January 8, 2010

2009 in Retrospect - Changes in My System

There have been a number of changes made to my system in 2009, just like Big E's. Not an overhaul, for sure, as the main items such as amps, loudspeakers, power conditioners, and most cables remained the same, but anyhow, I thought an update is in store as we start a new year.

These changes are of course made with things that have impressed me in my system during the past year, and they are something I could afford, so they stayed on. Are there better designs, better models than these out there? Of course there are, it is a question of system synergy and depth of pocket - for example I'd like to acquire some top of the range cables (a few Siltech sprung to mind), but my pocket told me otherwise, in situation like this I really envy those who could. :-)

Let's get to the changes:

Ayre C-5xeMP
The one most substantial change is the digital frontend. After listening to the Ayre C-5xeMP universal player extensively, I acquired it to be my main source. It has a rightness in the way it plays my CDs which I found condusive for long term ownership - you don't want a sound that you'll get bored soon.

In my write-up of the Ayre player earlier, I mentioned that it required 1-2 hours of warm-up before it performed at its best. Well, I am now happy to report that after more than 500 hours, its performance has stabilized. Though a little warm-up would not hurt, you'd get pretty much the same high quality sound switching it on from standby.

JPS Labs Superconductor 3 supported by Shunyata Darkfield
The second change is the loudspeaker cables. I finally made a switch to JPS Superconductor 3. The SC3 gives a robust sound, it probably can't be called very refined, but it is definitely not rough nor aggressive. It is, rather, a 'textured' presentation, more like live music which is appealing to me, as I personally am not inclined towards an ultimate refinement and smoothness in my system's sound.
finite elemente Pagode Signature rack
The third big change is equipment support - I upgraded to a finite elemente Pagode Signature rack, not cheap, but well worth the investment. I can't imagine now putting my equipment on anything but a properly designed rack. The effect of the finite elemente signature is not subtle, the sound is better anchored and better organized, some laziness and roughness heard before has been banished too.

Ceraballs under the Pass Labs pre-amp
Finite elemente also supplies equipment footers (same function as cones), I use a quartet of their mid-size footers, the cerapucs, under the Pagode Signature. There is also a trio of the smallest footers, the ceraballs under my pre-amp. The footers reduce noise, and making lower level details become more apparent. They also expanded the sound, making the system sound bigger.

Cardas Golden Cuboid under the Ayre player

However, for the Ayre player, I preferred the performance of the Cardas Golden Cuboids - 3 pieces of almost undescriptive blocks, made from myrtle wood. On the Ayre, they brought out the mids, music also became more 'continuous' with better flow. I would caution against using too many of the wood blocks though, the system may prone to too much warmth or may sound slower.

I also tried out cable support, using the Shunyata Darkfield cable elevators. They worked well under my speaker cables, giving a calmer, less jittery sound. Experiment with the best number that you need to achieve the best balance.
I also use the Telos caps to cover up some of the RCA terminals on my pre-amp. Nobody would notice them unless they peep behind the system. Used judiciously, they made the system quieter, and the sound had better control.

Full system view.
(Beside the right speaker is an Astro decoder and a Marantz universal player for tv/dvd viewing,
hooked up to an LCD tv hidden behind the curtain

Now, lastly, my current full system list:
Digital frontend Player: Ayre C-5xeMP
Preamp: Pass Labs X2.5
Monoblocks: Pass Labs XA60
Loudspeakers: EgglestonWorks The Nine
Power line conditioner: Shunyata Hydra 8
Power cords: Shunyata Python Helix Alpha x2; Taipan Helix Alpha x3
Interconnects: Audioquest Sky (CD>Pre); JPS Labs Superconductor2 (Pre>monoblocks)
Loudspeaker cables: JPS Labs Superconductor 3
Equipment rack: Finite Elemente Pagode Signature with Cerapucs as feet
Tweaks: Telos RCA caps; Shunyata Dark Field Cable Elevators; Finite Elemente Ceraballs; Cardas Golden Cuboids
Listening space: Dedicated room 14'x10'x9.5' (LWH)


Sonyman said...

Wah ka liau ho liau.. so shiok lah everytime turn the system on....

mmmm... love to be able to listen to it...

OdioSleuth said...

Paiseh. kamsiah kamsiah for the nice words. :-)

mikelau.2 said...

You aware new models Passlabs amps in production ? The 260.5 probably worth a listen when avail here. cheers

OdioSleuth said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the heads-up. Didn't know that Pass labs has a new model coming.

Hope hifi-unlimited has a chance to listen to them if they come to our shore.