One great sounding R2R DAC (this one is tubed), based on the classic NOS Analog Devices AD1865N-K chipset. Very musical, wonderful sounding DAC that came alive when I rolled in Jupiter Copper Foil caps, an SR Orange fuse, and different tubes: my faves are the Philips Miniwatt SQ E188CC from Holland, but it's also it's great with a pair of Amperex orange globe JAN 7308s, and the '75 holy grail silver shield SWGP Reflektor 6H23p tubes; btw, with the stock mini-tubes it's very good and listenable as well. Has the Z-Foil resistors as well. Vlad has a created a true winner here with an "off the charts" price to performance ratio! Treated tops of electrolytic caps, fuse, and wire harness connections with Perfect Path Total Contact.
Snake River Audio Cottonmouth Signature Power Cord
Fantastic power cord powering my Audio Mirror Tubadour 3 DAC. Great tone, awesome soundstage with lots of space, detailed but not harsh in any way, and very well balanced. Sweet power cord!
Verastarr Nemesis USB Cable
Very analog sounding with its fast, full sound, but no sacrifice to detail. Wonderful! In a sense, this USB cable infuses reality, naturalness and makes music sound "real" to my ears.
Beat out some very awesome contenders: Curious, Audience AU24SE, and Synergistic Research USB cables. Yes, USB cables do make a difference!
Gustard U16 DDC
USB to Digital Converter (DDC); I use it to convert the USB output of my late 2012 MacMini to an AES/EBU output to my DAC. I am supplementing the U16 with a super accurate 10MHz double oven OXCO sinewave Oscilloquartz clock powered by a 12v linear power supply, and an SR Blue fuse.
This Gustard uses an ES8620 USB interface from ESS which has a completely optimized architecture for high quality digital audio processing.
Apple MacMini Music Server (Late 2012, 2.3GHz I7 Quad Core)
My streaming source is a 2012 Apple MacMini computer with an MMK kit from Uptone Audio, 16Gb of memory, a Samsung 860 Pro 256Gb SSD drive, and an Akiko USB stick. I thought I could do better than this when I bought a highly touted Innuos Zen mk3, I was shocked, pleasantly so, when I decided I much prefer the sound of my tweaked up MacMini to the Innuos! The Innuos was too laid back and polite to my ears (and a bit unstable) whereas the MacMini just sounded more real, exciting, and present. Too each his own!
VooDoo Cable Platinum Power Cord
Excellent, thick as a snake, power cord that is also very flexible. I have put it on my HDPlex linear power supply feeding the 10Mhz clock, and other things, with great results.
Teo Audio Reference AES/EBU Digital Cable
Amazing AES/EBU cable! Smooth but detailed, natural and organic, but also fast. Huge 3-dimensional soundstage! Really happy that I got this cable from Ken of Teo Audio. It brought my digital setup to a new high, and with Teo's focus on jitter reduction, and with it's liquid conductors, the helped take the digititus out of my digital setup, and made it more enjoyable than ever. Well done Teo!
Audience Au24 SX Interconnect
1m, RCA / RCA; excellent IC; quite neutral and real sounding; great space, great midrange, great dynamics. Using it from my preamp to my amp.
Teo Audio Ultra Interconnect
Using it between my DAC and Preamp, in a shotgun configuration (ala Schroeder Method) with a Teo GC in parallel. Great sonic results!
The combination of the Audience AU24 SX and these Teo Audio ICs gives me a huge, very holographic soundstage that just immerses me!
Teo Audio GC (Game Changer) Interconnect
Paralleled with a pair of Teo Audio Ultra ICs in a shotgun configuration between my DAC and Preamp. Much prefer an Ultra / GC combo vs. just a pair of GCs. Love all that liquid metal!
The combination of the Audience AU24 SX and these Teo Audio ICs gives me a huge, very holographic soundstage that just immerses me!
Aric Audio Special 6SN7 Linestage
Recent acquisition (7/17/2020)!
This is Aric's personal linestage that is a cross between the "Special" and the "Motherlode II" preamps in his line. This is the preamp that led to the highly reviewed MLII, and according to Aric, it has around 90% of the sonic quality / character of the MLII, in once chassis. I was itching to hear a great 6SN7-based preamp in my system again, and I like what I'm hearing so far! Listening to it with a Mullard GZ32 rectifier and various 6F8Gs (with adapters).
Pass Labs XA25 Amplifier
Based on all the positive press, will this solid state Class A amp be able to unseat my fantastic 300b based Coincident SET monoblocks? The answer is a resounding "YES"!
