Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

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I currently own a pair of Quad 21L speakers that I partner with a couple of integrated amps (Rega Elicit and PrimaLuna ProLogue 2). The setup sounds fine, but I am considering buying another pair of speakers with the goal of achieving a lower bass response, an engaging and rhythmic sound, yet without any shrillness.
I believe Eric D. Hetherington has quite a lot of experience with the Quad 21Ls. I wonder if he has heard the PMC GB1s and the Totem Hawks as well. If yes, could he please share his experience regarding these speakers compared to the Quad 21Ls.
Thanks and regards,


Eric reviewed the Quad 21L in 2004; however, he no longer writes for us. But I think we can still help.

I have no idea how much money you’re willing to spend on your speakers, or if you’re concerned with buying new versus used, but there are other brands that you should be looking at if finding the best speaker for the money is a priority.  All of the speakers you mention have been on the market for quite some time and, at least to my ears, can be bettered significantly by the newest offerings from companies such as Paradigm, PSB, Focus, Dynaudio, and more. For example, there are numerous modestly priced speakers that can deliver deep, tight, low-distortion bass. If “shrillness” is a concern, I strongly suggest that you look at the newest Signature series from Paradigm that features beryllium-dome tweeters. Their tweeter is state of the art and outperforms the tweeters used on many ultra-expensive, boutique-brand speakers that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. My suggestion is to not limit yourself to just those brands you’re mentioning but to go out and do some serious shopping to find the best that’s currently out there.

I want to know if there is a simple way to rig up my Technics SA-203 receiver so that I can hook up speakers with RCA cables rather than the raw-wire standard connections. I've attached a photo of the back of the amp for reference.

Thanks in advance for any help.


You don’t want to use RCA-terminated cables for speaker-level connections -- those are for connecting line-level components to your receiver, such as a CD player or a tuner. There are, however, alternatives to bare wire for connecting your speakers.

I looked at the picture you sent and from what I can tell the speaker connectors on the back have holes that can probably accommodate banana-plug connectors. I prefer good-quality banana plugs over all other connection types because they’re easy to connect and they don’t slip loose. If those holes won't accomodate bananas, I’m pretty sure that if you unscrew the connector you’ll see a hole in the binding post that can either accommodate a banana plug or a pin connector, which is another way to terminate speaker wires. If the binding posts won’t allow for pins or bananas (I’m pretty sure they will allow for at least one of the types), them I’m sure they’ll allow spade lugs, which are placed around the post and clamped down by screwing the plastic part tight.

Does anyone make stereo integrated amplifiers anymore? I went to Best Buy and couldn’t find any. I could only find surround-sound receivers. I am not into home theater. What do you suggest?

Hugh Burritt

Stereo integrated amplifiers are getting tougher and tougher to find, but they’re out there. Anthem, NAD and Cambridge Audio all make good ones. You won’t find those brands at Best Buy, but you will likely find them at a specialty retailer if you look around.

The binding posts on the back of my amplifier are quite loose. They’re not causing a problem, mind you, because music still plays through fine. But is it dangerous?

Claude Beaumont

I think it’s safe to assume that anything loose on a piece of audio component could be a hazard. So, definitely, tighten ‘em up. It should be a fairly easy job providing the posts aren't damaged or too worn. Depending on your level of technical proficiency, it might be something you can do yourself (please make sure the amplifier is unplugged if you try). Otherwise, find a technician.


I'm looking at installing a PA in a 350-seat auditorium that is 17m wide by 19m deep by 7m high.

I have my eyes on some good mid-fi speakers I believe are 600W, but am unsure how many I need and what amps I should get. Given the speakers are quite directional I'm thinking I will need up to six speakers.

Should I run two sets of three speakers, or three pairs with another two in the center? What amp(s) should I be looking at?


Mark Brown

The needs for a public-address sound system, which is what you're setting up, are a lot different than that of a sound system for the home, which is what we're most concerned with. So you're best off consulting with companies that specialize in public-address systems. They should be able to direct you to the right products and help you get it set up properly.

I have been a long time reader of GoodSound!, being someone who enjoys quality sound but does not have the budget that some audiophiles seem to have. I usually stop by every couple of months to see what is up in the world of affordable audio -- but the top article I see today ["Crystal Cable Piccolo Interconnects, Speaker Cables, and Power Cords"] makes me wonder if the writers seem to have somewhere lost their touch with their audience.

How exactly do $1300/pair speaker cables and $385 power cords come under the realm of affordable high-performance audio? Those speaker cables run more than the main speakers I have in my system (PSB Image 6T -- very nice speakers when I bought them, and still doing very nicely in my system).

There has always been a large number of sites and magazines devoted to the high-end, high-priced audio set -- and I always looked forward to seeing what GoodSound! would show in the affordable section, while letting us know what we were giving up by not going with the higher-end equipment. I'm just wondering if you are planning on returning to the world of actually affordable or if this is what you are claiming passes for affordable these days.

