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  1. #1
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    First visit to a real audio store.

    I made my first visit to a high end audio store this weekend. I initially was just going to replace my broken receiver at Best Buy but only saw alot of home theater equiment and couldn't find a sales man (not that I would trust them) and gave up.

    I then went to a store that I know used to carry higher end stuff. Well even though the sales man said that they carry the high end audio stuff, for some reason he never really showed me. I may have confused him when he asked my budget and didn't really have an answer. Even though I said I was looking for audio the guy demoed a home theater system that you, can " punch this button and its now a stereo". It was an $800 Yamaha and was run through some $800 Polk floor speakers ( sorry, I didnt remember the models #'s) Well my first impression was that it sounded very good to me, much better than my 25 year old Technics (and other similar gear) cheap stereo. I probably would be ok with this setup but it still seemed I was paying for things I didn't really want.

    I discovered this site and decided to at least look into a real audio store. I noticed alot of good comments on Paradigm Studio 20's v.3 here so I went to Audio Concepts here in Dallas. The salesman payed alot of attention to me when i described my goals. He seemed to ask all the right questions, like what size room and what not. He hooked me up with a Nad integrated amplifier (a new one with reciever built in) and a room very similar to the one I will be using, at least size wise. I was very impressed. This is the first time I have ever listened to a good system. I could immediatly hear alot of things on some familiar cd's that i had never heard before.

    But, I was concerened by the over all brightness of the sound. I described the sound to him as direct and in my face for lack of the terminology. He suggested " to much presence" and I guess that could describe what I was hearing. He came back with Paradigm Atom speakers. These speakers did not have the in your face directness as the Studio 20's but all the nice stuff was gone too. He hooked up another pair, ( I think it was the monitor , another paradigm.) and it was kind of a compromise. Some of the detail was back and also some of the directness, but i was now missing the good things about the Studio 20's and he hooked these back up for me.

    I listened for a bit and asked would it be silly to maybe turn the treble down. I really liked his answer here. "If you have to mess with the controls then this is not the right sound for you. The amplifier is supposed to work with the speakers and any tone control input is a compromise". I at this point have alot of trust in this guy. I knew going in from hearing their advertising that they sell sytems and are really serious about getting people what they want and need.

    He then hooked me up with a Linn system, I didn't ask the model number (or price) but I thought this system had a really "punchy" bass sound that I didn't like at all. About this time I had to leave to meet some friends, the sales man said that is good since you really shouldn't demo speakers for more than 45 minutes or so anyway. I am going to head back next weekend. He said he had some ideas to try on me.

    Well after a pretty long introduction, I am going to finally get to to my questions. The salesman said the system I was listening was fairly well balanced for the price range and was surprised by my reaction to the presence, and brightness. Is it because this better audio equipment is the first time I have heard this high frequency detail? I remember it took me quite awhile to get used to cd's over records. Is this another similar leap, where I have to attune my ears to hearing all the detail before I can enjoy the music.

    I talked to a friend who said I would need a Sub. I am reluctant because I usually don't like alot of bass in my music ( my friend is a bass player hehe ). Also I live in an apartment and do not really want to emphasis the bass. I have read that the Studio 20's are not a full range speaker and are a bit bright sounding. I really liked the detail though and have only heard good things about them. I don't really have a budget set, I told the salesman if he could make me happy for $1000 that would be nice. If it costs twice that or more then I can be convinced. Well the Nad/ Studio 20 system with connects is probably at 2k and that is fine. I need some advice on other speakers to try, Audio Concepts carries several other lines of all price ranges. Is a floor speaker going to make a difference over a stand mount small box ( i'm sure the answer is yes a difference but what difference).

    Another question is what other high end audio stores are there in Dallas in case I don't find what I need at Audio Concepts. I have been looking around on the web and on the yellow pages but its hard to find who carries the good stuff. I was really impressed with the salesman I had and hope I can buy from him, but would like to have alternatives.

