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Letters to the editor: Week #1, 2021

  • Elias D. writes…

    Dear John,

    I am a Berlin-based film director with a passion for music. I want to thank you for providing all this great information and help on your website and YouTube – I’ve been following silently for quite a while now:)

    Since I am trying to find and hear a pair of the new Buchardt A500 in Berlin and I can’t seem to find them anywhere, I was wondering, if you might be open at all for me stopping by to take a listen in case you still have them? A good bottle of wine would be the least I would like to offer in return for the favor!

    Thanks and best regards from Friedrichshain,

    Elias

    P.S. I am currently listening on my main system consisting of a pair of Dynaudio Contour 20i and the Cambridge Audio Edge W and NQ.

    Me: Hi Elias

    Buchardt’s sales model is factory-direct, no dealers. That results in a lower street price for you and possibilities to try the A500 for yourself in the comfort of your own home with a money-back guarantee…and without having to ask people 1) whom you’ve never met and 2) who aren’t hifi dealers if you might pop ’round for a listen 3) in the middle of a pandemic. :/

    Best,

    John

    Shannon M. writes…

    Hey! I recently stumbled on your YouTube videos, and have enjoyed what I have found so far. So, first, thanks for all the content! Second, I have been searching but haven’t found – have you done a video(s) on systems that work for both movies and music? Stereo (and a sub) for the tunes, and a centre channel for movies. I guess that’s a “3.1”. I am finally ready to do something better than the dying soundbar/sub in my living room and want a WAY better music experience along with better movie sound. Anyway, just curious if you’ve done content on that topic, or are planning to?

    PS – I like the music. Nice to see an audio channel that listens to a lot of stuff, including electronic, and other modern stuff.

    Thanks,
    Shannon

    Me: Hi Shannon. I only cover music systems because that’s where my heart lies. That and I barely have the time to scratch hifi’s surface each year without considering home theatre. Sorry.

    Zebulon B. writes…

    Hey! I don’t think this is strictly advised against in your FAQ’s but I really like your pseudo-how-to videos with products like RPI. You’re really good at breaking them down and explaining suck a varied piece of tech for the audiophile. Considering your praise of the A500’s and other products with DSP, have you thought about trying out and giving your opinion on products like the Nanodigi from MiniDSP? It’s something I haven’t used, but will likely pick up soon to try out some room correction with my RPI streamer, without sacrificing my ability to use my Hegel DAC. Thought it might interest you because of its modern tech but the ability to work so well with a separates system. Just a thought, cheers!

    Me: Thanks for the suggestions, Zebulon. I like making the how-to videos too and I have something similar in the works that skirts the miniDSP. 😉

    Paul K. writes…

    Hi John

    Love your work and I wondered if your knowledge could provide an answer that the internet cannot, at least for me.

    Do you know when KEF are planning on replacing or updating the LSX speakers? I’m particularly thinking about Tidal Connect compatibility as the lack of it is a deal-breaker for me at this point.

    If you like my approach to writing emails to people I don’t know, hit the subscribe butt… no wait. Erm, please publish in letters to the editor even if the answer is no.

    Many thanks, the hard work is much appreciated and Merry Christmas!

    Paul

    Me: Hi Paul. I often field this kind of question and can only ever reply with “I don’t know”. Think about it: if I don’t know, I don’t know and if I do know, I still can’t tell you because the news is not mine to announce. Product announcement timing is KEF’s business and they’d (quite reasonably) take a dim view of anyone taking that away from them.

    The Apple AirPods Max’s Achilles heel

    Peter R. writes…

    I know you may not even want to subject your ears to an Apple audio product, but I would love for you to purchase the Apple AirPods Max on a 14-day trial supplied by Apple. And do a review, talk about the DSP, talk about the soundstage and give your honest review of what I think is a fantastic headset. Saying that maybe they’re lacking in some areas especially for the price but all in all I think you’ll be slightly surprised.

    Me: I’d do it if I could get a pair but last time I checked they were sold out. Apple Germany is reporting next availability as March 2021! And by this time next week, YouTube will be flooded with review videos.

    Suen L. writes…

    Hi John,

    I really enjoy your YouTube videos, they are very entertaining and help someone like me — who wants to start building a home audio system. I have a small home and am looking for bookshelf active speakers to start. I found your ELAC Navis & KEF LS50 reviews very helpful. One speaker I am trying to get more details on is the Dynaudio Xeo20 or the Xeo 4. I really an experts attention to detail in reviewing something — especially before making such a large investment. The Xeo 2, received really high marks from What Hi-fi. My main use case would be to stream music via Spotify or Tidal– so I really appreciate your insights.

