Russell Lichter's 
Date of "Visit":
08 July 2000

20 May 2001

"Third Visit":
09 March 2003


Side view


Rega Planar 3

where ribbon meets the cone


e-mail to:
Russell Lichter


I live in Black Point, California, forty minutes north of San Francisco. My involvement with classical music began over fifty years ago, and with audiophilia about three decades later with a fortuitous spin of the FM dial one evening in Los Angeles. I found myself listening with great interest to a program on audio, hosted by Peter Sutheim. Peter and I became friends, I even worked with him doing high-end installations. One thing led to another. I began to acquire equipment, an Advent 300 receiver, a JBL SA-600 amplifier, KEF 104ab loudspeakers (soon after traded on a pair of KEF 101s), a Kenwood direct drive turntable (with a  massive "concrete" plinth), a Grace 707 tone arm. I built a big subwoofer, an electronic crossover. Acquired more equipment, an NAD 1020 preamp, a Hafler amplifier, and an AR-XA table that I modified and fitted with a Black Widow tone arm (a far better table than the Kenwood/Grace). Eventually I ended with a system consisting of the AR-XA/Black Widow, Advent 300, JBL SA-600 and KEF 101s, and so it stood for over fifteen years. 

I didn't interest myself in CDs until five or six years ago, when buying a Marantz CD-63SE marked the start of a new burst of audiophilia. Again, one thing led to another. I bought a Parasound P/HP-850 preamp and HCA-1000 power amp, then a Parasound D/AC-1100 converter, then another HCA-1000 and ran them as monoblocks, then a Parasound C/BD-2000 transport, and later a Parasound P/LD-2000 preamp. I began to eye the KEFs with some doubt. I was never going to get realistic sound levels, or significant bass, from these little speakers, lovely as they are. After a couple of months of auditioning, I bought new loudspeakers and subsequently other new equipment as well.

Having arrived at a certain plateau of audio excellence, though improvements could be made, particularly as regards the room, I find myself engaged not in questions of audio, but in questions of music and performance and aesthetics. I would describe myself as very serious listener, about 95% classical music, most of it solo piano, with emphasis (currently) on Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy, Albeniz, Granados, Liszt, Scarlatti, Schumann and Rachmaninov. The other 5% consists of mostly jazz, though I should not fail to include Manitas de Plata's awesome genius on flamenco guitar, the original-cast My Fair Lady, and the Beatles White Album. I have less than two hundred LPs and only rarely play them. I have approximately three hundred CDs, which doesn't seem like many, but I am not really a collector, preferring to concentrate on a limited range of music. I've certain favorite music of which I have multiple performances: Mussorgsky's Pictures, Bach's Goldbergs and Art of the Fugue, Beethoven piano sonatas, Gliere's Il'ya Muromets, Ravel's Concerto for Left Hand. And certain favorite pianists, Michel Block, Abbey Simon, Glenn Gould, Byron Janis. I have at times listened exclusively to a single piece of music for a period of days, even weeks.

Favorite Test CDs:

  • Prokofiev, Suites from Lieutenant Kije, etc., Mogrelia, Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra, Naxos 8.550.381
  • Mussorgsky, Pictures At An Exhibition, Kubelik, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Mercury Living Presence 434 378-2 (monaural, recorded 1951)
  • Schubert, Trio Op. 100, Sonatina Op. 134, Auer, Delmoni, Rosen, Clarity CCD-1007
  • Rachmaninov, Piano Concertos No. 2 and No. 3, Janis, Dorati, Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra/London Symphony Orchestra, Mercury Living Presence 432 759-2
  • Vine, Sonata, et al., Sergei Babayan, piano, ProPiano PPR224517
  • J.S. Bach, Cello Suites, Nathaniel Rosen, John Marks Records JMR 6/7
  • Live At Ethell's, Clifford Jordan Quartet, Mapleshade 56292
  • Lady in Red, The Hot Club of San Francisco, Clarity CCD-1019
  • Blue Light Till Dawn, Cassandra Wilson, Blue Note CDP 0777 7 81357 2 2

System's Components


14 1/2' x 19' x 8', loudspeakers diagonally/symmetrically positioned in corner, 6' separation, 3 1/2' from nearest wall; no room treatment


home made, 18" x 24" x 3/4" MDF shelves, on 3/4" threaded construction rod


CEA high isolation transformer, 2000VA, 0.001pF coupling capacitance, isolated from source ground; shielded 12 gauge, tinned, stranded copper wire power output cable


Rega Planar 3 turntable, RB300 tone arm, Benz Micro Glider 1.0mV cartridge; on 3/4" MDF platform, suspended on 11" bicycle inner tube (suspension tuned to approximately 4Hz); fitted with Express Machining's "The Lift" and their proprietary, eccentric counterweight for the RB300, "The Heavy Weight" (a stunning improvement in tracking); stock cables

