Un amateur d’Audiogon (II)




Garrard 301 High Performance Audio
Nick Doshi Mark II 2007
Shindo Cortese Tube amp
Auditorium 23 Solovox
SME Series V Tonearm
Koetsu Coral Stone Cartridge


Almost LIVE

Hello Audiogon Friends.

This new system is really an admission that no systems does it all, no matter how much time, and money is spent seeking it.


I now feel that a « hybrid » system that reproduces both intimate music and large scale music well does neither type of music at its best.

I have learned a lot along the way, but I now concede I need two systems: An SET amp, with the appropriate speaker, for intimate music I favor. And I will begin putting together a second system that does large scale classical and rock well.


This is my blog, which is full of OPINIONS and NO FACTS ; 0 )


The Road To This System: I’m going to rank the products I have owned or did very extensive auditions with.

By extensive auditions, I mean an audition that I brought ALL my own equipment with me, including my turntable, YES I am nuts!!! These are just my OPINIONS, but I hope this ranking list will save others some time and money.


Speakers: The Top 4 are Worlds Better then the bottom 12!!!!!

(All speakers were evaluated with the EXACT same components and cables, EXCEPT the VR-9’s and Classic Audio Reproductions T-1’s.)


1. Shindo Latour if I only had the room and could stomach paying 45K for drivers I can buy on Ebay for less than 2k. This is priced like art, not based on cost of production. Just like a Koetsu Coral Stone. But they are AWESOME.


2. I have heard a new Speaker that swept me away. Solovox, despite the fact that I really love my sound which is seductive. I have to admit I did pick my poison.


3. ATC Anniversary 50’s (Best « real world speaker »). These do not require $­­­­­­30,000 worth of amps. They have awesome tone and impact the Second best midrange of all speakers.

However, they are not the last word in treble or bass response. They do bring electrostatic-like cohesiveness to drivers.

They have awesome « tube like », or « music like » tonality in the midrange, not lush « tube like », think CAT Amp or your own personal best tube reference. Then, imagine a very good solid state amp on the bass. Basically, you get great tone from top to bottom, with great image palpability and natural image size.

By far the best sonic value for the dollar, and a damn fine speaker and amp combo regardless of value. To beat them you would need to spend an ADDITIONAL minimum $­­­­­­40,000 on speakers, amps, and speaker cables.


3. Quads 2905. I loved these a lot, the BEST midrange of all speakers. However, they are only SLIGHTLY better in the mids than the ATC’s. So when I factored in the lack of impact, and that they also could not capture the power of the piano, the decision was easy for my tastes.

These make Martin Logan’s and Maggies, look very bad by comparison. The image size is more accurate, and bass good. Quads are the second best value after ATC’s. They should be matched to the finest electronics. They deserve $­­­­­­30,000 to $­­­­­­40,000 in front of them not $­­­­­­8,000-$­­­­­­9,000 their price might suggest was balanced. They excel at string tones and vocals.

These are speakers that I will put in the upper tier that I have not heard in controlled settings but have had very favorable impressions. Krell’s new Modulere, Tannoy Audiophile Prestige Series, Devore Reference, Magico V3, the Vienna Acoustics new top model, Maxx Horn with Feastrex Field Coil Driver, Cresando Horns, and Classic Audio Reproductions new speaker with field coil midrange driver.


4. Von Schweikert VR-9 gives up midrange tone to the ATCs and real life presence to the MBLs.

However, it adds thunderous bass and ultimate high frequency response.


5. Verity Sarastro (Please note the audition was in a dealer setting with all his own equipment, which was top notch Shindo, and his turntable was a Basis with my same Dynavector XV-1S cartridge, so I felt no reason to use my own equipment.) I liked many things about this speaker: its speed, transparency, and its tone is first rate.

However, in the room I heard them in, which was rather live sounding they, were not « intimate » enough for me. I don’t know exactly how much was the room, and how much was the speakers.


6. Goldmund Active Speakers were very nice, but for $­­­­­­33,000, I expect a speaker to go deeper unless it can put a LIVE violin in my room, which it could not. However, it is a fine speaker!!!


7. MBL 111e or 101e: The closest to live music I’ve ever heard in presentation. I don’t know how they sound in a « real world room » because the room I heard them in is very good. (Ultimate Audio Video in Chicago, IL).

These speakers have an awesome « live » presence like no other. However, they were not as tonal as the Rockports in the same system. I have to admit I would like to hear them again, because I bought the Brinkmann Balance Turntable after hearing this system that day,and not the MBL’s.

The Balance brought my ATC’s to a whole new level. So I don’t know where the MBL’s may rank now. The ATC’s tone may make the MBl’s presence novel now. (1 year later….

I have heard them again, and have determined it was the Brinkmann Balance that really wowed me that day in Chicago. MBL is no longer a top contender to me.


8. Rockport ($­­­­­­30,000 version) sounded similar to the ATC’s. They had slightly better bass; but I had $­­­­­­15,000 to $­­­­­­28,000 worth of amps in use.

I have no sonic complaints, rather just value issues, as compared to the ATC’s and others. If I were going to have that kind of money in a speaker and amp combo, I would go for the MBl 111e with two VAC PHI 300’s; you would be much closer to live music.


