Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences

Audio Federation High-Fidelity Audio Blog

EMM Labs: MTRX Amplifier – The Sound of Quiet

EMM Labs: MTRX Amplifier – The Sound of Quiet

We started doing this by accident. Not sure I remember how we starting doing this, in actual fact. But once we did it was fun to do, and to demonstrate to people, because it produced such an amazing effect.

What did we do? With these 750 watt per channel solid-state monsters … I mean amplifiers?

We turned the volume down.

Way down.

So low that people could have a conversation using their ‘quiet voice’.

Well, maybe not quite that quiet. [Not when Neli was around, anyway, given her life-long love affair with that volume control :-). What’s a husband to  do? *sigh* :-)].

So, what was the effect? This amazing effect?

The  effect was that the music was still perfectly legible. It was just quieter.



Soundstaging, imaging, separation, timbre, decay, rhythm… the same as when the volume was turned up.

The background noise was THAT quiet.

The ability to control the speakers in the tiniest ways, which we have been posting about many times before when the volume was quite loud, apparently has as a consequence this other, unworldly, strange, Twilight Zone-like unique capability at very low volumes.

This makes the music really accessible at low volumes.

Typically, on other amps, music at low volume is missing a lot of information. So, for these ‘other’ amps,  much of the signal for most of these quiet subtle  notes is so close to zero that the notes start to fade into the amps background noise. Anthropomorphically, these amps are trying to figure out “Is it noise? Or is it a musical note?”

Bass, for example, with the  MTRX, is still there. It starts. It stops.

It even has slam…  it is just miniaturized. Those little bass notes are just a tiny little ‘Pump’, but it is still tightly rendered, with accurate start, stop, and decay.

Reminds me of those model train sets some people build, where everything looks like a real town, just smaller [Well. YMMV :-)].

The MTRX amps are so different from what has passed as ‘solid state amps’ for 50+ years.

We need a new category.

Maybe we could call these ‘Good Amps’. Or the others ‘Performance-challenged Amps’.  :-P

Anyway, the point here is that it is really important that an amp be able to control the small details of your music playback when the volume is turned down low, because then most of what you are hearing is small details.



33 days: 3 shows, digital technology is already perfect, standing waves – Audiophiledom March, 25, 2015

Octoberish show month, digital technology is already perfect,  standing waves. Three shows and counting in October / very early November.  Technology confuses yet another person. Understanding our complicated listening environments

Digital technology is already perfect

Another article about how digital is good enough and uses the common incoherent argument that compares the ear’s frequency range to the format that should be used to store, transmit and reconstitute music.

Why DACs Need to Become Like Digital Cameras — and Less Like TVs

These kind of articles should be ignored, people [of course, me linking to it and saying that people should ignore it means y’all will head on over there at the earliest opportunity :-0].

The first time I heard this technology-is-good-enough argument, a variant on it anyway, was in 1985, I think, when PCs with the new Intel 286 chip came out, replacing the standard 8088 chip.

PCs with the 286 were about, literally, a million times slower than PCs today. Or your smartphone. But a friend told me that this speed improvement at the time was ridiculous, “how fast did they think a secretary could type, anyway?”

And the digital camera vs TV thing? Just what the heck is that about? So much link-bait out there, getting kind of wacky doodle.




Shows – Eenie, Meenie, Miney, … I’m sure there must be a Moe

3 major shows in 33 days.

The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest October 2-4, 2015

TAVES in Torotono October 30 – November 1, 2015

You then have the New York Audio Show November 6-8, 2015

Its not like people don’t like shipping gear here, there and everywhere… But the real problem is that these 3 shows are actually good shows, and a person shouldn’t miss either of them if they like going to  shows.


Standing Waves

An interesting article on our acoustical environments 

That’s hi-fi for now folks. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.

Audio Note Level 5 system under review at AVShowRooms

Audio Note Level 5 system under review at AVShowRooms – the high-end audio video guys.

AvShowRooms is reviewing the Audio Note U.K. level 5 system consisting of Gaku-On amplifiers, M10 linestage, CDT-5 transport and Fifth Element DAC and Fifth Force power supply, and An/E Signature speakers.


Pictures from the AVShowRooms Google Plus page:



Audio Note Level 5 pic 2


The illustrious Dave Cope from ANUK, as seen here and as many of you have met in the Audio Note room at shows here in the U.S., helped with setup.

Still have a few weeks to wait for the review, which will no doubt be posted on YouTube, so we can [kinda] hear what Peter Breuninger and Terry Eringi at AVShowRooms are hearing. :-)

Power cord shootout: Nordost vs NVS Sound vs Elrod

Power cord shootout: Nordost vs NVS Sound vs Elrod

It really wasn’t that cold.

Or really that icy.

Our driveway did, however, have residual ice left over from the February record snowfalls. But Kevin, who we invited over as a tie breaker, is an avid skier, so we thought the driveway, very steep with a hairpin turn at the top, would be safe for him – that he’d be able to make it up to the top.

He blames what happened on being blinded by the setting sun. That, being suddenly blinded at the top of the driveway, it was just the most natural thing to do when he gunned the car aiming for where he remembered the driveway curve to be.

