Classic Technics direct drive featuring simplified versions of motor and plinth from the upmarket 1200G.
VPI Industries TNT Mk-1
VPI TNT series 1 - original, heavy lead loaded acrylic platter. Has been updated with Mk-5 main bearing, 'ball' suspension, SDS, integrated motor/flywheel.
Bought 1982 with a Rega Planar 3. Have now sold my Graham Phantom and scaling back my vinyl, so have pulled this old arm out of storage. Couldn't find the cable, so sourced one from Y.Tome audio cables.
Cartridge setup with Tracking Wizard arc protractor with original null points for Grace tonearms.
Garrott Brothers P77
Vintage MM cartridge from the mid 80's. Original stylus unit replaced with Jico Stylus-1 SAS/B.
Ortofon 2m Black
Moving magnet cartridge with Shibata stylus.
Modded with 'Midas' body shell and retipped by SoundSmith with their Optimised Line Contact stylus. The retip gives a surprising improvement in detail refinement and clarity. Does not have the tonal accuracy, delicacy nor the authority of the Ortofon Jubilee/Cadenza Black. Perhaps favoring the individual performers rather than the overall acoustic - though the retip gives much of both. A great communicator of the music - but perhaps not best suited to classical program.
Denon 103R Midas body epoxy potted
Pair of Soundsmith retipped Denon 103R cartridges with epoxy potting (Araldite super strength)
Denon Panzerholz 103R
103R in Uwe Panzerholz wood body. Shown with Midas aluminium body 103R (stock cantilever/stylus)
Parasound Halo JC3 Jr.
A reasonably priced MM/MC phono stage designed by John Curl. Uses op-amps for the audio stages but, unlike a few other SS phono amps I've tried, it has precision, detail and control without sounding etched or lacking body and realism. A very well balanced design.
Bob's Devices CineMag 1131
Moving coil SUT with 1:20 and 1:40 ratios (26dB and 32dB respectively).
K and K Audio Premium SUT - Lundahl LL1941
Step up kit using Lundahl LL1941 transformers built into a very plain metal box. Switchable 1:16, 1:32 ratios. Sounds excellent, not an obvious step down from previously used Choir Audio/Hashimoto SUT (which I sold when I was scaling back my vinyl due to pursuit of digital nirvana).
Cary Audio Design PH-302 mkII - capacitor mods
Phono preamp using 6SL7's in an adaption of the classic passive RIAA phono circuit from the RCA tube manual. A second 6SL7 is used as a direct coupled paralleled cathode follower. I've replaced the output and interstage coupling caps with ClarityCap MR. Multicap RTX and AuraT teflon caps have been substituted in the PS and RIAA respectively. Tubes are NOS Sylvania Gold brand 6SL7 and 1968 vintage Mullard GZ34 in the PS.
Benchmark DAC3 L
Compact DAC/Pre with design emphasis on low distortion, high SNR and hence neutrality and transparency to source.
Pre/headphone amp with innovative FPGA controlled relay switched resistor array volume control (two independent stereo attenuators for preamp and headphone). Ultra low distortion, ultra high SNR design.
Large 3-way active towers with 350Wrms (total) tri-amp. All drivers manufactured in-house by ATC: HF 25mm Neodymium, Mid 75mm ATC Soft Dome, LF 314mm SL spec. Neutral and revealing, essentially a tower version of the similarly equipped studio monitor. Great dynamic authority and extension, but wonderful at the delicate stuff too.
ATC SCM-19 Mk2
Low sensitivity two way monitor using ATC's 150mm Super Linear bass mid driver (9Kg optimised short-coil/long gap motor assembly) and 25mm dual suspension soft dome tweeter. Both drivers made in-house at ATC. Amazing detail, resolution and dynamics (given enough quality power) for a small stand mount.
Replaces Harbeth M30.1, a fine speaker in its own right, but no match for the neutrality and detailed resolve of the ATC.
Focal Utopia Headphones
Focal's flagship headphones featuring beryllium drivers with lightweight former-less voice coils and unusually long excursion. Exquisitely detailed and dynamic sounding.
Former Sennheiser flagship has been in production for 20 years. Still regarded as a reference at it's price point and a great value in the current market. Makes current flagships seem overpriced given it's level of achievement.
Dual outlet passive power line filter utilizing Audience Teflon capacitors. All equipment fed from these outlets via VH Audio 'Hotboxes'.
Silver Audio Silver Breeze
DIN to RCA dedicated phono cable. Silver conductors, WBT connectors. Used this cable for more than 10 years.
VH Audio Flavor 1, 2, 3 power cords and Hotboxes
DIY power cables using Chris VenHaus' recipes, terminated with Furutech IEC and male plugs. Power cables connected back to VH Audio hotboxes on dedicated 20amp line. I don't claim to know why, but this power setup was essential to extracting the clarity, dynamics and sound staging I've achieved with my system.
