Recommended Audio Equipment .....
knows that there is a lot of audio equipment for sale ..... from long
established manufacturers, newer "cottage" businesses,
a ton of stuff from China and a huge amount of used equipment on websites like AudioGon.
The large amount of used gear tells me that
many people in the audio
hobby spend as much time buying and selling equipment as they do
listening to music. It also tells me that a
lot of "well regarded" and highly reviewed equipment is not musically
satisfying over the long stretch. I have owned a lot of it myself.
Everyone in the hobby has an opinion about what a good sounding audio system is and it really boils down to personal taste.
Therefore, my recommendations are just that ..... my
opinion. However, most people who have heard my audio systems over
the years tell me that the sound is very good ..... so you can take my recommendations for what they are worth.
I currently do not have a setup for playing vinyl LP records. I
have distanced myself from that ongoing "cat fight" about the
superiority of vinyl over CD. A decent turntable sounds great in a good system and if you are a diehard vinyl fan I
understand where you are coming from, but I have figured out how to make CD playback "musical" and that is my source
of choice for a lot of reasons that are practical to me. If that
makes me a musical heretic, so be it. There are a good number of
reasonably priced DACs (Digital to Analog Converters) that will take the digital output from a modest CD player and make it
sound very good. MHDT Laboratory makes some highly musical DACs, but less expensive ones can be found that sound
very good. One of the reasons that the MHDT DACs sound so good is that they have a built in "vacuum tube buffer".
An inexpensive vacuum tube buffer between the DAC and the power amplifier can be added to DACs that don't have one.
As previously mentioned, I have found that if a brand name and model of CD player or DAC is in plentiful supply on a used
equipment website it probably is not a very musical component over the long term ..... even if it has received a good "review"
in an online or hard copy audio magazine. If a large number of
any item is for sale by previous owners, that tells me that
the component probably causes "listener fatigue". A detailed sound is good, but not at the expense of listenability.
On to amplifiers ..... I have owned lots of them over the years.
To my ears, vacuum tubes are the way to go. I am not saying that
it is impossible for a solid state amplifier to sound good, but there
are more bad ones than good ones in my experience. For most
people who really love music and listen to it as I do (sitting in one
place for one to four hours at a stretch) it is a revelation the first
time they hear a good system that is powered by vacuum tubes.
There is a presence, tonality and 3 dimensionality that vacuum
tubes give music that is not often (if ever) duplicated with solid
state amplifiers. Again ..... my opinion, but I have a lot
among those who are serious about listening to music. I also
generally favor low wattage vacuum tube amplifiers over higher
powered ones. This means that the loudspeakers you use must be of the "high efficiency" variety, but there are some good ones
that I will discuss in the paragraphs below. Low powered vacuum tube amplifiers and high efficiency speakers can really sing.
While there are a good number of fairly inexpensive low power vacuum tube amplifiers on the market, the one I can recommend
without hesitation is the Decware SE84C+. It only puts out a couple of watts a channel, but it will draw you into the music like
few other amplifiers will at any price. If you are into "head
banging" music, I would suggest buying a pair of big cheap speakers
and a solid state amplifier that puts out a few hundred watts per
channel ..... but, if your cup of tea is "real" acoustic instruments
and beautiful vocals that will make the hair on your neck stand up you
will appreciate what this amplifier does. It is built to last
a lifetime and carries a lifetime warranty from Decware to the original owner. Highly recommended.
Now for the loudspeakers ..... again, keep in mind that I favor high
efficiency ones that will work well with a few watts a channel.
As the old saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat and I
have a few speakers that I can recommend without hesitation.
Each of these speakers has a different sound and presentation and I can guarantee that if ten people heard each of these
speakers in the same room hooked up to the same CD player and amplifier not all of them would pick the same pair of speakers
as their favorite. They all sound good and I could live with any
of them and, in fact, own all of them (or some version of them).
In no particular order :
The Hornshoppe Horns
A single driver rear loaded horn enclosure that uses the corners of the
room to enhance the bass. These speakers are only 30"
6" wide and can fill the front end of your listening room with
musicians. Since these speakers use a single driver, there
nasty crossover components to mess up the sound. Anyone who says
they have heard these speakers and doesn't like
them has never heard them set up properly. It's
not hard to do and just takes a little experimentation to position them correctly.
There is a new model that employs a Heil Air Motion Transformer in addition to the 4"
driver. It sounds good, but more than
doubles the price of the
speakers. Most music lovers will be quite happy with the base model. If you don't mind a road trip to
South Carolina, the owner of the company will be happy to let you hear both models.
Parker Audio Troll Signatures
A 2-way bookshelf speaker using a 5 1/4" midbass driver and a superb ribbon high frequency driver.
These speakers use an absolutely minimal crossover between the drivers and eliminate the power robbing complex crossover used
in many commercial speakers ..... and the resulting fine sound speaks
for itself. They are quick, detailed, throw a wonderful sonic
and disappear into the sound stage leaving nothing but the music. The addition of a Parker Audio Trog or a Hawthorne Audio
Augie (described below) results in a very fine "full range"
speaker system. Buy a good pair of stands for the very best
Parker Audio also offers other speakers at different price points as well as kits for those who wish to build their own.
Wild Burro Audio Labs Betsy
What is pictured here is a Betsy 8" full range driver that is designed
for "open baffle" use. Yes, there is no box, just a flat board
with the driver mounted on it. This is probably the best bang for
the buck in the world of speakers ..... $100.00 for the pair.
A few dollars for some plywood and you get a sound that will embarrass some very expensive speakers. You can add a pair
of ribbon tweeters (crossed over with a 2.0 uF capacitor at around 13 kHz) as I have here to add some "sparkle" at the top end
..... or, you may decide that the Betsys sound just fine all by
themselves. As with the two speakers above, the addition of a
Hawthorne Audio Augie to flesh out the lower frequencies gives you a very musical modestly priced speaker system.
The Hawthorne Audio Augie
One of the most ear opening experiences I have had was the day I was
introduced to "open baffle" bass. There are many in the
audio hobby who swear that open baffle bass is a unicorn ..... that it
just can't work. Well, welcome to the world where the unicorn
roams happy and free. These drivers are designed to specifically
work mounted on a flat board, Now, if having the fillings in your
teeth rattled loose is what floats your boat, these may not be for
you. But, if tuneful, musical reproduction of bass (especially
bass such as double bass, the lower registers of cello and piano etc. puts a smile on your face you have found your speaker.
The Augie is available in two sizes ..... a 15" model and a 10" model.
You can use a pair of these driven by two "plate amps" as a true stereo pair, but just one with a single plate amp and the two
channels "summed" to the one Augie will do the trick quite nicely for
many music lovers. Hawthorne Audio also offers full range
coaxial drivers designed for open baffle use as well as pre-built speakers in a wide range of prices.
This page is a work in progress and by no means includes all of the
good equipment available ..... but I can vouch for these items.
I will probably add a few items if and when I come across something that offers good value and great sound.
Happy Listening .....
Return to website home page