Best system for opera lover at $30,000

One of my friends asked me to recommend a system for her new house. She and her husband are opera lovers. Also love jazz and othe classical music. Her budget is $30,000, and do not decide to buy new items or used ones. My suggestion is Thiel CS6 + Mark Levinson 380 and 333 + Wadia 860. Please give me your advice.
Depends on if they just want to play at this, or have a dedicated listening room (i.e., the system isn't in service to the decor, but the other way around). I wouldn't blow that kind of money without a dedicated listening room, and nobody should. If they can dedicate a room, my suggestion is first to read "The Complete Guide to Highend Audio". If they must have a system NOW, I'd say stick with used gear, gotten from reputable individuals and dealers right here on Audiogon, and also Audioweb. Here's my system suggestion, all of it USED: (This assumes they only listen to CD's) ASC tube traps and Frescoes, upper level MIT and Shunyata cabling, Krell FPB 200 power amp, Resolution Audio CD50 CD player (drives the amp directly), Genesis 200 speaker system, and whatever sturdy component rack looks nice to them. THAT SHOULD COME IN UNDER $30,000, if they shop hard enough. I do own and enjoy several of these components.
In general, I feel your suggestions are better suited to a hifi lover than a music lover. I doubt whether she would be able to enjoy this system long term, as it would be lean and cold. Instead, a pair of Vandersteens, Magnepans 3.6s, Shun Mook Bella Voces (rare but excellent), or smaller Avalons, coupled with some ARC or CJ electronics, might be a more enjoyable system IMHO. And the more musical sound would be less likely to require room treatment, etc. Pearson is right, 3.6s with subs are competitive with anything. Quit believing Stereopile, most solid state and digital is junk.
Carl makes a very important point about educating them selves first before spendig 30 grand.Also a treated and dedicated room would be appropriate.I would advise your friends to go with tubes and analog if they are looking for beautiful music.
Skull; Using Stereophile advice and guidelines over the last several years, I have put together a very musical and enjoyable stereo system-- mostly solid state, but a tube pre-amp. Their guidance has been invaluable, but my final decision on purchases has always been based on my own judgement. I've also used Robert Harley's "Complete Guide to High End Audio" extensively. I'm glad to see you like Vandersteen speakers as I own the 3As. Would you please post your name and address so we will know which way to bow and where to send offerings. I assume YOUR book will be coming out soon? Actually, I have always believed the "high end" was on the tallest giraffe.
PS... I do believe that Stereophile has taken a significant turn for the worse since it was sold to big publishers, whose only interest is the bottom line.
A must listen speaker for classical and opera is the b&W 801 series speakers. Many classical and opera albums are mastered on these, and for good reason. They are one of the few speakers with enormous bass impact, and excellent vocals. They tend to like powerful solid state amps and are best suited to large rooms with very solid floors.
