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linden518
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How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Sorry if the subject title sounds like a riff on "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" *cringe* but I wanted to post a general summary of my experience as a complete neophyte to audio hi-fi, putting together a system for the first time, so that other newbies can gauge from my experience what their process might be like, in putting their systems together. Hopefully it will help them in the process, save them some grief & time.

I think it was this past December, just before Christmas, that I was trolling around in Amazon.com for no reason, that I got the idea of maybe upgrading a pair of speakers for my computer. So after a storm of clicking, I found out there was a company called Audioengine. I was going to settle on that, but I thought about it, the prospect of listening to all music - lossy files, too! - seated at or near the computer, and it wasn't so enticing. Then, after more clicks, I saw that there were things called receivers and amplifiers *gasp* which allow people to listen to music from a dedicated system. Hence my first posts here on Stereophile: should I get Harman Kardon 3485 or Onkyo A9555, Infinity Primus P162 or PSB Alpha? (Notice how all these are also available on Amazon.com. )

Then I received a LOT of expert advice from forum members. The general consensus was that I should consider an integrated amplifier along with affordable speakers. I forget who (I think it was KBK) but I was advised to contact Glen at Audio Two for some opinion on integrated amps. Glen was a huge help - he fielded my lengthy emails daily, and I got the general sense of what was out there, mainly through my correspondence with this kind man who had almost zero interest in selling me his stuff... I'd find out in short order that there are MANY people who are like this in audio, willing to mentor you through the process, which makes this hobby worthwhile (Walter Swanbon at Fidelis AV, John Rutan of Audio Connection, and Jonathan Halpern of Tone Imports come to mind, too.) It's a community in the truest sense of the word, and hopefully when I am older and semi-wise in ways of audio, I can usher in the younger people in a similar way, with generosity of spirit.

Anyhoo, from my correspondences with Glen and flurries of posts in this forum, I had a vague but definitely formed ideas of my target amplifiers. The safest recommendations seemed to be: Creek, Rega, Cambridge Audio for integrated amp. Glen also recommended Atoll, a French amp, which I actually preferred to Creek, Rega or CA in actual auditioning. But did I end up with an Atoll-based system? No. Life would have been so much easier if I jumped in quickly & have been done with it. I guess what people call 'audiophile nervosa' kicked in, along with the endless series of 'what-if' questions, and I knew I wouldn't be satisfied until I explored most of my options, exhaustively.

A couple of points here: one thing I do not regret is doing thorough research before actually auditioning. I read almost all the reviews of gear that was within my budget in Stereophile. I was hitting other forums to get 1st hand accounts of owner experience. In the process, I picked up the technical vocab, etc., and what to look for in matching components. As a newbie, it can be daunting when people are talking about impedance, sensitivity of speakers, whether or not a certain amp's output is driven by MOSFETs or not. But you can soak it up while reading the reviews, get a general sense of what the terms are.

Another point is that I went about researching amplifier first, then speakers second. Many audiophiles would maintain that this is counter-intuitive. Speakers primarily have the 1st-order influence in the sound signature of your system, I was told, and I'd save time by shopping speakers first, then electronics second. I know there's a great deal of common sense there. But for some reason, I intuitively knew that wasn't going to be the way for me: the lesson here, if there is one, is to listen to advices, but trust your instincts. True I would have saved some time by going speakers first, but there are a few advantages of going electronics first. First of all, the dealers have their rooms set up, usually, so that there aren't more than a few sets of speakers in the showroom, but many different kinds of amps. Such was the case with my first audition experience at Sound by Singer.

At Sound by Singer showroom, there were only 3 speakers: Devore 8, Audio Physic Spark, and Focal monitors - the expensive Berylium kind. But there were many amplifiers. The first speakers I heard, Audio Physic Spark, were deeply unimpressive, no offense. And I didn't like the way how the music sounded crunchy and sizzle-y on the Focals. Then I heard the Devore 8s image the live account of Stravinsky's "Rite" conducted by Gergiev with full blood & anima, and said holy crap. The point is: the speaker preference is relatively easy to form, at least in my opinion. In short order, I had only one pair of speakers to listen to in the room. But I had many amplifiers to listen to, as the showrooms usually have many more amplifiers in the room than speakers. I guess the sensible approach is the 2-pronged attack: have a general idea of the speakers you are interested in, but a CONCRETE sense of what you're looking for in electronics. Hence: research the amplifiers first. It worked for me.

