Description

This is a collection of equipment (note how I dont call it a system!), the purpose of which was for me to sample as much as possible prior to settling down to equipment I can use in a final room I am building with Rives. Needless to say, I ended up getting deeper and deeper in this, learning that reviews are typically falwed because (i) reviewers have specific motives, (ii) they dont generally have very good systems, and (iii) no system is perfect and therefore personal preferences matter a lot.

The room is by no means great but it is custom designed and measured. It works quite well, even though these speakers need more room to breathe.

Happy to answer questions about my experience with all this equipment, all of which is quite excellent in its own way. I have some on order which I will add when the time comes.

Other equipment I have owned include:

-Tenor 300hp

-MBL 9011 monos

-MBL 6010D preamp

-VTL 7.5 mk i and ii

-Audio Research Ref 3 preamp

-BAT 75se

-Other

UPDATE: Moved to new room, much more spacious and finally allowing me to sit within the prescribed distance for driver integration. Also, I cleaned up somewhat the amp list: I now use the Wavac 833 mkii (4 box) and for solid state the Class A Gryphon Colosseum Solos. Added to the preamps is the Soulution. All cables are Jorma Prime including an 8m length xlr. Power cords being changed all to Valhalla. Here you also see an attempt to test the continuum turntable through a wavac phono. The sound of the system has ameliorated appreciably and it is now starting to be a system after all. Very happy with it.
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Components Toggle details

    • Accuphase DP800
    SACD Transport
    • Accuphase DC801
    Precision DAC
    • Wavac PRT1
    Linestage preamp
    • Krell Two
    4 box preamplifier
    • Vitus Audio SL101
    SS Preamplifier
    • Gryphon Mirage
    Preamplifier
    • Lyra Connoisseur 4.2L
    Preamplifier
    • DartZeel Preamplifier
    Solid State
    • EMM Labs CDSA
    SACD Player
    • Accuphase DG38
    Digital Equalizer
    • Kaleidescape Hard Disk Server
    CD/DVD Player
    • Vitus Audio SM 101
    Class A Amplifier
    • Goldmund Telos 2500
    Mono Amplifiers
    • Krell One
    Class A Amplifiers
    • FM Acoustics Resolution 411
    Stereo Amplifier
    • WAVAC HE 833 v 1.3
    150W SET Amplifiers
    • DartZeel Model B
    Stereo Amplifier
    • Nordost Valhalla
    XLRs and Speaker Cables
    • Jorma Prime
    XLRs and Speaker Cables
    • Isoclean Various
    Conditioners and Tranformers
    • Finite Elemente Master Reference
    Racks
    • Gryphon Poseidon
    4 Tower Speakers
    • Escalante Freemont
    Speakers
    • Velodyne DD 18
    Self Powered Sub
    • Gryphon Mirage
    • Gryphon Colosseum Solo
    • DCS Scarlatti Clock, Upsampler, DAC
    • My Sonic Lab Ultra Eminent BC
    with Lyra, MSL, Kondo stepups
    • Goldmund PH3 Phono
    • Jorma Prime
    XLR, Power, RCAs
    • Nordost Odin
    RCA
    • Apple MacBook Pro 15
    Hi Res audio
    • Burmester Audio 948
    Power Conditioner Also Isoclean, PS Audio, Purepower and Isotek

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222222&text=mi
Owner
Oh they have to be deaf to not hear the difference. It is substantial. Dynamics improve somewhat but what is the main difference is a completely different level of resolution, imaging, depth, noise floor and overall believability of the sound you hear. It isnt subtle and doesnt require critical listening to be heard. I would say the equivalent of the v1.3 is the preamp PRT1 but with the mkii you can try the PRT1 but play around with others like Ypsilon to take advantage of the capability of the amp. Power supplies tend to be very important in such designs and that is the main difference between these two models.
Having said that, I think the 1.3 is the best value for money wavac offers. you get 150W of SET power and a good taste for what the bigger models can do.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hi,
You may get this answer twice Dev.
I had the Kagura at home. I prefer the wavac. It has more control across the full range and therefore controls most speakers better. The Kagura may have the last word on resolution and it did sound good. It didnt sound great but I blame this to the fact that they only left them for one day so by the time we got them right was late...
Overall though the wavacs are more impressive looking, more impressive sounding and offer more versatility with speakers. They produce more heat due to the big 833 tube but frankly a fully biased class a transistor amp will produce more. I think that wavac preamp isnt of the level of the amp but that is another story...
I may sell the wavac by the way and not buy the kagura. I have become a vitus convert :)

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hey Christo
Had some fun at Munich with friends. The journey continues!
To answer your questions:
(1) Great. Vitus keeps refining his equipment, offers these changes to his customers, and is moving incrementally towards what I think is the right direction. Its the best equipment I know and its main focus is to increase transparency to tube levels. The latest changes to the Master series (modular) are a great step towards that direction. So color me impressed and a fan
(2) the supremes I are just terrific. Broken in, the ceramic sound signature that I have always been concerned on other speakers is gone. Transparency is terrific, low end close to best, and imaging, dynamics etc top notch. Easy to drive too. I did hear the new low end woofers they put on the supreme II and the new coltrane. They are more crisp and dynamic than anything I have heard. Question is whether they are a bit on the dry side and I cant tell until I have heard them properly broken in. The potential is there
(3) plenty. Great gear. Better than almost all tubes in my opinion. Very detailed sound, very liquid. Imaging however is not top notch and to me that is fundamental. I hope they figure that out. The analogy I would make is that Vitus sounds more like an orchestra playing in a great hall whereas ypsilon is the sound you get from a small jazz band 3 meters away from it. I am exaggerating a bit obviously but you get the picture
(4) I am no longer owner of any Gryphon gear. The Mirage was an excellent preamp and I personally also liked its design looks. It should work well with your amps

Very impressed by Goebel speakers in Munich. Something quite different and possibly amazing!

Take care.
M.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hi Czarivey.

I very much wish that you were correct because instead of spending hours connecting cables and aligning cartridges, I would rather listen to the music. Unfortunately, however, the exact reverse is true.

Irrespective of budget, what we all look for is a commensurate performance for our investment. If you have been involved in any construction, especially in countries with lack of expertise, you will know that it is a very cumbersome, difficult and often frustrating process. In fact my experience has been that as my budget has increased through the years, it has become harder and harder to get increases in performance since there is a well known law of diminishing returns which in high end is very prevalent. Not to mention that the more we allocate to spending in audio, the more we lose patience with the imperfections of equipment, "experts", etc. Finally, the more resolving a system, the greater the differences you can hear in all upstream equipment (the theory that the most high end stuff sounds the same is very incorrect.) So you end up having to make very careful choices to achieve the results you aim for.

I therefore do wish that my experience matched your comment. Unfortunately, connecting my cj mv55 to $500 b&w speakers and a sony sacd via stock copper cables was a much easier process.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
System edited: Just adding one pic of the new room as requested. There is about 1.5m behind the screen and red wall around it. Screen and wall are acoustically transparent and the equipment is both behind that and also in an isolated mechanical room which is in the spot where the picture was taken from. Continuum etc in the back of the room behind the picture taking location.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hi Chris. I ll post a couple of pictures. We are now in the new room with a fair amount of changes. The equipment is still continuum but now all amplification is from vitus master reference phono, pre and amps. I traded in my beloved gryphon poseidons for the much better marten Coltrane supremes (the version I with the four towers since we have a dedicated room and the vitus Amos produce two signals per side.) and on the digital side I use MSB diamond driven by the aurender w20 server. The room sounds wonderful and it is combined with a separate surround system which is built around Macintosh xrt28s and four raised JL 212 subs.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Pradeep, I have heard that they are slow to find. No issue w getting them but it may take some time. I had found a dealer here in Asia who had them for non audio purposes but we matched them carefully. They are not complicated tubes and generally perform fairly uniformly. I think there is one other brand now using them so I wouldnt worry too much about access to them, at least not as far as I know.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hi Bigpond, I do think the Continuum is the best out there. There are also some upgrades one can do with non continuum people. Having said that, I have no idea what support the company can really offer. Can they even produce any at this point and at what pricepoint. IT makes the existing ones all the more rare and unique. Yes, all the issues were resolved.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Audioblazer, I used to play the poseidons in a considerably smaller room and in less distance than the recommended 5 meters from the listening position. Yes I was not taking advantage of everything they are capable of but they were still great performers. In this new room obviously it is at a completely different level. The transparency, width etc are just out of this world. The size is actually and unfortunately necessary to deal with frequencies below 30-40hz.

Sunnyboy,I had the 1.3 and they are great "value for money" as you get a great SET with 150W. The model I have now is at another price point and it sounds different. The resulution goes up. The transparency also. Importantly it is more quiet. The big wavacs I believe are in the very short list of best amps in the world.

Now I am using Vitus Masterpiece amps and preamps and phono. First time without a single tube in the chain. I am sure I ll get over it soon....

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hi, it is about 8m wide and 11m long with 4m ceilings. the 8m is before acoustic treatments so usable is more like 7 or less. the poseidon tweeters need to be ideally 4 meters from eachother, or maybe more. the subs are supposed to go inside but for now i am getting better results this way.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hi, I will post pics in January but we are almost done. I have now replaced all amps with the vitus masterpiece series, including the speaker amps. There are sonic reasons vs my otherwise cherished wavacs but also practicality issues w tubes behind a video screen etc. I tend to get many emails from you regarding the equipment so I will try to describe these changes in more detail after the holidays.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
I haven't heard it yet although they offered to demonstrate it. I will sell my Scarlatti and I am going with msb. One power cord, very smooth sounding, at this level it is more about taste. Ch precision also was very good.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Kevin, the shape of the ceiling itself is very diffusive and therefore it doesnt require the usual and ugly looking diffusers that you often see in audio rooms.
I dont remember ever having a Lavry DAC. My favorite now is probably the MSB and possibly CH Precision.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hi guys, have been traveling for a while now. The room is almost done and I will try to post pictures soon. Some answers to your questions:
-subs: no I now have 4 JL Audio 212 Fathom, in each corner of the room, for the video system. Surrounds are McIntosh xrt28. Lets say that at 25% of their power they can be heard on the third floor. Just phenomenal power and dynamics. For the two channel system the Gryphon subs are outstanding. I may try at some point to cross the JLs in at say around 35hz and hear them out
-I have not heard the new Gryphon speakers. I am generally a bit skeptical of ribbons which sound great but usually are a bit hot. But Gryphon knows how to make great speakers so they ll be worth a listen, I am sure. I dont think I will change, I have spent too much time getting things just right and the new room is very transparent anyway
-the ceiling is quite diffusive.It is also full of absorptive material above what you see, and painted with various special visco elastic materials which I dont fully follow but are supposed to minimize vibrations. The whole thing is effectively suspended. But the main effect is diffusion and looks. Usually diffusion looks like crap

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Yes it looks cool but what a pain it has been! Unfortunately building standards of contractors in singapore are not great. A good part of what you see in these pics is not compliant with the Rives specs so I am having them redo a good portion and insisted this time on a specialist subcontractor who knows what they are doing. Having said that it has been an interesting process and certainly enjoyable at times...We ll see. Or we ll hear!

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
System edited: Posting some pics from the dedicated audio room being built. Rives designed it. It is about 90 square meters with 3.5-4m ceilings. Priority of design was 2 channel but we will include screen (curved, 3D) and surrounds. Surrounds include XRT28 Mcintosh and subs are 4 x Fathom 212 by JL Audio. All subs including Gryphon's are sealed design.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
I have been using the Master Reference pre and phono for the last 10 days or so and can report on my initial impressions. The table is not yet run balanced into the phono but everything else is.

In general I can say that Fremmer got it right in his review of the phono. If you haven't read it and are interested to learn about this equipment i think it is very accurate. I would however note that I feel that way more about the preamp. I still have some playing around to do with the phono before I can be equally sure.

