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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 were all pilgrims along the way, you would seem to be in the vanguard; if not already knocking at the gate. Ive 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 dont 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.
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.
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.
Thanks John. I had the Pass XP-25 here for audition for three weeks. I installed it next to my rack and had both phono stages plugged in and ready to go. I only had to switch the phono cable from one to the other. The Xono sounds better with a single-ended output cable to the preamp. The XP-25 sounds better with a balanced output cable. So Transparent made me a balanced 1M REF XL cable configured for my phono and preamp to audition while I had the XP-25 in house. I just switched the phono cable from one phono to the other and switched the input on the pre.
It took two weeks to get a handle on what the differences were between the two phono stages. The XOno has a more forward, immediate sound. It is more aggressive and dimensionally flat and at first sounded more dynamic as a result. I also owned the XOno for about eight years so I was very used to its sound. But the more I listened, the more I realized that the XP-25 is more refined and overall a better performer.
The three areas at which it excels are: tonal density, timbral accuracy, and spacial layering. At all frequencies, there is more information. The sound is richer with better texture and color. String tones are more beautiful. The bowing on the strings and wood resonating is more clearly heard. Piano transients are cleaner and clearer, sustains have more nuance and decays are better defined. Voices sound more natural. I use the Sheffield Drum Track as a reference (acid test) for dynamics, ease, spacial cues and overall resolution. With the XP-25, the image and dimensionality of the drum kit was better defined. The wooden drum sticks hitting different surfaces sounded more distinct. Wood, metal, brass, skin, brush, hand/finger flesh all sounded slightly more distinct and identifiable.
The differences were not great, but easily heard and significant enough for the cost to upgrade. I had already made my decision to switch phonos when I invited an audio friend over to listen. I played for him three familiar cuts and switched randomly between the two phonos. He had his eyes closed and first said that he could hear a distinct difference. He then proceeded to correctly identify each of the six samples describing which was on which phono stage. Finally, he described for me the difference in sound in terms very similar to what I wrote above. That test with a guy whose hearing I trust confirmed for me the decision I had already made.
The cables are a different story. The balanced Transparent cables are twice the cost of the single ended versions. For my REF XL level, that means that even with a favorable trade in of my RCA cable, the cost to upgrade to the XLR is the same as the upgrade cost for the phono stage itself.
Reno HiFi sent me a balanced Burley Wire IC to audition. Its retail cost is 1/20th the cost of the Transparent REF XL. Interestingly, the Transparent is better than the Burley in all the ways that the XP25 is better than the XOno and it adds some frequency extension. But the difference is more subtle. I don't know if it is worth the price to upgrade. I would like to stay with one brand so we will see. I'll have to decide soon.
I've just compared the Pass XP-25 to my XOno in my system for three weeks and decided to keep the XP-25. This also necessitates a switch from a single-ended to a balanced IC out of the phono to the XP-20. I'm comparing the Transparent REF XL to the Pass Burley Wire. Photos to follow.
I had a pair of Sigmas and still own Gammas for my TV room. They did not become Magico. I owned Symdex speakers, then Eggleston speakers then Magico speakers. Symdex had an affiliation with Kevin Voecks? of Revel fame. Symdex speakers are no longer being made, but they were fairly advanced for their day with time-alighned drivers and tweeter/mid enclosures placed on top of massive bass enclosures, ala the Watt/Puppy.
Thank you for the kind words, Royaloak. My original dealer, a fellow who designed speakers called Symdex, first introduced me to Pass Labs, SME and Eggleston. The speakers changed from Symdex to Eggelston and finally to Magico, but the electronics and analog have remained Pass and SME. The combination works very well in my room and with my listening preferences.
The future upgrades that I may someday do are replacing my XP20 with the XP30, the Xono with the XP25 and perhaps the Mini 2 with the Q3. But I am in no rush. I'm still improving things by learning how to better dial in my analog front end.
Thanks for the kind words, Dayglow. As you can see from the photos, this room also serves as our living room, so the chair and lamp must remain. The chair does help to absorb some sound as it reaches the first reflection point at that ASC panel. The lamp serves to illuminate my rack. Unfortunately, I don't have a dedicated room in my near future. That might allow me to get larger, more full range speakers and better room acoustics, but at this point, the room and system sound quite good given the size limitation.
