Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My current (modest) home hi fi

Back when myjazzworld was still up, Smooth use to occasionally post about gear, so in the spirit of Smooth (we miss you!) here's a quick rundown on the setup I'm happy with.

Back in the day, it was the speakers and the turntable phono cartridge that made the most difference, and now I'd say little has changed. The only thing new in the equation is the DAC, or digital to analog converter. Unless you listen primarily to vinyl, the DAC has replaced the phono cartridge in importance.

I listen to most of my music in mp3 form off my iPod. While some audiophiles may cringe, it's not that bad. I'm using a $400 Wadia i170i digital transport to get the digital signal out of the iPod. From there I'm using a lovely but inexpensive Muse DAC with 4 parallel Phillips TDA1543 chips. It's commonly available for around $60 on ebay. I've tried other DACs using the more respected PCM1793 chip, but I always come back to the Muse. I don't really understand the theory behind parallel non-oversampling DACs, but my ears are sold.

For years I used the highly acclaimed (and rightfully so!) Trends TA-10 digital amp. It really sounds lovely, though other digital amps using the same Tripath TA2024 chip (commonly available on ebay for well under $100) have sounded equally good when I've hooked them up to my system. The Trends got booted out though on visual appeal. I'm now using the $200 Qinpu A3 mini hybrid tube amp. Even though it's only rated 8.5 watts per channel, it's got (as they say) more "real world" power than the 10 watt Trends amp. Audiophiles will rightfully note that it's not a "real" tube amp as the tubes are run at low wattage and just color the sound of the preamplifier. I think it sounds great, as good as the Trends T amp, and it looks a lot more impressive on my book shelf. I've used a cheap low wattage "starved plate" design pre-amp for years to record microphones and guitar, so I've got no issues with low wattage tubes in the pre amp section.

My minuscule system needs highly efficient speakers, even though my living room is a boat like 9 feet wide. I'm very happy with my $330 Axiom M3ti bookshelf speakers. I think the 92spl rating is optimistic, but they have enough efficiency to fill my small room with sound and thumping bass well before the 12 noon mark on either of my low wattage amps volume controls.

I'm not going to pretend to be an audiophile. My small system cost less than most individual audiophile components, but it makes me happy.


  1. You'll never be able to hear a good dog whistle with a system like that!! The Flac Nazis would have a fit...

  2. Yup, Bombshelter Slim, that's probably true! Thanks for reading the post!

  3. Thanks for posting this (gives you an idea) and the fab music. And LOL at BS re: Flac ;-)

  4. hi, found your spot thru el reza's and send you much props for the quality of you posts
    i'm deeeeeeep into hifi gear - mostly vintage tube amps - but i like to mix gear,i currently play cd's on a ps1 - but your system is probably singing real good and i wish i could hear it. keep on groovin'