All of the replies so far make good points- especially about room treatment (hopefully dedicated) and self-education. Remember to point out to your friends that a dedicated room does not have to be like a dealer's showroom to have good sound. It must be "livable" before they will want to sit down to enjoy their chosen performances. The topic of room treatment could go on and on... the best advice is to find a local dealer that respects its customers and is willing to take the time to teach and LISTEN. If travel is not out of the question, many out of state dealers (especially the big boys) go the extra mile to satisfy a long-distance client. Now, everyone has their own opinion about equipment, tubes vs. solid state, analog vs. digital and so on. Opera lovers tend to have different equipment requirements that most audiophiles. The main reason is that many good opera performances are available on laser disc and DVD requiring good video as well. You did not mention if this was a factor. It also sounds like they are not interested in the merits of equipment- they just want great sound. I have a system in mind, but I have to go right now. Get back to you in a bit with the envelope. Till then, Fielden
OK, I'm back- I have listed many options and brief descriptions for each. Life's more fun with choices. SPEAKERS: Sadly, the absolute best speaker for the opera lover is no longer available. The Sonus Faber Extrema ($10,000 with stands) would be an excellent choice if a pair could be found from someone crazy enough to let them go. Simple, elegant, unobtrusive, and stunning sound quality, especially on human voice. Actually, most of the Sonus Faber line would satisfy. Second choice is the Aerial Acoustics 10T ($8000 with stands). Detailed, awesome soundstage, open, and also good with voice. Semi-unobtrusive and relatively small footprint for a large speaker. Third choice is a little different. Martin-Logan's CLSIIz ($4500) with dedicated Arici stands ($300) would be superb. Limited low-bass response (still to 40Hz), but not a factor on opera. Could match with good sub (I like REL) for full range response. The room is more critical as placement needs to be well into the room for best performance. AMPLIFIER: I would recommend solid-state amplification for simplicity, ease of use/maintenance, and possible remote/hidden placement. Tubes are HOT!HOT!HOT!- your friends may not want to display a light bulb rack! For SF Extrema, Audio Research D400MkII (discontinued- find used), Mark Levinson No.333 (also discontinued) or other high-powered Levinson, McIntosh MC500 (yes, McIntosh). Aerials are great with Pass Aleph 2's (discontinued, but widely available on Audiogon) but should work well with the new Pass lineup. M-L CLSIIz with McIntosh MC500 (this is a great amp!), Pass Labs (any high powered), and especially nice with the Classe' CA- series amps. PREAMP AND DIGITAL: Levinson, Levinson, Levinson. The most well thought out, easiest to use, and best sounding digital gear on the planet. Mates well with just about everything I have heard. Ergonomically superior to everything available. Have not listened to the new gear, but should be outstanding as well- have never been disappointed. VIDEO: Just about anything will work as a DVD transport; I wouldn't spend too much money here. If they have a laser disc collection, Pioneer Elite rules. For TV, Sony WEGA XBR 36". FM TUNER: Yes, there are good opera performances on public radio as well. Magnum Dynalab Etude or MD-102 with their indoor antenna would be a great source. CABLES: For Sonus Faber and Aerial, use double or triple runs of OCOS EvoIII speaker cable. Tara Labs is also good with Aerials. Do not use OCOS on CLSIIz. Instead, try Monster Cable M2 or the new Audioquest G8 (relatively cheap). Interconnects, in my opinion, are not as critical- any quality cables of choice will do. I know this is a bunch, but these are great system choices. I will recap with one more reply. Hang in there, Fielden
OK, using the previous reply, I will only list the budget for each category and let you guys choose. SPEAKERS: $8000-$10000; AMPLIFIER: $6000-$8000; PREAMP/DIGITAL: $6000-$9000; VIDEO: $$4000; FM TUNER: $1400-$2400. Here is a typical system I would recommend: Aerial Acoustics 10T ($8000); Mark Levinson No.333 ($8000); Mark Levinson No.39 ($6000); Magnum Dynalab Etude ($1400); Sony WEGA XBR36 ($2300); DVD and Laser Disc ($1600); Cables and antenna ($2700). That's $30k! Good luck- hope you get some help from all who reply. Fielden
I was raised by opera lovers, which means as a child I was an opera hater. Then when I became involved in high-end audio I finally got to hear opera well reproduced, and found myself almost overwhelmed by the emotion conveyed. Now I can keep my parents paralyzed for hours by putting on "The Pearl Fishers" or "Rigoletto" on the system I demo in my living room. Opera is the most emotional music there is. It is souls bared, both in the performers and in the audience. So what I am going to suggest here is a system that conveys the enormous emotional vibrancy of opera. I suggest the Sound Lab Millennium-2 full-range electrostatic speakers, Wolcott Presence amplifiers, Thor preamp, and from your original post I cannot tell what kind of source you friends would want. With good discounts (which I offer) they would have a source plus cabling budget of about seven or eight grand. The system I'm suggesting here is built around the Sound Lab electrostatics, which excel at voice and instrumental timbre, which in turn is what conveys that rip-your-heart-out emotional impact opera unleashes.
