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Kinki Studio Vision THR-1 Measurements Question

Hello Diego!

I hope you are well.

First, I would like to thank you for your great—and detailed—measurements of the Kinki Studio Vision THR-1 headphone amp [that are on the SoundStage! Network portal site]. Thank you, especially, for pointing out the peculiarities of the inputs and outputs.

I just bought that unit, which I like very much.

As I am not technically educated, I have a question that may be trivial for you: I would like to know if I can safely connect two pairs of headphones to the unit at the same time for comparison purposes—the HiFiMan Susvara headphones connected to the Phone1 (XLR) output, the HiFiMan HE1000se headphones connected to the Phone2 (1/4″) output.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Greetings from Switzerland y un muy feliz año nuevo!

Dejan
Switzerland


Hi Dejan,

I went back to my measurements report to familiarize myself with the Kinki Studio Vision THR-1 again. That amplifier was reviewed by Mark Phillips on our SoundStage! Solo site.

Despite the product’s oddities, such as the lack of input buffers and truly balanced inputs and outputs, it still has a very robust amplifier capable of very high power. In your specific use case, you mention two high-quality planar-magnetic headphones, both connected simultaneously to the THR-1 as you described. I see no issues at all with this arrangement.

The HE1000se headphones have a 35-ohm impedance, while the Susvaras have a 60-ohm impedance. Since the Phone1 and Phone2 outputs are connected in parallel, having both pairs of headphones plugged in will create an effective 22-ohm load for the THR-1 amp. Given the 51-ohm output impedance of the THR-1, the only thing you should notice is a reduction in volume (about 5dB) if you plug in the HE1000se headphones when the Susvaras are already connected. Since planar-magnetic headphones effectively have a flat impedance curve from 20Hz to 20kHz, you should not notice any frequency-response changes with this arrangement. Please note, however, that if you were to use dynamic-driver headphones with a low impedance (e.g., 32–60 ohms), it is possible that you would notice very small changes in frequency response when connecting a second pair, depending on the impedance versus frequency curves of the headphones.

I hope that helps.

Cheers,
Diego

Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 vs. PSB Synchrony B600

To Diego Estan,

I’ve read both your reviews [of the Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 and PSB Synchrony B600], and would appreciate your thoughts on which speaker is better.

Sincerely,
Michael Gross
Canada


Hi Michael,

In this case, I’d argue there is no “better” speaker, because they are both very good. However, they sound quite different.

Both are excellent in the bass department for speakers of their size, but in my room (confirmed by measurements), the PSBs had a bit more output and extension—so much so that they almost redefined what I thought was possible from a 6.5″ midrange-woofer in a two-way design in terms of bass!

In the midrange, I’d give the edge to the 705 S2 in terms of transparency and detail retrieval; but again, only just.

The treble is where you’ll find the biggest difference—between 5kHz and 10kHz, there’s an extra 5–8dB out of the 705 S2 tweeter. This is absolutely unmistakable and immediately noticeable. The PSB is voiced to sound neutral, while the B&W is voiced to sound exciting and attention-grabbing, with lots of “air.”

Which speaker is better for you will come down to personal preference and listening habits—mainly because of that difference in the treble. If you like to listen to your music fairly loud (say 90dB or more at the listening position), go for a pair of B600s. You’ll likely find the 705 S2s will sound fatiguing—and for some recordings, even irritating—over time. If you’re a low- or medium-volume listener (say 70–80dB SPL), you may prefer the extra air and detail retrieval that a pair of B&Ws can provide at these levels.

The speakers are around the same price, so my recommendation is to listen to both if you can.

Cheers,
Diego

Praise for the Arcam SA30 Measurements

Hi Diego,

I hope you are well.

I just came across your measurements of the Arcam SA30, and in your description of the chart labeled “THD ratio (unweighted) vs. output power at 1kHz into 4 and 8 ohms,” you commented: “Of note is that this dual ‘knee’ behavior in the plots above is unusual; however, THD values are consistently very low for any amplifier up until the second ‘knee.’”

I believe this “dual knee” behavior is just an indication of the SA30’s class-G operation. The SA30 uses two power-supply rails for the power-amp section; one lower-voltage rail for low-power outputs, where the output transistors are biased in class A, and a second, higher-voltage rail for higher power, where the transistors are biased in class AB.

If you consider this and look at your graphs, you can clearly see the class-G behavior, with the amp operating in class A up to about 27W into 8 ohms and 40W into 4 ohms. Above these levels, the amp switches to the second power-supply rail, effectively switching to class-AB biasing, hence the increased THD ratios.