At SBS, the first amplifier I heard was the Musical Fidelity A5. Not impressed. It delivered on the Stravinsky, especially the brass/percussion. But when I moved to a poorly recorded CD - Radiohead's "Amnesiac" - it made Thom Yorke's voice sound unbearable/unbelievable. I have my share of badly recorded discs, and I want to live with those, too, as well as the great ones. I also heard VTL IT-85, which was simply gorgeous on Thom Yorke's voice, as well as the Tallis Scholars' impeccable a cappella on their Requiem discs. Radu Lupu's Brahms sounded golden, the best that I've ever heard & had me at the brink of tears, it was so good. My first exposure to tubes. But it lacked the dynamism in the Stravinsky. Gorgeous mid-range, but what's that when the music calls for murder and blood and violence?

Then I heard the Pathos Classic MKIII. I simply fell in love with its sound, and although I didn't end up with it, I still believe it's simply one of the loveliest integrated amps out there. Great hybrid design that combines the best of tube & SS. Just a perfect way of balancing everything - power, dynamics, harmonics, lyricism. And the Pathos had this singing tone. Silky & velvety smooth on the Devore 8s and Super 8s.

So I had a reference to go by, "the standard." Pathos Classic MKIII matched with Devore Super 8s. You'll notice that my initial budget, by this point, has been fed to the paper shredder. Some people are more prudent. They watch their finances carefully, eat healthier... they will live longer & achieve success, most likely. I belong to the school of "fuckit." I probably won't live as long, and may turn out to be an underachiever for the duration of my life. But for now, I'm happier than a vast majority of people in this country because I listen to divine music, delivered to me in the way I prefer to hear it.

Other amps I considered seriously: Primare I30. A seriously great integrated, especially matched with Primare's CD31. If anyone's looking into one-company approach, he/she should look seriously into this combo. Very powerful, muscular, burnished sound. Musical. (The speakers were ProAc 152) Stopped me in my tracks. But still, I preferred the lyricism and impeccable balance of the Pathos/Devore combo, albeit by a small margin. On a given day, I'd probably prefer the Primare/ProAc, depending on the music I'm listening to.

Then I heard Plinius integrateds. I had an occasion to A-B-A-B the older 8150 to the newer 9100. I preferred the 8150 to the newer 9100, no contest, although the dealer seemed to think I was hearing weird. (But in an Audio Asylum post I found in the wee hours of the night, John Marks intimates almost as much, too, and I agree.) 8150 delivers the music to you holistically; in the Radiohead song "Pyramid Song," disparate elements of the song can break apart & not congeal in some amps - 9100 was one case - but come together through some amps: 8150 did this in spades. I played my audition CDs, over & over again. And deliberated. I was still in love with the Pathos sound, but here was an older amp, which was significantly cheaper, but delivered music to almost the same quality (Pathos had better clarity, still) and with more power and authority. I went back to listen to the Pathos. And after a week's deliberation, had my 1st audio purchase: Plinius 8150.

Speaker-wise, it was pretty easy, as I fell in love with the Devores. I also heard Vandersteens and was impressed by the 2ceIi Sigs. Just utterly natural & musical in presentation, surprisingly nimble & powerful at the same time. But I loved the small footprint of the Devores, and also how they imaged the music so naturally. But I didn't end up with them...

I went to In Living Stereo, actually, to see if I can listen to Harbeth speakers. I was told by Mike Nadler at SBS who told me they might have it (Mike is a GREAT guy, let me audition for like 3 hours.) It turned out that ILS didn't have Harbeths. I sneaked up on Steve Mishoe, who was setting up for another customer, but he was gracious enough to accommodate me in a short time: I was going to listen to Leben CS600. The speakers were, again, my favorite Devore Super 8s. When I put the Stravinsky disc in, I was expecting the typical "tube-y" sound: warm, dark, opulent in decay... but my expectations were upended. It did have tube's liquid fluidity to the sound. But the amp was also dynamic and powerful, had tremendous slam with Stravinsky's brutal percussion, trombone glissandos. I was pretty floored. The most impressive aspect of the amp was that it had this honesty: it made you follow the music you were listening to with a kind of fanaticism. And compared to the Pathos or VTL, or even to some of the other great SS amps, Leben sounded "neutral" to me. Nothing artificially colored to the music I was listening to. Just allowed music - disc after disc - to speak for itself, purely, on its own terms.

