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ELECTRONICS: A multichannel tube
preamp from Copland, great integrated
amps from Vecteur and Audiomat, and an
MC phono stage from Rega
SPEAKERS: Focus Audio, Thiel, Iliad
PLUS: CD players from Audio Note and
Copland, and Paul Bergman on the black
art of power supplies
AS WELL AS: What comes after the DVD?
No. 68
ISSN 0847-1851
Canadian Publication Sales Product,
Agreement No. 40065638
Box 65085
Place Longueuil,
Longueuil, Qué.
J4K 5J4
Printed in Canada
Roksan Kandy MkIII
Winner WHAT HI-FI SUPERTEST October 2003
Bel Canto
ASW Speakers
Perfect Sound
Nitty Gritty
Radiant Speakers
Roksan Radius 5
Justice Audio
9251-8 Yonge St., Suite 218
Richmond Hill, ON L4C 9T3
Tel. : (905) 780-0079 • Fax : (905) 780-0443
LAST record care
Audiophile CDs
Audiophile LPs
Issue No. 68
The Thiel CS2.4
Not too big, not too small. Is it the peak of Jim
Thiel’s art?
Focus Audio FS688 Loudspeaker
Surprisingly small, surprisingly beautiful,
surprisingly desirable.
Iliad B1 Speaker
A small speaker with no surprises. Oh…except
possibly for its price tag.
Audio Note CD Player
You’ve seen the name, but how often have you seen
the gear?
Cover story: The gorgeous Focus Audio FS688, one
of three loudspeakers reviewed in this issue. In the
background, a Montreal summer sky.
Going Against the Flow
YBA’s Yves-Bernard André is not known for
following the pack. He explains why he’s not about
to start.
Copland CDA-822 Player
Is the CD dead? We say no. So does Copland.
Vecteur I-6.2 Amplifier
Looking for a separate amplifier and preamplifier?
Read this first.
Audiomat Arpège Référence Amplifier
Promise her anything, but give her…
Rega Fono MC
We were so bowled over by the original that we
deplored the absence of a moving coil version. We
didn’t have to wait long.
The GutWire MaxCon
Cleaning up the dreck from the power utility?
We’re for it.
Listening Room Preview
The Connoisseur SE-2 single-ended tube amp, the
GutWire NotePad damping devices.
Beyond DVD
They told you the DVD was the future. They never
said the whole future.
The Power Supply
by Paul Bergman
Power supplies aren’t rocket science. So why does
everybody talk about them so much?
Record Reviews
by Reine Lessard and Gerard Rejskind
The Listening Room
The Copland CTA-306 Preamplifier
Can a six-channel tube preamplifier aspire to
reference quality?
by Reine Lessard
Every country has one. National anthems, it turns
out, include some of the world’s truly great music.
Free Advice
Classified Ads
Gossip & News
State of the Art
UHF Magazine No. 68 was published in November, 2003.
All contents are copyright 2003 by Broadcast Canada. They
may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, or any information storage or retrieval system,
without written permission from the publisher.
Broadcast Canada
Box 65085, Place Longueuil
LONGUEUIL, Québec, Canada J4K 5J4
Tel.: (450) 651-5720 FAX: (450) 651-3383
World Wide Web:
PUBLISHER & EDITOR: Gerard Rejskind
EDITORIAL: Paul Bergman, Reine Lessard, Albert Simon
Québec: Reine Lessard (450) 651-5720
Alberta & BC: Derek Coates (604) 522-6168
Other: Gerard Rejskind (450) 651-5720
Stonehouse Publications
85 Chambers Drive, Unit 2, AJAX, Ont. L1Z 1E2
Tel.: (905) 428-7541 or (800) 461-1640
SINGLE COPY PRICE: $4.99 in Canada, $4.99 (US) in the
United States, $8.60 (CAN) elsewhere, including air mail. In
Canada sales taxes are extra.
ELSEWHERE (surface mail):
$25 for 6 issues*
US$25 for 6 issues
CAN$40 for 6 issues
*Applicable taxes extra
Air mail outside Canada/US: an extra $1.10 per issue
PRINTING: Interglobe-Beauce
FILED WITH The National Library of Canada and
La Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec.
ISSN 0847-1851
Canadian Publications Mail Sales Product No. 0611387
Ultra High Fidelity Magazine invites contributions. Though
all reasonable care will be taken of materials submitted, we
cannot be responsible for their damage or loss, however
caused. Materials will be returned only if a stamped selfaddressed envelope is provided. Because our needs are
specialized, it is advisable to query before submitting.
Ultra High Fidelity Magazine is completely independent of
all companies in the electronics industry, as are all of its
contributors, except as noted.
Those darned labels
The subscription ad on the page across says it: we don’t believe that the
price of buying UHF regularly should be a ratty dog-eared magazine with
torn edges and a label welded onto the most interesting part of the cover.
Nothing new about that. When we mailed out issue No. 1 to the very few
who had subscribed without ever seeing a copy (an act of faith if ever there
was one), we put it into a plastic envelope with the label pasted on the envelope.
Each copy arrived in perfect condition. And it’s been that way across more
than two decades.
So we were miffed (no, not miffed, livid? Furious? Apoplectic?) when we
discovered that some issues of No. 67 had been mailed with the label right
on the cover! Fortunately the labels we use can be removed with a little care,
leaving little or no residue.
Of course the guilty parties have been punished (I’m told they are now
wearing orange jumpsuits somewhere in the Caribbean), and we have been
assured this will never, never happen again.
Previewing equipment
We’re working to pick up the pace, to publish UHF more often. Our readers are mostly patient, but they would like to read us more often, and I’m
glad of it. One way to get this done is to bring in more gear to test, and to
have it well in advance. Readers often hear that we are planning to review a
particular piece of equipment (if only because we say so in our Newsletter at, and they write to get an advance hint. What’s it like?
Well, why shouldn’t we share those first impressions with readers of the
print issue? On a regular basis, starting in this issue, we will be previewing
equipment in advance of a full-blown formal review.
That will also enable us to give impressions of audio components with limited geographical distribution. We don’t want to fill our main Listening Room
section with articles about equipment you can’t go out and hear, but perhaps
you would like, at times, to read our take on some alternatives.
Reading on line
We’re getting a growing volume of mail from audiophiles who would like
to subscribe to UHF electronically, and to get their issues as PDF files. They
assume (correctly) that an electronic subscription would be cheaper, and that
they would get it much faster.
As for us, we would love to say goodbye to those huge bills from our film
house, our printer and our fulfilment house.
Yet I don’t anticipate a time when the print edition will vanish. There's an
obvious danger in PDF distribution, one that record producers could tell us
all about. It’s especially severe for UHF because, unlike most other magazines,
we make most of our money from our readers rather than our advertisers.
I’m also convinced that producing the image of a print publication to be
viewed on a computer screen is a misuse of the digital medium. Do expect,
however, that our very busy Web site will play a growing role in the future of
We often talk to regular UHF readers who tell us they hesitate to
subscribe, because they say they want to get their magazines in perfect
condition, not dog-eared and torn.
So wouldn’t it be funny if a dog-eared copy was awaiting
them at the local newsstand!
But it makes sense if you think about it. Where do
copies sit around unprotected? On the newsstand.
Where do other people leaf through them before you
arrive? At the newsstand. Where do they stick on little
labels that don’t come off? Surprise!
At a lot of newsstands, they do exactly that!
What you want is a perfect copy. And the perfect copy is the one in your mailbox.
No tears or bends, because each issue is protected by a sealed plastic envelope.
With the address label on the envelope, not on the magazine.
Of course, you’ll have to make a certain sacrifice.
Are you willing to pay, oh, maybe 23% less for the privilege of having a perfect
And are you willing to qualify for a discount on one or both of our original books
on hi-fi (see the offer on the other side of this page)?
Are you? Then the choice is clear.
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The books that explain…
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Including these topics: The basics of
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Five dollars off each of these two books if you subscribe or renew at the same time
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Box 65085, Place Longueuil
Longueuil, Québec, Canada J4K 5J4
I am a devout reader of your magazine and have gotten many great ideas
and equipment recommendations from
It’s probably been mentioned before,
but why don’t you guys design a “high
fidelity” T-shirt with either your logo
or just the words UHF…Ultra High Fidelity!!! The advertising would be justification alone, let alone a lot of your present
readers buying one!
What the heck…Stereophile offers
their own!
Ed Morabito
Ed, we were just thinking about all
the other things Stereophile does that we
don’t…but that way lies madness.
One-size-fits-none all right?
We’ve heard from other sources that, in
severe cases, that’s the only way to go.
We greatly appreciate your comments,
Dan, and your advice based on experience.
We do understand the point about the
desirability of matching a centre speaker to
the other front speakers. For that matter, it
is desirable to match the rear speakers as well,
and we have heard some very good systems
done that way. The reality is that we simply
couldn’t do that in the space available. We
now have three reference systems, and we are
out of very large spaces that would allow us
to position five identical high end speakers
in optimal position. To make matters worse,
our experience with centre speakers hasn’t
encouraged us to suppose that the same badge
means the same sound. In this case being realistic meant accepting the limitations of what
we could do, and making some compromises.
We did, however, select speakers that sounded
similar in pink noise burst tests. That seems
to correlate with performance on actual
The same space limitations were a factor
in rejecting a projector as well, though we
appreciate your recommendation. Since then,
we’ve looked with some interest at new DLP
rear projectors.
You are right that high end DVD players
mostly use transports from large companies,
including Panasonic but also Sony, Philips
and Pioneer. There’s more to the player than
the taw transport, however, as witness the
results we got from the Simaudio player and
a Toshiba player, using the same audio and
video processors in both cases.
Your point about film sound tracks
being meant for huge rooms is well taken,
but we’re up against that all the time. Most
I would like to respond to David
Gilchrist’s quer y in UHF No. 67
regarding power outages, surges, etc, as
we understand where David is coming
from, since we live in the same area.
Our main transformer and hydro
pole has been hit twice in the nine
years we have lived at this location, and I
have found that the only true protection
against unwanted damage to our hi-fi
system (and other electronic goodies) is
by the old method of unplugging them
from the wall. True, it is very tedious, but
well worth it. It has been said that a surge
protector will do little from a direct hit
other than melt down and let the spike
through to its next victim. Fortunately,
we only lost our modem in one of those
cases. We now disconnect the modem
during a thunderstorm.
Good luck, David.
Scott Guthrie
First I would like to compliment
you on your fine magazine. You truly
are the Audio Gods’ representatives on
earth. With that said…
I work for one of Canada’s oldest
specialty retailers of audio and video.
I would never argue with you on your
choice of turntables or speaker cables,
for I greatly respect your opinion.
However, I believe your Kappa system
could use a little… help?
I believe you chose the best CRT
rear-projection set in that size range
(way to go UHF!). However, I think you
overlooked the projector market. I know
that you are audio focused and not video
focused, but home theatre in general is
video focused. A balanced home theatre
system should have approximately half
its value in the display device. There is
one projector with outstanding performance for $6900. The Optoma H56 is
truly a reference projector. Go see one
properly set up.
Did I read correctly that the centre
speaker was yet to be determined?
The centre speaker should match the
fronts. Would you ever use a different
left speaker and right speaker? No, of
course not. It would destroy the stereo
image between the speakers. The same
goes for a centre speaker.
Did you know that the top rated
(video) DVD players (top 4) are all
made by Panasonic? Say it wit h
me — Panasonic. Doesn’t sound like a
high-end name, nor should it. The video
market changes too fast for small manufacturers like Theta, Krell or Simaudio.
On the audio side, you will use a digital
out so the sound quality relies more on
the processor than the DVD player. The
savings on the DVD player can be put
into a projector.
Here is a general suggestion. You
obviously have a lot of knowledge about
hi-fi sound. Throw it all away and start
over. Huh? Home theatre and stereo
have so many fundamental differences
that your knowledge of stereo could be
more of a liability. For example, stereo
is set up so that one listener can sit in
the sweet spot and enjoy great sound.
Surround sound is set up to get the best
sound for the majority of listeners in a
variety of positions. The sound tracks
for movies are not intended for home
systems. They are meant for 10,000 sq.ft
rooms. A speaker that sounds great in
the sweet spot playing soft jazz may not
sound good playing machine-gun fire at
110 dB on the far left of the room. Get
my point?
Dan Mick
• Analogue Productions
• Audio Fidelity
• Cisco Music
• Classic Records
• Mosaic Records
• Simply Vinyl
• Speakers Corner
• Sundazed
Many other non-audiophile labels
Over 1,200 new vinyl titles in stock
the whole sound of vinyl
for Canada and the world
popular music recordings from major labels
are not meant to be played on the sort of high
resolution audio systems we favor, and some
are specifi cally optimized for boomboxes. We
can hear all sorts of artifacts whose existence
would horrify the record producers. All
we can do is try to reproduce our chosen
music — or our chosen movies — under the
best possible conditions.
I was very interested in your articles
on centre channel speakers for home
theatre in the current issue. I would
like to share some of my thoughts.
Like some, I believe that the value
of the centre speaker is over-rated. My
processor allows me to select a “no centre
speaker” option which feeds the centre
channel equally to the left and right
speakers producing a phantom centre
channel. In 95% of the cases this actually produces a more satisfying result,
partly because the quality of my left
and right channel speakers is superior
to any centre channel speaker and there
is no shifting of tonal balance across the
front. The issue of off-axis listening I
fi nd to be mostly inconsequential.
One point that you do not men- is a fraud, and when the bank finds out
tion in your articles is the basic design it will debit your account.
flaw inherent in most centre channel
What tipped me off was it quickly
speakers. The practice of putting two became about the money and not the
mid-woofers in a horizontal configura- equipment.
tion produces interference between the
Hopefully this helps, if you have any
two wave fronts which results in a lobed questions call the Ottawa police and ask
frequency response at different angles. I to speak to the fraud department.
believe that this may explain some of the
Glenn Ellis
differences each of you heard from the
speakers you auditioned. I find that my
centre speaker sounds better in a vertical
We have since received a similar offer for
configuration (atop my Toshiba RPTV) a pair of speakers we had listed in our own
than when positioned horizontally. Al- classified ads. The cheque would come from
though the vertical position raises the someone “who owes me money,” and would
acoustic centre slightly from 43 cm above we please send them back the difference. And
the centre of my 50” screen to 59 cm., I the speakers, of course. Yeah, right.
feel that this is only a slight compromise
compared to the improvement in sound
There is a rumor around our little
quality that I get and the difference is town that cleaning LPs with Windex
about the same as it would be atop a window cleaner is an effective way of
65” screen. The practice of designing not only cleaning LPs every day, but that
centre channel speakers in this hori- it is good for cleaning the release agent
is purely
a matter
of in
Is this
or is it just a
is a singer
has three
of visual perception
to get
try to replace their
out. You think
can be
ed with
one of
perception. The designers of high-end collections once they have melted their
speakers have sacrificed their principles whole collection? Please answer this as
to fashion on this one.
an e-mail, as I do not have a subscription,
Don McIntosh and there are many innocent victims on
Mike Shickele
We did in fact write about the fact that,
for various reasons including the one you
mention, a centre speaker may not be a
Mike, we figure the rumor comes from
perfect match for its brandmate. Some are, Michael Constantine’s character in the film
alas, not even close.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding. If you’ve seen
the film, you’ll know he advocated Windex
I am the seller of the Blue Circle for curing everything from psoriasis to baldequipment posted in the UHF Classifieds. ness. We may have missed the part where he
I was almost a victim of a scam run from said to clean LPs with it.
Nigeria. I am e-mailing you the details
so that hopefully no one gets burned.
After reading one of your articles, I
It will take form in probably a similar swapped my Tesla KT88 tubes which I
had always used, for a set of Svetlana
You will receive an e-mail asking if EL34’s. The difference in midrange
the purchase price in negotiable. When was incredible to say the least. My Jadis
you respond they will offer you a fair to JA80’s virtually sing.
better-than-fair price, they will ask for
Clare Sopotyk
your address and FedEx a cashier’s check
drawn on a US bank account. They will
then contact you after the check has been
You should post some pics of your
sent with some sort of excuse, that they reference systems on your web site.
can only purchase one piece of equipChris Barnsley,
ment and could you please wire them
back the difference.
The check looks real. It fooled two
Er, yes. Get out the duster, Rosie. Albert?
bank tellers and the manager. The check Got more film?
Free Advice
Box 65085, Place Longueuil
Longueuil, Québec, Canada J4K 5J4
I’d like to add 5.1 surround to my
system while retaining my existing front
speakers, preamp, and stereo amp. I reread
Paul Bergman’s article of a few issues back,
but have two questions: Since my preamp
does not have a separate pair of outs, is
it okay to use the tape loop? Can I buy
a surround receiver to do the job, rather
than a processor and separate amps? These
are much less expensive than a processor/
amp combo. I expect I would have to add
resistors to the receiver’s front left/right
speaker outs, but how exactly do I do this?
The local store said a technician would have
to do it.
If you don’t think the receiver approach
is a good idea, can you recommend a reasonably-priced processor? I want decent movie
surround sound, but retaining superior stereo sound for music is a lot more important
to me.
Joe Banel
I recently purchased a pair of Audio
Physics Tempo III’s. I need some more time
to find the way to best set the system up, but
have a question that I can’t answer.
These speakers seem top-rated on line. I
have yet to see anything negative other
than possibly a lack of deep bass. It could
be because of the dynamics of my room, but
I feel the midrange is lacking, and consequently its famous sound stage and depth
and clarity.
Why is it that my perceived missing
midrange comes back to life when I add
a pair of inexpensive Klipsch two-way 8”
satellites? Does that mean my expensive
Tempos are lacking this required range?
How can you get accurate midrange without a midrange driver specifically for midrange?
Mitch Goldman
Well, it’s easy to see why the little
Klipsch satellites are adding to the
midrange, Mitch, but that doesn’t mean
this is a good thing. If we assume that
the Tempos and the Klipsches have the
same impedance and efficiency, half the
signal is now being reproduced by each
Free Advice
You can’t use the tape output, Joe,
because the tape loop bypasses your
preamp’s volume control. It has to be
that way so that you can tape material
with the volume turned down, as many
people do...or used to when they still
used tape decks. But then again perhaps
you can. We’ll explain.
It pretty much goes without saying
that a receiver will not give you the
performance you could expect with a
top preamp-processor and good power
amps, but some receivers will give you
at least reasonable results. We suggest
choosing one with preamp outputs for
at least the left and right front channels.
Those outputs can then be fed to an
unused input on your preamp. When
you listen to two-channel music, the
receiver will be right out of the circuit.
The only problem is that when you
view a film the receiver will have to
“know” the gain level of the preamplifier. There are three ways to do this. If
your preamp has easily repeatable volume settings, pick one, note it, and set
the volume that way when you switch to
a film. If it doesn’t, set up the levels so
that they are correct when the preamp
volume is turned all the way up. But be
sure to turn it down before you switch
to some other input. This is a dangerous technique, and it gets all the more
dangerous if more than one person will
be handling the controls. The third
way does use the tape loop, or part of it.
Feed the receiver’s left and right front
outputs to the preamp’s “tape in” jacks.
of the speakers. The Klipsches won’t
have much in the way of bass, and may
not even be that extended in the higher
frequencies. They are essentially midrange speakers. So you’re hearing more
midrange, of course. On the other
hand quantity doesn’t equal quality, so
you need to determine why you’re not
happy with the midrange the speakers
are delivering.
All of the other components in the
system can be a factor, from source to
amplification to cables. Oh, and one
more thing: acoustics. Most people
don’t put their systems in single-use
rooms, so acoustical considerations
must sometimes be sacrificed for other
aspects of living comfort. Still, in most
living rooms there may be changes
you can make in speaker placement.
We suggest taking a day to do some
experimentation (and be sure you take
detailed notes, otherwise you’ll be certifiable before nightfall). One possible
useful hint is that putting a speaker
close to a room boundary, such as a
wall, will generally emphasize bass, at
the expense of midrange and everything else to be sure. Remember that
even small placement differences can
change sound radically. By the way,
we presume your speakers are standing on spikes or cones. If they’re not,
the boom of the house structure can
muddy up the bass and cover the midrange detail.
We should also address your question about reproducing midrange
without a dedicated midrange driver.
A perfect speaker would have a single
point-sized driver that could reproduce
anything. Since we have yet to figure
out how to build it, most speakers use
two or more drivers. Your two-way
speakers have two woofers (perhaps
better referred to as “woofer-midrange
drivers”) and a tweeter, each adapted
to a part of the audible range. Audio
Physics doesn’t state the crossover
point, but it is probably between 2 and
3 kHz. If we define midrange as being
between 200 Hz and 4 kHz, you can
see that the two drivers share the task.
There are advantages to adding a third
midrange driver, but there are serious
drawbacks too, which is why not everyone does it.
Free Advice
I’m moving into a condominium in a
few months. The living room has a concrete
floor. I’ve heard that laminated flooring
is the hottest thing for condos, but I’m
more concerned about obtaining the best
sound than being in vogue. Should I go
with wall-to-wall carpeting, or laminated
flooring? Do you recommend any special
layer between the concrete and carpet, such
as a false plywood floor? If this was discussed
in your magazine, please tell me the issue
number. I’m a long time reader of UHF.
Bill Sukloff
There’s a chapter on acoustics in
our book, The World of High Fidelity,
Bill, and Paul Bergman wrote a sevenpart series on acoustics a while back, in
issues No. 30 through 36.
We mention this because there’s no
simple answer to how to set up a room
for listening to music. Wood floors
have often been condemned because
they vibrate, and indeed they can add
an unpleasant boom to music. Concrete
rings, however. Ringing is another sort
of resonance, and it mostly takes place
higher up in the audible frequency
band. Either way, you need to decouple
your speakers from the floor, which
means using spikes, or — better yet —
Of course carpeting will help
absorb highs, and possibly some upper
midrange if it’s thick enough, but if you
have a lot of other absorbent material,
that can be too much of a good thing.
Some audiophiles actually put in a false
floor with a fiberglass-filled space to act
as a midrange absorber, and then put
carpeting on top. This can work well,
but it takes out some of your headroom,
and it involves major work. Even then,
the floor can be only part of the planning of your room.
But since you’re moving into a brand
new place, you have the opportunity to
do things right in the first place. Not
everyone does.
Certain recordings have excessive sibilance, to the point that it is very
unpleasant, when played on my Rega P2/
Rega Elys/NAD phono stage. Is this likely
caused by the cartridge, or should I be looking to another part of the system to correct
the problem?
Steve Mennill
Well the answer to that, Steve, is...
Actually there are a lot of answers.
If you read our reviews in UHF, you’ll
note that we often complain of sibilance, a distorted exaggeration of “ess”
sounds. Of course, excessive sibilance
is found right on some recordings. And
when it’s not it can be the result of bad
news anyway: the use in the studio of
a “de-esser,“ a special compressor that
squeezes all the juice out of the band
of frequencies where sibilance tends to
hang out. We prefer fresh fruit ourselves.
Distorted sibilance can be caused
by a number of factors, including the
cartridge, the state of the stylus, the
setting of the tone arm (an arm that
is too high will do bad things for sibilance, but unfortunately height is not
easily adjustable on a Rega). Bad phono
stages also cause this, and don’t get us
started on loudspeakers!
First, clear the recordings themselves. If you have a friend with a good
system, or a sympathetic dealer who
hasn’t dumped vinyl, make sure these
recordings don’t have problems on all
systems. Once that’s done, try plugging
your NAD phono stage into a different system and listening to the same
problem recordings. At this point, the
trail of evidence will be pointing right
at some likely suspects.
My current system is a blend of older
and newer components. The older includes
a Systemdek IIx turntable, a Hafler 100
preamplifier and 220 power amp, and an
Akai CD93 “Reference Master” CD player. The newer equipment has all the above
plugged into a Monster Power HTS 2500
Power Center, playing through KEF G1
Uni-G speakers, with Monster M Series
I know my first update is the CD
player. I could be persuaded to look at products in the $2500 range, but I’m greatly
concerned about the demise of CD to SACD
or DVD-Audio. Given this, is the quality
jump from $1500 to $2500 worthwhile, or
should I save the thousand buck difference
for new technology in a few years?
Second, I’m not sure what products
or price range constitutes a noticeable
improvement on the Haflers. They still
perform well, and I want my upgrades to
be worth it for the long term.
What is a good general guideline for
breaking down a budget? Do you put
X% on the source, Y% on amps, speakers,
cabling, etc.? Where should other items,
such as equipment stands, isolation equipment, electrical cords and filters fit in?
John McLenahan
“Out of intense complexities
intense simplicities emerge.”
–Winston Churchill
Think about the complexities of music. Within a given piece,
instruments and voices of varying frequencies and dynamic
amplitudes all fight to get through the maze of electronic
components and wiring in the hope of arriving at your ears
intact, in time, and represent a true replica of the original
recording. Doesn’t it make sense that the pathway between
start and finish be a simple as possible? Complex designs
have a way of making complex music more complex, and often
quite different from what was originally recorded.
Now think about the simplicity of Creek audio components. Simple
circuits utilizing high grade parts and short signal paths to insure
that the fragile, complex audio signal arrives at the output with all
the original elements in the right place, at the right time. DNM cables
and Epos loudspeakers are designed to complete the journey by
adding nothing of their own to the signal, Just present the music as
it was delivered, with the correct pace, rhythm, timing and dynamics.
Music is complex, music replay should be simple. Creek, DNM, and
Epos make music replay simple, at prices you can afford.
Beyerdynamic, Creek, Crimson, Cyrus, DNM, Ecosse
Free Advice
Epos, Eichmann, Isoblue, Ringmat, Soundcare, Visonik
720 Sixth Street, Suite 386
New Westminster, British Columbia, V3L 3C5
Tel: 604-522-6168 Fax: 604-522-1995
John, your letter started going
wrong right about the midpoint. There
will certainly come a time when you
will upgrade first your preamp and then
your power amplifier, but when you are
still using an Akai player, that time is
not yet. Only the turntable can give
you a clue as to how your electronics
sound. A CD upgrade is the first order
of business, and nothing else should,
for now, be on the agenda at all.
What’s more, the stuff about percentages is not helpful. You know us
well enough to understand the importance we give to the source, but we
resist tooth and nail all attempts to
put numbers to it. We express it this
way: each upstream component must
be good enough so that you haven’t
wasted your money on the downstream
components. There’s more to be said,
otherwise the whole magazine could
be condensed to that single phrase, but
when you’ve understood that you’ve
understood a lot.
As to the first part of your letter,
your worries are shared by a lot of
audiophiles. We are not prophets, and
our lawyers would tell us to shut up if
we ever claimed otherwise, but here’s
how we think the future will play out.
The CD will gradually be replaced
by both high and low resolution formats. On the low end it is of course
downloadable music in MP3 or AAC,
through such services as Apple’s iMusic.
On the high end, it will be SACD.
But that’s the longer term. Right
now, the market is loaded with hundreds of thousands of CD titles, and
they won’t be going away any time
soon. At the same time most SACD
releases are hybrids, which means they
are also CDs. This means a good CD
player will remain useful for a long
You will of course want an SACD
player sooner or later, and socking money away is not a bad idea.
Fortunately, C$1500 will, if you spend
it carefully, buy you a player that will
make you happy you didn’t wait any
I had the great pleasure of meeting you
at the Montreal Son & Image festivals in
2002 and 2003.
I have the Musical Fidelity 3D player
and M3 amplifier. The speaker cables are
Musical Fidelity, as are the interconnects.
My speakers are Spendor BCIII’s.
I would like to improve my sound, and
I went to hear the Totem Wind speakers.
I was very impressed. The comparison was
done against the Krell Studio Reference, the
Quad 989 and the Energy Reference. Last
week I went to hear the Polk LSI 15. I liked
the sound, even though the associated player
and electronics (Cambridge) was mid-fi.
I also want to hear the Cabasse Kara,
the Triangle Ventis XS, the Sonus Faber
Cremona, and perhaps the Dynaudio C4.
I would have liked to replace the power
cable of my amplifier power supply with an
Eichmann eXpress, but the plug isn’t the
same (the prongs are horizontal instead of
Your advice and recommendations are
greatly appreciated. I suppose that considering the avalanche of mail you must receive,
an immediate reply is an impossible dream.
