Note: The system description section is due for an update. Component descriptions (i.e., "toggle details") are current and elaborated.  
First, a quote:  "Perhaps the safest thing to do [in contacting alien life] at the outset, if technology permits, is to send music. This language may be the best we have for explaining what we are like to others in space, with least ambiguity." —Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher

Here's my system... I put it up primarily so that people can see what my recommendations/opinions are based (biased) upon.  I think I'm done with major changes at this point and am just playing with small stuff to bring the most out of my components.

A LITTLE HISTORY:  I bought my first stereo equipment from Wal-Mart when I was 13 and have been into music and music reproduction ever since.  Got some big MTX speakers for my 16th birthday, and got into hi-fi when I was in graduate school at Ohio State University (thanks Progressive Audio).  Lived in shared houses for many years and have been a bad neighbor on many weekend nights... I'm sorry folks, thanks for your tolerance. 

PAST SYSTEMS:  Built around 2005 when I first joined the site, my first real system was a pair of Thiel 1.6s driven by a Classe CAP-151 and an Exemplar modified Denon 2910.  The Classe won out over a Bel Canto eVo2i I also auditioned.  Five years later I upgraded to Thiel 2.4s, driven by a Pass Labs INT-30A and PS Audio Perfectwave DAC.  The INT-30A won out over a Pass Labs X250.5 and a McIntosh MC402.

After blowing yet another set of Thiel drivers and seeing the company be on the ropes after Jim's death, I did a lot of reading to figure out what to do next. Based on the recommendations of member Charles1dad, I ended up moving to the high efficiency Coincident Super Eclipse IIIs (92db sensitivity, 14ohm impedance).  One draw of these speakers was that they would allow me to try different amplifier topologies.  After purchase, I put my Pass Labs INT-30A up against a First Watt SIT-2 and a pair of 8W Coincident Frankenstein 300b monoblocks.  Loved, loved, the all Coincident combination and the experience piqued my interest in trying the company's top of the line speakers, the Pure Reference Extremes. Although they've been a frustrating challenge and have taken almost two years to coax into a truly successful state, they are the cornerstone of my current system.


SPEAKERS:  The 94db, 8 ohm Coincident PREs have only a single capacitor and single inductor in their crossover.  The mid-range driver goes straight to the amplifier.  The capacitor provides high pass filtering for the accuton ceramic tweeter.  It responds very strongly to capacitor changes and (as promised by others) I've found the Duelund tinned copper CAST to be the best.  Despite being advertised as having Mundorfs, my PREs came with the run of the mill Solens pictured above.  I replaced those with ClarityCaps bypassed by Duelund .01uF sliver foils, replaced those with Jupiter Copper Foils, and then replaced those with the Duelunds.  The ClarityCaps were "ruler flat", the stock Solens were a bit noisy, but with some nice color/richness, and the Jupiters combined the best attributes of the two.  The Duelunds are better in every way.  Natural, rich in color, and somehow also the most accurate/detailed of the bunch.  Highly recommended.  I found I didn't like the sound of adding bypass capacitors to the speaker crossover, as it seemed to produce some smearing or phasiness that made me uncomfortable.  

These speakers are (as someone stated in my system comments) brutally revealing.  You can hear every single change in the system, for better or worse... and it took almost two years of consistent effort to get them to sound like the reference speakers they were meant to be.  I blame some of this on designer Isreal Blume and his suggestion that they can be run off of 8 watts.  They cannot.  It took adding 500W/channel dedicated subwoofer amplifiers for the bass to truly come alive.

I use Tempo Electric's solid core .9999 pure silver wire in an oversized teflon jacket to run the Coincident head units, and Duelund tinned copper in oiled cotton cables for the bass units.  I found the Duelunds to be way better than the anti-cables I had from my previous system, and the Tempo Electrics were another step up.  Better imaging, naturalness, and tonality.  They're also a relative bargain.  Highly recommended.

