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    Moderated By: Maxxwire
    Agoraquest Forum Index » » Amp/Receiver/Speakers/Connections/Cables
      
    21st century sound quailty of home audio. Why isn't better? Dashboard
    Replies: 374 | Views: 140,381
    Last Reply: August 23, 2012, 3:16 am

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    Author 21st century sound quailty of home audio. Why isn't better?
    Maxxwire
    Moderator
    Premium Member

    Rank: Sony Adept


    Joined: Aug 29, 2002
    Posts: 26074
    From: Portland, Oregon - USA

      Posted: 2011-09-23 05:30

    Back in 2000 when Sony first released their Reference SACD Separates the SCD-1, TA E-1, TA N-1 and SS M-9ED speakers the local Sony Only store was so proud to be the only shop in town to display them that they custom built an acoustically treated listening room especially for the SACD Reference Audio gear.

    I must have listened to that Reference SACD System over a dozen times and it never did sound right. They eventually even brought in a $30,000 pair of KEF Reference speakers to try to solve the poor sound quality of the SACD Reference Audio System, but to no avail it still did not sound nearly as good as it should have and to my knowledge they never did figure out what was holding the SACD Reference System from giving what should have been a legendary performance although a few months later after the experience ofAcoustically Treating my own listening room I figured out that they had over-treated the room which dampened what would otherwise been a stellar performance from the Sony Reference SACD Separates.

    The next year they were putting in a new Mastering Lab at the Mastering Studios where my Musician friend Don works. I had done some research on Acoustic Treatments, but I was unfamiliar with the professional grade treatments they were using so I asked what it was and Don said that it was Auralex Studiofoam. When I found out that it was only $220 for a dozen 2" X 2' X 4' pieces I decided it was time to Acoustically Treat my listening especially since I had just added a 24 bit Digital processor to my Audio System's Digital front end.

    After Acoustically Treating my listening room I could hardly believe all of the nuance and detail in the Music that I had been missing! I could even hear the difference in the different bitrates on my new Audio Alchemy DTI Pro 32! Overall what it cost for the Auralex Pyramid Studiofoam was probably the best investment I ever made in my Audio System plus there are no upgrades required it just hangs on the walls and diffuses the sound in a way that prevents the Time Smear associated with untreated rooms. The electronics of our Audio Systems are comparatively distortion free and almost all of the total distortion is created from the time the Music leaves the speaker reflects off of several surfaces and by the time it reaches the listener's ear what was originally 1 note will now be in the form of several instances each reaching the listener's ear at different time intervals which is known as Time Smear.  

    Since then I've auditioned 100's of pieces of High-End Audio equipment all up and down the west coast and also in Las Vegas where they have very exclusive nosebleed expensive Audio gear that you will never see anywhere else and none of that Audio gear which was carefully set up to sound its best could ever come close to the sound of my very carefully Resonance Tuned Audio System which is ensconced and its LEDE listening room which is Acoustically Tuned with Auralex Pyramid Studiofoam.


    There is a saying "What's everybody's is nobody's" and every time I finish another audition of some very expensive Audio gear in an Audio shop I am reminded that none of this gear that is set up on a temporary basis for the public to hear has a chance of sounding nearly as good as much less expensive gear that has a good home where its owner has made every effort to make sure that it is performing at optimal sound quality and listens to it often and researches ways that its sound quality might be enhanced over years or even decades. Its not the price you pay, but the genuine effort that is put into an Audio System that makes it able to sound much better than the "What's everybody's is nobody's" Audio gear.

    ~Maxx~



    -----------------
    A Satisfied Sony Fan Since 1974!



    The OCCC Furu-Charged Sony DB 930


         


    mykyll2727

    Rank: Sony Pro


    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 4171
    From: Las Vegas

      Posted: 2011-09-24 08:54

    This is McGowen's latest email. I think, considering it comes from a high-end designer, that may partially explain why amps and speakers of today don't sound hugely better than they did 30+yrs ago.


    If it sounded good once….

    Just for grins I pulled out a 30 year old preamplifier from PS Audio and gave it a listen. I was stunned at just how good it sounded.

    At first I was depressed because it immediately said to me that we can’t have made much progress over the last three decades. But then it occurred to me that in point of fact, if it sounded good then it should still sound good today. Why? Because the definition of “good” sound is the same today as it was back then: getting close to the original recording.

    I think we tend to exaggerate how far we’ve come (to getting closer to the truth of the recording) because when we hear an improvement, especially one big enough to motivate us to exchange models, we are somewhat awestruck by the new experience. In fact, our progress is probably measured in inches, not giant leaps as we would like to believe.

