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Revel Performa3 F206 or GoldenEar Technology Triton Two+?

To Doug Schneider,

I just re-read your September 2014 review of the Revel Performa3 F206 loudspeaker, probably for the fifth time. I’m a borderline obsessive-compulsive audiophile; like most audiophiles, I think. I apologize if I might have asked you this question before in some other e-mail, but, first and foremost, I want to thank you for your review. Very informative and very helpful, as usual!

I’ve embarked on a two-channel speaker-upgrade quest for a while now and logged some serious seat-time in critical listening sessions in the last few months or so. I’ve listened to: Monitor Audio Silver 500 and 300, Focal Aria 926 and 936, Triangle Esprit Australe EZ, Dynaudio Evoke 30, Vandersteen Model 1Ci, Aerial Acoustics 6T, MartinLogan Motion 60XTi, KEF R7, Spendor A7, Totem Acoustic Hawk, PSB Imagine T2, GoldenEar Technology Triton Two+, Paradigm Prestige 85F and 95F, and Revel Performa3 F206. The Focal Aria 936 was outstanding but out of my budget range. The Triangles were aggressively discounted demo speakers, but I’m convinced there was something wrong with them. The Aerial Acoustics speakers were awesome with tube or solid-state amps that can feed them high current. They were still very, very nice with my amp, a McIntosh MA5200, but they really deserve better. I certainly do not want to disparage any of the speakers I’ve auditioned. They were/are all very fine speakers. However, to my ears, some were better than others, of course. I’m sure you understand.

Anyway, after many hours of critical listening, I’ve now come to my short, short list: Revel Performa3 F206 and GoldenEar Technology Triton Two+. Those Revels were/are everything you said they are and then some! Frankly, if I made my decision today, it would be the Revel. No question! However, yesterday I heard a pair of GoldenEar Triton Two+ loudspeakers, but they had, reportedly, less than 30 hours of play on them, were in a lousy-sounding room, and really couldn’t be set up right. As such, I’m trying to schedule another appointment with a different dealer who, hopefully, can give me a much better or fairer demonstration of what these speakers can really do. If the reviewers of these speakers are to be believed, I definitely didn’t hear that yesterday.

So, I guess my question for you is this: Have you and/or any colleagues, friends, etc., who’ve had serious seat-time with both the Revel Performa3 F206 and the GoldenEar Technology Triton Two+ come away with any strong feelings regarding which might be the better overall performer? This borderline OCD audiophile would sure like to know.

Thanks so much! Stay safe! Be well! And keep up the good work!

Dennis
United States

Congratulations, you’ve really done your homework insofar as listening goes. Because speakers are so varied in their sounds and listening preferences are so personal, you really have to audition them to know you’re getting the right thing.

As far as the two models you narrowed your search down to, I’m not surprised -- I’ve experienced both and found them each to be well-engineered, excellent sounding, and great values. Their acoustic designs also adhere to the same guiding principles of speaker design that were laid down by Dr. Floyd Toole at Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) in the 1980s -- generally flat on- and off-axis frequency response, low distortion, etc. Still, they’re different sounding enough, with the two biggest differences being that the Triton Two+ can play much deeper in the bass, which is mainly due to its powered bass section, as well as a little louder overall. But the F206 counters with some of the smoothest mids and highs that I’ve heard from speakers of any price. Its presentation is also so well balanced that, overall, its sins of being less bassy and not able to play as loud become instantly forgivable.

Since I already know both designs well, if I were buying, I’d opt for a pair of the Revels -- despite the limitations I mentioned, the sound floats my boat. I also like the way the F206 looks. But, like I said earlier, listening preferences are personal. If I were you, since you’ve auditioned so many speakers already, finish off your search the right way -- line up a proper audition of a pair of GoldenEar Triton Two+ speakers and see if they impress you as much as the Revels did. If they do, you have some thinking to do. If not, the answer is obvious. Write back and let me know how it turns out. . . . Doug Schneider

Measurements and the Vivid Audio Giya G2 Series 2 Speakers

To Doug Schneider,

I read with great interest your article on the new Vivid Audio Giya G2 Series 2. I didn’t see a link to NRC measurements. Will you be adding links later?

