HiFi & Stereo System News
Here are some comments from Saturday eve;
Listening to the Fidelity Acoustic Speakers with the Edge Integrated amplifier, via the Moon CD player: …from a male customer (who already has a partially updated high end audio system) “I’ve never heard anything like this before ever! …I think I’m in heaven”
Listening to the Totem Wind’s, via the Edge Integrated and Moon CD player: …comment from a woman… “OMG I can’t believe it! It sounds like they are playing right in front of us”
Listening to the PSB Synchrony One via the Edge separates and Sony ES Flagship CD Player: from a female guest… “I think I had an out of body experience listening to his voice” “actual comment altered for PC/PG rating”
Listening to the PSB T6 Speakers on the Hegel Integrated & DAC (Direct digital music files from our Network hard drive): …comment from a young couple… “wow this is totally awesome”
Listening to the Totem Mites (tiny bookshelf speakers) with all NAD electronics: …from a male guest… “where’s the sub? It’s got to be hidden here somewhere…I can’t believe your don’t have a subwoofer going, these speakers are amazing!?!”
Listening to the same system as above, Mites & NAD, this time from another female guest: “I don’t think I have ever heard such beautiful sound before, it just fills the room!
Once again, thanks to everyone who attended our show, and for all the heart felt comments!
We have the honor of hosting international artists works, from paintings and sculptures to functional “audio art”, which will be on display here for the duration of our show July 9th – August 27th.
And of course, we have works of real audio art, “high-end audio” from Totem, Edge, Hegel, Moon, Fidelity Acoustics, Luxman, and more, also graciously on lone for our event. Come soon, and enjoy some of the finest, most musical equipment, artistically designed by the industries very best artisans!
This awesome state of the art offering from Totem, is there Flag Ship “Wind”, in special gloss ‘Fire” finish!
Audio Zen it seems is a lesser known state, and surprisingly elusive. However, I firmly believe it is the true goal worth striving for when building a system for the pleasure of music!
Robert Reina’s May 2011 Stereophile review of our Totem Dreamcatcher speaker is a good example of Audio Zen, achieved. I’ve gleaned this from an occasional article at different times over the years, but ironically, the very authors themselves seldom comment on it? For example, in Robert’s review, he states that he enters into a state of utter musical delight every time he connects the Dreamcatchers to his system, then drops out again when swapping back to his old speakers. And though he admits knowing that the Dreamcatchers are not doing everything as accurately or as well, as his old “reference speakers” (four times the price), he admits that he doesn’t care because he can’t believe how much he “really gets into” his music with the Dreamcatchers. Obviously, his system mated with the these Dreamcatchers, (happens to comprise an ideal combination). Allowing him to achieve this rare plateau of complete and utter musical satisfaction, or, Audio Zen!
Now, in the current (July issue) of Stereophile Stephen Mejias writes what he thinks about two, (or actually three when counting his Klipsch Syn-B20), more components we feature here at the Sweet Spot, the Jolida FX10 and NAD C316BEE. The first thing I would like to point out, is how he compares the two integrated’s to each other making good points about the differences in sound. If you read his entire review, it becomes obvious that though he finds the Jolida “huggable and adorable” he feels the sound of the NAD is more detailed, accurate, and therefore better. This is where I have to disagree. Additionally, it should be noted these amplifiers take care of business very differently, as one is “tube”, and the other “transistor”, so the fact of the matter is, that they are absolutely going to sound “very differently”. Just as the sound of vinyl is “very different” from CD, and though CD is known to have more accurate attributes, rarely will you find anyone claiming it is “better” when comparing the two!
Stephen begins with his description of the Jolida, pointing out several things I’ve found to be true of many tube amplifiers. For example, he’s quick to realize that though the Jolida is rated at only 10 watts per channel, it seems like much more power. Then, when mated to a horn loaded speaker (typically very efficient) like his Klipsch, “in his words” it flat out ROCKS! He also marvels at how well the Jolida defines the various musicians in space, within a very large, yet well focused sound stage. He further notices how well brass instruments bloom effortlessly and cymbals sizzle gently into darkness. He notices that the Jolida out performs not only the NAD in these characteristics, but two other similarly priced competitors, a Cambridge Audio 340A & Exposure 2010. He concludes that the overall sonic characteristics make the Jolida’s presentation very life like, which he compares quite favorably to his experience of a live performance the night before.
