Acquiring an awesome system, but how?


At this point I am making some changes to my system that may raise eyebrows as have in the past. But it's my money and my ears so here goes.
If one was to count all the makers of high end stuff and multiply by how many pieces will be included to create a system one would get the statistics of possibilities of combinations. I bet it's as high as our deficit, did I have to bring that up?
Well it mind as well be infinite because no one can even approach a fraction of all the possibilities.
I still haven't picked up an atma-sphere mp-1 preamp, so every now and then I look at the forum and see some suggestions for preamps to see if something comes up with raving reviews.
Well most of us know it's mostly synergy that makes a system excellent.
I thought the experienced goners can shed some light and offer suggestions as to what will make lasting purchases.
On my end I was amazed at how good the atma-sphere m60 sounded while it was running, now it is on hold till some things get resolved and so now I am back to the sim w-5 and it still satisfies. But I would like to do some more comparative listening, because the atmas sounded so good. I have no intentions of letting go of the atma's by the way.
I am still after the mbl sound and will be experimenting with some non-mainstream designs. I have some good ideas that will take time to bring to fruition.
But as for the reason for the thread, please share with us what systems made the biggest impressions and how one achieved them without breaking the bank?
Please include what systems sounded the best to you.
pedrillo
what constitutes audio nirvana for one maybe a disaster for another.

i will share for you what for me is a great listening experience.

it's simple. i want to play one recording after another and never want to leave the room or complain about a bad recording. this means a stereo system has to be somewhat euphonic in its coloration. somewhat attenuated in the upper midrange/lower treble and also somewhat elevated in the upper bass/lower mid range. i can't specify the "somewhat".

in order to achieve the ability to listen without complaints, i would need a tube-based stereo system and panel speakers.

i would start with a conrad johnson mv 125 amp and a pair of say, tympany 1ds, or stacked original quads, or the apogee duetta signature.

preamp might be tricky, but the original nobis proteus or mac c22 would suffice.

if you are playing cds and insist on current generation, maybe an amr 77 or audio research ref 7.

cables are another challenge. a bit of listening would be recommended.

again the key for me is not to be concerned about lost resolution but rather to be able to experience all varities of recording quality and still remain in my listening chair and let the music play.
It all comes down to "Homework" ..As mentioned in other reply,,Whats good for one may not be so for others..It takes dedicated time and effort ( and sometimes years ) on ones part..Try not to buy too many pieces at one time so as to know which direction each piece will take you...We have all made mistakes and at least if you do your homework you can minimize your problems.......
I agree with above, however, I have found that there are expensive mistakes along the way. If you want to peruse this ofttimes elusive goal you have to just shrug your shoulders and move on. I have spent many thousands of dollars on stuff that ultimately disappointed. I have found more success however in finding a corporate sound that I like, and buying many components from the same company. It seems to me that the same tastes as mine are in play, and there is less of a chance of incompatibility between the components. ..just my take...
I have gone through many pieces of equipment over the years looking for the same thing. I had stayed away from tubes because of audiophilia nervosa but finally took the plunge. I decided on audio research and assembled the following used arc ref one, arc ph3se, classic 60 and acoustic zen adagio. Front end is vpi scoutmaster jm9 benz ruby or my mac pro through dacmagic. I listen in a small room and the sound is fabulous. It puts me in mind of the time many years ago in northern california when I heard a maggie system driven by arc playing elton john-yellow brick road. That sound was what I looked for over the years and now have.
You already have an awesome system! Is your brain really telling you otherwise? From what I can tell you already know how to do it quite well.
As my SS friends say "He went over to the dark side"...Kinda Cheneyesque...but get some tube amps. You will never go back. I have a great SS amp...very transparent...but no match for my Vac's.
I think a quicker path to audio satisfaction (maybe heaven, but I'd not count on it, as that price tag is more than I want to pay right now), is the 'same + same' power train way. Maybe to the point of the source being from the likewise maker too.

