Home Systems Components Galleries Store Blog

January, 2011

Another way to visualize the sonic signature of a system

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 by Mike

We have guests here for ‘multi-day auditions’ every so often where we listen to a ton of stuff over the course of a few days - kind of like a sequence of shootouts but with a goal in mind - the goal usually being to get the best sound possible for a particular guest.

Last week we had a great time at one of these auditions, and our guest came up with a very nice intuitive way to quickly draw the overall balance of a particular system. I am not all that sure this particular guest wants to accept the blame for these drawings :-) - and his hand drawn ones were certainly nicer than my mouse-drawn ones - but I liked them enough to think it worthwhile to share here on the blog.

The width of the “Hershey’s Kiss’” is the characteristic energy/information of the system at a given frequency. The system diagrammed here has a lot of bass energy but little midrange energy and almost no treble energy.

This is typically [over the course of many discussions with people we meet] what people Do Not want.

The red part of the curve would be an alternative sound that did not have a ‘bite’.(?)

This is a nice, full sounding system. This is what people in general DO want.

These next drawings are originally drawn by me, expanding on the idea of the 2 above.

The system diagrammed here might represent your typical inexpensive tube amp: nice midrange but weak on bass and a little rolled off on top.

The system diagrammed here might represent your typical inexpensive speaker system that has problems in the crossover frequencies.

This might be the perfect system(?) - we can certainly define it to be so, since we are the ones making all this up :-) . It represents perfect top-to-bottom quantities of energy/information.

We should really have several of these drawings for a single system, one drawing each for:

1) harmonic information/energy
2) micro dynamics
3) midi-dynamics
4) separation (ability to handle complexity)

Sorry about the long, slow-loading CES posts

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 by Mike

Had a choice between this way and the 1-post-per-room way and, well, decided to do it this way for this show.

Because this blog currently shows 10 posts on the front page, I am going to try and add 9 small posts before I add the next humongous photo post (for floor 30 at the Venetian) [after that post, we will only have a little more of the Flamingo to do]. The idea is that this way everybody won’t have to sit through the loading of TWO of these long posts on the same page.

Exhibiting at a Show: What Associated Equipment To Choose?

Monday, January 24th, 2011 by Mike

The typical question is that you have a great component you want to impress people with at a show. How do you do that? The answers to this question will help explain why we see some rooms setup the way we do, and conversely why some great products do not get the show accolades they deserve.

The answers are different depending on the type of component if the component is a:

AMP: you want speakers and sources that do not detract from the fact that the amp is the most important piece in the system [i.e. not too hyped or visibly impressive]. You want well known components, that people already know the sound of so that they can attribute all of the above and beyond extraordinary goodness of the system to your amp [i.e. the other components are plain jane well known components that everyone knows the sound of]. DON’T put your amp on speakers that the amp can’t drive [please please please. But so many do anyway]. DON’T use amp stands that rob your amp of much of its goodness.

CD PLAYER: You want a state-of-the-art, GREAT sounding system and to play the CD player all the time. People then attribute the fact that the system sound does not suck to the fact that the CD player must really be pretty darn decent. Putting your CD Player in a mediocre or bad sounding system is only a slight negative - unless the turntable ‘fixes’ many of the problems with the system due to its warmth or whatever sonic characteristics - then they will think that digital sucks, especially your CD Player.

CABLES: Well, you can either do the Nordost thing, with wonderfully explanatory presentations that let you hear the sound of the cables, or you can have a static display like Kimber Kable, or you can have a mixed static display and demo system like Gutwire. DON’T put your cables into a bad sounding system with great components - especially not with signs all over the place indicating that the cables responsible for this sound are yours.

SPEAKERS: You want as good a sounding system as you can get with components that are as generic as possible [but even with famous or hyped components - they speakers will still get most of the credit for the sound].

Tidal, D’Agostino, Sonus Faber, Magico

Monday, January 24th, 2011 by Mike



A smooth, tuneful sound but lacking some midi- and micro-dynamics [the absence of which seems very popular in many of today’s very $$$ solid-state amps ]. The opposite of Krell. Very striking looking amps, as solid-state amps go - and thankfully not so much the uber-masculine look that, again, is very popular in many of today’s very $$$ solid-state amps]

Sonus Faber

A dense, dark, congested, confused sound. The appearance of these speakers also seemed to me to not be what somebody would expect from the high-end of Sonus Faber, which are typically gorgeous works of art.


Impressive midi-dynamics, good separation, various kinds of even handedness up and down the freq spectrum but somewhat soulless i.e. everything was as expected - see previous show reports. Surprisingly the deepest bass was somewhat uncontrolled, and seemed to interact with the floor of the room [unlike RMAF 2010 where the Q5 was very (electronically) controlled]. Impressive soundstage in sweet spot, but not so great soundstaging/imaging in other seats [i.e. I would expect some people to have vastly different opinions about this room based on whether they sat in the sweet spot or not]

CES 2011 - Lamm / Verity

Monday, January 24th, 2011 by Mike

The new Lamm ML2.2 amplifiers driving the Verity Lohengrin II speakers had a polite, almost sweet sound and was quite Enjoyable . Neli was there a lot longer than I was, so if you want to know more details about the sound, you might want to call her.

