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 ;~)
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.
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!
Philipwu and Olympicman: please both forgive me for this slow reply. I haven't been checking in with Agon lately.
Let me say some general things about powering electrostatic speakers, and MartinLogan speakers specifically. Especially because many of you younger audiophiles who are smart enough to consider older model speakers (like the CLS's ;~) may benefit from a little history. First, it is important to remember that of ALL the models MartinLogan EVER produced, only two of them, the various CLS's, and the CLX, have truly "full range" electrostatic panels! All other models are hybrids. That is, they include a woofer(s) to provide low frequency response. Either self-powered (by an internal amp) or powered by an external amp (supplied by the user.)
The electrostatic panels in all the 'hybrid' models have limited low frequency response; they cut off anywhere between ~ 200 Hz and 500 Hz depending on the model. The CLS and CLX go all the way down to 40 Hz and 55 Hz respectively (although not with a lot of oomph -- and they certainly don't cover that critical last octave or octave-and-a-half ;~) But for certain kinds of music, they are absolutely perfect; and give all the bass response needed for those kinds of voices and instruments.** The only other "full range" electrostatic (STILL!) which produces full frequency response down to 20 Hz is of course the largest models of the SoundLab, but that's a whole other discussion.
Both solid-state amps and tube amps require certain electrical "considerations" when used with stats; however, once those considerations have been addressed, it is ABSOLUTELY NOT POSSIBLE to say one type of amp is clearly better than the other, for driving electrostatic panels. There will be some "musical" differences however; and while subtle, these musical differences should be considered when choosing tube vs. solid state amps. However (and I want to be real clear about this) these "musical" differences have to do ONLY with the way solid state circuits versus tube circuits handle music signals. Power output, impedance matching, and all those other electrical considerations that people are always raising as being important issues?: they can all be "handled"! What can't be changed is the way valves and transistors, each in their own way, amplify music signals! And so there will be some trade-offs.
Electrostatic panels are the most accurate audio transducers so far devised (for large scale use.) Meaning, they can change (transduce) an electrical signal into a sound wave more faithfully than any other device commonly available. So why not drive them with the most accurate amplifier? OK . . . . and what would that be? Do you want every last morsel of musical information to make it into your speaker?; or do you want the information that DOES make it into your speaker to be utterly free from distortion, of ANY kind? You can't have both! If you want EVERYTHING in the music signal to be delivered to your speakers, then you will need to use tubes. If you want to know that the signal going into your speakers is free of any kind of electrical (ie non-musical) adulteration, then a solid state circuit can provide it. And PLEASE UNDERSTAND, I'm talking about apples-to-apples comparisons, meaning high-quality, time-tested, and yes, kind of expensive examples of audio components here -- regardless whether they're tube or transistor!
So, what do you get with tubes? You get the ultimate in signal PRESERVATION. All of the (OK, as much as possible ;~) of the micro detail, vocal sibilants, and supersonic overtones that are contained in real, live music. (Almost) nothing missing. What do you get with transistors? You get QUIET; especially when there is supposed to be nothing to hear. And when there is something to hear, get a music signal that is (in the best cases) free of any electronic "artifacts" that either join with the signal, or worse, modify it! As long as you understand that some of the "small stuff" isn't going to make it through a solid state amplification circuit . . . . . Oh sure, you can argue that these descriptions/distinctions don't apply to say Boulder or DarTzeel solid state amps, or to any number of five/six-figure tube amplifiers, but let's not go there right now, OK?
So what is it (if it's not the other silly, but correctable stuff) that produces these two different audio outcomes. The answer is speed; maybe "agility" would be a better word. Tubes turn on and off slowly, like light bulbs; transistors respond (almost) at the speed of light. When a pair of tubes (in a typical push-pull amplifier circuit) hand the signal back and forth to each other, there is some "lag", like a relay runner who doesn't fully let go of the baton until the other runner has a good grip on it -- no chance of the baton getting dropped! However, with a pair of transistors in the same application, unless they are PAINSTAKINGLY (and expensively) matched, a "crack" will open up in the "on-off" cycle, and unfortunately, some of the tiniest signal components will fall through those cracks . . . . . The upside is that transistors don't need ancillary power (like filament current) to make them work. Basically (and I'm over-simplifying here) transistors run on signal alone -- and so as long as they are operated withing their design limits, they won't mess with your music signal -- however, their circuits might lose some of it ;~)
Another time, I will try and add to this post regarding what to consider when combining tube amps or solid state amps with electrostatic panels; and the somewhat different considerations when talking about a full range versus hybrid electrostat. Thanks.
** So if one only listened to string quartets, light jazz vocals (without heavy drums or upright bass), solo guitar, Gregorian chant, etc -- a pair of CLS's or CLX would be fine and you wouldn't miss any bass.
