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Two channel audio thread, because music matters

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by Craig Chase, Jan 11, 2018 at 8:00 PM.

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  1. Craig Chase

    Craig Chase Gear Guru
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    Greetings - Now that things are getting back to normal on the home front, I am starting a thread on something I always wanted to do: explore two channel audio while keeping the cost relatively affordable.

    This will be an on going thread, with some surprises in regards to speakers and amplifiers. We are attempting to source as much as possible for speakers/amps from the USA and Canada. A couple of manufacturers have already agreed to participate, and feelers have been put out to additional companies.

    Let's see where this thread takes us.
     
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  2. 2 Jan 13, 2018 at 5:52 PM
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018 at 6:32 PM
    Craig Chase

    Craig Chase Gear Guru
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    The first component for this thread has arrived: The OPPO 203D Universal player. After extensive talks with the authorized dealer - who has available many more expensive products - we picked the OPPO because it has, in the opinion of this dealer, two channel audio that is as "good as it gets" for under $1000. It plays CD, DVD-A and SACD. The fact that it can double as a DVD player is a plus.

    It is available direct from OPPO or from several retailers for about $500.

    Hopefully, over the next week, a decision will be made for an integrated amp. I am looking at Rogue, Odyssey, Peachtree, Vincent, Pro-Ject, Rega and possibly Jolida. Suggestions are welcome.
     
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  3. Technosponge

    Technosponge Auditioning

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    Mytek Digital Brooklyn DAC+ / Brooklyn AMP.
     
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  4. Craig Chase

    Craig Chase Gear Guru
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    Technosponge ... Several high end dealers are already liking the concept of this thread. One is a Mytek dealer. He is thinking the Brooklyn DAC/Pre amp and a good tube amp. The interesting part is he has the Brooklyn amp in stock, but swears the combo of Brooklyn's DAC/Pre with the Tube amp (he suggested several) is pure magic.

    Good call !! Thank you!
     
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  5. Technosponge

    Technosponge Auditioning

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    I’ve put the Mytek Brooklyn pairing at the top of a very short list. My dilemma is not being able to audition them. I’ve got a feeling paired with Revel Concerta2 M16s I may be sold.
     
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  6. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    My two channel system is from a slightly different angle than what you guys are heading towards, but I challenge anyone to beat in in the "bang for the buck" area. I've had my Thiel CS 3.6s since they came out, so, over 25 years. I'll probably die with them, if I can. So, the rest of the playback system is the Emotiva DC-1 DAC, Emotiva XSP-1 pre-amp, Oppo 103 to play back HD files, and an Emotiva XPA-2 amp. At $500 each for the Oppo and DC-1, $800 for the XSP-1 and $650 for the XPA-2 (when I bought them) I'd hold it up against anything, for the price.
     
  7. Craig Chase

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    John Rice ... The Oppo 203D is $500. The rest of the Emotiva gear is more money today, but still a good value. The only floorstanders from Thiel today are $7000 per pair. If you want to talk value, my Koss 1020's will stack up quite nicely against the Thiels (yes, I have heard them both) and they were $600 new in 1978.

    The point is, your system, if purchased new today, would be well in excess of $10,000. I doubt the two channel system here will be that much money.

    Emotiva is a new addition to the short list for components, though.
     
  8. JohnRice

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    The abomination that today has the "Thiel" name on it is, well, an abomination. The company died with Jim Thiel in 2009. And since the goal seems to be nitpicking, the Oppo 203 is $549. Koss speakers from 40 years ago that "stack up quite nicely" against the CS3.6? Yeah, right. I admit, I was somewhat fortunate that they happened to come out when I was looking for new speakers, and I ventured into one of the few stores that sold them, but they are still regularly rated as one of the greatest speakers ever made, and especially one of the greatest values. I'm not going to apologize that I was fortunate enough to stumble across them. The DC-1 is still $500, the XSP-1, unfortunately has jumped to $1.2K and the current XPA-2 is $1K, but plenty of the previous ones are available used. You can easily get CS3.6s for $1.5K or less used, or look at Vandersteen.

    Sorry I wandered into your pissing contest. I'll move on.

    But as I walk away, I'll mumble under my breath that the DC-1 is an especially great value.
     
  9. Craig Chase

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    Schiit Audio has been added to the list of American made companies. After further reviewing Emotiva's site, any products that would be involved in this thread are sourced in China, so they are out.
     
  10. Craig Chase

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    The next three posts will be a review from 2015. The speakers reviewed were a pair of Martin Logan ESL Hybrid Loudspeakers @ $3000 per pair. The Martin Logans will be the reference speaker for this thread. We will be adding at least one other pair of speakers soon, a relatively new company whose founder and chief designer has about 22 years working as a designer for a high end company under his belt. His speakers are also about $3000 per pair.
     
  11. Craig Chase

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    Martin Logan ElectroMotion ESL Hybrid Loudspeaker (ESL)

    Manufacturer's pricing and specifications:

    MSRP: $3000 per pair

    System Frequency Response: 42–22,000 Hz ± 3db

    Dispersion: Horizontal: 30 Degrees

    Vertical: 34” (86.4 cm) line source

    High-Frequency Driver: XStat™ CLS™ electrostatic transducer

    Panel dimensions: 34” x 8.6”(86.4 x 21.8cm)

    Radiating area: 292 in2 (1884 cm2)

    Sensitivity: 91 dB/2.83 volts/meter

    Impedance: 6 ohms (1.6 ohms @ 20 kHz min.). Compatible with 4, 6, or 8 ohm rated amplifiers.

