This is my 8th generation stereo system that started with a Kenwood receiver in college in the 1970s.  This is a great sounding analog system and the most musical yet to my ears.  I am soon to upgrade the digital side with a new DAC and transport.  Eagerly waiting delivery.  Until then I am spinning Vinyl and enjoying my new to me preamps.
I used the Golden Ratio for speaker placement.  The speakers are 7.6ft from the back wall to the center of the woofer and 4.7ft from the side walls.  The listening chair makes a triangle from the distance between the two speakers.  This room allowed me to set it up that way and it works.

Room Details

Dimensions: 28’ × 17’  Large
Ceiling: 9’

Components Toggle details

    • Audio Research Reference 5 SE Preamp
    This preamp uses a 6550 and 6H30 for power rectification.  4 additional 6H30 tubes amplify the stereo signal at line stage level.  This 6550 tube runs hot.  My laser thermometer shows 230+ F on the top of the tube.  I had to lower the middle shelf of my rack to give this preamp at least 7 inches of clearance.  I did not want the shelf over it getting too warm.  Wonderful sound.  This is my first stereo system since the mid 1970s to have remote control (not counting a CD player).  I no longer need to get out of my chair to turn down the volume for my wife.
    • Audio Research Reference Phono 2 SE
    This has the same tube set as the Ref 5SE although it does not run nearly has hot.  I bought both the Ref 5 SE and this Phono 2 SE at the same time moving away from an older single box ARC preamp.  It is quite a step up in clarity, imaging and a much lower noise floor.  I have been very happy with the change.  btw- I love peering under the clear cover to see the circuit boards.  Beautiful layout of capacitors, tubes and transformers.
    • Sota Nova VI w/Condor Eclipse motor and Roadrunner Speed Control
    This is my new Nova VI Turntable.  I got all the options.  This turntable features a magnetic bearing and the Eclipse Condor motor package with the Roadrunner spead control system.  The Eclipse Condor package is an A/C motor with a very precise sine wave controller- the Condor.  Lift of the motor cover and the Condor controller is visible inside the plinth.
    • SME 309 Tonearm
    This is a rock solid performer.  I find it works very well with both MM and MC cartridges.  It does prefer heavier cartridge bodies.  Benz, Koetsu and Soundsmith cartridges work out well giving this tonearm system a resonance at 10 Hz.
    • Soundsmith Zephyr Star MIMC ES
    I wore my Benz cartridge down to a stub.  After much deliberation I decided to try the latest Zephyr Star by Soundsmith.  It sounds great and has outstanding tracking.  A couple of old records that I was resigned to accepting distortion on a few tracks sound perfect with this Zephyr.  I am very pleased with this phono cartridge.
    • Ayon Audio CD-T mkII
    This is a CD transport with vacuum tube output.  This transport upsamples CDs to 88.2 kHz PCM output through I2S, BNC, AES, RCA, OPT, or it can also output the CD code in DSD format using three BNC connectors- MCLK, DSD L, and DSD R.
    • Ayon Audio Stealth XS
    This DAC complements the CD-T II transport.  It features tube power rectification and tube output on the analog side.  8 tubes in total but running at fairly low wattage, as compared to the ARC ref gear.  The Ayon CD-T and Stealth get slightly warm but I cannot keep my hand over the air vents above the tubes for too long.
    • RS9 Music Server Music Streamer based on ROCK and running ROON
    I added this music server in order to stream music and play hi res audio files.  It is feeding into my DAC via a USB cable.
    • Pass Labs X-260.8 monoblocks
    Just upgraded to these new mono amps.  I noticed a bit bigger soundstage and clearer, more detailed bass as compared to my old X-350 amp.  The X-350 is a classic and hard to let go.
    • Thiel Audio CS6 Loudspeakers
    Big beautiful full range speakers.  These speakers are fast with an outstanding mid range.  I have owned these for 15 years now and still love them.  Paired with the Pass Labs amplifier makes for a great combination.
    • SVS SB-4000 Subwoofer
    For a long time I would not consider using subs.  I revamped my home theater system a few years back and bought a SVS Subwoofer.  I was impressed with its power and crisp bass response.  So one cold winter day I dragged this behemoth into the stereo room and tried it out.  Now I have 2 SVS subwoofers behind the Thiels.  I think they integrate well with the Thiels filling in that bottom octave nicely.
