Legacy link:
legacy_200w
This new site was launched in July 2010. Visit the older site to access previous articles by clicking above.

We welcome all feedback. If you'd like to make a comment on an article or ask any questions, please e-mail feedback@soundstageultra.com. If your letter is selected for publication, your name will be printed but your e-mail address will NOT be.

To Jeff Fritz,

I’ve read a lot of great reviews of the Magico Q7s and hope to hear them one day. I'm wondering about which amps will fit them best. What do you think about the Boulder 3050, Pass Labs Xs 300, Tenor  Audio 350M, Constellation Audio Hercules -- or maybe other suggestions -- with, of course, preamps to match? Hope to hear from you.

Kind regards,
Derk Jan Aukema

As of right now, the best amplifier I have ever heard on the Magico Q7s is the Gryphon Audio Designs Mephisto. Of course, you’ll be able to read a lot more about my experiences with this heavyweight combo in my upcoming Mephisto review right here on Ultra Audio. But suffice to say that the Gryphon/Magico marriage is quite something; it would shock many audiophiles to hear its sheer realism. As for preamps, I would think the matching Pandora preamp would be ideal.

As for the other brands and models on your list, I’m sure the Pass Labs amps are extremely good, and there are a number of audiophiles I know who have successfully paired Constellation gear with Magico speakers. Those would be obvious choices when developing a short list of electronics to audition. The Boulder 3000-series products are, in all likelihood, stunning, but it is the reboot of their 2000-series amps that I’m most interested in. The 2050/2060 amplifiers have been around for 20-plus years or thereabouts, so it will be interesting to see how the company improves such a successful product series. So right now, my top choices would revolve around Gryphon and Boulder, and finally Ayre Acoustics at a much lower price point. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I have been reading your valuable opinions on Ultra Audio and after auditioning the Rockport Avior speakers, I am tilted into purchasing them. Now the question I want to ask you is that if you were to build a perfect system around the Avior, what would the components be? Your previous comments show that you prefer Gryphon preamplifiers and power amplifiers. However, I cannot decide on the specific model in their lineup. I tried to just purchase everything off your “TWBAS” list, but it seems like overkill for these speakers. I would like a perfect system -- not overkill. Basically, I want “TWBAS” around the Avior. With that in mind, can you advise me on building a music system around the Avior? Could you list the makers and their specific models?

Best regards,
Ji Chung

I would look at three specific models if I were in your shoes. First would be the Gryphon Antileon Signature Stereo. While this model has been around for some time, it is a timeless machine that I think would mate particularly well with the Avior -- Rockport’s Andy Payor uses one himself, so I know the synergy exists. The second unit I would look at would be the Boulder 1060. This 300Wpc stereo unit is clean and powerful sounding and I know it also has great synergy with Rockport -- not only have I used this combination myself, but we have a current writer, Ryan Coleman, who uses a 1060 with his Rockports. Lastly, I would listen to the Ayre Acoustics MX-R monoblocks. These units are also 300W and are some of the most natural-sounding amplifiers I’ve ever heard. Between these three models you simply can’t go wrong. I’d pair each of these amplifiers with preamps from the same companies.

I am sure your decision will be partially guided by what is available locally to you and the support you feel you’ll get from your dealer or distributor. What I can tell you is that, along with the great sound each component offers, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with all three companies when it comes to service and support. Let me know what you end up choosing. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I was kind of surprised to see that you left out the Classé CA-M600 mono amps and CP-800 preamp-processor from your list of what you would buy. Have you had a chance to hear those products and you are not a fan?

Here's an off-the-wall question for you: my friend has a pair of TAD CR1s and he is going bonkers trying to find the right amps for them (too much listener fatigue at the moment, I guess, due to the high frequencies). Any recommendations?

Thanks,
Mike Bovaird

The Classé products are very impressive, and I have heard nothing but good things about the CA-M600 mono amplifiers (and CP-800 for that matter). In fact, had I thought of them at the time that I wrote my article I very well might have included them.

