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Amazingly Poor Processor Review in Hi Fi News

Discussion in 'AV Pre-Amp/Processors & Power Amps' started by warrj, Oct 9, 2002.

  1. warrj

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    Hi,

    This months Hi Fi News has a group test of the new processors from Arcam, Naim and Tag. This was a fantastic opportunity for a magazine with high-end aspirations to do a really serious and wide-ranging test. Instead they merely test the processors with two channel and multi-channel music material. They state that any processor which sounds good with music will almost certainly sound good with AV. They didn't even bother to give the reader a detailed breakdown of the 'features and benefits' of each of the machines. Given that the purchase of a high-end processor is, for most people, a highly considered purchase this, in my view, represents a gigantic wasted opportunity.

    Regards,

    Jules.
     
  2. Nic Rhodes

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    HFNRR have never exactly covered themselves in glory re AV reviews. Normally done by KK or AG. Although I enjoy their magazine they should stick with stereo issues along with HiFi world. Unfortunately they are often done for the wrong reasons by people who have no AV experience. The net result is no one is satisfied with the result.
     
  3. buns

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    i'll second that. I think their stereo reviews are wonderfully thourough and i tend to rate their opinions vry highly......but stick to what ou do best.

    ad
     
  4. John Dawson

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    FWIW the review was done by Paul Miller who certainly knows what he is talking about technically, and has the equipment and skills to carry out the measurements. In terms of the audio part of AV measurements he is the only guy in the country and one of only a small handful on the planet to have his equipment developed to a level where it is of a standard that meets Dolby Labs requirements for use in test and evaluation by AV equipment manufacturers. It was certainly interesting to me to see some trustworthy independent measurements on our own and competitors' products.

    Of course whether individual readers found that the reviews told them exactly what they wanted to know is entirely another question. However if one wants to understand the features and benefits of each machine then a good start would surely be the manufacturers' web sites or brochures. To repeat that in full detail in the magazine would IMO probably fill up all the available space and leave little room for comparative tests.

    John Dawson (Arcam)
     
  5. Charlie Whitehouse

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    I think it is excellent news that they have Paul Miller back doing the technical evaluations. I was getting fed up with KK reviews that always end up with him telling you that this month's product is 'the best ever' - 'yes it's that good!', only for next month's review to receive the same accolade. His stuff is invariably subjective only. When has he ever really panned anything? Even when he insulted Meridian, he ended up loving the product in spite of himself! At least with Paul Miller on the case now we will get some consistent objective measurements that we can compare from month to month to see what actually measures better. Even if this doesn't tell you the whole story, it's a good starting point.
     
  6. Guest

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    Grrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!.........where is he?:devil: ...where is he?:devil:

    :) :) :)

    Adzman:)
     
  7. gringottsdirect

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    Charlie,
    What's the problem with that approach, don't buy this month, wait until next month, you'll be O.K. :)
     
  8. sr78

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    So which proc won the test?
     
  9. Mr Pleasant

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    Don't mean to hijack the thread, but since the subject of HFN&RR has come up can I just ask if anyone was as surprised as me at the glowing review of the Kef Eggs? I honestly expected at best a bit of a patronising pat on the head (AV folk - what do they know!), but the reviewer seemed genuinely impressed. Is this a first?
     
  10. OnTheFly

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    Sounds to me like a lot of paranoid owners!
     
  11. Halcion

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    I finally got the Nov/2002 Hifi News issue.

    I don't think it's a bad review at all.

    I think the technical measurements are interesting and the comparison was valid.

    Of course I'm a little disappointed that they did NOT test it against AV32R 7.1 bp192, but as Oct/2002 issue tells us, AT LEAST the subjective audible performance was worse on AV32R than on Naim AV2.

    Also, in this NOv/2002 issue the reviewer (different from Oct/2002 issue reviewer, btw) states that AV32R might be able to go head-to-head with Arcam FMJ AV8.

