Chapman Audio recommitment
In 2008 I posted my impressions and delight with the Chapman Audio T-77SE's I acquired from Douglas Schroeder. Douglas and Stuart Jones collaborated on the design that became the prototype for the original T-9. At the time. I wrote that I did not foresee them leaving my listening room. I was wrong, twice. In 2015 we moved 2.2 miles and they landed in a dedicated room. Mojo Audio Deja Vu server and Illuminati power supply, Exogal Comet+ DAC, Clayton M-300 mono's, Schitt Freya-Psvane tubes pre, 14 panels of this and that from GIK, and all new cabling form Grover Huffman followed them into the room with wonderful effect. Life was good. The 20x15 room is 3/4 underground and on the opposite end of the house from the bedrooms-80dB average does not disturb my sleeping beauty-all the homes are on at least an acre so no worries about neighbors, I'm retired so no concern about getting to bed at any time. Listening sessions often extended to 2-3 am or later. And then . . .
Last fall I started chasing an intermittent faint buzzing sound. Was it the slatted wood closet doors? Nope. The bladed metal shades? Nope. The Freya case? Nope. Nope. Nope. Well I'll be; its coming from one of the cabinets. Stripped the sock off, tightened everything, assured that the cone dust covers and surrounds were OK; flipped them over to make sure the Black Diamond cones were tight-nada-there it is again. Here and gone. Maddening. What now? I wonder if Chapman Audio and Stuart are still around? You can probably predict where this is going. A few phone calls and a green light from me to do whatever he wanted to them and they were on their way from Albuquerque to Vashon Island.
What he wanted was to replace all the drivers, design and build a new crossover with custom bits from Mundorf and Dueland, re-port and add bracing to the cabinets, rewire with proprietary cry'od wire, add Cardas binding posts, trim pots for the tweeters and mids, and a damping switch for the woofers, refinish the cabinets and replace the socks. He then spent a couple of month fine tuning and dialing in the sound. They came back about three weeks ago. Stuart and his lovely wife Eve personally delivered them, with Stuart and I spending over 8 hours making little trim and minute placement changes until they disappeared. A wide, tall, deeply layered soundstage with buttery smooth frequency response from hefty bass to airy highs was all that remained. Timbre and tone are spot on, startling dynamic swings present, surprising nuanced artifacts revealing themselves, nice kick drum punch; and the voices. Oh my, the emotion expressed is almost too intimate at times. The individual players are more distinct and their interplay, especially on improvisational jazz, is more obvious while the 'whole" is more integrated and coherent. Well performed and recorded music is exquisite, less of either or both remains musical and less objectionable.
Stuart brought along an armload of cables, power conditioning, Furuteck goodies, Herbie's tube dampers, and other tweaks. Nearly everything placed before the Chapman's yielded a positive change in sound quality. Plug everything into a Furman strip that's plugged into an Audience conditioner and I learn my electric service is quite noisy. Black Cat Coppertone, then Audioquest Robin Hood, then Thunderbird speaker cables each enhanced the soundstage until we were enveloped by musicians and music. I kept the Audience. Perfectly happy with my Huffman cabling at a fraction of the cost. However, I know that if I choose to pull the trigger down the road, better sound is available. I'm certain that's true of everything between the outlet and the output. A fancier preamp, newer DAC-the Mojo EVO are stunning-dedicated lines. I predict all those are more likely to happen than the Chapman's leaving. I've now had them for over 13 years. I've auditioned dozens of speakers from least expensive Vandersteen Treos to Sonus Faber Lilium and Magico M3 on the pricier end. Yup, I was wowed by some of then, nearly all of them for that matter, and thought my head and ears might make a turn. The Joseph Audio Pearls and Vandy Kento could also be endgame speakers for me when price and performance are balanced. Another 13 years puts me in my 80's. What are the chances I'll be yearning for a speaker upgrade? Fat and slim, especially given how much Stuart and I enjoyed getting to know each other throughout this process and his intention to return every couple of years to revisit and perhaps re-tune the speakers to my declining hearing. I'm getting too old to haul them up and down the stairs to boot.
Any disappointments? Yes, for a moment. When I asked if mine were equivalent to his latest T-9 Mark II, he said no. He went on to say they surpass the T-9 and will now serve as a custom reference available at a premium price beyond the T-9. I am declaring an enduring commitment to the Chapmans. I believe I will go out the door feet first before the Chapmans leave.