"Musical" components and system
Sep 3, 2009 at 5:12 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 23

seacard

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So I keep reading about components that are "musical," smooth, organic, etc. versus those that are overly detailed or precise or sterile or dry or some other adjective carrying a negative connotation. In the latter category, you hear about companies like Esoteric, Wadia, Benchmark, Sony, Bryston. The former often includes companies like Marantz, Meridian, Linn, McIntosh, Luxman.

So I'm curious what you think are the most musical components in the headphone system. Maybe you could list:

1. CD Player

2. Amp

3. Headphone

4. Cable, Power Cord, Stand, Adapter, etc. (if you believe in this sort of thing)

For me in my limited experience so far:

1. Ayre C-5xe

2. Singlepower Supra XLR
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3. Sony R10

4. N/A (for me)


My only request -- the piece you're listing must be clean and accurate. I know everybody hears differently, but I ask that you not name an item that even you would acknowledge is very colored, muddy-sounding, etc. (e.g. Cary 300SEI).
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 7:02 AM Post #2 of 23

Uncle Erik

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For amps, I keep going back to the Zana Deux. It's precise, neutral and almost sounds like solid state, but there is just enough smoothness and musicality to let you know you're listening to tubes. There's nothing else quite like it out there. The other tube amps sound like tube amps and solid state sounds like solid state. Neither are bad things, however, the Zana is the only one that gives the best of both with the only drawback being a fair amount of excess heat. It's worth it. I've owned it for about 18 months now, so the "new toy" phase is over and I still love it as much as I did when it was new.

Though slightly controversial, I'm coming up on two months with the HD-800 and I still have a hard time getting them off my head. On tubes, the HD-800 also gives a detailed, precise and slightly warm presentation. I like it a little better on the admittedly colored Moth Si2A3, but that's personal preference. It's wonderful on the Zana as well, which is what I'm planning to listen to as soon as I get home.
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I can't speak too much to CD players, but the Marantz SA8001 is still keeping me happy. I'm planning to grab a DVD-A player shortly (having been unable to pass up the "Pet Sounds" and "Yoshimi" DVD-A discs), so I should have another digital player to compare the SA8001 to soon. I don't know if you've been sucked into the world of vinyl, but I can report terrific results from using the Denon DL103 with Cinemag step-up transformers. There's something special with the combination - I've lost interest in purchasing one of the high-end cartridges.

As for cables... I still think the Blue Jeans are wonderful. I'm not much of a believer, though.
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 7:51 AM Post #3 of 23

electropop

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1. Linn Majik CD

2. Naim Headline w/ psu

3. Audio Technica AD2000

More like the synergy in this system.. Linn source components are absolutely magical. Try one if you can. I've always felt with my own system that AD2000 really have potential but lack something. When I auditioned the Majik CD and Naim amp, everything locked into place. I spent roughly 1,5 hours with it listening to my various favourite albums.. Great transtients and flow, superb melodic structuring. None of that digital harshness, but detailed nevertheless. Aaaahhh
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 4:31 PM Post #4 of 23

seacard

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Quote:

Originally Posted by electropop /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Linn source components are absolutely magical.


I've been hearing that, and would love to see how Linn sound (let's say the Akurate) compares to Marantz (SA7-S1), McIntosh (MCD500), and Ayre (C-5xeMP). Those are all at around the same price (i.e. overpriced) and all have been described as very musical players.

My only concern is I found my Ayre a little boring, a little overly polite. I've read the same criticism of the Linn. I'd like to find something musical but with a little more punch.
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 4:40 PM Post #5 of 23

AdamWysokinski

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Quote:

Originally Posted by seacard /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I'd like to find something musical but with a little more punch.


Naim should fit the bill.

Cheers,
Adam
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 5:13 PM Post #6 of 23

edstrelow

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I am wary of the distinction you try to make. The term "musical" is much more subjective than "detailed." For many people it just seems like a way to give their personal sonic preferences some additional cachet or prestige.

Details exists in the recording and it is the job of the components to extract these fully. Any system which obscures details is not "musical" since it is distorting the sound. Some use the term "euphonic" to describe such systems which as I understand it means "I know this isn't accurate but I like its sound anyways. "

Different euphonics can work with different source material. E.G. If your preferred music is recorded bass light and treble heavy, then a bass boom can be perfect for it.

However when you go for euphonics over accuracy you may dissappointed when you get away from your current favorite recordings.

Often the terms "detailed" or "analytical" are incorrectly used to refer to bass light, mid and treble peakiness, which give a lot of detail in these regions but which are grating. The problem with such a system is not that it is too-detailed, but that it is treble peaky or that it is harsh sounding and that is a separate issue from its detail or lack thereof.

