FINAL - This system will no longer be updated as I have entered into the Audio business in 2009 and my system will be changed to be a showroom system around the great AudioNec Musicserver, that I distribute exlusively in the German speaking market...to keep private and commercial interests transparent and simple, the new system will be done under a seperate account (Audio_indulgence which translates to my German business name "Hoergenuss" www.hgfa.de).
So this was my last private System:
The system is built around the amazing Tidal Contriva speakers and a custom built PC Transport and USB digital source.
- Installed solid state disc for faster boot time and less noise and vibrations from a conventional spinning drive
- The Edge Signature 1.1 replaced the Clearaudio Balance preamplifier
- As the last assault on room acoustics after various passive measures the PC transport now uses a convolver FIR setup to provide also digital room correction. The icing on the cake really, never dreamt of achieving the sound I am getting now!
This PC connected to the self built DAC via USB has replaced my modded Esoteric DV-50 as the main music source. I have ripped over 1500 CDs in lossless FLAC format using JR Mediacenter Software in secure ripping mode. In theory this makes the digital source data 100% error free. Conventional CD transports have to employ error correction. This is not required with the PC, the data is read in data mode from the CD and re-read until no errors were detected. The convenience of the interface is beyond anything a CD player could offer. Playlists, browsing through the archive for the next song or album whithout interrupting the music that is playing. All conveniently via the remote or by tapping the touchscreen. As a transport I can't think of anything better. Considering this is a very expensive PC case, the cost are still far below a reference conventional transport. I have further fine tuned it by using a solid state disc (SSD) so it boots much faster and runs almost silent. I'll rant more about the sound on the description of the DAC unit.
Finite Elemente Pagode Master Reference
Just the nicest rack I could find. Besides the rack I also use the matching amp stand. Rack and amplifier stand sit on the Finite Elemente Cerabase feet. Besides beeing wood floor friendly, they provide very neutral coupling and improve over the standard spikes. On the bottom right is my previous Clearaudio Balance Preamp (for sale)
Edge Signature 1.1
The Edge 1.1 Signature preamp provides a very transparent but smooth window to the recordings. In DC mode it runs from internal batteries, stepping up the sound quality another notch over the still excellent AC mode.
Self Built USB DAC DDDAC 60x1543 MK2 Kit
I was interested in exploring a PC as digital source and started looking around for a good DAC with USB input capability. Because it was an experiment and I was sceptical if the sound quality could compete with my already modified Esoteric DV-50 player, I decided to go with a kit that would not be too expensive to built. It should also have the potential to upgrade in stages. I found Doede Douma's DDDAC 1543 project on the Internet and was immediately impressed with the idea. This DAC uses Modular n x 12-parallel non oversampling with asynchrone XO re-clocking and SPDIF and USB to I2S-bus conversion. It also has no active output stage, I built my unit with 5 modules (12 DAC chips each!) so the combined output of 60 DAC chips is enough to drive the preamp. You can read details on his website, thanks to Doede for the excellent kit and friendly support. I listend after building each module how the sound changed and it was very interesting. With one module the sound is in the category of a DVD player (so-so), add another and it reaches CD player level (OK), add another or two and you reach high-end CD players (good), after the 5th module the sound competed with my esoteric player quite easily. I then went through fine tuning the output stage with Mundorf caps, some black gate caps at recommended places, silver coated solid core wires, WBT nextgen connectors, an external battery power supply (you get the idea, an audiophile let loose) and reached a sound with lossless FLAC files from the PC transport that went past SACD quality from my Esoteric player. So there we are, the PC / DDDAC combo is now the master source and the Esoteric found a new and happy home in my home theatre system :-) You can see the external powersupply on the picture of the rack under the DAC. The dac runs very hot, so built cut outs in the lid over each DAC tower to ensure it can run without cooling fans.
Moscode 401 HR Tube Hybrid Stereo Poweramp
After various experiments with other power amps and tube preamps I ended up with a solid state preamp again and the little tube magic that is required comes through the Moscode Hybrid, with it's input tubes sitting nicely on display :-) Sound is powerful, wide and deep with an inviting and seductive
The speaker that I could entirely not resist the first time I had the pleasure to hear it at Karel's home (thanks again for the demo and the wine!). Like the Merlin VSM-SE before the Tidal has ended my interested in other speakers for many years. Well now the new Contriva model is out with 2 ceramic bass drivers instead of the single Seas unit in mine (not sure what else has changed), but for now I have no plans to change. Besides the wonderful sound I am totally thrilled by the beautiful piano lacquer finish and wood of the speakers.
