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|recycler27's delivers the goods System||
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|Last Update: December 10, 2003 at 13:28:36||IP Address: 22.214.171.124|
|Amplifier:||This system has been put together with the listening room as a starting point. We bought another house in 1995, and I had the opportunity to turn the "living" room into a dedicated listening room. My first action was to wallpaper the room with a textured vinyl for reduced sound reflectivity, then install double doors in the entrance so that I could isolate sounds from the rest of the house. (When we eat/entertain in the dining room across the hall, I can throw both doors open and enjoy some tafelmusik.) |
Then I started investigating loudspeakers. When I found a great bargain on a pair of great-sounding old B&W 801 speakers, I also learned that they required excellent amplification in order to produce excellent sound. So most of my choices for other components have been based on the room and the loudspeakers. The results have been terrific and the sound has gradually gotten better and better.
A so-called Baby Levinson amp. Musical, totally reliable. An uncomplaining transmitter of the musical signal. Always ready to play. Purchased new from local dealer in June 1996.
See my review posted on the Asylum.
Stock power cord (14 gauge shielded wire) upgraded with a Marinco 7215T hospital-grade plug and an aftermarket IEC.
|Preamplifier (or None if Integrated):||AUDIO RESEARCH LS3|
Versatile and transparent. Pots and switches have a great "feel." The switching and muting functions are silent (at the loudspeaker) and reliable. No glitches, no surprises, no unwanted sounds. Purchased new from local dealer in June 1996.
The unit required out-of-warranty servicing at ARC for a channel balance disparity, and was brought back to factory spec in March 2002.
Power cord upgraded by replacing the stock plug on the captive 16 gauge cord with a Marinco 7215T plug.
See "turntable" section below for information about two other preamps I use for their phono sections.
|Speakers:||B&W 801, Series 80 (Manufactured in 1979-83.)|
These speakers still sound great; they are extremely well made. The better the signal, the better they sound. Excellent long-term listening satisfaction.
I auditioned these at my local dealer and purchased them from him used in August 1995. When I showed up to close the deal, there was a guy in the store listening to MY speakers who wanted to buy them in the worst way! Fortunately, I already had a commitment to purchase them. And that guy could probably afford to spend four times as much as I did to get about the same sound quality....
Speaker positioning in my listening room was established with the Wilson Audio method of listening while a helper moves around the room repeating words and clapping hands. The speakers are symmetrically arranged with the tweeters 7' apart and I usually listen with my head about 6' to 7' from them for best imaging.
These speakers sound great anywhere in the room. Lie on the floor, too much bass; stand up, and hear reflections and anomalies from other surfaces. Get up and dance, and who cares! It's music and you move to it!
Contrary to popular opinion, the 801s really are smaller than a clothes washer; and, no, they are not as cute as R2D2. But they sound way better.
SENNHEISER HD580 headphones with a SENNHEISER DSP360 used as a headphone amp. It's a tacky-looking little thing, but it significantly improved the sound of the phones and simplified the system connections.
|CD Player/DAC:||Some of my favorite recordings are on CD. I want to play them frequently, and I want to hear everything the recording has to offer. So I must have a good digital front end. I haven't really cared about the "analog vs. digital" dispute for years. It's a moot point for me.|
THETA PEARL transport > MADRIGAL MDC2 digital interconnect(S/PDIF RCA) > PROCEED DAP converter
The Pearl transport performs flawlessly. It's designed around the Pioneer stable platter mechanism. Great build quality--like everyone else says, "Like a tank." I have always been underwhelmed with the cheapo remote control, but it does the job. Purchased the transport new from local dealer in August 1997.
The Proceed is a pre-owned unit, manufactured in late 1994. I purchased it through Audiogon in April 2002. First impressions: "It's shocking how much more natural, relaxed and involving CDs sound with this DAC. I am much more drawn into the musical performance, I can follow the various instruments better, the low-level details sound like natural ambiance, small cues add up to a more realistic presentation of the recording." Sounds like I copied this out of a magazine, but that's what I wrote in my journal. Like all Proceed components, it is very well designed and made. It's not the latest greatest thing, but I think it is destined to be a classic component.
My other combination is THETA PEARL > Belden 1695A/Canare cable > THETA PRIME.
