Burning question regarding upgrading paths

Thanks visiting my thread!

While you are here, please ponder on the following queries and answer to the best of your abilities. Each of these questions is designed to upgrade my state of mind. You ability is timed and will be weighted against the answers given by people who are the same age as you.

1) What is the best way to upgrade existing system "A"?
(upgrade=more clarity, dynamics and better soundstage)
(you only have $2000 to allocate)

A= Cal Audio Delta-AQ Emeralds
Meridian 518-Mapleshade ultrathin
Cal Audio Sigma-AQ Emeralds
Aragon 8002-AQ Argent/Midnight double biwire
KEF 103/4
LAT International on all electronic components

A) Upgrade DAC
A dac with tube output is prefered.
B) Purchase preamp
A tube preamp is prefered.
C) Upgrade cable between amp and speaker
Silver cable is prefered.
D) Digital cable
Make me a believer.
E) None of the above
Sell system A and start over
F) I don't care.

2) What is the fundamental utilitarian purpose of Zen Buddhism for the self and for the masses?

A) By fulfilling nature, man is fulfilled.
B) By acceptance of thought, man becomes congruent.
C) By meditating, man negates yin and yan from consciousness.
D) Meditation is good cardiovascular exercise.
E) Zen is derived from aryan caste systems designed to enslave the masses.
F) None of the above. (prove short essay answer?)

Stop, your test is finished.

Thanks for helping me sleep easier,
Okay, I'll play.

1) Answer - G (Upgrade A,B,C,D, by invoking action E and add finances to said $2000 starting bank acount)

2) Answer - F Purpose is to elevate consciousness without the intrusion of selfishness so as to understand godliness and be one with existance...or you could win the lottery.

As you've provided no clock, I timed myself and it took thirty seconds.
1. B
2. A
Great test!
1) E - sell system and start over. it's the process that's fun, not the outcome.
my advice on what to replace it with: only minimalist tube circuits + sensitive speakers will satisfy your zen quest and still allow forays into audio (however, true zen - or just meditation- would probably dictate not engaging in these silly pursuits like artificial sound reproduction in the home)
solid state amps are to be avoided at all costs. go to rock concerts if you want to hear them.
$2,000: give to Afghanis fleeing American bombs.
2) probably A; I'd never heard E before, but it's an interesting theory
Thanks for the quiz!

nice system

your upgrade path is clear to me

(I just recently took the dac plunge and am working on the pre next)

upgrade the Cal sigma to an EVS Millenium II
$1050 - much warmer, smoother, and better imaging and seperation of instruments. I recently did this upgrade (I own Cal too) and wow. sit back and enjoy for a few months (you will be pulling out old discs you were previously bored with, I am)


next upgrade the preamp
many good possibilities there
tube pre will go well with your aragon
Audio Research or Sonic Frontiers are nice

do some tube rolling, enjoy

may be able to forgo the pre switch early
by investing an additional $100 on the Dac and getting
EVS' audioattenuators (vol controlled second outputs) and going directly to the amp (try it and see if it works for you.

evs dac + attenuators $1150 done assuming you only use cd as front end

preamp? spend $1500-2000 a year from now used on audiogon
Question 1) B - get yourself a good preamp.

Question 2) F - none of the above. however, you may satisfy both questions by actually upgrading the speaker cable instead of getting a preamp, as long as you buy acoustic zen, of course (they do have a mostly silver cable). actually, the proper answer to question 2 is probably, "no,' since the question itself violates a few zen principles.

this took me 26 years, 6 months, 20 days, 5 hours, 53 minutes, 27 seconds to complete.
1)low mass/rapid dissipation support($100-$500) & new music to listen to(remainder of budget)
2)I don't care
I hate to become a cheering section for specific brands, etc... but i have to second Audiotomb's recommendation of the EVS Millennium II. I have CAL Alpha's, Sigma's, 18 bit and 24 bit versions, etc.. and think that there is NO comparison. It will amaze you how good this DAC is for the money. All the smoothness, warmth, body, air, soundstage, etc.. of tubes with the speed and clarity of SS. Ric can even build you one with several volts of output without using an extra gain stage AND include his "Ultimate Attenuators" ( passive volume controls ). This would give you the increased drive level that you might be looking for, added versatility of volume controls AND give you the best DAC that you'll get for anywhere near the price. Sean
1 - Start over. I am in the middle of this answer right now. The desire to sit and listen has become a central part of our lives again. We have dusted off parts of the library that have been untouched for years.