I listen to opera a great deal and am exceptionally pleased with this coordinated system. Balanced Audio Technology VK-50SE preamp, VK-60 amp, and their CD player. Speakers are Avantgarde Unos, cables are top of the line Nordost. Sound is detailed, smooth and very involving. Soloists seem to be right in the listening room. Jazz is spectacular!
At 30K total there will be significant trade offs, particularly in what you might compromise. I think it would be very easy to leave your friend disappointed. Several very important considerations. First, how much experience with live opera do they have? If it is a lot, where do they sit in the opera house? My wife and I have heard about 150 live operas all over the world and about 800 live symphonic performances. This is not a trival matter and will greatly influence their preferences in the balance of the system. Operas are long, 3-6 hours so listener fatigue is a big consideration. Do they like Wagner and Strauss which means the ability to have good detail played loud with lots of bass or are they bel canto fans where the delicacy of the vocal line is paramount. DVD fans (a whole different discussion) or vintage recording fans (vinyl required) Additionally, since this is for a couple, don't underestimate the likely psychoacoustic differences between the male and female. I have been upgrading my system and recently listened to most speakers in the 10-25k range. Along with my wife were two other women who listen with us regularly and have heard a lot of live opera and symphonic music. Their preferences and perceptions and descriptions, of Dunlavy,Theil, Vandersteen, Martin Logan, Revel,B&W, Sonus Faber, Wilson, etc did not often match mine or the standard reviews but they were consistant to each other. Spectral amps received a thumbs down, tubes a thumbs up.(BTW we bought the Dulavy SC-V which the three of them ranked first, it was my close second choice. Finally, room treatment is of paramount importance to sort out the compexity of a large scale opera. A little goes a long way but alot still improves things. In addition to a dedicated room with passive treatments, I use a Sigtech which is astonishing on Wagner, Mahler, Bruckner and Strauss. I hope this helps. Your friends are going to have to listen to some equipment to settle on their preferred trade offs.
Garfish, Sorry to use this as a forum on S'pile, but I will anyway! If you don't think their advice is self-serving, then why are two Mark Levinson amplifiers, the 33h and the regular 333 series both class A? If they are both "the best money can buy, reminiscent of the real thing", then obviously the 33h is a huge waste of money and they should say so. I believe they don't want to upset readers with the fact that better stuff (and the 33h is clearly better)usually costs a lot more, and they won't put a big advertiser's main stuff in class B. Also, have you read any of Scull's recent reviews? He used to be their clown, putting dots and cones everywhere, now he's the mainstream "it all sound so state of the art I just can't believe it could get any better" Wes Phillips character. C'mon, the resident tweak and tube guy all of the sudden thinks the Levinson ref line stage is so great? Please! My advice above was based on equipment that I've had in my room (including the CS6s), not my desire to maximize ad sales. So don't think I'm asking for offerings, just realize when you're reading opinions from those that are quite happy to sell them to the highest bidder.
If your friend is going to spend 30 large - spend a little bit more and come to LA. Chris Hansen carries Thiel; Levinson and Wadia. Set up a demo and listen to the system yourself. While you're at it - Ambrosia carries Aerials, Dunlavys and Revel which you could listen to on Rowland or Classe electronics and a Theta digital front end. Shellys and the Digital Ear both carry Maggies and Audio Research. Digital also carries Theta, Wadia and Krell. Shellys would probably use a Theta front end. Then come to my house and listen my system which is quite similar to Cfj2's system in that we both use BAT electronics and Nordost Quattro/SPM cables. I use Genesis 300 speakers and would have to borrow a BAT CD player (shouldn't be too hard). I also think my system is smooth and detailed and also has some pretty awesome bass. Then we tell my wife you are a client and have to go to New Orleans "on business" where we will visit Duke (Audio Kinesis) and listen to his Sound Labs. What do you say?
