August 15, 2017: System updated and Computer Audio front end/cabling added.
This system has evolved since 1989 when I bought the Classe' Audio DR-6L preamp/DR-25 amp (still own both) to power a pair of Apogee Stages and, later Duetta Signatures. Mostly a collection of older but well matched gear. Bought most of it new. Still sounds great to my ears.
I reincarnated the VPI TNT/ET Two analog rig and have modded and improved it with the advice and encouragement of Agoner's ct0517 and frogman. Much appreciated!
Recent addition of two Classe' Audio DR-9 amplifiers running in bridged mono creating more fleshed out harmonics and a sense of limitless headroom.
Most recent addition of the Synergistic Research Powercell 10 UEF with the FEQ power reclocking unit and UEF powercord is simply revelatory. The overwhelmingly positive effect of this "power conditioner" on every aspect of my system's sound is beyond any expectation. Who could have thought that just cleaning up and modifying the AC power from my dedicated 30 amp lines to my components would produce such a profound sonic improvement. Naysayers be damned!
ANALOG FRONT END: VPI TNT 2.5 Turntable with SDS & Thread Drive
9/13/2017: Replaced original 600rpm motor with VPI single 300rpm motor/flywheel assembly. TNT plinth/platter rests on a large 24”X19” Symposium Ultra Platform and motor/ flywheel rests on a separate Ultra platform which is sitting in sand bed inside Bright Star Big Rock (separated/isolated from TNT and Corian platform).
Big Rock sits on 1/2" Corian slab on top of edges of (but not in) Bright Star Big Rock sand box. VPI motor/flywheel assembly sits on a custom Symposium Ultra platform inside the sand box for isolation from the TNT plinth. Only contact between motor/flywheel and platter is a single thread, eliminating the slow-sounding VPI rubber belts and complex pulley system. Dramatic improvement in sonics of the TNT: lighter, quicker sound with better frequency extension and more tuneful bass. Thanks to Agoner frogman for this tip.
ANALOG FRONT END: Eminent Technology Two Air Bearing Tangential Tonearm
Original 2.0 version upgraded with HP manifold. Using a "dual spring" I-beam. Air supply is Medo AC910 compressor => HP regulator/filter => 4 foot long 4" PVC DIY surge tank =>low-pressure regulator/filter => check valve => ET two arm manifold.
ANALOG FRONT END: Transfiguration Orpheus L LOMC Cartridge
Low output (0.3mV) version of the famous hand-built Orpheus.
DIGITAL SOURCE 1: Aurender N100H Server/Renderer/Streamer
Well built server/renderer/streamer with excellent custom iPad App.
DIGITAL SOURCE 1: DENAFRIPS Terminator DAC
Multi-bit R2R NOS DAC. Extremely natural sounding with abundant detail.
DIGITAL SOURCE 1: Ayre Acoustics CX-7eMP CD Player used as CD Transport
Feeds redbook to Terminator DAC via AES/EBU cable
DIGITAL SOURCE 2: ModWright Sony 5400ES SACD/CD Player
Upgrades include MW tube output section in player, 9.9 tube power supply, Audio Magic Gen Vx, Bybee rails, SR Black fuses, Audio Magic Illusion umbilical, Symposium Svelte Plus shelf, Symposium Rollerblock 2+, Solid-Tech Discs of Silence.
DIGITAL SOURCE 2: ModWright 9.9 Power Supply
Upgrade from 9.0 power supply on resting on edenSound roller bearing footers and Symposium Svelte platform. Philips 5R4GYS Rectifier Tube, SR Black fuse
FOUNDATION SYSTEM: Ayre Acoustics K-1xe Phonolinepreamplifier
Black K-1xe with MC internal phono stage, external power supply, and remote. Vibration control: 19" X 14" Symposium Svelte Plus shelf coupled with edenSound roller bearing footers. External power supply rests on SR MiG 2.0 footers atop a Ariston constrained-layer MDF platform.
FOUNDATION SYSTEM: Classe' Audio DR-9 Stereo Amplifier via SE inputs
The DR-9 betters the Krell for micro dynamic reproduction and overall musicality, giving up very little in slam and authority to the monster Krell except at insane volume levels.
Like the DR-25, sound is far better via SE inputs vs XLR.
