Visit to KeithR

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,059
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Beverly Hills, CA
#1
Yesterday I visited KeithR at his apartment in Marina Del Rey, California.

I was all set to apologize to Keith for not being in the right frame of mind to write a friend’s audio system visit report, but Keith’s system was so good and so carefully put together and yet relatively simple, that I knew when I departed that I wanted to write something.


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Keith used to have Zu speakers. After extensively auditioning speakers in the under $30,000 price range, Keith replaced the Zus with DeVore Fidelity Gibbon Xs. Keith also diligently compared amplifiers in his system at home and decided to replace his darTZeel CTH-8550 integrated amp with the impressive-looking Audio Research Reference 75 SE. Keith mentioned that within the first few moments of auditioning the 75 SE he realized it was the amp for his system. (Keith and I discovered that, historically, neither of us has ever cared for the slightly illuminated, “white-ish” sound of many ARC amplifiers. But Keith feels the 75 SE takes the ARC “house” sound in a new and in a more natural direction.)


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The front-end is a Brinkmann Bardo with a 47 Labs MC Bee cartridge. The turntable sits on Wave Kinetics A10-U8 footers.


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The phono stage is an Octave Phono EQ.2. That feeds a beautifully-fabricated passive attenuator box made by Music First Audio, whose transformers maintain constant output impedance as the attenuation setting changes (unlike the old Mod Squad Line Drive on which output impedance varied with attenuator position). Every powered component is plugged into a Torus Power AVY15 isolation transformer box.

Keith’s living room is a complicated geometric shape with a flat front wall and an angled rear wall, on which Keith has mounted three GUK panels covered in a fabric on which a photograph has been silk-screened. The three panels look purely like artwork, never giving away their real utility. The right front wall is a closed corner and the left front wall is open to the kitchen.


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There is also a large flat screen TV between the speakers. This made me nervous -- as I told Keith -- as I am of the “no glass anywhere” school of thought on reflective surfaces in the listening room. But the flat-screen apparently does not manifest any deleterious effect on the sound.

I have listened to Zu speakers twice at audio shows. Each time I found them to be slightly oddly mid-range centric and not terribly transparent. However, I can totally understand that Zus would sound great on, say, classic rock.

Keith played my usual demo tracks:

”The Rose" by Amanda McBroom, Growing Up in Hollywood Town (Sheffield Lab 13)

"Send in the Clowns" by Bill Henderson, Live at the Times (Jazz Planet Records/Classic Records)

"First We Take Manhattan" and "Bird on a Wire" by Jennifer Warnes, Famous Blue Raincoat (Rock the House Records/Classic Records) (I know this is a digital recording.)

”I've Got the Music in Me" by Thelma Houston, I've Got the Music in Me (Sheffield Lab 2)

"Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley, Grace.​

Keith also played “Strong” by London Grammar, If You Wait. I really liked this song!

Keith and I have established over several conversations and from exploring audio show demo rooms together that we have very similar tastes in sound and in equipment, so I was not surprised to discover that the Gibbon Xs sounded very natural and "right" to me. They are very coherent speakers. I appreciate the fact that the side-firing, back-to-back nine inch woofers are high up in the cabinet — just below the midrange and tweeter — rather than mounted towards the bottom of the cabinet. The overall tonal balance of the system sounded very comfortable to me. I was amazed at how much low-frequency power and oomph the speakers produced.

Listening to this relatively simply and very high value-per-dollar system made me ask myself “do we really need thousands of pounds of equipment costing $100,000 or more and occupying many square feet of real estate to get great sound? Do we really need to make things so complicated?”

Keith’s system suggests to me that we do not need to spend zillions of dollars and quarter equipment weighing thousands of pounds. Patient in-home auditioning and careful component matching by Keith, aiming for synergy to achieve his sonic goals, has resulted in a great-sounding and a very satisfying system.

I had never before heard these DeVore Fidelity Gibbon X speakers, but I think they represent great value for the money. I would be very curious to hear them compared to speakers costing three and four times as much money. I really would be curious to hear how they sound compared to, for example, the Wilson Alexia.

