Advice on crazy Summit system wanted.

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BearcatSandor

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Hello folks,

I was sure glad to find this forum today. *Does a happy cat dance.

I fell in love with planar speakers about 10 years ago, when i heard my first pair of Martins. I've wanted a pair ever sence and am slowly working towards my dream system.

I wanted some advice as i get closer to building this admittedly strange system. I'm a computer geek and i know that may rub some audiophiles the wrong way, but hear me out here.

Here's the planned system:

Front end: My silenced PC running.
I love being able to play almost anything through my system. I have it working as a "tivo" and have mastered all of my CDs to a lossless format called FLAC. I can cue up *days* of music at a time. It's awesome. Price: Who knows, but i own it already, so who cares!

D/A: MOTU 896HD http://www.motu.com/products/motuaudio/896/body.html/en

Since everything is going through my computer i want to do D/A conversion *outside* of it. However, i don't really need a preamp to switch inputs etc. This device will give me excellent D/A conversion and give me 10 channels of 192/24 to boot! As well, i can do some mixing from time to time. Price: $1,000US

Amps: Sixpacs http://www.sixpacs.com/index.shtml
I love the sound of tubes and i figure the Summit amps will give me the slam in the bass section i want. Price: $2,400US (a pair)

Speakers: ML Summits
I haven't heard them yet, but i'm sure i'll fall in love. They look great and i'd bet they sound great for the price of $10,000US

Total system price for stereo: $13,400

That's a lot better then what i was looking at. I think I'll be able to get very close to the sound i want with out breaking my bank over a pair of Soundlab M-1s ($16,000 just for the speakers) or the harshness of the Meridians i was looking at for $20,000.

Any thoughts? Will these tube mono block tube amps drive these Summits? I don't listen too loud and i have a cozy room.
 

amey01

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I'm sure you will love the Summits, and I'm sure your system will sound better than any average computer based system, however the Summits are a serious high-end speaker. They really deserve a better front end than a computer!
 

Sky Saw

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Hi, and welcome!

Have you found this thread yet? http://www.martinloganowners.com/~tdacquis/forum/showthread.php?t=540

I think quite a few ML owners use similar setups.

I'm not sure that any MLs, even the Summits would be described by many as having slam, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the SixPacs sound great with them. There are a couple of ML owners on this forum who are very satisfied with their SixPacs.
 

Spike

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BearcatSandor said:
Amps: Sixpacs http://www.sixpacs.com/index.shtml
I love the sound of tubes and i figure the Summit amps will give me the slam in the bass section i want. Price: $2,400US (a pair)
Any thoughts? Will these tube mono block tube amps drive these Summits? I don't listen too loud and i have a cozy room.
Welcome. Great choice on the amplification side. I have a pair of SixPacs driving my reQuests and couldn't be happier. I had them driving full-range and they didn't break a sweat registering 98db+ at my listening position 12 feet away. Now, the Summits are more sensitive (92db vs 90db for the reQuests) in addition, they have internal 200watt amplifier for the bass so I'm pretty sure the SixPacs will do just fine driving the panels. In ordering the SixPacs, you should go for the upgraded PIO caps option to get the sound even smoother, especially the midrange. You can take a look at my system #27 and ask more questions regarding the SixPacs. Good luck

Spike
 

aliveatfive

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Not too many people actually have them yet. The factory is supposed to be behind schedule in production. I ordered mine in the beginning of August. I won't have them until the end of September. Roberto, who posts here frequently, has been successful driving them with tubes. I'll use my Audio Research VT 100 III (tubes also) when I get mine. Stay tuned for more info on amp choices.
 
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BearcatSandor

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amey01 said:
I'm sure you will love the Summits, and I'm sure your system will sound better than any average computer based system, however the Summits are a serious high-end speaker. They really deserve a better front end than a computer!
I really don't understand this position. As long as you use a good D/A converter outside of the computer you can blow away most systems with stand-alone CD players. I'll be using firewire.

There are a myriad of advantages to using a computer as a front-end (provided you do your D/A conversion outside of it)

1) Flexibility. I can play almost anything with it. Any format i can throw at it, it can play through my audio system. I have it set up as a tivo to record television programs using complex queries ("Record all new episodes of this program that have not been recorded yet, but only on this day.) I have all 500 of my Cd's copies to my hard drive in a *lossless* format and can listen to days worth of music, view the lyrics on my screen, enlarge the album cover and listen to 50 random tracks from my entire collection. As well i can broadcast my music all over the house. I have my music (and video) on my webserver and can listen to it from anyware in the world with a browser (i.e a PDA with a wireless connection). *That* is cool.

2. Quality. Since i'll be using firewire as a connector quality is not really an issue. Data is Data. My outboard D/A converter is where it counts. Even if i was using a spdif connection, my soundcard is not a "soundblaster". It's a $450 RME soundcard. This card is far better in quality then most CD players. Remeber I'll be using equipment that professional studios use. If computers sucked as a front end why do professional studios use Digital Audio Workstations. Beisides, that cd player sitting in your rack *is* a computer, even if it's chips aren't made by intel or amd.

