Spectral Amps + MIT Cables: A Marketing Coup? A Question to Mr. Robert Harley

default -- Sat, 05/09/2009 - 11:53

Dear Mr. Harley,

I've been thinking about the fact that Spectral amps REQUIRE the use of MIT cables with their network box, and it suddenly dawned on me that the (passive) electronics in the MIT box could have been made part of the amp.  This could have made the amp independent of specific cables, and the electronics could have been improved, possibly by using active components and/or changing the amp itself, to minimize phase shifts, delays and whatever other distortions introduced by an additional passive network in the critical path.

Then I thought of possible reasons why NOT to do it.

The amps currently have a feature that seems VERY impressive -- frequency response up to 150 KHz within 0.1 dB and to 1 MHz within 1 dB.  However, this impressive feature is plainly unacceptable to speakers, so that the network is REQUIRED.  However, how can we retain this special, unique, impressive, marketing-differentiator feature and still have the network?  Simple: Separate the network from the amp, but REQUIRE that the network be used!  Brilliant, isn't it?  Especially when people have to buy our own cables and will be willing to pay extra for our network!

This way the amp can be as purist as can be, have the best measurement and so on, only that what you measure and what you hear may not be directly related…!!!

Maybe that's why Spectral avoid specifying anything about the output of the amps except power, as any output impedance and damping factor specs might be an obvious lie.

All this does NOT imply whether the sound of Spectral amps is great or not.  I know you consider the DMA-360 a class of its own, and the above does NOT refute that.

Can you help me untangle these thoughts, in case I got anything wrong?

Thanks and best regards,
Amir
 

Eclipse (not verified) -- Fri, 06/12/2009 - 13:42

Slow down and let's keep the discussion technical. I said I am not *convinced* HP tried MIT cables, and have every right to do it - that review was not done right, in my view. In the end, I fairly frequently question some things reviewers write, and usually take their stories with a grain of salt. I am not trying to convince you per se... Also, check out the comments HP made in a couple of subsequent "recommended components" issues with respect to these amps - I found them a bit poor (but unfortunately, I no longer have those issues).

Amir Kessner (not verified) -- Fri, 06/12/2009 - 15:29

 
Hi, Eclipse!
 
As to "Slow down and let's keep the discussion technical" -- gladly!!   I'm not HP's offical/unofficial representative :-)   I just felt you just went too far.
 
As to "that review was not done right", I seldom find reviews that are done really right, and ALWAYS "take their stories with a grain of salt", so I can easily identify with that.
 
However, I'm not sure reviewers deserve to be presented as liars, incompetent, without integrity, etc., without any evidence -- elementary human rights :-) (assuming you grant that they are all human :-)) -- even when they don't do their job right.  I believe it's far worse when medical doctors don't do their job right... :-)
 
Regards,
Amir

Eclipse (not verified) -- Fri, 06/12/2009 - 15:59

Amir - I am not sure why you are so hung up on my comments about a review that's long been written in the history books, but if we must support everything we say, here is the last piece I will share with you on this...
 
Blowing out of the water Spectral's requirements without discussing the technical reasoning behind it indicates (to me) lack of technical understanding, and frankly, a level of arrogance. As such, the reviewer lost credibility with me right up front. But that's just ME.

Specifically, HP said:

1) "And I, for one, thought the Spectral amplifiers with the MIT cables sounded bright and electronic" and says no more about them.
That's it? You call that a review? So, Spectral got it *completely* wrong for decades? Are we serious?
2) "The expert witnesses we consulted (outside of Spectral) were in sharp disagreement over the likelihood of disaster"
My goodness... this world is full of experts on someone else's work (of course, someone will surely accuse me of the same soon, but at least I don't play 'authority')! You call that a review? So, Spectral got it completely wrong? Are we serious again? Beyond this the review became a comic book and the reviewer lost credibility (in my eyes).

HP's approach is not much different than anyone else's in this thread taking a similar stance without technical backing. So I would be glad to see anyone refute Spectral's approach from a technical perspective if only to expand on my own knowledge, but so far I haven't seen much, other than my description above to you of what another preamp might look like that would work with their amps (which is kind of refuting Spectral's approach with respect to which preamps *must* be used with their amps), and ScottB's declaration that he drives his amps directly from the Alpha DAC, and I will soon join that club too.

 

Amir Kessner (not verified) -- Sat, 06/13/2009 - 03:33

Dear Eclipse,

I believe I wouldn't have been "hung up on [your] comments about a review that's long been written in the history books" if they had been technical.  What disturbed me was that they were very offensively and insultingly personal.  Before I knew it, I automatically assumed the role of the "defender of human rights", and started regarding you as a violator…, whereas I had already had the impression that you had assumed the rule of Spectral's justifier and protector.