I later added the grey 100mm thick foam v-pattern panels and played around with positioning - now seen on the front wall. I don't remember who made those.
Generally, I only really liked the above absorption panels behind the speaker position. Putting my DIY panels or too many of the grey foam panels in front of the speakers created a somewhat dead sound not to my liking - minimal use was ok.
I have 18 600x600mm DC2 panels (3 boxes), 8 on the ceiling and 10 distributed around the room. Work well at breaking up flutter echos and clarifying the sound without detrimental changes in room balance.
I have 4 of the 1200x600 Wavewood panels and found them to be much better balanced than my DIY absorbers when used forward of the speaker position.
The original Wavewood panels were meant to be glued to the wall - however I glued them to 3mm MDF and mounted using wall hooks. Less permanent and I can reposition if required. The new Vicoustic mounting system for the Wavewood appears much better than glueing IMO.
I suggest starting with a couple of types of panels and experimenting - prop panels with whatever you have available and try different arrangements before fixing in position. IMO you'll get more gains than playing around with things like cables and probably for much less $'s.
Dan, I was very torn about selling my Benchmark AHB2's, but the only way I could afford the ATC actives. I love the Benchmark stuff. It only seems to get better as I chip away at other issues - see comments below.
Added diffusion panels to ceiling at mid point between speakers and listening position.
I really wish I had explored ceiling treatment years ago because the improvement in imaging and transient clarity is profound. Its difficult to quantify how much more compelling and realistic this makes music sound.
Not sure if this is because it was the final untreated surface or because the ATC speakers are now being allowed to strut their stuff. Probably both.
In any case the improvement in SQ is amazing in value/$ terms and far outstrips expenditure on tweaks/cables and even hardware changes. Actually this type of improvement is probably not possible with any of the latter, regardless of $'s spent since it is fixing a room related issue (perhaps only room DSP would get close?).
Tobes, I finally found out last night how good the Sennheiser HD 600 cans really are. I received yesterday a Benchmark DAC 1 Pre. I'm floored by it. After listening through my system all evening, I decided to plug my 'phones in, I was just amazed how good they sounded
I'd been using Musical Fidelity X-Cans for around twenty years. This will probably induce me to do a bit more headphone listening, though I prefer listening my speakers more.
I've read a lot of good things about Benchmark's AHB2, one may have to go on my long-term wish list.
Added some Vicoustic DC2 diffusers to the front and back walls - something I'd been meaning to do for a while.
Very noticeable improvement in sound space resolution, ambiance and imaging - recordings now displaying much more differences in regard to these aspects.
While the system is primarily used for music I've also noticed distinct improvement in soundscape, image localisation and steering in movies, which is probably not that surprising. Dialogue also sounds more natural to the particular acoustic.
Very worthwhile given the cost - peanuts compared to equipment cost.
Well, the obvious difference is the bass extension. The 100's go seriously low and I have sold my Rel S3 subwoofer. However the ATC's only produce bass when it's in the program. The major change is th timbral weight and robustness that is added throughout the mids - voices, saxophones, pianos, guitars etc just sound more realistic. Dynamics are also much wider - instruments, even a strumed guitar, can sound explosive and project in a more realistic manner. The speakers have a sort of unburstable grandeur , they just seem to be cruising and taking everything in their stride.
I played all sorts of music on the first night, the 100's deliver with any program/genre. I was up past 3am.
ATC SCM100 ASLT active towers added, replacing the little SCM19 Mk2 monitors - major upgrade, as it should be considering the price. Since these are active speakers the superb Benchmark AHB2 amps are gone (to help fund the speaker purchase). Have also rationalised my turntable setup and the Graham Phantom is gone - yet to decide what will happen with my turntable setup as the most of my listening is local digital downloads and Tidal these days.
In addition to what I said below regarding the HPA4 I should also mention that I compared it to my Bryston BP26 - a very competent, low distortion and great sounding two box preamp (Bryston's top of the range).
The HPA4 is a more transparent and revealing preamp.
I actually got my DAC3L only weeks before getting the HPA4. I never really used the DAC3L as my main preamp except to briefly check it out. I preferred the greater flexibility the Bryston BP26 gave me in terms of inputs and particularly the more linear volume adjustment. Though the DAC3L was probably the more direct conduit.
The HPA4 has the relay driven resistor arrays - seperate attenuators for headphone and speakers - that allow adjustment in 0.5dB steps over 125dB range. This along with the headphone amp is why I got the HPA4. I can't specifically say it's better than the DAC3 alone, but it allows the DAC3 to operate without any digital attenuation so it ought to be better.