Best Regards,
A.L.
United States

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NRC’s anechoic chamber is closed, though we’re hoping to see it open in a couple of weeks. When it does open, we will be measuring many speakers we have reviewed and will review. For those that have been reviewed already, the links are obviously going in after the fact, but it’ll still be useful information. That said, we cannot do that for all the speakers -- some had to be sent back to the manufacturers already. The Giya G2 Series 2 is an example -- the pair I had left about a month ago. It’s too bad that’s the case, but we all obviously hope this pandemic and the subsequent worldwide lockdown is only a one-in-a-lifetime experience and will not impact us again. . . . Doug Schneider

An Amp for Vivid Audio B1 Decades

To Doug Schneider,

I just read your recent review on the new Vivid Giya G2 Series 2 speakers. Terrific article! I now own the Vivid Audio Oval B1 Decade speakers that you reviewed.

As you’re well familiar with Vivid technology, I’d like to know whether you have any general suggestions on amp matching. I currently use a Devialet Expert 220 Pro. I have an itch to experiment: Do you have any thoughts about a classic A/B amp with Vivid speakers? It’s not that I’m unhappy with 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, for instance, in demos.

Thoughts?

All the best,
Michael
United States

Congratulations! You now own an amazing set of speakers.

Insofar as amps go, your choices are wide-ranging, since a pair of B1 Decades aren’t that hard to drive. Luxman would be a great choice -- I absolutely loved the M-900u, which I reviewed in 2015. That’s a great start. Another amp I’d look to is the Bryston 4B³, which our own Roger Kanno reviewed for us, Jason Thorpe purchased and loves (and he fancies tube amps), and I just wrote an article about this month. I’m pretty sure one of those two will satisfy you, but if not, as I said, your choices are wide-ranging -- you have, literally, hundreds of potential candidates that you could partner with the Vivids. . . . Doug Schneider

On Dealers and Discounts

To Ken Kessler,

I read your article about hi-fi shops possibly closing. It is indeed sad, but I disagree completely with your attack on consumers shopping for a discount. I demoed speakers locally in the United States and then saw that purchasing them from the UK would lead to a savings of nearly $1k. This wasn’t from a sleazy discounter, but from a reputable shop that I found via a manufacturer’s dealer listing.

I would happily try to work with the local dealer, but they wouldn’t budge on price.

Why is that my problem as a customer? It is the job of the manufacturer to set pricing and ensure all authorized dealers price evenly aside from special promotions.

Ultimately, if you lose a customer on only price you have failed as a dealer. Clearly the customer walked out and decided the service wasn’t worth it. This can only go so far though.

If you demoed speakers at your local dealer who wanted $2.5k and then another dealer offered them for $1.5k, is it really not enough? Ironically, this was also a small local shop in Scotland.

Regards,
Name withheld upon request
United States

Thanks for your e-mail. I will try to answer this as calmly as I can!

I don’t know where you get your information, but manufacturers DO set recommended retail prices. The problem is that they are unenforceable by law. The worst thing that ever happened to hi-fi and to retailers was the abolishing of retail price maintenance. There was a level playing field -- you pitched retailer against retailer according to the service they delivered.

You cannot expect global price parity on imports. British products should cost more in the US than they do in the home market and vice versa, because they have to travel, they have to be subjected to local taxes and to import duties, and there is an extra margin in the form of the importer or distributor.

It Is naive to think otherwise. Moreover, I don’t understand why you and others expect retailers to work without making any reasonable profit. Ask the dealer “who wouldn’t budge” about his overheads including rent, wages, local business rates, taxes, and other concerns. Then ask him what the markup on hi-fi is compared to, say, watches. You would be shocked.

The bottom line is really about people wanting a deal so they can buy stuff they can’t otherwise afford. I guess I was brought up differently and not to think in terms of entitlement, which is what demanding or expecting a discount really is. I don’t know what line of business you are in, but I don’t think you would be too happy as a hi-fi retailer. They struggle enough without giving away their profits. . . . Ken Kessler

Bryston: "Worth It"

To Doug Schneider,

I liked your article on Bryston. I use a pair of 3B amps to biamp my Magnepan MGIIIa speakers and a Bryston 10B electronic crossover. I purchased them all used and they are great units. The 10B needed an overhaul when I purchased it, so I sent it back to Bryston, and although (per Bryston), it was one of the first ten units of that model, they overhauled it. It cost about $750 and was worth it.

Jim
United States

Parasound or PS Audio?

To Roger Kanno,

I hope this e-mail finds you well. I really enjoyed your review of the PS Audio Stellar M700 monoblocks, and in that review, you referenced their similarity to Parasound’s amps. I have narrowed my search down to the M700s and the Parasound A 21+ stereo amplifier. Both retail for $3000. I would be able to get either for more like $2200. If you had the choice between both of these to own for the next five to ten years, which would you go with?

