Description

I put together my first music system over 40 years ago (1977 from Tech Hifi- receiver, speakers and a turntable, for under $500). I am into analog, digital (CD and Hi-Res), FM and internet radio (via an Audio Engine B1 connected by Toslink to my DAC) and some of my LPs are original purchases of mine from the 1970's (I have every LP I ever bought, except those I may have "loaned" out and  have never been heard from or seen again). I have never been more pleased with any system I've assembled and this system was carefully assembled. My hi res comes from a MacBook Pro running JRiver. When using the MacBook Pro as my music source, I run it on internal battery power and disable the WiFi.  If it's on the recording, I can and do enjoy dynamics, warmth, good detail (I am not into hyper detail), good soundstage to the point that it's often impossible to locate my speakers. Spooky good. Cabling is good, nothing exotic. I'm a big fan of OCC interconnect cables (Audience unbalanced and Acoustic Zen balanced). Speaker cable is Analysis Plus, digital cables from Audioquest (USB) and Straightwire (AES) and power cables are Cullen and Acoustic Zen. The second oldest piece of gear is my MR78 tuner, recently refurbished by Rich Modafferi, Is thoroughly enjoyable, and I've owned my LP12 since 1998 which continues to provide a great deal of satisfaction. My LPs are kept clean by using a VPI 16.5 record cleaning machine; static is addressed by my old and highly effective Zerostat. The Marantz Model 20, my oldest component, is a very recent addition, and it's a ton of fun and sounds superb, but different than my MR78. I’ve concluded that while the MR78 is the better tuner, the Marantz 20 can sound more listenable on fringe reception stations (the Marantz is a bit rolled off which probably accounts for that). I've also added an Audioengine B1 Bluetooth receiver which I use to listen to internet radio world-wide. What I've owned the longest turns out to be my Zerostat (red) which I bought in the 1980's. This is a blend of new, old, and even older but it all works very well together.

No plans to change gear. One day, I know, my Arkiv B cartridge will be done for and will need to be replaced. I'll worry about that down the road (however, I'm beginning to suspect that road ends might be in 2020). I occasionally toy with the idea of a subwoofer, but I don't actually think I need a sub. 

As terrific as my system sounds, listening to live music always reminds me that what I'm listening to at home just can't compare to live.

Comments and/or questions are welcome. 
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Room Details

Dimensions: 18’ × 12’  Medium
Ceiling: N/A


Components Toggle details

    • McIntosh MR 78 FM Tuner
    Legendary and lives up to the hype and made better with Richard Modaferri's updates. Very sensitive, but not just for DX'ers. Very musical and quiet when fed a good signal. Very flexible to boot but sensitive to RF interferance (solved by a ferrite core on the antenna input). And to my eyes, a handsome piece of vintage gear. May 2017 addendum- led lights put in.  October 2018 addendum- new panel glass installed (I kept the plastic bezel off- it looks a little 'cleaner' to my eye without the bezel).  March 2020 addendum- Rich Modafferi updates.  A very handsome and exceptional tuner!
    • Marantz Model 20 FM Tuner
    Marantz Model 20 tuner, the solid state successor to the 10b tuner. Doesn't sound quite the same as my McIntosh MR78 (a bit rolled off but that can be an advantage with a lousy signal) but it has its own charms as well. The oscilloscope is definitely eye candy and useful too. Even if I decide to listen to my other tuner I will use the scope to optimize my antenna orientation.
    • Revel Studio 2 Speakers
    Beautiful full range speakers. These are my 2nd pair of Revels. Started with F30's which I owned for 15 years. Before the Revels I was a confirmed Magnepan fan and owner (SMGa; 1.4; 2.6R). Solid, delicate, full range and great imaging. A subwoofer is not necessary for 2 channel music reproduction. When there is deep or powerful bass in the music I'm listening to, whether vinyl, CD or high resolution downloads, it is reproduced with authority.
    • Linn LP12 Turntable
    Another legendary component. Linn LP 12, Kore subchasis, Trampolin base, Ekos 2 arm, and Arkiv B cartridge, Silver T cable, with a Lingo power supply (recapped in 2019), and Karousel bearing, new inner spring and grommets in 2020. Maybe not the very best by 2020 standards, but gets me to incredible heights of musical satisfaction. My only concern is my aging Arkiv B - if and when the cartridge is replaced, quite torn on what to replace it with but the good news is that my table was recently checked by a thoroughly excellent Linn dealer and my cartridge was found to still be in quite good shape. Who knows- maybe my Arkiv B was sprinkled with pixie dust. By the way, if you're an LP12 owner, yes, the Karousel is that good.
    • Pass Labs XP15 Phono Preamp
    Quiet, flexible and dynamic. Does the job very well. Cartridge load and gain settings on the back are a bit inconvenient but in all fairness, it is a "set it once and forget it" thing. Still, the XP25/27's front panel easy adjustability for gain and loading encourage experimentation and optimization.
    • Pass Labs XP20 Preamplifier
    Simply the best preamp I've ever owned. Any questions? Vey flexible, quiet, dynamic, and has enough inputs for a typical stereo setup, and accommodates 3 RCA and 2 balanced inputs, has a tape loop, plus balanced and unbalanced mains outputs. 

