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To Hans Wetzel,
I’ve been reading your great reviews for a while now and see you have a pair of Focal Diablo Utopia Colour Evos in for review. I’ve had a pair [of the original Diablo Utopia] now for four years and am very intrigued to hear what you make of them, as every time I’ve auditioned double- or triple-the-price floorstanding speakers, I still find my Diablos are noticeably better -- so far, to me, they are giant killers. Are the Evos really that much better? I strongly urge you to find a Devialet Expert [integrated amplifier-DAC, which I own] to try with them -- you might be astounded.
I can’t go into too much detail about Focal’s Diablo Utopia Colour Evo since my review has yet to be published, but there are a couple things I can mention. The big one is this: The Diablo Utopia Colour Evo is functionally identical to your Diablo Utopia, with the “Colour Evo” upgrades being entirely cosmetic. So, the Colour Evo version should perform identically to the pair that you’ve enjoyed over the past several years.
A benefit of being one of the biggest names in audio is that Focal’s Utopia loudspeakers can remain untouched for a long period of time and still be competitive with newer competition. Revel has adopted a similar approach with their Ultima2 line, which includes the highly regarded Salon2 and Studio2 models. Performance-wise, I don’t think they’re outclassed or left in the dust by any speaker that I’ve heard in recent memory. Is the Focal a “giant killer,” and does it still represent the state of the art in loudspeaker design? You’ll have to read my review to find out.
By the way, having reviewed Devialet’s Expert 130 Pro, I don’t doubt that your Focal/Devialet tandem is flat-out fantastic. Despite being a few years old, I still believe that Devialet makes state-of-the-art amplifiers, and I’d probably own a pair of Devialet monoblocks if I were exiting the reviewing game today. If I were in your shoes, I would be in zero rush to upgrade either my speakers or my amps. . . . Hans Wetzel
To Jeff Fritz,
I have read with great interest your reviews of the T+A PA 3100 HV [$23,500], McIntosh Laboratory MA9000 [$10,000], and the Luxman L-509X [$9450] integrated amplifiers, and thank you for the comparisons. Very helpful.
I have Wilson Sabrina loudspeakers and use a Bricasti DAC with network board to drive my amp directly. After some mechanical breakdown of my amp, I am in the market for a new integrated.
Which of the three that you reviewed might be the best match for the Sabrinas please?
Appreciate you comments.
These are all fantastic products and each model has strengths. Based on price, the Luxman and McIntosh are the two that would attract me most. From there, it is really a question of taste. Both should drive your Sabrinas with no issue, though the Luxman, at 120Wpc into 8 ohms, is much less powerful than the McIntosh, which will give you up to 300Wpc into the same load. Although these two integrateds do sound different -- which I detailed in my Luxman review -- they have much in common. The only way to decide is to experience them yourself, though I know that is sometimes easier said than done. The good news is that, either one you pick, you’ll have a fantastic amp that should give you many years of pleasure. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I know that the review of the Sonus Faber Olympica Nova III is upcoming, and I recognize that you may not wish to respond to my question before the review is published. But I thought I’d ask anyways. I am just about to put in an order for a pair of them, and wanted to ask your impressions.
Are they worth the asking price, and is there another pair in the price range that you would consider better?
Thank you kindly and best regards,
My review of the Sonus Faber Olympica Nova III loudspeakers will appear on February 1. Although I don’t want to give away the content of my review, I can tell you that you have good taste in speakers and I think you’ll be very happy with your decision. Once the review posts, please do write back with any questions you have. Thanks for reading. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
If you were a very happy owner of a pair of Rockport’s Atria speakers, would you consider trading in for the Atria II?
In your opinion, is the II better enough to justify the expense of making this change? The Atria is ideal for the size of my listening space (12’ x 15’).
Thank you for your advice on arriving at a good decision, from a reader’s standpoint.
I have not heard the Atria II at length, but I do think, based on what I know of the current round of upgrades Rockport has made of its loudspeaker line, that the new model is improved. Although I can’t predict whether the amount of improvement will be worth it to you to spend what is necessary to trade up -- those judgments are always highly personal -- it is a safe bet to say it is a better speaker in several ways.
I’m going to suggest you keep what you have, though. The Atria is a mighty fine speaker, and absolutely ideal for the size of your room. As you can see from watching our recent SoundStage! InSight videos, you have a finely crafted and expertly tested set of speakers. If I were you -- “a very happy owner” -- I’d enjoy what you have and not think too much about upgrading. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I just read your article “My Most Controversial Review Ever.”
Thank you for having written it. We all need writers like you, with independent points of view and unbiased / impartial / non-influenced opinions.
The NHB-108 Model One’s first cry debuted in 1999 in my garage, then was officially introduced in 2002. Twenty years after its inception, it is still in the limelight. I am very happy about this.