    I have learned alot in the couple days I have been reading up on this web site. I have never payed much attention to Hi-Fi equipment before but as an amatuer musician feel I have a pretty good ear. I have done some recording and mixing and I think I can learn about sound and can pay attention to detail. Any advice that you hardcore audiophiles can provide will be appeciated.

    I guess my plans of buying a cheap replacement receiver are out the window. I can afford a much better system than what I have, and don't know why I really never thought about upgrading before. I don't want to go the trial and error method and buy something that I won't be happy with long term. If it is getting used to hearing the detail that is bothering me then I am willing to take the chance that I will learn to like it. It sounds like I just need to listen to alot more stuff before I make my decision.

  2. #2
    Forum Regular anamorphic96's Avatar
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    This could be several things. One likely thing is your not use to the detail you are hearing. It took me a bit when I finally received my first set of real speakers.

    It might also be youre room. Are there alot of hard surfaces that can refelct sound. Is there carpet ? A room can destroy the sound of a system in some cases.

  3. #3
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    First off, what are you trying to accomplish? Just upgrading the receiver, or the entire system? You've basically taken a first step and started sifting through some of the options available to you.

    Paradigm is a good value across their entire lineup. The Studio series is their second most refined series (only the much more expensive Signature series sits above it), and whether or not it sounds "bright" is subjective. The Studio 20 v.3 is one of my favorite speakers out there right now. It's a nice all-arounder, and has some of the best imaging I've heard from a conventional box speaker in that price range. But, their highs are generally more pronounced than some other brands out there, so if that type of sound does not fit your preferences, then you should keep on listening.

    Some other brands that you should look for include B&W, KEF, Dynaudio, Magnepan, Vandersteen, Energy, PSB, Von Schweikert, Vienna Acoustics, Sonus Faber, Focal JM Lab, Boston Acoustics, Definitive Technology, and Monitor Audio. Those brands all make speakers in that same general price range, and are fairly easy to find in most major cities, but are generally carried exclusively by specialty audio retailers (you won't find them in big box general merchandise stores). The local phonebook should at least give you a starting point, and you can also look up these companies' websites and locate the dealers close to you.

    In general, tone controls have been frowned upon by the high end community because they represent a source of signal degradation. But, if a speaker or the room acoustics conspire to boost the highs, then I see no issue with using a tone control. The main drawback is that tone controls generally use a fixed center frequency with a wide bandwidth, which means that you don't necessarily target the worst of the brightness problem and the wide bandwidth means that you also potentially change other high frequencies that might have sounded fine before.

    In general, the two biggest factors that define how your system sounds are the speakers and the room acoustics. The amplification is a step behind those other factors in importance, and cables fall yet another step behind.

    With the room acoustics, something that sounds bright in a dealer demo room might sound muffled and dull at home, depending on the room effects. In general, you should do your final listenings at home (i.e. borrow the demo units from the dealer and try them out). Ideally, you should do as many comparisons in the same room as possible.

    As far as tower versus standmount, in general it's more difficult to built a tower speaker right. And in my listenings, there are very few tower speakers in the under $1,000 price range that don't have some kind of major flaw with cabinet resonance or diminished imaging or other anomalies compared to the standmount versions. The main advantage of tower speakers is that they produce more bass. If bass is not one of the top priorities, then you should focus on standmounts because they will typically sound better in other facets.

  4. #4
    Forum Regular thepogue's Avatar
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    hopefully you'll get lots of advice...but I'll give you the down and dirty

    first and foremost your on the right road...listen to as many systems as you can...let your ears be the judge...go back more than one time and go back to as many shops as you can...and you'll find that you'll be more familiar with each brand....the sales guy sounds cool...but 2K for an NAD Paradigm set-up sounds too pricey fer me...Paradigms tend to be forward sounding but as to it's worth thats 100% up to you...I like what your sales guy said about the tone control...it would be like sitting in a new car...looking at the dash set-up..and thinking...hmmm...I dont really like it but I could buy some aftermarket kit and change it...shoot why not just look for the car wiff the dash you like...ya know...(I'm sure that's not a good analogy but you get me point)

    most important dont left anyone bamboozle you into thinking one way or another about a particular sound or brand..get out there and listen listen listen then buy what YOU think sounds best...and remember above all things...this hobby is suppose to be FUN....sometimes around here that plain truth falls through the cracks...