    The first time we experience something new, it’s always going to be a bit overblown. For me, this is half the fun of it. I want to hear something new, deeper into the music, closer to the real deal. Gimme more!

    I guess I just shouldn’t be surprised when, in hindsight, the change isn’t as big as I remember.

    We’ll probably never get as close as we’d like, but it sure is fun trying.


       
    mykyll2727

    Rank: Sony Pro


    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 4171
    From: Las Vegas

      Posted: 2011-09-24 09:04

    I for one disagree that good today should the same as good did yesterday. I feel that "today's good" should be a giant leap better than it was yesterday and I feel if we settle for that status quo that's exactly what we'll get. I think, w/regard to amps and speakers, if the vast majority of audiophiles stopped buying the "new stuff" and simply kept or acquired older gear, designers and makers would be "pushed" into delivering something with vastly superior SQ. As long as we keep buying gear that's essentially the same old stuff in new packaging that's all we're going to get._mykl


       
    Maxxwire
    Moderator
    Premium Member

    Rank: Sony Adept


    Joined: Aug 29, 2002
    Posts: 26074
    From: Portland, Oregon - USA

      Posted: 2011-09-24 17:39

    Paul McGowen said "Just for grins I pulled out a 30 year old preamplifier from PS Audio and gave it a listen. I was stunned at just how good it sounded."

    As for the sound quality of the typical Digital Preamp these days I think Paul is very correct in his comparison of the classic Analog Preamp and judging from from the standpoint of the many people today who strongly prefer the sound quality of a good stand alone Pure Analog Preamp Paul's opinion is strongly supported.

    Although there are a few rare innovative individuals designing truly modern Audio equipment like this Hybrid Tube/FET Preamp designs with State of the Art components that has been reviewed by Positive Feedback as having "the hallmarks of reference level detail, harmonious musical nuance, a smooth and involving presentation, and dynamic splendor" which has distinct design advantages over both the classic Analog FET Preamps and the modern Digital Preamps along with the kind of sound quality that comes with the latest parts innovations like Teflon capacitors...


    • Member Quote

    On 2011-09-24 09:04, mykyll2727 wrote:

    . I feel that "today's good" should be a giant leap better than it was yesterday and I feel if we settle for that status quo that's exactly what we'll get. get._mykl



    Absolutely! The Audio equipment industry in general has become entrenched in the status quo sacrificing build quality to meet a price-point. I'm simply calling attention to the great exception to this rule which is when the private individual designer sets out to build Audio gear worthy of the high expectation of audiophiles such as yourself using the best components available today.

    I was at Dan Wright's home on the eve of launching the very first ModWright Industries piece that he had designed and built from the chassis up which was the SWL 9.0SE linestage and he was very, very nervous. He told me at the time that the only reason he was willing to risk designing and selling this higher quality Audio gear was that he could always fall back on the income from his thriving Sony Player Modification business.

    You are completely correct in saying "I feel that "today's good" should be a giant leap better than it was yesterday" and the primary reason that its not is because up and coming innovative Audio circuit designers have to risk their entire personal financial security for the privilege of competing with the massive Audio equipment industry in general that has become become entrenched in the status quoand prefers to keep it that way.

    ~Maxx~

    Sony H-9 MaxxPix


         
    mykyll2727

    Rank: Sony Pro


    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 4171
    From: Las Vegas

      Posted: 2011-09-24 18:15

    I'm in agreement with you completely. Dan Wright has created some outstanding components in his own line. And they benefit greatly from his own designed teflon caps. There are some other super teflon caps out there as well. V-Caps, Audience Aura-Ts, are some great examples. True, caps have benefited from some new materials (And uber expensive if their price is indicative. Depending on values some of these caps can retail >$1k) but yet the basic tech of a cap is still the same. What's really sad to me is that if one takes some 30yr old gear and upgrades them with todays best caps you quite probably will have a unit that sounds every bit as good as a modern unit that was designed with the use of these caps. Perhaps, and this is really sad, even better. Where in the world is the tech that "pushes" today's SQ far above what yesterday's stuff can do no matter what parts upgrades you do to it. Maybe we'll never get as close as we'd like but still IMO we should be a heck of alot closer than we are AFA amps and speakers go. We sure are w/regard to the front end but IMO that wasn't driven to provide better SQ for audiophiles. It was driven to provide better SQ for the video experience and has in some instances been transfered to the audio only area. I think there should be that "giant leap". I don't think it's going to happen as long as we settle for improvements in "inches" when it comes to new gear. I feel Paul's attitude fosters the status quo. IMO it's a cop-out. If we stop buying gear that's only inches better we'll see a drive to provide better SQ. If that happens the big boys will definitely jump on board and we'll see that giant leap forward. As long as we keep settling we'll get what we deserve and we deserve it as long as we continue to buy it._mykl

