Shop w/me

I am in the process of upgrading my current system: the only possible holdover are Linn Klimaxx monoblocks. I listen to jazz, rock, blues mainly. As I stat to audition stuff, I will keeing a journal here: any comments, feedback, ideas, more than welcome. I listen only to CDs and SACDs...apologies to analogue fans (I have no qualms, just don't like the required storage space and software availability!)

1st Audtion:
target: Wilson Watt Puppy 7s
retailer system: Spectral amps and Audio Rsch CD3. arcici suspense rack. unforuntately retailer here in Asia try to stick to their own systems: indeed I wanted to try the Sophias too which they did not have in stock

Ben Allison: Peace Pipes: transient detail, attack simply outstanding, imagin quite good but sound stage a bit narrow?
Caia: MAgic Dragon: try chill out and see what they can do: tweeter clarity outstanding as I can hear the dinstant triangles more clearly than my current Proac Response 4s Bass very solid and taut, perhaps too much. But something is bothering me...I wonder what it is
Patrica Barber: Modern Cool: perhaps vocals will the stopry: sounds very ,live, u r there. distance btwn mouth and mike easy to tell...but still
Dennis Chambers: Outbreak: let's see if it can boogie: bass kick drum well defined, elec bass slapping transients/attack great: no muddiness whatsoever...yet soundstage underwhelming

soundstage and lack of sweetness seems to be a common theme: is it the amps? excessive toe in? will tubes help? needs to warm up? hmmmm

Oliver Nelson: Stolen Moments..ahhh...that's more like it. Perhaps it WAS the recordings. Same thing happens w/ Little Feat's remastered Waiting For Columbus. And w/ David it warming up?

Back to Scott Henderson Well To The Bone: yuk....back to same issues and worse. Cannot rock out.

Overall: biggest thing is very accurate, transient detail, attack, ...but soundstage cld be an issue, and certainly not sweet...biggest issue for me: did not make me want to dance when it should, and less involving than my set up (Pro Ac Response 4) for some reason though certainly more "hi-fi". Possibly much better with different amps and less toe-in, but should keep in mind

Well, one is never convinced at first try: this only the first of many. May be I will come back to this: I did like the looks though, and perfect physical size for me: also liked the arcici suspense racks though how much they contributed to the sound, I have no idea

Next audition to come: comparing Linn Klimaxx-Kontrol vs HP200-Radia.
Next Auditon

Not Linn vs Hovlands...tommorow.

Target: Kharma CRM Ref 3.2. But none in stock so tested CRM 3.1 (2 way soft dome tweeter), and 2.3 CRM (3 way focal tweeter)
Retailer system: Metronome Tech CD player (1st time for me), Pass Lab X1 preamp, Pass Lab 350 Monoblocks, Kharma speaker cable.

OH.......MY........GOD. What a revelation after the Wilsons. Started w/ 3.1 but the impact was immediate for me. Though the Wilson's were superior in transient detail/attack/decay, and perhaps deeper bass...Kharma had the mid range beauty, huge sound stage, and what was the biggest issue for from the previous Wilson set up.. emotional involvement.

A few listening notes

Caia: soundstage that's chill out...triangles in the background just as clear as Wilsons but a rounder tone. one gets awashed in sound.

Dennis Chambers: spec says shld not go low in bass as Wilsons, but for my purposes both the kick drum and elec bass had more impact perhaps due to soundstage. Yes, I wanted to dance and boogie to the heavy funk

Mike Clark: " Actual Proof" drummer (u got to chech him out). Drum attack fine, u r there quality, bass lines clear yet round, horn brassiness retained but not annoying

Patrcia Barber: mid range to fore...track 2 on Modern Cool. acoustic bass: wow. just like in front of me whereas the wilsons were a bit lean. the voice-mike thing I can tell, perhaps not as obvious as Wilsons, but the bueaty of the voice is far greater.

Conclusion: the diff cannot be explained away via the associated electronics, room acoustics etc. To me, Kharma is far superior...indeed I am sold: I just got 2 figure which one. I've also tried the Avalons in the past (great but found them too sensitive to rm positioning), Sonus Faber Amati Homage I hear is great but physical size for me is too big while the Stravidus (what a beauty!), Komris, etc are beyond my self disciplined budget. Indeed the Diamond tweeter option for Kharma's are too expensive for me too. Perhaps I will try the Genesis 501 but the Kharmas, most likely the 2.3 CRM Focals are my standard now.

So I got my speakers....or nearly there. Next up: amplification: retain Klimaxxes (which I want to do, to save moeny and I happen to like them) and just get a good pre-amp, do a whole combo chg.?

As such, next round is Linns vs Hovland. Intend to check out BAT VK 51 SE (can it drive the Klimaxxes?), Ayre K1X and maybe even VTL 7.5 later on. Perhaps the Pass Labs X1?

