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To Jeff Fritz,
I read your piece with interest about Devialet and Tidal in which you questioned whether they had lost their high-end way. Please allow me to share my perspective.
The jury is not only not out on the newest Devialet product, it hasn't even heard the evidence. (Actually a few have heard it, albeit at Devialet or at shows and were impressed, but they have not published formal reviews so far.) Even if the Phantom is merely a "lifestyle" product, if it allows Devialet to remain profitable and supplies R&D money for new hi-fi technology or expansion of the SAM program, then that's not a bad thing. All it has really to do is look and sound like at least a $4500 stereo. I have little doubt it does. "One day, everyone will own a Devialet" they say. Well, maybe they really do want it to be possible for anyone of at least moderate means to own one of their products and be pleased. Will the 200 become any less attractive if its maker also offers technologically advanced products that are not the highest of high fidelity? I would hope that people with their egos in check wouldn't feel that way. Has Devialet perhaps declined to provide reviews samples to audiophile journals in favor of publications with much larger readership? I could understand that strategy if they already know that their latest kit might not pass muster for whatever reason, valid or not, with some of the pickiest of the picky but would be an object of desire and admiration for a far larger part of the population. On the other hand, maybe the Phantom can play in much of the audiophile and lifestyle populations just fine. Time will tell, as you say. And I hope you get a review sample, soon.
Tidal faced a predicament. On the vast majority of stereos and ears, the distinction between 16/44.1 and 320kbps is neither detectable nor relevant. An arguably modest delta in sound quality is a hard thing to sell when it resonates with too few people to matter. Tidal needs millions or tens of millions of subscribers to ensure its future. If focusing on music-biz personalities makes the company viable while it continues to offer CD-quality streaming, then audiophiles will win, too. If Tidal focuses on audiophiles primarily, it will vanish and perhaps almost did.
The lesson here is that those at the top of the food chain still need the food chain.
To Erich Wetzel,
I’ve just enjoyed your excellent review of the Rogue Audio RP-5 preamp and I wonder if you could share your findings after having listened to both the Rogue and the Hegel Music Systems P20. I’m the happy owner of a Hegel H20 power amplifier that drives a pair of Amphion Xenons. I’m thinking of replacing my aged Musical Fidelity F25 preamp and I would sincerely appreciate your opinion concerning their advantages and disadvantages since we seem to share similar tastes in music. I really look forward to your reply.
My view depends more on what you prefer rather than an absolute opinion that one of the two preamplifiers is better than the other. I found both the Rogue RP-5 and the Hegel P20 to be excellent preamplifiers. Both of them are quite musical. Both of them exhibit the typical sound subtleties associated with their circuit designs. Both of them feel well made and come from companies with very good reputations. Yet there are subtle differences.
The Rogue RP-5 is a great way to bring the subtle nuances of tubes into your system if that’s what you are looking to do. As I indicated in the review, the tube-type sound was more modest than my previous reference, the Audio Research LS15, but still there. Mostly, the Rogue gave a bit of warmth to my system’s sound, but that aspect of its performance was neither overwhelming nor detrimental to the overall presentation.
The Hegel P20 should pair well with your Hegel amplifier and provide the continuity of the “house sound” that you are already familiar with. If your musical taste leans towards electronic, you will be rewarded by the P20’s high neutrality, precision, and accuracy. You definitely won’t hear a tube-type sound from it.
I don’t believe that it would be fair to suggest that there would be a disadvantage in selecting either option here. To me, it is more about the subtle differences in the sound and which you might prefer. So definitely listen to both if you can arrange it.
If listening is not an option, and making the assumption that your proclivities in sound and tastes in music are similar to mine, as you mentioned, I would lean towards the Hegel for your system, simply because you already own the H20 amp. . . . Erich Wetzel
To Jeff Fritz,
Your review of the Soulution 711 amplifier was a great read. As fate would have it, I have an opportunity to audition the Soulution 711 and 725 preamp in the coming weeks and it will be with Raidho and Gauder Akustik speakers. I feel I'm answering my own question, but I am wondering what your thoughts would be on pairing the Soulution combo with Magico S7s! And, I know how you feel about the Soulution with the genre of music in your review, but how do feel about the 711 shaking the walls with some rock’n’roll?