    [ This message was edited by: mykyll2727 on 2011-09-24 18:20 ]


       
    Danglerb

    Rank: Sony Addict


    Joined: May 04, 2006
    Posts: 193
    From: Socal

      Posted: 2011-09-25 02:28

    The major weak link is source material, and no neutral piece of hardware is going to improve that. Isn't that the lifelong frustration of audiophiles, listen to the artists you like best, recorded in a totally commercial style with close microphones, numerous effects and compression, or audiophile recordings of artists never to be signed to a major label.

    What are you expecting new hardware to do so much better? (excluding speakers)

    One of the most exciting audiophile moments for me was the drive home from CES in Las Vegas listening in my car to the first Bruno Walter releases. In my car it was breathtaking.

    Do you recall the first time listening to MFSL CD of Muddy Waters?

    Fine hardware was nice, but not essential.


       
    mykyll2727

    Rank: Sony Pro


    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 4171
    From: Las Vegas

      Posted: 2011-09-25 03:51

    If you read my very first post to start this thread I acknowledge significant advances to the front end as digital tech keeps pushing forward in that area. The disc, high rez discs, iLink, computer audio etc. I know that there are alot of vinyl lovers who think it's still best. I'm not one of them and the shortcomings of vinyl have also been discussed here. I feel today's digital sources deliver far better SQ than yesteryear's analog and that it's getting better all the time. Sure there are lousy sounding discs but there are great ones, as you described, and great digital audio continues to advance greatly and rapidly.

     Your great listening experience was due to a great sounding disc. What am I expecting hardware to do so much better? To deliver an improvement on the order of the disc you described that's what. Then think about how good your disc would sound. And then if speakers delivered the same then think about how good it would sound.


    What do I expect hardware to do? Sound a hell of alot better than it did 30-40 yrs ago..... That's what. I think it's pretty sad really that hardware today doesn't sound HUGELY better than it did over a generation ago._mykl


       
    Maxxwire
    Moderator
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    Rank: Sony Adept


    Joined: Aug 29, 2002
    Posts: 26074
    From: Portland, Oregon - USA

      Posted: 2011-09-25 04:46

    • Member Quote

    On 2011-09-25 03:51, mykyll2727 wrote:

    What do I expect hardware to do? Sound a hell of alot better than it did 30-40 yrs ago..... That's what. I think it's pretty sad really that hardware today doesn't sound HUGELY better than it did over a generation ago._mykl



    My opinion is that they ought to leave some of that modern Audio hardware with you for a few months while you tweak and tune it into sounding like it ought to as you have with so many other pieces of Audio equipment over the years. They would learn a lot about what they need to change and I'm sure they wouldn't mind leaving the equipment with you to compensate you for your consulting advice.

    ~Maxx~

    Sony H-9 MaxxPix


         
    mykyll2727

    Rank: Sony Pro


    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 4171
    From: Las Vegas

      Posted: 2011-09-25 04:50

    Maxx- I'm not an engineer and it would take more than my tweaks to bring advancements on the level we've seen in video. IMO that's the problem. What's going on is tweaking of decades old tech. Something fundamently superior is in order.


    Let me put it like this. A guy goes into the store looking to buy the latest video player. The salesman approaches and says" I want you to come over and look at this." He takes the guy over to the premiere player he has and says" This is the latest and greatest we've got. It's got an aluminum case that's been treated by cold fusion, it's got tubes made from the finest Tiffany crystal, it's got capacitors infused with crushed dilithium crystals from Saturn, it's got platinum wire that's 100 nines pure that's been mined from the moon. This is where it's at." The salesman then points out the latest TV he has and says. "This is based on the same technology as the CRTs of 50yrs ago, but the case is aerospace grade plastic and the picture tube is infused with man-made diamond crystals". He goes on to say "Remember the picture quality you had thirty years ago with your CRT and VCR? Well this combo will give you a PQ that's inches better than that". He sees that the guy is not all that impressed and says "Well what did YOU expect it to do?". We wouldn't find that acceptable of today's video. Why do we find it acceptable in today's audio._mykl




    [ This message was edited by: mykyll2727 on 2011-09-25 05:09 ]


       
    Maxxwire
    Moderator
    Premium Member

    Rank: Sony Adept


    Joined: Aug 29, 2002
    Posts: 26074
    From: Portland, Oregon - USA

      Posted: 2011-09-25 06:00

    _mykl- I can only speak for myself, but I have owned a lot of vintage gear both Vacuum Tube and Solid State over the years dating back to the 1960's and I always thought that there was a lot to be desired in its sound quality especially the 3 turntables I've owned. They may be able to upgrade this classic Audio gear with superior quality modern parts to make it sound better, but back in the day it certainly didn't sound all that good to me. Finally just within this last year I have been able to acquire the kind of quality of sound that I'd been unable to find all of those years which has been made possible with a lot of Mike VansEvers' advise and my simple $600 Sony Receiver which now sounds ever so much better than the all expensive Audiophile gear that I own.

