My system feels and sounds "done" to me, 14 yrs after I started. 2 channel and movies are better than I ever dreamed possible - the synergy is just remarkable. I have very fortunately been able to assemble a system that I will never grow tired of listening to. This is not in a dedicated listening room, but in my living room, complete with dogs, TV, open doorways, etc., etc. It really shouldn't sound any good, but it sounds GREAT!! Go figure... It has definitely been a learning experience and I've made my share of missteps along the way, as I expected to do.
My original goal was to be able to close my eyes and have the performers in the room with me. I have finally gotten there and actually beyond, to the point where the speakers disappear in the room. A pretty big deal considering the size of the speakers (BIG!) and the size of the room (19' x 20') I now just listen to the music and smile.
The latest additions - VAC Statement linestage, Focal Grande Utopia EM speakers and Critical Mass Systems Maxxum rackage made a huge impact to my system, both aurally and visually (as well as to what USED to be my savings.) :-). I finally have my DREAM system and couldn't be happier, as it sounds as good as it looks (some say even better). (edited 12/2014)
Valve Amplification Company STATEMENT 450 IQ Monoblocks
Great amps. IQ Continuous Automatic Bias System and Auto-Sentry System added on recent trip to VAC. Very good sound became off-the-charts sound. Literally best tube amps I've heard anywhere, at any price. With addition of the FOCALS, I can really appreciate the amps.
Valve Amplification Company STATEMENT Linestage
Added Seimens 7308s for break-in; will be installing CCA Telefunkens in several weeks. :-)
Esoteric P-02 Transport/D-02 DAC
SOTA digital. Phenomenal combination.
FOCAL Grande Utopia EM
High Fidelity Ultimate Reference Rhodium and HelixPowrCds
Each run from wall to a P-10 power regenerator, which supply my system. They are "game-changers" for my system - the detail, imaging, separation and musicality are great. Helix goes to transport.
Critical Mass Systems Maxxum Rack and Amp Stands
Merlot 9-position filtered rack, with 2 Merlot filtered amp stands. Installed by Joe L. and my local dealer. All are movable for cable access, etc., a Maxxum first. System got even quieter, imaging improved and sound stage got both wider and deeper. They also make my living room look much better. :-)
High Fidelity Ultimate Reference Power Cable
Ridiculously excellent power transmission. Powers Esoteric P-02 transport from PS Audio P-10 power regenerator. Best I've ever heard.
Master Set Speaker system Tuning
Performed by Rod Thompson of Soundings (here in Denver). Took speakers to a much higher level than I thought possible in my room. Well worth the money for this system to perform to the level he got it to.
High Fidelity Ultimate Reference Speaker cables
SOTA for speakers
High Fidelity Ultimate IC's betw preamp and amps
Final piece of the puzzle. Entire system opened up tremendously.
High Fidelity CT-1Ultimate ICs from D-2 to preamp
New design with magnetic influence. Amazing low level detail with excellent musicality. Best cable yet between Esoteric D-02 DAC and Vac preamp.
Purist Audio Custom DC umbilical cords 4 Focals
Connects DC woofer external control modules to the Focal speakers. Custom made for this application (thanks to Albert Porter).
PS Audio P-10 Power Regenerator(2)
System protection as well as clean, steady power to all gear. Silver.
HighFidelity Ultimate Reference Helix Digital
Great digital cable clocking the p-02 and D-02 together using internal clock.
Hi Diamond P-4(4) and P-3(2) power cords
P-4s from wall to 2 P-10s, and from P10s to each amp. Also from P-10 to CD player and wall to sub. P-3 from P-10 to preamp and from Oppo to P-10. Extremely quiet, resolving and organic cables that get out of the way of the music. Macro and micro details in abundance, without any harshness or loss of musicality. Best PCs I've heard, at any price.
Pro ELITE 70 inch LCD w/full Local Dimming
Motorized wall mount allows TV to come forward and down for viewing. Retract to wall for critical listening.
Integra DHC-80.2 HD Processor
All the latest codecs for movies.
Legacy Audio Focus 20/20 rear speakers
Full range and great for movies
Video processing to 3D plus all latest Audio Codecs
Digital Systems Ultrabit Platinum Disc Treatment
The best I've found to help my CDs sound their best and remove scratches.
After considerable reflection and R & R, I have decided to forego my analog experience at this time. Instead, I plan to upgrade my existing digital system as much as is sensible and leave it at that.