It’s just that in Montreal at the moment
there is a veritable price war, and I would
like to take advantage of it.
Monique Lussier
Monique, the reason the IEC plug
on the NuVista power cable is different from others is that it is a 20 ampere
cord, and electrical standards require a
different connector. Unfortunately few
audiophile cords are available with that
connector, since they mostly don’t meet
the 20A standard anyway. A notable
exception is the GutWire Pure Clef
power cord, which can be ordered with
a Hubbell 20 ampere connector.
Concerning the Totem Wind, you
should also lend an ear to the Totem
Mani-2, one of the best speakers ever
made. It is extremely difficult to drive,
unfortunately, but you have the necessary amplification already.
It would be a significant improvement yes, Jeff. The Cyrus II fitted with
the optional PSX power supply is now
getting long of tooth (we reviewed it
in UHF No. 28, back in 1990), but it
is still a good little amplifier, and can
probably work well for another decade
or so. It hasn’t the roundness or the
transparency of the Unison, nor of better modern solid state amplifiers, but it
is good on rhythm, and it projects good
energy. Not bad, but it may be time for
an upgrade.
I really enjoy your magazine and the
Web site.
I am the proud owner of a Mission
DAC-DAD CD combination and would
like to upgrade to a one-box CD player
in the $1.2-2K price range. So far I have
auditioned the Arcam group, models DIVA
62-92, which basically sounded better as the
price climbed. Most were much better than
my Mission gear.
I do not know what brands in this price
range to look at next, and would appreciate your suggestions. It seems there are not
many choices in this range. Why is that?
As an aside I notice that Arcam products
have not been auditioned in the magazine
for awhile. Is there a reason for this? Are
they a good reliable manufacturer?
Jim Young
Arcam has been around for some
years, Jim, and appears to be perfectly
stable. There are historic reasons for
their absence from UHF’s pages,
though that may be remedied at some
Of course you know that we were
quite enthusiastic about the Mission
player and its optional converter, and
for good reason. This was an era when
all other CD players with three-digit
price tags were horrible, and perhaps
the word horrible isn’t even strong
enough. The Mission wasn’t, and that
was good news for music lovers who
wanted access to new music but couldn’t
quite reach all the way to somewhat
more expensive machines...such as the
Arcam. The modern Arcam remains
a solid upgrade over your much older
Low-cost players may be an
endangered species, we’re told,
because more and more consumers
are now killing (or severely wounding)
two birds with one stone, choosing a
DVD player instead of a CD-only
player. Notice we said “consumers”
and not “audiophiles.” They mostly
shop in three digits, however, or even
in two digits. Despite them, some
very good players in your range still
remain. Aside from the Arcam itself,
Cambridge has a very good (but hard
to find) two-box player, and Vecteur
has the L-4 player.
I am passively biamping B&W DM601
S3 speakers with two Rotel RB1050s power
amps driven by the Rotel RC1070 preamp.
The whole setup sounds to me very neutral,
well-balanced and civilized in reproducing
high frequencies. It’s a very good job from
Rotel and B&W, even with my old Denon
CD player (soon to be replaced with a Rotel
RCD1070, Arcam CD72 or Rega Planet).
I am very happy listener who spends at
least two to three hours every day actively
listening to music.
Free Advice
How good is the Cyrus II amplifier and
PSX power supply tandem? I have owned
this pair for several years (second-hand),
but am wondering how much I would have
to spend to get a significant improvement?
I’d certainly consider the used market again,
though it seems that some very good values
in integrateds have come on the market
like the Unison Research Unico (I have not
heard it, but understand that it’s a real nice
sounding unit for the money. Again, I don’t
know if it’s a significant enough improvement).
I currently have a pair of Castle Edens
(bought them after reading your review)
and am using Audioquest Type 4+ biwired
to the speakers. The rest of my system is a
VPI Scout with Benz Glider and Marantz
Jeff Bellin
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Free Advice
This may be candidate for a budget audiophile’s (yes, that category of audiophiles
exists) dream. Total price of speakers, preamp and 2 power amps is C$2500, taxes
included. It gives me a performance at the
very border of high end sound. Although
design compromises must be present, Rotel
does it in such a way that I can live with
it without the urge to upgrade to 5 to 10
times more expensive gear
Forgive me. I am an electronics engineer, and “cost is no object” strategy simply
does not work for me.
I am interested to find out why Rotel’s
new 10 series isn’t worth reviewing in
UHF Magazine. Is it that bad, in your
In order to find out myself how these
Rotels measure against more expensive
units I have listened in my room to several integrated amplifiers and separates
from Arcam and Rega, and could not hear
an equivalent level of improvement over
these Rotel components. The law of diminishing returns seems to be proving itself all
over again. I would probably have to go for
Bryston, Simaudio Moon W-5 or Classé as
my next upgrade to get sound that I would
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That said, we have heard a number
of very good Rotel products. The best
of them offered exceptional value for
money. There have also been some
duds, but that can happen to pretty
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much anyone. We don’t doubt that your
present Rotel setup sounds fine, though
we also think you won’t really know for
sure until you finally upgrade your CD
Free Advice
consider worth the effort and money, but it
is four times more expensive. Would there
be an alternative in your opinion worth
auditioning in between, which would give
me a signifi cant improvement for my buck,
and would result in a measurable increase
in excitement?
Milos Dunjic
fab audio
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Well, more than one actually,
Milos, but first we’d like to set the
record straight concerning Rotel. At
one time it was very convenient for
us to review Rotel products, because
we could actually drive over to the
distributor’s warehouse and pick one
up. That distributor closed some years
ago and was never replaced. We can
still get Rotel products from the US,
it is true, though it means importing
them and paying brokerage charges
and possibly duty. This is what happened recently when we reviewed Thiel
products, which also have no distributor in Canada. We do it anyway now
and then, but the impact on our budget
is unfortunately not zero.
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We should add that we have never
espoused the long-popular theory that
you get diminishing returns as you
upgrade. If it sometimes seems true it
is because you have made too small an
upgrade...something we warn against
because it is costly. It can also be that
you spend money to get something
worse than you already have, and the
truth is that this is all too easy to do.
We suggest the following method of
Substitute a possible component for
the one you’re thinking of replacing
(we know that this is not as easy for you
as it is for us), and you may note some
improvement. Do a bit of listening to
get used to the sonic change, and then
go back to your original component. If
the upgrade is really worthwhile, if it
offers more than diminishing returns,
the change will seem much larger on
the way down than on the way up.
You’ve probably noticed that we’ve
given you this advice without getting
specific on brand names. It sounds
from your letter as though you already
have a pretty good idea what to listen
to. In any case, step one should be
your CD player. Our bet is that this
one change will lead you to re-evaluate
your system.
Free Advice
I have read your excellent magazine
with interest and enjoyment for many
years. Your Free Advice is a wonderful
service, which I would now like to use.
The Karma cartridge in my Linn
Sondek/Ittok combo is ten years old and
needs replacing. In my system, it seems
very out of balance to invest in a new Linn
moving coil cartridge. Even the Adikt seems
expensive at $465. The rest of the system
consists of a Sansui 3900 tuner (we don’t
have live FM broadcasts in Vancouver, so
it should be good enough, eh?), a JVC CD
changer (for background music), a Linn
LK-1 preamplifier, a Bryston 2B power
amplifier, and PSB Stratus Mini speakers.
Are the moving coil cartridges in
Adikt’s price range likely to sound better
in this setup? I’m thinking, in particular,
of the Audio Technica AT-OC9ML/II or
the Goldring Eroica. Or could the moving
magnet Adikt beat them all?
Dale Stewart
The Adikt is new, Dale, and we
don’t know whether Linn is still using
the same source for its moving magnet
cartridges. If it is, the Audio-Technica
and the Adikt are cousins.
That doesn’t mean they’re identical, though. Internal details aside, the
Audio-Technica is a moving coil pickup, not an MM. The Adikt comes with
a Gyger II stylus. This is a line contact
stylus, used on some other British cartridges, including the top Goldrings,
and it has a major advantage over the
more common elliptical stylus.
I am currently rewiring my house and
will be putting a dedicated line to the stereo
location and another to the video location.
Since most receptacles are 15 amp, I am
wondering what the benefits of going to
a 20 amp receptacle/breaker are? I will
be using a high grade receptacle (Hubbell
8300 cryoed or PS Audio). I am also
assuming that it would be better to use 10
gauge wire instead of 12 or 14.
If I run the dedicated line can I use a
double gang box with two receptacles ( for
four outlets) without any loss in order to
accommodate all of my equipment? I cannot
see how this would be worse than having one
receptacle with a Hubbell-based power bar.
Perhaps I should install two runs and have
each on its own breaker. I am also thinking
about running a separate ground to the earth
for this circuit so it is not on the main panels
What do you think of the PS Audio
Power Port AC socket and the WattGate
381? These receptacles are much more
expensive, and I am wondering if you have
heard them. Also, many on the chatrooms
are talking about how much better their
Hubbell receptacles are sounding after they
have been cryogenically treated (US$5060).
My last question is related to installing
a main circuit panel surge protector, to safeguard the whole electrical system. Will this
affect the sound?
Brad Wishnevski
Perhaps it will, Brad, though we
can’t be sure without getting a good
look at the schematic. The ones we’ve
looked at include parallel monitoring
circuits, which we figure should have
I may be asking somewhat of a contradictory question, but are there any carouseltype CD players that you would consider at
even an entry level for high fidelity? The
reason I ask is that, when I have company
for dinner, I’m always having to get up
during dinner to cue new music.
I recently heard the Rotel RCC-1055
carousel player, and when compared to
Rotel’s single CD player the RCD-1070
they were, by my ear, sonically similar. I
would have liked to compare it to other
similar-priced single players in the RCD1070’s price range, but they didn’t carry
anything (they were all $3000 plus) at the
store I was at. My ultimate goal would be
What’s happening at UHF?
to have a player for social occasions, maxing
out on fidelity, and a separate one for serious
listening. Am I too far off base here?
Kevin Redmond
Kevin, what you’re proposing to do
is what we have often suggested. We’re
not much for background listening
ourselves, perhaps because we spend so
much of our professional lives in foreground listening, but we recognize that
not everyone is in the same situation.
So it makes sense to choose the best
possible player for “real” listening, and
a feature-rich jukebox for other times.
The Rotel may be better than most,
but a dollar you spend on the jukebox
is a dollar not available for your number one player. One possibility: buy a
two-box player for your main listening,
preferably with a converter that has two
inputs, and connect the carousel to the
second digital input on the DAC.
Of course, if yours is a high-tech
household, there are other possibilities.
Load a few hundred favorite tracks
onto a hard disc, and let the computer
play jukebox. You can also choose a
hard-disc-based portable player to
do the background music work. The
Apple iPod is perfect for this. Most
people load MP3 files on it, but in
fact you can load it with several dozen
uncompressed CDs. The fact it will
also play when you’re trekking across
Stanley Park is just an added bonus.
I’m thinking of getting a DVD Video/
DVD-Audio/SACD player. My basic stereo
system consists of a Counterpoint SA100
and SA1000, a California Audio Labs
Free Advice
no deleterious effect, but they also
include extra breakers, which may.
However if you live in a region that
gets a lot of lightning storms, and if
you judge your home to be especially
vulnerable, adding protection may be
a sensible idea. Some panel protectors
won’t protect sensitive electronic circuits, however, so it pays to read the
fi ne print. And a direct hit can weld
everything together.
You can indeed use a two-gang
box to get four outlets instead of one.
The heavier the wire from the panel,
the better. If you have room on your
electrical panel for an extra breaker,
and if you don’t anticipate needing it
for something else, you may as well
put one in. It won’t take the electrician
much longer to put in two lines instead
of one, and his time costs a lot more
than the wire does. Running a separate
ground may be useful, if we assume
that yours is better than that of the
technician who installed your electrical
system. It will in any case be newer.
We have received a sample of the
WattGate, but we have yet to compare
it directly to the Hubbell. We also fi nd
its price rather awesome.
We’re not sure what to think about
the cryogenic treatment of electrical
and electronic parts. Some years ago,
cryogenically-treated speaker cable
was all the rage. We were given a demo
of such cables, then being offered by
Museatex, and, for better or for worse,
we didn’t become converts. The common “explanation” of the benefits of
cryogenic treatment leaves us puzzled.
Delta transport and Counterpoint DA-10
DAC with Ultra-Analog HDCD card,
an Oracle turntable with Alphason arm,
a Sumiko Blue Point Special pickup, and
KEF 104/2 speakers.
I also have a Marantz SR-6200 home
theatre receiver with a KEF C100 centre
and KEF Coda 7 speakers at the rear. For
the front speakers, I connect the line output
of the Marantz to the line input of the
SA1000. That gives me a music system
independent of the home theatre.
The DVD player would not replace
the existing CD player. I’ve looked at
the Marantz DVD8400, the Denon
DVD2900, the Onkyo DVSP800, and the
Pioneer DV47Ai and DV45A.
What do you think of these models?
Considering the limitations of the Marantz
receiver, should I settle for the little Pioneer
DV45A? Could one of these players replace
my current CD player?
Marc-André St-Onge
Audio Note
Free Advice
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Your current player is pretty good,
and as you know we are using exactly
the same converter you are in our reference systems. If you’re searching for a
universal player that can outperform —
or even equal — your player, you’ll find
it a long, arduous search. You’re looking for disappointment with any of the
players on your list.
Several manufacturers well-known
and respected in the audiophile field
do offer universal players. The Linn
seemed excellent in two sessions we
had with preproduction models. Others
have been released by such companies
as Tascam, Lexicon and McCormack.
Can they earn a place of honor in your
system? Possibly.
They are of course expensive. The
typical such player is like a Swiss Army
knife. You can always press it into service as a fork at the campground, but
if you do it at a fancy restaurant you’re
going to get looked at real funny.
I have an original basic Arcam Alpha
integrated amp whose inputs suit me well. I
have heard I could use it as a pre amp for a
Quad 405-2, amplifier, but am unsure as to
how, wiring wise.
Geoff Alun-Jones
It can be done, Geoff, but it may be
really bad strategy.
Though some integrated amps have
preamp outputs that allow them to be
used as preamps, as you propose to do,
the Arcam does not. It does have “tape
out” jacks, but those jacks bypass the
volume control. You would have to get
a competent technician to reconnect
them to tap off the signal somewhere
after the volume control.
But in a compact amplifier the
operation may not all be that straightforward. If your service shop has an
hourly rate of £30, it’s easy to see that
the “preamp” you gain may be worth
less than you pay. Worse, the resale
value of your amp, which is perhaps
£75, will hover near zero.
Chances are you won’t be happy
with the sound anyway. The Alpha,
not to be confused with Arcam’s much
more capable Delta or the modern
Diva, was somewhat gritty. We presume you got your Quad amp second
hand, and you can find used preamps as
well. Even a Quad 34 or 44 preamp will
give you a lot more satisfaction.
Actually it is our job to answer
questions about stereo equipment,
Benny, or one of our jobs at any rate.
We have not seen the Bent Audio passive preamplifier. The company is very
small, and builds its units to order, in
the great underground high end tradi-
I am fairly new to hi-fi and I have
found your magazine to be very helpful.
My system currently consists of a Linn
Ikemi CD player, DNM/Eichmann interconnect (copper cable, silver RCA plugs),
Jolida 801A integrated tube amplifier,
Ecosse MS2.3 cable and Cabasse Farella
401 speakers. I have Ringmat feet and a
Skylan Isoboard under the CD player, and
Vibrapods supporting 5/8” MDF beneath
the Jolida. Power conditioning is a Blue
Circle MR1200.
What would you suggest as the next
Peter Samuels
It strikes us that you’re on the right
track, Peter. You’ve selected a very
good source, which would have been
our first and most important recommendation, you’ve made some other
judicious choices, and you’ve also chosen to include some important tweaks,
including the power conditioner.
Our first question is whether you
are happy with the sound you now
have, compared to what you’ve heard in
one or more stores. If you’re not, you
need to do some detective work to find
out what’s missing. If you are generally
happy, you can look to a more distant
future. The amplifier could eventually
be replaced, though only if you can buy
something much more sophisticated. In
the meantime, it may be worth having a
look at the acoustics of your room. We
bet they’re not as good as your hardware.
I currently have an Audiomeca
Romance/Roma/Benz Ref 2 turntable, a
Krell KAV-300i integrated and B&W
Matrix 804 speakers. I am looking for an
SACD/DVD player. My TV is a Pioneer
52” plasma.
I have no need for multi-channel SACD
capabilities. I will build a separate system
for multi-channel music and home theatre
in a separate room. I have zero CDs. I want
to start buying SACDs only.
I am interested in the Sony DVPULTRA HIGH FIDELITY Magazine
Free Advice
I know that this is not your job to
answer questions about stereo equipment
but I have plans on buying Bent Audio’s
transformer-based passive preamp. They
are from Canada, and that’s why I am taking the liberty to contact you.
But I have also read about another
transformer-based passive preamp from
Canada that’s much more expensive, but
very advanced. I have searched everywhere
but I can’t find it anywhere.
I don’t expect you to help me with this,
it’s just a desperate long shot because you are
a Canadian hi-fi magazine. If I remember
correctly, the price was US$9800 compared
to Bent Audio’s US$1875 with silver
transformer and remote control, and the
best Vampire RCA and XLO XLR.
Benny Orrelöv
tion. We like the quality of the parts
that it claims to use, and that is encouraging. We don’t know what the other
Canadian company you refer to might
Passive preamplifiers can yield
much better quality than most active
preamps can. Conventional passive
preamps have high impedance outputs
that are sensitive to noise and tend to
exacerbate the shortcomings in cables,
but that is not the case of transformerbased preamps. Of course, getting
one’s hands on a good transformer is
not easy, but several manufacturers
have succeeded. The Chinese-made
Antique Sound Lab T1DT, reviewed
in UHF No. 62, is a good example.
hi fi fo fum
Free Advice
935 Mount Pleasant Road
Toronto 416-421-7552
9000ES and DVPNS999ES. The DVP9000ES is no longer available new, and
I am looking at buying a used one. What
would be your recommendation? Any other
choices? My budget is about $2,000.
Laval Letourneau
A used DVP-9000 may make
good sense, but only if you can get a
really attractive price on one. Unlike
an amplifier, say, a DVD player has
precision moving parts. Moving parts
get less precise as they wear, and in
economy products the precision may
have been only just good enough when
the unit was new. We don’t mean to
pick on Sony, by the way, because the
constraints of price are the same for all
manufacturers. If the price isn’t right,
go for the new model.
In most cases, by the way, we are a
little reluctant to recommend economy
SACD players, if only because with
CDs they sound so…but let’s remain
polite. But you have no CDs and don’t
plan to get any, so your plan makes
The Goods
“Growing old is mandatory.
Growing up is optional!”
Albert Einstein
sense. And the Sony 999, at C$2000,
is an economy player only in the eyes
of oil barons. If you were looking at a
$300 model, it would be different, and
we would be telling you to run while
you still could.
It has been some time since I have asked
for some free advice, and the upgrade bug
seems to be buzzing around.
I have a modest albeit balanced system,
consisting of an AR ES-1 table with Linn
Basik Plus arm and an Audio-Technica
AT-125LC cartridge, a Cambridge CD6
player, an Aiwa AD-F810 cassette deck,
an Audiolab 8000A integrated amp,
and Energy 22 Reference speakers (front
ported) on 22 stands. The CD player is connected via a Wireworld Orbit III and the
speakers via Monster Cable Powerline 3
with Michell GBO’s (from your store). My
room is quite small, 9’ x 12’. I am quite
pleased with the sound given the money I
have invested, but I know it can be better if
funds are available.
1. What in your opinion, would be the
next step with a budget of C$500?. I am
thinking that a cartridge upgrade may
make the most sense (my AT is about 20
years old, but still in good shape). I am
thinking about (in no particular order)
Sumiko Blue Point or Blue Point Special,
Grado Reference Platinum, Audio-Technica
AT-440ML, or Shure V15xMR.
2. I am also using a Discwasher brush
for my albums. Is the brush in your store
significantly better?
3. Have you heard or could you comment on two small floorstanding speakers,
the Totem Arro and the Castle Pembroke?
4. Given my gear, when would you consider a speaker upgrade, and would these be
good choices?
James P. Manley
1) We would go for the cartridge,
Jim. A cartridge with lower inductance
will give you much more natural highs.
Our top choice would be the Shure, if
only because of its line contact stylus,
but the Sumiko Blue Point Special is
an interesting choice as well, as is the
2) Gee, can you still get Discwasher
brushes? We still have one in a drawer,
but the reason it’s there is that it is so
plump it is easy to drop onto the record
surface. Besides, what it’s good at is lining up all the dust in a fat radial ridge.
Carbon fibre brushes are so soft they
don’t gather anything. The Goldring
eXstatic brush has both the velvet pad
and the carbon tufts, and it works better than anything else known to us…
except of course vacuum machines.
3) The Pembroke is a single-woofer
version of the Stirling we reviewed —
and liked — in UHF No. 66. We
have not heard it, but there’s reason
to be optimistic (check this out for
yourself, though). We have heard (but
never tested) the Totem Arro. It will
in all likelihood not play as loud as the
Pembroke, but it is justly famous for
depth and image that must be heard to
be believed.
4) That said, we would put a speaker
change at the back of the line. The old
Energy 22 was way ahead of its time,
and it is definitely not the weak link
in your system. We would first shop
for a replacement for the Audiolab
Going Against
the Flow
iconoclastic as ever? It looks that way.
Q: Were you interested in music when you
were young?
YBA: Yes. My parents went to concerts,
and so did my grandparents. My father
played the violin, and I learned to play
the oboe. So I didn’t have to discover
music all by myself.
Q: Did you keep up with your playing?
YBA: For a long time, yes, but it requires
an hour and a half or two hours of practice a day. About 15 or 20 years ago,
when I began the YBA adventure, I
had to make a choice. But I still listen
to music of course. Each year, my wife
YBA’s Yves-Bernard
André is not known
for following the
pack. He explains
why he’s not about
to start.
ves-Bernard André’s approach
to audio has always been
charming even when he’s been
wrong. And how many times
has he been wrong? The moving coil
step-up transformer? Anything else?
Now look at the other side of the
ledger. He makes, or gets made, his
own parts, right down to capacitors
and the wire his transformers are
wound with. He was the first to attack
the North American market with the
counter-intuitive Intégré amplifier, at a
time when upscale integrateds “couldn’t
sell.” Ironically, he opened a huge new
market for his competitors. He was the
first to actually introduce noise into the
optical drive of his CD player, with his
famous (and much decried) blue diode.
His name is a frequent subject of downright character assassination on Usenet
discussion groups.
He doesn’t care.
Recently, he dropped by a Montrealarea audio shop, Multi-Électronique
in Beloeil (the shop owner, Philippe
Renaud, is in our picture at left). Is he as
and I spend on concerts enough money
to build a nice little hi-fi system. I’m
not very visual, you know. I have four
children, but I don’t have a TV set!
Q: Do your children play music?
YBA: My eldest son is 25, now. He was
playing drums for a while, but then he
dropped it.
Q: To the relief of the household?
YBA: To the relief of the household, yes.
My eldest daughter used to play piano,
and my other daughter plays about an
hour a day. My youngest, Timothé, has
started the violin.
Q: When you’ve been a musician, how do
you compromise on audio quality?
YBA: I don’t think being a musician adds
anything, because when you play you’re
not in the same position as someone
listening to you. What it does give you
is a sensitivity to music.
Let me explain that another way. I
have a neighbor who’s a bird fancier. He
invited me to come with into the wood
to see some birds. When we got there,
I couldn’t see a single bird, but he could
see lots of them.
Q: You did say you weren’t visual!
YBA: Yes, but then I’d follow him around
some more, and I began to see them too.
It’s much the same with music. And it’s
music that makes living worthwhile.
Q: Did you think when you were young that
you would someday build instruments for
listening to music?
YBA: I knew it very early. My first patent,
which was for a loudspeaker, dates back
to 1971. And I may not look it, but I’ve
finished my first half century.
Q: It was later that you moved into electronic
YBA: Oh, I was already playing around
with circuits. But then I got my diploma
in engineering, and I went through my
military service. Even today I really have
two métiers. I do research and I teach
at the École Polytechnique, and of course
I have YBA. And discoveries in one
domain can often be applied in another
Q: Does the research lets you find new ways
to design your products?
YBA: It lets me see things in a different light. I can’t say that the sound of
an audio product depends on just one
thing — the power supply, the layout,
the parts quality. It’s all of them. You
ignore one small detail, and the product supply, even in my less elaborate units. velis ad magna consed magnit init, quam
may measure the same, but its sound It’s fed right off the power transformer vel utat, corting eu feummy nim nulla
quality will be destroyed.
primary. That’s a detail, but if I connect consectem elenim in et aut illumsan
Q: Are you a demanding person?
the LED to the regular power supply I henisi erit ullametumsan vel in henibh
YBA: Even my family says I am! But life can hear the difference. There’s an added eugait augait iliquatum vercil ip eros nit
is short, and you have to live as intensely confusion. You might not notice it, but autat. Duis adiamet la adigna commy
as possible.
add four of five details like that, and the nim ipisit lumsandre tat.
Q: Your products evolve over time. For difference will be huge.
Loreetue euisi. Lore conum nibh eugait
instance, the YBA 2 amplifier became the Lore feugait eros ad tat, ver illa aut et eum nim quisim in eugiam, velisi euipit
HC, then the HCDT, then the Alpha, then lorpero dolenim iure veliquat wis el ent eugue et wisse doloreet am, voloborperat
the Delta.
lobore do commy nonse vel eros et volum am dolent ad magnisit dolore magniscil
YBA: I like to put myself in the position zzrilit la feumsandrem ipsummy nit diamet atet augue feugait, susciduisl
of the buyer. You buy something expen- am, volent dolesto ero dunt ex et, quipit in ulla consequ metuer se velenis num
sive, and then two years later you’re told wisl essed exer sequat adiam, commy adiamcon utat dip et ing et, sum delit
it’s no good, or there’s something much nis dolore el delit luptatem zzrit irilit aut volutat, qui tatem in ullum volor
This is Eric Bibb’s latest recording. Play it on your conventional Red Book CD
better. Magazines and manufacturers utetum dolortie voluptat dunt dolendre in vendipit numsan velisl et irit accum
player…or step up to superior sound with SACD.
live off these improvements, of course. ercipsum ing et, se minim zzrit lum velessectet ea conullandre dolesto dio
I think designing a hi-fi unit is difficult, illuptat, quisis eniamcommy nostrud esendigna conulpu patis nit ut ver iure
because you don’t know how it’s going molenisit irit loboreet lore diamet, et, quate te feugait ipsum nibh eugue
to be used.
