WAJ on AUDIO - for truth in hifi / stereo / high-end audio
The Lower-Midrange In; Speaker-Systems, Passive & Active Pre-Amps;
And A Related Look at the Audio Critique Magazine
After having done a piece entitled, "Audio Magazines' Sinister Practices: 'Let the Reader Beware' ", perhaps we should look at the, relatively, good-guys in audio-journalism too - it's only fair. A related look at a few issues having to do with the lower-midrange performance of popular speaker-systems, active, and passive pre-amps could also be interesting.
In the article mentioned, I made reference to another writer (from The Audio Critique) in criticizing most popular mainstream audio-magz; "...he accuses many of these magazines (The Absolute Sound and Stereophile included) of downright dishonesty in their practices regarding equipment reviews. He suggests that these magazines’ interest in pleasing their advertisers might be the reason they deliberately mislead their readers to whom they have an obligation, by dint of their ethical and professional responsibility, to provide accurate and honest reporting." The article also went on to say, "...Other instances of similar criticism do crop-up in diverse places, from time to time, albeit much too infrequently. Regarding my own opinion, I’ll have to admit that I do agree with the above sentiments, to a large extent. But at the same time, paradoxically, I cannot disregard the value of these magazines in highlighting available equipment. With regard to the reports on the performance of these equipment, though, one is best armed with an ability to ‘pick sense from nonsense’, so-to-speak." And in recognizing the dilema of some of these mags' writers, the folowing was articulated; "...Perhaps ‘unscrupulous’ may be too strong a word to apply in general terms. Sure it may apply to many, but I also do admire quite a few of these writers even as I recognize that their hands are tied, and that they cannot consistently displease their advertisers and hope to keep their jobs..."
Naturally, you'd expect me to say that WAJ on AUDIO is amongst the most honest in dispensing information and opinions - and I will not disappoint you - it is.
And, yes, there are others, of course!
The afore-mentioned article ended in this manner, "For magazines/webzines unencumbered by the constraints of the advertizing-dollar, perhaps one could investigate the likes of; The Audio Critique (previously mentioned, and highly recommended – not really for reviews though) The International Audio Review (also highly recommended) Bound for Sound, Stereo Mojo, and Positive Feedback, to name a few. [And I'll take the liberty of specifically adding Dagogo, 6moons, and enjoythemusic.com, here - ads notwithstanding - even though these tend to be a little more 'diplomatic', less brutally-blunt, than my own favourite. They do, however, sometimes hint at the 'hidden truths' in audio, and that's why they're added. (Personally, I'm not averse to ads in a magazine, per se. This site has long dispayed 'ads' and would invite more, as I welcome the resulting, if very slight, reward for my efforts, though it could never be deemed my main source of motivation, or anything else). It's the extent of the influence some mags allow the presence of these ads to exert on their behaviour, this is where I see a major problem). TNT-Audio and 10-Audio are also noteworthy. Kudos to these, and all similar mags operating with a level of integrity somewhat elevated above that displayed by some of the major mainstream players.]
For more views/opinions, rare reviews, and advice (for what it’s worth) do continue to peruse the articles here at ‘W.A.J. on Audio'. For sure, there are ads on this site. But if any entity ever seeks to unreasonably influence the contents of these pages, then that’s when I’ll politely show them where to get off. So check on all the ads you care to. Donate to the cause of TRUTH in high-end audio, if this cause means anything to you. But be assured; this little web-zine pulls no punches. The ad dollar will never cause these pages' contents to be contaminated, or 'watered-down', in any way. Why? Because this writer (and reader) is fed-up with being a passive witness to disingenuousness, outright lies, and blatant dishonesty in the audio-press. I wish there were more mags like those cited above. Look at this mag as the contribution of a passionate, lifelong audiophile to the cause of truth - this is my two-cents worth.
All articles, here, are prepared and presented STRAIGHT – and there ain’t no chaser. The evidence is consistently clear.
Of course there’re always the mainstream mags but, likewise as always; ‘Let the reader beware’, and…….’Be careful out there!’ "
Naturally (again) you wouldn't expect this to be an article focused on blowing my own horn - and (again) I will not disappoint you - it isn't.
Instead, I'd prefer to exclude WAJ on AUDIO (I'm much too biased on this issue, understandably) and point the reader in the direction of the alternatives, some of which were previously mentioned, and to single-out, in particular, the one I believe to be the best of all, especially, for enthusiasts with an analytical slant on music-reproduction; The Audio Critique (a.k.a. High-End Audio). Yet, in doing so, I also have a duty to the reader to highlight the areas in which our opinions differ, lest I be found guilty of endorsing conflicting views. I also recognize that in doing so I run the risk of alienating the very recipient of my respect. However, consistent with my despicable habit of calling a spade a spade, and telling it like it is, I'll do just that - and let the chips fall where they may!
[This is a revised, and re-titled, version of the original article. (Originally entitled; 'An Audio Magazine with Honest Practices - Let the Reader Go There'). The purpose of this piece is two-fold; (1) To direct readers to a very good mag, and (2) to highlight issues regarding the lower-midrange, relative to the status-quo. (The Status-Quo, in this context is, of course; the existing state of affairs as dictated by conventional-'wisdom' as it influences the 'standards', and/or common practices, in high-end audio). In this regard, the aforementioned mag's recent experiences also serve as, arguably, the best possible examples in highlighting some of these issues, as this mag's former practices once exemplified certain tenets of the status-quo. So far as I understand it, both that mag and 'your's truly', NOW, agree on the facts of certain differences between certain systems (though we may differ on the degree of difference obtainable between both sets of those systems examined here).
It is important for the reader to understand that, despite the issues ruthlessly examined here today (and I do mean ruthless; as you'd expect, nothing is overlooked, glossed-over, or excused) the overall quality of that site is NOT in dispute - it remains recommended as, aside from the issues at hand, that mag is just too good to be ignored. And, after all, how much blame can there be ascribed to an individual who adheres to the standards of the widely-accepted authority (the status-quo)? We all are influenced by it, to some degree or other. And where the status-quo may be wrong, many of us were also led astray at some stage, including yours's truly. Very many of us still are. So who are we to sit in judgement of any individual when the status-quo is the main culprit, and we also were/are victims ourselves? As to one's actions outside of that 'umbrella', so to speak - well, that'd be another matter entirely.
Of the three main reasons necessitating this revision, the first, and least significant, is as follows: For verification of a point I'd made about the high esteem in which that mag held (holds?) passive pre-amps, I'd provided a link to the relevant article on that site. That article has, since, been removed, causing a partial re-write. (Fortunately, as a formerly over-enthusiastic fan, I'd kept copies of several of those articles including the one in question, partly para-phrased below). The eventual removal would've been expected, the timing was not. Nevertheless, it's that mag's prerogative to do what it pleases, when it pleases. No further comment on that.