Ketchup, there are a few forum threads dealing with the subject of 'steam cleaning' which might interest you (and a couple of videos on YouTube also). None of them exactly like I do it, but you might find them interesting. And if you'd like to discuss it with me further, no problem -- just email me at: nsgarchATalumDOTmitDOTedu Thanks
Yes, Atma-Sphere equipment is every inch "American-made". Frankly, considering the high quality of workmanship and the fact that it IS made in the US, it represents a great value for its dollar cost. I was attracted to the preamp primarily for its all-tube, fully balanced phonostage, which to me is a MC cartridge owner's dream ;~) In fact, without doing some research, I can't think of a manufacturer, foreign or domestic, that makes an all-tube balanced phonoamp (standalone) or preamp phonostage? .
Pierre, my system sounds pretty much the same as it has for a long time ;--) Why wouldn't it? -- I really haven't changed any of the hardware.
That said, I have made some additions/changes/discoveries in other areas: 1. I've discovered the joy/simplicity/effectiveness of steam cleaning my records. I learned after discussions with Quality Pressing (Chad Kassem's new pressing plant) that if you want to get rid of mold release, you need either heat or solvents. However, steam cleaning is not a casual "plug and play" affair. It's very important to develop a personal technique/procedure that works well with the equipment you will be using. After that, it's a snap. No more record cleaning fluid "du jour" for me (or the ridiculous threads/people that discuss them!) 2. I bought another (brand new!) Goldmund Studietto TT, for an insane three figures, and plan to fit it with an Eminent Technology linear track air-bearing tonearm -- (another three figures used!) which I'm sending to the factory for a complete refurbish/upgrade next week. 3. AND I've discovered orthodynamic headphones. Primarily the Yamahas from the 70's. Amazing sonics, just this side of Stax electrostats (actually, they outperform Stax for bass!) 4. So of course, I just HAD to have one of those legendary Melos SHA-1 tube headphone/line preamps (another three figures on Agon ;--) Currently watching eBay for some Amperex 6DJ8's to roll;--) Who said hi-end had to be expensive? Not if you enjoy research, and exercise both patience and restraint tracking your quarry ;--) 5. I bought a Jolida JD-9 phonoamp (just for fun to compare tube phono stage sound with my all solid state Levinson 25S. I never even got that far, and sold it without even doing an A--B. The manufacturer deceptively describes it as a TUBE phonostage, which it is not! Yes, there are a couple of cathode follower 12AX7's at the output, but all the gain is accomplished with op-amps -- yuck! I'm keeping my Levinson. No more screwing around!
I read of your recent move. I vote for the larger room. .
It took my breaking in two sets of KT88-Z's for me to figure out that these tubes REALLY DO take 300 hours to fully burn in. It sounds more tube voodoo, until you realize that OMG! the black carbon/polymer coating must go through a CURING PROCESS -- just like ALL resins must ;--)) I can't believe I didn't pick up on that with the first quad (which only got 80 hours.) But the NEXT time, I logged EVERY MINUTE of operation, and noted that around 200 hours, the Shuggies sounded as good as my two quads of NOS GEC and Gold Lions; and somewhere after 300 hours the Shuggies actually were ahead in areas like huge soundstage, more bass power, and that "shimmer" I'd got addicted to after my first quad of NOS Genalex tubes.
What you said about the Shuggies articulation is certainly true, but I simply fell in love with the "bigness" of their sound! Along with the sparkle you'd expect from any power tube with strong dynamic gain (transconductance.) And I want to mention again, that I continue to use the unbelievable GEC A2900 (12AT7) MC275's driver positions -- which brings me to the 6550's:
I know there are many people who, when there's an option, prefer 6550's over KT88's. They say the sound of 6550's is warmer and more 'natural' in the midrange -- is that correct? I once had lots of experience rolling different 6550's back when I had them (EIGHT per SIDE!!) in my ARC monoblocks -- but that was when vintage TS didn't cost more than your car!! But I never A--B'd them with KT88's in the same amp. ARC has of course always used 6550's (instead of KT88's) -- but in my opinion, ARC amps, or at least the earlier models I'm familiar with, could usually benefit from a bit of "warming up", so maybe that's one reason they've stuck with them.
I DO think that you should re-visit the Shuggies EVENTUALLY. God knows the price is right, compared to a quad of solid blackplate 6550 TS!!! But they (the Shuggies) still have to be burned in for the full 300 hours. There's just no way around that requirement, which BTW I'm certain must apply to ALL the other carbon-coated Treasure Series tubes from Shuguang -- and for the same reason! Maybe you can borrow a seasoned quad of KT88-Z's from a dealer or a friend in order to audition them fairly.
In the meantime, I strongly urge you to get your hands on a matched quad of A2900's! (actually 2 matched pairs will do) They are what every McIntosh amp needs (IMO) to get the most out of the Unity Coupled output circuit -- regardless of the actual brand of the power tubes -- but mandatory if you're using the best power tubes (like Shuggie/EAT's/NOS Genalex) -- and ditto for 6550's! I sent my friend Mark a couple of pairs to try. You can read his comments here: http://audioaficionado.org/mcintosh-audio/8147-oe-genalex-kt88-tubes-gec-2900s.html .
I'm using the specially designed Sound Anchor CLS stands. They are beautifully made and very sturdy -- especially the panel bracing system which is so important for good transient response. And, they are reaonably priced -- about $575/pair.