A more meandering way is merely to have the ability to be paitient or easy to satisfy (within reasonable criteria) as both aspects seem to create a more positive atmosphere. (No ppun intended).

I've heard all Levinson + Maggies... All Krell + B&W. Both used Transparent wires. Both sounded super in a good many areas. I've heard all Ayre + Wilson. Again, pretty good. Also all CJ + cones and panels... again, I could live with it I suppose. All BAT with Various speakers. All Thor with VSA. the last mix was my choice for a long while.

That changed later on.

Therein lies the real issues. One's degree of stability, desire, funding, and ego are and have been all areas of concern for myself. A few of them I can manage, other's I can not.

Personally, I enjoy each aspect of better audio, save for panel speakers. Although I even like a lot of what they can do, they simply aren't for me. Past that I like it all.

All SS for HT. All Hollow state for most music, and HS + SS AMP for other music.

In every case, as articulate and revealing a source I can listen to as is possible.

Wish I could stick to merely one method... but that's the way it is for me. I have become less picky however, finding out there are inumerable pieces being made today which are really, really good. That helps a lot.

And I found out just how far into or past, the point of diminishing returns I can afford to dwell in routinely.

Being OK with that 'point' or state of affairs winds down the chasing ones tail aspect almost 100%.

That said, Am I done? No. I'm in no hurry to add or replace anything soon though. I have no outright vacancies begging to be filled finally.
Thanks onhwy61. I agree!
I will be adding some new tweeks to my system in the near future, not that there is anything wrong with what I have now, but want to take it to a new level.
I thought I would mention some of the systems I heard in showrooms that I liked: MBL of course is tops for me(sorry to keep bringing it up again), I also liked in the past that is 3-5 years ago, piega c10, kharma, jm labs divas, dynaudio c-4, maggies 20.1. And recently I liked the magico minis and thought the verity fidelio's were amazing but that could have been the electronics and source gerrard tt and all shindo. Also thought the bolzanos were amazing!
So what am I after? I like the omni sound, and am looking forward to hearing the omni speakers that I haven't heard yet. The duevel's, mirage's, ohm's and whatever else is out there.
I will post my new contraption as soon as it's ready and sounds ok, if you don't hear from me then either my ceiling colapsed or I'm too embarassed to post.
Waiting for a shipment of bungee chords.
Just kidding. Ha, if you think I'm nuts now wait till you see the system I am hooking up here in bellevue, if only the doctors understood.
Obviously that man is crazy,
Uh hah, we don't use that kind of language here,
Well what kind of language do you use,
Now now
Well that man is very now now.
Miss those pink panther films.
Hi Pedrillo, you might look into the High Emotion Audio P-7 loudspeaker. Its not fully omni-directional, but its tweeter array is the next best thing, and otherwise a more transparent, faster tweeter than that of the mbl. The speaker has a rear-firing passive radiator, but will need some sort of subwoofer as it is limited to 40Hz. The speaker is easy to drive and very transparent- we are using a set here FWIW.
Atmasphere, I would love to hear these speakers. Maybe someone in NYC has them.
I bet they work well with your amps which to me is a big plus.
If you have trouble finding them let me know, they are just now getting their marketing off the ground.
Over the years i've owned many different systems(Carver, Hafler, Onkyo etc.) Last year picked-up my first Mcintosh pieces a C-28 and a 2105 amp for $1,300, wow was I blown away by the sound of this equipment. Since then i've purchaced 10 pieces of Mcintosh equipment and am amazed at the build quality and sound this stuff has not to mention they look nice. Just purchaced a C-22 tube pre-amp and to gether with a ss amp they sound amazing together, best of both worlds. Hope you find what your looking for.
Well, since the question is put so bluntly, I am forced to reply rather bluntly too.

Get an all Zanden system. It is simply awesome and beyond.