The second reason is a bit more complex: I'd mistakenly assumed (and enthusiastically hoped, and anticipated) that since the author of this mag had made certain recent discoveries, with which I'm familiar, this mag would now, at least, join the thrust in exploring the limits of the possibilities, and enlighten others of these possibilities. And, even more importantly, that the mag would've by now, at least, indicated an intent to highlight, and warn others of, the the pitfalls, relative to those discoveries. The most recent indications (up to the time of this revision) are that no such prospect is likely. Indeed, the opposite seems to be in process, from all indications to date. Judging by the mag's pronouncements to this time, one could get the impression that both its recent discoveries are less significant than they really are. Whether this could be due to a consequence of not exploring the limits of the possibilities, and/or other reasons; is for others to contemplate against the backdrop of the facts. But there seems to be an impression, also being conveyed, that both systems this mag recently discovered to be deficient, and subsequently discarded, are - paradoxically - still viable options in the quest for the ultimate in sound reproduction, as one may infer from the paragraph below, regarding one of these systems:
Thirdly, and most disconcerting, if not most perplexing; I find a slight difficulty in understanding how a system recently discovered to be deficient could now, still, be purported to be 'ideal', as my most recnt check has revealed. Even more incomprehensible is that the rationale behind this is still based on the theoretical possibilities and potential of this system. Potential which, as far as I know, has never been fully realized in any audio-system (including the aurthor's own audio-system) without the fault most recently discovered by him, in what was actually a fully optimized installation, over a period of nearly 20 years. Several who vehemently defend this system because of its clarity, at higher frequencies, also admit to this deficiency at the lower-midrange (even though some don't see this as a major problem for them, and many don't even notice it, partly, because most are perhaps ill-equipped to even discern it - a possibility which this article may help to highlight). This coincides with my own experience of this system.
All the above recent developments have caused my enthusiasim, on several fronts, to be tempered, somewhat. And this revision, necessarily reflects that, among other things. I'd never ever, before, encountered any occassion to doubt this mag's forthrightness and, based on that, I'm disinclined to rush to any conclusions, at this time. My observations must, however, be based on the evidence at hand, at the time of writing. Let's hope these discrepancies are merely due to an oversight (well, several oversights) and that these issues will soon be properly addressed].
Be that as it may, it is very nearly impossible to over-stress the importance of that mag's recent discoveries, and their relevance to all audiophiles who're contemplating the route to the ultimate in audio reproduction, and even those that are not, as yet. (The majority, who have no intention to seek the ultimate, need not be overly concerned, though, since the components deemed to be deficient, here, are absolutely adequate, even outstanding, in the context of the casual user). And since these recent discoveries are consistent with the core of WAJ on AUDIO's uncommon audio-philosophies, which have been consistently proclaimed since our beginning, it'd be tantamount to gross deriliction of duty for us not to address these issues relative to the lower-midrange, in the context of the Audio Critique's recent discoveries. Regardless of whether this mag may be a personal favorite, the related issues examined, here, had to be examined in the cold light of the facts that present themselves. As a result, aspects of this examination may be somewhat unflattering, and a possible consequence is the ire of said mag. That's a risk I'm regrettably, yet absolutely, bound to take. Certainly, anyone who has read WAJ on AUDIO extensively will know that the issues presented by the Audio Critique's recent discoveries are uniquely, and particularly, central to our focus and, therefore, had to be tackled. This piece, as fate would have it, could not be avoided.
Once that decision was made, the thoroughness of the examination, and the uncompromizing explicitness of the report, would have been guaranteed since (and perhaps this is a fault of mine - seriously) I find it difficult to be less than 100% in disclosing my findings, and my opinions of them, from my perspective. Anything less would've burdened my conscience - I'd prefer not to have to live with that. (I've 'sqandered' a very lucrative job-prospect, in the past, because of this 'fault', and the irony is; I still feel good about giving my honest opinion of that Company's subsidiary, in that interview - I'd have prefered if they hadn't asked me, though. Niether was I interested in working for that particular subsidiary, regardless of the lucrative prospect. Perhaps this give's an idea of the extent of my 'fault'). Anything less would also be unfair to my readers. I'd prefer not to have to live with that, either. I've agonized for weeks over whether or not to delete certain aspects of this revision. In fact I've deleted some that were not germane to the issues, as they relate to the readers. What remains, however, had to - it is what it is, as they say.
This is, by far, the most difficult article I've ever attempted (it's been chopped and changed many times) as I attempt to thread the thin line between full unbiased disclosure, for the benefit of my readers, and the avoidance of 'collateral-damage' to a valuable 'artifact', so to speak - the inimitable Audio Critique! I sincerely hope both these concerns will, in time, prove to have been successfully addressed.
However, before delving into the major issues, regarding the lower-midrange, let's take a look at the magazine, itself:
REVIEWING THE REVIEWER OF THE REVIEWERS: The author of this site, Arthur Salvatore, is highly-experienced, an excellent writer, meticulous with his points and brutally blunt in expressing them - he 'takes no prisoners', so to speak. The section of that site entitled,'Reviewing The Reviewers', incidentally, is the source of inspiration for my own article, previously cited.
The relatively small Audio Critique has made, and continues to make, an invaluable contribution to afficionados of this hobby. Even some who claim to despise this mag are reading it - re; some audio-forums. (How else would these hypocrites know the details of its contents?) Personally speaking, I appreciate the manner in which issues are approached - without fear, or favor - a refreshing alternative to the disingenuous, double-talking, inconclusive, apologetic, diplomatic-speak so prevalent in many other mags. That, by itself, is worth the 'price of admission', in my opinion.
I also appreciate the likelihood of discovering ground-breaking, if not earth-shattering, revealations regarding affordable components which approach, or potentially surpass, the 'state of the art': Ancient Ampex amps which could cost less than $1.5k, yet outperform $7k Manleys, is one example of such revealations, by the 'Critique. Similarly ancient, and affordable, Stromberg-Carlson amps outperforming ASL Hurricanes (and, consequently, $10k-$20k ARC's, C-J's, VTL's,etc.) is another example - exclusive to the Audio Critique. Affordable, ancient turntables with the potential to outperform $100k modern equivalents, is another revealation (shared by others, in this instance). [This magazine's practice of incorporating, and prominently featuring, input from its readers is instrumental in affording access to these 'ground-breaking' revealations, in my opinion].
But, very importantly; could you ever imagine any mainstream audio-mag undermining the sales of their advertisers' current products (thereby, pressuring them for better products, and better value) by prominently highlighting the superior virtues of more affordable alternatives JUST FOR THE SAKE OF THE READER? Never gonna happen! Not in this lifetime.
