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

Yamaha Powered On All the Time?

To Doug Schneider,

I have a Yamaha high-end CD player and I wonder if I can leave it powered-up at all times without any ill effects in the long run? I find that power-up all the time is very beneficial on the performance.

Congrats on your magazine. I like your honest opinion on different matters.

Best regards,
Pierre Provost
Canada

Like you, I find many components sound better when they’ve been left on for some time, probably because they reach an optimal operating temperature. As a result, I tend to leave some components powered on for several days at a time to keep them warmed up. Still, I don’t leave them on all the time, for a few of reasons. One reason is that by being powered on all the time, the lifespan of the component will be shortened -- electronics do wear out with use. Another is because I don’t want to have it fail and possibly cause a fire, particularly if I am not around. Finally, it wastes energy. Therefore, as tempting as it is to leave something powered on -- and some people I know do it -- I don’t recommend it for those practical reasons. . . . Doug Schneider

GoldenEar Technology Triton One vs. KEF Blade Two

To Doug Schneider,

I’m a happy owner of GoldenEar Triton One loudspeakers, but I have recently listened to KEF Blade Twos at a dealer. This audition made me interested, but, unfortunately, chances for a home demonstration are not great. I love the Triton Ones’ ability to give a “live” feeling, their full-range sound, and their soundstage. However, the Blade Twos to me had at little more weight and were a little less “hot” in the treble region.

Can you describe the most prominent differences between the two speakers? That would be of great interest to me. My other gear comprises a Gryphon Diablo 300 amp and PS Audio DirectStream DAC and Memory Player.

Thanks for any help.

A very satisfied reader.

Lars Jørgensen
Denmark

Besides their appearances, by far the biggest difference between the Triton One and the KEF Blade Two is the price. In the United States, the GoldenEar Triton One costs about $5000/pair, the KEF Blade Two about $25,000/pair. The newest GoldenEar, the Triton One.R, which I just reviewed, is around $6000/pair. Even GoldenEar’s most expensive speaker, the Triton Reference, at about $9500/pair, doesn’t come close to what a pair of Blade Twos cost.

Sonically, Blade Twos don’t go deeper in the bass than the Ones, but they do sound more powerful down there, as you’ve found -- they pounded the bass home like there’s no tomorrow in my room. I’d also say that the Blade Twos sounded slightly clearer across the audioband, whether played at low or high volume levels. Finally, although the Blade Twos couldn’t create wider or deeper soundstages in my room than the Triton Ones, References, or One.Rs, the Blade Twos’ images on the stages were a little more focused. I think this is because of the Uni-Q driver array, which pins the tweeter right into the throat of the midrange and makes for a truer point source. I could go on with some other sonic differences, but those are the big ones that pop to mind.

As to the high frequencies, I haven’t found any GoldenEar models to sound “hot” like you mentioned -- certainly no hotter than the Blade Two or other KEF speakers I’ve reviewed. That might have something to do with the way we set the speakers up. I’m not sure.

In sum, let me give you this advice: If spending much more money is not a problem, then a jump to a pair of Blade Twos could really be interesting. Personally, I’d love to own a pair of Blade Twos, though I really think you still must audition them to know if you’d be happy -- don’t take my word for it alone. I know you said auditioning at home would be difficult, but, really, for a purchase this expensive, you have to do this in order to know for sure if it is the right move for you. If you’re not sure about the leap, I’d suggest another course of action -- audition the GoldenEar Triton One.Rs and Triton References. I can confidently say that both are better than the Ones you own now and aren’t nearly as expensive as the KEFs. . . . Doug Schneider

Under-$600 Phono Preamp Suggestions

To Doug Schneider,

I am rediscovering my LP collection. I am using the phono preamp section of an old Yamaha RX-1130 receiver connected to an all-Bryston electronics system.

I am looking to improve the sound with a dedicated phono preamp. Would you have suggestions for a budget of $600?

I am using an early-’80s turntable with an Audio-Technica moving-magnet cartridge.

