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bifcake
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AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Part I


Quote:

"...I love it when I'm right" - DUP"

As many of you know, my friend Stew and I have been at DUP's some time ago where we were quite impressed with DUP's Legacy Whispers. From that point on, my friend Stew was contemplating replacing his JM Lab Nova Utopia Be's with the Whispers.

After much searching, Stew came across a used pair of Whispers. Legacy, of all places had a pair. Stew got that pair and after a few weeks of tweaking his system, he was ready to show it off.

Stew invited DUP, our friend Roger and myself to come over for a listen. A few weeks ago, I met Wes Phillips at one of the beer outings who expressed an interest in hearing the Whispers, so I asked Stew to extend an invitation to Wes, which he did.

Stew's setup consists of the following:

DCS stack (Verdi, Purcell, Eglar Plus) as a source and digital preamp

McIntosh MC501 monoblocks

Legacy Whispers

MIT Oracle v2.2 (I think it's the 2.2 I always get confused with those version numbers they have) interconnects

Synergistic Research speaker cables (I forget the model number. It's one of their reference series).

DUP was running late, so we turned on our reference recording, Pink Floyd's "Shine on you crazy diamond". The system sounded good, better than his Utopias, but there was slight harshness and grittiness to the sound. However, the clarity, detail and especially bass detail was superior to his Nova Utopias. I thought that the Legacies sounded better than his old speakers, but that slight harshness bothered me a bit. Another thing I noticed was slight sibilance on certain recordings. It wasn't bad enough to be problematic, but it was noticeable. Roger mentioned that he felt slight fatigue at higher volumes. I didn't share his opinion, but I could definitely appreciate his point of view. I think that if I were a bit more sensitive to that harshness, I would have found it fatiguing as well.

We adjusted the level on the bass processor that comes with the Legacies. The harshness was noticeably diminished, although there were still some remnants of it. Wes played some of his clapping hand music recordings (Music based on rhythmically clapping hands, which I found a bit too esoteric for my tastes.) and Roger played some of his favorite music, which he had on a computer he brought. I should mention that Roger brought his computer, which he connected to Stew's Purcell Upsampler which went into the Elgar Plus DAC. This way, Roger was able to play the FLAC files on his hard drive through Stew's set up. Using computer as a source sounded fantastic, comparable to Stew's Verdi transport.

DUP rang and Roger and I went downstairs to help DUP carry his AVA modified Hafler amps, which he wanted to bring to hook up to Stew's rig to see how they would fare against the Mac's. We left Stew and Wes to play with the setup.

More to follow

bifcake
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Part II


Quote:
"Damn... now I'll have to save up for the speakers!" - Roger

Roger and I came up with DUP lugging his AVA modified Hafler amps. Stew and Wes were listening to music. DUP mentioned how much better the Legacies sounded than the Utopias. As we settled down for additional listening, Wes had to leave to his other appointment.

After about an hour of listening and discussing the merits of Stew's system, DUP suggested that we hook up one of the Hafler amps in stereo mode instead of the McIntosh monoblocks.

The sound changed. I thought it was slightly better than the Macs, which I found to be a bit gritty with the Legacies. Roger didn't like the change. He felt the AVA modified Haflers were a bit too bright for his tastes. Overall, it may have been a wash: the Macs doing certain things better and Haflers doing other things better.

DUP suggested using the AVA phase inverter to hook up the two Hafler stereo amps as two monoblocks. I didn't think it would accomplish anything. As it was, the Haflers pumped out around 600-800wpc into 4 ohms. I felt it was more than sufficient to drive the Whispers. DUP went into his usual mode of "more watts, more power, better control of many drivers, etc." At this point, we were hungry and we all agreed to get a bite to eat and try out the monoblock solution when we came back.

We drove to get some Chinese food, which was quite good. We had a good time talking about audio, cars and other manly things. After eating, we went back to Stew's to try out hooking up the Haflers as monoblocks.

When Stew and DUP hooked up the amps and the phase inverter, Stew fired up the system. We started once more with Pink Floyd's "Shine on you crazy diamond" from the "Wish you were here" CD. From the first shimmers of the sparkles that introduce the track, our collective jaws dropped to the floor. As the song progressed, I couldn't help but to shout out to Stew "Holy shit!!! This out of this world!" The harshness was gone, the brightness was gone, bass was even deeper and there was even more detail within the bass. The highs were smooth, extended and sweet. The mids resembled the best planars have to offer (well... almost). The sound stage, which before hand lacked depth (or at least wasn't as deep as I would have liked.), presented three dimensional images.

