Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

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To Doug Blackburn,

I read your review of the different AudioQuest USB cables, and I think that you made a very good analogy. It is 100 percent in agreement with the difference that I've found in other digital cables.

You may also find this interesting: I had an experience a few years ago with the top-of-the-line digital transport and DACs from Esoteric. I went to an event held by a dealer who operates out of his own home -- he is also a concert pianist. There were a number of audiophiles there, since these were the first units in the US. Later on in the evening, after many people had gone home, we went out to dinner -- the dealer, the representative from Esoteric, the guy from Stealth Cables, myself, and my friend who had just joined us. We got onto talking about different digital cables and also the rubidium master clock in the system. After dinner, we went back to the dealer's house and played around a bit. The differences were not only obvious to the trained audiophiles, but also to my friend. She couldn't care less about audiophile equipment, but she is a violinist. She latched on to the sound of the violin in a concerto we played. She said of the better cables, "I hear more of the bow sound." When it came to the rubidium master clock, the differences were also not subtle. We even did an unexpected blind test, because they were figuring out how to reroute the cables. At first, we didn't hear any real difference. When we went to switch back, we realized that the master clock hadn't been operating. When it was turned on, boom, more focus and more texture to the violin sound.

The difference probably has something to do with timing, even though, as you pointed out, that shouldn't matter when everything is re-clocked. But most audiophiles agree that it does.

S. Andrea Sundaram
Contributor, The SoundStage! Network

To Doug Schneider,

I’m shopping for my first pair of speakers and I’m wondering if I should look for a soft- or hard-dome tweeter. Some people tell me that the soft domes sound better. Is this true?

David Trell

This question comes up every so often because generalizations do get made about the various tweeter diaphragm materials. Soft-dome tweeters are usually made from silk and are said to have a “sweeter” high-frequency sound. That character has a bit to do with the way the silk dome breaks up in the highest frequencies. Hard-dome tweeters usually have a metal-based dome and break up differently. Aluminum, titanium, and beryllium are common materials used today. Many people feel that each of those materials has a characteristic sound, with beryllium usually being described as the smoothest-sounding because its first break-up mode is much higher than the audio band. The problem with beryllium is that it’s very expensive, so you tend to only find it used on pricey speakers. Aluminum and titanium, which are much cheaper, and are used often in lower-priced speakers, show break-up behavior much closer to the audio band, so some people find these to be a touch harsh if the designer hasn’t done anything to tame these resonances. There are other materials as well, even diamond, but there's no need to get into all that here!

Although I’ve found that some of these generalizations about the sound of each material are somewhat true, what’s more important is the overall driver design. For example, one of the best-sounding tweeters I’ve heard is in Vivid Audio’s speakers and it uses an aluminum dome. Their engineers did some clever things to generate the smoothest sound possible from this material. But I’ve also found great-sounding titanium-, beryllium- and silk-dome designs as well. And I’ve heard some bad ones. The key here isn’t to focus on the dome material, but, instead, on the final result. In other words, what it sounds like. The way to test that is, of course, with your ears, so don't discount any speaker you're shopping for just because of what the tweeter is made of. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

Thank you for posting a very informative and helpful response to my question regarding a Simaudio Moon DAC upgrade.

I am very much satisfied with my Moon i-1 and CD-1 but was curious whether a potential DAC purchase for the Sony Blu-ray would benefit the existing Moon components as well. Good thing you mentioned that very few DACs can handle Direct-Stream Digital (DSD) for SACD playback. I now realize that most external DACs are aimed at computer-based audio and perhaps few, if any, will ever incorporate decoding for DSD. Hopefully some DACs eventually will.

Based on my experience with my own Moon i-1 and CD-1, I suspect that the Moon 300D is a fabulous DAC at its price point. My decision will be based on what I intend to use a DAC for at  this time. Noting it (and the competition) cannot accept digital data from an SACD disc player, I may elect for the less-expensive Moon 100D simply to better enjoy uncompressed PCM from the Sony Blu-ray player. Also, I might explore the Oppo BDP-95 universal Blu-ray player, which can also play SACD and DVD-Audio discs. The Oppo has better onboard DACs than the much-less-expensive Sony.


I think you’re wise to look at an all-in-one SACD player to improve DSD playback. Oppo makes great universal players that not only play SACDs, but basically every other disc format there is. They are also very reasonably priced, so that’s as good a place as any to start. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

I own a Simaudio Moon i-1 integrated amplifier, Moon CD-1 disc player, and a budget-but-decent Sony BDP-S370 Blu-ray player (2010 vintage) that also plays SACDs.

I have been considering purchasing a separate DAC to elevate the sound quality from this Sony Blu-ray player in order to better enjoy SACDs and the higher-resolution (uncompressed) stereo tracks from various concert Blu-ray Discs. (This Sony Blu-ray is equipped with an optical digital output.)

GoodSound! has a very positive review (June 2010) of the Simaudio Moon 300D DAC and other publications have given favourable reviews to the less-expensive Moon 100D.

Here is my question: If I were also to drive the Moon 300D DAC with my Moon CD-1 transport, will the 300D provide an appreciable improvement over the Moon CD-1's onboard DAC? (The CD-1 is equipped with a coaxial digital output.)