    What was interesting to me personally was that Naim AV2 and Arcam AV8 fail to remove aliasing images from their DAC output, contributing to Antialias Intermodulation distortion effects.

    It's interesting that even though Naim has high levels of jitter and questionable performance of digital filters, it sounds very good to the reviewers.

    All in all, I don't think any of the prepros in question are likely to be "bad" in regards to their sound quality. They probably just offer different versions of "goodness" :)

    regards,
    Halcy
     
  12. Nic Rhodes

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    John

    I applaud Paul Miller doing the technical review as well, I enjoy his stuff. He is the best in the business but you know that already using so much of his stuff having had a few of your products probed a little more than you would perhaps like, in the full public gaze. You now seem to use his kit routinely, which I expect Paul likes, as he is selling lots of the stuff to Arcam.

    Having now read the article I am a touch disappointed. What he has said is fine but there is just so little on the AV side of things. Charlie summed it up well I think. Even if this doesn't tell you the whole story, it's a good starting point. He might have reviewed the digital Tag pre amp (DPA32) again rather than the AV30. This wasn't a AV processor review as billed, it was more fancy digital pre amps with loads of bells and wistles that we never look at type review. A look at the video side of things.....There are so many things I wanted to know that were just not covered at all.

    All

    I still find it interesting the Naim is billed as an AV processor, A yes, V? Having heard this again recently I am surprized it is so well liked by some but that is Naim I suppose. Will argue black is white for the sake of being different. I would take the Arcam or either Tag any day, even forgetting the V thing. My pick of the £3k processors would be Tag 32 or Arcam.
     
  13. CJROSS

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    Dudes FWIW I liked the HFN review of the AV processors, they concentrated on the musical side, why not ? they are a hifi mag first & foremost (they even state such in the review), the attention that has been paid to these 3 amps for their musical performance is very high, what would you suggest they do ? go the WHF route and start reviewing tellies in every issue, which BTW I why I cancelled my subscription to WHF & HFC BTW, there are plenty of AV mags out there, but these mags are hoping to grab anyone wanting to buy a DVD or Telly as a new reader, the only thing suffering IMHO is good qulaity reviews of hifi equipment.

    I applaud HFNs approach myself, lets be serious guys are you going to buy one of these amps on one mags review - hell no, I would be looking at getting as much info on a product as possible.

    So I for one am glad they did not test the Video side, that is not what the mag is about even if the kit is (if it was I would not read it). FWIW I am now a subscriber to HFNs the only downside is occasional rantings from Mr. Kessler. Maybe the AV test mags like Home Cinema Choice & Home Entertainment should be focusing on getting their reviews to the high quality & standard that HFN & HF+ do rather than AV fans bemoaning HFN for not giving Video views in their excellent reviews. BTW I have no problem reading about 5.1 music reviews in these mags.

    But I think we are missing the fact that these AV pres are aimed at audiophiles who are wanting DVDA & SACD processed as well as video fans which is why these units were reviewed in the first place.

    All IMHO of course dudes.
     
  14. dunkyboy

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    Well said, CJ. :)

    I'm considering purchasing a high-end AV proc in the not-so-near future, but one of my main concerns is whether it will sound as good in stereo as my current dedicated stereo pre-amp (ATC CA-2, £750), as I should be able to get a few hundred quid for it to put towards the AV proc purchase if so. Hence, I appreciated HFN's emphasis on music performance.

