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To Jeff Fritz,
I learned the hard way that it is difficult to go backward on so many things -- a BMW M-series back to a Honda Accord, involvement with three growing children so back to dedicated listening time. With me, as my listening time dwindled (I would rather spend the time with the kids -- it goes by fast), I decided to scale back my system. As I begin to regain some audio time, I find my system far less enjoyable than I remembered.
Keep this in mind when you start shopping. This is what I have learned; sit down as many may feel it is audiophile sacrilege. Priority 1: the room, which you have totally covered and I feel this takes care of 45% of your audio needs. Priority 2: the speakers, and this is where I sacrificed too much and I would say is another 45% of the equation. Depending on your new budget, there are so many options for speakers. True innovators and enthusiastic novices alike have saturated the high-end market. Since you may want to support your advertisers, let us start there.
Dynaudio: I find it is unlikely you will be satisfied with the Dynaudio Contour 60s compared to your old Magicos. The price point is attractive, but you may find the fidelity gap too large. These are great speakers, but you may want to aim higher depending on your system’s price (or perhaps you may reach higher via Audiogon or your connections to the industry). Options: the Gryphon Mojos with subs could be an interesting option; I would love to see a real review now that they are available in the US. Lower-cost, mostly full-range Magicos with subs could be a great option given their similarities to the sound you’ve grown accustomed to. Bowers & Wilkins, the 802 D3 and 800 D3, do not really do it for me, but many like them. With Monitor Audio, I personally do not like the directionality of their ribbon tweeters. Then there’s KEF with their off-axis response and laid-back sound; I personally would write them off. They would have quite the contrast to the Magicos. Paradigms, which I have heard many times, sound too bright and overly (unrealistically) revealing. The measurements in Sound & Vision seem to confirm this. Vivid speakers do seem to be a great option -- maybe a new pair of G2S2s or B1 Decades with subs. Outside of your advertising circle there is always Rockport, TAD, Focal’s new Maestro/Scala Utopia Evos, Legacy (Aegis and V), JBL 4376/M2, and hopefully the forthcoming Revel Ultima3 Salon3, all with substantial engineering prowess behind them.
Electronics: If you were sitting, you may want to lay down for this one. I believe you can get 99% of the state of the art in performance with well-made mainstream electronics rather than the mega-priced/showcase gear. Check the specs to ensure they truly measure up, then perhaps try some blind testing. Tell me the Anthem Statement P2 for $4500 does not sound the same as (or damn close to) the extremely high-priced showpiece amps. The same argument can be made for preamp, cables, DACs, etc. I will stop here to prevent hate mail. My point is money spent here is better allocated to speakers. Yes, you may give up a little, very little, but the budget allocation to better speakers certainly offsets that.
One man’s opinion!
To Jeff Fritz,
I’ve read your two articles: “Jeff’s Getting a New Stereo System: Part One” and “Jeff’s Getting a New Stereo System: Part Two.” I have a recommendation for you, and maybe it will be an upgrade from what you have right now.
Why not get an Apogee Full Range speaker system? These are the ones restored with all new Graz-made ribbons; they are under $20k/pair and new speakers, not used ones. They’re huge and a perfect fit for a large room such as yours.
Now this is the interesting part, why don’t you go active with them? You’ll need four transformers (two per speaker) to bring the impedance from 0.25 ohm to 2 or 4 ohms, and protect the ribbons from DC offset and transients; you can drive the bass panels directly as they have a linear 2-ohm impedance and are much less delicate than the midranges and tweeters.
Next, get three Accuphase A-47 amplifiers (can hold a 1-ohm load without blinking), and they’re perfect for this job. You can buy them from Japan and change them from 230V to 120V if the pricing strategy bothers you.
Last but not less important, get a DEQX HDP-5 to tie everything together and you’re done. It would be impossible to review DACs with this setup, but you still can review amps and speakers.
I think it would be a big upgrade from what you have and be several times less expensive than the Magico/Soulution setup. You’ll end up with full-range, phase-coherent, time-aligned, textbook-perfect frequency response with ribbon speakers driven by pure-class-A amplifiers. It doesn’t get better than that.
