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 The Kool-Aid

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sonnylistner



Posts : 9
Join date : 2013-02-22

PostSubject: The Kool-Aid   Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:24 am

OK, so I drank the Michael Green Kool-Aid, and I lived to tell about it!

I went simple and low mass(mostly), and removed the tops of the cd transport, the phono stage, the outboard dac, the passive and active line stages, and went with 22g solid interconnects and speaker wires. I removed the pricey power conditioners and regenerators, and removed the huge crazy-priced power cords, along with all footers and isolation platforms.

Put the cheap generic black ac cords back in the system, and plugged everything into a dedicated outlet. The speaker cables I was using were $4,000 for the pair, and the ac cords that were removed ranged in prices from $350-$2,000. Typical audiophile stuff were replaced with dirt cheap throwaways, that couldn't, shouldn't sound good?!? Made the changes slowly over a long time to digest every change, one at a time.

The Kool-Aid results:
The system is better in every way, and I mean every single way with no exceptions! The sound is bigger in every direction, and the music can breathe in a natural way, loaded with decay and harmonics that were missing before. The top end of typical red book digital is sweet, extended, and enjoyable. I want to listen to music all the time, instead of shutting the system off after an hour and reading through the reviews to see what I can buy to elevate system performance. I have been travelling down that road for almost 30 years, accumulating a laundry list of components that most audiophiles think should be in the High-End Hall of Fame. The simple system, letting things vibrate, and removing dampening devices that are supposed to stop vibrations, produces results that most of us are looking for but struggle to find. Of course these are my results and your experiments might yield different results, but I urge music lovers to give this method a try. It cost me next to nothing to try the Michael Green Kool-Aid, but I am sure of one thing, there is no going back. When I put one big power cord back in, or put back my old speaker cables, or try one of my power conditioners, the soundstage collapses, the top end loses air, the low level resolution suffers greatly, and the music seems forced at the listening chair. The system starts to sound like shit!

Skeptics will say, "We know vibrations are bad", "We need power conditioning because the ac coming in is so dirty", "Big wires carry more current", blah, blah, blah. I don't have an answer. Try it for yourself. I think you will find that your core components are much better than you realized without all the excess add-on baggage. This hobby is about the enjoyment of music, and before I started down the road of removing most of the high mass stuff, and letting the components vibrate, I could only listen to a small portion of my music collection, thinking that digital was bad, the lp pressing is bad, the mastering is bad, they used cheap microphones when recording the music, and so on. Nope! Just about every cd sounds great! Not rolled off in the top, or smoothed over in some way, just open sounding free flowing sound. No blockage, no constrictions, no digital hardness.

An example:
Peter Gabriel's So cd/lp is about the most digital sounding music I own. For many, many, years I was stunned how bad that cd sounded. On the song, Mercy Street, the spit and sizzle of the vocals, the dry ambiance of the recording, and the glare of the synthesized flute solo would give me an ear ache and the feeling that I needed root canal. Now, with the system mostly low mass, the covers removed, circuit boards loose, and the room devoid of much sound absorbing materials, Mercy Street, and the rest of So sounds great! Open, natural, with a top end that breathes instead of irritates.

I could go on with this, but I'll stop for now. Time to spin some music and enjoy the Kool-Aid.

SonnyListener.
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Sonic.beaver



Posts : 2104
Join date : 2009-09-18

PostSubject: Re: The Kool-Aid   Fri Feb 06, 2015 8:38 am


Congratulations Sonnylistner!

What's the equipment list and room treatments that got you to this point?

And the speaker placement you are employing? You'll see that Sonic is experimenting with an alternative speaker placement. Sonic has found that the simple system (in my case simpler) that Michael favours is capable unlocking so much more musick. l have audiophiles scratching their heads. They hear Sonic's system and see I use a Sony blu ray player (cheap pure DVD or CD players are not available no more) that is lightweight and costs under $100 new...then they borrow or haul in a cheap player and connect it to their over-sized everything audiophile systems and it sounds awful awful. It doesn't compute for them.

Likewise when I am using modern tubes, Sonic will go for simple but well made tubes that don't claim to mimic any old sound.

Sovteks and Electro-Harmonix are good value for money rather than the expensive Chinese tubes that try to recreate an early sound of some sort. These China-made tubes (they are unreliable too) sound coloured after a while, and a comparison tells me the Sovteks and EHs sound "honest".

Of course if I could get my hands on Mullards, Telefunkens or Mazdas Sonic would. But the NOS are very expensive and there are dishonest people touting stuff as NOS but are tired, worn out tubes. You buy and play and it sound wooly, closed down and evil. Then they tell you that was the old sound, so accept it.

I used to believe that after a bad day with a pair of supposedly NOS Mullards but I cannot accept people back in the 50s and 60s were that undiscerning. Sonic just has to hear my 78s and SP properly equalised and you know whoever recorded that stuff with one mike really caught a nice chunk of reality.

