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System #55 (Expression 13A's)

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sleepysurf

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System #55 (Expression 13A's)

Alan N
Tampa, FL

Current setup

ExpSetup2016.jpg

2 Channel Audio Setup:
-Squeezebox Touch (with "Enhanced Digital Output" applet), streaming FLAC files from a 2.0 TB ReadyNAS NV+
-Oppo UDP-205 CD/SACD/DVD/Blu-ray player (for physical media, and DLNA streamed FLAC)
-Gramovox "Floating Record" turntable/conversation piece (just for kicks!)
-Bel Canto DAC 3.5 MKII (with VBS1 power supply and reference umbilical)
-Conrad-Johnson CT5 preamp
-Conrad-Johnson Premier 350 amp (one of their rare 100% solid state models). 350W (peak 500W and 66A) into 8 ohms, 780W into 4 ohms, and up to 1600 W into 2 ohms!
-Martin-Logan Expression ESL 13A (walnut) purchased 8/16 (retrofitted with Summit X legs for 3° rake angle)
-Dual Mono ML BalancedForce 210 subs
-Audience AU24e interconnects and speaker cables
-Volex 17604 shielded power cords
-Running Springs Audio Duke 20A Conditioner (amp, preamp)
-Belkin PF60 Surge Protector/Conditioner (Squeezebox, DAC, Oppo player)

Additional components completing 5.1 setup:
-Denon 3808CI (with Audyssey MultEQ XT)
-ML Motif Center Channel
-Boston Acoustics DX Pro (flush mounted in ceiling as diffuse-field surrounds)
-SurgeX XR 315 protector (for HDTV, Receiver, and Expressions)

Video:
-LG 77" OLED HDTV, wall-mounted on a cantilever Omnimount UCL-X
-Oppo UDP 205 for DVD/Blu-Ray
-YouTube TV

Acoustic Treatments/Furniture:
-StudioTech HF-4 modular rack for audio components (faux granite finished shelves)
-Crate & Barrel Harmony 70" media console for video/storage (with lattice sliders and removable rear panels for ventilation)
-Custom bookshelves (9" deep, with 2' inside diameter to accommodate acoustic panels if desired), their evolution discussed in this thread... Bookshelves behind speakers for absorption/diffusion?
-GIK Table Bass Trap (as side table)
-Jazz sculptures are from Willitt's Designs All That Jazz series ("All Night Long" and "In The Groove")

Dimensions:
-Family/Listening Room is 17' x 21' (speakers on short wall) with sloping 10-12' cathedral ceilings. Functionally, there is no back wall due to adjoining 18' x 14' kitchen. With this open floor plan, total volume >6400 cubic ft.
-ML's are currently ~4 ft from front wall (bookshelves), ~7.5 ft apart (center to center), and 4-5 ft from side walls.
-Listening position (at apex of triangle) is ~10' from speakers.


Future upgrades:
-Universal remote
-New in-ceiling surrounds

Comments:
My foray into high-end audio began with a pair of Apogee Acoustics Stage (planar-magnetic) speakers in 1989, driven by an Adcom GFA-545II amp, and Yamaha receiver as Pre/Pro. Unfortunately, the Stages were too large for my subsequent home, so I replaced them with ML Aerius i's. As seen in the "old" Aerius setup below, the oversized wall unit and RPTV were an acoustic nightmare. Fortunately, I was able to upgrade to the Summits, and reconfigure the room in a more acoustic-friendly setup. The addition of the Modwright Pre brought "tube" warmth into my audio life, and a Belles 350 Ref amp provided pristine power for the Summit panels. In 12/08 I upgraded to Audience AU 24e speaker cables (slightly cleaner bass and smoother highs vs. my old Blue Jeans cables). With a shared Family/Listening room, acoustics have always been the weakest link. So I added a 3 ft GIK Pillar Bass Trap (in the only available corner) and a GIK Table Trap along a side wall. I also tried 2' x 4' absorption panels on the front wall, but that deadened the room too much. So, in 3/09, I added the custom bookshelves, incorporating 2' x 2' absorption panels at the bottom for bass trapping, with books providing a mix of absorption and diffusion. With this configuration, my imaging, soundstage depth, and overall tonality, have never sounded better!