So this is without doubt the best ss preamp I ve had in the system and probably the best preamp period. As I said earlier, read the Fremmer report on the phono as I agree w the comments. Some of mine:

Bass control: this is an area I can assess well because my speakers are self powered below 300hz so any other system changes don't matter. This preamp's control of the bass is just amazing. I am a big fan of tight controlled bass and I only like speakers with closed enclosures for the bass. Well this combination is phenomenal. I have not heard anything like it from any of the many preamps I ve had here. It is like the preamp is in complete control and this control is then empowering the amps to manage the speaker. Just top notch.

Low noise floor: its measurements are ok, not amazing, but again in my system this is the quietest I ve heard a component. It provides a very silent base from which music can emerge. Combined with the spectacular bass control, the music is based on a completely different low end information set which is very important in how we perceive the rest.

Imaging/depth: this is all great again but the thing that one notices as unique is that instruments and voices are delineated with a clarity that I have not heard before. It is not the holographic imaging Goldmunds often bring to the table. This is better because it is "softer" and more real sounding. The proper air and ambience is maintained but there is nothing else around the instruments. That allows them to be places accurately where the recording has them (irrespective of whether that method of recording engineering is true music or not) and the result is a truthfulness that I have not heard before.

No edge: I don't know how to describe this. Vitus equipment has this characteristic in general but this Master version takes it to another level when combined with its spectacular resolution: any "edge" or harshness in recordings just goes away. I have only heard this from equipment that tends to reduce the information available. But here this is achieved paradoxically via great resolution. I do think this must be to some extent a sonic characteristic of the preamp but I can't assert it is that because after a lot of listening I find the sound to be much more believable. If this was some coloration it would over time have become obvious.

I am not commenting on other things like resolution, dynamics etc. These are top notch as you should expect from this sort of crazy price and I have heard them also in other top end equipment.

So when you put it all together what do you get? I ll say this: I regularly have moments when, with my eyes closed, I feel that I am at the live venue. You would say that this is the case with a lot of equipment. But here is the difference: I feel that with large orchestra, opera and other very complex music which very very rarely can be recorded at that level. Here, I get this all the time, I feel like I am at the opera listening live. It is quite phenomenal after all these years of listening to have this impression heightened to this extent. And to add to this: I get all this also with plenty of CDs. I had almost given up on them, stopped listening to anything that was not high resolution or LP. But with this preamp I have gone back to 2000 CDs and I am listening to them for their music and performance. The recordings may not always be the best but via this preamp they become more than acceptable and the feeling of "being there" is achieved also under these recordings. That is spectacular and very important as it is opening up again the list of options in musical choices. (note all is played via hard disks-thunderbolt-amarra-macbook air set up)

A couple of things to note. First, all this is happening with the Gryphon Colosseum Solos as amps. Therefore the amps are capable of this resolution and performance when fed the right signal. My previous reference the Gryphon Mirage preamp is obviously not. It is a great preamp but it is not a Vitus Master. I have not yet combined w the wavac as I still get a lot of noise via the wavac connections (wall power, etc) and I don't want to lose the very important low noise floor I get with this combination.

Yes the wavac preamp, when turned back on, can impress with the continuousness of the sound. When listening to a single instrument or a voice, the wavac can sound more impressive or should I say beautiful. But the sum total is in Vitus' favor without much doubt. I would like to hear what the Ypsilon can do...

I am starting to be equally impressed with the phono but I am not there yet. I need to balance connections, play with loading etc before I can confirm it is as necessary as the preamp. I actually think one can probably use a cheaper phono, from Vitus or others, and run it via the Master preamp and get very close. I will report on that when I have a more clear view.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hi Shadorne, thank you for your kind words. "Not a system" is a title I had used originally as it was actually quite accurate: to figure out my preference in equipment, to satisfy my interest in the devices themselves and to be true to my lack of trust in reviewers (capability and motives), I ended up spending more time on equipment than on music. During that period it was indeed not a system but rather a laboratory. Once I figured out what I prefer and learned how to set up the system, I wound that effort down and I am now spending 95% of my system time listening to music and 5% tweaking. So now it is definitely a system but changing the title would risk continuity!

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hi Vn101606,
To be fair to Soulution, I don't think I went through a proper break in period. I think its dynamics were certainly superior to the earlier versions of the Vitus (which have since made changes) and the preamp had some of the signature (detail, resolution) of the amps. I think for my taste it was a better preamp than the Krell because as I said in my system I couldn't get it to perform at the level I was expecting it would in the department of detail and resolution, which for a ss preamp is sort of the bread and butter. But I go back to the point that for me the continuousness of sound is more important and typically class a designs get closer to that with ss equipment, so I tend to gravitate towards that. I can see why people liked the soulution preamps and amps although at the same time I found the accolades to be exaggerated. They seem to have calmed down and other amps are now touted as the very best last thing in town. My advice is to do your best to listen for yourself cause the marketing machine can make us all believe all sorts of things!

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Some shorts from discussions with audio designers. All can be debated at length!

Cables
-are cables directional or do they become directional over time?
-if they are directional, do designers know why or do they have to test them to establish directionality?
-why is the power cable so important even though it is the last meter of miles of electrical cabling? maybe the input area of the amp is a very busy and sensitive territory and proper shielding makes the difference?

Warm up
-important since components behave differently at different levels of temperature
-also, maybe humidity (which can affect how boards behave) evaporates?

Solid State vs Tubes
-Tubes do great in a more limited range of abilities. So lets say they are a 10/10 in 5 things. SS can do more but to get it all work as well as tubes do in their limited range, is much harder. So lets say they are an 8/10 in 10 things. (note: I thought this was an interesting point which is additional to the theory about harmonic distortions of different order)

Digital vs Vinyl
-Is vinyl maybe able of reproduction of lower octaves in a way that is more convincing to our ears (even when close to not audible) and this provides an excellent foundation on which the rest of the music develops

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
VN101606, in my opinion the Dartzeel is the superior of the bunch. It is a very well rounded solid state. I mention ss because it has a reputation of sounding tubey. Not at all my experience, it is actually very much ss sounding and a good demonstration of what excellent ss preamps are able to do. V good resolution, reasonable dynamics, excellent staging, imaging etc. It is not as continuous or as natural sounding as the Mirage and tubes such as Wavac or Jadis. The Krell in my opinion lacks in the resolution and transparency department. It is actually disappointing because the amps (Krell one) are an amazing product and certainly capable of all the resolution you would hope for. In my system and under its conditions the premp did not perform at that level (always a possibility this had to do with something going on in my system but i could not find what). On VTL I have expressed my views in the past, I had vI and vII, I thought the reports from some of the magazines were incorrect (ignoring the obvious gain compatibility/noise problem vI had) and the product is an ok preamp which is not in the same league as the other two we are talking about here (if I recall, the price is also not as expensive). Just my view. I have not heard viii.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Thanks Albertporter, good to know there are other nuts like me out there! Only way to really know is to have them at home in your system...my audition looks like late october/early november when the Vitus will also be in so I ll wait until then before I write much else about it.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Not really. I had a good experience with the equipment in their main factory/store in Athens but unless and until I hear it in my system I won't be able to express any opinion. Room, other equipment etc make such a big difference, I find, that I d rather wait for some demo pieces at home.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Albertporter, care to elaborate?

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Haha, it is the VITUS master reference, not the VIRUS!

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hi Outlier. I agree with your comments. I would certainly also confirm that Rockport is a very serious, low key manufacturer of some of the truly best sounding speakers in the world. They were never subject to the fads and their products are quietly respected by their peers as some of the best.

I will soon write more about the following which you might find interesting:
-my take on the virus master reference pre and phono (which is on its way after a week of listening)
-potentially my take on the Ypsilon products: I met the manufacturer and expect home audition (I will of course be biased as I am greek!)
-and maybe some ideas that came out of dinners or discussions with some of the designers of the companies mentioned in this post including of the equipment I own

I also look forward to taking some pics of the new room in concrete shell and share some of the experiences and frustrations of building it.

If only we had more time!

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Armalex, Gryphon's specs uncharacteristically prefer the base towers to be inside. When in a larger room we will try both options. However in this room I get a better result this way because it enables me to keep the high towers far enough from sidewalls, a consideration that is more important.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Bigby, I think someone else may have asked this earlier. It is funny. It is the back of an absorber, which is the same you can see in the first room. In the new room it sounded better when we turned them around. Measurements confirmed. That is because I had purchased these for room 1 and they were unnecessary for room 2.
No, the Rives room is in a house that is not yet complete and it is a 1,100 ft dedicated room with 12-13ft ceilings, fully designed, with proper electrical lines which dont go through the house, properly designed ceilings, isolated aircon, etc etc. The speakers need big rooms to breathe.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Hi. The Continuum has been a journey with various issues etc but at the end of the day the company produces an amazingly sounding product. I am not a fan of the price but I am a fan of the product, their service, etc.

Yes, I have a good sense of the differences since I used the 833 1.3 and next model up in the exact same system. I think the 1.3 is the best value for money in their range and I would definitely recommend it over spending a ton of money until you are sure this is the direction you are going. The dynamics, character and transparency are similar. The separate power supplies though (and different materials used in the design of the main module also) do lead to some audible improvements. Mostly in transparency and detail. The micro dynamics are superior. I actually did not expect such a gap because the 1.3 had already beaten (in overall terms) pretty much all other amps I had tried at home. But the transparency of the bigger brother is stunning and contributes greatly to the outcome. Power is the same though, as far as I can read or hear, and the 1.3 is such a bargain used that I would recommend it. the 1.3 is a significant improvement over the 833 given the higher power output, so I would recommend that model as the right balance. I am intrigued to hear the very big model but cant tolerate price or number of black boxes!

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Very interesting Frankpiet. I am often suspicious of speakers combining various types of drivers and although I very much like ribbons I often find that I notice them. Sounds like AAD has integrated them well? 8ohm nominal, I see, but 86db. Easy to drive?

I have not even broken in the minis because the reality is that they dont compare to the much more expensive full range poseidons. But when I do use them, it is always with a Torus sub. I appreciate what the minis do but I need full range...

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
You gents are pointing out the main reason I tend to focus on high sensitivity and easy to drive speakers: there are many great amps out there which are not producing tons of power. In fact, one would probably argue that the better amps out there tend to have power limitations since it is truly very difficult, expensive and in some designs not possible to produce the quality of signal at very high tolerances.

C1ferrari, indeed that is missing from the system!! Some swear by then in terms of quality. I am not sure the low availability of recordings merits this as a real life choice but then again which of this is "real life" anyway!

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
I havent heard them, no. Read good things about them. How do you like them and can you share with us your experience especially vs the Lamms? Thanks.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Kevin, this will sound less sophisticated than maybe you were hoping for! We had made these for my previous room. When we moved them to this new room, we tried to turn them around. What you are looking at is the back of the absorbers. Although they still absorb, they do less of that and in this room that works best. On the sides I have primarily diffusers. The ceiling is not treated. The old ceiling had some diffusers and also absorption. All this is at various frequencies and we did experiment a fair amount (with our ears and measurements) to get to the conclusion. I find it quite interesting how materially they affect the room. Especially interesting is the diffusion, whereby moving it around or changing its direction has audible results to size and location of soundstage. I am in the process of building a house that has a Rives designed room so we ll see if that improves matters. My speakers do need a lot of room to sing and for their drivers to integrate. Note that all this is custom made, ie much cheaper than the very expensive branded pieces. Room treatment, room design etc is the most important element as far as I am concerned so you are right to focus on it. It is the most active and important instrument in your playback system.

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Thanks Argyro, I am trying to build a smaller system for a smaller apartment actually but will certainly look out for them. Playing around with the magico mini and now the Dartzeel integrated.

Vhiner, I think you did strike the right balance. At the same time, I like the passion around some of these posts. I was caught up in such a debate with Valin on his Technical Brain blog (re the magico M6) but unfortunately the blog was not posting my responses, or posting them selectively. I think people are very sensitive to the snake oil potential of audiophilia and so can react accordingly. Just part of the noise we all need to clear to get to the music!

