Audiokarma.org
Audiokarma Featured Sponsor


Go Back   AudioKarma.org Home Audio Stereo Discussion Forums > Members' Systems


We appreciate your help

in keeping this site going.
Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 04-05-2015, 12:56 PM
PureSilver PureSilver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 39
Reboot: Minimalist Audiophile’s Journey to a New System

I’m starting this thread to share my experiences while getting back into Hi-Fi stereo audio as a serious listener. In the mid 1990’s I was pretty hard-core and voraciously consumed knowledge, listened, tweaked, and enjoyed my system. That was a long time ago and my stereo has been largely on the shelf for the last 2 decades until two weeks ago. So, here’s my journey back to the enjoyment, tweaking, researching, and learning. Before I can ask for help or input though, I think it’s important for y’all to understand where I am now, and for that I think you’ll have to understand where I’ve been with it. After that we should have a pretty good base to start with and be able to move forward with my head dead center in a fantastic sound field. Here’s my gem as she sits today, and the text that will follow tells you more about what it was/is and how I got here.



I started getting into music and stereos like 99% of the rest of world (I assume) when I was in High School. My start was a bit unique because I attended High School in Okinawa Japan in the late ‘80s. As a result I had access to the enormous array of gadgets and electronics being produced in Japan. My dad and I started getting pretty focused on the technical capabilities of the products and had a lot of fun picking things out, listening to them, and playing around with arrangements and whatnot. That’s when I also found a love for what I think is best described as New Age music. Music through our ‘serious’ system was about focus and relaxation- I guess in a way it was meditation. Don’t get me wrong though, I still had my collection of ‘cool’ stuff- Depeche Mode, New Order, Big Audio Dynamite, White Snake, Hoodoo Gurus, Information Society and a host of others- but the pop stuff never really sounded different between cheap headphones and good speakers. I think it was more my mindset when I picked a particular CD (or Tape, gasp) more than anything else though.

My first stereo was a reasonable commodity Sony rack; the CD player (I think it was a CDP-350) was additional; with a pair of 500W Tamon speakers that had massive 18” woofers. That system made it for about a year before it was replaced by a Yamaha C-45 Control Amp and an Onkyo M-502 power amp (CD Player and speakers were the same) and that’s how the system was when I graduated and went off to college. Freshman year it stayed boxed up in mothballs mostly due to the 6 months of transit back from Japan; sophomore year I took it to my dorm second semester (yes, I was written up several times for loud music). One interesting thing that I don’t think much about anymore- I went into electrical engineering in my undergrad because of my interest in stereo gear and focused on Digital Signal Processing because I thought the laser and some digital magic at the core of my CD player we SO COOL- in other words my interest in music runs deep, very deep. Anyhow, the system stayed largely the same as I moved around for college and then my first job. I couldn’t find any pictures of my system, but here are the general components:



After six years of shuffling, moving, graduating, and job hunting, in ’96 I settled down a bit with work in Burlington VT. It was a great town and time for me- I had some cash from work, and LOTS of spare time to listen, read and think. My subscriptions to Stereophile, Glass Audio, Audio Electronics and a few other magazines were read cover to cover and then reread. I started thinking about my equipment very differently. I knew from my EE degree what all the specs meant now, not just from a black box perspective but from a down low circuit level. I started thinking about vacuum tubes a lot, and how components are not all created equally. I opened the boxes on my units- Onkyo power amp, C-45, and CD player. Junk wire, PCBs everywhere, low grade connectors- I saw how I could do better myself. That’s where and when my serious journey began, with a goal of doing it all better.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 04-05-2015, 08:04 PM
PureSilver PureSilver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 39
The first victim of the purge for purity in the ‘90s was my Tamon speakers. Their unbalanced boomy sound simply couldn’t keep up with my needs and evolving listening space and skills. They had a nifty user-adjustable crossover for the tweeter (you can see it at the top of the speakers in the above pics with the blue arrow pointing down) that ‘helped to improve the sound at loud volumes’, so the sales guy told me back in Japan. In actuality I’m sure the level adjustment was there to preserve the tweeter when meat-head kids- i.e. me- started blasting music. After repeated abuse over 8 years, the tweeters were dying fast- so much for the nifty crossover- but I can’t really blame them. I started looking and reading. I bought the Radio Shak books on making speakers from scratch and tore through them again and again. I read about different design approaches and toured the local Hi-Fi shops where I discovered something wonderful:



I really liked a pair of Martin Logan Electro Stats. The musical crispness of the electrostatic panels was mind bending. There’s a cow bell at the beginning of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” that I never heard before the Martin Logan’s, yet it was clear as day on them. It’s not an overpowering bell, and it’s quick- the speakers where so clear and crisp they could easily play the detail necessary to get the bell to my ears (I’m sure the upstream system didn’t hurt). I can still hear the bell on other stuff, including headphones, but man I’ve got to listen closely for it. If you are curious the first two bells are at 31 seconds and 60 seconds into the song. Anyhow, at $2,200 for the pair it was just more than I wanted to spend. I also wasn’t a fan of having to plug my speakers into an outlet (electrostats use a high voltage to suspend the panel- that requires a powered transformer). What the Martin Logan’s did do was to pull the vale away and show me what true crispness and reproductive clarity was possible and waiting for me. They heavily flavored my sonic goals. And so the research and reading continued…

From all the reading I became a true minimalist zealot- nothing in the signal path that didn’t need to be there! All the garbage POTs, switches, buffers and circuits needed to be gone- simple high-quality components and circuit topologies is what I wanted. Around this time I made a decision that was counter to my overall goal of removing things from the signal path, but, myopically, made my speaker selection rather unique- I wanted an active crossover. Doing so meant I could send an audio signal directly to each driver (or group of drivers) and avoid a passive crossover circuit in a speaker. Each driver/driver-group would need an amplification channel, so for a two-way stereo I’d need 4 amplification channels (two stereo amps). There was no way I was getting anything off a shelf to accomplish what I wanted, so I started focusing on kits for my speakers and the active cross-over.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 04-05-2015, 08:13 PM
PureSilver PureSilver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 39
I focused on two-way speakers since I didn’t want to go out and buy THREE stereo amps to drive a three-way design. I needed drivers that were solid- like really stout, since they were each getting their own amp with no passive cross-over losses. That’s when I found Dynaudio, specifically the Dynaudio Contour 1.8 MkII. At $3,199 retail they weren’t cheap and had the reputation I was looking for- outstanding quality with great drivers (their newer Esotec line) and designs- they are built like bricks and had some really high-end stuff. The Contour MkIIs included a D260 dome tweeter and the 15W75 5” driver. The 5” driver is so stout, with it’s oversized magnet and coil, that it doesn’t need a bass filter- it produces what it has good low end capabilities and is able to dissipate the left over power that doesn’t come out as sound. As an outrageously amusing marketing claim, Dynaudio even went so far as to say the driver could sustain an instantaneous spike as great as a lightening bolt- time to put the Danish beer down boys…



From the do-it-yourself speaker books and research I became familiar with Joseph D’Appolito’s speaker arrangement of midwoofer-tweeter-midwoofer, which balances the sound on a vertical plane from the speakers (read more about that here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midwoof...eter-midwoofer). Oddly however the Dynaudio MkII’s didn’t use that layout- I’m not sure why, maybe there were some licensing issues or something, but it’s actually pretty rare to find that layout on speakers. After pouring over the back of magazines and requesting brochures for a while (the internet was only starting to have a presence back in ‘97) I found an outfit that made some nice kits using Dynaudio drivers- Madisound, out of Wisconsin (http://www.madisoundspeakerstore.com/). Their Gemini two-way kit (not available anymore) fit well with my needs, except it included crossovers and a binding post for the speaker connections. I called them up and put in a special order for a pair of Gemini’s without holes in the cases for the binding posts and without the crossovers. It was an interesting conversation to say the least, but a good one. The kit cost me about $820 and was assembled in about 4 hours.

Last edited by PureSilver; 04-06-2015 at 11:42 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 04-06-2015, 09:42 AM
Rome's Avatar
Rome Rome is offline
Holsum Honey Buns
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Dallas, Texas
Posts: 31,268
Very nice pieces & setup!

Rome
__________________


"Arm Yourself With The Weapon Of Common Sense" -- Rome
Iry Primate
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 04-06-2015, 11:03 PM
PureSilver PureSilver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rome View Post
Very nice pieces & setup!

