This project is over 2 years in the making.
It all started with a Car Audio Meet.
For the few people that will read this thread......I'll tell the story (warning, long winded), and then start the 'build thread'
So, in the Fall of 2012....I had a North Carolina SQ Meet at my house. My good buddy John (minibox) brought over some pieces out of his awesome 2 channel home system for guys to listen to as a make-shift 'reference' system.
I love listening to his full set up at his house, and it was a lot of fun to hook up a couple pieces (Bryston DAC, Audio Research Pre-amp, Ariel 3T tower speakers) and listen in my home office.
Well, after the meet one night, I let the wife know that I was going to listen to the system 'at volume' for a few minutes. I came out of the room, and she was on the couch with her iPad.....just cringing. I immediately thought that 2 channel home audio was a non-start for me.
1) she is frugal.....home audio can (and typically will) get real expensive.
2) she is always home - there isn't any time that I'm there, and she isn't
3) currently when I want to listen to good music 'at volume' - I have to go out to the garage and sit in the car.....but at least I can do that while she is in the shower, and it doesn't bother her (too much).
That got me thinking......I can purchase a 'top shelf' Headphone set up for about the same price as that Audio Research Pre-amp.
So I proceeded to get signed up on Head-Fi.com and try to learn everything about Headphones and Headphone Amps. Wow.....mind blowing experience. Dynamic headphones, planar headphones, electrostats, IEM's.......etc. Tube amps, solid state amps, and a plethora of DACs - from desktop and portable.
The number one thing that stood out was that there was certain phones / amps that had good synergies and some that had bad synergies......and a LOT of 'personal preference.' Some of these threads about individual headphones have over 1000 pages......some guys say they are the best cans EVAH......and some say they are absolute rubbish.......same as you see on DIYMA to a certain degree......but it was a bit of a learning curve to determine what is 'real' and what is preference.
Anyway, I decided that I was going to buy headphones first......use them on my Peachtree Nova. I decided that I wanted a set of 'flagship' headphones versus getting 2 - 4 less expensive sets that are good for different things (this is what many of the guys on Head-fi have). After some back and forth - I became enamored with the Audeze LCD 2's. I found a dealer in Cary, NC (Drew at Mood Audio) that was willing to give me a demo.
Immediately I knew the Audeze's were not for me. They hurt the top of my head (too many incidents involving kevlar helmets), and they were quite heavy. I really liked the sound, but I couldn't keep them on for more than a couple minutes. Drew came in - I mentioned this puniness to him - and he said the Fostex TH900's were his favorite. I put them on and WOW!!!! The sound was Amazing! And they were comfortable! I eventually went back to his shop to get a comparison listen to the Sennheiser HD800s - extremely comfortable, but the sound wasn't to my preference.....the Fostex was so much more of what I was looking for.
Terrible pic - cell phone, fast - not sure if I was 'allowed' to take pics inside Drew's 'shop'.
My wife and I had an agreement that I would wait to purchase my dream headphone set up until a certain financial milestone was met. So I had plenty of time to look around and research. Well, as it often happens.....the perfect pair of very newly purchased Fostex TH900's was posted for sale - for the 'right price' from a guy in Virginia. I purchased them and haven't regretted the decision at all.
Well, now that the headphone purchase was done.....it was on to DACs and amplifiers. I have changed directions about 10 times in the last 2 years.
I met a guy in Korea that had the TH900's + the Metrum Octave DAC + the Eddie Current Zana Deux tube amp. I was going to replicate his set up based on his feedback. Then I was into the Auralic stuff, Cavali amplifiers, and came back to the Naim Headline a couple times.
Cavalli Audio - I LOVE the look of these amps! But....the Liquid Crimson is $1k more than the amp I purchased
Naim Headline - man....I just couldn't get this one out of my head for some reason....outboard power supply......
It was pretty confusing trying to figure out the DAC stuff. Some were talking a lot about the importance of DACs being able to ‘play’ the most advanced types of files. Others were advocating more ‘analog’ sounding DACs – like the Metrum and the Teddy Pardo. Another confusing thing – with a ‘limited’ budget, put the $ in the DAC or the amp or equal share.
Metrum Octave mkii
Teddy Pardo DAC
Wouldn't you know it - he emailed me that he was going to put together a headphone amp at some point....now he has one......
Teddy Headphone Amp
One really nice thing about headphones versus Car Audio or big 2 channel home audio. One can go to a headphone meet with your headphones and plug them in to several types of amplifiers and DACs. One can even mix and match amps and DACs at these meets. A lot easier to listen to sources / amplifiers in a room versus in listening to various equipment in cars…..with various speakers, installs, tuning. The hard part about the meets are they are typically in a large room, and all these old fellas like to yap about the stuff they love…..so even with closed cups – it is hard to really hear the quality of the gear. But….these are really good guys that share the passion for music and reproducing that music.
Cavalli Liquid Glass + Auralic Vega - this is Mr. Speakers' rig - he makes the Mad Dogs, Alpha Dogs, etc. Headphones
At the last meeting, a fella at the meet had the Auralic stack – sounded amazing! The coolest part to me was that he fully explained the Aries ‘bridge’, had the same type of NAS as me, and he said he was willing to come up to the house and get it all set up. I did some reading about the product, and saw it as a huge solution for my music – not just a great DAC and a good amplifier. My ‘solution’ would be music on the NAS, the Aries would bridge that music to the DAC (really good source), then I’d be able to play the music through the great headphones and feed the Naim NAP100 amplifier to play through the speakers on my desk.
From the recent Raleigh Meet Thread
Raleigh Meet Thread
So, I connected with my ‘consultant’s’ supplier and made the order. Then I got to thinking that I would benefit from a good ‘power strip’. I sent a message asking about a certain Shinyata product, and he directed me to the supplier he purchased his power conditioner from. That happened to be P.I. Audio Group and Dave Elledge – an extremely cool fella out of New Mexico. This is another huge area that can get real confusing in a real hurry. As soon as you mention power conditioning and cables to most guys – they immediately scream ‘snake oil’! From my research, there is a lot of it…..vats of it….around the industry – that is why it was awesome for me to get a direct introduction to the builder.
Dave was awesome to talk with, and he put things in perspective. We also share an interest in guns, and he also makes custom faceplates for his conditioners. I was able to pick a piece of left over hickory that we had from our flooring project to send out to him for this project. This guy knows wood! He informed me of the various steps he would take to make this piece of hickory beautiful!
So, the Auralic pieces are traveling across the country – from California to Wisconsin……they arrived there on Wednesday, late afternoon. Nigel created a shipping label that had a delivery date for today, 22MAY…..well I got excited. I am here for a 3 day weekend, I wanted to get things hooked up, and we need to start building the shelves. Well, he wasn’t able to get the stuff to FedEx until Thursday morning, so they won’t arrive until Tuesday, 26MAY…….as I’m driving to South Carolina. I won’t see them until I get back on Thursday the 28th, and then I’ll drive to Virginia on Friday ☹.
But, I need to figure out how to install Java and Minimserver on the Synology. Then I have to try to clean up my library on the NAS. I think the wife and I are going to start working on the shelves this weekend as well.