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:
-MBL 9011 monos
-MBL 6010D preamp
-VTL 7.5 mk i and ii
-Audio Research Ref 3 preamp
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.
That is a very big room. Thks for the info. Just got myself a gryphon pandora & gryphon Mephisto from Han. Look into speakers . Obviously my room 14.5ft x 25ft x 10.5ft would be too small for Poseidon .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Excellent thread. I have long admired your continued acquisitions. Quick question - any interest in the recently introduced Gryphon Pendragon loudspeakers? It looks as though Gryphon has a new SOTA 4 tower speaker system
I just read all 6 pages of your journey, thanks for sharing! I noticed that with all the component switching, there is relatively little change in the speakers. How did you settle on the Poseidons? I see you were unimpressed with the MBLs and Martens, anything else worth mentioning?
Really looking forward of pics of the new system!
(OK, better get back to my school work so I can afford this stuff someday!)
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!
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.
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.
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!
I listened, in my system, to the Dartzeel 18NS, VTL 7.5 series 3, and Krell KCT. For my taste, the clear winner was the Krell KCT. I like rock, pop, tecno and jazz. I will try to listen to the new Krell Phantom. Cheers,
no wonder the 1%er's have me wanting to jump off a bridge. If I could afford 1/10th of that equipment. But then again being in a wheelchair and on social security and substitute teaching will never get me there.
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!
Thank you very much for your views on the Dartzeel 18NS, Krell Evo 2 and VTL 7.5 series 2.
I had the opportunity to listen to the Dartzeel 18NS in my system last week, and to my surprise, I would not replace my Levinson 380S for it. In my system (Krell 750MCX monos, Dunlavy SC-VI) the Dartzeels had a little more detail, but the bass was not as explosive/visceral as the Levinson 380S.
If your prefer the Dartzeels to the Krell Evo 2, I guess I would not have much to gain with the Krell Evo 2. I will try to get a demo of the VTL 7.5 series 3 in my system, supposedly it solved some of the of the shortcomings of series 1 and 2. Will see...
What about the Soulution 720? Better than the Dartzeel/Krell?
Mihalis, thanks for your comments to vn101606 on pres. You have great direct experience with a large number of great pres. How would you compare the vitus to the dart pre? Also, I may be mistaken, but I thought you had the soulution in your mix at one point. How about the soulution compared to the dart and vitus pres? Thanks!
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
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.