Nicholas Schumacher

You make some valid comments and ask some good questions. In fact, we expected that many of the things you mentioned would get brought up, so we're glad you wrote in.

You’re correct in stating that Crystal Cable’s products certainly aren’t cheap -- $1300 for a pair of speaker cables is a lot of money. However, the decision to review these items came because of two things. First, the Piccolo series is the least expensive series that Crystal makes -- the prices of the items in this Dreamline series, which is the most expensive, would leave most people slack-jawed. So, in Crystal's world, these represent their most "affordable" products, even if they’re still out of reach for many. Second, Colin Smith, our editor, really liked the products and wanted to write about them, feeling that for those who desire what Crystal offers, but can’t afford the most expensive stuff, these are a viable option. In fact, Colin told me that he wanted to purchase the review items because he liked them so much (as did his wife), but confessed that even he couldn’t afford them. So the review set is being shipped back to Holland right now, which is where Crystal Cable is based.

Hopefully that shows that we’re not losing our focus, knowing full well that the price of these products is out of reach for many. But we also know that they will be in reach for some, and for those few, Colin contends that they should check them out. Next month, though, it’s back to the basics. On June 1, we’re publishing a review on the Benchmark Media Systems DAC1 HDR that is priced at $1895. That's not cheap, either, but it combines a digital-to-analog converter, preamplifier, and headphone amplifier into one compact, lightweight chassis and is really, really good.

I am running an NAD T 753 receiver into an Earthquake Sub-80 subwoofer via a normal subwoofer pre-out. The rest of my system is set up as a 5.1 unit in the usual way. Whenever I make any function changes through the receiver (i.e., muting, listening mode, etc.), I get a loud (depending on volume level) thump through the subwoofer (not the other speakers). I have been putting up with this, thinking it's normal; however, it is very annoying and I am seeking a fix.

Any help or advice would be appreciated.



What's happening is not normal. So we talked to the techs at NAD and they feel that the T 753 is likely the culprit -- there's something wrong with it, although they couldn't tell exactly what based on this information. Their recommendation is to take the T 753 into a NAD dealer for service.

I have a pair of Sonus Faber Concerto Grand Piano speakers, so they're a bit aged. I was thinking of getting or doing a crossover refurb. Nothing drastic, just component upgrades. Or should I use the same parts? How hard would it be to do it myself?


Harry Nelson

Unless there's actually something wrong with the crossover, I caution against changing it at all. If you do, your "upgrade" could actually degrade the speaker. The reason I'm against it is because I know that when good companies design and manufacture speakers, each part is carefully chosen and every unit is tested after assembly to make sure it performs like they want it to. Changing any part could drastically change the performance of the speaker, and with no follow-up testing, you'll never know that what you did actually made it any better. As I said, unless there's something wrong, I wouldn't change anything. If there is something wrong, contact Sonus Faber to make sure it gets repaired correctly.

I am reading where some companies are recommending more than one sub. Why? Is it to play the bass louder?


Two (or more) subs will play louder than one, but the main reason multiple subs are getting recommended is to achieve smoother bass response in the room. Although bass frequencies are omnidirectional and, in theory, one sub seems like it should be enough, in practice two or more subs placed strategically in a room work better.

Nice review on the JL Audio sub. The problem is that I can't afford it. What subs do you recommend for under $1000?

Richard Flemmings

The f110 is the cheapest sub JL Audio makes. But prior to reviewing the JL Audio Fathom f110, we reviewed the Elemental Designs A5-350 that sells for $800. Four other brands I'd definitely check out before you make a final decision are Paradigm, Axiom, Aperion Audio and Velodyne. The all have models that fit your budget.


I am buying a new pair of speakers. Should I buy speakers with a soft-dome tweeter, or ones where the tweeter is made out of a hard dome such as aluminum?

Rick Robinson

Some generalizations about tweeters can be made. For example, metal-dome tweeters such as aluminum tend to have higher-frequency break-up modes than, say, silk-dome tweeters that will start deforming at a lower frequency. However, when the aluminum dome breaks up, it does so much more severely and this usually shows up as a spike in a frequency-response chart, often within the audible range. Silk-dome tweeters break up more gently, and some feel that makes them more pleasing to the ear even when it's still in the audio band. Another generalization that's made today is that the best tweeters use beryllium and diamond for their domes. Their break-up modes are super-high.

The truth of the matter is that while there is some truth to that stuff, a lot comes down to the implementation of the technology and, overall, how the speaker has been designed. Editor-in-chief Jeff Fritz recently told us that he compared two speakers, one with a beryllium-dome tweeter and another with a dome made from silk. They're both outstanding speakers, he said, with high-frequency performance that's roughly the same. Moral of the story: put most of the weight on what you hear, not what the dome is made from.