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linden518
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Almost Set on the Amp!

Hey, guys. It's been a blast, this whole process of trying to set up my 1st system, especially this sharing on the Stereophile forum & getting feedback and valuable opinion from y'all. As for the amp, I think I'm close to jumping on the Pathos Classic MKIII, as there's a used one in Audiogon. Perhaps I should audition more amps (i.e. Plinius), but I just can't forget the sound I heard yesterday, and I don't know if there's any better indicator on whether or not it's the "right" amp for me than that... plus the fact that I preferred it vastly over the well-regarded Musical Fidelity A5, and in some instances, over the VTL, should mean something, right?

Anyways, the Audiogon seller has great feedback, and I figure it's worth the risk? I convinced him to go down to $1700, which seems like a deal, especially as it retails for $2750. Let me know ASAP if this is a good idea, guys; have never used Audiogon before nor have I purchased used audio equipment. The link is below:

http://buy.audiogon.com/cgia/cls.pl?intatube&1202247049

This would also make looking for speakers much easier. I already know that the Devores sound fabulous with the Pathos classic. From what I've been reading @ the Audio Asylum, there are quite a few people who love the Pathos with smaller Magnepans, so I plan on auditioning the Maggies next week, too. If the MMG sounds good enough w/ the Pathos, perhaps I can go with them for now and save the $ for other equipment, like the headphone amp & headphones...

Jeff Wong
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

I think it's great that you're getting into high resolution audio. Audiogon can be great--we all love bargains, and yes, there is sometimes risk involved. Generally, used gear is pretty well taken care of... us audiophiles are often an anal retentive bunch and keep stuff nice. That said, something you might consider is the time and resources you used checking out the Pathos at Sound By Singer. If you buy there, you know the gear will be good, and the salesman who helped give you a great experience will receive the commission he deserves. Although saving $1000+ is quite possibly a no brainer, buying where you auditioned is food for thought.

Buddha
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

Me agree with Jeff.

It may also be worth asking SBS if they have a trade-in / trade-up policy that may make it very worthwhile to buy at retail.

At the very least, if you buy the Audiogon version, take the salesmanat SBS a nice bottle of wine for the free time you spent at the store before giving your business to someone on Audiogon.

After all, SBS did the heavy lifting, and the Audiogon seller has an easy sale with no overhead.

So, that being said, I also think the price at Audiogon is too high for a used product that will be bought sight unseen from a stranger, but that is neither here nor there. It's worth whatever someone will pay, eh?

linden518
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

I am actually going to purchase a set of speakers from Mike from SBS. I let him know yesterday that I was pretty set on purchasing a Plinius, and he was showing me speakers that I might like with the Plinius. My falling in love with the Pathos was inadvertent, although now that I think of it, he was probably aware of what was going to happen the whole time!

He told me that if I decide on Devores instead of Harbeths or any other brand, to purchase from him, which I promised to do and I'm going to honor that promise. And although I'd love to work some extra commission over Mike's way, $1000 is a LOT for a college student like me. I can probably live on that for a semester, hehe... But you guys are right. I'd love to buy the Pathos from Mike, too, since he knew to match that amp up with me...

Thanks for the word on the etiquette, guys. I'll keep it in mind.

Jeff Wong
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

You might also consider a Creek integrated amp with Vandersteen speakers. I used that pairing for many years and was quite happy. It's probably not as lush or romantic as the Pathos, but, the bang for the buck and relative neutrality is worth checking out.

linden518
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

That's probably a more sensible combo for me, Jeff. I hear great things about the Creek 5350 and Vandersteens. Aren't Vandersteens really big, though? I live in a small 1 br in Manhattan...

Actually, when I was at SBS, I mentioned Vandersteens (as well as Monitor Audio RS6) as possible speakers I was interested in, but it was almost as if I wasn't being heard. I'll make sure to hear them, though, before I decide on everything. Thanks for the suggestion, Jeff.

Jeff Wong
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

Vandersteens will probably be too big, but, listen to them before you decide--you may wish to make room. Pairing some small Epos with the Creek might be another combo to check out/try.

Minimonitors are smaller, but, they will still require stands.

Elk
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

One other quick point: Don't rush.

