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NAD M33 or Anthem STR, or Something Else?

To: Roger Kanno,

I read your review of the Anthem STR integrated amplifier-DAC and I’m wondering if the NAD M33 is just as good, or if there are other options in the below-$10k price category.

Suraj
United States


Hello Suraj,

In addition to the Anthem STR ($4499, all prices in USD) and NAD Masters M33 ($4999), which I reviewed in September 2020, I have also reviewed the Lyngdorf Audio TDAI-3400 (base price $6499). All are excellent integrated amplifier-DACs with room correction, but the NAD M33 is my favorite. The NAD M33 has an incredibly neutral sound, which I attribute to a large degree to its Purifi Eigentakt amplifier modules. The Anthem and Lyngdorf also sound great, and all three integrateds have enough power to drive most speakers to very high levels. They all provide excellent value in this price range.

And while they all have room correction, I really like how easy it is to use Anthem’s ARC and how well it performs. Both Lyngdorf’s RoomPerfect and NAD’s implementation of Dirac Live provide more flexibility in terms of customizing the target curves, if that is important to you. Also, the Anthem has an excellent and very flexible moving-magnet (MM)/moving-coil (MC) phono stage built in, while the NAD only supports MM out of the box and the Lyngdorf only offers MM on their recently upgraded optional analog input board. The NAD and Lyngdorf both provide streaming options, which the Anthem does not—and in the case of the NAD, it’s the excellent BluOS system.

So yes, the NAD is as good as the Anthem and is actually my favorite integrated amplifier-DAC, but I can see how someone might choose any one of the three I have mentioned, for different reasons. Also, you asked about other options in the sub-$10k price category and it just so happens I am currently reviewing the Arcam SA30 class-G integrated amplifier-DAC. It costs just $3000 and you’ll have to wait to read my review for more specific details, but it is another excellent streaming integrated amplifier-DAC with Dirac Live room correction at an affordable price.

Roger Kanno

Which Paradigm Founder Speaker?

To Doug Schneider,

I have read your excellent review on the Paradigm Founder 100F loudspeakers. Thanks for reviewing the product. Your review is very thorough, and explains how good these speakers sound.

I am in search of new speakers for my living room, which is small—3.6m wide and 4.5m long (about 12′ × 15′)—and my listening position is about 9′ in front of the speakers.

I would like to know how this speaker compares to the B&W 702 S2 and Monitor Audio Gold 200. Which sounds better? I like neutral-sounding speakers.

Also, I would like to know if the 100F will be too big for my room, or if the 80F would be better. My listening tastes are for movies and music. I will be using the Anthem MRX 1140 A/V receiver.

A reply from your side would be highly appreciated, and will help me decide which speaker to get.

Regards,
Akshay
India


Thank you for writing in. B&W and Monitor Audio generally make good speakers, so those two models are worth considering, but that’s really all I can tell you—I don’t have any experience with them, so I can’t tell you how they’d compare.

But I can give you some advice on which Founder speaker to pick for your room. The 100F delivers a lot of deep bass, so using a pair of these excellent speakers could overload your room. Therefore, the smaller 80F might be a better choice—it doesn’t put out quite as much bass, so overload shouldn’t be as much of a problem. However, since you have the MRX 1140, which has Anthem Room Correction (ARC), any bass problems in your room can be fixed. If you enable ARC and do a proper calibration on the MRX 1140 with the speakers you choose, it will apply filters that will ensure bass frequencies don’t overload your room—that’s mainly what ARC is for. This means you could still use the 100F if you want that model. I hope that helps.

Doug Schneider

Waiting for Paradigm

Hi Doug,

I read your article on the Paradigm Founder Series 100F loudspeaker and was wondering when you will post your full review. Because of your first-impression article, I have a pair ordered from a shop in Utah.

Steve Brunetti
United States


Hello Steve,

I’m finishing writing the review this week, then we’ll photograph the pair. Look for the review to be online in July.

Doug Schneider

Class-AB Amplifier for Vivid Audio B1 Decade Speakers

Hi Doug,

As you’re well familiar with Vivid Audio speaker technology, I’d like to know whether you have any general suggestions on amp matching. I currently use a Devialet Expert 220 Pro integrated amp, but I have an itch to experiment. Do you have any thoughts about pairing a classic class-AB amp with Vivid speakers? It’s not that I’m unhappy with the Devialet, it’s just that I might like to bring a touch of warmth to the mids. I note that the former US distributor for Vivid used Luxman amps, for instance, in demos. Also, I think you might have used a Hegel amp in some of your Vivid reviews.

My only music source will be a Lumin T2 streamer, which uses Leedh digital processing and negates the need for a preamp. Also, Lumin advises using a balanced connection, so that would be a requirement for any amp I choose.

My budget is up to $7500, and I don’t mind buying used.

Thoughts?

