Please send all questions to email@example.com. All questions sent to this e-mail address will be replied to online. If you do not wish to share your e-mail with other readers, please do not send it. But if you have a question, chances are others are wondering the same thing. Therefore, you will be helping not only yourself, but other readers as well when your question gets answered here.
To Doug Schneider,
Can you recommend an inexpensive DAC to get into computer audio with? I don’t want to spend over $500. Also, please recommend an inexpensive USB cable.
We actually answered a similar question to this one on April 30, and today our answer would still be the same. We suggest looking at the High Resolution Technology Music Streamer series as well as the Hegel HD2. You can use any ol’ USB cable to start with, but if you want to get into something “audiophile approved,” then look at the offerings from AudioQuest -- their Forest USB cable is only $30. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I am a neophyte fan of hi-fi. I bought the TEAC CR-H500NT a few months ago and I’m interested in understanding how [Thom Moon] used the Linn Majik 1p integrated amplifier in his test. Can I use the CR-H500NT as a preamplifier?
Thank you very much for your attention.
Mr. Luca Cattaneo
You might be new to hi-fi, but you started with a fine piece of equipment -- TEAC’s CR-H500NT is excellent. Thom Moon didn’t actually use the Linn integrated amplifier with the TEAC unit; instead, he used it as a comparison piece to assess performance.
As for using the CR-H500NT as a preamplifier, it was not designed for that purpose. It was designed as an all-in-one receiver that has built-in amplifier and preamplifier stages, can play CDs, and has an AM/FM tuner, in addition to many other features. Enjoy it for as long as you can, then, if one day you aspire to upgrade, look at a dedicated preamplifier and amplifier at that time. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I bought the same preamp [as John] from Big Bird Sound in Vancouver a number of years ago. I don’t know the specs, but I am very happy with it. The sound is excellent. I would like to find the company again to see what else they have, but they may be gone ‘cause I cannot find them.
The origins and current whereabouts of C.K. Audio are mysteries. We posted that e-mail that came in from John along with a picture, but no one wrote in to give us any additional information. We’ve also searched for them and found nothing. So we’re posting your e-mail and maybe someone can tell us more about C.K. Audio, including whether or not they’re around now. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I want to add a USB-capable DAC to my laptop to try out computer audio, but I only have a few hundred dollars to spend. What do you recommend?
High Resolution Technology’s Music Streamer DACs are inexpensive and very popular. Howard Kneller recently reviewed the $149.95 Music Streamer II on SoundStage! Hi-Fi and quite liked it. A new and interesting low-priced DAC is the HD2 from Hegel of Norway. It’s priced at $350. We hope to get the HD2 in for review on GoodSound! soon. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I think I know the answer to this, but I’ll ask the question anyway. I have an old Philips CD player from the ‘80s and, from what I can tell, the laser has quit working. The disc still spins, though. Is it worth trying to repair?
I don’t know which player you have, but I can’t imagine anything of that age being special enough to keep going. So, in my opinion, it’s not worth fixing. Besides, there’s also a good chance that it’s not even reparable at all -- parts for players that old are often next to impossible to find. Time to shop for a replacement. . . . Doug Schneider
Thanks for your Aperion Audio Zonas wireless loudspeaker review. However, my intention would be to use these speakers in my dining room as a set of B speakers with my 7.1-channel Denon home-theater receiver. As such, I was interested in any issues regarding interference, static, signal drift, etc., which your review did not mention at all. Can you please provide any comments on this?
I had absolutely zero issue with interference of any kind. I never had any dropouts or operational quirks at all. Every environment is different, but in my case the wireless connection made by the Zonas system was bulletproof. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Doug Schneider,
This might seem like a dumb question, but here goes: What is a 12V trigger? I keep reading this in reviews, but nobody says what it does.
That's not a dumb question and, you’re right, it is mentioned a lot in reviews, but few reviews describe exactly what it does. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’m guilty of that in some of my reviews.
Trigger inputs and outputs are convenience features used to turn components on and off. They operate at 12 volts, which is what 12V means. For example, a preamp can be used to turn on an amplifier that’s connected to it. Or you could have a CD player trigger a preamp which, in turn, triggers an amp. I suppose if you wanted, you could get trigger-happy and chain a bunch of components together. What you do to make this work is simply run the appropriate wire from one component’s trigger output to another component’s trigger input and, presto, you have the convenience of one-button operation. . . . Doug Schneider
I’ve gotten conflicting advice. One review tells me that a 50Wpc amplifier will be enough power for most people. Another review says that I should look for an amplifier that delivers at least 100Wpc just to be safe. What gives?
I’ll preface this answer with an explanation of amplifier power versus output level For every 3dB increase in output level from your speakers you need to double amplifier power. That means a 100W amplifier will only play 3dB louder than a 50W one, a 200W amplifier will play 3dB louder than a 100W one, and a 400W amplifier will only play 3dB louder than a 200W one! As you can see, you need plenty of power if you really want to crank things up, but not everyone wants to.