2 - Beginner's mind is an elusive state. Peace and balance in life are difficult in our new world. I think that a majority of modern Western society practicing Zen miss the point and fall into the trap of escapism.
I. You might want to try one of the Rogue tube preamps.

II. I think the main purpose behind Zen Buddhism is to take people`s eyes off Jesus and what He did for us on the cross and to put our eyes on ourselves instead.
Hey there,

My summary is this:

1) People here love EVS Millennium and hate my system!

I checked out EVS a few months ago on the tweakaudio website. This website gives more tips on tweaks than anyone actually needs. Regarinding what I learned about the DAC, it sure seems to have all the best components available. However, that thing looks hideous. It would ruin my aesthetic decor in my living room. = X

2) People here care more about Afghanistan refugees than they do about my sanity!

How do I know my money is used to help the refugees? What they really need are a few anti-missle missles. I have a friend that is volunteering with the UN's relief efforts. This dainty girl is going to Afghanistan while we are talking about stereos and zen. = L

3) People either think Zen is be one with nature/unknown to elevate one-self from "huh??", or the questioning of Zen is "inherently wrong." However, the question is designed to derive a utilitarian function of Zen, not a better understanding of Zen's principles. IE. The benefit of ABS rather than how it works.
1 E 2 F
Really, those EVS are really ugly. It looks like those 10 year old PS Audio dacs with a white dove on the front face that looks like something that is out of the 60's. Maybe I can glue on a Sonic Frontier face plate to the front of the EVS chasis.

The tweak audio site really has some nifty tweaks. But they are all way over my head. I don't know how to solder. I don't think I want to negate my speaker's cross over apart so I can directly bare wire all the connections. Nor do I wanna freeze my discs.

I've learned a great deal from these posts I've read online, mainly on Audiogon. I've read quite a few posts on audioreview.com as well. But, I've noticed I am quite shallow with the way I read a reviews. I first look at the equipment they have to judge whether they know what they are talking about. For example, I would trust a person that uses high end gear than the circuit city/radio shack shopper.

Speaking of trusting reviews, recently I've been reading nothing but glowing reviews about EVS, Rogue and BlueCircle. And this doesn't sit well with me, not just because they fill my heart with desire, but mainly because I've made an online purchase before based on glowing reviews. And it turned out to be a bust. Good thing this product is only a $75 "silver snake" digital cable. (I am a poor student, so I have to look out for good deals.)

Ok, you are probably thinking, big deal, maybe this cable just doesnt have synergy in my system, or it's user error. This certain cable company, "not the good, not the best, but shall remain nameless cable.com company," emailed me after my purchase and said if I submitted a positive review and send them a copy of my review to prove I did write it, then they will send me a mouse pad. I felt like an absolute sucker after I received this email.

This cable in question sounds better than most mass market stuff under $50 bucks I've heard. But it is no giant killer as the reviews claim them to be. I have replaced this digital "snake cord" cable with a single run of AQ emerald, and it sounds much much better. And emeralds are not even 75ohm digital cables (i am using it between the trans and meridian 518.)

Regarding upgrades, I am inquiring about the AQ Sterling single bi-wired cables that is for sale on this site. I've emailed the seller but haven't received a reply yet. The Sterlings are big improvements on the Argent/Midnights, no? But this guy is offering a killer price of $200 for a 6ft pair, granted they are not factory terminated. So he probably sold them already, (I emailed him at 7am today too!)

Anyhow, I feel the zen question is a bust. I wanted to learn more about applied Zen, instead, most people are telling me more about principles of zen. Yes, Lao Tze and all the Taoists, Zen monks all agree that the Zen, the Tao, the Mahayana, the Shuyanta, can only be experienced and not explained. I am not seeking enlightenment through eastern philosophy.

I am quite the western philosophy-phile if there is such a thing, therefore, I am putting Zen on the hot seat and see what good Zen actually is. As Keikegaard or any existentialist would say, good philosophy are those that are practiced with a leap of faith. There are numerous philosophers whose basic tenants serve a variety of utilitarian needs such where society can benefit as a whole.

Upgrading myself by doing calc hw now, take care,


I wasn't bashing your system at all

Just suggesting that the EVS upgrade will blow your mind,
I did the same thing from Cal and Cal is heads and shoulders above most of the rest.

The EVS ugly. If you are looking at the website that picture is very deceptive. It actually is a very nice looking piece and smaller than I expected it to be, the brushed metal has a nice look to it not captured on the website. As for tweaks, I don't do many myself either, I just enjoy the music

Hey Tom,

I didn't think you were bashing my system at all. In fact, I think the your suggestion of the EVS is a practical step up since the EVS isn't expensive and suits my system's configuration to a T. If there is any reason for me sounding as if I was being abashed, it was because I felt people misinterpreted the context of my Zen quiz.