And Reader, I married it. The Leben's in my system now and I'm ecstatically listening to music everyday. One thing, though: I thought I detected a bit of over-brightness in the treble and didn't know whether it was the Leben or Devore 8s. At first I thought it was the Devores, and speculated that Leben didn't have synergy with Devore speakers. In fact, this was one of the reasons I started looking elsewhere for speakers to match with the Leben. (I ended up with Harbeth Super HL5, which are fantastic w/ both Leben & Plinius 8150.) It turns out that my speculation was wrong, and that it was not the Devores that added brightness to the sound. It was the stock Sovtek output tubes in the Leben. As soon as I replaced them with Winged C 6L6GC, and now EL34, the sound changed. The harsh brightness completely disappeared, and now, I realize that I haven't come close to tapping the Leben's potential. Lord save me if I perish in tube-rolling hell, but I will most likely try some NOS tubes later down the line.

I must admit that the Plinius 8150 has been languishing in shadow ever since the Leben came in the house. I am moving into a 2-bedroom in May and my original plan was to have the living room system anchored by the Plinius and the dedicated listening room/study system by the Leben. If I stick with the plan, budget permitting, I'd like to go for the Super 8s. (If the budget does not permit this, probably Magnepan MMG.) Another tantalizing proposition: Walter Swanbon of Fidelis AV, when he comes down to NYC, can bring the LFD Zero MKIII for me to listen to, and I can trade in the Plinius if I prefer the LFD. But since I'm trying to set up analog front end - an entire post in itself - I don't know anymore whether or not I should still go for the 2-system approach. A big part of me is convinced that I should just put all my efforts into building one great system, sell the Plinius toward funding for the turntable system.

Well: a long ramble. It's just an honest account of what transpired, how an innocent foray into Amazon's Consumer Electronics page turned into THIS. Oh, how life changes in 3 months! I didn't mention sources yet. I'm returning the Cambridge Audio 840C because of Playstation 1 SCPH-1001, which really belongs to another entry. As mentioned, am looking for a TT. Probably Nottingham 294/Ace Space 294 arm for its 12-inch tonearm, as I do mostly classical music.

I hope some newbies read my account of all this as a cautionary tale. As Stephen Mejias, by way of Alexo, mentions in his blog about our Analog/Drunkards tour, this quest for optimal delivery of music is a bottomless pit, but a happy one. Just make sure you're not burning up your kids' college fund to get your Lamm mono blocks. My initial budget, which was ~$700-$800 ballooned exponentially, but fortunately, I was in a position to absorb the blow. I'd like to say, though, you definitely don't have to spend as much to get gorgeous sound out of your system. I believe my way has been the blockhead's approach. I know so many other newbies who are AT LEAST as happy as me, but have spent more prudently, according to their expectations. I'd recommend that route rather than mine.

But as I'm writing this, 4 AM (I should be working on my thesis!), I'm listening to Michael Brecker's last CD through my Leben/Harbeth, and I gotta say, it has been worth it. I can't be happier about what I'm hearing, this moment. I know I'll live with this system for a long time. Maybe down the line, who knows, when I'm a corrupt & filthy corporate lawyer, I'll swap out the tubes in my Leben for Western Electric 350B or something, and maybe trade in my Harbeths for a newer incarnation down the line, if there's significant improvement. But I know I'll keep this system with me as long as I can: it's my first system ever. Even if I get a different system later in life, I'll still have this 1st system with me somewhere in the house or office, will never sell it. People develop strange, sentimental attachment to their cars. I've already started to develop that kind of unhealthy attachment with my 1st system.

bifcake
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Interesting way of approaching things.

I think you should have picked out your speakers first though because the speakers dictate the amplifier choice rather than the other way around. You may have wound up with the same system, but I think you would have gotten there in a more direct, less round about way.

