Description

Simply Beautiful

Designed this 38" by 22" room myself for music appreciation and family enjoyment. soft pecky cyress walls, maple floors, 10ft peak ceiling. Room overlooks the Smoky Mountains. Doors to the room are exterior and the wall adjoining house is brick, so I can listen at night and not disturb the family. Cabinetry holds CD collection. I have simplified to the Ayon CD35se which includes its own transport, DAC and Preamp in one unit. This now goes via Master Built Ultra Balanced IC s to my Jeff Rowland 625 S2 stereo amplifier. They are bi-wired with Master Built Ultra cables to the Von Schweikert VR55 Aktives.That’s it.

This saves three power cords and two sets of IC’s over my past separates  I used the money from sales of these connectors to upgrade my remaining cables.

While my old system sounded very good, the sound of this new system configuration is more natural, cleaner, a touch warmer, very dynamic and satisfying. I think this is mostly from the simpler signal path plus the new speakers. WSF is way up with only one remote and push and play design. The reduced visual clutter is relaxing. I absolutely love the Ayon with NOS tubes. The Ayon is fully computer ready but frankly I am so enjoying the delight of my current analogue-like Red Book sound, that I will probably wait a few years to let computer audio mature. I would appreciate any comments.
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Room Details

Dimensions: 38’ × 22’  X large
Ceiling: 10’


Components Toggle details

    • Von Schweikert Audio VR 55 Aktive
    21HZ to 40Khz +-2db, less than 0.5% distortion. Powered and adjustable bass.
    • Ayon Audio Ayon CD35se
    Vacuum Tube CD Player:Transport/DAC/Preamp combo. Upsamples RedBook to 256DXD, plays SACD.
    • Jeff Rowland Design Group Stereo Amplifier 625 S2
    Class A/B described as Jeff's best Class A/B design. Moderate size and weight 54 lbs and heat for its 325 watts into 8 and 600 watts into 4 ohms
    • Master Built Ultra Speaker Cable and Interconnects
    Biwire Rare Earth noise reduction coating
    • Mad Scientist Power Cords
    Excellent Power Cords for the buck, with detail, dynamics and a touch of warmth
    • PS Audio Quintet
    Power conditioner, used during thunderstorm season.

Comments 98

128x128
Owner
Been gone awhile, now back during the virus social isolation days. Thanks for the responses.
Ricred1 The Rowland at 600 watts into 4 ohms, drives the 90db Von Schweirkerts to any sane level with finesse and punch.
Needfree Thank you for your kind words. I indeed am super grateful to be able to enjoy music over with this system and setting

gammajo

Center
The room and that view are absolutely stunning. Plus you have great music to match the room. You are one lucky guy. Enjoy

needfreestuff

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How do you like the JR 625 S2 with the VR 55s? I'm surprised they don't require more power.

ricred1

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Owner
Updated System description today to add Jeff Rowland 625 S2 amplifier and  Mad Scientist Power Cords. Added all new pictures. I use the red blanket over the TV for  subtle sound improvement and  for extended critical listening I bring the speakers out another few feet, but I get surprising sound stage depth as is. Also very helpful is Marigo  Dots on all the windows in the room which tamed  and clarified the treble

gammajo

Center
Very impressive!

pdreher

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Beautiful listening environment a system! I'm looking for upgraded speakers and the VR55 Aktives are on my list. Just need to hear them first. Enjoy!

sbonamo

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Owner
System edited 4/29/18

gammajo

Center
Very nice system!

sbayne

Center
Beautiful room, house, location, system, etc...!!!  You are blessed in many, many ways!!!  Whereabouts in the Smokies are you located (town,...we visit Gatlinburg/other places frequently and love the area!)?  I see you have one pic of the system with the HDTV covered (good); do you ever find that all the windows that give you that great view would benefit from curtains to avoid all the reflections?

