Have you ever told yourself that your current hi-fi system is the last one you are going to buy?
I’ve done this more than once, but, this time, I think it just might be true. It’s not that I think the system is perfect; it’s just that I think it’s close enough. I believe I’ve gotten to the point where the main limitation is the quality of recordings. And, by the way, I have some truly terrible recordings in my collection: doo-wop from the ’50s, for instance, and screechy Motown from the ’60s. The thing is, though, my current system seems to minimize these problems – but without loss of information. Crucially, of course, it also sounds fabulous on really good recordings.
The system today comprises:
Of course, the room is also part of the “system”. My “better half” and I are semi-retired, and while others in a similar situation might choose to move to a rose-covered cottage in the country, we opted for a converted warehouse in central London. This means we have fairly big spaces, the living room (which houses the hi-fi) being somewhere between 500 and 600 square feet. The room has not had any special acoustic treatment, but has a good mix of reflective and absorptive surfaces, and the size means that the large(ish) speakers can, at least, be given room to breathe.
As you can probably tell from the age of some of the components in the system, I tend to replace items very slowly (I had a Revox A77 reel to reel recorder until quite recently too). I have, however, had a succession of CD players, because I always felt they were a relatively weak link in the chain. The last player I had before the PWT/PWD was a Quad CDP2 – CD player and digital pre-amp (which sounded pretty good). The CDP2 gave rise to two fairly major changes of direction: firstly, the digital inputs led me to experiment with hooking up my Sony laptop (via S/PDIF) and playing music from the hard drive (which I found that I really liked); secondly the CDP2′s variable output got me interested in dispensing with a pre-amp for CD/digital playback. (I still needed to be able to use a pre-amp for vinyl playback and the radio, so, in turn, this led to the Musical Fidelity power amp; with its switchable inputs, I could plug the pre-amp into one set of inputs and the CD player into the other.)
Meanwhile, I find it hard to resist experimenting from time to time. For instance, I recently tried plugging the power amp. directly into the mains rather than into the PPP. The manufacturer recommends this, and I have to say, I think it is good advice (for this particular amp.) I have also played with the filters on the DAC, and seem to prefer a different one on different days of the week. Filter 4 is my current favorite. Soon after getting the PWT/PWD, having seen discussions about loss of information at volume settings (on the DAC) below 50, I experimented with attenuators, (most of the time, the volume control does not go above 30), but this just served to convince me that I should leave well alone – and that is probably a good thought on which to end.
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