NC Circle Oct 24th Meet

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Inscrutable

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NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« on: 25 Oct 2004, 10:43 am »
Whew, what a day! I just collapsed last night after the load-out and didn't get to post.  I've got to run here in a minute, but let me get this started and invite others to chime in and flesh it out as we go.

First off, I have many many people to thank:
Rusty - for the loan and lugging of the VonSchweikert db99 and VR-4Jr
Wayne - for the loan of the JJAZ 110's and 205, and Bolder cables, interconnects and cords.
And our own:
Shane - for the loan and lugging of the Butler 2250 and 5150, Consonance 2.0, BelCanto Pre6 and Evo6, BPT 3.5, Star Sound racks/stands, and Rapport (Usher) cables, interconnects and cords.
Claud - for loan of the Cary 308T and Lehmann Black Cube SE
Carl - for loan of the Eastern Electric Minimax
Steve - for the loan of the Linn Ikemi

And thanks to all the regulars who attended, as well as the newcomers, who we all enjoyed meeting and hope you'll stick with us and participate at The Circles and our local meets.
 
Now, on to the meet (or meat, if you will).  This thing started with my impending move and probable temporary room downsizing. This spurred a possible need to retire the 3.3's, and rather than scale back to a more diminutive version of that style of speaker, to play with a new foreign sound - that of high-efficiency and/or full-range drivers and flea amps.  Of course, as we talk and post, things grew and morphed, and it became a trial of a few very good high-power systems, and a few very high efficiency systems.

So, at the gas-guzzling end of the room we had NHT 3.3's and VonSchweikert VR-4Jr's, fed by a BelCanto Evo6 bridged into dual differential mode (300W@8ohms), Butler TDB-2250 (250W@8ohms), and JJAZ IP110 (1000W@8ohms).

At the more miserly side of the room, we had VonSchweikert db99's and Cain & Cain Abby's fed by a Butler 5150 (150W@8ohms), Fi-X (3W@8ohms), and Eastern Electric Minimax (8W@8ohms).

We started with a bass-heavy jazz track (Carl, jump in here with the title if you would - believe you said the guys at the NY Rave used it?).  We cycled the amps through each speaker.

To me, each of the amps retained their character with each of the speakers, and the difference in the speakers combined with that resulted in what for me would be different preferred pairings.

WRT the amps, the BelCanto was the control freak.   Especially paired with the NHT's, the bass and lower midrange was very tight and fast.  Upper midrange and treble were accurate, but not as musical/pleasing. The Butler gave up a bit of control down low, but the midrange had much more body and fullness, and the treble was a bit softer.  The JJAZ amps sounded like what I'd imagine a digital amp to sound like.  It has lots of power and reserves-  effortless as far as that goes - but it left me a little flat, almost soulless.  A little thin across the spectrum.

WRT speakers, the NHT's were clearly the bass-champs in the room.  From lower midrange through the bottom octave, they would just keep going lower with no strain or softness.  The 4Jr's have a wonderful midrange and a more pleasant treble, and they throw a huge stage.  Given all these qualities, I prefer the Butler with the NHT's, but I think the BelCanto  and 4Jr pairing is a true partnership, because they compensate for each others' relative weaknesses, but the strength of the other more than covers the gap. - the Jr's get a little more grip at the bottom, and smooth out the top end nicely.  (For those of you that attended but left early, you heard the Jr's sounding a little strange for them, as we fiddled with placement.  Late in the evening we moved them over to the 'hi-eff' wall, and fed them an all BC diet, and they were dynamite.)

Over on the hi-eff wall, we had the same thing, only different.  First, even tho this is about the sound, these speakers are sooo attractive in their own way.  The db99's are striking, with their high-gloss automotive lacquer and in the Corvette candy apple red finish.  And the craftsmanship and finish on the Abby's is what you'd expect from a furniture-maker turned speaker-builder.

The db99's just do everything well, and aren't particularly fussy about their diet, performing well with the little 2A3 and the big Butler.  They have a very nice midrange and treble - detailed and full-bodied.  With the ambience tweeters off, the image specificity is enhanced and everything is razor sharp.  Turning on the tweeters sort of softens and expands/envelopes without becoming overly diffuse or indistinct. To me, it more realistically simulated performers in real space, rather than a construct in the recording studio.  Every time I sat down to listen to these all week, I just sat back and smiled, and hated to get up out of the chair.  Enough bottom end that I didn't miss the 3.3's (much), and true vocals and strings - rich and full yet extended and detailed. (For those that attended, they were a little better with the other furniture earlier in the week.  With raising them on the stands, and substituting the futon, we were too low in the front row, and too high in the back (though with the angled rear ceiling the back row was better.)

I just enjoy the Abby's.  They give up a little in extension at each end (a lot at the low end), and they aren't for complex music.  But right around the midrange associated with vocals, if I get my brain out of the way, they are very satisfying.  They do go much lower and with more authority than I would have imagined, but they didn't belong in a competition with a roomful of bass overachievers.

Caveat:  Much of this gear arrived in new or almost new condition, and didn't have much if any time to break in.  Particularly the bigger Butler the JJAZ amps, all the Bolder cables/interconnects/cords, and some of the Rapport cables.  I'm going to be interested in the impressions of later stops on the JJAZ tour - I don't think we heard them at their best.

I have a lot more thoughts, but I'll get out of the way for now and let others join in.

Carlman

NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #1 on: 25 Oct 2004, 04:44 pm »
This is copied from the old thread... I'll add photos and more comments later tonight.

I can only comment to the part of the day I was there... from about noon to 3:30. However, I can tell you that I had a great time hearing the differences between Bel Canto, Butler, and JJaz amplifiers on Von Schweikert VR-4jr's and NHT 3.3's. The source used was a Cary CD player which I made no particular note of... which probably made it good to use for a test like this.

The NHT's had excellent bass as always... beautifully blended with the mid-bass up through the upper mid-range. The highs seemed just a tad splashy or somehow inaccurate to my ear but not bad.

The VR-4jr's in comparison had a completely different sound (as you'd expect). I was surprised at how well the VS house sound translates from the VR-1 all the way up the 4. They sounded like VS speakers. When I first got there, the VR's had that marvelous and solid midrange that I feel is their strong point. Later when we really sat down and evaluated them, the midrange seemed recessed. The reason seemed to be that we'd moved the speakers around a bit to do the comparison and the VR's were now too far out into the room and we were sitting too far back. Shane pushed them back to close to where they were and that got us closer to where we were. In any case, they sounded very good but I would've needed to get the positioning right to really evaluate them accurately.
Oh, another note about these is the 'ambience control'... Shane turned them up to 2/3rd's and that made the soundstage get wider without any distortion. I was quite entertained by that adjustment.

As to the amps, I am starting to think that Butler is the best amp I've heard. It has a beautiful rich midrange and I think adequate bass and overall coherency. It seems to provide the most convincing 'voice' to instruments and singers better than anything I've heard to date. (note: I'm still learning  )

The Bel Canto was very 'accurate'. It captured details, had depth to the soundstage, and recreated the original recording space better than the others. However, that magical midrange wasn't there for me and lost some of the emotional involvement I had with the Butler.

The Jjaz wooden 1000w monoblocks was not what I like. To ME, compared to the others, the JJaz just didn't have the depth, air, or nuances that added to the realism of the performance that I like to hear. Maybe it's a lack of coloration, I don't know.... it wasn't bad, just not what I like.

We switched to the Cain and Cain's and a 'Fi'? amplifier which was the oddest thing I've seen in a long time. We also played the Eastern Electric Minimax amp... and the Von Schweikert db-99's... all excellent stuff but I don't have time to write at this moment. I took photos and will add more comments later.....

-Carl

Carlman

NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #2 on: 26 Oct 2004, 01:29 am »
I have posted photos in the gallery of some of the gear we heard.  Click on the link in my sig.