I have sold my Frankenstein monoblocks! First off, the XA25 does not sound like SET, so don't misunderstand me, this isn't a replacement for SET amps. However it does so much "right" in my system, and is voiced around my sonic preferences (e.g. midrange quality, soundstage dimensionality, instrument tonality, etc,), that I happily replaced my monoblocks (with their costly tubes), and I really don't miss them though I loved them! Add to this the additional headroom I now have, and a tight controlled bass, this amp is a winner on so many levels! Great job Nelson!
Running it with a Synergistic Research Orange fuse.
Verastarr EVO Power Cord
This is the latest copper foil power cord from Mike Powell, Verastarr. It replaces the Grand Illusion 2 power cord. If its anything like his GI Signature ICs, we will have a winner on our hands!
Running it from my PI Audio power conditioner to my Pass Labs XA25 amp.
Audience AU24 SX Speaker Cable
A 6' (2m) pair; Love how light and thin this cable is!
Tekton Design Perfect SET 12 Speaker
These are the PS12 with the 12" woofer, 96db sensitivity, in white!
I did not want to go back to a floorstander, and I really like my Impact Monitors and Omega HO SAMs a whole lot, but these Perfect SET speakers take me to a whole new level of audiophile heaven! I had the pleasure of hearing these at Teajay's (reviewer Terry London) place in Indiana, and I knew I would get these at some point (they just arrived on 5/1/19). They are the audiophile steal of the century!
Sistrum Apprentice Platforms SP-SA-103-3
Used under my Tekton speakers. Very effective in solidifying my imaging and bass!
Wireworld Chroma Cat8 Ethernet Cable
One going to my MacMini Music Server, and one going to my Synology NAS. Both going into a Trend Micro switch. One going to the wall jack from the switch.
Martin Logan Depth i Subwoofer
My system has changed over and over, but this subwoofer stays and stays! 'Nuf said!
PI Audio Group UberDigi Buss Power Conditioner
Fantastic product from Dave. It's a hybrid of his DigiBUSS and UberBUSS, supporting all my components as listed here. Amazingly took care of power line noise outside my system, which has dedicated, isolated ground AC power. System is dead quiet now. NO DETRIMENTAL IMPACT on system dynamics, while all my gear is connected to it.
DCCA Eminence Power Cable
Using it from the wall outlet (a Synergistic Research UEF Black Outlet) to the PI Audio UberBUSS power conditioner.
HDPLEX 200W Linear Power Supply
Great, quiet, versatile linear power supply powering my MacMini (w/MMK), Ethernet Switch, NAS, and external double oven OXCO 10Mhz clock.
Akiko Audio Minelli Power Conditioner
A mini-Corelli of sorts, for folks on a stricter budget, like me. Supposedly a better value than the Corellli, and about 75% of the performance, is what I've been told.
Akiko Audio Triple AC Enhancer
Awesome ground plane power conditioner! Made my soundstage more 3D and made the background even quieter and blacker. Good worthwhile tweak!
Also put an Akiko USB stick on a USB port of my MacMini music / Roon server, and it's affect was very positive. I like and preferred my late 2012 MacMini music / Roon server better than the Innuos Zen mk3 server I trialed, no joke! Returned the Innuos!
High Fidelity Cables MC-0.5 Magnetic Waveguide
Use 3 of these power conditioners in a three way "T" from my wall outlet
Cerious Technologies Graphene Extreme Blue and Red Powercords
RED on my Akiko Minelli, and the BLUE to my Martin Logan Depth i.
Perfect Path Technologies Total Contact
Treated all my metal to metal contacts in my system (including all power connections, interconnect connections, fuses, tube pins, etc.), and with less than 4 weeks in, I am very pleased with the added clarity, dynamics, blackness, and detail that my system has gained from the treatment. Controversial product as seen in the threads here, but imo, it’s the real deal. And yes, a lil’ goes a long way! It should be sold at half price for half the quantity!
Oppo Digital BDP-103
Used mostly for video purposes, and for ripping SACDs to my hard drive for my computer based music library. Tied into my Metrum Onyx DAC via coax or optical.
No longer in production, but I still use it between my Backert preamp and ML Depth i Subwoofer
No longer in production; This is a very nice cable. Compared directly with my now sold HFC CT-1 IC, this cable has a more holographic 3D soundstage, but isn't quite as extended on either end as the CT-1, and the midrange may not be quite as clear either. It's a keeper though.