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Put a piano in a good room or in a augue tate dolore magnim dit nim alit ad diam dionsequam dolum quat elit, sequat
bad room, and it won’t sound the same magniscilisi. Loreetu molor se dignim prat, con ullum vero etum del ing et
either, but it will always sound like a velit aute dolorem etum eros doloborer velent wisit, vel iriliquis nonsectem nis
piano. With a sound system, on the in ute tie dion veraestrud er adipsum nonsequam, core do diam, volorem zzrit
other hand, in a good room you may velit velissequi ero con vullam do dionse alit num do commy nonsed etue veliquisi
hear a piano, and in a bad room you’ll core er se conum nibh ea ad ting eugait tisl utate doluptat. Ut lam doloreet lorem
hear a bad system. It’s difficult to build dolore min elit verat.
ing ea feugueratie conum iriliqui exeroequipment that sounds lifelike, but is also Lor sed te modoloreet ulla commodigna strud delesti isit, quate dipit nonummo
flexible. What is billed as transparency in feugait praessi eriuscipit adignis olobore oborer ad etue tio dit, si essequi bla comone system may be perceived as hardness do et ip exer senisci iquisi eugiametuero modigna conullaor ipsum volor sum verit
in another. That’s why I became one of duipsum dit utet iriustio con hent dip nibh estrud duis acipis nos dolessit diam
the first manufacturers to make products et, qui euguercipit aute core faccum zzriure mod esequis nisismolore faciduis
that evolve, that can be upgraded.
adiamet, qui te commy nim quis aciduis
Q: Upgraded as you made new discover- Dui tissed tet doluptat augueraese mag- dignis eugait nonsequis num volenisl do
nibh er se exeraes quat.
odit inciduis et voloreetum alisis augiat
YBA: The actual designs haven’t evolved Lore dolorpe atuerat. Ut alis enisit iurer ad mod tem erciliquisi bla feugait aliscthat much, and the parts I use haven’t am, conseniam dolor siscilit ent nulla ing er incipit la feu faccum inci tat.
evolved much either.
facidui moluptat nis eugait nullaorem Lorer si tie dunt non volor ad tem
Q: You still use custom-made parts.
delisim quipsus idunt autpatie del et, veraessis nit wisis alis acillum andrera
YBA: Yes, I began that years ago, and I’m venit et vulla adignibh ex exer in ullut- ismodiatem nonsed magnim diam
glad I did. A lot of the parts made today patuer sectem veliquam iuscillut praeseq venisim verat, consequate dolorpero
are conceived to work in computers and issectet ex ea feugait dolor am veliquis nis od tin hendiam volore vel ulla feugait
other digital products, but that has noth- eugiamet niamet, quis dionsequisi.
nulputpat, vel digna alisisit luptat ut adit
ing to do with audio. Manufacturers get Lorpero dolor iriureet, velis dolesectet dolorem delis ametumsandre min ulla
stuck with these parts, but I don’t. On nisi.
feugait dip et inim dolore mod el exercthe other hand, companies that make Duis niam iliquam, sustrud tie dit digna idunt nit lam, quat vullutat praessed er
parts for me sometimes close, and I acidunt velit at aut prat.
secte magna aliquip eugue faccum zzril
have to find someone else. But that can Lor aci blan vel ut luptat. Ut pratio do doloreetue feummodolor senis adionse
lead to a better part.
erostrud dolorerat. Ut erilit ullandre uatuer irillum quis nos dunt aut at. Ut
Q: You often use external power supplies, dolortisl dolore ea con venisi. Lore lor in hent dolobore dolobor amet, susto
and some consumers wonder why you go commodi susto dolenit, sit velisi.
delis adio et, verat am nullaore dolobor
to that much trouble. Does it make a lot of Lor il ipsummy nulla feuisl ex eum zzri- sequisi bla facilis odolese corero condifference?
uscin enis et vel ipissim doloreet, consed sequis nonsecte minit la augue magna
YBA: Of course. Performance is based tie vero et nullam ercin estrud tionsen acin veliquip esequat er sim quatem
on the addition of many small details. reetum inim irit et prat wis exer sectet quis nostin hendips strud euguer atie
For example, the little LED pilot light on wisit nibh et, venit laore faccum illum conullaortie magna am, volendipit wis
my gear is not fed from the main power augait at, quat ulla feugiamet lan ullum nit accumsa digna.
Beyond CD, Opus 3 SACD at $32.50
Beyond DVD
ales of VHS cassettes are in free
fall, and it isn’t hard to see why.
You can now pick a basic DVD
player for not much more than
the price of a family meal at McDo.
The comparison is apt, because the
children who insist on a Big Mac also
know all about DVD.
The stunningly low prices for DVD
players have of course triggered a boom
in sales of DVD movies, which in North
America now outsell VHS. At the same
time, it’s easy to figure out that no one
can be making much money on a $69
player. Is there something else on the
horizon? You bet. In fact it’s now rather
closer than the horizon.
They told you the
DVD was the future
of home theatre.
They never said the
whole future.
Recordable DVD
Remember the newspaper articles
that greeted the launch of the first DVD
players? Typical sentence: “However,
unlike a VCR, a DVD player can’t
Now it can.
Pioneer was the first company to
show a DVD player that looked like
any other player, but for a conspicuous
red “record” button on the front panel.
Some observers believe the company
chose the wrong format: DVD-R rather
than the competing DVD+R. It’s not
certain which side will win. DVD-R is
the format backed by the DVD Forum,
but the DVD+R (and the rewritable
DVD+RW) is actually compatible with
more DVD players than DVD-R.
You can prett y much get away
with ignoring the third (incompatible)
system, DVD-RA M. Since then the
system’s developer, Pioneer again, has
shifted gears, with machines that can
record both DV D-R and DV D+R.
Naturally, it is not alone on the playing
field. Philips, the original champion of
DVD+R, has its own recorders.
The film industry, made up largely
of the same companies that make up the
music industry, are already crying that
the dropping prices of DVD recorders are costing them money, because
consumers are copying films instead of
buying them. A study released in August
seemed to indicate that “pirates” with
DVD recorders were taking away a
billion US dollars of business, about
5% of DVD sales. True? Well, there
are reasons to be suspicious. The study
was commissioned by Macrovision, the
company that sells anti-copying systems
for DVD and VHS. Drug manufacturer
have been known to exaggerate the
prevalence of a disease.
In actual fact, DVD recorders are
ill-suited to copying movies and other
material. A DVD recorder may not have
a tuner, for one thing. You can always
plug a VCR into it and use its tuner, but
that won’t simplify your wiring any, and
we find it doubtful that 5% of consumers
can manage that. And if you want to use
that setup to actually copy a VHS film,
you’ll need to add an image stabilizer in
order to strip out Macrovision’s copy
protection. Real practical!
Naturally, if you drop a few hundred
dollars on a recorder, you’ll want to do
more than just dub a low-resolution
source onto a high-resolution disc.
You’ll have an eye to copying a few
DVDs. That’s illegal in the US (though
it seems to be legal for private use in
Canada and Europe)…still, they can’t
put a policeman in every TV room, can
The bad news is that this sort of
copying is nearly impossible to do. If the
film industry wants to blubber all the
way to the bank, it should look at a different threat: the personal computer.
Most computers sold today come with
optical drives capable of reading DVDs.
The fancier models can also record DVDs
(in either DVD-R, DVD+R, or both).
Commercial films use a data scrambling
system called CSS, but there are dozens
of Internet sites distributing a free program called DeCSS. There is also a commercial copying program for Windows,
DVD X (marketed by 321 Studios, which
hopes to win a court battle it initiated
against the entertainment industry; see
Gossip&News in UHF No. 66). With a
modern computer, you really can copy
movies. It takes a lot of work, though,
and the 5% “piracy” figure seems a tad
It seems likely that the Macrovision-sponsored “piracy” figure includes
Internet copies that are made by aiming
a camcorder at a movie screen. We can’t
see much reason for MGM’s stock to
drop because of piracy. Not yet at least.
The digital videocassette
Did we say V HS cassettes were
dead? There’s one form of the VHS
cassette whose creators believe it has
legs: D-VHS, a cassette that can record
high definition video.
“High definition” in this case means
about four to eight times the definition
of the best conventional TV source.
Instead of the 525 lines of NTSC television, for instance, we have 1050 lines.
Some US networks do broadcast in high
definition, and have for some time (in
Canada, HD telecasts are available via
satellite). Movies on DVD can look
wonderful, but wouldn’t it be great to
watch them in high definition?
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In fact putting more data onto a disc
didn’t require a shift all the way to blue.
The laser used in the DVD is of higher
frequency, moving closer to yellow, and
that’s enough to put an entire movie onto
a CD-sized disc (with considerable lossy
compression) or uncompressed higher
definition audio.
Now the actual blue laser has finally
arrived. It probably won’t result in yet
another new audio format, but it will
affect home theatre in a big way. A
present-day DVD can hold a theoretical 17 Gigabytes, if it is two-sided and
double-layered. The new Blu-Ray DVD
can hold 27 Gb per side. Its first application will be computer storage: imagine
backing up a huge hard disc onto a
single DVD. Next stop: high definition
How quickly this will happen is anyone’s guess. We assume that the movie
industry will be smart enough to make
everything compatible: high definition
players that will also play older DVDs,
and Blu-Ray DVDs that will also have
a low-defi nition layer for playback on
older yellow-laser DVD players.
That’s what we assume. On the
other hand, no one ever went broke
underestimating the intelligence of the
entertainment industry.
The D-VHS cassette looks like an
Just be prepared to pay for the priviordinary videocassette, but a high-den- lege. And enjoy it while you can. The
sity magnetic coating allows it to store days of winding and unwinding tape
a lot more information. So can you from little reels are numbered. Your
tape the Super Bowl in all its high-def D-VHS machine could wind up in the Hard disc recording, plus…
It’s well-known that a major use of
glory and watch it again next summer? closet next to your Videodisc player.
VCRs has always been “time shifting,”
Perhaps not, because the machines don’t
recording of programs to play at more
come with high defi nition tuners. This The blue laser DVD
of our readers
8200 hospital
duplexThough some tapes,
is another in a long line
of products
Just have
as D-VHS
a standard
a little wind up in collecdeliberately crippled so you can’t easily cassette, so this eventual successor to especially of movies,
use them to do what they’re ostensibly the DVD look just like a normal DVD. tions, most are played just once.
In the US, there’s a handier way to
meant for. You need a set-top
box with There’s little external sign that it holds
time-shift, using a hard disc recorder
an IEEE1394 (FireWire) output.
nearly ten times as much data.
You can, however, get films recorded
Veteran audiophiles may find the such as that of TiVo. The recorder,
in high definition. The prerecorded reference to a blue laser familiar. A accompanied by a subscription to the
format is known as D-Theater. There decade ago, when we were complaining TiVo service, allows unprecedented ease
aren’t a lot of them, and if you have about the inadequacies of the CD’s 16 of recording and playback. Just tell the
reasonably sophisticated cultural tastes bits and 44.1 kHz sampling rate, we were TiVo unit what programs interest you,
the list gets even shorter. Typical cur- promised the eventual development of and it will record them for you. Fire it
rent titles: Backdraft, Behind Enemy Lines, a blue laser, which would pack so much up, choose a show, and you have it right
Diehard, and Terminator 2.
information onto an optical disc that we away. No tape to rewind either.
It gets better. TiVo does tricks a
But just as the owners of the very first could finally stop looking back longingly
TV sets would spend hours watching the at analog. Conventional lasers are red, VCR can’t. You can pause live TV, if
Indian head test pattern, you may fi nd or even infrared. Shift the frequency the phone rings while you’re watching
yourself viewing, in high defi nition, a up toward the blue, and the shorter a show. What the pause does is start
film you wouldn’t normally even watch wavelengths could be used to write and recording, so you can rejoin the show
the trailer for.
read much more densely packed informa- later. Unlike a VCR, a hard disc recorder
When you have to have 20 amps
lets you play back part of the show while
it continues to record.
An added bonus is that, if you have
paused and are therefore watching the
“delayed” program, you can skip through
the commercials just as you would with
a VCR. And you can also go back and
rewatch a scene if you like.
What you can’t do is add a film you’ve
recorded on hard disc to your collection.
At least you couldn’t until now.
But that is changing. Pioneer has
announced a hybrid unit that contains
a TiVo hard disc recorder and a DVD
recorder. The prospect of finally putting
the VCR in a garage sale is upon us.
The fly in the ointment: both the
TiVo unit and the DVD recorder are
standard resolution. Will there be a
high resolution version? We’d bet there
will…unless the “content providers”
manage to cripple the technology as
they have other technologies.
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Over the years several hundred
movies were shot in three dimensions.
The best ones include Hitchcock’s Dial
M for Murder and some IMAX spectaculars. The worst: a Canadian 60’s
film called The Mask (not to be confused
with the Jim Carrey fi lm of the same
title), and The Stewardesses, a porno fl ick
which may have been shot in 8 mm. In
between those extremes are The House of
Wax, Jaws 3-D, and Friday the 13th 3-D.
A number of these fi lms are available
on DVD, but with the third dimension
conspicuously missing.
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Everything you Always Wanted to Know About
The Power Supply
But Didn’t Know Whom to Ask
ou would think that the lowesttech aspect of an amplifier, preamplifier or CD/DVD player
must be its power supply. We
can obtain nearly unlimited amounts of
electrical power from our local utility,
and all we need to do is transform it
somewhat, from alternating current to
direct current, at the appropriate voltage
or voltages required by the circuits. How
difficult can it be?
It turns out to be surprisingly difficult. Indeed, many of the problems
facing audio designers do involve the
power supply. Most modern power
supplies look almost exactly like those
of half a century ago. Is that what’s
wrong with them? Let us examine the
problem…if problem there is.
The typical power supply
I was tempted to assume that everyone is aware of the reason that alternating current is used to transmit electrical
power. Perhaps not everyone is. Indeed,
the rationale for AC escaped the great
inventor Thomas Edison (whose name
is borne by several utilities in the US).
Edison’s power generators were pumping
out DC — direct current. The wiring
had a positive lead and a negative lead.
His major competitor, Westinghouse,
favored alternating current, with the
polarity reversing itself back and forth 25
times per second (later 50 to 60 times).
Both were easy enough to generate, but
which was better?
Edison favored DC on grounds of
safety. We now know that a large jolt of
alternating current will interfere with
heartbeat regulation, and can trigger
a fatal crisis called fi brillation. Edison
actually developed an AC-powered
electric chair, in the hope that the public
would come to associate AC with violent
death (he toured the US electrocuting,
or “Westinghousing” large animals, a
tactic that would get him picketed or
jailed today). Ultimately AC won out
by Paul Bergman
because of one important property: its
voltage can be changed with a transformer.
A typical power transformer is composed of two coils wound around a metal
core. It is usually shown schematically
like this:
The importance of the transformer
for the mass use of electricity quickly
became evident. If power were sent to
households at low voltage, the current
would be very high (power is equal to
voltage multiplied by current). As the
number of electrical subscribers grew,
wires had to carry more and more current, and the energy lost to heat became
astronomical. The solution was to distribute electricity at very high voltage,
50,000 volts or more. If you increase
the voltage by 400 times, current drops
by 400 times. The voltage can then be
reduced to a safer voltage, anywhere
from 100 to 250 volts, by placing a
transformer close to each home.
Of course, in the days of Edison (and
of Nikola Tesla, Westinghouse’s brilliant
engineer and inventor), electricity had
limited use: lighting at first, and then
appliances powered by electric motors.
Either can be designed to use either AC
or DC. Fairly early in the new century,
Power supplies
aren’t rocket
science. So why
does everybody
talk about them so
however, came the first electronic devices:
amplifiers fi rst, and then radios. Both
needed direct current, and they needed
it at a particular voltage. Within each
of the new devices was a power supply,
designed to turn the electrical company’s
alternating current into direct current at
a voltage specified by the designer.
How is this transformation done?
We have already mentioned the
transformer, which can turn the 120
or 220 volt line voltage into 5 volts, or
60 volts, or even 800 volts, as required.
This is easily done by varying the
number of turns of wire in each of the
two coils in the transformer. However,
what comes out of the other end is still
AC, and electronic devices need DC.
If we chart the voltage of AC, we get
an attractive sine wave that looks like
There is an easy way to turn it into
DC, however, by using what amounts to
a one-way valve for electricity, called a
diode. A diode (named for its two elements) can be a vacuum tube, as it was
for decades, or a solid state device:
You put AC into one end, and direct
current comes out the other end. The
DC isn’t usable, however, because it
pulsates between full voltage and zero
volts, like this:
To allow this voltage to be an energy
source for an electronic device, we need
to smooth it out. The perfect device for
accomplishing this is a capacitor:
How does it do this smoothing?
Imagine a water tap that delivers water
in quick spurts rather than a constant
flow. Put a cup under the tap to catch
the spurts, and tilt it so that a constant
stream pours from the cup.
maximum current from the power line. eumsandreet laore velit iniam qui tatis
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Our filter now looks like this:
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The DC is now smooth enough for a
power amplifier, which handles relatively
large signals that are less sensitive to
hum and noise. In a preamplifier, it may
be necessary to add more sections. In an
integrated amplifier, you might well see a
power supply filter that looks like this:
You might wonder about the resistors
that separate the sections, or “poles” of
the filter. We know that we want to get
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Oakville Audio, Oakville (905) 338-1188
Sensation Musicale, Granby (800) 313-HIFI
New vitality and
potency from an
acclaimed design
Griffin Audio
Box 733, Montreal, QC H4A 3S2
Tel. (514) 945-8245 FAX: (514) 221-2247
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High Frequency
power oscillator
Smaller transformer
and capacitors
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Copland CVA-306 Preamp
Listening Room
ou know how we can make this
review real short? We can just
answer the question you see
below. The answer is yes.
Well, mostly yes. There’s a nuance or
two to put forth here, but if you expect
Copland to have botched this product
because it’s multichannel, and who cares
anyway, think again.
First of all, who needs a preamp like
The f irst candidate is someone
who wants to build a system that must
handle both home theatre and music.
The standard solution is to purchase
an A/V receiver, containing preamp,
processor, and five channels of power
amplification. Though not all receivers
sound alike, all are the result of compromises. The compromises are dictated by
the limitations of size, of price (even the
top receivers are low in cost considering
what they contain), and the market. How
many movie fans actually care about the
quality of music?
The big box stores would tell you
the percentage is very small. From our
perspective, the number is large, if only
because people who don’t care about
musical reproduction are unlikely to
read us anyway.
There are ways to integrate home
theatre and high end music reproduction. Some of them are awkward. The
ideal solution is a preamplifier that can
handle six channels: the five main channels plus the “effects” channel for the
subwoofer. One such preamplifier, the
Audio Refi nement Pre-6, was on the
cover of UHF issue No. 61. We recommended it warmly, but what if you want
a really high end six-channel preamp?
And you may even if movies are
not your passion. A good many music
recordings in both SACD and DVD-A
formats include surround sound. A good
preamp can be the heart of a multichannel music system.
Like the CTA-305 (reviewed in
UHF No. 66), this is a tube preamp.
Because it’s the same size as the 305, it’s
easy to guess that something had to be
sacrificed. That something is the phono
stage. The main circuit board has been
rearranged so that there is room for six
side-by-side tube circuits, each using a
Can a six-channel
tube preamplifier
aspire to reference
12AX7 dual triode. The front panel is
much like the 305’s, except that there is
are individual controls for each of the six
channels, meant for balancing.
The rear panel also looks like the
305’s, including its major failing: good
quality jacks for the two main outputs,
mediocre jacks for the other four outputs, and also for all of the inputs. The
major disappointment is the presence
of just one six-channel input. If you’ll
use it in a music-only system, that’s
perfectly acceptable. But if you’ll be
hooking up both a film sound processor
and an SACD player, then you have a
There are four other inputs, and
there are separate outputs for stereo
and for surround sound. There is also
a tape loop, something we would have
traded for one extra six-channel section.
A pair of 12 volt jacks allow the preamp
to switch on extra gear, such as power
We ran the CVA-306 through some
technical tests, and we weren’t surprised
to see results identical to those of the
CTA-305. They are more like brothers
than cousins. Noise was low, though of
course it may vary with the quality of the
tubes used. Because switching is done by
relays placed right on the circuit board,
effects. It all pretty
much came through gorgeously.
Even so, “pretty much” perhaps
doesn’t accord it all the credit it deserves.
What we heard was in fact very close to
what we had heard with our 305 reference preamplifier. “The difference,” said
Gerard, is a lot less than the difference
between the 305 and the older 301. Just
the presence of those extra volume
Summing it up…
Brand/model: Copland CTA-306
Price: C$3495/US$2495
Dimensions: 43 x 39 x 11 cm
Most liked: Clear, superbly musical
Least liked: Only a single six-channel
input, mediocre jacks
Verdict: Compromise anything,
except the sound
is enough to explain it.”
The 306 sailed through our oftenused choral recording, Now the Green
Blade Riseth without any collateral
damage. Voices were strong and pure,
but not shrill. The infamous crescendo
at the end of the fi rst selection came
through well. Yes, we still preferred our
own preamp, but not by a lot.
We ended the session with two more
of our favorite CD. Nice.
Copland has done well with this
preamp. For either home theatre or for
musical surround sound, you’re unlikely
to find better. What is equally important
is that, even if you use it as a two-channel
preamp, as we did in this test, you’ll be
more than pleased with what you hear.
And we think you’ll be convinced that
you’ve snagged a bargain.
I can tell you right off that this preamp
gave me chills. For starters, the spaciousness
and the stereo image are remarkable. Human
voices, woodwinds, brass, piano, cymbals,
percussion and guitars emerge sounding
warm and natural. It is nearly as though
they were live, right there on stage, with all
of the inflections, modulations, sensitivity,
and even the trills.
I’ve often mentioned that in some tests
I noted that words were clearly audible,
though some trailing syllables tended to
vanish. With this preamplifier, I swear not
a word gets lost. And what comes out is musical and lyrical. What more can I say?
—Reine Lessard
I wasn’t sure how this test would turn out.
I was remembering the disaster of listening
to Copland’s multichannel power amp (see
our last issue). Would this preamp be cut
from the same cloth?
No, whew! It is in fact cut from the
same cloth as the two-channel CTA-305
tube preamp, which is of course one of our
reference preamps.
Is it actually as good? Do a head-to-head
comparison, as we did, and you’ll just notice
the difference.
—Gerard Rejskind
A very impressive achievement, I thought
listening intently. This preamp handles
everything with ease, revealing all I wanted
to hear. It produces a superb harpsichord,
its notes glittering softly in the middle of
the stage, as the sweet, mellow voice fills the
Male and female voices featured equally
clear lyrics, and a vast array of subtle details
appeared wall to wall, from left to right and
front to back…way back.
I still prefer our Copland reference
though, but only because I was tempted to
compare most of the time, rather than merely
listening. You’ll probably just sit and enjoy
your music thoroughly, and you’ll have four
more channels to enjoy come showtime.
—Albert Simon
Listening Room
crosstalk among inputs was barely above
the noise. When we moved the preamp
into our Alpha listening room, we gathered together some CDs, and set out to
determine one thing: does the 306 sound
like the 305?
We began with the wonderful Bist
du beist mir from The Little Notebook of
Anna Magdelana Bach (Analekta FL 2
3064). This piece, for harpsichord and
the astonishing voice of soprano Karina
Gauvin, is sheer magic when properly
reproduced, but it is fragile, and the
magic can easily dry up, along with the
depth and the clarity. We were pleased
to realize that the 306 kept nearly all of
the magic. We could hear the acoustic
milieu, a stone church near Montreal’s
nearly defunct Mirabel airport. Luc
Beauséjour’s harpsichord, which tinkles
annoyingly with lesser gear, had a pure
ethereal tone that delighted us. Depth
was excellent. This is, after all, a natural
stereo recording, done with a single pair
of microphones.
Was the 305 better than the 306? Yes,
no doubt, but we had difficulty agreeing
on the degree of difference.
We moved on to one of our favorite
Blues recordings, Papa John from Doug
McLeod’s You Can’t Take My Blues
(Audioquest AQCD1041). This song
is full of challenging elements, from
McLeod’s voice to Heather Hardy’s
breathtakingly acrobatic violin, to the
guitars, to the inventive percussive
Listening Room
Thiel CS2.4
e like to see consistency
in a designer’s creations,
and it’s interesting that
Jim Thiel’s speakers,
except for the small ones, all have pretty
much the same shape. You have to look
hard to figure out which one you’re
looking at.
The distinctive form, which suggests
an Egyptian sarcophagus, is not mere
whim. Though this is a large speaker, the
strongly profiled front baffle gives it an
acoustically-narrow profile. As we like
to say, it is a large speaker that “thinks”
it is small. The very thick (7.6 cm) front
baffle maintains rigidity, allowing superior dynamics. The forward tilt reduces
internal standing waves that color the
Not too big, not too
small, is it the peak
of Jim Thiel’s art?
sound. It also corrects for a phase error,
by placing the tweeter slightly farther
away from the listener than the woofer.
But there’s a lot more to Thiel’s distinctive designs. Jim Thiel doesn’t pick
his drivers out of the SEAS catalog.
The custom-built 20 cm woofer uses
an aluminum cone, and also has a rear
structure different from that of most
woofers. It’s usual to give the woofer a
deep voice coil with plenty of turns of
wire, to allow high efficiency and better
cooling. Thiel’s voice coil is shallow, but
its magnetic field is deep. That means
the speaker can move back and forth as
much as needed without the voice coil
leaving the magnetic field. That, says Jim
Thiel, greatly reduces distortion at high
The tweeter is unusual too, and in
fact Thiel refers to it as a “coincident
tweeter/midrange driver.” It is essentially an 8.5 cm cone speaker, large
enough to handle lower midrange (Thiel
doesn’t specify the crossover frequency),
with a 2.5 cm metal dome glued to it to
radiate higher frequencies. This is the
same tweeter used in our MCS1 centre
speaker (see UHF No. 67).
The oval “speaker” at the bottom
isn’t a speaker at all, but a passive radiator: essentially a speaker with no voice
coil, almost certainly a KEF. It adds
resistance to the tuned port, making it
seem longer than it is, and it also damps
out port resonances.
Good designers don’t all see crossover
networks the same way. Reference 3a’s
Daniel Dehay, for instance, has little use
for them, employing only a capacitor to
protect the tweeter. Jim Thiel goes to
the opposite extreme. His crossovers
are the size of small amplifiers, loaded
with polypropylene and custom-made
polystyrene capacitors, air core coils,
and a lot of wire with Teflon insulation.
That costs efficiency (the CS2.4 is rated
at 87 dB, lower than average for a speaker
this size), but it allows him to correct for
phase and frequency domain errors.
Because of the way the crossover is
configured, the CS2.4 has only a single
(well-made) pair of binding posts, and
biwiring is neither possible nor necessary.
The CS2.4 comes with gold-colored
screw-in cones. The threads on the
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Summing it up…
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Brand/model: Thiel CS2.4
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Price: US$3900 (about C$5132)
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Dimensions: 105 x 28 x 35.5 cm
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Sensitivity: 87 dB
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Impedance: 4 ohms (3 ohms min.)
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Most liked: Low distortion, no midea consequ tuero exer susci
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range veiling, excellent transients
F issue.
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Least liked: Some tilt toward higher
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Pick up is
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Ge t t h e
Listening Room
cones are a little loose, however. If you
don’t tighten the locknut thoroughly, the
cones will rattle audibly during play.
The CS2.4 is available in various
woods, from fl at black (the economy
fi nish) to the gorgeous morado veneer
of our speakers. We didn’t fi nd them
particularly unstable, but cautious parents or dog owners may want to order
optional outrigger feet to make sure they
can’t fall over.
Thiel recommends 50 hours of breakin time, but we ran up about half again
that before moving the CS2.4’s into our
Alpha room. Though these are substantial speakers, they are easy to place, and
they are not overly sensitive to position.
Nor are they visually overwhelming, as
other speakers that size can be. As with
other speakers we’ve reviewed recently,
we used LPs for the sessions.
The first is always a delight, whether
we hear it on CD or LP. It is harpist
Susann McDonald’s performance of
Marcel Tournier’s Vers une source dans le
bois. It’s on her Caprice CD on Klavier,
but we played it from the Professor Johnson’s Amazing Sound Show LP (RR-7).
It sounded gorgeous emerging from
the Thiels.
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Listening Room
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Ut essit illutatio eumsandigna
—Gerard Rejskind
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Ut essit illutatio eumsandigna
—Albert Simon
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—Reine Lessard
Focus Audio FS688
Listening Room
t should probably come as no surprise that some small speakers have
large price tags…or that expensive
speakers can be small. The original
Totem Model One made that clear for a
lot of audiophiles, and since then upscale
speakers have come in many shapes and
sizes. This is one of the smallest ones,
though not, as we shall see, one of the
least capable.
You look at this small speaker, and
you figure you could buy it for its looks
alone. The piano walnut fi nish must be
seen to be appreciated. Fit and fi nish is
meticulous. For example, note the flared
vent at the rear of the enclosure, and run
a fi nger nail over its edge, to fi nd where
the enclosure leaves off and the port
tube begins. You won’t. In the time we
had the FS688 around our office, no one
who saw it failed to exclaim on its sheer
beauty. And you know what? When we
told them it cost C$4000 a pair, no one
so much as raised an eyebrow.
But be assured t hat t he money
wasn’t spent exclusively on veneer and
Take the drivers. The Eton woofer
isn’t large, just 14 cm across, but it
is an expensive one, with a stiff cone
made of two layers of Kevlar with a
Nomex honeycomb between them. The
Scanspeak Revelator tweeter is the same
one used in the magnificent Living Voice
Avatar OBX-R speakers reviewed in our
last issue. The capacitors are expensive
Multicaps. Internal wiring is silver Litz
wire from Cardas, whose copper binding
posts and jumpers are also used.
