One spring day years ago I wondered into a music store looking for the latest and greatest album at the time. Instead, I was treated to a demonstration of Klipsch K Horns powered by a pair of Mcintosh tube amps playing a piano conerto followed by a musician playing the same piece live. That, my friends is where the journey began.
This has been a pretty large project getting to what you see here. I built my house around the sound room! I also did all the finish work in the sound room myself. The next one will be much easier! It's cost a fair amount of money and gray hair too but I feel it's cheaper than the professional therapy that I would have needed without the vast improvements the sound room has contributed.
If you ever come past Boise, stop by and we'll have a Koolaid and listen to the latest Marcel Marceau record.
My new Magdrive® table. A long time coming but worth it!
Rockport Technologies Lyra
3.5 way speakers
CH Precision M1.1 monoblocks
Nordost Odin 2 wires
Pivoted Linear Tracking arm. Does what other linear tracking arms attempt to do, namely removing lateral loads on the stylus/cantilever!
Lyra Etna SL
CH Precision P1 phonostage and X1 power supply
CH Precision L1 linestage
Used in the monoblock configuration, one box per side
Commonwealth Electronics 12A and 12D idler drive tables
A VERY turntable
Garrard 301 Oil bearing Schedule 2
Shown is one of my new platters for the 301. This table shows me just how much we have NOT advanced as far as turntables are concerned. Much like British sports cars, it has soul as well as a few quirks. A keeper to be sure.
This is one special cart. A legend.
ReQuest THE BEAST
Full meal deal server
CH Precision C1 DAC
Equi=Tech Balanced power unit
250 watt tubed mono block amps. I commissioned David Berning to work his magic into a high powered set of amps that could do it all. In short, he succeded.
Schröder Reference SQ 10
A piece of art
Technics SP-10 MK 3
Mounted in one of my custom plinths. Wish I would found this unit 25 years ago. Would have saved a lot of searching.
EMT 930st, 938, 948 and a 950
German engineering that makes most tables look like Tinker Toys. I have replaced the original tonearms with the Ref and Tri-Planars. These tables are special indeed.
After hearing the VdH Colibri here and in many other rigs, nothing else I have heard would be called "uber dynamic", :). I think the SG is in its own class for sound.
No doubt, you will find the SG cart interesting. I found it to be relatively honest, fast (in fact very fast), detailed from top to bottom and eerily quiet in the grooves with the optimized line contact stylus set at the correct SRA and zenith. The top end can be a little abrasive at times. Maybe a little too much energy there for some recordings. Like some other designs, the OLC stylus is not happy unless set up exactly in its sweet spot. When it is there, the sound just snaps into place. It is either right or wrong, no in between. The standard stylus is a little more forgiving but still demands perfect set up. I think a lot of SG listeners/users did not care for the SG because they were not able to get the set up optimized.
I have had and still have a number of modded Denon carts. They can be quite good and a great value. They do commit quite a few sins of omission. When you have such good speakers as you do, why would not want to hear everything in the grooves? I doubt I ever listen to a Denon 103 again in my rig though. There are just too many better carts. As Shakespeare said, "life is too short for a mediocre cartridge", or was that my buddy Lugnut...not sure.
I have also owned the Orpheus. Don't know if I would call it boring but I think I know what you mean. A little slow on the uptake. Long story short, the Orpheus is gone and it has not been missed. I will be curious about how you compare the Titan to the SG. Have you heard the Titan in your rig?
Thanks guys. The Mk 3 and the 950 EMTs before that have been real eye openers. They showed me how good a direct drive table could be. If there would have been an decent supply of MK 3s, I would have not had to spend all the time, money and effort developing the KODO table. It has worked out very well though since The Beat has exceeded all expectations. I could not agree more about the Olympos cartridge. It is one of the best to my ears. It also mates exceptionally well with a Schroder Ref SQ. That combination was one of several used to develop The Beat. The pair are very revealing without being clinical or dry.
