REFERENCE COMPONENTS THE SUPREME RECORDINGS MY AUDIO SYSTEM MISCELLANEOUS REVIEWING THE 'REVIEWERS' NEW LINKS USED COMPONENTS NOW ON SALE INTERNAL LINKS
THE SUPREME RECORDINGS
MY AUDIO SYSTEM
REVIEWING THE 'REVIEWERS'
USED COMPONENTS NOW ON SALE
This section contains ALL of the newest material before it is posted to the dedicated files. It will remain here for around 12 months. So readers can now find the latest observations, news, opinions and thoughts in the fastest time.
Caveat 1- Readers should always keep in mind that the material which is most recently posted is also, generally speaking, the least reliable. It is usually, though not always, my (or our) "first impressions". Sometimes it will be an a simple update, which of course is usually more reliable. In any event, I may further edit, quite liberally and without any notice or warning, anything you may read here.
Caveat 2- A good number of the posts below are by Anonymous Readers of this website. They are separated from my own posts (*******), and should >never be considered my own personal evaluation, belief or recommendation. In many cases, I will add a "Personal Reply" to the reader's letter. If so, my contribution will be the only editorial part of that post that I take personal responsibility for.
I have made these letters public because I feel they may be interesting and informative to some readers. I also like an exchange of observations, evaluations and ideas, even when I disagree with some of them. However, readers >must always consider the extent of the previous experiences of the anonymous writer. Serious thought should also be focused on the writer's actual objectivity and their sonic priorities. All of this background and perspective is obviously relevant and critical, and can be extremely difficult to evaluate within a short anecdotal observation. A continual skepticism in our audio world is a perspective that is difficult to argue with.
This important article will be reposted & updated annually...
This article is a summary of the cumulative observations and recommendations included within this website as concisely as possible. Below is the best advice I can provide as this is written and it will be updated if and when necessary. This summary will be relevant if the ultimate goal of the reader is to maximize the natural, accurate and complete musical communication that is possible with modern audio components. It is designed to work with the largest variety of musical software available to us today, and particularly if it is acoustical in nature.
I obviously realize that there are other serious alternatives, and with easily noticeable advantages to my approach. However, in my experience, they all have a larger number of serious compromises with a greater variety of music. Further, none of the recommendations I make below have to cost a huge amount of money, and all the steps can be made over a period of time.
1. The Analogue source should be an Idler-Drive turntable (or a Reel-To-Reel Tape Deck)
Explanation- Idler-drives have a fundamental sonic advantage over belt-drive turntables; speed stability, which is grossly under appreciated by most audiophiles. Idlers' inherent disadvantage, noise transference, has now been reduced to insignificance by using modern plinths, bearings and improved motor isolation. In short, idler-drives overcame their original problem economically, while belt-drives have not and (apparently) can not. (Direct-drives are still an unanswered question.) Reel-to-reel tapes have even more sonic potential, but they're a serious hassle to use for most audiophiles and good software is also extremely limited.
2. A Moving-Coil (or Strain-gauge or Optical?) cartridge
Explanation- Moving-coils have several technical advantages due to their low-mass and low inductance combined with higher overall energy output, making them worth the extra expense under most circumstances. Strain-gauge and/or Optical cartridges may have even greater technical advantages, but I haven't heard a modern version of one of them in a controlled environment.
3. The Digital source should use the highest quality (OEM) Esoteric Transport that is affordable
Explanation- Every outstanding digital player we have heard has used an Esoteric transport. Until computer audio is finally mature, an actual digital disc player is still the best and safest approach, which means an Esoteric transport should be part of the equation. There are usually many used Esoteric players for sale at large discounts. They are also incredibly well built and reliable, which is another important factor. Esoteric (OEM) transports are also used in non-Esoteric players as well. The DAC, after it inevitably becomes obsolete, can always be updated.
4. The Electronics should be Separates, and using Tubes, with the one possible exception of the bass amplifiers
Explanation- Tube electronics still have noticeable and important sonic advantages over even the finest transistor models. Separate components offer both the greatest potential performance and flexibility, including mono amplifiers.
5. The Speakers must be HIGH-EFFICIENCY AND BOTH Bi-ampable AND SET-Friendly
Explanation- All the finest systems I've ever heard were bi-amplified (with subwoofers). This is not a coincidence. When the amplifier driving the midrange and tweeters is not effected by the (sub)woofers (which would have their own dedicated amps), there are important (if not fundamental) sonic advantages that any audiophile can hear. Even if the bi-ampable speaker can not be bi-amped when first purchased (for whatever reason), that option is still available in the future.
SET amplifiers have important sonic advantages in the midrange and highs over any other amplifier design in my experience, especially with acoustical music. They have the lowest sound-floor and are the best "organized" (and music is simply "organized sound"). Even if a SET amplifier is not used at first, the SET-friendly speaker will provide that option in the future.
6. The SET amplifier, in a bi-amplified system, must use NO Feedback, allowing it to become "Dedicated" with a simple capacitor modification
Explanation- Some audiophiles may consider this Structure as more of a refinement, but I don't feel that way. The sonic improvements, discussed in the article linked to below, are easily observed and much too important to ignore.
Bonus Suggestion- Audiophiles should experiment with a Passive transformer, or a LDR, line stage/volume pot BEFORE utilizing a serious active line stage
Explanation- Most systems require an active line stage for optimum performance, but a passive line stage, or volume pot, can be used if the source has the required energy to directly drive the amplifier(s). If successful, there will be both improved performance and money saved, so an experiment is always in order. See the Link below.
Individually, most of these refinements will be subtle in effect, but collectively they will almost always be significant in their effect. They are usually the difference between the "Excellent" and the truly "Great" Systems.
1. All Signal and Power Cables- as short as possible
2. Capacitors - Teflon in the direct signal path and all film (metallized) in the high voltage power supply
3. Exact speaker set-up and Room treatments
4. Acoustical Isolation of both Sources and Electronics
5. AC filtering and even AC regeneration if necessary
6. All records should be cleaned first with an Ultra Sonic Record Cleaning Machine
These are the articles and essays which describe and explain, in great detail, the respective experiences and reasons why I specifically chose each of the "Structures" mentioned above:
"Reference" Lenco L 75 Idler-Drive Turntable (#1 "Structure")
DIGITAL SOURCES (#3 Structure)
Coincident Frankenstein 300B SET Amplifier (#4 & #5 Structures)
Coincident Pure Reference Extreme Speakers (#5 SET-Friendly & Bi-Amping Structures)
Dedicated SET Amplifier Capacitor Modification (#5 & #6 Structures)
LINE STAGES (Active or Passive? #Bonus Suggestion)
A related article that will also be reposted & updated annually...
I decided to both expand upon, and yet still simplify, my earlier article, seen above, titled: Building a Great Audio System. This time I will argue that there is a single most important choice an audiophile can make when creating a great audio system or, at the least, creating the finest audio system for the least amount of money invested. That critical choice is unambiguously simple:
There are several practical reasons why this is the best choice a serious audiophile can ever make, as well as actual science to support it. First we'll focus on the practical reasons, which almost all involve maximizing the flexibility and the unlimited options resulting from this initial choice:
1. This choice provides the flexibility to choose any amplifier you prefer and can afford; low power/high power, tube/transistor, feedback/non-feedback, SET/non-SET or Class A or A/B or D. All these amplifier types are compatible with this choice of speaker. The amplifier choice thus becomes strictly one of audio quality, not quantity, which eliminates the frustrating compromises that other audiophiles must accept and live with.
2. With a high-efficiency speaker, other formerly impractical options now become possible. The system may no longer require the extra gain of an active line stage, which means a passive line stage, or a hybrid model like "The Truth", is now an option. Low output (analogue or digital) sources, which may sound "dead" with normal/average efficiency speakers, are now also options.
3. Bi-amping the speaker is also an option; now, later or never, with the added benefit that the speaker can utilize any combination of amplifiers, based on your own musical preferences and budget. Remember- Bi-amping is a "Structure of a Great Audio System".
4. Lower power, everything else being equal, also means lower cost, so there is even a monetary advantage to this important choice. (Passive line stages are also less expensive than equivalent active line stages, obviously.)
I have now lived with high-efficiency speakers for 25 years and I have never looked back. It is the most positively consequential choice I have ever made in my audio life. Countless other audiophiles have done the same, both before and after me, and it is unusual to learn of anyone who later reversed themselves. There are good reasons why these audiophiles remain "faithful": The advantages when using high-efficiency speakers are far too important in sonics, component flexibility and savings, to ever give up. Then there's the Science. It's all about Energy...
I am NOT a "scientist", though I do have a basic understanding of the science underlaying audio. Many other audiophiles can make the same claim as I, while others know far more about (audio) science than I ever will, but what I am about to theorize is something anyone can understand. My theory is based on an indisputable reality. Further, I believe it is rational, logical and thus irrefutable. Once again, it is founded on a simple truth and fact: High-Efficiency speakers require less energy to perform at the same level as "normal" speakers. Further, serious Audio is just about recreating, as closely as possible, the original energy, of the original performance, in your listening room.
High-Efficiency (HF) is the most important and critical advantage in audio. Why? HF speakers require less energy from outside sources to achieve the same level of performance. The energy from those "outside sources" is always imperfect and compromised. Accordingly, the less energy from "outside sources" included in the total energy created by the system, the less compromised the sound will be. And, to be clear, "outside sources" specifically mean electronic phono stages, DACs, active line stages and power amplifiers.
All of these electronic components are imperfect and "enemies" of music, though all of them are also unfortunately necessary for the reproduction of music using modern technology. In short, the less energy (or "influence") required from "outside sources" (electronic components), the higher the quality of total energy created by the system, everything else being equal. It's the classic "quantity versus quality" compromise and quandary.
To make my point as clear as I can, I need to use a highly unlikely scenario: Imagine a speaker with an unbelievable high-efficiency specification; let's say 130 dB/1 watt and, further, an ultra-low current requirement (while ignoring noise and other issues). Such a theoretical speaker could be driven by the preamplifier alone (or even the source*)! This scenario would actually eliminate power amplification all together. This is just a fantasy for now, but I'm arguing that even minor steps taken in this direction will have positive results.
*The ultimate scenario would be the phono cartridge directly driving the speakers, with the no electronics in between them. Only an attenuator would separate the two components. Anything else is a (necessary for now) compromise.
The less energy an audio system uses from "outside sources", the better chance that system has to be natural and faithful to the original musical source. So, the goal for serious audiophiles is simple: Reduce the energy required from your compromised outside power sources (AC), to the greatest degree possible. High-Efficiency speakers, more so than any other audio choice, achieve that goal.
Further- Almost all of the Readers Letters that are removed from this file, after the standard 12 Month posting (such as the November 2015 Readers Letters), are subsequently posted in their respective Reference Component Files: Amplifiers, Cartridges, Speakers etc. They can be found under "Readers Letters". If the reader's letter discussed more than one type of audio component, I will place that letter in the file of the component that was the most discussed.
The end of 2016 was again disappointing. I had a repeat of the problem I had with the Jadis phono stage in the spring, and even another battery failure, so I also couldn't play my digital source. There's still interesting items I look forward to hearing. Here is the current 2017 schedule:
1. Coincident Statement Cables- I hope to finally complete my listening evaluations of the signal cables; interconnect and speaker, which I began in early 2016. (The power cable survey is finished and already posted.) I will make the 7 final individual direct comparisons with my present Reference signal cables. If possible, I will try to answer the important questions of which type of cable has the largest, and the least, impact on a high resolution system.
2. Acappella Ion Super Tweeter- This tweeter has long had a reputation for being "the best in the world". When I heard it myself, now 13 years ago, I agreed with this assessment. I will attempt to use it successfully with the Coincident Pure Reference Extreme Speakers, my personal Reference for almost 9 years. I also hope to learn and understand both its inherent strengths and limitations, which should prove practical and useful for readers with other speaker systems.
Further- Almost all of the Readers Letters that are removed from this file, after the standard 12 Month posting (such as the December 2015 Readers Letters), are subsequently posted in their respective Reference Component Files: Amplifiers, Cartridges, Speakers etc. They can be found under "Readers Letters". If the reader's letter discussed more than one type of audio component, I will place that letter in the file of the component that was the most discussed.
Lenco news which is most interesting and highly unusual...
One of my earliest customers, and later an audiophile friend, who formerly lived in Toronto, recently sent me a fascinating letter about his unique (to me) Lenco modification. (I always remember him as very talented and versatile using his hands.) He also sent a picture of his project, which isn't high-definition, but good enough to illustrate his work. Here is his letter and picture. Minor editing and my bold:
"Please keep in mind that this project is on going and still in a very early rough stage and it still needs to be perfected (especially in its appearance).
