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Editor,

I noticed that your reviews of the Rockport Technologies Mira and Altair speakers were both done using a Vitus SS-101 integrated amplifier.

I'm interested in your subjective opinion on Vitus plus Rockport versus the more commonly seen Gryphon plus Rockport. It's understood that all three companies are top performers in the industry in terms of design and performance, but in your opinion does any clear advantage accrue to either pairing?

Also, in general terms how do the soundstages of the Vitus and Gryphon compare?

Thank you,
E. Jacobsen

The Gryphon and Vitus products are at the top of my electronics hierarchy. As you say, both lines are simply fantastic. And as you also seem to know, the Gryphon electronics share a special synergy with Rockport speakers, likely because those are the electronics that Andy Payor of Rockport uses in the design process of his products. The Gryphon/Rockport pairing is a can't-go-wrong proposition.

That's not to discount Vitus, however. In comparing the two from memory, the one thing I can tell you that separates them sonically is their soundstaging, which you specifically asked about. Simply put, the Vitus has one of the most focused, controlled soundstages of any electronics I know. By comparison, the Gryphons have an enveloping, simply massive soundstage. Either way, the Rockports will let you hear all that either brand can do. If you're considering pairing Rockport speakers with either Vitus or Gryphon, you're in a great position to assemble a truly "last purchase" audio system. . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

Thanks for the article "Benchmark Systems, Part Three: The $5000 Full-Ranger."

I recently got back into music. I spent a few months performing some research and sound tests. When I purchased my core components, the dealer threw in some Monster Cable speaker cables and suggested that at some point I may want to consider upgrading speaker cables. I saw some of the prices (this dealer carries Kimber) and thought Ya, right. The first thought that came to my minds was: snake oil!

Anyway, after reading this article (the system you put together seems similar in price and performance to the one I have started building), I decided to give some DH Labs Silver Sonics a sound test. I located a DH Labs dealer in my area, and he provided me with a pair of biwired Silver Sonic Q10s to sample in my system. (I know, this is the next step up from the T14s used in your system.)

Once I got the demo Q10s home, I simply plugged them into my system and used them for about a week for casual listening. My first opinion was snake oil, no difference. But, being the detail-oriented individual that I am, I wanted to do my due diligence and once and for all put to rest (in my mind) that speaker cables make no difference. So I took a day of vacation to compare a few songs that really seem to excel on my system.

With the Q10s in my system I grabbed a notebook, pen, and a cup of coffee. I lined up my CDs and prepared for the sound test. I figured it would take an hour at most. I started with my Raising Sand CD (Robert Plant/Alison Krauss) and played "Please Read the Letter." I played this song four times in a row, each at a different volume, and clearly drew the soundstage in my notebook. I also made notes as I followed each of the instruments and the various melodies. I then moved on to a few other CDs and listened to three other songs at various volume levels, and again drew the soundstage, and made notes. Wow, I just burned three hours! It wasn't tedious; it was enjoyably engaging. Now it was time to swap to the Monster Cables.

With the Monster cables, I put in the last song I had listened to with the Q10s (since it was freshest in my mind). The first thing I noticed was more treble: "cool, the cables I own sound better." Another 30 seconds of listening, and wait: ya, more treble noise. The soundstage was a lot more difficult to hear, the cymbals had a crashing, screechy sound, and higher-pitched vocals became harsh. I popped CDs in and out moving from song to song (almost frantically), because something had stolen the rich sound of each instrument, and the clearly discernible soundstage! Songs with electric guitars no longer had individual strings: they all bled together. No way!

I powered down my system and put the Q10s back in, powered back up, popped in Raising Sand, and grinned: the rich sound and stage were back!

I ordered a new pair of Silver Sonic Q10s, internally biwired with banana connectors. The new cables are now in my system. Thanks for the DH Labs recommendation: it made a noticeable difference in my system.