AMPLIFICATION:  Despite the advertised specs, the Coincident PREs are less efficient than the Super Eclipses IIIs and I was forced to search out new amplifiers to replace my beloved Coincident Frankenstein 300bs (run with Mullard CV378 rectifiers and EML XLS 300bs). The Franks simply couldn't drive the PREs in the low frequencies and would start to distort on loud music.

I tried a Lyngdorf 3400, Atma-Sphere M60s, and a Pass Labs XA25, but in each case settled on the Franks despite their poor bass performance.  Eventually I decided to build a DIY First Watt F4.  It only provides current gain and my plan was to use it as a booster amp to power the PREs' bass units while being driven directly by the speaker outputs of the Franks.  Unfortunately, bi-amping killed the speakers' coherency.  That was also true when I tried pairing the Franks & Lyngdorf using the latter's active crossover.

To my surprise, when I tried the F4 as the sole amplifier of the PREs it beat out the Franks.  It retained a great deal of the sweetness of the Franks, improved the bass, improved clarity, and reduced distortion.  Soundstaging is also amazing.  Perhaps there's been a small reduction in tonal color.  After having it in the system for a month, I put the Franks back in and it was clear that there was no going back.  The F4 is based on a simple, no feedback Class A circuit and the PREs really sing with them.  These speakers really do seem to prefer simplicity.  

I think Nelson's quote from the F4 manual nicely summarizes the amplifier's qualities: "The combination of a simple Class A circuit operated without feedback and the good objective performance gives us a superb sounding amplifier. The low distortion, bandwidth extension, and high damping results in midrange clarity, treble detail, and control on the bottom end. While these are available from most good solid state amplifiers, the F4 also brings depth, imaging, midrange warmth and top-end sweetness. Overall, it is one of the best sounding amplifiers, and if you can live with unity voltage gain in your amplifier, it is possibly your best choice."

Out of curiosity, and a desire to extract still more bass impact from the speakers, I also built a "poor man's SIT3", the SissySIT designed by diyaudio's Zen Mod and based on the First Watt SIT3 circuit.  Although it did improve bass response and provided amazing imaging, it proved too incisive for the accuton tweeters.  I regularly found myself hearing too much bite/brightness and eventually moved back to the F4s, which are just silky smooth with these speakers.  

Upon reading the recommendations of Duke from AudioKinesis, one day I impulse purchased a pair of Dayton Audio's SA1000 subwoofer amplifiers to see if I could use them to further improve the bass response of the Coincidents without losing too much coherency.  In short, adding these amplifiers was a revelation.  Suddenly I had the full bass foundation that had been missing from my music.  These amplifiers provide 500 watts of Class AB power.  Supposedly they are designed from a Bob Carver circuit.  

I run a signal into the LFE input to bypass all their crossover settings and only use gain (and potentially phase) controls to match the output to my F4s.  Removing the subwoofer load from the F4s and adding the bass foundation to the music has had a huge impact on imaging.  The sound is also cleaner and somehow sweeter.  I'm glad Parts Express has a 45-day demo period, probably wouldn't have experienced what the Coincidents could do if not.

The F4s use custom 12ga Furutech FP-S032N based power cords from member Grannyring's Acoustic BBQ line.  Right now the Daytons are stock, but I will eventually add better power cords and open them up to replace some components with better parts.

PREAMPLIFIER:  Adding the Don Sachs 6SN7-based preamp has greatly improved the sound of my system and I simply can not go back to using my DAC direct.  This was true both with my PS Audio Perfectwave DAC that has a less than ideal volume control (i.e., it throws away bits below a certain level) and with the PS Audio Directstream DAC's improved volume control (full resolution at all levels).  This pre seems to just make the music better in every way.  It is not at all syrupy or tubey, just passes on the sound of the source and makes it better.  

