25 June 2000
I've been an audio hobbyist since 1972 (age 13). I am a research scientist by profession and one of the reasons I enjoy this hobby is because it is both scientifically and artistically stimulating, incorporating science and technology in the service of music. I grew up in Southern California and there was a large audiophile community in that region, including professionals in recording and mastering studios, high-end equipment manufacturers, and high end retailers (most notably Jonas Miller), consumers, and DIYs. I moved to Central Ohio at the time that the audio market in Southern California was hit by the "80"s recession. Central Ohio has fewer high-end retailers, but the ones we have are very good by any standard.
My current system is in a shoebox-shaped
room with dimensions of 7.1 x 4.0 x 2.4 meters (volume = 69 m3; or for
Americans, 2400 ft3). Although relatively small for the Nautilus
801 speakers, I have achieved good results with placement near the halfway
point of the long axis, yielding excellent depth reproduction (at some
expense to soundstage width) and reducing excitation of room bass resonances.
Because I believe in using short cables, I have the equipment arranged
near the speakers, spread around the center of the room, further degrading
potential WAF. I am single, in case you had any doubt, but my system
would have a decent WAF if I was married... to the Blair Witch! :-)
An Aggressively Passive Approach
I am embarrassed to admit that most of
my system components are stock and not custom-made or DIY like many at
this site. However, there are three unusual aspects to my system.
1) There is no line-stage preamp. At any given time, the system is
single-source dedicated (not convenient). The two sources (vinyl
and CD) are played back through the Krell amp by alternating cable hookups
and the corresponding passive attenuators (single-ended for vinyl, balanced
for CD). This maximizes transparency, immediacy, and low-level information
retrieval. 2) The balanced passive attenuators for CD playback are
of the fixed-value, single 1 kohm series resistor/single shunt resistor
per signal leg configuration, and plug directly into the XLR inputs on
the amp. I made 7 pairs with 7 different Vishay resistor sets. I
have my CD collection sorted into seven sets for appropriate playback volume
of each. To change volume, I have to change the pair of attenuators.
Inconvenient, but transparency is maximized. 3) Vinyl playback circuit
path is DC-coupled. The AHT phono preamp has no roll-off or DC-servo circuitry;
DC offset is nulled by manual pot adjustments. The Krell amp is DC-coupled,
of course. The Townshend turntable's damping front-end trough/paddle eliminates
the 6-7 Hz low frequency resonance of the arm/cartridge combination.
Combined with three layers of Seismic Sinks, vibration and feedback are
minimized. The result is taut, extended, and thunderous bass response
from analog playback that nearly rivals the bass from the Theta digital
Listening and Music Preferences
Vinyl, if I can get it. Vinyl sounds
clearly superior on my system, despite my considerable investment in CD
playback equipment. I listen to a wide variety of music: rock/pop
(40%), folk (10%), jazz and blues (25%), classical (25%)
Evaluation Software (a baker's dozen of each)
Ambrosia: Ambrosia, 20th Century
Bare Naked Ladies: GordonSystem's Components
Steve's comments about his System:
AA: "Steve, how would you describe your system's sound?"
SE: "Dynamic, immediate, compelling, high intensity (not laid-back), high resolution, low distortion, wide bandwidth, excellent midrange and bass, excellent depth, but limited soundstage width (due to tradeoff in proximity of speakers to side walls). Reproduction of male vocals, drums, brass, and piano is outstanding."
AA: "Do you think there is room for improvement?"
SE: "Definitely in convenience (due to lack of preamp), purity of tone, delicacy, reduction of texture and grain in CD playback. The N801s are not as refined and naturally extended in the treble as the electrostatics on my InnerSound Eros. Also, I need a better-looking carpet and a better shirt (I won't bother asking this site's Tapani Lappi about the latter)."
AA: "Have you got plans for upgrading?"
SE: "I'd like to try a better cartridge, maybe a Grado Statement. Second, I'd buy a SACD and/or DVD-Audio player when/if the software selection improves. Third, I'd like to get a really good line stage preamp (I tried a few years ago and rejected AI Modulus 3A, AR LS-5 Mk II, and Krell KRC-HR); maybe an AR Ref Two, BAT VK-50SE, Spectral DMC30, or ?"