A few months ago, I purchased two Lenco L75 tables Very cheap (in fact I made a profit reselling the parts that I did not need or use). I had a few different ideas on how I wanted to put together a good Idler drive system that would totally outperform my current belt drive system.
In the end I just kept the 2 motors and the idler wheels, The first thing I did was do a complete cleaning and Re lube of the motor and idler wheel. My working budget was very small and I really wanted to keep my current table that I made with the aluminum plinth and dual platters.
My first thought was to cut out an opening in the aluminum plinth just under the outer edge of the platter and mount the motor and idler wheel assembly underneath, but that would have been a fair size job and if it did not work out well it could ruin the plinth that I worked so long and hard to make. I then decided to think of a way to assemble a unit to use as a stand alone Idler wheel rim drive and use it with my current table without making any other changes to it.
I will try to give a brief description of what I have assembled so far and have been using and totally enjoying now for 2 months. First of all, I want to mention that the Lenco Idler wheel grabs hold of the VPI Delrin platter far better than I thought it would.
1- There is a stationary main base and attached to it is a 4" square ball bearing turntable with a second 4" platform where the motor and idler wheel assembly are attached. (The complete unit sits at an angle to the center point of the platter).
2- The Idler wheel is attached to a small arm with a pivot point and it is free floating between the motor and turntable Platter.
3- I use a weight on a string attached to the bottom corner of the 4 inch platform that the motor sits on (the weight on a string causes the motor assembly to Turn into the idler wheel and on to the platter). I find with the motor turning into the idler wheel and platter works better than pulling the idler wheel in between the motor and platter. Also because the platter is being driven on its outside diameter, the idler wheel needs to spin faster to achieve the correct platter speed, so the idler wheel makes contact at the larger diameter portion of the motor's tapered shaft. (I believe that creates even more torque and that is a bonus.)
There are two VERY Critical areas in this set up that MUST be followed carefully to achieve its Optimum and lasting performance. The first thing is to make sure that the motor and idler wheel are perfectly parallel to the platter at contact.
The second and MOST Important thing is there is a VERY Strong rotational pull when the motor contacts the idler wheel and platter. With the motor turned OFF let the weight on the string apply the pressure to the idler wheel and platter. Then place a stopper at the base of the motor assembly so that the motor can NOT go past that point.
Finally, when I first set this up and compared it to the former stand alone belt drive system that I had been using for a long time, the superior sonic improvements were immediately and easily noticed in all areas, plus the motor assembly was even quieter running than the belt drive unit I used previously.
This set up really does totally outperform my old belt drive system in every way. And after two months of use, the platter speed is still running as accurate and stable as the first day I set it up (also just as smooth and quiet).
My Turntable with this set up will never be as visually stunning as any of your friend Jean Nantais brilliant creations, but I can just close my eyes and enjoy its sonic strengths. I do believe that using this system as a rim drive has a LOT of potential and if I can perfect it even more I will be extremely happy with it.
A big PLUS will be in the maintenance of the unit, as it can easily be removed and re-lubed or replace any parts if needed. (I also have a second unit made up as a spare or it can be used while maintaining the other unit.)"
Important Note- Due to a number of unforeseen setbacks and delays that were suffered in the last year (discussed above), I was unable to complete the cable survey that I began in January 2016. I have decided it is best to repost the entire unfinished survey, and then finish it in stages, as time and circumstances permit. This will allow interested readers to find the entire cable survey in one convenient place, rather than waste time searching for a particular section located in another month.
As any serious reader of this website knows, I am not a "cable guy". I'm not curious and I can't get enthusastic about cables, of any type, and will even avoid changing them as a rule. This is why I removed most of the content on cables on this website many years ago and rarely write about them. This wasn't always the case. When I had my audio store in the 1980's, I was completely up to date on cables, experimenting with every version I could get my hands on.
Back then, the entire concept of cables having an effect on the performance of an audio system was still new, so almost all serious audiophiles were interested in learning and experimenting to find the right combination to maximize the performance of their system. Then, the inevitable happened. One cable company (I believe MIT) decided to come out with a cable that was outrageously priced (for back then), especially considering how it was manufactured. When no one called them out on the cost, which back then meant only TAS and Stereophile, the cable game changed permanently (and eventually negatively effected the pricing structure of real components as well).
From that initial "seed", we now have cables that cost more than high quality cars, with "reviewers" even describing them as "good value". I was disgusted by the entire trend of mutual greed (high cable prices/high cost ads), and advised my customers to avoid and ignore the hype from the ads and the "reviews". I had a really good reason for this disgust, my own experiences, shared by many others. Example- Here is the first experience I had which "removed the scales" from my eyes. Ironically, the other audiophile present at the time is directly involved in the experiments now taking place in 2016:
Around 30 years ago, I was a dealer for MIT (which is still in business). I sold so much of their cable that I used to purchase some of it in spools and then terminate it myself, which saved my customers money. Then they came out with the MH-750 speaker cable, of unprecedented size and cost, with the claim that it was far superior to anything else ever made. It received rave reviews*. I, of course, ordered it for the store. I was quite pleased with its performance, which proved to be superior to anything I had in the store at the time.
*HP/TAS- "a considerable step closer to the real thing." Issue #34, Page 76
Stereophile - "the best of the best." Issue #78, Page 110
When I told my closest audiophile friend, Israel Blume, that I had the MH-750 in the store, he begged me to bring them to his place so he could hear them himself, in his own system. So the following Sunday I found myself at his home for a direct comparison with his own speaker cable, which just happened to be Polk, a mainly forgotten cable that had been considered dangerous to use with many transistor amplifiers and had been eventually discontinued.
I was so confident of the superiority of the MIT, that I almost felt sad for the poor old Polk, thinking how bad it would sound in comparison to this latest design. While Blume had configured the Polks so that there were now 4 Polk cables in parallel, I believed that this change wouldn't make that much of a difference. Blume's system back then consisted of the Quad ESL-63 speakers and the Ray Lumley M-100 amplifiers. He played a variety of music, but mainly some excellent selections from Harmonia Mundi, which were very revealing of cable performance. So, what happened? In short, the Polks won, and by a huge margin. We were both shocked. (Further, our "faith" in the magazines' judgment was irreversibly compromised as well. Many more negative experiences like this would later finish this "divorce" process.)
Compared to the multiple Polks, the MIT sound muffled, veiled, slow and dead. Anyone could have noticed what we observed, not just audiophiles. The MIT actually sounded horrible, and almost defective, in comparison. We went back and forth that afternoon, even playing both cables at the same time to try to understand what we were hearing. In the end, the MIT had just one minor advantage, the bass was a little more prominent and impactful (because of its lower impedance/larger gauge).
Blume later reduced that one last advantage by cutting his existing cables in half, thereby reducing the length in half, and then re-soldering them so they were now 8 cables per channel. (More than 8 cables had no further benefit in our experience.) This was a highly tedious and unpleasant job (the fumes are toxic). I soon followed his lead in my own system. With the Polk I already had laying around unused in my closet and a customer purchase, I built a 6' pair with 8 cables in parallel, and have used Polk speaker cables in my own personal system ever since then. (I now have a 3' pair with 6 cables in parallel, which has even less resistance than the initial 6' pair, which I later sold.) Around 15 years later, I had another enlightening experience with cables, this time in my store and with many more people involved:
In early 2001, my audio store's last year of operation, I received the latest version of the Coincident CST Interconnect cable. Israel Blume, the designer, was very happy with the results and he asked me to compare it to any cable I had in the store, at any price, so I did. I just happened to have the top-of-the-line Wireworld Gold Eclipse III (silver) interconnects, the best I had ever heard for line-level signals, and very expensive for that time.
I first broke-in the Coincident CST cables by using a CD player on "Repeat" (I still use this method today), and then conducted extensive, direct, A/B comparisons in my store over an entire weekend. Any person who entered the store was allowed in the room to make the comparison, with the only two conditions being they had to hear both cables for an entire cut of the same music and also promise to be honest and forthcoming in their observations and opinion (no "holding back"). For the sake of consistency and continuity, I decided to use one musical cut almost exclusively during the A/B comparisons: "Spanish Harlem"/Rebecca Pidgeon/Chesky Ultimate Demonstration Disc. (I was so sick of that one cut after that weekend, that I haven't played it even once in the last 15 years!)
I am no longer able to remember the power amplifier and speakers I used in the comparisons, but I do remember using the Ah Tjoeb 99, which was the best CD player I knew for the money back then. For the line stage, I chose the Passive/Active Pass Labs Aleph L, which proved critical in my efforts to make the tests as relevant and objective as possible. This quest for objectivity required a strict protocol, to make the tests as "blind" as possible. This is how the test was set-up:
The Ah Tjoeb had only one pair of stereo outputs (which is normal), so I connected a pair of high quality, gold-plated, Y-Jacks (Vampire Wire) to the outputs to convert them to dual (two) outputs. The Aleph L line stage had 4 inputs, so I connected one pair of cables from the Ah Tjoeb to Input 1 on the Aleph and the second pair to Input 3. The in-between Input 2 on the Aleph, still unused, became the de facto "Mute" position. Thus the test was completely fair to both cables since everything remained exactly the same for them when switching back and forth, including, critically, the volume. I did most of the A/B switching myself, but a few customers I trusted did some of the switches themselves, since it was ultra-easy to conduct, plus I had other customers to look after while the store was open. I even exchanged the cables' inputs a few times during the quiet periods on both days in an effort to further reduce any possible remaining prejudice and/or expectations, even on an unconscious level. The ultimate results of these A/B comparisons were truly edifying to say the least:
Approximately 25 people took the test and the results were 24 to 1 in favor of the Coincident CST. These results surprised me. Not only didn't I believe such a consensus was possible when it came to anything involved with audio, the results also directly contradicted a "Rule" continually spouted by "Audio Objectivists" for many years. Let me explain: Audio Objectivists have long claimed that in a direct A/B test, whichever component is playing (even .1 dB) louder will almost always be considered "superior". In this case, the Gold Eclipse III had a noticeably more upfront sound (silver vs. copper), which every single listener immediately observed, and this was also the main reason why every single listener was also able to easily distinguish the two cables from each other, despite the fact that they were both the exact same length, 1 meter, and the volume control was never touched (and was always in its "passive" range) after a test began.
The fact that all the listeners, with one exception (the final listener no less), still preferred the more laid back CST, which also wasn't quite as immediate, proved to be another surprise to me. The Coincident did have more body, warmth and was also better at separating the musicians in the ensemble. The CST proved to be more natural overall, and that ended up trumping the more exciting Wireworld. I frankly didn't expect those results, instead thinking that the two cables would have a similar number of adherents in the end. The really big deal, of course, was that the Coincident CST sold for $ 300, while the Gold Eclipse sold for the $ 1,200. I was further amazed that most of the customers weren't that surprised when they discovered the cable they preferred was only 25% of the price of its competitor. Maybe today's (justifiable) audio cynicism goes back further than we think.
Finally, I have to admit that I had a lot more fun than I expected while I conducted these tests, which would have been extremely tedious otherwise. What happened was this: As I mentioned above, I soon realized that every listener was easily able to distinguish the two cables from each other, no matter what I did or played, so the only real test left for them was deciding which cable they felt was better. Meanwhile, I took this rare opportunity to continually mention that some "serious" journalists, to be specific (so-called) "Audio Objectivists" Peter Aczel and Arny Kruger, now claimed that (paraphrasing them) "all cables sounded exactly the same", and were thus indistinguishable from each other, if heard in a strictly controlled A/B test, as I was then conducting (and they claimed the same was also true with all line stages, amplifiers, CD players etc).
The listeners were incredulous that any so-called "audio expert" could actually believe, and then state, such an absurdity, in public, since it was so obviously false and easily contradicted. The listeners, and I, couldn't resist joking about this "theory", at the direct expense of Aczel and Kruger, during both afternoons. Unfortunately, what I really wished for the most, an actual "audio objectivist" present and involved with these tests, never occurred during this weekend. I still wonder how this person* would have reacted to the irrefutable cognitive dissonance he was experiencing.
*There were a few sceptical listeners, so I simply had them make the switches themselves, or have their friends do it for them instead of me, just to prove that everything was above board.
There have been 4 generations of Coincident cables. Below are the dates when they were introduced, plus their respective retail prices. My notes and relevant commentary are below each generation.
