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.
My jazz/rock vinyl collection: