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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
To Doug Schneider,
I am currently putting the finishing touches on my system and have a question regarding speaker cables.
My system will be consisting of an NAD C 325BEE integrated amp, a Wadia 171iTtransport iPod dock, Monitor Audio RX1 speakers, plugged into a Torus BX2.5 power conditioner. My current interconnects are TARA Labs Vector 1.
My local dealer carries TARA Labs and I was doing some research online regarding Kimber Kable 8TC and AudioQuest Rocket 44 speaker cables. The cables will be biwired. My question is: Since I can’t demo the Kimber or AudioQuest speaker cables, would I be better buying TARA Labs cables, which I can demo, or the other two brands I can buy online from Audio Advisor for a really good price?
Please offer your opinion on how the AudioQuest or Kimber would suit my system.
I’d never recommend buying something without hearing it, but since Audio Advisor offers a money-back guarantee on the products they sell, you have a good way to minimize risk. (You should check the exact conditions of sale for these products by calling Audio Advisor directly in case there is something that would prevent them from being included in their return policy.)
It’s been a long time since I’ve tried TARA Labs or Kimber Kable cables, so I can’t help you much there, but I’ve long liked AudioQuest because of their reputation for offering high-quality, no-nonsense cables at sensible prices. If I were you, I’d definitely want to at least try out the AudioQuest cables, and possibly the Kimber Kable ones, because you have obviously taken great care in assembling your system so far and shouldn’t leave the last piece of the puzzle to chance. If I were in your shoes, I’d get at least one of those brands in from Audio Advisor (probably AudioQuest if getting two sets isn’t possible) and then compare them to the TARA Labs cables your dealer carries and keep the ones that work best with your setup. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I have a pair of Boston Acoustics A100 speakers from way back when. They’ve pretty much stopped working and I have to replace them. What do you suggest?
They certainly are from way back when. I don’t know which series you have, but they’re decades old and even though they've obviously served you well, it’s a good idea to replace them. It’s impossible to recommend specific speaker models since there’s little information provided, but I will recommend some brands that make excellent, well-priced speakers: PSB, Paradigm, Aperion, Focus Audio, and Amphion. There are many more I could recommend, but that’s a good start and you can find reviews of models from most of them on this site. Send us another e-mail anytime if you have more questions. . . . Doug Schneider
To Colin Smith,
I just read your article on sources, "Audio 101 Part 6: Sources Continued," and I'm actually in the process of watching for a good deal on a new Mac Mini. I have a handful of SACDs and was wondering how I would go about ripping a hi-rez copy to the Mac. Any suggestions?
The problem SACDs have always faced is that they require a proprietary drive to read them, a fact which really limited their mass appeal. Unfortunately, I've never heard of an SACD drive for computers so I doubt you can rip your discs to a PC or Mac. At this point the only way to get high-resolution music onto a computer is to download it or copy it from a DVD disc or other drive, if the files are in a computer-readable format like WAV or FLAC. . . . Colin Smith