System building; a meditation

System building; a meditation

This is an offshoot of a posting I made in a different thread; that is, what is one’s approach to building a system out of various components that maximizes the sonic attributes of the combination of particular components?There’s been some push-back on “tweaks” but leave that to the side for now. How does one select what components to include in a system, putting to one side budgetary constraints? (the budget thing can be solved in several ways, including through used and through a deliberate strategy to acquire certain components over time that achieve a certain result- my point being, if it weren’t simply a constraint of capital, how does one choose?)

There seem to be a few rules that we abide by- the relationship of amp to speaker being fundamental. The choice of front end –from DIY digital to high end analog is also a choice, but I’ll be agnostic in this regard even though I came up through the LP and still regard it as the mainstream medium of choice, simply because of the wealth of material in older records.

How do people choose the combinations of equipment they employ? Is it happenstance, the gradual upgrading of each component to a high standard or some other benchmark for what the system is supposed to do that necessitates certain choices?

For what it is worth, I don’t endorse one single approach; I went from electrostat listening (including ribbon tweets and subs) to horns, sort of (Avantgardes plus subs) and SET as one choice, but have heard marvelous systems using larger, relatively inefficient dynamic set ups (Magico; Rockport, TG, etc.) combined with big solid state power that left a very positive impression.

How do you sort through the thicket? It isn’t just specs, and listening within your system to evaluate is an ideal, but I’m opening this up to system building in general—what approach do you take? I’m not sure there is a single formala, but thought it worth exploring since it seems to be an undercurrent in a lot of equipment changes without addressing the “why?” of it or how one makes these choices.

I know that we are mired in a subjective hobby, and almost every system is different, even if the components are the same in a different room, but thought this might be an interesting topic for discussion. If not, the lack of responses will prove me wrong. I don’t have a single answer to this FWIW.

Let’s pretend that equipment is the lessor part of the whole enchilada…
In that case I would be spruiking Dirac, or other EQ and room compensation schemes.

At some point having an SO can be worthwhile, or at least a more costly upgrade than the audio… So the concept off “the ideal room” may vary between people sharing the house/home.

I got my gear pre-SO(s), and have always had a hard time getting it into the living space. Maybe lessor quality speakers, or a newer model, would help? But, as the tautology goes… “it is what it is.”

If one ready has an SO, then it is probably worth engaging them early in the process.

The last unit (AVR - which is on the way), had the SO saying, “at least it doesn’t look bad.” ;)
Hi. I have bookmarked and PDF'd the article which details the build you did of your listening room in your barn and have re-read it many times. Amazing room and system -- to die for. I recall it's in the PNW where I am, and if you welcome visitors, count me in!

Your advice is excellent, so all I need now is more money and younger ears. Cheers.

hi Patrick, many thanks for the kind words. nice to meet you.

that article was the starting point and since i wrote that in 2004, i have learned a great deal, been humbled time and again, and received lots of great feedback. finally in 2015, 11 years after starting, i was able to really finish the room tuning process. since then i have just been enjoying it. but i loved the whole process of building and learning. a once in a lifetime thing.

you would be most welcome to visit any time. please PM me and we can figure out a good time.

This is how I try to begin.

@holmz Starting off with speaker that are easy to drive, and have a flattish impedance, still seems like an easier starting place.

For most people budget is the biggest constraint.  The more esoteric gear and having a home with a dedicated space that can be set aside of just music is out of reach for a lot of folks.  Auditioning more traditional gear and shopping second markets is the best way to maximize the ability to get the best sound. 

@holmz, when the SO enjoys what her prefs are to having a strong opinion as to What to listen to it On....*!*

...admitted, it Is potentially a improved situation....with a kicker, of course.

"I really like those..."  (...pointing @ the small Maggies'...).

*( _)* least it's a dipole... *L*
“I really like those..." (...pointing @ the small Maggies'...).
She says that my 2Cs are, “Well at least not as ugly as (my friend) MIke’s monstrosities (Maggies).”

She has had some Ricther bookshelf ported 2 ways for ~30 years, which do not sound bad, and a NAD integrated amp. It’s pretty good for what it is. The wood looking vinyl looking cover falling off them detracts from their beauty IMO.

She knows that her speakers are better, because with mine she cannot even hear the speakers, just the music. ;)

holmz, when the SO enjoys what her prefs are to having a strong opinion as to What to listen to it On....*!*
  • “On” a low volume ;) or… with no music playing.
  • Or… “On” the same content as the picture on the screen.

  • With music, she prefers to have me queue up the Turntable.
  • She always goes for iPad, because it is not complicated. And it is always low background furniture music (in Satie’s terms).

  • And in the car, she normally “Mans” the iPad into the BT… mostly so that I do not choose albums that she doesn’t care for. (Or podcasts that she doesn’t abide.)