State of the systems here…

I took these photos yesterday – and already things have changed quite a bit, with a few pieces going out on audition and Thursday another shootout will mix things up some more 🙂

We have had the Audio Note Kegon Balanced amps on the Marten Coltrane Supremes for a few months now. It is very nice and for some reason produces more bass than any amp we have had on these speakers [so we just turn down the bass on the crossover. We also can move the speakers out from the wall a wee bit more if we decide we are missing something. Haven’t felt that way so far though…]

We are running the Brinkmann Balance turntable and EMM Labs CDSD and DCC2 digital through the Audio Note M9 Phono preamplifier.

We are using the little S4 step-up for the Titan cartridge on the M9. Works pretty dang good, considering it wasn’t really made for this kind of thing. Heck, running the Titan direct sounded pretty dang good, although very quiet. The point being that the Phono in this preamp has a qualitative depth that is really fun to explore – it is very open, very harmonically complex, with very good dynamic resolution.


This is the exact same system that we took to CES: Audio Note everything: Ongaku integrated, SEC Signature speakers, SOOTTO interconnects and SOGON speaker cables, with Nordost ODIN and AcroLink power cords.

Except the placement is kind of … different. A future post will talk about this weird placement that really works very very well … for octagonal rooms anyway.

A couple of turntables share the Lamm LP2 phono.

The Kharma Mini Exquisite speakers are being driven by the big EDGE reference amps. We swap between these and the Lamm ML2.1 amps, which A. underdrives the speakers something awful, but B. sounds very very wonderful in the midrange. About half the people only care about A and half only care about B. I think Neli and I are both B – because B is so gooood – but we understand the A point of view too 🙂

The EDGE from above. ODIN speaker cables and interconnects.

The 3rd room. We take new visitors to our store/home/showroom here first. I’d say about 60% convince us it is the best sound they ever heard.

Then we take them to hear the other systems.

This system is good enough that we tend to spend way longer here than we probably should – given that there are 3 systems to go we often spend 30 – 40% of our visitor’s time here.

Quick Tour II

Ooops – Tour three got posted before two.

Well, not much is happening on this floor. Two nice systems. The EDGE is still on the AN speakers – where we are performing some macro-dynamic shock treatments and seriously braking them in, using solid-state so we do not have to waste any tube life on the somewhat contrived process.

Some shots of the Audio Note and Walker turntables. No phono-preamplifier down here yet – so these sit here, appreciated only for their good looks.

The Marten Coltrane loudspeakers [on consignment] on the Lamm ML2.1 and Audio Aero Prestige

Current state of the systems here

It has been foggy and rainy here – I took these yesterday – but today is much the same.

The latest change upstairs is the Audio Note Kegon Balanced 300B-based amplifiers on the Marten Coltrane Supremes. In comparison to the Lamm ML2.1 amplifiers that have been there for about 6 months, the albeit 3X more expensive KB’s are:

1. more dynamic, removing most if not all [that I can hear] of the reticence ceramic drivers have at the peak [most dynamic part] of the notes
2. More bass [we think we have to move the bass towers away from the way – hopefully just an inch or so]
3. More ‘macro’ separation – the instruments are more separated in sound and on the soundstage, micro separation is actually less than with the ML2.1, but this seems more natural [to me] and less artificially ‘etched’
4. More harmonically rich.

So, all in all, the Lamm ML2.1 held up quite well, considering the price differential – but at the same time we were very happy with the improvements we got with the KB’s.

We have been using Nordost ODIN for the crossover-to-amp connection for awhile – although in this case we are using a Cardas single-ended to balanced doohickey that likely degrades the sound – but it will have to do until we get a balanced ODIN interconnect.

We are also using ELROD power cords and Jorma Design PRIME speaker calbe on the main towers and their No.1 [bi-wire… the double run helps improve the bass noticeably] on the bass towers.

Here you can see the fog outside, as well as the KB’s in their enclosures. They look better [I think :-)] with the tops off of the chassis – but we have been picking up radio frequencies lately – and this seemed to help? [We haven’t heard anything for a day or so].

We are running the Emm Labs CDSA CD player through the Lamm L2 Reference preamplifier. We had out other ODIN interconnect between these two – and it KILLED – but now I think it is back on the back of the Brinkmann Balance turntable – where it also KILLS [though I think as soon as we get our Audio Note PALLAS interconnect back – we will put it on the turntable instead because, although it is not as good when you total up all aspects of the sound as the 4X more expensive ODIN, it is a lot closer to the ODIN – in the turntable spot – than the other cables were to the ODIN on the CDSA -> L2 link].

I am not completely sure that cabling this system with all ODIN [should we be able to afford it – we got that 8 meter run of Valhalla that also needs replacing] would be the best possible sound we could get on this [any] system [although we have lots of evidence that supports this hyposthesis] – but it sure would be nice to try it 🙂 – and to be able to add in other cables when, if and where necessary for any flavoring that might be required.

The cool-looking equipment racks are the (HRS) Harmonic Resolution System’s SXR [left] and MXR [right]. The SXR is very flexible – and sounds 80-90% as good as the MXR – but the MXR just feels like quality – it is such as pleasure to touch it and be around it [and that extra 10% of performance is definitely worth the higher price in over the top systems – focusing on the turntable first].

The Edge Electronics amps on the Audio Note AN/E SEC Signature speakers actually sounds pretty good [and the AN SOGON bi-wire speaker cable helps some too :-)] – but the real achievement for us, here, is that we found a positioning of the speakers -in this octagon room – that actually seems to work. Finally. Still needs tweaking – none of the walls are symmetrical, nor are the beams located directly across from each other – so one speaker still seems more forward than the other … but only on certain frequencies! What a pain.

The front-end is Audio Note: the CDT Three transport and DAC 4.1x Balanced. They are running into the baby AN M1 preamplifier which, when our M9 gets here a-n-y d-a-y n-o-w, I want to snarf for my office system to use instead of the Lexicon DC-1 I am using now [for TV and computer]. I anticipate a vast improvement in musicality. Lexicon – phooey. After my $6500 MC-1 died, and it cost more to repair than to buy a used one – and the fact that it did not work right to start with [DTS], and there is no digital in [hello?] – I am happy that I have learned enough about this industry to know what is good value. It does make me spend a lot of time wondering about and analyzing what motivates people [like me] to buy X instead of Y.

Oh, I digress.

The rack is the Rix Rax Grand Hoodoo. The turntables, the Walker and the Audio Note, are not hooked up for some reason. It is always something that needs doing with 4 systems. And we are always running out of what seems like would be the Purrfect power cords and cables for a given situation. ODIN cables seems especially hard to free up around here 😉

The Marten Coltranes loudspeakers, on consignment, on the Lamm ML2.1 amplifiers driven by the Audio Aero Prestige CD/preamplifier. A nice system – but it needs a little optimization – A HRS platform for the Prestige would work wonders, I think, but all 12 are in use elsewhere. The Kharma Mini Exquisites speakers are taking a breather – but can be easily swapped into either of these two systems in this room.

The small system room. We are going to eventually move this system a little higher in the rainbow of high-end audio. Not that we [especially me] do not like this system – but people come here expecting the stars – and they are not [usually] all that interested in the moon.