DEAR FELLOW MEMBERS,
HAS ANYONE TRIED TO COMPARE THE ARC REF 610 AND THE VTL SIEGFRIED MONOBLOCKS. I HOPE WE CAN GET SOME COMMENTS,
OPINIONS FROM BOTH MR. VALIN AND MR PEARSON.
THANKS IN ADVANCE,
audiosicko said "My daddy always told me if it looks like fish, feels like fish, swims like a fish then it must be a fish!"
Well, my daddy said, "If it looks like a fish, feels like a fish and swims like a fish - check, son, it could be a dolphin or whale..."
"DEAR FELLOW MEMBERS,
HAS ANYONE TRIED TO COMPARE THE ARC REF 610 AND THE VTL SIEGFRIED MONOBLOCKS. I HOPE WE CAN GET SOME COMMENTS,
OPINIONS FROM BOTH MR. VALIN AND MR PEARSON.
THANKS IN ADVANCE,
Don't hold your breath!
I found this thread very interesting. As for many, I have suspected that there would be pressures, maneuvers and politics into getting the odds favorable to a good review, and these are often not to do with direct ad sales. Basically, with no loaners from manufacturers, a magazine has little to write about, the circulation will drop, advertisers will leave and the mag will fold.
I understand that there are many difficulties in setting up cross-reviews, but it would definitely serve the readership to have comments in the form of follow-ups or such. I have also asked myself the same question as in the thread: 610T or Siegfried? In the end, I went with what I could audition at home, in my system, and looked at other isues (local support, reliability etc..) and I would think that at that level, a demo is mandatory, regardless of what JV or HP or anyone else says.
In many reviews, there are comparisons made between the item under review and the reviewer's reference or a recent similar review. It is a pity that this could not be arranged for the 610T/Siegfried.
If the purpose of the Forum and the magazine is to enlighten, educate, inform and entertain then why is out of the question for TAS to do that.
I have to assume that TAS is making money. If the purpose is only to do that then the whole thing makes sense. If the purpose is to serve those of us that read the magazine, subscribe to the magazine, advertise in the magazine then it IMHO it is falling short. Almost any item that is reviewed in other fields is commented on or cross reviewed. I realize that none of the reviewers can have and review every product. My point here was just that there are a few products that are called something like "reference" state of the art," "revolutionary, "best in show" etc. It is these exceptional few devices that need to have comment and cross reference so that all the reviewers have the experience to further the educational process. How can one review in a bubble? If the Scaena, or the Focal, or theMartin Logan, or the Spectral, or the ARC, or the Mac, or the Siegfried, etc. are the ones that are identified in the small group then all must experience them to understand what there strengths and weaknesses are. One can get a glimpse at a show or a showroom but one can not know them unless one spends the time with them under controlled listening conditions to truely get the whole picture. I don't believe that it is just for people to buy stuff. I will never own a Lambo, or a Carrera GT I might not ever be able to buy a Patek Phillipe but that doesn't mean I don't want to read about them and learn about them. If this as many refer to as a hobby as well as a business then the magazine needs to serve both. I am told that dealers always have an agenda so we can not be trusted but open your eyes readers so do the manufacturers and to some degree the reviewers the way this is constructed today. Please find me some bad reviews! Give me some point vs. counterpoint! This whole process is just to convenient and shinny! I certainly like when two critics disagree about a movie or a restaurant. I think I learn more than if only one had an opinion. If they both agree then that is something for sure I want to try. Maybe there is something below the surface here we don't see? If the products had to be returned in a month or tto that again would make sense but as we all see that is not the case. Should a reviewer only review what he is predisposed to like as per Mr. Valin stated? If a reviewer only listens to a ceratin type of product and excludes others then is limiting his expertise? Makes one wonder.
I wonder what would happen if someone would suggest that HP send his speakers to JV and JV was to send his speakers to Hp?
Surely the magazine can afford a 1000 - 1500 in transportation costs to find out no? I think this would be a very enlightening experiment. I will be happy , as I am sure others will to make a small donation to allow this to happen!!!!!