I appreciate any help you can provide as you are the only person I can find that has some familiarity with both companies (locally, there are only Parasound dealers as PS Audio went direct in the United States).

Thanks,
Nick
United States

Those are excellent amplifiers and I don’t think that you could go wrong with either choice. Although they are very different in design, the PS Audio being class-D output with a class-A input stage and the Parasound being a more conventional class-AB design, they both have similar neutral and very powerful sonic characters. You didn’t mention what speakers you will be using them with, but considering how good they both sound and how powerful they both are, they should do well with any reasonable loudspeaker.

Still, there are other things to consider. Because the M700 is a small, efficient class-D monoblock, each pair will likely use less power and each monoblock can be placed close to the speaker that it will be driving. The A 21+, on the other hand, is a large, beefy class-AB design that will require a fair amount of space on a rack or on the floor and will use more electricity. While the Parasound is larger and less efficient, I will say that I really like the look of this big, solid classic amp; however, others might prefer the svelte, more modern look of the PS Audio. Also, I will admit that I have not heard Parasound’s upgraded A 1+ series of amplifiers, but based on what I found with the original A 1s, I have no doubt that they are excellent-sounding amplifiers. Plus, from what I can tell, there has even been a slight increase in power output over the originals.

If you can get either for $2200, that would be a heck of a bargain in my opinion, and I think that you would be happy with your purchase for many years. . . . Roger Kanno

On Amplifiers and Other Things

To Doug Schneider,

I have yet to completely read “Purifi Audio's Pint-Sized Powerhouses,” but, since I have been reading about their kit as well as e-mailing Lars Risbo, I’ll pass on a few things:

  • I called Lars a crazy man in the best way possible (I mean, come on, look at that speaker surround). After he understood it as a compliment, he was very appreciative.
  • A bit over a year ago, I read a BBS feed with Peter Lyngdorf and Bruno Putzeys talking about amp design and what they were making at Purifi. I certainly didn’t understand half of what they were talking about and doubt even the amp-design wonks understood more. It was really cool to read how simpatico these cats were.
  • Lars was actually very interesting to write to. He also was friendly and generous in passing on his wisdom about speaker design.
  • You can get Purifi amps made to order from Nord Acoustics in the UK and Apollon Audio in Austria. Other companies making amps with 1ET400A modules are beginning to crop up as well.
  • Not that it is totally on subject, but I’m using $300 Emotiva mono amps with ICEpower modules on my surround speakers and the center speaker (all KEF LS50s in the theater), and I’m having a hard time finding something to fault with them in this scenario.

After reading a glowing review in Stereophile about the latest Parasound monoblock amp, I looked up the review for the Benchmark AHB2 in Stereophile, and then ran down John Atkinson’s measurements for both, side by side. In almost every chart, the AHB2 was an order of magnitude better: noise, THD, IMD. I’m talking 20-25dB better. Of course, the writer thought the Parasound was fantastic.

That brings up two things:

  • Bruno brought up when asked about making speakers with Kii Audio why he had gone that direction. To paraphrase, he thought that amps had basically gone about as far as they can go. And, honestly, when the noise and distortion that an amplifier creates is at or below the threshold of human hearing and 30-40dB below the background noise in a quiet room, does anything else need to be done? Speakers still need more refinement.
  • At what point will people realize that an audio amp no longer needs to waste a shit ton of power and weigh about 100 pounds for it to be state of the art? Since most people aren’t nearly as smart as they think they are, probably never.

Doug, subjective reviews need to be backed up with measurements. Stereophile recently gave a glowing review to an amp that “must have been damaged in shipment” to John Atkinson. Of course, there is a really good chance that the thing was fucked from the get-go. When I brought that up in their forum, the editor was none too pleased. They punched themselves in the groin.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a piece of properly packed audio equipment get damaged in shipment unless it was run over by the delivery truck. And, no, that never happened.

Jeffrey Henning
United States

Thanks for the feedback, but it’s too bad that you didn’t get to the end of the article yet. When you do get that far, you’ll realize that we're measuring the Purifi amp and loudspeaker at a later date. For product claims like Purifi makes, your ears can only take you so far.

Insofar as Stereophile goes, I suspect you’re talking about their Aavik Acoustics U-380 integrated amplifier review, which seems to be creating quite a bit of controversy. As for products getting damaged in shipping, I’ve seen it happen, so I’m willing to give Stereophile the benefit of the doubt on that claim -- but hopefully they’ll do the right thing and properly follow up on the issue, because, as you mentioned, there’s also the possibility that the product was that way when the reviewer was listening to it. . . . Doug Schneider

The Luxman M-900u Amplifier -- as Good as Before?