C (Continuous) S (Signal) T (Transfer) Cables - Introduced 1998
CST - Interconnects - $ 300 1M Pair
CST1 - Speaker- $ 495 - 6 ft Pair
CST Power Cord- $ 295 - 6 ft.
Personal Notes on CST- This was Coincident's first generation of cables. They were the only models that I ever sold in my audio store. The CST interconnect was also involved in the shootout described above. I have used the CST power cords in my personal system from 2001 until the present, which is quite a run. However, I still preferred the Polk speaker cables to the CST and I also preferred a prototype interconnect from Ars Acoustica (which was never available to the public) to the CST equivalent.
Extreme Cables- Introduced 2005
Interconnects -RCA - $ 450 1M Pair
Speaker Cable - $ 1,395 6 ft Pair
Power Cord- $ 495 - 6 ft.
Personal Notes on Extreme- I have had extensive experience with this second generation of Coincident cables. I currently use Extreme interconnects between the line stage and subwoofer amplifiers, plus the Extreme speaker cables are used for the subwoofers. I also currently use one Extreme power cord. However, I still prefer the Polk cables to the Extreme on the Pure Reference monitors. The Extreme interconnects sound almost exactly the same as the Ars Acoustica prototype, but the Extreme has better bass. I never compared the CST and Extreme power cords.
Extreme Shotgun - Introduced 2010
Interconnects - $ 900 - 1M Pair
Speaker Cables- $ 2,795 6 ft Pair
Personal Notes on Shotgun- I have very limited experience with this generation, though the little I had was quite positive. The Shotguns are essentially a "doubled up" version of the Extreme, and they are, accordingly, also twice the price. I have only heard the Shotgun interconnects and they are the finest I've ever heard for line-level signals, bettering both the Extreme and the Ars Acoustica. I'm currently using the Shotgun cables between the Jadis phono stage and the Coincident line stage. I have not heard the Shotgun speaker cables.
Statement Cables- Introduced 2015
Interconnects - RCA- $ 595 1M Pair
Speaker Cable - $ 1,995 - 6 ft Pair
Power Cord- $ 595 - 6 ft
Phono - DIN-RCA- $ 795 - 1M Pair
Personal Notes on Statement- These are the cables presently being evaluated. I have every version that is available except the "Balanced" (XLR). The Statements are actually selling for substantially less money than their previous generation Shotgun equivalents, despite 5 years of added inflation. Israel Blume informed me that the basic designs of the Statement cables were accomplished a number of years ago, but only recent technological advances in cable manufacturing have allowed them to be built to his complete satisfaction.
These are the only "audiophile" cables that do not actually transmit the musical signal. Power Cords are easy for anyone to understand since they have only two critical functions, which are self-evident:
1. Maximize the transmission of energy (current) from the AC outlet to the component's power supply. Plus, just as important...
2. Minimize the amount of extraneous and harmful noise (RFI, EMI) that inevitably exists in the power line.
This sounds pretty easy to achieve, but I always felt there was an inherent technical conflict between the #1 and #2 functions. Still, a high quality audio system should be able to reveal if a power cord is competently designed and built. There is also no rational reason for "all-out" power cords that cost thousands of dollars. This is insanity, ego, greed and ignorance epitomized. In fact, cables (of any type) that are designed to look "cool" usually have engineering compromises, so it's the worst of all words; paying more for less performance.
I received three individual Statement power cords; for the CD player, phono stage and line stage; plus two pairs of power cords for the 4 mono power amplifiers I have in my system (I am bi-amping, so there are two mono amplifiers per channel). I conducted 6 (not 5) comparisons in total, because I ended up comparing the line stage power cord twice: Once with the Coincident Statement and once with "The Truth", and I was glad that I did when I heard the results.
I chose the line stage first because it is the heart and common denominator of the system. The comparison's results were inadvertently derived in two stages; first with the Frankenstein/Monitors, playing by themselves, and then full-range, with the Dragon/Subwoofers also being played. There was one other unique and important factor involved with this first comparison; the Statement line stage was already utilizing a CST power cord, but it was only 2 feet in length. The replacement Statement power cord was also 2 foot in length. It was thus only natural to ask whether there could be any audible differences between two quality power cords when both of them were only 2 feet in length? These are the results I observed:
A. Frankensteins/Monitors Only- A very small improvement in favor of the Statement power cord. A slight reduction in the sound-floor, and a touch purer and less homogenized in complex passages. It was similar to the differences heard between an average and good AC day. I most likely would not be able to hear these subtle differences without listening for them. Music: Decca/Bach/Xmas Oratorio plus Alia Vox CD and SACD.
B. System Full-Range- The differences were definitely more noticeable and could be observed this time without prompting. The sound with the Statement power cord was a little larger and more effortless, and it also had more weight and improved bass definition. I only played the subwoofers because I needed a true and recent "Reference" before I conducted Comparison Two (the Dragons). I also didn't want any confusion and/or ambiguity compromising future results. Based on the subtle changes I had earlier heard with the Monitors alone, I expected to hear virtually no change in the lower frequencies, so this positive result was surprising, which is the best and most reliable confirmation that what you are hearing is actually true. Music: RCA/Victory at Sea plus Mobile Fidelity/CSNY/Deja Vu.
I chose the Dragons next, instead of the Frankensteins, to be certain that any differences I heard came from the Dragons alone, and not both amplifiers combined. I wanted to avoid giving the Dragons' new power cords any credit they did not actually earn. So I isolated any Dragon changes as best as I could. The Dragons were already utilizing one four foot CST power cord (left channel) and one six foot "generic" (hardware store) power cord (right channel). A generic cord was used because a CST cable couldn't fit in such a limited space. The Statement replacement power cords were both four feet in length, and the right channel was able to fit with a special L-Shaped IEC plug. These are the results I observed:
I naturally expected any improvements to be strictly limited to the bass frequencies, but I was surprised again, twice actually, pleasantly and unpleasantly. The main differences were in the midrange instead, while the improvements in the bass turned out to be subtle. It actually took some time for me to believe what I was hearing. The sound-floor was lower (more whispers were heard) and there was a greater "sharing of space" with the Statement power cords. There was also less homogenization and the sound was a little more immediate and vivid, like a fog had been removed.
The improvements in the bass were mainly heard during demanding passages, with slightly more control, detail, definition and power. I did not hear the bass go deeper. After Comparison One was completed, I took some time off and played a dozen or so of my more demanding recordings and played them again after the Dragon power cord switch, so the results were as definitive as I could make them. While the subwoofers don't have a steep low-pass filter, it was still a surprise to hear how improved AC filtering (what else could it be?) could make such an improvement even when the drivers were already attenuated 10 dB or more. The effect was similar to hearing your system at 2 am (at its very best), rather than 9 pm. It also must be remembered that a 6 foot generic power cord was replaced this time, which may have been the previous weak link for AC noise.
So while I was hoping for even more improvements in the bass, I received more than I ever could have wished for in the even more important midrange, a trade-off I'll take any day. Overall, I was very happy with the final results, even if they were completely unpredictable and almost counter-intuitive. Music: Mobile Fidelity/Pines of Rome, Argo/Pulcinella, Dune, Emerald Forest, Vangelis/China.
The Frankenstein amplifiers were utilizing a pair of earlier generation Coincident power cords, each 6 foot in length, one CST and one Extreme (the only Extreme power cord I had). They were replaced by a pair of six foot Statement power cords. These are the results I observed:
I almost immediately sensed that the sound-floor was lower. The sound was also more immediate and vivid, with longer decays. The Frankensteins were now less homogenized and had more reserve during demanding passages. In all, the sound was more dynamic, secure and had greater integrity. It even sounded a little louder. Especially noticeable was the improvement in the reproduction of drums. I was able to hear multiple bass drums separated as never before, on any system (though this achievement was accomplished by more than just this power cord change).
These sonic improvements were more noticeable than with the earlier Dragon power cord change (Comparison Two), which was not a surprise. Unfortunately, the improvements were not heard on all the records I played, but mainly those with difficult sections and/or a purity and transparency that went beyond just "good". The one surprise for me, which I still don't understand, was that a disproportionate number of Digital recordings were improved with this cable change. I can only guess that many Digital records have greater system requirements, such as the best possible AC, to really demonstrate their potential. Overall, the Frankenstein power cord upgrade was the most satisfying for me so far. Music: Nonesuch/Medieval Xmas Music, Hwong/House of Sleeping Beauties, EMI/Music of Mexico.
The APL was utilizing a six foot generic power cord, which was replaced by a six foot Statement power cord. Because the APL sends out a dangerous pulse whenever it is turned off (by choice or not), it is plugged into a UPS device (battery) instead of directly into the wall (to avoid catastrophic damage to the system). These are the results I observed:
I heard a change immediately, literally. I even had to turn down the volume a few seconds after the switch. Further: The sound-floor was obviously lower with naturally blacker backgrounds, plus there was more space and longer decays. The sound was also more immediate and vivid. When I played the APL with the monitors alone, I heard more natural body than ever before, with both voices (throat and chest) and instruments (drums). With certain music, it was even hard to believe at times that the subwoofers were actually turned off.
In short, the improvements I heard with the APL/Statement power cord switch were definitely the largest and most consequential of the six comparisons that I made (and that includes the Frankensteins, Comparison Three). In fact, I now believe the APL can not be fully optimized, and appreciated, without using a quality power cord like the Statement, which is something I couldn't have known until now (though I long suspected it). Music: Mark Isham/Blue Sun, Erato/Nueva Espana.
The Jadis was utilizing a four foot CST power cord, which was replaced by a four foot Statement power cord. These are the results I observed:
The LP noise was a touch lower and the volume a touch louder. The sound had more control and held together a little better during demanding passages. There was a touch less homogenization and little more body in the voices. The sound-floor was also a bit lower and a FFF climax was a bit louder. There was also a little more detail and intelligibility. These improvements were observed only with better records. Overall, despite all of the variety mentioned, this was the least noticeable improvement of the six comparisons I made, so I was somewhat disappointed in the end. The reason why?...
I believe it is because the Jadis is using a minimal amount of energy. The entire line stage, along with the cathode follower in the phono stage, are no longer active. Further, it has an unusual switching-type power supply, which doesn't depend as much on AC purity as a conventional power supply.
Music: See the LPs mentioned above.
"The Truth" came with a 6 foot generic power cable. I first replaced it with a 2 foot CST power cord and eventually with a 2 foot Statement power cord (the same one used earlier with the Coincident Line Stage, Comparison One). The results I observed are the accumulation of both cables:
The sound-floor was lower, and the sound also became quieter, cleaner, more dynamic and more immediate. I would estimate that 75% of these improvements came from the initial CST switch, while the remaining 25% of the improvements came with the switch from the CST to the Statement. In the end, these two power cord switches were highly successful, and just behind the Coincident Frankensteins (and the APL of course) in overall satisfaction. Music: See all the music mentioned above.
The most important and noticeable changes were with the APL, then the Frankensteins and then "The Truth". It must be emphasized that both the APL and "The Truth" had 6 foot generic power cords to begin with. The least noticeable change was with the Jadis, which has an unique switching power supply, plus it only amplifies very low-level signals and it has had most of its circuit removed and is now unused. (It also had a CST power cord to begin with.)
The improvements I noticed, in all the comparisons, were pretty consistent in their type, though not in their degree. In all cases, it was mainly the two volume level extremes that were most effected by the Statement power cords; the softest and loudest. The loudest volume levels were improved with the Statement power cords by providing a sort of "reserve" during the most demanding passages. I believe the Statement's high current delivery was responsible for this change. Simultaneously, the Statement power cords consistently provided a lower sound-floor as well, which was mainly noticeable during quieter passages. I believe the Statement's AC noise attenuation was responsible for this change.
So these power cord improvements will be most noticeable and welcome for those audiophiles with highly revealing systems, who also listen to a large variety of music and especially with their more challenging recordings. In effect then, there is a double sonic benefit, which matches what a high quality power cord is supposed to do in the first place.
The Bottom Line- All wide-range audio systems require high quality power cords, and this is especially true for those systems which are also designed for a low sound-floor, and subsequently still sound real and natural at very low volume levels (such as mine). If the goal is to optimize the performance of each and every component, and the audio system as a whole, then quality power cords are indispensable. Just make certain that their design and build quality emphasize both high current delivery and AC noise rejection, which the Statement power cord obviously does so admirably.