I d be willing to sponsor a blog where we get Classicjazz to debate with Sonicbeauty various topics, audio-related or not!!!

mihalis

222222&text=mi
Owner
Sonicbeauty, you seem to continue firmly with your belief that you can extrapolate from little information to conclude on a person and then even a whole group of people. I believe the previous post addressed that quite well. One more point though: you are missing a major input. Is the resulting system achieving the goal? Has the extraordinary time and effort invested in the system resulted in an extraordinary result? The answer to that is paramount before labeling people as sitting duck consumers.

This is like building a house. While you are building it you are making a big effort to get it right. At least I do. You make sure your living room doesnt produce echo (=audio) so that when you sit with your friends later you can facilitate a cosy conversation (=music.) You seek a special paint for your child's room on the basis of certain characteristics (=audio) so that you can watch her paint on it as she grows up (=music.) And so on. I agree that there are diminishing returns and the more one goes up the curve the more the cost and energy expended is not rewarded accordingly. But getting something right upfront and putting in the hours is a long tested good practice.

As for reviews, it is a little bit of everything. The "sport" is very subjective and therefore magazines and "experts" can operate somewhat unchecked. Even hard measurements are in question since the link between them and subjective performance is not very solid. Reviews dont account for how the room and your specific electrical signal interact with the equipment. Reviewers need to write something exciting and as such have used the full vocabulary available to them to exaggerate. And then, the manufacturer produces an "upgrade" and what should they say? Take a look at Stereophile's review of the VTL 7.5 II, where they said something like: the previous one was perfect and this one is even more perfect (I think they said that verbatim.) Then is the question of competence: most reviewers are of limited experience, with limited systems, with limited time. And of course there are allegiances with the industry, from the obvious advertising income to the purchase of demo equipments for discounts etc.
The result is that you cant generally count on these reviews. You can however learn from them, some information is good, some reviewers are more objective, some reviewers may have similar taste to yours.

But consider this: if you think you can extrapolate so much on one person just because you read their post on audiogon, a reviewer can boldly assert they know everything about a piece of equipment just because they had it in their room for a month!

mihalis

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Jason, no, the ones you see are the mkii version which are one up from the v1.3 but below the very big ones (which I assume sound even better(?) Great amps, a fair amount of power for SETs but of course cant drive well very tough speakers. But they should drive the Fat Boys like crazy.

mihalis

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Hba, I should have added that the Diablo sounds more like the Antilleon than the Colosseums. The smaller integrated they just came up with is more like a colosseum family piece of equipment. That is only a broad statement as the detail of the sound, the resolution etc of the Diablo is superior and therefore it is the better integrated. Not to mention it is more powerful. I hope this helps in making your choices.

mihalis

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Hba, I think moving to the Diablo is a great option and you will greatly enjoy its sound. I have been very surprised by how close it gets to the bigger stuff and its driving power is a welcome addition to that. I will be auditioning the Dartzeel and maybe the ASR Emitter at home also and I ll report.

I agree your system is good, more than good. You seem to have selected very interesting equipment carefully.

Regarding the mikado reference which I had at home, my audition did not support claims for it being a top contender. I compare it to transports from Weiss, Accuphase and DCS, and their DACs. Also from EMM. I found them all to be superior to the mikado in more than one ways. This could be specific to my audition but I didnt find that player to be top notch. Also, I am now completely out of transports and listen only to vinyl and cd/high res audio from DACs through the computer (DCS or Weiss.) I find that to be the way of the future so I frankly dont see the point in paying money for CD transports. If you have a big collection, rip it and use the money to buy the best DAC you can afford that has upgradeability and will allow you to use the multitude and very economical options for front end that are being created every day. I use my mac with amarra into usb dacs all the time and I find it funny how close it gets to the Continuum which costs just a tad more than the computer. I also plan to convert music from vinyl to digital so that I can access my collection more fully.

Best,
Michael

mihalis

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Sonicbeauty, the system is now complete, no question. The title has remained from earlier writings where I was testing equipment. If you had read that more carefully you would have realized that the point of this post is to help by listing my experience with all this equipment in a way that has no bias. I have written extensively why I went down that path and my issue with reviews and reviewers. I started with a lot, trying them out, and then honed in on what I liked more and have sold a lot of the rest.

In terms of absurd money spending, that is a matter of your economic position and opinion. Also, it is a matter of cost. I find that I have made and lost little money by reselling and the result is that it only costs the opportunity cost of the money I park in the equipment. Therefore, your point is incomplete at best and I think misunderstands how the trading of equipment works (the only exception is digital equipment which changes more frequently and therefore values drop.) In fact, in a world where inflation may be an issue over time, assets are a better hedge than cash, even luxury items.

The system is not only enjoyed by the adults in the house but also the children. It has offered an unprecedented opportunity to them to listen to music in a way that is much more engaging and interesting than without an audiophile system (you dont need a system like this for it, of course, you can achieve that with a lot less.)

Yes, there is clearly an element of fascination with equipment and there is nothing wrong with that in my opinion. These represent efforts to achieve something extraordinary and any such effort has historically needed sponsors. The fact that we can do that without losing money is actually quite unique.

As for liking equipment OVER music. ou dont know me and so your conclusions could be (and are) completely off. The fact you voice them on the basis of a partial only window into my audio and music life is indication that you are not interested in understanding but rather impressing. That is ok but lets just be clear that saying that this shows some sort of priority in life is frankly quite an offensive and unfair judgment. It is also completely unsubstantiated. In the same way that I dont derive conclusions about your person from your silly name, I would want you to offer me and the other audiophiles the courtesy of limiting your statements to the message, not the messenger.

mihalis

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Some more impressions on Magico/Torus:
-as I mentioned earlier, I find the sound to have opened up considerably, no more of the cup in mouth effect
-I tried again the wavacs, now with the speakers apparently having gone through their first 10h. This time through the 4ohm taps. They drive them fine. I have not listened critically since I was immediately taken by the incorporation of the wavac's effortless transparency and lack of grain. Quite a system now
-I think part of my consternation was because of what I was comparing the minis to. The dynamics and scale achieved by the Poseidons and in fact the combination of the two whilst keeping excellent tone and imaging, is something that is hard to forget. So the minis do sound a bit "slow" compared to that. I think this is a matter of inferior representation of the real thing, not an argument about "fast" or "slow" speakers and equipment. Having said that, if I didnt have the Poseidons, I probably would not have noticed

mihalis

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Sam, where do you live? You never know where travels take us.

Btw, the "cup in front of mouth" effect I reported on the Magicos is completely gone. Maybe it was a matter of the first 2-3 hours of play, maybe it was the nice glass of red I had.

mihalis

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MAGICO MINI II, TORUS SUB, GRYPHON DIABLO

So here is an interesting one! I am organizing a second system for another location and I am testing it at home. I purchased the magico minis ii and tried a few integrated amps. I now have the Gryphon Diablo which drives them to great effect. I dont want to repeat the endless writings on these speakers but I will just make some observations for those who might be interested:

-the magico minis are pretty good speakers. They are no where near broken in but I can certainly attest to their detail, soundstaging abilities and solidity (of the stage.) I am not yet as sure of their tonal color. They sound a bit dry to my ear, and sometimes as if the singer has a cup in front of their mouth. I did sort of experience that also at CES once. Dont take this literally, it could be very much a matter of placement in the room and also of acoustic treatments which are currently optimized for the Poseidons. I have found these to make a difference to this "cup in front of mouth" effect. Also, as they are breaking in, this is going away a little. Of course, maybe I am getting used to them. One thing I know is that this is not about the sound being devoid of coloration as the systems I have experienced have very low levels of that too
-HOWEVER, many of these positive observations apply mostly when I include the Torus sub to the mix. Without it, the sound is more flat, less depth, less stage and I would argue, the tone is not as realistic
-SO, the big thing that came out of this for me is that the addition of the sub at below 40hz is adding a very significant component to our effort to fool ourselves that we are listening to the real thing: it is not about something you can identify by trying to isolate the extra bass: I have it on very low volume. It is the stage that opens up and especially depth. The difference is not subtle at all
-that leads me to the conclusion that purchasing a great 2 way without intention of including a sub is not a good idea (especially at this price.) I would guess that a speaker with better full range abilities will beat the 2 way most of the time because any crossover/integration benefits will be trumped by the weakness of not offering to the ear the full spectrum it needs in order to believe the sound is real
-Finally, as most of us know, the magicos are hard to drive. Dont buy the posts about how they are not sensitive but they are easy. They are not. I used my beloved WAVAC 150W amps and they didnt drive them to satisfaction. The little (but 280W) integrated by Gryphon produced a better effect. I got a better low end, tighter and more dynamic. Maybe the woofer is breaking in but i doubt that would make such a big difference. I will report on this if it changes
-As for the Gryphon Diablo, it sounds great. A lot of detail. A bit dry in combination with these speakers but that is a matter of taste and the sub can help with it. But the overall performance of this integrated is outstanding especially considering price. I have not tried the big Solos and Mirage with the Magicos and I assume they will match extremely well, but I can say that the Diablo is up to par and when combined with the Torus, you get a system that is certainly high end

mihalis

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C1ferrari, good question. I have considered it but the lack of software and added hardware etc has kept me from it. I am just waiting for improvements in the digital domain as I think most of the improvements will come from that area.

Enzo, I think you do need to make sure impedances work but bar that I prefer the wavac preamp. It sound is not "tubey" but it will typically open up the transparency more than the solid state preamps I ve had here.

mihalis

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Flg2001, please do. I had it here too but it was connected to fremont escalantes and I think I played it once. it was a futile attempt to create a living room system but the bottom line is that the esthetic horror that the escalantes are caused us to move them out!!

mihalis

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Thanks Jason and great system yourself. Have you had older EMM from yours and how would you compare the evolution of sound? I ve always been vexed by their lack of consistency in quality but maybe the latest products are better produced as they are learning more about consumer stuff?

mihalis

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No, I didnt.

mihalis

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Changster you are not welcome in this forum. For everyone's benefit, this guy strung me along to buy my Gryphons, agreed repeatedly to the sale and after having me waste time and spend money to have them professionally packed and ready to go, he pulled out of the deal using all sorts of lies. I offered him the amps with a free upgrade of the carbon fibre panels, and when I got a competing bid which was slightly lower, I reduced the price on my own as a courtesy because I told him I would sell him at a price I can sell to someone else. Changster the gangster is not someone we want on audiogon and in our discussions. This happened a couple of days ago so to write here is adding insult to injury, and proves this guy is a moron!

mihalis

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Fernando, please keep us posted here. There is a lack of good lamm perspective and as I said I do respect the equipment. Also, from the various reviewers, I also respect Fremmer's articles in general. Maybe he is a bit more relaxed due to lack of digital glare and harshness when listening whilst he writes?

I ll never forget when I listened to the Magico M6 in CES a couple of years back. It sounded horrible because of the terrible room (two level tiny room with zero treatment). Horrible. I then listened to it at an amazing room in Boston and it was completely different. And yet, in CES, one very well respected reviewer who was there at the same time ended up writing this was the best system he had ever heard etc etc. Insane....And so, Magico increased their prices by a huge % in the last year or two, partly due to good performance (dont get me wrong, I generally like their products and quality) but mostly because of the resulting hype. In the meantime, equally amazing speakers like the Rockport Altair got very little love.

Its how you play the game, I guess. Happy to watch it from the sidelines instead and enjoy the music.

mihalis

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Fernando, I did own the Lamm 1.2rerefence amp. I was impressed by its quality of built. I was not a fan of the sound that I would describe as a wall of music coming at you. At the time, I think I was playing them with Alto Utopia Bes and I had a pair of the problematic but wonderful sounding Tenor 300hp which was far superior sonically and far inferior quality-wise (they all eventually blew up.)