All the best,

Michael (owner of an identical pair of Vivid B1 Decade speakers to the ones you reviewed)
United States


Hi,

I love Luxman’s products, but if you’re buying new, $7500 won’t be enough to get you into the M-700u power amp, which is priced at $8995 in the US. If you can find one used, that’s a different story. It’s rated to deliver 120Wpc into 8 ohms—I think you’ll need that kind of power to get the best from the B1 Decades. However, your budget is more than sufficient to get you a new Hegel H20 power amp, which I think is priced at $6000.

The Hegel H20 is rated at 200Wpc into 8 ohms, which is more than enough power for your Vivids. In my opinion, the Hegel is as good a place as any to start—many of our writers own or used to own Hegel products and none of them have ever had a complaint. In fact, writer Hans Wetzel has purchased three Hegel integrated amplifiers—the H300, the H360, and now the H590—and will probably turn to Hegel again if the company releases a new model.

If the H20 doesn’t float your boat, see if you can stretch your budget to buy a Luxman. If that’s not possible, and you can’t find one used, then write back and I can probably give you more ideas.

As for your speakers, I’m jealous—I loved the way the B1 Decades looked and sounded when I had them in my room, and I hated to send them back.

Doug Schneider

Paradigm Founder Series 100F Update

To Doug Schneider,

I’m really looking forward to the Paradigm Founder Series 100F loudspeaker review. When will the review be posted?

Will Campbell
United States


Hi Will,

I’ve received so many e-mails about the Paradigm 100F that I’m starting to think it will be the most popular review I write this year. I had hoped it would be online this month, but, with some other important projects needing completion, it’s been pushed back. Look for it to be published in July.

Doug Schneider

Totem Acoustic Skylight vs. Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2

Hello Doug,

I just finished reading all that you wrote on the Totem Acoustic Skylights on March 1, 2020, and must say I find these speakers hard to resist. I have yet to hear them, but will be doing so very shortly. I am considering them as replacements for my Monitor Audio Bronze 2 speakers (circa 2004), which are getting fragile. The woofer cone has separated from the membrane on one of the speakers again—the last time was on the other speaker, so I am getting concerned. I like the sound of the Bronze 2, and had the Bronze 1 before.

My system is basic, I guess you could say. The amp is an integrated TEAC A-H500 (circa 2000) putting out 50Wpc into 8ohms. I am also thinking about Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2s, but have read that they need a very powerful and high-end amp to make them sound good. Both the Totems and the B&Ws are in the same price range, within about $100. I mostly listen to classical (baroque) and jazz.

If you have time and feel the inclination, your thoughts, as brief as they may be, would be greatly appreciated.

Regards,
Robert Groulx
Canada


Hello Robert,

Whenever someone asks about getting a Bowers & Wilkins speaker these days, I have to put out the same words of caution: listen before you buy—which you seem to be doing anyway. The reason for the warning is that for the last ten years or so, the Bowers & Wilkins design team has consistently voiced their speakers to have a prominent treble response, to the point that their speakers often sound very bright. The 607 S2 is no exception. I haven’t reviewed a pair, but I’ve heard them—and the speaker is voiced with too much treble energy for me. From what I heard, however, the midrange and bass seemed clean and neutrally balanced. But some people are really attracted to a tipped-up treble, which is why prospective buyers have to listen themselves to know for sure if they’ll like a pair of 607 S2s, or pretty much any other B&W speaker in current production.

By the way, I don’t think that a pair of 607 S2s needs a higher-end amp, or all that much power. That idea probably came from trying to tame down that treble by mixing and matching different electronics. Oftentimes, when someone finds a match that is sonically pleasing, they’ll come to the mistaken conclusion that it’s due to the quality of the amplifier, or some other component, when, in fact, it has to do with the voicing of the speakers that the electronics are feeding.

In contrast to the 607 S2, the Skylight, like other Totem Acoustic speakers, has a more balanced sound—it would never be construed as being bright. Knowing what I do about Monitor Audio’s speakers, I have a feeling that a pair of Skylights will be more similar to what you’re listening to already, so that might sway you, too.

But will the bright sound of Bowers & Wilkins appeal to you? I encourage you to listen to both the 607 S2s and the Skylights and make up your own mind.

Doug Schneider

Doug the Nut

Doug, you nut!

My home theater has four Rythmik Audio L12 Direct Servo subs acting as speaker stands for the two front KEF LS50s.

Honestly, there is no such thing as too many subs unless you have to step over them. Having a true 20Hz–20kHz system does not suck.

Some people prefer giant monkey coffins to a sub/sat system, but I think that liberating your mains from the burden of reproducing low bass pays a lot of sonic dividends. And, of course, you can place the subs where they sound best if your room is less than ideal acoustically. Fortunately, my room is awesome so that’s not a problem.

All the best, you kook.
Jeffrey Henning
United States


Hello again,

Four subwoofers does seem excessive to me, but if it works for you, I won’t argue with the approach. I also won’t argue with you when you say that a system that reproduces from 20Hz to 20kHz “does not suck”—it’s what many audiophiles dream of.

