A Visit to Hear Vlad's System

VLS

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Thanks Marty. I'm assuming that I must be benefiting from some naturally occurring quantum dots on my walls. The only other explanation is the ample wine I serve at these listening sessions.
 
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Al M.

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You should have lead with this comment! It would have saved a lot of guess work :)

Unfortunately I have to pour cold water on this. No wine was served when I was there ;). Not sure what happened when Ack and Madfloyd where there, and maybe I don't want to know:D.
 

VLS

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Unfortunately I have to pour cold water on this. No wine was served when I was there ;). Not sure what happened when Ack and Madfloyd where there, and maybe I don't want to know:D.
Apologies Al. We'll more than make up for this egregious omission next time, and the system will no doubt reach new pinnacles of transcendence.
 
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Al M.

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Apologies Al. We'll more than make up for this egregious omission next time, and the system will no doubt reach new pinnacles of transcendence.

LOL. Actually, I prefer my critical audio sessions without wine. But perhaps once we're at the stage when I know the new system configuration well, nothing has changed since the last time I visited (ehem...hmmm), and it's just about enjoying the music, you can let the wine flow freely...Thanks for the offer, Vlad :).
 

PeterA

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Nice reporting Tasos and Ian. The descriptions are clear and concise. Sounds like you had a wonderful visit.

So is any of the three of you Yggy 2 DAC owners considering Vlad's MSB DAC in your own system? The reports suggest it is improved rather dramatically by the Shunyata power products. Tasos, have you heard Vlad's level of Shunyata gear in your system?
 
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ack

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ack

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Not sure what happened when Ack and Madfloyd where there, and maybe I don't want to know:D.
Maybe sometimes you just need to ask in a diplomatic way :cool:
 
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ack

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Nice reporting Tasos and Ian. The descriptions are clear and concise. Sounds like you had a wonderful visit.

So is any of the three of you Yggy 2 DAC owners considering Vlad's MSB DAC in your own system? The reports suggest it is improved rather dramatically by the Shunyata power products. Tasos, have you heard Vlad's level of Shunyata gear in your system?
It's not that it improved dramatically, it's that everything else at least improved dramatically and we don't know of its current standing in our systems
 
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KeithR

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hey Vlad, congrats on the MSB journey. never had the Premier success going direct (and had to do this for a month recently due to a preamp upgrade), but your system sure seems to like it.

I'm now upgrading to the Ref Dac, moreso known for its passive volume control, so will see how that sounds vs my Music First and LTA preamps.
 
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VLS

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hey Vlad, congrats on the MSB journey. never had the Premier success going direct (and had to do this for a month recently due to a preamp upgrade), but your system sure seems to like it.

I'm now upgrading to the Ref Dac, moreso known for its passive volume control, so will see how that sounds vs my Music First and LTA preamps.

Very exciting! I’ll just keep on telling myself that the Reference can’t possibly offer meaningful improvements over the Premier, and I trust you will refrain from shattering this critical and fragile fiction when you get yours.
 

Al M.

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to listen again to Vlad’s system. My impressions were even more favorable than last time. There were three changes:

1. The original Simaudio Moon amp is now replaced with a v2 model, with among others, a much bigger power supply.
2. The dimming lights in the kitchen were off, after Vlad had found that they fouled up the power line based on his TriField measurements (there is a WBF thread on this).
3. Toe in was reduced; not as much as when Tasos and Ian were visiting following my initial report, but more than at the time of my report.

The first track already left a great impression. The violin of Hilary Hahn on “Impulse” from her album “Encore” had fabulous timbre, with great balance between wooden tone and string texture, which was highly detailed. The ethereal high notes in the middle of the piece were to die for. The piano sounded very clean, with sparkle and detail in the high notes. The low notes did not have as much weight as I would have liked, and lesser weight in the low midrange was audible in some other music as well, but that hardly detracted from the overall enjoyment. Another piano track that we later heard portrayed enormous power, as well as high drama.

A Haydn string quartet on period instruments (Eybler Quartet) was reproduced with enormous micro-detail, and great organization of sound. At that point we did perform a little experiment. Vlad turned his four panels behind the speakers from the diffusive to the absorptive side, and we listened again. Curiously, the sound was more confused that way, and in general seemed a bit “off”. The effect on the Hilary Hahn violin/piano piece seemed less obvious. Anyway, we agreed the panels needed to go back to the diffuse side and they stayed there.

In general, timbral resolution was exceptional (the new amp now was broken in), and so was tonal color. There was none of the slight “etching” of sound anymore that I had heard previously. I had thought tonal colors were exceptionally vivid last time, reminding me of the color palette of live music, but afterwards I had started to wonder if some of that might not have been enhanced “technicolor”. Well, this time I did not have to wonder, because the impression never came up, even though tone colors were still very vivid. Perhaps the amp upgrade is responsible for this change.

