My next one.
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wilson wamm's, levinson 20.6 monoblocks, m.lev.26s preamp,
m.lev.#30 dac/goldmund meta-laser transport, MIT cables,
and an exceptionally good sounding room. the sense of scale (shostakovitch #4, james taylor live) towered over "ordinary" stereo systems by a wide margin. whether you could handle all of that sound day in and day out at home is another issue.
this is a philosophical discussion. we all know that there is no answer.
so, here's my opinion.
the best system was 4 quad esl, 4 quad 15 watt mono amps, a mac c22 preamp and a thorens turntable, ortofon arm and ortofon cartridge.
why was this system producing a sound superior to anything i have heard since ??
the timbre of instruments was more realistic than the best systems of today.
Tannoy Westminster's. Unbelievable dynamics and texture. Dual concentric design sounds like a single driver speaker in coherence and dispersion except smoother, better balanced, and more detail.
So many people talk about detail as in JM Labs bright berylium tweeters. This is just boosted HF with overdamped LF to give the illusion of "detail". The Tannoy's give LF and midrange detail in the form of a 14" paper cone. That's what I mean by texture.
If you look at music, middle C is something like 330hz. Then there are upper harmonics of middle C at 660, 1,320 hz etc.**
The Tannoys give full resolution of the 330 hz fundamental not just overemphasized upper harmonics.
** Disclaimer: this may not be completely technically accurate and I'm sure the experts here will be happy to clear them up.
Counting my blessings, the best system I've ever heard is sitting in my living room. Even at that, it's far from perfect. I haven't had the fortune to listen to thousands of systems but I've heard a few systems that cost hundreds of thousands. The trick was knowing what I wanted, which compromises I could make, some experimentation and a lot of research and patience.