Frank J. Alles'
Date of "Visit":
05 September 2000

01 July 2001

the left side of the system


VPI Aries


e-mail to:
Frank J. Alles


Just turned 48 this past August, married, with one 16-year-old son &endash; Eric.  The audio bug bit me at age 15, and I've been an active member of the audio community ever since.  For 6 years I served as president of the New Jersey Audio Society here in the USA, and have written equipment reviews for Positive Feedback, The Audiophile Voice,, and for, where I'm also the Executive Editor.

Next to music, I love writing.  My poetry has been published in newspapers and magazines, and I earn my living as a freelance web-writer and as Assistant Editor at a medical advertising agency.

Over the years I've heard and owned many excellent audio systems.  My preference seems to be for planar and electrostatic loudspeakers and I currently enjoy both digital and analogue sources, and tube as well as solid-state electronics.  I believe there are superb products to be heard in all genres and that the latest upsampling DACs now offer a level of performance comparable to my heavy-duty analog turntable system.

My listening room is in a large L-shaped finished basement with a drop-ceiling and partial carpeting.  It is not quite the equal of my previous listening room (which was marvelous in terms of its construction and dimensions) but careful speaker placement and the use of acoustic room treatments, such as Room Tunes and Sonex panels, has yielded surprisingly good sonic performance.  Best of all, it affords me privacy, and I am able to run wires along the floor and put equipment all over the place--no matter how cluttered and unsightly it gets at times.  My wife allows this because it keeps my gear out of our main living space.  COOL!!!

I hate to categorize my musical taste or to break each category down to a percentile figure, but I generally listen to a mix of popular music, indie, rock, fusion, jazz, blues and classical (symphonic works mostly).  I rarely listen to opera or chamber music, and I haven't much use for metal or rap--other than aluminum wrap to keep my leftovers fresh and crispy.

Some of my favorite recordings that I often use to evaluate systems are: Stravinsky's L' Histoire du Soldat (Everest EVC 9049), the Ray Brown Trio's Summerwind (Concord Jazz CCD-4426), US 3's hand on the torch (Blue Note CDP 0777 7 80883 2 5), and Witches Brew (RCA LSC-2225)--the Classic Records reissue (on vinyl).

System's Components

Analog Source: 

VPI Aries with JMW arm / ClearAudio Gamma cartridge, VPI Flywheel and PLC-II and TNT base.

Phono Preamp:

AHT/P DM Phono Stage.

Digital Source:

Bel Canto DAC-1 and Parasound C/BD-2000 belt-drive transport

Line Preamp:

AHT tube line stage

Power Amp:

InnerSound ESL amplifier


InnerSound Eros with active crossover/bass amp


Paradigm Servo-15

Digital Cable:

Harmonic Technology silver


Gary Markowitz's Remarkable Cables, and Full Spectrum Signature interconnects

Speaker Cables:

Sonoran Desert

AC Cords:

Full Spectrum Exotic, and Clayton Audio solid-core

Frank's comments about his System:

AA: "Frank, how would you describe your system's sound?"

FJA: "My system's sound is wonderfully transparent and lifelike, with a natural tonality, excellent dynamic range, and good power and extension at both frequency extremes.  It can play at very loud room-filling levels without strain or constriction.  Sometimes (in the good seats) live concerts sound almost as natural as the system. ;-D" 

AA: "Do you think there is room for improvement?"

FJA: "Being in this hobby for so many years and witnessing the continuous evolution of tweaks and of new equipment, I would have to say that there's always room for improvement.  And even though I am very satisfied with the sound I've achieved, I'm certain that improvements are possible." 

AA: "Have you got plans for upgrading?"

FJA: "Well, I have recently upgraded to the Bel Canto DAC-1 upsampling DAC and that has made a nice improvement over my Parasound D/AC-2000.  Also, I recently went from Townshend Audio's Mk-III Rock turntable to a VPI Aries with "extras" and the latest bearings.  But of course, as a bona fide card-carrying audiophile I'll need to change something else soon--perhaps a new phono cartridge, or an amp..."

Perpetual Tecnologies
P-1A & P-3A

Michell Gyro SE

Monarchy Audio amps

Manger Zerobox 109

"Re-Visit" Notes (01 July 2001)

Over the past 10 months I've had the opportunity to review some very excellent equipment and to make some major changes in my system. With the exception of my Parasound C/BD-2000 belt-drive transport, my entire front end, both digital and analog has changed.

My Bel Canto DAC-1 has been superceded by the Perpetual Technologies P-1A and P-3A digital duo, and I have also purchased the Monolithic P3 upgrade power supply. Additionally, I have had the P-3A DAC modified by Dan Wright of ModWright LLC. This digital setup offers tighter bass and more detail than the Bel Canto and provides more features like the potential for Perpetual Tech's digital speaker and room correction.

On the analog front, my VPI/JMW/ClearAudio vinyl spinner was replaced by the opulently intriguing Michell Gyro SE turntable, with Origin Live modified Rega RB250 arm and Benz-Micro Ruby 2 cartridge. I may be reacting mostly to the sound of the cartridge, but overall this combination is much more natural and impressive in my system. It is the best-sounding analog rig I've ever owned. Plus it is lighter and more compact than the VPI Aries with the extra flywheel and isolation base.

On the amplification front, I made a sideways move by going to the Monarchy Audio SE 160 class A hybrid monoblocks. Their sound is a little softer and more liquid than the InnerSound ESL amp, if not quite as dynamic. They proved to be an excellent match for my InnerSound Eros speakers. Meanwhile, I had my InnerSound amp updated and the bass is much better integrated on this latest version. I am still using the InnerSound amp with great success to drive the new Manger Zerobox 109 speakers in a second system. I'm presently reviewing these gems and may eventually purchase them.

The German-made Manger speakers feature the proprietary Manger bending-wave driver, which I find to offer amazing clarity, super-fast transients, and stunning dynamic range. Their sound is captivating and Manger's "UltraGlo" finish over African Bubinga wood looks like deep-lacquered Tiger-eye. It's just gorgeous!

At the end of March 2001, I stepped down from my position as Executive Editor of in hopes of having more time to spend with my family and to devote to my writing.