The clarity and cleanness of sound was even greater than last time. Separation of instruments in complex orchestral music was outstanding; I had the feeling that now the MSB DAC could show what it really was capable of. At quite loud volumes of the kind that I usually listen at, there was extremely low distortion. In fact, this may have been among the top least distorted sounds that I have ever heard from a system. Certainly, the room with its sufficient width (distance of mid-range driver to side wall of 4 feet) and generous height of 9 feet 7 inches plays a role, but in the past there had not been this low distortion. I presume that the clean power through the new Shunyata system plays a major role, and perhaps the direct connection of the MSB DAC to the now improved version of the power amp is beneficial as well. The low distortion resulted in a sense of ease and effortlessness that was uncanny. The effortlessness of sound, at a level I have hardly heard elsewhere, and its clean organization made it so easy to listen “into” the music.

Only at very high volume levels, not recommended for prolonged listening, the sound distorted somewhat, but perhaps then the room itself was overloaded as well.

As the last time, the sound had an infectious liveliness. Macrodynamics were still excellent. Drum dynamics could be stunningly explosive. Following Ack’s comment about micro-dynamics I paid critical attention this time. Indeed, sudden small volume transients during guitar playing were perhaps a little less pronounced than they could be. Yet in general there was this great liveliness of presentation that made all music played very enjoyable.

On jazz horns, the initial transient at each note of pushing the air through the instrument was portrayed well; only after listening again at home I noticed that in this respect there was even more possible from those recordings. Talking about jazz, the timbre of cymbals seemed sublime, those tweeters of the Rockport speakers are excellent.

Spatial depth was better than last time I thought, even though perhaps in the future some more improvements are possible. I do recognize that there are limitations as to how far the speakers can be moved out into the room.

Some powerful strikes on the large bass drum at the beginning of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony produced sounds that were exceptional in their believability; I can fully understand Ian’s enthusiasm in his report.

Stand-up bass was just phenomenal. There was an incredible clarity and cleanness of bass lines, which made them uncommonly easy to follow, even when they were not in the foreground. I found this to be the case on any jazz recording we played, remarkable. On one piece for sax and bass, where Vlad particularly liked the sax sound, I hardly managed to listen to the sax, as mesmerized, even hypnotized by the bass lines I was. Timbre was very believable, with superb detail from the vibration of bass strings. The fact that the room is open towards the back may help the bass quality, but in any case the bass sounds that I heard show that sophisticated implementation of bass reflex technology can yield extraordinary results – sealed cabinet not required.

Overall, the incredible effortlessness, clarity of organization of sound, an in many ways great tone with outstanding timbral micro-detail, excellent bass quality, and the consistent liveliness of presentation made the experience of listening to music on Vlad’s system very engaging.
 

VLS

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Mar 7, 2019
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Last weekend I had the opportunity to listen again to Vlad’s system. My impressions were even more favorable than last time. There were three changes:

1. The original Simaudio Moon amp is now replaced with a v2 model, with among others, a much bigger power supply.
2. The dimming lights in the kitchen were off, after Vlad had found that they fouled up the power line based on his TriField measurements (there is a WBF thread on this).
3. Toe in was reduced; not as much as when Tasos and Ian were visiting following my initial report, but more than at the time of my report.

The first track already left a great impression. The violin of Hilary Hahn on “Impulse” from her album “Encore” had fabulous timbre, with great balance between wooden tone and string texture, which was highly detailed. The ethereal high notes in the middle of the piece were to die for. The piano sounded very clean, with sparkle and detail in the high notes. The low notes did not have as much weight as I would have liked, and lesser weight in the low midrange was audible in some other music as well, but that hardly detracted from the overall enjoyment. Another piano track that we later heard portrayed enormous power, as well as high drama.

A Haydn string quartet on period instruments (Eybler Quartet) was reproduced with enormous micro-detail, and great organization of sound. At that point we did perform a little experiment. Vlad turned his four panels behind the speakers from the diffusive to the absorptive side, and we listened again. Curiously, the sound was more confused that way, and in general seemed a bit “off”. The effect on the Hilary Hahn violin/piano piece seemed less obvious. Anyway, we agreed the panels needed to go back to the diffuse side and they stayed there.

In general, timbral resolution was exceptional (the new amp now was broken in), and so was tonal color. There was none of the slight “etching” of sound anymore that I had heard previously. I had thought tonal colors were exceptionally vivid last time, reminding me of the color palette of live music, but afterwards I had started to wonder if some of that might not have been enhanced “technicolor”. Well, this time I did not have to wonder, because the impression never came up, even though tone colors were still very vivid. Perhaps the amp upgrade is responsible for this change.

