My current system reflects a heartfelt appreciation for some of the smaller manufacturers in our hobby and the importance of resonance control, hence the "not off the rack" moniker.
Theodore Leavitt famously told his MBA students that "People don't want a 1/4" drill. They want a 1/4" hole." Don't get me wrong, I like shiny toys. I view my audio system as simply a tool; a means to the end of enjoying music. My philosophy is to "buy and hold". I try and buy the best, not only because it only hurts once, but in the long run it costs less money. I am fortunate to have a small, dedicated listening room, specifically designed for audio.
Ironically, it was the purchase of a new CD player, the SimMoon Andromeda, that rekindled my love affair with vinyl. At the time, I had been listening primarily to CDs. After purchasing the Andromeda as my 'final CD player', I was shocked to hear how better digital sounded when compared to my trusty Linn Sondek and realized that it was time to consider a new analog path. After auditioning a number of other fine turntables, I got to know Galibier's Thom Mackris and purchased my 'last turntable'. Thom has been been a terrific 'vinyl mentor', incredibly giving of his time and expertise. Through Galibier, I have met a number of like-minded music lovers, including Joel Durand, a composer at the University of Washington. Joel is one of many of the wonderful audiophiles I have met in the Seattle area where I am blessed with many friendships that have resulted from our listening sessions. Music is always more meaningful when shared with great friends.
I recently added a Durand Telos tonearm for stereo paired with the Benz LPS. I use a Durand Talea with a Miyajima mono cartridge. If you are interested in pre 1970 recordings and haven't heard a well recorded mono record with a good mono cartridge, you owe it to yourself an audition. I currently own ~200 mono jazz records and an equal number of mono classical LPs. Now they don't all sound great (especially if recorded prior to the early 1950's), but the tonal richness and lack of stereo artificiality are quite seductive to my ears.
The Experience Music Pre-amplification has brought things to another level. After auditioning a number of highly regarding and often expensive line and phono stages, I fell hard for Jeffrey Jackson's equipment. Jeffrey is a true music aficionado. During the audition and purchasing process, our conversations would always dwell on music, rather than the equipment. He customizes his designs to tailor to the individual's tastes. Since this is my 'end of life' amplification, I went all out; mercury rectification, separate power supplies, and LCR phono stage. (I did pass on the uber-expensive Western Electric tubes.) The Experience Music equipment simply reveals a degree of tonal richness, harmonic complexity and dynamics that I've never 'experienced' with other electronics. They are the 'fastest' electronics I've ever heard. Tube rolling can tailor sound to taste and IMO, WE rectifiers and Sylvania triodes are heavenly.
Amplifiers are Found-Music's "Blade" tube amps. Each amp uses two EL34/6AC7, and single 6SN7 and OD3 tubes.
My speakers are the Daedalus Ulysses. Daedalus had not been on my radar until I heard them at 2008 RMAF. After talking with Lou Hinkley, I auditioned at his workshop and arranged an in-home audition. The sound was so natural and dynamic; so life-like...I was smitten. Best of all, Lou is delightful and like Thom, one of the great people in our hobby. Lou continuously makes small, but significant upgrades to his speakers which always provide excellent value. I have found that the Einstein Light-In-Dark amplifier has great synergy with the Ulysses. Currently I am using Amperex Bugle Boys and hope to try either Siemens or Telefunken CCa's in the future.
Last but not least: equipment racks and cabling. The SRA Scuttle rack and Ohio Class amp stands not only look great but lower the noise floor, clean up treble and produce deeper, richer bass. I have yet to find a bigger bang for the cable buck than the Found-Music products...highly recommended.
Record cleaning machine. I use Audio Intelligent Solutions
Sim Audio Andromeda
Two box system
Experience Music Kahn Phono Stage
Separate power supply with mercury rectification. Big improvement with Fivre 56 and Mullard 7788 tubes. Custom wound Intact Audio step ups in the signal box with separate mono and stereo inputs. Variable cartridge loading. Stainless chassis by Jeff Kahn at Ferra Design weigh in at 90# each.
Experience Music Kahn 71A Line Stage
Separate signal and power boxes weighing 90-100# each. Mercury rectification. Big upgrade with Sylvania JAN 71a tubes. Intact Audio autoformer volume control with remote and interstage transformer
Daedalus Audio Ulysses
With all-poly crossover
Found Music N/A
Found Music Speaker Cable
Killer speaker cable for the money.
Silent Running Audio Scuttle
Three level rack.
Killer Power Cords.