And here we are, having a long discussion about Exhibit A of ten years ago… :-)  It can be interesting per-se, though it's definitely not purely technical.

My feeling is that there is some emotional involvement, way beyond the purely technical, as regards personally taking anything that doubts/contradicts Spectral almost as a personal offence, as if Spectral's honor is your own…  Just a feeling.

I've been a follower/reader of neither Stereophile nor TAS, but, IF I'm right, and correct me if I'm wrong, Stereophile had the more "objectivist" approach, with technicalities and measurements, whereas TAS was "subjectivist".  As far as I know, HP has not obtained guru status due to his extensive technical expertise or knowledge.  I don't even know if he ever claimed to be an electronic expert.  What he was famous for were his "golden ears".

What you make him so very wrong for seems to be on the technical side, which may never have been claimed to be his forte.  If technicalities are what you're looking for, you shouldn't have been reading him (or at least not attempting to take him seriously) in the first place.

As to

1) "And I, for one, thought the Spectral amplifiers with the MIT cables sounded bright and electronic" and says no more about them.
That's it? You call that a review? So, Spectral got it *completely* wrong for decades? Are we serious?

 
Please think about it in "subjectivist" terms -- if the cables do not sound good at all, why bother with details of why, when the review is about the AMPS, not the cables, in the first place?  Please remember he probably was not about evaluating Spectral's claims and whether they "got it *completely* wrong", but about getting the best sound from the amp.

As to
 
2) "The expert witnesses we consulted (outside of Spectral) were in sharp disagreement over the likelihood of disaster"
My goodness... this world is full of experts on someone else's work (of course, someone will surely accuse me of the same soon, but at least I don't play 'authority')! You call that a review? So, Spectral got it completely wrong? Are we serious again? Beyond this the review became a comic book and the reviewer lost credibility (in my eyes).

 
Assuming that we're not dealing with Black Magic or Voodoo, but with electronics, the inventor/developer of a product is not the only one who can give a valid, really expert, opinion.  Moreover, it's possible, even likely, that even if the likelihood of a disaster is not that great, Spectral simply and justifiably don't want to take the risks.  If anything goes wrong, it would be Spectral who'll have to pay for it, not the experts.  So it's possible that ALL of the following be true at the same time: (1) Spectral not wanting to guarantee its amps without MIT cables (2) The risk is not that great, at least for a given cable over a short period of time (3) All experts, within and out of spectral, were right in their respective views (4) HP was not that wrong / not serious / comic etc.
Please also remember that Spectral saw fit to publish the review in their own site, without adding any warning of their own.  I'm sure they wouldn't have done that casually, without recognizing the risks, which (arguably :-)) were elaborated-on more than enough, with Spectral's view quoted.

As to
 
HP's approach is not much different than anyone else's in this thread taking a similar stance without technical backing.

 
Sure, that's the "subjectivist" approach, being focused only on the eventual sound!  You can say it's a wrong approach altogether, with which I would disagree, but I do agree that, in general, technical considerations and measurements should be included.  I've already agreed with you that few reviews are ever done really "right".

As to
 
refuting Spectral's approach with respect to which preamps *must* be used with their amps), and ScottB's declaration that he drives his amps directly from the Alpha DAC, and I will soon join that club too.

 
This seems to contradict what you wrote in a prior post "I haven't tried another preamp with my Spectral amp, not because of their requirement, but because they sound so damn incredible that I just have no interest" and your entire apparent "policy" of following and defending everything that Spectral say… :-)

On the inter-personal, "human", not-technical aspect, I still find the following offensive, verging on libel: "HP borrowed them from a friend of his, who probably put in a word or two into HP's ear, not to mention that I just don't believe HP *EVER* tried MIT cables with that amp, unless his friend would have a pair, and why would he".

As I wrote, I don't know if HP reads these posts, and even if he does, I'm sure he won't sue you.  I definitely wouldn't, especially as I generally like your comments and find most of them very helpful and informative and well written.  However, my personal feeling is that you owe HP an apology.

Best regards,
Amir
 

Amir Kessner (not verified) -- Sat, 06/13/2009 - 11:07

 
Hi again, dear Eclipse!

On second thought, I herein officially resign from the roles of "defender of human rights" and/or "HP's unofficial/self-appointed representative", which I have assumed automatically, and stop urging you to apologize, leaving it totally to your discretion.

