Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Curiosity: The Force That Drives Us As Audiophiles

Every few months, I tear my system down completely. I do it to discern the efficacy of the various tweaks I use, and also to test new components.

This time, my teardown goal was to create a very good, but minimal system. I had been listening to my regular system for quite some time, but had recently replaced the BMF's with the Audience ClairAudient 1+1 V2+ speakers. I needed to break the ClairAudient's in for a customer's upcoming audition, and it created the opportunity to design a small but extremely musical system.

The Original System

The gear

This is the system I initially listened to for several days before moving on to the first test system. It gave me a sense of what was possible with the ClairAudient speakers.

I placed the Audience V2+  were 8 feet from the back wall, and a minimum of 5 feet from the side walls. The room is 39 feet long, so the wall behind my listening position was not an issue either. 

The original system was super quiet and exhibited the best characteristics of the Audience speakers, as it should (for more on that, here is the link to my review of the ClairAudient V2+). The detail level, tone and textures were mesmerizing. The soundstage width, depth and height were equally astounding. There is a purity to the sound of a full range speaker with no crossover that is hard to put into words. It creates a very emotional experience with the right music. This system exhibited a lifelike representation of music that one would normally have to spend CONSIDERABLY more money to attain. The absence of  a crossover allowed for a purity of dynamics, resolution and tone that made you stop whatever you were doing and just listen.

The Cables & Power Conditioning (these will remain in the system)

Beginning "Minimalist" System

Acoustic Imagery Atsah 500 Mono Amplifier. It uses
NCore technology and produces 700 watts into 4 ohms.

I used the built in DAC and volume control on the Aries Mini in my effort to simplify the system. Trying to see what the minimum configuration might sound like. I let the new configuration warm up for a couple hours before listening. It most certainly was not as good as the original system, but if someone were looking to build a system over time, the above components would certainly provide a very satisfactory sound. It was slightly edgier, with a smaller soundstage and less detail. The tone was a little warmer in the midbass, and it added a slight coloration to male vocals. Adding the Bybee Gold Crystal RCA adapters to the amp inputs smoothed out the edges and added more width and depth to the soundstage. A pair of High Fidelity Cable Magnetic RCA adapters at the source end (a second set of Bybee adapters will not fit on the narrow RCA outputs of the Aries Mini) adds a tiny bit more transparency and overall dynamic snap.

But the real insanity was this...
I didn't use speaker cables to connect the Atsah amps to the ClairAudient speakers. Instead, I used a single Bybee SE speaker purifier to connect speaker to amp. The binding posts were spaced well enough to accomplish this task, and the results were spectacular.
Speaker setting atop Acoustic Imagery Atsah 500,
Agora Acoustic Magic Hexas separating the two.

Bybee Connection from amp to Speaker..
No speaker cable required.
The Bybees added even more  resolution and musicality to the already great sound. Most noteable was the sense of openness and the incredible disappearing act the speakers did. The spacing is nearly perfect when you place a set of Agora Acoustics MagicHexas between the Atsah 500 and ClairAudient speakers. Eliminating the need for speaker cables entirely.  Not bad for a sub $5000 system*.

The coherance, textures, imaging and soundstaging were first rate. Downright shocking. This system excels at acoustic and vocal music, but can play anything short of dubstep. You are not going to have deep bass in this setup unless you invest in a subwoofer. But what you do get with this system is music that will draw you in with life like tone and energy.

So now the question became "what would happen if I added the Auralic Linear Power Supply and bypassed the internal volume control on the Aries Mini for a regular preamp"? These were the obvious weak links in the system, and the next step in the evolution of the system. This will have to wait for our next episode however... Stay Tuned!

*Sub $5000 for Audience V2+ speakers, Auralic Aries Mini, and 2 Acoustic Imagery Atsah 500 Amplifiers.

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