zephyr24069

Center
Hello Joe,
congratulations on a wonderful lecture hall and shiny HiFi.
In particular, I like speakers, look fantastic, and I believe and sound.
And I have speakers with ceramic Accuton drivers. Very natural and accurate sound.
Since the bass speakers in the field of active, you do not need a lot of power to keep the midrange and tweeter. Have you thought about the triode amplifier? If you have a chance to try it, you might overwhelm.
I am with my speakers tried several solid state amplifier, with some working great, but when I connected the triode, a smile spread across my.
I have Ayon Spirit with the KT150 tube and it works great, but still better Ayon amplifiers 32B, 52B, 62B, or 82B tubes.
Best Regards,
Ivan Forgac

forgisound

128x128
Owner
System edited: Delighted with my new speakers, reviewed below. They recently won Best in Show by several reviewers at RMAF and review in major magazine pending in a few months. Review of Von Schweikert VR 55 Aktive: Appearance: The new 55's black finish on mine is flawless on careful inspection. The speaker is offered in any color with a possible up charge for some choices. The finish is a very deep mirror, so much so that standing above them looking down the side all you see is a perfect reflection of the carpet underneath with all colors accurate in the reflection and no distortion. They shine with a wonderful inner light. The fancy Von Schweikert "V" on front is made of mirrored glass that also sparkles. The white of the drivers is gentled to soft light grey through the metal honeycomb protectors. These are the first speakers that I have ever seen that look attractive to me without the grills on. The back plate holding the binding posts and bass and rear tweeter adjustments is elegantly finished in a silver brushed metal. The spikes are solid high quality brass finished in an attractive pewter color. With grills on, the speakers look sleek and very modern. The speaker has great lines and just looks and feels very expensive. Definitely not just another black box. Listening I used well recorded CD cuts from favorite classical piano, large orchestral, organ, male and female pop vocal, rock, and world music. My comments will mostly be in comparison to the already excellent VSA VR5 Anniversary MK2 model and other large speakers up to $100,000 in price. I play piano and my ultimate reference is strong familiarity with live music. The first thing that delighted me is the 55 tweeter. It offers up copious detail and air yet at the same time is never glassy, harsh, edgy, and just sounds right and natural. The Annis have an excellent Revelator tweet, but the 55 tweeter with the rear ambience ribbon outclasses it and all others that I have heard. This results in closely miked female voices and treble piano, single and massed violins, fingers sliding up the frets of guitars, etc sounding more natural with accurate bite but no hardness, screech, or cringe. It also allows more precise location within the soundstage and an improvement of the general feeling of relatedness and position of all the sounds occurring in complex pieces. As I adjusted the ambience tweeter up a bit, my friend in the listening chair smiled and said that the cymbal on far right and back just became three dimensional! I had a three hour listening session last night at loud volume and experienced none of the listening fatigue associated with a tweeter that is ringing or too hot. Instead I enjoyed the excitement, and the beauty of natural treble. And I was delighted to hear that most of the liveliness and all of the beauty was conveyed even at much lower volumes. When you turn down most systems, it is like you turned down the lights and everything gets dull - not to as great a degree here. I spent much of the session grinning and moving to the music, and while planning to just sample many cuts, I listened to every one of them straight through because I was so delighted with what I was hearing - not so much a bunch of new sounds, but rather a better balance and naturalness within both micro and macro detail amidst incredible dynamics! The midrange was harder to get a bead on. It is really hard to dissect the 55's because the speaker is so well integrated (no crossover points could be identified, all scales from lowest to highest sounded seamless in position, loudness, and character). Everything including voices, brass, strings, and percussion sound right, accurate, and properly fleshed out. My Nuforce Reference 20s have the best SOTA bass that I have heard. Yet in the VSA showroom I heard the 55 Aktives being run by Constellation pre and amp, and heard bass guitar etc sound uncannily more real. At home through the Ref 20's, once the bass adjustment was properly set (about a 1.5 db boost) I am getting more weight and feel more chest, gut and butt pressurization than I had with the Annis and a touch more warmth, yet still enjoying the excellent slam, and fastness of the Nuforce. In fact I think that the articulation is better too. The 55's disappear better than any other speaker I have heard. The place I see the most dramatic difference is that with all other speakers that I have heard, symphonies are disappointing - these other speakers simply did not convey the height, depth, width, air and excitement of a live symphony. The frustration was so great that I seldom listened to symphony recordings (though I love them in person) With the 55 Aktives, every