Previously posted as "Workingman's Rig", the current listing reflects the system's evolution and the move to a new and roomier listening area.  Hearing recorded music through this system is very enjoyable.  

The core components as of late 2015 were a HEGEL H200 integrated and a Merrill Audio Class D Taranis amp w/Opera Reference 50 pre-amp driving Totem Forests.  The main source as of Oct 2015 was an Auralic Aries Mini.

In 2016, Silverline Prelude Plus speakers were purchased.  Subsequently SVS SB1000 subwoofers were added to round out bass from the Silverlines.  The Silverlines are a nice change of pace from the Forests.  

The HEGEL, initially bought as backup to previously owned tube gear, works well with either Totems or Silverlines but the warmish/tubey-sounding HEGEL is an especially good match for the Silverlines with their strong treble energy.  The Taranis/Forest combination produces an amazing amount of well-controlled bass even without benefit of subs. 

Feb 2017 update:  Purchased a Schiit Freya pre-amp.  With its balanced design, am able to take advantage of balanced outputs from Gungnir DAC and TEAC CD3000 as well as balanced input on the Taranis amp.  To my ear, balanced does seem to provide a cleaner, clearer, more enjoyable sound.  While I had greatly appreciated the Opera Consonance Reference 50 preamp (preferring it over a couple other preamps auditioned in-home, including one by Conrad Johnson), the Freya seems to provide a more refined sound.  It's now the go-to preamp in the system.  

Schiit Eitr replaced Musical Fidelity V-Link 192 in 2017.

Jan 2018 Update
Sold the Opera Consonance Cyber 800SE tube mono blocks and Reference 50 preamp.  Have pretty much converted to all solid state with the exception of 6SN7s in the Schiit Freya preamp.

Taming harsh highs on certain digital recordings with hot treble has been a challenge over the years.  The metal dome tweeter-equipped Totem Forests image very well but don't sugarcoat bad recordings.  Silverline Prelude Plus speakers were purchased to see what improvements silk dome tweeters might bring to the sound of such recordings.  The Prelude Pluses bring a LOT of treble energy however, so some recordings still sounded harsh and unpleasant.  

Various cabling changes (Cardas IC & Speaker Cable) brought marked improvements to the overall system sound; the Forests were even more broadly and consistently enjoyable than before.  They support long listening sessions and are not fatiguing.  

The Preludes remained overly energetic in the high end and something of a disappointment for the first few months of ownership.  Part of this was due to a longer than expected break in period.  At the same time, I do enjoy working with various pieces figuring out how to extract the best possible sound from them.  Comments in a couple of A'gon threads, planted the seed of trying to exploit the greater sensitivity of the Preludes with a a low power (SET? SEP?) amp.  In an A'gon thread started in aid of finding a no frills integrated amp, A'gon member skoczylas mentioned First Watt.  Thanks to Mark at RenoHiFi I was able to audition the F7 and fell in love with it.  The Preludes have never sounded better....very musical and engaging with full mid range and non-fatiguing, well-controlled highs.  For "icing on the cake" as it were, the Forests also sound superb with the F7.  

Aug 2019 Update
Through 2018 and into 2019, a primary focus was on improving cabling: speaker cables, interconnects and power cords.  Given the large number of cable manufacturers and the impossibility of auditioning anything approaching a meaningful sample of the huge number of cables available, a decision was made to focus on Cardas offerings for audio cables and Shunyata for power cables.  

Before investing in improved power cabling, an effort was made to better utilize the three dedicated power lines serving the listening area.  As much as possible, analog and linear power supply components were plugged-in on different lines than digital components or components with switching power supplies.  A Furutech eTP60 power distributor was purchased to facilitate this.  A Shunyata Delta NR power cord was purchased to supply the eTP60.