So who really is the force objecting to this? Reviewer? Magazine? or the manufacturer? It sounds like form Mr. Valin's disclosure that SOME manufacturers are picking the Reviewer and defining the circumstances of the review! If this in fact what is happening then can the full measure of these products ever be disclosed here? Is it just the review they seek and once they have such it is all they need? Is it the magazine's responsibility to justify and market the product? Who is the beneficiary? Think for a moment, just think!
great point elliott.....however; as i've said before......in these times with the internet and technology maybe forum members can be proactive and facilitate some comparisons and lead the discussion.the folks at AV will have no option but to get on board.........for eg: in your neck of the woods there are some exceptional systems why not get a few audiophiles together and do one (1) sunday per month and listen and critique two or three systems. Maybe through such an approach we might force HP, JV, RH, etc to get out and do some comparative listening in order to stay relevant and useful in this new age of technology........just my two cents
I understand your statement but its really not on point here. What you or I may do in our spare time is not really what the discussion is about. You as a reader are being manipulated. You are being made to believe that this whole process of review in the magazines is totally fair when in fact it is not. THAT IS THE POINT and the reason that the initial posters questions has gone unanswered.I have given a few examples of what's wrong earlier and perhaps someday I can be more specific but as Mr. Valin said read between the lines.
My two cents as well :)
Hey, Elliot, I have a proposition to test your thesis: You're really high on Focal's Grande Utopia EMs and so was Roy Gregory.Here's what I propose: You send me your pair of Focal Grande Utopia EMs on your dime; I will comment on them and then send them on to HP (on my dime--straight out of my pocket) for his comments. What could be fairer than that?
hey elliot where at thou
"What could be fairer than that?"
This I would love to see!
I suspect that Elliot will come up against the reality of either being prevented by Focal from his participating in JV's proposal or in getting Focal to provide a Grande Utopia EM for that review by two.
Reality be damned- based on his passionate postings I think he will rag on Focal until they submit for the greater good of Elliot's learned preachings.
BTW, I noticed that Elliot left the Magico speakers out of his "small group" of exalted products that should be jointly reviewed, while mentioning the Focals, the MartinLogans, and the Scaenas. Why, I wonder, would that be?
That I don't know , Por Que ?
these is getting exciting. i would like to know the sound of the grande em powered by arc 610 and by vtl siegfried. but then again this will go no where.... it will just be exciting to know the detail......
elliot - good buddy - where at thou.............Grand Utopia just kicked some major butt in HIFI+
Jon, Jon Jon, you are a master at changing the subject as usual. I am glad for once you haven't resorted to name calling. You of course wnat to shift the spotlight to someone else that is not involved in TAS policies. I am a retailer and not a manufacturer and even if I could afford too I can't sell speakers when they are not in my store .To be bruetally honest I can't afford to do what you ask since the Focals in my store are not at this time fully paid for. I also don't believe that I should be doing the job of TAS who is supposed to arrange reviews and getting its own equipment. If I left any of the current products out of my list that was an accident . Please explain to me why Mr. Martin can't afford to do what you ask? Your company has the Grand Utopia's you just had them on the front cover of the new issue so why can't you ask Focal to send them to you? Then you can ask Mr. Wolf to send the speakers to Harry or Robert or send the Wilson's to you or Harry and so forth.
If TAS would like to hire me to negotiate said exchanges I will be happy to listen to your offers for my services and I think that I could make you want happen especially if there was full disclsure of the terms and conditions of such. I am fairly sure that Focal and Martin Logan would cooperate what do you think about the others Jon?
Zead its on the Front cover of TAS in the NEW Issue
match point to elliot. i would have replied more or less the same way. backfired on jv, didnt it
Match point, my patootie! I predicted this response--almost word for word--in a post I erased. The pair on the cover was reviewed by a guy in England.
BTW, I offered to review the Focal Grande Utopias at the RMAF.
Sadly, I think there is no winner in this match - only losers - us readers.
See if JV and HP can arrange to review a Focal Grande EM if furnished by Elliot- then the only real impediment to that happening sans Elliot is Focal or any other manufacturer controlling the how, by whom and how many review their equipment. Apparently, manufacturers have wrested control of a portion of the review process from TAS . Not JV's fault. JGH and HP's early fears of advertising $$$'s now realized and on display.
Manufacturers haven't "wrested control." As noted, we generally pick our reviewers on the basis of past experience with a product line and Roy Gregory certainly had that with Focal (although so did I). However, manufacturers aren't often (not always, as you'll see in Issue 194) eager to facilitate inter-commentaries because of costs and other factors. (VTL is an exception, BTW.)
To be fair to Focal, Gregory already had the Grande Utopias in hand and, in the current economy, Focal felt that cutting another review pair of gigantic, almost $200k speakers loose didn't make practical or commercial sense--and it probably didn't. This whole thing is a lot more complicated than it may appear on this thread.
