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Bluesound, NAD, and Paradigm -- Credible?

To Doug Schneider,

The scenario you described in your December, 2018, piece (“NAD’s D 3045: a D 3020 V2 on Steroids?”) outlined my choice exactly. I have an older pair of Paradigm floorstanding speakers (Monitor 7 v6) coupled with a Bluesound Node 2i, but currently routed through a 2007 Harman/Kardon AVR 146 -- the weak link.

The Paradigms have a good sensitivity rating, and many people were posting about the ability of the D 3020 V2 to punch well above its weight class in terms of power, so I thought that this might be the right move (for less $$$). But after calling two reputable local hi-fi shops that carry NAD and asking if this pairing will provide enough power to get me where I want to be, I was told flatly “No.”

So my System One (my only system) will now be the D 3045, Node 2i (mainly streaming Tidal CD and MQA files), and the Paradigm Monitor 7s. Does this seem a credible combo? I’m hoping so.

Thanks for any thoughts you may have, and for writing well.

Cheers,
Guy Saddy
Canada

I agree with the retailers -- the D 3020 is great for the money, but it can come up short on power. As for combining the Bluesound Node 2i with the NAD D 3045 and the Paradigm Monitor 7 speakers, you won’t get any argument from me -- it’s a credible combo. . . . Doug Schneider

Has "System One" Stopped?

To Doug Schneider,

It is June 6th and yet no “System One” article. Has this great budget-entry-centric monthly report/article been stopped?

I hope not . . .

Steve Norene
United States

Definitely not! In fact, there’s more equipment here for it than I could’ve previously imagined coming in, including some floorstanding speakers that I’ll be writing about next month, then another turntable, an integrated amplifier, and more speakers in the months that follow. The column is also incredibly popular, so that’s another reason it’s not going away.

The problem, however, is that I have too much to do otherwise to create a feature every month -- other reviews, show reports, producing our YouTube videos, etc. As a result, as I mentioned in one of the earlier “System One” columns, those write-ups will land every month or two -- June 2019 just happens to be one of the “off” months. . . . Doug Schneider

The NAD D 3045 Versus the D 3020 -- and the Problem of Tidal Masters Through Chromecast Audio

To Doug Schneider,

I read your review of the NAD D 3045 and found it very helpful and informative. I have the original D 3020 and am looking to upgrade to the D 3045. I would appreciate it if you could answer a few questions to help me decide before purchasing one. Thank you.

Is the sound quality that much better than D 3020 to justify the cost? I will use it with my KEF Q150 speakers, which are already very good with the D 3020. Will Tidal Masters streaming from the iOS app via Chromecast Audio to the amp enable MQA or did you have to use Roon? How good is the built-in DAC compared to the one in the D 3020?

Best,
Kiran
United States

I found everything about the NAD D 3045 to be better than the D 3020 V2 (I have never heard the original D 3020, but the V2 is supposed to be incrementally better than it) -- more power, more features, and improved sound. As for the latter, to me it sounded cleaner, more detailed, and gutsier than the D 3020 V2. That doesn’t make the D 3020 V2 bad -- it just means that for $300 more (the D 3020 V2 currently retails for $399, while the D 3045 is $699), you get something that is across-the-board better. As a result, I’m confident that if you like your KEFs with the D 3020, you’ll like them even more with the D 3045. They’ll likely sound cleaner and play louder, but I also think you’ll hear more detail and greater dynamics.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you good news about Tidal Masters through the Google Chromecast Audio streamer (which has now been discontinued). In a nutshell, Masters selections, which are MQA files, won’t play in high-resolution using the Tidal app, even though the D 3045 is fully MQA compatible. But that’s not a Chromecast Audio or D 3045 deficiency -- it’s the fault of the app, which will revert back to HiFi from Masters the moment you try to output to any Chromecast-capable device. It works that way for the Android version (that’s what I use), and, from what I’ve read elsewhere, it’s the same for iOS. However, Masters selections transmit perfectly via Chromecast Audio with Roon. . . . Doug Schneider

Yamaha Powered On All the Time?

To Doug Schneider,

I have a Yamaha high-end CD player and I wonder if I can leave it powered-up at all times without any ill effects in the long run? I find that power-up all the time is very beneficial on the performance.

Congrats on your magazine. I like your honest opinion on different matters.