Tremendous speaker cable value
Mono amplifiers using Sylvania NOS OD3 Voltage regulator tubes, Ken-Rad VT 231 NOS 6SN7 driver tubes and Genalex KT77 power tubes.
Silent Running Audio Ohio Class Amplifier Stands
Beautifully made and actually improve the sound.
Kosmic/Furutech Custom 5 Duplex Power Strip
5-Pack Power Distribution unit included 5 Furutech GTX-DR NCF duplex receptacles, 104-D Cover plates (carbon fiber over stainless steel) and Wall Frames (CNC Aluminum with damping coating). All of the Furutech components are great by themselves, but in this product they are mounted on a carbon fiber sandwich plate which is further mounted to an acrylic enclosure (high molecular weight), resulting in a three-layer damping system.
was lucky enough to be able to join jazdoc Thursday night for a listen to his new Etsuro Bordeaux cartridge. jazdoc had 20 or so hours on this beauty so far and is working on fine tuning the set-up. as i came in he had been doing some serious VTA adjusting in a wide range, but thought maybe he was getting close.
i am lucky to be a fairly frequent visitor over the years to his room, and it's always a treat. great sound, and always superb music. his moniker is not 'jaz' doc for nothing. ---my first impression was this was quite a bit more energetic and boggied on a whole different level than his Miyabi Fuuga. denser tones. more compelling and engaging. powerful. ----with further listening that idea of the vdH sort of profound detail and texture became evident. lots of information, nothing held back. nothing rounded or smoothed. open. airy. but not even a touch of edge or roughness. natural. tonally complete. ----jazdoc was concerned that the bass was still a bit full and lacking that last degree of articulation. what he had been working on when i came in. my first impression was that it seemed right. as we listened to more familiar cuts i could hear what he was concerned about. then he paused and adjusted the VTA a few mm's. then everything became supple and more articulate. overall the top to bottom balance was much better. this was really good. ----as i left i think he was thinking he should go back the other way and split the difference on the VTA to add a bit more heft.
congrats to jazdoc for his new sweet sounding Etsuro Bordeaux.
from what i heard tonight the Bordeaux is an amazing cartridge that seems to hit high levels of detail, get that tonal weight, and really boldly boogie too. this is a very-top-of-the-heap cartridge. :-)
Congrats on the Tosca! I had mine installed for just a few hours before I had to break my system down for my relocation. Even so the first impressions were astounding, it’s a great arm and a pleasure to use. I also love the Zero which I run on a Talea, a nice organic combination.
@jazdoc Totally astonishing beautiful system thank you for sharing! I googled Jeffrey Jackson and Experience Music and fell down quite the entertaining rabbit hole. My local dealer Deja Vu Audio is exploring a lot of the same kinds of equipment and speakers with their custom gear, but nothing quite as visually arresting as your stunning preamp. Happy listening!
Took a flyer on an Origin Live turntable belt. Turns out to be transformational for Galibier Stelvio table. I've tried mylar, string and other belts; there is nothing close in my system. Worth an audition if you own a belt drive table.
The Found Music Blade amps seem fully broken in after ~400 hours and exceed expectations. SRA Ohio Class XL stands are a real performance enhancement, especially in conjunction with Paulstra footers. I am currently in the midst of an upgrade to the electrical system, installing a dedicated line and five duplex Furutech outlets.
Thanks for the input. The front and back walls are treated. The pics don't show it but the front wall is convex. The LPs act as a diffuser of sorts. I do need to investigate what further benefits additional treatments might add. I've been reluctant to move forward before getting my equipment where I want it.
No doubt about your dedication to better listening. However, I was surprised by the lack of room treatments in your room, especially the front wall and the placement of the turntable between the speakers. Have you worked on getting these changes into your system?
System edited: Big news from Galibier. Thom has upgraded the motor controllor and it's a big improvement. Actually transformative. Still experimenting with battery -vs- wall wart (currently prefer the wall wart with Found Music GiFT power cord) and belts. A must have, extremely effective upgrade for all Galibier owners.
2013 had many very good releases with a few standouts. A few caveats, I don't do rap or hip-hop. I tried but don't get My Bloody Valentine, Vampire Weekend or Arcade Fire. 'Get Lucky' is probably the year's best single (it's certainly the catchiest) but the rest of the Daft Punk album didn't do it for me (although it is well recorded).
Vinyl grades are Performance/Sound Quality.