Garfish, I Must side with Skull on this, What I love about audiophiles is they are all so full of themselves... Yet they listen to reviewers as if they are gods, simply because their opinions are published in these jokes called Audio magazines.. I know a lot of these reviewers and most are idiots.. Bob Harley, Don Saltzman, J. Valin are exceptions, along with some of things H.P. says. And I restate (some) These guys are reviewing equipment, and reporting to the public the results, based on how the component meshs with their own systems (and rooms), colorations!! They might have a dull room, muddy amps rolled speaker wire, etc. listen to a lyra Parnassis cartridge and declare it neutral, and it's a bright, thin, etched, piece of junk! I love all these Hi-Fi terms like Fast, Clean, shimmering,etc. When was the last time you listened to live unamplified music, heard a real sound, and said to yourself: wow! listen to how fast that was? It's a joke! I have a very expensive system, and have modified a lot of the the gear myself along with building stuff, I have put together systems for $5,000 to $10,000 that kill a lot of $200,000 dollar ones. Most audiophiles have lost track of what really counts, the music, We as a group (Because of magazines like Sterophile) are starting to get back into specifications! It's sad, because we were the one to tell everyone that they didn't matter.. They still don't, I don't believe we know what or how to measure what counts. All that matters is our ears.. But we listen to these reviewers, and are influenced by the specs, and don't listen to our own ears.. "They most know more than me, they're in a magazine"!! It's just not true. it's a matter of circumstance, and who they know! Most are leaches trying to get free equipment. People out there believe what they are saying, doubt there own ears.. and their own values become skewed. Because of this I've only met a handfull of audiophiles across the country that can HEAR!! You must build on equipment based on neutrality, one piece at a time. accepting a pieces minor colorations,and knowing this, use them to compliment your system, and room, as a hole. This way you can keep your perspective when judging a new piece. Reviewers don't do this. It's sounds great in their system so it's nirvana! Most of the Digital-Transistor guys out there, (I'm presuming you are one) Have 3 CD's out of a thousand that they can enjoy. They are constantly trying new cables and accessories, are impressed by some Hi-Fi artifact they get from them, grow weary of the trick, then later take them out. They are on a endless quest.. Seaching for something that they have forgotten about, all they know is they are not happy. It's not fun anymore. They don't melt in their chairs and listen to record after record.. into the night They are lost! What they are searching for is... THE MUSIC.. the emotion.. They've gone through a maze and can't find their way back... There is a not for profit Web Site coming out that will deal with these issues and hopefully try to guide us back in the right direction. After all we are a small brotherhood! If It continues on it's present coarse I think this industry is doomed, If it were not for home theater (yuk), most of the dealers would aready be gone. People are getting frustrated and quiting the hobby. Lets hope we can get back on track.. Manufacturers are out of control with their ego driven price structures, "oh they are charging that much, my stuff's way better, I'll charge more".They will price themselve out of existance.. I just hope we can all survive this.. P.S. I belive that if a system is selected, and set up correctly it will play all types of music in a realistic, and satisfying manner.. There should be no need specify Opera. It would need to do space, convey emotion, go low in the bass, have enough detail to suggest space, have a big soundstage, also requiring a big room!! Image wide and front to back.. And do layered depth. Wouldn't you want all these anyway..
You don't need to spend $30k to enjoy recorded opera. But it would be easy to spend $30k and be disappointed. Being able to lose yourself in your favorite performance of a five hour Wagnerian opera on a reasonably priced system in your home presents challenges that require tradeoffs that are not necessarily the highest priorities for jazz or rock.
Fusilli, you say your friends are opera lovers -- I take it they're not audiophiles (good for them). Because if that's the case then the oversized speakers, dedicated listening rooms, difficult to set up equipment and sweet spot listening chairs that us audiophile obsess about are not going to interest them. Also, how was the $30,000 budget arrived at. For a stereo setup you really don't have to spend so much. Diminishing returns set in around, say, $12,000. I think the system you suggested is great, but is that what a music lover really needs. My suggestion is to go with something that is very user friendly. Try one of the Meridian systems. They're full range, reasonably sized, decent looking, sound good and are simple to use (once professionally instaled). One box for the CD player/controller and dedicated cables to the combination DAC/amplifier/speaker. Your question goes to the heart of how normal people differ from audiophiles. Most people want good sound and really don't care much about the equipment.