Look forward to your thoughts, and thanks for all the great reads!
Magico and Soulution have an especially good synergy. I can’t imagine why an S7/711/725-based system would not perform to an incredibly high level, perhaps even state of the art. The particular system you describe, assuming I could afford it, would definitely be something I would shoot for. I also believe the Magico S7, as driven by the Soulution 711/725 combination, could easily do rock music justice -- or any music for that matter. I have the 711 powering Magico Q7 Mk II speakers currently and this system has simply no practical limitations. The 711 is a true powerhouse, and the Magicos can take the power and will respond in kind with high output levels.
So, my opinion is to tell you to go for it. Although I’ve seen some crazy things in this hobby, I can’t conceive of a scenario where you would be disappointed. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I just read your Soulution 711 review, and while the review contents were superbly done, I have to comment on the fact that the photographs were amazing.
Bravo -- great job as always.
Thank you for the kind words. As much as I'd like to take responsibility for the photos, though, these were supplied by Soulution. I agree they are excellent. You would be surprised at how many companies do not have proper photos of their products. It happens all the time. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I trailed ’round the same sets of speakers [“Sampling High End 2015’s Best Loudspeakers”]: Tidal, Marten, [Magico] S7 [and] Q7 Mk II, etc., and wrote notes saying almost exactly the same as yours (as copied to the Magico site)!
Great ears hear alike . . .
I use S5, would like S7, but suspect that in the UK they will be too costly and too heavy to move around. Still, when do you get to review them?
Thanks so much for the note. I’m a big fan of yours. I think your early Krell reviews were what hooked me on becoming an audio writer. They were masterful.
I have Q7 Mk IIs in now for review. Super fun to say the least! So no S7s . . .
Thanks for your letter. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I just finished reading your latest editorial. As the movie says, you have to “stop making sense.” This is audio, no one is allowed to think for themselves. If we allow that, people may start enjoying things and the great DBT debate may go away and some people will have nothing to complain about. The fact that you actually felt the need to write it says a lot about some of the people in this hobby. I thankfully see them as the vocal minority, and hope they stay that way.
Don’t know if you are planning on covering Capital Audiofest, but if you are there, I’ll buy you a beer and we can argue about some minor part of my system and then we can both feel better about ourselves as audiophiles.
To Jeff Fritz,
In your SoundStage! column ["Buy What You Want"] you’ve seriously misconstrued what I said in Munich.
First of all I regularly stream music on Tidal. I listen to music on SiriusXM on my car’s Bose system. I have 4000+ digital files on my Sooloos system. I travel around the world listening to music on my iPhone using Westone custom in-ear headphones.
So why or how would I say that the only way I can listen to music is on vinyl?
If your aim was to paint me as a cartoon version of an audio enthusiast, well mission accomplished, at least for gullible SoundStage! readers.
If you wish to set the record straight in print, you’ll amend what you wrote to reflect what I actually said, which was that when I sit down to listen to music to the exclusion of all else at home, on my big system, lights out, only vinyl keeps my full attention and for hours at a time.
When I sit down to listen to digital, whether Tidal, CD resolution or high-resolution files, I’m good for only about ten minutes before I feel compelled to switch to vinyl.
Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile
In my column, I wrote: “He can’t enjoy digital recordings; it takes analog sound to relax him and get him into the music.”
You just stated: “When I sit down to listen to digital, whether Tidal, CD resolution or high-resolution files, I’m good for only about ten minutes before I feel compelled to switch to vinyl.”
I guess your point is a little too nuanced for me. But at least you’ve “set the record straight.” . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
It looks like Rockport [Technologies] and Magico both decided to make $60k/pr. speakers of similar sensitivities, using proprietary drivers of similar sizes and multiple 10" woofers in curved cabinets of similar sizes. Both are a step down from their statement products, but still heroically built! Hmm. Seems like a perfect opportunity to compare and contrast these two speakers from two companies that are very well respected but have very different followings/philosophies. I know I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. The [Rockport Technologies] Cygnus in particular is a speaker I would certainly consider moving up to, but I’m curious if the extra nearly $30k wouldn’t be better spent on an Avior and a pair of really great subs.
