My Current Audio Systems

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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Here are brief descriptions of my current audio systems. I will try to keep these up to date as components and configurations change.

If components I've talked about in threads of Tom's Corner are not listed here, you can assume that I have either sold those items or that they are currently for sale.

The links in these descriptions are either to my own descriptions of these components at WBF, or to sales or manufacturer's information.

Audio Room

IMG_7848 (1).jpg
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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Chicagoland
My latest changes include updates to the streaming path in the audio room system and a whole new computer for my desktop system. The above pictures and system descriptions have been updated to account for these changes.
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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My latest system update is the change to a LEDE acoustic treatment configuration with the substitution of Alphasorb Flat Foam for the P. I. Audio Group AQD1 diffusers at the speaker end of the room. See my thread, "Acoustic Treatment for Small Listening Rooms: Absorption vs. Diffusion" for discussion. Here is a wide-angle photo of the new speaker-end of the room with the Alphasorb Flat Foam panels.

IMG_7885.jpg
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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Computer Desktop Electrostatic Headphone System

I use this system primarily for video streaming, but also for some music streaming. (This system doubles as my work-from-home workspace; thus the ring light for video conferencing.) See generally, "My Electrostatic Headphone Adventures."

IMG_8088.jpeg
 
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tmallin

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May 19, 2010
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Here is a picture of my Audio Room system with the latest acoustical foam arrangement and the Dutch & Dutch 8c speakers mounted on Skylan four-post 26"-high stands.

IMG_7892.jpg
 

tmallin

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May 19, 2010
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Yesterday I replaced my Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming Switch S8000 with the UpTone Audio EtherREGEN ethernet switch. The Netgear Nighthawk had been a clearly audible improvement from the TP Link and Cisco switches which proceeded it and Archimago found much to like about it, as did I. I really heard no problems at all and have been delighted with the sound of my Dutch & Dutch 8c-based system throughout my use of the Nighthawk switch.

However, the reviews of the EtherREGEN got me very curious about it. Then, when The Absolute Sound named it one of its 2020 Products of the Year, I had to see what all the fuss was about. I knew from half an hour into its warm up (yes, the EtherREGEN runs hot, Class-A-amp hot) that something really special was happening. I'll refer you to the reviews in Audiophile Style and The Absolute Sound. But I'll just say that the combination of greater three dimensionality, greater small musical detail of both tones and transients, and expanded moment-to-moment microdynamics, without any tonal brightening is impressive and enthralling. Who knew an ethernet switch could make such differences? It's as if the time coherence of the D&D speakers has been truly unleashed. These improvements are clearly audible as I write this from my computer desk, well outside the audio room with the system playing at background music levels.

Yes, at $640 it's expensive as ethernet switches go, but it's a bargain in terms of the audible difference it has made in my already pretty well-tuned system. You may have to wait a while to get one; it regularly seems to be back-ordered for at least a month.

Did I mention that this thing runs physically HOT? It does, so don't be surprised or alarmed. Just give it some space and enjoy!
 

Ron Resnick

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Dear Tom,

I don't understand the computer equipment discussion, but I am glad you are happy with the improved sound!
 
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tmallin

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May 19, 2010
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Thanks, Ron. There is a Great Divide between traditional audiophiles--those who listen to analog (and perhaps digital-disc-based sources) only--versus those who also or even exclusively now listen to music sourced from internet streaming or computerized music files. If you are still primarily an analog LP listener, much of what goes into constructing an audiophile-grade computer-based audio and streaming system may well seem like gibberish.

An analogy might prove helpful. Just as the simplest LP-based system is the old briefcase-sized all in one "record player" many of us oldsters had as kids--it had a latchable lid, a single built-in speaker, amp, and turntable/arm/cartridge--the simplest modern computer-based music system is a smart phone connected to the internet streaming music through its own built-in speaker.

With an analog system, the system can get a lot better sounding if you separate out the various parts: separate speakers, power amp, line amp, phono preamp, turntable, tonearm, cartridge, cables, etc., plus a lot of careful set up, paying a lot of attention to the audible effects of each physical part of the system.

A computer-based system also can get better sounding by separating out its parts and connecting those parts in particular ways, paying careful attention to the resulting sound of each part change as you go. With computer based systems, one major choice is between Wi-Fi connectivity and wired ethernet connectivity. Many of us have found that wired ethernet systems sound better. Once you wire internet-connected components together with ethernet cables, you will need at least one ethernet switch to act as a "hub" for all the wired internet connections. As it turns out, different ethernet switches have different sonic qualities--thus the comparisons I made among the TP Link, Cisco, Netgear, and now the EtherREGEN ethernet switches. As with analog audio, most every step in the signal path has a "sound" and some components sound "better" than others.
 

Ron Resnick

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Thank you, Tom, for the analogy and the explanation. I understand!
 
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tmallin

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May 19, 2010
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If you look at my system description, you will notice that it now includes both the Uptone Audio EtherREGEN (ER) and the GigaFOILv4 (GF). In my system, the ER feeds the GF, which feeds the Lumin X1.

I am very much aware that the manufacturers of both the ER and GF state that their unit should be the last item in the chain before the streamer/DAC. In fact, the manufacturer of the ER is on record stating that fiber optical isolation such as that provided by the GF should not be necessary either before or after the ER in the signal chain.

Well, both units can't be the last one in the ethernet chain. And in my system I have tried the units with the ER feeding the GF, the GF feeding the ER, and with the ER alone. To my ears, in my system, the best sounding result is the ER feeding the GF feeding the Lumin X1.

