Description

This is my music system which has been evolving for over 30 years.

Have had many different components of many styles. Have learned that synergy is everything and you have to trust your ears, not reviews.

Also I've had had these systems in over half a dozen listening rooms. I've spent many hours working on room treatments and setup and believe the room is the most important component.

Vinyl is spinning about 70% of the time (Used to be 90% vinyl, but digital changes have been a big improvement). After relocating to Austin, TX and getting the room optimized, now working on rebuilding the analog side of the system, having sold tt, arm, carts & phono stage prior to the move. 

Previous pieces & systems included:

BAT VK150SEs & Silverline LaFolias, Nola Viper Reference III (with Lamm & BAT monoblocks), Acarian Alon V mkiii , Merlin VSM-MX, Atma-Sphere MA1mkII.2, Atma-Sphere MP3, Herron VTSP1a-166,

JouleLA150, Pentagon PH3, CAT SL1MkIII,

CaryRocket88/SLP2002/QuadsESL63USA

AvalonRadians/SpectralDMA180 & DMC20II/Meridian508

BATvk5i & vk60/Von Schweikert vr4.5II

Chario Academy1/Air Tight ATM1

VTL ST80/ Acarian AlonII

Thiel 3.6 / Krell KSA 50

Vandersteen 2ci / Sunfire amp

VPI TNT6HR w/12.7 arm, van den Hul Colibri XGP,   Nottingham Spacedeck/Spacearm, Shelter 501
MacMini running Audirvana+ , too many CDs players & DACs to remember or care about

Technics SP10mkII, EPA250 arm, SH-B3 obsidian base, custom 4kg ss mat, running with Signet 111E and Goldbug Clement II cartridges, Aqvox 2CI balanced phono stage
Read more...

Room Details

Dimensions: 23’ × 15’  Large
Ceiling: 10’


Components Toggle details

    • Sound Lab A3
    Electrostatic Loudspeakers 
    Vintage A3s in oak
    • Krell FPB-300
    Solid State Amp
    • Balanced Audio VK51SE
    balanced linestage
    • Sota Nova Vacuum Series VI with Eclipse(Phoenix Engr. designed) Motor Controller
    Awaiting delivery of the new Series VI Nova table spring suspension turntable with vacuum hold down system, mag lev platter/bearing, Eclipse motor controller(designed by Phoenix Engineering) and Reflex clamp!
    • Dynavector DV-XX2 mkII
    moving coil cartridge
    • Nagra BPS
    battery powered phono stage
    • Schiit Audio Gungnir Multibit
    DAC 
    Damping/Isolation mods by Mike Patrick
    • Sonore microRendu
    Audio Streamer/Renderer (Ethernet > USB)
    • Ecco Audio Custom Linear Power Supply
    7V, 2A linear power supply for microRendu. Hand built to spec by Vince DiNenna.
    • Synology DS415+
    NAS with two 4TB drives for now...
    • Spin Planet Custom Amp Stands
    Maple amp stands with Eden Sound brass Bear Paw radiused footers
    • DIY Slipknot & Sbank Maple Madness Rack
    PerfectPlank Maple 1 7/8, McMaster-Carr Brass hardware
    • Custom Room Treatments
    Designed and framed by Sensible Sound Solutions. Assembled and upholstered by me using Guilford of Maine acoustical cloth.
    • SpinPlanet Custom Wood Diffusors
    BBC style QRD diffusors handmade of solid pine on 24" birch plywood base. Hand made in Delaware, USA.
    • Purist Audio Design Aqueous Speaker Cables
    State of the art from back in the mid 1800s or so.
    • Audience Power Cable
    PC w/adjustable floating polarity option
    • Cerious Technologies Graphene Matrix Balanced cables
    Balanced cables dac-to-preamp
    • Mogami 2534 Interconnects
    Mogami Neglex 2534 quad cable w/ Neutrik XLRs 20' pair amps-to-preamp
    • Walker Audio Valid Points
    resonance control devices
    • PS Audio Juice Bar II and Juice Bar
    8 outlet & 6 outlet power strips
    • Symposium Rollerblock Series 2
    Acoustic Coupling Devices
    • DH Labs Ceramic Cones
    vibration damping devices
    • ERS Paper RFI/EMI Control
    ERS paper to fight airborne RFI/EMI
    • Vinyl Stack Ultrasonic Record Cleaner
    Paired with a 10L 40hz Ultrasonic tank and following the formulas and process suggested in @rushton's thread and www.positive-feedback.com  article.
    • Eden Sound Terrastone Footers
    Terrastone Bearing Isolation Footers under preamp and DAC.
    • van den Hul The First Ultimate Mk II
    Carbon interconnects (phono stage to preamp)
    • Harmonic Technology Crystal Silver Phono
    DIN to RCA phono cable

Comments 230

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Center
Owner
Well, I sold the Lamms. So I guess it's time to rename the system. Any suggestions? Some of my friends call it "The Sound Lab Lab." My wife calls it "The Twin Towers."

sbank

Center
Owner
Hi Chris,
Thanks for your suggestion I will check it out. 
Here's the story on why the change...Many friends have fallen in love with my Sound Labs when they hear them. One told me months ago that he will want to get some someday. His CJ MF2500 came over and we quickly decided that it wasn't up to driving the SLs. He replaced it with a Krell KSA250 partially based on my comments about great combos of Krell KSA and Apogee electrostatics that I've heard many times. He is ready to order SLs and brought the KSA-250 over to confirm the match w/the A3s. Well I knew it would be decent but didn't expect it to be as good as it was. Bass and spacial performance were uncanny. Lamms were superior in top end timbre but it was much closer than I expected. Overall the Krell created lots of goosebumps and positive surprises. I did notice that experimenting w/couple of power cables did make a noticeable difference in smoothness and detail in treble and upper mids. (My Transparent Super was a good match). At less than half the cost of the Lamms, I decided to reduce my investment in the system, and make the change. My take is that FPB series betters the KSAs and are a few years younger. I was fortunate to find one recently recapped and being shipped directly from Krell after a checkup with arrival next week. Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
Just sold my Lamm M2.1 monoblocks and bought a Krell FPB-300 stereo amp which should be arriving in the next week. Looking for a 20amp power cable to use with the Krell.

sbank

Center
Owner
Added a custom made 4.2kg stainless steel platter mat 8mm tall which besides the benefits of the additional mass allows wider range of VTA adjustment. 
Also awaiting arrival of another cartridge, a vintage Goldbug Clement II mc.

sbank

Center
Owner
Dave, thanks. If you ever visit Philly area and want to come by you are always welcome here.

sbank

Center
Owner
Added a Micro Seiki ST-10 Record Stabilizer

sbank

Center
Owner
@shadorne Yes, JGH had the A3s as his reference for many years. One of my favorite writers of all time. Thanks for your kind words.