How much power you need depends mostly on the sensitivity of the speakers, the size of the room, and how loud you like to play your music. For most people, an amplifier that delivers 50Wpc into 8 ohms will suffice. I’m basing that on the assumption that most people don’t have really big rooms and they don’t play their systems extremely loud. For those that do like to play louder, or have a larger room, or have insensitive speakers, something in excess of 100Wpc might be more suitable. That extra 50W will allow 3dB more output, but it will also give you more headroom, meaning a larger margin of safety before the amplifier hits its limits and is driven into clipping and starts distorting badly. Perhaps that's what the reviewer who said "to be safe" meant. In the end, though, 50Wpc might be more than sufficient, since it depends mostly on the setup and the listening habits of the listener. Therefore, both of those reviews you read might be right. . . . Doug Schneider
To Colin Smith,
I read your article mentioning Decibel in this issue of GoodSound! and was all hot and bothered about extracting myself from all things iTunes, which as you mentioned [and I paraphrase], blows big time. However, after accessing the Decibel website I could find no mention of Macs or which version to use for Macs. Since I assumed that Decibel was plug'n'play, can you educate me on where my ignorance exceeds your knowledge?
The direct link to Decibel is here: http://sbooth.org/Decibel/. If you look down toward the bottom of the page under Requirements it says, "Decibel requires Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later." I see they're charging $33 for it now, which is still a huge bargain given that it sounds as good as four-figure CD players. Thanks for reading. . . . Colin Smith
To Doug Schneider,
I am looking for high-end audio systems based on active powered speakers for a 7.2 system in a 25’ x 20’ x 9’ space. Not only for theoretical reasons, but also for space and aesthetic reasons, I thought one would naturally favor systems which have amplifiers and subwoofers built into the front speakers. But I have not been able to find such speakers. In other words, I would have bought on the spot the Vandersteen 5A if it was fully active as it already has a subwoofer built in, or B&W if they built an amplifier and subwoofer into the 800D. By doing that, we eliminate amplifiers, subwoofers and thick cables, which are eyesores.
By the way, I need in-ceiling rear and side speakers because of a grand piano in one corner and furniture in another. Amazingly, despite what I consider the commonsense approach, I have not been able to find such systems. I would appreciate your advice. Thank you.
You bring up some very good points. First of all, active speaker systems do make a lot of sense, not only for aesthetics, but performance as well. The problem is that audiophiles haven’t been that accepting of them for a variety of reasons, none of which has to do with performance or commonsense. As a result, although you can find active speakers if you look hard enough, they aren’t as prevalent in the market as passive ones.
In-ceiling and in-wall speakers are a different story -- they’re extremely popular and many manufacturers make them, so they’re quite easy to find. The brands I’d look to for these products are Paradigm, PSB, Pioneer and Revel. Although there are many more companies besides these, the offerings from these four are excellent. . . . Doug Schneider
To Kevin East,
Thanks for the review of the MartinLogan Motion system. I had been eyeing the Motion 10s at Future Shop since they started carrying them. While there on an unrelated matter, and talking to one of the salesman I knew in the audio department, I noticed them on sale: $1800 or so for the 10s, a Dynamo 500, a 6, and a pair of 2s, with the idea that I could bring them back if not satisfied. I have been playing them constantly since Sunday and it could be my imagination, but every day they sound better. I am almost at the break-in point and they seem like keepers. Acoustic guitars are as great as with anything else, and I wanted a good home system to throw my recordings on to check my mix with my studio monitors. I can't seem to find fault at all other than it would be great to have a wood grain. I do have some guilt in that I kind of hoped I would end up with a Canadian-made speaker such as Axiom or Paradigm.
From your perspective, and I know I should bring some home for an audition, but how do you think the Motion 10s stack up against the Monitor 7s? You probably get questions like that all the time. "What should I buy? What should I buy?" I teach guitar as well as do some retailing at a local music store and, after a few questions, I am happy to lead people in the right direction. My knowledge base is so much larger.
All in all, the Motions are a big improvement over my Atom v2 surround system, but, wow, that system is great bang for the buck. Also, I primarily use my setup for music. My partner and I take in more live music and listen to more music than any other people I know of, so music is primary over movies.
Thanks again. What a great site!
I have not heard the Monitor 7s, so I can't provide a comparison for you. As far as break-in is concerned, MartinLogan recommends 100 hours minimum -- the review samples were broken-in at the factory, so I didn't have a chance to hear them before that.
Generally, and I won't back off from the old axiom -- so to speak -- trust your ears. Trust what you hear, especially in your own environment. That said, I would also audition the Paradigms in your home, side-by-side with the MartinLogans if that's possible. It's the only way you'll get to a comparison that you can hear.
Décor is matter of taste. Sound is a matter of judgment.
Some time ago I was in the market for a new acoustic guitar, and the choice came down to a pretty nice Ibanez and a very nice Takamine (F series). The Ibanez had a punch to it the Takamine didn't, and the Takamine was quite a bit more. The salesman, a friend, said, "I know the Ibanez sounds sexy [looked sexier, too!], but the Takamine is simply a better-made guitar on too many levels." I bought the Takamine; still play it pretty much every day. Speakers are different. Sometimes you get what you pay for, and sometimes the difference in price isn't readily or even eventually apparent. That's why you trust your ears. Guitars and speakers are different.
Paradigm makes great speakers. So does MartinLogan. Go with the ones that you enjoy the most. I sent the MartinLogans back with a massive twinge of regret -- they were that good. But I have too much around here as it is, so a hard decision was a bit easier. I'm glad you like the site. We do too. Kindest regards. . . . Kevin East