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tvr2500m's Main System
IP Address: Last Update: February 24, 2015 at 13:06:25
Amplifier: Downsizing and down to just one MV-75. And I'm selling this one.

- Pair of venerable Conrad Johnson MV75s used as monoblocks. These were tranformed sonically - for the better - by updates done by the affable and talented Bill Thalmann at Music Technology (Bill was employee #3 and 20-year engineering director at CJ). One of these I bought new when I was a kid. I'll never have the heart to sell it.

- Conrad Johnson Premier 12 monoblocks. Bought'em primarily 'cuz I like the way they look better than the MV-75s. And I wanted to compare the MV-75s to a later-designed, well-regarded tube amp like the Prem 12. I actually like the sonics of the updated MV-75s a bit better. Perhaps it's because the MV-75s are biased further into Class A operation? Don't know exactly but the MV-75s have a bit more of that live 'sparkle', though they're tougher on output tubes as a result of the biasing.

Then there're the tubes for the above amps - like way too many tubes. Shuguang KT88s and 6550s sound great, as do welded plate GEs and Sylvanias. For the small tubes in these amps, any 3-mica Sylvania or GE triple mica black plate 5751 is outstanding in the voltage amplifier position. For the 6FQ7/6CG7 drivers/phase splitters, flat plate, D-getter Sylvania, old shielded GE, and the ubiquitous GE with the filament bridge all sound great. There're a lot of good things being said about the New Sensor Gold Lion Reissues. I have had a mixed experience with these. I bought two quads. They had some issues - they showed some minor shorts and a couple ran host so that I couldn't bias them properly. One thought about going thermal, but I shut off the amp quickly enough that the tube didn't take itself, or anything else, out. I sent these quads back for an exchange and got back two quads that also showed similar problems. The unfortunate result of all of this is the first quad sounded phenomenal, the second, not as good. Not bad, very good, but not great.
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated):
Just sold my PV-12A...

Conrad Johnson PV-12A with a phono section. In the linestage I've found lots of tubes I really like. The mid-1950s vintage CBS/Raytheon 5814s are consistently good performers, as are OE RFTs. There's tube for every sonic occasion and whim, and I've got just about all of 'em. I've recently been enjoying the current production JJ framegrid and EI ECC82s. I think they sound pretty darned good. I'm pleased that there current production tubes that I think sound this good. I'm not longin' so much for vintage tubes.

I did revive my old vinyl rig and got to use the very fine phono section of this preamp. I like it. Seems to be doing the trick with Tungsram, Heerlen-made, JJ, Shuguang, or Sovtek LPS 12AX7s, an RCA black plate in the 12AU7 position, and an RCA two-mica black plate in the 5751 socket.
Speakers: Now have:

- Sound Dynamics RTS-3s
- Spica TC-50 and TC-50i
- Spica Angelus
- Polk RT-25i

- Magnepan MG-1.6QR - love'em, though I'd like more LF extension, and it would be nice if they weren't so imposing.

- Magnepan MMG. Really, a very nice value.

- Snell C/V. Taunts with great promise, which is why I keep them around, but I can't always get this speaker to work right. Talk about LF punch and extension! Exciting, dynamic speaker. The bass quality could be a bit taughter, but really the biggest issue for me is a clean, clear, but uninvolving, often forward and course, midrange. I've heard them characterized as "shouty."

- Green Mountain Audio Europa. From the first-order mind of Roy Johnson. Crystalline, distortionless clarity and lightning speed. Could use more LF extension.

- Spica TC-50. A great monitor; controversial, but I think worthy of the cult praise it's received over the years. Yes, phenomal soundstaging and imaging. They do sound similar to some Quads and the venerable LS3/5A. I have both the early and late models. They tend to have slightly veiled character, and aren't so extended in the LF. Designer John Bau had a nifty little speaker with these.

- Spica Angelus. After liking the TC-50s so much, I had to try these. I was hoping they'd be like the TC-50s, but with more bass. I'm a little disappointed. While they do some things better than the TC-50, overall I like the TC-50 better. I listened to xover-upgraded Angeluses and heard what I'm looking for. I'm going to try this with my pair and see if get comparable results.

- Sound Dynamics RTS-3. Cheap, cheap, and cheap. Did I mention these speakers are cheap? They have a nasty hump in the upper bass, but they sure do sound great!
CD Player/DAC: Using a Marantz VC-5200 changer. Planning to go computer served.

