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Well, I didn't necessarily mean top of the line and new. Studer deck is about $4k plus a few more to make it perfect. Lamm preamp is about $5k and up and hybrid monoblocks $6.5k and up. A few thousands for cables. All this is unreachable for me right now, except perhaps Studer, but there will be another day.
On a more modest level I would most likely go with older Rowlands, and Nottingham turntable and Nakamichi deck sources that I already happen to have. Still Purist Audio cables, midlevel. I also have CEC belt drive player that I try to use as little as possible. It could also possibly be older Gryphons, but they are difficult to find.
If money were almost not a factor, I would audition Ypsilon and Absolare as was recommended in another thread, and perhaps a few more brands, both hybrid and all tube.
In any case, beyond certain level it would not be fully solid state.
Well your post is a bit confusing, as it asks a couple of different questions:
Would you go all 1 brand of electronics?No.
Though I am currently running a VAC integrated amp, I am using a Allnic phono stage because it is better than the internal VAC phono stage.
So my question for all of you, especially those of you who do not have all 1 brand stacks of gear. If you had to choose, from source to amp, a single brand, what would it be?If I had to go with all one line, I guess I would stick with VAC, though there is no way I could afford their Statement Phono stage. I would hope that maybe their Signature Mk IIa preamp had a better internal phono stage than my 160iSE integrated amp.
VAC used to make DACS (Phi Alpha DAC), though they don’t anymore.
I’ve never heard the Phi Alpha DAC, but I’m sure that I could probably be very happy with one, as I enjoy most of Kevin’s work.
I’ve been where you are. But if you view "audio" as a "hobby", albeit an expensive one, then there is nothing wrong with mixing and matching components. However, if you are feeling that you may be getting a little too obsessed with finding that "dream/perfect sound" and you are getting frustrated - it may be time to admit that you are searching for the Holy Grail as you will never find it.
The truth is there are no sea change improvements on the horizon for audio amplification. This is also becoming true of digital to audio conversion.
I used to be an "Audio Research Guy" - great equipment indeed, and pretty much for the same reason that you mentioned Tandberg. However, I became frustrated with AR’s marketing strategy of intentionally obsoleting its own equipment by coming out with a "Mark II" or "Mark III" model within just a couple of years of a product’s initial launch (AR is not the only company guilty of pursuing this strategy). But compare that to Mark Levinson, who continues to include the No. 326S preamp in its model line a full 11 years after its release! Why? Because there are no significant improvements to be made to the 326S. For what it does, the 326S is as close to perfect as it comes.
With all the above in mind. I decided to simplify and go with an integrated amplifier that includes a built in DAC. I do believe that there is a certain "synergy" achieved when a quality manufacturer such as Hegel, Mark Levinson, Ayre and others design an integrated amp. For instance with the Hegel 300, the internal DAC is different from any of its stand alone DAC offerings - this is true for all of Hegel’s integrated amps. The internal DAC is customized so as to achieve the highest sound quality. The other benefit of integrated amps is there is no temptation to "experiment" with and look for that perfect interconnect and power cord (well, at least only one power cord). The wiring is as direct as it can be. Also, in the case of the Hegel, should I feel that the the internal DAC has become obsolete, I can always bypass it with an outboard DAC. Hegel has designed the amp to make that easy. Should I ever choose to do that, you can bet that it will be a Hegel standalone DAC. And yes, Hegel makes excellent CD players. But the Hegel integrated and pre amps are very computer audio friendly - which to me seems where everything is headed.
Ironically, after what I said about AR. The Hegel H300 has been replaced with the H360. That’s okay though, I am so satisfied with the sound of the H300 that I would be nervous about replacing it for fear that I wished I had it back!.
This is all just one man’s opinion based on his decades of experience as an audiophile. I hope this helps.
However, if you want tube and ss equipment, it is hard to go with one brand. Lamm and Nagra come to mind. But you asked about one brand do it all.
Since ideally I would want tube phono and preamp and then decide on the amp, my choice with one brand approach would be limited. And Studer deck would not be enough in modern world.
So, Lamm and Nagra would most likely be what I would be after. Not top of the line which will always be unaffordable for me. The same with Ypsilon and Absolare except maybe their integrateds if they can compete with Lamm and Nagra separates. For me, probably not, at least in the drive and scale, most likely bass too.