3. Upgradabiliy. There is no better way to ensure your front-end stays current.

Now, if i were interested in vinyl, yea a computer would suck :)

Thanx for all the comments folks. I'll check out that link Sky Slaw.

Spike, how long do the tubes last and how expensive are they to replace? Since they are mail order only did you have any problems with auditioning them?

edit: Just looked at your sytem Spike. Nice! I bet it sounds great!!
 
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Spike

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BearcatSandor said:
I really don't understand this position. As long as you use a good D/A converter outside of the computer you can blow away most systems with stand-alone CD players.
I agree with your points that a computer based system is much better than the stand-alone CD player solution. There had been much discussions on this topic already so I won't go into them here. You can do a search at AudioAsylum's PC Audio board and see for yourself. The biggest complain that I have until now is regarding:
1) Fan noise & HDD mechanical noise necessitate the need to put the PC box in another room (home office) and streaming music data over network connection (wired or wireless).
2) With the PC box in another room, controlling it remotely becomes an issue since I cannot flick my remote control and have it skip forward/backward or jump to a random track. I need to either turn on my TV and use the TV to navigate through the myriad of options to re-organize my playlist, or another option is to use my laptop (or PDA) to achieve the same thing. I just want to turn down the light and enjoy my music without any distractions :)
There are a couple of promising new products from ZeroOne Audio and Olive which are computer-based, but are designed to be noiseless and with appliance like remote control. Hopefully, this is the trend of things to come.

Spike, how long do the tubes last and how expensive are they to replace? Since they are mail order only did you have any problems with auditioning them?
The tubes last about 2-3 thousand hours of use conservatively speaking. That does not sound like much but if you put things into perspective, it's very reasonable. For example, I'm lucky if I can squeeze in 10 hours a week for music listening. Let's exagerate and say 20 hours every week. At this rate, it'll take you 100 weeks to get to the 2000 hours mark, and 150 weeks to get to 3000 hours. That comes out to be between 2 to 3 years of use before you need to upgrade the tubes! The SixPacs having 6 tubes to crank out 50 watts is not driving the tubes hard at all (according to Dennis Had) like some other designs. I gravitated toward the EL34 tubes for 2 reasons:
1) They are better designed for triode mode than the KT88 or 6550 series.
2) They are cheap! about $20 per tube for good ones. You can expect to retube the SixPacs for about $250 to $400. Not too shabby for 2-3 years of enjoyment! Heck, you could spend more than that on 1 meter of cables!

For auditioning the SixPacs, you can get a really good idea of what they'll sound like in your system if you audit its closely related cousin, the Cary V12R. That's what I did when I was looking at the SixPacs and almost pulled the trigger on the V12R, except that the Cary is too deep and would not fit in my rack :-( Whew, dodge a bullet there.

Good Luck
Spike
 
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BearcatSandor

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Spike,

As i just so happens i got off the phone with AES about 5 minutes ago. I think the sixpacks will do just fine! Awesome in fact. Thanks for you comments. I can't wait!! I have a Carey dealer near me (55 miles away, but hey this is Montana I'll take what i can get!) and i should be able to give the V12R a listen.

As far as tube replacement goes, let's put it into perspective. I have a Carver tfm-55x. Due to it's age and my heavy use, i have to replace a capacitor or something else about every four years or so. That's about as frequent as tube replacement and if i have to pay a repair person to do it i can easily approach the cost of a new set of tubes. With a tube amp i don't have to wait for 2 months while they're waiting for parts, working on other peoples stuff etc. I just plug in the tubes, re-bias and go!

What's more, i can mix and match tubes to get just the sound i want. Re-biasing doesn't seem difficult enough to warrent spending the money on a tube amp that does it automatically.

As far as fan and hdd noise, i don't think it's an issue. Digital streams are not sensitive to vibration as analog streams are. Jitter is not caused by vibration, despite what the name suggests. I'm gonna be water cooling my system with ultra quiet pumps so that should take care of the ambient noise.

Oh, yeah i forgot to mention. My computer system allows me to use professonal grade audio/video plug ins! I can get great surround sound with ambiophonics, circle surround and thousands of sound tweaks. Room correction? Eq down to finite levels? Video? Heh, with the program i use to record, pause and rewind video i can adjust the video on a per-channel basis. *That's* cool as some of my local channels could use such adjusting.
 

Spike

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BearcatSandor said:
I have a Carey dealer near me (55 miles away, but hey this is Montana I'll take what i can get!) and i should be able to give the V12R a listen.
If you don't mind me asking, what's a "computer geek" doing in...Montana? Shouldn't you be working in the Silicon Valley instead? Hahaha. Just kidding! Wait, you said that you're giving the Cary V12R a listen? Do you have the Summits already? While having the V12R, you might want to explore for yourself the difference between triode and ultra-linear mode via flipping a switch on the V12R itself.

