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,


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

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
    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  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

Hi Spenser, just looking at your historical record of changes. I have gone through some of the same evolution, although we are working off very different bases. I'll have to post my system so you can see it.

Whereas you did the Berning, AtmaSpere and Joule OTL route, I was going through the Transcendent Sound line. I briefly tried some Merlins, but they did not click with my amps for some reason. I greatly admire your deHavilland amps!

For the past 7 years, I have been stuck on planar speakers, which I see you also had in your past. I suspect that we have some similar preferences with respect to sound systems.

Any regrets with respect to equipment you have owned in the past? What would you like to have back to try with your latest setup?


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...


Hi Mitch,

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



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,


Lots of changes to your system !! How are you enjoying it? I, too, believe that I will be making a major change or two. Neuance question for you when you get a chance.
Cheers, Mitch


Spencer, wow , big changes! I am bummed that I could not visit this weekend. There always seems to be a meeting that coincides with my one son's birthday. The Dodd seems really intriguing. Best wishes to you and your family in 2009, as well.




Spencer - Great room...really enjoyed my visit...I had no idea how big it was by the pictures above...quite a dream! The Alon's were mighty was the rest of the gear...several treats including the ZYX cartridge...almost bought one a year ago.

Thanks again



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,


Nice system! You have many of the components I have tried, or would like to try! Merlin, Herron, Dehavilland, Dodd, Golden Ref....

Any other insights on the Herron vs. the Dodd? I am in the process of selling the Herron 1a/166 for financial reasons, and perhaps will replace it with either a VTSP-2 or a Dodd battery pre in the future. Currently running Herron M1 Monos, and a Dehavilland Ultraverve 2. I looked hard at getting an 845G Aires set, but they probably won't like my speakers, so I may go with the new 50a amp coming out this spring. Until then, the Herron M1's are the best amps I have had in my system. No regrets! I had them up for sale, but doubt I will sell them, unless I can get full asking price.


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,


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.


Hi Spence,
Looking good! One of the pics is showing 4 amps driving those Alons? Am I correct?



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


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


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.



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,


Hi Spencer , Glad to read of your purchase of the Aries 845G
I own and love this amp and to find that a very knowledgeable
member (you) selects this amp for his system makes me realize my old ears are still working.Not only have I found this amp to be superb,I find Kara to be first rate,top notch and always available.
Sorry to see your Merlin's up for sale.In reading your posts I know how you enjoyed them.
Well have fun with the amp its really special.



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.


Give Gregg Straley Reality Cables a try. They're truly outstanding, and inexpensive. They replaced $2000 Purist Audio Venustas in my system.

I tried bi-wire and single wire with jumpers in my system, and settled on jumpers sounding best. Never thought it would happen.

Anyway, try the Straley's. They're available with a home trial period.


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.



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,


I am very interested in the Dodd preamp.

Do you have any additional comments you may wish to share?

I am currently using a Belles 28a Reference with a JLTI phono preamp.

The Belles is silent in its operation and provides excellent sound and features (remote and a HT bypass).

Let me know, I am tempted to try the Dodd


System edited: Added some new photos...


Trust me on this one.

I also used Cardas Golden Reference speaker wire and Cardas Neutral Reference interconnects.Exceptional wire,however.
There is definitly something to using more Nordost wire this far up the signal chain. You won't have to go any further with it.

Once I take delivery of my record player and choose a cartridge I'll hit the pavement for some speakers.



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,


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