E-mail comments or questions to feedback@soundstagehifi.com.

MQA to the NAD D 3045

To Doug Schneider,

Just wanted to say the [NAD D 3045] article is awesome. Amazing job. I have a question: Did you use the Tidal iOS iPhone app to stream Tidal MQA to the D 3045 via the Chromecast Audio puck? If not, how did you stream Tidal MQA to it?

Chris
United States

That’s a good question that I think many might want to know the answer to. I played the Tidal MQA songs via Roon, which works nicely because it sees any Chromecast Audio device on your network as what they call an Endpoint. Your question intrigued me, though, as to what the native Tidal app would do. I have a Samsung S8, not an iPhone, so I just opened the Android app up and, lo and behold, couldn’t find a way to play Tidal’s MQA files using it. I then went on Tidal’s website and found this statement: “Please note: Masters (MQA) will be available on TIDAL’s mobile and web applications at a later date.” Presumably that includes iOS. I’m not sure what’s taking them so long to implement it. . . . Doug Schneider

The Best $2500-Per-Pair Stand-Mounted Speaker

To Doug Schneider,

So, for up to $2500 USD, what would be your ideal stand-mount speaker? I like the Studio Electric M4, but was told that the Philharmonic Audio BMR Philharmonitor and KEF R3 are just as good if not better. Up to a 100W amp and a small room.

Dave Furon
Canada

My ideal stand-mounted speaker would be one that reproduces the entire audioband, which means bass down to 20Hz, and play as loudly as I could ever want it to with absolutely no compression or distortion. Of course, no stand-mounted speaker like that exists for $2500 per pair -- or even $25,000 per pair! -- so what we’re left with, regardless of price, are compromises and no “ideal” one to recommend. What’s more, they differ, sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot. For example, with the Revel Performa3 M106 that I pitted against the Studio Electric M4 in the M4 review, they both had strengths and very few weaknesses, but they were fairly different sounding. If push came to shove on those two and I was forced to live with just one, I would probably pick the M4 because of its fuller-sounding bass. On the other hand, someone else might take the M106 because it sounds a little more neutral and precise, something I couldn’t argue with. If you threw the BMR Philharmonitor and KEF R3 you mentioned into the mix, each one might also stand out in a certain way and someone might choose one of those. So that’s really the thing -- I can’t tell you which one is ideal or what will work best in your setup. Neither can anyone else. The only thing I or any reviewer can do is lead you in a direction by providing a selection to choose from, then let you decide which best suits your room, associated equipment, listening taste, and, of course, budget. . . . Doug Schneider

CDs Instead of Streaming

To Doug Schneider,

I’m a strong advocate of you guys covering more entry-level gear, so the article on the under $1000 system was cool. However, including a turntable, but not a CD player (because you consider them obsolete), is rather ridiculous. Not everyone is into streaming. I don’t use any streaming service, and never will. And I don’t own a handheld god, looking at it every waking moment. I have a CD player, cable TV, a land line, and an Ethernet cable connected to my laptop, which runs on AC power, not batteries. I do finally have a flat-screen TV, ’cause my set with a CRT died. I spend as little time as possible connected, and have NO desire to become more so. And I’m glad that Hans [Wetzel] did a separate review of the [Paradigm Monitor SE] Atom, which is the least-expensive Atom in quite a while.

Doug M.
United States

I was just watching a YouTube video with Schiit Audio’s Mike Moffat, who described streaming services as sounding “like ass” compared to CDs. He thinks that there will be a CD resurgence because of that. I’m not sure I agree with him entirely, but I do recognize that there are still many people who prefer silver discs over streamed music files. Still, I believe that modern music listeners are mostly interested in streaming and vinyl, which is why I headed that way with the system. But your objection is certainly noted.

I am completely with you on Hans’s Atom review on SoundStage! Access. I have the pair here and I can tell you that this latest iteration of the Atom is a screaming bargain. In fact, the other day Hans admitted to me that he probably should have been more enthusiastic in his review. Do you remember Eeyore? Hans tends to express himself in a similar way. In hindsight, he thinks the Atom is even better than the review lets on. . . . Doug Schneider

Herbie's Fat Dots

To Doug Schneider,

Your article on the affordable system with the NAD D 3020 V2 and Paradigm Monitor SE Atom speakers was very enjoyable.

You said that the speaker feet you chose were probably too expensive for the system and I have to agree with you. I have had a good experience with Herbie’s Fat Dots. They are very inexpensive [footers] and made a very sensible difference with my KEF LS50s. I’m not an experienced audiophile and therefore don’t know what are your standards for a good sound, but perhaps the Fat Dots are worth a try.

