Description

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.
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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)  http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/dac1/
    • 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.

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I have Krell Res 2's, Krell S-1000 pre/pro and Krell amps. I use the S1000 for my Dac fed by a Classe CDT-1 transport. I also have an Escient Fireball which plays music from the hard drive in lossless FLAC format. You would have to have pretty poor hearing to not hear the difference between the CDT-1 and the Fireball. On the other hand, it is nice to sit down in my listening chair and have every CD I own at my disposal w/o having to get up! That is the only reason I bought the Fireball, you can not beat that kind of easy access to your music collection.

Lossless is lossless on paper but when you sit and listen there is a huge difference. When it comes time to listen critically the 'lossless' player gets turned off and the CDT-1 takes over. The bass improves and the soundstage opens up among other improvements.

rcandpc