I don't know if a similar assumptions of the roles of "Spectral's official/unofficial/self-appointed representative and or unconditional defender/justifier" and/or "prosecutor or HP and all other philistine reviewers that ignore/disobey/dismiss Spectral's views and/or do not elaborate on technical issues long enough" has happened to you automatically, like to me, or whether you chose these roles consciously… :-)  Not that it matters too much…

In any case, enjoy your music and your system!
 
Amir
 

Amir Kessner (not verified) -- Fri, 06/12/2009 - 15:53

Hi, again!
 
Re-reading my post, I see I've somewhat complied with "slow down", but not with "let's keep the discussion technical".
 
I apologize for that, but, actually, I don't know what else is to be discussed technically -- I feel I'm at a dead end here.  Nobody around seems to have the specific experience of hearing the EMM Labs Switchman 3 preamp with Spectral DMA-360 (Mk. I or II), and thus cannot help me with my problem, except with generalities and paradigms.
 
I may have to go to Germany and listen to the stuff, or give up the Spectral idea entirely.
 
Best regards,
Amir

hikejohn -- Fri, 06/12/2009 - 16:09

Clearly go visit Germany....or elsewhere to listen to the Spectral...EMM combo....I suspect you aren't get much specific about that combo because EMM isn't quite in the amp league...for pre amp....but whether you go to Germany, US or Canada....LISTEN for yourself...not words over the internet.  Find someone who will work with you...

Amir Kessner (not verified) -- Sat, 06/13/2009 - 05:54

Dear John,

Your comments so far have been very helpful and informative.  However, I'm beginning to feel a little uncomfortable with your repetitive derogation of EMM Labs, as if you're trying to force me to accept your view/taste.

You have already expressed your opinions about EMM Labs in previous posts, which I have not ignored and referred to explicitly.

As to "not in the same league", many people seem to forget that, more often than not, their division to "leagues" is personal, depending on their own personal tastes.  In many cases, they even gather in groups that share similar tastes/leagues, and/or can waste years arguing whether product X is better than Y and/or in the same/different league.

A personal example:  I've often seen / read / heard that Avalon, Wilson and Magico are great speakers (not necessarily in that order), and B&W are controversial, often considered less good.  I've long personally preferred the old B&W Matrix Series 3 over WIlson Watt/Puppy 6, the B&W Nautilus 802 to Avalon and Watt/Puppy 8 and even to Magico V3.  I definitely personally prefer the B&W 800D to all of the above, by a pretty wide margin.  So what?

Each of the Avalon/Wilson/Magico admirers/owners will sooner murder me or declare me deaf/tasteless than even start to consider that this is ONLY a matter of TASTE.  "How can he say that he prefers X to Y?!?!?!"  For many, it's a matter of absolute truths.  For me, it isn't, it's ONLY taste.  It's not that B&W are "better" than any of Avalon/Wilson/Magico.  They are not, only that their sound speaks to ME far more than the others.

I know that the "leagues" paradigm is hard to break, like other paradigms, but I believe that above a certain level, most, if not all, differences are a matter of taste.  It's like the digital vs. analog never-ending war.  The "digitals" claim that analog sound is compressed and distorted, and "analogs" claim that digital sound is dry and lifeless.  Taste-wise, I'm with the digitals, but I accept that analogs can love analog sound and dislike digital sound.  So what?

As to the "words over the internet", to which you yourself contributed, and I thank you for that, have helped me re-evaluate the technical issues and risks involved.  I thus no longer consider ordering the Spectral without auditioning it, as I had to do a few times in the past (with great results so far).

As you can probably understand, when I listen, I listen only to what I hear, according to my own taste, without letting others influence me in directions that are wrong for me.  No need to worry :-)

Best regards,
Amir
 

Amir Kessner (not verified) -- Sat, 06/13/2009 - 06:07

 
P.S., Just to be clear: It's not that I think Magico / Avalon / Wilson are less than great speakers.  I fully understand and accept why they are considered among the greatest. They have my highest and full APPRECIATION, even admiration, only that my personal LOVE goes to B&W.

zead (not verified) -- Sat, 06/13/2009 - 09:26

Amir,
         time to make that purchase and tell us about your spectral/ b&w experience. As for speaker taste i agree its all personal. Me i like the Rpckport and  YG sound...........it feels like live music to me.
                         all the best with your decision

Amir Kessner (not verified) -- Sat, 06/13/2009 - 09:42

Dear Zead,
 
Thank you for your kind wishes!
 
