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

    • 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.
    • 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 Star Series VI with vacuum
    After using a Sota Sapphire for over 27 years, I moved up to the Star and had it upgraded from a series V to a VI.  I find the vacuum platter not only makes the records conform flat to the surface, but I also find the groove noise is much lower.  On some good clean records I hear no groove noise at all.  The speed control with the Series VI motor is excellent.  No discernible wow and flutter making the highs very clear and pleasant.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 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 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.
    • 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.
    • Furman ELITE 15I
    This power conditioner supports the front end of my system.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Purist Audio Design Musaeus Power Cords
    These power cords supply the Pass Labs mono amps with power.

Comments 25

I have added a music server to my list of sources.  I got an RS9 which is using ROCK to run ROON.  It has a separate 2TB SSD for music files.  I ripped about 90% of my CD collection into FLAC lossless uncompressed files and have them stored on this SSD.  I have also bought and downloaded some hi res audio files.  The RS9 is very stable and works quite well.  The sound is excellent. A USB cable connects the music server to my DAC.  Playing CDs on my CD Transport with DSD upsampling has maybe a slight edge over this music server playing the FLACC files.  I had to A/B a song to even hear any difference because it is so slight to me.  Downloaded hi res audio is excellent.  The soundstage opens up to fill the whole front half of the room.  MQA files are outstanding with sound, imaging and a soundstage perhaps bigger and better than the best vinyl.
I perceived the upgraded power supply (Keces P8) improved the sound of hi res audio but didn't do much for FLACC CD or streaming CD.  But the big improvement streaming CD quality (44.1 kHz 16 bit) was had by adding a network switch between the music server and my router.  I also added a 5 Volt Linear power supply to replace the wall wart on the network switch.  That might be over the top but with this hobby where do you draw the line?  The power supply upgrades took CD quality streaming from borderline acceptable to sounding very close to playing CD FLACC files on the SSD.  The SSD still has the edge with better, clearer bass and imaging- a small edge.

Ag insider logo xs@2xtonywinga

That was a brilliant suggestion 3090.  Isolating the speakers from the carpeted floor makes a very big difference.

Ag insider logo xs@2xtonywinga

Great upgrades Tony! I have to say, I used your old pics as a basis to build my own system around Thiel and Sota and I'm glad I did. If I can make  suggestion about a tweak, a couple months ago a I added Isoacoustics Gaia's under my 7.2's and its had the single biggest affect on the resulting sound I've ever heard. More than cables, isolation under components or room treatments. And I have carpet as well, but they are a revelation. Just a thought.


I am also a believer of ARC front end with Pass amplification, but my amp is a Threshold SA-4e class A stasis topology. Thiels can be difficult to drive by most amps, as are my electrostatics, which make Nelson Pass designed amps a very solid choice, as they don't care what the load is! Beautiful setup and well thought out. Kudo's to you!


The Pass Labs amp works very well with the Audio Research equipment I think.  And the Pass Labs amp is a great match for the Thiel speakers as well.  

Thanks for the information about coherentsourceservice.  That is good to know should I ever need to service my Thiel speakers.  I was wondering what I would do should they ever need a repair.  Fortunately for me, I bought them as new demos and they have given me great service.

Ag insider logo xs@2xtonywinga

Awesome. Thiels are all about fidelity to signal, and I dare say to the original recording. 👍🏻


Nice.  My neighbor gave me his Thiel CS3s.  I am in Louisville and they were made in Lexington, KY, so I took mine down there to an ex employee of Thiel does service and restoration. They needed new tweeters and binding post repair.
He had some huge ones (NOS) there for sale - wood and concrete - they weigh a ton!


Great system ,
How you like Pass with AR ?
Like your DIY rack too ,good job 👍


Nice system...& I absolutely love the Amityville room!!


Appreciate the comments.  Good catch jeecc.  I had to check.  The "ES" is a sticker on the box that the cartridge came in but not marked anywhere on the body of the cartridge.  Also, you can see that I found another use for the blue tac. Besides using blue tac for cleaning the stylus it is also useful as a cable management tool.
I have had my Zephyr for a couple of months now.  It tracks so well and sounds fantastic.  I marvel at how perfectly the stylus is set into the cantilever.  Great workmanship.

Ag insider logo xs@2xtonywinga

Sounds like a great system, truly amazing how long the journey can take but so satisfying to finally arrive,  just breaking in the ES version of your phono cart. Highly recommended opens everything up even more.


