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Help me pick a new DAC!

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I purchased my first pair of Maggies around 1986 - a pair of SMGAs that seemed like an awful lot of money back then. They served us well all for almost 25 years now and in fact they're still in use today in our home, having been back to the factory once for driver replacement. I was impressed at the reasonable price Magnepan charged for that service.


When I started building out our theater last year, I auditioned the 1.7 extensively at two different dealers. I ended up with Martin Logan Summit X only because Magnepan does not have a very flexible matched theater system. The odd shape of my room dictated speaker placements that just would't work with any Magnepan products. Also, the center channel with that DWM woofer presented a space problem given the size of our screen and the resulting limited space underneath it. Oddly enough, for that particular application, what sold the Summits was the spectacular "Stage" center channel speaker that is timbre matched to the Summits and any number of other ML speakers you would use for surrounds, even including ceiling speakers. When it comes to theater, the center channel is so important that you almost want to choose your center channel speaker first and build around that!


When I first auditioned the 1.7, I was really impressed. I remember hearing some box speakers such as the Wilson Sophia and Sasha and thinking how closed-in and boxy they sounded by comparison. More recently, I've heard the 3.7 in two different setups. The thing that always strikes me about the 1.7 and 3.7 is their tone, which just sounds right.


Imaging is good enough with both the 1.7 and 3.7, but if you're used to listening to the razor sharp imaging of Harbeths, you will find the the imaging diffuse.


They seem a little bass shy to me. The 3.7s in a small room make enough, but the 1.7 always seems to need a sub.


As a side note, one thing I always wonder after these demos is "don't these high end audio people like bass?" At one high end shop listening to the 3,7s, I was sitting there thinking "sounds great. where's the bass?" Just then, the salesperson jumped up to adjust something, saying "sorry, this track is a little boomy." WTF?


One of the things I like about my Summit Xs is the dual 10" woofers beneath the ESL panel. No problem with bass on those guys. They easily reach into the low 20s with great authority.




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I am not a very experienced turntable connoisseur, so can't really compare the Classic to other competing products. To illustrate this, let me say that I still use and enjoy the B&O RX that my wife and I purchased almost 30 years ago while still in college. In fact, I just installed a new belt and replacement cartridge from Soundsmith. I also have an old AR "The Turntable", which I'm planning to restore this winter.


That said, all I can say is that I enjoy the VPI. I wanted something simple and straightforward. The seemingly antiquated concept of heavy plinth + heavy platter + no suspension was also an attraction. But since I don't have the experience to evaluate tables myself, I had to rely on what reviewers and other more experienced owners were saying.


The Zu-modified Denon DL-103 is wonderful sounding with a rich & meaty tone. Is it true to the original recording? Who knows and who cares. Unlike Barry, I'm not really a fanatic about accuracy. I just go for what sounds good to me. Mine is cabled with Zu Mission phono cable. At the moment, it is running with my McIntosh C50, which seems to have a very good MC phono preamp. But once I get my racks sorted out, I'm planning to move the VPI to my smaller system where I'll be using the C22 60th preamp, which incorporates the same phono preamp as the C2300. By the way, the guys at VPI told me that they use the C2300 as their reference phono pre.


I spoke with Peter Ledermann at RMAF and am planning to try out his Zephyr cartridge, which was designed specifically for VPI tonearms.



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autoformer wrote:


"With the introduction of Thunderbolt, I think firewire support will soon be dropped from the MacBook and Mini lines. It will remain on the Pro and maybe the iMac for a while.


"When firewire support is dropped, that means having a MacPro near your rack or a Windows machine of some sort. Neither is an attractive proposition."


When FireWire support is dropped, and in a scenario where you have, say, a FireWire DAC and a Mac mini with a Thunderbolt port but no FireWire port, all you'll need is a Thunderbolt-FireWire adapter. This is from MacWorld:


"Is Thunderbolt backward-compatible with USB and FireWire?


"Third-party vendors will sell adapters, available sometime this spring, that let you connect USB, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800 devices to Thunderbolt ports. Thunderbolt won’t make these legacy devices any faster, however—they’ll still be limited to the performance of their built-in components. For example, a FireWire 800 device still won’t be able to transfer data faster than 800 Mbps."


I agree that between USB 3 and Thunderbolt, FireWire has peaked, but the nice thing about Thunderbolt is that it has this flexibility. I'd expect that if Apple were to drop a FW800 port from a future mini, they'd replace it with an additional Thunderbolt port.


And don't forget that Thunderbolt DACs could be appearing before too long; see, for example, this press release from Apogee.




Listening Room: Mac mini (Roon Core) > iMac (HQP) > exaSound PlayPoint (as NAA) > exaSound e32 > W4S STP-SE > Benchmark AHB2 > Wilson Sophia Series 2 (Details)

Office: Mac Pro >  AudioQuest DragonFly Red > JBL LSR305

Mobile: iPhone 6S > AudioQuest DragonFly Black > JH Audio JH5

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I think some people just ear differently.


I can feel the bass coming off from the 1.7s here, even though with a slanting ceiling and too much open space, the positioning of the speakers for bass is more critical than usual. (Thanks Jim- your book and Cd's really help with that! :)


Other folks think they are bass shy. I hear a lot of clean bass, sometimes too much. I really don't like the "bloom" that some other folks really dig. :)





Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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I checked out Von Gaylord. A pair of their 'Uni Earth' mono amps look very interesting indeed and are just affordable for me. Unfortunately they have no representation here in the UK. If they did I think it could be my first stop. I am a bit wary of saying why but here goes: I also found a video of them on You Tube, playing Elvis Presley's 'Fever'. I have never been so entranced in my life! Down a 6000 mile internet connection? Probably at a low bit rate? Entranced? But I was.





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@Paul: You're one of those high end audio guys that can't stand bass! ;-) Seriously, though, I agree the 1.7s do produce tight, clean bass, just not much of it.


I am a Magneplanar fan. But when we auditioned the 1.7s, the salesperson was talking about how great the bass was. My wife's comment was, "what bass?" She then looked at the Audio Research preamp and asked "Where's the tone control for more bass on this thing?" She was incredulous that such an expensive preamp did not have tone controls.


An hour later, listening to the ML Summits, each with a pair of 10" bass drivers, each driver powered by its own 200W amp (yep, 400w per speaker), and driven by a 450WPC amplifier, she was tapping her toes, enjoying the music and nodding her head "yes, THAT sounds good!"


There are things about the ML speakers that I just detest. The sweet spot is extremely small, much smaller than a Magneplanar. And when you're sitting off center, the closer speaker shouts at you in the most annoying way. With the Magneplanars, I can still hear some imaging even when I'm not smack in the middle.


I'm quite certain that I could get the 3.7s to sound better than the Summits with a good sub like a REL B1 filling out the bottom. I think the midrange on the 1.7s and 3.7s is vastly better sounding than the Logan ESLs, which sound comparatively lean. But for theater applications, the ability of the Summits to produce detailed ambiance is hard to beat.


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Paul, you might want to contact them and see if they will send them over. .Most everything in the US is shipped from China to here, so don't know why that would be a problem. I have the LM Triodes and the Signature pre-amp, fabulous sounding set-up. I have an el-cheapo cd player right now and it still sounds great. I will be buying a new dac next spring, can't wait. If you want any more information, send me an email. Sandra


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