- Custom PC System Origen PC Case with Touch Screen
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)
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.