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Thread: What system are you running???

  1. #1
    Andante
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    Default What system are you running???

    To get the ball rolling

    I think “classical” music perhaps more than any other type of music must be heard through a good sound system, all kind of things can then be heard eg, The hiss of the bow over the strings, the clatter of key work on wind instruments, eight double bases rising from pp to ff in a symphony, the squeak of a chair in a string quartet, a solo flute coming from behind the violins, plus the fact that this music goes from barely audible to ear shattering loudness these things can only be heard to good effect on a good Hi Fi system.
    Mine system is:
    Speakers………………….KEF 104/2 Reference
    Amp……………………….Plinius 100 Class “A”
    Pre Amp…………………..Carver C1
    CD Player…………………Technics SLPS 900 "MASH"
    Head phones……………….Sennheiser HD 580 precision
    Hand made interconnects and speaker cables.

    What are you running??

  2. #2
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    These days I spend a lot of my time at my PC (in my study) so I decided to upgrade its sound system.

    PC set-up

    First, I replaced the standard sound card with a Creative Labs Xi-Fi card. This made a truly enormous difference. Whereas with the original sound card it carried with it all the rubbish noise going on inside a PC, the Creative Labs card cleans it all up and outputs CD quality sound. There's no point doing this just for normal listening. It's only worth it if you want true hi-fi for either music and/or gaming. In my case it was only for classical music. N.B: There are various (slightly lower spec) external Creative Labs soundcards which you can buy which are easier to install and give almost as good results.

    Second , I next upgraded the amplification and speakers. I got rid of the active speakers that came with the PC, and purchased an integrated amplifier and a pair of decent bookshelf speakers. There was no need to go overboard on expenditure here as it's only for my study. I bought a Cambridge Audio Azur 640 A Mk II amplifier, which I find excellent for classical music. The speakers are Monitor Audio RS1. For the soundcard to amplifier, I chose a Chord Company "i-chord" 3mm jack to 2-phono interconnect (this is one of the best on the market). I use QED Silver Anniversary bi-wire speaker cable.

    Third, I added a Denon TU 1800 DAB tuner (i.e. a digital tuner). Chord Company interconnect. External DAB aerial is a must (I get zero error).

    Main system

    When the mood takes me, I occasionally listen to a CD on my main system in my lounge. I usually wait for neighbours to leave, and turn the wick up a bit.

    It's a much more expensive piece of kit. It's all British and it comprises:

    • Cyrus 8vs/PSX-R amplifier
    • Arcam Diva CD 192 CD player,
    • Spendor S5e floorstanding speakers
    • Cyrus interconnect; Cyrus speaker cable.

    I have a NAD 372 amplifier (from a previous system) for occasional rock music (I'm a Pink Floyd fan), and I just love the NAD sound for this kind of music. It's no good for classical: too much bass and not enough mid range. The Cyrus is superb for classical (mind you it cost 3x as much).

    All the items listed above were best buys in "What Hi-Fi" magazine about a year ago. Cost: quite a lot. Result: superb. I can tell you that, for example, Beethoven's 5th by Carlos Kleiber/VPO sounds out of this world, especially with the volume set at a sensibe level. You would think you were at a concert. It really is that good. Incidentally it shows why this CD is so highly rated. If anyone saw me as they walked by they'd think I was off my trolley, trying to out-do Kleiber. Rather like 4/4's avatar!


    Topaz
    Last edited by Topaz; Dec-17-2006 at 22:07.

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  4. #3
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    Goodness ! Topaz, what a revelation ! All this for a computer based hi-fi system ! I'm green with envy. Why didn't I think of this myself ? It's brilliant.

    And Karlos Kleiber - wow ! I am on another planet when it's his recordings of Beethoven 5 and 7. Please, please win the National Lottery - soon, and in a moment of madness donate to your adorable Robert, your entire, incredible, hi fi system coz I woz the one who brought you winner's luck !!!! Ha !

    Or else I will remain an analogue person in a digital world. Is this a fate you really wish to see me suffer ?

    (Joking and best wishes)

    Robert
    London

  5. #4
    Senior Member linz's Avatar
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    I just have what's called in 'The States' an Executive System or Mini-Stereo, costs around a hundred dollars, yet has a digital amplifier, five disc changer, and I can hook it to my computer for MP3 if desired. Sounds incredible for the small price. Great bass, which happen to like.

