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Daphne
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Just thought I would mention a digital audio system I heard this July with a music server based on a Mac Pro.

 

I have heard very nice sounding systems based on Belcanto digital systems. Amazing sound for such small components.

 

The most amazing two channel recreation of live music I have heard to date came from a Steinway Lyngdorf Model D stereo. Steinway & Sons wanted a stereo that could reproduce the sound of a piano as well as their Model D concert grand piano, so they partnered with Peter Lyngdorf. From what I witnessed, they have accomplished that goal so close it is astonishing.

 

The Model D system is completely digital, from the source through the class D amp. There is a center console a meter high, 17" wide and almost as deep. It contains a CD player, processor, and digital inputs, with the most elegant volume control you will ever use. The speakers are connected with CAT 6 cables. The speakers are on the massive side. A good 7 feet tall, dipole, and self powered with attached mono block digital amps coupled to DACs, with active crossovers. All three units are constructed by Steinway and had a flawless piano black finish with gold accents. I mean a finish as smooth as glass; black lacquer done by true artisans. For an audio system, it is a work of art. Even the remote is elegant. The size of two hockey pucks stacked on top of each other. The top gold ring is the volume control and in the center is a touch screen like an iPhone. The electronics are made and installed into the cabinets by Lyngdorf. Oh, and Lyngdorf has included a system which adjusts the speakers to any room within a few minutes. He has also cleverly eliminated interconnects and speaker cables, just a few power cords and a pair of CAT 6 cables (and a cable for any other digital source one chooses).

 

The sound is what counts and this system delivers. The only more impressive sound I have heard to date was a MBL 5.1 surround system which was like standing in the room with the performers.

 

The second floor of my Paris apartment building is owned by a couple who are attorneys. The wife Michelle has always played the piano and is quite good. They actually have a Steinway Model D grand piano in their large living area. So, I had the opportunity to hear the piano perform next to the stereo. Three meters away and one can hear the difference, ten meters at the other end of the room and the difference is so slight it is astonishing.

 

The most elegant stereo I have ever seen and heard. Over several hours I listened to redbook CDs form Stan Getz to Fleetwood Mac, the sound was amazing. But when George played downloads from his Mac, the sound was even better. I had no idea a digital system could sound so wonderful and alive.

 

Now hold on to you pants gentleman for the price: $185,000. Which includes delivery, setup, the remote, and even a special microfiber cloth to dust the units.

 

http://www.steinwaylyngdorf.com

 

From source to output, it's going to be very interesting to watch all the new digital technology develop over the next few years.

 

Daphne

 

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Hi Daphne - Very nice looking stuff. There is certainly nothing wrong with spend some serious cash on a nice system as long as you can afford it.

 

I listened to the MBL room at CES for quite a while this year. I must say I do not care for the sound. It doesn't come from anywhere (omni directional). To me this is very far from listening to a band up on stage with the amps facing the croud. Obviously many people like the sound, just not me :-)

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Hi Chris:

 

I love my MBL 101E speakers, however, they do not appeal to everyone. I should also confess they were a real pain in the ass to place in the room just right. It took me two days of moving them around to achieve just the right imaging, like I originally heard them at the store showroom. Otherwise, they sound too omnidirectional, as if there was just one speaker somewhere in the room, similar to your description. At first I was rather frustrated, then got that sick empty feeling, "oh no, I just spent a box full of money on a foolish whim." Yes, they are unique, but for now, I am quite satisfied with then. This is my first pair of exotic electrostatic type speakers, prior to the MBLs I had Thiel and then Legacy speakers.

 

I also saw the MBL speakers at the CES and immediately thought, "what gives." I heard these speakers in three different locations before I purchased them, and at each place the sound was fantastic.

 

It seems one can never expect to hear anything great at the audio shows, especially the CES in Las Vegas. Speaker manufacturers show up with $30,000 worth of cables, and electronics way underpowered for electrostatic speakers, and obscenely over powered for high efficient speakers. Then they set everything up in a hotel room with a low ceiling and the bed removed. Not an ideal environment, but they have been there on a number of occasions. One would think they should come prepared for such an environment and leave their excuses at home for once. Think about it, is this not their golden opportunity to show off their products to thousands of potential customers and the press. Well..., just my opinion.

 

By the way, Peter Lyngdorf also has his own line of products. Check out http://www.lyngdorf.com Some very interesting digital components.

 

Daphne

 

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Hi Daphne,

 

Your interesting post reminds me of the time, over 20 years ago, when I was at a HiFi show in London. I wandered into one of the rooms, just as some piano music started playing through a pair of Quad electrostatics. It was quite startling. I looked round expecting to see a piano, because it seemed so real - both tonally and in terms of imaging.

 

I've not heard anything since with the same uncanny realism. All other speakers I have heard since sound like.....well, speakers !

 

Regards,

Chris.

 

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When I first read the description I was thinking, Ahh they heard a Meridian Digital Setup. Meridian has made digital setups like these for almost 20 years. Meridian DSP6000 digital loudspeaker was introduced in 1990 and held the Stereophile Class A award for 8 successive years!