To Jeff Fritz,
Regarding your new system, I would try a totally different approach. The Brodmann Acoustics VC 7s, JB 175s, and JB 205s are very special speakers, mostly excelling in jazz and classical music (but not just). They should fill up a large room with sound very easily. I live with a pair of VC 7s myself and could not be happier. I stopped listening to mids and highs and just listen to music. Their approach is different from conventional speakers and, in fact, Brodmann has not changed their design for many years.
Anyway, it is very interesting reading about your journey. Sometimes during the quest to build the killer system we forget about the main objective of the hobby -- music -- and lose the fun somewhere during the process.
To Jeff Fritz,
Congrats on your adventure! I think it’s great someone who knows what is possible on the bleeding edge is willing to jump into the audio food chain where most of us actually live. I find more satisfaction when trying to achieve something great on a budget -- it requires much more from you than simply having a large pile of $$$ and writing the check. That applies to audio or wine or myriad other hobbies.
One suggestion -- listen to the Chord Hugo 2. Shocking how good it can be as the center of a home system for less than $2500. By far the best sanely priced digital I’ve heard -- so I’ve two on order. From a value perspective, the $500 Chord Mojo is even more impressive and still very good in absolute terms. Rob Watts has managed to crack the digital nut using FPGAs at a very cost effective price point.
Looking forward to reading about your audio journey.
To Jeff Fritz,
I’ve been keeping up on your new articles about changing your system. Also, I’ve been reading the What’s Best thread (mostly, I skip some replies). First I think you’ve created a really fun stir in the audio world with this. I love that you’ve quoted some people from the forum.
Now I know you haven’t posted all your thoughts, but I have to chime in at least one interesting one that maybe hasn’t hit your plate. Have you considered working on designing your own new stereo? That is a project that would be very fun. It would take time, and you would have to love the end result. Now I don’t mean that you become an electronics designer and a speaker designer. What I mean is working with someone that wants to do a joint project. That would be very new and fresh.
As much as Folsom would love to be doing that, we don’t suspect you’d specifically want to engage with such a small and new company. But if you did do this approach we would be watching intently because it could be a great project in the future for us to do with someone. It’s new, it’s bold, and without a notable figure it won’t become a “thing,” but hey, it could be a pretty darn special event. It could lead to a lot of things in the future.
Any way, I will continue to keep up on what you decide. I check SoundStage! Ultra regularly as I find the length and read to be a pleasurable dose of what I can enjoy without scrolling to try and find something I care about.
To Jeff Fritz,
I have a strong inkling that you might just fall in love with the Dynaudio Contour 60s.
I heard a pair recently at some length -- alternating between the Gryphon Diablo 300 and Goldmund Telos 590 NextGen integrateds as partnering amps -- and it was very plain to hear that you no longer require (if indeed you ever really did) multiple boxes and a jungle of cables to achieve world-class sound. For me, all three models in the new Contour range represent a significant step forward for Dynaudio in terms of price/performance ratio.
With a view to your “downsizing” project, a top-class integrated amplifier is the obvious way to go, but I thought I might also mention the latest pre/power offerings from Mark Levinson. I recently had a chance to compare them to the D’Agostino gear and while I thought both were superb, I finally leaned slightly in favor of the Levinson No.526 pre and No.534 stereo power amp. And the on-board DAC in the No.526 is sweet as a nut, too. Clincher is, though, they undercut the comparatively specc’ed D’Agostiono offerings by about 50% in terms of wallet damage.
Just my two cents’ worth. Have fun choosing.
To Jeff Fritz,
I want to begin by saying that you have been a breath of fresh air in a polluted arena of audio review! Even with the best of equipment and the best of high resolution, it is very difficult to hear the truth, and I don’t mean from the music. It’s a difficult thing to be true to oneself when the spoils are so enticing; I don’t trust one single reviewer, not one.
To qualify, I own one of those $300,000 systems, and when I find time to listen with a clear head, I enjoy it deeply. I love the way it sounds, I love way it looks, and there’s an appeal to the whole setup and tinker thing that seems to be innate in some men. However, I still get more sheer enjoyment cranking up the car stereo and screaming lyrics from the ’70s while driving 80mph!