Thanks,
Paul

To S. Andrea Sundaram,

I am writing to compliment you on your recent review of Ultrasone’s Edition 8 headphones. I have read many audio reviews over the years, but I have never written to a reviewer before. I just felt compelled to write and tell you that review was the best I have ever read. Ever. For any piece of equipment. It was right in so many ways, avoiding all the garbage that’s in most reviews these days. You “GET IT” and it’s obvious because you know music and used it as the ultimate reference in your review. Again, thanks for such a well-written review.

Regards,
Greg Simmons
Bethel, Alaska

Thanks for the vote of confidence! . . . S. Andrea Sundaram

To Pete Roth,

I am a Vandersteen enthusiast in South Africa who owns a pair of Quatros and who read your [Vandersteen Audio Model Seven] review. I was moved to tears for the genuine warmth of your review as you shared what you experienced in your soul. I am developing a major new source of energy, and if this comes off, I intend on ordering a handmade pair of Sevens and will also approach you for advice on the rest of the equipment. Thank you.

Most sincerely,
Jacques

Thanks so much for the kind words. I certainly tried to convey the passion evoked in me by my experience with the Model Sevens. They certainly moved my soul, and I am currently captured by the anticipation of delivery of my very own pair in about three weeks. Obviously it is a big expense but, based on my time with the review pair last spring, it will be worth it. In any event, it took me a long time to settle on a color (I chose an Audi R8 color, Phantom Black Pearl Effect) and then had to wait for my "build slot." Really, I can't wait. . . . Pete Roth

Editor,

I really have enjoyed your articles over the years, particularly your speaker reviews and articles on subwoofers. I am very interested in your take on the Magico Q3 -- it looks like a good option for my 21' x 27' room (also thinking of Sashas). But I do have a question: In a recent letter on Ultra Audio you stated, regarding speakers, "Although I've admired many of the designs I've had contact with, there are always a few nagging issues, or the speaker hasn't really set itself apart to a great degree in terms of its engineering, build, and of course ultimately, its sound." But you have positively reviewed many speakers. If I read you right, you should have only positively reviewed a small handful. Can you clarify that? Thanks again for some really honest writing.

Bill Caswell

Thanks for the note, Bill, and for reading. Specifically, I was referring to speakers that I would personally own. That list is indeed very short. To say I'm ultra-picky when it comes to what I would spend my money on is an understatement. I know that I've been spoiled by years of reviewing simply the best gear in the world, and this has had quite the effect on my admittedly type-A personality. There are times when little, nagging issues with regards to sound just drive me crazy. I also freely admit that I want basically perfect build quality and extremely advanced engineering along with sound to die for. That doesn’t mean that I can’t admire and recommend lots of different gear for lots of different people. I realize that I'm quite extreme when it comes to high-end audio! And lastly, those Q3s should be here soon for audition, so hang tight. . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

I read your article ["How Close Can I Get for Half the Price or Less? -- Paradigm Reference Signature S2 v.3 Loudspeakers"] regarding the Signature S2 speakers and the Sub 2 subwoofer combo. How would the Sub 25 or Velodyne DD subwoofers compare with the Sub 2 if paired with the Signature S2s? I am looking for the cheapest deal, but still want great quality. I just can't afford to spend $7000 on a subwoofer. I am looking to spend between $2000 and $3000 on a subwoofer. Plus, what finish would you recommend getting for the S2?

Thanks,
Rick Bajwa

The subwoofers I recommend without hesitation are those from Paradigm and JL Audio. I've had direct experience with both and think very highly of them -- rock-solid build; deep, deep bass; very loud output levels; very good linearity; audibly low distortion. Given that you're looking for a sub to augment a pair of Paradigm Reference Signature S2s, the Paradigm sub is a natural choice. As for the Sub 25 specifically, I have heard that unit and it is really, really nice. I'm quite sure you'd be very happy with it (the Maple finish would be my choice). . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

I read your CES report and am glad to know that you'll be reviewing the Q3 speakers from Magico. I read in a previous letter that you do not have the speakers yet, but my question is more general in nature.  Anyone that has paid attention to your writing over the past five years or so has seen you gravitate toward certain brands -- Rockport, and now Magico most obviously -- but I've also seen where you've said good things about a few other brands as well. Over that time I've seen you steer away from certain brands that are still somewhat loved by many others in the audio press. Can you enlighten me on why that is the case? For the record, I agree with our choices. I'm just curious as to whether your reasoning is similar to mine. And for the record, I'm considering the Q3s for purchase myself.