A Shunyata Venom HC power cord had been found to make a significant improvement to sound when it replaced a Cullen Crossover cord on the Class D Merrill Audio Taranis amp.  Eventually this led to upgrading the Venom HC cord to a used Shunyata Research Alpha NR power cord.  The Alpha supplies whichever amp happens to be in use and is plugged directly into an otherwise unused duplex energized by one of the dedicated lines.  The Cullen Crossover cord, originally on the Taranis amp, was moved to supply the HEED Quasar phono preamp. 

A second Venom HC cord was obtained and the two HC cords were subsequently used to supply power to a pair of SVS SB1000 subs (Class D amps).  

A nice improvement in sound quality was heard when a very affordable v1 Analysis Plus Pro Power Oval power cord (discounted at Musician's Friend due to v1 being phased out with intro of v2) was used on the TEAC CDP in place of a Pangea 14SE cord.  A 2nd Pro Power Oval (also v1) was purchased for the Gungnir DAC.  

Interconnects were upgraded by moving to Cardas Clear Cygnus cabling.  The Cygnus provides more detail (more complex sonic texture) and better extension (bass & treble) compared to other ICs including Cardas Parsec, Cabledyne Copper Reference, & Harmonic Technologies ProSilway II.  Switching the positions of Cygnus and Golden Reference between DAC and pre-amp or pre-amp and amp is an effective means of fine tuning the sound.  A Golden Presence IC was recently obtained to provide even greater sound tuning flexibility.  

Moving to Cardas Parsec speaker cables vs the Morrow Audio SP-4 cables previously used helped reduce the harshness of certain recordings and enabled long fatigue-free listening sessions.  However, improvements heard moving up the Cardas interconnect product line from Parsec and positive experience with the Golden Reference IC made me interested in what the Clear Reflection speaker cable might do for the system's sound.  When a great buying opportunity came up at Parts Connexion, a pair of Clear Reflection cables were ordered.  After a longish break-in period, the Clear Reflection cabling has provided richly-textured sound (more complex harmonically? vs Parsec) along with very three-dimensional imaging.  Music is detailed but without harshness.  The upgrade to Clear Reflection provided a huge enhancement to music listening enjoyment.  

This August update would be seriously incomplete without mentioning the wonderful PrimaLuna Prologue Premium integrated amp purchased as a demo from AudioLab in Fairless Hills, PA.  Purchased mainly for the Silverline Prelude Pluses and to have a backup integrated should something happen to the First Watt F7 or Freya preamp.  This unit has been a revelation.  Think what you might of audio reviews and sales person claims, this unit looks to be the real deal.  Addictively musical.  Quick and detailed - It ain't your grand daddy's tube amp (and that's running genuine Winged C EL34s and Cardas wire).  Very authoritative and projects a huge soundtage (depth & width).  Only time will tell about reliability and tube longevity but as far as listening enjoyment goes, this is "numero uno" of the current in-house amp options.

I am blessed to have a system(s) that makes music sound this good and and provides flexibility to change things up and keep the listening "fresh".  Thanks to the many on Audiogon who have shared their knowledge.  



[Avatar  photo by Heinrich Klaffs; Jack Bruce 1972]
Tesla Coil photo from How To Build A Tesla Coil posted by SciTeen Aug 29, 2018 Gadget&Tech

Room Details

Dimensions: 21’ × 19’  Large
Ceiling: 7’