FOUNDATION SYSTEM: Thiel Audio CS 5i Loudspeakers
Jim Thiel's statement loudspeaker. Time coherent design provides huge, limitless sound with excellent detail and superior micro/macro dynamics. Stereophile Class A rated for years in the 1990's. Teak finish.
FOUNDATION ANCILLARY: Synergistic Research Active Grounding Block SE
This is a revelatory product.
FOUNDATION ANCILLARY: Synergistic Research Powercell 10 UEF with FEQ Reclocking Device
Of all of the components I have installed or upgraded over the years, the SR Powercell 10 UEF has created the most profound improvement in the sound of my system. The optional FEQ AC reclocking unit sets this product miles ahead of the rest of the power conditioner pack as well as plugging components, even and especially monster power amps, directly into the dedicated 30 amp receptacles.
Included is a SR modded Element Copper Tungsten active $2k power cord with two interchangeable UEF modules that customize the sound to compliment each type of system (tube or SS) and a SR Teslaplex SE receptable.
FOUNDATION ANCILLARY: REL Stadium III X 2 (Dual) Sub-Bass System
Dual REL powered sub-bass systems with high-level input from amps speaker terminals as well as XLR line-level inputs for HT use. A champ at 2-channel integration via the high-level inputs that mimic the sound of the amp in use.
Synergistic Research A/C Master Coupler X2-series power cords and REL-spec X2 active high-level cables further enhanced the contribution of the RELs, set to out-of-phase mode to further cancel room bass nodes. Very audible improvement in soundstaging and overall bass tunefulness.
VIBRATION CONTROL: Sound Anchors Lead/Sand Filled Component Stand
Lead/Sand filled component stand coupled to concrete slab foundation.
Failed to recognize soundstaging and imaging improvements until placed in the rear corners (behind listening position). Prefer them rotated such that they face the center of my listening room. They do make a difference!
ANALOG SOURCE IMPROVEMENT: DIY Custom Pin to XLR Tonearm Wiring Harness
Designed and constructed myself with the help of Gene at Take Five Audio. Fully-balanced configuration with four continuous unshielded Cardas copper tonearm wire runs, carefully twisted yet channel-separated, from Transfiguration Orpheus L pins to ViaBlue gold-over-bronze XLR connectors plugged into Ayre-K-1xe XLR phono inputs. Cryo'd and burned-in by Take Five Audio prior to construction.
ANALOG SOURCE IMPROVEMENT: ET-Two 2.0 High Pressure Manifold
Air bearing manifold upgrade that enables applying significantly higher air pressure to the arm's manifold, resulting in a much more rigid manifold/spindle interface. Now running at 19 psi to the manifold. Sonic impact is of the level of moving up in phono stage and/or cartridge.
ANALOG SOURCE IMPROVEMENT: Medo AC910 Compressor for ET Two
This is a Medo AC910 medical compressor (14psi nominal/21psi max) for supplying high pressure/high flow air supply to ET Two
ANALOG SOURCE IMPROVEMENT: Low pressure regulator/filter for ET Two
This is the second of two air regulator/filters in the air supply to the ET Two. It is mounted on the wall directly behind the turntable.
ANALOG SOURCE IMPROVEMENT: DIY Sound Baffle Box for Medo Compressor
I built this to reduce the noise from the Medo compressor and placed it in a closet just outside of my listening room It has dense-foam pieces with air passage labyrinths sandwiched between panels on either side of the compressor and a 110V computer fan to provide airflow. Second fan and additional air inlet added after pics to improve cross-draft cooling of the compressor. See pic of Medo compressor to see the internal view of the baffle box.
DIGITAL SOURCE IMPROVEMENT: ModWright 5400ES SACD/CD Player inside
Upgrades include MW tube output section in player, Audio Magic Gen Vx, Bybee rails, SR Black fuses. Black Treasure 6N7 tubes.
DIGITAL SOURCE IMPROVEMENT: ModWright Bybee Rail
Additional option on MW5400ES
DIGITAL SOURCE IMPROVEMENT: Synergistic Research Black Fuses in MW5400ES
DIGITAL SOURCE IMPROVEMENT: ModWright Audio Magic Gen Vx
Optional upgrade to MW5400ES. A device that eliminates RF/EMI inside the component itself.