My "What I'd Buy" articles are not meant to be anywhere near comprehensive, though. There are tons of worthy products out there -- particularly electronics -- that I have simply not heard. The components that I listed are literally what I would buy at various price points if I were shopping today. These recommendations are based on my own experiences and those of our writing staff as detailed in the reviews that appear on the various SoundStage! Network sites. The omission of Classé is by no means an indictment on the quality of those products.

As to your friend and his CR1s, there is at least one obvious candidate that I would be tempted to try and that is TAD's own M2500. There may be some synergy there based on the fact that both products were developed by the same company and no doubt used together during testing and internal evaluation. Other brands that come to mind are of course the ones I mention in my "What I'd Buy: Power Amplifiers" article. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

Please, can you advise me on my system?

It consists of the Audio Research Reference 210 power amps, the Reference 5 preamp, and I have just purchased a dCS front end, although I believe that you are not that keen on it.

I am thinking of purchasing Magico Q7s, however, as you are aware, they are a substantial investment and I cannot afford to get it wrong. My room dimensions are 4.5m x 6.2m.

I have listened to them numerous times at the dealer and find them amazing and have fallen in love with them. But I would appreciate your advice, or any other speaker that you may suggest.

I have listened to the Q5 as well, but was not that impressed -- but that was at a different dealer. I used to own the Wilson Sasha, but they also never worked for me and I'm not sure why. Thank you.

Alan

Your room is on the smallish side at roughly 15' x 20' for a speaker the size of the Q7, but I still do believe it might work out just fine. The sealed design seems to avoid speaker-generated fat, bloated bass at all costs. Will it exacerbate any room modes? Surely you'll have to work with positioning -- as you would with any full-range speaker -- and room treatment would certainly be a wise investment.

Still, if you are looking for the highest-resolution speaker available, the Q7 is it. It topped my list of speakers that I would personally buy over $15,000/pair. I really can't say much more about it. You've no doubt read my review of the Q7 and my opinion has not changed a bit.

Regarding dCS, I actually do think they make some of the finest digital gear available. I used the Debussy as a reference for a year and a half and never wanted for more. My issue is the pricing, particularly the Vivaldi line. I have a hard time understanding how you can spend $35,000 for a DAC and still need a separate $14,000 clock and $20,000 upsampler to get the best sound out of it. To me that just seems insane. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I have zeroed-in on the Sonus Faber Venere 3.0 and was glad to read I have chosen well. Your review was most helpful to me.

If you could help me further I'd be much appreciative. I am finally able to buy a system that is not boxed together like my previous stuff. In the future, I do not want to mess around with surround sound. I would like the SF Veneres to be my speakers, but do not know what to run them with.

I do like the option of radio. So I think I want a receiver. It would not matter if I had to add that later. I also want to listen to CDs and iPods and watch movies.

If you would be so kind as to recommend the components that would maximize the SF speakers I would really appreciate it. I would rather buy used but will buy new. Thanks for your considerations.

Tom

I've been super impressed as of late with the Cambridge Audio gear. Looking at their website, I would audition the Azur 651A integrated amplifier, which, at 75Wpc, has plenty of power for the Venere 3.0s. It is a stereo-only unit, and since you say you do not want surround sound, this choice will maximize your sound quality with just two loudspeakers. In addition, the 651A has a USB input so that you can feed it digital signals. This will open up a world of possibilities for you -- your iPod obviously being one. At $800, it seems a steal.

You could also look into NAD's products, which we know to be very good, particularly their integrated amplifiers. They also have models with digital inputs so that you can feed your iPod directly into your amplification component. If you have a spare laptop, you might want to consider ripping those CDs so that you can forgo buying a separate CD player. Lastly, there are some integrated amplifiers on the market that have tuners built-in. Mostly, though, tuners show up in receivers. If that is really something you want, do look into both NAD and Cambridge receivers -- both companies offer ample models to choose from. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I have been thoroughly enjoying your "What I'd Buy" series of articles. I appreciate that you are going across a wide span of budgets and not simply sticking with price-no-object gear.