Therefore, who benefits from the wide readership of mainstream audio-mags? Mainly, those mags and their advertisers, of course!
And, who benefits from reading The Audio Critique, and others like it? Perhaps 'only' THE READER!
So, which do you think is better for you?
THE COINCIDENT COINCIDENCE: Some would also like to cast suspicion on the Audio Critique's use of several Conicident components in that mag's reference-system. Pay no attention to that. And treat any such allegation with the contempt it deserves. Here's why:
O.K., so Coincident is owned by a friend of the author. And, yes, that mag's reference-system may now include Coincident Frankenstein amps, Coincident Dragon amps, Coincident Statement line-stage pre-amp, Coincident Statement phono pre-amp, and Coincident Pure-Reference 'Double' Extreme speakers - quite a mouthful!
However, it is significant that, until recently, no Coincident component was included in that system - none whatsoever. It is also significant that the gradual inclusion of all the afore-mentioned components coincided with their emergence on the world-scene as 'word-beaters', in their own right.
The cold hard fact is that all these components are absolutely confirmed, by several other mags, to be at, or near, the state of the art in their performance. The Statement line-stage, and the Frankensteins, lay legitimate claim to being THE very best in existence, for instance - bar none, and regardless of cost. This could never be mere coincidence, bye the way. The Coincident brand must, therefore, be driven by an individual who is extremely competent, astute, and passionate about producing the very best products possible. The fact that these great products are also offered at 'bargain-basement' prices would make these products even more irresistable. [Indeed, if I were sufficiently dis-satisfied with my own pre-ampliication system, for example, then I too would've been seriously pursuing the purchase of a $5k Coincident line-stage for my own system (that is; if I also had five-grand to spare) - $20k pre-amps are now irrelevant, in my opinion. I'd also seriously consider any of those others above (though my current habits tend to play havoc with the life of the tubes). My only reservation would be with the speakers - consistent with my similar reservations for nearly ALL popular speakers - yet, there's no denying they're amongst the best of their kind].
Nonetheless, with the blatant fact of all these components' obvious quality, not to mention their reasonable prices, alternatives would be attractive only (or mainly) to those determined to spend more (there are quite a few of those) so as to boast on the cost of their equipment, for instance. But for others of us seeking the very best quality at the least possible cost, the Coincident brand stands at, or near, the top of the pile. Therefore, I see the 'Critique's choice of Coincident gear as consistent with that mag's perennially demonstrated policy of advocating, for it's readers, the best gear at the least cost. In that context (and even regardless of such a context) Coincident is amongst THE most obvious, and prudent, of choices. Kudos to the 'Critique for boldly making such choices, even at risk of weathering the potential storm of sinister allegations. In its defence, the facts speak for themselves.
In light of these facts, therefore, the fact of a long-standing friendship between the operators of these two entities may reasonably be viewed, mainly, as manifestation of a mere COINCIDENCE. The strength of the facts, as they stand, mercilessly overpowers any weak aspertions cast in their direction, and relegates these aspertions, and their authors, to the realms of the utterly ridiculous, where they belong.
DIFFERENCES IN OPINION; Pre-Amps: However, I must point out that while we share most views, the Audio Critique's opinions differ from mine, here at WAJ on AUDIO, on a few important issues:
For instance, I believe there's too much of an emphasis on analytical detail in reproduction (as is the popular trend) at the expense of the neglected lower-midrange (and dynamism, which that mag's author advocates, to be fair, but which is largely neglected, generally) and, therefore, at the expense of the REALISM of the overall reproduction. Perhaps evidence of this is apparent in his advocacy of 'pre-amp less' or passive pre-amplification which I've, long-ago, found to be exactly that; detailed at higher frequencies, but lacking in the important lower-midrange and, therefore, lacking in overall REALISM. (See WAJ on AUDIO's comparison of the Audio-Research LS3 active/passive linestage pre-amp against passive/'pre-amp less' operation at - http://wajonaudio.webs.com/audio-reseach-ls3-active-vs-passive-pre-amp-operation-the-review-by-waj.html for expansion on that point, among others).
Here are a few para-phrased snippets of his sentiments on the issue of passive/pre-amp less vs active line-stage pre-amplification - lately altered since his recent introduction to a new active line-stage pre-amp:
...is (was?) that any system that sounds better with the addition of an "Active" Linestage is an unequivocal
An error has been made in the choice and "the matching" of the components
(II) He also feels (felt?) that no properly designed and optimized system requires an active Linestage.
DIRECT CONNECTION (ie; 'pre-amp less')
He feels (felt?) that this technique will always be the most optimum and least compromised method of
transmitting the signal, both in theory and in practice, BUT he also expressed that it is very difficult to achieve.
The Audio Critique now uses an active line-stage pre-amp - in a properly designed and optimized system!
But even after switching to an active line-stage pre-amp, here's the part I don't quite understand:
He still believes that a direct connection, between the source and the amplifier(s), when usable, is, and always will be, the ideal method to achieve the highest fidelity to that source. However, he stipulates, there is one serious and unavoidable "fly in the ointment" with this method, which must be addressed. Even if a direct connection is possible (without any sonic compromises), and extra gain is not a requirement: How does one then change (optimize) the volume level without also compromising the signal (sonics)? - He also gave us the answer to that question; a transformer-based volume-control - problem solved.. Yet, he still opts for the active line-stage, citing convenience and more realistic sound (see directly below, concerning the sound). Is this confusing? If there's one thing that can be said about the author of the Audio Critique, it's that he certainly has a lot of faith in THEORIES. By his own admission, the active line-stage is ACTUALLY better, but he still holds that the passive will always be 'ideal' - if only in theory - certainly profound.
Despite the above, the author has, also, virtually admitted to being wrong about passive/pre-amp less operation after discovering, among other things, the lower-midrange attributes (and consequent realism) of the new Coincident Statement active line-stage pre-amp, compared to 'pre-amp less', similar to my own discoveries with the active ARC LS3, eight years ago. Refer to his comments on the Coincident active line-stage pre-amp at http://www.high-endaudio.com/RC-Linestages.html and note, particularly, allusions to 'slightly' more natural harmonics, and 'bodies' of instruments and singers being more realistic and solid, as compared to pre-amp less.
Here's a para-phrased sample of his comments:
He informs us thus; where the CSLS/CEI (Coincident line-stage and cables) sounded superior to "The Standard" * (pre-amp less): 1. There' a bit more natural harmonics 2. The active pre is; a small bit purer (mainly at high volumes) 3. Perhaps most importantly, he illustrates; Bodies of instruments (and singers) slightly more realistic and solid, and less "fun house mirror" 4. Also, sound is somewhat more effortless, as if the amplifiers have more power
* This means, in his view, that "The Standard" (pre-amp less) was not capable of fully driving the connecting cable and the input stage of the amplifier, despite his incorrect assumption that it had this capability. However, he told us, he can and will defend himself....Refer to the site for that defence, based on a few more theories, I believe.