Unfortunately, he goes on to point out several attributes common to solid state amplifiers, and how the NAD does these better than the Jolida. He even compares this particular NAD C316BEE to the coveted classic NAD 3020, commenting on how this amplifier may be everything it was, albeit, without quite as much power, and of course, without the cult AMP-GOD status the classic 3020 has earned over time.
I do agree however with his overall assessment of both amplifiers. However, what I disagree with is his claim that the NAD is “better”. He does mention that an idea popped into his head when consider what speaker would make the perfect match for the Jolida, and that is the Klipsch. I too had originally mated the Jolida to the PSB ALPHA B1’s as it made for the “King of bang for the buck systems”($729.00). But remembered the old audiophile fact that “horns excel with tubes” so quickly switch to Klipsch speakers. This took it from a system that sounded really good to “life like” by simply swapping out the PSB’s for Klipsch! In fact, I’ve since mated it to their largest “bookshelf” speaker, the RB8i which has “8 inch woofers.” This further takes you from a nice seat at the back of the hall (Stephen Mejias test Klipsch system) to Front Row Center (ours)! For me, this is a perfect example of Audio Zen! I’ll take front row center live any day of the week!
In summery. Be careful with what reviewers conclude, as what is actually better for them, may not be what’s better for you! If you are say, a classical listener, or perhaps musician, you may decide that hearing a greater amount of low level detail allows you a window into what the musicians are doing, and maybe that’s the sound for you. But if it’s a “you are there” live performance type sound that you’re looking for, than I’d have to go with the Jolida tube amplifier! Personally, the sort of “in the control room-studio sound” of many small solid state type amps has never been quite as attractive to me. But that’s the beauty of choices. Today more than ever before, manufacturers like NAD, Jolida, PSB and Klipsch, are making some just amazingly musical components that are really great in their own right, and seriously affordable! What more can you ask for? Cheers!
Right now we are auditioning a pile of cool new stuff from a number of internationally known brands. DAC’s, Interconnects, Amps, etc. Stop in soon and often so you don’t miss your opportunity to audition something you may otherwise have to go to Los Angeles or Europe to hear!?!
We also welcome our latest addition of the absolutely most flexible, and best made line of Audio Video Furniture, actually MADE IN U.S.A., from a company called “Salamander Designs” We’ve put three of their furniture models on display for your convenience!
Some of the brands we’re currently auditioning are Fidelity Acoustics of Vancouver Canada,
Moon from Montreal Canada, Hegel audio of Norway, and Nordost which sounds Norwegian, but actually hales out of the Far East – Massachusetts New England!
It’s hard to believe just how good some of this stuff is. Even the technology that goes into making the “wires” can, and from what we’ve heard DOES make a huge difference in how well the system can sound. When you pop off the stock wires and put on these the classical music I was listening to sounded as if it went from a Quartet, to a full blown Symphony!?! It’s just amazing what these little old wires can do!!! You have to try this. Heck, I’m so sure you’ll have the same experience that I’ll lend them to you to try it out.
But first, a quick look at recent history…
Having won The Absolute Sounds coveted Golden Ear award for 2010, and Editor’s Choice award for 2011, and with several more outstanding reviews to its honor, I thought I should give it an audition. I, quite possibly like you, hadn’t really been paying attention to the fact that “Teac actually has a Reference Line”. In fact, the Teac I knew from the 70’s was just a single line of high quality gear, who’s forte was tape recorders. If you wanted a best of the best Reel to Reel or Cassette deck, you needed look no further than “TEAC”. In fact, even those in the Professional Recording Industry depended on Teac’s fine line of tape machines, and other pro quality audio components. But as several factors in the 80’s & 90’s combined, to lighten our economic prowess, many of the higher end companies from Japan left the dwindling U.S. market, and some reduced their offerings to only their low end, “affordable” gear. And of course, many of us learned that what “affordable” meant was “cheap” and “disposable.” Not to mention poorer sounding. But thankfully, a handful of these grand old Japanese companies have since returned with some of their higher end offerings. Such is the case with TEAC REFERENCE. So please DO NOT confuse this with Teac’s regular line, which shares the cosmetic’s ONLY! There are Big differences here. For instance, their regular line includes several mini systems, CD Receivers, and even speakers, and they’re clearly as good as anyone else in that arena. However, in their Reference Series, they have just these two pieces, and the parts, build, and sound quality differences are substantial! So it goes without saying the Reference Line is neither cheap, or disposable.
