René van Es

My addiction to music and audio equipment music really started when I was about 12 years old and someone gave me a record player with two cartridges, a mono and a stereo one. He had no idea how to connect it in stereo, that I had to figure out myself. After a fair share of electrical shocks and loud humming from speakers I had stereo. Left channel coming from the gramophone, right out of an old radio. I was hooked. After I left school my first salaries were just enough to buy a decent set-up, Era Mk 6 record player with SME 3009 arm and Ortofon VMS20 cartridge, Dynaco PAT4 pre and Stereo 120 power amplifier, along with Acoustic Research AR4ax loudspeakers. A letter to an audio magazine started my writing carrier, I was asked to build more Dynaco’s and tell my stories. I also worked in my free time for some serous audio shops. In those days I could try a lot of stuff at home, including famous names like Phase Linear, McIntosh, dB Systems, Elipson, B&W and Spendor. I left it all behind when I got married the first time, although I kept my record collection stored away in a safe place.

Ten years later I left my wife and bought myself a new hi-fi system to fill an empty house. Short on cash a secondhand Cyrus One and small Missions filled the gap, luckily I still had a record player. Then I found that between 1982 and 1992 the world had changed from analogue to digital. Here I was, a fossil with 400 records from the past. Two years later I married again, this time to a lovely woman who shared my passion for music and never complained about me playing around with a lot of hi-fi equipment. A series of new and secondhand products came and went. Too many to mention I’m afraid.

In the year 2000 I discovered a Dutch audio website,, that was desperately seeking content. I wrote about my system and got into contact with the publisher. Soon after I was member of the staff, just a few years later I made it to editor-in-chief. All combined with a daytime job in the ICT industry. But up to 50 hours a week working on the website was a bit too much for my long suffering wife, which was a good reason to cut back and stick to reviewing. With extra time on my hands I started writing for a Dutch magazine called Music Emotion. In the 12 past years I have reviewed over 500 products, ranging from a simple interconnect to very expensive gear. Always with one thing in mind: getting maximum enjoyment out of the music for the price. Any decent product should make my feet tap and get me out of the chair to play air-guitar or conduct the virtual orchestra. If not, no matter what the price or brand name is, it is not my cup of tea. I don’t listen for the sound of an iPhone falling on the floor in the 18th row of the Royal Albert Hall, I concentrate on Adele when she almost brings tears to my eyes. Music rules, not technical details. I enjoy music, the equipment is just a set of tools.

But I have to be honest, a nice hi-fi system appeals to me. Like every man I need ‘knobs’ in my life. For one person his car is his temple, another one sails a boat, I fiddle around with audio. Although I never was without my vinyl collection and a record player, I confess that via (SA)CD I got hooked on to streaming audio. My iPad has a flat battery each night due to handling the music collection on a NAS. Even after more than 45 years playing around with audio equipment it never bores me. Special interest goes to amplifiers and D/A converters, don’t know why, they just always trigger me. Most important, music never bores me, it is part of my life.

Some names from the music collection:
Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, Handel, Telemann, Grieg, Purcell, Dvorak, Brahms, Chopin, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Dead Can Dance, Clannad, Fleetwood Mac, Sade, Patricia Kaas, Stacey Kent, Rachelle Ferrell, Shirley Horn, Katie Melua, Adele, Beverly Craven, Loreena McKennitt, Allan Taylor, Sting, Alan Parsons Project, David Munyon, Ray Charles, Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, Dave Grusin and an awful lot of female singers in various styles and languages.

Main system
Tuner: Magnum Dynalab MD-90
Record player: Transrotor Super Seven, Transrotor Konstant M1 power supply
Tone arm: SME 5009
Cartridge: Transfiguration Axia
Phono amp: Het Audio Team (Dutch handmade tube amplifier)
Streaming device and CD transport: NAD M50
Server/storage: NAD M52
D/A converter: Metrum Acoustics Pavane Level 2
Preamp: Audia Flight Strumento No. 1
Power amp: Pass Labs X250.5
Loudspeakers: PMC fact.12
Speaker bases: Townshend Seismic Podiums
Interlinks: Crystal Cable Connect Reference & Connect Ultra, Yter
Digital interlink: Apogee Wyde-Eye XLR, AudioQuest Carbon USB
Speaker cables: Crystal Cable Speak Reference
Mains power cables: Crystal Cable Power Reference & Power Ultra, Supra LoRad
Mains: PS Audio Power Plant P5, Supra blocks
Equipment placed on: Quadraspire and Ginko
Acoustics: Acoustic System Resonators Basic & Silver, Diffusers

Second system in the study
Streaming device: Bluesound Node 2
D/A converter/preamp: Metrum Acoustics Adagio
Power amp: Pass Labs XA30.5
Loudspeakers: Harbeth P3ESR on TonTräger stands
Interlinks: VdH D-102 Mk III Hybrid
Digital interlink: AudioQuest Carbon
Loudspeaker cables: Simply Audio Cadenza
Mains: Supra block and cables

Storage: Synology NAS DS412+ and Vortexbox
Wired Ethernet: AudioQuest Vodka & Carbon cables

Mains power cables: Supra LoRad, Het Audio Team, Lapp DIY
Digital interconnects: various from Apogee, Stereovox, Gotham, Supra, AudioQuest
Interconnects: various from Crystal Cable, Van den Hul, Siltech, Inakustik, Linn
A lot of unused and some used tweaks