Looking for $20k system for Mahler No 6

Hi guys

I'm looking for $20k system that will do justice for Mahler Symphony No 6, Tchaikovsky 1812 overture, and Rimsky's Easter Overture.
I have already good systems for chamber music, solos, vocals, etc.

Any opinions will be appreciated.
The listening room is about 400 sq ft.

What components are included in the $20K? New or used?

I wouldn't mind either new or used, and I am not a big believer of cable/tweak, so $20K will mostly be distributed to source/amp/speakers. Probably I will invest 1:2:3, so $10K on speaker, $7K amps and $3k source. Thus I posted this question in speakers forum. I personally believe that speakers will matter most especially on large scale music like Mahler 6.

But anyway, as I said, any opinions are welcome and appreciated.

I think the frequency response of the speakers will have to be fairly good at 40Hz, maybe below for the "hammer" and bells. I think I would start there; reviewing the various graphs in Stereophile, UHF etc.
you should try the clayton amps. They are awesome and will give you the sound that everyone loves from tubes and the reliability of solid state.
I assume you are looking for dynamic speakers that will not sound congested but will remain effortless on Mahlers 6th, in which case I would suggest a bigger Active ATC. If you have systems already for chamber music and vocals then simply use the source and preamp from this setup and use the active speakers with built in amp packs. I have seen some used ATC SCM 150's for sale for less than 20K on audiogon. Just be aware that these may overpower a 20 by 20 foot room....but at least you won't be limited in SPL or dynamics...I can assure you that you will still have plenty of headroom even at deafening levels. (ATC's main feature is effortless "Hi-fi" sound at very loud and dynamic levels with extremely low distortion...think audiophile quality sound at SPL's where other good sounding speakers would have long been blown up)
My blatantly biased suggestion...

Speakers - Dynaudio C4's ($9K used)
Amp - Plinius SA 102 ($2.8K used)
Pre - Aesthetix Calypso... w/good NOS tubes ($3.3K used)
Digital - choose from Audio Aero, Esoteric, Accuphase, Ayre ($4K used)
Room Treatments from GIK Acoustics ($1K new)

I have no affiliation with any of these companies... just a happy customer.

The C4's really are great with large scale orchestral. Your room should be large enough to accomodate them, but I strongly recommend adding room treatments (bass traps & panels), as I recently found out they make a huge difference for very little money.
Well when you check out my system you will see I am highly biased when I pick the following components. But I listen to lots of classical and it sounds nice on my system, and I would think this would do it for you. All these but the Krell are in the used forums now, that Krell amp comes up fairly often.
Esoteric X-03SE 4100.00
Ayre K-1XE 4400.00 OBO
Krell FPB 600 (around $5.5K used)
Thiel CS7.2 5500.00 OBO
Anyway we all know what opinions are like, and this is mine. I would find every shop within reason of where you live and start auditioning everything you can. Have fun.

I would start with room treatments first. Otherwise, you are simply trying to fight the laws of Physics (or acoustics, more accurately). Room modes, peaks, etc. will significantly degrade the performance of even the greatest components.

Have Rives Audio do a room analysis and design. Then, the sound from $5k system will be more accurate than a $20k system in an untreated room.
A Different Approach For Your Consideration:

QSonix Server (Audiogon Demo) $3400
Salk Sound HT3 w/Deqx room correction & 3 way digital X-over $8500
2 units Wyred 3 channel x125 watt ice power amp $4000

Total $15,900

You have some change left over for finish upgrades on the HT3 or dinner out.

I haven't heard this system, but anyone starting from scratch with your budget should probably (at a minimum) investigate the Deqx/Tact/Lyngdorf approach. The speakers and amps liisted here are illustrative of this approach - you may prefer other examples of the species which fit your budget.

OTOH I have heard the QSonix which has a knock out user interface - Mahler and every other CD you own easily accessible via touch screen from a hard drive which, in many camps, is the prefered transport. It certainly sounded very good on demo at my local dealer. Enough so that I am awaiting delivery of my new QSonix server.

Good Luck

Ok, you said you welcome opinions, so here's one that's very direct:

With your plan you will spend $20k to achieve closer to $10k sound. You make a fundamental mistake by equating cabling with tweaks. Cables are legitimate components in today's rigs. You should not overlook cabling from the power cord to speakers. If you do, you will choke the entire system's performance. You would be wise to set an amount, maybe 15% of the budget for cabling. Your money.