But the reality is that I never gave the Lamm its fair share of attention and that is a story that connects me back to my disgust (in this case) for reviews and specifically in this case Stereophile. Here is what happened. The reviewer played them with the VTL7.5 preamp and gave the Lamms a glowing review. That was back in the day when I used to listen to reviews. So I bought the Lamms to play with my VTL 7.5, only to find out that they are gain incompatible and the result is noise that you can hear from your speakers from the other room. The Altos are not tough to drive but they are close to average, so not pointing this out was, in my opinion, misleading. In fact, when I did a better scan of the tests on the net, I found that one of the sites (positivefeedback or enjoythemusic, when they were more independent) pointed out this very issue in a whole paragraph, both for these two specific pieces of equipment as much as others. Atkinson claimed in his response to me that he had pointed this out in his test. He had, in a way that glossed over it, in my opinion. Amazing...

This also reminds me of the Tenor situation. The 300hp was a flawed design. All the units more or less blew up at some point, as confirmed by the designer himself who then, after bankruptcy, moved to a company in canada and offered expensive fixes to the equipment. When Tenor opened again and now produces a very expensive model (which claims to be very different than the 300hp, I ll leave you to decide that, the box looks almost identical) Stereophile run a half pager report on it. They gave great accolades for the new Tenor and mentioned that it was a more advanced design than the old Tenor OTL amps which were a 75W favorite for many. NO MENTION OF THE 300HP which is clearly the predecessor (both hybrid designs looking identical from the outside). Not even a peak about the problems of this equipment! I emailed Atkinson who this time did not reply but the next morning I got a reply from the new owner of Tenor!! Very nice guy and I am sure trying to make this work. But I find so disappointing that Stereophile missled by omission. There is zero doubt that they should have said the 350hp is a new design (if it is) building on (or fixing the problems of) the older 300hp. The 75W all tube non hybrid OTL was irrelevant. By the way, I have a friend here who did send his 300hp for an expensive fix and it blew up again when it returned. He would probably use more forceful words than "disappointed".

And on the nice VTL 7.5? I always found it too noisy. And within a year and a half, VTL announced an "upgrade" which to the day I am convinced was just a fix of the noise of the first one (which no one pointed out except for other owners). I could be wrong of course but I did upgrade mine and didnt like the sound of the new one so I sold it. But I loved the Stereophile review which said something to the effect: the first VTL 7.5 was perfect and this one is more perfect! This time Atkinson responded mainly by passing on the discussion to the reviewer who clearly did not have significant experience with very high end systems and therefore should have refrained from such statements or comparisons with the preamps that are truly best of the best like the wavac, soulution, gryphon, boulder, etc (which also cost a lot more.)

Anyway, how about that for an unsolicited rant against rogue reviews! As for Lamm, I actually am intrigued to go back and listen. Their designs are well regarded, their quality is excellent, and their new top of the line models are very interesting (amp and preamp.) If they came up with a reference phono I d probably give it a shot. If only they stopped playing them with Wilsons, I d go to a show and listen!!

Best,
Michael

mihalis

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Jon, hehe, you caught me. You d be surprised to hear that I am more balanced in my view these days, after having added a DCS scarlatti system (and using hi res downloads, not disc.)

On the sound, I think vinyl has its advantages and disadvantages but some obvious ones are microdynamics, lack of grain and sometimes the "continuuousness" of the music which only the best digital can get close to. On the other hand, I find that great digital narrows the gap so close that I am starting to wonder if transports are the villain. Using a mac into firewire or USB dacs is a significant improvement, to my ear, from some of the best transports. And note that I am still using a computer, which is suboptimal. Try SSDs through a non computer based system and I am quite sure the gap will be inaudible, or that each format will offer strengths and weaknesses.

So why then is there such a following. I think it has to be the experience. Flipping tracks on the mac is something that is so easy that it is almost hard to keep yourself from focusing on the process and not the music. With vinyl, you spend so much time getting the music going that once you sit down, you really listen. Also, vinyl opens you up to another large list of recordings, some amazing and not available with digital.

But I will say that in general, with best recordings, I find that vinyl focuses me on the music whereas digital impresses me with teh reproduction of details in the music, such as a specific instrument. Finally, my experience (not necessarily general consensus) is that there are certain aspects of bass that I can only hear reproduced really well with my vinyl recordings, but this could also be a result of these recordings.

I ll say this to muddy the water further. I was listening to an amazing piano recording the other day through the continuum turntable. I thought it was almost too good, very closely miked, impressing me with each note but not necessarily letting me pay attention to the music itself. Turns out, it was a digital recording on vinyl!

Anyway, at most reasonable cost levels, I would guess that a nice collection of hi res audio through a mac or pc and into a good firewire or usb dac will produce easier and better results. If you have the time and interest, though, you should add vinyl because it is a fundamental part of the hobby.

Finally, if you read closely you will know that I have not hidden my lack of respect for the majority of large publications and reviews. However, one of the very best summaries on the subject was presented by the Absolute Sound about 5-6 months ago when they had a special on vinyl. There was one article, I think the introduction, by the editor, which was outstanding and completely describes the differences, pluses and minuses of each format. When they dont review actual equipment, they can be helpful! I would encourage you to seek that article out (I couldnt find it here) to get a better answer to your question than I gave above.

Good luck,
Michael

mihalis

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Gordon, I have not. They have an outstanding reputation in Japan but for some reason I didnt think they compete at the very high end. This may not be true as their class a designs are excellent. Their built quality is impeccable. At Japan prices, I do think that one looking at that price range should consider their class a amp. Not sure about the preamp, never heard it outside shows.

mihalis

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Hi Jose. That is quite a system you have there. Wilsons are not my favorites but I certainly understand the appeal of the alexandria. I am a fan of the Krells you own and obviously have myself Accuphase.

For Accuphase, depending on the system you have, I would use their cat cables. They allow higher sampling and dont cost much. I may be missing something as you seem to need digital cables but I have not needed them myself as I run it all through the cat connections.

On Power cables, my views are listed earlier here. I cant speak for the specific relationship with the gear here but I have found that the Jorma Primes are my preference. I have not had the Odin power at home so I dont know, but I prefer the Jorma interconnects which I think are the very best I ve ever auditioned in my system.

As for power, that is impossible to advise on remotely. It is however very important. You need to first look for hums and if you have them, follow the various options given on the net articles to get rid of them. Also, do your best to get clean power to your amps. Draw a direct line if you can, and if not, consider power cleaners and regenerators. The issue with the Krell might be that they draw a lot of power but I would definitely go for regeneration on the front end. I have not heard any compression of dynamics and the new models seem to have ample power reserve.

Good luck!

mihalis

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Aaron, I would like to refrain from a full account at this point as the situation is still pending. What I can say is that the problems were well beyond what you describe and, despite immediate replacements, new significant esthetic problems came up, raising serious concerns on my part about their quality control, or lack thereof. I cant report positively on the sound of the table without also reporting on these. But Continuum is certainly trying to fix things and I would like to offer them one final chance before I have to go "all out" on this. When and if I do, you will be stunned by what I have been subjected to. And this is coming from someone who is a big fan of the sound and a big fan of small companies who are trying to survive in audio.

I also liked EMM, for example, until after 4-5 products with all sorts of problems, I gave up. There is something about a $150k ttable that needs to inspire confidence in quality control and precision. the same applies, in my opinion, to a $2,000 ttable.

Unfortuantely this has been a major disappointment and frankly despite the sound quality I would happily get a refund and wait for the new rockport or something. It is that bad...

mihalis

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The system has changed a bit, which is relevant for answering your question on Jorma Primes. I now have received the Continuum Caliburn and I have replaced my digital preference with a scarlatti system run directly through high def audio from my mac. Both are what I would call discontinuities in my system: the Continuum is just amazing and it sounds like nothing else ever in my system. I will try to elaborate on that when I get more time. At the same time, it has disappointed with various cosmetic flaws which are unacceptable. The Scarlatti is also an improvement although in extensive a-b tests vs the Accuphase, I am not as sure yet. I think it beats it with dynamics, especially micro, but I need to figure this out further.

Everything in cables is now Jorma Prime. I have about 10 power cords and the interconnects are Prime, except for one Odin. I dont think the Jorma Prime should be compared to the Valhalla, there is no comparison. With the Odin, my preference is for the Jorma on every single situation except for transformer to phono. I think the Odin beats it there and it might be because my Odin is 1m and the Jormas start at 1.5m. Short wins the day for that type of connection. I find the Odin to be a bit "softer" in its micro resolution, whereas the Jorma is more "sparkly" and effervescent in a good way. I know this stuff means little and I would be laughing if I read it myself. But we are talking about cables here and frankly the differences are tiny if noticeable. I do find that power cords tend to imprint character more and especially, in my system, with the phono and digital fronts.

The magic bullet may be because this is a big company who pays a lot of advertising. Clearly it is a great cable but for my money, the Prime is ahead of it and costs much less too. I just ordered the Jorma digital and will call it a day in that respect.

mihalis

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Fernando, I very much like Jadis. Interestingly, a dealer has a combo of a Jadis pre with the Colosseum Solo from Gryphon and it sounds terrific.
I agree that the older Gryphons did sound a bit dark. The newer models are very different, very transparent. Especially the preamp. The amp, I have not yet listened to it much as I have been optimizing the wavacs. Also the amp may have some synergy with my speakers, whereas the Mirage is proven in my experience to work extremely well with everything I have thrown at it. I did prefer it to the Soulution, Krell etc, all of which are strong contenders too.
Enjoy your Jadis system. Excellent stuff.

mihalis

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Excellent comments. not to mention that we can use that piece of wood on the home made DAC of your link to cut some sushi on when we dont listen to the itunes volume control...

mihalis

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Boeing, give me a couple of days and I will try to post a more comprehensive update as the Caliburn arrived and the system is finally settled (for now!)

I do like the Primes a lot and spent a fair amount of time comparing them, especially on my preamp and phono, with other power cords from Shunyata, Nordost (not Odin), Gryphon, Stealth, etc. I preferred the Origo model (one down from Prime) more than any of these and the Prime even more. They maintain and improve on the resolution of the Valhalla, and yet are what I could call, more transparent. The music sounds a little bit more tangible, realistic and often "sparkly" whatever that would mean to you. No softness, no loss of low end for fake sense of resolution. I have not experimented with the rest of the equipment but I did place Primes everywhere important. I still like the Valhalla a lot, especially at its used price which I think it better value for money than anything else I have tried. Maybe the odin will be a contender but its price is significantly higher than the Jormas and since I prefer the interconnects from Jorma, I stuck with them on the power. The one position I could argue I prefer the Odin is from my phono to preamp, for some reason. Maybe system specific?

Also note that I am more able to discern differences with power cords than interconnects (at least at this level.) Meaning that psychoacoustics and other stuff may affect results or mask them with intercons, whereas I find that with power cords the differences are easy to identify for me and other listeners who may attend.

I would recommend you try to get these pcords on demo at home and try them out there in a period of a week. Dont forget the Jorma Primes need 500h to break in. I daisy chained them and connected them to the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. The meat did not taste better though...

mihalis

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Kyyuan, actually I dont and I have been wondering about the system 9. I have heard things second hand which are not super positive, including some early runs having reliability problems. However, I dont have first hand experience so I should refrain. The only experience I had was the idock which worked quite well in my system.
Best,
Michael

mihalis

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10ft tall cellos, haha, I wonder what multi driver speakers you have been listening to. Not my experience. In fact, these matters are more room than speaker dependent. By moving the upper diffuser to a vertical rather than horizontal position I can make cellos be taller than Yao Ming, but that would apply to any speaker I ve had in the room. You are definitely right that some multi driver speakers need a lot of room, simply for the drivers to integrate. The Poseidons are actually very directional so the room may not be as important for that but in terms of driver integration you need about 4 meters from the speaker (according to gryphon 5 meters) for the drivers to even integrate.

