Description

I've made three significant changes to my system in the last year: Jim Smith voiced my system. I added isolation to the components. And I upgraded my entire analog front end.

Jim Smith, author of "Get Better Sound", voiced my system to my room resulting in a much better room/speaker/listener relationship. The equipment disappears and I am left immersed in the music. Tone, Dynamics and Presence reached a new level.

Isolating the equipment resulted in much improved resolution, quieter backgrounds and greater extension. Music sounds much more natural.

The new analog front end extracts information that I did not realize was in the medium. I have a new respect for the importance of the source component.

I listen mostly to acoustic, small-scale classical and jazz on vinyl. Ray Brown, Shirley Horn, Chet Baker. Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

I listen about 12 hours a week and just get lost in the music. I'm now working on growing my collection of records and learning about classical music.
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Components Toggle details

    • Air Tight Supreme
    Wonderful cartridge. Replaced my Air Tight PC-1 Very quick, detailed and extended. Excellent dynamics and body. Natural timbre.
    • SME Series V-12
    Replaced the SME V. This 12 inch arm is more detailed, has better extension and less distortion than the standard SME V. It is an extremely solid and controlled tone arm.
    • SME Model 30/12A
    This replaced my SME Model 10/A. The table and Vibraplane (everything black in the photo) weigh a total of 400 lbs. The added mass, isolation and newly designed power supply for speed accuracy and stability are a significant upgrade. Refined, detailed, and extended, the SME 30/12 with V-12 arm sets a new standard in analog playback for me.
    • Pass Labs XP-25
    Upgraded from the Ono, then XOno. More refined sound. Excels in tonal density, timbral accuracy and spacial layering.
    • Pass Labs XP-20
    Replaced the X-1. Lower noise, more detail and air. Better dynamics. Extremely neutral and low in distortion.
    • Pass Labs XA160.5
    Had to go with monoblocks because of speaker location on each side of fireplace. Upgraded from the XA100.5. The Mini II's need the extra power/current. Wonderful control, transparency, timbre and sense of effortlessness. Best amps I've had in the system.
    • Magico Mini II
    Replaced Eggleston Rosa. Incredible transparency, lack of distortion, and coherence. Scale, dynamics, timbre all very natural. Demanding load. Very appropriate size speaker for my small room. The room/speaker interface works very well.
    • Transparent Audio Reference PowerIsolator
    Noise suppressor, surge protector and line conditioner. Replaced an Equi=Tech Q650
    • JPS Labs In-Wall AC
    Three 15' cables terminated with Furutech IEC's are directly connected from the AC panel to each of my amps and to the Equitech unit bypassing outlets.
    • Transparent Audio REF XL
    Phono cable DIN to RCA, 3' IC RCA from phono to preamp, 20' XLR from preamp to amps. These replaced Harmonic Technology Magic Link 2.
    • Transparent Audio REF XL Speaker Cable
    8' mono cables. These replaced Harmonic Technologies Pro Nine Plus.
    • Vibraplane 2210-01-13
    This is the passive 24
    • Townshend Seismic Sink Model 2
    I have three (5) of these on my rack. They are the older version with air bladders and LED lights to indicate level of inflation. I use them under my TT motor controller, my phono amp and my pre amp. They isolate the electronics from floor born vibrations resulting in increased clarity, focus, more apparent detail, particularly in the bass frequencies. Bass is more articulate, defined and has more weight. Along with the Vibraplane under my TT, the added isolation is a significant improvement.
    • Loricraft PRC4 Deluxe
    Replaced my VPI 16.5. Cherry finish, very quiet. Works exceptionally well, especially with Audio Intelligent 3-step cleaning solutions. I follow this with a demag sweep and new MoFi inner sleeves. Startling improvement in detail, clarity and dynamics. The only down side is cost and the 20-25 minutes per side cleaning time.
    • Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions #15 plus 3-step formulas plus rinse
    Very effective cleaning regimen. I use five steps in total and it takes about 30 min. per LP side, but the results are worth the effort. With super clean records, more information is extracted and the noise floor is lower for increased details and dynamics.
    • Mint LP Best Tractor
    Arc-type protractor for extremely acurate alignment. Patience required, but results are well worth it. Clear audible improvement.
    • Mint LP Protractor
    Custom made arch-type protractor. Note the flatter arch for the SME V-12 arm versus the SME V arm and the shorter overhang. Result is lower distortion.
    • Acoustic Revive RR-77
    Shuman Resonator. Positive effect on sense of space and depth.
    • Acoustic Revive RWL-3
    Diffusion panels. Increased stage width and made sound seem more natural.
    • ASC Tube Traps 16
    I have these in the four corners behind my speakers. They help tame bass nodes resulting in increased clarity and coherence. They also help with stage depth and imaging.
    • Acrylic Custom Dust Cover
    Custom made acrylic dust cover for SME 30/12.
    • DIY Custom Rack
    I designed and built this custom birch-ply and cherry rack for front end equipment. 17-ply birch selected to match speakers. Extremely strong, heavy and rigid. Replaced Zoethecus four shelf rack. The top shelf alone needs to support the 400 lbs of black steel in the Vibraplane and turntable. It can't be moved or rocked by hand.