So what’s the point of all this? I hear the truth when I read your columns. I have contributed a couple times, almost bought the Soulution amp/pre combo on your words, but, and this is my truth: I can’t find $155,000 in value in any single piece of audio equipment. Instead, I opted for the $70,000 EMM Labs monsters. There’s a lot of irony in all this, and false pride. Audio can become too personal, and then it’s a problem.
I’m no spring chicken, 57 in a couple of days. I have two young boys, three and five years old, Cole and Luca. They are my real truth, Jeff. I’d stand in front of a bus for them, I really would. They love the audio room. They can operate my whole rig: preamp first, click, then amps, click, then dual DACs, power supply for the transport, clock is always on. They know their way around the $25,000 in cabling, too. They can load CDs, operate the remotes, all with great caution. Fire up the music, then they start jumping around the room, doing tumble salts, spinning my chair around, taking turns running full bore from the stereo rack to a flying jump into my arms. Am I nervous? You bet. I sold my Ypsilons because the corners are dangerous. Jeff, sometimes for over an hour this goes on and I realize I haven’t heard any of the advantages the $300,000 buys me. But I have a great time with them, and I would never want to steal from them the impulse that only three- and five-year-olds have when they are in that room. Cole wants a guitar now, the music is in our soul.
I get way more enjoyment from those two young boys than anything else in my life. Doesn’t mean I don’t still love audio; I still do, and always will. Truth is, I always thought the super system would bring me super satisfaction. Sometimes it does, but I wouldn’t do it again. I get as much, if not more, out of my simple, much less expensive system in the living room; surely not as “real” but every bit as enjoyable, and I never catch myself disappointed when listening to that system.
To conclude, Jeff, there’s a hell of a lot a luck in this hobby. There’s so much gear to choose from, the synergy, the room acoustics. The media mostly sucks and it’s a crapshoot. But the single biggest obstacle is zoning out the pollution from all the hype and bullshit from magazines, blogs, forums, and tainted reviewers. You nailed it, like you mostly do, in my opinion.
I’ve been listening for a better pair of speakers, but the truth is I’ll never be in a position to hear them in my audio room, so that’s a lot of risk for a disappointing conclusion. So, [Revel Ultima2] Salon2s it is for a while, until I know for sure. You know, if I could ask you straight up your thoughts on speakers, I would probably lean in that direction. That’s a lot of power from a source I’ve never broken bread with, but trust should be the most important cornerstone in the foundation of a reviewer. Jeff, we would get along good; I read a lot of me in your words, and we seem to be leaning in the same direction.
To Jeff Fritz,
I will try and keep this brief, but I just had to write my first message to a SoundStage! audio reviewer: as someone who has been at this hobby a long time (my first good stereo with LS3/5As was about 35 years ago); as someone who once had a 2500-square-foot one-bedroom condo and an active system that featured around 40 vacuum tubes; and as someone who now has small children (2, 3, and 8) at a point later in my life than most do.
Yours is the most timely, most insightful, and I must say inspiring article having to do with audio I have ever read. I look forward to the privilege of reading the chronicle of your journey to your new system. Kudos, bravo, and any other words that are appropriate.
Michael D. Brown
To Jeff Fritz,
That article is the best I’ve read from a reviewer [“Jeff’s Getting a New Stereo System: Part One”]. Our market and industry has indeed changed. It has entered the world of luxury products, which AVShowrooms delightfully covers. I was at this turning point some time ago and discovered the joys of vintage audio.
I still own several pairs of Bozaks and many vintage amps. The total retail for a great system is less than $10,000. Dan D’Agostino heard one of these systems at my home seven years ago and offered to buy my Bozaks on the spot!
Keep up the great writing!
To Jeff Fritz,
I just read your recent article on SoundStage! Ultra about you getting a new stereo system [“Jeff’s Getting a New Stereo System: Part One”]. Great piece of writing and so spot-on -- compliments for that one! It resonates with me. And I’m looking forward to Part Two of your new endeavor. So Hut ab Herr Fritz!
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