Components Toggle details

    • Auralic Aries Mini
    Digital file player and streamer.  Has become the #1 music source in the system.  Used for Tidal, Spotify, Internet Radio, & ALAC files from ripped CDs.  Aries Mini USB out via Monoprice Monolith USB cable into Schiit Eitr USB/SPDIF converter.
    • Schiit Audio Eitr
    USB to SPDIF converter.  Used between Auralic Aries Mini and Gungnir DAC
    From Eitr to BNC in of Gungnir DAC via RCA/BNC terminated Black Cat Silverstar 75! digital coax.  Eitr supplied by Schiit w/Linear wall wart power. 
    • Schiit Gungnir MultiBit DAC
    Open box, returned item purchased from Audio Advisor.  A key system component.  SPDIF in from Eitr or RCA in from V-Link.  Balanced out (Cardas Golden Reference or AQ Columbia depending on amp) to Freya preamp.  B-stock purchased without USB.  Upgraded to Multi-bit in 2017.  The MB upgrade made a huge step-change improvement in sound quality.
    • Teac CD-3000
    Demo unit from Quest for Sound. CD/SACD player.  Not seeing too much use with the Aries Mini in the system.  Used occasionally for SACDs or as yet unripped CDs .  This unit took a VERY long time to break in.  Sound quality greatly improved using Cardas 300B Microtwin interconnects to Schiit Freya preamp.
    • Technics SL1210M5G
    KAB mod'd. TT (tone arm damper, strobe disabler).
    • Grado Prestige Black w/8MZ stylus
    • Grado Prestige Red
    • HEED Quasar
    Solid state phono-pre amp.
    • Schiit Audio Freya Preamp (Gen 1)
    Multi mode, balanced preamp: pure passive, JFET buffer unity gain, or 6SN7 tubes (4).  Very pleased with the performance.  Nicely detailed but not fatiguing.  Replaced a more expensive dual 6H30, EZ80-rectified Opera Consonance tube preamp.  