The idea of going to germany to audition the combination can be related to my wife's conditional attendance in a congress sometime in February, so PELASE don't hold your breath until I decide... :-)  You might turn VERY blue... :-)
 
As I wrote, I'm not going to puchase the Spectral without audioning it with the EMM Labs preamp.
 
Best regards,
Amir
 
 
 
 

SundayNiagara -- Sat, 06/13/2009 - 14:24

Check with Meitner, to ensure there is no impedance mis-match between his pre amp and the Spectral amp.  Otherwise, you will be wasting your time schlepping the Meitner unit to Germany.

Amir Kessner (not verified) -- Sat, 06/13/2009 - 15:01

 
Hi, SundayNiagara!
 
It never occurred to me to carry the EMM pre anywhere, it's BIG and damn HEAVY, and it's risky to ship.  The idea was to go to a store that carries bith the EMM and Spectral.
 
I checked with EMM if the pre can work with Spectral, and they said it's OK, but I haven't checked the impedance specifically.  I will.
 
Thanks!!!
Amir

Eclipse (not verified) -- Wed, 06/17/2009 - 09:59

Before you go to anywhere to audition Spectral and EMM make sure the dealer is even willing to run that combination with the non-universal Spectral amps (and I don't believe they even make the universal 360S anymore).

Amir Kessner (not verified) -- Wed, 06/17/2009 - 15:44

 
 
Sure!  I already understood THAT much! :-)
 
A
 
 

BMCG (not verified) -- Sun, 06/21/2009 - 21:37

Amir - before you exit the Spectral pursuit out of frustration, will add a perspective to the debate.
Can sympathise with your challenge of securing the equipment you want in a context that permits an audition you value.
Suffice I can vouch for the magic that I am enjoying with a PC-> dCS Delius -> DMC30SS -> DMA360 v2 -> Avalon Indra based system.  Connections are Spectral cables (350/770) with exception of the LynxAES16 breakout...
So what does this mean to you?  Not much more than for me this "system" resonates....at least the permagrin I enjoy is one testimony.
How did I arrive at this integration...well here my experience might be pertinent.
The ensuing is from my recounting of a very well spent day at a store a few thousand miles from me, that afforded a chance to sample/re-arrange/co-ordinate to my hearts content.
 
======================================
Auditioned quite the suite of speakers this week: Rockport's Anthaa and Aquila; Verity Audio's Parsifal, and Magico's V3.  All driven by Spectral DMA 360's from a Berkeley DAC fed either by a PC Server (LynxAES16) or a Spectral 4000S Pro.  All music used was provided by myself and as such was quite familiar.
One rather clear conclusion I reached is that at this level of speaker - call it the $25 to $45k range - "better" or "worse" are terms that become idiosyncratic.  Literally, do the speaker's qualities fit "you". 
This was driven home by my experience with the much lauded Magico's.  Frankly, I found them to be aggressive, forward, and quite unpleasant to listen to.  This was a shock as I had expected to be blown away.  Clearly, they do not fit with my desired presentation of music.  In contrast I could listen to the Verity's at lengtjh relaxing into their presentation and enjoying their musicality.   Curiously I found the Anthaa's too laid back, whereas the Aquila was quite the high point of the day.  The latters superior bottom end affording a foundation that resonated across the audible spectrum realising a visceralness that left me lost for words. 

Now this is what worked for me - it is my opinion.
I am struck that making suggestions as to which $30k speaker is better or worse is a little misguided.
As to what resonates with me, may quite well not be relevant to you.

=================================

So can sympathise with your preferences for B&W and if they elicit a grin....anyone elses opinion is frankly...well you can file that where you like.

And as you can surmise I elected the Avalon Indra route in spite of how well the Aquila's performed that auditioning day...it was a very close run thing.
Suffice I am very, very pleased with my system....if you can find a dealer to pull together the pieces you want, travel. 
Suspect it will be worth your while.
 
 

Amir Kessner (not verified) -- Mon, 06/22/2009 - 13:28

 
Dear BMCG,
 
Thank you for bothering to write and share your experience!
 
think I'll indeed "exit the Spectral pursuit out of frustration".  I've written the store in Germany that carries both EMM and Spectral and  EMM Labs have recommended contacting, and the store has not responded.  I'm not sure even that they'd be willing to connect a Spectral amp to a an EMM Labs' pre.
 
I'm beginning to glance in other directions (Burmester, Mark Levinson, McIntosh, etc.)
 
Thanks and ENJOY!
Amir

All content, design, and layout are Copyright © 1999 - 2011 NextScreen. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction in whole or part in any form or medium without specific written permission is prohibited.