Pro vs. Consumer Equipment


One of the best set-ups I ever heard was a Crown preamp feeding a McIntosh amp driving a custom built cabinet featuring JBL professional speakers. I've also read quite a bit about professional cables being a lot less expensive and just as good as consumer cables. Earlier today, D911 posted a thread on the professional ART SL-1 power amp.

Across the board, these professional solutions seem to be very high quality at a much lower price point than the consumer equipment. So what's your experience? How many of you are running professional equipment in your set-ups? What are some great recommendations? Does this work better with some kinds of music than with others? Thanks in advance.
ozfly
I use to run a Crown Pre with SAE Power years ago. I still think this system had more depth than some other amp set-ups I have had since. It was a little grainy and very unforgiving of peakiness. It did not like Dynvector cartridges at all. In this set-up I also had a Revoxx A77 reel.

Some friends of mine on the West coast swear by JBL pro drivers combined with old Macs. I don't know whether they are sold state or tube Macs. There is a rightness to them when they are set up correctly. The same has been true with old Klipschorns.
Professional poweramps usually great at higher than home volumes. Class D often used in pro poweramps is designed to feed tremendous power with small heat dissipation losses but brings very large distortions at low volume levels.

Bryston and Manley do manufacture professional poweramplifiers but they're realy created as home amp and t certainly costly. Some small venues however do acquire those for small amplifications of voice with unamplified instruments.

Can't tell anything for preamp domain but I guess it designed basically to the same basically to give out as much output voltage as possible for poweramp driving stages.

I however stand for pro-grade wires that are very inexpencive for interconnects and speakers as well with no compromise for those in "nice snakes" or even better(especially if stripped to see wires inside). I now use two runs of 14AWG Carroll Command for bi-wired setup which is a killer wire with silver-plated cooper strands.
I still have my old JBL 200 studio monitors and Crown D150 amp from way back. A year or so back I dug them out while I was waiting for my new ( used ) Speakers to arrive. Trust me don't look back!
They play loud and have great bass,but thats all I can really say compared to "Todays" stuff. Though its still fun to dig em out once in awhile.....
Thorman is right on the money. Most of that stuff sounds horrid unless you're looking for sheer brute volume. This is due to the fact that these amps are not built for sonics, they are built for rugged reliability under any / all load and thermal conditions. They are the type of amps that give SS a bad name and should be avoided unless you simply need high spl's and / or gobs of power. Sean
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PS... I've not heard EVERY "pro" amplifier, but i've worked with enough to know that i would NOT want to use them at home. At least not as a "full range" amp.
It's interesting that the ART amps have such strong advocates--there must be an exception to every rule.

The JBL pro speakers I referenced included a 15-18" woofer (I can't recall the exact size) and two horns (midrange and tweeter). The McIntosh was a tube amp as was the Crown preamp (at the time, Crown produced consumer components).

Marakanetz, thanks for sharing your views on cables. I wonder whether others have had good luck with pro cables.
While i've never heard the ART SLA-1, i read as much about it as i could find on the net. From what i can tell, it is pretty much the same thing as their DIO dac. That is, ten pounds of parts crammed into a two pound box.

In order to obtain the power output that they are and not run into thermal problems, the amp has to be biased quite low. There just isn't any heatsinking / chassis that would allow a higher level of bias. If it was biased higher, the amp would be going into thermal shutdown on a regular basis. As a general rule, low bias amps tend to sound a lot less refined, lack black backgrounds and do not offer the amount of "air" that a good high bias amp can offer.

On top of this, the power supply has to be compromised for the same reason i.e. small chassis size. There just isn't enough room to get a good sized transformer or filter caps in there. To prove / support this point of view, the amp is rated at 100 wpc @ 8 and only 130 wpc @ 4 ohms.

The logical deduction to all of this is that the amp would lack bass impact, definition and control. I would also expect it to get noticeably "smeary" as drive levels were increased, moreso as the impedance of the speaker were dropped. This all has to do with the lack of available current with limited power supply reserve.

While i know that i've not heard the amp and some of you are probably rolling your eyes / saying what a "dork" i am for jumping to conclusions, you just can't get around the basics of good amplifier design without some phenomenally fancy circuitry being required. Since phenomenally fancy circuitry typically requires a lot of R&D ( research & development ), the end result is typically a product that is quite costly to bring to market.