Sonic

Sonic
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sonnylistner



Posts : 9
Join date : 2013-02-22

PostSubject: Re: The Kool-Aid   Fri Feb 06, 2015 11:46 am

Hi Sonic,

To answer your question about the room and components, it goes like this:
I have a shoebox shaped room that has carpet over concrete on the floor, while the ceiling and walls are mostly pine with hollow spaces behind them. Other than the floor, it's a room within a room. If I try to reinforce the walls or dampen them in any way, the sound becomes dry and lifeless, and it sounds like someone let some of the air out of the room. I do not use any room treating products, but I have tried a fair number of them. Just doesn't work in this room.

When I am in the mood for a lush tube sound, I use a Jadis amp and preamp. If I want a little more substance and an increase is resolution, I use a Jeff Rowland amp and one of my passive preamps. If I want the most neutral sound with best transparency, I use an old Crown Macro Reference amp with a passive preamp. Of the 20+ amps I've owned over the years, the Crown is my favorite, and to my ears the most neutral sounding. I also mix and match the amps and preamps, but I have certain combinations that I keep going to. I have a few custom made preamps, both tube and solid state, but the transparency, dynamics, and openness of a good passive within the right system is addicting. The cheap passive preamp I am using now is the most neutral preamp I have ever had in my system. When I tuned this unit and loosened the screws all the way, it took it to another level.

My analog setup is a modified SOTA Saphire, with SME V tonearm, and Van Den Hul DDT II cart. The phono stage is a custom unit. There are days when I only listen to analog and days when I only listen to digital. For some reason, I don't enjoy the music as much if I keep switching between digital and analog in the same listening session.

My digital setup is the Maganavox DVD player used alone or into one of two dacs, a Benchmark or Theta. My favorite digital cable is some cheap 75 ohm thing from Belden. I have tried many digital cables, some crazy expensive, but this cable has been my long term reference.

I have had decent sound over the years using ribbons, electrostats, hybrids, pseudo-omni's, and large box speakers, but my speaker of choice is a pair of Dynaudio monitors. Small boxes work the best in my room. Sometimes I haul out a REL subwoofer, but I usually prefer the purity of just the main speakers, and live without having the last word in bass extension and dynamics.

I have 2 listening positions within the room. My main spot is close to the rule-of-thirds, while my second spot is with the listening chair up against the long wall and the speakers only a few feet from the back wall. This setup is similar to the Tunee pics I see on this site. Very different feel to the music, and much different 'look' into the soundstage.

As I'm writing this, I'm listening to Bill Evans, Sunday at the Village Vanguard. The sense of being there is a small vacation from the stress and pressures of life, one of the great pleasures of this hobby. The sense of air that surrounds each instrument, especially Scott LaFaro's bass is mind blowing! If I walk over to the system, and put the cover back on the Benchmark dac, and tighten everything on the passive preamp, I am no longer inside the Village Vanguard, I'm outside waiting for a taxi while I can still hear the music playing inside.

Not that drastic, but you get the idea.
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Michael Green
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PostSubject: Re: The Kool-Aid   Fri Feb 06, 2015 12:43 pm

Now you went and done it Cool

I was all set to listen to something else, and now I got Bill on the brain Smile



Thanks for sharing Exclamation

As our fellow audiophiles see more and more of us finding that next level to the hobby I believe it helps them to give tuning a try. My thoughts as I read sterophile forum is, why sit there and not be able to enjoy music?

I hope all the industry takes the time to hear your testimony! The most important thing we can do for our listening friends is share!

very happen for you Very Happy

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Bill333

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Join date : 2009-09-21

PostSubject: Re: The Kool-Aid   Sat Feb 07, 2015 9:21 am

Hi SonnyListner,

Can you give the model number of the Magnavox DVD player you're using to feed your DACs?  I have the MDV2100, but the coax output will not feed a usable signal to a two channel DAC.  Having that ability would be enormously useful.  

And what passive preamp is it that you're using?  More options for controlling volume are always good.  I have a Placette RVC and the Intact Audio autoformer modules - I felt they both fell short of a good film pot (in the case of the Placette, way short), but your mileage may vary.

Thanks,

Bill
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sonnylistner



Posts : 9
Join date : 2013-02-22

PostSubject: Re: The Kool-Aid   Sat Feb 07, 2015 12:40 pm

Hi Bill,

The model of Magnavox I'm using is the 2300. Use it solo and with dacs.

Suprised to hear that the Placette passive didn't work, as I have used one in the past with great results. There is always a battle of not enough gain using passive preamps, and I have never had luck using them with low powered amps. Always lost drive and dynamics when things weren't right, but when a passive works, it's close to no preamp.