For me the HPA4 was a matter of integration and convenience along with maintaining Benchmark's vanishingly low distortion and high SNR. I think it's a brilliant piece of gear. In combination with the AHB2 and SCM19's I get crazy resolution and insight into recordings.
The Harbeth’s were stunning visually but looked a little out of place on the black stands. The ATC speakers look superb in your setup and integrate better with the rest of your gear. Congrats on these new speakers. Check out Dave Grusin Homage to Duke and crank it!
Like your tastes in equipment. I also have a Becnhmark DAC3L and a AHB2 amp driving my Audience 1+1 V2 in my office. I was wondering what your AHB2 brought to your system sound other than the headphone?
Proof that I have no self restraint - no sooner do I say no changes are planned, than I go and audition the ATC SCM19 monitors.
Once I'd listened to the SCM19's (with my own Benchmark AHB2 power amp) I had to have them!
The 19's actually sell for less than my previous Harbeth M30.1's, so I wasn't really sure what to expect having never actually heard an ATC speaker (the shop sold both ATC and Harbeth). I was completely captivated by the pristine sound of the 19's, their transient speed/dynamics and taut, surprisingly extended bottom end. Imaging was first rate as was the musical detail and presence.
Though somewhat less sensitive than my Harbeths, the AHB2 can drive them to high levels without any apparent issue. Nonetheless I'm wondering about a second AHB2 (running as a mono pair) to exploit the full dynamic range of the SCM19's (ATC recommend 75-300W).
I concur with your findings. If you have the right speaker then everything sounds great and differences between DACs don’t matter that much. That said I find Benchmark to be the best I have heard especially if you use the XLR output.
No wonder I was getting no thread updates - haven't been around much and forgot to update my email address. Lol.
BTW, I'm about 160km North of Melbourne.
FWIW I've had a number of setups that I thought worked well with the Harbeth m30.1's. They're pretty unfussy and seem to produce a bit of midrange magic with widely varying gear.
For instance the ARC sp16/vs55 tube combo worked really well I thought, as did the Grace m920/Halcro MC30 - which could hardly be more different in topology/power output etc.
Having said that, for purity, resolution and insight into the recording the Benchmark gear is the best I've had in my room. Such revelation may not suit all systems, but the Harbeths are so non-clinical in their sound it all works very well. Actually the Benchmark stuff doesn't sound clinical either IMO, just transparent to the source.
Benchmark is not for people who like to show off though - the components are small and visually unimpressive, looking more like a mid-fi mini system than traditional Hi-Fi components.
Wow. What a fantastic setup. I would buy your entire setup in a heartbeat and never need to change anything. The HPA 4 has technically the best analog volume control I know of. I would love to hear your setup!
Is there anything you would like to change or are you done for now?
Several changes to my system which follow a transition to computer based music as my primary source (streaming and local). I'm utilising a Mac mini with Uptone Audio linear PS. I doing a lot more headphone listening - especially since adding the Focal Utopia headphones almost 2yrs ago.
A turning point for me was getting the Benchmark AHB2 amp which provided less coloration and lower noise than any of the 6-7 amps I'd tried in this system prior to the latter.
I've owned a few different DACs over the past few years - including Schitt Yggdrasil and PSAudio Directstream Jnr - but ultimately wanted less of a 'fingerprint' on the music. Given my experience with the AHB2 I added the Benchmark DAC3L which I find less coloured than the above mentioned dacs.
I've now added the super low distortion Benchmark HPA4 pre/headphone amp which offers transparent sound as well convenient, finely adjustable, independent control of both my headphone and speaker setups.
Now have the JRDG Capri S2 preamp in my system - amp is the Odyssey Khartago mentioned above.
Except for a lapse in communication I almost ended up with the Parasound JC-2. The Capri S2 is a very compact preamp with a nicely made, milled from solid, case. Feature wise the JC2 and Capri are similar but the JC2 offers more inputs. I do like the volume/balance of the Capri which are adjustable in precise steps of 0.5dB. Internally the Capri follows a quite different design philosopy to the JC2. From pictures the JC2 appears beautifully built with shielded conventional linear PS and discrete components on seperate channel PCB's - fairly purist/minimalist I would have said. The Capri takes minimalism to the max. A small SMPS sits in a separate milled cavity. All signal circuitry is mounted on a single compact PCB to which inputs are directly connected. An input transformer for each channel connects inputs to the central preamp section on the PCB - which appears to use a single LM49740 quad opamp per channel mounted right next to the output connectors.
Listening to an Alison Krauss track as I type this - beautiful sounding preamp! Sounds open and transparent but also organic, refined and expressive. Who would have thought from a apparently simple opamp design guess it's all in the implementation.