Basically, the only system I own worth mentioning. I have it fully set up in my new house and it looks like I will be standing pat for a bit, so I thought that I would take the time to post.
I had much of this gear at my old house in a 10 x 10 room and was very happy, but had to make some additions after moving into a new 15 x 14 room. The CLS IIz panels were not quite up to the challenge of the bigger space, so after 2 months of investigating other speaker options, I added the Kinergetics SW800 subwoofer system and the Blue Circle BC228 monoblocks.
I'm not sure if I could be any more satisfied, but of course you're all encouraged to take your best shot - no baby on board here... :)
Truthfully, I will have to be looking for a new turntable in the not too distant future, so I would love input in that regard.
I will add some pictures in the next couple of days, if that interests anyone.
Simple and effective. May or may not upgrade to SE , or send to GNSC.
Blue Circle AG9000
A stock DAC board modified well beyond the limits of good taste - unbelievable sound, though NOT cheap. Gets along extraordinarily well with the Wadia transport. Shown in picture with Kinergetics crossover.
Mid model SME turntable, packaged with IV.V arm. Simple and elegant - surprisingly straightforward to assemble.
Dynavector 17-D2 mkII
Modest, but effective. Nice tonal balance, not overly coloured.
Blue Circle BC27 pi Phono
New phono stage by Blue Circle replacing the BC23. The pi has a slim case design - looks like a very short and narrow shoebox. The pi model has an external power supply
Blue Circle Audio AG3000
Blue Circle's current production reference level. Four 6922 tubes are used. Fully balanced design with four Shallco volume controls.
Blue Circle Audio AG8000
Fully balanced hybrid design, tube input, SS output. Current Blue Circle reference production model. Comes in four chassis, monblocks with separate power supplies. These run the Kinergetics subwoofer towers. Only the left monoblock is shown.
Blue Circle Audio BC228
Sort of a one box modified version of the AG8000, but souped up a bit. Not a production model. Another 6922 based hybrid. These amps drive the CLS panels.
Martin Logan CLS IIZ
20th anniversary edition of the CLS IIZ, one of the last few pairs off of the line. I really love their ability to image, and their faithful reproduction of tonal quality.
Kinergetics SW-800 sub
Passive sub tower with five 10 inch drivers per side. Crossover is Kinergetics 800C. Subs are crossed over at 80 Hz, and I am using the -18db Butterworth circuit. No shortage of bass or punch...
Blue Circle Audio Black Box
Total custom job - kind of an 83.1 and an 85.1 together but with more stuff. Pictured with prototype version of BC68 power cord.
MIT MH 750
Oldie but goodie, possibly THE cable for the CLS IIz.
Blue Circle BC 92
Moderately priced but highly effective Speaker cable from Blue Circle. Used on the sub towers.
Blue Circle BC62
Again, moderately priced, but effective. These are on every component except the Turntable power supply (captive cord), and the speakers.
Blue Circle BC68
Power cord with in line balanced conditioner. Used on the CLS IIz speakers.
Blue Circle BC 95
Once again, no frills but very effective cabling from Blue Circle. I use this between all of the components in a balanced format, except between the phono stage and the preamp
Looks nice and I bet it sounds great. I'm a big fan of the ML CSLs IIz and bet they really sing with the Blue Cirlce gear. I'm also really fond of the SW-800 as you can probably tell although I use a different XO. I think you would like the Triplanar.
Glad to see the CLS mang a reappearance in your system. I agree with you about the speed, but I would also speculate that there is an unforced presentation and naturalness of timbre about the CLS that is equally important. I know - I'm preaching to the choir here :)
Your crossover point will really depend on the sub you run along with the CLSs. They certainly will not hurt from having some frequecies doubled; as a matter of fact I am running mine full range and cutting my subs in at 80 hz. This seems to be working quite well, though your results will obviously depend on your room, gear, sub and placement.
Nothing wrong with a SOTA Star, though the Cosmos looks very nice. SOTA and Triplanar were very much on my short list, along with a Basis 2500/Vector, and Avid Volvere Sequel, but in the end went with SME just "because". Oddly, it was the only table of the group I had not heard. So far I am not disappointed.
I expect my cls in the next week or so. Expect to have to replace the panels at some point. Although someone had success with vaccuming the panels. The transformers seem to be problem free. For some reason I seem to be obsessed with speed. I really like female vocals and sharp transients. I see maybe a spectral dmc 20(spectral could take away some of the lushness of the koetsu/ atma-sphere?) and atma-sphere mk 1. I think maybe the cls needs to crossover ideally at 250hz. That's more a woofer than sub. Last time I had a pair I crossed over at 100hz. I understand your love for sme. I am using a vpi aries 2 with sme iv and benz glider lo. My sota star needs refurbishing. I think I want to trade up to a sota cosmo wheaton triplanar and Koetsu. I reely like the sme iv. maybe I will keep it. the sme is probably a better match for sota. Anyway it will probaly take the rest of the year to get set.
