|Mains filter||IsoTek Mini Sub GII|
|TV||Simple TV tuner|
|Power amp||Primare A30.5|
|Centre Sp.||Sonus Faber Solo Home|
|Surround Sp.||Acoustic Energy Aegis AE32-180 in-ceiling|
|Subwoofer||Rel Strata III|
|Audio Cables||Analysis Plus Solo Crystal|
The hi-fi rig
This page needs to be updated! New house, new tricks. Most of the stuff is the same, though.
Yes, it's obvious, so let's get it out of the way: I am indeed an aspiring audiophile. But I really like to think my interest lies first and foremost with the music. Anyway, here's quite a detailed account of my AV equipment. Music comes first and films only a very distant second.
Click on the images to enlarge.
Some comments on the images to the left
An amazing product. Best bang for the buck upgrade. It should, however, be the first component in any system. Please read my Isotek MiniSub GII review. Purchased 2005.
Isotek MiniSub GII (from wall outlet)
Rel Strata III (from MiniSub)
The rest is fed through an APC Performance SurgeArrest PF8VNT3-GR (plugged into the MiniSub), and turned off during serious music listening.
Thanks to the superb DACs of the Proceed AVP2, the logical step was to ditch the silver discs altogether. So I bought a Squeezebox and a big harddrive for my pc. I also wanted backups of my CDs, some of which are scratched despite my efforts at carefulness.
Since the SB was supposed to be i fine transport, I figured sound quality wouldn't suffer, comparing to my DVD-player as transport. (I have not felt compelled to try the SB's own DACs. I mean, why should I?) Actually, I was totally blown away by the utterly fantastic sound. Never before had I heard such precision combined with such sweetness. All edginess and sharpness was gone, as was a certain dryness of timbre. Transient attack was simply stunning and the soundstaging was amazing, effortlessly conjuring up different acoustics depending on recording. As a bonus my speakers did the final Cheshire cat trick and vanished, leaving a huge grin on my happy face.
For the nerds: I rip with EAC in secure mode, encode in FLAC and tag with Mp3tag. Connection by wire, because I dislike wireless. SqueezeCenter running as service. Plugins: CustomBrowse, CustomScan, MultiLibrary, MusicInfoSCR and StatusFirst.
Superb reviews. Seemed like the best choice at its price by far. Key points were brightness, because of white painted room with some ambient light and invisible pixels for that true cinema feeling. (For comments on image quality,see Supra comment above.) Purchased 2007-12.
Pre Amp / Processor:Proceed
With the Bladelius Freja CDP and Primare I30 amp I suddenly realised my sound was as good as it ever needed to be. So I turned my thoughts to simplifying the system. I wanted less boxes and better film sound without sacrificing too much of the glorious two channel sound I already had.
First I looked inte integrated processor amplifiers, but soon decided against them - I just didn't think they could sound good enough for music. I then researched separate pre-processors and multi-channel power amplifiers, which seemed more promising.
Out of sheer luck, Ari Laine at Hifi Mesta just then had an insane piece of equipment available; the Proceed AVP2. Pre-owned, it would still cost slightly more than the brand new stuff I'd been looking at, as new it had fetched a price 3-4 times higher. Madness! I just had to try it out.
Reading up on all I could find on the internet about it, I realised this could be a gem. Especially interesting were it's DAC's, which were the same as in some 30k Mark Levinson gear. I remembered Stereophile recently being quite extatic about feeding a decent DAC with a digital stream from a cheap DVD-player. I decided to try itmyself...
I was completely blown away by the sound!
I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing. I had never heard such amounts of detail and resolution before. It was laughably easy to hear entirely new things on familiar CD's. Dynamics were awesome with lightning-fast transient attacks. Sounds erupted with startling palpability from absolutely nowhere. The timbral and temporal resolution makes fast and dense heavy metal exhilirating and easy to follow. Classical music, especially strings, take on a completely new meaning.
The soundstage was huge and rock solid and extended way beyond any boundaries I've heard so far, to the extent that even talking about a soundstage seems meaningless. (Special effects had me on a couple of occasions checking the rear speakers to see if I'd inadvertently put the AVP2 in surround mode - but I hadn't!) I thought my speakers had done a pretty good job of disappearing before, but this was something completely different. The music now exists with absolute authority utterly and completely without any reference to room boundaries, speakers or anything else. It just is. The moment the music starts all thoughts about equipment evaporate. It's quite intoxicating.