    • AudioQuest Niagara 5000
    Powers the front end
    • Purist Audio Design Musaeus XLR Interconnects Luminist
    With the purchase of my new preamps I needed to move from SE (RCA) connectors to XLR types.  After much deliberation with myself I gave these PAD cables a try.  They sound great.  The soundstage has more depth.  Images have tighter focus and the system sounds very musical now.  I can't stop listening.  No ear fatigue at all.  They are keepers.
    • Purist Audio Design Genesis Luminist Phono Cable
    1.2 meter Tonearm Cable that lowered the noise floor on my analog side.  The sound easily bests the cable that came with my tonearm.  Should have upgraded years ago.
    • Purist Audio Design Diamond Revision 30th Anniversary USB
    1.0m USB from the RS9 Music Server to the DAC
    • Purist Audio Design Musaeus Luminist Speaker Cable
    I got these speaker cables to round out the stereo system with all Musaeus cabling.  Very musical to my ears.
    • Purist Audio Design Musaeus Power Cords
    These power cords supply the Pass Labs mono amps with power.
    • Purist Audio Design Vesta Power Cables
    After trying the Musaeus Interconnects, I went all the way with their power cords.  Well, I dropped down one level since I had so many to buy.  The power cables enhanced the benefits of using their interconnects.  The overall system is very quiet now.  Very focused imaging and sweeter highs.
    • AudioQuest Hurricane
    Power Cord for the Niagara
    • Nordost Silver Shadow BNC
    I got three of these BNC cables to run between the Ayon CD transport and DAC.  It takes three BNC cables for MCLK, DSD R and DSD L output/input.  I know this breaks away from a complete Purist Audio Design cable system, but I felt these would be superior for the money.
    • RSX Power 8 20 S
    An aluminum chassis power distribution box with a 20amp IEC type connection.  Using it with the subs and main amplifier.
    • GIK Acoustics 244 Bass Traps and Panels
    Wow!  Room treatments are an effective way to upgrade a system.  The biggest thing I noticed was clearer voices.  More detail as well as cleaner mid bass.  These traps took away the bloated mid bass.  I find these treatments to be very cost effective.
    • VPI Industries HW-16.5 Record Cleaning Machine
    Gotta clean those records.
    • Audio Additives Digital Stylus Force Guage
    This gage works well.  It comes with a 5 g weight for the auto calibration feature.  Quick and easy to use.
    • Keces P8 Low Noise Linear Power Supply
    This is a 19.1 Volt power supply for my RS9 Music Server.  I upgraded from the basic in line wall wart type power supply that came with the music server.
    • Hifi 25 Watt Power Supply 5 Volt power supply
    This power supply replaces the wall wart used to power the network switch.
    • VPI Industries HW-16.5
    • No Name Cable Risers
    Designed and built by myself.
    • No Brand Audio Rack made by me
    I built this rack in my shop.  Took me a good week but was worth the effort.  I have almost infinite adjustability, superb isolation.  Best of all this rack is rock solid.  I did something right for a change.  I used butcher block boards, 3/4" threaded rod and brass acorn nuts.  The brass polished up nicely using my car polisher.  I mounted spikes on the bottom side.  The entire rack is heavy and it doesn't budge.
    • AudioQuest NRG Edison 20
    20 amp power outlet for the Monos.  I was surprised at the improvement in sound this outlet made.  Not cheap but it did something.
    • Artcessories Clean Box Pro
    Line level buffer/converter.  Has either balanced to unbalanced throughput or unbalanced to balanced.  I am using this as a high impedance buffer between my preamp and subwoofers.  My preamp has a 20 kOhm minimum output impedance and since my main amps and subwoofer amps are all 22 kOhm impedance, when connected in parallel they make for a combined impedance below 10 kOhms.  This puts too much load on the preamp and affects the sound and life of the tubes.  The Clean Box Pro has an 100 kOhm impedance which keeps the overall impedance load on the preamp above 17 kOhms.
    • IsoAcoustics Gaia II
    Added these to my Thiel CS6 speakers.  Sounds better with just a slight loss of detail versus my homemade spring isolation platforms.  The small detail loss is ok by me because the amount of detail was almost too much or too distracting.  The overall sound is better with the Gaia isolators.

