Hey guys. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. I’ve been active while researching equipment and commenting on the gear I had. I just wanted to post my impressions since I’ve now had my amp and preamp for over a year and the supporting gear for a few months.
I had an el34 tube amp and some Zu Soul Supreme speakers prior to researching 300b amps. After having looked for months at various options, I came across Aric Audio and decided to reach out to him. Being new to tube amps, I wasn’t really sure what my options were and what I even wanted. Aric was a great help in that regard. He patiently talked about each amp option and what sort of sound to expect. Following the discussions and a bit more research, I decided to have Aric build a Custom 300b PSET amp and Super 6sn7 Linestage preamp. I added whatever upgrades Aric suggested when I inquired which upgrades offered the greatest improvements. I figured that this combo was going to be with me for a long time and may as well since I may never do this again.
I purchased a pair of Audio Note e/lx speakers and a Cambridge cxn modded by ModWright for tubes dac/streamer. I was pretty happy with the sound but felt I was missing something. I had a picture in my head of what I thought a system like this should sound like and felt I wasn’t there. Now having owned only one system in the last 23 years, Rotel amp and preamp with B&W speakers, I wasn’t sure if a tube system could achieve what I had envisioned. I put a couple of different tubes in the cxn and the Amperex were definitely an improvement over the Electro Harmonix. I decided to try a Topping dl90 to see what a Delta Sigma dac would do to the sound. There were aspects of each dac that I liked and would readily switch back and forth. At this point I was content but was still not 100% thrilled. I was hoping that an improvement in the streamer and dac might get me where I was hoping to be.
The dac and streamer research took about 6 months. I was able to demo an Audio Note dac while streaming through the cxn. The Audio Note was a marked improvement over the other 2 dacs and gave me a glimpse of better things to come. I continued looking at dacs, which led me to the dac shootout thread here on Audiogon. After speaking with Scott, I narrowed the search down to a Rockna and Bricasti. I decided I wanted to use a separate streamer, which for a tech challenged person like myself, was easier and did not seem to have any shortcomings regarding sound quality. That led me to the Rockna Wavedream and LUMIN U2 mini.
What I’ve found particularly difficult about this adventure is the fact that I’m doing it alone and based only on my ear, which admittedly isn’t that experienced. I know some will say that no one’s else’s opinion should matter, but it does somewhat. I wasn’t sure if what I read, learned and wanted actually came to fruition. I was trying to create a very natural, easy going sound that had resolution/clarity. The cxn was certainly easy to listen to and sounded quite natural. The Topping added more clarity and dynamics perhaps. Neither offered both. The Rockna and LUMIN added just that. They brought all the qualities I was looking for. I don’t want to spend too much time describing the sound. It’s just better in every way. Instrument separation, natural tone, wonderful timbre, a sense of space and resolution all showed tremendous improvement. Then I had an audiophile friend, who has Decware amp and pre with Zu speakers, arrive this week. He has had to listen to me for a year ride the roller coaster ride of swapping out equipment. We listened the first night to various albums. The second night he played albums that he is very familiar with on vinyl. He is also looking at a 300b amp and looking at Devore speakers for his next system so was quite interested in how my system sounded. He pointed out all the attributes I mentioned above. He was also quite impressed with the decay and timbre. I suppose I was happy to get a little validation.
All in all, I’m so psyched to have found a dac and streamer that can bring out so much more beautiful sound out of the Aric Audio gear and Audio Note speakers. It’s truly a remarkable sounding system that I’m truly lucky/blessed to own. I just figured I’d share this since many of you have gone through the same sort of experience to reach where you are and could appreciate the journey. I hope you are all enjoying the music!