My first system consisted of a quad 33/303, Magneplanar SMG's and Rega 3 turntable which I bought 22 years ago with almost every penny I had. For the next twenty years there were few changes with the exception of the introduction of a midlevel Sony CD player in 1991 and the relegation of the Magneplanars to the basement when we moved into our house. They were replaced with Linn Tukans. Small and inquiring children forced the turntable to the basement. The problem was I no longer thought that the system even remotely sounded like music and I didn't care for it any more than listening to the car stereo.
In 2000 we undertook a house renovation that included the living room. It was at this time that I began to toy with the idea of upgrading the stereo. My wife encouraged it, but with the provision, it had to fit the d cor. She too loves music but sound alone would not be acceptable.
I listened locally but found nothing that piqued my interest. I heard a lot of equipment, expensive and inexpensive. Local dealers were a real problem, with only one chap having any love of music and/or decent reputation. The rest I had known and was not impressed. Some of what I heard included, Classe, B & W, Quad, Monitor, Meridian, Utopia and Linn. Individual pieces were ok, but together nothing excited me.
Ultimately, the first piece I decided on was the Musical Fidelity Nuvista Integrated M3. I had read good things but what really impressed me was when I heard it through an expensive list of components I had thought sounded lousy only a few weeks previously with different electronics. With the Nuvista in, the system changed remarkably for the better. Its appearance is appealing to some and not others but my wife thought it acceptable. I continue to enjoy it greatly.
Speakers were much more of a dilemma. I considered Avantgardes, which a friend has, and I think remarkable speakers, but one look by my wife removed that possibility. She thought they looked fine, but would not fit our décor, end of story. In retrospect she was completely right. Then I discovered the net and everything it had to offer. I looked at a lot of speakers but narrowed many down on their size or appearance. I was left considering Verity Parsifails, Von Schweikert, Manger and Piega. I ultimately bought the Piega for a variety of reasons, but did so unheard, something I had never done in my life. I dealt with Steve Davis at Hifi Farm whom I found very helpful, knowledgeable and honest. I have had better service from him, thousands of miles away, than any of the local shops ever provided when I bought from them. He also carried Audiomeca, a brand I had long liked. The Mephisto II and Ekianthus were bought unheard. Again a major leap of faith but one I have not regretted. The sound is very smooth and pleasing to me. A number of tweaks have helped it approach the vinyl, including rollerblocks and a symposium svelte shelf, a modified power cable from m. lurne, and leaving the cover open. I have compared it to a Wadia in my system and did not think it was even close. The interconnects were Audiotekne and Ensemble gigaflux digital cable but I did switch these to the HMS Grand Finale and Il Primo which have made the digital side even better.
The stand was custom built locally. Nothing I saw anywhere on the net would fit in our room. The person who built it is an audiophile and does wonderful work. It has sand-filled plinths and sits on carbon blocks. I am not sure it is the last word in isolation, as evidenced by the benefit of the rollerballs and svelte shelf, but it does make my wife very happy.
I have a few tweaks I am waiting to play with this winter including Walker Vivid and the Audio desk cd lathe.
My musical tastes run to classical, but more chamber and concertos than full symphonies. I listen to a lot of mainstream jazz, as well as a number of vocalists such as Mel Torme, Tony Bennet and Holly Cole. My re-exposure to audiophiles has introduced me to a number of artists such as Jane Monheit and Tony Rice, a great bonus. My system should have been done at this point and kept for a long time but recently I have had the opportunity to upgrade to the C8 LTD and am very pleased I did. It is a truly major step above what I thought was already a great speaker.
My biggest problem now is the room. It is large (40 X 20), open and has cathedral ceilings of varying heights, with hard wood floors and a grand piano. I have done what I can but until I figure out how to get the grand piano out (a year or two away) I'm kind of stuck. I will make no change until that has been optimized.
I am very pleased with the sound and my wife finds the combination of sight and sound great. Any comments on what to do with the room would be appreciated. I apologlize if I wrote too much on this.
Good to see you finally have your own DCC2 and CDSD in the system ... and good to see your wife hasn't killed you (of course, the piano is still there, which is why you are still alive)
So, now that you've made these changes, how is vinyl comparing to your digital ? I still remember listening to Lucinda Williams and Talking Heads on your AudioMeca ... might be tough to get rid of those big black discs ??? What are your thoughts ?
System edited: I will continue to update the system over the next few days. The changes have been gradual but I have been too lazy/busy to upload everything. I am very biased, but the emm labs is about the only digital I can listen to - I got spoiled. I still have the audiomeca which is still very nice and very beautiful but I would rather listen to vinyl if the emm labs isn't in the sytem. I had to switch out the nuvista which I still liked a lot but I needed the flexibility of a preamp. I have tried the Vincent because they looked great and a friend thought them quite musical. Again I am biased but out of the box they sound very good and my wife (who puts up with the insanity much better now that I am in the business and making some return) loves the look. They sell for 3000 cad which is less than one of my interconnects. Go figure. The saga continues.