    Prior to this the best preamp I ever owned was a CJ Premier 17 LS2. 

    This is the 3rd Pass preamp I've owned. The first was an Aleph P, which I had for a few years, then I went to the CJ. Later I owned an XP10, but only for a very short time and moved to the XP20 which I've had going on 5 years now. 
    • Pass Labs X250.8 Power amplifier
    Power and subtlety- says it all. I ran tubes for many years- with the Pass gear I don't miss the tubes. On a side note- this amp has the best binding posts I've ever seen. Solid connection, impossible to over tighten. Best get someone else to help you move this amp around-
    • Sim Neo 260D Transport
    This is my second Sim purchase. Good company, well made CD spinner which these days is used solely as a transport. However, I have listened to CD using the internal DAC and I've used external digital sources, using this as a DAC and was impressed as well. If I did not own my Bricasti M1, I would not use an external DAC with this machine. It really is that good.
    • Bricasti M1 DAC
    An astonishing DAC. While I am not going to say it  sounds "analog" I will say it just sounds like music with no need to make any excuses such as "it sounds good for digital". Fabulous DAC!

    Adjustable filters are subtle but still useful; my preference is for minimum phase 0 or 2. 

    July 2020 addendum- MDx Digital Board installed. Goes from fabulous to OMG fabulous. 
    • Bottlehead SEX 2.1 Headphone amplifier - integrated amplifier
    Home built tubed headphone amp. If you're good with a soldering iron, and your vision isn't shot, fun to build too. My 2nd Bottlehead build, this headphone amp is no longer quite stock. Quiet, liquid, authoritative, versatile too as it can also power high efficiency speakers, but it's clear forte is as a headphone amp. I pair this with HiFiman headphones, and I built this amp in 2015, when my eyesight for this sort of work was definitely better. I'm glad I built it when I did. Great on-line Bottlehead community, all with the blessing of the chief cooks and bottle washers, has helped me make this great amp even better. Definitely benefits from a shielded power cord.

Comments 35

Center
Owner
Hi Jeff- so as a result of your question - digital vs analog, I played an LP I have which I also have as a high resolution download. The LP was warmer, wider soundstage and it digs deeper into the bass region. Maybe all this folks who say a MacBook Pro is a suboptimal way to play back digital files are into something.

zavato

Center
Owner
Hey there Jeff- I think my digital and analog playback, given good quality program source, are both terrific. I have no clear preference of one over the other, however, a friend who is quite familiar with my system has a strong preference for my analog playback. I will tell you, though, digital can produce better very low frequency .  That said, vinyl is awfully fun too- looks like you built a very nice analog front end. Enjoy!!

Nate

zavato

222222&text=fr
@zavato 

I just added a LP system to my digital
( Project Classic, Hana SL, Musical Surroundings Phonomona II+)

Linn was my thought of an end game 

Anyway, Which is better on your system ?   LP or Digital 
Better, bass?, less highs?   Etc

Jeff

frozentundra

Center
Owner
Thank you! The Pass X250.8 with my Revel Studio 2's is a great combination. The X250.8 is a stereo amp so no bi-amping and I don't bi-wire. I have no desire to make any significant changes to my system and it's been that way 5 years now. I'm truly satisfied.

zavato

222222&text=hi
Very nice system Zavato. How do you like the Pass Lab amps with the Revels? Are you bi-amping? Happy listening

highend64

Center
Owner
Thank you for your kind words. It’s definitely a very good system. The center rack is from England- Sound Organisation. The outer racks are both from Solidsteel in Italy. On either side of the Solidsteel racks are some ikea units- Kallax- which store some of my albums

zavato

128x128
Very nice set up, I'm in Envy. Can you tell me who manufactures the audio racks that you are using?

badger_erich

Center
Owner
Hi pdreher- thanks very much. It's a mix of gear made in the 70's, 90's, 00's and 10's that happen to work very well together. If you throw in my Zerostat, the 80's are represented too.

zavato

Center
I like your mix of new and classic vintage gear.  Well done!

pdreher

Center
Owner
Hi Liszt458- thank you! I love my system. There may be better but I really have no desire to explore that. 