@dentdog The Aqvox can provide 75db balanced, how much more gain are you going to find elsewhere? If you ever get near Philly, you are welcome to come for a listen. 

Just added pics of my Ultrasonic cleaning setup following inspiration and guidance from @rushton 's great article in Positive Feedback and here. 

sbank

Center
Owner
Added a few Shunyata Research Venom 3 power cables. 

Sold the Technics cartridge that came in a package with my SP10. Spending time tweaking setup of the Signet and Satin cartridges in various headshells.

sbank

Center
Owner
Added Yamamoto Soundcraft Boxwood headshell and Jelco magnesium headshell to use with the Signet and Satin cartridges.

sbank

Center
Owner
 Test post 11/23 @ 1:33pm EST

sbank

Center
Owner
Going to be comparing a pile of borrowed record weights, clamps and a few platter mats on the new SP10mkII. Any learnings on these topics is appreciated.

sbank

Center
Owner
Adding a trio of cartridges of older vintages: Satin 21B, Signet 111E and Technics EPC-205mkII.

sbank

Center
Owner
Awaiting delivery of completely refurbished and restored Technics SP-10mk2, which includes a fully reconditioned and calibrated SP-10mk2 deck, SH-10E power supply, EPA-250 tonearm with original Technics tonearm cable, EPC-205 II cartridge with a brand new Jico stylus, and the SH-10B3 base. Also adding a couple of cartridges, a rare vintage Satin 21B and a Signet 111E. 

Plenty of experiments coming with footers, platter mats, record weights. Future will bring possible plinth changes & tonearm rewire...Ideas welcomed on all these. Cheers,
Spencer


sbank

Center
Owner
VPI TNT6HR, 12.7 arm are sold. van den Hul Colibri XGP is heading to VDH in Netherlands for service check/confirmation and will be sold on eBayUK shipped from Netherlands.
Time for something new...drumroll...I mean, old. 

sbank

Center
Owner
Nolas are sold. I was fortunate to find a great deal on the Sound Labs and to have amps that are up to the challenge. For those with the room for tall electrostatics and amps to drive them, I haven't heard their equal.

sbank

Center
Owner
Thanks, Jeff. I've heard the Lamm phono stage and agree with your comment. Maybe someday... :-)

sbank

Center
Owner
Added handmade BBC style QRD wood diffusors at the back corners of the room where the walls meet the ceiling.

sbank

Center
Owner
Added Ecco Audio custom linear power supply by Vince DiNenna to power the Sonore microRendu. It is taking performance to an obscenely high level, especially in terms of value for price. Digital sound quality is now staggeringly better than ever. 
Visitors have been uttering phrases like "spooky, lifelike, uncanny, & real".

sbank

Center
Owner
Sound Lab A3 Electrostatic Loudspeakers up and running. They really are amazing in many ways. I feel fortunate to have them. IMO, the key to getting good sound with large panels is plenty of power and plenty of room. These just seem perfectly sized for this room, and the Lamms are up for the job. 
Goosebumps! 

sbank

Center
Owner
Adding Sound Lab A3 Electrostatic Loudspeakers en route to me shortly. Expecting plenty of setup tweaking will be needed to get the most out of them. Excited to to give them a try, as I've always been a fan but until recently didn't have the right amplification to pull it off. Advice welcome!

sbank

Center
Owner
Adding Sonore microRendu streamer/renderer and a custom linear power supply to replace MacMini running Audirvana+. Will use DLNA output mode and run Lumin as control point app on my iPads and BubbleUPNP on my Android phones. 

Very excited about this potentially game-changing component. I've been reading about its development for some time now, and finally scheduled to receive it as one of the initial purchasers in a long closed waiting list. I am not the type to jump on as guinea pig with new designs often, but everything about this product and design team made a huge impression on me. Listening experience with others' Sonore products helped too. Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
Added a Synology DS415+ NAS drive with a pair of 4TB Western Digital Red drive units. Wiring with Blue Jean Cable CAT6A to both router and Mac. Will make the new NAS primary digital library location using Lacie HDD as another local backup which I'll keep in another location. 

RAID not reliable as backup, cloud services too slow for any large collections...so let's make backups & let's be careful out there! 

sbank

Center
Owner
Ddriveman,
Thank you. Why don't you listen to the LA300ME first, share your thoughts and then I'll tell you what I thought were the stengths/weaknesses of the LA150. Would hate to bias your experience. 
I knew Jud and can tell you that the ME, a tribute to his wife, was a piece of special importance to him. He put a lot of love into it! enjoy,
Spencer 

sbank

Center
Owner
Schiit's in the house! Breaking it in now...psyched.

sbank

Center
Owner
Adding a Schiit Audio Gungnir Multibit DAC to replace the Oppo 105D. Although the Oppo is a great all-around player, I was not taking advantage of the great video performance, etc. As a stand-alone DAC, the Gumby crushed the 105D in my rig thanks to a friend who brought his over for a comparision. 
My next move will be to upgrade from the 2009 Mac Mini to another renderer. 
Improvements in digital audio continue to amaze in terms of sound quality and value. 
Still favoring analog, but the differences are far less than years ago. Couple that with a large collection of digital recordings of live concerts and I am enjoying digital more than ever.  

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Adding Schiit Audio Wyrd and 2 Audioquest Carbon USB cables between the Mac Mini server and the Oppo DAC.

sbank

Center
Owner
Hi Steve,

Great to hear from you! You are welcome to come by for a listen anytime.

