This is a living room system with a digital source. Currently a streamer with cd transport removed. The amp is a 300B SET circuit by JC Morrison, modified and built by Blackie Pagano, with one half of a 6SN7 direct-coupled to the second half in the driver stage. There is a cap in the signal path. Right now, I have an Audio Note silver cap in there. My current tube compliment: Side Getter Short Bottle RCA 6SN7 GT, Takatsuki TA-300, and RCA 5R4. The amp has Tango NY15 3.5S output transformers and strong, choke-filtered power.
The speakers are Cain & Cain IM Bens with 6.5" Fostex drivers and super tweeters. Bass is augmented with two Cain & Cain Bailey subwoofers each powered by a Dayton plate amp.
In 2015 I went from a dedicated, very small room, to a much larger living room. This has its positives and negatives. It is not always convenient finding opportunities to listen to loud music in a shared living space but the system sounds better now than it did in that tiny room.
My source is an Emm Labs DCC2SE with a blue sound node 2i as a transport and a streamer.
When I am not listening to speakers, I listen to headphones. When I am not listening to the large system, I also have a smaller desktop system in an office. The speakers are very old Klipsch KM2, in need of upgrading. I use a Moon Audio Dragon IHA-1 for headphones and as a preamp with a Peter Daniel Patek Gainclone for power. A Cambridge Audio DacMagic output to the IHA-1.
Backloaded Horn 6 inch Fostex 168E Sigma driver plus super tweeter. This is the intermediate size double horn by Cain & Cain. For bass duties, there are two Bailey Subwoofers with two Dayton SP250 plate amplifiers. The Bens are running full range through the plate amps.
Custom Amp 300B SET
Dual mono custom 300B SET built by Blackie Pagano. Tango NY15 3.5S output iron, separate power and signal chassis.
Tubesville by Blackie Pagano Duality
Another shot of the signal chassis
Tango NY15 3.5S
Output transformer upgrade installed by Steve Berger.
Emm Labs DCC2 SE
Signature Edition DAC/Preamp
Emm Labs CDSD SE
Signature Edition CDSD redbook/SACD transport
47 Labs Ota
Single strand copper
47 Labs Ota
My favorite interconnect.
ATS Acoustics Acoustic panels and bass traps
2' by 2' panels and bass traps. I suppose the artwork is a kind of diffusion...
ATS Acoustics Acoustic panels and bass traps
2' by 2' panels and bass traps
Audio Note Silver/Mylar Capacitor
%99.99 pure silver capacitor.
Audio Sector Patek SE
50 WPC Gainclone built by Peter Daniel. A nice solid state backup/alternative.
Disc player used as a transport and music streamer.
Moon Audio Dragon Inspire IHA-1
This is tube preamp/headphone amp. I really enjoy it in my desktop system.
Cambridge Audio Dacmagic 100
A general purpose DAC with lots of switchable inputs. Desktop system. I am using three out of the four inputs, USB from Mac Mini, SPDIF from Direct TV box, and TOS from Xbox.
I love these headphones. They sound great with both the Moon Audio IHA-1 or the Tubesville amp. Paired with a Kimber Axios Copper cable.
Just put in Sylvania, "T" plate, bottom getter, 6sn7 GTAs. They sound GREAT! I will live with this for a while, I think. Difference between bottom getter "T" plate (BG) and top getter "Chrome Dome: (TG)" More liquid and lush midrange in the BG with a thicker, more intense sound. Seemingly louder with more harmonic richness (distortion). The best way to describe the sound is "thicker" and "fatter." The TG has a much more delicate, cleaner sound, but it is also more laid back and less powerful. The detail with the TG is more discernible than with the BG. In fact, the difference is similar to switching from copper to silver in the coupling capacitors. The BG tube has more detail than the copper cap (thanks, I'm sure, to the silver cap still being in the circuit) but there is a similar "thickness" to the BG tube. This seems to bring out the best in the system as a whole. I like the combination of the strong midrange with the cleanliness of the silver caps and TA300B. The BG tubes really seem to give the sound more power.
