the audio analyst’s previous reference systems 

Those of you old enough to recall the phrase, “Sherman, set the WABAC (or Way Back, a pun on the early UniVac and ENIAC computer names) machine for…” will recall that Mr. Peabody was a fictional dog who appeared in the late 1950s and early 1960s television animated series Rocky and His Friends and then The Bullwinkle Show (collectively referred to as Rocky and Bullwinkle). Later, Mr. Peabody appeared in the segments entitled Peabody’s Improbable History created by Ted Key. All were Jay Ward productions. Do you recall the other classic shorts that ran on Rocky and Bullwinkle, such as the “Fractured Fairy Tails”; great stuff…

In the series, the brilliant Mr. Peabody constructed (for his and Sherman’s use) the WABAC time machine, which Peabody and Sherman would use to travel back in time to witness various historical events.
So it should be seen as no surprise that I used that phrase to talk about going back down memory lane in an August 1999 review I wrote on the Kharma Devine 2a loudspeakers to discuss Kharma’s unique and interesting history. Since then, other audio reviewers have incorporated it in their writings (I even used it again in my 2005 Audience Au24 cable piece), but I was the first to link such classic cartoons to audio auditioning… A dubious distinction, I’ll acknowledge, but a distinction none the less… ;-D
I hope you enjoy this trip down my audio memory lane, arranged from most recent to oldest, with photos (of varying quality) and descriptions of my systems past… Once again, my thanks for taking the time to stop by my site.

Danish Nirvana

Chief designer for GamuT at that time, Benno Baun Meldgaard, sitting in my seat and dialing in the $150,000 GamuT Zodiac’s, using all Audionet Electronics. Benno has since sold GamuT to DANTEX, spent time as the Chief Designer for the brands Raidho, GamuT, and ScanSonic. But, he took over as chief designer for Gryphon in December of 2020. But, what a system this was! See my review of the amazing GamuT Zodiac for TAS HERE.

German Grandeur

After the arrival of the Audionet PRE G2 Linestage and MAX monoblocks, this was some serious sound! In fact, the PRE G2 and MAXes are now my reference electronics.

The first system in the new room: November 2015

Featuring the Nelson Pass designed Pass Labs XA160.8

It was about this time that I moved from my amazing Redpoint Model d, to the astonishing and game changing Kronos Audio Sparta Contra-Rotational Platter based turntable, with the Kronos 10′ Helena arm. You my see that review here.


The remarkable Von Schweikert Audio VR-55 Aktive
The arrival of the Von Schweikert Audio VR55 Aktives, January 2015. WOW!

805 “toob” based WAVAC magic

This was one AMAZING set of amplifiers, the ~$60,000 WAVAC MD-805MkIIs. They had an extended stay in 2010 and 2011, thanks in part to an accident that prevented me from being able to move them and pack them back up…

A close up of one of the WAVAC MD-805MkII 

In 2008, I made the move from my wonderful sounding modified Oracle Delphi
MkIII to the staggeringly great sounding Redpoint Model D. See my review here.

Building a Mystery

This was room with Escalante Design Fremont’s and deHavilland Aries GM-70 amps, before the addition of the Shakti Innovations Hallographs, which are so effective, they allowed me to retire my home-brew Helmholtz resonators.
                                                                       
A closer look at the R2904/7000-00 Revelator and A grill-less Fremont on one of its incredible stands.
From January 2006 through January 2007 I lived with the remarkable Escalante Designs Fremont‘s by Teirry Budge. I also spent some time with the exciting Aries GM-70 from Kara Chaffee of deHavilland Electric Amplifier. Long on texture and musical involvement. Ultimately, I am just NOT a toob guy, at least, not tubes used for power anyway. I have long held that valves are best left to the low level amplification stage, with sand (transistors) feeding the power hungry speakers provides the most effective magic vs. power and finesse combination…

Master Bedroom Magic

This was the previous system in the Elkhart house master bedroom
 
This system, circa 2004, imaged like a laser.
Oracle Delphi Mk III with mods/Origin Live 250 Silver/Clearaudio Virtuoso Mk II
Pioneer Elite PD-41 transport
Perpetual Technologies P-3A/P-1A combo with full ModWright Signature Upgrades and RAL cryo-treated cables
Marsh Sound Design P2000b balanced preamplifier
Dynamic Sounds Associates Phone ONE
Spectron Musician II
Von Schweikert Audio VR-4 Gen III SE or VR-4jr
Audience Au24 interconnects and biwired speaker cables/powerChord AC cables