Each time I roll tubes I am again inspired by your fastidousness. Think you'll enjoy hearing the Bugle Boys in the Lamms, et al.

I've been playing with some headphones the last few years, too. PSBs M4U1s serving me well now.

Philly Area Audio Group is doing great, although I must admit my bias, as I was recently elected President.

Send me a PM or email ([email protected]) so we can plan to get together and catch up.

sbank

Center
Owner
It's all relative. From my perspective, the Darkside is reel-to-reel!

sbank

Center
Owner
Both sound good as long as accompanied by a nice chianti.

Let's skip the Fine Young Cannibals jokes...

sbank

Center
Owner
Scott, thanks. I love the album cover on your system page! Is that really your mom?

Albert, that is pretty funny. :-) That makes the player an alleged killer. Perhaps we can make a tweak out of fava beans on the side. Hope all is well.

sbank

Center
Owner
Thanks, Ray. Glad to see your Supratek is still doing the job. I've had many fun hours over the years listening to one in Slipknot's rig.

sbank

Center
Owner
Ebm,
Thanks for the kind words. Is your system posted, & under what name? Looks like system threads don't appear nowadays when you click on a userid and look at their threads. Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Added pic with new setup on short wall. Deeper soundstage and better LF. Worth the effort!

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Updated a bunch of cable changes and tweaks

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Updated with pics of Aqvox & custom amp stands.

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Just added an Oppo BDP-105 to use mostly as DAC fed by Mac Mini, connected to my 2 TB network drive. Trying it initially with Audirvana Plus software. Setup was easier than expected. Listening to Wilco - The Whole Love in 24/96 FLAC high-rez right now. Toe-tapping bits, who'da thunk it?

sbank

Center
Owner
Bigamp,

Thanks, I'm having a lot of fun listening on it.

Just got my van Den Hul Colibri back today from the Netherlands, as A.J. does a free tune up after 300 hours of use. So now the frequency response should measure perfectly flat.
Spent about 12 tries adjusting the azimuth until I got it dead on with the Fozgometer(great tool!). Just now settling in with first couple of LPs and enjoying it immensely.

See my comments on your system thread....Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Updated Pics in my 110 year old listening room. Listening to the new Jimi Hendrix release while pics were taken. He never ceases to amaze!

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Lamm M2,1s & Nola Viper Reference IIIs...Here we go! Cheers, Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
Bill,
Sorry for slow reply, not much Agon time lately.

No problems with 2" planks from perfect plank. Later did amp stands with 2 7/8" perfectplank. 5 coats of tung oil, that's it....

Shindo preamps all are single-ended and prefer short cable runs. I have balanced amps, want to avoid adaptors and in my old place needed long cable runs. I also like the Shindo sound. Best,

Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Adding a Van den hul Colibri XGP to replace the ZYX. Very excited. Thanks to all those who helped me choose, including Rauliruegas, Slipknot1 and [email protected] Cheers, Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: My ZYX cartridge is no more. A panel fell off the wall hit the tonearm, and the stylus got trashed. Contemplating alternatives now, including new, used and a Soundsmith retip. Thanks to my friend, slipknot1, I am borrowing an Allnic Verito Z from him for a while. Here's a tip of the hat to slipknot1! Cheers, Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: New amps and preamp, new room, new balanced cables, things are happening. New stuff will be up and running in the next week or so...

sbank

Center
Owner
Hi Dave,

My departure from the MA-1s weren't due to any problems with them. I had to downsize my system economically, and that led me to sell my Merlins. Once I found the Alon Vs, the question became what amps were best match for them. I also knew I would soon be moving to a smaller place, and the heat of the MA1s was likely to be an issue in the smaller space. That all led me to the Dehavillands, which have been known to be particularly synergistic with Nolas and Alons. Going from 28 output tubes to 2 had it's side benefit heatwise.
As for your question about how many speakers...before the Merlins, that's not what happened. I had the Merlins first with the Berning, and made the move to the Atmas. The Merlins were good with many amps, but the MA1s were my favorites with them. If Joule vzn100s were in my price range, I would have given them serious consideration as well.
If you are looking for speaker ideas to use w/the Atmas, call Ralph. He knows the stories of all his customers, and is very interested in helping you get what you are after. Best,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
Hi Samhar,

Sorry haven't checked this thread and didn't see your questions until now.

I am hearing them in different rooms so it's tough to say for sure. They both have the famed Dynaudio Esotar tweeter, but I believe each have been spec-ed slightly differently for each manufacturer. The LaFolia have a rear-firing woofer and a 4-way design, so bass is presented very differently than with the Merlin's 2 way, front-ported design. They are both very easy loads to drive, although IMHO the Merlins sound best with an OTL amp, just very synergistic. In my new room, the LaFolias throw a huge stage thru back wall and far left & right of the speakers. The Merlins did the same in the old room.
Big dynamics and moving lots of air are probably strengths of the LaFolias relatively speaking. The Merlins might have a tad more detail and clarity in the mids, but that might just seem that way due to a more tipped down tonal balance. Remember both these speakers have gone thru various iterations. My comments only reflect my own gear, and my memory. Hope this helps.
Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Just added 3 LessLoss DFPC power cables and sold the JPS AC+. Also updated system description to reflect changes in my listening space. Photos to come one of these days...

sbank

Center
Owner
Thanks, Mitch.

I hope you are enjoying your new Proacs, and look forward to seeing & reading more updates on your system. Regards,

Spence

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Speakers are now going to Silverline LaFolias. I have just moved into an 1890s era factory converted to modern apartments.No more dedicated room, but plenty of angled walls, exposed timber beams, etc. should provide some interesting acoustical challenges. Photos to come...

sbank

Center
Owner
Hi Mac,

All the brass parts for my rack came from McMaster-Carr. One of my posts further back in this thread, a couple of years ago, has a detailed parts list with part#, etc. from McMaster-Carr. FWIW, I've heard that brass prices have significantly increased since I did my project. One suggestion, not obvious from the photos: make the top shelf large. Mine is 22"deep, allowing for the TNT6 without concern. I drilled the holes so that it is centered, creating about a 2" space behind all the lower shelves(which are 18"deep). This makes room for all cables. Good luck, Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
Hi Dfhaleycko,

Interesting question you pose. I'm not sure that I regret any of the changes I've made, but it would have been fun to hear the Avalon Radians with the Atma-Sphere MA1 amps. I had always thought that you need ss amps to drive Avalons, until I heard Rushton's rig, including Avalon Eidolons and Atma MA2s.

