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Auditioning and Evaluating Equipment

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  • Auditioning and Evaluating Equipment

    So take the situation where I go and swap component B in for component A in my system and don't like the results. How many times is the issue not with the new piece of equipment but instead hearing for the first time a problem with some other component in the system?
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
    -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

  • #2
    I need to compare equipment on a frequent basis. When doing A/B comparisons, instead of uncovering problems, I hear compatibility/synergy/optomization issues. For example, getting the most out of a speaker is finding the right amp for it...

    Recently, when playing with the Heed Elixir integrated amp I hooked it up to a high performance stand mounted speaker (expensive) to see how far I could go with it. The sound sucked, the Heed did not have enough power for the speakers, high frequencies were thin and bright and overall performance really suffered. It wasn't that the amp was bad, just a bad match. Trying a vastly less costly speaker, the combination just clicked and the overall sound was exceptional. As if the Heed design was brilliantly voiced to work with speakers in it's price class... And so it goes. The much more expensive speaker really flies with the appropriate amp.

    The real difficulty is comparing components that can be remarkably different. It may not be issues of uncovering problems as much as difference in taste/design. Such as phono cartridges for example. They can all be "good", just different and opinions vary considerably. A cartridge for every day of the week? It's Thursday, so it's Koetsu's today... Lyra's tomorrow... Ortofon's next week...
    Speakers/Amps: Genesis G2.2 Jr with Powered Servo-Sub Bass, Genesis GR1440 Mono Amps, 5,000 watts total power
    Preamp: SMc Audio VRE-1C Preamp (fully balanced inputs and output)
    Analog 1: VPI Signature 21 Belt-Drive Turntable w/ 10” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti Phono Cartridge driving Lehmann Silver Cube Phono Preamp
    Analog 2: VPI HW-40 Direct-Drive Turntable w/ 12” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Anna Diamond Phono Cartridge driving Genesis Gold Phono Preamp
    Analog 3: Studer A810 R2R tape w/ Bridge Console. Using built-in tape preamp
    Digital: Lumin Network Player with Lumin NAS
    Cables: Genesis Advanced Technologies/Absolute Fidelity Interface Interconnects, Speaker, Phono and Power
    A/C Power: Extensive System Upgrades, Sub-panel w/hard-wired power cables, and IsoTek Super Titan Passive Power Conditioning for Amplifiers
    Accessories: Custom Acrylic Equipment Stands, Klaudio Ultrasonic RCM

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    • #3
      I learned this from an UK reviewer who will go unnamed. He pointed out that we use what we believe is 'no other variable changed' in the set up because it will skew the results if we make concomitant changes when inserting a new piece of gear. But, what if the "B" amp really requires a change speaker positioning, or a change in wire?
      I encountered this when I was first fooling around with the Stillpoints turntable weight several years ago . It changed the character of my system- lightened the bass, less volume or impact. But, changed the crossover settings and turned the thing up and viola! (I know, it's a big violin). You could say that the "improvement" was the result of the concomitant changes, but putting back the factory clamp, there was already a bass 'bump' that gave more impact, but didn't sound as relaxed. I recently (well, before I moved) did the comparison again-same results- prefer the Stillpoints weight to the factory weight but it requires some other changes in the system to optimize it.
      Is this any different than changing the loading for a different phono cartridge?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
        So take the situation where I go and swap component B in for component A in my system and don't like the results. How many times is the issue not with the new piece of equipment but instead hearing for the first time a problem with some other component in the system?
        Used to years ago Myles but not these days, benefit of long term systems and I have to add Lamm electronics.

        david
        Manufacturer: American Sound Turntables and The Nothing Rack
        Distribution: NEODIO

        Special Sales: van den Hul
        Industry Representation: Lamm, Kharma OLS Speakers, Ortofon, ZYX, Keith Monks, Audio Desk, Jensen Transformer, Venta Airwasher

        Unique Items: Vintage Horn Speakers
        http://www.audionirvana.org/forum/ti...stening-room-1
        http://www.audionirvana.org/forum/ti...earfield-setup

        Comment


        • #5
          When I was reviewing equipment, I felt my goal was to make the DUT sound its best. I would always start with my reference system, but then listen to it with other equipment and cables.