The pre-map contest is gonna much more difficult to ascertain by deduction given different retailers, so no AB testing and of course not obvious as w/ speakers

Any one out there? Wish me luck!
Amp/speaker matching is critical. Be careful to not assume that the Linn amp will perform w/the Kharmas(or anything else) as the Pass Labs. You really should consider bringing your amp to the store to audition w/the speakers you're targeting, if this is possible.
Also, if you like the Kharmas and are too tight on $$ for the right matching amp,
maybe look for used kharmas and then get the right amp.
Slap me for doing the old "buy what I have!", but you might want to read the thread here comparing the Kharmas to the Merlin VSMs at about half the price. That thread contains many interesting comments about the exceptional performance of both of them. Perhaps Merlins would be another speaker that would appeal to you, as do the Kharmas. If you go that route, I'd recommend switching to a tube amp...
Lastly, FWIW, many have echoed your feelings on the Wilsons; For some reason they generate plenty of controversy.
Found speakers? Please do not decide before you check stats or planars. Martin Logan Prodigy, Magnepan 3.6 or if you can afford Sound Lab's. This is from former owner of dynamic speakers.
The Klimax *should* be able to drive the Kharma -- as to whether you like the result... you MUST try the speakers (any short-listed speaker) with your amps.

As to a suitable pre-amp: Linn makes its own which is expensive; admittedly, it's also very good.

I would really belabour the speaker issue: try as many as you can. For example, Kharma and Avalon often use similar drive unit complements, so Avalon could be another choice if you like Kharma.

The Wilsons' bass response: a frequency response plot I saw shows a small hump at around 50-70Hz if I remember correctly. If memory serves well and there is such a hump, it is not necessarily indicative of better bass -- rather, certain frequencies are pronounced giving the impression of more bass. Again, if I remember correctly, the Sophia have a smoother bass region than the 7. As always, however, it's a matter of taste.

A final note: the Proac 4 are arguably very good speakers. What do you want to improve on -- or, what don't you like about them??
I actually do like the Proac Response 4s...though after hearing the Kharmas....but wld prefer them over the Wilsons. Its just that my spouse finds them excessively big physically, thus dominating our living room....that was the impetus for looking for something...and I have ended up falling for the "Kharma sound" if u will. Its just so more real plus the soundstage is sooo astonishing.

Thanx for the suggestions on making sure the Linns wld work well...guess I have to unplug the stuff and carry it over to the store! But if there is no MAJOR drawback, then I will go for the Kharmas (though perhaps be again surprised by something else yet again: its been awhile I have auditioned stuff)...and if necessary save up and gradually look at other amps: perhaps a tube such as Tenor or Lamms which seem to be frequently cited soul mates of the Kharmas. I luv the Kharmas that much.

As all of u may have noticed, though I am music lover, read mags, and appreciate good sound etc....but I am not exactly you're learned audiophile per se.

As I get older (now 43 yrs), I think I am wanting things sweeter, a relaxed fit, etc...whether it be wine or my music system...but still want to boogie when called for!

On the Wilson's bass, Gregm, in hindsight you r right. My listening notes say good bass definition but somehow narrowly defined and lack of naturalness.
RE: Kharmas vs. Merlin, the price difference is probably not so great in Europe. Henry, where are you located?
I bet HK means Hong Kong
Yes, HK is Hong Kong
Wilson on Spectral is as dead a sound as it gets. Wilson on BAT is much more my liking.

Kharmas have no bass below 50hz, so the Wilsons should have slaughtered the 3.2s on bass.

btw, I love Caia Magic Dragon!

In short, your comparison is somewhat flawed, and differing rooms/components isn't helping your search any. I agree with previous poster to take your amps with you.

I thought that Wilson WP 7 w/ Spectral sounded fantastic at the HE show last year, it was immediately apparent the minute you walked in the door that something special was happening, and got even better when you got in the sweet spot, huge soundstage totally grainless and natural.

If you are going to be buying from a dealer at full price, I would make them work for their money, if you buy 20k speakers they are going to be profitting close to 10k, I would tell them to bring them over and set them up at your house and let you try them in your own system, if you don't buy them then pay them for their time.

I think you are right on about going with a speaker amp combo that is know to be great such as Tenor/Karma.
If you're not doing this already through a cd/sacdp volume, you might try out the Klimax + short-listed speakers combo with a (passive) attenuator. This experiment will help you gauge timbre & tonality with the speakers under consideration. In order to do this, all you need is to know the input impedance of the Klimax and choose the right value for the volume pot (the wrong value will make the sound "thin" i.e. lacking in low-mids & bass).
Wilsons...yes there were good in their own way, and the amp matching may not have been ideal (I really think they wld be better w/ tubes) and finally the rooms were different etc etc. The pt for me is that I just loved the Kharmas, plain & simple while the Wilsons were not my cup of tea. Everyone has different tastes: if we all had the same then there would not be that many manufacturers in the hi-end!