I do appreciate an all MBL system also, if set up right, but Zanden is just an order of magnitude higher performing, coming awfully close to live performance. The CD front end often exceeds in realism compared to a well set up analog system. And their amps (The 9600 monoblocks) ? Simply astounding. Seem to deliver way more than rated 60-90 watts per channel. Be sure to match right speakers with these though (I use my old and trusty Dunlavy V with 2 ohm tap) When used with other make components (like I did for a while with my MBL 6010d preamp and 9008a amps, and later with MBL 9008 amps only, zanden, or is it the system as a whole?, may deliver what might be called colored sound, but make no mistake, when used with neutral cabling and all zanden components the results are zen like. Nothing I have heard comes close to it. Not yet. And I highly doubt any system ever would- a very bold statement, I know. I recommend auditioning one at home.
Only other system that came close was the 2005 or 2006 LA show, with Metronome digital,-Lamm pre and amps- Wilson watt puppy 8 speakers room.

All the best with your search.
pedrillo, until you have described the attributes of the stereo system you may wish to acquire, it is impossible to make meaningful recommendations.

i assume you are seeking help to achieve this elusive goal. you are seeking component suggestions. please guide us as to your ideal of sonic euphoria, and then appropriate component suggestions can follow.
Thanks for all your responses.
Mrtennis, simply looking for something like what Nilthepill contributed. Especially sinc Nilthepill has an appreciation for mbl.
Thanks N. I know what you mean, my system is not in the same caliber, but it is approaching what you described and I anticipate through my determination to get there some day soon.
It would be interesting to see if fm acoustics or dartzeel to be in the same league?
i guess all of us are looking for the sound of live music in our listening rooms. how close can we come ?

i think obtaining the "best" recordings may be most effective at creating the illusion of live music.

as to components, there are many that will get you where you want to go. as for digital, i prefer the very first audio aero capitole and the very first zanden dac, as compared to their respective current versions.

i still feel that a large panel, e.g., magnepan 20.1, big sound lab, stacked quad 57s, or apogee will get bcloser to the real thing than any cone design.

i also feel that tubes are more natural sounding than solid state.

in summary, tubes in digital, large panels, tube amp and preamp and pick your own cables will get you where you want to go.
Mrtennis,
I agree!!!
Tubes and panels are awesome!
My atma's sound great, can't wait to mate it with its pre.
Peter
Also, I have found that all one make cabling (phono, digital, ic, pcs, with one type of power conditioner) help retain that 'synergy' that you have achieved after so much hard work. Remember not to screw it up ;-).

And I agree. Tubes are preferable. All the way.
I agree with above, however, I have found that there are expensive mistakes along the way. If you want to peruse this ofttimes elusive goal you have to just shrug your shoulders and move on. I have spent many thousands of dollars on stuff that ultimately disappointed. I have found more success however in finding a corporate sound that I like, and buying many components from the same company. It seems to me that the same tastes as mine are in play, and there is less of a chance of incompatibility between the components. ..just my take...
Stringreen

< I tend to agree with Stringreen here..

Let your "favorite DJ" (manufacturers) do the mixin' and play his best tunes, we just sit back and enjoy the music!
Also, I have found that all one make cabling (phono, digital, ic, pcs, with one type of power conditioner) help retain that 'synergy' that you have achieved after so much hard work. Remember not to screw it up ;-).
Nilthepill

< Also with Nilthepill..

Basically, the less mix'n match equates to less headache (costly mistakes), and most often, better outcomes.
i have in my system, cables from three diffrenet manufacturers. i have reviewed many cable products. interconnects and speaker cables from the same designer are not always consistent in their sonic signature. one cannot generalize.

it is best to be open minded and listen to cables from one manufacturer and then substiute cable products from other manufacturers until one has satisfied his/her idiosyncratic preference.
Agree.. Though my implication of less does not necessarily mean 'all', but more to try minimizing variants best one can. I too coincidently have 'three different makes' in my current set-up. One--pwr cord to pwr generator. One--interconnecting all digital system (4 pwr cords, 3 AES BU, 2 FW). One--for source > pre >amp >speakers (ICs and SC).