If, as the 'Critique and many others now indicate, the active line-stage reproduces the lower-midrange 'bodies' of instruments and singers in a more REALISTIC manner than pre-amp less, then it stands to reason that the passive/pre-amp less system-mode is DEFICIENT in the lower-midrange. It's as simple as that. It MUST, therefore, be disqualified in any quest for the ultimate in sound-reproduction. (And my own experience informs me that, with amps and speakers fully capable in the lower-midrange, the degree of difference is decidedly NOT 'slight').
One wonder's, however, whether speakers with drivers purpose-designed with more competence in the lower-mids, AND with adequate surface-area for realism in this region, would elicit an improvement in realism that is significantly more than 'slight' - a test with the best Tannoys could be enlightening, for instance.
Long apparent, at the 'Critique, is a preference for a popular speaker-type which is, in many ways, excellent (in keeping with a long established trend, beginning in the late 80's/early '90's with Wilson WATT mini-monitors, with their limited surface-area, among other things). But, arguably, this type is, perhaps, not ideally conducive to unleashing the full potential (and consequent overall realism) of realistic lower-midrange performance, despite cutting-edge excellence in several other aspects of performance. One also wonders whether such speakers would have limited one's ability to discern the lower-midrange attributes of a good active pre-amp, in the first place, and caused one to have endorsed a passive pre-amp system which is, just now, being discovered by the Audio Critique to be deficient in this very area - and always was, obviously.
Arguably, further evidence of this may be gleaned from the account of his epiphany, regarding the realism afforded by better performance in the lower-mids, after the double-stacking (and, therefore, increasing the surface-area) of two pairs of his mini-monitors which he'd previously felt where, virtually, lacking in no aspect of their performance, as a single pair.(It's perhaps worthy of note that the active line-stage and the double-stacked mini-monitors seem to have been tested around the same time. Chances are the differences, discovered with this combo, would not have been as apparent with the original single mini-monitor pair, if at all). Refer to his review of the Coincident Pure-Reference 'Double' Extreme speaker-system at http://www.high-endaudio.com/RC-Pure%20Reference.html with particular reference to comments about "more natural 'substance' " (or lower midrange BODY) contributing more realism to the sound. Irrefutable evidence of the double-stacked mini-monitors' superiority over the single pair. And (since they're identical) irrefutable evidence as to the reason why - increased surface-area.
[For my own comments on the importance of the lower-mids, among other elements, as they regard sonic-realism, and the order of priority of these elements, in addition to other related issues, please see Parts 1 - 4, beginning with; http://wajonaudio.webs.com/pt1-from-hifi-to-high-end-what's-wrong-by-wal.html ]
DIFFERENCES IN OPINION; Speakers: Perhaps another example of a, likely, erroneous 'absolute', lately revised, is; the 'Critique's previously staunch advocacy of a single mid-woofer - specifically, a single mini-monitor pair (with sub-woofers) for reason of cohesiveness - to the exclusion of all 'multi-drivered' systems as, the author felt, they all compromised this cohesiveness).
Here's a near identical para-phrasing of his sentiments on the subject - again, lately altered since his recent introduction to a double-stacked version of the mini-monitor/subs he was already using:
practice then, his reference speakers were all, at least in
design theory, relatively "full-range"
When using more common terms, the goals of his two design priorities were very simple:
to hear all of the music, and
2. He wanted to hear this music from (ideally) only one "source"* (driver).
*His analogy used to emphasize the superiority of the single mid/woofer is that - Even the most highly skilled "duo" cannot exactly imitate a "soloist".
it is now easy to understand why he has avoided, and even ignored, so
speakers, from so many different companies (including earlier Coincident models), no matter how
excited other audiophiles felt about them. From his perspective, if the speakers didn't conform to his
two basic design requirements, they were effectively irrelevant, because he knew, from decades of
direct experience, that they could never satisfy him, no matter what their other sonic strengths were.
Several additional reasons were cited to illustrate the single small mid/woofer's superiority, and why it's been stuck with in that audio-system for so many years, thru several iterations. [But, if I may reiterate; logic has always suggested, to me at least, that a single small mid/woofer is inherently incapable of replicating the robustness of instruments operating at the lower-midrange, among other things - it's a physical impossibility, especially at realistic levels, I've been inclined to believe. And now, The 'Critique seems to be coming around to agreeing with this point too - if not in so many words].
In now double-stacking two pairs of mini-monitors, this mag now endorses multiple (TWO) mid-woofers AND two tweeters, per channel (which now display no less of that cohesiveness) as the author now discovers the increased realism, the lower-midrange 'substance', these multiple mid-woofers' increased surface-area now brings to the fore.
Here's a snippet regarding his discovery of the lower-midrange superiority and increased realism of the double-stacked version, as compared to the previous single pair of the same speakers. He describes the increase in lower-midrange 'body' as:
...More Natural "Substance"- He purposely did not use the normal word "body", because this would obviously infer that the PRE (single pair) is "lean", which it definitely is not. In this instance, the existing "body" feels like it has more solidity and weight*, though without any sense of "heaviness". He's seen the word "density" used by others, but he prefers the word "substance" to describe what he is hearing. This is because he also feels there is actually more harmonic and low-level information being reproduced as well. [Note; WAJ on AUDIO's allusions, elswhere and later in this article, to these phenomena (ie; the completion of notes, resonances, the fade of notes, and the reproduction of the minute details. Be advised, also, that these phenomena are largely inaccessible with a passive/pre-amp less systrem - the active line-stage pre-amp is what provides the lower-mids body and detail the passive never could - a point the 'Critique must have also discovered, but ommited to sufficiently highlight, in my opinion]. He went on to say: Even further, the individual images are also somewhat larger. So, he feels he has to use a new word (for him) to describe this combination of improvements.
He also would like to stress that this added "substance" is completely natural, meaning it is reflective of live music and sound, and is in no manner "euphonic" (which he considers a distortion, however pleasing it is to some). [Note; even this level of 'substance' (or lower-midrange body) is also inaccessible with pre-amp less systems - WAJ].
*From a different perspective, he tells us, it is easier to physically "feel" the musicians' presence, just as you would feel something actually in your room.
I can, certainly, relate to that. However, similar to my first example with pre-amp less; If the double-stacked mini-monitors reproduce the lower-midrange body (or 'substance') in a more REALISTIC manner than the single pair (augmented by sub-woofers, as the vast majority are) then it stands to reason that the single mini-monitor/(sub) woofer concept (the overwhelming 'standard' of the status-quo) is DEFICIENT in the lower-midrange. It's, again, as simple as that!
