A Discussion About What Level Of Analog To Stop At

So this is a bit of a friendly discussion, a sharing of information, and perhaps a bit of a what if thread.

As we acknowledge, the rooms our stereo’s reside in are a significant factor in how our audio systems sound. Now this discussion takes place mostly in the arena of speakers, and perhaps amplification for those speakers. I don’t believe I have read threads where it comes up in context to our source components. But I am wondering if it should?

In terms of myself, I only run one system unless you count my headphone rig. Truth is I rarely listen to that and I wonder if it is worth the money I spent there. But I am a consolidator and climber when it comes to audio gear. I also have an understanding with my patient spouse that I keep the audio gear in one room. I suspect if I tried taking over another room with audio gear, she would bury me in a shallow grave in the back yard.

So I have run of the living room within reason. Now this is the best room for audio in the house, but it is by no means perfect. it is 16’W by 20’ L with 8’ ceilings that are textured with acoustic popcorn. The flooring is short pile carpet with heavy pad. There is a dining room off the left wall, so only a half wall on that side. The right wall has a picture window in it. 6’L and 5’T. The back wall has french doors with glass panes. There is a little notch in the back left corner about 3’L by 1.5’D, its where they put a small bathroom on the other side of the wall. Equipment rack is on the side wall under the window. The speakers on the short wall on each side of a fireplace. Listen chair is 4 feet off the french doors.

Stereo consists of:

Martin Logan CLX ART speakers w dual Velodyne HGS12 subwoofers

Classe Omega monoblock amplifiers

Trinov Amethyst pre-amp (the DSP functions are a prime consideration in buying)

Cen Grand DSDac 1.0 Deluxe DAC

BPT 2.5 Signature power conditioner

Now all the analog gear is where it gets messy, and my consolidation thoughts are kicking in

Turntable #1 SOTA Cosmos Eclipse/SME V/Transfiguration Audio Porteus

Turntable #2 Scheu Analog Das Laufwerk No2 with Schroder CB-1L and Ortofon Verismo. Second arm Dynavector DV505 that gets used with an Ortofon MC2000/Ortofon MC3000 II/Kiseki Blackheart

Phono stages are a BMC MCCI Signature ULN, a standard BMC MCI Signature, and Esoteric E-03. Have an Ortofon T2000 SUT to use with the MC2000.


As a consolidator I sometimes wonder if all of this is necessary. The money is spent and this is kind of my audio kitty funds. I tend to keep those monies separate and often save and then sell pieces being upgraded to afford that next step. The reality is that often I cannot have to expensive pieces side by side and decide which I like the best. Since I also shop Audiogon and USAM for used gear it’s not possible to listen to candidates. As a consolidation I look at what is out there. For instance, when I tally things up I could possibly afford a Walker Proscenium that happens to be on Ebay at the moment. I would be down to one table, one phono stage, and two cartridges. One thing that stops me is that gold on the Walker is damned ugly, secondly, I am not sure I got room for the pump assembly. My system is a bit large for this room as it sits.

As I am writing I wonder if this room can really support a higher tier of analog gear than I got. I think some would argue that this room is limited in ways to compromise even what I have. The sound is very nice, better than I hear at many shows, and in other audiophiles’ homes I have gone to. We have a local audio group, and I haven’t heard anything I like better. In the past I have used the MC3000 II cartridge as a casual listening tool, but with the CEN GRAND DAC the sound is so nice I really don’t need to do that anymore. Still need the Dynavector arm though if I want to play the MC2000. Now all of these cartridges sound very very nice, and I could live with any of them. Truth is I like the Transfiguration the least. Or I think so till I spend about a weekend listening to it.

One thought is to choose one table and sell it all off and maximize that one. The other is to keep the Verismo and probably the Kiseki. Buy the very best table and arm I can with all the funds gathered once I sell all that stuff. The question I cannot answer for myself is ...is this worth it given what my room allows this system to do? I have a small amount of room treatment with wood diffusers, ART series acoustic panels, and the DSP function of the preamp. But I cannot turn this into a full-on treated room because of the basic limitations of it.