And as a side note, I believe your measurements are excellent and comprehensive—an extremely good job! People are often quoting measurements on the Audio Science Review (ASR) forum, but they do not compare to yours. You even measured frequency response with a real-life load (i.e., a speaker), which is very uncommon. Sometimes, this might reveal differences in sound quality and signature [between components], which are often ignored on ASR because “they measure the same.” Yep, they do—with a purely resistive dummy load. Thank you very much for doing that!

I also thought the SA30 measured really well, considering it’s a budget all-in-one device. I’m impressed [by the results], although, as an owner of this device already, perhaps I shouldn’t be!

Best regards,

Felix
Poland


Hi Felix,

Thank you for your comments, insights, and kind words of praise. You’re absolutely right, and I should have taken more time to investigate the SA30’s amplifier topology when I was interpreting my measurements. This would have provided some context around the SA30’s measured THD results compared to more typical class-AB amps. Thanks to you, I have now added a few lines on class-G operation in my explanation under the “THD ratio (unweighted) vs. output power at 1kHz into 4 and 8 ohms” chart.

And I agree, the measured performance of the SA30 is exemplary, especially considering its price and exhaustive list of features, which, along with what Roger Kanno wrote in his review, led to the SA30 receiving a 2021 SoundStage! Network Product of the Year award.

Regards,
Diego

Focal Aria 936 or Paradigm Founder 100F?

Good morning, Doug,

Let me begin by saying that I greatly enjoy your in-depth loudspeaker reviews for SoundStage! Hi-Fi.

I am now wrestling with my purchase decision for a new pair of speakers in the $5k ballpark. Having auditioned several speakers, the current front-runners are the Paradigm Founder Series 100F and the Focal Aria 936. I really loved both of these speakers.

I enjoyed and appreciated your review of the Paradigm. My question is this: Of these two choices, which do you prefer, and which one is better designed and constructed?

It is somewhat frustrating that there are so few professional reviews available for the Paradigm. Your valued input on the pros and cons of these two loudspeakers would be most appreciated.

Thank you in advance.

Ray
United States


Hello Ray,

I’m glad to hear that my reviews have helped. To answer your questions, I’ll start by saying that I haven’t reviewed or even heard the Focal Aria 936, but we published my review of the Aria K2 936 in May 2021, so I definitely know about that one. The K2 is basically a special-edition version of the Aria 936, the main difference being its use of Focal’s K2 material instead of flax for the midrange and woofer cones. I thought that the Aria K2 936 was a very good loudspeaker.

As you mentioned, I reviewed the Founder 100F recently. I think the reason that you don’t see many 100F reviews is because Paradigm doesn’t really need them; the company is already selling enough units based on the limited number of reviews so far. The speaker is that good.

But even though I have product experience that can help, the fact that you said you “really loved” both of these speakers says to me that it will do no good to tell you which one I prefer. That’s because you’re the one who must live with the decision, so it’s you who must make it.

I can give you some reassurances about product quality, however. I know both companies design and build very good loudspeakers—not just the models I’ve reviewed, but the others they make, too. I can state this with confidence because I’ve heard many of their speakers over the years. I’ve also been to Paradigm more times than I can remember, and, as you might’ve already seen on this site, I recently visited Focal and came away impressed. All told, both speakers you’ve chosen are well built by reputable companies that I’m confident will stand behind their products. I’d have no hesitation buying from either company.

Finally, the good news with this situation is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to making a purchasing decision. You’ve narrowed down the selection to two speaker models you like. Both would be worthwhile purchases. My advice to you is to go and compare both models again, then pull the trigger on which one you like the most. Use your gut feel if you have to. Once you’ve made the purchase, take the speakers home and don’t second-guess your decision—simply enjoy them.

Doug Schneider

Does Anyone Know Where Saskatchewan Is?

To Doug Schneider,

I’m a longtime reader and a big-time fan. I just watched your recent video on the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 loudspeaker and I couldn’t help but notice the shirt you were wearing; I had to reach out. I’ve lived in Saskatchewan my whole life and I always thought the rest of the world didn’t know we existed. Were you here to visit? If so, where did you go?

Cheers,
[Name withheld upon request]


Hello, fellow Saskatchewanian,

I recently bought that Saskatchewan T-shirt at a Sunrise Records location in Ottawa, Canada—the city where I live. I knew that if I wore it in a video, it would only be a matter of time before someone from Saskatchewan would write in—and it only took about a day before your email arrived.

I agree that most people probably won’t know where Saskatchewan is—they might not even know what it is. But I do know, because I lived in a couple of different cities in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan over a span of 12 years as I was growing up. That was because my father’s job got him transferred around the country fairly often.

I lived in Regina for the first four years, from age six to ten. The next four years were spent in Moose Jaw, a city with a strange name that I’m sure very few people have heard of (although it’s gained some fame because of the mysterious tunnels under the city that may have been used by Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone). My final four years in Saskatchewan, from age 14 to 18, were spent back in Regina. From there, I moved to Calgary, Alberta, where I lived until I was 30. Finally, I ended up here in Ottawa.