Having gotten into modding my gear, I also like that the preamplifier is based on a kit (the VTA SP-14) that I can read about so I can learn the circuit.  That fact and the unit's two separate outputs encouraged me to try different capacitors.  Don recommends Miflex copper foils, but I found them a bit two-dimensional and veiled in my system.  I installed Mundorf Supremes and found that the system was capable of a lot more front to back layering than revealed by the Miflexs.  I then put in Mundorf Supreme Silver/Gold/Oils.  They added in a nice touch of richness over the plain Supremes while retaining all the wonderful soundstage depth.  I also tried TFTF V-Caps from VH Audio, but they resulted in a huge tonal shift that I didn't like at all... it was like putting a fluorescent blue filter on the music.  Eventually replaced the Mundorf Supreme SGO with the tinned copper CAST Duelunds.  Although I've lost the last touch of depth offered by the Mundorfs, the Duelunds are quieter, more natural, and have a bit better tonality.   

I run the preamp with a pair of Sylvania JAN VT231s (copper rods) as the main tubes and RCA grey glass VT231s as the buffer tubes.  Compared to the stock CV181zs, these tubes reduce the pre's punch/impact a bit, but greatly increases smoothness, imaging, and front-to-back layering.  I use the standard 6X5GT rectifier Don provides.

The preamplifier connects to my F4s via Ocellia Silver Reference RCA interconnects and is powered by a DIY DH Labs Red Wave AC cord with Furutech copper screw on connectors. I tried building my own DIY interconnects using the Duelund 16ga wires and KLEI absolute harmony plugs, but the Ocellia cables were significantly better.  

DAC:  After using PS Audio Perfectwave DAC MKII for many years (and preferring it to the Directstream DAC, to which I "upgraded" twice), I have finally moved on an Audio Mirror's Tubadour III SE.  This DAC is based on Analog Device's AD1865N-K R2R chip, has an output stage that can utilize 5977, 6N1P, 6DJ8, ECC88, 6922 and 6H23P tubes, and has an I2S input to maximize signal fidelity.  The SE model has isoacoustics anti-vibration feet, Deulund tinned-copper CAST capacitors, silver RCA outputs,  Z-Foil "naked"  Vishay resistors, and a Furutech IEC connector.

The AM produces just beautiful, grain free music that flows with an amazing, natural tone.  The imaging/soundstaging capacities of this DAC are just spectacular and it outperforms my prior PS Audio Perfectwave and Directstream DACs in every regard.  I have listened extensively to the Lampizator Amber 3, Matrix X-Sabre Pro, iFi iDSD Pro, and Shiit Bifrost 2 in my system and feel that the AM is the best of the bunch. 

Its AC is provided by a DIY DH Labs Power Plus AC cord with Chinese copy Furutech Rhodium screw on connectors.  It connects to my preamplifier using VH Audio's DIY "Fine Silver" RCA Interconnect (see component details for a full description).  A great upgrade over my previous MIT XLR cables (a lost model number from many years ago).

SOURCE:  I feed my DAC with the Magna Mano ULTRA network streamer.  This streamer is based on a highly modified raspberry pi that runs the Logitech Media Server software.  It has an overbuilt linear power supply, low noise parts, and is a very low jitter solution.  

According to Mano:  "Two CRYSTEK femto clocks are applied for extremely detailed signal handling exact timing and low jitter thanks to these extreme accurate clocks powered by low noise (nV) discrete regulators. The device is powered by a discrete Class A power supply with more than 20.000uF power capacity, a high quality R-Core transformer and digital audio circuits are powered by ultra-low dsicrete noise regulator."

I bought it over the more standard streamer alternatives because it has an I2S output that allows me to feed the DAC through the best signal path possible.  All my music is played through this source.  I serve it lossless Tidal files via UPNP using the BubbleUPNP software on an Android tablet.

ROOM:  Some compromises have been made in order to blend the stereo with a video system and drop it into the primary living space.  I'd love a dedicated room, but would also suffer greatly removing the system from living room where it is the daily driver for music, a show or two, and some PS4 play.  The room is 19' across, 16' deep, with 23' peaked ceilings.  It opens up to the rest of the house in two places.  Half of the "back wall" is open to the dining room, which drops back another 9'.  The 23' vaulted ceiling also opens up to a second story master bedroom/loft space.  This all makes it so that the stereo is basically in charge of pressurizing the entire house except for a spare bedroom and small basement.  Fortunately I am able to set it up in such a way that the speakers are not parallel or perpendicular to any walls.  It's on the room diagonal, a placement forced by the location of the front door and attached dining room.  