The Tidal Contriva has enough bass output in theory. However, with the Velodyne DD-18 I was able to provide corrections for some of the room based peaks and valleys in the bass response. It also extends the low frequency range to include the ambience of large rooms. The best feature is the ability of the Velodyne digital drive to measure the response including the main speaker output and match both to a level of perfection that simply can't be done with many simpler subwoofers. Absolutely recommended... It is big though and thus makes for a good orchid stand :-)
Symphonic Line Transparenz
Tuner with RDS. Very smooth and clear sound, as heavy as a high-end integrated amplifier. Sitting on the bottom shelf of the Pagode Master Reference Rack. The tuner gets very limited use these days though, sound quality of some stations is mediocre and if I have time to listen I usually don't want to wait for something I like...
Pure Note Paragon Enhanced
Excellent siver cables from Pure Note. Tested against the big brand names and provided the best value and excellent performance. Used balanced from the source to preamp and single ended from pre to monoblocks.
Pure Note Paragon Enhanced Speaker Cable
A simple choice since I liked the Interconnects so much already. Now that the length between the power amp and the speakers could be shorter than the wires I am using, I might look into the titanium series from Pure Note sometime. I have been very satisified with the Paragon Enhanced so far.
Analysis Plus Power Oval and Silver Oval
Power ovals on poweramp and subwoofer, silver ovals on everything else.
Placed on each cable before the speakers, the power amp and the preamp. When I put them in the first time I felt they remove some hardness and haze from the sound, they have been put in the same place through every equipment change, basically part of the 'furniture' by now. I fear that if someone would take them away I am not sure if I'd really notice though...
SAP Relaxa 3+ Equipment Stand
Magnetic isolation platform. It worked very well under my modified Esoteric DV-50 while I was using it as a source for CD and SACD. I did not expect the performance increase given the solid build of the Esoteric and my rack. In the meantime the Esoteric has been moved into my home theatre system for movie duties and 5.1 SACD so I tried the Relaxa under my PC that feeds the audio signal to the DAC. Guess what, it still improved the sound overall. It decouples the high frequency hard disk vibration from the PC very effectively from the rack and made the PC even quieter. To keep the PC quiet is very important for low volume listening as it is close to the listening position and any hard disk or fan noise would be a disturbance.
Harmonix TU-210 ZX Tuning Feet
Placed under my preamp. I got the black version that matches the preamp better than the usual gold colored one. Effect on sound has been more important in older systems before I bought the Pagode Master Reference rack, but I still like the Harmonix feet.
Isoclean IC204P and 104 II power bars
These two have replaced my Audiomagic Stealth. One reason was that I wanted to separate the power connections for my power amp and the rest of the equipment on the main racks. On comparison I am very happy with the unfiltered Isoclean power bars compared to the Audiomagic Stealth. Having two of these will allow me to place my rack away from the speakers, with only the power amp and the subwoofer remaining between the speakers to improve acoustics.
Finite Elemente Cerapuc Coupling Feet
I use 4 Cerapucs under each speaker instead of the original spikes. Tidal by now has new speaker feet which are probably as good and maybe even better matching in looks. But I am somewhat of a Finite Elemente fan by now and don't see a need to change as the Cerapucs work very well and are easy to adjust when leveling out the speakers.
Transparent Acoustics & Others Various
Dmitry from Transparent Acoustics provided a lot of creative input and help on optimizing the room acoustically. There is a big open dining area next to the living room and a study behind the listening position. Also big glass fronts floor to ceiling. Overall quite a challenge. On this photo you can see the ceiling sails that absorb the first reflections from the ceiling, two absorbers (pictures temporarily on stands as they are samples only) on the right wall. I also use corner treatments from Eigth Nerve.
Transparent Acoustics Felties
The felt tapestries hang suspended from the ceiling and are double layers. They work extremely well to make the acoustics more symmetric and reduce room echoes (the room is open to the left).
Bass Trap Corner Position
A problematic corner of the room got treated with a bass trap and some decoration on top...
