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

Rubber Renue -- A Cheap Turntable Tip

To Doug Schneider,

I thoroughly enjoyed your review of the Triangle Borea BR03 loudspeakers. I appreciated how you used Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen. You seem to have fun and enjoy the music. Some reviewers don’t get that, I think.

Here is something you might get a kick out of. You have a belt-driven turntable. I use Rubber Renue ($8.95 per bottle in Canada) to clean the belt once a year or so. If you want to try it, UHF Magazine still carries it and uses it. Why would I suggest this? Well, you might be surprised at the first cleaning. Listen to the very same song you had played before at the same level. I go out on the deck and simply soak a bit of the liquid into a paper towel, then slowly and gently slide the belt through. My Roksan turntable has a flat belt, yours may be a round belt, I’m not sure. But you will hear the improvement when you play the same piece. It is not a subtle thing. But I believe it shows how important the belt-platter interaction is. A cleaned record that still has some surface noise is suddenly quieter to listen to. I’m only suggesting this because you love vinyl and good music and enjoy it. Heck, if I had an extra bottle I would even ship it to you to try. It is that good. Also, the Take 2 reviews with Jay Lee are great. Always enjoy his YouTube videos.

Have a safe summer and happy tunes.

Cheers,
Lloyd
Canada

Interesting turntable tip! Plus, we’re glad you’re enjoying Jay’s video reviews -- we have lots more coming from him in the weeks and months to come. . . . Doug Schneider

Now 20 Years Old -- Mirage MRM-1 Loudspeakers Inherited

To Doug Schneider,

I have questions for you regarding the Mirage MRM-1 loudspeaker. I recently inherited a pair of these speakers with the stands, but was wondering: Is there a manual regarding the setup of the speakers? Also, how old are these? I have them hooked up to a Yamaha 5.1 receiver. They sound great. I just want to get a little bit more knowledge regarding this set and what they are worth today.

Thanks for your input in advance.

George
United States

It was very interesting to see this e-mail come in -- I reviewed the MRM-1 loudspeaker in the year 2000, which is about when it was released. We also measured it in the anechoic chamber at Canada’s National Research Council (NRC). The MRM-1 was priced at $2200-$2400 USD/pair at that time, depending on finish, plus there was a matching stand available priced at $600-$700/pair, again depending on finish. At that time, it was a very high-end stand-mounted design. I have no idea what a pair would be worth today, with or without stands.

Insofar as the sound quality of that speaker goes, it was good back then and would still be considered good today. Our measurements showed the MRM-1 to have a generally flat frequency response, both on and off axis, plentiful bass for the speaker’s size, and a slightly tipped-up treble. These things were readily revealed in listening. On the downside, the measurements also showed the MRM-1 to be insensitive (82dB/2.83V/m), so a pair needed a lot of amplifier power to make them sing. Its impedance didn’t dip below 5 ohms, though, so the MRM-1 didn’t present too tough of an amplifier load. If your Yamaha receiver is driving the pair well, that’s a good thing.

Even if you could find a manual, I doubt that it will help you too much -- manuals almost never give good information about setting speakers up. I would begin by spacing the speakers 8’ apart and sitting about 8’ from them. Since they have wide and even dispersion, as well as a slightly elevated treble, I would only toe them in about 10 degrees, if at all. Try that kind of positioning and then work from there.

Finally, here’s a piece of trivia on the Mirage MRM-1 that I don’t think many people know -- it was the first speaker that Andrew Welker designed for Mirage. He designed many more speakers for Mirage after that, but today he works for Axiom Audio, where he creates new speakers and electronics, and also carries on some of the design ideas he pioneered at Mirage. . . . Doug Schneider

Praise for the KEF R11

To Diego Estan,

I’ve recently upgraded my hi-fi system. I found the choice of speakers most difficult of all. I auditioned, amongst others, the Q Acoustic Concept 500, Monitor Audio Gold 300, ATC SCM40, KEF R11, and Bowers & Wilkins 702. After many auditions and listening sessions, I finally chose the KEF R11. Why? I found the pair not to be power hungry and not to lose tonality at low volume. I found their musical reproduction to be effortless and relaxed, which I prefer. My initial impression was that they were highly resolving, neutral, or maybe very slightly on the warm side of neutral, with a huge soundstage and excellent off-axis listening. They imaged well, especially given their potentially imposing physiques.