Now left unused, stored in cupboards are cables ranging from the heydays--Magnans, NBS, Older Siltech to quite recent top-line of Synergistic, Nordost and quite a few more to name. These I considered as one costly mistake I made along my journey--ever trying mixing and matching gears and speakers and tuning them with various cables for the last 25-30yrs--well it's more of a tuition fee I guess.
12-29-08: Mrtennis
what constitutes audio nirvana for one maybe a disaster for another.

i will share for you what for me is a great listening experience.

it's simple. i want to play one recording after another and never want to leave the room or complain about a bad recording. this means a stereo system has to be somewhat euphonic in its coloration. somewhat attenuated in the upper midrange/lower treble and also somewhat elevated in the upper bass/lower mid range. i can't specify the "somewhat".

in order to achieve the ability to listen without complaints, i would need a tube-based stereo system and panel speakers.

i would start with a conrad johnson mv 125 amp and a pair of say, tympany 1ds, or stacked original quads, or the apogee duetta signature.

preamp might be tricky, but the original nobis proteus or mac c22 would suffice.

if you are playing cds and insist on current generation, maybe an amr 77 or audio research ref 7.

cables are another challenge. a bit of listening would be recommended.

again the key for me is not to be concerned about lost resolution but rather to be able to experience all varities of recording quality and still remain in my listening chair and let the music play.
Mrtennis

< Mrtennis,
I agree with your first post here to some extent--that is TOP priority of a system is to be able to deliver a great listening experience and musical enjoyment regardless the quality of recordings.

However, where during some period of time when my system (say--accurate and neutrally set-up) were good for certain types of music/recordings (audiophile varieties), they could be almost unlistenable on many others (most popular releases). Conversely, when I had them tuned-in for the more popular ones to be listenable (say--adding euphonic touches to ease off edge, brittleness and a little boost in midbass and lower mid warmth), they tended to obscure and somewhat not resolving enough for the better ones. Hence, the never ending search for that ideally elusive nirvana I found to be both time consuming and costly. I was almost burned out and on the brink of frustration on board this merry-go-round!

Having been through that learning curve, in system building line up, I would now first and foremost go for the most neutral/accurate gears I can possibly find. Quite recently, with the aid/addition of an excellent unit such as the FMA268 pre-amp with their built-in 'linearizer' section, basically solved most problems--hence I can have my cake and eat it too! As you very well put it--to have a great listening experience, one that's without complain and be able to fully enjoy ALL varieties of recordings (but without loss of resolution here). It made previously unlistenable recordings sound great (almost as good as their audiophile counterparts), while making the great ones sounded even better--unreal!

Thus, throughout my journey, this has been the most worthwhile and sensible move I've made, to go neutral and have a quality linearizer at hand for the fine tuning works (instead of using cables or through endless equipments swapping!). Just thought of sharing it here since it somehow relates to this thread--towards building an awesome system. Accuphase and Cello are two other brands that I know of to make units running on basic similar principle (ability to correct bad recordings whilst maintaining fidelity). Though not cheap, they will certainly outweigh your other potential costs in the longer run.
hi bvdiman:

it seems that you are using some kind of equalization, or way of voicing your stereo system when listening to problem recordings.

suppose you could not access a "linearizer", would you then try to set up as color-free stereo system as possible, or live with a euphonic, softe sounding stereo system which loses some resolution and focus ?
I believe that there are really only 3 different types of sonic reproduction given the level of many of the listed systems here on the pages of Audiogone , and those to which most subscribe to attain …

Hmmm that’s pretty good! Yes siree!

Oooh, now that’s special!! No question.

And then there’s

Oh, My God! That’s amazing!

My stuff is somewhere around the second aspired to plateau, or a mite above. IMO. For me the final level of providential exclamation continues to be more a myth than ever a realization.

I’m very OK with that tact too.