Now your Carnac? I predicted, this is really too funny. THe pair of speakers is on the FRONT COVER of your magazine. Your magazine is selling magazine touting such review. How is this anyone else's issue? Maybe Tom Martin needs to step up and give the readers what they want but its easy to shift the issue to blaim someone else. You are a wonderful prognosticator. You correctly predicted that I can not afford to send 180k pair of speakers plus the packing and shipping etc to you so that you can play with it and when you are done send it off to N.Y. so that HP can play with it and then sometime in a year or so I may get back my investment damaged and get a thank you card. This is an offer that I or anyone else can hardly pass!!!!!
Elliot has significant money invested in his speakers - if they're not on the floor, they're not earning their keep. In this equation he shoulders the greatest risk by far, for the least potential benefit. I understand his position completely - it's the magazines duty and purview to obtain products to review.
Elliot makes an interesting point, but I'm afraid this ideal is long lost thanks to many factors having evolved over the last 20 years or so. Why is it that "best" or "greatest" or "fill in your superlative here" can be so easily applied to so many components month after month? From my perspective it seems due to:
1) The sheer population of equipment over the last 20 years has increased tenfold if not more
2) The true State of the Art is impossible to define because so many components are high achievers
3) It's in the best interest of and more satisfying to a reviewer and a magazine to cover high achieving products rather than mediocre ones
4) It's more interesting to read about good hifi than it is to read about bad hifi (i.e. Mags are not Consumer Advocate establishments, otherwise they would have to refuse advertising in order to ensure some manner of impartiality).
Transporting the sheer tonnage of equipment between reviewers is not only expensive and potentially damaging to the products, it also slows down the review process which, in turn, cripples the ability of the magazine to generate the kind of content that keeps their readers interested. I can't see how this model could work, even though it would be an ideal situation. The ultimate expense in time, money, and risk is not equally balanced by a commensurate return on the other side of it.
Agreed - it would be in the best interest of the reader to know what two or three or four reviewers think about a given reference product - but the business of the "audio business" applies to the magazines as well, and the question would be asked in the board room as to whether or not the expense and inconvenience of this approach would net more readers or more advertising. Where the rubber meets the road is where the magazine either makes a profit or loses money. Profit is the very biological imperative of business, and this idea doesn't seem very profitable at all for anyone involved on the risk-side of the equation.
Look at it from the manufacturer's perspective. Incentive to submit a product for review is encased in the notion that a positive review for a product will help to generate wider awareness of the product and brand, and hopefully will act as a legitimizing agent that helps to influence the buying decision of a potential customer. In a nutshell, the incentive to submit product for review is to help drive sales. The risk is that the review may not be so good, the balance payoff for the risk is that - if the review is good, it will drive sales.
If, for example, Focal or Scaena or Magico submit to a multi-reviewer review, the risk for a tepid or negative response from one of the reviewers increases but the sales potential (payoff for shouldered risk) doesn't necessarily increase. There's no incentive for a manufacturer to shoulder any more risk in this scenario, especially considering the risk of damage to the equipment as it goes from place to place.
Indeed - on the supply-side, the risk is almost entirely the manufacturer's or distributor's! Magazines hedge their risk by simply agreeing to cover what they feel is the most interesting, exotic, exciting, or relevant gear. Are there politics involved? Sometimes. JV gives us a reasonably clear glance inside this world when he wrote:
"Don't you "read between the lines"? If I don't review something that you would've liked me to review (or formally comment on), chances are: a) I don't like it or don't think I will like it as much as other stuff that I do review (this, BTW, doesn't apply to Burmester or VTL); or b) the manufacturer doesn't like me (generally because of something I've said in a show report); or c) another reviewer has dibs on this particular product; or d) past history has dictated the choice of a reviewer other than me; or e) I just don't know anything about the product and would be ill-suited for a review; or f) a combo of the above."
The process is not perfect, not necessarily transparent, and certainly not ideal. But, it can be informative, entertaining, and sometimes even intensely interesting. It's up to the consumer/reader to uphold a portion of responsibility for choosing to weigh the opinions of the reviewers with more or less value when deciding what to audition and buy. TAS, Stereophile, and the rest are not consumer advocate magazines - they are OpEd journals written by experienced professionals who - like everyone else in business - need to make a living.
The Signal Collection, LLC
North American Distributors
of Connoisseur-Grade Hi-Fi
Thanks, Chris. This was smart, sane, and, as usual, very well written. If you ever get out of the distributing business, you have a standing invitation to review for us.
That's very kind of you to say - thank you.
Well gentleman then I guess we have come full cirlce from my statement back in the the old Symposium days and are back to the question
Is this THE ABSOLUTE SOUND or something less focused and more marketed to appease and just inform?