At the same time as purchasing them, I bought a pair of REL T/9i subs to augment them. Obviously, listening to equipment in a dealer’s demo room bears little similitude to the way they sound in your own listening environment. I was really surprised when I got them home as to how low they actually go. I have got the subs in situ, but, honestly, in most circumstances the R11s are sufficiently full-range to be satiating as standalone speakers. I’m restricted in my speaker placement, as my listening room is also the family lounge. So, in order to appease the wife, they are placed just 4” from the front wall and about 2.5’ from each side wall. I was pleasantly surprised how good they sounded without really sufficient room to breathe. When I have the place to myself, I do pull them out to about 20” from the front wall, which does reduce the “boom factor,” and that is when I find the subs come into their own.

Now that I’ve had the R11s in situ for almost five weeks and have spent many, many hours listening to both vinyl and CD that I’ve not listened to for many a moon, and equally streamed stacks of tracks, I feel that I am now qualified to “nitpick.” I think that KEF got the balance about right. They’ve voiced the high frequencies to prevent sibilance, and it works well, but to my taste, I would have preferred the top end fractionally brighter. I find the midrange very slightly forward, which I like, but, fractionally dry. The bass is fast, tightly balanced, and well controlled, but, for my taste, I feel they could benefit from a little more midbass slam. I found that whatever their placement, they, to my ears, sound better with both sets of foam bungs removed.

Nothing is perfect, but, I’m highly gratified with my purchase, and sincerely believe that for my listening preference, I made the right choice. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone. Despite their stature, they blend easily into any room and I think would constitute an upgrade to all but the pinnacle of “high end” systems. I think your review of the KEF R11s was pretty much spot on, and really enjoyed reading it.

Regards,
Howard
United Kingdom

Thank you for reading my review, and this very detailed email on your experience with the KEF R11s. They are phenomenal speakers and I certainly enjoyed my time with them; it looks like you are really liking them as well.

I guess the only comment I’d like to add is one I often make: don’t be afraid to experiment with room EQ, especially in your case, because you have added subs. With respect to your nitpicks, as I’m sure you’re aware, bass performance has more to do with the room than the speakers. Audiophiles like to say they obsess over “high-fidelity” sound, yet they are willing to accept 10dB swings in frequency response in the bass! A good room-EQ solution will not make your bass worse. The only question is: How much better will it be? There’s only one way to find out -- by trying.

Many good room-EQ solutions (e.g., Anthem ARC Genesis, Dirac Live) will also let you experiment and potentially fix your other nitpicks as well. For example, with my Focal Sopra No1s, I have a nitpick that is the opposite to yours -- they have about 1dB too much treble energy (from about 3kHz to 12kHz), and I have completely mitigated this issue with Dirac Live. This change of course is subtle, but it really matters on recordings that are too sibilant. What is not subtle is what Dirac Live does to my bass performance (I have dual subs as well, operating up to 125Hz) -- it’s a gamechanger for the low frequencies. Enjoy your KEFs. . . . Diego Estan

Is Luxman Still the Best?

To Doug Schneider,

Thanks for your awesome review of the Luxman M-900u amplifier. Does it remain the best you have heard? Have you compared it to any Pass Labs XA or X amplifiers?

Ricky
Canada

I still love the Luxman M-900u and have no hesitation recommending it -- it’s a great amplifier. What’s more, I’ve learned that its retail price is lower right now than when I reviewed it, so it’s an even better deal. But, I haven’t reviewed any Pass Labs products, so I don’t know how any of their amps would compare. . . . Doug Schneider

Revel Performa3 F206 or GoldenEar Technology Triton Two+?

To Doug Schneider,

I just re-read your September 2014 review of the Revel Performa3 F206 loudspeaker, probably for the fifth time. I’m a borderline obsessive-compulsive audiophile; like most audiophiles, I think. I apologize if I might have asked you this question before in some other e-mail, but, first and foremost, I want to thank you for your review. Very informative and very helpful, as usual!

I’ve embarked on a two-channel speaker-upgrade quest for a while now and logged some serious seat-time in critical listening sessions in the last few months or so. I’ve listened to: Monitor Audio Silver 500 and 300, Focal Aria 926 and 936, Triangle Esprit Australe EZ, Dynaudio Evoke 30, Vandersteen Model 1Ci, Aerial Acoustics 6T, MartinLogan Motion 60XTi, KEF R7, Spendor A7, Totem Acoustic Hawk, PSB Imagine T2, GoldenEar Technology Triton Two+, Paradigm Prestige 85F and 95F, and Revel Performa3 F206. The Focal Aria 936 was outstanding but out of my budget range. The Triangles were aggressively discounted demo speakers, but I’m convinced there was something wrong with them. The Aerial Acoustics speakers were awesome with tube or solid-state amps that can feed them high current. They were still very, very nice with my amp, a McIntosh MA5200, but they really deserve better. I certainly do not want to disparage any of the speakers I’ve auditioned. They were/are all very fine speakers. However, to my ears, some were better than others, of course. I’m sure you understand.

