have been in radio, first on air then in management
(programming) for almost 25 years. I also am a voice
actor, and as a result of these vocations, have found myself
in literally hundreds of broadcast and recording studios,
from real cheesy to awesome. Just a few days ago I
spent three days in a Dallas, Texas, studio, TM Century, (A
design I believe) as our radio
station produced a custom jingle package (35 voices -
7 x 5 tracks) (7 piece brass section).
When I programmed a country
music radio station (WBOB, 1993-1997), new artists would
come into my office and sing to me from about 6 feet away.
So I have had a lot to compare with my home system. I have
been to hundreds of rock, pop, and country
I prefer a sound that's BIG
- tall, wide, and deep. I seek crystal clarity and the
removal of any digititis, although I'd never go back to
turntable inconvenience. I listen at about
For years I had a pair of
Klipsch Choruses on VTL Tiny Triodes, a match that, in the
right room, was surprisingly good. I still miss those
dynamics. And those little amps (great reviews) had a
certain magic. I just loaned them to a friend who
decried the lack of bass but was seduced just the
At some time back, I leased
a time-share at the House of Rationalization, which led to
Wilson Watt/Puppy 5.1s. The way that happened was I
had visited the showroom to hear several OTHER pairs of
speakers which were highly regarded but didn't blow me
away. I casually asked the store owner about those
speakers turned away from the others, in the corner... and
he simply said you should hear them, proceeding to hook them
My jaw dropped. HERE
was a depth and clarity and specialness I hadn't heard in
the others. Did the deal.
Back home I began a long
period of realization that those speakers only sounded that
way when mated with the best in the store. I say LONG
PERIOD because it took many upgrades of everything else in
the system to wring top performance out of the
WATT/PUPPYs. I'm pretty certain that wherever I go
from here, i.e.: SACD or similar, the speakers won't be the
weak link. My bass is somewhat off, as I have two
units of couch between the speakers (not easily
temporarily removed; permanent removal would tamper with
Even though my speaker
cables are long (almost 30 feet), they were tuned by
Transparent audio to be correct. I know this is atypical but
I think folks who put their rigs in the near soundfield bass
can get bad vibrations to be worse than a longer run of
speaker cable (although compensated, to be sure.)
Perhaps adding to the sound
is the fact that the electronics are 20 feet from the
speakers (behind the listening position) so they are less
likely to be affected by vibration versus more standard
'between the speaker' positioning. The speaker cables
run under the room (through the lower level of the house in
WAF has kept me from moving
the two unit sofa between the speakers which has to futz
with the bass! The Skylines are mounted on a 4 x 4
foot board with is hung for listening sessions.
The Power Plants made quite
a difference and I look forward to the multiwave option,
which I've ordered.
The type of music I listen
to: Pop 30%, Rock 25%, Eclectic (country, new age,
My favorite test
Steely Dan -
Gaucho: I know this so well that Fagen's voice alone
tells a story. Also Fagen's Nightfly for a gem that
would expose anything not up to speed or clarity.
Basia - The
Sweetest Illusion - well produced. Notice piano,
choruses (Basia often sings with layers of herself) brass,
(any of the latest) - balance and vocals
Emancipation, Rave un2 the joy fantastic. If it's on
one of these, it's on purpose: some cuts are
distorted, some breathtakingly clear. Plus he's got
side to side and front to back (3D) ear candy which I
love. His songs constantly reach out and draw you
in. A showman like no other.
Philip Bailey -
Chinese Wall - I believe Phil Collins produced this and
apart from Easy Lover which I find too commercial, the
percussion is outstanding and can really pop on the right
system (especially horns) plus the various recordings of
Bailey's voice (this was between his stints with Earth Wind
and Fire) are illustrative.
There are others,
some for simple sound (tone) and others for more
complexities. Lisa Loeb on VH1 Storytellers is the
best from that CD on my system. It's a stunning
I haven't settled
on any bass champs probably because my room (it's huge, 25
foot high sloping ceiling, 40 foot length, up to 20 feet
wide at parts) and my speaker positioning attenuate the bass
although I could play cuts which would convince
otherwise. It's still part of my puzzle.
Theta Jade with jitter reduction and laser
Theta DS Pro Basic IIIa balanced (laser
Audio Research LS5MK 3 modified to take
non-standard power cord.
Audio Research VT-100 MK II with separately
wired fan circuit (to allow multiwave from Power
Wilson WATT/Puppy 5.1s.
Power Plant 300 on front end. Power
plant 600 on amp.
Bybee, Electraglide, PS Audio Lab
All balanced Transparent Reference
4 RPG skylines behind speakers, 5 Argent Room
Lenses to sides of speakers. 12 foot foam wedge in
corner for bass.