CD Transport:

Parasound C/BD-2000 belt drive (manufactured by CEC), suspended on 10" bicycle inner tube (suspension tuned to approximately 4Hz); Nordost "Moonglo" digital cable, proprietary RCA terminated; stock power cord

D/A Converter:

Bel Canto DAC-1, Nordost Solar Wind cables, wrapped on ferrite torroids, modified at the preamp end with a -6db voltage divider consisting of two 1% metal film resisters per channel (to allow wider ranger of motion and smaller increments in the preamp volume controls); stock power cord wrapped on ferrite torroid


Audible Illusions Modulus 3A, stock tube set with Pearl Audio Tube Coolers; four soft sorbothane feet; Nordost Solar Wind cables; stock power cord

Power Amp:

Spectron Digital One, four medium sorbothane feet; Nordost Flatline speaker cables, proprietary banana plugs; stock power cord wrapped on ferrite torroid


Newform Research R645 ribbon hybrid (each consisting of a 45" column weighing around 20 kilograms composed of three proprietary 15" stacked ribbon drivers, 3 1/2" wide beveled face, 3/4" wide plastic film ribbon with printed aluminum voice coil, 120 degree horizontal dispersion, 6db crossover slope; pair of ScanSpeak 6 1/2" carbon-fiber-pulp cone drivers in rear ported baffle, 12db crossover slope; crossover point 1000Hz; ±3db 32-20,000Hz, 92db sensitivity)

Russell's comments about his System:

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

RL: "Very revealing of detail, very dynamic, extended high end." 

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

RL: "Yes, mainly in terms of room treatment." 

AA: "Have you got plans for upgrading?"

RL: "Possibly. Depends on the next generation of digital-input power amplifiers."



"Re-Visit" Notes (20 May 2001)

Upgrading the crossovers in my Newform Research R645 loudspeakers was done with the blessing of the designer, John Meyer, who lives in Ontario. All of the original components were physically much smaller, and although it was possible to install the new parts inside the cabinet, it was simpler, and (theoretically) sonically superior, to opt for an external crossover. The proprietary Newform ribbon, which crosses over at 1000Hz, uses a filter consisting of a series 11uF capacitor. For my crossover I used 5uF and 6uF Hovland Musicaps in parallel. The low frequency filter consists of a 2.7mH Goertz Alpha-Core copper foil inductor, French SBC 22uF capacitor, and four paralleled 10 ohm power resistors. The physical layout has the inductor as far as practical from the ribbon capacitors, mounted vertically to minimize magnetic field intensity. I already had Nordost Super Flatline biamp speaker cables, so I decided to place the crossovers in the bottom shelf on my equipment rack; the short run of Flatline Gold (with Nordost's superb Z-plugs) in the photograph connects to the amplifier. In addition to constructing the crossovers, I added some eighteen pounds of sheet lead and an additional cross brace to each speaker cabinet, to further lower the resonant point.

I was surprised to hear significant differences. One of these differences is quantitative and would almost certainly not disappear in a controlled blind test: retrieval of low-level detail, harmonics, and ambient information. I literally heard sounds, on very familiar material, I'd not heard previously. On a qualitative level were greater resolution of detail and sharper imaging, the lower octaves were more articulate and tighter. 


relocation of the speakers

new crossovers in their wooden cases


Accuphase transport

sound panels


"Third Visit" Notes (09 March 2003)

The external crossover topology was changed; the inductor orientation is now less than theoretically ideal, but the crossover fits into a reasonably sized wooden case. The cases were custom made by my friend Al Dynarski of red oak and padouk (which gets its beautiful red color from cinnabar). Al also makes beautifully crafted custom CD cabinets. I've already written about the bracing and lead sheeting added to the loudspeaker cabinets.

The loudspeakers were moved from a diagonal orientation to square one, well into the middle of the long dimension of the room (due to a wood burning stove, this is only possible orientation allowing reasonable distance between the loudspeakers). Of the three or four configurations I've tried over the years, I find this the best imaging.

Sound panels were added on the wall facing the loudspeakers. I constructed these of double sheets of 24" x 48" x 2" bonded fiberglass, covered with half-inch polyester batting and loose-woven burlap, mounted on quarter-inch plywood. I am planning of constructing smaller triangular versions for the rear corners of the room.

The Bel Canto DAC 1 was replaced by a DAC 1.1 and finally a DAC 2. For all the spectacular technical improvements, new chips and a total circuit redesign, I find the main improvement of the DAC 2 lies in extended frequency extremes, likely attributable to the audio output stage. It also seems to have somewhat better retrieval of low level detail.

Finally, since my last revisit there have been two CD transport changes. First a PS Audio Lambda, then very recently an Accuphase DP90, which has provided a simply stunning improvement in soundstage and especially image depth.