Best,
Antonio
Brazil

For me, these articles have been great in that I’ve had people write in with suggestions I hadn’t necessarily thought of before. In your case, it’s also a company I have never heard of, so I checked their website at www.herbiesaudiolab.com. With footers starting at just $3.29 each, I think their products are certainly worth looking into -- not only for me, but for others who might come across this message. Thanks for the tip! . . . Doug Schneider

Three Questions About the $1575.89 System

Hi Doug,

I really enjoyed reading your column today. Fun!

I’m kind of curious:

  • Would Blu Tack solve the footer expense and “deliver audible results”? (I’m not familiar with Blu Tack.)
  • Would the new NAD C 316BEE V2 have enough power to properly drive the Paradigms?
  • If you don’t mind me asking, what other speakers do you plan to audition for this affordable system?

I look forward to following your hi-fi journey.

Best regards,
Pete
United States

I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the journey! I’ll answer your questions in order.

I often use Blu Tack or something similar to secure speakers to stands, which it does very well. This case, though, was different -- I needed to really get rid of the vibrations, which Blu Tack doesn’t do nearly as well as the IsoAcoustics footers. About the C 316BEE V2: I happen to have one here and plan to try it out in the system before it goes back to NAD. It does not have a built-in DAC like the D 3020 V2 does, but it does have a phono stage and, at 40Wpc into 8 ohms, a little more power to give to the speakers. I’m as curious as you are as to what the result might be. Insofar as speakers go, scheduled to replace the Paradigm Monitor SE Atoms are pairs of Paradigm Premier 100Bs and Bowers & Wilkins 606es. Neither pair has arrived yet, but I suspect they should be here this month. . . . Doug Schneider

Simaudio Moon 240i for ATC SCM11

To Philip Beaudette,

Good morning. I read your review about the Simaudio Moon 240i integrated amplifier and it made me very curious.

One question, however: Do you think that the Moon can deliver enough power to drive ATC SCM11 speakers? They say that these speakers need a lot of power. [I have a] small-to-medium-[sized] living room [and] most of the time don’t play my music very loud.

Thank you in advance for the response.

Kind regards,
Chris Eikelenstam
The Netherlands

I’ve never even heard an ATC speaker, let alone listened to the SCM11 with the Simaudio Moon 240i, so it’s impossible for me to say with certainty if the Simaudio would have enough power to drive these speakers. However, I looked at the specs for the SCM11 and also visited ATC’s website and they specifically state in the description that it has a “flat impedance curve allowing easy load for amplifiers.” Therefore, I find it a bit remarkable that they recommend an amplifier with 75W to 300W of power -- that seems like a lot (as you probably know, the 240i puts out 50Wpc into 8 ohms).

Although the SCM11’s sensitivity is a little on the low side at only 85dB/W/m, it’s not ridiculously low. The fact that the SCM11 has an 8-ohm impedance that the company claims is flat, combined with its 85dB/W/m sensitivity, I think there is a very good chance the Simaudio would have little trouble powering these speakers, especially since your room isn’t huge and you don't listen too loudly. Simaudio rates their power amplifiers honestly, so when they say it can produce 50Wpc, they are talking about real continuous power, not peak output for a short period of time.

Again, I have no experience with ATC speakers but I’m still pretty skeptical that you need a minimum of 75Wpc to drive the SCM11 speakers. If I were in your position, I would definitely consider the Simaudio 240i a possible partner for these speakers, at least based on what I’m seeing from the specifications ATC has published. Please let me know if you have any further questions. . . . Philip Beaudette

Making a Ho-Hum 6 Into Beautiful-Sounding 4

To Doug Schneider,

I belatedly found your article on the [Forte] Model 6 amplifier, and although three years have passed since you wrote it, I thought this would be worth mentioning. In case you still have the Model 6, or even if you don’t, there is a way to make silk from a sow’s ear; many of the Forte amps can be easily modified to run higher into class-A operation, or even run in it entirely. The Model 6 is basically a Model 4 with its voltage rail and bias adjusted to run in class AB, instead of the full-time class-A mode of the 4. With these easy, straightforward changes to the Model 6, it changes from a ho-hum 150Wpc unit into the highly rated jewel that people have been clambering for since it was “discovered” years ago. It becomes a beautiful sounding, inexpensive class-A amp. Rated at 50Wpc after the adjustments, but able to fully drive many speakers, the Model 4/modified Model 6 is likely to put a smile on your face every time you listen to it; I know, as I have a “modified” Model 6. I thought you might like to know.