As for the Lohengrin II, in about 6 weeks we should know a lot more about how the Lamm ML3 (not the ML2.2) sound on these speakers in a much more controlled environment.

As for the new Lamm ML2.2, the replacement for the ML2.1, in this configuration two pairs were used in a bi-amp configuration to drive the speakers [see below]. There was a sense of ease to the sound - which no doubt was aided and abetted by the use of two pairs of amps instead of one.

The sound, as far as I could tell on the somewhat unfamiliar speakers and familiar but not completely understood cables and racks/amps stands - compared to the ML2.1 - is more smooth in the midrange/upper midrange and airy on top. The ML2.1 have a slight tendency to highlight some subtle details, and to be slightly diminished [as opposed to rolled off] in the very tip-top highs, and these amps appeared to have none of that. What I heard seemed to indicate - and it is something I would like to see, so perhaps I am somewhat blinded by desire - that these amps might be a blend of the best from the previous two generations: the Lamm ML2 and ML2.1 amps - along with some nice improvements [like more air on top].

Neli and other room visitors listening intently.

The new Lamm ML2.2 monoblock 6C33C-based SET 18 watt amplifier

The Lamm ML2.2 in a bi-amp configuration. Interesting, huh?

The amps from behind.

A 15 inch woofer on the back of the Verity Lohengrin, and a somewhat problematic bi-wire setup [you can use long jumpers from one binding post to the other or 2 separate single wire runs, one to each binding post, or two amps - like here - or …]

Neodio digital, Lamm L2 2-box linestage, a Lamm LP2 phono stage, and…?

A Redpoint turntable

The inside of the new Lamm ML2.2 amplifier

For comparison, the inside of our own previous generation Lamm ML2.1 amplifier

CES 2011 - Lamm ML3 + LL1 / Wilson Alexandria X-2

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 by Mike

A few additional comments about the Lamm / Wilson room.

The Lamm ML3 controlled these large speakers very well - at low to high volumes. The reason I would have given this room one of the Best Of Shows, if I was giving best of shows, which I am not, is that there were few if any other rooms playing challenging music - from a real source (CD or LP) - that generated a large scale presentation with such ease, that had this kind of decent separation and top-to-bottom evenness… and in the end just a calm constant convincability.

It is typically very difficult to reproduce music that is playing in a Lamm room at a show - mostly classical, some Jazz, and some others picked seemingly at random. This makes for a very nice place to just sit and listen. Very civilized and respectful, different from your average room at an average show [many are just about stirring up hype and attracting reviewers. Ours, for better or worse, are seemingly much more of a party atmosphere where people typically talk a lot and share their favorite yet somehow strangely weird and bizarre music by playing it on our system :-) ]

The sound was indeed the tiniest bit soft, as has been noted elsewhere, because [and this is based on our experience with the ML3 amps as well as with these speakers on an Audio Note Ongaku, Emm Labs XDS1 and Nordost ODIN cabled system]

1) the speakers are slightly forgiving
2) the cables are slightly more forgiving
3) these equipment racks have unpredictable effects in our experience, in this case softening effects I believe based on what I have learned over time about 1) and 2) above
4) the sound in the Lamm rooms are typically setup to be a little soft - that is the way they like to do rooms at shows [more of an oasis effect as opposed to the WWIII effect]

There was a absence of real solidity to the image between the speakers, making me think that the speakers were too far apart. Although Lamm typically does speaker setup at show, including Wilson speaker setup, this time - because of the size and weight and perhaps other reasons - the Wilson factory setup the speakers.

Neli and Florian are smiling up front. Jim (encinitas) behind in green.

Rack with 4-box LL1 linestage driven by the Neodio 2-box digital

The inside of one channel of the Lamm LL1 linestage (preamp)

DaVinci turntable

CES 2011 - Venetian Floor 29

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 by Mike

[No comments, just photos. Hopefully I will find time to add the manufacturers names so that this post is searchable room by room… *sigh*]

Revolver [sorry, no photo of sign]

Perfect8 [sorry, no photo of sign]

The latest in high-end, uber expensive turntables…

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 by Mike

[Thanks Mike M!]

CES is still fun

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011 by Mike

[I am preparing another blast of photos. But because these photo posts will be so long, I am letting these smaller posts simmer here for awhile.]

It seems to me that many of the people writing about CES are bored. They are tired of it. They do not enjoy it. They wish they didn’t have to go each year.

We, however, love it more than ever. It is a blast.

Why are they bored? Maybe because they are getting paid to attend? Maybe because this is just their job, not their adventure?

Why do we enjoy it so much? The people. The music. The learning process and testing what we have learned here against 100s of other systems. The excitement of entering each room hoping and anticipating something potentially GREAT: great sound, great music, great friends. It is like a giant building (a hotel) full of toy stores, and your friends are there and there are hundreds of parties going on.