Comments 60

Congrats, Tony! I have a Nova 6 too and also am very happy with it. I'm guessing the Pass monos are a perfect match for Thiels. Well done, bet it sounds magical. Cheers,


My Sota Nova VI has arrived!  I have listened to about 20 albums so far and absolutely love it.  The magnetic bearing is brilliant.  It is dead quiet.  If I play a record really, really loud all I hear now- on a good record with quiet vinyl is just a tinge of groove and a hint of rushing sound from the phono preamp.  But I qualify that with a super quiet listening room and the volume up very high.  The background is dead quiet at reasonably loud listening levels.  What I thought was groove noise before included some platter rumble apparently because the groove noise even on noisier records is quieter.
The speed control system is near perfection.  I played a test tone and hear no w&f.  Speed drift is a thing of the past with the Roadrunner tachometer.  My iPhone app shows the same speed every time which also correlated to the Tachometer readout.  
The sound of this new table is excellent.  Perhaps it will have some break in improvement but already the improvements over my old Star are more clarity in the mid bass and the bass.  The highs are sweet.  Cymbals have a delicate sound with every detail from the stick hitting the metal to the decaying shimmer.  Older analog recordings make hearing cymbals a whole new experience.
Sound stage is a bit bigger than before and images even sharper in focus.  I think the  speed control is responsible for the improved highs and imaging.  This new Turntable looks almost the same to the casual observer.  The only notable difference over my Star is the now two silver buttons on the motor cover.  The turntable now starts/stops and toggles speed between 33 1/3 and 45 rpm by pressing the large black button which used to be the speed adjustment.  Now turning that black knob does nothing.  The two silver buttons are used to adjust speed.  One bumps the speed up in small increments and the other down.  These are only needed if someone wants to run the platter a bit fast or slow.  The Condor controller locks in the speed at 33 1/3 or 45 rpm.  The road runner tachometer uses a speed sensor under the platter to feedback speed to the Condor.  It can make small fine adjustments to compensate for speed drift due to temperature changes, etc.  One thing I noticed is that I could put my finger against the side of the platter to induce some drag but the speed did not change.
The Nova VI also features a new suspension system.  I don't have the details but one thing I did was to place a small mirror on the subchassis by the tonearm and bounce a laser beam off of it to the wall.  The multiplier of the lengths was about 30 to 1 and yet I could detect no movement of the laser spot on the wall.  This is very impressive.  That means the subchassis is not being moved as the motor pulls on the platter.  This is a big improvement over my Star.


I am between turntables at the moment.  I have turned in my Sota Star with the Series VI motor to Sota for a trade up to a Nova VI with the Eclipse motor and Roadrunner tachometer system.  The new table will also feature Sota's magnetic bearing and of course I will stay with the vacuum platter system. I picked out a beautiful Cherry wood plinth.  Can't wait to hear it.  I bought a couple of new records in anticipation.


Thank you @ghdprentice.  I enjoyed the X350 for 19 years.  I thought about the X350.8 for an upgrade but always wanted to try monoblocks.  The update was noticeable.  What struck me most was the attack/decay of the new monobolcs.  Cymbals have a more fast clean sound with a clear attack and shimmer.  The other surprising thing was even with a lower power rating (90 w/channel less) I didn't have to change the typical  volume setting on my preamp.
I have heard the ARC Ref 160m amps.  Very nice and quite a looker.


Nice system. Sounds like we did some of the same stuff, I upgraded a few years before retirement, then a couple years after.

I see a Pass 350…. Then a couple of Newer Pass x mono blocks… what was the difference.

I switched from my Pass x350 to an Audio Research REF 160s. Just for fun my dealer dropped off a set of ARC REF 160m mono blocks. 