When you're sitting there, auditioning various amplifiers with various speakers, and you describe the sound of the amps, you're not really hearing the amps, you're hearing the amps as they work with the particular speakers that you're listening to. So, unless these speakers are the ones you're going to buy, the test becomes irrelevant.

I'm glad you found the system you like. Oh, and listen to your Uncle Alex and don't go to the turntable route. You'll be on the constant merry-go-round of tweaking and upgrading instead of saving your money for a major system upgrade.

soundberry
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Also my idea is to start choosing the loudspeaker.

And it is important for you to choose an easy to manage loudspeaker.

How?

Ask into the same shop to hear tha same loudspeaker with good economic amplifier with about 30w and costing no more 800 euro, preferred an hybrid one.

If the sound is decreasing too much in quality you should not buy this speaker and look to another one.

And so on...

Check it.

tom collins
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

congrats. glad you are happy with your choices. now, enjoy your listening and concentrate on getting your degree.
best regards.

tom

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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Wonderful story. I'm going to bookmark this and share it with others who are in your position.

rvance
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

sd, I don't think "underachiever" adequately describes a person with your literary/musical intellect. The speed with which you were able to learn the audio ropes and assemble a brilliant system is enviable.

linden518
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System


Quote:
Interesting way of approaching things.

I think you should have picked out your speakers first though because the speakers dictate the amplifier choice rather than the other way around. You may have wound up with the same system, but I think you would have gotten there in a more direct, less round about way.

When you're sitting there, auditioning various amplifiers with various speakers, and you describe the sound of the amps, you're not really hearing the amps, you're hearing the amps as they work with the particular speakers that you're listening to.


Hi, "Uncle" AlexO (LOL!). It should have been clear that I did listen to various amps through one pair of speakers: Devore 8s, and the difference between each amp was remarkable. Speakers definitely have strong sonic signatures, but so do amps, for sure. So I don't see why one shouldn't approach it from both ends, even if it kills some time. I definitely matched the speakers to the amp & I wouldn't advise this method on someone as a general rule, but again: you build your own system & you have to be happy with the sound that you hear, personally. I'm thinking of this one review that I read - I forget if it was Wes Philips or Art Dudley - in which the reviewer said it frequently changes which component in a system that he views as the central "nerve" in the system, the most important part. The reviewer mentioned that he used to think it was the speakers before, the source during other times, but during the period of the review, he felt that it was the amplifier. Not only do we differ in how we categorize what is "more important," in other words, but the order of preference changes even within us, over time. That can only mean: there is no such thing as the definitive "most important." It also means: rules are meant to be broken. I don't think there should be some kind of a cardinal rule at all in how one goes about putting together a system. Each should arrive at his or her own system of order, and someone's systematic approach will be more composed/efficient whereas someone else's will be more unruly/chaotic. As long as we arrive at music, the way we want to hear, I say all rules should be happily suspended.

Personally speaking, I do agree with the common wisdom that picking out the speakers first is the most efficient way... yet I strongly believe that one should follow his/her own intuition about things, just to be redundant. Besides, a big part of the fun in the process for me was going about by my own dictates, even if it slowed down the process. I sure heard a lot more equipment this way, became a more discerning listener, learned more. If I were to build a different system, I'm sure this learning will come into play. I really like shambling about in a loose way, which is the way I like to learn things.

Thanks, everyone, for your encouraging words, too! You're too nice, rvance - I really am a constant underachiever, procrastinator. But thanks for your good word.

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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Great article.

Thanks for sharing.

It was also fun to watch the process as it unfolded. You put a good deal of effort into your search and were well-rewarded.

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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Selfdivider, you seem to have highly tuned ears. Have you always been into music, perhaps as a performer (singer or instrumentalist) or is all your experience as a listener to live music and/or recorded music? I'm just curious about how some people "get it" so quickly and others remain clueless.

I've been involved in live music since 10 and daughters are also musicians, so I understand how musicians can be disappointed with less than stellar sound (not all are, but many are). I'm most interested in the stories of non-musicians and how they come to be so deeply involved.

Like Elk said, it's been fun to watch you. Thanks for sharing.

