"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."
I am continually looking for something that helps improve the sound quality of my system. But, I have gotten to the point of dramatically diminishing returns.
"Begin with the end in mind. "
My end-goal was to build a system for "Performace Listening" in my home. I sit down and listen to music, and that system has to sound Tony the Tiger GREAT! It also must be easy to use for the family.
In this continuous learning world of audio, I have stumbled a few times. I have missed ideas along the way and had to go back to implement them. I bought the Kii Three speakers to place them near the front wall. I "forgot," I still needed to compensate for the room. I have learned to start with a targeted budget. I feel it is a huge mistake not to know where you are going. I'm not too fond of hard numbers, like spend 40% on your speakers. In my world of #FutureFi, that could be way off!
I have worked to create a physical harmony with the room and the family. I built my system into my grandmother's Victrola cabinet as an homage. Located at the end of our living room, along with the speakers and other items, it provides a focal point.
I have three sources in my system. My Rega Planar 8 turntable fits right into the cabinet where the old 78 record player was. I have added a Sonos Port to provide access to a wide variety of streaming services. I have constructed a computer system that provides a very high-quality music source using both local files and streaming from Tidal and Qobuz.
I devoted a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money into multiple iterations of the computing part of the system. There is a balance I try to maintain that I am still tuning. Over the last two years, I have tested about six system designs using four different operating systems. I have also used two commercial systems as checkpoints for my designs.
With a dedicated system and location, I have run a separate AC circuit to the system and use a hospital-grade outlet. My system power requirements are not dramatic, so I only ran one ten gauge wire feed and installed a 20amp circuit breaker. I have tested multiple AC power supply filtering systems and AC cables. I settled on Puritan Audio Laboratories cables and PSM-158 filter/distribution system. The Kii Three speakers do a fantastic job of adapting to room placement; they cannot fix "the room." I have recently applied a couple of tweaks that improve what the Kii's can deliver.
First, when I provide each speaker and each BXT individual power cable, they sound better. This change was significant but not breathtaking.
The second direct change for the speakers was installing a set of Isoacoustics GAIA-I speaker stands. I had forgotten how much of an improvement that these bring to the system. I have now reminded myself that addressing the floor/speaker interface should be one of the first things you do to the system. Do not wait a year, as I did!
The Kii Three's do a great job of adapting to placement in the room. They do not correct for room acoustics issues. I do not use room treatments in the Living Room for esthetic reasons. I use RoonLabs Digital Signal Processing (DSP) in my system to help correct the reflections, etc.. I worked with @mitchcoto accomplish this.
The disadvantage here is that the turntable and the Sonos Port do not have room correction.
I am amazed at the number of words written here on Audiophile Style about computers, networking, etc. I am not sure what to make of some of the results. Going back over what I have done over the last two years, I have a theme that has been working for me. Reduce complexity, remove hardware, and software not needed for operation. Then optimize from the new configuration.
I have moved from macOS on a MacMini through many iterations to Gentooplayer on a PC style computer and keep the music stored on my NAS. With Gentooplayer OS, I get to switch between Roon and several other playback systems at will.
The details might be interesting to some:
Main Network is Ubiquity UniFi
SM BIDI Fiber from the switch to a Sonore OpticalModule (FS.COM SFPs)
Transparent Audio Ethernet to the Motherboard
SOtM txUSBext PCIe card to a txUSB Ultra (modded)
Asus ROG Crosshair VII Hero motherboard mounted on an Open BenchTable
AMD Ryzen 7 7300x
16GB Apacer industrial spec RAM
Intel Optane 32GB boot drive
EVGA 1600 P2 Power Supply for the Motherboard
HDPLEX 200 for the accessories.
The USB cables are Ghent JSSG 360 between the two SOtM devices and a Moon Audio Silver Dragon to the Kii Control.
AC power cables are mostly Puritan Audio Labs.
Music is on a Qnap NAS located in the basement.
I am in flux on the case for the computer; it needs to fit in my cabinet. I also know that there will be folks that do not like my power supply choices. I am pleased with the EVGA power supply, and there is no question that it is dramatically better. Staging, dynamics, detail all improve. I know that the HDPLEX 200 might not be the best supply for running all the little accessories. I have it, and it works.
This system design is a part of "My Quest" for better sound, for fun in research and construction. It is even more fun to share with others. Just like other quests, there is always something over the hill and around the curve. Now and then, I worry that Smaug is around that bend in the road.
Where do I go next? Do I try an EtherRegen? Do I get the new JCAT USB card? Do I get a different power supply or supplies? USB Cables? I am watching what @The Computer Audiophileis doing with "CAPS 2020." I follow along with the progress of @Nenon and the Dual Xeon Extreme crowd. Right now, I am just going to listen to the system. Yes, and with the help of @antonellocaroli there will be some Linux tweaking on GentooPlayer along the way.
In closing: My warning is to beware of FOMO! My wish is that you can create the experience you want in your home.
"The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet."
Roads Go Ever On - Clamavi De Profundis