Hi Skull and Snoopdog; First, I sincerely appreciate your responses. I just didn't like it inferred that my stereo system was "junk" because it's mostly solid state and does not include vinyl. As I've become more confident and trusting of my own judgement and ears, I find that I have much less need of anyone's recommendations. However, I still enjoy reading Stereophile, and my mind can accomodate more than one component in any given Stereophile Class, eg the little Pass Aleph 3 going head to head with the biggest and best Levinson or Krell has to offer. According to Skull's logic, there could only be ONE "best" in each class. I disagree, audiophiles have many different tastes and preferences. Stereophile's recommended components is a GUIDE, let me repeat that, a GUIDE, and they tell us that over and over and over. I'm curious about how you guys know so much about Stereophile anyway, if you can't stand it, why do you (obviously) read it? You could better spend your time listening to music (watching TV?). No? I auditioned a Levinson 331 a year ago (Class A) and didn't like it at all-- it was sterile, lifeless, and I ended up buying a McCormack DNA-2DX that has not even been reviewed by S'phile. It's very musical, very live, very enjoyable, and somewhat "tubelike", ie smooth and sweet but with good bass control-- I've yet to hear a tube amp that had much bass control. Still, many clearly like the 331. I do have about 1000 CDs, and I enjoy by far the majority of them. As any self respecting audio hound, I also enjoy tweaking and constantly fiddling with my stereo system, and admit to being an equipment junkie. But NOBODY should accuse me of not enjoying the music. And I suspect that both of you guys have some of this in you too, or you wouldn't be on line yakking about it and critisizing my choices. Rather, you'd be listening to your 30 year old tube/analog systems and enjoying the only two musical stereo systems in the entire free world. As I stated in my previous PS post, I'm finding that I now like and trust Stereophile much less than I did.... say 5 years ago ie, since they have been taken over by big publishing. PS: until you've heard Buddy Guy live in concert, you haven't truly heard music-- I have, but it's a TOTALLY different experience than stereo system listening, which is also enjoyable. I have enjoyed this spirited exchange-- so thanks.
PS...Skull & Snoopdog, Re: live music. I have played guitars (as an amatuer), both acoustic and electric, for over 40 years, and I don't need to be told that I don't know what "live" music sounds like, or the fact that room acoustics are important.
I didn't realize this was life-philosophy corner. You guys need to calm down some. I...I've never been as much of a blowhard as I've seen on this thread, and that's saying a lot! Seems like all this isn't "about the music" anymore, it's just whatever you say it's about. Anyway, I don't doubt my ears, I still like SPHL, yes you can't have blind faith in reviewers (or strangers in an internet forum), but was any of that what Fusilli asked?
Garfish, I see by you responding to my follow up so quickly that the last thing on your mind is listening to music.. My System is down right now, waiting for parts for an upgrade.. I, nor do I Imagine Skull from the kind of equipment he states he's had in his listening room, have 30 yr. old tube systems. In fact my turntable alone costs as much as the entire buget for the system Fusilli has inquired about.. I to have played guitar for years.. I am amazed that someone who knows the sound of a guitar so well, with all of the wonderful overtones and harmonics it's strings produce could be blind to the fact that digital does not reproduce them.. There is no emotion, feeling or involvement. I'm afraid I must respectfully say you are deludeing yourself. It's not your fault. that you have become lost.. But I strongly suggest you get setup with some analog soon. I think once you get back into real Hi fi you will see the light. Don't you realize that with analog your listening to a copy of what actually happened? like a negitive that has been made into a print. then if you wish.. a copy made from that. No matter how far down the chain, you're looking at a copy of what actually happened. With digital the chain is broken. Once it's coverted to digital, the original sound is lost! When you listen to analog,you listen to a copy of what was there, like looking at a photo.. with digital it's not a photo it's a painting, and the artist is a Computer.. It's an aproximation of what the computer figures was there.. There no life.. everything sounds fake and metalic. People who play instruments, and anyone I demonstrate this to can hear this when I compare a first issue record to a digital reproduction. Even when I listen to very expensive drives and D to A's that don't sound offensive. I never get involved. I think to myself, "gee I really gotta clean out that closet".. When I listed to records I'm gone! I forget everything.. And the next thing I know the record is over. And the bump,bump,bump brings me back to hear and now. That's what it's about Garfish. This passion of ours is about perfection, or as close as we can get to it. Why limit yourself to a medium that is decidedly inferior? I don't think that transistors are so bad by the way. They are just not as good as tubes.. Come on Garfish you don't seem like a bad guy.. I'm pulling for you. Let's show the audiophiles up and coming, like the people that Fusilli is recomending a system for, what good hi-fi is all about.. So they are happy and stick with us. We need them... The Snoop.