If you don't believe it, once you're set up with your $20k of components and speakers with stock cords, replace the power cord on your cdp with a decent upgraded cord (Try, say, a mid-line Harmonic Technology PC, which I've used in the past; at used price this is a fairly trivial expense considering the price of the rig). If you don't hear the distinction clearly, then cable changes won't we worth it to you. If you do hear a distinction, you blew it on your plan because changing out the cabling on the entire rig will transform the sound, but maybe you'll have enough money to rectify it.
For realistically portray the grand orchestra of Mahler, and the dynamic changes of his music you may need a speaker with at least 10 inch, better 12inch, woofer, and appropriate midrange driver and very good tweeter. Such a loudspeaker is not cheap, and plus you need an amplifier which probably cost as much as the speaker set. Plus cabling, appropriate sources, the usual tweaks,etc and you are well beyond the targeted 20K. Within that cash limit, the best possible solution is a used ATC 150 Active speaker. It is incredible dynamic and detailed loudspeaker. To my taste, it is tonally a bit cooler sounding speaker compared to what is my perception of classical music tonally. But I heard it only at my friend, so dont know to what degree that tonality is due to room acoustics or to the Meitner dac.

I know the theory behind cable and I know there are people who tell the difference that cables will bring, but I am blessed I cannot tell the difference. I did blind-test with well-known local audiophiles a few years ago, most of us picked cheapest electric power cable as the best speaker cable, since then I stopped investing on cables.

Yes cables matter, but not to me. So I don't need to spend money on them.
Sigh. We're kidding ourselves. I too have a $20K system (mostly used prices) and I thought my sound was damn good but then this past weekend I heard the Scaena loudspeakers (smaller $44k+ version) with a Nova Physics Memory Player; amp was a ARS Emitter. When I got home and turned my system on I got very depressed. What's mine you ask?

FULLY BALANCED: Raysonic 168 with cryoed NOS Russians, Herbies Tube Dampeners siting on a sandwhich of large ER Audio Harmonizers with Machina Dynamic Springs. PC is a Morrow Audio MA 2.

Speakers are Magnepan 3.5Rs biamped with Wyred4Sound SX 500s and PS Audio GCC 250 (Level 2 Underwood HiFi mod) on the ribbons & a 500 wpc powered SVS sub. All running through an active XO. Speaker cables are Shotgun Clear Day Solid Core Silver. Interconnects a mix of DH Labs Revelation, and PS Audio Transcendent Silver. Electric is 20 amp dedicated line and PS Audio Premier Power Plant.

Alas, it might as well have been a table-top transistor radio. The good news is that a couple days later, it sounded good again, that is after I repositioned both the 3.5s and the sub- but still...

Hi Tweak1

I know what you said and I feel for you. Let me tell you my story a little bit if that makes you happier.

I have been in this hobby for about 25 years and about 5-7 years ago when I got a decent new job, I started spending buckets of money on audios. After using all-Krell all-Mark all-blahblah-$$$ systems, I wasn't still happy.

One day, while my audios were singing I went to the bathroom with door open (yes I was the only resident in my place), alas the music sounded like music, no more a spectrum of sound. I heard music.

What I realized was that there will be no end to this audiophile hobby as long as I remain anal and seek for best sound. There simply is no answer - I realized.

After that, I now even enjoy music from Bose wave system. I finally became a music lover.

But I sometimes want to try different types of speakers (I do not care much about electronics any more), so I have planar, bookshelf, single-driver, etc.

I gave up large-scale music like Mahler 6th, and enjoyed those with headphones. Soundstaging and body trembling air pressure are missing, but headphones do very good at large scale musci since there are simply no standing waves and intereference of sounds.

Now I purchased new home, with bunch of place I can use as listening space (yes I am still the only resident in my place), I will set different types of speakers for different types of music and will enjoy the differences.

The only thing I want to achieve is though to play Mahler 6th. I will set up some room tunes and acoustic treatment for that.

Hope I can accomplish this, but even I fail, I now enjoy life out of audios, so it's fine. I still have music.

Since you already have a system,maybe different speakers are in order.Possibly the Zingali 215-high efficiency horn with dual 15"s.Fiddling with other system parameters as needed.
I love large-scale classical (and the Mahler 6). Here's a basic system that should give you everything you desire (including natural timbres from top to bottom):

Marantz SA11-S2 SACD/CD ~$3500 new (may be hard to find used right now)

Cary SLP-05 preamp (~$4500 used)

Cary CAD-211 monoblocks (~$8000 used)

Vandersteen Quattro speakers (~$4500 used)

Run everything balanced (oops - didn't include cables in cost).