When you heard that I got started in audio in 1980, that was when I was in Regina for the second time. I bought my first stereo at Custom Stereo, which was an amazing place that occupied all three floors of an older three-story bank building. From what I recall, the first floor of the building had most of the home hi-fi equipment, two listening rooms, and, where the bank’s old vault used to be, the car-audio gear. The second floor had higher-end equipment, one larger listening room, and a Bang & Olufsen display. The top floor had a recording studio. It was one of the best stereo stores I’ve been to, but from what I understand, it went out of business sometime in the 1980s, though I’m not sure exactly when or why.

All in all, those were good memories, so that’s the main reason I picked out the shirt and wore it for the video.

Doug Schneider

Upgrading with the Arcam SA30

Hi Roger,

I was very interested in your review of the Arcam SA30 integrated amplifier-DAC. I live in Australia and it’s much cheaper here than the Anthem STR or NAD Masters M33 [integrated amps].

The SA30 could potentially replace three pieces of equipment I currently use:

1) Anthem MCA 225 stereo power amplifier
2) NAD M51 Direct Digital DAC
3) DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core DSP (used for room correction)

Would it be reasonable to assume that the Arcam SA30 would be a significant upgrade?

Also, my speakers are PSB Speakers Synchrony One towers, which can be a tough load. Your review suggests that the Arcam SA30 should have no problem driving them—would you agree?

Regards,
Pradeep
Australia


Hello Pradeep,

Of the three components you are looking to replace, I have only had the Anthem power amplifier in my system. And although it has been quite some time since I’ve heard that amp, I am confident that the SA30 would better it in terms of sound quality, based on what I remember of it and what I heard more recently from the Arcam.

Also, all of your components are at least several years old, so I would surmise that the DAC and DSP in the newer Arcam are superior. They also work wonderfully together in this fantastic-sounding and cost-effective integrated amplifier-DAC.

You also mention that your PSB Synchrony One speakers are a little hard to drive, something Doug Schneider likewise noted in his review of them. However, our measurements showed that the SA30 can output 200Wpc continuously into 4 ohms. It comfortably drove my MartinLogan Masterpiece Classic ESL 9s—which require a fair amount of power—with a sound quality that was almost the equal of the NAD M33 or my reference separates (Anthem’s STR Preamplifier and 1000W Statement M1 monoblock amplifiers). The Arcam SA30 should be fine with your PSBs.

The SA30 is an absolute bargain at $3300 (in USD). So if you are looking for a high-powered, fully featured integrated amplifier with the same functionality as your current system of separates but with improved performance, the SA30 would be an excellent choice.

Roger Kanno

Small, Medium, Large—What Room Size Means

To Doug Schneider,

Thanks for all the information you and your collaborators have been providing over the years.

Over time, I have built a system that is very musical, with a mix of Bryston, NAD Electronics, and Simaudio Moon audio components powering an old pair of Energy Veritas 1.8 loudspeakers.

When I read articles about speakers, room size is quite often described as small, medium, or large. My room is 6 meters by 4 meters, with vaulted ceilings and two large openings on one wall. Would that be considered a small, medium, or large room? I ask because my next investment will surely be in better speakers.

Thanks again for the great work.

René
Canada


Hi,

That’s a good question that also brings up a valid point about hi-fi reviewers. Many of them—me included—are guilty of using the words you mention for room sizes without defining what those words really mean, most of the time. Perhaps I can explain what I mean by those terms.

Converting the dimensions that you gave me to feet (because so many of our readers are in the United States), your room is around 19.5′ × 13′. To me, that’s a medium-sized room, like mine, which is about 18′ × 16′ in the listening area. Both are between 250 and 300 square feet. If a room is much larger than that—say, approaching or exceeding 20′ for width and depth, and therefore about 400 square feet or more—then, for me, it’s a large listening room.

What I haven’t taken into account is ceiling height, which can be important as well. I have a standard, 8′ ceiling, while yours, being vaulted, would far and away exceed that. But I usually look more at width and depth when classifying size.

How did I arrive at medium for my room, and for yours? In North America, a small bedroom is considered to be about 10′ × 12′, or 120 square feet. Room sizes vary, obviously, but that’s a common size. People often use a room that size for their stereo—I did, back in the early 1990s. As a result, that’s what I think of as a small listening room. And just from personal experience, you could use a room that’s smaller than that, but it would feel really small.

When I moved to a place with a bigger room—14′ × 16′, or 224 square feet—it still felt a bit cramped. Even at the time, I didn’t consider that room to be medium-sized; it was somewhere in between. But the room I’ve been using since I moved into my current home, about 18 years ago, felt like a step up in size back then, and it’s still my definition of a medium-sized room.

