Letters to the editor: Pro-Ject, Synology, FLAX & Kallax

  • Header image: Darko HQ, February 2019.

    Jeff R. writes…

    I do like to purchase 16-bit ‘CD quality’ FLAC downloads once in a while for my personal library. For now, I was pleasantly surprised to see the US Qobuz site has lower prices for 16-bit FLAC albums than the Tidal store. Price is king!

    Gregor T writes (with his tongue in his cheek)…

    Dear John,

    I am writing to you because of this very important issue and topic and I feel inclined to correct someone on the internet if they are wrong.

    You claim that two mineral waters taste different. How can you say that if you did not conduct a proper, scientifically validated, independently verified, quadruple blind tested, A-B-X (y-z) test protocol (corrected for ambient and test sample temperature of course)?

    You are clearly misled by your pre-existing self-bias towards the color of the bottles and their prices.
    If this would not be the case, please provide the above mentioned proper test which is without any doubt beyond reproach and the only valid argument.

    Please stop supporting the sales of snake oil water.


    James F writes…

    Thank you for posting this podcast. I get it! I’m kind of an old guy 54, I do like old BlueNote jazz, ECM records, but I’m also into electronic music and artists such as Nick Cave.

    I think a lot of what we prefer or think we prefer, is a product of memory. When I was young in the 80s there were actually HiFi dealers in my town, and I went into one and listened to a Linn Turntable, with a Rotel integrated amp and Wharfedale Diamond speakers. At that time, that sounded, compared to anything else I had listened to before, incredible. It was like all hi-fi was black and white before then. When I think back, I think can remember what it sounded like 32 years ago, but I know, in reality, I can’t. I think the drama on how new that seemed made a big impression on me. The salesperson, seemed concerned about what kind of music I liked, which was a wonderful feeling to me, as no one in my life had cared about what music I liked, and it was not mainstream for the time. One thing I remember about the experience is the salesperson moved all the other speakers out of the room so they would not cause a false reading coming from the Wharfedale Diamonds.

    Since that time, the first time I made a little extra money, in the 90s I bought an Arcam system integrated amp and CD player, and I used my parents’ Dual Turntable that was given to me after their divorce. That turntable never sounded as good as my CD player. In college, my bus stop was next to a giant Tower Records superstore. It’s cold in New England in the winter, and while waiting for the bus, I would go inside Tower Records and buy CDs to stay warm. Today we have over 1500 CDs. Many CDs we have from my travels around the world.

    A few years ago, my wife and I upgraded our Dual Turntable to a Rega RP1. I remember from that Linn experience and that Rega’s were the “poor man’s Linn”. Some records did sound better than my Arcam CD player, but I have learned that is because of the DAC in the CD player. I then started experimenting with the Allo streamer and made a Roon server on my laptop. What a gateway drug! It was like the lights had gone on all over again.

    The past year my wife and I decided to upgrade our Arcam system. What is amazing is PS Audio lets you trade it in for what you paid for it. Crazy, right? We purchased a PS Audio Stellar GCD DAC and Stellar amp and Kef LS50 speakers. I have to say, this system sounds pretty amazing. I love Roon. We ripped all our CDs and we also use Tidal. I think it’s hard for younger folks to understand how amazing streaming is. What is so amazing about our Roon system is we are both super busy with our jobs, making a living, commuting, etc. At the end of the day to quickly fire up the hifi and Roon and chill with a beer or glass of wine is to be in the present – and not in the past.

    I love your site, It really helps us sort out and what all the manufacturers are building. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to own a system that cost as much as my condo. I think being pragmatic is important, and can help lead to the joy of music as well. For the price of a couple of Macs and a camera that I would never use (because we all just use our phones) I can have a pretty amazing system, that, back in the late 80s, would have blown everyone’s mind. My memory of the 1972 Landcruiser I had in high school is fond, but it’s not as advanced and part of our present world as my 2014 Subaru, and I surely would not want to drive the Landcruiser in the traffic I have to deal with every day. Also, that darn defroster never worked right. Not good in New England. What is funny, if I were a hedge fund guy in New York, I could drive a rebuilt version of my high school car around Nantucket, for the same price as my condo.

    Thanks for all you do.