What is not to like?

Report on Jonathan Valin’s CES 2011 Show Report Pt. 3

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 by Mike

The link:

JV CES 2011 Show Report pg. 6

[This is all great fun, and I hope you all are enjoying this. It is somewhat unfair, to JV, in that we always get the last word here (always counterpoint to his point) but I do try and be as balanced and as fair as I can, while still fully communicating what I heard at the shows. So if you feel I am being overly polite, or more polite than I usually am :-) , then this is the reason why].

* Morel

I used to listen to these rooms carefully, but have not at the last several shows.

* Magnepan

There was some confusion in the comments about which room this was, and I am still confused. I did hear the Bryston on the Maggies, and the sound sounded just like Bryston on Maggies, not like the very impressive [and Impressive] sound at the Alexis Park of this pair several years ago. I think this room was too big - it was one of THE Show suites at the Flamingo.

… skipping ….

* Talon Phoenix / VAC

JV: “smidge on the dark side”. As I remember, this was a hodgepodge of good and bad sounding components, a delicate balance of the aggressive and the laid back, and the overall result was Enjoyable [an accomplishment in my book], but not real or transparent or drug-like etc.

* Nola Baby Grand Reference / ARC

I did not pay particular attention to this room.

* Acapella High Violoncello II

Well, we are too forthright with our opinions for the distributor of these speakers - so we do not hear these rooms. But if I was to be annoying and make a correction to JV’s semantics so that “this was the best Acapella speaker I’ve heard” should be “this is the best I’ve heard from an Acapella speaker”. [which is too bad, because the general consensus from Acapella fans was that this was not the best THEY have heard from Acapella… so keep listening JV].

… skipping ….

* Lotus Group ‘Granadas’

OK. Well, JV’s diagnosis seems to be all over the place, so let me try and see if I do not get into the same predicament.

First, these speakers were driven by very large Musical Fidelity amps and several other components that I personally would not pair with $125K speakers.

Second, although I could hear what the musical fidelity was doing [massacring] to the notes, it was not overtly offensive. The sound is tonally very pure and has a nice natural roundness to the notes that was only partially affected by the sound of the amp. This suggests a very forgiving speaker - which can be a good thing and a bad thing.

Third, I was somewhat annoyed by one of the exhibitors [the speaker designer??? not Joe] saying that this speaker was all about the digital crossover, that this was the ‘magic sauce’ [or words very similar to this]. To me, this shows a lack of perspective, a minimalistic versus holistic view of speakers and makes me wonder about the overall performance of the speaker across multiple scenarios [think room correction fans, computer audio fans, etc. These are TOOLS people, not ideologies or sledge hammers].

Anyway, someday we will bring an Ongaku and XDS1 over to Joe’s and hear what these sound like. I do like the sound at this point, and they could be really great speakers.

* McIntosh

Life is too short

* T+A

Unfortunately did not listen carefully here.

* Lamm Industries / Verity Audio

First, JV, it is ML2.2 [add that ‘L’!].

JV says nice things about this room, and not that I did not like it, but I heard something quite different. The sound was sweet, rich, controlled but soft. I would call it warm but with control… i.e. the notes start and stop OK, but are a little too round on the attack and decay. As Neli and I talk it over [she spent more time there than me] Verity may indeed be the heir apparent to Sonus Faber [the current top-selling ’sweet’ sounding speaker].

* More about the Scaena and we are done….

JV: ‘Magico Q5s are consistently capable of this “fool-you-into-thinking-you-are-in-the-presence-of-real-singers-or-musicians” level of realism, of not hearing “where it comes from.”’

I assume that by “where it comes from.” he means the hall where the recording was recorded [he might also mean that the speakers disappear, but it seems less likely]

OK, well, hearing where it comes from means that the hall was mic’d and that your system is capable of reproducing the subtle details picked up by that mic. If it is on the recording you SHOULD hear “where it comes from”. Otherwise your system is not reproducing not only the subtle details of the hall, but not reproducing the subtle details of the music as well.

Which is, of course, my primary complaint with JV references.

It is not like this is against the law or anything, and if one really wants this sort of effect, this would be one [expensive] way of getting it. TEO cables are another [brings the melody into the foreground], and to some extent many systems and components and cables do this to a more or lesser degree.

It is just that, as we spend our time and money and effort [as do our fave manufacturers] to get the exact opposite effect, I had to comment :-)


OK. That is about it. JV did not talk about the Perfect8 system [which I think he would have liked OK but it would not be on his BOS list], nor the Audio Note [which he may have liked a lot] nor Kondo [he would not have liked] systems. But he did catch most of them [and many I did not] and I love it that he spends the time to listen to and write intelligent opinions about the sound at these shows.

Presented by
Audio Federation

email: mike&neli@audiofederation.com
Copyright (c) Audio Federation, Inc.

The names of all brands of equipment are copyright and/or trademark their respective companies

Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).