I have probably made posts in the past in other threads putting ideas like this forward. But I don’t know if I ever made a comprehensive post with all these thoughts. laid out. If you feel its repetitive, I do understand. However, if you have thoughts or ideas, I would surely be interested in reading them. Take the conversation wherever makes sense, as this is meant to be a wide-ranging discussion. Thanks for any of your contributions!




You have done a great job so far. There are other more important fish to fry besides a Walker Prothenium which IMHO is over the hill in terms of complexity and I am not in any way in favor of that tonearm. 

You and I have very similar tastes in HifI gear. Both our systems are based on ESLs and subwoofers. We both use Digital preamplifiers. My first suggestion is to get rid of the Velodyne subwoofers and get a pair of ML Balanced Force 212s. 

Next will be to trade the Trinnov in for a DEQX Pre 4 or 8. I almost bought the Amethyst until I got wind of the new DEQX units. They have far more flexibility than the Trinnov particularly in bass management. I will be getting mine in about a month. I was selected along with 119 other people to test the beta version of the software. We get a discount on the units. I think we are all getting Pre 8s which has a full 4 way crossover. I am not sure how ML set up the step up transformers of your speakers. The Sound Labs uses a bass and a treble transformer for each speaker. I am going to biamp the speakers using one amp to drive the treble transformer and the other to drive the bass. The crossover is at 5000 Hz. 

After this play around with cartridges and other sources. I use a Channel D Seta L Plus and use the computer to do the RIAA correction. I can raid my friend's record collections and make perfect replications in 24/192. You can use the vinyl recording software with any phono stage. I have started to stream with Qobuz and can buy files through them. It is a great way to keep up with new music. I still buy records. It is a habit I can not seem to shake. I also use a Sota Cosmos Eclipse Vacuum with a Schroder CB on it. The only other turntable I have my eye on is the Dohmann Helix 1. I would put a Schroder LT on it. I doubt this will ever happen as it is very hard to justify. I use three cartridges, the MC Diamond, the Atlas Lambda SL and the MSL Signature Platinum. At this moment I am not interested in other cartridges.

There is a new control unit for your Sota. Contact Donna and get in line.

I am getting a pair of Audiomica Allbit Consequence power cables for the SLs. skos brought a pair over telling me he heard them on another SL system and could not believe the difference. I thought he was joking! These cables have some type of filter. Darn if they did not increase low level detail beyond the realm of the psychological. For me to pony up thousands for power cables is a novel event.  Something is getting to the diaphragms that is polluting the speakers and I have my own power transformer on the street. I do not know if the same result would occur with your MLs but I would bet it will. You might message skos about them. 

I am going to use the MA 2s (Atma-Sphere) to drive the bass transformers as they are uniquely suited to that role. I will need a solid state amplifier with a very low output impedance to drive the treble transformers. Roger West suggested the Benchmark AHB2s but I was thinking of something more like the PAS XA 100.8s. Ralph would like to sell me his class D amps. This is going to be a tough decision. 


Yes I run the MC2000/T2000 into the MM input of the Esoteric E-03. This morning I decided to reinstall one of my Ortofon MC2000 cartridges. One has a factory tapered aluminum cantilever, and my other one met an unfortunate accident and had to get fitted with a boron cantilever. So by default this one becomes my casual play cartridge. So that is the one I put on the table this morning. Such a beautiful sounding cartridge! 

When working though the dialing in of the system I primarily used digital material. When I did listen to a record, I found myself using the Ortofon Verismo and BMC MCCI Signature ULN. Somewhere in that process I know I spent a weekend listening to the Kiseki Blackheart on the Dynavector arm into the Esoteric MC configuration. I enjoyed both of those cartridges immensely, and I kind of  thought perhaps the MC2000 wasn't really a good match for what the system has become. 

Today has slapped me right across the cheek, and said are you daft? I have the lesser MC2000 playing now with some William Ackerman vinyl, and the sound is so beguiling that you can just sit and let it wash over you. Such a beautiful cartridge, and to think it conceived in the early 1980's. Such beautiful music, I feel fortunate to be able to listen to such a special and unique offering. 

I know someone who bought an MC2000 and attempted to run it on a BMC. He reported that combination did not work out well. I can certainly give it an experiment one dreary weekend this winter and see what happens. 