Thank you, Keith, for a wonderful and very fun and eye-opening afternoon!
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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London
#2
Nice one Keith and Ron. Keith, since you have the Octave phono, did you try the Preamp?
 

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
3,012
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Marina del Rey, CA
#3
Thanks for playing those remarkably dynamic Sheffield cuts, Ron - for those who have not heard them, they are true system killers. My 92db speakers were pulling 30+ watts like crazy on them- extremely unusual.

No pictures from my balcony? haha.

KeithR

ps. re: flat screen, the cables haven't been hidden appropriately since I was forced to buy a new OLED last year and the mount location is higher - it used to look much better!
 
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DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,178
0
36
#4
I have the same coasters and 3-panel absorbers in my room, not the same pic though, mine is of a guitar...

I too have a big TV between my speakers with the absorption right above. Sometimes I'll put a cloth tapestry over it which helps a little. I think the sound is slightly better without the TV but it's not a big difference.
 

BruceD

VIP/Donor
Dec 13, 2013
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#5
I have met Keith at Steve's soiree (Newport) and obviously a gentleman that knows his Audio requirements--thanks to Ron for showing us the attributes to fine sounding system.

Enjoy!

BruceD
 

asiufy

Member Sponsor
Jul 8, 2011
2,700
4
38
San Diego, CA
almaaudio.com
#6
Great write-up, Ron!

I've followed Keith's setup, and it's remarkable how much better that Devore is to his old Zus. Granted, I haven't heard a Zu speaker I liked, but his was no exception, with tubes or SS...

Even though the X is quite different from the older Devores I've heard, it still likes a tube amp better than SS, so Keith's move to the ARC was extremely successful, even though his CTH-8550 is a fantastic integrated amp. But no doubt the REF75 was a better fit for the speakers!

And Ron, if you want to hear the new Alexia 2, you're welcome to come to our event on the 22nd of this month! Or anytime, actually :)


cheers,
alex
 

joeinid

Active Member
Mar 15, 2011
1,534
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36
NY
#7
Well done Keith!

I had to do a double take when I didn't see the Dart 8550. I am sure this system sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

Just curious, what cables are you using?


Thanks!
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,059
29
48
Beverly Hills, CA
#8
I am not into cables and I cannot stand the whole expensive cables morass, so it was with significant trepidation that I agreed to Keith's request to do a brief cable comparison with him. It was a comparison of two different one meter phono cables. I did not know which cable was which, but I did know when he made the switch.

When the comparison was finished I said "I hear no significant difference" (I thought he might have tricked me by not actually switching cables) "but if I have to comment I would say the second cable was a bit more sibilant and had a slightly stronger top end." I was greatly relieved when Keith agreed with the observation!
 
May 30, 2010
13,964
42
48
Portugal
#9
I am not into cables and I cannot stand the whole expensive cables morass, so it was with significant trepidation that I agreed to Keith's request to do a brief cable comparison with him. (...)
Just MHO, but considering the musical diet you used in this comparisons I am not astonished that you did not find significant differences between phono cables in short time listening tests.
 

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
3,012
7
38
Marina del Rey, CA
#11
Just MHO, but considering the musical diet you used in this comparisons I am not astonished that you did not find significant differences between phono cables in short time listening tests.
They were RCA between phono stage and preamp - and it was in good jest and all of 15 minutes, because I hate cables as much as Ron :)

Joe, I use WyWires Silver and Zu Event and have no inkling to spend more.
 

Harlequin

New Member
Jul 30, 2013
741
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N/A
#12
" Keith mentioned that within the first few moments of auditioning the 75 SE he realized it was the amp for his system. (Keith and I discovered that, historically, neither of us has ever cared for the slightly illuminated, “white-ish” sound of many ARC amplifiers. But Keith feels the 75 SE takes the ARC “house” sound in a new and in a more natural direction.) "

Much of the Present ARC 'house' sound will find its DNA evolving from the design work behind the ARC 40th Anniversary Pre amplifier, resulting in the SE upgrades to existing Ref150/250 now SE standard in new builds , the Re75SE, Ref 6 Pre and the latest GS range of equipment.

