely available and that everyone recognizes (see McIntosh as a great example). As to your last question about heat, I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary with regard to the amplifier overheating. Still, most of the large solid-state amplifiers that operate in class A, even to a small fraction of their rated power, will run somewhat hot. I would try to make sure the unit you buy has a decent warranty period left, but do remember it will likely have to be shipped to Germany -- not cheap -- if something goes wrong. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

Given that you've written a review on Paradigm's Reference Signature S6 v.2 (2007), I thought you might be able to answer my question. Would it be silly to purchase a pair of S6 speakers if I were only willing to pair them with, say, an Anthem MRX 500 A/V receiver, an Emotiva XPA-2 amplifier (300Wpc RMS into 8 ohms), and an Emotiva ERC-2 CD player? I worry that if I don't pair the S6es with better audio equipment than this, I won't get the high-end audio for which I'll have paid a hefty amount (according to my pocketbook). If this worry is warranted, perhaps (given the restriction of my funds) I should try to be content with something like Paradigm's Reference Studio 60s. What is your advice?

Aaron Knock

Your speaker selection will be the largest determinant of the eventual sound quality you attain in your audio system. The speakers are where the electrical signal is converted to the mechanical, and realized in the acoustics of your listening room. To put it bluntly, the speakers are where there is the most chance for error in audio reproduction.

My recommendation is to always buy the best speakers you can given your budget. In your case, if you have the option of purchasing a speaker as good as the Paradigm Reference Signature S6, I think you'd be very happy. The electronics you are going to power them with seem perfectly fine for the job. You'll have plenty of power and up-to-date processing for home theater as well as a dedicated CD player for music. I know the Anthem receiver is quite good and I've heard only good things about the Emotiva electronics as well. Pay close attention to speaker set up and I don’t see how you can go wrong. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Peter Roth,

I read your review of the Ayre QB-9 DAC and I am interested in the Wavelength Crimson that was featured in this review. I’m a little confused as I saw your answer to a reader saying that the Ayre QB-9 can be beat and the examples you gave of DACs that can beat it were Ayre's DX-5, Wavelength's Crimson, and the dCS Debussy. However, in your review you said that the Ayre bested the Crimson.

Anyway, I’m just looking for the best DAC I can get for around $10,000 or less. Is there anything else that you would recommend? Any thoughts on the Debussy? Thanks for all the great reviews you’ve done and I look forward to your next one.

Thanks very much!

Dave L

Digital technology is a constantly moving target that continues to see significant improvements. At the time I reviewed the Ayre QB-9, it routinely beat the then-existing configuration of my Wavelength Crimson (with Numerator 24/96 DAC module) in that particular review system. This was especially true for music files ripped from CDs mastered in the early days of digital (i.e., mid 1980s to early 1990s -- presumably due to its minimum-phase digital filters, I believe). Even then, the Crimson won out for me with certain program material and the mood I happened to be in. Stalwart tube fans may well have preferred the Crimson overall, but I admit to being primarily in the solid-state camp, and the price differential may well have skewed my perspective a bit.

In any event, Gordon Rankin and Wavelength have not stood still. My Crimson has now been upgraded to HS (high speed) status with the new Denominator 32/192 DAC module, which is based on the 32-bit ESS Sabre DAC chip. There is a laundry list of other improvements included in this upgrade (e.g., opto-coupler isolation). I’ve also had the analog volume control option installed, so I can directly drive the amplifiers in my secondary system. I will be reviewing the fully up-to-date Crimson in the coming months. Here is a preview: the improvements are not subtle; it offers fantastic performance, and its musicality not only exceeds that of my QB-9, but it is now in a neck-and-neck race with the USB DAC portion of my Ayre DX-5 (although these are two horses with quite a different flavor, and so picking either as a winner is system and sensibility dependent). Beyond these two, I plan to review the Aesthetix Pandora DAC with volume control in 2012 (it is now in production), but what I’ve just heard at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest is very promising (especially at only $6k for a full-featured DAC with volume control and all the digital inputs covered).

If I were looking for a new DAC today, in addition to looking closely at the DX-5, Crimson, and Pandora, I would audition the Berkeley Alpha DAC Series 2 with Alpha USB (a recently updated combo), the new Meitner MA-1, the dCS Debussy and the Playback Designs MPD-3. Have fun! . . . Peter Roth

To Jeff Fritz,

I just stumbled over your reviews -- they are great! Thanks for articulating so well!

