John Dooley III 's
Date of "Visit":
19 January 2002

19 January 2003

the system

the electronics

the rack


Martin Logan SL3

Rega Planar 3

Line conditioner



e-mail to:
John Dooley III

I come from a non-professional singing family, we all sing when we walk or drive a car. My father was a trumpet player in high school and I started to play his trumpet when I was about 10 years old. Later I added the piano at age 12, the guitar at age 14, and the trombone at age 16. I was first chair trumpet in 8th, 9th, 11th, and 12th grade playing jazz high notes like Maynard Ferguson. With the guitar I sang old Christian hymns at retirement homes and modern folk gospel at a few Bible studies. Around my mid 20's to early 30's; I wrote about 15 to 20 songs that people say sound like Bob Dylan meets Ravi Shankar, but I think I sound like Bruce Cockburn, a Canadian folk singer. I remember when I first heard Bruce Cockburn singing "Lord of the Starfields" from a tape during an art class in college; I knew exactly what Bruce Cockburn was singing about. I asked about the tape and was told which albums to buy. I went straight to the record store, picked up 2 albums; "In the Falling Dark" and "Humans", rushed home and put the records on the turntable. My father knocked on my door and asked if I was singing. I said, "No, I found a person that sings just like me."

I thought about majoring in music at college and took a few classes, but I saw too many starving artists and crazy music teachers that I ended up with a BA in Fine Art Photography. So much for the art degree, I am in a partnership with a Fastener Distributor company called D.B. Building Fasteners, but as a singer I am the back up or the lead male cantor for St. Michaels Orthodox Christian church in southern California.

As far as stereos or audio systems are concern, I always used my parents audio system until 1976, when I was 19; I bought my first stereo for $1000. I bought a Harmon Karmon 100 watt integrated amp, MXR mixer, Phillips turntable, and JBL speakers. The stereo sounded pretty good playing avant-garde jazz-rock fusion in my bedroom, which drove my parents crazy. 12 years later, the whole stereo died except the integrated amp, which I gave to my then current girl friend Chris, who was burned out with Rock-N-Roll and I turned her unto New Age and Jazz music, our favorite band was Film and the BB's.

Around the mid to late 1980's, I notice that the local record stores exchanged their stock from LP's to CD's and a great fear over took me. I rushed over to the local audio/video store and bought a cheap Sony CD transport, not because I like the sound of CD's, but because I was forced to, in order to buy music.

After this I bought Yamaha 125 watt separates with Polk Audio SDS-2A speakers and replace the cheap CD transport with a Sony ES CD transport. This stereo turned into an audio system that lasted for 10 years where I matched multi-media slide shows and performance art pieces. Then one fateful day I went over to a friend's house, who had Martin Logan Aerius speakers matched to an Adcom amp, Carver pre-amp, and Dennon CD transport. I put in the CD Holly Cole's "Temptation" and heard the bass player's hands tap the bass casing; I never heard that on my audio system. I asked my friend, "What are these speakers?" and he explained about electrostatic speakers.

Later in the month I went to my local high-end audio store and found some older model Martin Logan SL3 speakers on sale, bought them and hooked them up to my audio system. Nothing! The Martin Logan SL3 speakers sounded just like my Polk Audio SDS-2A speakers. I found out the hard way that speakers were only as good as what you match them too. A few months later, after I regain the money spent, I bought an Aragon 8008BB dual mono amp because it could power the Martin Logan SL3 speakers with a warm sound at a modest price. This combination revealed all the limitations of my audio system; I went though two Audio Research pre-amps, first the LS-9 that was solid state, and then stayed with the LS-16 that has tubes giving a smooth non-interfering sound. I bought another Sony ES CD transport, the best on the market at that time, the XA7ES because the older Sony ES CD transport had a bad output. I then replaced all the Monster Cable RCA interconnects with Harmonic Technology RCA interconnects, starting with Precision-Link then upgraded to Truth-Link while using Pro-Silway MK II balance from the CD transport to pre-amp to amp. When I was finished, or when I thought I was finished, I had a full blown 5.1 HT audio/video system with Martin Logan Logos center and Script rear speakers. The only WAF issue was the placement of the main Martin Logan SL3 speakers; they had to match the distance of the HDTV to make the room look good. Sometimes I would move the speakers out and forget to place them back only to find them moved the next day to the extreme match to the HDTV, wondering when my wife had moved them. The speakers are about as tall at half the weight as she is.

Living at a small beach duplex in Long Beach California with 1930ish cheap or out of date wiring, the 5.1 HT audio/video system hummed and turned off certain equipment without notice. Way too many interconnects; it was a jungle back there. Around 1999 I met 3 other gentlemen in southern California that also were into Martin Logan speakers and we started this unofficial club, which is so unofficial I am making up the name "The Unofficial Southern California Martin Logan Fan Club" or is it the "The Unofficial Los Angeles" any way, we visit each other's audio/video systems, trading or experimenting with equipment, interconnects, and power cords. We drink fine wine and then order pizza while listening to our favorite CD's, SACD's or watch DVD's with good sound effects. If the Martin Logan Fan Club comes over to my house, my wife and I cook the guys a meal. I have the most analog type of system with the only record turntable.

