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Steve's low cost but very nice sounding system!

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  • Steve's low cost but very nice sounding system!

    Tekton Double Impact, Tekton Lore, ELAC Debut F5, ELAC Debut B6, Emotiva Airmotiv B1, Sound Dynamics 300ti, Direct Acoustics Silent Speaker

    Power amps - Antique Sound Labs MG-15DT-S (single-ended 15 watt KT88 integrated amp), Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso amplifier, Jolida JD1000P (100 wpc EL34), B&K ST140 amplifier (105 watt MOSFET power amp), Antique Sound Labs Wave (8 watt $99 a piece tube mono amps)
    Preamps/Line stages - 2-input/2-output switch-box with TKD 10K pot for volume control (custom built for me by Russ Stratton), Burson Conductor Virtuoso
    Integrated Amps - ELAC Element, Emotiva TA-100, Music Hall a15.3, Kenwood KA-3500 (vintage 1975)
    Headphone amps -
    Schiit Valhalla , Burson Conductor Virtuoso, Headroom Little, Headroom Total Bithead

    Analog: Linn LP12 (MOSE/Hercules II power supply), Ittok arm, Dynavector 19a cartridge, iFi iPhono and iPhono2 phono stage

    Digital: Asus UL80J notebook (i3, Win 10, JRiver Media Center 23, Tidal HiFi account), iFi iDAC, iFi iDAC2, CEntrance DACport LX, Audioengine D3, Audioquest Dragonfly Black, iFi iUSB3 power supply, Schiit Wyrd, Pure I-20 iPod dock with DAC, Marantz SA8001 SACD player (if needed)

    Interconnects: Morrow Audio MA1, Vermouth Audio Black Pearl, Nordost Solar Wind, Audioquest Evergreen, CEntrance Reserve Y cable
    Speaker cables: Morrow Audio SP4, Vermouth Audio Red Velvet, Nordost Solar Wind, Nordost Flatline, Audioquest Type 4
    Digital cables: Straightwire USB Link (USB-A to B), Audioquest Forest USB (USB-A to Mini-USB), Belkin PureAV Digital (RCA), Belkin PureAV Toslink
    Power cords: All power cords are stock as supplied by the manufacturers, though I have one older Cardas Twinlink power cord I use on occasion.

    Meze Audio 99 Classic, Meze Audio 99 Neo, Beyerdynamic DT770Pro (600 ohm), 1More MK801, 1More Triple Driver IEM


    Sound Organization turntable stands (wall mount and floor models), Pangea Audio Vulcan racks (two, one four shelf and one five shelf), six-shelf home made flexi-rack, Pi Audio Group Über BUSS, Monster HTS2000 power-line conditioner, Bright Star IsoNodes, lots of hockey pucks, Sound Organization 24-inch speaker stands, 12-inch tall wood speaker stands for the Sound Dynamics and other larger stand mount speakers, Kinetronics anti-static brush for dusting LPs, Record Doctor V record cleaner, Spin Clean record cleaner, Wally Tractor and VTA Gauge.

    Questyle QP1, iPod Classic (160 GB), Headroom Total Bithead headphone amp, Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro (600 ohm) headphones. 1More Triple Driver IEMs.
    All the music on the Questyle QP1 is full resolution copied directly from my music server, ripped from CD or downloaded as high resolution 24 bit PCM or DSD.
    Almost all music on the iPod is ripped from CD or converted from high resolution files to 320 kbps. This iTunes library resides on a separate notebook from the server hooked up to the main system. I also play direct from this notebook to the DT770 using an Audioengine D3 USB DAC/Headphone amp.

    This is an extremely low cost system, with no single component, except the Linn turntable and the Vermouth Audio cable set, having a list price over $1000. It is eminently musical, and close enough to full range to be very satisfying on all types of music. It does not make me choose music to fit its limitations or characteristics.
    The Tekton Lores are my primary speaker, and are usually powered by the 15 watt Antique Sound Labs amp. I still haven’t found a speaker in the price range ($1000) that gives me a more overall satisfying presentation. The Direct Acoustics Silent Speakers are a unique speaker, more a “music lovers” speaker than an audiophile product. They are terribly inefficient (rated about 83dB) but sound beautiful with the 105 watt B&K ST-140 or other high powered solid state amps. The Sound Dynamics 300ti is a speaker I’ve had since 1997, and keep mostly to have a third option when reviewing amplifiers. Not a high efficiency design, they still match up well with lower powered tube amps and higher powered solid state amps. They are the more traditional “audiophile” speaker in my collection. I also have a pair of VMPS RM2neo towers, but they are in storage, as they are too big for my current listening room. They also sound best when biamped, which makes them less effective as a reviewing tool.
    I’ve had my Linn LP12 since 1984. The recent addition of the MOSE/Hercules II power supply to replace the Valhalla PCB leaves me thinking I’ll keep the Linn for many more years to come. The Dynavector cartridge I use is a discontinued 19a, that uses the same body as the 17D, but with a tapered aluminum cantilever. The iFi iPhono stage is surprisingly good for the money, and a great reference point for a budget oriented listener.
    My listening room is the shared family living room, and somewhat oddly shaped. From the wall behind me to the wall behind the speakers, it is 12.5 feet. The room is 25 feet wide, but I use about 13 feet from one side wall for my system, making for an asymmetrical setup. The left speakers is only about 15 to 24 inches from the left side wall while the right speaker is about mid point along the wall. Distance from the wall behind them depends on which speakers are being used, placed for best overall tonal balance and bass response. I don’t particularly place speakers to maximize imaging or soundstage characteristics, as those are secondary to me to musical and tonal considerations.
    Currently, my music collection is split approximate 60/40 between LP and digital. About a third of my record collection (all the rock albums alphabetized from M through Z) was stolen sometime in the 1990s, and it’s been a slow process replacing many of those albums. Though more than half my digital collection is on CD, I currently do not have a CD player hooked up. All the CDs were ripped to my server either as Apple Lossless or FLAC (since switching to JRiver) files. The rest of my digital collection is high resolution (mostly 24/96) PCM FLAC files, with about 900 or so DSD files (dsf format). I do not currently have a DSD capable DAC, and let JRiver convert to 24/172 on the fly.
    I’ve been collecting records since I was nine year old, and still buy LPs whenever I find something I want in that format. I do not buy, nor have interest in, so-called audiophile releases, where the sound quality takes precedence over the musical content. I would rather listen to a mediocre recording of music I really like than an audio spectacular of uninteresting or boring music. I do not own Jazz at the Pawn Shop or any Diana Krall. I am an admitted old Prog Rock junkie, and still listen regularly to bands like Yes, King Crimson, Genesis (Gabriel era only), Gentle Giant, Camel, Van der Graaf Generator, many of the Canterbury scene bands, and other progressive rock and jazz acts. I love all forms of music that are intricate, and demand attention. About the only forms I don’t listen to very much are mainstream pop tunes, bad rap (some of the early or more artistic rap is quite good), 80s arena rock, most forms of metal or hair bands. In spite of how that sounds, over half my LP collection is classical. Give me something interesting to listen to, or I’ll probably watch a hockey game instead.
    Last edited by Steve Lefkowicz; 04-25-2018, 04:02 PM.
    Steve Lefkowicz
    Senior Associate Editor at Positive Feedback