Best regards,
Pierre Provost
Canada

Like you, I find many components sound better when they’ve been left on for some time, probably because they reach an optimal operating temperature. As a result, I tend to leave some components powered on for several days at a time to keep them warmed up. Still, I don’t leave them on all the time, for a few of reasons. One reason is that by being powered on all the time, the lifespan of the component will be shortened -- electronics do wear out with use. Another is because I don’t want to have it fail and possibly cause a fire, particularly if I am not around. Finally, it wastes energy. Therefore, as tempting as it is to leave something powered on -- and some people I know do it -- I don’t recommend it for those practical reasons. . . . Doug Schneider

GoldenEar Technology Triton One vs. KEF Blade Two

To Doug Schneider,

I’m a happy owner of GoldenEar Triton One loudspeakers, but I have recently listened to KEF Blade Twos at a dealer. This audition made me interested, but, unfortunately, chances for a home demonstration are not great. I love the Triton Ones’ ability to give a “live” feeling, their full-range sound, and their soundstage. However, the Blade Twos to me had at little more weight and were a little less “hot” in the treble region.

Can you describe the most prominent differences between the two speakers? That would be of great interest to me. My other gear comprises a Gryphon Diablo 300 amp and PS Audio DirectStream DAC and Memory Player.

Thanks for any help.

A very satisfied reader.

Lars Jørgensen
Denmark

Besides their appearances, by far the biggest difference between the Triton One and the KEF Blade Two is the price. In the United States, the GoldenEar Triton One costs about $5000/pair, the KEF Blade Two about $25,000/pair. The newest GoldenEar, the Triton One.R, which I just reviewed, is around $6000/pair. Even GoldenEar’s most expensive speaker, the Triton Reference, at about $9500/pair, doesn’t come close to what a pair of Blade Twos cost.

Sonically, Blade Twos don’t go deeper in the bass than the Ones, but they do sound more powerful down there, as you’ve found -- they pounded the bass home like there’s no tomorrow in my room. I’d also say that the Blade Twos sounded slightly clearer across the audioband, whether played at low or high volume levels. Finally, although the Blade Twos couldn’t create wider or deeper soundstages in my room than the Triton Ones, References, or One.Rs, the Blade Twos’ images on the stages were a little more focused. I think this is because of the Uni-Q driver array, which pins the tweeter right into the throat of the midrange and makes for a truer point source. I could go on with some other sonic differences, but those are the big ones that pop to mind.

As to the high frequencies, I haven’t found any GoldenEar models to sound “hot” like you mentioned -- certainly no hotter than the Blade Two or other KEF speakers I’ve reviewed. That might have something to do with the way we set the speakers up. I’m not sure.

In sum, let me give you this advice: If spending much more money is not a problem, then a jump to a pair of Blade Twos could really be interesting. Personally, I’d love to own a pair of Blade Twos, though I really think you still must audition them to know if you’d be happy -- don’t take my word for it alone. I know you said auditioning at home would be difficult, but, really, for a purchase this expensive, you have to do this in order to know for sure if it is the right move for you. If you’re not sure about the leap, I’d suggest another course of action -- audition the GoldenEar Triton One.Rs and Triton References. I can confidently say that both are better than the Ones you own now and aren’t nearly as expensive as the KEFs. . . . Doug Schneider

Under-$600 Phono Preamp Suggestions

To Doug Schneider,

I am rediscovering my LP collection. I am using the phono preamp section of an old Yamaha RX-1130 receiver connected to an all-Bryston electronics system.

I am looking to improve the sound with a dedicated phono preamp. Would you have suggestions for a budget of $600?

I am using an early-’80s turntable with an Audio-Technica moving-magnet cartridge.

Thanks in advance,
René Fortier
Canada

You actually have many options, but if I were in your shoes, the first phono stage I’d look at is the Simaudio Moon 110LP v2, which costs only $399. Thom Moon reviewed the 110LP v2 for SoundStage! Access last November, where he not only raved about it, he ended up buying one for his system. Furthermore, it had a Reviewers’ Choice award bestowed on it at the time the review was published, and was also chosen as one of our 2018 Products of the Year. Please read the review to learn how versatile the 110LP v2 is -- it has support for moving-magnet and moving-coil cartridges, as well as numerous switches for adjustment -- and how good Thom found it to sound.

I also encourage you to check out our new SoundStage! Expert videos about phono stages that are on YouTube (there are six on this topic, all less than two minutes long). These were filmed at Simaudio’s factory. They should give you more insight as to what Simaudio knows about the product category. . . . Doug Schneider

Simaudio and Sonus Faber?

To Doug Schneider,

I don’t know if you remember the test of the Simaudio Moon Evolution 740P preamp some years ago. Here in Norway, there is some problem with hi-fi shops -- I can’t seem to hear this preamp and the loudspeakers I want together. My preferred loudspeakers are Sonus Faber Olympica IIIs, and I would love to hear from someone who has tried this preamp, and maybe hear if you believe that Simaudio and Sonus Faber will be a good match.

