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  1. #1
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Emotiva ERC-1 vs Arcam CD72t - My thoughts...

    I finally decided to pull the trigger on the ERC-1 CD Player over the holidays....at $319 I couldn't say no. Got to spend some time with it last night side by side with my Arcam CD72t. That's the best player I've owned and retailed around $800-$850 in 2003-04.

    I've only spent maybe 3-4 hrs on it in total - I've been splitting time with the Arcam. But I've sampled a lot of different music - I tried to play them back to back on each player for a fast comparison...

    Some notes I jotted down during my camparisons:

    The two player are similar in some aspects - pace and timing is quite good and comes across as effortless from both for most types of music...By comparison I have an older Marantz Cd67 and a yamaha changer that both sound a bit strained at times.

    The Arcam is noticeably darker (and might actually mate better with excessively bright gear) and I notice just a slight extra amount of mid-bass in the Arcam...just a bit. The Arcam isn't what I'd call "warm", nor does it have that exaggerated bass some NAD players have that people like. I'd say both playes are close to neutral, with the ERC-1 being a bit brighter. Different.

    For midrange, once you focus, there's quite a difference in the two...female voices especially - and there's more detail and sparkle from instruments shining through on the ERC-1. The decay of some instruments is noticeably longer than my other players. When I say detail, I don't mean high frequency or treble, but rather discrete elements of sound are revealed a bit more on the ERC-1 than my Arcam. The ERC-1 is "airy"...I'm guessing the "24-bit, 384-times oversampling Analog Devices 1955 DAC" has something to do with this. I'm sure some people out there will find it too bright - but wow. I feel like I'm hearing a triangle shine through where before it was drowned out, brushes on cymbals sound more real, and I've never heard a vibrophone's unique decay captured and played back quite the same (Milt Jackson on Cannonball Adderley's "Things Are Getting Better" album specifically if you like jazz). For some reason the vibes really bring out the difference between these 2 players.

    The separation of instruments and the size of the soundstage is noticeably better in the ERC-1. That's an understatement. Wide, enveloping, all those other buzzwords could be used here. This is an area the ERC-1 has the Arcam beat. It just does it better When I close my eyes, I can hear the instrument's sound originating further to the outside of my speakers. And vocals are more clearly separated from the music.

    On the Arcam, I do find vocals seem a wee bit recessed, in particular male vocals. Sometimes this leads to a sense of depth in the recording, sometimes I just feel there's not as much body in the singing...I'd describe the ERC-1 as presenting male vocals with a bit more body or tone. A little more natural. The ERC-1 has a fuller sound in the midrange, and is airier at the same time.

    I find the Arcam has a slightly more exaggeration in the mid bass - this is pleasant for some music. I would say it's not as controlled or defined as the ERC-1's mid-bass, it's a bit punchier...not a huge difference either way - I could see on some types of music how I might prefer the bass on the Arcam, but on others the Emotiva.

    Up to this point, most of the music I had played was unamplified/acoustic stuff. I threw on some Opeth after the wife left - the Arcam was definitely bested on Blackwater Park! There's a lot of tone in the heavily distored music that weaker players like my DVD player lose some how The sound smears and collapses and all just starts to sound like loud noise instead of loud music. Not so on the ERC-1. The Arcam does ok, but this might be one area in particular where the ERC-1 excels. I really want to use the word 'brutal" in a positve manner, but feel it would be misconstrued somehow. I have to admit this really surprised me - I've always thought heavily distorted music was less fussy about gear - not so apparently. The ERC-1 delivers Impact and dynamics without losing its added detail. It's something else.

    I'll throw on some Rush, Porcupine Tree, Albert King, Rachmoninoff and Zappa tonight...Maybe some Birth of the Cool and Wayne Shorter too. Gotta wait for the wife to leave before the Mastodon or Children of Bodom comes out.

    So far the ERC-1 is out dueling the CD72 in detail, resolution, and soundstage in particular...it sounds like a much better player.