And carl, We don't need to calm down.. This is an important issue. We are talking about someone willing to invest $30,000 in our dwindling hobby.. I don't want them to make a mistake, and be bitter, and disapointed.. And the differences we are talking about might be the difference in them being glad they got into this, or regret they did. I care about them, and so should you.. Snoop
Hey Snoop,do you actually think that these people will follow the advice we have given here? By your last post, I think you do. If so, that's great- but I wouldn't count on it. If they read these 24 posts (so far), I'm sure the conclusion drawn by them would be "These people are crazed lunatics. That Bose Lifestyle system sure looks good. Hey, what's this? A Wave Radio? Concert sound? Replace all those components? We can have opera in bed!" Advertising does work you know. Paul Harvey can't be wrong! Right? Keep it real yall. Fielden
Fusilli, I suggest you bow out of this responsibility. Your suggested system is not for any true music lover. Its for audiophiles who're more interested in hifi than music. From all the posts here, Snoopdog's the only one with some wisdom, even if he comes across a little arrogant. Unfortunately that type of experience only comes after many years and probably thousands of wasted dollars. He's absolutely correct in his criticism of high end digital, its just wrong and mechanical, but alas we have little choice since most of the music is published on CD. I think you ought to advise your friends to start with a somewhat lower budget until both you and them know what to look for. Go around to some qualified dealers and audition systems suitable to their room size and listening conditions (which we have no idea about). After that, if still necessary, come back with their short list, not yours. rgds, david k.
PS Garfish, you won't learn about real music systems just from reading magazines & books! You're better off not quoting them if you want to be taken seriously. rgds, david k.
Gentlemen, how many live operas have you attended? How many recorded operas have you listened to recently?
I wholeheartedly agree with Fieldman. Whether or not "Snoopdog" is actually the Snoopdog of rap that we might have heard of, I must take issue with him. Regarding vinyl, read my arguments in the thread "CD-vs.-SACD-LP-vs.-DVD". Yes, I love vinyl, and my turntable's platter weighs more than your house, and is made from extra terrestrial technology, using a micro sized black hole suspended in a stasis field around the spindle, for mass loading! The gravity well is murder on the antiskate, though! As for me, I'm happy with my CD player (mostly because it's better than any you've had!), and as long as I don't listen to both formats in the same night, I'm content. You can't possibly expect someone brand new to the highend to become an avid vinyl enthusiast from the getgo, over night. Many out there just aren't suited for the kind of attention to detail and rabid enthusiasm required. It would be like getting a 4 foot tall young woman to loose her virginity to a sasquatch!!!!! I just want to give a shout out to all my homies out da bomb, see ya later. Gots to go turn some of my bitches out...gots to make some mo cash, to purchase some mo solid silver 400 amp power transformers for my estates....
