Audio Research SP9 preamplifier Guy Lemcoe's 1990 System
My listening venue has changed radically since my last review. A move into an apartment has forced me to turn an 11' by 14' bedroom into a listening room. The 7?' ceiling and thick, wall-to-wall carpeting have created a more intimate and revealing environment in which to listen. I sit in the near field, 7' away from the Acoustat Twos, which are placed 3' out from the short wall and 18" from the side walls, toed-in slightly. My Quicksilver amps (100k ohm input impedance) sit side by side on a VPI isolation platform between the speakers and connected to them with short lengths of TARA Space & Time cable. At night, with the lights out, the Quicksilvers look sexy, due to the golden glow of the tubes reflecting off the chrome transformer tops.
In the warm Santa Fe summer we had during the auditioning for this review, extended listening sessions in a room full of tubes caused the temperature to rise appreciably; beads of sweat lay just beneath the surface of my brow, threatening to break through. (I leave the noisy air-conditioning off when listening. I also close the only window to keep outside noises out.)
The Merrill Stable Table resides in Stereophile's listening room, so my VPI turntable now sits, Tiptoed, on an Arcici Lead Balloon. Either TARA Labs Pandora or Cardas Hexlink Five interconnect link the TT to the preamps. Herb Wolf's modified Wisa air pump and surge tank have replaced the stock pump for the Eminent Technology tonearm. The improvements rendered by this upgrade are substantial; I hope to report on this and other tweaks to the VPI/ET front-end soon. An AudioQuest 404i-L cartridge continues to extract a maximum amount of information from vinyl grooves with no sign of mistracking or other perturbing behavior. CD sources are the new CAL Tercet Mk.III—review in progress—or Tempest II Special Edition with either Pandora, Music Metre, or Cardas interconnect linking them to the preamps. AudioQuest Lapis interconnect (26pF/ft) carries the signal to the amps. All front-end electronics are plugged into an Adcom ACE-515 AC Enhancer.
Although I miss the spaciousness and the large sound obtained in my old listening room, the sound in my new room, though smaller in character, does not disappoint me. Several weeks of trial and error in speaker placement and listening-seat positioning have resulted in a sound which is quite revealing of the source signal and the colorations introduced upon it by the electronics. The system is more analytical than before—less euphonic. I'm not sure which sound I prefer, but I'm enjoying this new perspective on the performances.—Guy Lemcoe