John Boyd

I've reviewed many speakers over the past five years and, although you might assume that the sphere of loudspeakers that I admire, or would own, would have expanded in that time, the truth is that it has contracted. Don't get me wrong, there are many really good speakers on the market, but there have been very few that I would personally consider owning. Although I've admired many of the designs I've had contact with, there are always a few nagging issues, or the speaker hasn't really set itself apart to a great degree in terms of its engineering, build, and of course ultimately, its sound. Being merely really good just isn't enough anymore.

The brands you allude to -- Rockport, Magico, TAD, Vivid, a couple of others -- have set themselves apart in my eyes and to my ears. They are all highly engineered, expertly built products. And they perform at a higher level than similar speakers from other brands.

As to the Q3s, I'm very excited to get them in. I'd be happy to review them if they were priced at $49,500. I don’t think many audiophiles would blink an eye had they been introduced at that price. But at $34,000 per pair, they have the potential to offer great value at their asking price. The same can't be said for many speakers costing 34 large these days. . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

I was excited to see the review of the Gryphon Colosseum and Mirage. I wish they had distribution here in the States. I'll just have to keep watching and hoping a Diablo shows up on Audiogon at a price I can afford when the cash is available for once!

I would love to see you guys investigate Gryphon's new integrated, the Atilla, as well.

Seth

Editor,

Did I read that you're in the process of reviewing the Magico Q3s? If so, any idea when you might be issuing the review?

I'm trying to choose among the Sonus Faber Elipsa (crazy low price right now), Amati Futura (going to Montreal to hear them at the show), and the Q3s (because they sounded so good at CES). I'm leaning toward the Q3s, my only concern being all the reviewers who have said Magicos are "picky" about matching electronics. I'm hoping they're more efficient than the Q5s, but I think you're the first reviewer, so I'm waiting with bated breath. I'd like to hold onto my Simaudio W-7 to drive them rather than switching to all Spectral and all MIT cabling, or Soulution if I win the lottery, like you always see at the shows.

And SF is only offering the sales price until April 1, so I have to decide fairly soon.

Thank you,
Jon Lewis

As I understand it, the Q3s are gearing up for production very soon. I opted to wait for the first production pair for my review as opposed to receiving the pre-production prototypes. I understand that the production version will include some improvements that Magico felt were necessary to make the speaker the best it could be.

Regarding electronics, I think the "picky" thing has been largely overblown. I also don’t think there is a need for these very expensive esoteric components that you see at shows. Remember, those companies are there to sell gear too. My gut feeling tells me that the Q3s and your Simaudio would mate just fine. I'd definitely hang tight for the Q3s. At CES they were really something special. . . . Jeff Fritz

Editor,

I've read your article "Benchmark Systems, Part 3: The $5000 Full-Ranger," and I'm pretty curious about the Bel Canto C5i integrated amplifier/DAC you recommend. What are your impressions of it? Have you tried the headphone output with a decent set of headphones? Are you writing a review of it? Have you compared it to other combinations of amps and DACs?

I have already preordered a C5i to use with my Dynaudio Excite X12 speakers, but it seems it's not going to be out at least until mid March. Thanks for your article and hope to hear more from you.

Paco

I only had the Bel Canto C5i in for a short time, and only used it in the configuration described in the article. However, in that short time I was very impressed with it, driving the Aperion Verus Grand Tower speakers quite easily and with excellent fidelity. But, of course, that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, so we do have a full review underway. Our own Roger Kanno has a C5i in currently and his review will appear on a SoundStage! Network site in the near future. . . . Jeff Fritz