Canada’s Simaudio has made quite a name for itself in recent years by producing well-regarded CD players and DACs, but we have no idea if the 300D external DAC will show a marked improvement over the DAC that is already in the CD-1 -- none of our reviewers has made that comparison. You should know that even though the 300D is capable of decoding PCM music files up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution, your CD-1’s transport can only read CDs, so you will be limited to standard 16-bit/44.1kHz playback if you use the CD-1 and 300D today. The 300D will also not play back DSD files, which is the file format that SACD is based on, even if you connect it to your Blu-ray player (very few DACs do). The 300D will allow you to stream higher-resolution PCM music files from a computer source, but only if you’re able to connect to its S/PDIF coaxial or TosLink inputs, since its USB input only supports 16-bit/48kHz resolution. Obviously, that’s a lot of information to digest, but I hope that what I’ve explained helps you to make a decision. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

I haven’t bought any stereo equipment in years. What do you recommend for a good floorstanding loudspeaker under $1000 per pair?

David Richards

I can recommend many, but, in the end, it’s you who has to live with them and who must ultimately decide. I won’t recommend any models, only brands I’d consider first if I were in your shoes: Aperion Audio, Axiom Audio, Paradigm, PSB, and B&W. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

My CD player and DAC have RCA coaxial and TosLink optical connectors. Which one is the best to use?

Mark H.

In general, audiophiles favor the coax over optical because it usually has lower jitter (i.e., less timing errors). In reality, though, it also depends on the implementation with each component. Therefore, to really know you’d have to try each one out. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

I confess that I really didn’t know what I was doing when I started ripping CDs. It was only after 100 or so discs that I realized that I was making MP3s. I know that I am supposed to rip to WAV or FLAC. Is there any way to convert these MP3 files to WAV or FLAC?

Thomas Hart

MP3 is a “lossy” format, meaning that it discards data during the ripping process that cannot be retrieved later. WAV and FLAC are “lossless” formats, meaning that no data is lost during the rip. Although you can convert an MP3 file into a WAV or FLAC file, it won’t bring back the data that was already discarded. Unfortunately, what you’re going to have to do is go through the ripping process again for all those discs, if you want the resolution that the original CD offered. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

Whenever I play bass-heavy music, I hear a scratching sound in one woofer, as if metal is scraping. I don’t have to play it loud to make it happen. Do you have any idea what it is?

Robert Regan

Yes, I had a similar thing happen with bass-heavy music with one of my speakers that I owned about 25 years ago. One track that I could always play and hear it with was “Fallen Angel” from Robbie Robertson’s self-titled 1987 release. That track opens with very deep bass and little else, so it's easy to isolate the problem. Your description mirrors what I heard -- a metal-on-metal scraping sound. The technician I took it to thought it was the woofer's voice coil scraping against the magnet. The company replaced the driver and the problem was fixed. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

Please can you guide me if the Heco Victa 501 speakers are good for a room size of 10 x 11. Also, some reviews on performance would be great.


I don’t really know anything about Heco, so I looked at their website and ended up downloading their PDF-based catalog to find out about the company and their speakers. I learned from the site that they’re a German company and they have quite a few speakers across a number of lines. Their speakers look interesting.

Victa appears to be their entry-level line and the 501 is their smallest floorstander in it. The 501 is a two-and-a-half-way design with a frequency response rated from 28Hz to 38kHz. I am guessing that the “10 x 11” in your letter refers to the length and width of your room in feet and not meters. That’s a pretty small room; however, with careful setup of the speakers it could work well enough. If that’s actually meters, then that’s well over 30’ x 40’ and you’d likely need a much larger speaker to pressurize the room appropriately. We obviously don’t have any past reviews of Heco and don’t have any future ones with this brand lined up. Sorry I can’t be of more help. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

I enjoyed the review of Dual CS 435-1 turntable by John Crossett, published August 2008. I have been looking for a new or “like-new” Dual CS 435 for some time and cannot find one. If there is anybody who knows of a retail source for Dual turntables, I would greatly appreciate it if they would pass this information along to me. Thanks for your help with this.

Marsh Adams

It’s funny that you mention Dual because I was thinking about the brand the other day when I was trying to recall the name of the Canadian distributor that was showing their turntables at Salon Son & Image 2010 in Montreal. The Dual brand obviously goes way, way back. The distributor’s name is AudioScape and they can be found online at You might also want to check out Doctor Dual, which is located in Canada as well. I found Doctor Dual through a Google search and it seems that they recondition Dual turntables. . . . Doug Schneider

To Ron Doering,

I enjoyed reading your review of the Musical Fidelity M6i integrated amplifier, and was pleased to learn the power doubles into 4 ohms and again into 2 ohms. I am using the Aerial Acoustics Model 6 speaker, which likes lots of power.

I was wondering if you are also familiar with Musical Fidelity’s M6PRE preamp and M6PRX power amp, and if they offer major sonic advantages over the M6i? I will not be able to compare the integrated and separates.  The company claims the amp produces 260Wpc, and two lab tests I found measured 220Wpc and 230Wpc, but maybe other specs are more important.

Mark Lombardi

Thanks so much. I have not heard the M6 separates, but I don’t think power alone is enough of a differential to make the case for them. Sixty watts simply is not going to be sufficient to make a significant audible difference. However, there are features offered in the M6PRE that are not available in the M6i, including a phono stage (MM/MC) and an additional set of balanced inputs. If these features are important to you then I think the M6 separates become a more compelling option. Good luck! . . . Ron Doering