"If cost no object...MBL." Fully agreed. I've heard a number of their systems and they are the electronics and sound I long for.
I most recently heard the Corona line integrated amp, CD/DAC, and their entry level speakers (approx $30k) and it was very lovely. Fairly close to mush more expensive systems in their line up. That was compared to the Noble line amps & dac with the 101E MkII. Source was a computer playing files vs. the Corona CD player. Bass was better with the 101E MkIIs but really both systems just sing. I've also heard the Extreme system several times and other systems with their mid-line speakers. So I know what they sound like. For reference, my system consists of a McIntosh integrated, Martin Logan Vantage ESLs, Shunyata Research, & Oppo 105.
It has been over three decades since I've had a system that was totally built by one manufacturer. Mbl has definitely inspired me to think about that again. But at $30k it is a BIG stretch, really out of reach if I'm honest to myself.
Like Richard, I use Rowland Electronics for DAC (Aeris) and mono amps (M925).... I used to have also the Rowland Criterion linestage, but I have more recently simplified the system a bit and am feeding directly Aeris DAC into M925 monos... And still adoring the music I get. Rowland does not make front ends of any sorts, so at this time I am using an Esoteric X-01 as a transport.
I've heard Spectral at Goodwyn's High End in Waltham, MA ages ago. I missed the magic, but it has a very strong following, what did I miss that others like about it?
I wonder if the original KSA amps would still stand up to the challenge today in terms of smoothness and soundstaging. I heard the original B&W Nautilus driven by a stack of ... six of them? (long ago) and was also kind of "meh" about it. They were the de-facto amp for Apogee though. :)
I had an all Nakamichi system back in the day. Wow, how things change. Now, I'm all separates, but would lust after an aesthetics stack. Jim just has a tonality that is hard to find. I also have an LSA integrated and speakers (Statement) that is hard to beat (although you would have to chose a source or DAC).
Some say that built-in phonos can be as good as a stand alone (DarTZeel, Audio Note, Luxman for instance), but I have not personally heard them.
My C1100 preamp is superb in every way except for the built-in phono. I tried really to love it but just couldn't, so ended up getting a stand alone from another brand. I have not heard the new stand alone Mac phono but have absolutely no desire to replace mine now.
Can be, and ARE as good is not the same thing. Devil is always in the implementation. I mean, I am open to the idea of a preamp with a great built-in phono stage, like I am open to the idea of an integrated with a great built-in DAC, but I'd be constantly worried about missing out.
Slightly off topic is the idea of the universal integrated amp. Not just one brand, but one piece of gear! :)
If some one said "Erik, get rid of all this crap, and get down to 1 piece of electronics" I might go with the Parasound Integrated. Their Zdac was quite good for the price, I would hope the Integrated kept that tradition alive.
PrimaLuna, AR , Cary, and Bryston also make very nice integrateds, mostly sans-DAC.
@erik_squires , well on your original post you said:
If you had to choose, from source to amp, a single brand, what would it be? Of course your paying for it, so keep the cost in mind. :)
Since most folks are paying for it, that is probably why you are having more mentions of Parasound, Bryston, Bel Canto, etc.
Some may like Boulder, Vitus, or others, but not if they are paying for it. ;^)
I agree, so that's why I said "can be" instead of "are." I have not personally heard a built-in perform at the stand alone level, but not ready to say definitively that it does not exist.
Regarding your thoughts on having a single piece of electronics, I have a Parasound HINT in a secondary system and it does a lot and does everything well (and at a very reasonable price). If I HAD to get down to one piece, it might be it, but I know exactly what I would be missing. That's why it's in a secondary system :)
The Parasound Int is a pretty sweet combo! I also really really like the ARC Integrated I heard a while ago.
OK, I think I answered my own question. I think if I had a single brand, of which I cannot afford ANY, it would be Ayre. :)
Not sure I'd trade my Mytek Brooklyn for an Ayre DAC anymore, but I could see myself getting some enormous bonus and shopping for a stack. Its the same dream where Mindy Kaling AND Milla Jovovich ask me out at the same time, and are totally OK with me dating both of them at the same time, trading off cat sitting duties so I can go out with the other one. In other words, never going to happen. :)