To finish the story, we moved to a large 2-story house in Ontario California and there was no place to put my Martin Logan Script rear speakers in the large front room. The room is shaped like a large horn cone speaker; I mean that the south wall is the standard 8 feet, while the north wall is the stairway, maybe as high as 20. In other words, the sound from the speakers starts at the low south section and fills the higher north section. At the same time I bought a Sony 42 inch flat plasma HDTV that was placed over the fireplace in the family room, and there was only enough room to use my back up NHT VT-2 speakers. Therefore I split my audio only equipment from my audio/video equipment and created a complete NHT 5.1 HT audio/video system to match the new Sony 42 inch flat plasma HDTV. I sold my Martin Logan Logos center and Script rear speakers and converted my Martin Logan SL3 speakers back into a stereo while receiving a great deal on two Aragon Palladium mono-block amps. With the new mono block amps I get more detail in the mid-range and background, with a tighter bass. The NHT Sub Two is a very musical subwoofer that fills in the lower bass, which the Martin Logan SL3 is so famous in lacking. The NHT Sub Two is crossover at 40 Hz via the RCA output from the Audio Research LS-16 pre-amp while the Martin Logan SL3 speakers are set at standard via the balance outputs from the Audio Research LS-16 pre-amp. The new stereo set-up sounds the best it ever has without all the audio/video equipment in the way. I am falling in love again with my over 1600 CD's and 500 LP's.


I use to say that my musical taste changed every 2 years, but now it has entered hyper drive due to philosophical artist needs. At this time I write the following percentages and examples but for a larger list see:

Classical 25 % Benjamin Britten, Anton Bruckner, Henryk Gorecki, Alan Hovhaness, Arvo Part, Steve Reich, and Peteris Vasks to name a few. 20 years ago I listen to the real classics: Bach, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky.

Jazz 25 % Geri Allen, Christy Baron, Holly Cole, Miles Davis, Al Di Meola, Sidsel Endresen, Jan Garbarek, Charlie Haden, Keith Jarrett, The Lounge Lizards, Nils Petter Molvaer, Oregon, Cassandra Wilson, and Yellow Jackets to name a few.

Folk / World 15 % Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mary Black, Luka Bloom, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Leonard Cohen, Djivan Gasparyan, Iona, Kino, Lhasa, Lyle Lovett, Peter Paul and Mary, Silly Wizard, and Solas to name a few.

Movie Themes 15 % At First Sight, The English Patient, Gladiator, Koyaanisqatsi, The Last of the Mohicans, The Mission, The Piano, The Secret of Roan Inish, Sleepless in Seattle, Snow Falling on Cedars, and When Harry Met Sally to name a few.

Rock 10 % The Blue Nile, The Call, The Cranberries, Dead Can Dance, Gentle Giant, Happy the Man, Rickie Lee Jones, Marvin, Sarah McLachlan, Van Morrison, Beth Orton, Mike Scott, Cat Stevens, and Tindersticks to name a few.

Misc. 10% mostly Broadway and very little New Age. Then again I listen to everything but extreme pop, rap, or anything with mindless lyrics.

System's Components


Rega Planar 3 turntable with Grado Reference Sonata cartridge

CD Player:

Sony XA7ES

CD Recorder:

Pioneer Elite PDR-19RW


Yamaha TX-400U AM/FM tuner (for traffic or weather reports) with Terk AM/FM antenna.

Line Preamp:

Audio Research LS16

Phono Preamp:

Aragon 47K

Power amps:

Aragon Palladium mono block


Martin Logan SL3


NHT Sub Two dual 10 inch

Speaker cables:

Synergistic Research Phase II bi-wires (need to upgrade to larger gauge)


Harmonic Technology Precision-Link RCA interconnects from tuner to pre-amp input

Harmonic Technology Truth-Link RCA interconnects from CD recorder and phono to pre-amp input, & pre-amp output to CD recorder & sub controller

Harmonic Technology Pro-Silway MK II balance interconnects from CD transport to pre-amp input and Pre-amp output to mono block amps

Power Cord:

Synergistic Research Reference Master Coupler from line enhancement to pre-amp and Synergistic Research Master Coupler to the Aragon mono blocks and NHT Sub Two


Richard Gray RGPC400 Line Enhancement, Sennheiser HD-600 headphones and NHT Controller

John's comments about his System:

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

JD3: "Full range detail with good transparency, fair size sweet spot. I heard some audio systems that are smoother due to higher end interconnects, for example an audio club friend's four Martin Logan SL3 matched with Synergistic Research Reference Active Shield gives the smoothest sound I ever heard. Other audio systems may have better soundstage due to higher end equipment at twice the price, a better or different design of speaker, or in better sounding rooms." 

