Amir, Steve, thank you!
Having been alerted to your site recently by a friend I've spent the last few weeks trawling through. It's been an illuminating journey and thoroughly enjoyable. Amoungst other things I find it remarkable that there is an open to all resource where one can read the design thoughts of the likes of Jonathan Carr and the many other audio industry luminaries who contribute.
Myself, I largely aspire to the products that are talked about here though over the years I have had the opportunity to sit in front many that might be descibed as amoungst the best.
Happy to share my journey thus far fwiw...
I love music and am open to listening to any genre, some I like, some I don't however I respect everyone's taste. For me there's value in every form of music that makes a connection with an individual. What I look for in reproducing music at home is a seemless sound, on a most basic level I can deal with a lack of transparency but struggle to listen to a system that overly emphasises part of the frequency spectrum, particularly if the emphasis has lean/hard/bright characteristics. For me that destroys the verisimilitude and I begin to analyze the system rather than listen to the music.
My system consists of an EMM CDSA, Aesthetix Calypso, Kharma MP150 and Kharma 2.3ce.
After much trial and error I have come to the conclusion that everything matters - that old adage 'synergy' is a fickle but vital ingredient. For me it starts with the room - speaker - amp combination. My room is a family room so treatment isn't an option but its not bad and while it could certainly be improved upon it doesn't seem to have obvious problems. Recent work on speaker placement has brought significant benefits and I don't doubt that if it were practical there would be more gains to be had. I chose the MP150's as they were built for the speaker and while thats not always a guaruntee for success in this case I think Kharma did a great job. While maybe not the last word in bass drive and grip they control the drivers and seem to reflect the information placed before them relatively unmolested. They've certainly reflected the character of a number of different pre's I have had in my system.
The final peices in the jigsaw have been a couple of products that I would put forward as contenders amoungst the pool of whats best in audio.
I've found that support is a fickle thing, it seems to be important with most, though not all audio equipment and it's a case of trial and error. Price is of no significance, what works with one piece can be poor with another. I have settled on some products by a German company called Alto Extremo. I have had most of the absorbers in my system and have settled on a combination of their Lyd 2 under the cdp and Lyd 1 under the pre. They don't offer any great benefit that I have noted when used under my amps. A diy collection of rubber, granite and perspex tube does seem to me to lift the performance over that of placed directly on their shelf. I've also heard the Alto's in other highend systems, when they make a difference it's generally in cleaning up the lower frequencies, bass notes in particular become better resolved. I think they're a product worthy of audition in any system.
The other product that I've found to be outstanding in both my system and others have been Teo liquid metal cables. I was a bit of a cable sceptic before I had the opportunity to try them. They blew me away and while they are expensive after exploring other options after hearing them the first time I knew I had to have them. When they became available ex-dem from our local distributor I bought interconnects. As a result of the purchase I have been fortunate to try some of the other products they import, more on which I can comment on elsewhere. I have tried the speaker cable however it's impractical to use in my set up with two runs required for the 16ft distance from my amps to the speakers and they're well beyond what I would feel comfortable spending on speaker cable in any case.
I'm fortunate to have a couple of friendly local dealers with whom I have been able to share experience as well as transact. One of whom runs a Soulution/Verity combination as a reference. Exposure to this system in the context of a dealer where products are moved in and out regularly has been an interesting experience. It has sounded from relatively poor to absolutely exceptional dependent on how it's been implemented. The first time I heard it briefly was eye opening, I didn't have long that day so determined to hear it again. The second time was a more extended visit and wasn't altogether successful. I was expecting based on that previous experience to go and listen to music but ended up listening to a system. We played around with the setup and eventually got it sounding good, more transparent than mine for sure but somehow not as musically engaging, a slightly hard edge to the sound that detracted from the message. Based on my experience with the Teo cable I felt that it might release some of the potential so I borrowed a pair of speaker cables, a digital cable and took my interconnects around. When I arrived the system was being run with Current Cable, a new design that uses some interesting precious metal brazing techniques. It had been recommended after one of his distributors had come across it at a one of the US shows. Perhaps the Current Cable loom might be forgiven for being new and needing burn in, whatever it was the system of Reimyo Transport or computer via usb, AMR dac, Soulution pre/pwr and Verity Parsifal sounded veiled and grainy, the worst I'd heard from this setup in this room and knowhere near what I listen to at home. Well, that was the first surprise. We proceeded to insert the Teo one at a time. Firstly the digital from transport to dac, the dealer felt it made an impact though it didn't seem to do a great deal for me. Next an interconnect and we were in business, the kick drum started to sound like a kick drum rather than a fuzzy damp squib. From there the system came to life and by the end of the process sounded as good as I've heard anywhere. I was surprised by the speaker cable. In my system it delivers greater tonal density, instruments take on a more physical nature. In the Soulution system they also delivered space. One of the tracks used began with the band chatting before they set too. With the s/c in the setup there was an uncanny sense that you were sitting next to and overhearing a conversation taking place next to you. To me it seemed to be as a result of being able to define the individuals in the space they were presented better than I'd ever experienced before (as well as nailing the usual suspects of tonality etc).
That experience left me and the dealer reeling, I don't think either of us expected to hear that sort of transformation. It'd suggest to me that the more transparent the system the better the Teo can potentially deliver. What they have over other highend cables I've heard is a sense of tonal richness and note decay that is superlative and not at the expense of any sort of non-linearity or lack of transparency. Why this should be is beyond me, in theory there are better conductors available, so go figure...
What it also rammed home was a system is a system and there is little point in making definitive statements about individual products within a system outside of the context of a setup one knows intimately.
While I'm very happy where I'm at for the moment I'll continue to explore. This weekend I'm off to hear a Wadia/Einstein/Karan/Magico Q5 system along with a Robert Koda K-10 pre to try and I'll take my Teo's for good measure. Should be fun.
The journey continues... Dan