    I also bought a few pairs of their Ultra and X-Series Cables. I only have Blue Jeans Cables and Monster to compare to in that system but I'll try swapping some in and out to see what I hear. They seem well constructed. At some point I know I'll be tempted to have the shootout in my other rig, but that's just too much work for now.

    I'll have to decide which player is going where. Mr. P might laugh - he told me I might be surprised which player ends up in my second system.

  2. #2
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Ok I had some time play around with the Ultra series and X-Series cables the last 2 nights.

    First the Ultra Cables: These look like they were designed to compete with Monster's home theater/audio cables - specifically the lower $35 300i audio cables I have (3ft). (tip: a few times a year stores like Best Buy will put these thing out on clearance or open box sales and you can get them for a fraction of the price). The Ultras are $18 for a 3ft pair. At this price I'd say theyr'e a good buy - they feel a bit flimsier than say my Blue Jeans LC-1, but more or less equal to your "premium" monster HT cables. Emotiva threw in a some plastic colored o-rings which is nice to help identify which cable goes where - I got more colors than I'd ever need.
    The gold-plated connection was, firm, but not as tight as some cables I have. Not loose at all, but not the kind of connection that you feel might rip out the RCA socket from your amp (I've done that) or push right through your DVD player...I think at some point connection stops getting better...these feel secure. Nuff said. I was pretty hard on the termination trying to bend the cable every which way - couldn't sever the connection, so these should pass any durability tests.

    For listening tests, it took me a few minutes to a/b the 300i and Ultra cables since I didn't unplug the BJC's, so this is not a pefect test...but I can't really tell a difference. I tried creating some RFI interference by moving my router around the cables - nothing. Failed experiment I guess...I don't know if that would even affect audio frequencies, but either way, couldn't get any noticeable interference. It was a quick thought and the router was nearby...(maybe a side project for us at ar.com - how to generate in home RFI and EMI for cable testing?). More on listening observations below...

    I would say if someone was considerng $12-Radio Shack - $40 Acoustic Research or Monster cables from your basic big box or audio boutiques, they could save themselves a good chunk of money and just buy the Ultras. They're a decent budget cable. Considering I can find $35 Monster cables on sale for $15-$20 during the best of times, I would say they are a good value.

    Next up was the X-Series. These cables just feel higher quality - These cables appear to be very similar in construct to the Monster M-series I have - thicker jacket, nylan sleeve, extra shielding...they feel and look like a better cable than the Ultra series. The connector looks the same, gold-plated jobber from the lower line, but overall the cable feels more rugged. Still not as rugged feeling as my LC-1 but close.

    For sound tests I couldn't really hear any difference with the M-series vs X-series - but, I did observe some slight differences in the higher frequencies with LC-1...the LC-1 seems to have a bit more sibilance - I don't mean in a bad way - but just a faint boost where cymbals crash or "s" sounds are made..faint, but I'm convinced its there. Engineered this way perhaps? It's hard to really notice anything else because of the time it takes me to swap cables (though my cd player has 2 sets of outputs I used for faster switching).

    I can't say the X-series don't sound as good - just a bit different. I'd be interested to hear other people's take on the difference between these cables. I'm not into snake oil and voodoo when it comes to cables, but there's definitely something going on here and I'm guessing it's just a difference of design. I want to say the BJC's are a bit more revealing at the top end, but I'm not 100% sure.

    I purchased 1.5 ft runs for all my Emo and BJC cables but I compared prices to my 3ft Monster runs just to give a fair pricing comparison.

    I can't find any fault in either Emotiva cable yet. If I was building a stereo and needed to buy 6 cables or so and was conscious about my budget, I'd think about splurging to get the X-series. I think if I was considering the X-series, I might just spend the extra 50% or whatever and get the BJC, they still give me the impression they're a bit better cable, but if budget was a concern, I don't think you'd be choking your system's perfromance living with the X-series or Ultra series. It beats paying double for the usual in-store stuff that isn't any better. I think homes or systems with more RFI or EMI problems than I have might need to see what works for them.

