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Gryphon Diablo 300

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To Garrett Hongo,

I own a Leben RS28CX preamplifier and have been thinking of auditioning an EAR 868 preamp for a listening test soon. I read your SoundStage! review of the EAR 868 and liked it a lot.

Anyway, the thing is, I also have been thinking about buying the deHavilland KE50A amplifier, but it is impossible to listen to before buying in my area (Finland). But EAR products are easily available here, so: Have you yet listened to the EAR 890? If so, do you have any musings about how it compares to the deHavilland KE50A?

Best regards,
Jarkko Kinnunen

I've heard very good things about the Leben line of electronics, but I've had no experience with them myself.

Since you are seriously considering purchasing the EAR 868 preamp, you might be interested in my recent review of the EAR 890 amplifier in which I compare it to the deHavilland KE50A monoblock amps.

Both are great products and operate in class A. The EAR 890 has more power and a glorious midrange sophistication. The KE50As have a top-to-bottom balance and sparkle and resolution at the top. Both are extremely well-built. The EAR 868 preamp worked very well with both amps, but I found it to be better with the EAR 890 stereo amp. 

One tip I have, though, especially as you are in Scandinavia. Dan Meinwald, distributor of EAR in the US, always uses cables from Jorma Design in his systems. I've just visited him (article forthcoming) and heard two different EAR systems with Jorma Design cables and found them utterly wonderful and revealing. I've been in his demo rooms several times over the years and always find his sound among the best. I think the cabling has much to do with it -- along with the EAR electronics. Good luck and good listening! . . . Garrett Hongo

To Garrett Hongo,

I enjoyed your review of the Herron VTPH-2: informative, easy to read and entertaining. After auditioning and recently purchasing the Herron VTSP-3A linestage, I have ordered the VTPH-2 phono stage. My question: You mention the Nottingham Spacedeck, the same turntable I use (with a Shelter 501 Mk II). You have the Heavy Kit. Do you also use the Wave Mechanic power supply? I spoke with the TT guru at the Analog Room, they are the new importer for Nottingham, and he suggested the Heavy Kit is the first upgrade he would recommend. I am a little concerned about the extra weight affecting the TT speed. He said not to worry, but I would like to get some perspective from others. Do you like what the Heavy Kit does for the Nottingham?

Thanks for your time and input.

David Tullar

Congratulations on purchasing the Herron VTPH-2. It's a fine phono stage and one I've come to trust and depend on as I listen to others in comparison. I was just talking with Keith Herron yesterday, as a matter of fact, about some different tubes he's discovered that can work well in the phono for some systems. 

Regarding the Nottingham and Heavy Kit, I heartily agree with the Analog Room (San Jose? or Upstate NY?). If it's Brian Hartsell, he certainly knows his stuff. In fact, that's where my Nottingham came from! The Heavy Kit does not affect the motor or TT speed whatsoever. 

The added platter weight gives the sound of the TT more weight and authority, especially with rock and orchestral music. The fullness of the "support" from the bass viols in symphonic pieces really comes forward, which is not to say that it dominates, but provides the fine fundament on which the rest of the music relies. You really hear and feel it once it's there. With rock, well, all I can say is "Would you rather hear Cream with Jack Bruce or without him?" 

You might consider the Benz Micro line of cartridges, if you don't have a settled idea for one. I liked my Shelter 501 Mk II tremendously, but a close friend who also has a Nottingham likes the Micro line from Benz. My last cartridge for the Nottingham was the Zyx Airy 3, which I still have and adore.

One other thing -- I found that the Nottingham especially benefitted from good isolation and a rigid foundation. I used a Finite Elemente Signature Pagode rack with it at first, the one with single struts on either side, and the rack was top-heavy and wobbled. When I reviewed the HRS SXR rack and S1 shelves, the finesse and refinement of the 'table took a huge jump -- so much so that it closed the gap between the Nottingham and superb Artemis SA-1 'table and Schroeder DPS arm which I'd recently reviewed.

You might get very good results with a rack with more rigid support than my reference at the time, the FE Signature Pagode. Their Master Pagode, for example, should do well. In the end, I went with a custom rack from Box Furniture myself. Good luck and good listening! . . . Garrett Hongo


Have you compared the sound between the Jeff Rowland 8T and Threshold SA-4e amps? I saw your article: "A Lifetime of Solid-State Amplifiers: Reflection on the Heavyweights." I'm trying to see if you've heard these amps and what they sound like. Thanks.


I used to own a Jeff Rowland 8T amplifier, and although I have not heard the Threshold SA-4e, I did own the class-A/AB variant, the SA-550e. Overall, both amplifiers are quite good, but I would have to give the nod to theThreshold. The one glaring weakness that the 8T had was in the bass: it sounded soft and woolly compared to any number of good solid-state designs. The Threshold produced much more powerful, controlled bass and an extremely focused soundstage. If given the choice, I'd go for the SA-4e in a heartbeat. . . . Jeff Fritz


In your article dated September 6, 2009, you visited Rockport Technologies and alluded to the active Arrakis loudspeaker being on the drawing board. I know you have the original version of the Arrakis as a reference, and your article piqued my curiosity because I do not see anything about an active version of the loudspeaker on the company’s website. Is there an update on the Arrakis in active form that you could tell me about? And if so, can you provide any details and the price? Also do you think the Arrakis, in either passive or active form, would be the ideal speaker for a 30' x 27.6' room that is heavily treated? I’m moving on from my beloved Kharmas because they just do not have the bass output I need and I’ve had no success with the subwoofer designed to address this shortcoming. Thank you for the informative website.

Ferdinand R. 

I recently spoke with Andy Payor of Rockport Technologies and the subject of the active Arrakis did come up. It seeems that this project is very much on track and the speaker will be available in a matter of a few months. The active Arakkis is a reality. As for details, here’s what I know: It will come with an active crossover designed and built by Rockport. The bass section will be active and the rest of the speaker will essentially be a passive three-way design. So, basically, you’ll have four active 15” subwoofers -- enough bass horsepower to easily fill a super-large room like yours. The tweeter will be a new beryllium-dome unit custom made for the Arrakis. The price will be $225,000 per pair. . . . Jeff Fritz