The AR RR-77 is sitting on top of that lamp as it needs to be high off the floor and its effect is very minor. I noticed a positive change about three years ago when I was testing this in my system and at a friend's house, but I have not removed it in a while to see what I loose. There have been a lot of changes since I bought it. I plan to reevaluate its effectiveness.
Thank you very much for the kind words, Raindog. I really enjoy listening to music now as the system has come a long way in the last three years.
I may upgrade to the XP25 and XP30 someday and perhaps try a different cartridge. I think it would cost a lot to improve the system more unless I go in a completely different direction like high efficiency speakers and tube amplifiers, which I'm not likely to try soon.
HI Albert, I discussed with Jfrech the reputation that SME has for being dull/dark sounding and not able to hold proper speed. Neither of us has ever experienced either of those issues from our respective tables - the Model 10, 20 and now 30/12 with a variety of SME arms.
There are a few videos on the net showing tours of the SME factory. Your friend must have had a great time seeing how the products are made and meeting some of the employees.
Too bad there are no audio shows near Boston. That would give you the opportunity to stop by for a listen. Well, we shall meet someday.
Hello John, The pleasure was certainly mine. It was wonderful to meet you too and to also share some listening time. Albert Porter had told me that you are a good and careful listener. I really appreciate your kind words and feedback.
I'm glad you took the time out of your business trip to stop by and check out the big SME. The combination of the SME V-12 and Airtight Supreme, which you know from Albert's system, really has contributed to the overall sound quality.
Thank you Lapierre. I had the opportunity to tour the Transparent Audio facilities and to hear their reference room with the big Wilson XLFs. It was quite an experience. For demo purposes, they made an entire suite of products calibrated for my specific equipment. Two weeks later, I had it for break in while I went away on vacation. I then spent a month listening and switching back and forth with my Harmonic Technologies cables.
I had also auditioned the MIT Matrix 90 speaker cables for a few weeks prior to the Transparents. I did not really get into comparing individual TA cables to HR cables. I did, however, go back and forth between the Transparent PowerIsolator and my Equi=Tech Q650 conditioner. The PowerIsolater was quieter than the ET and it also did not take anything away from the sound.
In the end, my Transparent dealer offered me a generous trade in for all of my cables and the Equi=Tech if I bought the entire suite of TA. It was the only way I could afford to get cables of this level.
I just figured that because it sounded so much better, I should not try to mix and match the signal cables with the power cords or some other combination.
The JPS in wall cable direct is a nice clean, quite way to go.
I just posted a review of Jim Smith's RoomPlay session that he did for me in April, 2011. Of all the improvements that I have made to my system over the years, the decision to hire Jim to voice my system to my room is of the most value. Relative to the fee he charges, the results are tremendous.
One the moderators approve the review, it can be read by clicking on the "Reviews" tab below.
Thanks for your kind words, Chris. I have the 4-outlet Ref PowerIsolator. I use three outlets for my turntable motor controller, phono amp and preamp. Yes, I know they recommend only one component per bank of two outlets, but I did not want to buy a second unit. I have not tried using only two because I have no place to plug in the third cord.
The PowerIsolator is not plugged into a wall outlet. I run a 15' JPS Labs In-Wall cable directly from a separate 20 amp circuit on my panel through the floor and terminated with a Furutech IEC plug. This goes directly into the PowerIsolator. No wall outlets.
I did do a direct comparison between the Ref PowerIsolator and my former Equi=Tech Q650 conditioner. I preferred the TA unit. The noise floor seemed quieter while listening and with my SPL meter, I measured noise at the tweeter and woofer at full volume and the TA was quieter by about 4 dB. One of the big objectives of the TA products is the reduction of noise.
I've been testing different cables in my system and just wrote a review of a suite of cables from Transparent Audio. They do really make a difference. My write-up can be accessed by clicking on the "Reviews" tab below.