The way it reproduces bass was the most controversial thing about it, and it would take more than just a few lines to explain the hows and whys about what is “good bass extension,” both in terms of measured and perceived performances.
At the end, the fact that people talked about this meant that it was something I had to “improve” in order to make an even wider audience be able to fall in love with the NHB-108. Then entered the NHB-108 Model Two, with an entirely revisited audio circuit, which is directly downscaled from the NHB-458, and with some additional -- last-second updates -- tuning, which makes it sound in between the NHB-458 and the very latest NHB-468.
Maybe if you will have the opportunity to listen to it, you will find that it will be worth talking about for the next 20 years to come.
Thank you again for being an active and consistent writer in this audio industry, and at the service of the common holy grail we are all attempting to reach: best possible emotional music reproduction.
With my very best regards, and . . . Happy New Year 2020 !
To Jeff Fritz,
I read with great interest your nice review of the T+A PA 3100 HV, which is on my short list of amplifiers. I have had no chance to listen to it and would like some recommendations. I presently own the Marten Coltrane Alto speakers, which are really fantastic, but are powered by a tube amplifier (Audiomat Aria, 30Wpc class A), which is missing enough power to feed them correctly (even though I like the sound very much). I would like to get your feedback about the combination of Marten Coltrane Alto with T+A integrated amp (PA 3100 HV or PA 3000 HV). Thanks a lot in advance.
The T+A PA 3100 HV is indeed a super-nice integrated amplifier, and one that I would happily have powering my system if I were to go the integrated route. I have little doubt it would match well with your Marten loudspeakers.
The big issue, at least in the United States, is price. When I reviewed the PA 3100 HV, it retailed for $23,500 USD. I also reviewed the Luxman L-509X recently, which retailed for $9450 when I wrote about it, and which I would say is just about equivalent to the T+A in terms of sound and build quality. Obviously, at less than one-half the price, I’d choose the Luxman every day of the week over the T+A. You’ll have to see what the prices of these two products are in France, and of course what the quality of support from your local dealer would be like, in order to make a reasonable comparison. And it goes without saying that listening to these two products is the only way to decide which one sounds better to you. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
I have been itching to rebuild a system from scratch and the story about your new system build inspired me. A lot of the things you said on this and on current hi-fi trends resonated with me. I wanted to ask you, now that you have spent more time with your system, if you are still as enthusiastic? If I’m correct, you are running the Auralic Vega G2 as a streaming DAC-preamp into the Boulder 2060 driving the Vimberg Tonda speakers?
I really like the simplicity of this. I’d like to build a system that’s like this bottle of wine that you open, and it’s directly enjoyable and pleasant and not this fussy-elusive wine that has to have the right temperature, the right glasses, and you have to concentrate to find the notes. I think wine and hi-fi have a lot in common in the sense that there is a lot of snobbery and mine-is-bigger-than-yours kind of thing.
Anyway, I am living in the South of France and don’t have many options to listen to systems: shops don’t carry this or that and the audio shows aren’t necessarily the best for this. And if you ask ten people, you’re gonna get ten different opinions. Similarly to you, I had a crush on Vimberg and wanted to have your opinion since you can’t review your own speakers.
I would be looking at the Vimberg Mino since I have a smaller budget and room and had several questions, if you would be so kind.
Did you have a chance to compare the speaker with and without the diamond tweeter? Which model do you actually have? What do you think the diamond tweeter brings over the standard one (since it is a pricey upgrade)? You essentially have a powerhouse amplifier driving your Vimbergs, but did you experience driving them with less-powerful amps? How hard do you think the Minos are to drive since they’re 4 ohms? Are they fussy to place or no more or less than average? Do you find them to be versatile with different kinds of music? How would you characterize their sound? Which cables are you using and find satisfactory?
My build idea would be similar to yours: Auralic Vega G2 (or similar concept) DAC-preamplifier, Constellation Inspiration Mono 1.0 amplifiers, Vimberg Mino speakers. What do you think about the synergy of these elements? I would probably be running Roon from a MacBook Pro to mostly stream.
Alternatively, would you have any other system recommendations with a similar spirit? I want a pleasant, simple, versatile, resolving, and good bang-for-my-buck system where I can listen to music instead of listening to cables or components.
Thanks for taking the time to read and for your kind input.
My current system consists of the Vimberg Tonda speakers, a Boulder 2060 stereo power amplifier, a Hegel Music Systems HD30 digital-to-analog converter with integral volume control, and an Apple MacBook Pro laptop running Roon and streaming Qobuz. Wire is Siltech Explorer and the rack that supports the Apple and Hegel is an SGR Audio Model III Symphony. Simplicity is very important to me, sound quality is paramount, and I value superior engineering supported by measurements and immaculate build quality.