          With amps, I would always use a second pair of speakers. With speakers, I would always use at least a second amp, sometimes a third. It was great when a speaker manufacturer, for example, would have others send me associated equipment and cables they wanted me to use. Many times the different equipment made a big difference.
          Thiel 7.2s, Manley NeoClassic 250s, Wadia 850, MIT Oracle V3 speaker cables, MIT MI-350 Oracle interconnects, Black Diamond Racing Shelves and Cones in a dedicated room with ASC Tube Traps, Room Tunes and 3 X 20 amp dedicated circuits.

          Comment


          • #6
            Unless one is a reviewer, few customers have the opportunity to demo equipment in your own system prior to purchasing (unless you are in a highly concentrated market such as California). I honestly have no idea where to begin now that my system has recently been dismantled and will have to build from scratch again. The dollars required for the equipment, I am dreading the process of trying to select equipment when it should be a rather fun and enjoyable experience. It seems with even less brick and mortar stores, more thorough reviews with several pairings of equipment will be necessary to help prospective buyers IMHO. For example, demoing an amp with different phono stages, preamps and speakers etc. Will be a lot of work but have no other idea of how to go about getting this information as a prospective consumer.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Analog21 View Post
              Unless one is a reviewer, few customers have the opportunity to demo equipment in your own system prior to purchasing (unless you are in a highly concentrated market such as California). I honestly have no idea where to begin now that my system has recently been dismantled and will have to build from scratch again. The dollars required for the equipment, I am dreading the process of trying to select equipment when it should be a rather fun and enjoyable experience. It seems with even less brick and mortar stores, more thorough reviews with several pairings of equipment will be necessary to help prospective buyers IMHO. For example, demoing an amp with different phono stages, preamps and speakers etc. Will be a lot of work but have no other idea of how to go about getting this information as a prospective consumer.
              You are of course correct. I suppose the cynical answer is "if you pay, anything is possible" but you are still usually limited to the wares of a single dealer in that case and big speakers are a bitch. Where are you-state/city?
              I never did it, but if there was a dealer who carried a speaker brand I liked, and I was seriously interested in an amp line that dealer didn't carry, but another dealer within the territory did, could you not make an arrangement --at your cost, of course, to have the one dealer bring the amplification to the speaker dealer to let you hear the combo? Even if that was possible, what about source? And room? It is tough. I think this is one of the main reasons a lot of hi-end buyers are constantly churning equipment in their systems. Perhaps the best chance is to find somebody who has most of the gear you are after- a private citizen-- and see if you can wrangle an invite. Most audiophiles I know are pretty gracious that way if they know you are for real.
              I remember years ago, when I was slinging gear as a college drop out, we had this hot shit preamp. A friend worked at another store that carried ARC. We're talking 1973. We did an after hours shoot-out, although frankly it didn't take long- the ARC SP3-a-1 was quite special in its day.
              Is there any of this in the after hours hang at audio shows among manufacturers and dealers? I I figure most of them want to get a drink in their hand and do something other than work with a client. But, there's an opportunity where they are all there if it is a big enough show. Convincing the manufacturer/dealer to do it is another matter--as are the room acoustics.
              I think this is also where customer loyalty is built with a dealer-- they got somebody on the right path, and through that trust, are willing to abide the dealer's recommendations for other things. The best dealers I've known don't usually say kaka about other brands they don't carry and I'm sure it isn't exactly kosher, but can arrange for you to get something they don't carry through 'authorized channels' from another dealer. Getting to hear it as a system in advance, before you buy- that's the trick. Not sure there is a good answer. Sorry for the ramble. It is a fair point.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by mkuller View Post
                When I was reviewing equipment, I felt my goal was to make the DUT sound its best. I would always start with my reference system, but then listen to it with other equipment and cables.

                With amps, I would always use a second pair of speakers. With speakers, I would always use at least a second amp, sometimes a third. It was great when a speaker manufacturer, for example, would have others send me associated equipment and cables they wanted me to use. Many times the different equipment made a big difference.
                But then, what are you really reviewing? You have now introduced at least 3 changes to your system.
                Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

                Comment


                • mkuller
                  mkuller commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Good question. Of course I listen first in my own familiar reference system to get a baseline. Then I substitute equipment one piece at a time to find out how it sounds with each one.

                  What I am trying to get at is the DUT's sonic signature which I can describe in the review, by removing some of the equipment interactions of just using a single system.

                  For example, I find that a speaker will sound different with each different amplifier. Which is the sound of the speaker? Whatever sonic signature is consistent or whichever sounds the best.
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