Thanks for the kind words Jason. Though I thoroughly enjoyed my old SME Model 10, the 30/12 is really a whole lot better. It's performance went up another notch when I added the Vibraplane with ballast and isolated the motor controller. The 30/12 with V-12 arm is a real achievement. It simply extracts more information from the groves, and presents it in a very complete and natural way. There is a sense of control and rightness which I have not heard from other turntables (admittedly in unfamiliar systems). Place your order early as there is quite a waiting list for this table. You will really enjoy it.
System edited: Updated photos of turntable and amps. New Vibraplanes under my turntable and amps. Three new custom steel ballast plates to preload Vibraplanes. New amp stands. Isolated the motor controller/power supply and moved it away from the turntable motor. The improved isolation results in much lower noise floor for increased dynamics and detail. Clarity and sense of dimension are better. Another layer of fog has been removed.
Ejlif, thanks. The system has really come together and I enjoy it tremendously. I'm sure I'm missing out on some great new recordings because I don't have a digital source. I get my share on the car radio and I do get introduced to new music at friends' houses, but I'm quite satisfied listening to my vinyl and learning about great music, particularly classical. Ebay is a wonderful resource. Someday I may explore hi rez digital downloads.
System edited: Updated photos of Xono and XP-20. I was running the Xono from the power supply of the XP-20 as it is a newer design. But when I installed the XP-30 for testing, I added the Xono's own power supply. Now that I'm back to the XP-20, the system sounds better if each pre amp is powered by its own supply. It adds another box to the rack, but it is worth it for the sonic improvement.
The top is three (3) 3/4" + one (1) 1/4" sheets of birch ply glued together. I was able to find 17-ply per inch sheets to match the birch ply that Magico used on the Mini speaker. Each leg has a 3/4" X 1 1/2" dowel at the top and the top shelf has four round holes, one at each corner. The top is pressure/dry fitted to the legs. The legs have a 3/16" reveal on the outer edges. It would have been too heavy to move if the top was glued to the rest of the rack. It is extremely tight fitting and with the weight of the Vibraplane and table on it, the top can not move. The whole rack is finished with five coats of poly sanded with 220 grit between coats and the final coat is sanded with 0000 steel wool and then hand-rubbed with mineral oil. The finish is ultra smooth and durable.
My only regret is that the rack is just slightly too small to facilitate easy equipment swapping. Everything fits, but it is a bit tight.
Lapierre, There is a straight notch in the cherry legs at each shelf and the shelves have a notch at each corner. The dry fit was very tight. They are glued together using epoxy. The rack is extremely rigid and heavy. With 400 lbs of equipment on the top shelf alone, it can not be moved by hand. The whole concept is that it fits in aesthetically in my formal room and matches the wood of my speakers and also that it is a solid and stable platform for the equipment. I designed it so that there is room for individual isolation devices under each component. The rack is not damped per se. I suppose some airborn vibration does drain down the legs through the brass spikes into the shelf on the floor.
Thanks Andromeda. It is so difficult to compare top turntables in the same system, so I don't really know how the 30/12 directly compares to other great turntables.
I have heard many tables at shows and a few in other systems, and I would just say that the big SME sounds right and very natural to me in my system. I can't identify any area of weakness. In terms of reliability, stable settings, fit and finish, service, and engineering, it is certainly among the best tables available. Though not everyone agrees, I find the 30/12 with the V-12 arm to be very neutral, balanced and ultra revealing. It is great platform for the cartridge.
Thank you John. I'm amazed at what this table can extract from the grooves. I took careful listening notes while I compared it to the Model 10 with the same SME V arm and PC-1 cartridge from my old table. I then switched only the arm to the V-12 with same cartridge and took more notes. Finally, I added the Air Tight Supreme. I am confident that I know what component contributes what to the overall sound of this analog front end. I may get around to writing a review but here are the basics.
SME 30/12 table: Much bigger and complete room filling sound. More musical energy presented. Neutral, controlled and BIG.
SME V-12 arm: Smoother and more extended than the SME V. Like going from a two-way monitor to a three-way floor stander without losing any coherence. Audibly less distortion from the added length for a more vivid sound, detailed and nuanced sound.