Greg - yes , I've hed the new turntable for about a month now. It took some time to get the stand properly tweaked (had to change the number of layers of MDF several times, and then discovered that the tennis balls were too stiff for this table, so they were replaced with goofy looking fake rubber basketballs and soccer balls (they are actually about the size of a baseball) from the dollar store. I am immensely impressed with the SME table and arm - simple, small, easy to assemble, and a wonderful sound. Hope you land your CLS speakers. I think your best bet for a sub would be a small (8 or 10 inch) front firing type. Obviously the faster the better, and two small ones might be better than one big one. Also couple of Vandersteen 2w subs might be just the thing - they don't fire forward, but they have three eight inch drivers, and when I had one it was fairly "tight" in terms of integration. Mind you, I didn't use it with the CLS so I am guessing a bit here.
Rives - Thank you for the kind comment. Of course you are welcome to come have a listen, though I think Toronto is a bit of a haul from where you are. I would love to have a listen to your gear as well, your system is very well conceived, and is probably a treat to hear.
I would love to hear your system sometime. My system consists of ML monolith IIs that are highly modified in the bass and bi-amped. I always felt the only way to improve on that would be a CLS with separate state of the art separate low end cabinet, like the Kinergetics (actually that's the only one as it was specifically designed for that purpose). I'm a fan of the 2 box approach as it allows for optimum placement of lows vs highs independently, and with planars that is a huge advantage. Nicely done.
RE: the SW 800 -- I really don't know why they didn't give me what I expected. They had plenty of volume, it just wasn't clean, fast and precise enough in my opinion to match the transient response of the electrostatic panels (though I didnt have them on special stands, just cones). However I'm crazy about the the ML Depth. Besides the way it sounds, there's no external amp, plenty of contouring capability, small and omnidirectional so standing waves aren't as likely to develop readily. The only ML setup (of any model) I heard that sounds better than mine, is their new prototype which I heard in an "un-marked" room at CES.
As for the phono cable, you probably got a van den Hul "Silver Hybrid" phono cable with your SME arm/table. (The IV.V arm is internally wired with a coated-ribbon "Magnan type" conductor which works great with MC cartridges) Anyway, I'd been using those vdH phono cables in successive versions (incl. the Silver-Hybrid like yours) since 1991 and thought they were as good as could be had, especially since I was using a vdH cartridge and those two companies seem to have a close relationship. But just before I recently sent my arm in to SME for service, I was checking prices with Sumiko (SME's distributor here) and the "person" at Sumiko confidentially expressed his preference for the Cardas Golden Reference phono set far over the vdH. That's what got me thinking about the subject. The Cardas, it turned out had a great rep, so did the newer Hovland Music Groove II, and somewhere out of the corner of my ear, I'd heard about Purist. When I found out the price of a set of Venustas ($1800), my reaction was basically "not in this life!" But while I was at CES, I was able to get an obscenely great price on Jim Aud's (Purist's owner's) personal set and already broken in yet! I bought them of course -- but also figuring that if they were not absolutely the cat's ass, I could at least sell them at a small profit which would probably pay for a set of Cardas! Well, in my not-so-humble opinion, they were absolutely the cat's ass ........ and I've since got a 1.5m ic for between my phono amp and preamp, and an 8m set of XLR's for preamp-to-amp.
I think Purist may have the new "best" cable -- a real breakthrough in design, the way Bruce Brisson did with MIT years ago. I know I sound like so many others singing the praises of their favorite cable, but this design (primarily the Ferox medium through which the conductors run) protects the signal from external contamination and internal time smear better than anything I've heard to date (which includes about 80% of the top contenders.)
Let me put it this way. When you stick that Venustas phono set in your system, you'll think your Dynavector somehow just transformed itself into a Colibri, Urishi, or Insider Gold!
System edited: The search for a new turntable is over - I have acquired an SME 20/2A. Though I will continue to tinker with peripheral stuff (cords, cables, vibration gadgets), I think I am pretty much done with the components.
Funny you should mention the venustas phono cable - I am "sort of" looking for a phono cable at the moment. Maybe I will have a chat with the dude.