Keeping a small cabinet from ringing is easier than doing it with a large
one — and that is but one of the advantages of going small — but it’s still an
effort, and on the evidence Focus Audio
has gone to the trouble. Tapping various
parts of the enclosure revealed no obvious weaknesses.
The sensitivity figure, 85 dB according to the manufacturer, is much lower
than that of most speakers made today.
small, surprisingly
This is not the speaker to choose to
accompany a timid amplifier.
Our speakers were already well
broken in (we picked them up at the
end of the Montreal show), and we gave
them only another 10 hours or so before
bringing them into our Alpha room. We
placed them on the superb Foundation
stands you can see in the picture across.
They look good that way…no mystery,
since Foundation is a division of none
other than Focus Audio.
As with the other speakers, we picked
a stack of LPs for this review. We began
with the Olympic Fanfare from Dave
Wilson’s old Center Stage album. Could
this diminutive speaker handle the barrage of brass and tympani?
Yes in the case of the brass, at least.
The horns were brash and dissonant,
with great energy and power, but with
plausible timbres. We had no difficulty
listening through the louder instruments
to hear everything that was going on.
Albert and Gerard both used the word
“refined,” and Reine thought the speaker
was made to order for this music.
Well…except perhaps for the very
bottom of the frequency range. The
Focus reproduced the impact of the
tympani quite well, with a fast, energetic and well-controlled attack, but of
course without the earth-shaking boom
of larger speakers. The sound was by
no means unbalanced, though Albert
wondered allowed whether Focus made
a subwoofer (the answer for the moment
is no).
We could already anticipate that the
Focus would do well with the intricate
and subtle harp piece, Vers une source dans
le bois (Reference Recordings RR-7).
How could it have done otherwise?
Gerard wrote but one word: “perfection.”
The sentiment was unanimous. The
cascades of notes from Susann McDonald’s fingers (does she really have only
10?) was at once charming and dazzling.
Some of those notes are the result of a
mere touch, and their discreet sound is
responsible for much of the magic in this
astonishing piece.
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Listening Room
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Duip erilit wis nullamc nsequatisi
Summing it up…
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blaorer sisci exer in henissi blan ut
adip exeraes ectet ad dip el utat alit ad tem Brand/model: Focus Audio FS688
laorem dolortie consenim veliquat iriautem vel ipisit lamcons quisim alit vulla Price: C$3999/US$2600)
urercing eugait, quat iure feu feuis nissi
corperci blan verci euisl dunt wis dolor- Dimensions: 33 x 18 x 25.5 cm
esse ex ercipsummy nit alisit iril eugue
peros alit wisl eros alisl eugiatisit non- Impedance: 8 ohms
dolore tate consent prat, voloreet at.
senit in veraestio doloreet ip eugiamet, Sensitivity: 85 dB
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con hendrer sit venit laortis delit augait Most liked: Transparent, sophistihenim dolorpe aessectem volore magna
iuscilis do enit illamet ulla feugue core cated sound…and great looks
conum nim ad mod dolum iustrud duis
consequisl dionseniam volore dolesse- Least liked: May be too crisp in some ent am iriliquat. Duisit, veraese faci te
quat la aliquat nullandigna feugiamet rooms
magnim delit at alis nis augiat eugait
volore consecte minciliqui blam accum Verdict: High price per kilo, low price auguer irillutat, sit ad dolessent lor alit,
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The whole article
ordering inst ruct
How good
Listening Room
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Ut essit illutatio eumsandigna
—Gerard Rejskind
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Ut essit illutatio eumsandigna
—Albert Simon
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Ut essit illutatio eumsandigna
Loreraestie feu feugueros esed dit dolor
sum velesse magnis dit lobor si.
—Reine Lessard
Iliad B1 Speaker
tweeter. The price seems rather attractive,
but there are a lot of low-cost speakers
out there, in venues varying from big box
retailers to backs of trucks parked in alleyways. What makes the Iliad different?
The speaker designers we respect most
claim that the best design will be of little
use if the drivers are of mediocre quality.
What Racicot has done is put together
upmarket Audax drivers from France
with cabinets and assembly work by “our
Asian partners” (we’re guessing China).
That balancing act is intended to deliver
a speaker somewhat more sophisticated
than one normally gets at this price,
C$599 (about US$440).
We broke in our brand new B1’s for
some 60 hours, and then brought them
into our Alpha room. The price does
not, we should add, include stands. We
used Focus Audio’s awesome Foundation
stands, which of course cost double the
price of the B1’s themselves.
A small speaker with
no surprises. Oh…
possibly except for
its price tag.
Listening Room
reating a new loudspeaker
may look as simple as screwing a couple of drivers into a
box, but if you want to enjoy
what comes out you’ll want to take a
rather longer journey. It is perhaps with
such a journey in mind that Laurent
Racicot, an audio journalist turned
speaker designer, named his new speaker
line after Homer’s very long epic poem
on the siege of Troy.
Iliad speakers are built by D-Box,
a company located a 15-minute drive
away from our editorial offices. The
company began well over a decade ago
with a series of very small self-powered
speakers. That seemed weird at the
time, though of course the spread of
computers has made such speakers
commonplace. D-Box then moved into
subwoofers, including the Mammouth,
with a driver nearly half a meter across,
and its Odyssée motion simulator seat
for home theatre. And now…
This is, it's easy to see, the most conventional of D-Box’s products. There’s
nothing terribly unusual about the B1,
the middle member of the inexpensive
three-speaker line (four if you count
the subwoofer). It is a two-way speaker,
using a 16.5 cm woofer and a textile dome
We began the all-LP session (we find
ourselves doing this a lot of late) with the
Olympic Fanfare from the long-discontinued Wilson LP, Center Stage. There’s a
lot of brass in this fanfare, but the reason
we like to include it is that the tympani
is especially well-recorded, with impact
of mallet on membrane that you can feel.
How did it do? “We might be in for some
surprises,” said Albert.
Indeed. The bottom end was way
better than we had dared hope, and the
rhythm was satisfyingly light. Reine
thought the brass section had lost some
of its presence, but on the other hand
the instruments didn’t all run together.
The cymbals were very good when
lightly struck, rather more artificial in
a full-blown clash. Gerard wondered
whether a coil in the crossover might
be saturating under stress.
The next recording, William Walton’s Façade Suite is an even tougher test,
because of the numerous instruments
playing solo and in combinations. In
the introduction there is a particularly
murderous piccolo passage that most
speakers, including our Alpha reference,
mishandle. The Iliad did a little worse
yet. The piccolo turned into a screech,
and its duet with the clarinet made us
strain to pick it out.
Not that the rest of the recording was
disastrous, far from it. Other higher frequencies, such as those of the snare drum
and the cymbal, were at least reasonable.
The other instruments didn’t all blend
together, which meant that Walton’s
elaborate and poetic counterpoints came
through pretty much intact. Reine was
hardest on the B1, but even so she added
that on musical grounds she could be
perfectly happy with it.
Of course we wanted to hear a
female voice, because we thought that
might give the B1 trouble. We chose an
audiophile classic, Amanda McBroom’s
Gossamer from the original West of Oz
Sheffield direct-cut LP. Amanda’s voice
was satisfyingly clear, but not quite right,
“as though she weren’t quite as good a
singer,” said Gerard. Her esses were quite
natural, though they sounded rougher
later in the song, as she sang louder.
Most of the instruments, including the
electric bass, sounded very good, though
the harmonica was an exception. Once
Our bench tests didn’t turn up anything unpleasant. The square wave (at
left) is surprisingly well-shaped, though
the double line on the risers suggests a
minor phase error between the drivers.
The frequency response curve is basically fi ne, though a bit ragged in the
upper midrange. The lower midrange
again we noted the very good separation that the kick drum was a bit out of focus, is a little bumpy too, though of course
of voice and instruments. The tonal bal- but there was a no denying its impact. some of that is caused by room effects.
ance was mostly dead on.
Victor Feldman’s piano, which a lot of Response is strong down to 70 Hz,
The B1 did wonderfully well on the speakers mess up, was just right. The and drops off below that. This is not
harp solo Vers une source dans le bois. electric bass sounded very good.
unusual, notwithstanding the optimistic
The harp was somewhat
closer Hi-Res
to us. musicOn
sheets from most manufacturers.
That's right.
and 96 kHz without lossyspec
“Instead of being inand
it’s on all standard
many speakers make horrible
it up…
it playsshade
that way
DVD players.
The fact that However
they’ve got
out in full sunshine,”
Still,greatest jazz artists, from the Concord Jazz catalogue,
noises below their response limits. The
the world’s
we admired the detail,
of Brand/model: Iliad B1
B1 doesn’t…and that’s perhaps the
background fog, and the speaker’s sheer Price: C$599 (about US$440)
reason it sounds as clean as it does.
On the whole, the Iliad B1 is a very
Dimensions: 41 x 20.5 x 33.5 cm
We ended with Secret of the Andes,
good speaker, and it could be just a
whose massive percussion variety is Impedance: 8 ohms
tuneup away from stardom. Speakers
such a challenge for a speaker. The B1 Most liked: Well-balanced sophistiof this price all have weak points, but
did well. Only a trace of bloom on the cation
beyond their inevitable weaknesses they
largest drum spoiled what would have Least liked: Some top end artifacts as mostly lack the refi nement it takes to
been a perfect score. The impact of volume rises
make you suspend disbelief and become
mallet or palm against membrane was Verdict: Music that makes you smile,
one with the musicians. The B1 has
unusually clear, and the rhythm was at a price that will make you grin
that refinement. Decidedly, more than
light and furious. Gerard complained
the price is right.
24/96 sound on any DVD player
Listening Room
It’s not easy to compare C$600 speakers
with a reference that costs many times more,
but since they came out of the challenge in
more than honorable fashion, I’m pleased to
give you the results.
If I noted some flaws, I also noted some
pleasant surprises, marvellous discoveries
that deserve mention: restitution of an
infinity of details, beauty of instrumental
timbres, good impact and energy, a fine
dynamic capability, and fidelity in communicating words and sensitivity. Throughout
the test, rhythm was in no way altered.
In their category, these speakers can be
recommended. If you have a modest budget
and a room that’s not too large, these may
be the speakers for you. Add a good source,
and they’ll make you happy without wiping
our your budget.
—Reine Lessard
The top end is shrill, the bottom is tubby,
the rhythm is turgid, and the midrange could
use a going over with emery.
Let me emphasize that I have not been
describing the Iliad B1. Its sound is remarkably sophisticated, with a polish and refinement whose absence I have often deplored in
speakers costing two or three times the price
of the B1. The bottom end is not perfect,
but there’s good coherence and little boom.
Rhythm is strong.
Yes, there are compromises. I'd guess
that the crossover could use a retune, to avoid
some perfectly avoidable artifacts at the top
end. But let’s be realistic. This speaker is
cheap enough to liberate funds for a much
better source than you had perhaps planned
on. For most audiophiles, this is absolutely
the right choice.
—Gerard Rejskind
To tell you the truth, listening to speakers of this price is not what I like to do for
fun. Most of them have flaws that I find
dispiriting when I’m trying to enjoy music.
I don’t know about you but I often like
to compare differently priced components
using CDs (or LPs) as currency. How many
CDs can I buy with what I save, for example?
Is my music experience going to improve
more with additional music or with a more
expensive system?
No need to ask yourself that question
with these speakers, though. W hether
you’re setting up your first system or helping someone set up theirs, the D-Box Iliad
speakers will free up the budget for plenty
of CDs. You’ll be mouthing all the lyrics of
more songs than you expected and you’ll
hear them so clearly they’ll be etched in
your mind. You’ll be able to spoil yourself
with more percussion than you think you
deserve, and they’ll handle it like pros.
You might not want to challenge them
too often with sharp sounds or piercing high
notes, but they’ll constantly surprise you
with their tight, precise, musical bass, and
their great ability to dance and reproduce
As a result, you’ll probably wind up
owning more CDs than you had expected,
and you’ll find more music in them. Not a
bad idea.
—Albert Simon
Audio Note CD Player
nect to a similarly-equipped transport,
but Audio Note’s own transport doesn’t
have a balanced output.
It is inside that the DAC One is
unusual. One notable feature is the
presence of a tube output stage, using
a miniature 6922 tube. The other, and
a much more surprising one, is the “1x”
referred to in the model name. Audio
Note calls it “1x oversampling.”
Pretty much all multibit converters
use oversampling, and have for many
years. It is used to avoid the “brute force”
filter that, on early CD players, took a
chain saw to the audio beyond 20 kHz.
Such filters have serious audible effects,
unfortunately. The solution: running the
sampling signal at a higher frequency,
four or eight times normal. The filter
can be made much more gentle.
Audio Note’s “1x oversampling”
means of course no oversampling at all.
You’ve seen the
name. But how often
have you seen the
Listening Room
ou’ve heard of Audio Note,
right? Have you ever seen any
of its products? Audio Note is
a British brand whose products
are known to be expensive, and in some
quarters the company is quasi-legendary.
Then again, unicorns are legendary too,
but who’s ever seen one?
By Audio Note standards, this player
is inexpensive, because the line runs deep
into four figures. Are the prices one
reason for the legend? Perhaps, though
as we shall see there is a happier one.
The two boxes are the same size,
resembling lab instrument cases. The
CDT- One transport has no frontpanel controls at all, featuring only a
large fluorescent screen below its disc
drawer. The inevitable question came
up: what if you lose the remote control?
There actually are two buttons, one to
open or close the drawer and the other to
play or pause. And that’s all. Where are
they? On the rear panel! We recommend
picking up a universal remote…just in
The DAC One 1x Signature, alas, has
the cheap jacks that are popping up on
too much expensive equipment. There is
one balanced XLR connection, to con-
Why? We quote from the Audio Note
Web site:
Musically relevant infor mation is
what we strive to convert from digital
to analogue, not some misunderstood
notion of “technical perfection” that
produces its own sound through adding
its own information, such as upsampling,
which is really only just another way of
“correcting” the data stream, as if we
actually knew what was wrong with it
in the first place, or in other words just
another coarse method of cheating the test
equipment (and a few less knowledgeable
consumers and reviewers more concerned
with test data than music??). The multiplication of the information in the data
stream inherent in the oversampling and
upsampling methods multiply the fl aws
in the signal to an even greater extent,
low level information is lost, dynamic
headroom reduced and a shallow anemic
sound results.
Reviewers more concerned with data
than music? Gee, that couldn’t happen,
could it?
We hooked up a Wireworld Gold
Starlight digital cable between the
two units, and ran some CDs through
The first was The Little Notebook
of Anna Magdelana Bach (Analekta
FL 2 3064). What grabbed our attention fi rst was the harpsichord, whose
presence was considerably enhanced. It
was also slightly harder, as was Karina
Gauvin’s voice. On the other hand, her
voice seemed even more expressive.
The player did well on Now the Green
Blade Riseth, with male and female voices
blending well, yet easy to separate. The
organ and the plucked bass were solid,
the rhythm excellent. Female voices had
hardened somewhat, however, though
that didn’t spoil the expressiveness of
this fine chorale.
On our harp recording, Caprice (Klavier K 11133), the Audio Note showed off
once more its ability to underline and
enhance the actual musical performance.
Susann McDonald had never sounded
better (and she’s always amazing!).
Indeed, we liked everything about what
we heard, from the deep resonance of
the harp to the sharply-focused details,
revealed without fog or ambiguity.
In Patricia Barber’s Like JT from
good deal of depth
behind them.
A nd rhythm
was superb too, as it
had been with all of
the other selections
we had listened to. We know better than
to take that for granted with any digital
We ended with Lobo from the new
Carmin disc (Audiogram ADCD10163),
and once again the reproduction of musical values delighted us. Bïa’s expressive
voice was more natural, her mocking
tone in this song more evident. There’s
lots of subtle percussion in this song, and
we could hear more of it. “The tempo is
well-maintained with this player,” said
Gerard. “It’s interesting to note the
way good reproduction of rhythm has
an effect on the melody as well, making
the live Companion disc, the kick drum’s
it easier to grasp.”
impact was actually startling. But that
We were eager to see what Audio
wasn’t all. Barber’s piano sounded better
Note’s “1X” sampling would do on the
than with our reference, sounding much
test bench. Well…the result doesn’t
more like a quality grand piano, each
resemble anything we’ve seen before.
note carrying new energy. The percusCheck the 100 Hz square wave, above
sion amazed us too, because it was so
left. We’ve never seen one like it, and
detailed we could follow the movement
we’re not sure how to explain it. The
of the drumsticks on the varied surfaces.
-60 dB sine wave, on the other hand (at
Another exciting
great recording
by one of the world’s greatest harpists, accompanied right)
by was more conventional, and pretty
bit as amazing
was Nature
well perfect.
an awesome
flutist. Original
recording by Keith O. Johnson, digital transfer by
Summing it up…
Boy from
Hot On
of San
Jitter was very low, and remained
(Clarity CCD-1006). We could hear
low even on deliberately damaged CD
Maria Muldaur breathe, so clear was the Brand/model: Audio Note CDT-1/
tracks (it muted with a cut of 2 mm or
sound. “It sounds as though it’s really her Transport One
more). It is, however, rather sensitive to
singing,” said Albert, “and not merely Price: C$2199 (US$1650) each box
vibrations. Placing it on a well-isolated
someone trying to sound like her. Nor Dimensions: 22 x 29.5 x 11.5 cm
stand is highly recommended.
was it only Muldaur’s performance that Most liked: Adds magic to a good
This listening session was a happy
was enhanced. The guitar introduc- musician’s performance
experience. There’s a definite down side
tion had a magnificent roundness, but Least liked: Increased hardness of
to Audio Note’s chosen technology, to be
without added coloring. The saxophone certain voices and instruments
sure, and we could hear it. But we also
was particularly rich and lively. The per- Verdict: Music trumps numbers
understand why so many music lovers
formers were slightly forward, but with a
swear by this company.
We wouldn’t be without it
Listening Room
We at UHF are not generally known
for throwing flowers indiscriminately at
components we test. Personally, I am not
easily impressed, and, too often, “impressive” performances leave me in doubt. I know
real music is rarely like a circus, but more like
a garden.
Well, this player, with its sober and
elegant look, makes music seem like a walk
in a quiet garden, where time stands still and
surprises appear at every turn. (You can see
me throwing flowers now, can’t you?)
Nothing seemed overdone, no musician
tried to take over the stage. Massed voices
blossom (there, you see?) and spread before
me without strain, dropping their lyrics
delicately, and departing at the end of the
piece. I know that, if I wanted to, I could
get up and touch the instruments — and
did I mention that their timbre is always
right on? No, but it is. Nothing seems to be
added, nothing seems to be missing across
that well-balanced stage.
Actually, “balance” is a another word
to describe what I felt when I heard music
played by this source. Colors were distinctly
displayed, as musical textures appeared in
transparent shades. And you know what ?
Nothing was meant to impress…that’s what
impressed me about it.
—Albert Simon
Well, I’m impressed!
This high end player produces an
ambience that makes the presence of the
musicians almost palpable. Faithful reproduction is accompanied by exceptional definition. It dazzles the ear with an incredible
variety of sounds that are delightful without
seeming the least bit artificial. In the deep
sound field, with its several distinguishable
planes, the dynamics have free rein. Oh,
those striking timbres, those notes and
those rhythms, those modulations, that
sensitivity…all that’s needed for a perfect
listening experience!
There’s impact, and there’s energy. Bass
is solid, the midrange is rich, and the highs
are light. The player communicates the
subtlest emotion. Pile on the piano, voice,
percussion, and a big orchestra, and you
won’t note any distortion.
This player, whose twin boxes won’t
spoil your decor any more than your listening experience, passes with flying colors.
—Reine Lessard
I had heard about Audio Note for years,
but hearing about and hearing are two different things. Now I understand the legend.
There’s almost nothing bad to say about
this player, except perhaps that it sounds
slightly forward compared to my other
favorites> But “forward” in this case doesn’t
translate into shrill, or clinical, or flat. In
musical terms, everything comes out of this
player sounding as it should. If higher praise
exists, I don’t know what it could be.
—Gerard Rejskind
Copland CDA-822
We cont inued wit h our choral
recording, Now the Green Blade Riseth
(Proprius PRCD9093), whose complexity provides many ways a player can go
wrong. The Copland mostly went right.
Female voices were smooth and natural,
yet highly energetic. Some CD players
sound thin on the bottom, but that’s not
common with Copland players, and this
one was entirely satisfying. Male voices
had good body, and the string bass had
a subtle but solid beat we all noted with
approval. The solo flute was beautiful,
still without any of the high-pitched
harshness we often hear. “When it’s
reproduced like this you can really follow
the melodic line,” said Albert, before
adding, “That’s true of our reference
player too, of course.”
Gerard, for his part, wasn’t totally
happy. “I still hear a bit of thickening. It’s
like a sketch by an artist whose pencils
weren’t quite sharp enough.”
The Copland player did very well
with our harp selection: Tournier’s
Vers une source dans le bois (from Caprice
on Klavier K 33111). The louder parts
(yes, a solo harp can be plenty loud) was
powerful and resonant, while the softer,
otherworldly passages were magical,
with no fog to hide them. The overall
tone was as we like it: rich and warm,
rather than cool and overly analyzed.
Not that any detail was missing.
From there we moved to a jazz
Is the Compact Disc
dead? We say no. So
does Copland.
Listening Room
his astonishing Danish
company, two of whose preamplifiers we own, long ago
figured out how to get maximum music off CD. This is the latest
iteration of the Copland CD player. It
uses newer chipsets than the last version,
which is no doubt the reason it no longer
has HDCD decoding aboard.
The presentation is straightforward,
with enough buttons on the front panel
to allow operation even if the dog has
run off with the remote (which also has
buttons for Copland preamps and amps).
The rear is equally straightforward. The
analog outputs include a pair of nice
phono jacks as well as XLR balanced
jacks. The digital output is unbalanced
We began the listening session with
a familiar recording, The Little Notebook
of Anna Magdelana Bach (A nalekta
FL 2 3064), which can sound like a
foretaste of paradise…or like the antechamber of a much warmer place. We
were happy to note that it was closer to
Up Here than to Down There. Soprano
Karina Gauvin’s magical voice was warm,
clear, pure and crystalline, without
undue emphasis on the overtones. Luc
Beauséjour’s harpsichord was natural,
with possibly even more presence than
with our reference player. There was a
palpable sense of the large space of the
Mirabel church where the recording was
Did it sound every bit as good as
it had with our own player? Nearly,
thought Gerard, “but there’s a subtle
shift in timbre. Everything sounds a
little thicker, slightly less natural.”
recording, Patricia Barber’s Like JT
from her live Companion CD (Premonition 22963). The CDA-822 handled it
with deftness and ease.
Barber doesn’t sing on this selection,
but she plays piano and she is surrounded
by several first class musicians. The engineers came up with exceptional sound
under what must have been trying conditions, and we felt as though we were
there, with them in that Chicago club.
Certainly all of the energy of a live
gig was there. The drum kit generates
sounds that f lirt with subterranean
depths, while the other, highly varied,
percussion instruments reach for the top.
Both piano and guitar sounded attractive and natural. Rhythm was strong.
Audience sounds were not obtrusive,
but they were present, as were calls
of encouragement from the musicians
themselves. The excellent stereo image
placed all of this into a coherent frame.
Indeed, Albert actually preferred the
Copland’s version to that of our own
player. “The piano is warmer than with
the reference. I also especially like the
sound of the cymbal shimmering when
it is barely touched by the drumstick.
Even the applause is more realistic.”
We then moved to another jazz
piece, Nature Boy from The Hot Club
of San Francisco (Clarity CCD-1006),
with guest singer Maria Muldaur. Her
voice just glowed, as she slid from note
to note in the way she does. “The sound
of her voice draws you into the text,” said
Reine, “and the sax is really sexy.”
It wasn’t alone. The guitar was also
especially attractive. The string bass had
power, but it didn’t sound ponderous.
That was as it should be.
Albert sometimes complains of components that give music a “cooler” coloring than our reference components do.
The Copland actually sounded warmer,
and he wondered whether that was
entirely natural. “I’m not really sure,”
he said.
We ended the session with Lobo, a
song in Portuguese from Bïa’s new CD,
Carmin (Audiogram ADCD10163) Once
again Albert found the tone somewhat
warmer, but that was his only complaint…if complaint it truly was. Bïa’s
expressive voice was delightfully clear,
with each syllable easy to catch, yet with
a coherent overall sound. Indeed, we
could hear inflections that were hidden
with our own player. The stereo image
was well rendered.
How well would the Copland do on
the technical tests. Very well in fact.
It had little difficulty coping with a
low-level signal. The trace above left is
of a 1 kHz sine wave 60 decibels below
full level. It is contaminated by neither
distortion nor noise.
The CDA-822 did quite well on the
100 Hz square wave as well (the trace
at top right), which shows little ringing.
The tilt of the top of the wave indicates
a somewhat greater rolloff of high frequencies than we see on modern players. Is that the source of the Copland’s
“warm” sound? Possibly.
Jitter was low, as we were certain it
would be from the enthusiastic way the
player handles rhythm. Not expected
is that it remained low when we ran
the Pierre Verany test disc with laser
slices through the tracks. It took a huge
Summing it up…
Brand/model: Copland CDA-822
Price: C$3400/US$2495
Dimensions: 43 x 39 x 10.5 cm
Most liked: Warmth, clarity, smoothness
Least liked: Has it traded warmth for
Verdict: Good enough to give the
“aging” CD medium some vitamins
3 mm cut to produce a noticeable
increase in jitter.
The transport
actually tracked
quite well t he
track wit h t he
widest (4 mm)
slice, with only
two brief bursts
of uncorrected noise. We can’t remember seeing results like that before.
The player is insensitive to vibration.
It took a hard slap to cause mistracking,
or even a jump in the jitter.
We are aware that many audiophiles
today are reluctant to pay this kind of
money for what could soon be an “obsolete” format. They wonder whether they
should buy an SACD player instead. At
some point the answer will be yes. For
the moment, we point up the obvious:
there are hundreds of thousands of CD
titles, and mere hundreds of SACD and
DVD-A titles. True, their number will
increase, and that means your next CD
player may be your last CD player.
You might as well make it a good one.
This is a good one.
Listening Room
If you cringe and shiver in the cold rendition of your favorite music, pause in your
search for a magic solution downstream, and
give this source a try. It seemed to blanket
each selection we listened to with a wonderful, yet very subtle (and I mean really subtle)
warm glow. It sounded golden to me, I don’t
know why.
The harpsichord sounded golden, for
one. And it struck me that when I hear a
harpsichord live, I am always charmed by the
warmth and the rich vibrations that emanate
from that rare instrument (as opposed to the
tinny kitchenware clanking that passes for
a harpsichord on some systems). Combine
that with the warm and modulated sound
of a superb soprano in an intimate setting
(as opposed to what a soprano is thought to
sound like…) and you’ll guess a bit of what
I heard.
Through a wealth of detail, I discovered
fleeting yet unmistakable sounds such as
those lingering in space between the notes
of the harp. Cymbals were brassy and smooth
as they should be on their decay, and drummers are known to pay a fortune for that
smoothness and richness. I could hear it
In one instance, I asked myself if that
golden glow was really natural. I think it was.
And frankly, lost in the beauty of the music,
I soon forgot all about it.
—Albert Simon
tal timbres are at once neutral and delightful.
The piano can gambol freely, and percussion
instruments, from the subtlest to the most
spectacular, add not only to the impact of
the music but also to its emotional effect.
Attacks are firm, rhythm is energetic and
captivating. And all of the audible spectrum
is reproduced impeccably, including the very
—Reine Lessard
Here’s another Copland product that
deserves top ranking. Its remarkable clarity
and its dynamics result in a spacious stereo
image that spreads well beyond the speakers. Are we suddenly in a concert hall? It’s
a logical question, considering the presence
of the musicians before us.
This player reproduces not only the
actual sound of musical instruments but also
the sensitivity of the people who play them.
None of the inflections and modulations of
the human voice are hidden, and instrumen-
At its best, this CD player is spectacular.
