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

From the Totem Acoustic Mite to the Skylight?

To Doug Schneider,

I’m an avid reader of the SoundStage! Network and very much enjoyed your review of the Totem Skylight. I’ve owned the Totem Mites and found that it was the only speaker that would work well in my small living room. All other bookshelf speakers I have tried from B&W, KEF, Dynaudio, and Totem (Rainmaker) were shouty and boomy in my space. I am considering the Skylight because of its small size.

Based on your experience with the Skylight, do you recommend this speaker in a small room? I listen at moderate volume (75dB-77dB) to all types of music: electronic, jazz, rock, pop. Is it an overly bass-boomy speaker? Have you had any experience with the Totem Mite, and, if so, would you be able to briefly compare the two? FYI: I listen about 6’-7’ distance in a 10’ x 14’ room. My amplifier is a Rotel A14 integrated (80Wpc).

Thank you in advance!

Luca
Canada

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about Totem’s Mite since I’ve had no experience with that model. Looking at the Mite’s driver configuration and cabinet size, though, I can see they are roughly the same as the Skylight’s, which I think makes them promising for your situation.

Like your Mites, a pair of Skylights are best suited for smaller rooms, such as yours. You also have more than enough amplifier power to drive a pair. As for bass, the Skylight has decent bass output for such a small speaker, but I wouldn’t call it boomy or overly prominent, so, set up correctly, I can’t see why a pair wouldn’t work well for you. Give them a try -- it’s probably time for an upgrade. . . . Doug Schneider

Upgrading Speakers During Coronavirus

To Doug Schneider,

I am a really happy and quite active reader of SoundStage! Solo.

I hope not to bother you asking a suggestion on speakers, as I usually do with Brent on headphones in the comments area [of SoundStage! Solo]. I haven’t found a similar place on the other SoundStage! sites.

I have a pair of KEF LS50s and a subwoofer. As you said, this is my mantra: “placing the tweeter at the center of the midrange . . . once you’ve experienced it, it’s tough to live without it.”

That being said, my biggest complaints are: a not quite-tall soundstage (I would like voices on top and bass at the “bottom” to mimic a stand-up band) and a not super-airy treble. I would also like a less-muddy upper bass. Which speaker companies or specific products should I consider? Right now I have seen these used products that got me intrigued at around €1500: KEF R500, Quad ESL-988, Amphion Xenon II.

Are these significant upgrades or would you suggest a different product that can blow my socks off?! :)

Thanks very much for your publication, I really enjoy it!

Cheers from the troubled Lombardy, Italy.

Mauro

You’re right, we don’t have a comments sections on our sites other than SoundStage! Solo. Brent Butterworth asked us to implement it there more or less as an experiment, which seems to be going well. Why we generally avoid them is because comments sections quite often can become vitriolic the way traditional audio forums do, so we are still being cautious. For this site, how you contacted me, by e-mail, is still the right way.

As for your question, I can understand your criticism of the LS50 -- if your stands are low, you’re not going to get a tall and blossoming soundstage, and the treble, while extended, is not as airy as with some speakers. The bass issue I understand as well. KEF is asking the LS50’s midrange-woofer to do a lot, so its low end doesn’t have the articulation of, say, a traditional three-way design, which will have a dedicated midrange and one or more woofers.

I can’t tell you anything about Quad’s ESL-988, since I’ve never heard it. The KEF R500 I can tell you about, since I reviewed it several years ago and found it to be a great speaker for the price. I think you’ll find the bass improved over the LS50 because the R500 is a true three-way design, but the soundstaging and imaging, as well as the treble, will be similar to what you have. You may still want to try it, though. The Amphion Xenon II is an interesting one. I’ve long liked the look and sound of this speaker, but don’t know why Amphion discontinued it. I always thought it was a killer model in their line. Definitely consider it.

As for other speakers you could consider -- there are too many to list and comment on. I can only say Paradigm, Revel, PSB, GoldenEar Technology, Totem Acoustic, Monitor Audio, Axiom Audio, Bowers & Wilkins, PMC, etc., all make speakers people really like. Your options are almost limitless. . . . Doug Schneider

From Paradigm to Totem Acoustic?

To Doug Schneider,

I loved your “System One” article [this month]. I will be short -- I have the new Paradigm Monitor SE Atom with the NAD C 316BEE integrated amplifier. Just perfect for an apartment. I have an eye on the Totem Acoustic Skylight for a while, but the SE Atom sounds so good. Is it a good move to change for the Totem?