I know that after the shiny newness wore off, I would not be happy with the effort (and money) required to both play and maintain a quality analog system. At that point, I would probably sell it and take a loss on my purchases. By arriving at this decision now, I am able to return most of my purchases to Music Direct and come out almost whole again. I do still need to find a home for my Allnic phono stage that is new in the box - I am currently selling it through Albert Porter at a great price on this site - ask him about it....
For me, the above decision makes the most sense at this point. I may change my mind later, but I doubt it. When I can get my digital system to approach, equal and in some cases even better expensive analog systems, at least to my ears, I feel no need to explore the bottomless money pit that is called "analog". (Probably one of my more intelligent decisions in a while) :-)
Decided to wait until January to make analog additions. Turntable still isn't here yet and my busy season at work is at hand.
In addition, VAC is now working on a new high end phono stage that should be ready around CES, maybe. That is the piece I want to add to my all-VAC system, so the Allnic phono stage is now for sale, unopened. What I really want is the Statement Phono Stage, but its beyond my budget.(Plus I already have the Statement Line Stage in the circuit)
The timing on this will work much better for me now and things will be simplified, which I like.
I've currently gotten the Allnic and phono cables in. Hope to receive the VPI and Ortofon cartridge within the next week or so. :-) Already started accumulating great lp's based on suggestions from other A'gon members to a thread on the subject I put up several weeks ago. Thanks for all your responses!!
Fplanner2000, Glad to hear you like what you are hearing with the High Fidelity URR PC. The VPI Classic Signature Turntable complete with a 10" JMW 3d printed tonearm, and the Ortofon Windfeld MC phono cartridge should sound awesome ;-)! And the H3000 LCR Mk2 is definitely a stand out from Albert. I had purchased the Allnic H-2101 from Albert and am enjoying it! When do you expect to have the goodies?
After considerable thought, I came to the conclusion that if analog didn't sound any good in my system, there would be something wrong with my ears. Given that, I decided to take advantage of a few opportunities that came my way.
I will be getting a VPI Classic Signature Turntable complete with a 10" JMW 3d printed tonearm, as well as an Ortofon Windfeld MC phono cartridge. Both have won a number of awards and have been recommended by several highly-experienced analog friends, notably Kevin Hayes of VAC, so I am totally comfortable with these purchases.
I also came across an interesting opportunity on a demo Allnic phono-stage, namely the H3000 LCR Mk2, and so will be getting that as well. This will be thanks to the efforts of Albert Porter in Dallas, another audiophile buddy.
Don't see how I can go wring with these choices, especially to start. They may or may not ever be upgraded, depending upon my experience with them in my system. I am satisfied that they are of high enough quality to sound great in my system and provide some of that "analog magic" that purely digital systems, including my own, seem to lack. I can't wait!! :-) (
Again, this seems more like a foregone conclusion than a real "experiment", which is why these purchases make sense to me...)
I am currently contemplating a possible foray into the analog realm of our hobby. I have heard incredible analog performances out of gear very similar to mine at various shows over the past several years. This makes me curious as to what my system might sound like with an analog front end. On the other hand, I don't have the time nor patience for the brain damage many incur when they enter the analog world. As a result, I have decided to do a bit of experimenting with some different entry-level-type analog front ends. I realize that the rest of my system is very far from "entry-level" - at this point, I just want to get a feel for whether my room and system will like analog. I'm aware the sound will be different - after allowances for the lower quality of the analog gear, if I hear indications that its at best a lateral move, the experiment is over. On the other hand, if it shows promise, I will probably switch out some of the analog gear and then re-listen. At this point, I have nothing to lose and an opportunity to "plug-and-play" an analog front end into a really good high-end system to see what happens. I'm excited by the potential, but also leery of the brain damage.... :-) Plan to start this within a month or so, depending upon gear and my availability...
Threaded Stillpoint Ultra 5s into bottoms of Focals - bass instantly got tighter and entire presentation got more realistic. I can't believe I waited this long to do this! Ultras were left over from my prior speakers.
The HF URR pcs between wall and p-10 regenerators continue to impress. They are about even as far as break-in is concerned and if I had to guess, would estimate they are probably only about 30% broken in, if that. Noticeable changes are still happening pretty regularly, as I get surprised by an added detail or nuance, or a bass line that just reveals itself out of nowhere. Separation and detail keep improving as well - Holst's Planets has become startlingly REAL, for example. The system has also gotten noticeably quieter - the blackness has gotten blacker, so to speak. Very happy at this point. :-)
System edited: Added a High Fidelity Ultimate Reference Rhodium power cable last weekend between wall and one of the 2 P-10 power regenerators. Results were outstanding - even better than I expected and break-in has barely started. Added another today for the other 1/2 of my system. Full break-in will probably take months, but I am already noticing positive changes - tighter, faster bass, better separation, more information in the presentation and even better musicality. Everything is coming together to sound pretty remarkable, at least to my ears. Fortunately, there is still more break-in to go with my preamp and its newly upgraded CCA tubes, as well as the rack and Rhodium power cables. Every time I turn on the system now, there is something new that I hadn't heard before to greet me. Its really quite amazing to hear different background noises I've never heard before, or buried bass lines, etc. I don't see tinkering with this system any more for YEARS!! YAAAAYY!!
