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To Jeff Fritz,

I ordered the Paradigm Reference Signature S2 v.3 speakers after reading your article in "TWBAS." Quite frankly, I was more than a little surprised to see you compare Paradigm Signature speakers to those from YG Acoustics and Wilson Audio. My 6-12-month plan included upgrading my Usher Audio Mini Two Diamond speakers with those in the $10k-$25k range. Your article really intrigued me and, given the Paradigm’s modest price, I figured I had little to lose.

Some quick facts: my listening room is small-medium in size. My in-room low-frequency extension with the S2 v.3s: -6dB at 31.5Hz. Source: Mark Levinson No.512 SACD/CD player connected directly to a Bryston 4B SST2 amplifier via AudioQuest WBY interconnects. Speaker cables: AudioQuest Redwood. Power delivery: Synergistic Research PowerCell 10 Mk2 and Hologram SE A and D power cords. Vibration control: Stillpoints ESS rack, component stands and Ultra cones.

I cannot get over how wonderful these speakers sound: transparent, dynamic, harmonically natural. Before the Ushers, I had the Dynaudio Confidence C1s and before that the B&W 805S. The Paradigms, which are cheaper than all of the above, are by a large margin the most natural and accurate speakers I have had in my listening room. You are right: the price-performance curve is not linear. Thank you, Jeff, for being willing to ruffle a few feathers to inform your readers of an awkward fact. I still have the budget for costlier speakers but I’m thinking I’ll use it for a couple of nice watches.

Regards,
John Lee, MD

To Jeff Fritz,

You weren't kidding. I did end up buying the Merak/Sheritan 2s and there is simply no area where the Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 6es hold a candle to the Rockports, which do things I've never heard a speaker do: freedom from congestion and coloration regardless of volume, detail retrieval for a monkey coffin (inertness has its benefits), along with staging and singular coherence that is remarkable. What nits to pick are minor (top-end extension of the old Dynaudio Esotar tweeter), and are sins of omission, not commission (which are more objectionable). And, as you said, they care not a whit what music you play through them.

Despite the price, this is amongst the best audio purchases I've ever made. Many thanks for your input -- you were dead on. I appreciate your candor and accuracy -- that's the only standard for a reviewer to achieve, so good on you JF.

Best,
Ryan

To Jeff Fritz, 

I just want to let you know that your review of the Rockport Technologies Mira loudspeakers was not only well done and informative, but dead-nuts accurate. Thank you. You are the most logical candidate for the Mira 2 review, and Andy [Payor] says it has a new and much better tweeter, midrange driver, as well as crossover. Doug Schneider did not hear the Mira 2 against the Magico V2. I can tell you hands down the Mira 2 is a no-brainer in my opinion. Please do get back to me on a review and keep up the excellent writings. 

Paul 

I have been in touch with Rockport about the possibilities of reviewing the Mira 2 or, perhaps, their new speaker, the Avior. I simply can’t wait to see and hear what Rockport has been doing for the past year or so. If the past is any indication, Andy Payor is pushing the loudspeaker-performance envelope once again. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I wanted to thank you for your review of the Tidal Piano Cera speaker system. I found your writing succinct and refreshingly free of the type of over-the-top hyperbole that defines most audio reviews these days. I came away from your article with a good knowledge of how the Tidal speakers sound instead of just knowing that they are "a dream come true" or some other reviewer nonsense. It is very rare these days to actually have a reviewer give a full accounting of the actual sound instead of just trying to impress the company. I now know the Piano Cera (or Diacera) will be on my shortlist to audition. I'll follow your writing from now on.

Frank Mueller

To Jeff Fritz,

I just ordered a pair (Piano Black) after reading your "TWBAS" review of the Paradigm Reference Signature S2 v.3/Sub 2 combo. Question: Should the grilles be on or off for best performance? Thank you.

John Lee

I used the speakers with the grilles off, as I do most everything that comes in for review unless there is a specific instruction from the manufacturer to do otherwise. However, I do know that Paradigm always designs their loudspeakers to perform at a high level with the grilles on. The frames are contoured around the drivers to avoid diffraction. Still, there will always be some high-frequency attenuation with the grilles on. Ultimately, I would suggest you try them both ways to see if you have a strong preference. There is a mesh cover over the beryllium-dome tweeter, so you don’t have to worry too much about damaging that. Congrats on a fine loudspeaker system purchase. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Peter Roth,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review of the Ayre QB-9.

I am building a high-end computer-based audio system and would love to know if you still feel the Ayre QB-9 is the USB DAC to beat in its price range? There are so many getting good reviews -- the latest Weiss DAC, the latest Benchmark, Wyred 4 Sound, Naim, Bel Canto, etc. Since the QB-9 is almost two years old now, do you feel it still holds up as the "gold standard"?

The other approach I am considering is the Linn Majik DS, which of course avoids the computer altogether in favor of dedicated processing straight from hard-drive storage.

Have you had a chance to explore this option and, if so, is the QB-9 more musical overall? Appreciate any thoughts you can offer!

