This is a weird system.

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.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Components Toggle details

    • Bowers and Wilkins Matrix 800
    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.
    • 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.
    • Boltz Custom
    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.
    • SVS SB-12
    In stereo.  Great performance for the price.
    • 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.

Comments 20

Thanks for sending it, Toro!  Your print has found a happy home.


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!

Ag insider logo xs@2xtoro3

Very nice looking system, thanks for sharing!!


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.


Nice system!  What are some of your favorite Phish recordings?


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.


Good to hear about your new space. Mind describing your fibreglass damping panels more? I'm after some diffuser options in my space too!


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!!!


It was a blast indeed, Zephyr. Can't wait to hear your rig in the near future.


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!!!


Tboooe: It's great to see you back in the hobby(!),....I'll leave some comments on your new systems thread.


Thanks for getting in touch with me on the SC area thread that I started up 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.


Congrats on the perfectwave-that is an awesome piece of kit! I am actively searching for a new DAC and AMP combo-getting tired of my all in one integrated.


Hi Cymbop - when do u need to give back the matrix 800's ?
Mine have made this long winter much easier to deal with.
Nice space and system. Your dog looks really friendly.
Happy Listening - Cheers


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!


Oh, that door to the porch stays well-locked. :-)

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.


I love how people have to step over your speaker cables when the enter the house. A true audiophile!

How do you like your PS Audio power plant? I am thinking about adding for my digital sources.


nice new digs! I remember seeing your old system, I recognized the W4S, SVS pair, and Buddah :)

Did you have Zu's before?

Great looking system ,I'm sure it sounds fantastic!


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