Given the price / size of this unit and the rated power output, it is probably nothing more than a cut-corner design that takes up minimal space. It was probably built to a price point ( i would assume VERY much so ) and to suite the non-demanding nature that one finds driving small monitors listened to in near-field fashion in a studio. In such a situation, volume levels are never real high and the amp doesn't have to control a large driver with a lot of reflected EMF being generated. As such, it probably works fine for the market that it was intended for ( after all, Studio Line Amp is the name ) but would not be suited for a true "high fidelity" system. Sean
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As usual, a very well thought out analysis Sean. You might be interested in looking at this thread:

http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?aamps&1053585689&read&h12&zzlD911&&#rest

A word of warning -- the guy who started it does the mods for the unit. Though he did not fully disclose up front, he seems to mean well and be a true believer.
I'd like to see if this piece lives up to the hype or if it is another case of the "Emporer's new clothes" syndrome. Personally, i thought that the ART Dio DAC was a perfect example of hype. Given the fact that this is a product from the same manufacturer and one of the main instigators of the "internet hype" is a person that could benefit from increased sales of these units ( much like those that "hyped" the DIO and performed mods to it ) really makes me leary of buying one to find out for myself. Sean
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My experience with pro gear is in line with what many have said here vs. consumer home stuff. One major area I tend to find largely "no contest" between the two markets, is that pro equipment tends to stomp all over most consumer high end speaker gear dynamically!...no contest really. Except for the likes of actives and horn loaded ultra high senstivity home audio designs, and even speakers with built in powered woofers and such, pro audio speakers have a dynamic advantage over the average full range home offerings.
One saving grace in a smaller acoustic space of most domestic homes, is crossing over your "audiophile" or "mid-fi speakers" as "small", or using a crossover to a sub somehow, making the system more efficient, even bi-amped.
Basically, running full range, you can set 100 consumer home audio full range speakers next to 100 pro audio full range speakers, and the dynamics and efficiency advantage is going to be decidely on the pro side!...again, no contest. But, at least in a dedicated HT setting, your going to get much needed dynamic help by the use of "crossover" and "bi-amp" applications from sub/sat set-up's, or by at least the assistance of adding a powered sub to the system. Also the smaller acoustic space, as well as close relative proximity to speakers in a home environement is going to help greatly with efficiency, sensitivity needs, as well as dynmic needs of a system! Still, care is needed to try and make up for generally less dynamically able lower sensitivity/efficiency speakers that are the norm from most consumer speaker systems! Again, getting the sub integrated helps, and is deffinitely needed!
I agree Forever. Active multi-amplification and / or much simpler crossover design goes a LONG way in terms of what we hear from a system. That is primarily why i'm a "fan" of active crossover / mulit-amping and / or "true" full range single driver systems. Both get rid of ( or minimize ) the passive crossover networks and increase dynamics and transparency. It would be a "win/win" situation for home use if higher costs and greater complexity were not involved.

As far as Pro speakers go, most have very drastic flaws but do what they are designed to do quite well. Then again, the same goes for most well thought out home speakers. The two situations are VERY different from each other and the products are built to suite those individual needs. Sean
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The ART SLA-1 thread has been deleted!
Thoughts?
Hi David. It's still there under "What's the best amp you know of?" I recopied the thread address:

http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?aamps&1053585689&read&h12&zzlD911&&#rest
Ozfly-Nope,its MIA
David, I'm at a loss to explain it -- I can get to the thread, but perhaps because I responded to it. I copied the thread address I gave you to the Address line in the internet bar and got there right away. I then searched under the name of the thread -- What's the best amp you know of -- and got there. Since you already tried the address, can you get there via the search routine?
It's gone. They gave me some lame excuse for removing it. Sean all i can say is that you should audition the amp. As far as the DIO, I don't know your' likes or dislikes or if you ever heard the unit, but it murdered my former Sony SCD-1. And all the other high end gear I compared it to: Linn CD12, Accuphase DP100/DP101 combo, Elgar gear. There were a lot more comparisons, but I think that the gear I listed above sums up that I have been exposed to some of the so-called best high-end gear around.