I really like these tubes in my system. They give it that little something extra. The combination of delicate, clear, fast sound from the top getter 6SN7 "Chrome Dome" and the silver capacitors, and the very detailed TA300B pushed the system in a very "dry" direction. Especially for an all tube system. The bottom getter GTA adds some of the lushness and life without sacrificing too much clarity.
I can understand the preference for copper. It had a nice sound. Plenty of detail with beautiful, lush sound. But for my preference (detail and speed from an all-tube amp), the silver caps are ideal. I'm certainly curious about other caps, but it really becomes a difficult proposition as I have no experience with building. From my memory, the Audionote copper foil in oil caps sounded better than the Jensens. Unfortunately, those went bad.
Thanks very much for the offer. Right, my amp uses .1uf. I have not tried any other cap but so far I am pretty happy. I do know guys who prefer copper to silver. Nice to know you are getting along well with your system and that you are enjoying your sub woofers. Let me know if get down to the city.
I definitely prefer the AN caps. They really do improve on every aspect of the sound. It is smoother and cleaner and faster. More detail and resolution and an overall more open sound. Dynamics are also improved. I think that it is a superior cap in every way. Of course, they better be considering the price. I hope it is not the expense and "newness" that is telling me that the AN are better, but I don't really think there is much question regarding the quality and the improvement. While I imagine that someone might prefer the sound of the Jensen copper caps, I don't think it would be because they sound better on a "technical" level. It would have to be because of a preference for increased warmth and a more rolled of presentation.
If you can use the Jensens and would like to try them out, I'd be happy to pop them in the mail for you. I think they are .25 uf and 630v. It looks like you use a coupling cap with a different value. Also, the vCaps are pretty hard to beat, I'll bet.
I recently went to a friends house who has a very nice system set up. Two large public announcement horns from the mid-twentieth century (I think, I can't remember). They were pretty big but are technically mid-horns, I think. They were crossed over at something like 125hz to a big cube-shaped subwoofer with small, bullet-tweeters hanging below the horns. He once had a very large system of horns (including bass horns) but these two mid horns are the ones that remain. Hooked up to Welborne Labs Moondog 2A3 amps. With a transformer based attenuator. He was using computer-as-source with Audiovarna software.
What an interesting sound true horns make! It took me a while to get into it, but eventually I was captivated. They have an extreme immediacy and speed. They did not have any soundstage to speak of, no "spacial cues," the midbass and lowbass integration was off-kilter, there were railroad spikes in the treble. They had laser-beam-like focus making the sweet spot about the width of a human head. It was as if all recordings were mono recording. Still, I was pretty overcome by the quality of the sound. I think because of the immediacy and the "in-the-head" presentation. The female voice was quite amazing.
I have heard systems with multiple big cone drivers that sound distant and un-involving that do all those soundstage things right and have all the frequencies there, that are flat and "measure right." His was the opposite of that. But it was as involving as any system I have heard (with the right music). I do believe that anyone who gave themselves to the music, rather than "what they were hearing" would realize that horns have a great deal to offer. And maybe the multi-way cone driver systems are lacking in that most important quality of musicality.
When I came home I listened to my system and found that I still loved it. That it offered the same kind of immediacy as his horns but with a bit more of that "audiophile" stuff. My system does not have the same kind of dynamics as the horns and are far less efficient. And it does not get that last bit of immediacy that probably separates horns from cone speakers. But I think, in my small room, it is as captivating as the horn system.
One conclusion I have reached is that this small room is a blessing in disguise. The speakers are not too large for it. On the contrary, the smallness of the room actually gives the speakers a more intimate sound.
My friend will soon have an open baffle woofer system in place that will probably put his system over the edge and have me searching audiogon for some Avantgardes!
I reintegrated computer-as-source into my system. This makes things easier for some casual listening. I quite enjoy the sound. Listening a lot more to the Peter Daniel Patek SE Gainclone lately. It has a good, clean sound. It can be a bit peaky and dry and is not as refined or musical as the 300B, but it does plenty of good things. There is a pretty significant difference between Apple Lossless through TOSlink and the CDSDSE transport.