Give yourself some time to explore alternatives and see what you really like. It's easy to fall in love with your first date.

Buddha
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

I am one of those "immediate gratification is too slow" people, but Elk's point about marrying in haste and repenting at leisure is well considered.

That's why a store with a trade-up policy is so valuable!

I think your ears 'grow' more in the first year of owning your first dedicated Hi Fi than they do in the following nine. Percentage-wise, I mean.

Got any pics of your planned listening room?

KBK
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

Seems like you've go the 'Audiophilia Nervosa' well in hand! You'll make a great Audiophile! However, that name can also be a good label, when it it tied to a music lover who simply desires to get closer to the event.

From the indications of the pm's we've had, it seems that you've got a very solid grasp on how your ear works, regarding what actually sounds good-and true to the signal.

Believe it or not - that is actually rare for someone at your current level of involvement. Some never get there.

The story goes like this: How do you tell an audiophile apart from the music lover?

In the exact same way it happened to me. It was about 11pm at night. There was a loud banging on the door. I went down the windowed staircase on the side of the house, we were renting the third floor in an older Victorian style house. As I went down the stairs, it was plain to see, that the house next door, which was only about 5 feet away...was on fire.

I ignored the knock, I knew what it was..I turned around and ran back into my listening room. I knew I had little time.

Seconds counted. All of them. And there came upon me... the great debate:

Hardware....or.....Software???

Which to save?

Choose wisely.

I chose the records.

I am first and foremost a music lover. Even though I do design work, I do it in the service of music.
Some care more about the equipment.

The other is how much money do you have into the software, the music? Is it more than the cost of the equipment?

This previously important question counts for less and less every day, partially due to the bastardization of music quality that digital has brought to the table.

bifcake
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!


Quote:

He told me that if I decide on Devores instead of Harbeths or any other brand, to purchase from him, which I promised to do and I'm going to honor that promise. And although I'd love to work some extra commission over Mike's way, $1000 is a LOT for a college student like me. I can probably live on that for a semester, hehe... But you guys are right. I'd love to buy the Pathos from Mike, too, since he knew to match that amp up with me...

Thanks for the word on the etiquette, guys. I'll keep it in mind.

Etiquette is all fine and good when you have the money or when it's someone else's money. My take on it is that if you really want to be nice about it, figure out what Mike's commission would be on the purchase, get the speakers on Audiogon and then send Mike a check for the amount he would get in commission. I guarantee you would come out well ahead.

I bought most of my stuff on Audiogon and I never had a problem. The stuff was absolutely pristine. A friend of mine bought a CD player for $15k on Audiogon and speakers for $25k on Audigon as well and both of those items were like new. So, I wouldn't sweat it too much. People who sell on Audiogon tend to take care of their equipment better than they take care of their children.

dbowker
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!


Quote:
Vandersteens will probably be too big, but, listen to them before you decide--you may wish to make room. Pairing some small Epos with the Creek might be another combo to check out/try.

Minimonitors are smaller, but, they will still require stands.

I second that- In fact I started with Creek as a college student and just moved up as the years went on. Creek and Epos M12.2s are a fantastic combo. The M12.2 go to a solid 65HZ and roll off around 45HZ I think, so they are perfect for your room size. They need decent stands but even so would be much smaller than Vandersteen (also very good but big and not so pretty IMO)

linden518
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

Wow, guys. Thanks for all your input. Food for thought, which I'll mull for the rest of the weekend. (KBK - thanks for the compliments, and for all your valuable feedback throughout this process. Our PMs really helped me. Your caution about software vs. hardware is duly noted.) I'll look into all those speaker options, esp. Epos and Vandersteens, because I hear nothing but great things about them.

As for amps, here's my final dilemma, narrowed down to 2: The Pathos Classic MK III which I fell in love with, for $1750 total, including shipping, or Plinius 8150 (which I haven't heard yet & frankly can't audition b/c it's an older model, but have read John Marks rave about it through the years) for $850.