Regardless of whatever amount of semantics one may wish to apply in this secnario - or in that of active versus passive pre-amps, for that matter - the 'bottom-line' is what really counts: If the one is better, and more realistic, than the other, in a certain region, then 'the other' MUST definitely be DEFICIENT, in the specified region. [Whether merely double-stacking is enough to completely obliterate this deficiency; that's the mystery readers will have to ponder in contemplating speaker-systems for their own use].
There are one or two other points of difference in our opinions (on the most realistic types of phono-cartridges, for instance) but I'd prefer to confine my arguments to these more fundamental areas where The Audio Critique has now come around to our way of thinking, at least, to some degree.
We'll delve deeper into these issues in a moment.
A CRITIQUE of THE 'CRITIQUE - Re; The ACTIVE vs The PASSIVE Pre..: Obviously, with the acquisition of Coincident's active line-stage pre-amp, and the double-stacking (increased surface-area) of the PR Double-Extreme speakers, The Audio Critique has now come to more appreciate the increased realism afforded by better a performance in the lower-mids.
But as alluded to earlier, one can't help but to wonder whether a penchant for a particular type of speaker-system, though superlative in several aspects, may have limited the ability to appreciate the real benefits of a good active pre-amp, in the first place. And, there-by, influenced the enthusiastic advocacy of a (pre-amp less/passive pre-amp) system which has been proven (by myself and a few others and, now, The Audio Critique) to be peerless at higher frequencies, but very significantly compromised in the important lower-mids.
One would also wonder whether such a speaker-system (even when double-stacked) would still be so limited in lower-midrange performance as to cause the percieved increase in realism at the lower-mids to be so 'slight' that only audiophiles could discern it, as was reported, by the 'Critique.
Contrastingly, Stereo-Mojo's reviewer reported, in his review of the same pre-amp, that his wife (perhaps the epitome of a non-audiophile) commented on the 'fuller' tones reproduced by this pre-amp, compared to 'pre-amp less'. In their opinion, the difference between the pre-amp less mode's performance and that of the active pre-amp in that system, while not being 'night and day', was certainly as much as 'pre-dusk and pre-dawn' (or similar to that effect) - if you catch the drift. Not the greatest of anologies, perhaps but, by the context, we can safely assume the difference is significant, as the following would further indicate: They both consistently heard and felt the increased timbre and texture of instruments and voices, particularly piano, aboe, bassoon, saxaphone, tympami, close-mic'd strings, and both male and female voices. He and his non-audiophile wife both heard more bite and more roundness to the sound.
Perhaps an exerpt from WAJ on AUDIO's previously mentioned review of the active ARC LS3 would also be enlightening in this regard; "The LS3 releases all that lower-mid information to amps and speakers capable of operating in this area. The result is enhanced realism; musical notes become whole, and complete, the resonance of certain instruments is liberated allowing the instrument(s) to sound truly like the real thing and as big as life, notes in this region are more full, they expand, they linger for longer, then they slowly fade into oblivion regardless of the cacaphony around them. I was lucky to have an amp and speakers that were capable of showcasing the considerable advantage the LS3 holds over 'pre-amp-less' (and other pre-amps) in the lower-mids - otherwise, I might never have bought it. If, however, ones amps or speakers also limit the lower-mids, as the vast majority do, then one will never notice that much of a difference in this area."
If I recall correctly, I did flippantly cite a 'night and day' difference between pre-amp less and the active LS3, in that review. But how does one quantify a 'night and day' difference, really? Let's just say the difference was/is significant, really significant, no, really, really significant. Much, much, much more than barely discernable - by audiophlies, at that. Perhaps I should simply refer you (again) to the review itself - please click the link many paragraphs above. But I will say this; the rest of the system, the amps and, especially, the speakers play a critical role as to whether the difference is nil, barely discernable, or near 'night and day'. I repeat; speakers which are lacking at the lower-mids (as most are) will not reveal much of a difference, if any.
Indeed, I'd ridden the pre-amp less band-wagon for several years, though I was always dis-satisfied with the lack of realism of my system at low-mids. This inspired experimentation with several amps and many drivers in a D.I.Y. quest to eliminate the deficiency. I only discovered that 'pre-amp less' was the sole culprit (in my unique case, at the time) when I inserted an active pre-amp, the LS3, over 7- 8 years ago. Recent tests have only re-affirmed my convictions: Pre-amp less is the epitome of a three-legged thorough-bred - a race-horse that's beautiful in limited aspects, but hopelessly handicaped in its main, overall, purpose! Why?
Here's what I've discovered, and re-discovered: Passive/'preamp less' gives with one hand (high-mid/treble) and takes away, manifold, with the other (lower-midrange).
Now there's an absolute term that has been proven to be true - by former 'believers', no less!
Speaking of which; there seems to be a tendency, at The Audio Critique, to assert ones preferences in absolute terms, as a matter of course - to the exclusion of all other possibilities, in some, arguably, unwarranted or questionable instances. (Refer to a couple of the previous para-phrased examples).This tendency could, perhaps, be tempered, somewhat. Aside from the 'pied-piper effect', and the consequences to those affected, it also presents a difficulty in rationalizing those preferences when those preferences turn out to be wrong:
For instance; the advocacy of pre-amp less/passive operation above all else: Categorized as Class 'A' - no line-stage pre-amp. And Class 'B' - one passive/active line-stage pre-amp, only (with the emphasis on the passive mode) respectively, in that mag's recommended 'components'-list. No purely active line-stage pre-amp apparently warranted inclusion at the top echelons of that short list. (Class 'C' has also long been empty, up to the time of writing). And, now, to switch allegiance after (lately) discovering the lower-midrange merits of a good active line-stage pre-amp when, only now, combined with the lower-midrange capabilities of double-stacked speakers - lower-midrange speaker capabilities which never existed, to this level, when other active line-stage pre-amps were written-off, over the years (judging by the outlined history). This could cause one's credibility to be called into question, if nothing else. [Note; The 'Critique makes a distinction between units with phono-stages (which he calls 'pre-amps') and units which have none (which he, rightly, calls 'line-stages', or line-stage pre-amps). Phono-stage equipped 'pre-amps' are/were not at issue (because of the necessity, and quality, of some of their phono-stages, I believe). Line-stage pre-amps are (were?) the units the 'Critique took issue with.]