Final Touch Audio (FTA) Callisto USB Cable
Tried it but it didn't sound any better than my Verastarr Nemesis USB cable from my MacMini to the Gustard U16 digital coverter. In fact, I preferred my Nemesis.
Backert Labs Rhumba 1.2 Preamplifier
Just added this preamp to my system (11/2017), and while I took a chance on it since there aren't many reviews, I have no regrets, other than I wish I could afford the Extreme!
I have tried running sources directly into my amps multiple times over the years, and I have also tried passive preamps / attenuator devices, optical coupled volume controls, and transformer volume controls as well, but I was never totally happy with ANY of these options. Give me an active tube preamp on any given day. I want a touch of bloom in vocals and an expansive soundstage, however, I do not want to affect the dynamic transient response, the "live" feel, nor the dynamics of my "direct to amp" link.
To my pleasant surprise, everything that is described on the Backert Labs website is entirely TRUE, which is why I wanted to try the Rhumba to begin with! Finally, marketing that actually matches product performance. I can highly recommend this preamp! What a great match with the Frankenstein monoblocks!
It takes extremely well to tube rolling, which is where I am at now. I have plenty of good 12au7s to try, so it will take me some time, then onto trying different isolation schemes for it. For today, I am favoring a pair of CBS 5814a tubes or a pair of Amperex 7316. tomorrow, who knows!
Running it with a Synergistic Research Orange Fuse, a pair of Herbie's UltraSonic RX Tube Dampers, three Herbie's ISO Cups with ebony wooden balls, and a pair of Audyn True Copper Max coupling caps (they are massive!) that replaced the meh average AudioCaps.
Gallo Acoustics CL-10 Subwoofers
I am running a pair of these subwoofers in my system now. Powered by a pair fo Cerious Tech power cables, and connected to my preamp via the MAC Mystic RCA cables.
Acoustic Revive DSIX - BPA II AES/EBU Cable
Trying this highly reviewed digital cable in the system (Feb, 2020)
UpTone Audio LPS-1.2 Power Supply
Powering my Ethernet switch. It's powered by a Cerious Tech Graphene RED power cord.
Snake River Audio Boomslang AES/EBU Digital Cable
Using it from the Gustard U16 DDC to my DAC. This is a fast, tight sounding cable with good musical flow, but it's not lean. Big holographic soundstage with nice layering, with awesome detail, but not over the top, and I can listen to my system with it for hours. This is one of those way underrated, under-appreciated digital cables!
Great cable! The Boomslang beat out the big $$ Shunyata Research Sigma digital cable and the HFC Reveal AES3 digital cable in my system. Yes, I owned both for a time!
Tekton Design Impact Monitor
Basically the top half of the excellent Double Impacts without the bass drivers... In my room, I don't feel the need for the bass drivers as I get enough bass from the dual 6.5" drivers on the monitors.
Omega Super Alnico HO Monitors
Now sold (as of 4/2019), but truth be told, I loved these speakers. Very musical, fast, very efficient monitors (97db) that sound much bigger than they are, throwing a huge holographic soundstage. these have dual 6.5 Alnico drivers (lower driver crossed at 200Hz). Sound great with just am 8wpc SET tube amp in front of them!
I took 70hz and below off the Omegas by using a Harrison FMOD high pass filter (purple), and the sound became incredibly transparent, clean, fast, and most importantly, no distortion from trying to play low bass at higher levels. Plenty loud now in my largish room, where I can easily play > 90db or louder with only 8wpc!
Sitting on cupped aircraft aluminum disks with carbon steel balls for isolation.
Coincident Speaker Tech M300B Frankenstein MK II
Circa 2015; just got them (8/2017), and so far so good.
Surprisingly "powerful" sounding for the low rated 8wpc in my rather large room. Running the excellent Psvane the WE300b with the EML 300b-XLS and Shuguang BT 300b power tubes as back ups. Also running with RCA black plate 6EM7s, and Svetlana Winged C '61 black plate 5U4Gs (Sylvania black plate 5U4GBs as backup).
Powered by Cerious Tech's "Blue" power cables. Jupiter Copper Foil coupling caps and the reasonably priced AMR fuses complete the awesome package.