As far as fan and hdd noise, i don't think it's an issue. Digital streams are not sensitive to vibration as analog streams are. Jitter is not caused by vibration, despite what the name suggests. I'm gonna be water cooling my system with ultra quiet pumps so that should take care of the ambient noise.
The "heatpipe" may take care of the fan noise, but what about the clicking and whining noise from the disk-drive? The ambient noise from fan & disk-drive are the two most offending ones that kept me from getting a pc-based system so far.

Oh, yeah i forgot to mention. My computer system allows me to use professonal grade audio/video plug ins! I can get great surround sound with ambiophonics, circle surround and thousands of sound tweaks. Room correction? Eq down to finite levels? Video? Heh, with the program i use to record, pause and rewind video i can adjust the video on a per-channel basis. *That's* cool as some of my local channels could use such adjusting.
Looks like that's a cool PC source. If I were to try to control the PC remotely (and lazily) what would you suggest?

Spike
 
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BearcatSandor

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Spike said:
If you don't mind me asking, what's a "computer geek" doing in...Montana? Shouldn't you be working in the Silicon Valley instead? Hahaha. Just kidding! Wait, you said that you're giving the Cary V12R a listen? Do you have the Summits already? While having the V12R, you might want to explore for yourself the difference between triode and ultra-linear mode via flipping a switch on the V12R itself.
No, i don't have the Summit's already. I wish! I'm just collecting data and trying to convince my bank account that this is a good idea.

I'm interested in the Triode/ultra-linier switch, but i don't think the sixpacks have that do they? They have a feedback switch, which i would most likely leave in the 'no feedback' position.

As far as what i'm doing out here, i grew up here. I've lived in the city and made a lot more money then i do now. However, I'm happier with my life even if there's less money in it.
Money can't beat this:
http://www.feline-soul.com//files/ten_miles_away_from_my_home.jpg

Spike said:
The "heatpipe" may take care of the fan noise, but what about the clicking and whining noise from the disk-drive? The ambient noise from fan & disk-drive are the two most offending ones that kept me from getting a pc-based system so far.
My case will have a single fan, via the power supply. They have become *very* quiet and some are build for near silence. I can't hear mine unless my ear is too it. Also, you can get sleeves that dampen the sound of your hard drives as well. Or you can get external drives and dampen them outside of your box.

Spike said:
Looks like that's a cool PC source. If I were to try to control the PC remotely (and lazily) what would you suggest?
Spike
I have a Logitech bluetooth keyboard and mouse to control my PC. To control the rest of my system i have a device the sends out IR frequencies to control the rest of my system that plugs into a USB port.

I have a Linux based system which gives me a great amount of control over this stuff. :)
 

Spike

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BearcatSandor said:
I'm interested in the Triode/ultra-linier switch, but i don't think the sixpacks have that do they? They have a feedback switch, which i would most likely leave in the 'no feedback' position.
I tried out the ultra-linear switch on the Cary V12R and didn't like it as much as the triode mode. I like the sweeter, more romantic presentation of the triode mode better than the ultra-linear mode. The SixPacs do not have the ultra-linear switch like the V12R. I had Dennis rewire the feedback switch to provide me with a "standby" switch instead. Here's an excerpt from my email correspondence with Dennis Had of Cary Audio regarding the SixPacs vs V12R:

Dennis Had said:
I am back in my office. I have been in the lab designing new "toys". The Rocket 88R can be run as a bridged mono feeding the plus phase to one channel and the negative 180 degree to the other. Double the power but ..... the sound is not as beautiful. Not my recommendation. The SixPacs do in fact have two chokes. The main B+ supply is choke input filtering and the bias supply also is choke filtered. The six EL-34's in the SixPacs are not working hard at all. This will give you years and years of service.

The output transformers on the SixPacs are already over engineered. They are actually running at less than half their design parameters. The transformer will operate into a short let alone 2 ohm load. You may wish to have your SixPacs equipped with the Jensen copper and oil caps. This will add more bloom to the midrange. This option is $200 for the pair. WBT output speaker posts would be another thoughtful idea. The WBT speaker post will add only $96 for the pair of SixPacs. You might at this point wish to incorporate the Kimber input RCA jacks as well for $30 for the pair. Your custom pair of SixPacs will total $2726.

In regards to the V12R vs the SixPacs, the V12R is more powerful, the power supply consists of three separate power transformers along with a lower noise floor. The V12R allows the user to select triode or ultra-linear operation. The extra cost of the V12R vs the SixPacs is more than skin deep. The V12R has brains looking at each output tube current consumption with an indication of "good health". Just to mention a few. Either way you decide you will have a wonderful amplifier.
 
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