Dave

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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

You have certainly contracted the disease. Welcome to the Leper colony. I really
enjoyed reading about your adventure. Valvo tubes rule!

linden518
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Monty: The leper colony! What a perfect metaphor, hahaha. I'd like to try SET later, though... then I'd be a super-leper.

dcstep: I'm not a professional or semi-pro musician like some of you guys, but I do play piano for fun, can stutter through Chopin sonatas or Rachmaninoff preludes, Bach's Goldberg, you know, things like that. I just love listening to music, passionately, like all y'all.

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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System


Quote:
... Oh, and listen to your Uncle Alex and don't go to the turntable route. You'll be on the constant merry-go-round of tweaking and upgrading instead of saving your money for a major system upgrade.

In my experience - turntable requires no merry-go-round of tweaking, etc. I got my current decent turntable years ago and all has been fine. I've replaced the cartridge once. All is fine, and happy with it. TT has outlasted the CD player that I bought around the same time.

BillB
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Might not be terribly polite to ask - but can you tell us approximately what your systems cost to put together?

linden518
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Hi, Bill. That's good to know about TT set-up. There are those who are detractors - AlexO! I'm looking at you! - but I'm determined to add analog to my system.

Mm, as to the cost, I'd prefer not to say, hope you can understand. But the Harbeth Super HL5 and Plinius 8150 were used. The Harbeths had less than 10 hrs on them, so they were virtually new & I'm still breaking them in. But I regret not going through the dealer as I don't have the warranty on them. As a newbie, it's kind of a shabby prospect, praying that nothing happens to them.

Two important rules about buying used that I learned: 1. If a dealer took his time to let you audition the equipment, and it's the gear you decide to settle on, you should really purchase from him. 2. Stay away from gray-market gear, i.e. equipments that have been obtained from overseas through improper channels. Otherwise, buying used is a fair game.

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Quote:
Hi, Bill. That's good to know about TT set-up. There are those who are detractors - AlexO! I'm looking at you! - but I'm determined to add analog to my system.

Don't say I didn't warn you. You'll never admit it, but deep down inside, you'll always know that I was right.

linden518
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Quote:

Quote:
Hi, Bill. That's good to know about TT set-up. There are those who are detractors - AlexO! I'm looking at you! - but I'm determined to add analog to my system.

Don't say I didn't warn you. You'll never admit it, but deep down inside, you'll always know that I was right.


Oh, Uncle AlexO! (delivered in a 50's sitcom voice, along with the laugh track)

bifcake
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Go stand in the Analog corner!

struts
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Great story selfdivider! You raise lots of very good points and I found the whole piece a superbly entertaining read. Hopefully it will help other noobs falling off the deep end into this hobby.

I assume you have read this article over at Six Moons on your travels. Your system appears to be charting a very similar course.

I can completely understand your lusting after a vinyl front-end, although the arrival of two micro terrorists forced a temporary retreat from that area of the market for yours truly a couple of years ago. I plan to regroup when some of the curiosity has subsided and they respond better to voice commands. I am not holding my breath (except during changes).

However, I feel an enormous burden of responsibility to introduce you to streamed audio so I would like to extend a warm invitation to the 'Digital Sources' and 'Computer Audio' sections lower down the board (I know you've 'visited', but I'm talking about 'moving in'...). Your interest in spinning silver discs, while endearing, is just sooooo nineteen nineties . As so many 'converts' have noted, once you have experienced the convenience of online access to your entire digital library through a graphical remote, you'll never go back!

It may not be perfect sound forever but it begins to approach perfect convenience forever and allows the rest of the family to enjoy the fruits of my hobby for really the first time ever which for me is priceless. That may or may not mean much to you now, but maybe in a few years... They were playing some music at nursery the other week and apparently Alice, my 4yo, asked "can you play 'Is This Love' because that's my favourite". That's my girl! First time I've cried in years...

Anyway, thanks again for a thumping good read.

rvance
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Quote:
They were playing some music at nursery the other week and apparently Alice, my 4yo, asked "can you play 'Is This Love' because that's my favourite". That's my girl! First time I've cried in years...

