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System #99 (Ascent i, Depth)

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SteveInNC

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(time for a general update 05sep2010)

1. Steve

2. Research Triangle, NC

3. Ascent i, Depth x 2

4. Purchased in July 2005, Depth in January 2006, and another Depth when they were being discontinued.

5. No mods.

6. Electronics:

The following italicized equipment has been retired (various stages) in favor of other stuff, below:
Sony DA4ES: HT receiver, used for 7.1 home theater and as a prepro.

Hafler DH-500: two channel power amp for mains, solid state, approx 380 watts RMS/channel into 4 ohms. It's also 20+ years old.

Update 02/2007, the Hafler has been retired in favor of a Musical Fidelity A5 Integrated, running mainly in HT pass-through. It's significantly better at controlling the Ascents.

Hughes HDVR2: DirecTV TiVo satellite receiver. I was an early-adopter of DirecTV - I bought an original RCA system ($900) in July 1994 during the beta test and installed it myself, 3 months before DirecTV officially offered service. I hated cable that much...

Denon 1920: DVD/SACD/DVDA progressive scan, connected via fiber to receiver for HT and analog for SACD, video over HDMI.

Sony DVP-NC615: DVD/CD carousel, for when you want to run a bunch of background music.

JVC HR-S3500U: Super VHS ET, just in case.

Toshiba 46HM95: rear projection DLP. If you note, it's in front of the fireplace. I bought a DLP specifically because it's light enough (86 lbs) to pick up and move if I decide to have a fire. Front projection just wasn't suitable for my room. I like DLP well enough, particularly with hi-def sources which I pull in over-the-air. Standard-def signals can be good, or really suck, particularly for color purity. I run the SD stuff in TheaterWide mode (stretches the aspect ratio, mainly at the edges, to fill the screen).

New(er) stuff:

Denon 3808ci used as a pre-pro and surrounds power

Musical Fidelity A5 Integrated running mainly in HT pass-through mode to power the Ascents

2 Depths powered off of the Denon's LFE-out, set to LFE+Main, with the fronts set to "small". They are positioned just to the outside of, and in-plane with the Ascents.

Pioneer KURO PDP-5020FD 50" plasma

Oppo BDP83 for DVD/Blu/SACD/DVDA

DirecTV HR 21/100 hidef sat receiver

Phillips DVDR3576H DVR/DVD Recorder combo to archive stuff.

JVC HR-S3500U: Super VHS ET, just in case (still :) )

Equipment rack is a BDI Vector in cherry. It is coated steel with adjustable glass shelves. Each shelf will hold 75 lbs, and the bottom shelf will hold 150 lbs. It has a decent cable management system in the back. The whole unit is slightly wedge-shaped, tapering to a narrower back when viewed from above. The front cherry facing is roughly V-shaped, widening as you move up the rack.

7. Comments
I auditioned Ascents intermittently for about two years before purchasing them from Audio Advice in Raleigh, NC. They are replacing a pair of ESS AMT-1Cs (Heil air transformer), and I was specifically looking for good midrange. The AMTs do very well down low, and the Heils go up to 35 Khz, so highs are covered to. Midrange has always been problematic though. As my tastes in music have changed, I tend to listen to stuff that really needs good midrange, like female vocals, acoustic guitar, jazz, etc., so the Ascents sound like heaven by comparison. The first time I auditioned them, the sales mgr played a cut from Sarah McLachlan, and the hair literally stood up on my arms. I was in lust...

A week after I ordered mine, they were discontinued. I decided that it didn't really matter - they were still as good as when I had been auditioning them, the Summits were out of reach, and the Vantage wasn't due out any time soon. Audio Advice did give me a refund of the discounted price without any prompting from me. That's why I like them as a dealer. I've also bought stuff from them for 20+ years, including the Hafler mentioned above.

When I auditioned the Ascents, I felt like they lacked some punch, so I had the sales mgr hook up a Depth too. That solved the issues that I had with them, so I knew that I'd be buying a sub at some point. I eventually bought a Depth about six months later, after allowing myself to get used to the Ascents. It has helped as I expected.

Retired to the bedroom:
The Sony is good enough as a prepro, and excellent as a HT. I don't think that its audio section is as good as my previous Sony GX-900ES ProLogic unit that it replaced (now a bedroom system). As a result, I'm now giving serious consideration to a Musical Fidelity A5 Integrated Amp which has an HT bypass. This would allow me to run two-channel straight to the amp and let it serve as a mains amp for HT via the DA4ES. When I auditioned the Ascents, the store was using Musical Fidelity for sources (although I think that they used separates). If they have the A5 Integrated in-house, I'll try to arrange for an in-home demo to see if or how much of an improvement it makes. Yes, I'm caught on the upgrade train...