    This exercise wasn't nearly as fun as comparing my cd players...back to the music now.

  3. #3
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Kex, I found the same improvement in cymbals and high frequency when comparing my Blujean cables with my Monster M1000i's and M950i's which I bought on Ebay for $30. The BJC's had more pronounced and forward high frequencies. I found the M1000's to have a little more pronounced bass, but the high frequency resolution was clearly audible with the BJC's.
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  4. #4
    nightflier
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    Getting back to the Emotiva player, for under $400, I'm wondering if it might actually be modable? Has anyone considered this? Are any of the better known modders offering this?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    Getting back to the Emotiva player, for under $400, I'm wondering if it might actually be modable? Has anyone considered this? Are any of the better known modders offering this?
    Possible? That's beyond my scope. This is a very good player - I think it's settling in a bit the more I use it. What would you hot rod and what would the benefits be?

    There are a few things I don't like about the player - the light setting without dim - way to bright. The blue looks cool but it is distracting - with the dimmer on it's ok. Wish I could turn all the lights off.

    The remote feels high quality, but it's too wide.

    The slot loader works well, but I'm not used to it, might turn some people off.

    Still, can't complain for the money. So far I'm really happy Mr. P guinea pigged for us...

  6. #6
    Forum Regular harley .guy07's Avatar
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    I am glad that someone else found this player to be excellent. I am more and more liking the Emo gear from what I hear on this forum and reviews and seem like they have some of the other brands looking like they are charging way too damn much for their CDP's. And by the way I love your taste in music Kexodusc by way of Mastodon, Rush, Children of Bodom. and others mentioned. I think a lot of people think because the music is harder and more distortion oriented that it is a waste of higher end equipment which I do not believe is true at all. I listen to Sevendust, mastodon, Iron maiden, Slipknot and others all the time and there are audiophile goodies in their music that only good equipment bring out. I have had several friends that come over to my house all the time and listen to their Cd's that are hard music and they hear things that they never did before on their rack systems or lesser systems. Just because some of this music has distorted guitar and hard hitting bass lines does not mean that it does not deserve to be played on good audio systems as well to get the sound that is right for the recording. Nice tastes bro

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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by harley .guy07
    I am glad that someone else found this player to be excellent. I am more and more liking the Emo gear from what I hear on this forum and reviews and seem like they have some of the other brands looking like they are charging way too damn much for their CDP's. And by the way I love your taste in music Kexodusc by way of Mastodon, Rush, Children of Bodom. and others mentioned. I think a lot of people think because the music is harder and more distortion oriented that it is a waste of higher end equipment which I do not believe is true at all. I listen to Sevendust, mastodon, Iron maiden, Slipknot and others all the time and there are audiophile goodies in their music that only good equipment bring out. I have had several friends that come over to my house all the time and listen to their Cd's that are hard music and they hear things that they never did before on their rack systems or lesser systems. Just because some of this music has distorted guitar and hard hitting bass lines does not mean that it does not deserve to be played on good audio systems as well to get the sound that is right for the recording. Nice tastes bro
    For sure...there's a lot of dynamics in and frequency range in classical music, but I don't think most passages have to keep up with the relentless attack, speed, impact of good metal. Classical music probably has a wider range of frequencies in most cases...but metal never lets up....it's different kind of demand.

  8. #8
    nightflier
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    Well, I haven't auditioned it yet, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    What would you hot rod and what would the benefits be?
    if other players still sound better, there's tweaking and mods that could improve the Emotiva. I've read that compared to much higher end players it lacks a bit of detail and that the dynamics are a bit distorted. You mentioned that the soundstage was a bit smaller, certainly there's room for improvement at every stage. Heck, if you really wanted to go nuts, you could add tubes to the output stage... I purchased an upgraded Oppo player, and I can say w/o a doubt that it sounds considerably better than the stock unit (which ironically isn't too much more expensive than the Emo).