Comments 162

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Helo there  , I was reading a old post of yours about the Pass Labs XA100.5 I see you moved to XA 160.5 was it a big improvement over XA100.5,  I ask because I own a Xa100.5 it seems to do fine driving my Sonus Faber Amati Homage Speakers I use a very Nice Modwright ls 36.5DM tubed line stage a two box design, with a Oppo/Modwright 205 as a Dac/player,  by the way very Nice system you have thanks for any information best regards

goofy

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Thanks for the reply.  I wonder if I had a 4'' maple platform built instead if that would have any positive or negative affects on sound vs. steel plate you had built...thoughts?

robforst1

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Owner
It is a steel ballast plate which weighs 136 lbs and loads the Vibraplane to it designed load for max. efficiency.  It was built by Kinetic Systems to match their Vibraplanes and is very effective at increasing isolation and improving overall sound.

peterayer

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What did you put on top of the Vibraplane to make the turntable fit?

robforst1

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Owner
Thanks for the kind words, Tzh21y. Every now and then, there are some pretty good deals here on Audiogon.

There was a 30/12 with V-12 arm recently for about $16K.

peterayer

Center
I've heard Peter's table. And owned a SME 20/2 + SME IV.Vi arm. SME makes a great table. Others do things differently, hard to say better...Also heard a SME V-20 before...they make good stuff.

I'm pretty happy with my current arm and table...but if I ever got a 2nd table...it'd likely be a SME...

jfrech

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You have my dream table. I am saving and hope to get at least a SME 20 in the near future. It must sound great

tzh21y

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Owner
I've just posted my impressions of the My Sonic Labs Signature Gold and my AirTight Supreme in the review section. I've decided to add the MSL to my cartridge collection. Click on the review section below to read about the comparison.

peterayer

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Owner
Funny, I refer to it as the "cartridge wars." It is coming along nicely. The My Sonic Labs Signature Gold now has about 40 hours on it and I'm becoming familiar with its sound. After another week or so, I will switch back to my AirTight Supreme.

I don't want to make any pronouncements until I am more confident about how to describe their differences. But I will say that the MSL is a superb cartridge, as is the Supreme.

peterayer

Center
Hi Peter, how is the cartridge shoot out (couldn't think of a better word) coming along...

jfrech

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Owner
No, not any time soon. I would love to hear the .8 in my system to really understand the differences, but as an existing owner of the XA160.5, the cost to switch over to the XA160.8 is just too much for me. If I didn't already have a Pass amp, and wanted to switch, that would be a different story.

peterayer

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Peter,
Are are contemplating changing to the .8 Pass amps? When I spoke to Wayne from Pass he said that the .8 wasn't exactly an "upgrade" from the .5 but a different sound altogether. When I described my system (horns with compression tweeter) he said that the .5's might be better as they are warmer. I still would like to hear the 30.8 in my system.....

jeff1225

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Great to hear Peter. Thanks. Happy listenings :-)

number_95

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Owner
I did not mean to suggest that the AirTight Supreme came as part of a package with the SME 30/12 and V-12 arm, just that the table and arm were a package.

For what it is worth, the SME 30/12 review in HiFi+ (I think) describes very well what I heard when I inserted the SME into my system. So I agree with that review. I'm pretty sure that Albert compared a 12" Graham arm to the V-12.

peterayer

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Thanks for the feedback Peter. I think of adding SME 30/12 with SME V-12 tonearm in addition to my current analog rig (Acoustic Solid Royal, Ikeda IT-407, Graham Elite), so was brainstorming how good V-12 was. Yes I used to read Albert's posts on both SME tonearms.

number_95

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Owner
Thanks Number_95. No, I have only heard the V-12 on the 30/12 and only my Air Tight Supreme cartridge. They came as a package. Albert Porter has compared the SME 312S and V-12 to a fair number of other arms on his Technics SP10 mk3.

peterayer

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A very well thought system. Congratulations. Did you compare some other tonearms with your Sme 30/12 to compare to V-12 ? Just being curious.

number_95

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Owner
Thank you for the suggestion, Thekong. I do have a friend who has an XP25. I will ask him what he thinks. Interesting idea.

peterayer

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Hi Peterayer, very impressive system! I have always wanted to audition the SME Model 30/12 with V12, but still haven't had the chance.

Seeing that you are using a full Pass Labs amplification system, and the Xono till recently, I would like to share with you some interesting experience.

Have you ever tried a Dual Xono setup, as in having 2 sets of Xonos and using only 1 channel per set? We tried that a few months ago, and got considerable improvements in every area, especially in the effortless presentation!