As for the digital, since I am using the TriVista21 tube dac w/the Squeezebox, I think I'm getting performance close to what the modded Transporter can do, except for the native hi-rez. However, it still doesn't rival my analog rig, and I still expect it stay about 80%vinyl, 20%digital for me.We'll see... Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Added a Squeezebox 3 wireless music server, which I'm feeding into the TriVista21 dac. Fun and convenient. Surprising good sound at a modest cost. With a couple of 1TB drives for storage on the computer, my digital library is bound to grow. For serious listening, analog still is my choice...

sbank

Center
Owner
Hi Mitch,

I've been having a good time dialing everything in. Always learning more. Curious to chat about your contemplated changes, etc. Best,
Spence

sbank

Center
Owner
Glenn,

You are welcome to by for a listen anytime, send me an email anytime you'd like.

We seem to be missing each other at the various Philly group meetings; it's been a while! Nobody else is too happy when I break out the Clash LPs ;-)

Hope all is well,
Spence

sbank

Center
Owner
Hi Dawg,

If you are on a noisy power grid, the Dodd has definite advantages. Sonically, I am finding improvement and ability to tweak the sound based on tube rolling. The Herron sounded best w/stock tubes, and any quiet tube sounded relatively the same. Both are more similar than different sounding, and I recommend them both strongly. Never had a chance to hear the Herron 2 or 3.
The Dehavilland amps sound much more powerful than 30w/ch would suggest. You might be surprised at what speakers they can drive. They combine a subtlety and power that I find rare. Having more fun with them every day. They really draw you into the music. Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
Recently rolled the tubes in my Dodd preamp, with a pair of Tungsrams replacing the ei's. Result: increased transparency particularly in the mids and treble. Dodd owners, give them a try if you get a chance...

Still looking for a power cable for the Trivista 21 dac, which is proving to be quite enjoyable. Pondered whether or not to try some other players as transports, but haven't been convinced that it's worth the money or effort vs. what's on hand now. Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
Hi David,
Keen eye. In the center of that photo, I happen to have a pair of Trelja's Consonance Cyber 800's that I borrowed, as well as my amps.

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: New photos added. Grover Huffman speaker cables arrived today. Music is back after a quiet week.

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Updated system description, and added recent tweaks. New photos to come shortly.

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Well, big changes now almost completed. Picked up a Musical Fidelity TriVista 21 DAC and Stereovox XV2 digital cable, which I'll try with both the modded Sony and the Pioneer Elite as transports. I might actually start sitting in the room when CDs are playing. Will be picking up a power cable for use with the dac soon. The Merlins have been sold, and I'll be silent for a week or so, while I await Grover's tri-wire cables to hook up the Alon V's. The bi-wire Cardas Golden Ref will have to be sold. If anyone is wondering, the speaker change was driven by economics, as I've been very happy with the Merlins and the continue to recommend them to many.

sbank

Center
Owner
Goldeneraguy,

Thanks for your comments. Yes, the Aries 845G is a beautiful sounding amp. You'd think it is much more powerful than 30w, and it drives the Merlins well, even in my large room. Wish I could keep them.
Kara has been very helpful with my questions, no doubt. Take care,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
Alfa,

Sorry, I haven't responded to your question until now. Although I like the Belles amps, haven't heard his preamps. As for the Dodd, it continues to impress greatly. Just the quietest blackest background ever. It really lets the other gear shine through. Easy to live with, and looks great. I can't imagine anything close in price beating it.

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Just added Dehavilland Aries 845G monoblock amps to the system. At first listen, they are very impressive, and sound great with the Merlins. Unfortunately, I have to sell the Merlins for financial reasons, and will be going to Alon V's which at their price, should be hard to beat. Need to buy tri-wire speaker cable and power cables for the amps, thinking about JPS AC+ PCs, and GroverHuffman speaker cables or Nola Blue Thunder. Suggestions appreciated.

sbank

Center
Owner
Alfa,

So far, I am very impressed w/the Dodd preamp. It's the quietest tube pre I've ever heard. Jet black backgrounds, and not subject to the EMI/RFI hash that plagues many others in my environment near huge radio tower. It's beautiful and well-constructed. Wish I had the $ to try rolling all the top tubes that I've heard elsewhere and read about.
Honestly, at its asking price, I think it has no real competition. I'm done thinking about preamps for a long time. In my system, the Herron is the only one that comes close. Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Added some new photos...

sbank

Center
Owner
Hi Gary,

The Dodd & Herron are very similar in nature, they both pretty much disappear. I don't have very many hours of listening yet on the Dodd, so take my comments w/grain of salt, but so far...
jet black background, very good at dynamic contrasts, good tonality. Soundstage might not be as deep with the Dodd, but definitely as wide with equally good imaging.
The Dodd wins hands down as far as looks; the woodworking is beautiful. The Herron has good fit/finish, but is sort of plain looking, nothing fancy or eyecatching.
If it matters, the Dodd has a nice matching remote that mechanically rotates the volume knob. The Herron has no remote.
I have heard & like the Dehavilland Mercury2, but be sure to check impedance match compatibility before you buy one. Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
Mark,

Thanks for your comments and suggestion. I will be happy to try some Nordost if I get a chance. I agree that the Valhalla took quite some time to break in and did sound bright at first, but now I'm really liking the improvment in the tonearm and wiring.
Congrats on your new amp. Curious to hear what speakers you choose. I heard ASR amps in many rooms at CES a few years ago, and they were run w/quite a variety of speakers.
Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Just picked up a Dodd Battery-Powered preamp and sold my Herron VTSP1/166a. After all the RFI/EMI noise issues here, the opportunity to use a battery preamp has much appeal. Upon initial listen, it is very promising. I the the review on 10audio.com is pretty much spot on. The Herron is an amazing preamp, especially in its price range, but I have been wanting to try the Dodd since its introduction, and I figured its a good time to make the move.

sbank

Center
Owner
Pantherdude,

I did get mine from McMaster-Carr. Seems like brass pricing has increased significantly lately.

