I just read your comments ("Ayre
Acoustics and Boulder Amplifiers: (Mere) Miles Apart")
written on the 1st of November 2009 (sorry to be so late), but found it
quite interesting. Do you happen to know by any chance if the Boulder
2060 uses a ring-core or a "standard" transformer in their design?
Thanks and keep up the great notes. It helps us novices a lot.
Boulder 2060 uses two
2500VA toroidal transformers that are suspended on cork and potted
inside a stainless-steel case. The case is then bolted down to the
chassis. You can just see it at the bottom of the 2060 photo in the
article. It is all very impressive from a construction standpoint, and I
can tell you that the amplifier runs dead quiet in operation. There is
absolutely zero hum. . . . Jeff Fritz
". . . agreed on the Simaudio
June 11, 2010
It will be interesting to see
how this 32-bit DAC technology finds its way into their Andromeda CD
Similarly, it'll be interesting
to see how their new proprietary ďMoon bipolar transistors,Ē now used in
the 700i and 600i integrated amps, find their way into the W8, W7M and
We current have a review
underway of the 600i -- and I expect some discussion of those new output
devices. Time does move on, and I do imagine that over time weíll see
the Simaudio line evolve based on these new parts. Weíll do our best to
keep you informed. . . . Jeff Fritz
ARC versus Bel Canto
June 8, 2010
I would really appreciate it if
you could give me an opinion about how an Audio Research CD7 and the Bel
Canto CD2/DAC3VB/VBS1 combo would compare. My system consists of:
Bel Canto CD2 and
DAC3 Audio Research LS26 Audio Research Reference 110 MartinLogan Spire
As I cannot listen to an
upgraded DAC3VB, I do not know if the upgrade will be worthwhile. Also,
I have a chance to buy an upgraded CD7. I listen mostly to jazz, light
rock and classical music.
Thanks, Yin Cheng
This is another one of those
win-win situations, since both purchases are good ones, but there is an
important point to make: The Bel Canto rig provides multiple digital
inputs that can be used for other external sources such as a
computer-based server to play hi-rez audio, but
the Audio Research CD7 does not have a digital input. If thatís not a
consideration, the choice will come down to one excellent source versus
another. If a digital input makes sense for you now or in the near
future, then that would sway my recommendation to the Bel Canto for
obvious reasons. . . . Jeff Fritz
Absolute nonsense, indeed!
June 3, 2010
To Jeff Fritz,
Gee, Jeff, it was swell of you to
comment on my blog. I was particularly impressed by the expert way you
took so many of the things I said out of context. On your third point,
for instance, you quoted some of what I said but not all.
You had me writing: "Sonically, the
TBP Zero v2 is surely a work of genius, and so is the TBC Zero preamp.
Their creator, Naoto Kurosawa, is a genuine master. Now if he can only
bring his great talent to bear on the problem of reliability with U.S.
current -- and then if someone over here can find the guts and taste to
take on the Technical Brain line -- then we very well may have a new
reference standard in electronics."
Now, what I actually wrote
was: "Sonically, the TBP Zero v2 is surely a work of genius, and so is
the TBC Zero preamp. Their creator, Naoto Kurosawa, is a genuine master.
Now if he can only bring his great talent to bear on the problem of
reliability with U.S. current -- and then if someone over here can find
the guts and taste to take on the Technical Brain line -- then we very
well may have a new reference standard in electronics -- at least for a
good number of 'fidelity to mastertapes' and 'absolute sound' fans.
However, these are both big hurdles, and until they are completely
overcome, Iíll think of the Technical Brain amp and preamp as
tantalizing but ultimately frustrating dreams of what is possible in
high fidelity but has not yet fully come to pass."
Do you see any difference between
the two versions? Apparently not.
I wrote a blog about
fabulous-sounding pieces of gear that, admittedly, have had
protection-circuit problems. (BTW, did you know that the TBP Zero v2s
aren't the first high-powered high-end amps that have had problems?
