Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A time to rebuild my main system

Boredom?  I don't know, but I've decided to rebuild my main stereo system.  The Magnepans and Threshold gear are on their way out.  I'm currently running a stripped-down version of several bits and pieces.  The end result has been pretty good, but I'm looking to make some serious upgrades in the future.

Current Main System:
VPI HW19 Mark III with SDS Power Supply
Rega RB300 with Cardas wiring
aluminum rebodied Denon DL-103R
Audio Sector Phono Stage with OPA627s
Cardas Cross interconnects
Yaqin MC-10T amplifier with black-plate RCA 12AT7s and (real) Mullard XF2 EL34s
Cardas Hexlink speaker cables
UREI 813A speakers

This simplification has given excellent sonic results.  I'm not sure if it is the Cardas cabling, the Mullards, or the improved front end, but the UREIs have vastly improved over my past memory of them.  Soundstaging, left to right, is excellent, and now goes beyond the boundaries of the cabinets.  The treble is much smoother and playback levels now don't have to be cranked to sound good.  The sheer dynamics of the UREI speakers makes everything else I've heard sound rather weak and anemic.  Sure, planars have better depth and perhaps some better inner detail, but they don't have lifelike impact and bass extension of such a massive full-range speaker.

The Yaqin integrated amplifier - especially with the upgraded tubes - is still a jaw-dropping great deal.  I had way more money invested in my rebuilt Dynaco Mark IIIs, but the Yaqin surpasses that design with an easy musicality that is enjoyable with all sorts of music.  Maybe I prefer the EL34 sound over that of the harder-edged SED 6550c?

Anyways, I'm not 100% sure of what direction to take.  I'm thinking a front end upgrade - the turntable, arm, and cartridge - may provide the best results.  But I'm eying several tube preamplifiers and amplifiers, especially some of the higher wattage units.  The Threshold S/500 has given me a taste of big power, and such serious amplification gives added weight and an sense of ease to the music.  But still, the siren call of a low-powered triode amplifier is very strong.  There is also a possibility that I will go a different speaker route - Martin-Logan.  Sure, I'll miss out on some of the dynamics of the UREI, but electrostats have such definition and speed that they make every other type of driver seem slow and muffled.

Stay tuned!  There will be plenty of reviews forthcoming as I begin to explore some new gear.