    FWIW, I find HFN to be the only hifi mag in this country that doesn't annoy the hell out of me - except (as CJ said) for the odd bit of Ken Kessler. ;)

    Dunc
     
  15. Nic Rhodes

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    It is all very well saying you want assessment on the musical side of these processors, I think we all do. Now I stick my Kylie / Krall / Eagles DVD on for the evening (delete as appropriate). These can run in multi channel or stereo. They also have a picture. I want to know how the DTS sounds, are there and DTS bass level problems. How does the processor deal with DTS movie and DTS music bass levels. How bad is the lip sync? What has the processor done to eliminate these problems from all the potential DVD partners. Paul hinted at some of the problems with a look at the distortion on the bass redirection but didn’t take things any further. DTS / DD are far from ‘equal’ in different processors. Two of the reviewed processors have dedicated chipset solutions, one has a DSP solution (SHARC). Paul has already published much data on this showing huge differences in their ‘quality’. He has already gone on record, several times in fact, as saying the AV32R had the best implementation he had seen to date. Surely, with it’s little brother there is much interest in how Tags cut down baby competes with these new comers? Has Tag cut any corners? Have the new chipsets got better? Non of this is about the latest ‘action movie’ but is relevant information both technically and subjectively to asses their musical performance. Aren’t you interested in this? Life does not stop at the DAC but even there huge differences are visible.

    This review could have been so much more. It may not have been Paul fault but the editors but it still left me wanting more. These are integrated products, (unless it’s a Naim), both A and V needs to be assessed, though you may ‘concentrate’ of musical performance. There is no point buying a great sound audio processor only to find that these guys know nothing about video engineering and applying a video signal corrupts the audio side. It just doesn’t make sense. Here Naim may well have actually got it right! A wasted opportunity. :mad:

    KK, a liability for HRN me thinks ;)
     
  16. CJROSS

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    Beekeeper likewise I have to disagree with you dude.

    Its a Hifi review magazine lip synch has bugger all to do with the musical side of the review the argument being there If you are an audiophile you would be listening to SACD or DVD-A not DVD-V 5.1 48Khz surround mix whislt watching a Video image? I think not, DTS & DD are far from being equal full stop never mind in a AV processor, the tests condcuted were done with a view to the musical abilities of each processor when fed with relevant feeds be it 24/96 DAD or 5.1 analogue inputs for DVD-A or SACD. DTS is another format you mention that has no credence as a music format so why comment about it - they did comment on which pres can accept a DTS 24/96 though, but Ive heard even less of this fomat than I have of 24/96 DAD/DVD-A/SACD so not required in a hifi review IMHO.

    The reviewer basically stated what he preffered, why this was so, again are we all so compliant to take his every word as verbatim? I aint i dont think you are either dude. But I think John L. has summed it up pretty well above, to keep you guys happy with the AV side being covered to the nth degree would have made the review unwieldy and uninetresting to the magazines readership. Chasing the history of the Tag DAC chipset and how it comapres to its big brother was summed up by the feeling that getting a AV30R fully specced that you would be better served getting the AV32R base model, again concentrating on sound performance.

    Like I said earlier I would not just be getting one review of the piece of kit, If I were into as indepth a review as you would like to see, you will need to buy 2 or 3 magazines IMHO. You may say a wasted review but for you maybe but for me interested only in the hifi aspect of how these AV pres performed, reading my hifi magazine I found it more than acceptable.

    The old addage of sticking a mop up the reviewer backside so he could mop the floor comes to mind : jeez am I sticking up for a hifi reviewer ? Time to bow out of this thread.

    All IMHO of course dudes

    BTW why dont you guys ever visit the hifi section in here its deader than a dead thang.
     
  17. Nic Rhodes

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    I am fine with that

    You obviously know more about this Audiophile stuff than us meer Beekeeepers ;)

    really, I thoiught DTS launched it AS a music format. All those music DTS discs I have must bee a mirage or something then. By the way, they carry the same amount of information as a CD but it uncompresses to MUCH more info than CD.

    You have a music DVD (music doesn’t just come on CDs). You play the music and enjoy it. It also has pictures so you put them on as well. But the music and the pictures don’t sync. It completely destroys the musical enjoyment. I can see no point in playing my music DVD when there is a lip sync error that can’t be corrected.

    We obviously disagree on several other things here, I am happy to disagree. :D

    Now you are dangerous ground indeed ;)

    I am a regular contributor to this, more than you think, but it is an AV site after all.;)
     
  18. CJROSS

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    Your words not mine dude :rolleyes: I dont claim to know more than anyone on this forum I only put forward my opinion as I have done above, whether you agree or not is another matter and to be fair not in my control.