Maybe not, huh?) I wrote my opinion in my blog (not in The Abso!ute Sound
magazine) and I was completely upfront about my reservations; indeed, I
started off with these words: "I've been putting off writing about these
products for two reasons, neither of which has to do with the incredible
sound they are capable of delivering when fully functional. First, at
the moment Japanese-made Technical Brain is not distributed in the
This may change -- I'll certainly let you know if it does. Second, I've
had a succession of problems with Technical Brain's electronics; indeed,
almost everyone who has used the monoblocks (at least here in the
States) has had one or both of them fail on him at some point (Alon
Wolf, who showed with them at CES 2010, is an exception). The trouble
appears to be that spiky U.S.
current tends to trigger the amp's (intentionally) rudimentary
protection circuit, which instead of shutting down breaks down,
blowing a resistor, rather in the same way an ARC 610T blows a resistor
when a tube goes south. Unfortunately, minus U.S.
distribution and support, the blown part means the amp has to go back to
for inspection and repair -- or its author Naoto Kurosawa has to come to
the States to fix it. Unless and until this little problem is rectified,
I cannot in good conscience recommend the Technical Brain monoblock amps
[in spite of their superlative sound]."
I was also upfront about the kinds
of listeners the TBP Zero v2 would appeal to: "Now some of you may have
reservations about the overall balance of the Technical Brain gear,
which is pleasantly sunny but fundamentally neutral in timbre. I love
its presentation because to me it consistently sounds like an
uneditorialized version of the real thing. This said, the 'sounds good
to me' and perhaps even some of the 'absolute sound' contingent may feel
it leans a bit too much toward the lean or austere side. There are
certainly richer, more beautiful-sounding amplifiers to be found (the
Soulution and BAlabo high among them), and amplifiers with more bloom
(the ARC 610T, par excellence, although the Technical Brain actually
sounds more like ARC in overall balance -- minus the ARC tube ampís
juicy layer of fat on the bottom and plush layer of velvet on top --
than any other solid-state amp Iíve auditioned). But when it comes to
resolution and dynamic contrasts . . . well, I just havenít heard one
that equals Technical Brain."
might have been nice to audition these amps before dismissing them
(which you could have easily done at CES 2010), but then listening
before passing judgment obviously isn't part of your agenda -- which is
more than a bit surprising coming from the editor-in-chief at [the]
SoundStage! Network. You say: "I have no interest in hearing [Naoto
Kurosawa's] products, or writing about them, until I can say with
certainty that they are a safe bet for the consumer." Admirable,
absolutely admirable! Pat yourself on the back for that one, as I'm sure
you did! It's great that we have upstanding people like you around,
However, just out of curiosity, how in the world were you planning to
find out about the TBP Zero v2's reliability without trying it out?
Well, I guess you could read a guy like me, but then -- alas -- you have
to put up with the fact that I actually auditioned these amps and wrote
about what I heard, which is a no-no in your book. Catch-22, eh what?
BTW, putting aside the outrageous fact that I listened to these amps
before commenting on them and their problems, how is what you said
substantially different from what I said? Didn't I write that, in spite
of their sonic excellence, I could not and would not and will not
recommend them until they are 100% reliable -- and find U.S.
distribution? Was that not looking out for consumers? Or maybe you
missed that part.
FYI, these pieces of junk won
multiple Grand Prix awards from Stereo Sound
magazine in Japan.
Indeed Technical Brain has, I believe, won more top honors than any
other small Japanese solid-state manufacturer. The amps I blogged about
were the same junk that Alon Wolf of Magico -- a guy who could have
chosen any amps in the world to show with -- paired with his Magico M5s
at the M5s' introduction at this year's CES. It is the same piece of
junk that Robert Harley thought was so remarkably innovative when he
examined its gain stage several years ago at CES.