    Paul W. writes…


    I enjoyed your latest podcast about the merits of vinyl. I still own a pile of albums accumulated
    in the 70’s and 80’s, although I last had a turntable in the 90’s. I know if I go out a buy an RP3,
    there will be a short phase of nostalgic enthusiasm, and probably the perception of a ‘warmer’ sound, followed by the return of reality, the endless removal of dog hairs, and the endless quest for the ‘right’ cartridge.

    So, the pile remains, and every so often a CD replaces one of the albums.

    I had another go at your 2nd vinyl comparison on the main stereo setup now my Quad 405-2 is back
    from the menders, and I could still not detect any difference. This leads me to the conclusion that
    my cheap DAC may be limiting (the Magni 3), or my hearing is rubbish. I’m inclined to go with the latter, as this is the lower cost theory, much as I would love to try a Chord Qutest in my setup. As part of my job, my hearing is tested every two years, so I do know there are blank spots. I wonder how many of your listeners have ever considered checking theirs?

    Oh, and thanks for introducing me to Morphology’s Traveller. It’s on the server, next to Melody Gardot.

    Keep up the good work.

    Tang H. writes…

    Hi, Darko:

    You know I’m a big fan of yours. Recently I set up a system I thought I should to introduce it to you. At the begin of the story, I just read an article about how to upgrade a Mac Mini with a linear power supply to improve digital sound quality. But as you know, the linear power supply system is so expensive — not everyone can afford it for just a hobby. So I thought about using batteries to substitute the costly linear power supply. It worked and made a massive improvement to sound quality. I learned this from your review about an ALLO streamer which was using a battery to power the ‘clean’ side of the streaming board.

    But this is not the end of the story. Some months ago, I remembered I had written a letter to tell you that a Synology NAS can provide excellent sound quality. But I never use it for serious listening. I was wondering whether I could use the 12V battery to power my NAS and insert the Dragonfly Red to its USB socket so that the streamer and DAC were both powered by the battery – the sound quality would be massively improved (in theory). And so it was (in reality)!

    I never heard any of my systems sound so great as this setup. I recommend you should try it. First, Synology NAS use the customed Linux system which is useful for eliminating the noise of the operation system. Second, given the Dragonfly Red, you have spoken highly for this DAC, direct insert to the USB socket of the NAS which can use the linear power from NAS which is powered by the battery. So at this path, I use one 12V battery can make every node of the system become linear power supply.

    Again, I’m your big fan, and I want to introduce interest things to you.

    Good wishes.

    J. Baker writes…

    I (61 YO male) went to my first audio show today (Florida Audio Expo) and brought along my 23 YO daughter and her boyfriend. It was fun and informative with some great rooms but having “the young folks” along made me think about a few things you and others have covered before. It was mostly guys my age or older. And if I can’t relate to the demo music, there’s no way my daughter could.

    One notable exception was the Hegel room where daughter let a “holy shit that’s awesome” fly. She could relate to the music and it let the equipment shine. The last point is that I had to almost act as an interpreter for them. They understand headphones and the headphone amps and DACs. But then they wander into a room with $40K speakers and wonder why they are there. I know there have been rooms at RMAF with price point rooms and systems. The new entry point is headphones. Then powered speakers. Get those rooms together at the front of the show within a modern environment with young(er) people demoing relatable music. BTW, Mytek was doing a good job with this but they were stuck in a crowded hall.

    Dario R. writes…

    Hey John and Darko team,

    Really loved your Kallax-Fi video 😀

    Another option – just widen the square form factor to host bigger gear:

    Big compliments for your work!


    Heinz Lichtenegger (Pro-Ject Audio Systems) writes…

    I saw your Kallax-Fi article which for sure I like very much.

    As you may know, Box Design was actually the first brand investing intensively in the idea of Micro-, Mini- and Mid-sized high-end components. All are perfect Kallax Fi Products! We started with this idea in the 90s and today we have the by far biggest choice in the world for that particular category of products. I am happy that now so many brands took up my idea AND developed such products, which are much more cost effective than the standard 44cm-wide boxes.

    On top of that, I was also keen on the basic (IKEA / Kallax) idea to have low-cost furniture for such products. Therefore I created my own furniture line called RACK IT. It is designed to hold LPs and audio hardware and even has adjustable sections and spacers.

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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