I've been very fortunate when it comes to speaker cables. More than 30 years ago, I discovered the unique sonic attributes of the Polk speaker cables (see "Shocking" anecdote above). Since then, I've auditioned numerous speaker cables, but not one of them has matched the Polks when using the most revealing amplifiers (SET designs) and speakers. Interestingly, for half this period I also owned an audio store, so what did I tell my customers? If they asked, I always admitted using the Polk in my personal system rather than a speaker cable I was selling in the store at the time. However, only a handful of my customers ever followed me during all those years. The vast majority of them had heard that the Polk was dangerous to use with transistor amplifiers, and also difficult to construct properly (cutting and soldering 4 or more cables in parallel). So they felt it just wasn't worth it.
The Polk cable also has one serious performance qualifier: It does not have truly impactive bass (though the quality of the bass is superb), so I've always used other speaker cables on the various subwoofers I've had over this same period of time. In the last decade or so, I've used the Coincident Extreme cables for the subwoofers, as I found them to have both outstanding detail and impact, an ideal combination. This brings us to the present.
Further- Almost all of the Readers Letters that are removed from this file, after the standard 12 Month posting (such as the January 2016 Readers Letters), are subsequently posted in their respective Reference Component Files: Amplifiers, Cartridges, Speakers etc. They can be found under "Readers Letters". If the reader's letter discussed more than one type of audio component, I will place that letter in the file of the component that was the most discussed.
1. Acappella Ion Super Tweeter- I have had no chance to audition these tweeters. Two associates are scheduled to visit me sometime in the next two months. However, if nothing changes, I will try to get to these super tweeters myself sometime this spring.
2. Ultra Sonic Record Cleaning Dedicated File- I am in the process of receiving the latest updated information and protocols. The dedicated file will be posted when I am satisfied that everything is as current as possible in this continually moving subject.
Further- Almost all of the Readers Letters that are removed from this file, after the standard 12 Month posting (such as the February 2016 Readers Letters), are subsequently posted in their respective Reference Component Files: Amplifiers, Cartridges, Speakers etc. They can be found under "Readers Letters". If the reader's letter discussed more than one type of audio component, I will place that letter in the file of the component that was the most discussed.
My experiences with these cables: what works and what does not.
Remember: The individual strands of these cables look thick with their insulation on. Once you remove insulation, you will be surprised to note that the copper strands are really thin (like fine wire).
Yes it works but it is very time consuming. I found that the best method was to pull a few strands at a time between two sheets of fine-grain sand paper. You have to keep turning the cables around so that all the enamel is scraped off by the sand paper. Very time consuming because of the large number of strands.
Mechanical methods that are not that effective are listed below.
"Scraping with metal file. The fine strands tend to break off.
"Using a sander/grinder. Even careful application of pressure and selection of soft grinding surfaces causes some cables to break off.
"Metal scraping tool. No good. Too many strands break off.
After removal of enamel, it is important to solder the exposed copper immediately. Please do remember that we are working with 30 year old copper wire. It is still useable due to the purity of the copper and the excellent protection of the enamel. Avoid exposure, as much as you can.
Not workable in real life.
"The intense heat of the enamel burning burns off the copper wire. Please note that the enamel thickness is much higher than the cable diameter. You end up with different lengths of burned up cable ends.
"To make it worse, the copper gets oxidized by the fire/heat.
Theoretically this is a good technique, but quite difficult in real life.
"The tight Litz braiding and the close fitting plastic sleeve has a tendency to absorb the solvent from the stripping chemical by capillary action. I found that even holding the cable vertically and dipping it into the stripping solution from above does not prevent capillary action. I destroyed 1 m of my cable trying this method.
"The copper quality (purity) may be compromised by the stripping solution.
Best of the four methods I have tried.
1. Use a high temperature solder pot (temperature about 400C)
2. Melt enough solder to be able to dip (about 1.5 cm deep) the required length of cable.
3. Wait till temperature reaches 400C-450C.
4. Dip the cut end of the cable in the melted solder and wait till the enamel burn off. You can see the white smoke, indicating the enamel is burned off. Takes only a few minutes if the solder is hot enough.
"See note on separating the cables by colour. Once separated twist them together lightly. This will make dipping them in solder easier.
"Do this in a well ventilated area or with an exhaust hood. This white gas is toxic. Otherwise wear a chemical grade face mask.
"Does not hold the wire with bare hands as you burn off the enamel. It can become very hot.
"Protect the rest of the wire from the extreme heat. I just wrap the cable with a thick layer of aluminium foil to conduct away the heat.
5. If necessary, apply solder paste and dip in solder momentarily.
6. If you plan to terminate using connectors, prepare them ahead and assemble them straight out of the solder pot.
Good luck. And happy listening.
To all those brave souls: These cables are really worth the effort and money.
Personal Notes from Arthur Salvatore- While I agree with the reader that a solder pot is the best method to remove the insulation from the Polk, I also found that a high temperature soldering iron works almost as well, though it is slower and messier. The reader gave me permission for his name to be posted.
I felt this reader's letter was interesting enough to post. Minor editing and my bold:
"I...wanted to comment about one inaccuracy you repeated (on your website). You didnít hear it yourself and you qualified the claim, but mentioned colleague(s) felt the Dynavector 17D2 has poor bass. In my experience, this is because they didnít terminate it into a proper loading impedance. The 17D2 has an output impedance of over 32 ohms, contrasted to some other high performance moving coil cartridges like Zyx, Lyra, Koetsu, Ortofon with output impedances well under 10 ohms. Fewer windings in their coils equals lower mass AND lower output impedance and seems attributable to the successful higher speed sound of many moving coil designs. However, the Dynavector 17D2 can also sound excellent with good bass if terminated into a proper moving coil transformer like the Fidelity Research FRT-3 which has Moving Coil Cartridge impedance settings of 10 or 30 ohms. Set it to 10 and yes, all is not well, but set it to 30 and it sounds great.
Many transformers donít have multiple settings, just the one value that the designer chose, and you probably donít even know what that is. The Mitchell A Cotter transformer was available in over 5 different impedance configurations. Denon and others made transformers with choices to accommodate lower AND higher impedance cartridges. Loading values on active pre-preamplifier stages work differently and everyone seems to pick 100 ohms, or close to that based on what settings are available on their particular device. My lower impedance Zyx, Lyra, and Koetsu cartridges do sound nice into the 100 ohm setting on my Audia Flight balanced phono stage.
Anyway, I have a 17D2 on a high performance home-brew turntable with a Jelco arm at my ski house, and it is a nice sounding matchup so long as I use that 30 ohm setting on the FR transformer.
At my primary home I have a Goldmund Studietto (yes, sorbothane pucks replaced the springs over 15 years ago) with a properly adjusted T5 belt drive arm, an Oracle/Graham combo, a re-plinthed Lenco L75/Jelco combo, and a Linn LP12/FR combo. They perform in the order that I listed them. The Goldmund is my highest performer and the T5 is a great arm if adjusted properly, which requires many adjustments and in some poor reviews it is obvious which adjustments were just plain set wrong. For example in TAS a central image shifting from left to right is mentioned as a flaw, which only proves that the carriage adjustment speed was set too slow, allowing too many record revolutions before advancing the carriage thus allowing the uni-pivot arm to swing too far away from a neutral tangential position. Set to allow only a couple of revolutions of the record before advancing the carriage and the center image is perfectly stable. When such a simple adjustment is set so obviously wrong it makes me for one question whether the many other adjustments were even close to correct. Set up once correctly my T5 plays my Zyx, Lyra, and Koetsu cartridges like they were meant to be played. BTW, my home-brew turntable is around the same performance level as my re-plinthed Lenco L75/Jelco, and both are quite higher performance than my Linn LP12/FR combo - which I only really keep around as a benchmark for the entry level of high end turntable performance."
Personal Notes- My associate did optimize the performance of the 17D2 with proper loading. He still found it did not have the impact, weight and extension of some other top performing MC cartridges, which are also considerably more expensive. He is not alone in that observation. He also felt the quality of the 17D2's bass was still excellent. I also posted some reader's observations as well, but I can't attest to them as I do my associate, who I have known for almost 40 years.
I was a Goldmund dealer and have extensive experience with both their T3 and T5 tonearms. The Goldmund tonearms are particularly difficult and tricky to adjust, requiring a great deal of patience, which is why I advise most audiophiles to avoid them, but they are excellent when properly optimized.
1. Acapella TW 1S Ion Super Tweeter- I have now successfully integrated the Acapella Ion super tweeters with my Coincident Pure Reference Extreme speakers. This was not an easy accomplishment, as I had predicted earlier based on my own prior experiences and credible anecdotes. This is why I waited to utilize them only when I had assistance from someone I trusted. And, of course, the high cost of the these particular tweeters must also be considered a serious issue.
However, my experiences with the Acapellas are still positive overall, so I now intend to write an extensive article/essay on the details of my recent experiences, plus on the general and historical issues of (using and optimizing) "Super Tweeters", a subject which has always been neglected, if not avoided, in serious audio discussions (in stark contrast to the countless articles and reviews concerning subwoofers).
2. "The Ultimate Truth" Line Stage- There is now a second version of "The Truth" (the name of the new model is "The Ultimate Truth"), though I don't know when this new model will actually become available for sale. This second model also will NOT replace the original version, which will remain available indefinetely.
This new model is superior to the original model in two important areas; Sonics and ergonomics. Further, and most relevant, the new model also has one input with gain. I am not able to provide more information than this, but I will do so ASAP, after I confirm the important, relevant and supporting details with several people.
3. "Reference Lenco" New Platter- I had a chance to audition this new platter for more than a week in my own system. In a direct A/B comparison, it provided a noticeable improvement over the original stock Lenco platter, though the improvement was not significant in the absolute sense of that word. Still, any improvement at the Reference Lenco's high level of performance is a positive development, and adds even further enthusiasm to Jean Nantais' "Ultimate Lenco" project.
Final Important News- I finally solved the problem with the Jadis phono stage that I have been suffering with for the last year (it would suddenly stop operating after an hour or more of play). The cause of the problem was a mismatch between the Jadis' extremely high output impedance and the (almost infinite) input impedance of "The Truth" line stage. Once I lowered the Jadis' output impedance to "normal" (it was originally set extremely high when I was using the Coincident Line Stage), the problem immediately vanished.
Further- Almost all of the Readers Letters that are removed from this file, after the standard 12 Month posting (such as the March 2016 Readers Letters), are subsequently posted in their respective Reference Component Files: Amplifiers, Cartridges, Speakers etc. They can be found under "Readers Letters". If the reader's letter discussed more than one type of audio component, I will place that letter in the file of the component that was the most discussed.
Until I find a list which is more definitive, and objective, here are some speakers that I, and mainly my Readers, have found to work very well with low-powered Single Ended Triode (SET) amplifiers;
AcuHorn rosso superiore175
Affirm (formerly Maxxhorn) Lumination & Immersion
Apogee Acoustics Definitive Ribbon Speaker (very expensive)
Aspara Acoustics HL1 Horn Speaker
Audio Note ANE SEC Signature
Avantgarde Duo and Trio (All Versions)
BD-Design Oris and Orphean Models
Bottlehead Straight 8s (Discontinued)
Brentworth Sound Lab
Cain & Cain BEN ES (and other models)
Cardersound Madison (Single-Drive Back Loaded Horns)
Coincident (Total) Victory II & Pure Reference Extreme (and most of their other models)
Decware (Various Models)
(DIY Hi-Fi Supply) Crescendo Ribbon Horn Speaker System
Fab Audio Model 1 (Toronto, Canada)
FAL Supreme-C90 EXW or EXII
Goodmans of England 5 or 612s
Hawthorne Solo and Duet
Horn Shoppe (Two Models)
Horning Hybrids (Various models)
Klipschorn and La Scala (All Versions)
Living Voice OBX-R2 (UK)
Musical Affairs Grand Crescendo
Omega Speaker Systems
Pi Speakers (Various Models)
ProAc Response Two*
Reference 3A MM de Capo i
RL Acoustique Lamhorn 1.8 (Montreal, Canada)
Sonist Concerto 2
Sunlight Engineering 308
Supravox Open Baffle
Teresonic (Various Models)
Tonian Acoustics (Various Models)
WLM (Various Models)
*Recommended by a reader and Gordon Rankin (Wavelength Audio), a veteran expert SET designer, despite its 86 dB sensitivity.
I would appreciate finding out about any other models, that readers have actually heard for themselves, to add to this list. This list is not a temporary project. It will be kept permanently in the Speaker Files. Further, don't expect to see the speaker models posted here a day or so after your e-mail is sent to me. Please remember that I'm usually behind in ALL my correspondence, including even the brief and helpful information letters. I will keep my own "SET friendly list" because at least one list should have no commercial foundation, temptations or considerations**.