Bass resolution was tremendously improved and thundered deeper than I thought possible in my room with my speakers. It's as if I'd suddenly got a bigger subwoofer. Familiar recordings suddenly reveal formerly unknown amounts of subterranean bass, and then again, some don't. The point is, I thought some of those had roughly the same amount and extent of bass. Guess I was misinformed.
My CD's have never before sounded so different from each other. It's with some trepidation I pop in familiar old CD's to hear what's really on them.There's just no way I can tell what new information will be revealed. Some reveal unexpected limitations in sound quality, but most flourish with new life, brimming with excitement. I'm sure some people would criticise the sound as being analytical, and yes, it is. It is very analytical in the sense that you hear absolutely everything that's on the disc with ruthless clarity and honesty. Is the sound shimmering and romantic? No. Is some richness of timbre lost? I don't think so. Perhaps it's a bit like when you try a mains filter and for the first time hear truly clean music, and one of your thoughts is that something is lost, later to realise it was just hash, masquerading as richness of timbre. Thing is, I'm having too darn much fun to give a damn!
Oh, yes. The film sound is quite good too...
Frightened and intrepid at the same time, I decided to let go of my preconceptions. I let go of the traditional safety of a respected CD-player and integrated amplifier, and purchased the Proceed AVP2 2008-02.
History: Well, at first there were these Ferguson and Philips integrated things, with turntable and radio. *Shiver*. My first real amp was a NAD 3240 in 1987. 1992 a Dual receiver. 1993 a Musical Fidelity Pre 3A and P140 pre/power combo. 2005 I discovered that my Yamaha receiver actually was a better preamp, so I drove the P140 from the pre-outs. Then I had a Primare I30 which I really didn't think I'd ever swap...
Sorry, but I'm so happy, there's gonna be some superlatives...
What can I say? It's a beast, albeit a gentle one. 5 channels at 120W each. Genuine quintiple mono construction with 5 separate transformers. That's impressive! It's not that big, actually, which makes its 27kg all the more scary. And it runs hot.
The sound is muscular, sweet and fluid. Treble is extended yet sweet and handled with exquisite delicacy. Midrange is rich with a timbre to die for. String instruments have taken a whole new meaning, making classical music exciting as never before. The same magic of strings and ambience makes film soundtracks achingly beautiful. Bass digs deeper than I've ever heard in my home before, with authority and clarity. It's like my sub's on steroids. There's a sense of ease and limitless power that's truly exhilirating. My rig really breathes!
Absolutely stunning performers. Replaced my beloved Sonus Faber Electas. Less harsh treble, better resolution and better ability to fill the room. Bigger soundstage and better three-dimensionality. Bigger sound over all, performers no longer on their knees. Very dry and neutral, accurate and revealing, fast and panel-like. Light in the bass, perhaps, but very deep and extremely tuneful, and that's what my subwoofer is for anyway. Purchased 2006.
I put them on SoundCare SuperSpikes and paid attention to get them to stand absolutely straight, which made a huge difference to the soundstage and, curiously, made the treble sweeter.
Update 2007-07-30: I recently thightened all the screws that hold the drivers in place. All screws turned somewhere between 60 and 120 degrees. I was flabbergasted by the result. More detail and better soundstage and faster transients. I would happily have paid 1k€ for any upgrade achieving a result like this, so I guess I just saved myself 1000€ with 10 minutes work. Gosh!
Maybe one day I'll replace the jumper wires with Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval 8 jumpers.
History: First, there was these Ferguson boxes and then the Philips boxes. Urgh. My first real speakers were the JBL LX44 in 1987. 1994 KEF 104/2. 1995 Sonus Faber Minuetto. 2005 Sonus Faber Electa. Now the Dunlavys
Centre speaker:Sonus Faber
A bit expensive, yes - but boy does it sing! I put it on SoundCare SuperSpikes, which resulted in improved articulation. Compared to the Solo all other centre speakers made actors sound like they were in a cardboard box with a serious flu. I think the centre speaker is actually the most important of all speakers in a surround system. Purchased 2005.
How, oh how did I ever survive without it? "Expensive"? Well, yes, absolutely. Broke the budget and hid the pieces in the compost heap, if you must know. BUT I DON'T CARE! Go get one yourself. Now! Purchased 2004.
Upgrade plan: One of the monsters from the Velodyne DD series with digital room correction to fix the somewhat funky bass response in my room.
Digital audio cable: Supra Trico (Squeezebox to pre/proc).
Digital audio cable: Tech+Link WiresCR (TV-tuner to pre/proc).
Digital audio cable: basic (DVD to pre/proc).
Toslink optical audio cable: basic (Xtreamer to pre/proc).
HDMI cable: Supra HDMI v1.2 (Xtreamer to projector). See below.