Aaron, Saying the Strain Gauge beats all of these fine carts would be a personal opinion and one that not everyone would agree. The Lyra Olympos still holds my utmost respect. There is another cart I have been using for the last few months, an Allnic Verito, and it is stellar as well. What everyone that has heard the shootouts in my system would agree on is that the SG is certainly in the same league. I should mention that I think the optomized line contact stylus is a must for best results. It digs out a great deal of information and is almost dead silent when set up correctly. The key of course, IS setting the SG up correctly. It takes time and a good ear. Azimuth and VTA have almost no room for error.
I do find the best and cleanest sound comes from running the SS phono/pre directly into the amps. No question there. The SS pre has a 10db gain when used in the variable output mode. My guess and it is a guess is that you would have enough volume but MAY lose some leading edge dynamics if you use a passive volume control such as the Placette. I don't have a way to try this for you.
There has been a lot of gear go through my system over the last few years. Three or four stand out as defining the meaning of big. The Strain Gauge certainly is big. Speed or the ease with which the music flows is startling. This cart makes most other carts sound compressed. Bass has weight and is controlled. Top to bottom, this piece imparts a life like energy to the music that my other carts fail to match. This may very well be the finest cartridge I have heard, and by a large margin.
I have not spent much time using CDs to compare the linestage but so far, I like it. There are dynamics and sparkle that take you to the event. We have tried the phono section directly to the amps and through several preamps. So far it sounds much more transparent direct to the amps. If someone doesn't beat me to it, I will post a full review after I spend more time listening.
Thanks JT. It sounds pretty darn good too. I have been talked into building a couple of these for others. Everybody seems quite happy with the sound as well as the looks. One key is to put a very good arm and cart with it. Fun stuff!
I built the rack myself. Wood working is one of my hobbies. It uses Bubinga for the sides and heavy stair step material for the shelves. I use it for my heavy rotation LPs. It has three shelf levels. It is designed to hold 500 LPs but I only have about 300 records in it at the moment. Been very handy. I really like stacking the LPs face forwad. Makes finding the desired record a breeze! Most of the other LPs are located in the back shelves and a spare bedroom.
Exlibris, have not heard the EMT yet but I just received a preamp made by a German engineer that was suggested by someone in whom I have alot of faith. My CDs have never sounded better but while the phono section has real potential soundwise, I can't get it quiet enough. I will keep working on it. Meanwhile, still waiting on David Berning's latest preamp creation.
Congrats on what reads to be quite a rig you have put together for yourself.
It has been a fun and educational trip to get here. Have a few new items in the works. David Berning is building a new full function preamp for me that should have everything that I have on my wish list. Been playing around with a few different cables too. A Strain Gauge Cartridge System from Soundsmith will join the rig in the next few months also.
Thanks Chris. I did have the 9011's in my room. If I had not heard the 111e's powered by the ZH-270 Bernings, I would have opted for the MBL's as they were head and shoulders above any other SS amp I have heard. As to your question about my vinyl rig being better than my digital...no contest really. I tend to warm guests up with a CD or two before we get serious. While the CD sound is VERY nice and visitors seem to rave about it, when the stylus touches the wax, it is difficult to return to the CD front end. Not surprising that the Meitner spanks the Basis/Koetsu Black. I don't want to offend, but you can do MUCH better than your current TT/cart without spending a CEO's ransom. Email direct if you care to discuss this topic further. As always, my opinions will be worth every bit as much as they cost.
Dgad, how many people would like to have your problem? Which great cart to add to your stable? You do have a Schröder do you not? I can't keep track, sorry. Again, for me anyway, the Lyra Olympos is the clear winner to these ears when mounted to a medium mass arm like most of us have. I did recently hear a Koetsu Tiger Eye in a direct shootout and several people prefered the Tiger Eye over the Olympos. The Lyra is MUCH more neutral yet very dynamic, pulls out so much detail from the LP you just keep shaking your head and is just plain fun! Compared to the UNIverse for example, the Olympos has much more body or what I would call resonance to the note, most noted in piano, guitar and double bass. No listener fatigue at all. The Tiger Eye polishes the sound as Koetsu tends to do. No criticism intended. To call it warm would be misleading. It too is quite detailed but it does embellish, which will please some. I think most of the guests I have over would prefer the Tiger Eye on first listen. They tend not to appreciate the bite of a Zildjian or the edge of Wynton's trumpet.