This has a couple benefits, one being that the equipment cabinet and TV can be pushed further back away from the speakers.  The second is that the traditional side wall first reflection points aren't a problem.  Aside from a rug over the hardwood floor, there are no room treatments... don't really know where to put them.

POWER, CABLES, ETC:  As much as I'm loath to admit it, I have found that all of these tiny variables matter.  This wasn't really true (or the impact was too small to care) with my other systems, but the Coincident PREs reveal the impact of every small change.  This has made it clear that cables, power cords, and fuses can have a very substantial impact.  I find it incredibly frustrating that I don't understand how or why the fuses or power cords could possibly matter, but in this system they do.  Again, curious to try more than my current DIY solutions, but also scared to go down the path...

Based on recommendations from Ralph Karsten @ Atma-Sphere, I purchased an Elgar 6006B to condition the power to my system.  I run everything except my amplifiers off of its perfect sine wave.  Given its age, it is recommended to replace all capacitors in the unit, which is on my to do list.  Unfortunately I can't get myself to listen to the stereo without it in the chain, so I haven't gotten around to "fixing" my unit yet.  The PREs' accuton tweeters can get aggressive and removing distortion from the incoming power is essential to keeping them warm and inviting.  Note that this unit must be installed in a separate room, as its (industrial) fan and transformer are both too loud for a listening room.  Also, it's heavy AF.  I purchased the Elgar because despite the dedicated lines, I still got some electrical feedback from electronics in other lines (e.g., a slight pop noise when an LED bulb was turned on).  The Elgar has completely eliminated that issue.

The stereo is on its own dedicated circuit with two 10ga romex lines both run off the same leg of the incoming power.  The Elgar runs one line, and my amps reside on the other.  


Happy to field comments.  Hopefully some folks find the information useful.  Thanks to all the people who have written about their experiences and thereby helped me build the system... almost all of it was purchased blind without prior exposure, so finding some trustworthy voices out there in the digital forest has been incredibly useful. Thanks folks.

Room Details

Dimensions: 16’ × 19’  Medium
Ceiling: 23’

Components Toggle details

    • Coincident Speaker Technology Pure Reference Extreme with 99.99% Solid Core Silver Wiring & Duelund CAST High Pass Crossover
    Very revealing.  94db efficient, with a flat 8 ohm impedance.  Accuton ceramic drivers on the head units.  Two 12" Peerless aluminum bass drivers on each sub. 

    A single 4.7uF capacitor provides high pass for the tweeters.  The midrange connects to the amp through a single inductor. The bass units begin crossing over (via a single inductor, capacitor, and resistor network) at 125hz and play from 20Hz up into the bottom registers of the human voice.  All crossovers are first-order/phase correct. 

    I have upgraded the high-pass capacitor to a Duelund Tinned-Copper CAST and it was a wonderful change.  More clarity, better imaging, and more natural tonality over the stock Solen capacitors. I also replaced all binding posts with Wago high voltage pure copper wire clips and replaced all internal wiring with Tempo Electric solid core 99.99% silver in an oversized Teflon jacket (12ga for the bass, 14ga for the mid-range, & 20ga for the tweeters).

    • Audio Kenesis Distributed Bass Array (DIY)
    I augment my bottom end with a distributed bass array inspired by the Audio Kenesis SWARM.

    The DBA is completed by four units, two 1.5cuft sealed subs featuring the same 12" Peerless XXLS (835017) drivers used in the Coincident PREs and two "Duke 32" wall-loaded subwoofers using the 12" Dayton Audio RSS315HO-4 driver.  The system is run in a quasi-stereo setup by two Dayton Audio SA-1000 monoblocks, each amplifying a sealed sub and Duke 32" combo connected in series for an 8-ohm load. The sealed subs are located along the side walls of the room and the Duke 32s are in the front and rear corners.  Each amplifier handles a single channel and all crossover (24db BW @ 67hz) and EQ duties are handled by a miniDSP 2x4 HD.