symphonic piece auditioned in the small show room and in my large room has been a true surprise at how much of the pleasure of a live symphony the 55s are able to convey. Similarly, never before have massed violins lost their steeliness and sounded as natural and real. So what next? As Tim the Tool Man Taylor would say - MORE POWER! So I changed my preamp setting from low to high gain (12v setting) to drive my Nuforce Reference 20's (Peak 440W into 8 ohms, 800W into 4, and 1600W into 2) and cranked the system up to high concert levels. I first listened all the way through to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with full Ode to Joy chorus, then Fanfare for the Common Man, and finally the Cirque de Soile's KA. Wow!, Glorioski! Shazam! Everything took on an inner light, the bass (even lowest notes) was stupendous in definition, weight, and impact - it filled my large room, and resonated in my body from my throat all the way down to my seat. In fast Koyoto drum and kettle drum rolls I could feel and hear each individual stroke! The treble and mid range stayed perfect and everything opened up. I found myself jumping up and air-conducting the orchestra (something I have not done in twenty years!). This listening session was truly a transcendental. For several VR 55 sessions now I have the feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction, hours afterwords, that I have in the past only gotten from going to an excellent live concert. That is really something. Just finished a rock session and with Santana Put Your Lights On and Metalica Unforgiven 2, I kept looking behind me as sound seemed to be coming from there too. And when pushed to very high volume, I could detect no hardening, compression, or congealing of the sound. Way cool! I think I found my speaker for life! As best I know the designer, Albert V, was trying to convey much of the magic of very large (and expensive) speaker systems in a speaker of more realistic size and price. He felt that in addition to being time and phase aligned, it would be important that such a speaker exhibited the ability to convey dynamics without compression as well as the big boys did and project a sound field in all three dimensions including vertical height. In my view Albert has hit one so far out of the park that no one will even be able to find the ball! He has succeeded well beyond price point. In fact, when you hear the VR 55 and how beautifully it conveys music of all types, you might just feel he has established a new state of the art. Context: I have no commercial interest or affiliation with the manufacturer. Equipment used Ayon CD5’s with 1980 NOS Reflector tubes (Transport, DAC and preamp combined). Nuforce Reference 20 mono amps with Mosaic boxes on top and mass-loaded with lead bags, isolated mechanically and electrically. All Delphi/ Von Schweikert Master Built Signature Power cords, and biwire speaker cables, with Master Built Signature Ultra IC. Guerilla Audio PCs are currently being used on the Aktives bass. Herbie's gliders under speaker spikes. Power is clean with a dedicated circuit panel, PS Audio conditioner, and being the only house on the outside transformer. Comparison speakers Von Schweikert VR5 Anniversary MK2s in the same room with same equipment. Also a half dozen other large floor standers of good reputation in other people's systems Room 38 by 22 feet with 10 foot peaked ceiling with maple floors on trusses and soft pecky cypress wood walls. Front wall treated with a home made system that sets up in 30 seconds (Doggy bed leaned against the TV with six inches of foam with soft lambs wool covering, then draped in two thick cotton blankets (not pretty but effective and materials are used conventionally when watching TV). Side wall first reflections treated with wood blinds and heavy drapes, floor with rugs, and windows treated with Marigo dots for absorbing reflections off glass. Speakers set for first listening with Tweeters 38 inches from front wall, 9'8" apart, 6'4" from side walls, 10 feet to listening position with 20 degrees tow in. Have option for critical listening to move speakers out about 5 feet from wall. Doing so deepens and further improves the holography of the sound stage. Impressions are after more than 500 hours factory burn in and four days of home play. VR55 Aktive Specifications from Manufacturer VSA: vonschweikertaudio.com site. "Featuring ceramic honeycomb woofers and midrange drivers along with a damped Beryllium dome tweeter, mounted in cabinet of 75mm thickness of resin/wood powder, artificial stone, and hard rubber. These layers resonate at differing Q frequencies, which reduces sound transmission through the cabinet better than solid aluminum, with measured distortion is less than 0.5% at normal listening levels. The VR-55 Aktive uses a 400-watt built-in woofer amplifier. This bi-amp technique allows anyone, in any room, to achieve superb bass depth (21Hz @ -2dB) and also enables matching of the bass level to the upper frequency ranges. To add the depth found in the concert hall, we have provided a rear-firing ribbon tweeter. This Dipolar Design creates a “bubble” of sound rather than a narrow “beam,” generating a huge sweet space. This new tweeter has the lowest measured distortion of any dome tweeter on the market, cost-no-object." Freq Response 16Hz-40KHz (-6db) 21Hz-40KHz (-2bd), Sensitivity 90db, Size 42"x14"x28", weight 186 lbs. Price $60,000.