    Would you be open to doing a quick comparisons review?

    Me: Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll give it some thought. 🙂

    Markie L. writes…

    Dear John (never thought I’d write that ever),

    I love your YouTube channel even though as an analogue tragic I don’t always get what you’re on about with regard to streaming and digital. But, thanks to you, I’m learning. I also still play a lot of CDs – love em.

    I agree with you when in X you say that vinyl is not king but it is different including the ritual involved.

    My point I’d like to make regarding comments is to do with the nature of YT; there is an intimacy about it that no other (TV) broadcaster can hope to match – you’re invited into my lounge room by me and any comments are a response to this. I’m sure you’re trolled mercilessly by dickheads and that is a shame.

    Anyway, all the best to you and yours, greetings from country Victoria and please stay safe ✌️🌹🇦🇺

    Markie

    Me: I didn’t get trolled mercilessly on YouTube but there was enough hate speech in general to force me to turn comment moderation on and as the channel grew, I’d found myself spending up to 10 hours approving and (sometimes) replying to comments. 10 hours that I ultimately felt could be (and now is!) better-used elsewhere.

    Mattice V. writes…

    Hi there,

    You’ve turned off comments for your recent video, ‘X’ but I wanted to share a comment about your perception that CD’s sound better. I think there is a simple explanation, the tracks have different masters, the mastering engineers meet different requirements for CD’s than for streaming. For example, streaming services require each track to stay below -1dB, whereas CD’s manufacturers allow peaks up to -0.1dB. The extra headroom is small, but it might be enough make the track a little more dynamic.

    Mattice

    Me: So what about CDs that sound better than the files ripped from those same CDs and then streamed? That’s what I was talking about in the video.

    Daniel W. writes…

    Hi John,

    Congrats! 10 years! What I like most about your channel, is your willingness to questioning and debunking myths… Why do people or brands have to make a religion of their personal insights!? Reminds me of religion at least… and not in a pleasant way! For example 99,9% digital recording, editing and mastering, then converting to analogue for carving the music in vinyl… but the “vinyl-apostle” in the HiFi store still telling me how analogue would be the only truth… Duh! Not ranting about vinyl, ranting about being blinkered. So: love your approach here!

    I especially love your comments on the looks of HiFi gear in your anniversary video. That topic seems like a taboo. That is probably the one topic where I was criticized the most in forums when I stated that I don’t like the looks of certain designs and therefore wouldn’t even consider that gear for my system. Now I don’t expect others to go along with my taste, nor do I expect brands to change their looks for me. But in forums (and sometimes even by manufacturers) you are branded an apostate for not ignoring the looks because “hey… the sound is the most important thing after all”.

    When I buy gear, I usually end up with several solutions I might like or I could be happy with sonically. What happens next because of that sonic draw is that “unimportant” stuff like the looks suddenly become the most important
    a) because I like good looking things
    b) because I want to have my hobby in my living room where I actually spend most of my spare time and
    c) because I like to keep as much peace as possible between my wife and me 🙂 “Sound only” would only apply if there was only one good/best Amp/DAC/speaker out there.

    I just don’t get, how so many brands ignore this by strictly and only following a “form follows function policy” and even color non-customizable parts of their gear in ways which make the gear impossible to buy for anybody who likes a fitting/neutral decor all over the place in a living room. To give some examples: my personal no-gos are things like yellow or orange speaker chassis, or cabinets only available in black color. Again, just my personal taste, but I think analogic thoughts are important to many people, who just won’t admit it because “sound is all that matters”… Officially, at least 🙂

    Regards

    Daniel

    Jeff R. writes…

    Hi John,

    Just watched your video on 10 years of reviews, and as with most of your videos, I really appreciate and value the message, how you present and the quality of the editing, sound and other elements that make your videos pleasing. Great content as always.

    But I gotta say, I miss the comments from other passionate audio nuts (and I’m putting myself firmly in that ‘nut’ camp). I have no doubt you had your reasons for shutting down comments… Too many assholes, maybe some racist or bigoted comments or maybe we were just straight away pissing you right off. But I miss the good stuff – input and experience and context and perspective from other people who really care about great sound sharing their thoughts on this hobby.

    In any case, thanks again for all of the great, meaningful, thoughtful content you create.

