Description

UPDATE (12/23/07): added the MBL 5011 preamp. After living with my Esoteric front end for almost 3 months without a pre, I came to the realization that a pre was definitely needed. Without a pre, the sound was a bit thin and lacking bass. The 5011 addressed these issues and so much more. I did not realize how poor my soundstaging was until I introduced the 5011. This pre does in incredible job of layering the soundstage as well as separating each individual instrument.

UPDATE (12/07/07): added the Ayre MX-R amps. These were broken in by my dealer for 2 weeks before I took delivery. I rarely am taken back by gear but I was startled at how much real these amps sounded to me than my previous amps. There is more detail, more immediacy of notes, very good separation of instruments, and a very nice holographic presentation. I can go on and on but by far these amps are the most realistic sounding I have come across. They are just so enjoyable to listen to!

UPDATE (9/29/07): added Esoteric P-03 transport and D-05 DAC. The D-05 has the latest 32 bit DAC from AKM. Even only after a few hours I hear much better separation between instruments and notes, better sustain and decay, and more authoritative bass. More updates to follow.

UPDATE (8/03/07): added the Oyaide R1 outlet for my amps. Everything is a bit livelier with much better detail. I am hearing so many little nuances I have never heard before!

UPDATE (7/24/07): added the Oyaide SWO-GX Ultimo outlet to my front end. What a difference! The bass now goes lower and there is more detail across the board. I will adding another outlet for my amps next. This is by far one of the best tweaks I have ever done.

UPDATE (7/13/07): I finally got around to adding some heavy silk drapes and they made a world of difference. Everything is much smoother. I will continue to look for ways to judiciously treat my room without making it look like a recording studio.

Beauty:

-The sound is just incredible. Vocals are holographic and textured.

-The MBL 5011 preamp is beautiful to look at. Luckily the sound is just as good.

-The Ayre MX-R amps are just gorgeous to look at. The casework is outstanding. And as my wife said, "they are so cute"!

Beasts:

-The Usher BE-10 speakers are big and thick producing a powerful yet delicate sound.

-The Esoteric P-03 transport is incredibly heavy (75lb) and big but it sure sounds good.

My system has undergone A LOT of changes over the last few years. This has been mainly to me figuring out my own listening preferences and understanding what I wanted to get out of my system. After swapping out a lot of components and spending too much money, I have finally settled down a bit.

I listen to all kinds of music but tend to favor anything with female vocals, particularly acoustic folk and vocal jazz. I also favor simple orchestration and basic instrumentation with a preference for acoustic guitar and piano. The less number of instruments between me and the vocals the better. I mainly go to listen to music in small, intimate venues where I am able to sit within a few feet of the band.

Given my musical tastes, I wanted to put together a system that is able to reproduce the sound as organically as possible. I want to hear every little detail like the quiver in a singer's voice, the sound of the guitar pick striking the string, the feeling of the hammer hitting the piano string. To me, these tiny nuances help to make the music sound as real (i.e. organic) as possible. To this end, I wanted a system that was detailed, dynamic, fast, and immediate with just a hint of warmth. I did not want anything that was too syrupy sounding though. My current system gives me everything I am looking for. It is as close to hearing musicians in my room that I have ever heard with any previous iteration of my system.
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Components Toggle details

    • Esoteric P-03 Transport
    I love the Esoteric sound so much I had to get their P-03 transport.
    • Esoteric D-05
    Anniversary model with new AKM 32 bit DAC
    • Esoteric VRDS-Neo
    This transport is a work of art! By far, the best, most accurate transport available. The amount of detail it extracts is amazing!
    • Sonos ZP-80
    Wireless digital music system. Digital output is sent to Esoteric D-05 DAC, a huge improvement over internal DAC. I enjoy my music so much more now that I have instant access to my 40K song library
    • MBL 5011
    A very musical preamp with outstanding soundstaging and separation of each instrument.
    • Ayre Acoustics MX-R
    I am so happy with these amps. They make everything sound so real it is startling! The transparency and dynamics suit my preferences perfectly!
    • Usher BE-10
    Very dynamic and neutral sounding speaker. I am sold on beryllium!
    • Tara Labs The One
    Very transparent and "tight" sounding cable that also offers weight and solidity. These give me all the virtues I admired in my previous speaker cable, the Nordost Blue Heaven while providing what it was missing.
    • Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II
    Used between my source and preamp. Great detail without sounding bright or edgy.
    • Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference II
    Used between my preamp and amp. Very smooth sounding.
    • Acoustic Zen MC2 XLR
    AES/EBU digital cable from Esoteric P-03 transport to D-05 DAC.
    • Acoustic Zen Silver Byte
    Used to synch the word clock from the Esoteric D-05 DAC to the P-03 transport.
    • Acoustic Zen MC2 RCA
    Digital cable from Sonos ZP-80 wireless digital music system to Esoteric D-05 DAC.
    • Virtual Dynamics Nite 3
    Being used to power by MBL 5011 preamp. Like all VD power cables I immediately noticed more dynamics, speed, and authority. The soundstage with the VD power cables are incredible!
    • Star Sound Technology SP-4 Sistrum Stand
    Great amp stand that helped to add smoothness to my system.
    • Oyaide SWO-GX Ultimo
    Double cryo'd outlet with 24K gold plating - used for cdp and preamp
    • Oyaide R1
    Cryo'd ac outlet with Beryllium/copper and palladium plating - used for amps
    • HiFi Tuning Fuse
    I added this "audiophile" fuse to my MBL 5011 preamp. I am not sure it made any difference but it was cheap and lord knows I have spent much more money on things that actually made my system sound worse! My previous preamp, Classe CP-700 did respond positively to these fuses though. I still may try some in my other components.