gammajo

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Owner
Arthur Thanks you for the friendly and kind words. Glad you are also blessed to live in a beautiful area. Your system looks great as well.

gammajo

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Hi Joe, lovely room and slick system! Very tidy and clean, unlike my sprawling collection. I design switching power supplies for a living but have yet to get switching amps in my system. My tube amps have kept my desire at bay, although I do plan on trying something from the latest realm soon just to see if I've been missing anything. Maybe NuForce? I've also considered Channel Islands and Bel Canto. I only need a few good watts so it would be one of the smaller amps for starters. Thus far, the mantra of "simple is best" has won out in terms of finest sound quality achieved in my system so I'm all the more curious to see if a complex amplifier with numerous self-imposed hurdles can pull it off on the Nanos.

I know what you mean about understanding lyrics - that's one of my favorite metrics for assessing aptitude. I have several recordings that I've listened to for years and only recently understood what they are saying (my favorite test is Faint's Danse Macabre). I'll have to check out the Caverna Magica piece since French is my native language.

I love how you live in the trees. My house is the same way, in the Appalachians of southwest Virginia. It was one of my main requirements when looking for my latest house and we're very happy to have found exactly that.

Arthur

aball

128x128
Owner
System edited: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amps Added Using live acoustic music and a grand piano in the same room with the system as reference, I finally had my system to a very nice place where all commented that it was clean, clear, revealing without harshness, and involving. All the mods done to the Nuforce Reference 9 V3SE's had improved them considerably over stock. It should be noted that I am blessed with very clean power. I am the only house on the outside transformer and the system is wired into a panel separate entirely from the main house. Prior to trying the new Ref 20, I had recently auditioned several amps in my system including the well respected Merrill Veritas, Hypheus Anvils, Chanel Island D500's and also the Hegel H30 in another system. I preferred my modded Ref 9's to all of them. I really did not need the extra watts, as my speakers are sensitive but wanted to hear if the 20's might be beneficial in other areas while preserving the Nuforce magic. After a longish wait for the first production models, mine finally arrived in an easy to open hinged wooden case with excellent deluxe foam packing, and soft cloth covers. I used an A-B-A-B comparison model, first playing the 9's, then the Ref 20's for a hundred hour break in, then back to the 9's and finally the 20's again. This took discipline because once I put in the 20's I was reluctant to remove them because I was enjoying them so much. I used my reference tracks spanning orchestral, classical solo (particularly piano, organ, and violin), jazz, pop, and rock. The 20 break in period was not bad, the amps were more detailed out of the box with an improved sound stage. By the end of test the 20's became more relaxed, liquid, and airy. I tried Metallica and Led Zeppelin to make sure that the liquidity was not artificial and when the music was supposed to be driving and edgy – it was in spades. Yet lovely and liquid music was more so than I have ever heard on any system. Piano which is both liquid and percussive with wood, string, and felt-hammer timbre was spot on. When I reinserted the 9's it was not like they were broken: they were still sounded wonderful, but the 20's dramatically deepened the soundstage and also allowed the instruments on the edges and background to sound more realistic with more bloom and air. The 20's also have incredible micro and macro detail and at the same time are more refined and relaxed without losing the punch. I listened to a Caverna Magica piece where there is a man and a woman very softly speaking in a cave while other more prominent sounds are occurring. With the 9's I finally figured that they were speaking French; with the 20's I could easily follow whole sentences. Bruce Springsteen and other signers who are fond of slurring or mumbling words, were much clearer and yet natural. The 20's bass was even better than the bass terrific 9's, having more satisfying weight, bloom, and differentiation. All vocals were improved in naturalness. Close-miked harmonica and female singers which could be grating at high volume with the 9's, were just clean and present with the 20's. Timbral density and attack/decay, as well as speed were improved. All these were little improvements over the 9's (except much improved soundstage) yet the overall presentation is shockingly better and more natural. The feeling of enjoyment is very close to the best vinyl rigs in density, richness, and naturalness but with the strengths of digital. When I open my eyes the sense of the singers and instrumentalists being in the room actually increases, speaking to a big increase in presence without any forwardness. It feels equivalent to an entire system upgrade! I would encourage an audition for people with revealing systems, and feel the Ref 20's are competitive with amps of reference quality regardless of price.