In my previous post, I was merely sharing my opinion of the tweakaudio site, not the actual component itself since I never had the pleasure of auditioning one (nor has anyone before they purchased it, I assume.)

BTW, the tweakaudio site explains the EVS uses mosfet output stage instead of op-amps. Since mosfets are used in amps and preamps, mosfets must provide a higher current than op-amps(I don't know what I am talkin about but read along,)and this will allow the amp to receive a stronger signal. So the sound coming out of the amp should have more dynamic range and gobs more bass compared to sound coming out of the amp when a op-amp is feeding it.

yes the EVS does fit your system to a t
just like it did mine

I'm pleasantly rediscovering many of the 800 plus cd's I own, some I thought were duds are now quite engaging

I think the Millenium II has upgraded the output stages
from an earlier cost constrained version on the Mill I

The piece looks nice, I was pleasantly surprised
Hell I'd still never part with it even if it was hideous looking.

1) Depends on 2
2) MU
Dlr- Huh?!?
Mes, in your response to question #2 [MU], are you making a reference to the Japanese concept of emptiness? If so, I will try to expand on that suggestion.

Viggen, I think a viable path for you to take is the way of the Shugyosha. This would allow you to seek enlightenment for both of your questions while on a single journey.

Roughly 300-500 years ago in feudal Japan people from various backgrounds would embark on spiritual treks with the goal of finding the state of "emptiness" or "mu". Priests, swordsmen, caligraphers, tea masters, etc. followed this path. Many warriors would roam the land, training themselves and engaging in all manners of duels. The famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi participated in over 60 duels from the age of 13 to 29 and never lost. It wasn't until he was in his mid-50s did he think he had become enlightened in the way of the sword.

Therefore, my answers would be 1) E, and 2) F.

As many Shugyo have done in the past, and even as the great Buddha himself did... Viggen, I feel you should cast aside your current music system and all your conceptions of the ideal setup, then wander the world listening and enjoying music in as many hifi salons as you can. When you feel it would advance you to a higher state, you should challenge the masters of appropriate stereo shops to aural duels to the death.

Only after facing death and emerging victorious many times will you be able to enter aural combat unfettered and in the state of MU. Without fear, anger, hate, or a preconception of the outcome is the realm of emptiness. Then one day you will find YOUR way, YOUR ideal music system, and you will know it without doubt.

Just make sure you don't go over board like Musashi and bath on occasion. Bopping around in feudal Japan smelling like a rancid goat may have been OK, but this is the 21st century and hifi dealers may not allow you to enter their audio temples if you haven't bathed in a few years.

For those who wish to learn more about these deranged hybrid concepts, I would suggest reading Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings [Go Rin No Sho] simultaneously with the works of Arthur Salvatore the Audio Critique.
Hey Gunbei,

Great response!

It is indeed my wish to partake in a journey.

First, in regards to Mes' response, I have no idea what "dlr" means. However, as Gunbei pointed out, Mu is the concept of emptiness, according to the Dogan school, I think. I am not familiar with Japanese Zen, however, I believe the concept of Mu is derived from the Daoist Wu Wei, and Wu Wei is derived from the Hindu/Buddhist Sunyata. I can be wrong.

Also, as his response points out, the answer to part A is totally related to how one answers part B:

A) Since quality is subjective, should we tune our taste to our existing system accordingly to achieve audio nirvana or,
B) Does audio nirvana arrive only after achieving system synergy?

Back to Gunbei's response, and I do feel his response is a good one if I haven't mentioned it already, eventhough the analogies can be a little contrived. First I want to establish and understanding of he concept of Mu, and I shall use concepts of other disciplines to do so since I know jack sh*t about Japanese philosophy.

The earliest derivation Mu is perhaps Heracletian philosophy where everything in the world is relating and static. He perhaps thought since everything is relative, there are isn't anything that is eternal. In other words, the only truth is "nothingness."

Alexander the Great's conquests which was about 300bc. This is important because perhaps Hercacletian ideologies were spead into Asia through this channel. About 300ad, Nagarjuna thought every human proposition is a contradiction, and the only truth is nothingness.

After the fall of Qin dynasty, Buddhist monks trekked to China and gave the Chinese very bad translation of sutras. During this depressing Chinese medieval age, people thought relief by practicing Buddhism, but they have no previous concept of sunyata, so they adopted Daoist concepts of wu wei in place of sunyata in trying to understand Indian sutras.