As you know, I ve obviously have had the Vitus with Marten ceramics. I unfortunately fall in the category of people who dont like ceramic designs, I think I can hear their sonic character in pretty much any design. That could be psychoacoustic but either way they dont do it for me.

In any event, the reason why I feel somewhat strongly about the characteristics of the equipment I reviewed here is that I have used them almost all at the same time and with different room and speaker combinations. Although matching does matter, I find that the character comes through. The only material limitation in my reviews is that the Poseidons are self powered below 300hz so that presents a very different load to the amps than a full range speaker.

On the AFL1, I assume you are using your analogue XLRs? Do you know if there is a digital Odin in the making? I have not tried the Jorma digital but I dont think it carried the Prime designation. So for now I use valhallas which are good but I am not sure if better is available as I have not experimented much.

Alex, why dont you come over later this month if you are around and we can share some listening.

mihalis

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Hehe, I am being beaten up by Vitus affecionados!

Amir, to answer your question, I listen to everything but mostly classical and some sorts of Jazz. I love classical but before the Gryphon Poseidons, I could not listen to it because I had no speaker that could come close to the necessary sense of scale and dynamics for good classical listening. What these speakers have done is that they allow me to listen to what I really prefer, not what just would sound better in the system.

I prefer the wavac sound over everything else, driving my speakers above 300hz. Then, I prefer the Gryphon Solos over Krells or anything else I have heard. I can see how one can make the case for the Goldmund 2500 (holographic imaging) but I find they may tend to eat into the mid range a bit to give their sense of detail. I know this also because I have the benefit of being able to experiment with the very high quality Accuphase equalizers that allow me to simulate various characteristics by playing around with the curve, real time.

Alex, comparing the Odins to the Jorma Prime is not subjective. The Primes are better. Hehe....just kidding. I actually prefer my Odin from the phono to the preamp but (surprisingly) not in my digital chain.... Btw, my whole system is on Jorma primes now with secondary cables being Valhallas (power I mean). Note the power Jormas need 500h to break in so daisy chain them to your refrigerator for 2-3 weeks...

mihalis

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Amir,
I appreciate your comments here and keep them coming. My only objection is in the part of your note where you are making assumptions about the listener, not the equipment. I listen to a ton of live, acoustic, and amplified music and I believe I have a reasonably good sense of what is real and what is not. Our difference of opinion may be also related to the version of the Vitus. There was a massive change amongst the models and I think that is because the earlier ones were not up to the level of the cost.

You make some other points I should address: I totally disagree with the view that the right power conditioning compresses dynamics. It just doesnt. It cleans the signal which in 90% of homes is crap (unless dedicated) and in many cases, regenerators can actually store power and increase dynamics. Having said that, I never listened to the Vitus with power conditioning.

Also the point that Vitus must be paired with specific speakers is in my opinion an indication something is wrong. I take the point for power but in general good amps should be able to perform with a variety of speakers. Of course the relationship is important but only where it is a matter of electrical matching, not sound colorations and mixing and matching.

Digital room correction is a long story. I dont need it in my current room but in lesser rooms it is absolutely paramount, in my opinion. It theoretically can cause a number of issues and so one has to listen for themselves to assert if these apply in practice also.

Again, I appreciate the debate and I dont suggest that I know what I am talking about, just that I know what I think I hear ;-)

mihalis

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DACs: Which is the best?!

Unfortunately the scarlatti did not work well in my system. We could not lock it in 192 frequencies and the mac did not even manage to connect through usb. So we ended up using my Weiss AFL1 interface (maybe one of the very best) into XLR digital to the scarlatti plus clock. That, I compared with my own Accuphase DC801 and the Medea and DAC1 mk2 DACs. The rest of the system included wavac amps, jorma prime and odin cables and wavac preamp. I played exclusively hi res aiff files through itunes, firewire, afl1.

The Weiss dacs are wonderful but maybe the designs need to be updated a bit. Their impressive resolution is now matched and bested by the Accuphase and Scarlatti. And they lack in other characteristics. Dont get me wrong, these are world class DACs but I think the other two are more impressive.

I did prefer the DAC1 to the medea. It is a bit more forward, instruments project closer to the listener (a la EMM but without the hi fi'ish sound EMM sometimes produces). Also it is a very dynamic DAC and in that regard maybe the better of them all. At its price, it is a serious contender.

The battle is down to the scarlatti and DC801 in my opinion, and the two offer different strenghts. I wish we had done a better job with connections to really give the scarlatti a fair chance, so maybe the comparison was unfair. Having said that running these two dacs into 96 audio from the AFL1, the Scarlatti was slightly more detailed and demonstrably more "in control" of the music. Maybe there was slightly more depth and on some tracks, especially with single instruments or voices, they did sound a bit closer to my analogue sound from the continuum (although not close enough to compare.) Dynamics are first rate all around.

The DC801 also has extreme resolution but it sounds slightly different, smoother than the other DACs here. And what it is ahead of the rest, head and shoulders, is air. When switching to this DAC one gets a sense of space around the instruments which makes the sound more believable. It does not have the control of the scarlatti and I suspect that in longer listening sessions the scarlatti has the potential to be the better one. However, as torn as i was about the choice, the person next to me told me he liked the accuphase more, period. He called it smoother and more "refined".

I ll try to get the scarlatti back for good and spend more time comparing these two. either way, all 4 DACs are outstanding, some of the best out there. The Medea will probably perform best with the Jason, whereas the DAC1 is an outstanding choice. Having said that, the DC801 in Japan costs about 8k new, so from a value for money basis, it is the best I have heard.

Enjoy!

mihalis

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Amir, lets agree to disagree, that is what is fun about this. I actually did own Marten Coltranes and I thought the combination was ok, although not dynamic enough to resemble reality. I think they combined well because they are both, in my humble opinion, flawed: the colorations of the Vitus combined well with the lean sound of the Coltranes. I did use the Vitus with their own cables and with Jormas which are used for the design of the Coltranes. Some dealers combine these brands and so have some audiophiles who followed that advice. It is a good result but by no means a match for the far superior products from Gryphon and Krell. I do agree with your comments early in the email about the perception of too much resolution.

I do repeat that the Vitus did have a coloration that I actually liked a lot. The sound was more full bodied. That changed with the newer models so my comments are one version back for the amps at least.

mihalis

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Hmm, Amir, the Vitus amps I had definitely had "color". They were too slow and flawed in my opinion. Very rich sound and for some I am sure a preference, but not real. The newer models seem to have gotten over that and the preamp was therefore a step towards that direction. At the same time, by having lost this special characteristic, they are now competing with the best for reality rather than pleasure. I found the soulution pre to have the advantage, especially with transients and attacks. But the Vitus preamp I had was outstanding, so this could come down to system matching, preferences etc.
I cant agree that it is the "only" ss design. I find other class a such as the gryphon colosseums are just outstanding and so was the Krell evo one which in my experience was superior to the FMs and the sound was very similar.

On another note, digital shootout here. Accuphase DC801, Weiss DAC1mk2, Weiss DAC2, Weiss Medea, DCS Scarlatti, all though hi res (incl 192s) MacBook... I will report soon.

mihalis

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Well, I must say that although some similarities exist in the sound of similar technical designs, I dont find the very high end to be that consistent. for example, the transparency of Gryphon's Mirage is only equalled by the wavac and no other. But in that regard, they are extremely similar and superior to both the soulution and the vitus. The soulution was faster. I hate this term because it usually means there is a distortion but here i am trying to say that i found the music to not be slower than i experience it to be in real life. I got that a little bit with the vitus. Also, the Soulution was more detailed. Having said that, I can definitely see how one might not place these at the highest level of importance and consider the Vitus as somewhat more approachable and true to the recording. I did not spend that much time with either as the Mirage and Wavac were far more engaging in my system. The difference is that I target equipment that does not draw my attention to something. The Soulution and Telos' resolution sometimes draws attention (I think at the expense of some mid range information), and even the mighty FM at the end of the day did color the sound more than what I am listening to now. For emotion of sound and linearity, try the Gryphon Colosseums which are wonderful. And they are Class A, so they might satisfy some of the tube preferences that people might have (not all!)

mihalis

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Bflowers, you know, these idioms tend to be used a bit too much. First of all, I am not quite sure about soulution as I have not had extensive listening with the amps. Therefore, I dont know if they are filling spots in their line or really have managed to keep consistency (I point to the wonderful goldmund who seem to have too many designs, too many designers and generally no clear consistency in their products through the years.)
Soulution are very good, and their digital measure amazingly well (albeit at a price.) The preamp was excellent, better than the vitus sl101 but in my view not as good in general as the wavac (and I would argue the gryphon mirage.) The sound from soulution in general sounds slightly lean to me, a bit like the goldmunds. You would not notice that necessarily but if you are comparing them with a lot of other equipment, the character is there. They dont carry the dryness that some of teh goldmunds do.
I compared them to the GDs because I dont think the Soulution sound anything like class a or tube amps, so I dont think they do blurr lines. I find these lines are very confusing as designs can cause big differences, despite some of the recurring characteristics.
If you want to spend the money, I do think you should listen to them. They seem to be well made (although my preamp did have a problem at first and had to be sent back), cool looking, very good sounding; but like with everything else, dont expect these are somehow going to solve all your needs...
I do wonder about the digital though, basically no jitter!

mihalis

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Kodg, maybe you are referring to either the shunyata power cords (black), or the synergistic reserch xlr (gray) which is very thick. I have been using Jorma prime power and interconnects on everything since then, and I am going to add an Odin or two. Some Valhalla power cords also, which I think is excellent value for money in the used market. You have to pay a lot to get better than that. However, I find I can identify power cord differences more clearly than that with interconnects. This may be system specific but it is an experienced shared by some audiophiles I speak to.

mihalis

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PH, I think I have reported on that earlier in the forum. On one end I would put wavac which is super transparent, very believable, fast (in a realistic way--ie not slow), and with high resolution. Then on the other end, the Telos which is very fast (maybe too fast?), has incredible holographic and solid imaging, a lot of detail, and maybe slightly more dry. If you like complex classical, it may be for you. In between I would place FM acoustics and Gryphon Colosseums, both different but more fluid sstate designs, probably because of their class a circuit, pure or not.

mihalis

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It is no exaggeration that since I turned vinyl I have not used other front ends for a single audition. It is now 3 months. Only for comparing when people visit to listen to the system, and they quickly ask me to stop that and put back the lps.

This obviously does not mean that other formats are not excellent in their own ways and may also have strengths and weaknesses. However, I find records to be more listenable. No edge. Also, the process of getting the record on, cleaning it etc forces you to then sit down and listen as opposed to skipping. As a result, I have listened to more music than I have for a while.

I am a big fan of high res formats and servers, I used them a lot and I am sure I will continue to do that. As quality improves, the sound will also. But for now, SACD does not sound as good as LPs or at least it offers an additional source of great recordings, performances etc.

I do think that at the highest level LPs continue to perform better but you have to decide to invest the time and effort. For me it was well worth it. And I am still not in receipt of the larger continuum which is supposed to play even better.

I am afraid no experience with Siltech in my system although I have spoken to people who have had good results with Wavacs and the siltech power cords. For me, I stuck with Jorma.

mihalis

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Guys, dusting is the most important thing here! Indeed, the maids are not allowed near this stuff. It is up to me and my 3 year old girl who uses the continuum like a pro!

To answer some other questions I got, I am using the My Sonic Ultra Eminent BC cartridge through a wavac phono and a goldmund ph3 phono. I am about to add the Ultra Eminent step up and try it out. I also used the Lyra Titan i and Skala.

The latest comparison I have been running is with power cables. I just ordered a bunch of Jorma Primes. I tried their mid level model against the Valhalla, Gryphon, Shunyata and other power cords and it made a positive difference, more than actually any interconnect cable. The Valhalla is the closest and since one can purchase it at reasonable prices on audiogon I have stocked up on it for all my secondary uses.