    Regarding the comments about rock vs. classical, I have original Scorpions, Zeppelin, and Maiden albums and although I'm a classical guy, it's never a bad time to spin some rock or metal. A well-tuned system will benefit both types of music in different ways. And while I do like to play my Mahler at loud volumes, the rock really has to be played louder to get that, ahum, "full effect."

    ...or maybe I'm going deaf faster than I thought.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    if other players still sound better, there's tweaking and mods that could improve the Emotiva. I've read that compared to much higher end players it lacks a bit of detail and that the dynamics are a bit distorted. You mentioned that the soundstage was a bit smaller, certainly there's room for improvement at every stage. Heck, if you really wanted to go nuts, you could add tubes to the output stage... I purchased an upgraded Oppo player, and I can say w/o a doubt that it sounds considerably better than the stock unit (which ironically isn't too much more expensive than the Emo).

    Regarding the comments about rock vs. classical, I have original Scorpions, Zeppelin, and Maiden albums and although I'm a classical guy, it's never a bad time to spin some rock or metal. A well-tuned system will benefit both types of music in different ways. And while I do like to play my Mahler at loud volumes, the rock really has to be played louder to get that, ahum, "full effect."

    ...or maybe I'm going deaf faster than I thought.
    Ha ha..you and me both then.

    Correction, I said soundstage was better with the ERC-1...actually, it's huge. Very happy with that. Much better than my Arcam. Still, I've heard better CD players for sure when price is no object, and I think there's definitely room for improvement in the bass, and some micro detail could still be squeezed out like I've heard in better players. If there were effective mods available at reasonable cost I bet people would be interested...I'm just not really aware of how to upgrade this unit? Is that something you have to send the unit away for?

    Some people who like warmer sound might really like the tube output stage...I'd be interested in other mods.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven
    Kex, I found the same improvement in cymbals and high frequency when comparing my Blujean cables with my Monster M1000i's and M950i's which I bought on Ebay for $30. The BJC's had more pronounced and forward high frequencies. I found the M1000's to have a little more pronounced bass, but the high frequency resolution was clearly audible with the BJC's.
    Obviously something going on...I tried again this evening and definitely find the Monsters seem to roll off a bit at the top. I wouldn't say it chokes out detail, just loses a bit of air. Interesting.I think the BJC's use thicker gauge too than either the Emotiva or Monster cables I have (could be the pvc sheath though)...that might not be be insignificant over runs more than 6 ft, but I can't imagine having any audible affect for the 1.5 ft runs I have.

    I can't complain about the Monster cables I do have...I don't like the company's tactics or their regular prices but when you get them at discount they're a decent cable.

  11. #11
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    Ah.... Kex, you done it. I think you and I pretty much heard the ERC the same. When using the remote I found I do not like the fast forward, how it locks in and you have to hit play or toggle through to get back to regular play. I would rather just lift my finger at the point I think I want to stop. At first I thought the 3 speeds would be cool. What I do if possible is sit the remote down, like on the arm of the sofa and just push buttons that way opposed to picking it up. One thing you mentioned I differ some on, I wouldn't recommend the ERC with a bright system. I may have been listening to tubes too long but I find the ERC a bit brash. It's not offensive, especially on good gear but I have to wonder if some one with a receiver and bright speakers might find it to be. That is one large sound stage isn't it. Even with the set up I referred to I think the ERC will be performing beyond what they ever expected any way, so bright may not be a thought.

    Up to this point I have refrained from telling this here because we have so many skeptics. Frenchmon & I had a phenomenon when testing cables with the ERC on one occasion. I hooked it to my Krell integrated using the XLR, at the same time I had the BJC to another input and Frenchmon's A+ to another input. In theory I could switch between the 3 sets of cables and hear the difference. To our surprise we neither could hear a difference between any of them. I say this because you were talking about listening to cables. I don't know if the hang up was with the amp or ERC but we should have definitely heard a difference between a $300.00 pair of Transparent XLR's and the BJC. The gain normally heard via XLR wasn't even present. I know the difference between BJC and Transparent RCA was obvious.