The subwoofers really make a big difference in the overall tone and presentation of the system. The music has significantly more impact. With body and depth. I have it conservatively set up somewhere near 100hz with the gain set just on the threshold. I have found that this is ideal for me. In addition, getting the ports of the subwoofer away from the wall and pointed more into the room made for significant improvements over having the ports pointed directly at two bass traps. When the ports were facing the bass traps, all of the bass dispersed along the walls! Strange to have no bass in the middle of the room and booming, unnaturally loud bass along the walls.
I have been listening to a lot of music and have not been active on the forum but I wanted to update the thread. I like the convenience of computer-as-source, but it does not cut it for attentive listening. I think of my system now as two systems in one. The 300B, Compact Disc system and the Patek SE, computer system. Lately it has been all computer as I only recently set up the computer. Happy with it!
I would like to get some other gear in here for comparison.
System edited: Added Cain and Cain Bailey Subwoofers with Dayton SPA250 plate amps. The improvement with the subs is not subtle at all. They integrated extremely easily, though I had to move the speakers a bit. The subs provide an incredible amount of scale to the sound of the system. I am pleasantly surprised. I expected more bass impact, but what I got was more bass "presence" similar to treble "presence." The bass is not overpowering; it is simply correct and "there." I don't plan on any upgrades in the future so I moved the system in the "done for now" category.
Elvin Jones is one of my all-time favorite drummers. I am listening to him as I type this. A really nice album he recorded with Bill Frisell and Dave Holland. Through headphones, actually. I am really enjoying headphones lately, by the way. A good way to test out tonal changes when tube rolling or capacitor changing. With a headphone like the HD800, soundscape cues are much more noticeable than with other headphones. I love the sound of mine. They were "cold" because I was listening to my speaker rig so much and neglected them for about two months. But they have really found a nice voice after several hours of running.
I saw Billy Cobham at the Blue Note in the mid-80s. I was sitting twenty feet away front row center. I winced on a few particularly hard hits envisioning a stick splintering in half and embedding in my forehead!
Jet, I was not a good drummer! In fact, I got kicked out of that band! It did require quite a bit of kinetic energy. I was more of a basher. I never developed my skills enough to use the drums as a musical instrument, a la the late great Paul Motian.
I have sat in just about every section of Carnegie Hall and I am also a fan of the balconies. There was a time when Keith Jarrett brought his great trio to Carnegie Hall every year during the late 90's and early 2000's. My girlfriend at the time and I used to go every year. What a great time that was. I saw so many great acts there. I also really like Zankel Hall next door to the Stern Auditorium.
Thank you so much for those classical recommendations. I can't wait to check them out. I am a bit of an ignoramus when it comes to classical music. But that Mussorgsky really made an impression on me.
Interesting to hear your comparison with the Abbys. I have a pair of Omega Grande 6Rs and they have the same driver as the Abbys in Fortapache's system. I imagine that the driver has a big influence on the super fast, light-textured sound. It is a very clear sound that is a bit low on texture and body for me (although I imagine that the Voight pipe design of the Abby adds plenty over the bass reflex design of the Omega). It is my understanding that the Abbys really benefit from a subwoofer.
I am really excited to get the dual subwoofers going. If I am honest, even my double horn speakers leave me wanting a little more on the bottom. The midrange through the highest registers is truly astounding. I feel that once I get the subwoofers well integrated I will be on an even higher plane of enjoyment.
Regarding the AN silvers: I was listening to the Miles Davis Bootleg series, Vol. 1. 1967: the great quintet with Shorter, Carter, Hancock, and Tony Williams. Tony Williams' ride cymbal is very bright. I think it is probably an inherently bright recording, but it also indicates to me that the caps might still be a little raw. They also require a good bit of warmup. My amp sounds distinctly better after about six hrs. of run in. I am still VERY much enjoying them, though. Lots of detail, clarity, and speed. But always with very smooth, lovely harmonics.