  6. #5
    Administrator Frederik Magle's Avatar
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    Well, my "studio" setup and hi-fi system is one and the same. Here's what I got for listening:

    • Speakers: Audix Nile X mid-field monitors (these are studio monitors and of course very clear, detailed and somewhat "analytical". However, in contrast to most other studio monitors they are quite well suited for more "relaxed" music listening as well. Somehow Audix stroke exactly the right balance without loosing detail and I immensely enjoy these speakers. I do also think the amplifier has a lot to say in that regard.
    I use good quality, though not outrageously expensive speaker cables.

    • Power amplifier: Sirius DMX-200

    • Sirius passive control unit
    The power amplifier and control unit however are connected using some very exotic and, indeed, outrageously expensive cables , though I got them with heavy discount since I bought them together with the amplifier and control unit. 9 years ago that is.

    This is connected to 3 main sources. A. Mixing console B. CD-player C. Computer audio interface.

    These days I do a lot of my music listening from the computer. I have ripped a large part of my CD collection in Lossless (classical, jazz, complex progressive rock, etc.), and 320kbps MP3 (encoded with LAME alt preset insane) for more mainstream rock, pop, etc. iTunes 7 is used for playback.

    As computer audio interface I use a MOTU 896HD. The main outs (balanced) goes directly to the Sirius Control Unit through a pair of custom build cables. (the rest of the 896HD's outputs goes to my mixing console, but I don't use that for "normal" music listening - only for work, hence it's not relevant in this thread)

    My CD player is actually in the "lower end" (at least compared to the speakers/amplifier), but I find the tone nice, warm and generally comfortable. It's a Cambridge Audio CD6 connected to the control unit with balanced custom build cables. If I hadn't switched a lot of my music listening over to the computer I would probably consider buying another CD-player some time, but for now I'm satisfied with it.

    I also have a record player, which is sadly collecting dust these days until I get around to buy a new RIAA unit. It's a Rega Planar 3 with a DENON DL-160 pickup. Not high-end by any means, but nice in the same way as the Cambridge CD-player.

    I almost never listens to radio but for those rare occasions I've got a SONY S505 ES tuner.
    Last edited by Frederik Magle; Dec-18-2006 at 13:23.

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    What a technical question for an ageing female!

    I've transferred my favourite cd's to an i-pod and the reproduction is astounding. It's like having the instruments in my head. I can lose myself in it with no distractions.


    Lynne xx

  8. #7
    Andante
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    Topaz and Frederik you must both be computer whizzes I envy your ability.
    I live in an area that cannot get broadband or cell phone coverage so I only use the PC for info, emails and this kind of thing [forums], All of my listening is from my main system, but I do have a custom designed Music room/lounge so that the reproduction sounds magnificent, I also belong to a music appreciation group and we have monthly sessions in each others homes with the odd glass of Red. Something that may be of interest are my speaker cables, made from com5 cables, 6 cables per side, platted in pairs, cost from memory under NZ$250 total, [you could use them as a tow rope] and sound excellent.

  9. #8
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    Andante

    You don't need any computer wizardry at all to do what I did. I took my PC into a shop and asked them to replace the sound card and to upgrade the ram from 512 kb to 1 mb (the latter was not necessary for music but I thought it might be worthwhile anyway). I took it to the shop I bought the kit from there in the first place. It wasn't too much.

    The rest of the installation (hooking up amplifier and speakers) was as easy as falling off a podium after one too many Reds. It's even easier if you've had none.

    If you want a simpler option, Creative Labs make a good external sound card that simply connects to a USB socket. Make sure it's connected to an on-board USB socket, or to a decent powered hub (try Belkin). The card is called Audigy NX. This way you can keep the card if you change the PC. A friend of mine has this and it's very good.

    I stress it's only worth doing if you want to get a better sound from a PC. The sound card could be connected to an all-in-one stereo system, e.g. like a Sony mini-system. It's definitely worth getting a decent lead from sound card to hi-fi system. This is a 3mm jack to two-phono socket. The cheap ones for a few pounds/dollars are no good. You have to spend at least 20 GB pounds equivalent. Mine is a Chord Company "i-chord" which is only half a metre in length and cost about 60 GB pounds. It's very clear and is vastly better than the previous piece of junk I had. As always, you get what you pay for. BTW, thick cable doesn't always mean high quality. Some of the very best interconnects are very thin, as is the case with this "i-chord".


