Quoting The Inner Ear Report - Volume 16, No. 4/2005

"Notes From The Editor's Desk"



The List For Gratifying Audio:

My job as an Editor affords me the opportunity to listen to a lot of components in many system combinations and, while all aim to interpret electrical signal into intelligible sound, almost none render consistent sonic results.  On paper, many amplifiers are quite alike with specification variances only in none-consequential areas.  Of course, parts, workmanship, wiring, indeed, the very design concept may differ, but the final outcome should be an amplifier providing sound that is as close to the real thing (music) as humanly possible.  Well, this simply isn't so, for all amps of which I know have a unique sonic make up which interposes the designer's position regarding accuracy or musicality.  Loudspeakers likely present the most discernible differences for consumers who, guided by preferential bias, often choose the wrong design.  The same goes for source components, cables, tweaks, etc.  In other words it is a tedious and difficult undertaking to attain a system combination close to perfection.

I've made a list of the most important elements I'm looking for when I rate equipment -- and it is based purely on musical authenticity; the true sound of instruments or voices.  Ideally, l'll be watching for a system that sounds:

1) Firm -- but not hard

2) Sweet -- but not sugary

3) Tight -- but not constrained

4) Wide in reach -- but not infinite

5) Deep -- but not bottomless

6) Detailed -- but not detached

7) Dynamic -- but not forceful

8) Full bodied -- but not opulent

9) Balanced -- but not monotonous

10) Resolute -- but not rough

Do these systems exists? Yes they do, but it often takes months to accomplish the task of finding and matching the "right" components.  Last December, a friend and I set out to accomplish just that by using the equipment my friend had assembled over the past year or so.  He had two complete systems-one for his town house, one for his chalet-made up of a pair of Ethera Vitae and a pair of Gershman Avant Garde loudspeakers, a pair of Orpheus monoblocks, an OCM 500 power omp, two Audio Aero CD players, the Capitole and the Prima, a Wyetech Labs Jade preamplifier, a Belcanto preamplifier, Nordost Valhalla interconnects and Nordost Red Dawn, as well as Monster cable Sigma speaker cables.  I brought along a pair of Wyetech Labs Sapphire monoblocks and we began to audition various combinations,  lt took about three days before we achieved the desired results--the closest thing to live music.  The system designed for the chalet was placed in a dedicated studio without acoustic aberrations which allowed proper placement of components and loudspeakers.  We began changing the existing system -- the Gershmans, Orpheus amps, Wyetech Labs Jade preamp, Audio Aero Capitole, Nordost cables by substituting the Orpheus with the Wyetech Labs Sapphire monoblocks.  lt worked well, but didn't allow us to increase volume levels to more than 100d8 or so.  However, the system sounded very good and had at least five of the desired elements listed above.  Next, we connected the Etheras to the Sapphires which heighten the system's musical glow by a few degrees but could not reach more than six of my list's essential objectives.  We changed speaker cables but found this was not effective, so we decided to change back to the Orpheus monoblocks this time driving the Etheras.  I thought this system offered all but one of the listed elements, but my friend was unsure.  He had been listening to the Gershmans connected to the same electronics and source component and had been very gratified until we introduced the Etheras to the setup.  I left the listening room with the system in working condition and my friend continued to listen (endlessly).  The next morning, he proclaimed his understanding of superb audio and the importance of system synergy.  He graduated from a happy listener to one who perceived and recognized the meaning of musicality, made up of the above listed elements.  In other words, he now understood the difference between personal preference and musical accuracy -- high fidelity.  We fooled around for another few hours, connecting, disconnecting, and connecting again, just to satisfy our insecure minds that we had the best system combination.  We had!  And in the process we reached nine out of ten most desired audio elements.

The system was arranged in a customized "listening studio" on an 8 inch step up from the main floor level, thus creating a low stage.  Upholstered walls (and corners) behind the loudspeakers provided properly dense absorption, while the stage provided the platform for two lead-filled stands, placed four feet away from the rear wall, and about two and one half feet from side walls.  The speaker stand placement resulted in a ten foot spread between loudspeakers.  All electronics were arranged on a vibration-free Design Progression stand with numerous Logosound feet, cones and Symposium Audio blocks.  This superb system benefitted from the "last component" -- the well treated listening environment.  The acoustic properties of rooms can add to or detract from listening pleasure and should be considered as important as the equipment they hold.  lf the listening room is constructed or furnished appropriately, it can eliminate corner problems, unwanted reflections, undue brightness or insipidity-and ultimately, the secret desire to improve or buy new goodies.  Our next job is to "fix" my friend's town house with the equipment left over.  We'll be re-arranging his living room and make a listening studio out of it.  It'll be more difficult, because we'll have to move the furniture.