Music has been an integral part of my life virtually since I was born. My father was a very keen amateur violinist (initially) before ‘graduating’ to the viola. As a result he had, for the time, a good mono set-up which set the benchmark for me in terms of sound quality in a home music replay system. To a certain extent I followed in his footsteps, eventually leaving school and heading for university, coming away with a good music degree. At uni I was exposed to a very wide variety of music types, including a heavy 20th-century bias, thanks to the tutors there.
Vacation stints with EMI (at their head office) meant I met a great many real live performers (from all genres), and was fortunate enough to go to a very large number of live concerts in some prestigious venues, as well as sitting in on various recording sessions in many different studios. But, as with buying a car, everyone has their own very personal reason for either buying or wanting a particular model. So it is with hi-fi, and sometimes a number of steps are needed to reach your ultimate goal.
This lifelong exposure to all types of music made it fairly uncomfortable trying to listen on ‘also-ran’ equipment, and eventually I built up a pretty healthy system that, to me, sounded as close to the real world as my wallet could stand. Thirty plus years of reviewing have not dimmed my enthusiasm for home music replay systems. I have learnt that they are very different from home theatre systems, and should remain so. However, at the end of the day, personally I am seeking high sound quality with a large helping of musical satisfaction. To some degree I believe the synergy between a carefully selected set of inexpensive separates can outperform a mis-matched set of much more expensive components. Caveat emptor!
SME 20/12 / SME312S / Kondo Io /MFA step-up / Vocale Audio Reference phono pre / Vocale Audio 2A3 Reference power amp / Ferguson Hill FH001 / Tannoy subs (2) and a recently refurbished Pioneer PD-91a cassette deck.
Loricraft 401 / SME3012 or 3009, Quad 22/II/II and Quad ESL 57 (OTA panels and EHT units).
Nottingham Analogue Hyperspace/12-inch arm or Rega Planar 3 with Helius Aurum arm, Denon DL-AS-1 / Trichord Dino phono stage / Bryston BP6 preamp / Wadia A-102 power amp / Impulse Lali.
Also have available Quad 33/FM3/303 or 405, Spendor BC1s, Diamond Acoustics near field monitors, Blake turntable and arm, about 20 (variously) mm / mc cartridges, an RB300, Wheaton Tri-planar, Kinshaw Perception SA phono stage.
Digital front-end is either a venerable Pioneer DVD player (Trichord modified) plus the DiDit DAC or the now very aged Teac P500/D500 combo, also with a Kinshaw DAC.