My preamp has two sets of main outputs.  I have used both sets for a year now.  One set drives the main amplifiers and one set drives the subwoofers.  I had not considered the load on my preamp caused by driving two sets of amplifiers until the 6550 regulator tube went bad in my preamp.  I found in the ARC Ref 5SE manual that 20kOhms output minimum is stated in the specs.  Well, since my main amps have a 22kOhm input impedance and my subwoofers also have a 22kOhm input impedance my preamp was seeing a load below 10kOhms.  I contacted ARC and confirmed this was the case and that kind of load will affect the sound.  SVS and ARC both recommended to connect the subs in series with the main amps.  The only problem with that is my PAD interconnects are not long enough so I would have to buy longer ones plus two additional cables to run from the subs to the main amps.  I found a different solution.  I am using the Clean Box Pro as a buffer.  It has a 100kOhm input impedance so it does not load down the preamp.  Combined with the main amps the preamp sees a min 17.3kOhm load.  Sound is improved and I find the 6550 regulator tube in the preamp is running a bit cooler.


My latest addition to my system is the PAD Diamond Revision 30th Anniversary USB Cable from the music server to the DAC.  It has been playing for 30 hours now and it sounds pretty good.  It replaced an AQ Coffee USB cable which I have been wanting to replace for a while.  The PAD USB cable is astronomically priced, used it is just really expensive but it is a very fine, pure Ag cable.  Compared to the old USB cable this one has more detail in the highs.  The ting when the sticks hit cymbals is very clear and concise now.  It also eliminated some glare that was almost not noticeable until it was gone.

I also have learned much about isolation over these past couple of months.  Springs isolate while rubber dampens.  I didn't fully realize that concept until recently- and I'm an engineer.  Rubber like Sorbathane, which I have used for years under components dampen but not completely isolate the component from external vibrations.  And since rubber dampens it can add coloration.  Springs when tuned properly completely isolate a component from external vibration.  Tuning the springs is more quickly done with some math.  The goal is to get the spring mass system (The component is the mass) to have a resonance point at around 3 Hz.  I used this formula to size springs for my Amps, Subs, Speakers and everything on the front end.  And guess what- the Sota Turntable Suspension is already tuned to 3 Hz.  Here's what happened.  The bass is no longer muddy or boomy.   I didn't know my bass was muddy until I heard the Wilson Alexia 2 Speakers in Atlanta.  Well, now my Thiels sing. The bass is crisp and clear.  Not quite Alexia 2 caliber but very good now.  Imaging improved.  Images are sharper and crisper now.  Detail went through the roof.  In fact, I have so much more detail in the music now that it was distracting or overwhelming at first.  I almost want to go back to how it was before.  But the genie was out of the bottle.  After a few days I grew used to the added detail and now I enjoy it.
Being retired and putting in the time to experiment and learn this past year has been fun.


Thank you.  I find the PAD cables are musical.  That’s the best word.  I can listen to digital or vinyl for hours.  I usually have to make myself shut it all down for the night.  I keep wanting to hear just one more song.


I see the isolation for your speakers you mentioned....nice!  I also have CS6 and 3.6.  How do you like your PAD Museaus speaker cables.  I have venustas IC’s and considering more PAD for speaker cables.


Beautiful system. Thanks for sharing you isolation experience. I guess at some point I am going to have to bite the bullet and do something myself.


Gorgeous room!