Best regards,
Ole Riise

The key revolves around the qualification "in its price range." For a computer audio digital-to-analog converter in the $2-3k range, I continue to strongly recommend the QB-9. In fact, I am listening to Dave Douglas playing through my QB-9 at this very moment. While it certainly can be bettered (e.g., Ayre's own DX-5, the Wavelength Audio Crimson HS, and the dCS Debussy that editor Jeff Fritz loves so much), you have to spend a whole lot more before achieving material performance increases. In any event, the QB-9 is never less than musical, and given that it fully services up to 24/192, it will be great for years and years to come. Whatever you do, I would go with a DAC that has asynchronous delivery (like the dCS, Wavelength and Ayre), as I believe the resulting low jitter is a big deal.

Two less-expensive alternatives you could consider (both of which feature asynchronous delivery), would be the Wavelength Audio Proton ($900) and Grace m903 ($1900). I've spent a lot of time with the Proton and, while not as accomplished as the QB-9, it is surprisingly good for under a grand (although bandwidth limited to 24/96 files). The Grace is more of a full-featured product, offering S/PDIF inputs (in addition to USB), a headphone jack and volume control (for directly driving an amplifier).

Let me know what you ultimately select, and keep reading Ultra Audio. . . . Peter Roth

To Jeff Fritz,

Great review. I have e-mailed you in the past, and as an owner of Tidal's Contriva Diacera SE speakers it was a pleasure to read your review of the Piano Cera speakers. They were the speakers that I heard at the first AXPONA show in Jacksonville, Florida, a year and a half ago that cemented my decision to buy the Contrivas. With my room being much larger the Diacera SEs worked perfectly. I am using SET amps I bought from ChaliceAudio.com. Again, a great review.

Dave

Thanks for the kind words. I very much enjoyed my time with the Tidals. I can't imagine that you're not thrilled every time you fire up your system with those Contriva Diacera SEs -- I know they are quite special. I think Tidal will be a force to contend with in the upper-high-end speaker market from here on out. They are doing some really cool things that are easy to hear in their speakers. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Garrett Hongo,

It's amazing -- time and time again you review the pieces I'm most interested in. After I e-mailed you about wanting to add a Miyajima mono cartridge to my Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable, I hit on the main link to Ultra Audio and just read your review on the very same Miyajima! I've been researching the Miyajima Premium BE mono for a few weeks -- sounds like a winner. Your review was very helpful. I will stay away from Fantasy reissues, and stick with vintage or other label mono recordings. I keep reading that the Miyajima mono is the best out there and will make me spend less time on stereo recordings. I know you are a big fan of mono -- was wondering what your favorite mono recordings are? By the way, I'm still loving and using my Herron VTPH-2 phono preamp, which I note is still your reference.

Take care, and thanks for reporting on the stuff I'm most interested in! As always, I really appreciate the exact manner in which you write your reviews. Great combination of set-up observations, listening observations, comparisons, the positives and negatives, etc.

Darrin

Glad the review was encouraging to you! As for which mono recordings are my faves, that's a long, long list. You might start with reissues from Cisco, Classic Records, Music Matters, Sundazed, and Speakers Corner. Or you could search the thrifts and retail outlets in your area for vintage mono. There's lots around. . . . Garrett Hongo

Editor,

I enjoyed your recent article on the Coda 15.0 and will be checking it out myself.

I currently own Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 6es and am thinking of moving up. I’m in a heavily treated (ten 16" Tube Traps, lots of panels and diffusers) but small room (15' x 11' x 8'), which performs very, very well for nearfield listening. The WP6es work very well in this room. I’m thinking about a used set of Rockports . . . likely Merak/Sheritans. Side-firing woofers, and per Andy Payor, are very good for nearfield listening (as are the Wilsons). Or I could go with Wilson WP8s, Sashas, or Sophia 3s.

Question for you: I listen mostly to rock. How did you like the Altairs for rock versus the WP8s? Did the speaker lead you to a listening preference? Any comments you can provide here would be welcome on the companies’ respective "house sounds" and what music they can, and cannot, do as well. Mahalo, Jeff.

Ryan

In my opinion, there is simply no comparison. The Rockports are some of the most highly engineered speakers in the world and, as such, have no preference when it comes to input material: they will simply play what you put in them. As well, they have deep, full bass that serves rock music just perfectly. The drivers also integrate very quickly off the front baffle making them excellent choices for nearfield listening. The Wilsons, in my opinion, just can't compete with the fidelity to the source that the Rockports accomplish by their very nature.

If you have an opportunity to buy a set of Rockports you should take advantage of it and not look back. It will be quite an upgrade for you. . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

Thanks for your insightful review of the Coda 15.0 power amplifier. As someone who owns several Coda amps and who's heard the 15.0 a number of times, I can attest to the inherent brilliance of their design. The first thing that strikes you about their products is their transparency. They have a window-free quality that few amps at any price can better, but it’s matched by a warmth and fluidity that really bring the music alive. And their bass is among the most tightly controlled I’ve heard. Considering how much they deliver sonically, and how favorably they compare with today’s über amps, their prices are a bargain. The 15.0 is truly a wonderful product, but I’d like to see future reviews of some of the other amps in the line; especially the S12.5, which I also think is reference grade.

Sincerely,
Andy Claps

Thanks for the note. And I agree with your comments! Make sure you check out our Coda Technologies factory tour as well. . . . Jeff Fritz