    We have a Metal show once a week and they have been playing some Mastadon. I still can't quite get into it. I'm still looking to check out some COB. Kex, you have the Albert King/SRV Sessions?
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    One thing you mentioned I differ some on, I wouldn't recommend the ERC with a bright system. I may have been listening to tubes too long but I find the ERC a bit brash. It's not offensive, especially on good gear but I have to wonder if some one with a receiver and bright speakers might find it to be. That is one large sound stage isn't it. Even with the set up I referred to I think the ERC will be performing beyond what they ever expected any way, so bright may not be a thought.
    No, we agree on this too...I said in my first post the Arcam would mate better with excessively bright gear...in particular I was thinking of the Axiom M3Ti bookshelf speakers I have. They're a nice little speaker, but they do have a lot of energy between 1-5 KHz, and not the the most laid back tweeter. I find them a bit fatiguing with some types of music in that system after a few hours...I wouldn't see the ERC-1 diminishing this...The darker sound of the Arcam actually compliments them quite well. The Arcam isn't quite as detailed, lively, or big sounding, but I think it's more forgiving. I could see a lot of people just not liking the ERC-1 from personal preference the same way I don't like a lot of tube gear. But I also think you touched on a point - people with receivers and step-up-from-entry-level B&W, Paradigm, speakers are probably going to be coming from DVD players or Denon cd changers and will be happy to hear new things in the music.

    Up to this point I have refrained from telling this here because we have so many skeptics. Frenchmon & I had a phenomenon when testing cables with the ERC on one occasion. I hooked it to my Krell integrated using the XLR, at the same time I had the BJC to another input and Frenchmon's A+ to another input. In theory I could switch between the 3 sets of cables and hear the difference. To our surprise we neither could hear a difference between any of them. I say this because you were talking about listening to cables. I don't know if the hang up was with the amp or ERC but we should have definitely heard a difference between a $300.00 pair of Transparent XLR's and the BJC. The gain normally heard via XLR wasn't even present. I know the difference between BJC and Transparent RCA was obvious.
    I think in absence of noise over short runs, there shouldn't be any reason why the XLR's would sound different at all vs an equivalent RCA cable. Unless it's just a better cable regarless of being balanced. But, I wonder if you might notice the differences if you were to only have 1 set plugged into the gear at a time? Completely isolate the cables? Who knows? I had a faint noise of some sort introduced by my HD cable box into my system. Not ground loop, much different...I had to use an optical cable to get rid of it. Some things don't like being chained together I guess. Or maybe it's just one of the limits of this $399 player?

    People here know I'm not one to run off the benefits of spending thousands on cables anytime soon - hell I'm as objective as they come without denying possibilities - but there's a very real sound difference here between my BJC and Monsters. I have a set of Kimber Hero's in my other rig I could try, and I can easily borrow a set of Kimber Cable Silver Streak interconnects from someone just a few miles away...he gave me the Hero's - I'll try and do that this weekend. It'll seem weird to plug in RCA's that cost more than CD player but what the hell.

    We have a Metal show once a week and they have been playing some Mastadon. I still can't quite get into it. I'm still looking to check out some COB. Kex, you have the Albert King/SRV Sessions?
    I don't have the Albert King/SRV stuff, but I should get it.

    Last night I made it through Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto I. The ERC-1 plays back piano with a sparkle my Arcam doesn't. I f'n hate using the word sparkle but that's the best my wife and I could come up with. Just some of the harmonics and timbres that help define an instruments sound.

    I wish I had access to Arcam's current $900 player (cd17) - I'm guessing their newer DAC's have improved a bit over mine, plus whatever other refinements they've made in 5 years - might be a neat shoot out.
    Last edited by kexodusc; 01-16-2010 at 02:37 AM.

  13. #13
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    I missed understood what you said, it was late, or early, how ever you want to look at it

    A true balanced connection is about 6 dB more gain. That should be noticeable. The differences are noticeable when isolated listening. Where my Krell is now, in the workout room, isn't the best set up for critical listening any way.

    If you are King fan the Sessions is a must. Copies are becoming scarce you may not want to wait too long.

    The 72t was a great player for the money. The fact the ERC is in there with it or sometimes preferrable says a great deal for the ERC. It should be a no brainer, a term I hate to use but seems appropriate, for any one wanting great sound on a budget or the best bang for their buck.
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    I've had the ERC-1 in my second system for some time now, it is connected to my Krell 500i via Transparent XLR cables, and 500i driving Dynaudio's Audience 60's. It is quite an achievement for a player costing what the ERC does to sound good enough to be connected to a Krell without driving you out of the room. I had to revisit one of these ERC threads because I am still being amazed by it. Interesting I found this one to visit because the other day I was listening to Opeth, Watershed, and was taken back by how good it sounded, and the fact that the keyboards that are normally almost buried on some systems were very audible and part of the song again. I may get a ticket from the decor guards because the Krell and Emo clash visually like no one's business but they play very well together and that's saying something for the ERC.
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    Forum Regular harley .guy07's Avatar
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    Its the sound that matters most to me not what the components look like together. but that's just me. I have had many components that together look like a patchwork pillow but sound great when paired together. I for now am going to run a good DAC with my Oppo BDP-83 and see what I can get out of that before I go with a dedicated cd player but it is good to kow that this player is an option if I decide that it is in need.

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  16. #16
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    I've had the ERC-1 in my second system for some time now, it is connected to my Krell 500i via Transparent XLR cables, and 500i driving Dynaudio's Audience 60's. It is quite an achievement for a player costing what the ERC does to sound good enough to be connected to a Krell without driving you out of the room. I had to revisit one of these ERC threads because I am still being amazed by it. Interesting I found this one to visit because the other day I was listening to Opeth, Watershed, and was taken back by how good it sounded, and the fact that the keyboards that are normally almost buried on some systems were very audible and part of the song again. I may get a ticket from the decor guards because the Krell and Emo clash visually like no one's business but they play very well together and that's saying something for the ERC.
    Mr P, you need to buy an Emotiva XPA-2 (ummm... as a backup in case your Krell dies or something like that) and then you can compare it to the 500i and see whether the Emotiva is able to put up a decent fight!

  17. #17
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by harley .guy07
    Its the sound that matters most to me not what the components look like together.
    Could you please refrain from misleading Mr Peabody? What he really needs to do is get a complete Emotiva setup, that way the aesthetics will match perfectly...

  18. #18
    Forum Regular
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    St. Louis, MO, USA
    Posts
    9,450
    Harley, I didn't know you picked up the Oppo. Does the analog out sound pretty good for CD playback? A DAC would be a hard decision since a cheap one would be the Cambridge or Music Hall which would cost as much if not more than an ERC-1. And, I have my doubts as to them sounding better. I think the MH would have a drastically different sound though.

    Ajani, I'd love to have a set of Emo's monoblocks with their stereo preamp. It would even be cool to get some biampable speakers and just play as the preamp has the built in crossover. Unfortunately, I don't have that much expendable income. I am accepting donations though.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  19. #19
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    Posts
    4,679
    Hey Harley, there's a guy on the audiocirlce forums that has a Van Alstine T-8 tube DAC that he is selling for $565 because he bought the new Vision Van Alstine DAC. The T-8 sold for about $1500. If your interested I'll give you the link. There is also a Van Alstine hybrid tube-ss Ultra preamp for sale for $1200, it normally sells for $1799. It's a great preamp. Its the one that I am currently using.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp, Pass X-1 Preamp
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Van Alstine Ultra Hybrid Tube Preamp and Ultra Hybrid Tube DAC
    Martin Logan Original Dynamo Sub
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

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