    I've auditioned 100's of pieces of the mega-buck corporate Audio gear that you are referring to and I agree with you that it does not sound as good as it should nevertheless and every improvement I used to elevate the sound quality of my $600 Sony Receiver to heights that I'd only dreamed of over the last 45 years with the exception of 2 AC Plugs were made available just within this last year.

    2011 has been the very best year ever for me in Audio electronics and although I understand where you're coming from taking on what greedy Big Audio has to offer in terms of their under performing equipment which does not justify its inflated price-points there are more and more excellent and very beneficially applicable technological and metallurgical advancements available these days for individuals who are seeking to get the ultimate performance and sound quality at a reasonable cost from their moderately priced Audio Systems today than I have ever known since I started down this path of Audio electronics in 1966.

    ~Maxx~


    -----------------
    A Satisfied Sony Fan Since 1974!


    .....The OCCC Furu-Charged Sony DB 930


    Sony H-9 MaxxPix

    [ This message was edited by: Maxxwire on 2011-09-25 06:20 ]


         
    mykyll2727

    Rank: Sony Pro


    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 4171
    From: Las Vegas

      Posted: 2011-09-25 08:55

    This McGowen's latest email. He suggests a couple of techniques, one of which Maxx suggested to me that I should get makers to let me do for them, should be employed by all audiophiles. While I feel that these techniques are valid, in fact I employ them myself, I find the gist of his post to be a cop-out. I feel that when one looks deeper than what is said on the surface that it helps to take the makers of audio gear off the hook. To me it fosters the status quo and because of that I find it insulting to the consumer.


    .Everything we appreciate about a high-end system is, of course, a sensory perception: mostly hearing but certainly feeling the sound as its vibrations move you as well.

    .We spend a lot of time enhancing the sonic performance aspects of our systems with hardware tweaks, but if we also recognize there are benefits to enhancing our personal sensory acuity as well, then the total high-end experience is heightened.

    .One easy way to enhance sensory perceptions is to turn the lights off or down low. This is something most every Audiophile is familiar with, but for those just entering into the fun, I thought it valuable enough to repeat.

    .Turning the lights down low when listening to your system enhances the experience because it allows more processing power to be allocated to our hearing center.

    .The brain is an amazing parallel processor – but it is limited – and it takes an extraordinary amount of processing resources to convert what our ears pickup into what we think of as sound. By turning off one of our 5 senses (visual) we get to apply all our resources to the other 4. This can lead to extraordinary audio sensations in the right environment.

    .External enhancements are available as well, like adding a subwoofer. The increased visceral impact of a good sub rattling your pant leg is a sensory enhancement all unto itself.

    .When you’re sitting down to enjoy your system, remember there are personal tweaks you can make that give a lot of enhanced performance to the music. Enjoy.


    I find the suggestion that the consumer needs to use "personal tweaks" to improve the performance of their gear lame. To me the implication is one needs to use hardware tweaks and improved sensory perception to improve on the SQ of the makers gear. IMO it's saying that the makers don't need to make it better themselves, that responsibility falls on the end user. It let's the makers off the hook. How about them just making it sound a whole lot better to start with. Then the hardware tweaks at least could well be unnecessary._mykl



      

    [ This message was edited by: mykyll2727 on 2011-09-25 09:22 ]


       
    Maxxwire
    Moderator
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    Rank: Sony Adept


    Joined: Aug 29, 2002
    Posts: 26074
    From: Portland, Oregon - USA

      Posted: 2011-09-25 16:15

    • Member Quote

    On 2011-09-25 08:55, mykyll2727 wrote:
    IMO it's saying that the makers don't need to make it better themselves, that responsibility falls on the end user. It let's the makers off the hook. How about them just making it sound a whole lot better to start with.