Thank you for the kind words.  I just added a photo showing butcher block hardwood boards under the speakers.  Well, beneath those boards are 4 coil springs on each board isolating the speakers from the floor.  The resulting sound improvement blew me away.  Images are more focused with even more clarity.  I’m a believer in spring isolation now.  It started by seeing a lot of posts about using springs for isolation.  I even watched some videos demonstrating the advantages of spring isolators.  These high end platforms cost $$$ and I was reticent to invest that much money into something that I wasn’t convinced would make a difference.  So I did the math to determine that I needed 57 lb/in springs to make a platform with a 3.3 Hz resonance point- similar to the Sota turntable suspension.  I ordered the springs from McMaster Carr and the butcher blocks from Amazon.  The springs are 2” long and 1.5” in diameter. I also got some rubber feet to put on the springs and I stuffed the springs with foam for dampening. I’m in for just $200 which is probably the most effective tweak for the money that I have done yet. I bored holes 0.75” deep on the underside of the butcher blocks.  It worked out perfect.  The platforms have about 0.100” of travel under load so the speakers are not too wobbly.  
Using a vibrometer app on my iPad I could see the difference this isolation makes.  Resting the iPad on top of the speaker and the speaker directly coupled to the floor as I have had them for years, I tap on the speaker cabinet and I see not just a pulse but ringing for a short moment.  The vibration waves are reflecting back through the speaker cabinet.  I saw exactly this on videos online. When I tap on the floor I see the same response and ringing just like tapping directly on the speaker cabinet.  After decoupling the speakers with the springs the difference is amazing.  Tap on the speaker cabinet and the app shows the spike but it doesn’t ring.  Tap on the floor and the iPad app shows nothing- complete isolation.  You might think that the speakers would rock back and forth with the music.  They do not.  It’s a 165 lb speaker that the cone drivers are pushing against.  It doesn’t move.   


Great looking room and setup...Enjoy!


Looks and I will bet sounds fantastic.


Thank you for the compliment.  I just use a plug in Wi-Fi switch and splitter so I can turn the lamps on/off with my phone. 
I showed a picture of my system to Alan at HiFi Buys last Spring in Atlanta.  He now has the same lamps in one of his showrooms.   I saw them in his store in August when I picked up the Niagara and Hurricane.  I also heard Leonard Cohen (10 New Songs) for the first time in his store.  Love that album now.  


Sweet system and room. I just got a pair of lamps like yours. Love them but would like to run them off 1 remote. Any tips?


Beautiful wood flooring upgrade!

Happy Listening!


Great looking system, I'm sure it sounds fantastic.

Ag insider logo xs@2xlak

Thank you for the complement bdp24.  
Well, today I brought home an AQ Niagra 5000 power conditioner and a AQ Hurricane power cord.  Quite expensive but effective.  I heard a bigger soundstage right off and after some hours of playing music the highs are much smoother.  That’s how I would describe it.  The wood floor made the sound more lively and now the highs are calmer with the new power conditioner.  End result is crisper sound with very clear bass but no shrill or head drilling highs. 
This power conditioner is likely a keeper.   Why does the good stuff have to cost so much?


Beautiful room (love the oval window), great system. Well done!


I just completed a large upgrade to my system.  I changed the flooring from carpet to 3/4" hardwood tongue and groove flooring.  I am very satisfied with the results.  It improved the bass, as I expected making it even more tight and clear.  What I did not expect was a more lively, faster sound.  The Thiels sound better than ever.  It has made me rethink trying new speakers for now.  
I gave up on the contractors and finally installed the wood floor myself.  500 sqft of flooring.  I did it it in two days and lost 10 lbs.  I was sore, stiff and angry that I ended up doing it myself.  All that went away with the first song that I played.
Note the rugs on the floor.  I am still tuning the room with rugs.  My family and friends of course asked me why I am putting rugs on my new wooden floor.  I try to explain that the new floor improves the acoustics and the rugs allow me to tune the room to taste.  They don't seem to get it.
I also added dedicated power lines to the amps and front end.  The amps really benefited from the dedicated power and the AQ NRG outlet.
I have wanted to do this to the room for several years now.  It was a worthwhile effort.


lovely !


I had my X350 from 2002 until early this year.  The X260.8 amps were new and changed some as they broke in.  I didn't take notes but the two most prominent things I noticed right away were 1) even with a lower power rating I didn't have to change the volume setting on my preamp with the X260.8's.  They played just as loud for the same volume setting as the X350.  2) I thought the X350 was quiet but the new amps were a good bit quieter.  After they broke in the next most obvious thing I heard was clearer and more detail in the highs and overall a more sweeter sound in the highs.  I can hear the delicate sound of the sticks hitting the cymbals.


I have Pass Labs X250.5. Is X260.8 big upgrade to X350?
FYI, QRD on front wall in my room separate instruments and increase focus like you can not imagine. It is very similar arrangement.   


Thx Tony. I'm planning to build infinity baffle subs, meaning 90 inches behind mains and that's why I'm trying to check other people experience.


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