If you order a pair, ask them to make them 8 inches high instead of 12 inches, which is way too high unless you'll be WAY back from your speakers ;--) Here's the page:
I see it's been 2 months since my original post, so enough time has passed I think, for me to provide a fair assessment of the new panels' performance (over the old ones.)
As I indicated earlier, I wasn't expecting earth-shattering differences/improvements with the new panels; and that my main reason for changing them was to hedge against MartinLogan's eventual discontinuance of replacement parts for all their legacy products.
As for the performance of the new panels, after a least 100 hours of use at various volume levels, my assessment is this:
1.) Almost all aspects of CLS performance improved by small but noticeable increments. That means things like a (little bit) smoother top end; (a little bit) more efficiency; (a little bit) less time to fully charge (after the signal-sensing circuit applies full wall power; (a little bit) tighter/lower bass extension; etc.
2.) Then came a pleasant, and very audible surprise, and it didn't happen (or I didn't notice it ) until after that first hundred (or so) hours: a much fuller/stronger lower midrange/upper mid-bass. This was the one area that always drew criticism for the CLS's, and one which couldn't be fixed without applying some kind of equalization. And these days, that means digital, so no thanks! Instead, (up until now) I used the "softening" switch to mildly attenuate the upper frequency range, thus giving the lower midrange a little more weight/presence -- unfortunately at the cost of a couple dB in speaker efficiency; but as an added bonus, attenuating the top end a bit made the speaker's notorious hi-frequency impedance drop less of an issue for amplifiers. The changes in the replacement panel(s) were few, but apparently significant. And so I have to assume that the improved lower-mid/upper-bass has to be due to better diaphragm and coating materials, and a little bit higher tensioning. And now, with a stronger lower mid-range, I'm able to run the top end wide open (i.e., no "softening" switch) which of course has the (reverse) effect of improving the speaker's overall efficiency! So it's all good ;~))
As it turned out, there was really no reason for me to panic about replacing them; although in my defense, my CC was already in "mid--swipe" when ML reversed their policy!! All things considered, I'm very pleased with the results and glad I did it for the years of better performance I will enjoy. -- Neil .
I just ordered a set of new panels for my CLS IIz's. These incorporate the latest diaphragm improvements (both the mylar and the conductive coating), high(er) current hookup wire, and "Clear-Spar" section dividers. Has anyone out there already done this upgrade?
My current panels are 17 years old. They still sound great and look perfect. Yet Dana Brown at ML told me to be prepared for a "big surprise". After a ~100 hour break-in, he says the new panels will have even better high frequency extension and more detail than the originals. Anyone already experienced this?
MC275 -- I have actually listened to a C220 in my system for a few days, so your question is easy for me to answer -- absolutely buy the 26S! It is a preamplifier for a lifetime, and you will never regret your decision.
Update -- auditioning a quad of the new black bottle Shuguang Treasure Series KT88-Z's, which, when they're halfway to full break-in in another 100 hours, I will compare with my absolutely terrific quad of NOS Genalex Gold Lions ;--)
But I can already say, that for a hand selected matched quad, including airfreight from Shenzhen China, for under $400, they're right up there with the NOS GL's and very probably the EAT's too. And when you consider the other two go for $1000+ and $1400+/-- respectively, these new Shuggies could be "the ones" we've been waiting for!
Pierre - I'm currently ordering a quad of the new Shuguang Black Treasure Series KT88-Z which I already mentioned. I auditioned a quad of (really old!) EAT's. They had almost no transconductance on my tester, so it would be unfair to judge them based on that experience!
I love my NOS Gold Lions, but they are now expensive as EAT's. So if the Shuggies are as good as everyone says, they could easily take over the KT88 market, at only $400/quad.
Specifically, what three kinds of tubes do you have in your amps now? I forgot.
McIntosh is, and has always been, about their transformers! The would probably never have rolled their own; just bought them from an OEM made to their specs, like every0one else. Except Frank McIntosh's Unity Coupled Circuit design required a special kind of output transformer with TWO SEPARATE primary windings laid in parallel, right next to each other (bi-filar.) And nobody would make them, or maybe nobody would make them with the precision required, or at a decent price, sooo Frank made them himself -- and McIntosh still does!!
The new MC275 IV and V have new 490V Power Transformers as well. Earlier models had 420V, I think.
Researched the Shuguang Black Treasure Series KT88-Z. Will be interesting to see what you discover.
Me too! They've been out almost two years now, but only in the last two weeks, a couple of people whose perceptions and wide experience I trust, have given them very high marks!
So here we go again ;--) Unfortunately, they specify 300 hours of break-in time before they yield all their charms. However, since I've always bought tubes and cables used, so break-in was never an issue; I could "hear" them right away. But now ~ oy!
I shouldn't complain. I usually can't think of anything I'd want to update/upgrade in my system, so here's a chance to have some audio hardware fun ;--) Speaking of which (and I don't mean to be critical, only encouraging ;--) with that terrific system of yours, and TWO 275's!, you could enjoy some new and amazing audio experiences by just (how can I say this diplomatically?) "exploring"(?) some alternative (heh, heh!) tube options ;--)) .