accounts of its 'pre-amplification' practices to date, one could get
impression that, even now, it considers that the passive pre-amp was
prudent way to go because of the passive's slight edge over previous
line-stages, at high-frequencies. And also that; with the active
line-stage being the first to virtually equal pre-amp less' performance
high-frequencies, it is the only unit (or one of , perhaps, two recent
units) good enough to compete with the passive system, let alone
sincerely hope I'm wrong in this impression. If this is really so, then
this mean that the 'Critique ascribes a higher value to the very last
of high-frequency detail than it does to overall realism? By this
this mag suggesting that the reader should, likewise, endure the
of a passive system, just for that last scintilla, until one is able to
purchase a Coincident, the only active line-stage which provides that
scintilla? And by this, is the 'Critique still continuing to say that
previous, and current, active line-stage pre-amps are unworthy, even
should, now, know that nearly all of the best are similarly, and
superior to passives in the lower-midrange capabilities that mag has
recently discovered with the Coincident? (At high frequencies most
that very last scintilla the 'Critique values so highly, but it also,
knows that passives lack a whole lot more at lower-mids - this is what
the 'Critique's current stance so incomprehensible). I'm sure many
welcome clarification, on this and other issues. But, to the extent
may be influenced by the said impression, I'm forced to
I sincerely hope I'm wrong in this impression. If this is really so, then could this mean that the 'Critique ascribes a higher value to the very last scintilla of high-frequency detail than it does to overall realism? By this paradigm, is this mag suggesting that the reader should, likewise, endure the deficiencies of a passive system, just for that last scintilla, until one is able to purchase a Coincident, the only active line-stage which provides that last scintilla? And by this, is the 'Critique still continuing to say that all other previous, and current, active line-stage pre-amps are unworthy, even though it should, now, know that nearly all of the best are similarly, and significantly, superior to passives in the lower-midrange capabilities that mag has just recently discovered with the Coincident? (At high frequencies most merely lack that very last scintilla the 'Critique values so highly, but it also, NOW, knows that passives lack a whole lot more at lower-mids - this is what makes the 'Critique's current stance so incomprehensible). I'm sure many would welcome clarification, on this and other issues. But, to the extent that others may be influenced by the said impression, I'm forced to address it.
I am shocked!
I will not attempt to speak to that mag's motives, here. But I will make a few general comments: Knowing what we know now (and even going by the 'Critique's seemingly understated recent discoveries on the subject) any audiophile seeking absolute realism should avoid passive 'pre-amplification' like the plague. They should also avoid mini-monitor based speaker-systems, and others with similar characteristics (even based on the 'Critique's own account of the benefits of double-stacking two pairs of the same). Each of those systems amounted to (and/or will amount to) a crippling, but stealthily cloaked, mistake in any search for the ultimate in realism, as the 'Critique has now discovered in abandoning those systems. As to why this is not being made absolutely clear, I'll leave it to the reader to ponder.
Why would it have been a big mistake? It's already been established here, and it's becoming more widely apparent elsewhere (also, recently discovered by the 'Critique, as we've seen - paraphrased earlier) that the passive mode is deficient at the lower-midrange of the sound-spectrum. (Though some misguidedly seem to believe this, so-called, 'warm' region is optional, or even disposable. Nature, and the requirements for sonic realism, dictate otherwise, however). Slighting, or omitting any part of the sound-spectrum is counter-productive, in any quest for realism. This can never be justified, unless one only seeks to cater to particular tastes - not realism - an inodrinately popular trend.
It is, therefore, absolutely inconcievable that any audiophile, SERIOUSLY IN THE QUEST FOR REALISM, would KNOWINGLY opt for the deficiencies of a flawed pre-amp less system, with its lop-sided, mid/treble-great, lower-mids-poor, presentation. Any such choice by such an audiophile will likely have been caused by a mistake in judgement clouded by the use of similarly oriented speakers - mini-monitor/subs, for instance (similar to to those used by that mag for two decades, for example). Ignorance is bliss, as they say, it's also a perfect excuse or alibi. (Transgressions committed after enlightenment, however, are inexcusable). Many have made this mistake, and many are still at it (no disgrace in that - the status-quo endorses it - others of us have been there, thru a learning-process). Nevertheless, the audiophile who seeks the ultimate in overall realism, if properly equipped with speakers (and amps) capable in the lower-mids (as the 'Critique is now, to a degree, for instance) would never fore-go the realism afforded by the best pre-amps and line-stages, of the past 30 years, just for the last iota of high-frequency clarity afforded by pre-amp less. Not if that H-F clarity came at the expense of lower-midrange body and detail, and overall realism. Only a high-frequency-detail-'fan' would, KNOWINGLY, do such a thing, and those are not really in search of overall realism - regardless of what they think. Such an individual would, obviously, be seeking, mainly, to cater to a particular taste for high-frequency detail, regardless of the deleterious consequences elsewhere in the spectrum. Absolute realism can never be achieved by that route, obviously.
I simply refuse to believe that the Audio Critique, knowing what it knows now, could really be saying what it seems to be saying.
Simply put; the passive's high-frequency advantage is slight, while its lower-mids disadvantage is debilitating to overall realism. The active's high-frequency disadvantage is slight (extremely slight in the better units) while its lower-midrange advantage is vast, and critical to lifelike overall realism. So which do you think would be better for the audiophile whose first priority is overall realism?
An 'all or nothing' 'high-frequency detail afficionado', let's say (whose first priority is high-frequency detail, above all else) would perhaps endure the passive's deficiencies, of course. Is this what the author of the Audio Critique is advocating?
Is the author really saying that he'd have knowingly and deliberately endured, as he did endure, the deficiencies of a passive pre-amp (and the similar deficiencies of mini-monitor/sub systems) for nearly 20 years, just for the benefit of that last scintilla of high-frequency detail, regardless of the lower-midrange body, detail, and overall realism which, he NOW knows, were also being lost, by so doing? From his accounts, we deduce that his new active pre-amp's lower-mids performance (and that of the newly double-stacked speakers) came as something of a surprise - he was previously unaware of these capabilities in such components, if I understand correctly. In that light, doesn't he now consider his prolonged use of passives and mini-monitors to have been the consequence of an 'unfortunate oversight', and that he'd have been better served by other active pre-amps and other speaker-types, over those years? Or is he really suggesting that this was not a 'non-optimal' route to realism (let's not calll it a mistake, here) and that 20 years of a deficient passive pre-amp, to his recent switch to an active Coincident (eschewing all other actives) is the natural progression, and that this course was, or is, preferable merely because of that ('last scintilla') high-frequency consideration? And, most importantly, is this the paradigm he's encouraging others to emulate?
One reason (perhaps, not the only one) for the 'Critique's afore-mentioned stance is, perhaps, that the author has not yet given himself a chance to experience the full extent of the difference between actives and passives, not to mention the difference between mini-monitor/subs (or even, perhaps, double-stacked mini-monitor/subs) and some (rare) speaker-systems particularly adept at lifelike realism, at the lower-mids.