  • #2
    I realized that of all the systems posted here, mine was the only one that had no comments! Rather than take it personally I figured it's probably because I never posted a photo. Here is a quick photo from my phone taken this morning. The components in use change as needed depending on what I'm working on.For example, in this photo, I'm actually driving the Double Impacts with a $399 Emotiva TA-100 integrated amp, as I am writing up a review of it, the ELAC and the Music Hall a15.3.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	MY system 4-25-2018 edited.jpg Views:	1 Size:	507.7 KB ID:	86229The TV is on an articulated mount so it can be pushed against the wall when not in use. The Linn is on an old Sound Organization wall mounted shelf designed specifically for it. I would prefer not having the chest of drawers between the speakers, but our townhome is small and there is no where else to put it. On the shelf in this photo (top to bottom):
    top shelf: various headphones
    2nd shelf: iFi rack with iPhono2, iUSB3 and iDAC2, Schiit Valhalla
    3rd shelf: Burson Conductor Virtuoso and DIY passive line stage
    4th shelf: Emotiva TA-100 integrated amp
    5th shelf: Music Hall a15.3 integrated amp
    6th shelf: Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso

    Behind and to the right is the Pi Audio Uber Buss

    Under the Linn is the Uverse receiver for the TV and the Mose/Hercules power supply for the Linn
    To the left is the Asus notebook with JRMC and the hard drive for the digital system,
    Steve Lefkowicz
    Senior Associate Editor at Positive Feedback


    • #3
      Way to go Steve!!! It just shows you don't need to spend uber bucks on a resolving enjoyable audiophile system.


      • #4
        Steve - I for one appreciate your continued efforts to review affordable equipment and the fact you actually own affordable equipment. Much satisfaction can be had from an inexpensive yet quality system.


      • #5
        STEVE I’ll bet it sounds great and looks nice too. The issue is most must be wowed with New and exp Audio equipment. Most have become snobs of sorts.
        Noting I own is new except for my dacs and servers of course
        my amp is a Aragon 4004 mkii. Recaoed and now doing bypass caps as well. Point is it’s very old stuff that sounds better then most new on my system coz most amps made cannot play my speakers well. Glad you posted something most All can afford


        • #6
          Nice setup...I love a system that is made up of reasonable priced gear. My system that I use daily is a digital only setup that is made up of mostly Schiit components:
          1) Schiit Wyrd (cleanes up the USB signal)
          2) Schiit Modi Multibit DAC (high performance to price ratio)
          3) Schiit Loki Tone Controls (great small, 4 section tone controls)
          4) Schiit Magni 2 Uber (Magni 3 on backorder...Magni2 Uber is not a bad little amp but the Magni 3 is supposed to be the price to performance champ)
          5) HiFI Man HE-400S (planar magnetic headphones...punches way above its $399 asking price)
          6) Toshiba 17in laptop with foobar2000 and all the drivers for Kernel Direct playback
          7) Hundreds of high resolution digital flac files as well as some DSD files (some purchased and some recorded from vinyl)

          I love the sound I get out of that modest gear, so I am certain your system is excellent.


          PS. Oddly enough the ICs used for that system cost more than the components themselves. I am using 0.5m pairs of Kimber Hero ICs with WBT connectors. For the USB cables I am using Pangea Silver USB cables. These are reasonably prices cables that outperformed everything I tried before them.
          Life is is just samples thereof.

          TT: VPI Prime, HRX Pulley w/3x Belts, Dual Pivot, ADS, Ortofon Windfeld Ti, Liberty B2B-1, Sky 30 Trans
          Line Stage: *Audible Illusions L1
          Pwr Amp: Parasound A21
          Speakers: Magnepan MMC2, DWM, REL T5/i
          Digital: TASCAM UH-7000, Pioneer Elite DV-47Ai, NAD 446
          Headphones: Stax Lambda Pro, HiFiMan HE-400S, Focal Clear
          Cables: AQ King Cobra, Kimber Hero w/WBT, 8TC, AQ Leopard

          *Modified/Customized Component