A few minor changes for 2012, but first:

When I first put this system together in 1991-2, I was driving the Martin Logan CLS electrostats with a pair of 140W Audio Research M300 MkII triode monoblocks. The "subs" were a pair of Wilson Puppies driven by a Mark Levinson 23.5 through a Bryston 10B x-over. Later on, I sold the Puppies and the x-over and bought Kinergetics SW 800 subwoofers that were designed to match the CLS's (the "Mini Statement" system.) I never really liked them ;--( I recently moved into an apartment and sold all the Kinergetics stuff and my beloved ARC amps due to space limitations. Began driving the CLS's with the ML 23.5 (very nice) and was resigned to listening to the CLS's with whatever bass they could muster.

When Martin Logan introduced their own subs, I could tell from the physical layout of the three opposing woofers that they had potential, plus I just couldn't imagine Martin Logan putting more sluggish subwoofers on the market;--) I'd been an advocate of "two subwoofers" mostly for easier placement rather than for "stereo bass". But first I thought I'd buy just one ML Depth and see how it sounded. I put it in the middle, crossed over at a mere 35Hz. Incredible! Fast and seamless, just like the Puppies. The omnidirectional woofer arrangement really makes two units unnecessary for good imaging, unless you need more poop.

Four years ago, I bought a new McIntosh MC-275 MkIV in order to drive the stats with tubes again, and it's fantastic! (See my post below.) The Purist cabling and the Depth sub really completed my system to where I'm not making any changes. I have been trying different headphone gear lately -- just for fun!

So now it's summer of 2102, and due to the untimely death of an audiophile friend last year, I had the opportunity to try out some of his very fine equipment, before liquidating it for his family. Only one piece of equipment really 'stuck', and that was an Atma-Sphere MP-3 tube preamp. It is a fully balanced differential Class A design with an all-tube phonostage; 'all-tube' meaning no FET's and no step-up transformers! I'd always wanted to try a tube phonoamp, and I'd always wanted to hear what an MC cartridge (a 'balanced output' device) would sound like when amplified by a phonoamp with balanced inputs. So I got to hear both things at the same time! And now it's time for my incredible Levinson 25s phonoamp and 26s preamp to go to a new audiophile ;~) As a famous Guru said, "Once you get the message, you hang up the phone!"

So for the first time in eight years (2004, when I replaced my ARC SP-14 preamp with the Levinson 25s/26s) my system sounds brand new again! Unfortunately my own body just keeps getting older, so this might be the last time the audio system changes ;~)

Components Toggle details

    • Atma-Sphere MP-3 with phono
    Finally, a tube phonostage with balanced inputs; MC cartridge heaven! Replaced Levinson 25s/26s. I never thought that would happen ;~)
    • Mcintosh MC275 Mk IV -- Shuguang Treasure KT88Z power tubes
    Same as the Mk V (the latest 'un-leaded' version) with XLR inputs, detachable PC, and bigger power transformer. Current power tubes are even (slightly) better than my NOS Gold Lions; and only cost $400! The amp itself is a bargain, and its 95w/ch sound is delicious ;-)
    • HeadRoom Home Balanced Headphone Amp
    Drives headphones balanced! 'Crossfeed' feature eliminates 'hole-in-the-middle' effect common with headphone listening. Solid state.
    • Melos SHA-1
    The classic tube headphone amp/preamp from Melos. Better sonics than my HeadRoom unit ;~)
    • Goldmund Studietto Mk II turntable
    It's on a Target wall shelf. Has the JVC quartz-lock motor, Goldmund cones, van den Hul zirconium spindle oil. Replaced the springs with Pandafeet sorbothane isolators -- no resonance, no noise, great bass, direct drive rules!!
    • SME Series V tonearm
    Bought in 1990. Factory serviced in 2004 and installed new van den Hul MC-150S internal silver wiring.
    • Transfiguration Temper W MC cartridge
    0.5mV output, new double ring magnet (yokeless) design. Stunning fit 'n finish. Now broken after 150 hours. It produces an amazing black background against a sparkling top to bottom neutrality, with great transient response and holographic imaging.
    • Purist Audio Venustas Phono interconnect
    It's totally to die for! -- Increases the sonic value of your cartridge by $5000.
    • Wadia WT-2000 PS-2 CD transport
    Wadia's Esoteric Transport w/ the upgraded VRDS heavy-duty Teac platter.
    • Aural Symphonics Optimism V.2 ST glass optical cable
    If you don't have AT&T inputs/outputs on your digital gear necessary for using this glass digital datalink, then you're missing an unsurpassed musical experience from your CDs!
    • Wadia 27 DAC
    Sounds great w/ the AS Optimism 2 glass cable. May consider GNSC mods later on.
    • Nakamichi CR-7A audiophile cassette
    Basically, a Dragon that doesn't reverse (Thank God!) Bought it new with mics and mixer yet!! Analog rules!!
    • McIntosh MR65B stereo FM tube tuner
    Bought it (very) used in 2007 and had it refurbished. Total $700, more than 2X 1962 retail! Amazing sound.
    • Martin Logan CLS IIz full range electrostat
    Owned these starting in 1991 (as CLS II's) Installed new panels 3/11 and they sound better than ever! The Sound Anchor stands improve both the bass (cleaner) and the mid/highs (transient response.) What a difference!
    • Sound Anchor CLS speaker stand
    They get the CLS's off the floor for better staging and keep the panels from rocking, improving the transients (even when I thought they couldn't get any better!)
    • Martin Logan Depth subwoofer
    Better transient response (faster) than the (larger) Descent due to it's smaller, lighter woofers. See my remarks below.
    • Purist Audio Venustas RCA and XLR interconnects
    RCA (1.5m) connects phono preamp to preamp. XLR (8m - 25 feet) connects preamp to amp.
    • Straightwire Maestro RCA
    An 8m pair preamp to subwoofer.
    • Purist Audio Venustas 2.5m speaker cables
    My last speaker cables!
    • PAD Venustas/Dominus, Aural Thrills and Audio Metallurgy power cords
    Purist for the amp and CDT, other stuff elsewhere.
    • ExactPower EP-15A / SP-15A power units
    The EP is a power regenerator. It supplies the amp, sub, speakers, and the SP balanced power unit. The SP supplies the source devices.
    • Studiotech Performance Series shelf systems
    One of audio's best bangs. Price includes shipping. Easy to assemble, great looking and solid!