Indeed, if single-paired mini-monitors are deficient, at the lower-midrange (as has now been discovered/proven by the 'Critique) then there's a strong probability that even two pairs (double-stacked, as they are) may be more capable than the single pair but, still, not close enough to the maximum potential (or those speakers with maximum capability in this region). And if such is the case, then even these double-stacked mini-monitors would not be able to display the full extent of the difference between actives and passives (not to mention, the maximum in realism). If this is so, then an assessment based on this could/would be, somewhat, less than accurate, and misleading to others.
Regardless of how much the author may like his current speakers (as he did the previous state of the art single pairs, which proved 'less than ideal') if one is to draw conclusions and make recommendations to the general public, then one owes it to that public to test the components in question with speakers (even if one doesn't like them) which are known to be amongst the best at the particular attribute at issue. This could be a good way to avoid conveying a wrong impression. (Neither would WAJ on AUDIO, or any other, have reason to take issue).
Examined cynically: The 'Critique now finds itself in a difficult position; Does one now outrightly declare that a passive pre-amp system and a type of speaker-system one's used, for nigh-on 20 years, are both deficient and, therefore, unqualified for use in any all-out thrust for realism? Or does one minimize the the perception of the significance of one's recent discoveries by even suggesting (in the instance of the 'ideal' passive) or by leaving it to speculation (in the instance of the 'not lean' mini-monitors) that both the discarded types of systems are viable in the quest for absolute realism, and leave others to make the same mistakes?
Examined optimistically: We always have to bear in mind that the 'Critique may 'only' be in the process of making a genuine mistake, again. And, based only on past perceptions of the authors integrity, I'd tend to want to believe this to be the case: Perhaps handicaped by undeniably excellent speakers which are, perhaps, not the best at the one attribute at issue, the author is unable to discern to full extent of the differences between the systems in question. This is not an uncommon phenomenon which, I believe, contributed to the ascendency of the passive pre, in the first place, as was pondered earlier, in this case, and may later become even more evident, in general terms. This would explain why he finds these differences to be only 'slight', while others (like Stereo-Mojo and WAJ on AUDIO - as indicated above) find the differences to be more significant. (The facts of the differences are not in dispute, though, only the degree). Be that as it may, an erroneous assessment (even if only by degree) however innocently concieved, does bear consequences for the reader.
hope that the reader
bears the fore-going caveat in mind, my own examination must continue,
the facts at hand.
And the fore-going is not all that is at issue:
And the fore-going is not all that is at issue:
Something seems starkly amiss, in this whole scenario. Where are the definitive and absolute terms (when we really need them) that the 'Critique is so prone to using? This mag had no qualms about touting passives and single-paired mini-monitor/subs as the ultimate systems. (Refer, again, to the paraphrased examples). It had no qualms, and was absolute, in its dismissal and condemnation of actives and multi-drivered speaker-systems. So why is it not absolute in its dimissal of the said passives and single-paired mini-monitor/subs, it previously touted, now that it has found them to be inferior to the same types of systems (actives and multi-drivered speaker-systems) it previously, unequivocally, and absolutely condemned and dismissed but now uses, because of their lately-discovered superiority? The superiority that was always there, but mistakenly overlooked, previously, by the 'Critique. I'm sorry, but these questions are burning, as somethings just don't seem cogent about this whole affair. I'm a trifle disappointed - to tell the truth - deflated, even.
[Logical reasons for these oversights: A passive pre-amp, deficient at lower-mids (as was previously, and exclusively, used by the 'Critique, for many years) cannot properly demonstrate the superiority of speakers that are capable in this region. And, likewise, speakers which are deficient in this region (single-paired mini-monitor/subs, for instance, as previously used by the 'Critique) cannot properly demonstrate the superiority of active line-stage pre-amps which are supremely capable in this region. (The 'Critique's case may be an extreme example, but the phemomenon is wide-spread. And it partially explains the popularity of these deficient systems). Ironically, the exclusive and unrelenting commitment to the use of flawed systems, which one believes to be superior, could cause one to dimiss and condemn the very systems which really are superior - with consequences to those who're influenced. To err is human, as we know, but then, in discovering our mistakes, shouldn't we highlight them, as a beacon for others?]
Indeed, even the level of superiority, the reasons for it, and the significance of the superiority, of these previously condemned systems, though mentioned, seem understated, and clouded amongst other less significant issues which seem to be ascribed commensurate levels of import.
Why are we given so many reasons, for instance, but still left to speculate as to the MAIN reason for the change from a passive 'pre-amp' to a $5k active line-stage pre-amp? Could we really be expected to understand that an inconvenience with the levels of certain recordings, endured for so many years, could now be the main reason for the $5k outlay on this line-stage, in conjunction with its high-frequency clarity - as was intimated, among other things? (Please refer to the relevant articles on that site). Is this, really, what's being suggested, as it seems? But this is so unlike the 'Critique, why do we even need to speculate?
Speculation: Of the several reasons given, the astute will surmise that the Coincident's hi-frequency performance, and convenience of operation, must be only minor considerations in any decision to purchase this unit over the passive alternative, already in hand (and happily used for 20 years). The fact is that the other (the major?) convenience issue can be rectified with a transformer-based attenuator, as admitted by the 'Critique. And the fact is, also, that this pre-amp's high-frequency performance may be close but cannot be better than the previous passive/pre-amp less system. Therefore, the major deciding factor must be the admitted superior performance of this active pre-amp, at the lower-mids, now made accessible with the increased lower-mids capability of the speakers' increased surface-area, afforded by double-stacking. (I'm speculating from the basis of my own experience, in a similar scenario, several years ago).
Lower-midrange capability would also be the main reason causing the expenditure of an additional $20k-odd on the extra mini-monitor/subs (identical to the previous) to facilitate the increased surface-area of double-stacking - no other logical reason explains this additional expenditure. This now up-grades the speaker-system to one capable of exhibiting some of this active pre-amp's lower-midrange 'body' and detail, which the single pair of (highly-rated, and nearly new) mini-monitor/subs simply could not, by themselves - increased efficiency'd be a bonus.
From all accounts, the author was completely satisfied with the system as it was before. (The performance of both the active pre and double-stacked speakers caused something of an epiphany, mainly relative to the lower-midrange, if I correctly understand - and inspired the purchase of both).
With extra speakers, identical to the previous, the only major sonic difference between that, as it was then, and the system as it is now, is the lower-midrange body and detail (or 'substance', as he calls it) supplied by the active pre-amp, and unleashed by the speakers' increased surface area. (Dynamism too, but see below)
That is; lower-midrange body and detail the previous passive pre-amp and single-paired mini-monitor/sub system, each, simply cannot supply - if they could, then all this would not have been necessary.