And now onto the review:
The two units that comprise the Teac’s Reference 600 series are available separately, but form a system together that makes a lot of sense physically, functionally, and sonically. Plus, you get a ton of features for your money! A more than competent 75W per channel integrated amplifier, wired and wireless network connections for internet and podcasts, AM/FM and, an onboard Internet Tuner, a quality phono stage, and high integrity DAC’s for direct input of music files via memory card or USB ports. That’s a lot of a bang for the buck! Furthermore, I have not found a better performing CD player or Integrated Amplifier near either’s price, even those stripped down types that don’t include ANY of the extra features! So as a system, it’s quite formidable, and quite frankly, a true Audiophile Bargain, by any standard!
I must further comment on the obvious build quality. Both the CD Player’s & Amplifiers chassis are made from thick, heavy, rigid brushed aluminum. They look and feel as they are built to last. Smart features and styling is exemplary. Further, as I have gleaned from other reviewers (What Hi-Fi & The Absolute Sound, etc) I more than suspect there is a good bit of trickle down technology from their ultra high end division Esoteric. I more than suspect Esoteric technology present in the CD player, as it performs way better than any I’ve tested near its price! The fact that it shares the same “mini-style” chassis as the matching amplifier belies the fact that it performs like NO COMPACT component at all, and I would put it against ANY high end offering from the high end community at large.
As a system, the TEAC Reference sounds as good as any full size component in their price range, delivering on the true high-end experience one expects when visiting a specialty audio store. Serious deep, detailed sound stage, with excellent extension and weight. With expressive music like Jazz, drum kicks are deep and taut, string plucks are fast and detailed, bass is forceful and cymbals sparkle. With classical, which as the experienced listener knows, can be very difficult for modest systems to lend true justice too (typically you have 130 instruments all playing at once!?!), the Teac Ref. does quite well, fooling you into thinking you are listening to a larger system with a more robust amplifiers. Overall excellent tonal and rhythmic cohesion extending deep into the lower regions and high in to the upper ones. And unlike most mini’s, the Teac Amplifier will actually run floor standers with surprising authority and control.
In all honestly, I believe TEAC may have done themselves a disservice by making the Reference gear of Mini Stature, as its performance is anything but. So I must conclude that the TEAC Reference is simply more of a stunningly smart stealth design, with virtually all of today’s most desired features, in a sophisticatedly smart and powerful package. I highly recommend it with most any speaker system, large or small.
[/caption]Excerpts from three reviews/comments for some of our very musical Marantz Stereo components
>(My comments are bold and italicized)
New Products from Marantz
By Stereophile’s Stephen Mejias • Posted: Jul 22, 2010
Marantz has introduced four new, relatively affordable products: two integrated amplifiers and two disc players. All carry on the sleek, attractive design of the company’s reference components, featuring the classic Marantz star logo (cool), sculpted faceplates, and solid-looking build.
I’m most interested in the cheap stuff (me too).
The CD5004 CD player uses a Cirrus Logic CS4392 D/A converter capable of handling high-resolution 24-bit/196kHz PCM signals. But the player can also read CD-R and CD-RW discs with MP3 and WMA files. Interestingly, there’s also a front panel headphone jack and pitch control, perfect if you’re a musician and want to play along to your favorite tracks. In addition, the remote has a “Quick Replay” feature, which allows you to back up anywhere from 5 to 60 seconds to replay portions of songs. Other nice touches abound, such as the gold-plated output terminals, widely spaced for heavy gauge cables (Marantz is one of those companies from which you benefit as they will oftentimes use “technology” from their Pro or Reference Line, which of course is much higher integrity than you normally find at these entry level price points…).
The PM5004 integrated amplifier replaces the PM5003, recently reviewed by Bob Reina (also included below). It offers 35Wpc (but behaves like a lot more power) and has five line-level inputs, two Record Out jacks, and, most important, a moving-magnet phono stage (Thank god!)