    BTW I own Paradigms and a Linn TT...Linn always seemed WAY overrated (in the speaker department)

    one more point...buying used is THE BEST way to get your $$$ worth!!! IMHO

    Peace,-out, Pogue
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  5. #5
    Forum Regular paul_pci's Avatar
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    Finding stores …

    As always, Woochifer gives great advice and clear insight. Take those speaker brands and go to the manufacturers web page. From there click on "dealers" and punch in your zip code and you'll find a host of high end audio deelers you never knew existed in your area.

    Happy Shopping.

  6. #6
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    The 2K price sounds high! I paid 799 for by studio 40s - so watch what you are paying for the 20s. If you want 2 channel try a tube amp. I too was going to purchase a NAD integrated and after listening to the Jolida 202a, I changed my mind. Just my $.02

  7. #7
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    Good advice so far.

    I forgot to say that the 2k price so far included a cd player that I may or may not get. It also included cabling and interconnects which I am sceptical will make any difference at this level of gear. I didn't really talk price specifically yet, just a general range. I am also not locked into a 2 k budget. I was starting at 1k and could go higher than 2k but haven't really determined which componants I will end up buying.

    I initially just needed a tuner but thought I may as well upgrade my whole sytem. One question I have come up with is people talk about an amplifier bieng able to drive a speaker. Is this an issue at low volumes, I will probably never really crank this system up as I live in an apartment.

    Thanks for your input so far, I still am having a hard time locating dealers. The phone book has lots of general electronics stores but it is hard to distiguish the high end stuff. Part of the problem is that home theater seems to have dominated the market and buried all the pure audio. I looked up several of the speaker brands recommended and the dealers I was able to track down on the web all seemed geared to things other than audio. I just need to ask around town more. Dallas is a fairly affluent area so I imagine there has to be a good amount of dealers.

  8. #8
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wfontenot
    The 2K price sounds high! I paid 799 for by studio 40s - so watch what you are paying for the 20s. If you want 2 channel try a tube amp. I too was going to purchase a NAD integrated and after listening to the Jolida 202a, I changed my mind. Just my $.02
    That price is probably for the v.2 Studio series. Prices went up by 15 to 25 percent when they went to the v.3 series. Current list prices on the Studio series are $800 for the 20 and $1,100 for the 40.

    Tubes can sound nice, but they are definitely a matter of preference. The tube setups that I've liked best have been hybrid setups, with tubes in the preamp and solid state components in the output stage.

  9. #9
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gruupi
    I forgot to say that the 2k price so far included a cd player that I may or may not get. It also included cabling and interconnects which I am sceptical will make any difference at this level of gear. I didn't really talk price specifically yet, just a general range. I am also not locked into a 2 k budget. I was starting at 1k and could go higher than 2k but haven't really determined which componants I will end up buying.
    Put most of the budget to the speakers. At $2k for a two-channel system, you got plenty of flexibility on the amplification. $600 can get you a pretty nice integrated amp that can drive most of the better speakers out there. Forget about spending megabucks on fancy cables. Get thick gauge speaker cables with decent quality insulation jackets (basically to prevent corrosion), and interconnects with well shielded connectors. These don't have to cost a lot. So long as you go one step above the cheap generic OEM cabling, you'll be fine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gruupi
    I initially just needed a tuner but thought I may as well upgrade my whole sytem. One question I have come up with is people talk about an amplifier bieng able to drive a speaker. Is this an issue at low volumes, I will probably never really crank this system up as I live in an apartment.
    In general, all things in audio have points of diminishing returns as the price goes higher. The amplification is a sliding scale depending on how demanding the speaker is. Keep in mind that with most speakers, it takes less than one watt to crank them to moderately high volumes. A decent set of two-channel separates can cost less than $1,000, and drive just about every speaker.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gruupi
    Thanks for your input so far, I still am having a hard time locating dealers. The phone book has lots of general electronics stores but it is hard to distiguish the high end stuff. Part of the problem is that home theater seems to have dominated the market and buried all the pure audio. I looked up several of the speaker brands recommended and the dealers I was able to track down on the web all seemed geared to things other than audio. I just need to ask around town more. Dallas is a fairly affluent area so I imagine there has to be a good amount of dealers.
    I would imagine there are plenty of high end audio dealers in the Metroplex area. Forget about trying to distinguish between home theater and audio stores -- they're pretty much one and the same. Very few audio stores nowadays can survive just selling two-channel equipment, that's simple reality. The stores that have survived are generally the ones that have added home theater to their product mix, because that's where the market has shifted, and it's where the margins are still the highest because home theater installations are the one part of the market that has not been taken over by internet discounters and big box chain stores.