Speakers-B&W 802. Amp- Mark Levinson 335. Preamp- Mark Levinson 380. CD- Mark Levinson #39. Cables- Mogabi
IMHO the Levinson electronics will leave them disappointed. If your friends love opera they would enjoy a trip to the Met in NYC or to San Francisco to hear a live performance or two. With their ears freshened up they could then visit the high end dealers in either city and listen to the stuff suggested above. If they come to the Bay Area I would be happy to show them around. I spent this morning listening to some operas on both vinyl and CD. The majority of the modern recordings of the opera repertoire are on EMI or Decca. Therefore, your listening experience is gated by the preexisting recordings (pace DVD or LD). Each company has a house sound which is very different from each other. Some of the digital remasters are awful. MANY are worse than the vinyl. But, often the vinyl pressings are terrible and the digital remasters good. Keeping your turntable/arm/cartridge/vinyl tweeked is a lot more hassle than replacing tubes. So they should bring their favorite recordings because for opera lovers the performance is usually paramount. Re Feldman45 comments on Sonus Fabers and the lack of importance low bass in opera. NOT if you like Strauss and Wagner. I checked the scores this morning and many of the important themes have fundamentals in the last octave Eflat (38.8 Hz) to G(489). I played the recordings and the Decca CD remasters clearly have these notes. They are on most of the vinyl too. If I was a “Perfect Wagnerite” and dropped $30K but couldn’t get goose bumps off the Wotan Spear motif I’d be REALLY ticked. I choked a pair of Amati Homage’s at my dealer on the Prelude to Act III of Siegfried (Decca, Solti). You should have seen the look on his face when we played the same passage on the Revel’s and Dunlavy’s. If I wanted to listen to Marriage of Figaro in an apartment, Sonus Faber would be fine but way too expensive. I'd get a pair of InnerSound electrostats and a used tube amp. The Flower Song (Dessay on EMI DDD) would leave you speechless and you would have a lot of cash left over. I would stongly recommend at least a tube preamp to help prevent listening fatigue. A tube poweramp would be good too since your friends will want to enjoy 3-6 hour of music and not just contemplate the psychoacoustics of glare. I like ARC and Melos but others swear by CJ. The size of the room and their preferences in opera will most strongly influence their speaker choices. Bottom line, without more info on your friends’ opera listening habits, the SPECIFIC recommendations from all of the lunatics on this thread (including myself) are not actionable. However, the issues discussed by all are real. Remind your friends that $30K (invested at a reasonable rate of return) is about 2 LIVE opera performances a month for five years, for a couple with the best seats in the house.
Hi Snoopdog and DavidK; I do agree with David in that Fusilli has an impossible task. And David.... I quoted no one in my posts. I enjoy reading. Do you read? Carl... humor much appreciated:) Last night I listened to John Lee Hooker (MFSL, gold CD) in a duet with Bonnie Raitt-- when her slide guitar kicked in, it sent shivers up and down my spine.... and I'm feelin' FINE. Thankyou gentlemen.
Gee whiz man, $30,000 ?? After the speakers and say 10 feet of NBS Monitor 1 speaker cable, the money is all gone. Isn't the general rule for audio purchase half the cost of the new mortgage or twice the cost of the family car - whichever is less. I thought I heard that somewhere.
Try to find used Avant Garde Trios, Wavelenght Electronics, Aesthetix phono, Graham arm on any of these (Basis or VPI TNT), Koetsu (model your choice), and if you must have digital a CD-50. This would be a very musical system. The Opera musical weight, staging and voices would be wonderful, but nothing will sound as good as being there in person at the SF War Memorial Opera House. A more sane system (under $15K) might be finding, used Audio Note speakers and an Audio Note integrated and going with the rest. Peter Q(?), Audio Note president, is a big opera fan and voices his audio systems with that in mind. He does have a very serious vinyl opera collection and he knows and loves opera. I don't care for him (can be 1st class jerk), but AN system can sound very good for opera. Put $ savings towards a trip to Italy to see Opera at its best.