    _mykl- I apologize for not making my thoughts on the matter clearer. I have also been calling attention to the Poor Build Quality of High-End Audio Gear for many years here at Agoraquest and I have not changed that opinion. When my Tech had a $6,000 Audio Research D-400 power amp apart on his workbench I asked him why they would use over a dozen 50 cent Wima MKP caps in the power supply a 200 wpc Stereo power amp and his answer was an emphatic "to meet pricepoint".

    You are right they need to make the Audio equipment better themselves, but many of us want to have the kind of Audio playback that we can genuinely enjoy until the time comes that they do actually start doing that. And since I've been waiting over 4 decades to get a single piece of Audio gear that sounded perfect to me right from the factory which is why I have learned several techniques which can be used to realize its full level of performance to adapt it to be able to perform closer to my expectations in my personal listening space.

    I'm not trying to let the Audio equipment manufacturers off the hook, but rather trying to adapt to the compromised playback quality which their price-point limited gear has always had into having a sound quality that I can truly enjoy until they decide to finally get their acts together.

    ~Maxx~

    Sony H-9 MaxxPix


         
    mykyll2727

    Rank: Sony Pro


    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 4171
    From: Las Vegas

      Posted: 2011-09-25 16:55

    Maxx_I didn't say you were, I was saying Paul McGowen, and audio makers on the whole, were trying to free makers of the responsibility. The more I think on this the less I feel that they're going to get their acts together anywhere near any time soon and for two reasons. One is they themselves keep simply "tweaking" old technologies and two, they don't have to because of consumer (audiophile) apathy. IMO it's unreasonable to expect giant leaps forward in SQ when they continue to tweak tech that's decades, and depending how you look at it even centuries, old technology. Given that, "inches" in advancements is all one can expect and at best all one's going to receive._mykl


       
    mykyll2727

    Rank: Sony Pro


    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 4171
    From: Las Vegas

      Posted: 2011-09-25 20:53

     Perhaps the greatest irony, or even paradox, of my starting this thread is that my position is tantamount to "cutting my nose off to spite my face". The most expensive piece of audio gear I've ever purchased is at it's core based on decades old tech. Sure it has had circuit tweaks and benefits from modern uses of materials w/ regard to such things as wiring, caps, etc. but still at it's core it's tech that's 30-40yrs old and I look at it as a lifetime investment. Now I didn't buy it because I'm comfortable with the status quo. I did it because I'm betting that the status quo will continue for at least a few more decades. Now since I live in Vegas and I have some background in betting if I saw someone make a bet like that my intial reaction would be that it's a VERY bad bet. Afterall in this day and age, something truly great must be right around the corner. Just look at video. But what I'm really doing is betting the trend. This thread has convinced me even more that the trend will hold true. Consumer apathy will keep the staus quo in place. I plan on making a speaker upgrade again with a eye to it being a lifetime investment. Again I'm betting the trend. On the surface that would seem to me like an even worse bet. Now I'm talking tech that's older than I am. Something has to give, it can't hold the line that long. A true fool's bet. Yet there's a truism in betting: you can only be wrong once betting with the trend but you can be wrong countless times betting against it. I'm betting that the trend of the conditioned acquiescence of audiophiles to the staus quo will continue. I only see two ways that it'll change. That's by "accident" where some one invents something that proves to be a huge advancement while exploring tech in other areas, or by the audio makers coming up with something revolutionary themselves. The former does concern me, w/respect to the obsolescence of my gear, the latter does not. What motivation do the makers really have to truly revolutionize what they already have. All they have to do is tweak existing tech put a new face on it and perhaps make it good enough to compete with what's already out there. I.e. to come close to matching or perhaps by inches surpass the reference standard. IMO the only thing that will force the makers to come up with something revolutionary on their own is consumer demand. The prevalence of audiophile acceptance of the status quo won't motivate them to do it. Well at least that's what I'm betting on anyway. Only time will tell how long the trend lasts._mykl


       
    sterling1

    Rank: Sony Addict


    Joined: Nov 16, 2010
    Posts: 237
    From: Louisville, KY

      Posted: 2011-09-26 09:59

    I find today's HT experience to be a very satisfying one. I think, even with what could realized with a most modest budget,  a higher quality experience can be expected today than what would be possible with such a budget  when I got my first taste for Hi-Fi back in 1973. In fact, today's  discrete multi-channel audio recordings on SACD and BD, even when played on the least expensive  of today's equipment,  sound to me as being  very life-like. So, could it be that there is no better because we're already there?  If we cannot now answer is it live or is it Memorex perhaps we might want to explore other arenas where home improvements will make better living possible.

    [ This message was edited by: sterling1 on 2011-09-26 10:07 ]

    [ This message was edited by: sterling1 on 2011-09-26 10:14 ]


       
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