| Marantz CDR-500 CD Player|
Denon UD-M31 Amplifier
Radio Shack magnet wire Speaker cable
Epos Tang-Band W3-871s
Marantz ST 6000 tuner
Spend a little, get a lot
My system as of January 1, 2006:
Marantz CDR-500 pro CD burner
Denon UD-M31 mini-sytem (only use amp and preamp)
Radio Shack magnet wire speaker cable
Tang-Band W3-871s full range speaker
You have to spend a lot to realize you don't have to spend a lot. This little system is so cheap it's embarassing to post here; but not if you heard how good it sounds! I consider myself fortunate that I have found satisfaction with such a modest system. Really good sound for not much money! Doesn't mean I'm off the upgrade path but now it's for fun, not necessity.
Rhythm and melody. Deep bass, LOTS of detail, and soundstaging are of secondary importance.
Volume levels 70-75dB
Room is 13 x 15 and highly reflective.
My hi-end stereo journey began in 2001 when my single driver Panasonic RX-C20 mini-system broke. I wanted a nice stereo my whole life so I got:
Musical Fidelity A3cr power amp
Adcom GFP-750 preamp
Audioquest Granite speaker / Python (?) I'C's
The sound never seemed right, especially for the price. I listened to a lot of other stereos which also didn't sound right, especially for the money. There was always something wrong with the sound of every stereo I heard, regardless of cost.
My stereo began hurting my ears, partly due to my reflective room. I was still not feeling comfortable with the money spent on my "monument to materialism". I realized there was NO upgrade that would fix the sound and make it worth the money. I had to make a complete reversal and go all the way back to where I got off track and sold everything. I lost over $3,000 but consider it an education having never lived with a good stereo before and see the improvements. Now if I went back to expensive stuff again and the sound was less than perfect- fool me twice shame on me. I'd be throwing money away, good money after bad so to speak.
1) No matter how much money is spent, nothing is perfect.
2) In the hi-end merry-go-round, everything is obsolete in a year or two.
3) I would instantly loose 1/2 my money ($1,000+) if I wanted to sell. I could buy used but it's not fair to listen at the dealer then buy it used at the 'gon IMHO. Plus I'd always be wondering how brands X, Y, Z would sound in comparison. It could take a long time and shipping expense to buy them all used. Plus I wonder about the condition of used stuff.
4) If I could buy an expensive stereo and not give it another thought for 10+ years, like my car then, okay. But hi-end stereo is not that way.
My audio epiphany happened when I heard Epos M-15 / Creek in a small room. Detailed yet still musical. Very natural sound and made my B&W sound mechanical by comparison. No crossover components and the x-over above 5,000hz. Not a knock on B&W style of sound - studio monitors are made to tear the music apart to do the mixing.
So went back to my single driver roots and built some Tang-Band W3-871s single driver speakers:
with a Denon UD-M31 mini-system:
I was going to build 2-way until I saw how complex it is to not just design the x-over but get it to SOUND right - if that's ever possible at all. I get adequate bass with the speakers up against the wall and some bass boost from the Denon's eq. Single driver speakers sound very natural and even tonally. I didn't realize how natural until I went back to listen to multi-way speakers - ugghhh. I always thought:
1) B&W with millions in R&D to spend could make a multi-way speaker sound as good as a single driver but with more LF, HF, and volume. I was wrong. Nobody can.
2) The engineers at B&W were the experts and KNEW how recorded music was SUPPOSED to sound. Wrong again - to my ears. I don't think Paradigm, JM Labs, Harbeth Compact 7es-2(wanted to run from room screaming they were so bad - Super HL5 / Naim were okay), are any better. So I don't blame B&W. It's just the way multi-driver speakers are. I am still amazed at how poorly $3,000+ speakers measure and sound in some areas compared to my $200 single driver speakers. Truly amazing.
I don't want 1st order x-over with room acoustic problems and head-in-vice sweet spot or big, room consuming, e-stats. I don't want the colorations of horn-loaded speakers and don't listen loud enough to require them. Now my speakers sit on the mantle. You can't imagine how nice it is not to worry about tripping over speakers and not having shades on the windows because the sun would fade the cherry veneer. Let the sun shine in!
Every component in the audio chain produces sound in it's entirety except (most) speakers. Read most any article on speakers and they start with "a single driver can't cover the full frequency range" and they discount the entire concept out of hand. True, but multi-way designs are a COMPROMISE vs. a single driver, not better in every way. I like them a lot, but $45,000 Rockport Antares are compromised in some ways when compared to my $200 speakers. Audio can be really strange. I don' t listen over 75dB so don't need the high volumes anyhow.
Why single driver?:
1) Perfectly phase and time coherent ANYWHERE in the room.
- Sound is reproduced as it was created. Harmonics are not destroyed as with multi-way speakers.
- I could never relax and be satisfied with multi-way because they just never sounded right. One reason I was always on the upgrade path. I couldn't just ignore the sound problems and resign myself to living with it - not for a $10,000 system cost.
- Sound is very natural. Even my girlfriend has been tricked by firetruck sirens in a song, for example, and thought they were outside - something that never happened with multi-way speakers.
2) No change in tonality crossing over to drivers of different materials. Every material has it's own "sound" be it metal, paper, kevlar, etc.
3) Beaming over 3kHz has eliminated the 7dB peak at 5kHz that ALL multi-ways produced in my room. And I don't need ANY room treatments to get flat F-R from 80-18 kHz either. One less thing to buy or trip over.
4) Perfect timing - PRAT if you will. These have better rhythm that any multi-way I've heard unless x-over is 5kHz or higher.
5) No x-over to absorb power, detail, and musical dynamics. Sound is detailed in a natural way without distortion you get from electronical components in the path of the hi-powered electrical between the speakers and the power amp. Passive crossovers do much more damage to the music than by placing crossover components BEFORE the power amp - such as an active x-over. I want as little as possible between the hi-powered outputs of my amp and the speaker driver. I realized a lot of the hi-fi "buzz" is just HF distortion, not detail or better sound.
6) Easy to drive with any amp. Not just because of no x-over. Mine has an easy 8 ohm load and no sharp phase angles or wild swings in impedance like you get from x-overs and blended drivers.
An interesting article on this is:
Read the paragraph "The Quest for that Old-time Religion".
So after 4 years of staying up until 3am surfing the net, going to endless dealers, etc, I think I've finally found the basic path to follow. Thank God, I never thought it would happen.
I now use the Marantz CDR-500 exclusively because the Denon DAC was incoherent, jumbled and fuzzy in comparison. It also took power from the small power supply.
Next up is 4" single driver which I hope will give adequate bass extension without eq.:
If I can get adequate bass without eq. I'll build this LM3875 gainclone:
and Scott Nixon non-oversampling DAC:
DIY is good :-). DIY takes time to do so it slows me down from changing stuff out every few months. DIY also makes it impossible to justify a $1,000+ amp when I can make one for $200 or so. I'd be spending time on the chat sites anyhow so might as well put the time to good use and make stuff myself.