- Pioneer PD-65 Elite. I was late to digital and this was my first CD player. It looks nice, it's well made, it's been VERY reliable. It's now relegated to transport duty, which it performs admirably. We'll, after more than 15 years, the laser lens fell out onto the CD platter. Haven't fixed it yet.

- Marantz VC5200 changer. I pulled this from movie service to do transport work in my two-channel system with my Pioneer down. Works okay. Clunky mechanism, slow-to-respond interface. All that said, it does an okay job of audio and video for movies.

- Sonic Frontiers SFD-1 MkII. I've seen some bad words about this DAC. I think it's a good all 'rounder. On the used market it's a good value. It looks nice, it's well made, and it has that full-chassis heft and presence in the equipment rack. Giving this DAC a revisit some time ago, I found it to sound peculiarly lean. Downright anemic, in fact. I'm going to have to dig into this a little further sometime.

- Audio Alchemy DDE 3 w/ full Channel Islands mods; Monolithic MPS power supply. Still a nice set up all these years on, but falling behind. The CIA mods are a BIG step up from stock, and the big Monolithic powersupply is MUCH better than anything ever offered by AA.

- Channel Islands VDA-1 with VAC-1 power supply. Recently did some component swap upgrades with just great results - a fast diode rectifier bridge, some top-grade Blackgates, replaced the BB/TI OPA2132 with a single to dual Brown Dog BB/TI OPA627 board. Took this DAC from being a nice value to a serious heavy hitter contender. Stock I felt it was lacking in refinement and LF extension. With the component upgrades it gained an enormous amount of refinement.

- MHDT Labs Digital Dialogue 2.1 and 2.2. Both are simple, VERY affordable, non-oversampling, filterless/Kusunoki San-inspired Philips TDA1543 DACs from the 'kitchen table' of Jiun-Hsien Wu in Taiwan. Very nice parts quality. I know people have their favorite TDA DAC chip from this family, and their favorite way of employing it in a circuit, but with its single TDA1543 design I'm enjoying this DAC enormously. I wanted to try a non-os, filterless DAC and I jumped in with this one. I'm pleased. Overall I'd characterize this DAC's sonics as very 'natural'. It also does a very fine job of separating and layering instruments and vocals. Bass extension and definition are very good. The DAC has very nice tonal richness/bloom/density w/o sounding bloated or slow. Ultimately it may not be the most resolving or detailed, or neutral, and it may be just a bit shy on the high end and lack a bit of air, but overall it's very satisfying.

The Pioneer PD-65 is a low-jitter transport, even by today's standards. Perhaps there're other characteristics than just low jitter that make for a great transport, but after mucking around with other transports, some well-regarded and pricey, and different players used as transports, I've always had better results using a jitter filter than not using one.

- Audio Alchemy DTI Pro 32 with Channel Islands software update (active dithering chip); Monolithic MPS power supply. I like this flexible and versatile jitter filter best of all of them that I've tried.

- Sonic Frontiers Ultra Jitterbug

- Monarchy DIP 24/96. Really a very simple, small, rather inexpensive device that seems to make everything sound not worse, and usually better.
Turntable/Phono Stage: Almost 20 years ago, I packed up my analog rig and either had no audio system or listened to digital. Recently, I revived my analog kit and gave a re-listen to vinyl. Great stuff. The best audio experience I have now is with analog.

- JVC QL-50 direct drive, quartz lock controlled motor. Bought it when I was a kid 'cuz it was the most inexpensive armless turntable I could find. Still going after quite a few decades. Stuffed full of duct sealing compound. Opening it up to inspect the condition of the electronics, I found the two powersupply filter caps to have leaked and a broken PC mount fuse clip upright. So, the 'table is down for repair right now, as I install some fresh electrolyics and a new fuse clip.

I've got a few arms still floating around - a Grace 707 MkII in black, a first version Infinity Black Widow, and an ADC LMF-1. The Grace has been my front line arm for a long time. Simple, elegant, reliable, unfussy, and works and sounds great with Grado cartridges, which I have tended to really like.

- Grado. I've liked these for more than 30 years. Not fussy of loading, easy to set up, great results with modest gear, great value. I've been using an XF3E+ for while and I really like it. I recently bought a Prestige Gold but haven't set it up yet.