 

Myself run the Meridian DSP8000 speakers and I'm really astounded on how extremely forceful, natural and beautiful they make my music and movie collection sound. The extreme power and delicacy is made possible through the DSP Speaker architecture. Looking back at Meridians development with digital speakers, digital processors, room correction and the MLP/Dolby-TrueHD codec is really something few other high-end companies will ever come close to. I really hope you can get a listen on a well setup system sometime!

 

http://www.meridian-audio.com

 

The fun thing is that one can start with just a coax S/PDIF from a computer and connect it to a Meridian DSP Speaker pair, they will lock onto any signal from 16/44.1kHz to 24/96kHz.

 

Headphone: JCAT Femto USB 2.0 FW -> Mytek Liberty DAC -> Hifiman Jade II energizer with SR Orange Fuse -> Hifiman Jade II (nov '19)

HT/Streaming:Xeon ROON server -> Uptone Etherregen/BG7TBL 10MHz OCXO -> Meridian 210/ATV4K -> Meridian 861V8 Processor/UHD722 HDMI upsampler -> Meridian DSP 8000SE/7200SE/5200SE Speakers. Sim2 HT380 1080P Projector with T2 Optics. XEIT Anamorphic lens. Stewart CineCurve Studiotek 130 Screen.

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Cost, R&D critical-mass, mindshare of customers. When you can handle these things as a company it might just be possible.

 

Few manufacturers have the R&D and manufacturing resources to even develop everything from source to speaker inhouse, let alone do anything more than just a standard analog passive speaker setup. When I visited the factory in Huntingdon it became quite clear you need critical mass to do this, and you need the ambition not on just one leading individual but a on a highly knowledgeable engineer team and the dealerconnections and market presence to actually sell the system for what it is.

 

Headphone: JCAT Femto USB 2.0 FW -> Mytek Liberty DAC -> Hifiman Jade II energizer with SR Orange Fuse -> Hifiman Jade II (nov '19)

HT/Streaming:Xeon ROON server -> Uptone Etherregen/BG7TBL 10MHz OCXO -> Meridian 210/ATV4K -> Meridian 861V8 Processor/UHD722 HDMI upsampler -> Meridian DSP 8000SE/7200SE/5200SE Speakers. Sim2 HT380 1080P Projector with T2 Optics. XEIT Anamorphic lens. Stewart CineCurve Studiotek 130 Screen.

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Hi Chris:

 

I can help answer this question.

 

Back in 2000 I attended a 3 day business management seminar at the Harvard School of Business. They actually used the audio industry as one of many examples, because it was such a strange anomaly.

 

If you look closely at the company history it is a result of leadership. The audio industry brings pleasure to people, as opposed to offering tools, a needed service, or food and shelter. Since audio products are a luxury, the leadership must ask the basic question, how do I create a sustained desire for the pleasure products I offer? Well it starts with building a loyal client base. The successful businesses in this industry, in operation for 30 to 50 years, have a common trait. They stand behind their products by supporting their resellers and their customers. Another key factor is catering to the customer's desire, the desire to be thrilled by the music.

 

At some point leadership will need to make a individual decision: am I going to be an innovator, or a follower? Am I willing to take the risk by throwing tradition to the wind and deliver a product that surpasses my customer's desires, or follow in the footsteps of mediocrity and except the risk of hoping for the best?

 

So, who has survived? The innovators, or the followers?

 

Here is the anomaly. The entertainment industry has a long history of critical reviews, of course always based on the individual critic's personal subjective opinions. As the audio industry took off, the publishing industry was expanding. What a fantastic idea, publish critical reviews on the reproduction of prerecorded music. It fits right in with entertainment tradition and the publishers claim they are accomplishing a public consumer protection service at the same time.

 

No audio company wanted negative press about their products, especially the followers hoping for the best. The solicitation was easy, advertise in our publication and increase sales. Large advertisers receive favorable product reviews first, small advertisers occasionally, and no advertising... well, look forward to doing some fast talking. After all, good and bad reviews offer the illusion of being fair. But the best illusion were the critics. People just like the average consumer, with an average audio system, looking forward to satisfying their desire of being thrilled by prerecorded music. But like all critics, their opinions were highly subjective, and subject to the goals of the publisher.

 

A whole sister industry grew on the backs of the hard working manufacturers. This was a turn in history. Prior to audio equipment reviews, one did not find a publication rating washers and dryers, or even typewriters. Now we read which spa has the best massage, which island has the best beaches, which cigar has the best taste, or which computer monitor has the best colors. And no one is an expert at anything except writing a pleasant article.

 

An interesting fact has surfaced through all the publication confusion. The audio innovators continued going their own way, designing and making products which catered to their customers regardless of what any critic had to say. The result: they continued to prosper and grow, some companies beyond the life of its founder. And what of the publications? Many have ceased to exist.

 

As consumers we should know by now, there are many paths to achieving great sound, one is not so much better than another. The end result is what satisfies our desires.

 

This is an interesting story of leadership, because the next level up are innovative leaders who have changed the way we live and work.

