What do I like in a stereo system?
First off, I just want to say that there is no ‘right’ way to set up a system. Part of the audiophile hobby is to put together a combination of gear that suits your particular tastes. Different strokes for different folks. So just because I have a preferred way of putting a system together, doesn’t mean it is any better than the way you would put a system together. But since people ask me, I guess I’ll put my thoughts here in writing.
I like to keep my system simple. I’m not real big on using DSP processing, bass/treble controls, EQ’s, and overly complex passive crossovers in speakers. I like instruments and vocals to sound ‘natural’ to me – that is, the way they would sound if I were listening to them live. I figure that the most natural the source signal can be is right off the record, or right out of the music server, and I can’t do much to improve the purity of that signal as it goes down stream through my components and cabling. I can use gear that manipulates and enhances the signal in many different ways, but nothing is likely to improve purity. I think the less that is done to the signal, the better. I think just about every component along the way from source to speaker is more likely to do harm to the purity of the signal than improve it. I try to choose components that minimize that harm. You’ve probably heard the term “Do No Harm” as it relates to the components and cabling in a stereo system. I think that’s a good approach.
Tube amplifiers are pretty simple – and good. An integrated tube amp is simpler than separates. A DAC that has no oversampling or filtering is pretty simple – and good. Copper cabling is good. Passive crossovers with fewer components are good.
Mystery boxes, or mystery circuits built into boxes that have inputs and outputs should be looked upon with suspicion. Pure and natural signal in – and what kind of signal comes out? Probably not as pure and natural.
If a speaker requires more than twenty components in the passive crossover network, something is wrong.
Here’s a basic list of gear that you would hear in a Volti Audio/BorderPatrol Audio/Triode Wire Labs room at an audio show. It’s also the same basic system you would find in the listening rooms of all three proprietors of those companies.
Innuos music server
BorderPatrol 300B tube amplifier
Triode Wire Labs USB cable, interconnects, power cables, and copper speaker cables
Volti Audio horn speakers
It’s a recipe that really works well.