Yes I am. Either the RCA or the Sylvania 3-mica blackplate. Can't decide between them, but can't find anything better. I'm about to try a quad of the new Shuguang Black Treasure Series KT88-Z to compare with my NOS Gold Lions. They supposedly have all the great qualities and specs of the NOS GL's and the EAT's but only cost around $400/quad. I'm using the GEC A2900/CV6091 for my 12AT7.
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?
Well, I always keep coming back to the 4 ohm (which is the nominal CLS impedance.)
Blasphemy? Oh dear! I'll tell you what I am going to do this summer (when it gets a little warmer here in TooStoned ;--) I'm going to (after twenty years!) wash my CLS-IIz panels and see if there's any improvement (not that I'm unhappy now -- but I've no way to tell if the performance has "drifted" (down) over the ears. If there's no change (for the better) I can perceive, I really won't know what to do!? If I can spare $1500, I may (1.) buy some new generation panels, and (2.) make some improvements(?) to the electronics interface -- but Jim Power @ MartinLogan, whom I've know personally, practically since the company began, says I don't have to do either of those things, because the speakers have always been in a high and dry environment for all 20 years.
Unlike a lot of company guys, Jim has always been very candid (with me anyway) and I feel like I should listen to him. But I've also heard so many good things from folks who've "done stuff" to their old CLS's, that I'm left feeling anxious and conflicted -- Oy! I hope those people are not simply suffering from "emperor's new clothes" syndrome ;--)
Thanks, TZ. I'm not going to go all the way back ;--) but around 20 years ago (1989), I pretty much got rid of my entire system, the result of 30 years of judicious system building begun in 1959. Then I spent about $60K on a dream system (which in 1989 dollars was pretty damn dreamy!) This system is the current incarnation of that 1989 system. The TT, TA, speakers, CDT are all 20 years old, and there's no reason to replace any of them. All other elements of the system have been mostly 'updated' (as opposed to 'upgraded') to later, improved versions of the original items.
I like that you perceived the 'synergy' in my system, because a lot of people don't really 'get' that aspect of system composition. And though it wouldn't satisfy other preferences, the structure of this system -- meaning the choices of what kinds (not brands) of elements I would select to achieve my own sonic objectives, was established at the outset; was based on my experiences of the previous thirty years, and my increased technical understanding, and the following key points have remained constant since then:
* only ss preamplification * only ss phono preamplification * only tube amplification, for * full-range electrostatic main speakers (no hybrids!) * ss-powered sub (kept under 35 hz) and only one sub, never two * ultra-low capacitance cables -- especially speaker cables * same make/model cabling throughout the system including PC's * balanced interconnects wherever possible * software for digital decoding; no 'brick wall' filters (leaves only Wadia ;--) * only MC cartridges, but with a minimum 0.5 mV output and only line contact styli * all drivers (except subs) minimum 10" from floor. * dedicated AC circuit when possible, power regenerator otherwise, no conditioners * never leave tube equipment running unattended, no exceptions * disconnect entire system from the power grid when thuderstorms are possible, or when going away for more than the five-day weather outlook.
TZ -- If the amp is still within the three-year warranty period, it is your dealer's responsibility to get it checked, serviced, or even replaced!
I have never run my own MC275 UNBAL. So just now, for the heck of it, I switched the input switch from BAL to UNBAL, with the music going, and got total silence -- (even w/ the vol. at max.) which is what the schematic would predict. Over the weekend, I'll try a number of different 12AX7/5751's in V-1 position to see if that makes any difference to the (BAL) sound. I'll let you know.
I agree that, even at retail, the MC275 is the best (tube) amp bargain in audio; which is all the more impressive because when a piece of (new) equipment says "McIntosh" on the front, you can usually find something as good or even better for the same money ;--))!!
Tz, I also have a Mk4, and the choice of V-1 tube has no affect on the sound in the BAL mode. Heck, I've even used 12AX7's with one dead triode (but with a working filament) in the V-1 spot and the amp worked just fine in BAL mode.
So at this point, I really do think you should have someone look at it.
If your amp has a removable power cord, it's either a Mk4 or Mk5. If it has modern speaker cable binding posts, andno input attenuators for the UNBAL inputs, it's a Mk5, if it has barrier strips with little terminals between the plastic "barriers", andinput level controls for the UNBAL inputs, then it's a Mk4. If it has a fized power cord and barrier strip speaker cable teminal, it's a CE.
Oh now I remember! A similar discussion took place on the Audiokarma McIntosh forum because (as best I can remember) someone was getting signal "bleed-through" between the balanced and unbalanced inputs on his NEW Anniversary MC75 monos. It was the first time EVER that the MC75's were made with BAL inputs, which were indeed tied to the UNBAL input circuit regardless of the switch position. The same is true (I'll double-check at some point) of the FIRST MC275 WITH BAL INPUTS, the Gordon Gow Commemorative Edition (MC275ce) Is that the model 275 you have?
Because, if you have either of the two current models of the MC275 -- the Mk4, or the Mk5, the BAL and UNBAL are not tied together in any way. In fact, one way of defeating the input signal to those two amps, is to switch the slide switch to the UNUSED input position and you shouldn't hear anything no matter how high you crank the volume -- I know, I've done it!