Please refer me to the new mission statement so I may read it. I do believe that the old one did not define its role as that.
elliot ............i think its time to move on too another topic............it does appear that more than one reviewer has agreed that the FOCAL GRANDS are TRULLY GRAND.........and the MAGICOS.......well let's just say i'm waiting to hear the M5 at Sound By Singer real soon.........however, quite a few respected heads including JV, WP, etc, have wetted my appetite for Alons work & YG...at this point in time - if the money is right ....it looks like A MADE IN AMERICA FOR ME................I trully enjoyed this thread
I have been following this blog with interest and have been disappointed that I have learned little that is relevant to the topic of the thread. It has, however, been an entertaining read. What I, and others, hoped to find is a sonic comparison whereby these two fine amplifiers are the only changed variable evaluated in a system heard under otherwise identical reviewing circumstances. Aside from professional reviewers, or perhaps dealers that carry both lines, I suspect the main reason we are not finding a wealth of experience here is that most audiophiles have not had the opportunity or need to own both amplifiers at or near the same time to make this comparison. I am one such individual who has owned these amplifiers sequentially and thus offer the following comments in the hope they may be useful.
I should also state right away that I do not use my tube amps full range on my Pipedreams, but rather only to 90Hz with a steep roll-off below (going into JL Audio Gotham subs). Thus I am unable to comment on the deep bass qualities of either the VTL or ARC amps. Furthermore, my Siegfrieds are configured with KT88’s which I find far preferable to 6550s, and also contain Mullard 6201s as a 12AT7 substitute, which I think makes a slight additional improvement to an already excellent amplifier.
Now, if you’re waiting for the results of a head to head audio comparison of these two amplifiers specifically, I’m afraid I cannot oblige. I have never owned these simultaneously, and even more disappointing, I was never able to fully evaluate the ARC 610s properly. The reason is because when I first took delivery of my 610s, one amplifier blew up immediately after turn-on which required sending the unit back to MN for repair. While waiting for the amp to be returned, and listening to music in mono for a week, I was stunned when the remaining 610 blew up! For me, that was the last straw. I returned the 610s to my dealer and purchased the Siegfrieds from another dealer.
It is a simple reality that tube failure is inevitable when owning a high-powered tube amplifier. I owned a pair of superb-sounding ARC Ref 300 MkIIs (again, outfitted with KT88s) and experienced several tube failures. Lest one might conclude that the reason for my tube failures were due to the use of KT88s, which is not sanctioned by ARC (but is supported by VTL in the Siegfrieds), I should mention that I experienced multiple tube failures with ARC supplied 6550s as well. The main problem with tube failure is that it is often accompanied by a blown resistor. This is what usually requires return of the amplifier to MN for repair. If it were simply a matter of replacing a failed tube, such efforts would be unwarranted. However, although ARC is very responsive in supplying the requisite resistor for field replacement by an experienced technician or user, the most expedient replacement is achieved by soldering the resistor in place from the “wrong” side of the board. There are many of us out there who have performed such “surgery”. And it is quite effective…until the next time.
When I purchased my 610s, it was my hope that these incidents would not occur. I had hoped the reliability issue would be solved in the new series of amplifiers. I was wrong and in a big way. Now, I can appreciate that some might say this is not their experience and furthermore my experience is anecdotal and probably caused by something intrinsic to my particular system (despite dedicated 40 amp lines to each amp in a custom designed room). I readily admit I drive my amplifiers hard and perhaps that contributed to my experience. However, my experience with other audiophiles on the internet who are owners of high powered ARC amplifiers suggests my experience is not unique. Until we are provided with accurate data regarding field failure of specific models of ARC amps, all I can say is that I am just not willing to test my luck again. In fact, let’s say we knew the true incidence of field failure of a particular amplifier model. By analogy, if one goes to a physician and asks about the odds of a complication or bad outcome for undergoing a certain procedure, they may be told the odds are, say, there is a 5% chance of experiencing an untoward event. However, if that event occurs to you, then it was 100% as far as you would be concerned! For me, that’s the way I look at the likelihood of future field failure for high powered ARC amplifiers. Even if the reported incidence was low, it would be too high for me, especially when a far more reliable alternative exists.