    The "Duke 32" wall-loaded subwoofers are designed by Duke LeJune of Audio Kenesis and were purchased as kits from 

    The subwoofer system is a key factor in overall system performance and the miniDSP is absolutely essential in allowing it fulfill this function. 

    Special thanks to Duke LeJune for encouraging DIY copying of his commercial design, and Linkwitz Labs, who's Thor subwoofer provided inspiration and eq guidance for the sealed subs.

    • First Watt F4 Monoblocks - "Special Edition" (DIY)
    A premium DIY build with help from Nelson Pass and the community.  Built with outboard power suppies using independent 400v transformers for both the + & - rails (1600v total), perfectly matched Harris IRFP9240 & Vishay IRFP240 MOSFETS, Vishay naked z-foil resistors throughout the signal path, VH Audio 28ga .99999 solid core silver input wire, Tempo Electric 14ga .9999 solid core silver output wire, 384,200uF of total power supply capacitance with inductor filters and 50uF film bypass capacitors, and pure silver WBT RCA connectors.

    From the F4 manual: "The combination of a simple Class A circuit operated without feedback and the good objective performance gives us a superb sounding amplifier. The low distortion, bandwidth extension, and high damping results in midrange clarity, treble detail, and control on the bottom end. While these are available from most good solid state amplifiers, the F4 also brings depth, imaging, midrange warmth and top-end sweetness. Overall, it is one of the best sounding amplifiers, and if you can live with unity voltage gain in your amplifier, it is possibly your best choice."  

    • Dayton Audio SA-1000 Subwoofer Amplifiers
    Class AB subwoofer amplifiers with their own built in crossover circuitry (bypassed in the current setup).  500W into 8 ohms, 1000 into 4. Each runs two of the four subwoofers in the distributed bass array. 

    • First Watt F4 Monoblocks (DIY)
    Currently unused, I also have a second First Watt F4 monoblock build with outboard power supplies and 144,000uF of total capacitance. They have a Nelson Pass designed BA-3 front end that provides additional gain in case a special use scenario arises (I previously used them to amplify single subwoofer channels).

    • Shiny Eyes EML-20A DHT Reference Dual Mono Preamplifier
    A three-chassis, custom built, single-stage preamplifier designed around the EML 20A-M tube by Radu Tarta of Simple Pleasure Tube Amps. The 20A is a low-distortion, high-gain modern DHT tube and drives the connected amplifier through high-quality amorphous core Monolith LTA 01/25mA output transformers. The pre uses the beautiful mesh version of the 20A tube, solid core silver signal wire (VH Audio silver in cotton), Lundahl power supply transformers and chokes, cathode bias, and DC coupled inputs. All AC/DC conversion occurs in separate power supply chasses to keep noise out of the sensitive DHTs. Each channel has its own power supply chassis. Volume is controlled by a silent-running Tortuga ePot.V3 Mini with its own independent power supply. It uses a discrete resistor ladder to provide attenuation and balance control. A swappable hardware module allows switching to LDR-based attenuation, although it sounds inferior to the resistor module.

    • Audio Mirror Tubadour III SE with Duelund CAST Caps, WBT Ag RCA Connectors, and 99.999% Silver Signal Wire
    A non-oversampling dac based on Analog Device's AD1865N-K R2R chip.  An output stage that can utilize 5977, 6N1P, 6DJ8, ECC88, 6922 and 6H23P tubes. Upgraded with VH Audio's 99.999% solid core silver wire and WBT pure silver RCA connectors

    • Magna Mano ULTRA Network Streamer with 99.999% Silver Signal Wire and a WBT Ag SPDIF Connector
    A highly modified raspberry pi based network streamer running logitech media server software.  Low noise, low jitter, with a linear power supply.  Lossless Tidal files are streamed via UPNP and fed to my DAC over a 1.5m 75-ohm VH Audio Pulsar pure silver digital cable.  Upgraded with a WBT Ag 75-ohm RCA SPDIF connector and VH Audio 75-ohm solid core 5N silver wiring.