    Topaz
    Last edited by Topaz; Dec-20-2006 at 13:52.

  10. #9
    Andante
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    [B]Quote topaz [B] BTW, thick cable doesn't always mean high quality. Some of the very best interconnects are very thin, as is the case with this "i-chord".
    These are speaker cables topaz @ approx 7+ metres per side to fit into room configeration, they took me about 8 hrs to make. you would not tell the difference with cables many times the price.

  11. #10
    Senior Member linz's Avatar
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    I just upgraded my system to an Onkyo CS-210 for a gift on my birthday. I've own this system before, it is exceptional quality at an affordable price of less than $200. I might not get the dynamics of a large, costly system, besides, I disagree with the notion that you need such a mammoth to enjoy the music thoroughly.

  12. #11
    Andante
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    To get true Hi Fi “High Fidelity” you just have to have good gear,
    I agree that you can enjoy our music on other systems but, to reproduce that live concert quality that makes your spine tingle you just have to get a good system,
    I purchased the best that I could afford at the time and it has paid off over the years, the only thing that is due for replacement is the CD player, the rest still holds its own with the other systems that I listen to.

  13. #12
    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Man, I envy all of you... I had a decent little JVC set-up in my student years in Toronto (1993-2001)... but upon my move to CZ, I relegated my listening to my little Acer Notebook, for a long time I didn't even buy add-on speakers because I was travelling a lot.

    After "settling down" in Marienbad, I stole some desktop speakers from an orphanage for blind kids and now I bask in the glory of 3watt stereo Sibelius.

  14. #13
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    Kurkikohtaus

    Stole some 3 watt desktop speakers from an orphanage for blind kids? Where else, indeed? I bet they sound good. You must be saving up for a Porsche, like me.


    Topaz

  15. #14
    Senior Member linz's Avatar
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    My Onkyo has a subwoofer hook-up, so surely that will be one of my next investments. At that point I will have sound comparible to many far more expensive systems.

  16. #15
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    You reckon you will get better sound by hooking up a sub-woofer? I bet you anything it will sound dreadful. Sub-woofers have to be matched to main speakers, and the latter have to be far better quality than the cheap speakers you get with micro systems. Anyway, it's only worth doing for rock/metal etc, as all you'd get with a sub-woofer is a low thud sound that you'll probably hate withing two minutes. Besides, cheap sub-woofers sound like junk (under about US$500). I am pretty sure you would be disappointed with the result.

    You'd be better off spending the money upgrading the main speakers and replacing the bell-wire with some decent speaker cable. A pair of Monitor Audio B1 or possibly Wharfedale Diamond II will sound far better, and you'd have some change too compared with a half-decent sub-woofer. But watch the impedance levels. Both these are 6 ohm speakers which should be OK with the amp section. These speakers will take a much better amp and CD player too if you want to upgrade these later. This route puts you on to a much more virtuous path, because in due course you can give/sell your Onkyo.

    A further word on speakers and upgrading : Cheap speakers (those bundled with micro systems) sound alright until you compare with them with something more expensive, where it's the tighter bass that hits you first thing. Cheap speakers have a slow, woolly bass, i.e. the driver doesn't start or stop moving when it should do, so you get a muddy sound, with bass sounds sounding vague. As you upgrade, you also notice a far more detailed mid-range and treble, as the cross-over unit and quality of driver units, and general quality of construction, show up. The overall result is a far clearer, and more pleasing sound. The best test of any speaker is to listen for an hour, and see if they grate on your nerves: most cheap ones do grate: they are either too trebly, or too bass-slow, or have lousy mid-range or, most likely, all three. The next thing is a better amplifier, which will impart much greater detail and control the driver units far more precisely. A better CD player will drag out much more detail and give a more in-depth feel to the music, where you can pick out the different instruments so much more easily. You get what you pay for. No need to rush this, provided you get on the right path, as noted above.


    Topaz
    Last edited by Topaz; Dec-26-2006 at 21:47.

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