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NAD -- English or Canadian?

To Doug Schneider,

I recently purchased a new NAD D 3020 V2 and went looking for reviews after the fact.

I came across your D 3020 V2 review from August 1, 2018, but the opening sentence completely threw me for a loop: “The Canadian electronics manufacturer New Acoustic Dimension, since renamed NAD Electronics, was founded in 1972, and released its famous 3020 integrated amplifier in 1978.” I’m reasonably sure that NAD is English, right?

Dave
Canada

NAD has changed hands and countries more than once. NAD was founded in the United Kingdom in 1972, but was subsequently purchased by Denmark’s AudioNord in 1991. In 1999, Canada’s Lenbrook Industries, which also owns PSB Speakers and Bluesound, purchased NAD from AudioNord, which is how the brand wound up becoming Canadian. . . . Doug Schneider

The Hegel H360 and H590

To Hans Wetzel,

I have enjoyed very, very much your review of the Hegel Music Systems H590, including the comparison to the Hegel H360 and Benchmark Media Systems DAC3 HGC. I have learned a lot. Actually, I am using the H360 with Focal Sopra No1 loudspeakers, mostly through the Benchmark DAC3. Using the DAC3 results in a less edgy sound. I am thinking about upgrading to the H590.

In your review, you noted that the combination of the H590/DAC3 resulted in a sound close to the sound of the H360. Did you compare the H360/DAC3 combination, and if so, what did you hear? Do you think that the upgrades made to the H590's analog section have resulted in a more refined sound? I understand that the upgrade in the DAC section made an important improvement to [the amp’s] sound. Do you think that an upgrade from the H360/DAC3 to H590 will result in a meaningful sound improvement?

I would like to thank you for your excellent and insightful review. I am sincerely obliged having your professional assistance.

Moshe Medioni
Israel

First up, your questions. No, I did not directly compare the H360/DAC3 combination to the H590. Yes, the H590’s amp and preamp are slightly more refined than its counterparts in the H360, but the margins are narrow -- the H360 is a great amp in its own right -- and, yes, I think the majority of the H590’s performance improvement over the H360 is down to its DAC. Finally, yes, I do think the H590 will offer a meaningful improvement in sound over an H360/DAC3 tandem.

However, as someone who has owned the last three iterations of Hegel’s flagship integrated amp-DAC -- the H300, the H360, and now the H590 -- I think that the H590 sounds different than its predecessors. To my ears, there was an eagerness, a forwardness, to the H360 that made that amp exciting to listen to, no matter the source material. The H590 lacks that character, but it gains a lot in the transparency and realism departments. There are times when I miss the H360, but the H590 is clearly a cut above, and I don’t have any regrets. My suggestion is to listen to Hegel’s new H390 -- the H360’s replacement -- if you can. I have a strong suspicion that, if you don’t need the additional power, its performance is within a stone’s throw of the H590 for a heck of a lot less money. Keep an eye out for Doug Schneider’s review of the H390 on SoundStage! Hi-Fi in the next few months. . . . Hans Wetzel

Simaudio Moon 390 and Dual Subwoofers

To Diego Estan,

The Simaudio Moon 390 review was very helpful. To confirm, did you connect the power amp through the balanced analog outputs, and at the same time connect the subwoofer with the RCA outputs?

Would it be possible to feed dedicated right and left subwoofers with the two RCA outputs -- one line going to each subwoofer? Assuming the powered subwoofer has an RCA line-level input and can filter out down to the desired Hz.

Regards,
Brian
United States

Thanks for reading my review. In my setup, I only used the left and right balanced XLR outputs, and fed them to two active subs that have balanced inputs and outputs. The subs’ balanced outputs then fed my amp.

As for your question about the two RCA outputs -- both balanced and unbalanced outputs are active on the 390, so you could feed the left and right balanced outputs to an amp, providing it has balanced inputs, and the left and right unbalanced outputs to active subs with built-in low-pass filters (the Moon 390 does not have bass management, so the analog outputs are full-range). If your amplifier does not have balanced inputs, you could alternatively use Y splitters on the 390’s left and right unbalanced outputs to have the single set of RCAs drive the amplifier and subwoofers. . . . Diego Estan

The Focal Spectral 40th and Sibilance

To Diego Estan,

I am curious about the Focal Spectral 40th speakers, and I am considering buying them. But I have not heard them, just read about them.

