Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My HiFi system setup: reviewed by Panzer, Desirableaudio

VTL MB250 signature by you.Tubes Galore!

Many systems easily gives the "they (the performers) are here, in the room" presentation, but just a few days ago, I experienced a system that represents that "you are there!"perspective. This is the story of such a system.

Sting(the system owner, not the English man in New York!), goes around the world as part of his job demands. He is an ardent fan of live concerts, not the stadium filling type mind you, but rather the intimate Jazz bar, or acoustic live type of performance. The type of concert that Hardrock Cafe best known for. These performing environment forms his point of audio reproduction reference. Sting's music diet consist of mostly live recordings of such performances and live studio recordings, of acoustic folk, pop/rock and blues musical genre mostly.

Listening to this system, one gets the feeling of being transported all the way to the event!, being part of the audience, smoke, beer and all the sensation of "being there!". The system re creates the "stage" literally to a very high degree convincingly. The air is not only between instruments, but also between the performers! As a certain hifi guru used to quote, "breathing the same air as the musicians" now makes so much sense to me. The sound stage is virtually 3D in presentation with almost life sized scale, when playing all these recorded live performances. One of my favorite live performances ever recorded is Eva Cassidy's Live at the Blues Alley, it's like I was there. With this type of presentation, all the usual audiophile sound description almost becomes meaningless. But this is an hifi blog, one with high end aspirations if I might add. So we'll still dissect the sound just a bit.

Tonality is warm, highs airy and smooth, but full of energy so important to the aspect of recreating the "live performances" so convincingly. The mids have body and density, not only have mouth, but chest and waist portrayed. The bass, though does not extend particularly low, does has enough heft, to still make bass guitars and kick drums, well, kick ass!

This is a system to immerse yourself in to the live event re created!

Naim CD5 & Flatcap.

So what's the equipment list, you ask? Here goes, starting with a Naim CD5 supported by a Flatcap to power the analogue section of the player. A Naim DIN to RCA cable is used to send the signal to a DIY tube pre amp.

DIY tube buffer design pre amp.

This pre amp is an interesting one, because it is a tube buffer by design, incorporating and step attenuator and selector switch. The buffer design nature means no gain and no feedback. In theory at least, it should sound as transparent as a passive pre, minus all the drawbacks usually associated with the passive unit. Built quality and parts are impressive, with a pair of Sylvania 6922 forming the heart of the pre amp, flanked by parts like 1% metal films resistors and 3% Mundorf Silver/Oil caps, to improve L/R channel matching tolerance. Eat your heart out! Musical Fidelity X-10D, which ever version!

Inside pre amp, simplicity!

From the tube buffer pre amp, which solves the impedance matching issues between source and power amp, connected by Mogami Studio interconnects which is perhaps, the STAR of the system, a pair of VTL MB-250 Signature tube mono blocks. These are some of the sweetest sounding muscular amps around, having played with a pair before in my own system, I know their 250 quality watts very well.

VTL MB-250 Signature.

The amplified signals are sent to a pair of Von Schweikert VR1 Reference mini monitors, which are mounted on top of half filled, four pillar stand. Speaker cable is vdH The Wind.

Von Schweikert VR1 Reference, worth another look?

The music system's power is supplied via dedicated 45 amps power line specially installed for the job. Promitheus Balance Power Supply is used to condition before sending the juices to the CD player only. All oher equipments draw power direct from wall via, Wire World Tundra distributor. Various Harmonic Tech A/C series power cords are used to connect from distributor to all the various equipments.

Dedicated 45 amps power line for audio.

Promitheus Audio Balanced Power for Naim CD5 only.

Cable elavators, made drom left over legs from "shoe rack" deflector panels.

Various tuning methods are employed, from equipment isolation spikes to what seemed like tuning beaks, placed on the two front corners of the speakers. These are in fact, resonators in disguised. Sting would not tell me the source of the resonators, so I can't share that with our readers.

Speaker tuning beak?

No, but a resonator!

Room tune/treatment is taken care, by a variety of, guess what, shoe racks! I did not know about them prior to my visit, but Sting says he got inspired after reading about it from this blog! He used a total of 22 sets shoe racks, deployed in the front and side walls, plus ceiling corners, all double or quad layered. The back wall of the room, is lined with drapes. CD racks also lined the sidewalls for further deflection qualities.

Shoe rack ceiling corner treatment.

2 and 4 layers shoe rack deflector sandwich.

Drapes and ceiling corner treatment for back wall.

Did I mentioned that Sting is also an avid photographer(the really nice looking ones are taken by him) and accomplished bass guitar player too?

It's alive....!

Well done, Sting!