    Yes dude I know what type of site it is Ive been a member here for a couple of years and as far as I can see it is a AV site with a Hifi forum, I did not think that the 2 needed to go hand in hand ie a swerving devotion to all things AV to post on that forum - is that not the reason the hifi & music forums were created in the first place?.

    :D

    All the best
     
  19. Charlie Whitehouse

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    Without going back through CJROSS and BK's posts point for point, for me they both make valid arguments. I can't disagree with either.

    I don't know about anyone else, but unless I were in the market to be updating my kit every few months, I don't feel motivated to keep going to get the latest bit of kit demo'ed to me. I could, but I prefer to enjoy what I've already got. What I use magazine reviews to do, is to identify potential bits of kit that may BETTER what I already have, and therefore perhaps I should go and listen to. In order to do this, I need an evaluation that takes into account what has gone before, and gives some kind of qualitative (or better, quantitative) measure of how much better or worse this unit performs in comparison to some previous benchmark. Martin Colloms has an open-ended subjective scale that he uses to rate pieces of equipment. While I don't begin to understand how he arrives at the number he gives, it does at least give some relative hierarchy or ranking to the performance of quite disparate pieces of kit. Paul Miller's evaluations while they stick to the same basic set of tests, will allow such comparisons going forward. What I think we are all agreed upon is that KK's extravagant prose tells you pretty much ****er all! :mad:

    On the subject of whether HFN should concentrate on the audio side of reviewing, it is worth noting that KK and others came in for a lot of flak from the tube & vinyl anorak fraternity recently for even daring to talk about multi-channel and this is probably why they now steer clear. HFN and its readership is still clearly stuck in the past. And I still count myself as a regular reader! :blush:
     
  20. Yummy Fur

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    Well said Charlie. Although I used to enjoy KK's hyberbole, it really is becoming wearisome now.....
    There seems to be a fine line to be trod between satisfying both the valve & vinyl mob (who don't seem to have come to terms with stereo yet) and those embracing multi-channel audio and video... I don't think it will be long before the distiction between A & V starts to fade, and for a magazine to survive in the mainstream it will have to focus on fidelity of picture and sound and not pander to the technological predjudices of a minority readership.....

    Yummy Fur
     
  21. Nic Rhodes

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    I am a vinyl and valve nut. I also have SS and AV. I have used both valve and SS AV kit. I am always disappointed that this always seems to be a ‘competition’, I just wish people would look for the benefits of all these technologies rather than sticking to the usual dogma that one must be better than another. I find this very disappointing in HFN, at least HiFi World have taken a different track but I still don’t like their AV style of review.
     
  22. buns

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    I think that if a hifi magazine is going to do a review of an av piece of kit, there are 2 options.

    1. test it as hifi. Test its stereo performance. After all thats what they do best.

    2. Test it fully for everything.

    If you do a halfway house, then people simply start to question the views as we are.

    ad

    ps. I check the hifi forum all the time!
     
  23. Charlie Whitehouse

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    BK, don't get me wrong. I also love the sound of good vinyl and valve gear. There is something inherently 'right' about it's sound. Sort of 'organic' almost, I guess. I myself had Counterpoint valve/mosfet hybrid amps in the past and the sound was wonderful. When I chose the Casablanca, I was also seriously considering an Audio Research valve pre-amp. But the fact I didn't have room for two separate systems for HiFi and AV meant I ended up choosing the Casablanca, whose sound is more warm and valve-like than most SS pre-amps anyway.

    What distresses me about HFN and its readership is the almost fanatical belief of some of their followers that two-point stereo is the be-all and end-all of musical enjoyment. It ain't so. Good multi-channel can be very enjoyable too.