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Added two sets of Symposium Rollerblock 2 isolation devices for use under the Vendetta phono stage and the Herron line stage. Thanks to member, Cello for turning me on to these! They bring a noticeable improvement.

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Just upgraded to a JMW 12.7 tonearm w/Valhalla wiring and adjustable fluid damping. I'm wondering if I should expect a break-in period for the wiring. It sounds great right out of the box, and I've barely begun tweaking VTA, VTF etc. Also have on its way the Hovland Music Groove 2 phono cables, which I'll compare to the Cardas Golden Reference.

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Just picked up an Audience Power Cable to try on the Herron line stage in place of the VH Flavor 2. Initial listening (CD only) reveals a very lively, dynamic sound with perhaps more bottom end emphasis. It really grabs your attention. Will try this cable for next few weeks and then try the VH again to decide what's the best fit.

sbank

Center
Owner
Hi Sdatch,

It's pretty impressive.
While it's looks are sort of, um...plain, and nothing sexy about it, the sound is hard to knock. It calls little attention to itself. In fact, I have a hard time describing its sonic character. It just seems to quietly get out of the way. I can't say I'm in love just yet, but she's got potential. With most of my listening to it via the Vendetta phono that's still breaking in the new teflon caps, I really shouldn't be judging much for a couple of hundred hours of playing time.
I've used it so far just w/the stock tubes, which Keith swears are the best bet. Most everyone who's rolled, has gone back to the Sovteks, which counters my personal experiences with Sovteks in other applications.
For the price, I think the Herrons are a pretty great value. Fit, finish, and internal build quality all appear first rate.
Come have a listen anytime. Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

Center
Owner
System edited: Recently received my Vendetta phono stage back from John Curl after updating to latest version including teflon caps. Had to sell the Atma-Sphere MP3, as I couldn't afford to keep everything. Using the Herron line stage with the Vendetta. Still breaking in, but so far very promising. I think I've finally licked the intensive RFI problems that I've been battling for years now. It sucks living next to a radio tower!

sbank

Center
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Hi Mitch,
I'm listening to the Herron VTSP-1A/166 and the Vendetta Research phono stage. The Monbrison looks very interesting; I've read much about it, but never got a chance to hear any of the Shindo gear. When I heard the LL2 in a friends' rig, it didn't pair very well w/his Classe Omega/Eggleston/Wadia system, but that isn't going to help you much.
I won't be able to attend HE, but many members of the Philly Area Audio Group will be there. You really need to meet them sometime. Best,
Spencer

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Hi Ozzy,
Well, the K&K did manage to avoid the RFI troubles that I've been fighting. OTOH, it wasn't that great a fit with the rest of the system, so I sold it(quite easily!). For all the positives written about it, compared to the Joules, CAT and Atma-Sphere, the sound in my system had "little meat on the bones", and was tonally on the dry side.

I'm currently auditioning another phono stage of legendary status and another tube linestage. After I get a better handle on things, I'll post about that. Cheers,
Spencer

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System edited: Added a VH Flavor 2 w/gold Furutechs to try w/my preamp. We'll see how it sounds...

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Stltrains,
Thanks, I built that rack with parts from McMaster-Carr, Audiopoints and maple from perfectplank.com. One of the posts above has the whole parts list. If you pursue and have any questions feel free to email me. Cheers,
Spencer

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Hi Larry,
Bobby sent the woofers to me and I installed them with help from my pal, Badboss429.
They will take a significant amount of play time to break in, and I'm less than halfway there, so not really listening critically yet.
With all the tubes, etc. I'm reluctant to leave the rig on unattended for long periods. At times like these and old receiver would come in handy for burn-in assistance. Will post more later...Best,
Spencer

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System edited: Recently upgraded to lead-free MXe woofers in my Merlins. Breaking them in now. Also deleted my now dead Omega Mikro power cable. Too expensive to repair, a waste of money IMO. A pathetic value prop. Too bad it sounded so nice while it worked.

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Lobnik,
Thanks. You system and room are pretty amazing. You obviously have given great thought to room interaction, and taken some well thought-out steps to get the most from your excellent components. I've always wanted to get a chance to hear the Kuzma airline setup in a great room and system like yours. Cheers,
Spencer

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Hi Chad,
The ring clamp is worthwhile sonically. Is it worth ~$600, I dunno. It eliminates warped records as an issue entirely. As a used record hunter, that's nice. Sonically, it helps mostly with tightening the bass. If you are in a lazy mood, it can be placed on the platter under the record, too. The mass supposedly helps with rotational stability, etc.
The Walker motor controller is great. Lloyd gives trial period & full refund; you've got nothing to lose if you demo it. It comes w/KAB strobe included. My speed is 100% spot on all the time.
The Juice Bar I added simply because I needed the outlets, and a friend had one for sale. Can't really say how good it sounds or not. My gut says it doesn't do much. You are welcome to come by for a listen sometime. Email me offline if you want to arrange something. Cheers,
Spencer

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System edited: Added photos of new amps, stands, and reconfigured room.

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System edited: Just added a pair of custom made tiger maple amp stands from Timbernation. Also, been rolling tubes in the Atma preamp. Settled on best of what I've heard so far; KenRad 6SN7 drivers paired with Brimar 13D5s for the line stage. Next move will be a power cord upgrade for the preamp. Suggestions? Thinking about a Black Sand Violet w/Oyaide 046s, another Silent Source, or perhaps Omega Micro if I can find one used. Suggestions? Cheers, Spencer

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Swampwalker,
Thanks. They are pretty amazing. It's nice to be able to have the room for the monoblocks.
Lately, I've been rolling tubes in the Atma preamp, and finding that it dramatically affects the sonics, moreso than w/other tube preamps that I've used. So far a combo of Ken-Rad 6SN7s and Brimar 12au7s has been the best in my room. Cheers,
Spencer

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Hi Larry,

The decision on the ZYX was based on conversations w/Mehran, John Bent at Bent Audio and some audio friends here & elsewhere. Basically, I wanted to avoid adding a stepup tranny, and the .48 version allowed me to do that with the preamp/phono combos that I'd been considering. The Atma-Sphere MP3 allows for a Jensen stepup option (recommended w/carts below .3), but for now I'm okay w/o it.
The MA1s are quite remarkable in many respects. Tonality and transparency especially. I still need to do some tweaking on the preamp side(tubes and power cable) before I make too many comments.

