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Thread: My monitor/subwoofer system

  1. #1
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    My monitor/subwoofer system

    This thread is a continuation of:

    My minimonitor/subwoofer system

    Already my last speakers, the Reference 3A MM DeCapo BE, were a little big to be called "minimonitors", and the current ones certainly are, given the substantial depth of the cabinet (see image below). Therefore I adjusted the title for this thread.

    My system now features several major upgrades which I will discuss below.


    Digital front end:
    Simaudio Moon 260 DT CD transport
    MIT SL-Matrix Plus AES/EBU digital cable
    Schiit Yggdrasil DAC
    Transport and DAC are powered through a Tripp Lite HG1000 Isolation Transformer

    Pass B1 passive buffered preamp (revised 2014 version)
    Octave RE 320 stereo amp with Super Black Box

    Speaker system:
    Reference 3A Reflector monitors
    (on heavy sand-filled steel stands)
    dual JL Audio Fathom 112 v2 subwoofers, positioned on ASC SubTraps

    Analog signal cables:
    ZenWave Audio D4 interconnects
    ZenWave Audio SMSG speaker cables (17 gauge) and jumpers

    Power chords:
    stock or thicker version of regular power chord (Tripp Lite 14 AWG chord, $ 16)

    Acoustic treatment:
    Six ASC Tube Traps (16 inch, 13 inch wide)
    Seven ASC window plugs
    ASC Tri-Panels
    Two Acoustics First absorbing panels, custom made (8 x 3.5 feet)
    Natural wool carpets

    Solidsteel HW-2L equipment rack
    Solidsteel HF-A amp stand
    Concrete tiles under speaker stands (Home Depot)
    Herbie's Tenderfoot component feet
    Cable Elevator
    Shunyata Dark Field v2 cable elevator
    T-splitters for interconnects
    Bosch laser measure (for speaker distances and toe-in)
    DeoxIT contact cleaner

    The CD transport, digital cable, power amp, subwoofers, ASC TubeTraps, SubTrap and sound panels, as well as Shunyata Dark Field v2 cable elevators were purchased at Goodwin's High End, my trusted dealer for a number of years now.

    The other gear was purchased through direct sales on the web; the ZenWave Audio D4 interconnects (see link for my review) and ZenWave Audio SMSG speaker cables were manufactured by WBF member DaveC.

    Major upgrades:

    1. Reference 3A Reflector monitors

    These are the top-of-line monitors by Reference 3A. Since hearing Ian's (Madfloyd's) Magico M Project speakers, I always wanted to have speakers with a fully inert cabinet for high resolution and timbral as well as transient accuracy, sound features that can become compromised by blurring cabinet resonances. These Reference 3A speakers offer an inert cabinet, achieved by elaborate and sophisticated construction, at a great price in high end terms. They also come from a company and designer (Tash Goka) whom I already trusted, given how much I liked my previous monitors from Reference 3A, which also are a crossover-less design.

    2. JL Audio Fathom 112 v2 subwoofers

    With high-resolution monitors I wanted to have bass of high resolution as well. Ian recommended JL Audio subwoofers, and I went with this recommendation, which turned out to be an excellent one. It was also supported by a string of believably positive reviews. The model is Fathom 112 v2, and I bought two of them to energize the room more evenly (they replaced a single REL Storm III sub).

    3. Octave RE 320 stereo amp (plus Super Black Box)

    My old amps, Audio Innovations Second Audio parallel push-pull triode monoblocks (15 W/ch) had served me for 26 years, while they went through a number of modifications and supplementation with external BorderPatrol power supplies during that time. They played well on all kinds of music, but I wanted more effortlessness on orchestral music, so I was looking for alternatives that could deliver higher power. I ended up with an Octave RE 320 stereo amp (plus Super Black Box) that Paul from Goodwin's High End graciously lent me two times for several days each to audition at home, which is the best place to evaluate. To my ears, this amp offers an expanded, realistically colorful tonal palette as well as great high-frequency extension, and also excels in resolution of timbre, separation of instruments, and speed and accuracy of transients, thus competently driving the capabilities of my monitor/sub combo. It also wisely offers protective shut-down circuitry in the event of tube failure.

    The greater effortlessness on orchestral music was also made possible in an unexpected but crucial manner by the upgrade of speaker cables, from Monster Sigma 2000 to ZenWave Audio SMSG. These new cables also increased resolution even further (I already had had a shorter pair for my old monoblocks, and now traded it in for a longer run for the stereo amp).

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    Equipment rack:
    Upper shelf, left to right: Schiit Yggdrasil DAC, Pass B1 buffered preamp, Simaudio Moon 260 DT CD transport
    Lower shelf: left, Tripp Lite HG1000 Isolation Transformer; right, Super Black Box for Octave amp
    In front:Octave RE 320 power amp

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  5. #5
    Addicted to Best! Pb Blimp's Avatar
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    Well if it sounds half as good as it looks you are set! Really beautifully done Al.