My preferred sound is open and airy treble with a good middle tone and a firm bass. And I love Pink Floyd music together with the Eagles and even Pet Shop Boys, and even Metallica and Motörhead.

So, if you could spare me some minutes answering this e-mail, I would be grateful.

Best regards,
Haakon B.
Norway

I am happy to. I not only remember the review, I still have that same 740P in my system, so I know it well. I don’t know if you’re aware that I also reviewed the Sonus Faber Olympica III speakers a few years ago.

The thing about the 740P is that it’s shockingly transparent -- it does not add to or subtract from the sound. It will simply pass through the music signal it's fed. As a result, if you’re looking for your preamplifier to add some sort of sonic signature -- a richness in the midrange, perhaps -- the 740P just won’t do it. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure you don’t want that. The Olympica III has a distinctive sound and the 740P will let you hear that, but without adding any colorations of its own. . . . Doug Schneider

EMM Labs XDS1 Update?

To Doug Schneider,

Loved your review of the EMM Labs DA2 Reference DAC. You demonstrate such a high degree of process methodology. It sounds like EMM was “testing” you by sending you the DA2 without explaining the changes.

I purchased the EMM XDS1 in 2011 after hearing it at RMAF with several other top SACD players. I had the unit upgraded to the V2 version in 2015. It’s been the centerpiece of my audio system ever since.

I do listen to digital downloads stored on a PC server connected to the XDS1, but I still prefer SACDs, partially because I prefer physical media I can collect, but I also believe I hear a sound improvement over FLAC files.

You appear to have a good working relationship with EMM -- I wonder if you know if these DA2 software changes are applicable to the XDS1 V2?

I’d very much appreciate any information you can provide.

Regards,
Len
United States

I’m not surprised you love the XDS1. Ed Meitner, EMM Labs’ founder and chief designer, has been at the forefront of digital playback technology for decades. He was also instrumental in helping Sony get the SACD project off the ground by building their first single-bit converters. I rarely talk to Ed Meitner, but I do talk to people who work at his company whenever I have a question about one of their products. When your e-mail came in, I fired another e-mail to them and they responded that, unfortunately, the firmware changes for the DA2 aren’t applicable to the XDS1. However, looking at their website, they do have a V3 update for the XDS1, so you might want to consider that. . . . Doug Schneider

Like the U-Turn?

To Doug Schneider

I take it you like [the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus] turntable? I am interested myself, but am not a vinyl junkie.

Regards,
Tim
United States

For someone who’s on a budget and wants to play vinyl, they’d be hard-pressed to do better than a U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus for its $289 asking price. It comes complete with the turntable, tonearm, cartridge, and interconnect cables; its build quality is good for what you pay; it’s a snap to set up; it looks really good (I have the blue one, but almost wish I’d gotten red, since it looks so sharp in pictures); and it sounds pretty darn good for the price. What’s more, they sell it with a 30-day money-back guarantee. It’s hard to beat all that. In fact, it offers so much that I wound up buying the one they sent me and will keep it as a reference component for my “System One” column. . . . Doug Schneider

Siltech 330L Speaker Cables Still Recommended?

To Doug Schneider,

I just read your review of the Siltech 330-series cables and as I’m looking to upgrade my speaker cables and may have a deal on a pair of 330Ls, I thought you might be the ideal person to ask! I’m listening to my 40-year-old Dahlquist DQ-10s, rebuilt by Regnar about ten years ago, driven by my Bryston 4B3 amp and Ayre KX-5 Twenty preamp. I’m currently using Nordost Red Dawn 2 cables, while the Heimdall 2s have been a recommended upgrade, and so I’m wondering how the Siltech 330Ls might compare?

Any and all advice appreciated!

Thank you,
John Boros
Canada

I’ve never compared the Siltech Classic Anniversary 330L speaker cables to any Nordost cables, but even if I did, I’m not sure it would help you that much -- for an upgrade like this, you’re really going to have to try them both to know if they’ll work well in your system and if you’ll like them for the long term. The best that I can do is to say this: I began using the 330L speaker cables in my reference system about eight years ago and haven’t ever considered replacing them with anything else. It’s important to also note that in that time there have been dozens of amplifier and loudspeaker swaps, yet the 330Ls have remained constant. That’s not to say someone else might not like some other wires more -- I can’t, by any stretch, say they’re the best speaker cable out there -- it’s just that I haven’t found anything I would rather have in my system. I hope that helps. . . . Doug Schneider

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