This would simply mean that nearly 30-grand is being spent for (newly discovered) lower-midrange capability. (Logic suggests that all other considerations, put forward, are secondary. Even increased efficiency/dynamism would not be the main reason here, as an active line-stage would not have been needed for that. So, as logic suggests, the main reason for all this expenditure, on a previously satisfactory system, is to facilitate the realism afforded by the new-found lower-midrange capability).
Lower-midrange capability, the likes of which never existed in the system before. (The added speaker-efficiency, image size, convenience, etc., would be fringe-benefits). The evidence does bear this out. So why not stress it - indeed, why under-enphasize all these new developments, and discoveries, as seems to be the case, here?
Mucho-deniro is being expended for the realism afforded by lower-midrange body and detail, which can only be supplied by an active pre-amp and adequate (increased) speaker surface-area.
That's mucho-deniro for the realism afforded by lower-midrange body and detail, which cannot be supplied by a passive pre-amp and a single pair of state of the art mini-monitor/subs.
'bottom line', and
the reason we had to go into all this detail? (Leave aside the reasons
also, forced to speculate):
Logic tells us; it's all about the LOWER-MIDRANGE! The 'bottom line' is that both systems in
may be OK for the casual user (or even the advanced
fan/analyst). But for the audiophile seeking the maximum realism, this
illustrates that both passive pre-amps and single-paired
deficient at lower-mids and, therefore should be avoided, if overall
the ultimate goal. Active
pre-amps and speakers
and more (see comments on 'ideal' speakers/speaker-types)
more productive route toward the goal of sonic realism - the only way
to go, in
fact, if realism is the
Logic tells us; it's all about the LOWER-MIDRANGE!
The 'bottom line' is that both systems in question may be OK for the casual user (or even the advanced high-frequency-detail fan/analyst). But for the audiophile seeking the maximum realism, this example illustrates that both passive pre-amps and single-paired mini-monitor/subs are deficient at lower-mids and, therefore should be avoided, if overall realism is the ultimate goal. Active pre-amps and speakers with adequate surface-area, and more (see comments on 'ideal' speakers/speaker-types) is the, inordinately, more productive route toward the goal of sonic realism - the only way to go, in fact, if realism is the ultimate goal!
The implications for audiophiles are profound, far-reaching, critical, and fundamental - in the context of any real quest for sonic realism. So then, why are the relevant points, and the significance of these points, not being stressed, and appropriately highlighted, by the 'Critique? And why would the 'Critique still seem to be suggesting, whether explictly or implictly, that both the abandoned systems (passive pre-amps and single-paired mini-monitor/subs) which couldn't/cannot approach the level of realism achievable by other types of systems - as the author has now discovered/proven - are viable options in any quest for sonic realism? I really don't understand this!
But why are there so many questions applicable to this whole episode? This is so unlike the 'Critique!
My only grouse (well, there seems to be several, now) concerning the Audio Critique, is that other very good active line-stages have been unfairly disparaged in an erroneous process, over many years (let's call a spade a spade, I never was much good at the word-mincing business, anyway). Not to mention the many audiophiles who may have been wrongly influenced.
Indeed the Coincident line-stage may, arguably, be the best today (ie. closest to 'pre-amp less' at higher frequencies, while adding the crucial lower-mids missing from pre-amp less' presentation). But there has long been similar active pre-amps whose similar advantage over pre-amp less in the lower-mids would have over-ridden (and will over-ride) pre-amp less' slight advantage at higher frequencies in any system which can fully liberate the considerable lower-midrange advantage, and consequent overall realism, the best active pre-amps (ARC, C-J, VTL, etc.) bring to the equation.
[A word of caution: ONE SHOULD NOT ASSUME THAT ALL ACTIVE PRE-AMPS ARE SIMILARLY STELLAR, WITH REGARD TO THE LOWER-MIDS, a few (thru questionable design/execution) may be just as dismal, in this region, as is the passive/pre-amp less mode of operation. And, if I may repeat, very many amplifiers, some of which are very highly-rated, are, also, similarly deficient].
Perhaps I should mention, lest the wrong impression be conveyed that, in the context of the status-quo, no aspect of the 'Critique's audio-system would have been considered to be below par. Even the recently abandoned passive pre-amp and single-pair mini-monitor/sub system are, absolutely, considered to be state of the art. In fact, all iterations of the 'Critique's complete audio-systems, for the past two decades or more, have been representative of the state of the art, in the context of the status-quo. So one should not infer that the 'Critique is/was sub-par in its standards, or overly careless in its judgement. (Many of the 'elite' still lovingly embrace the tenets the 'Critique has recently abandoned). Any mistakes are more reflective of erroneous tenets of the status-quo, and of the state of the 'state of the art' it endorses. (I, myself, have abandoned a complete so-called 'state of the art' audio-system, in the past, because of those erroneous tenets. So, now, I don't much care about 'state of the art', or who approves, just so long as my system sounds like live music). The fact that two state of the art copmonents can be found to be lacking at lower-midrange, and consequent realism, is a serious indictment of the state of the current status-quo's 'state of the art'. And this illustrates the point, most profoundly, that even the 'optimized' performance of some 'state of the art' equipment does not, even remotely, guarantee the lifelike and realistic reproduction of music.
The 'Status-Quo' is wrong on several counts - this is my contention.
And this is one reason why WAJ on AUDIO marches to the beat of a different drum!
If this piece causes 'ruffled feathers', then so be it. I'm aware of, and I do appreciate, the Audio Critique's recent link to this site. I also know how discerning the 'Critique is as to which' mags' make it to that list, so I do not take it lightly. (That mag has been recommended since my very first articles, here, by the way). But, now, there's a possibility that WAJ on AUDIO will be deemed, 'Public-Enemy no. 1' (or, I may well be declared; 'Persona Non Grata') over at the Audio Critique, because of this revised article. That'd be regrettable, if it's taken that way. And that wouldn't change the fact that I still think it's a good magazine, generally, especially in light of the alternatives. Yet, I'm concerened by these recent developments, and I'm sure many will be able to see why. But, be that as it may, I simply could not sit quietly by and watch this thing play out, as it has, without my two-cents worth. Especially because of the 'pied-piper effect'. And, especially, because some of my core-issues (my pet-peves - which I feel, perhaps, too strongly about) are involved, here. So, again, I say: Let the chips fall where they may!
This article continues with a look at the lower-midrange, as it relates to the status-quo. We also indicate a few of the very rare speaker-systems capable of lifelike realism at the lower-midrange. And we recognize the existence of a golden opportunity to explore the limits of the possibilities, relative to the Audio Critique's recent discoveries.
Please continue to; Part 2, here.