Comments 270

222222&text=mt
Hi Tommy, maybe you should consider the top Stax headphone set...

mtkhl567

Center
Owner
audphile, I was looking at the Pass integrated as well as the Simaudio but I am really trying to avoid the trap of spending too much money on my new system. I find that I spend too much money my expectations rise (as it should). However, it is the expectations that start turn me back into an audiophile. By keeping the price low I will not be too worried about absolute performance and thus be able to simply enjoy the music.

tboooe

128x128
I recently heard the new Pass INT-150 integrated amplifier and thought it was excellent. It easily drove Dali MS4 and the sound was great. If you are considering an integrated, make sure you don't miss the new Pass. If you have an opportunity to audition it, I think you will love it with the Sonus Faber speakers. It's a great piece.

audphile1

Center
Owner
Right now, I have the SF Cremona Auditors. I really wanted to get monitors that I could plug in and just enjoy and the Auditors definitely meet this requirement. Though they do not have the dynamics, transparency, speed, or presence of my Ushers, I am happy with them. They do not image better than my big Ushers though. I guess everyone was right about monitors. I am now a believer. I think unless you have a big room and listen at loud levels, monitors are the way to go. They truly do a great job of disappearing. I must say the sound is pretty darn good being driven by my Sonos. With the weight of being an audiophile lifted, I feel that I am really enjoying music again!!!!

tboooe

222222&text=la
Which monitors Tboooe?

lapierre

Center
Owner
Audphile, my system currently consists of a monitor connected directly to my Sonos music server. No preamp, no amp, no interconnects. I cant imagine it getting any simpler. I am going to add an integrated amp which should complete my system, though I could easily live with my current setup for a while. When the economy and my investment accounts stop its freefall I will probably look to add some subs.

tboooe

128x128
BTW, Tommy, I made a lot of changes to my system as well.
I have no preamp now. I am using a simple approach - Bel Canto DAC3 direct into Pass X250.5 via Cardas Golden Reference XLRs.
Sold my B&Ws and got a pair of Dynaudio S5.4. Next on the list is Mac Mini to start setting up a music server front end with Mac Mini as transport into DAC3 via USB cable.

audphile1

222222&text=la
It's all about the music and synergy. I would also keep it simple.

lapierre

128x128
Tommy, excellent idea! Congrats! All this is about is enjoyment of music. We get too hung up on the audiophile aspect of it.

Best of luck and keep us posted on the progress.

audphile1

Center
Owner
System edited: My system has been completely dismantled. I found myself too focused on being an audiophile and not focused enough on just enjoying the music. I am going to re-assemble a much simpler system that will allow me to just listen to music and not worry if its imaging correctly or if the soundstage is deep enough. More to come....

tboooe

222222&text=vo
Tbooe

how does the music server compare to your P03 transport
which one is better?

voraratc

222222&text=la
Tbooe I'm just being an Audiophile and enjoying the ride when I travel on business. Learning about other HiFi products is the best way to educate yourself about the technology, design, and innovation. Emphasis on innovation.

Tough to move away from my beloved Dali's...my system is almost 90% voiced with Power Cords left to upgrade. Randomly picked Lee Ritenour (Color Rit) CD out of my library. I'm very good listener and having a musical background in percussion helps. I heard different information (details low and high) than before from guitar picking to different patterns of percussion instruments coming from the right-upper soundstage. Also, the bass (deep) was outstanding along with the tenor drums and cymbals. Later that night, Lyle Mays CD was playing and I stayed up late listen to wonderful piano playing jumping back to different tracks to listen to select piano patterns.

lapierre

222222&text=la
Henry the Zu Presences use 2 10” U.S. made Eminence® low frequency drivers used below resonance. I have not audition these speakers but spoke to a couple of owners.