    Power - Torus 75 amp WMT. Furutech NCF Lines, Flux-50s, Outlets, PC's. Star ground.
    Cables - Nordost Valhalla 2 and Odin (phono).
    Analog Source- ARC Ref 10 Phono. Acoustic Sig Ascona MKII, TA-9000 arm, Lyra Atlas.
    Digital Source- MSB Reference DAC, Femto 33.
    Amplification - Soulution 721 Pre and 501 Monos.
    Speakers - Raidho D3.1
    Room Acoustics - Acoustic Frontiers Design, RPG Plates, Absorption and Diffraction, and Custom Helmholtz Traps.
    Stands - Solid Walnut by Timber Nation.

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    Al invited me over to hear his updated system last week. Holy walloping dynamics Batman! I don't think I've ever heard such explosive drum whacks. After one song I ran out of the house looking for raiding war parties to join. The drums sounded like thunder in three dimensions. Art Blakey was insane - best I've ever heard.

    The system is much cleaner than his earlier iterations I've heard, but it still retains the warm phat sound from the bigger horns that I've always loved. I thought the sound was detailed while still remaining smooth - for the most part. The system may provide a little extra sparkle somewhere between the 3 kHz to 10 kHz range, because trumpets and snare drums really crack through the mix in a very exuberant manner. It is a very lively and dynamic sound; a system which says "you will sit up strait and pay attention!" I think I walked out with a considerably higher heart rate than when I arrived.

    Al was very kind to adjust the way the subs were blending into the mains to fit my listening preferences. I think it had the effect of increasing the perception of depth at the sweet spot. At first I found the overall presentation a little too forward, and the adjustment of the subs moved the presentation back a bit to what I have grown comfortable with at home. I am finding the psycho-acoustics of frequency response very interesting these days. Small broad band changes in certain regions can change the overall feel a considerable amount.

    The system is extremely impressive sounding. As I generally look to music when it is time to relax, I am not sure I could handle such excitement on a daily basis. My system is warm milk. Al's system is a high quality double Espresso.

  7. #7
    Addicted to Best! DaveyF's Avatar
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    This is the kind of system I would really like to hear! Looks like it should be able to really light the room up and be just amazing sounding. Well done, Al!!

    What are your impressions of the Octave amp with the KT150's?

  8. #8
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    Thanks, Alan, for your report, which was a great and fun read. I still chuckle about the 'raiding war parties'. The piece that elicited that must have been the one with six percussionists and choir (last part of Rihm's Tutuguri) with the large snare drums and the thunder of the heavy bass drums. The Art Blakey you referred to was the famous 7-minute solo "Freedom Rider". I feel flattered about the comments coming from you, who is a drummer himself.

    The little extra sparkle on trumpets and snare drums may still be there, but it may also have been tamed by further break-in -- 6 days before you came my treble was suddenly so hot, and I mean really HOT, that most people would have run out of the room within 10 seconds. When you came it was already very much settled down, and may now have settled even further. I also made some acoustic changes for the better in the meantime. You'll be the judge next time you come to listen. In any case, officially the amp is still not fully broken in -- Octave states that it takes about 300 hours to sound best.

    As for the subwoofer setting, I really start to like the steep 24 dB/octave roll-off that you prefer. It sounds more accurate on a lot of material than the shallower 12 dB/octave roll-off. I now prefer it on the drum tracks that we listened to, and also on rock as well as jazz, and on piano. It just took some getting used to, since my REL had a clearly shallower roll-off. On orchestral music and cello the 12 dB/octave roll-off adds some extra body, but for my own listening I usually prefer on that music the 24 dB/octave setting as well. Thanks for the suggestion!

  9. #9
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    Thanks, Paul and Davey, for the compliments.

    Davey, I really like the Octave with the KT150 tubes. I've made some comments on it in my opening post. I can imagine how you must be thrilled with your Jadis monoblocks that have the same tubes. I was originally a bit skeptical about the class A/B pentode circuitry of the Octave amp, but that skepticism quickly settled once I auditioned it.

  10. #10
    Addicted to Best! DaveyF's Avatar
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    Al, I really feel the KT150's are a game changer. Having owned tube amps with KT88's. 6550's, EL34's, and a host of other power tubes, I think the KT150's offer one thing that really distances them from the competition ( at least in all of the amps that I have heard them in)--- and that thing is exactly what you stated....increased resolution across the full audio spectrum.

    Indeed, I am extremely pleased with my Jadis amps utilizing these tubes, they are the most revealing tube amps that I have ever heard. Even though the Jadis runs in Pure Class A, I doubt that is what is going to make the difference vs. the KT150's; which is why i totally understand your feelings towards a class AB amp...and then being very pleased with it.

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