Now, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably “double up power supplies”. However, I think there is something more than that going on!

I was using a 1 module, 1 ps, Pass Lab active Xover for 2 ways Xover. Since I planned to go 3 ways, I got another module with no extra ps. While I didn’t see any reason in doing so, one of my friends insisted that I tried the dual mono set up, using only half of each module (one module for hi-pass, another for low-pass), and sharing 1 single ps. To my surprise, there was considerable improvement! Actually, that was what prompted us to try the Dual Xono setup!

So, I think there has nothing to do with the ps in this case, but the 2 channels’ amplification stages having some interference with each other when sharing a single chassis!

If you could borrow another XP-25 from your dealer, I would be very interested to know what you think!

Here is a photo of a recent phono shootout among our group

http://i238.photobucket.com/albums/ff64/evp1312/P1040150sunset_zps6b3d6ca7.jpg

thekong

222222&text=pe
Owner
I had a couple of audio buddies over last night to listen to some music. One had not heard the system for a couple of years so it was interesting to learn what he thought of the recent changes and how they effected the overall sound. I find that over time it becomes difficult to appreciate the cumulative effects of system changes. With his consent, I post the two emails he sent me this morning:

Peter:
Just a note to thank you for a wonderful (and ear-opening) evening. It was a pleasure to see you both again and share a few hours.
If we accept that there are many paths to Nirvana, and that we’re all pilgrims along the way, you would seem to be in the vanguard; if not already knocking at the gate. I’ve heard Magico speakers only a few times but, honestly, I wondered what all the fuss was about. They always sounded good; but not spectacular. Last night I learned just how exceptional they can be given copacetic ancillaries and attention to detail.
I don’t know how much you adjusted the VTA during the Mendelssohn but the sonic and musical consequence, as VTA adjustments go, was large and unequivocal. I do not recall ever hearing that stark a contrast due to VTA adjustment alone. Resolution of the system seems high enough to reveal the slightest change anywhere along the chain.
More to the point: The MUSIC comes through.
Well done Peter!
Best regards,
John.

Peter:
I have NEVER heard that Drum Track record sound good since it was released.
Last night it was goose-bumpy, hair-raising, awesome.
John.

These comments come from a tube/horn/analog aficionado, so I appreciate the idea of "many paths to Nirvana". It's also interesting that a 1mm lowering of VTA on the 12" arm resulted in such a dramatic improvement in sound. This represents less than a quarter of a degree in SRA. Finally, it was fun to share the dynamic capabilities of the sealed, two-way Magico Mini2 by playing the Sheffield Drum Record. The explosive dynamics and impact are in part a direct result of Jim Smith's voicing of these speakers to my room.

peterayer

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Peter great to see your system looking fantastic. I moved back to the magico mini 2 today. System is warming up. Individual bought a pair of Q1 and I could not help myself I gladly took his minis off him. You were very right now that I have these speakers back in my system. The minis are such a classic that will never go out of style. Gunna take me a few days to get them set up just right. Thanks for the motivation....

documentroom

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Owner
Thanks Kmccarty. For some comments comparing the XOno to the XP-25, you can read my post from 12/28 above to Jfrech.

Regarding the TimeLine test, it was quite simple. I borrowed Albert Porter's TimeLine and familiarized myself with how it works. I then placed a tripod about two feet in front of my turntable. I placed the album cover behind the turntable to indicate the music. The black album cover helped show the laser dash. I lined up the dash so that it fell 13.5" away from the spindle. I then placed my iPhone on the tripod with the microphone aimed towards the speakers and hit play. It took a few tries to line everything up so that the video was stable and the dash was clearly seen.

The SME is commendable for its speed accuracy, (and other attributes) but it is effected my stylus drag, so I had to adjust the speed on the motor controller while music is playing. A DD table with higher torque can maintain constant speed under varying loads better which is evident in Halcro's video of his Victor T101.

If you do make a couple of videos showing the Technics tables, please post them on YouTube. I've attempted to start a database on turntables over on a new thread on WhatsBestForum. Just let me know if and when they are on YouTube, and I will gladly post links on my WBF database thread. I'm sure your tables will show excellent results.

peterayer

Center
Hi Peter, as always, your careful listening notes really help to understand what you are hearing...and since I've heard your system, helps me to grasp the differences.

I'd like to encourage you to stay with Transparent..I think sticking with one brand has its benefits that manifest itself over time-over the long haul...I do understand how you feel about Transparent's XLR pricing...it can give one pause...

jfrech

Center
Peter,
I agree regarding the music, there is always something new to discover and enjoy. Same as you, I experience much pleasure just sitting back and listening to wonderful music/musicians in an ever expanding library.
Charles,

charles1dad

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Owner
Thank you Charles. It has been a most enjoyable process and one in which I have learned much, both about system building and the music. Though I could not have predicted it, perhaps the best part of it all is having met some of the people with whom I now spend time listening.

peterayer

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