    The Freya is an essential companion to the Taranis and First Watt F7 power amps.
    JFET buffer mode works great with the very powerful Taranis.   The high gain of tube mode is perfect for the much lower power F7.  
    • First Watt F7
    Demo unit from Reno HiFi.  One of Nelson Pass's "low power" Class A amps. 25 watts into 8 ohms; 30 watts into 4.  Extremely musical yet with great detail and very well-defined sonic imaging.  Excellent stage width and depth.  Bought mainly to pair with 92 dB Silverline Prelude Plus speakers but produces surprisingly wonderful sound driving 86 dB Totem Forests.  There's watts and then there's FIRST WATTS.  Not much talk about First Watt but seems an incredible value.  Nelson Pass is an audio Zen Master.
    • HEGEL H-200 Integrated Amp
    Bought used.  A sweet sounding (but not "syrupy" solid state amp that works great with the Silverline speakers and the Forests too.  Non-fatiguing and powerful.  A solid contributor to overall enjoyment from this system.  It works as a full integrated or as power amp with pre by-passed in deference to the more "flexible" Freya.
    • Merrill Audio Advanced Technology Labs, LLC Taranis Amp
    Powerful Class D amp.  Paired w/Freya preamp it was the "go to" amp in the system.  It makes the Forests stand up and talk.  Class D critics need to hear one of Merrill's creations.
    • PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium Integrated
    A recently purchased (July 2019) in-store demo unit that was a steal.  It's an amazing, over-achieving amp that packs way more wallop than expected based on the 35 wpc power spec.   It has quickly become the favorite in the 4 amp "fleet".  Will be hard to give the others playing time.  Plenty of oomph to drive the 86 db sensitivity Forests.  Sweet & detailed.  Very musical.  All the positive reviews seem to be true.
    • Silverline Audio Prelude Plus Speakers
    A higher efficiency design (92 dB as per mftr.) with a silk dome tweeter.  Wanted something like these as a change up from the Totem Forests.  They convey a lot of upper range detail.  Tonal balance is "tipped up" perhaps due to smallish bass drivers.  Fantastic imagers and project a wide and reasonably deep soundstage.  They are ported and have a claimed bass response down into the 30 Hz range.  Perfectly adequate most of the time...e.g., with upright bass.  The addition of a pair of SB1000 subs certainly fills out the sound below, say, 80 Hz.
    • SVS SB1000
    Added a pair of these powered subs to fill out bass from Silverline Prelude Plus speakers.  Dialed way back and using them with the Forests too.
    • Totem Acoustics Forest Speakers
    B-stock; intended buyer could not complete transaction.  Have owned these since 2007 and don't tire of music from them.    With appropriate cabling choices and amp pairing they produce a non-fatiguing sound with full mid-range and great bass.  Listenability (metal dome tweeters!) when playing older digital sources with hot treble also benefits from cabling.  They generate amazing amounts of well-controlled bass, image like crazy and completely disappear.
    • Black Cat Silverstar 75
    Digital coax between Eitr and Gugnir.
    • Cardas Audio Clear Reflection Speaker Cable
    Wonderful sounding cables...great body, texture and detail.  A perfect balance to these ears.  Purchased from Parts Connexion at a huge discount due to minor cosmetic changes in new production cabling.
    • Cardas Audio Parsec Speaker Cable
    Using these to send a speaker level signal to subs.
    • Cardas Audio 300B Microtwin XLR & SE Interconnects
    A surprisingly good match (synergistic?) for the TEAC CD3000.  Purchased used.
    • Cardas Audio Clear Cygnus Interconnects
    Both XLR and SE in use from source to preamp or amp and from pre to amp, as needed.
    • Cardas Audio Clear Reflection Interconnect
    Both XLR and SE (purchased used) in use from source to preamp or amp and from pre to amp (mainly Taranis & Prima Luna), as needed.
    • Cardas Audio Golden Presence SE Interconnect
    Bought new from Parts Connexion at a great discount over the original list price.  While part of Cardas' legacy "Golden" range, the Presence is quite different from the Golden Reference; i.e., much "leaner" sounding.
    • Cardas Audio Golden Reference XLR Interconnect
    Bought new from Parts Connexion at a great discount over the original list price.  At one time Cardas' top of the line interconnect.  Matched properly to electronics it provides a huge sound stage, deep bass and good detail with no muddiness or slowness.  Very musical.
    • Cardas Audio Parsec SE Interconnect
    Used to connect Heed Quasar Phono Preamp (singled ended output only).
    • Monoprice Monolith USB Digital Audio Cable USB A to USB B
    A ridiculously inexpensive digital cable (under $20) that was recommended by Duster in an Audio Asylum thread.  It provided noticeable sonic improvement over the former favorite (Oyaide Neo D+ Class A).
    • Stereovox XV2 Digital Coax
    Used from digital output of TEAC CD 3000 to coax input of Gungnir DAC.
    • APC H-10
    Used as power source for digital gear:  Aries Mini, TEAC CD3000, Gungnir MB DAC.
    • Furutech e-TP60 Power Distributor
    Supplies power to analog gear: Freya pre-amp & HEED Quasar phono pre-amp (as well as linear power supply for Schiit Eitr).
    • Hubbell outlet Cryo'd. duplex from Cabledyne
    3 Hubbell outlets for 3 dedicated 20 amp lines.
    • iFi AC iPurifier (2)
    Power conditioner and surge suppressor.
    • Isotek Evo3 Isoplug (2)
    Power conditioner and surge supressor.
    • Analysis Plus Pro Power Oval power cord
    Used to power Gungnir DAC & TEAC CDP.  Heard a noticeable improvement when the Power Oval replaced a Pangea 14SE previously used on the TEAC.
    • Cullen Circuits Crossover 7' power cord
    Used to power HEED Quasar phono-preamp.
    • Shunyata Research Alpha NR Power Cord
    Used to deliver power to whichever amp happens to be in service.
    • Shunyata Research Delta NR Power Cord
    Supplies power to Furutech e-TP60.
    • Shunyata Research Venom 3 Power Cable
    Supplies power to the Schiit Freya preamp.
    • Shunyata Research Venom HC power cables
    Used to power SVS SB1000 subs.
    • GIK Acoustics various products
    Two 244 panels behind Forests. Two Soffit traps (front wall corners). Four 242 panels on side and rear walls.
    • Audioquest Columbia XLR Interconnect - retired
    Retired - 72v DBS Columbia ICs from Music Direct at a very reasonable sale price. When the Hegel amp is employed with Forest speakers, this is the IC between Gungnir DAC and Freya preamp.
    • Audioquest Pearl USB Cable - retired
    Retired - Pure Copper, no silver plating.
    • Cabledyne Reference Copper XLR Interconnect - retired
    • Clear Day Double Shotgun Speaker Cable
    All but retired.  A wonderful, smooth sounding cable with plenty of detail and lots of "heft".  Really puts the meat on the bones of the music but without sacrificing resolution.  A great value.
    • Morrow Audio SP-4 Speaker Cable - retired
    Retired - Gen 1 cable w/silver plating over copper.
    • Harmonic Technology Pro-Silway II XLR Interconnect - retired
    Retired - Bought used and connects Freya preamp with Taranis amp.  Can also be used between Freya and Hegel when Hegel's pre-amp section is by-passed.
    • Musical Fidelity V-Link 192 - retired
    Retired - Asynch USB converter bought used on A'gon.  Recently replaced by Schiit Eitr and now used for occasional streaming from laptop via 3m Pangea USB cable.  V-Link connected to RCA in of Gungnir DAC via Stereovox XV2 digital coax.
    • Oyaide USB NEO D+ Class A - retired
    Retired - Former best sounding USB used between Aries Mini and Schiit Eitr.  Replaced by Monoprice Monolith USB.
    • Pangea Audio USB Cable 24 Gauge Pure Silver - retired
    • Pangea power cord 14SE
    Virtually all Pangea power cords now retired.