Metrum Acoustics Onyx DAC
Excellent, musically satisfying DAC! I sold a Delta Sigma DAC that was 2x more $$ than this one (an ESS9028Pro DAC) based on the Onyx having a much better, more natural sounding piano and voices, with a more natural holographic soundstage, better presence, and less digital edginess. Much prefer the S/PDIF and AES inputs to the USB input! Now using a Gustard U16 USB to Digital converter. Powered by a Voodoo Platinum powercord and using an Audio Magic SHD Ultimate Beeswax fuse.
Last R2R DAC experiment (using a Holo Audio Spring Lev 3 DAC) didn't go very well for me. I found it lackluster, missing energy, etc. In a word, boring. Recently, I listened to a friend's Shiit Gumby (in his system), and I was impressed enough to try R2R again. So here we are with the Onyx!
@celo I did end up selling it, since I couldn't keep my 300b SET monoblocks AND the S500, though in an ideal world, I would have loved to keep it for those times when I didn't want to fire up the tubes.
I think it's a very musical, fun amp, and it does most everything very well, and it runs very cool. In fact, not taking away from the First Watt F7, I liked the Red Dragon S500 in my system better due to it's better extension on the highs and bass, and also it's liveliness. Of course I prefer my Coincident Frankenstein 300b monoblocks more, but hey, they were 3x the cost!
I used a Decware CSP2+ preamp with the S500, and with the right tubes, it really shined and gave me an sweet holographic presentation, and nice mids. I don't think I would use anything but a tubed preamp to mate with the S500. It benefits from the tube bloom, and makes the amp so much more enjoyable.
I read your review on the Red Dragon S500. Did you sell it? I am looking for an amp that is musical and powerful. Do you think the S500 is a musical amp, I know it is powerful:)? What kind of tube preamp you used it with? Thanks.
@adamaley@islandmandan Sorry guys for the late response, I just noticed you posted in my system. I didn't get any notifications of your posts, and don't check here often. I guess I should visit my own system a little more frequently!
@adamaley My baseline was no preamp at all! I ran my DAC directly into my amps, and the sonic results were stunning. I had the transparency, speed, detail, and soundstage that really pleased me, but I wanted just a touch more gain on certain albums, and I wanted just a touch of bloom as well. I was waiting for a Coincident Statement to show up on the used market, but patience wore thin, and I bought a new Backert Rhumba.
No regrets whatsoever! Not only did I keep the attributes of having "no-preamp" in the loop (very transparent!), but I gained better bass control with more bass, more bloom and palpability in the mids, and the soundstage grew more 3D in width and depth than i can have possibly imagined I would get. I can't recommend the Rhumba highly enough. What you read on their website and in the reviews is spot on! One more comment... it really takes to tube rolling very well. I can "flavor" it to my hearts content, but yet, I never lose what made it special to me in the first place. It's a keeper!
@islandmandan Thanks for the kind words about my system. I've been through tons of gear, and while many of if was very good, this is the system that has made me listen to, and enjoy, the most music. It's the most musical, real sounding system that I've been able to put together! Pure fun and joy! Other than a few tweaks here and there, I can't see myself making any major changes for quite a while.
The label on the back of my speaker does say "Hempcone", so I assume they still are. Wonderful speakers from Louis! The EMLs are excellent tubes. Thanks to @charles1dad and perhaps others that recommended them in past threads!
1Marker, you have me drooling over some of your components. The Coincident Frankenstein II's, and the Baeckert Labs preamp, to start with. I use an SET 300B amp to drive my Tannoys, I also use the EML 300B XLS tubes, I'm glad I splurged on them, they were worth every penny.
I haven't had the pleasure of hearing Omega speakers, aren't they the ones with the Hemp cones? Or do they still make them with the hemp?
Anyway, very nice system that must be a very satisfactory (or better), listen. Congrats, and enjoy,
What did you pick the Backert Labs over - did you compare it to any other preamp. I am looking for a preamp for a Line Magnetic 508ia integrated and am considering the Don Sachs v2, Coincident SLS, and the Backert offerings.
Both are fantastic sounding amps, but I did not have them together on the same system, so I have no valid comparison of the amps themselves.
The Almarro is simpler, cheaper to maintain (namely tubes), lighter, and requires some tweaking (rolling tubes, replacing caps, and like I did, taking the volume control and input selector out of the signal path). Huge improvement! It is also manually biased, but mine keeps its bias incredibly stable, so no issues there.
The Jota, on the other hand, is heavier, and costly to re-tube, but it is auto biasing, and sounds great out of the box. It also looks cooler that the Almarro. Sounds like support for any Art Audio product may be a challenge, but do your homework on that point.