We threw everything at this set up including the kitchen sink. Tallis Scholars sounded as though they were in a cathedral, Lucinda Williams' raspy voice was palpable and real without being grating. I felt I could differentiate between a Les Paul and a Fender when we played various tracks containing electric guitars. But most importantly, the music spoke to me. It touched me, grabbed me and pulled me in like very, very few systems have ever done. I turned to DUP and I said "You know, for a resident asshole, you really know what you're talking about". He laughed. "I told you, lots of power and lots of drivers, baby! Legacy and Van Alstine know what they're doing..." he said. I told him that I am a believer as I made the "We're not worthy bow" gesture a la Wayne's World.

Stew was in love with the set up as well. He loved it so much, he bought DUP's amps (DUP brought the spares) and ordered the inverter from Van Alstine the next day. He will be putting up his Macs for sale.

The first system that ever spoke to me was the one I heard ten years ago: JM Lab Utopias (original) driven by Krell's FPB 600c monoblocks and Krell's KPS-25s as a source. It wasn't perfect, but it touched me to the core.

The BEST system I heard was the Avantgarde Trios and bass horns driven by the Lamm 1.2 SET amps, Manley preamp and Linn CD player. That system sounded real. It sounded like no other system I ever heard. I still consider it the best system ever.

I considered Stew's system before the speaker upgrades to be very good. I thought it sounded like a good reproduction. I hadn't heard anything better than his system except the Avantgarde system, which I thought was head and shoulders better. When Stew upgraded his speakers, I thought he made a substantial upgrade with regard to clarity and bass definition. The speakers were clearly better than the Utopias, but they were in the same league, the same ballpark (which says a lot, I think). However, the AVA modified Haflers using the phase inverters as monoblocks, took his system to a whole new level. It was like adding Nitro to an already fine car. It was a whole new world, a world which began to approach the Trios. I don't make this statement lightly. This is the level of performance that I haven't heard any other system even begin to touch. This is the level of performance where music begins to sound real, not just good. This is serious, folks.

I still think the Trios are better. They are so real that if you close your eyes, you will be fooled into thinking the musicians are playing in the same room. Stew's set up will not quite fool you, but it is in the same realm.

When all is said and done, I believe that this is the end of the line. Unless you have the dough and more importantly, the room to accommodate the Trios, the Whispers will get you close to that ultimate reality that we all seek for a much more sane price, with a much more sane sized speaker. I was surprised that

a) Whispers were capable of this level of performance
b) The phase inverter and AVA modded Haflers were capable of bringing out that level of performance

I liked the way the Whispers sounded at DUP's. I thought they sounded great even with all of the issues I noted in my post. Stew's system sounded BETTER. In fact, it sounded MUCH better. I think it should. I'm glad it does. I'm glad that a $35k CD player is actually better than a $1k CD player. I'm glad he didn't waste his money. I'm glad there's hope that we're not all being taken for a ride. I'm glad that it's possible for me to duplicate this level of performance at a price that's substantial, but within means for folks approaching the upper middle of the middle class. (on a used market)

"Damn... now I'll have to save up for the speakers!" Roger told me as we left Stew's place.
"Yep, but I think it's substantial to note that you can reach this level of performance for about $15k". I replied.
"I'll be saving my pennies"
"Put Eb to work"
"She's in school"
"She's always in school..."

It was a good day.

dcstep
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

This is similar to my experience with "more power" with other dynamic speakers, like the Vienna Acoustics. In one sitting I went through Rowland's series of amps, starting with the stereo 102 (100-wpc), then to the 201 monoblocks (200-wpc) and finally the 501s (500-wpc into 8 ohms and 1000-watts into the VA's nominal 4 ohm load). Each step brought additional clarity, which I attribute to better control of the drivers. These amps all have high Damping Factors, but there's more than DF to control of the drivers. In many cases, "more power" does work.

Dave

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Very cool!