Bybee speaker filters, Bybee quantum charger
on P600, Black Diamond racing cones on all units.
comments about his System:
AA: "Bob, how would
you describe your system's sound?"
large. Fast. Detailed. I write
'increasingly' because that seems to be what the latest
upgrades (Power Plant 300 and 600) have unleashed.
It's a big soundstage, high and wide more than
AA: "Do you think
there is room for improvement?"
BW: "If the reviews
of SACD are correct, absolutely! I'm also interested
in speaker correction and room correction a la Perpetual
Technologies or TACT. It's pretty darn good
AA: "Have you got
plans for upgrading?"
BW: "Power Plant
multiwave upgrades are ordered and am in the process of
wiring the amp's fan to run independently so I can take
advantage of multiwave on the P600 feeding the
I will move to SACD or
Universal when enough music product becomes available.
I admit I think the Theta gear is very impressive
(especially since the Jade Transport with jitter reduction
and laser linque) and I must have equal or better CD
performance to switch, because I don't want to step backward
while still playing my collection."
Notes (29 October 2000):
After reading the various raves on the web about
the Sony SCD-1, I was eager to hear it! Although I
FOUND one to LOOK AT, I was unable to have an
audition at the local big box store since their amp
had one blown channel (THAT'LL move a lot of
product!) Don't you hate it when you go into
a store and clearly know more about the product
than the salesman? Half a Krell is no better
than no Krell at all!
So, since I have this time share at the House of
Rationalization, and I don't want to waste it, I
did my careful internet search of prices and made
the leap to mail order - sight unheard, or
The big box came from J&R In New York.
Crushed. Now there's a confidence builder
about as impressive as the release you are forced
to sign right before general surgery!
Luckily, the box within the box was intact. I
suspect those new shipping air-bladders that are
replacing styrofoam peanuts are actually inflated
sales claims. And just as helpful.
So it was with a little trepidation that I tried
to un-inner-box the SACD-1. First impression
- hey - the sides aren't silver. (Can you
tell from the pics? I couldn't!)
Gloom. What else? What about I can't
lift it!? Trepidaton turns into palpitation!
I thought I COULD get it up (ahem) - fifty pounds
is well within my range. But not to a level
of almost 5 feet (top shelf in rack!) That
was funny. I couldn't do it. The step
stool too flimsy. I feared getting it almost
in then having it fall to the floor. Finally I
threw away my testosterone-club membership card and
asked my tiny 98 pound wife for about ten pounds of
heft, which she gave me in exchange for four more
pair of black shoes.
So there it was. Shiny on front.
Dull on sides. Hey! Crummy instruction
manual. For $5K list they ought to do
something other than print on near
toilet-paper. Maybe I could get a job working
for SONY explaining how things should be?
The sound. Initially, I stuck to CD.
Call it feed-forward buyer's remorse. If I
could enjoy CDs then I could HOPE for wonderful
Turns out it DOES take quite a while to break
in. If criminals took this long to break in,
all the thiefs would be in jail! Well, either
it's the SONY or me, but I'm enjoying it as a CD
player enough that I've sold my beloved Theta
transport and am trying to move the Theta D/A
to some loving home. It's a wonderful
I hooked up the SONY to try it as a transport
through the Theta D/A and decided it was a tie at
worst, slightly cleaner at best. Don't like
the filters. Prefer Standard.
By the way, I suspect a lot of the disparity in
opinion on various store auditions is based on
improper break in. I don't know exactly WHY
it's a factor, but it surely IS.
SACD? I have ONE I like a lot, others
sound only marginally better than CD. This
side of the player has fewer hours on it. I
suspect the newer recordings will be better than
the older material they seem to be releasing
first. I'd describe the difference as more
focused, better bass, size reduced over the Theta
combo, less digititis in the highs. I look
forward to collecting more titles, and find I am
buying things I WOULDN'T want on CD just to
discover what sound awaits.
Meanwhile a woodpecker has pecked a hole into
the siding on our house and is living inside the
wall, eating the house from inside out.
Sometimes it taps along to the music. It
didn't do this when I played the Theta.
"Visit" Notes (27 October
Every once in a while I get a contact from
someone who visited this site. The last one was
from the Philippines! It's a worldwide treat!
So for the record, and for anyone who might
actually read this, and perhaps for my psyche,
here's the latest installment... interestingly
enough, with each one I feel I'm DONE, but as you
will read, I seem to find plenty of new territory
To the SCD-1: I do feel overall it is superior
to the Theta rig I sold, but then I read threads of
modding and fell under the spell not once but
TWICE. (Richard Kern was the modder.) Packing the
50+ pound beast up and trying to get it safely back
and forth to Oregon (from Minnesota) was somewhat
iffy but I will testify it CAN be done.
Most of my listening is to redbook CDs. I have
maybe a dozen or so SACDs but generally the music
available isn't sufficiently to my tastes to
intrigue me no matter what sonic delight there is -
and there IS, but I'm more into this hobby for the
music. So everything I report is from the CD side
of my universe. Yes, a good SACD is better than a
good CD. But a bad SACD is worse than a good
Modding was simply amazing. It took that player
to a whole other realm. It amuses me to read of
folks comparing this unit to that unit STOCK,
because apparently that's ONLY a starting point.
