I'm a tube guy, you see; but seven years ago the winds of circumstance blew into my room a pair of 1993 B&W Matrix 800s. So I'm enjoying a (quixotic?) journey to make them sing with valves. They're designed to mate with big solid-state iron, but surprisingly are 93 dB efficient and drop to 3.4 ohms at lowest.
I took care of the bottom octave-and-a-half with a pair of REL 212/SE. They are amazing. Then with the low end a solved problem, we made our first amp upgrade in a decade: The Ayon Spirit III Mk 4, a KT150-based push-pull with 65 watts a side. It's settling in nicely.
I'm delighted with my DAC, a PS Audio Directstream with ethernet rendering from an internal Bridge II. Recent upgrade of its power cord, to an Audioquest Tornado, underscored the importance of source; it was a two-second, no-question improvement. You can't *improve* the signal downstream from your source -- you can only hope not to muck it up.
Roon on an iPad ties the whole thing together and sends me down a rabbit-hole of discovery nearly every time I sit down.
Perhaps the finest speaker that could be bought with money in 1992. (My friend reminds me that you can drive a Honda Civic off the lot today which will smoke a 1992 Lamborghini.)
Ayon Audio Spirit III Integrated Class A
65 watts per side in Pentode mode. KT150 power section. Zero negative feedback.
REL Acoustics 212SE
Precision and power. I use a high-level connection from the amp, and dial the crossover and volume low enough that you can't locate the subs with your ears.
PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge II
This thing is stunningly good for the money.
PS Audio Power Plant Premier
It doesn't have the current to feed an amp, but on source components it's a no-brainer night-and-day improvement. No problems with this unit for nine years now.
MIT Cables Oracle v2.1 spk
From 2003, custom-terminated at the factory for bi-wiring the 800s.
AudioQuest Tornado Source
From regenerator to DAC.
AudioQuest Thunder Power Cord
From wall to amp.
AudioQuest Water XLR interconnect
From DAC to amp.
Pangea Power Cords AC-9
AC-9s from wall to Power Plant Premier and from wall to subwoofers.
Small Green Computer Sonicorbiter SE
i5 NUC runs Roon Core server in a separate room.
Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet Cable, Cat 6a
This cable blew away the MonoPrice Cat 6a it replaced. Highly, highly recommended.
Not the last word in isolation, but I let the wife pick this one for aesthetics. The glass shelves rest on DIY norsorene half-globes from a scientific supply company.
DIY Absorption Panels
Three hand-wrapped panels of 2"-thick Owens-Corning 703 fiberglass. They're positioned to kill the first-reflection points on the right wall for the right and left speakers, as well as tame some echo behind the left speaker.
GIK Acoustics CT Alpha Series Corner Bass Trap
In rear corners.
PorterPorts AC Outlets
Another product that hits my sweet spot for price to performance.
Melody (Onix) SP-3
My first hifi purchase, a $500 find on Craigslist! 38-watt push-pull. Tubed with Russian NOS 6P3S-E's in lieu of 5881s. I shall never part with it.
Thanks, TJ! Like you, we tried really hard to build a listening room that's also a living room.
The Zus ended up with the former owner of the B&Ws. They were a lot of fun, and great transducers for $1000. But there's hardly a comparison. Tone is good and dynamics are lively, but they don't cast images so well and they're not quite as efficient as the company would have you think.
The Matrix 800s are just a different league of a thing. With 65 watts of tube power, they sound incredible at listening levels up to about 85 dB, but can lose some image focus if I get greedy for more volume.
Just dropping in to check out your system cymbop. Wow! Looks amazing and a fantastic place to enjoy music and life in general. From your comments it looks like your foster care of the B&W has become a full fledged adoption. Pretty great. Do you ever compare them to the Zu? Do you still have the Zu somewhere? Surprised they did not make it into your secondary system if so. I picked up my amp for repairs and the tech had heard good things about Zu speakers. I haven’t had the pleasure personally. I am on the hunt for something new but I am leaning toward something like an Altec 604 in a custom cabinet.
