The Main Rig



 

Like many hifi buffs, I have a heap of sources, DACs, amplifiers and loudspeakers all accumulated over the years. The cream of this goes into the main listening rig. Here it is.

Tubelab SE

Source

The source is a digital chain. My trusty Dunlop Systemdek turntable stands ready - but is pretty much unused now.

Logitech Media Server
-> Ethernet-over-mains
-> Squeezebox Classic
-> Audio-gd DAC-19

So, standard digital fare up to the extraordinary DAC-19. I have a few DACs lying around the house, the DAC-19 was a revelation.

Kirishima Double-mouthed Horns

From the Head-fi review of the DAC-19

The DAC19 uses 2 multibit PCM1704uk which are more than 10 years old now. Why would a company use that chip? Well, according to many respected audio figures, it is the best 24 bit dac chip ever produced.

A few years ago, DAC makers discovered they could make their chips a lot cheaper by abandoning the expensive to manufacture multibit chips (TDA1541, TDA1543 ...) in favour of the cheaper to make sigma-delta chips. What they didn’t realize at that time is that those sigma-delta chips generate a lot of out-band noise and sound horrible. Fortunately, Burr Brown/TI kept making (in small numbers) the PCM1704 which is as far as I know the only remaining R2R/multibit dac chip in production today.

Most high-end manufacturers use the PCM1704 for their top models (Naim, Esoteric, Wadia...) while they use sigma-delta chips for their “entry level” gear... So why doesn’t everybody use them? For one, they cost a lot: You need at least 2 PCM1704 to make a single ended stereo DAC (and 4 for a balanced one). While most “high-end” sigma delta chips retail for no more than 10-20$ for a stereo dac, a pair of PCM1704 costs usually more than $70 ... when you can find them. And the PCM1704 chips need an external digital filter to make things even more complicated and expensive.

Amplification

Tubelab TSE 45 tube SET

45 SETs have been described as crack for audiophiles. George Anderson's Tubelab SE has been designed as a no-compromises SET and has a reputation for rivalling the most expensive designs when built with suitable high-quality components. The mid and high ranges are phenomenally detailed and natural. Currently sporting JJ 45s which give considerable weight to the sound, this is a beguiling amplifier and I am rather proud of what was by some distance my hardest amp build yet. It needs suitably efficient and revealing speakers ... fortunately ...

Loudspeakers

Kirishima double-mouth horns with FostexFE208ez and Fountek NeoCD 2.0 Ribbons

This one has been left open to show the internal structure. See the Kirishima Horns page on this website for more details.