Thanks in advance,
René Fortier
Canada

You actually have many options, but if I were in your shoes, the first phono stage I’d look at is the Simaudio Moon 110LP v2, which costs only $399. Thom Moon reviewed the 110LP v2 for SoundStage! Access last November, where he not only raved about it, he ended up buying one for his system. Furthermore, it had a Reviewers’ Choice award bestowed on it at the time the review was published, and was also chosen as one of our 2018 Products of the Year. Please read the review to learn how versatile the 110LP v2 is -- it has support for moving-magnet and moving-coil cartridges, as well as numerous switches for adjustment -- and how good Thom found it to sound.

I also encourage you to check out our new SoundStage! Expert videos about phono stages that are on YouTube (there are six on this topic, all less than two minutes long). These were filmed at Simaudio’s factory. They should give you more insight as to what Simaudio knows about the product category. . . . Doug Schneider

Simaudio and Sonus Faber?

To Doug Schneider,

I don’t know if you remember the test of the Simaudio Moon Evolution 740P preamp some years ago. Here in Norway, there is some problem with hi-fi shops -- I can’t seem to hear this preamp and the loudspeakers I want together. My preferred loudspeakers are Sonus Faber Olympica IIIs, and I would love to hear from someone who has tried this preamp, and maybe hear if you believe that Simaudio and Sonus Faber will be a good match.

My preferred sound is open and airy treble with a good middle tone and a firm bass. And I love Pink Floyd music together with the Eagles and even Pet Shop Boys, and even Metallica and Motörhead.

So, if you could spare me some minutes answering this e-mail, I would be grateful.

Best regards,
Haakon B.
Norway

I am happy to. I not only remember the review, I still have that same 740P in my system, so I know it well. I don’t know if you’re aware that I also reviewed the Sonus Faber Olympica III speakers a few years ago.

The thing about the 740P is that it’s shockingly transparent -- it does not add to or subtract from the sound. It will simply pass through the music signal it's fed. As a result, if you’re looking for your preamplifier to add some sort of sonic signature -- a richness in the midrange, perhaps -- the 740P just won’t do it. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure you don’t want that. The Olympica III has a distinctive sound and the 740P will let you hear that, but without adding any colorations of its own. . . . Doug Schneider

EMM Labs XDS1 Update?

To Doug Schneider,

Loved your review of the EMM Labs DA2 Reference DAC. You demonstrate such a high degree of process methodology. It sounds like EMM was “testing” you by sending you the DA2 without explaining the changes.

I purchased the EMM XDS1 in 2011 after hearing it at RMAF with several other top SACD players. I had the unit upgraded to the V2 version in 2015. It’s been the centerpiece of my audio system ever since.

I do listen to digital downloads stored on a PC server connected to the XDS1, but I still prefer SACDs, partially because I prefer physical media I can collect, but I also believe I hear a sound improvement over FLAC files.

You appear to have a good working relationship with EMM -- I wonder if you know if these DA2 software changes are applicable to the XDS1 V2?

I’d very much appreciate any information you can provide.

Regards,
Len
United States

I’m not surprised you love the XDS1. Ed Meitner, EMM Labs’ founder and chief designer, has been at the forefront of digital playback technology for decades. He was also instrumental in helping Sony get the SACD project off the ground by building their first single-bit converters. I rarely talk to Ed Meitner, but I do talk to people who work at his company whenever I have a question about one of their products. When your e-mail came in, I fired another e-mail to them and they responded that, unfortunately, the firmware changes for the DA2 aren’t applicable to the XDS1. However, looking at their website, they do have a V3 update for the XDS1, so you might want to consider that. . . . Doug Schneider

Like the U-Turn?

To Doug Schneider

I take it you like [the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus] turntable? I am interested myself, but am not a vinyl junkie.

Regards,
Tim
United States

For someone who’s on a budget and wants to play vinyl, they’d be hard-pressed to do better than a U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus for its $289 asking price. It comes complete with the turntable, tonearm, cartridge, and interconnect cables; its build quality is good for what you pay; it’s a snap to set up; it looks really good (I have the blue one, but almost wish I’d gotten red, since it looks so sharp in pictures); and it sounds pretty darn good for the price. What’s more, they sell it with a 30-day money-back guarantee. It’s hard to beat all that. In fact, it offers so much that I wound up buying the one they sent me and will keep it as a reference component for my “System One” column. . . . Doug Schneider

Siltech 330L Speaker Cables Still Recommended?