The article that is currently most germane to me is your most recent one about speakers. I am looking to upgrade my venerable yet still excellent-sounding Revel M20s. The main reason I want to upgrade is to get a fuller (deeper) soundstage. As far as sound quality is concerned, I still love the M20s.

I've narrowed down my choices to the Focal Electra 1028 Be, Magico S1, B&W 802 Diamond, and Revel Ultima Studio2. If you do not mind me asking, which speaker would you get? Thank you in advance for your time.

Sincerely,
Anthony

Your Revel M20 loudspeaker is a two-way, bookshelf-type design. As such, it is limited in the bass when compared with larger floorstanding speakers. You say in your letter that you want a deeper soundstage, but you don’t say anything about deeper bass. If, however, deep bass is a priority for you, then looking at a larger multi-way speaker such as the Focal you mention is a good idea. With more drivers and a larger cabinet you'll certainly gain the ability to play your music louder and reproduce deeper bass. Of the speakers you mention, I'd probably go with the Focal. I like its Be tweeter and, more importantly, Focal makes highly resolving speakers that are evenhanded from the top of the audioband to the bottom.

If deep bass and overall loudness capability -- when compared to these large floorstanders -- is not a primary concern, then there is no question in my mind that the Magico S1 is the best-sounding speaker of the bunch that you mentioned. It will play lower in the bass than the Revel M20 you have, but its primary advantage will be its higher resolution and far more precise sound. I suspect that you'll get exactly the soundstaging improvements you're looking for with the S1, as its transparency will let through every nuance contained on your recordings. The Magico S1 is where I'd put my money. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I read your review of the Sonus Faber Venere 3.0 and will be auditioning them in three weeks (I have to travel a couple of hundred miles to the nearest retailer). I have a question about room placement with them. I am limited in how far from the front wall I can place the speaker -- 12” to 14" maximum. How sensitive are the Veneres to this? The room is 15'2" x 17' 6" with an 8' ceiling and the speakers are on the 17' 6" wall. Seating position is about 9' 6" from the speakers. I currently have a Cambridge Audio Azur 651R A/V receiver driving an older pair of Paradigm Monitor 9s and want to upgrade the Paradigms. I listen to 75% music, 25% movies.

A friend has a pair of KEF R700s but he has found that they really need to be 36" minimum from the wall -- I assume the R900s react in a similar manner? The only speaker that I have recently read about that states placement close to the front wall has minimal impact is the Salk SongTowers, but I have no ability to audition them and that worries me.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated!

Bob Daly

The truth of the matter is that any speaker that produces appreciable low bass will interact more with room boundaries than speakers that are low-frequency limited. Boundaries will reinforce the low frequencies; therefore, moving a speaker further into the room will limit this phenomena. Speakers like the KEF R900 and R700, as well as the Sonus Faber Venere 3.0, all produce fairly low bass for their size and price. Therefore, in many rooms these speakers will need a bit more distance from the front wall in order to sound properly balanced in the bass.

Specifically regarding the 3.0, the one technical characteristic that does play in your favor is the fact that the speaker is front-ported. This design element gives the speaker a touch more flexibility when placed close to a wall, and therefore makes your preferred setup quite possible. There are so many factors that will determine bass performance with large speakers in real rooms in addition to simply the dimensions of the space, however. The construction materials used in the room, the absorption rate of the furnishings in the room, etc., not to mention the type of music that is most often played and at what volume, will all impact on what you hear. All this is to say that I would not feel comfortable hazarding a guess as to whether the Venere 3.0 would work in your room with the placement you are limited to. You could certainly give it a try, and I would not be surprised at all if you were thrilled with the sound. Please let me know how it turns out. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Jeff Fritz,

I am a bit surprised you have left the Usher Be-718 bookshelf speaker off your list ["What I'd Buy: Loudspeakers Under $15,000"]. I have owned a pair and they were simply amazing (I was a fool for selling them). I believe they would be as good as anything up to about $10k!

