Well, it’s about that time of year when I simplify my system. Why? Think cool as in cool-running. Think summer. I love the heat and I want my windows wide open. I want to smell the rain and fresh-cut grass. Yeah, I’m one of those people and honestly, I really dislike air conditioning. The only place in my home I use air conditioning is in my bedroom during those times when a fan doesn’t do the trick. Of course my friends think I’m nuts and refuse to visit me during these months (God bless their delicate constitutions). I don’t care. I’ll have plenty of time to visit with them in their lovely climate-controlled homes .. of course I’ll need a sweatshirt.
The most significant changes are with the amp and the DAC. First and foremost, my Fleawatt integrated will take the place of the toasty little APPJ PA0901A. This wonderful sounding class d integrated amp runs as cool or cooler than any component I’ve ever come across. Second, instead of swapping the Bifrost Multibit with another external DAC, I’ll be utilizing the Node 2’s on-board DAC. Perfect for summer! Cool.
Fanning the flames
Yes, I run a fan in my listening space when the temperature soars. I suppose this isn’t practical for critical listening sessions but is just fine for everyday enjoyment. Funny, I don’t often find myself in the mood for these critical type listening sessions anyway. No doubt my audiophile cred will suffer and my club card will be revoked because of this. Bad audiophile.
After more than 2 years using a Bluesound Node 2 I decided it was time to revisit my favorite macOS music players. So, I brought my old Mac mini out of storage, did a bit of housekeeping, and downloaded the latest offerings from Sonic Studio and Damien Plisson. I’m glad I did. Both Amarra and Audirvana Plus have seen quite a bit of development since I last used either of them and both have improved in functionality and sound quality. I’ve also acquired a new DAC and USB/SPDIF converter. So much for being off the merry-go-round.
- Mac mini (2010)
- Schiit Audio Eitr
- MHDT Lab Pagoda
- Decware SE84UFO
- Omega Super 3i
- macOS High Sierra
- Amarra Luxe and sQ+
- Audirvana Plus
- AudioQuest Carbon USB
- Black Cat Cable SilverStar! 75
- Better Cables Silver Serpent RCA
- DIY solid silver loudspeaker cables
- Salamander Synergy
- IsoAcoustics Aperta
- Sanus Steel Series
- Brick Wall PW8R15AUD
Uncompressed flac on an Oyen Digital MiniPro hard drive connected via USB to an Apple AirPort Extreme.
Recently, I found myself in need of some new speaker cables. After much looking around online and not finding the right cable at a price I was happy with, I decided it was time for a project. It’s been a while since I went the DIY cable route so I needed to research a bit and find good sources for the materials. The last item arrived just in time for my free weekend.
.999 Pure Silver
This project seemed a perfect time to kill 2 birds with 1 stone (so to speak) and build some solid silver speaker cables. Cables made with this precious metal intrigue me but the cost of admission is a bit off-putting. Enter DIY. First and foremost I want to mention an article and website where I found a wealth of information including where to source some of the materials I used:
Make Your Own Silver Audio Cables by Joseph Levy, The Vinyl Tourist
The article was last updated in 2010 but remains relevant today.
I decided on 16 gauge .999 pure soft annealed solid silver, 14 gauge clear PTFE jacketing, and Audioquest SureGrip bananas. Originally I was not going to terminate the wire but the APPJ PA0901A requires bananas for connection. I made 8’ cables (ordered enough for 9’) and opted not finish them with an outer jacket. My budget for the project was $200 (sans shipping) and I came in slightly below that amount.
I’m very happy with the results .. they look decent and sound great.
After many years pairing high-powered amps with low-efficiency loudspeakers I decided to go in the opposite direction. Why? Mainly curiosity. I’ve never had the opportunity to hear high-efficiency single-driver loudspeakers in my system and thought it was time. And tubes. I find tubes fascinating, single-ended triode in particular. Cost of these amps was always somewhat prohibitive for me and is why, for the most part, I shied away. Enter Chi-Fi. Initially I think many of us audiophiles balked at the spate of cheap (and cheaply made) electronics coming out of China. After all, how could anything so inexpensive be remotely “hifi”?
APPJ PA0901A integrated amp
For me, it was the oddly named PA0901A that caught my eye. This minuscule “integrated” from APPJ is a single-ended triode design rated at 3.5 wpc with an SMPS (yes, you read that right) and uses one 12AX7 and two EL84s. The use of an SMPS in the design allows for it’s small form factor (approx. 5” x 5” x 5”). The sound quality is simply astonishing at this price-point ($189).
Omega Super 3i loudspeakers
Omega Speaker Systems has been on my radar for as long as I’ve been reading about high-efficiency loudspeakers. Louis Chochos has been building his single-driver designs for 14 of his 34 years in the speaker industry. I purchased the Super 3i’s in the beautifully finished EKO Ash Tweed for $695. These speakers have an efficiency rating of 94.5 dB at 8 ohms and are a perfect match for the little Chi-Fi wonder amp. Coherent. Fast. Addicting.
Fleawatt Audio TPA3116D2 integrated amp
I also purchased a low-powered solid state integrated amp from Fleawatt Audio recently. This class d integrated amp (25 wpc) is built around the TPA3116D2 chip which was the darling of the DIY community at one time. Derek Sanderson builds these creations as a hobby and sells to members of the audiophile community at such a low cost it’s almost ridiculous*. Mine, which has significant upgrades, cost me $250. While not actually Chi-Fi, much of the parts were sourced from China but nicely built right here in the USA.
From a conversation with Derek: “The somewhat lower dampening factor, 3D imaging and smooth highs are very much like a single ended triode amplifier, but with more power.” He wasn’t kidding. Incredible sound for so little cash. I’ll be using this nice cool-running amp in the summer months when I’ll want a break from those lovely little glass heaters.
It’s a great time to be an audiophile.
*Derek is now on hiatus.