    Crossover Frequency: 500 Hz

    Woofer Type: 8” (20.3 cm) high excursion, high-rigidity paper cone with extended throw driver assembly, non-resonance
    asymmetrical chamber format, bass reflex cabinet

    Recommended Amplifier Power: 20–300 watts per channel

    Weight: 35.5 lbs. each (16.1 kg)

    Size: 52.1” h x 9” w x 16.3” d (132.3 cm h x 22.9 cm w x 41.4 d cm)


    Unpacking:

    The ESLs are packaged as well as one would expect from a high end speaker. Built to protect the somewhat fragile nature of a speaker with a long, thin panel, the cardboard "spine" around the ESL panel is excellent, and the speakers survived the best UPS could throw at them without Any damage.

    All one needs to do is stand the box upright (the box does tell one which is "up"), and slide the whole assembly out. At 35 pounds, this is a simple task. What is left is to take off all the packing materials and carry the speakers to their listening position.

    The primary difference in hooking up the ESL's to other speakers is one must plug a small "wall wart" style plug into each speaker, and into a wall outlet. The "high frequency panel" ... or what is normally considered to be the tweeter, requires an electric charge to operate - as one would expect with this design.

    Overall, the excellent packaging materials and ease of set up warrant a grade of "A".

    The System and the Room:

    The listening room is 44x14.5x7.5 feet with concrete walls, floor and acoustic tile ceiling. The associated equipment is a Marantz UD-5007 Universal player, a Marantz 7008 receiver and for some of the listening tests, an Axiom ADA-1000-5 power amplifier.

    All listening was done with no Audyssey room correction applied, and no subwoofer in the system. The Marantz 7008 was operated in 2 channel mode for all listening. The speakers were placed appx. 4 feet from the back walls and 2 feet from the side walls.

    (See next post for listening impressions)

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  12. Craig Chase

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    Listening Tests and Observations:

    Roger Waters "In The Flesh" SACD

    This SACD has been a favorite test disc of mine for 11 years now. It's not the best sounding disc, but there is so much going on with it that I have found it a valuable tool for evaluating speakers. There are many tracks with background voices in them (particularly "The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking" and "Amused to Death"), and this is one of many of those tools. Compared to other speakers I have had here, the ML's are about average in terms of delineating these background voices. Average does not mean bad in this sense - it means that there were speakers which were more clear than the ML's, and others were less clear.

    Macro Dynamics are less than average on the ML's with this disc set - "Money" and "Another Brick in the Wall" do not come across with a lot of impact, and these are two songs that are meant to rock, not soothe.

    On the up side, Micro Dynamics are average overall - the bells in "Time" are clear and never harsh.

    Sound staging is deep - during "Perfect Sense", the voice of "Hal" from "2001: Space Oddity" starts REALLY deep - well behind the performers - and then projects out into the audience. He also moves nicely from left to right as he emerges. The projection out is not as strong as the depth, but overall it gives the goose bumps one expects.

    While the ML's were not a revelation with "In The Flesh", they overall are about average with my experience with this disc, and this IS a rock disc, not necessarily the typical music for which one purchases modestly price Electrostat hybrids.

    Next up will be a disc from Diana Krall: "Live in Paris".

    Diana Krall Live in Paris

    We can start here - the ML's love jazz and orchestra. There is nothing that jumps out at one on this disc, but it does have a lot "going on" that makes it a fun listen. Krall's voice comes through the ML's with excellent clarity and a lot of that "you are there" quality. When her voice does that "appealing cracking" thing for which she is known, it's palpable. When she whispers, it's clearly audible. Instead of being a disc that jumps at you, Krall makes you want to lean into the performance, and the ML's do this quite nicely.

    Stand up bass is rendered as I hear it from a love jazz band at our club ... it's fast, clean and makes you move your feet without thinking about it. I am used to this live, but most speakers don't present this well. By most, I mean speakers under $3000 per pair. The Klipsch LaScalas soar with this disc, even more so than do the ML's - but they are also $7000 per pair, and were once a class "A" Stereophile speaker (limited bass response).

    The ML's strength in micro dynamics REALLY shines here - the brushes by the drummer - the background noises of the audience. All that was missing was a single malt scotch and a cigar.

    The ML's have made this disc one I want to hear again - and one can't ask for much more from a speaker than that, especially for $2500.

    Tony Bennett Unplugged Live:

    This disc starts off with drums, piano, stand up bass, and Tony crooning. The ML's immediately deliver to one both Tony's age ... and his incredible singing voice. Yes, you hear some crackle from him that wasn't there 35 years ago, but let's challenge any singer to match how this man can still hit the notes he does in his 5th decade performing. The man was 68 when he made this disc ... impressive.

    The sound mix on this disc features Tony "front and center", and the ML's put him out front, right where he belongs. On "Fly Me To The Moon", Tony walks towards the back of the stage, and the ML's deliver this space wonderfully... then he comes forward again, and one can "see him move".

    "Speak Low" starts with a single person snapping fingers, and quickly goes to several, and it sounds like several distinct people snapping, with Tony's voice coming through like silk, the stand up bass crystal clear. With the ML's, one knows it's going to be a great show. You hear everything ... his draw of a breath, the air of the hall.

    "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" showcases his ability to hit the notes, and again, the ML's make a palpable statement about both how great he still is, and his age... then it goes directly into "Steppin Out With My Baby", and with the ML's, it's hard to sit still. These are a really fine speaker - one might expect Electrostats to be "dry", but these are not. They are musical, toe tapping treats.

    "Moonglow" with KD Lang showcases the ML's talents with male and female voices simultaneously - you can see them looking at each other smiling while singing (remember, this is an SACD, no picture) ... the ML's create this picture.

    The Diana Krall DVD and this SACD will definitely be required discs for all the speakers that are auditioned, and look for some comparisons and contrasts between the speakers with both these discs.
     

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