HOME THEATER AUDIO FRONT END: System
Onkyo PR-SC885 Processor (identical to Integra 9.8 excepting faceplate)
Sony X800 4K BluRay Player
Toshiba HD-A35 HD DVD Player
Pioneer CLD-D704 LaserDisk Player
Onkyo A-10 Integrated Amplifier (used to power EPI Model100 rear channel speakers)
Front L/R channels from Onkyo processor connected to Ayre K-1xe via Transparent Audio Reference XL XLR interconnects. Phantom center channel. Dual REL Stadium III subs used for LF channel.
HOME THEATER VIDEO: Epson Home Cinema 8700 UB Projector
Epson Home Cinema 8700 UB LDC projector mounted to ceiling
Use 25 foot custom 10-gauge power cord to supply power from SR Powercell 10 UEF.
ALTERNATE EQUIPMENT: Krell FPB-600c Stereo Power Amplifier
The Beast! Weighs in at 180 lbs, not including base. Fully-differentially balanced pseudo-Class A design. Peak current of 152 amps. Said to vaporize speaker cables if accidentally shorted!
Stereophile's joint Amplification Product of the Year for 1997.
Conservatively rated at 600w/ch @8ohms,1200w/[email protected], 2400w/[email protected] In the May 1997 issue of Stereophile, Martin Collums declared that the 600c's predecessor, the FPB-600, "rewrote the book on amplification as to require a total reexamination of Class A power amplifiers in Stereophile's "Recommended Components." The only difference between the FPB-600 and 600c is a styling change to the front faceplate and the substitution of the then-new Krell "Cast" input system (thus the addition of the "c" to the product name) in place of single-ended inputs.
The included testing section by John Atkinson stated: "And for 1 ohm - wait for it - an amazing 6kW!".
ALTERNATE EQUIPMENT: Classe' Audio DR-25 Stereo Power Amplifier
Hi lak. Thanks. Recent upgrade to the DENAFRIPS Terminator DAC, SR Active Grounding Block and various cabling upgrades have really taken sound quality up a few notches.
Have almost (finally) completed my isolation upgrade project for the TNT: separate Symposium Ultra platforms under the table and motor/flywheel assembly. Removed the Firestone air bladders/VPI elephant feet and am replacing them with 3” diameter aircraft-grade aluminum footers coupled directly between the TNT’s plinth and the Ultra platform. Sonic results thus far are very encouraging.
I never owned the genuine SR HFTs, only built my own using ozzy's recipe. My experience was a mixed success. I hated them on the wall behind my speakers (bright and harsh) as instructed by SR but found them to add some air to the upper frequencies when placed at tweeter height on the wall behind me. More was definitely not better for me, but I feel that my experience is an outlier to others so YMMV.
I had a bunch leftover, but gave them to a friend about a month ago. DoH! Would have been happy to send them your way otherwise.
If you want to, PM me and I will guide you to the vendors I used for the DIY parts. Very inexpensive and easy to make.
One good thing about reaching a point where one is satisfied with what I call the "foundation system", thus resisting wholesale/perpetual changes to the preamp, amp, speakers, ancillary cabling, etc with the latest wundergear, is that you know the sound intimately and can astutely judge the different sound character of sources and their ancillary cabling, and, of course, "tweaks". I sense that you get that.
re: Roon vs Aurender, I am admittedly a newbie to computer audio. My decision path thus far: Try streaming Tidal with my laptop/inexpensive but good used DAC (Hegel HD-12) => happy but decide I want better sound quality => try better USB cable (Curious), great improvement => hate using laptop for streaming => read up on overwhelming number of options to replace laptop => get overwhelmed by too much computer talk => decide on Auralic Aries for price, simplicity, and wifi capability => miss out on several used ones for sale => friend strongly recommends Aurender over Aries => find mint used Aurender from seller with advanced computer skills to provide install debug support and phone assist in getting it up and running (a wise move) => very happy with sound and Aurender App => buy Exogal Plus DAC => go insane trying different usb and Ethernet cables to fine tune sound and eliminate Exogal lean-ness => found Purist audio to be my favorite. STOP
I have read nothing but good things about Roon but it seemed to me to require too much "computer" think to use properly. Probably completely wrong.