Larry- As your comment points out, this is a very subjective area. My system also has mostly HF UR interconnects, so already has a fairly high degree of magnetic properties. Another suggestion might be to try the ICs if you haven't already in connection with a HF pc. What others have found is that using several of the HF power cords, regardless of level, creates a presentation unlike anything they've heard before. You might also give Rick a call, tell him what you've done and the results, and see what he suggests. I have found him to be very helpful and responsive. He will help you figure out a solution within your budget.
Fplanner2000, The first place I put my U power cord was my CDP (for 1 1/2 weeks), then I moved it to my preamp (for 1 1/2 weeks) and then my amp (for 1 1/2 weeks). Each time I tried the U power cord in each component I thought I heard improvement, but when I put the the original power cord back in it sounded just as good. I came to the conclussion (after reading your comment above) that maybe I need to try a UR power cord (which I can't afford...LOL!).
Larry- Will do. I have already compared P-4 to HF UR pc on my transport. It wasn't even close, with the HF winning. More clarity, detail, musicality, etc. Needless to say, if possible, I would try a HF pc on your CDP to see if you duplicate my results.
Fplanner2000; Let us know your thoughts regarding the High Fidelity URR PC from the wall to 1 of my P-10's, in the place of a High Diamond P-4. Recently I slid my P-4 (from my Integrated amp) over to my CDP and put my HF Ultimate power cord onto my Allnic T-1500 Integrated 300b amp.
Thanks Mark. As we say, "my system doesn't suck" at this point. :-)
I'm glad you've gotten to experience the P-02/D-02 combination for yourself. There are many setting options that allow you to tailor the sound to your system, room and preferences. I'm really enjoying mine as well, and have for several years.
As far as my amps are concerned, I love 'em. I have been a "tube" guy for about 10 years now and it is the sound I prefer. I've had very good luck with the VAC gear over the years and the company is a pleasure to work with. Everything is built to extremely high standards and they last for many years. Once I heard the "VAC sound", I was hooked and still am. All the good things you read about VAC are very true. I know a number of people across the world who won't use anything BUT VAC, regardless of system level. The biggest surprise I had early on, in addition to the incredible midrange, is how fast, deep and tight the bass is. Outperforms many very good solid-state amps. Kevin told me this many years ago and of course I didn't believe him. Turns out he was 1000% correct.
In addition, there is great synergy between VAC and Esoteric products - they are frequently the digital source for VAC show displays like CES, RMAF, etc.
Depending upon your power needs, I would either look at monos or maybe the 160i integrated with the SE upgrade. The 160SE is probably the best bang for the buck currently in the VAC lineup, especially if you spin vinyl.
You have a very nice system and some VAC gear will make it that much better, in my opinion. Good luck and let me know what you decide.
Lloyd....boy were you right on the P-02/D-02,....I've completed breakin on the various options I will utilize for RB playback and have the P-02 slaved to the D-02 in 22.xx master clock mode with phenomenal results.
Currently burning in SACD playback then we are onto USB from there.....lots of combinations to burn-in with these units!
The 02s dig into recordings as I've never heard before showing me even more detail, dynamics, more bass to die for and adding even more musicality and an even more massive and precise soundstage. The 03s were fantastic; the 02s are simply better!
See my system/other threads for the combo of filters and options that will be my go-to options for all RBCD playback....
How do you like the VAC tube amps? I've been doing tons of reading and off on many tangents around tubes; a trusted friend has recently strongly suggested the VAC PHI or above for amplification. I still love my NL12.1 and am thinking about the Maker Audio NL14 stereo with balanced output transformers and all the latest frills but his tube question is nagging at me......
Your system has grown and matured by leaps and bounds; it must sound fantastic!!!
Finally got my system to the point where I easily get immersed in the great soundstage it creates. From the most delicate passages to the loudest crescendos, the presentation is as true to the source as any I've ever experienced. Several key parts of the system are still breaking in, so every day it gets a little better sounding than the day before. This is obviously very subjective on my part, which is FINE, considering I'm the person that has to go through the torture of listening to it.... :-).