Obviously, you have great choice in equipment. I’ve never routed the M1 direct to my amp, but if digital were my only source, I would definitely forego the preamp but as I also listen to vinyl and FM, I do need a preamp or at least a way to switch between sources. 

I’ve owned a number of preamps over the years- Bryson .5b and BP25, CJ17LS2, Pass Aleph P and XP20. The XP20 is the finest pre I’ve ever owned. Next best was the CJ17LS2. 

zavato

222222&text=li
Great system. I have the Pass Labs X150.8 amp as well as the Bricasti M1 DAC, which I connect directly to the amp. It sounds great, but I'm pondering the need for a preamp. I know you have a great preamp, but have you ever tried the DAC/amp direct route? Appreciate any thoughts you can share on the matter. Thanks very much.

liszt458

Center
Owner
Thank you for your kind comments. I don’t listen much to headphones these days, however, when I do, I listen to Hifiman HE560’s

zavato

222222&text=to
Really nice system, love your Pass gear and am sure you get great satisfaction from your setup. What headphones have you settled on with your Bottlehead headphone amp? I have a Pass Labs XA30.5 as a back up amp to my Quicksilver 120 monos that I just can't bring my self to sell in spite of it being to large and heavy that it doesn't fit my rack, just in case my setup changes in the future I will hold on to it. Happy listening.

tooblue

Center
Owner
Thank you Jafant!

zavato

Center
Owner
Hi Iceman-  the rack in the middle is a Sound Organization stand. From England, and I bought it close to 30 years ago. These stands we ubiquitous at Linn dealers decades ago. 

Thanks for the nice comment!

zavato

222222&text=ic
Awesome system!  One quick question: where / what vendor did you get MIDDLE audio rack from?  The ones on the ends say "SolidSteel".  The one in the middle has no visible brand.  What brand is it?  Pls advise & thanks!

iceman_sg

222222&text=ja
Beautiful system!  Happy Listening!

jafant

Center
Owner
Hi Jeff- the Bricasti is the 2nd DAC I’ve owned. I used to have a Wyred4sound DAC. A friend had a Bricasti, and after hearing it decided I wanted the Bricasti. Really didn’t listen to anything else as I simply concluded the Bricasti sounded great, not just “great for digital”.  And yes, the Pass with the Studio 2’s is fabulous. At insane levels, I can get the needle to move, but that last happened when a friend came over and insisted on listening to something at eardrum busting levels. I’ve not made any changes to my gear since buying the Bricasti and have no intent or desire to make any upgrades. I am forever mindful that my cartridge is old and can’t last forever and eventually will go to cartridge heaven. 

Nate 

zavato

222222&text=fr
Z;

The revel studio2 with pass sound great, so far
They get pretty loud and never move the needle 

What's your spin on Dac's?

Bricasti is pretty sweet.
What other Dac's got your to the bricasti?

Jeff

frozentundra

Center
Owner
Thanks wloeb!

zavato

222222&text=wl
Great system !

wloeb

Center
Owner

Thanks Hamr.  If you contact Mark at Reno Hifi, I'm sure he could arrange for an in-home demo for you. I am very satisfied with the Pass electronics.

I've had good gear in the past, and I can say without any doubt the Pass amp, pre-amp and phono stage that I have now are the best I've ever had in each respective category.

zavato

222222&text=ha
Great system! The Pass gear looks interesting. I wish we had a dealer nearby where I could get a loaner to hear it at home.

hamr

Center
Owner
Hi Jeff- can't comment on the newer CJ preamps. The last CJ preamp I ever heard was my 17LS2. The 16 series is excellent too. I don't consider myself a detail guy overall, though detail is important. Ultimately, I found the CJ too much gold. 

I can honestly say I don't think there's anything the 17LS2 did better than my XP20. It has inner detail in spades, but no harshness. It has excellent micro dynamics which gives the music life. In a way, I think the pass is more neutral. 

Plus, the Pass gear has a lower noise floor which I think is important too. 

Bottom line is I am thrilled with my Pass gear. The CJ was quite good, but I also came away feeling I liked Rogue tubed gear better than the CJ gear. 

zavato

222222&text=fr
Z;

I forgot to ask;

You; Being an old CJ fan
How does a CJ Et3 / ET5 compare to the CJ 17

I've never heard the " older" CJ 12, ART, or 17

The general consensus was the 17/16 series was the " Best" 
A perf Ct between CJ golden glow and detail

Jeff

frozentundra

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