I have had some nice experience with some Hafler amps as well.

bifcake
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

From what I gather, the Haflers are completely gutted except for the power supplies. New electronics are installed. The only things kept are the power supply and the case.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

www.avahifi.com New output MOSFETS, Exicons, fast, more linear, than the original Hitachis, which are obsolete. New driver boards by AVA, faster better,800V/uS-2000V/uS now I think!!!) up to date electronics. The Hafler P500 is a BEAST transformer, DH500 is slightly smaller, as is the XL600 (16 MOSFETS though 2 OHM loads)) power transformer is a beast, POWER capacity is key.A stock Hafler will not do what the AVA rebuilds do. AVA transforms the very good stock Haflers into sonic masterpieces!!! Frank VanAlstine also has an entire line of new stuff with his name. He is more than a rebuilder, which he does excellently. AVA 550 Hybrid is a top o the line AVA product, amongst many Ultra Hybrid products, Pre amps, etc Inverter is the Ultra Hybrid, what great stuff, AVA/Legacy, perfect together. DSD is the source......Now I wonder how the HELIX by Legacy is gonna do? 6 AVA amplifiers, plus the 2 built in subs!!! Do I really need to eat?

CECE
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

The Whisper pair have a total of 8 15 Inch woofers and 8 mid range drivers, CONTROL, current,from a better amplifier and it's a blissful thang!!! Power is control, not just loud. there is no hi fi without drivers and watts. Bill D says you can't move air with a tiny driver. Like fanning yourself with a guitar pick....AVA delivers control speed, power for mortals. Both Legacy and AVA are made in U.S.A. too. Keep America working.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

It was a great day in the neighborhood, too bad Wes couldn't stay to experience it, Stew should maybe invite Wes back after he gets his VanAlstine phase inverter, and let Wes get the experience. And i found a parking space right at the door, I knew it was gonna be a good day.

CECE
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

GREAT TITLE!!!!!!

bifcake
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Glad you had a good time, man. Thanks for bringing the stuff over.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

The Middle class in NY seems to have a fantastic level of income !!

I would suggest that here in the mid west that $80-$120 k a year is considered a good middle class wage, i know that for the majority of those people a $70,000 hifi is not considered within reach, even used !!!

Alan

bifcake
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

As I mentioned in my post, I think it's within reach of the upper middle of the middle class if one buys used.

The whole setup can be had for about $15-$20k used. When I say "the whole setup", I mean the upsampler, dac, speakers, amps and the phase inverter. It's not insignificant, but it's within reach.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

$15-$20K is so far above my ability to buy as to begger the imagination. It s like the magazines 'affordable' $2-4K phono cartridges and $5K Amps.

A hobby that costs as much as a new car is not where most folk in that real middle class can or will put their money.

Aside from that caveat, great thread, well written and informative.

bifcake
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Thanks man. My point is that it's not like you can have this for a song, but all things considered, you can't touch this level of performance for even twice the money on the USED market. At least not in my experience.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

This price point stuff is interesting.

I know lots of people with hobbies like stamp or coin collecting, wine collecting, Redline Hot Wheels, etc...whose 'investment' surpasses the price of any system of mine, yet they opine that Hi Fi costs too much.

I think it must be that we require a lump sum initial outlay, and then of the components we buy subsequently we still face a significant capital punch to the gut when we change something.

The other enthusiasts have built their empires in much smaller monetary increments.

I bet most hobbiests hit somewhere around the price of a car in pursuit of their passion, they just get there one bottle at a time, so to speak.

JIMV, I like your car analogy, it seems about right.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

I think you have it...I very, very modestly collect coins, gold and silver coins. One can buy a nice Byzantine gold coin for well under $800. A good US silver one for under $100. One can save to make such a purchase and, in a few months improve the collection. If you had to buy it all at once to make the hobby's enjoyment kick in, one would have to buy a rare US coin at many thousands with provenance and a rating service guarantee. Then you would own one very nice and expensive coin. For collectors that is like owning 1 CD or record.

It is why I like tweaks. One can buy something small an have an effect on the system without having to send Junior to the community college instead of Harvard.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Greetings from a first time poster,

The whole "price of a car" thing is very accurate. I have a car that I dumped loads of money into via power mods over the course of a couple of years and I could see the same happening again with the hifi gear. The only major difference is I am now house poor so I have to be more intelligent (cheap) and froogle (cheap)

$15,000 all said and done for a killer system simply boggles the mind. I did not think it was possible given the numbers Alex was telling me about. $15k up front is scaary but spread out isn't bad.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure


Quote:
I have a car that I dumped loads of money into via power mods over the course of a couple of years and I could see the same happening again with the hifi gear.