What I have read is that the speaker has a vintage sound, with warm treble without any harshness at all, and a punchy and thick bass.

In your review, I read that you described the treble with some sibilance (harshness?). Do you really mean it? These speakers should be totally different from other high-end speakers, that often sound “correct” in their sound, and that is not good on bad recordings. I listen to many bad recordings, like ’80s hard rock.

Thanks,
A. B.
Norway

Thank you for reading my review of the Focal Spectral 40th loudspeakers. As I mentioned in my review, I only found the Spectral 40ths to exhibit slight sibilance on a couple of tracks that I listened to. I would say that through the treble range (2kHz to 20kHz), the speaker is near-neutral sounding, ever so slightly leaning towards bright -- but I wouldn’t call it bright. On the other hand, it is not warm sounding, either. Instead, I think the speaker has been voiced just right. In fact, it’s worth reiterating that, overall, the Spectral 40ths were the best-sounding speakers I’d ever heard in my room, with a tonal balance that I absolutely loved.

What I heard in my room was corroborated with both my in-room measurements and our anechoic measurements at the NRC anechoic chamber. My in-room measurements showed a near-flat response from 2kHz to 16kHz, with perhaps a 0.5db to 1dB upward tilt. Many listeners (myself included) find a slight downward tilt between 1dB and 2dB to be perfect. Also, I listened with my default 18 degrees of toe-in (0 degrees is pointed straight ahead, 30 degrees is pointed right at me). By playing with toe-in, you can adjust the amount of energy in the treble to a level you find to be perfect, while still maintaining adequate focus with respect to imaging.

If you take a look at our NRC measurements, you’ll see the slight upward tilt in the treble on axis and 15-degrees off axis, as well as in the Listening Window plot; however, at 30 degrees off axis, there is a significant reduction in response between 2kHz and 20kHz. It’s important to note that 30-degrees off axis would represent the direct sound at the listening position with no toe-in, assuming the speakers and listening position form an equilateral triangle.

Obviously, anechoic measurements do not always translate directly to in-room response, but they matched up well with mine. If you do find the Spectral 40ths to be slightly too bright with 30 degrees or even 15 degrees of toe in, reducing toe-in should reduce any brightness even more.

I continue to highly recommend the Focal Spectral 40th speakers -- I had a hard time letting them go. I hope that helped. . . . Diego Estan

Vivid Audio Oval B1 Decade Loudspeakers -- He Bought the Review Pair

To Doug Schneider,

I very much enjoyed your review of the Vivid Audio Oval B1 Decade speakers. Your review was one of the reasons I decided to purchase the speakers, so thanks!

I managed to snag a used pair in red from a chap in Canada. Imagine my surprise when I saw a shipping label indicating they had been shipped to you at one time!

Cheers,
Michael F.
United States

It sounds like you own the same speakers I reviewed! They are great loudspeakers -- I wish I still had them. . . . Doug Schneider

Heaven 11 Billie -- A Safe Bet?

To Doug Schneider,

Good afternoon -- a very well written review of the Heaven 11 Billie.

A couple of questions for you sir: I am totally blind, so ease of use and not having to ask my sighted wife [to help] are important considerations. You mention it is a tube amp. Is replacement an issue? Would you buy a component from a brand-new company?

Thanks, and I find your reviews very helpful.

Kind regards,
James
United States

Great questions! The Billie is a minimalist design and, partly because of that, very easy to use. Day to day, you’re only going to have to concern yourself with the volume and input-selector controls. As for the volume control, I think it having a flat top will help you -- you’ll be able to feel where it is in the range. The input selector is not flat on top, but since you just have to turn it clockwise or counterclockwise, I believe that you’ll easily get the feel for it as well.

The Billie uses two ECC99 tubes in its preamplifier stage. These tubes should last a long time, but even when they wear out, replacement won’t be a problem since they’re commonly available. Furthermore, they’re not enclosed within the Billie’s case -- they’re directly accessible on top -- so popping a new pair in can be done in seconds.