Pertinent to this issue is that there was a discussion of ARC 610 failures about a year ago on one of the Audiogon blogs, and then the entire blog suddenly disappeared! However, the word is clearly out and it is really only the novice high-powered tube owner that remains unaware now of what most of us already know regarding the high powered ARC amps. This is of course, unfortunate because the ARC amps are quite excellent sounding and I do not want to disparage ARC in any way. I own an ARC Ref 3 preamp and love it. The truth is, I think both ARC and VTL make very good sounding products, and more importantly, I want both companies to succeed as an American audio industry statement of success to the rest of the world. I don't need to remind anyone that there are serious competitive challenges, particularly from Chinese manufacturers, that cast a dark cloud over the future of companies like VTL, ARC, BAT and CJ. In general, their manufacturing costs are far lower than what is possible to accomplish in the USA, and the design of many of the audio circuits used in the many highly revered products are easily reverse engineered and have little intellectual property to protect their designs. Both of these comprise serious competitive threats to US manufacturers who choose to continue to manufacture in the US, especially those that want to maintain high product quality for the global consumer.
So the way I the say I see it, the issue of which amp is subjectively better sonically, is almost immaterial to me. No doubt they both have much more in common regarding their sound than they have differences (especially in comparison to SS amps). However, in my experience, one amplifier is extremely unreliable. Game, set, match! End of discussion!! You have to be either very ignorant of ARC’s notable failures with their high powered amps, or simply willing to endure a lot of aggravation to own a pair of 610s. The Siegfried, on the other hand, is a masterpiece of high-powered, sonically superb, reliable tube design and there is nothing like it in the world. In fact, I just had another "highpoint" in my audio career last week. The amp’s vigilant protection circuitry shut my right amp down and the front panel said I had a “red fault” on tube #1 (after 705 hours of use). I replaced the tube in 30 seconds, and was up again and running in no time. You should have seen the smile on my face. I shudder to think of where I would be if it had been with my ARC 610- probably reaching for the Valium, and contemplating the nasty things I would be telling Dave Gordon when I called the next day. (And I really like Dave- he is awesome!). Then I'd spend an hour or more getting the damn thing ready to ship back to MN at my expense, prepare to listen in mono for a week, and look forward (as one looks forward to getting the bubonic plague) to its return and the unpacking process only to experience the agony of intense anxiety when I would turn the unit back on again while wearing my safety glasses to assure that no flying shards of an exploding resistor would fly into my eye. And you thought "Groundhog Day" was only a bad movie?
I honestly believe if the failure rate and true hazards were documented, the operation of the 610 amplifiers would be considered a potential OSHA violation and the manufacturer would be required to amend the design to eliminate the hazards of their use. I was none too pleased to see a resistor shard nearly hit my eye when my first ARC 610 blew up. I simply cannot believe that ARC makes the user pay extra for the metal cage housing that covers the tubes on the amplifier. I would consider these cages mandatory if I owned these amplifiers especially if they were placed anywhere near human traffic.
I am aware that ARC thinks the merits of the Siegfried’s remarkable protection circuitry puts the amplifier at some sort of sonic disadvantage. However, I have not found this to be true. This is further supported by reports of its sonic excellence by several notable reviewers including the venerable JV. But again, the slight differences in sound between the Siegfrieds and the 610s are moot as far as I am concerned. One amplifier will provide years of peace-of-mind ownership for me, and the other will not. In fact, I believe ARC knows that their 610 amplifiers have a higher field failure incidence rate than they would like to see or will admit to publicly. Furthermore, I predict they are working on a similar protection circuitry or other ways to enhance the amplifier’s reliability in the design that they will implement in their next generation of amplifiers to compete more effectively with VTL’s superbly designed product. At least, that would be my hope. Again, this is because I want them to remain successful.
In summary, although I cannot add to the subject of the thread as far as a sonic comparison, I hope my comments regarding an important ancillary performance distinction, namely reliability, between these fine sounding amplifiers have relevance to the reader. I am pleased to be able to praise a product that not only sounds superb but has outstanding engineering that finally addresses and puts to rest once and for all, the reliability issues that have plagued high-powered tube designs. In my view, this is not only beneficial for the industry, but for tube equipment manufacturers (and thus music lovers!) in particular.
Well, my 610Ts have been running for nearly a year (close to 1000 hours) , without even a drift in bias. Oh, and having no close neighbours, I do play my music very loud.
Well written Ugamotz
Finally a post with some substance in this thread which is not only on topic but informative.
In almost three years I haven't had a tube fail in my 610Ts. Nor have I heard of a rash of failures (before this post).
I have retubed the amp once.
I know that several of you on this site own 610Ts and would be curious to know if you've had persistent problems with your amps.
Ill weigh in here as a long time ARC tube amp owner. Ive tried alot of the best solid state amps and can fine NONE that have the magic of tubes. I tried very hard but the midrange is just not there with SS. This means im a tube guy..
I started with a used pair of Ref 300 / Mk2's. Blew 2 tubes within a few months and sent them back to
ARC for repair. Sold off the 300's and bought new Ref 210's. Used them for 300-400 hours without a tube failure.