    Take care,

    Jeff

    Me: Hey Jeff. I laid it out in several articles why I turned comments off and you have touched on a few of the reasons in your email. Other people’s thoughts can be found on forums and Facebook groups and there’s very little to stop the more passionate among them from starting up their own YT channels. 🙂 John

    Why I’m switching off YouTube comments

    Chad A. writes…

    Hi John,

    I’m not sure if this counts as private audio consultancy (apologies if it does), so hopefully, you can help me out. I’m considering a pair of passive speakers but I just want to know whether or not there’s any difference in the sound quality output: should I connect the DAC to the amp (both fully balanced) via XLR or RCA? This has been bothering me for some time.

    Regards,

    Chad

    Me: I have gear that can run balanced into another device but I don’t always choose to do so. Depends on the gear in play. Have you tried comparing balanced Vs RCA in your system? You have the gear so what is stopping you from finding out for yourself?

    Mike C. writes…

    Thanks, John & the team.

    I discovered your Youtube content, then the website and both seem like a great resource of reasoned, balanced reviews and opinion. I know how hard it is to output polished content like this on a regular basis, so kudos for that. You’ve re-kindled the explorer in me and nudged me out of a rut – or complacency at least. I too love Berlin (’88 – ’92), the Rancilio coffee workout, original as opposed to “remastered” material, and it seems even good Japanese Whiskey. I’m even warming to many of your playlist tracks. Please keep covering the broad spread of both the aspirational and acquirable. As I’m unlikely to bump into you on the U-Bahn I’ll sub you a bag of beans on your Patreon page instead of buying you a coffee in town. Alas, any new ‘subscription’ would need to be Tidal or Qobuz first so I haven’t signed up …yet.
    Keep up the great work – Cheers Mike.

    Me: Thank you for the kind words, Michael. It seems you really ‘get’ what I do. So thank YOU.

    Per W. writes…

    Hi John,

    I really enjoy the style and content of your work. Thanks.

    But how is it you avoid mentioning Linn especially when it comes to streamers and active speakers? It was they who introduced those concepts to me with first their analog cross filters but since six or seven years ago with their Exakt technology. When you do a show with Buchardt it seems they invented what Linn did long before and I thought you would be aware of that or aren’t you? This is important for my trust in your judgment.

    Cheers

    Per

    Me: The answer is because I have no experience with Linn gear. 

    Linn has been quite slow in moving with the streaming times: for many years they’ve hung their hat on UPnP-based streaming and Roon Readiness was added only relatively recently; AFAIK their streamers don’t yet do Chromecast (as the Buchardt to). And their stab at a super integrated was considerably more costly than much of the competition. How did you miss these posts?

    https://darko.audio/2020/08/linns-new-majik-dsm-super-integrated-amplifier/
    https://darko.audio/2018/12/onsight-a-video-view-of-the-linn-selekt-dsm/

    Some questions to ask yourself: do Linn’s Exakt speakers offer the equivalent of Buchardt’s Master Tunings? Does Linn use WISA? And do their Exakt speakers compete on price with what Buchardt’s direct sell pricing offers?

    As covered MANY times on the YT channel and website, time severely limits what I can cover. If your trust hinges on Linn coverage then maybe I’m not the hi-fi commentator for you.

    Janella B. writes…

    My husband and I just invested in the Pioneer PLX-500 turntable, Ortofon 2M Red, and the Adam Audio speakers recommended in your video on a complete hi-fi system for under ~1000 euro. We love our set up! Thank you! We would have been lost otherwise.

    Me: That’s great to hear, Janella. I don’t purport to have all the answers but a few starting points to find one answer. 😉

    Letters to the editor: Innuos, Chromecast, Sonos, JRiver & sex toys

    John C. writes…

    You’re insane not to get in on the ground floor of peaches and screams. You get free peaches! Chance of a lifetime slipped right through your fingertips.

    Me: I know, right?


    Cy P. writes…

    I enjoy all your reviews and have been following you for over 10 years. I have been involved in this hobby for over 52 years and briefly worked in the retail industry when in college. Yes, I am your Dad’s age.

    I have a suggestion for you to mull over. When I became interested in acquiring my own system back in high school, I was, essentially, broke. My parents worked paycheck to paycheck. No hard feelings there. I cut grass and shovelled snow to save enough money to purchase my first system. It was a disaster. I bought a “highly regarded” budget receiver (a Sherwood 7100) and a pair of Small Advent speakers.

    It was a match made in Hell! The amplifier didn’t have the power to play rock music through an inefficient speaker. CLIPPING! Furthermore, the speakers excursions into the 4 Ohm rating caused the amplifier section to oscillate. The salesman at the “highly regarded” stereo shop in Downtown Cleveland said nothing about the obvious mismatch.