It’s no secret that some players appear to be
welded at the hip, incapable of following
rhythm. The Copland is the opposite of
True, there are moments when it seems
to lack subtlety, to make everything a little
brighter and showier than it would be in real
life. Yes, I know not many purchasers will
complain about that. In a world full of dullas-dishwater players, this one stands out.
—Gerard Rejskind
Vecteur I-6.2
ing we never get tired of hearing, The
Little Notebook of Anna Magdelana Bach
(Analekta FL 2 3064). This is a tough
test, but what came out of the amplifier
was like honey. Soprano Karina Gauvin’s
voice was at once sweet and warm, “pure
gold,” said Reine. The transparency was
not accompanied by annoying artifacts,
such as artificial brightness.
Indeed, the sound of the Vecteur
was not totally unlike that of our
Copland/YBA combination. “It’s not
quite the same,” said Albert. “I think
our Copland preamplifier adds another
dimension. But it’s magnificent all the
Our preamplifier also seemed to give
our reference the edge in Stravinsky’s
Firebird (Reference Recordings RR70). But it was no more than an edge.
There was perhaps a thinner sound to
the brass, a slightly rougher edge to the
strings, but what we heard delighted us.
The soft passages of this ballet suite can
and should be pure magic. Through
the Vecteur, those magical, ethereal
moments seemed to float in space, and
we held our breath. The long crescendo
leading to the famous finale was magnificent, aided by the amplifier’s seemingly
endless energy.
Our third recording can be a handful.
Looking for a
separate amplifier
and preamplifier?
Read this first.
Listening Room
his French company’s skill in
building amplifiers is not new
to us. The I-6.2 is, if we’re
counting right, the fourth
Vecteur amp that’s come through one
of our reference systems. Previous ones
may not have been beyond reproach, but
each time we criticized one we wondered
whether, possibly, we might be reaching
a little.
This model (aka the Club 12 in an
earlier European version) is the biggest
and most expensive integrated amplifier
the company makes, and by implication
the best. It’s certainly the most powerful,
with a claimed output power of 140 watts
per channel. This is not a record for an
integrated, but it is well above average,
especially for a European product.
The amplifier is remote-controlled,
though everything can be done from
the front panel as well. All controls
are digitally-actuated except the large
volume knob, behind which is a motorized potentiometer. There are five
inputs, plus a tape loop. One of the
inputs can be converted to a phono
stage, though that option is not offered
in North America. The tape loop aside,
there is also a preamp output, to allow
either biamplification or a connection to
a subwoofer. Nice. There are two sets
of good quality output posts, to make
biwiring easy.
As you would guess from the power,
this is a weighty piece, made all the
heavier by the bitumen-coated top
cover, similar to that of the Vecteur AV-6
amplifier reviewed in our last issue.
We began the session with a record-
Antiphone Blues is one of the audiophile
world’s most famous recordings, featuring a jazz saxophonist, Arne Domnérus,
doing counterpoint in a large and reverberant church against an organist. We
used the now-discontinued HDCD
version, and it is a challenge. The sax
has to be smooth, textured and powerful,
the sound field deep, the organ powerful.
And the magic of Ellington’s Almighty
God must fill the sky.
And it did. We expressed only minor
reservations, but…hey, that’s what we’re
here for.
The overall tone was cooler, and
the saxophone slightly rougher. Well,
only slightly, and Reine approved
without reservations. “It’s sensitive and
sensuous and majestic,” she said. “And
magic too.” By and large our opinions
converged. This was, as confirmed by
a tough test, an amplifier that was more
than capable.
On the next recording we couldn’t
even find anything to express reservations about. Doug McLeod’s You Can’t
Take My Blues (Audioquest AQCD1041)
was pretty much perfect. Let us count
the ways.
First there’s the rhythm. Can all
amplifiers follow complex, communicative rhythm like that of McLeod and
cohorts? We wish! The I-6.2 can and
does, seeming at once ponderous on
percussion and fleet of foot. There was
still no hint of shrillness, but McLeod’s
voice was limpid. We could follow even
his final dropped syllables, which led to
bursts of reverberation. His guitar work
was gorgeous, and we admired the way
the cymbal shimmered tantalizingly
when Jimi Bott barely touched it with his
drumstick. There was no fog, no blurring. This amplifier has lots of clarity,
and — it got to demonstrate this more
than once — it has the muscle to back it
We ended the session with Sources
(Audiogram ADCD10132), Bïa’s wonderful second CD. The best thing we
can say is that what we heard sounded
remarkably close to what we had heard
with our reference amplifier and preamplifier. It wasn’t quite the same, to be
sure. Like the saxophone in Antiphone
Blues, Bïa’s voice was somewhat altered,
with a cooler and slightly sharper texture.
“It’s not a matter of sibilance,” said
Gerard, “and it’s subtle.” Indeed,
Reine pronounced the difference
And, that detail aside, there was
a lot to admire in the two songs we
listened to: the fine detail that
brought out the expression, the
resonant guitar chords, and the
biting (but not shrill) accordion.
We ran our usual battery of
technical tests. With our eye on
the published power, we wondered whether it would meet this
ambitious figure. And the answer
At the usually chosen centre
frequency of 1 k Hz, the amplif ier
clipped at 138 watts. This is just outside
the 1% error of our instruments, and it
is not truly significant. At 20 kHz it did
way better, managing 153.4 watts. Not
many integrated amplifiers can do such
Many amplifiers cannot maintain
full power down to very low frequencies,
even if the spec sheet says otherwise.
That’s the case of the Vecteur. At 20 Hz,
the current draw on the power supply is
great enough to catch the attention of the
Summing it up…
Brand/model: Vecteur I-6.2
Price: C$3400/US$2495
Dimensions: 43 x 39 x 11 cm
Rated power: 140 watts/channel, 8Ω
Most liked: At ease at high power,
every bit as much at ease at low power
Least liked: Overactive protection
Verdict: Find ten amps like this, compare them, and we know which one
will go home with you
protection circuit, which cuts in at
69 watts. At 30 Hz, the problem is
gone, and the amplifier manages an
effortless 148 watts.
Not all amplifiers, we should
add, have protection circuits, and
at one time we recall them being
quite audible even when the amplifier wasn’t being pushed. The circuit
in the I-6.2 does get a little overambitious. For instance, raise the
volume too quickly, and the circuit
will cut the output. Fortunately it
is self-resetting. And unlike the
protection circuits of old, this one
never made its effects audible during
play of actual music.
Crosstalk between adjacent inputs
is an insignificant -82.7 dB at most frequencies. Even at 10 kHz, it remained at
an excellent -66.1 dB.
When audiophiles change an integrated amplifier for separates, they
mention that they want more power,
or more quality. With an amplifier like
this one, they may think twice. A good
high-powered amplifier is likely to cost
a lot more than this Vecteur. And you
know what? The odds are considerable
it won’t sound nearly as good.
Listening Room
I often get asked by audiophiles whether
they should buy a separate amplifier and preamplifier, or get an integrated. The correct
answer, now, is “let me weigh your wallet.”
If I can hold it without straining, you should
at least consider an integrated.
And possibly this integrated. It can do it
all. It can drive any speaker to high levels,
but it can thrill you when it plays at a whisper
too. Spending the day listening to it was fun.
I have to remember that the next time I’m
asked The Question.
—Gerard Rejskind
From the start I was won over by this
amplifier’s remarkable tonal balance, its
excellent cohesiveness, its irreproachable
clarity, the great refinement of instrumental timbres, a pleasant reverberation you
could touch, and superb reproduction of
choral music. I was fascinated by the fine
modulations and inflections of the sax, by
the exceptional purity delivered without
hardness of a soprano voice, by the silken
strings, by the full-sounding guitar that was
anything but harsh, and by percussion that
could be subtle and yet so effective.
What’s more, this Vecteur has an exceptional gift for communicating sensitivity and
virtuosity, and for evoking a sense of being
there. It more than satisfied me.
When I lay its price alongside that of
our reference amp and preamp, I can see
what a great investment the I-6.2 is, and
I recommend it warmly. Above all, beyond
all technical considerations for which I have
no gift, this is an amplifier that gives a large
place to musicality and emotion.
—Reine Lessard
This is a powerful amp, but you won’t
notice that until you need to feel its full
impact. And I really felt it when I heard an
orchestra rising from the mysterious mists of
muted strings to the glorious and luminous
rise of brass and percussion. Fantastic!
With our reference, however, I felt the
same, except that, at the end all the musicians seemed to stand up for the occasion.
Was it because I know the piece so
well, or because I expected better than
our reference from Vecteur? I’m not being
fair, though, when I think of how close it
was — and for an integrated amp to be so
close is nothing short of amazing.
Oh, and if you love voices, this is it. From
baroque soprano to blues, I heard all that I
expected to hear, with more detail than I
would have thought. I also noticed that the
Vecteur won’t color the sound or attempt
to “improve” on the specific character of a
recording. If you feel that something was not
quite right in the original recording, it won’t
be with this amp.
High fidelity for all.
—Albert Simon
The UHF Reference Systems
UHF now maintains three reference systems.
All equipment reviews are done on at least
one of these systems, which are selected to be
working tools. Their elements are changed
only after long consideration, because a
system that changes is not a reference.
The Alpha system
Our original reference is installed in a
room with extraordinary acoustics (originally designed as a recording studio). The
acoustics allow us to hear what we couldn’t
hear elsewhere, but there’s a down side. Not
only is the room too small for large speakers, but it is also at the top of a particularly
unaccommodating stairwell.
CD Transport: Parasound C/BD2000
(belt-driven transport designed by
Digital-to-analog converter: Counterpoint DA-10A, with HDCD card.
Turntable: Audiomeca J-1
Tone arm: Audiomeca SL-5
Step-up transformer: Bryston TF-1
Pickup: Goldring Excel
Preamplifier: Copland CTA-305 tube
Power amplifier: YBA One HC
Loudspeakers: 3a MS-5
Interconnects: Pierre Gabriel ML-1,
Wireworld Equinox/WBT
Loudspeaker cables : Wireworld
Eclipse II with WBT bananas
Power cords: Gutwire, Wireworld
AC filters: Foundation Research LC-2
(power amp), Inouye SPLC.
The Omega system
It serves for reviews of gear that cannot
easily fit into the Alpha system, with its small
room. We didn’t set out to make an “A” (best
system) and a “B” (economy) system, and we
didn’t want to imply that one of the two systems is somehow better than the other. Hence
the names, which don’t invite comparisons.
Unless you’re Greek of course.
CD player: shared with the Alpha
Turntable: Alphason Sonata
Tone arm: Alphason HR-100S MCS
Step-up transformer: Bryston TF-1
Pickup: Goldring Excel
Preamplifier: Copland CTA-301 MkII
tube preamp
Power amplif ier: Simaudio Moon
Loudspeakers: Reference 3a Suprema
Interconnects: Pierre Gabriel ML-1.
Wireworld Equinox
Loudspeaker cables: Pierre Gabriel
ML-1 (formerly L3), for most of the
range, Wireworld Polaris for the twin
Power cords: Wireworld Aurora
AC filters: Foundation Research LC-1
The Kappa system
This is our home theatre system. As with
the Alpha system, we had limited space for
the Kappa system, and that pretty much
ruled out huge projectors and two-meter
screens. We did, however, finally come up
with a system whose performance gladdens
both eye and ear, and which has the needed
resolution to serve for reviews.
HDTV monitor: Hitachi 43UWX10B
CRT-based rear projector
DVD player: Simaudio Moon Stellar
with Faroudja Stingray video processor
Preamplifier/processor: Simaudio
Moon Attraction, 5.1 channel version
Power amplifiers: Simaudio Moon W-3
(main speakers), Celeste 4070se (centre
speaker), Robertson 4010 (rear)
Main speakers: Energy Reference
Centre speaker: Thiel MCS1, on UHF’s
own TV-top platform
Rear speakers: Elipson 1400
Subwoofer: 3a Design Acoustics sub
Cables: Wireworld Equinox and Atlantis, Wireworld Starlight video cables
Power cables and line filters: Experiments with various models are ongoing,
and will be the subject of future magazine reviews
All three of the systems now have their
own dedicated power lines, with Hubbell
hospital grade outlets. All extensions and
power bars used are also equipped with
hospital-grade connectors.
e of
In the n
Players for the new age of audio
Tweeters for beyond audibility
Equation 25 speakers
And that’s only the start!
Audiomat Arpège
Listening Room
o, this amplifier model is
not named for a perfume.
“A rpège” is French for
arpeggio (which is of course
Italian), meaning a chord sounded by
playing each of its notes successively
rather than together.
But although Audiomat is a French
company, this amplifier is built not in
France but in Canada. Our sample was
in fact the very first one to come from
Mutine’s plant north of Montreal. The
Arpège is an integrated tube amplifier,
using push-pull EL34 tubes to produce
30 watts per channel. Audiomat claims
that half of that power is available in
class A…in other words that it’s a 15 watt
per channel pure class A amplifier, with
another 15 watts (3 dB) of class AB
headroom. The preamplifier and phase
inverter stages are provided by three
12AX7 dual triodes.
Though the chassis is made of thoroughly solid metal, the front panel is of
metacrylate, the material used in several
high-tech products (our Audiomeca
turntable is made of it, right down to its
platter). And it includes a transparent
window, through which it is possible to
glimpse the tubes and other circuits, if
you turn the lights down low. We should
warn you that in real life it doesn’t look
quite the way it seems to in our picture.
We lit it specially to emphasize the transparency. There is in fact a metal backing
to increase rigidity, but with a window
to allow the innards to shine through.
It is an attractive package., and it gets
downright eerie if you like to listen in
the dark.
There are just two knobs, for volume
and selection of one of the four inputs,
labelled Line 1 through 4. There are two
tape outputs, but there is no tape-source
switch…in case anyone still cares about
tape loops.
We were disappointed with the phono
jacks used, which are mass-market grade.
The output binding posts, on the other
hand, are of satisfactory quality, with
posts for both 4 and 8 ohms. We used the
8 ohm connection, which was the correct
one for our speakers, but we should add
that some audiophiles choose the 8 ohm
connection even with 4 ohm speakers.
The rationale: the 8 ohm secondary
Promise her
anything, but give
winding on the output transformer has
only half as much wire as the 4 ohm
winding. Of course the down side is a
certain reduction in output power.
The line fuse is user-accessible, just
below the IEC line cord connector.
The Audiomat’s power rating seems
to call for matching with a reasonably
efficient loudspeaker. We listened to it
with the Reference 3a Supremas of our
Omega system, but we disconnected
the Supremas’ push-pull subwoofers.
The complete Supremas are still quite
efficient, at 91 dB, but they present a
load that is a little scary for a small amp.
The top part of the Suprema is still a
full range speaker (the subs help out only
below 50 Hz), and it is easy to drive.
But don’t think we were planning to
go easy on the Arpège. We began with a
backbreaker of a piece: Copland’s Fanfare
for the Common Man (RR-93CD). Looking for dynamics? Check. Looking for
deep bass? Check. Looking for a dense
orchestration that can turn to mush if
not handled right? Check and double
And of course the first thing we
looked for was the available power. Could
the Arpège do justice to this radioactive
music? In fact yes, and we had no hesitation in concluding that. The bottom end
was excellent, and indeed Reine judged
that the brass actually had more body
than with our much more powerful solid
state reference amplifier. The tympani
rolled with authority as well, and the
gong seemed to push us back closer to
the rear wall.
But there was more. Notwithstanding the highly satisfactory energy, the
orchestra seemed farther back in the
sound field, because that sound field was
deeper. The added depth also opened
up the breadth and the space. This was
going to be fun!
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—Gerard Rejskind
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Summing it up…
Model: Audiomat Arpège Reference
Price: C$3990/US$2990
Dimensions: 43 x 40 x 19.5 cm
Claimed power: 30 watts per channel, 8 ohms or 4 ohms
Most liked: Great design, nearly
flawless execution
Least liked: Mediocre jacks
Verdict: Why is it that the word
“musicality” doesn’t even seem
Listening Room
Pick it u
div idualIss
w w.uhfm
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—Albert Simon
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—Reine Lessard
Rega Fono MC
The unit’s appearance is identical
to that of the MM unit, except for the
“MC” sticker at the rear. The front has
only an on-off button. The back panel
has the input and output jacks (of undistinguished quality, we’re sorry to say)
plus a ground lug. The Fono connects
to the wall by what looks like a standard
power brick (or “wart” as the British say).
It actually contains only a transformer,
putting out 24 volts AC. The rest of
the power supply, namely the rectifier,
filter and voltage regulator, is in the main
You might search in vain for a common
feature of MC phono stages: adjustments
of input capacitance and resistance. No,
they’re not visible, but don’t toss out the
instructions. The adjustments are there,
though you have to pop the lid to get
at them. Most electronic gear bears the
familiar tag, “no user serviceable parts
inside,” but because the transformer is
external, there are no dangerous voltages
We were so bowled
over by the original
that we deplored
the absence of a
moving coil version.
We didn’t have to
wait long.
Listening Room
hinking of adding turntable
capability to your amplifier
or preamplifier? Just pick
up a good turntable, new or
used, and plug it into the…
What’s that you say? You don’t have
an input marked “phono”?
Nor do most people today. A lot of
manufacturers leave it out, figuring you
won’t want to pay extra for one. Or else
they design one in as an afterthought.
Problem is, an add-on phono section
worthy of a good system can cost as
much as a modest turntable. Or as much
as a car. The Boulder phono stage goes
for US$29,000, and is back-ordered,
they tell us. What was that about the
rich getting richer?
But let’s come back down to earth.
The Rega Fono, reviewed in UHF
No. 65, got our hopes up. It was quiet,
and even t hrough our demanding
Alpha system it produced goosebumpinducing sound. We’ve looked for that
kind of performance in phono sections of
that price (C$400), and we’ve invariably
been disappointed.
Our warm recommendation notwithstanding, the Fono we tested could
handle only a high output cartridge
(meaning around 2 mV ), not a low
output moving coil cartridge, which
puts out between a fifth and a tenth
of that voltage. Now Rega has fi nally
brought out an MC version. It’s more
expensive, but it costs a lot less than the
phono sections we usually recommend.
in the main chassis. More on this in a
There’s no component harder to
break in than a phono stage, since no
one wants to play DJ for 50 or 60 hours
straight, but the Fono does need serious break-in time. When we got our
sample and gave it a quick listen, we
were shocked by how hard and shrill
it sounded. Some 60 hours on, it had
changed character completely.
But the first thing we noticed when
we plugged the Fono into our Alpha
system is the noise. There barely is any.
The background is dominated by hum,
not because there actually is much hum
at the Fono’s output, but because there
is so little hiss to cover it up. That was
the first reason we were impressed with
the Fono.
It wouldn’t be the last.
We began with the LP version of
William Walton’s Façade, whose instrumental solos are a veritable minefield for
any component that isn’t working just so.
Of course, we all noticed the shrillness
of the piccolo in the introduction, much
of it due to our speakers. Reine thought
it worse than the phono section of our
Copland preamplifier. Albert, on the
contrary, found it improved, with the
piccolo easier to follow in the subsequent passage. Instrumental textures,
which are so smooth in this Reference
Recordings LP, were barely rougher.
On the other hand, instrumental
timbres were well reproduced, with
the clarinet, the cello and the bassoon
sounding especially attractive. We could
hear nuances without straining, because
there was no fog, no foreshortening of
the recording’s legendary depth. “I find
this more refined,” said Albert.
We continued with an LP we hadn’t
pulled out in a long time, Mary Black’s
No Frontiers. We were happy to find it
again, and we hung on Black’s every syllable (which wasn’t difficult). The clarity
of the sound made it easy to follow the
text without looking at the inner sleeve.
Her voice was ever so slightly harder,
with a bit of extra emphasis on certain
syllables. But it was also warmer in tone
than even with our tube preamp, and
the sound was so clear we could hear
her breathing. The guitar was closer,
more detailed, and the synth sounded
Listening Room
more complex, with additional
detail. The accordion passage
was gorgeous.
We also listened to Take the ‘A’
Train from the Ray Brown Trio’s
Soular Energy (this was of course
the LP, though the album is also
available on a Hi-Res DVD). It
sounded superb through our own
phono circuit, and it sounded
startlingly lifelike through the
Rega as well.
The first thing we listened for was
Ray Brown’s bass, with notes that go
way down there. The Rega didn’t stint
on bass, either in quantity or quality,
with no blurring of the melody line. So
clear was the sound that we could easily
hear the snap of the strings on Brown’s
instrument. We also liked the strong
reproduction of the syncopated rhythm
of this brilliantly improvised jazz piece.
Rhythm, we know, is often the first
casualty of mediocre gear. Not here.
Gene Harris’s piano is especially well
reproduced on this recording. How could
we characterize its sound? We couldn’t
quite agree. Gerard thought it sounded
as good as it had with our reference.
Reine complained of a touch of hardness on certain notes. Albert thought
the overall sound, including that of the
piano, was actually better than with our
reference. Despite these divergences, we
all agreed that the difference — if indeed
difference there was — was no more than
We ran the Fono through some technical tests without coming up with anything terribly noteworthy. Oh…except
the noise level. It’s shown above, referenced to a 0.4 mV 1 kHz signal. There
Summing it up…
Brand/model: Rega Fono MC
Price: C$570 (about US$420)
Dimensions: 16 x 4.5 x 14 cm (plus
external power brick)
Output: 180 mV for 0.4 mV input,
1 kHz
Most liked: Astonishing musicality at
an impossible price
Least liked: Mediocre jacks
Verdict: Reaches for the unreachable
star, gets its hands on it
are horizontal graduations every
5 dB. You can barely see a slight
rise around 60 Hz — the power
line frequency — and not much
of anything at 120 Hz and the
other harmonics. This is hum,
not one of those nasty buzzes
that mess up too many electronic
products. The first harmonic of
the main signal, at 2 kHz, is low,
but even so it is above the noise.
A mysterious peak can be seen around
16 kHz, but we couldn’t hear it.
The gain is fine, 26.5 dB, delivering
volume suitable for most preamplifiers.
That’s with the factory setting. If you
take out the two front hexagonal screws
and slide back the cover, you can get at
four tiny DIP switches, which allow
you to set the sensitivity (from 0.15 to
0.6 µV), the input impedance (from 70
to 400 ohms), and the input capacitance
(from 1000 to 4200 pF).
How did Rega pull this off? The
company is not generous with circuit
details. Suffice it to say that it has managed to do what a number of competitors with similarly high reputations have
attempted to do but have not managed to
accomplish: make a low-cost phono stage
without letting the low cost show.
“I wonder,” mused Albert, “what
one of these would sound like in my
Did you ever find a car whose street
performances were so wildly out of proportion to its price that you thought (a) what a
bargain! And (b) What can I do to tweak it
and make it even hotter?
This Rega phono preamp, like its MM
twin, is much like that car. First of all, a
phono stage of this price just can’t sound this
good, or can it? And second, if it sounds like
this in stock form, I wonder what a hotter
transformer and better jacks would do for
Conclusion: the Rega Fono and the
Mazda Miata may have been separated at
—Gerard Rejskind
I have no hesitation in recommending
this phono section. The image is excellent,
but I was especially struck by the energy and
impact that come through, not to mention
the multitude of fine detail. I even heard
details I couldn’t hear with our reference!
The human voice is especially warm and
expressive, and words are perfectly audible.
The timbres of instruments — particularly
the guitar and the accordion — are most
pleasant. Only at the top end did I find a
little shrillness.
A captivating listening session.
—Reine Lessard
Even if you have a phono section in your
preamp and you really like what you hear, I’d
still suggest that you give this one a try. We
have, we did and I loved it.
I know how voices sound on our reference system: round, warm, delicately
expressive; I discovered, with the Rega MC
phono section, that they can be even more
so. I also discovered an intimacy with the
musical performance that only a well placed
microphone might experience.
Being a pre-preamplifier, a phono section should be, in my opinion, second only
to your source — not just another accessory
allowing you to play an occasional LP. If you
find yourself frantically searching for the
next large ticket upgrade, take it cool, slow
down, and start by introducing this phono
section ahead of your preamp. You may find
a lot more than you expected right within
those vinyl grooves.
—Albert Simon
Back Issues
Issues No.7-19 (except 11, 15, 17 and 18, out of
print): nine issues available for the price of five
(see below). A piece of audio history. Available
separately at the regular price.
Linar 250. Headphone amps: Creek, Antique
Sound Lab, NVA, Audio Valve. Plus: Foundation
Research LC-2 line filter, Gutwire power cord,
Pierre Gabriel ML-1 2000 cable. And: building
your own machine to clean LP’s.
No.67: Loudspeakers: A new, improved
Reference 3a MM de Capo, and the awesome
Living Voice Avatar OBX-R. Centre speakers
for surround from Castle, JMLab, ProAc, Thiel,
Totem and Vandersteen. One of them joins our
Kappa system. Two multichannel amps from
Copland and Vecteur. Plus: plans for a DIY
platform for placing a centre speaker atop
any TV set, Paul Bergman on the elements of
acoustics, and women in country music.
No.57: Speakers: Dynaudio Contour 1.3,
Gershman X-1/SW-1, Coincident Super
Triumph Signature, Castle Inversion 15,
Oskar Aulos. PLUS: KR 18 tube amp. Music
Revolution: the next 5 years. Give your Hi-Fi
a Fall Tune-Up.
No.66: Reviews: the Jadis DA-30 amplifier, the
Copland 305 tube preamp and 520 solid state
amp. Plus: the amazing Shanling CD player,
Castle Stirling speakers, and a remote control
that tells you what to watch. Also: Bergman on
biwiring and biamplification, singer Janis Ian’s
alternative take on music downloading, and a
chat with Opus 3’s Jan-Eric Persson.
No.65: Back to Vinyl: setting up an analog
system, reviews of Rega P9 turntable, and
phono preamps from Rega, Musical Fidelity
and Lehmann. The Kappa reference system
for home theatre: how we selected our HDTV
monitor, plus a review of the Moon Stellar DVD
player. Anti-vibration: Atacama, Symposium,
Golden Sound, Solid -Tech, Audioprism,
Tenderfeet. Plus an interview with Rega’s
turntable designer, and a look back at what
UHF was like 20 years ago.
No.64: Speakers: Totem M1 Signature and
Hawk, Visonik E352. YBA Passion Intégré
amp, Cambridge IsoMagic (followup), better
batteries for audio-to-go. Plus: the truth about
upsampling, an improvement to our LP cleaning machine, an interview with Ray Kimber.
No.63: Tube amps: ASL Leyla & Passion
A11. Vecteur Espace speakers, 2 interconnects (Harmonic Technology Eichmann),
5 speaker cables (Pierre Gabriel, vdH ,
Harmonic Technology, Eichmann), 4 power
cords (Wireworld, Harmonic Technology,
Eichmann, ESP). Plus: Paul Bergman on
soundproofing, how to compare components
in the store, big-screen TV’s to stay away
from, a look back at the Beatles revolution.
No.62: Amplifiers: Vecteur I - 4, Musical
Fidelity Nu-Vista M3, Antique Sound Lab
MG-S11DT. Passive preamps from Creek and
Antique Sound Lab. Vecteur L-4 CD player.
Interconnects: VdH Integration and Wireworld
Soltice. Plus: the right to copy music, and how
it may be vanishing. Choosing a DVD player by
features. And all about music for the movies.
No.61: Digital: Audiomat Tempo and
Cambridge Isomagic DACs, Vecteur D-2 transport. Speakers: Osborn Mini Tower and Mirage
OM-9. Soundcare Superspikes. And: new surround formats, dezoning DVD players.
No.60: Speakers: Monitor Audio Silver 9,
Reference 3a MM De Capo, Klipsch RB-5,
Coincident Triumph Signature. Plus: a Mirage
subwoofer and the Audiomat Solfège amp.
Paul Bergman on reproducing extreme lows.
No.59: CD players: Moon Eclipse, Linn Ikemi
and Genki, Rega Jupiter/Io, Cambridge D500.
Plus: Oskar Kithara speaker, with Heil tweeter.
And: transferring LP to CD, the truth on digital
radio, digital cinema vs MaxiVision 48.
