After many iterations I decided this combination
sounded best in my room for the broadest selection of recordings. The Lx521.4
baffle smooths the high-mid frequency response hump then dip present in the
Orion’s. Those of us who love the sound of a cello (me!) find the Orion more
enjoyable but the 521.4 has a flatter mid-range response and is more accurate
over the full range of the baffle. Why not have the option of either or both?
1) I was fortunate enough to hear the Orion's in the Linkwitz’s
rental cabin in Sea Ranch and later the LX521.4 and LXmini in Linkwitz’s home
in Corte Madera. Many people have tried to “improve” the Orion which is fine. Many
submitted their design modifications to Linkwitz and he welcomed that; however,
there was always a caveat. To paraphrase, ‘Do what you want but don’t call it
an Orion unless you follow the plans exactly.’ In fact, if he saw my system
(where I have the option of playing only the Orion or bringing in the other
drivers, he would probably say ‘sometimes you have an Orion and sometimes you
don’t’ or words to that effect. The meaning is clear. Don’t try to make the
Orion into something that it isn’t. The sound (with all of its’ beauty and
flaws) is baked in.
The LX521.4 baffles are independently suspended (not mechanically connected to
the Orion cabinets) so the resonance that exists in the Orion cabinet is not transmitted
into the baffles. I bought the Orion’s used and I built LXmini’s, the LXsub’s,
and the LX521.4 baffles.
Having the 521.4 baffles above the Orion’s
makes the sound stage taller – like sitting in the middle of the orchestra with
the violins straight forward and the horns, reeds and percussion behind and
above. The 521.4 baffles push the sound image back beyond the rear wall and out
beyond the side walls of the room.
2) The Orion’s and 521.4’s have independently controlled
volume and can be fed from either the Orion active analog cross-over/equalizer
or a miniDSP 4x10 digital crossover. The
digital crossover allows me to set delays for time-correcting the drivers when not
in the same vertical plane. Schiit Saga+ hybrid tube pre-amp is extremely quiet
and if I don’t want the tube in the circuit, one button switches it out to just
a wire plus the passive stepped-actuator resistor volume control. But 99% of
the time I prefer the tube.
Bluesound Node 2i. It’s an entry level streamer but it does
quite well. If I ever get the urge to do any more upgrades I would start here.
I can easily tell the difference between the 44.1kHz Tidal stream and the 24/96
kHz Quobuz, particularly on classical tracks. I’m neutral on MQA. It improves
some tracks and others not so much. Being able to use my preferred DAC is makes a bigger
difference to me than sticking with the MQA hardware unfolding in the Node 2i.
4) The Schiit Yggdrasil DAC has a much larger (wider and
deeper) soundstage than the Berkeley Alpha DAC (see “Head” system below) so I
prefer it here. Yes it took a month powered up to sound good, and no, I haven’t
the slightest idea why.
5) Three ATI amplifiers, two 6012, 12-channels each at 60W
and one 528NC, 8-channels at 120W. Probably only need two of these going
forward. I had an LXmini system in the room as well (configured as a “Watson”,
see Linkwitz Lab website) but that proved unnecessary.
6) Two LX sub’s. These are crossed over at 80hz and have
about 15% lower gain than the woofers in the Orion cabinets. Why? I don’t know.
I just played with the subwoofer volume until the bass sounded clear and tight.
It’s so room dependent the empirical approach makes more sense than an
analytical method for these.
7) PS Audio shows up in four places. The P10 regenerator,
the dectet, the powerbase platform, and the power cables. I have a Power
Quality meter (from work) so I looked at my line frequency, THD, waveform shape etc. before
I bought the regenerator; now I wouldn’t be without it.
8) Cables and tweaks. I despaired at trying to A/B signal
and power cables, room treatments. I just couldn’t hear a difference with a
quick test. But I discovered that for me there is an enormous difference
between having all the tweaks in place versus none of them. And the difference
didn’t happen immediately but crept up on me over time. I’d be listening one
day and thinking “wow, my system sounds really good right now; what did I do? Nothing,
but last week I upgraded to (insert name of cable or tweak here). Also the
‘other room test’….my wife would come in from the other room and say, “I
thought you had a live band in here, dear.”
I just decided to standardize on the best wire I could afford that I liked and that
were also top of the line maybe 10 or more years ago. For interconnects that
turned out Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope or Alpha Sterling X2 with active
shielding and MPC’s upgraded by Michael Spallone. For power cables that turned out
to be PS Audio PowerPlus SC and Perfect wave AC 5 or AC 12.
I do have a physics degree so it would take a major miracle to convince me that
basic physics is wrong and skin-effect matters at audio frequencies. Also in
the miracle category are audiophile fuses and expensive speaker wire. I’m always
open to listening and will accept what I experience without requiring
understanding if the sound proves it - but I’m not in a hurry to spend money
trying out those things.
Active shielding with a powered drain makes
a lot of sense for interconnects because the voltage and current are so low.
But for power and speaker cable I decided to just go with a “large enough”
gauge for the cable length. Speaker cables I made myself from shielded twisted
10 gauge pairs. 4 pairs bundled together with a braided cover and Neutrik
connectors in 10 foot lengths.
Because my room is on the small side I wanted to try some frequency diffusers
to remove unwanted reflections. I have one advantage in that sidewalls are lined with dense books from the back wall to 5 feet in from of the speaker plane - good absorbers. Not being able to justify the cost of
Synergistic HFT’s, I decided to make some "Qzzinators" (the HFT knockoff’s
described elsewhere on this site). They work fantastically for me! The only way I
can describe it is by example. Imagine you are at a live symphony performance
in a concert hall. You will hear reflected sound from the walls of the hall
that signals to your brain the size of the room and where you are in the
room. Without the HFT's, you hear
something else, confused reflections maybe but you don’t get a sense of the
room. With the HFT's (in the right locations), the room size locks into
place as part of the sound image. Much trial and error is required to get these
positioned correctly. If you have omni-directional or open-baffle dipole speakers you can
throw away the instructions from Synergistic Research about HFT placement - particularly
behind the speakers. Those are the reflections you want to keep un-diffused. Trial and error.
Finally I used REW and the UMIK to measure
the frequency response of each driver, each set of drivers in each cabinet and
the room as whole from various positions. I modified the
crossover/equalizer/delay configuration in the miniDSP a little to flatten the
room response but not very much changed compared to the recommended standard
XO/Eq configuration. I found that using room correction in software did not
improve my experience of the sound so I don’t use it.
Rack. The rack I wanted (Mapleshade Samson) was beyond
my price range so I built something similar. Each shelf is two one-inch thick
pieces of Baltic Birch plywood laminated together. The rods and caps are solid
aluminum with center holes drilled and tapped. Double-ended threaded studs hold
the rods and caps in place.
Half of my listening happens at night when it needs to be
relatively quiet. I’ve always enjoyed Stax headphones so it wasn’t too hard to
convince myself to try the new state of the art.
Top shelf is the Blue Hawaii Special Edition (BHSE) electrostatic
headphone amp along with the Stax 009S headphones. Supporting the BHSE is a PS
Second shelf is another Node 2i, a Schiit Modi Multibit for USB input (streaming YouTube) when needed, and the outboard power supply for the BHSE.
Bottom shelf is the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha Series 1 DAC on top of the PS
Audio Power Plant 3 regenerator. As above, Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope and
Alpha Sterling X2 interconnects with upgraded MPC’s.