Your final question about purchasing from a new company is trickier. As I alluded to in the article, many new companies go out of business. Obviously, Heaven 11 isn’t immune to that, but I think there are a few things working in the company’s favor that’ll help them stick around. One thing is that the Billie looks like a well-conceived product, which I can’t always say about products from other new companies. Another is that it’s priced at a very reasonable $1450 USD, so if the whole company goes kaput, the risk of buying is lower. I can’t say the same about new companies that bring out products priced north of $10,000 or even $100,000, which happens often. Finally, founder Itai Azerad already has ideas for more products, which indicates he has plans to be in this for the long haul. As a result, I feel confident recommending the Billie. . . . Doug Schneider

The Long or Short Wall for Speakers?

To Diego Estan, 

Thanks for the excellent review of the Dutch & Dutch 8c active loudspeakers. From the review, I learned that your listening room is 15’ x 12’, exactly the same size as my listening room. I had difficulty deciding how to orient my speakers: whether to put them on the 15’ long wall or the 12’ short wall. The 15’ long wall has two windows, one on either end. The 12’ short wall has one big window in the middle (about 5’ wide). My speakers are the Focal Sopra No2s. If putting them on the long wall, the arrangement has to be an equilateral triangle. If on the short wall, the listening position could be a little further from the speakers.

It would be great if you could give me some advice on this.

Best regards,
Fred
United States

Thank you for taking the time to read my Dutch & Dutch 8c review. I appreciate the kind words. It’s also nice to hear from a fellow enthusiast who is dealing with a room with the same dimensions as mine. I have been listening in a 15’ x 12’ room, in three different homes, for my entire existence as an audiophile -- some 30 years! I will attempt to give you as thorough an answer as possible.

First, the obvious, if not perhaps lazy, answer: try both the long- and short-wall configurations to see what sounds best to you. Experimentation beats theorizing and conjecture every time. Plus, you may find that it’s the bass performance that will inform your decision more than any other aspect of the sound. Below 200Hz or so, each room will impart its own fingerprint (based on where the speakers are placed within it) on the sound. You may just find that bass performance is much better with one orientation versus the other, and that all other pros and cons are less important. You can also opt to simulate the bass performance of the room with both layouts using Room EQ Wizard (REW) software, which is free. REW has a tool for room simulation where room dimensions and speaker placement can be input to “see” where the bass room modes will lie.

If moving the entire room around for some listening sessions seems too daunting (I understand), here’s my perspective on the advantages of each layout. In a room this size, you can’t have both a very wide and very deep soundstage. Unfortunately, we must choose based on what we covet most. I prioritize soundstage width over depth -- but this is of course a personal choice. With my speakers placed along the long wall, I have good distance to the side walls, and still have a wide 9’ span between the speakers, with the listening chair 9’ from each speaker (the often-recommended equilateral triangle). The fronts of my speakers are about 32” from the wall behind them, and I’d say most of the imaging in my room occurs between 1’ and 3’ behind the speakers. If you opt for the short-wall layout, you can choose to pull the speakers a few feet away from the front wall and experience excellent soundstage depth. I’ve certainly heard very deep soundstages in large rooms with the speakers placed several feet from the front wall, and it is a cool effect, but, in my opinion, chasing this in a 15’ x 12’ room would compromise too much soundstage width. What’s more important to you, width or depth?

Now I’d like to explain some of the other issues to look out for with both short- and long-wall arrangements. Left/right symmetry in a listening room is very important to achieve precise imaging. It looks like in your case, whether you opt for the long or short wall, you’ll have windows on one side only. If you haven’t considered this yet, thick curtains should be on your mind. And on the wall opposite the window(s), think about what you can place along the wall to add a bit of diffusion or absorption to match the curtains on the opposing wall space -- again think left/right symmetry. If you opt for the long wall (like me), because the room is relatively small, your listening chair/couch will no doubt end-up against or close to the rear wall. If you don’t have any absorption directly behind your ears, please consider adding some. I have a high-back recliner covered with a blanket behind my ears. Just to experiment, I once removed the back of my chair, and with less than one foot between the back of my ears and a sheet of painted drywall, my system sounded very bright! If you opt for the short wall, side-wall reflections may become more problematic (because the speakers will be placed closer to the side walls). I would argue in a room this size, at least some absorption (or diffusion) should be applied, and side-wall first-reflection points are good places to start.