Sold them and bought new ref 610t's. Blew a tube (and its protection resistor) within 2 minutes!!! My dealer brought it to his repair guy and fixed it , then drove 300 miles back to deliver it. (good dealer!!)
I now have 450 hours on the amps and have replaced 10 (ten) tubes and protective resistors. Ive learned from necessity to solder the resistors from the top so i can replace the pair in about 1/2 hour.
Unfortunately the whole top aluminum panel must be removed, it is now scored in a few places from the spark blast caused by the blowing resistor. The "pop" is LOUD and resistor pieces often fly around the room. ARC has been very cooperative in supplying resistors free and half price tubes...
All that being said I still love the sound of the amps and i guess Im OK with the repairs. I would LOVE the idea of the protective circuit in the Siegfrieds as long as it doesnt compromise any sonics.
In this audiophile game its obvious that almost anything will be tolerated for a little bit more sonic nirvanna. Witness the ridiculous prices for high end cables - we will pay it as long as theres some improvement... Once you hear it we MUST have it......
How the hell come i haven't had these problems? I've been using these amps for three years on everything I've had in house--Magico Minis, Mini IIs, Symposium Panoramas, Focal Utopia Be's, MBL 101 X-Tremes, MartinLogan CLXes, Magico M5s, etc. That is a wide variety of speakers--and speaker loads. And (thus far) no problems save for oppressive heat in the summer. What gives? The other guys on this site who use 610Ts haven't had reliability problems--at least, not that I know of. In fact, before you and Ugamotz brought this up, I hadn't heard anyone complain about the 610Ts. I can see where you might get a bad tube once in a blue moon--it happens, especially nowadays. And I've replaced a few resistors in ARC amps over the years. It isn't hard to do; it's just a royal pain in the butt. But ten tubes in 450 hours! That's a pain I'm not sure I could live with, no matter how royal.
This said, I couldn't agree with you more about the sound of the 610Ts. It is the best to be had in a high-powered tube amplifier, IMO.
I think Elliot asks a good question: "Is this the Absolute Sound"?
And to be fair to JV (and Chris Sommovigo), I think they've answered as well as they can, without repeating themselves.
But what I still don't get is why Eliiot can't appreciate that giving a guy who's an expert on Merlot just really isn't the best guy to be asked about Chardonnnay. I'm not a big fan of Merlot. Or Cabernet Sauvignon. And I especially don't like Shiraz. However, I love Reisling and I really love Gewurtztraminer. I've had good and bad from all varieties of wine, but when it comes to my own money being shelled out on alcohol, most of the time it's gonna be on stuff I'm more assured of getting a positive experience from. And that's either Reisling, Gewurztraminer or a good Viognier. That doesn't stop me from trying other varieties every now and then, but there's no point asking for my opinions on a Shiraz, because the qualities of even a very good Shiraz still don't match my own tastes and peferences as well as those of a very good white. And you can keep shovelling Shiraz down my throat, asking for my opinions on it, and all I'll tell you at the end - if I'm still capable of standing, that is - is that some of it was good, some of it was bad, but by god, nowhere near as enjoyable as a good Viognier. That's just what i like. And it should be no surprise to anyone what I choose to drink and buy and stock my cupboards with.
My question is then - why is anyone surprised - even after he's stated as explicitly as he can - that JV reviews the type of gear he does and why he doesn't review others and vice versa for HP?
As an employee for a hi-end dealer, I can say that of all the gear we stock (and that includes VTL) some of it matches my own preferences better than others. But I'm not paid to push my preferences, I'm paid to sell gear commensurate with the customer's preferences. And in some cases, their preferences are sometimes better served by dealers who carry other brands. I think incredibly highly of all our brands (we're fully independent), but if the customer concludes that we sell Reisling, Gewurztraminer and Viognier when really what he or she is after is a good Rose, then it becomes the responsibility of the customer to find the Rose that's most closely aligned with their own palate. Not mine. The simple fact, as Elliot appreciates, is that we can't and, frankly, don't want to stock everything. Customers would like us to, but we don't. Because A) it's politically and financially impossible (no distributor is going to want us to have thier products and products from all thier competitors and we have limited capital), and B) we think lot's of stuff out there is shit, with zero dealer backup and build quality that hurts your eyes to look at. And in some cases, it just doesn't sound all that great. I recently had a guy ask me if we had anything that was more like Brand X. I said, no we sell Brands A, B and C. He said, what would be closest to Brand X. I said, Brand X. He went and (I'm guessing) bought Brand X from the dealer for Brand X. We lost a sale, and that's okay. That's life.
