E-mail us: feedback@soundstage.com

His backup plan

August 25, 2010

Thanks for a very thoughtful and detailed backup plan ("The Backup Plan, Part Two: Staying Safe"). My own plan is somewhat different: I use my desktop computer, hardwired to my Internet modem, to download or rip music files. The files remain on my desktop hard drive, although sometimes still zipped (if that compression scheme is used); I don't play music on the desktop computer.  

I back up the hard drive periodically to an external USB hard drive, which is only turned on for backups. Then I transfer the files via USB flash drive or wireless network to my music server, a laptop computer. From there, I copy the files to the USB drive used by my second music server. So there are four copies of the music files, which I think are enough.  

Unlike your process, however, I don't use offsite storage. I suppose I could easily and cheaply get another drive or two, make periodic backups to those drives, and store them in my bank box or at a friend's place. Ideally, I'd have one backup drive at home and one offsite, rotating them periodically. I'm not sure I'm disciplined enough to do that, although I certainly appreciate the extra level of security it would provide. 

Regarding your comments on Seagate versus Western Digital disks, your experience mirrors mine, although I've never had a hard drive that didn't eventually fail. 

Vade Forrester
The SoundStage! Network 

The "ultimate" stand-mounted speaker

August 19, 2010

Iím looking for the ultimate stand-mounted speaker, a cost-no-object design. Youíve reviewed many two-way speakers. I am considering the Magico Mini II, Wilson Audio Duette, and YG Acoustics Anat Reference Main Module. I havenít listened to any of them yet. Which one do you recommend?

Tom Douglas 

Would it surprise you if I said none of them? Thatís because Iím assuming that by saying "ultimate" and "cost-no-object," you donít just want something with a high price tag, but high performance as well. Not all of them qualify, which Iíll explain.

Of all those, Iíd say the Magico Mini II is the best, although Iím not 100 percent sure Magico even makes it anymore. The problem with it is the price. The last time I looked, they wanted upwards of 30 grand for it. Is any two-way speaker worth that much? Iíd have a hard time spending that amount given how many other great two-ways are on the market. But, admittedly, I havenít reviewed that speaker, so maybe Iím wrong. On the other hand, I asked Magicoís Alon Wolf for a review sample a couple of years ago and he declined and elected to send their brand-new V2 model instead, which, I must say, is an excellent design.

I reviewed the Anat Reference Main Module and found a lot to like about it -- except the price and the lack of bass. I donít know how much it sells for today, but it was $27,000/pair when I reviewed it and that, like the Mini II, is too much to spend when there are other speakers that can better it.

I donít think Wilsonís Duette speaker is very good at all. When we reviewed it, it sold for $12,000/pair without stands. I listened to the single speaker we had here to measure in my listening room (in mono, of course), and then compared it to six other stand-mounted speakers I had on hand, ranging from $5000 (KEFís Reference 201/2) to $250 (Paradigmís Atom Monitor v.5) per pair. They were all far, far better than the Duette in many ways. I found the Duette to have severe midrange colorations that make voices sound very unnatural, an upward-tilted treble balance that makes it sound thin and light, and very little bass despite using a woofer thatís at least 8" across. The resistor and cable tweaks that the company supplies to accommodate near-wall and free-field setup do very little to fix anything. I've heard the Duettes in other setups and noticed the same thing. Our own S. Andrea Sundaram reviewed the speaker and thought it sounded decent enough, but that was after Peter McGrath came from the Wilson factory and worked hard to set up a pair in the room to get them sounding respectable. In general, really good loudspeakers don't need all that work. 

What should you buy? I can think of a few dozen options, but Iíll point you to one speaker I already mentioned for a good starting point: KEFís Reference 201/2. In my opinion, it has more technology and versatility than all those speakers combined, and at a price thatís far lower. That recommendation might surprise people who think that speakers with a higher price automatically sound better, but when youíve reviewed speakers as long as I have, you realize that price doesnít correlate with performance. Read my review of the 201/2 if you want to learn more. . . . Doug Schneider

B&W upgrade

August 12, 2010

To Randall Smith,

After researching over the Internet I was pleased to see an objective review of the B&W 684s. If you have the time to reply, I would appreciate it very much. 

