All components in BOLD are loaned; all components in standard face are owned by me.

LOUDSPEAKERS

Primary System: Zu Audio Omen Dirty Weekend Edition (stereo pair) with custom outboard Tianle Heil AMT Supertweeters, Zu Audio Omen Dirty Weekend Bookshelf (single speaker for center channel and mono playback), REL T1 powered subwoofer, Definitive Technologies Powerfield 1500 subwoofer.

Secondary System: Magneplanar MMGs modded with custom-built stands and Peter Gunn’s (of Audio Asylum notoriety) custom outboard crossover mods, Klipsch RB-3 Compact Monitors, Audioengine HD6 Powered Loudspeakers, Audioengine B2 powered Bluetooth Speaker (for music out by the pool!).

ELECTRONICS

Primary: Emotiva XPA-1L monoblock amplifiers running in balanced mode (35 watts in pure Class A, 250 watts Class AB, switchable), Luminous Audio Axiom Mk. II balanced passive preamplifier, Acurus RL-11 preamplifier, Rolls Bellari VP130 tube phono preamplifier used interchangeably with Mullard new production, TungSol, JJ Electronic and Sovtek 12AX7LPS tubes (depending on my mood).

Secondary: Emotiva XPA-2 stereo amplifier (300 wpc, Class AB)

SOURCES

Digital: Custom-built HTPC (AMD A-10 platform, quad-core, 3.70 GHz): Windows 10/64-bit, 256 MB SanDisk solid state boot/system drive, 2 TB Western Digital internal hard drive, 16 GB RAM, 2 TB Seagate USB 3 external drive for music storage, (2)  1 TB USB 3 external drive for music backup: 1 Western Digital unit and 1 Seagate unit. The PC also has Fidelizer 7.0 Windows Audio Optimizer installed in Extremist mode, JPLAY 6.2 for Windows (using JPLAY Streamer option with MinimServer and Linn Kazoo), with AudioQuest JitterBug USB data and power filters (2 used in my particular setup). Using JPLAY Streamer as my primary music player; streaming via my Asus Android tablet to either the main system or the Bluetooth system. JRiver Media Center 21 used for background music, parties, entertaining and domino throw-downs. Digital to Analog conversion via PS Audio’s NuWave DSD DAC (primary); Secondary setups include the High Resolution Technologies Music Streamer HD 24/192 USB DAC, Centrance DACPort LX 24/96 USB DAC, Schiit Modi 24/96 USB DAC, Audioquest Dragonfly (first generation). Disc playback via Sony BDPs-780 BluRay/SACD player and the Yamaha DVD-C750 multichannel SACD player.

Analog: Rega P2 turntable, with RB 250 arm, modded with Michell Technoweight/Stub and Rega glass platter upgrade, Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, Ortofon 2M Mono cartridge.

CABLES

Analog Interconnects: AudioQuest Topaz, Blue Jean Cable LC-1’s, Blue Jean Cable Belden 1800F XLR, Monster subwoofer cables. Digital: DH Labs Siver Sonic USB, Belkin USB. Loudspeaker: MG Audio Designs Planus II (primary system), Monster M1 (secondary system). Power cables: Rite Audio Cables HC.

ACCESSORIES

Emotiva CMX-2 power conditioner, Schiit Magni headphone amplifier, Bright Star Audio Big Rock turntable base, Tiptoes and various isolation devices, ASC Tube Trap panels, GIK Acoustics bass traps, Custom-built acoustic panels, Target and Lovan stands, Disc Doctor and LAST record cleaning supplies.

Listening Room

I’m currently in the process of building a new home, which will include the listening room of my dreams—I’ll update this information in a few months when we’re in!

The Zu Audio Omens are running full-range (no internal crossovers!), powered by the Emotiva XPA-1Ls, running in pure Class A and in balanced mode, controlled by the Luminous Audio Axiom balanced passive pre (Caddock resistors). The Zu’s are about 6 feet from the rear wall, and about 18 inches from the side walls, slightly toed in towards the sweet spot. Two subs are employed; the small REL T1 is connected directly to the mono amps via it’s 25 foot Speak-on cable and placed beside the listening position, with the low frequency cutoff at around 80 Hz. The 15 inch Definitive Technology sub is placed in the front left corner and runs full-output down to 25 Hz, and is controlled by the Acurus preamp.

With digital sources, the PS Audio NuWave DSD has both balanced and single ended outputs active, and they supply the signal to both mains and subs. With analog sources, the Acurus pre controls everything, and has two sets of single-ended outputs, and that’s also adequate to drive everything. The advantage to this dual-sub, dual-preamp setup is that everything runs full range, and there are no crossovers employed (except the internal LF cutoffs in the subs), and the Acurus pre gives you infinite control of the Def Tech sub to tailor the bass to your liking. Tons of LPs and CDs (and downloads, for that matter) are somewhat bass deficient; cranking the bass volume a few ticks can give an album (like Black Sabbath’s Paranoid) the requisite oomph needed to seriously jam! And I’ve been converting everything to DSD (2X) via JRiver Media Center 21—the results have been pretty freakin’ spectacular, giving digital files the kind of analogish sound I never thought possible for so few bucks (relatively speaking!).

The Omens are Zu’s entry level speaker, and the Dirty Weekend edition I own use repurposed drivers. My particular set (all three speakers) contain traded-in drivers from an earlier incarnation of the Zu Druid. The Druids were until recently Zu’s flagship model, with a MSRP of around $4,500, if that gives you any idea of the quality of the drivers in these speakers! The Omens are capable of very high SPLs, and when mated with the proper amp, these babies can really sing. They cast a ridiculously believable soundstage  that is not only deep, but often extends far beyond the witdth of the speakers and sidewalls. They’ve never run out of gas at any volume level—if I hear any spurious noises in my room during full-output passages, it’s because the structure isn’t up to the demands of the Omens. Because everything runs essentially full-range, the sound is very clean, clear and detailed, but with a very liquid midrange at the same time. The Heil AMT Supertweeters add a significant amount of sparkle to the upper treble that’s particularly noticeable with female vocals, cymbals and delicate percussion. The crossover to the AMT’s consists of a 1.0 mf Audyn Plus capacitor with a 10-ohm Mills resistor following, and they’re simply cabled to the Omen’s inputs, so everything remains full-range.  Metal, large scale classical, jazz vocals — when properly set up and driven by the right electronics, these speakers can go toe-to-toe with some of the best out there! This is not an expensive system, comparatively, but it is without a doubt the most musically satisfying I’ve ever owned, and casts a shockingly holographic stereo image.