(In fact, I wonder how many equipment opinions are
based on non broken in, non synergistically or
poorly set up gear in general!) Simply put,
everything, in every way, was a LOT better. Here's
an analogy I've never seen: it's the difference
between stale bread and freshly baked. That good.
But a warning - there's a bout of nasty self doubt
at about 160 hours for maybe 60 hours as the sound
turns shrill and broken. Sun does shine on the
other side of the storm but I can't imagine anyone
not thinking they had just voided the warranty and
ruined their player. This isn't just my opinion -
you can catch the story on threads at Audio Asylum
if you wish - but living through it, the experience
was bad enough that those posters' postings didn't
make me think mine wasn't ruined.
So, the SCD-1 is fine, just fine.
Meanwhile Wilson had upgraded the 5.1
Watt/Puppies to a 6.0 version, which I never heard,
but read that they were much better than the 5.1s.
I try to avoid the local showroom of my dealer
because that means I can avoid spending! I almost
bought a pair from Jim Saxon in Costa Rica - it was
a great deal but I couldn't sell my 5.1s in time,
and then that window of opportunity seemed to
close. I admit I was worried about the
connections, imagining the boxes sitting on the
tarmac under a tropical downpour... not to cast
aspersions on Jim, rather, on the El Unknown
Some time passes.
Wilson announces Watt/Puppy System 7s. This,
after some raves surrounding the more junior
Sophia. I figure they HAVE to improve the
Watt/Puppy or lose sales to the half priced Sophia.
But I can't find one to hear, can't make it to New
York to the big show to hear the introduction, and
I sit in Minnesota thinking.
Wilson, for all its success, just baffles me
when it comes to naming their products. WATT I
get. Puppy is the woofer - cute, maybe too cute,
but okay. MAXX... WHAM.... WHOW... a theme
develops. Then WITT (what?)... CUB... now SOPHIA?
What's next? AUDREY? Well, they have collected,
though the local dealer, more than $36,000 of my
money so FAR, so who's the fool here?
You can guess I ordered the 7s. Against all
rules of logic - listen LISTEN - LISTEN WITH YOUR
GEAR!!! Call it my mid-life crisis.
Welcome to BackOrderLand. Where, perhaps,
hundreds of other men of middle age sense the
WATT/PUPPY progression has reached a new level. It
can't be dotcommers. Maybe it's a mass realization
that the young sexy actress won't ever call and
life will pretty much continue in a straight line
The wait. As I search internet sites for any
word on this speaker, SOUNDSTAGE has a pair for
review but they aren't talking. Audio Research is
in line for a pair (my amp and pre are from Audio
Research, up the road a few miles.) There some buzz
from the Expo - and Wilson places second in
participant polling (but that included their huge
FAT BETTY? sub woofer.) I wait.
And sell my 5.1s to a fellow in LA who, from our
phone conversation, seems to be a good guy who will
appreciate what he's got. I feel like the
transaction is a win-win. We both got a good price,
Into music withdrawal.
And then - they've arrived. Dealer arranges
delivery. Then shows with three not four boxes
since they wouldn't all fit into truck. Imagine
how much worse waiting becomes when you have parts
of the speakers in crates (Bad Back Warning: Don't
Lift Them Out And Even If You Do You Can Only Hear
One Side!) Scheduling difficulties for days - then
the final crate - the UNcrating.
The hook up.
The first CD. Tizzy. Mids wrong. Crates into
garage. Wife happier. Break-in commences. I open
some wine the next night and get semi hammered as I
listen... as the sound opens up - or the grape
opens ME up - hey, this is stressful, I'm stuck
with a very bad decision if these don't turn out to
be great - these are the latest last speakers I'll
ever ever buy! Through the Cabernet they sound
great. And indeed a whole other thing than were the
5.1s. I can discern more detail, more tone, more
words. More wine? Thank you I believe I will.
Soundstage - by now at 8 hours in - is not wider
than the speaker placement, and depth I think is
limited by room considerations, and I am listening
without my ByBee speaker filters while I await
connection adaptors from Nordost. But I am
listening to CDs I know are NOT state of the art (I
work my way up)... and I love them. Not only are
they listenable but enjoyable!
Then my preamp again develops a noisy left
channel and I again sit with no music after 80
mile-an-hour trip two to the Audio Research shop.
While there, I figure, complete the insanity or
purity or whatever it is, and go for the capacitor
upgrade to Infinicaps.
There's not much in my life that I feel I can
nudge closer and closer to perfection - or at least
as good as possible - and this has been a 20 year
process. I think I'm maybe as close as I can
But I wonder about cryogenics. Would my