 

South Bend POWER

This was my setup when I first moved to South Bend, Indiana, to take my position with the University of Notre Dame Office of Information Technology as an IT Engineer, circa 1999. VR4 Gen III SEs, a Spectron Musician II (which put out 1.3 horse power!), and the Harmonic Technology Magic biwired speaker cables (I lead the development team for that product line for Harmonic Technology) across the front of a 15′ wide room. The walls were completely treated behind the speakers with an open cell acoustic foam to create a true LEDE (Live End, Dead End) acoustic treatment. Big, spacious, articulate and dynamic.
 
Jon Gale stopped by and took photos – which ended up in the VSA ads… see below! I had the first set available to the general public, and Jon was working with VSA doing their website. So, he drove to my place to listen (181 Miles for a Voltmeter) and take promotional photos of the speaker. By the way, he called Albert Von Schweikert from my house and placed an order for his set before he left that day…they were that good.
 
An original VSA VR 4 Gen III ad. This and subsequent Gen III media ads, were created from photos of my speakers.  Jon Gale was doing VSA’s media work and visited me to get the photos as my set preceded regular production.
 
When Jon came to visit, he brought a pair of EveAnna Manley’s Snappers. Even after re-biasing (Jon wrote an article called, “181 Miles for a Voltmeter” about this trip and its results), they just couldn’t compare to the Spectron Musician II. Um, by the way, Jon bought a Musician II right after his visit too!

Just before my move to South Bend to take my position at the University of Notre Dame, I replaced my dependable and HIGHLY MODIFIED Linn Sondek LP12 with a modified Oracle Delphi Mk III. Updates included a synthetic sapphire thrust plate and modified springs for an enhanced suspension.

The Warren Street Cinema

This is a shot of my highly modified Acoustat 2+2 ESLs fronting theater heaven, circa 2002, South Bend, IN Yes, that is James Taylor from the Live at the Beacon DVD… Though in a small room, this was one sweet sounding theater. 

Transitioning from ESL to Dynamic


Using my first pair of Von Schweikert Audio loudspekaers, the VR-4 Gen II. My listening room was 11′ 2″W x 18’L x 7′ 6″ T. Room taming was achieved through the use of both Cascade Audio Engineering products and my own home-brew room-taming devices. I also was using lots of inner tubes and sandbags for component isolation on my own home brew rack! Maryland, circa 1998
Analog front-end:
     Linn Sondek LP-12 (with my own modifications)
     Magnepan Unitrac 1 (carbon-fiber, uni-pivot)
     Monster Cable Sigma Genesis 2000
     Monster Cable Alpha Genesis 500
     Sumiko Blue Point 
Digital front-end:
     Pioneer Elite PD-41 stable-platter transport
     Audio Alchemy DTI Pro 32*, coax feed from transport
     Audio Alchemy DDE v1.2*, via I2S bus
     Audio Alchemy Power Station 2*
     * All the AA equipment sported full Dusty Vawter Channel Islands Audio treatment
Preamplification:
     Threshold FET nine/e
Amplification:
     Pass Labs Aleph 3
     Clayton S-40
Cables: single-ended interconnects
     my home-brew SSTs or
     JPS Labs Superconductors
Cables: digital
     my home-brew “Silver Bit Transfer” or
     SRM Max 1
Cables: speaker:
     JPS Labs Superconductors
     Alpha Core Goertz MI2 or AG1
Loudspeakers:
    Acoustat 2+2 Medallions (with my own modifications)
    Von Schweikert Audio VR-4 Gen. IIs

Positively Potomac

Accupahse P300 driven ESL heaven, circa 1996, Leonardtown, MD.
This system, circa 1996, was something special.
– Linn LP 12/Valhalla – Magnepan UniTrack 1 arm – Monster Cable Sigma Genesis 2000 cart
– Threshold FET nine/e preamp
– Luxman D105u CD Player
– Accuphase P300 amp on ESLs
– Hafler SE240 mono’d for the Sub
– Audio Control 2XS/AC
– Acoustat 2+2 Medallions/mods
– Eludium Q-24 Space Modulator (2 x 12″ in a push/pull Isobaric loading)
– rEAL iMAGE ßeta calbles – my home brews – tubular litz + solid core
The room was 24″ x 14″ x 8′ 2″