Phono Stage
- Conrad Johnson PV-12A. IME, CJ has always done a great job with analog, even in its most humble preamps. Word had it that PV-12A phono section was quite good. I found out just how good with my revisitation of vinyl. I've found a few tube complements that seem to the job I prefer and I'm looking forward to more vinyl listening when I get my turntable back on line again.
Other Source(s): Tuners

- Pioneer F-93. Described, though not reviewed, by TunerInfo.com as fiendishly complex and not great-sounding. Agreed with the first, though not so much with the second. I don't count on a tuner to be first-class source, but on the occasion of the all-to-rare high-quality broadcast, this tuner has sounded pretty darned good.

- Dynaco FM-3. I've only listened to it stock, after a "kitchen-table" alignment, and it sounded very nice. Tubby in the bass, but very nice. I've got the typical slate of updates and upgrades planned and in process. We'll see how it goes after these.
Other Accessories/Room/Misc.:
Speaker Cables/Interconnects: Speaker

- Kimber 4TC and 8TC

- Monster 2.4S biwire.

- AudioQuest Bedrock. I picked up two 8-ft pairs at a heftily discounted sale price. The price was attractive enough for me to purchase the cable just to try. In comparison, less "haze" than either of the above.

- Canare LV-77S and L-5CFB with Canare RCAs. I love this Canare stuff. Inexpensive and sounds great. FWIW, for digital interconnects Stereophile LOVES the Canare DigiFlex Gold, which is Canare's LV-61S digital coax. At least on paper, the LV-77S is the next step up in performance in Canare's line and is also a stranded conductor. Then the L5-CFB is a rating step up again using a solid condutor. I use these cables for digital and analog.

- Monster M1000i InterLink Reference

- Canare L-5CFB. Dig this stuff. Digital coax for analog, too. Inexpensive, nicely made and nice looking. Sounds good, too, IMO. It can be on the warmer sounding side in some systems.

- Zu, Zu, and more Zu.
Getting in on the Zu eBay promo efforts, early, I got really great prices on a bunch of stuff to try:
- OxyFuel analog interconnects
- Ash digital cables
- Wax speaker cables
- Xaus tonearm cable
I dig'em all. The analog interconnects I tend to prefer to the other types and brands I have on hand. For digital application, I really can't hear a difference between the Canare and Zu. Same with the speaker cabling - sounds similar to the AudioQuest Bedrock. But Zu has a nifty, retro'ish, hip-hop'ish, eclectic brand identity, and the products reflect this. Plus, customer service is excellent.
Other (Power Conditioner, Racks etc.): Salamander 5.0 rack
Room Size (LxWxH): 14 ft x 12 ft x 7
Room Comments/Treatments: No longer in the loft space. In a smaller room and using a nearfield set up. The room is acoustically very quiet.

I'm in loft space surrounded by 17 foot high ceilings. I've got large, reflective wall surfaces to deal with. For the first time, I'm going to have to employ acoustic treatments. Studying and gearing up for some DIY bass traps and panel absorbers, I built a handful of panel absorbers using SAFB. It turned an unlistenable room into perhaps the best acoustic environment I've ever sat a system, and myself in, in my own home. I do need yet to build some kind of bass/corner treatment.
Music Preferences and Comments:
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz, classical, rock, some pop
System Goals/Comments: Excellent soundstage and imaging, palpable presence, tonal quality, and texture, non-fatiguing to listen to for long periods of time. Technical simplicity and elegance. Oh, and soundstage image layering and depth! I mention soundstaging and imaging above, but I want to call this out/underscore this. When this is good that's when things get great; when some illusion of a z-axis happens, when the music feels/sounds 'round,' when you feel like you can look 'into' the music. Close your eyes, or better yet leave your eyes open, and you're present in the same space as the performers.
System Strengths: Well balanced, highly detailed, non-fatiguing, smooth, good imaging and soundstaging, particularly regarding strong sense of depth and palpable realism.
System Weaknesses: Low frequency extension, quality, and impact. Getting all of this together with the lowest octave - even something close to this - has been my biggest challenge.
Video/HT System: None
Other Interests/Hobbies/Occupation: I also like recreational automobile racing. I've been on the biz side of computing technology for long while now.

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