Remote: Logitech DiNovo Mini Keyboard
The convenience of the PC with the JR Mediacenter software is already great with the touchscreen, but it was a small challenge to find a remote that has a good keyboard to search directly to the right artist or album. The DiNovo mini works perfect for that purpose and is very reliable with the bluetooth connection. The backlit keys works well for late night listening sessions in the dark as well.
I had the pleasure to listen to the Piano Cera extensively for 3 days in a setup with the AudioNec Musicserver and Tidal Impact Stereo amplifier. The Piano Cera is an amazing speaker, one of the best I have ever heard and that is regardless of price.
I am sure you will enjoy it a lot, happy listening to you too :-)
System edited: FINAL Update - This system will no longer be updated as I have entered into the High End Audio business in 2009 and my system is going through many changes to be a showroom system around the great AudioNec Musicserver, which I distribute exlusively in the German speaking market! To keep private and commercial interests transparent and simple, the new system will be soon be available but under a seperate account.
Thanks Jörg, that is ample information. It is not an immediate project but I read an interesting article on the Olive Opus 4 hard disk player, ripper, server (easy enough for the computer dummy I am) that made me consider whether I should not re-think the second system in that direction. In the Opus 4 the weak point appears to be the DAC and so I am gathering information here and there.
I have to say, though, you made me extremely curious about your new project, so I'll wait until you break the news on that one to us before I do anything at all. Look forward to it.
Well sometimes good housekeeping is rewarded, I actually did a spreadsheet when I built the unit to keep an overview of my cost. Here are the figures of what I paid for the PC, DAC, Case etc..
Total = 2.811 (100%) PC = 1.159 (41%)(not the current version on the photos here!) DAC = 975 (35%) (without case and supply) Power = 84 (3%) (without case) Case = 593 (21%) (for DAC and external power supply)
This was with a used touchscreen tablet pc I bought from ebay to get started, the current "upgrade" installation with the OrigenAE Touchscree case and SSD disk etc. Changes the PC cost to about 2000 Euro. I have alawys thought that my last upgrade would be to build a very good linear power supply (as you can see cost wise it is very low - the cost for the power supply case is in the "case" category). So I think looking at a way to just build the DAC in this "high end" version with an internal switching supply could be done for about 1400 Euro which would include DAC, Case and the switching power supply in a simple external case. With the big supply that I use including battery and charger it is more like 1800 Euro.
If you like to know more details or I can always email more details or discuss on the phone...do you still have my contact details?
I have to say, the Tidal Impact is an amazing amplifier. I really really liked the Moscode and did not expect the Tidal to be so much better, but it is and I could not resist after I heard it in my system.
For the Doede Douma DAC I built the case and power supply myself. I ordered only the boards and the parts, then soldered the DAC boards and put everything together. It was quite a bit of work, but the kit is done very well. I spent quite a bit on upgrade caps too. The power supply I use can switch between battery mode and a switching power supply, which actually sounds excellent. The battery is only slightly more relaxed, I do not think it is absolutely necessary. I will look up my old orders and tell you what the cost was for everything. It has been a while since I built it. But what do you want to use as the digital source to connect to the DAC?
I am about to change my PC audio setup entirely though, which may be interesting for you as well. This will be a very high-end solution compared to what I am using now. It will replace my PC transport, the Doede DAC and the preamp for a very simple system straight into the Tidal Impact :-)
Interesting to read you "went" Tidal with the amp as well. I have been using the Intra (the only one in active service??) that I took over from Lothar over two years now and have had a few "guest" amps in the system since then, one has a duty to stay informed, right. Embarrassing moments for one or the other of some popular magazines' darlings, I can tell you. So the Impact is high on my own wish list.
Another thing that could become of real interest over the coming months: could you give me an idea of what your Doede Douma DAC cost in total, including power supply and chassis? Did you buy the chassis from Doede as well?
Thanks for your comment, the Tidal speakers are really nice, glad you liked them at RMAF. I have not updated it on my systems page, but I have changed the power amplifier from the excellent Moscode to the Tidal Impact. The Tidal amp is just as amazing as the speakers :-)
The PC server is a continously improving project and I am in the process of changing this unit to something very special in a few weeks!
I still have the Dodd battery powered tube preamp. It was in my system when I had a pure solid state power amp. With the Moscode as my power amp I found the Dodd in the system a bit more tube than I like. Sure, very organic and comfortable sound, but also somewhat lowered transparency and air. But I think I know what you mean. With solid state power amps and no tubes in the preamp I found the sound lacking a bit warmth and musicality. I guess that is why I am so glad with the Moscode hybrid. It has just the right amount of tube for me to make everything sing.