Assigning ones goals up front enables greater clarity as one proceeds.... if one knows in advance what is truly the heart's desire.

If listening to any or all recordings is the aim, regardless the quality of it, some compensations must be made if only one system is to play them all… good bad or just plain poorly done discs. IMO. These allowances may well be time alone, or money, or both.

I’m not too keen on pop music but I do dabble in it somewhat. Most poorly done recordings I own stem from the rock genre almost entirely. Older rock to be more specific, though some are done quite poorly today too.

Apart from the overly emphasized treble, and db levels taken into saturation, I find many sounding quite dry. Anemic in fact… as compared to those from genres wherein good recordings are a staple rather than exception… such as jazz, opera, symphonic, vocals, folk, modern bluegrass and other’s.

I can play any and all on my main system without regret or being ill at ease. Alternatively however, playing them on less resolving systems does allow a better experience. Many of these rock oriented classics weren’t intended to be revealed over high end gear in the first place. Consequently using less articulate gear for playback, though still above average, seems a proper fit there.

A matter of taste also runs deep in attaining a desired level of reproduction of course, and that burden lays on the shoulders of those who would bare it.

With $$$ a prime mover for me, I’ve gone thru extremely analytical, sparklingly clear and dynamic sounding rigs to a more refined yet still more resolute system. Along the way the euphonic warm and velvety sounding rig was also enjoyable… for a while. Ultimately my tastes prompted me towards a combination of the euphonic and greatly revelatory mix as a listening preference. One which can play the greatest majority of music without need for major exchanges in components to accomplish such an end product.

Tubes were in the end the answer for me… completely and in conjunction with SS from time to time, showed yet another portal to the sound. If nothing else it was as an alternative perspective. Combining tubes and SS in the power train has distinct advantages in broadening ones latitudes in music perusal.

Amassing a lesser revealing system came by the trickle down facet of gear acquisitions. Much of my initial purchases form that rig. Other entries found their way to it as time passed and the main unit grew. HT played a part in it all too and presented another opportunity for gaining more flexibility.

Ultimately however, in my own case, compromise as it is a part of life by and large, is also a prime factor in my own ambitions and the components I own project just such a philosophy without inordinate sacrifices to signal integrity.

The greatest relief or comfort I enjoy today with my various audio arrangements was wrought by my recognition and acceptance of the principle of and act of compromise being one of inevitability, more so than one of choice.

If one is a member of the few, the proud, the uncompromising, congratulations… I’m sure it will be an immensely gratifying and enjoyable experience for you. However, I have to admit I share just those same experiences and feel most OK with less expensive ordinance on hand, as I think it’s all must a matter of perspective and good sense that allows anyone to achieve lofty goals in audio recreation without remarkable expense. Especially if one checks their ego at the doorway to this endeavor
suppose you could not access a "linearizer", would you then try to set up as color-free stereo system as possible, or live with a euphonic, softe sounding stereo system which loses some resolution and focus ?
Mrtennis

< Mrtennis,
Now you've got me cornered.. No doubt and without question I'll go with the later. As I want to be able to enjoy 80% of my beloved cd collection, more so than the remaining 20% of the audiophile varieties which I don't really care for that much anyway. I may choose the first "IF" given most discs available in the market are recorded flawlessly, but in real world, I'm afraid that's far from reality? Though I must say vast improvements have been made with some of the more recent releases, but still, what to do with my treasured collections of past..? So for me it's still have to be the later! Live, yet softer euphonic musically satisfying set-up.. ;)
... OR eg.,m above, another or secondary budget system for under $1500 ONE CAN LISTEN TO THEM ON WITHOUT IRRITATION.