gammajo

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Joe,
I'm sure that Mr. Von Schweikert is well aware of how good his speakers are. The man has a good ear as well as a good knowledge of how speakers work. He also knows how important wires and cabling are in the equation. I'm glad you're enjoying your music. It's a fun journey, this hobby. :o)

sherod

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Owner
System edited: Ultra Initial Impressions Please keep in mind that my system was already sounding excellent, as best it ever has with all Master Built Signature speaker cables, power cords ,and balanced IC. I replaced the Signature IC with a 1/2 meter Ultra. Given that the Ultra was not broken in, at first there seemed slightly less weight, fullness, and relaxation than with the Signature IC which had been in my system for months. With the Ultra inserted I immediately noticed significantly enhanced micro-detail, air, and extension. Xylophone, high treble piano and treble guitar sounded more realistically bell like, meaning that there was more prominent and natural timber particularly mid-note with shifts in timber as the note progressed. The sound started with lightening quick attack, the timber developed more fully and then a nice long decay followed, sounding much more like the actual instrument played live. At the other end of the frequency range drums were more like drums again because the attack, mid note timbre and decay were so perfectly reproduced. There was more presence, aliveness, and realism. In highly complex passages there was clearer delineation among timbres and rhythms. Notes became more three dimensional particularly in the treble. Soft back voices and the softest of breath sounds were now even more distinguishable, yet in perfect balance to the more prominent sounds. Vertical separation was enhanced such as the singer's voice projecting at appropriate height above the guitar they were playing. Subtle shifts in phrasing and tempo were much more apparent adding greatly to the excitement of PRAT. No increase in any harshness was noted on good recordings, resulting in a much more thrilling listening experience with no hint of assaultiveness, rather a sense of being draw more deeply into the music, a significant step closer to live performance. All the above characteristics of involvement, excitement, and subtlety were preserved to a greater extent than I have ever heard as volume was lowered even to background listening levels. Addendum - now two weeks in I am very very pleased - just listening to music and enjoying the increased quality and involvement. There has been some slight shifts at times in the treble and bass as part of break in. But if it seems a bit off, a few hours later it is back to awesome. I know it will take more time to settle in but enjoyable all the way with a steady increase in the good type of sweetness and relaxation as break in continues. I find myself wondering if Albert Von Schweikert realizes just what awesome transducers the VR5 Anni MK2's are.

gammajo

128x128
Owner
Rxman Thank you for your support and friendship - since you have blown your cover as my mystery modder I do have to tell people that you did an amazing job! All the work was precise and better than any factory work that I have seen. It has been great fun bringing out the best in these amps and hearing the dramatic difference.

gammajo

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I was privileged to visit Joe earlier this year in March and listen in that beautiful A-frame room, seeing and hearing in person was a game changer.

Joe and his wonderful wife were very gracious folk, we had dinner at a nice restaurant one evening, took a couple of hikes in the wooded hillsides and enjoyed the peaceful, panoramic view this area has to offer.

When we returned, I commenced modifying Joe's NuForce amps, fired them up for a listening session and the rest was musical history.