    It changed the way I viewed hi-fi and influenced how I sold audio equipment to our customers at the shop during my college years. It’s great entertainment hearing the experts wax eloquently about gear that I will never have the opportunity to hear, let alone to afford.

    More importantly, how do we introduce this wonderful hobby in a responsible manner to younger listeners who do not have the financial resources to purchase state of the art audio gear? I would like to see/hear a reasoned and philosophical approach to a beginner with limited financial resources to quality audio. That sounds like an oxymoron, but does it?

    What is entry-level? A smartphone and earbuds? A budget receiver or amp and budget speakers? Headphones and a headphone amp? Are turntables and vinyl really a viable medium for those born after 1999? There are a few potential entry points for the beginner to enter near the upper echelon of our hobby without spending $$$$$.

    Again, thank you for your hard work and passion. It shows.

    Matt H. writes…

    Hey John (or whoever moderates these emails),

    My name is Matt, I live in Adelaide, Australia and I have only just really realized that I am very much an audiophile. I have been a guitarist since I was 14 and an audio engineer/composer/producer since 2001. I have absolutely always appreciated finer quality audio over boom boxes and tiny useless CD players, but never really knew where to start or what to look for…. growing up my parents had an Aiwa micro component system with a small amplifier, EQ, tape player and phono preamp coupled to a pair of Jensen Electrostatic speakers which were subsequently updated in the late 90s to a Denon CD player, Yamaha amp (cannot remember the model) and a full Klipsch 5.1 speaker setup (Yamaha active sub). This system was amazing and I always remember listening to Hans Zimmers soundtrack to Black Hawk Down (Hunger) when the bass hits and the entire house shaking (abstract reference I guess haha). But it stuck with me that a ‘proper’ setup for listening to music was always best. But I never really knew what to look for to get ‘good’ audio quality.

    The years passed and I really got into audio engineering and digital music production and bought a ProTools set up with a pair of Behringer Truth 3030 (with the tape tweeters) and honestly, it changed my perception of what music could sound like when a decent pair of speakers is paired to a decent DAC (my old-school Digidesign M-Box 2 Mini) that I used for all of my audio recording and monitor duties. but still i was unsure of what it all meant really. I am a curious mind and always wanted to investigate, but life being life it meant that I kinda put a lot of my audio purist desires to the back burner.

    I happened to open my YouTube feed one morning about 3 months ago and was presented with one of your videos as a suggestion – it was about DACs and what they do and how they differ, and I thought ‘why not’ and watched the entire thing. Aside from your incredible articulation, vocabulary and overall professional and pleasant presentation style I was struck by just how much I wanted to learn about all of this ‘audiophile bullshit’ and decided to subscribe to your channel and set about digesting hours of your videos. I always jump in wayyyyyy too deep to start with because I believe in the Yngwie Malmsteen approach to learning, that’s to say ‘bite off far more than you can chew…. and chew like hell’ and was blown away by not only your depth of knowledge but also your ability to describe the sound in the way I ‘see’ sound myself. Everything you describe makes perfect sense to me (being an audio engineer I need to ‘sell’ certain audio conditions to my collaborators in similar ways… ‘chewy’ ‘elastic’ ‘full-bodied’ ‘thin’ ‘glassy’ ‘transparent’ ‘shimmer’ ‘muddy’ are all terms I use so frequently that I forgot they were not part of the common lexicon of descriptors used in the rest of society haha)

    I just wanted to say thank you, I know you probably receive billions of files and email correspondences from many viewers and subscribers and I’m sure you receive far more professionally worded and articulate messages, also I am sure this all comes across as quite ‘fanboyish’ but I really do mean to thank you. I have learned far more about audiophilia than I ever thought I could learn due to the approachable nature of your videos and the awesome selection of music you chose to provide. The fact that you don’t refer to Diana Krall or jazz music in your videos makes me so happy. I am a lonnnnnnng term industrial and electronica fan so I love the fact you refer to Autechre and Massive Attack, i am a huge fan of Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Front Line Assembly (Cryogenic Studios), Hans Zimmer and a vast array of others and to me when I see high-end audio I always used to wonder if any of the speakers and amps and DACs and such would make electronic music sound awesome….. I always believed audiophilia was reserved for just classical music enthusiasts (which I am – see Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Paganini, Vivaldi etc) and I am SO glad you prefer German Electronica and such….. this is a HUGE drawcard for me tbh.