Comments 25

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Hello @subterranean6 

Thanks for the comment.  No...not affiliated with In Sheep's Clothing (though I might wish I were). Like you, it is one place in LA I'd definitely want to visit.  Think I had added that photo of ISC to my system page simply as a convenient way to share it with another A'gon member.  Love those Garrard tables.  

Would love to hear your system...the SFs in particular.  My listening preference also puts a priority on tone and texture versus the last iota of detail.

Take care and hope you are enjoying some great music.



Hello @admranger - 
Startled to see my system dredged up from the A'gon virtual systems netherworld!  To answer your question in a word:  YES.  Quite happy with the match up.  Had a costlier 6H30/EZ80 pre-amp before the Freya.  Prefer the Freya.  It is VERY quiet (dead silent, actually) and flexible  The sound is more detailed yet relaxed, if that makes any sense (lower distortion??).  Being a balanced design probably plays into this.  TEAC CDP, Gungnir DAC, Freya & Taranis all balanced. Lack of warmth not a problem with the Freya/Taranis/Forest combo - though, completely independent of the Taranis, I struggled for a long time with taming highs from the metal dome tweeters of the Forests, especially when playing CDs with the TEAC.  Interconnect and speaker cable choices finally solved this issue.  Maybe different wire choices will give you the warmth you want?  I personally ignore the orthodoxy about not using cable as tone controls or those claiming only poor designs respond to changes in wire.  If you are, however, committed to replacing the Thors with an integrated, I can't speak highly enough about the Hegel.  It is a very warm solid state amp.  


Updated Jan 2018




milpai - Thanks for looking and commenting.  While gratifying (and not to be ungracious) I think your praise too generous.  I would not call myself an equipment connoisseur because I lack the range of experience some here on A'gon possess.  I've been fortunate, I suppose, in being able to collect a few pieces that I'd call "high value".   Some that I heard in actual systems, other choices driven by the constraints of a modest budget, specs, reading reviews and seeing what others on A'gon and elsewhere had to say.  For most pieces I didn't even audition first - not an orthodox approach.  I haven't done the "hard work" some A'gon members have.  I do tend to think good sounding is the norm not the exception so putting together a decent rig is not too hard though putting together something truly spectacular might be.  We're happy with "good sounding", however.  The other benefit of collecting a few different pieces is flexibility.  Things can be "changed up" significantly without spending anew.    