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

JD3: "This audio hobby is a never ending process, especially when you are in an audio club that experiments and trades. I am at times the receiving end of audio buddies that are upgrading ahead of me. Right now I need better bi-wires, the ones now on the stereo are from the NHT 5.1 HT audio/video system in the family room. Lastly, the Martin Logan SL3 speakers were the right size in my beach duplex, but seem rather small in my new 2-story house. When I walk up the stairs I lose the detail in the mid range from the 2nd or 3rd step and I am wondering what the newer Martin Logan speaker models can do." 

AA: "Have you got plans for upgrading?"

JD3: "I am waiting for the newest audio trade show in Las Vegas to end to see if Synergistic Research has some new bi-wires in between $500 and $2000. The $500 version is too low in quality for my stereo while the $2000 version would be over kill for Martin Logan SL3 speakers. In other words; I can't imagine buying bi-wires at the same price as the speakers. I am also thinking of putting the NHT Sub Two dual 10 inch subwoofer in the NHT 5.1 HT audio/video system and buying the newer dual 12 inch subwoofer version to get a lower and fuller HZ range" 










"Re-Visit" Notes (19 January 2003)

1. I moved the 2 Aragon Palladium mono block amps from the 2 floor amp stands and placed them in the bottom row of the center audio equipment stand. I custom made 11-inch tubes to fit the mono block amps in the bottom shelf because some reviews state that the mono block amps run hot, but mine run rather cool so the normal 9-inch tubes would have been okay. This was mostly a cosmetic upgrade to help the front room look better and to keep the wife happy with the extra room. I haven't noticed any change in the soundstage due to the higher audio equipment stand because I also increased the speaker distance from the back wall.

> Added Shelf (picture 1)

2. The Rega Planar 3 turntable was upgraded with internal Cardas wires from the Grado Sonata cartridge to a Cardas RCA outbox that is mounted underneath the turntable. This allowed me to upgrade with after market phono cables.

3. With the Cardas RCA outbox; I was able to replace the standard attached Rega phono cable with Harmonic Technology Silver Crystal phono cables. These interconnects are specially designed to be used as phono cables because of 4 special ground lines at each RCA end. Not all the ground lines have to be connected and I have 2 of the ground lines attached to the Aragon 47K phono pre-amp ground screw. This upgrade makes LP's sound more detailed, open, and smooth, with less hum when the cartridge is by the center platter pin. The music quality of the LP's now matches the quality of the CD's from the Sony XA7es CD player.

> Harmonic Technology Silver Crystal (picture 3)

4. I replaced the standard Rega felt mat with an Extreme Phono None Felt Mat/Standard. The new mat holds a LP in place during playback and I have to stop the turntable before taking the LP off. A little slower starting and stopping LP playback but I think the extra friction and less static from the mat make up for this.

> Extreme Phono None Felt Mat (picture 4)

5. I added a 2nd NHT Sub Two to the opposite corner of the listening room to balanced out the "Presence" of the music. There are now fewer reflections and the need for acoustic proofing the room is not as urgent, but is still a future upgrade.

> 2nd NHT Sub Two (picture 5)

6a. I replaced the Synergistic Research Phase 2 Bi-wires with 2 Synergistic Research Resolution Reference .5 Active Shield speaker 6 ft cables for the upper 1 x 4 electrostatic panels and 2 Synergistic Research Signature 10 Active Shield speaker 6 ft cables for the bottom 10-inch woofers. Therefore all the speaker cables are Active Shield that has a DC circuit protecting the inner AC circuit from RFI and EMI. This upgrade added background detail and extended the lows from the highs.

6b. I put 8 MMF Music Hall Cable Elevators Plus to uplift the Synergistic Research speaker cables from off the floor and away from the power cords. The change in sound quality was not as vast as changing the speaker cables themselves.

> Music Hall Cable Elevators (picture 6)

7. I placed 2 AudioPrism Waveguides on the power cords to the Martin Logan SL3 speakers but in the future I am thinking of placing them on the balance interconnects from the pre-amp to mono block amps. They are passive/inductive; opposing magnetic champs that fit over any interconnect or power cord. Rather like an upgraded ferrite clamp. The change in sound quality hasn't yet been notice.

8. We have 2 cats :)

> Miss Spy (picture 8a)

> Good Girl (picture 8b)

9. I designed a cheap way of keeping the cats off the Martin Logan SL3 speakers by placing normal clear tape across the bass enclosure.

>Cat Protection Tape (picture 9)

Future Upgrades:

- Synergistic Research Active Shield power cords for the Martin Logan SL3 speakers
- PS Audio Ultimate Outlet for the power cords
- Hospital Grade outlets
- Acoustic proofing the listening room

Dream Upgrades:

- VPI Aries Turntable
- A good DAC