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Neil looking to streamline my system with less components.

Thinking about adding another REL sub and finally a power generator (which should have been purchased 5 years ago from your recommendation) but the added components, while welcomed, really crowds my listening room.

+2 would require different configuration of components.


You are correct sir!



Love handbuilt products built like a tank with good fit and finish. Hard to pass that up if you pay attention to micro details of fabrication and construction.

At that time, I was looking at big "ole tube amps" made in America-but did not know what they really cost. Atma-sphere and McIntosh were at the top of the list followed by Audio Research. MA 2 was really way out of my budget so I refocused my research on Atma M-60s, Audio Research VSi60 and McIntosh MC275.

If I recall, I was in my "big is better" phase with audio components. Big speakers. Big amp. No budget!


Seriously considered MA 2 power amp in 2004 but my budget was a bit short. Was going to pair the MAs with magico monitors.


Atma-Sphere MP-3 with phono.

Nice pickup.


A bit of discover learning. Yeah I do love researching hi-end components and the business side.

I do remember my brother looking at cleaning vinyl with steam back when he was working with Radio Shack. At least back then in the 70s they use to carry HiFi accessories and some stereo components worth purchasing.

Not really surprised about the Yamaha headphones. Yamahas from the 70s (like the 55 watt integrated amp I owned) manufactured great components with solid fronts and knobs of real aluminum. Built like a tank.

The larger room may come much later. The layout is a bit funky with a outdated kitchenette and wood paneling that is not up to par. But it has freshly refinished parquet floor and lots of potential.


Neil hows your system sounding?

Recently moved (tallahassee florida) and re-evaluating my system for performance. Waiting for the electrician to evaluate a couple of things like noise, dedicated circuit and sub panel for my workshop.


New tube options would replace the 12A type mullards on the 275s. Not our favorite anymore so I know they need to go. Quite the expense for two MC275s. So with that in mind what do you recommend that will improve the midrange smoothness with more micro detail within the soundstage?

BTW did you get your hands on the EAT KT88s?


Researched the Shuguang Black Treasure Series KT88-Z. Will be interesting to see what you discover.


Still using the 5751 tubes?

Knowing that you have experimented more with the MC275, have you tried the 4, 8, and 16 ohm taps with the MLs to determine sonic differences?


Neil have you audition Analysis Audio speakers? They remind of the vintage Apogees.


Checking in Neil.

Any plans for updating minor or major components?



Will review the Purist Dominus line again.

Interesting I was thinking about the workaround for larger spade early this year. In the end, my solution was to reterminated both speaker cable and jumpers with a barrier spade. So the speaker cable and jumpers are stacked...although very neatly.


Just checking in Neil.

New tubes sound outstanding. Thanks again for all the insight.

More details not just in the treble but also in the midrange. And bass sounds deeper.

Need to get new power cords for my MC275's. What can I expect from the Purist on the MC275 regarding bass response, midrange and treble?

Any tweaks or changes you looking into for your rig?



Caught your post and other threads regarding tubes. What are the sonic differences when you use the Gold Lion KT88 and NOS Telefunkens?

12-29-07: Nsgarch
My (moderate priced) tube recommendation would be a quad of the new reissue Gold Lion KT88 (about $200) and some NOS Telefunkens for the 12AX7's and 12AT7's. If you'll send me your email address, I'll give you more details when I have some time.