I wanted a solid state amp as backup to the tube gear.  When I started hunting around, there was a lot of good buzz about Hegel.  It had the power to drive the Forests.  Found a demo for sale on A'gon.  A couple of cosmetic blemishes but functionally okay.  For solid state it is warm.  In fact, more mellow than the tube gear running 6CA7s.  Warm was/is okay...nice change of pace "voicing-wise" with the Forests...AND with the newer Preludes I got, a great fit.  The Silverlines have more upper mid and treble energy than the Forests so the Hegel is a nice fit with them.  

Lots of gear might sound good but the wild card really is the recorded material.      The better the system (and my ear?) has gotten the more I appreciate those recordings that present great music as well as great sonics.  They are not as much the norm as I wish they were.  

Thanks again for looking.  Hope you find something that makes you forget those Focals you heard!


System updated July 31, 2016.


Just a thought. It was the apparent distance to the wall behind the speakers that brought that to mind. If you don't need panels, great. Less stuff to move around. Hope you will update your pic when the Sierras arrive.


Sbrownnw - Thanks for looking. YES...I spent a LONG time (years) trying different positions for the Totems. Had started much further apart....7 to as much as 8 feet. What got me to this current spacing was a review of the Forests I'd read (can't recall what on-line source). The reviewer had commented "pay attention to how Vince has them positioned at shows." Or words to that effect. I did find pictures of the Forests at a show. Vince was there. Counted patterns in the carpet and calculated the distance he had between them. When I duplicated as closely as possible that spacing in my own room - I was amazed at the improvement. More and deeper bass, more focused imagining. Lyrics became intelligible as never before. Things just really locked in. I'd toyed on and off with getting a sub...not now.

Good luck with your Sierras. Hope you enjoy them. Might I recommend some acoustic panels? Even if you don't mount them permanently and only stand them on the floor behind the speakers while might be a good investment. Of course, get used to how those Sierras sound first. Again - good luck with them.


Thanks Jax. Should have apologized for the grainy (iPhone) picture when I first posted it. For a basement, it ain't half bad. Able to listen at decent volume levels down there and not disturb my wife. Enjoyed the photos of your system and listening area. Looks very comfortable.


Mm1701d - Yup the used market is a boon to us "frugal" types. A few things I'd probably not buy used....phono stylus or tubes, probably. But most else - fair game. Thanks for looking.


Hey Bud - thanks for looking. I really enjoy listening to music on it. The new listening area was lively (very bright) and the GIK panels helped tame things a ton. In particular, the 244 panels right behind the speakers made the most difference. Thanks again.


Major upgrades all around. It must sound wonderful, Don.
Can't imagine how much you must be looking forward to getting the Joules.


Hi Don - good to hear from you. I saw some of the changes to your system over the last year or so...amplification (and addition of DAC?). I'll have to look up the Vapor Audio speakers. I never thought you would get rid of the Von Schweikerts.
Hope that change works out great for you.

YES - I was anxious about the move to the larger space but it worked out. More distance to side and back walls being the big payoff. The basement refresh that prompted the move got rid of carpeting and acoustic tiles. Engineered hardwood and dry wall ceiling created a much livelier environment that had me worried. BUT acoustic panels and area rugs tamed things just fine. More room around the Forests definitely improved sound quality a lot although the space is still not perfect.

OK...Hope all is well with you and yours.


Thanks for taking time to look and for your comments, Toudou.

Yes - Consonance is certainly not very common, A-List gear here on the 'Gon (Chinese made).

If you are interested, a review of the earlier gen. version by Robert Levi on Positive Feedback at this link.

I'm indebted to A'gon member DPatterson for introducing me to the Cybers and to Stephen Monte at Quest for Sound where these were bought.

I've had the Forests 7 years now and am still in love with how they sound.

I'll be certain to take a longer look at your system, by the way. Got a quick peek.

Take care.