The clarity and cleanness of sound was even greater than last time. Separation of instruments in complex orchestral music was outstanding; I had the feeling that now the MSB DAC could show what it really was capable of. At quite loud volumes of the kind that I usually listen at, there was extremely low distortion. In fact, this may have been among the top least distorted sounds that I have ever heard from a system. Certainly, the room with its sufficient width (distance of mid-range driver to side wall of 4 feet) and generous height of 9 feet 7 inches plays a role, but in the past there had not been this low distortion. I presume that the clean power through the new Shunyata system plays a major role, and perhaps the direct connection of the MSB DAC to the now improved version of the power amp is beneficial as well. The low distortion resulted in a sense of ease and effortlessness that was uncanny. The effortlessness of sound, at a level I have hardly heard elsewhere, and its clean organization made it so easy to listen “into” the music.

Only at very high volume levels, not recommended for prolonged listening, the sound distorted somewhat, but perhaps then the room itself was overloaded as well.

As the last time, the sound had an infectious liveliness. Macrodynamics were still excellent. Drum dynamics could be stunningly explosive. Following Ack’s comment about micro-dynamics I paid critical attention this time. Indeed, sudden small volume transients during guitar playing were perhaps a little less pronounced than they could be. Yet in general there was this great liveliness of presentation that made all music played very enjoyable.

On jazz horns, the initial transient at each note of pushing the air through the instrument was portrayed well; only after listening again at home I noticed that in this respect there was even more possible from those recordings. Talking about jazz, the timbre of cymbals seemed sublime, those tweeters of the Rockport speakers are excellent.

Spatial depth was better than last time I thought, even though perhaps in the future some more improvements are possible. I do recognize that there are limitations as to how far the speakers can be moved out into the room.

Some powerful strikes on the large bass drum at the beginning of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony produced sounds that were exceptional in their believability; I can fully understand Ian’s enthusiasm in his report.

Stand-up bass was just phenomenal. There was an incredible clarity and cleanness of bass lines, which made them uncommonly easy to follow, even when they were not in the foreground. I found this to be the case on any jazz recording we played, remarkable. On one piece for sax and bass, where Vlad particularly liked the sax sound, I hardly managed to listen to the sax, as mesmerized, even hypnotized by the bass lines I was. Timbre was very believable, with superb detail from the vibration of bass strings. The fact that the room is open towards the back may help the bass quality, but in any case the bass sounds that I heard show that sophisticated implementation of bass reflex technology can yield extraordinary results – sealed cabinet not required.

Overall, the incredible effortlessness, clarity of organization of sound, an in many ways great tone with outstanding timbral micro-detail, excellent bass quality, and the consistent liveliness of presentation made the experience of listening to music on Vlad’s system very engaging.

Thanks one more time, Al, for another thoroughly enjoyable listening session, and for your perceptive distillation of the pluses and minuses of the latest iteration of this system. I must say I am particularly impressed by your ability to hone in on specific characteristics of the sound without ever losing the big picture - the context of the believability and natural musicality of the whole. Lesser audiophiles would seem to be in one or the other camp; rarely synthesizing the two ;).

As I have mentioned to you, I find these sessions particularly helpful in crystallizing my own understanding of the sound, and they frequently lead to immediate improvements – e.g., the adjustment of toe-in since the last time, which, I think, has been wholly positive.

So, you are entirely correct in mentioning the toe-in, as well as the new amp and even cleaner power as the main drivers of the latest improvements. I find the new amp version in particular particularly successful – the more than doubling of the power supply transformer rating and capacitance, as well as the far lower distortion of the input stage are readily audible in terms of a new effortlessness, greater speed and transparency. And this without losing the timbral richness and neutrality that I liked in the first version. And, as I mentioned in ack’s power thread, turning off the offending under-cabinet lights had an immediate impact on the sense of “ease”, even with the full Shunyata PC/Denali setup – every bit helps.

The remaining blemishes will probably be more difficult to address. The slight lightness in the mid-bass on some piano recordings that you noted is probably caused by nulls in the room response given my speaker placement. This is probably also true about the perception of image depth. Unfortunately, this being a shared living space there are indeed limits on where I can move the speakers, but sometimes subtle changes have big effects. I should just embrace the prospect of patiently nudging these 150lb boat anchors around the room.

But, bottom line, I’m currently very happy with where thing stand. I’m very happy with this set of components and with how they interact. And, interestingly, they all share the same design goal: minimizing distortion without losing musicality. At least in my own experience, this works.
 

MadFloyd

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Nice report, Al. Nothing surprises me. :)
 

Al M.