    While HFN and its readers decide whether to join the 21st century with the rest of us, I agree with buns that they should stick to what they know best and report on the stereo 'hifi' performance of kit, backed up with some consistent objective measures of the actual performance that we can compare month on month. Oh, and put KK out to grass! :devil:
     
  24. Dolby

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    I have demo'd the lexicon MC1 (£5000) using an ATC active 10's setup, I also tested this with music albeit using a £1500 DVD player and not a CD player.

    The lexicon was good with the cinema aspect but not with straight stereo. The music demo I had with the ATC 10's and the ATC pre-amp at £750 was alot better although a £2500 Primare CD player was used.

    I dont beleive there is a AV processor currently available that is as good for music as it is for films (maybe except for the lexicon MC12). Perhap the new Roksan processor due anttikme now might change this.

    I am considering an upgrade from a THX prologic amp. I know the preamp part side of my amp is terrible but as a power amp using the ATC pre-amp the outcome is surprisingly good (as good as a Denson Beat power amp).

    So I will probably add the ATC preamp and use a cheap AV amp to provide the processing I require for films and use my existing amp as a power amp.

    Thought this might help!
     
  25. CJROSS

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    Charlie

    I hope I dont come across as a diehard 2 channel fanatic, I know the type of character you mean though, invariably something they hold true is the Only way to do it, Ive ran into this phenomena with vinyl die hards who cannot accept people getting good results from CD, conversely the other is true as well many digital geeks (Im a DAC enthusiast who loves my LP12), the hobby is littered with people who know what is best for everyone else be it from certain hifi stands to certain brands of hifi kit to the valved brigade against solid staters.

    Now I have to be honest when I say though : that multichannel music does not do it for me personally & I have no problem whatsoever with anyone who wishes to go down that route, it just seems like a big list of compromises that I could be spending my monies on to get a very decent stereo set up. For example Im very happy watching my DVD through 2 speakers with a 5.1 DVD track downmixed in 48 Khz stereo, so the need for a 5.1 system for me is not an issue, most of my time is put aside for CD & Vinyl playback can I get a system for the same outlay, for example here is a comparison what can £800 buy me amplifier wise a Denon 3802 or Unison Research Unico ? I know what Id rather have in my system dude. I know it seems easy to have a swipe at all who do not embrace the 5.1 umbrella as being ignorant but a lot of hifi fans probably think the same of AV fans unfoundedly IMHO if you like music out of a Tivoli radio or a CD12 it matters not to me.

    Here is a discussion I was part of over at HFC you may find interesting, it covers all sides of the multichannel debate feel free to come over and join in :

    http://forum.hifichoice.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=1798

    BTW 2 Channel SACD is something that interests me in the long run, if that dispels any old format nerdery you think I may hold. So maybe I and others like me will join the 21st century when things are equal on all parts be that : decent format collections or equivalent performance from stereo or 5.1.

    All IMHO of course.

    No arguments from me, although he does seem to have the effect that is maybe desired, ie attracting readership by repelling them, a bit like cringe factor TV.
     
  26. Charlie Whitehouse

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    CJ,

    It seems like you think I was having a go at you. Believe me, I'm not! I have great respect for your views on external DACs and the like. As you pointed out, what I find hard to take is "the people who know what's best for everyone else" brigade.

    If you notice, I said that GOOD multi-channel CAN be enjoyable too. I too prefer to listen to most of my music in pure stereo. For some of my choral and organ music, it can also add some 'ambience' to engage Circle Surround. Good, flexible bass management and a decent sub can also improve both. But there are a few multi-channel music mixes that I also like - I don't have many. The Eagles HFO, loses much of its 'you are there' feel if you down mix it to 2-channel. Similarly, Roy Orbison B&W Night. There are some good classical mixes as well that have a nice enveloping ambience.