Rome
Thanks Rome, but I'm just warming up!
Reply With Quote
Audiokarma
  #6  
Old 04-06-2015, 11:07 PM
PureSilver PureSilver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 39


During this time I was also doing a decent amount of reading on cables and wire, specifically capacitance, inductance, trans-conductance and various insulators. From the beginning of my stereo interests I bit on the marketing messages of Monster cables for speakers and pretty blindly bought higher dollar interconnects assuming they were built better. Uh, not so much. So, in trying to keep my epic tome shorter, I found D.H. Labs and Siver Sonic- specifically T-14 speaker cable and BL-1 interconnect cables. The stuff is amazing- silver-coated multi-stranded high-grade copper with high quality insulators. So I put in an order on March 26, 1997 (I still have the receipt) for 32’ feet of T-14, 24’ of BL-1 and 12 RCA connectors and handed over $312. I got my order from Audio Concepts, Inc.- they’re still banging away and have the same Silver Sonic wire available, though I think there are some updates over the last 18 years- you can find them at (http://www.audioc.com/accessories1/a...ies.htm#cables) if you are curious.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 04-06-2015, 11:11 PM
PureSilver PureSilver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 39
I had the speakers and the silver to ride on, but what of this mysterious active crossover- how would I split the signal up, filter it for my speakers, and send it to power amps? I wanted to try to tubes- they just seemed to fit my style- low power and smooth, warm sound. More poking around led me to the Marchand Electronics (marchandelec.com) XM-26 (http://marchandelec.com/xm26.html). It used 4 12AX7 valves in each channel to get a 4th order filter capable of 24dB attenuation. This was by far my biggest electronic endeavor to date and took a decent chunk of time to assemble. I wired the BL1 connects directly to the boards of the XM26 thus avoiding two RCA binding post connections for each wire (the in and the out) which are easily the WORST connections in or systems (BTW- that’s the same reason I eliminated the speaker binding posts). Looking back it was quite a mess on the back of the crossover- six interconnects in total. Still it was a fun project and got me some experience with tubes.



I planned to use the Onkyo M-502 for the midwoofers on the Gemini’s- there was a boat load more power consumption by those 4 drivers and amp-poundage was a plus. On a side note, one of my biggest concerns with this approach was the impedance of the drivers- my amps would directly see a single coil from the binding posts to ground, meaning they need to be able to push a LOT of current. Looking at the 15W75 driver impedance curve, I think I planned for a 2.2 Ohm load (the Gemini’s with the passive crossovers were 4 Ohm speakers- removing the passive components dropped it down even more). The M-502 puts out 140W into 8 Ohms, which means 280W into 4 ohms, and almost 500W into 2.2 Ohms. The current involved at the 2.2 Ohm level has general applications in welding, baking on electric stoves, and toasting bread. Okay, slight exaggeration on the welding, but the amperage was around 15 amps (instantaneous) at this level- maybe now you see my concern!
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 04-06-2015, 11:14 PM
PureSilver PureSilver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 39
After writing that last post, I think it’s important to tell you the biggest reason I could use the above approach employing an active crossover is because I my listening style involved small spaces with the listening position close to the speakers- that boils down to low volume levels. If you have a big room, like to sit far away from your speakers, or like it loud, I would steer as far away from active crossovers as you can- it pushes limits in many ways.

Looking back now, I don’t believe using an active crossover is good strategy because, in the end, it involves far more components in the signal path and necessitates some dangerous current levels. The current levels incidentally are one of the main reasons the sound was ‘better’- there was a lot more energy pushing the drivers yielding crisp results. But back to the setup…
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 04-06-2015, 11:32 PM
PureSilver PureSilver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 39
If you are tracking so far you realize that my system was still missing a power amp for the tweeters. At this point in the build I was getting short on cash and time- I needed something relatively quickly to get my system working. I did some quick shopping and found a Hafler P1000 Trans-ANA. It’s not exactly a Hi-Fi audiophile grade amp, but I only needed a few watts for the tweeters and the Haflers were designed for racks in, well, abusive environments. I figured it would do until I could get something better. I probably only used the Hafler for 100 hours from the time I got it- life had other plans for my stereo enjoyment. Anyhow, here’s the Hafler P1000, not the exact one in my garage however, but an identical copy.


Last edited by PureSilver; 04-06-2015 at 11:39 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 04-07-2015, 12:01 AM
PureSilver PureSilver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 39
Only a few more updates before we’re at the foundation for the first rendition of my dream system. While I was busy working on the ‘delivery’ end of my stereo I was also carefully looking into CD Transports to replace my commodity Sony CD Player. I really liked what I was hearing about Audio Alchemy products and found a great deal on a DDS III and an Ultra DAC. What a smokin setup it is too! Here’s a close up from my very own system.