If your room is not a dedicated space and room treatment is a no-no, you can at least be reassured by the fact that the fine speakers you have chosen have very good/smooth off-axis response (our measurements of the Sopra No2 confirm that), so the reflected sounds in your room should be quite similar to the direct ones, which our brains tend to prefer when we’re listening to speakers in a room. Best of luck to you. . . . Diego Estan

Separate Subwoofer(s) or Not?

To Doug Schneider,

I have read with interest your reviews on two speakers that I’m considering purchasing for 90% two-channel music listening: Revel Performa3 F206 and GoldenEar Technology Triton One.R.

Here is my quandary: I was also considering adding dual subwoofers (SVS SB-3000) to the Revels. I’ve listened to both speakers at my local dealer and liked what I heard. Obviously, the Tritons went deeper in the bass. My question to you is: How hard is it to blend subwoofers into a room? Or is it more desirable to have the built-in subs? My current room is 15’ x 24’ with a 7’ ceiling. It also has a few detents under stairs, etc. It’s a basement setup.

Thank you for your reply and keep up the informative articles. I, for one, appreciate them very much.

Best regards,
Tag Williamson
United States

I believe that if you can get one or two subwoofers to blend perfectly with the main loudspeakers, you can achieve better overall performance compared to loudspeakers alone, regardless of the speakers’ size or price. One reason is that a great subwoofer can go deeper in the bass with higher output and lower distortion than almost any loudspeaker in the world can. Another reason is that you can optimize the positioning of a separate subwoofer or subwoofers in the room for the best bass performance, and you can optimally place the loudspeakers for the best imaging and overall tonal balance. This isn’t insignificant -- what’s good for bass isn’t always what’s good for the rest of the sound. Finally, for those worried about how cabinet resonances color the sound, woofers are the main culprits in this regard, so having them do most of their work separate from the higher-frequency drivers is probably a good thing.

The big problem is that perfectly blending one or more subwoofers with main speakers isn’t that easy; however, it’s also not impossible and there are more ways to do it today than ever before. One writer who’s had great success with this is Diego Estan, who writes on this site, but has also been writing articles about subwoofers on our SoundStage! Access site. The first article he wrote was about his experience going from one to two subwoofers. The latest one is on subwoofer setup for beginners. On August 1, he’ll have another subwoofer-setup article, focusing more on advanced setup options. I encourage you to read his articles to see if you can get enough advice there to allow you to figure out if integrating a sub with speakers is the way you want to go. . . . Doug Schneider

Incredible Vivid Audio Giya G2 Series 2s

To Doug Schneider,

I thought I’d let you know my decision after our e-mail exchange and your advice online. I ended up with a pair of Vivid Audio Giya G2 Series 2s. They are in a word -- incredible. To my ears, they are the most neutral speakers I’ve heard. Add to that effortlessness and accuracy without sterility, and you have one of the best speakers out there. But you already knew that. :-)

Thanks again for the advice. And happy listening!

Steve B.
United States

Indeed, I did already know that. Great choice! I wished I owned pair. . . . Doug Schneider

Bluesound, NAD, and Paradigm -- Credible?

To Doug Schneider,

The scenario you described in your December, 2018, piece (“NAD’s D 3045: a D 3020 V2 on Steroids?”) outlined my choice exactly. I have an older pair of Paradigm floorstanding speakers (Monitor 7 v6) coupled with a Bluesound Node 2i, but currently routed through a 2007 Harman/Kardon AVR 146 -- the weak link.

The Paradigms have a good sensitivity rating, and many people were posting about the ability of the D 3020 V2 to punch well above its weight class in terms of power, so I thought that this might be the right move (for less $$$). But after calling two reputable local hi-fi shops that carry NAD and asking if this pairing will provide enough power to get me where I want to be, I was told flatly “No.”

So my System One (my only system) will now be the D 3045, Node 2i (mainly streaming Tidal CD and MQA files), and the Paradigm Monitor 7s. Does this seem a credible combo? I’m hoping so.

Thanks for any thoughts you may have, and for writing well.

Cheers,
Guy Saddy
Canada

I agree with the retailers -- the D 3020 is great for the money, but it can come up short on power. As for combining the Bluesound Node 2i with the NAD D 3045 and the Paradigm Monitor 7 speakers, you won’t get any argument from me -- it’s a credible combo. . . . Doug Schneider

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