Anyways, today yet another audtion

(Linn Kontrol preamp + Klimaxx Mono blocks)
vs. (Hovland HP200 + Radia)
Source: Linn CD 12, speakers: Linn Komris

Again this may not be fair. Room, music was all the same but an all Linn system has got to have some synergies, plus the Komri's sensitivity is only 86db, though for bass it has internal driver.

The Hovlands were certainly beautiful (!), and sounded fine...hung well together. A bit of softening on the transients, pace was normal. Soundstage was better than avg., though I sensed the sound to be bit foward. However the Linns were quick, more transparent, and had a wider soundstage. But more so than soundstage (left to right) was the front to back depth where Linns clearly out did the Hovlands. I had somewhat expected this given I am quite familiar w/ Linn by now, but I also thought that the Hovlands would provide more mid range lushness, sex appeal if u will, given the pre-amp is tube, but it didn't really: if so, only a hint. Perhaps if the power amp was tube it make much bigger diff, given Radia is solid state. Hard to tell.

In any case, Hovlands did not rock my boat. They may excel with other speakers, true. The Kharmas I like a lot are 89db in sensitivity and already have that mid range, sound stage done so perhaps wld work well w/ the Hovlands? Does anyone have any idea/opinion on this?

Another thing, the Linn Klimaxx monoblocks have a input impedancy of only 7.5K, so clearly the HP 200 can't really drive it well (HP: output impedance is 50K, Kontrol 300 ohms).

So if I keep the Klimaxxes, I got to find a preamp with a matching output impedance. Apart from Linn Kontrol and BAT VK 51SE (200 ohms), does any one have suggestions?

Of course, I still need to make the trip to the Kharma place w. the Klimaxxes to see if there are a decent match. I suspect they will be as their respective strengths are complimentary.

Future plans: audtion BAT 51 VK SE. Jtinn suggested using the Emm Labs (which I am interested in)...and driving the power amps directly from the DAC22 for greater transparency....but I now doubt this is possible given the Linns input impedance...certainly will check it out.
Missed your latest comments, Gregm. As u can see from above the Klimaxx input imedance is lowly 7.5 K...still possible?
Hmmm, that's a tough load. If you find a pot rated at 220kOhm or higher & yr source has a benign output impedance (say ~150 Ohm or lower) with the usual voltage, you should be able to do it! If you set it up and listen at various volume levels, you'll easily identify at which position(s) the pot sounds best -- and you're set!
I have 10kOhm amps input and 22 Ohm output fm the cdp. Using a very cheapo 220kOhm pot, I get the job done famously!
Thanks Gregm.

By the way, tested the Linn Klimaxxes w/ the Kharmas at a friends's place (which was closer to the retailer). Stunning. I have heard a lot about the Tenors and Lamms w/ the Kharma's, and I am sure they are great, but to my hears Linns worked really well w/ the Kharmas, far better than than Pass Labs the retailer had hooked up, with better control and tautness on the bass, opening up the sound stage even further, and better detail, transients, the last perhaps a Kharma weak pt. So I guess I am set on the speakers, and I don't have to buy a new amp

I will be investigating sources and preamps, the latter if necessary. If the source can directly drive the Linns, then I can do a very gradual test on the preamps, electing to not go full bore, and get used to the new set up better.

First up today is EMM Labs DCC2. Talk 2 u guys later. Chow!
Its been awhile. Early on I decided I wanted 2 channel SACD capability but without sacrificing CD quality. So far I've tried the Meitner gear, Linn's own Unidisk 1.1, Accuphase player (forgot the model but the top single box player), MF Tri-Vista, Sony 777 ES. Among them, no contest. Meitner takes the cake. ON SACDs only Accupahse was very nice indeed, sexy even, but CDs sounded a bit harsh to me. Tr-Vista seemed too laid back for my tastes and bass definition seemed a bit wobbly, which I don't want given the type of music I listen to as well the Kharmas (bought the CRF 2.3!), ...The Unidisk I would put at the bottom of the pile: good but didn't do it for me: SACD was behind the others and I don't need DVD-A or video anyway. Plan to try Esoteric but the Meitner combo seems not only great in sound quality but flexibility: transport + DACC2 which also offers pre-amp functionality (tested thru my Linns which worked fine)...but also bypass so if indeed I wanted say a tube pre-amp later on I will have that option. Getting there....
Henry, this is a fun thread. If you ever want to come to PA to shop, I'm in.

Cheers, Spencer
Well the Kharam 2.3 Fs have arrived. The retailer loaned me a Hartley tube CD player and a CJ tube pre-amp (17s) to use for the time being until I settle on the front end. This system made very good sound, and I love the Kharma's but the Hartley CD player was quite cumbersome: occaisionaly didn't read disks, and took too much time warming up etc. Frustrating to use...and one of the advanatges of digital over analogue should be ease of usage.

Did try the Esoteric: liked it a lot, though still did not beat the Meitner gear. Esoteric did seem to dig up detail with the best of them, but I prefer a more open ended sound character if you will. As such I've ordered the Meitner combo....and waiting for delivery....