 Potomac Redux… A Second Leonardtown Installation

A second, smaller, listening room, also in Leonardtown, Southern Maryland, circa 1996. Get a load of that hair! ;-D Celestion S100s driven by a McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe… Note my Hitachi ‘Scope in the rear left corner.
A look under the hood of the McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe…

the audio analyst© – roots…

From 1988, when I founded the audio analyst© in State College, Pennsylvania. I apologize for the quality of the images, but they were captured from an old 8mm video tape. These are the only images I have of this system.

From the doorway into the room, with Katana sitting in the window…

 

The equipment stand/s. LP-12 on the left. My Nitty Gritty record cleaner on top, Threshold FET-nine/e control amp on the second, Luxman D-105u tubed output CD Player on the third, Onkyo t-4087 tuner on the fourth, and a Thorens TD-165c on the bottom right shelves of a Premier R-5 Equipment stand.

The Accuphase p-300, (Beethoven perched atop) with it’s external capacitor bank, dove the Acoustat 2+2 Medallions, and a mono’ed Hafler SE-240 drove my “Eludium Q-24 Space Modulator” subwoofer
 
My Accuphase P-300 (with outboard capacitor bank) and a modified Audio Control AX-2 subwoofer crossover.
I upgraded the original internally mounted Sprague 40,000 µF electrolytic output sections main filtering capacitor’s, measuring roughly 75mm (3″) in diameter and 120mm (4 3/4″) tall with a pair of outboard 60,000 µF Philips 3186 series, computer grade electrolytic’s. Though they had the same diameter, 75mm (3″), they were considerably taller, at 220mm (8 3/4″), necessitating external mounting to a trailing platform behind the chassis itself. I wrote about the upgrade, and the sonic significance, in Issue No. 1 of the audio analyst, my first magazine.
 
The venerate Linn LP-12, sporting a Magnepan carbon fiber arm and a Monster Cable Sigma Genesis cart…
 
the powerful finesse of the Accuphase P-300… 
 
Threshold’s FET/nine-E control Preamp and Luxman’s D-105 U, with it’s horizontally mounted 6CG7 output tubes
 
Onkyo’s superb over-achieving tuner, the T-4087, with wooden sides… 
Here is the entire system run down from when I founded the audio analyst©
Analog
    Linn Sondek LP 12
    Magnepan  Unitrac I tonearm
    Monster Cable Sigma Genesis 2000
    Sumiko Blue Point
    Audio-Technica AT140 ML
    Ortofon OM 20
    Nagaoka RC-401 Record Clamp
    J.A. Mitchell Reflex Clamp
Digital
    Luxman D-105u
Tuner
    Onkyo T-4087                                                              
Amplification
    Accuphase P-300/modified
    Hafler SE 240
Preamplification
    Threshold  FET nine/e
Crossover
    Audio Control 2XS/AC    
Speakers
    Acoustat TWO+TWO Medallions/modified
    Eludium Q 24 subwoofer
    Denon AH-D6 headphones
Equipment Stand
    Premier R-5 stand                                                                      
Cables
    LOCATOR LINK™  rEAL iMAGE ß – My Home brew speaker cables
    Tara Labs – Phase II/TFA
    Esoteric – Artus
    Esoteric  – Technology 2ii emerald Air Litz
    Esoteric – Technology 3 emerald Air Litz
    Monster Cable – InterLink 400

State College A/V
still integrating a theater and two channel system

Before I could afford to dedicate a space to my two channel rig, in State College, PA – Spring 1987. WOW, what a flash back… DCM Time Windows, Accupahse power, Sherwood preamplification, HK cassette playback, Phase Linear 1000 AutoCorrelator, Thorens TD-165c with Stanton 681EEE, and all NEC video, from the 26″ monitor, through the SW-300 powered subwoofer right down to the first true high performance 4 head Hi-Fi, full 4 function HQ VCR, the NEC N-965u… Do you recognize that classic Maxell poster above the system? The speaker in that iconic photo was the JBL 4311 studio monitor, the model that became the JBL L100 for home use…