is covering up the TBP's problematic past, least of all me. Outside of
it has had a problem with its protection circuit, which, when triggered
by a voltage spike (on start-up or shut-down), tends to break, making it
impossible to turn the amp on. That problem, BTW, at least in the v2
version Iíve listened to, has never caused a failure in the amp's gain
stage or power supply, or any damage to speakers. I freely grant that it
is no fun to use an amp that you're not sure will power up. Even though
this problem may have been solved recently by the addition of a
surge-suppressor to the protection circuit (I haven't had a failure with
the amp since its installation), I'm still not yet sure it is fixed, and
out of an abundance of caution I've not recommended the amps -- and
won't until I am certain they work all the time, every time, and until
Technical Brain finds U.S. importation. Until then, the products will
remain -- as I said in my blog -- tantalizing fantasies rather than
Indeed, it was because they
aren't yet real-world options that I blogged about them rather than
writing about them in the magazine. What you seem to be saying, if I
read you right, is that I shouldn't have blogged about them at all
(hell, I shouldnít have even thought about them, I guess), that the fact
that they sound fantastic and that many other folks who have heard them
also think they sound fantastic shouldn't matter to me or to anyone with
the consumerís best interest at heart, that the only thing that matters
is that their protection circuit has been unreliable. Well, I got news
for you, buddy: When you're in charge of The
Abso!ute Sound website, then you can order
me to blog about whatever "junk" you yourself prefer (Iím sure itís
swell, even if you haven't heard it); until then, this is a free world
and I will blog about whatever I want to blog about.
After this, I will have nothing
more to say about your marvelous editorial. Unless, of course, you donít
print this letter word for word, in which case I will.
Yours truly, Jonathan Valin Executive Editor, The
Thanks for the note, Jonathan. Just
a few points. First, you state, ". . . how in the world were you
planning to find out about the TBP Zero v2's reliability without trying
it out?" I'm glad you asked. This is precisely the reason that real
sales channels and distributorship should be required before a product
is reviewed. I would assume that you're not implying that just because
the amps work for a while in a reviewer's system that they can be
declared reliable and ready for sale. Are you an engineer? If, on the
other hand, a product is demonstrated by multiple dealers across the
geographic area that it is sold, then some track record of reliability
can be established over time. It is that track record and professional
support that gives the consumer confidence in buying the product. This
helps to establish the legitimacy of the product and should also give a
review publication confidence that they are writing about something
that, if it performs well, can be safely recommended to a consumer. A
solid history of Internet-direct sales can accomplish the same thing. In
the case of Technical Brain, there is neither. You are putting the cart
before the horse. Perhaps that was your intention all along.
You state: ". . . you have to put
up with the fact that I actually auditioned these amps and wrote about
what I heard, which is a no-no in your book." Yes, you reviewed the
product. I have written about hundreds of products that I've "actually
auditioned" over a period of 12 years with the SoundStage! Network. I'd
be happy to send you some links. Some of it is pretty good reading!
state: ". . . but then listening before passing judgment obviously isn't
part of your agenda -- which is more than a bit surprising coming from
the editor-in-chief at SoundStage! Network." I did hear the amps at the
2010 CES (with the Magico Q5, not M5. The Q5 has the fancy aluminum
cabinet. See our show report.).
I do not dispute that they might sound great. I did not comment on their
sound in my Ultra Audio "Opinion"
because I have never had them in my room. And I will not do so at this
time given the reasons I outlined in my article. That doesnít mean that
they donít sound great. (But an "order of magnitude" better than
anything else, really?)
Lastly, and whether you
want to acknowledge it or not, your over-the-top praise of the Technical
Brain amplifiers does constitute an endorsement from a professional
reviewer that is strong enough to perhaps convince some audiophiles to
take a chance on them. I would not want that buying decision on my
conscience. Have you have read the accounts of some users and the
claimed ex-U.S. distributor right on The Abso!ute Sound website?
(Or is it your personal blog site?) If these people were burned for
tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars as they say, then
certainly you see how this damages the High End. Since you are promoting
these products through your writings, do you have any obligation to look
into this, since the claims were made on your blog?
Ultimately you are of course free
to write about whatever you choose -- you're absolutely right about that
-- and I wouldnít have it any other way. . . . Jeff Fritz
June 1, 2010
To Jeff Fritz,
Your Technical Brain article
is spot on. Thanks for a concise critique of J. Valinís astonishingly
weird blog about the Technical Brain amps. I had to read it twice
because I couldnít believe he could state that the TB amps are
essentially boat anchors and yet make those extravagant performance
claims. If you want even more of this story, check out the letters on
website from the guy who had the ďguts and tasteĒ (to use Valinís
phrase) to try to import the TB stuff into the US.
As you say, itís shameful that unobtainable -- as well
as inoperable -- gear garners such raves from a reviewer while more
deserving equipment is largely ignored.