After the first session with the 'normal' efficiency setup, we turned to the high efficiency setup.  Of which I heard, the Cain and Cain Abbey using the 'Fi' amp and the db99's with the Fi and my EE Minimax amp.

We used Tim's turntable and preamp to do the comparisons.... We also used the Consonance SACD which is what I would've preferred to use for the comparison since more dynamics were provided to the speakers from the source.  

In any case, I wish I could've stayed longer for this comparison but my impression was the high-efficiency is not for me.  The Cain's got a lot right but I still thought the sound had a nasal quality that distracted me from enjoying the music.  It's the kind of sound that you'd get if you put your mouth at the end of a short tube and talked into it.  (I'm sure this phenomenon has a name but I don't know it.)  The Cain's did bass much better than I thought possible from a single-driver and the midbass and midrange had a beautiful roundness to them.  I thoroughly enjoyed female vocals on them... very intimate and 'pretty' sounding.

The db99's played what was fed them.  It really revealed the shortcomings of the analog rig.  I didn't listen critically to the db99's because I couldn't allow myself to want them.  The price is way out of my budget.  Also, at this time my drugs were wearing off and I needed to get home and do more. ;)

We swapped in the EE Minimax and I thought it sounded great as always.  I preferred it over the fi mainly because the music was more musical.  However, I didn't critically analyze it... had to go.

Anyway, hope this helps jog some memories and elicits more posts.  I greatly appreciated Tim and Shane (and Rusty) for putting so much work into this meet.  I was also happy to be a participant this time instead of the host.  I know it's a lot of work and this effort trumped anything I've done to date.  All I could say was 'wow!' when I got there.  There was more gear than some hi-fi shops I've been to.  Many, many thanks.

-Carl

claud

NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #3 on: 26 Oct 2004, 03:06 am »
I attended mainly for the company of fellow audiophiles, and to hear the Fi SET integrated and the Cain and Cain Abbys. I have heard SET before, but it was overly bright. I thought that the Fi and Abbys would be good together, and they were. I expected less from the Abbys than they were able to reproduce. They had more bass than I expected. The pair would make a great small system for a study or office. You need the VS db99s for a real system in a decent sized room. Either that or amps with real power( 50+ watts) and real speakers.
The Butlers were a hit. They defended against the rising digital amp tide. I still liked the BelCanto with the old NHT 3.3s. Big bridged watts from a quick amp controlling big woofers. I guess I'm just an old fart.
This was one of the most enjoyable meets I have attended. Lots of speakers, and lots of different amps. It was great to have Tim's big room to have two systems set up at the same time. From reading the posts though, it seems the best course would have been to have one system and switched out speakers, amps and what have you with a known speaker placement. Perhaps we could have used Bruno's foam.

Hantra

NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #4 on: 26 Oct 2004, 11:55 pm »
Hey fellas.  Sounds like fun. . .

Did you ever do a direct comparison of the Bel Canto, and the Butler back to back?  Just curious.  I still would like to try some Butlers b/c like Shane said, the A-100 is probably the best amplifier I have heard shy of the Halcro.  

L8r,

B

Carlman

NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #5 on: 27 Oct 2004, 02:52 am »
Yes, the BC evo 6? or 8? was compared to the Butler 2250? or 5150?  (someone else will have to provide the exact model numbers)  Also, the JJAz was directly compared.

There were 3 amps and 2 pairs of speakers.  We listend to a track from 'The Bad Plus' on each combination.  I remember noting that the NHT's had a little better bass control with the Bel Canto but a bit more magical midrange on the Butler's.  To me, the Butler sounded like everything I like about my 8watt EE Minimax but with 30 times more power.  

I still like the Bel Canto amps.  They have a great sound.  To me they're like Christy Brinkley, beautiful and perfect.


However, the Butler's are more like Gwyneth Paltrow.... a little more approachable and you just want to hug her. ;)

lonewolfny42

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NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #6 on: 27 Oct 2004, 08:00 am »
Carl....you must be feeling better.... :lol: (drugs kick'in in).

