23 November, 2009

HiFi Letter from New York 2009 (3):

HiFi Letter from New York 2009 (3):

Spread them wider! Menage a Trois, ou Quatre!

If you look at the pic in my first letter you shall see the placement of the left speaker left something to be desired. With approval, a week ago I relocated the table to the middle of the front wall and the left speaker further against the sidewall. This enabled me to put the small bookshelves to the lateral side of the Martin Logan Source’s. I am still 10 ft+ from the speakers but the distance between the MLs and between the bookshelves now become a more respectable 7+ ft and 9 ft.

Needless to say, the soundstage became much wider instantly, and after adjusting the toe-in angle, there is no loss of focus. While the benefit to the ML’s are solid, the change made to the sound of the bookshelves, which shall be described in another letter, is nothing short of astonishing.

The Martin Logan Source

These continue to please me to no end. Its ability to run on good SET amps is a great bonus. The real strength is the ability to let the listener into the venue, meaning feeling like you're listening to the real musicians. In this, it is matched by few transducers that I have heard. Right now as I type I am listening to LP, Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 (LPO/Tennstedt), one of his most atmospheric. In III one distinctly feels the hushed atmosphere of the posthorn solo, and so it is the same in IV, where the singing by contralto Ortrund Wenkel is similarly atmospheric. No doubt the engagement I felt can be most appropriately attributed to ML’s exceptional portrayal of the leading edge (fast, but not too fast to stand out) allied to a full sound palette. The ML also makes most of the other speakers touted for imaging sound just that little bit manicured, even artificial. The palpability and real-life size decidedly trump the smaller Quads, which have trouble with tallness of image, not to say a realistic level of playback. I mostly play the LP pile I have just bought, but every time I slot in something familiar, like Van Morrison's Moondance, I am astonished by the experience of hearing something anew. I know it’s a cliché, but that is certainly how it is.

With its rear port and still less than ideal placement surprisingly I have very little bass problem. There isn’t significant bloating and I do not feel much standing wave effects. Perhaps I am just lucky, though I feel the 2 corridors behind the 2 speakers help a bit here.

A second station

After some toying around and running some other components for maintenance sake, the main system (for this visit) has been settled:

-Linn LP-12 (just upgraded from Valhalla to Lingo; report later) with Ittok 2 and Denon DL-304 (yes, changed from the Benz Micro Silver; report later too)

-Audio Technica 1200 turntable with Grado Gold and Denon DL-102 mono cartridges

-Linn Karik/Numerik (Linn cable)

-PS Audio GCPH phonoamp (Mogami)

-BAT VK3i preamp (thin WE interconnect)

-Almarro 6C33 SET amp (Belden 9497)

-Martin Logan Source

What’s the real reason for setting up a second system? Usually and ostensibly it is for practical reasons, like to have something in the bedroom. I suspect the true reason for some people is at least a trace of harbored ill-will for the main system. Avoiding the naked truth staring in one’s face, so as not to upset the weak psyche, one usually savors something different and usually lower in status.Just a thought.

If you believe me, my reason for a second system IS a practical one. I get up really early, like 6 am, and start to listen to music. Of course you can only listen at a very low level, though the system must excel at microdynamics. I could use the main system, but why burn up so many tubes? The second reason is to use it to test new toys. I set up a separate station close to where I sit, placing my gears on 2 coffee tables (see pic). After a bit of work, here it’s now:

-Revox 226 Signature (DIY solid core cable of thin gauge)

-Pioneer PL-10 with cheap AT cartridge (my first TT)

-High Resolution Technology Music Streamer (PC running iTunes/Wav files)(cheap Audioquest)

-Sony XDR-F1HD “digital” tuner, with HD capability (useful in the USA)


-Almarro EL84 SE amp (Acrotec) or NAD 325BEE (used as power amp)

-Linn Kan or Focal Chorus 705V on Sonus Faber adjustable stands.

With the new positions of the bookshelves, the second system is functioning splendidly. I had a hard time with the Focal Chorus before, but they are fine now and deserve a separate report later. The Linn Kan (version I) I just got and it was plug and play. The system now achieves a very good level of transparency even at very low volume. But it is surprisingly dynamic at high volume, with images tall and fleshed out. It took a bit of work and the experience is worth also a separate report.

A bedroom system is also half finished. Stay tuned.

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