Thanks for all your insight! I definitely hope to see you soon and check out your system!
Drummer! Keeper of the time! Those sax and brass players always throwing spit and breath-I know what you mean. Very physical instruments to play, but non more physical than you drummers. The 8th row is a very close perspective - kind of up close and personal. The really special thing about Carnegie is what a wonderful acoustic space it is. Our musician friends prefer playing in Carnegie. As for the "rear of the hall" I actually like sitting in the Carnegie balcony since the sound blends to perfection IMHO. Looking forward to hearing what you think about the sub woofers and your continuing reports about the AN caps. Would love to hear Avatgarde speakers some day. Am very curious about them and Zu speakers.
When recording engineers record classical sometimes they put the mikes out in the hall and sometimes on stage above the instruments or some combination there of. If they are recording in a great sounding room with great recording gear they get great results. We have a ton of classical CD's and they all sound unique. Like you mentioned some sound distant with lots of ambience (reverb) and some sound like the instruments are in the listening room or some combination of the above. One of the most interesting recordings we have is by George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra recorded in the late 50's and early 60's in the then newly renovated Severance hall. It is a recording of the 7th, 8th and 9th Symphony's of Dvorak. Its the "Stereorama" recordings. Special attention was given to the sound and I am guessing these recordings were made on Ampex 3 track reel to reel machines with very little processing. The instruments have a special on stage presence but at the same a very satisfying ambiance. Another great recording is George Solti's Bartok's Concerto For Orchestra, Dance Suites and Music for Strings Percussion and Celeste with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra done in the 1980's. Very dynamic!
I heard the Cain Abby's driven by a 2a3 amp with no sub woofer at Fortapache's home. A lightening fast lightly textured presentation. The E's with my amp have more body and texture, but are not as fast as Fort's system. New the E's are above my price range and they keep going up in price every year. I bought our's used three years ago. Folks seem love them or hate them.
Hey Jet! Thanks so much for your comments. Really interesting career! That info regarding studio playback is particularly useful to me. I played drums in a blues band in college, so I know what that can sound like. I have some hearing damage in my right ear from crushing the ride cymbal a little too much. Does not present much of a problem because my brain is used to it. My favorite venue is the Vanguard. One of my most distinct memories is sitting in the front row during a Joe Lovano show and feeling the breath from the sax on my face! What an experience. And what great sound.
I have not had too much trouble with the sound of my system. A live orchestra in the 8th row is definitely a reality check, though, isn't it? I would say that my system presents orchestras more in the very rear of the hall! It does sound really good, in my opinion. I am getting more and more intrigued by Audio Note, though. The problem for me is that those AN-Es probably cost more than my speakers and amp combined!
My dream speakers are probably the Avantgarde Duo Omegas. From everything I have read they seem like the ideal speaker for me. I think that my Cains with tweeter and subwoofers will approach that kind of sound, but I think ignorance will be bliss until I can get enough cash together to upgrade. Maybe someday, maybe never. Until then I am happy, though.
oh yeah I almost forgot what it was like when I used to do recording sessions and after we would finish a "take" the engineer would almost always play the take thru the huge wall mounted speakers which usually consisted of two 15 inch woofers and a horn, and to me this still sounded like recorded music...not live.
TJ, I have have spent many hours in both Carnegie and Avery Fisher and share your amazement with the power of a full orchestra. I play guitar and used to do it professionally so have been in many venues large and small and nothing compares to the power of live instruments. A few days ago one of our friends was practicing with his cello in our apartment and I could not believe how loud and room filling it is. I have stood next to sax players and they can be a very loud instrument as well. Not to mention a drum kit! Whoa! My point is and Charles mentioned this as well, I cant imagine sitting in my home and actually enjoying those decibel levels for more than a few seconds and they are harmful to one's hearing for sure. I have turned up my system just to see how it handles orchestral, rock and jazz climaxes and it does a good job and actually sounds natural and dynamic. For the sake of my neighbors I don't do it very often. But the E's in my room with 8 watts are suprisingly dynamic.