Pierre Bordeleau
Canada

The thing with speakers is that they all sound so different from one another, it’s impossible to say what someone might like more. As a result, you’ve asked me a question that I can’t really answer. What I can say, however, is that if you’re curious about the Skylight, find a Totem Acoustic retailer that, if they don’t carry both brands, will allow you to borrow some Skylights to take home to compare with the Atoms, or will let you bring your Atoms to the store. The good thing about the Skylight and the Atom is that they’re small, light speakers -- so they’re extremely easy to move around. . . . Doug Schneider

Powering the Totem Skylight Loudspeakers with Schiit's Aegir Amplifier

To Doug Schneider,

I enjoyed your review of [the Totem Acoustic Skylight loudspeakers]. Did you get a feel of how hard these are to drive? I was thinking about trying them with my Schiit Audio Aegir (20Wpc class A).

Thanks,
John R.
United States

Small speakers usually aren’t that sensitive, so they need an appreciable amount of power to play to an appropriate volume level, but they typically aren’t too hard to drive, so the amplifier does not have to stay stable into a punishing load of, say, under 2 ohms. The Skylight, from what I could tell, is no exception. The 60Wpc (into 8 ohms) Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 integrated amplifier I used delivered way more than enough power for the pair and was pretty much coasting the entire time, so providing your room isn’t too big and you don’t need to play the speakers extremely loud, which I wouldn’t buy these for anyway, my bet is your Aegir will do just fine. . . . Doug Schneider

Vivid Audio's Speakers -- Toed In or Not?

To Doug Schneider,

I just read your review about the Vivid Audio B1 Decade speakers. I have the Vivid Audio V1.5 SE speakers. In my speakers, they used the same [drive] units as in the B1 series. My question to you is this one: Did you have any toe-in at all? Did you really play with the speakers [pointing] straight forward?

When I toe in my speakers, the voice of the singer is tight in the middle. Do you have the same experience with you speakers straight forward? Can you explain to me why straight forward should be a better option?

Thanks for you time and effort.

Cheers,
Fonz Vorselaars
The Netherlands

To toe speakers in (or even out) or not depends entirely on the design of it. When I had Vivid’s B1 and B1 Decade speakers here (at different times, mind you), they sounded ideal with no toe-in. I think that’s because when I sat in my listening chair, I was about 20 degrees off-axis from the tweeters. Since the B1 models are very wide-dispersion designs, I was still getting enough treble energy, and, since I had the speakers fairly far from the sidewalls both times, the reflections from those walls weren’t messing up the tonal balance or the soundstaging and imaging.

I’ve haven’t listened to the V1.5 SE carefully, but I’m going to take two guesses at what might be happening to you. First, Vivid’s V1.5 and V1.5 SE each have a waveguide on the tweeter, to help better match that driver’s dispersion with the dispersion of the midrange-woofer. That waveguide might be taming down the high-frequency off-axis response by just a little bit. As a result, you might not be getting the kind of treble energy I was getting with both B1 models, which is why, for you, they sound better toed in -- more of the direct energy from the speakers is coming right at you. The second guess has to do with distance to the sidewalls. I don’t know your room at all, but if speakers are too close to the sidewalls, as I mentioned above, the reflections can sometimes cause problems with the tonal balance, as well as the soundstaging and imaging. Toeing the speakers in can remedy the situation a little bit by channeling more of the direct output from each speaker to the listener rather than the walls. I hope that helps. . . . Doug Schneider

Paradigm Monitor SE 3000F Vs. Q Acoustics 3050i

To Doug Schneider,

Hope all is good with you. Sorry to bother you, but I was impressed with your “System One” article about the Paradigm Monitor SE 3000F loudspeaker. I’m sending you an e-mail because I was curious about your opinion about the Paradigm Monitor SE 3000F loudspeaker versus the Q Acoustics 3050i loudspeaker. If it is not asking too much, could you give me your two cents about this comparison?

Thanks in advance and warm cheers from Brazil.

Agustinho
Brazil

Those two speakers are good choices, but very different sounding. For example, both are reasonably flat in terms of frequency response, with well-controlled off-axis dispersion, but the 3050i goes deeper in the bass, which makes it sound fuller and warmer, while the 3000F is a little more tipped up in the highs, which makes it sound brighter and livelier. I would say that overall clarity goes to the 3000F, but the 3050i does sound smoother. Which one you like, then, is more a matter of taste. My tastes runs more to the 3000F, but if someone said they like the 3050i, I wouldn’t argue. . . . Doug Schneider

MQA Via Ethernet on the Hegel H390

To Doug Schneider, 

I live in São Paulo State, Brazil. This morning I had the pleasure of reading your very nice review of the Hegel H390 integrated amplifier, which I have had for two months.

There is a point I would like to confirm with you. In my unit, the Ethernet input supports MQA and the files are unfolded normally up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution.

