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John's 5As - new cables, new racks, new home for the gear . . .

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It's been a while since I've posted. Busy at work. But now I'm on a little break and I've made a few changes to the system so here goes . . .

After finding my way to the forum I had several entertaining conversations with Peter (CTSooner) and ended up buying the Audioquest William Tells that he was selling. Terrific upgrade from the Cardas Twinlinks I'd used for many years with my 2CEsigs. Truly discernible separation between voices and instruments. A real treat.

We also had discussions about racks. I had a used Grand Prix rack in for demo, which sounded great, but even used the price was rather heavenly. I also considered a used HRS rack. It would have been a fine choice, but again, the dollars. And to be honest, neither rack was ideal for my needs in terms of the amount of shelf space or the aesthetics I was after. In the end I stumbled across a company up in Novato, CA, Core Audio Design, that's been in production for nearly 20 years. After a few emails and phone conversations with Arnold Marr, Core's owner, who has been deep into his audio system for many, many years, I settled on a pair of 3 shelf racks which arrived about a month after I placed my order. (Arnold builds to order.) You can check out Core's website to see what they are up to in terms of their approach and design. Core's facebook page has a lot more images than their website. My interactions with Arnold were a pleasure from start to finish and I really love the racks. Perfect size, rock solid and sound great.

Then I got it in my head that life might be better if I moved the gear out from between the speakers and either up the side wall of the living room or in to the room across the entryway. Both distances are about the same, and all the LPs are in the other room so that's the project I took on earlier this week. I've got a used pair of 25' balanced Transparent Musiclink Ultras in on demo to see how I like this move. So far I am really liking it. Is their a sonic improvement? Yeah, I think so. But what I really like is the uncluttered space between the speakers that, to borrow a phrase from the theater, allows for the suspension of disbelief. In my mind this whole music through the stereo experience is a fantastically engineered, (by actual engineers,) illusion of reality that allows me to time travel to the Fillmore East for Hendrix's new year's eve 1970 shows, (just got the Band of Gypsy's box of LPs in!) or listen to Alfred Brendel in the studio playing a Beethoven sonata. And I'm finding it easier to cultivate that illusion without gazing at a rack full of gear, lights, and cables.

Here are some before and after photos. BTW, the Garrard 301 in the before picture and the Thorens 124 in the after picture aren't mine. A buddy of mine has generously allowed me to borrow them for a couple of weeks at a time. (Dash has yet another 301 at his place.) He dropped the Thorens off this morning. It has a Fidelity Research FS64s arm with a rebuilt Ortofon SPU G/T. My reaction to that set up is pretty simple - I want one!

I hope everyone is well. Best, John








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Yes, having listened some more since my post a while ago, in answer to my question, is their a sonic difference without the racks between the speakers, my response now is, Yes! A big positive difference .

The legs and veneer on the shelves are African Sapele. The shelves are apple ply that have had the center cores milled out to add damping material.

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It looks better without all the equipment in the middle, though I would put the amp in the center-if that is possible. -Not to be a b***ch, but I like symmetry.

I love that painting of the couple, could you move one of the record cases to the other wall (at a right angle)?  That way it wouldn't be partially obscured.

Lastly, I owned Transparent speaker cables. Not the top of the line, but one or two steps down. All I can say is AQ cable will sound better- Even Rocket 88 or GO-4.

William Tell would be my pick if you want the best.


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The Transparents are the 25' interconnects I am demoing that are running from the amp to the pre in the other room. The speaker cables are William Tells.

The amp placement has to do with the limits of the length of the interconnects. That's about all the run I can squeeze out of 25'. And to be honest, I'm ok with the asymmetry. My intention is to place something non audio related on the other end of the table - along the lines of an attractive pot with a colorful bouquet of something for example.

As for the painting behind the records, The Old Dogs, my wife painted that in grad school. It hung in our bedroom for a number of years and then at some point has migrated around the house. It's a big picture in a small house which doesn't leave me with a lot of options. I'm glad you liked it!

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The height of the shelves is fixed. I sent Arnold a list and dimensions of all my gear and even sent him photos of the room. He also verified dimensions on the amp and added an inch or two of space between the bottom shelf and the next one up to allow for enough ventilation for the amp. As I say, in addition to looking at the web site you should also find their Facebook pages. FB will show you a lot of photos of racks in rooms with components to give you an idea of their look. And if you are interested send an email or phone them during the work week and Arnold will get back to you.

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@jkmcc, are the interconnects Balanced?

If so, then disregard my prior comment. And congrats on the William Tell speaker cables, they are the best choice (though @ctsooner likes the WT Silvers).

I had some inexpensive XLR cables from Ralph Karsten (Mogami's), and switched to AQ Mackensie. I didn't notice a significant change in sound quality.

As a result, I concur with Ralph's belief that XLR cables are more immune to sonic differences, than RCA.

Lastly, let me congratulate your wife on her painting ability. It is a very engaging painting and deserves a better placement. Is the upper region, above the couple, depictions of the puppy in the girl's arms? Does it have a name?


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Hi Bob, yes, the interconnects are balanced.

And, as I said to my pal Dash, who has been lending me his turntables, the musical presentation in the room is better than it has ever been. Is that due to the open space between the speakers? The fancy interconnects that have been added? The relatively vibration free environment the turntable now lives in? Or simply the enhanced suspension of disbelief I mentioned above? I suspect it’s some combination of all of those things. 

As for the painting, it's called The Old Dogs. The dogs above are the old dogs that have died that are now looking down on the couple with the new dog. (Or something like that.)

Hope everyone is having a pleasant father's day. Best, John

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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree on balanced interconnects.  They 'matter', but not nearly as much as a short speaker cable of high quality.  The rack is stunning.  I'll have to check out his site.  Thanks for sharing.  Glad you love the Tell's...Happy they are in a good home.

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