So if you have either of the latest 275 models, and you're getting bleed through between the balanced and unbalanced inputs (meaning the V-1 is somehow involved) I would strongly suggest it go back to the factory to be checked out.
Anti Cables have two very attractive electrical attributes (as far as their use as speaker cables goes): 1.) Physically separating the plus and minus runs (to each speaker) almost completely eliminates capacitance and inductance. The first is good for electrostats, and the second is good for clean bass. 2.) Solid core conductors reduce 'skin effect' one of the things that can produce 'time smear'.
Virtual Dynamics cables, and Purist's new Provectus line both employ these principals to great advantage, at a higher price, while providing some other advantages over Anti Cables such as lower resistance, ease of use, and better electrical and mechanical shielding.
I you just want to do a 'dry run' for almost no money, to see if this type of cable might hold promise in your system by picking up some (red and black ;--) insulated 10 gauge (or larger) copper wire at Home Depot. If it's going to make a difference, that will definitely let you know.
Greg, I can't recall what your amp was before the Moscode, but you seem to be very happy with it so far. I'm going to read the Atlas review tonight, but I take it you haven't heard one in your system, right?
1.) Greg, I have that issue but haven't read the review yet. Anything that especially impressed you?
2.) I was thinking about the Moscode for my CLS's, but I'm still thoroughly enjoying my MC275. Wish I could A-B them, and I wish George would fit his amp with balanced inputs so i wouldnt have to buy a new 8 meter pair of single-ended Purist Venustas! What do you feel are the unique attributes of the Moscode (when driving CLS's, of course ;--) I plan to see George in Brattleboro -- maybe this spring --when I visit some old friends who live in nearby Halifax.
3.) I wish more people understood audio as you describe at the top of your system page!
4.) So you think I should buy new panels after 20 years? Or is that just a CLS-I thing? Jim Power says, based on the (excellent) condition of mine, and the fact that they've always lived in clean and VERY low humidity environments, that they're just fine for another twenty years. So he's obviously not trying very hard to sell me a new pair! nevertheless, I'd be equally interested in knowing your thoughts on the matter -- yes I would!
Thank you so much for the complement Tzh21y! I'm constantly amazed what is possible when one has the good luck/sense to conjure a system that turns out to be so basically "right" in the first place (which was in 1990!) I'd had many systems before this one, but I never felt I was getting "the magic" I sometimes heard elsewhere.
Then I decided to apply science. With degrees from MIT including extensive studies in electrical engineering and physics, I abandoned the audio reviews and advertising copy, and decided to learn how "audio things" actually work ;--) I'm not afraid to make changes to the sytem as it stands now, and some things have evolved over time like the bass support part of the system: or switching exclusively to Purist Audio cables throughout. But at this point, there is almost nothing I could change or upgrade, that would improve the performance for any reasonable cost.
So the only place left for me to go from here, would be to duplicate the entire system, but at a higher price point. For example, at today's MSRP's, it would cost about $50K to $60K to re-create it more or less as it is. However, translating it into a more expensive version of itself -- for example, changing the CLS's for the new MartinLogan CLX's -- and so on for each component and cable, would result in a MSRP total of between $150 thousand and $200 thousand dollars.
And frankly, even if I had that kind of discretionary spending capability, I'd have to listen very, VERY, carefully before deciding the performance improvement was enough to justify three times the cost of what i already enjoy so much!
Pierre, I've not heard the "Greek Apogees" nor have I heard the 'new and improved" Apogee re-issues from Australia. I thought the original Apogees were possibly the most transparent loudspeakers I ever heard. Equal to, and with several expensive amplifiers driving them, even better than, the ML CLS's and the SoundLab (I haven't heard the ML CLX yet ;-) .
I have a Purist Dominus PC for my amp and another one feeding the ExactPower regenerator. The main issue for amp PC's is decent conductor sizes (10 AWG or even bigger if it's a > 300 watt amp.) EMI/RFI shielding is optional IMO because (modern) amp makers build that stuff in -- POWER TRANSFER is the name of the game for amps, and nothing does that like big conductors! The other components that like big conductors is CDPs or DACs (don't ask me why, it's one of those yet unsolved mysteries!) -- and they should always be shielded to keep them from broadcasting digital hash into the air.
My only MC275 'tweaks', if you can call them that, are:
Hi Greg, I wasn't contemplating a transformer upgrade because frankly, I didn't know such a thing was possible -- so your request comes as a surprise. Do you have more details. I would definitely like to look into it. Neil
Jloveys, what an interesting idea to drive the MC275 directly with the phono preamp! It would be fun to try it, but perhaps a little bit awkward? for everyday use ;-) I also thought it should be possible to connect both sets of inputs on the MC275 and switch between them, but the McIntosh people say 'no'. Did you have any problem doing this?
You have a very nice system, similar to mine in many ways. I understand the Provectus speaker cables are ideal for electrostats (solid core = low capacitance) see Roger Sanders white paper http://www.sanderssoundsystems.com on speaker cables for electrostats (I assume you are using Siltech speaker cables?)