Terry
United States

Prior to the Forte Model 6, I owned a Model 3, which was part of their previous generation of amps. It, too, was a class-AB design, but rated at 200Wpc into 8 ohms. In that same line was a 1A, which was basically the same design as the 3 but biased for pure class-A operation. Because it ran much hotter, it was rated for only 50Wpc output into 8 ohms. When I owned the Model 3 I called the company and asked if they’d reconfigure it into a 1A, but they told me they couldn’t (perhaps the truth was that they wouldn’t). When I owned the Model 6, I figured that it couldn’t be modified either, so I just sold it when I figured out I couldn’t stand its sound. But if there are any Model 6 owners still out there today, your tip will certainly be of value to them. . . . Doug Schneider

Blue Jean Cable or Anticables Instead

To Doug Schneider,

While I applaud your effort to put together a budget system, and the AudioQuest speaker cables are a budget product, it doesn’t make sense to me to spend approximately one-fifth of the budget on speaker cables.

I would think it makes more sense to buy speaker cables from Blue Jeans Cable or Anticables, for an actual purchase. Then the remaining money could go to a future sub, upgraded source, or a parallel power conditioner. Just my two cents.

Tony
United States

You make a good point! . . . Doug Schneider

Upgrade Suggestion for the $926.95 System -- IsoAcoustics Stands

To Doug Schneider,

Bravo! I love to see this kind of reporting. Entry-level hi-fi excites because of the challenge and the rewards. Little is different than matching $20k components; you are just playing at a much lower price point.

No doubt, you will hear from lots of folks who suggest different ways to assemble this system -- and I am one of them. In my experience, getting bookshelf speakers or studio monitors out of direct or near contact with the shelf (or desk) and on to IsoAcoustics stands makes a big difference in image, clarity, and perceived bass extension, whether close or farther away. You would be surprised by the difference you hear even at low volumes if you are not already familiar with these $100 stands. Even to an average listener, let alone a seasoned one, it’s not subtle. (To stay under $1k, you could back off on the speaker cables a bit.) It’s certainly worth a try. Enjoy!

Sincerely,
Brad Potthoff
United States

We’re on the same wavelength -- I was already planning to try IsoAcoustics stands as part of this journey. I’ve heard them demoed many times at shows and been impressed enough to want to try them. But I’m not going to do that before I get a turntable in, which is definitely my next step. But maybe after. Thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to suggest anything else. . . . Doug Schneider

Reference 3A de Capo Sensitivity Discrepancies

To Doug Schneider,

I am interested in buying a pair of Reference 3A de Capo i loudspeakers to use with my Border Patrol SE300B amplifier. Reference 3A states the sensitivity as 93dB, and you did a feature on the BE model in 2014 where you provided a link to tests carried out on the speakers showing sensitivity of 86.7dB. Back in 2000, you published this Reference 3A MM de Capo sensitivity of 89dB.

I wrote to Reference 3A asking about this disparity, but so far I have not received a reply. Are you able to throw any light on the differences between the manufacturer’s claimed sensitivity and your own measurements? Any help here would be most welcome.

Regards,
Michael Lakeman
United Kingdom

I’ll start by stating this: In many cases, manufacturers publish the most optimistic sensitivity specifications they can generate. They usually don’t specify their methodology, but some publish in-room sensitivity (typically 3dB higher than anechoic sensitivity), and some appear to be publishing the maximum sensitivity instead of average sensitivity over a certain range. How do I know this? Because it occurs with most of the speakers we measure. Why do they do this? Usually, it’s to make their speaker seem compatible with more amplifiers than it is. This sort of thing happens with impedance, too -- ignoring impedance dips makes a speaker seem like an easier amplifier load than it is.

The problem with manufacturers publishing overly optimistic sensitivity figures is that it can lead to amplifier-compatibility problems, particularly with low-powered amplifiers, such as the one you have.

Insofar as the de Capo i and de Capo speakers we measured, you can see that we measured them in an anechoic chamber and used a 2.83V input (which, into 8 ohms, equals 1W). There are some SPL peaks with both models that exceed 90dB, so maybe they’re trying to use those high points for those claims. The problem is, those are simply peaks; the sensitivity at most frequencies is between 85 and 90dB. When you average a range, like we do (300Hz to 3kHz), you get much more realistic figures, which is what we publish and stand by. We feel ours are also the ones you should use to gauge the amplifier power you need.

As a result, because of the limited power-output of your amplifier and the only-average sensitivity of the speakers you are looking at, you have to exercise some caution before going forward with a purchase. Otherwise, you might overdrive your amplifier, which may damage not only the amplifier itself, but also the speakers. . . . Doug Schneider

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