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 for myself. After a fair share of electrical shocks and loud humming from speakers I had stereo with the left channel coming from the driver out of an old radio. I was hooked. After I left school I earned 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 career, 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 second hand products came and went. Too many to mention I’m afraid.

In the year 2000 I discovered a Dutch audio website, www.hifi.nl, 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 wrote for a Dutch magazine called Music Emotion. Now that I have retired I create content for a high end audio shop website in the Netherlands. In the 20 past years I have reviewed almost 1,000 products, ranging from a simple interconnects 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. I am the proud owner of a small collection of vintage gear. Although I never was without my vinyl collection and a record player, I confess that via (SA)CD I got hooked on streaming audio and sold my analogue system and records. My iPad has a flat battery each night due to handling the music collection on a Roon based system. Even after more than 60 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.

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Main system
Streaming device: Auralic Aries G1
Server/storage: Melco N10
Ripper: Melco D100
D/A converter: Metrum Acoustics Pavane Level 2
Preamp: Audia Flight Strumento No. 1
Power amp: Pass Labs X250.5
Loudspeakers: Spendor Classic 2/3 + Townshend Maximum Supertweeters
Speaker stands: Custom Design Open Frame
Speaker bases: Townshend Seismic Podiums
Interconnects: Yter
Digital interconnect: AudioQuest Diamond AES/EBU
Speaker cables: Crystal Cable Speak Reference
Mains power cables: Crystal Cable Power Reference & Power Ultra, AudioQuest NRG-Y2 & Z3
Mains: AudioQuest Niagara 5000
Equipment placed on: Quadraspire
Tweaks: Acoustic System Resonators Basic & Silver, Diffusers, Bybee Quantum Signal Enhancer

Second system
Streaming device: Metrum Acoustics Ambre
D/A converter/preamp: Metrum Acoustics Adagio
Power amp: Metrum Acoustics Forte
Loudspeakers: Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a Gold Badge + Townshend Maximum Supertweeters
Speaker stands: Custom Design SQ402
Speaker bases: IsoAcoustics Gaia III 
Interconnects: Inakustik NF-2404
I2S interconnect: AudioQuest Vodka
Loudspeaker cables: Inakustik LS-2404
Mains power cables: AudioQuest Monsoon, AudioQuest NRG-1000
Mains: AudioQuest Niagara 1200
Tweaks: Bybee Quantum Signal Enhancer

Network
System: Roon NUC + Sbooster
Switches: Melco S100 + SBooster, Silent Angel Bonn N8
Wired Ethernet: AudioQuest Vodka and Carbon