Important- I would like to know if any of the above models can be bi-amped. This is critical, because I am convinced, based on decades of experience, that speakers with the capability of being bi-amped have far superior potential, assuming everything else is equal.
**For example, another website placed the Merlin speakers on their list, which, despite all their enviable qualities, will still not work well with low-powered SET amplifiers. I know, because I tried them. The sensitivity was just too low. Merlin, themselves, has used the excellent CAT amplifiers, which are pentode based and push-pull, at their audio show demonstrations. I would trust Merlin to know how to optimize their own speaker designs.
The dedicated file on Ultra Sonic Recording Cleaning has now been posted. It will be updated and further edited as soon as I receive new material from one of the contributors. Below is the link:
Further- Almost all of the Readers Letters that are removed from this file, after the standard 12 Month posting (such as the May/June 2016 Readers Letters), are subsequently posted in their respective Reference Component Files: Amplifiers, Cartridges, Speakers etc. They can be found under "Readers Letters". If the reader's letter discussed more than one type of audio component, I will place that letter in the file of the component that was the most discussed.
Promised and Now Posted...
The Acapella TW 1S was added to the Class A Reference Speakers back in January 2004. This action was somewhat unusual since I had not heard the tweeters in my own audio system, or even in a friend's system that I was familiar with. Instead, four straight days of concentrated auditions, at the 2004 CES, compelled me to give them the recognition I felt they deserved. An associate, who was with me for the entire duration of the CES, fully agreed with my sonic assessment. We were both simply far too impressed with the Acapella to do anything else.
At the time, I wrote a short description of the TW 1S which couldn't have been more positive and, even after more than 13 years, I think it still holds up for the most part, though with some reflection, as well as some recent events, I now feel forced to qualify my most extreme statement. Now in 2017, I am actually living with these super tweeters. Further, I have extensively experimented with them, and two other highly critical listeners have also heard the results in my system as well. One of these two extra listeners assisted me in the experiments.
Below are the results of the experiments and our numerous listening sessions. Finally, I felt a general discussion of super tweeters is also appropriate, if not a requirement, at this time.
However, first we must start at the beginning, a few decades ago now, for the necessary perspective.
Back in the early 1980's, at one of the Chicago CES (late spring) shows (long gone and sorely missed), I was able to extensively audition the Hill Plasmatronic speakers. It was a truly unique design, with its plasma driver going down to (a still unprecedented) 1,000 Hz! The sound was unsurprisingly amazing in certain ways, but it also had the easily predictable problem of cohesion (try successfully matching a massless plasma driver to any dynamic driver, at 1,000 Hz no less). Unfortunately, the Hill was also expensive and impractical for even the most serious audiophiles, and only a few were sold (though enthusiasts of this unique design are still around, see Links below.) However, plasma driver fans would have another choice, the Magnat MP-02, which was manufactured in Germany. Even better, I was able to audition the Magnat in my own system, with two audiophile friends (one of them was the owner of the Magnats, the other an employee).
Unlike the full-range Plasmatronics, the Magnat plasma driver was strictly a super tweeter, designed to replace, or add to, an existing tweeter. I can't remember the specific crossover frequency, or whether it was even adjustable, but I do very well remember the sonic results and one other critically important factor. My best recollection of the system we used (around 1989) is this: Versa Dynamics II turntable/tonearm, Jadis JP-80/Jadis JA-80, Wilson WATT II and Entec subwoofers. The Magnat was placed on the top of the WATT II. My listening room was around 24' X 20', with a 9.5' ceiling.
To put it simply, the sound of the system was transformed. It was one of the largest and most significant improvements I had ever heard with just a single component change. The Details?...The soundstage was not only much larger, but better focused, with a separation of instruments I had only experienced before with the Morrison omni-directional speakers. Not surprisingly, the speed and the extension in the highs was in a class of its own. The sound was also incredibly natural, pure and clean. Overall, it was an audio revelation, something audiophiles live for and dream about, but rarely experience in actual life. I would have obviously purchased a pair of the Magnats immediately (for myself and my store), but there was one very serious problem with them...
The Magnat released ozone into the room, and in large quantities (unlike the Acapella or the Hill Plasmatronics tweeters). My listening room was pretty large, but not nearly large enough to absorb the ozone that was released. There wasn't an unpleasant smell, but the air felt so "heavy" that it was now actually difficult to simply breathe. I also started feeling light-headed. So I would spend a few minutes listening, leave the room, and then return around 5 minutes later. This was repeated all evening.
Meanwhile, my two friends, who were apparently completely uneffected by the ozone, stayed in the room during the entire evening, never once complaining about the air in the room, even though they told me it was easy to notice the change. Fortunately, they accommodated my wishes when it came to playing my personal LP References, so I was confident of my evaluation of the Magnats, despite the fact I heard them for a relatively short period of time. (For the record, my two friends completely agreed with my highly positive assessment of the Magnats' performance.)
Accordingly, I permanently ruled out the Magnats after that evening, though the dream of owning a pair of ion super tweeters, without the health drawbacks, would remain with me. In the end, it took more than 25 years to realize this dream. This brings us to the present and my experiments with the Acapella TW 1S Ion Super Tweeters being used with (a double pair of) the Coincident Pure Reference Extreme speakers.
I purchased and received the Acapella tweeters in June 2015. I could only afford them because I received a once-in-a-lifetime "sweetheart deal" from a distributor (who I've known for 40+ years now), basically the OEM price. I could provide a number of common "excuses" for the unusually lengthy delay in auditioning the tweeters, but the main reason was that I strongly felt I required some assistance, not only for positioning and basic set-up, but also to ensure a thorough and competent evaluation, which I could then post with confidence. Sadly, one by one, my associates cancelled their plans to visit me for various reasons until, finally, Jean Nantais (of Lenco fame) visited me as planned in April, 2017, and eagerly agreed to help me with the experiments.
The reason why I felt I required assistance with the Acapella TW 1S was simple; The tweeter was much heavier and bulkier than I imagined, even though I had seen pictures of it and had read the relevant specifications (it includes a built-in amplifier and crossover). However, once I actually handled it, I knew immediately it was impossible for it to safely fit on top of the Pure Reference Monitors (my obvious first choice, which proved to be a fantasy). Considering my "options" at length, I realized there weren't any. There was only one real option...
Short of building custom stands for them (which would take up space I didn't have, even ignoring the extra cost), all I could do was place the tweeters on the tops of the Pure Reference Subwoofers!? Yes, the resulting issues and questions with this "solution" are both obvious and inevitable: 1. Will the vibrations from the subwoofers compromise the tweeters? 2. Will the extra height of the subwoofers, and their backward position in relation to the monitors, compromise the cohesiveness of the signal and music? Only actual auditioning would answer these important questions, as you will find out below.
Meanwhile, I had the first basic logistical question to answer: Would I risk placing the tweeters, all by myself, on top of the subwoofers? For me, it required a ladder and extremely steady arms and hands. One serious slip had multiple consequences: A broken tweeter for certain, plus most likely either a broken amplifier (Frankenstein 300B) or a broken speaker (Pure Reference Monitor), since both of them are directly below the subwoofers. In a worse case scenario, maybe all three components broken at the same time. Even a slight slip meant the top of the subwoofer would be seriously scratched. I felt that while such a catastrophe had maybe only a 5% chance at most of actually occurring, that 5% was still too much of a chance for me to take. Thus 22 frustrating months went by.
Jean Nantais (JN) and I spent 4 days and (late) nights experimenting with these tweeters. We positioned, removed and re-positioned the tweeters multiple times, taking turns lifting them into position. I did all the crossover work, including the important calculations, along with the capacitor choices and soldering (see picture below). Jean, in turn, helped me to acoustically isolate the tweeters from the subwoofers, properly angle them for optimum cohesion and also make certain that they would never slide off the subs.
Further, some basic information: The tweeters have an RCA input, since they have their own dedicated tube amplifier. The volume control is external (in the rear), but the crossover is inside the unit, requiring a side panel to be removed. Changing the crossover frequency requires inserting specific capacitors into tiny slots (see picture below). The Acapella crossover is 12 dB/octave (second order). The stock crossover frequency is 8500 Hz. The tweeters turn on automatically, in stages, when they sense a moderate level signal (like many contemporary subwoofers), and they also shut off automatically when they sense no signal for around 15 minutes.
Finally, the actual results...
Nantais and I didn't get to the Acapella super tweeters for a few days. His last visit was three years ago (2014), so we decided to first re-optimize the (Reference Lenco) turntable and the phono system. By the time we finished the phono optimization, we had improved sonics along with the added bonus that JN had re-familiarized himself with my system and could now easily notice slight differences.
As it turned out, our first experiment, conducted initially in the afternoon and then later in the evening, actually consisted of two separate and independent "stages". The most important experiences and insights, specifically about the Acapella (positive and negative), as well as about super tweeters in general, were acquired during these two first stages. The two remaining experiments, discussed below, were also illuminating, but they are more accurately described as refinements in comparison to the "big picture" results of the first experiment.
First Stage- After the tweeters "snapped on" and the system warmed up, the first stage commenced with JN and I listening intensively. Frankly, neither of us was impressed, initially or even after an extended period of time. In fact, we both soon began to wonder, eventually out loud to each other, whether the system had actually gone backwards with the addition of the super tweeters. Yes, we could easily hear the extra high frequency extension and speed, but everything else was somewhat "confused" and imprecise. Overall, this was a major disappointment. So we obviously asked ourselves, what could be the cause of the problems?
It could not be subwoofer related, because they weren't even turned on at this point (it was still in the afternoon and I rarely turn them on during the day). Further, the music we played wasn't even that challenging. Fortunately, I had anticipated exactly this kind of result and had planned for it. I asked Nantais to leave the room, to reduce any bias on his part, and made a single change to the system: I now rolled-off the monitors above 8500 Hz, the exact same crossover frequency as the Acapellas, using a capacitor network going from hot to negative (see picture).
The Details- Before JN's visit, I had opened up the Acapella cabinet to learn the stock crossover frequency. I then researched the monitor's impedance (two of them in parallel), used the standard crossover frequency formula, and built a high quality (all film and foil) capacitor network to roll-off the monitor at the same frequency as the Acapella. I used wires with alligator clips, allowing me to use the caps, or remove them, in seconds. (I asked JN to come back after an appropriate period of time, which wouldn't tip him off, and we began the "second stage" of our listening session.)
Second Stage- We both noticed a dramatic improvement almost immediately. While the sound still had the extension and speed we heard before, it was now also highly precise and intelligible, instead of being diffuse and congested. The sound was also cleaner, with greater instrumental separation, as well as improved focus. The soundstage was better defined, with a much clearer sense of the recording space, and the decays lasted longer and in a realistic manner. It was like hearing one natural voice again, instead of two artificial voices arguing and interfering with each other.
So we had found "the critical key" for a successful implementation of the super tweeters, and through direct experience; The monitors had to be rolled-off as well, at the same frequency, or they would noticeably interfere with the super tweeters in a disastrous fashion. In short, the high-pass super tweeter crossover frequency had to match the crossover frequency of the low-pass (monitor's) tweeter. If this was not done, there would be "sonic chaos" in the entire frequency range in which the two tweeters simultaneously played. In this case, between 8.5K and 20K+ Hz.
We next experimented with the volume of the super tweeters, matching them with the monitors' tweeters and, after being satisfied with the results, we shut the system down for the afternoon. Later that same evening, we turned the system back on, this time including the subwoofers. We first went through the afternoon play list, but eventually played some highly demanding music as well. We listened closely for any sonic problems that we may have missed in the afternoon session, expected and unexpected, especially now that the subwoofers were engaged and the potential problems they brought along.
Here is what we also discovered through these initial day and evening experiments:
1. The subwoofer vibrations did not cause any noticeable problems, and we listened specifically for them. This was verified many times by playing the same recordings with the subs off and on, and was verified again when my second friend visited me a few weeks later. This result was not surprising when you think about it. The Coincident subwoofer has outstanding cabinet structural integrity (175 lbs each). Better, its top plate is extremely thick, and the tweeter is located at its deadest part, the front joint. The Acapella is even further acoustically isolated with damping material.
2. There was also no noticeable problems caused by the location of the super tweeters, with its extra height and distance from the monitor's tweeters. The focus and separation were outstanding, even better than before. There was absolutely no "fun house mirror" effect, that can be noticed with out-of-phase reproduction. However, it did take careful positioning and the angling down of the super tweeters to achieve the optimum level of performance. We first used paperback books, though we eventually used Nantais' much more elegant and functional "little isolation platform".