    A huge added plus is that this system can be used to automatically record a history of everything you play.  See my list here:
    • Ocellia Silver Reference RCA Interconnect
    99.99% pure silver wire shrouded in paper with a flexible natural rubber/mineral sheath.  2m connections to the monoblocks.

    • VH Audio DIY 28ga Fine Silver RCA Interconnect (w KLEI Absolute Harmony)
    Interconnects for the DAC -> Preamp connection.  Built using VH Audio's "UniCrystal OCC .99999 Solid Core Silver Wire w/ Cotton insulation" wrapped around a teflon tube core in a double-helix design and terminated with KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA connectors.  

    • VH Audio Pulsar Ag 75-ohm SPDIF Cable
    A solid core silver true 75-ohm digital cable. 1.5 meters long to prevent the signal reflection issues that arise in shorter cables.

    "The Pulsar Ag interconnect utilizes a single (unplated) high-purity, solid OCC Silver conductor of 24 AWG. The high-purity Silver conductor is produced by the Ohno Continuous Casting process, resulting in a single crystal structure, with none of the typical grain boundaries found with conventional processing methods."

    • Tempo Electric .9999 Solid Core Silver Wire
    .9999 pure silver solid core speaker cables in an oversized teflon jacket.  Used as amplifier output wire and both external and internal speaker wire.  Beautiful imaging and tonality with increased clarity and decreased distortion.  Everything just sounds more real and natural. 

    High quality solid core silver combined with the low dialect constant of the oversized teflon jacket used without termination is an outstanding sounding combination. Other companies may sell you more advanced geometry, but they're not going to beat the raw wire quality. These cables deserve more attention. 

    • Duelund Coherent Audio Tinned Copper CAST Capacitors
    The most beautiful tonality of any capacitor I've tried (Solen, Miflex, Jantzen Z-Cap, VH Audio TFTF, Jupiter Copper, ClarityCap, Mundorf Supreme, Mundorf Supreme Silver/Gold in Oil). Used as output capacitors in my DAC (1uF), former DS pre-amp (.47uF), and as the only component in the Coincident PRE high pass crossover (4.7uF).

    • Balanced Power Technologies BP-10.5 Ultra Balanced Power Conditioner
    Balanced power conditioner for cleaning up power for all digital components. Further refines the power provided by the Elgar.

    • Elgar 6006B Power Conditioner
    Industrial power conditioner... a great improvement to the front end components, but must be installed in a separate room. Provides power to all components except for amplifiers.
    • (SOLD) Thiel CS 1.6
    Paired with a Classe CAP-151 and fed via an Exemplar modified Denon DVD-2900.
    • (SOLD) Classe Audio CAP-151
    Paired with Thiel CS 1.6 speakers and fed via an Exemplar modified Denon DVD-2900 with tube output stage.
    • (SOLD) Exemplar Audio Denon DVD-2900
    A modified Denon DVD-2900 universal disk player with a tube output stage.  The source for a Thiel CS1.6 & Classe CAP-151 system.
    • (SOLD) Thiel CS 2.4
    Time and phase coherent speakers previously paired with a Pass Labs INT-30A and fed with a PS Audio Perfectwave DAC MkII.
    • (SOLD) Thiel Smart Sub SS1
    Subwoofer used to add further extension to Thiel CS 2.4s.
    • (SOLD) Pass Labs INT-30A
    Integrated amplifier previously paired with a pair of Thiel 2.4s and fed via a PS Audio Perfectwave DAC MkII.
    • (SOLD) Coincident Speaker Technology Super Eclipse III
    Efficienct 16ohm speakers paired with Coincident Frankenstein 300b monoblock amplifiers and fed via a PS Audio Perfectwave DAC MkII.
    • (SOLD) Coincident Speaker Technology M300B Frankenstein MK II Monoblock Amplifiers
    Wonderful 300b monoblock amplifiers, paired with Coincident Super Eclipse III speakers and fed via a PS Audio Perfectwave DAC MkII. Used with EML-XLS 300b power tubes.
    • (SOLD) PS Audio DirectStream & Perfectwave DACs
    A Perfectwave DAC, upgraded to MkII, and eventually to a DirectStream.  Used primarily with the Bridge II ethernet input.  Paired once with my Coincident Frankenstein 300b/Super Eclipse III system, and once with my current Coincident PRE system.
    • (SOLD) Don Sachs Audio DS-2 6SN7 Preamplifier with 99.999% Silver Wire, WBT Ag RCA Connectors, & Duelund CAST Caps
    Combined in a system with First Watt F4 monoblocks, Coincident PRE speakers, and an Audio Mirror Tubadour III SE DAC.