System edited: I will edit over the next little bit. Things have changed a lot as the hobby has now become a real business. In our city we were poorly served so my partner and I set up a company. We do high end audio and video and now have two (soon to be 3) full time employees. Truth is most of the sales are home automation but the audio is comming along well. So everything you see needs to be taken with a grain of salt - which you should do anyway. I have inserted the dcc2 and cdsd into my system - and it is stunning. The audiomeca gear is beautiful and very fluid but can't compare to the EMM gear. Also have the groove + phono stage and am trying the Vincent Monoblocks. They are the tough part. I would put in the linear B from Tom Evans in a heartbeat, but my wife would stop my heart - they are big and industrial. I am trying the Vincent because we sell them and they seem to be a very good value. The fit and finish is amazing and out of the box the sound very pleasing. They need some run in. I tried another amp we sell and it was a terrible match - though I have heard it sound very good in other systems. Goes to show you really have to hear things yourself first. Anyways enough blabbering. I will finish the changes in the next little bit.
A nice system, I think. Though I have not heard the AudioMeca Mephisto it is surely the nicest LOOKING player on the market, IMHO.
I was wondering about the speakers you chose. Particularly the Veritys and the Von Schweikerts. I have heard very good things about both of these speakers in mags and on-line, yet when I have heard them I have been quite disapointed. As for the Veritys, I have only heard them in show conditions so that might be part of the problem...? Considering the time you spent going around listening, I was wondering if there was more to recomend these speakers to you more than the size/looks alone. Thanks and happy listening.
That would have to be a major improvement on the soundstage and imaging. It looks good too. I have moved my piega's 10 feet from the back wall and made sure there is nothing between them for them to shine.
System edited: I finally convinced my wife to allow me to move the piano where it would look best and make the system sound better. It has done just that, it only took 3 years. Also added a phonostage, the Groove, which is a huge improvement. The sound is much better than before and I am quite happy.
Thanks for the compliments. The credit goes all to my wife who has superb taste except for her choice in husbands. She liked the way the p8 ltd looked in the system better than the c8ltd, I think I agree but the c8ltd is a much improved speaker. What do others think, not that its going to change? With regards to acoustic treatments my intent is to get someone like rives consult, its just that at the moment I can't move things much would limit how much help they could be. Thanks again
I REALLY like the cosmetics of the components you've chosen. The AudioMeca and Piegas are wonderful looking together. From your system pictures the first thing I would do is contact an acoustics consultant to help you out with your challenging room layout. The Audiogon member "Rives" is in this line of work. From the looks of it you have very good tastes in house decoration or have a great decorator working for you. It would be interesting to see the room with acoustical treatments done in a "decorator" friendly way so as not to take too much away from the style of your room.
Thanks for the compliments. The stand was my own design but the credit goes to the woodworker. Given what you can spend for stands I thought it was very well priced. I would agree that TWL's comments are very useful and I will see if I can try them out tonight. I have thought about various footers for the piegas. Calloway uses aurios and swears by them, but piega recommends the feet they supply. Tough to know. I think I will do that at a later date but its a good suggestion as is the comment on the comforter and the small rug.
Another thought. If, after trying the room treatment, you still want to further tweak the sound, experiment with footers under the speakers. Walker valid points, Audiopoints, Vibrapods, Black Diamond Racing cones, would all be worth trying--as would others. I am sure you could find something which would further "dial in" the sound.
The equipment stand it truly beautiful, as are your equipment choices. The suggestions by TWL are all excellent, and should cost next to nothing. Try putting a down quilt or featherbed over the piano when you are going to listen seriously--store it somewhere else when not in use. And how hard can it be to place a small rug on the floor in front of the speakers during listening sessions? Again, remove it when not listening. I would think these things would make everyone happy, cost little, and can easily be changed or removed if you don't like the results.
Thanks for comments. The easiest way to not spend money for twenty years is to have none. I was in university or training for that period of time. I unfortunately cannot make a lot of comments on base optimization. I have considered using one of the programs to help with this, eg cara, but given the severe limitations I have in moving stuff in the room at present I am not going to.
Thanks for the comments. The drapes are the one thing I can do at the present. I will see about the lanket too. I have tried closing the piano lid which actually makes the sound worse. The good thing about the piano is that my kids love to play it and it reminds of what a real piano sounds like when listening to the system. Even with all the imperfections a piano sounds remarkably good on the system now. Unfortunately the piano has nowhere to go till we do house rennos, which will be in about 2 years time. At that point I will have a lot more flexibility. I tried to convince my wife into letting me put the piano in the front hall entrance but she wouldn't go for it. Seriously I had toyed with the idea of the speakers on either side of the piano but that too was nixed, understandable. When the time comes the speakers will come out, the rug (which is there but too much to one side) will come forward and in front of the speakers and the furniture back. Thanks again for the input
About the room, the first major glaring things to do, would be to close the drapes in front of of the bay windows, and cover the piano with a blanket while you are listening. Also getting the furniture away from the front of the speakers would be a big plus. A nice large thick rug on the floor, in front of the speakers would do alot to eliminate some of the huge first reflections off of the shiny floor. Also getting the speakers out of the corners would do alot for your imaging and soundstage.