Letters to the editor – Week #9, 2021

  • Antimo writes…

    Hi, it’s nice to know that there’s someone out there reviewing gear who listens to the music I like and does it in a way that I can understand. Not that I’m a nubie audiophile, I’m just not into the extremely dull and inconsequential waveform testing other reviewers do…ugh. I’m almost 50 and have been obsessing over the sound quality of stereo/audio equipment, recording equipment, guitar/bass amplifiers, you name it.. since I was 15.

    I love electronic music, as I know you do, and wanted to turn you on to a few whom I’ve fallen in love with in recent years.

    First, Equiknoxx Music, based in Jamaica are a music collective that put out their own music in various collaborations with each other and artists outside of the collective. Generally, they’re classified as an experimental dance hall, but I’d say that description is the tip of the iceberg.

    Second, Haich Ber Na, out of London infuses soul, r&b, pop into an extremely interesting electronic framework. Exciting stuff. They’ve only put out two EPs and about half a dozen singles since 2018. Hopefully, they’ll release a full album soon.

    Happy listening!

    Great job, thank you.

    Fletch writes…

    Hi John & Team,

    I know that John has interviewed the guys from Schiit in the past and also made comment on the availability of their products in the UK and EU.

    However, it now seems that the UK based “distributor” for Schiit has got no stock, and no idea when they are getting any – I confirmed this today with them over a chat on Facebook. Now, while I understand that you can’t (and probably won’t) comment on individual manufacturers and stock etc. that would be bonkers, however, I did wonder if other US-based companies are having issues supplying the UK/EU or vice versa?

    If you can nudge the Schiit crew, that would be ace, but maybe there’s another bigger story here as to how the COVID-19 pandemic has effected Hi-Fi. Having had a lengthy conversation with my guy at Frank Harvey HIFI Excellence in Coventry, it seems they’ve had a bumper year, the problem has been getting enough product in.

    Cheers, stay safe etc.


    Me: I hear ya. It’s hard to get Schiit gear in Europe right now but I am sure you can appreciate that it is not possible (or prudent) for me to comment on the reasons why. That’s their job!

    Jimmie writes…


    How refreshing to see a renowned hifi reviewer do a proper review of Sonos speakers.
    THE main reason for buying these kinds of products is the ease of use. How can only one manufacturer understand that?

    Other manufacturers (big well-renowned hifi brands) seem to invest 90% in sound quality and 10% in the app and usability. I don’t care how good it sounds if it’s a pain to use it.

    Would be great if you would compare two Sonos ones in stereo, accompanied by a sub, to the fives. About the same price and I found the ones with sub to be more to my liking.

    This question is asked a lot on different Sonos forums/groups and there isn’t a single “professional” comparison to be found.

    I even found them to be good enough for the occasional focused listening session when I didn’t have the time to fiddle around with vinyl and wait for tubes to warm up…



    Me: Sorry Jimmie, you make a good point but my Sonos work is done for the time being.

    Tim writes…

    Hello John,

    Firstly, love your work. A very refreshing approach to hi-end audio, streaming, and all that goes with it.

    Secondly, thank you for the recommendation. Especially Destroyer – Kaputt and Roon. Wouldn’t be without either 😉

    Not wanting to take up too much of your time but wondered if you could consider a focus on Room Acoustics and your journey. Yes, all rooms are different and yes all systems respond differently based upon components and speaker placement within a given room. Therefore all acoustic environments are particular to the individual room and setup. So, what I’m getting at is your experience of the before and after within the parameters of your space. You have several GIK panels (or other) and you audition many products. I’m sure the treatment allows you to better hear the product and not the influence of the room, but have you for example reviewed a product pre and post room treatment? Or have you reviewed something like the KEF LS50 Wireless and then the KEF LS50 Wireless II with a room change by treatment. This would imply that your not on a level playing field when you review a newer version of a previously reviewed component, which I’m sure is not the case. But in that scenario do you consider the impact of room treatment would need to be factored in? Currently doing some research and have reached out to the Team at GIK for my own listening environment. This is a little talked about area and one I would very much like to hear your opinion and views on.

    Thanks for all your time and dedication to this love of music.


    Tim (In rainy Manchester, UK)

    Me: This is a good question. On this website, each review’s comparisons are done in the same room with the same furniture and the same acoustic treatments. In other words, a level playing field. It’s not possible to reliably compare gear across reviews spread weeks apart, not only because of possible changes to the acoustic makeup of the room but the fallibility of audio memory.

    Lukas writes…

    Hi John,

    I thought you might be interested in this product that I found on Amazon.

    It is essentially a Li-ion buffer battery designed to power an Amazon FireTV Stick on a low Ampere USB 1.0 port. The idea is that a 500 mA USB 1.0 or 1A USB 2.0 port are enough for the Sticks average power consumption but not enough for its 2A peak current. The 2000mAh battery inside the cable buffers those peaks and trickle charges from the USB port.

    As you can imagine it doesn’t only work for FireTV sticks but I’m successfully running my Raspberry PI 3 with Allo Digione HAT on it. A Pi3 with that HAT will consume 470 mA while playing, a Pi4 consumes 680mA. I downgraded from the Pi4 to a 3 just so I wouldn’t have to use a MicroUSB to USB-C converter but power consumption wise you can totally run both models from this device.

    I’m always on the hunt for lower noise power sources. The setup I’m using now is I plugged this buffer battery into the USB 2.0 port of my Nubert A-700 active speakers and power the Pi running Roon bridge directly from the speakers. Initially, I wanted to do this to ensure there couldn’t be any ground loops between the Pi’s USB and the Speakers USB (although they are galvanically isolated). But now I have one of the lowest noise 5V power sources I ever had in my system. And at 21 EUR this device is a bargain for what it does.

    It is not targeted at Audiophiles (hence the price I suppose) but it works flawlessly.

    Thought you might be interested.

    Me: This is a great tip, thank you. However, not all batteries are ‘quiet’. How does one know that this battery doesn’t house a bunch of noisy switching regulators?

    Martin writes…

    Hey John, Hope all’s well, greetings from Toronto!

    Always love it when a video comes on, don’t always 100% agree with some of your conclusions but I do with a great many and you do make me think and re-evaluate. What resonates greatly is that I work in the pro audio world and am an audiophile as well, so when you review products like RME, Rupert Neve Designs and Genelec, all of which I use for work I realize how much a sort of crossover is in play.

    Because of my frustration at how much work it takes to get the room right or close to right, I now listen to Tidal in the studio to get the best experience instead of building a dedicated room, I realized I already had one. It also turned me into becoming more of a head-fi person because like you mention quite a bit, it takes the room out of play.

    And lastly, I like how you made the distinction of being a truth and pleasure seeker, at work it’s all about accuracy, though it’s not lost on me how we make the herculean effort to get that pristine signal only to bombard it with EQ compression and reverb:) And knowing that process, outside of the studio I’m all about pleasure-seeking, I wanna contribute to the creative process by making the music mine, like pimping out a car to suit my taste as opposed to how the manufacturer intended it. This is why I have a bunch of DACS feeding my Solaris and Empire Ears.

    Anyhow, having you touch on those points in your videos is always so satisfying, thanks so letting me share my piece and looking forward to more of your great work!

    Umberto writes…

    Just a quick note to thank you for the McLusky recommendation – brilliant!

    I really like the videos even though I have very different hifi gear (mostly vintage WE and horns), but I still enjoy the videos and recommendations. Also, fantastic video quality, congrats! Keep it up!

    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.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

    A short film about the Sonos Five (vs. KEF LSX)

    3 more thoughts on the Sonos Five (vs. KEF LSX)