My room is 15.5x16.5x8 feet, with the speakers on the 15-foot wall. Originally, they were on the 16-foot wall, but that had a slightly strange geometry and some nearby door openings, with a resulting hot band in the mid-highs. To solve this, I rotated everything in my living room ninety degrees counter-clockwise. This did help tremendously. Unfortunately, my existing standard-def CRT TV would block the fireplace, and was probably too deep anyway for the hearth, so I had to go buy a hi-def DLP as described above :). (Update 05sep2010), I gave the DLP to my brother and replaced it with a Pioneer KURO 50" plasma. It's significantly better :), unfortunately, Pioneer exited the plasma business, supposedly selling their related tech to Panasonic, so that's probably your best bet now.

Note that the picture is actually three that have been stitched into a panorama via Photoshop, thus the somewhat ugly pin-cushioning and strange lighting. That's a coffee table with a bunch of stuff in the middle-bottom of the picture. There is an area rug on the laminate floor under the coffee table which helps deaden the room some, along with miscellaneous shelves and curtains around the room. The listening position is approximately eight feet from the plane of the panels. The speakers are eight feet apart on-center, and 3.5 feet from the rear and side walls.
 

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MiTT

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Good to see your system up here Steve. When I looked at your equipment it was interesting to see you have a Hafler DH-500 driving the Ascent's. I used to have one too that now has been handed off to my son. Did you build it from a kit? I struggled with the kit over a period of several weeks and finally got everything built only to find when I first plugged it in that it didn't work. So then I spent another week troubleshooting it and finally got it working correctly. Mine also has been functional now for some 20 years!

Happy Listening!
 

SteveInNC

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MiTT said:
Good to see your system up here Steve. When I looked at your equipment it was interesting to see you have a Hafler DH-500 driving the Ascent's. I used to have one too that now has been handed off to my son. Did you build it from a kit? I struggled with the kit over a period of several weeks and finally got everything built only to find when I first plugged it in that it didn't work. So then I spent another week troubleshooting it and finally got it working correctly. Mine also has been functional now for some 20 years!

Happy Listening!
Yep, mine was a kit too. I also did the preamp, which I still have in a closet somewhere. For those unfamiliar with the brand, Hafler was also responsible for Dynaco. The kits were not really component-level kits - you wired the connections between preassembled boards. Hafler gear used to get rave reviews in Absolute Sound. People still try to find Hafler amps, they're bridgable and get used alot for sound reinforcement. There are aftermarket kits to upgrade components in the system, but I've never really felt the need to go there.

Apparently, David Halfer died in 2003. Here is a quote from an obituary I found online:
In 1999, the trade magazine Vacuum Tube Valley said in a profile that Mr. Hafler "has probably been more instrumental in the development of component hi-fi for home use than anybody in the history of the industry." In 1984, he was named to the Audio Hall of Fame.
Stereophile had this to say:
The DH-500 and XL-280 were among the earliest high-power amps available at accessible prices. Relatively easy to assemble and elegantly designed, Hafler products spawned a secondary industry in audiophile modifications, including the well-regarded work by Musical Concepts. Always pushing the boundaries of audio reproduction, Hafler did some of the earliest experiments in surround sound and ambience retrieval, including popularizing an ingenious method that extracts the difference signal from a stereo pair by wiring a third speaker across the hot leads.
...
Hafler's name is permanently etched into the history of audio—along with those of Saul Marantz, Avery Fisher, and a handful of other pioneers who built the industry in the mid-20th century. David Hafler was inducted into the Audio Hall of Fame in 1984.
Here is a picture of my Vector rack. The Hafler is on the bottom (it's heavy...).
 

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MarkNewbie

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Hey Steve!

Cool set up! Glad to see you post your system! Thinking about adding a sub with my ascent i's as well. Sub? Car? Sub? Car? :confused:

Actually, after reading your post I think I am going to start the sub search in earnest. :cool:
 

twich54

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What, your Hafler does not give off any heat ??? Even an A/B amp needs better ventilation than that.
 

MiTT

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twich54 said:
What, your Hafler does not give off any heat ??? Even an A/B amp needs better ventilation than that.
The Haffler isn't vented on the top as I recall from mine. It has vents on the sides and a two speed fan that draws air through the amp and out the other side as part of the design. It was originally designed for rack mounting where you might have components above and below.
 