    Don's modification of the VTA SP-14 6SN7 circuit.  Upgraded with VH Audio's 28ga 99.999% solid core silver wire in cotton, WBT pure silver RCA connectors, and Duelund Tinned-Copper CAST output capacitors. 

Comments 55

@jeff1225 Yes, I can highly recommend Radu and his excellent work!


I’m considering ordering a 300B amp from Radu at Shiny Eyes. Are you still happy with your purchase?


Beautiful job well done. Enjoy




@gryphongryph It's got beautiful tone and is quiet in my system. No clicks or pops and no noticable noise floor in my system.


Thanks for the reply, for me the most important in music reproduction is tone, I like detail but not for detail sake, tone is an other matter, if the instrument or especially the voice does not sound real to me, I loose interest very fast.
Can you tell me if the dac is quiet, in meaning you get a dark background? And is it quiet in operation?



@gryphongryph I will heartily recommend the AM to anyone who asks.  It's a great dac.  You can see in a post below (on 01.26.20) all the dacs I chose it over.  Recently I bought a Holo May, which was great, but ended up sticking with the AM.  

As to the extent to which it mates with a particular system.  I'd say that it should be chosen by people who will pursue flesh & blood natural realism in their system, even at the expense of perfect reproduction or neutrality.  It definitely isn't as accurate as the Halo May, for example, but it creates a more real 3-dimensional image in my system.  It's also not as flat or extended across the frequency spectrum, so there's a bit of cost to get that wonderful illusion.  I personally find that a small price to pay.  It's also important to note that the exemplary Halo May was the first dac that really pointed out that limitation to me.

Hope that helps.  Feel free to ask follow-ups...  


Hi, how are you liking your AudioMirror dac ? Still satisfied ?
Do you think it would work in my system.
Supratek Cabernet pre, Belles SA30 power amp and Graham Audio LS 5/9 speakers, the dac I am using now is Primare Dac 30.

Beautiful system and room you got, enjoy the music.


Help!  Please post or PM high quality videos of outstanding musical performances that can be streamed!  I'll collate and share with everyone:

As noted above, I'm in transition and had to put the system in storage.  I needed some way to explore new music while stuck on a laptop or mobile and started compiling a list of great musical performances with careful videography.


Spoke too soon and added one image and some details of the new DHT pre.


Unfortunately my system is in flux due to an impending move, so I don't have pictures or a writeup, but I commissioned a new "Shiny Eyes" DHT line stage from Radu Tarta at Simple Pleasure Tube Amps.  It is single stage, transformer coupled design based on the high gain, low distortion EML20A (mesh) tube.  Volume control via a Tortuga unit that allows either LDR or stepped resistor attenuation (and balance control).   

I only got about a week to listen after it arrived, but it is beautiful and sounds sublime.  You can see all the build photos on Radu's website: (scroll down)


@jond Thanks!  And yes indeed.  They're actually motor-run caps, which is why Ducati is involved, and the cheapest way to get larger value film caps for power supplies. They're 50uF bypass caps across the last of the big 24,000uF electrolytics.


Hey Cal great looking system and cool DIY work! Are those big reservoir caps in your amp labelled Ducati by the motorcycle company? If so very cool!


@sysadmin & @jaytor Thank you so much for fixing the systems notification system! I really think it'll improve the audiogon community.  Fingers crossed...


