HFA Audio Setup History 02 – The room needs attention, too
Curvy, wall-mounted audio magazine shelf, right bedside table, and left surround speaker. In the back are the rear wall with drawers for electronics parts and the start of a CD collection.
The ashtray might suggest otherwise but I was not smoking anything when designing these shelves.
On the left is the rack of AV equipment and next to that the storage for audio magazines. This storage system is under continuous development. When I’m in a creative mood I extend it without knowing exactly where it will end…
All wood furniture; tables, wall fixtures and cabinets that you can see in many pictures are designed and made by me. Over the years the wall has “accumulated” more and more extensions. For a special Ikea action you could send in pictures of your own implementation of Ikea furniture, I participated, my setup got placed and I won a gift certificate. Very nice!
The curvy work desk is very comfortable to work at. I can have multiple things on the table I work on without running out of space too quickly.
Desk and AV equipment (only for video). The special device next to the computer monitor is a Grass Valley panel that belonged to a huge Kalypso video mixing desk. I converted it to accept S-Video signals and for some time it functioned as a preview monitor for the video recorder.
February 2008 – A new look for the desk wall: cabinets above desk for a more tidy look.
Under the desk is a “cable tray” which over the years has grown out of porportion. It houses all kinds of dedicated power lines, power supplies, adapters, antenna amplifiers and splitters and audio and video cables. It started when I decided to make it difficult for myself because I wanted RGB signals for all sources to go to both main TV and bedroom TV. Counting my blessings: 4 RG59 video cables plus 2 audio cables per source. I have many sources and three TV/monitor destinations. RGB consists of 5 cables per source so you can image how quickly I needed larger cable trays…
btw, you think this is messy? Wait till you see the next picture…
Believe it or not: I’m actually cleaning up the cables here. Because the videosetup had been dramatically simplified, a lot of cables could be taken out.
At some point I had enough of the large desk. I wanted a more centrally positioned desk so out it had to go. I quickly sew it in two so there was no way back… I left the computer area intact for the time being. I couldn’t handle rewiring it all. Remember the cable gutter? It was still there…
Eventually I found the courage to remove it too. Luckily, by now the videosetup was very much simplified and the cabling with it. My sources had diminished and I had removed most of the unnecessary cabling beforehand.
Shown in position, normally the 100KG heavy TV is rolled to the side. With the arrival of the Martin Logan SL3 electrostatic speakers I was introduced to a new world of transparency, resolution and naturalness. The Logans are not dry-sounding themselves but can start sounding so when driven with some amplifiers, and especially when a Wadia DAC or CD player is connected straight to the power amplifier, without preamp. The Bryston 7BST mono’s (contrary to popular opinion themselves also not dry per se) were initially not a good match for the SL3’s, but a change in cables, and a lowering of the Wadia’s output level made a big difference.
After a while however I started to think that the Logans were capable of better sound than the Brystons were able to deliver. Compared to what I heard at my friend JW’s place (Apogee Centaur hybrid magnetostatics with Rowland model 6 monos) my midrange could be subtler and treble could definitely be more refined and airy. I took the Brystons to JW’s place and drove the little Centaurs with them: we couldn’t believe the bass power that the speakers proved to be capable of! Also we were amazed by how good the Brystons were overall, not at all PA-like but quite smooth instead. However a comparison with the Rowland model sixes quickly showed that the Brystons lacked refinement, soundstage layering and overall finesse.
This urged me to start looking for other amplification, and via a stereo Array followed by mono Arrays, I stumbled upon a pair of Rowland model sixes.
Beautiful audio sculptures
Throughout all the changes and for almost a year the Logans and 804’s were connected and set up side by side.
Precision Audio Cable Elevators – they really work! They open up the sound, making the bass tighter and faster and improving overall communicativeness. In the end, for me they were too much of a good thing because the Logans are already a bit too detailed and I found that they stood in the way of relaxed listening.
Trying out a different setup around 2005 – it failed miserably. The Logans need much more space than the room can provide this way. The soundstage became flat and 2D and the music became very uninvolving.
Time to choose between SL3s and 804’s
For the longest time, the Logans had been flanked by the Nautilus 804’s and I now owned my second pair. I had sold and re-purchased them too easily and had to be extra-super-certain. But now they had been living side by side with the Logans for about a year and they were only used for watching movies. During this year the Logans seemed entirely happy to play with the 804’s in their midst. The funny thing was that when I removed the 804’s, the Logans would sound less focused, and so I thought there were no gains in removing the 804’s. That is, until I removed the 804’s and spent an entire evening repositioning the Logans. The result? More air and better soundstage layering in the depth plane.
Now that I sold the big Wega TV, I was finally ready to part with the 804’s but they would remain in the room for some time as second setup connected to a TV setup that was needed because the video projector would not produce bright pictures during the day.
This was when LCD TVs started to become affordable, and CRTs were starting to go out of fashion. Can you imagine that this 36 inch Sony TV that I bought new on special offer for 2800 euro, still sold for almost half that second hand?
View through an SL3 speaker. Because they are transparent, they don’t appear very large in spite of their 163cm length.