Right now, I'm leaning toward the Pathos, just because the sound is still fresh in my memory and I can see myself enjoying it for many many years. I vastly preferred it to the 2 other amps I heard that day (Musical Fidelity A5 and VTL IT-85.) If I learned anything so far, it's that everyone's ears are idiosyncratically different from others, and I can only go with what really gets to me, musically. But perhaps the Plinius is comparable in sound, and maybe has its own virtues? (It's really a pity I can't audition the 8150.) If I can justify purchasing the Plinius, it sure would leave me with more options on speakers. (If I decide on the Pathos, I'd most likely get the Maggie MMGs and save for an upgrade later...)

If you were me, though - purely hypothetical and subjective, of course, in the spirit of fun - which option would you take between the 2 choices?

Buddha
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

Playing the "if I were you game," I'd go with the amp I loved the sound of and the speakers I loved the sound of and make proper accomodations to bear the burden...like making your significant other be in charge of feeding you, or finding a significant other or group of significant others who will feed you, drinking cheaper alcohol, not driving...you know, the usual!

I vote, go with your heart!

Elk
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

This is sooooo easy!

Go for the Pathos.

Music is about emotion. If the amp and speakers get you closer to the music they are the ones.

Plus the Pathos is pretty. Cuteness counts.

linden518
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

Yay, Buddha & Elk: precisely what I was thinking! I'm going to always keep your advices in mind when setting up my music system. Thank you!

But... (*throwing in a wrench*)

Here's something I don't understand. Today I heard an all-tube integrated called Leben CS600, and the sound coming out of it was unbelievable. How come amps like this don't get any press in the States?

I was really surprised by the Leben today, especially considering that my previous (and only!) experience with an all-tube integrated was disappointing: the VTL IT-85 couldn't really render analytically detailed sound on some music. But the Leben was different, had bite as well as warmth. (I think I'm always going to have a Stravinsky or a Ligeti disc with me to test all-tube amps, to see how they handle detail on abrasive music.) It has a pretty meek output (30 watts) but I found out in a short order that I'm not really a monster-output kind of a listener.

Here's another tantalizing option (and this might be why I should really listen to some of you and take a bit more time, not jump the gun, maybe...) In the States, there's no way I can afford the Leben. But in Japan, it costs significantly less, at around $2500 in some shops. Here's the tantalizing part: I might have to go there in a few months, and if I save a bit more in the mean time, I can actually smuggle in a Leben, along with some really weird porn! (Kidding, guys... )

Now, the used Pathos MK III, I can get for $1750. But it has no headphone out, which means another $6-700 for the headphone amp: so total cost would actually be around $2400-2500. (I heard that the headphone out on the Leben is phenomenal, so no need for extra dough spent on separate head amp.) So my set-up consisting of a used Pathos MKIII would cost EXACTLY the same as the brand spanking new Leben CS600! Doesn't really seem like such a great deal anymore...

Now, I still love the sound of the Pathos, it's really one of the loveliest sounds I've heard from an amp. But if I've learned anything from life, it's to be wary of your first love and besides, the Leben CS600 was f*&^-ing magical on its own right, as well. (I wish there was a way I can do a side-by-side with the Leben, but that's not possible.) Plus, if I wait, I can save up more $ and actually go for the speakers I love, and not settle. Phew~

Sorry to annoy & exhaust you guys, but... your two cents? (Especially if you've heard the Lebens...)

bobedaone
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

Leben is German for "life", which is interesting in this context.

Did you hear the Leben with DeVores? I haven't heard the combo, but John DeVore sometimes uses Leben amplification at shows. I imagine the two sound wonderful together.

bifcake
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

I think you're putting the cart before the horse. You should decide on speakers first and the speakers will dictate your amp.

Jeff Wong
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

From what I've read in your posts so far, you're building a new system from scratch. Do you have any gear at all at home yet or from a previous system? I'm just wondering what you might be using as a baseline or control. Hearing various amps with all sorts of speakers creates too many variables to know what is doing what.

And I agree--don't rush into a purchase. There's so much great gear worth checking out. It's better to listen to a lot of stuff and be patient before committing your hard earned money.

linden518
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

Jeff - I will heed your advice and allow myself some time and breathing room to be more rational. This is indeed my 1st system ever, and hence: my schizophrenia. I know what I want sonically, but I also have to be mindful of the economics. And especially as I don't foresee myself as a chronic upgrader, I'd like to get this 1st system as 'right' as possible. Which means more listening. More thinking. Thanks for your considerate response and concern.