For those who need SACD playback, Marantz offers the SA8004, the latest incarnation of the SA8001 which so impressed Jim Austin (and me too – very high end performance… suspiciously close to the Reference SA-15S2 $1999.00). The price remains $999. And for those who want more power, more options, and beefier construction in their amplifiers, Marantz offers the PM8004, also at $999 (of which I owned its predicessor, the PM8003, as it was the most musical amp available at or near its price then).
But let’s get back to the cheap stuff. The CD5004 costs $349. The PM5004, with phono stage(!), costs $449. Add a high-quality, affordable pair of bookshelf speakers, like the PSB Alpha B1 ($279/pair), (Definitely! See my March 30 blog review) speaker stands, and some cheap cables from (or “me” – we have em’ too) RadioShack or MonoPrice.com, and you’ve got an almost complete system—you’ll still need a turntable, of course—for just over $1000. Or, if you’re like me, and vinyl is more important to you, you can play your CDs with a Sony Playstation 1, and spend that $300 you just saved on a good turntable, like the Rega P1 (or matching “HELLO!?!” – “MARANTZ”..of course, that is just now coming out…hee-hee). You can upgrade the cables later. Remember: Marantz is doing a great thing by including that phono input with their PM5004, so you won’t need an additional phono stage. You’ll be all set to start spinning vinyl. The money saved can be spent at your favorite record shop (like Divinyl Revolution in Saratoga).
Marantz PM5003 integrated amplifier
By Robert J. Reina • Posted: Jan 27, 2010
We crotchety middle-aged (is 51 middle aged? – I sure hope so!!!) (and older) audiophiles frequently sit around and whine about the apparently rising median age of enthusiasts of two-channel audio. “We need to do something to attract the youts to our cause!” one of us will say. (Youts? See Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny.)
Well, that’s not giving the younger generation enough credit. There is a growing number of young audiophiles, many of them hooked on vinyl. In fact, one of them commissioned this review. When Stereophile’s own Stephen Mejias found out that Marantz was producing an attractive integrated amplifier with phono stage for only $449.99, he immediately lassoed John Atkinson to request one for review. Shortly thereafter, a sample of the Marantz PM5003 arrived on my doorstep.
How young is Stephen? Well, let’s just say that when Mikey Fremer was his age, Stephen hadn’t been born.
What do you get for $450?
A hell of a lot. (not to be repetitious but, A HELL OF A LOT!!!) but The Marantz PM5003, which puts out 40Wpc into 8 ohms (or 55Wpc into 4 ohms), doesn’t look like something that costs under $1000, let alone under $500. It’s rugged and hefty, and its elegant looks remind me of a cross between Audio Research gear and the most expensive Creek electronics. The PM5003 was designed in Japan and is made in China (as are most Marantz products (ACTUALLY NOT MOST, BUT WHO’S COUNTING?), and includes technology trickled down from two of Marantz’s flagship models: the SC-7S2 preamplifier ($8000) and the MA-9S2 monoblock amplifier ($16,000/pair) (Now who’s repeating themselves?)
The PM5003 (and PM5004) and its moving-magnet phono stage feature current-feedback circuits intended to exhibit faster rise and fall times and higher slew rates than voltage-feedback designs. According to Marantz, a current-feedback amplifier is better able to track music’s rapid changes, and should (does) sound more natural. The PM5003 is constructed with discrete components, (not just discrete outputs, now a popular buzz feature) and includes input buffet circuitry to optimize the signal/noise ratio and channel separation (old audiophile trick – less noise = more music).
The PM5003 is awash with features: five line-level inputs, two record outputs, two pairs of transparent screw-type speaker terminals, a balance control, and a headphone amplifier. There are also controls for treble, bass, and loudness—and, for audio purists, a Source Direct switch to bypass them, just as in my old Audio Research SP11 preamp. Those interested in custom installations will find triple command-code sets as well as an IR flasher input (our Custom tech’s loves it!). All of the preamp section’s functions are accessible via the rugged and well-laid-out remote control, which also controls Marantz’s CD and DVD players, tuner, and tape deck.
But how does it sound?