I have this set-up except I have Vandy 3A Sigs - the Quattro's are too big for my small room).
DH, Ok, you've done your test; go get your dream system! :)

03-18-08: Optarchie
you should try the clayton amps.
How does one audition these? I've contacted the distributor, who referred me to a local dealer. Thus far neither has any amps to demo.

I have also placed a wanted ad seeking an audition of M200 monos. Not a peep.

If they aren't available to audition, then Clayton isn't going to sell many...IMO.

On the other hand, only three weeks after contacting a Pass Labs dealer I had a brand new XA-30.5 in my home for a 30 day trial.
Hire an Eastern European orchestra to perform it for you for $10K. Naked for $15K.

Seriously, if you want such a system, go for it, no class envy here. However, some of my most intense listening experiences have been mono recordings and early stereo recordings. I could save you a lot of time and money if you would believe that it is the performance that ultimately gives the tingles, not necessarily the reproduction. 'Nuff said.
Jdaniell3, it is not a nice thing to make joke about people who live in unfortunate regions of the world.
DH – just messing with you but

I am blessed I cannot tell the difference. [between different cables]


I did blind-test with well-known local audiophiles a few years ago, most of us picked cheapest electric power cable as the best speaker cable,

That means you can tell the difference, you just happen to prefer the less expensive cables. It was still a preference no? MSRP does not always determine the better product.

Reason I am saying this is because you seem to be looking for a system that can flesh out detail and still be very dynamic. Depending on the equipment you use, some cables may have properties that will result in phase anomalies and high frequency roll off. And it has nothing to do with you abilities or disabilities. Capacitance rolls of high frequencies and once gone, it’s gone, and no speaker or amp will bring it back (nor should they for that matter).

Ajahu, please. Eastern European orchestras are among the best in the world, and know their Mahler. They are also among the last to put music before money. For now. No need to pound your scandalized bosom, the above was my only point.

Your observation was very sharp. You are probably right, I can tell the difference, maybe I just liked cheapest one among specific number of cables we used at that moment.
But, my reasoning was that it seemed like random. If I do blind-test again, I don't know which one I will pick.

So let me restate my story like this:
I agree that cables make big difference to the sound, and I understand the importance of the cable as a component. And probably my ears are sensitive enough to pick up the subtle difference cables are bringing.
However, my experience tells me that to me it is not always that "the more expensive the cable is, the better".

So, please anyone willing to help me out finding a set of audios for Mahler 6th, rule out the cables for now, I will invest on them later.

But again, suggestion for cables is also very welcome. I got nothing to lose for listening to fellow audiophiles opinions. The final decision will always be mine.


Jdaniell3, I made my comment related to the second part of your contribution, in which you suggested to pay more for them to play naked. I think that was a highly inappropriate and unethical suggestion. I would like to call your attention to recent scandals, when some wanted to see other people naked without paying for it, like US military persons in Abu Graihb prison, or for payment, like the governor of New York State. I think you really should care more about yourself and think over why you come to the point to suggest such a unethical thing to an unknown person. My friendly advice, that you consult your wife and seek professional aid to find out why you made this shameful suggestion.
DH, you mention you have tried a number of different architectures when it comes to audio. Have you ever tried horn loaded speakers?

Horn loaded speaker have sonic signature that may be what will float your boat when it comes to Mahler and Tchaikovsky. I have just taken possession of a pair of 6’ double mouthed back loaded horns that sound phenomenal – I have not listened to 1812, but Swan Lake sounds out of this world.

Just a thought.

Good luck
My my Ajahu, your *are* scandalized. The "naked" comment was metaphor for fetish, as I believe that--beyond a certain point-- spending so much on stereo equipment becomes fetish, nothing more.

Perhaps if English is your second language, it didn't come across as I intended--as a statement too absurd to be taken seriously. I will, however, consult my boyfriend as you request.


Yes I tried horn loaded ones, not many of them but some, mostly back-loaded single-driver structure. The drivers were Lowther, Diatone, etc.
I heard also about nice dynamics from horn-loaded speakers when implemented correctly, but I don't know why I didn't get good result. Maybe they were too small? Biggest back-loaded horn I used was about 40" high, 12" wide, 20" deep.

I sure will look into horn approach.

Thank you again.

Eggleston Works.

Look for used Andras II in the $9k-12k range($20k new). Shipping will be a bear because they weigh 210lbs apiece. You'll need lots of ultra high quality power to drive them effortlessly. You also want to check out their new $13k "The Nines".