I would like to hear an Allaerts cartridge in my system ;-) .
How are you? You have been very quiet -- too busy making preamplifiers!? I am very happy now with my system, I really am! I have found perfect (for me) tubes for the McIntosh amplifier and now nothing else to do -- nada! Well, yes one thing. This spring I will make some improvements to the MartinLogan electronics for the CLS's. Better wiring, caps, binding posts and coil -- no hurry.
In the past, I always use two subs. However, the Depth subwoofer in my system is maybe not a typical situation. First, the CLS is "full range" (above 45Hz ;-) It has a nice gentle natural roll-off and it dissappears at 35Hz ;-) Sometimes I adjust the sub xover/level for certain poor recordings. But regular setting is 35Hz. It has a gentle slope which adds together nicely with the CLS roll-off. It works this way very flat across the crossover point. (I give it just a small little "kick" with the 25Hz level ;-) You know that in the frequencies under 60 -80 Hz, the brain cannot find the direction, so two subs are not required for the stereo -- but 35Hz is a very unusual low crossover frequency yes! You can stand right in front of the system and you don't know where the low frequencies are coming from! You think they come from the panels!
Another unusual feature for this sub is the omidirectional (3 drivers) radiation pattern. This makes the possibility to match the sub phase exactly with the dipole panels. I place the sub perfectly in the center (L to R yes, AND front to back!) Then I set the phase to 90 degrees. This is exactly halfway between the panel front phase (zero) and the panel rear phase (180 deg.) It only took me 4 months to figure out this is the correct solution!! .
Arthur, I haven't looked at your system in awhile. My, my! I'm going to try and put together a list of past stuff like yours. Unfortunately, my list is longer than my memory I fear!
Yes, I think I have my Mac amp pretty well maxxed out tube-wise. I tried a lot, learned a lot, and know what tubes are best -- within a range of two or three brands for each spot, depending on how one wants to tailor the sound.
I know my new MC275 isn't "the world's best tube amp" but it includes a combination of attributes/features that I honestly couldn't find all incorporated into any other tube amp, regardless of price. It certainly sounds a lot better than my $15000 ARC M300 MkII monoblocks!
Once stats get in your blood, nothing else, no matter how fine, seems to "do it." It's a similar situation with tube amps and stats: once you hear stats with good tube amplification, the magic is unmistakable.
So, I've been jones-ing for a stereo tube amp (no room for monoblocks anymore) with balanced inputs, 100W/ch, great specs, blah, blah, for under $3000 used. After much research, I discovered there's a new version of the venerable Mcintosh MC275, the Mk IV. Actually, a Mk V is in the works (the only difference is it has real binding posts ;--)
I bought a new Mk IV from an Agon member in Canada. It's spec'd at 75W/ch but the Mk IV actually produces 95W/ch. So I hooked it up, and it sounded like CRAP! Grainy and bass-heavy. That was 50 hours ago (brand new tubes I guess). Now I'm in sonic nirvana again.
If you have a large room, you can run two of them in parallel (mono) configuration for 150W/ch, but you won't need to biamp, even if you have Logan hybrids with woofers. The amp has a healthy damping factor of 14 and delivers outstanding bass. This is partly due to Mcintosh's patented "Unity Gain" circuit which draws power from the plate AND the cathode, (and of course requires the use of their legendary bifilar-wound output transformers -- two primary windings instead of one). Biasing not required with the Unity Gain circuit design, and they produce very little heat for a tube amp.
I can't recommend this amp highly enough for driving electrostats. If you buy a new one, let the tubes break in for 50 hours and you'll never look back. It's delicious.
Greg -- verrry funny! The real problem will be what to do with my 23.5 if I like the Mac. It's such a wonderful amp I just can't bear the thought of selling it. Maybe I can find someone to lease it!? .
I never experienced spitting or arcing or slapping with my CLSs in the 16 years I've had them. I did have to replace the panels once about 12 years ago when the little "damper patches" of mylar in the bass sections of the panel started to fall off -- due to a faulty batch of adhesive according to Jim Power. ML only charged me shipping one way and took the old panels back at their expense.
I've driven them with both ARC and Levinson amps, and used all kinds of sources, sometimes at loud, but not ear-shattering levels.
The effect of putting them on the Sound Anchor stands was two-fold: Getting them off the floor eliminated a floor reflection, and got the midrange part of the panel in a better relation to my ear when seated or standing. The result was clearer mids and especially bass, although the bass level dropped a bit, probably due to lack of floor bounce. The second result was that the back braces provided by the stands eliminated the slightest sway (front to back) of the panels, even at the top. This brought out the full capability of electrostatic transient response that is still unmatched by any other kind of driver.
Greg is the authority on the electronics, so he would know if maybe they had something to do with the arcing, etc. .
Joseph, thanks for the Goldmund news!! Where on earth did you run across this website -- I'm burning with curiosity?
