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]
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