Best regards,
d911
WE also compared it to the $23K pacific microsonics pro dac. The dio literally destroyed it. Price does not always dictate performance. Also, generalizations about bias points and the such are of little interest to me unless I am in my lab designing gear. If something sounds great, it sounds great. I have yet to look at an oscope see a reading and go aha!!! great sound right before my eyes. I guess I am saying is the ear tells all. Give it a listen.

Don
Don, I have avoided contributing to this, but I had a ART Di/O, purchased new and modified by friends of Paul and Brian Weitzel because of threads like this.

I must agree with Sean, the ART is NOTHING great. I preferred my stock Sony 9000, and three of my friends who took it home for trial all thought it was just "OK."

Based on the hype that proceeded this DAC, I worked with it for two months, trying every footer, digital cable and power supply I could get my hands on. The end result was only adequate performance and not even to be discussed with high end players.

I admit I fell for the hype, hoping for something for nothing. I admit I made a mistake and sold it (cheap) to a buyer with full disclosure. It was a learning experience but not one that tempted me to prolong the fable of it's "superior" performance.
I must admit that I also had one(and only one) experience with the Art DIO, and came away less than impressed. Public Enemy's "Don't Believe The Hype" would have been appropriate source material.

Like I said, my experience was a single event. So, factor that into the equation. But, combining what both Albert and Sean have put forth, I am beginning to feel more comfortable in my initial analysis.

My object was to try to see if I could pair the Art with my Music Hall MMF25, building the sleeper digital combo for under $1K. No, it did not provide that. In fact, the MMF25 is running on its own now. Why? Because it just sounded better that way to me at the time. I didn't feel the investment, albeit small, was warranted.

In the end, I purchased a Sony SCD-C333ES player, and am more than happy with it. I give that machine my recommendation. I feel happier with my purchase of this player than I believe I would be now had I went with the Art. No, it isn't the finest at detail, speed, or resolution. But, I prefer it to most under $750 players, which definitely drive me away with thin, antiseptic, lightweight sound. And, despite the barren desert of software, I find SACD to be to my liking, even if I do feel vinyl is still the superior sonic format.

I am still holding out on judgement of the Art amplifier. But, I have to say that the component will need to be looked at with an even hand.

Let's not build another audiophile bubble.
I am posting this in two places:
The way I look at this is that D911 has a financial interest on the line here and is really doing some major league bragging about is his modded amp. In and of itself no hurt to anyone. But on the other hand, whats the difference between this and every one of us who is about to sell a piece of gear using some "gimic" to start a thread saying how good it is. We would be swamped.

D911 started this game and should show his cards. It seems reasonable for him to send one of his modded units to an audiogon member who we all feel will give a impartial evaluation. In this way Don has one unit tied up in testing so there is no big financial anchor for him, unless it doesn't pass the test. But if it does, he benefits. If this works it can be benchmark for future self-promotions.
I have no problem with this. I just need some way to track it. There are obviously people who form opionins about gear they have not yet heard on this site, I won't allow it to go to any of them. If someone suggests a way I can track the unit and hold the current holder of the unit financially responsable...I say lets go for it.

Regards,
Don
Albert I know you prefer analog. I also know your system is completley optimized to make your LP playback sound decent. I am not surprised that you would say this. I have owned some very fine digital gear and to my ears (and to my dismay) the DIO beat the snot of everything I ever put against it. I don't know if you guys had stock or moded units (if moded, who did it...etc). Stock units are I admit hard sounding, hence the mod process, change the opamp, remove the tube, and voltage quadruppler, remove the back board with the coupling caps. remove the Voltage regu, remove some of the electrolytic caps, replace the steel pins with copper posts...etc. The unit still sounds better stock than most things out there.
However, I must add we all like what we like.
Regards,
Don
I had the modified DI/O, the first mod was done by the same gent that mod'ed Alberts. In all fairness, those mods really didn't make much of a difference. Mark's mods were elementary, like most of the mods that you read about on the various audiowebs. I'd sent my unit off to Kevin Morris (515) 288-8464, who redesigned the some of the circuits altogether. It has been too long since I'd had this done and can't elaborate on the entire series of mods done, (which is the only reason I included Kevin's phone number), but remember that one included adding a jack for an external clock. The sonic difference before and after Kevin's mods were dramatic, and sonically far superior to the unit you'd had, Albert. Syncing the external clock to both the transport and the DAC was a large sonic benefit, as you can imagine. The Kevin Morris modified unit is what Don had bought, so no clear comparison between yours and his could be determined. I know first hand, as I'd owned them both, (actually the same unit, but you understand).