I can assure you that plan works quite well.
Using your ears is a must. I have listened to many pieces of fabled kit over 30 years of hi-fi, and some have been sadly most disappointing. In the UK, it's much easier to get demos (either in a shop or preferably at home), as the density of hi-fi shops is much higher.
For me, the 'revelation' purchase was a pair of Avantgarde Duo horns. that has been the buy that has transformed my musical experience most in the last 30 years. Next was the purchase of my TRON tube pre-amp (www.tron-electric.com) and then my Allaerts MC1B cartridge.
I go to lots of gigs (more than 20 a year) and we have lots of music at home. 4 pianos at home including a Steinway Grand, drums & trumpet get played on a daily basis, so I know what real instruments sound like.
It is more difficult in the USA, as getting to hear some piece of high end kit can be very difficult.

Good luck!

Charlie
Blindjim "I believe that there are really only 3 different types of sonic reproduction given the level of many of the listed systems here on the pages of AudioGon , and those to which most subscribe to attain. Hmmm that’s pretty good! Yes siree!

Oooh, now that’s special!! No question.

And then there’s "Oh, My God! That’s amazing!"

The latter response, has been what I have grown used to hearing from those who have come to listen.

I have Always wanted a system, where I am in the middle of the room, with speakers all around me.

After many years I have reached my goal.

P.S Audio GCA-500,PCA-2/HCPS in front at 4ohms.
Statement power cords,Statement I.C.'s, speaker cable, power conditioners.
too much to list, it works.

With 4 separate Stereo Amplifiers, plus 2 powered subwoofers, and 18 separate speakers.

Because the sound is from 8 different locations around me,
the sound just "is", basically 2 separate systems looped as
one in Stereo, with no processors at all.

There is simply no substitute for 2kw.+ of power.

Synergy, Control,Extreme Dynamic Headroom,Balance.

"REAL" Musical Instruments, have a "BIG SOUND!"

Listen to your neighbors Steinway Concert Grand Piano
sometime, and then try to reproduce that same "Dynamics",
the Piano plays on your Audio System.

Generally 2 speakers will not cut it.Without driving them hard,then it is obvious where the only 2 places in the room where music is playing,straining to fill the room.IMHO.

The 18" and 15" subs. help reproduce the lower octaves of
the piano.

Active 4 each 15" Drivers and 4 each 12" along with 4 each 8"-6.5" drivers, for the
meat and potatoes of the music. Tractrix Horns for the
Natural sound of the Human Voice, and all horn instruments.

Done right, all the speakers literally vanish! It's funny,
people always get up, and walk up to the speakers and put
their ear up to the drivers, to hear if it is "on"? They
smile, and just look around the room saying..."OH my...!"

Then they ask, "how far can the music be heard, if I turned
up the volume?"

I shake my head, with a smile, saying "I don't know, but,
if I turn up the volume much, crockery and glassware damage,
is a given."

I know I do Not own the "Best of the Best", but it IS,
The Most Satisfying Listening Experience Ever! For me in my Life.
I used the below site for a rough estimate, and then,
just followed my ears.

J.B.L.
http://www.jblsynthesis.com/products/system_overview.aspx?prod=SYN-ATLAS&Language=ENG&Country=US&Region=USA

When I listen to music, I think of Mel Brooks in the "History Of The World" when He say's "It's good to be King!"

Except I am NO King, and I am so thankful to be able to
enjoy Music at This Level.

Enjoy the Music!

Bjpd57a1

18 SPEAKERS, 4 SUBS, 2K WPC, AND YOU IN THE MIDDLE?

OMG... now, that is amazing!
marry into money
the easiest way to achieve an awesome listening experience is to acquire master analog tapes and a decent tape deck. the rest of the stereo system, will be secondary.

in fact a set of headphones is all that is necessary to achieve a very statisfactory listening experience with master tapes.

of course, finding master tapes is not easy.
Bjpd57a1, I would like to see pictures of your listening room, sounds interesting.

Acquiring an awesome system, but how?

QUICK START MANUAL

1 Find, acquire, amass, or win a lot of money

2 Lose touch with reality

3 Exhaust all of the aforementioned financial resources on audio gear.

NOTE
Step #2 is optional.