    But, just because a store sells home theater components does not mean that they lack expertise in two-channel audio. My local Paradigm dealer has dedicated theater rooms with HD projectors, Anthem, Theta, Arcam, Rotel, Lexicon, and Parasound multichannel amps and processors, and Wilson, Paradigm, and Revel speakers. But, they also have two other analog rooms with two-channel electronics like Conrad-Johnson, Hovland, Manley Labs, Musical Fidelity, Halcro, and Mark Levinson, turntables from SME, VPI, and Clearaudio, and other speaker choices such as Joseph, Avalon, Avantgarde, and Innersound. They sell and demo audio equipment, but stay in business because of their contracting and theater installation services.

    At least in the phone books in my area, most of the more prominent dealers have display ads that list the equipment and services offered. That's your first group of possible stores to visit, then you should just look up the dealer locators on manufacturer websites, which will add to the possible stores in your area.

  10. #10
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gruupi
    .

    I initially just needed a tuner but thought I may as well upgrade my whole sytem. One question I have come up with is people talk about an amplifier bieng able to drive a speaker. Is this an issue at low volumes, I will probably never really crank this system up as I live in an apartment.
    The general rule followed by most around here is to start with the speakers you like. Then find an amp, integrated amp or a receiver that can drive your speakers. The speaker's efficiency will tell you something about how much power you need. For example, a 4ohm speaker with a sensitivity rating of say 86 will need a powerful, high current amp to perform at their best. On the other hand, an 8ohm speaker with a sensitivity rating of 88 to 90 won't need quite as much power. Even the best speakers won't provide all the detail they're capable of revealing at low volumes with insuffucuent power. Most agree that too little power is worse for your speakers than too much. For example, a speaker with a rating of 25-100 watts will generally work well with an amp that's rated at 150 watts per channel because very rarely if ever will your amp be pushing the whole 150 watts.

    Some speaker/amp combos don't reveal as much detail at low volumes as compared to when the volume is cranked. This is pretty common, but can be remedied by the right match. It sounds like you know what you want - a smooth but detailed treble, bass down to about 38-40Hz, no drop off in detail or ambient information at low volumes and perhaps a laid back presentation where the sound stage begins at the speaker plane and goes back instead of projecting into the room. You should be able to find plenty of standmount/bookshelf speakers that can accomplish this - Vandersteen 1C (which is actually a "floorstander" with stands), maybe the new PSB Image 25, Quad 11L or 12L, Dynaudio Audience 42 or 52 (Dynaudios may require a little more power than the others.) Some say that the Vandersteens are an aquired taste, but if you think about it, just about every speaker is. You should be able to find all these in Dallas. These speakers generally range from around $450-900. Others here can recommend speakers in the $1000-1200 range, but you'll need some cash for amplification and maybe a cd player. BTW, you can save a lot of money by getting a used tuner. Go here and do a little research: www.fmtunerinfo.com