Air Tight Supreme: More refined and balanced than the PC-1. Less emphasis on mid bass and low treble so frequency transitions are smoother. Slightly more extended. Very fast and detailed, yet natural sounding.
The combination of all three is basically a much bigger, more complete impression of the recorded event. It simply sounds more real. Very similar effect to when Jim Smith voiced my system. Tone, Dynamics and Presence all improved.
I have a new found respect for the importance of the source component in the overall chain. This massive SME is a marvel both in information retrieval and, engineering design/execution. It addresses the issues of resonance control, (cartridge energy into arm into plinth and platter mass), isolation from outside vibrations with the suspension towers and speed stability and accuracy with the newly designed motor controller.
Lapierre, I'm afraid you won't be able to pry my Minis away. There are a couple for sale now. One, I think, is quite reasonably priced. The only downside I see is the need for very powerful amplifiers. Magico is addressing the efficiency/load issue with their new generation of speakers, though they have abandoned wooden enclosures.
Hello Lapierre, I love small monitor speakers and given my room size and decor, I'm extremely pleased with the Magico Mini 2. The Mini 2 is gorgeous IMO and it sounds excellent, so I'm not interested in trying something different right now. I still have not heard the Q1, but given the roughly $10K cost to upgrade, I think I'd do better addressing other parts of the system first. It is sounding so good now, that I think I will do very little to change anything for a while. Perhaps cables and more music on vinyl.
I know nothing about the Rosso Fiesole. I noticed it has a port. I prefer sealed designs based on my experience with the Mini, other Magicos and some speakers I've heard at shows. How much do they cost, and where can one hear them?
Albert, Wake up, I think you are dreaming. You'll have to pry it out from my cold, dead....
Seriously, I've never heard the 312S so I don't know how the V-12 compares to your reference. I've only directly compared it to the standard SME V and the improvement was not subtle. The V-12 counterweight is designed to be all the way in close to the pivot point with a cartridge weighing 11.5 grams. The Supreme is 12 grams, so it is almost the ideal weight for minimum inertia for the arm. The 312S with the removable and thus heavier head shell should move the counterweight a bit further from the pivot point. I think bearings and wiring are the same, so one just loses easy azimuth adjustability, cartridge swapping ability, but gains dynamic tracking force and a more rigid headshell.
Jim Smith who voiced my system tried to integrate a pair of JL F110 subs with the Minis. He went to some lengths but in the end we both preferred the sound slightly without them. The protruding fireplace causes problems in the four front corners, so the subs did increase LF extension, but the overall sound was less coherent. I have not read of anyone successfully mating subs to the Mini except JV at TAS with the Torus sub.
Thanks for the comment about the aesthetics. Of course I agree they just look classic in a more formal living room, though there are some images of the Mini in a modern concrete room, and they look pretty good there too. I just love the wood and aluminum combination.
I have seen the S5 images on the net. It makes me wonder why Magico did not create an all aluminum curved replacement for the Mini. They basically could have made a speaker shaped just like the Mini and replaced all the wood with aluminum using the Q1 drivers and crossover. And it could have been called the M1 or Q1.
No I have not heard the Raidho, though I have read about them. I also have not yet heard the Magico Q1, though I would like to. I'm very pleased with my Mini IIs. If I ever change them, it would likely be for more full range speakers like the Q3 in a bigger dedicated listening room. One never knows, I could also try high efficiency with tubes for a more dynamic nuanced sound.
I imagine the C1 are less expensive than the Q1 at $25K. 50Hz is not low enough for me and I'm not sure about trying to integrate 2-ways with subs. I just love the coherence and extension of the Mini II. I also like the sealed enclosures of Magicos. The bass sounds more real to me.
I'm afraid to speculate. Perhaps a new turntable. I've been researching arms and tables. Cables could also change. But overall, the system has never sounded better, and I'm very satisfied. I continue to buy LPs and explore classical music.
Thanks for the kind words. The listening distance from right tweeter to right ear had been 9'-8" and is now 10'-0". Jim moved my speakers out from the front wall an additional 3" and my listening seat back toward the back wall 7" for a net increase of 4". This smoothed out and increased the bass. The speakers are 4'-0" from each side wall, 4'-10" out from the front wall and they are 7'-9" apart. All measurements taken from the tweeters.