Such as it is with TAS. Elliot, if you can't read JV as a reviewer, and accept his biases and preferences by now, and futhermore, accept that the Absolute Sound is a subjectivist-based publication (OpEd journals as Chris puts it) then stop subscribing. The Absolute Sound is something that is heard in the head of an experienced yet subjectivised listener, of which JV and HP and CM are just that. And, like it or not, what they hear (VTL and ARC are both great contenders for the moniker 'state-of-the-art') is utterly different to what they prefer. I mean, really, what would be the point of all of TAS writers owning the same system that they collectively had decided was the "Absolute Sound"? Wouldn't that mean they'd get letter after letter asking them to have different systems in order to review Component X which clearly works better in System Y? Wouldn't that be equally problematic?
Like I said, I've read (and re-read) this thread and it's been very enjoyable. But at the risk of offending some sensibilities, hi-fi journals, buying wine and owning hi-fi are possibly best done by those with the maturity to accept that the ultimate responsibility lies with the one doing the reading, drinking and listening. No wine shop i've ever been to can taste it for me. No matter their wide-ranging experience or thesaurus-like lexicon, the drinking and subsequent evaluation lie with one whose prejudices and preferences decided to purchase it in the first place.
I don't know about you gentleman but what I would find most useful -rather than just a list of TAS recommended products, awards or JV's personal latest admittedly biased fave- is a list of TAS recommended products SYNERGIZE with each other. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have the luxury of trying gear in our system at home; as one local dealer told me "the days of loaning equipment out to for our customers to try are long gone." Unfortunately, this is the only way to verify synergy between 2 or more pieces...unless you are a magazine reviewer with access to untold amounts of samples or are a dealer with great setup skills & the will to try lots of combinations. Maybe TAS reviewers could better divide their time better with a little more quantity rather than the lengthy loans that seem to put strains on reviewer - manufacturer relationships. I'm sure JV, RH, HP or any other TAS reviewer can quickly judge (and list) a synergistic system when they hear one, regardless of their personal preference or view of anything absolute.
====>Maybe the reviewers are spending WAY too much time at home with their gear spoiling themselves? (A year with a particular pair of amps, come on, you get anything @ cost so either crap or get off the pot guys.)
====>Maybe they should hit the road and find the best dealers' listening rooms around the country? - Like the rest of us have to in order to find the sometimes elusive pieces that TAS recommends & expects us to audition in a similar system to our own. Maybe the reviewers could take turns; i.e. RH in June, JV in July, HP in August, AC in Sept., etc.?
====>Maybe they should include monthly spotlights of exceptional dealers and their most recommended systems along side manufacturers?
We've all heard about those rare inexpensive pieces that seem to defy conventional logic as "giant killers" but what context and accompanying gear was it paired with? By itself, that piece is completely useless; it's only in relation to the other gear that it becomes special. I've come across a few systems that I occasionally share with anyone who'll listen, but I'm just a hobbyist; just another "faceless Joe" on the internet - a recommendation of a particular system from me is "virtually useless" &/or "dime-a-dozen" regardless of the actual value of the information I possess.
====>Would it be too much to ask for a list (formal or informal) of systems that display notable amounts of synergy since that is what most of us are really after...since you come into contact with so many systems? I mean what good is a review of a $2500 integrated amp paired with $20k+ relatively analytical speakers and $15k+ digital separates with ridiculous quality casework & inbuilt resonance control with cabling & powerline conditioning that cost more than the review component? HiFi+ tries to put together interesting and (more or less) comparably priced items together as completely recommendable & hopefully synergistic real world systems...are the Brits more free of magazine politics? I doubt it.
This is Playback but it may as well be The Absolute Sound.
I enjoyed your well thought out posts. Perhaps, its my age or my inability to drink that much wine anymore, or that I prefer big Cabernets, I really am not sure why my opinion differs from yours.. Jack Nicholson said in a movie " I never lied to you I always told you some version of the truth" this is what we have today being representated as reviews. Are they the truth? I think they are some version of it. Iam asking for all the versions so I may make my own decision of what the "truth" really is. Mr. Valin, Mr. Harley and Mr. Pearson are all doing their job, and doing it to the best of their ability however they are being limited by what they are "ALLOWED" to hear and review. The permission should not be in the hands of those who seek the review but it is. This is a truth we are living with but IMHO it is a shame that this is the state of our art today. I think all businesses have resposibilities to their customers and that maybe TAS has decided that those who subscribe are owed less of this than those who provide the equipment. Mr. Valin stated in detail so t hat you can read what the process is like today and I applaud him for his honesty however it still doesn't fix the issue or address the opening lines of this thread.
