Cardas Golden Reference, CP-audio, Belden powercables
Finite Elemente Spider 90cm high (3 levels) rack
This setup belongs to my best friend whom I visit a lot with components, cables and other audio accessories. Over time I've grown intimitely familiar with this setup and almost consider it my secondary setup. Many components have been transported to my setup for evaluation and vice versa. It is no coincidence that many of our components are the same. This is because our tastes are very much alike. For years we have cross-infected each other with new stuff. For example, when he had a Sony XA50ES cd player I got one too, but with a modification. Then he had his clock upgraded and so did I. Then I bought a Wadia and listened to it in his setup. Then he bought a Wadia too. The same happened for Transparent cables, Jeff Rowland equipment, Cardas cables, Finite Elemente Racks and Ceraballs, various powercables etcetera. In short: both our systems grew better and better because of it. Right now, this is a very respectable and well-balanced system. But have a look at the picture at the bottom, to see how this system started...
Now, for the sound of this setup. It is at once open, airy and articulate as well as smooth, fluid and relaxing. This did not come easy though. The Apogees are difficult speakers to get right. They very easily start to glare when wrongly partnered or setup. But over the years, the owner has gotten the balance just right. The Apogees don't sound physically big but with good material, they can sure sound very enveloping. The sound certainly doesn't seem to come from the speaker directly but comes from an arc starting behind the speakers and reaching a meter or so to either side. These speakers set a benchmark for airiness in the treble. By this I don't mean an exaggerated treble but an openness and extension that is never aggressive or hard. Very few speakers come close. Luckily, in the Magnepan 3.6R's I have found speakers that almost can match this quality. Before I had bought the Maggies, I had Martin Logan SL3's and due to their age, the treble wasn't in top shape. Hence I always felt a bit annoyed, hearing my setup after his.
Using the Wadia as a CD source, the balance is very good. The open speakers compensate for the Wadia's darkness while the Wadia compensates for the speaker's lack of bass. But it isn't until you start playing records that you totally appreciate the utterly convincing soundstage and emotional quality of this setup. Although the Thorens is slightly lightweight, it is very compelling and is capable of speaking straight to your soul. Music floats between the speakers and with the right material can really fill the room with relaxed, smooth sound while the quick and agile bass is rhythmically underpinning the whole.
If there is one lesser side, it is the bass. Don't get me wrong here, it is very coherent and well-matched to the semi-ribbon. But it lacks some body, depth and drive. But taking the small cabinet size into account, what they accomplish is still very credible. And to be fair, if I disable the subwoofers, my Magnepan 3.6r's don't sound very meaty either. I guess that you just can't have it all.
This is how I first saw this setup, many years ago...