I am experimenting with Purepower which has made an amazing difference on my front end. Interestingly, by inserting a burmester I further improved (by a much smaller margin) transients. Weird...

mihalis

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Argyro,
I am obviously a big fan of the way of the future which is downloaded audio, servers etc. I use servers through Kaleidescape and recently started using a Weiss firewire hub to run high definition recordings (Linn, etc.) I love them, they are very listenable and in many ways excellent.

Having said that, nothing can come close (in my system) to the tonal accuracy of vinyl. The continuity of records makes them more engaging even if the recording is not outstanding. I have some incredibly impressive digital recordings which can impress but once listened again and again become a bit gimmicky. I find digital to be just a little less smooth, and often over exaggerate the individual instruments, to impress but lose the whole.

These are small differences and very dependent on recordings. So I would say that my view is that the future is indeed digital downloads through excellent DACs, and vinyl!

This is from someone who started listening to records 2 months ago, mind you...

mihalis

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Flg2001, for me the Gryphons are the solid state I have settled with. Mind you, the one that I have not tried is FM Acoustics above the 411, which might challenge the Gryphons. This is partly because of my preference for Class A, and partly because I think the new models got it right. The resolution is wonderful, excellent staging, depth and speed. Very well built, easy to use, great functionality by combining with Crestron screens, home theater etc. Having said that, I mostly listen to the wavacs which I think are unparalleled.

For the speakers I love these ones. They have the dynamics and scale of nothing out there. I think their biased crossover makes the difference. I d like one day to have the theoretical perfection of active crossovers in an all wavac system but until then I will keep this.

mihalis

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SheI50, HA! funny. If you are a cute 25 year old girl let me know and I will have to negotiate with my wife. She has put up with all this audio, so you never know!!

I am now trying out a Weiss converted and downloading some 24bit audio from Linn. I ll report later on how this compares to CD, SACD, vinyl, and Kaleidescape server music!

mihalis

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Natan, I prefer Gryphon which also enables you to connect through Crestron screens etc making it super versatile and easy to use. It has its own interface so you can control it from that screen.

mihalis

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Elberoth2, note that the mikado signature does not do sacd.
I find actually that the cd performance of the emm and the mikado are similar BUT I only listened to the mikado for 2 hours, so it is too early to tell. The dound is engaging, forward, instruments are large in size. The music comes to you.
Accuphase is laid back, more detailed and accurate in my opinion. It opens up the stage and imaging, and offers what I think is much closer to analogue sound.
I would say the same applies to the sacd sound. EMM is very engaging, dynamic, in your face almost. Accuphase lets the music draw you in instead. Note that Esoteric, for example, is more lean and even more laid back but in a way that no longer offers this believability that I get from Accuphase.
Overall I prefer accuphase on CD by a large margin and on SACD by a smaller margin. Add to that the option to use digital equalization and you have what I think is one of the very best front ends.

mihalis

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System edited: Various changes. The most important one is that I changed houses and the new room is much larger, allowing for better placement of these large speakers. Importantly, I now sit 5 meters away from them, which is the min necessary distance for full integration of the drivers. Obviously imaging has improved, without dynamics paying a price. I have now settled on an all wavac and an all gryphon system. The wavacs were upgraded to the 4 box mkiis and the Gryphon to the new Colosseum Solos. You can see some other new preamps etc but more interesting is my effort to evaluate some turntables, starting with the wonderful Continuum.

mihalis

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Gia sou Chris ke efharisto pou tin ipes ston vlaka noritera!!

Well, I have become a fan of accuphase through the years, although initially i found them to sound a bit sterile in shows. The designers of Lyra in Tokyo alerted me to Accuphase and I think they were right. In addition to the excellent sound, the quality they build at is amazing. Compare the super quality of the accuphase sacd to my junky EMM Labs, for example, and it is no contest. Also, their technology tends to be at the forefront. The issue abroad is the cost since they are not set up really to export so what you buy in Tokyo for 100, costs 200 in the US. At 100, they are amazing value for money.

I have not spent much time in my system with their analogue stuff so I would rather not comment if you dont mind. The Class A amps they make do sound terrific but I have only heard them in shows and, unlike all these reviewers, I have never heard a show sound that compares to a good room, other maybe than the enormous Soundlab/EMM system that appears sometimes at CES.

My room is treated but since i am still renting (I will be building a Rives HT in a year or two) the acoustics are not amazing and the electricity is dirty. The Accuphase DG38 and the DG48 that I use now are essential to the sound I have. First of all, my system is not easy to set up since the subs need to be set up carefully vs the mid/high towers. And the size of these speakers in a small room is too great. But the equalizer is just essential. Frequency peaks/lows disappear, providing better 3 dimensionality and especially depth. The benefits are so great versus any potential disadvantages, that I cant think of listening in my room with my system without the equalizer on. Not to mention that it enables me to change equipment without spending hours to tune it in.

Note that this is all done in the digital domain and at very high sampling rates. Accuphase connects it all through CAT cables. Some will say that you need to have greater analytical ability than the Accuphase offer (eg parametric equalizers, more octaves etc) but Accuphase maintains that they think having more detail means more DSPs and therefore more sound degradation. I dont know. Respected audio analysts will argue both sides, with a lot of theory to support their arguments. I can only report what I hear and it works incredibly well.

I upgraded to the DG48 although I cant really report differences from the DG38 to be honest. I know some of the Accuphase people still use the DG28 themselves. I am certainly intrigued with what Lyngdorff is doing but I would rather I built the right room; clearly, the less processing the better.

mihalis

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Never have actually. May try and let you know but moving houses soon so it wont be for a while. I cant imagine it would be a problem but dont know about synergy per se. Enjoy the 411, it is a good amp.

mihalis

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I have not had them in my system. I did have the Lamm 1.2r which I did not like much. Well built etc but their sound did not have the depth and detail of some of the better designs. Maybe others have heard the 2.1s which as SETs might have similarities with the WAVACS although the designs and power is very different.

mihalis

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Well, I only use xlrs now, and the longest is 7 or 8 meters. I do not get any issues with that, running it out of the wavac preamp. There is a bit more noise but I dont think it is related to the length as much as my wall power and how it interacts with my wavac amps. When the house is shut down, there is no noise, so i need cleaner ac. So yes I ve had no issues running balanced amps with the wavac, in fact its performance is always up there.

mihalis

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Miguel, I think of the MIrage very highly and use it most of the time. It connects with my Crestron screen and makes things simple. I run it with the Gryphon Solos, so you can argue that by having the same brand throughout the chain at least I get the manufacturers targeted sound. Which I like.
Yes, I do think the Mirage and Wavac are the superior preamps (maybe with Soulution) but the Dartzeel has its own sound and I find it to be excellent as well. The VTL, well, I have expressed my views on that. Good preamp but not of this calibre (or price.)
The wavacs come with xlrs for convenience (my mkii amps also) but it is not a balanced design.
The only Krell preamp that I have had experience with is the Krell Two and it was a great preamp. Its built quality unsurpassed. Depth to die for. The detail and immediacy was not what I get from the above preamps. Overall, it is a very strong contender. With the Krell Ones, very good combination. I think however the Ones are a superior product to the preamp. I dont care what people say about Krell, the Ones gave me detailed, melodic, wonderful sound, endless power and an overall package that I cant swear I have bested with what I own now.
Happy listening!

mihalis

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Detlof,
you are probably right about pc (or in my case) mac audio. Surprisingly these drivers and software make a big difference to those who have experimented. I am sure that very soon we will be able to get excellent sound, and probably already do, from inexpensive flash based systems. That will eat quickly into the lunch of the expensive front ends and also Kaleidescape-type operations, although the latter has the leg up with video. Soon with HD I think.
I have not tube rolled with the wavac. I asked wavac about it (who visited recently) and never got clear direction; frankly I did not have the time.
I do listen to as much live music as I can, typically jazz or classical concerts. I get to catch them in tokyo, singapore or usually new york. My most recent memory is of the opening night of Aida at the open-air ancient ruins of Caracola in Rome. The music was wonderful and the performances adequate. Having said that, I found myself criticizing some of the acoustics. Reality is that a great system can offer detail and accuracy that is sometimes hard to get in just any seat at the concert (I can already see some taking up arms about this comment!) So bottom line is that I obviously enjoy a lot more great live performances. There is no comparison. But great recordings have their own magic and in some cases even if they are not as "true", they may attract some other aspect of psychoacoustic-triggered euphoria.
Thank you for contributing and for the advice on both tubes and pc audio.
Best,
Michael

mihalis

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Gents,
sorry for the long vacation of my replies, work has taken over!
I read everything and will answer some that I can. The rest I am not ignoring, just dont know what to recommend or dont have a view.
Peterh, I think I tried to explain my experience with Telos 2500 previously but i would summarize it as quite unique. They are very powerful amps, with a great amount of resolution, tonal color and accuracy. Its greater distinguishing skill is its holographic imaging. Instruments sound planted in specific positions, dont move around, and keep a sharp focus. I can see why some who listen a lot to classical music love them. Having said that, I have not used them much so I dont think they are broken in yet.
Soulution: I own the preamp and like it. It has more resolution than the Dartzeel and in fact I dont find a lot of similarities in their sound. Very fast (meaning not slow! lets not debate the terminology again, I mean accurately dynamic). I have also heard the amps, not in my system. I think they are very interesting also. They might be leaner than what I consider the real sound. And their prices are quite something.
On PRT1 vs 7.5 it is like comparing apples to a rotten apple. The 7.5 has its advantages (good preamp, many functions, good quality), but the PRT1 may be one of the very best and the comparison is not fair. I would not put the 7.5 in the domain of the preamps I have listed here, it is way inferior in most areas. Also cheaper.
For Gryphon, I would recommend the Mirage. It is phenomenal and I use it mostly, that and the prt1.
Jimmy, I think the easiest way to get good sound our of a PC or MAC is to use Itunes, download from your CD using their lossless software (a MAC will do that better than a PC), sync with a FLASH drive like IPOD Touch, and run it through the Wadia digital doc. this is a cheap way to get high end and avoid replaying music through the electric storm that is the computer. Yes, the software does matter and you can experiment with a few but start with this solution and while you at least have some music you can listen to, try other packages.
Sorry, have not tried Ypsilon and dont think I want to use equipment I dont have a good dealer close for. But when I visit Athens I will go hear them, I am proud to hear they are doing well.
I will be with the system at the end of the year and will put new pics. I have moved most things out and now listen to an all gryphon system and an all wavac system (upgraded to the Gryphon Solos and to the next model up for Wavac). These are for me where I end up and dont anticipate making changes in pre and amplification any longer. I will explain why in more detail but needless to say, the wavacs run above 300hz are the very best piece of equipment I have heard. Maybe now, as someone correctly commented, I can listen to the music!
All the best and thank you for the questions. Some have emailed me directly. Dont forget that I am just an amateur, only express my personal opinions and I caution you that electric synergies, your own power etc will make a huge difference in the results. But I do think that in describing the characteristics of this equipment, I have a pretty good perspective since I can compare and the differences are usually not subtle in this system.

mihalis

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Mtkhl567, I agree with that point in speed and it is what I was saying earlier. Although the speed is actually not as well defined as you think, since humidity and temperature matter! (probably not important in a listening room.)

On your comments on tubes, I obviously dont agree but this is one of the most basic debates in audio so I dont think I can add much to it. I decided to find out for myself by comparing some equipment and my conclusions are listed earlier. My preference for wavacs is shared by most people that have listened critically in my room. This could have something to do with equipment matching and certainly is not the case with hard to drive speakers. And below 300hz I am on solid state self powered woofers.

mihalis

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Perrew, you may want to try to get more detail than dealer's analogies to cars. I have heard these statements also from all kinds of dealers for all kinds of equipment. The 833a are not slow amps, they are very true. I dont like "fast" equipment because like "slow" equipment it is not representing real sound. The smaller wavac models are more tubey to my ear so there might be significant differences with the 833 worth exploring.

mihalis

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Phd, you can definitely achieve excellent sound with a less expensive system and not consider doing what I have done unless you can source stuff at the right prices + are a bit crazy.