Ready, there is a cart that, for me, is even more fun than the Olympos. The Soundsmith's Strain Gauge. After hearing this high compliance wonder next to the Tiger Eye, UNIverse, Olympos, etc., this puppy just sounds more like live music than any other cart I have heard by more than a small margin! I hope to arrange a way to put this unit in my system soon before I make this commitment because it will require a low mass arm, room for another preamp and another $2000 IC. As it stands now, I will keep the Olympos, sell the others and add the Strain Gauge. It is that good...really.
System edited: Once upon a time, I asked David Berning to build the best high powered amps he could possible imagine. It took almost two years to develop and refine the quadrature technology that allowed these amps to come alive. And alive they are! There was a long list of requirements. Cool running, dependable,fast,quiet, and be able to power any speaker to name a few demands. They also had to deliver all the low level detail that a LP groove or CD pit had embedded. They had to have the chest thumping impact of the big MBL 9011's. I would not settle for any less finesse than I was getting from the ZH270 amps. They had to make me want to stay up all night to listen to music. Tall order. Long story short, these marvels are everything I asked for and more. BRAVO Dave...BRAVO!
Kozzmo, by all means, get the Lenco out and have some fun.
Dgad, Aruba sounds great!
As far as the UNIverse and the SQ goes, on paper it may come in low but on an Ortofon test record, I get close to 10hz on both lateral and verical planes. It sounds VERY good, and tracks great. I have a heavier brass headshell that I will try later but have no desire to mess with it at this time. BTW, I get excellent dynamics with the ZYX although the EMT table has much to do with the great dynamics.
My phono stage is the weak link in my system. I have had six phono stages in my system over the last year and a half. I am getting closer to what I want but not there yet. I agree with everyone that say the phono is as important as anything in the chain. Maybe I can get Raul up to Idaho for demo number seven,LOL.
Oregon, come on over anytime, its not that far.
The Lencos are very sensitive to feet. I played with everything from Stillpoints to brass feet. The best sound I got came from 3/4" birch ply cut on edge so the grain was veritcal. The stand basically looked like a 10"X12" picture frame. The picture frame seemed to anchor the TT to my four inch thick piece of cocobolo sitting on a sand box filled with lead shot. Made the plinth act like a much heavier unit. Another tip, don't leave any square corners on your plinth. The square or right angles harbour energy.
Yes, there have been some interesting changes in my rig, at least on analog, over the last two years. The EMT tables being the latest eye openers. You are more than welcome to show up at the front door when you have the time. All I ask is that you introduce me to some of your favorite recordings.
The SQ is very special indeed. The old Reference I have does not have the resolution that the SQ has. The new cyroed Nordost wire might have quite a bit to do with this. The SQ also adds a bit more body to each note, with percussion/piano most noticeable. The wait WAS worth it.
I seem to be alone on the XV-1s vs the UNIVerse. I prefer the Dyna to the ZYX in most of my listening. It does have a broader or more forgiving sweet spot than the UNI so it needs tweaked less. I like that too. The ZYX might be more accurate and true overall but the XV-1s just makes listening so much fun IMHO. I would hate to have to make a choice in any case and consider myself lucky to own both.
I am able to use the MM input with the XV-1s and use the 60db gain setting, no problem. The UNIverse needs the 65db gain setting. Have you tried this at home?