 

I fine it curious that regardless of which system we have, there is always that dream system we continually refine in our thoughts. I recall falling for the Quads back around 1992. They were beyond what I could afford at the time, but nevertheless were included in my dream system, until I heard a massive pair of Apogee speakers. Ahhh, satisfying our desires, is that not what dreams are made of.

 

daphne

 

 

 

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Interesting to read Daphne's comments on reviewing versus advertising because IMO of the UK Industry, any company can get a good review regardless of whether he advertises or not. At the same time, advertising is far less effective than a review and this has led to companies routinely introducing new product, not necessarily of greater merit than a predecessor, but re-viewable because it's a new model. In fact this has driven the Brit audio industry as far as it has gone. The biggest circulation mag has a strong grip on the market, though probably not by design, for selling the maximum number of magazines and adverts is its primary goal.

 

However everything is changing, magazines have been reluctant to go online or to accept the value of the web at the same time as it had exploded. Suddenly anyone can venture an opinion with a good chance of it being found and a Forum dedicated to a specific subject can become a focal point of greater influence. One customer observed that he was more comfortable sifting through a multitude of opinions on the net than he was relying on one from a magazine. Equally, net based information has shown that opinions expressed by magazines can be far from representative. This is crucial for the audio industry because it's years behind and often over priced relative to the real world of consumer electronics. This will confront us all with the facts!

 

Progress in specialist audio hasn't really been forthcoming, much of what we see is simply regurgitation of what's happened before and it's not good enough. Computers provide a wide and diverse source of media or varying sound quality, all of which benefits from greater clarity, less harshess and a more natural and convincing presentation. These IMO are what makes hi fi valuable to people. I have no strong feeling about massively expensive high end unless it doesn't deliver more than I can get for real money, but what I really care about it that people get to hear what does improve the quality of what they hear. I think this new multi source provided by computers and magazines gives us a much better shot at that.

 

From a manufacturers point of view it gives us access to far more information on new technology as well exposing us to the opinions of the people who buy it. I love it all and although I'm 62, it means the future is still exciting for me and I have lots to look forward to.

 

Ashley

 

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Of course Meridian has "critical-mass," they have been in business for 30 years. Two partners (electrical engineer and industrial designer) started on a shoe string. Created a few products that were outside the box in the audio industry. They slowly developed a customer base, introduced improved products, added to their product line, experienced a period of recognition and awards, then by the mid 1990s saw an unexpected demand for their products. It took 20 years of hard work to build that factory in Huntingdon. Twenty years of taking the risk of hiring the right employees, the right engineers, the effort of keeping the employees focused and motivated, always seeking new innovative technology. The leadership at Meridian is still taking the high risk of being innovative. In 2005 they entered an agreement with Genesis Microchip to design and manufacturer digital video products which created the Faroudja brand name. So, crion, what you observed at Meridian was the direct result of two guys working hard everyday for 30 years. Without their ideas, leadership, and devoted effort, Meridian would not exist.

 

Allow me to use Apple as an example. Steve Jobs was the driving force, he had an idea and there are famous stories how he would drive and motivate his employees day after day to deliver. Apple exploded and prosperity was on everyone's mind. Well, Steve we are so successful, we don't need your leadership any longer, hit the road. Apple entered a period of decline. When it came time to change or die, it was Hi Steve, good buddy, please come back just for a short time to help in a minor way, just until we get back on our feet. Well, once again, Steve Jobs changed the way we live and work.

 

Great ideas come from individuals, not a result of a group effort. Every time I hear group effort my favorite reply is "was the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel created by a committee?"

 

By the way crion, I really, really, like your A/V system. It has started me to think in a new direction for replacing my outdated, broken down, mismatched, home theater.

 

daphne

 

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Never heard the MBLs but one of the 2 most memorable audiophile experiences was based on electrostatics: Sound Lab Ultimate, there was a life and an immediacy to the musci that was startling. I own 2 pairs of electrostatics and my favorite is the Audio Exklusiv PS3. I bought them 13 years ago and I have yet to hear a better speaker in my home.

The other best audiophile experience was at La Maison de L'Audiophile in Paris with ultra high efficiency Onken/Altec speakers driven by a 8w 300b based amp. I stayed there for several hours, listening to all kind of music.

I have 2 questions for Chris regarding DACs: between Minerva and Berkeley Dac 1 which is your favorite? Minerva has the advantage of the firewire connection but in terms of music? Have you compared Minerva to the Audio research 7? To the higher end Wavelength?

thanks for your great website

 

 

Dac202/LebenXS/MagicoV2 Stealth cables www.bluedy.com

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Hi bluedy -

 

"I have 2 questions for Chris regarding DACs: between Minerva and Berkeley Dac 1 which is your favorite? Minerva has the advantage of the firewire connection but in terms of music? Have you compared Minerva to the Audio research 7? To the higher end Wavelength?"

 

The Berkeley is my favorite when I'm using my Mac Pro desktop unit. The Minerva is my favorite when I'm using my MacBook Pro. Oddly enough Audio Research is ten minutes from Computer Audiophile and I haven't heard the DAC7 yet! I've been talking with AR about it though. I've heard the Wavelength higher end DACs but I have not been able to critically compare them to the Minerva or Alpha DC.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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