I presently have only one speaker system set up but I drive it with 3 different digital sources thru one pre-amp to three different amps for the following reasons:
1) Economy. Amp has 4 power tubes and demands on tubes is conservative. CDP is SS. Pretty good and cheap as well.
2) Drama. A tubed CDP and big mono tube amps. CDP is very dynamic. Amp has major bass balls and HF extension. Great on well recorded big peices. But you don't want to hear mediocre or poor recordings on this set up.
3) Relaxed listening, perhaps more accurate and certainly more delicate than 2) using a medium powered amp and a tubed CDP different from 2).
Now if I could just find a single CDP, and a single amp that did Economy, Drama, and Relaxed, all equally well, I'd be in audio heaven.
BTW, before CDP's I had the same problem, only then I had multiple TT's/Cartridges. Go figure! I'm just an audio schiziod. Probably wouldn't know what I want if I heard it.
I specifically design for a different style. Unless you spend vast quantities of money, it is very hard to get a system that does everything equally well. That is the way Nature requires it.
I listen to all types of music from folk, to techno, to symphonies, to heavy metal, so I have been collecting gear in order to eventually (when I have more room) have two totally separate systems. One for acoustic/vocal/jazz and one for electronic/symphonic/metal.
Some people say that you should spend all your money on one "good" system but I feel you can get more with less cost by having two carefully-put-together systems. It is a sort of distributed optimization that can give you 1+1=3 if done right. It is a fun and less costly way to have your cake and eat it too.
In my case,I just have enough components to assemble 3 complete systems.The best gear are on my primary system .
Good question. Thus far, Ive put together 4 systems, 3 posted here with 1 to go.
My approach to this hobby, and system building in particular, has been somewhat flipped from the normal "one system does all" pursuit / approach. For sure, theres nothing wrong with this approach and my chosen route was borne out of inexperience, a desire to learn as much as possible, and the blessing of having the resources to have multiple systems.
When jumping into this hobby, it quickly became clear that there might not be one perfect system and that one could get very frustrated chasing the ever elusive holy grail, thinking youve found it, only to hear something totally new a week or month later that I had to have.
Living in Hong Kong, where were blessed to have virtually the entire gamut of Hi-Fi available from uber-kit to the latest Chi-Hi-Fi and usually in the same building, it was a bit overwhelming at first. After coming to terms with what I liked, I actively sought advice from those whom shared the same leanings. This has been a big help when separating the wheat from the chaff kit-wise. An awful lot of research and auditioning helped hone my focus with respect to identifying my tastes.
So, rather than go for the super system on the first go, I decided to take my time and put together various systems that differ in approach; i.e., all tube, all SS, SS/tube hybrid, etc. In doing so, my aim was to enjoy each one and to understand what appealed to devotees of a particular approach. This way I could assess the differences of each and migrate towards that sound which I liked best at a comfortable pace. In kind, I've sought to assess different speaker types as well, i.e., multi-driver, full range single driver (with super tweeter), ported, sealed, etc. Right now, I would put myself more in the tube kit / hi efficiency speaker camp, but I appreciate the other kit as well. Accordingly, like food or anything else, variety is the spice of life!
As far as the approach to each particular system, when putting together the general principals I try to follow are . . .
First thing that comes to mind would be that the components should exhibit a certain amount of synergy. An obvious example that comes to mind would be speaker/amp matching. In my experience, getting this correct saves a lot of time and money.
The second thing was to try to understand what the designer of the equipment had in mind and, if possible, find out what components they used when voicing their products. In line with this, I sought to avoid making changes just for the sake of change itself. Cost consideration is a fact of life when designing products and no doubt that, initiated in the proper fashion, modding/tweaking can yield benefits. However, if one is too smart by half when trying to improve on the original design, more often than not, these changes throw the individual component and system out of balance.
Thirdly, the system should fit the room/space and not overpower it sonically or aesthetically. While sound is always the most important consideration, in as much as possible, matching the kit to the decor of the room is crucial for me. More simply put, the system must fit in the room and not the other way around. I would rather do without than force a square peg in a round whole.
Lastly, trust your own ears and take the time to enjoy the process.
I have 2 primary systems and multiple "other systems". I've posted 3 of them here (although they're a little out of date at present).
My 2 primary systems are somewhat different in character, and one of them is a dual purpose (home theater and 2 channel). But I've taken some care in assembling both. The other systems exist because 1) I have a room in which I desire music (eg, our living room), and 2) I have equipment that's been rolled out of one of my primary systems and I'm not yet ready to sell.
I prefer listening on one of my primary systems - and when my wife is home she prefers that too (she doesn't like my music choices nor volume levels), but these rooms are in the basement and now and then I like being upstairs with some daylight. Also, my living room systems is somewhat of a vintage system that's fun to listen to. I also have a vacation home with a modest system set up there and it's my "primary" system when at that house.
I have three high quality audio systems - each in a different part of our house and each designed with a different purpose in mind.
The reference system resides in a dedicated listening room and really does all types of music exceedingly well. I built the room and the system with the primary objective of getting as close as possible to the sound of a live orchestra. In order to achieve this, the system involves serious amplification horsepower (almost 1kW per channel, including the amplification built into the woofer module of the speakers), speakers that can move a lot of air, and a room with acoustics engineered for optimal two-channel reproduction. All the components were chosen with an eye toward exceptional refinement, timbral accuracy, and tonal neutrality. The system also excels at dynamics, PRaT and truly full-range frequency extension.