As I mentioned, I enjoyed the Kiseki Blackheart. The sound is sweet and intimate, and yet still remarkably detailed. I can see what the allure of the Blackheart is, and it is certainly more aligned with a Koetsu kind of presentation, which is fundamentally different than the MC2000. 

What a wonderful hobby we have, and such a remarkable time where we can have craftsmen maintain and restore the gems of yesteryear and yet we have exquisite and rare talismans built by todays artisans. What a remarkable time we are in, as vinyl was supposed to have been dead and buried two decades ago. 

Just a thought but it seems counter productive to focus on top notch vinyl and stick a DSP unit in the middle of the chain. Of course, we have no idea how many A2D and D2A happened before the record was mastered, just like the old analog tape masters that went through dozens of TLO74 or NE 5558 generation op amps and we fuss about one stage.  Maybe t is the masking from less than 65 dB dynamic range covering up all the lower level garbage that comes from CDs?  Maybe just as tube noise and high low order distortions cover up the higher order that seem to be more objectionable. 

Don't get me wrong, I am not denigrating vinyl or tubes at all!  Just want to know why we perceive these differences and why one or the other makes our brain happy.  Why does a Benchmark sound flat and a Hegel so musical?  Lack of masking noise?  Does a tube preamp swamp a CD or class D amp so we don't hear the noise floor modulation?  We go to a live performance and the background is anything but black and the Macke PA speakers with eq like a mountain range sound just fine!

@tvrgeek ,

That is a statement only an inexperienced person can make. I do not mean that as a negative. People who experience a system with a processor like the Trinnov Amethyst in place are, to a person, blown away by the improvement in sound quality. Just subwoofer matching is enough to justify the unit. You can put these units in bypass and compare processed with unprocessed sound and no person could possibly prefer the unprocessed sound. Analog signals are fragile. Anything you do to them creates distortion. The same is not true of digital signals. You can not distort the meaning of a number. You can do anything you want to them without adding distortion. This opens up a world of capability not available to analog systems. If you are old enough to remember analog cell phones then you have experienced the comparison. Purely because of digital transmission modern cell phones are as good as they are today. The DAC only reads numbers. It totally ignores static and other distortions.  

The Benchmark is deadly accurate and the Hegel is not. This is purely a matter of preference. With a processor like the Trinnov you can make the Benchmark sound like the Hegel and take advantage of its superior signal to noise ratio. Hegel is made in China and I personally think at this point we need to avoid subsidizing that country. A processor like the Trinnov allows you to program your system to sound the way you want without adding additional artifacts while providing superior imaging and bass management. 

Humans are extremely change adverse and Audiophiles are definitely worse in this regard than other humans. Digital processors have been around for over 25 years and they still are not utilized at a level their value would suggest. Most of the high end audio companies lack the engineers capable of designing equipment of this nature. The farthest they go are DACs, a very basic item in the digital playbook. Some companies do streamers but not analog equipment. Of the hundreds of audio companies out there only a handful are capable of engineering processors like the Trinnov or DEQX. Anthem is the exception. They are the only company I can think of that does it all. 

The sound quality at many concerts is hideous. Much of the horror is do to the acoustics of the venue and not the equipment. The best sound quality is in smaller situations where the instruments are not sent through a PA. 

I think we are touching on an old conundrum: whether to take the Dionysian or Apollonian approach to pleasure? Which is to say, shall we visit as many flowers as possible and drink the nectar from many, or simply sit on the best of them all and enjoy that?

I was lucky in being guided to the cartridge I adore above all the others I have heard. I went off the rails when I thought it could no longer be rebuilt when John Wright retired. And now I find myself with six tonearms and cartridges, and most of the time I use the secondary cartridges as ways of delaying the stylus being worn out again on my favourite. This is unhealthy, and I am, in effect, denying myself the full pleasure of the sound I love, leading to the curious paradox of taking the Dionysian approach in order to delay gratification! I might be better off if I simply kept my best cartridge on my best tonearm and used it, maybe accepting that a dedicated mono cartridge on my second best tonearm could live alongside it. Then I could substitute a lesser cartridge when ever I have worn out the stylus, but replace the king whenever it comes back from its trip to the spa. I think this would be both rational, and maximise my listening pleasure.

No doubt, as a deleted post above suggested, some of us are in need of help!