It seems the real action these days in superspeakers is in the $50,000-$60,000/pr. price range. I think it is within even a wealthy audiophile's reasonable expectations that they should be able to purchase a state-of-the-art-like loudspeaker for that considerable sum. Do we really need to accept compromises in our loudspeakers when we can spend Mercedes money?
I know you are referring to Rockport's new Cygnus ($62,500/pr.) and Magico's new S7 ($58,000/pr.). Suffice to say that both of these speakers would be on my shortlist if I were spending that kind of dough. If my budget permitted, I would most certainly move up to the best speaker I could buy instead of going the sub route. There might be exceptions depending on my room, of course. But generally, I believe in getting the best speaker you can afford to anchor your system and then building around that. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
As a frequent reader, I appreciate your ability to question audio myths and your openness to new approaches in design concepts. I have bought the Devialet Phantoms without any listening before. However, I had a most convincing listening session with a Devialet D-Premier and Magico speakers three years ago. The consistent Devialet reviews and the most consequential decision of Devialet to marry the amp technology with the speaker crossover technology on one hand, and a point-source design on the other hand, look most convincing to me. And the listening results with the Phantoms are overwhelming and confirm my expectations. I am looking forward to reading your review of the Phantoms.
Concerning your remarks about the [GoldenEar Technology] Triton One speakers I think you focus too much on a flat frequency curve. More important is to have a phase-coherent behavior, especially in the crossover region, and to have a strong impulse response. Wadia proved with their DAC design the superiority of a phase-focused approach versus a flat frequency curve approach decades ago. Our ears are most sensitive to phase errors and can tolerate and compensate for frequency errors much better due to the pattern-recognition perception based on the experiences of our brain.
Congrats on the Phantom purchase! I suspect that you will really be satisfied with them sound-wise, and equally enjoy their form factor in your room. Please do keep in touch and let me know what you think when you get them.
Your point on phase-coherent behavior reminds me of something Andy Payor of Rockport Technologies showed me years ago. He would reverse the phase of the midrange in one of his speakers under measurement and examine the resulting frequency response. The result was a deep null at the crossover region on the order of 40dB. What this meant was that, when the leads to the drivers were corrected -- and flat frequency response at the crossover region resulted -- was that the phase behavior of the loudspeaker at that crossover region was optimally achieved. While a speaker designer could achieve good phase behavior without optimizing frequency response, the best designers ensure that both are addressed. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I am presently in the market for new speakers and an amp. I have decided to go with a Pass Labs amp, but deciding on a speaker is proving difficult and time consuming. I have read most of the rave reviews of the GoldenEar Technology Triton One speakers, and for some reason the phrase “If it sounds too good to be true, then it is too good to be true” comes to mind. The reviews focus on the bass, and while applauding the mids and highs, give them short shrift. I have doubts about their appearance (yes, I’ve seen them) and whether I would want them in my listening room. Fit and finish are important.
It has been my experience that some highly rated, full-range budget equipment just doesn’t satisfy over the long term. It has also been my experience that manufacturers such as Oppo and Benchmark offer high-value, low-cost equipment. How do you separate the two?
I am seriously considering the Legacy Focus SE (perhaps the next model down) or the Zu Audio Definition Mk.IV speakers, both of which cost (at least) double the Triton One. I am not looking forward to moving these into the house for auditions, but . . .
Regarding your first point, I believe you have answered your own question. I am reminded of the plight of the in-wall speaker. That type of product is perfect for those who want unobtrusive, even "invisible" speakers, but will never satisfy -- no matter how good they sound -- the hardcore audiophile who loves the pride of ownership that comes with a very nice cabinet and high-tech drivers. The latter is the type of investment that makes a statement -- both sonically and visually -- in the listening room. If you value appearance and fit and finish as you say, then a fancier-looking speaker is what you should get. This hobby is, after all, about enjoyment, not merely prudence.
As for how to separate the really good high-value products from those that are truly too good to be true, here is my advice: you have to experience the products for yourself, firsthand, to see what type of fit they are with your likes and dislikes. I know tons of folks who just love their Oppo players and think the build quality is outstanding, but then again, compare an Oppo with a player from Esoteric and the differences will be readily apparent. Ultimately it comes down to your own tastes and budget. . . . Jeff Fritz
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