3. JN and I also listened to the monitors rolled-off above 8.5k, and with the super tweeters turned off as well. The end result was now a "mellow and sweet" speaker, but surprisingly satisfying, mainly because most of the high frequencies were still present. I can understand why someone would prefer this type of sound, especially with poor recordings (digital and analogue), even though it is not true "hi-fi". Actually, I once had plenty of customers who preferred speakers with a "forgiving" sound. JN had the last word, he said "it sounds just like a vintage speaker".
4. We even listened to the Acapella super tweeters on their own (to break them in without having to turn on the entire system). We were surprised yet again. This time we couldn't get over how much of a positive effect the super tweeters were making considering how little actual sound we observed coming directly from them on their own. In fact, at certain times it almost sounded like virtually nothing was turned on and playing.
5. Finally, we also heard another benefit from rolling-off the monitors' tweeters: The listening "sweet spot" had expanded from just one seat in the middle, to all three seats. While this obviously wasn't important to me when listening by myself, which is 90+% of the time, it is important when I have guests. Since I had lost the two side seats when going to double monitors per side (which meant two tweeters per side), I can only surmise that the roll-off decreased the interference caused by the two Coincident tweeters operating simultaneously in the highest frequencies.
Our first night's listening sessions lasted until very late in the evening. I was exhausted, but still excited, especially considering how we had overcame the disappointing initial results. I also had another reason for my excitement. I was acutely aware that the crossover capacitors in the Acapella were basically "junk" (and that is being kind), which meant that there was plenty of room for improvement (the double-edge sword), so I was really looking forward to our next day's experiments.
The next morning I did an inventory of my small value (.02 uf or smaller) capacitors, new or used. All of them were either Teflon or polystyrene (2nd best to Teflon in my experience). Most of them were in the picofarad range. I soon discovered that I was not able to exactly match the 8.5K crossover frequency of the internal stock capacitors, but I came pretty close, 8K. I didn't believe such a small (Hz) difference, by itself, would be noticeable. I also discovered that the capacitor insertion openings were too small for the V-Cap Teflons, so I used the REL cap Teflon caps instead. I also, of course, lowered the roll-off crossover frequency of the monitors to 8K as well, so there would be no overlap in the system frequency range.
The system was powered up and we listened once more to the same (now by default) reference recordings from the previous day. Once again, we almost immediately heard an easily noticeable improvement. However, we also agreed that it was definitely smaller, in both scale and importance, compared to the critical improvement we experienced the previous day. The sound was even purer than before and there was also a greater sense of the original recording space, which is an important element if the goal is to "take down your guard" and help you believe what you are hearing is "alive" and "real".
I was quite happy with our efforts at this point. I also wondered whether anyone else had ever changed the Acapella's internal crossover caps to the best available, or was I the first? There is no record of this capacitor upgrade happening that I can find and, to put it simply, if you don't use the best capacitors, then you will never hear the full capabilities of the Acapella ion tweeters. Meanwhile, we now had to make another decision, this time concerning the crossover frequency.
The only option I ever considered was attempting to lower it, but how low? I knew we should try 5K eventually, which is the lowest frequency limit of the Acapella (without any sonic compromises). My first inclination was to change the frequency in two separate stages: first from the current 8K to 6.5K, and then go from 6.5K down to 5K. However, after discussing this scenario with Jean, and contemplating all the extra work that was required to build four crossover networks and installing/uninstalling them, plus the added changes necessary to roll-off the monitors also at different frequencies as well, we decided to go to 5K immediately, and skip the 6.5K interim step (which became "Plan B").
It was a long and tedious job to change the crossovers of both the Acapella tweeters, plus the Coincident monitors (see picture). We had no idea what to expect, since it could be incredible, or a disaster in a worst case scenario (a cohesive, a spectral and/or a phase total mismatch). As it turned out, it was a complete success. There was another improvement, definitely larger than the second experiment, though still not quite as important as the first (Second Stage). Overall, this was a very satisfying change. In fact, when I considered the overall cumulative improvement in performance, starting from no Acapella tweeters, I had reached the (crossing the Rubicon) point where I could now genuinely state, with conviction, that "I couldn't live without them". This was no longer simply a nice refinement, what we were listening to now was effectively a new speaker, which was also literally true. The details...
The mid and extreme highs were still the same, meaning the added extension and purity didn't change. However, the lower highs and upper midrange did change, and all for the better, which had a large impact in many areas. There was first a greater overall feeling of immediacy and presence. Most instruments were now faster, cleaner and more precise. This was especially noticeable with the percussion family, but it was also true with any instrument operating in the higher frequency ranges. These improvements included all voices, and especially sopranos. The sense of space and natural decays were also once more enhanced. Further, the musicians playing at the back of the soundstage were now better clarified.
Overall, this improvement was major in scale. It was only less important than the "Experiment One-Second Stage" because that one change critically removed the monitor's tweeters' interference, thus enabling all the benefits of the ion super tweeter to be heard in the first place.
While both Jean and I were excited with the results of the new Teflon 5K crossover point, we decided that after all these different changes, we should go back to the very beginning, and once again audition my audio system without the Acapella tweeters playing. We did this for two reasons; first to allow us to hear, and appreciate, the entire extent of the sonic improvements and, as a bonus, it would also make it easier for us to make any adjustment, if required, to the volume level of the super tweeters in relation to the monitors.
This was a difficult task, and required a second person for verification (another reason why the audition delay was necessary). Changing the volume level of these super tweeters is similar to a VTA change (or even using "tone controls" in many decades past). We ended up using only a few discs, all of them CDs. CD was our best option in this instance because we needed a source that could be played multiple times quickly and without any sonic change (potentially caused by vinyl deformation and/or volume). We ended up choosing high quality recordings using jazz horns and woodwinds, plus piano and some ancient music as well. In the end, the jazz instruments were the most revealing and important, and in particular one CD: Blue Sun - Mark Isham - Columbia CK 67227.
Our Methodology- As discussed above, to first establish a reference we could trust, we went back to the Coincident Pure Reference Extreme playing strictly on its own. To our surprise, it sounded much better than we expected, which could only mean that the Coincident tweeters are truly superb. (They are still the finest dynamic dome tweeters I've ever heard overall.) We played the reference CDs until we were ultra-familiar with them, and then we went back to the Acapella ion super tweeters and played the same CDs all over again.
The ultimate goal was for the sound to be both as accurate and realistic as possible (yes, they are closely related). We quickly discovered that with improper settings the system could sound either "forgiving" or "aggressive". (Both are equally wrong, but the former is popular and desirable to many pseudo-audiophiles, while the latter is almost universally avoided.) In general, the "most accurate and realistic sound" offers; the greatest diversity, the least predictability and the smallest noticeable (and least describable) character. From a purely practical perspective, the end result should sound as if the original tweeters have simply been improved, and with no sense that there are two different tweeters with two different characters. The good news- after a couple of intense hours of back-and-forth, with increasingly smaller incremental volume changes, we achieved all of our goals.
A few days after Jean Nantais left, another audiophile friend visited me for a couple of days (he would also visit me a second time around a month later, which was also important and described below). I'm glad he did, because his opinion of the ion super tweeters was more critical than either Jean's or mine. It's not that he heard something that we did not, but rather the weight he placed on what he heard. This requires a detailed explanation:
Unlike Jean and I, my friend had mixed feelings when first auditioning my system with the new tweeters. He observed and enjoyed all the sonic benefits of the tweeters operating at 5K as described above, as we had. He was also quite surprised, as again we were earlier, that the unusual positioning of the super tweeters didn't cause any noticeable problems, even when he was directly listening for them (in fact, he had even warned me earlier about them). However, he still felt that a different sonic downside came along with all the benefits.
My friend argued that the ion tweeters had enhanced the perceived speed of the system in the midrange. This enhancement, in turn, increased the already existing speed differential between the midrange and the bass, which is, of course, inevitable when using different bass and midrange drivers. In other words, the inherent midrange/bass driver dichotomy had crossed his personal threshold, meaning it was now an active problem that he could no longer ignore. He described it as "disjointed".
His specific example was the contrasting left and right hands performing on a solo piano. He felt that while the two hands will always sound somewhat different, as they had in the past, this difference was now more noticeable with the new tweeters. Worse, it had reached that critical point where it now bothered him. My friend also emphasized that this particular problem was only audible with "simple music", where a single instrument was individually exposed. By contrast, he felt it was completely inaudible if the music was "complex", with continually changing volume levels, frequencies and instruments. I generally agreed with him concerning the simple/complex music issue, but I had a different subjective response to the midrange/bass issue on simple music. I felt the change was relatively subtle, and ultimately a trifle compared to all the benefits of using the Acapella super tweeter.
My Friend's Second Visit- This was a month or so later, and my audio system had changed again during this short period (details forthcoming), and this particular change had improved the bass reproduction. In fact, the improvement was significant enough, in my friend's estimation, to change his perspective. In short, he now felt that the midrange/bass problem, while still noticeable, was once again small enough to be easily ignored, and so he left a happy man.
The Acapella Ion Super Tweeters have proven to be as outstanding and unprecedented in a real system as they were at the 2004 CES, where and when I first heard them. So, I reiterate; The Acapella is the finest tweeter I have ever heard. However, in my original article I also wrote that "This may be the most perfect component ever manufactured in audio history". This statement now has to be qualified, as "The Truth" line stage has replaced the Acapella for that highest distinction, at least in my opinion.
Consolation Prize - The Acapella is still the most perfect tranducer I've ever heard. As far as I'm concerned, from my perspective, I now have a new, and significantly superior, speaker system. You can't ask for more than that.
The Acapella also epitomizes the inevitable and critical distinction between a "Reference" and a "Recommendation". While it's my ultimate speaker reference, I would still only advise a small amount of audiophiles to ever consider purchasing them. Why? Their price is the obvious issue. At $ 18,000/pair, the Acapella is simply not cost effective in 99% of audio systems, despite its strengths. Also, and almost as important, the Acapella tweeters require skill and patience to be heard at their very best, as I described in detail above. In short, it's a serious project to optimize them, especially if the owner wants to closely replicate what I have now accomplished in my own system.
However, the Acapella, unquestionably, still has a legitimate place in the audio marketplace, mainly because of its unique sonic capabilities. As for its price, this is, in the end, relative, because we should not forget that there are now even cables which cost much more than the Acapella, and they all have far less positive impact on the final sound.
Further, to hopefully assist potential purchasers, I've listed below some experienced-based reasons (or arguments) to seriously consider purchasing the Acapella tweeters, assuming they are affordable in the first place, and that they can also be successfully utilized in an existing audio system. These "reasons" are in addition to the pleasure gained from simply hearing its unprecedented performance:
1. The knowledge that it is not only the best of its type, but also that it can't be improved upon, so it is effectively a final purchase. This is not just pride and "ego". It is also a practical purchase and even anxiety reducing in the long run (which many audiophiles can appreciate).
2. Once it is properly optimized in a system, you gain the practical knowledge, and confidence, of knowing that if there is now an audible sonic problem in the highest frequencies, it's not the tweeter's fault, thus saving time, and reducing anxiety, looking for the actual source.
3. The Acapella will reveal and expose the strengths and weaknesses of any audio system, and any component or musical software that is utilized within that system, existing and in the future. In short, it's also a "tool" for experimenters, both pros and amateurs.
Finally, and at the risk of repeating myself, I believe the Acapella Ion Super Tweeters should be heard by all serious audiophiles (which, because of Acapella's extensive speaker line, will be a lot easier than ever hearing the Magnat). This is because it is vitally important, if your personal audio growth is a priority, to always know what the best components actually sound like in real life, and this concept is especially applicable to the Acapella TW 1S.
Long before I had any experiences with massless super tweeters, I owned the RTR Electrostatic tweeters for years (both the ESR-6 & ESR-15), plus a few ribbons as well. All my experiences with these tweeters were positive overall, even though I realize now that none of them were fully optimized to my much more critical standards of today.
Accordingly, the purpose of this article was not just to report on the Acapella, but rather to hopefully encourage the readers of this website to at least once audition a good quality super tweeter in their own system. It doesn't have to be "the Acapella or nothing". I realize the cost of the Acapella is prohibitive, even if you get a deal like I did, or find one used at a big discount, but that's still no excuse to completely avoid super tweeters.