My wife is a principal string player in the Minnesota Opera Orchestra . The first system of mine that actually kept her sitting and listening was a Metronome CD/DAC, an AtmaSphere MP1 pre, Atma MA-2's, and SoundLab A3's with Analysis Plus Silver cabling throughout. All gear was purchased very reasonably used on Audiogon in the last six months from several of our fine members. No offense to anyone (I hope), but she wouldn't stay in the same room with any of my solid state gear. We lasted about 45 seconds in a local Mark Levinson showroom. (Hey, don't ping on me, I kinda liked it...) She doesn't care one TINY bit about the look, price or specs of the gear. Not AT ALL. If it doesn't sound close to like it does in the pit, she won't stay on the couch. She'll be up making tea or watering the plants. So Metronome/Atma/SoundLab it is from the string players house. We've spent these poor folks $30k about 50 times.
The sound in the pit is vastly different from the sound the audience gets, or the sound of most recordings. It's good that you let your wife approve your system though, at least if she's going to be listening to it as much as you are. It's only fair.
to ambience; a couple of interesting things in you post re classical music. If you hear a lot live music your equipment preferences vary by where you sit. Several conductors I have talked to swear that only horn loaded speakers sound real. The one time I was near the podium during a recording sound check I could understand why.I personally prefer front of the first balcony. Any instrumentalist can drive you nuts when setting up a system since they usually want it voiced to what they hear whichisn't anyone elses perspective. Finally your experience with your wife parallels my experience with my wife and female friends. My wife who has degrees in physical anthropology has several fairly convincing foornotes on significant enough psychoacoustic differences between male and female to be an issue in assembling a high end system. I'll have to try the Atma's. BTW what does your wife think of analog?
Hey Plsl- thanks for reading my post. It's always good to get feedback from others. I would agree with your assesment of the Amati's, but an Amati is no Extrema. I owned a pair of Extremas in my 25x17x9 listening room and they could shake the floor (yes, even on the stands). A very well-rounded speaker for just about every type of music other than metal. In-room response was -4dB at 31Hz, which I thought was pretty good, considering the superiority of the rest of the frequency range. Cya-Fielden
Fielden, thanks for the correction. This is a good example of the the quality of the advice I got from the dealer. I was quite specific about my music listening needs and the only Sonus Faber he said I should consider was the Amati. If I was cynical perhaps price had something to do with it. I'll have to check out the Extrema. BTW with sound treatment and using the Sigtech DSP, my measured in room response for my Dunlavy V's is down 2db at 20 with a sub sonic cut at 16 which is only of practical use if you own about a hundred organ recordings (which I do)
Yes, Dunlavy V's should do it! DOH! Well, the Extrema is no longer in production. I bought the last new pair in existence in June of '98. Stirling Trayle shipped 'em straight to my door. I sure wish I had kept them, but it was just one of those things. There is actually a pair for sale on for $4700 with stands and including shipping. Looks like a good deal. I found them while searching Mark Levinson, but I'm sure Sonus Faber would do it too. You might check it out. Later, Fielden.
For Plsl: Wouldn't doubt the psychoacoustic factor. Also the purely psychological factor. She listens to the people making the music, not just the sound waves coming out. She will wince in sympathy when she hears someone clam a note. "Oh, they couldn't have been happy with that attack." Heard some Classic Audio Repro horns over at the AtmaSphere shop. UNREAL imaging and sense of space. Would love a pair for classical. UNREAL-ER size; 300 pounds plus apiece. The SoundLabs aren't in-your-face that way. But they let you hear INTO each section. You get a very real sense that there are, for instance, 4 violas in the section rather than hearing a lump of viola sound. She loves analog. We just got a used RPM and a Nitty-Gritty. One of the first things she ever said to me about audio was that "records are the only things that get strings right." I knew I was in love when she came over on the first day I had AtmaSphere amps hooked up. She stopped dead in the hallway before even seeing them and said "Nice sound." We have spent quite a few evenings at the local used LP dive followed by some serious listening. How did this turn from a gear-lust thread into a psychology thread?
So?? What happened Fusilli?? What did you decide to buy or what approach have you decided to take with respect to your friend's system??
How about Soundlab Millenium Ones for the main speakers, Wolcott Presence Amplifier, Thor TA-1000 Pre amp. Magnan cable, Sony SACD as both player and DAC. I believe you may find this a very VERY nice way to go. Good luck and please post a follow up with what it is you do get!