The Theta Prime is a really nice old one-bit DAC. I first used it with my long-gone Rotel RCD-855 CD player, and the Prime did not make a huge improvement in sound quality. But when I partnered it with the Pearl transport, suddenly CDs were very listenable--most of the digital fatigue was gone! Recently (August 2002) I purchased a new digital RCA interconnect, and it brought out more musicality than I've ever experienced before with the two-Theta combination. I really lucked out when I tried this eighteen-dollar cable. The Theta is well built, and it's worth a lot more to me than I could get for it on the secondary market. So I'm holding on to it.
14 gauge Volex (Belden shielded cable) IEC power cords with ferrite clamps, Marinco 8215T plugs and aftermarket IECs.
|Turntable/Phono Stage:||Some of my favorite recordings are on LP. I want to play them frequently, and I want to hear everything the recording has to offer. So I must have a good analog front end. I haven't really cared about the "digital vs. analog" dispute for years. It's a moot point for me.|
AR/MERRILL table > AUDIOQUEST PT6 arm > GRADO GOLD cartridge > AQ Lapis interconnect > B&K PRO-10MC SONATA preamplifier used for its phono stage.
I purchased the AR table new from a local dealer in December 1983. I made modifications to it throughout the 1990s, first with some items from Audio Advisor and then with the upgrade paths provided by George Merrill at Underground Sound. This is still a beautiful table that extracts the music from the LP grooves.
Everything has been torn down and modified and rebuilt--mostly Merrill mods. All interior surfaces treated with damping sheets. Acrylic armboard, upgraded motor and pulley. Center and periphery clamps on acrylic platter. For ten years, I used the Merrill outboard power supply. This was a problematic unit; the speed control was defective and did not provide the stability that is so critical to high fidelity LP playback. I recently eliminated it from the system and put back a motor I had carefully stored that worked with the original turntable power switch. This is actually simpler and more convenient, and the speed stability makes a significant difference.
Another lesson I learned recently: make sure that the tonearm is firmly attached to its mounting hardware (in this case, on a suspended tonearm board.) I found that the allen mounting screw was just loose enough to degrade the sound output from the cartridge, although tight enough to hold the arm in place. When I discovered it was loose and tightened it, the sound snapped into focus immediately! Turntables are sensitive musical instruments; every detail of setup and maintenance can make a significant difference in sound quality.
Here is a mini-review of the GRADO PRESTIGE GOLD CARTRIDGE. I just purchased my second complete cartridge in February 2003. The first one I purchased about three years ago, and I was quite happy with it overall. On a continuum of musical-to-accurate, I would put the Gold on the musical side. Using my Shure test record (TTR-17, I think) I noticed that the voice was very lifelike, but the anti-skating test was raspier than other cartridges I have tested. The decisive thing for me was the consistent musicality of the signal the cartridge retrieved from the LP grooves. When my daughter accidentally damaged the stylus after about a year, I was very happy to realize that I could replace the stylus assembly for half the cost of a new cartridge. I had a difficult time getting the damaged stylus out of the cartridge; in doing so, I severely bent the cantilever. But the new stylus went in without a hitch, and the cartridge sounded good as new. I then played the cartridge for another two years. A month ago, I purchased and installed a new Grado Gold. It sounded good right out of the box, and was a decided improvement over the one it replaced, which was working properly; but to protect my large investment in vinyl, it was prudent to do so. Grado delivers the goods. The Gold is the best cartridge they make that has a user-replaceable stylus. I'd sure like to know what their higher-priced models would do in my system, but I'm happy with the analog performance offered to me by the Gold.
I have owned the B&K preamp since purchasing it new from a local dealer in February 1991. It served well as a nice stand-alone unit, and I have retained it as a back-up unit and phono preamp. Before I bought the Sonata, I compared it closely with the pre-Sonata PRO10-MC, and the Sonata version bettered it in every way--sound, build quality, looks. The dealer and I opened up both units for a side-to-side comparison, and the Sonata had the same basic circuit board layout, but a new board with all the traces and components further apart and better laid out. And the Sonata version had much better quality Tiffany-style RCA jacks on the back panel.
I also have an old KENWOOD L-07C preamplifier that I use as a phono preamp from time to time. It has a more colored sound, but it's involving and musical in its own retro way. And it is a very cool well-built component with great ergonomics.
|Other Source(s):||Cassette Decks:|
AIWA AD-F660 (3-head, single direction). This has been a very reliable and good-sounding unit with a very fast rewind speed. But the sound from the drive motor is constant and rather annoying. Still, I have gotten great value out of this unit. Purchased new by mail order in May 1985.