As for the JVC motor, I understand that it's still available, in case you ever need repairs!! Goldmund originally used Pabst motors in their Studio and Studietto TTs, but most of them are dead and unrepairable. They switched to the JVCs later in production, which raised those TTs to another level. The JVC has a very quiet spindle bearing (I use the van den Hul spindle oil in mine) and the quartz-lock speed control is unshakeable. I think if analog records continue their revival, we may see audiophile DD turntables returning. I wonder if the new Goldmund Ref. will be DD (the original Refs. were belt drive.)
Bill, I've not heard anything about panel updates for the original CLSs. There have been rumors about a "full-range" electrostatic speaker (i.e. - no woofers) using the automated panel construction techniques developed for the new Summit. There's been a lot of clamoring for such a speaker over the last few years, but I fear the actual market may be too small for ML to respond with such a product. It would be nice though.
There originally was a change in the "panel design" for the CLS between the original CLS and the later model CLSs. I believe Gregadd has the original electronics units driving the later panels, which he likes very much. .
Whart, yes my system is one of those occasional masterpieces of synergy, most of it I will boast, the result of long term planning and unwavering vision, and a certain amount of it just due to happy accidents. Due to the 12 ft width of my room, I listen nearfield for the best realism, but I can still close my eyes and the speakers just disappear.
The primary system groups: Wadia, Levinson, Martin Logan, and Purist cabling, all sort of evolved and morphed into place over a period of 16 years of learning, trying, understanding things more profoundly -- you know the drill. Luckily, I had the discipline and vision (if not exactly knowing the "whys and wherefores" at first,) to realize when some piece of hardware was not "in harmony" with everything else.
Your "zeroing in" on the sub placement is impressive, especially considering it isn't that clear in the picture. It looks like a total mistake I know, and probably would be with any other sub, but the ML design of three opposing woofers, makes this sub completely and utterly vibration free! It does sit on a double thick MDF shelf, but I don't even have it on spikes. The rack IS on spikes into a concrete floor, the amp is on vibrapods, and the ExactPower regenerator is transformerless, so makes no waves. The whole shebang is solid as a rock (thank God!)
Yes, I could have removed the bottom rack shelf and just set the sub on the floor, but I realy wanted it up a bit closer to the speakers (on their stands) and off the carpeting, plus there are cables that have to run right under where the sub is located, so it really helps to have it elevated. Let me also put in a plug here for Studiotech equipment stands. One of the best bangs for the buck in audioland. .
System edited: Heres a picture of the current system to compare with the previous setup. The stats have been mounted on Sound Anchor stands -- a LONG overdue improvement. The Depth subwoofer (in the center) has been rotated 120 degrees thus bringing the controls conveniently toward the front without changing the orientation of the 3-woofer arrangement (i.e. one woofer still points forward, and two still point backward.)
Cwlondon: (and everybody else) I apologize for not posting some current pics. Right now it's 102 in Tucson (yesterday hit 110!) so that project will have to wait!!
I agree w/ Greg that your components, even your SCD-1, may not be the problem, and the 23.5 is one of the absolute best amps for Maggies -- all the muscle of Bryston but as close to tubes as SS ever gets. I gave a pair of Tympani 1-Ds to a friend which he runs, with a 23.5 and they sound great. Unfortunately, he got depressed, strung out, and decided to get into vintage equipment (yuk!) so they're folded up in the corner!!
If the sound is too hot, it has got to be room, cabling, or CD playback (is the sound from your tuner hot?) Also, I think the IV-As are bi-wireable/bi-ampable (if they are, you should at least bi-wire them) My friend Mike has a really nice pair of Purist Musaeus biwire speaker cables about 2 or 2.5 meters he's not using, if you're interested I'll ask him if he wants to sell them (they'd be around $350 or $400 I think)
Greg, thanks for the kind remarks. No the CLSs have the standard light oak finish, however after years of re-oiling with my favorite Flecto -- "Natural Oil and Sealer" they've taken on a sort of cherry-ish tone. I really must get some up to date photos though ;--(
This is a HIGHLY resolving system, though not harsh, glarey, or grainey. It has no trace of SS hardness and at the same time no tube euphonia. It just IS. The new Depth subwoofer is perfect (fast) for the CLSs and can only be noticed if it's suddenly turned off.
UPDATE: Just replaced my original Wadia 64.4x DAC with a Wadia 27. WOW! However, I'll keep the WT 2000 transport -- they just don't make 'em like that anymore ;--)
Digital update: I finally got my hands on the reputed holy grail of AT&T ST glass optical interconnects to go between my CDT and DAC. The Aural Symphonics Optimism Version 2 msrp $1000, which I bought from a gentleman here on Agon who had two of them. Actually AS makes one called the Exelon on special order for $4500, which additional benefits would probably be lost on my old eardrums, forget the money!
For years, I made the same assumption about glass fiber ICs as about power cords -- they're all the same. But I'd learned differently about both subjects some time ago. So when I sent my money order to the seller, I was thinking "This had better be good, or I'm really gonna be piiisssssed!"
I know that a lot of current CD transports and DACs no longer provide for ST glass optical ICs, but if yours does, especially you Wadia owners, start saving for one of these cables. The results will absolutely floor you.
Tip: Try the cable in each direction. One is a bit more analytical (my preference), and the other is a little more bloomy. Either way it's miles ahead of any other glass, coax or AES/EBU digital IC. And do use the (additional cost) I-O gel on the tip of the cable.