Your listening room is so well thought out! Everything is carefully  placed; proportions and acoustics seem great; oh and that window between the speakers, small enough not to interfere yet provides a wonderful view and natural light. Congratulations! 


The Ayon CD playback system which already sounded so impressive continued to make a noticeable improvement up to the 40 hour mark.  I now have about 85 hours on it.  The 3 Silver Shadow BNC cable circuit (DSD 128k) edges out the I2S circuit (PCM 88.2 kHz) by a small margin to my ears.  3 generic BNC cables for DSD were not as good as the I2S circuit.  I also found that the single BNC cable path (PCM 44.1 kHz) was not as good as either the I2S or 3 BNC path but still better than my old CD player.
The overall sound of my system now is excellent to me.  I have been like a kid on Christmas morning everyday for the last couple of weeks.  I can't wait to put on the first CD of the day and be stunned by the sound and clarity.  It's a good thing I waited until I was retired to do all this.  I cannot get anything else done right now.

On the analog side I added the Purist Audio Genesis Phono cable.  For years, decades actually I used the basic phono cable that came with my SME arm.  It sounded decent enough but I always wanted to try a better phono cable.  The Genesis cable came to me already burned or broken in.  The seller put it on a cable cooker for 3 days.  They said it is nearly impossible for a phono cartridge to break in a cable due to the low signal levels.  Ok.  This new phono cable improved the sound with an overall smoothness, and it adds more resolution and detail by lowering the noise floor.  There is good and bad with this.  The good is that I hear more detail in the music.  The bad is that the ticks and pops in the grooves are more apparent.  Quiet records are still nice and quiet but some of my 70s records have a bit of groove noise.  Before, the groove noise usually disappeared once the music started.  Now, due to the lower noise level in the system I can hear the groove ticks in the music.  An interesting side affect of lowering system noise but I have been playing vinyl since the 70s so I have learned to tune out the little ticks.  The other side affect is that pre echo is now more apparent.  I hear it more frequently and more clearly now.  Pre echo is what I call master tape print through.  It's hearing a loud passage that is about to play moments before it actually starts.  But despite these couple of side affects I still much prefer the sound of this new phono cable.

Coming next is a network bridge.  When I started this venture to upgrade the digital front end my goals were twofold.  I wanted to still spin discs with improved sound and to be able to play Hi Res audio files.  Streaming is a side curiosity for me at this point but the Network Bridge will allow me to do both.  

Ag insider logo xs@2xtonywinga

Beautiful system.  I appreciate all of the detailed descriptions you left about your components.  Very educational.


Never mind the system. I love the window and the lights......hahahah....Great system as well. :-)


Thank you everyone for the kind words.  I received my new Ayon CD transport and DAC.  I updated the pictures to show the new gear.
The Ayon gear easily bested my ARC CD 3 mkii straight out of the box.  The ARC is still a good sounding unit, but with 15 years of progress some improvement is to be expected.  After running the Ayon gear for 8 hours the sound improved even more.  Right now, I am using an AQ Cinnamon RJ45 cable between the I2S ports of the CD Transport and DAC.  With the I2s the CD Transport sends out a PCM, 88.2 kHz signal to the DAC.  What I noticed most with the Ayon system is sweeter, airy highs and more detail/resolution.  The soundstage goes beyond the speakers now like my analog rig.  The imaging is also more focused than before with my ARC player- and I thought that was good before.  Next up is to try out this CD playback setup using the 3 stock BNC cables that came with the Ayon gear.  This allows the CD transport to output a DSD signal to the DAC.  After that, I already purchased 3 Nordost Silver Shadow BNC cables to try out as well.  I'm curious to see if upgraded BNC cables will sound different.
Finally, once I get to know this gear better, I will try some isolation ideas on the DAC and Transport.  Interestingly, I found the ARC Ref preamps sound better standing on their own feet vs. using cones or Sorbathane pucks.  

Ag insider logo xs@2xtonywinga

I have the same light towers that you have pictured. I love them! Beautiful system.


Great job building that rack and great looking system!


I got to hear Tony’s system two years ago. It was fantastic then. A whole different level now.


Nice Thiel's.  Bought sound great with Pass Labs.

I have CS2's in the same finish.  Bought new in '88 for $1,650.  I still love them.  Enjoy!!


I have a rack similar to yours but your one is at a higher level. Great work. I bought mine.


Love the room and your gear. Bet it sounds great.


Nice rack!


Appreciate that.  Thank you.

Ag insider logo xs@2xtonywinga

Fantastic setup and choice of gear!  Nice job on the rack too and overall listening room.  Looks great!


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