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

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

A Subwoofer for the Muraudio SP1s?

To Doug Schneider,

Are you trying any subwoofer(s) during your review of the Muraudio SP1s? I was curious how subs might integrate with those speakers as they have drivers radiating in different directions and patterns.

Thanks,
G.C.
United States

I won’t be trying a subwoofer with the Muraudio SP1s, not that someone couldn’t try to integrate one or more if they really want to. Whenever I review a speaker, or any other component for that matter, I don’t add anything extra to the mix. My goal with any review is to describe the product as supplied -- and only the product.

To your point about differing directions and patterns, that’s worth addressing. When you get down into the lowest frequencies of the audioband, where subwoofers operate, the soundwaves are more or less omnidirectional in a room. As a result, how the SP1’s midrange-woofers are oriented shouldn’t have any effect on how well a pair will blend with one or more subwoofers should someone go that route. . . . Doug Schneider

Integrated for Dynaudio Contour 30 Speakers

To Philip Beaudette,

I just read your Simaudio Moon 600i integrated amp review. [The 600i] seems nothing short of amazing.

I would like your professional advice. I am actively looking for an integrated amp for my Dynaudio Contour 30s. I like music a little loud, from classical to techno -- I listen to everything.

This amp seems a little out of my price range, even used, but I would like your recommendations, say under $5000 retail. My first choice was Anthem’s STR Integrated, but I’ve read a lot of bashing of this amp at Stereonet; many have stated that by looking at this component’s insides, it is impossible to be [capable of] 400Wpc at 4 ohms. I love the STR’s cosmetics: very clean and modern looking -- that display looks really cool.

The Hegel H190 is another under consideration. It also has rave reviews.

Any input will be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
S. Kim
United States

I’ve never heard either the Anthem STR Integrated or the Hegel H190, so that makes a solid recommendation impossible. However, I will tell you that I have reviewed integrated amplifiers from both of these companies (the 225 from Anthem and the H360 from Hegel) and, based on the performance of these products, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that both of the models you are considering could be excellent choices to partner with your Dynaudio Contour 30s. I realize your speakers have a 4-ohm impedance, so you’ll need an amplifier comfortable with that load. Both of the products you're considering come from companies that build powerful amplification; they aren’t known to exaggerate their specifications so they look better on paper than they perform in real life. I realize you have some concern about the Anthem STR based on things you’ve read online, but if I can offer one piece of advice it’s simply that you should ignore what you’ve read and do the research yourself.

Ideally, you’ll be able to listen to each of them in person to determine which one you like better, preferably using your own system. I do think you’ve made two excellent choices, so I hope you will pursue investigating further. I doubt you could make a mistake with either, but when you do make a decision, write back and let me know what you have learned -- and maybe even bought.

Please let me know if you have any more questions. . . . .Philip Beaudette

Tannoys Tonally Off

To Doug Schneider,

I recently purchased a brand-new pair of Tannoy DC10A speakers. Originally, I was quite impressed with the sound, but at times I find the sound quite edgy and the vocals off by quite a bit. Leonard Cohen lost the raspiness in his voice and Koko Taylor sounds like a man.

The speakers are driven by an Audiolab 8000C preamplifier and 8000P amplifier. The Tannoys are replacing an old pair of B&W 803 S2 speakers; the Tannoys are clearer, more detailed, and less coloured, but it seems that the sound is off. Quite often the sound varies as well, from normal, detailed, and clear, to edgy and hollow.

I am wondering if I bought the wrong speakers. Do I need to replace my amps as well? Will the sound improve once the speakers are run in? I read your review of the 10As several times and am at a loss of what to do. If you have time for a quick comment I would very much appreciate it.

Thanks and regards,
Matt
Canada

When voices sound off in the way that you described Cohen’s and Taylor’s, that leads me to believe you’re hearing severe frequency-response aberrations, which will affect the overall tonal balance. This is something no change in amplification is likely to correct, since almost every solid-state preamplifier and amplifier is tonally neutral. I also have no reason to believe that your 8000P has any trouble driving the DC10As, since the pair doesn’t present a load that’s too tough. As a result, don’t change your amplifier!