9. Martin Logan Summits: are the third best value after ATC’s and Quads. (But I must say QUADS ARE WAY BETTER THAN THESE.)
They should be matched to the finest electronics. They deserve $­­­­­­30,000 to $­­­­­­40,000 in front of them not $­­­­­­8,000-$­­­­­­9,000 their price might suggest was balanced. Like the Quads they excel at string tones and vocals, but they falter on wood tones. However, their biggest issue is image size and palpability. They are too transparent!!!!


10. Revel Salons are a very balanced speaker. They are good at everything yet best in class at nothing. They are a very well designed speaker.


11. Avalon Diamonds: Sonics, remind me off Revel Ultimas. Which is not a bad thing.

But these are way overpriced for their sonics, and their fit and finish at their asking price is laughable.


12. Kharma 3.2 Fe At this price point $­­­­­­20,000 in my opinion you should get more bass.

But I can live with lack of bass, but they over image everything.


13. Maggie 20.1 Great tone, but images larger than life at « real world » listening distances. But if you had a huge room and a far listening distance they would be hard to beat, for acoustic music and classical.


14. Classic Audio Reproductions T1 (Horn Speakers).
The only speaker besides MBL’s that will put a drum set in your room. They are explosive as hell.

For rock and roll they are my favorite by a mile. However, on chamber music they falter, and I listen to chamber music often, so they are not a good match for my music taste.

This is my separation point. I could not live with any of the below long term.


15. Vandersteen 5A. -To Dark and Boxy)


16. Wilson Chimera -Drivers do not blend well, which should be no surprise, given the configuration.
I found myself listening to one driver at a time.


17. B & W 802 D To much like good HI-FI, not like good music.
They highlighted certain aspects of the music in an artificial, or enhanced manner and in doing so called attention to themselves.
To paint a visual, think TV’s at Best Buy. They have them adjusted to make real life look more bright colored and vivid than it actually is. These speakers do the same to music.


17. Wilson 7.1’s , and or Sophia’s (Explosive dynamics, very Average midrange tone. Great for home theater!!!But not for the music lover.



1. Convergent Audio I am lowering my opinion of this slightly, after hearing it again in a different system which was all CAT, it was slightly lean sounding. I know you can’t kill the messenger, but this really reemphasized system matching. My current take is these are the best solid state amps money can buy ; 0 )

It presents the midrange with natural tone; it’s not lush nor stark. It is just natural and right. I can’t give it a better compliment than that.

The CAT presents images with a natural air, transparency and scale. The dimensionality is presented as organically as the recording allows.


1. VAC Phi 300, was lowered for a year but after hearing the CAT products again, it really is going to come down to system matching, as always ;0 ). This is slightly less neutral than the CAT, which can be a great thing in many systems.
This is the best tube amp, I have heard.

3. Mcintosh MC 2000

4. Dartzeel 108

5. Gryphon

6. MBL

7. Linn Klimax

8. Lamm 1.2

All these are Poor Sounding amps by comparison.


9. Mcintosh 252 & 402

10. Krell 400 Cx

11. Classe Cam 350

12. Sonic Frontiers Power 3’s (Very Bad. I am comparing them to $­­­­­­2000 dollars amps, they cost $­­15,000 new.)

13. Vac Pa 80/80

14. Adcom 565

15. Rotel

Pre Amps: Top 3 are worlds better than the rest. (3-5 are very good).

1. Nick Doshi Mark II: I received my Mark II about two weeks ago, it is in INCREDIBLE. It has the most beautiful yet neutral tonal balance the I have ever heard.

The Mark I is neutral, as well, tone wise. So than what does the Mark II add? It keeps the great tone and adds even more EXPOLOSIVE dynamics, while still being harmonically textural.

Not easy to do I am guessing, as I have never heard it done so well before until now. But most importantly their was no trade off for these performance gains. It still has all the finesse and nuance I always have loved.

These added dynamics really changed the musical presentation spatially in great ways. The speakers really seem to disappear even more, music now just floats effortlessly in black space.

Notice I said black space, the Mark II is ultra quite. The added dynamics were not a trade off for increased noise.

The Mark II has a blacker back ground then the Mark I, which is quite for a tube preamp, but the Mark II is as quite as solid state designs. Summary the Doshi Mark II in Five Words: MUSICAL, Textural, Dynamic, Harmonic, and Lively.


2. Nich Doshi Pre Amp Mark I. Still a Gem, but Mark II leaves all others in the rear view mirror. Even the Doshi Mark I.


3. Dartzeel 18NS in battery mode on vinyl is Awesome. Do you like great tubes or great solid state?


4. Messenger


5. Vac Renaissance, or Phi 2.0


(I must admit I have not heard the PHI 2.0 but being I love my Phi 300 amp, and loved the Vac Rennisance Pre II, I owned, I would wager the PHI 2.0 is World Class.) The Vac is a wonderful preamp, it is very neutral yet detailed at both
ends of the spectrum. It is a very refined product. It is very very similar sounding to the Doshi tonally, blackness of background, lack of micro phonics. I ultimately liked the Doshi better in my system due to its ease of presentation. It was more of a « macro » decision, their are no glaring differences sonically between these two products. I just on the whole enjoyed the Doshi more it is just so right.