Quite remarkable, actually. (ditto)
The first phase of my listening involved only CDs, to test the line-stage and power-amp sections. The Marantz PM5003’s transparent, uncolored midrange made it a pleasure to listen to well-recorded classical woodwinds, such as Anthony Michaelson’s clarinet on his recording. of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, with Robert Bailey leading the Michaelangelo Chamber Orchestra (CD, Musical Fidelity MF 018). Throughout all three movements, Michaelson’s instrument was woody, airy, and vibrant. Jazz piano also shone through the PM5003—the rich, warm, sonorous midrange of Marilyn Crispell’s instrument floated naturally into my listening room on her rather minimalist phrasing in the title track of her Amaryllis (CD, ECM 1742).
Normally, I wouldn’t expect to hear extended, natural highs from such an inexpensive component, but Tiger Okoshi’s revealing trumpet on “On Green Dolphin Street,” from his Two Sides to Every Story (CD, JVC JVCXR-0004-2), was rendered without bite, harshness, or any top-octave rolloff. The burnished metallic bite of his horn sounded dynamic and as involving as I’ve heard through far more costly gear. Solo violin is the acid test of high-frequency realism, and Mariko Senju’s performance of Paganini’s 24 Caprices for Solo Violin (CD, JVC JVCC-6504-2) was searing yet pristine, with no trace of discordant electronic artifacts. Throughout John Zorn’s “Orphee,” from his Mysterium (CD, Tzadik TZ8018), percussionist David Shimminer plays a variety of closely miked high-frequency percussion instruments. Through the Marantz they took on a shimmering, bell-like quality, with natural decay and transients that were quick but not too sharp. The Marantz’s articulation of transients also did an impressive job in unraveling the midrange textures in pianist Vijay Iyer’s angular, rapid-fire solo on “Revolutions,” from his Reimagining (CD, Savoy Jazz SVY 17475).
With either the Epos or Monitor Audio speakers, the PM5003’s reproduction of bass was natural, deep, dynamic, and fast, with no noticeable overhang. I analyzed Ray Brown’s double-bass solo in another cover of “On Green Dolphin Street,” this one, from The Poll Winners (CD, JVC JVCXR-0019-2), with Barney Kessel and Shelly Manne. The sound of the instrument’s strings and wood shone through, with a good sense of pacing and no trace of coloration or loss of dynamics, even in the lower-register passages. Similarly, the opening plucked bass on “River of Orchids,” from XTC’s Apple Venus, Vol.1 (CD, TVT TVT3250-2), almost startled me—the notes seemed to jump out of thin air with realistic bottom-end weight and effortless dynamics.
A fairly intense electric jazz group is a good test of an amplifier’s ability to render a coherent sonic picture with realistic pacing. The middle section of “Ice Crushing at All Speeds,” from my jazz quartet Attention Screen’s Live at Otto’s Shrunken Head (CD, Stereophile STPH020-2), features a forceful, driving rhythm from drummer Mark Flynn playing his entire kit, juxtaposed against a moaning ostinato bass line by Chris Jones that challenges Flynn’s rhythmic statement. It all hung together through the Marantz, just as it did on stage the night we recorded it.
But, you say, how well can a 40Wpc integrated produce high-level dynamic slam with such revealing speakers as the Monitor Audio Silver RS6 and the Epos M5? At one point I was playing the Marantz for an audiophile friend, Andy Slusar, who eyed it with suspicion: “How much is this thing? How many watts? I won’t be convinced until you put on some loud rock music that dynamically stresses the unit.” So I cranked up “Vrooom,” from King Crimson’s Thrak (CD, Discipline KCCDX01), at a level exceeding 95dB. After the thundering dynamic opening had almost knocked me off my seat, I was able to follow the individual lines of Trey Gunn’s bass and Tony Levin’s Chapman stick clearly and separately, with nary a trace of compression or congestion in the fortissimo passages. Mr. Slusar: “Okay, you convinced me. The amp is remarkable.” (ditto once again, please see my Monetarily Absurd Systems 101, April 14th blog)
Still, I was skeptical that a $450 integrated, however well made and with however many features, could also include a high-quality phono stage. I expected to hear the sound of a throwaway phono stage. I was wrong. I ended up spending nearly half my time with the Marantz listening to vinyl—I was so pleased with its sound that I just kept playing black disc after black disc. (can I say ditto again/PS, anti-up $150.00 more and our Music Hall mf2.2 TT makes this system sing like it’s $2500.00 not $1200.00…come in and I’ll demo for you)
Overall, the PM5003’s moving-magnet phono stage is cut from the same sonic cloth as the amplifier’s overall sound when processing digital signals. I was particularly taken by its rich, uncolored midrange as I reveled in the verisimilitude of well-recorded women’s voices. Janis Ian on Between the Lines (LP, Columbia PC 33394), Doris Day on Cutting Capers (LP, Columbia CL1232), Annie Haslam on Renaissance’s Scheherazade and Other Stories (LP, Sire SASD 7510)—all were rich and silky. High-frequency transients were as impressive as they were with CD sources. The broad range of timbres in Jamie Muir’s lightning-fast percussive passages on King Crimson’s Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (UK LP, Island LPS 9230) were perfectly reproduced, with no smearing, blunted edges, or high-frequency rolloff.