Some full-range speakers already include super tweeters, arbitrarily defined by me as going to 40K minimum flat, but that is rare, so almost all speakers are candidates. (Speakers with extended, but poor and distorted, highs are also candidates.) The fact that even the superb Coincident Pure Reference Extreme was able to be improved is dead proof that virtually any speaker can be improved.
There are other high quality super tweeters available on the market, new and used, and I believe that even if they are not quite as good as the Acapella, they should still provide an important improvement. Before the Acapella arrived, I was seriously looking at several other models myself, for years now actually (such as the Townshend Maximum, even though I realized that its low sensitivity would most likely be an unsolvable problem). They can be an incredibly cost effective investment, with far greater long-term sonic benefits than another over-priced cable or even an amplifier change.
All the non-massless super tweeters I've seen, or read about, have two important advantages over the Acapella; they are affordable for most audiophiles, plus they are a lot smaller and less bulky, making them much easier to position and optimize. However, they don't have built in amplifiers, as does the Acapella, which is one of the reasons why they are less expensive, and also why they may be less flexible when matching sensitivities, which is critical.
Finally, I'm concerned with the reviews of various super tweeters I've read on-line. None of the reviewers went to the lengths I did to remove and optimize the overlap of the super tweeter with the original tweeter. Sometimes it isn't necessary, though only if and when the crossover point is extremely high (and the original tweeter attenuated in the highs) but, in most instances, it is a critical requirement.
A super tweeter is a component that must always be taken seriously, even if it appears physically small and inconsequential, because the set-up is critical (see above). It should never be simply thrown into a system while hoping for the best. Think of it almost like a phono cartridge, with all the care and precision that component requires to sound its best. If that is your perspective, and you have patience (plus a few good friends), the implementation should be successful.
Below are links to information concerning the Acapella, Townshend and any other super tweeter that appears to have serious potential. There will also be links to reviews and threads that I feel may also prove helpful.
Further information on the Acapella
Townshend Maximum Super Tweeter
Review of Townshend Maximum
Audio Smile Super Tweeter
Engima Acoustics Sopranino Electrostatic Super Tweeter
Grant Fidelity Super Tweeter
Hill Plasmatronics Dedicated Website
Audiogon Townshend Super Tweeter Threads
Murata ES103a - No direct link available. Google name for information.
Note- The foam is being used to dampen the capacitors' micro-movements, which could be the cause an audible distortion.
The "Extreme" version of the original (single enclosure) Coincident Pure Reference (now discontinued) came out in 2009. Eight years later, there is now a new version of the two-box Extreme, which I have designed the "II". According to a phone conversation I had with Israel Blume, owner and designer of Coincident, and later confirmed by a visit to the Coincident website, there are several changes to the original Extreme (which he feels are of "significant proportions").
1. The new Statement cabling will be used internally.
2. The Accuton ceramic midrange and tweeter are the latest improved versions.
3. The crossover components are also improved along with some slight adjustments for further improvements.
The subwoofer also has a new inductor and the new internal Statement cabling. The selling price of the new model II is $ 29,500 for a pair, which is $ 2,500 more than the final $ 27,000 price of the original Extreme. Blume claims that his costs for all the various II updates are "substantial".
The price for converting the original model to a Model II is $ 8,000. Blume explained to me that his cost for this modification is prohibitive, since the old drivers can not be re-used, and the labor to remove everything (both drivers, crossover and the wire) and then re-build the speaker is extensive. There are also shipping charges both ways (and possible documentation hassles for owners not located in Canada). However, the cost to modify the monitors alone is $ 6,000. Even better, Blume also informed me that this partial conversion would still provide 80% of the overall improvement. This partial conversion may be the best approach for many owners, since there would also be a substantial savings in shipping costs as well.
What will I do...?
My two pairs of Coincident Pure Reference Extreme speakers are now "For Sale".
They will be replaced with the new MK. II discussed above. Note- One pair of my Coincident Pure Reference Extreme Speakers has already been sold. There is now only one pair left for sale. Here is the detailed listing:
If anyone is seriously interested in purchasing my remaining personal pair of the Coincident Extremes, contact me as soon as possible, because I always honor the earliest communication first. I promise that the speakers are in excellent working condition and will be solidly discounted.
The remaining pair of Pure Reference Extremes can be shipped out on Tuesday, December 12, or later.
Coincident Speaker Update Announcement & Further Information
It's 50 Years Ago Now...
This month, September 2017, is an important anniversary for me. If it is possible to be precise in such matters, then it was this month, 50 years ago, that I became an "audiophile".
In September 1967, I matriculated to the State University of New York at Albany (SUNYA) as a Junior (I had graduated from Rockland Community College the previous spring). As it happened, in only that first month, I would meet three people who would change the entire perspective and course of my life. Two of them were fellow students who lived in my dormitory. The third person was the head Librarian for the Humanities (which included the entire 2nd floor of their huge library at the time).
The first person was Larry, who after a discussion about finding a better "Victrola", gave me an Allied Electronics Catalog as a gift. I was overwhelmed by all the different audio components and brands I was unfamiliar with, plus all the choices available. An entire new world had opened up to me. The second person was Ken, who had no interest in audio, but had considerable experience with Classical music, which I knew virtually nothing about at the time. He enthusiastically introduced to me all the great composers and a beginner's list of compositions for me to listen to.
I then went to the Music Listening Room on the library's Humanities floor, only to discover that it was closed. When I complained, the elderly librarian, Dr. Streuer, apologized. She informed me that she was searching for someone to look after the room, since headphones were required for listening and they had to be signed out. So, I had the music room job that very afternoon and for the next two years as well. I took complete advantage of my new position, even having private listening sessions with the rarely used speakers (Acoustic Research AR-2ax) and borrowing records, which wasn't allowed for ordinary students.
I could never have imagined, back then, the long and complex journey inspired by this early beginning. I would end up buying and selling numerous components, almost all used, always trying to discover a higher level of performance. I eventually owned and operated an audio store for more than 20 years, which provided countless experiences with components, systems, rooms, audio shows and the opinions and reactions of fellow audiophiles. Now, long retired from the audio business, I operate my own website, where I can communicate with fellow audiophiles from all around the world.
Living in Florida, I no longer have the incredibly wide access to components and able assistants that I once had when I owned my audio store in Toronto, and I'm no longer young as well. However, I, and my associates, have a considerable amount of experience in discovering those "special" components which stand out from the rest, in either price/performance, design and/or implementation. This website has offered a unique combination of a system oriented and proven methodology of testing; a strategic and consistent perspective, philosophy and approach; experienced listening skills; and no inhibiting conflicts, of any type, to compromise the reporting, which is of especially critical importance these days. Taken together, these cumulative advantages will continue to make this website relevant to serious audiophiles, even though the new output will inevitably diminish.
Some concerned readers, and even an audio discussion group reader in a dedicated thread, have enquired about my declining posts and seeming absence this past summer of 2017. Their observations had merit. I was almost completely absent from this website for around two months this summer. This absence was due first to a serious family emergency, which required me to travel, and then immediately later by Hurricane Irma (just when I was attempting to return), which battered my neighborhood, but thankfully didn't cause any serious damage. The worst is now over.
It took a while, but I am now back to my normal schedule. I have already edited and posted my review of the Acapella TW 1S Ion Super Tweeter (see above), and my other various projects (see below), which I promised to complete earlier this year, are all continually progressing as well.
Finally, I sincerely appreciate all the concern and thoughts for me during that difficult time.
Further- Almost all of the Readers Letters that are removed from this file, after the standard 12 Month posting (such as the September 2016 Readers Letters), are subsequently posted in their respective Reference Component Files: Amplifiers, Cartridges, Speakers etc. They can be found under "Readers Letters". If the reader's letter discussed more than one type of audio component, I will place that letter in the file of the component that was the most discussed.
An Economical and (yet still) Indispensible Accessory...
A sound pressure meter (SPM) is an extremely important audiophile accessory and/or tool, which I believe every serious audiophile should own. I now wish that I had purchased a SPM decades ago, especially when I operated my retail store from 1981-2001 (I did borrow more than one SPM from a customer). A SPM provides instant knowledge and information, as well as an ability to communicate, objectively, with other audiophiles, including all those on the Internet whom you will never meet in person.
A SPM can clarify what would otherwise be pure speculation, while providing real and fundamental information when making various comparisons; between components, systems, friends and audio store systems and even the systems of internet friends, manufacturers/retailers and journalists. It's a specific measurement, that is easy to understand and which other audiophiles can utilize and appreciate.
Example: A SPM allows the users to match Sound Pressure Levels (SPL) much more accurately and objectively when visiting friends, audio stores and audio show displays. This ability could be highly relevant, if not a requirement, when making a critical observation and evaluation, for serious audiophiles.
In the past, SPMs were more expensive and not as accurate, which is why I previously avoided them (though I now realize, and admit, that this was a really poor excuse to not own of them at the time). The old reality has changed in our contemporary digital world. My basic BAFX model only costs $ 20 (or even less), while the BAFX top of the line (with more features), which I also have at present, is only $ 55, so there is no longer any excuse for not owning one of them (see BAFX links and picture below).
After playing around with it, the first serious use I made of my SPM was to learn both my normal SPL listening range and, directly related, the actual wattage being utilized by my main power amplifiers (Coincident Frankenstein). During normal play, when I wasn't trying to "blow myself, or someone else, away", the volume range was almost always (98%) between 55 to 85 dB (at my ears), and the 2% outliers were usually, though not always, below 55 dB. These numbers surprised me, since I thought they would be higher. Next came the Frankenstein power output calculations, but first I had to calculate the system's sensitivity, and then make precise measurements which took into account the distance from the speakers to my actual listening position (my ears). This process was easier than I expected.
My System's Sensitivity- Starting from scratch, one channel of my speakers, the Coincident Pure Reference Extreme, is specified by the manufacturer as being 94 dB 1 watt/1 meter, which is above average. I then verified this specification with the speaker driver manufacturer, Accuton (and an authorized Accuton distributor for good measure), both of whom even utilized graphs as their ultimate proof. From there, the final calculations were straightforward:
1. Pure Reference Extreme (PRE), One Channel = 94 dB 1 watt/1 meter (Verified);
2. Stereo (Two Channels) PRE = 97 dB;
3. PRE Stereo Doubled Stacked = 100 dB;
4. Finally, the signal measured at 1 meter, by the SPM, is reduced by (almost exactly) 6 dB at my ears/listening position;
5. Ergo, this means that at my listening position, a measurement of 94 dB (100 - 6) = 1 watt of average power is being used by each Frankenstein amplifier.
Interpretation: At my normal listening range of 55 to 85 dB, I am using approximately 1/10,000 to 1/10 of 1 watt, 98% of the time. Consider then the complete lack of relevancy for all those touted measurements of 10 to 100 (or higher) watts for myself, or anyone else with a system even remotely close to mine in sensitivity. (And, it must not be forgotten, I also have a relatively large room.)
The Doors - "When the Music's Over" - Digital Remastered 2 LP Album - 88.8 dB peak
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue - "Freddie Freeloader" - Classic Records Reissue LP - 89.5 dB peak
Mussorgsky/Ravel - Pictures at an Exhibition - "Great Gate of Kiev" - Mobile Fidelity LP - 88.3 dB peak
Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring - "Adoration of the Earth" - Mobile Fidelity LP - 94.4 dB peak (the highest SPL I've measured so far)
It is now a priority to add peak SPL measurements to any article when I feel this information would be helpful. However, to make these measurements truly relevant, we will eventually require a "base line" (or a universally accepted steady signal) to use as an ultimate "Reference Point" (RP), for both records and digital sources. This is an absolute requirement if the goal is to have the most relevant measurements and communication. This RP concept must be thoroughly understood, so I will describe it in greater detail...
Readers must know the exact starting RP (for instance 70 dB) before they can fully utilize and appreciate the peak value measurement (xx dB) of any particular LP/CD. Using this RP method, a reader has the ability to duplicate the exact starting volume level by using the related RP. This then allows him to directly compare his peak dB measurements with those of a specific LP (or CD) measured elsewhere. Accordingly, I plan to find these "SPL Reference Points" (hopefully a variety of test records and CDs) in the next year. The ultimate goal is to make some RPs as "Universal" as possible.
Specific RP Example: I provide an RP of 70 dB with a specific cut on a particular test record. I then listen to "Kind of Blue" at this same RP 70 volume level and subsequently post the peak SPL results. The reader can then match this exact RP of 70 dB with the same exact test record, with their own system, using their volume control. The reader can now play "Kind of Blue" at the exact same volume level (RP 70) as I did when I made the posted measurements. This makes the peak dB levels that I measured comparable and relevant to the measurements he later makes with his own system. Further, any other sonic description of the LP I make will also have greater relevancy, since any volume level discrepancy between us has been eliminated.