I hope that helps.

Doug Schneider

Factory Visits

To Doug Schneider,

I’m retired, but used to work at Sound Plus (now long gone) in Vancouver, Canada. Two of our main lines were Linn and McIntosh Laboratory. I spent a memorable weekend being trained on McIntosh products at the company’s factory in Binghamton, New York, and some of my colleagues raved about their visit to Linn’s facility, which is in Glasgow, Scotland. These are two recommendations for you [for factory visits].

By the way, I purchased a pair of KEF R500 speakers in 2014 because of your review, and without an audition. I love them still, so thank you!

Michael King
Canada


Hello,

I’ve been to McIntosh a few times, but I’d still like to go back. It’s only a five-hour drive for me. I’d love to visit Linn’s facility—that’s good food for thought.

I’m glad you’re pleased with the KEF R500s. I was rather blown away back when I reviewed them, so I’m not surprised to hear they’re holding up well. Speaker technology hasn’t changed much since then, so speakers that were good nine or ten years ago should still be good speakers today.

Doug Schneider

NAD M33 or Anthem STR, or Something Else?

To: Roger Kanno,

I read your review of the Anthem STR integrated amplifier-DAC and I’m wondering if the NAD M33 is just as good, or if there are other options in the below-$10k price category.

Suraj
United States


Hello Suraj,

In addition to the Anthem STR ($4499, all prices in USD) and NAD Masters M33 ($4999), which I reviewed in September 2020, I have also reviewed the Lyngdorf Audio TDAI-3400 (base price $6499). All are excellent integrated amplifier-DACs with room correction, but the NAD M33 is my favorite. The NAD M33 has an incredibly neutral sound, which I attribute to a large degree to its Purifi Eigentakt amplifier modules. The Anthem and Lyngdorf also sound great, and all three integrateds have enough power to drive most speakers to very high levels. They all provide excellent value in this price range.

And while they all have room correction, I really like how easy it is to use Anthem’s ARC and how well it performs. Both Lyngdorf’s RoomPerfect and NAD’s implementation of Dirac Live provide more flexibility in terms of customizing the target curves, if that is important to you. Also, the Anthem has an excellent and very flexible moving-magnet (MM)/moving-coil (MC) phono stage built in, while the NAD only supports MM out of the box and the Lyngdorf only offers MM on their recently upgraded optional analog input board. The NAD and Lyngdorf both provide streaming options, which the Anthem does not—and in the case of the NAD, it’s the excellent BluOS system.

So yes, the NAD is as good as the Anthem and is actually my favorite integrated amplifier-DAC, but I can see how someone might choose any one of the three I have mentioned, for different reasons. Also, you asked about other options in the sub-$10k price category and it just so happens I am currently reviewing the Arcam SA30 class-G integrated amplifier-DAC. It costs just $3000 and you’ll have to wait to read my review for more specific details, but it is another excellent streaming integrated amplifier-DAC with Dirac Live room correction at an affordable price.

Roger Kanno

Which Paradigm Founder Speaker?

To Doug Schneider,

I have read your excellent review on the Paradigm Founder 100F loudspeakers. Thanks for reviewing the product. Your review is very thorough, and explains how good these speakers sound.

I am in search of new speakers for my living room, which is small—3.6m wide and 4.5m long (about 12′ × 15′)—and my listening position is about 9′ in front of the speakers.

I would like to know how this speaker compares to the B&W 702 S2 and Monitor Audio Gold 200. Which sounds better? I like neutral-sounding speakers.

Also, I would like to know if the 100F will be too big for my room, or if the 80F would be better. My listening tastes are for movies and music. I will be using the Anthem MRX 1140 A/V receiver.

A reply from your side would be highly appreciated, and will help me decide which speaker to get.

Regards,
Akshay
India


Hello,

Thank you for writing in. B&W and Monitor Audio generally make good speakers, so those two models are worth considering, but that’s really all I can tell you—I don’t have any experience with them, so I can’t tell you how they’d compare.

But I can give you some advice on which Founder speaker to pick for your room. The 100F delivers a lot of deep bass, so using a pair of these excellent speakers could overload your room. Therefore, the smaller 80F might be a better choice—it doesn’t put out quite as much bass, so overload shouldn’t be as much of a problem. However, since you have the MRX 1140, which has Anthem Room Correction (ARC), any bass problems in your room can be fixed. If you enable ARC and do a proper calibration on the MRX 1140 with the speakers you choose, it will apply filters that will ensure bass frequencies don’t overload your room—that’s mainly what ARC is for. This means you could still use the 100F if you want that model. I hope that helps.

Doug Schneider

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