OPINIONS PLEASE! Many of the components listed above and in the discussion are not generally available for audition in local high end stores so I welcome opinions. This is a system that I plan for the future. I find that most people are astonished to learn that electronics (or anything else) are still being made in the USA, so I thought for my system upgrade I would try to put together an entire system with components made in the USA (Please let me know if I am mistaken about this on any of the components listed). Since I am on a budget, I am not able to afford some of the outstanding USA items from firms like Wilson Audio, Magico, Pass Labs, Krell, Audio Research, Macintosh etc., so the task is a little more difficult. I do wish that some of these ultra high-end companies would follow the model of some of their European counterparts like Dynaudio, Focal, KEF, B & W and make excellent products at many different prices.

I realize that the MacMini is made overseas, but Apple is a great US company and other computers are just not an option. Also, some of the components listed are made from parts sourced outside the USA, but that’s fine with me as long as the manufacturing facility and final assembly is in the USA. I listen to many different types of music, with swing, rock and jazz being the most important – see the list below of some of my favorite test tracks.

Currently I have a PowerMac G5 using iTunes connected to a Music Hall Maven Stereo Receiver by USB through an M2Tech Hiface USB to S/PDIF converter and a coaxial cable. This achieves much better sound than using the toslink digital out from the PowerMac. Virtually all of my music is currently ripped from CD’s in Apple Lossless format (high resolution downloads in the future). Speakers are Dynaudio Audience 52SE’s on sand-filled Sanus Systems stands. The AC is fed through a Tripp-Lite Isobar noise filtering surge protector that has made a bigger improvement in the sound of the system than any other single piece of equipment.

I currently have a MacMini for another purpose (not home entertainment) and the sound from this using the Decibel music player is much better than I can get through iTunes and the G5. The G5 cannot use the Decibel music player, so when I want to do really critical listening I hook it into the system. I plan to buy a new MacMini for home entertainment use. The system doubles as a video player of DVD’s and as a DVR using eyeTV. Because of this dual use, my DAC/amp must be capable of using analog inputs for my Comcast cable box. The alternative is to watch all television through the Mac and eyeTV, but I am not terribly fond of this option as I would not be able to easily view HD content with my current set up. The “wonderful” Comcast unit has digital outputs, but only for multichannel Dolby or something like that (I tried and can’t get sound from it through the Maven DAC). I have no interest in spending limited funds to get the kind of sound I am after with 5 or more speakers. Not to mention that the listening/entertainment area in my apartment is quite too small to accommodate such a system. Also, the M2Tech Hiface introduces a processing delay to the audio so for video purposes I use the toslink output of the Powermac G5 (the sound is adequate for this use).

DAC alternatives: I like the Bel Canto because it does everything I need in a compact package, has an upgradeable power supply (with addition of a Bel Canto Virtual Battery) and is manufactured just a few miles away from my home in Minnesota. Peachtree Audio Nova used as a DAC/Preamp might be a great alternative, and I could use it’s internal amp while I saved for a full poweramp. Another option would be the Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2, but I would have to live without analog inputs or buy an A/D converter. I read a show report that the Wadia 121 would be something to look into, but the idea was ether dropped by Wadia, or it has yet to reach the market.

Amp alternatives: The Bel Canto S125 would be a nice match for the Bel Canto DAC. The Wyred4Sound ST-500 may be worth a listen. The Class D Audio SDS-254 Kit might be very good and save a few bucks – I am comfortable wiring this into an enclosure myself. I am currently favoring the Odyssey as opposed to a class D amplifier for smooth dynamic sound. It is very difficult to arrange to hear any of these so OPINIONS PLEASE!

Speaker alternatives: I really would like more full range speakers, but quality ones are difficult to find in the price range I a looking ( Lorelei Speaker is a little less expansive and may be adequate. The Salk Sound Ellis 1801-TL also looks interesting, but I have heard some transmission line speakers that I do not like so I am a little hesitant on this one. The LSA2 Tower could be a good choice as well (I think they are made in USA). I know that Magnepan makes excellent speakers in the price range a few miles away from my home, but I have always preferred a dynamic speaker.