A very nice system Keith, however I am a little concerned with regard to the near zero clearance between the top of your Ref75 chassis and the shelf above.
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
8,852
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48
London
#13
" Keith mentioned that within the first few moments of auditioning the 75 SE he realized it was the amp for his system. (Keith and I discovered that, historically, neither of us has ever cared for the slightly illuminated, “white-ish” sound of many ARC amplifiers. But Keith feels the 75 SE takes the ARC “house” sound in a new and in a more natural direction.) "

Much of the Present ARC 'house' sound will find its DNA evolving from the design work behind the ARC 40th Anniversary Pre amplifier, resulting in the SE upgrades to existing Ref150/250 now SE standard in new builds , the Re75SE, Ref 6 Pre and the latest GS range of equipment.

A very nice system Keith, however I am a little concerned with regard to the near zero clearance between the top of your Ref75 chassis and the shelf above.
That's good to know becase as you know I was bowled over by Ref 10. And recently compared to 250 to MSB 204 and the 250 was easily better. On the 70k Tannoys.
 

Harlequin

New Member
Jul 30, 2013
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#14

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
8,852
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London
#15
Yes, I did read the review. I must say burmester 100 was way superior to AR ph7 (much lower down the line) and the Ref 2 compare in the review was stating burmester was better but the Ref3 gets past that, it says. I don't like Burm pre and power so was surprised by the phono. I am not sure if I am SS or valve on phono, a few things to learn on the phono front

Also, SET based systems do not seem to use AR and VTL type preamps, probably preferring simpler circuitry and not requiring the pre to that drive and slam and stage, so not sure if these upstream electronics that work with panels and cones work with SET and horns. Same would go for aesthetix IO
 
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jazdoc

Member Sponsor
Aug 7, 2010
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Bellevue
#16
Keith-

Great looking system. Love your choices. How do you like the DeVores? They have always sounded great in any system I've heard them in...
 

joeinid

Active Member
Mar 15, 2011
1,534
0
36
NY
#17
Keith,

Thank you so much. I wasn't trying to and don't want to start a cable war. I was only asking because I was curious. I also have a love/hate relationship with cables. I do realize that some are better than others and notice some tend to be more sibilant than others. I want to find the lowest priced cables that sound good/great without breaking the bank.

:b

They were RCA between phono stage and preamp - and it was in good jest and all of 15 minutes, because I hate cables as much as Ron :)

Joe, I use WyWires Silver and Zu Event and have no inkling to spend more.
 

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
3,012
7
38
Marina del Rey, CA
#18
A very nice system Keith, however I am a little concerned with regard to the near zero clearance between the top of your Ref75 chassis and the shelf above.
I was, too. I measured heat carefully to within ARCs specs after various timeframes. I believe it helps that I have open space on either side.

Also, Ron's photo doesn't show the true front clearance - the face plate sticks out an inch in front of the rack.
 

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
3,012
7
38
Marina del Rey, CA
#19
Keith-

Great looking system. Love your choices. How do you like the DeVores? They have always sounded great in any system I've heard them in...
I love the Xs - with the right amplifier, they are sublime. The Devores are very extended but with a warm, vibrant midrange. They also are pretty dynamic compared with typical speakers. Bass isn't as tight as a sealed box speaker (like my former Zus), but the rest of the speaker is far superior. They use low order crossovers, which is preferable to me and allows them to be quite amplifier friendly.

Interestingly enough, I wasn't a fan of the Orangutan series.
 

Harlequin

New Member
Jul 30, 2013
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#20
I was, too. I measured heat carefully to within ARCs specs after various timeframes. I believe it helps that I have open space on either side.

Also, Ron's photo doesn't show the true front clearance - the face plate sticks out an inch in front of the rack.
Nice to hear that your temps are in line with ARC guidelines Keith, ofc the 75 doesn't emanate the levels of heat as the larger models, quite an advantage in the summer months, fabulous little stereo amplifier.
 

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