    Based on your reviews, my own listening and a little (lot) of research I landed on my first step into the audiophile world with a shiny new pair of Kef LSX speakers…. I know, I know, not quite the LS50W II quality or the balls you would get out of a NAD amp with a pair of Bowers and Wilkins speakers, but for me, I literally cannot believe how insanely good this whole experience is. I understand you are not a subwoofer guy, and really neither am I, I don’t like boot-rattlers and such, but I located a Jamo E8 subwoofer secondhand for about $200 and set the crossover at 90Hz turned down the level by -6dB and set it all up with a new fuse….. man… what the F*/k….. the LSXs with this sub are utterly astonishing… as in…. I am SO used to hearing Hans Zimmer’s ‘Mesa’ from the soundtrack to Blade Runner 2049 and know (or thought I knew) the nuances in the track from the way the synth bass carries into the sub 50Hz range very smoothly, and the way the Yamaha CS80 warbles as the envelope releases slowly and the combination of Benjamin Walfisch’s string section blends with the other synthetic elements….. but through the LSX and the Jamo E8 subwoofer my house literally moved on its foundations and not in a lumpy gross way, in a smooth ‘im gonna f*/k with your neighbours’ kinda way and I found more sonic clarity and glassiness than I had ever experienced.

    I am LOVING these speakers, and I haven’t even really began looking at totally high res files, simply using Spotify Connect and my Samsung Galaxy S20FE (why this doesn’t support aptX is beyond me)….. thank you John, seriously man, from one Australian to another you are an intelligent, articulate and eloquent guy who knows what he likes and pleasantly presents the information you are passionate about in an approachable and kind way that makes me wonder why ANYONE would want to buy Beats Headphones…. my Sennheiser Momentum 3s are a DREAM and the Momentum True Wireless 2s are pretty impressive too…. but nothing compares to the Kef set up at home.

    You have enabled me to really intellectualize my passion for fine audio and quality music a lot more, and you have helped me to see I’m not a complete weirdo for spending money on this stuff…. I really cannot wait to get my hands on a pair of B and W Formation Duos in the not too distant future, to be honest, haha, an amazing setup….. but thanks man, really…. you make this whole adventure very worthwhile and I respect you and your opinions very much. Please keep up the good work man….. I know this is a lengthy bullshit email that I’m sure you receive ad nauseum and I am sorry to take you away from product reviews and stuff, but I really wanted to say thanks and I hope to see loads of amazing reviews in future, I won’t make suggestions cos I’m not ‘that guy’…. you do your thing and I’m gonna keep following you and supporting as I can man.

    Peace and respect from Adelaide, you do us Australians proud (even if the vast majority will never know the beauty of the field of interest we are both evidently a part of now).

    Legend:)

    Matt

    Incidentally, i know my skills are still developing but…. if you want to hear something a little different feel free to check out my album on Spotify… we are called Lowlight Plains, the album is Lossless (Chapters 1 and 2). It’s kinda Nine Inch Nails/Skinny Puppy meets Hip Hop….. im working on improving my mixing skills for newer albums, I wasn’t into audiophilia when I made the album, haha, now I am and I cant wait to get into more music early 2021.

    Thanks so much, man. You really are awesome.

    M

    Roland H. writes…

    Hello John

    I just saw your 10 Things I’ve Learned video on your website and just had to write…

    That’s one of the best ‘about audio’ videos I’ve seen!

    I nearly shouted ‘exactly!’ over almost every one of the 10 – either because I’ve simply had the very same experience, or maybe you found THE magic 10 eternal truths in audio 🙂

    Anyway, keep up the good work AND please also find some islands and moments to take care of yourself.

    I noticed your November 2019 comment between the lines, and some years ago I also stepped over my own limits, a state I never ever want to be in again. So with the wonderful success of your website and videos I really wish you’ll always find the right balance. Your website and videos are a great contribution to getting more people into hifi and audio, really.

    Wishing you and all of us in audio a great 2021! (which in Berlin as well as here in Hamburg will start with the surreal lack of fireworks and noise… a new experience for sure)

    All the best

    Roland

    Me: Yes, 2019’s near-burnout and late 2020’s skirmish with a serious eye problem is why I’m taking some large chunks of January for myself. With many countries now in a hard lockdown and CES’ high-end audio exhibits reduced to single digits, their promotional edge further dulled by the convention’s move to the virtual realm, I can hopefully take a longer on-ramp into 2021. All the best to you for the New Year. Thanks for the kind words about the X video. Appreciated!

    Written by John Darko

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

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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