Rushton, thanks for your suggestions! I have Lloyd's amp stands on my wishlist, but doubt that I can swing that right now. Currently I am considering something like Timbernation stands and adding Walker Valid Points on the amps themselves.
Perhaps another Silent Source PC for the preamp, too...Cheers,
Spencer

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System edited: Sticking with the Atma-Sphere MP3; sold the K&K phono stage. Possibly of interest to anyone who's heard my tale of RFI woe, the combination of all balanced cabling and the Atma gear have eliminated the problem. One key was adding the balanced junction box to the VPI. Next moves are new power cable for the preamp, rolling the 12au7 & 6SN7s, and getting some amp stands for the MA1s. Suggestions are welcomed...Cheers, Spencer

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System edited: Just added two Silent Source power cables to use w/the MA1s. Still need to decide on what power cable to try with the MP-3.

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System edited: Just added some photos. Awaiting arrival of recently purchased amps & preamp. It's quiet here for a change :-(

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Ozzy,
That, my friend, is the $64,000 question.
The K&K is very good, and killer at its price point. Any DIYers out there would be crazy not to consider it; the kit option makes it an even better value. Cheers,

Spencer

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System edited: Just made a major change to my system. Sold the Berning amp, Joule pre and Cardas Golden interconnects. Will be moving to Atma-Sphere MA1 monoblocks and MP3 preamp/phono. Will run everything in balanced mode. I've always loved the sound of OTL amps, find them to be a great match with the Merlins, and finally have the room to consider some large monos. Hopefully, the balanced cabling will help with my considerable RFI troubles and allow me to use the internal phono stage. Since moving to this room(which faces a radio tower ~1000ft away), the K&K is the only tube phono stage I've found that can beat the RF.

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Cello,
Not that brand, but I have tried other similar products. They didn't do much here. Thanks for the suggestion. Best,
Spencer

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Thanks, Ozzy.
Your numerous posts on the K&K definitely helped me as I searched for a tube phono stage that would overcome the radio tower 1000ft. from my listening room. Cheers,
Spencer

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System edited: Trying a K&K phono stage to attempt to conquer amazing RFI problem that has vexed me for months. Only limited listening thus far, but knock-on-wood, this could be the ticket! Cheers, Spencer

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Ray & Aronsss,
Thanks. The Red Wine dac is a pretty interesting piece. I've not spent that much time w/it yet, but my initial impression is that it is very quiet, with a relaxed character. Perhaps not quite as resolving as my Metronome was, but it sounds allows my mind to focus on the song vs the gear.
It reminds me of the feeling I sometimes get listening to a car radio on a warm sunny day. I know it isn't the highest fidelity, but I can't help but enjoying myself. Of course, the resolution is better than a typical car stereo, but that's the type of emotional reaction I get from listening to it.
LP is still my primary focus. I've been dealing with a bear of an RFI problem that has troubled me for months. Close to having conquered it with a new phono stage. More on that later...Cheers,
Spencer

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System edited: Bought a Pioneer Elite DV45a universal player to use as a transport, and just settled on trying out the Red Wine Audio Monica 2 dac. The combination of battery power and non-O/S have intrigued me. Been checking out this type of design for a while, and figure it's worth a spin. Will report back later.

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System edited: Just sold my Metronome CD2V Signature. I'll be buying an inexpensive non-oversampling DAC and a DVD transport. Motivation is desire to help me finance an amp purchase of Joule Electra amps. So little of my listening time is spent on digital, that it seemed piggish to have so much invested in my cdp. Considering Ack, Scott Nixon, Audio Mirror dacs. Suggestions welcomed! Cheers, Spencer

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David,
Whichever one best meets at the crossroads of "I Dream of" Ave. and "I can barely afford it" St. My eyes are open and fingers crossed...Cheers,
Spencer

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System edited: Sold the CAT preamp. Next move will likely be to sell my CD player to help finance an amp upgrade to the nice, but more expensive Joule Electra amps.

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Aronsss,
Here’s exactly what was used for the rack:

Qty/Item/Description/Source/Price
Footers:
4 2.0AP-1oint 2”Audio Point Internal Thread 5/8”[email protected] Depth Star Sound Technologies aka www.audiopoints.com $36.99each
Shelves:
3 0517 Maple 1 7/8”x17”x48” (their thickest standard size) Perfect Plank www.perfectplank.com $77.00each
Top Shelf:
1 0517 Maple 1 7/8”x22”x48” (cut by them from 24”wide)Perfect Plank aka www.perfectplank.com $106.00
TungOilAnyhardwarestore ~$10.00
4 98853 A035 Brass Threaded Rod 5/8”-11 thread, 3’ length McMaster-Carr www.mcmaster.com $23.79 each

4packs 92916 A433 Brass Flat Washer 5/8”L Screw size, 11/16”ID,McMaster-Carr www.mcmaster.com $9.88/pack of 10 1 3/4”OD, .102”thick

3packs 92683 A860 Brass Hex Extra-width thin (Jam) Nut McMaster-Carr aka www.mcmaster.com $14.46/pack of 10
5/8”L Screw size, 11/16”width, 23/64”height

4 92716 A035 Brass Acorn Nut 5/8”-11 Screw size, 1”width, ¾”height McMaster-Carr www.mcmaster.com $3.03/each

Total cost ~ $675. If you use Salamander spikes in lieu of Audiopoints, you will save about $100.
Good luck,
Spencer