In Malvern, PA once again in August. Hopefully, I can visit Barry for some EA time.

lapierre

Center
Owner
lapierre, have you listened to the Cremona M? Are you interested in the Cremona or Cremona Auditor? Why are you moving away from your Dali's?

I will check out the Zu, though I have heard not so flattering remarks about their unnatural sound. I will listen and decide for myself.

One speaker I am VERY interested in listening to is the YG Kipod Main Module. Supposedly it is incredibly neutral and detailed, qualities I like.

tboooe

222222&text=mt
Lapierre, these Zu's aren't the ones with 4 woofers on the back are they?

mtkhl567

222222&text=la
Tboooe besides the Cremona M, I'm also looking at:

Zu Presence. A Full-range speaker designed to fit right up against the wall.

http://www.zuaudio.com/
http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/zu12/presence.html

You can bypass the internal amp and drive the woofers with the MX-R for really deep bass.

lapierre

Center
Owner
Henry, I checked out the EA mini speakers on the website. They look intriguing. I am going to have to audition them soon. Thank you for the headsup!!!!

tboooe

Center
Owner
Hi Jean!! I do love my speakers and am in no hurry to get rid of them but I really do feel they are going to have problems in my small room. I also wont be listening to them at very loud levels. It looks like a got a lot of speakers to audition...I am not really looking forward to it. I would rather just enjoy the music.

tboooe

222222&text=ke
Hi Tommy, Jean from UT, I say keep the set up you have now. Yes they maybe heavy to move around, but when you get right, is worth it, until you can audition those speakers and see what would work for you best. best regards "I plan on going again to T.H.E show las vagas 2009!!

keyarae

222222&text=mt
Take a look at the smaller Evolution Acoustics, the MiniOne and the MiniTwo, looks like they would fit your needs very well. I'd love them as a second system driven by the new Dartzeel intergrated. With a proper set of acoustic system resonators ofcourse! They'll be introduced at the 2009 T.H.E. Show Las Vegas I think...

mtkhl567

Center
Owner
aahh... HEM is still one of my favorites. They are heavy rotation at my house along with Eva Cassidy and Cowboy Junkies.

Thanks again for the feedback. My speaker search continues...going to have to take a long hard look at YG...supposedly they are very neutral and detailed.

tboooe

222222&text=mt
Tommy, I never stop listening to any type of reasonable system. Mostly to confirm my personal choices, but also to learn about technology, the designers view, meet interesting people, and learning of other great music & recordings.

So far so good, meaning I only changed my system once, entirely, and I haven't heard anything better yet. The problem is that other systems have other components, cables, rooms, treatment, usually other music, etc etc. But unfortunately the top Ushers BE10/BE20 and I haven't crossed paths yet. Having owned the SF Stradivari I would think that you'd miss considerable musical micro detail, that I know you love. You'd maybe have more natural timbre, a warmer shading perhaps, but less force and low end grip.

I often still play HEM music, after your recommendation I bought all their CDs!

Enjoy.

mtkhl567

Center
Owner
Thank you for the input. My previous impressions definitely agree with your opinion. I was hoping the new M series would make it sound a bit more like my Ushers. Have you had a chance to listen to them? I suppose since you have your dream speakers there is no need to listen to anymore speakers...but after all we are audiophiles which means we never stop searching for audio nirvana!

tboooe

222222&text=mt
Hi Tommy, Sonus Faber sound is totally different from Usher sound ... make sure you audition with your own gear. You may want to try the acoustic system resonators in your smaller room, all of a sudden your room wouldn't seem so small anymore, even with your current BE-10s!

mtkhl567

222222&text=la
From your other post should you be looking at the newer model Cremona M?

I have not audition the Cremona M but I did speak with a Dealer out of Chicago that said they would work well with my smallish room. And since you want the details and transparency the Scan Speak ultra ring-tweeter found on so many speakers (Magico V3)and new midrange driver fits your needs.

I pulled this from the brochure.

Cremona M, (M = modified) is a loudspeaker that builds
forward the recognized technological value of Elipsa in
order to achieve new levels of performance in sound
reproduction. State of the art components – with
particular reference to the midrange made of randomized
fibre – combined with a cross-over network that remains
faithful to the principle of maximum simplicity, allows this
loudspeaker to express itself with great speed,
transparency, naturalness and with control of low
frequencies.
This allows it to be installed in small rooms as well as large.

lapierre

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