Hi David, Thanks for the compliment. After several long experiments, I ended up using six layers of Baltic Birch ply and one 1/8 inch sheet of aluminum for the plinth. It has numerous wells drilled in the lower four layers that have lead shot installed. There are threaded 1/4 inch set screws under each well so the amount of lead shot can be adjusted for different applications. Too much lead kills the sound but when you get it right, you know it. The opening in each layer fits very close to the Lenco's workings. The less open space the better. I did not care for the looks of the Lenco top plate and it also limited tonearm use. I cut it off, problems solved. People that have seen it have no idea that this is a thirty year old table. They have thought it was some new unit that I had just bought. I also incorperated an on/off switch into the speed control arm. The idler wheel is automaticly disengaged when the table is turned off. No on/off switch under to the cartridge. What was someone smoking when they designed that? The footer or feet REALLY change this TT's sound. I have tried many different approaches. Brass points, Stillpoints, tennis balls and different types of wooden frames. I have built two of these tables for others and each needed different support systems, but they ended up with the same sound. YMMV
G'day Shane, sorry that I did not see your question earlier, been a little busy. I bought the Steelhead and sold the Grange, if that says anything. Stock vs stock, the Grange had the better phonostage. It had a deeper soundstage, and was VERY dynamic. It also had problems with tube microphonics. Stock or NOS tubes really did not change this problem. I even sent the stock tubes to Supratek for testing. It was a very noisy preamp! A friend has the same issues with his Grange. Mick blamed my Berning amps as having too high gain. I still question that reasoning. I think it more likely that the Grange has too much gain and unlike the Syrah, has no gain reduction switch. In any case, it did play nice with the rest of my toys. I then auditioned five pre's and the Steelhead won out. I must add that the Steelhead needs better tubes to beat the competition it faced. The Steelhead has excellent dynamics although not quite as good as the Grange's, is also smooth, offers great detail and very little coloration. The Steelhead also runs fairly cool. I still think the Grange's phono stage would have been the best I have heard (only after quality NOS 6922's) by a slight margin IF the noise issues could have been resolved. I love dynamics. However, given the noise, I could not live with the Grange. The Steelhead is VERY quiet, in fact it is on par with the X-ONO and Sutherland, and delivers more small scale detail than any of the others. The Grange had a slightly better soundstage and dynamics. The Steelhead offered better definition of each instrument on the stage and is just downright enjoyable. Tradeoffs. With NOS tubes, the Steelhead is very good. I will also say that I run my MC through the MM circuit to bypass the transformers used in the MC side. I hope my rambling thoughts help.
Thanks Briz, how long have you had your Lagrange? I have had mine up and running for only two weeks now. So far, I couldn't be more pleased with the sound being generated by the TT/arm/cart combos. I am trying a Brinkmann 10.5 arm along with the Triplanar. I have a Schroder Ref coming soon. I am in the process of getting a Lyra Parnassus converted into an Olympos. That will go on the Schroder 10.5" arm. I am also playing with different drive belts. A mylar tape seems to give a little more intial dynamics. More testing is in order. As far as the Steelhead goes, nothing that I have had in my system has bested it but I will keep trying. As good as the Steelead is, it might be the weak link in my chain now. Preamps tested in my system include a Pass X-ONO, TAG, Rhea, Groove Plus, Supratek Syrahs and a new Grange with the latest caps and updates. I will have to try a darTZeel soon and David Berning has a trick full function preamp coming out soon that sounds VERY exciting! If you get serious about a Steelhead, make sure you save a few bucks for tubes. They made a big difference in my system.
System edited: OK, I think everything is updated for now...the system is really sounding great. Replacing the DCC2 line stage with the line stage in the Steelhead has let me listen to CD's again. The DCC2 was just a little too clinical after listening to vinyl. A new TT will be the next order of business. As good as the Teres 265 is,I do feel it is the weak link in my system at this time. Your thoughts on my rig are always welcome.
Fplanner, as you have surely found by now, the Stereovox site is at www.stereovox.com. Not the best site I have ever seen but if you want some straight answers call Alan at 902-634-3669. He is a dealer for the cables but will give you the facts with only the slightest bit of salesmanship. There is an entry level Stereovox cable now that I have heard is VERY impressive. Might be worth a phone call. The Stereovox cables sure did some magic for my setup.
Thanks Cal, The amps have had internal wiring mods done by David Berning when the amps were built. They also have the ERS installed. I made the Bubinga wood built in stands that replaced the thin aluminum cover/Stillpoints. The original cover vibrates and should be upgraded in all Berning amps. The Stillpoints are nice, but they could not make up for the harmonics created by the vented aluminum top and side cover. This stand/case also gave the amp a little more weight and control of all percussion instruments including piano. I am going to experiment with lead shot dampening in the Bubinga wood sides. I am learning from Chris Brady of Teres fame that lead and Bubinga work very well together. Allan Bhagan developed these internal mods and he deserves alot of credit for taking the Bernings to another level of performance. I owned a stock Berning and while it was very nice, the modded Bernings are really a different amp as far as sound goes. Dynamics, tighter bass and cleaner cymbals are just some of the benefits of these changes. Allan has come up with a second set of mods that I will be getting very soon. This mod involves more wiring upgrades and some special caps. I also run a compliment of NOS/cyroed tubes that work well together. I will be getiing a set of MBL 9008 amps to try in the next few weeks while the Bernings are away to finishing school. I have heard the 9011's with my speakers and if the 9008s are anywhere close to the 9011s, I may have a decision to make...
