Reference System 2022, Comparisons and Future Plans

I’ve been saying it a lot lately, the first step is admission. I’ve taken the first step and admitted I’m an audiophile addict. I accept the fact that I will be changing my system at any time and when I say “I’m done”, I’m most definitely not.

So the reference system as of 9/3/2022 and by 5 PM CST, it will change again as another pair of speakers will arrive.

Digital sources: Aqua La Voce S3 D/A processor; Sony X77ES CD player, Melco N1Z Digital Music Server.
Analog sources: Vinyl: Thorens TD-124 (STS Full Renovation), Schick 9.6” Tonearm, MusiKraft DL-103 Cartridge, Auditorium 23 Standard Step Up Transformer, Zesto 1.2 Phonostage. Reel to Reel: Technics 1500, Sony TC-399, Teac X-10 (Parts), Erhard Audio Nina II Tape head preamplifier. Cassette: Nakamichi Dragon
Preamplifier: Linear Tube Audio MZ3 (Headphone Amp, Preamp, Integrated Amp)
Power amplifiers: David Berning ZH-230.
Integrated amplifiers: PS Audio Sprout 100
Loudspeakers: Q Acoustics Concept 500, Graham LS3/5, Rogers LS3/5A 11 ohm, KEF LS50.
Cables: Digital: Shunyata Venom, AudioQuest Vodka (Ethernet), CAD Audio USB II (1.1m, USB), Tellurium Black Diamond hf Digital (S/PDIF). Interconnect: Audience SX, Auditorium 23. Speaker: Unknown (help me figure out this is), Tellurium Black Diamond, Soundsmith. AC: AudioQuest Hurricane High Current, Triode Wire Labs Digital American, BPT.
Accessories: Sanus UF30 & Linn 24″ loudspeaker stands; Lovan, VTI, custom babinga equipment racks; Ayre Acoustics Myrtle Blocks; ATS Acoustic Panels, IsoAcoustic ZaZen Isolation Platforms, IsoAcoustic Gaia 3 Isolation Feet; IsoAcoustics Speaker Stands, Herbie Pads, AudioQuest Niagara 3000 Low-Z Power/Noise-Dissipation System and AudioQuest Niagara 1200 Low-Z Power/Noise-Dissipation System (Tape components). Headphone Amplifiers: Violectric V-181, AudioQuest DragonFly Red v1.0 USB Digital-to-Analog Converter and USB Adapter. Headphones: Sennheiser HD 598SE, Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear Headphones.
Room: 12′ (system wall; width), 20′ (partial wall serving as 58” tall back record wall); 36′ (total room; depth).

So why did I end up with this system? Yes, it’s got that PRAT I love but also images spectacularly. As I get older, I really don’t have time to waste. I want an audio system that transports me to performance and one that brings out an emotional connection. I just don’t want goosebumps, I want waves of goosebumps. Why is it that tube gear does it better? If I spent 40k on solid state amplifier, would it illicit the same response? Tubes just do it at a much lower price point and there is just something beautiful about them. True analog. 3rd order harmonics, maybe.

The old Ayre AX-5 Twenty I bought from my good friend Jason was amazing and the girlfriend reminds me of it every-time I change something out. One song that sticks out is Fanella Humphreys – Vivaldi “The Four Seasons Recomposed: Spring I”, the way I can hear the texture of the stings, each violin sounds like a unique instrument on a stage. I want it organic and real. I want instruments to truly sound like the real thing in my room and that means it needs to be tonally correct. Truth of tone, timbre, rich and organic, PRAT.

From memory:
Rogers/Sonus Faber/Harbeth versus Graham LS6: Grahams just seem a little more alive. When I want to rock out, they do it just a little better. Radiohead and Daft Punk just seem more correct.

Sonus Faber: It’s gets string instruments perfect. You can really hear the texture.

Devore: Need room to breathe. Amazing resolution and like Harbeths, they’ve fooled me many times into thinking a real band was in the room or outside the room.

Tellurium Black Diamond versus Audience SX/FrontRow: More realistic highs and mids with Audience. Coherence about the same. More tactile and better PRAT with Black Diamond versus SX but need to refresh my memory with frontRow and want to try other cables like Cardas Clear Beyond.

Goals as of 2022: I want to get those textures back in the violin strings with things getting strident/bright. I want to make sure my system can still rock while being fooled that Norah Jones is still in my room.

Future plans: DCS Bridge, Graham LS8/1, Falcon Gold Badge, Rogers LS3/5A 15 ohm Gold Badge, Stenheim, Audience frontRow, Cardas Clear Beyond, EMT TSD15 Cartridge with matching Auditorium 23 EMT step up transformer. Technics 1500 reel to reel renovation. Compare Audioquest Niagara 3000 and 5000 power conditioners. Compare Zesto 1.2, ModWright SWP 9.0, Parasound JC3+ phono stages. Compare Rogers LS3/5A 15 ohm Gold Badge to 11 ohm to Graham LS3/5, Falcon Silver Badge speakers. Compare Audience SX interconnects to frontRow and evaluate frontRow speaker cables again.

Please let us know if there is anything you want covered even if it is something I’ve owned in the past.

As far as this site, I want you to feel like you are taking the journey with me and along the way, we hit some audio shows, try out gear and I keep you posted on all things HI-FI COOL.

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