I've always loved music, but I've never had a good stereo. I decided to use a new stereo a diet reward. It worked. I've lost 32 pounds and I am now hearing the best music in my life.

Two areas that I focused on in putting this system together:

1. Best Speakers

2. Best Source component

For the speakers I tried a series of top-rated expensive speakers in several cities (this is covered elsewhere in the forums). My wife and I both agreed that the B&W 800D speakers sounded the most "real" even though they look goofy.

For the source component I had assumed that I would get a high-end CD player. Specifically, I lusted after the Nagra CDC Player. However, as I researched this it became clear that all the authorities agree that a properly configured hard-drive based system is better than the best CD-player.

The nice thing is that for my art business I already had a high-end computer system with a 5.7 Terabyte RAID and a high-speed wireless network. Hence, all I needed to by was a first class Digital-to-Analog (DAC) converter.

I kept hearing about Benchmark DACs, so I called them up and they were very helpful in the final details on configuring my system to run using iTunes.

I wasn't going to spend much on the amps, cables and interconnects, but when I told the audio dealer I was working with that I would consider using lamp-cord for speaker cables he turned pale. Since it was a package deal I ended up with amps, interconnects and speaker cables that would not embarrass anyone who believes that those things matter.

I am not a true Audiophile, because I have no plans to tweak the system or upgrade for decades. Also, I am skeptical about many aspects of high-end audio such as expensive cables and interconnects.

But I do believe that appearance matters. I want the gear to look good. I like speaker cables that are thick and look well manufactured. I like thick aluminum plates and attention to detail. I've attached a few pictures that show some of the detail that I like.

But, even though I am not an audiophile, I think it sounds great.

Components Toggle details

    • B&W 800D
    I tried many high-end speakers but kept coming back to these even though they are goofy looking.
    • Benchmark DAC1
    An Apple Airport Express connects via a Toslink optical cable to a Benchmark DAC1(Digital to Analog Converter)
    • Audioquest King Cobra Balanced
    The Benchmark DAC1 connects via Audioquest King Cobra  Balanced interconnects to the the two  Classé  CA-M400 is a 400W monaural amplifiers
    • Audioquest Everest
    The amplifiers connect via Audioquest Everest speaker cables to the speakers. 
    • Apple 17-inch MacBook Pro
    iTunes on a Laptop computer connected wirelessly to a 5.7 TB RAID array with Apple Lossless files.
    • Classé CA-M40
    400 Watt Class A Mono
    • Apple XServe RAID
    5.6 Terabytes. Apple's rack-optimized fibre channel hardware RAID. Used to store the audio files in Apple Lossless format.

Comments 32

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"After all, it’s not like the amp, wires, or source actually make a big difference, right? I figured as long as I have good speakers, that was all that really mattered."

Yes, that is what I absolutely believed 20 years ago. In fact, I hung on to that belief for at least 10 solid years. Then I upgraded my Hafler amp to a Bryston 3B-ST - OMG! The amp DOES make a difference....soon after that I went from the $29.95 Tara Labs Interconnects to Kimber Cable’s Silver Streaks. OMG! Cables DO make a difference….

So, for the past 10 years, I have been thoughtfully and carefully assembling equipment that I think sound great to me! I even became a reviewer for primarily to get exposed to all the different possibilities.

Trust us all here: The only way you are not going to go down that same road is if you never visit this, or any other audio site, again. And never, ever pick up and read a print mag either...

If you do, this is what WILL happen, someday, someone, will either write or talk to you about the difference product X has made in their set up, which may even have a pair of 801s in it. Even though you have been able to ignore the power of suggestion in the past, “just this one time” you will try another product/component and it WILL make your set up sound better. Once you cross the bridge to where you know, understand and believe that "everything" makes a difference there is no turning back.

So, if you don't want to go the way of everyone else on this site, you better leave now and just enjoy you set up as is...forget about us - it will save you thousands of dollars in the end!

On the other hand, if you do continue to visit this site, please let us know when that "change" in attitude happens for you. Then we can all line up to say, "told you so!"

It sure has been fun for me over the last 20 years, I am sure it will be for you too..

Enjoy the journey, John


You may not be an audiophile – yet -- but you are certainly on the path. Anyone who spends thousands of dollars on speaker cable because they look cool, will soon find themselves spending many thousands of dollars more on stuff that not only looks cool, but actually makes your systems sound a whole lot better too!!!

My speaker wire is very thin and pliable, and is by far the best speaker cable (along with interconnects and power cords) in terms sound I have ever heard....I think they look pretty cool too.

Anyway, the 801s are a revealing speaker and you eventually learn to hear the subtle changes in sound after making a change to your gear, and, I suspect, some of these changes will compel you to buy more and/or different gear. All in the name of getting closer to the sound, THEN you WILL be an audiophile, like it or not.

Heck, I started 20 years ago. I went into the local stereo store (San Francisco Stereo on upper Market) with $500 bucks in pocket and a plan to get the best speakers $500 could buy. After all, it’s not like the amp, wires, or source actually make a big difference, right? I figured as long as I have good speakers, that was all that really mattered and I would be set for many years to come.

Unfortunately for me, the dealer had the once very popular, full-value-for-a-more-expensive-pair-within-a-year-trade-up policy, so about 11.5 months later, I sealed my fate. I traded my bass-banging-party ADS speakers for the sophisticated (and party) B&W DM3000 – a great speaker, even by today’s standard. Fast forward, I now have a set up “valued” around 67,500.00 and love every penny of it.

By the way – Congratulations on your weight loss!!! I am sure you feel great and you do deserve your new sound system. Enjoy every minute of your new found life.