If my 4 year old asked for a Whitesnake song, I might cry, too! No, seriously, Bob Marley, right? But I don't get the not crying for years part. Aren't you married? Seen a Disney movie? Read DUP's posts? There's so many good reasons to just let the tears flow, man. And it gets the endorphins up to where I can take less meds.

struts
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Call me repressed, but neither THE BOSS, Disney nor DUP have reduced me to tears for a good long while. They generally evoke a palette of other, quite varied, emotions. Maybe it's the legacy of my 'traditional' upbringing.

As far as I can recall the last time I cried was when I found a slice of crispbread in the drawer of my dCS Verdi. I would like to think that would do it for most people...

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Quote:
As far as I can recall the last time I cried was when I found a slice of crispbread in the drawer of my dCS Verdi. I would like to think that would do it for most people...


Just reading this brings tears to my eyes . . .

linden518
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Quote:
Your interest in spinning silver discs, while endearing, is just sooooo nineteen nineties . As so many 'converts' have noted, once you have experienced the convenience of online access to your entire digital library through a graphical remote, you'll never go back!


It's unbelievable to think that one can now be nostalgic about spinning CDs!

Originally, my plan for source was to build a media server hooked directly to amp. I'd posted on the threads & actually you gave me a lot of great advices... I was pondering soundcards, like Lynx L22 or Echo Gina 3G... I still harbor a desire to set that up. I mean, the Playstation is always there & it's cheap. So getting a media server up should be no problem. In fact, after setting up the analog end, I might try that, but I really don't see myself doing until a year later or something. Kind of burning out from the frenzy of audio-thinking last 3 months & I'd rather get some great recordings & listen listen listen...

The thing is, I do have a Squeezebox 3 that I tried w/ Cambridge Audio 840's DACs. Sounds fantastic. But compared to the sound that I was getting through the Playstation, it wasn't as great. For example, the Squeezebox was fine playing piano discs made in the last few years, which have great, natural balance, i.e. Mitsuko Uchida's late Beethoven sonatas or Marc Andre Hamelin CDs by Hyperion. Beautiful sound, in fact. But for the discs from the 70s when they miked up too close to the piano - I'm thinking of Maurizio Pollini discs on DG - the sound via SB3 became brittle-y digital, while the Playstation's CD playback was noticeably smoother.

Maybe I should try a different DAC? I hear good things about non-upsampling... but I just want the music to sound whole & continuous, on the message. If I can find a DAC that I really like, I'd probably keep the SB3 & get a Drobo & stuff 4 gigs in there. Such an elegant alternative for all the plastic jewel cases lining your walls! Or maybe down the line, I'll try the Transporter, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they might update w/in 6 months or so. Don't want to jump in now.

Anyhow, I'd appreciate your suggestions, especially concerning DAC! (But maybe this post belongs in the Computer Audio thread...)

P.S. - My 3 yr old princess's favorite? "North American Scum" by LCD Soundsystem & Steve Reich's "Different Trains." Such a New Yorker...

struts
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Quote:
Kind of burning out from the frenzy of audio-thinking last 3 months & I'd rather get some great recordings & listen listen listen...


Your priorities are irreproachable. In that case I recommend you pour a glass of your preferred beverage and cue up this. It is quite simply the best recording of a symphony orchestra I have ever heard emerge from the straitjacket of 16/44.1. As much as I hate to recommend style over substance (the programme is superbly performed but I have to confess it is not to my taste) the "being there-ness" is just jaw dropping.

And sorry, but while on the subject, for chamber music you MUST try this. My dear selfdivider, if it doesn't float your boat artistically and technically I shall personally refund you the $14.53 Caiman Bargain price via PayPal. And that is not an offer I make every day

Elk
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

A wonderful recording, indeed!

linden518
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

I'll take your word for it, guys, & take the Pepsi challenge. Will definitely try those recordings... very excited!

BillB
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System


Quote:
Hi, Bill. That's good to know about TT set-up. There are those who are detractors - AlexO! I'm looking at you! - but I'm determined to add analog to my system.

Mm, as to the cost, I'd prefer not to say, hope you can understand. But the Harbeth Super HL5 and Plinius 8150 were used. The Harbeths had less than 10 hrs on them, so they were virtually new & I'm still breaking them in. But I regret not going through the dealer as I don't have the warranty on them. As a newbie, it's kind of a shabby prospect, praying that nothing happens to them.