6. Supratek Grange and Convergent Audio Preamp. As compared to the Doshi, the Grange and the CAT are not as natural sounding in the midrange, and are not as « human » on vocals.
The Grange is more extended in bass and treble, which in my system often sounded lean, analytical, and thin.

The Grange sounded that way with both systems I had at the time, which were my current active ATC’s, and Martin Logan Summits, driven with a Mcintosh MC2000 (Tube Amp), two very different systems, similar result. The Doshi in my opinion has a more balanced sound from top to bottom.

The Doshi has a much blacker background. I think this is because the Grange uses to many tubes and has to much gain. This does make the Grange more dynamic, but the cost is increased noise. I will choose a happy medium any day.


7. Audio Research Ref 3

8. MBL- Their top model

NOTE: There is a large difference between the my top choices and the models below.


9. Sony TAP9000es (As good as the Mac’s but much cheaper, so I put it above them).


10. Tact 2.2 Sounds very digital, but room correction does do wonders on bass.


11.Mcintosh C2200 (to lush)


12. Mcintosh C200 (Sounded like the Sony Tap, only 10 times the price!!)


13. Placette RVC.



1. Koetsu Coralstone:

This cartrige is amazing. Its high price is almost warranted. It does everything right to me. The vocals are to die for, but everyone knows that about Koetsu. This carts in also presents music in 3D, it is awesome at staging.

The Coralstone really gets the body and harmonics of the music right, rich but not fat, their is attack and leading edge that live music has, but it is not sterile or lean. It is almost perfect, to me. It has nice transients, and sweet highs, bass is fairly tight, but not rock solid.

But every thing else is so to my taste, I can forgive the bass in perfections.

This cart is quite different then all other Koetsu carts that I have heard: the Jade, Onyx and Tiger Eye Platinum. Everything I wished I could change about all the other Koetsu is right here. I am very happy.


2. Tie Shindo Ortofon SPU with Auditorium 23 Step Up.

This is a awesome cart. Has vocals close to the Koetsu, but not quite. I love this cart, but it should be paired with the Auditorim 23 Hommage Step up. This paring is very similar tonally to the Coralstone. The main difference is it is not near as 3D in presentation as the Coralstone.


Koestu Onyx: Similar to the Jade above only slightly darker. Again next to the Coralstone it is not as 3D in presentation.


Koetsu Jade: Is slightly brighter than the Coralstone, and it does not capture the subtly tones changes as well, lastly the Coral is much more 3D in presentation.
(Just for the record Jade and the Onyx are FAR, below the Coralstone IMHO. I not was intending to buy the Coral prior to hearing it. I thought it was ridicously priced. Yes, it is pricey, but it is worth the price of admission.


Dynavector XV 1S:

This is an cart that does nothing wrong, but it does not draw me into the music.

It has great transient speed, great on cymbals, and horns, 3rd in these areas to the Van Den Hul Colbri, and Lyra Titan. B

ass is clean and tight. However, it does not capture the harmonics and decay of acoustic instruments like the Koetsu. Lastly on vocals it is just to sterile sounding for me.


Ruby 3:

Warm and rich vocals, nice tone on acoustic instruments, however, I found the bass to be overstated and fat and the treble to be slightly rolled off.

But this is a good cart for the money.


Brinkmann/Emt Cart:

This is a very nice cart. It is very balanced sounding nothing sticks out. Nice vocals, not near as nice as a Koetsu, but nothing I have heard sounds like a Koetsu on vocals or the midrange.

Good tight bass, and nice natural highs. This carts bass and treble performance is very similar to that of Koetsu sound. N

ot overstated and in your face but balanced. It does have tighter bass than the Coralstone. Awesome for the money.


Lyra Titan I:

Lean, lacks midrange harmonics. I can not stand this cart. It will put a horn or a cymbal in the room, but that is it. This cart makes my ears bleed.

Vibration Control: The Brinkmann Balance sits on a HRS M3 Platform,

The Doshi sits on a Symposium Ulta Platform, with precision couplers.

Both rest on a custom made the limestone rack. It is constructed out of solid limestone weighing over 600 pounds, and it sits directly on the concrete basement floor. The base makes no contact with the sub-floor.


Electrical: 5 dedicated outlets.

Main Acoustic Devices: Michael Green Room Tunes for upper corners and ceilings. The rear of the room has 12 Auralex diffusers.

All corners have Lenard Bass Traps. The front of the room, up to the first reflection point, has sparingly placed absorption panels.

The biggest help putting together this awesome system, has been a Larry Marcus who is the owner of a local dealer Paragon Sight and Sound in Ann Arbor, he is also an Audiogon Guild Member.

After 8 years going it alone on Audiogon, I decided to consult an expert. Larry, exposed me to quality vinyl, and helped me so much along the way, with his experience and passion for this hobby.

If you too have been putting together a system solely through Audiogon, you owe it to yourself to work with a GOOD dealer.

You will save money in the long run, and have great music sooner and a better end result.