And yes, I know the granite coffee table is an acoustic no-no, but it's here to stay for the near term (I cover it with pillows/blanket for serious listening). I've also started experimenting with tube-rolling, which is why the cover is off my Modwright. I'm amazed at how much tonal variation there is between different brands of NOS and current tubes, especially the rectifier. Who knew!

In 11/09 I replaced my Belles amp with the C-J Premier 350 amp, which elevated my system to an even higher level, offering extreme musical detail and power like I'd never had before. Every upgrade thus far has provided clearcut sonic improvements, but I think I've just about reached the point of diminishing returns!

In 3/10 I upgraded to a C-J CT5 preamp... still breaking in, but from a musical perspective, the CT5 is the "cat's meow."

4/11... Upgraded to the Oppo BDP-95... definitely a giant step forward vs. the older BDP-83 (now relegated to a secondary system).

6/12... Upholstered ottoman to replace reflective granite coffee table... win-win from both acoustic and WAF perspective!

10/12... Upgraded to Bel Canto DAC 3.5VB (mk II) to replace my Benchmark... significantly more musical, with live-like "presence" in the mids and highs.

3/13... Replaced carpet with engineered hardwood flooring, plus 100% wool area rug, along with full kitchen remodel behind listening position... net effect better overall dynamics with fewer reflections from kitchen ("counter height" island vs. prior "bar height")

3/14... Added a ML BalancedForce 210 sub (mid left side wall), to address a large ~60 Hz null that I couldn't otherwise eliminate, and also to better "energize" the total room volume (>6400 cu ft). NHT Sub Two will be relegated for only home theater use.

1/16... Added a 2nd BalancedForce 210 sub (running both as Dual Mono subs), and relocated both behind listening position/couch.

8/16... Replaced legacy Summits with Expression 13A's (Walnut, as ML unfortunately couldn't do custom Bubinga). Also retrofitted with Summit X legs for 3° rake angle (vs. default 5°).

11/17... Removed acoustic panels from lower bookshelves and front wall, and also removed GIK corner "pillar" bass trap. Since acquiring the Expressions, neither offered significant improvement vs. not using them (via listening tests and XTZ Room Analyzer measurements).

8/18... Oppo UDP-205 replaced Oppo BDP-95. Required rearranging rack to accommodate taller height. Replaced old StudioTech rack with (infinitely adjustable) Salamander Archetype rack.

7/19... Upgraded to 77" LG OLED HDTV, and replaced old (MOV based) Monster surge protector with SurgeX XR315 (series mode protection). Also starting Family/Listening Room redecorating. Will post updated pic after completed (probably late Aug).

12/19... Dropped cable service for YouTube TV


Prior setups

DualMonoSubs.jpg
 

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MiTT

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Alan, can it really be that you are just now posting your wonderful system(s) on the forum? I mean, hell, seems like you've been here 4 Evah!

At any rate, very cool set-up and a great looking rooms to enjoy your music and movies in. Glad to see them finally here.

More pictures of those great electronics in the 2 channel setup please - I want to see the Modwright and Belles up close and personal. :p
 
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sleepysurf

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Sorry for the delay in updating my "official" system! Here are add'l pics, including my rack and components, and Denon 3808CI, for home theater. I've also included the view of my open kitchen, which I have in lieu of a back wall.
 

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Rich

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Great looking system, Alan. You inspire me. I am going to get my system posted soon ... I promise. By the way, I love the faux finish on the walls. It is a really warm and inviting room.
 

JonFo

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Alan, great setup and nice pics of the whole rig.

About time too ...

But I sure understand about needing to get everything just so before the pics are taken.