Joey_V

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Steve,

I see your sweetspot is great! I like how you positioned the speakers perfectly symmetrical to the tv.... I dont understand how others place their rack next to the tv and the speakers on either side of the tv/rack combo - making their speakers completely "off" position-wise.

Glad you like your Ascents.... those are certainly solid speakers!

What trim are they in? Take pics of the sides if you can... I'd like a peek! ;)
 

SteveInNC

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MiTT said:
The Haffler isn't vented on the top as I recall from mine. It has vents on the sides and a two speed fan that draws air through the amp and out the other side as part of the design. It was originally designed for rack mounting where you might have components above and below.
Yep, what he said. The output stage uses semiconductors directly mounted to a large custom heatsink block. The heatsink has fins in the middle, and the fan blows through the heatsink core. Air is pulled in the sides and vents out the back. Since I've moved the amp into this rack, I've never heard it kick up to the second stage of the fan speed. Note that the rack is open on all sides. The fan is effectively silent at low speed.

re: trim, mine are in light oak. Almost all of the furniture in the room is Mission/Shaker style and the same shade of oak, and the floor is maple. I like simple lines and natural wood.

re: car, sub, car?

I'm making moves towards building a house this fall - it's putting a real crimp in my audio habit :) (Amp?, house?, amp?, house?).
 

twich54

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MiTT said:
The Haffler isn't vented on the top as I recall from mine. It has vents on the sides and a two speed fan that draws air through the amp and out the other side as part of the design. It was originally designed for rack mounting where you might have components above and below.
I see, said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.
 

lexor

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system

it is nice to see some good sounding vintage equipment (Hafler 500) i also built one and was very happy with it but like must audio nuts i sold it. I see the Grnadfather clock in your picture can you tell me where you got it. thanks
 

SteveInNC

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lexor said:
it is nice to see some good sounding vintage equipment (Hafler 500) i also built one and was very happy with it but like must audio nuts i sold it. I see the Grnadfather clock in your picture can you tell me where you got it. thanks
I was told that it was hand-made by a craftsman from the mountains of western North Carolina and is in solid cherry. He built the cabinets and ordered the brass movement from another source. It is chain-driven, with very heavy brass-surround weights with what I guess are lead cores to power the action. The case is approximately 7'x1.5'x1'. My grandmother got it sometime in the forties or fifties and I inherited it. It hadn't run in years (actually, not in as long as I remember having seen it), so I dismantled and cleaned the movement, and got it working again. I leave the chimes turned off. The clock keeps surprisingly good time. The movement is a German Urgos 11326.

I guess it qualifies as vintage equipment too :)
 

lexor

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clock

thanks you for the information, i am planning on building one (kit form) when i retire this August.
 

Robin

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Beautiful Ascent i / Depth Synergy...

Steve,

What a cool system! :D

I like your gear and that awesome equipment rack. Is that your doggy in the photo on top? Is she a sitter? Her name?

Are you lusting after any other ML speakers for your system?

Far-out system and HT room... :D
 

SteveInNC

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Robin said:
Steve,

What a cool system! :D

I like your gear and that awesome equipment rack. Is that your doggy in the photo on top? Is she a sitter? Her name?

Are you lusting after any other ML speakers for your system?

Far-out system and HT room... :D
Yep, that was my dog. I lost her to cancer a few years ago. She was a golden retriever. Her name was Steve's Aqua Regia, which is a really obscure chemistry pun. Her call name was Regia (REEjhuh).

I'm lusting after Summits now. My financial situation has changed since I bought my Ascents because I no longer have tuition payments (went back to school). I could buy them now, but I'm holding off because I want to build a new house this fall. I guess you could argue that my next speaker purchase is an audio room :).
 

Joey_V

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SteveInNC said:
I'm lusting after Summits now. My financial situation has changed since I bought my Ascents because I no longer have tuition payments (went back to school). I could buy them now, but I'm holding off because I want to build a new house this fall. I guess you could argue that my next speaker purchase is an audio room :).
Well..... lets get it on! The Summits are next for Steve... I'm calling it right here. :)

Looking forward to your Summit pics soon...
 

Robin

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The Room is soooo important...

Steve,

I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your Golden Retriever, Regia... She sounds like she was a much loved part of your family.

I tend to agree with you about working for the 'House Habit' and the HT room being a huge component of your system as well. 'The audio room' is an extremely to any quality system, to achieve 'Sonic Nirvana'. I agree with Joey you will have your Summit someday I can feel it in my bones... ;) Please let us know your progress of your home theater room, it is fascinating to me (us) to know audio HT plans from the ground up... :)
 
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