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Thanks one more time, Al, for another thoroughly enjoyable listening session, and for your perceptive distillation of the pluses and minuses of the latest iteration of this system.

You're welcome, Vlad, and I want to thank you for the enjoyable listening session as well!

As I have mentioned to you, I find these sessions particularly helpful in crystallizing my own understanding of the sound, and they frequently lead to immediate improvements – e.g., the adjustment of toe-in since the last time, which, I think, has been wholly positive.

Toe-in is something that I have focused on in my own system, too. It can be an easy way to address slight issues with tonal balance, among others. The change in your system did work out for the better, I agree.

The remaining blemishes will probably be more difficult to address. The slight lightness in the mid-bass on some piano recordings that you noted is probably caused by nulls in the room response given my speaker placement. This is probably also true about the perception of image depth. Unfortunately, this being a shared living space there are indeed limits on where I can move the speakers, but sometimes subtle changes have big effects. I should just embrace the prospect of patiently nudging these 150lb boat anchors around the room.

But, bottom line, I’m currently very happy with where thing stand. I’m very happy with this set of components and with how they interact.

Unfortunately, no room is perfect and there are always compromises that have to be struck.

Having heard your system, I fully understand why you would be happy with where things stand. Every system is also a compromise,, and every system type has its own set of technical advantages and disadvantages. This is perhaps most evident in the speaker choice, but extends elsewhere as well.

The crucial thing is to find a system type that fits your own personal tastes and sound priorities. After that, as I see it, the trick comes down to maximizing the audible impact of the technical advantages of the chosen system type in general and system in particular, and to minimizing the audible traces of the technical disadvantages. You have come a long way in doing just that, and I see this as a considerable accomplishment. The result is a presentation of music that is engaging and enjoyable.

And, interestingly, they all share the same design goal: minimizing distortion without losing musicality. At least in my own experience, this works.

Yes, this clearly works in your case. Too often the quest to minimize distortion lands a system in the blandness trap, something that you have been able to avoid very well with as baseline an unusually lively presentation of the music.
 

Al M.

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pjwd

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At that point we did perform a little experiment. Vlad turned his four panels behind the speakers from the diffusive to the absorptive side, and we listened again. Curiously, the sound was more confused
Al
What an excellent report .. I would enjoy your analysis of my room .. sadly hypothetical even in non covid times
The assesment of panels suggests to me that the absorbers were providing a partial first reflection to the listener that was uncorrelated with direct sound .. hence the muddled sound .. depending on reflection pattern of diffusers there still may be a bit of this.
If it is possible Vlad could try the absorbtive side again but angle them so the remaing sound is reflected to either side wall .. think of them as mirrors (as I am sure you know)
May help a bit ... or not
Phil
 

VLS

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Al What an excellent report .. I would enjoy your analysis of my room ..

I think that Al should start making his exceptional listening and analytical talent available as part of a consulting service for a commensurate fee - it would be worth every penny. Time for a career pivot Al?

If it is possible Vlad could try the absorbtive side again but angle them so the remaing sound is reflected to either side wall .. think of them as mirrors (as I am sure you know)

This is exactly how I set up the panels. They are basically angled so that all primary reflections from both speakers are directed past the listening position (see the snapshot in Al's first visit report). I actually used mirrors and a laser pointer to accomplish this. When we turned them around, we maintained the same angles, so all that in principle changed was an additional attenuation of high frequencies. We're not exactly sure why this would have been deleterious. One speculation is that some small degree of reflection helps "anchor" the sound in the real acoustic space of the room, and eliminating that comes across perceptually confusing. But that's just speculation, and I probably need to listen and experiment more.
 
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pjwd

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I think that Al should start making his exceptional listening and analytical talent available as part of a consulting service for a commensurate fee - it would be worth every penny. Time for a career pivot Al?



This is exactly how I set up the panels. They are basically angled so that all primary reflections from both speakers are directed past the listening position (see the snapshot in Al's first visit report). I actually used mirrors and a laser pointer to accomplish this. When we turned them around, we maintained the same angles, so all that in principle changed was an additional attenuation of high frequencies. We're not exactly sure why this would have been deleterious. One speculation is that some small degree of reflection helps "anchor" the sound in the real acoustic space of the room, and eliminating that comes across perceptually confusing. But that's just speculation, and I probably need to listen and experiment more.
Interesting .. the theory says you need 8 to 10ms between direct and first reflections but after that you need a nice reverberent tail.. ideaaly correlated with direct sound ..perhaps the absorbers take too much energy out of the presence region for that tail .. it would be interesting to put a less absorbtive panel at those angles you established ... or you ciuld just liten to music
Phil
 
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