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I commend your decision to review the Coda 15.0 power amp. Recently I had a chance to audition one in a pretty awesome system. We compared it to a few different amps -- some whose manufacturers advertise in your pages -- and, I must say, frankly, it blew us away. Its combination of bottomless power, see-through transparency, inner detail, and wall-busting soundstaging impressed the hell out of a bunch of seasoned ears. It didn’t sweep all categories, but even in the ones it didn’t win, it came in almost too close to call.
I’ve known about Coda for some years now, and have always respected their decision to stay small and out of the limelight. In my opinion, they build some of the best amplifiers in the industry, period. And their value quotient is off the charts.
I own a CSi-B integrated and modified S12.5 power amp. Both are great amps -- especially the 12.5, which is almost identical sonically to the 15.0 at half the price -- and punch way above their weight classes. They’re not perfect (what amp is?), but their utter balance and close approach to neutrality, with just a pinch of sweetness, made them an easy choice for me. Anyway, I’m looking forward to your review of the 15.0. It’s a fabulous component in all respects.
The 15.0 review will be published here on June 15. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Peter Roth,
I’ve just read your most recent review of the Audio Research Reference 5 preamplifier. Well, as a Ref 5 owner, I couldn’t agree more -- you took the words out of my mouth as it were.
Please let me ask you about something completely different. In the Associated Equipment section you mention the Ayre DX-5 as your only digital source. I currently own Ayre's C-5xeMP and have been very happy with it. However, because I want to add Blu-ray playback capability to my system and, also, people tell me it is time to at least start thinking about computer audio, I have been seriously considering replacing my C-5xeMP with the DX-5. I have no doubt whatsoever that with Blu-ray Discs and as a USB DAC the DX-5 is stellar and, perhaps, the best buy under $10k.
So I’m not even asking your opinion about that part of it. However, how does DX-5’s CD, DVD-A and SACD playback compare with the C-5xeMP? Does the DX-5 really outperform the C-5xeMP with CD, DVD-A, and SACD? If you ever had a chance to compare the two machines, could you share your impressions, please? If you haven’t and only can speak for the DX-5, that would be interesting, too. Again, I only care about the DX-5’s performance with CD, DVD-A, and SACD out of the analog outputs.
As always, your honest and impartial opinion will be well appreciated.
Thank you so much!
The Ayre C-5xeMP is a fantastic machine and was my disc-spinning reference for almost four years, so I am intimately familiar with it. However, when my QB-9 and Wavelength Crimson came along, I almost completely stopped spinning silver discs. Instead, my listening was either vinyl or computer audio (having ripped my entire CD collection). I do have a handful of SACDs and DVD-As, and those were the only thing I’d listen to through the C-5xeMP. After about a year of keeping the C-5xeMP around to spin only DVD-A/SACDs, and knowing that the DX-5 was coming down the pike, I ended up selling my C-5xeMP. Let me assure you that decision was not folly, as the DX-5 is superior as an audio disc spinner on all three physical formats (and as a USB DAC and Blu-ray player, too). Essentially, it utilizes the exact same engine (same digital filters, same DAC chip, same double-regulated power supply), but because the DX-5 has Ayre’s newest Equilock output stage, the DX-5 paints an even more honest and realistic sonic picture. It also outperforms the QB-9 to a significant degree, due presumably to the double-regulated analog power supply for each circuit (the QB-9’s power supply is not double-regulated) and the use of superior parts (Ayre’s store of NOS Toshiba FETs) in the Equilock output stage.
Finally, the DX-5 trounces my Oppo BD-83SE on the sonic front and exceeds its performance visually as well (in addition, it is a much quieter Blu-ray machine). For me, having the three devices rolled into one (it is an integrated source machine), with only one power cord, one interconnect, and performance in excess of my old C-5xeMP and current QB-9 (which is now in my wife’s system) and the Oppo, its purchase was a no-brainer. Cheers. . . . Pete Roth
Many thanks for your advice regarding the Boulder amplifier. At last I have brought both the 2010 preamplifier and the 2060 power amplifier home to drive the Wilson MAXX 2s! I love the combination very much! It's an entire level of sonic performance that I have never experienced before.
I am planning my next upgrade: I am looking at the Avalon speaker series. My listening room is 4.6m wide, 5.5m long, and 2.85m high. With this room size, do you think I can fit in a pair of Avalon Isis speakers? Or do you think the Avalon Time would be a better choice? And do think Avalon will make a better coupling with Boulder than Wilson?
I'm glad you're enjoying your Boulder gear. It is wonderful equipment and I'm not surprised it has improved the performance of your system.
Regarding speakers, frankly I think there are much better choices than either the Wilsons or Avalons. If your goal is sonic accuracy, and all the musical joys that higher fidelity can bring, I can think of several speakers you'd be wise to audition. Speakers at the cutting edge of performance today use extremely sophisticated cabinet engineering, super-advanced drivers, and crossovers with innovative slope profiles that simply make for better sound.
For instance, I think the Magico Q5 is a simply stellar loudspeaker. A pair of Q5s will give you laser-like imaging that produces a magically precise soundstage, and will have extension at either end of the audible frequency band that very few speakers can approach. To be blunt, I think speakers like the Q5s are at a completely different level of the game from what you're considering, and at about the same price point. It's a no-brainer.And this state-of-the-art sound is easy to hear. So I advise you to seek out the Q5s, along with several other brands that you can read about in the pages of Ultra Audio, and really take your system to a higher level. . . . Jeff Fritz
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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.
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
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