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From KEF LS50s to R500s

To Doug Schneider,

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

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

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

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

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

Eric L.
United States

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

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

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

Did the Buchardt S400s Show?

To Doug Schneider

Hope you’re good!

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

Many thanks,

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

The High-Priced Deception?

To Doug Schneider,

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

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

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

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

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

United States

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

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

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

Bryston Is Second to None!

To Philip Beaudette,

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

Thanks again,

Bryston and Audio Research -- Preamp Comparisons

To Doug Schneider,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best regards,

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

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

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

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

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

A 24/7 Mohican?

To Garrett Hongo,

I just read your most excellent review of the [Hegel Music Systems Mohican CD player]. Can you advise if it should be powered up 24/7? I have always been advised that this is the way to go with digital products but wondered if you had any input.

Martin Taylor
United States

Aloha Martin, thanks for your appreciation!

I’d heard that same thing about digital components back when I first got into audio. And I kept a player on 24/7 until I got a nasty sound from it some time down the line. I guessed it was a capacitor discharging and the retail seller I bought it from said my guess was good as any. There was no damage or other malfunction, but, after that, I just turned my players off when not in use. . . . Garrett Hongo

Legacy Signature SE Up Against the Magico A3

To Doug Schneider,

I’d put the Legacy Signature SE up against the Magico [A3], any day, bromigo.

United States

As I wrote in my first A3 article, which appears on SoundStage! Global, by entering the sub-$10,000-per-pair speaker market, Magico is competing with many companies they weren’t pitted against before. Prospective purchasers would be wise to compare. . . . Doug Schneider

Naim and Magico

To Hans Wetzel,

Thank you for your superb and meaningful review of the Magico S1 Mk.II. It may be the best, most useful speaker review I have read in the past 50 years. One question if I may: Do you think my Naim NAC 552 [preamplifier] and Naim NAP 300 DR [amplifier] have enough power to drive these speakers? I rarely listen to anything other than classical, favoring chamber, baroque, and a lot of Mozart and Beethoven at relatively low volume. I live in an apartment and wish to be sensitive to the comfort of others. Thank you again for this meaningful review.

Charles Fisch
United States

The short answer is yes. With a sensitivity of 83dB, the S1 requires more power than your average loudspeaker. Given that you generally listen at low volume, however, your Naim amp’s 90Wpc into 8 ohms should be more than enough for your needs. If you start listening at high volume with any regularity, I would definitely think about investing in a more powerful amplifier. . . . Hans Wetzel

The Validity of Doug's Sonus Faber Olympica III Review

To Doug Schneider,

I have just read your review of the above speaker. All very fine but your actual examples were not real music, not real live music. So your comparisons are actually completely invalid.

Sorry, but I get tired of reading reviews where there is never a single example of comparison to a real live musical instrument. How can you know how good a speaker is if you don’t compare it with the real thing? No amplifiers, no speakers, no electronic processing.

How about a symphony orchestra or a string quartet? They are live and they don’t use amplifiers and speakers, etc.

Best wishes,
Richard Goulden

In some ways I agree with you, but in other ways I don’t. While audio systems should be able to faithfully reproduce the sound of acoustic instruments in live settings, they must also be able to reproduce electronically amplified instruments, purely electronic instruments, and, oftentimes, sound effects as well, particularly if they’re going to be used for movies. Furthermore, even spare recordings of unamplified instruments in a live setting won’t all sound the same, whether that’s due to acoustics of the venue, the placement of the microphones and instruments, the equipment used to record, or something else. Granted, these simpler recordings are usually more natural sounding than most modern studio recordings where plenty of processing usually goes on. Still, no recording will sound exactly like actually being in the venue. As a result, there’s no actual recorded reference that can be truly used as a baseline -- the recording process, regardless of how elaborate or simple it might be, changes the original sounds in some way. For these reasons, I think a variety of music is best. It must also be music you know really well.

That said, I agree with knowing what the “real thing” sounds like and what I like to use is for reference is the human voice, which is why many of my musical selections have singers prominent in them. Why voices? From a very early age, we all learn what voices sound like. Think about it: a voice is one of the first sounds a baby hears after being born. Therefore, someone who listens to a stereo system, regardless of whether he or she is an audiophile, knows if it sounds realistic or not. . . . Doug Schneider

The Whereabouts of the Yamaha NS-5000 Loudspeaker

To Doug Schneider,

I was intrigued by your enthusiasm for the new Yamaha NS-5000 speaker that you heard at the 2016 Tokyo International Audio Show. Since that time, I have been searching the web and even tried contacting Yamaha USA about when these speakers will come to the USA. I believe they are available in parts of Europe, Asia, and Australia. It seems rather strange that they have not arrived to the USA, nor any feedback from Yamaha about the timeframe for USA sales.

Since you probably have more sources of info in the audio business than readers like me, would it be possible for you to give your readers an update on the status of this speaker? If/when it will arrive to the USA and whether there will be more models using the new drivers? Specifically, smaller models for smaller rooms.


Manoj Cooray
United States

I haven’t looked that hard for the NS-5000 since Tokyo since we’re always on the lookout for something new for our show coverage -- it was new to me in Tokyo, but not after. We also haven’t sought to review it, because, even for us, Yamaha isn’t all that easy to get in touch with in North America, which is too bad. Now that you mention it, though, I can’t recall seeing this speaker in the United States, though that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been around somewhere. I do recall seeing it at Poland’s Audio Video Show 2017, which I was at last week, so it’s certainly out there. But, like you say, maybe it’s only in select markets.

I agree that seeing the ideas for the NS-5000 trickle down to other designs would be a good idea, but since the NS-5000 is clearly inspired by the NS-1000, a classic from the 1970s, I’m not sure it makes sense to try to create another model from it, particularly if it’s just a smaller version. Instead, maybe Yamaha will come out with an updated NS-10, which is also from the ’70s. It was much smaller and was very popular for studios, but I’m sure could also do well in a home. . . . Doug Schneider

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