He also moved the left speaker toward the center 1" and adjusted toe-in very slightly. FWIW, he commented that I had them very close to correct and much closer than most of his clients. I did read his book carefully and spent a couple of months adjusting.
He also raised the listening seat about 3" and dampened the resonance from my piano off to the left. Those two changes were significant. He also rotated the tubetraps in the front corners. Everything was done precisely with a laser for distances and level.
The movements seemed small but the result was surprisingly effective. He has a very good ear and knows how movements will effect the sound. It is a very worthwhile service.
Thanks for the kind words. The system has really come together lately and I am enjoying it tremendously. A bit hot in the Summer, but Fall is here.
I found that the upgrade to the SME V was slight. The bearings are better, so there is slightly less noise. The VTF is dynamic rather than static. This allows for a more even balance of weight with warped records, so SRA changes less abruptly which effects tonal balance in theory. There is a thread on this topic on Audiogon. The headshell is fixed, so no azimuth adjustment, but a more rigid connection at the cartridge. You can read a review of the SME 10 in Stereophile by Fremer and he compares the two arms on the table.
The Seismic Sink isolates structural vibrations. I'm amazed at the change in sound. It seems to increase focus and clarity. It is much more obvious than the SME V upgrade. The bass in particular is more articulate, seems to have more weight and impact and I hear more extension. It is now much easier to hear nuance in acoustic bass and details that were previously obscured. Bass lines are much easier to follow in the mix. Midrange and high frequency information is also clearer. I stated elsewhere that I notice more PRaT also. I've read that Vibraplane and Minus K offer even more improvement, but they come at a higher cost. The Seismic Sink is very low profile and is a good deal if you can find it used on Audiogon. I'll add a photo soon.
System edited: Added a Townshend Seismic Sink, another step to the AIVS LP cleaning regimen and more room treatments. Since Jim Smith voiced the system, changes are very easy to analyze. The added isolation under my turntable is a big improvement as well as the deeper cleaning method for the LPs. The noise floor is lower and the sound is clearer and more focused. Music is more detailed but more natural at the same time.
Knghifi, Yes, that is a consequence of hearing other systems too, but I'm not about to stop experiencing what else is out there. I'll be holding onto the incredible Mini II's for the foreseeable future. I don't think my room could support the Q3, nor can my wallet at the moment. "It's nice to want." There may also be a Q2 down the road. Not everyone likes Magico, but they are pushing the envelope and developing new products at quite a pace.
Lapierre, I can't answer that as I haven't heard them. I do prefer the look of the MIni with the wood, but I'm sure the Q1 will sound better. The Q3, which I recently demoed at Goodwin's, are the best speakers I've heard.
My post is dated 4-16-11 in the "Imaging and Soundstage Depth" thread in the speaker forum.
Basically, Jim measured the room and listened to a lot of music and then selected first the best listener position and then he worked on speaker placement. Finally, we adjusted the room treatment and turntable set-up. He worked 9 1/2 hours straight in my room after a couple of hours listening the night before.
The changes in positioning were not major, but they were very carefully/deliberately made and the results are dramatic. I experimented for months with speaker/listener positions and just don't have the experience to know exactly what to listen for and how to get effective results. Jim dialed everything in and with these small changes the sound is much more like the real thing. Dynamics, imaging, body/weight, staging, detail - everything improved. But most importantly, the sound is much more engaging and involving. It just sounds more real. He wants to work with the equipment the client already owns, so he does not try to sell anything or increase the cost for the client. I couldn't be happier.
I may try to write a full review of my experience. If you have any more questions, please feel free to email me directly.
Hello Cmalak, Jim Smith offers a service in which he will come you a client's home for about a day and a half and voice his system to his room. The service is explained in great detail on his "Get Better Sound" website under the "RoomPlay" section. I can not recommend the service highly enough. I had not known what I was missing. Jim unlocked the potential of my system. He also did a system down the street from where I live and the results were actually even more dramatic.