Bombino "Nomad" (Nonesuch) -- Borderline A-/B+ Produced by Dan Auerbach who gives it the Black Keys sonic treatment, this is the most pleasant surprise of the year for me. Thanks to Andre Marc for pointing this one out.
Charles Bradley "Victim of Love" (Daptone) -- A-/B Follow up to his debut "No Time For Dreaming" released when he was 63 years old. Best R&B record of the year.
Deerhunter "Monomania" (4AD) -- B+/B Harder edged and not as consistent as either 2010's "Halcyon Digest" or Bradford Cox/Atlas Sound "Parallax". 'Leather Jacket II' and 'Dream Captain' are killer tracks
Sallie Ford "Untamed Beast" (Partisan) --Borderline B+/B On her sophmore release Sallie and her band The Sound Outside bring back their modern take on rockabilly. She's disturbed, she's angry, she's horny -- you've been warned.
Jacco Gardner "Cabinet of Curiosities" (Trouble In Mind Records) -- Borderline A-/B+ Debut LP by 21 year old multi instrumentalist from the Netherlands. He has absorbed the psychedalia of the 60's and puts a modern spin on it (think Donovan and The Zombies). 'Clear The Air' and 'Puppets Dangling' are standout tracks. Runs a bit long. Can't wait to hear what he does next.
Valerie June "Pushin' Against a Stone" (Sunday Best) -- B++/C Beautiful southern dynamo with killer combo of blues/folk/gospel/country. Think an (very) edgy Cassandra Wilson. Vivacious live performer. Did I mention she's gorgeous? My vinyl is borderline quality sound, suffering with inner groove distortion.
Los Lobos "Disconnected in New York City" (429 Records) -- A/A I've been a Los Lobos fan since I saw them in a dive bar in Kansas City before they released their break-out LP "How Will The Wolf Survive" They are celebrating their 40th! anniversary and remain one of our greatest bands. If you've never seen 'em live in concert this give you a taste (but it's worth every penny to see them in person). Possibly the best sounding recording of the year.
Kacey Musgraves "Same Trailer, Different Park" (Mercury) -- A/Borderline A- The new country music 'it' girl. Well crafted songs that show off a superior singing voice. The LP title tells you she's got a sense of humor. Well recorded. Just got this one but already a favorite.
The National "Trouble Will Find Me" (4AD) -- A/A- Like every release by The National, this one grows on you with repeated listens. Consistently excellent, although it drags just a bit on side 4. Not quite the materpiece of 'High Violet' but one of year's best. 'Demons' is one of the year's best tracks.
Omaha Diner (Omaha Diner) -- A-/B Skerik et. al. only play covers of #1 hits. Highlights include 'Thrift Shop', 'Lose Yourself', & 'Wishing Well'. Recorded in mono and sonics are much better with my dedicated mono set up. 'Another One Bites The Dust' is the only dud and drops their grade.
The Orange Peels "Sun Moon" (Mystery Lawn Music) --Borderline A-/Weak B+ Jangly guitar driven pop. Wears well with repeated listens.
The Parlez "Glisten" (Feedbands) --A-/B+ One of the highlights of my Feedbands subscription. The Irish brother duo's debut LP is a wonderful pop release with echos of Oasis and the Beatles. Worth seeking out.
Phospohorescent "Muchacho" (Dead Oceans) -- A/Boarderline B Ho hum, another great album from Matthew Houck. First side is a little stronger than the second. 'Ride On/Right On' is one of the year's best singles. Wish he paid more attention to recording quality although this one sounds better than 'Here's To Taking It Easy' (which is the sonic equivalent of high jumping a pancake).
Psychic Ills "One Track Mind" (Sacred Bones) -- Borderline A-/B These guys have been building a cult following in New York for a decade. 'One More Time' is a great single.
Kurt Vile "Wakin' On a Pretty Daze" (Matador) --A/A-A+ A seemingly more mature Kurt and his backing band the Violators really hit their laconic stride. A much more consistent LP than the previous 'Smoke Ring for My Halo'. Excellent sonics and one of the years best LPs. Spark one up and enjoy.
Just received David Bowie "Another Day", Elton John "The Diving Board", Caitlin Rose "The Stand In", , all promising on first listen but not familiar enough to assign a grade.
Rolled National Union 56 globes (from the 1940's!) for National Union ST types in my phono stage. Required a bit of trial and error with tonearm/cartridge set up, but this really has been a nice, inexpensive upgrade.
Enjoying the new Valerie June LP "Pushin' Against The Stone"...she's in town in a couple of weeks.