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pmburn01
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Recommended Systems

As a frequent reader of this magazine, and a few others, I note that Stereophile and other publications have bestowed their annual awards for Best of 2009, Editors Choice, etc.

I feel that Stereophile should include at least some recommended systems from its various contributors once in a while-- December being a particularly appropriate time. John Marks recent series in the Fifth Element is a good start, but there is a significant audience that could be well served at something short of the recommended buy it once bit right threshold of approximately $12K (especially this year). John's suggestions are a good start.

I might suggest that the collection of talent put together some recommendations in this forum based on the following criteria: Small Room, Medium Room, and Large Room and in three price ranges Under $2000, $2000 - $5000, and $5000 - $10,000. This should include cables.

For the cash strapped audiophile, I will throw out a combination that I think is especially well-suited to getting a younger generation involved in the hobby. I bought a similar system on a lark for my office, and I have been pretty impressed with the sound quality and fit and finish offered for the money.

Cambridge Audio 340A integrated amplifier $349
Cambridge Audio 340C cd player $349
Cambridge Audio 340T tuner $229
Cambridge Audio iD10 iPod dock and accessory package $89
Cambridge Audio S30 stand-mount loudspeakers $219

Monster M350i interconnects approx $45/pr
Monster Z3 reference speaker cable (available online for $75 per 10 ft pr)

Throw in power cables from a small manufacturer such as Zebra Cables or Signal Cable along with a Salamander rack and you are still in for less than $2000 with great upgrades available for very little money such as a Musical Fidelity V-Dac or a Cambridge Dac Magic.

I'm pretty certain that a lot of teens or people in their 20s would love a system like this, be able to afford it, and never go back to lo-fi again. Plus, the inevitable upgrade-itis will set in. A good thing for all of us.

Of course, I am sitting here trying to put together my second real system for my main listening room having learned many of the lessons mentioned in John Marks series. I moved the little Cambridge system in while I make my purchases, and I am enjoying it at least as much as the several times more expensive system that is in the process of being dismantled, sold, and rearranged.

Kind regards,

PMB

Editor
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Re: Recommended Systems


Quote:
I feel that Stereophile should include at least some recommended systems from its various contributors once in a while-- December being a particularly appropriate time. John Marks recent series in the Fifth Element is a good start, but there is a significant audience that could be well served at something short of the recommended buy it once bit right threshold of approximately $12K (especially this year). John's suggestions are a good start.

This is a great suggestion and one that we have considered in the past. The problem is that we strongly believe that you should not recommend a specific system unless you have personally tried it and optimized the match of components.

Logistically, this is impossible to do other than in the way John Marks has been doing in his column. I know that doesn't prevent other magazines from publishing "Recommended Systems" lists, but it should be noted that such lists are put together on paper from products that have been reviewed in isolation. To the best of my knowledge, no-one has actually auditioned the specific systems being recommended.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

pmburn01
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Re: Recommended Systems

John, thanks for the prompt and well-considered reply. I am aware that some of the "recommended systems" are recommended on paper only. I also have seen in other publications (Hifi+ if I recall correctly) where the contributors have worked with dealers to assemble systems based on the contributor's knowledge and preferences with assistance from dealer's to stay within a certain price range. In one article in particular, I seem to recall contributors assembling systems for other contributor's rooms and then having the other contributor listen to the system installed in room for a period of time and providing commentary on the sound and versus the contributor's reference system.

My thought process is that perhaps Stereophile could do something similar. This might also help to demonstrate the value of local dealers as being something other than equipment depots.

Just some thoughts.

PMB

linden518
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Re: Recommended Systems

It seems like in other countries, the review equipments are sent and set up at some headquarter listening room, owned by the magazine. Japan's Stereo Sound does this; rarely do the reviews seem to be conducted in the reviewers' homes, but in 2 or 3 company listening rooms, where Accuphase electronics provide as "control." Some UK mags seem to be doing this, as well.

Obviously, the benefits would be that it would be easier to set up different systems quicker, more fluidly, in an environment where multiple listeners can listen.

But the downside is that often, these listening sessions seem to only aggregate into impressions, rather than thorough experiences "lived in" by the reviewer. I've been very impressed by all the equipments that Stereo Sound Japan reviews - so many, so quickly, much earlier than other audio magazines. But a consequence of this is that their general reviews tend to be glib impressions. Pretty pictures accompanied by a half a page of weakly formed opinions that seem more like straight advertisements rather than independent reviews. (To their credit, though, in every issue, they have a gargantuan shoot-out or group evaluations of gear or systems, in which multiple reviewers take their gloves off and really opine... these dialogues are definitely worth reading, and I've learned a lot from reading them. Very entertaining as well.)

