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 revoked because of this. Bad audiophile.
Like many an audiophile I’ve had way too many components pass through my doors over the years. Here’s a list of gear I simply don’t want to part with. While packed away for now, each will see the light of day again at some point. Why hold onto such excess? What holds my interest? The speaker collection, for example, consists of a quasi-ribbon panel, a two-way mini monitor with an AMT tweeter, and a pseudo-omni floorstander. Each design philsophy is radically different from one another and offers a different presentation with unique strengths and weaknesses. Of course, they all sound good too. I just can’t part with them. Besides, it’s never a bad idea to have backups.
- Chord Electronics Qute EX
- dB Audio Labs Tranquility (gold level mods)
- Schiit Bifrost Multibit
USB to SPDIF converters
- Bel Canto mLink
- SOtM dX-USB HD
- iFi SPDIF iPurifier
- UpTone Audio USB REGEN
- Wyred 4 Sound bLINK
- Fleawatt Audio TPA3116D2
- Odyssey Audio Cyclops (SE+ w/ps upgrade)
- Response Audio RAM 301
- Magnepan MMG
- Mark & Daniel Maximus-Ruby
- Ohm MicroWalsh Tall
- iFi Audio iPower
- iFi Audio iUSBPower
- KingRex PSU MK2
- SOtM mBPS-d2s
- Teddy Pardo Teddy 12/2
- Chromecast Audio
- Decware ZSB
The pursuit of good sound has resulted in many changes to my 2-channel system over the years. Simple curiosity (e.g., loudspeaker designs, amplifier topologies) has been a big factor in a majority of these changes. Presently the system looks like this:
I got rid of my well-appointed Mac mini and took a chance on this streamer (which also provides preamp duties). Never looked back.
Outlaw Audio ICBM-1
This electronic crossover is a left-over from my home theater days. Wonderful in a 2-channel system for bass management and stereo subs.
A Chi-fi tubed integrated wonder of an amp. Sounds a whole lot better than it’s price suggests.
Louis Chochos high-efficiency single driver design in EKO Ash Tweed. Coherent. Fast. Addicting.
Originally purchased to mate with my MicroWalsh Talls. They also mate well with the Omega’s.
Isolation stands for the loudspeakers. They work.
Surge protection. No MOVs.
Racking. It’s nice.
Yes, of course.
Located on an Oyen Digital MiniPro hard drive attached via USB to an Apple AirPort Extreme. I use wifi to stream music sources to the Node 2.
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.