Description

Updated early 2020: Merry Christmas to me!  I acquired a demo set of KEF Ref 1 in gloss black. They sound just amazing! Removing the bass from the UniQ makes a tremendous difference. These are significantly better than the LS50s in every way imaginable. I basically don't need the sub any more.

Updated mid to late 2019: The small room experiment was a fail. Even with a full set of GIK room treatments, I couldn't get it where I wanted. So, back up to the end of the bonus room above the garage it goes. You can see some of the room treatments in the new shot. You can also see that I lowered the rack by doubling it up so that it would reduce some reflections from the speakers. Acoustic curtains with another GIK panel hung behind it covers a window and cleans up the imaging. I also doubled up the sheetrock on one of the walls to control sound transmission to a bedroom, and built a DIY sound deadening barrier for the doorway (there is no door to this room). Sounds great, but now I have to share the space with my kids playing video games in the other end of the room!

Original: This is my modest 2-channel only system - aka my relaxation station where I unwind from time to time. It is finally not confined to a corner of an upstair room and gets a new home in our home office space! This is, like everyone else's system, a work in progress, and probably always will be. It's my first 2-channel set up that has not also had to serve home theater duty. I've tried to hit balance points of budget to performance, fully recognizing that better sound can be had. I'm not quite at the point of diminishing returns yet, but aim to find that swing point someday. Many of these pieces have been bought here on Audiogon.

I'm quite enchanted by the imaging and detail from the KEFs, and they pair reasonably well with the Class D amp in the Peachtree. I prefer the tube buffer off on the Peachtree, as it tends toward cleaner sound that way - the exception is on lower quality recordings, where engaging the tube helps smooth things over. The Gumby warms the sound just a bit compared with the Sabre DAC chips in the Peachtree or the Oppo and removes just a bit of glare from the KEFs. In this setup, there are several recordings where the space just expands and the speakers truly disappear. 

For later night listening, the Jot + HE 560s is great. Perhaps a bit is missing on the imaging from the Hifiman, but their spaciousness, neutral tonality, and tremendous bass extension make for some very fun (and long) sessions after the family retires for the evening. The difference between balanced output and single ended output from the Gumby (at least into my Jot and headphones) is not at all subtle and is very much preferred. So, too, is the balanced out on the headamp - there is much more power and "weight" behind the sound.

Wishlist and planned upgrades:

I bought the ACA amp kit to explore pure Class A sound. Unfortunately, the current-hungry KEFs just don't work well with them. BUT, what does come out of the speakers with them is truly natural imaging (maybe not as deep, but certainly wider than the soundstage through the Peachtree), and the speakers melt away into nothingness more often with these amps. I will eventually buy a much more powerful Class A (or at least high bias AB) to push the KEFs properly. Probably something in the Pass XA series or a Parasound JC1 or JC5 or similar would suit.

Mentioned above is that the Gumby sounds better with balanced outs - but my integrated amp does not accept these. To go along with a future amp upgrade, I will explore a preamp with balanced ins as well.

Read more...

Room Details

Dimensions: 22’ × 14’  Medium
Ceiling: 10’


Components Toggle details

    • KEF Reference 1
    "bookshelves" from the KEF reference line. All the imaging of the LS50's and real bass output to go along!
    • REL Acoustics R-218
    Sealed box 10" down-firing sub-bass system with speaker-level inputs. Tight and quick bass, just right for a small room.
    • Peachtree Audio nova220SE
    Do-it all integrated amp in a compact, attractive package. Class A preamp with switchable tube buffer. ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chip built in. 220 watts of Class D power.
    • Schiit Audio Gungnir Multibit
    Best price / performance in the Schiit multi-bit line. Perhaps not the blackest of backgrounds, but a fantastic sense of space and musicality come out of this unit, especially using balanced pre-outs.
    • OPPO UDP-205
    Giant slayer of a disk spinner, with a great ESS Sabre 9038 DAC and streamer built in. Used mostly as a transport and periodic streamer in this rig, but the DAC implementation is also first rate. I was lucky enough to snag one of the last direct sales from Oppo right after they announced they were closing up production. [Thanks goes to my wife for authorizing the snap purchase decision!]
    • DIY Audio Amp Camp Amp (ACA)
    Nelson-Pass designed single ended class A amps. DIY from a kit. Was tons of fun to build and sounds decent too. Can be used as mono-blocks with balanced input, or as paralleled output for more power into lower ohms. Not suited for use with the Ref 1s -the music comes out really flat, even at low levels. Only useful for low level background music at best with these speakers.
    • Schiit Audio Jotunheim
    Hugely powerful headphone amp (amp only - no add-ins/extensions in mine). Sounds just beautiful using the balanced output.
    • HiFi Man HE-560
    Planar magnetic headphones. Neutral and smooth response, and all the bass I could want in an open back headphone.
    • Massdrop Sennheiser HD 6XX
    Massdrop-branded Sennheiser HD650's. Lots of dynamics, good imaging, reasonable detail in the midrange, and a bit of "pop" and "bounce" in acoustic instruments. Probably a little on the warm side, with a touch of the "Sennheiser veil".
    • Furman Elite 15PF
    Basic power conditioning and surge protection with 13 outlets. Some filtering included.
    • Kimber Kable 8TC
    My go-to for speaker cabling. This is an 8ft run per size.
    • Kimber Kable Hero
    Balanced interconnects from DAC to Jotenheim.
    • Kimber Kable PK 10 Ascent
    Upgraded power cable for the Peachtree. Probably overkill for a Class D amp, but was included in my purchase of the integrated amp!
    • Signal Cable Inc. Magic power cable
    Upgraded power cables. Used from Furman to wall, Sub to wall, and Furman to Oppo.
    • Blue Jeans Cable Belden 1694A
    Digital cable from transport to DAC
    • Blue Jeans Cable LC-1
    Balanced cables for DAC to Pass ACA amps.
    • AudioQuest Diamondback
    Single ended interconnects used where balanced connections are not available.
    • Salamander Designs Archetype 5.0 in cherry
    Good looking and adjustable open rack for my gear.
    • Auralex Acoustics Inc. Subdude-II
    Isolation platform for the REL. Bought 1 for the sub in the home theater and found it to level out the bass a bit by virtue of some mild isolation/dampening. Immediately bought more for every sub in the house. This might be the highest price to performance ratio of anything I've ever bought.
    • Pangea Audio DS400
    24" basic speaker stands for the monitors. These are filled with sand, and spiked to the floor. Speakers are "fastened" with a few Bluetac blobs.
    • Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow Closed
    Closed back set of cans for when I want a little more isolation.
    • KEF LS-50
    Uni-Q concentric drivers. Small monitors packed with technology. Imaging champs!