Russ's system is one of the most enjoyable and musically gratifying systems I have ever heard. Music is at the center of life in that home and he and his wife are such wonderful people to know who truly appreciate great music.
Thank you Russ for my prior visits,...I cannot wait to hear what the addition of the Ayon has done!!!
Cymbop, seeing that Phish poster on the rear wall just cemented my aspirations in becoming an interior decorator - my wife agrees after seeing that picture. In all seriousness, Phish looks great in your living room!
Ketchup, It's funny: I don't listen to much recorded Phish on the hifi. In terms of studio recordings, Billy Breathes is tops though I have a soft spot for most of Fuego as well. For live recordings, a big yes on the Island Tour in '98 and generally anything in '97. But perhaps my favorite of all is the outtakes from the 5/7/98 Bearsville Studio sessions. Give a listen to Limb by Limb and NICU as works in progress!
We do a lot of Couch Tour through the hifi. We put a computer monitor on a stool between the speakers, and USB the audio feed into my DAC. It's a lot of fun.
Boy-lah, I made the panels from OC-703 fiberglass and wrapped them with custom fabric. The little orange screw-in discs on back are from ATS. I have picture-molding across the top of my walls, so moving the panels around was a cinch. I started with the placement at first-reflection points and then tuned by ear.
Russ,...thank you very much for hosting again yesterday! Your system has come a long way over and above how much fun it already was to listen to more than six months ago, much more musical, organic and compelling to listen to, not just in the sweet spot, but around the house. Your dogs are also just way too cool,...when the jazz starts, they show up in the listening room and want in on the fun! See you over here very soon,...thank you for a great session!!!
Cymbop: Thank you for opening your beautiful home and system and hosting a great listening session last evening. I loved the simple elegance of the system, how it was set up, the care taken to do so and the way it sounds both musically and with regards to 'in the room' effect and imaging. The tracks played were also alot of fun and great music to boot! The dogs are great listening partners and they made the experience complete! I look forward to reciprocating very soon and then repeating the cycle with more recordings to be shared. Thank you!!!
Thanks for getting in touch with me on the SC area thread that I started up recently...you have one elegant and well thought out system; you must be very happy with how it sounds. How do you like the Zu's and the Audio Arts cables? You are truly fortunate to have a pair of the Matrix 800s to dive into for any period of time; they have always impressed as a speaker whose design and sound stands the test of time. Love the Buddha as well!
CT, He'll take the 800s back in a day or a year. Who knows! I kind of like that; it reminds me not to take them for granted, even for a minute. I enjoy every evening I get to spend with them.
Gadman, the PWD can be found at half MSRP since PS Audio will be coming out with a DSD DAC in a few months. I can't recommend it highly enough. Last night I listened to Tony Rice's collaboration with Norman Blake and it completely stole my face. I was swept away by the feeling that I was in the room with the performers. The PWD gets music right, period.
System edited: Big System Edit: I've become the temporary custodian of a pair of B&W Matrix 800 speakers. They are sensitive enough to be driven quite capably by my little tube integrated, which is kind of a hoot. Also picked up a PS Audio Percectwave DAC MkII, and it is a game changer. Frequency extension through the stratosphere, but in a completely liquid and non-fatiguing manner. I can hardly stop listining lately.
Hey Chris, yeah: I got the Zu's about 1.5 years ago but neglected to update my system page until now. For $1200 speakers, they are very, very good. I understand that Zu will unveil a Mk. II Omen in the next couple of weeks and will offer an upgrade kit with nano driver, tweeter, and capacitor. I plan to jump on that when it's available.
Buddah sits there to 1) remind me that this is all about being present and experiencing music, rather than fretting over gear and 2) cover the amp's blue LED that beams in my face while I'm listening in the dark!
I like the PPP and have had zero problems with this unit for two years now. My prior home had two dedicated lines, and the integrated amp sounded better straight into the wall -- more lively and lit up. For digital, it's great.