Having been a music lover from the earliest of ages (bought an AR turntable when I was 13), I was finally able to start the audiophile journey in 2005 (after the kids were gone). It has been an enlightening process and I am greatly enjoying the results.

My design goal is simple: the most accurate reproduction of live music possible. Neutrality, timbral truth, speed, transient response, air, and musical flow are the design criteria for success and I believe that I have achieved those goals at a relatively modest price point.

Going with the best quality source material has been an additional help in that regard, particularly the master tapes. I have over 100, mostly jazz and blues and rock, some classical.

You can see the system in live action: just type 'YouTube Tape Fun with Studer and Otari' into your Google search barand it will be the first link to pop up. Enjoy!

Components Toggle details

    • Electrical Foundation: 2 dedicated circuits, Shunyata Hydra AV
    I have two dedicated circuits. One carries the source components, through the Shunyata Hydra AV conditioner. The VAC Sigma 160i integrated amp is on on a separate circuit. All outlets are Isoclean ICP-002 with romex connections at the panel and outlet treated with Walker Extreme SST. Five Shunyata ZiTron power cords feed the Hydra AV (Alpha HC), VAC (Alpha HC), CD player (Alpha Digital), both tape machines (Alpha Analog). Using Isoclean and Essence Reference PC's on the Manley Mini Massive and Dolby units.
    • Structural Foundation: HRS M1R Rack with M3X isolation bases
    HRS M1R stand in walnut veneer with four 17
    • Nottingham Hyperspace w/ Ace Anna arm & Wave Mechanic
    The unipivot carbon fiber Ace Anna Arm belongs is an unsung gem and belongs in the Schroeder / Triplanar / Reed / DaVinci pantheon. A work of industrial and aural art to be sure.
    • ZYX UNIverse cartridge
    Nothing to say. After Grados, Many Benzes, and others, this cartridge bring music to life in a way like no other. Thank you Mehran!
    • Exemplar Audio Oppo BPD 83 Modded w/tube output and separate PS
    John Tucker of Exemplar Audio is well known for his mods. People have sold their EMM Labs and Ayre CX-5s after hearing his SS mod to the Oppo BPD-83. Well this mod is one of two he made that have a tube output stage and separate power supply (the other is owned by Winston Ma of First Impression Music). It uses a pair of NOS 5965 tubes, both GE 5-Star and Telefunkens work great. And it is a universal player and plays SACDs and DVD-Audio. Way Cool!!!
    • VAC Phi Beta 110i
    VAC Phi Beta 110i, with separate power supply, MC + MM phono section and balanced inputs

    This replaced the VAC Sigma 160i. I had been skeptical that an integrated could equal or better the performance of the separates I had spent years assembling, but both VAC integrated amps exceeds all expectations. The MC phono section equals my formerly beloved Vinyl Reference and the amp section delivers 110 watts of awesome power with great speed and articulation. The soundstaging, dynamics, imaging, and low noise floor of the Phi Beta are stunning. It is IMHO Kevin Hayes' tour de force.
    • Otari MTR-15 Master Tape Recorder
    This is a special tape machine: 3-3/4, 7-1/2, 15, and 30 ips. Plus I had John French add a 4-track head so it will play both 2 and 4-track tapes. It is auto-biasing and has NAB/IEC/AES equalization. Would I trade this for a Studer A820? No way!!! This is a 1993 machine (last year they were made), previously owned by a disk jockey with a nationally syndicated oldies show. Low hours, works great. NFS!!!
    • Otari MTR-15 w/ 2 & 4-track playback
    Showing console switchable 2-track 4-track heads. Custom made by John French of JRF Magnetics in PA. MTR-14 plays back at 4 speeds.
    • Manley Mini Massive
    This two band parametric is absolutely transparent, giving no coloration at all. Very helpful to boost or tone down bass and/or high end in some older master tapes.
    • Dolby 363 and 330
    Dolby A/SR and Dolby B units. Used for de-coding master tapes (A) and Barclay-Crocker (B) tapes.
    • Wilson Benesch Curve
    I heard the Wilson Benesch Curves at RMAF in 2008 with DeHavilland amps and was blown away by their speed and transparency. I owned a pair of Dali MS-4 Euphonias (no slouch in their own right!) and gladly sold them when these Curves popped up for sale on Audiogon. I've never looked back. Carbon fiber is amazing.
    • Wilson Benesch Curve - DIY Weight
    I took 12.5 pounds of fine lead shot and custom-made these velvet bags to weight the tops of the speakers. Greatly improves the clarity of presentation, minimizing horizontal speaker movement and cabinet vibration.
    • Shunyata Anaconda ZiTron Interconnects
    Just freakin' amazing. Trounces all others at a real world price point.
    • Shunyata Anaconda ZiTron Speaker Cables
    The best bang for the buck in the Shunyata signal cable line-up is right here. The ZiTron technology excels in lowering the noise floor and delivering blazing speed where the signal strength is the strongest - post amplification.
    • Shakti Hallograph, GIK corner bass traps
    Showing both the Shakti Hallograph and the GIK corner traps. Very Effective.
    • Master Tapes, plus GIK and ASC room treatments
    Some more of the master tapes in my collection, also showing GIK trap and ASC trap
    • More Master Tapes
    Some of the 65 master tapes in my collection
    • Master tapes - Thelonious Monk
    'Something In Blue', the Monk Trio with Al McKibbon and Art Blakey, 1971
    • Record Library
    About a thousand LPs, not including those in the "heavy rotation" boxes in the adjacent listening room.
    • Sota RCM
    Sota Record Cleaning Machine - this is pretty much the same as a VPI. I utilize steam cleaning in combination with AIVS enzyme cleaner and record cleaner. Aqua Fina pure highly purified bottled water is used for steaming and water rinse. I've tride many products and approaches. This is truly a great system. Also shown is the Acoustic Revive RR-77 pulse generator (with T-Rex power supply).