Looking forward to your kind reply,
Ricardo Cremasco
Brazil

Previously, when I asked Hegel about MQA via Ethernet, they told me that it didn’t work, which mirrored my experience with the H390. But since you wrote stating that it is working for you, I decided to ask them again and, much to my surprise, they’re now saying that with the latest updates, the H390 does support MQA through the Ethernet jack. Confused by that, because the H390 I have has been updated, I also asked why MQA via Ethernet still didn’t work for me and was told that since mine was one of the earliest samples sent to reviewers, it still might not be MQA compatible through that port. They did assure me, though, that all the units that went to consumers should support it. Right now they’re checking my serial number with their records to see if that’s truly the issue here, but I’m glad that it is working for you -- and trust it’s working for others as well. . . . Doug Schneider

NAD -- English or Canadian?

To Doug Schneider,

I recently purchased a new NAD D 3020 V2 and went looking for reviews after the fact.

I came across your D 3020 V2 review from August 1, 2018, but the opening sentence completely threw me for a loop: “The Canadian electronics manufacturer New Acoustic Dimension, since renamed NAD Electronics, was founded in 1972, and released its famous 3020 integrated amplifier in 1978.” I’m reasonably sure that NAD is English, right?

Dave
Canada

NAD has changed hands and countries more than once. NAD was founded in the United Kingdom in 1972, but was subsequently purchased by Denmark’s AudioNord in 1991. In 1999, Canada’s Lenbrook Industries, which also owns PSB Speakers and Bluesound, purchased NAD from AudioNord, which is how the brand wound up becoming Canadian. . . . Doug Schneider

The Hegel H360 and H590

To Hans Wetzel,

I have enjoyed very, very much your review of the Hegel Music Systems H590, including the comparison to the Hegel H360 and Benchmark Media Systems DAC3 HGC. I have learned a lot. Actually, I am using the H360 with Focal Sopra No1 loudspeakers, mostly through the Benchmark DAC3. Using the DAC3 results in a less edgy sound. I am thinking about upgrading to the H590.

In your review, you noted that the combination of the H590/DAC3 resulted in a sound close to the sound of the H360. Did you compare the H360/DAC3 combination, and if so, what did you hear? Do you think that the upgrades made to the H590's analog section have resulted in a more refined sound? I understand that the upgrade in the DAC section made an important improvement to [the amp’s] sound. Do you think that an upgrade from the H360/DAC3 to H590 will result in a meaningful sound improvement?

I would like to thank you for your excellent and insightful review. I am sincerely obliged having your professional assistance.

Moshe Medioni
Israel

First up, your questions. No, I did not directly compare the H360/DAC3 combination to the H590. Yes, the H590’s amp and preamp are slightly more refined than its counterparts in the H360, but the margins are narrow -- the H360 is a great amp in its own right -- and, yes, I think the majority of the H590’s performance improvement over the H360 is down to its DAC. Finally, yes, I do think the H590 will offer a meaningful improvement in sound over an H360/DAC3 tandem.

However, as someone who has owned the last three iterations of Hegel’s flagship integrated amp-DAC -- the H300, the H360, and now the H590 -- I think that the H590 sounds different than its predecessors. To my ears, there was an eagerness, a forwardness, to the H360 that made that amp exciting to listen to, no matter the source material. The H590 lacks that character, but it gains a lot in the transparency and realism departments. There are times when I miss the H360, but the H590 is clearly a cut above, and I don’t have any regrets. My suggestion is to listen to Hegel’s new H390 -- the H360’s replacement -- if you can. I have a strong suspicion that, if you don’t need the additional power, its performance is within a stone’s throw of the H590 for a heck of a lot less money. Keep an eye out for Doug Schneider’s review of the H390 on SoundStage! Hi-Fi in the next few months. . . . Hans Wetzel

Simaudio Moon 390 and Dual Subwoofers

To Diego Estan,

The Simaudio Moon 390 review was very helpful. To confirm, did you connect the power amp through the balanced analog outputs, and at the same time connect the subwoofer with the RCA outputs?

Would it be possible to feed dedicated right and left subwoofers with the two RCA outputs -- one line going to each subwoofer? Assuming the powered subwoofer has an RCA line-level input and can filter out down to the desired Hz.

Regards,
Brian
United States

Thanks for reading my review. In my setup, I only used the left and right balanced XLR outputs, and fed them to two active subs that have balanced inputs and outputs. The subs’ balanced outputs then fed my amp.

As for your question about the two RCA outputs -- both balanced and unbalanced outputs are active on the 390, so you could feed the left and right balanced outputs to an amp, providing it has balanced inputs, and the left and right unbalanced outputs to active subs with built-in low-pass filters (the Moon 390 does not have bass management, so the analog outputs are full-range). If your amplifier does not have balanced inputs, you could alternatively use Y splitters on the 390’s left and right unbalanced outputs to have the single set of RCAs drive the amplifier and subwoofers. . . . Diego Estan

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