I'm no longer using the DI/O, having moved onto another format. I'm one of the guys waiting for Ed Meitners DAC6, which should be delivered around 5 or 6 weeks from now. My brother Paul uses the eight channel Meitner DAC8 MK4, the latest pro version.

Kind regards,
Brian
Brian, I too would like to hear the Meitner. I have had two or three independent listeners tell me it sounded wonderful. Please keep us posted.
Don I wish my experience had been as yours. You are correct that I am an analog guy, but I have owned and auditioned many of the most respected high end digital players.

The ART in my system had less resolution than the stock Sony 9000 ES. Unfortunately I cannot afford a Audio Aero, Audio Note or DCS, all of which I am sure are much better than my stock Sony.

My point is simply that the money I invested in the ART did not provide anything special. No doubt there are players it would beat, but not the commercially available gear that has been recently produced. At least not in my system.

Just for the record, my ART was purchased from Full Compass and had the following done as mods.

Install two IC sockets
Install LT1365Cn IC in U1 IC socket
Replaced nine rectifiers with 90 volt shottky's
Replaced 100 Ohm at digital with 75 Ohm Vishay
Bridged four electrolytic at analog in-out w / OFC wire
Replaced original phone jacks with Vampire OFC RCA
Replaced power jack with binding post to allow experimentation with outboard supplies.

I also purchased a regulated supply, a Atari (surplus) supply and the commonly suggested model from Radio Shack.

For digital link I experimented with Silver Sonic, Purist Audio, Trico, Belden and some that were brought over by visitors.

After all this work, one of the guys in my group that is all digital took the Di/O home for audition. He could not make up his mind between using the Di/O and listening to his Pioneer DVD player. I listened with him and agreed that neither way was the clear winner.

This friends system was Krell (Integrated), B&W Nautilus , Pioneer DVD and Audioquest cables. While not in the league with some of the better systems here at Audiogon, it is certainly quality enough to serve as a test bed for comparison. Further, it is a more likely combination of equipment to be used with an ART Di/O.
I had the modified DI/O, the first mod was done by the same gent that mod'ed Alberts. In all fairness, those mods really didn't make much of a difference. Mark's mods were elementary, like most of the mods that you read about on the various audiowebs. I'd sent my unit off to Kevin Morris (515) 288-8464, who redesigned the some of the circuits altogether. It has been too long since I'd had this done and can't elaborate on the entire series of mods done, (which is the only reason I included Kevin's phone number), but remember that one included adding a jack for an external clock. The sonic difference before and after Kevin's mods were dramatic, and sonically far superior to the unit you'd had, Albert. Syncing the external clock to both the transport and the DAC was a large sonic benefit, as you can imagine. The Kevin Morris modified unit is what Don had bought, so no clear comparison between yours and his could be determined. I know first hand, as I'd owned them both, (actually the same unit, but you understand).

I'm no longer using the DI/O, having moved onto another format. I'm one of the guys waiting for Ed Meitners DAC6, which should be delivered around 5 or 6 weeks from now. My brother Paul uses the eight channel Meitner DAC8 MK4, the latest pro version.

Kind regards,
Brian
Albert I believe you. Every mod is not equal. This sharing of the minds and experience is, however, what makes this hobby as fun as it is. It is also, unfortunately what has caused me to porbably spend close to a hundred grand in gear over the last 5 years :)

Best regards,

Don
The ART DIO had been hailed as a great low cost unit by people like Brian Chaney who designs the VMPS line of speakers I believe. Also of what I remember there have been Best SOund Awards given to him at CES I believe.This with using a Modded DIO in the line.

I bought one to better my aging DAC section of my Phillips CD-80. While I have no way of judging what it might surpass it seems to me that there must be unbias'd evals done with the unit that people have tried.

Shanling is one unit I hear alot about in which the Modded DIO surpasses for sonic playback.

I have not heard any negatives conserning Wayne of Bolder being mentioned in all this. Maybe he is using components that others are not.

I cannot use the ART Amp as it does not have enough power for my needs . I do think Dan could have gone alittle different way in promoting his mods of the unit. Maybe there is more here than anyone is seeing. I do not know.