At least you beat Rich to the punch on the posting of the system thing :D
 

sleepysurf

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About time too ...

But I sure understand about needing to get everything just so before the pics are taken...
After 6 months of tweaking/re-tweaking, I was finally able to COMMIT! Rest assured though, there'll be more changes down the road!

Now that you can see my room, you can appreciate why I'm having difficulty figuring out where, and what, acoustic treatments to use!

No corners for bass traps, and the side walls are "untouchable". The left wall is a sliding glass door overlooking our pool, with fabric cellular blinds framed by drapes. The right wall has staggered ledge-like shelves with pictures and knick-knacks, and provides some decent diffusion (I think), but no absorption (other than the upholstered recliner). The granite coffee table is an acoustic white elephant, but I try to keep it covered with magazines and pillows.

Feel free to chime in with suggestions!
 
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STV

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Alan,

Love your setup! Very clean and organized.;) Also the finish on your Summits is gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your system.:)
 

twich54

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"Sleepy" , nice to see the evolution of your system !
 

Brad225

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Alan, The room is looking great. The WAF has to be right up there. The room looks so much bigger and the front wall has a much more stylish look that blends with your home much better than a large cabinet. So when are we going to get a listen?
 

Joey_V

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Alan!

Is this really your one and only system's page? I swear I remember you having a prior system page from before...

If this is your one and only page, it's been a looong time coming!

Your system looks fantastic btw... and if I recall the older pics you had up on the forums, this is a huge step in the right direction!

:bowdown:
 

MiTT

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Alan!

Is this really your one and only system's page? I swear I remember you having a prior system page from before...

If this is your one and only page, it's been a looong time coming!

Your system looks fantastic btw... and if I recall the older pics you had up on the forums, this is a huge step in the right direction!

:bowdown:
Alan did have another System (#55), in fact it's still up. He had asked me to delete it while I was in Amsterdam, but I'm just a Moderator. Tom's the guy who will have to decide wheter to delete it or just leave it be, or possibly merge it...
 

music again

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Awesome set up!

That is one awesome ML looking set up, and the room looks great too! :D

Thanks for sharing!

Joe
 

sleepysurf

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I've significantly upgraded my room acoustics, and added new pics and commentary above. In addition, to the GIK Acoustics Pillar Trap (in my sole corner), I added a GIK Table Bass Trap next to our recliner along a side wall. I'm not sure how much actual bass-trapping it does there, but we needed a new side table anyways, so why not! Overall, the acoustic treatments have yielded more detailed imaging and tighter bass than any other single system tweak to date. As others have preached, the time and effort invested in acoustic treatments is well worth it! The toughest challenge was to accomplish it in a decor-friendly manner, so I wouldn't end up sleeping on the couch!
 

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sleepysurf

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Updated my system pics to include my acoustic bookshelves. Will continue tweaking speaker placement, and try various absorption/diffusion combinations, as guided by the XTZ Room Analyzer.
 

Joey_V

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Alan,

Just wanted to say hello! Your system remains fantastic btw!
 

sleepysurf

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Upgraded my amp to the revered Conrad-Johnson Premier 350 (100 % SS). They are no longer in production, but I snagged one off A'gon. After a rocky start (DOA due to a broken capacitor solder joint from shipping), I'm now enjoying my system at a whole new level. Also added a Running Springs Audio Duke conditioner (for amp and preamp). Will update pics, and post a longer review ASAP!
 

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sleepysurf

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I've completed my upgrade path with the recent addition of a Conrad Johnson CT5 (also snagged off A'gon) to mate with my Premier 350. It's absolutely stunning, from both a musical, and cosmetic perspective. The icing on the cake is that the classic Conrad Johnson "champagne" finish blends perfectly with my acoustic panels! I didn't have such an upgrade in mind when ordering the panels, but I guess 'twas meant to be! I'll post a further review once everything is properly dialed in.
 

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