As such, I can easily see the system you describe being an amazing one. Very rarely would I give a “go for it” right out of the gate from a reader’s letter, but in this case I can’t imagine this setup not being fantastic. There is no question that the Constellation mono amplifiers would drive the Vimbergs with ease, and the Auralic would provide a super-quiet, transparent source signal. If you add good cabling from any of a multitude of brands and a solid rack, you’re in business.
As to the sound quality of the Vimberg Tonda, I’m exactly a year into ownership so it is probably time for an update on that front. Although sometimes you start to get itchy around the year mark to look at something else, I can say with sincerity that I appreciate the Vimberg speakers I own more now than when I originally bought them. The pair of them sound lightning fast, play deep in the bass and with visceral impact, are transparent and neutral to the source signal, and image with great precision and focus. The Tonda is truly a world beater as far as I am concerned. What I know of the smaller Mino model is that it is essentially the same speaker only with smaller drivers. I would assume you could achieve about the same sound quality as with the Tonda, as long as the space is not too large you have enough power -- the Constellation monos would ensure the latter.
As far as my decision to purchase my Tondas with the ceramic tweeters instead of the diamond versions, it came down to a couple of things: first, cost; second, looking at measurements of the Accuton ceramic tweeter I could see that it is capable of solid extension into the very high frequencies and is quite linear. I’ve been happy with that choice, as the HF performance of my Tondas strikes a perfect balance between extension and air, and listenability. I’ve not been tempted to have my pair upgraded. Lastly, placement is no more or less fussy than other speakers I’ve had through my system this past year.
Good luck with your system build, and do write back once you get further along in your buying process. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Jeff Fritz,
First, I want to thank you for the many great reviews you have been providing enthusiasts (including myself!) for years.
If I could ask you for a small request with a simple, honest question. Would Jeff Fritz trade in a Simaudio 700i integrated amplifier for a T+A Elektroakustik PA 3100 HV integrated amplifier? Hoping that the PA 3100 HV is better in all aspects. Much Appreciated.
Pat Del Sordo
What would Jeff Fritz do? Hmm, that’s a bit different than what would I advise you to do. But here goes: I would not make the trade, and here’s why. First, the Moon Evolution 700i retailed for $13,000, and has now been superseded by the v2 version. That means its trade-in value is not as great as it might be if it were a current product. The PA 3100 HV retails for $23,500. That means your out of pocket for the “upgrade” is likely to be well into five figures. If I were putting that kind of money into my system I’d look elsewhere. The 700i is a terrific integrated amplifier and, honestly, probably holds its own versus the T+A in most ways. Might the T+A edge it out in certain respects? Sure, but I’d have to hear a clear advantage in favor of the German amp before spending that kind of money, and I’m not confident that’s what I’d hear.
If it were me, and I had the space, I’d look at separates -- a power amp and a preamp. That’s probably the best way to get a sound-quality upgrade commensurate with the money outlay we’re talking about. So that’s what I would do, but I’d love to hear back when you know what you’re going to do. . . . Jeff Fritz
To Garrett Hongo,
I read your reviews with interest. I’m currently looking for a mono cartridge, and trying to read between the lines, you seemed to like the Ortofon Cadenza perhaps a little better than the Miyajima Premium BE? How would you characterize their sonic differences? Is the Miyajima bolder/more robust? Any other recommendations around this price point or a little above, but not in the $3k-$5k range, which is too rich for what I want to spend?
Thanks for your question and appreciation of these two old reviews of mine on mono cartridges!
To answer you truthfully, “it depends.” If your mono collection is mainly of contemporary reissue material, I can heartily recommend the narrower, line-contact-stylus Ortofon Cadenza Mono cart. If you have more vintage LPs dating from pre-1958, I’d recommend the larger, oval-profile Miyajima Premium BE cart.
For a cartridge equally adept at both eras of LPs, though, pre-’58 vintage and contemporary reissue, I recommend another cartridge completely -- my reference Miyajima Zero ($2150). Mind you, I still have the Cadenza Mono and also an Ortofon SPU Mono CG 25 Di MkII cart and its companion dedicated step-up transformer. I listen to them all. But the Zero is my all-around. I think you’ll be happy with it.
There are also two other versions: the Infinity version that’s $3375 and a 78rpm version for $2250. . . . Garrett Hongo
To Jeff Fritz,
Thanks for your great review of the Auralic Vega G2 DAC. I have had one in my system for a year and am in firm agreement with your observations.
I did take the plunge and added the Leo GX clock. I wanted to demo the unit and see if there was any noticeable difference. I don’t want to disappoint you, but the improvement is just night and day -- as great as the G2 was over the Comet that I used previously, [this is an even greater improvement].
I don’t really understand why, but there is even more clarity and air around instruments, yet the musicality is front and center. Too often I have auditioned equipment that is claimed to be revealing, only to hear that etched, clinical presentation that drives me from the music.
The Leo GX is a revelation and worth an audition. You have to change the interior clock cable in the Vega G2 to use the Leo, but otherwise, it just fits in.
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