To Doug Schneider,

I just read your review of the Siltech 330-series cables and as I’m looking to upgrade my speaker cables and may have a deal on a pair of 330Ls, I thought you might be the ideal person to ask! I’m listening to my 40-year-old Dahlquist DQ-10s, rebuilt by Regnar about ten years ago, driven by my Bryston 4B3 amp and Ayre KX-5 Twenty preamp. I’m currently using Nordost Red Dawn 2 cables, while the Heimdall 2s have been a recommended upgrade, and so I’m wondering how the Siltech 330Ls might compare?

Any and all advice appreciated!

Thank you,
John Boros
Canada

I’ve never compared the Siltech Classic Anniversary 330L speaker cables to any Nordost cables, but even if I did, I’m not sure it would help you that much -- for an upgrade like this, you’re really going to have to try them both to know if they’ll work well in your system and if you’ll like them for the long term. The best that I can do is to say this: I began using the 330L speaker cables in my reference system about eight years ago and haven’t ever considered replacing them with anything else. It’s important to also note that in that time there have been dozens of amplifier and loudspeaker swaps, yet the 330Ls have remained constant. That’s not to say someone else might not like some other wires more -- I can’t, by any stretch, say they’re the best speaker cable out there -- it’s just that I haven’t found anything I would rather have in my system. I hope that helps. . . . Doug Schneider

PSB Alpha P3: The Question of a Subwoofer

To Doug Schneider,

Thanks for penning such a nice, compact review of a pair of small and predictably competent $200 speakers from PSB. Before reading, there was no question in my mind that this review would be about pleasant overperformers that rolled off around 60Hz, with all that’s entailed in that. The question you hinted at that’s dying to be answered is whether it’s better to pair these little standmounts with a commensurate sub (~$399?), or just buy a bigger pair of standmounts for $500-$600? In other words, does extending the bass of the Alpha P3 down to the 30s make a three-box solution a clear winner over a two-box solution for similar money? For your series of reviews of cheap-’n’-cheerful kit -- bravo, by the way -- having an inexpensive sub on hand would allow readers to make an even more informed purchase decision.

An interesting layer to these reviews would be to test your little system both on a bookshelf and nearfield on a desk, the latter of which is gaining in popularity for people who work at home or otherwise listen at their computers.

Best,
Brad P.
United States

I’m glad you brought that up, because a subwoofer is on the way for future “System One” installments. Whether I can pair that with the P3s is yet to be seen -- they might not be here still. But it should help to answer whether or not a three-box speaker system can outperform a two-box one in some instances. . . . Doug Schneider

NAD D 3045 or C 338?

To Doug Schneider,

Both the NAD D 3045 and the NAD C 338 are very similar and are only $50 difference in price. The D 3045 is 10Wpc more powerful and has two-way Bluetooth with aptX. The C 338 has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Chromecast Built-in. What do you think is the future of amplifiers with Chromecast Built-in now that Google has discontinued Chromecast Audio? I’ve been thinking of getting the C 338, but now I’m more inclined to purchase the D 3045.

Thanks,
Ron
United States

As far as I know, Google isn’t abandoning their Chromecast technology -- they only abandoned the Chromecast Audio streaming device, which originally sold for $35, but they blew out for $15-$20 a few weeks ago and have now officially discontinued. It’s unfortunate. With the addition of the optional TosLink cable, the Chromecast Audio dongle was a godsend for streaming bit-perfect digital audio at resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz to any component with a TosLink input. It was also an inexpensive way to set up multiroom audio in a home. In fact, it’s in use in my system that forms the “System One” column on this site. Shortly after the announcement, I went shopping to buy additional Chromecast Audio streamers, but they seem to be sold out everywhere. Google now only sells the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra devices, which, with their HDMI connectors, are meant mainly for video streaming.