The book is good and there is also a new DVD, but to really experience what your system is capable of, I suggest you contact Jim directly. It was the single best investment I've made in the audio hobby.
After hearing many systems, some good, some less so, I began to appreciate the importance of the room/speaker interface. I believe that the Mini II's work well in my small room for two primary reasons: they are small speakers and they are a sealed design. They also don't clash too badly with the decor.
I don't know if prefer small scale acoustic music because of the system I have or if my system evolved to match my preferred type of music. It may be a bit of both. Regardless, it is very enjoyable.
Hello Txp1, I have never placed anything in front of my fireplace. I remove the screen for serious listening and have made sure that the speakers are well in front of the fireplace projection. The fireplace also creates four (4) corners on the front wall behind the speakers. I have ASC Tube Traps in each corner. They help a lot. I do have a 2' X 2' absorbing panel on the mantel in front of the very reflective mirror. Maybe that is what you saw. I also found the mantle effected image height until I moved the speakers more out from the front wall. I plan to experiment with some kind of portable baffle at the fireplace. I find that I don't have as much soundstage depth as I've heard in some other systems.
I can report that after several months of small, incremental speaker and listening seat movements, not being quite satisfied, and many critical listening sessions, I have finally settled on the best placement combination.
About a week ago, things suddenly locked in and the music just started to flow. The sense of air, space, tone and presence have all improved. I listened to Elgar's Cello Concerto with DuPre tonight, with a single malt in hand, endured the summer heat with the Class A amps, and got lost in the music.
It's not the twelfth row center in Boston Symphony Hall, but it's the closest I've ever been from distance of my living room.
Hello Mitch. I did like my X1 very much. It replaced a Pass Aleph P. It was more transparent, quieter and extended. The new XP-20 is all of that but more. It just disappears from the system. It is a big step forward. I hear much more low level detail (inner detail) and harmonics. The remote, though not as elegant, is much easier to use.
I have not heard the X250.5. My XA100.5 is superb with incredible control over the lower frequencies and great timbre. I assume the XP would be nice with the X.5 but I can't predict the amount of improvement over the X-1. Sorry. Why don't you contact Pass or Mark at RENO HIFI.
Thanks guys. Unfortunately, because this is not a dedicated room, there are some issues with standing waves and proximity of equipment. How much it effects the overall sound, I don't really know. The big problem is the reflection from the piano and the protruding fireplace. There is a distinct ring from the piano soundboard. I can't really change the rack location without upsetting my wife. It's an old house with small rooms. I have been experimenting with portable room treatments to good effect. My next move may be to contact ASC and have them suggest size and locations for some tube traps and panels. As long as they are removable when guest come for dinner, my wife may go for it. The panels that I'm currently borrowing are making a huge difference and giving me a new appreciation for the importance of room treatments.
Hello Jeff, That depends in large part on the speaker you have and their specifications. I have not heard the XA60.5. Your room is slightly smaller in cubic feet (volume) than mine is, so I'd say if your speakers are 88dB with a 6ohm load, the 60.5 should be fine. The XA100.5 do get warm, which has not been a problem since I bought them last fall in the New England climate, I just turn down the heat a little in that room, but this summer may be different. My old XA160 were very hot and I tended to keep the windows open in the summer. The XA100.5 runs significantly cooler than the XA160.
I suggest you contact Kent English at Pass. He is very good and honest about answering speaker/amp questions.
System edited: Recently updated to latest generation Pass Labs (XA100.5, XP-20) electronics and Air Tight PC1 cartridge aligned with the Mint LP Tractor arc-type protractor. Each change was made a few months apart and contributed to wonderful impovements.
Hello James, The Mapleshade system made everything sound very slightly more focused. I went back and forth a few times during the 30-day trial period and noticed slightly better clarity, improved timbre and quicker transients, but the improvement was not profound. I noticed no difference in soundstage or frequency extention. I do really like the extra height and look it gives the table/rack. The added mass high up on the rack is not good as it is a little easier to make it sway back and forth with a push. I installed two lolli-columns in the basement directly under the points of the rack and I get absolutely no footfalls while playing records.