At the other end of the audioband, Chris Jones puts deep bass synth and electronic percussion blasts front and center in his “Midnight Sun” (45rpm 12″ single, Surface Tension STNS002), and the PM5003 rendered them in true lease-breaking, cuff-flapping fashion (footnote 1). Finally, in densely recorded, highly modulated passages such as the interplay of saxophonist Wayne Shorter and drummer Steve Gadd during Shorter’s frantic solo in the title track of Steely Dan’s Aja (LP, ABC AA1006), the Marantz’s phono stage exhibited perfectly clean pacing and a coherent presentation of the passage.
Why shouldn’t I spend more money on something else?
You can indeed spend more than the Marantz PM5003’s price of $449.95 and get much better sound. I compared the PM5003 to my trusty Creek 5350SE integrated amplifier (now known as the Creek Classic), which, at $1695, costs more than three times as much. The Creek was much more delicate throughout the entire audioband, with smoother, more extended highs and cleaner sibilants. Low-level dynamic nuances were more linear through the Creek, which also packed more of a wallop at the upper end of the dynamic spectrum. There was also a greater sense of ease with the Creek, most noticeable with vocal recordings. At the low end of the audioband, the 5350SE’s midbass was a bit cleaner and extended deeper than the Marantz’s. (…or you could step up to the Marantz PM8004 $999.00 mentioned in the previous review and easily run with the Creek, or in my opinion run past it…and for $695.00 less…again, get an even nicer Turntable)
Still, the Marantz sounded uncolored, with many strengths and no glaring weaknesses. Compared to the Creek, however, the PM5003 had, overall, a slightly grainy texture with all recordings—a relative lack of refinement (I love these guys that compare things which are 3 plus times the price, like that’s reasonable). The Creek and Marantz were both like dress shirts of fine Egyptian cotton, with the Creek professionally laundered and the Marantz hand-ironed at home. The Marantz is good enough to wear to work, but for the job interview, you’d want to dress up in the Creek.
Just keep in mind that these impressions resulted from listening to a system whose associated components are much more expensive than what the typical purchaser is likely to hook up to the PM5003; the differences between the Marantz and the Creek 5350SE will likely be less audible with less expensive associated gear (no kidding !?!).
If I buy the Marantz, how will I stand?
You’ll stand mighty proud. The Marantz PM5003 is a stunning achievement: an uncolored, revealing, well-built gem with more features than anyone could possibly ask for at the price. I’d almost go so far as to suggest that all well-heeled audiophiles buy one, just to create a benchmark in their minds for what’s available for $450 from today’s talented electronics designers. I plan to keep my sample around for a while, as I seek out other components to couple with it as candidates to be included in complete two-channel systems that are highly revealing and musical but that retail for a total of no more than $1000. That ought to keep you youts happy for a while. (a long while!)