Thanks for the compliments. The proximity thing is a shared disappointment. However, we would likely not even be aware of each other's existence were it not for the internet, so we, by constraint, dwell there.
I understand that you have the fixed-mount version of the Empire, but perhaps you can use adjustments at the tone-arm base to align the stylus as described (assuming that it is not already)?
I have a fair number of the top vintage MMs myself, so I understand what you say about preferences. Among my favorites are Micro-Acoustics exemplars (not technically MM but Electret), especially the 3002, The Signet TK-7LCa, The Sonus Gold-blue, and, of course, the Empire, depending on the arm/table. I read good things about the Acutex and once attempted to source one, but narrowly missed the window in which they were readily available.
I have resisted the urge to crazy glue my Empire, instead creating a collection of NOS styli as to be "future-proof".
After some thought, I now clearly recall my main criteria for correct orientation of the Empire 4000D/III, learned from Doug on "another forum": Since the shape of the stylus housing (pull) is irregular, the way to judge the correct play orientation is to view the "points" on the bottom of the stylus housing at each end of the curvature of the bottom of the pull. When positioned on an LP, these two points on the pull should be on the same vertical plane. Best way I know to describe it.
This may help you in setting up your fixed-body Empire 4000D/III by adjusting the height of the tonearm at the base such that these two points appear to be on the same vertical plane. If you give this a try, let me know how it works for you.
Thanks for the kind words. I too wish that proximity wasn't a limitation. At least we have Audiogon...
My 4000D/III came mounted on the 698 with the "low-loft" clip and, upon replacing the included generic replacement stylus (unplayedt) with the NOS first-gen S4000D/III sylus, it did not sound the way Raul described nor did its angle look like his pics of his mounted exemplar. Not very open on top. I sought some advice from the Empire gurus over on "another forum" and discovered this clip thing. I then bought an Empire 2000 D-whatever just for the "high-loft" clip. Changed them out and the top end was there in spades. It just worked...
I should have photographed the Empire 4000D/III with the stylus lowered onto an LP. Its angle is actually not as extreme at its looks in that pic. It is however significantly tilted to provide a very positive VTA. I found that this Empire likes it that way for whatever reason (we both know what the possible reasons are). I have three NOS genuine Empire S4000D/III styluses, each of a different vintage, and each has benefited from the same, uh, "abnormal" VTA. Of course all have only been played on my vintage Empire 698, so YMMV. Or perhaps the fact that I can only load with 47k instead of the 100k that Raul strongly recommends is at play. Maybe both, who knows.
I'm sure that you have had similar unusual experiences somewhere in your extensive audio journey?
Thank you Dan and oblgny. Your interest and comments are much appreciated.
Dan - been through some tight-money times myself. It is a good opportunity to spend time just listening and perhaps pulling some "replaced" pieces from the closet to retry and maybe discover positives about them that exceed your memory. Also to question and re-evaluate cable and powercord choices as I have recently discovered that a "coveted" power cord that has been in my system for years was killing my sound. Took another (much cheaper) one off of one of my subs and tried it on the amp and the traits that had irritated me for a long while disappeared. I was pissed, but also grateful that I tripped into this discovery by experimenting.
Thanks to you three for the kind words. Sorry not to respond to your questions, but dropped out of audio for couple of years due to a family tragedy.
Still have listed equipment set up and making great sound.
Frozentundra - Yep, Stages were my first high-end speakers. Dealer convinced me that my Carver TFM-45 would drive them fine. Five minutes after hooking them up, the Carver dumped DC and the ribbon tweeters did a fireworks display (awesome blue-white sparks). Got new Stages and a DR-6 preamp & a new amp (from a different dealer). First, a DR-10, which I was very disappointed in. Dead sounding. A few weeks later traded up to the DR-25. Sounded fantastic with the Apogees. Boy, do I miss those speakers sometimes. Nothin' like ribbons for detail and soundstaging. Love the Thiels though. More real.
Glenhifi - Thanks for the compliment. The Shakti Hallograph tuning stands took a while to place, but in the rear corners even my golden-eared wife says that they make a nice improvement in imaging in my room.
Alanpiga - still have the JMW 12 arm. Never cottoned to it. Needs a new home. Hope you found the information that you were seeking.