Doug Schneider

Where Is the Bryston B135 Cubed Review?

To Doug Schneider,

A couple of weeks ago, I received a SoundStage! Network e-mail that contained a link to the SoundStage! Take 2 video review of the Bryston B135 Cubed integrated amplifier. The link led to a YouTube presentation by Jay Lee, who indicated that Philip Beaudette’s review of the B135 Cubed was upcoming. So, two weeks later, I’m writing to inquire as to when you think the review might be published. I’m waiting for it with great anticipation as I’m thinking of purchasing the amp.

Regards,
Yvon Provencher
Canada


Hello Yvon,

The Bryston B135 Cubed review is scheduled to appear on this site on June 15, but since we’ve had it in the review queue for longer than we would’ve liked, we’ll probably “leak” it about a week early.

Doug Schneider

Paradigm Founder 100F Listening Impressions

To Doug Schneider,

I had a lengthy audition of a pair of Paradigm Founder Series 100F loudspeakers at K&W Audio in Calgary, and thought I would share my impressions. They were being driven by a 300Wpc McIntosh MC312 [stereo amplifier]. They’re pretty much superior in every way to my Studio 100 v5 speakers—as they should be, for the price. Some things stood out for me: breadth of soundstage and imaging; smoother, more resolving treble; midrange clarity and articulation; and tight, full bass, down to 30Hz at least.

I started off with Loreena McKennitt’s “The Lady of Shalott” to gauge female vocals, and immediately got goosebumps. This track sounds great on the Studios too, but the Founders were definitely next-level: broader, deeper soundstage, and much more clarity and detail in her voice. My Studios have been knocked for having harsh, overly bright treble, which I think is overly critical, but the top end of the Founders is definitely a big improvement.

I moved on to Wynton Marsalis’s In Gabriel’s Garden, tracks 30–32, to check out trumpet and orchestra. Trumpet was accurate, clean, and authoritative; orchestra seemed a tad warm, but I’m not sure if that was the recording, the amp, or the speakers. I didn’t notice it as much on other recordings.

I finished up with track 12 of the SACD of Music for Organ, Brass and Timpani, “The Great Gate of Kiev,” to give the Founders a workout. I was particularly curious to see if they could do a better job of reproducing the most challenging passages in this track, as things can get a bit muddy on my Studios. They didn’t disappoint—they were much cleaner and more articulate, and every timpani thwack, even in the loudest and densest passage, was clearly audible. I expect the McIntosh was helping with this, as its 300Wpc definitely out-muscles the 200Wpc Emotiva XPA-5 Gen2 amp that I’m driving my Studios with. Nonetheless, I think the Founders are significantly more resolving and capable of playing dense, full-range music loudly than the Studios are. They were definitely rolling off below 30Hz, but that’s to be expected. Anyone wanting to reproduce deep pipe-organ notes will be crossing over to a sub in that range, or will spring for the Founder 120H loudspeakers if they want to run strictly two-channel.

Anyhow, I thought I’d share my impressions and I look forward to your full review.

Best regards,
Dean Craig
Canada


Hello Dean,

Thanks for the update! I’ve completed most of my listening to the pair of Founder 100Fs that I have in for review, but I still have to photograph them and take them to Canada’s National Research Council to be measured. But my full review should be published fairly soon.

Doug Schneider

The Hot Treble on the Bowers & Wilkins 705 Signature

To Diego Estan,

In your recent review of the Bowers & Wilkins 705 Signature loudspeakers, you said: “But also like the 705 S2’s, the 705 Signature’s treble is a bit hot for my taste.”

Did you see the frequency-response measurements of these speakers? They’re horrible. Anyone who listens to a variety of music could not possibly live with these speakers for an extended period of time unless they have no idea what live music really sounds like.

My question is this: Why has B&W gone down this road?

Tony
United States


Hi Tony,

Yes, of course I’ve looked at the in-room measurements I made when reviewing the 705 Signature, and at our NRC anechoic chamber measurements. I have a couple of thoughts as to why B&W might be purposefully making its tweeters hot in the treble region. In other words, tipped up in level.

First, upon initial listening, it’s impressive. The extra output between 4kHz and 6kHz adds “air” around voices. On the flip side, if you listen to something with excess sibilance, it won’t sound pleasant. Second, I think it really depends on your preferred listening levels. I listen fairly loud, peaking at 90–95dB (when I listen critically—not for background music, obviously). At these volumes, the B&W treble is way too hot. But if you listen at, say, 75dB, I actually think the bumped-up treble on the 705 Signature sounds good. Fletcher-Munson curves, which relate to the perceived loudness of frequencies at differing volume levels, demonstrate a real phenomenon.

It’s actually too bad, because those 705 Signatures sound killer in every other regard.

Diego Estan

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