21 November, 2010

Home Visit: ARC + Magnepan

Home Visit: ARC + Magnepan

(Written mostly at the Incheon airport when I was returning to the US, but finished in NYC)

You shall remember sowk, whose nice setup I visited sometime ago. Just recently, he became interested in a pair of Adams speakers and we talked. I said if he likes ribbon tweeters why not consider Magnepan, cheaper and most likely better? Imagine my surprise why hardly a week passed and he already had a pair of MG12 in his house. I was very glad sowk was instantly smitten by the sound of the Maggies and said he came to this brand "too late". Well, it's never too late...

The equipment was largely the same as my previous visit. The ARC LS26 is now gone. He bought another LS5 Mk III (the black one), and his nephew added power supply caps in the black box below. sowk also took out his unused AQVOX DAC, for which he bought a Stello transport. Since the AQVOX supports USB, at my prompting he installed iTunes (easiest) the night before and we also experimented with a little CAS. Gears used as of the visit (I understand the CAS stuff is changing fast):

--Stello transport to AQVOX DAC
--Meridian 508.24
--CAS-Windows 7-iTunes-USB out to AQVOX
Preamp: ARC LS5MkIII with power supply cap mod
Amp: ARC V70
Speakers: Magnepan MG-12
Connection all balanced.

The MG12 proved ideal for the room. After moving the Maggies out by more than a foot, we were instantly impressed by the clear and refined sound emerging from the setup. Once again ARC proves a wonderful match and the V70 had more than enough juice for even the biggest moments. In terms of overall balance, despite the newness of the Maggies this particular setup moves to the front rank of the Maggies I have heard. Need I say more...

For CD playback, we were quite impressed by the neutrality and evenhandedness of the brand new AQVOX. For the balanced and USB facility and upsampling ability, I think it's a good buy. Most of us prefer the upsampling OFF. However, for overall impression, com-buddy and I think the Meridian one-box still convincingly edges out the separates in musicality and fleshy tonal allure.

As for the simple CAS USB setup, the sound of the 44.1 lossless AIFF and WAV files were quite reasonable, but not quite as good as playing a CD. Again, I have heard quite a bit of CAS, even outrageously expensive setups, and NONE can outperform conventional digital playback of quality. I won't even mention vinyl.

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