No.58: Amplifiers: ASL AQ1003, Passion I10
& I11, Rogue 88, Jadis Orchestra Reference,
No.56: Integrated amps: Simaudio I-3, Roksan
Caspian, Myryad MI120, Vecteur Club 10, NVA
AP10 Also: Cambridge T500 tuner, Totem
Forest. Phono stages: Creek, Lehmann,
Audiomat. Interconnects: Actinote, Van den
Hul, Pierre Gabriel. Plus: Paul Bergman on
power and current…why you need both
No.55: CD players: Linn CD12, Copland
CDA-289, Roksan Caspian, AMC CD8a. Other
reviews: Enigma Oremus speaker, Magenta
ADE-24 black box. Plus: the DSD challenge
for the next audio disc, pirate music on the Net,
the explosion of off-air video choices.
No.54: Electronics: Creek A52se, Simaudio
W-3 and W-5 amps. Copland CSA-303, Sima
P-400 and F.T. Audio preamps (the latter two
passive). Musical Fidelity X-DAC revisited,
Ergo AMT phones, 4 line filters, 2 interconnects. Plus: Making your own CD’s.
No.53: Loudspeakers:Reference 3a Intégrale,
Energy Veritas v2.8, Epos ES30, Totem
Shaman, Mirage 390is, Castle Eden. Plus:
Paul Bergman on understanding biamping,
biwiring, balanced lines, and more.
No.52: CD players: Alchemist Nexus,
Cambridge CD6, YBA Intégré, Musical Fidelity
X-DAC, Assemblage DAC-2. Subwoofers:
Energy ES - 8 and NHT PS - 8. Plus: Paul
Bergman on reproducing deep bass, Vegas
report, and the story behind digital television.
No.51: Integrated amps: YBA Intégré DT,
Alchemist Forseti, Primare A-20, NVA AP50
Cambridge A1. CD players: Adcom GCD-750,
Rega Planet. An economy system to recommend to friends, ATI 1505 5-channel amp,
Bergman on impedance, why connectors
matter, making your own power bars.
No.50: CD: Cambridge DiscMagic/DACMagic,
Primare D-20, Dynaco CDV Pro. Analog: Rega
Planar 9 , the Linn LP12 after 25 years. Also:
Moon preamp, Linn Linto phono stage, Ergo
and Grado headphones. Speaker cables: Linn
K-400, Sheffield, MIT 750 Also: a look back at
15 years of UHF.
No.49: Power amps: Simaudio Moon, Bryston
3B ST, N.E.W. DCA-33, plus the Alchemist
Forseti amp and preamp, and the McCormack
Micro components. Also: our new Reference
3a Suprema II reference speakers, and a followup on the Copland 277 CD player. Plus: how
HDCD really works.
No.48: Loudspeakers: JMLabs Daline 3.1,
Vandersteen 3a, Totem Tabù, Royd Minstrel.
CD: Cambridge CD4, Copland CDA-277. Also:
An interview with the founder of a Canadian
audiophile record label.
No.47: FM tuners: Magnum Dynalab MD-108,
Audiolab 8000T, Fanfare FT-1. Speaker cables:
QED Qudos, Wireworld Equinox and Eclipse,
MIT MH-750. Parasound C/BD-2000 transport
and D/AC-2000 converter. And: Upgrading
your system for next to nothing.
No.46: Electronics: Simaudio 4070SE
amp & P-4002 preamp, Copland CTA-301
& CTA- 505, N.E.W. P-3 preamp. Digital
cables: Wireworld, Audiostream, MIT, XLO,
Audioprism, and Wireworld’s box for comparing interconnects. Also: YBA CD-1 and Spécial
CD players. Yves-Bernard André talks about
about his blue diode CD improvement.
No.45: Integrated amps: Copland CTA 401, Simaudio 4070i, Sugden Optima 140.
CD: Adcom GDA-700 HDCD DAC, Sonic
Frontiers SFD-1 MkII. Interconnects: Straight
Wire Maestro, 3 versions of Wireworld Equinox.
Plus: Yamamura Q15 CD oil, and “Hi-Fi for the
Financially Challenged”.
No.44: CD players: Rotel RCD970BX,
Counterpoint DA -10A DAC. Speakers:
Apogee Ribbon Monitor, Totem Mite, more
on the Gershman Avant Garde. Also: LaserLink cable, “The Solution” CD treatment,
AudioQuest sorbothane feet, Tenderfeet,
Isobearings. Plus: Inside Subwoofers, and
the castrati, the singers who gave their all
for music.
No.43: The first HDCD converter: the EAD
DSP-1000 MkII. Speakers: Gershman Avant
Garde, Totem Mani-2 and Rokk, Quad ESL63 with Gradient subwoofer. Plus: Keith O.
Johnson explains the road to HDCD, and our
editor joins those of other magazines to discuss
what’s hot in audio.
No.42: Electronics: Spectral DMC-12 and
Celeste P- 4001 preamplifiers, amps and
preamps from Duson. Also: Sonic Frontiers
SFD -1 converter, power line filters from
Audioprism, Chang, and YBA. Plus: Inside
the preamplifier, and how the tango became
the first “dirty” dance.
No.41: Digital: Roksan DA-2, EAD DSP-7000,
McCormack DAC-1, QED Ref. Digit. Cables:
Straight Wire LSI Encore & Virtuoso, Wireworld
Equinox, van den Hul The 2nd & Revelation,
Cardas Cross & Hexlink Golden, Transparent
Music-Link Super & Music-Wave Super. Plus:
Bergman on recording stereo.
high end video recorders, hi-fi stereo recordings of piano performances of 75 years ago.
Acoustics part 6: Conceiving the room.
No.34: Cables: MIT ZapChord & PC2, Monster
PowerLine 2+, M1, M2 Sigma, Reference 2,
Interlink 400 & MSK2, Straight Wire Maestro,
Isoda HA - 08 - PSR, Audioquest Ruby &
Emerald, AudioStream Twinax, FMS Gold
& Black, NBS Mini Serpent. Acoustics 5:
Diffusing sound. “The Plot to Kill Hi-Fi,” the
much-reprinted article on audio retailing.
No.33: CD players: Spectral SDR-1000SL,
Esoteric P-2/ D -2, Micromega Duo.BS,
Proceed PDT2/PDP2 and PCD2, MSB Silver,
Esoteric CD -Z5000, Carver SD/A - 490t.
The future of audio, according to Linn’s Ivor
Tiefenbrun. Acoustics part 4: Absorbing low
No.32: The Audio Dream Book: Our 152page guide to what’s out there. Acoustics part
3: Taming reverberation.
No.31: Amplifiers: Counterpoint SA-100 and
SA-1000, Audio Research Classic 30, QED
C300 and P300, Sugden Au- 41, Audiolab
8000P, Carver C-19, Arcam Delta 110 and
120. Why balanced lines? Buying audio by
mail. Acoustics part 2: Predicting standing
No.30: Speakers: Castle Winchester, Energy
22.2, P-E Léon Trilogue,NHT 1.3, Celef CF1,
Polk RM3000, Response II by Clements.
Acoustics part 1: Room size and acoustics.
No.29: Turntables: Linn Basik & LP12 with
Lingo. Oracle Delphi MkIV, Oracle Paris.
Pickups: Goldring Excel, 1022 & 1042,
Revolver Bullet, Talisman Virtuoso DTi,
Sumiko Blue Point, Roksan Shiraz. Test CD’s.
Dorian’s Craig Dory.
No.28: Integrated amps: Linn Intek, Naim NAIT
2, Arcam Alpha II, Audio Innovations 500 II,
Mission Cyrus Two, Creek 4141, Sugden A21. Plus: an Aiwa cassette deck, and a guide
to distortion.
No.40: Integrated amps: YBA Intégré, Rotel
960, Sugden A-25B, Sima PW-3000, Linn
Majik, Naim NAIT 3, AMC CVT3030, Duson
PA-75. Stereo: what it is, how it works, why
it’s disappearing from records.
No.27: Cables: Prisma SC-9 and Cable 10,
MIT MH-750, MH-750 CVT MI-330SG, and
MI-330SG CVT, Supershield. Cassettes: We
compare Maxell, Fuji, Sony, etc.. The Esoteric
V9000 cassette deck. Choosing a VCR.
No. 39: Speakers: KEF Q50, Martin-Logan
Aerius, Castle Howard, NEAR 40M, Klipsch
Kg4.2. Plus: QED passive preamps, followup
on the Linn Mimik CD player.
No.26: CD players: Spectral SDR-1000,
Kinergetics KCD - 40, Micromega CDF 1,
Arcam Delta 70 and Black Box, Mission PCM
II, Quad 66. A panel compares CD and LP, and
Keith Johnson talks about rethinking audio.
No. 38: CD players: Roksan Attessa, Naim
CDS, Linn Mimik, Quad 67, Rotel 945,
Micromega Model “T”. Plus: How the record
industry will wipe out hi-fi, and why women
have been erased from music history.
No.37: Electronics: Celeste 4070 and
McIntosh 7150 amps, Linn Kairn and Klout.
Plus: RoomTunes acoustic treatment, why all
amps don’t sound alike, and how Pro Logic
really works.
No.36: CD players: YBA CD-2, Linn Karik/
Numerik, Sugden SDT-1, Mission DAD5 and
DAC5, Audiolab 8000DAC, QED Digit, Nitty
Gritty LP cleaner, Plus: an interview with
Linn’s Ivor Tiefenbrun, and part 7 of Bergman
on acoustics: building your own acoustical
No.35: Speakers: Castle Chester, Mirage M7si, Totem Model 1, Tannoy 6.1, NHT 2.3, 3a
Micro Monitor, Rogers LS2a/2. Plus: Tests of
No.25: Preamps: YBA One, Sima 3001,
Dolan PM1, Sugden C28. Amps: YBA One
and Sugden P28 (guess which we bought!).
Paul Bergman on amplifier design.
No.24: Speakers: 3a MM and MS5, Snell
Type Q, Elipson Colonne Design, Linn Kaber,
Vandersteen 2ci, Camber 3.0 and 5.0, Opus 3
Chaconne and Credo, ProAc Response 2.
No.23: Turntables: Revolver, Audiomeca J-1
and Roma, Opus 3 Continuo, Well Tempered
Wtrp. Are power conditioners useful? Getting
the most from LP and CD.
No.22: Power line filters: Inouye and Adcom.
Better speakers: Quad ESL-63, Vandersteen
2W, Bryston crossover, Velodyne ULD15. Is
biamplification better?
To see a list of older issues:
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GutWire MaxCon
Listening Room
roposition: the expensive electrical power that your local
utility provides (at least when
its Windows-based control
system isn’t choking on the SoBig virus
or something) is inadequate for running
high end audio equipment. Words to
live by, some say; self-serving bunkum,
according to others.
We’ve taken a position on this, and
we will again. We’d love nothing better
than to use the stringy cord that came
free with our equipment, and plug it into
the 57¢ outlet in the wall. We’ve spent
enough on our amps and speakers. You
think we want to drop another bundle
on fancy power cords and filters?
But we have, because we’ve heard the
difference. We like to put it in negative
terms. It’s not that an expensive power
cord or an elaborate filter allows “fuller
bass” or “silkier highs” to come through.
It’s that we can hear the huge performance hit that results when we pay no
attention to the food our system eats. As
the class dunce is reported to have said,
“Sugar is the stuff that makes your hot
chocolate taste really bad when you don’t
put any in.”
Ah, but what sugar to use?
Not all filters work equally well,
or even at all. We’ve tried a lot of the
things over the years. The Rotel and
the YBA are (or were) marginal. The
Quantum fi lters (there are several of
them) appears to rely heavily on the
purchaser’s imagination. But we liked
the Enacom, because it does so much
for so little money. We like the Chang
Lightspeed. We like the Inouye, which
we still use in one of our systems. And
we also like the Foundation Research
filters, three of which also use.
But this unit caught our eye right
away. For one thing, we like some of
GutWire’s other products, notably its
power cords, some of which we use
ourselves. For another, the MaxCon is
so well-built. It’s in a gorgeous, heavy
stainless steel case, heavily damped so
that when you tap it you think you’re
hitting a brick. GutWire clearly agrees
with our principle that everything is
microphonic. We noticed the hospitalgrade connectors too. We were almost
prepared to give this one thumbs up
without listening.
But that’s not us, as you well know.
We did this review in our Alpha
room. We left our YBA One power
amplifier plugged into its Foundation
Research LC-2 filter, which is also its
power cord. Three other components,
the Copland 306 preamplifier, the
Parasound CD transport and the Counterpoint DAC are normally filtered by an
Cleaning up the
dreck from the
power utility? We’re
for it.
Inouye SPLF filter we bought years ago.
We took a series of CD’s and listened
to them three times: with the Inouye,
with no filter at all, and finally with the
After the initial session, intended to
get our six ears used to those recordings
again, we disconnected the Inouye and
went to a conventional but excellent
power bar, the GutWire Stingray. We
listened to the fi rst of the recordings
again. It didn’t sound as good as it
had before, but it was still better than
we had come to expect from earlier
tests we had done with no filtering.
“I think,” said Albert, “that this is an
awfully good power bar. It’s too good,
and it’s not what potential clients for this
filter will be using.” Indeed, it sounded
as though the Stingray’s heavy shielding
was doing some of its own filtering, a fact
that is properly correct. After discussion,
we pulled out a Noma power bar of the
sort you can buy at the nearest shopping
centre. That was much better…which is
to say that the sound was much, much
How much worse? In The Little
Notebook of Anna Magdelana Bach,
soprano Karina Gauvin seemed to have
shrunk dramatically. Gerard heard as
her as closer and Reine as farther away,
but both agreed that there was nothing
behind her. The large church whose
acoustics are so gorgeously captured
on this Analekta recording was gone.
Luc Beauséjour’s harpsichord sounded
as though he had picked it up cheap on
By the time it was over we were
frowning. Some unfortunate adjectives
got trotted out: thin, shallow, dull,
cooler, slow. Not good. True, Albert
said that what he heard was better than
he had feared, but it should be said he
had expected the ceiling to collapse on
We moved on to one of our favorite
choral recordings, Now the Green Blade
Riseth. This too sounded a lot worse. “It’s
two-dimensional,” complained Albert.
“Can you name the two?” inquired
“Left-right, and height. Well, not
even much height in fact.”
There was worse. The male voices
lacked body, and the women’s became
harsh and strident, something we had
noted in earlier no-filter tests. The harmonic link between them was obscured.
The flute sounded fine, beyond the fact
that it seemed to have been painted on
the wall. And the finale…
Oh rats! Is it all right if we change
the subject?
Buddy Bolden’s Blues on Opus 3 was
similarly demolished by whatever evil
force was pouring in from the power
line. Rhythm was poor, despite the fact
that the exaggerated transients seemed
to be marking the beat like a metronome.
The overall sound had become thin and
hard, and we were frankly relieved when
it was over.
We plugged t he gear into t he
MaxCon and tried again.
That was much better! Most of the
depth was back, and both Gauvin’s
pure voice and Beauséjour’s harpsichord sounded lovely. The rhythm was
much improved. That the MaxCon was
immensely better than the Noma bar
went pretty much without saying, but
was it as good as our reference fi lter?
We weren’t yet certain, though we were
determined to find out.
The choral recording was immensely
improved as well. The depth was back,
and the fine voices of the singers melded
together in satisfying fashion. There
was clear delineation of instruments
and voices, but at the same time they
all came together into a musical whole.
Were textures slightly grainier? Possibly.
A s for Buddy Bolden’s Blues, it
was…well, magnificent. The depth and
clarity allowed the counterpoint among
clarinet, saxophone and sousaphone to
emerge in realistic fashion. The rhythm
was contagious. “They’re playing with a
smile,” said Albert. “You can tell.”
This is, then, a good filter. But was
it better than our Inouye filter, which is
well over a decade old? We returned to
it, and then we played the jazz recording
The Inouye did in fact sound better,
and there could be no doubt about it.
Summing it up…
Brand/model: Gutwire MaxCon
Price: C$1098/US$859 without cord
Dimensions: 30.5 x 7.5 x 7.2 cm
Most liked: Gorgeous workmanship,
much better current flowing out than
Least liked: A little short of top rank
Verdict: Looking as though it could
beat all its competitors, it can actually
beat most of them
There was as much detail, but everything sounded smoother, and all the
rough edges were filed off. The clarinet,
the sax and the sousaphone were warm
and articulate.
We made ourselves a note to call
Brian Inouye and check to see what his
filter (which he still makes) costs today. It
wasn’t cheap when we bought it all those
years ago, and today it actually costs ever
so slightly more than the MaxCon. We
had expected that.
This session brought home again a
fact we have known for a while: the electricity in the wall contains everything
short of salmonella. And that’s despite
the fact that our local electrical substation is not shared with heavy industries.
If you’re not as fortunate as we are, your
system is having an even tougher time,
and may be suffering from acute indigestion. A good filter is the cure.
One more thing needs to be said.
Audio components may be sensitive
to power line noise, but they are also
producers of power line noise, and they
affect each other. Good shielded power
cords can keep them from transmitting
this garbage into the ether, and a welldesigned filter can keep them from whizzing into the drinking water. You don’t
need a degree in public health to figure
out the benefit.
This is an excellent accessory, which can
make listening to music a lot more satisfactory. Like any good AC filter, it lets music
reach our ears with much more clarity and
better focus, with lots of detail. I noted
delightful textures, lots of depth, catchy
rhythm, a solid lower midrange, and superb
Without matching the performance of
our own filter, which continues to delight us,
it promises hours of musical pleasure. And it
keeps its promise.
—Reine Lessard
filling a larger volume in space. Sounds
are more defined, cleaner, natural. And I
noticed it without making an effort, with the
MaxCon — nothing was actually added, yet
the music was transformed into more.
Think of it as filtering your regular
drinking water and discovering that fresh,
crystal clear sensation. For a more accurate
analogy, think of making your favorite
coffee or tea with it, and how much more
flavour you’d have. You’ll understand what
the GutWire unit does.
—Albert Simon
The illusion is amazing. Whenever I
compare music with and without a good
conditioner, it always seems that with the
conditioner some things are added to the
sound. It gains in body and roundness,
What comes out of the electrical outlet
is not suitable for music and other living
things…that’s a given, or it has been for a
long time. I’ve heard good filters before, but
why are so many of them built with parts
that appear to have come from war surplus
The first thing I can say about the
MaxCon is that it’s not like that. This is
an astonishingly well-built product, and
that’s almost enough to recommend it right
Well…almost. It does a major job of
making the electricity shine as brightly as
its own alloy case. Is it as good as the Inouye
filter? In fact no. Not in our system at any
My rule for power filters is the same as
that of Hippocrates for physicians: first, do no
harm. The MaxCon does no harm, because
it’s so well made. That’s half the battle. And
it does a pretty good job on the other half
—Gerard Rejskind
Listening Room
Connoisseur SE-2
Listening Room
e’ve been mulling this
over for a while: setting
aside a small part of our
Listening Room section
to present gear to which we haven’t
yet given the full review treatment, or
which is not distributed widely enough
GutWire NotePad
ver ybody talks
about v ibrat ion,
and how good
equipment sounds
even better if you can keep
it out. We pretty much agree
with that concern.
Two popular devices exist
for doing the job. There are
isolators, to be placed under
equipment: cones, spikes,
and other devices (see our
review of a number of these
products in UHF No. 65).
And then there are devices
that can be put atop the
equipment, in order to keep
it from resonating in the
presence of airborne sound
to justify a full review. We’ll be doing
this regularly from now on.
The Connoisseur SE-2 will in fact
get the full treatment, but only in our
next issue. In the meantime, we’ve done
a first listen.
This is a Canadian-built integrated
amplifier, built around what most high
end aficionados will consider a familiar
format: a pair of 300B output tubes, running single-ended, which is to say not
in the usual push-pull mode, with two
tubes or transistors per channel. The
advantages to single-ended architecture
are well known, as are indeed its disadvantages. A disadvantage is power that
can charitably be thought of as “limited.”
How about 9 watts per channel?
Two decades ago, of course, such
an amplifier would have been unable to
play above a whisper, and we’re barely
exaggerating. In the past decade, singleended amps (by now you’ve figured out
what the “SE” in the model name stands
for) have proliferated, as have the speakers they require: speakers that are highly
efficient, and therefore need little amplifier power.
Our most efficient speakers are the
Reference 3a Supremas in our Omega
room, which are rated at 91 dB. If we
disconnect the subwoofers (which operate only from 50 Hz down anyway), the
speakers are quite happy with such
modest power.
The combination works, too. Owners
of high efficiency speakers may want to
read the full review, which will appear
in our next issue.
Now the two are one. The
GutWire NotePad (from the
company known for its cables)
is a vinyl pocket filled with
what seems to be jelly. You
can put several of them under
your equipment: each one can
support as much as 10 kg.
But you can also put them
atop the equipment, to damp
down a rattle-prone chassis for
instance. A package of three
NotePads costs C$79.
The concept is a clever
one. In our next issue we will
be trying NotePads in both
functions, in competition with
other products intended to do
the same thing. We’ll let you
know what happens.
college pensioners will sing the new
hymn as the King enters.
national anthem is a tribute
to one’s homeland, celebrating through a text filled with
lively emotion the qualities of
the country, and perhaps its struggles
throughout history. There are other
kinds of anthems, of course. They may
sing the glories of a historical character
whose passage has marked his/her era,
or they may exalt patriotic pride, or
even an ideal, such as love, peace, joy,
liberty, equality, fraternity. Examples
of the latter are Schiller’s Ode to Joy,
borrowed by Beethoven for his Ninth
Symphony, the Internationale, composed
for France’s first socialist movement, and
of course the Olympic anthem.
It was toward the end of the 18th
Century that certain anthems acquired a
certain official status. Today, virtually all
states have their own national anthems,
and all are expected to stand when an
anthem is played, even when it is that of
a foreign land.
words have simply been translated into
the local language.
The English text has a long history.
In the 16 th Century English sailors
would greet each other with “God save
the King,” to which the correct “password” was “Long reign over us.” Sound
Indeed, certain religious ceremonies
included the Latin motet Domine Salvum
Fac Regem, which means — you guessed
it — “God save the King.”
Legend…or reality?
We are in France in the Year of our
Lord 1686. Louis XIV suffers acutely
from an anal fistula requiring surgery.
Operations were risky then, which
explains the great anxiety throughout
the kingdom, especially the courtiers,
the royal family and more particularly
the Marquise de Maintenon, whom the
king had secretly married following the
death of the Queen.
Under the protection of her royal
husband, the marquise had founded
the Collège St-Cyr to educate aristocratic but impoverished girls. For its
inauguration, she organizes a gala, and
commissions the court composer, the
Italian Gian Battista Lulli (who would
be known in France as Jean-Baptiste
Lully), to compose a hymn of thanksgiving to God for the recovery of the King.
The words are adapted from the Latin
motet already mentioned by a friend of
the marquise, Madame de Brinon. The
Every country
has one. National
anthems, it turns
out, include some
of the world’s truly
great music.
W hich translates to something
modern Britons would f ind eerily
God save the King
God save the King
Long live the King
Forever glorious
Louis victorious
His foes always subjugated
Long live the King.
The King is delighted, and the pupils
of St-Cyr will from then on sing the
hymn on each of the royal visits.
And then…silence. The hymn to
the King’s health is never sung again in
France. Nor anywhere else, until…
In that day, the pretender to the
British throne bides his time at the
Stuart court at St-Germain-en-Laye,
in France, all the while preparing his
rebellion. The marquise gives him the
hymn for Louis XIV, suggesting that it
would make a splendid British national
anthem, with a simple translation which
she may in fact have done herself.
God Save the King! is first sung in 1745
by supporters of James III Stuart at the
Drury Lane Theatre, but is picked up
by partisans of George II Hanover. It
becomes popular, and will henceforth
be sung at all official ceremonies.
Other verses are added, though they
are rarely sung. The third verse runs:
Thy choicest gifts in store
On him be pleased to pour;
Long may he reign;
May he defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the King!
England may be considered the
birthplace of the national anthem, for
God Save the King becomes the first such
chant to be sung around the world.
An Italian in France, a song for England
The anthem of a country is not always composed
by a citizen of that country. The US anthem, for instance, was
composed by an Englishman, the British anthem by an Italian, the German
anthem by an Austrian, and the Spanish
anthem by a German. Indeed, anthems
have been known to travel. If the British
God Save the King/Queen seems familiar
everywhere, it is because its music has
been used for anthems in Switzerland,
Sweden, Denmark, the United States,
Liechenstein, and several others.
What is it that made this melody all
but universal? With its slightly soporific
tone, it transmits no military fervor, and
it is unlikely to stir anyone to combat.
It has little to fire up soldier, noble,
or simple citizen. Its appeal must lie
elsewhere, for no fewer than 20 states
have, over the course of two centuries,
adopted it, with words adapted to their
own realities, of course. And sometimes
not even that — in some cases existing
by Reine Lessard
Grand Dieu sauvez le roi
Grand Dieu sauvez le roi
Vive le roi.
Qu’à jamais glorieux
Louis victorieux…
where music matters
1333 8th STREET S.W.
TEL: 403-228-9130
In the late 18th Century Denmark
often played it as its national anthem.
Prussia also used it. The principality of
Liechenstein still does. Even Russia borrowed it. It was the national anthem of
Australia from 1788 to 1974. Switzerland
adopted it in 1811 on a text by Rodolf
Wyss, under the title Rufst Du, mein
Vaterland. In Canada it is considered
the royal anthem, played on visits by
the British Royal Family, and on occasions presided by the Governor General
or provincial Lieutenant Governors.
The melody turns up in several compositions by major composers, no doubt
admirers of Lully. It is said Beethoven
was so impressed on first hearing it that
in 1804 he composed seven variations
on it. German composer Max Reger
(1873-1916) wrote a Prelude and Fugue
on God Save the King. Haydn, on a visit to
England, was so taken with the anthem
that he was inspired to write a tune for
the Austrian emperor, under the title
God Save Emperor Franz. He used the
melody in his Emperor Quartet Op. 76,
No. 3. It was similarly borrowed by
Donizetti, Paganini and Brahms.
Unforgettable emotion
On the screen
is the immortal
masterpiece Casablanca. The Germans at Ricks’s
Café Americain
are noisy as
usual. The clink of glasses blends with
the buzz of conversation in the smoky
atmosphere. Patrons dance to the music
of pianist Sam, and the small orchestra.
A woman speaks loudly. The Germans,
masters of the café, are turbulent. Major
Strasser, an SS officer, leads them in a
chorus of Die Vaterland. Consternation.
What will happen?
A determined man strides up to
the orchestra, Viktor Lazlo, the famed
resistance leader. “Play the Marseillaise.
Play it!”
They do, and all but the Germans
pick up the song, singing with one voice,
one heart. On this electrifying melody,
the words are a menacing clamor, the
frightening sound of the people taking
up arms. It is La Marseillaise, the great
anthem of la France libre.
It is a moment of power beyond
words. You need not be French, or
even understand the words, to be overwhelmed by this music and its irresistibly
galvanizing power.
The creation of the anthem
Throughout Europe it
is a time of discontent and
agitation, moving writers
and composers to express the anger of
the people, and also the ambitions of the
emerging bourgeoisie. The French Revolution is underway, and the Republic is
on the march. Implicitly threatened, the
European monarchies go to war, hoping
to stifle the Revolution in its shell.
We are at a reception at the home of
the Baron de Dietrich, mayor of Strasbourg. It is April 25, 1792, only a few
days after declarations of war by Austria
and by Prussia, which had long coveted
Alsace and Lorraine. One of the guests
is a young engineer, poet and amateur
cellist, Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle.
He is 32, and a captain at the French
garrison in the city.
“Monsieur de Lisle,” says t he
host, “you who speak the language of
the Gods, you who plays the harp of
Orpheus, compose us a fi ne song for
the soldiers who are emerging from all
regions of our endangered land, and you
shall have the gratitude of your country.”
The bold captain accepts the challenge, drawing inspiration from a poster
proclaiming Aux armes, citoyens!, and
composing both words and music. In
but a few hours he has written The War
Song for the Army of the Rhine. Its success
is immediate, and across France soldiers
are singing it.
