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 ๐Ÿ™‚ – 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.

We keep moving things around but…

… here is how they look, well, how they looked a couplea days ago, anyway.

The Lamm ML2.1 are still driving the Marten Coltrane Supremes loudspeakers. That is Nordost ODIN interconnect connecting the amps to the Marten crossover box. We have the Jorma Design PRIME speaker cables on the main towers, and a bi-wire [i.e. double run] of Jorma Design No. 1 speaker cables on the bass towers. The bi-wire run sounds much beefier than the single wire run on the bass towers.

The rack : HRS MXR on the right and SXR on the left. Lots of good good black things here. The Nordost THOR power distributor being the silver outlier [oh, and the Meitner CDSA. That’s what I get for not looking at the photo while I type] ๐Ÿ™

We put the Nordost ODIN on the back of the Brinkmann Balance turntable, connecting it to the Lamm LP2 Deluxe phono stage. In a quick test of the Audio Note PALLAS cables in place of the ODIN – the musicality was very ‘right’ and the soundstaging was more evenly laid out, I thought, but the uber-resolution and detail [I have a hard time writing about details without clarification after that last post :-)] and uber separation of the ODIN was really awesome. Neil Young sounded edgy AND emotional AND listenable – and if you are a Neil fan [we we are] you know this is the promised land.

That said, at 1/4 the price, the PALLAS is a contender with the big boys hangin’ out in the $10K+ category and these need to be heard if your cables play in these leagues. Good deals in this business don’t stay around for long….

After some optimization, we ended up with a real potpourri of power cords. We got the big ELROD supplying power to the THOR. This really opened up the soundstage and at the same time made the sound more forward [in a good way] and immediate.

Then we have the old Acrolink 7..N.. something [how are we supposed to remember all of these numbers? Kind of like the Acura cars these days. Anybody remember the Legend? That was a name I could remember] running into the Lamm L2 Reference line stage power supply. This added a level of refinement that was juuuuust right.

Let’s see, we have the Valhalla power cord on the Lamm LP2 phono stage and the smaller ELROD on the Emmlabs CDSA. I forget how we got to these and what they contributed. Something good no doubt ๐Ÿ™‚

Downstairs we have the Kharma Mini Exquisite speakers on the Edge, driven by the Audio Aero Prestige CD/SACD player using Nordost ODIN speaker cables and the Audio Note system at the other end of the room [that was yesterday. Today we moved the Kharma back to the other side of the room for an audition because we are still playing too much with the AN speaker placement in this here non-symmetric octagonal room. Actually we are still struggling with the Kharmas placement too ๐Ÿ™‚ We have just been struggling longer with the Kharmas and are more confident that we are much nearer perfection].

These are our Audio Note SEC Signature speakers on the Audio Note Kegon Balanced amps and Sogon speaker cable.

We still have our little AN M1 Phono preamp in the loop – so sounds are a little muted, and we can’t use balanced cables to the Kegons… but it sounds pretty good and in some ways nothing here sounds better. But… lots of work to do on this system p the upstairs system has been scarfing up all the good power cords and cables and vibration control too, the stingy thing :-)].

Always one system looks like we are snubbing it… but, hey, we got to face one way or the other – so we will always be treating one of the systems with No Respect… I think all of our systems have a Rodney Dangerfield attitude sometimes….

Closeup of the Edge / Audio Areo.

Finally the smaller system. The system that it is just fun to sit and listen to. We slipped in some SOGON interconnects (about $3K on a system that is about a $15K system) and it sure makes it easy to just hang out and chat. Sometimes we forget that we can chat in the other rooms too ๐Ÿ™‚

System Two now has two racks

… and system Three has none.

Both RixRax equipment racks are now over on the second system. We wanted the added capability to compare two turntables, two phono stages, and the Audio Note Ongaku to the Kegon Balanced to the Kegon.

We put the Kehon Balanced amps on the Kharma Mini Exquisites.

The tops have been off so we can stare at the internal electronics for awhile ๐Ÿ™‚ But the tops will be back on soon enough… 1) they take up a lot of room just laying around, 2) the safest place for the tops of the chassis is on the chassis, and 3) just to get the aesthetic effect of a system that does not have exposed tubes.

Since our Audio Note M9 Phono preamp is still to arrive, we are using the Audio Note M1 phono preamplifier to drive the Kegon Balanced. We also had the M1 on the Ongaku integrated for awhile, to get a feel for the sound of the M1 in the system that we are so very familiar with.

The M1 is a very nice pre and I, personally, want to keep it here forever. At the price it sells for on Audiogon sometimes, $700, it sounds more like a $5K to 10K pre – and it always surprises me.

All the low-end AN gear surprises me – I keep expecting a more discordant and harsh sound – like the low end of every other line of equipment. But nooooo, this has more harmonics and warmth than the top-of-the-line, which is more neutral and detailed and transparent and realistic.

The end of the rack is now ALFULLY close to the speaker. But we figure the trade-off is worth it – that we can configure some great sounding systems that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to hear.

The Audio Note Kegon Balanced on the Kharma loudspeakers.

The Audio Note Kegon Balanced. On first blush, the M1 pre + Kegon Balanced amps is very, very competitive with the Ongaku integrated amp.

I would say more neutral [OK, nothing has that 211 sound except 211-based tube amps and the Kegons are 300B-based amps] and more transparent – more separation …and solidity?

We’re still listening…

The Soundlab system without a rack looks pretty darn cool itself. The Audio Aero Prestige is sitting on a Rix Rax amp stand.

Yes, that is a Nordost ODIN between the Prestige and Edge Signature One amps.

The Ongaku is now in System Four in Listening Room Three (L3). We haven’t hooked it up yet – this is still a AN Oto integrated-driven system.