Wu wei isn't nothingness as expressed by Heraclitus and Nagarjuna, but it is they way of the Dao, the natural way, the way of spontaneity, non-interference, simplicity and so on and so forth. However, as described in the Dao Teh Jing, the Dao that is named is not the Dao. To make a long story short, to live the Dao you have to be one with the Dao and to be one with the Dao you have to be no-name or no-being or no-thing, nothingness.

Zen, not saying is a concept derived from Daoism and Buddhism, yet it probably borrowed its beliefs from them. As I am writing this, I think Zen have more similarity with European philosophies as well, such as phenomenology and existentialism. I am too tired to explain this, I didn't sleep lastnite. As you know I started this thread because I can't sleep: I have insomnia.

Anyhow, Mu is the concept of this:
1) Nothing is the only eternal truth.
2) The only way to understand Mu is to experience it through personal experience, or as close to it as possible, such as the phenomonologist or existentialist.

What does all this mean? Man does not go off in search of nothingness. The nothingness comes in search of him.

The nothing is personified as the journeyman, the missionaryman, the jingoist, the thing that claims to be the everything by being itself, the nothing. It is an component of the main idea from where it is derived, and it is the component of the main idea where it gives birth to its origin.

It is the nothingness that carries the sword and consumes his enemies with the purity of his mundacity.

It is not I who must find my way, but it is my way that must find me.

But does this mean I will never upgrade? Hellz Nah!!
Gunbei:You're adding legs to a snake.
Viggen, the exploits of Alexander The Great interest me immensely. I never realized such a connection existed to the Far East. Kind of a "6 degrees of Alexander of Macedonia"? It doesn't surprise me though, all these ideas seem to have universal appeal.

Mes, are you saying I'm altering or accelerating the priniciples of Charles Darwin? Cool! So by unsampling and increasing the word length of digital signals with new and improved DACs are we trying to add vinyl legs to CDs? Hahah! Everytime I get a new piece of gear to try out, I can feel extra appendages sprouting from my body.

Viggen, it's all about the journey man! Have fun!
Gunbei - right on, man. I'm one half of a consulting firm dubbed 'Five Rings Consulting.' It's amazing how relevant that stuff is to modern business. Not a bad idea to wipe the slate clean system-wise either...except, I'm starting to shake and cry thinking about it.
Five Rings Consulting? What are the five rings? Five rings of hell from Danta's Inferno? Well that's 9..
Viggen - check out the book. It's a quick read. As a quick oversimplification: having a flexible repertory is good. In different types of battle situations, you want to be like fire, or like water, etc. Same is true in work (not to mention in life in general); different fundamental tactics are called for with different people, etc. Anyway, it's just a name, and there's much more to our philosophy, but it hopefully sounds intriguing...
Oh you and Gunbei we're talkin about the same 5 rings. I thought you actually do belong to some corporate consultation called 5 rings. I gotcha. This 5 rings character sounds alarmingly similar to the famous Chinese "Swen Tze Bin Fah." Excuse the spelling, but I am terrible at pingying. Anyways, the synopsis of the Bin Fah, which means battle tactics: cool as forest, impatient as wind, fast as fire, no-movement like mountian.
Oh, I did some research. It was "the art of war" by Sun Tzu, which was written about 500 BC.
Yes, we were talking about the same five rings. Also, my partner and I named our company after the book.
1. Buy a Supratek Syrah preamp, save for a better amp.
2. "utilitarian": chop wood, carry water.
"utilitarian" and non-utilitarian: (silence)
I'm skipping the questions. I believe that you have to have quality power and your room treated, before you will ever be able to hear the real sonic differences of gear and cables.
Start over, reformulation, start from foundation, structural and philosophical purity....

All components connected to Rotel AC filter via LAT AC2 power cord.
1)Sell the preamp. Go direct.
2)Go direct. Sell the preamp: "..."
6chac, how do you do that when I have an integrated amp now? And, nope, it doesn't have a bypass function or direct inputs to the amp section. BTW, I never had a preamp: the dac went straight into the amp. But, I see what you mean. It doesn't matter how you go about what you want to accomplish as long as you get it. A very round about way yet straight to the point at the same time. Gotcha.
Your mind is seeking salvation through the the pursuit of material forms(audio gear)which can never give you true joy or peace just a moment of happiness which will quickly pass away. "Do not attach yourself to earthly things that moth and rust will consume or thieves will conspire to steal".Therefore throw your system out the window,and go to more concerts for the joy of experiencing music.
p.s.Allow yourself the pleasure of buying a modest set-up w/no upgradable path,you will then sleep easier!
Viggen, when you mentioned you'd read Go Rin No Sho when we were doing the cable comparo at your place, I had totally forgotten about this thread and the discussion that took place almost a year ago.