Cable alternatives: Shunyata Research is now making a line of less expensive cables that might be a good alternative, especially since I plan to eventually add a Shunyata power conditioner. Nordost makes some great cables and I might be able to afford some of their lower level offerings. I want to wire all critical connections (the three listed above) with cables from one company for consistency. I really don’t care to spend a lot of money for fantastic cables for the connections of the video sources.

Music Test Tracks:

Album - Song or track (Artist) [in no particular order]

Bad, Special Edition - Dirty Diana (Michael Jackson)

Bad, Special Edition - Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson)

The Baddest of George Thorogood...- Bad to the Bone

Blue Light Red Light - The Last Payday (Harry Connick Jr.)

Blue Light Red Light - Just Kiss Me (Harry Connick Jr.)

Brand New Day - A Thousand Years (Sting)

Brothers In Arms - Money for Nothing (Dire Straights)

Brothers In Arms - Brothers In Arms (Dire Straights)

Time Out - Take Five (The Dave Brubeck Quartet)

The Doors, Greatest Hits - Riders on the Storm

The Doors, Greatest Hits - Roadhouse Blues (Live)

Eagles Greatest Hits Volume 2 - Hotel California

Foreigner 4 - Juke Box Hero

Lynyrd Skynyrd, Greatest Hits - Free Bird

Conquistador - Gonna Fly Now (Maynard Ferguson)

Thriller, Special Edition - Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)

Gattaca Motion Picture Soundtrack - The Morrow

Promise - The Sweetest Taboo (Sade)

Cowboy Bebop O.S.T. 1 - Tank! (The Seatbelts)

Cowboy Bebop O.S.T. 1 - Rush (The Seatbelts)

Cowboy Bebop O.S.T. 1 - Rain (The Seatbelts)

Cowboy Bebop No Disk - Elm (?)

Cowboy Bebop Vitaminless - The Real Folk Blues (The Seatbelts)

Cowboy Bebop Vitaminless - Black Coffee (?)

Brand New Day - A Thousand Years (Sting)

ZZ Top, Greatest Hits - La Grange

Compact Jazz, Duke Ellington & Friends - It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)

Great Expectations Motion Picture Soundtrack - Life in Mono (Mono)

Great Expectations Motion Picture Soundtrack - Sunshower (Chris Cornell)

Great Expectations Motion Picture Soundtrack - Like A Friend (Pulp)

Stereophile Test (Disc 1) - Frederic Chopin: Scherzo in b-flat, Op. 31 (Anna Maria Stanczyk)

Stereophile Test (Disc 1) - George Gershwin: "Summertime" (Lesley Olsher)

Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me - Freshly Squeezed (Angelo Badalamenti Composer)

Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me - Love Theme From Twin Peaks (Angelo Badalamenti Composer)

Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me - Falling (Angelo Badalamenti Composer)

Components Toggle details

    • Apple Mac Mini
    Music Server with Decibel Music Player
    • Bel Canto Design DAC 1.5
    DAC and Preamp
    • Odyssey Audio Stratos
    2-Channel Amplifier
    • Nola Contender
    3-way speaker
    • DH Labs Silver Sonic USB Cable
    Mac Mini to Dac
    • DH Labs BL-1 Series II XLR
    Balanced analog interconnect (DAC to amp)
    • DH Labs Q-10 Signature
    Speaker Cables

Comments 3

Key--I realize this is an older thread, but I share your desire to have US made products if possible (e.g., in my price range). I just purchased (and am awaiting delivery of) the Schiit Bifrost DAC and the Class D Audio SDS-470C amp. The Nolas and Odyssey's stuff is all on my radar, and I'd like to hear your impressions. Finally, you might also take a look at the Ohm Walsh series (Brooklyn, NY, and a very responsive owner!).


Go USA, looks like you have assembled a fine made in the America system. Would love to hear the Nola speaker line. In as much is possible I too love having made in USA system. Happy listening!


System edited: Revision 1 of the system. Change of amplifier from Wyred4Sound ST-250 to Odyssey Audio Stratos. Change of speakers from Odyssey Audio Lorelei to Nola Contender. I think these changes will create sound that will better fit my listening preferences.


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