The DDS III used a Sony CD drive setup, display and remote (the ‘administrative’ stuff). The Hi-Fi components started after the signal came off the disk with Audio Alchemy’s digital magic. One of the things I really liked about the unit is it has all the fixings for both a CD player AND a transport (via digital out). The CD player, through the RCA jacks, enabled me to use an internal volume control to attach the unit directly to my power amp and remove the entire control chain- some minimalist heaven, at least at a box level. At a circuit or processor level however, this wasn’t really minimalist since there was still circuitry, or digital processing, that was modifying the music to control the volume, but until I find a single resistor with which to permanently set my listening volume it’s a great option.
Reply With Quote
Audiokarma
  #11  
Old 04-07-2015, 11:52 AM
Rome's Avatar
Rome Rome is offline
Holsum Honey Buns
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Dallas, Texas
Posts: 31,268
Yea, you are sizzlin' for sho', Pure!

Always liked Hafler pieces, jus' couldn't afford it in the 80s.

Man, that Audio Alchemy set is so nice!

Rome
__________________


"Arm Yourself With The Weapon Of Common Sense" -- Rome
Iry Primate
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 04-11-2015, 11:27 AM
PureSilver PureSilver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 39
LP Wanted. LP Delivered.

After all my reading I really came to wonder about the real audio merits of a record player- all the big Hi-Fi magazines and shops always had them featured, and it seemed like a LOT of time and attention was paid to them as serious sources. It seemed poetic to me to see a 100 year old media-source holding it’s own next to (at the time) an industry leading technology. I was curious, how could that be with all our modern advances (remember my DSP focused Electrical Engineering degree)? Then I read an amazing article in Audio Electronics in April ’96 writen by Ronald M Baumam (http://www.analogplanet.com/images/v...amic-range.pdf) that boiled it down in engineering terms. In my opinion this is a lynch-pin article and got a fair amount of attention, including from Michael Fermer over at Stereophile and AnalogPlanet- in fact the article is still making waves today: http://www.analogplanet.com/content/...eres-some-math. I couldn’t help but weigh in at the end as well!

The end result about the limits of a CD player with 16-bit format is 96 dB (a hard limit given the number of bits) compared to the resolution of a phono stage potential of 112 dB, pushed me over the edge. From a decibel perspective a quality phone stage can produce orders of magnitude more resolution. His approach to the analysis changed a world of views for me and I’m glad I found a digital version of his work to share with all of you!



Around this time I was visiting my uncle and noticed his Denon record player sitting in the corner unused. It’s a unit I knew well- before leaving Okinawa my dad and I put a system together for him that included this very unit. We got an unbelievable deal on it because the tone arm was missing the weight and head shell- and that’s how it sat in the corner of my uncles house 6 years later. After a quick conversation he gave it to me- in the car and back to Burlington like a bat out of hell before anything could get in my way of a solid phono stage. I took it to my local shop who ordered the parts- it wasn’t easy though and took about four weeks for them to arrive. In the mean time I found a used record shop and started building a collection.

My musical tastes had broadened a bit and I was pretty much in love with Ella Fitzgerald, big band, and Dave Brubeck. Ironic how my first real adventure into records was so fortuitously aligned with my current musical preferences- records from these artists are true gems. Anyhow, I got the Denon up and running and was happy with the decision. For me it was a fun thing to be able to see and more directly watch the music evolve from a fine groove on a flat, black LP, through each wire and PCB trace, to my speakers. I think we overlook the part of musical enjoyment that is tied to our systems- a careful fence to walk, since it is, ultimately, about the music. Coming back to the story of my Denon, the record player didn’t fare too well over the hibernation period- suffice it to say infants and record players are a bad mix. I needed to get a new needle after one of my kids discovered the ‘pointy little end’ of the neat arm-thingy, and, after poking around on the Needle Doctors website picked up an Audio Technica AT120E to replace the Grado ZT+ that had a destroyed needle tip. I think I can get a new needle tip in the Grado, but I have to do some poking around first (more on that when I get to my plan later one though).
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 04-11-2015, 11:43 AM
PureSilver PureSilver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 39
Finally Caught Up

I wish I could get you pictures of the C-45’s modifications, but it’s been gone for almost 10 years now. With this spat of upgrades and enhancements one of my crowning achievements was the tweaks to that pre-amp. I cracked the lid open and shortened the sign paths using Wonder Wire and Wonder Solder, removed the output buffer, and rewired the phone stage. I got rid of the switches, balance control, tone adjustments and a host of other POTs, caps and ‘junk’. The results were stunning- I know this because I made all these changes on the old system while I was building the new one; the ‘attacks’ on the music were unreal- fast and crisp; Tracy’s bell was even present, though not as boldly. I lost the volume knob around the time I left VT- only a few short months after the enhancements.

