Chris Martens' Reviewer Background

Chris Martens -- Wed, 12/16/2009 - 15:10

Musical Interests:

Classical: I favor works from: Bach, Barber, Bartok, Brahms, Beethoven, Copland, Debussy, Mahler, Ravel, Satie, Sibelius, Weil, Wourinen.

Jazz: Favorites include: John Abercrombie, Dave Brubeck, Gary Burton, Ron Carter, Jen Chapin, Avishai Cohen, Stanley Clarke, John Coltrane, Chick Corea, Larry Coryell, Miles Davis, Paul Desmond, Al DiMeola, Bill Evans, Bela Fleck, Jan Garbarek, Freddie Hubbard, Keith Jarrett, Milt Jackson, Marcus Miller, Wes Montgomery, Jaco Pastorius, Dean Peer, Return to Forever, Wayne Shorter, Weather Report, Victor Wooten, Joe Zawinul.

Rock, Pop, Folk and Blues: Some of my favorite performers/groups include: Patricia Barber, Jack Bruce, Leonard Cohen, Holly Cole, Elvis Costello, Cream, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Lightning Hopkins, B.B. King, Sara K, Joni Mitchell, Steve Strauss, The Who, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Yes.


Listening Concerns:

Realism Triggers: Near full-range sound (except when reviewing mid-to-small size monitors where certain allowances must be made), superb 3D imaging and plausible soundstaging, timbral purity, finely resolved transient and textural details, micro- and macro-dynamics.

Realism Inhibitors: Even trace amounts of upper midrange or treble edginess/glare/excess brightness (problems that collectively remind me that “the sounds you are hearing could not possibly have been made by real instruments in a real space!”), poor imaging (live music never exhibits the “left blob of sound/right blob of sound” problems that I hear with far too many hi-fi systems—even high-end ones), overly narrow/shallow/imprecise soundstaging, thin and anemic bass (which invariably makes me feel as if the whole musical enterprise has lost its foundation), inadequately focused textural and transient details, compressed dynamics.


Listening Spaces

2-Channel Room (at home)

Quasi-rectangular space in second floor living room with irregularly shaped opening to 2-story entry foyer below. Construction: sheetrock and stud walls, with side windows. Primary dimensions (H x W x D): 8’ x 17.5’ x 14’. Walls treated with RPG Abfusor panels and Auralex damping panels, with further damping provided by wall-to-wall carpeting, pleated fabric drapes, and a 4’ x 4’ decorative quilt suspended about 1.5” from the back wall and positioned between my preferred speaker locations.


Playback Surround Sound Listening Room (at office)

Rectangular space located in typical single-story office building. Construction: concrete floor, sheetrock and stud walls, with side windows. Primary dimensions (H x W x D): 9.3’ x 17.6’ x 22.6’. Walls treated with RPG Abfusor panels and Auralex damping panels, with further damping provided by mini-blinds on side windows (mini-blinds conceal foam damping panels used on some window surfaces).


Reference Equipment, 2-channel room:


·      Turntables/tonearms: late 1990’s vintage Linn Sondek LP-12 turntable with Ittok LV-II tonearm (used primarily for evaluations of affordable phono cartridges), Nottingham Analogue Systems Space 294 turntable and Ace-Space 294 12-inch (294mm) unipivot tonearm.

·      Phono Cartridges: Benz-Micro ACE L (mc); Linn Adikt (mm); Grado Prestige Gold (mm) and Platinum Reference (mm); Shelter 901 MkII (mc), 5000 (mc), 7000 (mc), 9000 (mc) and Harmony MC (mc), Sumiko Bluepoint No. 2 (high output mc).

·      Phonostages: built-in MM/MC phonostage in Musical Fidelity integrated amplifier, Musical Surroundings Phonomena, PS Audio GCPH phono preamp, Sutherland Ph3D battery powered phono preamp.


·      Players: Musical Fidelity hybrid tube/solid state SACD player, first-generation Rega Planet CD player (used as backup transport), Wadia Model 170 iTransport (used with a variety of iPods, DACs)

·      DACs: Musical Fidelity V-DAC, Peachtree Audio Nova switching DAC/integrated amplifier, PS Audio Digital Link III DAC.

·      PC: Dell computer loaded exclusively with lossless audio files and used as a test bed for evaluating USB DACs.

Amplifiers: Musical Fidelity kW 500 hybrid tube/solid state integrated amplifier (500 Wpc), NuForce two-chassis P-9 preamplifier (designed by Demian Martin) and Reference 9 V3 Special Edition monoblock amplifiers (175 Wpc), Peachtree Audio Nova switching DAC/integrated amplifier (90 Wpc).

Speakers: Review speakers used during the past year: Usher Audio Be-10 floorstanders, KEF XQ20 standmount monitors, Usher Audio Mini Dancer 2 floorstanders, and (coming soon) Monitor Audio Silver RX8 floorstanders. Long-time references: Magnepan MG 1.6 QR planar-magnetic dipole speakers (my high-value reference), Mirage OM-28 omnidirectional floorstanders (soon returning to Mirage).

Power: 2 x 15A/120V service, PS Audio Soloist in-wall power conditioners used in conjunction with PS Audio Power Plant Premier power regenerator and Quintet power conditioner, RGPC 1200S power conditioner. Furutech Alpha Reference and/or PS Audio XStream power cords used for most components.

Interconnect and Speaker Cables: Furutech Alpha Reference digital, interconnect and bi-wired speaker cables, plus Furutech GT2 USB cable; NuForce focused field-series I700 digital, interconnect, and bi-wired speaker cables.