Woulda worked too, except that the snowbanks on both sides of the hairpin turn were massive, reducing the width available for a car to make it through unscathed.

So he ended up running into a snow bank (no damage to the older Nissan Sentra) and then proceeded to back up, sliding around some, getting his car going nowhere – and situated in that, hopefully unfamiliar to all you, sideways direction at the top of the driveway. Since going backwards would have him and his car [Becky, don’t read this part] sliding down the steep mountain-side a good ways, and going forward got him nowhere with just lots of whining spinning tires, he came up to the house to roust us up to help.

After removing as much ice as possible from in front of the car, he was able to proceed and join us at the little shootout. Anti-climatic I know (thankfully).


In many ways this is a lame shootout: We are comparing a roughly $10K PC (Nordost ‘Odin’) with a roughly $5K PC (NVS Sound ‘Silver Inspire’) with a roughly $2500 PC (Elrod ‘Statement Silver’). Totally mismatched, but you can discern the character of the power cords, a character which will be found up and down their product lines.

And we thought it was fun. Hopefully you will too. :-)

The system consists of the Acapella ‘Atlas’ loudspeakers, the EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers with titanium faceplates, Audio Note U.K. M9 Phono preamplifier, DAC 5 Signature DAC, and CDT-Five transport. All on a HRS ‘MXR’ equipment rack.

In this system, the best place to compare power cords is on the preamp (the preamp power supply box of Audio Note M9 Phono). The amp, the EMM Labs MTRX amplifier, has 30 amp IEC connectors, not the standard 15 amp’ers that our power cable contestants all have.

Our test CD tracks were an orchestra playing Mozart, a cut off of Dire Straits ‘Brother in Arms’, and a track off of a Black Keys album.


After using Odin power cords for a month or so, we started the shooting…


NVS Sound – Silver Inspire | BLACK KEYS

[Neli and Kevin wanted to wait until we heard more songs before voicing an opinion. I have no such compunctions :-)]

Mike: More suspense; less dynamic; less loud; less brash; more like music; more engaging; sucks you in more; kind of like Kharma speakers; more emotionally exciting; still an edge to the sound of this song; closer to the musician’s intentions; not as clear sounding

NVS Sound – Silver Inspire  | DIRE STRAITS

Mike: More PRaT; more laid back; less separation; more focus (better imaging) on voices; more presence of voices; [I wrote down that in many ways, this was like tube (NVS Sound) versus Solid state (Nordost)]

Kevin: Good separation; detail; harmonics; possibly more fatiguing (!? I did not experience this, and can only think that the nature of the un-broken-in sound of the Silver Inspire was causing Kevin to have to listen harder to hear the same details that the more dynamic Odin made very easy to hear – and that this extra amount of concentration required was fatiguing him. This conjecture is based on other conversations occurring during and after this shootout)

NVS Sound – Silver Inspire  | DIRE STRAITS

Neli: Not as big, open or relaxed; singing just for the listener [an effect very Acapellish, where there is a special intimacy between listener and the musician]; less of an edge

Mike: Odin a little better at low volumes; NVS more beautiful



ELROD – Statement Silver | Mozart

Mike: Clearer, simpler, rawer, less resolution, harmonic timbre issues? Not as accurate, not as much going on in the music.

Kevin: Weightier, not as much detail, especially apparent in the lower frequencies

Neli: Starts to question whether the NVS Sound was broken in [I thought she had burned it in, but apparently not. So mostly just 4 days at CES on a lower powered AN DAC 5 Signature]. Elrod more open and dynamic

ELROD – Statement Silver | Dire Straits

Mike: more open, more slam, imaging quite a bit fuzzier, rougher sound, clumsier presentation, and has a little edge to the sound.

Kevin: Bass more muddled, but weightier

Neli: Bass not as detailed

ELROD – Statement Silver | Black Keys

Mike: Rougher voices, and ‘hi-fi show sound’. Sour notes, good bass beat otherwise

NVS Sound – Silver Inspire | BLACK KEYS

[Back to NVS to see if our impressions are holding stable]

Happy sound. Anticipation. Suspense. Not as open or dynamic.

Perhaps we should break it in and try again? That is the plan. We then returned to the Odin.


The NVS had more beauty and presence and engagement compared to the Odin, but was not as clear, dynamic or open sounding. Both had an incredible amount of resolution and detail.  The Elrod was a real trooper, but was rough and clumsy sounding in comparison to the other two [at 1/4 to 1/2 the price].

We are proceeding the break in the NVS Sound and will repeat this shootout… to see if the Silver Inspire gets closer to the unworldly clarity and dynamics that the Odin provides us…. most likely when the driveway is not quite as icy. :-)



Neli and Hermann Winters of Acapella at CES 2015

Photos of Neli and Hermann Winters of Acapella at CES 2015. The featured photo is the one Neli likes the most (she liked #3 and #4 the best) and below is the one I liked the most (I liked #1 and #2). That’s right, we were both completely, perfectly, not-in-agreement [usually we do better than this :-)].

Never got around to posting these photos but we got a question about how big the Acapella Cellini speakers were – and I thought that these photos might help put these modestly-sized speakers (for Acapella) into perspective