Mapman, I am not sure I will have time to put new pics up but it is becoming more of a system now. The wavac mkiis have arrived and they are a worthy upgrade from the wonderful v1.3s. I use these mostly and the Gryphon Solos secondarily. Most of the time I use the Gryphon Mirage which connects with my Crestron system for controls. If not, I use the wavac preamp. Sadly, my Krells are now all sold. More to come soon (the v1.3s being one).

Perrew, this is a hard comparison to make. I am on the camp that was not impressed by mbls. I find their speakers impressive but their lack of imaging is unacceptable in my mind (and making them work in an average room is hard--plus you limit yourself greatly on the kind of amps you can use.) The lack of a box is however a plus. Their preamp was not in my opinion what it is hailed to be. Not even close. And the 9011s did not have the resolution and tonal accuracy of other solid states I have owned. I can see (hear?) why some people like them and consider them more tubey but I think it is because the sound is slower than is should be. The 9011s are however very powerful and drove my Marten Coltranes (had to drive!) better than the wavacs could. When however I upgraded the speakers to the Poseidons which are very sensitive (and at a totally different level), the weaknesses became apparent. I would, for example, use the Krell Evos all day long over the mbls. (note that I am a fan of class a and tubes, so pls keep that in mind; the person who got these from me is extremely happy with their performance and I dont question that.)

The Vitus was a totally different amp, as one would expect from the class a design. Lets just say that they are wonderful amps but they are also a bit slow and they dont compare to other very good class a amps like the krells or Gryphons (or the older pass models which I also like a lot). The Vitus sound is one I could happily live with, despite all that. It is possible that their newest model has changed some of that. I definitely heard that on the preamp which lost some of the tonal range it had but it is now a more believable preamp, and possibly one of the top ss ones.

As always i caveat that these are simply personal views on a particular (non) system which is run through a digital equalizer and a self powered speaker below 300hz.

mihalis

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On preamps which some of you asked, I may have answered before. I consider AR and VTL to be clearly inferior to the ones I have here. They also cost less, so maybe it is understandable. What is not understandable is the reviews they are getting where they are compared to the super pramps like the WAVAC, Vitus and importantly the Gryphon Mirage which is the closest I have hard to the wavac sound.

The Krell is a great preamp, built like a tank, which produces very deep staging. It is especially well suited to a CAST connection with the even more excellent amps they drive. The sound does not have the resolution or natural presentation of the wavac and mirage but it does produce a stage that is maybe larger and the depth gives the illusion of real live music. At these levels you have to hear them because all of them have some character and it is a matter of how you like it and how it matches your system.

mihalis

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Johnchung, both sound great. EMM is clearly a pioneer in SACD technology. However, their products, in my experience, have mixed quality, keep changing very frequently as their suppliers change, and are therefore unacceptably inconsistent in their quality given prices. I therefore moved to accuphase which sounds better, allows for digital equalization and is built perfectly.

Tenors also did sound well but the 300hp model was flawed and kept blowing up, which is why they went bankrupt. Imagine how amazed I was to read on Stereophile recently a rave mention of a new $90k model without any mention of the 300hp and the problems they had. I still use them sometimes and consider them to have a very good sound but there are others out there that also haev great sound and great quality.

mihalis

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Richsonics, I use Jorma Prime all around. My experimentation with cables has not been as extensive as these cables seem to do what I am looking for. Same resolution (more?) than Valhallas but a more natural full bodied presentation.

mihalis

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Sorry guys, some delayed responses:

Oanhu: I have not heard the art 3 at all and not in my system. I have heard good things about it and I think in some ways it might challenge the wavac but from those who own both I have not heard the art to be better. I would find it hard to beat the wavac sound frankly in its totality although I can see how some might prefer certain solid states.

Yuritepi: I have not used it much so it would be unfair to render an opinion here. I would say however that whenever I heard it, including in my system, I found it to be fast (in a good way), very detailed and with impressive bass for its size. Truth is that I dont know, if I ever find time to listen to it more I will report here.

Chemist: the following of FM especially in Asia is insane. these little boxes which cost more than anything have people here raving. My view, having heard of so many now, is that they certainly have their strengths. From experience, I now see these to be strengths of other class A amps too (eg Krell and I hope the Gryphon). The music is natural, fluid, the detail is amazing. The staging is large, deep. However, class A do not image as well as some of the other solid states (eg goldmund). They are more musical in some ways. FMs are a hybrid class A, whatever that means. They dont run as hot as some of the pure ones. For more on Class A, take a look at Pass' site, they have some white papers there.

Cchp, I am affraid I have not heard them. I have heard others of their models and I always leave impressed by them and quads (even more from the most recent quads.) some of the things they do, they do so well that one can easily forget about other systems. I think Richard might be using these speakers or was it someone else?

LBJefferies7: No, I have not. Although, some other speakers of similar design do work better in that configuration. I asked Gryphon and they insisted that the speakers are designed like this, so I did not insist. They are a bit particular since the crossover for the bass towers is high at 300hz, unlike say some of the large Genesis models where it was lower. But when I get into the new room (in about 1.5 years!) I will try them, since I have seen them in that configuration also. i think that to get the best of imaging on these speakers I need a larger room and 5m from the baffles, which is what Gryphon recommends. That would allow the drivers to blend. In the meantime, I will settle for amazing dynamics which are exacerbated by the smaller room as you can imagine. Good point though, some of the people helping me with my room made the same observation.

Ajay555: I think I have respectfully expressed my view on these mags in the past. I just think that it is the nature of the beast: they have motivations, they naturally have an audience they need to target and the nature of this hobby is such that subjective mumbo jumbo can live long. But they server a purpose which is to basically act as glorified advertising leaflets. Every now and then, good articles are included on technology etc. So long as one is realistic about expectations, no reason to not read them. Now that these mags are available digitally, i get them that way, run through them so fast that i dont even remember later if i read them except for whatever article I cared for, and they cost close to nothing...

mihalis

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Jkstraw,
Thank you for the kind words. Building an inexpensive system is no lesser a process than an expensive one. It also is the case that sometimes less is more. In terms of enjoying music, expensive does not mean always better (especially knowing how inconsistently these things are priced...) And many options can also impair you in actually enjoying the material. I guess what I am saying is that anyone that would "laugh" at your question is an idiot. ;-)

I hesitate to answer your question because it includes equipment I am not as familiar with. The Maggies are obviously good speakers, although I have found them at times to sound a bit lean. The addition of the sub seems to support that. I guess I would give a couple of tube amps a listen and see if they have sufficient power to make your speakers sing. VTL or CJ would not be a bad choice although I have no idea if they would combine well with the Bel Canto.

What I do fee more strongly about is your idea on digital. It makes a lot of sense. I recently recommended the i70 to a friend and I suggested to him to encode uncompressed in a flash based device such as an ipod touch (there is a program called MAX which is one of the best but not user friendly). Obviously involving you PC will not be perfect but if you are looking to save some $$$ that might be a place to try. You will be surprised by the quality you will get, assuming the i70 does what it is supposed to (I have not listened to it but I have ordered one.) Flash drives seem to perform better than others.

And, I would seriously consider digital equalization. I know this is not necessarily consensus view, but in a system like this the right equalization will help with getting rid of basic errors that we can all make in matching speakers with subs, not to mention overall room interactions. There is a lot of interesting research on this, leading to different approaches. But IMHO in most systems and rooms, good digital equalization helps, and sometimes a lot.

Hope this helps, keep us posted! I hope others will email you or chip in here.

mihalis

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Wizard1, the Soulution was a try of only the preamp. I have increasingly had the preference of Class A sound (and tubes) so I dont think I would go that route for amps. I have heard them though and I would say that they seem to offer very high resolution, more fuidity than say goldmund but also not the holographic imaging that Goldmund can produce.

The Krells are amazing amps. Class A all the way. Not at all what one would expect from their reputation as brutes. Obviously they have amazing power but they are very continuous, very very detailed and often (in combination with the preamp) produce the greatest depth I have had in my system. They are one of the best in my view.

To answer also questions from Lula and Cmarin:
I love the wavacs for reasons I think I stated earlier. I am upgrading to the next up. They have most of the best feasures of other amps without any of the electronic stuff. You are not impressed by anything but how transparent they are. I doubt there are any truer tubes out there.

I also like a lot the FM acoustics models. The 411 I have has similar high resolution and fluidity as the Krell, huge stage but not the imaging of Goldmund.

I would rather not rank as at this level it is a matter of taste, system matching and maybe even type of music (eg classical through the Goldmunds is a pleasure.)

The Darts, although cheaper than any of these, hold their own very well. I have not noticed weaknesses in slam but dont forget that my system is self powered below 300hz so I would probably not know even if they exited. I would guess this is a matter of matching with the right amps: you have to account for some limitations in power. But my view is that speakers should anyway be very sensitive and easy to drive to produce the best dynamics regardless of accompanying power amp.

So yes, they are a wonderful pre and power combo, I prefer it to say my previous amps like mbl 9011, lamm 1.2r etc. The sounds is not tubey or class A (many say tubey but I never felt that) and rather closer to Goldmund and other non Class A amps of the best quality. I would think that other serious contenders at that price range would include the new Gryphon stereo Colisseum, the Boulder stereo etc.

I am not surprised that the mbls pre is not producing the slam you want. I did not think the 6010d had it either (I think I have characterised it as "slow" somewhere previously.) That is just my opinion but I view the Dart as a far superior amp. By quite a margin.

mihalis

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Maxx2man, hard one to answer as some of my equipment is not here. For example, the Lyra Connoisseur is considered by some to have been one of the top preamps. We ll see how the new version (new power supply) fears but I assume very well.

I do like the wavac a lot, especially because of its transparency and natural presentation. No electronic sound at all. Maybe the best.

The Gryphon Mirage has a very similar presentation actually. Extremely natural, very transparent, great stage. Depth is slightly weaker than I think it should be (this might have to do with all kinds of equalization and room issues) and I find that tonal colors can be sometimes slightly on the lean side.

The Vitus is breaking in after the upgrade so I will need to wait on that as it is a great preamp.

I tried out the Soulution which is actually an interesting cookie. Maybe Goldmund type of sound but a bit warmer, more natural.

All these are so good that they need to be listened to. I have not found partnering equipment to matter much. Through the best amps, I can hear the preamp character (eg through the wavac amps.

mihalis

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Thanks guys for the kind comments.

Lula, on your question about preamp comparisons between the Dartzeel and the MBL. Let me first say that I used to own the MBL, I also owned the 9011s. I found both to be inferior to anything you currently see in my system. I say this confidently because it was not a thin margin.

The mbl preamp does not provide the resolution that the Dartzeel does. It also does not have the tonal color accuracy. I found imaging to be more solid with the Dartzeel and depth to be greater. The MBL does sound a bit sweeter and slower. Some compare it to tubes which I cant opine on because the only tube preamp I own is the Wavac and it is heads and shoulders above the MBL, without having any of the "tubey" characteristics people attribute.

My observations were supported by the majority of people who had heard the mbls in my system and who are audiophiles or designers. All but one (who subsequently sold his) thought the preamp to lack dynamics.

The Dart is a very accomplished preamp. I would say that when you go solid state and you are not using class A equipment at the amplifier level, you lose some of the liquidity and tonal accuracy that you get with Class A. The Dartzeel combo faces that issue too and it sounds a bit more like Goldmunds in that regard.