Some systems which seem more "musical" may be in fact more accurate in less obvious things like dynamics and PRAT (page rythm and timing).
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 6:42 PM Post #7 of 23

Blackmore

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I really liked Ayre CX-7E fully upgraded/new version, nothing had bother me, however it wasnt extended audition, 3 hours only. Before Ayre I tried Naim CD5 and was struggling very much, thinking that amp was sucking, but after 30 minutes of misery I switched to Ayre and what a relieve that was, simply great. Amp was PrimaLuna Prolouge Two ( bought direct after ) driving K1000 and Sonus Faber Auditor M monitors.
The great thing is, my Unison Research Unico CD player comes pretty close to Ayre in many ways, not the same of course, but comes way closer than Naim can only dream of it, so, you may try if you can find one. Also found that tube rolling ( 2x ECC82 ) makes some sonic influence to your liking.
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 7:01 PM Post #8 of 23

electropop

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Quote:

Originally Posted by seacard /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I've been hearing that, and would love to see how Linn sound (let's say the Akurate) compares to Marantz (SA7-S1), McIntosh (MCD500), and Ayre (C-5xeMP). Those are all at around the same price (i.e. overpriced) and all have been described as very musical players.

My only concern is I found my Ayre a little boring, a little overly polite. I've read the same criticism of the Linn. I'd like to find something musical but with a little more punch.



I found that the Linn had the same "punch" as Naim CDP's but we're tons more delicate, resolved and the music just had that flow and natural timbres the naim couldn't even dream of. Depends of the music, sure, but listening to Nait Motive 2's and Linn Majik 109's and 140's at a shop through a Naim Supernait with different sources, the Majik CD was just pure bliss over everything else. Naim can sound a bit thick and bass accentuated in comparison. But the Majik CD had bass grunt, which I was actually surprised of. It just had better resolve and control as well. I would never call it too polite either. Crazy drive it had while displaying notes in an airy and vivid fashion... Aaaaaah the difference when moved from Naim 5i and Linn Classik Music to the Majik CD: Everything stepped a level higher. And I'm not one to exagerate.

Well, if you possibly can, do try to get a listen yourself. I found that the Marantz wasn't really that special as well as the MCD500 (same shop sells them) and couldn't really even tell the difference between them that easily. I guess when you have B&W's for speakers (802), they just don't let the signal through as well as Linn speakers.. Quite the opposite in sound signatures.
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 7:43 PM Post #10 of 23

electropop

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That's not true at all. A component can be superbly detailed but not able to explicit transients, pitches/notes (which I think are essentially the premises for "music") or dynamics at all.

I listen to music, hehe
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It just sounds better with Linn (No, I'm not a sales prep). I'm getting the Majik 109's with probably the ingegrated Classik Music soon. They're unbelievable speakers for the price. I've went through at least six hi-fi stores in Helsinki, all of which sell almost completely different brands, and I've liked the Linn's as source components plugged into my headphone rig, as well as their own speakers, the best I've heard (for music)...

I don't have a proper speaker system to enjoy music yet. But as you stated, atothex, that's what everyone should concentrate on and where I'll be very soon
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The research part is fun though. You get lots of reference and get to compare lots of even expensive stuff, given that the shops carry that...
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 8:33 PM Post #11 of 23

edstrelow

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"Musical" vs "detailed" is a false dichotomy. These are descriptors of sound reproduction which are not the opposite of each other, rather they may overlap considerably.


Quote:

Originally Posted by electropop /img/forum/go_quote.gif
That's not true at all. A component can be superbly detailed but not able to explicit transients, pitches/notes (which I think are essentially the premises for "music") or dynamics at all.

...



In that case it is not elicting the details of transients, pitch, dynamics etc. In other words it is not properly called detailed, or its "details" are limited to only certain aspects of sound.

The question should really be "what details of sound being reproduced appear most musical" or alternatively what forms of euphonic distortion appear most musical.
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 8:51 PM Post #12 of 23

electropop

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True. They are not the opposites.

But yes, this makes sense. I've heard some devices that dig certain parts of a recording in an uncanny way, yet fail to "play music". So as you said, it's limited.

But we should clarify the term here. "Detailed" should mean that it accurately reproduces what has been recorded, no? This is rather interesting but I personally can't give the matter more value. I can just say that the Linn systems did sound much more "real" than many others, may it be due to the superb presentation of pitches, transients, dynamics and a focused stereo image or something else.. I have a friend who owns his own studio and I had some 24/96 studio masters with me as well when auditioning and a proper Linn system reproduced what I was hearing live a lot more accurately than, say, the "natural" sounding Genelec 1034's he has as main monitors. (not sure about other components) ...

Anyway, I won't argue about this, oh no
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Just stating what I've experienced so far. Damn I sound fanatic over Linn, haha. Maybe I am..
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 11:52 PM Post #14 of 23

mrarroyo

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Over the last four years w/ headphones I have searched for musical, engaging, smooth, and organic sounding sources, amps and components. So far I have found some units which to my ear fit the bill to the letter. Examples are:

- Monarchy NM24 DAC
- Red Wine Audio Isabellina HPA
- Singlepower MPX3 Slam SE
- Meridian
- Sony AH-D2000 or D5000 w/ MarkL mods, & Bubinga Wood cups.
- AKG K501 w/ APureSound V3 re-cable
- Grado RS-1

I could mention others that although not expensive would fit the bill. Along the line of Mapletree Ear + Purist HD, MF X-Can V2 w/ PinkFloyd Mods and a Little Pinkie PSU, Solo SRG w/ PSU1, and Grado RS-2.
 

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