    Rotel makes good value amps. Adcom's been around for a long time. Creek's 5350SE integrated has been reduced from 1500 to 1350 list. Plus, Creek has a new integrated that's less than $1000. The Vandersteens will probably work well with a tube integrated from Jolida or Antique Sound Labs. Arcam makes some highly regarded integrated amps and cd players. I've owned 3 NAD amps but I'm a little disappointed with what I've heard about the 320BEE, but I haven't heard anything bad about the C352 or C372. We also have a Cambridge Audio Azur series integrated in the house, but your budget may allow you to do a little better. If you're not afraid to go used, you can get a decent pair of seperates for well under $1000. I have a Parasound P/HP 850 preamp ($249 new) and an Acurus A100 (almost new for $300). For $550 these do very well. The Parasound preamp has a headphone jack and phono section to boot.

    Remember to be patient and listen. The hunt is half the fun!

  11. #11
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    Many "High-End" stores have sales people who are snobbs....as if they can afford a $10K amp and you cant. I hate snobby people, esp sales people. I do my research elsewhere, never ask for help...because 99.9% of the time I know WAY more than they do anyways. I bring my own music, totally ignore the help [sales-staff] and shop around to buy what I like at the best price, be it online or other. Some High-End saloons in my area see me coming into the store and know from past experience not to help me, leave me alone and they know chances are I wont buy anything and if I do I just ask for it buy it and leave.

    Once I had a very bad experiece at the Gramaphone in Birmingham MI withthe owner of the store. I ordered some Monster Balanced IC's and went in for a refund "before" they had be ordered from Monster or shipped. But the owner was there and decided to make a fool of himself and try to give me a hard time for wanting a refund on what I ordered. Little did he know, while he was spouting off at the mouth talking about how its policy not to refund special orders blah, blah, blah and that I should be "thankful and thinking of the saleman for helping me" the sales clerk had already ran my credit card through and refunded my money. Needless to say, over the years and spending some 10K on various gear and wire I will never patronize their store. Nor would I lead any of my up and coming audio friends to his store.

  12. #12
    SuperPoser Rock789's Avatar
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    I recently took 3 months to decide on my home theater system...
    check out as many different brands as you can!...
    I probably listened to 30 different speakers before I purchased my focal jmlab speakers...
    some other speakers seemed very close in quality to my ears, but the jmlab's ended up on top in my opinion...
    as for receivers, I eneded up with the denon over a pioneer elite or nad only because of the inputs...

    check out the the NAD C 740, which is around $550.
    also, if you can find a dealer who has focal jmlab, listen to the chorus 716 s, some people say they are bright, but to me they sound great...

    other speakers I would suggest checking out would be: Phase Technology V-12's and Mirage Loudspeakers OM-9

    goodluck in your search
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  13. #13
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    Done deal :)

    I went to a couple of places and listened to some more speakers. Dynaudio C1.4 and B&W 704 & 705 sounded good. I really liked these but when I went back and listened to the Paradigm studio 20's and 60's I decided on the studio 20's v.3. Even though the 60's did have more bass, I felt that the 20's bright clear sound was the best. Plus in an apartment, extra bass is the only thing that will disturb my neighbors.

    Total price for the speakers and a NAD C720bee was only $1400, less than half of the dynaudio speakers alone. I honestly couldn't say I liked the other speakers better so now I have money to upgrade my turntable and CD player if I desire.

    I have listened to several CD's on the system and so far all I can say is "wow". I wished I had done this upgrade 10 years ago. I always thought high end sound was a bunch of hogwash, but I guess I have learned to listen closer. After doing some recording a few years back, I guess my ear has gotten to be alot more critical and I could here things I never payed attention to before. This new system opens the door even further and besides just sounding " better" I can really further appreciate the tones of some of my favorite artists. YoYoMa, Glenn Gould, and Eric Johnson all sound better as I am sure that any well recorded music will as I plow through my collection.