As one who has done both a warning: good sound is as addictive as horsepower.

bifcake
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure


Quote:

$15,000 all said and done for a killer system simply boggles the mind. I did not think it was possible given the numbers Alex was telling me about. $15k up front is scaary but spread out isn't bad.

The 15k doesn't have to be plopped all at once, but there have to be substantial investments that can be made over time.

1. $7k for speakers

2. $4.5k for amps and phase inverter

3. 8k for DAC and upsampler

The DAC numbers can be played with depending on the DAC you decide to get. If it's the DCS, then it's more like $20k total. Other stuff can be had for less.

tom collins
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

thanks for a very enjoyable post.

RogerM
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure


Quote:

Quote:
I have a car that I dumped loads of money into via power mods over the course of a couple of years and I could see the same happening again with the hifi gear.


As one who has done both a warning: good sound is as addictive as horsepower.

What number did you manage to get to? I stopped at 867 wheel.

You figure I'd be def by now from open exhausts and what not

bifcake
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure


Quote:

What number did you manage to get to? I stopped at 867 wheel.

I stopped at 12", but we don't need to go there.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Nice writeup AlexO... I like to listen to variations in setup. Seems like the magic was in there somewhere.

Cheers,

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure


Quote:
What number did you manage to get to? I stopped at 867 wheel.


Wheel? That's nuts!

I'm a road racer, not a dragger, so a nice 400-500 is plenty. I can't keep that much planted out of the corners as it is.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

The inverter means the amps are running in 'balanced' mode, which tends to sound very good. Much lower even harmonics,and power supply distortions (fluctuations) are moved out of the equation to some extent.

McCormack's DNA series amps are run this exact way. Excellent sound. I have a hybrid amp (tube driver/BJT output) from Precision Fidelity built in the 'balanced' manner, (designed by Bruce Moore of MFA fame) 100wpc or so, it sounds very good.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

OK

Would somebody like to explain balanced and inverted in common language ?

I know what the words mean, but what does inverted mean ? a signal that is inverted is just 180 degrees out of phase if its an AC waveform like music. Are they referring to some form of negative DC biasing ?

Alan

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure


Quote:
What number did you manage to get to? I stopped at 867 wheel.

That's a pretty specific number. Since it was measured at the wheels and the conventional wisdom is 15%-20% driveline losses, where did you find a chassis dyno that could hold down all that power (1000+ HP)!!?? Can't even guess at the torque figure. Power adders? Bottle?

Hell, this is better than talking about Dup's wattage!

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure


Quote:

I stopped at 12", but we don't need to go there.

12" rims. That's extremely pimp in a low rider kinda way

RogerM
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Vipers are doing well over 1000 wheel nowadays. My wheels and clutch where slipping on that pull. I really hate drag racing. I sucked at it. On pump gas I ran 600 wheel and I also have an after market traction control setup that let's me road race the 600. I've only lapped at Pocono and Watkins Glenn so far. The car has a stock radio. In retrospect that is amusing

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Folks,

Let's keep this discussion on topic. We can start another thread if we're to discuss car mods.

Thanks

rvance
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

IMO the Vipers are as hairy and brutal as the Cobra 427 SC was in its day. You are one of the lucky ones.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure


Quote:
McCormack's DNA series amps are run this exact way. Excellent sound.


Really? Very interesting.

I have one of his latest DNA amps and love the sound.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Alex - Excellent posts. You tell the story in such a fun and easy to read matter that it almost feels like I'm sitting there listening along with the guys. Thanks for sharing.

Buddha and the rest of you talking about price points and the cost of being an audiophile you left out half of the hobby and expense - MUSIC.

Sure my stereo cost as much as a small car but my music collection cost the price of a nice BMW. The difference is that the stereo was purchased in big chunks while the music collection was paid for one small item at a time. Much like the coin and stamp collections Jim was referring to.

Another point that has not been picked up on as yet is that a really good reference quality system will sound great regardless of the type of music being played. Everything from death metal to piano trios should sound wonderful. Well maybe not the death metal since if death metal sounds wonderful then can it still be consisted death metal? But you get my point, if the system "stumbles" with even one type of music then it can't be a reference system and so, based on what Alex wrote, Stew's system would be a true reference system.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure


Quote:
Alex - Excellent posts. You tell the story in such a fun and easy to read matter that it almost feels like I'm sitting there listening along with the guys. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed the read. Once I get my system built, I am thinking of having an open house, so that you guys can actually hear it, rather than just read about it.