Alexo - You're right & I agree that I need to have speakers in mind first (and I do!: the Devores, for now, and possibly Harbeths if I still like them after I audition them more closely this week. Obviously, if I give myself more time, I'll like more models, I'm sure, but I want to go with what sounds good to me before I start liking hundreds of other models exponentially. As mentioned, I know I like the Devores. I did not care at all for the Audio Physic Spark or Focals, the two other models I've auditioned closely. Not that they're not good speakers, but they don't jive w/ my musical interests. I also like the Maggies, but not as much as the Devores... so they are my budget fallback models - hence my interest in the Plinius 8150 & Pathos, which are established to drive the smaller Maggies beautifully.)

More importantly, though, from my short experience of auditioning equipment, I can't agree entirely that the speakers should be the de facto starting point for system selection (please correct me if I'm wrong, and it's highly likely I AM wrong). So far, it's been a chaotic but fun trial & error of the best kind, a symbiotic process which precludes such rules. I'd hear such speakers w/ such an amp, then discard the speakers to hear the amp w/ a different set. And round and round. Is this the most effective way? I'm pretty sure it isn't. But it's fun this way for me. And besides, I don't think I can really find out my true preferences any other way.

bifcake
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

The reason I would use speakers as a starting point is because speakers give you the most obvious sonic character. You can extract extra body and flavor out of them by using different upstream components, but the basic character will remain the same. Furthermore, the choice of speakers will narrow your choice of amplifiers. For example, you wouldn't get a 1,000 watt speaker for 100db efficiency horn speakers (I don't care what Dup says) just as you wouldn't get a 15 Watt SET tube amp to drive low efficiency, high current demanding speakers.

So, by starting with speakers, you get off that merry-go-round of indecision and your road becomes much clearer.

Jeff Wong
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

I both agree and disagree with AlexO's points. I agree that speakers might give you the most sonic character, but, because of that would think that choosing an amplifier that has a known reputation for being balanced or neutral across the spectrum will be a better starting point (at least for auditioning). This will allow you to assess the varying sonic qualities of the different speakers. Ideally, you must consider things as a system, because it all gets connected and interacts. In practical and realistic terms, this is difficult.

That said, I do think you should start with the speakers, but, for a very different reason. Your choice is being limited by space constraints (1 bedroom apartment) and as such, the speaker, its size, and how it performs in your space is the deciding factor.

A neutral amplifier might not be what you want in the end. You may prefer something lusher or more romantic sounding. But, as an auditioning tool, it's a great place to start. You can always switch to a different amp later. Since you don't have any gear, this could be tough to do at home (where you should really be trying out stuff, in your room with its unique properties).

It may not be realistic to get an audio shop to hook up the specific pieces you want to hear--they often have pairings they like to leave set as is. But, if you can, I might suggest you ask to hear the various speakers you're trying with something like a Creek Destiny integrated amp. This is a relatively neutral amp (and affordable) that will allow you to assess the different sonic attributes of a wide variety of speakers.

Here's where a benefit of buying from a dealer comes in, and you establish a working relationship. Say you pull the trigger on a pair of speakers (Devores for example) from the dealer. Now that you've bought from him, now that you know him, and he knows he can count on you for business, with a modest deposit, he's likely to allow you to audition gear in your home. This is where you start borrowing amps he carries and listen at home, in the very environment you'll be using the stuff. Don't like the Creek? Try a Pathos. Too lush? Try a Plinius. This is the advantage of developing a relationship with a dealer, which I know AlexO will disagree with, but, there it is.

linden518
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

Thanks, Alexo & Jeff. Learned a lot just by reading your last 2 comments.

KBK
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Re: Almost Set on the Amp!

Even when I was broke, I had floating tabs at more than one dealer, and one was at $8k. I would just walk in, take the item off the shelf, bring it to the counter, sign for it, and take it home to demo. This was usually done on late Saturday, and returned by Monday, mid afternoon. This was the least inconvenience to the dealer, and the greatest benefit to me, in terms of having demo time. I would even re-install the given component in the system I took it from. I was buying so much gear, I had better discounts than the employees, at most times.

I know, I'm sick.

It was a good kind of sick.

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