My preference is voicing our rig so it plays successfully as many records and CD's as possible and since we listen to so many musical genres that is a challenge as Charles pointed out. When we were speaker shopping being able to play all genres was top on the list within our price range.
Keep us posted on the your cap break in process and the subwoofers. Will be interesting to see if silver caps will be your long term preference.
Hi Tjkurita, My listening levels are pretty much the same as yours and that's plenty for me. I feel that with good hearing still intact and with a system that's resolving, natural and nuanced there's no need to" crank it up" in order to enjoy the music. Subwoofers would very likely serve the purpose you seek, no single driver can do everything no matter how much quality it has, ,physics rule.If acoustic jazz sounds great in your system you're doing something right.
I say that because some components/speakers just have difficulty getting the natural tonality, timbre, harmonics and body of those instruments to sound authentic and organic. If you're getting true enjoyment and genuine involvement with your system's music reproduction then you've done well. Charles,
As always, very "sound" comments, Charles. Indeed, I am not too worried about it. I have two subwoofers on the way as well, hoping they will arrive sometime next week. They are already two months delayed! I am wondering if the subwoofers will offer a little more bottom and spacial magnitude to the sound, which I think will help on the orchestral pieces. If I am honest I never listen at sustained 85db levels with 90-95db peaks. My idea of "rocking out" is somewhere in the vicinity of 75-80 with it *rarely* peaking over 85. And every jazz album I have sound great. I am hoping the subs make everything even more realistic. Once the subs come in, I will likely move the system to the "Done for Now" section.
I wouldn't worry about it much. Even the very large , complex and expensive systems struggle and come up short with large scale orchestral music . Yes they'll play louder with less earlier compression than your system. They will be hard pressed to give the same smaller venue acoustic instrument realism as well as a system like yours. There's no avoiding the inherent compromise of what ever you choose. While we can aspire to a system 'that does it all', none do. Know what you want most, decide what's more important for true long term happiness and pursue to the best of your means.
Recently, I went to see Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center. Also featured was a piece by Ravel that I loved and in between a more modernist piece featuring three solo cellos. We were in the 8th Row, orchestra level, on the right side of the stage.
I must say, the sound was incredible and far beyond the capabilities of my system. My memory constantly fails me, but the lasting impression was that of DYNAMICS and MAGNITUDE. Incredible dynamics. And perfect (obviously) detail and coherence. There were moments when the music was filling my head in the way that headphones fill the head, but there was also huge sound hitting the body and running through the floorboards and the seat. It was a visceral, full body experience. I would guess that the SPL peaked above 100db where I was sitting and during the most powerful sections. I am curious to know what it would take to replicate the sound (with all of its coherence, dynamics, detail) and volume of that orchestra in that hall in one's home. I would think multiple drivers, lots of power, and very good crossover networks.
Switching back to my system, I attempted to reach SPL levels approaching what I heard at the show. Negative, Ghost Rider! My single-driver, backloaded horns are not equipped to handle anything approaching a complicated, loud, orchestral piece at those kinds of volumes. The single driver simply gets overwhelmed. Compression sets in and details are completely lost. It becomes a "wall of noise" situation. I would guess that my system maxes out at about 90db sustained, probably closer to 85db when we are talking about a full orchestra. Transient peaks are easy. A full orchestra is not. I am not sure orchestral works will ever sound good on my system.
I am lucky my diet consists mainly of more readily digestible small jazz. I have found that I am able to come a lot closer to the Village Vanguard in my home than Avery Fisher Hall. And that's OK with me!
In other news, the capacitor break-in continues and they are starting to smooth out significantly. I goosed the super tweeters a little bit and they are back in the fold. I think there are still some changes on the way, but things are starting to come together. 80db sustained is now a very listenable volume. I also separated my speakers a bit. They are further apart and closer to the side walls. This gives a larger center image and the speakers breath a little more. There is more room between the instruments.