Quote:

Another point that has not been picked up on as yet is that a really good reference quality system will sound great regardless of the type of music being played. Everything from death metal to piano trios should sound wonderful. Well maybe not the death metal since if death metal sounds wonderful then can it still be consisted death metal? But you get my point, if the system "stumbles" with even one type of music then it can't be a reference system and so, based on what Alex wrote, Stew's system would be a true reference system.

I absolutely agree. Music is music regardless of type. A true reference will reproduce any type of music and will do so well. I don't subscribe to the idea of building a system to specifically suit a particular type of music. I think that opens doors to specific types of colorations that just happen to play well for particular, narrow band of frequency ranges.

I also agree that Stew's system is a true reference. It's in the realm of sounding almost real to the point where you may almost mistake it for musicians situated in the room. That's quite a feat and it's quite a system.

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Alex did you mention what kind of RCA connections I used between AVA 2 amplifers and the inverter, I forgot to bring the fancy Stellar Labs RCA's, so we listened to..........some nice FLEXIBLE, non descript gray stuff, with tight solid connections, which is what ya need to make it HAPPEN. AVA/Legacy and some great DSD upsampler...Now we need to compare 2X DSD from the EMMLABS DCC2 to the dCS setup, can you hear 2.8 versus 5.6? That uses the fancy MCM connectors, right out of the clear plastic bag, with an MCM part number, no wood box, no pictures of some exotic mountains, rivers, reptiles, a nice Chinese toxic plastic bag..with XLR spelled WRONG, and some XLR with Neutrik pieces, on one of the connections. WHISPERS,driven by AVA Super WATTS!!! how can you listen to anything else?

AVA Ultra Hybrid phase inverter

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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure


Quote:
Alex did you mention what kind of RCA connections I used between AVA 2 amplifers and the inverter, I forgot to bring the fancy Stellar Labs RCA's, so we listened to..........some nice FLEXIBLE, non descript gray stuff, with tight solid connections, which is what ya need to make it HAPPEN. AVA/Legacy and some great DSD upsampler...Now we need to compare 2X DSD from the EMMLABS DCC2 to the dCS setup, can you hear 2.8 versus 5.6? That uses the fancy MCM connectors, right out of the clear plastic bag, with an MCM part number, no wood box, no pictures of some exotic mountains, rivers, reptiles, a nice Chinese toxic plastic bag..with XLR spelled WRONG, and some XLR with Neutrik pieces, on one of the connections. WHISPERS,driven by AVA Super WATTS!!! how can you listen to anything else?

AVA Ultra Hybrid phase inverter

As much as I admire AlexO's quest for sonic gold and his excellent tales of discovery, I have to admit I'm a little disappointed that it offers you yet another forum for

Heaping praise on your own equipment.

Patting yourself on the back.

Blowing your own horn.

Unabashed self-adoration.

Berating members whose systems differ from yours.

Displaying your shiny ass.

And every other possible permutation of masturbating to your own image.

AlexO gave you credibility, affirmation and the chance to be a gracious winner.

And you shit all over it.

Nice going, Dup!

bifcake
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure


Quote:

As much as I admire AlexO's quest for sonic gold and his excellent tales of discovery, I have to admit I'm a little disappointed that it offers you yet another forum for

Heaping praise on your own equipment.

Patting yourself on the back.

Blowing your own horn.

Unabashed self-adoration.

Berating members whose systems differ from yours.

Displaying your shiny ass.

And every other possible permutation of masturbating to your own image.

AlexO gave you credibility, affirmation and the chance to be a gracious winner.

And you shit all over it.

Nice going, Dup!

What's worse is that everything he says is true. DUP maybe annoying (although not in person), but everything he suggested has made Stew's system sound better. That's a fact and I would be less than honest if I said otherwise.

JIMV
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Folk hate it when that happens

bifcake
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Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

You should have seen him on Sat. He was glowing like a proud parent of a bouncing baby speaker, baby amplifier and baby phase inverter.

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Joined: Sep 17 2005 - 8:16am
Re: AlexO's and Stew's excellent adventure

Grandparents are Frank VanAlstine and Bill Dudleston at Legacy!!! Actually they are the FATHERS of sonic bliss. DSD from Philips/Sony are the mothers milk source of it's energy and vitality. But has Philips/Sony source of vitality dried out? I hope not. DSD/SACD gives vitality and perfection

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