Instead, I suggest you work with speaker placement. As our measurements of the DC10A show, its on- and off-axis frequency-response curves aren’t that flat -- there are significant peaks and valleys that, ideally, shouldn’t really be there. What’s more, some of them are right in the range of male and female vocals. As a result, the DC10A doesn’t have an inherently neutral sound. I could hear some of that non-neutrality in my room, but nothing like what you described -- voices and musical instruments still sounded natural enough. However, if something about the placement of the speakers in your room is causing the peaks and valleys to worsen, or some other anomaly to occur, then that can be the culprit with what you are hearing.

I first suggest trying to move the speakers further away and closer to you, as well as putting them wider apart and closer together, all to see if those movements improve anything. Moving the speakers around like that should have the biggest impact on the sound. If you can find a better-sounding position for the speakers, then play with toe-in and toe-out (i.e., pointing the speakers’ drivers less or more towards you), since that can also have an effect. Finally, make sure you are sitting high enough so that your ears are at about the same level as the tweeters, since the DC10A has a coaxial driver and the tweeter height is the optimum listening axis. Finally, please do write back and tell me if any of what I suggested helps. . . . Doug Schneider

Richard Gray's and Other Power Products

To Doug Schneider,

I was wondering if you currently use any power conditioners, and if so, which?

Whatever happened to the Richard Gray’s Power Company products? Did you find better, or did any negatives reveal themselves?

Thank you for your input!

Yuki Saki
United States/Japan

It’s a coincidence you should write in and ask this now. After a long break from reviewing power-related products, I literally just finished writing a review on the Shunyata Research Denali D6000S power distributor, which will be published on this site on April 15. In the review, I not only talk about the D6000S, I also explain some of the pros and cons I’ve found with various power-type products. Mind you, I didn’t bring up any Richard Gray’s Power Company products, but not because I found any problems with them -- it’s simply been a very long time since I’ve even seen one of their products, let alone used one in my system, so the company was not even on my mind when I was writing. A quick Google search reveals that the company is still around, but I have no idea what their current products are like. . . .Doug Schneider

From KEF LS50s to R500s

To Doug Schneider,

I’ve just read your review of the KEF R500 speakers and it was very informative. I have a pair of LS50s that I’ve enjoyed very much for the last four years.

I’m thinking of upgrading to a pair of R500s as I’m looking for a bit more weight in the bass, but still want to maintain the wonderful open sound in the midrange of the LS50s. I listen to a lot of jazz trios with stand-up bass, and jazz vocalists, as well as classical. I’d rather not add a sub to the system and keep everything simple.

My room is about 17’ x 19’, but is open to a dining area on the side and the entry behind my listening area. The LS50s are 2’ from the front wall and spaced about 7’ apart. Preamp is tubed (Audible Illusions Modulus 3B), power amp is tubed (Music Reference RM-9, about 100W per side).

I’d appreciate your thoughts on this scenario. Also, since the R500 has been on the market for about seven years, are you aware of any changes to the R series that might be around the corner? My dealer is discounting the R series, which leads me to think this might happen.

I want to thank you in advance for your help and your audio reviews. I find they are very clear and to the point.

Truly,
Eric L.
United States

Since you like your LS50s, moving upwards to a pair of R500s is a reasonable way to go if getting more bass is what you are after. I, too, like to avoid subwoofers, since they can sometimes be difficult to integrate with the main speakers.

The R500 delivers substantially more bass than the LS50 does, but whether you find them as open sounding in the midrange remains to be seen -- sometimes extra bass can alter the perception of the frequencies that are higher, though a lot of it has to do with room acoustics. It’s really something you’ll have to try in your own room. Of course, once you install them, work on placement -- where the LS50s are might not be exactly right for the R500s. Insofar as your preamplifier and amplifier go, I am sure they will work just fine, particularly if you are already happy with them driving your LS50s.