Using the GF fed by the ethernet cable which comes from my router and having the GF feed the ER does not really result in any improvement over the sound of the ER alone.

The ER alone also is far superior sounding to my old set up of the Netgear Nighthawk S8000 Pro Gaming Switch feeding the GF feeding the Lumin X1. If you had never heard the system with the ER feeding the GF, you would never know what you were missing.

But using the ER feeding the GF removes additional noise/blur/grunge around each note and further blackens the background. In my system, to my ears, this is the way to go.
 

ddk

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May 19, 2013
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Thanks, Ron. There is a Great Divide between traditional audiophiles--those who listen to analog (and perhaps digital-disc-based sources) only--versus those who also or even exclusively now listen to music sourced from internet streaming or computerized music files. If you are still primarily an analog LP listener, much of what goes into constructing an audiophile-grade computer-based audio and streaming system may well seem like gibberish.
This is true IME and true for myself as well but avoiding computer audio has to do with the sound quality not technicality.

david
 

ozzzy

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tmallin,
I own the Lumin X1 and the EtherRegen also! Great units!
Do you turn the EtherRegen off? With my linear power supply I can turn it off at the end of the day. Just wonderin' if it takes time to come back to best sonic state once turned off.

ozzy
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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All my equipment in this room stays turned on 24/7. I even keep the streaming going 24/7, just at a low level not audible outside the room when I'm not listening.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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Chicagoland
Pictures of my current Dutch & Dutch 8c stereo room set up are located at this link. The changes are the arrangement of the absorbing foam, now covering the first reflection areas on the ceiling.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
698
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Chicagoland
For a good while now, since I further simplified my main stereo room system to eliminate the Benchmark DAC3 HGC and Benchmark HPA4 headphone amp, I have not used headphones in that system, limiting my headphone listening to my computer desk system used primarily for video streaming.

Recently, however, I have added back headphone listening capability to my stereo room system. While I still don't have a means of using my best headphones, the Stax SR009S, in that system, I have now arranged things so that I can use either my Apple AirPods Max or NAD Viso HP-50 in my stereo room system.

Since the Apple AirPods Max are ordinarily connected via Bluetooth, to listen via these headphones in that system I simply turn on the Bluetooth capability of my M-1-based iPad Pro (2021)'s system controller and pair the headphones with the iPad. Since the Bluetooth connection seems limited to a 24 bit, 48 kHz sampling rate, this may impair the sonic quality heard from High Resolution program material a bit, but my D&D 8c speakers impose a similar "limitation" since the DACs in those speakers are intentionally set up by the manufacturer to operate at 24/48, both to allow the chosen DACs to operate more precisely and to avoid energizing the 27 kHz peak in the response of the tweeter of the speakers.

I acquired a second pair of the NAD Viso HP-50 headphones to use in the stereo room system so I don't have to move my first pair back and forth between the computer system and the stereo room system. To use the even better NAD Viso HP-50 headphones in my stereo room, I needed an adaptor to fit the wired NAD headphones to the USB-C jack which is the only wired output on the iPad Pro. While iMac computers still have stereo mini jacks for driving ordinary wired headphones, there is no stereo mini jack on recent iPads or iPhones.

Fortunately, Apple and others make a simple, one-piece USB-C to stereo mini jack adaptor. See this link. The standard 4-foot-long cord of the NAD phones, which terminates in a stereo mini-plug fits right into the stereo mini-jack of this adaptor and the male USB-C end of the adaptor fits into the USB-C jack of the iPad Pro.

One way to listen to streamed material through headphones in this system involved enabling the iPad Pro to be a Roon end point device. To do this and avoid simultaneously driving the speakers, I first simply disable my Lumin X1 as an end point device through Roon's controls; go to Roon's Menu > Settings > Audio, then click on the gear icon next to the Lumin X1 and select Disable. Then I enable the Apple iPad Pro as a Roon end point. In the Roon set up of the iPad Pro, I enable the MQA Core Decoder to make sure that my Roon Nucleus+ does the core decoding of any MQA programs before sending them to the iPad through my home network. I set the iPad Pro to "Renderer only" for this set up since iPads have no inherent MQA decoding capability.

When I go back to speaker listening, I then re-Enable the Lumin X1 as a Roon end point and Disable the iPad Pro. You don't have to do that, but I like to keep the system set-up as unambiguous as possible.

Alternatively, I can listen by headphones in my stereo room by simply streaming directly from apps on the iPad Pro, bypassing Roon, the Nucleus+, and of course the Lumin X1. I have apps for most of my usual streaming sources on the iPad Pro: various internet radio stations and aggregating services, Safari, YouTube, Internet Concert Archive, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, SiriusXM, etc. While I cannot access my own CD-derived music files this way, most of those programs are available as streaming files through Tidal or Qobuz, albeit in FLAC rather than WAV format. I also obviously can't avail myself of the superior Roon GUI this way.
 

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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Dear Tom,

Thank you for updating us on your system!

I do not know how to ask this without a pejorative implication so please forgive me, but why would you want headphone listening capability in your main stereo room system?
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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Chicagoland
Late-night listening at higher volumes than background level is one reason, Ron. Sure, I can do that from my computer desk system as well, but it's nice to have this option again and for non-video-based listening, it's best not to have a big computer screen staring you in the face when listening. In the stereo room, once I select the program and adjust the volume, I can put the screen out of sight beside my chair.

Tom
 
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Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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Ah, late night listening I totally understand!

I totally agree, Tom --- I personally would not want to look at a TV screen when listening to music on the big stereo.
 
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