Comments 12

System edited: 7/22/2014 - System updated to include addition of VAC Phi Beta 110i integrated amplifier. An absolutely wonderful improvement. Am still tube rolling so not quite finalized, but the transparency, dynamics, soundstage width/height/depth, and image focus are beyond my expectations and convey a musical realism that are immensely satisfying.


Tbooe, Yes, the corner traps are GIK. I have been very happy with their performance from the beginning. My room is 12' x 24' and they do the trick.

Like most rooms with an 8' ceiling, I do have a bit of boost at 75-85 Hz. But thats no fault of the speakers or deficiency in the GIK traps. Just room geometry.

I did try buy an ASC sub trap which I thought would help, but the seller didn't disclose that he was a smoker and it stunk up the room in 36 hours. I took it to a restoration place and had them ozone it, but that didn't help, even after leaving it in the garage for two months. I finally sold it (with full disclosure) to a smoker who didn't care about the smell!

Thanks for your interest and best of luck.


Very nice system, congrats to you. I too, fell in love with Wilson Benesch, though when I heard them at RMAF '07, with the DeHavilland amps and preamp, the smaller stand-mounts were in use.

Actually, I've been lusting after DeHavilland gear ever since, but they have always been a bit beyond what what I could afford. The WB Curves must be outstanding as good as the smaller WB's are.

Regards, and enjoy,

Ag insider logo xs@2xislandmandan

VERY Nice! Good job on the power components. I found that getting clean consistent power is critical to the sound.

Question about your room treatments...what do you use for the bass traps in the corner? Are those GIK? If so, how do you like them? I am trying to decide between GIK and RealTraps.


System edited: Added Shunyata Hydra AV conditioner and Shunyata Zitron Alpha power cords.


System edited: Updated to add the VAC, Shunyata ZiTron cables, and Manley Mini Massive.


I prefer the Otari MTR-15 'sound' to the Studer. It is more transparent whereas the Studer is more weighty. A good analogy would be the Otari is a ZYX and the Studer is a wood-bodied Benz cartridge. The MTR-15's were the last studio master recorder Otari made so the production run was short and thus they are hard to find. That said, a Studer if refurbed (recapped) still sounds good to me.

Functionally, they are about the same though the MTR-15 has some features and ease of use that the Studer A807 lacked.

There are some folks around who can work on them, though the hourly rate might add up.

Feel free to PM me to discuss any of this in greater detail.


Can you compare the sound and functionality of your Studer and Otari reel to reel machines? Have you found a good tech for these machines? Very nice system.


Autumn 2011 Update: Well, just when I thought I was done! . . .

. . . I auditioned the new Shunyata signal cable line and A-B-C'd the Anaconda and Python interconnects and speaker cables against my reference Shunyata Antares IC and Orion Bi-wire speaker cables. Well, the new products are game changers. The Z-Tron technology drops the noise floor dramatically, revealing much more inner detail, faster transients at all frequencies, giving more air and quicker decay. So out with the old and in with the new: Anaconda speaker cables (single wire with Shunyata jumpers) and Anaconda interconnects.

. . . and right after that, I went to RMAF and heard the VAC Sigma 160i integrated amp. I was highly impressed, especially with the MC phono section. Took another plunge and bought the VAC and, with some sadness, sold off the Genesis M60's, Joule Electra LA-150 MkII, three HRS isolation bases and two Purist Dominus power cords. WOW!!! Sounds incredible and my listening room is a lot less cluttered. Plus the VAC has one balanced input which noticeably improved the sound quality coming from the studio tape machine (which are designed with balanced circuits).

I will post updated pictures soon.

Hmmm, am I done for now?


Good to see you here my friend, pleased to see your system is finally posted at Audiogon.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

Congratulations! Having heard the system, I can say it sounds very nice indeed. Ki


Very, very nice choices in gear and set-up. It looks like a marvelous place to spend time listening to vinyl and tape.


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