@jaytor Thanks! I've stopped by and seen the ones on your page too. They are also great. I'd love to hear your speakers in particular!  

Getting into diy has really improved my experience so much. It feels powerful to be able to look under the hood of any piece out there and have such a better idea of how well it's engineered and whether it's likely to sound good. Plus the diy community is such a positive and refreshing group to interact with. People always sending each other free parts and just trying to be helpful.  If only we had more of that in these parts...


Your DIY projects look great. I've also been doing a lot of DIY - speakers, monoblock power amps, preamp.


@cymbop And yes, just a print of an ink drawing I picked up at a little hippie campout in Ohio long ago. I think the guy who made it was in his early 20s at the time.  I hope he's still making art... it's really quite good.


@rixthetrick I've tried bypass caps a few times and had mixed results.  I liked them (i.e., the same Duelund silvers you're using) over the inter-stage coupling capacitors in my Coincident Frankenstein 300bs, but found the effect minor.  I also put them on the output capacitors in my Don Sach's preamp and couldn't hear any effect.  And when I put them in the tweeter crossover I got some smearing of information and took them out.  With the variable outcomes, I just decided to leave that option alone.  

You're using them over output capacitors?   


Cal, is that ol' Jerry on the mantel?


On my copper cast VSF caps I have a Duelund 0.01uF 600Vdc Silver (Ag) Foil & Wax/Oil on each as a bypass cap.
There's some good information about the bump in sound quality, if you go digging. It's a pretty cost effective upgrade in the signal path.


@noromance "Have". I bought those springs from a Chinese seller on AliExpress... $38 for a set of 8.  They handily outperformed my isoacoustic pucks and now exist under my speaker head units, amps, and pre. I'm definitely a believer in spring based isolation.

It took me four years to get these speakers to sound like the reference they're supposed to be. A pain in the ass, but also a real learning experience and rewarding in the end.


Impressive build and attention to detail. Interesting to see you have/had springs under your amps. I've started using them to good effect.


Recently finished a dac shootout... had the Lampizator Amber 3, Audio Mirror Tubadour 3 SE, ifi iDSD pro, and Shiit Bifrost 2 on hand.  

In my system, the Audio Mirror was the winner.  To my ears, it was the most real sounding of the bunch.  It has beautiful "meat on the bones" and was the most holographic.  The Amber sounded good, but in a very different way.  For me, it was brighter and more lively.  The soundstage was huge, but had less depth and liquidity than the AM.  I also liked the iFi iDSD pro (used in tube+ mode with the bitperfect filter).  It had great tonality, but was significantly flatter and less 3-dimensional than the AM.  I think more people should give it a shot.  The Shiit was good. Very even-handed and competent, but more "digital sounding" to my ears.  My friend was listening blind and liked it the second best of the group (behind the AM).  

Despite its king-of-the-hill status in specs (see Audio Science Review), I did not enjoy the Matrix x-Sabre Pro.  It was very quiet and clean, with a nice mellow sound, but also a bit "grey" and sterile.  I also did not like the PS Audio Directream, which just sounded wrong in my system.  It felt disjointed.  I don't know what the situation is, but for some reason it doesn't work with my ears.  Unlike others, I actually preferred the PerfectWave over it (twice - as I tried upgrading two times over a 4 year span).  

All in all, it was great to finally listen to a wide range of sources, and I could enjoy most of the ones in the stable.  The experience also brought me closer to my AM T3-SE. A beautiful, highly recommended dac.


@ivan_nosnibor Thanks Ivan.  Still very much a work in progress, but the Coincident PRE's always provide honest feedback, which definitely rewards experimentation.  And I like learning about the role of all the small stuff, like coupling & crossover cap effects.  It's been nice learning that nothing about the gear is sacred... just people putting together materials and liking or disliking something about the sound.


@gibsonian I really like the DS. It's great and improved every part of my system. Haven't tried all that many pre's though. It's better than source direct and outperformed a hornshoppe "the truth" in my system. I'll never go back to source direct. Would love to try some more competitors though...


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