Two important rules about buying used that I learned: 1. If a dealer took his time to let you audition the equipment, and it's the gear you decide to settle on, you should really purchase from him. 2. Stay away from gray-market gear, i.e. equipments that have been obtained from overseas through improper channels. Otherwise, buying used is a fair game.

No problem, I understand about not disclosing costs, that's a bit personal.
Hope you enjoy vinyl in the future too. I've been playing a lot more vinyl lately, since I've been recording them (at full resolution, of course) onto CD-R's, for backup purposes, and so I can load them into my iTunes library too. Pretty sweet to hear my old "turntable only" music while I'm at the gym plugged into iPod.

CybaSumo
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

thread bookmarked! i will share this to my friends at all.

SAS Audio
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

I read Selfdivider and could not agree more to get accurate electronic components first.

I don't see how one can get things right unless the electronics are not right. I think it is very difficult to pick the right speaker and get the room acoustics to match the system correctly.

I like the back and forth approach like you did at the store. Nice job.

Actually, if one had the equipment and time, the best approach would be to choose the preamplifer and ICs first, since they are the only pieces that can actually be tested vs a wire or "nothing" so to speak. (Requires multiple sophicated listening test procedures and is very time consuming, taking weeks or months.)

Getting the preamplifier and ICs accurate eliminates 3 variables from the system equation.

Anyway, I think Selfdivider set a good example by taking the time to audition and hopefully see the max capabilities of the electronics at a store, what they could do.

I would be careful what one reads and sees recommended by outside sources (I am not talking about Stereophile or BFS but other online rags from first hand experience).

Take care and thanks for the post Selfdivider.

linden518
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System

Thanks, SAS. Glad to know there's one more vote of confidence for the way I approached this system building. Just checked out your site... VERY curious about your preamps.

SAS Audio
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System


Quote:
Thanks, SAS. Glad to know there's one more vote of confidence for the way I approached this system building. Just checked out your site... VERY curious about your preamps.

Your welcome. It took a few years to come up with the same conclusion, so you were probably ahead of me. But once I got the preamps and ICs down, the rest was back and forth source, amp and speakers. This is when I really made some headway. Would have been X times harder if I had to juggle all the components.

My preamplifiers are designed differently than what many teach and preach. Most of their teachings are just guess work and hype anyway. I don't copy old designs, or even new designs, but my own designs.

linden518
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Re: How a Newbie Built His 1st System
fredNH
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Troubleshoot old OR buy new system?

illuminating reading here on component selection -- tempting for one who is trying to rehab his old 1962 system -- and now wonders if it is best to buy NEW all over.

Throw away the old DYNAKITS, Thorens turntable/ GradoLabArm/ Shure pickup and 10"Tannoy in custom-built 17x27x34 housings? Sure sounded great up to 1975.

What bugs me is the DynaCo70 and Preamp recently were professionally checked, but now feeding into space-saving Boston Accustics CR7 I have huge distortion, and no signal generator and scope to track the source or mismatch.

Any suggestions?
Thanks.
Fred clueless in NH

Jan Vigne
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Re: Troubleshoot old OR buy new system?

Dynakits were a contributing factor to the demise of factory authorized kits. It's surprising your components have lasted this long as cold solder joints and poor workmanship on the part of the assembler were common to home built kits.

I certainly wouldn't be all that disturbed by the failure after a "professional" check out, most problems of age cannot be predicted and can only be prevented - if at all - by a near complete rebuild of the entire component. Even under those conditions you are now dealing with an electronic component approaching 50 years of age on those passive parts.

The ST70's and most of the vintage Dyna tube gear have good reputations and are sought after on the used market. Finding someone to perform troubleshooting and repairs is less common today but, if you have a technician willing and able to do the job, then you might consider getting the components repaired since a working tube amp brings more money than a non-working unit. Discuss with the tech how you might proceed with your system. I would be hesitant to absolutely trust a tech who tells you "they don't build them like this anymore" as a reason to continue on with the Dynas. They do build them as they did in the old days and even better in some cases - but the new units won't sell for $69. Vintage Dynas are worth keeping if you are comitted to their foibles.

