Description

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 ;~)
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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!

Comments 157

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222222&text=tz
Hey Neil, are you still using the treasure KT88?

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
I was using Siemens ecc801s and they were detailed, but a little hot in the highs and kind of 2 dimensional. They lack body. I am using Mullards from the early 80's now. I will look into the genelecA2900s. I have the matched quad of tung sols 6550 that I will probably keep for a while. I may try the shuggies in the future

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
Hi Neil! I see you changed to the Shuggies. I tried them and did not like them as much as the vintage Tungsol 6550's that I have. I auditioned them for quite a while. How long did yours take to break in? They seemed very weak in the bass and constricted in the mids and highs. Have you ever tried the Tungsols? The one thing that I did like about the Shuggies was they were very articulated in the lower octaves. Maybe I just did not give them long enough to break in. I had them for two weeks.

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
I was wondering about the shelf you have the mc275 on.

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
Is the stand you have your MC275 on MDF, wood, or steel?

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
I have heard the same. I was going to audition some but they were already gone by the time I got to the shop

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
He has the EAT's. I may bring them home to see how they match up to the Tung Sol

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
Shuguang Black Treasure Series KT88 - I heard they are better than the EAT's I am going to listen to them tomorrow

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
I just spoke to an old audiophile friend of mine and I mentioned that I have the 275. He said the secret to the 275 is the transformers. Would you agree? He said it is also one of his favorite amps of all time. He is coming over to have a few cold ones and take a listen.

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
I also like electrostats. For me, the Merlins are the closest thing I can find that gives me a lot of the magic of electrostats and do not sacrifice dynamics. I know the 275 loves electrostats. I always liked the Quads but they lacked dynamics, soundstage height, and could not reproduce all of the kinds of music that I listen to in a convincing manner. For most classical and classic jazz, they really shine. The Logans are also great speakers but were not available anymore locally when I was looking to purchase speakers. The smaller Logans are not near as good as what you have. For the money, the Merlins can really give you a great performance and in many ways, may be the best mini monitor that I have heard so far. They do not go real deep but they do have an addictive sound that gets me close to the venue.

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
One thing I will say is that even if I ever do decide to sell either the pre or the amp, it will still be worth something. Also, the newer Mac gear sounds very good to my ears at least. I do know what people are talking about when they put McIntosh down because I was one of them. It is true that at one time they lost their direction. However, I have heard other niche market gear and I still think the new Mac stuff is at least as good if not better than most. The sound to me is "just right". People are looking for so much detail that they have never heard the real thing. Mac stuff to me sounds like the real thing or as close as I have ever heard. Customer service and support is the best that there is as well. Can't beat it. Is there better, maybe, but at what price? Probably 3 times what I paid for my system. I can tell by looking at your sysytem that you too know real value in components. You would have to pay tons more for better sound than you already have. You could probably spend a lot more and still not get as good as what you have :) it looks like you have great synergy as I have heard many of the components that you have in your system. Well Done!

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
I got it from a McIntosh dealer. It was the floor model and they gave me a good deal on it. The best investment I ever made in audio.

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
it is so obvious that if I use a tele, rca, siemens, or whatever, the somic signature of that tube is clearly obvious. I still have not heard from anyone regarding my email

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
It is a Mark IV then. It does have the removable power cord.

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
I would not know if it is that version. How would I know. I know it is an earlier model. It was used as a demo that was hardly ever used. They said they did have it for quite some time. I know that the balance inputs are gold plated. How would i know the difference? It was on a display stand in the reference room for quite some time. I guess I could check the serial numbers. I was starting to question my hearing.

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
We were discussing whether V1 on the 275 will influence the sound while listening to the balanced inputs. I used a stock tube, a telefunken, and a Siemens NOS tube in V1. Each tube sounded similar to the sonic characteristics associated with that tube. Even though the schematic does not indicate V1 in the signal path while listning to balanced cables there is some voodoo going on. I have emailed Mcintosh for an explanation.

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
I just tried it and their is a difference (V1). Not subtle either. I put in a stock and the bass was overblown and music was pushed forward. Then I put a Siemens ecc83 in its place. The bass was tighter and music was more relaxed. I know you think I am crazy but try it. Now this is 2nd type i've had in there. The last one was a telefunken smooth plate. The smooth plate was not as detailed as the Siemens or as articulate in the bass region.

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
I went back to the balanced connection. So far so good. Will be trying the V1 thing today

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
I am thinking of trying the anti-cables. I have heard very good things about them

tzh21y

222222&text=tz
Great setup!

tzh21y