Composite video cable: basic (DVD to pre/proc).
Composite video cable: Clas Ohlson 'hi-grade' (pre/proc to projector).
Phono cable: Audioquest (Tonearm to RIAA).
RIAA cable: Kimber PBJ (RIAA to pre/proc). See below.
L+R interconnect: Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval (Pre/proc to power amp). See below.
Centre interconnect: Kimber PBJ (Pre/proc to power amp). See below.
Surround interconnects: Kimber PBJ (Pre/proc to power amp). See below.
L+R speaker cable: Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval 8. See below.
Surround speaker cable: Chord Carnival Classic
Sub speaker cable: REL proprietary (Power amp to sub).
Sub .1 interconnect: Supra SubLink (Pre to sub).
Interconnect:Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval
For comments & links, see the speaker cable below. Purchased 2006.
Speaker cable:Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval 8
2 x 2.2m in shotgun configuration i.e. single wired. Analysis Plus T1 spades at amplifier end and WBT 0644 bananas at speaker end. I was blown away by the incredible performance of the Analysis Plus Oval 9 and when these wires came across second hand I just couldn't resist. No regrets. A pair of cables to end all discussion. They brought coherence, order, timing, sweetness, fullness, air and an amazing feeling of plain rightness. Purchased 2006.
Silly priced cables quite out of their league? Well, yes, perhaps.
But my recent trials have shown with startling clarity that cables make a huge contribution to the overall sound.
Believe it or not, but I found the cables to make a far greater difference than different amps.
To indicate my thoroughness, here's the stuff I've been playing with:
Interconnects, centre and surround:Kimber PBJ
Fitted with WBT-0147 RCA plugs. At the time, it seemed like a tremendous amount of money. But more importantly, it seemed like tremendous value for money. It still is. After toying around with quite a lot of cable (see here) I still wouldn't hesitate to put the PBJ up against any sub-200€ cable out there. Purchased 1997.
HDMI cable:Supra v1.2 10m
After reading a lot of disconcerting articles about problems with longer HDMI cables I decided to play it safe and go for Supra. Cheaper cables would have cost half, which still is too much to risk, and high end cables triple the price, which I think is a bit silly. I'm very satisfied. I can run a 1080p picture signal without any problems (although I only updscale to 720p, since that's the projectors native resolution.) Purchased 2008-02.
Picture quality is quite awesome, but only on DVD's with inherent good picture quality. For the first time I think I'm able to clearly see these differences. Some films I actually prefer via the component cable, since it smoothes out som of the grain and compression artefacts. But on films like Madagascar and Cars the picture is nothing short of stunning!
NEEDS TO BE UPDATED. NEW HOUSE, SEE...
Speakers are placed symmetrically in the room, which is, alas, practically square: 5.5m wide x 6.5m long. They stand absolutely straight, checked with a level. The listening position is, alas, quite precisely in the middle of the room, which is the worst possible place, because it robs the base and kick drum of much of their energy, which tends to rob the music of some of its drive and energy. There is a big dip at 60Hz and a bump at 50Hz which there is very little I can do about. I sit 3.2m from the speakers and they're 3.3m apart for a glorious soundstage.
The single most influential item in the room is the Acoustic Revive RWL-2 acoustic panel. It made an astounding impact on the overall sound. It made the soundstage holographic. It increased the systems resolution more than any other single component. Vocals feel more natural and warm, more human. I wish I'd had this thing a long time ago...
I have SoundCare SuperSpikes under almost everything. I cannot emphasize enough how truly amazing this product is.
System occasionally rejuvenated with Isotek Full System Enhancer CD.
Weird, yes, but time and again I've experienced a better sound afterwards. Go figure. The most dramatic improvement ever
was when I rejuvenated my recently purchased Primare A30.5 power amp. It simply bloomed! It went from satisfactory to
magnificent with just a single spin of the IFSE. I now consider it absolutely essential and a bargain at that.
Contacts occasionally cleaned with Caig DeoxIt and ProGold. This is absolutely necessary.
Speaker element screws tightened very occasionally. Actually only
Before serious listening I do some quick and temporary acoustic room treatment: I pull a heavy drape before part of the big window to the right to dampen primary reflexes. I pull the door behind the right speaker partly closed, to balance up the sound.
While listening i wear comfortable clothes, remove my glasses and close my eyes. If possible, I sip a little red wine, preferably from a Riedel Bordeaux glass. My point is this: The happier you are, the better your system will sound and the more you will enjoy music.
NEEDS TO BE UPDATED...
Total power consumption of entire rig.
Power consumption of the individual devices.