I get this question a lot, why Marantz? After all, isn’t Denon, Onkyo, Yamaha, Pioneer, etc, all about the same? Truth be known? Not really! Here’s why;
Take Audio Video (AV) receivers for instance; It’s not so much a matter as to whether other brands can make good sounding ones, they do. The real matter is where the brand focus is? Most brands are very focused on the Home Theater end of the industry, and of more concern, “on having something for everyone”. For this to happen in the U.S. market, it means having many models at small price increments starting for just a couple of hundred dollars. (Marantz has just 4 models and starts at $600.00). The vast majority of these other companies philosophy is that the average U.S. consumer won’t notice sound quality anyway, because U.S. customers are focused only on “price”. So they are totally caught up in covering all the popular bells and whistles and having each model at the “lowest price”. The problem with ‘feature/price based’ philosophy however, is that though they make some good sounding stuff, they also have a lot of “duds” in their lines. Marantz on the other hand does business very differently, in part because of who they are, and where they come from. Marantz began as a U.S. company more than 60 years ago, and competed head to head with companies like McIntosh. Both companies were/are regarded as making some of the finest sounding audio equipment available. There are a lot of AV dealers around, but if you notice, the few of us that are old school and actually care enough about sound quality to offer higher end product, usually carry “Marantz”. For us, it’s a line we can trust to have the best sounding equipment across the board, and because Marantz is known also for their exceptional build quality, reliability, customer service and support, it’s a “no headache” line that “we know” will sound at least as good, and in most cases better, than anything the competition can throw at us. Frankly, what more can you ask for?
We, evidently, are a Stereophile Recommended Components show room…
In my March 30th blog as we were headed out of town to the Montreal Hi-Fi show I mentioned having received our April Issue of Stereophile’s Special 500 Recommended Components. Like any dealer in the biz, there’s usually some gear you represent in there somewhere, but as I mentioned I was just totally blown away by the number of models from our brands here at The Sweet Spot, that made “the list”. I mentioned we had what almost seemed like the proverbial Stereophile showroom of recommended components. But since returning from the show I just haven’t had the time to sit down and write a report on my own evaluations for all these products, and what led to our decision to carry these brands. So I thought at this point, I should at least list them, and mention that we either have the model, or a step up or down from it. I also take the liberty to mention models we may not have here at this time because we are a dealer for the brand, so some are coming or going, and we can, and/or will be, getting it here for audition. Here’s the list, in descending order of class A, B, etc rating;
Power Amplifiers; Marantz Reference SM-11S1, McIntosh MC275. Integrated Amplifiers; NAD Masters Series M2, NAD 375BEE, Roksan Kandy K2, Music Hall a15.2, *Marantz PM5004, Preamplifiers: McIntosh A/V 150 Controller, Marantz AV7005 Preamp-Processor. Disc Players (includes all formats): Sony ES SCD-XA5400ES, Marantz Reference SA-11S2, McIntosh MCD500, Marantz CD5004, Music Hall cd15.2, NAD C565BEE. Turntables: Music Hall MMF 9.1. Phono Stages: NAD PP3, NAD PP2. Speakers: Revel Ultima Salon 2, Revel Ultima Studio 2, Klipsch Palladium P-39F, Klipsch Palladium P-17B, PSB Synchrony, PSB Image T, Totem Mani-2, PMC DB1i, Totem Model One Signature, PSB Image T6, Totem Acoustic Forest, PSB Imagine B, PSB Image B6, *PSB Alpha B1. Headphones: Grado SR60i
*Signifies one I have previously reviewed in our blog.
PS: Many of these are also recommended by The Absolute Sound & others, but this is just the Stereophile List for this year. Also, these brands have consistently made the recommended components list for years, and almost across their entire line, which of course, is one reason we chose to carry them. Some factors, other than musicality, which influence our decision to carry a brand are value, reliability, reparability, manufacturer support (dependability/customer service), brand availability over time, and manufacturer business ethics.
A short revisit of Stereophile’s Totem Dreamcatcher review / A word about great Mini Systems
Regardless of merit, if any, of reporting on the sound quality of $575.00 speakers while using a $6000.00 (Audio Research R110 w/a Tube Line Stage Preamplifier rig)I’d like to make a couple of points. Thankfully, Robert Reina also uses in his May 2011 Stereophile review, a Creek Destiny CD Receiver ($2200.00). Naturally, all of us who do equipment testing use a reference system, otherwise, we would have no standard of measure, and little clue as to how various components or speakers actually perform. However, the absolute highest level of a system I would report results on for $575.00 speakers, would be something in this price range, in our case, the $2500.00 Reference Mini System (Teac Reference ADH660NT/PDH60). Additionally, I tested these with several more real world priced systems, each including modest Integrates & Receivers from $350.00 to $800.00, and did comparisons with several monitors ranging from $279.00/pr to $2000.00. In fairness to Robert, the Dreamcatchers do use such high quality parts that one must test them with ultra expensive equipment just to see where they’ll go? However, it should be noted that the diminishing returns are with such a system as his, or our reference ($6000.00) will be well in play. I believe that most people building a system around these speakers will likely use them not at their absolute ultimate performance level , but ultimately, in their real world price class of $575.00.