I am pretty much set with the Edge preamp, even thought the Clearaudio Balance and Dodd preamps are both excellent too (at a much lower price level).
Heard Tidal Contriva driven by Eintein pre + LITD combo, it was fast, extended, and organic, organic is not a word I usually use with ceramic drivers. Contriva sounded so good I was considering the diamond tweeter version but price was beyond my reach.
I know Moscode is hybrid, but you should try a good tube pre to see if your system will sound even more organic.
System edited: Added the last updates for the best sound so far from my system: - PC transport now with solid state disc and convolver FIR digital room correction - Edge Signature 1.1 preamplifier replaced Clearaudio Balance preamp
ich würde gerne mal direkt mit Dir in Kontakt treten. Ich glaube, wir haben einen ähnlichen Hörgeschmack. Erfahrungen zu machen ist meist recht teuer, vielleicht können wir uns da gegenseitig auf die Sprünge helfen. Ich wohne ca. 50 km nördlich Frankfurt/Main. Mit PC bin ich schlecht, sonst hätte ich mein System auch schon bei audiogon eingestellt. System: Audio tuning Sicherungen am Sicherungskasten, massive 3x6qmm Kupferleiter zum Hörraum direkt mit Furutech Rhodium Kaltgerätebuchse in PS Audio Power Plant Premier. ASR Emitter II Exclusive mit Akku, aktuelle Version, LS- und RCA-Kabel NBS Statement, Stromkabel Selbstbau 3x6 qmm und Furutech Rhodium, Finite Elemente MR HD Rack, Metronome T2i, Avalon Eidolon N. (Phono in Veränderung...)
Vorher besaß ich u.a.: Esoteric DV-50s und UX-1. An meinem System verglichen: DCS P8i, EMM DCSAse, Audio Aero Capitole MKII SE, Accustic Arts Drive und DAC II SE, Hoerwege DAC.
Besonders interessiert mich die Computerlösung, aber auch Kabelvergleiche, Tuning, naja der ganze Audioholismus.
System edited: Came across the perfect little remote to control the audio software on my PC Transport, the Logitech DiNovo Mini. Bluetooth, rechargeable, backlit, all the keys for conveniently navigating in JR Mediacenter. Cool.
Great to hear from you again and I hope you're doing well. I looked at your system from time to time and saw that you had a number of changes going on as well :-)
Same over here, not just the system, we also moved to a different flat. By now my setup is very different from the one listed here. I need to take pictures and UPDATE!
The Tidals are of course still here, after the Horch (Excellent set, bought it used but sold again already...) I tried a DODD Tube Battery powered preamp (great piece as well!). Changed the Power Amp to a Moscode 401 HR Tube Hybrid, found that too much warmth with the Dodd and changed the preamp again to a Clearaudio Balance, which I am totally happy with. The source has changed as well, I have built a DAC unit with USB input and the main source is now a PC with touchscreen and all my CDs in lossless FLAC format. Sounds better still than my modified Esoteric DV-50 and is so convenient to use that I am never going back to CD players again :-) I am also using a Velodyne DD-18 subwoofer with the Tidal that integrates very nicely and helps to make the sound even more balanced and spacious.
After moving I also did more on the room acoustics as I found this to be the most important area rather than further changing equipments.
I still owe you an invitation with some music listening and a good wine!
Hi Joerg, hope you're doing fine, it's been a long time since we sat together for a first audition of the Tidal Contrivas. More or less by chance I read your post where you mentioned you had changed amps from AudioNet to Horch. Hah, another one of those confidential names that must be a perfect match with the Contivas, I'm sure. I have never seen or heard them, though, and now I notice they are not farther away than our backyard's mountains, actually closer than the nearest dealer they mention on their web-page. I've changed amps as well since we met and can confidently say I'm very satisfied with them, but I'd be interested to get to know Horch (as an intellectual exercise and, hey, there's always another system waiting in the aisle ...). So, did you visit them, perhaps get your gear directly from the factory? Best regards to your wife. Karel
Hello, was just wondering if you have listened to the Pure Note Cerulean speaker cables. The Paragon s/c costs 2X more than the Cerulean. Also, if you have experience with Nordost speaker cables, a comparison would be useful.