Should you get the idea to combine those Dyna tube amps with modern speakers, keep in mind far too many speakers are designed for today's market where solid state "watts are cheap". Watts aren't cheap for tube gear if you wish to maintain quality and most speakers are not designed for the high output impedance of a vintage tube amplifier. You'll either need to be knowledgeable about a potential speaker's compatability with a high output impedance/low damping factor tube amp or forsake most modern speakers in favor of the internet market meant specifically for tube amps.

The Thorens is more questionable I would say. It does, however, have considerable vintage appeal and that sort of value is quite often based on the ability of a component to get to the heart of the music. You might read Art Dudley's columns regarding his restoration and updating of a vintage Thorens in the Stereophile "columns" archives (click the tab at the top of the page).


Quote:
... 10"Tannoy in custom-built 17x27x34 housings? Sure sounded great up to 1975.

What happened in 1975?

If the units went into storage for long periods of time, this dosn't bode well for their current performance. Even after professional restoration parts have dried out and ossified. A top down, chassis off restoration is in order at this point and those don't come cheap. The Tannoys still also hold a good reputation and probably have some life left in them, if not as main speakers, certainly as "Sunday drivers" in another room.

I would certainly investigate a repair/restoration of all of the components by a competent technician. The main issue IMO would be finding a truly qualified tech for all of these components. They do exist and are found without too much dificulty in larger cities. If your reside in the hinterlands, then you might want to add this to your overall consideration of cost and inconvenience in restoring this system. Ask for an estimate to bring everything back to best as possible condition and don't be surprised if, once the tech gets into a component, the costs rise or parts availability issues force delays.

While the tech is working on the estimate, do two things. 1) Get on the internet and check vintage prices on your gear. If you have any problems or questions, try calling a retailer such as Audio Classics. Used gear is worth what it is worth to the owner and the potential buyer, so fixed dollar amounts are difficult to reach but you should get an idea of whether this gear is worth the restoration costs to you.

2) Go out and listen to some current systems and weigh the sound of what you own against the possible cost of a new replacement system. Things don't sound as they did in 1961 in most cases. As someone who owns some 1960's equipment used as a main system I can't say they have all changed for the better. Take into consideration a pair of vintage AR3a's which sold for what? $275 in 1961 would be the equivalent to a $2k speaker today.

http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm

(I just found out my 1967 $119 electric guitar now sells for about $900 to $1,200 - not inflated dollars but the actual instrument. Some of that is pure nostalgia for what you had and sold when you got over all your kid stuff and some is the unique appeal of this particular instrument. A 1961 Epiphone Sheraton in natural finish was being sold at an asking price of $24,500 as it is, according to the seller, the only natural finish Sheraton built that year and therefore the world's entire stock of 1961 natural finish Sheratons. If you decide to sell your gear, try taking it to a vintage instrument retailer. They understand tubes and vintage "tone" and can often get you a very good price.)

There are some very good speakers you could own for a $2k investment. Back in 1961 the audiophile of the day had never thought of terms such as "soundstage" and "PRaT" applied to audio systems. On the other hand, when there were no such things as soundstage and imaging to consider from an audio system there was nothing for the system to do other than concentrate on making the music itself the most interesting thing about owning hifi.

fredNH
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Re: Troubleshoot old OR buy new system?

THANK YOU JAN

this is hugely helpful and a great starting point.

the enthusiasm of people here makes all the difference -- got to get a new system going after all those years of not playing my jazz and classical records.

thanks again,
fredNH

ncdrawl
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Re: Troubleshoot old OR buy new system?

Mark Voigt is the MAN for Dynaco/Dynakit stuff.

Give him a call at (615)866-7170

http://forum.stereophile.com/forum/showf...part=3&vc=1

tomjtx
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Re: Troubleshoot old OR buy new system?

Audio by Van Alstine is well known for Dyna restoration and mods.
Check out his forum on AudioCircle

chrischavarro
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acoustic research AR-1

hey guys sorry if i highjacked your topic just got an acoustic research ar-1 was just wondering if anyone might know what its worth?

Jim Tavegia
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Re: acoustic research AR-1

Mint pair for about $450

http://www.mcintoshaudio.com/

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