In June of the same year the Marseille volunteers of the National Guard,
having taken up the cause of the Revolution, leave for Paris. Arriving drums
beating at the Place de la Bastille on the
30th of July, they sing the new hymn with
such fervor that Parisians baptize it Le
Chant des Marseillais, quickly shortened
to La Marseillaise. Two years later the
Directoire orders that all theatres begin
representations with the hymn, which is
decreed National Anthem by the Convention on the 26 Messidor Year III (July
14, 1795).
In the meantime a young Corsican
named Napoleon Bonaparte is preparing
to enter the stage and move up through
the ranks to the function of First Consul.
He is said to have called La Marseillaise
“the greatest general of the Republic.”
When he becomes emperor in 1804,
however, he bans the anthem. It will
not be sung again until after his reign,
and it is quickly banned again under the
Restoration, since Louis XVIII has the
same reasons as Napoleon to disavow a
revolutionary chant.
La Marseillaise resurfaces during the
Revolution of 1830. Often sung from
then on, it carves its place in the hearts
and minds of the French, and in 1879
the Third Republic once again officializes its status as National Anthem. In
September 1944, the French ministry
of education orders the anthem sung in
the schools, to celebrate the Liberation
and to commemorate the martyrs of the
German occupation.
Through the war and the occupation
of much of Europe, La Marseillaise is the
cry of the oppressed. Many a victim of
the Nazis dies with its words on their
lips, as a final declaration of faith.
Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la Tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé (bis)
Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats
Ils viennent jusque
dans nos bras
Égorger nos fils, nos
Aux armes, Citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons!
Marchons! Marchons!
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons.
Among noted composers who incorporated this stirring music into their own
works are Salieri, Schumann, Wagner,
Liszt, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.
Napoleon is on the
march, but even the threat
of his Grande Armée hasn’t
succeeded in lighting a patriotic flame in
Viennese hearts. Governor Franz Joseph
Count Saurau commissions a popular
poet, Lorenz Haschka, to write words for
a national anthem to be set to music by
the great composer Joseph Haydn. The
Kaiserlied is first sung on February 12,
1797, the birthday of Emperor Franz II,
and it will serve as Imperial Anthem
right up the disintegration of the Empire
in 1918. The music is drawn from the
Kaiser Quartet, one of whose themes, as
already noted, had been inspired by God
Save the King!
With the Empire gone, Austria is
reduced to its German provinces, and
it is proclaimed a republic. It is more
than evident that a hymn to the glory
of an emperor is no longer suitable. State
Chancellor Karl Renner, a sometime
poet, writes a new text in keeping with
the country’s new constitutional identity.
It begins with the words Deutschösterreich, du herrliches Land. He gives it to a
friend, composer Wilhelm Kienzl, to set
it to music. Kienzl accepts with humility,
quite aware that the universally-admired
Haydn will not be easily displaced. His
Renner-Kienzl Anthem is launched to
tepid acclaim.
But with Austria having dropped
the Haydn melody,
Germany now saw
no barrier to its
In his remarkable history of the
French Revolution, Thomas Carlyle
calls it “the song which makes boil blood
in the veins, that one sings with tears
and fire in the eyes, with a heart facing
death.” In his history of the Girondin
movement, Alphonse de Lamartine
writes that La Marseillaise is “the song
of patriotism, but also the expression of
anger. It moves our troops to the frontier,
but it also accompanies our victims to the
scaffold. The same iron serves to defend
the heart of our homeland in the hands
of our soldiers, and to dispatch victims
in the hands of the executioner.”
But what of its music? It is said to
be from a Masonic cantata by Mozart
(the K.623), but this is doubtful. As for
the Haydn music, which had survived
wars and revolutions, Austria decreed
that it would be sung no more, either in
Austria or in Germany. It would forever
be tainted by its close association with
the Nazi movement and the ignominious
Adolf Hitler.
being recycled as Deutschlandlied, to
words by August Heinrich Hoffman
von Fallersben. Surprisingly enough,
there was no protest from Austria.
In 1938 Hitler occupies Austria and
annexes it to the Third Reich. As the
Nazi ideology spreads, the anthem on
Haydn’s music is sung once more, alongside the Nazi hymn Lebens der jugend.
With the collapse of the Reich Austria becomes independent once again,
and of course neither of the two hymns
can suit. The Austrian federal government holds a competition for words to
a new anthem, in praise of Austrians
in the country and abroad, with a then
considerable prize of 10,000 Schillings.
With some 1800 entries, the eventual
winner is the eminent novelist Paula
von Preradovic, and the new anthem is
adopted officially in 1947.
Land of mountains, land on the River,
Land of fields, land of cathedrals,
Land of hammers, with a rich future,
You are the home of great sons,
A nation blessed by its sense of beauty,
Highly praised Austria.
Above all, a nation united
Like Italy and some
ot her lands, mid-19 t h
Century Germany is not
yet a country when its first (unofficial)
national anthem is adopted. W hen
Bavaria had become a monarchy in
1806, it had adopted Heil unser Konig,
heil! with a great resemblance to God Save
the King! A few other patriotic chants are
proposed, but gained little currency.
At that time, a poet and professor with
very liberal ideas, worried by recurring
wars among the small German lands, sets
about to convince all Germans to unite
instead of fighting among themselves.
His name is August Heinrich Hoffmann
von Fallersleben. In his Deutschlandlied of
1841, he enjoins the crowned heads and
subjects of the Germanic states to set
aside their quarrels to build a strong and
united country: Deutschland, Deutschland
über alles (Germany above all else). He
also intends it, it should be noted, as a
cry in favor of freedom of the press and
respect of human rights. The poem is set
to the music of Joseph Haydn, already
familiar to German ears.
Germany, finally united in 1871 under
Kaiser Wilhelm, puts aside the Deutschlandlied in favor of a Royal Anthem, Heir
Dir im Siegerkranz. It is not until 1922,
three years after Germany became a
republic, that the Fallersleben hymn is
adopted as the national anthem. It then
has three verses.
When the Nazis take power they
adopt the infamous Horst Wessel Song,
and also modify the text of the Deutschlandlied to twist its meaning: über alles
in der Welt (above all else in the world)
becomes Heim ins Reich (at home in all
of the world). That ideology of course
will lead to a world war.
Followed the armistice, the treaties, the division of Germany, and the
eventual building of the Berlin Wall.
Each Germany wants its own anthem.
East Germany adopts Auferstanden aus
Ruinen by Becher on music by Eisler.
West Germany selects Schroeder’s Lied
des Glaubens Deutsches Land, with music
by Reutter, but it never becomes popular,
and in 1952 West Germany returns to
the Deutschlandlied, with the text restored
to its pre-Nazi version.
The anthem becomes that of the
newly reunited Germany, though now
shorn of its first two verses, containing
only the third:
Unity, rights and liberty for the German
Let us then all strive like brothers with heart
and hand!
Unity, rights and liberty are foundation of
good fortune
Flower in the glow of this good fortune,
German Fatherland
Fratelli d’Italia, L’Italia s’a Desta
Italy k new its own
tumultuous periods, and
it is no exaggeration to
say that no country had more difficulty
choosing a national anthem. Since the
time of the creation of the Risorgimento
by the house of Savoy, there have been
some 450 popular patriotic songs.
Before the birth of la Repubblica
Italiana, Italy was composed of small
kingdoms and principalities scattered
from the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic.
This period of confusion is marked
by fratricidal wars, with the result that
from through 18th and the 19th Centuries,
the region is dominated by France and
The Risorgimento is a sort of new
renaissance, leading in the 19th Century
to the liberation and unification of the
Italian peninsula, under the leadership of
Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi. Italy’s political diaspora is large,
and discussions among its members
are always lively. Eager to liberate his
country of foreign influences, Mazzini
has founded the Young Italy movement,
whose members include the young
republican poet Goffredo Mameli, who
is then 20.
Mameli is impatient with the waffling of King Carlo Alberto, and in any
case he hopes for a unity that would
be won by the people rather than by
a monarch. It is in this hothouse that,
in the midst of patriotic celebrations
in 1847, he composes his most ardent
poem, Fratelli d’Italia, l’Italia s’à desta
(“Italian brothers, Italy has arisen”). It
is set to a splendid music in martial style
by Michele Novaro.
Up to then most of the numerous patriotic songs had referred to
the king. The Star of Alberto had been
the most popular, and Marcia Reale
(the Royal March) will be replaced as
Italian national anthem only in 1946.
Mameli’s poem speaks of past struggles
of Lombards, Florentines, Genoans and
Sicilians against the French. It is soon on
all lips, spreading through the peninsula
like wildfire.
Italian brothers,
Italy has arisen,
With Scipio’s helmet
binding her head.
Where is Victory?
Let her bow down,
For God has made her
The slave of Rome.
Let us gather in legions,
Ready to die!
Italy has called!
A round 1833 Czar
Nicholas I commissions a
national anthem inspired
by God Save the King! The music is said
to be from Alexis Lvoff, but the theme
is that of the British anthem, and indeed
the words seem familiar:
In happiness
In peace to reign!
Dread of his enemies,
Faith’s sure defender,
God save the Czar!
A fter the 1917 Revolution it of
course gives way to the Internationale,
which remains the Soviet anthem until
1943. Stalin, eager to fan the flames of
patriotism and ideology in this time
of war, invites poets and composers
to the Kremlin to submit their work.
The music of Alexander Vasillevich
A lexandrov is selected. The words
initially chosen are quickly replaced by
the defi nitive text of G. El-Reguistan
and the official poet Sergei Mikhalov.
The Soviet anthem (known officially as
Eternal Alliance of the Free Republics) will
last until the dissolution of the “eternal
alliance” in 1991, though the text will be
revised in 1977 to remove references to
With the collapse of the Soviet
Union, the new president Boris Yeltsin
banishes this remnant of the old regime
and chooses a new anthem. It is drawn
from the opera A Life for the Tsar of
Mikhail Glinka. This comes as a surprise, since the era of the Tsars is so long
past. The music is certainly pleasant, as
is all Glinka’s music, but it lacks the
deep, rich, solemn and impressive tone
of Alexandrov’s air.
But Alexandrov’s anthem will not
be gone for long. In 2000 the Duma,
at the urging of President Putin, votes
overwhelmingly to return to the Soviet
anthem of 1944. The co-author of the
original words, Mikhalov, now 87, is
brought back to pen a new text. With its
references to God and empire, the refurbished anthem is universally acclaimed,
with even the Russian Orthodox church
Russia — sacred our empire,
Russia — favorite our country.
Mighty will, great glory —
Your virtue on all times!
Sing to the Fatherland, ours free,
The brotherly century peoples union ,
By ancestors the given national wisdom!
Ours Glorious land! We are proud of you!
I’ve just listened to it again on the
Analekta recording of the Red Army
Chorus. It is, I believe, after La Marseillaise, the most beautiful, grandiose and
moving national anthem of all time.
A captivating story
It is in a friendly but
nonetheless foreign land
that is composed, in 1797,
the chant of the Polish Legions. Poland
is then carved up and dominated by
Prussia, Austria and Russia. Italy offers
asylum to the Polish soldiers. One of
them Jozef Wybicki, writes a song exaltULTRA HIGH FIDELITY Magazine
Va’ pensiero
A number of countries have adopted
electrifying patriotic songs that, for
many reasons, were more popular than
the official anthem. That’s the case of
Verdi’s Va’ pensiero, composed five years
before Mameli’s poem, and a serious
A paraphrase of the 137th Psalm, Va’
pensiero is the chorus of the Hebrew
slaves in Verdi’s Nabucco. The opera
tells the story of the conquest and
enslavement of the Jews by Nabucco’s
Babylonian army in the 6th Century BC.
Naturally enough, Italians identify with
the captives, having so long hoped for
liberation from the Austrian yoke. The
text is of course accompanied by Verdi’s
sublime music, which lifts enthusiasm
and exacerbates patriotism. By popular
demand, it becomes modern Italy’s unofficial anthem.
The 25,000 spectators who lined
the route of Verdi’s funeral procession
spontaneously sang Va’ pensiero. It is also
the anthem of the International Freedom
The composer, by the way, was also a
military man, General Jan Henryk Dabrowski. He participated in the defense of
Warsaw in 1794, and created the Polish
Legions in 1797. He also took part in the
insurrection of the Wielkopolska region
in 1806, and in several battles against the
armies of Napoleon from 1806 to 1812.
The United States
America and England
are at war in what will be
known as the War of 1812.
The evening of the 13th of September,
in the port of Baltimore an American
officer visits a British ship under a
white flag, to negotiate the liberation
of an American prisoner. The British,
planning a surprise attack against the
American Fort McHenry that night, fear
the officer will warn his compatriots, and
keep him hostage that night aboard their
ship, appropriately called the Surprise.
The officer is named Francis Scott
Key. The next morning the sight of the
American flag still floating over the
fort confirms that the British attack has
failed. He is moved to write a patriotic
poem on the event.
Oh, say, can you see,
By the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d
At the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
Thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d,
Were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night
That our fl ag was still there.
ing the idea of an independent Poland.
Set to a popular mazurka by Dabrowki, it
is adopted spontaneously by many Poles.
Titled Feszcz Polka nie zginela (“Poland is
not yet lost”), it is proclaimed national
anthem in 1917. As in the case of many
anthems, its text will be reworked to
better suit the times, in 1948.
Poland has not yet succumbed.
As long as we remain,
What the foe by force has seized,
Sword in hand we’ll gain.
March! March, Dabrowski!
March from Italy to Poland!
Under your command
We shall reach our land.
The poem is resurrected in the late
19 th Century by the US army, and it
becomes a song, set to the music of the
English composer John Stafford Smith,
Anacreon in Heaven, written a century
before for a Masonic lodge. It will, by
the way, be quoted in Puccini’s opera
Madame Butterfly.
Though The Star Spangled Banner is
the official US anthem, there have been
other American patriotic songs.
Yankee Doodle was sung in colonial
days, between 1750 and 1760, and it was
used in Andrew Barton’s 1767 operaballet The Disappointment. During
the War of Independence, it was the
British who were singing it, to mock
the American patriots. The Americans
actually adopted it as a national anthem,
though, albeit with different words, and
it remained until its replacement by The
Star Spangled Banner. Even today Yankee
Doodle is the theme music of shortwave
broadcasts of The Voice of America.
Not at all martial but quite gorgeous
is Katharine Lee Bates’ America the Beautiful, on music by Samuel Ward:
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
In this century Irving Berlin contributed another unofficial anthem, God Bless
America. And fi nally there is the 1831
patriotic hymn by Francis Smith:
My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
The tune, once again, is that of God
Save the King!
It is widely told that
Canada’s ant hem, O
Canada, was the winner
of a competition for a national anthem,
to be played on the 24th of June (the fête
nationale of French Canada) in 1880. The
truth is that, although there was to be
such a contest, there wouldn’t be enough
time, and thus a well-known composer
was commissioned to write it. Here’s how
it really happened.
There were already popular songs
celebrating Canada. In French Canada
back then, Vive la canadienne was a
mainstay of parades and celebrations.
In English Canada, there was already
an unofficial anthem, The Maple Leaf
Forever. However its words presented a
In days of yore
From Britain’s shore
Wolfe, the dauntless hero came
Wolfe having been the British general
who had conquered New France, it is
easy to see why this text was considered
offensive to French-Canadians. In June
of 1880, then, the Lieutenant-Governor
of Quebec determines to realize a dream:
to create a national anthem acceptable
to all. He asks Adolphe-Basile Routhier,
judge, poet, and cofounder of the Royal
Society of Canada, to write the text
for a distinctive anthem. The eminent
composer and organist Calixa Lavallée
is asked to write the music. He accepts
on condition that he might compose the
music before Routhier writes the words.
In a single evening, Lavallée completes
the air of the future anthem.
Over the years there has been a
serious controversy concerning the
originality of his composition. The first
measures of O Canada are identical to
those of the second act introduction
of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Indeed, at
Canadian stagings of the Mozart opera,
it is common for the introduction to be
accompanied by a flurry of whispers by
spectators who think they recognize the
anthem. It should be said that, beyond
the f irst measures, the t wo works
Lavallée’s melody is catchy without
being too martial. It inspires in Routhier
a text that is moderate, though with substance, marked by patriotic fervor and
faith in the Almighty’s role in the past
and future of Canada.
Ô Canada! Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Though long used unofficially as the
anthem, it will be only in 1980 that
Parliament gives it official status, exactly
a century after its creation.
After 1880 there are several attempts
to set English words to Lavallée’s music.
The one eventually adopted is by another
judge, Robert Stanley Weir in 1908,
the tricentennial of the foundation of
Quebec City.
O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
That is slightly different from the
original Weir text, for it has been altered
more than once. Even today, there is a
movement to change the reference to
“sons,” which is seen by some as sexist.
Somewhere between
France and Spain, occupying but a few hundred
mountainous square kilometers, is the
principality of Andorra. Its location
made it historically a paradise for smugglers, and, today, duty-free shoppers.
Traditional tales speak of a Moordominated land conquered in 803 by
Charlemagne, whose son Louis the
Pious promulgated a charter of freedom.
Positioned as it was on the border, it was
claimed by both Spain and France, who
ultimately agreed to make it a principality under joint sovereignty. Andorra
voted for independence in 1993, but
it had adopted a flag, and of course a
national anthem, back in 1914. Its words,
in Catalan, by Joan Bennloch I Vivò, pay
homage to historical tradition:
The great Charlemagne, my Father, from
the Saracens liberated me,
And from heaven he gave me life of Meritxell
the great mother.
I was born a princess, a maiden neutral
between two nations
I am the only remaining daughter of the
Carolingian empire.
With 68,000 inhabitants, Andorra is
one of the world’s smallest states.
A country? A nation?
Those are mere words. A
territory may be distinct
by dint of its pride, its loyalty and patriotism, and so it is with Acadia.
The French had settled lands in what
are today the Atlantic Provinces from
1524, well before Europeans had arrived
in what is now Quebec City and Montreal. The lands were ceded to England
in 1715. In 1755 there was what would
today be called an ethnic cleansing, with
French settlers rounded up and scattered
to what is now Quebec, New England,
Louisiana, even France. Many eventually found their way back, especially
to present-day New Brunswick. Many
did not. The “Cajuns” of Louisiana are
part of the Acadian diaspora. There are
a million Acadians worldwide.
Acadia is not a country, but the
descendents of those fi rst French set-
tlers created a nation of the mind, whose
name was derived either from an Indian
word, or possibly from Arcadia, a name
given it by a French explorer struck by
the beauty of the trees on that land.
At the second Acadian National
Congress in 1884, a religious hymn, Ave
Maris Stella, was chosen as an anthem.
There wasn’t universal approval. The
playing of religious music at celebrations
where alcohol might be served shocked
some sensibilities. Many attempts were
made to find another anthem, but efforts
were fruitless.
The anthem is no longer religious
however. At a worldwide Acadian congress in 2001, new secular words were
adopted, no longer in Latin but in French
and English:
Acadia my homeland
To your name I draw myself
My life, my faith belong to you
You will protect me (bis)
Acadia my homeland
My land and my challenge
From near, from far or hold onto me
My heart is Acadian (bis)
Gounod at the Vatican
The Vat ican is of
course a state in itself, and
it had an anthem, composed in 1857 by Vittorino Hallmayr.
However the eminent opera composer
Charles Gounod (1818-1893) had composed an alternative, which he had titled
The Pontifi cal March. It had been played
in St. Peter’s Square in the presence of
Pope Pius IX in 1869. It was only 81
years later that Pius XII decreed that
Gounod’s music would succeed the old
hymn. With new words by Monsignor
Antonio Allegra, it was renamed Inno
Pontifi cio, the Pontifical Hymn.
O Rome immortal of Martyrs and Saints,
O immortal Rome, accept our praises:
Glory in the heavens to God our Lord,
And peace to men who love Christ!
There are as many fascinating stories
of national anthems as there are countries. No surprise that music called
upon to carry such significance should
have attracted the talents of the greatest
musicians and poets.
Record Reviews
Requiem (Gabriel Fauré)
Maîtrise Seine-Maritime
Lessard: This CD is full of superb elements from the musical standpoint. This
is great music from previous centuries,
and it is vital that it not be forgotten.
Such composers must be immortalized.
by Reine Lessard,
Gerard Rejskind
and Albert Simon
Despite the great beaut y of the
voices, I found that the organ continuo
underlined the fact that they aren’t
singing together. Instead of following
the singers, the organist often precedes
them, as though he were afraid that
otherwise they wouldn’t be able to find
the right note. It’s annoying. In the Fauré
Requiem, aside from the canons, it happens that the baritone and the soprano
don’t come in at the same time.
If the Fauré is a mass for the dead
untainted by a fear of death and eternal
hellfire, I can’t say the same of Gregorio
Allegri’s Miserere Mei Deus, whose outrageous text is downright scary. A rough
translation: “In offence was I born and
in sin conceived by my mother's ardors.”
And: “Thus thou wilt approve the prescribed sacrifices, the total offering and
the holocaust: so shall we offer up bulls
on thy altar.” Which words contradict
the text immediately preceding: “Lord,
thou wilt not want for me to offer up
a sacrifice, thou wilt not accept a holocaust.” It is at once contradictory and
The baritone is superb, to be sure,
and the boy soprano who offers a high
C so pure transports us with delight.
Even if the sound of the Latin language
is familiar to many, the syllables sung
are so close to inaudible that I couldn’t
follow the text booklet in hand. In Heinrich Schutz’s Selig Sind Die Toten, the
German text is sung as though it were
Canadian Premieres
Gryphon Trio
Analekta FL 2 3174
Lessard: If a contemporary composer
uses classical instruments to imitate
the sound of a 1920’s synthetizer, or a
musical saw, I have a problem with that.
When the first synth, the Theremin, was
invented over 80 years ago, it was with
the opposite intention, to let a machine
imitate existing instruments. For that
reason, I don’t fi nd that the composers represented in this collection have
brought much new to the sound of the
chamber orchestra.
But that doesn’t mean their music
is without interest. Quite the contrary,
certain pieces are so well constructed
that they are most pleasant to listen to,
and can be entirely satisfying.
Did I like this CD? Yes I did, if only
because of the great virtuosity of the
musicians, and the remarkable recording. Fortunately there is more.
I adored Kelly-Marie Murphy’s Give
Me Phoenix Wings to Fly, which opens
with an imperative piano followed
by strings that play with rapidity and
energy. If there is any doubt that the
piano is not only a string instrument
but also a percussion instrument, those
doubts will be laid to rest. In her impeccable structure, the composer has evoked
with felicity the experience of the bird
capable of rising from its own ashes.
Chan Ka Nin’s And the masks evoke…
is strongly inf luenced by Canadian
Native culture. The opening piano
chords are like angry drums, plunging
us into the story of a people and its fight
for the recognition of its culture and its
place in society. It is evocative of all that
nature can offer us in the way of symbols,
the howling of the wind, the song of the
birds…an offering by the composer to
those who fight for their rights.
Old Photographs absolutely delighted
me, and I was surprised to find this
unabashedly romantic piece in the
midst of more angular works. This is a
sensual, even sentimental piece, written
by Greek-born Christos Hazis, now
a Canadian. It begins on a slow and
intimate air for piano, which is shortly
joined by the violin and cello. In totally
unexpected fashion, we fi nd ourselves
on the dance floor, in an enchanting
tango which begins tenderly enough
but becomes more and more fiery.
The CD ends with Gary Kulesha’s
Trio No. 2. In his teaching as well as in
his compositions, Kulesha makes it his
mission to help a wider public to have
access to the contemporary musical
It would be ungrateful on my part
not to add a note about the exceptional
playing of the members of the Gryphon
Trio, and I insist on naming them. They
are Jamie Parker, piano, Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin, and Roman Borys,
cello. You’ll also note with appreciation
the fi ne sound of the instruments of
the last two, products of great Italian
Latin, which doesn’t exactly improve
I began by saying that this sublime
music must not be lost, but what about
the texts? Perhaps we should treat some
of these works as instrumental music,
or transform them into songs without
words. No accompaniment needed
either. The sounds are almost angelic,
and the music itself divine.
It gets worse. Trying to listen again
to The Lamb, marked on the booklet as
track 10, I couldn’t find it. As what must
be an anti-piracy measure, the 11 selections have been scattered over 31 physical
tracks. A pirate will barely be slowed by
this crude trick, but anyone who has
actually paid for the CD will have little
chance of ever finding a particular selection.
I want, however, to reiterate my
admiration for the quality of the voices,
and especially that of the soprano, Clément Lebreton.
Chamber Music Palm Beach
Klavier K 11135
Lessard: You owe it to yourself to pick
up a copy of this recording. The musicians are exceptional, the composers
represented ally boldness, originality
and energy, and the recording quality
reaches a summit.
It opens with the Chôros No. 7 by the
exuberant Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos,
he of the inexhaustible musical imagination, written during a visit to his native
country. The variety of sounds and
rhythms plunge you into an ambience
in which vigorous tempos and lyrical
effects blend in happy fashion. It opens
with an exquisite air for the flute, joined
by the plaintive sound of the violin, the
warmth of the bassoon, the authority
of the French horn, the richness of the
cello, and several other instruments
including a saxophone…leading to unexpected harmonies from which sensuality
is by no means absent. Surprise follows
surprise. The flow is so spontaneous it
could actually be improvised, but what
balance, and what clever architecture!
A charming theme returns again and
again, for the composer never loses
track of the flow.
Also on the recording is a treasure,
the Trio Op. 6 for Flute Bassoon and Viola
by the celebrated 20th Century composer,
Malcolm Arnold. His worldwide reputation rests to a great extent on his film
music, but he also penned several symphonies and other magnificent works.
From the first measures of the Allegro
ma non troppo, you are transported into
a dazzling caper filled with dazzling
dissonance, appoggiaturas, decorations
of the most surprising sort…glissandos
that border on slapstick, ostinatos,
sudden stops, syncopated rhythms, a
shower of effects of irresistible charm,
and especially a group of notes that
return again and again like a pleasing
leitmotiv, of which you never tire. Will
the Andante con moto restore your serenity? A high note from the flute joins the
bassoon from its fi rst notes, followed
by solid bowing on the viola, in a deep,
rich aria. But hold on! The fi nal Allegro
comodo takes up once again the lively
opening themes, and then ends too soon.
You’ve gone through ten minutes of pure
delight. This is Arnold at his best, with
combinations of the unusual sounds that
were his trademark.
Do you recognize the name of Emile
Paladilhe? You’ll have three minutes to
appreciate the depth and romanticism of
his Danse noble. At the turn of the last
century this composer did not get his
due, and it is American composer Clark
McAlister (whose own Rideau rouge precedes it) that we can hear this forgotten
piece, since it is he who rediscovered it.
Too short, this piece for violin, alto and
cello is so full of warmth, so beautiful, so
moving, that I couldn’t help mentioning
it to you.
I could of course continue, telling you
about Rideau rouge, about André Jolivet’s
Pastorales, and about Martinù’s Nonet, but
I think I’ve said enough to convince you
that this CD is a “must.”
The Magic of Horowitz
Vladimir Horowitz
Deutsche Grammophon 474 334-2
Simon: “The most important thing is to
transform the piano from a percussive
instrument into a singing instrument …
a singing tone is made up of shadows and
color and contrast. The secret lies mainly
in contrasts.” (Vladimir Horowitz).
For many he was and still is the only
one. There is Horowitz, and then there
are other pianists. This album is a selection of the recordings he made for DG
in his final years.
He wanted to be a composer, and
bot h Rachmaninov and Prokof iev
encouraged him in his native Russia,
but he decided to try piano recitals to
help his family in 1922. His originality
and spontaneity were legendary and he
was proud of that: he liked to say that
Chopin never played his own pieces the
same way twice. In Switzerland in the
1930’s, pianist Rudolph Serkin remembers hearing Horowitz play Chopin’s G
Major Ballade at the home of a mutual
friend, and said that he had never in his
life heard piano playing like that. “It was
as if Horowitz had come from another
I listened to the two CDs non-stop
and never felt the time pass (yet each
CD runs over 71 minutes). Each piece
was new and fresh, and the notes rippled
across the stage with utmost clarity in
caressing pianissimos, suddenly exploding in thunderous fortissimos. I loved the
charming hesitations, the characteristic
minute pauses before each new phrase,
the smiles, the tenderness, the melancholy — making his piano actually seem
to talk. Listen to his version of Liszt’s
transcription of Schubert’s Ständchen on
CD-1 track 2, and especially the last two
or three minutes or Chopin’s Mazurka
in A Minor on track 4. His piano will
tell you all about the serene simplicity
of a Bach Chorale Prelude or just as easily
dance for you a Rachmaninov Polka.