I do know that in some instances that going the Modified route is a better value than getting stock equiptment.The value of the mods are in question though. In the case of taking a stock Pro amp and modding it with a 2.5X the value of the stock unit is questionable,but then again I would have to hear it also or see the results others have had.In my case I would not beable to use it given my choice of speakers.

Results remain to be seen,good luck!
Abex: The Dio that i listened to was modified by Wayne and made use of an outboard power supply of measurably higher current than the stock offering ( 3 amps continuous ). This power supply should have allowed the Dio to produce a lower noise floor due to reducing noise generated by the transformer itself and offering the potential for improved dynamics. Even with all of this, i was not impressed with this unit in the least. Nor was my brother. I would rather listen to a Pioneer DV-440 24/192 DVD player than use a Dio in any of my systems. I know that this sounds "extreme", but i'm being 100% truthful here.

We A/B'd the Dio against the stock DAC's in the Pioneer and the Pioneer was far less boxy / offered much greater space, air, dimensionality and center-fill to the soundstage. This is not to mention that the Pioneer produced a blacker background. In comparison, the Dio sounded dull, compressed and 2 dimensional. The sound literally seemed to "cling" to the speakers and refused to spread out.

When all was said and done, putting the Dio into this system was like taking two steps backward in both my and my brothers' opinion. We tried three other DAC's ( one purchased used for $150 used, another for $200 used and another for $300 used ) within the system at the same time and the Dio was the worst of all four methods ( including using the stock Pioneer DVD player as a one box ) of reproduction. For the record, all of the other DAC's sounded better than the Pioneer by itself. Bare in mind that this Pioneer DVD player was available brand new for $149 from Best Buy. Comparing something like this to a modified Dio should have been a "no brainer". Either this specific modified Dio was a "dog" or i have to wonder as to what other people think is "good". Personally, i wouldn't even use a Dio ( modified or not ) as a door-stop. That is, based on the experience that i had with the specific unit that i tested. Sean
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Bare with me for a moment. I want to take a moment to flat out APOLOGIZE. I have behaved badly to say the least. Though zealous, I could have and should have presented myself in a more forthcoming manner. I accept the responsibility of my action and I throw myself on the mercy of the "forum tribunal", all kidding aside, I really do apologize to the audio community at large.

Best regards,
d911

PS> I will be posting this apology on all sites affected.
Sean:
I respect your opinion and I can not counter with experience of doing any A\B testing except with the Phillips 16bit stock DAC which sounded more closed in and electronic.

Here in the Northeast there are no stores that even carry DACs so on the suggestion of an audio advisor on the BB's I I made the purchase of the DIO and had it modded.

After I get the rest of my system in order I will do some research and purchase or borrow another DAC to see what I can findout in my system.

I freely admit that there is alot of hype going on in the BB's of mail order Cos. as far as I can see. One Co. which really alerted me to this aspect was reading about Axiom which I had considerd getting speakers from because they use Metal Driver Technology like NEAR who went under and I liked NEARs ,but could not find anyone that had them. I wrote a piece in SoundStage about the Axes being all they are as compared to the NEARs I rememberd and there was stanch resistance to my observations because Axiom is still in Biz. NEAR is also still in business,but Bill Kieltyka does not make home models any longer.

I now have modified NEARs that I will someday A\B test against Axes to see what I hear. Someone that did get to listen to some Axes were totally unimpressed with what they had heard,so it should be intresting.

I think alot of it has to do with the mine has to be better than yours syndrome also because I own it.Then there is a loyal following which there is nothing wrong with as long as one can be unbias'd and realise that there is or might be something better for the same cost.

Getting back to DACs.I remember the best I had heard was from a ARC\Mark Lev\Proceed\NEAR setup and it was very 3D then and I look to get that type of sound in my room maybe alittle more neutral.

Taking nothing away from your opinion I wonder what you were using for a system when testing the modded DIO? As stated I respect your hearing and testing ability.Just want to know what the synergy was.Don't want to mesh the wrong equiptment and get the same results.

Not that I am disatisfied with my playback system at the moment,but if I can make it better for little cost I am always intrested. At the moment I have a few projects going on trying to enhanche my system and anything that might help is appreciated.

Regards,ABEX