Ten years after sitting in the corner with the rest of the system, in a spree of de-cluttering, I just threw the C-45 in the trash in disgust over a missing volume knob and the fact that I wasn’t using it anyhow (not one of my better moves in retrospect). Joining the C-45 was the XM26. I bought the Gemini crossovers from Madisound and threw them in the speaker cases just to get some sound working again, but this time as the main speakers of my home theatre, controled by an Onkyo home theatre receiver (including every feature known to human kind- not exactly minimalist, but it had HDMI) and driven by my trusty M-502 (as always).

And that brings me to today- a fresh move to Denver and my stereo sitting on boxes with lots of time to get version 2.0 of my perfect system procured and configured. This is where I want your help, opinions, guidance, thoughts, and recommendations. Moving on from here my plans are as follows:
  1. Get my room setup for proper listening- a 10’x10’ ‘bedroom’, with a 48”x48” window, and 2’ of built in closet and doorway at the back.
    1. I’ve got my copy of The Complete Guide to High-End Audio by Robert Harley, and am using chapter 4, “How To Get The Best Sound From Four Room”, to get it started. Great book by the way, but my first edition is out of date after 20 years.
    2. Address standing waves, windows and the like
    3. Get a stand for my setup so I can throw the boxes away. I see some folks using Ikea stuff and there’s one somewhere in Denver.
    4. I need a comfy, low-seat, listening chair or love seat. My sound field will never be big, but I want to be able to get two heads in it on occasion.
  2. See if I can get my old home theatre subwoofer to play nicely
    1. My Gemini speakers have a midwoofer which, while nice, don’t really have a low end
    2. It should be easy to hook up with the Onkyo receiver for now to see what the sound is like. Getting it balanced might be a challenge
    3. Long-term I’m not sure I need the subwoofer though. Given #3 below, I’m looking to get rid of my convenient ‘sub out’ connection and I’m not sure I want to take the time and energy to get it back in- hence I want to play around now.
  3. Get that Onkyo Receiver OUT of my high-end stuff!
    1. I want a passive TVC preamp. I’ve been looking at the Django TVC for the last few weeks…. Who knows.
    2. I need to do some research into impedance matching, amp input resistance and speaker sensitivity however. There are some fundamental decisions to make before I pull the trigger.
  4. Phono Update- BADLY!
    1. I’ll need a phono preamp to replace the garbage in the Onkyo receiver at some point and I’m looking at kits for something I can build. I’m not opposed to tubes for that one in particular, but I’m not fixed either way. A hybrid might be fun…
    2. I’ve got to get my Denon DP-47F tuned up before that becomes a serious contender again- a got a few needles two years back and need to get them setup on the headshells.
  5. Find a good way to get my iPhone connected
    1. I want a convenient way to flip through my entire library and not lose a lot of quality
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 04-12-2015, 11:01 AM
lunchbox22's Avatar
lunchbox22 lunchbox22 is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 816
I'm looking forward to seeing how this all progresses. Looks like you've got a nice listening space, too!
__________________
McIntosh C34V - McIntosh MC2205 - B&W DM7 MKII - Sennheiser HD650
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 04-12-2015, 01:08 PM
tcdriver's Avatar
tcdriver tcdriver is offline
AK Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Valley of Heart's Delight
Posts: 4,043
Welcome to AudioKarma. That is a detailed and fine write up. I like what you are doing and why.
__________________
Round and Round it goes
Reply With Quote
Audiokarma
Reply


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:37 PM.



Friends of Audiokarma
We appreciate your help in keeping this site going.
Sonic Craft
Parts Express
AudioFriends
Capacitor World
Okki Nokki
Analog Engineering Associates
Vintage Home Audio
Organ Donor Parts
Hudson Valley Hi Fi
Wargos Electronics
Take Five Audio
Parts Connexion
Sound Stage Direct
Simply Speakers
Audience AV
Howard Products
AudioClassics
The Tube Store
FM DX Antenna
RSL Speakers
Many Moons Audio
Audio Doctor
BOI Audio Works
Yesterday's Audio
DeWick Repairs
Amplifiedparts
Politicalchat.org
MCM Electronics
 
Videokarma.org
 
 
 
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
©Copyright 2002-2015 AudioKarma.org, All rights reserved.