NAKAMICHI BX100 (2-head, single-direction). I adopted this unit in June 2002 at a garage sale; I couldn't resist buying it. I then took it to a local dealer who used to sell Naks and had the transport completely overhauled. After this was done, it turned out that one of the transport motors needed replacement, too, and the dealer split the expense of it with me because it wasn't part of the initial estimate. I spent more than I wanted to on the repair, but I got a great sounding, great looking deck out of the deal.
Tuner: AKAI AT-V04 (has both digital and analog tuning options!) Purchased new from a local dealer in May 1981. I listened carefully to a distant FM station recently, and used all of the unit's features to attain the best quality signal. The controls were useful and effective, and I got quite good fidelity listening to a broadcast of acoustic jazz recordings. The analog tuning option really is useful in dialing in a weak signal. This is another old component that has given great reliable service for over twenty years. The tuner is connected to the TV antenna that was left behind in the attic of the house when we moved in. The reception quality is fine.
I hardly ever use these, but my daughter does. She is still forming her musical tastes and wants to hear the latest things. She also likes to make cassette tapes, because she claims her friends' portable CD players sound awful, skip a lot, and break easily.
|Speaker Cables/Interconnects:||Audioquest Indigo speaker wire. Recently re-terminated with AQ silver spades. There is no provision for biwiring the B&Ws.|
MIT Terminator 2, Audioquest Ruby II, Kimber PBJ, Tara Paradox and Radio Shack Gold interconnects, listed in descending order of sound quality in my system.
|Other (Power Conditioner, Racks etc.):||Two dedicated 20-amp AC power lines with hospital-grade outlets.|
API POWER WEDGE 114
TARGET wall-mount turntable stand. Target amp stand. Custom-built component stand.
Loudspeakers are supported by 1.5" sandwich of kitchen-countertop fiberboard with TipToes spikes.
|Tweaks:||Sims Silencers on preamps; Black Diamond Racing Cones (#4) under power amp; ball bearings and brass cabinet knobs under transport; inverted cones under DAC; vibration damping sheets attached to sheet metal areas of components.|
Sound is vibration; if you can control extraneous vibration you hear more of the music and less masking noise. But you must tune by ear, as you would a musical instrument; keep an open mind and use your intuition.
Lately, I'm moving away from component isolation and towards component tuning. This is an ongoing process, but I usually just prefer to listen, not experiment.
|Room Size (LxWxH):||22 x 13 x 9|
|Room Comments/Treatments:||A dedicated listening room! The ability to control what's going on in the room is an important prerequisite to serious system setup and room tuning. The room and the setup is actually more important than the electronics.|
Lots of shelving with LPs, CDs and books; wall-to-wall carpeting with thick pad, thick 8x10 oriental rug. A beautiful patterned colorful rug is a great visual enhancement to the listening experience; of course, the rug also affects the sound of the room.
|Music Preferences and Comments:|
|Music Used (Genre/Selections):||jazz, rock, baroque, folk, reggae, blues, etc.|
Beatles, Eric Clapton (Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek & the Dominos, EC & Bands), Bob Marley, Richard Thompson, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Traffic/Steve Winwood, The Cars, Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Peter Tosh, Emmylou Harris, R.E.M., The Wallflowers, The Doors
Dexter Gordon, Joshua Redman, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Louis Armstrong, J. J. Johnson, Miles Davis.
Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi. Paul Galbraith, Julian Bream, Eduardo Fernandez, Lutz Kirchhof.
|System Goals/Comments:||A great sounding system; just needs routine maintenance. Keep all those connections clean: the electrical signal has a lot of hurdles to jump before it gets converted to music.|
|System Strengths:||The room is ready whenever I am ready. It's all about accessing the recording and reproducing it as well as reasonably possible. A bit more ritualistic routine is involved with playing LPs, but it's usually worth it. CDs are convenient to play and are sounding better than ever with recent upgrades.|
|System Weaknesses:||I keep thinking I should DIY all new interconnects. There is so much conflicting information about what to do about this. |
My daughter competes with me for listening session time.
|Video/HT System: None|
|Other Interests/Hobbies/Occupation:||Bicycles and bicycling, reading and writing, calligraphy and font development.|