AlanMa
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Re: Recommended Systems

This is my first post here. I got my first hi-fi setup around 1948 or so. I disconnected my last large set-up a few years ago because it was too big for the apartment. I am now looking for something smaller for the bedroom, starting with possibly the Naim Nait 5i or the Simaudio Moon i-1 or something similar. The problem is that I find it impossible to find a NY dealer who has these integrated amplifiers as well as one of the recommended Stereophile or Absolute Sound speakers at a similar price so I can hear them together. This is probably true of all other equipment. And despite what some writers suggest, no dealer in this area is going to let me take home a pair of speakers to try out. I can listen to speakers on similar amps in the stores but it's still a pig in a poke. And I hear someone saying that even then the dealer's rooms are nothing like mine, so that acoustics will be different too.

One can read reviews to see what equipment has been used with the reviewed item. That's a help. But I do think that some kind of recommended list of systems might be helpful. (Yes, TAS has such a list. But I'd like to see Stereophile have a shot at it.) Or maybe an article on how to solve this problem. Then readers might reply with how they have solved or not solved it.

Or maybe there is no solution. But I do think the original suggestion is a worthwhile beginning.

struts
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Re: Recommended Systems

Hey Alan,

Slightly OT but if you're after 'small' I would strongly recommend you check out the Naim Uniti all-in-one, it sounds peachy and represents astonishing bang-for-the-buck. You can audition it with some great Harbeth mini-monitors at Ears Nova or with some Dynaudio bookshelves at Innovative Audio, both in NY.

Some folks around here turn their noses up at all-in-ones but this thing is just an out-and-out giant-killer. Wouldn't surprise me if it's everyone's product-of-the-year next year.

KBK
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Re: Recommended Systems

Bummer. In the late 80's thru the 90's I had a running tab at multiple audio shops. There was one I would walk into, and find a cool thingie...take the item to the counter, they'd write down the serial number and model, and I'd walk out with the given item. Put it on my tab! Sometimes I'd bring it back. Or I'd borrow the floor model for the weekend, and be sure to bring it back Monday morning. I'd even be the one to reinstall it in the given store system and make sure things are working correctly before I leave.

How's that for being into the whole audio thing - just a bit too much? I was by no means rich but I do love music and I did not mind and still don't mind eating kraft dinner and missing other things over missing a item I really want, one that moves me closer to the source. the trick is that I don't mind. Not obsession, per se, but a trade off.

All that said, it's too bad that so many shops now will not allow folks to do equipment try-outs in their own home. things have changed, obviously.

AlanMa
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Re: Recommended Systems

Thanks for the suggestion about the Naim Uniti, but I keep away from cd combos. I own a Linn Classik (the first without FM) bought some 10 years ago. The cd portion went bad after about 4-5 years. Took it to the original dealer who no longer was a Linn dealer. The dealer claimed they could repair it and did but after a year or so it broke down again. I gave up and use it without the CD part. I have a Meridian 508-24, a 20 that was updated by Meridian) which I suspect is still a first rate player. (Am I right about this unit or is there better for a much cheaper price today?) And then there is the new Oppo 83ES which is very tempting.

struts
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Re: Recommended Systems

Fair enough Alan, I hope my father's Uniti doesn't meet with a similar fate. It's his 'last' system though so as long as it outlasts him we're fine! Superb sound and value though...

I have not heard a 508 in a while but I would imagine it is pretty much still up there and that you would have to spend something approaching its original purchase price to convincingly better it. Either way it is an excellent transport (my father just sold his 500.2 before getting the Uniti, he was also going 'small') so if you wanted to be a bit cheeky you could always see how its DAC section compares to a contemporary Benchmark DAC1 on their 30-day sale-or-return gig.

If the Uniti is out I am sure you will find happiness with a Nait or similar. For instance the Nait and a pair of Harbeth P3ESRs would be a sweet, sweet, sweet 'small' combo.

dhs0403
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Re: Recommended Systems

John,

We all agree that audio equipment must be evaluated as complete systems rather than as a pen and paper collections of individual items. The caveat is that the best venue for system testing is the individual reader's home and music collection.
We also agree that it's increasingly difficult to use that approach since many dealers offer limited product lines and are reluctant to loan equipment for in-situ evaluation.
So, we know what to do, but it's increasingly hard to do it.
On the other hand, perhaps we could publish an overview of each reviewer's musical preferences, their room configurations and the thought process they used when they created their own short list for evaluation. We might even be able to create a 3- dimensional matrix based on small / large orchestration, small / large rooms and moderate / elaborate budgets.
The goal is not to recommend specific systems; rather, the goal is to simplify the extraordinary range of alternatives and provide manageable lists that each user can draw from and test in their own home.
Recommended Products is a great place to start, but perhaps each reviewer could simply describe how they would use RP to select equipment to audition -- based on their personal room size, budget and musical preference.
Dave from MI

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