Equipment and Speaker Stands: two Solid Tech Rack of Silence Reference stands augmented with Solid Tech’s InnerClear, Disk of Silence, and Feet of Silence vibration damping accessories. Sanus Steel Foundation speaker stands used when evaluating stand-mount monitors.

Acoustic Treatments: Auralex Studiofoam panels, RPG B.A.D. abfusor panels.


Reference Equipment, Playback LISTENING ROOM:

Sources: DishNET satellite TV box, Oppo BDP-83 and BDP-83 Special Edition universal/Blu-ray players, Sony BDP-S550 Blu-ray player, Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD player.

Electronics: the system is frequently driven by review electronics du jour. Our long-term reference components are the Anthem Statement D2v A/V controller and Statement P5 multichannel power amplifier. Recently reviewed electronics: Marantz AV8003 A/V controller and MM8003 multichannel amplifier, Onkyo TX-SR607 AVR, Parasound P7 multichannel preamp, Pioneer SC-27 AVR, Rotel RSX-1550 AVR, and Yamaha RX-V3900 AVR.

Speakers: the system is frequently equipped with review speakers du jour. Our long-term reference components are Definitive Technology Mythos ST (L/R main) Mythos 10 (center channel) and Mythos STS (L/R surround) speakers, plus a pair of JL Audio Fathom F112 subwoofers. Recently reviewed speaker systems and subwoofers: Acoustic Energy Radiance system, BG Radia BGX-4850 subwoofer system, Gallo Reference Strada system, Monitor Audio Silver RX system, Paradigm Studio 60 v.5 system, and PSB Imagine system.

Display: 70” JVC D-ILA rear projection TV.

Power: 20A/120V service, dual PS Audio Quartet power conditioners feeding main multichannel amp directly and also feeding PS Audio Power Plant Premier power regenerator; PS Audio XStream power cords used for most components.

Interconnect and Speaker Cables: XLO/Ultralink digital, video, interconnect, and speaker cables, supplemented with QED and Oppo HDMI cables.

Equipment and Speaker Stands: Salamander/Synergy 4-bay wide x 2-bay high equipment rack. Depending on height requirements, I use metal speaker stands from Paradigm (the tallest I have on hand), Sanus Steel Foundation-series (medium height), or Target (shortest I have on hand).

Acoustic Treatments: Auralex Studiofoam panels, RPG B.A.D. abfusor panels.



My music education began at age 5 on the piano (an instrument I did and still do respect, but never really loved). I later transitioned to acoustic bass (ahh, here’s the instrument I really love) at about age 8, studied trumpet, baritone, and tuba from about age 12 through 14, then entered a long period of dabbling through my high school and college years (banjo, recorder, and other miscellaneous instruments). After graduate school, I became more serious about playing bass—but electric bass this time around—and have been a devoted amateur bassist ever since (I have modest, intermediate-level playing skills at best, but nevertheless have done my share of gigging and recording).

I’ve been an audio enthusiast for (gulp!) more than 40 years, getting my start when, as a little tyke, my uncle Riley Martens introduced me to my first stereo system (playing the Sounds of Sebring demo record, as I recall). As a teenager, NextScreen CEO Tom Martin turned me on to the then radical idea that young people could, indeed, own their very own hi-fi systems (“Eureka,” I thought, “I’ve just gotta get in on this.”). The rest is history (or is it addiction?).

AVguide Monthly (NextScreen’s first-ever digital magazine):founding Editor (after nearly two years of publication, AVguide Monthly morphed to become the digital edition of The Perfect Vision). served in a variety of positions, first as Publisher and now as Editor.

Playback: founding Editor.

The Absolute Sound: Senior Writer

The Perfect Vision: served in a variety of positions, first as Contributing Writer, then as Audio Editor, and soon to be Editor (that’s right, folks; we’ll be bringing back an online version of TPV shortly)

Winding Road/ Senior Writer.

Over the past six years I have published over 290 product reviews spanning a wide range of high-end audio, desktop/personal audio, and A/V components.



In-home live music references: Eric Aceto Violect (a 5-string electric violin with the combined range of a violin and viola) driving a Trace Acoustic amp, Chickering baby grand piano, Fender Stratocaster electric guitars driving a Fender Blues Junior amp, Gretsch drum kit with a combination of Zildjian and PB Meinl cymbals, various acoustic violins and violas (instruments my wife uses when instructing and/or performing), and both a Spector 4-string electric bass and a Lakland Skyline-series Osborn Signature 5-string electric bass driving a modest Fender Bassman amp.

Favorite sound source that’s not a musical instrument or hifi component: my Ducati Hypermotard motorcycle (which, like all of Ducati's desmo L-twins, sounds fabulous).

Music Venues (all in Austin, TX): Long Center, Stubbs, St. Martin's Lutheran Church (an ideal concert venue for hearing Conspirare: Craig Hella Johnson & Company of Voices).

Woof Woof (not verified) -- Sun, 02/07/2010 - 22:20

 I am in the market for a second phono stage and it looks like you have the 3 exact ones I am looking at:
Sutherland Ph3D
Nova Phonomena (well almost the same one)
I am looking to partner either my restored Thorens TD125LB with the Jelco 750D tonearm/Denon 103R or the Project RPM10.1 with the 10cc evolution tonearm and the Sumiko Blackbird.
Do you have any recommendations? 

JA FANT -- Fri, 10/29/2010 - 23:39

Nice pics!

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