One of the Dreamcatchers most important design attributes, is that they DO NOT need amplifier rigs of the afore mentioned prowess to achieve 80 – 90% of what they are capable of. As unfortunately do the vast majority of high-end mini monitors, and sadly, many lower end ones as well. This is where the honest genius of Totem’s chief Engineer, Vince Bruzzese, becomes so important, as all of his mini monitors are so well designed. I also agree with Robert that they do perform like much more expensive monitor speakers, so giving them a go with reference gear is irresistible. And it is only then that you can appreciate their measure of performance with modest electronics. It should be noted that there are a good many speakers that will fool you. Being relatively easy to drive and giving good performance with modest gear, yet really coming to life when hooked to high end equipment. Thankfully, in my examination, at minimum, you’ll achieve 85% of the Dreamcatchers ultimate performance with modest “quality gear”, like our NAD C316BEE & C515BEE Integrated Amplifier & CD Player ($650.00 for the pair). So for the quaint sum of about $1500.00 with proper accessories, the Dreamcatchers allow you do just that, “catch the dream of what super costly mini monitor rigs give you”, at a fraction of the price! And for those who aspire to touch the rewards of a reference caliber system, but of smaller proportion and dollar amounts, the Dreamcatcher coupled with the Teac Reference electronics gives an extraordinary performance! Articulately broad frequency range and shockingly immense soundstage, easily tackling even highly complex material like symphonic music. Quite frankly, a rare feet for any system at just $3350.00. But at the $3350.00 level, a nudge toward the Totem Mite should be considered for the paltry $200.00 more. Clearly, a balance of modestly priced, but well chosen, high quality speakers and electronics makes for a most musically rewarding experience! For testing I used all Ultralink interconnects, speaker wire, and line filtration. We have all the tested models above here for your auditioning pleasure.
Here’s another Montreal show report, from my friend and colleague, Wayne Munie. Wayne is a vastly experienced audio professional/audiophile. Wayne’s professional experience dates back to the early 1980’s as a sales consultant at Audiomusical, a High-End Audio Store in Belleville IL,. He later managed The Great St. Louis Sound Co. in St. Louis Mo, before working with me at Audio by US, back in Belleville, IL. I enjoyed reading Wayne’s take on the show. So here it is…
This was my second visit to Montreal for their Son et Image show. First I must say I truly enjoyed my visit to this beautiful city and its magnificent selection of restaurants. The Salon Son et Image show is a wonderful opportunity to hear a wide range of audio products. What was different this time from my previous visit in 2007 (beside the change in sponsor, name [formerly Festival Son et Image], and deletion of video games) was the extensive use of iTunes as a source. While I appreciate and personally take advantage of the convenience of having a music server hooked up to an audio system all my wow experiences at the show involved the playing of a CD or LP. Tube electronics proved to still be relevant in high-end audio; wonderful sound from the inexpensive Peachtree driving Dynaudio speakers, AudioNote, Audio Research, and Mastersound all were among the best sound at the show.
I have been to several consumer electronic shows and their are a few manufactures that always have good sound (Totem and Magnapan), but many manufactures just don’t know how to demonstrate good sound. Good sound is a cumulative result of the recording, playback equipment and listening room. A great system will allow good recordings to give you goose bumps and create an emotional experience. Good music poorly recorded is disappointing because you expect so much more but playing that music on a boom box only lowers your expectation doesn’t fix the failings of the recording.
The Audes speaker rep was set up in the entry to the Liberty Trading room using Roksan CD player and Mastersound amp and was consistently playing great music as a result I spent more time and more visits to this set up than any other. Great music masterfully presented that’s what we all want isn’t it?