I designed a second system for our living room area based around low-powered 300B SET amplification and MTM two-way floorstanders. The objective of the system is to reproduce small scale acoustic music (small-group jazz and classical chamber music) with all the presence and intimacy you can get with this style of system. The reference system is technically better even with the music that plays to the strengths of the smaller system, but there is an engaging warmth, presence and intimacy to the SET system that has a certain attraction. As a practical matter, this system also provides music in areas of our house where we often dine or entertain and where the big system does not effectively "reach."
There is a third system in our bedroom that is designed to be a manageably sized system capable of very high fidelity reproduction of small scale music at low to moderate volume levels. The system is based around single point source, crossoverless, speakers using full range drivers and Gainclone amplification. The components were chosen at least in part for their small size and their ability to be left powered up 24/7 with minimal generation of heat. This little system is fast as lightning and exceptionally coherent. At the same time, it is very musical. The tonal balance is excellent.
Even though the level of investment in these three systems varies widely, each one of them provides a very engaging, musical listening experience.
My second system started out as a collection of "leftovers" afer I upgrades components in the main system. It got to a point where the system actually had a sound signature of its own that's very different than my primary system.
The primary system had a more balanced sound, very dynamic and detailed. My second system turned out to be very warm, and had a mid-range to die for. The presentation is very relaxing. But it doesn't have the extension and control on both ends as my main system. My wife prefer listening to this system at night to relax and read. At one time, I had thought about selling the system. But my wife put a stop to that when I told her.
My second system is for movies, as I would never ever have a TV in my sound room. My primary system is SET tube, and my second system is all solid state. I don't mind brightness if I am watching a movie, in fact, some is good to spark up the small noises that give life to a film.
Great responses - thanks to all who have contributed!
I have grappled with this over time and many scenarios. I am moving soon, so now the scenario is that I will have a living room and bedroom on the main floor, and then a finished downstairs, sometime to include a new theater / listening room, but initially to include a family room.
I want a nice system in the LR. I will likely set up my current VPI / Ayre / Dynaudio system there. Downstairs, I'll initially just put something inexpensive, but once we settle in, I'm sure I'll want music down there as well, and certainly once I build the new room, I'll want it in spades. So, at that point, I could move my current gear down there and put something else upstairs, or build from scratch downstairs, etc.
The first question I hit is - I bought the VPI about 8 months ago and have been buying new vinyl at a fair pace - absolutely love it. So, will I need / want to buy another analog setup so I can listen both upstairs and down? Or, better to save the money? Or upgrade the current setup and have The Best in one place?
Then, speakers. I own the Dynaudio Sapphires. Barring an unforseen circumstance, I will die owning this pair of speakers. They will sound great upstairs, or they would sound great downstairs. I would be happy with another pair, though it seems like one advantage to having two systems should be to have more variety. In addition, 2 times the price of the Sapphires would make for a whole 'nother level of speaker performance, but, again, in one place rather than two.
These are all rhetorical questions, but I really go back and forth in how I answer them. I found all of the responders' perspectives quite interesting and useful.
Kthomas, my advice is to initially devote most of your budget to your dedicated listening room. I suspect you will find that the construction and remodeling costs (including the cost of designing and installing acoustic treatments) when coupled with whatever upgrades you might have in mind for your reference audio system will probably get pretty expensive.
If you want to have a two-channel system in your living room when you move your reference system out, I would suggest that you start with reasonably priced gear and a digital source that can gradually be upgraded to include an analog source. As long as you start your living room system off in the direction you see for that system long-term, you should be happy gradually upgrading it without ever feeling the need to make any wholesale changes. For example, if you decide that you would like for that system to be a small scale system based around tube amplification and efficient speakers, you could start with a pair of reasonably affordable used speakers (DeVores or Zu Druids for argument's sake), some affordable amplification, and a competent digital source all within a roughly $5k budget. You could do an even less expensive system using an NAD BEE series solid-state integrated amp, for example.
Then you could gradually upgrade with higher end components in the same school of design and even add an analog source at some point in the future when the funds are available and the mood strikes. Over time, as you upgrade components in your reference rig, you might find yourself in the habit I have formed - that is, retiring your superceded components to your living room system instead of turning them into cash here on Audiogon...
Just some food for thought.
Good luck with your projects. We look forward to future updates!
Use your best stuff where you will most often hang out and listen to music simply for sake of it. What room do you find yourself gravitating toward mostly?
I am in the process of rebuilding my main rig and use my second rig 24/7 now. But my main reason for two systems is:
One is voiced for less complex music with Jazz, Blues, Pop, Soft Rock, Acoustic in mind-
Consonance Droplet 5.0 CDP as the transport
Rethm Saadhana last version speakers
Red Wine Audio Isabella with NOS non-upsampling DAC
Red Wine Audio Sig.30.2 amplifier
Scott 299B modded (only phono section is used, soon to be replace with battery powered phonostage)
Red Devil DIY turntable with Moarch Up4 arm/Denon103R cart.
Second System is for heavier stuff like Rock. Metal, Rock&Roll, Electronic, Alternative Rock.
AAD 2001 monitors (down to 30Hz)
Consonance Cyber 800 tube mono-blocks 78wpc (modded)
TVC passive preamp
Droplet's analog out (used as a cdp)
Using only one system was kind of plain. Great speakers were used (still are but not for long) but it was missing that magic. I found that sparkle by the compromise in two different systems. (I actually have three and one 5.1 but I do not want to talk about it, I'm already sounding nuts).