Anyway, after many hours of critical listening, I’ve now come to my short, short list: Revel Performa3 F206 and GoldenEar Technology Triton Two+. Those Revels were/are everything you said they are and then some! Frankly, if I made my decision today, it would be the Revel. No question! However, yesterday I heard a pair of GoldenEar Triton Two+ loudspeakers, but they had, reportedly, less than 30 hours of play on them, were in a lousy-sounding room, and really couldn’t be set up right. As such, I’m trying to schedule another appointment with a different dealer who, hopefully, can give me a much better or fairer demonstration of what these speakers can really do. If the reviewers of these speakers are to be believed, I definitely didn’t hear that yesterday.

So, I guess my question for you is this: Have you and/or any colleagues, friends, etc., who’ve had serious seat-time with both the Revel Performa3 F206 and the GoldenEar Technology Triton Two+ come away with any strong feelings regarding which might be the better overall performer? This borderline OCD audiophile would sure like to know.

Thanks so much! Stay safe! Be well! And keep up the good work!

Dennis
United States

Congratulations, you’ve really done your homework insofar as listening goes. Because speakers are so varied in their sounds and listening preferences are so personal, you really have to audition them to know you’re getting the right thing.

As far as the two models you narrowed your search down to, I’m not surprised -- I’ve experienced both and found them each to be well-engineered, excellent sounding, and great values. Their acoustic designs also adhere to the same guiding principles of speaker design that were laid down by Dr. Floyd Toole at Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) in the 1980s -- generally flat on- and off-axis frequency response, low distortion, etc. Still, they’re different sounding enough, with the two biggest differences being that the Triton Two+ can play much deeper in the bass, which is mainly due to its powered bass section, as well as a little louder overall. But the F206 counters with some of the smoothest mids and highs that I’ve heard from speakers of any price. Its presentation is also so well balanced that, overall, its sins of being less bassy and not able to play as loud become instantly forgivable.

Since I already know both designs well, if I were buying, I’d opt for a pair of the Revels -- despite the limitations I mentioned, the sound floats my boat. I also like the way the F206 looks. But, like I said earlier, listening preferences are personal. If I were you, since you’ve auditioned so many speakers already, finish off your search the right way -- line up a proper audition of a pair of GoldenEar Triton Two+ speakers and see if they impress you as much as the Revels did. If they do, you have some thinking to do. If not, the answer is obvious. Write back and let me know how it turns out. . . . Doug Schneider

Measurements and the Vivid Audio Giya G2 Series 2 Speakers

To Doug Schneider,

I read with great interest your article on the new Vivid Audio Giya G2 Series 2. I didn’t see a link to NRC measurements. Will you be adding links later?

Best Regards,
A.L.
United States

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NRC’s anechoic chamber is closed, though we’re hoping to see it open in a couple of weeks. When it does open, we will be measuring many speakers we have reviewed and will review. For those that have been reviewed already, the links are obviously going in after the fact, but it’ll still be useful information. That said, we cannot do that for all the speakers -- some had to be sent back to the manufacturers already. The Giya G2 Series 2 is an example -- the pair I had left about a month ago. It’s too bad that’s the case, but we all obviously hope this pandemic and the subsequent worldwide lockdown is only a one-in-a-lifetime experience and will not impact us again. . . . Doug Schneider

An Amp for Vivid Audio B1 Decades

To Doug Schneider,

I just read your recent review on the new Vivid Giya G2 Series 2 speakers. Terrific article! I now own the Vivid Audio Oval B1 Decade speakers that you reviewed.

As you’re well familiar with Vivid technology, I’d like to know whether you have any general suggestions on amp matching. I currently use a Devialet Expert 220 Pro. I have an itch to experiment: Do you have any thoughts about a classic A/B amp with Vivid speakers? It’s not that I’m unhappy with Devialet, it’s just that I might like to bring a touch of warmth to the mids. I note that the former US distributor for Vivid used Luxman, for instance, in demos.

Thoughts?

All the best,
Michael
United States

Congratulations! You now own an amazing set of speakers.