    Like I said, I don't have room for two separate systems, so I had to compromise to some extent by using an AV processor, albeit a superb and costly one in the Theta Casablanca 2. Believe me, this unit in pure stereo will rival many dedicated 2-channel high-end Dac/pre-amp combos. What a pity none of the UK magazines have seen fit to review it properly, either HiFi or AV ones. The only UK review that I ever saw was for the original Casablanca in HFN by none other than our friend KK!! And what do you know, he LOVED it, it was THAT good!, if he had £10,000 he was going to BUY it! Except he then went and bought an MC1 and sang the praises of that above all else. What can you do?! :(

    Thanks for the link to the HFC discussion. I will have a read tonight when I have a few hours to kill! I don't think I can contribute very much though since I confess I have never listened to either DVD-A or SACD, stereo or multi-channel. I have steadfastly refused to listen to either until there is a digital interface available. Meanwhile they can carry on slugging it out as far as I am concerned. Since some here have expressed regret at being early adopters, I prefer to bide my time and wait for something really good to come along.

    All IMHO of course, also. ;)
     
  27. CJROSS

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    Hey Charlie, I think we are at the same juncture dude (all crosstalk being due to the joys of internet opinion) especially about determinists be those “hifi is best” or “AV/MC is best” determinists, I think there are some very interesting posters on this forum with Hifi & AV at heart, that give this board a real cutting edge : Yourself, Nic & Gordon to name a few. I have no problem with anyone who likes either format whatever you listen to for your hifi enjoyment be it off a : Tivoli one, SACD/DVD Audio player or a CD12. I sort of thought I would raise some hackles on this forum by sticking up for HFN : I did this purely on a hifi front as that is what the mag is about (I do realise that the review is curtailed BTW) I realise that dudes like you would know that I meant no ill feeling to the AV community (Hell I run my DAC off a lovely DVD transport).

    BTW dont mention that word to me (Theta) Im still harbouring hope of one day having a DAVID as my DVD/CD Transport. I would hardly say using a Casablanca is compromise you are paying for a product that is at the top of the MC side of things, were great attention has been payed into getting the best 2 Channel performance out as well (At a financial cost I would add). BTW I share your reticence about SACD/DVDA as formats, I was stung as an earlty adopter of the 24/96 DAD bubble hence the 717 as a transport into a true 24/96 DAC luckily for me it also played redbook CDs to a very nice level. Speaking of biding your time till something nice comes along, for me it was the HDCD decoder in the DAC 20

    One inetresting point to watch out for in future, I predict a lot of current entry level Naim CDPs will be adopting the AV2 as the processing unit of DVD transports, when they comes to upgrade their CDPs in future, Gives them the best of both worlds, Mulitchannel music & as CD DAC in its own right.

    All IMHO of course.
     
  28. Charlie Whitehouse

    Charlie Whitehouse
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    You'd better get in quick then, because rumour has it they are no longer manufacturing it, so when the current stock is gone, that's it! Same is true for the Voyager. They are concentrating on the Carmen II from now on. However, I don't doubt that there will be another top of the range transport before long, perhaps that is DVDA and SACD capable too. Here's hoping! ;)
     
  29. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    There are but you have to look for them

    Tag certainly and Theta as well. You can probably add Meridian to this list as well. Sorry Lexicon fans, Bryston fans etc. You might be great AV processors but...... I think the killer difference is the source. The Tag and Theta DVD players. Anyone want to tell me the David2 and DVD32 aren't musical? ;)

    There are many fanatic audiophiles out there that have settled on this kit. :) but I am just a meer beekeeper :D
     
  30. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    There are many fanatic audiophiles out there that have settled on this kit. :) And even more that have settled earlier predecessors of this kit like the TAG DAC 20 too ;) ;) ;)

    BTW I heard a top of the range Krell AV system into Sonus Faber Cremona 5.1 set up and Im more impressed at what my lil ole TAG DAC 20 does downmixing to stereo from 5.1 48Khz soundtracks when listening to bog standard DVD-V 5.1 music mixes, more involving, more flow to the music. Impressive of course but for the cost there are better alternatives IMO.
     

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