Hello Lapierre, Thanks for the comments. I don't think I mentioned in my review of the amps that they are directly connected via 15' JPS Labs cable to the AC panel ie. no outlets etc. So in essence I have two custom 15' power cords. There was a significant drop in noise.
My next upgrade is the cartridge. I just placed an order to trade-in my Celebration for the new Sumiko $3500 cartridge. I ran into the Sumiko rep last weekend who described wonderful improvements - same sense of ease and flow but increased detail and timbral accuracy. No real way to audition it, so I have to go by others' opinions. I may review it later. After the cartridge, I plan to address room issues and possibly amp stands and rack. The new Pass preamp is also on the list, but that may have to wait. Thank you for your interest.
Ed, I don't understand your comment. Does "transistor sound" not refer to amps, ie vs. "tube sound"? You seem to imply it has something to do with the choice of my speakers, Avantgarde vs. Eggleston? What do you mean by "the old intelligence quotient..."?
Thanks Mark, Jsujo and Nper. I actuall use a VPI 16.5 and L'Art du Son record cleaning solution, Zerodust cartridge cleaner, Z-stat gun and Last Record products. Most of my LPs are in good to excellent condition and sound nearly as quiet as CDs. Some friends can't believe the lack of pops and ticks. I just love my vinyl sound.
I like the idea of all of Loyd Walker's products and will probably try his record solutions when I run out of the L'Art du Son. A complete Walker front-end with phono amp, rack and his tweaks is a future dream purchase along with Magico speakers. As Wynona Ryder once said, "It's nice to want...."
It's hard to find new music on vinyl. I'm still discovering old music, mostly jazz, reissued on vinyl or in used record stores. I'm also starting to buy some classical music. There is surely no shortage of great, old music, yet to be discovered by me. I bought new music (rock) when I was in college. Someday soon, I think most if not all new music will be direct to internet for downloading and only niche audiophile stuff will be available on vinyl or CD. Others have predicted what this means for the music industry. I simply enjoy live shows and very good sound of old music on a traditional 2-channel system.
Thanks Mitch4t. I do have a Thule Audio Spirit CD150B with the Digit II 24bit/192kHz internal board upgrade. For 2K it has balanced outputs and is quite good. The vinyl front end sounds much better though. I only listen to digital for background or during parties when I don't want to change records every 20min.
I plan to next upgrade my cartridge, phono cable and possibly internal arm wiring. I am also lusting after a pair of Magico Minis which would be great in my small room, but they are expensive. But for right now, the system is quite satisfying.
System edited: Just upgraded my electronics from the Pass Labs Aleph 2's and Aleph P to the XA160's and X1. I also treated all connections with Walker Extreme SST. There is an improved sense of musical flow and ease and the sound has an added richness and fullness. The system has entered a new level of musical realism and emotional impact.
Tboooe, I'm sure you will enjoy the synergy of going with a Pass Pre-amp. I've heard that Pass Labs is developing a new pre for 2007 release which may bring some more X1's and X0's on the used market. Perhaps they'll call it the XA-P. My XA's were about a year and a half old when I got them so they were already broken in. I've played them about 150 hours and notice no change. Other Audiogoners report up to 500 hours break-in time is needed for them to sound their best. Like with my Aleph 2's, each of my XA's has power directly from a dedicated 20-amp circuit via 15' JPS Labs In-wall cable bypassing outlets and power cords.
Thank you for the responses. I have just completed a major upgrade. I traded in the Aleph 2's for a pair of Pass Labs XA160's and the Aleph P for a Pass X1. As good as the former combination was, the new combo sounds considerably better in my system. The noise floor is much lower enabling me to hear more deeply into the music. There is more palpability to the instruments, more air, space etc. The soundstage is also deeper. The XA's have much better control of the bass on the Rosas - quicker, deeper, richer. The added power just makes everything flow better and there is an ease and naturalness to the sound now. The increase in transperancy, however, highlights the shortcomings of poor recordings like never before. Though the sound is better, I actually prefer the look/size/lack of heat of the old Aleph line in my living room. The sacrifices we make....New photos to follow soon.