Thanks Joe, I really enjoyed being there!

rx8man

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Owner
Charles1dad - Thank you for your kind words. Yup the closer to live rather than high hifi the better for long term enjoyment. Going to a real acoustic concert can really reset what real bass sounds like.
Sherod - great to hear from you. VS does have a white paper on the cables with prices if you request from them. I am on the road teaching in Vegas but next weekend when home will post prices here

gammajo

Center
I'll echo the comments of others, your room is beautiful and your system is wonderfully arranged. Based on the description you provided your sound is very natural and thus is effectively allowing you to emotionally connect with your music.
Natural sound will keep you engaged long term and always trump hifi spectacular. Congratulations.
Charles,

charles1dad

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Joe,
I'm glad to see that you've found an improvement by upgrading
some cabling. I just checked the Von Schweigert web site and I don't see where they have cables. Could you share the models and pricing on the specific cables you are using?

sherod

128x128
Owner
Brownsfans - Thank you for the kind words. We have 70 degrees today and the leaves are beautiful, If you love hiking you will really enjoy. There rae 250 waterfalls in our county and many hikes of all levels of challenge. when you get down pay a visit!

Agear - Thank you also for your comments. Interesting story about the VS-Nuforce combo. I would add especially with tubes up front.

gammajo

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Your room is simply beautiful. What a great space.

Interestingly, when I still lived in MN, I went to hear a demo of the VR4Jrs with the NuForce monoblocks. It was around 2003, and the dealer there at the time was Chris Moon, who was Prince's original sound engineer. His room was spectacular with enormous Avant Garde speakers and about 300K of equipment upstream. He was impressed with how good the VSs sounded with the Nuforce as was I. I am sure the Ayon sounds glorious as well. Bravo.

agear

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Gammajo, Very nice system, really beautiful room, and you are situated in paradise on earth! I expect to retire to an area just north of the park in less than two years. I have two passions--music and hiking. Can't wait to get down there.

Well done!

brownsfan

128x128
Owner
System edited: Master Built Signature Cables Review.
You may not believe what I am about to tell you, because I barely do and I am listening first-hand. I was willing to accept that wire (above high quality but non-stratospheric) made a small difference in mega systems, but that it was probably not as important in normal systems as a serious upgrade to preamp or source.
I heard many power cords, interconnects and speaker cables, in the $500 to $1,500 range and auditioned and purchased many CD transports, preamps (tube and solid state) and amplifiers. Using live acoustic music and a grand piano in the same room with the system as reference, I finally had my system to a very nice place where all commented that it was clean, clear, resolving without harshness, and involving. It should be noted that I am blessed with very clean power. I am the only house on the outside transformer and the system is wired into a panel separate entirely from the main house.
When asking Albert Von Schweikert (distributer for these cables) for help in deciding what’s next, with me considering new amps, and possible subwoofers, he suggested that I try wiring my system completely with the Master Built Signature series. Having learned to trust him, and the generous return policy – I assented and he sent three power cords, one balanced IC and a set of biwire speaker cables, already broken in.
I used two CD’s compiled with all my reference tracks spanning orchestral, classical solo (particularly piano and violin), jazz, pop, and rock. Immediately I noticed sound that was about 5% cleaner and clearer, with 10% more air, bloom, and a better sound stage. But the “HOLY COW!” part was that the music was at least 25% more natural and 50% more liquid. As days passed, I used torture tests: harpsichord, harmonica, organ, brass, woodwind, strings, and percussion all were realistic and wonderful. I tried Metallica and Led Zeppelin to make sure that the liquidity was not artificial and when the music was supposed to be driving and edgy – it was in spades. Yet lovely and liquid music was more so than I have ever heard on any system. Piano which is both liquid and percussive with wood, string, and felt-hammer timbre was spot on.
The overall presentation is shockingly better and more natural. Timbral density and attack/decay at the very high and low frequency extremes is greatly enhanced. Also lowest level detail such as the variations in in-breath for singers from one phrase to another is more naturally apparent – adding greatly to the excitement and realness of the performance. As I relax into listening, the feeling of enjoyment is very close to the best vinyl rigs in density, richness, and naturalness but with the strengths of digital. When I open my eyes the sense of of the singers and instrumentalists being in the room with you actually increases, speaking to a big increase in presence without any forwardness. This is more than a significant equipment upgrade – it is equivalent to an entire system upgrade! It is substantially better than the changes noticed when I auditioned equipment at four times the current prices of my stuff. I would encourage an audition for people with revealing systems at any price. The investment, while significant is likely to produce more significant satisfaction than any other change you could make.

gammajo

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