And also the Usher S-520. I have a pair playing now and I believe those are the best value in audio since the NAD 3020B amplifier!

Regards,
Paul Skillicorn

My list of loudspeakers is not all-inclusive -- there are certainly some really good models out there that did not make my list. Remember, though, that these are the speakers that I would personally buy. Therefore, to make the list I must have some familiarity with the product, obviously. The brands and models that I list in my article I have come to know and appreciate for their quality, and I would not blink an eye if a family member or close friend chose to buy a model that I recommended.

At this point I just can't say that about Usher. I'm glad you enjoy your speakers, but we -- meaning any SoundStage! Network writer -- have not reviewed an Usher speaker for quite some time and so I'm really not sure just what the company is producing these days. Frankly, I'm not even familiar with their current product line. Perhaps this will change in the future. I'd love to hear a current model from the company to see if my ears would agree with yours. There's always room for a follow-up article after all! . . . Jeff Fritz

To Peter Roth,

Hope you're well. I read your review of the Magico Q1 and am considering buying them. I currently use Ayre Acoustics' DX-5/KX-R/MX-Rs.

1. My room is 13' x 19'. Do you feel the Q1 is too small?

2. How did they mate with the MX-R amplifiers?

3. Did you use them for two-channel for movies?

Thanks,
Dan

At the cutting edge of stand-mounted speakers, only the two-way Raidho D1 and the three-way TAD CR-1 are contenders in the same arena as the Magico Q1. All deserve consideration, and all can fill a room your size with aplomb and strength, if not subterranean bass. The Q1, with electronics identical to yours (mated perfectly to the MX-Rs, by the way), had no trouble energizing my 15' x 15' room (music only in my Compact Reference System). Frankly, I could argue that these two-way speakers are the best examples of what Magico and Raidho can do. The TAD CR-1s I heard at CES, partnered with Ayre's new AX-5 integrated, sounded fantastic in a room somewhat bigger than yours, and provide more bass energy than the other two -- they are larger, three-way speakers.

Unless you are committed to a stand-mounted speaker, however, you may want to consider the floorstanding Magico S1, which apparently plumbs lower than the Q1 (larger interior volume), is quite a bit cheaper, comes in a breadth of colors, and has most of the resolution of its Q-series brother. Finally, as wonderful as the Q1s were in my room with the Ayre gear, I purchased the floorstanding Vivid Audio Giya G3s I reviewed earlier this year (and which I now enjoy for hours a day). . . . Peter Roth

To Garrett Hongo,

T.H.E. Show Newport Beach is coming at the end of May. Will you be there? Two weeks ago I heard the new Audion SET integrated amp running KT120 tubes with my Quads. It sounded great. I am wondering if you have heard any Audion equipment, specifically their Black Shadow 845. Have you heard the Audion Quattro four-box preamp? Have you heard any 845 amps like the Sophia Electric, or Mastersound? Do you think the 845 amp would be a good match with my Quads? Thanks for your input.

Rick

I will indeed be at the Newport show, covering it for SoundStage! Global on my semi-regular blog.

The only Audion amps I've heard are the EL34 ones at a couple of audio shows and I thought them terrific with Sonist Concerto 3 and Recital 3 speakers.

As for 845 amps, I've heard all in the Mastersound line, from the Compact 845 to the Final 845 (reference level). You might look at these two reports I've written, one on Mastersound at Top Audio (Milan) and the other a factory tour.

It's hard for me to say whether any of the Mastersound 845 amps would work well with your Quads, however. A lot depends on the interaction of the amp with the impedance swings of the speakers. Whatever the case, I'd think you'd at least need the 50W monoblocks for the higher output power. These Mastersound 845 monoblock amps would output about the same power (50W) as a pair of deHavilland KE50As.

Finally, I'm in the process of arranging an Ultra Audio review of the Viva Solista 845 integrated amp -- likely this coming fall. But if you've already auditioned the Audion integrated with your Quads and they were terrific, why not listen to what your ears say? . . . Garrett Hongo