I am having a hard time deciding on what to purchase. I’ve been saving up for a while, and now I’m trying to home in. I loved what little I heard of the Magico Q3s with ARC Ref 250s, but it was at a convention, so I didn’t get to evaluate as well as I would have liked. I wonder if you have had an opportunity to compare to the other two speakers noted below -- your perspective would be greatly appreciated. Can you offer any insight to my selection below? Thanks so much in advance.


  • Wilson Audio Sasha
  • KEF 207/2
  • Magico Q3 (unfortunately out of my budgetary price range)


  • ARC Ref 250
  • Lamm M1.2
  • Dan D’Agostino Momentum (unfortunately out of my budgetary price range)


  • ARC Ref Anniversary (unfortunately out of my budgetary price range)
  • ARC Ref 5
  • Ayre KX-R
  • Lamm L2 (but hesitation since no balanced inputs or remote)


In my experience, the speakers need to be decided upon first. Buy what fits your room and tastes -- get what excites you. Although I don’t know your room size, there is no question in my mind that if you can stretch to order Magico Q3s you'll never regret it. It is a phenomenal speaker that will never need replacing. Its transparency, detail retrieval, speed, and resolution are unrivaled at anywhere near the price point. Even if you have to adjust your budget downward on the electronics, in my opinion it would be worth it. In second place would be the KEF, but only if you could get the Blade loudspeaker or some soon-to-be-released variant. I'm quite sure some form of Blade-series speakers will be replacing KEF's Reference series very soon. Based on what I have heard at shows, the Blade takes KEF's Uni-Q technology to another level. Definitely worth seeking out.

As for electronics, I don’t think there is a loser in the bunch that you've picked. Tubes and solid state still do sound different and that is probably the most important decision you face based on your candidates. One thing I would recommend is that you pick the amplifier and preamplifier from the same manufacturer; this will give you the best chance at creating good system synergy and will certainly avoid impedance mismatches. Lastly, many amp-preamp combos these days have added functionality when you use the units together and I think that will enhance your enjoyment of owning them. Specifically, I think the amplifiers from ARC and the Ayre are simply superb, so those would be my first choices based on what you've selected. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

You just had to do it. In "Blowin' The Vault" you wrote, "When I decided on the speaker for TWBAS 2012, it became obvious to me that something had to change. I can’t yet tell you that speaker’s name, but I can say that it’s a one-piece model, it’s extremely heavy, and it’s taller than the Rockport Technologies Altair."

So now we're all wondering what the speaker is. It's one piece, so we know it is not the Arrakis again, or the X-2 from Wilson, or the big Verity. It's taller than the Altair, so that would seem to rule out the Magico Q5 and the TAD Reference One. Do we have to wait till next year to find out? This is killin' me!

Jim Trennor

Yes, you'll have to wait till next year, but just barely. Mark your calendar for Sunday, January 8, when the components that will make up TWBAS 2012 will be revealed in Las Vegas, Nevada, on our www.SoundStageGlobal.com site. You'll see the announcement streaming live on video. And I can tell you that the system is shaping up to be quite something! . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

As I read "Exploding Two Myths, Confirming Two Suspicions," I couldn't help but agree entirely with you about some of the practices in our beloved hobby.

I am writing to ask you to seek a review of a small audio company called CH Precision from Switzerland. They have two products called the D1 (CD and SACD player) and C1 (DAC, with upsampling to 705.6kHz).

Why? Once you hear it, you will understand why I decided to buy it (C1) from my dealer here in Singapore. They are a new start-up but my understanding is that the owners have extensive experience in the audio world.

My current system:
Magico Q5 speakers
VAC Signature Mk.2a preamp
Gryphon Colosseum amp
Apple MacBook Pro with Pure Music
Kubala Sosna Elation interconnects, power cords, and speaker cables
Shunyata Research Triton power conditioner on all equipment except the power amp


I've actually been trading emails with CH Precision and their US importer, Musical Artisans. The first production units are on their way to the States now and I'm scheduled to get a C1 sometime late this year. And yes, I did know that these people were involved with Orpheus Labs and Anagram Technologies. Nice system and suggestion! . . . Jeff Fritz