Inscrutable

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NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #7 on: 27 Oct 2004, 08:31 am »
B,
It was the BC Evo6GenII bridged in dual differential mode, and the Butler TDB-2250, and the JJAZ IP110KW.  I remember the comparison pretty much exactly as Carl (it was pretty much universal in our group as well.  Biamping with the BC on the bottom and Butler on the top might be perfect - for everything except my wallet.  And for the record, I'd hug Christie too.  And for equal time, perhaps the JJAZ amps are like a certain cool somwhat distant Scandanavian?

lonewolfny42

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NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #8 on: 27 Oct 2004, 08:40 am »
Inscrutable,
    Interesting comment about bi-amping. How was the bass responce on the Butler amps ? Thanks!! :) [/list:u]

Inscrutable

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NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #9 on: 27 Oct 2004, 09:13 am »
Quote
Inscrutable,
Interesting comment about bi-amping. How was the bass responce on the Butler amps ? Thanks!!
Wolf,
Don't get me wrong ... the response of each of the 3 was good, but the BC was just thaaaat much tighter and more authoritative.  Well, maybe a little more than thaaaat much.  Of course, the BC was probably putting out 50% more power as well (or at least capable of doing so).  If I was looking to create 'live' dynamics, I think I'd stop the search with the BC.  But IMO the Butler was fairly significantly better with the body and texture of the upper mids and treble, and I listen to a lot of acoustic music (hence the Abby/SET trial).

I mention the biamp thing, as we tried this hurriedly and completely casually at a previous meet with my Citation on the bottom and Carl's MiniMax on top, with no gain matching.  Carl and I obth liked it, but Hantra found it anemic (of course, it followed the Nixon monoblocks, which were exceptionally 'live').  I have a Decware that has a gain control on it, so I may be able to do a better job level-matching - tho I'm not sure the 5wpc is going to be enough for the top of these 3.3's, which is essentially a small 3-way.

claud

NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #10 on: 27 Oct 2004, 12:24 pm »
Tim,
You have now had a killer inhouse audition of lots of stuff. Any thoughts about which direction your new system will take? You said you were going to do one HT system rather than seperate HT and 2ch. Still headed in that direction or waiting to see where you go with the house?
Of the two high dollar multi channel amps I heard at Tim's, the choice would be based on what you were going to use your system for mostly, HT or music. If 60% music, go for Butlers, or if 60% HT, the BelCanto is a killer. IMHO

Inscrutable

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NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #11 on: 28 Oct 2004, 12:08 am »
Claud,
I don't know ... part of me really likes what the Abby's do well, and part of me says they really aren't re-broken in yet.  If they they get a little better than they are, it will be a really tough call.  I like what each of the systems do well, but they each have shortcomings (don't we all).  If I had to make a snap decision, I would probably keep the 3.3's and try to flesh out their top end, rather than try to fill out the foundation on the Abby's.  The Butler on them was pretty nice.  That combo, and the all-BC with the 4Jr's (after you left) were the best combos, IMO - for the cost anyway.  If I had the coin for the db99's, I don't think I heard the amp I'd want to pair them with.  The Butler and BC were overkill (even tho they both sounded great), and the Fi also sounded good, but wasn't quite there.  Maybe a Korneff 45 or Art Audio?

Just for grins, I'm going to play with biamping the 3.3's with tubes - probably the Decware - on top (did i post on that already, or maybe it was just a PM?).

Hantra

NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #12 on: 28 Oct 2004, 02:46 am »
FYI:

I have heard the Art Audio and Butler monos back to back on the BEN's, and there is no comparison.  Now. .  finding a pair of the Butlers for the same money as the Art, that's the problem. .  

Just making your life a little more difficult. . .  :wink:

Inscrutable

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NC Circle Oct 24th Meet
« Reply #13 on: 28 Oct 2004, 09:48 pm »
Quote
Just making your life a little more difficult. . .

Well, unfortunately at $12k it really doesn't affect my life at all ... wish it did  :(