Niner, I have one question for you as a participant in this business. How many times have you been told to go to hear something that is FREEKING AMAZING only to go and sit there and say why did they waste my time? A little bit of give and take, some checks and balances would only help maybe just a set of rules ... just one mans opinion.
It may have gone unnoticed that Chris' last comment was, in its own way, just as candid from the distributor/manufacturer side as some of mine were perceived to have been from the reviewer side. Chris and I may not have hit it off on the right foot when we locked horns over Symposium Acoustics' marvelous Panoramas, but I gotta say I admire his honesty, sophistication, and wit.
Like Ugamotz I have been following this thread as I initially thought that two wonderful amps were to be compared. After pages of utter diatribe apart from posts by ugamotz and jimboooo sadly this has not happened. FWIW I used to own the Ref600 Mk lll and loved it except for several issues as were described by those two posters. I was going to buy the 610T and sold my 600's 2 years ago for that reason but changed my mind because of the issues mentioned by Ugamotz. Like him I love the ARC sound and also have a Ref3 preamp which replaced my Ref2Mkll. Like Ugamotz I believe in American companies and want VTL and ARC to survive but having read Ugamotz' experiences I too would have not taken my life in my hands to chance another explosion with the ARC 610T. I went in a different direction and am driving my X-2 series ll's with Vladimir Lamm's ML2.1 18 wpc SET. IMO simply the best sound I have heard on these speakers as well as all the Wilson predecessors that I have had in my system. As an aside and a question (quite OT like the rest of this thread) to the illustrious Mr Valin, I am wondering if he has opportunity to have heard or better yet tested Vladimir's latest ML3 Reference? I had it on loan from Vladimir in my syatem for 4 months and for my ears and my system I have simply not heard a better amp. At 30 wpc SET and a cool $139K, this amp IMO remains the one against which all others should be judged. YMMV
As an aside I must also say that had I never heard the ML 3Reference I would have remained eternally in hog's heaven with my ML 2.1's as IMO they clearly bettered my previous ARC Ref 600 MK lll.
For my money however I recommend serious audiophiles have a listen to and audition the ML3. IMO it is in a class of its own.
Illustrious, venerable...oy! (Or were you being sarcastic? In which case...oy!)
I heard the ML3 sound heart-meltingly gorgeous with the Wilson MAXX Series III at CES, and i own the ML2 which I think is not just the best SET money can buy (after the ML3, of course) but the best low-powered amp money can buy. I'd love to review the ML3.
I've asked around, BTW, and thus far nobody else has had the kind of problems with 610Ts that have been reported by Ugamotz or Jim. I'm not disputing what either guy said, BTW. I'm just saying that I haven't had these catastrophes myself and haven't yet heard that others have. Don't rule this amp out until you've heard it. Trust illustrious, venerable me on this one. Hell, for all the trouble it's given him Jim is still living with the 610T because the sound is so great. (And Uga and Jim I'm looking into this with ARC.)
Man we are back to the "best" again. Too funny its an amazing talent to be able to in one thread say there is no such thing and then to declare something else the best.....again. So many bests so little time.
I have to tell you Jon you crack me up!
Well, you don't crack me up. You must have a lot of time on your hands, Elliot.
But you have a point about "best." I shoulda said "best I've heard."
Do I detect a note of displeasure?
I thought this mini writeup by one of your reviewers at TAS might give some pause to once again consider those Lamm amps. When the ML3's come to occupy a spot in my room I am going to extend an invitation to my house for you to do your review.
I may well take you up on that.
It would be my sincere pleasure. Besides what could be as pretty as the SF Bay Area. Plus you'll get some good home cooked matzoh ball soup.
Yum! Throw in a kreplach or two and you've got a deal.
Only my mother could make those well.
Bottom line is this. If and when an ML3 Reference goes into my system, I am offering you the opportunity to come to the SF Bay area for however long you need in order to do a critical evaluation of this amp. I would like to think that I have a reasonably well set up system in order for that to occur.
I am not trying to negate the relevance of two otherwise magnificent amps, to wit, the Ref610T and the VTL Siegfried. However for those systems that have speakers sufficiently efficient the ML3 Reference SET offers another option. Having had the this amp in my system for 4 months on loan from Vladimir, and having compared it to my ML 2.1 the former is IMO a giant slayer. To that extent my offer stands to you. If I am not mistaken Bob Harley also has X-2 series ll's in his system so that is also an option but I feel very confidant about it set up in my system..
OK enough said and sorry for being as guilty as others by having taken this thread off topic.