Looking at the D 3045’s and C 338’s spec sheets, the inclusion of Chromecast Built-in on the C 338 is the only upside to that component. Admittedly, that’s a nice upside, too. As far as everything else goes, the D 3045 has it all over the C 338 -- it delivers more power and has more features. Unless having Chromecast technology built right into the C 338 is mandatory for what you’re setting up, the D 3045 is definitely what I’d recommend purchasing. Perhaps you’ll also get lucky and find some store that has those little Chromecast Audio streamers still in stock -- if so, buy a few, and also let me know where you found them so I can buy more. . . . Doug Schneider

An A/V Receiver or a Preamplifier and Power Amplifier for KEF Blade Twos?

To Doug Schneider,

I have a question about what equipment [I need] to power a pair of KEF Blade Twos.

Would I really be able to hear a difference if I powered the Blade Twos using a class-D3 receiver (e.g., Pioneer SC-LX901), compared to if I used a preamp and amplifier (components)? In other words, spending about $2000 on a receiver versus spending $20,000 on a preamp and amp setup?

You can assume the music being played is modern rock/pop/R&B (e.g., Top 40), so I assume we’re dealing with stuff that’s been digitally compressed (low dynamic range). In other words, source material that isn’t musically demanding to playback on a speaker system. You can also assume it won’t be played at very high volumes (e.g., >100dB).

Given the above listening conditions, would using a high-end receiver be more than enough to power the Blade Twos?

Mike
United States

I hate to brand an entire product category as poor performing, but to the get to the nuts and bolts of my answer quickly, that’s what I feel I have to do. So here goes -- while all-in-one receivers, such as the one you mentioned, are impressive in terms of how many features they have and the number of channels of amplification they pack into a single box, all the ones I’ve heard come up short on sound quality, as well as power output. I think that it simply comes from jamming too much stuff into that box -- everything gets compromised.

For instance, let’s take a look the SC-LX901 you mentioned: On Pioneer’s website, they claim that its power output into a 6-ohm load is 200W, but they’re also honest enough to say that’s with only one channel being driven and the test is not even across the audioband -- it’s for a 1kHz test signal. You can be sure that if they used 20Hz to 20kHz as their bandwidth and drove two channels, the power output would be considerably lower. What’s more, they say that its distortion level is 0.9% for that 1kHz test, which is high for a modern solid-state amplifier. I wouldn’t assume that the music you play will mask any of those deficiencies -- rock, pop, and R&B can be pretty demanding, particularly in the bass. Those musical genres also tend to sound best played fairly loud. Given that the Blade Two has a nominal impedance of about 4 ohms, I suspect that this receiver will not only have trouble driving a pair of Blade Twos to any decent volume level, its distortion will be rather high as well, so you won’t be getting the clean sound that you can get from better-quality amplification.

Have I talked you out of that receiver for the Blade Twos yet? I hope so. But before I finish, I don’t want to leave you thinking that you have to spend $20,000, as you mentioned, or that you even need separate components. If you do want separates, though, you might be surprised that companies such as Bryston, McIntosh Laboratory, and Parasound all have outstanding amplifier/preamplifier combos that would work that are priced under $10,000. You can spend more if you want to, but you really don’t need to. Alternatively, there are some super-high-performing integrated amplifiers to consider as well. For example, you could go with the Hegel H590 integrated amplifier-DAC, which Hans Wetzel reviewed for this site in October 2018 -- it is priced at $11,000 and more than surpasses it’s power rating of 301Wpc (8 ohms), with very low distortion. KEF used the H590 to power a pair of Blades at the 2018 High End show, in Munich, and the sound was great, even in a very big room. If it can power the Blades that well, it can power the Blade Twos. McIntosh has the 300Wpc (8 ohms) MA9000 integrated-amplifier DAC, which retails for $10,000. Jeff Fritz reviewed the MA9000 on SoundStage! Ultra one year ago and loved it. Those integrateds are at the high end of the price spectrum, so you could also get something suitable priced quite a bit lower -- even as low as the Pioneer receiver you are considering -- though they are not likely to have that kind of power output that the H590 and MA9000 have. All told, what I want to really stress is that if you’re going to the expense of getting KEF Blade Twos, get all you can from them with a proper amplification setup. . . . Doug Schneider

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