Insofar as amps go, your choices are wide-ranging, since a pair of B1 Decades aren’t that hard to drive. Luxman would be a great choice -- I absolutely loved the M-900u, which I reviewed in 2015. That’s a great start. Another amp I’d look to is the Bryston 4B³, which our own Roger Kanno reviewed for us, Jason Thorpe purchased and loves (and he fancies tube amps), and I just wrote an article about this month. I’m pretty sure one of those two will satisfy you, but if not, as I said, your choices are wide-ranging -- you have, literally, hundreds of potential candidates that you could partner with the Vivids. . . . Doug Schneider

On Dealers and Discounts

To Ken Kessler,

I read your article about hi-fi shops possibly closing. It is indeed sad, but I disagree completely with your attack on consumers shopping for a discount. I demoed speakers locally in the United States and then saw that purchasing them from the UK would lead to a savings of nearly $1k. This wasn’t from a sleazy discounter, but from a reputable shop that I found via a manufacturer’s dealer listing.

I would happily try to work with the local dealer, but they wouldn’t budge on price.

Why is that my problem as a customer? It is the job of the manufacturer to set pricing and ensure all authorized dealers price evenly aside from special promotions.

Ultimately, if you lose a customer on only price you have failed as a dealer. Clearly the customer walked out and decided the service wasn’t worth it. This can only go so far though.

If you demoed speakers at your local dealer who wanted $2.5k and then another dealer offered them for $1.5k, is it really not enough? Ironically, this was also a small local shop in Scotland.

Regards,
Name withheld upon request
United States

Thanks for your e-mail. I will try to answer this as calmly as I can!

I don’t know where you get your information, but manufacturers DO set recommended retail prices. The problem is that they are unenforceable by law. The worst thing that ever happened to hi-fi and to retailers was the abolishing of retail price maintenance. There was a level playing field -- you pitched retailer against retailer according to the service they delivered.

You cannot expect global price parity on imports. British products should cost more in the US than they do in the home market and vice versa, because they have to travel, they have to be subjected to local taxes and to import duties, and there is an extra margin in the form of the importer or distributor.

It Is naive to think otherwise. Moreover, I don’t understand why you and others expect retailers to work without making any reasonable profit. Ask the dealer “who wouldn’t budge” about his overheads including rent, wages, local business rates, taxes, and other concerns. Then ask him what the markup on hi-fi is compared to, say, watches. You would be shocked.

The bottom line is really about people wanting a deal so they can buy stuff they can’t otherwise afford. I guess I was brought up differently and not to think in terms of entitlement, which is what demanding or expecting a discount really is. I don’t know what line of business you are in, but I don’t think you would be too happy as a hi-fi retailer. They struggle enough without giving away their profits. . . . Ken Kessler

Bryston: "Worth It"

To Doug Schneider,

I liked your article on Bryston. I use a pair of 3B amps to biamp my Magnepan MGIIIa speakers and a Bryston 10B electronic crossover. I purchased them all used and they are great units. The 10B needed an overhaul when I purchased it, so I sent it back to Bryston, and although (per Bryston), it was one of the first ten units of that model, they overhauled it. It cost about $750 and was worth it.

Jim
United States

Parasound or PS Audio?

To Roger Kanno,

I hope this e-mail finds you well. I really enjoyed your review of the PS Audio Stellar M700 monoblocks, and in that review, you referenced their similarity to Parasound’s amps. I have narrowed my search down to the M700s and the Parasound A 21+ stereo amplifier. Both retail for $3000. I would be able to get either for more like $2200. If you had the choice between both of these to own for the next five to ten years, which would you go with?

I appreciate any help you can provide as you are the only person I can find that has some familiarity with both companies (locally, there are only Parasound dealers as PS Audio went direct in the United States).

Thanks,
Nick
United States

Those are excellent amplifiers and I don’t think that you could go wrong with either choice. Although they are very different in design, the PS Audio being class-D output with a class-A input stage and the Parasound being a more conventional class-AB design, they both have similar neutral and very powerful sonic characters. You didn’t mention what speakers you will be using them with, but considering how good they both sound and how powerful they both are, they should do well with any reasonable loudspeaker.

Still, there are other things to consider. Because the M700 is a small, efficient class-D monoblock, each pair will likely use less power and each monoblock can be placed close to the speaker that it will be driving. The A 21+, on the other hand, is a large, beefy class-AB design that will require a fair amount of space on a rack or on the floor and will use more electricity. While the Parasound is larger and less efficient, I will say that I really like the look of this big, solid classic amp; however, others might prefer the svelte, more modern look of the PS Audio. Also, I will admit that I have not heard Parasound’s upgraded A 1+ series of amplifiers, but based on what I found with the original A 1s, I have no doubt that they are excellent-sounding amplifiers. Plus, from what I can tell, there has even been a slight increase in power output over the originals.

If you can get either for $2200, that would be a heck of a bargain in my opinion, and I think that you would be happy with your purchase for many years. . . . Roger Kanno

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