    I doubt that I will get another speaker or amp for the rest of my life unless I win the lotto. The leap from my old technics sytem to this is enough hopefully. I don't really thing I need to find the holy grail of sound sytems. I appreciate the advice every one gave me, and I felt I learned quite a bit in the relativly short search to upgrade my gear. The comments all over the web saying that the Paradigm studio 20's were such a bargain certainly influenced my decision. But I have to agree they sound as good as speakers costing more than twice as much at the volume levels I listen at.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    That price is probably for the v.2 Studio series. Prices went up by 15 to 25 percent when they went to the v.3 series. Current list prices on the Studio series are $800 for the 20 and $1,100 for the 40.

    Tubes can sound nice, but they are definitely a matter of preference. The tube setups that I've liked best have been hybrid setups, with tubes in the preamp and solid state components in the output stage.
    My studio 40's retailed for 1K, but the dealer dropped the price to 800. I also listened to the hybrid jolidas, but the pure tube was an improvement over the hybrid.

  15. #15
    Forum Regular paul_pci's Avatar
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    Congratulations on a successful audio hunt. I'm sure you'll be happy with yor set up for quite some time to come, but don't be surprise if the upgrade bug bites you some time down the road, especially if you hang out here enough.


    Quote Originally Posted by Gruupi
    I went to a couple of places and listened to some more speakers. Dynaudio C1.4 and B&W 704 & 705 sounded good. I really liked these but when I went back and listened to the Paradigm studio 20's and 60's I decided on the studio 20's v.3. Even though the 60's did have more bass, I felt that the 20's bright clear sound was the best. Plus in an apartment, extra bass is the only thing that will disturb my neighbors.

    Total price for the speakers and a NAD C720bee was only $1400, less than half of the dynaudio speakers alone. I honestly couldn't say I liked the other speakers better so now I have money to upgrade my turntable and CD player if I desire.

    I have listened to several CD's on the system and so far all I can say is "wow". I wished I had done this upgrade 10 years ago. I always thought high end sound was a bunch of hogwash, but I guess I have learned to listen closer. After doing some recording a few years back, I guess my ear has gotten to be alot more critical and I could here things I never payed attention to before. This new system opens the door even further and besides just sounding " better" I can really further appreciate the tones of some of my favorite artists. YoYoMa, Glenn Gould, and Eric Johnson all sound better as I am sure that any well recorded music will as I plow through my collection.

    I doubt that I will get another speaker or amp for the rest of my life unless I win the lotto. The leap from my old technics sytem to this is enough hopefully. I don't really thing I need to find the holy grail of sound sytems. I appreciate the advice every one gave me, and I felt I learned quite a bit in the relativly short search to upgrade my gear. The comments all over the web saying that the Paradigm studio 20's were such a bargain certainly influenced my decision. But I have to agree they sound as good as speakers costing more than twice as much at the volume levels I listen at.

  16. #16
    Forum Regular risabet's Avatar
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    Welcome to a . . .

    world of fantastic expense, no wait, musical enjoyment coupled with fantastic expense . i am glad that your first experience was so positive. Be loyal to the good dealers, thay are few and far between, IMO.

    Linn LP-12 (Origin Live Advanced PS w/DC Motor) Benz "ACE" medium output*TAD-150*Tube Audio Design TAD-1000 monoblocs*Parasound CD-P 1000*NAD 4020A Tuner*Velodyne F-1000 Subwoofer*Toshiba SD-4700 DVD*Motorola DTP-5100 HD converter*Pioneer PDP-4300*Martin-Logan Clarity*Audioquest cables and interconnects* Panamax 5100 power conditioner

  17. #17
    Forum Regular gonefishin's Avatar
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    sounds like you've found a nice path for yourself
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    enjoy the music!

  18. #18
    Forum Regular thepogue's Avatar
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    congrats on the new speaks...

    the 20's are a fine set indeed....as for keep ing your system forever....



    yea...right...lmao


    Peace-out, Pogue
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  19. #19
    Forum Regular Florian's Avatar
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    Gratulations, everything seems to fit nicely for you.

    -Flo
    Lots of music but not enough time for it all

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