Comments 11

222222&text=aw
Owner
Dan, thanks for the comments on the KEFs. At this point, I'm hoping for years of use out of them. They truly seem to be all I'll need. I will be shopping for upstream upgrades, tho. :)

The massdrop, or now just drop.com refers to a run of the HD650s, purchased special by the massdrop website and then resold I'm batches to consumers. For this one in particular, they made no changes to the sound and drivers, but only a unique color scheme. The call it the HD6XX. For other purchases, they sometimes tinker with the setup, in collaboration with the original manufacturer. Here is a link I hope you find helpful, if it copied correctly.  https://drop.com/buy/massdrop-sennheiser-hd6xx. 

Alex

awaters

128x128
I love the look of your KEFS. I've had a pair of Q 15.2 bookshelves for surrounds, and I've been using a KEF Reference 100 center channel. These 15 year old drivers were cheap back then, but they still amaze me with how good they sound. They match very well with the sound of my main speakers, custom built Tannoy HPDs, which also have the concentric drivers.

I'm trying to figure out what you're referring to with the Sennheiser "Massdrop" 650s. I have an old pair of HD 600s that I'm still very happy with. So, what's the difference in "Massdrop" ?

Enjoy those beautiful KEFs!

Regards,
Dan

Ag insider logo xs@2xislandmandan

222222&text=aw
Owner
I continue to be amazed at the KEK ref 1 speakers. Completely teansformed the sound of this relatively modest setup. At this very moment, I'm grooving to Bill Frisell on East/West. Sound just coming from everywhere. So smooth, so balanced across the frequency  range of what's left of my hearing. Just incredible.

awaters

128x128
Nice set-up!  You and I have similar tastes it would appear.  I had a Nova 220se as well; thats a really good one.  I preferred it over the Nova Pre/220 combo fwiw.

I also had the passive ls 50’s and a Rel T9i on an aurelex subdude.  I also am using Gik Panels!

Anyhow, happy listening and check out my pics as well!

b_limo

222222&text=aw
Owner
thosb, I really sort of backed into the Peachtree. I picked it and the LS50s up used on Audiogon just to get started with this 2 channel system. I needed an all in one DAC + amp setup, and I had read some reviews on pairing Peachtree and LS50s successfully. The 220se has the best preamp of its generation of Peachtree integrateds, and  200+ watts.  I'd read the KEFs are power hungry (and can now definitely attest to that fact), so I pulled the trigger on this particular Peachtree.

awaters

128x128
Nice!  I have always been intrigues by the LS50s but have read amp selection for these is key - how did you pick the Peachtree?

thosb

222222&text=yy
Rush was also my first concert. I think it was the Grace Under Pressure tour in 1982. YYZ stands for Toronto (like LAX for Los Angeles). I am an ex-Toronto transplant now living in Santa Barbara.

You are going to be very happy with the room treatments. My LS50's sound so good now. I also keep my office room door open to add some more volume. 

Since the room sounds so good now I am going to be a little ambitious and try to get a floor stander in there. My current thinking is the Paradigm Persona 3F, Anthem STR preamp (with ARC3 DSP), and Anthem STR amp.

I will keep the LS50's for the TV or bedroom. Just love the LS50's.

yyzsantabarbara

222222&text=aw
Owner
yyzsantabarbara, I do have a GIK room kit on the way already. I expect tri-traps in the corner to level out the bass quite a bit and will also strive to control some early reflections with the panels. I had actually looked at your room before - I did some searching on other LS50 setups to see what folks were doing.

By chance, is "YYZ" in your user name a Rush reference? That was the first band I saw live, quite some years ago, now.

awaters

222222&text=yy
Nice. I have the same speakers in the exact same size office. I recently bought 9  acoustic panels from GIK ($700 + shipping) and the sound improvement was phenomenal. I am using the Peachtree Nova 150 so our systems have a lot in common. You may want to investigate some treatments. My virtual system has some photos of the panels (they are the cheapest and most basic).

yyzsantabarbara

222222&text=aw
Owner
Thanks, bomd. I am excited to hear the real potential of this as the ordered room treatments arrive. I am sure it will make a tremendous difference, and will drive future upgrade priorities.

awaters

222222&text=bo
Great looking system and awesome range of components.

bomd

Displaying all 11 posts