To Doug Schneider,

I just ordered a Luxman M-900u to replace my Audio Research GS150, and realized that you had actually reviewed them both!

In your review of the M-900u, you actually said (at the time) it was the best-sounding power amp you’d heard. That’s quite a statement! You’ve heard a lot since then, so where would you put it now, and how would you compare it to the GS150? How do you compare it to other well-known amps such as the Audio Research Ref 160S, as well as the D’Agostino Momentum (which costs quite a bit more, I know!).

My system is comprised of Esoteric digital, Clearaudio analog, an Audio Research Reference 6 preamp, and Wilson Alexia speakers. My goal for this upgrade is to improve the depth of the bass, uncover a bit more detail, and run cooler. I would like to retain the sound signature that Audio Research is famous for: huge soundstage and a sweet, lifelike midrange.

Do you think I’ll achieve these goals with the M-900u?

I’m also in the queue for the Reference 6 SE upgrade.

Love to get your quick thoughts.

Marc
United States

It’s funny you should bring the Luxman M-900u up. Just the other day, I was talking to editor-in-chief Jeff Fritz about this amp, telling him it’s one of the best amplifiers you can buy, regardless of price. It’s built extraordinarily well and sounds spectacular, making it as good as pretty much anything out there. It’s a solid-state amp that has the sweetness of tubes, though you will have to write back to tell me if it provides the soundstage spaciousness of the GS150, which I remember being one of that amp’s strengths -- music really filled the room when played through it. Regardless, I’m even more enthusiastic about the Luxman now than when I reviewed it, because its price is even lower -- it cost $20,000 USD at the time of the review, but is now $15,000. That’s still not cheap, but nothing about the M-900u is cheap, so that new price, in high-end hi-fi terms, actually makes it a steal. The M-900u is an amplifier that I think you’ll be happy with for a long time. . . . Doug Schneider

Get the Totem Kin Monitor In

To Doug Schneider,

I just read your review of the Totem Acoustic Skylight and enjoyed it very much. I am in the early stages of trying to figure out a very nice audio setup for our small desktop (2’ x 4’) in our small home office (6’ x 9’). One of the models that caught my eye was the new Totem Kin Monitor. It was released last September, but I haven’t been able to find a single review on it. Is there any chance you could get your hands on a pair and try them out in a nearfield/desktop setup with a subwoofer? I’d love to read a write-up from you about them, maybe also mentioning how they compare to other speakers you’ve heard in that setting. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks from the mountains of North Carolina.

Dan Suess
United States

Good tip! I saw the Kin Monitor when I last visited Totem Acoustic, but didn’t listen to it or even request a pair for review. We’ll show your e-mail to them and see what they say. . . . Doug Schneider

Thanks for the Schiit

To Doug Schneider,

Thanks for your review of the Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2. I especially appreciated your comparison of the Just An Amp version with an external Bifrost 2 DAC to the Fully Loaded version. Your conclusion confirms my thinking on a Schiit setup I have been looking at, and will now order: a pair of their Vidar amps to run as monoblocks ($699 each) paired with their Gungnir DAC ($899). For about the same price as the Ragnarok/Bifrost configuration you recommended, I’ll have considerably more power in a monoblock configuration and a better DAC. I lose some of the preamp capabilities of the Ragnarok, but I went down the hi-res-streaming rabbit hole and have managed to avoid vinyl for the moment, so an all-digital system suits me. If I had to add something later, I would get their Freya or Freya and preamp. Even with that addition, I’m looking at class-AB monoblocks with 400W each at 8 ohms (doubling to 800W for my 4-ohm Magnepan 3.7s), an excellent DAC, and a separate preamp for around $3000. That sounds like a pretty good deal for this kind of quality.

For the record, I have a Schiit Audio Lyr tube headphone amp paired with the Bifrost 2 DAC you tested and use it as a dedicated headphone system. I like it very much. I also keep a [Schiit Audio] Magni/Modi 3 “stack” next to my bed for headphone listening -- $200 very well spent. I like their headphone products enough to consider moving into speaker amplification. Positive reviews, including your review of the Ragnarok 2, have helped cinch the deal.

Thanks for the write-up.

Jeff Jaffre
United States

I’m glad the review could help. Your plan looks well thought out. . . . Doug Schneider

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