Seven years is a long time for a speaker line to be on the market, so if KEF replaces the series this year, either with new models or something else altogether, I wouldn’t be surprised. I haven’t heard that they will, but since the Q models were revamped and released last year, it’s likely that the R models are next in line. Should you wait and see? Maybe, maybe not. Even if they come out with something new, they are likely to be a little more expensive, since newer models usually come out higher in price. If dealers are discounting the R models, that can make already-great speakers even better deals than they are now. . . . Doug Schneider

Did the Buchardt S400s Show?

To Doug Schneider

Hope you’re good!

Did you manage to review the Buchardt S400 monitors in the end? Wondering how they compare with the KEF LS50s.

Many thanks,
Miken
Spain

I covered that speaker at Audio Video Show 2017, wrote it up the following month as being one of the best products at that event, and mentioned in there that I’d like us to review a pair; however, I didn’t do a good job of following up with the company since then, because there was too much other stuff on my mind. Your e-mail reminded me of that speaker, so right after this goes online, I’m going to fire off an e-mail of my own to the company, which is located in Denmark. It certainly looked like an interesting speaker that is definitely well worth looking more closely at, so I hope they send a pair over here. . . . Doug Schneider

The High-Priced Deception?

To Doug Schneider,

I consider myself as only one in a relatively few to speak out against deception. The many articles written and books that confirm what I am about to explain are too numerous to count. Also, some people that are even millionaires will back up what I will point out now.

You can’t evaluate a speaker’s performance based on how much it costs (this goes for other audio components as well). The phrase “Well if it costs that much, it must sound better” is not valid. For the most part, home loudspeaker performance has not improved much in the last 30 or 40 years. Speakers that look amazing, as if they came from another planet, do not sound better than well-designed speakers at moderately high prices (that would be in the $2000 to $6000 range). And even some speakers that cost less than $1000 can sound very dynamic.

The law of diminishing returns dictates that six-figure speakers are a waste of money. Here is the thing though: There are so many uneducated people out there (with lots of $$$) when it comes to home audio and so the market for extremely expensive audio components still thrives. Paying for aesthetics and cosmetics of a speaker’s cabinet is way more money than the transducers they house. The best speakers that are well designed and sound the best are not the most expensive ones! This is an absolute truth, so do not write back with what you believe because it does not matter.

You have an interest in selling extremely high-priced audio components and that automatically makes you biased to this topic. Don’t get angry and emotional either because this goes against most people’s (including myself!) need to be right even if they are not. If you are right about something because of the facts, that is one thing, but if it is all about “money talks and B.S. walks,” well then think again. I know how the market works in regard to audio components. There is a certain amount of people that perhaps like to pay extra for aesthetics because they can afford to and it is all about having what one would think to be the best, even though it is not. If you find yourself being offended by all this (maybe you are not?), then why are you or anyone else so easily offended?

Look, I take criticism all the time and then I thank those that do it. It is not a big deal. I just know this topic like nobody else does. Still not many will try to find out the truth of the matter and just believe the deceptive words of someone else. Your establishment, Soundstage Network, is not the only one that practices marketing to the very rich home-audio-enthusiast crowd. Many others do the same thing.

Sincerely,
R.C.
United States

This might surprise you -- I’m not offended and I actually agree with many of your points. For example, price doesn’t always correlate with performance; there definitely is some overpriced gear on the market; and there are many people with too much money who think they are buying something better, if only because it’s expensive, when it’s really not. You can’t judge a book by its cover and you certainly can’t judge an audio product solely by its price tag.

There are things we differ on, mind you. First, I don’t believe it’s true that speakers haven’t improved much in the last 30 or 40 years. I got into this hobby in about 1980, so 38 years ago. Speakers are so much better today than even 20 years ago, let alone almost 40, the comparison is not even close, right down to the lowest-priced ones. For example, a pair of $400 speakers today are much better than the ones I bought in 1980, not even adjusting for inflation. There is not only much better understanding today of how to design a good loudspeaker, designers have access to many more materials for the cabinets, crossovers, and drivers. Also, the manufacturing quality is superior. That doesn’t mean every loudspeaker made today is better than every one made decades ago, but you can certainly find many that are. On the whole, they have gotten much better.