How about this one...

"True refinement seeks simplicity." - Bruce Lee

...or is that 6chac?

But who am I to say, I have all sorts of cables and components interweaved in my room.
Joeavid, what tubes are you rolling in your LS16 now? I got the CA50, and I am thinking about upgrading the signal tubes, currently using the stock sovteks. Also, the CD3 is a huge step up from the Alpha? What transport did you use when you had the Alpha? Also, I've actually been contemplating on selling my entire system and downsize to a monitor, integrated cd and amp. This will be easier incase "thieves like us" decide to "detach" me from my system.

Gunbei, go rin ro sho is the 5 rings? Yup, I told you someone on agon turned me on to that book. And, it was you ALL ALONG!
Viggen at some point maybe ,maybe not, you will see as I have that all the tube rolling,cd upgrading and so on are,as I said an illusionary attachment to forms which will only please you for a very short time.No one on this site can argue that we all experienced at some time a need to try to upgrade to a system that will provide more of a better sound or more detail or whatever you wish to call it ,and that this need is for alot of us never ending.It is ok to play with this hobby but when it becomes an obsessive craving ,it starts to take over your life.I am not saying that this is the case with you Viggen,but since you interweaved Zen Buddism with your desire to upgrade I thought that a truly honest answer was due.I am trying to get to the point of my suggestion to you,because I truly feel it is the one way to peace. Of course I have been down the same path with gear and sounds etc.but I honestly don't find it to be as essential.This is all starting to sound like philosophy 101 but there is an essential truth involved,and it encompasses all of life not just our particular hobby.
p.s.The quote" "Do not attach yourself to earthly things that moth and rust will consume or thieves will conspire to steal" is from JC.It was not a personal attack but you seemed to have taken it as such.
Yeah, Bro.

GO [five]
RIN [rings, spheres, circles]
NO [denotes possessive]
SHO [book]

That's about the limit of my Buddhahead speak.
Joe, which school of philosophy are you concerning yourself with in regards to illusionary attachments? When you mention "forms", I sort of think you are referring to the forms by Aristotle. But, you've mentioned Zen Buddhism too. I am sort of confused. You see, Aristotle is teological, in that every object in this world has a final goal. This means, the final goal of metal is to form my CA50 just to keep me happy. But then, Zen Buddhism's own teology is to find Satori, literally where truth is found in emptiness, but I emphatically think it means truth free from adulteration of non-truths. So, we are assuming that stereos and other "forms" or "illusionary" objects are non-truths that adulterate the real truth, satori, in the realm of zen buddhism. So, to make this short, what tubes did you find ephmeral enlightnment with your LS16? And, who is JC? The Ongaku master, JC Audio? BTW, my insomnia has nothing to do with my audiophelia. This post was originally made to answer some burning questions and to waste time while I couldn't sleep.
Forms are everything that exist materially in this world.I think modern physics has at least challenged if not proven Aristotle's teological dictum that "every object in this world has a final goal".Every object which appears to be solid is in actuality in constant flux,everything around us is in constant motion,there is no permanence or final goal unless of course you concede that all will eventually turn to nothingness,which will unfortunately include your beloved CA50 ,but you probably won't be around to see it's demise. I too have enjoyed the sonic pleasures of the CA50, but found that my insane desire to upgrade led me to sell it a ,foolish me. To answer your tube rolling question on the ls16 I tried only twice to change tubes .The first time was with NOS Siemens ,sounded a bit better but became too noisy after 2 weeks sent them back.Second time was with Telsa's new stock,after a month switched back to the Sovteks.I went back to the wisdom of the manufacturer,if you will,and the ls sounds just fine.The JC I refer to is Jesus Christ.
Oh my God!! Someone actually mentioned JC on a thread. I've been keeping a watch out for awhile now, interspersing a little JC/Gautama fusion and no bites. Joe, you get my annual award for brass ones.

Stereo sound good, me enjoy. Stereo gone, catch in fire, take a walk, pretty leaves.

Don't be attached to form; don't be attached to no-form.

Listen to the Music.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is all around but men do not see."

Viggen, tube rolling is good, and no offense to your ears, which I am thinking are quite good, but for that reason, please try a Supratek Chardonnay line stage. See thread here. I think you would "see" it (no, not heaven-in-one-sight, just a value-laden slice of beauty).

You too, Joe.
Joe, a kowtow to you. :-)