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System edited: System edited: Just added a Joule Electra LA100mkIII line stage and OPS1mkV phono stage. Hoping to eventually add Joule Electra monoblock amps, and I've always thought the Joule amps sound best mated w/Joule preamps. This change will also allow me to free up some cash towards the amps. Still working out some setup bugs w/grounding and RFI, so no real listening impressions yet vs. the CAT preamp in this system. My prior experience with the LA150 taught me that their are minor tradeoffs with these pieces, but they both offer exceptional performance in their price class, and are synergistic w/the Merlins and Berning amp. Cheers, Spencer

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Hi Robert,
Using Cardas Golden Reference.
Spencer

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David,
I agree that room treatments can make a huge improvement. I first tried some Roomtunes products, but they did little in this room. Chances are that I didn't have enough coverage of surface area for them to be effective.
Sensible Sound Solutions gave me a perfect balance between providing acoustical/technical expertise, and allowing me to save on the investment by doing some of the assembly of the treatments(e.g. stapling fabric on panels, etc).
The rear wall still has no treatments, and I'm considering adding some diffusors behind the seating on the back wall, but would like to move slowly to make sure I get a good handle on the impact of it. Take care,
Spencer

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System edited: A couple of minor tweaks added to system description...comments, suggestions welcomed. Cheers, Spencer

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Mark,
Thanks. I like you system a lot, too. I had Quad 63s prior to getting my Merlins. In fact, the midrange of the Quads were Bobby's starting point when he designed the Merlins.
The Supratek & Atmas are also favorite components of mine that I listen to regularly at friends' homes. The Scoutmaster is a best value in audio to my ears.
The rack is 48"w x 36"h. Top shelf is 23"d, others are 19" deep.
Yes, I do check the level occasionally, but between a whole house humidifier keeping humidity fairly stable, and the brass nuts/washers above & below each shelf, it hasn't been a problem yet. Take care,
Spencer

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Joe, thanks for the kind words.

Larry, I'll check out the rollerblocks. right now I'm using the DH ceramic cones under the Berning. Others have recommended Stillpoints. All these details add up sonically & economically!

Steve, make sure your new rug is natural fibre. I've read that most synthetics are more reflective. It might be a while before I get to mess w/rug padding, it would be nice to borrow some to try for an afternoon without investing in it. Cheers,
Spencer

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Hi Steve,
It's 23.5x16x9'. I haven't tried anything under the rug. Have you experimented with that?
You might not have seen them in the photos, but I do have two absorptive ceiling panels on the ceiling at the mirror points. Each panel is like my wall panels, OC703 2" thick rigid fiberglass. The ones on the ceiling are covered in light muslin. I thought with the ceiling treated, the floor would be okay w/just the wool rug. Always open to suggestions. Cheers,
Spencer

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Glenn & John,
Thanks for your comments.

Glenn, you will be amazed at how much better things sound than in the other room. Come on over anytime; I've got my Clash records ready to cue up!

John, indeed dogs make for fun listening companions. My Brittany Spaniel wags his tail and comes running into the room whenever I fire up the jazz LPs. As an old man of 11 dog years, he's not much of a rocker any longer ;-)

Cheers,
Spencer

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System edited: Just moved to a new larger room, and spent the last month working out the kinks. Custom room treatments, designed by Bryan Pape of Sensible Sound Solutions, were the key to taming huge echo and bass dip problems in the new room. Things are really shaping up! The system now has ample room to breathe, and the larger soundstage and increased air around instruments is very apparent. Next project is to demo some power cords for the Berning amp. Cheers, Spencer

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Larry,
Wow, a pair of ZH-270s will be awesome. You should post you whole system when you get a chance. I've read plenty about your tonearm ;-)

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Hey Larry,
Just saw your note. The Extreme SST lives up to the hype in my opinion. I've only had it on through about 12 hours of listening, about 6 each analog and digital. I've not yet treated the cartridge pins. On the digital side, things are pretty obvious. Smoother highs, blacker background, better delineation of images. On the analog side, I hear the same type of improvements, just a bit less pronounced.
Perhaps, the improvement in the connectivity between cdp & preamp is the biggest benefactor? I am using the relatively lower priced Discovery cable on the cdp, and Cardas Golden Ref elsewhere, as I do my more serious listening via vinyl, as I know you do.
Think I'm coming around to Rushton's way of thinking, "All the little things add up". I'll treat the cartridge pins in the next few days, and hopefully that will provide more of the same. At this point, I can heartily recommend the ESST, and think it will only get better w/a few more hours of break-in.
Regards,
Spencer

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System edited: Just upgraded my Merlin BAM to Super-BAM. The improvements are immediate and well worth the modest cost. I'm continuously amazed at how far the VSM-MX has allowed me to take my system. Even with the echo problem I'm having in my new room(Roomtunes in transit!), the added "jump factor" is readily apparent. Suggestions & comments always welcomed...Cheers, Spencer

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System edited: Just treated my system with Walker Audio Extreme SST. Will post comments after a few hours break-in time. Also placed Gingko Audio Mini Clouds under the cdp, a small but obvious improvement. However the biggest change in my system is that I moved it to a new larger room, 23.5' x 16.5' x 9'. Room treatments are in my near future.

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Howard,
Brass hardware: www.master.com Call them & ask them to look up my(Spencer Bank/Brandywine Creamery) invoices for the model numbers to get. We used a shelf from Salamander as a template(stencil) to drill the holes. Make sure to get widest O.D. washers for above and below the maple. When you drill, you'll get some minor splitting around the hole, and the washers will hide any imperfections.
Maple: www.perfectplank.com I bought 3 of their standard 1 7/8" thick shelfs at 48" wide, 19" deep. Top shelf is custom cut to 1 7/8"x21"x48", to allow for larger turntable. We drilled it so it the extra 4" is equally split 2" forward and 2" back.
Footers: Audiopoints Model 2.0 threaded. Great footers, that fit perfectly on the brass rods. Cheaper alternative is $40/set threaded mega-spikes from Salamander, available at audioadvisor,etc. Good luck!