I currently have the second-generation 602 (bookshelf, 1" tweeter, 6.5" mid/bass driver). I love these speakers . . . the imaging and midrange, to my ears, are spot on. You noted in the review: "This allows the 684ís midrange driver to combine with the woofer to produce the low bass; the 684 is thus capable of being played louder and with less distortion in the bass than a comparable two-driver loudspeaker."

I love the imaging of my current 602 speakers. Do you think I would get equal imaging with the 684s, and an even more pure midrange? 

My goal is to further expand the soundstage with the 684s (augmenting it with a Hsu subwoofer). But, I also would really like to keep the solid imaging intact that I get with the 602s and get a more pure midrange than I currently get (since the 602 has a combined mid/bass driver).



I have no doubt that the 684s will be a nice step up from your beloved 602s. Bookshelf speakers are known for their ability to image well and it sounds like your B&W bookshelf speakers provide that quality for you. The 684s should be able to image as well, plus, with the extra driver, the speaker will sound bigger and provide more of a bottom-end foundation. Since you are pairing the speaker with a sub this may not be a big deal to you.

As far as the midrange goes, it appears that both speakers use the same 6.5" Kevlar cone, but the 684's midrange driver is assisted with the lower frequencies by a third driver. This means that the midrange driver of the 684 doesnít have to work quite as hard because it shares the load in the bass. Because of this, my guess is that the 684s may have a purer midrange. However, I have to admit that I have never heard the 602s! My advice would be to audition a pair, if you can, and let your ears make the final decision. . . . Randall Smith

Powering the Polks

August 6, 2010

To Doug Schneider, 

Beautiful review written by you of Polk's LSi9 loudspeakers. Please suggest with your wisdom a matching amplifier as I play at loud volume levels. 

Kindest regards, 

Sumant Sharma 

You haven't told me how much money you'd like to spend or if you want a power amplifier or integrated amplifier. I'll go with the assumption you want something priced in line with the speakers, which retail for about $1000 per pair, and I'll present two options.

If you like to play music really loud, then you need to make sure you have ample headroom so the amplifier doesn't run out of steam and clip, which sends nasty driver-damaging distortion to your speakers. In my opinion, you need something that delivers at least 150Wpc. I think that Anthem's Integrated 225 integrated amplifier would work great. The Integrated 225 is rated to deliver 225W into 8 ohms and costs about $1500. If you want only a power amplifier, NAD's C 275BEE stereo amplifier is another option. The C 275BEE retails for $1200 and is rated to deliver 150W into 4 or 8 ohms continuously, and is claimed to deliver dynamic-power peaks of 250W and 410W into 8- and 4-ohm loads, respectively. . . . Doug Schneider

A joke?
August 4, 2010

To Doug Schneider:

I have a question: How can you say that the Revel Salon2 is the best speaker out there when you haven't even reviewed something from Wilson Audio Specialties? Sorry, sir, until you have you cannot make that claim. What a joke.
Trevor Heath
I have an answer! First, I never said that the Salon2 is the best thing out there. I simply said that it's the best passive loudspeaker I've heard in my room. However, in the 15 years I've been reviewing, I've heard a lot of speakers, whether it's in my listening room, at shows, in factory listening rooms, or in other listening rooms. I've heard all the Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy models from the 6 to the 8, and even the new Sasha. I've also heard the MAXX Series 2 and MAXX Series 3 as well as the Duette. I've even heard the original Alexandria X-2 right beside the newer Series 2 version in David Wilson's own listening room. The model I'm least familiar with is the Sophia. I heard the original and Series 2 versions, but I haven't heard the Series 3 that's just been released. Enough experience with the Wilson line for you? 

That said, I've heard some of Wilson's speakers sound quite good. Some. However, in my opinion, none of them delivers close to what I consider state-of-the-art sound, and Iíve long believed that theyíre priced too high for the performance offered. None of their models has come close to rivalling the transparency, neutrality and refinement that I hear from the Revel Salon2, some of the reasons I rate that speaker so high. None -- and that's no joke. . . . Doug Schneider