As far as having “an interest in selling extremely high-priced audio components and that automatically makes you biased to this topic” is far from the truth. If you look at this site, SoundStage! Hi-Fi, we review products from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars -- pretty much everything. We also have a sister site called SoundStage! Access that caters exclusively to much more affordable gear. What might be surprising to learn is that reviews of the most expensive products are not the most read; instead, the most popular reviews are ones of products that cost three or four digits, partially because they’re made by companies that are more well known, but mostly because more people can afford them. The most popular review on this site is of the KEF LS50 loudspeaker, priced at $1500/pair. . . . Doug Schneider

Bryston Is Second to None!

To Philip Beaudette,

Excellent review [of the Bryston BDA-3 DAC] sir. No frills, no astonishing measurements, just an audiophile’s view. This one made me pull the trigger. I’ve ordered a brand-new BDA-3. Can’ t wait . . . and it’s even more satisfying because it comes from a Canadian company and built no too far from where I live. The one thing that needs to be emphasize is their service -- second to none

Thanks again,
Louis
Canada

Bryston and Audio Research -- Preamp Comparisons

To Doug Schneider,

I was wondering if you could give some feedback on a couple of preamps the SoundStage! Network has reviewed over the years.

I’m deciding between the Bryston BP26 preamplifier (and Bryston 4B3 amplifier) or perhaps a used Audio Research preamp: LS26 or Reference 3 (and ARC Reference 110 amplifier).

Any thoughts on the similarities and differences between these two companies? Is the BP26 in the same league as the ARC? Better? Lesser? Or a different sound altogether?

I was leaning towards Bryston for its low distortion figures; I like the Bryston/PMC speaker combination and I want the recording studio accuracy that Bryston provides. But I also want to experience the spellbinding “magic” of the artist and music. Hence, the ARC consideration . . .

Most of your ARC preamp (and amp) reviews indicate something very special about ARC products: the connection to the music and artist.

Can a Bryston BP26 and 4B3 amp capture and produce both accuracy and magic? That’s what I’m looking for. Or is ARC a better route?

Best regards,
Jason
Canada

You ask some interesting questions for which there are really no answers. Still, I’ll offer some thoughts.

Audio Research makes vacuum tube-based electronics. Many audiophiles feel that tubes have a certain sound that’s often described as being more “musical” than what transistors provide. Maybe this is what you’re thinking when you say “magic.” The thing is, I have not found any of Audio Research’s modern designs to have an overtly “tubey” sound. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if their components are auditioned blindly, most audiophiles would not be able to tell if what they’re listening to uses tubes or transistors. That lack of old-school tube colorations surprised me when I reviewed the GSPre preamplifier and GS150 power amplifier. That certainly doesn’t imply there’s something wrong with Audio Research products -- what it really means is that although they are using tubes, the resulting designs are still sounding very accurate, rather than having a colored sound. Does that mean they’re missing “magic”? That would depend on how someone defines the word in relation to audio.

Similarly, I was in a recording studio some time ago and the engineer there was so smitten by the sound of a Bryston amp he was using, he said to me, “Listen to that top end, it’s so smooth, like a tube amp.” Of course, Bryston’s designs are all solid-state. Ironic, isn’t it?

These days, a quality preamplifier or amplifier design, whether based on tubes or transistors, can be made to sound so natural and coloration-free, it’s difficult to know what technology is in play. That’s not always the case, mind you -- there are components that do still stray from accuracy, sometimes deliberately so -- but with regards to the products you mention, neutrality seems to be the goal. Finally, yes, they’re both playing in the same league.

As a result, with the components you mention, it’s impossible for me to tell you which will allow you a better “connection to the music and artist.” It’s possible that both companies’ products will give you that connection, though it’s also possible that one or none will. That connection is more of a personal thing. The only thing I can advise is to find the answer through listening for yourself. Once you do, I’d be interesting in hearing about the outcome. . . . Doug Schneider

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