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

Showing all comments by shadorne.

View all comments


You should make brochures for high end audio - you have a real skill in photography. It would never occur to me to take a photo the way you have.

It reminds me of Thunderbirds credits where you see a close up of a detail of each amazing piece of machinery and then it flips back to a full view.

Well Done. Do you use a green marker on the edges of your film to get such amazing shots? I know it works on CD's - just wondering if photographers use it too?

Ag insider logo xs@2xshadorne

Most of iTunes is in a lower resolution format, isn't it?

Listen to Grace Jones and decide for yourself if iTunes is not all that bad...what do you think?

Most people have trouble to tell 128 KBPS AAC files of iTunes from CD's...although you sometimes can tell with very careful listening. At 256 KBPS AAC files it becomes very difficult...the guys who developed the audio compression technology certainly did their homework on "masking" that occurs in our brain/hearing system.

Ag insider logo xs@2xshadorne


Now it is time to concentrate on finding excellent recordings...with such a great system you will now find that the recording quality will be far and above all your biggest problem.

I suggest you go to iTunes and download "Grace Jones - Slave to the Rhythm - Hot blooded Mix" (a Trevor Jones Engineered Masterpiece) and see what happens to virtual reality!

Ag insider logo xs@2xshadorne


Congratulations. I agree that the B&W 800D's look like they got off a saucer that landed in the forest beside your house...however if you are like me then it is ALL ABOUT SOUND!

And I bet they sound just great!

PS: you have positioned them very near side wall reflections - soft leather furniture - a rug - it should sound AWESOME (provided you are not sitting with your back against a wall/window!).

PPS: I am really so impressed that you have done such a great job starting from "scratch" and rocketed yourself firmly into the stratosphere of "convenient" high-end SOTA sound. Enjoy!

Ag insider logo xs@2xshadorne