Thanks Albert, coming from you that's quite a complement! Now if I can just find time to take new pictures. BTW, you should know I was Minor White's teaching assistant at MIT when he was Director of Creative Photography there in the 60's.
Bill, it's all my fault, just haven't had time to update the pics. Everything you say is true. The sad part is, I've had my CLSs on the ground for almost 15 years! (until last year.) And those stands have been around for what? at least 10 years?
I never liked the look of the other stands (Arcici etc.) and never bothered to put the speakers up on blocks just to hear the difference. Dumb, dumb, dumb . . . . . . .
Mattheus, you have a beautiful and revealing system. All the more reason you're going to freak out when you install the PAD phono cable. You ask how I describe the sound? Well, at the time I installed the PAD Venustas phono cable (which had belonged to Jim Aud the owner of PAD,) it was already broken in (yours may need some time.) I had a vdH Frog. After I put in the cable, it sounded like a Colibri! That's the best I can tell you!
If your experience is like mine was, (and especially with a system as good as yours) you will want to eventually replace all your cable with PAD (e-mail me separately if you would like the name for a good source)
PAD has a proprietaty process which uses cryo and magnetism at the same time and it's different from other cryo processes. So the cable is extremely "fast" (almost no time smear) yet neutral, not bright and thin like Nordost, or "bloomy" like Cardas. Also, it's EXTREMELY QUIET. Probably due to the Ferox shielding material.
I replaced my (not so bad) Straightwire Virtuoso speaker cable with Venustas after replacing all the other system cables with PAD. It was really amazing to hear even more high end definition, and overall transient response -- and believe me, you can hear those differences very easily with electrostatic speakers! I think you will be happily surprised.
Brian, I am thinking of doing what you say (Dominus), and using the Venustas PC on my CD transport.
As for the ExactPower: My whole system only draws 400 watts, but when I moved into this apartment I thought I would certainly need them (the EP and the SP) due to crappy apartment wiring. However, one day, I found an unused 20A circuit much to my delight (an outlet for a non-existant garbage diposer!) and promptly fabricated a 20 foot 10AWG umbilical from it to the EP-15A. Which services my main amp, 2-CLS's, Depth sub and, via another 15 foot umbilical, the SP-15A for all the source equipment. This is how ExactPower recommends using the two together.
I have not changed the outlets on the ExactPower units, but I have added Stillpoints "ers" material inside the cabinets in a strip right above the outlets. BPS already does this with their units, and I'll be talking to ExactPower about doing th same in the future.
Ncaudio, I did some extensive research on dipole bass in the wake of your comments. It reminded me of some methods we used to create acoustic enviromnents at MIT in the 60's using null points etc. while studying human stereophonic perception. It certainly has it's advantages, especially in the typical domestic living room where standing wave modalities are easily generated by single phase drivers.
I haven't yet posted pictures of my current system configuration, however, the speakers are freestanding roughly out in the middle of the room with the single omnidirectional (3 - 8" drivers 120 degrees apart) sub exactly in the middle of the room and (of course) right between the two electrostatic panels.
The room is about 12 x 24 but has a ceiling that slopes up 2-1/2 ft from one end to the other. So it may be the ceiling, but the sub doesn't seem to excite any noticeably strong nodes anywhere, except of course you do get the normal bass reinforcement when you put the back of your head against one of the end walls!
I wonder if the center location and the directionally uniform output have something to do with the incredibly smooth room response.
System Update / Cable: I replaced the Madrigal CZ Gel XLR's between the DAC and the preamp with Purist Audio Venustas. WOW! What is it about those Purist cables!? Every time I install a pair, the system performance jumps to a new level -- however, I've now run out of places to put them (thanks be to God!) No, I don't even want to hear the Dominus -- just keep them away from me!
System Update / Cartridge: Got a new Transfiguration Temper W MC cartridge today. Of course it's already mounted and aligned. But I'm not saying anything until it's got at least 30 - 50 hours on it, then I'll write a review. (Well, OK, it's terrific, but that's all I'm going to say right now.)
Ncaudio -- I reread Greg's post and I'm not sure he was referring to bass dipoles, just dipole speakers in general (Greg?) however, I am very impressed with the wonderful performance I'm getting with a single ML Depth -- which is omnidirectional, and IMO even better than a dipole bass because it's "in phase" basically in all directions, and additionally tends not to excite standing waves between parallel walls, one of the problems with front firing subs.
Filippo, as I expressed in my comments, I was never happy with the Kinergetics SW800. There are other CLS owners who like them very much, however. I think your REL's are much better than the Kinergetics because for one thing, they are newer technology, have their own amp, and offer much better contour adjustment.
With two REL's you might have a problem finding the best placement. If you want something better (faster) than the REL's, and also with a lot of adjustment capability, I think the ML Depth would be best. Because it is an omnidirectional design, imaging is no problem using just one, placed in the middle. The CLS doesn't really doesn't need that much bass support if is is being run full range (which I recommend). Crossing the subwoofer over at 30 or 35 Hz is generally sufficient for seamless sound.