Hi everyone, Pat mentioned to me today there has been a few questions posted and I should crawl out of my cave and respond. Slipknot, I think Pat has answered the amp question. When I made the decision to buy the MBLs, I was sure I would have to buy new amps also. The test with the Krell FPB600 proved my latest position that more rated wattage is not the answer, (there was not even an improvement in the bass with the Krell!)strong current and the right cables would take me where I wanted to go. The Bernings are putting out 140 watts a side,but more importantly, they have the current needed to run these MBLs. I think I could weld with these things... The MBLs are breaking in and with the Berings, they are just amazing! Any music at any listening level so far has been reproduced as well as I have ever heard. I will write a review in the near future. Art, my preamp saga continues. I put a TAG (technik avant garde from Dr. Loesch and Harry Paller)preamp in the system the other day after a member suggested it and was let down. The TAG was great on the bottom end but the mids and highs lost their magic. Soundstage shrank, weight and fullness of the notes took a vacation. The Supratek is back from Dave Evans' and it is an improvement over the DCC2/Pass X-ONO. Not major in my opinion, but better bass and attack than the DCC2/Pass. Pat has the Supratek now so life goes on with the DCC2/Pass.I have a Supratek Grange on order but who knows when that will show up. I heard Cello's new Grange before being fully burned in, I can tell it would be a great preamp for my tastes. We put a set of Stereovox Speaker cables in the system and that made a bigger improvement than of that made by the Supratek. Very impressive cables.Bass performance was the biggest surprise with these cables but the mids and highs gave us more detail as well as an added "rightness" to the music. No edge whatsoever, but VERY dynamic. Pat, feel free to chime in here and relay your thoughts on the Stereovox cables, I don't want to keep Sara Vaughn waitng any longer...
System edited: After taking the Merlin MXs about as far a I could in my room, I started looking for the next addition to the family. It took two years to find, but the MBL 111Es have given my system a solid foundation to start my next session of fine tuning. Without any tweaking of any kind, the MBLs were significantly better with a much fuller and realistic sound than the Merlins right out of the box and the Merlins were VERY good. I am surprised that the Berning amps are doing an amazing job of running these 4 ohm speakers. A good friend brought over his 180 pound FBP-600 Krell and it fell on its face when compared to the Bernings. We both were quite surprised by the results of this comparison. The Krell did add a little more weight to the lower end but not as much I as I had hoped. The mids on up lost the magic and articulation that the Bernings are famous for. The search continues...
Hi Will, come on out and we will fire things up any time you want. I would really like to hear the stereovox cables. Allan has tried his best to get me to buy a some but the $$$$$ and I am quite happy with the RSA's. I am afaid that for that kind of money, I would have to audition before I buy. PS, good memory on the CD! Its been a few years since you said you would send one:)
Larry, the DAC6e does convert Redbook to DSD. The DACs in both EMM Labs units are supposed to do the same thing sonicly but that is a test for later. I have both units as I write this. I will do this comparison soon. One has to go! My number is 208-375-5958 if you would like to share your thoughts on the different Supratek preamps. I would enjoy that conversation.
Ampster, thanks and you are so right, the right room lets you hear EVERYTHING in the system, right OR wrong! I have some of both.
Spencer, thank you too for the nice words. I hope you get where you want to be with your system sooner than it took me. It took me 25 years.