Having said that, the person to whom I sold the 9011s (which are different in character in some ways than the 9011s) is extremely happy with the combo. So take my comments for what they are worth: subjective evaluation in my own specific system.

mihalis

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Thanks George, I will try it out. I am not as high a listener of this music but maybe this will change me. The mainstream stuff drives me mad (I hate it) but some of what you are describing is excellent indeed.

mihalis

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Kops, hard to answer some of that. I dont have first hand experience with any previous Gryphon model so I will refrain from commenting. I have heard, second hand, that some considered them a little dark. And that the new stuff is not at all. I can certainly attest that for the Mirage which is an amazing piece of equipment. It sounds, in my system, a lot like the Wavac: crystal clear, sort of like looking at high visibility water while diving. I dont know how else to describe it. It just sounds like live music.

I would consider the Wavac the best I know of for tubes. Kondo I am not sure, the mid range has its 'magic' but is that distortion or not? AR and VTL are not anywhere near that level (I have owned them both.)

On solid, all the stuff I own I think it very high end. I would add Boulder's series 2. Some also like Fm and Goldmund a lot, but I have not heard them in my system.

I need to stress that in a very transparent system, preamps can make quite a difference. There is no "best" but rather certain presentations that might appeal to you more. If I had to pick one at this point of time, it would be the Mirage because it sounds great and offers Crestron interface, thus integrating with the controls of a home system very easily.

I will not be in Munich but should be listening to the Colosseums in my system very soon!

mihalis

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Mtkhl567, I certainly agree with that. First of all, it is hard to define 'better' in this sort of thing. But more importantly, keep this in mind: typically, manufacturers sell to distributors at X, the ditributors to the dealers at 2X and the dealers to us at 4X (they dont want you to know!!) So you can imagine that, due to this simple math, higher price only results in price/4 improvement in hardware, work, ingenuity, r&d, etc. And of course one can not equate this increase anyway to better results. Some will argue that the less you have in the signal path the better. So, less hardware! Hear FM Acoustics and Dartzeel and you will know that massive hardware is not necessarily always best or necessary.

I am a bit unsure about evolution acoustics because I have traced it, through audiogon, to a group of users who asserted on repeated occasion that their speakers were the best at the time. First it was Kharma, then VSchweikert and then EA. And it all coincided with the changes in what a dealer was selling. I am not suggesting foul play but I just dont know. I never heard them. I am very happy with the Poseidons, they are incresibly dynamic and their scale is amazing.

mihalis

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Nope, Asia.

mihalis

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George, indeed. The issue is finding good recordings. Do you know of any?

mihalis

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Boeing, I am not quite sure as the Lyra is not being used for a year now. I have sent it back for the power supply change, when it happens. I think they would be quite different, though. The Lyra had a little bit more noise but more resolution and greater imaging. The SL100 (which I am now upgrading to SL101) was much more full bodied, and maybe sounding a bit slower. It achieves this full tonal range with a lot of resolution. Both are fantastic preamps and have to be listened to make a choice. Also, they need to be paired with the right equipment. And you might care that the Lyra comes without a remote.

mihalis

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Giorgo, you bet. I am not very current so it is Katsimihas brothers, Vamvakaris and the like!!

mihalis

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Schwinnindia, the answer is 'no' to all your questions. I am, however, on order for the Gryphon Collosseum solos and hope they might exhibit the same characteristics as the Mirage. The Mirage is not the most full bodied preamp but I do find that I generally prefer its presentation.

Btw, are you based in India or is that just a coincidence in your name? I travel there regularly.

mihalis

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Well, this year a ton of people suddenly woke up and are producing hard disk (and some flash drive!) servers. Even the monolithic Stereophile and Absolute Sound recently run articles on Sooloss and other servers. Kalendescape was the leader of these technologies and they also offer video, which is a whole different level of complexity. Even though their stuff does not look or feel like high end, I did compare it to some of the high end contenders and I thought I was getting better sound from them. Computer-based is a four letter word here because PCs are terrible in their electric internal conditions. So these better servers do not run through PCs but dedicated systems. You get endless storage, amazing access to your music through touch panel screens and actually more or less equal or better sound than the very best transports. There are various plus and minuses but generally the pluses win. And the availability of thousands of CDs under your fingertips is just amazing.

But, these are all still quite expensive. I would guess that prices will drop like they did with LCD screens. Hard disks dont cost much and when the software technology becomes more readily available, it is the inevitable.

Some will also argue that a flash drive will do even better. One idea is to use a good lossless software program (even Itunes with a MAC, not PC), download it all to an ipod touch, and then run it through the new wadia i170 which costs $400 or so, and actually takes out digital signal. It should compete with most transports...

mihalis

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Well Vhiner I have owned various iterations of the DAC 6e, the DCC2 and the transport. My understanding is that the cdsa actually measured better than the separates (a fact not publicized) and therefore simplified things by using that. However I find the new accuphase to be ahead in that it does not bloat instruments. The latter is a characteristic I have found with EMM, making the music somewhat more immediate but a bit too much at times. Dont take me wrong, I do like what EMM do, I find them quite natural and I have preferred it to any other than Accuphase that I have heard, incl DCS, Esoteric etc.

But more importantly, in my case there is no comparison because the Accuphase allows for high bit digital equalization which in my system is necessary. And it allows me to swap around equipment without too much problem. I also run my hard disk server through the dac and equalizer to equally good effect. The build quality of accuphase is beyond anything I have had on the front end and their transport makes esoteric look cheapy. I would also mention that I have had many problems of quality with EMM with their older products. They kept running out of supplies, their models were being changed internally without it being advertised, etc etc. At these prices, I found that unacceptable. In comes Accuphase with their impeccable quality, rare changes and a half inch aluminum tray that comes out so silently that you can bearly hear anything. Someone said it reminded him of spaceship equipment. You should also know that in japan their products always hit first, with clear performance ahead of esoteric which is not taken as seriously. I can confirm that having listened to most of these in comparison in Tokyo. And their prices in Japan are about 50-60% making them great value for money compared to other front end. There is no question that their price equivalent is more their US price than their Japanese one.

Spend money on your DAC and start using dedicated non-pc based servers. You will get best sound and the interface will be so much more fun to use.

mihalis

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I will try them out! i actually have not listened to Chord for years now. I do not need that much power, however, and I find that generally power comes with compromises. What speakers do you use with them?
Best,
Michael

mihalis

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I am not sure about the matching and comparison between the SL101 and Lyra. Both preamps are in the process of being upgraded so when they come back I can try it out. But it will be a while. I do think yo uneed to look into gain because the old Lyra did not have much (I say this from memory and may be wrong).

FM and Goldmund sound totally different and they each have a great following (especially FM).

FM does at times feel like it can not be bested. Amazing resolution, very smooth sound, fast. The best way I can describe it is that it seems to be a hybrid class A design and it exhibits many of these characteristics (smooth sound, wonderful mid range etc). Its soundstage is somewhat all over the place (imaging is weird because instruments sound large) but it is very large and deep. I would actually say that in my system I get some parts of the sound be very similar to my Krell Ones which are turning out to be very impressive machines, maybe with even more resolution (I am sure a number of my friends in Asia are arming their guns for me saying this!)

Goldmund is totally different. More dry, less tonal colors. However, very silent and dynamic. Its most amazing characteristic is something that i can only call 'holographic imaging'. Instruments sound like they are carved in granite. When listening to classical music, that can be a huge advantage because there is no mixing of sounds. Whether this represents live music more accurately, I am not 100% sure yet. Critics will say Goldmund sometimes sounds lean. I dont agree, I think they sound somewhat dry but that is not a criticism necessarily.

Try out the Dart also. When I have more time I will report on it but it is quite an amazing piece of equipment and surprisingly so. It offers similar sound to the goldmund but deeper (without the imaging and dynamics of the G) and fuller tonal colors. I can see why some love these amps. Btw, I dont get why some reviewers call them tubey. They are far from.

Hope this helps.

mihalis

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There is so much going on electrically within a system and a specific house that it is sometimes hard to know what is better or worse. That is why I avoid that term. You can have equipment that is designed in a way that it tackles a certain noise in your house that others dont. And that is just one example.

That is why, unfortunately, this is an exercise of futility!

Alex, good luck with the Vitus, they are terrific amps. I am upgrading the preamp to the new version as it seems like a more material change from the previous batch. We ll see (hear).

I do think that what our friends at Lyra may have in store will be quite impressive. And I cant think of a nicer team who stand behind their products. But lets say no more and spoil it for everyone else!!

mihalis

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Please do, I dont consider this "my page" at all!

I agree but playing through the computer's electric storm degrades sound. That is why the Wadia device might actually help extract sound at another level of clarity from PC playback. Also one can rip using other better software and then covert to apple compatible files.

I am ashamed (!) to say that I ordered the Gryphon Colosseum Solos based on auditioning the preamp which in some ways is a step ahead of the competition.

mihalis

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Alexsee, the latter is an easy answer for me. No, not because I dont want to try it out but because i cant deal with the hassle and I dont have the time to listen to so much music to need the variety of recordings. A designer of one of the most well known cartridges told me last week that in his mind it is not about what is better or worse but that each of these formats provide one access to more music. Well said I think.

I did audition both Sooloos and Kaleidescape at home. They were one day/night events, separate each, and with different digital cables which the dealers provided (I stress that because I found this to be a very important link, more than I thought it would be).

The answer for me was Kaleidescape because the sound was superior to my (and my wife's more capable) ears, plus it offers a totally different level of service, since it offers video (Sooloos told me they might add that at some point). Kaleidescape seems to be the industry leader.

That was a weird conclusion since the K system does not impress with its built quality. But there was little doubt that I was getting better dynamics, a more solid soundstage and better detail (the latter being a very small difference). I heard a rumor that ex Mark Levinson guys are part of the team now and that this is where some of the digital prowess comes from. But I dont know myself for sure.

I would assume that all these would perform very well with the right DAC and cables. And I hope that as hard disk prices drop and competition increases, the prices of this stuff will drop dramatically, like it did with LCD screens. The current prices are not justifiable in my view and they claim it is because of their software. Apple/Itunes can sell their software for free because they make their money elsewhere. So at this stage these brands charge for the fact that you are using the latest in technology in their area.

I am now going to purchase the new Wadia i170 (costs $400?)which takes digital out of the Ipod and use an ipod touch (ie flash drive which i hear is the best option) to see what the differences are. Depending on ripping software, I am guessing the results are going to be very good.

mihalis

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Alexsee, i should note the following particularities of the system:
-the speakers are self powered (the sub, below 300hz)
-i use digital equalization through the Accuphase dg38 and soon 48. There is a lot of debate about equalization and specifics of it. However, using it in my system is such an obvious improvement that there is no debate. some will argue this is related to the room or system itself. I hope that with a better room i will need less or no equal but for now it is fantastic
-i typically try the preamp, then connect various amps and do an equalization for each combination. then i can focus on listening to a certain combination. i would listen for a week, then maybe change to something else

it is hard to answer if i have any favorite combinations. it would require me to write a review of all this, meaning a book! i will say that i got the gryphon mirage recently and it is crystal clear, transparent and not dark as some gryphons used to be. it is quite something. maybe not the greatest depth that any preamp has given me but in terms of the other characteristics, really top notch. I am eagerly awaiting the Solos which are the new amps of same brand and possibly may work well with the same brand speakers.
-i typically keep all the equipment warm by keeping them plugged

i note all this because it does affect how each piece in turn affects the sound. for example, if one amp could contribute a lot more in the bass than others, i would not know it with these speakers since they use their own.

however, themes do definitely emerge.

to answer some of your questions:
-yes, i sometimes do try same brand because they often have proprietary connections (eg accuphase, krell, dartzeel). however, generally i have not been able to identify clear synergies or said differently some of the better equipment continues to be better even when used with other brands.

Ckoffend, i started actually although i keep on cancelling the ads because i listen to them under a different condition or with some set up that the manufacturer might advise and like it again! the reality is that at this level the type of music, power characteristics (i mean the wall, what is going on at the house etc) make quite a difference.

Cjfrbw,the reality is that i enjoy music a lot but i also enjoy the equipment itself, playing around with combinations and trying to understand what makes for a good result. I used to swap things around too frequently but now i will go weeks at a time before i try something else.

mihalis