Spencer

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Hi Larry,
I went with the silver coils and silver base, per Mehran's recommendation. I've only got about 10 hours on it so far, but it sounds very good already. The whole setup is very quiet, expansive, and dynamic.
Of course it's tough to attribute the changes to cart. vs. table/arm, but the combo seems to work well. The table was a breeze to setup(easier than I expected), and I'm confident that the Walker Motor Controller is also a contributor to the end result.
Regards,
Spencer

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System edited: Analog upgrade completed. Very happy with the new gear, it sounds better every day! Cheers, Spencer

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Hi Art,
I find the Berning sounds much better with an active preamp, be it the CAT or Joule. Direct is still good, with plenty of details, but the sound is much fuller with the preamps. The Joule is a tad warmer than the CAT, but the CAT has dynamic jump that gives me goosebumps regularly. My LA150 was an older one that has left and right volume controls, as opposed to the newer ones that have a volume & a balance control. Mine was a tad noisy(from the chasis--not through the speakers) and would have sounded better if I'd been able to sit farther away than 11' from the preamp. Newer LA150s probably don't suffer from this.
The CAT has an awesome internal phono stage that greatly contributed to my purchase decision, as I listen mainly to vinyl. To me, that makes it a tremendous value. I'm very happy w/the CAT, but if I could afford to get a CAT Ultimate, I probably would.
Sometime in the next few months a few friends & I plan a preamp shootout and will compare these with Supratek Syrah, First Sound Presence, some passive attentuators and whatever else interesting we come up with...we'll post impressions afterwards. Cheers,
Spencer

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System edited: Just sold my 12ft. Virtual Dynamics Power 3 cable, as I needed a shorter cable to accomodate recent moving of dedicated circuits. Bought a 6ft. ESP Essence, which was recommended by Ken Stevens for use with the CAT preamps.

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Hi Eddie,
My vinyl is in a series of inexpensive cubes that I bought at Target on sale for $9 each. I put a nice metal knob from Lowe's on the door for the enclosed cube. These are stackable and connect with dowels. They are your basic particle board/laminate, but dimensions and flexibility ruled the day for me. They come in a few other finishes(black, white, maple). Don't recall the brand name.
Thanks, Spencer

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Larry,
Still working on that. If I spend my $$$ on a Universe to mount on it, it's gonna have to be a close-n-play.
Best,
Spencer

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System edited: Just sold my Nottingham Spacedeck and Shelter 501II, along with the Neuance shelf that supported the Spacedeck. The good news is that I sold all of them to good friends, so I can go visit when I'm feeling sentimental. Time to go to work to fund some upgrades...

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Ken,
Thanks for your kind words.
Yes, that is an original pressing of Very Tall. Found it at big garage sale fund raiser. Cost me about $1. Not too many finds like that for me.
Cheers,
Spencer

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System edited: Recently put NOS cryoed output tubes from Allan Bhagan into the Berning amp, and new tubes from Ken Stevens into the CAT. Added Herbie's tube dampers on the appropriate 4 6922s in the CAT. The preamp tubes are a nice improvement. Still awaiting break-in on the NOS tubes for the Berning.

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System edited: Finished construction of new DIY rack, with help of Slipknot1. We used Perfectplank Maple, solid brass rods & hardware, threaded Audiopoints. Routed the boards to 1/4round edges and and radiused the corners. Two coats of tung oil and a little elbow grease...piece of cake. If anyone wants part#s, etc. to give a try, email me. This rack has mass & rigidity and looks better than it photographs. :-)

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System edited: Just ordered a ZYZ Airy3 cartridge to replace the Shelter 501II. A turntable upgrade will hopefully be in the near future. Slipknot1 is going to put my Shelter on his Scoutmaster.

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System edited: Heading to CES, what should I be sure to listen to? Thanks, Spencer

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Glen,
The door is always open here for you, & for anybody else reading this...Hope the Atma S30 & CJ phono stage are working out well for you. Cheers,
Spencer

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Tvad,
Glad to see you like your Neuance. Mine has been so good that I've brought it to friends' homes to try under their sources, and more than one of them have liked it enough to buy one.
I've experimented with DH Cones under my Spacedeck, per recommendation from none other than Ken Lyon. He told me that if I wanted to try messing with any cones, that would be the one to try(this was over a year ago, when I spoke w/him). Now I have them under my Berning amp on top of a maple butcher block which in turn is atop a stone fireplace hearth. They definitely sound better than the Black Diamond Racing cones that I used to have. Also have read & heard good things from Audiopoints in other rigs, but haven't heard them in my own. Cheers, Spencer

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System edited: Recently added NOS Amperex and Tungsram tubes in the CAT preamp. Made a nice improvement, particularly in the phono stage side.

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System edited: Just upgraded from Audience AU24 to Cardas Golden Reference throughout the system. While the AU24 is great in its price range, the Cardas is a bit better in my system. The biggest improvement was from using Cardas in/out of the Merlin battery-BAM, resulting in increased clarity, deeper soundstage, and more body in the imaging of indivudual instruments.

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System edited: Added a CAT SL-1 Mark III preamp w/phono. A definite improvement over the Joule Electra LA-150 and Pentagon phono stage. Still learning to appreciate the nuances of this piece, and all listening thus far is with stock tubes. NOS will soon be added. Comments are welcomed...Cheers, Spencer

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System edited: Latest change is the sale of my Joule Electra LA-150. Will run directly from the Berning amp for now.

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Joe,
We'll certainly do it. For anyone in the Philly area, we have a nice group of enthusiasts who get together regularly.
Hopefully we get to someone else's place(with a more varied system)next time, and then I can offer to host after that. By then I hope to have my cables all squared away.

Brooks, you won't regret it! Keep us posted.
Spencer

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Merlin VSM-MX replaced Quad ESL63USAs. See my review...I've got happy ears.

Spencer

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System edited: Latest addition is the acquisition of the highly anticipated Merlin VSM-MX loudspeakers. Review coming soon...

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System edited: Recently upgraded from the Cary's to Berning amp & Joule preamp. Quite a difference. Didn't realize how much detail I had been missing!

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System edited: Analog is getting more & more play time. The Neuance shelf under my TT (on top of the Billy Bags rack) is probably best tweak I've heard ever. VPI 16.5 arrives this week. Need more vinyl!!!

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System edited: Just in process of going back to analogue. Adding TT, cart, & phono stage. On the hunt for vinyl!

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