Also, I'm still a little curious about your experience with the SW800. Admittedly, I had to fart around with them for a while in terms of placement, and there is a lot of absorption material around them (two bookcases full of large texbooks and records, foam panels and tubes). Also, they cleaned up a lot when I put them on Sound Anchor stands. Set up as they are though, they are very effective.
Looking at your system, I would say you have every reson to be pleased as well. I'd love to hear it sometime, though we probably live thousands of miles apart ...
In terms of ICs, I am using a mix of things, mostly Blue Circle, but some Transparent and Van Den Hul as well. I will eventually get to playing with those, but for the moment I am a little "spent" - literally and figuratively.
Hi Esoxhntr; Well I'm happy if you're happy -- the SW 800's just never did it for me (they looked great though!) and I was driving them with a Levinson 23.5, so that wasn't the problem! I don't know.
I didn't have Watt/Puppies, just the Puppies alone, for low end extension. They really were the fabulous solution -- yet I never heard of a CLS owner using them (maybe too costly) plus and you still needed an amp and x-ovr.
If you want to try a Purist cable, the first one you should try is the phono set -- and there just happens to be a Venustas on the Gon right now for half price -- which is still a lot of money, but you won't believe the difference (I guess you're using all Blue Circle Ic's right now?) It might be sold by the time you read this, they're a pretty hot item.
You'll be happy to know that the CLS IIzs are already on Sound Anchor stands, I guess I need to update the system. I 've heard lots of great things about the Purist cables, and will try them when opportunity permits.
As for the sub issue, I couldn't disagree with you more! The SW 800s are lightening fast, and leave both the ML subs in the dust in terms of clarity, and extension. I find myself wondering what you were driving them with...BUT, my ears my system, right. YMMV. I would have been greatly interested in hearing the CLS/Watt/Puppy combo - sounds very cool!
You have a great system, so far (a list of my stuff is at the end) -- and I say that 'cause I've already covered some of the ground you are just now covering. I wouldn't bother with this long response, but I feel like you're almost there. (I've had my ML's since 1991 BTW -- they are also II'z's now like yours) I used to drive them with ARC M300 MkII's, for sale 'cause I don't have the room, so I'm using a Levinson 23.5 which is about the most musical SS amp I've ever heard.
OK, you asked for my best shot! Hope you can take it! Really just two changes for a significant improvement. One quick and easy, the other may take a bit longer. 1.) Get some Sound Anchor stands for the CLS's ($550 + shp) major improvments in mid/high smoothness and imaging. The panels will appear to lose bass, but they're not -- just no boom off the floor and 2.) You want seamless, fast bass? When I got my CLS's in 1991, I probably would've bought an Entec sub, but they'd closed. Then I heard a pair of Wilson Watt/Puppies, and I knew the Puppies would be fast enough to match the panels. I bought a pair -- it was an unbelievable combo and I would still be using them today but (read on) another CLS friend (fiend?) talked me into buying the last two pair of new SW 800's with him, so I sold the Puppies. Major Mistake!! The SW 800's were slow and "gushy" and the Kinergetics x-ovr sucked. (I was using a Bryston 10-B with the Puppies.) I fially sold my SW's for $2700 to someone overseas and just lived w/o subs for awhile. I would've bought another pair of Puppies, and actually was looking for a used pair -- no luck. Then the ML Depth and Descent came out. They are fast and powerful. Actually (believe it or not) the smaller (cheaper) Depth is a better choice for the CLS's because it's faster than the Descent due to the smaller size of the woofers (8" vs. 10") I think, based on the size of your room, one would do (mine's right in the middle). And you could sell the extra amp(s) cause the ML is self powered!
Your system is pretty terrific otherwise (I'm a Purist cable freak, but whatever.......) which is why I'm recommending these two "finishing touches!" Anyway, here is my system, and good luck! Neil
Preamp..................... Mark Levinson 26s
Phono Preamp.. ....... .... Mark Levinson 25s
Amp (main speakers)......... Mark Levinson 23.5
TT.......... Goldmund Studietto with JVC motor
Arm... SME V, re-wired with van den Hul MCS-150M
Cartridge.. ........ van den Hul Frog Gold Mk-2
CD Transport....... Wadia T2000-S (Teac upgrade)
DAC............. Wadia 1000 X-64.4 Digimaster
Cassette...................... Nakamichi CR7a
Tuner........................ Technics ST 9030
Main Speakers: M/L CLSIIz's on Sound Anchor stands Low frequency: Martin-Logan Depth
Good system,congrats. Turntable? hmmm... It's all up to your budget of course but I can recommend Acoustic Signature Final Tool or maybe the bigger models. This is a fantastic table and you don't have to break the bank to get that kind of build and sound quality.