My acid test for preamps, both active and passive, is to put the digital source or phono stage directly into the Crown amp, and use the gain controls on the front as volume controls. Very pure signal using only
a short piece of unshielded 22g interconnect. Then I compare that sound with a preamp connected using another short piece of the same interconnect. With adequate gain from the source, along with a somewhat low output impedence, the good passives are more dynamic, more extended top and bottom, much better low level resolution, and loaded with air. The best actives that I have used create more punch and slam in the lower midrange and bass, but in comparison, sounds artificial. The actives produce a layer of mud, a top end lacking air, compressed dynamics, and nowhere near the transparency and low level resolution. You don't notice the problems with the active preamps until you do a bypass test or compare them against a good passive that works in the system. When using a passive in a system that has power conditioners, high mass components with heavy shelves and damping, and big ass wires, the actives will sound better. It seems in these type of set-ups, the passive can't push the whole signal through the chain. Like anything else, you need to experiment with this stuff.

Here's a story.
Many moons ago, a guy from a local audio dealership came over to my place to hear my systems and try his electronics in my system. He wanted to do it in my bigger system at the time, which included Martin Logan CLS's[the original version], driven by large direct drive tube amps[no interface], mated to Entec subs, along with Audio Research electronics. While we were warming the system up, something happened and we had to go down and fire up the smaller system. The smaller setup had a pair of Artemis Eos speakers with the same Crown amp I'm still using, a Reference Line passive pre, Reference Line interconnects, Kimber speaker wires, and a Wadia transport and dac.

First the Crown/Reference Line setup, and the sound was pretty good, very transparent for the times. We then hooked up his big Jeff Rowland amp, the top of the line Rowland preamp, connected by balanced Cardas interconnects. The sound was slow, muddy, lacking presence and just plain dead in comparison. He kept increasing the volume to get the life and dynamics of the much cheaper setup, and finally blew the ceramic tweeters on the Artemis speakers. Now both systems were down! Thanks a lot!

Active preamps are much better than the older units, but now, like then, a good passive in the right setup is like no preamp. A good integrated or receiver might be the best answer, but I haven't found any yet that I like, and I enjoy the fact that I can change the flavor of the sound by easily swapping components. Maybe there's an active out there that is sonically invisible, but I think most people use actives to get a certain sound they want along with the gain. Nothing wrong with that, but for me, I want transparency to the source, the best I can afford.

The Maganavox DVD player has lower than normal output, so it is even harder than usual to mate that thing to a passive.

The passive I am using right now, which might be the most invisible I have ever used, is the Shiit Audio SYS, at a whopping $49. Tuned in the Michael Green way, the half meter interconnect has more of a sonic character than this unit. If I want to play around and add a tube buffer to the mix, I loose the uber transparency of the system in favor of a hint-of-tube sound. Not my cup of tea, as too much is lost. And that's adding a buffer that I thought was almost invisible when I had a high mass, untuned system going. Now, when the buffer is inserted, it hits me over the head like a ton of bricks!

In the background is Bryan Ferry singing the old Robert Palmer tune, Johnny and Mary. What the hell happened to Bryan Ferry's voice? The man needs some help! Redwood blocks, platforms, a tuning bar, roomtunes.....

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Bill333

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PostSubject: Re: The Kool-Aid   Sun Feb 08, 2015 9:27 am

Hi SonnyListner,

I'm a little surprised to hear you say that you have the Magnavox 2300.  I also have one and I tested it extensively trying to get it to feed a signal to my Altmann DAC, and failed.  Did you have to use any particular settings in the menu system?

I don't have either the Benchmark or the Theta DACs, so maybe the problem is with the Altmann.  

I checked out the Schiit Audio SYS.  Once I saw a picture of the inside of it, I thought 'well, that explains it!'  There's nothing to it except a circuit board and one of those teeny little film pots.  It'll probably be a long time before the high end audio mainstream admits it, but those little film pots are the bomb. Exclamation

Bill
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sonnylistner



Posts : 9
Join date : 2013-02-22

PostSubject: Re: The Kool-Aid   Sun Feb 08, 2015 1:16 pm

Hi Bill,

I never had a problem with the 2300 used as a transport. The dacs lock on every time, so you need to take a look at the Altman or the digital cable.

I didn't need another Passive preamp, but the picture of the inside of the SYS on the Shiit website, appealed to me. No wires, just a circuit board. No transformers, no stepped attenuators, just the bare essentials. The other 2 passives I have that are great in my system are the Virtual Mode, and the Reference Line Preeminence One(original version). Ralph Cotino of Reference Line made me a few different passives, but they didn't have the magic of the original. Sadly, Virtual Mode and Reference Line are no longer around, but there are other companies out there making very simple passives. Also, the simple passives can be tuned much easier than complicated boat anchors.

Just finished listening to Beck's Morning Haze CD. No digititus, no digital glare, no dry sound. Lush, open sound with tremendous depth and layering.

Right now listening to Nature's Way, from Spirit's Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus. The remastered version. The acoustic guitars have fullness and body, and are in the room with me! The lead and backing vocals cut through the mix of instruments so you can hear every nuance. In comparison, the original CD sounds a little thin and flat.

More cowbell.

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