SPL measurements will now become routine on this website. It would be a highly welcome development if other audiophiles, especially audio reviewers and journalists, would also disclose their listening volume levels, with specifics as well. I especially hope that the audiophile community can eventually find and agree on some Universal "Reference Points" (CD and LP). As explained above, using a Universal RP is the one certain method to insure that any disclosed SPL data can be effectively "translated", and thus become understandable and relevant to all serious audiophiles, anywhere in the world.
BAFX basic model $ 18.00
BAFX deluxe model bafx3608 $ 55.00
Right: BAFX Deluxe Model 3608, with Case and Accessories
This is my best attempt at describing the different levels of improvement an audiophile may hear and observe during a comparison (assuming they actually exist in the first place). I also provide some examples that we (myself and one, or more, of my associates along with me) have experienced in the last few years, which will change over time to keep them recent and relevant.
The actual observations will constitute an objective reality to the listener. However, the listener's reaction to those same observations will, of course, always be personal and subjective, and may differ greatly from my descriptions, and from other audiophiles. In fact, in my experience...
For the most fanatical and enthusiastic audiophiles, a Level 3 observation may still trigger a Level 5 reaction. In stark contrast, some "objectivist" listeners will only acknowledge Level 1 to 3 improvements (at most!) to any component they hear, with the one exception of speakers, and react accordingly.
Now, from the most subtle to the most profound...
Level 1- The sonic improvement can be subtly, though still consistently, heard when switching to the superior component (A/B). However, the reverse matching deterioration is not heard when switching back (B/A) to the inferior component.
Example- Ars Acoustica Prototype I.C. Cable Vs. Coincident Extreme I.C. Cable (between the Jadis phono stage and the line stage)
Level 2- The sonic improvement can be heard when both switching components and then when switching back, but it is no longer specifically (or easily) heard after a short period of time; sometimes seconds, but almost always less than one minute.
Example- Coincident Extreme Shotgun I.C. Vs. Ars Acoustica Prototype I.C. (between the Jadis phono stage and the line stage)
Level 3- The sonic improvement can be heard at length, but an effort may be required to listen specifically for it, so it may not be "obvious" or inescapable. This improvement may or may not be significant; meaning there's a chance that an audiophile may be able to remove this improvement from their system and still not suffer from its absence.
Example- Acapella TW 1S Ion Super Tweeter used with Coincident Pure Reference Extreme Speakers
Level 4- The sonic improvement can be heard all the time, and without any effort, by an audiophile. However, it's still actually possible for it to be not heard by ordinary listeners, meaning those people with no interest in sound quality. This improvement is still "significant"; so a serious audiophile will almost always suffer from its absence.
Example- "The Truth" Line Stage Vs. Coincident Statement Line Stage
Level 5- The sonic improvement can be heard at all times by anyone with healthy hearing, including listeners with no interest in sound quality. The improvement is now always "significant"; meaning an audiophile can no longer enjoy their system without this specific improvement.
Example- ZYX UNIverse II Vs. "Original" ZYX UNIverse
Level 6- The sonic improvement is "transformational"; meaning not only would it be completely unthinkable to live without it, but the improvement actually alters an audiophile's thinking and perspective on both their particular system and "Audio" in general.
Example- Reference Lenco L-75 Turntable/Graham Phantom (Supreme) Tonearm Vs. Forsell Air Reference Turntable/Tonearm
These different levels do not correlate exactly with numbers or percentages. Personal preferences and a listener's subjective reaction always trump the listener's analytical judgment of a component's performance and whatever improvement(s) is/are noticeable.
As an example, let's say one component ("A") is noticeably superior to the Reference ("R") in 10 different areas, but only by approximately 1% in each case. In contrast, let's say a third component ("B") sounds the same as "R" in almost every way, but is better in one area by 5%. It is very possible that component "B" will still receive a higher level than "A" to the audiophile, especially if the improved area is more highly valued. In fact, it is not uncommon for some audiophiles to give up 1% of the performance across the board just to get that extra 10% improvement in the one area that really moves them and gets them "involved" with the music.
To make this more personal, I believe if I were to quantify the actual examples that were given above, the Lenco/Graham wouldn't receive the largest number, but I still feel it was transformative because it improved areas that broke new ground (for me), and which couldn't be replicated by any other component category (like going from a transistor amp to a good SET amp on the right speaker).
Also, while the first two Levels leave basically no room for "nuance", since they are so subtle and tightly defined to begin with, the medium and higher Levels (3 to 6) do have smaller iterations (or degrees) within them, such as 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2 etc. In fact, even a "difference in kind" still has some "variety" or a range, since their degree and impact are not all exactly the same, even if the practical end results are the same. Levels 3 and 4 are both very similar to each other, and the most common to experience when making actual comparisons. Further, a "strong 3" and a "weak 4" are basically the same in practice and interchangeable in effect.
Finally, below is how I used numbers to illustrate why I was so enthusiastic about the Graham Phantom Supreme compared to the earlier II it replaced, when the differences I described didn't appear to be that significant...
Let's assume the II is 95% "perfect", while the Supreme is 97% "perfect". Most audiophiles would agree that the difference between the numbers 95 and 97 is marginal. However, the difference between 5% (100-95) and 3% (100-97), which is a 40% reduction in imperfection, can be profound to an audiophile (or any "perfectionist" for that matter). Sometimes a change in perspective clarifies an otherwise confusing subject.
Further- Almost all of the Readers Letters that are removed from this file, after the standard 12 Month posting (such as the October 2015 Readers Letters), are subsequently posted in their respective Reference Component Files: Amplifiers, Cartridges, Speakers etc. They can be found under "Readers Letters". If the reader's letter discussed more than one type of audio component, I will place that letter in the file of the component that was the most discussed.
These are the most recent LPs to join The Supreme Recordings. They are too new to place in one of the two upper categories, and there usually aren't any detailed descriptions ready either at this time.
WILLIAMS-FANTASIA ON WELSH NURSERY TUNES ETC.-GROVES- EMI ASD 3006*
*Excellent recording, with natural body, large image size and clean crescendos. It is not as immediate and "alive" as the finest records from EMI. Modern, though light and accessible music. Rare and on TAS list.
RAVEL-SONATA FOR VIOLIN/SAINT-SAENS-FANTAISIE-CARTER CHAMBER ENSEMBLE-SOUND STORAGE SSR 2030*
SIBELIUS & DELIUS STRING QUARTETS-FITZWILLIAM-LONDON CS 7238/L'OISEAU-LYRE DSLO 47
*Excellent recording, with natural body. Unfortunately, it has a high sound floor, similar to Reference Recordings LPs, so it is not as "alive" as it should be, especially considering the great lengths taken to make the recording. Other recordings from the same source are also excellent, but all of them have the same problem.
BLACKFORD-SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT-BLACKFORD-ARGO ZK 85*
CORSICA CHANTS POLYPHONIQUES-E VOCE DI U CUMUNE-HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 1256**
*Outstanding recording, with a large image and a wide variety of voices and instruments. Extremely rare.
**Outstanding recording of voices, which was originally placed in "The Honorable Mentions". Reevaluated. The voices are somewhat "raw", but very passionate.
RAVEL/GINASTERA/SHOSTAKOVICH/WEINBERGER-GOULD-CHALFONT DIGITAL SDG 301
STRAVINSKY-NOCES-RENARD-RAGTIME-DUTOIT-ERATO STU 70737
COPLAND/BARBER-VARIOUS WORKS-CLARK-ANDANTE DIGITAL AD 72406*
*Big focused sound, natural, wide frequency range and good impact. One of the best digital recordings I've ever heard.
MICHAEL HEDGES-BREAKFAST IN THE FIELD-WINDHAM HILL RECORDS WH-1017**
**"In-your-face" immediate and very dynamic and detailed. The recording space and decays are not as well captured, and the guitar tone is somewhat unnatural.
In the remainder of 2017, I will attempt to finish an unprecedented cable survey. I also have an opportunity to audition a highly interesting electronic update.
Etalon Sound (Various electronics, speakers and cables from Germany.) NEW 09/17
Conrad-Johnson Owners (Conrad-Johnson news and information.) NEW 09/17
The Audio Beatnik (Audio website of Jack Roberts, a reviewer I respect.) NEW 09/17
DS Audio (Optical Cartridges of modern design, which have unique qualities.) NEW 09/17
The Coincident Pure Reference Extreme (PRE) has been my personal reference speaker since 2009. They are in excellent condition and have never been abused in any manner. I am selling them for only one reason: To replace them with the newest model, the PRE MK. II (see Recent Updates July/August 2017, and the related link below for more information on the MK. II). I originally had two pairs of the PRE, stacked, but one pair has already been sold.
The PRE is rarely for sale on the used market. In fact, I haven't seen a used PRE for sale in literally years. This is not surprising, because of the PRE's outstanding overall performance, value, practicality and sensitivity (see the link below for my PRE review). In the rare event a PRE is being sold used, it's almost always because of some peripheral, life-changing or domestic issue and not because of any audiophile dissatisfaction with its performance.
However, there is one issue with this PRE. The cosmetics, specifically the front veneer panel joints on the subwoofers, are second-rate (see pictures). This cosmetic problem has no effect on the performance of the PRE, obviously, but it will still require some rudimentary woodworking (sanding and re-oiling) to bring them back up to par. Accordingly, I will offer an allowance and a second option on the selling price.
Caveat - The PRE speaker system, which is two subwoofers and two monitors, does NOT include either the stands for the monitors or the spikes for the subwoofers.
The price for the Pure Reference Extreme is $ 14,750. This price includes a woodworker re-finishing the two front veneers. There is also a second option: The PRE is also available "As-Is", and the price is then reduced to $ 14,500, a savings of $ 250 for a simple DIY woodworking job. Shipping (390 lbs) of the PRE is extra. The PRE is located in Florida (34986). Local pickup can also be arranged.
Finally, this last pair of Pure Reference Extremes can be shipped out, or picked up, on Tuesday, December 12, or later.
My Comprehensive Review of the Coincident Pure Reference Extreme Speakers
Coincident Speaker PRE MK. II Update Announcement & Further Information
This is an AC Regenerator that also includes internal batteries. It has an option for added external batteries that can even be swapped while in use. It is in excellent working and cosmetic condition. This model has a capacity of 1050 watts. The internal batteries last 7 minutes at full power and 18 minutes at half power (575 watts). It has been cleaned internally (see picture), unlike the "refurbished" models I've seen.
This commercial/industrial unit has been modified for home audio use by switching the rear fan to a Nexus (see picture), which is famous for being quiet. The stock fan was so noisy it could be heard more than 50 feet away, which I found impossible to live with.
While a picture below displays the current batteries at "100% charged", this must be disregarded as these batteries are now old and can no longer handle a load.
The price is $ 250 with no batteries, which will also save shipping costs. I have two of these 9120 1500 models for sale. They are both in the same condition.
While I've had no problems with any of the models, with the exception of routine battery replacement, they are still being sold "AS-IS".
The Supreme Recordings
My Audio System
My Audio Philosophy
Purchasing Used Classical Records
Reviewing the Reviewers
Used Components for Sale
Tubes for Sale
If you have a question, or want audio advice and/or consultation:
Important Notice- As of October 1, 2012, there is a minimum fee of $ 10 for me to answer a simple enquiry, which means any question that I can answer quickly without research. Anything else will cost more and I will accordingly provide quotes for approval. PayPal is being used for its convenience, universality and security. If interested, click on "Ask Arthur".
There are two exemptions to the payment fees. 1. Those readers who have provided an important service (usually information that was posted) to this website over the years. 2. Those situations where I feel that I overlooked something important and/or was obscure in my post, and thus some necessary clarification is required on my part. That will always be gratis. I don't believe in being unfair or petty, especially to my own readers.
Telephone Conversations- If a reader feels it is necessary to actually talk to me directly, this can be arranged if I also feel it is appropriate. There will be a minimum fee of $ 50. Ask for the details before paying the fee.
Finally, a veteran reader wrote that I "should also have a link for (generic) donations to keep the website going". I replied that the Donation button can also be used by appreciative readers for that purpose. Needless to say, any unsolicited donation from a generous reader receives my sincerest thanks and gratitude.
To contact me for any other reason:
COPYRIGHT 2017 ARTHUR SALVATORE