My reference "system" is my town's symphony orchestra that accompanies very gifted teenaged musicians at a local church on a quarterly basis. We sit right between the piano and the string section. THAT is the sound I'm trying to replicate in my listening room. Nope ... not even close yet.
Technics Sl1200G turntable. ZU/Denon MC cartridge McIntosh C2500 Tube Preamp Sony HAPZ1ES Music Server Esoteric UX3 SACD/DVD Audio Player McIntosh MR88 Tuner McIntosh MC302 300wpc power amp Golden Ear Triton Reference Speakers Shunyata Hydra 2 and two Hydra 4 power conditioners Shunyata power cords (various) Acrolink PC, Interconnect and digital cable Groneberg Quattro Reference Interconnects Twenty amp circuits (2) Shunyata ac receptacles. Solid Steel S3-3 And S3-5 Audio Racks
With spelling/punctuation corrections... A better question: What IS a reference system? My definition: A reference system is one that I know so well, that has played all of my important music and makes me confident that if I hear distortion, I know it is embedded in the source medium and not being caused BY the system. Thank you.
My biggest system i ever built was the Esoteric P-01, D-01's with Rub clock, Nola Grand Reference Speakers, FM Acoustics 266 pre, Spectral 30 SL Pre, Edge NL Reference mono's 2 pairs, various cables Synergistic full loom of Absolute Reference. Grand Prix rack.
2nd system Emm Labs XDS1 , FM Acoustic 266 Pre, FM Acoustic 711, MSB TECH MONO's, JBL Everest, FM cables and Synergistic Research cables, Synergistic Research Powercell 10 SE various Synergistic power cables in both systems Hologram A, D Precision Reference. Grand Prix rack.
What was selected by Dave Gilmour, Diana Krall, Tom Petty, Doug Sax, Sting, Roger Waters, Gordon Holt, Telarc, Mark Knopfler, Ian Anderson, Enya, Beck, The Rolling Stones, Jack White, Kate Bush, Joe Satriani, The Killers, Coldplay, Twenty One Pilots, Omar Hakim, Beka Fleck, Deadmau5, and chosen by over half of the top recording studios in the world.
I rely on a huge number of experts who know more about tonal accuracy and reference sound then I ever could in a million lifetimes. When it comes to “reference” quality you can’t rely on your limited knowledge and experience and personal taste - you got to respect the opinion of industry legends and recording titans.
My ears are equally delighted by what experienced money no object experts go for. If I was to enter F1 as a rookie race car driver, I would accept the decisions of the experts on the Mercedes team too! Nobody has a monopoly on good hearing but experts have all the experience and know-how.
What value is there in such a vague and an envy-generating question? A more practical question might be: "What was your best-sounding system, given the music you listen to, your budget and your listening environment?"
And to the person listening at 88db to 100db, I have one suggestion: attenuation. Our ears can tolerate 85db for a maximum of 8 hours. Peaks at 95db and quite substantial. Above that, it's just hearing damage.
Last night I found another recording that can be played really loud and still sound clean and that is the first Billy Joel with Piano man, Captain Jack etc. Thay call it the Legacy edition and also includes a very well recorded live radio concert. Especially if you like hard hitting drums. Very clean and fine voice on Billy. These recodings are very rare. 30 minutes ok?
I finally own my fantasy system, something I never thought I would have: Naim 500 amp DR version Naim 552 preamp DR version Naim 555 CD player with 2 555 power supplies - DR versionNaim Superline phono preamp with SuperCap power supply DR Revox PR99 MK II - newly rebuiltKuzma Stabi XL DC turntableKuzma 14" 4 Point tone armKoetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum cartridgeNaim Fraim rack systemGrandinote Mach 36 speakersLuna cables - Black Total retail value is around $380,000. I'm on Long Island, if anyone is interested in coming over for a listen.
I'm out of money, so my current system is my reference. The one in the listening room. SoundSmith Helios cartridge mounted on a VPI Prine Signature with ADS and periphery ring. BAT VK-P6SE Phono Preamp Prima Luna Dialogue Premium Pre Prima Luna Dialogue Premium HP mono-blocks w/ KT150s ATC SCM19 speakers. And room treatments (acoustic pamels)
I use a Lynx Hlio Pro Audio A/D-D/A w/ usb to the DAW to rip and edit the vinyl I play on the main system.
The LR is running
Marantz NS-11 S1 streaming via ethernet from an DAW Conrad Johnson PV6 preamp - completely upgraded Acoustat Twin 120 power amp - completely upgraded JBL Century L100's w/ Troels Graveson cross over And room treatments
Hi. Find the topic somewhat ambiguous, as already stated, but well meaning. I am more camped in the school of subjectivity, guided by the hard sciences. As I pile into my dotage reading the journals, chatting with active long time members in Audio Asylum and interacting with my local informal hi-fi club, I find that greater exposure lead to paths of preference. In recent years, I've had the good fortune to hear great SET, Volti Audio Vittoras in a room built to Klipshorns specs; a massive megabuck Boulder - Magico pairing at Goodwin's High End, given the "keys to the Maserati!" oh boy; an all too brief listen to a cold McIntosh tube mono block system with Thiel 3.7's..(oh the potential!) A musician pal streams Spotify using a (Brit) Cambridge streamer to a Parasound A21 amp into new Taylor monitors and a REL sub...ya, not a true hi-end source, but, you know what....he happens to love modern classical & jazz and claims he's "done." Another close audio buddy has wealthy audio friends "from away" who keep making him can't-refuse offers in filling up his three systems. In the past several years he's had large AR9s, Von Schweikerts, Kings, Dalis, plus single driver approaches to his HT. A basement system sports a lovely vintage Majuscule tube integrated driving new KEF LS50's. His big room has heavily modified corner Tannoys fed by a fluid stack of various Pass Labs, 300B monoblocks & big boy Audio Matiere tube gear, legendary stuff. He also pushes hard with cutting edge vinyl and digital sources. For me, it's like living near a start-up 80's brick and mortar! A hoot.
In conclusion, maybe we need to lighten up on ourselves in making perfect choices for the perfect system which may not exist? Similar to foods and beverages, I find much joy in keeping less static in my preferences. Maybe tomorrow will bring new realities and greater profits by venturing down side roads with wider vision, open minds and ears.
Interesting to learn peoples thoughts on "reference systems".
It surely has a different meaning to each. Some could care less which is also fine.
"You can’t hit the target until you know what the target is."
I always have a target sound I am shooting for. I also have multiple systems in my house, each aiming for the same target sound and succeeding to various degrees.
Sometimes I listen seriously, other times not. I’m more tolerant of not hitting the target exactly when listening casually.
I’m on lunch break at work now listening to my music server at home remotely via Plex on Iphone with Bluetooth adapter connection to aux input on a very nice mono desktop radio, an older Sangean WR-1 (current model here https://www.amazon.com/Sangean-WR-11-Cabinet-Table-Analog/dp/B001BGGD8A). It’s a nice compact table radio (takes up very little space) with very good sound as table radios these days go, and I am perfectly happy with this as background music. Way off the target of my current reference setup in my house though. Different leagues. Maybe if I added a subwoofer ;^) ....