Larry, thanks again for the praise. I don't to start any fights here, but there is no comparison between the dcc2 pre and the Syrah. The pre in the Syrah is the hands down winner over the dcc2 pre. And let me say the pre in the dcc2 is VERY good. The Syrah is just smoother and somewhat fuller in sound. This just not my opinion. Lugnut has heard the same thing. I have heard the EMC-1 CDP and while it is very nice, the EMM set up is SOOOOO much smoother and detailed at the same time. Really in another league. I have heard many upper end CDPs with the exception of DCS and Boulder. My CD sound is better than most vinyl systems. It takes a very well set up vinyl system to sound better. Ask Lugnut who is all vinyl. I would suggest that you save a bunch of money and buy a DAC6e for about half the price of a dcc2 and use your Supratek as the pre. You will have the best digital sound and save a bunch of money. I am about to pull the trigger on ordering a Cortese since I like the Supratek magic. Do you think I should go all the way and get the Grange? I guess you must since you are ordering a Grange for yourself. Do you know the differences between the Grange and Cortese sound?
System edited: I have been pondering what to do about adding weight to the Bernings for quite some time. They needed to be anchored to the floor but at ten pounds...impossible IMHO. The aluminum perforated cover was part of the problem too. I could not keep the covers quiet. Now they are gone. This has made a nice improvement to bass and even more body to the instruments. I LIKE IT!
Hi guys, thanks for the nice words! I have to agree with Patrick, the sound I am getting right now has made all the hard work and $$$ worth it. I know there is more to be had with tweeking and cables, but right now I don't think about what needs to be improved anymore. The system is in harmony with the room and there seems to be nothing bothering me about the music now. I just have to stop staying up until two in the morning listening to music. Maybe I need to put my bed in the sound room? What would that do to my sound stage...Um. To quote Uncle Larry "its a sick and I'm a happy guy" Anyone visiting this neck of the woods, there are a couple of spare rooms you are welcome to use, but from what Pat says,Doug, you need to bring your own sheets.
System edited: The new sound is VERY smooth,full,smooth,dynamic,smooth,detailed,SMOOTH and a pure joy to listen to, even if I do say so myself. I know that experimenting with cables will let me get that last bit from this.
System edited: The DCC2 now has about 300 hours on it and it is really getting my attention. As good as the Supratek is, the detail, speed and SMOOTHNESS with the new combination has me shaking my head in amazement. The Supratek might stay in the system as a phono stage...but I will probably start looking for a seperate phono just for fun. Any suggestions? Steve
Hi Dean and Ray, thanks very much for your kind words! Yes, Pat is building a great looking, rock solid stand for my equipment and I just picked up a four inch thick piece of Babinga wood for the top shelf that will hold the Teres and transport. Chris (from Teres) wants solid...Chris will get solid. I can hardly wait for the listening debut. I will post the updates soon. Yes Dean, Pat would put a Whipple on everything if I let him. Salmonella lollipops???? Do you lie awake at night and think up this stuff? A warped sense of humor is a terrible thing to waste. Thanks for sharing. Ellery and Marco, well the caffine and damp climate have taken their toll is all I can assume,lol. Anybody with that kind of wit is OK in my book!
Thanks for all the kind words...except for you Marco. Just kidding Marco, I think you gave me your highest praise. You say "bum" like its a bad thing. To be more bum like is one of my quests in life! Dolphin, I have about $850 in material in all six wood columns. Rives called for hardwood facing so the best value here in Boise was knotty alder.(Warrenh-its safe, your picture is out of the Post Office now so come back out and see us!) I would have loved to use tiger wood but....$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Stehno, intense is a word I have heard to describe this room before, thanks. Jond, chicks do seem to dig this room and so does my parole officer.( glad to be single if you had not figured that out yet) I do prefer to think it is my charm that gets them, should we say, comfortable? Howard, good eye, that is cork on the floor. Rives wanted a Pergo type floor over concrete but I can't stand the hollow sound. I also can't believe that I could get a good anchor to the floor with my stands because Pergo is a floating system. I am very happy with the cork. Reflects like wood but much more comfortable on my feet. It also doesn't give my girl friend that nasty rug burn she used to get with the orange shag carpting I had in the old room. Lugnut, great guy. Pat took most of the pictures for this post. If it weren't for Pat, I would never have gotten around to posting my system. Thanks for all the help!