A nd it is indeed his piano. His
Steinway was specially f lown from
New-York to Milan for the recording
of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 with
Carlo Maria Giulini conducting — one
of the treasures of CD-2. It is a warm
and emotional interpretation, quite in
keeping with Mozart’s letters criticizULTRA HIGH FIDELITY Magazine
Organ Treasures
Mattias Wager
Opus 3 CD22031
Rejskind: When real high fidelity was
first picking up steam, audiophiles were
collecting organ recordings, and it’s easy
to see why. No other instrument can produce a higher note, nor as low a note. Nor
can any rival the sheer dynamic range of
a pipe organ, which can leap instantly
from near inaudibility to a mighty roar.
What better way to demonstrate the
capabilities than by playing pieces that
ordinary record players would turn into
indecipherable mush?
I was one of those collectors, I admit,
and I had my favorite demo pieces, ones
that could shake both the house and the
senses. There is the Bach Toccata and
Fugue in D Minor, naturally, and César
Franck’s bombastic but thrilling Pièce
Héroique, and especially Charles-Marie
Widor’s Toccata from his Symphony No. 5
(no one ever seems to play the rest). So I
was happy to find that all three of these
treasures can be found on this hybrid
And this is no little country organ.
Wager plays the organ of the Hedvig
Eleonara church in Stockholm, which
includes a 32’ Bourdon and another 32’
Bombarde, as well as a variety of 16’
pipes. There is a powerful torrent of
sound when he opens up on the finale
of the Widor, and it is not accompanied
by the harshness that some recording
media (and systems too, of course) can
add to it.
This is a 4.1 channel surround
recording, not using the centre channel
but making plenty of use of the “pointone” subwoofer channel. As on most
SACD recordings, there is also a CD
layer, processed with Sony’s Super Bit
Apart from my (and perhaps your)
old favorites, there is other music here.
There are three other Bach pieces,
including Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring
and an organ version of the orchestral
Air on the G String. There are Charles
Ive’s Variations on America, making
considerable use of My Country ’tis of
Thee (aka God Save the Queen). There is
a charming waltz by Sigfrid Karg-Elert
(1877-1933), and there are three pieces
from the Opus 29 of Gabriel Pierné.
Come to think of it, those were often
mainstays of organ demo recordings,
and for good reason.
I can recommend this recording…if,
of course, you are lucky enough to have
a system that can handle it.
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by a talented bass. William Byrd wrote
The Maiden Songs, harpsichord variations
on a popular air.
The album ends with Greensleeves,
which has lost none of its charm and
popularity after four centuries! It’s sung
here by a fi ne baritone.
Both musicians and singers are
excellent, and they are well served by
an impeccable recording.
Mariners and Milkmaids
Toronto Consort
Dorian DOR-93247
Lessard: This 75 minute CD presents
26 pieces by this ensemble specialized
in Medieval and Renaissance music.
It’s some music, and I can’t hope to do
justice to it in this space. Fortunately
the booklet is full of information about
the music and the period when it was
played or sung. There are also notes on
the artists, and the words of the songs.
It’s all there.
I can’t say that Medieval music is to
my taste, but a number of the selections
brought me a good deal of pleasure.
There are popular dances, folk airs,
several martial songs and instrumental pieces, pretty ballads, and several
comic stories told in but a few words.
The Cut-purse which opens the disc is a
fi ne example of these brief tales told on
a catchy air. The Country Lass is sung by
a superb voice that leaves all of the room
needed to the pure beauty of the melody,
with discreet piano accompaniment. A
charming madrigal for mixed voices,
Sister Awake, tells the story of the “sleeping beauties” who awaken and leave their
“bed of roses” to “go A-Maying.” You’ll
probably like Mad Tom, attributed to
Henry Purcell, perhaps wrongly, sung
Bach: The Concerto Album
Lara St. John/NY Bach Ensemble
Magnatune LC11982
Rejskind: Who is Magnatune? It’s a
record company of course, but that’s
not the whole story. This is not a physical recording, but a downloadable file.
There’s something here to interest both
the audiophile and the music lover.
Magnatune is an on-line record
company with a difference. Its motto:
We are a record company but we are not
evil. For more on the company itself,
see Gossip&News on page 70. Unlike
such services as the Apple Music Store
and Musicmatch, Magnatune doesn’t
sell compressed files, it gives them away.
If you’re willing to lay out cash for a
full fidelity version of the MP3 version
you’ve heard, you lay out from US$5 to
$18…your choice. You can then burn it
onto CD.
I downloaded two versions of this
recording. The first was in uncompressed
WAV format. This should have given the
best result, but on my Mac the files got
converted to AIFF (the Mac’s native
audio format), and the resulting sound
was shrill and glassy. The other version was compressed with FLAC (Free
Lossless Audio Codec). Decompressors
for every platform are available free at The total
compressed package “weighs” about
300 Mb, which of course limits it to
broadband connections. FLAC delivered
pristine AIFF files.
Now to the recording itself. Lara St.
John is a fine Canadian-born violinist
who has gotten a lot of press, at least
some of it for irrelevant reasons. She is
tall and blonde, and her CD booklets
don’t always show her wearing a lot
of clothes, or, on her fi rst album, any
clothes. But is there such a thing as bad
press? At any rate, this recording well
illustrates what I already knew from earlier recordings, that she is an exceptional
violinist as well.
Three Bach concertos are included
here, the ones with BW V numbers
1041 through 1043. This last is a double
concerto, with the second violin played
by her brother Scott, who is also a
violinist of note. These are daunting
works, because of a complexity which is
mathematical as much as musical. The
danger for a musician tackling Bach is
making it sound like mathematics rather
than music. St. John never comes close to
falling into that trap. It is astonishing to
hear her, seemingly crunching the math
in a remote part of her intellect while
concentrating her conscious attention to
the sheer beauty of what Bach created.
And goodness these are beautiful
pieces! Their depth of course f lows
from their complexity, but when they
are properly played, as they are on this
recording, their effect on the emotions
is awesome. These are among the more
familiar works from the vast Bach repertoire, and I have heard them many times,
but even so I was amazed how often
Bach could surprise me with twists and
turns that, however unexpected, seem
inevitable in context. There are some
especially great moments, such as the
famous Allegro from the BWV1042 or
the Largo from the double concerto, but
these works are composed of wall-towall nuggets.
It isn’t possible to describe the beauty
of the music without also describing the
beauty of the playing. Both St. John and
the chamber ensemble accompanying her
have a feel for the music, always letting
its lyrical aspect come through without
ing performers whose playing lacked
freedom and feeling.
Actually, a Horowitz recording of a
piano concerto was such a rare event that
it was all recorded on film — rehearsal
and performance. That film can be yours
too. Did I mention that it’s on a DVD
included with the two CDs?
That’s right. Don’t just walk, now,
diminishing the overall structure.
The sound is well-balanced and not at
all forward, with a very good orchestral
image. St. John’s 1779 Guadagnini violin
always sound smooth and natural.
The sound is rather different on
the fourth work, the G Minor Sonata
BW V1001. Unlike t he concertos,
recorded in New York, the sonata
was recorded at Skywalker Sound in
California, using a Pacific Microsonics recorder, presumably with HDCD
encoding (which code is not on the
recording, however). St. John is much
more forward here. The sound of her
violin remains quite natural, but she
seems to struggle a little more than she
does in the concertos, as though she is
working a little too hard on the technical challenge of playing those torrents
of notes that collide and flow into each
other. To her credit, she does meet the
I began by saying that the recording
is downloadable, rather than physical.
But that’s not entirely true, because
Magnatune offers non-exclusive contracts to its musicians. The physical
CD is therefore available from the
musician’s own site,
The price including shipping is equal
to Magnatune’s maximum: US$18.
The Depths of a Year
Ehren Starks/Kate Gurba
Magnatune ES6460
Rejskind: The very title suggests the
musical genre. This is of course a New
Age recording (from Magnat une’s
downloadable music stable), though that
alone won’t tell you much. Some New
Age music is boring, and deliberately so,
intended to facilitate and not interrupt,
personal meditation. Some, on the other
hand, is viscerally exciting, using the textures and dynamics of both acoustic and
electronic instruments to excite the passions. Mannheim Steamroller’s famous
Fresh Aire recordings are an example.
This is a purely acoustical recording.
Pianist Ehren Starks plays a Yamaha
grand piano (you can see it on the
downloadable booklet cover), accompanied by the cello of Kate Gurba. Gurba
uses her cello in several ways, playing it
with her bow, but sometimes plucking
it like a string bass, or even striking it
to obtain percussive effects. The mood
is rather introspective, but with enough
melodic invention to engage the attention. I confess that originally I listened
to it in MP3 form on my computer (while
doing something else of course), and I
found myself pausing to actually listen.
The piano and cello take turns carrying the melody. The Tale of Room opens
with an obsessive rhythm by the piano,
with the cello coming in with a soaring
folklike melody. In Sunset in Pensacola,
on the other hand, the piano opens solo
with one of the most memorable melodies of the album, and it is only later in
the piece that the cello joins in, in a
rhythmic capacity. In Bailar Tristemente
the dancelike rhythm is carried equally
by the two instruments, in an innovative
arrangement I liked a great deal. Subtle
Groove is swing, with a good many effects
from the cello, not all of them involving
the strings.
There is a good deal of variety here,
though by the end I wasn’t certain there
was enough of it to sustain an entire
album. Like some books, it probably
shouldn’t be devoured at one sitting.
Brazilian Soul
Almeida, Byrd, Holland, Magnusson
Hi-Res HRM2009
Rejskind: I count exactly one Brazilian
in this all-star quartet, namely the legendary guitarist Laurindo Almeida. Still,
one could conceivably give Charlie Byrd
honorary Brazilian citizenship, considering that, even before Almeida began his
American career, Byrd was popularizing
Brazilian music around the world: first
the samba and then the bossa nova. Or
so claims the booklet for this delightful
high resolution DVD of the 1980 Concord Jazz recording.
The soul of this music is the guitar,
or two guitars to be precise. Almeida
had by then integrated his music into
the great streams of American jazz, in
various ensembles, including the one
that may or may not have been named
for him, the LA 4. Here he returns to
his roots. Except for discreet percussion
by Milt Holland and solid but subtle
beat from bassist Bob Magnusson, the
two guitarists dominate, and so do the
famous rhythms many of us grew up
with. The album begins with Ernesto
Nazareth’s Carioca, and it’s hard not to
be captivated.
Most of the pieces are compositions
by Brazilian musicians of the first half
of the 20th Century, arranged for two
guitars by Almeida, with considerable
aid from Byrd. Two of the pieces,
Naquele Tempo and Cochichando, are
by Alfredo Vianna, a flutist Almeida
frequently played with in his Rio days.
The great Antonio Carlos Jobim is
represented with Stone Flower, and Byrd
himself contributed For Jeff. Most of the
arrangements were done by Almeida.
Last and least is the show tune Don’t
Cry For Me Argentina, whose lackluster
rendition was possibly a concession to
the marketing people. It’s always a fine
tune, but it sounds oddly out of place
in what is a Brazilian-American fusion
But no matter, this is a fine performance by two great musicians. It’s been
captured in vivid and dynamic sound that
benefits from the extra information on
this DVD. I’ll listen to this anytime.
“Hearing” Cables
brushed snare drum, but performance
was otherwise very good.
The two Belden 1505A cables were
Are cable differences for real, or with a couple of exceptions. The Atlantis not the worst, sounding shallow, with
are the critics right when they say that was much better than the cheaper Oasis, little resonance and “life,” but without
hardware store wire sounds as good? with a fuller sound that became harsh the harshness of some cables. The 10 m
And if they’re not, are upscale cables only on loud segments. Equinox was version sounded a touch grainier than
demonstrably superior?
considerably better again, and Polaris the 1 m cable, but it was otherwise
A few years back, Wireworld brought and Eclipse added gradual improve- similar.
out its Cable Comparator, a black box ments, with a fuller, clearer sound, and
A notch or t wo below was t he
that allowed a double blind comparison better articulation of voice, piano and Monster Sigma Retro Gold, which was
of any cable alongside a short direct link. plucked bass.
unpleasantly harsh on some parts of
When our editor tried it at a show, he
All but one. The top-of-the-line Ryan’s song, despite good presence and
had little trouble spotting a particular Super Eclipse sounded unexpectedly clear articulation.
cable every time. But when we got our harsh on some passages.
The worst of any of the cables was the
own comparator box at UHF, we ran into
The best of the “other” cables was Audioquest Anaconda. The piano was
a problem. The box has connectors we the Nordost Valhalla, which sounded harsh, the rhythm turgid and strangely
consider mediocre. In our comparisons, full, yet clear and articulated, with very slowed. Louder passages were downright
we could hear the grainy quality caused good voice. It was closest to the Eclipse, unpleasant.
r you’re
ut whethe
by loose connections, and that graininess and of course to the directuconnection.
Atlantis was
the hfma
e on high
dominated our impressions.
it differm
overlookreproduction ent? It did sound a little harsh on parts
ays reagood
nd dinto
Meanwhile Wireworld
u’re aofn the
t or yoto
difficulties convincing
its dealers
of both voice and piano. of the song, but a quick comparison
start ing ou
om Transients on the plucked bass had good revealed the same problem with the
buy their own comparators.
it because a double blind test is messy to impact. It sounded slightly thin, how- Atlantis the “right” way around.
set up? Or because they weren’t eager to ever, and the sound field was shallower.
How was the test done? You can
show off differences among cables they
The Transparent MusicLink Super see for yourself. The CD is also a CDthemselves sell?
also did well, with excellent articulation ROM, with images of the test setup. Will
Wireworld now has a simpler on Ryan’s voice, and excellent weight Dave Salz’s competitors scream bloody
solution: a demo disc containing the on both voice and plucked bass. We did murder?
“sound” of several Wireworld cables, detect an odd “phasey” effect on the
Is the sky blue?
including the Oasis, Atlantis, Equinox,
Polaris, Eclipse and Super Eclipse. That
seems fair enough. What may trouble
The audio world is
arms. Those too were
competitors is that some of their cables
machined with a preciare also included on the disc, from such full of engineers who
sion Michell’s competimanufacturers as Monster, Audioquest, are in fact self-taught.
tors envied.
Transparent and Kimber. So are inex- John Michell was one
Though John Michell
pensive Belden cables. The same song, of them, but he had a
seemed to have been
I Concentrate on You by Jackie Ryan, is skill that stood him
around forever, he was
played through a (short) “direct connec- in particularly good
stead: he was a master
still a relatively young
tion,” then through each of the cables.
The idea is interesting, though we machinist.
67 when he died of a
think a basic error was made. Each track
Because he understood the way recurrence of lymphoma in October.
is preceded by a voice announcement, mechanical parts must go together, he
The company that bears his name
thus making a blind test impossible. This could make binding posts and banana will go on, since it has been run for some
invalidated some comparisons, amd cable plugs that would stay tight, whereas time by his daughter Julie and her huscritics will have a field day with that.
the inevitable knockoffs would loosen band Steve Rowland. But J. A. Michell
No one will be surprised to hear that if you stared at them hard. He could has lost an important designer of analog
the Wireworld cables came out of the also build precision devices to detect gear. He was working on new designs
test sounding very good. The quality of vibration…namely turntables and tone mere days before his death.
sound was roughly proportional to price,
“The C
Have you
John Michell
Can Record Companies Reinvent Themselves?
Most corporations prefer to
DigiDesign ProTools, has a price
hush up evidence of falling sales, if
that begins in three digits). Add
they can do it without their execua fast laptop computer and pertives going to jail, because it has a
haps $3000 of microphones and
negative effect on the stock price.
preamps, and you’re on your way
Record companies, on the other
to your next album.
hand, actually call press conferEven classical and jazz albums
ences to announce that their sales are
are now seldom made in studios.
headed for the dumpster. Why?
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they can get a ride on a bus.
have been dropping. Time was a band many cases, the promotional budget also
In actual fact, they’re having trouble would rent a $200/hour studio and stay includes large amounts of money given
getting public sympathy. Their US lobby there for months, sometimes recording to “indie” promoters, who in turn pay
group, the RIAA, is not exactly following actual notes and sometimes smoking radio music directors to add new recordthe Dale Carnegie handbook. Among its stuff. No one gets to do that today. ings to their playlists.
triumphs: a lawsuit against a 12 year old Indeed, a lot of pop recordings don’t
So notice. The record companies pay
girl (her frightened mother settled out get made in studios at all. In both film money so that you get to listen to their
of court for $2000). And its method of and audio, the digital revolution has music for nothing on the radio (they pass
identifying evildoers appears to be less brought dividends. A digital recorder the costs on to you if you buy the CD).
than bulletproof. It has sued a 65 year and a 64-track mixer that once would But then if you try to get the music for
old grandmother who has never visited have blown a gaping hole in a million nothing on the Net, they sue you.
a download site, and a software engineer dollars can now be had in virtual form
Can record companies reinvent
whose computer, a Mac, actually won’t for a few hundred (the one shown here, themselves? You tell us.
run the Kazaa download program he is
suspected of having used.
While this last ditch legal maneuvering is going on, record companies
have begun lowering prices on CDs
Here’s a company that is trying end, she sold 1000 CDs, lost all rights to
by as much as 40%. Universal Music, to reinvent the model. Magnatune her music for 10 years (even though the CD
which is between owners, began it, and ( says that “We are a has been out of print for many years), and
record chains quickly negotiated price record company but we are not evil.” earned a total of $45 in royalties.
reductions with its other suppliers, What it offers is “shareware” music.
The record label that signed her wasn’t
and dropped the price of other CDs as On its site are Net “radio stations,” and evil: they were one of the good guys, and gave
fi les of their recordings in both MP3 her a 70/30 split of the profits (of which there
The fact that CDs have long been too and genuine CD quality. And they’re were none). The label got screwed at every
expensive is evident. Check the price of a free. Well, actually whether you pay is turn: distributors refused to carry their CDs
CD at your local record store, and then up to you, and what you pay is up to you unless they spent thousands on useless print
stride over to the cassette section — if as well. An album may cost you from $5 ads, record stores demanded graft in order
there is still is one — and check the to $18…you decide.
to stock the albums, and in general, all forces
price on that. Last time we looked, the
Many of the artists (rock, electronica, colluded to destroy this small, progressive
cassette of a typical pop-rock album metal, classics) are not household names, label.
was 40% cheaper. Since the same art- though we did notice, in the classical secMagnatune, by contrast, has no
ists and promoters have to be paid, and tion, the excellent Canadian violinist advertising beyond word of mouth, and
since a cassette actually costs more to Lara St. John, playing Bach concertos.
the artist gets half the money.
produce than a CD, one is tempted to
John Buck man explains why he
There’s something so refreshing, so
conclude that CDs have long been 67% started Magnatune.
non-RIAA, that it makes you want to
When my wife was signed to a British rush out and tell everyone you know.
In the meantime, the up-front costs record label, we were really excited. In the Consider it done.
se it…
“We Are Not Evil”
Silence Audiophile Recordings
“Singing” On Key
Explore them.
The reason we’re putt ing it in
quotation marks? Well, you’ll see in a
It’s not news that rock artists you can
hear on disc are…ahem, augmented by
the magic of electronics. Is it news that
the same may be true even if the artists
are live? Or perhaps we should say if the
artists are “live.”
We’ll cut to the chase. You’ve probably seen demos
in which electronic wizardry
was used to
change the pitch
of a human voice,
from Donald
Duck down to
an octave below
basso profundo.
The Sky is
“In England, home taping is eroding
the industry to such an extent — and this
is not an exaggeration — that in two or
three years there may not be an industry.”
Brian Robertson, President
Canadian Recording Industry Assoc.
UHF Magazine, November 1982
Alternative Audio . . . . . . . . . 12
Almarro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
Applause Audio . . . . . . . . . . 13
Audiomat . . . . . . . . . . Couv. 3
Audio Plus Services . . . . . . . . 33
Audio Room . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Bluebird Music . . . . . . . . 16, 27
Blue Circle . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Charisma Audio . . . . . . . . . . 8
Copland . . . . . . . . . . . Cover 3
Daruma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Diamond Groove . . . . . . . . . . 6
Divergent Technologies . . Cover 3
Eichmann . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Entre’Acte Audio . . . . . . . . . 17
Europroducts Internat. 10, 18, 56, 61
Exposure . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Fab Audio . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
General Audio . . . . . . . . . . 56
Globe Audio . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Griffin Audio . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Hi Fi Fo Fum . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Jadis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Justice Audio . . . . . . . . Cover 2
Just May Audio . . . . . . . Cover 2
Living Voice . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Marchand Electronics . . . . . . 14
Moon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Murata . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Mutine . . . . . . . . . . . Couv, 3
Natural Frequency Audio . . . . 14
Pierre Gabriel. . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Plurison . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
ProAc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Roksan . . . . . . . . . . . Cover 2
Shanling. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Simaudio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Signature Audio . . . . . . . . . 11
Soundstage . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Totem Acoustic . . . . . . . Cover 4
UHF Back Issues . . . . . . . . . 51
UHF Books . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Venus Hi-Fi. . . . . . . . . . . . 58
YBA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
“Canada’s music industry has been
the hardest hit of any country in the
world by illegal file sharing. Retail sales
are down by more than $425 million
since 1999. In the last year, staff layoffs at record companies have topped
20 per cent. (About 45,000 people are
dependent, directly or indirectly, on
the recording industry in Canada.) If
this decline continues, there will be less
money to invest in Canadian artists and
Canadian music.”
Brian Robertson, President
Canadian Recording Industry Assoc.
The Globe and Mail, October 2003
Heck, you can buy software like that
for your home computer now. But let’s
go a step further. Imagine an electronic
device that can not only change the pitch
of your voice, but can change it to the
pitch it should be.
And it doesn’t require a mainframe
computer, either. A Japanese company
has brought out an inexpensive version
for karaoke bars. For pro venues, such as
studios or stages, TCHelicon has brought
out a software plug-in
you add to TC Electronics’ PowerCore
audio software suite.
“Today,” says t he
company’s literature,
“some kind of pitch
correction is a prerequisite in many areas, as great intonation
in vocal tracks are (sic) expected in most
types of popular music.”
After we had puzzled over the grammar a bit (the company is German, so
we should perhaps cut it some slack), we
wondered about the precise significance
of the word “today” in that sentence.
Does the company mean that “today”
popular music is dominated by people
who can’t sing for sour apples?
What we suspect it means is that
“today” it is harder and harder to hear
live musicians even if one pays for concert tickets. It goes without saying that
they will be amplified, which is to say
distorted. Their sound will be equalized,
that is to say distorted some more. The
music may even be split into different
bands, processed separately, and reconstituted.
Even serious dance companies use
recorded music, as do musical comedies.
The producers of one musical comedy
explained the use of tape rather than
musicians by saying that “we didn’t
want to take work away from musicians,
we just wanted spectators to have the
same experience they get listening to
the record.”
Really? Gee, we can remember when
it was the other way around.
State of the Art
o you want your loudspeakers
to reproduce the extremes of
the audible range of frequencies? Well of course you do.
Everyone talks about the need for deep
and powerful bass, and for extension of
the top end. So we live in an era when
even big box stores sell subwoofers,
and when a major claim trumpeted for
media such as SACD and DVD-Audio
is extended frequency range.
Whatever happened to the midrange?
The attention given to the extremes,
perhaps extending all the way to inaudibility and beyond, is not new. When
high fidelity first became a mainstream
topic of conversation, half a century ago,
the characteristic of “hi-fi” most often
mentioned was complete frequency
range. Indeed, I still have a hi-fi demo
disc from that era which attempts to
demonstrate hi-fi by presenting the
same musical passage three times: with
full frequency range (20 Hz to 18 kHz),
with moderate filtering (100 Hz to
8 kHz), and finally with severe filtering
(200 Hz to 5 kHz). As you can imagine,
by the time you hit the third band the
music appears to be played on a kazoo.
The physical aspect of common hi-fi
speakers seemed to confirm the primary
goal of extended range. Hi-fi speakers
were much larger than common domestic speakers, and seemed to promise lots
of bass. And hi-fi speakers had tweeters,
whereas junk audio then did not.
I was moved to think about all this
recently after I spent a couple of sessions
listening to a pair of Quad electrostatic
speakers. These weren’t the modern
Quads, but a German-made reproduction of the original Quad ESL-57 of the
1950’s. Quad’s founder, Peter Walker,
didn’t go along with the big-wooferplus-tweeter orthodoxy of the time.
His original speaker was and is a single
large panel. Although it undoubtedly
reproduces a larger frequency band than
a 50’s “console phonograph,” it is known
not for deep bass or sparkling highs but
for its amazing midrange.
Selling midrange at the dawn of
by Gerard Rejskind
hi-fi was not exactly simple. After all,
even a table radio could reproduce the
midrange, the part of the spectrum represented by cut 3 on that demo record.
Who needed expensive equipment to do
what a $30 radio could do?
But the Quad could accomplish
something magical that other speakers
of the day could not, and which most
modern speakers cannot even today:
reproduce the midrange with vanishingly low distortion.
A nd the midrange is important,
because that’s where most of the music
is located. For example, middle C, the
start of the octave that is at the centre
of most music, is at 256 Hz, well within
the range of a table radio. Although the
leftmost key of a piano produces a note
around 27 Hz, a lot of music never goes
below low C, 128 Hz. At the top end, a
soprano saxophone soars to only a little
above 1200 Hz, a frequency even a telephone will reproduce. Even the piccolo
tops out around 3500 Hz, considerably
higher than the violin. Do we need
extended frequency range?
Get the 258-page book
containing the State of the Art
columns from the first 60 issues
of UHF, with all-new introductions.
See page 4.
Well, yes we do, because musical
instruments don’t produce pure tones.
What distinguishes their sound from the
output of a sine wave signal generator is
their harmonics. The piccolo’s top note,
for instance, has a second harmonic at
7 kHz and a fourth harmonic at 14 kHz.
If the harmonics don’t get reproduced,
you’ll have difficulty telling a flute from
a violin.
Ah…but what if they’re not reproduced accurately?
Which brings me back to the old/new
Quad. This legendary speaker is not
known for response that is extended
at either extreme, but in the midrange
it has very low harmonic distortion.
Notice the word “harmonic”? Speaker
manufacturers don’t often quote distortion figures, or if they do it is at unrealistically low levels. If your speaker has
perhaps 5% or 10% distortion at real-life
levels — and don’t think for a moment
this doesn’t happen — it actually invents
new harmonics, to augment and confuse
those of the music. What’s worse, it may
even invent odd-ordered harmonics (at
three or five times the fundamental
frequency), something acoustic instruments don’t do. What good are the
highest harmonics if those harmonics
have nothing to do with the music you
are trying to reproduce?
However I’m not trying to throw
cold water on attempts to reproduce a
wide spectrum of frequencies. Rather,
I want to shed light on the reason an
ancient design like that of the Quad
sounds so much better than you could
guess by looking at its sparse published
specifications. Its harmonic distortion in
the midrange is many times lower than
in most speakers you’re likely to hear.
You’re missing some harmonics, but you
may not care, because at least the ones
you’re hearing are actually related to the
Today you can buy a subwoofer that
dips to 20 Hz or a super tweeter that
begins at 15 kHz. Both can add to the
musical experience, but neither can compensate for what may be going wrong in
Why do
UHF readers
start reading
their magazines
at the back?
Countless readers have confirmed it over the
years: when they get their hands on the
latest issue of UHF, they open it to the last
The reason all of them mention: Gerard
Rejskind’s last-page column, State of the Art. Since
the magazine’s founding, the column has grappled
with the major questions of high end audio. It has been
acclaimed by readers around the world.
Now, the columns from the first 60 issues of UHF are
brought together into one book. Each is exactly as it was originally
published, and each is accompanied by a new introduction.
Order your copy today: $18.95 in Canada or the US, C$32
elsewhere in the world, air mail included.